Wednesday, September 24, 2014

New Year Requests

This year parsha Hazinu is read on Shabbos Shuva. In it you have the song of Hazinu which is a teaching, a rebuke, a warning, a promise and a prophecy wrapped in one. 

We lived with this song all week, starting last Shabbos, the 25th Elul, the first day of creation, by mincha. Ending on Rosh Hashanah, the day man was created. 

It all fits nicely together. Rebuke all week followed by a promise of redemption on Rosh Hashanah. 

The same heaven and earth created at this time is called to be witness for all eternity. That the words of Hazinu be fulfilled.

What is the connection between Rosh Hashanah and Hazinu?

In addition, on Rosh Hashanah we ask for our needs. Seems shallow that on such a holy day we preoccupied with our mundane needs. Why is this day set aside for asking?

In Hazinu the purpose of creation is clearly defined. Our mission to do HaShem's will, by which,through our effort, we develop this world into a dwelling place for HaShem, where He is revealed to all, realized at the time of the redemption. 

Rosh Hashanah, the day Adam was created, the mission of man began. Every year we go to shul pledging to continue and finish the mission. That's why we ask for our needs on Rosh Hashanah, we are asking for what we need to accomplish our mission. So don't be shy, ask well. 

May we see our mission fulfilled and witness the final redemption this year. The sooner the better. 

Have a happy and sweet new year!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Standing Still Getting Closer

This week we read a double parsha, Nitzavim - Vayelech. 

Nitzavim is always read on the shabbos before Rosh Hashanah, while Vayelech is read either on the shabbos before or after Rosh Hashanah. Either way, there must be a Rosh Hashanah lesson for us here. 

Nitzavim, means standing firmly. Vayelech ,means and he went. These seem to be opposites. Standing or going? You can't do bot, or can you? How can you stand and go at the same time?

We all serve HaShem. Our service is clearly proscribed down to the detail. Our job is to be Nitzavim, standing firm, doing the mitzva in it's exact prescribed manner. Not to be influenced by those who say lighten up, so what if you change it up a bit. 

On the other hand we don't want to be robots, just going through the motions. That's where Vayelech comes in. Vayelech is movement and change, not in the action of the mitzvah, but in the intent. Every day, as we learn and get a deeper appreciation of HaShem, it intensifies the meaningfulness of our service to him. The mitzvah done as proscribed "stands firm" but our expression of it "goes" ever higher. 

On Rosh Hashanah we renew our commitment to HaShem, to do his will for another year. Not just in action but also by adding in depth. 

The same idea could be seen in our personal relationships.

Sometimes, as time is passing, our lives seem to be bland and repetitive.  Keeping our responsibilities, being a good husband or wife. What is now needed is time to get to know your spouse better. As your appreciation for each other grows, your responsibilities will become more joyous and more meaningful. 

Regularly set aside time to talk and get to know each other better.  This will do wonders for your relationship. 

Have a happy and sweet New Year. 

Friday, September 12, 2014

Your Effort Makes a Difference

This weeks parsha, Ki Savo, is always read on the second shabbos before Rosh Hashanah. There must be a message here to help us, in preparation for the great day. 

The parsha opens with the mitzva of bikurim, first fruits. 

First fruits were marked, later to be brought in a basket to the temple and placed near the alter. The cohen would then enjoy the fruit. 

The wealthy brought their fruits in a silver basket, while the common folk brought theirs in wicker baskets. Those who brought silver baskets would  later take them home. However, those who brought wicker baskets, would leave them in the temple. 

One would think that it should be the other way around. The wealthy, who could afford it, should leave their silver baskets. The poor, who struggle, should be able to take their baskets home. 

For the wealthy businessman the mitzva if bikurim was special. Being busy, he didn't have time. He just grabbed his silver basket, put the fruit in and went. 

For the common folk, this mitzva was so precious. The thrill inside, "I get to bring a gift to the temple". Lovingly they handcrafted their baskets, especially for this mitzva. 

These wicker baskets were so precious to HaShem because of all the love, time and effort that went into them. Therefore, He wanted them.  The silver baskets, beautiful as they are, did not have the same love, time and effort. Therefore, take them home. 

How will you prepare for Rosh Hashanah? Will you lovingly collect your fruit? Will you take the time to consider your past years performance of mitzvah and how you will improve in the coming year? Will you spend time preparing yourself for the holiday or will you just show up?

Your effort is important and precious to HaShem. He wants it, He appreciates it, He loves it. 

The same is true for our relationships. In our busy lives many of our gestures are last minute. Nice as they are, they are not the same as those we put time and effort into. While both are positive, the effort, time and love adds dimension, depth, and meaning. Try it, and you will see. 

Have a happy and sweet New Year. 

Friday, September 5, 2014

Don't Sweat the Small Stuff

This weeks parsha, Ki Seitzei, tells us: "If there is a quarrel between  (two) men, who come to court to be judged, the innocent one will be acquitted and the guilty one will be condemned."

In the Torah there is nothing extra. Here, however, there seems to be extra words. The verse starts "If there is a quarrel" it could have started "men, who come to court..." Isn't it obvious that there is a dispute, when two men come to court?

Then it continues "the innocent one will be acquitted and the guilty one will be condemned." What other option is there? Isn't that what a court ought to do?

This is a special case. First the two men were quarreling, from the fighting a dispute arose. When they come to court the judges recognize that this case started as a quarrel. They might be tempted to deal with the true underlying issue instead of judging the case at hand. The Torah tells the court to judge the case properly. 

There is a message here for us all. Don't think that quarreling with a friend is ok. Ultimately it will escalate and you will end up in court. Your case will not be judged according to your feelings but by the law. 

We each need to think about our relationships. Is it really worth fighting with friends and family. How many of us haven't spoken to a friend or, even worse, a family member for a long time because of some petty matter?

Don't let it come to that. Wether you feel innocent or guilty in the situation, it's not worth the constant fighting, bickering and hurting. 

Sometimes we lose focus, forgetting that HaShem puts us in our situation. We start to feel negative about ourselves and everyone around us.  Then the quarreling begins.    

Practice recognizing HaShem's hand in all that happens. It will keep you positive. 

Life is short. Be positive and easy to get along with. Be a good friend and good family. Let the petty stuff slide. Be happy, friendly and smile a lot.

You will positively change the world for the good, and you will bring out the positive In those around you. 

(I would like to thank my wife Dina for her input in writing this post.)