Wednesday, August 24, 2016

We Want Hashem And Nothing Less

Audio Version By Rabbi Sholem Perl

This week's Haftora is the second Haftora of consoling. It begins "And Zion said, 'Hashem has forsaken me...'" It follows last week's Haftora, Nachamu Nachamu, the doubled consoling. It seems strange that after a doubled consoling, Zion should be saying, "Hashem has forsaken me."

Being that our great sages set up the Haftoras this way, we must conclude that there is something happening here. Why is it, that after a doubled consoling, we are left feeling alone?

Let me explain.

Sometimes you can feel alone even when you are with the one you love, especially when they are acting distant.

After the doubled consoling of last week, we, as the Jewish people begin to realize our self worth, that we are Hashem's beloved and that we are one with Him. If so, the question arises, why is Hashem sending His prophets to console us? Why does He not console us Himself? This is now taken as a rejection, therefore we feel alone.

How great is the position of a Jew? Why is the consoling of prophets not enough?

In Pirkei Avos, we read, "know before Whom you will have to give a judgment and a reckoning."  Normally you first give a reckoning and that is followed by a judgment. Why is the order here reversed, first the judgment followed by the reckoning?

To understand this let's take a look at another saying in Pirkei Avos, "and payment is exacted from the person, with his knowledge and without his knowledge." The Baal Shem Tov explains, that because our Neshama is actually a part of Hashem, the Heavenly Court has no power over a Jewish person. In order to pass judgment on a Jewish person, they put before him, during his lifetime, a scenario of someone committing the same transgression that he committed. When he sees this, he passes judgment, thereby passing judgment on himself. It is with his knowledge, because he is the one who is passing judgment. It is without his knowledge, because he doesn't realize that he is judging himself.

When he comes before the Heavenly Court,  he has already passed judgment on this scenario, so the judgment comes first. All that is left to do is the reckoning, to show that his case is the same as the scenario, that he himself judged.

What we understand from all this, is that only a Jew can pass judgment on himself. Not an angel nor the Heavenly Court has any power over him. So be careful to, "Judge others favorably," as you may be judging yourself.

This is also true in the physical world, no one has power over us. It is we who give power to others over us. As the verse in our Haftora says "...those who destroy you and those who lay waste to you, will come out of you."

This is what a Jew is all about, we have the power to change the world, but the world has no power over us. The only power anyone has over us, is what we give them. This is because, our Neshamas are a part of Hashem that makes us one with Hashem. In the words of the Baal Shem Tov, "When you are grasping on to a part, you are actually grasping the whole thing." Every one of us is a part of Hashem.

Knowing how special we are, we realize that we deserve more. Although we were in a dark situation and a doubled consoling through prophets pulled us out, now, as we begin to experience our intrinsic bond with Hashem, consoling through prophets, just won't cut it. We want the real thing, Hashem Himself and nothing less. When we don't, we feel alone.

Ultimately we will get what we are asking for, as we see in the last verse of the Haftora, "For Hashem will console Zion..."

May we soon experience Hashem's consoling, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Marriage Tips For Men Part III: What To Say To Your Wife And How To Say It

Words mean a lot when they are sincere.

Most men don't talk much, and among guys that is the way we prefer it. We don't care to talk about our feelings. We don't care to be recognized for who we are, but rather, for our accomplishments.

For men, not saying anything means that everything is just grand.

For women, not saying anything leaves a void that they fill with questions. Being ultra-critical of themselves, they mentally beat themselves up, thinking every negative possibility. Needless to say, this makes them unhappy.

This does not mean you have to talk a lot, rather, that some things are important to say.

Here are some things you should share with your wife.

1) Tell her how you feel about her.

Most men love their wives. But it isn't in our nature to share our feelings. She is aching to know how you feel about her, and though you told her a week ago and nothing has changed, she is already thinking negative thoughts.

Among men, not seeing or talking for years, doesn't change how we feel about each other. Among women, not talking for a while, is proof that the friendship has gone south.

Think about it before you tell her, don't just say meaningless words. Be creative, find new ways to tell her how you feel about her. Saying the same thing for fourty years is not the way to go about it.

2) Tell her how well she is doing.

She wants to know if she is a good wife and a good mother. Don't focus on the negative, she already has enough negative thoughts about herself. Focus on the positive, remind her of things she does, for you and for the family. When you see her do something that shows that she is a good wife or mother, point it out, let her know that you appreciate her.

3) Notice and compliment.

For women, who they are is extremely important. Therefore, their feelings, their dress, their talents, their abilities and their self expression is of tremendous importance, as it is an expression of who they are.

Therefore complementing what they do, their creativity, how they look or what they are wearing is validating who they are.

Even more than all this, is her inner beauty and her inner strengths, her brain and her heart. As you get to know her, and you see how incredible she is on the inside, make sure you complement her inner self. If you only notice her outside, your feelings for her will begin to seem shallow, and her respect for you will begin to wane.

When you notice these things, you are noticing her for who she is as her own person. You have to respect and honor her for who she is.

This is so important. You have to love her for who she is, and not for what she does for you. When you love her for who she is, she will feel good when she does things for you. When you love her for what she does for you, she will feel used.

Now, how to say it.

The main thing is to say it, but being creative will mean so much more.

Speaking and texting is good, but writing a note or a letter is special and endearing. So use all these means, speak and text often, write notes when you can and every once in a while, write her a letter.

A letter, whether written by hand, typed or emailed, will give her the opportunity to read and reread it, and it gives you the ability to think about what you are saying and to be accurate. Because you took the time to write it, it will mean so much to her. You should even consider making letter writing a part of your routine, once a week, once a month, before a holiday, etc. If you do, she will be waiting for your letter with joyful anticipation.

(Now that I am unable to speak, I started writing my wife letters every Friday. I now see the value of writing letters, it is so much more than talking.)

Of course there are many other things that you should share with your wife, these are just some of the important things. Remember, the main thing is not the way you choose to say it, but that you say it.

I hope this strengthens your relationship.

Marriage Tips for Men Part I
Marriage Tips for Men Part II: How to Listen  

Nachamu Nachamu

Audio Version

This week's Haftora is the first of seven consoling the Jewish people. After The Three Weeks of darkness and destruction, Hashem consoles us through his prophet Yishayahu (Isaiah), each week, the consoling gets more and more powerful.

This Shabbos is called Shabbos Nachamu, because the Haftora starts with Hashem's words to Yishayahu, "Nachamu nachamu ami," "Console console my nation."

Being that this is the first Haftora of consoling, shouldn't it begin with one Nachamu, a basic level of consoling, and add as we do in the coming weeks? What is the idea of Nachamu Nachamu, the double expression of consoling?

A double expression such as Nachamu Nachamu, means more than two, rather, it is an expression of multiple in quality and quantity. Not only is this consoling of greater intensity, but it is ongoing. And being that this is the first Nachamu of the seven Haftoras of consoling, it is this one that sets the standard for all subsequent expressions of consoling.

In a few weeks, we will read in the Haftora another double expression. As of now, Hashem is asking his prophets to console us, but there, He will take it to a new level, "It is I, I Who consoles you." This double "I," is Hashem saying, that it is coming from the deepest level of His essence. Even deeper than the giving of the Ten Commandments, which begins with only one "I," "I Am the Lord your G-d..." This is because when Moshiach comes and we will experience Hashem's consoling, the revelation will be even greater than the one at Mount Sinai, it will be Hashem's deepest essence.

It is true, with the devastation that befell our people during the Three Weeks, one would think, take it slow, first console a little, how can we handle so much? But being Jewish, we know, that we are always close to Hashem, and even in times of exile and darkness, He is one with us. Hashem is saying, "Nachamu Nachamu," you can handle the double Nachamu, with all its intensity.

This is especially relevant now, when we are so close to the coming of Moshiach, and the darkness is doubled. We must realize, that only our physical existence is in exile, however our spiritual essence is always free and one with Hashem. Soon we will see the fruit of our labor, a double Nachamu, as the physical will also be free, and it will experience Hashem's essence as well, as our Haftora says, "And Hashem's glory will be revealed, and all flesh together will see, that the mouth of G-d spoke."

My wife, Dina, asked me, "When every month you were losing more and more abilities, you just said, 'let's figure out how to deal with it,' how come it didn't seem to faze you?" I told her that I am just crazy. But the truth is, that I am certain, that Hashem is doing this to me for a good reason, and I feel like He has chosen me for a specific mission. I don't necessarily like being unable to do anything and I surely don't wish this on anyone, but if Hashem put me in this situation, I will use it to accomplish His mission. Soon this mission will end, and the bad situation will be unnecessary.

Same thing is true for all of us in this exile. Hashem chose us to accomplish His deepest desire. He put us here, in this dark exile, to accomplish this mission, because it is only here where it can be accomplished. Very soon, because of our efforts, the mission will be accomplished and we will reap the rewards. This exile will end and we will truly be consoled, forever, like the Haftora says, Nachamu Nachamu. May it happen soon.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Body and Soul

Audio Version

This week's parsha, Devarim, is always read right before Tisha B'Av, or on Tisha B'Av. The Haftora we read, is the third for The Three Weeks. The Haftora starts with the words Chazon Yishayahu (The vision of Isaiah), we therefore call this Shabbos, Shabbos Chazon.

The Haftora ends with "Zion (Tzion) will be redeemed with justice, and its captives (v'shaveha), with righteousness (b'tzedaka).

The question is, who or what is Tzion? And who is v'shaveha?

Some simply translate Tzion as Jerusalem and v'shaveha as the Jewish people.

Others translate Tzion as the Jewish people. But if so, who are v'shaveha? The answer is, that Tzion refers to Jews who study Torah and do the mitzvahs, and v'shaveha refers to Jews who are not involved in Torah and mitzvas. They are called v'shaveha, captives, because they have surrendered their will, to their bodies and animal souls. Tzion Jews are redeemed with justice, because they earned it. However, v'shaveha Jews are redeemed with Tzedaka, which is beyond the letter of the law, because otherwise they can't be redeemed.

And though we are told that in the end all Jews will repent, and immediately be redeemed. The fact that Hashem accepts our penitence, is a kindness (tzedaka) as well.

If I may, please allow me to take you to a deeper place.

As Jews, we know, that our bodies could be subjected to the exile, however, our Neshamas (G-dly souls) cannot. While the Neshama is sent into the body to influence the body, the animal soul and the physical world, being an actual part of Hashem, it is not effected by the dark exile. On the contrary, the darkness and the exile cause  the Neshama to bring out hidden strength, which was lying dormant, strengthening its connection with Hashem.

The body, on the other hand, is subject to the harsh conditions and darkness of the exile. It is Hashem Who put us in this great darkness, to transform the darkness into light.

While the Neshama is strengthened because the darkness, it doesn't effect the darkness. However, the body, through fulfilling Hashem's will in the exile, changes the darkness into light, and this light is greater than the light of the Neshama, it is Hashem's essence, Hashem's will, which is the greatest light possible.

This brings us, to yet a third explanation of our verse. Tzion, referring to our bodies and v'shaveha (here being translated as returnees) refers to our Neshamas.

The Neshama, which is not subject to the exile, rather, because being in the body, which is in exile, is merely in the wrong place and doesn't need redemption, all it needs is to return.

The body will be redeemed with justice, because it suffered in exile and did the work, it rightfully earned its redemption.

The Neshama, which did not suffer in exile, returns as a kindness, a Tzedaka. It did influence the body, and so it comes along, and receives the greatest revelation through the body, the body's reward for its physical work in the dark exile, the revelation of Hashem's essence.

Now we can understand the first words of the Haftora  "Chazon Yishayahu." Chazon means the vision, and the name Yishayahu comes from the word yeshua, which means redemption. Our Haftora is telling us, that specifically during times of darkness, which The Three Weeks and Tisha B'Av are symbolic of, is where you can accomplish the vision of the redemption.

We will experience this great revelation  with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Reversing The Effects Of The Three Weeks

Audio Version

This week's Haftora is the second Haftora of the three weeks, it is always read with parshas Maasei, or Matos Maasei.

Reading this week's Haftora, you can't help but feel Hashem's hurt and pain, because of us having forsaken him. "...What wrong did your forefathers find in Me, that they distanced themselves from Me, and went after futility..." And so it continues, until the end, where it brings verses from a later chapter that have a positive note.

The most hurt is felt in the verses, "Heavens be astonished by this... For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken Me, the source of living waters, in order to dig for themselves cisterns, broken cisterns that cannot hold water."

Isn't forsaking Hashem the worst possible thing? Once you go there, it's over, why go any further? What is the idea of digging broken cisterns that is even worse and more hurtful than forsaking Hashem?  Finally, what positive lesson can we take from this?

Hashem loves us, and wants a relationship with us. Just like a married couple are intrinsically one, because they share one neshama. So to, we each have a holy neshama, that is actually a part of Hashem, and that makes us one with Hashem. Hashem gives him self to us by giving us his essence, "the source of living waters," the Torah.

After opening up Himself to us, what did we do? First, we forsook Him, and then we did something even more hurtful, we started digging for other waters.

This is the theme throughout the whole Haftora. After Hashem did concrete actions to prove that he is there for us, He took us out of Egypt, He took care of our every need in the desert, He brought us and gave us the Holy Land, He showed us miracles, daily, in the Beis Hamikdash, so we know that He is all powerful. Not only did we forsake Him, we put our effort, digging into idol worship, which is futile, like broken cisterns that don't hold water. Even if you bring your own water and pour it in to them, they lose that too. These false gods have no truth, and no ability to help you. What is worse they ruin  your ability to recognize that which is really true.

This is worse than forsaking Hashem. When one just forsakes, it is bad, but it is not ruining his ability to see real truth, and one day, when he will search, he will be able to recognize truth for what it is.

Today, idolatry is not our issue, rather it is when we put other knowledge before Torah knowledge. Over our three thousand years as a nation, the Torah, Hashem's knowledge, has been proven over and over again, to be true. Yet many give up Torah, and pursue other knowledges, for example, science, which is enjoyable, and necessary, but not a replacement for Torah. Science is only true until it is disproven, which is a daily occurrence. What is true today, is false tomorrow. When science is placed on a pedestal and worshipped as the whole truth, it is not only futile but it also ruins our view of Torah, the real truth.

Torah, Hashem's essence, is the source of living waters. It is not only truth, but it adds life. When Hashem is who you trust, and his Torah is your guide, you are on the true path. All other subjects are just that, subjects, and their validity is measured by your Torah perspective.

The lesson here, is to do the opposite of what Hashem's complaint is. We need to learn more Torah and deepen our understanding of Hashem, by taking our study to a deeper level, strengthening our essential intrinsic bond with Hashem. By each of us adding in Torah study, whether in quality or quantity, and by making it central to our lives, we reverse the effects of our nation's failures. We reverse the desolation of the Three Weeks, the destruction of our Holy Temple and reveal and experience the nature of our bond with Hashem.

May we experience all this soon, with the coming of Moshiach.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

From A Place of Darkness The Most Is Accomplished

This week's parsha, Pinchas, has two possible Haftoras.

Because we are in The Three Weeks, the darkest and saddest time on the Jewish calendar, when both our Temples were destroyed, and unimaginable suffering and tragedy befell our people, the Haftora we read, is more connected to the time, than the parsha.

This week's Haftora starts off telling us Yirmyahu's (Jeremiah's) lineage. "These are the  words of Yirmyahu son of Chilkiyahu of the Kohanim." It continues to tell us how he became a prophet. Hashem tells Yirmyahu "Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you, and before you emerged from the womb, I appointed you to be a prophet..." Yirmyahu says to Hashem "I don't know how to speak, for I am a youth." Hashem says, "Don't say 'I am a youth,' for wherever I will send you, you will go, and whatever I will command you, you will speak. Don't be afraid of them, for I Am with you to protect you..." "See I have appointed you today, over nations and over kingdoms, to uproot, to crush...,  to build and to plant."

Then, Hashem gives him the prophecy of the the devastation of Yehuda and tells Yirmyahu to warn the Jewish people.

The Haftora ends on a positive note. How Hashem remembers that we followed him in to the desert, trusting in Him. The idea being, that if we return to Hashem and His Torah, He will accept us with open arms.

The theme of the Haftora is supposed to be connected to the destructive nature of the time of the year. The prophecy of devastation and even Hashem remembering our goodness makes sense. But how does Yirmyahu's lineage and how he became a prophet, fit the theme of The Three Weeks?

It all starts to become clear when we take a closer look at who Yirmyahu was and the time he lived in.

Yirmyahu lived in a time of great darkness, when the Jewish people were at a spiritual low. He himself was taunted regularly because of his pedigree, as his great grandmother was Rachav a gentile woman who converted. It didn't matter that she was a great woman who helped the Jewish people in the conquest of the Holy Land. Yirmyahu had all the cards stacked against him, and yet, he effected change from his dark situation, which is the only true and everlasting change.

We've had many great prophets and leaders. Some effected the world from a place of light, like Moshe, with great miracles and revelation, with so much light, the Jewish people were taken by the greatness of the moment, of course they were good. But when the revelation ceased, they made a golden calf, the light effected them, but did not change them. However, Pinchas, like Yirmyahu, was coming from a place of darkness. He was also taunted because of his pedigree, as his mother was Yisro's (Jethro's) daughter, and was living at a low and dark time. But his actions caused the Jewish people to repent and change themselves. This kind of change is real and everlasting. Therefore his reward was an everlasting one, that he and all his descendants will be Kohanim.

It is from a place of darkness, that the Haftora opens up. First by his pedigree being exalted as Yirmyahu from the Kohanim, and then by telling us how he became a prophet.

The Three Weeks is the time of darkness, symbolic of our dark exile. Hashem is telling us how to approach times of darkness, and how specifically we, in this darkness, can bring true, everlasting change and light to the world.

The first thing you have to know is that you are worthy. You may think "who am I to make a difference, the whole world looks down at me?" To this Hashem answers, you are from Kohanim, you are holy and worthy.

The next thing is that we were hand picked by Hashem for this task. "Before I formed you in the belly, I knew you..."

Don't say "I am a youth," without the wherewithal to withstand the world's negative effects. You can do it, "Don't be afraid..., for I am with you."

This is the purpose of the exile, Hashem has spread us all over the world, he has appointed us "over nations and over kingdoms," to have a positive effect on our surroundings.

This is the message of The Three Weeks, that specifically from the darkness, we are able to do the most good.

Hashem wants us to effect the physical world, and our bodies, to serve him as well. One that says, "let me stay in my cocoon of light, of Torah and spirituality, and not deal with the physical," is making a mistake. It is the effect on the physical world and our physical nature, that Hashem wants most, and it is why Hashem put us in a physical world, to develop the world, from the bottom up, to be a dwelling place for Hashem's presence. Which is the everlasting reward we all yearn for, and will be experienced with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon

Thursday, July 21, 2016

How To Bring Protection And Redemption

Dear friends,

This week, Parshas Balak, I am extremely grateful to Hashem, as it marks the beginning of my third cycle of Dvar Torahs. I am grateful for being able to do it, and to all of you who read them. I am grateful for my wife Dina, who supports me and constantly pushes me to learn more and write these Dvar Torahs. I am grateful to add to your Shabbos table and Torah groups. I am grateful to be alive and to be making a difference. I am honored that you read it, by all the positive feedback and by your encouragement to continue.

Thank you,

Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Hurwitz, AKA Yitzi 
___

In this week's parsha, Balak, we read how Balak and Balam schemed to curse the Jewish people. Hashem protected them, not allowing Balam to curse the Jews, instead, he blessed them. Balam goes on to prophecy the coming of Moshiach. It ends off on a low note, of indecency, and immodesty.

I am amazed by the brilliance of our sages to choose Haftoras, which encapsulate the theme of the parsha to a tee. Reading the Haftora, helps us understand the theme of the parsha.

At first glance, the Haftora mentions "Please remember what Balak king of Moab advised, and what Balam answered him..." But this is mentioned only as part of a larger picture, so it can't be the reason that this Haftora was chosen.

What are the essential themes of this parsha that the Haftora brings out? What specifically is this parsha, which has no mitzvahs, and Haftora asking us to do?

In the Haftora Micah prophecies about things that will happen with the coming of Moshiach. Then, he brings the complaint Hashem has to the Jewish people. "What have I done for you... I brought you up from Egypt... from a house of slavery I redeemed you... I sent before you Moshe, Aaron and Miriam... remember please what Balak advised and what Balam answered him... So you can know the righteous acts of Hashem..." And concludes with Micah saying Hashem doesn't care for grandiose gestures, rather, "He has told you... what is good and what Hashem demands of you, only, to do justice, to love loving-kindness and to walk modestly with Hashem."

The Haftora and parsha have two themes, gifts, which are intertwined, and the key to receive both.

First, that Hashem saves and protects us from those who wish to harm us. He took us out of Egypt, he saved us from Balak and Balam.

The second is, that Moshiach is coming.

They are intertwined because the coming of Moshiach is the final redemption, protection and salvation of the Jewish people. Being that Hashem's presence will be open to all, evil will cease to exist. Hence, salvation, redemption and protection will be unnecessary.

The key is found at the end of the parsha and Haftora.

In the parsha we see that it was our failure to keep our laws and modesty, that caused us to lose our protection.

The Haftora says this in a positive way. It gives us three rules to follow.

Do justice. Which means to keep Hashem's laws, mitzvahs, etc.

Love loving-kindness. In Torah language, love is not a feeling, it is an act. Here it means to do acts of loving-kindness.

To walk modestly with Hashem, which means to be aware of Hashem's presence. When you are aware of Hashem's presence, it is more than belief. Your relationship with Hashem has reached a point, where you know He is there, He is real to you. This changes the way you do things. The way you talk, act, dress and even think, become more refined, because Hashem is part of your reality.

These three things, are who we are, it is the definition of being Jewish. When we get away from our essential selves, we lose our protection, because Hashem wants to protect us, not someone else we are acting like.

Becoming who we are meant to be, taking on these three things, keeping Hashem's laws, doing acts of loving-kindness and making Hashem part of our reality, is the key to bringing Moshiach as prophesied in our parsha. May he come soon.