Thursday, June 30, 2016

We Are Greater Than Angels

In this week's parsha, Shelach, we read about the spies that toured Israel, conspired against Moshe and Hashem, and gave a twisted report, aimed at getting the Jewish people to doubt that Moshe, or for that matter, Hashem, would be able to conquer the land of Israel.

One of the arguments they used was, "And there we saw the Nefilim, the children of a giant, from the Nefilim, and we were as grasshoppers..."

Who were these Nefilim? Why would the Jewish people even consider, that they would be too powerful for Hashem to conquer? Especially after all the miracles they witnessed. What lesson can we derive from here, with regards to the nature and the abilities of the Jewish people?

Rashi explains that the Nefilim we are referring to here are the descendants of Shamchazai and Azael, two angels that assumed material form and descended to earthin the days of Enosh (before the flood).

These angels came down with pure intentions, but their involvement in the physical world corrupted them so much so that they were involved in the beginnings of idol worship. Hence they are called Nefilim, fallen angels.

When the flood came and killed all the people, the children of the Nefilim survived.

The spies felt, that involvement in the physical, would take the Jewish people away from their spiritual focus. They would be better off staying in the desert, where they were free of all material pursuits and the difficulties of making a living. In the desert, all their needs were taken care of, and they were free to bask in spirituality. Entering the land meant having to work the land for food, the need to make a living, and other physical needs that will take them away from their spiritual focus.

This is what the spies meant with their argument, "we saw the Nefilim..." If these great angels, with pure intentions, fell so low, then we, who are like grasshoppers compared to them, don't stand a chance.

And if Hashem didn't destroy them with the flood, perhaps "some how" He won't be able to destroy them now. Even though this argument is foolish, it was enough to cast doubt.

The answer to this came from Joshua and Caleb. "If Hashem desires us, He will take us to this land... Hashem is with us, don't fear them."

First of all, we are different than these angels, because Hashem wants us. He wants us in the land, in the physical and it is there, where we are meant to accomplish our purpose.

Secondly, we are greater than angels, because Hashem is with us. Unlike angels, we have a Neshama, a Godly soul, that is actually a part of Hashem. While angels are spiritual beings, we are Godly beings, with the ability to fuse the physical world with spirituality and Godliness. We don't have to fear entering the mundane, physical world, we need to embrace it and uplift it to holiness. This is what Hashem created us for, we can do what no angel can, because we are greater than angels.

We need to recognize our abilities, and that we are special. This in itself gives us the strength to overcome so much, and fills us with a sense of obligation to the world. To keep to a higher standard, and to be Hashem's ambassadors to the world. To bring out the Godly essence of the world and uplift the world.

May we witness our accomplishments soon, with the coming of Moshiach.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Igniting Souls

In this week's parsha, Bahaloscha, we read about the Menorah. First it tells us how Aaron, the Kohen, should light the Menorah. "When you kindle (literally "raise") the lamps, the seven lights should be made to shine towards the center branch of the Menorah." Then it tells us how it was made. It had to be hammered out of one solid piece of gold.

The Torah already told us how the Menorah was made, what is the point repeating it here? It seems that this section of the Torah is coming to teach us about the lighting of the Menorah, how does its construction fit in?

The Menorah was an ornate candelabra, and though it was complicated to make it, the artisan was not permitted to weld it together from separate pieces, rather it had to be hammered from one piece of gold. Why? Because the Menorah symbolized the Jewish people. The seven branches symbolized seven different spiritual pathways of our souls. It had to be hammered from one piece, because though we have different pathways, our souls are one at its source.

When the Kohen lit the lamps of the Menorah, he was igniting the souls of the Jewish people. The Torah uses the word "raise" to mean kindle, to tell the Kohen that he is to kindle it until the flame rises on its own.

The problem is that while the Menorah is made of one piece, the different branches gives the opposite impression. It seems divided which is the opposite of its purpose.

The job of the Kohen was to complete the Menorah, by setting the wicks in a way that the flames faced the center branch, which tied the whole thing together. Now the Menorah, once again, gave the impression of unity and oneness. So it is the kindling of the the Menorah, that completed its construction.

Hashem tells us, that we will be to him, a kingdom of Kohanim, and a holy nation. Each of us has the ability to ignite the souls of the Jewish people. Here we are taught the right way to do it.

First, you have to know that we are essentially one at our core. Then, you have to recognize that every Jew has a unique pathway, and you're not to force him down your own. Your job is to ignite the others soul, with light and love, until the soul is burning bright on its own. Last but not least, it should be done in a way of unity, that he feels that he one with his people and that his people are one.

So many of us are broken, so many of us are in pain. Each of us are in need of uplifting, of our souls being ignited. This dark exile has gone on long enough. We need to be Kohanim for each other and lift each other up.

I have found, that there is nothing better and more important than lifting the spirit of another. It has become my favorite thing. Even from my bed, with only the use of my eyes, my heart and my smile, I try my best to lift the spirits of people. Every person has good and positive, and if you pay attention, you will see it. When you point out those qualities, you bring out who they are, you see how beautiful they are, and their spirit is lifted.

Lift the spirit of one person and you change the world for good. Here is how it works:

You have the ability to change the world, by having a positive impact on a another person. This person has family and friends, and they have families and friends, and so on. Your positive impact has a ripple effect. Make a positive difference in a person's life, and you will change the world.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Positive Lessons From The Sota

Dear friends,
Please forgive me, for not publishing last week. Here is the article for parshas Nasso. With Hashem's help, this week's will be out tomorrow.
Rabbi Yitzi

This week's parsha, Nasso, is always read just before or just after Shavuoth. This is a clear indication that there are lessons to be learned from here, for our national mission, which began on Shavuoth.

The parsha tells us the laws of the Sota, the Suspected Adulteress.

What lessons are we meant to learn from the Sota? What life changing possibilities are we to take from here?

In a way, we are the Sota. Let me explain.

When a husband is overtaken by a feeling of jealousy, and suspects his wife of straying... He then gives a warning... On Shavuoth, when we received the Ten Commandments, which is the marriage between Hashem and the Jewish people, He warned us, "Don't have other gods before me." Although most of us have not done something this extreme, we have done this on a more subtle level. As we live in this world, filled with pleasures, that we desire to be like them, or high society, and prevailing culture. We stray from who we are to experience things that pull us away from our relationship with Hashem.

After the warning, she does it again. As a nation, this has been our history over and over. Falling spiritually, despite the warnings.

He then brings her to the Temple, the holiest place. The Kohen writes a certain part of the Torah, our holiest writings, which contains Hashem's name, which is so holy, we may not erase it. However here Hashem instructs the Kohen to erase the writing with Hashem's name. Indicating how important the husband and wife relationship is to Hashem, He even allows His name to be erased to bring the couple back together. It is erased in the holiest water, taken from the Kiyor, which was made from the copper mirrors of women who used them to be close to their husbands in Egypt. In the water was earth, taken from the Mishkan, the holiest ground.

Then she drinks it. If she is indeed guilty this water will be bitter and fatal to her.

Because of this, the Kohen put her through a process that was exhausting, in the hope, that if she is indeed guilty, she would confess, and not have to drink the water and die. As a nation, we have experienced being thrown around from country to country, never resting too long on one spot.

If however, she maintains her innocence, the Kohen makes her take an oath that she did not defile herself, that if she did, she would die a horrible death because of the water, and that if she did not, the water will prove her innocence.

After administering the oath, he would erase the words into the water and she would drink it.

The Torah now tells us that if she was guilty, she would experience a horrible death. And if she is innocent the water will cleanse her of all suspicion, and even more, it will cause her to have better births.  Rashi explains, that if before her births were painful, now they would be relaxed...

When the Kohen administered the oath, he described in detail, what would happen if she was guilty. However, regarding if she was innocent, all it says, is that the water will cleanse her of suspicion, with no mention of the blessings of having better births. Only after she was proven innocent, does the Torah mention that, by the way, she will have better births. It is an outcome of drinking the water but not mentioned as part of the process.

This is similar to a Baal Teshuva, the one who returns to Hashem. We are taught that one who committed sins and then returned to Hashem wholeheartedly, his sins are turned into merits. Why? Because it was his sins that moved him to return. When he realized how far he has become, because of his transgressions, he became bitter. And this bitterness acted as a spring board, to his return. This doesn't work for someone who plans to sin and then return. You can't plan it. Only after a true return, does his transgressions turn to merits.

In some way each of us are the Baal Teshuva. We have an opportunity to get closer to Hashem, and when we do as a nation, He will forgive us, our past will be turned to merit, the bitter waters of this exile will turn sweet, and Moshiach will come, completing our national mission. May he come soon.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Bamidbar, Shavuoth, the Connection

The parsha of Bamidbar is always read before Shavuoth. This year we read it, the day before Shavuoth, the Fifth of Sivan, which we call Erev Shavuoth.

What is the connection between Bamidbar, Shavuoth and especially Erev Shavuoth, the Fifth of Sivan?

The Talmud tells us, "On the second of Sivan, Moshe, ascended the mountain... On the third he ascended... On the fourth he ascended... On the fifth of Sivan he built an altar and offered a sacrifice."

It is obvious, that Hashem gave the command to build the altar and bring a sacrifice. But why did Moshe have to do it himself, moving stones and constructing it, couldn't it have been done by others? Wasn't it the day before receiving the Torah? Wouldn't his time be better spent, ascending the mountain, reaching new spiritual heights?

We must conclude that only Moshe could have done it, and that it was more important than ascending the mountain.

The day before every Shabbos and Yom Tov is called Erev Shabbos or Erev Yom Tov. It is the time we prepare for Shabbos and/or Yom Tov. But even more than that, it is a time that a ray of holiness of the upcoming holy day is already shining, and is therefore part of the upcoming holy day, which in our case is Shavuoth.

The essence of Shavuoth, is that Hashem himself descended onto Mount Sinai, which before was unheard-of. Yes there were times when Hashem appeared to our forefathers, but those were visions of a lower caliber, not essence, just a mere vision. Hashem himself descending on the physical mountain is what the Torah is all about, and it is at the core of our mission as Jews. To take this physical, mundane world and infusing it with Godliness, uplifting the mundane to make it holy. We do this through performing mitzvahs with physical objects, and by using our day to day activities to aid us in our service to Hashem, thereby, turning our most physical, mundane and rudimentary actions into holy endeavors.

This is also the reason, why Hashem didn't bring us up into the spiritual realms to receive the Torah, rather He chose to do in the physical world on a mountain. To demonstrate, that it is our interaction with the physical that is most important.

Erev Shavuoth, the Fifth of Sivan, is already part of Shavuoth. The command to build the altar and bring a sacrifice is therefore part of the giving of the Torah. Every part of the giving of the Torah, was done with and through Moshe. He had the special soul, that could actualize the process of receiving and implementing the Torah, Hashem's will. Each of us has a part of Moshe in our souls, that gives us a boost of strength, to do our mission, to uplift the physical world, making the world into a place where Hashem's presence could dwell openly.

Building the altar was a clear demonstration, taking stones, which is physical and mundane, and making it into a holy altar. Offering  a sacrifice, an animal, also physical and mundane, on the altar, completed the altar, because now it was actually used for its holy purpose.

Bamidbar means, "in the desert." The Torah was given to us in a desert, where nothing grows and people don't live. Why? Because it is symbolic of the lowest level of the physical and mundane. To show us, that we can and should infuse even the lowest, and most mundane, with holiness.

With this understanding, all of us said, "we will do and we will listen."  By saying "we will do" first, we confirmed that we understood that our purpose was to "do," meaning, to interact with the physical and raise it up.

Shavuoth, Erev Shavuoth, building the altar and Bamidbar are then all conveying the same message. That we can change the world, and make it a dwelling place for Hashem's presence, which we will witness at the conclusion of our mission, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Your Speech Has The Power To Change You

In this week's parsha, Bechukosai, we read that the Jewish people will confess their iniquity and their fathers' iniquity. In the next verse it says, that Hashem will bring them into the land of their enemies. It would seem, that after we admit our wrongdoings, Hashem would take us to the Promised Land.

What is the purpose of taking us to the land of our enemies, especially, when in the narrative, we are already in the land of our enemies? What good does admitting our mistakes do for us? How can we apply this to our lives?

These verses, come towards the end of a section, which is filled with the consequences for not keeping the Torah and mitzvas. We refuse, because of our stubbornness, not willing to open our hearts to accept Hashem's Torah and mitzvas wholeheartedly, and of our own will. It is only as a result of the suffering we endure, that we admit our wrongdoing. It is like saying, "I realize that it wasn't worth doing those things." It is not a wholehearted confession, with the resolve to change. This kind of confession, doesn't grant forgiveness. Yet the Torah calls it a confession, so it must have some value.

Speech is powerful, the words we say has an affect on the people who hear it, and on the one speaking. In the case of confession, after repenting and making a commitment  not to do it again. It helps to say it out loud, as your words will add strength to your commitment. Also, when one recognizes that he sinned, putting what he has done to words, will cause him to regret what he did. Even in our case, where his admission is half hearted, it still has some good affect. What it does is bring you to the next step.

Hashem says, "... and I will bring them into the land of their enemies." The key words here are, "and I will bring them," meaning, that now Hashem will be more involved. As Rashi explains, that this is a good thing, because Hashem will send his prophets, to bring us closer to Him. This will bring us to true remorse, and forgiveness.

This all came to pass during the Babbelonian Exile, bringing us back to the land of Israel for the Second Temple Era. However, when Moshiach comes, the Rambam says, that we will repent and immediately be redeemed. This is because, we will return to Hashem of our own free will, and not because the pressure of the exile.

This is true in our relationships. When you do something wrong, the best thing is to admit your wrongdoing, commit to change your ways, and to ask for forgiveness. But for some, this pill may be to hard to swallow, either because of stubbornness or some other reason. This is when admitting, that it wasn't worth it becomes a stepping stone, to rebuilding the relationship. Working on it Together, with counseling, you will only get closer and earn forgiveness.

It is my hope, that soon we will experience returning to Hashem of our own free will, and immediately be redeemed.