Sivan Rahav-Meir
Sivan Rahav-Meir Eyal ben Ayish

* Translation by Yehoshua Siskin (

The language of affection

When we want to say something to someone, even something critical, how should we approach that person? The book of Leviticus, which we begin to read this week, recommends that we open with words of affection.

This principle appears in the first verse of Leviticus: "And he called to Moshe, and the Lord spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting." First, God summons Moshe and only then does He command him. Rashi writes that summoning Moshe was "an expression of affection" that preceded every one of God's communications with him. God first called Moshe by his name, showing him appreciation, recognition, and respect. Only after demonstrating positive regard for Moshe did He convey the content of His message.

Many commentators explain that if this was how God spoke to Moshe Rabbeinu, how much more so should we speak in such a manner to one another. Why give orders at home instead of addressing each member of the family by name, with affection? Why not first turn to our spouse in a pleasant manner and only then say what's on our mind? And what about the way we speak in the workplace, or in the yeshiva, or in the army, or in school, or standing in line at the post office?

The language of affection. Try utilizing it the next time you address another person.

Getting excited for the right reason

My WhatsApp is exploding, and not just mine. First grade kids who want to send letters to the Jews of Ukraine, a family with an empty apartment that wants to host new immigrants, people asking when the next plane from Ukraine is arriving at the airport so they can welcome it, and numerous prayer initiatives and donation campaigns.

Sometimes it seems as if there is not a single Israeli who does not think these days about what he can do to help.

Last Shabbat we finished reading the book of Exodus with its emotional description of the completion of the Mishkan, the spiritual center that accompanied us in the desert. This apparently was the first crowd funding endeavor of our people, a massive donation campaign in which every contributor gave above and beyond his capactiy and all bonded together through an uplifting common cause.

But our sages remind us that just a short time before, a portion of this same people that was now happily building the Mishkan had been making a golden calf and dancing around it. In our own days, there is the beautiful Israeli and the Israeli who is sometimes less than that. And so our sages stated: *"To assess the character of this nation is not a simple matter since when there is a demand to make a golden calf they give, yet when there is a demand to build a Mishkan, they also give."*

In other words, here is a nation with a special character, with much energy, with a tendency to get excited, to get carried away, to join causes with incredible enthusiasm. But this can be dangerous since we might give of ourselves without measure whether a Mishkan or a golden calf is the object of our devotion.

Shabbat Zachor / What do we remember?*

This Shabbat was "Shabbat Zachor" or Shabbat of Remembrance.In the synagogue, along with the Torah portion of the week, we heard the verses that are always read prior to Purim, beginning with: "Remember what Amalek did to you."

Rabbi Yehuda Amital z"l, a Holocaust survivor, briefly explained the war we have today with Amalek. This is not a war against another nation (has anyone seen an Amalekite walking down the street lately?), but rather a war against a perspective on life. Rabbi Amital asks that we focus on the words the Torah uses regarding Amalek: "how he happened upon you on the way."

The words "happened upon you" describe Amalekiteness. It's the idea that everything happens by chance, arbitrarily, that our values change in every generation, if not from one moment to the next, because nothing is absolute and there is nothing to which to aspire.

But our response to this perspective appears in the continuation of the same verse: "on the way." The nation of Israel is always on the way, always on a mission. In the words of Rabbi Amital:

*"Amalek's ideology was, in fact, anti-ideology: Everything is acceptable, everything happens by chance. There is no absolute value to which we must adhere. Doubt is all-pervasive. As opposed to this world view, the nation of Israel has always been 'on the way.' Each one of us has a direction and a purpose with clear values to which he or she is committed. And each detail of our lives is included in our journey along this special path. On Shabbat Zachor, this is what we need to remember, while reminding ourselves of the way that we must go."*

The choice is in our hands, and it's a constant test for each of us. If only we will learn to channel our excitement appropriately, and know when going above an beyond is the right thing to do.