Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:     Ha’azinu
                                      (Deuteronomy 32)

Tishrei 8, 5781


A Life Lesson
A Law of Attraction
by Adam Lieberman


This week’s Torah portion is actually a song that Moses told to the Jewish people. In one of its verses, Moses foretold the future and warned the Jews that they would: “become fat … and … desert God…” (Deuteronomy, 32:15 )
Why does becoming fat — or having material success — lead to deserting God? The answer lies in a powerful human nature reality. This universal truism states that ego and success go hand in hand. When a person has success of any kind, it can cause his ego to become instantly inflated.
Let’s walk through a typical cycle. If a person is down on his luck and believes in God, he’ll ask Him to make things better. When God turns things around, this person is certainly connected and appreciative to the One who did it.
Once someone has success in a particular area of his life, the Law of Attraction then comes into play. This Law, put simply, is that you will attract more of what you already have. So, when someone is successful, it almost inevitably “attracts” and leads to more success. Success does beget success. This Law is at work in countless different areas of your life.
And when the Law of Attraction kicks in, something fascinating happens: A person’s ego springs into action. When the initial success that God gave to a person attracts more success, this person has a natural tendency to believe that it was he — not God — who got him the increased amount of success. His thinking- – either consciously or sub-consciously- – is that while God got him out of the starting gate, it was he who took the ball and made the most of the initial success.
While this might be true, there’s one key and crucial element missing in the thought process. Yes, you did work hard and you did make the most of the opportunities you had, BUT, it was God that allowed the success to come to you.
This last part is counter-intuitive and it’s the exact thing that God is warning us against. Most people can see God’s hand in their lives when they “catch a break” and something quickly changes and goes their way. But, when they begin to ride their new found success to higher levels, they completely believe that it was their effort making the results happen.
While a person must put forth effort, it’s only because of God’s desire as to whether or not he’ll be successful. (An even more enlightened person takes this one step further and understands that even a person’s own effort was made possible only because God allowed him to have the desire, strength, and ability to put forth this effort.)
When you live with the truism that God controls everything, it becomes incredibly liberating. This is because if you put forth the effort and don’t get the “success” you desired, it was only because God knows that at this point it’s the perfect and precise outcome that’s tailor-made for you.
Just as you don’t beat yourself up over the color of your eyes, the time the sun sets, or the temperature of the Atlantic Ocean, so, too, you don’t beat yourself up if you don’t succeed in a particular endeavor. Put in the necessary effort and then see what God thinks is best. (Therefore, those who live with this reality understand just how silly it is ever to lie, cheat, or steal in business.)
God wants you to be successful and He very much wants you to use your talent and brains to become even more successful. He just also wants you never to look back and realize that you “became fat … and … deserted God.”
Start off this brand new year knowing Who’s really filling in all the numbers on your check — and know that He wants to make it huge.


Rabbi Frand on the Weekly Torah Portion
Consider the Changes

by Rabbi Yissocher Frand

Remember the days of old, consider the years of each generation. (32:7)
History is an integral part of Jewish life. The Torah tells us, “Remember the days of old, consider the years (shenos) of each generation; ask your father and he will tell you, your grandfather and he will say it to you.” A Jew must always remember the Exodus, the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the forty years in the desert and all the other seminal events of our history that form the foundation of our faith and our observances. A Jew must see Hashem’s hand in the events of the past and their consequences. As a secular philosopher once said, “Those who cannot remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”
This we all know and understand. But what is the significance of the repetitive language of the verse? How does “remember the days of old” differ from “consider the years of each generation”?
The Menachem Tzion resolves this question homiletically. The word for “years” used here, shenos, can also be translated as “the changes.” Consider the changes of each generation. Understand that the lessons of the past must be applied to the present with wisdom and discernment. Times change, people change, circumstances change. Not everything that worked in the past will work today, and not everything that failed in the past will fail today. The Torah can never be changed but it has enough built-in flexibility to allow it to adapt perfectly to all times and places. We have to think and consider hard before we make the application.
The Divine Protectorate
With broad strokes Moshe presents the sweep of history, “Remember the days of old, consider the years of each generation; ask your father and he will tell you, your grandfather and he will say it to you. When the Supreme One gave nations their portion, when He separated the children of man, He set the borders of peoples according to the number of the people of Israel.”
Rashi gives a Midrashic interpretation of the references. “Remember the days of old” is a general admonition to recall what happened to our predecessors who angered Hashem. “Consider the years of each generation” refers to the generation of Enosh, who were inundated by ocean waters and the generation of the Great Flood. “When the Supreme One gave nations their portion, when He separated the children of man” refers to the generation of the Dispersion when people tried to build the Tower of Babel.
We have a rule, however, that the plain meaning of the verse is always significant. The simple interpretation of these verses is an admonition to us to understand history and learn its lessons.
As Jews, we believe that the Almighty is not only the Creator, but also that He is the Guide of history. We see His hand in the historical events that we witness. And the Torah is telling us that “He set the borders of peoples according to the number of the people of Israel.” The ultimate purpose of the wars and conflicts that shape the world, the shifting borders of the globe, all of these are determined by the Divine plan for the Jewish people. We may not see it immediately. We may never see it at all. But in some way, the destiny of the Jewish people turns the intricate wheels of history.
Rav Elchanan Wasserman, whom the Nazis murdered at the beginning of the Second World War, quotes these verses as proof that all world history revolves around the Jewish people. “When the Treaty of Versailles drew a new map of Europe [at the end of the First World War],” he writes, “the borders were already drawn in Heaven.”
One does not have to be a politically astute individual to appreciate the impact of the breakup of the Soviet Union on the Jewish people. But we sometimes think the smaller details do not really affect us. What difference is it to us whether or not Azerbaijan goes its own way? What difference is it to us if Chechnya declares its independence? But this is a mistake. It makes a difference — even if we don’t see it.
What difference did it make if the Ottoman Empire sided with the Allies or the Germans during the First World War? Who at the time gave it a second thought from the perspective of the Jewish people? But in retrospect, it was a critical decision. By choosing the wrong side, the Ottoman Turks were forced to surrender their possessions in the Middle East, among these a dusty strip of land called Palestine. Great Britain received the mandate for Palestine, which opened the way for the establishment of modern-day Israel.
When we see maps changing, we need to hold our breaths. Somehow or another, this will affect us, either for the good or, Heaven forbid, otherwise. Sometimes it is for our benefit. Sometimes, God forbid, it is for our punishment. We are always on center stage, because we are the protectorate of the Master of the Universe.


The Family Parsha
Ups and Downs

by Nesanel Yoel Safran
All relationships have their ups and downs. There are times when friends can feel very close to each other and get along great, and other times when there are fights and conflicts. When these down times come, we have to make a choice: do we stay loyal and work things out, or just let the friendship fade away?
In this week’s Torah portion, we learn about the history of ‘ups and downs’ in the relationship between God and the Jewish people. One thing we see is that no matter what, God always stayed loyal, and never gave up on us, even when we didn’t act as we should. This can serve as a model for our relationships with our friends or relatives. If we don’t give up when things get tough, but remain loyal and work it through, we’ll see that we come out of it with even a stronger bond than before.
In our story, a boy faces the loyalty choice.
“True Blue”
Steve ‘Blu’ Bluestone lived in the middle of his street. He wasn’t homeless or anything, in fact he and his family had a very nice house. It just happened to be exactly the 20th house out of the 40 houses on Oakwood Lane. Living on that spot wasn’t a big deal, except for the fact that all the kids on the street, as long as anyone could remember, would always split up into teams for the neighborhood pick-up basketball games according to which end of the street they lived on. Since Steve, who was one of the best players in the neighborhood, lived in the middle, he could pick whichever side he wanted.
Ever since the day he first moved to the neighborhood, Steve chose to play for the ‘Upstreeters,’ the kids living on the first half of the street. They soon became good friends, and the guys were very happy to have such a star on their team, even though the other team, the ‘Downstreeters,’ were more than a bit jealous.
One day, Steve and Phil, the captain of the Upstreeters, got into a big fight in the middle of a game about who was going to get to shoot the ball, and Steve got really angry. He said he quit and stormed off in a rage. Everyone figured the fight would blow over and Steve would get over it. But the next two days when Steve didn’t show up to play, it looked like he and the team were through.
The next afternoon, Steve was at home, shooting some hoops in his driveway. “Hey, good shot!” called out a voice, startling the boy. He turned around, and was surprised to see Zack, the captain of the ‘Downstreeters,’ the other team, standing there wearing a wide grin. Before Steve could ask any questions, the kid made the reason for his visit very clear.
“I hear you quit the ‘competition,’ and I’m here to invite you to join our team as the starting center, and you can shoot whenever you want.”
Steve didn’t know what to say. True, he was really down on Phil and his teammates, and had been staying home, but he hadn’t actually thought about joining the other team.
“Just say the word and the position is yours,” Zack said. “Better yet, just show up on our side of the court tomorrow at game time, and that will say it all. Their loss will be our gain!” Zack waved good-bye as he turned to leave, laughing at his sudden good fortune.
At first Steve was shocked about the possibility of playing for the other team. But as he thought more about it, the idea didn’t sound half bad. So what if he switched teams? After all, he did live on the middle of the road!
The following afternoon, Steve strapped on his high-top sneakers and headed out to the playground. He felt excited about starting his first day as a ‘Downstreeter.’ When he got close to the basketball courts and saw his team – or make that his ex-team — the ‘Upstreeters’ lining up to play, Steve got a lump in his throat. They were all guys he knew so well, good friends, especially Phil. It would really hurt them once they would see that he jumped teams. Could he just walk out on them without trying to work things out? But it was their fault — they shouldn’t have treated him that way.
As he got closer, Zack, the other captain, was first to notice him and gave him a sly wink. He caught the attention of Steve’s old team and called out triumphantly, “Hey guys! Look who’s coming. You guys are in for a big surprise!”
But the big surprise was on Zack, as Steve walked right past him, and back to his old teammates who welcomed him with backslaps and high-fives.
Phil shook Steve’s hand and the two friends apologized to each other, promising to try to compromise from now on. Zack stood on his side of the court with his mouth hanging open. Steve turned to him and said, “Sorry man, no deal. I thought about it and these guys are my team, through thick and thin. I can’t just walk out on them. I’m loyal, and I’m back — to stay.”
Discussion Questions
Ages 3-5
Q. How did Steve feel at first about changing teams?
A. He thought it was okay since he had gotten into a fight with his old teammates.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like he wanted to stay loyal to his friends, by staying on their team.
Ages 6-9
Q. What does it mean to be loyal?
A. Loyalty means that we take our friendships, and other thing we are committed to, seriously. That even if something happens to make the relationship difficult, or we get what seems like a better offer, we don’t just walk away, but are willing to stick with what we have and try to make things better.
Q. Is there ever a time when it’s okay to end a friendship?
A. It can be that two people just can’t manage to get along, or one person is really being harmful to the other. Then the right thing to do would be to let the friendship cool. But other than this, we shouldn’t take our friendships lightly, and we should try to remain loyal if we can.
Q. What would you have done if you were Steve?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What does it mean that God is loyal to us?
A. God loves each of us more than we can possibly imagine. His love for us is unconditional. Whatever we do, He stays loyal to us and continues to guide us in the way that will bring us to our greatest good. Even if we may forget about Him, He never forgets about us.
Q. How can we be loyal to Him?
A. Part of it is to build our trust in Him. Although everything God does is good, sometimes that good can be hard for us to understand. At those times, we can show our loyalty by not pulling away, but accept and trust that one day we will see the good.

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“There’s a holy spark in each of us that’s hidden very well; when it’s revealed we make our world a place where God can dwell” — Holy Sparks inspiration

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It was the first day of school in September and thank goodness, kids were back in school after a long extended summer. Morah Chava, the 10th grade English teacher, was setting some of her ground rules. “There are two words I don’t allow in my class — One is gross and the other is cool.”
From the back of the room Moishie called out, “So, what are the words?”

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