THE SAGES OF MUSSAR ON THE PARSHA
Eisev was approaching Yaacov with four hundred men. He was bent on killing Yaacov, who had purchased Eisev’s birthright for a bowl of lentils. Eisev was seething with anger while waiting for over twenty years for Yaacov to return to Israel. Now the moment of vengeance had arrived. It would seem impossible to diffuse such an explosive confrontation.
Yaacov sent messengers to Eisev who conveyed Yaacov’s words to his brother, “I dwelt with Lavan and have been delayed there until now.” These words had a powerful effect on Eisev. By the time that Yaacov arrives, Eisev’s anger was released and his heart filled with brotherly love. What wisdom did Yaacov employ in order to win his brother’s favor?
In fact, Yaacov understood that the very essence of successful interpersonal relationships is sharing with another person. Specifically, to reveal to your fellow what is happening in your personal life. Accordingly, while a conversation about the weather or the latest development in technology could be interesting and enjoyable – it is not intimate. You might have impressed your friend with your intelligence, but you haven’t taught him anything about yourself.
Yaacov knew the language of the heart. Therefore, his first words to Eisev communicated his life experiences – both good and bad – that he had encountered during the past twenty years. This personal approach taken by Yaacov found the soft spot in Eisev’s heart. Subsequently, when Yaacov sent gifts to his brother, Eisev feelings where already opened and he responded positively to Yaacov’s offering.
May we create meaningful relationships with our family and friends by sharing some of ourselves with them. Consequently, we will be blessed warm and trusting relationships.
(Based on the commentary of the Ohr HaChaim on the Chumash)
Today: Make a note of one or two personal experiences that you had during the course of the day and share them with family or friend.
THE AGADATTA OF THE TALMUD
Just as a small seed engenders a fruitful tree, so too, each person contains a potential that can carry him to great heights. How do we access our true inner strength so that we grow to our full level of goodness, wisdom, and purity?
When Elijah the Prophet was nearing his departure from this world, he wanted to bless his student, Elisha. Realizing the precious and unique opportunity of the moment, Elisha said to Elijah, “Bless me with twice the level of prophecy than you have.”
Elijah responded, “I accept your request. However, I cannot fulfill it until I begin to ascend to Heaven.” Indeed, when Elijah ascended to Heaven in a “Chariot of Fire,” he blessed Elisha with twice the level of prophecy that he himself possessed.
However, the question arises: How can a person give more than he actually possesses? The sum cannot be greater than its parts.
Elisha knew that his body masked the true radiance of his soul. However, when his soul separated from his physicality, the full magnitude of the soul was illuminated, allowing Elijah to bless Elisha with a double portion of prophecy.
Even while alive in this earthly world, Elijah reached a great level of holiness. Nevertheless, that was only half of his soul’s true power. If this is true of Elijah, how much more so this is true of us, who have are quite distant from his holy level of prophecy.
May the knowledge of our true level of holiness and purity inspire us to elevate ourselves to always higher levels of spirituality.
TODAY: Rejoice in knowing that you have vast supplies of untapped holiness, kindness, and wisdom.
DERECH HASHEM\THE WAY
Perspective plays a primary role in our receptivity to Mitzvoth. If we view Mitzvoth as a chore that “we have to do,” we will not have much enthusiasm in Mitzvoth. After all, what are we gaining? Whereas, if we understand that Mitzvoth are completely for our benefit, we will approach the Mitzvoth with joy and vigor.
In this light, the Ramchal states, “The purpose of each Mitzvah (both the positive commandments and the prohibitions) is to help a person attain a particular level of excellence or to remove an area of deficiency.”
In this light, each Mitzvah that we perform is like healing tonic for our soul. HaShem, our Creator, knows our nature and the necessary elements of perfection. He reveals to us the Mitzvoth in order to bring us spiritual wellbeing.
From this perspective, the performance of Mitzvoth is not a burden that we have to discharge. Rather, it is a gift from HaShem that totally serves our benefit. In fact, the knowledge of Mitzvoth and their performance is the most efficient and effective system of rectifying our nature.
Perhaps this sheds light on the account in the Talmud of Rabbi Beron. Once, when he timed his morning prayers to coincide with the exact second of sunrise, it caused him to smile the entire day! Rabbi Beron knew that sunrise is the most auspicious time for morning prayers. Therefore, he was happy because he accessed the ultimate healing, blessing, and rectification that accompanies the Mitzvah of prayer.
TODAY: Perform Mitzvoth with the awareness that they are enhancing and refining your spirit and soul.
PIRKEI AVOS\THE ETHICS OF OUR FATHERS\4:1
“Ben Zoma said, ‘Who is wise? The person who learns from everyone, as conveyed in the verse: From all my students I grew wise.'”
HaShem endows mankind with abundant intelligence and teaches us the wisdom of the holy Torah. Just as HaShem is infinite, there is no end to His wisdom. Accordingly, the Sages of Mussar say, “A person who says he knows nothing is truly wise.” Meaning, he realizes that as much as he knows, there is so much more to learn, contemplate, and understand.
In this light, a wise person continuously thirsts for knowledge. His love of knowledge is reflected in his desire and willingness to learn from every person, regardless of their level of wisdom.
In addition, his wisdom is born out by the fact that he recognizes that every human being has something valuable to teach. Moreover, he has the insight to discover profound lessons from everybody that he knows, from the smallest to the greatest.
Conversely, if a person considers himself wise and feels that he lacks no knowledge, he will not seek to learn from others. Consequently, his knowledge will diminish, because wisdom needs to be constantly increased and expanded.
May we remember the infinite levels of wisdom that HaShem has revealed to us and discover the wisdom that shines within each person.
[Based on the commentary of the Chidah to Pirkei Avot]
TODAY: Thirst for knowledge and learn something from each person in your circle of life.
AROUND THE SHABBOS TABLE
After Avraham prayed for the people of Sodom, HaShem told him, “You have conducted yourself beautifully in your attempt to save them from destruction.”
Avraham responded, “You say that I am beautiful. However, when I enter a town with my son, nobody can tell us apart because we look identically alike. As people grow older there needs to be a distinguishing mark to differentiate father from son, so that the father will receive his due respect.”
Consequently, Avraham went to sleep and when he awoke, his hair and beard were grey. In summation, Avraham prayed for old age and was the first person to turn grey.
Yet, his response awakens a question: Why did he react to HaShem’s compliment with a complaint? Could anything be sweeter than to receive a kind word from HaShem? Moreover, why was there no sign of old-age prior to this time?
Rather, this passage reveals a great secret. Our purpose in this earthly existence is to bring material entities into completeness, as Rabbi Akiva taught, “A freshly baked cake is superior to stalks of wheat.”
When HaShem praised Avraham, He revealed that elders are honored in Heaven. Therefore, Avraham realized that it was his task to initiate the honoring of elders in this world. Accordingly, he prayed that HaShem should make a distinguishing mark so that elders will receive their due respect.
May we improve the quality of our society by granting the appropriate honor and respect to our elders
[Based on the Midrash Tanchuma]
TODAY: Honor an elderly person with sincere respect and dignity.