Thursday, October 29, 2015

We Are A Miracle

In this week's Parsha, Vayera, we find words that, for me, are a source of Simcha, Emuna and Bitachon (joy, belief and trust in Hashem). "And Hashem remembered Sarah as He had said, and Hashem did for Sarah as He had spoken. And Sarah conceived, and bore Avraham a son in his old age, at the appointed time of which Hashem had spoken."

Why do these verses give me so much strength? How do they fill me with Simcha, Emuna and Bitachon?

For starters, we are not supposed to be here, our entire existence is a miracle. These verses express how Avraham and Sarah are blessed with a baby, though both were unable to have children. On top of that, he was 100, she was 90,  far passed the age of childbirth. Hashem gave Sarah youth and opened her womb to conceive, to Avraham he gave the ability to sire children. The birth of Yitzchok, our forefather, is only by miracle.

I could only imagine Sarah's joy when she recognized that she was pregnant after all this time, her anticipation to giving birth and finally, holding her baby in her arms. Just the thought fills me with joy.

Hashem promised Avraham that he would have children. Then he told them when. At the precise moment, Hashem gave them Yitzchok from whom we all descend.

In Hashem we can trust, in Hashem we can believe. Hashem does miracles, He makes promises and does what He says. One can never lose hope, because Hashem can and will do miracles for you, just as He did for Avraham and Sarah.

He will also keep His promise, to send Moshiach and take us out of this long and dark exile. The time has come.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Experience The Connection

This week's Parsha, Lech Lecha, starts when Avram is 75 years old. Hashem tells him his first command, to go to a land that He will show him.

Why doesn't the Torah tell us about his early life, how he recognized his creator, how he came to understand that Hashem is is the one true G-d and the sacrifices he made, standing up for his belief in Hashem? Why doesn't the Torah tell us about the kind of person he was, as it does by Noach, "Noach was a righteous man...?" What lesson is the Torah trying to impress on us by starting the story of Avram with a command?

Avram was the first Jew. His life is a lesson on what being a Jew is all about. The Torah only shares stories of Avram that provide a lesson for us, on how to be a Jew.

By opening with Hashem's first command to Avram, Hashem is sending us a message. That the connection between Hashem and a Jew is not based on ones understanding of Hashem, so that the greater the understanding the greater the connection. Rather our connection is because he chose us regardless of our philosophical or theological understanding. Our connection is greater than any understanding, it is an intrinsic connection with Hashem, because he chose us, like he chose Avram.

By not describing Avram's character, Hashem stresses this point. That a Jew is always connected, regardless of his or her spiritual state.

Also, opening with a command, tells us that our purpose is, first and foremost, to do Hashem's commandments. The way we experience this connection is by doing Mitzvas.

Don't make the mistake of thinking that you need to reach some spiritual level to start doing Mitzvas. The opposite is true, by doing Mitzvas you experience the infinite connection that is always there.

This week many are experiencing this connection by the Great Challah Bake, where thousands of Jewish women are getting together to do the Mitzva of Challah and by a global Shabbat, Jews all over the world are uniting to keep Shabbos. If you can take part, wonderful, if not find a mitzva that you can do regularly and if you are already keeping the Mitzvas, find a way to do them better.

Have a beautiful Shabbos and may it truly be a unifying one.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

What Do You See?

In this week's Parsha, Noach, we read that Noach planted a vineyard, made wine, got drunk and uncovered himself in his tent. His son Cham "saw his nakedness," and told his brothers Shem and Yafes. They, walking backwards, covered their father, "and they did not see their father's nakedness."

What was the difference between Cham and his brothers? What lesson can we take from Shem and Yafes about how we should see others?

When a friend has a downfall, when he has a moral failing, what do you see?

Some are like Cham, all they see is the "nakedness," the negative. All their friend's positivity is lost to them, they could only see him for his failing.

To this person, the Baal Shem Tov says, that if you see a negative trait in a friend, it is because you have that very same negative trait. Since he has it, he sees it in others and he needs to correct his own failing.

Others are like Shem and Yafes. They see their friend as the good person he always was. They don't see their friend's "Nakedness," they refuse to define him by his failing. His failing needs to be corrected, but he himself is good.

Because he sees his friend as good, he is in position to help his friend correct his ways.

Seeing good in people is a positive trait. Seeing positive in people uplifts them and uplifts you.

We all need friendship to keep us going and to strengthen our moral self. Be a good friend, be an uplifting friend. Uplift a friend and you will positively effect his circle of influence and so on. This is one of the ways, Ahavas Yisroel, loving your fellow Jew, uplifts the world and brings Moshiach.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Standing Up To The Snake

In this week's Parsha, Berashis, we read of the cunning deceit of the snake. Playing on Chava's nature, to get both Adam and Chava to go against Hashem's will.

It seems that this is the beginning of all of humanity's troubles. It is also replayed over and over again in every generation. The cunning, deceive the world to go against truth and decency, to go against Hashem.

Why is this the first story of humanity? What lesson can we take from this for ourselves and for our time?

This story is our personal daily struggle with the the snake, the evil inclination. Every day, he cunningly plays on our weaknesses, only to create distance between us and Hashem.

This story is first because this is our essential struggle. 

Every time we overcome his cunning, we are drawn closer to Hashem and Hashem is filled with pride. His truth wins the moment, false deception trumped.

The nature of man is to follow his pleasures and his perceived best interest, regardless of what is right and true. The same is true for the nations of the world. In their hatred of the Jewish people, they choose to deceive themselves, allowing/supporting the snakes that that seek to annihilate us.

Now we are being tested, as even those that "claimed" to be our friends, end up being snakes. Our brothers and sisters in Israel are being murdered, and the world is supporting the murderers. Now that we have played by the worlds dishonest rules and failed, perhaps it is time to do what Hashem wants and do what is right in His eyes.

We are good, right, smart, kind and decent, we have nothing to prove. All that is necessary is courage. Courage to do what is right.

May Hashem protect us, and our brothers and sisters in the holy land. May the leadership in Israel have the courage to do what Hashem wants despite the pressure of the world. Hashem is with you.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Be A Mentch

The last parsha of the Torah, V'Zos Habracha, we read of Moshe's passing and how the Jewish men  mourned his passing for thirty days. "And the Bnei Yisroel, sons of Israel wept." In contrast, by Aaron's passing, both men and women "all the House of Israel" wept. Why was Aaron mourned by all?  Because he brought peace amongst friends and between husband and wife.

If peace is so special, why didn't Moshe involve himself in peace making as well? Didn't he himself teach that it is acceptable to twist the truth to make peace.

Moshe is the transmitter of Hashem's word, the Torah, the truth. While peace is created by bending the truth, truth is unwielding, it doesn't take feelings in to account.

Moshe's main purpose was to accurately teach Hashem's Torah, he had to be a beacon of unwielding truth. This precluded him from truth bending, even with the best of intentions.

This is also why, sometimes, Torah discussions and debates could sound harsh and tactless. Because it about truth, which just is.

It is the truth of Torah that makes us who we are. It is because of our commitment to the truth that Hashem chose us.

What takes precedence, truth or peace?

When it comes to Torah study be like Moshe, truth over peace. When counseling people be like Aaron, peace over truth.

Ultimately, truth is essential to our existence, while peace is a tool employed by our Torah of truth. Start with truth and pursue peace when it is called for.

Don't be a hard-nosed, tactless person, be a mentch. A mentch knows when to be like Moshe and when to be like Aaron.