Thursday, July 31, 2014

Positive in Any Situation

This Shabbos is called Shabbos Chazon, the vision. Named for the Haftora, the vision of Isaiah.  

Our parsha starts with a rebuke of the Jewish people, Moshe lectures them on many of their failings. It ends, however, on a positive note. Moshe telling the, that when they enter the land and go up against Canaan, they should not fear, because HaShem will fight for them. 

So too in the Haftora, Isaiah starts his vision with a rebuke, only to turn around and end on a positive note "Zion will be redeemed through justice..."

These readings are always read on the shabbos before Tisha b'Av, the fast of Av, the saddest day on the Jewish calendar. Commemorating the destruction of both our temples in Jerusalem and much more. 

The rebukes found in our Parsha and Haftora seem to fit the theme of Tisha b'Av, but how does the positive ending fit?

It is for us to realize, that though Tisha b'Av is a sad day, all the sadness connected to it, has a positive purpose. None of the suffering was in vane. 

Even more, we will see with clarity how our efforts and suffering, was that which accomplished the ultimate redemption. 

This helps answer a second question. 

When Moshiach comes Tisha b'Av will be celebrated as a happy day. Why? True all sadness will end, but it's history remains a sad one. 

When Moshiach comes, Tisha b'Av will be celebrated as a happy day. Not merely because all sadness will end, but even more we will see the positive in all the Tisha b'Av events. 

Each of us finds ourselves in difficult situations from time to time. It's hard to see the positive in it. But if you stop and recognize, that HaShem placed you in that specific situation, you will realize that there must be a positive purpose. Though you might not be aware of what the purpose is, you will be able to keep upbeat and positive. 

Now with our soldiers fighting for the safety of our brothers and sisters in Israel we must be positive and do our part by adding in Torah, teffila (prayer), and tzedaka in their merit. Through this we merit the last words of our parsha "do not fear them, HaShem will fight for you". 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A visit. So little So Much.

Diagnosed with bulbar onset ALS otherwise known as Lou Gherig's disease. I am not able to speak, eat or drink. Barely able to walk with help. Left hand is useless and my right can do little. I sit most of the day in a power wheel chair which I'm grateful for. Thank GD I can see, hear, smell, taste and feel. It's just some muscles that stopped working. Most things are done for me as I am no longer able to do the do even the simplest of things on my own.

Many of you have taken the time to visit me. I want to describe how much your visits mean to me. 

A person in my situation could have been left, given basic necessities and go through life feeling alone. Thank GD my family loves me, they would never let me feel that way. 

When you visit, I am filled with the feeling of importance, kinship, love and joy, I feel like I matter to you and to the world. I am honored that you visited. The great feeling inside is one of elation and joy. It is one of the things that gives me life and strengthens my will to go on. 

All this and more just by coming and sitting with me. You don't have to worry about what to say, It's unimportant. Of course some conversations will be more interesting then others. In some I might even hear words of Torah. The most important thing is that you came. 

In the past I would be the visitor but now, being the visited, I have gained a whole new perspective. When the chachamim tell us that visiting the sick takes away one sixtieth of the illness, it is not that you just removed illness, but even more, you added life. 

With this in mind, consider making it a part of your schedule to visit the sick in your community. 

Thank you for your visit. 

Friday, July 25, 2014

Together in Friendship

In this weeks parsha, Maasei, the borders of Israel are clearly defined. It also tells how to apportion the land. Every jew has a portion.

This parsha is always read during the Three Weeks. The time of year we mourn the destruction of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, and the exile of our people.

What message is found in all this for us now?

Every Jew has a portion in the holy land. Showing a natural unity among us. It is specifically through brotherly love and unity that we merit the holy land.

When we are together in brotherhood, we are even stronger.  We help each other overcome obstacles.

Now, during the three weeks is a time to strengthen our bonds of friendship, especially with those we have the most difficulty. Now is the time to overcome our differences.

When Jewish people are unified with love and brotherhood it gives Hashem the greatest nachas. it is almost irresistible to Hashem, to see his children in a state of togetherness.

More than any Mitzvah, Ahavas Yisroel, love between Jews, is what will end this exile. We need Moshiach now more than ever.

Being the last Parsha in the book of Bamidbar , Numbers, we end with the call of chazak, be strong.

Our brave soldiers fight to protect our brothers and sisters in our land, we should do our part, learning extra Torah, praying, and giving tzedaka in their merit.

Let us wish them Chazak, be strong, we are with you and Hashem is with you. We are all in this together.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Stronger Through Difficulty

At the start of this weeks parsha, by the laws of Annulment of Vows, the tribes of Israel, usually called shvatim, instead are called matos.

Why the different word? What connection does it have to annulment of vowes?

Though the two words shevet and matteh are alike in meaning, roughly translate as stick or staff, they have fundamental differences.

Shevet refers to a branch still attached or recently  detached from the tree. It is still wet inside. Matteh however has been separated for a while and has had time to dry and harden.

A craftsman who wishes to create something of quality needs to be aware of the moisture content of the wood. The conditions the wood was subject to will also have an effect on the quality of the wood.

Today for example. Reclaimed wood (old wood once used in construction, resold and reused) is very sought after for its qualities that are not found in new lumber.

Next , the craftsman using his tools to saw, drill, chisel etc. the wood, brings out the true natural beauty and function of the wood.

Now, why would a person take a vow. When a person has a weakness bringing him or her to commit a sin. Taking a vow to abstain from it is helpful because of the strength and the fear of breaking that vow. However the vow doesn't change the person. For someone to annul this kind of vow seems counterproductive.

That is where the wise man comes in. The job of the wise man who does the annulment, is to help the one who took the vow work on himself to become stronger. To bring out strength from deep within to overcome the weakness. The vow would then be unnecessary.

Each of us is a matteh. HaShem puts us through all different kinds of situations, some happy and in some we suffer. However, we know that it is Hashem, the Ultimate Craftsman, who is putting us through these conditions and that He helps us overcome any obstacles he puts before us. We know that He will bring out our greatest potential.

The same is true of the Jewish people. Hashem has put us through all kinds of difficult conditions. Though we don't know why, we do know that he has a plan and that what He does is good.

By now we are an ancient piece of wood, we have been through so much, we are truly magnificent.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Taking an Unpopular Stand

Looking at this week's parsha, Pinchas, you can't help but think about Israel.

Our parsha talks about the laws of inheritance of the land of Israel.

Then, Moshe appoints Yehoshua to be the next leader. The one who would lead the Jewish people into the land of Israel.

It talks about the sacrifices brought at different times in our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, Israel.

The strange thing is, that this parsha begins in middle of a story about Pinchas, how he killed two people, thereby stopping a plague that took the lives of 24,000. For this, Hashem gave him the title of Kohen, priest, for him and all his future descendants and the namesake of our parsha, Pinchas.

What are we meant to learn from Pinchas about the land, the leaders, and the temple service of Israel?

There are times that we are faced with a dilemma: Do what is right or do what is popular?

Unfortunately it is very difficult to stand against what is popular, because "What will people say?", "everybody is doing it" and "they won't like me".

Pinchas was faced with this dilemma. No one was ready to stand up and do the right thing. In the face of that he stood up did what was necessary and saved the day. Stopped the plague, and is rewarded with the priesthood.

Same is true for the leadership of Israel. The whole world is against you but you need to do what is right. It is very difficult to be like Pinchas, but ultimately that's what stops our people from dying. That's how we inherit our land. That's leadership.

Same is true for each of us. Hashem chose us because we have it in us to stand up for what is true and what is right. If we do what Hashem wants in the face of what is considered popular, we too earn our title of ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש a kingdom of priests and a holy nation and we will merit to have our temple, the Beis Hamikdash, in Jerusalem.

Let's us daven that Hashem strengthen the leadership of Israel, that He keep our brothers and sisters there safe and that He protect our soldiers from harm.

Friday, July 4, 2014

How amazing are we?

In this week's parsha, Balak, we read how the wicked Balam sets out to curse the Jews but in the end, HaShem has him bless them instead.

Balam goes on to say prophecy of Moshiach's coming.

What purpose does it serve, for Hashem to have the prophecy of Moshiach's coming said specifically by a wicked, Jew hating person like Balam?

Just to add fuel to the fire. This prophecy is found in parshas Balak, which is named after another wicked, Jew hating king. There are no mitzvahs in this parsha and this parsha ends with the Jewish people reaching a new low. As far parshas go this one seems to be the lowest.

In what seems to be the lowest parsha, the lowest of people, Balam, prophesies the greatest event the jewish people will ever have. Which is one of the 13 principles of Judaism: the coming of Moshiach. Why?

This is truly a testament to the power of the Jewish people, to transform even the darkest of places, the darkest of situations.

We have the ability and the obligation to shine light and lift and transform even the lowest to holiness. What's more, Hashem puts us in these dark situations and gives us the power to transform them.

Now, When you lift from the bottom, you lift the whole thing.

That is the message found in the fact that the prophecy of Moshiach is found in this parsha, seemingly the lowest, by Balam the lowest of people. Even a Balam is changed to say Moshiach's prophecy.

How amazing are we?  Through us, the lowest, darkest situations and most evil people can and will be transformed to goodness and light . We are truly amazing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

To be or to do? That is the question

Since I was a young yeshiva student, I've felt that the greatest accomplishment was to do what the Rebbe wants. 

There was a competing need/want, the need to be in the presence of the Rebbe. 

To be by the Rebbe or to do his work?

Though I was in his presence on many occasions, from the age of 16 whenever I had to choose between doing the rebbes work and being in his presence, doing his work always won out. 

It seemed clear That to be the Rebbe's soldier, accomplishing what he wanted was by far more important. 

Gimmel Tammuz 20 years ago, some were shattered, broken and it took them some time to pick up the pieces and figure out what to do next. Until this point, for them, being by the Rebbe was everything. What now?

For me it was sad but It didn't break me. It was clear. Just continue to do what the Rebbe wants. 

Ultimately I got the best of both. Being close on hundreds of occasions and doing the Rebbe's work. 

When I was close I felt that he was proud of me, I was his man, his soldier. 

Going onto Shlichus was just the next step as I was already a shliach. 

Now when you are the Rebbe's messenger, you are one with the Rebbe, you can't get any closer than that. 

The Rebbe is the Moshe Rabeinu of our generation. HaShem speaks through him. His mission is HaShem's mission. Doing the Rebbe's mission is doing HaShem's mission. Being his shliach makes you HaShem's shliach. You are then one with the Rebbe, one with HaShem.

Now that's close. 

What is there left to do? Just a little. 

You are the Rebbe's shliach or at least you could be if you chose. In your home, at work and wherever you are. 

This way we will accomplish the mission. We will bring Moshiach and be once again in his presence.