Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Parsha Vayishlach – Keeping The Jewish People Holy

Cult leaders often force members into harmful behaviors by using various forms of coercion, mind control and threats of divine punishment. Most cults are usually small groups who live in an insular society detached from civilization, which gives them the ability to control the members of the group. But convincing a large population to physically harm themselves is nearly impossible unless they believe it is truly in their best interest.

In Parshas Vayishlach. Shechem, the prince of the Chivi nation, committed a terrible atrocity on Yaakov’s daughter, Dinah. Shechem and his father Chamor, the king, met with Yaakov and his sons to convince them to allow Shechem to marry Dinah. They proposed a full merger of Yaakov’s family and theirs. With a rescue plan in mind, the sons of Yaakov responded they would agree if the Chivi would all circumcise themselves. Shechem and Chamor met with their people and, shockingly, they all agreed to circumcise themselves!

This looks like cult-style leadership, convincing a group the size of a city to perform surgery on themselves! Was the opportunity to marry the children of Yaakov and have open commerce with them really so enticing that all men were willing to have this painful procedure performed?
Shechem was a prince and could marry any girl he chose. According to the Shach, Shechem was specifically attracted to Dinah because of her sanctity as the daughter of Yaakov, the Patriarch of the Jewish nation. The pasuk says Shechem’s soul became attached to the daughter of Yaakov. Shechem and Chamor were not cult leaders; there was no mind control or coercion here. The people jumped at the opportunity to attach themselves to the kedusha (holiness) of klal Yisrael. Even having open trade with Yaakov and his family was considered a connection with holiness. As the Gemara tells us, whoever marries the daughter of a talmid chacham, and one who does business with a talmid chacham, and one who gives benefit to a talmid chacham, it is as if he is clinging to the Shechina.

A midrash expounds on four different terminologies in Iyov: Lo shalavti, I was not secure; lo shakatati, I was not quiet; lo nachti, I was not at rest; and vayavo rogez, torment has come. These refer to four challenging periods in Yaakov’s life: living with Eisav and Lavan, the abduction of Dinah, and the disappearance of Yosef. Yaakov was given these four challenges to give his future generations the ability to endure and overcome future exiles. This is set forth in another midrash, which assigns these four terminologies to the four exiles klal Yisrael endured: Bavel, Madai, Yavan and Edom.

Rav Gedalia Schorr notes that the challenge of Dinah and the exile of Yavan, Greece—the source of our Chanukah story—have in common “wanting something for nothing.” Shechem and his people were willing to endure physical pain to marry into klal Yisrael in order to attach themselves to the sanctity and godliness of klal Yisrael. The Greeks were attracted to certain aspects of the kedusha of the Jewish people and wanted some of this sanctity for themselves. They used the Beis Hamikdash for their own purposes, offering their own sacrifices on the Mizbeach. They also wanted to intermarry with the Jewish people and connect with their sanctity. However, sanctity comes with responsibilities. Sanctity is not just for show; you can’t get something for nothing. Shechem and the Greeks desperately wanted to connect to and benefit from the holiness of the Jew, but they were not willing to live a life of sanctity.

People who interact with non-Jews in college, the workplace or otherwise are challenged with how to act properly in social situations and maintain their sanctity. In many businesses, social get-togethers are arranged to create close friendships and relationships among colleagues. Yaakov saw this approach with Shechem, and the Jews at the time of Chanukah saw this with the Greeks. The intrinsic holiness inside each Jew attracts outsiders, but we must tread carefully. Relationships with non-Jews expose us to their culture and ideology. Without vigilance on our part, this exposure can easily pull us away from our closeness to Hashem and our inner Godliness. We should be friendly and cordial, but close, intimate friendships are dangerous.

When we light the menorah by our window or outside our front door, we signify that the light and sanctity of the Jewish people are developed in the Jewish home and serve to illuminate the otherwise dark outside world.

Aleeza Ben Shalom – Prepare For The Date

Starting conversations on the first few dates can be challenging. How you present yourself can make or break the potential for a relationship. How do you tell your life story without boring your date, and convey the salient insights your date needs to get you?

Here are some dos and don’ts on how to get the conversation rolling:


Before you go on your date, give yourself a pep talk. Remember: your story matters, you matter, and what you will share with your date matters. Don’t psych yourself out, psych yourself up! Show up on your date with a positive attitude. This is the best way to put your best self forward.


The beginning and end of your date are crucial and memorable points in your time together. Don’t complicate them with heavy conversation. The deepest part of your conversations should happen in the middle of your date. Your greeting should make your date feel good and connected to you. So be friendly and end warmly, leaving open a possibility for another date, if you so choose.


It is important to be intentional when choosing the life experiences that you will share on a date. Try not to share stories just for the sake of sharing. Choose aspects of your life to share that will truly show your date what has made you who you are today, what kind of person you are, and your ambitions for the future. Some great questions to ask yourself as well as your date include: What are my primary goals in life? What are my core values? Why did I choose this career? Am I satisfied with it? What really makes me happy? What are my secret dreams and ambitions? Why haven’t I fulfilled them yet? And remember, it’s a give and take conversation so make sure to ask your date about their story as well.


For many singles this is one of the most difficult things to do on a date. As mentioned above, to share a story just for the sake of sharing isn’t reason enough. You are telling your story in order to show who you are, your values and beliefs, or to show something you two have in common. To truly connect you must be vulnerable and open up to your date. Try sharing something you don’t normally share with others. This does not mean you should disclose any extra personal information you are not comfortable with sharing, but getting to know a date requires a different sort of conversation than if you are just getting to know a friend. Your conversation does not have to be especially heavy, but make it meaningful. Remember, you and your date are not in competition to out-story the other person. If you have something meaningful to share that will help you connect, share it.


Location matters. If you’re looking to form a deep connection with your date through conversation, you need to pick a place where you can focus and feel comfortable. Avoid loud or crowded areas like busy restaurants or parks with a lot of people (kind of easy to do these days). Choose somewhere you can be free from distractions to allow for a more intimate atmosphere. The less public a place is, the easier it will be to open up. Where you’re most comfortable, you’ll be most interesting. Maybe you’re most comfortable while taking a walk so you aren’t forced to look someone in the eye. Maybe you prefer to sit face to face over a cup of coffee and look your date in the eye and receive that visual feedback that shows that they “get you.”

And if during the pandemic you go on a virtual date, make sure you set yourself up in a private space and good wifi connection!

Sometimes there will be an unavoidable awkward silence. This is okay. Better the occasional silent moments then fill the space with meaningless rambling. May you get comfortable with being uncomfortable and find someone wonderful to converse with.

Originally published on Aish.com