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April 21, 2014

Andrew Silow-Carroll: Passoverkill? Suggestions to make next year's seders even more culturally sensitive

Sara Israelsen Hartley: Seeking the Divine: An ancient connection in a new context

Christine M. Flowers: Priest's execution in Syria should be call to action

Courtnie Erickson: How to help kids accept the poor decisions of others

Lizette Borreli: A Glass Of Milk A Day Keeps Knee Arthritis At Bay

Lizette Borreli: 5 Health Conditions Your Breath Knows Before You Do

The Kosher Gourmet by Betty Rosbottom Coconut Walnut Bars' golden brown morsels are a beautifully balanced delectable delight

April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review

Laughter And Destiny

By Chief Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein





Understanding the secret of the name "Yitzchak" (Isaac) is the key to our future

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | The book of Genesis is about the foundations of the Jewish people --- our founding fathers and mothers. In the two previous Torah portions, we were introduced to Abraham and Sarah. Last week we read about the birth of Yitzchok (Isaac), and in this week's reading we have the passing of Abraham and Sarah and Yitzchok's marriage to Rebecca, moving from the first generation of the Forefathers and --- mothers to the second.

THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THE NAME 'YITZCHOK'
The name Yitzchok is an interesting name. It comes from the Hebrew word for laughter, tz'chok. When Yitzchok was born, Sarah said (Genesis 21: 6), tz'chok asa li Elokim, kol hashome'a Yitzchok li, "G0d has made laughter of me; whoever hears [about the birth] will laugh." The foremost commentator, Rashi, interprets this to mean not that people will laugh but that people will rejoice. Abraham and Sarah had waited so long, and so Yitzchok's birth brought great joy to them and to others as well, since everyone had seen them struggling for years. Rashi adds from the Midrash that many people who had been suffering from ill health or who had also been unable to have children had their prayers answered on the day that Yitzchok was born. Thus his name represents the tz'chok, the joy that his birth brought to the world.

However, the name Yitzchok has much more significance than merely the joy at the time of his birth. As one of the founding fathers of the Jewish people, his name obviously has much greater significance. This is evident in the fact that G0d himself chose his name, even before Yitzchok was born, as we read in chapter 17 verse 19: G0d said to Abraham "surely your wife Sarah will give birth to a son and you will call his name Yitzchok." What is the significance behind this name?

Rashi offers two explanations: the first is that it is for the joy that his birth brought, as mentioned above, and the second is that the name Yitzchok is composed of four Hebrew letters - a yud, a tzadik, a ches and a kuf, each of which has numerical significance: the yudis numerically ten, referring to the ten tests with which Abraham was tested; the tzadikis numerically ninety, referring to Sarah's age at Yitzchok's birth; the ches is numerically eight, referring to the eighth day on which Yitzchok was circumcised; and the kuf, is numerically a hundred, Abraham's age at Yitzchok's birth. These four letters comprising the name Yitzchok contain a reference to all of these major events: the ten tests, the ninety years of Sarah, the eighth day of the circumcision and the hundred years of Abraham.

In his commentary on Rashi, the Maharal of Prague explains that these four milestones -- the ten tests, Abraham and Sarah's age, and the eighth day on which Yitzchok was circumcised -- are all interconnected, and this actually answers the question of why G0d made Abraham wait for so long to have a child.

G0d wanted Yitzchok to be born after the commandment of circumcision had been given, so that he would be circumcised on the eighth day in accordance with the exact specifications of the mitzvah (unlike Ishmael, who had been circumcised at thirteen because that is how old he was at the time Abraham received the commandment). And G0d specifically delayed the commandment of circumcision till Abraham was old, because circumcising himself at such an old age was one of G0d's ten tests of Abraham's faith.


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Abraham's life was full of tests --- leaving his home country to an unknown place, having to leave the Land of Israel once he arrived because there was a famine, circumcising himself at an old age, etc. The Divine arranged the events in Abraham's life to revolve around these tests and therefore He delayed the commandment of circumcision, so that Abraham would be tested in his old age, and hence Yitzchok's birth was delayed.

The Divine often tests our faith. We were put in this world to pass these tests, to grow, to develop, to become bigger and better people. In the world of the souls there are no tests. We are close to G0d, everything is clear; there are no challenges and no evil inclination to lead us astray. We then come into a physical body which tries to take us away from Hashem. All of the challenges that we face in this world - such as developing good character, being people of integrity, coping with financial and all other kinds of pressures - test our faith and train us to pass these tests. Our mission in this world is to rise to the occasion and overcome all of the obstacles we encounter. All of this is encapsulated in the four letters comprising the name Yitzchok.

THE REAL MEANING OF LAUGHTER
There is another aspect to this name, which is very important in terms of understanding the concept of laughter. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch says that if you look at the way the root ,TzaChaK is used throughout the Bible, you will find that it is used not in the sense of the pure, simple joy of laughter but rather with an ironic overtone, with a sense of mocking.

Sarah says at the birth of Isaac Tz'chok asa li Elokim, which Rabbi Hirsch interprets as "G0d has made me a laughing stock," i.e., a mockery. Rabbi Hirsch gives an interesting analysis of the concept of humor and explains that the Hebrew root TzaChaK is very closely related to another Hebrew root, Tza'AK. The ches and the ayin are two letters which are closely related, and are often interchangeable, and so Tza'AK and TzaChaK are closely related, though it would seem they are poles apart in meaning because tzachak means laughter and tza'ak means to call out in pain. How do we understand this relationship?

Rabbi Hirsch explains that the essence of humor -- or, in other words, what makes a good joke -- is an unexpected outcome. Test this and you will find that any good joke will match up with this structure: when you expect a story to end in a certain way, and then just before it ends, it changes, there is a contrast set up between your expectation and the way the story actually ends. This contrast causes us to laugh, because it is incongruent. We see two things together which don't belong and that incongruity actually causes us to laugh. Rabbi Hirsch says this is the same with Tza'AK, to call out in pain; pain and grief are similar to laughter in that we are expecting the story to end a certain way, and it doesn't. For example, if a person loses a loved one, Heaven forbid, there is the grief of unmet expectations; we thought this person would be there forever. Even though we know that we are all mortal and that one day we are going to die, we don't expect it and this is grief: the unexpected, the contrast, the incongruity, and that causes one to cry out in pain. So TzaChaK is the laughter, on the positive side, Tza'AK is the crying out in pain on the negative side, but the common denominator of these two words is the incongruence of the outcome. When we expect one thing and something else happens, this incongruity causes us to laugh or cry out in pain.

This really is the essence of Isaac's birth. Here is a couple who were unable to have children for decades, and at the age of one-hundred and ninety, respectively, they have their first child together. That's incongruent. Even people who are able to have children when they are young are not able to have them at a hundred and at ninety. Here they were unable to have children when they were younger, how possible is it that they have a child now? And on top of that, we have another incongruity: a man who is a hundred years old and a woman who is ninety looking after a new baby - it's a joke. This is what Sarah means when she says Tz'chok asa li Elokim, "G0d has made me a laughing stock," because look at us - we are so odd. This is not the way things are supposed to be, this is not the way the natural world works.

But this is precisely the point; this is the essence of the name Yitzchok and indeed of the Jewish people. To understand this, we must first understand why G0d set it up in such an unusual fashion, that Abraham and Sarah would struggle for so many years to have children and would only have a child in their old age.

THE ESSENCE OF THE JEWISH PEOPLE: DEFYING THE LAWS OF NATURE
Rabbi Hirsch explains that Abraham and Sarah were the building blocks of the Jewish people, who were going to carry the name of Hashem in the world, and one of the main messages of the Jewish people is that the physical world that we see is not everything; there is another whole reality. G0d created this world and is therefore not bound by its physical laws. There is a much higher calling for every human being --- to have a relationship with the Divine and to do the right thing.

This is one of the main messages of the Jewish people's eternal existence. We are a people who defy all the normal laws of nature, who are able to see that there is something supernatural going on. This is not normal, this is not the way that it should be --- it is something which is incongruent with the normal, physical reality.

Says Rabbi Hirsch, the foundation of the Jewish people had to be with such a frail, rickety start -- two old people with an only son -- to convey the message that yes, this is incongruent and should never have been, and yet it defies the laws of nature and we are here. Looking at this family of Abraham and Sarah, we would say they have almost no chance of establishing a great nation. And yet, they did. And this very fact defies the laws of nature.

Cold logic would dictate that this shouldn't work; Abraham and Sarah's family should have no continuity. This is why G0d chose this very name for the second of the Forefathers, because it captures the essence of Jewish destiny and the mission of the Jewish people in the world. People will laugh: look at this tiny, insignificant nation, a drop in the ocean relative to the nations of the world. You would think that we're unheard of, that we would not make any impact, that we should not even survive. By all the normal laws of nature, the Jewish people should not be in existence today, and yet we are here.

Some 250 years ago Rabbi Yaakov Emdin wrote in his introduction to his commentary on the Jewish prayerbook that the miracle of the Jewish people's survival in exile is a greater miracle than the miracles of the Exodus --- the ten plagues of Egypt, the splitting of the sea, the manna falling from heaven.

Rabbi Emdin penned these words long before all the modern-day miracles we have witnessed, with the establishment of the State of Israel and the rebirth of Torah learning throughout the world. These incredible miracles of our survival defy the normal laws of history. This is why, says Rabbi Hirsch, the name Yitzchok has the yud in the front of it, which conjugates the verb to the future tense.

"Yitzchok" means he will laugh, in the future. There are many who are laughing now --- as Sarah said, Tz'chok asa li Elokim, "G0d has made me a laughing stock"; the whole world is laughing at us, mocking us. Yet the Divine says, don't worry; they may laugh now but in the end you, Jewry, are going to be the ones laughing. You are going to survive and defy the laws of history. You will be reborn and demonstrate how a people can exist on a completely different, miraculous plane, above the physical laws of this world.

Every Sabbath just before reciting the Grace After Meals, we recite a paragraph from Psalms, known as the Shir HaMa'alos. One of the verses we say is "then our mouths will be filled with laughter," referring to the time of the Final Redemption.

This is the message that Yitzchok's name carries, and it is the ultimate message of the Jewish people: that the world is not just what we see; there is so much more to it. The hand of G0d guides each and every one of us. Our mission in this world is to see the Divine's guiding hand in everything, and to know that there is so much more than what meets the eye.

The Almighty created this world and He has a mission for each one of us. It is this personal and national destiny which takes precedence and has the capacity to defy the physical laws of nature.

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The author is the Chief Rabbi of South Africa and the author of "Defending the Human Spirit: Jewish Law's Vision for a Moral Society," which explores the Torah's legal system compared to Western law. In using real court cases he demonstrate the similarities and differences between Judaism's view of defending the vulnerable and Western legal practice.


Previously:


Truth Stands the Test of Time







© 2011, Rabbi Dr Warren Goldstein