Rabbi Rael Blumenthal


#Vayetzei #תשפב

As our daughter Temima arrived home last Friday, I asked her what she had learned in school that day. (For reference, Temima is recently four years old.) Temima: I learned about unicorns and rainbows! Me: Really?! That's what the Morah taught you? Temima: Silly Abba. That's what I was learning about. I don't know what the Morah was doing. But Look Abba, I drew a rainbow!

There's a lot of charm to a four year old's imagination. (And I'm sure we'll hear more about this particular imagination at parent-teacher conferences...) But it dawned on me that our daughter was simply verbalizing a reality which we, as adults, experience all the time, but have conveniently forgotten about. Four year olds are always clearly living in the fuzzy space between tangible reality and their perception of it. But truthfully, so are we all, whether we like to admit it or not.

Simply put: The world that we live in is nothing more or less than a story that we are telling ourselves, about ourselves. We are the protagonists, the directors and the narrators. Everything and everyone is a supporting character in your story.


#Vayetzei #תשפא

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, the brilliant and renowned founder of the mussar movement, once found himself in a wagon traveling to a speaking engagement with a group of jews, who did not recognize him.

As the journey began, he took out sefer and began to learn. But he became distracted by the conversation around him.

“Did you hear about so-and-so?!” One man asked. “No! What happened?” “Well he and his wife...”

Rav Yisrael Salanter, who did not enjoy talking about other people, noticed that one of the horses drawing the wagon was particularly fine. He pointed it out to his companions, who agreed with his estimation, and the conversation quickly moved from one to another – each man telling his best and worst horse stories.

As the wagon arrived in the city, throngs of people gathered to meet Rav Yisrael Salanter. When the travelers realized who their companion was, they turned to him in shock. “Holy Rabbi, for the last two hours we have been talking, laughing and telling stories about horses – surely their was a better use for your time?!”

“Indeed,” said Rav Yisrael, “but just after I took out a sefer, you began to talk about other people. And Chazal teach out that one speaking Lashon Hara is likened to killing a person. I decided that it'd be rather be guilty of to killing horses, than people.”

Many might argue that the sensitivity and dedication of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter belongs to a bygone era of tzadikim. We can tell the story, maybe even aspire to such lofty heights, but we understand that there are levels beyond us, reserved for only the most transcendent and cautious.

But I disagree wholeheartedly.