Friday, 28 October, 2022 - 6:00 am

A Texas State trooper pulled a car over on I-35 about 2 miles south of Waco, Texas.
When the trooper asked the driver why he was speeding, the driver said he was a Magician and Juggler and was on his way to Austin, Texas to do a show for the Shrine Circus. He didn’t want to be late.
The trooper told the driver he was fascinated by juggling and said if the driver would do a little juggling for him then he wouldn’t give him a ticket. He told the trooper he had sent his equipment ahead and didn’t have anything to juggle. The trooper said he had some torches in the trunk and asked if he could juggle them. The juggler said he could, so the trooper got 5 torches, lit them, and handed them to him.
While the man was standing on the side of the highway and juggling, a car pulled in behind the State Troopers car. A drunken good old boy from central Texas got out, watched the performance, then went over to the Trooper’s car, opened the rear door, and got in.
The trooper observed him and went over to the State car, opened the door asking the drunk what he thought he was doing.
The drunk replied, “You might as well take me straight to jail because there isn’t no way I can pass that test.”
There are two Torah portions that begin in a similar manner: This week’s Torah portion, Noach, begins with the words: “These are the offspring of Noach.” In four weeks, the Torah portion begins “These are the offspring of Yitzchak.” Obviously, both these Torah readings could not be called Toldot, for that would be confusing, as each portion needs its own name. However, since we always try to name the portion with one of the opening words of the portion, it would seem logical that Noach, the Torah portion that appears first, be called Toldot (not “Noach”), and the second portion which begins the same way be called Yitzchak, not Toldot?
The Rebbe explained that this order was precise to teach the Jewish people, and the world, a vital lesson in life, relevant today perhaps more than ever: You can’t have Toldot before Noach; you can only have Toldot after Noach.
The word Toldot means children, offspring, or progeny. The word Noach means serenity, tranquility, calmness, and peacefulness. Before you raise children, Toldot, you must first cultivate Noach—inner peace and serenity.
The Midrash teaches that Toldot refers not only to biological children but also to spiritual children, as our Sages declared, “The essential progeny of righteous people are their good deeds.” The impact we make on other people, the light we generate in the world through our deeds and actions, and the students, friends, and strangers we inspire and touch, are also considered our spiritual children. Here too, before you engage in Toldot—you must first learn to find Noach, tranquility, and serenity.
We often raise children, or grandchildren, with anxiety and stress. There is so much to do, so much to accomplish, so much homework, and so many duties, and hobbies, to keep up with what we call a normal successful life.
But in this simple switch of names, Judaism is teaching us something fundamental. Serenity comes first. If you are raising kids or doing mitzvot, with stress, guilt, and tension, you are undermining your very efforts, defeating the purpose, and creating something external, not deep, and enduring.
In the prayers of Sukkot, we have a special prayer asking G-d to rescue my soul from panic, confusion, chaos, and disorder. The internally strong and calm person is loved and revered. Even when a flood comes their way, they master the art of Noach—of inner peace.
How insignificant are all external pursuits in comparison with a serene life, a life that dwells in the ocean of truth, beneath the waves, beyond the reach of tempests, in the eternal calm?
Only then can we effectively have Toldot: raise children and disciples; only then can we truly have an impact on people and create “spiritual children.”
The story is told of a woodcutter, hacking away ineffectually at a very large pile of wood with a dull, blunt-edged axe. A well-meaning stranger comes along, notices the situation, and suggests that he sharpen his blade.
“I haven’t got time!” exclaims the woodcutter impatiently. “Can’t you see all the work I have ahead of me?”
Silly woodcutter! Obviously, he’d be far more successful if he were to take the time to sharpen his axe. But we often deceive ourselves in the same way. We barrel through our days burdened with unnecessary tension.
At the root of our delusion lies the assumption that we can’t control what we think. The mind is an unceasing torrent, and the stream tends to flow in well-worn ruts. We think somewhere between 60,000 and 75,000 thoughts a day, neurologists estimate, and it is the quality of those thoughts that establishes the tone in our nervous systems. Positive, optimistic thoughts set us up for success; a habitual pattern of negative thinking perpetuates failure.
The truth is, we can choose our thoughts like we choose tomatoes. We can weed out thoughts that are toxic and counterproductive—like the harsh self-accusations of our inner critic. We can replace a negative thought with a better one, one that brightens the way we see the world. Ultimately, who we are and what we accomplish are determined by our perception and where it takes us. The eminent 20th-century psychologist Viktor Frankl said, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”
Or as the Baal Shem Tov once said: “Sometimes our entire service of G-d lay in dealing with your present thought.”
This is not always the case.
Some of us carry in our bodies lots of inner trauma, and we don’t know how to relax.
We then owe it to ourselves and our Toldot, our children, to seek the help we need.
It is a hilarious story—and a very deep one at the same time.
I came across this week a news item about a Turkish man who out of the goodness of his heart joined a search party for a missing person.
There was one thing he did not realize: The person everyone was looking for was him!
What a fantastic story it happened in the town of Inegol, northwest Turkey, a man by the name of Beyhan Mutlu, 51, a Turkish construction worker, went drinking with his friends in a forest. After he had drunk enough, he left his friends and didn't return home.
His wife was unable to reach him on his cellphone, and officials were advised that his friends lost him after he wandered into a forest.
A search party was sent for in the dark of night.
While Mutlu was sleeping in a house in the forest, military forces and rescue teams were called in to search for him.
Mutlu woke up at dawn, it was still dark. He came out of the house in the forest and encountered members of the search party. He soon learned that they were searching for a man who got lost here last night…
He decided to help them find the missing person. For hours, he was searching with them for the person who went missing…
During the hours-long search, in the dark of night, a potential rescuer shouted Mutlu's name: Beyhan Mutlu, Beyhan Mutlu, Beyhan Mutlu—and it dawned on him: OMG! He was the target of the search.
 It was then that he realized the search party was looking for him. "Who are we looking for? I am here," he said.
But they did not believe him. They thought he was insane; after all, he was searching together with them, how can he be the lost man?!
Only when one of his drinking buddies came across him and identified him, did the search cease.
What a powerful, metaphor for life! Sometimes I spend my life searching for myself, everywhere. The only place I do not search is right here, within myself.
Toldot represents my impact on others—it is the offspring of my life, biologically, financially, and spiritually. But for that to be truly effective, I need to search in my own—and discover my Noach: My internal state vis-a-vis myself. I’m I internally whole and peaceful? Do I have an internal epicenter? An intimate and genuine relationship with G-d? A space of wholeness in the eye of the storm?
"Many years ago," Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov told his disciples, "in the holy city of Safed, there lived a simple but G‑d-fearing Jew. Though not blessed with a great mind or with any exceptional talents, he served G‑d with a whole heart and a humble spirit.
"Late one night, there was a knock on his door. On his threshold stood an old man with a long white beard and a countenance as radiant as the heavens. 'I am Elijah the Prophet,' said the visitor. 'I have come to open your mind and heart and teach you the deepest secrets of creation.'
"'On the day of your Bar Mitzvah,' continued Elijah, 'you did a great and wondrous deed, a deed which reverberated through all the universes. The angels and souls that dwell on high all wondered: what has this man done that has flooded the heavens with this magnificent light, such as has not been seen for many generations? But your deed was too radiant for us to behold.
"'Tell me what it was that you did,' said Elijah, 'and I will reveal to your things that only the greatest souls are privy to.'"
"'What I did,' replied the simple Jew of Safad, 'I did for G‑d alone. It is not for the knowledge of any creature, man, or angel.'
"Elijah pleaded and cajoled, promising even greater spiritual gifts. But the man was steadfast in his refusal, and the prophet-angel departed empty-handed.
"In my previous life," concluded the Baal Shem Tov, "I was that man."
What the Baal Shem Tov meant was that his soul came to the world to teach the essence of serenity: I do nothing for anyone or anybody else; I just do it for G-d Himself.
The Baal Shem Tov was the master of serenity—and he taught us the art of Noach, serenity. To live in a sacred space, beneath all the waves, in an inner calm of confidence and truthfulness.
What is a Jew? Someone asked the holy master Reb Yitzchak Vorker.
“To be a Jew,” he said, “is to dance while you are sitting in one place; to scream while you are silent, and to be alone even when you are among a thousand people.”

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Yoseph Geisinsky


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