It was business as usual for a man we’ll call David (name changed upon request), and as a large shoe manufacturer and wholesaler, today that meant going down to the port in south Tel Aviv to inspect a container of newly arrived shoes from Spain. The shoes looked good, the papers were in order, and David got back into his car to drive to his next appointment.
A few hundred feet ahead, a blinding flash of searing light erupted and tore through the alley, followed by a thunderous blast. A second later the shock wave hit his car, shattering the windshield into hundreds of flying daggers, throwing him like a matchstick clear out of the car, and finally unceremoniously returning him to the law of gravity, which deposited him in a heap on the floor. And then, all was quiet. The blast had momentarily deafened him, but he knew he was alive, and he began to slowly check his limbs for movement. He was covered with blood, but he realized that somehow, miraculously, he was not only alive, but also in stable condition. He looked back at the road, and saw with horror that he was one of the only fortunate; the street was strewn with the dead and wounded.
Immediately, rescue teams flooded the area, and began tending to the wounded. A medic removed David’s coat and he saw that he had deep lacerations all over his arms and trunk, as well as a large gash on his forehead. Thank G-d it was mostly shrapnel wounds that despite being very painful, could be easily sewn up, and he was rushed to Ichilov Hospital along with all the other wounded for emergency care and triage.
A few hours later, David was still in pain, but he was all stitched up, and stuck in a huge ward with many of the survivors in various states of health and consciousness. He surveyed his surroundings and was surprised by what he saw. Hundreds of friends and relatives of the dozens of wounded had come to the hospital to be there for their loved ones. However most of them were drooped over an assortment of chairs and benches, drained by the trauma, hungry, thirsty, and tired. They had already been there for hours and many had not had lunch, but they were reluctant to leave to get some nourishment, lest they miss the moment that their loved one came to, or, G-d forbid, went the other way.
Never one to sit idly by, David got on his cell phone and began working. Within half an hour,  a truck pulled up, filled with sandwiches, drinks, snack bags, and everything else the people in the waiting room could possibly need, all courtesy of David.
After getting out of the hospital, David reflected on his miraculous escape from the jaws of death, and decided that it was a calling from Above to get more active in the needs of others. He started by visiting with the families of every one of the people affected by the terrorist bomb that had wounded him.  At some houses he was able to greet a fellow survivor, while at others he was only able to meet with a widow and orphans. But at every house he found out what the family needed and arranged for it to be taken care of.
Unfortunately, this all occurred when bombings were frequent, and soon David found himself going to the families of victims of other bombings, in Netanya, then in Haifa. The needs began to mount and, unable to handle everything himself, despite his enormous energy, he started an organization called Ohr Simcha. The name was taken from the verse, “Layehudim haysa orah visimshcha,” a verse describing how after the reversal of Haman’s plot the “Jews had light and joy.” And Ohr Simcha had one goal – to return the light and joy that had been violently wrenched away from the lives of terror victims.
When the 2006 Lebanon War broke out, Ohr Simcha rushed to the northern cities of Safed and Kiryat Shemona to provide relief to the residents who were subjected to missile attacks around the clock. While thousands of residents fled to relatives in safer cities, additional tens of thousands were stuck in bomb shelters all across the cities, with no way to procure food and water since all the stores were closed and shuttered.
During one of their operations to provide for the people of Safed, they found out about a military disaster with possible grave consequences. The soldiers who had bravely pushed into Lebanon to silence Hezbollah’s rockets were literally starving. The caterer who was under contract to feed soldiers in the case of a northern campaign, was unwilling to cross into the Lebanese danger zone to deliver it. Instead he was dropping off the food at military bases that had no way to move the food to the front.
David and the brave volunteers of Ohr Simcha didn’t see much of a choice, they began rolling their food supply trucks into Lebanon and feeding the hungry and grateful soldiers. The CNN reporters who were covering the war were quite shocked to see Chassidic Jews in full traditional garb delivering food to the military in Lebanon, and gave them their six minutes of fame. But to the dedicated volunteers it was just business as usual.
Since founding Ohr Simcha, David has been in the danger zone quite often. He often travels to Sderot to help the beleaguered citizens, and when he does, he finds himself looking down the barrel of the same gun that Sderotians face 24/7. But David is not afraid because he believes that people who are on a mission to do a mitzva will not get hurt, and he has seen this come true numerous times. On four separate occasions, Qassam rockets have landed in close proximity to him, but miraculously he has never sustained a scratch or nick. One time, a rocket landed near one of Ohr Simcha’s trucks filled with relief supplies and mangled almost everything in its vicinity, everything that is besides for the truck on a mission to do a mitzvah.
Business as usual for David still means running a large shoe importation and wholesale business. But these days, it gets mixed with making Bar Mitzvahs for boys whose parents are both in the hospital, delivering food and other essential items at 2AM to a successful businessman who lost everything in a terror attack and would be mortified if his neighbors saw him receiving aid packages, and putting together a proper seder and Pesach for a family who lost their entire home a few hours before the seder was to commence. Even his personal business becomes part of his chessed business when he distributes 1,200 pairs of shoes to victims of terror before a Yom Tov.
David went through a serious trauma and through it transformed himself into a tireless crusader of kindness, love, and giving. Perhaps the greatest moments of his life were when he was lying on a hospital bed in Ichilov Hospital, bandages liberally adorning his head and body, in throbbing pain from his wounds and fresh stitches. For that was the moment he decided that despite all his pain and the trauma of being a victim of a terrorist’s bomb, he would focus on the pain around him. He would not turn inward, curl up in a fetal position, question why this happened to him, and wait for others to take care of him. No, he would galvanize himself to take care of others. He would not allow his pain to chase him, but would use it to push himself.
We are living through tough times. The killings in Israel have started again. People are in pain, families are suffering, and the weight of economic stagnation lays a burden of overwhelming portions on the shoulders of many. But this can also be our defining moment. It can be the time when we decide to face the adversity by reaching out, by focusing on others, and by transforming ourselves into givers of a new caliber than we had ever been before.
Now can be the time that we finally begin volunteering for Yad Ezra, helping them prepare the thousands of food packages that go out each month. Now, we can volunteer to tutor the child of a new immigrant who can’t help her children do their homework, or the child of a single mom who is overwhelmed by the daunting task of raising and supporting her family. Now we can begin mentoring a child who is silently crying out for attention, a caring heart, and a non-judgmental ear. Now can be the time that we learn about the needs of our community and see where we fit in on the giving end.
“These are the times that try men’s souls.” But our goal is to be the souls that even in these times, try.
Parsha Dvar Torah
 Of all of our forefathers, Yaakov is the one classified as an “Ish Emes,” a man of truth. The prophet Micha, when asking G-d to return Israel to its former state of glory, says, “give truth to Yaakov, kindness to Avraham” (Micha 7:20). In this verse, he mentions truth in connection with Yaakov and kindness with Avraham, because these were their unique strong points. However, a cursory glance at this last week’s and this week’s parshiot makes us wonder if Yaakov is indeed the man of truth he is made out to be.
 In last week’s Parsha Yaakov tricked his father into believing he was Eisav in order to get the blessings that Yitzchak gave out before his death. In this week’s parsha we learn of a new scheme of Yaakov’s. While working for his devious father-in-law, Lavan, Yaakov seems to unfairly attain extra wages.
  While Yaakov was shepherding Lavan’s flock, he worked out a deal with Lavan that he would be entitled to any sheep that had a particular wool pattern, sometimes speckled, sometimes ringed, and sometimes spotted. In order to get more sheep Yaakov would take twigs and carve onto them the designs to which he was entitled, and then put those twigs by the troughs. When the animals were in heat they would see those twigs while drinking, and the sheep born from the subsequent cohabitation would have the coat Yaakov desired. I don’t know about you, but to me that seems like a pretty devious way to get extra wages, and one you certainly wouldn’t expect to see from someone classified as an ish emes, a man of truth.
 But the truth is (no pun intended) that we need to better understand what exactly is it that makes someone the pillar of a particular virtue. Is it someone who uses that virtue all the time? No. It is someone who knows exactly when to use the virtue and when to hold it back. It is not the person who takes the virtue to the extreme because extremism is dangerous in any character trait. Rather, it is the person who has perfect control over the trait, always knowing whether to use it or hold it back, that is considered a pillar of a trait.
 We see that Yaakov tells Lavan how he guarded his sheep for twenty years, “These twenty years that I was with you, your ewes and she-goats never miscarried, and I did not eat any rams of your flocks. I never brought you a mutilated animal, I took the blame for it. You demanded compensation from my hand whether [an animal] was stolen from me by day or whether it was stolen from me by night. I was consumed by the burning heat by day and ice at night. My sleep was taken from my eyes.” (Gen. 31:38-40) Even though other shepherds would occasionally eat a sheep of their master, or go into a hut to protect themselves from the elements, Yaakov never engaged in these practices. His watchfulness for the sheep in his care was exemplary. This was so even after Lavan cheated him by giving him a different daughter than the one for whom he had worked for seven years!
However, when it came to dealing with liars and miscreants who wanted to rob him of everything he deserved, Yaakov knew how to withhold his integrity. Even though he bought the firstborn rights from his brother, Eisav still passed himself off before his father as the firstborn in order to merit the blessings Yitzchak wanted to give his firstborn. Yaakov fired back with a salvo of trickery and got back what he deserved. Lavan also played games. He switched Yaakov’s salary terms one hundred times in an attempt to ensure that his son-in-law Yaakov would leave penniless after working faithfully for twenty years! Yaakov pulled another trick out of his hat, and ensured that he did get his proper wages.
This helps us understand why Yaakov is the Ish Emes –  he was generally extremely truthful but, when necessary, he knew how to suppress his natural honesty in order to prevent others from destroying him. A classic example I always use to describe this idea is the guy who comes home from a long day of work, and is greeted by a gorgeous candlelit dinner that his wife spent 5 hours preparing. If the roast tastes like earth and his wife asks, “so honey, how do you like the roast?” and he answers with a truthful “I’d much rather eat my hand,” he is not a man of truth, but an insensitive ingrate!
Kindness is a virtue, but there are times we need to hold back our kindness in order to help someone grow. Discipline is a virtue, but we need to be flexible at times. Honesty is much the same. So, let us take a lesson from Yaakov, and use each of our character traits with a perfect balance, using it when it’s proper, and not when its not!
Disclaimer: I feel this Dvar Torah, while being true can put us on a slippery slope. It is obviously not a carte blanche to be dishonest with anyone who is also dishonest. The purpose of the Dvar Torah is to demonstrate that even a good character trait must at times be restrained, as is made so clear in the example of the pot roast. However, I trust the reader will exercise great caution before holding back a trait as fundamental as honesty.
Parsha Summary
This week’s Parsha begins with Yaakov going to Charan to find himself a good non-Canaanite wife. As he heads down, he spends the night in the location that would, years later, be the site of the Holy Temple. He has a dream in which he sees angels going up and down a ladder. The angels of Israel were leaving him, and the angels of Chutz La’aretz (literally “outside the land” meaning anywhere out of Israel) were coming down to accompany him. In this dream G-d promises Yaakov that he will be guarded and protected in the house of Lavan, that he will come back to Israel in peace, and that eventually the whole Israel will be given to his offspring.
When Yaakov reaches Charan, he sees the shepherds waiting around the well, and asks them why they don’t let their sheep out to pasture. They answer that they all gather around the well until they have enough people to be able to push off the boulder resting on the mouth of the well. When Yaakov sees Rachel, Lavan’s daughter, coming he sees with Divine Intuition that this will be his wife, and he is filled with strength.  He flips the boulder off the well, and waters Rachel’s sheep. Upon going back to Lavan’s house, Yaakov stays with Lavan for a month and works as his shepherd before Lavan asks him if he wants some sort of remuneration for his work. (Yep, Lavan the no-goodnik had Yaakov, his guest and relative, watching his sheep for a month without pay before finally offering him some pay.)
Yaakov tells him that he would like to marry Rachel, Lavan’s younger daughter. Lavan gives him his blessing on the condition that Yaakov shepherd his sheep for seven years, which Yaakov gladly does. However, Lavan the Lowlife switches the daughters and gives him Leah. Yaakov had been anticipating this, and gave Rachel certain signs which she was to give him on their wedding night. However, Rachel, fearing the incredible humiliation that Leah would undergo when Yaakov realized he was being given the wrong bride, gives Leah the signs even though that meant she would be left to marryYaakov’s brother the Evil Eisav. This teaches how far one must go to prevent someone from being humiliated.
Yaakov is not happy with Lavan upon realizing that he has been duped, but Lavan offers a quick and easy solution – work another seven years for Rachel. Yaakov does so. Leah has four children, Reuven, Shimon, Levi, and Yehuda, after which she stops having children. Rachel has none, so she decides to give her maidservant, Bilhah, to Yaakov in the hopes of building a family through her children. This works, and Rachel names Bilhah’s two children Dan and Naftali. Leah, seeing that she stopped having children, also gives her maidservant, Zilpah, to Yaakov as a wife and she gives birth to two children, Gad and Asher.
 Soon Leah has two more children, Yisachar and Zevulun, and finally, after many years of praying and yearning, Rachel has a son, whom she calls Yosef. After Yosef (who is destined to quash Eisav) was born, Yaakov is ready to head back to his land. However, after 14 years of devoted service Lavan is finally ready to cut a deal. If Yaakov stays, he will let him keep certain sheep based on their coats (i.e. ringed, speckled, spotted, or brownish). Over the next six years Lavan changes the agreement 100 times, but Yaakov manages to devise a system in which he still gets some sheep. G-d blesses his flocks, and in six years Yaakov becomes very prosperous.
 Realizing that Lavan and his family are getting jealous of and angry with him, Yaakov tells his family that its time to leave their villainous Zeidy, and Rachel and Leah answer that they are only too happy to leave the father who didn’t treat them as daughters but as strangers. Yaakov leaves while Lavan is on a business trip, and Rachel steals her father’s idols. When Lavan hears about the exodus of his daughters and grandchildren, and the theft of his idols, he becomes enraged and chases them down with the intent to seriously harm them. But G-d comes to Lavan in a dream and tells him that he better not do anything, neither good nor bad (as the saying goes, not from your honey and not from your sting), to Yaakov and his family.
Instead, Lavan comes and plays the hurt and abandoned grandfather, complaining that he wanted to see them off amid great fanfare. Then he accuses Yaakov of stealing his idols. Lavan searches all the tents, but Rachel hides them in her saddlebag and tells her father that she can’t get off her camel, because she is sick. In the end, Lavan makes a treaty with Yaakov and then peacefully departs in the morning. That’s all Folks.
Quote of the Week: He that fears not the future may enjoy the present. ~ Thomas Fuller
Random fact of the Week: Only 20% of diamonds are considered high enough quality to be classified as a “gem,” the rest are used in industry.
Funny Line of the Week: Free advice is the kind that costs you nothing unless you act upon it.
Have a Prodigious Shabbos,
R’ Leiby Burnham

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