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GOOD MORNING! What legacy would you like to leave to your children? Intelligent people write wills to transfer their property to their children in an appropriate manner (and to avoid the State from taking unnecessary taxes). How about what you have learned about life - what is truly valuable, insights into people, how to use your time? Would that be something that you would like to leave to your children? It's called an "Ethical Will." For centuries and probably for thousands of years, Jews (and others) have left an Ethical Will for their children. Perhaps the most famous is Moshe Nachmanides' (Ramban) "letter" to his son (available in English from Artscroll entitled Letter for the Ages - available at your local Jewish book store or call toll-free 877-758-3242).
This week I bring to you an Ethical Will from Joe Berman, of blessed memory - a man I met several times, a pillar in the Toronto Jewish community and a moving force in many organizations working to better the world and to strengthen the Jewish people. When Aish HaTorah wanted to start a branch in Toronto, Rabbi Shalom Schwartz approached Mr. Berman.
Mr. Berman clearly heard Aish's ideas:
- Education is the key to Jewish continuity - a person can't love what he doesn't know; the more information a person has, the better decision he will make.
- We must "package and market" the beauty and meaning of our heritage in a relevant manner that attracts Jews to want to know more of their heritage and to be a part of the Jewish future.
- To respect a person's freewill to choose his own level of belief and observance.
He did his due diligence and then put up the seed money to start the Toronto branch of Aish HaTorah. I firmly believe that of his many successful investments, his investment in Aish has provided the biggest dividends for his family, the Toronto community and world Jewry. Here is Mr. Berman's Ethical Will:
"All of you are familiar with a legal will, in which you dispose of all your property and designate the beneficiary of each asset. Likewise, according to Jewish tradition, an ethical will is your reflection on your life as a Jew. What the prime motivating values governing your life are - and how through the prism of your own experience, God's laws are enacted and validated.
"Make a commitment, and get thee a spouse - a lone person is nothing but lonely - but with a spouse, and with God's help, children can be a reality. A family is formed, and you are at the beginning of the future. A family leads to being part of a community, and within a community, you are a force and you have strength. As a community you claim kinship with your people, its collective experience and its collective memory, roots, a past.
"Make your family home an oasis of faith, tranquillity, light and warmth so that it becomes an example worthy of emulation.
"Share - share your feelings, your joys, your sorrows, and your blessings. Sharing is caring and its material implementation is Tzedeka (righteousness - philanthropy). All you have is not only a result of your own efforts, but by and large, it is Providential. When trouble strikes we all ask 'Why me?' Similarly, when you have abundance, you should ask 'Why me?' Share your earnings, your income, and your assets with your community and its institutions.
"This must be planned, not only on a current basis, but on an endowment basis, for continuity of support. A balance must be struck between competing needs, between institutions and individuals, between impersonal-giving and one-on-one interacting, and between the mature and the new, the innovated, the untried.
"Be alive. Learn to let yourself feel. Learn the language of emotion. Learn to savor each moment even if it does not last - in fact, savor it because it does not last.
"Learn to thank God for creating emotions and feelings. Each day let one person feel comfort because of you. Each day let one person see hope because of you.
"Do not be indifferent. Indifference is a greater danger than evil, because it precedes evil and allows it to flourish. The Holocaust is the prime example in my lifetime.
"Learn and practice the absolute standards taught in our Torah in our relationships with others so that our society can continue to function smoothly. Do not associate with those who do not adhere to a high level of conduct.
"Communicate not only by speaking, but also by listening. Listen for silences and for pauses - for these express as much as words.
"Do it now - act now. Each day must be planned, and its results must be evaluated and measured each evening.
"Ask questions - question everything, not from a destructive standpoint, but rather to understand and to improve. Question yourself, your institutions, and your society.
"Have faith - establish a relationship with God.
"These are just a few of the guidelines that Helen and I have jointly and individually observed during our lifetime. This now leads me to my most important piece of advice: Find yourself a role model to emulate and to follow. A person who follows in God's ways. Who is mine? There is only one. That is my wife, Helen. Without her example, my life and our family's life would have - Less Passion, Less Fervor, Less Feeling, Less Faith, Less Meaning, Less Love, Less Joy, Less Music, Less Color, Less Beauty, and less of every positive aspect of living."
The Talmud tells us that if a person teaches you even one thing, he should be called "Rebbie" - my teacher. Many times over we can all call Joe Berman "Rebbie"!
Torah Portion of the Week
We left off last week with Joseph's pronouncement that he was keeping Benjamin as a slave for stealing his wine cup. Judah steps forward to challenge the decision and offers himself as a slave instead of Benjamin. Joseph is overcome with emotion, clears the room of all Egyptians and then reveals his identity to his unsuspecting brothers.
The brothers are shocked! They suspect Joseph's intentions, but accept his offer to bring the extended family to Egypt. Jacob is initially numb and disbelieving of the news, but becomes very excited to see his son.
During the famine, Joseph buys up all of the property and people in Egypt for Pharaoh with the grain stored during the Seven Good Years. The Torah recounts the 70 souls of the Jewish people who went down to Egypt. Jacob reunites with Joseph, meets Pharaoh and settles with the family in the Goshen district.
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And Joseph said to his brothers, 'I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?' And his brothers could not answer him because they trembled before him." (Genesis 45:3)
How many words does it take to penetrate someone's heart to change? How long must it take for someone to change?
These words of Joseph were rebuke to his brothers. They had thought evil of Joseph and now they realized that his prophetic dreams of rulership and power were true. They instantaneously realized that they were previously wrong in their judgment of him. A mistake they had lived with for many years was cleared up with just two Hebrew words "Ani Yosef" - I am Joseph. The brothers changed their minds in just one moment.
There is no minimum to touching another person's heart. When what you say - or write - is powerful enough, you can give people great awareness very quickly.
CANDLE LIGHTING - January 2:
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 5:26 Hong Kong 5:33 Honolulu 5:42
J'Burg 6:45 London 3:44 Los Angeles 4:36
Melbourne 7:23 Miami 5:24 Moscow 3:52
New York 4:22 Singapore 6:53
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
You've got to go out on a limb sometimes
because that's where the fruit is.
-- Will Rogers
In Honor of