Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How We Succeed

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
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The Haftora for parshas V'zos Habracha, which is read on Shemini Atzeres in Israel and Simchas Torah (which is the second day of Shemini Atzeres) in the Diaspora, is the beginning of the book of Yehoshua, which is the continuation of the events in our parsha. As it begins, "And it was after Moshe died..."

When you delve deeper into the Haftora, you begin to see how it connects with Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, keeping and studying Torah, and doing good deeds, loyalty and brotherhood.

The Haftora records the first communication from Hashem to Yehoshua and the preparation before crossing the Jordan into the promised land.

Hashem tells Yehoshua that they would be crossing the Jordan and that "everywhere that the soles of (the Jewish people's) feet will tread, I will give to you (the Jewish people)." He continues to tell Yehoshua the borders of Israel, that no man will ever stand up against him and that He will be with him just as He was with Moshe.

Now comes a statement that is repeated over and over again to Yehoshua, "Chazak v'ematz," be strong and have courage. He is told this by Hashem three times. First with regards to leading the Jewish people, then about keeping the Torah, and finally about going to war.

About keeping the Torah, Hashem says, "Just be strong and very courageous to observe and do in accordance with all of the Torah that Moshe My servant has commanded you. Do not stray therefrom right or left, in order that you succeed wherever you go. This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth; you shall meditate therein day and night, in order that you observe to do all that is written in it, for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper."

This message said to Yehoshua, is a lesson to each of us, and connects to Simchas Torah, when we conclude the last parsha of the Torah and start reading once again from the beginning.

The Midrash tells us, that from the words, "This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth," we learn that Yehoshua had a Sefer Torah with him. Rashi tells us that it was the book of Devarim. When he completed the last words, Hashem said, "Chazak v'ematz." From here we have the rule, that when someone completes the Torah, we say Chazak.

The Talmud tells us, "four need strengthening, (meaning, that a person has to constantly strengthen himself with all his might to do them, Rashi) and these are they, Torah, good deeds... As it says, 'Just be strong and very courageous to observe and do in accordance with all of the Torah,' be strong in Torah and courageous in doing good deeds..."

"Do not stray therefrom right or left, in order that you succeed wherever you go." Being that Torah is truth and G-dly knowledge, the closer you align yourself to it and the more accurately you follow it, the more you will succeed and find happiness and meaning.

It is not enough to learn and understand it. But, "you shall meditate therein day and night." In other words, you have to take it to a whole new level, each according to his ability, to make it part of who you are, to have a deeper understanding of what Hashem wants, and to know the inner workings of the Torah. "In order that you observe to do all that is written in it," because you will find pleasure in doing it, now that you see the purpose in it.

Hashem continues, "for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper." A Torah life, is a successful and prosperous life. It is a life of truth and values, it is real and fulfilling. Therefore you will find satisfaction and you won't feel empty.

Now, Yehoshua sends word to prepare to cross the Jordan and he calls on the tribes of Reuvain, Gad and Menashe to keep their promise to join their brothers in battle, although they were already settled on the other side of the Jordan. They wholeheartedly consented and told Yehoshua that they would do whatever he requests of them.

Keeping their promise was an act of brotherhood and unity. And that is the idea of Shemini Atzeres, while on the seven days of Sukkos there were 70 bulls brought as sacrifices for the nations of the world, on Shemini Atzeres only one bull was brought for the Jewish people. It is a time of unity among the Jewish people and between Hashem and the Jewish people. This idea is seen in Simchas Torah as well, as we all dance with the Torah, irrespective of level of scholarship, we dance together as equals, because the Torah is our inheritance, it is equally ours.

Being the last day of our holiday season, it is meant to set the tone for the whole year. That is why we have these themes stressed at this time, because these ideas of keeping and studying Torah, delving deeply into it, doing good deeds, unity, brotherhood, and loyalty to our Tzadikim, is what fortifies us and enables us to do our mission.

Just as in the Haftora, they prepare to cross the Jordan into the promised land, we will soon complete our mission, go together to our Holy Land, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Monday, October 2, 2017

We Are A Paradox

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
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This Haftora is read twice during the year. First, on the second day of Sukkos in the Diaspora, and with parshas Pekudei. Only that with parshas Pekudei, we add the two verses that precede the Sukkos Haftora.

The Haftora tells us that the Temple that King Shlomo built was completed, how the Ark was brought and placed in it, and that the Ark housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Then it tells us that the Presence of Hashem filled the Temple in the form of a cloud, and Shlomo blessed the Jewish people. This mirrors the events in parshas Pekudei, when the Jewish people completed all the work building the Mishkan, Moshe blessed them. And when the Mishkan was erected, and the Ark and the vessels were brought in, Hashem's Presence descended on it, in the form of a cloud. It also mentions that the tablets of the Ten Commandments were placed in the Ark. Even the two extra verses speak about the completion of the Temple and the bringing of vessels into it, just as Pekudei does with regards to the Mishkan.

But why was this Haftora chosen for the second day of Sukkos?

The simple answer is that Sukkos is mentioned in the first verse, because the events happened on Sukkos. But if that was the only reason, then we would only need to read that one verse. Why do we read about the Temple, the Ark, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and the cloud of Hashem's Presence on the second day of Sukkos? Answering this question, will give us a deeper understanding of parshas Pekudei as well.

On Sukkos, in the Grace After Meals, we add the words, "May the Compassionate One erect the Sukka of David which fell (literally, is falling)." This refers to the Temple in Jerusalem. So the holiday of Sukkos is on some level about the Temple.

In the Haftora it says that the Ark and all the vessels were brought to the Temple, and when the Kohanim left, "The cloud filled the House of Hashem... For the Glory of Hashem had filled the House of Hashem."

We have to ask: How can the infinite Glory of Hashem be contained in a finite building? It seems impossible, and in fact, it is impossible, but Hashem Who can do anything, brings these two opposites together.

At the core of the Temple was the Ark, which housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Ark was the main thing in the Temple, and it was also a paradox. The Talmud tells us, "The space of the Ark was not (bound to) measurements." On one hand it was measurable, and on the other hand it didn't take up space.

We are also a paradox, we each are a soul, which is a part of Hashem, and is infinite, in a body that is finite. We are able to mesh opposites because we are a part of Hashem. Therefore we can draw G-dliness, which is infinite, into the physical world, which is finite. And that is our mission, to make this finite world, into a home for Hashem, infinite.

Our way of life is a paradox as well. On one hand, we are meant to put our total trust in Hashem. But at the same time, He wants us to do our best to work in this world, and accomplish to the best of our ability. It is through this meshing of opposites that we accomplish our mission.

The second day of Sukkos is a only celebrated as a holiday outside of Israel. It is a mundane day that we make holy, we draw the infinite into the finite. It is therefore apropos that we read this Haftora on the second day of Sukkos.

Just as the Temple was infinite in finite, so too the Mishkan was infinite in finite. And this is hinted in the word Pekudei. Pekudei means the count. The fact that you can total the sum of something, shows that it is finite. Pekudei also means to connect and unite, as in the Talmudic expression, "A man is obligated (lifkod) to be intimate with his wife." This translation of Pekudei refers to the ultimate essential bond, where two become one.

Because we are talking about the Mishkan, this refers to the unity of Hashem's Presence that fills the worlds, both physical and spiritual and His Presence that surrounds the worlds. This bond is the essential infinite expression of G-dliness.

The idea of the Mishkan, and by extension, the Temple, is not just that they be filled with Hashem's Presence, but that the actual physical finite construct, becomes one with the infinite Presence of Hashem.

May we soon merit to see the Third Temple, the Sukka of David filled and united with Hashem's Glory, with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I Chose To Live, So Should You

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It is now over 5 years since Hashem gifted me with ALS. But this week we celebrated a milestone, it is 3 years since I had a tracheostomy.

It was the day after Rosh Hashanah, I had been using a machine called a bipap to help me breathe, still I seemed to be fading. My wife Dina took me to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with pneumonia, and my oxygen level was dangerously low.

It was at that point, that I was given the choice to have the tracheostomy and live, or not and put an end to the suffering and difficulties. Legally and halachically it was my choice, with Dina's support, I chose to live.

The simple fact is, that if I would not have had it then, I wouldn't be here today and possibly wouldn't have lived through the week.

Another fact is, that the true sacrifice in this story, is my wife's, she is the one who has the brunt of the hardships, taking care of me and the family with love and tears. She has to be mother, father, wife, caretaker, sometimes nurse and a multitude of other titles. I can't begin to imagine how much she suffers, not having a normal husband, to do what husbands do for their wives.

All I am able to do is listen and write to her, but she has given me a life and the ability to watch my children grow up. With her support and womanly cleverness, she pushes me to be a better father, to study Torah more and more, and to write. I owe it all to her.

Being able to see my children grow is one of the greatest pleasures. It is incredible that with all the hardships, they found a way to function as normal and healthy kids should. And I get to see them, talk to them, and experience their personalities and talents.

Over the past five years, we were blessed to see amazing kindness from all over the world. And especially the Los Angeles community. But no one more than the five exceptional people who have taken on the responsibility of taking care of me and my family. We call them the fantastic five, they started the Hurwitz Family Fund, and in over five years, they haven't wavered. They are truly amazing.

After having the tracheostomy, I lost the use of my right hand, and with that went my ability to communicate. Before that I would type on an iPhone for communication and writing blog posts. For those 9 days in the hospital, I couldn't communicate and I just let go and put my trust in Hashem, and my wife made sure I was taken care of.

I was in recovery in the ICU, when I began to understand the importance of bikur cholim, visiting the sick. Even though I wasn't able to communicate, I felt uplifted with every visit, whether it was a rabbi or lay person, man or woman.

My children being too young to enter the ICU, to my pleasure, snuck in, I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed seeing them.

As Yom Kippur was approaching, we wondered what kind of holiday we would have in the hospital. The thought sounded grim, but we were in for a surprise.

Just before Yom Kippur, a woman was ushered into the room right next to mine. Her children were with her and when it came time for davening, they came to my room and with the most melodic voices they sang the davening, it was truly uplifting.

Over Yom Kippur, we had several visitors that walked to the hospital to see us. All and all, that Yom Kippur was one of our most memorable ones.

I am blessed to live at a time when there are technologies that keep me alive such as the ventilator that breathes for me, and the incredible computer that reads my eye movements, so I can communicate.

While life is full of difficulties, pain and suffering, there is so much to be grateful for. While I understand the hardships, I choose to focus on the positive parts of my life and that keeps me going. There is my wife, my children, family, friends and you. I have the opportunity to learn and teach Torah. There is the hope that in the future a cure will be found or perhaps a miracle even sooner.

Each of us has so much good in our lives, even within the suffering and difficulties there is so much good to be found. Focus on the positive in your life now, see all the love that is around you, there is so much you can do, and so much more you can give.

May you have a good and sweet year, and may Moshiach come and put an end to all the suffering. The time has come.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Close To Hashem One With Hashem

 This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
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This article is a long one, it is divided into 4 sections. Each section is a lesson on its own. Enjoy! 

On Yom Kippur morning we read a Haftora from the book of Isaiah, which tells us what a meaningful fast is, and what it can accomplish. There are also other messages which connect to the theme of Yom Kippur.

If I were to sum up the Haftora in one sentence it would be: Hashem wants us to be good and real, and when we are, He does amazing things for us, including sending Moshiach. There are also messages of healing, Hashem being with us always and the great reward for keeping Shabbos with pleasure.

The Haftora begins with, "Make a path, make a path, clear the way, remove obstacles from My people's way." In other words, Moshiach is coming and soon we will be on the path of the redemption. The rest of the Haftora tells us how we get there.

1 Teshuva And Humility

First, through teshuva, as Hashem says, "I dwell on high in holiness, yet I am with the broken hearted, and humble of spirit..." This is the Baal teshuva, who realized how far he was from Hashem. Now as he is going through the process of teshuva, he is broken hearted and humble of spirit.

Hashem being with the broken hearted and humble of spirit, shows us that Hashem too is humble. This is difficult to understand, because how could Hashem be humble when He is all powerful?

There are two kinds of humility. The common kind of humility comes as an intellectual decision. Like Moshe, of whom the Torah says, "And the man, Moshe, was humblest of any person on the face of the earth." Moshe, who spoke face to face with Hashem, lead the Jewish people for forty years, did amazing miracles and wonders and transmitted the Torah, how was he to be humble? Didn't he know who he was? Rather he felt that if someone else would have been given his qualities, perhaps he would have achieved more. Intellectually he felt that he wasn't greater than the next person, just that he was given gifts, and perhaps if someone else would have these gifts, he would have used them better.

Then there is an essential instinctive humility, when the humility is a part of the person's essence, a natural part of who he is and not based on an intellectual decision. As our sages said about Hashem, "In the place where you find the greatness of the Holy One Blessed Be He, there you will find His humility." We see this in our verse, "I dwell on high in holiness, yet I am with the broken hearted and humble of spirit..." Moshe's thinking, that someone else would achieve more, can't possibly apply to Hashem.

Yet Moshe had both of these qualities, intellectual humility and essential instinctive humility, that is why he felt humble before any person.

The Haftora continues to say that when Hashem sees that we repent, he makes everything good and right for us.

2 Those Who Are Far And Those Who Are Near

Then the Haftora says, "I will create utterance of the lips, peace peace to those who are far and to those who are near, said Hashem, and I will heal him." What is this new utterance of the lips that Hashem will create? When you say, utterance of the lips, it sounds like it comes automatically, without thought, how does this happen? Who do far and near refer to?

The Radak gives us two explanations on who are the far and the near. First He says that they refer to those who are far or near to Yerushalayim. Then he brings the teaching of our sages, that far refers to Baal Teshuvas, and near refers to Tzadikim.

If far refers to Baal Teshuvas, then utterance of the lips refers to his confession, which comes automatically from the depth of his heart, because he feels so broken and distant.

If far refers to those who are far from Yerushalayim, that means that they lack fear of Heaven, as one of the explanations of the word Yerushalayim, is yiras shamayim (fear of Heaven). The utterance of the lips then refers to Torah study, because the way to combat the lack of fear of Heaven is through Torah study. It is automatic, because he puts himself into Torah study, so much so, that it becomes engraved in him, it becomes a part of him, to the extent that even when he doesn't think about it, he says Torah. This is hinted in the last words of the verse, "said Hashem, and I will heal him." Through what will he be healed? Through what Hashem said, which is the Torah.

You may ask, if those who are far refers to Baal Teshuvas, why are they mentioned before those who are near, the Tzadikim? It would seem that being that they were always near, Tzadikim should be mentioned first.

Our sages learn from this verse, that "In the place where Baal Teshuvas stand, complete Tzadikim don't stand, as it says, 'peace peace to the far and to the near.'" Meaning, that there is something about a Baal Teshuva, that is greater than a complete Tzadik. What about a Baal Teshuva is greater?

This is hinted in the last word of the verse, u'refuasiv (and I will heal him), it teaches us that teshuva is like healing. When a doctor prescribes medicine, a tiny amount, a small pill, is all that is needed to have the desired, and sometimes an amazing effect. The same is true about the Baal Teshuva, in one moment and with one thought of repentance, he is transformed and reaches the highest levels that a Tzadik worked his whole life to achieve and even higher. Because while a Tzadik is always close to Hashem, his service is limited to his abilities. However, a Baal Teshuva's act of repentance is not limited, because he is coming from a place of feeling distant, he is broken. Therefore, the moment is so powerful, that he breaks all limitations and reaches higher than a complete Tzadik can.

Now you may ask, if Hashem says, "peace peace to the far and the near," it would seem that the Baal Teshuva has already come near. So why does He say after that, "and I will heal him," isn't he already healed?

The answer is, that though he has come near, he still has a lot of healing to do. And that healing comes through what "Hashem said," Torah study.

Here we see the common link between the two interpretations that the Radak cites, ultimately it is the Torah that heals. Even going to a doctor for a physical ailment, is what the Torah wants you to do, so it to, is through Torah.

3 The Kind Of Fast Hashem Wants

Hashem now sends Yeshayahu to rebuke the Jewish people for their insincere fasting, for going through the motions, while remaining wicked. You even feel Hashem's hurt, as he says, "Is this the kind of fast I desire?!"

He continues, rather, "This is the fast I desire, loosen the bonds of wickedness, unlock the fetters of injustice, set the oppressed free, and break every yoke. You should divide your bread to the hungry, and bring the moaning poor into your house, when you see a naked person, you should clothe him, and don't ignore your own kin."

He continues, that if we do this we will be successful and when we call out to Him, He will answer. And if we stop the oppression of the poor, the pointing finger and the corrupt speech. If we open our hearts to the hungry and satiate the afflicted, our light will shine in the darkness, and the deepest darkness will be as bright as the morning. Hashem will always guide you, satisfy your needs in times of drought, and strengthen your bones. You will become like a well watered garden, like a spring whose water never ceases. Our ruins will be rebuilt, and our foundations reestablished.

4 Keeping, Enjoying and Honoring Shabbos

The Haftora now tells us about keeping Shabbos. "If you will restrain your foot because it is Shabbos, from doing your desires on My holy day, and you will declare Shabbos as a (time of) pleasure, a holy day of honor for Hashem, and you will honor it by not carrying out your (regular) activities, not pursuing your desired (labors), and not speaking about (financial) things. Then you will find pleasure with Hashem, and I will raise you on the high places of the earth, and you will enjoy the heritage of Yaakov your father, for the mouth of Hashem has spoken."

The Rambam says, "Anyone who keeps Shabbos according to its laws, and honors it and finds pleasure in it to the best of his ability, it has been clearly handed down, that his reward will be in this world, in addition to what is hidden away for him in the world to come, as it says, 'Then you will find pleasure with Hashem...'"

The Rambam is explaining the simple meaning of the verses. "If you will restrain your foot because it is Shabbos, from doing your desires on My holy day," means keeping the laws of Shabbos. "And you will declare Shabbos as a (time of) pleasure..." this is finding pleasure in Shabbos. "And you will honor it by not carrying out your (regular) activities..." This refers to honoring the Shabbos.

"Then you will find pleasure with Hashem, and I will raise you on the high places of the earth, and you will enjoy the heritage of Yaakov your father." The Rambam explains that his reward will be in this world, in addition to what is hidden away for him in the world to come. In other words, Shabbos is special, in that its reward is threefold.

First, the regular reward, which the Rambam explains elsewhere, that the reward for mitzvahs is in the world to come, which is basking in the light of Hashem. This is "enjoying the heritage of Yaakov." On top of that, we will enjoy the light of Hashem in this world as well, that is why he says, "in addition to what is hidden away for him in the world to come," because it is the same kind of reward, but in this world. This reward is unique to keeping Shabbos, and is learned from the words, "Then you will find pleasure with Hashem."

Then there is a physical reward, this reward is different from the other rewards in two ways. First, it is not "the reward," it is just that because you are doing the mitzvahs, Hashem gives you your needs, so you can continue to do what Hashem wants without difficulty. Second, it is a limited reward, while the others are unlimited.

Being limited, there could be various levels of comfort rewarded. So the verse says, "I will raise you on the high places of the earth." That the reward will be the best of the earth.

Why does Shabbos have such a great reward, greater than any other mitzvah?

Just before the Rambam says the reward for keeping Shabbos, he says, "Both Shabbos and idol worship are equal to all the other mitzvahs of the Torah, and Shabbos is the sign between us and the Holy One Blessed Be He..."

Idol worship is a denial of the essential underpinnings and sanctity of the Jewish people. By comparing Shabbos to idol worship, he is saying that Shabbos is different than the other mitzvahs. While all the other mitzvahs add to our holiness, not doing them does not constitute a denial of the essential underpinnings and sanctity of the Jewish people. Shabbos, on the other hand, is an essential part of who we are, keeping Shabbos is therefore, upholding the essential underpinnings and sanctity of the Jewish people.

Shabbos is the time when our unity with Hashem shines bright, it is therefore a taste of the world to come, when we will experience Hashem's essence which we are one with. This is the pleasure of Shabbos, a taste of Hashem's essence.

Now we can understand why we read about this on Yom Kippur. The Torah calls Yom Kippur, "Shabbos Shabboson," the ultimate Shabbos, the essence of our essence. When our unity with Hashem shines brightest, it is the ultimate expression of our Jewishness.

May we soon merit to experience the time that is called, "The day that is entirely Shabbos," the time of Moshiach, with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We Have The Power

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL. 
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At the end of parshas Haazinu, Hashem commanded Moshe to go up onto Mount Nevo, and told him that he would pass away there.

The passage begins, "And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the essence of this day (b'etzem hayom hazeh), saying. Ascend the mountain..."

Rashi explains that the words b'etzem hayom hazeh, are used two other times earlier. First, when Noach was to enter the ark, the wicked people of the generation attempted to stop him from entering the ark. The second time was in Egypt, the Egyptians attempted to stop the Jewish people from leaving Egypt. In both cases Hashem took them right in middle of the day, and no one was able to stop them.

Rashi continues to explain, that here too, the Jewish people attempted to stop Moshe from dying, but Hashem did not allow it.

In the stories of Noach and the Jewish people leaving Egypt, they had practical plans to accomplish their objectives.

The generation of the flood realized that Hashem wanted to save Noach and his family. So if they could somehow stop him from entering the ark, the flood wouldn't happen.

When the Jewish people were leaving Egypt, they also had a clear plan to accomplish their objective. The Egyptians were planning to kill all of the Jewish people, thereby not allowing them to escape.

How were the Jewish people planning to stop Hashem from taking Moshe? Why would they think that they have any power to do anything to stop him from dying, when life and death is in Hashem's hands? Moshe had a clear command from Hashem, why did the Jewish people, who were righteous, try to stop him from fulfilling Hashem's command? And finally, what lesson could we learn from this story about the power of the Jewish people?

Just a few weeks ago, in parshas Ki Savo, Moshe taught us the laws of bikkurim. That when we settle the land of Israel, we are obligated to give our first fruits to Hashem. At the core of this mitzvah is the obligation to show thanks for the good Hashem does for you, especially while you are enjoying it. By extension, we learn that it is an obligation to show thanks to someone who does something for you, especially while you are benefiting from it, and not to be an ingrate.

Right at that moment, they were enjoying and benefiting from miracles that were done in Moshe's merit. There was the manna that fell from above, the water from the rock, after Miriam passed away, it was in Moshe's merit that it continued. There was the slav, which were birds that would come to the camp, and they would have them for dinner, and much more.

The Jewish people reasoned that if there was a way to show their gratefulness by somehow annulling the decree, they would be obligated to do so. 

It was Hashem Who provided an opening. First, the command to go up onto the mountain was to Moshe alone, not to them. Second, Hashem made Moshe's dying contingent on him going up the mountain, if they could hold him up from going up the mountain at the prescribed time, perhaps they could avert the decree.  But Hashem wouldn't hear of it, and of course, there was no stopping Moshe from going up the mountain and he passed away at the exact time he was supposed to.

On a deeper level, because we are talking about Moshe, the leader of the community, it is a communal affair. The rule is that when it comes to a communal decree, even if it is signed and sealed, it can be overturned through the Teshuva of the whole community. In other words, as Jews, we have the power to overcome a heavenly decree. Similar to the story in the Talmud regarding the strength of Torah below, when Hashem said, "You have bested Me my child, you have bested Me."

Now we have to ask, if they actually had the power to stop the decree, why didn't they?

That is why the verse says, "b'etzem hayom hazeh," in the essence of this day. Because the passing of Moshe on "this day," was necessary for the "essence" of the Jewish nation.

Everything that Moshe did was everlasting. If he would have lead the Jewish people into the land, and built the Temple, they too would have been everlasting. And later, when they would have sinned, there would be no exiling them from the land, and no destroying the Temple. The idea of "The Holy One Blessed be He poured out His anger on the wood and on the stones," wouldn't have been possible. Instead, it would have been on the Jewish people, Heaven forbid. So Moshe's passing was necessary for our survival and the completion of our mission in this world.

Each of us has a part of Moshe inside of us, in the depths of our souls. One might think, "If Hashem wants my Torah study and mitzvahs, why did He make the Moshe inside me hidden? All I seem to feel, are the desires of my animal soul.

The answer is, that Hashem did it for our benefit. Because to bring out essence, could only be done through effort and toil. And when you reveal and redeem the Moshe inside of you, you begin to see that what you thought were hardships, were actually what made it possible for your personal redemption.

Your personal redemption, will then lead to the ultimate redemption, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

A Cry From The Depths Of Our Souls

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Lizechus Avionam Ben Varda Faiga Bluma for a Shnas Brocho Vihatzlocho Bigashmiyus Veruchniyus.
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About Rosh Hashanah, the Mishnah says, "The mitzvah of the day is with the shofar."

The Baal Shem Tov explains shofar with a parable. It is like a child that cries out, "father father save me."

The Rebbes of Chabad made it known that the main thing is not the content of the cry, "father father save me," but rather the cry itself.

Being that we are all different, the content of our cries are different, but each of us cry out to Hashem. For one the cry from the depths of his soul is audible, for another it is silent. But it is from the depths of his soul that he cries.

This is what the sounds of the shofar are all about, a cry from the depths of our souls. And that is what breaks through the gates of heaven and reaches Hashem, our father.

Then there is the parable of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. There was a boy that wanted an apple, but his father didn't want to give it to him. The clever boy quickly said the blessing over fruits and his father had to give it to him.

Sometimes a father doesn't want to give. Then there are times that the father does want to give, and the only reason he is denying his child what he wants, is because he wants to bring out something more from the child, to see how clever he is. Will he figure out a way to get it?

In our case, Hashem wants to give. As the expression found in the Talmud goes, "more than the calf wants to suckle, the cow wants to nurse." The same idea is said regarding the One above, the verse says, "for the work of your hands, He longs." In other words, Hashem wants us to serve Him. He therefore wants to give us what we need to serve Him.

This is why in the Rosh Hashanah Mussaf prayer, at the culmination of the verses of shofar, we conclude with the blessing, "Blessed are You Hashem our G-d, Who hears the sound of the terua (the sound of the shofar) of Your nation Israel with compassion."

When it comes to saying a blessing with Hashem's name, the rule is that if there is any doubt, we don't say the blessing, because we do not want to say His Name in vain. Yet here we say, "Who hears the sound of the terua of Your nation Israel," and not only that, but He hears it "with compassion." Why are we so certain?

The Men of the Great Assembly, at the beginning of the Second Temple era, were the ones who authored our prayers. They were comprised of 120 Tzadikim of which many were prophets. So they were in the position to know, they were not in doubt. They therefore ruled that we should say this blessing with Hashem's name, because it is absolutely certain that Hashem hears our terua, the cry from the depths of our souls, and that He hears it with compassion. Meaning, that He will grant us all our needs, especially nachas, health and sustenance.

The central theme of Rosh Hashanah is twofold. First we reach up to Hashem, accepting Him as our King, accepting the yoke of His dominion. And then He in turn, so to speak, accepts upon Himself all the blessings he said He would give us in parshas Bechukosai, "And I will give your rain in their time..."

This year, when we sound the shofar, the cry from the depths of our souls, Hashem will surely grant us what we need, including nachas from our children, good health and abundant sustenance. Which is all included in the traditional Rosh Hashanah blessing, that we wish everyone with "a good and sweet year." May he also grant us the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Key To Blessing Is Humility And Respect

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This week's parsha is Nitzavim-Vayelech, Nitzavim is always read on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah, and Vayelech is either read together Nitzavim, or on the Shabbos after Rosh Hashanah, Shabbos Shuva. There are therefore many lessons to be found in the parsha pertaining to Rosh Hashanah and the coming year.

In parshas Vayelech Moshe says, "Take this book of the Torah and place it beside the Ark of the covenant of Hashem your G-d."

The Talmud cites two opinions as to where the Torah was actually placed. One says that it was inside the Ark together with the tablets of the Ten Commandments. And the other says that it was on the side of the Ark. But according to both opinions, both the Torah and the Ten Commandments were in the Holy of Holies, the chamber that housed the Ark.

The Holy of Holies was above nature, the place where the Ark stood was miraculous, though the Ark was there, it didn't take up space. The natural dimensions of time and space were suspended in the Holy of Holies. On one hand it was there and it could be measured, and at the same time, it didn't take up space.

The Ten Commandments were engraved in the tablets. When you engrave letters into stone, nothing is added to the stone, as many words as you engrave into the stone, it remains the same size and the same dimensions. Similar to the Holy of Holies and the Ark which were there, they weren't taking up space.

The Ten Commandments were also miraculous, the engraving went all the way through and through the stone, yet the letters final mem and samech, one being a square and the other a circle, in other words, the engraving completely encircled the center of the letter, nevertheless the center of the letter remained in place.

So it seems that the objects in the Holy of Holies had a common theme. They were miraculous and above space and time.

The question is, what was the Torah doing there? With letters written with ink on parchment, the letters took up extra space and there was nothing miraculous about it. What purpose did the Torah fulfill?

The purpose of the Holy of Holies, the Ark and the Ten Commandments, were not to remain hidden. Rather, that their G-dly light spread out to the Temple, to Jerusalem, throughout the land of Israel, affecting all the Jewish people, and ultimately to the whole world affecting the non Jewish people as well.

Being that the Holy of Holies, the Ark and the Ten Commandments were above nature, there had to be a go between, a conduit, to bring their light into the natural world. The Torah served as that conduit. It is the Torah that brings the supernatural G-dly light into our lives, and by us keeping the Torah, we spread that light throughout the world affecting even those that aren't Jewish.

Rosh Hashanah is the Holy of Holies of the year. Our service on Rosh Hashanah goes beyond our understanding. It comes from feeling null before Hashem, because we are in awe of Him. There is a special G-dly light that shines and it affects us with a sense of self sacrifice that goes beyond understanding and above nature.

Although during the year our mode of service doesn't have to be beyond our understanding, and even our self sacrifice during the year is somewhat from our understanding. Nevertheless, in our mundane, during the year, physical state, we need to try to humble ourselves to the point where we are null, just like on Rosh Hashanah. In this way we draw the light of Rosh Hashanah into our every day lives, bringing them above nature as well.

In order to be able to accomplish this, we must prepare, and set the tone to make this possible. How do we accomplish this?

Parshas Nitzavim begins with, "You are standing here today, all of you (kulchem), before Hashem your G-d, your heads, your tribes... from your woodcutters to your water drawers."

This is always read before Rosh Hashanah, because on a deeper level, "You are standing here today... before Hashem your G-d,"  refers to the Great Day of Judgement, Rosh Hashanah. "Your heads, your tribes... from your woodcutters to your water drawers," refer to the different positions the Jewish people fill.

The Jewish people are compared to one great body. Each of us symbolize a different part of the body. Some of us are heads, others are the body, arms, legs etc. We are all necessary to accomplish the mission, the head leeds, but it can't do anything without the arms and it can't go anywhere without the legs and feet.

The key to our success, is the kulchem, "all of you," that we are united as one, and that we see each other as equally important.

On Rosh Hashanah, because of the greatness of the day and Hashem's overwhelming presence, there is no place for our egos, being that in contrast to Hashem, we are all equally nothing and null.

If you can take the Rosh Hashanah egolessness and apply it all year long, whether you think of yourself as the head or the legs, if you could see yourself as part of the whole, in other words, it is not about you, because you nullify your ego to the point that you don't see yourself as better than the other, but as equally important. You will draw the light of Rosh Hashanah throughout the whole year, and with it comes its blessings of health, nachas and sustenance.

It is so important to treat people with respect, especially those you think are less educated, or perhaps not as well to do. Speaking down to people and arrogance are some of the ugliest traits, and they only divide us. Humility and respect are some of the most beautiful traits, and they unite us. 

When we are united, Hashem's light shines on us and through us, and through us the light shines to the whole world. Through humility and respect for our fellow, we begin to see the value of everyone and how we are not whole without them. This will lift their spirits and unify us, and when we are united, we find joy in our mission. This joy breaks all boundaries, especially the confines of the dark exile, and when it does, Moshiach will be here. May it happen soon.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Drawing G-dliness Into Your Mundane Activities

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This week's parsha, Ki Savo, begins with the mitzvah of bikurim, bringing your first fruits to Hashem.

The first fruits were brought to the Temple, received by the Kohen and placed next to the altar.

When giving it to the Kohen, every person bringing first fruits would declare, "An Aramean was the destroyer of my forefather and he went down to Egypt... and he became a great, mighty and numerous nation there. The Egyptians treated us cruelly... We cried out to Hashem... Hashem heard our voice... And Hashem brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, with great awe, and with signs and marvels."

There were other great salvations and miracles that Hashem did for the Jewish people. Why are specifically these two events, Yaakov being saved from Lavan (Laban) and the Exodus from Egypt, part of the bikurim declaration?

The giving of the first fruits is to give thanks to Hashem for giving us the land, and so we give from the first and the nicest to Him as a gesture of gratitude. It would make sense that the declaration would be the same, giving thanks to Hashem for the great miracles that brought us to the land, of which we have this great bounty.

Following the Exodus, there were great salvations and miracles, without which, we would have never made it to the promised land. There was the splitting of the sea, the miraculous victories over Amalek, Sichon and Og. During the 40 years in the desert, there were daily miracles that kept us alive, like the manna that fell from above, and the well of Miriam, that was a rock that traveled with the Jewish people, water would come out of the rock, providing for the needs of the nation and their livestock. Why weren't any of these miracles included in the declaration? We certainly would not have come to the land without these miracles.

Perhaps we can say that all of these miracles could be viewed as part of the Exodus from Egypt, because the Exodus wasn't complete until they conquered the land. They are therefore included as part of the Exodus, and don't have to be mentioned separately in the declaration.

However, there is an event that happened before Yaakov's descent to Egypt, that seems that it should be included in the declaration, but it isn't.

When Yaakov and his family were finally free of lavan, they had the confrontation with his brother Eisav. Yaakov was afraid that their lives were in danger because of Eisav's wrath, but the danger was miraculously averted. Why wasn't this included in the declaration?

Perhaps because Eisav's evil intentions never came to fruition, it never went further than intent. But if this is the reason that it isn't included in the declaration, then being saved from Lavan should also not be included, because his evil intentions also didn't come to fruition.

We must conclude that there is something unique about the salvation from Lavan and the Exodus, that is connected with the mitzvah of bikurim. What is the connection?

About the mitzvah of bikurim, the verse says, "And it will be, when you come to the land... and you take possession of it and settle it." Rashi explains that the mitzvah of bikurim begins only after the conquering and the division of the land. In other words, once they took up permanent residence and began enjoying the bounty of the land, then they were obligated to do the mitzvah of bikurim.

There were two other times that we took up permanent residence, but in those cases, we didn't get to enjoy the bounty. The 20 years Yaakov lived by Lavan, and the 210 years in Egypt. Therefore, we mention them in the bikurim declaration, to show how grateful we are to be able to enjoy the bounty, in contrast to the times we couldn't.

On a deeper level, the fruit of the tree refers to the part of the neshama that is in the body. The idea of bringing bikurim, is to strengthen the bond between the neshama and its source above. We do this in two ways. First, when we bring bikurim, the first and the best, we bring ourselves closer. And when we recite the declaration, we draw down the source of the neshama, the bikurim of the neshama, which is the first and the best part of the neshama. That the neshama from above should bond and shine in the neshama below.

This will give us a deeper understanding in the words of the declaration. The two events mentioned, Yaakov by Lavan and the exile in Egypt, both begin with a descent, being drawn down from the highest state of holiness, into the lowest places, Charan, which is called, "charon af shel Makom," the place that angers Hashem, and Egypt. Followed by an ascent, being drawn up to the highest level, and in the case of Egypt, to the point that Hashem revealed Himself to us at Mount Sinai.

The point of drawing down from the highest and holiest into the lowest, is to affect it and make it ready for Hashem to be able to dwell there openly as well. This is the idea of bikurim, to make working the land a holy endeavor as well, by drawing down G-dliness into the mundane work we do. And of course, we will reap the fruits of our labor, turning our mundane efforts into the first and the best for Hashem.

It is not enough to bring ourselves closer to Hashem through our study of Torah and the performance of mitzvahs, but we must also draw G-dliness down into the physical, mundane, daily activities that we do, until they become holy as well.

Ultimately, we will reap the fruits of our labor, we will merit the ultimate revelation, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Making A Parapet

In this week's parsha, Ki Seitzei, we learn the law, that "When you build a new house, you must make a parapet (fence) for your roof, in order that you won't cause bloodshed in your house, by one who falls, falling off of it."

The law of making a parapet applies even when you buy a house that you didn't build, and to an old house as well. So why does the verse say, "When you build a new house?"

Why does the verse call the person who might fall, "one who falls," even though he didn't fall yet? Even more, it is written in the present tense, as if he is presently falling, but he hasn't fallen yet. What kind of person is called, "one who falls?"

The Sifri explains why it says "new," because "from the time it is new, you have to make a parapet." In other words, the obligation to make a parapet begins before you move into the house. The moment it is new to you, whether you built it or bought it, you are obligated to make a parapet. Unlike mezuzah, whose obligation doesn't begin until after you move into the house.

This leaves us with a question. From the words in our verse, "When you build a new house," it seems that the obligation is only for a new house. Why doesn't the verse use terms that indicate, that every house needs a parapet?

The Talmud tells us, that the reason he is called, "one who falls," is because he was already destined to fall.

But you don't have to be the one that makes it happen. Making a parapet, will ensure that it doesn't happen in your house, because when something like that happens in your house, it shines negatively on you. 

Again, this leaves us with a question. The word in our verse that means "one who falls," is hanofel, which doesn't refer to someone who is destined to fall, but rather to someone who is presently falling. Who is the one who is presently falling?

Every verse in the Torah is meant to be understood on many levels. When we look deeper into this verse, we can learn lessons that apply to all of us, even to someone who doesn't own a house.

Our sages say, "A man's home is his wife." "When you build a new house," on a deeper level, refers to beginning married life, which is the time that one is first obligated to remove himself from his spiritual cocoon of yeshiva and involve himself in the physical world, to begin making a living. He is therefore actively falling from the spiritual life into the physical world of making a living.

It is at this time that he has to make a parapet. The idea of a parapet, is to set up a fence to protect someone from falling. The parapet he has to make, is new protections and boundaries that will keep him from falling into the trap of being enticed by the physical, and making it more important than the life of Torah. The parapet also provides separation, so that even when he is involved in the physical, he remains separate and holy.

Our purpose is to infuse the physical with G-dliness, making this physical world into a dwelling place for Hashem.

This work primarily begins with marriage, and his obligatory descent into the physical world. It is a mistake to refrain from getting involved in the physical and locking yourself into a spiritual bubble, because if you do, you are not accomplishing what you are meant to. Hashem put you here specifically to develop your part of the physical world, infusing it with G-dliness.

On another level, when you say "house," it refers to the body, every one of us is a soul, and we move into our home, the body. The purpose is the same, to make this world into a dwelling place for Hashem. it is called a "new house," because for the G-dly soul, the physical world is all new. It is "falling," because for the soul it is a great and constant descent, having to deal with the body's natural yearning for physical pleasures, which is not the interest of the soul. At the same time, the soul is happy to be in her new home, because she knows that through the work of the body, making this world into a dwelling place for Hashem, it will draw down levels of G-dliness, beyond anything she experienced before.

How does this work? When we do our part, making this world into a dwelling for Hashem, we are creating for Him a "new home." Everything we do down here affects the spiritual realms as well. We so to speak create a new home for Hashem above. What is new about it, is that there is an expansion in the spiritual realms allowing for levels of G-dliness that before were beyond the loftiest spiritual realms to enter the spiritual realms. And ultimately, we will  be able to draw these levels of G-dliness into the physical as well.

To be able to do this work, we have to make a parapet. First, by setting boundaries and protections not to falter, and by creating a degree of separation, so you can be in the world and at the same time, separate.

May we be successful in drawing down G-dliness into the physical, making it a home for Hashem. His presence will fill the world openly, and Moshiach will be here. May it happen soon.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The King And The Nassi

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In this week's parsha, Shoftim, we are given the mitzvah to appoint a king, "You should surely appoint over yourself a king." The Rashba writes, that "The king is like the community, because the community and all of Israel are dependent on him." Similarly the Midrash Tanchuma says, "The head of the generation is the entire generation. Rashi also says something like this, that "The nassi (the leader, the king) is like the entire generation, because the nassi is everything." The Rambam says about the king, "That his heart is the heart of the entire congregation of Israel."

The king is like the heart of the Jewish people, because just as all of the organs in the body are dependent on the heart, all of Israel are dependent on the king.

It is true that the heart pumps the blood, bringing vital oxygen and nutrients to every organ of the body, but it is the brain that directs the entire body, including the heart. So why is the king called the heart and not the brain of the Jewish people?

In the Torah, when it says the word nassi, depending on the context, it either means the king, or the head of a tribe. In the Mishnah or Talmud, nassi always refers to the head of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jewish people. And it always uses the conventional word melech, to say king.

By making this differentiation between melech and nassi, our sages are teaching us, that they have different positions and different qualities. And even when a king is called a nassi, it is referring to the nassi qualities found in the king.

What are the differences between a nassi and a melech? The differences are similar to those of the brain and the heart.

A king's job is to take care of the needs of the nation, just as the heart serves the entire body. As king, he doesn't have any purpose other than serving the nation, just as the heart has no other function than to provide the needs of the organs of the body.

Therefore, he is attached to the people in two ways. First, he is involved in the needs of the nation, and second he gets whatever he wants from the people. Getting his wants from the people, also demonstrates the weak position of the king, as he is totally reliant on the people. Similarly the heart serves the needs of the body, and as the Zohar says, "The heart is tender and weak," because it has no function of its own. This is why the king is called the heart of the entire congregation of Israel.

The nassi is the head of the Jewish people, the brain. The nassi's job is to be an impartial arbiter of Torah law, he directs the entire nation in Hashem's ways. Just as the brain directs the entire body. Different than the king, the nassi is not totally reliant on the people. Yes, he gets a salary from the people, but he is getting paid to work, just like any person who holds a public office. Similarly the brain directs the entire body, but it also has a function of its own, to think and impartially scrutinize ideas. It gets nourished from the heart just like any other organ does.

Now we can understand why a king is not called the brain, that is the job of the nassi.

Some of the laws pertaining to the king and the nassi.

  • A nassi may forgo his honor, a king may not. 
  • A king must rise out of respect when the Sanhedrin or Torah scholars enter before him.
  • A king doesn't make laws (other than those necessary for the immediate needs of the nation), but he enforces the laws handed down by the Sanhedrin. 
  • A king isn't given the position of Head of the Sanhedrin.

However, two kings of Israel have both titles, nassi and melech. The first was Moshe, our first redeemer. He was a king, as it says, "And there was a king in Yeshurun (AKA Israel)," which refers to Moshe. He took care of the Jewish nation in the desert, just as a king was meant to. He was also the nassi, head of the Sanhedrin, the primary teacher of Torah to the Jewish people.

The second will be Moshiach, our final redeemer, who will be our king and nassi, he will teach us new insights in Torah that will take us to spiritual heights, beyond anything we could imagine.

In Kabbalistic and Chassidic teaching, the cognitive abilities are connected to the brain and the emotions are connected to the heart.

The brain is above the body, it is not intermingled with the organs of the body. This is because, to be impartial when thinking, you need to be separate or above feelings, if you want to come to the a true conclusion. Because your feelings will skew your thinking. The same is true about a nassi, he is above the nation, he needs to be able to determine the true Torah law, and he can't let his feelings get in the way.

On the other hand, the heart is inside the body, among other organs, because emotions are connected to your feelings. The same is true about a king, he needs to be among the nation, he needs to be able to feel for them, so he can properly serve them.

Each of us is king and nassi over ourselves, our families and our surroundings. it is very important to know when to be a nassi and when to be a king. When you are learning Torah or you have a question in halacha, you need to be the nassi, to follow what is true and right. But when it comes to your welfare and the welfare of your family and friends, you need to be the king. You need to feel for them, and provide for them accordingly. Of course within the boundaries of halacha.

May our efforts to lead a Torah based life, hasten the coming of Moshiach, who will be our king and our nassi. May it happen soon.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Chosen And Sanctified

In this week's parsha, Re'ay, we have verses that speak about the place where the Temple would be built. Speaking about the different offerings which are offered to Hashem it says, "Rather, to the place that Hashem your G-d will choose..."  "And it will be, that the place, that Hashem your G-d will choose to rest His Name..." "But only in the place that Hashem will choose..." What these verses are telling us, is that once Hashem will choose the final resting place of His Name, offerings to Him will only be able to be brought there and nowhere else.

What did they do before Hashem chose the place to rest His Name? Our sages said, "As long as Yerushalayim wasn't chosen, all of the land of Israel was allowed to have altars... As long as the eternal home wasn't chosen, Yerushalayim was able to have the Divine Presence..." This means that before Hashem chose the place for the Temple, anyone could have an altar in his back yard and bring offerings to Hashem whenever he wanted to.

The Rambam tells us that it was well known, that on the place that the Temple was built Avraham, Noach, Kayin and Hevel, and even Adam brought sacrifices. And Adam was created from the earth of the Temple. Then the Rambam adds, that "our sages said, 'Adam was created from the place where he atoned.'" From the Rambam it seems that this was already a holy place before Hashem chose it.

The question is, was this place always holy, or did it become holy when Hashem chose it?

Another question. From our verses that say, "the place that Hashem your G-d will choose," it is clear, that only after Hashem chooses the place, will it become holy. So why does the Rambam tell us the history of the place, that Avraham, Noach, etc. Brought sacrifices there?

To understand this, we first need to understand the difference between when Hashem chooses a place, making it holy, and when people sanctify a place or an object and make it holy.

When we sanctify a place or an object, the holiness is permanent, however, because the place or the object is limited, the holiness is limited to the limitations of the place or the object.

When Hashem chooses a place, the holiness is not limited to the limitations of the place, rather to the One Who is choosing, Hashem, therefore it is unlimited. However the place itself does not become permanently holy without us making it holy. When Hashem moves on, the place doesn't retain the holiness.

Hashem chose other places before the Temple Mount. For example, the Mishkan in Shiloh, that stood for 369 years, and the Mishkan that Moshe erected at Mount Sinai, and later it was erected wherever the cloud that led the Jewish people would stop. These places were all chosen by Hashem, yet when the Divine Presence moved on, they didn't retain their holiness. Why not?

It is only when we have the combination of both, Hashem's choice and our effort to sanctify the place that it becomes the eternal resting place of His Name, the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah in Yerushalayim.

This is why the Rambam tells us that Avraham, Noach, etc. Brought sacrifices. To explain why the Temple Mount became the final and eternal resting place of His Name. It wasn't enough that Hashem chose the place, we also needed Avraham, Noach, etc. To sanctify the place, and the combination of the two made it eternally holy.

What moved Avraham, Noach, Kayin, Hevel, and Adam to bring their sacrifices on Mount Moriah? It was because they knew through prophecy, that in the future Hashem would choose this as the final resting place of His Name. So ultimately it was Hashem's choice in the future that made it the resting place of His Name.

We are left with a question. The Rambam says that Adam was created from the earth of the Temple Mount. If this is the case, it would seem that Hashem already chose this place even before he created Adam. So why does He say, "the place that Hashem your G-d will choose," which means that it will be in the future?

To answer this question, the Rambam quotes the words of our sages, that "Adam was created from the place where he atoned." In other words, the reason Hashem created Adam from the earth of the Temple Mount, was because He knew that in the future, Adam would bring sacrifices there, it was Adam's choice not Hashem's.

Each of us was chosen by Hashem, each of us are a small Temple. Hashem rests His Name on us in the form of a Neshama. But it is up to us to put in the effort to experience what we have. It is the combination of both Hashem's choice and our effort, through Torah study and the performance of mitzvahs, that we experience the eternal holiness of Hashem.

May our efforts in Torah study and the performance of mitzvahs, bring Moshiach, when we will once again experience Hashem's unlimited holiness, in the eternal resting place of His Name, the Third and final Temple, in Yerushalayim, on the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah. The time has come.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Going Beyond The Natural

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In this week's parsha, Eikev, we have the second paragraph of the shema. In it, Hashem says, "And I will give your land's rain in its time." Rashi explains the words, "And I will give your land's rain," that Hashem is saying to the Jewish people, "You did what was upon you, I will also do what is upon Me." In other words, because we do what Hashem wants, he will do his part, by giving us the rain we need.

Rashi comes to explain difficulties in the simple meaning of the Torah. What is the difficulty in this verse that Rashi is clarifying?

In a previous parsha, Bechukosai, Hashem says, "And I will give their rain, in their time." The question on our verse is, what is the difference between the blessing of rain in Bechukosai and in our parsha? Rashi explains that over here it means, "You did what was upon you, I will also do what is upon Me." In other words, you did just what was asked of you, so I will keep my end of the bargain, and send the natural rain that you need. However in Bechukosai, the blessing is beyond the natural, as we see in the continuation of the blessing, "And the tree of the field will give its fruit," Rashi explains that it is talking about plain trees that don't normally give fruit, in the future they too will give fruit, which is not natural, rather above the natural.

Why is the blessing in Bechukosai greater? Because as Rashi explains on the words, "Im Bechukosai tailaichu, if you will go in my statues," means, that you should toil in Torah. Toil means going beyond your norm, putting in effort that is beyond your nature, so the blessing Hashem gives is also beyond nature.

How does Rashi know that in our parsha the blessing is within nature and not above nature? Because the verse says, "And I will give your land's rain," the rain is the land's, land is within nature. In Bechukosai it says, "And I will give their rain," meaning, the Jewish people's rain, and Jewish people are above nature, so the rain is also above nature.

How does this blessing of rain manifest itself? In our parsha Rashi explains the word "B'ito, in its time," at night, so you won't be bothered. In other words, you won't be bothered by the rain during the day when you are working in the field, but the rain will be the natural amount necessary for the fields to produce its crop. In Bechukosai Rashi explains the word "B'itam, in their time," at the time that it is uncommon for people to go out like Shabbos night (Friday night). Meaning that it will rain one night a week, and with that small amount of rain the fields will yield their full potential, which is beyond the natural.

So the blessing in Bechukosai is greater, because our effort is greater.

We need to strive for the greater blessing, it is not enough for us to get by with what comes natural to us. Hashem expects more from us, to go beyond our nature, to toil in Torah and mitzvahs, to go the extra mile.

In a way, doing just enough, just what is in our nature, is not an accomplishment, it is when we go beyond our nature, that we've accomplished. Hashem wants us to go beyond our nature, and when we do that, He showers us with blessings beyond the natural.

Every day I see this as my wife Dina goes beyond herself for our family and to give to others. I used to do a lot for our family, but now stuck in bed, it has all fallen on her shoulders. It is a daily struggle for her, but she finds a way to do it, through tears and love she supernaturally does it all. I am amazed by her everyday, she is a Jewish mother, a miracle, and my hero.

On top of that, she goes all over giving talks, strengthening people, lifting their spirits, and filling them with emuna and bitachon (belief and trust in Hashem). But what many don't know, is that she has terrible stage fright, but she fights through it, because she knows that this is what Hashem wants from her. I find that amazing and I am in awe of her.

We all have it in us to go beyond ourselves to do what Hashem wants, He created us to do just that, and when we do, we are doing what we are meant to do, and that brings supernatural blessing.

May our efforts and toil, going beyond the natural bring the greatest blessing of all, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Marriage Tips For Men Part 4: Making A Home

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Being a husband I have made my share of mistakes. Here are some of the things I learned along the way. When I got it right, I saw how it made such a big difference. Of course I am human and didn't get everything right.

Your marriage is so precious, and your family is your life. Balancing a home, work and family is hard, especially that in so many families both parents are working. Yet when mom comes home, it is common that all the traditional tasks of motherhood is on her shoulders. Even those that are able to be a stay at home mother, are in an endless state of keeping up, especially if there are small children.

As you and your wife build a home together and as you grow as a family, you need to plan and set things in place, so that both you and your wife are happy, close, and loving. Think of yourselves as one unit, and as equally responsible parties in the home. Be realistic and divide the responsibilities according to your abilities, your energy and your time.

If your wife is the high energy, creative, pintrest, on top of it, organized type, then just go with it, do what she says and count your blessings.

This article is written to husbands who have a growing family and a wife with average or low energy, who is trying her best. But there are also lessons here for all couples, just use what applies to you.

Here are some things I did, and a few things I wish I did.


Make Things Easier For Your Wife


Being a wife, a mother and a homemaker is a huge job, anything you can do to relieve your wife from these burdens will be appreciated, and if you do them with joy, she will love you for it.

1) If You Can, Hire Help.

Hiring help for housekeeping and for taking care of the children, is a good idea. If you can afford to have it all the time, then you should. If your budget doesn't allow you to have it all the time, then have it as much as you can, and at least for the hardest tasks, even once a week, it will make such a big difference.

If you want to know what the hardest tasks are, it is the things that your wife dreads doing, if you ask her, she will gladly tell you.

2) Be a Mentch.

When you are home, be involved, don't sit on your bottom while she slaves away. Ask her what you can do, remember that it is your home too.

When you are taking care of the children don't call it babysitting, they are your children and your responsibility. When you are with them, you are being a father, not a baby sitter. When you call it babysitting, you are saying that they are not your responsibility and that you are doing a favor. This is hurtful to your wife, because she wants you to be a father to them. When you are a good father to your children, it is so endearing to your wife, she will fall deeper in love with you every time she sees it.

When she does things for you, don't take her for granted, say thank you, let her know that you appreciate the things she does for you and that you respect her. This might seem small to you, but when she feels appreciated and respected, it will lift her spirits, she will be happy and she won't feel used.

3) Have Things That You Do Around the House and Be Reliable.

Pick a few regular chores and make them your responsibility. It could be cleaning, food preparation, laundry, shopping, taking care of the cars, etc. It is your choice, but pick a few and do them well and reliably. The best things to choose, are the things she likes to do the least.

4) Have Things That You Do in Preparation for Shabbos and Yom Tov.

It is a long standing tradition, that husbands set up the candles for their wife and daughters to light. This is the way that it is done. Before shabbos, set them into the candelabra or candlesticks, light them for a few seconds and put them out. This will make them easier to light when it comes time for her to light them. Before Yom Tov do this as well, but on Yom Tov you will be in shul when it is time to set them, so she will do it. But if you do set them up on Yom Tov, don't light them, because you are not allowed to put them out.

Have a dish or two that you make for Shabbos and don't leave a mess for your wife to clean up. If you can't do that, have some other preparation that you do, it can even be done on Thursday.

If you can't help prepare, then help clean up after the Shabbos meal, especially Friday night. She has been on her feet all day preparing for Shabbos and she is probably exhausted.

(I am a big advocate of using disposable dishes, especially when the children are young, it makes clean up a breeze. Unless you have hired help, keep the fancy dishes for special occasions.)

5) Give Her Time to Put Her Feet Up.

Most mothers work hard and hardly ever get a break. If you could give her a respite from the kids she will be grateful and you will be a good husband. Being that you will be with the kids you will be a good father as well.

Here are some things you can do to give her rest.

  • Learn how to make one or two simple dinners, like sloppy Joe or something else the kids like. Once a week, or every other week, make dinner with the kids, while your wife rests. Make sure to clean up after. Your wife will appreciate it, and your kids will enjoy spending time with you.
  • When you have off of work, take the kids out to the park, or do some other activity they enjoy. This will give your wife some quiet time.

6) Give her time to get together with her friends.

At minimum once a month watch the kids so she can get together with her friends. Once a week is better. She needs time with her friends. If you can't be home, the baby sitter can watch the kids.


Be Loving


Here are some things you should do just to be loving.

1) Do small sweet things.

After a long day do something sweet to make her feel special.

Here are some ideas.

  • Make her favorite tea, the way she likes it, and bring it to her in a pretty cup.
  • Cut up a fruit she likes and bring it to her.
  • Bring her a piece of chocolate.
  • Bring her some warm water to soak her feet in.

With a little bit of thought, you will come up with some of your own ideas. Small sweet things that will make her feel special.

2) Be Supportive of Her Interests.

If your wife has a hobby she likes or she would like to try, be supportive. Here are some ways to do this.

  • Buy her a book or a magazine on the subject.
  • If you come across an article on the subject, bring it to her or email it to her.
  • If she asks you to join her, don't be difficult, go along with her. You might find that you enjoy it, and even if you don't, at least you tried, and that will make her happy.
  • Offer to get her classes or supplies.
You have to realize that your wife is multifaceted, you have to love and respect all her different qualities. Including her interests, her creativity and her wishes.


3) Do Things Just Because She Wants You To.

The home is the place your wife makes her own, she should have the last word in designing and decorating it. Unless something is offensive to you, you should not argue with her choices. If she wants things a certain way, have it that way.

If something is important to her, like putting your dirty laundry in the hamper, hanging up your wet towel, putting down the toilet seat after your done, etc. Do it and train your kids to do the same. These are small things, and the decent thing to do.

You will find, that it is the small thoughtful things you do, that will make her feel special, appreciated and loved.


These are just a few things that will make your wife happy and your relationship better. I hope that you will put them to the test.


The things to remember that is the basis of this article is to:
  • Make things easier for your wife.  
  • Respect your wife.
  • Show her appreciation.
  • Be loving.

Marriage Tips for Men Part I
Marriage Tips For Men Part II: How To Listen
Marriage Tips For Men Part III: What to say to your wife and how to say it 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Tu B'Av And Nachamu Everlasting

The way our calendar is set up, parshas Vaeschanan is always Shabbos Nachamu, when we read the first Haftora of consoling, Nachamu Nachamu Ami, console console My nation. It is also the Shabbos right before or after Tu B'Av, and sometimes it falls on this Shabbos itself. Tu B'Av is the 15th of Av, of which the Mishnah tells us, "There weren't holidays for Israel, like the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur." In other words, the holidays of Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur are ranked as the greatest holidays we have.

What is the connection between parshas Vaeschanan, Nachamu Nachamu and Tu B'Av? Why is Tu B'Av so great?

From the words of the Mishnah, it seems that Tu B'Av is even greater than Pesach, Shavuoth and Sukkos. Why is Tu B'Av so great?

The Pri Eitz Chaim, which is a work on Kabballa, says that it is because at that time the moon is full. But aren't Pesach and Sukkos also on the 15th of the month, when the moon is full? So what makes Tu B'Av greater than Pesach and Sukkos?

The answer that is given to this question, is that because Tu B'Av comes in contrast to Tisha B'Av and the Three Weeks, the saddest time on the Jewish calendar when our Temples were destroyed and we were thrown into exile, therefore it is the greatest holiday.

You may ask, doesn't Pesach also come in contrast to the exile in Egypt? What makes Tu B'Av greater than Pesach?

The exile in Egypt was before we received the Torah. When we received the Torah, we became a "Kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation." When we went into exile after the destruction of the Temple, it was the exile of a Kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation, which is a more painful exile than the Egyptian exile, in which we were just a nation.

Tu B'Av represents the opposite of Tisha B'Av. Tisha B'Av we went into exile because of our sins. As we read in the Yom Tov Mussaf prayer, "Because of our sins we were exiled from our land." Tu B'Av, on the other hand, is a time of forgiveness of sin, that's why the Mishnah mentions it together with Yom Kippur, which is also a time of forgiveness of sin. Tu B'Av represents what is accomplished through our descent into exile, the coming of Moshiach and everlasting life. For the greater the descent, the greater is the ascent that follows. It is our efforts in this dark and bitter exile, that accomplishes the coming of Moshiach, which is everlasting, and the building of the Third Temple, that will be everlasting.

The Mishnah continues to say, that on Yom Kippur and on Tu B'Av, the daughters of Jerusalem (or Israel) would go out to the vineyards and dance. What moved them to dance specifically on those two days? The daughters of Israel sensed Hashem's joy, forgiving us, that filled them with joy, and so they danced.

Vaeschanan means and I prayed. Moshe prayed that he should lead the Jewish people into the land of Israel. The reason that he wanted to lead them into the land, was because everything that Moshe did was everlasting. He knew that if he would lead the Jewish people into Israel and build the Temple, it would be everlasting and no exile would follow. In other words, Moshiach would come.

When it says Nachamu Nachamu, it is referring to us being consoled when Moshiach comes. The double expression of Nachamu, doesn't mean just two, rather it means multiple, everlasting, that we will be consoled forever.

Now we see how Vaeschanan, Nachamu and Tu B'Av are connected. They are about the coming of Moshiach and everlasting life. Now that we have descended to the lowest possible place in the exile, and accomplished our mission, it is time for Moshiach to come and lead us to the greatest and everlasting ascent. May it happen soon, the time has come.