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This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the website.  We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given.  For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website.  If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the website.

What Happened to the Faith? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Levi Avtzon   
Wednesday, 25 December 2013 20:30
Two Russian peasants are discussing their love for the czar.

"I love him to no end," Boris exclaimed.  "I would give him everything!  If I had a million rubles, I would give it all to him!  If I had a horse, I would gladly gift it to him!  If I had a store, I would give all its income to the czar!"

"If you love the czar so much, then I’m sure you’ll gladly give up the three chickens you have in your backyard, correct?"  Boris’s friend asks.

"Umm ...  not really ..."

"What's going on?  A million rubles and a store you would give away, but when I ask about three chickens, you suddenly back off?!"

"The chickens are real ..."  Boris answers.

I was reminded of this story while learning a fascinating thought from the Midrash on this week’s Torah portion, Va’eira.

But first let’s rewind a bit to the end of last week’s portion, Shemot, where we read how Moses brought the Jews the good news that the time for their redemption had arrived.  The Torah tells us that upon hearing the tidings, "The nation believed; they heard that G-d had remembered the children of Israel, and they kneeled and prostrated themselves."

Fast forward to the beginning of Va’eira, where we read how G-d sent Moses to tell the Jews that "I will take you to Me for a nation, and I will be unto you a G-d ..."  And then the Torah tells us that "Moses spoke thus to the children of Israel, but they did not hearken to Moses ..."

But didn’t they just believe?  Why did they suddenly clog their ears?  What happened to "once a believer, always a believer"?  Two hundred years they held on to their faith, and suddenly, just because things got a bit worse, all is gone?

So the Midrash explains:

The first time Moses came, he was like a politician full of promises, but not asking for anything in return (besides the vote).  So they believed.  True, it was admirable that after so long in exile they still had room for faith.  And yet ...

The second time he informed them that, once redeemed, they would be "taken as a nation" by G-d.  In our language, this translates into no more idol worship, no more freebies!  Suddenly this freedom had a price!  Suddenly, believing wasn’t so convenient.  No thanks ...

It’s easy to philosophize, to declare and affirm our beliefs.  Yet those ideals must translate into actions; otherwise, they don’t count for much.

We have to walk the talk.
The Jewish "Law of Attraction" PDF Print E-mail
Written by Rochel Holzkenner   
Monday, 16 December 2013 00:00

A few years back, there was a great deal of talk about The Secret.  Intrigued by the purported message of this documentary film, I downloaded it onto my laptop.  Through a series of interviews, The Secret exposes what it terms the "Law of Attraction":  the idea that thoughts influence reality.  The Secret talks about a universal intelligence that responds to our desires and positive visualizations.  "If you really want something and truly believe it's possible, you'll get it," posits the film.

I appreciated the empowering message of the film.  I also had some questions.  First, I wondered what was meant by "universal intelligence."  Was this merely a new-age term for G-d, or a throwback to pantheism, the belief that G-d is expressed through nature?  Or was it the belief that the universe has independent acumen?

Dealing with Adversity PDF Print E-mail
Written by Tali Loewenthal   
Thursday, 12 December 2013 05:43
How do we deal with an unfamiliar, and even hostile, environment?  You try to survive, yes.  But in addition to that, a person also tries to preserve his or her sense of self, one's own identity.  "Don't let the conditions make you forget who you are and what you are trying to achieve," you tell yourself.

The next step is something more.  You try to find a way to develop and grow, precisely in that unfamiliar environment.  In fact, you discover ways to transform negativity into something wholesome.  Finding the balance between preserving one's identity and positive interaction with the environment is a subtle issue, which closely relates to the long experience of the Jewish people.
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