Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Chukas) What's on Their Minds!

As the Jews were on their final leg of their journey to the Land of Israel, they sent emissaries to various countries bordering Israel asking permission to peacefully cut through their land. They were refused and in some instances the countries reacted with hostility and even all out war with the Jews.

In one instance, the Torah tells us that the Cananites who dwelled in the south waged war with the Jews. Rashi explains that these attackers were really our hateful nemesis, Amalek who dwelled in the South, however they are referred to as Cananites because they were speaking in the Cananite language. The Jews were confused regarding who was their attacker because they heard them speaking in Cananite language but they were dressed like Amalekites.

They did not know against which nation they should pray to G-d; the Amalekites or Cananites?

The Jews decided to pray for G-d to assist them in their efforts against their enemy without specifying the nation’s name. G-d listened to their prayers and they were victorious.

Amalek specifically changed their language to Cananites to trick the Jews into thinking they were Cananites so that they would direct their prayers towards the Cananites and thus it would be ineffective.

The question raised is why did Amalek specifically change their language and not their clothing?

The Skolya Rebbe draws our attention to an incident that involved Amaleks grandfather, Aisav.

When our forefather Yitzchok wished to confer the patriarchal blessings upon his biological eldest son Aisav, his son Yaacov, rightfully, stood in for Aisav to receive the blessings. The Torah tells us that Yaacov came to his blind father wearing Aisav’s garments. Yitzchok asked Yaacov to draw close to him so he could feel him and identify who he was. Yitzchok then stated, “The voice is the voice of Yaacov, and the hands are the hands of Aisav.”

Our Sages explain that the voice of Yaacov refers to our power and strength - the voice of prayers and Torah study. The hands of Aisav refer to Aisav’s reliance on the power of the externals - his weapons.

Says the Skolya Rebbe: Notice that when Yaacov disguised himself, he only changed his clothing which was not his essential self, but kept his voice which was his essential self. But when Amalek, the descendant of Aisav, came to disguise themselves they did just the opposite. They disguised their language which was not their essential selves but kept their clothing, something external which was their essential selves.

Currently, Hamas has kidnapped three innocent teenagers. Who doesn’t feel a pit in their stomach concerning the torment the boys and their families are going through.

The overwhelming reaction by Jews in Israel and throughout the world is to beseech G-d through the power of our voice – prayer.

MK Yair Lapid came to visit one of the families whose son was kidnapped and said that Israel will do whatever they can possibly do to return the boys safely. He then added something astounding. “I came home the other night and I scoured my house to find my grandfather’s Siddur – prayer book, and I sat down for the first time in six years – and I prayed for the boys!

In these situations, very often we find ourselves thinking of what is going on in the kidnapped boy’s heads, what thoughts are occupying their minds? Certainly G-d, family, friends and I’m sure the longing to be free and get back to their religious way of life.

Rabbi Gabriel Newman a former rabbi at Beth Shalom Congregation in Scranton wrote an article describing his thoughts when his car overturned into a ravine and he was pinned inside. “For the hours during which I waited – thinking I would not be found alive – my thoughts took me to my youth, sitting at my parents’ Shabbos table with our family, and I began singing the Shabbos Zemiros – songs my father would sing – focusing on that spiritual aura kept me going – until I was thank G-d - found and rescued.”

The Talmud teaches us that when our brethren are in pain – no matter where, we are to empathize with them – and that is exactly what we are all doing. May Hashem show His compassion upon the three kidnapped boys and all those in need of salvation!

Wishing you a restful, peaceful
and enjoyable Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family