Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayigash December 22, 2017

Torah reading: Genesis 44:18 – 47:27

Haftorah reading:  Ezekiel 37:15-28

Have you wondered why the account of Joseph’s plight in Egypt is interrupted by a chapter about his half-brother Judah (Gen. 38)?  Genesis 37-50 is described as ‘the generations of Jacob’. The whole of this section is more about the LORD’s dealings with all of Jacob’s sons, rather than just one of them – and through them, or even despite them, the outworking of the purposes of the LORD for all people.

No doubt the placing of the chapter about Judah’s exploits at this point in the timeline has the advantage of chronological integrity. It also serves to illustrate how the cruel and scheming half-brother of Joseph (Genesis 37:26-28) became an honorable son to Jacob: humble, sensitive and self-sacrificing; caring for his father, and protective of Joseph’s younger brother Benjamin in Genesis 44:18-34. This is the testimony of Judah.

JudahJoseph

Judah’s oldest son was ‘wicked in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD slew him’ (Genesis 38:7).  According to Torah, a man was obliged to marry his brother’s widow and raise seed by her so the second son made as if to fulfill this obligation, but reneged on his duty at the last moment –  ‘which thing displeased the LORD,so He slew him also’ (Genesis 38:8-10).

Judah then selfishly and insensitively deceived his daughter-in-law, sending her back to her father’s house, but never recalling her to marry his third son. So Tamar deceived Judah and posed as a cult prostitute, easily seducing him, by now a widower himself, into fornication. Judah sent his payment to the ‘prostitute’ but his Canaanite friend, ironically enough, could not find the woman Judah had slept with. In order to avoid public humiliation, Judah then thought to cover up his sin by ignoring it.

His self-righteousness and hypocrisy were displayed when Judah heard that his daughter-in-law was pregnant. He pronounced the death sentence against her. Yet when Tamar produced Judah’s pledges which he had left with her when they were intimate, Judah was brought to humble confession of his sins: ‘she has been more righteous than I’.

This encounter changed Judah.   In this week’s reading we see a repentant Judah who shows the fruits of his repentance in care and compassion towards his elderly father, his brethren and all their children, and his youngest brother Benjamin. His repentant heart finds its greatest expression in the wonderful and moving speech in which he offers himself as a slave to Joseph in order to spare his youngest brother.

Here in Genesis 44 he is sensitive care and passionate compassion  Here is humility and self-sacrifice. Here is a taking of responsibility for the well-being of others .

In Tune with Torah this week – Humility, self-sacrifice and responsibility are character traits to be emulated and taught to our children and grandchildren.  However, we cannot give what we do not exemplify.  How are we demonstrating a repentant heart? Are we willing to sacrifice for others? Do we accept responsibility when we fail?  Do we walk in humility?

Shabbat Shalom

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To all of my subscribers who will be celebrating with family and friends at this time, may the Holy One of Israel bless you with good health, joy, peace and an abundance of His love at this special time and reveal Himself to you in deeper and deeper ways in the year to come.

Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayakhel-Pekudei March 24, 2017

Torah Reading: Exodus 35-40
Haftorah Reading: Ezekiel 45:16 – 46:18

In this week’s Haftorah portion we find the commandment of Passover reiterated by the prophet Ezekiel to the people of Israel.

In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month, you shall have the Passover, a feast of seven days; unleavened bread shall be eaten. Ezekiel 45:21

Pesach2

This year Passover begins on April 11th and ends on April 18th. Most households here in Israel are already in the throes of preparation. One’s entire home is cleaned until it’s spotless; menus for the seven days are planned and except for perishables, the shopping has already started; and invitations to one’s Seder meal have already been dispatched. It’s an exceedingly busy time, especially in Israel.

But beyond all that, what is most important about Passover is what we remember and what we look forward to. Like all the Biblical festivals, Passover is past, present and future.  It speaks of our past deliverance, our present determination and our future destiny.

Passover conveys five major concepts that serve every generation well. They are the five most important things to know about Passover, and to incorporate into every day of the rest of the year. They are: history, optimism, faith, family, and responsibility.

1) History or Memory: It has been said that the idea of history originated with the Hebrews going all the way back to Abraham.

“Remember that you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
“Remember that the Lord took you out of the bondage of slavery.”

To record and remember is a biblical mandate that had never seemed important to anyone else before the Jewish people came on the scene. It was the Passover story that initiated a commitment to memory. History is the only way we can learn from the past. History allows us to grow by standing on the shoulders of giants. Make a mistake once, and you’re human. Never learn from what happened before, and you’re brainless. That’s why it’s so important to heed the famous words of George Santayana that “Those who do not learn from the past are condemned to repeat it.”

2) Optimism: The most difficult task Moses had to perform was not to get the Jews out of Egypt, but to get Egypt out of the Jews. They had become so acclimated to their status as slaves, they lost all hope that they could ever be free. Hope creates optimism and the hope they held onto originated in the covenant of God with Abraham.

The true miracle of Passover is the message that with God’s help, no difficulty is insurmountable. A tyrant like Pharaoh could be overthrown. A nation as powerful as Egypt could be defeated. Slaves could be free. The oppressed could break the shackles of their captivity. Anything is possible, if only we dare to dream the impossible dream. That hope is, someone has said, in the DNA of the Jew. I hope it’s in yours as well!

3) Faith: The very foundation of Judaism and the Jewish people is FAITH. That is the legacy which our father Abraham bequeathed to us. Some four hundred and thirty years before the Torah was given, FAITH in a personal God was planted firmly into the Abrahamic line of descendants, into their spiritual heritage.

The God of Sinai didn’t say “I am the Lord your God who created the heavens and the earth.” Instead, he announced, “I am the Lord your God who took you out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage.” The God of creation could theoretically have forsaken the world once he completed his task. The God of the Exodus is constantly involved in our history and has an unshakeable commitment to our survival.

4) Family: The importance of family cannot be overstated. God built his nation not by commanding not a collective gathering of hundreds of thousands in a public square but by asking Jews to turn their homes into places of family worship at a Seder devoted primarily to answering the questions of children. The home is where we first form our identities and discover our values. No wonder then that commentators point out the very first letter of the Torah is a bet, the letter whose meaning is house. All of the Torah follows only after we understand the primacy of family.

5) Responsibility: Passover reminds us that no man is an island. We are responsible first for ourselves, yes; but also for family, friends and society.
As we celebrate the great deliverance from slavery, some may ask why were we enslaved to begin with? Why did God allow that?

The Torah and the Prophets tell us that we were slaves in Egypt – and so we must have empathy for the downtrodden in every generation. We were slaves in Egypt – so we must be concerned with the rights of the strangers, the homeless and the impoverished. We experienced oppression – and so we must understand more than anyone else the pain of the oppressed.

The purpose of our suffering was to turn us into a people committed to righting the wrongs of the world, to become partners with God in preparing the world to become the Kingdom of God, the Kingdom to be ruled by the Messiah.

In Tune with Torah this week = From earliest childhood every Jew child learns to embrace these five ideals: history (memory), optimism, faith, family and responsibility. These are not just ideals for the Jewish people but for all nations and all peoples. As we prepare for Passover let us ponder these truths and renew our personal commitment to all that they represent.

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary – Vayishlach December 5, 2014

Genesis 32:4-36:43

In this week’s reading, the brothers, Jacob and Esau, meet again after a separation of twenty two years. Years before, Esau had sworn to kill Jacob in revenge for what he saw as the theft of his blessing. Is he still angry enough to kill? Jacob sends messengers to let his brother know he is coming. On their return, they inform Jacob that Esau is coming to meet him with four hundred men. We then read:

Then Jacob was greatly afraid and distressed. (32:8)

Jacob is in the grip of strong emotions. But what is the difference between fear and distress? Could it be that he was in fear of being killed? And distressed that he might have to kill his own brother in self-defense?

The difference between being afraid and distressed is that it is one thing to fear one’s own death, quite another to contemplate being the cause of someone else’s. Jacob was distressed at the possibility of being forced to kill even if that were entirely justified by the concept of self-defense..

At stake is a moral dilemma. A dilemma is not simply a conflict. There are many moral conflicts. May we perform an abortion to save the life of the mother, for example? When two duties conflict the higher value, once determined, takes priority. An answer is forthcoming.

A dilemma, however, is a situation in which there is no right answer. I ought not to do A (allow myself to be killed); I ought not to do B (kill someone else); but I must do one or the other. The fact that one principle (self-defense) overrides another (the prohibition against killing) does not mean that, faced with such a choice, I am without inner qualms. Sometimes being moral means that I experience distress at finding myself in the position to even make such a choice. Doing the right thing may mean that I do not feel guilt, but I may still feel regret that I had to do what I did at all.

A moral system which leaves room for the existence of dilemmas is one that does not attempt to eliminate the complexities of the human life. In a conflict between two rights or two wrongs, there may be a proper way to act but this does not cancel out all emotional pain. It is indicative of Jacob’s greatness that he was capable of moral anxiety even at the prospect of doing something entirely justified, namely defending his own life at the cost of his brother’s. A person or a nation capable of feeling distress, even in victory, is one that knows the tragic complexity of moral life.

In Tune with Torah this week = in the complicated times of life, are we the kind of people who seek to choose the higher ground and establish priorities while maintaining a sincere love towards our fellow man? Imagine yourself in Jacob’s shoes. How would you have felt?

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary — Massei July 25, 2014

Massei Bamidbar/Numbers 33 – 36

This Shabbat we read the very last portion in the book of Bamidbar/Numbers. Entitled “Massei”, it recounts the journeys of the children of Israel over the forty years they lived in the desert. Did you know there were forty-two locations where they stopped? In modern terms we might describe that as moving forty-two times in forty years!

But then, isn’t LIFE a journey for each of us? We may not physically change our geographic location as often as the Israelites did, but change we do! Whether we are aware of it or not, every day we change just a bit.

Life is indeed a journey. We experience challenges and heartaches, joyful times and unique moments, all of which contribute to the fabric of our days. The highway of life is not always smooth; occasionally there are potholes; sometimes we travel along the edge of a physical or emotional cliff. At other times, the seas of life are calm and beautiful and we want that day to last forever.

Properly understood, our challenges are blessings in disguise; they are opportunities. Obstacles enable us to taste the sweetness of victory. Weaknesses are stepping stones to new strengths and fears are open doors to deeper and stronger faith. For life is also like a magnificent musical score just waiting to be played. With every step forward in our personal growth, the sound of the music swells.

Along our journey we will be confronted with many situations, some will be filled with joy, and some will be filled with heartache. How we react to what we are faced with determines what kind of outcome the rest of our journey through life will be like.

Each day can be described as a ‘stop’ along the way, a new ‘location’. And indeed it is for we will never again be younger than we are today and yesterday’s experiences caused us to wake up this morning ever so slightly different than we were 24 hours ago. What will we do in this new ‘location’? We’ve ‘moved’ again. What’s next?

Time is a relentless master; it waits for no one, have you noticed? If we have invested previous stops in our journey focusing on the negative and the painful, we missed out on some precious lessons God intended for us. We can’t go back to the past, but in this new ‘location’,we can certainly learn from our mistakes and move on because life is not a destination; it’s a journey. And it is the sum total of all our experiences and our actions or reactions related to them that ultimately make us who we are.

The people whose journey intersects with ours are people we were destined to meet. Everyone comes into our lives for one reason or another. Some become lifelong friends; others stay awhile and move on. We may not understand how but every person who crosses our path is put there for a purpose: to help us become the best we can be. Sometimes – in fact, frequently – the passing visitor to our life’s journey often makes a lasting impression; has an impact that changes us in a profound way. What a blessing that is.

But let’s turn it around. As a passing visitor to someone else’s journey, or a long time friend, or a family member, what impact are you having on others? Is someone’s life better just because your life journey and theirs has intersected? For a day? For a month? For years? Even lifelong? Are they urged on to become the best person they can be because of your influence on their journey?

Sometimes all it takes is one special person to help us discover a whole different person inside us that we never knew existed. And the rest of our days are richer because of it. And stronger compared to the person you were.

In Tune with Torah this week = reflecting on the journey of our own life thus far, stop and think of various people whose impact on you has helped you become a better person. Thank God for those people, past and present and if it’s within your ability to do so, make a call, write a note, or send an email and convey your ‘Thank you’. No human being has ever overdosed on gratitude!

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Portion — Shelach June 13, 2014

NUMBERS/BAMIDBAR 13-15

In this week’s Torah reading, the episode of the spies takes center stage. Moses had sent them to spy out the Land of Promise but upon their return they acknowledged that the Land was indeed “flowing with milk and honey” as Moses had previously told the children of Israel, BUT….” It was the “BUT” that caused all the ensuing problems, for they added “but it is impossible to conquer.”

“The people who live there are powerful, and the cities fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of the giant there … We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are … All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the titans there … We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and so we seemed in theirs” (Num. 13:28-33).

How could they have gotten it so wrong? The truth is that while they were terrified of the inhabitants of the Land, they entirely failed to realize that those same inhabitants were terrified of them!
Rahab, the prostitute in Jericho, tells the spies sent by Joshua a generation later: “I know that the Lord has given you this land and that a great fear of you has fallen on us, so that all who live in this country are melting in fear because of you … our hearts melted in fear and everyone’s courage failed because of you, for the Lord your God is God in heaven above and on the earth below” (Joshua 2:10-11).

How then did these men, leaders in the congregation, make such a terrible mistake? Did they misinterpret what they saw? Was their faith in God too weak? Did they lack faith in themselves? Or was it something else? Maimonides argues in his work,The Guide for the Perplexed, that their fear was inevitable given their past history. They had spent most of their lives as slaves. Only recently had they acquired their freedom. They were not yet ready to fight a prolonged series of battles and establish themselves as a free people in their own land. That would take a new generation, born in freedom. Humans change, but not that quickly (Guide III, 32).

Most commentaries accuse the spies of a failure of courage or faith or both. Yet, as mentioned above, these men were, after all, “princes, chieftains, leaders” (Num. 13:2-3). Could it be that in fact they did not fear failure; they feared sucess?

Could it be that they did not want to leave the wilderness? Who could blame them for that? Think about it! They did not want to lose their unique relationship with God in the peaceful silence of the desert, far removed from the rest of the nations and their problems. Here, in the desert, they were closer to God than any generation had ever been. The God of Israel was a palpable, visible presence in the Sanctuary in their midst. Every day they looked at the awesome pillar of cloud by day and the brilliant pillar of fire by night. They ate manna from heaven and water from the rock. They experienced miracles daily. So long as they stayed in the desert under God’s sheltering canopy, they did not need to plow the earth, plant seeds, gather harvests, defend a country, run an economy, maintain a welfare system, or shoulder any of the other earthly burdens and distractions that take peoples’ minds away from their relationship with God.

Here, suspended between past and future, they were able to live with a simplicity and directness of relationship with their God they could not hope to find once they had re-entered everyday life in the material world. Paradoxically, although a desert is typically considered to be the exact opposite of a garden, in fact, the wilderness was the Israelites’ ‘Garden of Eden’. Here they were as close to God as Adam and Eve were before their loss of innocence.

Both Hosea and Jeremiah compared the wilderness to a honeymoon. Hosea said in the name of God: “I am now going to allure her; I will lead her into the wilderness and speak tenderly to her” (Hos. 2:16), implying that in the future God would take the people back there to celebrate a second honeymoon. Jeremiah said in God’s name, “I remember the devotion of your youth, how as a bride you loved me and followed me through the wilderness, through a land not sown” (Jer. 2:2). For both prophets, the wilderness years were the time of the first love between God and the Israelites. That, I suggest to you, is what the spies did not want to leave.

They did not want to let go of the intimacy and innocence of childhood and enter the adult world. Every parent faces the time when a certain measure of separation must occur for their child to become an adult. Ultimately, I suggest for your consideration, that the spies feared freedom and its responsibilities.

But that is what Torah is all about.

The Torah is not about retreat from the world, but engagement with the world. The Torah is a template for the construction of a society with all its gritty details: laws of warfare and welfare, harvests and livestock, loans and employer-employee relationships, the code of a nation in its land, part of the real world of politics and economics, yet somehow pointing to a better world where justice and compassion, love of the neighbor and stranger, are not lofty and philosophical ideals but principles worked out in peoples’ everyday lives. God chose Israel to make His presence visible in the world. To affect this world one must live in it, not hide in a quiet desert.

Certainly, throughout history, there have been some ascetics among the Jewish people, but these were the exceptions, not the rule. This is not the destiny of God’s people as communities of faith, to live outside time and space in ashrams or monasteries as the world’s recluses.

The spies did not want to contaminate Judaism by bringing it into contact with the real world. They sought the eternal childhood of God’s protection and the endless honeymoon of His all-embracing love. There is something noble about this desire, but also something profoundly irresponsible that de-moralised the people and provoked God’s anger. For the Torah, as the constitution of the Jewish nation under the sovereignty of God, is about building a society in the land of Israel that so honors human dignity and freedom that it will one day lead the world to say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people” (Deut. 4:6).

In Tune with Torah this week = Our duty is not to fear the real world but to enter and transform it. That is what the spies did not understand. Do we understand it even now?

Shabbat Shalom

Weekly Torah Commentary — Ki Tetzei August 15, 2013

Deuteronomy 21:10 – 25:19

The theme of relationships – how to build them, how to keep them intact, and how to heal them in the event that they are damaged – is a pervading theme of this week’s Torah portion. In one particular verse, a very strict limitation is placed upon interpersonal relationships. The Torah explains the prohibition in a clear statement of rationale:

An Ammonite or Moavite shall not enter into the Congregation of God; to their tenth generation shall they not enter into the Congregation of God forever; Because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt; and because they hired against you Bil’am the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you. Nevertheless the Almighty, your God, would not listen to Bil’am; but the Almighty, your God, turned the curse into a blessing to you, because the Almighty your God loved you. You shall not seek their peace nor their prosperity all your days forever. (Deuteronomy 23:4-7)

Amon and Moav were raised in a strange family unit: they were both the products of incest. Their mothers were sisters who got their father drunk, and seduced him in his stupor. (Gen. 19:30-38)

Lot, Avraham’s nephew, saw his world crumble around him. His first tragic mistake was taking leave of Avraham: He should have learned enough from his uncle to achieve a reconciliation between the shepherds of his flocks and Avraham’s shepherds. Avraham in his wisdom realized that there was only one solution for the conflict, and suggested a parting of the ways. (Gen. 13:7-9) Lot travels eastward to Sodom.

There is something terribly wrong with a person who would leave the tent of Avraham and choose a place like Sodom. Sodom
‘looked good’for he was motivated by aspirations of wealth and power. But it didn’t take long for Sodom to be destroyed, his home and possessions along with it. Even his wife was lost. He escaped with only the clothes on his back and his two daughters. These daughters each present Lot with sons, Moav and Amon.

These sons enter the world with a stigma: Their father/grandfather has made countless bad decisions, and their mothers instigated incest with their own father. They are emotionally damaged men: hurt, angry, full of resentment. Yet the Torah teaches a remarkable lesson: These nations are forbidden to the Jewish people; descendents of Amon and Moav are not to be accepted as converts to Judaism. But why? Not because they are genetically inferior but “because they did not meet you with bread and with water on the way, when you came out of Egypt; and because they hired against you Bil’am the son of Beor of Pethor of Mesopotamia, to curse you.

The second half of the verse is understandable: They conspired to curse the Jews, reason enough for maintaining a healthy distance. But that’s not the main reason. Rather, it is their failure to greet us in the desert with food and drink that illustrates their lack of character.

Note: Lot grew up in Avraham’s tent. Despite Lot’s possible feelings of abandonment, despite Moav and Amon’s feelings of rejection, despite the dysfunctional family that produced Moav and Amon, they should have known better, and behaved as any relative of Avraham knew was the proper way to deal with others – certainly with relatives.

They are expected to behave as Avraham would have, to greet travelers with food and drink. In this instance, the Torah is unforgiving. We are not meant to summon up “understanding” or “empathy” for those who are products of a dysfunctional home, children born of twisted relationships, the products of incest who may have suffered ridicule, who could have blamed their parents for all their problems. The Torah underscores the power of a positive education and example to overcome negative feelings of resentment and anger. Despite their origins and upbringing, the descendents of Lot had the ability to choose kindness. They were endowed with free will.

The lesson for all of us is unavoidable: Human beings – children and adults -are often tempted to blame others for their own shortcomings, but the Torah does not allow us to place the blame with our upbringing, our parents or ancestors, or other situations beyond our control. Every human being has Free Will; this means that, along with any negative experiences, there are positive lessons to be learned from the challenges in our past.

The responsible individual must choose to reject the negative and distill positive lessons from any given experience. Cycles of abuse and pain can and must be broken, as the case of Amon and Moav illustrates: Even many generations down the line, we have the right to expect moral behavior on the part of Lot’s descendents. Despite Lot’s many failings, despite the challenging background, God has expectations of those raised in the Tent of Avraham. Amon and Moav, as descendents of Lot, had so many positive lessons to learn. They were punished for choosing to focus on their own feelings and their own anger. For their choices, and not for their history, they are forever banned from the Congregation of God.

Each and every one of us, emotional scars and personal failures notwithstanding, is called upon by the laws of the Torah to make a similar choice. We are reminded, through the unlikely example of Amon and Moav, that we are all descendents of someone who grew up in the tents of Avraham and Sarah, Yitzchak and Rivka, Ya’akov, Rachel and Leah. There is greatness within our collective memory, and therefore within our abilities and our selves. Focusing on anger and failure can easily develop into self-fulfilling, negative prophesies, leading to fractured homes and decimated communities. Alternatively, we can each make the conscious choice to learn positive lessons from our negative experiences, and raise ourselves as individuals and families to the higher moral ground prepared for us by our ancestors.

In Tune with Torah this week = renewing our determination to choose rightly despite any negative influences.

Weekly Torah Commentary — Shoftim August 9, 2013

Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9
“Who is the man who is fearful and faint-hearted? Let him go and return to his house, and let him not melt the heart of his fellows to be like his heart.”

In this week’s portion the Torah commands anyone who is afraid of going to war to leave the battlefield and return to his home because of the negative influence that his fear will have on his fellow soldiers. The Sages derive from this that the basic meaning of this mitzvah is that we are to be very careful to avoid acting in any way that will have a negative influence on others.

Our actions do not take place in a vacuum. We are always being noticed by others, consequently it is our responsibility to constantly be aware of the possible effect we can have on others without even directly communicating with them. Remember the old adage, Actions speak louder than words? When we strive to have a positive effect on our fellowman through our behavior, we become an example that inspires. And when others grow spiritually because of that example, we share in their blessing in Olam Haba (the world to come). Rav Aaron Kotler notes that one who causes others to perform Mitzvot receives incredible reward for his deeds. “one can not imagine the great gain a person receives through this; he merits extra heavenly protection to not stumble in sin and also to a great number of merits, something which would have been impossible for him to achieve through his own free will.”

The greatest way we influence others is through loving them. We make the most important decisions of our lives based on who and what we love. What we might consider as a carefully thought out, logical major decision is never without its emotional aspect for we are emotional beings. Love changes the dynamic of our interactions with others.

Perhaps the second most important way we influence others for good is by listening to them. When we listen attentively, our behavior says to the other person, “I respect you. I care about you.” That, in turn, opens them up to receiving from us, whether in the form of a spoken encouragement or advice or by the example of how we live.

According to Dictionary.com, the word INFLUENCE when used as a noun is defined as “the capacity or power of persons or things to be a compelling force on or produce effects on the actions, behavior, opinions, etc., of others.” INFLUENCE as a verb is “To move or impel (a person) to some action.”

So how do we improve in being a positive influence on others and refrain from being a negative one, as we read in this week’s parsha?

First of all, every person has influence on the lives of those around them. Whether our impact is direct or indirect, it behooves us to realize that no one acts in a vacuum. We are continually influencing those around us one way or another.

Secondly, exemplify personal responsibility and integrity. Be true to your word, be consistent. Be real and be honest. Be faithful to your values.

Thirdly, don’t pretend you’re perfect; you’re not. Take responsibility for your mistakes and learn from them. Don’t make excuses; make corrections. Others will respect you for it.

Fourthly, appreciate and recognize the efforts of those around you and thank them. We all want to be valued and appreciated. Your endorsement also has a ripple effect when a good deed or accomplishment is acknowledged publicly.

Fifthly, work at bringing out the best in others. Let your influence act as a catalyst to spark something within someone else. How many hundreds of accomplished people have noted that a certain teacher or a grandmother or a parent inspired them as a child or a teenager and they give credit to that influence for achievements in later life!

Lastly, care about other people’s feelings. Treat others the way you want to be treated. Influence only qualifies as leadership when you are more concerned with someone else reaching their potential than you are about how their work or action will affect you.

In Tune with Torah this week = on this first Shabbat of the month of Elul, there could not be a more appropriate issue to consider than this one. What kind of influence have I been on others during the past year? What can I do to have a more positive and uplifting influence on those around me in the new year to come?

Shabbat Shalom