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Friday - Shabbat October 30 - 31


*** Kiddush is sponsored by Stefanie Gershkovich and her daughter Seela in honor of the birthday of her husband (and Seela's father), Mike.*** 


Torah Reading:  Lech Lecha (Genesis  12:1 - 17:27)

Candle Lighting  5:36 PM
Shabbat ends 6:35 PM


What On Earth?


Our Parshah tells us that Abraham was informed that his nephew Lot had been taken captive by an association of four kings who had waged war against a group of five kings, one of whom was the king of the wicked Sodom where Lot took up residence.
To show gratitude for saving him, the king of Sodom graciously offers Abraham to partake of the spoils of war. Abraham strongly declines.
Abraham tells the king of Sodom that he had sworn to G‑d that he would not take even “a thread or a shoestrap.”
The Talmud states that G‑d rewarded Abraham for refusing to take even a thread or a shoelace. For declining the thread, his children were given the Mitzvah of Tztzit-fringes; the threads that we place on the corners of our garments. The reward for turning down the offer of shoe strap Abraham’s descendents were rewarded with the Mitzvah of Tefillin that are wrapped around our heads and arms by way of leather straps..
What connection is there between shoe straps and Tefillin straps other then the fact that both are made of leather? And what do either of these things have in connection with Abraham’s refusal to benefit from the property of Sodom?
The answer to these questions will become evident when we examine a connection between shoestraps and Tefillin straps that is reinforced in another Talmudic statement that deals with the etiquette of putting on our shoes.
The Talmud, which generally gives precedence to the right hand in the performance of a Mitzvah (a left-handed person would regard his or her left hand as the right hand in Jewish law), states that we ought to tie our left shoe first since Tefillin are tied on the left hand/arm. The question can be asked here too: Why would we overlook the preeminence of the right hand because Tefillin are tied on our left hand/arm? And why does it make a difference which shoe we tie first?
To answer these questions let us examine why Tefillin are indeed placed on the left hand/arm considering the fact that as a general rule the right hand is given precedence in the performance of a Mitzvah. The reason why the right is usually preferred is because the stronger hand is expressive of the Divine attribute of chessed-kindness. As the stronger hand, it is the one that is usually involved in giving as opposed to the weaker hand that remains passive. When we do a Mitzvah we want to highlight the role of kindness and pro-activeness in our Jewish lives.
The source of the requirement to wrap the Tefillin on our left hand is the anomalous way the Torah refers to the hand upon which we wrap the Tefillin. The Hebrew word for “your hand” is yadcha. However, the Torah “misspells” the word and adds the silent letter hei, which can also be read as “yad kei’ha, the weaker hand.
Another reason for the emphasis of the left with respect to Tefillin is that Tefillin are supposed to be placed near the heart, which is on the left side.
What connection is there between the idea of the weaker hand and the proximity to the heart?
One of the reasons we wear Tefillin (in addition to the fact that it is a Divine commandment, mentioned four times in the Torah) is that it is designed to strengthen our character. Human beings are born with natural weaknesses. We can easily be enticed; we allow our egos to get in the way of doing what is right etc. The Tefillin were designed by G‑d to strengthen our character; to shore up our weak side.
By placing the Tefillin on our left (read: weaker) side, near the heart - the symbol of our emotions that often lead us astray - the Tefillin empowers us to inject vigor and moral courage into our weaker and vulnerable side.
We can now understand the connection between Tefillin and the tying of our shoelaces.
A shoe is worn to protect our feet from the earth. This conveys a deeper symbolic meaning. The earth is the source of our sustenance. We are eternally grateful to G‑d that we have dry land under our feet. Indeed, we recite a daily blessing thanking G‑d for spreading the earth over the waters.
Because of our dependence on the earth and the security it provides we can become so attached to it that we begin to worship it. We become so earthy and materialistic that the earth and all that it represents becomes a deity, as indeed it has in many cultures. Even in those areas where the earth is not worshipped in the literal sense of the word, the earth dominates our lives; we become materialistic and unrefined.
The shoe symbolizes the protection we afford our feet so that its contact with the earth is not direct. The shoe guarantees that there will always be a separation and barrier between the person and the world that we stand on. As important as the earth is to our existence, we always remain above it. Thus, when Moses approached the burning bush—sacred ground—he was told to remove his shoes. On sacred ground there is no need to set up a barrier between one’s feet and the earth. In all other situations, the earth represents our vulnerability and weakness and we must wear shoes to protect us.
However, even shoes can become loose and not afford the protection we need. The shoe strap or lace, in a strictly symbolic sense, is the equivalent of our Tefillin that we place on our weaker arm to shore up our defenses. Similarly, the shoe strap is the guarantee that our defenses remain intact and secure.
We can now also understand the connection between the shoe straps of the king of Sodom that Abraham refused to take as a reward for his liberation of Sodom.
Of all cities in the world, the morally weakest city was without question the city of Sodom. Sodom was the center of vice in those days. Every perversion was practiced and flaunted in its midst.
When Abraham saved the city and its king from being conquered, the king of Sodom was under the impression that Abraham might not have been opposed to their way of life—at least not to the same extent that he was opposed to it in the past. By taking some of its possession, Abraham would be acknowledging that there was something good about the city and its mores.


But, if Abraham was concerned with the deleterious effect the city can have on him, the king of Sodom was willing to give Abraham shoestraps. Why didn’t Abraham take the shoestraps as a gift from the king of Sodom, using them as his symbolic protection against the corrupt earth of Sodom?
By refusing to take even the shoestraps from its leader, Abraham was repudiating any contact with Sodom—even its shoestraps. Abraham was saying that even what purports to be a safeguard against corruption and degeneration that was associated with Sodom—i.e., their shoestraps—would not suffice to be protected from Sodom. Sodom was so corrupt that it even corrupted its shoestraps. Indeed, Sodom’s earth had to be turned upside down. No shoes and shoestraps would suffice to protect anyone from its evil.
Our Sages tell us that Moshiach dwells in Sodom. On the simple level it refers to the fact that the daughters of Lot who escaped from Sodom were the ancestors of Ruth the Moabite princess, from whom the Davidic dynasty through Moshiach descended.
However, we might attempt to find some symbolic meaning in the identification of Sodom as the city from which Moshiach heralded.
Sodom of old could not be salvaged; not even its shoestraps could be used by Abraham. In the Messianic Age, though, things will change. Even the city of Sodom will be purified. For in the Messianic Age evil will cease and all that is impure will no longer be there to contaminate the world. 


Moshiach Matters  


The Midrash (Yalkut Shimoni) tells us that in the future, G‑d will reveal the secrets of the Torah through Moshiach. The Rambam, in his commentary on the Mishnah (Sanhedrin) says the same thing: “Wondrous (Torah teachings) will be revealed through him (Moshiach).”
(Likkutei Sichos, vol. 22, pg. 76, note 10,11)

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