Thursday, February 25, 2016

Most Precious Holy Mirrors

In this week's parsha, Ki Sisa, we read about the Kiyor, the Laver, which was a large copper receptacle that held water. It had a stand, also made of copper. It had several spigots, from which the Kohanim, the priests, would wash their hands and feet, before doing the Temple service.

What is unique about the Kiyor, was not so much what it was or how it was used, but rather, where the copper, of which it was made, came from. 

In next week's parsha Rashi explains. The women gathered at Moshe's tent with the copper mirrors they used to beautify themselves, intending to donate them. Moshe was disgusted by the mirrors, because, seemingly, they are used for the evil inclination's bidding. Hashem told Moshe to accept them, "for they are most precious to me of all." because of these mirrors, the women established great numbers in Egypt. When their husbands would be exhausted, laboring under Egyptian bondage, they would go out and greet them with food and drink. They would feed them, and entice them with words, they would hold the mirror in a way that both her and her husband could be seen together, she would say "I am prettier than you."  in this manner she would awaken his urge to be with her...

It is with these mirrors that the Kiyor was made, for the Kiyor is to bring peace between husband and wife...

How important is the relationship of a couple to Hashem? How is it, that the instrument of vanity, is most precious to Hashem?

In Shir Hashirim, Song of Songs, King Solomon compares our relationship with Hashem, to the relationship of a husband and wife. This relationship with Hashem is the foundation on which our purpose and mission as the Jewish people is established. Every mitzvah, every prayer and every part of Torah we learn, comes down to this relationship. Being one with Hashem.

The microcosm of this relationship is that of a husband and wife. This relationship is so central to Judaism, that the mirrors that brought husband and wife together as one, are not only special, but most precious of all. It is so important that no service could be done in the Temple before washing hands from the Kiyor, which was made from these mirrors. The Kiyor was placed between the altar and the Holies, the center of all of the action in the Temple. It was seen and served as a reminder of the importance of the husband and wife relationship.

This shows us how important it is to work on our personal relationship. It is not ok to take it for granted, and keep the status quo. If you are not growing closer together, there is a problem. If you feel that your relationship is on the rocks, you are not alone, don't be ashamed to get professional help. Most good marriages are that way because they were willing to go to a professional and sort out their issues. If you think your relationship is just fine, then you must take it to the next level, there is always room to grow.

The Kiyor, made of these mirrors and placed centrally in the Temple, is a reminder, that your relationship is central to Judaism, it is the foundation of Jewish life, and it is not just special, to Hashem, it is most precious of all.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Every One Counts

In this week's parsha, Tetzaveh, we read about the garments of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest. One was called the Meil, it was a turquoise robe that had golden bells and pomegranate shaped balls on its hem. When the Kohen Gadol did the divine Temple service, he had to be wearing the Meil.  "Its sound should be heard when he came to the Holies before Hashem, and when he exits, and he won't die."

What was the Meil all about? Why was it so important, that if he was not wearing it, he would die?

The Meil had two vestments that went over it. In front was the Choshen, the breastplate, which represented the righteous. Around the back was the Eifod, the Apron, which represented those who found their way back to Torah observance.

The Meil had pomegranates on bottom. Pomegranates represents those who are at  the lowest possible level of observance. Of whom our sages say, "even they are full of mitzvahs, like a pomegranate (is filled with seeds). It has bells, because unlike the righteous and the returnees, who find themselves relaxed and comfortable in spiritual holiness, the pomegranate realizes his state and clamors to reach higher. Aside for the bells and pomegranates, it was entirely turquoise, which reminds us of heaven, which represents the unbreakable bond, even the pomegranate has with Hashem.

When the Kohen Gadol entered the Holies to do the Temple service, he was representing every Jew. If he did not, his service was found lacking, being the spiritual leader of the Jewish people, the Heavenly Court held him to a higher standard. If he chose not to represent even one Jew, even the pomegranate Jew, he would die.

This shows you the value and significance of every Jew, without which, no service could be done in the Temple. This also tells us that every Jew is close to Hashem, no matter where you feel you are spiritually and religiously, look up to Heaven, Hashem wants you, loves you and welcomes you home.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Around the Holy Table

In this week's parsha, Teruma, we read about the Shulchan, the intricate table that was in the Holy Temple's chamber called "The Holy." While the Menorah, the candelabra, was made of one solid piece of gold, the Shulchan was made of many different pieces. The table was made of wood and overlaid with gold, all the rest of its parts were made of pure gold. On the Shulchan was a golden trim which zigzagged, like a crown around the table. It had a golden framework, with golden trays, that held twelve loaves of bread, called "Show bread." This unleavened bread, had ends that turned up, and then turned again, so that the two ends faced each other. On the table were two golden spoons filled with Frankincense.

What is the symbolism of the Shulchan? How do we experience the Shulchan in our lives today?

According to the Zohar the Shulchan was what brought blessing of sustenance to the tables of the whole world. According to the Talmud the crown around the Shulchan is symbolic of royal wealth, which King David deserved and received.

So the Shulchan brought blessings of sustenance to all and wealth to those who deserve it. How can we harness these blessings in our own lives? By taking a deeper look at the Shulchan and its parts, we find hints that guide us.

First, you have a table. The table is the center of the home, and therefore is symbolic of the home, the center of Jewish life. Laden with pure gold and surrounded with a royal crown, points to our dress and sense of dignity. How do we act? Do we see ourselves as regular, and dress and act that way, or do we see ourselves as the royalty we are, the children of Hashem, the true King of Kings, and act accordingly. The way we see ourselves effects the way we act. The way we act, controls the spigot of blessing to our homes.

On the table was the Show Bread, which was unleavened. Bread is symbolic of our livelihood. Unleavened symbolizes humility, recognizing that our wealth is from Hashem and not arrogantly thinking that it is merely our personal accomplishment. The breads ends faced each other, symbolizing love for your fellow. The fact that it is one loaf, shows that we are essentially one at our core.

Frankincense is a good smelling spice, it is resin from a tree and it is white. Good smell symbolizing someone who does mitzvahs. White means, without ulterior motives. From a tree, which is constantly growing, so must we constantly add in mitzvahs.

Finally, it was placed on the north side, the left side when looking out of the Holy, because Kabbalisticly, the Shulchan is connected to the cognitive faculty of Bina, which is on the left. Bina is the ability to take an abstract concept, and develop it into a concrete, understandable and meaningful idea. This is done by breaking down the many parts of the concept and understanding them thoroughly. This refers to the study of Torah. Learning, digesting, developing and finally bringing it down into the concrete, making it accessible to all.

This, in essence, is the Jewish home. A royal abode, a place of dignity, humility, and love. A place of Torah and mitzvas. A place where Hashem wants to be and gives his blessings.
This week, Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin (Josh) Gordon Passed on. He truly was the embodiment of all these ideas and more. A royal presence, dignified, humble, his love for others was clear, as he helped countless people, including hundreds of shluchim (myself included), with his time and invaluable wisdom. He also made Torah accessible to all, creating hundreds of classes that could be watched online. He was a Chasidish Yid and the Rebbe's Shliach. We all miss you.
Dedicated to the memory of Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Gordon and to his family, may Hashem console you.

Friday, February 5, 2016

Finding Joy in Small Things

This week's parsha, Mishpatim, follows the greatest event in Jewish history, the revelation at Sinai, the giving of the Ten Commandments. Mishpatim then ends with more about the Ten Commandments event. Sandwiched between the two there are many basic laws.

Why does Hashem have it written this way? Why is it, that smack in middle of the most sublime, spiritual experience, we have the most rudimentary, seemingly unspiritual laws?

We all yearn for a moving, spiritual experience. To be touched, moved and inspired. To rise above the mundane and soar, to experience a high and touch the divine.

This sounds nice, but is this what we are all about?

Of course, we are meant to develop a relationship with Hashem, but there is something more that Hashem wants of us.

By putting these laws in middle of the most sublime event, Hashem is telling us that there is something special about basic laws that is sublime as well.

Could being good, kind, honest and just, be spiritual? When you think of these laws as rudimentary,  they are not so spiritual. However if you see them as Hashem's will, they take on a whole new meaning.

All of a sudden, the simplest things become meaningful. You are filled with a sense of fulfillment, knowing that you are doing what Hashem wants. Inspiration can be found in kindness, honesty, and in acceptance of the simplest Torah laws. Suddenly spirituality starts to be found in the most unexpected places. The simplest act can be sublime, and holy.

I have found that the simplest things in life make the greatest impact. For example, smiling at someone, can lift their spirits. An honest compliment, can change the way a person sees him / herself. When you learn to find joy in small things, there are always things to be joyous about.

Dina and I just celebrated our twentieth anniversary. Unable to do much, we wondered, how we would celebrate this milestone. So we went outside, sat under a tree and just enjoyed nature. The sun, leaves, birds, etc. It was wonderful.

Think of all the small things you can do to make a difference. Find joy in small things. If you do, you will always have something to be happy about.