"On not going back to sleep"

Monday, 20 November, 2017 - 4:08 pm



with Rabbi Mordechai Zev Ben Harav Sholem Dovber Hecht

Anshe Sholom Chabad, Kew Gardens, NY


ויקרא לאחיו לאכל לחם (רש"י) אוהביו

(Bereshis 31,44)

ויאמר לאחיו לקטו אבנים (רש"י) בניו שהיו לו אחים נגשים אליו לצרה ולמלחמה

(Bereshis 31,46)


There are those who come to Shul לאכל לחם – “to eat bread”, perhaps for the coffee and cake, the kiddush, the hot cholent, they will attend functions and dinners and truth be told that’s very nice, participation in any and every form is wonderful. In turn, there are those, as Rashi so eloquently puts it, the אוהביו - the friends and patronizers of the shul or community center.

But what does a shul really need, what really makes up a community, what bolsters and strengthens a community, לצרה ולמלחמה - those who are always here for the shul and the community, “in good and in bad, every crisis and difficulty” – “they gather the stones” – they address the hard issues and components that we may face as a community – and they come together and help build and solve the issues, support their fellow community members whenever needed.

“They” - are truly the בני יעקב, the sons of the shul and community center.


As we see only a bit further in the Parsha, ויקץ יעקב- ויקץ פרעה, )Bereshis 28,27) , both Yaakov and Pharaoh sleep and had a dream and then wake up. But there is a difference between the awakening of Yaakov and that of Pharaoh. Pharaoh awakened: but he goes back to sleep and ויחלום שנית – he continues dreaming, nebach- sadly.

But when Yaakov dreams and wakes up thereafter, he exclaims with enthusiasm: מה נורא המקום - - “how awesome is this place”, and he immediately builds an Altar to Hashem; and he offers his share to Hashem.

Let’s be real, life can become monotonous, sometimes we are lucky and inspired to do something, but often enough we go back to sleep – what I like to call Pharonian behavior. Then there are times we are aroused from our virtual lethargy and idle dreams – on “good days”, like Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur at our Bar Mitzvah maybe, or even  our wedding day, or G-d forbid when sorrow strikes and someone becomes sick or even dies, Hashem have mercy. The message that is so clear from this Parsha is: don’t allow the lethargy to set in, wake up and stay up - don’t allow of the Kelipah the Yetser harah, the evil inclination of ויחלום שנית  - to kick in. (see: Shulchan Aruch O”C Siman Alef)



This clearly applies in our  -עשה טוב  - our doing of positive and good. Yet, surely this may apply to our סור מרע  - turning away from evil as well. I recall, about 20 years ago when Rabbi Leibel Groner, the secretary of Lubavitcher Rebbe ZT”L came to speak in our Yeshivah Gedolah in Australia and he was speaking to us the Talmidim and he was talking about our Middos and behavior and he said: “When a person walks on the street, goes through life, naturally he will see things, what can you do, that’s life, so seeing something as you go is one thing, however the 2nd time, why did you turn your head again to look the second time?” – In this lies the challenge of life, he stressed.

This too Is the Kelipah and Yester Harah of ויחלום שנית - our task is not to let it take us over, but rather we must be strong and follow the teachings of the Mishna of: איזהו גבור הכובש את יצרו – who is a truly strong person one who conquers his Yetser, conqueror both in the staying away from bad and in the positive performance of good.


Earlier generations had sages of all sorts, from the Tannaim and Amoriam to the Rishonim and Achronim – this generation I believe is the generation of precisely this - כובשים – we are perhaps very different from the Tzaddikim of old, but our challenge is what makes us great and affords us the great challenge of being a כובש – not only a comptroller but a conqueror, as individuals and as community builders, with the help of Hashem – so we too can be called בני יעקב.

Good Shabbos.

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