There was once a public debate between a rabbi and an astrophysicist regarding the nature of our universe. The astrophysicist, representing the atheist perspective, confidently approached the podium and began addressing the audience: “I don’t know much about Judaism, but I believe I can sum it up in a few words: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” With that, he went on to detail how physicists could now adequately explain the nature of our universe, without the need for religion. When he finished his speech, it was the rabbi’s turn to address the audience and represent the religious approach. With a sparkle in his eye, he turned to the crowd, and said: “I don’t know much about astrophysics, but I believe I can sum it up in a few words: Twinkle, twinkle, little star, / How I wonder what you are!” With that, he went on to deliver the rest of his speech.

What makes something a “real” experience? 

After marrying two sisters a mere week apart, the Torah says that Yaakov loved Rachel even more than he loved Leah (29:30). The clear implication is that he loved Leah, as well, albeit to a lesser degree. Surprisingly, the very next verse states that Hashem saw that Leah was hated, so He blessed her to bear Yaakov’s first children to gain his affection.

What does it really mean to be a shomer Torah u’mitzvos? 

As Yaakov Avinu prepared for their showdown, he sent Eisav a critical message: im Lavan garti, with Lavan I have lived (B’reishis 32:5). Rashi points out that the Hebrew word garti has the numerical value 613, hinting to taryag mitzvos shamarti. In other words, Yaakov was warning Eisav that despite the decades he spent living in the house of the evil Lavan, he had remained observant of all the mitzvos. This merit would protect Yaakov from any attacks Eisav may have been planning.

There was an elderly carpenter who was ready to retire. He told his boss of his plans to leave the house-building industry in order to enjoy a more leisurely lifestyle with his wife. He would miss the weekly paycheck, but he was ready to retire, and they could get by on his savings. The contractor was sorry to see his best worker go and asked if the carpenter could build just one more house as a personal favor to him. The carpenter was reluctant, as he really was ready to retire, but the contractor pushed him until he relented. However, it soon became clear that his heart was just not in it. He resorted to shoddy, hasty workmanship and used inferior materials. It was an unfortunate way to end a dedicated career. When the carpenter finished his work, his boss came to inspect the house. He then handed the keys to the carpenter and said, “This is your house, as my parting gift to you.”

If I were to ask you, “What is the wealthiest place in the universe?” – what would you answer? You might suggest the banks, the diamond mines, or something along these lines. But in a sense, the wealthiest place in the world is the graveyard. Why?

We should all be more like Eisav

 As Yaakov prepared his masquerade to earn Yitzchak’s blessings, he put on Eisav’s clothes to complete the deception. These were the special garments that Eisav would wear only when spending quality time with his father. Chazal speak reverentially of this practice of Eisav, as it showcased the highest caliber of kibud av (B’reishis Rabbah 65:16).