When I was growing up at camp, Shabbat was a special time. We had a lot of free time to hang out with friends and simply enjoy the day. Towards the end of Shabbat, I would often be walking towards my cabin with friends when we would pass the lake and see the sun setting. It was truly an awesome moment. I would stand still, watching while I could only hear my breath and the natural sounds of the outdoors. Then, one of my friends, would always open his mouth to then say something like, “isn’t this such an amazing moment.” And we would all yell at him for ruining the moment by trying to describe what we were all already feeling.
In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Toldot, Isaac our Father, peace be upon him/יצחק אבינו עליו השלום, works the Land and becomes quite prosperous. “Isaac sowed seed in that land, and in the same year reaped a hundredfold (lit.-one hundred gates). The Lord blessed him, and the man became rich; he prospered more and more until he became very wealthy/ויזרע יצחק בארץ ההיא, וימצא בשנה ההיא מאה שערים. ויברכהו ה'. ויגדל האיש, וילך הלוך וגדל עד כי גדל מאד.” The Sfas Emes teaches that these one hundred gates/me’ah she’arim are opened everyday through the power of the one hundred blessings/brachot that we say. These blessings are explained in the verse, “O how abundant is your goodness that you have laid up for those who fear you/מָה רַב טוּבְךָ אֲשֶׁר-צָפַנְתָּ לִּירֵאֶיךָ.” And therefore, Isaac, the pillar of awe, has the one hundred gates revealed to him as the sages explained the verse “What/ma/מה does God demand of you, but to fear the Lord?” Don’t read it “What/ma/מה”, rather, read it “One hundred/me’ah/מאה.” Only through awe do we merit to receive the blessings that have been laid out for those that fear God.
The Sfas Emes is teaching us that a precondition to receiving the bountiful blessings that God has laid out for us is to have a sense of awe. What exactly is awe? How do we “have” it or “do” it? Heschel writes, “the meaning of awe is to realize that life takes place under wide horizons, horizons that range beyond the span of an individual life or even the life of a nation, a generation, or an era. Awe enables us to perceive in the world intimations of the divine, to sense in small things the beginning of infinite significance, to sense the ultimate in the common and the simple; to feel in the rush of the passing the stillness of the eternal.”
As the seasons change, and as many of us will be seeing lots of family and friends in the upcoming week for Thanksgiving, there will be plenty of opportunities to look at the world around you and feel a sense of awe and wonder. What should you do? Heschel teaches that awe is an “insight better conveyed in attitudes than in words. The more eager we are to express it, the less remains of it.” Don’t say anything. Look at what is around you. Wonder at the awesome. Smile and receive the blessings before you.
 Gen. 26:12-13
 Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (Hebrew יהודה אריה ליב אלתר, 15 April 1847 – 11 January 1905), also known by the title of his main work, the Sfas Emes (Yiddish) or Sefat Emet שפת אמת (Hebrew), was a Hasidic rabbi who succeeded his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, as the Av beis din (head of the rabbinical court) and Rav of Góra Kalwaria, Poland (known in Yiddish as the town of Ger), and succeeded Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Aleksander as Rebbe of the Gerrer Hasidim
 There is a tradition that we should say 100 brachot each day that eventually gets codified into law (Tur O”H 46:3)
 Ps. 31:20
 Isaac represents the quality of awe and fear (Abraham represents love and kindness)
 BT Menachot 43b
 Sfas Emes 1:116
 Heschel, God in Search of Man, pg. 75
Parshat Hayyei Sarah
Yehuda Avner in his book, The Prime Ministers, recalls a conversation that happened on the eve of the 14th of May 1948:
“Hey, Mahler!” shouted Elisha cutting through the hullabaloo. “Our state—what’s its name?”
The violinist stared back blankly. “I don’t know. I didn’t think to ask.”
“You don’t know?”
Mahler shook his head.
“How about Yehuda?” suggested someone. “After all, King David’s kingdom was called Yehuda—Judea.”
“Zion,” cried another. “It’s an obvious choice.”
“Israel!” called a third. “What’s wrong with Israel?”
Let’s drink to that,” said Elisha with delight, breaking open the bottle of wine and filling a tin mug to the brim. “A l’chayim to our new State, whatever its name!”
“Wait!” shouted a Chasid whom everybody knew as Nussen der chazzan--a cantor by calling, and a most diligent volunteer digger from Meah Shearim, the ultra-Orthodox area of Jerusalem. “It’s Shabbos. Kiddush First.”
What we call ourselves, as individuals, as a community, as a people, has great significance. When I introduce myself, do I use my first name, my title, or a nickname? Usually, that depends on who I am introducing myself to, what I want our relationship to be and what I want to say about myself. This week, we read Parshat Hayyei Sarah. After Sarah’s death, Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son, Isaac. The servant prays for a good match to appear before him, and before he is even finished praying, Rebekah appears before him. Rebekah introduces herself as the daughter of Betu’el, the son of Milcah, wife of Nahor. Now, it makes sense to discuss Rebekah’s lineage, since it was Abraham’s express desire to have his son marry from within the tribe. Betu’el, Rebekah’s father, is the son of Nahor who is one of Abraham’s brothers. However, the naming of Milcah, Nahor’s wife, is unusual. Why add her name?
Rabbi Mecklenburg explains that this tells you about the character of Rebekah. She mentions Milcah, because Milcah is the daughter of Haran, Abraham’s other brother. When Abraham was thrown into the fiery furnace for disrespecting local customs, the spectators noticed that he was not affected by the fire. They said to themselves that Haran (who had also been captured) must be some kind of magician. He must be whispering spells that stop the fire from burning Abraham. Immediately, a fire came down from the heavens and consumed Haran. Once he was gone, people knew that Abraham was saved by God. Haran’s death actually increased the awareness of God in the world. This is why Milcah’s name came first when Rebekah introduces herself. She was pointing out that she belonged to a family that made God’s name great in this world. This makes her righteous.
What we call ourselves matters. Whether it’s me, Rebekah our Mother, or the Jewish State. Rebekah makes sure that God is front and center in the beginning of her journey that brings her to her husband. And our choice to call our state “Israel” ensures that we are always known as a people with an intimate relationship with God. This week, we have an opportunity to reflect on how we tell our stories and how we name and highlight the essential components. We thank God for the ability to find joy and blessing in our families and in the relationships that brought us to this point.
 Aver, The Prime Ministers, pg. 65
 Typically, in the Torah the wives and mothers are not listed in this way
 Yaakov Tzvi Mecklenburg (יעקב צבי מקלנבורג) was a German Rabbi and scholar of the 19th century, best known as author of the Torah commentary Haketav VehaKabbalah (HaKsav VeHaKabalah)
 According to Midrashic tradition (not the in written Torah!)
 This version is slightly different that the “famous” version.
 Ha’Ktav V’Hakabbllah, Gen, 24:47
 Israel literally means struggles with God
This week we read Parshat VaYera. The parsha opens with Abraham sitting at the opening of his tent, recovering from his covenantal surgery. “The Lord appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day. He looked up and saw three men standing near him. When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground/וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה' בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא, וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם.”
Who are these people that Abraham sees? The Zohar teaches that these three are in fact our Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The Chernobyler Rebbe teaches that the Holy Torah is inside of every person and in all times, for she is eternal. The Holy Blessed One is found inside of every single Jew, even those that act wickedly or often miss the mark. The proof for this is that everyday, musings of repentance/teshuva come to the wicked. And in this God appears to him/her. And when s/he walks in this, and pays attention, then s/he will say “when will my actions reach the level of my ancestors?” For the ancestors are the chariot that God rides on. When you are part of God’s chariot, you do not lead the way. The rider leads, not the horse. One strives to be led by God, and not by the evil inclination/yeitzer ha’ra.
The Chernobyler is saying that we are all Abraham sitting at the tent opening, struggling to find our next steps. If we pay attention closely, we will see our ancestors and push ourselves to be deserving of their legacy. This weekend is the 22nd anniversary of Yitzhak Rabin’s assassination. We remember the handsome young man who left his agricultural dreams behind to join the Palmah as a soldier and fight for Israel’s independence. We remember the IDF Chief of Staff who liberated Jerusalem. We remember the Prime Minister who seriously pursued an end to the conflict. We remember the recipient of the Nobel Prize the way that he described himself, as a “Soldier in the Army for Peace.”
This week we have an opportunity to look up to those that came before us. We must ask, how can we be more like them? How can I fight for my people? How can I embody the values that my ancestors exemplified? The answer is right in the Chernobyler’s teaching. We need to lift our heads up and look beyond ourselves. When we pay close attention, we can truly see our own shortcomings and see the levels that we would like to reach. May this week bring us the strength to see what God is always showing us: the path that our ancestors paved for us so that we might follow it.
 Gen. 18:1
 Rabbi Menachem Nochum Twersky of Chernobyl (born 1730, Norynsk, Volhynia - died 1787, Chernobyl, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) was the founder of the Chernobyl Hasidic dynasty. He was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch, and published one of the first works of Hasidic thought.
 Me’or Einayim, Parshat VaYera
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.