Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Glimpse of Things to Come

The last days of Pesach, Shvii and Acharon Shel Pesach, are the only Yom Tov days that we don't recite Shehechyanu. The simple reason brought by the great codifiers of Jewish law, is that all the days of Pesach are considered one long holiday. Since we can only recite Shehechyanu over a new holiday, and the last days are not a new holiday, the last days, therefore, are included in the Shehechyanu of the first days.

However, had there been something new about the last two days, we would have to recite Shehechyanu.

What could have been new about the last days of Pesach, that were nevertheless refuted as a good enough reason to recite Shehechyanu?

The first is the miracle of the splitting of the sea. Perhaps this great miraculous salvation, that happened on the seventh day of Pesach can be considered a reason to say Shehechyanu.

However, the splitting of the sea, though it was arguably the greatest miracle we have experienced, it is only the culmination of our Exodus from Egypt, and the final blow in the destruction of our oppressors, Egypt.

Another possibility, is the last days connection to the future redemption. As the splitting of the sea, was a hint of things to come in the future redemption, though the future redemption will be by far greater. Just as it was the total destruction of Egypt, the future redemption will be the total destruction of evil in the world. Also we find that the song the Jewish people sang at the sea, Oz Yashir Moshe, contains prophecies of the future redemption.

The Haftora on the seventh day of Pesach, is the song of King David, the father of Moshiach, which ends with blessings of Moshiach.

On the last day of Pesach the light of Moshiach shines bright. The beautiful Haftora is all about Moshiach. And it is a holiday created by the Jewish people, and is the total transformation of the day, from mundane to holy. Moshiach is just that, it is the total transformation of the world from mundane to holy.

Perhaps the last days connection to Moshiach should warrant the recital of Shehechyanu.

However, this is refuted as well, because, you only say Shehechyanu over an event that happened in the past. Secondly, reciting Shehechyanu over the future coming of Moshiach, which we long for and has not come will have the opposite effect, as it will depress us, instead of adding joy to the holiday. And it is the joy of the holiday that brings out the essence of the last days. With brotherhood, love and joy, we get a sense of what awaits us in the future, a taste of Moshiach.

May we finally merit to experience the coming of Moshiach soon, and have a good reason to say Shehechyanu on these last days of Pesach as well.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Exodus Every Day

In the Haggada we read, "In every generation, a person is obligated to see, as if he himself went out of Egypt."

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi,  the founder of Chabad, explained: "In every generation, and every day." Every day we must go out of Egypt.

Egypt is symbolic of boundaries, being locked in either physically or spiritually. On Pesach we talk of being free, freeing ourselves is a daily task, breaking out of our status quo, to find deeper and higher meaning in Torah, Judaism, and Hashem.

To understand this, we first have to understand why Pesach is the only holiday that Hashem gave us exact times of events. Regarding the plague of the death of the first born, at which time the Jewish people were officially free, it says "And it was at midnight." Later, when the Jewish people actually leave Egypt, it says, "And it was at the essence of the day," which is high noon.

There are two different kinds of exoduses. One is out of an Egypt of darkness, midnight. This refers to one who is at a low spiritual state. He is stuck in his way of thinking, "it is a dark world, a dark exile, what is the point of trying to grow spiritually." Then there is an exodus out of an Egypt of light. This refers to a person who is at a higher spiritual state. Living a life of Torah, of light, midday, however he has become comfortable in his state, and lacks the urge to break out to reach for something higher.

Both of these Egypts are our daily struggle. Weather you find yourself in a midnight or a midday situation, you need to find a way to break out of your current constraints and attain higher plateaus of spirituality and understanding, in Torah, closeness to Hashem and the performance of mitzvahs.

This is true, in our relationships as well. We must constantly search for ways to deepen and strengthen our relationship, and not be satisfied with the status quo.

This is the life of a Jew. Always climbing higher and higher, yesterday's accomplishments, are not enough today. In every generation and every day, one is obligated to see, as if he himself went out of Egypt.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

How to See a Painful Situation

In this week's parsha, Metzorah, it tells of a home inflicted with Tzaras, a spiritual infliction that took the form of green or red patches on the walls of a home.

What was the cause of this Tzaras? Rashi explains, that Canaanites hid gold in the walls of their homes, the Tzaras would show up on these homes. To purify the home the walls with Tzaras had to be demolished, revealing the gold within.

The Zohar explains, that only a small number of Canaanites hid gold in their walls. While most Canaanites were resigned to Hashem's plan to give the land of Canaan to the Jewish people, there were those who were not. These consisted of Canaanites that were deeply steeped in idolatry, and morally depraved even by Canaanite standards. These Canaanites hid their gold in their walls, with the plan to one day come back and expel the Jewish people from the land.

While the impurities of idolatry of most of the Canaanite homes were superficial and were dispelled when a Jew would enter and started doing mitzvas. The walls of the homes of the deeply depraved, soaked in the impurities and it took the presence of a very holy person to extract the impurities. Hashem arranged that only the holiest people moved into these homes. The impurities would come out in the form of Tzaras, the house would be demolished, and the gold would be found. 

What lesson are we to take from the Holy person in a house inflicted with Tzaras?

We all find ourselves in situations which at first glance seems like a punishment. Like a holy person who finds Tzaras on his home. You could rightfully think,  "What have I done to deserve this?" But with time and trust in Hashem, that He knows best, you will find, that it is all to reward you with a treasure. The same is true when you find yourself hit with a devastating blow, you must realize that Hashem specifically put you into this situation, just like putting a holy person in a depraved house, only you have the ability to extract the good from the predicament and reveal the treasure within.

Before I was born, my parents were blessed with a special needs child, my brother Shalom. My parents with great love included him in everything we did. I grew up loving him as they did and did things with him all the time. I would get teased a lot and it hurt. But I think it is my relationship with Shalom that made me into the person I am today. Now I think, what a treasure, what a gift, to grow up this way.

Of course, this is only when dealing with difficult predicaments, but sometimes Hashem hands a blow that is so devastating, for example, the loss of a loved one . What treasure could be found in this situation? Even if there is positive, it doesn't take away the pain. In this case all we can do, is accept Hashem's will and with His help the pain will lessen with time.

With all this said, it is time for Moshiach to come and put this discussion to rest.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Positive Outcomes of Struggles and Pain

In this week's parsha, Tazria, we read about the Metzorah, one inflicted by a spiritual ailment called Tzaras, in which a patch of his skin, hair, etc., takes on different colors, textures, etc.

In the Talmud, a question is asked: "What is Moshiach's name? The Rabbis (the majority opinion) say, (he is called) the Metzorah of the house of Rebbe.

The Midrash, on the verse "and the Metzorah that has the lesion," explains, "Metzorah, this is the Beis Hamikdash, the Holy Temple."

Usually we see a Metzorah as an outcast, inflicted because of some wrongdoing. However, it seems from here, that a Metzorah is a good thing. The holiest man, Moshiach, and the holiest place, the Beis Hamikdash, are called Metzorah.

Why then are Moshiach and the Beis Hamikdash called Metzorah?

To understand this, first we have to understand why there hasn't been a Metzorah since the time of the Temple.

During the Temple era, when people went up to the Temple they beheld the Divine presence, they witnessed miracles regularly. The people were of a different caliber as well, they were able to reach spiritual heights that are unattainable now in exile.

The Metzorah was a person who was at the highest level. He worked on refining himself until he had absolutely no trace of evil left in him, neither in his inner spiritual makeup nor in his outer physical makeup. The only thing that was left was the remnants of impurities he once had. These remnants come out as Tzaras.

Today, there are no longer people at these spiritual heights, hence there are no Metzorahs.

Now we can understand why Moshiach and the Beis Hamikdash are called Metzorah. Because a Metzorah is a spiritual giant and because they are both connected to our redemption from this dark exile. In this exile we suffered unimaginable pain, this suffering also acts as a purifier, and cleanses us. Now at the end of the exile, all that is left is mere remnants. Moshiach and the Beis Hamikdash come to redeem us from these remnants.

All of us have pain in our lives, this is the condition of our exile. It helps, albeit a little, that the pangs of the exile have meaning, as they bring the redemption.

Laying here in my bed, receiving visitors and getting emails. Many have shared their pain with me, but at the same time, most found that as a result of their pain, they have attained some positive outcome, they never would have imagined they could have attained, had they not gone through their struggle.

I have experienced this first hand. Being sick has been a struggle for me, for my wonderful wife, and for my family. But this struggle has brought out love, talents, strength and inspiration we never knew we had.

So it seems in some way that our pain and suffering is good, just as a Metzorah is the holiest person.

Who am I kidding, we have suffered enough. It is time for Moshiach, the Metzorah of the house of Rebbe, to come and redeem us from this exile. May it happen soon.
This Dvar Torah is dedicated to my daughter Chava, who's Bas Mitzvah is today. I am so proud of you Chava.