Issue #7 | 08/11/2018

By the Grace of G-d
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Account Name: Newtown Synagogue INC, BSB: 032036,
Account No: 960034
Parshah in a Nutshell

Parshas Toldot

Courtesy of Chabad.org

Isaac and Rebecca endure twenty childless years until their prayers are answered and Rebecca conceives. She experiences a difficult pregnancy as the “children struggle inside her”; G‑d tells her that “there are two nations in your womb,” and that the younger will prevail over the elder.

Esau emerges first; Jacob is born clutching Esau’s heel. Esau grows up to be “a cunning hunter, a man of the field”; Jacob is “a wholesome man,” a dweller in the tents of learning. Isaac favours Esau; Rebecca loves Jacob. Returning exhausted and hungry from the hunt one day, Esau sells his birthright (his rights as the firstborn) to Jacob for a pot of red lentil stew.

In Gerar, in the land of the Philistines, Isaac presents Rebecca as his sister, out of fear that he will be killed by someone coveting her beauty. He farms the land, reopens the wells dug by his father Abraham, and digs a series of his own wells: over the first two there is strife with the Philistines, but the waters of the third well are enjoyed in tranquillity.

Esau marries two Hittite women. Isaac grows old and blind and expresses his desire to bless Esau before he dies. While Esau goes off to hunt for his father’s favourite food, Rebecca dresses Jacob in Esau’s clothes, covers his arms and neck with goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father. Jacob receives his father’s blessings for “the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land” and mastery over his brother. When Esau returns and the deception is revealed, all Isaac can do for his weeping son is to predict that he will live by his sword and that when Jacob falters, the younger brother will forfeit his supremacy over the elder.

Jacob leaves home for Charan to flee Esau’s wrath and to find a wife in the family of his mother’s brother, Laban. Esau marries a third wife—Machalath, the daughter of Ishmael.

Newtown Shul Weekly Friday Night Dinner

The Shabbat Dinner is the traditional focal point of every Jew’s week. We at Newtown Shul, extend a warm welcome to all people to join us for a traditional Friday Night Dinner.

The Shabbat Dinner is held in the hall beside the Synagogue immediately after the 6:30pm Shabbat service.

The Shabbat Dinner is a joint project of Newtown Synagogue and Young Adult Chabad and operates by virtue of the generosity of donors and volunteers.

All of the food served at the dinner is prepared ‘by the people for the people’ with love.

There is a suggested donation of $20 per person. To make a tax-deductible donation for the Shabbat dinners, please click here.

Weekly Insight

Different Yet Identical

By Moshe Bryski (Courtesy of Chabad.org)

In introducing us to the patriarchal family of Isaac, son of Abraham, this week’s Torah portion of Toldot begins: “And these are the offspring of Isaac, son of Abraham—Abraham begot Isaac.” Since Torah is not given to redundancy, this opening passage raises the question: Once we’re told that Isaac is the “son of Abraham,” what is the point of then stating, “Abraham begot Isaac”?

The Midrash explains that the statement “Abraham begot Isaac” represents divine testimony that Isaac was indeed the biological son of Abraham. That in the face of ridiculers and rumour-mongers who sought to claim that Isaac had been fathered by the Philistine king Abimelech, G‑d formed the physical features of Isaac in striking resemblance to those of Abraham, so that there would be no room for doubt that “Abraham begot Isaac.”

Another Midrashic comment expands upon this point by saying that this physical resemblance between Abraham and Isaac was a reflection of their spiritual resemblance: the merits, the lofty pursuits, indeed the spiritual DNA, of father and son were likewise completely identical.

Now this declaration of spiritual similarity—let alone resemblance—is most curious.

We’re taught that Abraham’s primary mode of service was via the attribute of loving-kindness (chessed). This was repeatedly and poignantly demonstrated by his incessant acts of hospitality, compassion and benevolence. He opened his home to hungry wayfarers. He reached out and taught others with delicate softness and patient sensitivity.

Isaac’s primary service, on the other hand, was via the attribute of severity and restraint (gevurah). He was a much more demanding sort of fellow. This was demonstrated by his defiant and relentless digging of wells. Even as his enemies kept filling and destroying them, Isaac dug away the rocks and the dirt to uncover the waters beneath. With sharpness and strength, he dug away at the shmutz—the evil and the falseness that was seen on the surface—so as to unearth the reservoirs of goodness and truth buried deep within.

Indeed, everything we learn about Abraham and Isaac seems to cry out: Different! That if ever there were a father and son who seemed so unlike one another, it was these two highly individualized personalities. Yet the Midrash states that, in fact, Abraham and Isaac resembled one another—in every way!

Within this paradox, seen at the inception of the family of Israel, lies the true beauty of our people. Different situations require different solutions. In the days of Abraham—during which unawareness of a divine presence was rampant—the world needed an Abraham-like personality. In the days of Isaac—especially with hostilities looming on the horizon—the world needed an Isaac-like personality. Yet, these very different individuals firmly embarked on their very different missions with their very different methods and characteristics, are deemed spiritually (and essentially) identical because their ultimate focus and goals were one and the same. Their core principles, values and underlying devotion to G‑d were completely indistinguishable from one another. They blazed different trails, but both trails led to the same place: toward making their environment a more holy and moral place to live.

The great Chassidic master, Reb Zushe of Hanipoli, once remarked that when he thinks about the interrogation that might await him after his days on earth are done, he is not worried that he might be asked: “Zushe, why could you not attain the heights of an Abraham, a Moses or a King David?”

Such concerns did not trouble him. His one and only source of trepidation was that the question would be posed: “Zushe, why were you not as great as Zushe?”

You are expected to rise to the heights of your own very special and unique potential—no more, no less.

Judaism and the Torah way of life celebrates individuality. We are each endowed with our own gifts and talents, our own passions and modes of expression. In terms of personality and character, none of us are truly alike. This is the way G‑d created us, for it is only through the diverse expression of the multitudes that His true intent in creating this world can be realized.

Each and every Jewish man, woman and child plays his or her own special instrument within the symphony that is Judaism. Within the context and framework of halachah and tradition are endless means and modes of service of the Almighty. From the intellectual to the emotional, from the ritualistic to the artistic, we are called upon to experience it all, even as we shine in some areas more than others. What inspires, stimulates and intrigues some may not do the same for others. Yet, at the pinnacle of it all, is that special place in which we are, and must remain, identical. Within the essential goals of living and being true to the principles of our holy Torah is where there is a beautiful resemblance among all of the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Let each instrument of the orchestra contribute its own special notes, with its own special sound and rhythm. Yet let us make certain that we are playing the same piece of music—as guided by that one and only Conductor—so that rather than a cacophony of disjointed noise, we have a beautiful symphony of harmonious diversity.

Shabbos Chuckle

It’s 10pm when the phone rings in Dr Minkofsky’s house. “It’s Dr Gold,” says his wife, passing him the phone, “I do hope it’s not another emergency.” Dr Minkofsky takes the phone and says, “Hi, what’s up?”

“Don’t worry, everything’s OK,” replies Dr Gold. “It’s just that I’m at home with Dr Lewis and Dr Kosiner. We’re having a little game of poker and we’re short of one hand so we thought you might like to come over and join us?”

“Sure …. yes, of course,” replies Dr Minkofsky, putting on a serious voice, “I’m leaving right now.” And he puts down the phone.

“What’s happened?” his wife asks, with a worried look.

“It’s very serious,” Dr Minkofsky replies. “They’ve already called three doctors.”

November 8th, 2018
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