Wednesday, October 16, 2013

The 7 Calves of Abraham

Abraham offered Avimelech, king of Egyptians, how to resolve the dispute of their shepherds; Each group said, "The well is ours!"

Someone suggested, "His herd for whom the waters rise shall be its owner! Let that be the deciding factor!" None could deny such a phenomenon, so they agreed.

Then they saw the well's water rising to "greet" the approaching herd of Abraham.

Avimelech was convinced and assigned the well over to Abraham, during a swear-in ceremony to forego harm to descendants. Abraham gave Avimelech a special token to remember their oaths - a gift of 7 calves - for whom the well waters rose; (Beraishis 21:30) A gift that provided living testimony as to who, really, dug this well, the well at Be'er Sheva. It had been wellsprings dug up by Abraham.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Promoting Delinquency in Sodom

What key feature of society reflects its future prognosis? The education received by its children.

Before Yaakov took his family to sojourn in Egypt, before he even took his 1st step on foreign soil, he made sure to dispatch Yehuda his son to set up at the destination Yeshivos (cheders) before their children's arrival. (Rashi Beraishis 46:28)

For this community, Torah is the real home they wanted to settle into.

Here's an example of the contrary, when contrary policy governs a child's education, happens today in Gentile-occupied territory of Israel, where from kindergarten hatred is already well ingrained in the child's psyche.

Such was the educational system in Sodom. Sodom taught their children to shun human rights. In fact, children who dared demonstrate their precocious hateful initiative came away rewarded and followed!

Where does Torah tell us this? In the story of Lot's rescue. When his guest Angels struck the mob with blindness, the blindness struck "from the small" [and only thereafter] "to the old" (Beraishis 19:11).

Says Rashi, "Because the kids started the confrontation, they were the first to absorb punishment".

We know the kids started it, from here: Berashis 19:4.
טרם ישכבו ואנשי העיר אנשי סדם נסבו על הבית מנער ועד זקן כל העם  מקצה

Even though Lot and family gladly hosted THEIR guests, in their own private residence, Lot had to plead with the mob to understand the freedom principle, by logic, "They came into the shade of my beam!" (19:8)

Children decided to usurp this man's private rights of a homesteader, trivialize perceived visions of terror, just to start some personal "fun". The children foresaw an orgy of fun. That God watches their good behavior from "above" they never learned.

The Sodom government promoted terror upon strangers. They sacrificed children to be used as pawns for their perverted desires. Whether it's for greed or lust that drives a society to savage strangers, or whether for the sake of "alla" it's honorable to blow themselves up to kill innocent people, it all starts with the integrity of a child's education.

Monday, October 14, 2013

One of the Earliest "Honor Killings"

Sodom had a wall fencing in the city. It was the "Gate of Sodom". The wall surrounded the entire sprawling city. It must have looked like an aqueduct, with many semicircular passageways underneath it. After all, Sodom had to accommodate, or screen out, a large volume of human traffic.

The city wall served as a platform from which guards can spy on their own citizenry to see if any "crime" or mischief was been committed. In this way, Sodom wished to rule its own destiny against conservative, logical foreigners whose customs and mores Sodomites wished to distance themselves from. These guards were euphemistically called "Judges", each given legislative or executive authority to persecute the "offenders". Each night another team of Judges got appointed to the job, each guard assigned to Judge/Spy from the city wall, the Gate of Sodom.

For example, the night Lot persuaded passers-by into his house to lavish a feast upon them, he feigned anger as he spoke to them for fear the Judges would detect the truth. The wall's guards would see him angry with passers-by, and would think, he figured, he chased them off. It was a long wall around the big metropolis and many interactions with passers-by were common. To make it look as if he is shooing away from Sodom the passers-by, Lot feigned anger as he spoke to them.

A young girl in Sodom (?Lot's daughter?) underestimated the resolve of these Sodomite Judges that guarded the wall, and also underestimated or forgot to consider the consequences of her actions. She was seen by the Judges of the Wall to have taken food from her water pitcher to feed poor people. To make it look like she was retrieving water from the public wells, the girl figured no one would notice the food she hid in her water pitcher for the stealthy, unlawful purpose of feeding the poor.

So they laid in waiting and caught her one night "red-handed". Then they spread her with honey, fastened her atop the Gate of Sodom, and wasps came and consumed her. (Sanhedrin 109:b)

This incident locked in the final fate of Sodom's existence. It was this girl's cries that shut down Sodom for good. God would overturn Sodom and its neighboring sister-cities, and burn them in the process.

You see the same behaviors that follow perverse logic among Muslim communities today, where they perform "honor killings" against women, and cruel and unusual punishment meted out against "sinful" men and children. You easily sense among these people the worthlessness with which they characterize all of humanity. They often treat their own kind as if humans can be literally trashed at any time; And always the reasoning is either absent or perverse.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lot's Self-Sacrifice

Lot liked his uncle Abraham. He was a chassid of Abraham. There were other family members and nephews, but only he, Lot, went along with Abraham's views wholeheartedly. (Which is why he never squealed to the Egyptians on Abraham's real relationship with Sarah).

Like his uncle, Lot appreciated the opportunity to lavish upon guests; Most especially if they were indeed hungry.

Still, Lot preferred distancing himself physically from uncle Abraham. He wasn't as "religious" as his uncle; But he did indulge, as did his uncle, in congenial outreach to needy souls.

Once, having lived in Sodom for a while, Lot found a voyager out on the street, hungry for food. He instructed his daughter to secretly feed the homeless man at night, without rousing notice of the act of goodwill. Sodomites loathed and would kill perpetrators of goodness and charity.

In fact, the Sodomites caught Lot's daughter red-handed. They took her to a roof, stripped her, smeared her entire body with honey, and bees ate her up or killed her. It was this girl's cries that God refers to: "I will go down now to verify that she so cries." (Gen. 18:21)

Lot thus lost a daughter.

When the angels arrive to Sodom, dressed as passers-by, Lot now risks his OWN life to grant favor to strangers. He suggests they enter his house - only do so by taking a detoured side entrance.

The Sodomites had a great detection system in place to catch perpetrators of goodwill. Lot too was caught in the act.

This urge to do good, at the risk of self-sacrifice, even after losing a daughter to the cause, earned Lot an unusual prize. God rewarded Lot by providing that it be his seed that shall share in the Messianic dynasty's lineage.

(Heard this this Shabbos Lech-Lecha from the chassid Rabbi D.S. Pape, who remembers the Rebbe saying this in a farbrengen in 770 where he occupied a permanent "box seat", that -- on account of this self-sacrifice --  Lot merited the privilege of hosting two seeds of the Messianic genetic pool.)

Friday, October 11, 2013

In Preparation of Redemption - Psalm 23

Dovid, probably after making a dash to save his life, suddenly found himself in a dry desert forest. He was glad to have escaped King Saul's furious jaws of death. Now he just walked onward.

He walked on and on and nowhere was there water or fruit. He fasted for so long it would have been enough for a weak soul to depart this world, but he, strong and steadfast, walked along, certain God will occasion for him a favor. What was he now yearning for? He yearned most for another opportunity to experience a prophetic divine uplift.

It was just near to a fainting spell when God decided to provide just that miracle. God infused Dovid's environment with the perfume of Gan Eden and a sweet taste of Ruach Hakodesh. He drew Dovid to ecstasy!

What had Dovid been doing, as he walked briskly in the desert? Did he twiddle with his thumbs? Did he pray, meditate, sing, ... what? All the above, but mostly Dovid played his flute! Seems he always had a flute strapped to him, no matter where circumstances might whisk him away.

He earned that Ruach Hakodesh God now donned on him because no matter the severe ordeal, being days without food or water, he played that flute lovingly. And what were the topics of his songs? Nothing but his profound love of, and faith in, God. The elation he yearned for suddenly became manifest. It transformed his walk into a beautiful "trip to Gan Eden" - which he now used to compose Psalm 23.

The first verse captures the essence, Dovid's complete faith in God. In his new-found sensation of euphoria, he recalls back to when he traversed the desert feeling he lacked nothing! Imagine walking days without food and drink and feeling you lack nothing!

In his psalm he recalls, just before he was infused with that spiritual uplift, the delight he felt being reliant on God. The lack of food or water did not torment him as would have a breach of faith in God. He had total confidence in God!

"A song of Dovid. Because God shepherds me, I will lack nothing!"

This genuine faith felt by Dovid, as he tells in his 1st refrain, launched God's miraculous rescue action.

This is how we greet the Shabbos! We lay away our weekly by-products, to sing of Hashem and to rest with Him.

Dovid teaches us, in Golus (as he traversed the desert), how to live the life of Moshiach times.

This must be why, therefore, we say this psalm twice as we incorporate the Shabbos. Shabbos is a facsimile of life-to-come, where the entire "day" assumes a Shabbos mode. We say it once after Friday night's Ma'ariv, and then once just before Kiddush on the wine.

Shabbos represents the life-hereafter, Moshiach's times. There is the joy of God's presence! One's family of Jews! in His Creation! in His aleph (א) to tov (ת), in His Immensity and in His Modesty. It is the bliss of the Era of Redemption.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Lot's Legacy Shines

The most fearsome and ferocious General of the army was leading the charge, with 3 other mighty Generals alongside. These were 4 armies about to do battle with 5 opposing armies. What went on was nothing less than a World War, 9 kingdoms taking sides.

The clashes went on far from where Abraham and Lot occupied vast adjacent property, but local enough for Lot to pick up and visit Sodom when he liked. Oh, he really did like Sodom!

Wouldn't you know it, Lot happened to be "cruising" Sodom one day, just when the mightiest of all generals, Nimrod ("Amraphel"), swept him up, throwing him in with his other booty gained for the day. Lot was in the wrong place the wrong time.

Lot never figured Uncle Abraham would enter his comfortable domain or niche. Abraham was "religious", and he wasn't, which was why they lived in separate domains. Of course he believed in God, Lot did, but he also enjoyed other fascinating facets of life that Abraham would not want to get near to.

A second heart-wrenching shock shook Lot that dreadful day. He went full swing, from a bitter fright of losing his life, to where he achieved freedom's ecstasy as his chains fell away. He experienced Abraham's sudden, daring rescue effort. At the end of the day he had good reason to acknowledge stronger affinity to his Uncle Abraham.

How do we know to read Lot's mind? Torah tells us with 3 "by-the-way" words. "And they grabbed up Lot and all his assets, Lot who was the nephew of Abraham, and he was sitting in Sodom." (Gen.14:12)

Now we know: He was sitting in a bar in Sodom, maybe sipping his favorite drink. Suddenly - an invasion of privacy! Suddenly heavy swords come clashing down! Suddenly, Lot has no prayer to exist to the next moment. What Lot didn't know, and what saved him, was he was the genetic carrier of a unique light.

A most brilliant light lies in wait, to indulge the righteous; A light that had been stored for this purpose since the universe's Day One. This brilliant Messianic light that first coursed through Abraham spiritually now was to pass itself on physically via Lot's genetic distribution. Abraham's Light would thus wend its way into the sovereign Messianic lineage. Lot's seeds of Moav and Amon would incorporate into this chain; Moav- via Rut (and Boaz); Amon - via Naamah (and King Shlomo).

Lot, therefore, couldn't have been all that bad!

Tuesday, October 08, 2013

The Power to Bless - Its Lineage

Humanity derived from 3 Human beings - the 3 sons of Noah.

Until today, that fact remains the bedrock of belief among many.

Shem, Yafet and Cham sprung the nations of the world, after they survived the "Great Flood". Shem's progeny led to Abraham.

It was Abraham who received a special privilege, granted by God, that no man who ever lived before him ever got! Whereas before Abraham got this rank of Blesser, only God had power to provide blessings; Afterwards, it was now up to Abraham to determine who will get blessed, and how.

This conduit of blessing from infinite source God removed from His own repertoire and charged it over to the responsibility of Abraham.

God blessed Adam; God blessed Noah;  From Abraham's time onward, Abraham or his inherited lineage receive that power.

It was as if God had said, "Abraham, you have one wish!" and Abraham said, "My wish is to have the capability of making wishes!", to which God said, "I grant you your wish!"

We note Bilaam, the Gentile prophet, too was said to have enormous powers of blessing or, as to which he had the option, one no righteous being would ever consider, the enormous power to curse.

Bilaam too was a Semite - deriving from Shem - following the lineage of Haran, Abraham's brother, but arrived on the scene many years later, when Jews were trekking the desert.

The difference between Bilaam and Abraham was, Bilaam was a token or temporary possessor of powers, whereas Abraham passed his powers to succeeding generations where certain righteous generational leaders similarly, until today, possess those divine powers of blessing.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

The Impending Jewish/World Redemption

By a guest writer

The Lubavitcher Rebbe used to say that all the news we need is contained in the current weekly Torah portion! Indeed, some clues found in the later sections of this week’s parshah of Noah dealing with the offspring of Shem, Ham and Japheth and the ill-fated Tower of Babel may help throw some light on U.S. President Obama’s declared hopes of reaching a peaceful accommodation with Iran over its nuclear programs (i.e. diplomatically allowing Iran to build bombs, which it will most certainly brandish against Israel).


The U.S. President is in some ways reminiscent of Nimrod, who was the first-born of Ham’s son Kush. Nimrod is described as a “mighty hunter” (Genesis 10:9), i.e. “he ensnared people’s minds with his mouth and deceived them into rebelling against the Almighty” (see Rashi there). Likewise, Obama attained the presidency through compelling, honey-sweet rhetoric that won the hearts of millions. He has subsequently proved himself a true revolutionary, rapidly turning America, one-time bastion of liberty, into what increasingly resembles a communist tyranny.

Obama has succeeded in demoting America from its mission as the world’s policeman of freedom, abandoning and even sabotaging some of her most loyal and democratic allies in favor of repressive regimes that have traditionally been foes of the USA. Obama’s goal appears to be more than merely to diminish America. It may be that this ego-maniac’s dream is to go down in history as the ultimate Nobel-laureate world peace-maker, who will “solve” not only the Iranian crisis but also the seemingly most intractable problem of all: the Arab-Israeli conflict. Facilitating the State of Israel’s demise would apparently pave the way for an impregnable New World Order, which is precisely what Nimrod sought to build, a world from which all recognition of the God of Israel and the right of His people to practice the Torah in their land is erased.

“Many are the thoughts in the heart of a man, but the counsel of God will prevail” (Proverbs 19:21).

Official Opposition, Tacit Support

My late father, of blessed memory (1912-98), who grew up in the post World War I era and witnessed the ascent of Nazi Germany, had a very clear view of political realities, acquired among the impoverished Polish-Jewish immigrant tailors in London with whom he grew up. In numerous discussions I had with him about the history of his times, my father never ceased emphasizing that in the period before World War II, Britain, France and the other western powers officially opposed Hitler and his ambitions but in fact tacitly facilitated and encouraged his ascent in the hope that he would destroy communist Russia. But in the end the dog broke free from its leash and turned against its masters, leading to the devastation of World War II.

Likewise, since the 1980’s Iran-Contra (“Irangate”) affair, it has been evident that despite official western declarations of intent to contain Iran, the actual effects of European-American-Russian-Chinese connivance in bypassing sanctions and continuing trading with Iran, while endlessly procrastinating in seriously confronting her nuclear build-up, have been to greatly strengthen her to the point where Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and the country's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei are now laughing because they know the way is wide open for them to start production of nuclear weapons.

The irony is that if Obama (arguably an Ishmaelite), is current leader over Edom (just as a number of Roman emperors were black), his underhand connivance in the build-up of Iran will ultimately prove Edom’s undoing as soon as Iran really does start brandishing its nuclear bombs.

Persia, Nemesis of Edom

An important clue to Persia’s leading role as the nemesis of Edom is contained in our present parshah of Noah. Commenting on Genesis 10:2 listing the sons of Noah’s first-born Japheth, Rashi states about the last-mentioned, Tiras, that “This is Persia” (Rashi on Gen. 10:2).

The identity of Japheth’s youngest son is significant because in Jeremiah’s prophecy about the downfall of Edom, we learn that this will come about through “the young of the flock”.

“Hear the counsel of HaShem, that He has taken against Edom… surely the youngest of the flock shall drag them away, surely their habitation shall be appalled at them” (Jeremiah 49:20).

In the words of Rashi in his commentary on the above verse, the “youngest of the flock” is “the most despicable of the nations, and our rabbis explained that this is Persia, who is the youngest of the children of Japheth”. The despicability of Persia is seen in the fact that even though the Persian king Cyrus authorized the building of the Second Temple, the Divine Presence did not dwell there as it did in King Solomon’s Temple (see Rashi on Genesis 9:26 and Yoma 10a).

It will be highly ironic if Obama’s complicity in the build-up of Iran – which seems to be part of his overall strategy to force Israel into a suicidal “peace agreement” with the Arabs – will eventually result in the unleashing of Iran at the forefront of the world stage as the final nemesis of America, leading to an orgy of mutual destruction.

This indeed was foreseen by the rabbis thousands of years ago. That Edom and Persia were always destined to be the leading players on the world stage at the end of days is explicit in the Babylonian Talmud in Tractate Avodah Zarah 2b, which states that “their empires will continue until Mashiach comes”. The Tosafot on that page (in the comment beginning with the word mashchah) state that “Persia will fall at the hand of Rome just before Mashiach arrives”. However, the above-quoted prophecy in Jeremiah 49:20 suggests that this will only happen after Persia has totally devastated Edom.

Waiting for Superman?

Understandably, many Jews and lovers of Israel are highly perturbed at the specter of a nuclear Iran, and are still hoping against hope that some brave superman (Netanyahu and the IDF?) will knock out their installations. Others would like to trust Nimrod-Obama’s soothing promises that if diplomacy fails to dissuade Iran from her nuclear aspirations, the option of military intervention is still “on the table”.

To my mind these promises are as reliable as British Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain’s promise of “Peace in Our Time” following his infamous Munich meeting with Hitler just 75 years ago. In fact it took less than one year after that for Nazi Germany to attack Poland, thereby starting World War II.

To save Israel from the menace of Iran, we should ultimately rely neither on President Obama nor on Israel Prime Minister Netanyahu and the Israeli army nor anyone except God Almighty, because no human will be able to swerve the floodwaters of world history from their divinely ordained course.

I believe that all Jews and lovers of Israel need to internalize the moral of a famous rabbinic end-of-days teaching that foresees the very scenario we actually witness developing around us today. (The first time I heard this Midrash was during the 1980-88 Iraq-Iran war, when it was quoted several times by the Lubavitcher Rebbe. At that time few could have imagined that war-beaten Iran would ever take the center of the world stage, but now we are seeing it with our own eyes.)

“In the year in which king Mashiach is revealed, all the rulers of the world will be fighting one another. The king of Persia will fight the king of Arabia, and the king of Arabia will go to Aram to seek advice from them. [In recent years we have seen Saudi Arabia’s consternation in face of Iran’s build-up and repeated lobbying of the US/Europe=Aram for stronger action. ABY.] The king of Persia will then destroy the whole world and all the nations of the world will be raging in turmoil and will fall on their faces. Pangs will take hold of them like a woman’s birth pangs. Israel will be in tumult and turmoil, asking, “Where shall we go Where shall we go?” [This is exactly what many Israelis are asking today.] And the Holy One blessed-be-He will say to them, “Do not be afraid. Everything I have done, I have done only for your sake. Why are you afraid? Do not fear, for the time of your redemption has arrived, and the last redemption will not be like the first redemption. For after the first redemption, you suffered pain and were still subjected to the nations, but after the last redemption, you will suffer no further pain or subjection to the nations” (Midrash Yalkut Shimoni on Isaiah chapter 60).

Torah and Prayer

While Israel and Jews generally need to take proactive measures in the material world to seek to protect ourselves against those seeking to destroy us, we must at the same time keep in mind that the only two sure avenues to salvation at the End of Days and on God’s Great Day of Judgment are Torah and Prayer. This we learn from Isaiah chapter 26 verse 20: “Go My people, come into your inner chambers, close your doors behind you, hide for just a moment until the anger will pass.”

In the words of the classic Bible commentator Rabbi David Kimché (“RaDaK” 1160-1235): “This verse is speaking of the war of Gog and Magog, which will be a time of trouble for Israel for a short time. The prophet says figuratively, ‘Come into your inner chambers and close your doors behind you’: i.e. hide yourselves in good deeds and complete repentance, for the anger will only be for a short while and then it will pass, and the good people will be saved”. Rashi tells us that these “inner chambers” are the synagogues (prayer) and study halls (Torah learning).

Shabbat Shalom! Chodesh Tov UMevorach! Have a peaceful Shabbat and a Good and Blessed Month!

Avraham ben Yaakov

Of Celibacy in Torah

The Lonely Corridor
Permission from TA Productions
Torah clearly tells us, "It's no good for man to live alone!" (Gen. 2:18)

Of course, therefore, Jews are only too happy to oblige by Torah's requirements to propagate the species.

Celibacy is the right course of action - or rather, inaction - when the entire world is steeped in grief, as when Noah and his family, and his "arkmates" from the animal kingdom, were forbidden from cohabitation for the entire year they were on board Noah's Ark. (Rashi 8:17)

But once Noah and family and the animals on board were ordered out, they again got official divine sanction to proceed with reproductive activity.

How do we know this? Because when they went into the Ark, they proceeded in segregated formation (7:7). When ordered to exit, they were told to proceed in marital formation (8:16).

Rather than exit in marital formation, Noah and family exited in segregated formation (8:18), contrary to God's demand. Thus we learn that Noah remained worried and still feared a future disaster might strike again, which gave him cause to decline procreation.

For this reason God provided him now with a sign to back up a divine oath, the sign of the rainbow. Instead of worldly disaster in times of impending retribution, God will hold back, create a cloudy darkness, and merely display the rainbow.

In fact Torah resents celibacy, by comparing it - to murder! We learn this from the juxtaposition in Scripture of the penalty for murder next to the demand to reproduce (9:6-7, Rashi)!

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

The Mountains of "Kardu" and Noah's Ark

The Aramaic Targum Onkelos translates Mount Ararat, where Noah's Ark landed, as Mountains of "Kardu" (Gen. 8:4).

Kardu suggests "Kurdistan", today an area that spans Northeast Syria, Southeast Turkey, Northwest Iran and Northern Iraq. And right there, next to today's Armenia, inside Turkey, is where we find Mount Ararat. Mount Ararat is most probably the highest mountain in this region because flood-water calculations based on scriptural text reckon the depth of the ark's hull in water from this peak (למדת שהייתה משוקעת אחת עשרה אמה במים שעל ראשי ההרים [Rashi ad loc]).

The Ba'al Haturim says (ad loc), referencing our sages, "Sancheirev cut out a piece of Noah's Ark to serve as his idol because the ark had saved Noah from the flood." It stands to reason, therefore, many more idolators cut away pieces of the Ark for their own pagan worship!

Besides that Gentiles use poor sources for their Tanach-based research, we certainly can shrug off their "sightings" of so-called remnants of the Ark. The Ark was probably all hacked away by heathen carvers long ago. If a Gentile king lopped off pieces, as did Sancheirev, he provided a strong example for his citizenry to follow suit. Which respectable citizen of that time wouldn't want a piece of that "god"?

(Another example of poor Gentile "research" that occasionally appears on their religious sites is the location where the actual, original Exodus took place. They always point to the northeastern tongue of the Reed Sea.  That's where they say the Jews originally crossed. Besides contradicting Torah scholars, they err too in that Jews never "crossed" the sea in the first place. Jews made a U-turn inside the sea, coming out on the same seashore they went in from! But it happened in the northwestern tongue of the Reed Sea! [see red arrow])

Anyhow, Kardu, or Kurdistan, seems to point to the perfect place where an archeological dig would prove to be a great waste of time because undoubtedly there's nothing there to be found!

If any more confirmation is needed to believe the Ark remnants have disappeared, I happened upon Yalkut Shimoni Esther (End of Chpt. 5). Haman used a beam of length 50 amma taken from Noah's Ark to erect it as a gallows upon which to hang Mordechai the Jew (Esther 7:9). Haman's son acquired it for him. Now get this -- Haman's son, says the Midrash, ruled a country called Kardonia (in the Mountains of Ararat)So here we have yet another monarch involved in ransacking remnants of Noah's Ark!