Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Power of the Jewish Woman

In this week's parsha, Yisro, we read. "And Moshe went up to Hashem, and Hashem called to him from the mountain saying,  'so shall you say to Beis Yaakov (the Jewish women), and you shall tell to the Bnei Yisrael (the Jewish men).'"

Rashi explains that when you teach Torah to women it should be in a soft way, meaning, stressing the positive and the rewards for keeping the Torah and mitzvas. However, to the men, speak harshly, tell them the punishments for not keeping the Torah and mitzvas.

Why the difference between women and men when it comes to teaching the Torah? Why does Hashem tell Moshe, first to talk to the women and only after the men? What general lessons, about how to talk to women, could we learn from here?

Jewish women have a special place in Jewish life. Most of the nurturing and upbringing of the next generation is in their hands. She is also the backbone of the Jewish home, if she wants her home to be more kosher, it will be, if she wants it to be more observant, it will be. The future and Jewishness of her family rests primarily in her hands.

It stands to reason that Hashem would want the women on board first, because so much rests on them. Therefore, she needs to be knowledgeable in Torah and mitzvas, so she can create a Jewish atmosphere in her home.

According to Jewish tradition, women are naturally spiritual and close to Hashem, they don't need harsh words to be convinced to do what they sense is right. Harsh words would only have the opposite effect, they only cause women to close up and become unreceptive.

This is also a lesson for men. The success of your home depends on your relationship with your wife and that is dependent on your tone of voice.

A successful Jewish home, effects the family, the community, the Jewish people and ultimately, the whole world. This is the power of a Jewish home, this is the power of the Jewish woman.

Dedicated to the Shluchos, in honor of the Kinus Hshluchos.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

When All Hope Is Gone

In this week's parsha, Beshalach, we read about the manna that came down from heaven. On Friday they went out to collect the manna, they collected the same amount as they usually did, but found that they had a double portion. Moshe explained, that tomorrow is Shabbos, there will be no manna to collect, this double portion is for today and Shabbos.

This is the first time Shabbos is mentioned in the Torah, by the manna. What is the connection between Shabbos and manna? What lesson can we take from this for life?

Logic dictates that if you don't work, you won't have. Keeping Shabbos, is putting trust in Hashem that he will take care of you, despite logic.

The same was true about the manna. Except for Shabbos, the manna lasted for one day. Every morning they put their trust in Hashem that he would send manna to sustain them.

Shabbos and manna, are all about trust in Hashem. It is this trust that is the source of the sustenance we are blessed with. It is also the catalyst for blessing in general. When we put our trust in Hashem, it opens the spigot of blessing in our lives.

I remember when we received my diagnosis of ALS, it felt like our whole world was falling apart. Dina shared with me advice she received from a friend. At times like this, let go and allow Hashem to take over. It was the best advice. Hashem sent his blessings in the form of good, kind, and loving people, who we are so grateful for. This advice has carried us through all of our difficulties.

Hashem is there for you. When there doesn't appear to be any answers, when all hope seems lost, put your trust in Hashem. When there seems to be nobody, Hashem is there for you.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Light In The Darkness

In this week's parsha, Bo, we read about the plague of darkness. There were three days of opaque darkness and three days where the darkness was tangible and rendered the Egyptians immobile. At the same time, for the Jewish people there was light.

Everything that the Torah tells us is a lesson that every Jew can learn from. Even the plagues. What the Torah tells us about the exile and exodus is particularly a lesson on how to deal with our present exile and future exodus.

What lesson can we draw from the plague of darkness, especially from the fact that there was darkness and light at the same time?

Egypt, in Hebrew, is Mitzrayim, which is related to the word maytzarim, which means boundaries, constraints or limitations. This is because it is symbolic of the limitations we experience in this physical world.

There are times in this exile, when you experience darkness, in the form of heartbreak, health problems, oppression, etc. Sometimes it seems there is no hope and that no amount of light can overcome this darkness. Other times it is worse, it can seem completely paralyzing. The struggle and pain we experience is very real and hard to get through.

Hashem is telling you here that in this place of darkness, can be found a great light, greater than anything you ever experienced before. This light is transformative, it gives new perspective and brings out new abilities. The greater the darkness the greater the light that is to be found.

This doesn't mean that darkness is good, but if you experience darkness, search for the positive in it. Use the new light to brighten your surroundings and make a difference.

It is already several years since Hashem chose to give me and my family tremendous hardships. For me it is physically paralyzing, for my wonderful wife, Dina, it can at times be emotionally and mentally paralyzing. My children are also subjected to an unwanted roller-coaster ride. I wish and pray all the time that I will be cured. But I am grateful to Hashem for the positive that came from our experience. Dina and I have been blessed with an outpouring of love from so many and our writings and Dina's talks have been uplifting people all over. All this would not have been possible without the darkness we experienced, as it brought to the fore love and abilities we never knew we had. How can we not be grateful.

With all this said, we all have had enough darkness in our lives. Now it is time for Moshiach to come and for the darkness to end. Let the light shine uninterrupted in our lives. 

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Different is Redemptive

In this week's parsha, Vaeira, Hashem sends Moshe to Pharaoh to warn him of the upcoming plague of wild beasts, and that the plague will not be in Goshen, where the Jews live. Then Hashem says "I will place a distinction between My people and your people."

The word Hashem uses for "distinction" here is "f'dus," which actually means "redemption."

What message is Hashem sending us by using the word redemption to mean distinction or separation?

As Jews we are gifted with a strong sense of justice and the idea of inequality just bothers us to no end. We can mistakenly think that all people are the same. People are people.

However, Hashem thinks differently. He chose the Jewish people and distinguished us from among all other nations. He wants us to be distinct, in the way we act, in the way we dress, in the way we speak, etc. Hashem wants us to be a light onto the nations and when we are, we lift the world to a higher moral level, which brings redemption.

In Egypt the Jewish people distinguished themselves in three ways. Language, dress and names. Everywhere a Jew went, Egyptians knew, there walks a Jew. Since we separated ourselves for Hashem, Hashem separated us for redemption from Egypt.

As the Rebbe's emissary in Temecula, CA, I always found that people were always happy and respected that I was observant. I also found that they were very let down when a Jew did something wrong.

We are special and the world knows it, we need to embrace it and distinguish ourselves and separate  ourselves for Hashem. We need to be living examples to each other and a light onto the nations. Hashem will surely do His part and send Moshiach right away.