Category Archives: Special Feature

The Private and Public Menorah

The Private and Public Menorah

The Private and Public Menorah The Private and Public Menorah
by Rabbi Zave Rudman

 

 

One of the more unusual Halachos of Chanukah is the lighting of the Menorah outside at the entrance to the Reshua HaRabim- public space. This is obviously a function of the requirement of Pirsumei Nisa- to publicize the miracle, but there might be another aspect to his that we can define.

If we look at one of the differences between Yakov and Eisav, we see that Eisav is a man of the field, a person who lives his life in the public domain. Yakov on the other hand is a Yosheiv Ohalim, one who dwells in a tent, living his life in the private space. In the writings of the ARIZ”L and the GR”A the differentiation between Rehsus HaRabim and Reshus HaYachid is very clearly defined. The Rehsus HaRabim is a place of separation and distance from Kedusha. Reshus HaYachid on the other hand is the place of clarified Kedusha. This differentiation is discussed in many ways in the division of spaces in the Halachos of Shabbos. Therefore, Yakov and his descendants are the people who are meant to live their lives in the private space of Reshus HaYachid, in the tent; whereas Eisav lives his life in the public domain, in the fields.

Based on this it is difficult to understand why we specifically light the Menorah in the Reshus HaRabim? There is another issue to raise, which is why the battle against the Greeks is described in Al HaNissim as “Taking revenge”? Why is the lighting of the Menorah a revenge against the Greeks?

This can be understood by looking at a Mishnah that describes what the Greeks did when they conquered the Bais HaMikdosh. In addition to defiling the oil, they broke thirteen openings in the Soreg. That was a divider that delineated till where non-Jews were permitted to go in the Bais HaMikdsoh. They opened this barrier up, and when the Chashmonaim rededicated the Bais HaMikdsoh, they rebuilt the openings and instituted that whenever you walked by te repaired breaches, you bowed down and praised HaShem that the barrier was restored.

The Sfas Emes explains that there is a connection between this breaking of the barrier and the lighting outside. The Greeks goal in breaking this barrier was not just to allow them entrance to the Bais HaMikdsoh, but to open the most private Reshus HaYachid place in the world to Reshus HaRabim, into the public space. Their goal was actually parallel to the approach of Eisav, which was to remove from the world the idea of Yosheiv Ohalim the sense of a private place and make the entire world a Sadeh, a Reshus HaRabim.

Therefore, explains the Sfas Emes, that the revenge against this plan was to place the Menorah in the entrance to the Reshus HaRabim. This is not only to light up the Reshus HaRabim, but to turn the Reshus HaRabim in a certain sense into Rehsu HaYachid and that is the sweetest revenge of all.

This idea is also found in the description of the subjugation of the Jews in the time of the Greeks. In a Sefer called Midrash Konen, it describes how the Greeks wanted to cause them to reject HaShem and worship idols. They decreed that the Jews were not pemitted to have doors to their homes in order that the Jews should have no honor or Tznius. As a result there was no privacy or family life, and any Greek could enter any Jews home at any time. The Jews called out to HaShem and asked why were we punished with such an unusual decree? HaShem responded since you did not keep the Mitzvah of Mezuzah, your doors were removed. But, as a result of doing Teshuva, we received not only the right to return our Mezuzah, but a new counterpart to the Mezuzah, the Menorah. In the Sefer of the Geonim the Halachos Gedolos, we are taught that the proper place to for the Menorah is opposite the Mezuzah. There are many reasons for this, but here we see another one, since it is a result of Teshuva for the Mitzvah of Mezuzah we receive an added bonus. But we also see that the battle is about the privacy and separation of the Jewish home from the street, and its being protected from all the vandals that can enter from there.

This idea is crucial to our lives now. We live in a world where there are no boundaries. One’s life can be completely lived in the public sphere, where all the aspects ofour life which are meant to be private are public. Part of our Avodah for Chanukah is first to reclaim our Reshus HaYachid, and then to attempt to shine some of that light into Reshus HaRabim.

Lights Lessons

Lights Lessons

Lights Lessons Lights Lessons
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

 

There is a well known machlokes between Beis Shammai and Beis Hillel when it comes to the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles. Beis Shammai holds that we begin with eight candles on the first night and proceed throughout the rest of Chanukah in a descending order. Each subsequent night, one less candle is lit until on the final night of Chanukah, according to Beis Shammai, a single candle is lit. Beis Hillel maintains that we do the opposite, lighting in an ascending order night by night. Of course, this is our practice and BE”H we will be lighting one candle on the first night of Chanukah this coming Motzei Shabbat. The Gemara discusses the rationale behind these two opinions.

One explanation of the machlokes is presented as follows: Beis Shammai looks to the Karbanos of Succos as a source for why we would light the candles in a descending order each night. Just like the “Parei HaChag,” the special Korban brought only on Succos, which followed a descending order. With thirteen brought on the first day, twelve on the second, etc. the number of cows sacrificed each day decreases by one. Over the course of Succos we count down from thirteen cows down to seven on the last day of Succos (before Shmini Atzeres). Based on this, Beis Shammai says that on Chanukah too we should decrease a candle each night. Beis Hillel responds with a famous dictum from Chazal, “maalin bakodesh vi aim moridin” – when it comes to matters of kedusha, we only move in an ascending order.

There seem to be several difficulties with this understanding of the machlokes. For starters, while it is true that we see that the sacrificial cows on Succos proceeded in a descending order, what does that have to do with Chanukah? Why would that override the standard “maalin bakodesh” that Beis Hillel points out? Furthermore, it would seem that Beis Hillel does not really address the main point raised by Beis Shammai – if there is some connection between Chanukah and Parei HaChag, so then we see that “maalin bakodesh” does not necessarily always hold true – so why would it “override” the example of the karbanos that Beis Shammai put forward? In short, neither side appears to be addressing the central point raised by the other.

We could try to understand the machlokes in the following manner. Meforshim explain that at least one element of the Avodah of the Parei HaChag in the Beis HaMikdash was to “wean” Klal Yisroel off of the high level of spirituality we had attained through the avodah of Rosh HaShana, the Aseres Yemei Teshuva and Yom Kippur. Following Succos, there are six long months of waiting until the next Yom Tov of Pesach comes around. While we reached great heights during the Yamim Noraim, we have to be able to take what we gained with us into the winter. So the Avodah of Succos was in part to have us internalize the inspiration and lessons of those powerful days and do less avodah on the outside – signified by the bringing of one less korban each day. [Why the numbers go from thirteen down to seven on the last day is certainly of great significance, but not for right now.] This procedure continues until, following Succos, we have Shmini Atzeres, with its single korban to signify our last time spent alone with Hashem in his palace. Right after Yom Tov, hopefully after we have built ourselves sufficiently, we are sent off to try keep what we gained, use it to grow more and make it through the winter. This avodah is to guide us from our high spiritual level through re-entry back into “regular life,” when inspiration is not so apparent and easy to come by. Keep this in mind for a moment as we talk about miracles.

There is a fascinating discussion in the Gemara (Shabbos 53b) about a man for whom a true, nature-changing miracle was performed by Hashem. The Gemara records a disagreement about this event. There were those who maintained that this illustrated what a great man this person must have been, seeing as Hashem Himself made a miracle occur on his behalf. Strange as it may sound at first, the other opinion held that on the contrary – this exhibited a detriment in the man’s character, seeing as in order to save him, Hashem had to change the normal order of nature. How can we understand this? The Acharonim explain that an open miracle from Hashem really has two sides to it. On the one hand, as the Ramban explains at the end of Parshas Bo, when Hashem makes open miracles, He shows in an incontrovertible way His command over all of nature. When a person feels he or she has experienced an open miracle, it is certainly a wonderful thing that can give tremendous chizuk to a person’s emunah. On the other hand, there is an element of a deficiency in emunah exhibited here as well. The fact that Hashem “had to” make an open miracle and change the laws of nature in order to strengthen our emunah means that we were not seeing Hashem’s Hand in nature enough before that! As the Ramban explains, the “big” miracles are only to help us recognize all the “little” ones; the ones that surround us day in day out throughout our experience of life. With this in mind, we can appreciate why the Gemara would be critical of a person who was saved by Hashem changing nature. Ultimately, a person should not “need” miracles to believe in God and His Providence over everything that happens.

Just like the numbers of the Parei HaChag are set up to help wean us from a high level of spirituality, the Chanukah candles are representative of this same concept as well. While we thank Hashem and celebrate the open miracle of the Menorah burning for eight days, at the same time, according to Beis Shammai, we should not have “needed” it, and the fact that Hashem “had” to do it shows that there was some element of emunah lacking. According to Beis Shammai, we appreciate the miracle and the boost it gave to our emunah, but our avodah of Chanuah is to wean ourselves off the need for open miracles and to work on internalizing the message of seeing Hashem’s Hand in everything that happens. So we light one candle less each night until by the last night we barely need to remember the open miracle of the Menorah. We have internalized the message.

(As is often explained in their disagreements,) Beis Hillel can agree with Beis Shammai in principal but in practice argue that we are not ready for that yet. The fact of the matter is, we are still at the point that we need to be building up our emunah, and if a miracle comes our way and we can use it to be michazek ourselves, we will maximize the opportunity. Maalin bakodesh vi ain moridin! If we can grow in our emunah by focusing on the miracle of the Menorah, we want to increase our appreciation of the neis as much as we can. Each day we light another candle, building up our appreciation the miracle of Chanukah. Each day we say a full Hallel to try and focus on thanking Hashem for interceding on our behalf and giving us the opportunity to openly see His involvement in our lives.

Our practice follows Beis Hillel. Part of our avodah during this time is to strengthen our emunah in Hashem’s nissim. We should be thinking about the miracles that we are familiar with that have shaped the world and our lives. The nitzchiyus of Klal Yisroel, the wars fought by Israel, the fact that after so many thousands of years, with all of our problems past and present, we are still thriving! And the miracles that we know of in our own lives, or the lives of our friends. Those clear messages that Hashem sends to show us He is involved. We have to draw emunah from those experiences. And then work hard to take that clarity and spread it to all areas of our lives.

It is true that ultimately we have to see Hashem in everything, all the time – but the essence of Chanukah is building up our appreciation of Hashem’s interest in our lives and His ability to directly involve Himself in everything we experience. His ability and interest to change the world as He sees fit, to move us all towards the ultimate miracle of the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding and rededicating of the Beis HaMikdash for the final time, bimheira biyameinu, amen!

Sixty Minutes to Serenity

Av 5771 – Sixty Minutes to Serenity

 

Sixty Minutes to Serenity Av 5771
Sixty Minutes to Serenity
by Rabbi Yisroel Roll

 

The appreciation of one’s Tzelem Elokim “self” leads to an holistic wholeness and inner tranquility. This is known as your “neshama state”. This is your state of homestasis-a state of equilibrium and inner contentment. I call it the neshama state because it is the state of being which is aligned with Hashem. When in this state you are put in the state of “being” that Hashem intended for you as your Godly state because, while in this state, you are feeling connected to Hashem. This is a state of “daas”-knowledge of God-rather than merely belief in G-d. In this state you are experiencing Hashem-you are experiencing your own Tzelem Elokim. This is your closest connection to Hashem- and you feel relaxed, calm, at peace. You feel a sense of shleimus-wholeness-in this state everything is clear-you can do anything.

You can put yourself into your Neshama State by experiencing your finest Godly midah-attribute. You can access this state by first imagining a beautiful landscape or place that you find relaxing and rejuvenating. It may be the Grand Canyon, the beach or a sunset in Israel. Go to that place in your mind and describe the landscape to yourself with all its colors, sounds and scents. Feel the place. Experience the sense of calm and relaxation that you feel in this place. Now, realize that the reason you have this feeling of calm which arises when you go to this place of external beauty is because it merely reflects the Grand Canyon, the beach or the sunset, that resides in your inner self. Search your mind, psyche and soul and find the warmest, most sensitive and relaxed part of yourself. That is the Grand Canyon, beach or sunset in you.

This feeling of wholeness and wholesomeness inside your psyche is there because the Grand canyon inside you represents and actually is your awareness of your highest and best attribute-your midda tova. Which one or two of the following is your highest midda-perseverance, never giving up, leadership, encouraging others, That is we we feel calm and expansive when we see a beautiful place…it mirrors our own beautiful place, inside. When we focus and contemplate this place-the place where our best attributes reside –the core of our real selves-then we experience shleimus. This is the real you. How so? Hashem is the only true Reality in the universe because He relies on no one-he is totally independent of any other cause. He is the First Cause (Rambam-Hilchos Yesodei Hatorah 1:1) and therefore is the only true independent Reality. Hashem blew part of His Independent Reality into you-when He created your neshama. Your neshama is a breath from Hashem-as neshama comes from the word neshima-breath. So the only REAL part of you is that part which reflects the true Reality-Hashem. What do we know about the reality that is Hashem? Only that which He has told us about Himself-that He is

Hashem, Hashem,Kel, Rachum, VChanun, Erech Apayim, Rav Chesed V’Emes, Notzer Chessed L’alaphim, Noseh Avon, Vaphesha, V’Chataah Vnakeih…..Shmos

That part of you which is your highest and best attribute –which is a reflection of Hashem’s attributes-is the real part of you. When you live these attributes then you are bringing G-d into the world through your bechirah-your free will. These attributes, when brought into human terms, are:

Hashem Hashem-consistency, never giving up, perseverance
Kel-Power and Leadership
Rachum-Compassion
Chanun-Graciousness, Empathy, Sincerity
Erech Apayim-Patient, Mellow, Laid Back
Rav Chessed-Loving-kindness
Emes-Truth
Nozer Chessed-Creativity with ideas, music, art
Noseh Avon Vaphesah VChataah-Forgiving nature
Nakei-Purity-the real overall reason you were sent into the world. (The discovery of this reason takes a lifetime so be patient)

When you contemplate, recognize and activate that attribute- the real part of your “self”, then you are truly alive-and that is why you feel shleimus. When you are in this state of being nothing can throw you off track-because you are connected with truth-you know the truth. Thus is what daas means-knowledge means connection-or chibur-to the truth.

You don’t believe it to be true-you know it is true.

In this state of being, doubts and “thinking” are irrelevant. Thoughts are merely electrical impulses form the brain-they are not real. Sometimes you have positive thoughts which lead to good feeling, good mood and positive sensations in your body. Sometimes we have anxious thoughts, which lead to tense feelings, a depressed mood and stress in your body. Thoughts fluctuate and cause our moods to fluctuate. These thoughts are part of the world of fantasy-they are not real. The way to avoid the mood swings brought on by fluctuating anxious thoughts is to leave your head space-leave your thoughts-and go to your neshama state. There, no thoughts are relevant-because you are connected to truth itself-to your G-dly self.

Yisroel Roll is an innovative psychotherapist and a lawyer who specializes in divorce mediation. He has seen and managed and facilitated both sides of the story: marriages that turn around and marriages that unravel. He has discovered the antidote to the 50% divorce rate and the untold emotional pain that it causes and shares his unique strategy in Shut Up and Stay Married-The Secret to Marriage Success, released by Leviathan in April, 2011.

Rabbi Roll began his career in Toronto, as a criminal defense and litigation lawyer. He took time off to study in Jerusalem and then served as the rabbi of the New West End Synagogue in London, England where he breathed new life into the community from 1991-1997. He founded the Encounter Conference in London in 1996 which attracted thousands to educational seminars. He returned to the US in 2000, received his Masters Degree in Clinical Counseling at Johns Hopkins University and opened a psychotherapy practice in marriage counseling. He has developed a unique counseling approach which breaks through to the core issue of the marriage very quickly and helps transform the marriage.

Rabbi Roll has psychotherapy offices in Lakewood, New Jersey, Baltimore, Maryland and Toronto, Ontario. His law practice is based in Toronto where he was called to the Ontario Bar as a Barrister and Solicitor in 1983. He has developed a new type of therapy called Identity Therapy which helps clients discover much more than self esteem. He helps them discover the “self.” Roll says, “Once a client discovers his or her true strengths and life mission, the marriage issues untangle and a solution strategy emerges.”

Rabbi Roll is a motivational speaker and lectures around the world on parenting, happiness and overcoming life’s challenges. His seminars and workshops are interactive and invites participants to introspect and discover their inner strengths, values and motivations. One seminar, called Step up to the Plate, uses baseball as a metaphor for life and helps people learn that they have already have the ability to hit a home run in the opportunity called life. Roll helps them discover their dormant abilities and helps them access their subconscious mind “which is the key to unlocking your potential,” says Roll.

Rabbi Roll has founded the Life Task Force which promotes L.I.F.E-Living Inspired and Fully Everyday. He has developed a 12 step program to achieve self esteem at www.12steps2selfesteem.com and has developed 12 step programs for teens, a 7 week self esteem diet program and an anti drug abuse program called Just Say Know. “If you know your own worth and value, you’ll stop wanting to escape from life’s challenges,” says Roll. “You’ll be empowered to meet those challenges head on,” he adds.

Rabbi Yisroel Roll is a licensed experiential gestalt therapist who uses meditation and role playing to have clients experience life, rather than merely talk about the issues. “I facilitate a process where people encounter themselves. I help them face their fears and access their aspirations which often lie untapped and buried under layers of put- downs, negativity and emotional abuse. When we clear away the emotional pain, the true self emerges and the person is liberated. The client can them move toward self actualization,” says Roll.

 

Shut Up and Stay Married is Yisroel Roll’s fifth book. Here are some links to Rabbi Roll’s other books: http://encounterusa.com/index.php/books and http://anxietytherapy.org/index.php/books-by-yisroel-roll

Special Feature: The Song and Beauty of Life

Tishrei 5772 – Special Feature: The Song and Beauty of Life

 

Special Feature: The Song and Beauty of Life Tishrei 5772
Special Feature: The Song and Beauty of Life
by Mrs. Chevie Klatzko

 

The gleaming smoothness of the oak floor stretches before you like a canvas. The high ceiling and simple walls envelope you in the stillness of solitude. And in the center, ever so perfectly, this one at an angle, this one high on a stool sits the polished ensemble of instruments.

The piano is off to the right, the drums to the far left and in between, the violins, bass, trumpet and more.

All this beauty – this grandeur, it’s magnificent. You find yourself straining to hear the echo of the music last played. As if the walls had soaked up the sound and would resonate with it if you listened hard enough.

What rises instead is an expectant silence; a sense of frustrated waiting as the instruments sit immobile.

Circling the room, you have a sense that you’ve just spent a moment in the company of a lesson. The piano hadn’t asked for rest, nor the guitar to be lain down. They aspire to be played. They were designed for movement, pressure and challenge. For where there’s no tension, there’s no sound. It’s the crash of the cymbals, the beating of the drums that brings forth rhythm from the silence.

There needs to be a point of contention, a plucking of strings to bring forth results.

With hushed footsteps, you take note of the tall black podiums that hold the music yet to be played. The marks and notations on the sheets vary with each instrument. The trumpet enters as the violins fade. The clarinets have their own instruction. Yet the title of the work is the same. In beautiful flowing script: LIFE

Life. Your life. Is there anything we want more than a pulsing, vibrant, meaningful life? It is synonymous with growth. And growth can only come through an honest search for awareness and authentic change, not through comfort & complacency.

Playing the music of life means taking a step away from passivity. It means not being content to rest comfortably in a polished room. If the keys remain untouched and unchallenged all their potential would be locked away in the stillness of apathy.

We must dare to open the book, to read the notes and grapple with them. To know that the pain and friction of our experience is the bow being drawn across the strings.

Our challenges are the birth of our ever greater selves.

We’re each a masterpiece of lines converging together in harmonious poetry.

We have a loving father, our creator, he created life. Life is a symphony with myriads of subtle harmonies and bold melodies woven together.

The whole world is a song of Hashem to behold.

In Hashem’s world there are Singers. They know their parts to perfection. When we’re down, or anxious we feel as if we’re not in tune with the Singers of the World. The heart may cry, “What notes to play? How do I fit in?” Or perhaps the cry is quieter, “I feel out of sync, am I part of this orchestra?”

Where does this voice resonate from? From the deepest reaches of the soul. The neshama wants to sing. Lemaan yizamrcha kavod velo ydom, so that I can sing your praises and never be silent.” It knows its place in the symphony and it knows that every stroke of the bow adds to the music. When we feel out of sync it’s our neshamos begging us to play our part.

In order to be in sync one must make changes and live life courageously with purpose. At times it’s knowing when to sing solo and when to join in with other voices. There’s only one song to sing Hashamyim mesaprim kevod kel, the Heavens tell the glory of Hashem. This song, our true service in this world is not about our Kavod but rather Hashem’s Kavod. This can be brought into expression through our self development. How much we emulate Hashem’s majestic traits, that’s how much honor we bring into this world.

Change is about joining that song, moving from the protected space of routine identity into the sunlight where every challenge brings forth music. LIFE is played through our struggles. The music comes alive through our work .Each one of us is empowered to honor the voice of our neshama,to believe in ouur song,and to practice our own piece of music.

What is the melody that is uniquely yours?

The conductor beckons, won’t you join in?

Mrs. Chevie Klatzko, known for her vivacious, approachable, and warm-hearted personality, has been involved in mentoring for well over a dozen years. She is a graduate of the Maalot Yerushalaim Coaching Training Program where she is currently employed as a supervisor for student coaches. She leads engaging workshops providing life tools and communication skills.

Mrs. Klatzko is a talented life coach specializing in Relationships and Parenting. With her deep insight and a knack for seeing situations from a child’s perspective, she helps her clients achieve clarity, confidence, and enjoyment as parents and partners. She supports her clients through change, empowering them to lead more effective and fulfilling lives.

Mrs. Klatzko is passionate about coaching and makes it part of her real world model.

She lives in Yerushalaim with her husband Rabbi Raphael Klatzko and their many precious gems.

 

Mrs. Klatzko can be reached at cheviek@gmail.com

Kislev 5772 – Special Feature: A Sister’s Secret Sacrifice – In honor of Rachel Imeinu’s Yartzeit

 

Kislev 5772
Special Feature: A Sister’s Secret Sacrifice – In honor of Rachel Imeinu’s Yartzeit
by Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein

 

A Sister’s Secret Sacrifice – In Honor of Rachel Imeinu’s Yartzeit

There is a fascinating episode that takes place in Parshas Vayeitzei that for years I had difficulty understanding. To set the stage, Yaakov Avinu together with his wives and children are all living in the household of Lavan. More than half of the Shevatim have already been born – Reuvain, Shimon, Levi, Yehuda, Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher are growing up. Three of Yakakov’s four wives have given birth to all or most of the sons that they are going to. Yet Rochel Imeinu, whose yahrtzeit is this week (Tuesday 11 Cheshvan), remains barren. Reuvain, Leah’s oldest son, is out in the fields and finds some flowers for his mother. Rochel, upon seeing Leah’s new flowers, asks nicely, “Please may I have some of the flowers that your son brought?” Chazal tell us that these particular flowers, the Dudaim were used to help with infertility. Given Rochel’s childlessness, this would seem to be a perfectly appropriate request – Rochel was not even asking for all of the flowers. The passuk [Bereishis 30:14] says the word “MiDudai banecha,” “from the flowers of your son” – not all of them. Leah responds in what would seem to be somewhat of a harsh manner. She replies[in passuk 15], “Is it not enough that you have practically taken my husband?! Now you want my son’s flowers as well?!” [Leah is referring to the fact that the Torah tells us that Rochel was “more beloved” to Yaakov than Leah, so in that respect, Leah felt as if Rochel had “taken” Leah’s husband from her.]

Among the many difficulties in understanding this series of events, there is one element that, to me, has always stood out. Let’s go back a few years and remind ourselves of the story of how this family came to be in the first place. We all know that Yaakov met Rochel first and was immediately enamored by her. Rochel, too, was anxiously waiting for the day that she and Yaakov could be married. Seven years have to pass before Yaakov and Rochel’s aspiration to marry could be realized. The Medrash tells us that during these seven years, their “relationship” was not even fully on hold. Yaakov would send gifts to Rochel throughout this time to continue to express his affection towards, and connection to, her. Yet, when the wedding day came, as we know, Lavan demanded that Leah marry Yaakov instead of Rochel. As we all know, Yaakov and Rochel had set up signs (the halachos of Niddah, Challah and Hadlokas HaNer) to ensure that no such switch would take place. And as we also all know, when Rochel was faced with the possibility of her sister suffering a terrible shame and disgrace at being discovered, Rochel Imeinu, in an act of kindness that has reverberated through the generations and stood as a zechus for all of us for thousands of years, gives up her chance (or so she thought) of marrying Yaakov and selflessly gives her sister the signs. When the time came, Leah and Yaakov were married and Rochel, one can only imagine, felt as if she had literally given up the entire world – physical and spiritual – in order to spare her sister this shame.

In this context, it would seem that Leah’s response to Rochel’s request for the flowers is quite baffling. How could Leah say to Rochel – the person if not for whom not only would Leah not be married to Yaakov, but she would have been the laughing stock of the community – “Is it not enough that you have practically taken my husband?” What exactly does Leah mean by this? Wouldn’t this statement appear to be a complete and total lack of appreciation for Rochel’s monumental sacrifice on Leah’s behalf? For years this issue troubled me. But it was worth the wait, because the answer that the Baalei Mussar give shows us an insight into Rochel Imeinu that is at the same time astounding and inspiring.

The answer they give… Leah never knew what happened! We always pictured Rochel prepping Leah with the signs and coaching her on how to answer Yaakov’s questions. But in fact, the Baalei Mussar explain, this is not what happened at all. For years Lavan had been telling Leah that she was going to be the one to marry Yaakov. And what about those gifts that the Medrash mentioned? The Medrash tells us that all along Lavan was intercepting them and giving them to Leah! Leah was under the impression that Yaakov had been courting her! Rochel, realizing where this was headed, gave the signs over to Leah in an inconspicuous way. One day they would be talking and Rochel would tell her about some interesting halachos she had heard regarding Niddah. And then, maybe as she was helping Leah with her gown fitting, she told Leah about this fascinating set of laws about Challah. And maybe while she was helping Leah do her hair, she discussed the halachos of Hadlokas Ner Shabbos. So when it came time for Leah to give the signs to Yaakov – she had no idea that she was actually giving “signs” at all! She was simply answering Yaakov’s questions with information that she had learned. This is astonishing! What has gone down in history as literally one of the most selfless acts of all time, was actually done completely bitzin’ah – without Leah ever knowing or being ashamed, even in front of her own sister. Can you imagine such a thing? Rochel Imeinu did not take or receive any recognition or credit for this incredible act. So much so that Leah, years later still and unaware of what took place, can actually accuse Rochel of trying to “take away” Leah’s husband! This was a complete act of chessed, done with no expectation of credit and done in such a way that the recipient would not even know that she had received it. Incredible. [Source: the sefer Lev Shalom on Sefer Bereishis, on page 269 (in his drashos on Parshas Vayeitzei). The sefer is a collection of drashos and divrei Torah from Rav Shalom Shwadron zt”l.]

May we be inspired by this act of selflessness, now that we more fully appreciate its depth and extent. May we merit to follow in our Mama Rochel’s footsteps and selflessly do whatever we can to prevent shame or embarrassment to our friends and family, and certainly not do anything that would actively cause pain of this nature to another person. And, BE”H, in the merit of our living up to Rochel Imeinu’s example, may we be zocheh to have her tefillos heard in Shamayim – vishavu banim ligvulam.