Friday, April 28, 2017

Sudden Redemption

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The Haftora for parshas Metzorah, and Tazria - Metzorah when they are together, is from the book of Melachim Beis (II Kings), and is part of a string of miracles done by our prophet Elisha.

The setting of the Haftora is that Ben Hadad, the king of Aram, gathered his whole army and laid siege around the city of Shomron (Samaria), the Capital of the Northern Tribes. Aram didn't allow food into the city, and the people were starving. King Achav wanted to kill Elisha, because he was certain that Elisha could do something about the situation, by praying to Hashem, and he wasn't. When he came to Elisha, the prophet told him, that by this time tomorrow, a se'ah of flour will sell for a shekel, and two se'ahs of barley will sell for a shekel. The kings officer scoffed at the words of Elisha, "Even if Hashem made windows in the sky, could such a thing happen?" The prophet told him, "You will see it with your eyes, but you will not eat of it.

In the Haftora of parshas Tazria, we read about how Elisha miraculously cured Naaman, the commander of Aram's army, from Tzaraas, a skin ailment. Elisha refused to take any payment, but his servant Gaychazi chased after Naaman and took his money. Elisha told Gaychazi, that because of what he did, he would now be afflicted with Naaman's Tzaraas.

The Haftora opens with four Metzorahs (a Metzorah, is someone afflicted with Tzaraas), they were Gaychazi and his three sons. 

The four Metzorahs were outside the city, because a Metzorah is not permitted to go into the city. They reasoned, there is no food in the city, so there's no use going there, and staying here is futile because we will starve to death. Let's go to Aram's camp, maybe there we could get something to eat. When they came to the camp, it was deserted. Hashem made a miracle, they heard sounds of a great army descending upon them, and they panicked. Aram left everything behind and fled.

This was an opportunity for Gaychazi to do Teshuva, by not taking Aram's loot for himself as he took Naaman's money earlier. At first he made a move for the money, but then he came to his senses. 

The Metzorahs went and notified the guards at the city's gate, who notified the king. The king had some riders check it out and when they confirmed that it was true, the people went out and found so much food in the camp, that a se'ah of flour sold for a shekel, and two se'ahs of barley sold for a shekel, just as Elisha said.

The king's officer who scoffed at the words of Elisha, was appointed to stand by the city's gate. In their haste the officer was trampled by the people who were rushing to get food, and he died. He saw the food but couldn't eat from it, just as Elisha said.

The connection to our parsha is that parshas Metzorah, and Tazria - Metzorah speak about the Metzorah. The Haftora tells the story of the four Metzorahs. And the comparison teaches us, that even in the case of a Metzorah, there is good to be found and accomplished.

The theme of the Haftora is the miraculous sudden change from darkness and captivity to light and redemption. And this is a lesson to us, that Moshiach will also come suddenly and miraculously.

Most years Tazria and Metzorah are read together, and when they are, this Haftora is read. Metzorah speaks about the purification process of the Metzorah, which could be seen as a redemption. It also tells us, that when Tzaraas afflicted a house, the effected area had to be knocked down. Rashi tells us, that the Emorites hid their valuables in the walls of their homes, and when we conquered them, Hashem put Tzaraas on the walls that had treasures hidden in them. When the walls were demolished, the hidden treasures would be revealed. This can be seen as a redemption as well. 

However, Tazria speaks about pregnancy and birth, and then it goes into the details of diagnosis of a Metzorah. We must conclude that somehow Tazria is also about redemption. How is this possible?

In the Talmud there is a discussion about Moshiach. The rabbis say that he is the Metzorah of the House of Rebbe. Here we see another connection between a Metzorah and Moshiach.

As mentioned above, Tazria speaks about pregnancy and birth. This exile is compared to a pregnancy, the suffering we endure is the pain associated with pregnancy. Now, at the end of the exile, it has become unbearable, this is the pain of labor. But soon Moshiach will come, like a baby that is born, we realize that it was all worth it. Redemption.

Tazria means to plant. That is what the exile is about. Our hard work, pain and suffering during the exile, is what brings the redemption, when we will reap the fruits of our labor.

The same is true about Tzaraas. Of course Tzaraas is a horrible affliction, which was brought on by speaking badly of another. But getting Tzaraas was not the end, rather it was the beginning of a process of becoming a better person. He would be sent out of the city, and sit alone, which gave him time to think about what he did and work on himself to become a new person. When he was healed, it too was the birth of a new person, and a redemption.

We each have our own ailments to break free from. Working on ourselves to become better is like planting seeds and the reward for your hard work is a personal redemption.

May our efforts to better ourselves, especially in our service to Hashem, by adding in Torah and mitzvahs, bring the ultimate redemption, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Serve Hashem With Joy

Dancing at Sam and Rebecca Liebermans' wedding.
- Photo by Zalmy Berkowitz
Dear friends,
This is last week's dvar Torah. Unfortunately I was unable to finish it before Shabbos. With Hashem's help, this week's will be out Thursday.
The Haftora for parshas Shemini, tells of how King David had the Aron, the Holy Ark, brought to Yerushalayim. On the way, Uzza, who was walking alongside the wagon that was carrying the Aron, noticed that the oxen pulling it had slipped. He reached for the Aron, worried that it would fall off the wagon, and Hashem took his life, because he should have trusted that Hashem's Aron wouldn't fall.

David stopped the procession, continuing it three months later. This time the Aron was carried, as David realized that putting the Aron on a wagon was a mistake and not allowed. As the Aron proceeded, David danced and leaped before Hashem. His wife Michal, King Shaul's daughter, saw what he was doing and was displeased, thinking that it would cause him to lose the respect of the people.

Chabad and Sefardic communities conclude with the Aron being settled in Yerushalayim, and the celebration that took place. Ashkenazic communities continue with Michal's remarks to David, his response to her, and how David wanted to build the Beis Hamikdash, but Hashem refused this request.

The connection to the parsha is that parshas Shemini speaks of the two sons of Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, who died during the inauguration of the Mishkan, making a holy judgment error, just as Uzza did, accompanying the Aron to Yerushalayim.

The Haftora tells us that when the Aron was being carried to the City of David, another name for Yerushalayim, that "David danced joyfully with all his strength before Hashem, and David was dressed in a linen apron." When he entered the City of David it says, "King David leaped and danced joyfully before Hashem." Outside the City of David, it says that he danced joyfully, and he wore a linen apron. Inside the City of David, it says that he leaped as well, and it doesn't make mention of his apron. Why the differences? And what is the meaning of the linen apron?

Later, when Michal rebuked him for his actions, he responded, "Before Hashem, Who chose me over your
father... I would lower myself even further..." Why did he have to say that Hashem chose him over her father?

The Rambam tells us that this apron was different than the Kohen Gadol's Ephod, which was made out of six different threads, gold, turquoise wool, purple wool, red wool, linen and goat hair. This one was made out of just linen. He continues to explain, that the linen apron was worn by the Bnei Haneviim, who were prophets, and by those who were worthy to have the Divine Presence shine on them. It showed that they reached the level of a Kohen Gadol.

The Talmud Yerushalmi tells us, that Nov, which was a city of Kohanim, had 85 Kohanim that wore the linen apron, they weren't Kohanim Gedolim as there can only be one Kohen Gadol, but they were worthy of being one.

One of the ways a prophet readied himself for prophecy, was by sitting alone in meditation, which was usually done outside the city. So it makes sense that when he was still outside the city, he would be wearing the linen apron.

It also makes sense now, why it says that outside the city, "David danced joyfully with all his strength." Because the Divine Presence only rests on someone when he is joyful.

This will also explain why outside the city he only danced, but inside the city he leaped and danced. Because outside the city he danced for a reason, to receive prophecy. Whenever thinking is involved, it curbs the joy. However, when he entered the City of David, his joy was for Hashem, without any personal reason or personal gain in mind, so his joy was unbridled, hence he leaped and Danced.

This will help us understand David's answer to Michal. According to the Talmud Michal was a very holy woman, she even put on Tefillin.  We must conclude that she meant well, and of course, if you think about it, dancing and leaping may very well cause a king to lose some respect.

This is what David was telling Michal. The reason why Hashem took the rulership away from your father, is because he followed his reasoning, which although it was noble, it was not what Hashem wanted. As we saw with Amalek, although Hashem wanted all Amalek's cattle wiped out, Shaul allowed the best of the cattle to live, to offer them as sacrifices to Hashem.

David, on the other hand, did what Hashem wanted, accepting the Divine yoke, despite what he thought. That is why Hashem made him king, humbling himself before Hashem, was the key to his rulership. Therefore he leaped and danced joyfully, beyond reason.

The Rambam brings the verse, "King David leaped and danced joyfully," as proof that every Jewish person should serve Hashem with great joy. In other words, this verse is a lesson to each of us, that the way of David over the way of Shaul is preferred. For Hashem we have to go beyond our understanding, and one of the ways to break out and get beyond ourselves, is through joy.

And as David concludes saying to Michal, that because of this, "I will be (even more) honored," by the people. Same is true for us, when we serve Hashem, beyond our understanding and with joy, we gain the respect of those around us.

It is true that David was not able to build the Beis Hamikdash, not because he wasn't worthy, but rather because he fought many wars. Yet although he didn't build it, it bears his name, because he was the one who made it possible.

He is also granted, as Hashem said, "Your house and your sovereignty will remain before you forever, your throne will be firmly established forever."

May we merit to see the Third Temple, with the coming of Moshiach, heir to the throne of King David. May it happen soon.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Speak To The Dry Bones

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The Haftora for Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach, is a prophecy from the book of Yechezkel. Hashem took him to a Valley that was full of Dry Bones. He saw how Hashem brought them to life again. This Hashem explained was a message to the Jewish people, that though they feel like dry bones, hopeless and cut off, nevertheless Hashem will revive them out of their graves, in the time of Moshiach.

Why do we read this on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach? Rav Hai Gaon testified, that we have an oral tradition, that the resurrection of the dead will occur in the month of Nissan. But this only explains why it should be read in Nissan. Why read it on Pesach? The people will be resurrected with the dew of Torah, and being that we start praying for dew on Pesach, it is befitting for us to read about the resurrection as well. So now we have a reason to read it on Pesach. But why on Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach? The regular Pesach readings are connected to the day they are read on and they are annually recurring themes. The resurrection of the dead, is connected to Nissan and Pesach, however, it will be a one time event, and is therefore not a recurring theme. Being that we don't have Shabbos Chol Hamoed Pesach every year, it is therefore also non-recurring, making it the perfect time to read this Haftora.

In the Haftora, Yechezkel says, "The hand of Hashem was upon me..., and He placed me in a valley, and it was full of bones, and he passed me over them, around and around, and behold there were very many on the face of the valley, and behold they were very dry." Hashem tells Yechezkel, "Son of man..., prophesy to the bones, and say to them, 'dry bones, listen to the word of Hashem.'"

There is an amazing lesson to be learned from here with regards to spreading the teachings of Torah.

Some mistakenly think about Jewish people who are not involved, that they shouldn't put any energy into trying to teach them Torah, and perhaps even avoid them altogether, because of some rabbi who called them "dry bones."

Dry bones is a euphemism for someone who is void of Torah. In most cases it was out of their control, as they grew up in a home where no Torah or Judaism was taught to them.

Torah is our lifeline, it is compared to water, just as a fish can live without water, so to, a Jew can't live without Torah.

Some have a hard time teaching Torah to such a person. They ask, "When have our ancestors done this? Why should we start a new tradition that was not done in the past? Is this even acceptable? They have no connection to it. Let them first get involved, and when they are somewhat connected, I will start to teach them.

The answer to these questions are found in these verses.

Hashem says to Yechezkel speak to the dry bones, not just dry, but "very dry." And say to them, "listen to the word of Hashem." Who were these dry bones from? Rashi tells us that it was 30,000 from the tribe of Efraim, who left Egypt 30 years before the Exodus, and the Philistines slaughtered them. By leaving early, before Hashem wanted them to, they were going against His Will. It is to these very dry, and going against Hashem's Will kind of people, that Hashem says, to say to them, "listen to the word of Hashem."

One may think, I will find one such person, and concentrate my efforts on him, that way it will be most effective. To this the verse says that there were "very many" dry bones. In other words, focus on many, not just a few.

Now you might ask, "Okay, if they come my way, I will be glad to teach them, but do I have to go out of my way to reach them?" To this the Haftora says that Hashem took Yechezkel into a "valley," a low place. Meaning not only going out to reach them, but even to a place that is void of Torah.

The Haftora now tells us that this strategy will work, as Yechezkel continues, "And I looked, and behold there were sinews upon them..., and then flesh..., and skin covered over them... And the spirit entered them, and they came to life, a very very great multitude." By going about it this way, you will be effective, they will come back to Torah, and not only a few, but a very very great multitude.

The Haftora continues with Hashem telling Yechezkel, that what he just saw is a message to the Jewish people who are saying, "Our bones are dried out, our hope is lost, we are cut off." These are three expressions of hopelessness, each getting progressively worse.

"Our bones are dried out," refers to someone who realizes that he has been living a life void of Torah. Nevertheless he knows that he can always return to Hashem, even after a lifetime without Torah.

"Our hope is lost," refers to someone who thinks that after so many years, "how am I going to change?" This is worse, because he doesn't see the possibility of returning to Hashem. But even in his case, because he still lives among other Jewish people, through their love for another Jew, they will surely have an affect on him, and he will also return.

"We are cut off," refers to the person who has left the Jewish community and because of that, there isn't anyone to have an affect on him. Still, Hashem will find a way to awaken in him an urge to return.

Whatever the case may be, Hashem says, "Behold I will open your graves, and I will take you out of your graves, My nation, and I will bring you to the land of Israel... I will put My spirit in you and you will come to life, and I will place you on your land, and you will know, that I Hashem have spoken and have acted." May it happen soon, the time has come.

Here is what my wife Dina said and wrote about the dry bones. It so meaningful and true. I added it, so you can gain from her wisdom and perspective. 

I often wonder what we will be like when Moshiach comes. I imagine we will be a bunch of dried bones, broken and cracked. Pushed to the brink from all of the challenges we have, and so tired of being brave on the outside when we are so wounded and scared on the inside.

But it's to this very pile of bones that we need to speak. To prophesize about the future and remind us of the good yet to come. To allow our tears to dampen the dryness and to revive our spirit of hope. Sometimes the most vulnerable thing we can do is to open our hearts and minds to hope, despite the reality in front of us.

Be brave and be hopeful. Be honest and be open to the pain and tears of others. We need the tears to dampen our dryness and awaken our bones. The gates of tears are waiting. Let us not focus on how the bones are dressed or which synagogue these bones pray at. We are all so similar. We have the same pains and the same hopes and dreams for ourselves and for our families. We want the same future for our grandchildren, and we can help each other. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Cry Out And Demand

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The Haftora for the second day of Pesach is from the book of Melachim Beis (II Kings). Chilkiyahu the Kohen Gadol had found the Torah that Moshe himself wrote. This find sparked an awakening and a yearning in the king, Yoshiyahu, to return to Hashem. The Haftora begins with all of Jerusalem joining the king, as he read from the Torah, and reaffirmed the covenant between Hashem and the Jewish people. King Yoshiyahu now turned the whole nation away from idolatry, cleaned up the Temple, destroyed the idols, and the vessels used for serving the idols. He also did away with the moral depravity that was rampant even in the Temple itself. After the clean up, in the 18th year of his reign, he called for all of the Jewish people to do the Pesach sacrifice. It was the greatest Pesach sacrifice done from the beginning of the era of the Judges, through all the kings of Yisrael and Yehuda. The Haftora ends with saying that there was no king before or after him, that returned to Hashem, with all his heart, with all his soul, and with all his means.

This Haftora is special, in that it is only read outside of Israel, as we have an extra day of Yom Tov.

The Haftora is connected to the Torah reading, to Pesach, and specifically to the second day of Pesach.

The most obvious connection, is that the Haftora speaks of the Pesach sacrifice done in the time of King Yoshiyahu. The Pesach sacrifice is in the Torah reading and it is the sacrifice of the Yom Tov. However, most of the Haftora speaks about the Jewish people returning to Hashem and getting rid of idolatry. How does this connect to the Torah reading and to Pesach?

In the beginning of the Torah reading, it speaks of the mitzvah of sanctifying Hashem, which refers to allowing oneself to be killed rather than serving idols.

Another connection is chametz and matzah. On a deeper level, chametz represents arrogance, as it is dough that rises and is blown up. Matzah represents humility, as it remains flat. Arrogance is akin to idol worship, when one's ego is blown up, he leaves no room for anyone else to exist, not even Hashem. Even when he learns Torah, prays, or does mitzvahs, it is all about him, "look at how holy I am." He can't see past his own nose. In his arrogance, he has become in total denial of anyone but himself. This is the essence of idolatry, it is a self centered, pleasure seeking, no responsibility, what is in it for me? Attitude. Unfortunately, many people are like this today. Before Pesach we are meant to rid ourselves of all chametz, spiritually as well, getting rid of our own arrogance which is akin to idol worship.

On the second day of Pesach we start counting the Omer, which is also mentioned in the Torah reading. The idea of counting the Omer, is to work on our spiritual makeup, every day reaching a higher plateau, in preparation of receiving the Torah on Shavuoth. This process is cleaning up the negative and getting closer to Hashem, similar to the Haftora, where they cleaned out the idolatry and got closer to Hashem. And this is also the specific connection to the second day of Pesach.

One may ask: In the First Temple era, we had the Aron (the Holy Ark), the Urim V'Tumim, and it was a time of open G-dliness, when miracles were witnessed daily in the Temple. How is it possible that they fell so low, as to serve idols?

The question is the answer. Because it was a time of open G-dliness, and great holiness, the negative was also very powerful, and therefore, there was a powerful pull and lust to idol worship. The Talmud says, that in a dream, Rav Ashi asked King Menashe, who was wicked, and served idols, "If you were so wise why did serve idols?" Menashe responded, "Had you been there, you would have pulled up the bottom of your garment and ran after it." In other words, the pull towards idol worship was extremely powerful, and it was hard to fight it.

Every era has its vice that pulls us to go against Hashem's will. Now too, we are pulled away from our objective, and by wise people who are drawn by the powerful negative forces. We are now, according to the great and holy Tzadikim of our era, at the end of the exile. Our job now is to cry out to Hashem and demand that He send Moshiach and put an end to the exile. Just as our ancestors did in Egypt. As we read in the Haggadah, "And we cried out to Hashem our G-d, the G-d of our Fathers, and Hashem heard our voice, and he saw our suffering..." This is what brought the redemption then, and this will bring it now.

Through our efforts, to strengthen our Judaism, and through embracing our calling in these last moments of exile, to cry out to Hashem and demand that He send Moshiach. We will surely merit the ultimate redemption just as our ancestors did. The time has come.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Greatness Of Our Generation

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On the first day of Pesach, the Haftora is from the book of Yehoshua. It tells about the crossing of the Jordan into Israel, then called Canaan. It tells how all of the men were circumcised in preparation for the Pesach sacrifice, the first Pesach celebrated in the land of Israel, and how on the second day of Pesach the manna ran out, forcing them to start eating the produce of the land. It tells how Yehoshua met the angel that was the Chief of G-d's Hosts at Jericho.

Most of the time, the Haftora is connected to the Torah reading, other times, it is connected to the time of year. In this Haftora you have both.

The Torah reading speaks of the first Pesach sacrifice that was done in Egypt, prior to the Exodus. It has the plague of the first born, by Hashem Himself. It has the laws of the Pesach sacrifice, one being, that males had to be circumcised to be able to eat from it. From here we know, that every Jewish male that left Egypt was circumcised.

During the 40 years in the desert, they were lead by Hashem himself, but they didn't do circumcision, and they only did one Pesach sacrifice.

The Haftora tells about the third Pesach sacrifice, done by the Jewish people upon entering the land of Israel. How all the males were circumcised, and how Yehoshua met the angel that would lead the Jewish people from now on.

All these things mentioned in the Haftora, parallel what we read in the Torah, and are connected to the holiday of Pesach. However, the Haftora adds one more thing, that is not mentioned or even hinted to in the Torah reading. That the manna ran out, and that they started eating the produce of the land. And you can't say that it is incidental, being, that this specific Haftora spans 4 chapters, skipping twice over many verses. It is clear that this Haftora was tailored for the first day of Pesach. Why does the Haftora mention this?

Perhaps, because we had to rely on Hashem every day, that the manna would come. This taught us to put our trust in Him. The same is true about the produce of the land of Israel, it is all in the hands of Hashem. Being that on the first day of Pesach we say the prayer of Tal, which is a prayer for sustenance, it makes sense to mention the manna in the Haftora.

In the Haftora, we see that from the time of Yehoshua, the Jewish people were lead by an angel, as opposed to Hashem himself. We read in the Haggadah, that Hashem himself took us out of Egypt, not an angel. The Haftora tells us, that Yehoshua was near Jericho and he saw a man with a sword drawn in his hand. And he said, "I am the chief of the host of Hashem, now I have come." He was an angel, that would lead the Jewish people and fight their wars. The Midrash tells us, that the angel said, "now I have come," but Moshe refused to accept the angel. He wanted Hashem Himself to lead the Jewish people, as Moshe said to Hashem, "If Your Presence does not accompany us, don't take us up from here." Hashem also fought our wars, as Moshe said, "Hashem will fight for you." Why did Moshe and his generation merit Hashem Himself, while Yehoshua and later generations didn't? What quality do we have over Moshe's generation?

Those who experienced the Exodus, were called the generation of the desert. They were a generation of knowledge, and they lived a utopian existence. They were a great and lofty generation that experienced miracles daily, and the most sublime spiritual event in history, the Giving of the Ten Commandments. The miracles that they experienced were so miraculous, that they had no connection to nature. Their souls were from the highest spiritual realm, above angels. Moshe was greater than all of them, the Talmud says, that his face was like the sun. It was specifically this great generation that would be able to put an end to the Egypt of that time, because Egypt was also steeped in knowledge, but of an impure and evil nature. It took the great generation of the desert, to counter and overcome Egypt.

At such a high level of spirituality, it was no wonder, that Hashem himself lead them. However, although they were basking in the light of Torah, they did not partake in making the physical world into a dwelling place for Hashem. They were not involved in the physical, but only the spiritual, and while that sounds lofty, it is not what Hashem wants. He wants us to infuse the physical world with G-dliness, and in the desert that wasn't so possible.

The generation that entered Israel was not at the level of those of the desert. Their souls came from a lower realm, where the chief of hosts, who is an angel, comes from. The Talmud says about Yehoshua, that "his face was like the moon."

The difference between the sun and the moon, is that the sun gives direct light, while the moon reflects light. The light originates from the same place, but how it comes to us is different.

The same is true about our souls, they originate in the same place, but while some take a direct route, most travel through many spiritual realms before entering our bodies. While the lofty souls aren't affected by the lower spiritual realms, they don't affect them either, because they have no connection to them. The souls that come through the lower spiritual realms, are able to draw the G-dly light from the its source in the highest realm into the lower realms, by learning Torah and doing mitzvahs.

Those who entered the land, had to deal with the Canaanites, a more base society. It took specifically their souls to overcome the Canaanites.

The same is true for all subsequent generations. Though each gets progressively lower, they are able to draw G-dliness into lower and lower realms. And every generation is equipped to deal with, and overcome the negative forces of their time.

You might ask, if the great and holy people of previous generations couldn't bring Moshiach, how could we? Because it is specifically our souls that can bring G-dliness into the lowest level. And it is specifically our souls that are equipped to deal with, overcome, and break through the terrible darkness at the end of the exile, and usher in the light of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Who Is Praiseworthy?

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The Haftora for parshas Tzav is from the book of Yirmyahu. It begins with a rebuke to the Jewish people for not doing their sacrifices with sincerity, especially the Ola sacrifice (burnt offering). And for not listening to Hashem, or doing what He wants, as if they lost their faith in Him. It ends, telling us not to be self centered, rather, to be focused on understanding Hashem and doing what He wants.

The connection to our parsha, is that parshas Tzav begins with the laws of the Ola, and continues with the laws of other sacrifices. It ends with the seven days that the Kohanim trained and prepared themselves, before the inauguration of the Mishkan. During this process, the Torah repeats over and over again, that they did it the way Hashem commanded. In other words, the focus was on Hashem and what He wanted.

The Haftora says, "So says Hashem, 'The wise man shouldn't praise himself with his wisdom, and the strong man shouldn't praise himself with his strength, the wealthy man shouldn't praise himself with his wealth. Rather, with this he should praise himself, through understanding and knowing Me, that I Am Hashem...'"

Why shouldn't a person be proud of his or her accomplishments?

Rather, this is referring to his general attitude. The verse is coming in continuation of the earlier verses, that talk about being self centered, and not focusing on Hashem. When  someone is self centered, and everything is about him, he is in denial of the fact, that everything he has is truly from Hashem. It is akin to denying His existence, because he doesn't leave room for anyone else, not even Hashem.

However, "through understanding and knowing" Hashem, meaning, when you recognize, that what you have is from Hashem, then you can be proud, if you have used your gifts well, and the way He wants you to. This is the meaning of the words, "with this he should praise himself," when he recognizes that it is all from Hashem, and he is using his gifts the way Hashem wants him to, then he should be proud of his accomplishments. Whether it be wisdom, strength, wealth, or any other gifts bestowed upon him by Hashem.

We see the same idea, in Aishes Chayil. The second to last verse says, "Charm is deceptive, and beauty is for naught, a woman who is G-d fearing should be Praised." Is charm and beauty meaningless? Rather, if all she is about is her charm or beauty, her gifts are a waste, and it isn't praiseworthy. However, "a woman who is G-d fearing should be Praised." When she is G-d fearing, then her charm and beauty have meaning and are real, because her beauty and charm are not superficial, but it comes from the inside out.

When your children or students are gifted with talents or a status such as beauty, charm, smarts, strength, wealth, etc., it is so important to fill with love and fear of Hashem. They should recognize that these precious gifts are from Him, and that they should use these gifts for what He wants. I have found that the best way to instill this value, is not so much by saying it, but rather, by acting that way, by being a living example.

Through being G-d centered, we will definitely make Hashem proud, and we will have what to be proud of. It will affect everything we do, bringing positive change to our surroundings, thereby, preparing the world for the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Dedicated to my wife Dina, who has been working so hard to get us all ready for Pesach, even though I don't have the ability to help much. A true Aishes Chayil, beautiful and charming inside and out. It is an honor to be her husband and friend.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Pesach Articles And Songs

Dear friends,
Please enjoy these Pesach articles and songs. I will be adding more songs and articles, as Pesach gets closer. The songs are from a CD I recorded in 2005, to teach my children Kiddush, Ma Nishtana and more. Have a wonderful Pesach. 

Pesach Articles

Pesach Readiness  

For the Seder 

To Be Truly Free  New
Three Matzahs & Four Cups Of Wine 
The Egyptian Exile, A Quantum View  New
Hashem Loves Every Jew
First Blood Then Frogs
Plague of the Firstborn At Midnight  New
Hashem Himself
Why do we call this holiday Pesach?
Exodus Every Day

First Days 

1st Day Torah Reading: Korban Pesach
Unity Is The Key To The Redemption
When You Can't Bare To See The Suffering  New
1st day Haftora: The Greatness Of Our Generation
2nd day Haftora: Cry Out And Demand  

Shabbos Chol Hamoed

Haftora: Speak To The Dry Bones  

Shevii & Acharon Shel Pesach

Why Don't We Say Shehecheyanu On The Last Dgays Of Pesach?
Shevii Torah Reading: Fleeing From Our Personal Egypt
Shevii Torah Reading: Finding Strength In Impossible Situations 
Shevii Torah Reading: At the Splitting of the Sea - Reveal What Is Hidden New
Haftora Shevii: The Great Light That Comes Out Of The Darkness
Acharon Shel Pesach Haftora Part I: Moshiach & His Effect On The World 
The Meal of Moshiach 

Pesach Songs

Thank you Devora Krasnianski for putting this amazing video together of the Pesach songs. 

Simanay Haseder Kadesh Urchats...
Kiddush  Yom Hashishi      Main      Havdala     Shehecheyanu      
Hay Lachma Anya  Hebrew/English Children's Song
Ma Nishtana  Traditional      Yiddish
Haggada  Avadim Hayinu      Baruch Hamakom      Vihee Sheamda Chabad     Vihee Sheamda Traditional      Ten Makos Children's Song      Dayenu      Al Achas      Bechol Dor Vador      Bechol Dor Vador Children's Song
Hallel  Mikimi Nusach      Bitzays Yisrael      Yisrael Bitach Nusach     Hashem Zicharanu      Eshalech Nusach      Licho Ezbach Carlebach      Hallilu Es Hashem Chabad      Hallilu Es Hashem Traditional      Odecha Chabad      Odecha (Yaaleh)      Odecha Carlebach      Ana Hashem Nusach      Baruch Haba (Keili Ata) 

Songs My Grandfather Rabbi Shalom Hurwitz Used To Sing On Yom Tov 
Ata V'chartanu     Sabeinu       V'hareinu