Thursday, November 24, 2011

#125 - Take Off the MASK!

It is not everyday that Rashi, whose basic commentary on the Torah basically involves the simple meaning of the verse, and uses various sources to explain what is going onin the text, sometimes bringing two or three explanations on the same words, mentions a Gematria to explain a matter. In fact, Gematria is related to the part of the Torah that is called Remez/hint rather than Pshat/simple meaning. So, when Rashi does mention a Gematria, he has good reason for bringing it; for certainly there are many more Gematriot on the Torah that are mentioned in the Talmud, Midrash and other early rabbinical sources.

While we won't be reading the story of the Golden Calf in the public Torah reading for a nice few months, this is where the basis of this post begins. The Torah describes the first god formed among the Jewish people since they left Egypt and received the Torah as a "molten calf". In Hebrew, this is an Eigel Maseicha. Rashi on the word Maseicha gives two explanations on this. First, he notes that this word is related to the word Mateicha/metal. Makes sense. But here is the punchline. All of a sudden, Rashi points out that this molten calf consisted of 125 Kanterin (a measurement) of gold, which corresponds to the word Maseicha which is the Gematria of 125.

And while this is my 125th post in relationship to what I just wrote, I will soon show the connection between the concept of idols and Parshat Chayei Sara that we read last Shabbat. But meanwhile, the question can be asked: "It's nice that Rashi brings a Gematria here. But unlike other situations where there may seem to be a difference of an opinion or a question on an opinion, and so Rashi brings another explanation, why did he mention a Gematria here after he explained very logically the connection of the word Maseicha in this context? Even if it is true that there happened to be 125 measurements of whatever in gold that they used to formed the idol as related to the Gematria of the description of the idol, what is missing here that we didn't understand about this before Rashi told us this Gematria?"

The truth is that Artscroll (check out quotes the Levush HaOrah asking a similar question. You see, we already know that the idol was made out of gold, so why does the Torah have to mention anything about metal as Rashi points out in his first explanation? But in his second explanation, Rashi is noting the weight of this idol, and this case involves using a Gematria.

After all is said and done, who really cares how much the idol weighed? After all, we already know that it was a golden calf, and in the previous Rashi, he explained the process of how magic was used in making this.

I believe that the answer to this is focused on the mention of 125 "kanterin" of GOLD. The proof to this that the focus is on gold is the very end of the first Pasuk/verse of Sefer Devarim/Deutronomy where the list of places that the Jews journeyed during the course of 40 years in the desert are mentioned. What one finds is that there are a bunch of names of places mentioned that aren't mentioned anywhere else in the Torah. Rashi explains that these names were used to hint to the events that the Jews lived through when not behaving up to par, and so Moses hinted to their behavior by using these names. The last place in this first verse of Deutronomy is called Di Zahav, very similar to Dai Zahav "enough gold", and as Rashi brings a verse to this effect "I provided much silver for her, and gold. They made it for Ba'al (a name of an idol)." In the verse in Deutronomy, Moses rebuked the Jewish nation for the calf that the made due to how much gold that they had.

And my friends, while most us are saying to ourselves, "How stupid could these Jews have been in even thinking about other gods when they just received the Torah amidst the most terrifying Divine experience that they went through a mere 40 days later?", very unfortunately, history has repeated itself up to this generation, and this story of the Golden Calf is more relevant for us to learn than ever. It is quite ironic that there are those Jews who are Sabbath observant who would never dream of lifting a finger to work on Shabbat to make even a little extra money on the side and be present at the Torah reading about the Golden Calf story, who fall into this very trap of Golden Calf worship. Indeed, the United States was at one time referred to as the "Golden Medina". In fact, included in U.S. history is the Gold Rush of 1849. While few made the big gold bucks, Hashem allows things to happen for a reason.

And so, what is this Golden Calf worship of today that I am referring to? You see, one can be raised as an "Orthodox Jew", pray in the synagogue morning and evening, celebrate Shabbat with the family, and even donate money to one's synagogue. However, without focus on what really counts in this world, the practice of this "Orthodox Judaism" is for the most part what is called "lip service" performing the routines as what one is used to from one's youth, but not because one feels truly spiritually uplifted, or have a spiritual desire to really get close to Hashem. As I once heard one professional Modern Orthodox Jew in synagogue tell another "The days of having concentration in my prayers are over".

Well my friends, this last statement literally smacks what Rabbi Nachman of Breslov states about serving Hashem. First, each attempt we make in our service to Hashem is precious, even if we do fail. But most importantly, we are NEVER SUPPOSED TO GIVE UP HOPE. No matter how many times we fail, we are supposed to pick ourselves up and try again, learn from our past mistakes, and consult our spiritual leaders for help in achieving better spiritual results. It's one thing if one has a hard time concentrating on one's prayers. But because one is now a "professional", it is no excuse to prevent onself from even attempting to do the right thing. It's easy to pat onself in the back thinking that because he attends the daily "Minyan", it is O.K. if he doesn't do everything right, since after all, as far as he is concerned, Hashem should be lucky that even a professional takes time to pray in a public quorum.

Indeed, the Jews who sinned with the Golden Calf gave up hope very quickly when they thought that Moses was not returning from Mt. Sinai following a 40 day retreat. They didn't even entertain the possibility that perhaps they were mistaken by one day as per when Moses told them that he would return to them. And so, since they felt spiritually deprived, it led to them to being materialistic, even to the point of tearing off the earlobes of their own wives in their quick pursuit of grabing the earrings to produce the Golden idol, as mentioned in the Midrash.

And so today, many young Jews, though educated with some form of Torah background with a Yeshiva day school education, get quite caught up with the idols of today - such as baseball cards featuring many non-Jews with the exact baseball scores, and while praising them for their accomplishments, these young "Orthodox" Jews forget that they are violating a commandment in the Torah that forbids us to praise non-Jews - Lo Techaneim "Do not show them grace" (some may argue that the verse is referring specifically to non-Jewish idol worshippers, but in fact, the prohibition refers to all non-Jews). Of course, there is the television, movies, and while I would think that most have parental supervision when it comes to the internet, there is no guarantee that kids at whatever age will not have access to the internet as such that it will G-d forbid lead to seeing lewd pictures and all. Aside from the fact that television and movies include many scenes that include seeing immodest dressed women and sex scenes even outside of what is called porn, the Torah makes no differentiation when it comes to the violation of "thou shalt not stray after thine eyes". And of course, when sitting glued to the television set watching the weekly sports game, wasting several hours a week, even if there are no immediate violations of the Torah as mentioned above, the big time violation of the Torah is wasting precious time of Torah learning, for which EACH WORD OF TORAH LEARNED IS WORTH MORE THAN ALL THE OTHER COMMANDMENTS OF THE TORAH COMBINED! And as the Chofetz Chaim once experimented, a person can speak up to 200 words a minute. And so, imagine the tremendous eternal reward that some Modern Orthodox Jews lose out FOREVER as a result of the tens of thousands of hours they waste on watching games that are being played by a bunch of non-Jews and assimilated Jews who are making millions off of tube watchers. At least the ones playing the games are making a living at it, but what is the rational excuse of the ones who are simply watching them?

Yes, there are those Jews who even attend a daily Daf Yomi Shiur, listening to a daily class of a double sided page of Talmud every day in synagogue. But before or after this, how many of them when they are home when not immediately taking care of the children or speaking to the wife will at times even do so much as open a Sefer, a Torah book, to at least be an example for their children to want to do the same? Never mind the fact that some do not give any encouragement for their children to even entertain the possibility of becoming rabbis; but while we are supposed to see to it that our children have some sort of profession or work to sustain themselves and their future families, many Modern Orthodox parents are insistent on their children being particularly doctors, lawyers, or some other major profession along these lines, as though their children will be otherwise "useless". And then of course, aside from the fact that many of their children will not get married at least until their later 20s as a result, and some have problems later finding someone to marry because they put their careers way ahead of starting a family life, even some of the newly professional men will only marry a woman with similar professional backgrounds.
And while it is important that in some respects, there has to be similarities in a couple, focusing on marrying a professional woman when the men themselves can make a fine living is forgetting the role of women whose primary purpose is raising our children. Now, I am not saying that Orthodox Jewish women are forbidden to study a profession, and I do believe that women in general should not be stuck without having some means of making a living should they unfortunately become widowed in life so they can continue supporting their children; what is certain is that when materialism is made into a major importance, it usually comes on the expense of spiritualism, forgetting what our main purpose in life is, even though technically, they should know from the many years of Yeshiva education of 12 or more years that they had before they began college.

Of course, the professional Modern Orthodox parents of three children have the "heimishe" home, two cars, and for many who live in South Florida - a swimming pool. But did they ever even do so much as to think how life could be if only the husband/father had a professional career, and they didn't have such fancy, expensive cars, and who needs to worry about kids drowning in a swimming pool when they can anyways afford to hire someone to give their kids swimming lessons or send them to summer camp where they will have access to swimming grounds?

Yes my friends, all too many who are not living in the Holy Land that Hashem commands us to live, living in the Golden Medinah are worshipping golden idols, except in a different form. Today, this includes some who wear a beany on the head, and will never knowingly eat something that they know is not kosher. Oh yes, some of them can even afford to be in what is called a Kosher for Passover hotel for the whole holiday (P.S. I happen to know that many problems have occurred in these "Kosher for Passover" hotels, and so those who are truly G-d fearing will think twice before spending the Hametz/non-leaven free holiday in such a place), but how much spiritually can be felt at a Seder in a room of hundreds of other materialistic people when the ultimate place of feeling what a truly spiritually meaningful Seder can be felt only at home (or in a synagogue under the direction of a rabbi), as was originally celebrated in Egypt the night before the Exodus. As for the wives/mothers who don't have to worry and knock themselves out cleaning their homes for Passover by spending the holiday in a hotel, with a fraction of the money that they spend on the hotel, they could use to hire a young, Orthodox Jewish lady or a few ladies to clean every last speck of dirt, and the family can even enjoy Passover during the course of the eight day holiday by going to some fun outing, as even very religious Jews in Israel do with their families during this holiday.

I will be honest here. I was far from raised with a golden spoon in my mouth, in sharp contrast to most of my classmates. Most of them, being Modern Orthodox most of whom raised in homes whose parent or parents were professionals, had quite fancy Bar Mitzvas. They read the whole Parsha and Haftara, followed with a big Kiddush in the synagogue, and then there was the Sunday affair at some hotel hall with virtually all of the lavish trimmings that are present with weddings. My Bar Mitzva, on the other hand, was quite simple. It is true that since I was born on a Rosh Chodesh, I was able to celebrate my Bar Mitzva on Rosh Chodesh, even as it fell out during the workweek, so it wasn't just an ordinary Monday or Thursday thing reading the Torah, so it was a little more special because of the uniqueness of the day. However, all I had was an Aliyah to the Torah, and a breakfast in the synagogue which was located across the street from the Yeshiva day school, with mostly my classmates and old people of the synagogue in attendance. And that was it my friends, back to school for me as though nothing happened the hour before. I never even read from the Torah for my Bar Mitzva, though ironically several years later, I would become a professional Ba'al Koreh (reader of the Torah). Didn't have the lavish Shabbat Kiddush. Didn't have the fancy shmancy Bar Mitzva ballroom celebration. And so I will admit, I do feel prejudiced against the fancy lifestyle of some in the Modern Orthodox world who feel that they have to spend lavish sums for their son's Bar Mitzvah. After all, how many of them spent enough time in Israel to come to realize that many Jewish families, of all types of observant or non-observant backgrounds, barely even have enough food to eat, while many organizations in Israel attempting to help these poor familes basically receive their donations from those living in Israel without American funds? Why, there are even those mothers in Israel who dilute the formula for their babies who cry as a result of the lack of nutrition, due to not even having enough money to sufficiently feed the little mouths of their babies, let alone themselves! And so, I feel that I am perfectly justified in protesting this Golden Calf worshipping that many in what is called the observant Jewish world are trapped into.

Speaking of Modern Orthodox (by the way, the word Orthodox has been greatly misued in terms of observant Judaism, this word being taken from Christians simply to define the difference between halachic Judaism and Conservative/Reform), let's speak of Modern Hebrew. You see, this word Maseicha used in describing the gold/metal idol is used today for the word MASK. Yes, when we live a double lifestyle, professing to the claim as living as "Modern Orthodox" Jews with Sabbath, Kashrut & laws of family purity observance, but doing everything else that promotes materialism on the major expense of learning Torah, we are in essence putting a mask on our faces, something that is literally done only on Purim. You see, while we have the beautiful holiday of Purim today, what indirectly led to this was the Jews benefitting from the feast of King Achashveirosh about which Mordechai warned them not to partake of, even if it would be "Glatt Kosher". And if in case anyone wonders what was such a big sin, it is forbidden according to Halacha to eat at a non-Jewish wedding, even if one is served a Glatt Kosher meat meal at the event by an exclusive waiter. Hashem does not wish us to be socially involved with non-Jews to the point that we will forget our purpose as Jews. True, in the workplace, many if not most of us deal with non-Jews. But, the difference is that we are only permitted to be involved with non-Jews to the extent for what is necessary. However, making merry with them and being entertained with them smacks the purpose of what we are in this world for; and frankly, if we are truly busy serving Hashem, regardless if we are rabbis, professionals, or factory workers, we truly have no time for fun and games, especially with people outside our families.

The name that we call for idol worshipping - Avodah Zara, means "foreign worship," can be applied as well to other sins that also shares the common denominator of doing something different than what Hashem tells us. The fact that one who professes to be basically an observant Jew but gets sidetrackted with other things in life that do not pertain or help with worshipping or servicing Hashem - the King of kings - is in effect performing Avodah Zara, for it is as though one tells a king who wants him to do something for him, "Yes, I recognize that only you are my king; but at the moment, I like to do some extracurricular activity, and then I will get to what you want me to do."


Now, for the recent Parsha events, lets turn to a Biblical character that we spoke of before - our good villian enemy Laban. Oh sure, he was Rebecca's sister, Jacob's uncle, and the grandfather of the Tribes of Israel, but as the Haggada attests, he wanted to do away with his observant family - at least spiritually if not also physically. With this said, his name Laban, or Lavan in Hebrew, means "white." It is quite ironic that he had a name like this, since in our Selichot prayers, we ask Hashem to make our sins like white, giving us a clean state. But as I just described the word Maseicha to describe a double life, Laban represents this very concept. For while everyone else up to Laban's time, even if they were sinners, recognized what was right and wrong, even as they did the wrong anyways; Laban had a way of making sin look like it was O.K., with no shame involved. He was the master tricker, as implied by his title Ha'Arami. While culturally, it means the Aramean, it also means "the tricker."

While the main display of the evil Laban will read in Parshat Vayeitzei of next week,
we see where Rashi pokes at him in last week's Parshat Chayei Sara. First, when Eliezer, Abraham's servant was waiting outside following Rebecca inviting him to come to her parents' home, her brother Laban wasted no time running to greet him. As Rashi notes, when Laban all of a sudden saw his three year old sister wearing a nose ring which looked quite expensive, he figured that Eliezer must be a rich man, and so he hoped to also get a "share of the pie".

In Laban formally inviting Eliezer to the parents' home, he assured him that he "cleared the home", upon which Rashi explains that he cleaned the home from idol worship (meaning, the idol statues were out of the house for that evening).

O.K., get ready for this one. Later on, following Eliezer talking at dinner about how Abraham set him on finding a Shidduch for his son Isaac and what happened with Rebecca, Laban and his father Bethuel's response to the story was "This matter occurred from Hashem..." It is at this point that Rashi immediately states "Laban was a wicked person for jumping up to speak before his father," which is derived from the fact that the verse mentiones Laban's name before his father's name.

Wait a minute. When it come to Laban's greediness for money, and his association with idol worship, Rashi didn't especially blast Laban, he simply states that Laban was eyeballing the money that Eliezer had with him and that he cleared the home of idolatry, which seems to be in fact respectful of Laban being sensitive of the religious needs of Abraham's servant. Now mind you, non-Jews are forbidden to worship idols and being greedy for money shows how unspiritual a person is to say the least. However, for the sudden spur of the moment that Laban was quite impressed with a story that involved Hashgacha Peratit/Divine Providence, actually mentioning Hashem's name with the belief that indeed, Hashem - rather than the other gods - had something to do with Eliezer's story, to the point that he spoke up before his father, Rashi immediately calls him an evil person. And while being disrespectful to one's parents is not exactly being a very righteous person, there is in fact no commandent among the Seven Laws of Noahides to obey one's parents, believe it or not.
So, why is it particularly about this factor - rather than about idolworshipping or being greedy for money, and just at the point that even the idolworshipping Laban is showing that he not only believes in Hashem, but in His Divine Providence, that Rashi, ironically, calls Laban an evil person?

Yes, idol worship is a sin, regardless of whether one believes in Hashem or not. Yes, being greedy for money quite often leads to other major sins such as murdering or stealing. However, even if honoring one's parents is not part of the Noahide Laws that non-Jews are commanded to observe, the fact that Laban had no hesitation in putting himself in front of his parents shows that he did not even had the half decency of being grateful to the ones to whom he should have naturally shown gratefulness to more than anyone else in the world. Someone like this, who is not even grateful to people who brought him to this world, took care of all his needs until being able to be independent, regardless of how kind or mean he is to the rest of the world, does not even have an excuse. You see, people who worship idols as part of a religion or culture perhaps think that this is the right way of living. Loving money as a natural desire for some, not necessarily because they want to hurt others, but simply because they feel that they will attain everything that they want.
However, mistreating the ones that we should feel respectful to is rooted in something far, far worse. Such a person like Laban who behaves like this does not even respect the ones who brought him to be the person who can now acquire whatever money or goods he wants in life. And so as such, it isn't simply someone who is used to bad habits due to the environment or one's natural urges; it is simply pure evil to disparage those who were responsible for his life to begin with. And so, what are the chances that he will even want to live any type of half decent good mannered life even if provided with the truth of religion or enough materialism that will not make him feel the necessity to run over others to aquire it, when he doesn't give a damn to anyone else who are good or evil?

The fact that Laban mentioned Hashem's name specifically when he dishonored his father doesn't even phase Rashi as perhaps being someone who is learning the truth about Hashem. In fact, idol worshipping kings in the Bible also believed in Hashem despite their own idol worshipping practices.

As far as Rashi is concerned, Laban is simply putting on a mask of religiosity to hide his own true self. After his righteous sister Rebecca, who while no doubtedly worshipped the house idols until she learned about Hashem from her husband-to-be Isaac, but had good character traits including performing deeds of kindness, left the evil family's home the next day, Laban never changed his evil ways, and was the same rotten person some 100 years later (people lived a little longer in those days) when his nephew Jacob showed up at the door, who consequently fooled around with which of his daughters that Jacob would marry, tricked the townspeople to provide a lavish wedding for his daughters' weddings with Jacob without paying them back, and messing with properly paying Jacob for his hard back breaking work of 20 years. In fact, Laban admitted to Jacob that it was only after he arrived at the Laban home many years earlier that Laban started having great financial success; but nevertheless, showed Jacob the same treatment of Hakarat HaTov/"recognition of good" that he showed his father Bethuel by speaking before him.

In a very similar vein, we find in this week's Parshat Toldot about Esau, Jacob's brother, who lived more like his uncle Laban, whom ironically he never met unlike his righteous brother Jacob who lived in Laban's home for 20 years, particularly in pretending to be a righteous person while living the lifestyle of a wicked person. Esau went to great lengths in fooling his father Isaac by asking him all sorts of halachic questions to make him think that he had a son who cared about observing the Mitzvot/commandments while he was screwing particularly married women, causing not only himself to sin, but them as well as a violation of the sin of adultery. And after some 25 years of having fun, then Esau decided that he would get married at the same age of 40 as his father Isaac did, at which Rashi compares him to a pig who figuratively shows itself to look like it's a kosher animal by showing its split hooves, which is one of the signs of a kosher animal, while unlike kosher animal, it doesn't chew its cud; and in fact, the pig is the only animal that has split hooves but doesn't chew its cud. Similarly, Esau while committing the greatest of sins outside of the one Jewish home in the world, pretended at home to still be a "good Jew."


Now, let's take an example of someone very famous who recently died - Steve Jobs. Unlike you live in a shell, you will know at least something about the Apple genius, even if nothing more than his name. O.K., he was not Jewish, and I didn't come across anything that would show suggesting him to be anti-Semitic. Now, in a review of his life, one may be left with more questions than answers. However, a Torah Jew well understands that there are no surprises here.

It is true that Mr. Jobs was adopted, and at one point in his life, took the time to reunite with his birthmother and his sister, while not wishing to do the same up to the time of his death with his birthfather who was still living at the age of 80 because he felt that his father deserted his mother which led to his adoption. If Steve Jobs's parents would have stayed together, then probably, his last name would have been Jandali and would have been a practicing Moslem like his Syrian father. Since this did not happen, Mr. Jobs wound up become a Zen Buddhist at one point in his life.

While in time, Mr. Jobs settled with a wife and had a family from whom he never got divorced from, in the earlier part of his life, he had a girlfriend whom he impregnated following which the relationship ended. Apparently, he must have had grievances against his ex-girlfriend, because he went to such lengths in court to deny that the child that she bore was not his. It is true that later on, after becoming the billionaire that he became, he payed for the Harvard education of the child whom he formally denied being the father of, for after all, he wasn't planning on having the child of his ex-relationship inherit a part of his billionaire estate after leaving this world. And then there was his encounter with Bill Gates who though with many more billions was easily able to tell others with far less, including Steve Jobs, to donate money to charitable causes, Mr. Jobs apparently didn't feel the same way about charity giving the way that Mr. Gates felt.

Yes, some will call Steve Jobs a hyprocate for first denying being the father of a child whom he brought to this world, almost the same way as his own father who deserted his family following impregnating his mother. It is true that he had some difficulties making it financially until he made it financially. It is true that he felt hurt about not having been raised with his biological family. But regardless of whether Steve Jobs can be called a hyprocate based on what I already mentioned, there is one detail here that I want to focus on. He became a Zen Buddhist.

Look, I'm not going to start finding out what the difference is between a Zen Buddhist or other types of Buddhists. O.K., maybe Mr. Jobs believed that some idol is god instead of the real G-d. But my focus about all this is what the Buddhist religion is about, more than who is the god.

Basically, Buddhists are self-centered people. More than just how they may be towards one another, the religion calls for them to be meditators, chanting mantras, etc. In another words, it isn't about reaching out to others, having a positive influence on the world, or making a difference in peoples' lives. It is about perfecting oneself without concern if someone else can be perfected likewise. This reminds me of a scene in a movie where some Oriental was meditating while a robber came in and blindfolded everyone, included this guy. As one could see, all the meditating that the nice guy was doing didn't do a thing in protecting his family or friends.

And so, it is not so surprising that even as Mr. Jobs as his own choice adopted the Buddhist religion, that it did not affect his relationship with other people. No doubt that as time went on that he learned to take more responsibility, especially since he knew all too well that without this trait, he could not become the billionaire that he became. In time, he retracted his formal stance with his child out of wedlock and sent her to the most prestigious college in the United States. However, his good deeds were not necessarily motivated out of a sense of doing them simply because they are the right thing to do as opposed to doing them because they are necessary to get oneself ahead in life. His new found religion apparently had not been able to teach him the importance of treating others with due respect, or putting oneself in other people's shoes as part of spirituality, because it is devoid in itself of these concepts. While Steve Jobs didn't live in the most luxurious home as reflected by his billions according to reports, neither did he take special care to donate a half decent amount to those quite less unfortunate than he was, forgetting that at one time, he himself had only one decent meal a week for which he walked several miles. Perhaps he didn't have such a hard time dealing with that situation, but for others in his shoes in his early days, they would be hanging between life and death.


There is a true story about two Jewish sisters in Israel one of whom became an observant Jewess and invited her sister to come to a Talmud class (though normally, women don't learn the Talmud). In this class, the particular subject was about returning lost articles. While the class seemed interesting, it didn't stop the non-observant sister from travelling to India and spending her time in the ashram as part of a cult. One time, she saw a member of the cult finding a lost article and giving it to the guru. Upon seeing this, she exclaimed, "how come you don't return the article to the one who lost it?" "It's too bad for the one who lost it" the guy replied, "and it now belongs to the guru." It was at this point that she realized that she was in the wrong religion and wasted no time returning to Israel, and became an observant Jewess like her sister.

While non-observant Jews and non-Jews of other religions may accuse Judaism of not treating other people the same good away as treating Hashem, there is nothing further away from the truth. While we see that Jacob was totally devoted to learning Torah up to the point that he came to his uncle Laban, he showed what the Torah is like by working honestly for his uncle Laban, regardless of how much of a crook his uncle was. In fact, the Torah recounts a whole conversation of Jacob with Laban in which Jacob attests to the honesty of his work habits. We see that Jacob didn't attempt to get even with Laban despite the fact that Jacob was the greatest Torah scholar alive who could have easily justified pocketing a little extra to give his wives and children that Laban selfishly refused to help out with. What Jacob did in his attempt for his livestock to increase had no bearing on hurting Laban's wealth, even as Laban changed the work payment terms 10 times (the Midrash notes that this was 100 times!) on Jacob.

There are many Mitzvot and Halachot/laws dealing with the payment of wages, stealing in all types of situations, etc. A non-Jew who reads the Bible, even if he hates Jews, at least has to have the intellectual honesty about how detailed the Bible is about the importance of our relationship with other people, because without observing these laws, we are only putting a mask on our faces, and at the end of the day after people finding out who we really are, we are no better than non-Jews who don't keep the Torah.

Yes, enough of the gold, enough of the blindfold, and enough of being sold to the devil! Even if the only holy book that we Jews would have is the Bible, without the Oral Law, if we were to truly take the Bible seriously, we would be well on our way to living a good moral life without putting materialism in front of spirituality. In one generation, the color may be white, in another generation, the color may be gold, but Hashem never changes, and the Torah never changes. However, while Hashem as He promised in the Torah, will never ex-change us for another nation, we have to make the changes within ourselves without feeling the need to resort to masking ourselves blind to the reality that Hashem reveals to us in the Torah, or the need to turn to something different that will no doubt oppose the Torah.

There is a reason why the first book of the Torah - Sefer Bereishit/Genesis, which we are in the midst of reading in the public Torah reading of Shabbat, is the first book of the Torah, relating history that took place before the Torah was given, which is 26% or more than a quarter of the Five Books of Moses, where Moses the Lawgiver had not been born yet. It is in this First Book of the Torah that we learn how to live a Torah life from our Patriarchs and Matriarchs. As our Sages tell us - Derech Eretz Kadma LaTorah "Manners come before the Torah", for if we will continously learning Torah without applying the concepts of it, especially in our relationships with others, then we are really no better - and in fact worse - than many non-Jews who also read the Bible but don't even follow the few laws that they are supposed to keep. To note, a surname given for the Book of Genesis is Sefer HaYashar - the Book of the Straight, referring to our Biblical ancestors in Genesis. The word Yosher, with the same basic meaning as Yashar, means being straight or honest.

As they say, the truth will set you free. As honesty includes truth, the ultimate motto that we should follow is HONESTY WILL SET YOU FREE.

28 Cheshvan 5772

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