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“Judaism Looks at World Religions” Part 1/7: Rabbi Dr. Nathan Lopes Cardozo – Introduction


Jewish Theology taking a Fresh Look at the Other
(Hosted by The David Cardozo Academy, at Yakar, Jerusalem, 28-11-2012)

 “Judaism Looks at World Religions” Part 2/7: Rabbi Dr. Alon Goshen-Gottstein – Hinduism

 “Judaism Looks at World Religions” Part 3/7: Professor Yehuda Gellman – Buddhism

 “Judaism Looks at World Religions” Part 4/7: Professor Raphael Jospe – Christianity

“Judaism Looks at World Religions” Part 5/7: Dr. Dov Maimon – Islam

“Judaism Looks at World Religions” Part 6/7: Questions & Answers

“Judaism Looks at World Religions” Part 7/7: Gilla Rosen – Closing Dedication  COMMENT: Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall
Adar I 18, 5774 · February 18, 2014
Parshat Vayakhel

Back in my school days, I had my own mirror. It was one of those antique freestanding ones, with carved pillars and a base, between which swung an oval glass. It tossed my reflection at me like a kiss that called, “C’mon over!” And back then, subliminally yet, it began to bug me that the ubiquitous looking-glass called to me from every angle in my room.

Just at that time, Cindy showed up in my dreams. I’d recently switched from public school to a private Jewish day school. The kids were palpably richer than my previous classmates. And they were also on the cutting edge of all that was new. Back then, anorexia and bulimia were new. By 16, I knew of only one girl who starved her body living off her own flesh, and who vomited the food she’d been unable to resist. But in my new school, there were numerous young women dying to be thin.

In my dream, though, Cindy was compelled neither to starve her body nor to gag her food. She was addicted to her mirror.

By 16, I knew of only one girl who starved her body

It was a far cry from the antique my grandmother had given me. Hers was a round one that fitted into the palm of her hand. Her fear that she did not exist came upon her like waves upon the beach. And whenever it did, she’d pull out the mirror to confirm that, yes, she was here. As time went by, the waves bashed more frequently and more violently upon her being. She’d shake and sweat, and surreptitiously open her palm, trembling for a fix.

It was after French class that I approached her. The Highveld grass glared yellow under the winter sun.

“Cindy,” I said, “I’ve seen what’s happening . . . with the mirror . . .”

She turned abruptly from me, brittle as the grass.

“Cindy, look. You exist! Don’t you get it? You are real. You don’t need the mirror to prove that.”

Hands quivering, she opened her palm, sucking in her image. The sweat on her upper lip swelled.

“Here, I’ll show you. Let me take it from you, just for a moment—so you can see. You exist without it!”

My voice shook too, as I reached to pry the mirror from her hands.

“No,” she spat. “No, No!” clamping her palm shut.

As she did so, the mirror fell, in slow motion. And as it shattered, the shards fractured into the craggy peaks of a Chinese landscape. Cindy and I were falling through the cliffs. I sat up out of the dream. In the morning, I asked my Dad if he could put the mirror elsewhere in the house.

Remember the yellow daisies?

That didn’t stop me from wondering whether in fact he loved me

“He loves me, he loves me not, he loves me . . .” Seems to me I played it first fresh out of kindergarten. Kids on the crescent gathered under the eucalyptus tree at the bottom of our garden. We’d lick gum off the bark, or sit in the treehouse (a plank of wood between the branches), or rock on the rubber-tire swing. As I swung, I’d pluck the petals to check just whether “he” loved me. By my early teens, I’d traded the tree and its sticky gum for lip gloss, and jeans so tight we’d have to lie down on the bed and have a friend help close the zipper. Not that I knew any “he,” mind you. But that didn’t stop me from wondering whether in fact he loved me—or not. Through all those “zipping-ups,” I was oblivious to the cultural component of my actions. Until my dream, that is. It awakened me to some of the unconscious tides that compelled me and pummeled my own beaches. It was the burgeoning of my consciousness that we, women in particular, are driven by mirrors both physical and social.

Recently, surfing the web, I learned that if Barbie were a real person, her head in relation to her body would be the size of a golf ball, and she wouldn’t be able to stand upright. Picture it: a woman with a head smaller than a fist crawling on all fours! And yet, that’s what we give our little girls. “Here, dear,” we say, “a mirror for you, darling. Just the being you want to be when you grow up.”

But does all this mean that gazing into a mirror renders us a “wicked stepmother” consumed with envy? Or a Narcissus besotted by his own image? What are we to do with our mirrors, with the seemingly inborn drive for beauty and concerns about the social mirror?

This week’s Torah portion, Vayakhel, offers a solution as deep and resonant as a reflection is shallow. It relates in great detail how we went about actually building the Sanctuary. Moses collected gifts and contributions from the people: precious metals, richly dyed wools, reddened rams’ skins and blue-processed hides, acacia wood, olive oil, essences for fragrance, perfume incense and rare stones.1It was a veritable treasury. He then appointed the architects, and the building began—from the tapestries and beams to the ark, the table, lamp, and the altars for incense and sacrifices. The last of the utensils to be made was the washstand, a very large samovar with spigots from which the priests would draw water with which to wash their hands and feet before beginning their daily service. It was the last utensil made, but the first to be used each day. Betzalel, the chief architect, made the washstand and its base “out of the mirrors of the dedicated women who congregated at the entrance of the Communion Tent.”2

The women had brought numerous other offerings, most notably their jewelry. And they brought the mirrors. When I read these verses, I visualize myself in their shoes. Theirs was no costume jewelry. It’s one thing to let go of my artsy pieces of faux stones and pewter, but how would I feel giving over the pearl earrings my husband gave me in the bridal chamber after our chuppah, our first time alone together? And theirs were no “made in China” dime-a-dozen cheapo mirrors. These were sheets of copper, polished to perfection. Rashi, our principal biblical commentator, states on the above verse that “the women had mirrors in their hands.”3 I sense the intimacy with which they held them. “They used them to adorn themselves,” he says. I think of standing at my bedroom mirror. The kohl and lipstick, olive and golden eyeshadows, mascara and perfume lie in a purple beaded bowl I bought in Africa, their reflection shimmering in back. They and my mirror are my raw materials as I prepare for an evening with my husband. My mirror is dear to me. How much more so were their prized copper plates to my sisters in a vast and dry desert? Yet, says Rashi, “even these they did not hesitate to bring as offerings for the Sanctuary.”

Yet, while Moses gladly accepted the rings and armbands, earrings and nose-rings, when he saw the mirrors piled upon the ground, he rejected them.

They lifted up their mirrors, each gazing at herself and her husband

Why? Says the Talmud: mirrors are made for the evil inclination. I get that. They’re all about “me, myself, I,” my image feeding back at me an illusion, a reflected identity that, like Cindy’s, can never fill the existential hollow of not being in touch with one’s soul. And yet, surprise, G‑d disagreed. “He said to Moses, ‘Accept them, for these are more precious to Me than all [the other gifts]’—for through them the women set up the many congregations4 in Egypt. When their husbands returned from the harsh labor, they would go out and offer them food and drink, feeding them. They lifted up their mirrors, each gazing at herself and her husband in the mirror. Each enticed him with words, saying, ‘I am more beautiful than you.’ In this way they aroused their husbands, who would then be intimate with them. The women conceived and gave birth there (in Egypt). This is what is implied by the verse,5 ‘I awakened you beneath the apple orchard.’”6

What Rashi is teaching us is that we certainly can, and should, use our mirrors. But we must do so on G‑d’s terms. This idea was reinforced for me on a ride in a New York subway. Its lines curve like choked intestines through the city’s underbelly. Not my favorite place to be. Yet there, in the smelly car of a Dinkins-era train, the insight was brought home to me in the form of a poster ad. Picture it. An all-American tourist. He’s got on the Hawaiian shirt with the rainbow-colored flowers, a camera slung diagonally across one shoulder, a water bottle over the other. Khaki shorts to just above his knee, and a khaki hat with the string dangling ’round his neck. He’s holding a fishing rod. And all around are plastic flowers and vines, kitsch imitations of the Amazon forest. The shot is promoting a design school. Its slogan reads, “Put your passion into a program.” I get that too! G‑d has given us emotions and tendencies. There’s no way to not feel love, or fear, or any of the feelings on our emotional palette. Our choice is to love worldly pleasures or love G‑d, to fear Him or to live with neurosis and paranoia about everything else. The same applies to reflections. We can use them to seduce a stranger. Or we can use them to arouse our husbands.

As for the social mirror, that’s important too. Queen Esther is praised for “finding favor in the eyes of all who saw her.”7 But what others think of us is relevant only if it reflects what we stand for and the way we honor their dignity. The secret is that we attain the favor of others precisely when we free ourselves of kowtowing to public opinion. If our driving goal is to find popularity in the eyes of G‑d, then in a domino effect we will be beloved by others. People naturally respect authenticity, integrity, standing for what we believe in and walking the talk, even though they may not say so.

So, here’s to mirrors. Both the copper kind and those cheapo Chinese ones. The antique, wooden full-frame ones and the palm-held miniatures. Here’s to caring that we honor others and that our conduct please our Creator. Here’s to putting our passion into a program, to having the guts to let go of the shallow, of the Tinseltown images and airbrushed shots on all those covers of all those glossies. Here’s to ditching the idols of contemporary culture, the messages we are bombarded with from without, and living life from the inside out.

1. Exodus 35:5–9.
2. Exodus 38:8.
3. Rashi ibid.
4. Our sages make this association based on the word tzov’ot in the original verse. It is translated by Rashi as “the dedicated women.” (Ibn Ezra translates it as “the craftswomen.” Other translations include “the women who came to serve G‑d in prayer” and “the celebrated women.”) If one rearticulates the vowels beneath the consonants, the word reads tziv’ot, which means “a multitude of people” or “large crowd.”
5. Song of Songs 8:5.
6. Rashi continues by saying, “The washstand was made from them. It served to establish peace between husband and wife: [the priests] would draw from its waters for she whose husband suspected her of adultery”—for just as the women in Egypt had used their mirrors for holy purposes, the waters held by their copper offerings were used to verify whether the suspected adulteress had directed her beauty to arouse her husband, or for unholy reasons.
7. Esther 2:15.

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By Shimona Tzukernik    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Shimona Tzukernik is the creator of The Method, a therapeutic application of Kabbalah for individuals and corporations seeking spiritually based transformation. Known as “The Kabbalah Coach,” she has counseled hundreds of individuals, and now offers coaching certification in The Method. She is also an internationally recognized speaker and author for the Rohr JLI. Shimona has been featured in media around the world including a documentary by National Geographic and NickMom’s “Take Me to your Mother.” PARENTING: The Mommy Factor

The Mommy Factor
Adar I 18, 5774 · February 18, 2014

I’m a speech-language pathologist, and Leah* was on my caseload in a preschool for language-delayed children. With jet-black frizzy braids, two deep dimples, chubby cheeks, and a mischievous Cheshire grin, she won me over at first sight. She was positively adorable.

The official class yenta, she’d simultaneously initiate preschool politics while arbitrating recess spats, exhibiting pragmatic skills that far exceeded those of her counterparts. Exuberant to a fault, she’d sing the daily songs religiously with bulging eyes and an upturned head until she was hoarse.

Once, on the day after her older sister’s wedding, she stood in the corner, highly insulted. Why? “Because no one wished me mazel tov,” she explained dolefully.

But for all her charm, five-year-old Leah exhibited serious developmental issues.

Leah exhibited serious developmental issues

Desperate for sensory stimulation, she would roll on the floor, hug teachers incessantly, and literally hit her friends, which she perceived as a mere “tap.” She would push and shove and press the crayon fiercely into the paper, unintentionally earning the title of “most aggressive child in the class.”

Then there were the eating abnormalities. Leah was obsessed with food. While the other children would leisurely munch through their sandwiches, chewing each bite thoughtfully and deliberately, Leah vacuumed up her hefty grilled cheese in less than a minute, after which she’d begin wildly foraging through her knapsack—or those of her friends—for more gastronomical treasures.

In my therapy sessions, I sometimes dispense small snacks as reinforcements for a particular exercise. Leah—a robust, clearly well-fed little girl—would enter my room with dreamy, glazed eyes, head straight to the snack in the corner, and attempt to sneakily grab a few from the bag when she thought I wasn’t looking. At the end of the session, when I’d hand her five chocolate chips for a job well done, they’d fly into her mouth within milliseconds. And then she’d be on her knees, begging for more.

Finally, there were the emotional holes. Adorable Leah experienced intense separation anxiety; morning goodbyes to Mommy were torturous for both, awash with high-pitched screams of abandonment. When someone knocked

Morning goodbyes to Mommy were torturous for both

on the preschool door, she’d panic, fleeing into the folds of the teacher’s skirt for safety. And in a clear reversion to infantile patterns, she’d insist on having a bottle at night and each morning—and bringing it to school.

Three weeks into the school year, I took a good look at Leah’s file. In a flash, all was clear.

Leah was adopted. At six months old, she was removed from her birth parents by Social Services due to acute neglect and abandonment. She was found to be severely malnourished and sensorially starved. She had been left to cry for hours on end, without being cradled or rocked or caressed by human touch.

Immediately adopted by her current warm, loving parents, Leah does not know yet of her true identity. But her behaviors—her perpetual craving for warmth and envelopment, her never-ending quest for foodstuffs, her deep fear of all adults but the ones she’s learned to trust—tell a tragic, wordless story, a tale that defies understanding.

In today’s corporate world, where the go-getting, invulnerable CEO is the pinnacle of achievement, it’s become painfully common for devoted mothers to feel subjacent on the totem pole, or even worse—unproductive.

But Leah’s story testifies to the real movers and shakers, the authentic molders of lives, the most powerful species of all: mommies.

Leah was adopted

It’s no coincidence that the very first woman on Earth, the foundation of all future femininity, was named Chavah (Eve), from the Hebrew root-word chai, life. A woman’s essence is her ability to create and nurture life, and Chavah’s divinely bestowed name proclaims this truth for eternity. Even if she is physically incapable of birth—like Leah’s adoptive mother—the strength remains: she is a giver, a lover, a cultivator of souls.

As mother of all life, she wields an unrivaled power.

* Names and details have been changed.

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By Malka Forster    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Malka Forster is a speech-language pathologist who lives with her family in the Judean Hills. She is also a freelance writer and copywriter whose work has been published in numerous Jewish publications.  VOICES: Grateful in Grand Central

Grateful in Grand Central
Adar I 18, 5774 · February 18, 2014

It had seemed like a good enough plan at the time. My husband had gone to the Apple store in Grand Central to upgrade his phone, and I had wandered into the Hudson News bookstore. Ten minutes later, as I was flipping through 101 Must-Visit Natural Wonders, my phone rang.

“Come to the Apple store,” my husband said when I picked up the phone. “They mixed up our phone cards, and your phone is going to shut off any second now.”

Before I could respond, the line was cut off. I stared at the words in the upper left corner of my phone: “No Service.” I felt vaguely uneasy, like some part of me was missing.

Before I could respond, the line was cut off

Reluctantly, I shut the book, glancing once more at the photo of the turquoise water lapping against a towering cliff on some island I had never heard of.

I threaded my way through crowds of people on the stairs leading up to the Apple store, a labyrinth of rooms opening into rooms. New laptops and tablets sat on glass tables, and rows of rainbow-colored phones climbed up the back wall. I instinctively reached for my phone to call my husband—and was again distressed to see the empty space where my signal used to be.

As I scanned the store for my husband, it seemed like I was the only person who was not on a phone. People were speaking into the air or texting messages, glancing up and then right back at their screens, waiting for answers.

I positioned myself at the end of the balcony, overlooking the main floor of Grand Central. I looked down at the people rushing by. And then, inexplicably, I looked up. I was astounded by what I saw. Above me, the ceiling was covered with stars shaped into all of their miraculous formations. For years I had rushed off trains in this station, careening at high speed down corridors to the subway. First it was for school. Then it was for work. The New York run-or-be-run-over mindset was so ingrained in me that I would often rush even when I didn’t have to. And throughout all those years, I never once looked up. I never saw the stars.

And I never really saw the people, either. Families from all over the world snapping pictures beside intricate pillars I hadn’t noticed. People dressed in beautiful clothes striding beside beggars in ripped shirts. Lonely faces. Smiling faces. And everything in between. For some reason, perhaps because I wasn’t looking down at my phone like everyone else, several tourists stopped to ask me for directions. I was pointing out the direction to Lexington Avenue when I spotted my husband. He had left the Apple store to look for me, and was now frantically

Lonely faces. Smiling faces. And everything in between

waving from the bottom of the steps.

“That was scary,” he said, as he shook his head. “Disconnected in Grand Central.” As we rushed off to reset our phones, I glanced up at the enormous ceiling once again. I saw my husband follow my gaze, and we stopped for a moment.

“You know, I never noticed that before,” he said.

On the way home, I thought about how I had felt standing on that balcony in Grand Central. I had felt grateful. In the middle of one of the noisiest, dirtiest, most crowded places in the world, I had seen beauty. Overlooking a station that I ran through for years, I had seen so much that I had never noticed before. And if that could happen in Grand Central, then what would the rest of my life look like if I remembered to look up?

Studies in neuroscience have found that the human brain cannot possibly process all the information it is exposed to. Therefore, the brain has to choose what tiny percentage of stimuli it will focus on. So we literally shape our own reality, distinct from the reality of the person sitting next to us. Our ability to see the world from other vantage points is the foundation of our happiness and success.1

For us, as Jews, gratitude is the basis of so many mitzvahs. We wake up in the morning and immediately express our thankfulness to G‑d that our souls have been returned to us. Throughout the day we continue to thank and bless G‑d for the food we eat, for our clothing, for our bodily functions. Even the very name “Jews” (Yehudim, from the Kingdom of Judah) alludes to gratitude: Judah was named so by his

Even the very name “Jews” alludes to gratitude

mother, Leah, who was expressing gratitude to G‑d for giving her this son.

Choosing to focus on what we are grateful for allows us to see the abundance in our lives. And sometimes, life itself forces us to look at new realities that are different but equally true. Sometimes, on a balcony in Grand Central Station, we can look up and see the stars.

1. Shawn Achor, Before Happiness (New York: Crown Business, 2013).
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By Sara Debbie Gutfreund    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Sara Debbie Gutfreund lives in Telzstone, Israel, with her husband and children. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, and a Masters in Family Therapy from the University of North Texas. She is a freelance writer and is currently working on her first novel. WEEKLY STORY: The Wise Testament

The Wise Testament
Adar I 18, 5774 · February 18, 2014

Zevulun was a good Jewish merchant in the land of Babylonia whom G‑d had blessed with riches, much land and other valuable possessions. Most precious to him, however, was his son Naftali, who at a very early age showed that he was gifted with a brilliant mind and with the will to learn. Zevulun decided to send him to Jerusalem, where he would study under the guidance of one of the great sages of Israel.

Father and son loved each other dearly, and they felt the hardship of parting very much when the time came for Naftali to leave for the Holy Land. They clung to each other, and tears rolled down their cheeks. Their hearts were heavy, as if they knew that they would never see each other again. Finally, they could not delay the separation any longer. Very earnestly Zevulun blessed his young son, and sent him off on his way to Jerusalem.

Naftali had a pleasant trip, and arrived safely at his destination. His father had arranged everything, so that he could immediately begin his studies under the guidance of the great sage Rabbi Eliezer. He immersed himself completely in his studies, and was thus able to get over the pain of parting from his father.

Back home in Babylonia, misfortune soon befell the one he loved and revered most. His dear father took sick, and the doctors told him that there was no chance of his recovery. Zevulun longed desperately to see his beloved son before he died. Yet his appreciation of learning and his deep piety held him back from sending for Naftali. Instead, he used the brief spell of life still granted him to settle all his affairs. He made out his will in a manner worthy of a man of his greatness of mind and heart. He gave a large part of his wealth to various charitable institutions to care for the sick and to support synagogues, schools and hotels for the poor. Having thus taken care of this important matter, he appointed his old slave Samura sole heir to all his possessions: his great treasure of gold, silver and precious stones; his estates; his ships and his merchandise that were spread over the far-flung corners of the earth. Samura was to be the exclusive owner and master over this huge wealth. There was, however, one clause in the will which read that Samura had to permit Zevulun’s son, Naftali, to select one object from all his possessions for himself. Zevulun had this mysterious testament duly signed and witnessed. Soon afterwards, his pure soul left him and returned to its divine creator. As befitted such a great man, his burial was an impressive affair in which not only the population of the city but friends from far and near paid homage to the departed.

Very surprised, however, were the friends of Zevulun when his will was officially opened, and the strange arrangement of the inheritance was made known. In vain they searched for the motive of Zevulun’s disregard for his young son whom he had loved so much, and who was so industriously studying Torah under the guidance of the famous sage in Jerusalem. This was certainly not the proper reward of the youth’s love of Torah. Zevulun had lost his wife soon after Naftali’s birth, and there was no one else on whom the merchant should have bestowed his love and wealth other than his worthy son. Yet the will of a dying man must not be changed. And Zevulun had made sure that there was no doubt as to the legality of his testament. While Naftali concentrated on his studies, ignorant of the double misfortune that had befallen him, the old slave Samura inherited Zevulun’s wealth and property.

Samura had been a faithful and industrious servant to Zevulun ever since the day he had come into the house of the kind merchant as a young boy. He had learned much from his master’s wisdom and nobility, and he possessed a sufficiently strong character not to become spoiled by the sudden turn of fortune in his favor. Instead of living a life of extravagance and luxury, as his newly found wealth would have permitted him, he spent his time and efforts in cautious investment and furtherance of the business. He did not waste a single penny. He dismissed all lazy and careless servants, and employed only able men to act as his representatives in his worldwide dealings on land and sea. He built new storehouses and warehouses, and purchased ships and vehicles to carry his trade to the distant corners of the earth. Thus his huge business thrived as never before.

Meanwhile, as we have said, Naftali studied unceasingly, as he knew his beloved father wished him to do. Zevulun had amply provided for all his needs. He had bought him a house and had left sufficient funds to pay for his son’s expenses. So Naftali enjoyed his learning in a carefree atmosphere of comfort and leisure. His knowledge increased, and he became one of the most promising young scholars to whom the world of learning looked with great hope.

One day a man knocked at the door of Naftali’s study. Interrupting his studies, the young man reluctantly opened the door. To his surprise, he was greeted by a fellow countryman from Babylonia who had brought him a letter. “I have been asked to wait for your signature and reply,” he said.

Naftali opened the sealed message, and was deeply shocked when he read the news that his beloved father had passed away. Tremors shook his body. His knees trembled, and he fell to the ground unconscious. The messenger quickly lifted the young scholar from the floor and loosened his garment. Slowly, Naftali recovered consciousness. He cried bitterly at having been absent from his beloved father’s deathbed. If his father was destined to die, at least he, his only son, could have made his last hours happier and his death easier with his presence. Sadly he tore his clothes and sat down on the ground to mourn for his beloved parent who had been both father and mother to him.

After a while, Naftali recovered somewhat from the initial sorrow and pain. Yet more shocking news was waiting for him. When he again opened the fateful letter to read fully the long message from his father’s friend, he found out about the mystifying details of Zevulun’s testament. But it was not the loss of the wealth which troubled him so. He was terribly upset at the thought that he must, somehow, have given cause for his father’s strange action. “I cannot understand why I have been abandoned by my dear father. He must have had only contempt for me, if he put me thus to public ridicule and shame. It must surely be my fault to have estranged my father’s heart at the time when his death was near. How could I have lost my dear father’s love forever?”

Sitting thus shaken by pain and sorrow, the door opened and his great teacher, Rabbi Eliezer, entered the room to comfort him in his mourning. Silently, he sat down by the side of his heartbroken pupil. After a while he tried to console him, and pointed out that it was G‑d’s decision to take his father’s soul to heaven. At least he, Naftali, had inherited the huge wealth of his father, and would be able to carry on the charitable work for which Zevulun had been famous.

At his words, Naftali began to cry. He showed his teacher the letter, that he might see for himself the double loss that had come to him. Rabbi Eliezer took his time in reading every phrase of the fateful letter. Having finished, he put it aside and thought for a while. Naftali expected to see the great sage’s face saddened by the same disappointment that had filled him when he read the bad news. But to Naftali’s great surprise, a happy and joyous smile lit up the scholar’s face, and his wise old eyes beamed at him.

“Blessed is G‑d, who gave wisdom and understanding to His servants,” he exclaimed fervently, and then turned to the astonished Naftali: “My son, be happy and joyful, for truly pleasant is your lot. Your father’s love and care reaches even beyond his grave. Know that the very will that you thought had deprived you of your father’s love and possessions proves his infinite concern and tender care for you. In his wisdom, he protected and made safe his huge wealth for you.”

Naftali did not immediately grasp what had given Rabbi Eliezer this idea. But when his teacher asked him to whom, according to the Jewish law, belonged the possessions of a slave, light dawned on him. “To his master, of course,” replied Naftali.

“Well, now do you see why your father made those strange arrangements? During the years of your absence, servants and managers might easily have done great harm to your inheritance. Knowing Samura’s capabilities and good character, your wise father made him temporary heir, so that he would take proper care of the possessions until your return. Then, as provided by the clause in the testament, you would choose the slave as the one object that you select for yourself. Automatically, all of Samura’s possessions will be yours, according to the law.”

Great indeed was Naftali’s joy over this legitimate interpretation of his beloved father’s will. He embraced Rabbi Eliezer gratefully, and thanked him for his help and consolation. His wise teacher blessed him and left him with the customary wish: “May G‑d comfort you among the mourners of Zion and Jerusalem.”

Thirty days later, Naftali arrived in Babylon and legally succeeded to the huge wealth of his father by selecting Samura for himself. In appreciation of the good slave’s services, he freed him and made him manager and adviser, with full powers to carry on as if the business were his own. Thus, Zevulun’s wise will had indeed completely cared for and protected his beloved son beyond the grave.

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By Gershon Kranzler    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society.


by Rabbi Hillel Goldberg
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