Friday, January 13, 2017

A Parent's Living Will

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In parshas Vayechi, we read about Yaakov's last words to his children and Yosef's last words to his brothers. In the Haftora we read of King David's last words of advice and instruction to his son Shlomo.

From both the parsha and the haftorah we see the importance of advising our children before the day comes.

The thing is, that we don't know when that day will come. As for me, Hashem has chosen to give me ALS, and since the diagnosis, the day has been staring me in the face. My wife Dina, and good friends whose parents have passed on, have been trying to impress upon me, the importance of writing a living will. At first, I was being stubborn, not wanting to consider the suggestion that the day might come. But then, a few of my friends suddenly passed, which got me thinking, that it is probably a good idea for everyone to do, even those that are healthy.

Now that I have started, it has become so meaningful to me, as it has given me a clarity of what I really want, for my family in general, and for my wife and each of my children specifically. I don't plan to wait for them to find out, when my time comes. As soon as I am done, I will share it with them, so that they know how I feel about them, what I think they are capable of, and what I wish for them.

A father's and mother's advice, is so powerful and cherished by their children. Even if they ignore it now, eventually it will have a tremendous impact.

My suggestion to every parent, and anyone who has been a teacher or mentor to someone they truly care about. Start the process of writing a living will, and you will find it meaningful, it will give you clarity and your family will be grateful that you did it.

May we be a guiding light to our families and merit Hashem's blessing, to see them turn better than we could have imagined. May they be a nachas to Hashem, to the Jewish people, and especially to us.

Becoming A Man

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The Haftora for parshas Vayechi, tells of King David's last words and instructions to his son Shlomo and it gives a tally of his years as king.

The connection to our parsha is Yaakov's last words to his children and Yosef's last words to his brothers.

The Haftora begins  to tell us, that when the time of David's passing was nearing, he instructed his son Shlomo. "I am going the way of all the earth, and you should strengthen yourself and become (ish) a man."

At this point, Shlomo was twelve years old, before Bar Mitzvah. These words are a message from every parent to their Bar Mitzvah boys crossing into Manhood, "strengthen yourself and become a man." Why does he need to strengthen himself to become a man?

In Hebrew, there are four terms for the word "man," adam, ish, enosh and gever. Adam, refers to the intelligent aspect of man, the mind, brain, etc. Ish, is the emotional side of man, feelings, heart, etc. The last two, enosh and gever, are the way adam and ish express themselves. Enosh, refers to emotional or intellectual weakness. Gever, refers to emotional or intellectual strength.

What is strange in this verse is the use of the word "ish," which refers to the emotional. The reason why a boy enters Manhood at thirteen, is because, that is when he becomes a Bar Daas, which is the natural development of his intellectual properties. However, here David uses the word "ish," which has to do with his emotions. Wouldn't it make sense to say "adam?"

The intellectual aspect of man, remains in his thoughts and can only be expressed by coming through his emotional self, in speech and action. The development of a person's mind, does not ensure that he will act correctly, that is why we find a lot of smart people doing stupid and destructive things. It takes effort to apply what you know, so that it affects how you act. So while a boy enters Manhood because of the natural development of his intellectual properties, it takes personal effort to apply what he knows to how he acts, because that is not natural. Therefore David's instructions to Shlomo are, as if to say - I know that you are smart, but that won't help you, unless you can apply it to the way you act. So "strengthen yourself," meaning, you will have to put your own effort and hard work, to become an "Ish," an emotionally well developed person. Only then will your great wisdom be useful and serve you well.

The same is true for every Bar Mitzvah boy, if he wants to become an ish, he will have to put in the effort.

The first mitzvah that a Bar Mitzvah boy becomes obligated to do, is the reading of the Shema. Here we see the same idea, that knowledge doesn't necessarily bring to action.

The Shema begins, "Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is one. And you will love Hashem your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your means." But between the first two verses, our great sages inserted another verse, "The name of Hashem's glorious kingdom is blessed forever and ever." Why did they feel the need to add this verse? Isn't the knowledge of Hashem's oneness enough to bring him to love Hashem?

The answer is the same as before. Just because you understand something doesn't mean you feel it. The extra verse, is to apply it to yourself, by actively accepting Hashem's dominion over you.

Another mitzvah that comes with Bar Mitzvah is Teffillin. The Torah says, "You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand and they should be as totafos between your eyes." By the Teffillin that goes on the arm, the Torah says, "You shall bind them." However, by the head Teffillin, it says, "they should be." Why the difference? Another interesting thing, is that the head and the arm Teffillin are two separate mitzvahs, but in order to put on the head Teffillin, you are required to first put on the arm Teffillin. Why?

The answer is in the same vein as the previous answer. The head Teffillin sit on the part of the head where the brain is, it is connected to the intellect. Because the intellectual properties of a person develop naturally, all the Teffillin needs to do, is "be" there. Whereas the arm Teffillin are near the heart, which is connected to emotions and the arm and hand are all about action. Therefore, effort needs to be exerted to "bind" them, because emotional development comes through effort. And being that our intellect is expressed via our emotions, the emotional self needs to be developed first, so that the intellect could be properly expressed. Hence the Teffillin of the arm has to be on before the head.

I see this with my children as well. Thank G-d, I have been blessed with smart children, but I see how much work it takes for them to be the great kids they are. For me, there is no greater nachas, than watching my children growing up and becoming a mentch and a Torah observant Jew.

May our efforts we put into our children be fruitful. May we watch them grow into mentchen, and may they always be a source of nachas, to Hashem, to the Jewish people, and especially to us.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

A Parent’s Advice

Audio Version By Rabbi Sholem Perl
Print Version
The Haftora for parshas Vayechi, tells of King David's last words and instructions to his son Shlomo and it gives a tally of his years as king.

The connection to our parsha is Yaakov's last words to his children and Yosef's last words to his brothers.

The Haftora begins  to tell us, that when the time of David's passing was nearing, he instructed his son Shlomo. "I am going the way of all the earth, and you should strengthen yourself and become (ish) a man."

At this point, Shlomo was twelve years old, before Bar Mitzvah. These words are a message from every parent to their Bar Mitzvah boys crossing into Manhood, "strengthen yourself and become a man." Why does he need to strengthen himself to become a man?

In Hebrew, there are four terms for the word "man," adam, ish, enosh and gever. Adam, refers to the intelligent aspect of man, the mind, brain, etc. Ish, is the emotional side of man, feelings, heart, etc. The last two, enosh and gever, are the way adam and ish express themselves. Enosh, refers to emotional or intellectual weakness. Gever, refers to emotional or intellectual strength.

What is strange in this verse is the use of the word "ish," which refers to the emotional. The reason why a boy enters Manhood at thirteen, is because, that is when he becomes a Bar Daas, which is the natural development of his intellectual properties. However, here David uses the word "ish," which has to do with his emotions. Wouldn't it make sense to say "adam?"

The intellectual aspect of man, remains in his thoughts and can only be expressed by coming through his emotional self, in speech and action. The development of a person's mind, does not ensure that he will act correctly, that is why we find a lot of smart people doing stupid and destructive things. It takes effort to apply what you know, so that it affects how you act. So while a boy enters Manhood because of the natural development of his intellectual properties, it takes personal effort to apply what he knows to how he acts, because that is not natural. Therefore David's instructions to Shlomo are, as if to say - I know that you are smart, but that won't help you, unless you can apply it to the way you act. So "strengthen yourself," meaning, you will have to put your own effort and hard work, to become an " Ish," an emotionally well developed person. Only then will your great wisdom be useful and serve you well.

The same is true for every Bar Mitzvah boy, if he wants to become an ish, he will have to put in the effort.

The first mitzvah that a Bar Mitzvah boy becomes obligated to do, is the reading of the Shema. Here we see the same idea, that knowledge doesn't necessarily bring to action.

The Shema begins, "Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is one. And you will love Hashem your G-d, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your means." But between the first two verses, our great sages inserted another verse,"The name of Hashem's glorious kingdom is blessed forever and ever." Why did they feel the need to add this verse? Isn't the knowledge of Hashem's oneness enough to bring him to love Hashem?

The answer is the same as before. Just because you understand something doesn't mean you feel it. The extra verse, is to apply it to yourself, by actively accepting Hashem's dominion over you.

Another mitzvah that comes with Bar Mitzvah is Teffillin. The Torah says, "You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand and they should be as totafos between your eyes." By the Teffillin that goes on the arm, the Torah says, "You shall bind them." However, by the head Teffillin, it says, "they should be." Why the difference? Another interesting thing, is that the head and the arm Teffillin are two separate mitzvahs, but in order to put on the head Teffillin, you are required to first put on the arm Teffillin. Why?

The answer is in the same vein as the previous answer. The head Teffillin sit on the part of the head where the brain is, it is connected to the intellect. Because the intellectual properties of a person develop naturally, all the Teffillin needs to do, is "be" there. Whereas the arm Teffillin are near the heart, which is connected to emotions and the arm and hand are all about action. Therefore, effort needs to be exerted to "bind" them, because emotional development comes through effort. And being that our intellect is expressed via our emotions, the emotional self needs to be developed first, so that the intellect could be properly expressed. Hence the Teffillin of the arm has to be on before the head.

I see this with my children as well. Thank G-d, I have been blessed with smart children, but I see how much work it takes for them to be the great kids they are. For me, there is no greater nachas, than watching my children growing up and becoming a mentch and a Torah observant Jew.

From both parshas Vayechi and the haftorah we see the importance of advising our children before the day comes.

The thing is, that we don't know when that day will come. As for me, Hashem has chosen to give me ALS, and since the diagnosis, the day has been staring me in the face. My wife Dina, and good friends whose parents have passed on, have been trying to impress upon me, the importance of writing a living will. At first, I was being stubborn, not wanting to consider the suggestion that the day might come. But then, a few of my friends suddenly passed, which got me thinking, that it is probably a good idea for everyone to do, even those that are healthy.

Now that I have started, it has become so meaningful to me, as it has given me a clarity of what I really want, for my family in general, and for my wife and each of my children specifically. I don't plan to wait for them to find out, when my time comes. As soon as I am done, I will share it with them, so that they know how I feel about them, what I think they are capable of, and what I wish for them.

A father's and mother's advice, is so powerful and cherished by their children. Even if they ignore it now, eventually it will have a tremendous impact.

My suggestion to every parent, and anyone who has been a teacher or mentor to someone they truly care about. Start the process of writing a living will, and you will find it meaningful, it will give you clarity and your family will be grateful that you did it.

May our efforts we put into our children be fruitful. May we watch them grow into mentchen, and may they always be a source of nachas, to Hashem, to the Jewish people, and especially to us.

Friday, January 6, 2017

One Nation Under Yehuda

Audio Version By Rabbi Sholem Perl
Print Version
The Haftora for parshas Vayigash, is a prophecy of our prophet Yechezkel (Ezekiel), about the uniting of the two kingdoms, Yehuda and Yisrael, in the time of Moshiach.

The Haftora begins with Hashem speaking to Yechezkel, "Take one stick of wood and write on it Yehuda..., and take one stick of wood and write on it Efraim... Bring them close to each other, like one stick, and they will become one in your hand." Then Hashem tells him that when people will ask, what are these sticks to you?  He should tell them, "So says Hashem..., behold I am taking the stick of Yosef, which is in the hand of Efraim..., and I will put together with them, the stick of Yehuda, and I will make them into one stick."

Then the Haftora describes how Hashem will gather all the Jewish people, from wherever they are. He will unite them into one nation, "No longer will they be divided into two kingdoms."

This division is first seen in our parsha with the confrontation between Yosef and Yehuda, "And he stepped close to him (to Yosef)." This is the event that brought us down to Egypt, as Yosef revealed himself to his brothers, telling them to move down to Egypt. Yosef and Yehuda are symbolic of two ways in Jewish life, intellect and action, or in other terms, Torah and mitzvahs. There is a Talmudic debate, what is greater, study or action? They conclude, that study is greater, because it brings to action.

The Haftora continues with Hashem saying that when we become one nation, "My servant David will be king over them." Then later He says, "David My servant will be a Nassi to them forever." This is saying that ultimately David will be the one king over Yosef as well, meaning, that when Moshiach comes, action will be greater than study. How does this work?

From the statement that "Study is greater, because it brings to action," we understand that the point is the action, only that the way to the action is through study. Therefore, today, study is most important. However, when Moshiach comes, the revelation will be so great, that it itself will bring us to action, even without the study. The importance of action was well understood by our ancestors, when receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. They said, "We will do and we will listen." first they said "do," meaning action, and only after, they said "listen," which is study.

Yechezkel's prophecy differs from all other prophecies, in a few ways. First by other prophecies, the job of the prophet was to tell the prophecy to the people right away. However here, he had to get sticks, write on them, and only after he was asked about what he was doing, was he to tell them Hashem's message.

Why the whole display with the sticks? Every good prophecy comes true, although, sometimes we don't get to witness them, because they only actualize in the spiritual realms. This happens when we become unworthy due to our sins, the prophecy gets stuck, unable to descend into the physical. This is what Yaakov was afraid of, when he was going to confront his brother Eisav, not that Hashem's promise of protection wouldn't come true, but rather, that perhaps because of something he did, it would not come into the physical.

By Hashem commanding the action of bringing the two physical sticks together, He was insuring that nothing would block the prophecy, as it has already entered the physical realm.

What are we meant to learn from the people asking Yechezkel about the two sticks? The Baal Shem Tov taught, that a Jew must learn a lesson about his service to Hashem, from everything he sees. Here is a clear indication from the Tanach, that this is in fact the case, and therefore, the natural tendency of Jewish people.

In the two verses about David, there are differences that beg for explanation, and answering them will give us more of an understanding of what King Moshiach's leadership will be like.

The first verse calls him, My servant David. The second verse calls him David My servant. The first verse calls him a king, and the second says that he will be a Nassi, which is the highest position of leadership beneath the king. The first says, he will be king "over" them, while the other says, that he will be Nassi "to" them. The second verse says that he will be Nassi to them "forever," and the first verse says nothing like that.

When the Talmud discusses the Davids in the these verses, it says about the first, that it is referring to another David, but about the second, it says that it refers to King David. It also explains that it is like Caesar and the second to Caesar. How many kings will there be? And why does the Talmud call them Caesar and the second to Caesar, Roman terms, why not use the Hebrew?

The explanation. King Moshiach will be one person but his leadership will take two forms. First he will be a king, bringing law and order. He is called "another David," because he will be different than David. As the Rambam explains, that he will fight the wars of Hashem, and bring the whole world to follow Hashem's will. This is something that is extraordinary, that has never happened before, an end to war, jealousy, etc. He will be king "over" them, because law and order is done even by force.

Why will he have the ability to effect such amazing change? Because of his subservience to Hashem, which will allow Hashem's presence to shine through and make this change possible. That's why he is called "My servant David" here, with the word "servant" first , because it is specifically his subservience to Hashem, that will change the world.

Now we can understand why they use the term Caesar. Tosafos explains why Roman kings were called Caesar.

There was a pregnant woman who died, they cut open her belly and found the baby alive. He later became king of Rome, and being that the word for a cesarean (C-section) in Roman (Latin) is caesar, that was adopted as the title of Roman kings. In Hebrew, a cesarean is called a yotzai dofen, which means, one that exits through a wall. The expression yotzai dofen, is also used for something that is out of the ordinary. Being that Moshiach will do the extraordinary, the term Caesar is used.

Once the world will be changed, the king form won't be necessary any more. That is when the Nassi mode of Moshiach will begin. Nassi was the term used for the head of the Sanhedrin, the chief teacher of Torah. As the Rambam explains, Moshiach will be wiser than Solomon, and teach Torah at a new level, as in the era of Moshiach, there will be a great thirst for the knowledge of Hashem. This will be the purpose of Moshiach, to teach Torah. Though his teaching will be at a level never experienced before, it is nevertheless Torah, which is never changing. You can go deeper but the whole of Torah was given at Mount Sinai, not to be changed. So in this capacity Moshiach will be special but not completely unique and extraordinary, that why he is called "David My servant," David first, because here he will be like David and the kings after him.

Now we can understand why it says that he will be a Nassi "to" them. Because as a teacher, he will be close to the people and rule, not from a position of power, but from a position of acceptance. As there will be no more need for power, because law and order will be natural.

Being that a law and order king won't be necessary any more, Moshiach's position of Nassi, will be "forever," and our only yearning will be for deeper and deeper understanding of Hashem and his Torah.

And as the Haftora concludes, "I will make for them a covenant of peace, an everlasting covenant..., and I will put My Sanctuary in their midst forever. And My presence will be upon them, and I will be to them as G-d, and they will be to me as a nation. And the nations will know that I Am Hashem Who sanctifies Israel, when My Sanctuary will be in their midst forever." May it happen soon.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Young Shlomo's Wisdom

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The Haftora for Mikeitz is not read every year, because it is often Shabbos Chanukah, which has its own Haftora. It is a short Haftora, with little commentary, but at the same time, it is one of the most famous stories in the Tanach.

The connection to our parsha, is that the Haftora begins with Shlomo Hamelech waking up from a dream, realizing that the dream was a true prophecy from Hashem. Similarly, in the parsha, King Pharaoh had dreams and woke up knowing that his dreams were of national importance. Yosef was summoned to interpret the dreams, which he did with G-dly wisdom, which was bestowed upon him. Similarly, in the Haftora, Shlomo's G-dly wisdom is displayed, as he adjudicated a case before the Sanhedrin, in which there were no witnesses. Everyone was amazed by his G-dly wisdom, as in the parsha, Pharaoh was amazed by Yosef's G-dly wisdom. The Haftora ends with "And King Shlomo was king over all Israel." similarly in the parsha, Yosef ruled over all of Egypt.

If we look deeper into the Haftora, we can find a timeless message for us all.

The Haftora begins with Shlomo Hamelech waking up from a dream, however no mention is made of the details of the dream in the Haftora. If you go back a few verses in the chapter, there is the most beautiful dream, a conversation between Hashem and a twelve year old king, who just ascended the throne. Hashem tells him that he will grant him a wish, and Shlomo asked for wisdom. Hashem is pleased with his request, and grants him wealth and fame as well. When he wakes up, he hears birds chirping and understands what they are saying. He realized that the dream had come true.

Why doesn't the Haftora include the dream, after all, in the parsha, Pharaoh's dreams are included?

In the parsha, Pharaoh's dreams are necessary to understand the wisdom displayed when Yosef interprets them. However, Shlomo's wisdom displayed in the Haftora, was not in explaining the dream. It is enough just to tell us that he had a dream. Even more, his dream was a personal one, while Pharaoh's dreams were of national consequence.

The Haftora continues with two women who came before Shlomo. One said that she gave birth to a boy, and a few days later the other woman also gave birth to a boy. They were home alone, when the other woman, while sleeping, laid on her baby, suffocating him. She then switched the babies. When the first mother woke up to nurse her baby, she found that he was dead. At closer inspection though, she realized that it wasn't her son, and understood what happened.

The other woman cried out, "My son is the live one and your son is dead," and they argued before the king.

Shlomo already knew through prophecy, who the real mother was, but he wanted to show with logical proof that she was the mother, so that it be accepted by the people, so he came up with a risky, but creative solution.

He explained, "This one says, 'This is my son, the live one and the dead one is your son,' and this one says, 'Not so, your son is the dead one and my son is the live one.'"Then he said, " Bring me a sword," and they brought a sword. He said. "Divide the live boy in two, give one half to one and the other half to the other."

You could imagine the scene, everyone standing around and a twelve year old king is suggesting the most heinous of judgments. They were losing confidence, that allowing him to be king, was a good idea. But then, the live boy's mother, having compassion on her baby said, "My lord, give the baby to her, just don't put him to death," and the other one said, "Let him be neither mine nor yours, divide him."

The king spoke up and said, "Give her (the first woman) the living child, and don't put him to death." A voice came from heaven and confirmed, "She is the mother."

What is the lesson to be taken from this story?

The two mothers symbolize two influences, the Torah's and modern society's. They are battling over every Jewish child. Modern society's child was smothered and died, because every way of thinking, ultimately dies as a new way of thinking dawns, with the exception of the Torah way, which remains the same. Even more, being that the Torah way is from Hashem, it is always true and not subject to change. Whereas human beings thinking, as noble as they sound, are at best, attempts at being correct. And as history attests, even with the best of intentions, they end up failing, and in many cases, they backfire and end in disaster.

The question is, who will get the child? The judges are the parents. Many make a grave mistake, thinking, I will educate him in both, some for G-d, and some for the world, in other words godlessness. This is cutting the child in half, not physically, but spiritually, mentally, morally, and emotionally. As the real mother said, "Give the baby to her, just don't put him to death." Of course the Torah way is best, but it is better to give the child to the world’s way, than to cut him in half.

Giving your children a Jewish education and upbringing, is by far the best thing that you can do for them. Even the secular studies at Jewish schools are done in accordance with the Torah way of thinking.

May you have nachas from your children, and bring them up in the Torah way. In this merit we will surely merit the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

We Are Branches Of A Golden Menorah

Print Version  
This week's Haftora is read twice during the year. On the first Shabbos of Chanukah, and again with parshas Bahaloscha.

The obvious reason for reading this haftorah is because it speaks of a golden menorah and the Kohen Gadol. Chanukah we had the miracle with the lights of the menorah and finding the oil with the Kohen Gadol's unbroken seal, and parshas Bahaloscha begins with Aaron, the Kohen Gadol, being instructed with regards to lighting the menorah.

This Haftora is prophecy from our prophet Zachariah, at the end of the Persian exile, just before we returned to Israel, to build the Second Temple. But it is clearly also referring to us, at the end of this final exile, soon to be building the third and last Temple. In this article, I will mostly touch on how it pertains to our time.

The Haftora begins, "Sing and rejoice daughter of Zion, behold I will come and dwell in your midst." The Jewish people here are called " daughter of Zion," and told to rejoice. The Haftora continues with two prophecies, first about Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol, and then about the golden menorah.

Why are we called daughter of Zion? And why do we begin the Haftora here, and not with the prophecy of the golden menorah, which is the subject of Bahaloscha and Chanukah?

The key to understanding this, is the time in which Zachariah had this prophecy, during the exile, a time of darkness.

The Jewish people are called Zion, but only prior to the exile. During the exile we are at sub-Zion level, referred to as the daughter of Zion. However, it is specifically when we are at the daughter of Zion level, that we can bring the most light into the world. This is the whole idea of lighting the menorah, to shine the light of Hashem throughout the world.

When the Jewish people are referred to in the feminine, we are called either daughter, sister or mother. We are called Daughter, when we do mitzvahs, and we are in the mode of Hashem's servants, accepting the yoke He burdens us with. We are called Sister, when we study Torah, and we create, so to speak, a kinship with Hashem, getting to know Him. We are called Mother, when we daven, like a mother that has an influence on her children, when we daven, we so to speak, affect Hashem, awakening his compassion, kindness, etc.

While being in the mother or sister mode sounds more meaningful, they can only draw Hashem's light according to the ability of the one davening or learning. However, in the daughter mode, the person is nullified, with Hashem's yoke being thrust upon him, and the light of Hashem that enters the world is according to Hashem's ability which is infinite. So the greatest amount of light shines when we are called daughter of Zion.

Why Zion, why not daughter of Israel? Zion also refers to Tzadikim, daughter of Zion, refers to those who connect themselves to Tzadikim, especially the Tzadik of the generation. Because they draw G-dly revelation to the Jewish people, especially to those who are connected to them. This makes it possible to serve Hashem with joy, even when doing mitzvahs out of obligation. And perhaps another reason this generates true joy, is because the Tzadik unites us, and working in unity, our egos are nullified and we are united in cause. This togetherness creates a momentum and a joy that is so powerful. This is the meaning of " Sing and rejoice daughter of Zion," that this joy of unity and the nullification of the self to Hashem's will, fills the world with such a great light that, "Behold I will come and dwell in your midst." In other words. Moshiach will come.

Why are we able to affect the world to bring Moshiach, while our holy ancestors were not?

Because we are the generation before Moshiach, of whom Moshe Rabeinu was amazed. What is so special about us?

To answer this question, we need to look further into the Haftora. Hashem shows Zachariah a vision. Yehoshua the Kohen Gadol is standing before the angel of Hashem, and to his right is the Soton ready to accuse him. Hashem said to the Soton, "Hashem will rebuke you Soton, Hashem, who chooses Yerushalayim, will reprimand you." In other words, how dare you accuse Yehoshua, "is he not a firebrand rescued from fire." Nebuchadnezzar had Yehoshua thrown into the fire, but because he was so holy he was protected by Hashem. Hashem is saying here, isn't that enough proof of his holiness?

The Rebbe explained about this generation, that we too are a firebrand rescued from fire, especially after the Holocaust. Moshe was amazed by us and who wouldn't be, after all we have been through, we are still doing what Hashem wants and with all our hearts. Even one mitzvah done today by a non observant Jew is an exceptional act and special to Hashem. Therefore we are amazing and our service to Hashem is on a whole new level of holiness than that of previous generations. And just as Yehoshua Kohen Gadol merited to see the building of the second Beis Hamikdash, so to, we will merit to see the building of the third and final Beis Hamikdash.

Now we can see how the prophecy of the golden menorah fits in. The menorah was made of one solid piece of gold and had seven branches. The seven branches symbolize seven types of Jews, each who serve Hashem from the spiritual nature of his soul, one out of love, another out of fear, etc. The common denominator, is that we all give light.

Why was it made of one solid piece of gold? To show, that although there are different paths, ultimately we are one. This unity, love for our fellow Jew, is the key to our success. When we are together our light shines brightest, and we have the greatest affect on the world. Therefore, loving our fellow Jew is the key to bringing Moshiach.

The menorah in Zachariah's prophecy had two olive trees on either side of it, and the olives were being automatically processed into oil. The oil was dripping into a bowl above the menorah and from the bowl there were pipes feeding the lamps of the menorah.

Why olives? Because though olives are bitter, from them comes the oil that produces light. This is a lesson about the exile. Although it is bitter, out of it we produce the greatest light. This idea is called, the great light that comes out of the darkness.

Why was the oil self producing and automatically feeding the lamps of the menorah? The Haftora answers the question. Hashem says, "Not with might, nor by power, but by My spirit." When the time for Moshiach comes, we won't have to fight battles, or exert strength in any way. The whole world will accept Hashem's dominion and Moshiach's leadership. It will be effortless, because Hashem will do it all.

May we sing and rejoice together with the coming of Moshiach, knowing that it is our efforts that filled the world with the light of Hashem, and transformed the exile into redemption. May it happen soon.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

The Lion's Roar

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In the Haftora for parshas Vayeishev, our prophet Amos, delivers Hashem's words of rebuke to the ten northern tribes, the kingdom of Yisrael. He chastises them for their corruption of those in power over the common folk and for not listening to the prophets.

The connection to the parsha, is that the Haftora speaks of the sale of a Tzadik for silver and a poor man for a pair of shoes. Which resembles the sale of Yosef as a slave to Egypt, spoken about in our parsha. It also speaks about corrupt judges taking falsely charging innocent people, for their personal benefit. Yosef, full of integrity, did not take advantage of his position, but was thrown into jail on false charges. His strength of character, merited him to become the viceroy of Egypt. Then the Haftora continues with the truth of prophecy, and that it is directly from Hashem, this alludes to Yosef's dreams and his ability to interpret dreams, which was clearly prophecy from Hashem. And finally, the Haftora mentions the exodus from Egypt, which was the end of an exile, that began with Yosef being sold to Egypt.

The Haftora begins with Hashem saying that He could forgive us "for three" sins, (idol worship, inappropriate relations and murder), "but for four" (the perversion of justice in the judicial system), he "will not forgive." This verse speaks for itself, to Hashem, taking advantage of people, who you have power over, is the worst thing. Hashem is ready to forgive the most heinous crimes, but not this one.

Hashem goes on to say, that after all He has done for us, He brought us up out of Egypt, He fought wars for us. He gave us prophets and teachers, but those in power silenced them. Then they used their authority to take from the powerless and use for their own pleasures. He goes on to say what will be the consequences for these deplorable actions.

Then Hashem says, "I only loved you, from all the families of the earth, that is why I punish you for all your transgressions." This love of Hashem to us, is from his essence, where he is one with us, beyond any reason, therefore it is an essential bond that cannot be broken. And precisely because of this great love, our actions matter to Hashem, that is why he punishes us for our wrong doing.

Then the Haftora continues with rhetorical statements, that demonstrate that the consequences, are a direct result of our actions. These verses have alternative meanings, I will touch on a few.

"Do two walk together, without it being arranged?" The word for a farbrengen (gathering) in Hebrew is hisvadus. It comes from the word noadu (arranged) in this verse. The idea is that when two or more Jews come together in unity, it is very powerful, especially to strengthen each other with regards to keeping Torah and mitzvahs, and with their connection with Hashem. This verse is also telling us, that when we meet another Jew, we shouldn't take it for granted, thinking that it is by chance that you met. Rather Hashem arranged for you to meet and therefore, you must use the opportunity to help each other, learn something from each other, or see what you can do together to help another.

"Does a lion roar in the forest, if he has no prey?" The lion's roar, represents the greatest expression of its strength. On a spiritual level, this refers to when we are as strong as a lion and we overcome our evil inclination, which then becomes our prey. The excitement felt inside is amazing, because Hashem has so much pleasure and pride in us, causing His light shine on and in us.

"If a shofar is sounded in a city, can the inhabitants fail to be terrified?" The simple meaning of this verse is, that a shofar was sounded when enemies were converging on a city, which was terrifying. Alternatively, this refers to sounding the shofar in the month of Elul. That the sound of the shofar reaches the core of every Jew, even those that seem distant and cold to Judaism are affected by the sound of the shofar. In this verse, no reference is made of the one blowing, because no matter who is doing the blowing, the sound that enters us is from Hashem. This is the reason why it is so effective.

"When a lion roars, who does not fear?" In Hebrew, lion is Aryeh, and if you rearrange the letters, you get yirah, which means fear. The Shaloh Hakadosh tells us, that Aryeh is an acronym for Elul, Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, and Hoshana Rabba. The fear and awe of Hashem is upon us at those times, because He is close. The Yakult Shimoni tells us, that Aryeh refers to the month of Menachem Av, because its Mazal is the lion. So Hashem is close then as well, which is reason to praise Hashem and be joyous on Rosh Chodesh Menachem Av, even more than other Rosh Chodeshes.

It is in the merit of honesty, strength of character and integrity, especially from those in positions of power, and the belief in the words of our great prophets, that we will hear Hashem sounding The Great Shofar of Freedom, announcing that Moshiach here. May he come soon.