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MISSION IMPOSSIBLE

by Rabbi Ariel Asa    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

Mission #1: Convince every citizen in your town to spend one hour a week volunteering for a worthwhile cause. "Challenging" is the first word that comes to your mind.

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Mission #1: Convince every citizen in your town to spend one hour a week volunteering for a worthwhile cause. "Challenging" is the first word that comes to your mind.

Mission #2: Convince every citizen in your town to donate $1,000 to a particular charity. A major hurdle, you think to yourself.

Mission #3: Convince every male in your town to undergo an unnecessary surgery without anesthesia. Mission impossible, of course, you muse.

Shechem, the son of Chamor, is depicted in this week's Torah portion as managing to convince an entire city to be circumcised in one day. Where did he gain his power to influence them so totally? The answer lies in his strength of will. Dinah's brothers made circumcision a precondition to keeping Dinah. Shechem's burning desire to keep Dinah as his wife motivated him to the extent that his enthusiasm impelled everyone to listen to his plan.

At the beginning of the Torah portion we find that included in Jacob's message to Esau is the following statement: "Im Lavan garti - I have lived with Laban." Rashi, the fundamental Torah commentator, explains that the word garti, I have lived, has the same numerical value as the Hebrew word taryag, 613. The message was "I have lived with Laban and managed to keep all 613 commandments and I did not learn from his evil ways." Was Jacob one to brag about himself? The Chofetz Chaim, the saintly Torah scholar and leader at the turn of the century, explains that Jacob was critiquing his own service of Hashem. I lived for the last twenty years with an individual who was so enthusiastic about doing evil, but I did not manage to learn how to properly use such enthusiasm in the service of Hashem.

Two of the most wicked men in the Torah both have important lessons to teach us. From Laban we can learn to be vigorous in our service of Hashem, and from Shechem we can strengthen our own enthusiasm for mitzvot which will then have a ripple effect on others.

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This has been an encore presentation from a previous volume of Torah from Dixie.

Rabbi Ariel Asa, an educator at Torah Day School of Atlanta and a practicing mohel, is assistant editor of Torah from Dixie.

You are invited to read more Parshat Vayishlach articles.

Would you recommend this article to a friend? Let us know by sending an e-mail to editor@tfdixie.com

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