One who acts with compassion when firmness is called for will eventually act with cruelty when compassion is needed (Koheles Rabbah 7:33).
While mercy and compassion are highly valued character traits, sometimes they are inappropriate; instead, harsh discipline must be applied.
A young alcoholic woman who had been in several automobile wrecks related that one winter night, she totally ruined her father's new car because she was driving under the influence. She pleaded with the police officer to report this episode as a skidding accident, because she feared her father's wrath. The officer complied with her request.
This young woman subsequently was in another accident due to drunk driving. This time she sustained facial injuries; in spite of excellent cosmetic surgery, her former features were never fully restored. "That police officer thought he was being kind to me," she later said. "Had I been arrested for drunk driving, I might have been forced into treatment for my alcoholism, and maybe I never would have sustained the facial injuries."
True kindness which comes from our minds guiding our emotions will bring more kindness in its wake. Misguided kindness, brought on by our uncontrolled emotions, generally causes pain.
How can we avoid misguided kindness? One way is to ask others who are not influenced by our emotions for their opinion.
Today I shall ... ... try to be aware that even my highly commendable character traits, such as kindness, may be misapplied. I should look for guidance to avoid such mistakes.
1. The miracle of Chanukah. According to ancient Jewish sages, Chanukah highlights a critical, non-conventional interpretation of the term "miracle," which is a derivative of – and not superior to – reality. Thus, the Hebrew translation of "miracle" – Ness נס - is the root of the Hebrew translation of "(life) experience" – נסיון.
Accordingly, that which is conventionally perceived to be a super-natural outcome/miracle, attests to the unique capability of genuine leaders to overcome awesome odds, challenges, threats and adversities by leveraging personal, national and global experience, in addition to their outstanding capability to assess and impact future developments. Such capabilities shaped the victories of the Maccabees over the Seleucid Emperor in the 2nd century BCE, the US Founding Fathers over the British Empire in 1776 and the 650,000 Jews over the coalition of invading Arab armies in 1948.
2. The Chanukah-David Ben Gurion connection. Such a unique capability – to realistically and strategically assess past experience and future trends - was demonstrated by a modern day Maccabee, David Ben Gurion, the 1948 Founding Father and the first Prime Minister of Israel, who stated (Uniqueness and Destiny, pp 20-22, David Ben Gurion, IDF Publishing, 1953, Hebrew): "The struggle of the Maccabees was one of the most dramatic clashes of civilizations in human history, not merely a political-military struggle against foreign oppression…. The meager Jewish people did not assimilate, as did many peoples. The Jewish people prevailed, won, sustained and enhanced their independence and unique civilization…. The Hasmoneans overcame one of the most magnificent spiritual, political and military challenges in Jewish history, due to the spirit of the people, rather than the failed spirit of the establishment…."
In 175 BCE, the Seleucid Emperor Antiochus (IV) Epiphanies of Syria (1/3 of the disintegrated Greek Empire) attempted to exterminate Judaism and forcibly convert Jews to Hellenism. He suspected that the Jews were allies of Egypt, his chief rival. In 169 BCE, upon returning to Syria from a war against Egypt, he devastated Jerusalem, massacred Jews, forbade the practice of Judaism and desecrated the Temple.
The Jewish rebellion in 167 BCE featured the Hasmonean (Maccabee) family: Mattityahu, a priest from Modi'in, and his five sons: Yochanan, Judah, Shimon, Yonatan and Elazar. The heroic, creative battle tactics of the Maccabees, were consistent with the reputation of Jews as superb warriors, who were frequently hired as mercenaries by Egypt, Syria, Rome and other global and regional powers. The battles of the Maccabees inspired the future Jewish rebellion against the Roman Empire: from the battle against Pompey in 63 BCE, through the suppression of the Bar Kokhba Rebellion in 135 CE.
4. The Maccabees. The name Maccabee (מכבי or מקבי) is a derivative of the Hebrew word for power hammer - Makevet (מקבת). It is also a derivative of the Hebrew verb Cabeh (כבה), to extinguish (fire and/or one's enemies). Maccabee, מכבי, is also the Hebrew acronym of "Who could resemble you among gods, O Jehovah" מי כמוך באלים יי)). In Latin, the C is sometimes pronounced like a TZ, and Maccabee could be the Latin spelling of the Hebrew word Matzbee, a commander-in-chief.
The Maccabees, in particular, and Chanukah, in general, have become a role model for liberty-pursuing peoples, emphasizing faith in God, morality/light, the spiritual (Bible), the physical (weapon), the centrality of roots/history, heroism on the battlefield and optimism. The first day of Chanukah is celebrated when daylight hours are balanced with darkness, ushering in optimism – brighter days/future.
5. Chanukah and education. ( חנוכהin Hebrew) celebrates the initiation/inauguration (חנוכ) of the reconstructed Temple. Chanukah (חנוכה) is education-oriented (חנוכ). A key feature of Chanukah is the education/mentoring of the family and community, recognizing education as the foundation of human behavior.
According to the First Book of Maccabees, Judah the Maccabee instituted an 8-day holiday on the 25th day of the Jewish month of Kislev in 165 BCE (just like King Solomon's 8-day celebration of the inauguration of the First Temple), in order to commemorate Jewish history, in general, and the inauguration and deliverance of the holy altar and the Temple, in particular. The Hebrew word, Chanukah, חנוכה, consists of two words, Chanu-Kah ( חנו-כהin Hebrew) which means "they camped/rested" (חנו) on the 25th day (כה equals 25 in Hebrew) of the Jewish month of Kislev.
6. TheupliftingChanukah Menorah (a 9-branched-candelabra) commemorates the legacy of the Maccabees, highlighting the prerequisites of spiritual and physical liberty, in defiance of formidable odds: value-driven faith, tenacious optimism, patriotism, attachment to roots, adherence to long-term values and interests over political-correctness and short-term convenience.
The Biblical commandment to light candles employs the verb "to elevate the candles" (Numbers, 8:1-3), since candles represent the soul, aiming to elevate human morality, while the candelabra represents the unity of the family and the people.
The Chanukah candles are lit, for 8 days (the shape of 8 represents eternity as is the Jewish covenant with God), during the darkest time of the year, when the moon is hardly noticed, and human mood tends to grow grimmer. The Chanukah festival of lights symbolizes the victory of optimism over depression.
7. The Land of Israel connection: Chanukah is the longest Jewish holiday - the only Jewish holiday (other than Israel's Independence Day) that commemorates a Land of Israel national liberation struggle, unlike Passover (Egypt), Sukkot/Tabernacles and Shavuot/Pentecost (the Sinai Desert) and Purim (Persia).
The mountain ridges of Judea and Southern Samaria (especially the Land of Benjamin) were the platform of critical Maccabees' military battles: Mitzpah (the burial site of the Prophet Samuel), Beth El (Judah's first headquarters), Beth Horon (Judah's victory over Seron), Hadashah (Judah's victory over Nicanor), Beth Zur (Judah's victory over Lysias), Ma'aleh Levona (Judah's victory over Apolonius), Adora'yim (a Maccabean fortress), Elazar (named after Mattityahu's youngest son), Beit Zachariya (Judah's first defeat), Ba'al Hatzor (where Judah was defeated and killed), Te'qoah, Mikhmash and Gophnah (bases of Shimon and Yonatan), the Judean Desert, etc.
When ordered by Emperor Antiochus (Book of Maccabees A: 15:33) to end the "occupation" of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Gaza, Gezer and Akron, Shimon the Maccabee responded: "We have not occupied a foreign land; we have not ruled a foreign land; we have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation." Shimon's statement is as relevant in 2018 as it was in ancient times.
From generation to generation,our forefathers blessed their children.
Last week's parsha, Toldot, Yitz'hak blesses Ya'akov: "So may God give you dew from heaven, the richness of the earth, and grain and wine in abundance." And ... after blessing him, charged him ..."Go now to the home of B'tu'el, your mother's father ...and may ElShaddai bless you, make you fruitful and increase your descendants, until they become a whole assembly of peoples ..." (Excerpted from Gen 27-28)
Victor Borge performs his musical comedy routine at the White House. At the show he notices all the pianos in the White House play the same tune, and has trouble playing Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No.1.
The Hospitals of the Old City Jerusaelm 103118
We tour the Jewish Quarter old city hospitals and learn the stories of the Jews and Christians survival in the 1800's
This was Part one. I showed part two out of order last week
Kahane on the Parsha
Rabbi Binyamin Kahane- Parshat Toldot
"I WANT IT, AND I WANT IT NOW!"
In Parshat Toldot we find two opposing worldviews, symbolized by Jacob and Esav. One worldview sees physical pleasure as life's ultimate goal. It stresses the present and downplays the consequences of one's actions. Its motto? "Live for today!"
The other worldview stresses spirituality and place the service of G-d at the center of man's existence. Man must carefully calibrate his actions for they determine his future.
Esav's brusque demand, "Let me swallow, I pray thee, some of this red, red stuff" (Genesis 25:30), expresses the first worldview. Esav uses his intellect to satisfy his desires. His intellect is subservient to his body.
It is precisely this "living for today" philosophy which make Esav weak and susceptible to Jacob's offer to buy his birthright. After all, what is a birthright- a vague honor, an ambiguous title which only has real impolications in the distant future- compared to a steaming pot of lentils after a hard day's hunting? "And Esav said, "Behold, I am going to die; what profit shall the birthright be to me?'" (ibid. 25:32).
Jacob's approach to life is completely different. He plants seeds today in order to reap tomorrow. He does not give in to fleeting desires. He has the ability to see the future and plan for it. His intellect is master over his body, and he is willing to patiently wait to receive the firstborn blessing many years later.
What happens to Esav? He ultimately is exposed before his father Yitzchak and bursts into hysterical tears: "He cried with an exceedingly great and bitter cry" (ibid. 27:34). Referring to Jacob, Esav tells his father, "He has tricked me these two times; he took away my birthright and, behold, now he has taken away my blessing" (ibid. 27:36). Here we see Esav's infantile reaction the moment his illusions explode. For Esav now realizes, albeit too late, the consequences of "living for today." He sacrificed something truly valuable for a fleeting pleasure. His brother receved eternal blessing and he- a lousy pot of lentils.
The worldviews represented by Jacob and Esav are quite pertinent in helping us understand the present situation in Israel and the peace (read: suicide) process. It is the "Esavian" plague which makes the "peaceniks" so eager to throw away their birthright and homeland for a figurative pot of lentils- empty and vague of promises of peace when all of human history and common sense point toward a future of more bloodshed.
Just as Esav was already fully formed at birth, so too do the peaceniks come with ready-made plans for peace NOW. Like Esav, they approach life with an attitude devoid of any real content. And so they forsake the future and eternal aspect of the Jewish nation for fleeing momentary pleasures.
We, the children of Jacob, approach life in accordance with our covenant with G-d. Peace? Only "if you walk in My statutes" (Leviticus 26:3). Any other way will LEAD TO TRAGEDY. All other answers will blow up in our face, just like Esav's short-sightedness ultimately led him to burst into an "exceedingly great and bitter cry."
Darka Shel Torah, 1994
See you tomorrow
Love Yehuda Lave
Rabbi Yehuda Lave
2850 Womble Road, Suite 100-619, San Diego United States