Torah Tidbits

1 September 2014 / 6 Elul 5774
Issue 1020
Shabbat Parshat Chayei Sara
November 08, 2012

Lead Tidbit

Avraham Avinu: We are He

Last week, the first working title for the Lead Tidbit was - Split Lead: Avraham and Sandy. This came about because I wanted to write about both Avraham from the sedra and about the Superstorm Sandy from current events. As it turned out, the piece on Avraham took up the front page and page 4 and I was hoping for some more room elsewhere for comments on Sandy. But it didn’t happen. So we’ll try for this week. Especially since I am listening to WINS 1010 live from New York as I type these words. Another storm is supposedly on its way. And the continuing reports of the aftermath of Sandy are not unsettling.
The title of this piece is a flippant attempt to tie into the sedra; several Sandys that I know (not all of them) are Sara as well.
Back on Shmini Atzeret (which we also call Simchat Torah), Jews all over the world said T’FILAT GESHEM, announcing and acknowledging G-d as being involved in the weather, as the One who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall. At the end of “Geshem” we ask that the rain should be LIVRACHA - as a blessing, and not the opposite; L’CHAYIM - for life, and not the opposite.
We realize all to well, that asking for and receiving rain is not enough - it must be LIVRACHA. S’faradim (Eidot Mizrach) have the custom of the congregation calling out LIVRACHA right after the Chazan says MASHIV HARU’ACH UMORID HAGESHEM in the repetition of the Amida. Whether you do that or not, the request of G-d of LIVRACHA should be in our minds… always.
Lack of rain - drought - is a terrible thing. There is something like a triangle when it comes to rain - at one vertex is DROUGHT, at another is destructive rain, and at the third is what we want, need, and pray for - GISHMEI B’RACHA - blessed, beneficial rain.
What comes to mind is the mishna in Taanit (3:8) that tells us of Choni the Circle Drawer.
“Once it happened that they said to Choni the Circle-drawer, ‘Pray that rain may fall.’ He replied, ‘Go forth and bring in the Pesach ovens so that they might not be softened.’ He prayed but no rain fell. What did he do? He drew a circle and stood within it, and said before Him, ‘Master of the universe, Your children have set their faces to me, for I am as a son of the household before You. I swear by Your great Name that I will not stir hence until You shall have compassion upon Your children.’ Rain commenced to trickle. He said, ‘Not for such rain did I pray, but for rain which will fill the cisterns, pits and caves.’ The rain began to fall with violence. He said, ‘Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of benevolence, blessing and graciousness.’ The rain fell according to their wont…”
Another thought - we in Israel have already begun asking G-d for TAL UMATAR LIVRACHA. Jews outside of Israel will begin only at the beginning of December. Ironic, who got the rain and who is still waiting for the good stuff. (We did have a bit of rain yesterday - Monday - what is called here TIF-TUF, a sprinkle.)
Another thought - 17 Marcheshvan (last Friday) shows up in two different contexts. In Parshat No’ach we find that the Flood began on that date. On the other hand, in Mishna Taanit (1:4) - If the seventeenth of Marcheshvan arrived and no rain had fallen, individuals begin to observe three fasts… This gives the month of Marcheshvan the two of the “bad” vertices of the triangle described before and, hopefully, the good vertex as G-d’s response to our V’TEIN TAL UMATAR LIVRACHA.
Another observation for you to mull over - BaHa"B is a sequence of three fast days (MON-THU-MON) that some individuals accept upon themselves at the beginning of Marcheshvan and Iyar. (They have to do with atoning for possible excesses and inappropriate behavior during the holidays of Tishrei and Nisan.) Last Monday, October 29th was the day that Superstorm Sandy hit the east coast of the US. Last Monday was the latter Monday of BaHa"B. In addition to fasting, there is also Slichot to be said. The specific Slicha for the second Monday of BaHa"B begins with:
“We are encompassed by MAYIM AD NEFESH, potentially fatal waters, we have come into the deep waters, waves of the sea have engulfed us…”
It is not for us to “explain” why G-d did this or allowed it to happen (or however you want to look at situations like this). But it is vital that we all understand (wherever we live) that G-d did not just create the world and laws of nature and set everything in motion and then say goodbye. He is ALWAYS involved.

In This Issue of Torah Tidbits

Candle Lighting and Havdala

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