TOLDOS (Genesis, 25:19-28:9) — “‘Helping’ G-d Help You”

Jacob was a man who faced adversity throughout his life.  And he dealt with that adversity by being proactive.

His wicked twin brother Esau sought to undermine the traditions of Abraham and Isaac.  Had he received Isaac’s blessings, it would have been devastating for the future Nation of Israel.  Jacob therefore made sure that the blessings would not go to Esau.  (See “Walking the Talk”.)

Jacob’s father-in-law cheated him and tried to kill him.  Jacob engaged in the appropriate actions to protect himself.  Esau wanted to kill him.  Again, Jacob protected himself.

In every situation that Jacob faced, he didn’t sit back and wait for G-d to take care of things for him.  He made the appropriate efforts and prayed to G-d for success.

For example, when Esau came after him with an army of 400 men, Jacob – a) sent gifts in an effort to appease him; b) prepared for war; c) prayed to G-d for success.

———————————————————————————–

And that’s how it is in life.

We go to the synagogue on Rosh Hashanah and pray to G-d for a good year.  Among other things, we ask Him for financial success.  We ask Him to provide us with our material needs.

What we DON’T do is then sit around and wait for Mannah to fall from Heaven.  True, our sustenance comes from G-d.  But we’re supposed to DO something about it.  We educate ourselves in what we need to know to make a living.  We write resumes and we network with the people we know.  We make investments and we study the market.  We advertise and we provide the best customer service available.

We do all that and more, and if G-d blesses our efforts we will succeed.  If He doesn’t, all the advertising and customer service in the world won’t put bread on our table.

That is how we earn a living, and that is how we take care of our health.

And that is how we vote.

———————————————————————————–

Some of my readers very much appreciated last week’s Torah Talk, “A Torah Jew’s Guide to ‘Losing’ Elections”.  Others objected to it strenuously.  Predictably, the ones who agreed with it were the ones who voted against the President, and those who disagreed were the ones who voted for him.

And that’s a shame.  Because it means that my message was misunderstood.

———————————————————————————–

Last week my friend Howard posted a comment on the website about that article.  Normally, I would respond in the Comments section of the website, right after his comment.  However, I decided instead to share our discussion with you on this page.

Howard’s comments:

I certainly agree with your closing paragraphs, but I am unaware of how you voted four years or eight years ago. This President, our President did not put us in the current economic situation. He did not put us in two wars, he did not cause or create the Housing Bubble or advocate for Deregulation or the removal of the Glass Steagal Act 1999(Clinton did that), He didn’t ship manufacturing jobs overseas (Bain Capital helped with that). 

Ships of State do not turn on a dime or necessarily in 4 years. You feel that Obama is not a strong supporter of Israel, not true. Do you really believe that he would tolerate a nuclear Iran, I think not. You quote from the Talmud “King Solomon writes that A king’s heart is like streams of water in the hand of G-d; wherever he wishes, so He directs it”. I’m certainly not educated in Talmud but I do study history, economics and ethics. I have found that being open-minded and being tolerant of others beliefs and practices is following the stream of water which G-d directs. You do not have to support Gay marriage or a Gay lifestyle. You do not have to approve of a women’s right to choose. What you should not do is try and impose your views on others because if it’s wrong G-d will direct the flow of water in other directions. 

He did so this election and may President Obama continue to improve our economy and if not we will have a new President in 4 years. Have a good Shabbos. 

Howard 

My Reply:

A few ground rules before I reply to your post.

The name of this website is “Torah Talk.”  The purpose is to share teachings from the Torah and their practical applications to daily life.  It is not a political website.  Occasionally I will break my own rules and sneak in a political comment.  This, of course, led to your political response.

It is very tempting to respond to your political comments, which I believe are in error.  But I really don’t want to go there.  If you want to engage rabbis in political discussion, I can refer you to some of my colleagues who regularly blog on politics.  Although I have very strong political leanings, that is not what I choose to be the main emphasis of my blog.

The title of my article is “A Torah Jew’s Guide to ‘Losing’ Elections.” The point of the article was not to tell my readers how they should have voted, (although, as I mentioned above, I did manage to make that point as well.)  Rather, I was addressing the issue of how to deal with the situation when important things don’t go the way you want them to.  The main thrust of this article could have applied equally to Obama supporters had the results gone the other way.

Another ground rule is that these articles are written from the perspective of Torah Judaism.  They are written with the belief that G-d created the world, and gave 7 Commandments to the Children of Noah.   (That would include all of us, except those who believe that their ancestors were monkeys. Actually, it includes them too, whether they know it or not, and whether they like it or not!)  Then He gave the Torah on Mount Sinai to the Children of Israel, and gave them 613 Commandments.

A Commandment (“Mitzvah” in Hebrew, often mistranslated to mean “good deed”) implies that there is a “Commander” (G-d) and a “Commandee” (Humanity, or Israel, depending upon which Commandment.)   There is no such thing as the “Ten Suggestions.”  The Master of the world tells us what He expects of us, and we are expected to comply.

Of course, all this is moot if you believe that the Torah is a quaint little book of customs that are ok if you do them and okay if you don’t.  Then you can eat lox and bagels and say things like “kvetch” and give imitation Christmas presents on Chanukah and feel very good about your cultural Jewishness.  (See “A High Fly Matzah Ball into SHALLOW Center Field”.)

But if you believe that G-d instructs us through the Torah, and expects us to follow it, then “I’m ok, you’re ok” doesn’t work so well anymore.

So, the premise of this website is that it is a discussion of the orders from G-d, Who expects me and you (yes, YOU!) to observe His Commandments.  Some people disagree with that premise.  G-d gives us the free will to choose whether or not to do what is right.  Our challenge in life is to see if we will make the right decisions.  But we certainly should not assist others in making the wrong decisions.

Howard, you referred to my quote from the Book of Proverbs that “…A king’s heart is like streams of water in the hand of G-d; wherever he wishes, so He directs it”.

The fact that G-d will influence a king does not mean that we should be unconcerned about whom we choose.  Just as one doesn’t walk blindfolded into the street with faith that G-d will direct the streams of traffic not to hit him, so too we are obligated to use our G-d-given intellects to discern what the proper path should be.  We should choose the best possible leader, and then pray to G-d that it will all work out.

I am sure that you and I agree upon the accuracy of the previous sentence.  Where we obviously disagree is on the question of who that leader is.  But again, that was not the point of my article.

Where I think I lost you (or that you lost me) is on your application of King Solomon’s words to certain “social issues.”

You wrote:

I have found that being open-minded and being tolerant of others beliefs and practices is following the stream of water which G-d directs. You do not have to support Gay marriage or a Gay lifestyle. You do not have to approve of a women’s right to choose. What you should not do is try and impose your views on others because if it’s wrong G-d will direct the flow of water in other directions.

The Torah tells us that a man does not marry a man.  The Torah tells us that such behavior is “an abomination.”  The Torah tells us not to tolerate such behavior.

As well, להבדיל, the Christian (and Muslim) world recognizes that this behavior is unacceptable.  Society at large has always seen it as wrong.

As well, adultery is an egregious sin.  Society understands that it is wrong.  Unfortunately, the world is becoming increasingly tolerant of such aberrant behavior.  But people of high morals and integrity know how wrong it is.  You’ll never find great role models and heroes like Presidents and generals acting like … oops!  Scratch that last sentence!  (Did somebody say “Betray Us?!”)

While it is true that to a certain degree, government should be religiously neutral, it is not true that there should be no enforcement of values.  Society needs to have standards, and society does have standards.  Society has always maintained that certain behaviors are wrong.

You say that we should not impose our views on others.  But we do.  And we always have.  If two consenting adults decide to get married, and they happen to be father and daughter or mother and son or brother and sister, we don’t allow it.  We choose to be intolerant.  If a man decides that he wants to marry his neighbor’s wife, or twelve women, or a five-year-old, or his horse, we don’t allow it.  We choose to be intolerant.

The Torah expects us to love our fellow human beings and treat them with respect.  But the Torah does not expect us to endorse or support immorality.

You wrote:

You do not have to approve of a women’s right to choose. What you should not do is try and impose your views on others because if it’s wrong G-d will direct the flow of water in other directions.

Again, G-d does not tell us to “go with the flow.”  He tells us to oppose immorality.

I love the sterile expression “a woman’s right to choose.”

(Just for the record, if you go back to the article, you will see that I did not list among my reasons for voting against Obama the fact the he approves of allowing doctors to kill little human beings whose only crime is that they have not yet been born.  I must confess that there have been times that I did vote for such people.  Shame on me.)

What does “a woman’s right to choose” mean?  Choose what?

Is it not true that the reason they use that antiseptic expression is that it doesn’t address the fact that a human heart is going to be stopped because it is simply too inconvenient for that human’s mother to deal with that human being allowed to live?

Are these little humans less human than we are, just because they can’t advocate for ourselves?  When we decide that a mother has a “right” to exterminate her child because that child is less-than-fully-human, how different are we from the Nazis?  Less than fully human?  Isn’t that what they said about us?!!

What’s that you say?  A woman has a right to make choices about what to do with her own body?  Really??

If a woman goes into a doctor’s office and asks him to remove her spleen because she just doesn’t want to have one, will he do it? What if she decides that she just doesn’t like her left hand anymore?  Or that one eye is sufficient?  Will society allow her to exercise her “right” to destroy parts of her body?  And if the doctor complies, how long will he keep his medical license?  How long will he stay out of jail?

—————————————

Have you ever noticed when you read about advocates of so-called “rights” that the Torah opposes, e.g., “gay” marriage, murder of pre-born humans, etc. the lists invariable contain Jewish names?  In fact I have often seen these “rights” referred to as “Jewish values.”  How have these travesties come to be viewed as Jewish?!! Why do so many Jews support these very non-Jewish values?  Here’s an interesting analysis from Dennis Prager (who, by the way, is not orthodox).

—————————————————-

G-d does not tell us to sit back and allow immorality to happen.  He doesn’t tell us to ignore the wrongs of society and leave it up to Him to fix it.  He expects US to make the world a better place.

G-d is “Pro-Choice.”  He expects us choose to make the right choice.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

——————————————————————————

FROM THE ARCHIVES

 “ ‘Helping’ G-d Help You” 

… In every situation that Jacob faced, he didn’t sit back and wait for G-d to take care of things for him.  He made the appropriate efforts and prayed to G-d for success…

And that’s how it is in life…

What we DON’T do is then sit around and wait for Mannah to fall from Heaven.  True, our sustenance comes from G-d.  But we’re supposed to DO something about it…

Some of my readers very much appreciated last week’s Torah Talk…Others objected to it strenuously …

And that’s a shame.  Because it means that my message was misunderstood…

Read more.

——————————————————————————

 “The So-Called ‘Rabbi’” 

I don’t look down on people who don’t share Torah Judaism’s view of our obligations to G-d.  I try very hard not to put down Jews who believe differently than I.  I believe, quite simply, that in most cases, they have not had the opportunity to learn and to come to understand what Torah is really all about.

But one thing that really bugs me is when people misrepresent Torah Judaism.

Perhaps you read about the travesty that took place in  Washington,  DC last week.

Read More.

——————————————————————————

“Something Smells Rotten in the State of Beersheba” (2009)

… The blessing of a holy man like Isaac carries a great deal of weight… Esau no longer possessed the legal status of the firstborn.  He was not entitled to Isaac’s blessing.

 … Rebecca set out to save Isaac’s blessing for Jacob … She placed goat hides on smooth-skinned Jacob so he would feel like his hairy brother if Isaac touched him.  She dressed him in Esau’s special garment, which had once belonged to Adam.

 The ruse went well…

 when he realized that he had blessed the “wrong” son, he saw Gehinnom (loose and largely inaccurate translation: “hell”) open up under Esau…

Read more.

——————————————————————————

“Like Father, Like Son” (2008)

…  Abraham had been married to Sarah for decades without children.  Then she was abducted for a short time by Abimelech, the Philistine king.  A short time later, Sarah was pregnant.  It didn’t take much for the “Yentahs” in the neighborhood to start spreading nasty rumors as to the paternity of Isaac.

In order to stop the rumors…

Read more.

——————————————————————————

“Closed Eyes and Closed Mouths” (2006) 

Abraham had a total of eight sons.  However, most of them did not represent the future of Israel.  Abraham passed his legacy on to his second son Isaac …

Isaac had two sons, Esau and Jacob.  Who would be the standard bearer of the descendants of Isaac?

Esau was perhaps the greatest con man who ever lived.  He managed to pull the wool over the eyes of his father Isaac … his mother, however, was not impressed…

Read more.

——————————————————————————

“Red Beans and Redskins” (2003) 

… In my 20+ years as a rabbi, I have learned that there are certain “safe” topics. (E.g., loving your fellow man and giving charity) Some topics are more “iffy,” (Sabbath observance and Kashruth) while others are downright volatile (intermarriage and “terminating” pre-born children). Many listeners and readers want a rabbi to inspire and uplift them, but only as long as he minds his own #$%&*#@*! business.

… there have been times that I’ve managed to get lots of people upset with me. Today’s topic fits into that category. So, I hope you’ll read this with an open mind. If you agree, that’s great. If you disagree, there’s always next week! 🙂 …

Read more.

——————————————————————————

“An ‘FFB’ Marries a ‘BT’” (2002)

… They were an unusual couple…

His father was a respected scholar. Her father was known to his neighbors as a degenerate. He had attended the finest Yeshiva. She was self-taught. In his youth, he had been insulated from the evils of the outside world. She had lived in the outside world.

His family welcomed her. Her family wasn’t thrilled about the marriage. She had told them that she was marrying him whether they liked it or not.

Could this marriage work?…

Read more.

——————————————————————————

“Walking the Talk” (2001)

In an unprecedented act of “Divinely endorsed deception,” Jacob embarks upon a mission to fool his father. Jacob is an honest and gentle man, while his brother Esau is a rogue and a fraud. Esau has managed to fool his blind father Isaac into thinking that he is worthy of receiving his blessing…

Rebecca understands the true nature of her wicked son Esau. She has been given the prophetic message that this miscarriage of justice cannot be permitted to take place. She places goatskin on Jacob’s smooth-skinned arms so that he will feel like his hairy brother Esau. She assures him that under these unusual circumstances, it is permitted to mislead his father into thinking that he is Esau…

Still, Jacob was uncomfortable with the ruse. He understood that this was necessary. His mother was a prophetess, and she said that this had to be done… Yet, pretending to be someone he wasn’t didn’t sit well with Jacob…

Read more.

——————————————————————————

“Double Trouble” (2000) 

…One Mitzvah that was very important even to a scoundrel like Esau was honoring his father; he would never do anything to hurt Isaac. He would wait patiently for his father’s death before murdering his brother. But why did he say, “The days of mourning for my father are coming”? Why didn’t he just say, “When my father dies, I’ll kill Jacob?” Why the emphasis on mourning?…

Read more.

——————————————————————————

This is the weekly message at TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

——————————————————————————

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

——————————————————————————

If you enjoyed this e-mail, send it to a friend.

To subscribe to this mailing, send an e-mail to Torahtalk@gmail.com  and type “Subscribe” on the subject line.  To unsubscribe, type “Unsubscribe” on the subject line.

Published on November 16, 2012 at 10:54 am  Leave a Comment  

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: