Thursday, April 23, 2015

Overcoming Life's Challenges

In this week's parshas, Tazria and Metzorah we learn about the laws of a Metzorah, one who contracted a spiritual affliction called Tzaras. 

Tazria, tells all the laws of diagnosis and quarantining the Metzorah. Metzorah, tells of the process of purification the Metzorah would undergo to reenter the Jewish camp. 

The purification process starts with the words "This is the Torah of the Metzorah", however looking back to the laws of diagnosing and quarantining there is no such preface. Wouldn't it have made sense to say "This is the Torah of the Metzorah" at the start of the laws of the Metzorah? Why wait until the purification process to say this? 

The real question is, what do see when you meet a Metzorah? Do you focus on the ailment, or on the possibility to reenter? How does the Metzorah view himself? Does he see himself as an outcast?  Or as a person who was granted the opportunity and the time to search his ways and refine himself to have a more meaningful existence upon reentery? 

Therefore by the purification and reentery the Torah says "THIS is the Torah of the Metzorah". The focus needs to be on the positive. 

It is natural for us to focus on the negative. When our children or students misbehave or when life hands us a devastating blow, it is easy to focus on the negative.To focus on the child's punishment or to feel "oh how miserable my life is!" 

Of course the child needs to be dealt with appropriately, and the devastation hurts. Expressing the hurt and sadness is necessary, just as the Metzorah needs to be quarantined. These steps may be necessary but they need to ultimately be trumped by positive purposeful thinking and action. 

I remember when I was finished my first round of tests. The neurologist gave me his preliminary findings "you have bulbar ALS". I had no idea what it meant. He explained the severity of it to me and said he was going to refer me to an ALS specialist. 

I was there alone. Walking out of his office into the empty hallway I broke down in a fit of bitter tears. When I composed myself I headed out of the building. The first thing I witnessed stepping out, was a young man falling to the ground having a seizure. I ran to help him. 

It dawned upon me that there is still much purpose for me. I decided that regardless of the outcome of any future "tests" I would remain positive and find ways to fill life with meaning and purpose. 

This has turned my life and the lives of those around me happier and by far more fulfilling. 

We all suffer hardships and pain, it's what we do with them that makes the difference, "This is the Torah of the Metzorah". 

Dedicated to the Fabulous Five who have stepped up when this all started, took on the responsibility to support our family and started as a way to have others take part as well. 

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Wine is Okay, Drunk is Not

In this week's parsha, Shmini, we read that a Kohen is not permitted to do the Temple service while intoxicated. Hashem said this mitzva directly to Aharon, instead of the usual, where He would say it to Moshe or to both Moshe and Aharon together.

Why the change? What can we learn from this?

Earlier in our parsha we read about the death Aharon's sons Nadav and Avihu when, without being commanded, they brought incense offerings. Moshe said to Aharon "This is what G-d spoke, 'I will be sanctified by those nearest to Me, and I will be honored before all the people.'" And Aharon was silent.

From here we understand that Nadav and Avihu were "those near to Me", they were at a very high spirtual plane. Hashem chose to be "sanctified" through them.

Rashi tells us that Aharon was rewarded for his silence. Hashem handed down the mitzva, not to do the Temple service while intoxicated, directly to Aharon alone.

Aharon's exceptance of Hashem's will in the most difficult and painful situation, earned him a divine communication.

Wine is symbolic of the deepest secrets of the Torah. To be intoxicated on this "wine", means to go to spiritual heights with the intention to lose yourself totally, to the extent that the Neshama leaves the body to become one with it's source, Hashem.

Though this sounds idealistic and lofty, it is not what Hashem wants of us. He wants us to reach spiritual heights for the purpose of returning with the spiritual power to infuse the physical world with G-dliness.

Wine is okay, drunk is not.

Aharon was all about the fusion of G-dliness in to the physical. That is what a Kohen Gadol is all about, helping us reach spiritually higher so that we can, in turn, use our new found heights to make this world in to a home for Hashem.

By being silent he demonstrated his acceptance of Hashem's will. Recognizing his children's greatness, being able to attain such a high spirtual plane and yet realizing that this is not what Hashem wants. Being able to accept Hashem's will in the sight of his children's lifeless state earned him a divine communication.

We all suffer heartbreak and pain, excepting it as Hashem's will, even and especially when it makes no sense at all, puts you on an exalted level, worthy of being Hashem's conduit to lift and help others achieve higher heights and greater accomplishments.

I don't know why Hashem makes us suffer, I wish He wouldn't. However, this is His will and He surely has a good reason. All we can do is accept, and when we do we become His agent for positive change.

This is in no way giving up hope that things will get better. Rather we except what Hashem has burdened us with and pray for things to get better.

There is a story of a man digging through the toughest of rock in search for precious gems. As he is digging the work is so hard and seems so pointless and he is tempted to give up so many times. But he knows that if he persists no matter how tired he is, or how pointless it seems, he will find treasure. We are all digging deep in the hardest of circumstances right now. If only we knew how close we really are, we would be doing it with renewed energy and joy.

For thousands of years our ancestors have been digging. We are the most fortunate generation, for we will reach the goal. Of course the rock is hardest towards the end, but we are most determined and our will is stronger then ever. May we all be rewarded for our persistence, our pain, and our suffering with the coming of Moshiach immediately. 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Do You See the Light of Moshiach

Many have the custom to have meal as Pesach comes to a close, called the Moshiach Meal. This was established by the Baal Shem Tov around 350 years ago.

Pesach is not only about the exodus from Egypt, but also about the future redemption.

This theme is clear from the Seder on.

We finish Magid with a blessing of the future redemption.

The cup of Eliyahu is connected to the future redemption as Eliyahu Hanavi is meant to herald Moshiach's coming.

We finish the Seder with "לשנה הבאה בירושלים, Next year in Jerusalem". Again referring to the coming of Moshiach.

As the days of Yom Tov progress the light of the Moshiach gets stronger and stronger.

When we have a Shabbos Chol Hamoed, we read the Haftora about the Valley of the Dry Bones which is about the future resurrection of the dead.

On Shvii Shel Pesach we read Shiras David, the Song of King David the father of  Moshiach.

Acharon Shel Pesach, the last day of Pesach, the Haftora is all about Moshiach. There is a special spiritual light that shines. Getting more and more intense as the day progresses.

It is therefore apropos that we do Yizkor at that time. For there is a strong sense of closeness to those we wish to see again.

It is for this reason Chasidim have a special meal called Seudas Moshiach. Where we eat Matza and drink wine. We sing songs and speak words of inspiration.

Our great sages tell us During the month of Nissan our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt and during the month of Nissan we will be redeemed in the future.

Hashem made the month of Nissan a time of redemption. May we merit Moshiach's coming now. I hope to be sitting at the table, eating and drinking for Seudas Moshiach, with Moshiach himself.

Here is a link to "Finding Strength in Impossible Situations" a Dvar Torah written for Parshas Bishalach, which is read on Shvii Shel Pesach. 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

It Is Your Choice

In the Haggadah we read, that Hashem took us out of Egypt Himself rather than have His angels do it. Why? If the objective was simply to free us from Egyptian bondage, wouldn't we be just as free had He sent angels to free us? There is obviously something deeper happening here. 

Hashem freed us for a reason, to be His partner in creation, to finish what He started, to fulfill His ultimate goal, that we develop this world into a place that His Presence could dwell openly. 

God is ever present, however, nature was created so that it hides His presence. How then is it possible for us, mere creations, to change nature? 

Therefore, Hashem Himself redeemed us, because for us to effect creation, we had to be raised  above creation. Angels can't reach that high so He did it Himself. 

While we have physical existence, there is a part of us that trancends creation. 

The Haggadah elaborates this point, because the central theme of the Seder is not only the Exodus from Egypt, but also the ultimate redemption, the coming of Moshiach, when Hashem's Presence will be revealed. Through our efforts we hasten his coming . What gives us this ability? The fact that Hashem raised us above creation. 

How does one feel free when life is so difficult, so many responsibilities? It seems that we are effected by creation not the other way around. 

Freedom does not mean that life is free of challenges, rather that we recognize that Hashem Himself put us into our situation and it is not a challenge at all. It is an opportunity that He is giving us to effect creation.  

You might ask, "How could someone like you feel free when you are not able to move most of your body? How do you remain positive and happy in your predicament?" 

I choose to see it that way. You can too! 

Have a kosher and happy Pesach, may it truly be the Chag Hageula, the holiday of redemption.