Friday, December 9, 2016

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman

This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated by Mr. Binyomin Philipson in memory of his late mother Mrs. Ellen (Elka bas Zisel) Philipson OBM

In memory of Leah bas Rochel OBM

Do we need security and comfort to do well in life? Do we achieve more when we are relaxed and comfortable or when we are challenged and provoked?

This week's Parsha Vayeitzei (Bereishis [Genesis] 28:10-32:3), begins "And Yaacov left Beer-Sheva and went to Charan (Genesis 28:10)." Beer-Sheva represented peace and tranquility. Charan stood for violence and immorality - it was the hub of tumult and turmoil, home of Lavan, swindler and sheep-thief of note. Yet, ironically, it was there, in Charan, where Yaacov raised his family and where the twelve tribes of Israel were founded.

Avraham had a wonderful son named Yitzchok, but he also fathered Yishmael. Yitzchok bore the pious Yaacov but also had a ruffian named Esav. Only Yaacov is described as "select of the forefathers" because his children were all righteous, his "progeny was perfect."

Asks the Lubavitcher Rebbe OBM: Would not Beer-Sheva have made a better place for Jacob to have raised his children? Would not Beer-Sheva have been the ideal hot house for the future Jewish people to be conceived and nurtured? Why, of all places, in Charan?

Says the Rebbe, the olive yields its best oil when pulverized. To produce gold we need a fiery furnace where the intense heat on the raw metal leaves it purified and precious. Jacob did not have an easy life, but it made him a better man and it made his children better children.

Life isn't always smooth sailing. But it appears that the Creator in his vast eternal plan intended for us to experience difficulties in life. Evidently, we grow from our discomfort and challenges to emerge better, stronger, wiser and more productive people. There is always a purpose to pain. As our physiotherapists tell us (with such “compassionate” smirks on their faces!) No pain, no gain. It would seem that, like the olive, we too yield our very best when we are under pressure. The simple fact is that we produce best under pressure.

One of the reasons we use a hardboiled egg on the Seder Plate on Passover is to remind us of the festival offering brought in the Holy Temple. But the truth is, that any cooked food would do, so why an egg?

One of the famous answers given is that Jews are likened to eggs. The more they boil us, the harder we get. We have been punished and persecuted through the centuries but it has only strengthened us, given us courage, faith and hope. At every point in our history we have always emerged from the tzores of the time stronger, more tenacious and more determined than ever.

Yaacov raised a beautiful family in less than ideal conditions. Please G-d, we should emulate his example. Wherever we may be living and in whatever circumstances, may we rise to the challenge and live successful lives and raise happy, healthy Jewish children who will build the future tribes of Israel.

I end with a little poem that a good friend and colleague, Rabbi Yossi Goldman of Johannesburg S.A., shared many years ago:

The tragedy of pain
is we overlook its aim
of leaving us humble and wise

Oh how shallow
of man to wallow
in misery and never realize

That gold, so pure, is in fire proved
and oil from olive by crushing removed
'tis so with all things of worth

So differ from the rest
be strong in life's test
and make of ordeal, rebirth.

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!!

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