Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Powerful Mouths

The Haftora for parshas Lech Lecha, extols the virtues of the Jewish people, the children of Avraham, in contrast to the other nations of the world. It encourages us to stay strong during the exile, that we should not be afraid because Hashem is always with us and He can be relied upon. Ultimately it is us, the Jewish people, who put our hope in Hashem, who will be strengthened and redeemed, while the nations will face divine judgment for not recognizing Hashem, despite all the clear indications that He is the one and only true G-d, and for all the suffering they put us through.

The connection of this Haftora to parshas Lech Lecha, is the references to Avraham, how with Hashem's help, he journeyed away from idol worshippers, taught the world about Hashem, and was victorious over powerful kings, all of which are mentioned in the parsha.

The parsha tells about the founding of the Jewish people and the beginning of our mission in this world. Therefore, it makes sense, that the Haftora encourages us and extols the virtues that make us the chosen ones for Hashem's plan. It also makes sense that it tells us about the final redemption, because that is the goal and reward of our mission.

The Haftora opens with a reassurance, that although we may feel at times, that our efforts to follow the Torah are being ignored by Hashem, that is never the case. Rather, Hashem's wisdom is beyond ours and therefore, we don't understand why He puts us in situations that seem undesirable.

In the end, He is the One who "gives the faint strength." Though the enemies of the Jewish people seem youthful and powerful, they will grow "tired and weary..., and stumble. But those who hope in Hashem will renew (lit. Exchange) their strength, grow wings like an eagle, they will run and not be weary, they will walk and not tire."

Why does the verse use the word "exchange" to mean renew? It means, that when we use all our strength to serve Hashem and become weary, then our limited strength will be exchanged for Hashem's strength, which is unlimited. We will then be able to take our service to a whole new level, deepening our connection with Hashem ad infinitum.

Now the Haftora tells us how Hashem will judge the nations of the world. He will first reprove them, and let them bring forth their arguments, if they have any, in defense. But of course they have no defense for their wrong doing. Hashem will tell them that He sent them Avraham, who taught them about Him. They saw that Hashem was with him and did amazing miracles for him, and He gave him power over the mightiest kings. Yet they ignore the clear signs with cognitive dissonance, and they support each other in perpetuating lies, continuing to make and serve idols. As it says, "Each one will help his friend and to his brother he will say, be strong." all this, just to hold on to idol worship.

The Midrash explains this verse in a positive light, that it refers to Avraham and Shem, supporting each other after the war between the four kings and the five kings, spoken about in our parsha. There is a lesson here for us as well. We should always help each other, and even when we can't help, we should give words of encouragement.

In contrast to the nations of the world, "You Yisrael my servant, Yaakov whom I have chosen, children of Avraham who loved Me." Sometimes it is the children that bring out the greatness of their parents, as their conduct is a reflection of them and it is only because of the parents virtues, that the children are so wonderful. Same is with the Jewish people. Because of our forefather Avraham, we have it in us to be amazing, and our actions show how great Avraham's love for Hashem was.

The Haftora continues, that Hashem will gather us from the ends of the earth and that we should not fear because Hashem is with us.  Even more, don't be afraid, "For I Am Hashem your G-d, Who holds your right hand."

Then the Haftora says the strangest thing. "Do not fear worm Yaakov." Why are we called a worm? This worm we speak of here, is weak. Its only strength is in its mouth, with which it can destroy cedars. We too, our power is not in our bodies, our true strength is in our mouths. Through our Torah study and prayer, we can do amazing things.

This is also a lesson on the power of speech. We are told that when one speaks loshon hara, badly of another person, three are negatively affected. The one who says  it, the one that hears it, and the one being spoken about. I understand why the speaker and the hearer are affected, because they are both there when the words were spoken. However, the one being spoken of, is not there, why would it affect him? Because our mouths are powerful and when we speak badly of another, it brings out negative in that person.

The opposite is true as well. When you speak good of another, you bring out good qualities in that person, even if they weren't there before. Just imagine how much good we can do by using the power of our speech to lift others up.

Let us use our mouths for good things. Praying, learning Torah, and bringing out good in others. If we do, we will change the world for good, and we will be able to experience the last words of the Haftora, that when Moshiach comes we "will rejoice in Hashem and glory in the Holy One of Israel." May it happen soon.

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