Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Parshah Vayeitzei 5770 – Question & Answer- Tzaddikim as neighbors

This weeks Parshah: Parshah VaYeitzeh Bereishis (Genesis) 28:10-32:3

Question: When Yaakov talks to Lavan, Lavan says he was blessed because of Yaakov- how so?

To see the answers on Yahoo!Answers (and to answer) there
The full correct answer was given by Challah Girl:
It is a Midrash that Laban did not have male children before Yaakov arrived. This is derived because Rachel is described as a shepherdess tending flock when Yaakov first sees her (Gen. 29:9). By the time Yaakov leaves Laban had sons and he assumed that their birth was a blessing directly due to Yaakov’s presence. He did not understand it was his own change in behavior (influenced by Yaakov) that was the reason for him being blessed with male children. (see the link above)
However, as this answer was given quite early in the week I posed an additional question which was not answered.
Question:  In the chumash G-d speaks to two people that are not righteous to aid righteous people. One is in this weeks parshah, the other in parshah lech lecha. Who are these people and who is aided by G-d speaking to them?
Answer: In parshas Lech Lecha G-d speaks to Avimelech to prevent him from sleeping with Sarah. Thus Avimelech, though not righteous, merits a communication from G-d to aid Avraham. In this weeks parshah G-d speaks to Lavan and warns him of speaking to Ya’akov either good or bad. Thus Lavan merits a communication from G-d so that Ya’akov will be helped.
The Torah is teaching more than just a lesson that we should seek out the righteous- that we can merit blessings and merit from them just by being in their presence.  Lavan is blessed in many ways- with children, wealth and even a communication from G-d; yet Lavan is not a righteous man.  He worships idols, he uses them for divining, he continuously tries to cheat and deny Ya’akov his wages and from his words it is apparent that but for G-d telling him not to act, he probably would have acted against Ya’akov at the end!  In Pirkei Avot (Chapter1 v6) we read: Joshua the son of Perachia and Nitai the Arbelite received from them. Joshua the son of Perachia would say: Assume for yourself a master, acquire for yourself a friend, and judge every man to the side of merit. Here Joshua the son of Perichia teaches the lesson explicitly, attach yourself to the righteous to learn from them, to gain merit from them- and to have friends that will drive you in a positive direction
What is interesting in this incident, is that just as the Torah teaches us to attach us to righteous people, it also warns us against being close to evil people.  In Pirkei Avot (Chapter 1 verse 7.) we read: Nitai the Arbelite would say: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not cleave to a wicked person, and do not abandon belief in retribution.  Yet here we have Ya’akov living with Lavan!  Yet even here we see that Ya’Akov avoided Lavan.  He was in the fields tending the flocks, he did not work with Lavan and his sons, but stayed apart with his family tending his flocks away from close proximity with Lavan.  In the end he uses this to his advantage, fleeing while they are away from him- and only three days after he has left does Lavan learn of his departure!
Both finding outselves good neighbors, teachers and friends- and avoiding their opposites are essential to us living healthy spiritual lives.  Sure you can have friends that are not religious, not observant of the Torah- there is a difference between non-observance and being evil.  In modern society many people have not had the opportunity or facilities to learn.  They believe and live what they know- as R’ Moshe Feinstein states, the majority of Jews in the world today can be categorised as a tinok she’le bnishma, a child captured in war that never had the opportunity to learn and thus cannot be held liable.  So who is that we need to avoid?
To me the answer is simple- not those who don’t mirror our observance out of a lack of knowledge or upbringing- but rather those that do mirror our observance, and then twist it into something competely the opposite of what it should be.  In Pirkei Avot (chapter 3 v1) we read:
Rabbi Elazar of Modi’in would say: One who profanes the kodoshim (“holy things” consecrated for the service of G-d in the Holy Temple), degrades the Festivals, humiliates his friend in public, abrogates the covenant of our father Abraham (i.e., circumcision), or who interprets the Torah contrary to its true intent—although he may possess Torah knowledge and good deeds, he has no share in the World to Come.
Why do I quote this Mishnah?  For the last phrase- those who interpret the Torah to their own message instead of its true intent- regardless of their deeds and how many mitzvot they do, have no share in the world to come!  This should highlight who I am talking about, the evil neighbor we must distance ourselves from: the so called “messianic jewish” movement, the “hebrew christians”, “jews for jesus”, “completed jews” etc- the movements that seek to redefine Judaism while attacking the soul of Jews, using deceit and deception to convert the uneducated.
Ten years ago it was clear cut, no Rabbi in any movement would even think of accomodation with such blasphemous sects.  Unfortunately, there are now some rabbis in liberal Judaism who are saying maybe there is a place for such groups within Judaism.  Or, even worse, Orthodox Rabbis who repeat the lesson that even if a Jew converts they remain jewish, but forget to include the follow on: that any Jew who converts is no longer a member fo the Jewish community, is no longer able to function in any capacity whatsoever in the Jewish community- and if they die while unrepentant and still within the foreign religion, they go unmourned.  No Jewish rites of mourning are done for them, they are not buried as Jews, mourned as jews and their families do not say Kaddish for them!  We need to return to the lesson of this prashah, to the lessons in the Mishnah and as taught by our sages throughout history and clean up our neighborhood.  We need to return to unity and a resounding “NO” to the introduction and warping of Judaism into yet another sect of Christianity.  Those who want to pretend this is not a real threat are fooling themselves; should we ignore it because it affects those on the margin and with a lack of education?  Does the Torah tell us to abandon the tinok she lo b’nishmah?  Of course the answer is no, and thus we cannot abandon even those on the fringe- because, as it says in Pirkei avot before every chapter “Kol Yosrael arazim zeh la zah, v’yeish l’kol Yisrael chelek ba olam haba” “All of Israel is repsonsible one for another, and all of Israel has a place in the World to come”  We are responsible for these unfortunates and we, all of us, Chareidi, Chassidic, Yeshivish, Conservative, Reform or Reconstructionist, need to work to keep Jews in Judaism and away from these Christian missionary movements regardless of whatever issues we may have with one another!

November 23, 2009 - Posted by | Parshah, Torah, Weekly Question/Issue | , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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