Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Call To Every Jew

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
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In the first verse of this week's parsha, Lech Lecha, Hashem commanded Avraham, "Lech Lecha, go for yourself, from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." Hashem continues to tell Avraham that, "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great." This is the first command to the first Jew, therefore, there must be a message here for every Jewish person, for all time. What is the message?

There are two approaches to understanding this verse. The first is that it is referring to the journey of the soul, a descent from above to below. The soul is asked to leave its home in the highest spiritual realms, and make the descent into the lowest possible realm, the physical world. But it is here that it affects the most change and accomplishes its purpose, and the effect is so powerful, that it brings Hashem's blessing and becomes great. Meaning, that the soul is uplifted to higher spiritual realms, beyond where it was before its descent.

In this way of understanding the verse, we are given a glimpse of our purpose, the goal of every Jew, to make this world into a better place, the way Hashem wants it. A place where Hashem could call home.

The second approach is more in line with the simple meaning of the verse. It refers to the ascent from below to above we must make every day from the lowly and mundane, from "your land, your birthplace, and your father's house," which in the context of the verse, refers to a place and an atmosphere of idol worship, " to the land that I will show you," the land of Israel, a place of holiness.

This is especially poignant now after the holidays, when we are thrusted into the mundane, which in chasidic teaching is called, "V'Yaakov halach l'darko, and Yaakov went on his way," meaning that every "Yaakov," every Jew, goes on his  way after the holidays, doing his mission to transform his part of the world into a dwelling place for Hashem.

The name Yaakov is used here, which comes from the word eikev, a heel, which is the lowest part of a person's body, because we can even transform the lowest part of ourselves to do Hashem's will. When the heel is transformed and moves in the ways of Hashem, it takes the rest of the body with it.

We see this on Simchas Torah, the end of the holidays, when we celebrate through dancing with the soles of our feet, and they make the body and head dance as well. This is the same message, and a preparation for the rest of the year, that if you can get the lowest part of you to serve Hashem, then all of yourself will serve Hashem. And if you can transform the lowest part of the world into a dwelling place for Hashem, then you transform the whole world. Because when you lift something from the bottom, you lift the whole thing.

It is through Torah, mitzvahs and living the life of a Jew that transforms this world, and we have the power to do it, we inherited it from our forefather Avraham. It is through this work that we complete Hashem's command to Avraham, "Lech Lecha."

Although these two explanations are opposites, the first a descent, and the second an ascent, they are both explanations of the same verse, and therefore simultaneously true. And we have to take both messages at the same time. That we have descended to effect this world, and we should try to change it from the bottom up.

So "Lech Lecha," is a call to every Jewish person, to do all you can to complete the mission and make this world into a home for Hashem. It is through both of these approaches working simultaneously that we create an environment that the highest levels of G-dliness, even the levels that are beyond the world, to enter the world and become part of our lives.

This is the key to the blessings found in our parsha, and the path to the ultimate blessing, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Water Didn't Drown Me, It Raised Me Up

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This week I had the biggest scare of my life. In the middle of the night, something was blocking my airway. My wife Dina and my nurse tried desperately to clear it, but nothing was working. I can't begin to imagine what Dina was going through, but she did what had to get done and because of that I am alive.

For me it was terrifying, not being able to breathe, slowly fading, thoughts racing. The thoughts I had, first of my wife and children, then I thought, "I can't believe this is happening."The last thing I remember thinking is, "Okay Hashem, if you want me, I am yours, shema Yisrael..."

The next thing I remember is glimpses of the hallway, and I came to in the ambulance.

If it wasn't for this near death experience, I wouldn't have gone to the hospital. Now that I did I am so grateful, because they did routine tests and found a serious issue, that is now under control.

The outpouring of love from the community, from all over the world, was amazing. We were falling and you caught us. Though we were going through what was possibly the most traumatic experience of our lives, because of your love, instead of drowning into the dark abyss, the turmoil raised us up to heights we could never imagine.

That is the way struggles, traumas, difficulties, etc. are, they could destroy you, but with the right attitude they will lift you up. It also helps to have a great support system, which makes you part of something greater than you can be on your own.

In parshas Noach we read about the flood, the turbulent waters that destroyed so much. However, it was the exact same water that lifted the Ark high above the highest mountain tops, and carried Noach, his family and the animals that repopulated the world.

The key is to enter the Ark, especially when the waters get rough.

The Ark symbolizes an environment of hope, trust and closeness and commitment to Hashem.

The word for Ark in Hebrew is teiva, which means a letter of the Hebrew Alef Bet, this symbolizes the Torah. The Torah is a source of strength and a refuge in times of difficulty. It also gives you the right perspective, which will keep you positive.

In the Ark, animals of prey coexisted with the other animals, because the light of Moshiach shined, when there will be no strife. It is the goal of our existence, and when you understand the purpose and are focused on the goal, the waters are easier to navigate.

Being on the Ark was hard work for Noach, feeding and taking care of the animals, but the outcome was that he saved the world. Doing what Hashem wants is hard work, but what it accomplishes is amazing. We have to realize that our struggles are of extreme importance, and when we finally complete our work, we will have brought the world to its ultimate destination, and the reward will be unlimited.

May we merit to see the completion of our toil and our struggles once and for all, with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

I would like to thank all of you who contributed to the fact that I am alive. Especially Hatzolo, and LAFD. And thanks for all of you who advocated for us to have the best treatment. Thanks to the doctors, nurses, hospital and ambulance personnel. And thanks to all of you who prayed for me, and all the well wishes. I am happy to be alive.

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 
To Dedicate a Dvar Torah Click Here

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.