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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

Always Growing

We have previously discussed what the hashkafic differences between Avraham Aveinu and Lot were, to understand what it was that ultimately resulted in Lot’s exclusion from the nation that Avraham was going to found. When given the choice where to live, Lot chose to live among the Sedomites. This choice would tell us a lot about Lot’s approach toward his growth. He chose to live among people who were not as great as he was. As long as he was the greatest among the people he interacted with, this was good enough. This was, of course, very far from the life of constant dedication and commitment that Avraham preached. There is never a place for complacency in one’s avodah, and we must work to eradicate these feelings. Always striving upward; always pushing onward, these are signs of true dedication. But there is perhaps an even greater lesson we can learn from Lot; a lesson that explains why and how Lot ended up taking leave of Avraham, and falling so quickly from grace. After Hashem issued the command of Lech Lecha to Avram, the verse tells us, And Avram departed, as Hashem had spoken to him, and Lot went with him. However, a few pesukim later it says, And Avram took Sarai his wife, and Lot his nephew. First, we learn that Lot seemingly accompanied Avram willingly on his own accord, and then we learn that he was taken; in the way a student follows his teacher. Perhaps we can explain that the Torah means to clue us in on the two different thought processes present here. Avraham had intended to take Lot with him as a disciple, and to continue to teach him and mold him spiritually. This is indeed what Avraham thought was taking place when he included Lot in his caravan of followers on the way to Canaan. Indeed, this would have been the correct way for Lot to approach the situation; to realize his place as a student and follow Avraham’s lead. This approach could have spared Lot from descent into his own hashkafos. But this was not at all what was going through Lot’s mind. He saw himself responding to Lech Lecha voluntarily, as one making his own decision, and that he would go as a prime member of Hashem’s chosen group, as Avram and Sarai did. He would tag along with his uncle Avram, but in his own mind he was not a student any longer. And it was this change in attitude that was the reason Lot failed to develop into the person Avraham wished! He stopped listening to his Rebbi, and he ended up a completely different person! Herein lies the lesson we must learn. A person has to realize the importance of a Rebbi who serves as his guide through the travails of this world. Not only to ask when a person does not know, but to truly listen to what his Rebbi tells him. Following a Rebbi’s instructions is a way of life. If one’s attitude is that he is finished growing, and he understands everything; he cannot learn even from the great Avram! Let us work to retain an open mind and an ever-constant willingness to be taught by our Rabbeim, and to change ourselves in accordance with those directives. A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss


Lech Lecha 5782
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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

The Fire of Avraham

At the end of our Sidrah we mention the fires of Ur Kasdim and the death of Avraham Aveinu’s brother Haran. Let us attempt to set the scene for this inspirational moment in history. Hashem had brought a mabul to restart a world steeped in idolatry and lust. Since Noach had left the teivah, and the world had became repopulated, mankind was heading south once more. Initially they had defied Hashem without idolatry, and now the infamous Nimrod led the world in serving foreign gods. Avraham Aveinu was unique; he was a rebel, an outcast, different from everyone around him. He had destroyed his father’s idols and blamed it on the largest idol, to prove the utter silliness of idol worship. Terach, his father, did not know what to do with his crazy son, and brought him before King Nimrod. It was Avraham against the world; the spark of good against the masses of evil. Nimrod presented Avraham with a choice; either he could comply with idol worship and live, or remain loyal to Hashem, and die. The rest, as we know, is history. But let us understand why Hashem chose to miraculously save Avraham. Hashem saw that not only was Avraham ready to sacrifice his life for Hashem’s honor, but that he wanted to do so. Avraham looked around him at a world devoid of observance - a world empty of its purpose - and wanted nothing more than to leave it behind. He was not frightened by Nimrod and his power. Rather, he truly felt that there was simply no point in living in a world so depraved of spirituality! This is what Hashem saw in Avraham Aveinu, and what He knew would ultimately give Avraham the strength to change the world. Hashem “needed”, as it were, a person that would shine as a bastion of light and faith for the masses. Someone who felt he simply could not exist without connection to his Creator was going to be the key to influencing others about Hashem and His sovereignty. And so Hashem saved Avraham because Hashem was going to use him for a holy mission. Let this be a chizuk to us, as we continue our spiritual journey. We often struggle to understand why we are not seeing true success when imparting lessons to others, or even when we learn them ourselves. We explain the lessons, we drive them home, we teach them from different angles, but something might be missing. What can be missing is that we need to show how Torah and our connection to Hashem are something that we cannot live without! We need to live in a way that shows our students and our children that a Yidishe life - a Torah life - is the only way we wish to live. Torah is not only a great and rewarding mitzvah, but it is also the only thing we wish to do. Improving one’s own character and learning the intricacies of Emunah and Bitachon are not only prerequisites to true yiras Shamayim; life simply would not be worth living any other way. This understanding can help create an incredibly focused attitude towards Torah and mussar, and with it one can cultivate true motivation upward. A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss


Noach 5782
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  • Rav Moshe Weiss

The Kindness That is Birds and Fish

As we begin the Torah anew once again, we learn about the Six Days of Creation and many of the mystical intricacies therein. The Gemara in Shabbos tells us how a person born on each respective day of the week in imbued with a unique middah that was present in the creation that took place on that day. One born on Sunday has the attribute of leadership, because the first day led the week in both good (light) and evil (darkness). Similarly, the middah of Monday is ragzanus, frustration, because the rekiyah was split on that day. Let us discuss the middah of Thursday. One who is born on Thursday is naturally inclined toward the attribute of kindness. Rashi there offers the following explanation; the fish and the birds were created on this day. Birds and fish are two categories of species that Hashem afforded with their food supply always readily available. Birds can always fly to find food, and the larger fish eat smaller fish, which are always nearby. When one enters the world on a Thursday, he will be inclined toward this kindness that Hashem showed in creation. The Maharshah also understands the kindness of Thursday in a similar way; because fish and birds are commonly hunted and eaten, Hashem accelerated their rate of procreation to ensure that they would endure despite the large number of them that would be consumed. This was a unique aspect of creation which showed Hashem’s kindness toward His creations. The interesting thing about both of these explanations is that it emerges that the kindness evident on the Thursday of creation was only on account of the way Hashem set down the rules of His world - how these animals eat, or how they procreate - rather than being reflected in the actual creation itself. This would contrast the other middos mentioned in the Gemara, for the middos of the other days of the week are attributes reflected in Hashem’s actual Work of Creation. [For instance, when He split the rekiyah on Monday, the day was infused with the frustration born of conflict.] I would therefore like to suggest a third way to understand the kindness of Thursday. Birds and fish, created on Thursday, are a means of sustenance that is readily accessible to people who need food. Many stories are told of people who were lost or shipwrecked, and survived only by eating birds and fish. These animals were sent by Hashem to be available where they were needed. Hashem thus created a food that could be utilized wherever and whenever a person would require it; this was true kindness. As we know from Avraham Avinu, true chessed is when one feels the discomfort of others so acutely that he cannot bear it. Even when he was sick, and therefore was absolved of any obligation to help others, still, Avraham yearned to do chessed. This was because he was driven to alleviate the plight of others, even at the expense of his own needs! Birds and the fish reflect this ideal. They make themselves available to hungry people, even at the cost of their lives! With this new perspective of the Fifth day of creation, we have a great opportunity before us. Let us use every time we see a bird or a fish as a reminder of what true chessed is. These creatures represent the essence of kindness; to give everything you can to others. Hashem desires that we look out for one another, that we look to alleviate the pain someone else may be suffering. A gut Shabbos! A Project of the YSI Alumni Association Written by R’ Moshe Weiss

Beraishis
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