Vayechi : Weapons of Choice

I relearned an important lesson yesterday.


There seems to be this "custom" here for boys and girls who are close to bar/bat mitzvah to fast the entire last three fasts before their bar/bat mitzvah.  My daughter was, of course, planning to do this, which would have been Tisha B'Av, Tzom Gedaliah, and Yom Kippur.  My wife wasn't a fan of this idea, since she's rather petite, and if she doesn't have to fast, why should she.


So, I asked a rav, and he said the whole thing was nonsense, and she should fast what she could do and that's it, even on Yom Kippur.  With that, my daughter did her "half a day" fast, and that was that.


Yesterday, I was looking in a sefer with questions and answers from Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach on the halachos of fasting.  I just happened to catch him say that there was this "custom" to for kids to fast, etc., and it has no source whatsoever, and should not be done.


Just a reminder that when the masses are doing something, and no one can give you a source . . . always check into it with a rav.


(Just a note—this goes both ways, when the masses are being stringent or are taking things lightly.)


“Shimon and Levi are brothers; tools of violence (or “violently misappropriated tools”) are their weapons” (Bereishis 49:5).


Rav Shach, when speaking to the Agudas Yisroel Convention in 1980, said, “Yaakov and Eisav are two different entities—two opposites.  This one’s power is in his mouth, while this one lives by the sword.  When Yaakov’s children take up the sword he says to them, ‘Tools of violence are their weapons.’ Rashi explains this to mean: ‘The craft of killing is the blessing of Eisav!  This craft belongs to him, and you have violently misappropriated it from him!’


“We must know that the sword belongs to Eisav, and if it is found in our hands, it has been misappropriated!  We have a different approach to life.  Yaakov’s words, ‘my sword and my bow’ (Bereishis 48:22) are rendered by the Targum as ‘my prayer and my supplication.’  These are our forefather’s true weapons.  Our power is only in our mouths.  The secret of our survival lies in our Torah study and prayer!”


As we’ve mentioned many times here, people put their faith in the army or groups like the JDL or whatnot.  It is true, every person must do hishtadlus (effort) to accomplish things, but it need not be THE answer.  For taking up arms is not THE answer for us.  It’s merely a thing that we need to do.  But the REAL effort comes from one’s learning and davening.  If Eisav fights by the sword, which is his "weapon of choice" against Yaakov and his sword, which is not his "weapon of choice," Eisav WILL overcome eventually.  This is HIS way of fighting after all.  But if Yaakov uses HIS "weapon of choice," which is his mouth in prayer, HE will overcome.


Have a wonderful Shabbos!


Michael Winner