Sunday, March 29, 2015

What About the Frogs? - Pesach Humor

On Chol Hamoed we read in the Torah, that a treifa should be thrown to the dogs.

Why do the dogs get this treat?

It is brought down, that because the dogs remained silent when the Jews were leaving Egypt, they get a treat, they get the meat.

The Question is: What about the frogs?
During the plague of frogs we learn that the frogs jumped into the ovens. Total self sacrifice for Hashem.

Why don't the frogs get a treat?

The answer is: Because as it is for many. It is far easier to kill yourself than to keep your mouth closed.

(Heard from Yisroel Varnai)

Thursday, March 26, 2015

I Wood if I Could

In this weeks parsha, Tzav, we read "The fire that was burning on the alter should not be allowed to go out, and the Cohen must kindle upon it wood every morning."

The fire on the alter was a G-Dly fire that remained whether wood was added or not. What was the purpose of adding the wood? What can we learn from this? 

Every one of us is a Beis Hamikdash, a Holy Temple. At our spiritual center, our alter, is a G-Dly fire that could never be extinguished, this is our Neshama, our G-Dly soul. 

One may mistakenly think, "I am a Jew at heart, isn't that enough? I will set myself on auto-pilot, my current direction is good enough for me."

To this the Torah says, the Cohen must kindle wood on it every morning. You must invest your physical self, possessions and time to develop and grow your fire every day. 

We can take a lesson from this for our personal relationships. One may mistakenly think, he/she/they know how I feel, that should be enough. You might think "I give them everything they want", that should be enough. To this the Torah says "The Cohen must kindle upon it wood every morning". You must invest your physical, mental and emotional self into the relationship regularly.

It is now over a year that my arms and lips stopped working. I ache to hug and kiss my children, I ache to speak to them and tell them how much I love them and how proud I am of them. Now more than ever I see the value of these things. 

Please, do not take your relationships for granted. If the tragic events of the past few weeks has taught us anything, it taught us that we should grab the opportunity to develop our relationships with the ones we love. Keep adding wood to your fires.  Don't wait for the "right moment".  Do it now!

Dedicated to my wonderful wife Dina, who hugs and kisses our children for me, and to our wonderful children that hug and kiss her back. 

Thursday, March 19, 2015

The Greatest Gift You Can Give


In this weeks parsha, Vayikra, we read about sacrifices brought to Hashem on the alter. 

There were animal, bird, and flour offerings. 

From all the offerings brought, the flour offering had a special name. It was called a Mincha, a gift. 

What is so special about this offering that it is called a gift? What lesson can we take from this? 

The Mincha was usually brought by the poor, being that they could afford neither animals nor birds. 

For those who could afford animals or birds, bringing a sacrifice didn't change their lifestyle. Whereas for the poor person, it was truly giving up his basic needs. It was giving of himself in the purest sense and to Hashem that is a "gift". 

There is giving of what you have and giving of who you are. Each of us should give of what we have. The question is: Are we also giving of who we are? 

Hashem gave each of us talents, abilities and natural gifts. These are your's for as long as you have them. These were given to you so that you can accomplish your unique mission. Using these talents, abilities and natural gifts is giving of what you have. 

Your essential self is by far greater then the gifts you possess. Allowing your neshama to come through and effect those around you, is giving of yourself. 

Over the past two years I've been watching my abilities, talents and gifts slip away, wondering: What is the purpose of living if I am not able to do these things? 

The answer became clear as people started to visit. With nothing to give of my talents, I was left with raw love and joy towards the visitors, and that apparently came through more powerfully than all the talents. 

You don't need to wait to tap in to your essential self. You can allow it to come through in everything you do. Ah! Your essence is beautiful, let it come out. Now, that is a "gift" to Hashem. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

When is it Enough

In this weeks parsha,  Vayakhayl Pekudei, we read that both men and woman donated for the construction of the Mishkan. Both men and women participated in its construction. It didn't matter if they were rich or poor. It didn't matter which tribe they were from. Each gave according to their ability and each participated with their talents that Hashem gave them. 

They were careful to do everything the way Hashem wanted them to, down to the smallest detail. 

In the end, Hashem's presence filled the Mishkan, dwelling amongst them once again. 

After two hundred and ten years of exile in Egypt, eighty seven of which were fraught with terrible suffering and slavery. It must have been so satisfying and so exciting to see the Shechina fill the Mishkan. 

What lessons can we learn from this? 

We are here for a reason, to fashion this world into a dwelling place for Hashem.

Every one of us is necessary to ensure success. We are all different. We have different means, different talents and different circumstances.  We know we can do it because we've done it once before, albeit on a smaller scale. The main thing is that we work together and that we do it right. Small details matter. As in every project, it is not complete until each does their part and until the finishing touches have been done. 

How about us, haven't we suffered enough? Haven't we done enough? The events of this week alone have been more than we can bare. Hasn't the time come for all this anguish to end? 

It is true, the expression of Hashem's presence we will experience at the time of Moshiach will be based on our exile experience and our effort in  accomplishing Hashem's will. 

Perhaps Hashem is holding out for just a bit longer because He wants something more, something deeper that he knows we can attain. Imagine how amazing it will be when Moshiach will come. 

Nevertheless we need Moshiach to come already. Hashem, please send him and end the suffering. 

Until then, we can be there for each other. Chazak chazak V'nischazeik, Be strong! Be strong! And let us strengthen each other! 

This week's Dvar Torah is dedicated to the Kehaty and Piperno families. Chazak Chazak V'Nischazek!!  We are with you now, and we will be with you always. 

Friday, March 6, 2015

Using Regret to Our Advantage

In this weeks parsha, Ki Sisa, we read about the sin of the golden calf. Just months after Hashem freed us from the shackles of Egypt, just days after Hashem revealed His essence to us at Mount Sinai. We betrayed Him in the most hurtful way possible. We made and served a false god, and to throw salt on the wound we gave it credit for redeeming us from Egypt.

As a nation this has been our biggest regret to date. It has also been our greatest catalyst to change and get closer to Hashem. It weighs heavily on our national conscience and we continually atone for this grave blunder.

Ultimately it is this that gave us the most powerful tool for atonement, the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy. It is what shaped us into the great, unwavering, G-D centered, dynamic, world effecting people that we are.

All  of us have regrets, all of us have done things that go against everything that we stand for at one time or another. Embarrassed and ashamed it weighs heavy on us. It feels like a dark cloud following us around.

The question is: Do we let it bring us down into depression? Do we ignore it and become numb, cold and insensitive? Or do you allow it to effect you and become a catalist for positive change?

Falling into depression is not the way. Hashem wants us to serve Him with joy. Becoming cold and insensitive is simply not Jewish. A Yid should be kind and caring.

Being cold or depressed is miserable and no way to live.

It's time to take the bull by the horns. Examine the guilt. If the wrong can be righted, then by all means, do so. If you hurt someone, apologize. You will be suprised how powerful an honest "I'm sorry" can be.

If it cannot be corrected, then allow the guilt to shape you into a better person. The guilt will then be transformed into the event that shaped you into the good person you have become. You will begin to see it as a positive rather than a negative.

Confined to a bed, I have a lot of time to think. How many experiences would I like to change? How many words would I like to take back? How many hurts would I like to soothe?

I know that your lives are busy and it's hard to find the time for this kind of introspection. However, this exercise will unburden you. It will allow you to rise above the hurt, the shame, and the resentments. You will be happier and those around you will be effected by the new and improved you.

If you can, please forgive me, please forgive you and forgive each other.

If you have a way to connect this to Purim, please share your idea in the comments.