Message for the Week from Rabbi Stein


Rabbi Jay M. Stein

Wednesday, December 14, 2016 at 12:00:00 am

Then Jacob sent messengers before him to his brother Esau in the land of Seir, the country of Edom (Genesis 32:4)

Then Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him until daybreak.  When he saw that he had not prevailed against him, he touched the socket of his thigh; so the socket of Jacob's thigh was dislocated while he wrestled with him. (Genesis 32:23-25)

True story:  My brother was in from Israel last week.  Amidst dinner I received a call that a member of the congregation had been admitted to the hospital.  After we finished dessert, I went to see the person in the hospital.  My brother felt I left abruptly and wondered about why. Had he said something that offended me?  Later on, he called me to see if everything was ok.  I was unable to take his call and he became even more agitated so he called our mother to see if she had heard anything.  My mother then called me.  (I thought it was somewhat amusing that in our 50's he was still "telling on me.") Needless to say, I called him back and we connected before he went back to Israel.

For my brother, there was some anxiety until we made contact.  We have so many ways to communicate, yet our communication has gotten so much worse.  How often has a text or email been misunderstood?  How much anguish can we avoid by simply picking up the phone?  

In this week's reading Jacob sends word to his brother Esau through a messenger.  The messenger delivers Jacob's wishes and returns with a report.  That night Jacob suffers tremendous concern that could have been avoided ha he simply gone and met Esau face to face. Lesson learned.  Go to the source, avoid involving others, meet face to face - it will give you a good night's sleep.    



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?