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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Toldot

Parshat Toldot

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Toldot
29th of Cheshvan, 5778 | November 18, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Reuven Epstein
Looking Past Intentions

It was Saturday night, just a short while after Shabbos had finished, when I received a phone call from a man with a dilemma. “Rabbi,” he said, “here’s the situation. I was thinking that I have some spare time tonight and it would be nice to get together with a few friends. I asked my wife about it, and she responded by saying, ‘Okay.’ I continued to put on my coat, yet I then began wondering what exactly my wife meant. I know that sometimes ‘Okay’ means that she is really fine with it, but it can sometimes mean that she is not okay with it. So I turned to my wife and asked for clarification. ‘Which one is it? Okay yes or okay no?’ ‘If you want to go,’ she replied, ‘you can go.’ But now I am only more confused. What does she mean? Should I stay home or go with my friends?”

“Well,” I said, “did you spend time with your wife over the last week? Do you feel that she would appreciate if you stayed home rather than went out?” The man thought for a minute, after which he answered, “To be honest, I probably should stay home. My thinking, though, was that I had a hard week and I could probably use some down time with my friends to let some steam off.” Hearing the man clearly articulate what he deep-down believed he should do, I suggested that he stick to that decision. “I think it’s worth if you stay home tonight,” I said.

Five minutes later, my phone rang again. This time it was the man’s wife. “Listen, I am not interested in my husband staying home tonight.” I paused for a moment, and said, “Let’s be honest. You probably could use a little more time with your husband, and he decided to stay home. Why all of a sudden do you not want him there?” “I’ll tell you why,” she explained. “If he is not staying home because he wants to, but because you told him, I don’t want him here. Let him go out with his friends.”

As I listened to the wife express her line of reasoning, I understood where she was coming from. Essentially, she was echoing the voice of many married women for generations. “If you are doing it for me insincerely, don’t do it at all.”

To a very large degree, this woman is absolutely correct. She is in the right for telling her husband, “Don’t do me any favors and show that you love me when someone else told you to act that way. I want it to come from you alone and be something that you genuinely mean.”

But notwithstanding her point, there is something else to consider, which I communicated to her.

In Parshas Lech Lecha, the Torah relates how a fugitive from the war between the Five Kings and Four Kings approached Avraham Avinu with urgent news. “Lot has been captured,” he relayed, “and you must save him!” Taking heed, Avraham immediately raced into battle, and successfully rescued Lot.
Yet that is not the entirety of the story. Rashi cites the Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 42:8) which identifies this so-called fugitive who reported Lot’s captivity as none other than Og, King of Bashan. And in fact, in lieu of informing Avraham of this vital news and facilitating the rescuing of Lot, Og was rewarded with long life.

On the surface, the story makes sense. Og reports Lot’s capture, Avraham rescues him, and Og is rewarded. But Chazal relate that Og’s intentions were in fact less than noble. Og anticipated that Avraham would embroil himself in battle and die, and thereby leave Sarah available for him to marry.

Think about it for a moment. Og had the worst motivation for helping Avraham, and yet he was handsomely rewarded. But why? It is akin to someone intending that you invest money with him, yet his real plan is to bankrupt you and steal all your clients. As it happens, you make money through the deal. Would you thank such a person? His intent was malicious and in no way focused on your best interests.

In truth, however, the Torah redirects our thinking in this situation. Despite Og’s nefarious motives, he was rewarded, because ultimately Avraham and Lot benefited from his actions.
After relating this idea from Chazal to the wife, I got to my point. “Your husband deep-down wants to make the best decision for both you and himself. Therefore, even if it may seem that he does not have the best intentions and may not value how much you need his time, affection and attention, he should still be appreciated and respected. If, however, you dismissively tell him to go with his friends and remain frustrated at him, you will likely find yourself angry when he returns and get into a disagreement.

“You have two options now. You can either use this opportunity to spend quality time with your husband, despite his decision to only remain home because he was told. Or, you can remain angry and highlight your husband’s faults and disinterest in you. As we both know, though, marriage is about bringing two people closer to one another, not further.

“I encourage you to choose the former option. Recognize that even though your husband may not have had the greatest intent to remain home and spend time with you, at the end of the day, he is a good husband and cares about you. See the good in that which he is doing and channel the moment to enjoy a great night with one another. Use this opportunity to grow closer to each other and solidify your marriage.”

We all have moments in our marriages where something like this or similar plays out. “Don’t do me any favors! You are only doing this because…” And yet, while it may be true that our spouse is not on their game at the moment, that should not take away from the closeness that can be reached by recognizing their inner goodness and desire to create a wonderful marriage.

Despite the perhaps misguided and misplaced intentions, focus on what good can be generated from the present situation and use it to enhance your love for one another. It is precisely those moments which can go left, and you turn them right, wherein great opportunities await ahead. It is right then and there that you and your spouse can turn a good marriage into a great marriage.

Mrs. Ilana Cowland
Jumping the Hurdles

While the world of relationships contains many facets to it, one question I am often asked comes from individuals some time after they are married. “After I got it all right and had clarity, and finally made the decision who to marry, what should I do now when I discover new things about the person that had I known beforehand, I would never have agreed to get married?” No less than a very serious question.

The truth is that life brings with it all sorts of surprises. Our spouse surprise us, as do our children and even ourselves. For many newlyweds, being thrown into running a house, looking after children and simply sharing life with someone else changes them into a new person. Their spouse may wonder, “Is this the same person I actually committed myself to?” Someone who was once full of energy may grow tired quite quickly or become frustrated when their personal space is being infringed upon. Yet as we all know, there is no magic formula to avoiding life’s unexpected twists and turns. Despite the exhaustive research done when looking into a prospective spouse, many surprises you never dreamed of or planned will inevitably arise.

The truth of the matter is that the world we live in is not what it presents itself to be. What appears one way is oftentimes just the opposite. If you ever wish to see how true this is, just consider one of the most insightful clues which life as a human being offers.

There is one person’s face in the world that you will never see. You may certainly meet many people across the span of your lifetime, but this individual you will never see face to face. And that is yourself. You may have seen your reflection in the mirror, but you will never see your very own facial features the same way those who meet you do. Why, though, is that so? Why can’t you see yourself?

In truth, this is a trick question. You can see yourself. You cannot see your face, but your face is not you. Your face shows a beautiful part of you, but your true self is what you give to people and how you affect the world. If we would live in a world with no mirrors, we may not know what our face looks like, but we would know what we truly look like. We would understand that when we smiled at someone, they smiled back and that when we were kind and compassionate to others, people appreciated us.

Such is the key to dealing with unexpected road bumps we experience. We are meant to accept that what seems to be reality is oftentimes not reality. Our very own face, which we so closely associate ourselves with, is the only thing we can never see in this world. But, we need not despair when such realities set in. Likewise, when we discover some new idiosyncrasy, imperfection or habit about our spouse that we never imagined, we may be startled, but that is alright. If we made the best decision we could have with all the variables we were given, that is all we can ask of ourselves. And once that is done, we should in fact expect and embrace upcoming surprises and challenges, because they will only turn us into better and stronger individuals. The people that we are surrounded by – whether it be our friends, parents, spouse or children – find a place in our lives for a reason. With them, we are meant to explore life’s opportunities and define our true selves, bringing it to its full expression of beauty and potential.

I remember a seminary friend of mine who was placed in the same room as a very difficult person. Knowing that she couldn’t handle remaining in such close quarters with this particular girl for an entire year, she approached the head of the seminary. “Rebbetzin,” she said, “could I please change rooms?” “What’s the matter?” asked the Rebbetzin. “Well, I don’t think I can stay in that room with one of the girls. It is not that I do not like her, but she reminds me of exactly who I was ten years ago. I worked so hard on perfecting myself in multiple areas of my life, and every time I see her, I remember the unrefined person I once was and how much room there was for me to grow and therefore for her to grow.”

The Rebbetzin smiled, intending to allay her worries and reassure her that everything would work out. But, she had a little secret to tell her. “You know what? Who else can guide this girl better than you? She is you ten years ago, and is waiting to experience all that you’ve gone through. You are the perfect person to help her, and she will be the perfect person to help you work towards your own full potential. It’s Min HaShamayim (from Heaven)!”

My friend certainly learned an important lesson that day. When we think about challenges in life, do we feel they hurt us or help us? What about our spouse, parents or children? Do we appreciate them for enabling us to better ourselves? At the very core, they are all Divinely placed in our lives because we will achieve, along with them, our true perfection.

It is akin to a professional runner. He begins running around the track, yet every hundred feet, his trainer runs out in front of him and places a gate on the ground. The runner is annoyed, yet keeps on running. When he finally crosses the line, he turns to his trainer at his side. “What happened? Why were you making the race harder for me?” The trainer looks back at him, confused as to why he would be asking such a question. “Don’t you know? You are the hurdles runner! You are supposed to jump over them!”

To the degree that we are waiting for life to go our way, we will encounter many disappointments and hurdles along the way that we struggle to jump over. Yet, if we mentally and emotionally align our experiences with the deep understanding that it is exactly meant for us, we will find the leverage to hurdle over both minor and major challenges.

As I once prepared for a very important job interview, I made the point of making sure all the children would be ready to leave the house on time. Things were going well, and I thankfully got everything in order and headed out my door with time to spare. But then I heard the last words I wanted to hear from my three-year-old. “Mommy, can you find my missing shoe?”

Exasperated, I told all the children to wait in the car, while I would quickly go look for the shoe. I reopened my house door and closed it behind me. But now, I was beside myself. “I don’t need this!” I shouted in a cry of frustration. As I listened to myself, I quickly realized the foolishness of my statement. And so, with the same tone in my voice, I shouted once more, “I need this!” I then began to wonder why I possibly could need this, until I finally realized.

I had overprepared and overcontrolled the situation. The One who would actually help me make it to the interview and be successful – Hashem – had been set aside. So I changed my train of thought. “Okay,” I muttered, “Hashem, can you help me find the shoe? Can You come with me to the interview?” The shoe then showed up and I made it in time to my interview.

When I personally faced this hurdle, in example, I had felt overly proud of myself because I was in control. Too many I’s had gotten into my vocabulary. “I can do this, I’ll make it there in time…I…I…” Yet once I recognized that if only I would reach out to Hashem, He would carry me over the hurdle, everything changed.

Such a shift in perspective was monumental for me. If I did not need that experience, it wouldn’t have happened. Yet I did experience it because, as I know, Hashem loves me and it would only be in my best interests and betterment. Life is not about working independently without Hashem, but allowing Him to carry you. The unexpected events, hurdles and surprises will only be that much easier to handle once we ingrain such thinking into our daily lives. The results of our choices and challenges we face are not without rhyme or reason; they are there to turn us into bigger and better people and grow into truly remarkable human beings.

A Short Message From
Rabbi Fischel Schachter

As David once coasted down the highway with his wife sitting alongside and his friend in the back seat, he was met by the alarming sound of a police siren. Startled, he turned around. “What now?” he wondered. “What did I do?” After waiting on the side of the road for just a minute, David noticed a state trooper approaching his direction.

“Do you know why I pulled you over?” asked the state trooper. “I’m sorry officer,” replied David, “but I am not sure what I did wrong.” “You’re right,” said the officer, “you did nothing wrong. And that is exactly why.

“Today’s your lucky day,” continued the officer. “You are going to like this. There is a special program which the county is offering. Every so often, we follow someone for fifteen minutes and if we find that he violates no traffic infringement whatsoever, we pull him aside and offer him tickets to any free dinner of his choice.” “Wow, officer,” said David, “thank you so much!” “On top of that, you also are entitled to a $500 coupon to shop and purchase whatever you would like.” “That is great!” said David.

As the officer went about preparing the various benefits David was entitled to, he carried on talking with David. “So, what are you going to do with the $500?” After a minute’s silence, David said, “Well, I think I’ll get myself a driver’s license.” The officer paused in middle of writing. “Driver’s license? Sir, you don’t have a driver’s license?” “No, no, officer,” interjected his wife, “don’t listen to him, he’s drunk, he’s drunk!” “Just wait one minute,” shouted the man sitting in the back seat. “Officer, how can he be drunk; he just stole this car fifteen minutes ago!”

By now, the police officer was quite alarmed himself. “Okay, everyone, out of the car!” he shouted. As everyone began slowly opening their doors and getting out, the trunk popped open a and a little boy stuck out his head. “Are we over the border yet?”

While this man was certainly missing a few requirements for safe and legal driving, he learned an important lesson nonetheless. A secret can only be held onto for so long. We may be able to momentarily get by and enjoy the benefits which follow, but ultimately, it is in our own best interests to be honest, upstanding and responsible under all circumstances.

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