Thursday, June 25, 2015

Simply G-dly

In this week's Parsha, Chukas, we are taught the law of the Red Heifer. If someone comes in contact with a dead body, they have to be purified by being sprinkled with water mixed with the ashes of the red heifer. About this Mitzvah the Torah says "Zos Chukas HaTorah", "THIS is the decree of the Torah". Meaning, there is something about this Mitzvah which is central to Torah and its observance. 

This Mitzvah is a "chok", a Mitzvah who's rational is beyond human comprehension and is done just because it is Hashem's will. 

What are some lessons that we can take from this Mitzvah that effect Jewish life and observance? 

The first lesson is that we must be alive. Our attitude, outlook and focus must be positive and alive. Some see Torah as a bunch of rules telling them what they can't do. To them Torah becomes a miserable ball and chain which they lug around. Some even take pride in this form of misery "Look at how miserable I am for Hashem". This is not living. The Torah wants us to purify ourselves from even contact with death. To live with Torah, is to see the positive purpose and mission that Hashem has given to us. Instead of a ball and chain, Torah becomes wings with which you can soar. Mitzvos become a joy to do. Even the negative commandments are kept out of joy and positivity. You get to be Hashem's messenger to do these things. 

Another thing we can learn from the red heifer is, that its reason is beyond human comprehension. We only do it because it is Hashem's will. Same could be true about all the Mitzvos, even the ones we do understand, we can and should do them for a higher purpose, because it is Hashem's will. This makes our seemingly mundane actions meaningful too. 

Being unable to do anything for myself, I see more than ever how simple actions can be meaningful and G-dly. Just sitting, keeping me company, is so precious to me. 

This perhaps is the  most important lesson of all. It is easy to see prayer, Torah study, teffillin, Shabbos candles, etc. As G-dly. To Hashem, our most mundane act can be G-dly. This is especially true when we show kindness to one another, what is more G-dly than that. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Humbly Together

In this week's parsha, Korach, we read about the rebellion of Korach against Moshe. Eventually Korach died being swallowed alive by the earth. 

By all accounts Korach was a religious man and a Torah scholar. What moves a man like him to rebel against Moshe, who was installed by Hashem as the leader of the Jewish people? Why was he swallowed by the earth? 

It is not enough to be religious and learned in Torah. There is a third ingredient that is necessary and that is humility. When one is ego driven he is doomed to fail. All the Torah in the world won't help from being swallowed alive by his ego. Not being able to see anyone other than himself, he even fails to recognize the true leader of the Jewish people. This is the route of all divisiveness. He knows  that everything Moshe does is Hashem's will but his ego doesn't want to recognize Hashem's authority either. Recognizing Moshe's authority is recognizing Hashem's authority. 

While this example is extreme, it is something we could learn from. When you feel like you are getting the raw end of a situation. Before starting an argument, ask yourself, is this truly unfair or is this my ego rearing his ugly head? 

Being humble will be your salvation in all your relationships. At home, at work, at shul and everywhere else. It will also help you overcome life's challenges because instead of thinking "why me?", you will think "Hashem put me in this predicament, what is His reason for putting me here? What does He want me to gain from this situation? How would He want me to use my situation to effect others positively?" etc. 

Being humble does not mean feeble, week or insignificant. Being humble means that you can recognize the other, not only yourself. It means you are not alone. It means that you feel that Hashem is always with you. 
I grew up by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it was easy to see that he was the leader of the Jewish People. 

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

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

To be by the Rebbe, or to do his holy work?

Though I was in his presence on many occasions, from the age of 16, whenever I had to choose, between doing the Rebbe's work, and being in his presence, doing his work always won out. I felt that being by the Rebbe, was for me, while doing his work, was for him. 

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

Gimmel Tammuz, 21 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 on 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 of our generation. Hashem speaks through him. His mission is Hashem's mission. Doing the Rebbe's mission is doing Hashem's mission.  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 man, 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.   

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Why Challah Tastes So Good

In this week's parsha, Shlach, we read about the Mitzvah of Challah, when baking bread, separate a part of the dough for Hashem. This would be given to the Kohen, however today we burn it.

In the Torah the paragraph that speaks about the Mitzvah of Challah says the word "Tarimu" three times. The literal translation of Tarimu is "you should lift up".

Though men are also obligated to do this Mitzvah, it is considered as one of the special Mitzvahs near and dear to Jewish women. This Mitzvah is so holy that women use the time of separating Challah to pour their tender hearts out to Hashem.

What makes this Mitzvah so special? Why does the Torah stress tarimu, you should lift up?

Bread is the most basic food and is symbolic of our most basic physical needs. It is what we toil for and work for, to make "bread" and to put "bread" on the table. It is symbolic of everything physical in the world.

When you separate Challah your are touching on the essence of Judaism. You are taking the physical and lifting it up to a spiritual state.

First, emunah, belief in Hashem, we recognize that all we have is from Hashem. One may think "my smarts an abilities has made me all this wealth", which, in a way is like saying, that it is not from Hashem. Separating Challah to Hashem is a statement and recognition that everything we have is from Him.

Second, our purpose is to infuse the physical world with G-dlyness, even something as basic as food needs to be infused and used for Hashem.

Finally, the food that we feed our families is a holy endeavor, the future of the Jewish people is nourished by the hands of holy Jewish women.

You feed us Emuna, you feed us essence, you feed us with a Mitzvah. You feed us with love, you feed us with pride and you feed us with tears.  You are taking the physical and lifting it up to a spiritual state. The heart of a Jewish woman can do all that and more.

I am so grateful to all of you who have done the Mitzvah of Challah in my merit. Thank you for your prayers and tears. 

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Try, Try Again

In this week's parsha, Bahaalosecha, we read about the mitzvah of Pesach Sheini. If someone was impure or far away when the Passover sacrifice was being brought, he should bring it on Pesach Sheini, a month later. 

The first unique thing about this mitzvah is that the Torah tells us the story of how this mitzvah came to be. "There were people that were impure... They came before Moshe... Why should we lose out?... "

Another unique thing is that they only asked about being impure, which was no fault of their own. However, Hashem added that if he is far, which is understood to mean a minimal distance, this too can be made up on Pesach Sheini. 

What lesson can we take from these two oddities, the story behind the mitzvah and the addition of being far which is not really far at all? 

There is the possibility to be near and far at the same time. Near in distance yet detached and distant in attitude. Being here in body and elsewhere in mind. For example, you could be davening to Hashem, you are saying the words but your mind is wandering. Hashem wants us to be close to Him, to love Him and yet, it is possible to be so close and totally ignore Him. To this Hashem is saying "I still want you to be close to Me, try again, do it better". Only like the people in the story of Pesach Sheini, you need to really want it. If you do, it will always be possible to get close to Hashem. 

At home too, our spouses and our children yearn for our love and closeness. While we might be with them physically, it is often the case that they feel ignored because our attention is not focused on them. 

Not being able to move, I yearn to hug and play with my kids. I realize the value of spending quality time with them and I do the best I can in my circumstance to be with them. 

First you need to realize what you are missing out on, then you need to truly want to change and finally you have know that they yearn for this connection and will welcome your love. Don't give up on the best thing you have.