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Congregation Brothers of Israel

L'dor Vador—From Generation to Generation since 1883
לדור ודור



Chaired by Dr. Ellier Russ with the assistance of the Rabbi, this committee coordinates programs and classes to engage members in lifelong learning. Events include our yearly Scholar in Residence program, Talmud Study, Mah Nishtanah: What’s Different About Today’s Judaism, The Observant Life Book Series and more. Guest speakers, online webinars and Shabbat morning discussions additionally provide congregants with opportunities to expand their knowledge of Judaism and living a Jewish life.

Vayeira, (Genesis 18 - 22) 5780 
November 13, 2019  |  by Rabbi Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! In this week's Torah portion we have the marriage of Abraham and Sarah, one of the all time great marriages. Perhaps the following words of wisdom from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin will help someone have a happy marriage!


  1. Keep your mind on your main goal, which is to have a happy marriage. Say and do what will enable you and your spouse to have a happy marriage. Avoid the opposite. Everything else is commentary.
  2. Keep asking yourselves, "What can we do to have a happy, loving atmosphere in our home?"
  3. Focus on giving, rather than taking. Say and do as many things as possible to meet your spouse's needs.
  4. Keep doing and saying things that will give your spouse a sense of importance.
  5. Frequently ask yourself, "What positive things can I say and do to put my (husband or wife) in a positive emotional state?"
  6. Before speaking, clarify the outcome you want. The meaning of your communication is the response you actually get. If the first thing you say is not achieving your goal, change your approach. Remember that mutual respect and happiness is your real goal.
  7. Show appreciation and gratitude in as many ways as possible. Say something appreciative a few times a day
  8. Be a good listener. Understand your spouse from his or her point of view.
  9. Be considerate of the feelings and needs of your spouse. Think of ways that you have lacked consideration and be resolved to increase your level of consideration.
  10. Instead of blaming and complaining think of positive ways to motivate your spouse. If your first strategies aren't effective, think of creative ways.
  11. Give up unrealistic expectations. Don't expect your spouse to be perfect and don't make comparisons.
  12. Don't cause pain with words. If your spouse speaks to you in ways that cause you pain, choose outcome wording, "Let's speak to each other in ways that are mutually respectful."
  13. Be willing to compromise. Be willing to do something you would rather not do in return for similar behavior from your spouse.
  14. Write a list of ways that you have benefited from being married to your spouse. Keep adding to the list and reread it frequently.
  15. Write a list of your spouse's positive patterns and qualities. Keep adding to the list and read it frequently.
  16. Keep thinking about what you can do to bring out the best qualities of your spouse. Reinforce those qualities with words and action.
  17. Focus on finding solutions to any problems that arise. Be solution oriented. Don't just blame and complain. Don't focus on who is more wrong. For a happy marriage, work together to find mutually acceptable solutions.
  18. Remember your finest moments. What did you say and do when you felt best about each other? Increase them.
  19. Look for positive activities you can do together.
  20. Live in the present. What went wrong in the past is the past. You create the present and future with your thoughts, words, and actions right now. Choose them wisely.

Lastly, it takes 2 to argue. It's up to you to have an argueless-marriage! Say nothing until your spouse is through venting and then with a soft voice (as King Solomon said, "A soft voice turns away wrath") tell your spouse, "You've made some good points. I need to think about them. Let's discuss this again later." Don't get drawn into an argument. Walk away if need be. It's better than fighting.


Torah Portion of the week

VAYERA, GENESIS 18:1-22-24 

Avraham, on the third day after his brit mila, sits outside his tent looking for guests to extend his hospitality. While talking with the Almighty, he sees three visitors (actually angels of the Almighty). Avraham interrupts his conversation with the Almighty to invite them to a meal. One angel informs him that in a year's time, Sarah, his wife, will give birth to a son, Yitzhak (Isaac).

God tells Avraham that He is going to destroy Sodom because of its absolute evil (the city is the source of the word sodomy). Avraham argues with God to spare Sodom if there can be found ten righteous people in Sodom. Avraham loses for the lack of a quorum. Lot (Avraham's nephew) escapes the destruction with his two daughters.

Other incidents: Avimelech, King of the Philistines, wants to marry Sarah (Avraham's wife), the birth of Yitzhak, the eviction of Hagar (Avraham's concubine) and Ishmael. Avimelech and Avraham make a treaty at Beersheva. Avraham is commanded to take up his son, Isaac, as an offering "on one of the mountains" (). Lastly, the announcement of the birth of Rivka (Rebecca), the future wife of Yitzhak.

Do you want to know the reward for listening to the command of the Almighty? This is what the Almighty told Avraham: "...I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your descendants like the stars of the heavens and like the sand on the seashore; and your offspring shall inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice."

Dvar Torah
based on  Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Avraham invites three visitors to stay for a meal with the words, "I will fetch a morsel of bread that you may sustain yourselves, then go on." Yet, Avraham does not give them just a crust of bread, he serves them a lavish multi-course feast. Why does Avraham use such a humble invitation? Wouldn't a more descriptive invitation have been more enticing?

In the Talmud (Bava Metzia 87a) the Sages derive from here the principle that the righteous say little and do much. The wicked, however, say much and do little (as we see next week with Efron's false assurances to Avraham when Avraham wants to bury his wife, Sarah).

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz, of the Mir Yeshiva, comments that talking about what you plan to do is negative. It is superfluous and often counterproductive. Talking is easier than doing. It creates expectations. And then, even with the greatest of intent, things happen which prevent doing. There is pleasure in talking about the good you intend to do, but it is a cheap way of getting honor and approval. Talking changes the focus from doing good for its own sake to doing good for the sake of approval -- and there are those who make grandiose promises and then they forget ... causing great heartache and pain.


Quote of the Week
A happy wife makes a happy life
(and a happy husband makes a happy wife)!


On-Line Learning

Rabbi Gaber lead several Adult Education programs using ZOOM Web conferencing technology.  "You don’t have to leave the warmth and comfort of your home to have a discussion on confronting Antisemitism and Hate or the Human Genome or to discuss how to bring Judaism into the 21st century. I will be leading an online class.  You will not  only be able to hear me and see me, you will also see your friends in the same virtual classroom. There was an interesting line up of  webinars this past winter. Our final CBOI Online learning program this season has a dedicated link:     All you need do is enter this link into your favorite browser and follow the instructions.  If you get stuck, please let me know and I will help you get on line."  

*Don't worry, if you can't make the discussion at the appointed time, you'll still be able to learn about each topic:
See the CBOI On-line Learning page in Learn Navigation bar to see all the previous  On Line Zoom Learning sessions.


 In fulfilling the following commandments one enjoys the yield in this world while the principal remains for a eternity, honoring father and mother, performing deeds of loving kindness, punctually attending the house of study morning and evening, showing hospitality to strangers, visiting the sick, helping the needy bride, attending dead, praying .with devotion, and making peace between individuals. And the merit of Torah study is equal to all of these. Talmud Shabbat 12 e



Parashat Vayera 
November 16, 2019 | 18  Heshvan 5780
Annual Genesis 18:1-22:24 (Etz Hayim p. 99-122; Hertz p. 63-76)
Triennial Genesis 18:1-18:33 (Etz Hayim 104-112, Hertz p.66-71)
Haftarah 2 Kings 4:1-37:16: (Etz Hayim p. 123-126 Hertz p. 76-79)


D’var Torah: Maintaining an Open Tent
Rabbi Michael Gilboa, Conservative Yeshiva Alum  & Founder of the Chicagoland Center for Conversion to Judaism

Genesis is a book of experiments. Humans trying out how to be human. God trying out how to be our God. And often the experiments don’t go particularly well. Three times—in the Garden of Eden, during the generation of the Flood, and at the Tower of Babel—the entire human race turned away from God, and each time God responded by bringing us back on course.

In the final episode of collective human rebellion, at the Tower of Babel, God simultaneously dealt with the immediate problem and changed our fundamental circumstances. By creating languages, cultures, and nations God made it impossible for the entire human race to turn away from God. From then until now there has always been more than one way to be a human. Instead of charting one course, the human race would simultaneously try many approaches, hopefully to learn from each other’s mistakes and to steer toward the best of our humanity. One of the inevitable byproducts of this multifaceted approach, however, is chauvinism and superiority. Probably from the first day, a small group with a shared language gathered beneath the ruins of the Tower, some people have limited their circle of concern to those most like them, using our differences to disqualify others of their basic humanity.

This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Vayera, is a study of the contrasts that quickly emerged from this new multicultural reality. According to our tradition, Avraham was 48 at the Tower of Babel’s doom, and he was 99 when the events of the parashah took place. In little more than 50 years we see the emergence of two diametrically opposed ways of being human.

Sodom and Gomorrah, though extreme, ought to sound familiar to us. After all, we should love our families. We ought to care most about our neighbors. We should be more concerned with our own city than with people halfway around the world. And yet, this exclusion that is so natural to us, that comes from a place of love for those around us, is condemned by God. In the most striking terms God told Avraham and us that although there will be more than one right answer to the question of being human, that doesn’t mean there won’t be any wrong answers. There is a limit to our experimentation, and Sodom and Gomorrah surpassed that limit when identity and allegiance transformed into callous and cruel exclusion. In the name of those they loved, the people of Sodom and Gomorrah denied the humanity of the outsider, and a mere half-century of this inhumanity was enough for God to shut down the experiment in its entirety.

Avraham and his emerging tribe, on the other hand, were marked by radical inclusion. Everyone was welcome in Avraham and Sarah’s tent. Everyone was invited to the table. There was no such thing as a foreigner. Avraham was so dedicated to the power of welcoming that he sat at the entrance of his tent waiting to greet passersby even as he was recovering from his circumcision. Avraham was fierce in his own convictions, to the point of washing idolaters’ feet before they might bring the dust they had worshipped into his home. At the same time, he welcomed them wholeheartedly, and through his radical welcoming Avraham furthered his mission of telling the world about God, inviting strangers to learn about their creator over a meal, and transforming outsiders into insiders through the common experience of God’s love.

Avraham’s was, and still is, an audacious experiment that could only come from faith in a single God who transcends all tribes and nationalities. It is not easy to keep the tent open, especially as so many of us live in majority cultures trying their own Sodom-like experiments, but our faith in radical welcoming is ultimately a faith in the God of Genesis: a God who cares about all people, loves all nations, and believes in our shared sacred human destiny.

D'Var Haftorah: Heroic Sincerity
Rabbi Mordecai Silverstein, Conservative Yeshiva Faculty

Both Elijah and Elisha were renowned for the miracles that they performed. They miraculously fed the hungry, acted as harbingers of children to barren women, and brought back to life those thought to be dead. In one instance, found in our haftarah, Elisha rewards an act of kindness by an important woman from the town of Shunem who was barren by promising that she would bear a son. The son grew up and once, while visiting his father in the field, fell sick and later, died. The woman traveled to Elisha to tell him her troubles and he sent his servant Gehazi to revive the child, with a precise set of orders: “Gird your loins and take my staff in your hand and go. Should you meet a man, do not greet him, and should a man greet you, do not answer him. And you shall put my staff on the lad’s face.” (4:29) Gehazi did as he was bidden but the youth was not revived until Elisha came and miraculously revived him himself.

Why was Gehazi’s act ineffective? The biblical storyline does not answer that question. This question, however, was the driving force behind the following midrashic rewrite of this episode, found in Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer (chapter 33), an 8th or 9th century collection. The author introduces into the story these details of how Gehazi acted after Elisha commanded him: “And to Gehazi this [mission] was silly in his eyes. And everyone that he met along the way, he would say to them, ‘Do you believe that this staff can revive someone?’ And this is why the mission was unsuccessful until Elisha came by foot and set himself face to face and eye to eye with the dead youth and prayed...” The upshot is that Elisha revived the child.

According to this midrash, Gehazi was commanded to single-mindedly carry out his mission without interruption, all of which he totally disregarded. This was not his only transgression. He also lacked sincerity and the commitment to carrying out his assignment. Imagine any of us taking upon ourselves a responsibility which we treated as a joke. Would anyone take us seriously – a doctor who scoffs at the treatment he or she is offering? A rabbi for whom the performance of mitzvot is performed without heart? Gehazi, in this midrashic telling, is a foil to Elisha’s total commitment and integrity. Gehazi is meant to show us how things should not be done in order to make Elisha’s correct performance look heroic. Of course, all of us have a bit of “Gehazi” in us, which makes it all the more imperative to strive to be like Elisha!


Wed, November 13 2019 15 Cheshvan 5780