Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Jewish Heritage
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Lech Lecha) Five Dollar Tip!

Often after the holidays, Rabbi Shlomo Halbershtam o.b.m., the beloved Bobover Rebbe, needed to rest from his exhaustive activities and would travel to Palm Springs, California where one of his followers had a beautiful home in a gated community.

During the week he was driven by his host to a nearby Shul located out of the gated community. When they came to the gate, the Rebbe instructed his host to roll down his window and the Rebbe then thanked the attendant and handed to him a five dollar bill.

This repeated itself for a number of mornings and finally the host mentioned to the Rebbe that the worker's wages were paid by the association and there was no need to pay or tip.

The Rebbe said that although he was aware of this he still wanted to reward the worker for his efforts. "You see, the action of pressing the button to open the gate enables us to get to Shul to pray. If I do not pay him it turns out that his actions enable my prayers. However, if I compensate him, then my own efforts enabled my prayers and connectivity to G-d and that is my preferred way of devotion to G-d."

In this week's Parsha G-d communicated to our forefather Avraham when he was seventy-five years old.

We all know from the Pesach Hagadah that Terach, Avraham's father was an idolater. Avraham came to the realization and conclusion of a Monotheistic G-d on his own at a young age. When the wicked king Nimrod gave Avraham an ultimatum to either live by embracing idols or die by being thrown into a fiery furnace if he continues to believe in G-d, Avraham chose G-d and was thrown into the fire. Miraculously, he emerged unscathed! As a result of this miracle many people rejected their idols and false gods and came to the realization of an Omnipotent G-d.

Avraham's life overlapped with the righteous Noah for 58 years. The Medrash points out that Avraham did not live near his relative Noach or near his righteous son Shem who lived in Jerusalem, rather he lived in Or Casdim which is near Turkey, where he was not influenced by Noach and Shem about the Monotheistic belief in G-d. The question is why was Avraham left to figure it out on his own?

Shem Mishmuel explains that G-d specifically wanted our forefather Avraham to figure out the monotheistic belief on his own so that his conclusion would come in his personal merit without the assistance of Noach or Shem. This way Avraham would earn the position of patriarch of the Jewish people through his independent process of understanding and overcoming the challenges that came along with his devotion to G-d.

Since Adam there was always at least one righteous person in each generation. Noach and his son Shem (from whom the Semites emerged) were righteous. The Torah attests to Noach's righteousness, and in this week's Parsha we find Avraham meeting with Shem. Shem's title was Malkitzedek the King of Shalem - the Kohain to G-d.

If Shem was the Kohain to G-d, how and when was the Priesthood transferred to Avraham? The Torah relates that there was a fierce war between four powerful kingdoms and five kingdoms. Upon hearing that his nephew Lot was captured during this war, the mighty Avraham came to rescue him and defeated the four kingdoms, gaining Lot's freedom.

After Shem heard about the miracles that happened to Avraham with his victory, Shem met with Avraham and blessed him and then he blessed G-d. Our Sages in the Talmud tell us that because Shem did not bless G-d before blessing and recognizing Avraham, the title of Kohain was taken from him and given to Avraham.

Shem and the righteous Aiver established a Bais Medrash - house of spiritual learning where Yitzchok and Yaacov studied and were influenced. G-d chose Avraham as the patriarch of the Jewish Nation because he actively reached out to spread the notion of G-d's Omnipotence to the masses.

The Torah relates that G-d appeared to Avraham and made a pact called the treaty of the halves, where G-d told Avraham that he was going to have a child, and that he would be given the Land of Israel and informed him of events and challenges that would befall the Jewish people.

Thus, Avraham became the spiritual source and was able to transfer the patriarchal energy including the priesthood to his son Yitzchok and subsequently to Yaacov. They, in turn, divided this energy among the twelve tribes from whom we emerge.

One of the most spiritual sources of energy that we Jews possess is our observance of the blessed and holy day of Shabbat. This Shabbat there is a worldwide initiative providing everyone to taste and experience an observant Shabbat. (Click for a concise guide). When the Shabbat is honored and revered it produces incredible benefits.

The Zohar - Kaballah tells us that we should be extremely careful not to get into arguments especially between husband and wife during the Shabbat. When the Shabbat is kept with sensitivity to its laws and holy aura it helps ascertain that Shalom Bayis will prevail!

Check out www.theshabbosproject.org #KeepingItTogether

Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos
Rabbi Dovid Saks