Thursday, March 23, 2017

Essence Revealed

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This week we add a special Torah reading, Parshas Hachodesh. The Haftora for Parshas Hachodesh is from the book of Yechezkel, in which he tells about the inauguration of the Third Temple, It tells of the responsibilities and laws pertaining to the Nassi (explained below). It mentions Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the Pesach sacrifice, eating matzah on Pesach, Temple regulations, and other sacrifices and offerings brought in the Temple.

The connection to the parsha, is that like the Haftora, Parshas Hachodesh mentions Rosh Chodesh Nissan, the laws of the Pesach sacrifice, and eating matzoh.

Who is the Nassi referring to in the Haftora? Rashi cites two opinions. His own opinion, is that it refers to the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. Alternatively, he brings the opinion of Rabbi Menachem, that it refers to the King.

Sephardic and Chabad communities begin with the verse that mentions Rosh Chodesh Nissan, presumably because Parshas Hachodesh begins with a verse about Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Ashkenazic communities add the two verses that come before and the three that come after. These extra verses pertain specifically to the Nassi. Interesting to note, that although Chabad custom is not to say the extra verses, the Chabad Rebbes did say them, but only after they accepted the mantle of leadership, and became the Nassi.

Parshas Hachodesh says nothing about a Nassi. What is the connection between these verses and Parshas Hachodesh?

Rosh Chodesh Nissan usually falls in the week before or after parshas Vayikra (except in Jewish leap years), this indicates that there is a special connection between Vayikra and Rosh Chodesh Nissan. In parshas Vayikra you find a sacrifice of the Kohen Gadol and a sacrifice of the Nassi, which in the parsha means the King.

Another reason that would align with Rabbi Menachem's opinion, that the Nassi refers to the King. Is that Rosh Chodesh Nissan is the New Year for kings. So Parshas Hachodesh is about Rosh Chodesh Nissan, which is the Rosh Hashanah for the Nassi.

Why does the Haftora tell us about the details of the inauguration, the sacrifices and regulations of the Third Temple? Because Parshas Hachodesh speaks of the Pesach sacrifice, which is eaten at the Seder. The essence of the Seder, is the Exodus from Egypt and the coming of the future redemption. Also, our great sages say, that "In the month of Nissan will be the future redemption." Being that Parshas Hachodesh is about Rosh Chodesh Nissan and Pesach, and Nissan and Pesach are about the redemption, the Haftora gives details of the Third Temple inauguration, sacrifices and regulations.

The Haftora goes into the details regarding the opening of the Heichal gate. It is only to be opened on Shabbos, Rosh Chodesh and when the Nassi brings a sacrifice. No one is allowed to enter through the gate, even the Nassi should stand at the gate as the Kohen prepares and offers his sacrifice, then he should bow down to Hashem, but he doesn't enter. On Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, the gate is to remain open, so that people visiting the Temple can bow down to Hashem.

The gate was open on Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, but it was closed on Yom Tov. Why?

The difference between Shabbos and Yom Tov, is that on Shabbos we are lifted to a higher level, we are spiritually uplifted above the natural. On Shabbos, the court didn't find it necessary to set extra protections to prevent inappropriate behavior, even though it is a mitzvah to drink wine, which could lead to frivolity. Because on Shabbos we are above the natural.

On Yom Tov we are not above nature, rather, we draw from above into nature. Because we remain in the natural, and it is a mitzvah to drink wine, we must abide by the rules of nature. Therefore the court would set extra protections to prevent inappropriate behavior. This is also the reason why we are specifically meticulous to have a guest on Yom Tov, more than on Shabbos. Because having a guest is a protection from inappropriate behavior, which is not necessary on Shabbos.

Another difference is that on Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh, Gehinnom does not operate, because punishment is not meted out on Shabbos or Rosh Chodesh. However, it does operate on Yom Tov.

On Rosh Chodesh, although we are in the world, and we work unlike Yom Tov. Being that Gehinnom does not operate, and the Heichal gate was indeed open, we must conclude that we are in an elevated state, like Shabbos. And the work we do on Rosh Chodesh, is somehow not the same as on a regular weekday. Also, because there is no mitzvah to drink wine, no protections were necessary.

The Shaloh Hakadosh tells us that all the days of the month of Nissan are like Rosh Chodesh. As Parshas Hachodesh begins, "This month should be for you Rosh Chadashim," which can be understood to mean, that the month of Nissan should be a month of Rosh Chodeshes. So the whole month is connected to, and share properties with Rosh Chodesh Nissan.

Please allow me to take you to a deeper place.

About the Heichal gate, the Haftora says, "The gate of the inner courtyard which faces east shall be closed for the six working days, but on Shabbos it shall be opened, and on Rosh Chodesh it shall be opened."

Hashem created the world with 10 utterances which came from the Divine Wisdom. Higher than Divine Wisdom is the Divine Will, that is where Hashem's yearning to create the world begins. Divine Wisdom is connected to the world, while Divine Will is before or above any connection to the world.

The gate of the Heichal is called "the gate that faces kadim (east)." Kadim is like kodem, which means before, referring to the Divine Will.

During the six working days the gate was closed, meaning, that the Divine Will is hidden. During the six working days, our connection to Hashem comes only through toil and hard work. However, on Shabbos the gate is open, His will is revealed, as it says about the first Shabbos "He ceased work and rested." Does Hashem really need rest? Rather it means, that He ceased creating from Divine Wisdom and His Will was revealed. When this happened, Hashem had great pleasure, because His Will was fulfilled.

This happens every Shabbos, Hashem's Will is revealed, and since the essence of a Jew also preceded creation, as it  comes from Hashem's Will, our essence is revealed as well. This is the meaning of the idea, that on Shabbos we are given an extra neshama, an extra level of our neshama is revealed.

This is also why we add the words v'ratza banu (that He wants us) in the Shabbos Kiddush. Ratza is from ratzon, which means will. On Shabbos, the gate is open, Hashem's Will is revealed, therefore our essence is revealed, and we experience our intrinsic bond with Hashem. That we are His ratzon, His Will, He wants us.

On Rosh Chodesh, our essence is revealed as well, as "Israel is similar to the moon." The idea of Rosh Chodesh, is that there is something new, there is a new moon. And this, in essence, is what a Jew is all about, Hashem made us partners in creation. Our part is to add something new through our actions and work, through our Torah and mitzvahs. Where by we create an environment where Hashem could dwell openly. This is the Divine Will, and the reason for creation. This will be realized with the coming of Moshiach.

On Rosh Chodesh, the deepest part of our neshama is revealed, the point where we are one with Hashem, the spark of Moshiach that is in each and every one of us.

Being that the Divine Will is revealed on Rosh Chodesh, the Heichal gate is open.

The extra verses at the end of the Haftora, tells us the laws pertaining to gifts of land given by the Nassi. If the gift is to one of his sons, "It will belong to his sons, and it will be their possession by inheritance." If the gift is to one of his servants, "It shall be his until the jubilee year, it then returns to the Nassi." The Haftora then seemingly repeats, "But his inheritance to his sons, will be theirs." What is the Haftora adding with these words?

There are two relationships here to the Nassi, his sons and his servants.

A son has a natural bond with his father, he and his father are one. He doesn't have to do anything to earn this connection. When his father passes on, he takes the place of his father, the inheritance is automatic. Therefore, if his father gives him a gift, it is forever.

A servant does not have this natural bond. His relationship is based on his commitment to his master, and his acceptance of the yolk of service. All land in Israel, returns to its original owner in the jubilee year. Unlike the son, the servant doesn't take the place of his master, and the land goes back to the original owner.

Our relationship with Hashem, takes two forms. We are Hashem's children, as it says, "You are children to Hashem your G-d." As mentioned above, we have an intrinsic bond with Hashem. The son relationship is one of love, and in our service to Hashem, it is the pleasurable parts of Judaism, doing Torah and mitzvahs out of understanding and because we want to.

The problem with this kind of relationship is that, it is on our terms and can only reach to the level of our understanding, it is not infinite.

Then we are Hashem's servants, as it says, ". . . The Children of Israel, they are My servants." This is not the pleasurable kind, but rather, it is what we do out of commitment and acceptance of Hashem's yoke. Because we negate our will for His, the connection is on His terms, which is infinite.

The Haftora first speaks of the son, then the servant, and then the son again. Because it is coming to teach us about a third type of relationship that is greater than both.

The third, is a son that also has the qualities of the servant, that is why it is mentioned after the servant. Simply put, the son serves his father, the king, with a sense of commitment and acceptance of a yoke, but he does it out of love, pleasure and joy.

This is the best way to serve Hashem. This way, we find pleasure in serving Hashem and the connection is infinite. Needless to say, that Hashem enjoys it most when we serve Him this way.

This perhaps is the meaning of the verse, "Serve Hashem with joy." Serving as a servant, with joy, as a son.

May we merit to experience this deep connection with Hashem. And may we soon see our Nassi and the opening of the Heichal gate, in our Third Temple. The time has come.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

We Do What We Can And Hashem Does The Rest

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This week we read an extra Torah reading, Parshas Parah. The Haftora for parshas Parah is a prophecy of our prophet Yechezkel, in which, Hashem gives reasons for the exile, and tells how He will gather us from all the nations, purify us, and rebuild our population and cities in the era of Moshiach.

The connection to Parshas Parah, is that it speaks about the preparation of the Parah Aduma, the red heifer, and how its ashes were used to purify those who became impure due to coming in contact with a dead person. The ashes were mixed with water and sprinkled on the impure person. Similarly, the Haftora speaks of our sins, which caused us to become impure and sent into exile. And when Moshiach comes, Hashem says, "I will sprinkle upon you pure water (from the red heifer), and you will become pure..."

The Haftora begins with the reasons for the exile, and then Hashem starts to tell about the future redemption. He says, "I do not do this for your sake House of Israel, but for My Holy Name's sake... And I will sanctify My Name..., and the nations will know that I am Hashem... For I will take you from the nations, and I will gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you to your own land. Then I will sprinkle upon you pure water (from the red heifer), and you will become Pure..."

Rabbi Akiva said, "Be happy Israel..., who purifies you? Your Father in heaven, as it says, 'And I will sprinkle upon you pure water and you will become pure.' And it says, 'Hashem is Israel's mikva.'* Just as a mikva purifies the impure, so does Hashem purify Israel."

Rabbi Akiva is talking about forgiveness of sin on Yom Kippur, and he teaches us several things.

First, that more than the day of Yom Kippur, and more than our prayers and supplications, it is our intrinsic bond with Hashem that grants us forgiveness and purifies us.

This is clear from the verses in the Haftora. "I do not do this for your sake... I will sprinkle upon you pure water and you will become pure." Meaning, that it is from Hashem. Why does He do it? Because we are one with Him. And on Yom Kippur, this intrinsic bond is revealed, and when that happens, the forgiveness is automatic.

From the first verse that Rabbi Akiva states, "And I will sprinkle upon you pure water," being that the actual verse is talking about a special and powerful event, the coming of Moshiach, we might assume that this kind of forgiveness could only be attained at special times, like Yom Kippur. Therefore, he adds the second verse about mikva, to teach us a second lesson, that just as mikva purifies at any time, so too, we can reveal this bond and attain forgiveness at any time.

Why does Rabbi Akiva say, "Just as a mikva purifies the impure?" Who else does the mikva purify, but the impure? He could have said, "Just as a mikva purifies, so does Hashem purify Israel," and we would have understood the same thing. What does "the impure" add?

When it comes to impurities, some are purified by going to the mikva, while others are more powerful, and require the water from the red heifer. When a person has two impurities, one that requires mikva, and the other that needs the red heifer, and he just goes to the mikva, he becomes partially pure. So he is now purified and still impure. This is what Rabbi Akiva is teaching us with the words "purifies the impure." When someone has several sins, but he is overworked and doesn't have the time or the energy to do proper Teshuva for all of them, and he says to Hashem, "I will work on the sins that are on my conscience." He should not think it is all or nothing, Hashem will accept his partial Teshuva. When Hashem sees that a Jew is turning to Him, even in the smallest way, He readily accepts him. And he can be certain that ultimately he will do Teshuva for the rest, Hashem will help him, as our great sage Ben Azzai said, "One mitzvah brings another mitzvah."

The idea here, is that we can only do things according to our ability, and then Hashem does His. We also see this in the continuation of the Haftora. Hashem says, "I will give you a new heart and a new spirit I will put inside you, I will take away the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. I will put My spirit inside you, and cause you to keep my statutes..." All these things will be done by Hashem, when Moshiach comes, after we have done our part.

This is a general rule as well. There are some things that are beyond our ability. When faced with this kind of situation, we must do what we can, and then it is up to Hashem to do His part and complete it.

The Alter Rebbe explained the verse, "I will take away the heart of stone from your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh." The question is asked, why doesn't it say, that He will remove our brain of stone and give us a brain of flesh? Because with our brain, we have the ability to understand, however, many lofty spiritual ideas are beyond our ability to integrate into our spiritual makeup and feel them. If this is the case, what point is there, in learning these concepts? This is one of the cases, where we must do our part, learning and understanding to the best of our ability, and Hashem in turn will do His part, removing the stone heart, our inability to feel, and give us a soft heart of flesh, so that we don't just understand. But feel as well.

May we soon experience all these things mentioned in the Haftora, with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

* The verse says, "Mikvei Yisrael Hashem," which means, Hashem is Israel's hope. However, the word Mikvei can mean mikva as well, and this is the way that Rabbi Akiva uses it here.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Going Beyond

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Parshas Zachor, which is about Amalek, is always read on the Shabbos before Purim. The Haftora is about the war against Amalek and its king, Agog, waged by King Shaul.

The obvious connection to Purim, is that in the story of Purim, the wicked Haman, who was the descendant of Agog, sought to kill all of the Jewish people (Heaven forbid), and the miraculous victory over Haman, through Mordechai and Esther, the descendants of King Shaul.

What other connections are there in the Haftora to parshas Zachor and to Purim? What lessons are to be learned from this Haftora?

The Haftora begins with Shmuel our prophet giving Hashem's command to Shaul to utterly wipe out Amalek. "So says Hashem..., 'I remember what Amalek did to Israel..., when they were going up from Egypt. Now go and strike Amalek and destroy all that they have...'" What is interesting about this verse, is how it varies from the verse in parshas Zachor, "Remember what Amalek did to you..., when you were going out of Egypt." In the parsha it says, "going out" from Egypt, and in the Haftora it says, "going up." Going out and going up express two different purposes in leaving Egypt.

Going out refers to getting away from the negative influence of Egypt. Going up refers to the positive purpose of going out of Egypt, receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, and becoming Hashem's nation.

The main idea of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, was that we were raised above nature, connecting with Hashem, and that Hashem would bring himself into the physical, allowing the world to be infused with G-dliness, through our study of Torah and doing of mitzvahs.

The Haftora brings to the fore the nature of Amalek. When does Amalek attack? When we are on the way up, when we are reaching to be who we are meant to be, above the natural and one with Hashem. This is what Amalek can't stand, this is where their hatred lies.

This is the war we wage against Amalek every day. When we are inspired to rise above, to be Jewish, above the natural, inevitably an Amalek comes to cool down our inspiration and fervor.

The war against Amalek coming out of Egypt was necessary. Overcoming Amalek was part of what set the stage for receiving the Torah. And the same is true today. We should not see our battle with our personal Amalek as a negative, but rather, as a necessary struggle, that prepares us to rise above.

The Haftora continues to tell us, how Shaul went to war and destroyed Amalek. However, he didn't do what Hashem wanted. He "took pity on Agog and the best of the sheep, the oxen and cattle," and kept them alive.

Hashem told Shmuel, "I regret that I appointed Shaul to be king, for he has turned away from Me and has not performed My word."

Shmuel went to confront Shaul. Shaul said, "I have performed Hashem's will." Shmuel asked, "What is the sound of the sheep in my ears, and the sound of the cattle...?" Shaul answered, "From Amalek..., to sacrifice to Hashem." Shmuel asked him, "Why did you not listen to Hashem's voice..." Shaul said, "But I did listen to Hashem's voice... And the people took the... sheep and cattle... to sacrifice to Hashem..." Shmuel replied with the famous words, "To obey (Hashem) is better than a sacrifice, to listen (to Him) is better than the fat of rams... Because you have rejected the word of Hashem, He has rejected you from being king."

Our great sages explain the verse, "Shaul was a year old when he reigned," to mean that like a one year old, he did not experience the taste of sin. From this is understood that the fact that he allowed Agog and the animals to live, was not because he intended to go against Hashem's words, rather he had a logical and holy reason for doing so. He thought that he was doing what Hashem wanted. What was his reasoning?

Shaul understood the idea of sacrifices, taking a physical and mundane animal, and transforming it into holy, revealing the light that is hidden in the darkness. The lower the object, the greater the transformation, and the greater the light that is revealed. Anytime we transform darkness into light it gives pleasure to Hashem. Shaul reasoned that Amalek's animals, the lowest of the low, would be an amazing transformation, and a great pleasure to Hashem.

But reasoning, even holy reasoning has its faults, and in this case, it caused Shaul to go against Hashem's words. As mentioned above, a Jew is meant to rise above, even beyond his reasoning, to do Hashem's will. This doesn't mean that he shouldn't use his intellect to serve Hashem. Rather, that even his intellect should be used, because that is what Hashem wants.

In other words, he humbles himself and is subservient to Hashem's will, even when it is beyond his reasoning.

It was Shaul's reasoning that kept Agog alive long enough to sire a child, and Haman is a descendant of that union. This one error in judgment, brought about the whole decree of Purim, to kill all the Jewish people in one day (Heaven forbid).

The key to the miracle of Purim, was Shmuel's words, "To obey (Hashem) is better than a sacrifice, to listen (to Him) is better than the fat of rams..." It was the Jewish people's self sacrifice beyond reason and their steadfast commitment to Hashem's will that brought the miracle of Purim.

This is also why, from all of the mitzvahs of Purim, the only one that is an obligation the entire day, is to have a festive meal, in which "A person is obligated to drink, until he doesn't know the difference between cursed is Haman, and blessed is Mordechai." To get to a point where our service to Hashem goes beyond our reasoning. Whether it be, "going out" from the negative influences, represented by "cursed is Haman," or whether it be "going up" doing positive and connecting with Hashem, represented by "Blessed is Mordechai," should be "until you do not know," beyond your understanding.

Through taking our service to this higher level, going beyond our intellect to do Hashem's will, we will once again merit great miracles, like the miracles of Purim, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Beacons Of Light

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The Haftora for parshas Teruma, is about the construction of the First Temple by Shlomo.

The connection to our parsha, is that in our parsha, Hashem commanded Moshe to construct the Mishkan with all its details. It also mentions the main idea of the Mishkan, "And they will make for me a holy place, and I will dwell within them." This idea is reiterated at the conclusion of the Haftora, "And I will dwell within the children of Israel..."

The theme of the parsha, which the Haftora highlights, is that Hashem wants to be with us. We make a dwelling place for Him in the physical, and from there His light shines to the whole world.

How do we do this now in exile? What lessons could we take from the Haftora, about the Third Temple in the era of Moshiach?

The Haftora begins with, "And Hashem gave Shlomo wisdom." This is part of the reason there was peace in his time, as people from all over the world were enamored by his wisdom. The Haftora ends with a reference to David, who was a great ruler, waging great battles, and expanding the borders, gaining the respect of the world. This points to King Moshiach, of whom the Rambam says, that he will be, "from the House of David and the seed of Shlomo." Meaning, that he will be the greatest sovereign and the greatest in wisdom. It will be Moshiach that will gain the respect of the world, achieve true world peace, and under him we will have the Third Temple.

The building of the Mishkan and the Temple is a requirement of every Jew, in every era, even when we don't have a physical place or the physical building. Each of us are able to make our surroundings, our home and our body into a dwelling place for Hashem.

The Haftora tells us that Shlomo set up a levy. Men were required to work for one month out of three acquiring wood from Lebanon and stone from quarries, which would be used for the construction of the Temple. A man named Adoniram was in charge of the levy. Why is it important for us to know his name?

The name Adoniram can be divided into two words, adoni, which means "my master," and ram, which means , "is exalted." Like a levy, it is our obligation to make a dwelling for Hashem. This is done by uncovering the sparks of G-dliness hidden in the physical through doing mitzvahs with them, thereby reuniting them with their source, Hashem. "Adoniram was in charge of the levy," indicating that the physical poses no obstacle to our work, elevating these sparks to their "Exalted" source, because in this world, Hashem is the "Master," The only possible obstacle is ourselves.

The Haftora now tells us the dimensions and the design of the Temple. It says, "He made for the house windows, wide on the outside and narrow on the inside." Normally homes were built with windows that were wider on the inside, maximizing the amount of light entering the home. However the Temple's windows were wider on the outside, so that the light goes out of the Temple, to the whole world.

This is also true for every Jewish person and every Jewish home. By making ourselves and our homes into a dwelling place for Hashem's presence, we become a beacon of His light to our families, the community, and ultimately, to the whole world. In this time of exile, we are Hashem's Temple.

The Haftora tells us, that "Neither hammer nor axe nor any iron tool was heard in the House while it was being built." As a matter of fact, neither the Mishkan, nor the First and Second Temples were permitted to have any iron in it, as part of its construct. Why? Because iron was the metal used to make weapons for war, and it would later be used to destroy both the First and Second Temples. However, in the Third Temple, iron will be part of its construct.

Why is the Third Temple different? Being that in the era of Moshiach, there will no longer be death and war, and being that the Third Temple will be built by Hashem, it won't be subject to destruction. The negative aspects of iron will cease to be a factor, and the positive and holy side of iron will indeed come to the fore, and therefore it will be part of the Temple.

The First and Second Temples were made of stone. While stone is strong iron is stronger. Iron is even use as a term of strength, as in iron clad, strong as iron, etc.

One of the Holy aspects of iron is, as our great sages tell us, that "Any Torah scholar that isn't hard as iron, is no Torah scholar." This refers to their strength and steadfast commitment to the essence of their soul, like iron.

Iron in Hebrew is barzel, which is an acronym for Bilha, Rachel, Zilpa and Leah, the mothers of the twelve tribes, Yaakov's wives. And in this acronym the maids that became wives, Bilha and Zilpa, are named before the main wives, Rachel and Leah.

What is the possible advantage that Bilha and Zilpa have over Rachel and Leah?

To understand this, we first need to recognize the point of greatness, our matriarchs had over our patriarchs, symbolized by what Hashem said to Avraham, "Whatever Sarah will tell you listen to her voice." Because the matriarchs possessed a greater level of prophecy. This is similar to what is said about the time of Moshiach, that the feminine will be greater, "The feminine will surround the masculine." And, "The woman of valor, the crown of her husband," meaning, she will be above her husband. Being that the patriarchs experienced a taste of the world to come, they experienced how the feminine was greater.

The matriarchs also grounded the patriarchs, who were at a lofty spiritual level. But Rachel and Leah were also at a lofty spiritual level, they could only ground Yaakov's holiness so far. But Bilha and Zilpa, being at a lower spiritual level, were able to ground Yaakov even further, effecting and developing the lowest levels of the physical world.

When Moshiach comes, even the lowest physical existence will be raised to its G-dly source. So that what was lowest, will become holy at the highest level.

Now we can understand how iron, which is lower than gold, silver and copper, and the metal used in war and destruction, will be part of the Third Temple. Because even the lowest physical existence will be raised to its G-dly source and the highest level of holiness.

Through our efforts to make our homes and ourselves into a Mishkan, Hashem's light will spread throughout the world and usher in the redemption. And we will merit to witness the Third Temple, built with iron, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Repairing Our Temple

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This week we add a special Torah reading, Parshas Shekalim. The Haftora for parshas Shekalim, tells of the triumph over idol worship and repairing the Temple.

The connection to the parsha is that the half shekels were given as an atonement for the sin of the golden calf, which is the triumph over idol worship. And in the Haftora it mentions that the shekalim collected would be used to repair the Temple.

The Haftora begins with an account of the aftermath of Yehoyada the Kohen Gadol's revolt against the wicked Asalya.

Asalya was the daughter of Ahab and Jezzabel, rulers of the Ten Northern Tribes. She was married to Yehoram, heir to the throne of Yehuda, in order to form an alliance between the Northern Tribes and Yehuda. Evil like her mother, Asalya introduced Ba'al worship into the Kingdom of Yehuda, and stopped much of the services of the Holy Temple. This continued throughout Yehoram's reign and into the first year of his son Achazia's reign, when they were murdered by Yehu, king of the Northern Tribes. Asalya then had all of the royal family executed and established herself as Queen. However, Achazia had a baby son Yehoash, who was secretly saved by Yehosheva, Asalya's sister, and hidden in the Holy Temple for six years.

After Yehoyada's revolt, they destroyed the house of Ba'al and restored the Temple service to its former glory.

Now that Asalya was dead, Yehoash was paraded to the palace and installed upon the throne. He was 7 years old when he became king, he reigned for forty years, and the Haftora tells us that his mother's name was Tzivya. He went in Hashem's ways all his days, and followed the guidance of Yehoyada the Kohen Gadol.

King Yehoash noticed that the Temple needed repairs. He said to the Kohanim that they could take the money that came into the Temple for themselves, but they would have to pay for the repairs. However, several years passed and he realized that the repairs had not been done. He called the Kohanim, and asked them, "Why are you not repairing the bedek habayis (the cracks of the House)?"

Now he took personal oversight of repairing the Temple. The Haftora continues with an account of how the money was collected, counted, and spent, on architects, carpenters, masons, wood, stone and more.

The reading of Haftoras was established at a time when the ruling power over Jews, did not allow them to read the Torah in the synagogues. In other words, a time of exile. This means, that the Haftoras are meant to speak to us, and convey a message for our time, the exile.

The Haftoras main message is about Bedek habayis, checking to find the cracks and flaws that have set in over time, and repairing them.

Now that we don't have our Temple, how do we do bedek habayis? The idea of bedek habayis only makes sense in regards to the first and second Temples, which were built by man. Whereas, Rashi tells us, that the Temple we now are waiting for, is already "Built..., and will be revealed and come down from the heavens..." It is the work of Hashem's hands, perfect, and not subject to cracks or falling in to disrepair. And what more, it will descend with the coming of Moshiach, when our service to Hashem will be at the highest level. What kind of bedek habayis will there possibly be in the time of Moshiach?

The Third Temple, will come down with out our work and effort, like a gift. When you get something without effort, it is referred to as "Bread of shame." What part will we do to earn our Temple every day, after the coming of Moshiach?

It is a mistake to think that when Moshiach comes, that we won't need effort and derive satisfaction from our daily accomplishments, our service won't end, rather it will take a different form. In exile, our service of bedek habayis is finding the physical and spiritual flaws of our actions, sins, transgressions, etc., and work on fixing them. When Moshiach comes, there will be no more sins and flaws, our service will be to reach for and attain higher and higher levels of G-dly revelation. Our bedek habayis will be, searching our state, too see if there is something more that we could do, to make our way to a higher level. There is always a higher level to attain.

Now that we will have effort after Moshiach comes, the Third Temple, and the revelations received will not be bread of shame, but rather, earned.

May we merit to witness the Third Temple descend from heaven, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon

Thursday, February 23, 2017

1 + 1 = A Holy One

Audio Version By Rabbi Sholem Perl
Print Version
Mishpatim
This week we read and extra Torah reading, Shekalim. Every Jewish male was required to giv e a silver half holy shekel coin which went for the communal offerings.

A holy shekel was 20 gera. A half of a holy shekel was 10 gera, which is the value of a regular, not holy, shekel. So, a half holy shekel is a regular shekel.

Why a half shekel? And if a half holy shekel is a regular shekel, why not say shekel?

It is similar to what the Maggid of Mezrich explains about the trumpets that Hashem commanded Moshe to make. He said, "Make for yourself two chatzotzros (trumpets)." The word chatzotzros could be divided into chatzi tzuros, which means half forms.  "Two chatzotzros," means that Hashem and the Jewish people, are, so to speak, two half forms, that together complete each other. Same too, every Jew is like a half and become whole through connecting with other half shekels, other Jewish people.

How does this work?

Hashem created us in His image. Kabbalistic teaching explains, that just as Hashem has 10 G-dly attributes, we too have these 10 attributes. And just as Hashem connects to the world with both masculine and feminine aspects, as sometimes He is called Hakadosh Baruch Hu, the Blessed One Be He (masculine). Other times, as Shechina, the Divine Presence (written in the feminine). So too, we are divided into two genders, each with a unique purpose.

Our great sages tell us, that when "Ten (Jewish people) eat together, the Shechina shines." They are not davening or learning, all they are doing is eating and the Shechina "shines!" Why?

In some way, because we have a Neshama, which is a part of Hashem, we each carry the Shechina with us. Now, when ten of us are together, the Shechina shines, regardless of what we are doing. I can just imagine, that adding davening and learning Torah to the gathering can take the Shechina from a shine to a great bright light.

When a Jew connects with Hashem, you have both halfs of the form, each half is a whole on its own, each is 10, a whole shekel, but together, they become a holy shekel.

The same is true for Jewish people. Each one of us are perfect on our own, but we are only half of a holy shekel, we need another to be whole. The mitzvah of loving your fellow, makes you whole. Hashem likes to be where there is love and unity amongst friends.

This, of course, is also the case for couples. When you are together in a loving relationship,  you are two halfs that become one whole. In order for that to happen, you have to see your partner, not as a half, but as a whole. And then the two shekels, become one holy shekel. When this happens, Hashem wants to take part in your relationship, if you bring Hashem in, you take your relationship to a whole new level.

Hashem wants us to connect with him, however, He wants us to love each other first.

May Hashem bless us with good and strong relationships, with our friends, spouses, and ultimately with Him. Our unity and love will surely beget us the ultimate and open relationship with Hashem that we yearn for, with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.
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Dedicated to my wife, Dina Hurwitz, my other half shekel, who has been a rock throughout my difficult battle with ALS.