The Talmud teaches us that true strength and power are not found in the ability to control others, but rather in the ability to control ourselves. Rashi (11th century) explains that anytime we are tempted to do something immoral or wrong, yet choose to restrain ourselves, we achieve the highest level of intimacy with the Divine. He explains that part of our many failings stem from our insistence on forming rationalizations and justifications with which we allow ourselves to indulge in whatever we want. In this week’s Parsha, Isaac is faced with an incredible dilemma. For over 60 years, he has been pinning his hopes and dreams on his eldest son, Esau, to carry on his legacy, yet when faced with the reality that his judgement was wrong, he avoids all rationalizations and excuses and says, “Jacob will be blessed” (Gen. 27:33). That is why, in Jewish mysticism, Isaac is the only one of the three patriarchs described as “strong.” He had the ability to face the truth and avoid all attempts at justifying himself. He had real strength: the strength of character to do what was right, not just what was expedient or comfortable. Anytime we do this, we can attain a taste of the Divine right here and now.

Shabbat Shalom!
Rabbi Jawary
Let’s get a few things straight

My recent diaspora countries are NOT my heritage. They are not my roots. They are not a part of me. They are not part of my family history. They are not part of my family.

They are nothing more than “some hellholes my family wound up in after they were exiled from their true native land: Israel”. I don’t identify with these countries. I don’t identify with their indigenous populations. I am not related to them in any way. I don’t speak their languages. I don’t eat their food. I don’t wear their clothes. I don’t share their national history. Nor does anyone in my family. And those among us who do, in fact, try to claim these things are not brothers or sisters to me. Israeli-Arab and Palestinian Zionists are more related to me – both in a cultural, spiritual, and even ethnic sense – than those Jews who yearn for the ghettos.

I am not white. I do not enjoy white privilege. I am not European-American (except through my NON-JEWISH father). My Jewish relatives who settled in the US are not European-Americans. In fact, they had HEBREW stamped under “race” on their immigration forms. They were, for all intents and purposes, considered *Asian*, not European. You know why? Because that’s what we are: West Asian, not European. I am an Judean/Israelite-American (i.e. West Asian/Middle Eastern American, NOT European) and Irish-American. Nothing more, nothing less.

Our Middle Eastern ROOTS (i.e. not diaspora history, but our roots) are the only thing that has any relevance as far as our racial/ethnic/family background, and our identity in the 21st century, is concerned. We are of the same race/ethnicity as our brothers who remained in the Middle East, and those who settled in North Africa and other parts of the world. No affinity exists for our host populations, and whatever “admixture” there is has no importance whatsoever. We are not our diaspora host populations, and they are not us.

This image below encapsulates everything about our heritage and ethnic identity. When I account for my mother’s side on Census forms, Israel is the only thing that has any relevance. Not Poland, not Russia, not Iraq.


Shabbat Shalom,
Coach Yulia
The Torah tells us that Yitzchak is a farmer, he plants and harvests crops and digs wells. Yitzchak loved and cared for Hashem’s Land, but it wasn’t easy, because the Plishtim gave him a hard time. They envied him for his wealth and fought with him over the wells that his father, Avraham, had dug. But Yitzchak was very dedicated to the mission, he was persistent and he fought back.
It’s important to point out that the strip of land that Yitzchak chose to live in was close to where Gaza is today. Just like today it wasn’t easy to live there, due to the lack of water, but Yitzchak was blessed by Hashem and managed to farm the land and produce an enormous amount of produce. Today also, the Jewish farmers, that are under attack by the Gazans, are still very successful with the amount and quality of the produce that they harvest.
Besides for the dry climate of this strip of land, the Plishtim weren’t so pleased about giving it up and they fought for it. They would fill in the wells that Yitzchak had inherited from his father, Avraham, but Yitzchak wouldn’t take any of that and he’d redig them.
Yitzchak was an expert at turning a bad situation into a good one and this quality is hidden in the meaning of his name, which of course means ‘he will laugh’: when the Malachim told Avraham that Sarah was pregnant, Sarah laughed and the Torah explains that her laughter was negative, because she doubted the words of Hashem that, she wasn’t sure that that could happen. However, after Yitzchak was born, Sarah used the term ‘צחוק’ in a positive way. Sarah expressed her rejoice for the Nes that Hashem had done by using the word צחוק. Sarah said, “God has brought me laughter; everyone who hears will laugh with me.”
This is Yitzchak’s trademark, the ability to take a bad situation and make it better and that’s why his name is in the future tense; the bad situation will become good.
Many times in our lives, we find ourselves in difficult situations. At those times, we must follow in Yitzchak’s footsteps and stay optimistic, because with a lot of dedication and persistance, we can turn any bad situation into a good one!
(Copies from Bnai Akiva newsletter!)

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