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When Yeshua was walking this earth, he was continually teaching his disciples his interpretations of Torah. He continually emphasized repentance and loving both our Heavenly Father and our neighbor through our actions and not merely our feelings. This naturally leads us to Shammai’s teaching in Pirkei Avot. Shammai taught his disciples, “Say little and do much” (Avot 1:15). According to the Talmud the wicked say much and do little, but the righteous say little and do much. An example is given of Abraham and how his deeds exceeded his words: 

It is written: “And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and satisfy your heart” (Genesis 18:5), and it is written: “And Abraham ran to the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good” (Genesis 18:7). Rabbi Elazar said: From here we learn that the righteous say little and do much, whereas the wicked say much and do not do even a little. (Bava Metzia 87a)

In this Talmudic passage, Rabbi Elazar contrasts what Abraham said to what he actually did. Abraham said that he would bring them “a morsel of bread,” something insignificant to stave off their hunger. But in reality, however, he had Sarah make them a feast made from three seahs of flour (nearly five gallons of flour!) and had a calf slaughtered for them. In other words, the wicked boast about everything they are going to do, but yet they do very little. And while the righteous don’t make great claims about what they will do, they simply work hard to produce pleasant and unexpected results. 

Parashat Chayei Sarah (Genesis 23:1-25:18)

This week’s Torah portion begins by giving us the lifespan of Sarah.

And these were the life of Sarah: one hundred years, twenty years and seven years; the years of the life of Sarah. (Genesis 23:1)

Since this portion is titled Chayei Sarah, “The Life of Sarah,” we would expect to read more about the life of Sarah. But the very next words we read are, “And Sarah died.” It’s not quite what we expect of our Torah portion.

Despite the fact that we begin our portion reading about the death of Sarah, we can still learn something about her life. Although our translations render the first verse so that it reads better in English, in Hebrew this verse contains an unusual repetition. The same phrase, chayei Sarah, is used two different times: first at the beginning of the verse, and again at the end. This seems redundant. Our sages teach us, however, that the Torah does not waste even a single letter, much less entire words. Therefore, the seemingly redundant expression, “the life of Sarah,” must offer us some insight into a deeper meaning of the text. But what is the Torah wanting to teach us through this?

Parashat Vayeira (Genesis 18:1-22:24)

Many people are familiar with the children’s song, “Father Abraham.” It begins, “Father Abraham had many sons, and many sons had Father Abraham. I am one of them, and so are you. So, let’s just praise the Lord.” Through repetition and a series of choreographed movements, this song ingrains the concept into a child that Vayeira, this week’s Torah portion, is indeed true. Abraham did become the father of many nations and is affectionately called Avraham Avinu, Our Father Abraham. Paul says that Abraham is “the father of all who believe” (Romans 4:12). We who have put our trust in Yeshua have become the spiritual offspring of Abraham, the father of our faith.

According to our Torah portion, the LORD chose Abraham as the father of many nations for specific reasons:

The LORD said, “Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him? For I have chosen him, that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing righteousness and justice, so that the LORD may bring to Abraham what he has promised him.” (Genesis 18:17–19)

Yeshua emphasized this point to his disciples:

If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? (Matthew 5:46–47)

This is a challenge. How do we pretend to like someone when we really don’t? People today are all about “being real,” even if it’s ugly (very ugly in some cases). People don’t want to put on a mask, because they believe it would hypocritical. Until recently, when someone greets you with the obligatory, “How are you?” the standard response has been, “Fine. Thank you. And you?” Today, we are being bombarded with the concept that so say you are fine when you’re really not is hypocrisy. When someone asks, “How are you?” and you are frustrated, moody, or irritated, we feel that an unfiltered response is more genuine: “I’m in a foul mood and I don’t feel like talking.” As we attempt to engage in a casual greeting, the niceties are forgone and we are slapped in the face with the raw, open wound of the other. It doesn’t feel good, and it is actually contagious. It has the ability to soil the cheerful mood we were in and send us on a downward path towards negativity and depression for the rest of the day.

Should we be so honest with others when we’re in a bad mood? Or should we put on a mask and use a little hypocrisy to our advantage? Let me explain.

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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