Thursday, May 28, 2015

Same but Different

This week's Torah portion, Nasso, is the longest parsha with 176 verses. It is always read right before or right after Shavuoth. This is a clear indication that there must be something of great importance to be learned from here that is central to our keeping of the Torah.

The parsha starts with the tribe of Levi's responsibilities moving the Mishkan. Then you have the Cohen's blessing. Finally, it ends with the offerings brought by each of the Israelite (Yisrael) tribal princes for the Mishkan's inauguration. This adds to the central importance of the message to each tribe and each classification, Cohen, Levi and Yisrael, with regards to our service of Hashem, symbolized by the Mishkan.

What central lessons can be learned from these three sections, Levi's responsibilities, Cohen's blessing and Yisrael's inaugural offerings?

The service of the Levi was manual labor, moving and hauling parts of the Mishkan. This teaches us that even physical work can be holy and that we must serve Hashem not only with Torah and Mitzvos but also our physical day to day actions.

The Cohen, with love, blesses all the Jewish people with blessings of physical abundance, physical grace and physical peace. The Cohen is made to recognize that Hashem loves and values every Jew, in every place and at every time and wants him to have physical abundance, etc. So too, we must recognize the value of every Jew and seek to have them included in Hashem's service. We must find pleasure in each others good fortune and seek to help those who haven't found their's yet.

It seems that all the princes brought the same offering, but if one is to delve deeper into the symbolism of each princes offering, you will find, that what looked the same was unique in meaning and therefore, truly different.  When we do a mitzvah, it might seem that it is the same as the next guys mitzvah, we both put on Tefilin, we both light Shabbos candles. In truth, we are all different and though we are doing the same action, the Mitzvos we do couldn't be more unique. No one can do your mitzvah. This is why each offering had to be separately written, though they look alike, they are not.

So you see, your physical action is holy, your physical abundance is cherished and your Mitzvos are unique, the same but different. We can't do without you.

The Jewish people and the Torah are one.  We are the ones who live it.  We are living Torahs and everything we do could be holy and special.

Writing these Dvar Torahs made me realize that I have my unique way of seeing the world. It made me realize that I have something different to contribute. Thanks to you, I feel that my efforts are valued and I feel loved and cherished. I guess you really do get this, even if you haven't thought about it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Do You Count?

In this week's Torah portion, Bamidbar, the Jewish people are counted and organized. Every one was counted, every one had their place under the banner of their tribe, surrounding the Mishkan,  the Tabernacle.

These countings are so significant, that our sages named this book Chumash Hapekudim, the Book of Numbers.

Parshas Bamidbar is always read right before Shavuoth, the day Hashem gave us the Torah at Mount Sinai.

What is the significance of this counting? What is the connection between this counting and Shavuoth?

In the innermost chamber of the Mishkan stood the Aron, the Ark. In the Aron were the tablets of the Ten Commandments which we received from Hashem on Shavuoth.

Around the Mishkan camped the tribe of  Levi and around them, all twelve tribes.

Being counted and organized around the Mishkan, teaches us that each of us have a specific part, a unique mission, that we are being counted on to do in the service of Hashem, symbolized by the Mishkan.

Being counted also unites us as one, with one grand purpose.

For this reason too, every one of us had to be at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah. You each are absolutely necessary, you each have a unique part of the Torah that was given specifically to you and to you alone.  When you do your mitzvah, all of us are effected by it, as being counted makes the sum whole. When we camped at Mount Sinai we were as one man with one heart, united as a people, united in purpose.

When a soldier does his mission, he positively effects his army and his country.

I love having visitors and Baruch Hashem I'm blessed with many. Bikur Cholim, visiting the sick, is a great mitzvah.

This week I was visited by a couple, long time friends of mine. After being with them for a few minutes, I could sense that there was a quality to their visit that was special. You could tell that this is their special mitzvah. Perhaps when their Neshamas stood at Mount Sinai, this was given to them as one of their unique missions.

By each of us championing our unique missions, we will surely merit to stand once again together, like one man with one heart this Shavuoth, with the coming of Moshiach.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Who Do You Think You Are

In this week's Torah portion, Behar- Bechukosai, we read, how being in exile, Hashem will remember the promise He made with our forefathers. "And I will remember My covenant with Yaakov and also My covenant with Yitzchak and also My covenant with Avraham..."

Why is the order of our forefathers reversed? First should be Avraham the oldest, then Yitzchak his son and finally Yaakov. 

Sometimes it seems that all great people lived in the past. We feel that we are not so holy but our grandparents were holy. "How could I be expected to be great? How could small me make a difference?"

By reversing the order, the Torah is telling us, that though our grandparents were great, we possess qualities and abilities that they did not. If we tap in to our G-d given strengths, we can accomplish wonderful things. We can be great as well. 

You may then ask, who am I to aspire for greatness? 

One of the qualities Yaakov had over Avraham, was that he was the decendant of great and holy people. Yaakov was born great, all he needed to do was to reveal what he already was. 

You too decend from Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. You don't have to aspire for greatness, you were born that way. All you need to do is reveal who you are. 

When I was diagnosed with ALS and loosing my ability to walk, talk, sing, dance, play the guitar, teach etc., I was faced with a dilemma: What purpose is there for me? What is there for me to accomplish? What difference can I possibly make? 

The answer became clear with the outpouring of love all around me. I saw how wonderful you all are and witnessed greatness from the most unexpected places. It dawned upon me that if my crisis brought out greatness in others, perhaps if I dig deep I will find some way to make a difference too. I was pleasantly suprised to find that there were still ways for me to make a difference and what more, even greater than before. 

You are greater than you think. Go make a difference. 
Dedicated to the memory of Ita bas Shlomo Bistrizky, a woman of valor and mother of a great family. 

Thursday, May 7, 2015

When Tragedy Strikes

In this week's parsha, Emor we read about the care of newborn animals. "When an ox, a sheep, or a goat are born, for seven days it should remain under its mother's care, from the eighth day and on it will be acceptable as a sacrifice a fire offering to Hashem."

Later in the same paragraph, the Torah commands us, "And you should not desecrate My Holy Name, that I may be sanctified amongst the children of Israel...".

What could possibly be the connection that brings these two laws together?

On a deeper level the newborn animals are symbolic of our emotions which our intellect, the mother, gives birth to. Rather than allow your emotions free reign, "seven days it should remain under its mother's care".  Allow your mind time to develop the emotion before expressing it.

This is especially important with regard to things which are out of our control. Things that come clearly and directly from Hashem. Especially when it is impossible to make sense of. Here we need to let our thought process the notion that Hashem knows what and why He does these things. Our job is to find a way to sanctify Hashem through these events, so that it changes us in a positive way.

This past Sunday, Hashem took Chaya Spalter, a very special young girl from this world. When I heard the news I felt broken. My first thought was, "My heart is broken, I just can't understand. I don't want to understand. Why Hashem do you continually break us?"

We became the Spalter's neighbors two years ago. I would see Chaya smiling despite her pain and suffering and it gave me strength. Her parents ability to be positive with all they were going through helped me stay positive.

Shabbos is difficult for me because I don't use my eye gaze computer, and being unable to move or speak it can get boring.

On Shabbos afternoon Chaya would take my daughters and other girls in our building. They would rehearse songs and create dances to go with them. She would bring them to my room and entertain me.

I am trying to find some meaning in this tragedy. If somehow we could learn to be more like Chaya, good, happy, strong, love for Hashem, positive, fearless, kind and beautiful within and without, perhaps then we can turn our pain into a sanctification of Hashem's name.

May we merit the coming of Moshiach very soon, and an end to this bitter exile.

Dedicated to the memory of Chaya Spalter.  May you "entertain" us again, very soon.

See also what Dina wrote about Chaya

Friday, May 1, 2015

Love Yourself

In this week's parshas, Acharei Mos-Kedoshim, there are many mitzvahs, but one stands out of the pack as a central pillar of Judaism. This is the mitzva of Ahavas Yisroel, love of your fellow Jew. In the Torah's words "And you should love your fellow as yourself". Rabbi Akiva says "This is a great principle in the Torah".

How does one love every Jew, even those he never met? It's hard enough to "like" the ones you know. Why does the Torah have to add the words "as yourself"?  The commandment could have been "and you should love your fellow". What can we learn from the words "as yourself"?

From the words "as yourself" it is clear that to "love your fellow", first you need to learn to love yourself. How does loving yourself help you love somebody else?

In order to love yourself, you need to understand what you are. Being a Jew means that at your essence there is a Neshama, which is truly a part of Hashem. When you think about this you realize how amazing you are and that you are one with Hashem. You realize that you must be capable of doing great things. You start to love yourself.

Now, if you realize that your Neshama and "your fellow's" Neshama are one, then loving him is loving yourself. The more in tune you are with your Neshama the more your love for other Jews grows.  Regardless of their differences you love them because you are tuned to their essence.

This is why every Jew felt loved when he came to the Rebbe, because he was truly in tune with his Neshama and therefore with yours as well.

It was due to the lack of this love that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed and it will take this love to have it rebuilt. This is a key aspect to bring Moshiach.

We desperately need Moshiach, we are all suffering in one way or another in this exile, it's time for it to end.

It's time to get past our petty differences and show love to our "fellow". It is unbelievable how small and petty differences drive us apart. You will also be supprised how a show of love will be reciprocated.

It seems that the ones closest to us pose the greatest challenge of all. This one doesn't talk to her mother, that one doesn't talk to his brother, etc.

When I was diagnosed with ALS, it was sobering. What is important became clear. It is clear that family is more important than the stupid arguments. It is clear that differences such as religious level, dress, etc., are petty. It is clear that we need to unite. It is clear that united we will bring Moshiach.