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A New Perspective on Dating

Mazal Tov. My sister just got engaged to a young man from Pittsburgh. Let me tell you how it happened.

My sister Chanee, now 20, grew up in Johannesburg, South Africa. She went to a school called Torah Academy. In this school boys and girls are totally separated. This enabled her to focus on her education and studies. She had no distractions from guys, as is common with students of that age group. She received her High School diploma in 2005 at the age of 16. For the next couple of years she furthered her studies in various girls only seminaries.

When she decided that she was ready to get married and build a home, she started looking for the ‘right guy.’ She didn’t go to the local bar, order a beer, and hope that the first boy to pick her up would be her match. She asked her parents to find her somebody with specific criteria that she desired in a spouse. She didn’t want to date a guy, marry him and then find out that he wants to start a family only in 5 years from now. She was only planning to date someone who shared her passion, her vision, her goals and her enthusiasm for life.

She started dating. She didn’t date for fun. She didn’t date a guy who wanted to hang out with a girl. She wasn’t looking for a boyfriend. She was looking for a husband. She didn’t go watch a movie with a guy, she didn’t go clubbing with him and she didn’t go drinking with him. She had conversations with him. She spoke to him. She wanted to talk to him and discover who he was.

While she dated there was absolutely no physical contact with the boy. She wanted to be intellectually clear about the decision she was making and not be influenced by any lustful feelings she may have. She dated a few people in this fashion. They didn’t work out because the chemistry between them was lacking.

Finally Chanee started dating Avi Shlomo.

Avi grew up with a similar background. He shares the same vision as her. They went out for just under two months. This was enough time for her to determine that this was the man she wanted to spend the rest of her life with. She had great conversations with him. Intellectually it was clear that this was the right one for her. Her feelings for him grew over time. She felt that he understood her, they connected well.

A young girl once came to the Lubavitcher Rebbe. She told him that she had dated quite a few guys but had not fallen in love with any of them. The Rebbe told her that she had read too many romantic novels. True love is not what you see in the books and movies. That is lust not love.

Lust is all about what can I gain. Love is all about what can I give. Imagine a guy walks into a restaurant and tells the waiter he loves fish. The fish thinks that the customer will take him home and take care of its needs. Instead the waiter takes a live fish out of a bowl, kills it and then cooks it on the fire. He then prepares it to be eaten and finally slices it up for the person to eat.

The fish thinks to himself. This guy doesn’t love fish – he loves himself. This is lust. I am lonely, I need companionship, I need attention, I need to be loved. I need to satisfy my physical desires. I, I and I. Therefore I like this person. Love is loving your spouse and doing for them what they need and want. True love comes out of living with another person for years, caring for them until eventually one realizes that your spouse is an extension of you. You are one soul in two bodies.

Imagine you bought yourself a new Jaguar. You are driving and you crash into a pole. You smash your beloved car. Will you be upset? Of course! Will you be furious? Yes. Angry? Undoubtedly. But you will still love yourself and move on rationalizing and explaining your actions. Now imagine your wife does the same thing with your brand new car….When you react to your wife smashing your car the way you react when you did it, you will know that you are on the path of finding true love!

Sounds like a crazy way to date? Well this is the way I did it. This is the way my brothers and sisters did it. This is the way many of my friends did it. It’s the way my parents did it. They are all happily married thank G-d. Are there divorces in this kind of setting? Of course – its not full proof, but I will bet on this method and my children will G-d willing date in this fashion as well.

You think it may work for you?

Tiger Woods & Joseph

Tiger Woods obviously has an evil inclination. Most of us have an evil inclination. How do we overcome our evil impulses and desires? What is the secret?
 
Let’s take a look at the story of Joseph in the Torah.
 
Joseph had a very difficult childhood. He was orphaned from his beloved mother Rachel at the age of 9. His brothers hated him. They wanted to kill him. When he was 17 they sold him into slavery. He was a very handsome young man and was bought by a man named Potiphar. Potiphar desired Joseph for homosexual relations. Potiphar’s wife, Zelachia, desired Joseph for herself. She changed her clothing twice a day. She put on perfume and fragrances. She was infatuated with this young slave and tried everything possible to seduce him.
 
Joseph was a single solitary slave, living in a foreign country. His master owned his body. If he would have had an immoral relation with Zelachia, nobody would ever know. He wasn’t a celebrity who had media coverage every step of the way. He was a nobody. His family had abandoned him. His mother was dead; his father presumed his was dead. His brothers hated him. A single, lone individual in a country filled with  immorality. Zelachia threatened to turn his life into a misery if he refused her. She was powerful enough to do that. In addition, the Talmud tells us that the evil inclination is strongest at the age of 17.
 
The Torah tells us that after one year of being tempted and seduced, he couldn’t resist her anymore. They were alone in a room and at the very last moment he ran away. What gave Joseph the courage and strength to resist her? Because He saw an image of his father Jacob!
 
The Talmud says "the beauty of Jacob reflected the beauty of Adam," the first human being formed by the Almighty Himself. Therefore, when Joseph saw the visage of Jacob, he was seeing the visage of Adam as well.
 
Adam was instructed by G-d not to eat from the fruit of "the tree of knowledge." His disobeying of this directive altered the course of human and world history forever. Man was destined to die as a result of this act. Though he did something apparently insignificant, merely eating a single fruit from a single tree, this minuscule act still vibrates through the consciousness of humanity to this very day.
 
There is no such a thing as a random act. Every single action we take has an effect somewhere. With every action we do, we either advance or obstruct the drama of redemption; we either reduce or enhance the power of evil.
 
When Joseph saw the visage of Adam, he reclaimed an inner unshakable dignity like a candle of G-d lit on the cosmic way. Seeing the visage of Adam reminded Joseph how a single act, performed at a single moment by a single man, changed history forever.
 
This is what Tiger Woods and all of us can learn from Joseph. Never think that a single act of a single individual is meaningless. There is no such thing. Every single act counts. Let us remember this next time we are face with temptation and hopefully we will pass the test!
 
Do you think its possible to overcome your temptations?
 
The above article is based primarily on an essay written by Rabbi Yosef Y. Jacobson. You can view his essay by clicking here.

Releasing terrorists for Gilad Shalit?

The following issue is such a deeply personal one for our community. It is fiercely debated in Israel right now. I am going to outline for you what the Talmud says about it and point out the arguments for and against, but for the purposes of an equal ended discussion I will not offer my own point of view.
 
Gilad Shalit was kidnapped on June 25, 2006, by Hamas terrorists. We hope that he is alive & well - our prayers are with his family that he come home safely and unharmed. The Israeli government is currently negotiating with Hamas for his release. It is unconfirmed but the rumors are that Israel is willing to release 1000 terrorists in exchange for Shalit.
 
What is the Torah view on this? Is it permissible or not?
 
Firstly redeeming a captive is considered a huge Mitzvah, so much so, that it is permissible to sell a Sefer Torah in order to use the money to obtain his release.
 
The Mishna in Gittin states:
"One does not ransom captives for more than their value because of Tikkun Olam." - so that they should not seize more captives,” i.e., paying a high ransom for captives will encourage kidnappers to kidnap more Jews and demand still higher ransoms.
 
In our case at hand the kidnappers are not interested in money. They want terrorists released.
 
Here are some facts: In the past Israel released many prisoners for a huge amount of Arabs. In November 1983, 6 Israelis were released for 4500 Lebanese + 99 terrorists. In May 1985, 3 Israelis were released for 1150 terrorists. In June 2000, 1 Israeli + 3 bodies were released for 400 terrorists. In July 2008 the coffins of Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev were released for Samir Kuntar and 4 others. (Their Hezbollah captors had withheld any information about the conditions of the two soldiers since they were captured on July 12, 2006.)

Here are some basic arguments in favor of the release of the terrorists:
 
1. According to the Torah, one who saves one life is equivalent to saving the whole world – every single life is worth an entire world.
2. We can assume that Gilad Shalit has been tortured. He is in immediate danger. If we don’t do something NOW it may be too late.
3. Israel must do everything it can to redeem captives like Shalit because if not, our soldiers will retreat in battle rather than risk capture.
4. Israel has a moral obligation to do whatever it takes to redeem its citizens. 
 
Arguments against:
 
1. Releasing terrorists for hostages encourages the kidnap of more Israeli soldiers because they see that they are getting something valuable in return.
2. When Israel has released terrorists in the past they have gone on to murder more Israeli’s so yes, you are saving one life but you are killing many, many more Jews.
3. Israel should not redeem captives at any price. If terrorists know that they will always be freed, Israel loses its power of deterrence. 
4. An investigation by the Almagor Terror Victims Association in Israel revealed that at least 30 of the terrorist attacks perpetrated since 2000 were committed by terrorists freed in deals with terror organizations. Many were freed in the framework of goodwill gestures because they were defined by Israel as “without blood on their hands.” The bloody swath cut by these terrorists claimed the life of 177 persons, with many others wounded and made invalids.

On the one hand our hearts break at the mere thought of what Gilad Shalit must be going through and therefore we must release him at any price and we will deal with the consequences later. On the other hand what about the long term effect? What about the blood that will be spilled later?
Here is one more story from the Talmud in Gittin:  Rabbi Yehoshua ben Hannania was in Rome and they showed him a handsome Jewish boy in prison. When he tested the boy and saw that he knew the Bible by heart, he said: “I am certain he will become a legal authority! … I will not leave here until I redeem him for whatever price they name. He did not leave until he redeemed him for much money.” The little boy grew up to become Rabbi Yishmael ben Elisha.

Tosafot derive from this story that when there is mortal danger, one may pay more than the captive is worth.   
Another opinion in Tosafot says that we derive from this story that after the Destruction of the Temple, Jews are targets in any case and paying a high ransom will not cause more or less kidnapping.

What is your view? What should Israel do?

Divine Providence in our lives

A year ago a close friend of mine called me up to tell me that he and his family were leaving the city. Their son had just been born and their Manhattan apartment was too small and pricey. They had been searching for a house for a long time and had finally settled on a neighborhood in Long Island. They put a deposit on a house which they liked very much. The price was right – everything seemed perfect. They were already making plans to move. The bank had even approved them for a great mortgage.
 
At the very last minute the seller changed her mind for no reason.
 
The couple was very upset. They had spent months searching for a beautiful home and now they were not able to buy it. I told them that everything comes from G-d. There is Divine providence in everything that we do. Obviously they were not meant to have the house.
 
This week, a year later, my friend calls me up and tells me, “Rabbi you won’t believe it.” They ended up buying a different house a few months later and moved to the same neighborhood. This past weekend the house which they were supposed to buy suddenly had a major water leak from a pipe which burst in the basement. The entire first floor of the house had sunk to the ground. A girl living in the house was injured and is currently in hospital. Thank G-d they didn't buy the house. They have a one year old child – the results could have been catastrophic..
 
What seemed like something so bad turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Often in our lives we think that something bad has happened and it turns out that it’s the greatest blessing that could have happened to us.
 
This coming Saturday night is the 19th of Kislev. It is known as the Rosh Hashana of Chassidus. The Baal Shem Tov, the founder of Chassidus explains at length how there is Divine Providence in every step of our lives.
 
Every atom, every breath of wind, every grain of sand is tracked and guided by G-d. This is Divine Providence—the concept that G-d didn’t create the universe and then step back to let it run by itself, but that He remains actively involved, intentionally pulling levers, pushing buttons and flipping switches behind the scenes. We still have free choice to make whatever decision we want in our lives. One does not negate the other.
 
A man once saw a leaf fall out of a tree and drift to the ground. He asked the leaf, "Why did you drop out?" The leaf answered, "I don’t know—my branch shook me off." The man asked the branch why he shook, and was referred to the wind. The wind didn’t have an answer as to why he blew at the branch, except that he had been let loose by his angel master. The angel, in turn, told the man he had received orders from G-d Himself to get things windy. So the man posed the question to G-d, and was told: "Pick up the leaf." The man lifted it off the earth… to find a little worm sheltering in the shade the leaf created underneath. Everything—even the falling of a leaf—happens for a reason, and it is up to us and our minds to find or acknowledge the stewardship of G-d behind it all.
 
When Moshiach will come we will be able to understand and perceive how all the seemingly bad things that happened during the course of our lives were in fact a blessing in disguise. May we all be blessed to witness the Divine providence in our lives!!
 

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