Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein

Bridging the Gap

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, December 7, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

Rachel said to Jacob, "Give me children or I will die?" Jacob was incensed at Rachel and said, "Can I take the place of God?" (Genesis 30:1-2)

Might it be that Jacob is disappointed to learn that his love is not enough to satisfy Rachel; that Rachel's primary  passion is to be a mother, not just a wife?" (Sforno)

Feelings are so complicated and confusing.  We think we are feeling one thing and it turns out we were feeling something else entirely.  We think we are angry when, in fact, we are sad; or we feel sad but, we are really anxious. Even when we know what the feeling is we sometimes blame it on the wrong person.

We might recognize that we are upset and the real reason is the way we have been treated at work. Yet, we come home and are angry at our spouse or children. Our spouses and or our children become upset in turn.  They might then take it out on their siblings.  And so on and so on…..

The interaction between Rachel and Jacob is real.  Fearful that she will be unable to conceive she is upset.  She becomes angry and blames Jacob, who, upset with her accusation, fights back.  Because in the heat of an argument it is difficult to step back and get some perspective, a cycle of anger is perpetuated.  Then it becomes difficult to walk it back.

If we can find a way to draw each other close during moments of sadness, frustration, fear and even anger, we will have closed a gap rather than broadened it. 


Instant Gratification

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, November 30, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

And Esau said, “I am at the point of death, so of what use is a birthright to me?” (Genesis 25:32)

No one can argue with the fact that we live in an age of instant gratification. We wonder why other aspects of our lives don’t unfold at the same speed as instant messaging or email.  We rush ourselves, we rush our thinking and we rush our relationships.  Waiting in traffic, waiting for a train, waiting seems interminable. We even want quick fixes to our lack of patience.

Breathing and counting to ten doesn’t really work; possibly, though, the Rule of Five might.  I learned this simple lesson, from my children.  Ask yourself the question, will this matter mean anything in five minutes? In five hours? In five days? In five months? In five years?  This approach asks us to put things into perspective. 

Had Esau asked himself those questions prior to selling off something that would later mean so much to him, might he have made a different decision?  If we can learn to look a little forward to see what we might be sacrificing, might we act differently as well?


Perception is not Reality

Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Monday, November 28, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

"Abraham returned alone from Moriah, and Sarah, believing Isaac to have been sacrificed, died of grief." (Torah Sheleimah Vol. IV page 918 note 5)

But he didn't die.  The midrash cited above suggests that Sarah knew that Abraham was taking Isaac to be sacrificed. Somewhere in the back of her mind she hoped that Abraham would not go through with it.  But upon not seeing Isaac, she assumed the worst.  Unquestionably, the loss of a child is the worst possible occurrence.  I have met people who have lost children and it is devastating.  But Isaac wasn't killed.   

In life we may be confronted by terrible tragedy.  These are genuine challenges, obstacles and life altering events.  In some of those cases we never recover; sometimes we do, but are never the same. Life is hard.

It is those circumstances in which we may have imagined  a tragedy that never happened that concerns me here. We perceive slights. We conjure up old stories and intentions that don't exist. We see negative patterns where there aren't any and life becomes unbearable. According to the rabbis, the death of Sarah's son, whether real or imagined, was too much for her to bear. It is true for us as well.  Our perception becomes our reality.  Therefore, be careful what you see in your mind's eye, it could have debilitating consequences.