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GOOD MORNING! This week I would like to share with you a true story. A few years ago a young man in Scotland, whom we will call George, is shaving in front of his mirror on a Sunday morn. The radio broadcast carries an evangelical minister booming questions: "Look around you, do you like what you see? Do you know what your life is about? Where are you heading? Want the answers? Then read the Bible!"
The young man finds the questions probing and personally relevant. At a loss for answers, he turns to his minister regarding the suggestion to read the Bible. The minister gives him a standard Christian Bible which he starts to read. A few days later George returns to the minister with questions: "How come we don't observe the laws of Kashruth? Why don't we observe the laws of the Sabbath?" The minister responds, "Oh, you started with the 'Old Testament.' (Jews bridle at calling the Torah the 'Old Testament' because we believe it is The Testament never having been superseded, rescinded nor added to.) "Skip that and read the New Testament."
George asks, "But don't we believe the Old Testament is the Word of God? Then why don't we do it?" Since his minister did not give him a satisfactory answer, he begins a search to find a minister, priest or pastor who could answer his questions. After several frustrating weeks of failure in getting answers, George asks himself, "Who really believes the Old Testament is the Word of God and keeps it?" In desperation and as a last resort, he approaches an Orthodox rabbi.
Finding the answers intellectually satisfying, George continues on his spiritual quest which eventually leads him to Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the founder of Aish HaTorah, in Jerusalem. After about a year of private studying with Rabbi Weinberg and other rabbis, George decides that he wants to convert to Judaism. Rabbi Weinberg advises him that he owes it to his parents to discuss his decision with them first before pursuing conversion. So, George returns to Scotland.
After dinner, sitting in the parlor over a cup of tea, George says, "Dad, Mum, you know I have been studying Judaism. It is my desire and my decision to convert." His mother looks at his father, his father exchanges a knowing look with his mother, and then his mother speaks. "Son, there is something that your father and I have never told you. We both went through the Holocaust and we decided that if it were ever to happen again, it wouldn't happen to our child. You already are Jewish."
If truth is stranger than fiction, perhaps it is because it has a better author!
What a shock for George. What an even greater shock for his parents. And what an irony! They tried to protect him so that he would have physical life by withholding the one thing - his covenant with the Almighty to uphold the Torah - that put life into his life, made his life meaningful.
What is our lesson? We do well to nourish the bodies of our children and to protect them. What are we doing to feed their souls? What are we doing to flourish that connection to Torah and the Almighty? Just as we read books on nutrition for children, we need to read To Raise a Jewish Child by Rabbi Hayim Donin and To Kindle A Soul by Lawrence Keleman (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at http://www.judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242). Also, the Family Parsha - lessons, stories and discussion questions for parents and kids - http://www.aish.com/torahportion/family/ -will give a painless way to add content to Friday Night/Shabbat dinner discussion! Ignorance is ultimately not a protection - it just robs us and our children from having more meaning in life.
For more on "Jewish Identity" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!
Torah Portion of the Week
This week's portion tells a story often repeated throughout history: The Jews become prominent and numerous. There arises a new king in Egypt "who did not know Joseph" (meaning he chose not to know Joseph or recognize any debt of gratitude). He proclaims slavery for the Jewish people "lest they may increase so much, that if there is war, they will join our enemies and fight against us, driving (us) from the land." (Anti-Semitism can thrive on any excuse; it need not be logical or real - check out our online seminar "Why the Jews?" at http://www.aish.com/seminars/anti-semitism/index.html. It's spectacular!)
Moshe (Moses) is born and immediately hidden because of the decree to kill all male Jewish babies. Moses is saved by Pharaoh's daughter, grows up in the royal household, goes out to see the plight of his fellow Jews. He kills an Egyptian who was beating a Jew, escapes to Midian when the deed becomes known, becomes a shepherd, and then is commanded by God at the Burning Bush to "bring My people out of Egypt." Moses returns to Egypt, confronts Pharaoh who refuses to give permission for the Israelites to leave. And then God says, "Now you will begin to see what I will do to Pharaoh!"
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"And the daughter of Pharaoh came down to wash herself at the Nile, and her maidens walked along by the side of the Nile; and she saw the box (containing Moses) amongst the rushes. And she stretched out her arm and she took it." (Exodus 2:5)
What lesson is there for us to learned from her action?
Rashi, cites the Sages that Pharaoh's daughter's arm stretched out very long and she miraculously was able to save the infant Moses.
A number of communal activists were at a meeting which was headed by Rabbi Meir Shapiro, the Rosh Hayeshiva of Lublin. The topic of the meeting concerned saving people's lives. There were some people at the meeting who said, "What needs to be done is simply impossible. There is no way that we could possibly be successful."
Rabbi Shapiro cited the Sages who explained our verse that a miracle happened to enable Pharaoh's daughter 's arm to stretch so far as to reach Moshe and save him. The question arises, "Why did she stretch out her arm in the first place? Didn't she realize that it was impossible for her to reach Moshe?"
He replied that a person must always try to do everything he can to save someone. Even if you think that your efforts on behalf of others cannot possibly succeed, still make a sincere effort to try anyway. You will be surprised to find that you will frequently accomplish much more than you imagined. "This applies to us," said Rabbi Shapiro. "We must do everything we can even if we do not really believe that we will be successful. The Almighty often helps and the efforts put in prove to be fruitful."
CANDLE LIGHTING - December 28
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)
Guatemala 5:24 - Hong Kong 5:30 - Honolulu 5:40
J'Burg 6:44 - London 3:39 - Los Angeles 4:33
Melbourne 8:26 - Mexico City 5:40 - Miami 5:23
New York 4:18 - Singapore 6:50 - Toronto 4:30
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
It's nice to be important;
it's more important to be nice.
|In Loving Memory of|
Rena Rachel Rivka bas
Binyamin HaCohen Zemel
by her children