Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Power Of Yitzchak's Blessings

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In this week's parsha, Toldos, Yitzchak blessed Yaakov, "May G-d (haElokim) give you from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land, and abundance of grain and wine."

Most of the blessings given to Avraham and Yitzchak are given with the name Havaya (yud, hay, vav and hay). Most blessings in general, including the Kohen's blessing is with the name Havaya, so when a different name is used, in our case, Elokim, we have to ask: Why?

Every name of Hashem represents a different expression of His energy in the world. For example, the name Havaya represents chesed, kindness, it is an unbridled flow of His creative energy that makes existence possible. However, being that it is unbridled, it is too much, and in order to make existence actually work, the name Elokim, which represents gevurah, strength, discernment and discipline is necessary. It acts as a converter, translating the Havaya energy so that the world can exist as we know it. It doesn't restrict it, it just makes it user friendly. This is why in the story of creation the name Elokim is used, "In the beginning Elokim created the heavens and the earth." Because it is the name Elokim that allows for existence.

But at the same time, the energy that we receive from gevurah is greater than that from chesed. Because chesed, kindness, is cool and calm, and therefore limited, however, gevurah, strength, is hot and passionate, and therefore unlimited. 

Now it begins to make sense, why these great blessings are given only by Yitzchak, and not by Avraham and Yaakov, because Yitzchak's attribute was gevurah. We also find that right after Avraham died, Hashem blessed Yitzchak with the name Elokim, as it says, "And it was after Avraham died, and Elokim blessed Yitzchak his son." This is the first time we have the name Elokim connected to a blessing and it is specifically for Yitzchak. Before Avraham died, the blessings were according to his attribute and his mode of service, chesed, through the name Havaya. Once Avraham died, the blessings started to come in accordance with Yitzchak's attribute and his mode of service, gevurah, hence the name Elokim.

The blessings that Yitzchak gave Yaakov, "May Elokim give you from the dew of the heavens. . ." are greater than the blessing that Hashem gave Yitzchak, "And Elokim blessed Yitzchak his son." How do we know this?

Rashi tells us that Avraham was afraid to bless Yitzchak, because he saw that Esav was coming from him. So he said, "let the Master of blessings come and bless who is good in His eyes," And Hashem came and blessed Yitzchak. From this story it is understood that had Avraham blessed Yitzchak, his blessing would automatically transfer to his children, including Esav. It therefore stands to reason, that the blessing that Hashem gave Yitzchak, transferred to his children, so that both Yaakov and Esav had this blessing automatically.

We read in our parsha of the lengths Yaakov went to, doing things that were against his nature, just to secure Yitzchak's blessings. If he already had Hashem's blessing, why did Yaakov want Yitzchak's blessings so badly? The answer is obvious, that Yitzchak's blessings were much more than the ones he already had.

We also read in the parsha, that Yitzchak wanted to give his blessings to Esav. Why? Didn't he know that Esav was trouble? Of course he did, but he saw in Esav great potential, because the source of Esav was from a very high spiritual realm, and he felt that if only he got the blessings, perhaps they would bring out his great potential.

We are taught, that although Esav had great potential, the blessings would have been wasted on him. Either they would have gone to waste, being swallowed by his boorish nature, or they would have been too much for him to handle, and they would have destroyed him.

Ultimately, it was Yaakov that got the blessings, and that is good, because it is only through Yaakov, that Esav could be refined, attain his true potential and receive the blessings.

We are Yaakov's descendants, and we have been given the ability to have an amazing effect on the world around us, Esav's descendants, we could bring out their great potential. In this way, they also receive the blessings.

What gives us the ability to have such a profound effect on the world? It is because we have Yitzchak's powerful blessings from the name Elokim, and this is what it means when it says, "through him (Avraham) the nations of the world will be blessed." That we, the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, will finish the mission that they started, change the world for good and bring Moshiach.

May we all enjoy the simple meaning of Yitzchak's blessings, "May G-d give you from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land, and abundance of grain and wine." Together with every other blessing, including nachas, good health and abundance. And especially the greatest blessing, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
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In honor of my brothers, the Shluchim of the Rebbe, who are having the International Conference of Chabad Lubavitch Shluchim (Kinus Hashluchim) this week. May you have amazing success in your shlichus, nachas from your children, and good health.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When The Moon Disappears

This Dvar Torah Is Dedicated 
By Mendy and Ita Klein
In honor of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, for the continued inspiration you provide for us all 

To Dedicate a Dvar Torah Click Here
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This week we read a special Haftora for Erev Rosh Chodesh (the day before Rosh Chodesh), called Machor Chodesh. When Shabbos falls on Erev Rosh Chodesh, we read this Haftora instead of the Haftora connected to the parsha.

The Haftora tells us that King Shaul's son, Yonasan, felt that David's life was in danger. So he devised a plan to find out if his father really wanted to kill him. "Yonasan said (to David), 'Machor Chodesh (tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh), and you will be remembered because your seat will be empty.'" He told David to hide for three days in a certain place where there was a travelers marker stone. In three days he would go there with a young boy and have his bow and arrow, to practice. He would shoot three arrows, and send the boy to collect them. If he calls to the boy and says, "they are to the side," then it safe to return. If he says, "they are further," then David's life is in danger.

Over Rosh Chodesh it became clear that Shaul wanted to kill David.

Yonasan went to the place with the boy and his bow and arrows. He shot three arrows, and called out to the boy, "they are further." After the boy collected the arrows, Yonasan sent him back to the city and David came out of hiding. "They kissed each other and wept with one another, until David became great (weeping even more than Yonasan)." Yonasan reiterated his pledge of everlasting friendship and they parted ways.

Before explaining this Haftora, we must first explain why we read this Haftora altogether? Answering this question, will bring clarity to all the symbolism found in this Haftora.

The rule is that the Haftora has to be similar to the parsha, and at least similar to the end of the Torah reading or connected to the time. Most of the time, when we have a special Haftora that is read instead of the weekly parsha's Haftora, we have a special maftir as well, and the Haftora is connected to the maftir. On Shabbos Machor Chodesh there is no special maftir, so why do we read this Haftora?

An even greater question is, what kind of holiday is Machor Chodesh, the day before Rosh Chodesh, that it should have a special Haftora and usurp the regular Haftora? We don't find any other day before a holiday to have a special Haftora. For example, there is no Machor Pesach or Machor Shavuoth (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos can't fall on Sunday). Why does Erev Rosh Chodesh have a special Haftora?

Reading this Haftora itself doesn't make sense. Aside for the fact that the story in the Haftora begins on Erev Rosh Chodesh, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with Erev Rosh Chodesh. It hardly makes sense that a Haftora be set, based on two words in the first verse, "Machor Chodesh," when the rest of the Haftora has nothing to do with it.

There must be something very special about Erev Rosh Chodesh, and the Haftora must be highlighting that exact point. What is so special about Erev Rosh Chodesh?

Rosh Chodesh is when the new moon appears. Before the new moon appears, it first has to completely disappear. The birth of the new moon brings with it a new light, a new spiritual energy, but in order for the new energy to enter the world, there has to be the total nullification of the self, the moon has to totally disappear. It is the actual nullification of the self, that brings the new spiritual energy into the world.

This idea is symbolized by the words, "you will be remembered because your seat will be empty." "Because your seat will be empty," meaning, because of your self nullification, that is why "you will be remembered," meaning, you will cause something positive to happen.

The Talmud tells us that "Jews count by the moon," "Jews are similar to the moon," and "in the future, they will be renewed like her (the moon)." Just as the new energy enters the world through the total nullification of the self, so too, through our total self nullification and self sacrifice to do Hashem's will, an amazing light is brought into the world, as I will explain.

Our purpose is to make this lowly limited physical world into a dwelling place for Hashem. The way we do this, is through refining ourselves and our place in the world so Hashem will be able to dwell in it openly. This is done by using everything to serve Hashem, either for Torah and mitzvahs, or to help you serve Hashem in some way. And this takes work, especially on one's self, first by forcing your ego to do what Hashem wants, and then through transforming the ego, to the point that it wants to do what Hashem wants. This is hard work, and the nullification of the self. This process brings amazing levels of G-dly light into the world, and it is specifically the nullification of the self to Hashem, that causes the light to come.

The work of refining ourselves and the world around us, is symbolized by the bow and arrow. Just as with a bow and arrow, the more you pull back on the bowstring, the further the arrow will go, the same thing applies to our work. The deeper into ourselves we go and the lower the place in the world we refine, the greater the light that enters the world.

When we complete this process, Hashem will dwell openly in this world, which means that Moshiach will be here.

This dark and bitter exile that we are in, is like the day before Rosh Chodesh. Slowly as the day goes on, the light of the moon gets smaller and smaller until it completely disappears. It is then that the new light comes. It is specifically our efforts in the darkest part of the exile that causes the light of Moshiach to enter the world.

At the end, at the darkest time we do the ultimate refinement through teshuva, as the Rambam says, "In the end, Yisrael will do teshuva at the end of their exile and they will immediately be redeemed." Teshuva means coming closer to Hashem, and everyone can do teshuva. For some it means correcting their ways, but there is a higher level of teshuva, where even someone who doesn't have to correct his ways comes closer to Hashem. He is not satisfied with his current level, as no one should be satisfied, and should always want to get closer to Hashem. Through this higher level of teshuva, he breaks free from his current state and reaches a higher level.

This is symbolized by the first words of the Haftora, "And Yonasan said (to David)." Yonasan symbolizes the Tzadik, and David the Baal Teshuva. It is the service of the Tzadikim that enable Baal Teshuvas to start their teshuva, but they ultimately reach the level of the Tzadik, as we see in the Haftora, "They kissed each other and wept with one another." This means that at that moment they were equals. However, teshuva will take you even higher, that is why the verse continues, "until David became great." Because through teshuva you can reach higher than the level of a Tzadik. So great is the power of teshuva, that the Zohar tells us about Moshiach, that "he is coming to bring Tzadikim to do teshuva." That when Moshiach comes, Tzadikim will harness the power of teshuva and soar to incredible heights, because Hashem is infinite, and there is always higher levels to attain.

Erev Rosh Chodesh is symbolic of our essential purpose and mission. And the day of Shabbos accentuates it even more, because on Shabbos we are raised above creation, and we sense our essence.

With all this said, it becomes clear that Erev Rosh Chodesh is of great importance to us, it therefore deserves to have a Haftora of its own, and even take the place of the parsha's Haftora.

May our efforts to complete our mission and our teshuva, flood the world with the light of Hashem, and usher in the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Making Your Life Your's

This Dvar Torah Is Dedicated 
By Mendy and Ita Klein
In honor of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, for the continued inspiration you provide for us all
To Dedicate a Dvar Torah Click Here
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This week's parsha, Chayei Sarah, begins, "And Sarah's lifetime was 127 years, the years of Sarah's life."

The question is asked: If it already said, "And Sarah's lifetime was 127 years," why does it add, "the years of Sarah's life?"

Another question: Why does the Torah tell us how long Sarah lived, as opposed to the other matriarchs, whose years aren't told to us? The Zohar says, that because she went down and came up from Egypt, she merited to have an exalted state of living. Which means that her life now was filled with a very high spiritual state as a gift from above. He concludes that "her life was her's," meaning, that she was master over every aspect of her life, and even more, not only did she received the gift of an exalted state of living, but she internalized it, and mastered that as well.

The Rebbe Rashab (the fifth Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shalom Dovber Schneerson of Lubavitch) explains the words of the Zohar, that the first part of the verse, "And Sarah's lifetime was 127 years," means that she merited to have an exalted state of living, and the second half of the verse, "the years of Sarah's life," comes to teach us that her life was her's.

Rashi explains that the extra words, "the years of Sarah's life," comes to teach us that her years were all equally good, which means free of sin. How do we reconcile Rashi's interpretation with the words of the Zohar, that "her life was her's?"

We have a rule, that what our patriarchs and matriarchs did, is a lesson to us, their children, as to what we should do. If the Torah tells us extra words, "the years of Sarah's life," which mean equally good, free of sin, it means that we should also have equally good years. How can this be a life lesson for us to follow? A lesson can be applied to the present and the future, but not the past. If someone had committed sins in the past, how can his years be equally good, free of sin?

This is where teshuva comes in. There is a kind of teshuva that could correct the past as well, as if no sin was ever committed, when someone does teshuva out of love.

What is teshuva from love? There are different reasons a person does teshuva. Sometimes it is done out of fear, either because he is afraid of punishment or he feels that he will not get what he needs from Hashem if he doesn't correct his ways. Then there is the person who wants to get closer to Hashem. He yearns from the depth of his heart and thirsts for a relationship with Hashem, only to get closer and closer. Doing teshuva from this approach is called teshuva from love.

Being that it is possible to change the past, it is possible to follow Sarah's lead and have all your years equally good. In other words, a Jew has total control over his life, even his past , if he wants to. And when he does, it becomes his life just like Sarah's life was her's.

How does changing the past work?

On a basic level, because he realizes that he sinned, he is full of remorse, and he feels cut off. Therefore, he becomes bitter over his lowly situation and that pushes him to do teshuva. Now, because it is the sin that motivated him to do teshuva, repair the bond, and come closer to Hashem than he was before the sin, it is the actual sin that brought him closer. Superficially it is a sin with all its trappings, but through his teshuva he reveals a hidden good from within the sin, and that takes the place of the sin.

On a deeper level, teshuva from love is so powerful, that it reaches a place that is beyond the creation of time. Time is also a creation and there are spiritual realms before or beyond the existence of time. At the moment of teshuva you are beyond time, and there is no past, present or future, therefore, it is as if you are transported to before the sin and it is corrected.

Not only do we learn this lesson from Sarah, but because she was at such a high level, and she was able to internalized it, and take ownership of every aspect of her life, it means that we could as well. Because Sarah is our mother, and it is in our genes to be like her. Therefore, we have the ability to have all our years equally good and that our lives be ours, just like her.

You might think, "I am not holy enough or special enough to be able to do teshuva from love." It is a mistake to think that way, every Jew is holy and special, and can do teshuva from love. It is not the easy route, it will take work, learning about Hashem, understanding why He created the world, and why He created you. But when you begin to understand, your love for Hashem will start to burn inside you, and with time and effort, the fire will grow and lead you to teshuva from love.

If you follow these steps, you will begin to see Judaism differently. Instead of it feeling as a burden you are responsible for, you will begin to have a passion for it and do it with joy. And joy is the key to breaking all boundaries and reaching the greatest heights. You will even do your teshuva with joy, passion and love, and you will become the master over your life, past, present and future, just like Sarah our mother.

May our efforts to get closer to Hashem, bring us to "serve Hashem with joy." This joy will break all boundaries, especially the constraints of this dark and bitter exile, and usher in the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.


If you want to learn about Hashem,  I suggest learning the book of Tanya as a starting point.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Power Of Our Mitzvahs

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Moshe Gaerman
לע״נ באשע ליבא ע״ה בת אברהם
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In this week's parsha, Vayeira, Hashem sent an angel to destroy Sodom and Amora (Gomora). He said, "Should I conceal from Avraham what I am about to do? Seeing that Avraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and through him all the nations of the world will be blessed. For I cherish him, because he will instruct his children and his household after him and they will keep Hashem's way (literally path) to do righteousness and Justice . . ."

Why does Hashem use the terms "conceal" and "path?" The word hamechaseh, which means to cover up or to conceal is not the usual word used in this context. Therefore we must ask, why is it being used? The word derech means a path. Why is following Hashem's way called a path?

The verse says that Hashem cherishes Avraham, "because he will instruct his children and his household after him and they will keep Hashem's way to do righteousness and Justice . . ." What about everything Avraham did until that point? Wasn't he tested over and over again? Didn't he work on teaching people about Hashem? Shouldn't Hashem cherish him for those things?

It seems to be saying that Hashem cherishes Avraham because of us, being that in the future, we will do the mitzvahs. And because of that He is revealing what is concealed.

To understand this, allow me to take you to a deeper place.

The word derech is a way or a path. A path connects two places and allows travel between the two. One place can be a great city and the other can be a small village. They could have nothing in common, yet they are connected. Even more than that, travel goes both ways, someone from the great big city can travel on the path to the small town, and he can return on the same path to the great big city.

In our verse, the words "he will instruct his children," refer to Torah, "and they will keep Hashem's way," refers to the Mitzvahs. The next words seem superfluous, "to do righteousness and Justice," which again means to do the mitzvahs. What do we learn from the extra words?

Though Hashem is beyond the world and there is nothing in common between this lowly limited world and the unlimited infinite Hashem. Nevertheless, Hashem created a pathway for us to connect with Him. First through Torah, drawing from His infinite light down into our limited lives, and then through doing mitzvahs we reach up and connect with even higher levels than where Torah comes from. Because Torah is Hashem's wisdom and mitzvahs are Hashem's will, and will is higher than wisdom.

This is how we make the world into a home for Hashem, not by destroying the lowly physical state and turning it in to spiritual, rather it remains the same world, but we make it ready to receive His presence through our Torah and mitzvahs.

All this is with regards to the part of Hashem that is, so to speak, related to the world. But there are higher parts, that are beyond any connection to the world, they are referred to as "concealed." Hashem is saying that He will reveal these as well. How do we tap into these higher levels?

That is where "to do righteousness and Justice" come in. There are two levels in doing mitzvahs. The first is an outcome of Torah, we draw down G-dliness through the study of Torah, we do the mitzvahs as an outcome of understanding the Torah, thereby reaching even higher levels.

Then there is the greatness of mitzvahs on their own, and not as it relates to Torah study. The power of our mitzvahs will be recognized when Moshiach comes, and it is our mitzvahs that reveals and connects us to the concealed levels of G-dliness.

This is what Hashem cherishes about Avraham, that we, his descendants, will do the mitzvahs, Hashem's will, and therefore He reveals what is concealed.

Even though the power of our mitzvahs will only be revealed when Moshiach comes, meaning, that we will see the power of our actions. Nevertheless, although we don't see it now, it accomplishes the same thing, and we have the power to tap into the concealed levels of G-dliness.

Our mitzvahs are so powerful and Hashem cherishes each and every one of us, because of our commitment to doing them.

Knowing this, we should try to add to the mitzvahs we do, and do them with more enthusiasm. Perhaps it will be your mitzvah that will tip the scale and usher in the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Call To Every Jew

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
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In the first verse of this week's parsha, Lech Lecha, Hashem commanded Avraham, "Lech Lecha, go for yourself, from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." Hashem continues to tell Avraham that, "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great." This is the first command to the first Jew, therefore, there must be a message here for every Jewish person, for all time. What is the message?

There are two approaches to understanding this verse. The first is that it is referring to the journey of the soul, a descent from above to below. The soul is asked to leave its home in the highest spiritual realms, and make the descent into the lowest possible realm, the physical world. But it is here that it affects the most change and accomplishes its purpose, and the effect is so powerful, that it brings Hashem's blessing and becomes great. Meaning, that the soul is uplifted to higher spiritual realms, beyond where it was before its descent.

In this way of understanding the verse, we are given a glimpse of our purpose, the goal of every Jew, to make this world into a better place, the way Hashem wants it. A place where Hashem could call home.

The second approach is more in line with the simple meaning of the verse. It refers to the ascent from below to above we must make every day from the lowly and mundane, from "your land, your birthplace, and your father's house," which in the context of the verse, refers to a place and an atmosphere of idol worship, " to the land that I will show you," the land of Israel, a place of holiness.

This is especially poignant now after the holidays, when we are thrusted into the mundane, which in chasidic teaching is called, "V'Yaakov halach l'darko, and Yaakov went on his way," meaning that every "Yaakov," every Jew, goes on his  way after the holidays, doing his mission to transform his part of the world into a dwelling place for Hashem.

The name Yaakov is used here, which comes from the word eikev, a heel, which is the lowest part of a person's body, because we can even transform the lowest part of ourselves to do Hashem's will. When the heel is transformed and moves in the ways of Hashem, it takes the rest of the body with it.

We see this on Simchas Torah, the end of the holidays, when we celebrate through dancing with the soles of our feet, and they make the body and head dance as well. This is the same message, and a preparation for the rest of the year, that if you can get the lowest part of you to serve Hashem, then all of yourself will serve Hashem. And if you can transform the lowest part of the world into a dwelling place for Hashem, then you transform the whole world. Because when you lift something from the bottom, you lift the whole thing.

It is through Torah, mitzvahs and living the life of a Jew that transforms this world, and we have the power to do it, we inherited it from our forefather Avraham. It is through this work that we complete Hashem's command to Avraham, "Lech Lecha."

Although these two explanations are opposites, the first a descent, and the second an ascent, they are both explanations of the same verse, and therefore simultaneously true. And we have to take both messages at the same time. That we have descended to effect this world, and we should try to change it from the bottom up.

So "Lech Lecha," is a call to every Jewish person, to do all you can to complete the mission and make this world into a home for Hashem. It is through both of these approaches working simultaneously that we create an environment that the highest levels of G-dliness, even the levels that are beyond the world, to enter the world and become part of our lives.

This is the key to the blessings found in our parsha, and the path to the ultimate blessing, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Water Didn't Drown Me, It Raised Me Up

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This week I had the biggest scare of my life. In the middle of the night, something was blocking my airway. My wife Dina and my nurse tried desperately to clear it, but nothing was working. I can't begin to imagine what Dina was going through, but she did what had to get done and because of that I am alive.

For me it was terrifying, not being able to breathe, slowly fading, thoughts racing. The thoughts I had, first of my wife and children, then I thought, "I can't believe this is happening."The last thing I remember thinking is, "Okay Hashem, if you want me, I am yours, shema Yisrael..."

The next thing I remember is glimpses of the hallway, and I came to in the ambulance.

If it wasn't for this near death experience, I wouldn't have gone to the hospital. Now that I did I am so grateful, because they did routine tests and found a serious issue, that is now under control.

The outpouring of love from the community, from all over the world, was amazing. We were falling and you caught us. Though we were going through what was possibly the most traumatic experience of our lives, because of your love, instead of drowning into the dark abyss, the turmoil raised us up to heights we could never imagine.

That is the way struggles, traumas, difficulties, etc. are, they could destroy you, but with the right attitude they will lift you up. It also helps to have a great support system, which makes you part of something greater than you can be on your own.

In parshas Noach we read about the flood, the turbulent waters that destroyed so much. However, it was the exact same water that lifted the Ark high above the highest mountain tops, and carried Noach, his family and the animals that repopulated the world.

The key is to enter the Ark, especially when the waters get rough.

The Ark symbolizes an environment of hope, trust and closeness and commitment to Hashem.

The word for Ark in Hebrew is teiva, which means a letter of the Hebrew Alef Bet, this symbolizes the Torah. The Torah is a source of strength and a refuge in times of difficulty. It also gives you the right perspective, which will keep you positive.

In the Ark, animals of prey coexisted with the other animals, because the light of Moshiach shined, when there will be no strife. It is the goal of our existence, and when you understand the purpose and are focused on the goal, the waters are easier to navigate.

Being on the Ark was hard work for Noach, feeding and taking care of the animals, but the outcome was that he saved the world. Doing what Hashem wants is hard work, but what it accomplishes is amazing. We have to realize that our struggles are of extreme importance, and when we finally complete our work, we will have brought the world to its ultimate destination, and the reward will be unlimited.

May we merit to see the completion of our toil and our struggles once and for all, with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

I would like to thank all of you who contributed to the fact that I am alive. Especially Hatzolo, and LAFD. And thanks for all of you who advocated for us to have the best treatment. Thanks to the doctors, nurses, hospital and ambulance personnel. And thanks to all of you who prayed for me, and all the well wishes. I am happy to be alive.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How We Succeed

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
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The Haftora for parshas V'zos Habracha, which is read on Shemini Atzeres in Israel and Simchas Torah (which is the second day of Shemini Atzeres) in the Diaspora, is the beginning of the book of Yehoshua, which is the continuation of the events in our parsha. As it begins, "And it was after Moshe died..."

When you delve deeper into the Haftora, you begin to see how it connects with Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, keeping and studying Torah, and doing good deeds, loyalty and brotherhood.

The Haftora records the first communication from Hashem to Yehoshua and the preparation before crossing the Jordan into the promised land.

Hashem tells Yehoshua that they would be crossing the Jordan and that "everywhere that the soles of (the Jewish people's) feet will tread, I will give to you (the Jewish people)." He continues to tell Yehoshua the borders of Israel, that no man will ever stand up against him and that He will be with him just as He was with Moshe.

Now comes a statement that is repeated over and over again to Yehoshua, "Chazak v'ematz," be strong and have courage. He is told this by Hashem three times. First with regards to leading the Jewish people, then about keeping the Torah, and finally about going to war.

About keeping the Torah, Hashem says, "Just be strong and very courageous to observe and do in accordance with all of the Torah that Moshe My servant has commanded you. Do not stray therefrom right or left, in order that you succeed wherever you go. This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth; you shall meditate therein day and night, in order that you observe to do all that is written in it, for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper."

This message said to Yehoshua, is a lesson to each of us, and connects to Simchas Torah, when we conclude the last parsha of the Torah and start reading once again from the beginning.

The Midrash tells us, that from the words, "This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth," we learn that Yehoshua had a Sefer Torah with him. Rashi tells us that it was the book of Devarim. When he completed the last words, Hashem said, "Chazak v'ematz." From here we have the rule, that when someone completes the Torah, we say Chazak.

The Talmud tells us, "four need strengthening, (meaning, that a person has to constantly strengthen himself with all his might to do them, Rashi) and these are they, Torah, good deeds... As it says, 'Just be strong and very courageous to observe and do in accordance with all of the Torah,' be strong in Torah and courageous in doing good deeds..."

"Do not stray therefrom right or left, in order that you succeed wherever you go." Being that Torah is truth and G-dly knowledge, the closer you align yourself to it and the more accurately you follow it, the more you will succeed and find happiness and meaning.

It is not enough to learn and understand it. But, "you shall meditate therein day and night." In other words, you have to take it to a whole new level, each according to his ability, to make it part of who you are, to have a deeper understanding of what Hashem wants, and to know the inner workings of the Torah. "In order that you observe to do all that is written in it," because you will find pleasure in doing it, now that you see the purpose in it.

Hashem continues, "for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper." A Torah life, is a successful and prosperous life. It is a life of truth and values, it is real and fulfilling. Therefore you will find satisfaction and you won't feel empty.

Now, Yehoshua sends word to prepare to cross the Jordan and he calls on the tribes of Reuvain, Gad and Menashe to keep their promise to join their brothers in battle, although they were already settled on the other side of the Jordan. They wholeheartedly consented and told Yehoshua that they would do whatever he requests of them.

Keeping their promise was an act of brotherhood and unity. And that is the idea of Shemini Atzeres, while on the seven days of Sukkos there were 70 bulls brought as sacrifices for the nations of the world, on Shemini Atzeres only one bull was brought for the Jewish people. It is a time of unity among the Jewish people and between Hashem and the Jewish people. This idea is seen in Simchas Torah as well, as we all dance with the Torah, irrespective of level of scholarship, we dance together as equals, because the Torah is our inheritance, it is equally ours.

Being the last day of our holiday season, it is meant to set the tone for the whole year. That is why we have these themes stressed at this time, because these ideas of keeping and studying Torah, delving deeply into it, doing good deeds, unity, brotherhood, and loyalty to our Tzadikim, is what fortifies us and enables us to do our mission.

Just as in the Haftora, they prepare to cross the Jordan into the promised land, we will soon complete our mission, go together to our Holy Land, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.