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December 29, 2014

“Our habits affect everything from our mood in the morning to our training.” ~ @rebsoni (Olympic Swimmer Rebecca Soni)

Below is a summary of this week’s Torah Parsha (portion) Vayechi from – Vayechi,

The Parsha, Torah portion, opens with Jacob on his deathbed 17 years after arriving in Egypt. Jacob blesses Joseph’s two sons, Manasseh (Menashe) and Ephraim (to this day it is a tradition to bless our sons every Shabbat evening with the blessing, “May the Almighty make you like Ephraim and Manasseh” — they grew up in the Diaspora amongst foreign influences and still remained devoted to the Torah. The Shabbat evening blessing for girls is “to be like Sarah, Rivka, Rachel and Leah.”) He then individually blesses each of his sons. The blessings are prophetic and give reproof, where necessary.

A large retinue from Pharaoh’s court accompanies the family to Hebron to bury Jacob in the Ma’arat Hamachpela, the burial cave purchased by Abraham. The Torah portion ends with the death of Joseph and his binding the Israelites to bring his remains with them for burial when they are redeemed from slavery and go to the land of Israel. Thus ends the book of Genesis!

2014-12-25 10.05.19Last week while running I noticed a book on the side of the road titled “The Power of Habit” thrown out by someone. I wished I could pick it up as it looked like an interesting book to read (I even considered driving there later in the day to pick it up). Later on the run I went past a girl. Some cyclists went past and said hi to her. I said to the girl that it was such a beautiful day and we should have been riding rather. She answered “my program said run today”. Sam who loves his routine called us from Bnei Akiva Camp that he was worried he could not shower as there was only cold water! How could he not shower before Shabbos? He did eventually have a cold shower.

We are all creatures of habit and routine. We all have both good and bad habits.

In this week’s Parsha it says – “So Yoseph went up to bury his father, and all Pharaoh’s servants, the elders of his house, and all the elders of the land of Egypt went up with him..”. Below is something I read on the Sheam Yisrael website re Habits[1].

At the funeral an argument broke out between Yoseph’s brothers and Esav. Esav claimed title to the burial ground…. Among those present was Chushim, the son of Dan, who was deaf; he asked them, ‘What is happening?‘ They said to him, ‘[Esav] is preventing [the burial] until Naphtali returns from the land of Egypt’. He retorted: ‘Is my grandfather to lie there in disrespect until Naphtali returns from the land of Egypt!‘ He took a club and struck [Esav] on the head so that his eyes fell out and rolled to the feet of Yaakov….

This Gemara teaches us a remarkable fact about habit. Quite often tragedy comes upon a person as a product of a series of events. The result is now an intolerable and shameful situation. However, since the present situation didn’t happen suddenly, but was rather a slow unfolding of unfortunate occurrences, one’s sense of clear and honest evaluation becomes dulled. Eventually he comes to terms with a situation which in different circumstances would be absurd to him.

We learn from here a powerful insight into human nature. Human beings can become accustomed to anything. Is this always bad? No. Sometimes it’s a blessing. People could not live without the ability to adjust. We often find ourselves in terrible situations and cannot imagine how we will survive. But, Baruch Hashem, we learn to adapt and become resilient.

However, there is a terrible downside to this phenomenon. We can become accustomed to anything – to murder, to violence, to all types of corruption. The lesson here is that there are times when a person must say, “I’m not supposed to become accustomed to this. I should always react with disgust and revulsion to certain situations.”

This, unfortunately, often happens to us. We find ourselves in a situation saying, “This is terrible. I can’t take the office. I can’t take the dirt. I can’t take the lewd language. I can’t take the innuendoes; I can’t take any of it!”

Our response should be, “You should always feel like that, because if you become accustomed to it, that is bad.” There are some situations in life to which we must always react with disgust. The acceptance of an intolerable situation is itself, the start of the problem.

I love listening to Podcasts featuring John Joseph. John is a musician, Ironman and Vegan PLUS he is never shy to mince his words (I won’t include any swear words). I loved these quotes from him

“Make the friggin’ time. Get your ass out of bed 20 minutes early. You can sleep when you’re dead.”

“I’m burning calories and the ghosts of my past – train hard eat good be kind and enjoy life”



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