Last week’s perashah and those that follow discuss marriage and the building of the founding families of Am Yisrael. At the end of last week’s Perashah (24:67), we read vayikah et rivkah vat'hi lo l’ishah ve’ye-ehaveha. "He [Yitzhak] married Rivkah, and she became his wife, and he loved her." As Jews we know that the Torah is Emmet, and we learn from the Torah that today's society has it backwards. Society dictates that you meet someone, fall in love, then marry them. This order of events contributes to the fact that more than fifty percent of marriages in the United States and many other Western countries unfortunately end in divorce. One leading reason for this is that many relationships and marriages are based on a very superficial foundation of infatuation and lust. In contrast, the Torah teaches us the opposite in this Perashah, because when we look to get married, we need to look for similar shared values which we can bring to the marriage and with which we will start our families. And this will ultimately bring each couple to a love that's Emmet! Values of Torah and Hesed, a Baayit Ne’eman (trustworthy) B'Yisrael – these are the blessings that every Jewish couple under the huppah are given!
The Torah elaborated at length, over sixty-six pesukim, on how Avraham sent Eliezer to find a wife for his son Yitzhak. Avraham sent Eliezer, his trusted right-hand man, to his family in Haran, to the home of Bethuel. As Eliezer will arrive there, he will meet Rivkah, the sister of Lavan. The Torah wants to show us the hand of Hashem in human events, and how Hashem is the ultimate matchmaker. We see this as the story unfolds as Eliezer and Rivkah just happen to meet by the well, as Rivkah displays her values and her special midot, by giving Eliezer and the camels water to drink. This is no small task since camels can store an abundance of water. By studying this story carefully we can see clearly the hand of Hashem. When we think back to how we met our spouses or the way our children’s shiduchim came about we see the same thing. Ask Rabbi Ozeri or any of the other matchmakers in our community and they will attest to this fact.
Rabbi Sananes told us an amazing story that happened to him over twenty years ago and which illustrates how Hashem is truly the ultimate matchmaker. The Rabbi was flying back to New York from Gibraltar, after visiting his family there, with a stopover in London. While he was in Gibraltar, a girl he knew from there asked him if he knew any boys that he could set her up with. The Rabbi said he really didn't know any boys for her who would want to relocate to live in Gibraltar, but she gave him her contact information all the same. He took the paper with her information and put it in his pocket, convinced that he would not be able to help her find a shiduch.
When he arrived in London for his stopover, he was tired and did not feel like getting on the next flight back to New York, so he changed his connecting flight to the following morning. Afterwards he was upset with himself because he realized that he had no kosher food and that he would have to spend the night in the airport. So Rabbi Sananes decided to call a friend he knew from London to bring him some kosher food to the airport and to keep him company for a few hours. As part of their conversation, his friend asked the Rabbi if he know any girls that he can set him up with. The Rabbi pulled out the scrap paper from his pocket with the girls number on it and gave it to him. Several months later he received a beautiful silver gift from his friend in London with a note on it that said: "Thank you for setting me up with my Kallah!" Rabbi Sananes was puzzled at first, and wondered, "What girl did I set him up with in London?" So he called his friend and asked, "Why did you send me a gift? What shiduch did I make for you?" His friend replied, "Don't you remember in the London airport, you gave me the number of the girl from Gibraltar? Well, I called her and we started to date and now we're engaged and it’s all your doing...so I sent you a gift in appreciation!" It is truly amazing, how from this story we can see so clearly that shiduchim are completely in Hashem's hands!
In this week’s Perashah, Tol'dot, we have the story of the berachot that Yitzhak gave to his sons Yaakov and Esav. Esav went out to prepare a meal for his father and Rivkah sent Yaakov in to get the beracha of the bechor (elder son) that he purchased from Esav earlier. In perek 27, pasuk 22, it says: "So Yaakov drew close to Yitzhak his father who was blind then and he felt him and said, the voice is Yaakov's voice, but the hands are Esav's". Hakol kol yaakov vehayadayim y'dei esav. Rashi comments that Yitzhak couldn't have meant the sound of the voice, since our rabbis teach us that they both sounded alike, and Yitzhak could not tell them apart. Rather, what Yitzhak meant is that their tone and manner of speaking was different, because Yaakov spoke gently and included Hashem in his speech, whereas Esav spoke with a toughness and with the power of his murderous hands.
The Vilna Gaon comments further that in the words hakol kol yaakov (“the voice is the voice of Yaakov”), the first hakol is written without a 'vav' so it could be read hakal kol yaakov, which means “light” or “weak”. The Vilna Gaon goes on to explain that when the Voice of Am Yisrael is weak – in other words, when the Jewish people are not learning Torah and praying to Hashem – then Esav(who represents the other nations), will rise up, and anti-Semitism will raise its ugly head against us. But when the Jews are diligent in learning Torah and living a kosher and religious life praying to Hashem, keeping Shabbat in the proper way and bringing a kidush Hashem to the nations of the world, then we will be worthy of the berachot of our forefathers.
We have to know that everything we have today, whether it be parnasah (livelihood), health or knowledge, they are all Berachot from Hashem which is a Zechut from our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. So our obligation is to sanctify Hashem's name to the nations of the world.
This past weekend I heard an amazing story that truly does sanctify Hashem’s name: Mr. Sol Werdiger, CEO of Outerstuff, a company that produces sports apparel, received a phone call from Mr. Oh Joon, the South Korean UN Ambassador asking to meet him for lunch at a Kosher restaurant in Manhattan. Although Sol did not know the purpose of the meeting he agreed to meet with Mr. Joon.
When they met, Mr. Joon told him the following: “I have always heard negative stereotypes about Jews and Israel and I took them at face value. Then, my daughter took an internship working on design in your company. Throughout the year, she has been telling me how wonderful it is to work at your company.” Mr. Joon continued, “There are four areas which stood out and impressed my daughter. 1) Everyday, at 1:30 p.m., no matter what was going on at the office, all the men including those from neighboring offices, retreated into a room to pray with sincerity and calm. 2) Every Friday the office shuts down early in the afternoon in preparation for your holy Sabbath and is closed on the Sabbath – this includes all workers no matter which faith or religion they maintain. 3) My daughter observed that each petitioner for charity – and there were many – were treated with respect and left with a check in hand. 4) My daughter was treated with the utmost respect and dignity.”
Because of the amazing experience and lessons the company taught his daughter, Mr. Joon took out his checkbook and was ready to write a check returning all his daughter’s earnings! Mr. Werdiger wouldn’t hear of it. “Your daughter worked and earned her salary and rightfully deserves her pay. I will not accept any remuneration.”
Then the Ambassador relayed the most amazing thing. “As you know, I have voting privileges at the UN. Now because of my renewed appreciation of the Jewish people, I abstained from voting on resolutions against Israel on three occasions. At one resolution I was the ninth vote needed to pass the motion because I abstained, it did not pass!”
Mr. Werdiger said that no one at the office had any idea that this girl was the daughter of an Ambassador and no one ever imagined what type of impact their typical conduct at work had on her or how this impacted the votes against Israel. Hashem has entrusted us to follow the example of our forefather Avraham to be trailblazers and to set an example, becoming a light to all nations by living exemplary lives as outlined by the laws and lessons of our precious and timeless Torah!
May we use the above story as an example of how we should always act, so that we can make a Kiddush Hashem for the other nations of the world. May we continue to always learn Torah and teach it to our children so that they can stay strong and to keep the influences of the other nations far away from us. We should always be worthy of the Berachot from Hashem and continue to benefit from the Zechut of our Forefathers but also to have a tremendous debt of gratitude to our own Fathers, Grandfathers and Great Grandfathers whom we knew and who blazed out a path for us here in America, where we are able to learn Torah in freedom and enjoy a kosher Jewish life! Amen!
Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of
Rabbi Amram Sananes
Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz
Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz
Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel
Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher
Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa
Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah
Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana
Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam