Friday, February 14, 2020

When We Are United

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In this week's parsha, Yisro, before the giving of the Torah, it says, "and Israel camped (singular) there, towards the mountain." Rashi highlights the word, "and Israel camped there," and explains, "Like one man with one heart, but all the other encampments were with strife, and arguments." 

In parshas Beshalach, it says, "And the Children of Israel lifted their eyes and behold Egypt was chasing (singular) after them." Rashi highlights the words, "chasing after them," and explains, "With one heart like one man." 

it's clear that since the Torah says it in the singular, we know that they were united. And because it says, "there," we know that they were united only there and nowhere else, because it didn't have to say "there," it could have said, "and Israel camped towards the mountain," and we would have understood. 

What is the difference between Israel and Egypt that Rashi chooses to rearrange his words, by Israel he says, "like one man with one heart," and by Egypt he says, "with one heart like one man."? 

Rashi is known for choosing his words very carefully, including the words of the verse he chooses to highlight. It begs the question: Why does Rashi choose to mention Israel in the words of the verse that he highlights, but not Egypt? 

The real question is: What was uniting them? 

By the Egyptians the uniting factor was not that they were Egyptian, but their hatred for the Children of Israel, therefore Rashi doesn't highlight the word "Egypt." Because it was the hatred in their hearts that was causing their unity, Rashi says, "with one heart like one man." In other words, since they were united "with one heart," in their hatred for the Children of Israel, therefore they were "like one man." 

On the other hand, when the Jewish people reached Mount Sinai they were so in touch with their essence, so in touch with their neshama, and at the neshama level we are one, we were one because we are truly one. That is why Rashi highlights the word "Israel," because it was the fact that they were Jewish that they were united. And that is why Rashi says, "like one man with one heart." In other words, because they were "like one man," they were united because they are Jewish, therefore they were "with one heart," wanting to receive the Torah. 

Only the Jewish people are truly one because at our essence we are one. But we see that non Jewish people can also be united in heart, so it's incumbent upon us to be living examples to those who are not Jewish, the Children of Noah, that they should follow the Seven Laws of the Children of Noah. 

The same is with a married couple, they are truly one in their essence, two halves of one neshama. It's true that they may be at odds from time to time, and maybe even have strife and arguments, but if they work together on it with effort and love, they will not only strengthen their relationship, but they can take their marriage to a whole new level. 

In order to receive the Torah, in order to receive the greatest revelation we ever experienced, we had to be united at the neshama level, so too, if we are united we will merit to experience an even greater revelation, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 

Dedicated in honor of our son Moshe who celebrates his birthday this week. We love you and we are proud of you. You have so much love in your heart. 

Friday, February 7, 2020

Tu B'Shvat. Our Anniversary. Shabbos Of Inclusion . Run,4Yitzi

Dedicated to the runners of Team Yitzi who are  running in the Miami Marathon on Sunday, if you would like to support Team Yitzi goto
Print         Tu B'Shvat        Beshalach
This week is Tu B'Shvat, the New Year for trees. There are two opinions as to when the New Year for trees is. Beis Shamai says that it is on the first of the month of Shevat, Rosh Chodesh Shevat, and Beis Hillel says that it is on Tu B'Shvat, the fifteenth of Shevat. 

There is a rule that when there is a dispute between Beis Shamai and Beis Hillel, the law goes according to Beis Hillel, and in this case, that the new year for trees is on Tu B'Shvat. 

What is the basis of their disputes? 

We find in Talmud that Beis Shammai goes according to the potential, and Beis Hillel goes according to the actual. 

For example, In the laws of purity, liquids have different laws than solids. When it comes to a honeycomb, when can the honey become an impure liquid? Beis Shamai says, "when he smokes the hive," although he hasn't yet removed the honeycombs, it's in potential as if he did. Beis Hillel says, "when he removes," the honeycomb, when he actually has it. 

Another example. The lights of Chanukah, Beis Shamai says that we start with eight and we subtract one on every subsequent day, because on the first day there is the potential for eight days of light and on the second day there is the potential of seven days of light, as the first day is no more. Beis Hillel says that we light one on the first night, and on every subsequent day we add one, because in actuality on the first day you have one day and on the second day, you have that day and the one that passed and so on. 

Why is the new year for trees in the month of Shevat, four months after the new year for people, Rosh Hashanah? 

The idea of the new year for trees is that the trees are no longer affected by the water from the previous year, and now they are nourished from the water of the new year. 

The amount of time it takes to have an impact on the trees is four months from the time the water of the year is judged. 

On Sukkos, the fifteenth of Tishrei, we are judged for water and four months later is Tu B'Shvat. 

It's true that the water is actually and openly judged on Sukkos, however in potential it's judged on the first of Tishrei, Rosh Hashanah, when the whole world is judged, including water. It's just that it comes out in the open on Sukkos, the fifteenth of Tishrei. 

Because in potential the water is judged on the first of Tishrei, Beis Shamai says that the new year for trees is four months later, on the first of Shevat, and being that it's actually and openly judged on Sukkos, the fifteenth of Tishrei, Beis Hillel says that the new year for trees is on the fifteenth of Shevat. 

It turns out that even Beis Shamai would agree that actually and openly the new year for trees is on the fifteenth of Shevat. 

What are we meant to learn from Tu B'Shvat? 

Every one of us is like a tree, as the Torah says, "For a man is the tree of the field." 

The idea of a tree is that it gives fruits and from the fruits come new trees. 

So too, every Jewish person has to have an impact on his or her surroundings, on the Jews that they come in contact with, that they should get more involved in their Judaism. They in turn will have an impact on another Jewish person.  Because the greatest blessing a tree can have, is that the trees that come from it should be just like it. As our sages say, "Tree tree, with what should I bless you? That your plantings should be like you." 

This Shabbos many synagogues are celebrating a Shabbos of inclusion, in which people will be learning the value of including our special needs children, brothers and sisters in synagogue life. We have to know that they are also beautiful trees that bear fruit, perhaps the most beautiful and that we can learn the most from them. 

I grew up with my older brother Shalom, who has special needs. It was wonderful how our synagogue included him. He had an amazing impact on my life and the life of everyone he comes in contact with. I believe that I am the person I am because I grew up with him. And I believe that you will find the same about every special needs person. 

Dina and I celebrate our anniversary on Tu B'Shvat. I am so grateful for her, she is a great woman and it's an honor to be her husband. She is having an amazing effect on so many people and I hope that I am too. And that should be one of the goals of a couple, to have a positive effect on their children and their community. We should be blessed that our plantings should be like us. 

When we have a positive impact on our brothers and sisters, we create a ripple effect on our communities and ultimately the entire world. We have to be trees that bare fruit and when we are, we bring Moshiach closer. May he come soon. 

Friday, January 17, 2020

How To Learn Torah

1:1 Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Yehoshua, Yehoshua to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things. 

Why does the Mishnah go through the trouble of mentioning all these five, Moshe, Yehoshua, the Elders, the Prophets, and the Men of the Great Assembly? It could have said simply that Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and gave it to the generations that followed until the Men of the Great Assembly. Why specifically Moshe, Yehoshua, the Elders, the Prophets, and the Men of the Great Assembly? 

Another question. The commentaries tell us that the Elders are the Judges who led the Jewish people from after the time of Yehoshua until the first prophet, Shmuel. Why does the Mishnah change their name from Judges to Elders? By changing Judges to Elders, the Mishnah is telling us that these names are not arbitrary, rather it's trying to teach us something. And being that our Mishnah is talking about the establishment and the strengthening of Torah, we have to conclude that it has something to do with the establishment and strengthening of Torah. What are we meant to learn from them? 

The Mishnah is trying to teach us the traits that are necessary in order to ensure proper Torah study and that we reach Hashem's true intention. 

Moshe. The Torah tells us about Moshe that he was "the humblest of all men." And our sages say that because he made himself small, the Torah is called in his name. The trait of humility readies one to study Torah. 

Yehoshua. The Torah tells us about Yehoshua that "he didn't move from within the tent," where Moshe taught Torah. This means that one has to be totally given over to the study of Torah. Even a person who works every day, when he studies Torah, it should be as if Torah is his whole life. 

After the Tanna tells us the two traits that are necessary as an approach to Torah study, he now tells us three traits that are necessary for the study of Torah itself. 

Elders. Our sages say, "(Who is an) Elder? One who acquires wisdom." In order to acquire Torah, in order that you gain an essential bond with the Torah you learn, you have to be diligent and put toil and effort into it. This is why the Tanna changed the name from Judges to Elders, because we wouldn't learn much from Judges. 

Prophets. When one learns Torah in order to derive the law, he needs help from above to come to the true law. This is akin to prophecy. 

Men of the Great Assembly. Their purpose was to establish the bottom line law, what we should actually do. On top of that, they set up precautions to distance us from breaking the laws. When one learns Torah in order to derive the law, he will delve deeper into the subject, because of the fear that he will not realize Hashem's intention and therefore he will come to the true law. 

This will explain another difficulty in our Mishnah. It says, "They said three things." Why is it important to tell us that they said three things, can't we count? When the other Tannaim say three things, which is quite often in Pirkei Avos, it doesn't say that they said three things. 

There are different opinions as to who said the three things. If we go with the opinion that it's the Men of the Great Assembly, we can say that until this point, when learning Torah, there were only two in play, the Giver of the Torah and the one learning the Torah. Then came the Men of the Great Assembly, whose purpose was to establish the bottom line of the law, in order to know what to do in the real world, in order to refine and purify it, to turn it into a home for Hashem, because that is the reason that He created this world in the first place. So now there are three, Hashem, the one learning and the world. The purpose of creation was finally realized. Before it was understood that there were two things, but "they said (there were) three things." 

Friday, December 27, 2019

Making Vessels Is The Main Thing

Although this is on the Haftora for the second Shabbos of Chanukah it touches on the essence of  Chanukah.

Making Vessels Is The Main Thing 

The Haftora for the second Shabbos of Chanukah is about the vessels that king Shlomo and Chirom made for the first Temple. All communities read this Haftora for the second Shabbos of Chanukah, but  Ashkenazic communities read this also for parshas Vayakhel and Sefardic communities read this also for parshas Pekudei.

The connection to Vayakhel and Pekudei is easy to understand, because they speak about the vessels that Betzalel and Elihav made for the Mishkan. But it's difficult to understand its connection to Chanukah.

The Haftora brings out the theme of the parsha or the holiday. Since everyone reads this on the second Shabbos of Chanukah it means that it's more related to the theme of Chanukah. And being that it's read on the second Shabbos of Chanukah, it's proof that it's more related to Chanukah than the Haftora for the first Shabbos of Chanukah, because we have the rule on Chanukah that "We add in holiness," meaning that the theme of Chanukah gets stronger and stronger as the holiday progresses and we light more and more candles. By explaining how it connects to Chanukah, we will get a deeper appreciation for Vayakhel and Pekudei.

It is difficult to understand how this Haftora connects to Chanukah, because it speaks about making the vessels of the first Temple. True it mentions the extra Menoras that Shlomo made to accompany the Menorah that Moshe made for the Mishkan, but that is only one verse at the end of the Haftora. And it only mentions that he made "five (to go) on the right and five (to go) on the left," and where they were to be placed. However it doesn't mention that they were brought into the Temple or that they were lit, which would make it more in line with the theme of Chanukah. There is even an opinion that the Menoras that Shlomo made weren't lit at all. And even more, there are no other details.

When it comes to the Haftora for the first Shabbos of Chanukah, the prophecy of Zechariah about the Menorah in the second Temple, it's a few verses and it gives details. It's a prophecy specifically about the Menorah and the olive oil, in sync with the Chanukah theme. It turns out that the prophecy of Zechariah is also about the third Temple in the time of Moshiach. 

However our Haftora doesn't seem to have any connection with Chanukah.

The question gets stronger, when you consider that the verses following this Haftora, speaks about how they completed all the work. brought the vessels into the Temple and the Chanukas Beis Hamikdash, the dedication of the Temple, which would be right in line with the story of Chanukah, the rededication of the Temple in the second Temple era, in the time of the Chashmonaim. It's not like they had nothing else to use as the Haftora that they had to use this.

Even more, according to the teaching that "We add in holiness," mentioned above, it would make sense for the Haftora of the first Shabbos of Chanukah to be read on the second Shabbos, because it seems to have more to do with Chanukah. 

Nevertheless the law is that we read this Haftora on the second Shabbos of Chanukah in every community, despite all the objections mentioned above. Therefore we must conclude that this Haftora brings out the theme of Chanukah even more than the Haftora for the first Shabbos of Chanukah. How does it do that?

And what important lesson are we meant to learn from this?

In order to understand this, we first need to understand what Chanukah is all about. It's about turning the darkness into light. First, "The Greeks entered the sanctuary," and "They defiled all of the oil," that was the darkness getting stronger. Then the miracle happened, "They didn't find but one cruise of oil that had the seal of the Kohen Gadol, and it didn't have oil but for one day, and a miracle happened that they lit from it eight days."

It's explained in Chassidus that the miracle is from such a high level, at that level, the darkness doesn't darken, not only does the light brighten the darkness but the darkness itself shines.

That is why they established that we commemorate this miracle with lighting candles, and "the mitzvah is from sunset, until the people finish coming from the market place... until the Tarmudai finish coming." Because the light of the Chanukah candles is about lighting up the darkest place, the market place, where the Tarmudai hang out. The Tarmudai were the lowest of people, they denied Hashem's existence.

In our service to Hashem, it means that we brighten the darkness of the world with "The candle which is the mitzvah and the Torah which is the flame," until we even turn the Tarmudai of existence to light.

In order to understand further, we have to understand why Hashem created this world, and our purpose in the scheme of things.

The Midrash tells us and the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya that the reason that Hashem created this world is because "The Blessed One Be He had a desire that we make Him a home in the lowest realms," which is this lowly physical world.

We do this by the study of Torah, the performance of mitzvos and by making every aspect of our lives for Hashem.

The whole of existence including all of the higher realms, and all the spiritual worlds were created just so we can fulfill our purpose. The same is with our holidays, they are meant to help us with making a home for Hashem, every holiday brings out and accomplishes a different aspect of this, and they are meant to give us the strength to accomplish it throughout the year.

Chanukah also brings out this idea. Chanukah is about transforming darkness into light, to transform the Tarmudai, the opposing forces to Hashem, in this lowly physical world, of which there is no lower.

When it comes to making this world into a home for Hashem, there are two parts that seem to be equal. First there is making vessels to receive G-dliness, then there is filling those vessels with G-dliness.

For example, there is turning a horn into a shofar and then there is using it on Rosh Hashanah for the mitzvah of shofar. There is making the parchment and the ink and then there is writing the mezzuza and affixing it to your doorpost.

But in truth they are not equal, because making a vessel is much more difficult than filling the vessels with G-dliness. Especially when it comes to things or people who are indifferent or opposed to G-dliness. The hardest part is getting them to be open to G-dliness, once they are open to G-dliness, doing a mitzvah with them or filling them with G-dliness is easier to do. To make a vessel, you have to break the resistance of the negative forces, and that is the hardest part.

Especially because this lowly physical world was created to cover over and hide G-dliness. Even more, this world is full of darkness and negative forces that fight the work of making this world into a home for Hashem, making it even harder to make vessels. 

And this is brought out by the Haftora, because it speaks about making the vessels, not using them, not even bringing them into the Temple. And the Haftora is telling us that this is the essence of Chanukah, because in order to turn darkness into light, the main thing is to make the vessels. 

Vayakhel and Pekudei speak about making the vessels of the Mishkan and the Mishkan itself, which was meant to be a home for Hashem. And the Haftora is stressing that the main thing is making the vessels, not using them.

Of course using them is important, but it's the easier part, and therefore less significant.

Once the effort is put in, to break through the darkness and make the vessels, then they could be used for their intended purpose, to be filled with G-dliness.

And this is seen in the miracle of Chanukah, first they had to find the cruise of oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol, which is the vessel, and only then could they have the miracle of the oil burning for eight days.

The Haftora brings this out in several ways.

The first word of the Haftora, "Vayaas," means and he made, stressing the point that the main work to make a home for Hashem, is action, making the vessels.

Why is action most important to make a home for Hashem? Because action is the lowest ability of a person. Even an animal has the ability to do action. Being that this lowly physical realm, is the world of action, it takes action to make a home for Hashem, making vessels for G-dliness.

The second word is Chirom, Chirom's mother was from the tribe of Dan, the lowest tribe. And the Haftora tells us that he made them out of copper, the lowest metal used in the Temple.

It was through action, Chirom and copper, the lowest, of which the vessels were made for the home for Hashem, the Temple.

And then it says, "And Shlomo made all the vessels," referring to the gold vessels. Because even the king of all of Israel, Shlomo, who was from the tribe of Yehuda, the greatest of all the tribes, had to be involved in making vessels. To teach us that no one is exempt from doing the work of making vessels for the light of Hashem.

The same is true about the vessels of the Mishkan, mentioned in Vayakhel and Pekudei. They were made by Betzalel, who was from the tribe of Yehuda, the greatest of all the tribes, and Elihav, who was from the tribe of Dan, the lowest. From the highest to the lowest, everyone should be involved in making vessels for Hashem.

The lesson we are meant to learn from this, is that we all have to make an effort to make a vessel out of a Jew who perhaps is not a vessel yet, because the darkness of the world is covering his or her neshama. And the main thing is to make them into vessels, to be receptive to Hashem, His Torah and Judaism.

Sure we want our brothers and sisters to study Torah and do mitzvos, but that is the easier part, the hardest and most important part is making the vessels. After that the rest is a lot easier.

What does it take to make a vessel? It's done by saying, good morning, good Shabbos and by being accepting of them. By being friendly, loving and caring, you tear down the walls of division and open their hearts and minds to hear and be receptive to Hashem and Torah.

Once they are open to Hashem and Torah, they will want to learn more. However if they don't become a vessel, if they are not receptive, they have no chance for anything else.

Recently in Israel there has been an amazing togetherness between Jewish people from all walks of life. And because of this, so many people are open to Hashem, His Torah and Judaism. It's truly a blessing. Those who are not open to accepting Jewish people who are less observant than them, have no part in this and they should rethink their mode of service to Hashem, because it's not Jewish to be unaccepting of their brothers and sisters. And it's possible that they are pushing them further away from Hashem.

May we merit to see how it was our efforts to make vessels that brought us the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Breaking Through A Dark Place In Your Life

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There are two opinions as to how we should light the Chanukah candles. 

According to Beis Hillel, we light one on the first night and we add an additional candle every night, until the eighth night when we light eight. What is the reason? Because we add in holiness and we don't subtract. 

According to Beis Shamai, we light eight the first night and we subtract one on each of the subsequent nights, until the eighth night when we light one. What is the reason? Because it is like the bulls that were offered in the Temple on Sukkos, on the first day they offered thirteen, and on every subsequent day they offered one less. 

Now we light the Chanukah candles according to Beis Hillel, but when Moshiach comes we will follow the ruling of Beis Shammai. 

My daughter asked this question. 

Why would we light the Chanukah candles according to Beis Shamai when Moshiach comes? Why would we ever light them according to Beis Shamai, isn't it subtracting light? It doesn't make sense! 

The answer. According to Beis Hillel the light of yesterday doesn't exist today, because now that we are in exile, the way we see things is that the light doesn't last. So we have to add every night. 

When Moshiach comes we will see the truth that the light we make in the world is really everlasting. So if we light eight the first night according to Beis Shamai, the second night all the light from the first night is still there, so you don't have to add so many lights to show a greater amount of light, there only has to be seven more the second night.  And we need less and less on the subsequent nights to make a difference. So even Beis Shamai is adding every night. That is why when Moshiach comes we will light the Chanukah candles according to the opinion of Beis Shammai. 

Why all eight the first night? Because in order to break the darkness, you need a tremendous amount of light. Once you break the darkness on the first night, you don't need so much light to continue. Breaking the darkness is the hardest thing, once you do, it's easier from there. 

Doesn't Beis Hillel agree with this? It seems reasonable. Perhaps we can say that Beis Hillel is of the opinion, that even a little bit of light breaks and dispels the darkness. Once there is an opening, it's easy to add more and more light. 

What can we learn from this? 

There are times in a person's life when everything is dark, either for you or someone you know. What can you do to help yourself in this situation, which my wife calls, "The pit"? 

This is what I learned from my wife Dina. 

The pit is a useful place, because every time you are in the pit, you have to learn new coping skills in order to climb out. Sometimes it's going to be a small thing that is going to pull you out of your slump, like Beis Hillel, only a little bit of light breaks the darkness. And other times it's going to take something major to pull you out, like Beis Shamai, it takes a lot of light to break the darkness. Once you have a coping skill, it will remain with you and you will be able to tap into that when going gets tough. 

So the next time you are in the cold and dark pit, you can be strong, take control and look at it as a growth opportunity to learn things that you would never learn if you weren't in the pit. 

When you are in that pit take the time to process emotions in your life that are less than comfortable. Be compassionate to yourself. Life gets difficult and it doesn't do you much good to ignore the logical reactions to your situation. Once you give space to the uncomfortable emotions and let them process, you make room for the joy again. 

That's how you build character and depth of personality. And then you will be equipped to be there for another who is going through a rough patch, because you will truly understand. 

May we all have a happy Chanukah and may Hashem send Moshiach and do away with the pit once and for all. May he come soon. 

Friday, December 20, 2019

A Lesson In Relationships. Where You Are Matters

A Lesson In Relationships. Where You Are Matters

When you first start to learn Pirkei Avos, questions arise about its location. It's in the order of Nezikin after tractate Sanhedrin, in the middle of the Mishnah.

The first Mishnah of Pirkei Avos begins with the transmission of the oral tradition, which is the basis of the Mishnah, "Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and gave it over to Yehoshua, Yehoshua to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets gave it over to the Men of the Great Assembly."

If it's trying to prove that the oral tradition is from Sinai, then shouldn't it be at the beginning of the Mishnah? Why is it at the beginning of Pirkei Avos, in the middle of the Mishnah?

The entire Mishnah with the exception of Pirkei Avos deals with the details of mitzvos, so we don't have a question if they are from Sinai, because they are mitzvos.

When it comes to Pirkei Avos there are no laws, no mitzvos, it's ethics and virtues of piety, and being that there are many books on ethics from non Jewish sources, one can think that these ethics are just some thoughts from the Rabbis, and not from Hashem, because it isn't laws. Therefore the first Mishnah of Pirkei Avos establishes that these ethics are also from Sinai, from Hashem, and not just the Rabbi's thoughts.

Why is it after tractate Sanhedrin?

Because Sanhedrin is the laws that pertain to judges and Pirkei Avos tells us how judges should act, and how we should treat judges. So it is apropos that Pirkei Avos is right after Sanhedrin.

This brings us to the fourth and fifth rule of Pirkei Avos.

Rule #4: The order of things matter in Pirkei Avos.

Therefore questions like, "Why is this Mishnah before or after this one?" and "Why are these two sages included in one Mishnah, while usually each sage gets their own Mishnah?" are perfectly valid.

Rule #5 : Everything is up for question, every word, every phrase, and even the order of things is up for question.

This is true in all of the Mishnah as well, as the Talmud picks apart every Mishnah. But there is no Talmud on Pirkei Avos, so it is up to us to do the asking. Many of the questions have been answered by the classic commentaries, some of them have been answered by our great sages throughout our history, and there are some waiting for you to find answers to.

What can we learn from this that the order of things matter?

We all are busy with the responsibilities and hardships of life. But every so often, we have to ask ourselves: Where are we holding in life, in our service to Hashem, and in our relationships? This has to be done often in order that you shouldn't fall behind, especially in your relationship with your spouse and your children, because who is more important than them in your life. And if you put it off, you could be causing the ones you love unnecessary suffering and it will be hard to put the broken pieces back together. And this will cause you untold amount of suffering and you will feel alone, just as your loved ones felt when you were there, but absent.

It is easier to repair your relationship with Hashem than with your spouse or your children. So please don't let it get to that point and if it has gotten there already, do everything in your power to get your relationships back to loving and I believe that it's possible to make it even better than it ever was.

May your relationships be void of a hurt and suffering. Having a good relationship with your spouse and children is a prerequisite for having a good relationship with Hashem. Because the pain and hurt will be too much for you to concentrate on your relationship with Hashem, and if you are the cause of their pain, I don't know if Hashem wants to have a relationship with you. At the same time, it's your, your spouse's and your children's relationship with Hashem that will help you rebuild the relationship.

So take the time every day to think about where you are at and work on your relationships with your spouse, your children and Hashem. What can be better than that.

Friday, December 13, 2019

Every One of Us Is Eternal And Can Change The World

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More reasons for saying Kol Yisrael before Pirkei Avos. 

Another reason we say Kol Yisrael before Pirkei Avos is because it's virtues of piety, and one can think that it doesn't apply to him or her. Therefore we preface Pirkei Avos with the Mishnah of Kol Yisrael, to let us know that each and every one of us could keep the words of Pirkei Avos, and is obligated to keep them. 

This brings us to the third rule of Pirkei Avos. 

Rule #3: Every saying in Pirkei Avos pertains to every single one of us. 

That means that you have to take the time to apply the sayings to your life and your circumstances. And that everyone has a personal way of seeing and understanding the teachings of Pirkei Avos, and that is the preferred method of learning them. It doesn't mean that you should make things up, rather within the common understanding of the teachings and according to the accepted commentaries, find what resonates with you and apply it to your life. 

Another reason. The world to come is the reward for the mitzvos we do. And being that a lot of Pirkei Avos speaks about the greatness of the study of Torah and its preservation, therefore Kol Yisrael is said before Pirkei Avos, to stress that, "It is not the study that is the main thing, rather the action." 

Another reason. Pirkei Avos is a preparation for receiving the Torah on Shavuoth. The first preparation has to be in the area of loving your fellow Jew. As our sages say, "Any Torah that doesn't have work with it, will be nullified in the end." And the Baal Shem Tov says that the word "work" here means loving your fellow Jew. A person may think, "Why should I waste my time with this person who isn't so involved, it would be better for me to use the time studying Torah." This is why we say, "Every one of Israel have a portion in the world to come." This world is a false world, we perceive things upside-down, that is why he sees the other person as lower than him. When Moshiach comes and we will inherit the world to come, our perception will be true, and perhaps he will see that the other person is greater than him. 

And when one has success in his work in the mitzvah of loving your fellow Jew, he shouldn't think it's on his strength alone that he had such a tremendous effect on this person, rather it is from Moshe who loved the Jewish people, and he passed it on to Yehoshua, who passed it on to the elders... who passed it on to the leaders of the generations, the Moshe of every generation, until the present time. 

Another reason. Our sages say that the Jewish people and the Torah preceded the world, and the Jewish people preceded the Torah, as "The thought of (the Children of) Israel preceded everything." Therefore, before saying Pirkei Avos, which is a preparation for receiving the Torah, which is eternal, we learn about the eternity of the Jewish people. "All of Israel have a portion in the world to come," the world of the living, which is an eternal reward. And why is that? Because we are, "The branch of His planting," and " the work of His hands." 

And even more, we make this world eternal through our Torah, prayer and acts of kindness, mentioned at the beginning of the first chapter of Pirkei Avos, and justice, truth, and peace, mentioned at the end of the chapter. 

Through our actions and through our love for every Jewish person, we bring Moshiach. May he come soon.