Vayechi : To Be Honest With You...

Last Shabbos, my 17-year-old daughter's best friend had her apartment to herself.  Her parents went away, her married sister took the younger siblings, one boy is at yeshiva, and she … had her own apartment.  So, instead of going out, she invited eight of her friends from school and they all made Shabbos together.  The class is quite diverse in terms of Ashkanazim and Sfardim, with different backgrounds and styles.  So my daughter enjoyed seeing first-hand how everybody's families kept Shabbos via what the daughter did and the foods she made.

She also learned the importance of the "Shabbos Sfardi," which is similar to the "Shabbos Goy," but even better in some ways.  In some areas, Sfardim, at least those who follow Rav Ovadia Yosef, are more lenient than Ashkanazim.  So, when an issue came up, such as heating up certain foods, or opening bottles with metal tops, the Sfardim were put to work, since they were allowed to do things the Ashkanazim couldn't.  I've always been a big believer in keeping a "Shabbos Sfardi" in your pocket, just in case, and I can't complain about their food either.

"You, Yehudah, your brothers will praise" (Bereishis 49: 8).

The Targum Yonason comments, that because Yehudah acknowledged what he did with Tamar, all of his brothers will be called by his name (Yehudi).

This is something of a big deal here.  Yehudah, knowing it would make him look not-so-good, publicly acknowledged that he was the father of Tamar's soon to be child.  And because of THIS specific characteristic in Yehudah, the Jewish people were to be called "Yehudim" after him.

We learn from this the power of truth and acknowledging the truth.  All the moreso, when the truth might hurt.

I remember telling my Rosh Yeshiva about a couple I heard of.  He was learning in kollel and his wife supported him by … forging diplomas from universities.  When I told him this, he laughed and said, "And he's learning Toras HaEmes (the Torah of Truth)?"

Just the other night, I was listening to a talk between an interviewer and a principal of a chassidish school in America.  The principal himself was an experienced educator, but new at the position he's in, so he himself was being forced to struggle with the many new aspects. The topic was about when is it appropriate to bring up "the birds and the bees" to children.  The interviewer was bringing up several points and one of them hit upon molestation and the importance of education at an early age in order to protect the children.  Of course, the entire topic is sensitive and not so simple, and there was a lot of "back and forth" between the two in terms of finding the right time and path to educate.

After hearing several points, the principal was silently thinking, and he said, "I'll be honest with you.  You've raised some excellent points.  Some that I've never thought of.  Not only that, if I answered you honestly, I would contradict myself in a similar stance I take on a different scenario. I really can't give you an honest answer, since I really need to think about what you said."

Frankly, it was shocking to hear such raw honesty.  It was also quite refreshing.  And it forced me to respect him as a man.

I'll give another small example. Several years ago, one of my children was experiencing strange symptoms.  My wife did her research and thought that he was suffering from a rare type of virus (or something like that, I forgot), and sent me and the child to the doctor.  I told the doctor, whom we have an excellent relationship with, everything my wife said.  He did his own set of tests on my son and said, "I'll be honest.  I don't think that's what's wrong.  However, if your wife thinks so, I think it makes sense to go to a specialist.  Try to make an appointment with Doctor So-and-So, and if you can't get one within two weeks, call me and I'll see what I can do to get one.  In the end, to both doctor's surprise, my wife was proven correct.  While most doctors would have simply dismissed what my wife said, despite her reasoning and evidence, this doctor was able to put his ego to the side and admit that he could be wrong.  And because of his desire to get to the truth of the matter, my son was able to get the appropriate treatment.

Honestly is useful in all areas of life.  However, honesty with oneself is extremely difficult, yet extremely rewarding.  A person who is honest with himself, will be more likely to be honest with others, and can grow in ways that others cannot.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!