Ve'hayu LImshisa | Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach ♫

Ve'hayu LImshisa | Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach
V’hayu lim’shisa sosai’yich,                  
V’rachaku kol m’valai’yich. 
Yasis alai’yich Elohai’yich; 
Kimsos chatan al kala. 
Lecha dodi likrat kala, p’nei Shabbat n’kabelah!

והיו למשסה שוסיך ורחקו כל מבלעיך, ישיש עליך אלוקיך כמשוש חתן על כלה, לכה דודי לקראת כלה פני שבת נקבלה

Parshat Eikev

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama. 


By Samantha Hulkower

Doubt: it's an uncomfortable feeling, which can manifest itself in a number of ways. For example, many of us have felt that moment of dread, where you ask yourself, "Did I turn off the stove/iron/lock the door/etc." It could also show up after you find the clarity to quit a job, take a new one, finally lose the 20 lbs., or to propose to your girlfriend, or dump your boyfriend. In one moment you feel so sure of yourself, and in the next, you are doubting yourself and wondering if it's really a good idea. Even in situations that we are fairly certain, we still doubt ourselves. Doubt isn't a new phenomena, invented in order to sell anti-anxiety pills and apps that let you check if you closed the garage door. It's been around since the beginning, or at least the beginning of the Jewish people. Taking a look at Sefer Devarim, it appears it exists to remove doubt reassure the Jewish people that the right thing to do is to follow Torah.

Much of this week's Torah portion, Eikev, is spent reassuring the Jews that if they follow the mitzvot, they will have a great life. Moshe goes out of his way to highlight a few transgressions in particular to refrain from - worshiping false gods or money; attributing one's success to themselves and not G-d, the sin of the Golden Calf. Moshe also reminds the people that even though for forty years their clothes and shoes didn't wear out and they always had food and water, the Jews still freaked out every now and then and doubted G-d. Much detail goes into everything good that will happen when the mitzvot are followed, especially in the Land of Israel. There is also a reminder of what can happen when the Jews forget (such as when they freaked out Moshe was late and built the Golden Calf). 

The second paragraph of the three paragraph 'Shema' that is said every day is also written here. By now you can probably guess the theme of the paragraph, even if you've never read it: essentially to remember and do the mitzvot every day (going so far as to tell the Jews to put them 'between your eyes' and 'on the doorposts of your home'. Those are some well-placed reminders!

So what is it - do G-d and Moshe not think the Jewish people can remember a few rules? The fact is, when it comes to doing something correct, but perhaps less fun that what everyone else is doing, it can be all-too-easy to convince yourself that the fun-but-not-kosher activity is really ok to do. Of course, it is only okay if you doubt the validity of the Torah, or the repercussions of what will happen if you decide to do your own thing. So, G-d makes sure to reiterate these things many times. It's not that the people are stupid, but it is part of human nature to second guess yourself. This doesn't make people bad or weak, just human. It might be natural to doubt, but it's just as natural to overcome these doubts and remember what is right.

pirkei avot 3:12 - Be Validating

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.
By Elisheva Maline


Rabbi Yishmael said, “Be yielding to a leader, easygoing with the black-haired (young and inexperienced) and receive every person in with joy.

Rabbenu Yona explains Rabbi Yishmael's mishna: if you desire to yield you must first learn to recognize your betters. Army rank, older family members, IQ, EQ and all the rest aside, what markers display someone's superiority? 


Rabbi Yitzchak Issac, one of the Chasidic (Hasidic) masters from 19th century Europe, answers this question with a quote from Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), "The wise man's eyes are in his head..." (2:14) i.e. one who is wise focuses entirely on his Divine mission. Thus, by keeping himself on the straight and narrow, he creates a lifelong revelation of G-d. This is also how he manages to serve the ultimate Superior, the Master upstairs, well. That is the kind of person we follow around and from whom we seek out advice. He knows how to serve G-d and if he's willing, he'll show us.

Here's a little something to get us started. One of G-d's defining characteristics is kindness. How do we show kindness to others? Rabbi Yishmael just threw out a couple of suggestions. Be kind to the younger people i.e. the black haired and inexperienced. Greet every person you meet with joy. The Rambam adds that this mishnah is a mitzvah (commandment) which does not differentiate between color, creed and religion. Not only that but our sages made sure to emphasize that we are not living in a dog-eat-dog world. Don't use your height or weight to intimidate. And if anyone finds it difficult to treat fellow human beings with respect, they might do well to recall that G-d metes out justice measure for measure: the respect we give each other will mirror G-d's treatment of us.

My grandfather was an empathetic man of the world. He always used humor and a cheerful countenance to make everyone around him happy. I am certain that this was due to his making G-d's will his highest authority. When my Zeidie greeted people with joy, they reciprocated. Even the men mugging him in the street couldn't help but show appreciation for his attitude. 

Family lore has it that my Zeidie was once heading home when he was surrounded by three large men. The first guy folded his arms and said, “Hey Rabbi, give us all your money.” My grandfather nodded a couple of times, “Okay, okay, I’ll give you some money.” He reached into his wallet and pulled out three dollars, “One for you and one for you…” As he put his wallet away the muggers protested saying that they’d seen more money. “Yes, it’s true, I have more money,” my grandfather replied, “But that’s my car fare. You don’t want me to be stranded, do you?” and he looked each one in the eye. No, they shook their heads, they didn’t. As they walked away, one of them looked over his shoulder and remarked, “Hey Rabbi, You got off easy.” 

One brisk, Autumn morning in Brooklyn my grandfather "got off easy" but perhaps there was more to the story than dumb luck. Zeidie was accosted, but rather than respond with fight or flight he appealed to their sense of humanity; they left him alone. You could say that that was “greeting every person with joy.” 


Rabbi Yishmael is offering us inner tranquility on a white platter. Part of greeting every human being with joy is about noticing each one's inherent worth, reminding him that he is worthy.  How does submitting to G-d's authority connect to the attainment of peace and harmony, though? Simple: in order to receive every person with joy we need to learn how to validate everyone in terms of who they are and where they're coming from. Who wouldn't want to be around a person like that? (***Exceptions do apply. Sometimes it's better to avoid wicked people rather than cause needless friction. Ask your local orthodox Rabbi/ mentor).

Parshat Shavua: Va'Etchanan

This post is dedicated in memory of Etya Sarah bat Yitzchak ha-Levi. May it be an aliyah for her neshama.

By Shayna Hulkower

As we explained last week, the book of Devarim is kind of a chazarah, a review, of things that happened to the Jews and some of the laws Moshe had previously taught them in the desert. Something that is striking in this week's Torah portion, Ve'Etchanan, is the repetition of the Ten Commandments. It is unlikely the Jews forgot them, considering they were given at Matan Torah at Har Sinai. If we read closer we can see this is no mere repetition - the Ten Commandments are actually slightly different than the first time they were given over. While there are many to chose from, let us explore three. 
Shamor vs Zachor. In the first iteration of the Commandments G-d tells the Jewish people to zachor - remember - Shabbat. This time He uses Shamor, to guard. Here Our Sages learn that there are two aspects to keeping Shabbat - remembering it and safeguarding it. Safeguarding can be interpreted to mean abstaining from forbidden activities, such as driving or cooking, while remembering can mean having in mind all day that it is different from the other six days of the week and acting accordingly, which can be as simple as wishing someone on the street a Shabbat Shalom. 

Honoring your parents. The commandment to honor one's parents is identical, safe for two extra words that are added in this weeks' set: Honor your father and mother... so that your days will be lengthened and so it will be good for you [טוב לך] on the land....(5:16). The first iteration tells us that if we honor our parents our days will be lengthened, but this time it tells us that our days will be lengthened and it will be good for us. The term 'It was a long day' doesn't necessarily have a good connotation, but here we can see long days can mean good days. Days where we are able to accomplish a lot and feel good about ourselves. For many people, dealing with family can be difficult, after all we get the family we are given, not the one some people would necessarily choose. However, if we work on ourselves, practice patience, seeing things from the other's point of view, accept sometimes that we can be wrong (all aspects of honoring your parents), then we can grow and become better people, which is a big part of why we are on this planet. In this way we can lengthen our days in a good way. The growing we undertake may not be easy (hence the long aspect), but once we are able to work at honoring our parents, not only can we feel good about ourselves for doing the right thing, but likely this will lead to an improved relationship with them, which of course will also be good.

For our last example we'll end with one of the most striking of the changes. The last five commandments have a ו/and attached to the לא/don't of each sentence where there wasn't before.While the first five commandments have to do with each person's relationship with G-d, the last five are interpersonal: don't kill, don't steal, don't covet, etc. One idea is that this 'and' connects all the commandments to show they are equally important. While some might argue that killing is a bigger deal than stealing, at the end of the day, all of them erode the fabric of the social contract we all live under, and create havoc in society. Additionally, by trying to say one is more important or worse than another, it implicitly makes one of them less unacceptable than the others. The 'and' is to clearly state they are all unacceptable, so don't even think about it.

Shayna Hulkower is an Olah Chadasha, living in Jerusalem. She enjoys trying to speak Hebrew, finding the humor in every situation (especially dating), and is looking forward to the day she can successfully argue b'Ivrit. You can also view her blogs Curls of Wisdom,  Shomer Tel Aviv on all things kosher in Tel Aviv, and on Twitter @shaynahulkower.

Yashar LaChayal

Birthright Israel - Taglit

The majesty of the Western Wall