Parshas Chayei Soroh: The World is Built on Kindness

Matchmaking. Is there any word more likely to conjure up images of Eastern Europe’s 19th-Century shtetls, as showcased in ‘Fiddler on the Roof’? Perhaps not- but matchmaking actually goes back a lot further than that, back to the days of the Avos (forefathers), and, in this week’s Parsha, we watch as Avrohom’s servant, Eliezer, is sent out to find a match for Yitzchok. He returns with Rivka; a maiden who passes the rather unusual ‘test’ which was set to find a suitor for Yitzchok. What was this test? Eliezer decided that the woman who brought water not just for him, but for his camels, was destined for his master’s son. But what exactly does this test mean?

Simply put, the woman who passes this test undoubtably possesses the trait of kindness. And kindness is all important in Judaism, especially in a potential spouse; in fact, we read in the Tehillim that the world is built on kindness, a statement expanded in Pirkei Avos to include Torah study and service of G-d. There’s no doubt about it: Eliezer was looking for someone kind-hearted, who went above and beyond to make a traveller, and his livestock, comfortable.

Undeniably, there are many other important things to consider in a match. Other personality traits- such as a commitment to charity, a love for tradition, and a dedication to Torah study- are important, as are other factors which may affect a couple’s compatibility. But kindness- at least in Yitzchok and Rivka’s case- surpasses them all. This teaches us just how important kindness is- and, speaking from experience, it really is.

We often underestimate the power of just one kind act. In Rivka’s case, it led her to marry Yitzchok, but we shouldn’t do kind things in expectance of a reward (either from Hashem or our fellow man). We should do kind deeds because we feel a deep desire to help others and spread ahavos Yisroel, and because we realise that the world we live in stands on our own kind deeds. We all have the power to bring Moshiach- if only we realised our own power, the world would change very quickly. So what are you waiting for? Let’s start spreading kindness straightaway.

This dvar Torah is dedicated to Shmuel Yossef ben Soroh Malka- we should be zoche to witness his refuah shleimah.

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Gut Shabbes! (Lech Lecha)

Every Shabbes is special. But this Shabbes, we celebrate a nationwide event known as ShabbatUK. We know that if every Jew kept just one Shabbes, we would merit to greet Moshiach- but this isn’t the only reason why we ask everyone to keep Shabbes this week. We know of the amazing power of Shabbes; we know how it can transform lives and families, and we know that ShabbatUK has the ability to teach Jews from all backgrounds about the beauty of Shabbes.

Perhaps you already keep Shabbes, and wonder what the point of ShabbatUK is. If that’s the case, it’s your duty to help someone else keep Shabbes: you could invite someone to your house for Shabbes, pass on the love of Shabbes to another Jew, or teach just one person about the Holy nature of the day. Together, may we be zoche to keep Shabbes together, and welcome the Moshiach, speedily and in our days!

This week, Shabbes candles should be lit at 5:24 PM in London, and Shabbes ends at 6:32 PM. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Genya, Moshe ben Hadasa, Chashachana bas Bryna, Chana bas Mushka and Rivka Miriam bas Tsivia Bina. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

The Chuppah

A white canopy and a black sky;
Music in the air,
Fabric rustling, laughter echoing,
And my voice breaking as I called out.
I called out to You, hoping You were listening:
I could feel your presence,
I could almost see You,
As I stood beneath the shechinah,
Protected by Your love,
But not from my tears.
Tears streaming, a heart broken,
As I begged You to help me,
To make the next chuppah my own.
So much longing, so much crying,
So many lonely days, so many silent nights,
So many prayers said, so many Tehillim read.
And I have no doubt You heard me,
But still I continue to cry.

Gut Shabbes! (Eikev)

Yesterday, I wrote about how the name of this week’s Parsha carries a hidden message about Torah observance, and teaches us that G-d’s Torah and mitzvos must govern every part of our life and behaviour. For many, including myself, the hardest thing about becoming Torah observant is observing the laws of Shabbes, and as I wrote about the way in which we must accept all of the mitzvos, I was reminded of my own struggle with keeping Shabbes.

Although it is incumbent upon us to accept and abide by every single Halacha, it’s also extremely admirable to start with just any one mitzvah. Yes, the end goal is to keep everything- but no one can start doing that overnight, and it’s important that we recognise the difficulties faced by baalei teshuva. As someone who identifies as Chabad-Lubavitch, I am constantly reminded of the power of just one mitzvah- as that mitzvah could bring Moshiach.

Torah observance is the core of Jewish life, and this includes not only the most minor mitzvos, but also the most difficult one. This week, if we all tried our hardest to keep Shabbes, we could bring Moshiach. But before Moshiach can come, we need to love and respect one another- and that includes respecting another’s efforts to keep the mitzvos.

In London, Shabbes candles should be lit at 8:12 PM, and Shabbes ends tomorrow at 9:26 PM. When lighting your candles, please keep in mind Chaim Elozor ben Baila, Moshe ben Hadasa, Moshe ben Genya, Chashachana bas Bryna and Shai bas Odeya. Thank you, and gut Shabbes!

Sparks

Today, I came across this quote in Midrash Mechilta.

At the Splitting of the Sea, a servant girl saw what Isaiah, Ezekiel and all other prophets did not behold.

At first, this seems amazing- unbelievable, even. But as we look further into the Chassidus and the teachings of the Rebbe, we realise that it is perfectly in line with Jewish thought. What does this passage say? Essentially, that no matter how small you think you are, you are as important as the most amazing gedolim we have known. Your worth is inherent. You- the person reading this right now- possess a spark of Moshe or Miriam!

The most inspiring people come from surpising backgrounds. Moshe Rabbenu grew up privileged in Mitzrayim, and yet it was he who led the rebellion against Pharaoh. Don’t let your past hold you back. No matter how humble you are, no matter how small you feel compared to great rabbonim and sages, you are important to Hashem and you have the power to bring yourself- and others- out of ‘Mitzrayim’.

So what are you waiting for? We need Moshiach NOW!

BDE

Today, a terror attack where I live claimed the lives of three people, along with the assailant.

In┬ámoments like this, it is easy to despair. The city is thrown into chaos, and the sound of gunshots and sirens ring in our ears. We think of those who lost their lives today and we think about the cruelty of the man who stole them. The calm routine is interrupted. But beneath the smoke and amidst the terror, there’s a small consolation; community spirit. To see such love and concern for one another transforms a massive tragedy into a massive tragedy with a silver lining.

But not that much of a lining; the carnage still remains, and the three innocent lives can never be reclaimed. Let’s never forget what happened today. Boruch Doyon Ho’Emess.

Award Nomination

I would like to offer my thanks to Mozer G, the creator of the blog Hasidic, for nominating me for the Sunshine Blogger Award. Mozer is one of the most inspiring bloggers I’ve ever come across, and I feel honoured to be nominated by him! Here are the rules for the award. I’m not very good at things like this, so I apologise if I miss a step!

Thank the person(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award.
Write them 11 new questions.
List the rules.
Display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo on your post and/or on your blog

Firstly, here are my answers to the 11 fascinating questions which Mozer wrote;

If you can become any creature, what would you choose to be?

A human. I believe Hashem created me this way for a reason, and I wouldn’t want to change that.

If you can choose to live in any time and place; Where? When? Why?

Here and now; London in 2017. I love living in this city because all of my friends and most of my family live here, and because I’m familiar with it. I’d never want to live anywhere else.

If you need to give up on a shower or coffee in the morning which would you choose to keep?

Coffee.

What do you do for fun?

I’m not entirely sure. I enjoy reading religious texts, and writing of course, but I don’t really do those things ‘for fun’. I guess I’d have to say spending time with friends.

What drives you to blog?

Habit. Initially, I began blogging because I had a lot to say, and I loved reading and writing. Now, I do it because not writing is unthinkably horrible.

What is your dream profession?

Something highly paid which involves very little work. Or on the opposite end of the spectrum, I’d like to work dor/with Chabad (though not as a shlucha), and probably get paid little for doing a lot.

Would you live in the house you grew up forever?

Yes, yes, and yes again. I’d give anything to live here forever. Well, not quite anything.

Movie or Book?

Book. I don’t actually watch movies anymore, much as I loved them, because I am strictly religious and don’t watch secular films.

Snow or rain?

I would once have said snow. Now I’ll say rain. Less disruptive.

Do you like meeting new people, or do you dread it?

I’m honestly not sure. But I think that nowadays, I dread it. I have no energy, and I just want to be with the people I like and trust.

What would you want your children to be when they grow up?

Right now, I don’t want children. But it would sound a little insensitive if I said ‘nonexistent’, wouldn’t it?

Now I have to nominate eleven bloggers to receive this award…

  1. Jewish Books Are Awesome
  2. Vika Herbs
  3. The Bellezza Corner
  4. Coming Out Of The Exodus
  5. Kool Kosher Kitchen
  6. Cooking For The Time Challenged
  7. Confessions Of A Baal Teshuva
  8. Hasidic
  9. Beauty Beyond Bones
  10. Cooking Without Limits
  11. Safek

…And think of eleven questions to ask them.

  1. What is your favourite book?
  2. What about your favourite recipe?
  3. Do you like travelling?
  4. Is prayer important to you?
  5. What is your favourite place in the whole world?
  6. What’s your favourite way to spend friday night?
  7. Would you rather it was always winter, or always summer?
  8. Why do you enjoy writing?
  9. Are you proud of your blog?
  10. Do you prefer emails or telephone calls?
  11. Would you rather read, or write?
  12. What is your favourite memory?

Please don’t feel pressured to answer if you don’t want to, though I would love to see your answers! And finally, here’s the photo of the Sunshine Blogger Award.

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