Friday, June 21, 2019

Lighting The Souls Of Our Brothers And Sisters

Dedicated By Irving Bauman
לזכר נשמת אבי
הרב משה אהרן בן ר ישראל חיים באהמאן
לזכר נשמת
Harav Hagaon Rav  Nosson Ben Hagaon Rav Yakov Kamenetsky 

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In this week's parsha, Bahaloscha, it tells us how Aaron was commanded to light the menorah. This is one of the ways Aaron lit up the souls of the Jewish people. And we see that Aaron was committed to lighting up Jewish souls, as we read in Pirkei Avos, "Be  from the students of Aaron, love peace and pursue peace, love the creations and bring them close to the Torah." 

This is a call to every Jewish person, to have an effect on his or her fellow Jew, first, by bringing peace amongst them, and second, bringing them closer to the Torah. 

And we learn from Aaron how to go about it. He didn't wait for the people to come to him, rather he "pursued" them, and he even went to the lowest denomination of the Jewish people, the ones whose only redeeming factor is that they were Hashem's "creations." He also didn't water down the Torah to fit their lifestyle, rather he brought them "closer to the Torah." 

How do you bring them closer? Through igniting their neshamas. The spark is always there, but it's sometimes hidden, and it is our job to uncover it and turn it into a flame. 

We could learn from our parsha how to go about it. The verse says, "(Bahaloscha) When you will kindle the lamps," however the literal translation is, "When you will raise the lamps" And as Rashi explains, that he should light it until the flame stands on its own. Meaning that we should ignite the Jewish person's neshama until it burns bright on its own. 

There are three laws that pertain to lighting the menorah in the Temple. First, the actual lighting can be done by any denomination of Jew, Kohen, Levi or Yisrael. Second, setting up the lamps with the oil and the wick, can only be done by a Kohen. Third, it can only be lit in the Heichal, AKA the Holy. 

These three ideas can be applied to igniting the souls of the Jewish people. 

First, it can be done by any Jew, therefore it's incumbent upon each and every one of us to do the work of igniting the souls of our brothers and sisters, the Jewish people. 

Second, what you use to light them, can only be prepared by a Kohen. In other words, not everyone is in the position to decide what is the proper way to go about igniting souls, that has to be set by a Kohen. 

What is a Kohen? It is one who has no desire and no bias of his own, "Hashem is his portion," he is so in sync with Hashem, that his only desire is what Hashem wants. This is the type of person that can tell us how to go about it. Once he tells us how, then everyone could go about doing it. 

Third, it can only be lit in the Heichal. The Mishnah tells us, "There are ten levels of holiness," the holiest was the Holy of Holies, then came the Heichal, the Holy. And if the lamps were lit in a lower place than the Heichal, it wasn't a kosher lighting. 

This refers to the standards one keeps throughout the process of igniting souls. You may ask: There are other Jews, that much less is expected of them, why do you hold me to such a high standard? 

The answer. Every one of us has a specific purpose and mission from Hashem. And if you see that you are capable of keeping to a higher standard, it is a sign that it is what Hashem wants of you. And if you are not keeping to the standard that Hashem wants of you, then you are not doing His will. 

To explain. There is wisdom and there is will. Wisdom can be divided, you can understand a little or a lot of what is being taught, but when it comes to will, there is no dividing it, you either do it or not, if you only do half, you haven't done the will. 

The same as it is when it comes to people, that every person is different, and therefore, Hashem has different expectations of every person, so too, every generation is different and has different expectations. We can't compare ourselves to the great people of past generations, but we must realize the charge of our generation. In the past, the inner Torah (Chassidus) wasn't revealed, but now that it is revealed, it's proof that Hashem wants us to embrace it and make them part of our daily study. Learning it will surely enhance our study of the revealed Torah (Mishnah, Talmud, Halacha, etc.). 

I have the merit to be the Rebbe's emissary, to do the work of igniting souls. He laid out the plan, and we follow it. In all my years as his shliach, I have never seen a Yid light up more than when I was teaching him or her Chassidus. Parsha, Mishnah, Talmud, Halacha, etc. are all good, it's part of the flame, but not the brightest part, the inner Torah is the brightest part of the flame. 

May we merit to see the coming of Moshiach, which will come when the wellsprings of the inner Torah will spread out. As the neshama of Moshiach told the Baal Shem Tov, when he asked, "When will the master come?" He responded, "When your wellsprings (meaning chassidus) will spread out." May he come soon. 

Friday, June 7, 2019

Why Do We Stay Awake The Night Of Shavuoth?

Dedicated By Irving Bauman
לזכר נשמת אבי
הרב משה אהרן בן ר ישראל חיים באהמאן

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It says in the Midrash, that on the night before the giving of the Torah, the night of the first Shavuoth, the Jewish people slept all night, "because the sleep of Atzeres (Shavuoth) is pleasant and the night is short." Even a mosquito didn't bother them. In the morning, when Hashem came to give them the Torah, He found them sleeping. And this is what Hashem said, "Why did I come and there is no man, I called and there is no answer." And this is where the tradition to remain awake on the night of Shavuoth and learn Torah, to correct the mistake of sleeping on the night before the giving of the Torah. 

Every story in the Torah is meant to teach us a lesson in our service to Hashem. Especially when it tells a story that reflects negatively on the Jewish people. Because Hashem goes out of His way not to say something that sounds negative, as we know that He added several words to the Torah, just not to speak negatively about impure animals. How much more so, when it comes to the Jewish people. So when there is something that sounds negative about the Jewish people, there must be an important lesson to be learned from it. What is the lesson that we are meant to learn from this story? 

You can simply say, that the lesson is that we should stay awake on Shavuoth night. However for that we don't need all of the details, it would have been enough to write that we slept that night and Hashem wasn't happy with it. But it gets into the details, "because the sleep of Atzeres (Shavuoth) is pleasant and the night is short." Even a mosquito didn't bother them. What do we need all these details for? 

We must conclude, that there is something deeper going on here, a much more meaningful lesson. What is the lesson that we are meant to learn from this story? 

We also have to understand, how it is that the Jewish people could have slept to begin with that night? Because fifty days earlier, when they heard that they would be receiving the Torah, they were so excited and so filled with anticipation, that they started to count the days. Now that they finally reached the fiftieth day, their excitement must have known no bounds. Does it make sense that they were able to fall asleep? 

On top of that, when they were in Egypt, they were at the lowest level possible, the 49th level of impurity, and now with their count, not only were they getting closer to receiving the Torah, they were also working on their spiritual makeup, every day of the count they reached a higher level of the 49 levels of holiness. And on the 49th day of the count they reached the 49th level, the highest level a person can attain through his or her own effort. They were now spiritually prepared to receive the Torah. The fiftieth level would be bestowed upon them by Hashem in the morning, with the giving of the Torah. How is it possible that they fell asleep? 

It is obvious that they wouldn't have just fallen asleep, there was too much excitement and anticipation. They didn't lose interest in the Torah, rather they must have intentionally gone to sleep as a preparation for the giving of the Torah. 

How do we know that going to sleep was a positive thing? Because the Midrash tells us that even a mosquito didn't bother them. Now why would Hashem make that miracle happen for them. if it wasn't a good thing? 

The Alter Rebbe explains, that as great as the neshama's understanding and connection to Hashem can reach while it is in the body, it doesn't compare to the understanding that it could attain when it is up on High, before it enters the body, because the body can't handle that level of connection. 

Therefore, when a person is asleep, and the neshama goes on High to be refreshed, and only a smidgen of the neshama remains in the body, it is able to connect and grasp ideas that it normally wouldn't understand while in the body. 

That's why it is, that when a seriously diligent student of the Torah, one who is totally given over to it with his whole heart and soul, goes to sleep with an unanswered dilemma that is perplexing him, often he will awake with the answer. This is because his neshama was treated to the answer when it went up on High. 

That is why they went to sleep, because they had already reached the 49th level, the highest level that they could attain on their own. They felt that if they go to sleep, they will attain a much higher level. And they felt that this would be the best preparation for receiving the Torah. This is the meaning of, "the sleep of Atzeres (Shavuoth) is pleasant." They were basking in the highest levels of G-dliness. 

It goes a step further. The more effort one puts into refining himself while in the body, the higher the neshama soars and the greater the levels of G-dliness it will be able to grasp. Being that they reached the highest level of refinement a person can attain, they knew that their neshamas would reach the highest levels possible. When you are at this level, "The night is short." The darkness of the world is not existent. 

And this is why the mosquitoes didn't bother them. Because when a person is at such a high level, the creatures of the world don't bother him. 

However, Hashem wasn't happy with this. Because the whole purpose of the Torah is to work with the physical world, refine it and infuse it with G-dliness, making the most mundane holy. This can only be done when the neshama is in the body, and so the best preparation for receiving the Torah, is not separating from the physical, just the opposite, it is through being in the physical. 

The lesson here, is that there might be a person who thinks, "I don't want anything to do with this dark world. I have already accomplished a lot spiritually, I will cut myself off from the world, and bask in the light of my accomplishments." 

To him the Torah says, that it is not what Hashem wants. Even the greatest generation, who reached the highest level, Hashem didn't want them to separate from the physical world, rather to work with the physical world, raising it up to Hashem. So too, we should work with the physical world and refine it, and infuse it with G-dliness and work with a Jew who is less knowledgeable and help him or her reach a higher level.. 

Now we will understand why we stay up the night of Shavuoth, because the giving of the Torah is all about neshamas in bodies affecting the physical world. And if we do, we will merit to see the coming of Moshiach, when the world will finally be completely refined and infused with G-dliness. May he come soon.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Why Is Israel On A Different Parsha Track Than The Rest Of The World?

Dear friends, 

This is an updated version of an article I wrote a few years ago. Thanks to my readers comments, there is a lot of new information. 



Since Pesach Israel has been one parsha ahead. This means that if you are traveling to Israel, you will miss a parsha. 

There are two cases where this can happen. The first is Pesach. Outside the Holy Land we are obligated to celebrate an eighth day, in Israel Pesach is seven days. When the eighth day falls on Shabbos, in Israel that Shabbos is not Pesach anymore, so they read the next parsha. Outside Israel it's still Pesach and the Torah reading is on the holiday theme. It is only the next week that the next parsha is read. And so the parsha in Israel is one week ahead. 

The same thing happens when Shavuoth falls on Erev Shabbos (Friday). Outside of Israel we celebrate Shavuoth two days, in Israel it is only one day. The same scenario will play out, while outside of Israel we will be celebrating Shabbos as the second day of Shavuoth, in Israel it will be a regular Shabbos and they will be reading the next parsha. Outside of Israel we will be reading the holiday Torah reading and only resume the parsha on the next Shabbos. So we are off by one parsha. (This will happen next year 5780.) 

Sometimes after Pesach it goes on for five weeks, aligning two weeks before Shavuoth with parshas Behar-Bechukosai. Outside of Israel they are together, inside Israel they are separate and so, we are realigned. Other times it can go on for about four months, until parshas Matos-Maasei are combined outside of Israel, while in Israel they remain separated, and we are back on the same track. 

After Shavuoth it always realigns with parshas Chukas-Balak. 

Between Pesach and Matos-Maasei there are, depending on the year, three or four double parshas. Between Pesach and Shavuoth there can be as many as three, which could put us on the same track as early as the Shabbos following Pesach. So, why do we wait until Behar-Bechukosai (5 weeks) or Matos-Maasei (4 months), to become realigned? 

The first thing to understand is that the schedule of the parshas was established outside of the land of Israel. At a time, when in Israel, the Jewish community was small and less educated, and they would read the Torah, completing it over a three year cycle. 

Later, when Israel, once again became a center of Torah, it adopted the system from outside the Land. Every few years, because of the extra Shabbos, Israel is forced to go on to a different track, while outside of Israel, they remain on the regular track. 

Why were these parshas, outside the Land, set up this way? 

The answer is, that when setting up the parsha system, the rule is that the first parshas to be doubled up are the last parshas of a chumash, therefore Behar-Bechukosai and Matos-Maasei will be the first to be read together in their respective chumash. They also wanted that parshas Pinchas, whenever possible, should be read during the Three Weeks, between the 17th of Tammuz and the 9th of Av (Tisha B'Av). Which is the saddest time on the Jewish calendar. Pinchas has the holiday sacrifice readings, which are joyous and sweetens the harshness of the time. It was also established that parshas Vaeschanan is always read the Shabbos after Tisha B'Av. It is Shabbos Nachamu, the first Haftora of consolation after Tisha B'Av. 

They also established, that parshas Bechukosai, which has the curses, be read before Shavuoth, with at least one parsha, parshas Bamidbar, buffering between the curses and Shavuoth. This can cause the tracks to align earlier. 

Sometimes there is no choice but to have parshas Naso also before Shavuoth, however, whenever possible, Nasso is after Shavuoth, being that they want the connection between the curses of parshas Bechukosai and Shavuoth to be recognized and if you have two parshas in between, it is not so recognizable. 

It turns out that in a Jewish leap year, when there is an extra month of Adar added to the calendar, the tracks realign with parshas Matos-Maasei, since there are four extra weeks, and most of the double parshas have to be split up and being that outside of Israel we wait until Matos-Maasei to have a double parsha, there is no choice but to realign then. 

However in a regular year, they realign with parshas Behar-Bechukosai although in many years there is the possibility of realigning earlier, because it is a long standing tradition to realign with parshas Behar-Bechukosai and they don't want to break from tradition. 

When Moshiach comes, The Three Weeks will become a happy time, and parshas Pinchas will be unnecessary to sweeten the time. Perhaps then we will be able to align the tracks earlier, which won't matter much, because we will all be living in Israel. 

(All of the information above, was gleaned from questions I posed to rabbis who visited me. As I am limited to the books that I have on my eye gaze computer. Therefore, I request, that if you have more information on the subject, or if there are inaccuracies in what I wrote, please share it in the comments section below.) 
Thank you Dovid Hurwitz, Mendy Bortonk and DH for your incites. 

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Toiling In Torah

Dedicated By Irving Bauman
לזכר נשמת אבי
הרב משה אהרן בן ר ישראל חיים באהמאן

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This week's parsha Bechukosai begins, "Im Bechukosai teileichu (if you will go in My statutes)," which can't mean, if you keep My mitzvos, because the verse continues, "v'es mitzvosai tishmoru (and you will keep My mitzvos)." So what does "Bechukosai teileichu" mean? Rashi cites the words of the Sifra, that it means "That you should toil in (the study of) Torah." 

Bechukosai comes from the word chok, or in plural chukim, which I translated "statutes," for lack of a better word. A chok is a mitzvah that we don't know the reason for, it's a decree from Hashem, we do it just because He wants us to, and for no other reason. As our sages say, "a chok... you don't have permission to ponder about (its reason)." 

It would make sense for mitzvos to be Bechukosai, because then we would say that it means, that even though we know the reason for the mitzvos we should do them as if they are chukim, just because Hashem wants us to. That is a greater way of doing mitzvos. 

However, Torah study is meant to be understood. How does it make sense for Torah study to be done in a way of "Bechukosai"? 

Perhaps the reading of the written Torah, which doesn't have to be understood in order to say the blessing over its study, but you can hardly use the word toil to describe its study. On the other hand, the oral Torah must be understood in order to say a blessing over its study. Also, the written Torah is small and limited, while the oral Torah is vast and unlimited and it grows every day by diligent students of the Talmud, Halacha, etc. So only with regards to the oral Torah can we say, "That you should toil in (the study of) Torah." So what is the meaning of the word "Bechukosai" with regards to Torah study? 

The Alter Rebbe explains that Bechukosai is related to the word chakika, which means engraved. In other words, one should toil in Torah study to the extent that it becomes engraved in him. 

What is the difference between engraving and writing? 

When you write on paper, the ink attaches to the paper and they become one. However it is not truly one, rather it is two things that are attached to each other. 

On the other hand, when you engrave into stone, the words and the stone are truly one, the words are not an entity of their own, there is only the stone. 

The lesson here is that our goal shouldn't be merely to learn Torah in a way that it is like two entities that are attached to one another, rather the Torah study should nullify him to the extent that he doesn't exist, only the Torah exists. 

One person who reached this level is Moshe Rabbeinu. That is why he was able to say, "And I will put grass in your field for your cattle." What it means, is that Hashem would put grass... Why was he able to say "I"? Because he was so nullified before Hashem that "The Divine Presence spoke from within (Moshe's) throat," In other words, to Moshe there was only Hashem, Moshe didn't exist. 

Another person who reached this level was Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who said, "I have seen people who are at the highest level... If there is one it is me, if there are two..." Even though a Tzadik shouldn't say his own praises, but no one saw his statement that way, because he was so nullified before Hashem, that there was only Hashem. He was nullified to the point that he didn't exist. 

When there are multiple explanations on a word, they have to be connected in some way. How do we reconcile the explanation of the Alter Rebbe, that it means engraved, and the simple meaning, that it means mitzvos which are chukim? How do we learn Torah in a way of chukim, accepting the yoke of Heaven? 

One has to understand what he is learning, but he is not learning that way for his own pleasure, rather because Hashem wants us to. 

Torah is a pleasure to learn, but if he only learns the amount that gives him pleasure, it's not in the way of chukim, it's not accepting the yoke of Heaven and it's not toiling. Only when he learned as much as gives him pleasure, and then he pushes himself to learn more, that it is considered Torah in the way of chukim, accepting the yoke and toiling. This kind of Torah study brings him to the self nullification in the way of chakika, engraved, one with Hashem. 

We are left with a question. It says, "Im Bechukosai teileichu (if you will go in my statutes)," We have to understand how the word teileichu fits in here, because teileichu means to go or to travel. In our service to Hashem, it means not to be stagnant, to constantly reach higher and higher levels. It makes sense to say it about things you can develop, like the emotions and the mind. You can develop more mature emotions, your love can grow greater and greater. The mind can be developed and broadened to understand more and deeper. However, chukim means doing something in the way of accepting the yoke of Heaven. When it comes to accepting the yoke of Heaven, there are no levels, you either do or don't. What does teileichu in accepting the yoke of Heaven mean?

The Alter Rebbe explains that the reward for acting in the way of Bechukosai, accepting the yoke of Heaven, is teileichu, taken higher and higher without end. However when we teach children this verse, the reward is in the following verses, where Hashem enumerates all the blessings, "I will give your rain in its time..." And teileichu refers to the service of the Jewish people to Hashem.

The Alter Rebbe tells us that emuna, belief, is for levels of G-dliness that is beyond your ability to understand. The levels that you understand, you don't need belief for. The higher one's ability to understand, what is beyond him is even greater. So his emuna has to be at a higher level. Being that every day his mind develops and is able to grasp loftier ideas, what he needed emuna for yesterday, makes sense today. Therefore he doesn't need emuna for them. Now he needs emuna for even higher levels of G-dliness. And it is a never ending cycle, always attaining higher and higher levels.

From this we can understand that when it comes to chukim there are also levels, and movement in the way of teileichu, because yesterday's mitzvos which were chukim, today is understood and now there are higher levels within chukim, so in chukim there is the possibility of teileichu, going higher and higher.

May we go from strength to strength in our Torah study, going to a higher level every day. Through this we will merit to learn the Torah of Moshiach, which will take us higher than we could imagine. May it happen soon. 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

On The Haftora Of Parshas Behar: Seeing Through The Facade

Dear friends, 

I am sorry that I wasn't able to get this out before Shabbos. I tried, but Hashem had other plans. There is a beautiful lesson to be learned from it. I hope that you enjoy it. 


The Haftora for parshas Behar is from the book of Yirmiyahu. It tells of how Yirmiyahu was instructed by Hashem to purchase the field in Anasos, that belonged to his cousin Chanamel, who was struggling to keep it. Yirmiyahu was being held captive in a royal compound of Tzidkiyahu, because of his constant prophecies of the destruction of Yerushalayim, which Tzidkiyahu thought was demoralizing the Jewish people. It was there that he was approached by Chanamel, and he bought the property. 

Hashem instructed Yirmiyahu further, to have the bill of sale put into an earthenware vessel for long term storage, which he had Baruch ben Neriah do. 

This was all happening at the end of the first Temple era, and Yirmiyahu knew that the Babylonian exile was about to begin. So it was a bad time to be purchasing real estate in Israel. However the fact that Hashem said to put the bill of sale into long term storage, was reassuring, because it meant that the exile would be coming to an end and they would be returning to Israel. And as Hashem said, "They will once again purchase houses, fields, and vineyards in this land." 

Then Yirmiyahu offered a prayer of praise to Hashem. 

Why was Yirmiyahu in a position to buy the field? Because being the cousin, he was the rightful redeemer of the field. 

The connection to our parsha, is that Behar speaks about Shmita and yovel, the Sabbatical and jubilee years, when the fields in Israel are to lay fallow, and it also tells us the punishments for not keeping Shmita and yovel. As Rashi tells us, that first he sells his belongings, then his property, then his home and then borrowing with interest. If he still does not repent, he will eventually have to sell himself to his fellow Jew as a servant. If he has still not repented, not enough that he had to be sold to his fellow Jew, but he will be forced to sell himself to a non-Jew. All of these cases are discussed in our parsha, and it is the order of best case scenario to worst. Our Haftora tells us about one such case, when Chanamel was forced to sell his field. This is the only case of those Rashi mentions that is found in the prophets, so it represents all of them. 

The setting of the Haftora also connects to our parsha. It is at the beginning of the Babylonian exile, which lasted 70 years and was a consequence of the 70 years of Shmita that the Jewish people didn't keep properly. 

The land of Israel is Hashem's and He gave it to us, but He still remains a partner in the land. Therefore we can't sell it permanently and we can't use it in any way we want. We have to follow the rules He laid out for us, and then we have Hashem's blessing as His partner. We always retain ownership of the land, even when in exile. However if we want to dwell on the land and receive the blessings that come with partnership with Hashem, we have to follow the rules. 

How do we know that Hashem is our partner in the land? Because when it comes to returning the land in the jubilee year, to the one whose inheritance it is, Hashem says, "You should not sell the land permanently, for the whole land is Mine... And you are a dweller with Me." 

One of the laws of land ownership, is that when a field is in jeopardy, it is incumbent upon one of the relatives to redeem the field, thereby the field will stay in the family. And that is what is happening in our Haftora. 

It would make sense for the Haftora to end here. What does Yirmiyahu's prayer have to do with our parsha? 

In Yirmiyahu's prayer he says, "Behold You made the heavens and the earth with your great strength (co-ach)." 

In Kabbalah and Chassidic thought it is explained, that the world is being created constantly by Hashem, and if he stops creating the world for one moment, it would cease to exist, like it never existed. In other words, there is a constant flow of energy from Hashem to make the world exist. As we say in our daily prayers, "In His goodness He renews the act of Genesis (creation) every day constantly." 

There are three words that are used for this flow of energy from Hashem, ohr, shefa and co-ach. 

Ohr, is light, light is a flow of energy that is always connected to its source. For example, the sun, its light is constant, the sun and its rays are one, the moment something gets between the sun and the earth, the rays stop and you have shade. Ohr is the direct energy from Hashem. 

Shefa is abundant flow. For example, a stream, even if someone blocks the flow of water upstream, it does not affect the water downstream, that water will keep on flowing until it reaches its destination, and is forced to stop. 

Co-ach is strength, it is power that stops moments after the energy is disconnected from its source. For example, if a person throws a rock up into the air, it will continue to go up for a short while, until gravity prevails on it and it comes down. 

So these words are loaded with meaning, and they are not used arbitrarily. Truthfully, there is only one kind of energy that comes from Hashem, symbolized by ohr, it is directly from its source, Hashem, because there is only Hashem, and He created the world from nothing into something, and He recreates the world from within Himself constantly. So when another term is employed, we have to ask: Why? Why when it comes to creating the heavens and the earth does Yirmiyahu use the term co-ach? 

Because the way the world seems to us, is that Hashem created the heavens and the earth, and it continues on its own, but we know better. It is our job to recognize Hashem's constant hand in creation, although it is blocked from our vision. It is the truth and we have to open our eyes and see that it is Hashem Who is really doing everything. 

The rest of Yirmiyahu's prayer to Hashem, is about the miracles that Hashem did for the Jewish people, that He advises us, knows what is in our hearts and that He could do anything. 

Even the greatest of miracles can be explained away scientifically as a rare occurrence of nature, but we must go beyond that and realize that it is the hand of Hashem, and that nature itself is the greatest miracle of all. 

The same is with our good ideas. We can choose to see them as our ideas or we can see them for what they are, a gift from Hashem. 

And this is what Shmita and yovel are all about. Why wouldn't a person keep Shmita or yovel? Because his relationship with Hashem is not as strong as it should be, and because of that, he lacks trust in Hashem. He thinks that his sustenance comes from his effort, and he fails to realize that it is all from Hashem, he fails to realize that Hashem is his partner, and the blessing of Hashem comes with this partnership. So he sows his field, and with that he jeopardizes his partnership with Hashem and all the blessing that comes with it. 

On the other hand, when he strengthens his relationship with Hashem, he realizes that it's all from Him, and the stronger the relationship, the stronger the trust in Hashem, the stronger the partnership and the greater the blessing. Even though Hashem is not visible to us, we see through the facade of the world, and recognize that it is all from Him. 

Perhaps this is the essence of our parsha and Haftora, that we should see through the veil of nature and recognize that it is all Hashem. 

Lag BaOmer often falls in the week of parshas Behar, in light of all that has been said, perhaps there is a connection between Lag BaOmer and the Haftora. 

On Lag BaOmer we celebrate the passing of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who made the secrets of the Torah accessible to all of us though the Zohar. It's these teachings that teaches us about Hashem, it opens our eyes and unveils the facade of the world, and we begin to see how it's all Hashem. 

In the past these teachings were only open to a select few, but now through the teachings of Chassidus many of these teachings have been made accessible to all, in a user friendly way. They fill you with a sense of purpose, a closeness to Hashem and a deep love for him. 

If we could recognize the truth of the world, that it's all Hashem, He becomes our partner, and we receive His blessings. And just as in the time of Yirmiyahu, it was a sign that the exile would come to an end, so too, if we make an effort to get closer to Hashem, we will surely merit the coming of Moshiach, and we will all return to the Holy Land and celebrate Shmita and yovel. May it happen soon. The time has come. 

Friday, May 17, 2019

All Of Israel Have A Portion In The World To Come

Dedicated By Irving Bauman 
In Honor of 
Horav Nosson Ben Itta Etil V'Horav Yaakov Kamenetsky 
May you have a Refua Shelaima Bekarov

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It is our tradition on the six Shabbosim between Pesach and Shavuoth, that we learn the six chapters of Pirkei Avos, Ethics of our Fathers, one chapter every Shabbos after mincha. Some, including Chabad, have the custom to continue learning Pirkei Avos throughout the summer, until Rosh Hashanah. 

Before we start the weekly chapter of Pirkei Avos, we say a Mishnah from Sanhedrin, "All of Israel have a portion in the world to come." The meaning of "the world to come" in this Mishnah, is the "world of the living," the time of Moshiach, when there will be the resurrection of the dead and we will have eternal life. 

How do we know that it is referring to the world of the living? Because the Mishnah continues, "And these are the ones that don't have a portion in the world to come, one who says that the resurrection of the dead is not in accordance with the Torah." And the Talmud tells us, that the reason for this is, since "He denies (the validity) of the resurrection of the dead, therefore he won't have a portion in the resurrection of the dead." 

This is difficult to understand, because the revelation in the time of Moshiach will be greater than the revelation that is in Gan Eden, heaven, even higher than the highest levels of Gan Eden. However, when it comes to entering Gan Eden, there are prerequisites as to who may enter, as it says, "Who will ascend on the mountain of Hashem, one who has clean hands and a pure heart..." But when it comes to the revelation of the time of Moshiach, there are no prerequisites "All of Israel have a portion in the world to come." 

How do we know that the revelation in the time of Moshiach will be greater than Gan Eden? Because there are neshamas that are in Gan Eden thousands of years, and every day they go up three levels, yet they will all rise and enter bodies in the time of Moshiach. Now, it wouldn't make sense to say that Gan Eden is a greater revelation, because it would be a punishment for neshamas to be resurrected in bodies and receive a lower revelation. Therefore we must conclude that the revelation in the time of Moshiach will be greater. 

How does it make sense that in order to receive the lower revelation of Gan Eden there are conditions, and the greater revelation in the time of Moshiach is for all of Israel, without any preconditions? 

In order to understand this, first we have to understand why we need bodies to receive this greater revelation. 

The problem with bodies, is that they are limited, they are physical and in a physical world, and physical things are limited. Neshamas in Gan Eden, on the other hand, are unlimited, they are spiritual and in Gan Eden, a spiritual world, and the spiritual is unlimited. Wouldn't it make sense for the greater revelation to be in the spiritual? 

Even though our bodies in the time of Moshiach will be at the highest level possible, like the body of Adam the first man, who was formed by Hashem Himself, whose body shown so bright that it made the sun look dim, and possibly even greater than the body of Adam, because our bodies will reach their pinnacle. This only explains why our bodies will be able to receive the great revelation, but it doesn't explain why the revelation will be specifically to neshamas in bodies. 

Even though the body will be able to receive this great revelation, it will still be severely limited. For example, the limitations of time and place apply mainly to the physical, the spiritual doesn't have those limitations. Yet this great revelation will be specifically for neshamas in bodies. 

What we take from all this, is that there are differences when it comes to these two revelations. The revelation of Gan Eden comes specifically through separation from the physical. As it is known, that before a neshama enters Gan Eden, it first dips into the River of Fire, in order to forget what it saw in this world, and every time it goes to a higher level in Gan Eden itself, it has to forget the revelation of the previous level. On the other hand, the revelation of the time of Moshiach, comes specifically through the neshama entering a physical body. Why? 

The explanation. It says, "This is the Torah, a person," the Torah is like a person. Just as a person is made up of a neshama and a body, so too, the Torah has a neshama, which is Torah study, and a body, which is the mitzvos. The Zohar says, "The 248 (positive) mitzvos, are the 248 limbs of the King," like the limbs of the body, and the Torah is "the blood which is the soul," it draws life into the mitzvos. 

Just like the body, the mitzvos are limited to the physical constraints of time and place. Just like the neshama, the Torah is above the constraints of time and place. That is why, "One who studies the laws of the Ola offering, it's as if he offered the Ola," even though it's neither the time or the place in which an Ola is meant to be brought. 

The same is as it relates to the one who is studying Torah and doing mitzvos, Torah study is mainly for the neshama and doing mitzvos is mainly for the body. 

The fact that Torah is higher than mitzvos, is only the way it's revealed in the physical world, but in their source, mitzvos are higher, because Torah is Hashem's wisdom and mitzvos are Hashem's will, will is higher than wisdom. You can also see that mitzvos are higher in the way Torah and mitzvos manifest in the world, because the Torah's purpose is to instruct us on how to do the mitzvos. 

The same is with the neshama and the body, the fact that the neshama is higher than the body, is only the way they are revealed in the world, but in their source the body is higher. The love and connection of Hashem to the neshamas of the Jewish people, is similar to a natural love, like the love of a father to a son. In this connection the two are, so to speak, relative to one another. On the other hand, the love and connection of Hashem to the bodies of the Jewish people, is based on free choice, Hashem chose the bodies of the Jewish people, as we say in Kiddush, "because You chose us," and as we say in the holiday Amidah prayer, "You chose us from all the nations." Hashem's choice comes from His essence, which is beyond existence, and it's not relative to us in any way. You can also see it in the physical, as the neshama's purpose is to enliven the body. 

Now, the reason that when it comes to mitzvos, all of us are the same, and when it comes to Torah study there are differences, as a Torah scholar is obligated to take "You should toil in it day and night," literally. However, a businessman satisfies his obligation with "one chapter in the morning and one chapter in the evening." Because mitzvos are from Hashem's will, in which division isn't possible, on the other hand, Torah is from Hashem's wisdom and wisdom is subject to division. 

And this is why when it comes to the actual performance of mitzvos, every Jewish person does mitzvos, as our sages say, "even the sinners of Israel, are full of mitzvos as a pomegranate (is full of seeds)." But when it comes to Torah study, not everyone is full of Torah. Because the differences that are found amongst the Jewish people, are only in the revealed physical. However since mitzvos are from Hashem's will, and are connected to the body which is chosen by Hashem's essence, therefore, all of the Jewish people are the same, they all do mitzvos. 

And now we will understand why "All of Israel have a portion in the world to come," although it's a greater revelation than Gan Eden. Because the revelation of Gan Eden is a reward for the Torah one studied, on the other hand, the revelation in the time of Moshiach is a reward for the mitzvos one does, and since all of the Jewish people do mitzvos, "All of Israel have a portion in the world to come." 

you may ask: If the revelation in the time of Moshiach is for the mitzvos done by the body, why have the neshama come along? It is similar to the saying of our sages, "Torah is greater because it brings to action." Since the neshama brings the body to do mitzvos, it is raised to a higher level. 

According to all that has been said, we can learn two things about the Torah of the world to come, the Torah of Moshiach. First, that it will be at the highest level that Torah could reach on its own. And second, the greatness the Torah will attain because of the mitzvos. And the same is true about the neshama. Not only will it attain the highest level that the neshama could reach on its own, it will also enjoy the higher source of the body, which is higher than the source of the neshama. 

May we merit to see how it was our mitzvos that brought Moshiach, and may we merit to learn the Torah of Moshiach, from the mouth of Moshiach. May it happen soon. 

While I was writing this article, my niece Sarah Rivka Chanowitz OBM passed on to the world of neshamas. We loved her, our hearts are broken. May Hashem console my sister, my brother in law, my nieces, my parents and the extended Hurwitz and Chanowitz families. May we see her soon, with the coming of Moshiach, the theme of this article. 

Friday, May 10, 2019

What Makes Us Holy?

Dedicated By Irving Bauman
לזכר נשמת אבי הרב משה אהרן בן  ר ישראל חיים באהמאן    

The Haftora for parshas Kedoshim is from the book of Yechezkel, Ezekiel. The connection to our parsha, is that the Haftora is a rebuke to the people of Yerushalayim, before the destruction of the first Temple, for committing many of the sins mentioned in our parsha. Mostly dishonesty, oppressing the powerless and committing the innocent to death because of corruption.

Hashem rebukes them first for the time they were in Egypt, for not giving up the degenerate ways of the Egyptians. Then He rebukes them for the time they were in the desert, for the sin of the spies, and for holding on to the ways of the Egyptians.

Hashem says that the only reason He took them out of Egypt was for His own sake, so that the nations of the world shouldn't say that He couldn't save the Jewish people.

He says twice about the mitzvahs that He gave us at Mount Sinai, that they are, what "A person should do and live through them." He also says twice about the land of Israel, that it is "(tzvi) most beautiful of all lands." And He mentions several times, the importance of keeping Shabbos, that it is a sign between us and Hashem.

It is strange that so much emphasis is put on the verse, "A person should do and live through them." Because at the end of the previous parsha, Acharei, it says the exact same words, however, it isn't mentioned at all in our parsha. This forces us to conclude that although it is in the previous parsha, it central to the theme of our parsha, Kedoshim. What is the connection between this verse and our parsha.

This week's parsha is called Kedoshim, to be holy, as the opening verse of our parsha says, "You should be holy," and the second to the last verse says, "You should be holy to me," What does it mean to be holy?

If you look at the laws found in our parsha, you will see that it has nothing to do with purity and impurity, nor does it have to do with meditation. Rather it has to do with the most basic rules of decency. Kedoshim, is from the word kadosh, which means holy and separate, in other words, if we want to be holy, we have to distinguish ourselves in the way we act. In order for us to be a beacon of light to the world, we have to be recognized as different, we have to stand out as Hashem's people, through honesty, decency and morality.

In order to stand out as Hashem's people we have been given the Shabbos. Keeping the Shabbos, dressed in our finest, the table set beautifully, candles lit, our essence comes through, we are princes and princesses, children of the King of the world, Hashem, and because of that, we stand taller, and when we walk down the street, the people of the world see it and think, "There goes Hashem's people."

When you put honesty, decency and morality, together with keeping Shabbos, we become true beacons of light to the world, Hashem's ambassadors, and they are effected by us.

This is the life of a Jew, this is how we "live through them." When we take the path of Torah and mitzvahs, we are truly alive, because we are being true to ourselves, we are doing what we were created to do. And one is most satisfied and feels alive, when doing what he or she was created to do.

The Talmud tells us that we learn that saving a life takes precedence over any other mitzvah including keeping Shabbos, as the verse says, "You should live through them - (meaning) and not die through them."

There is a chassidishe teaching on this verse. The verse could be translated to mean, "And you should give life to them." meaning that everything we do, eating, drinking, business, exercise, etc., should be to infuse our service to Hashem with energy and life.

The Tzemach Tzedek's daughter in law, Rebbetzin Rivka, was not well, and the doctor said, that she should eat as soon as she wakes up. However, she didn't want to eat before davening, so she quickly davened and then ate. The Tzemach Tzedek said to her, "it is better to eat in order to daven, than to daven in order to eat."

This is one way we merit to have the land of Israel, the "(tzvi) most beautiful of all lands." Through honesty, decency, morality, keeping Shabbos and the rest of the mitzvahs in our parsha, and through using our mundane daily activities to energize our service to Hashem, we merit to have the land of Israel and keep it.

Why does it use the word tzvi, which means a deer. to mean beautiful?

Because you may ask: If the land of Israel is so small, how are all of the Jewish people going to fit in it?

That is why it is called tzvi, a deer. A deer's skin is too tight for its body, but it stretches to fit the deer. The same is true about the land of Israel, it looks as if it is too small, but it stretches to fit all of the Jewish people.

May we merit to see the beautiful land of Israel stretch out, as we all return to the Holy Land with the coming of Moshiach, and we will see how it was our mitzvahs, honesty, decency, morality and keeping Shabbos, that ushered in the redemption. May he come soon. The time has come.

Friday, April 19, 2019

To Be Truly Free

In the story of the Exodus, the Torah tells us how the Jewish people suffered under Egyptian bondage, "And they made their lives bitter... with mortar and bricks." 

The essential life of a Jew is not his or her physical life, but rather spiritual. And if the Torah tells us, "And they made their lives bitter... with mortar and bricks," which is completely physical, it would make sense that this would make their physical lives bitter, but how could it affect their spiritual lives? True, the hard labor would be time consuming and exhausting, and it wouldn't leave a lot of time for the spiritual, but it wouldn't make their spiritual lives "bitter." What does it even mean to make our spiritual lives bitter? 

When a Jewish person is so destitute that he sells himself into slavery, the law is that his master isn't allowed to make him do avodas perech, work that crushes the spirit. The Rambam explains this to means, "Work that has no end and no purpose." 

The Hagaas Maimoni explains, that this is learned from the servitude in Egypt. That means that the servitude in Egypt was, "Work that had no end and no purpose." This will help us understand how the crushing and bitter servitude, "With mortar and bricks," made their spiritual lives bitter. 

When we work in accordance with the Torah, it is work that has an end and a purpose, because the Torah gives us a limit, as to how much time and energy one may put into making a livelihood. Only what is necessary to make a vessel for Hashem's blessing. This also means that there is a limit as to which of his strengths he is to put into it, you should put in "the effort of your hands in order to eat," hands, meaning your lower faculties, but not the higher ones like the mind and heart. Of course you will need to use your heart and mind somewhat, but only the minimum amount necessary. Your heart and mind should be for serving Hashem. 

The time that one spends at work is also meant to be limited, set hours, leaving times for prayer and Torah study. 

When one does business in this manner, it has purpose. Because when you do business in the Torah way, you merit Hashem's blessing, "And Hashem your G-d will bless you in everything that you do." 

However, when a person puts his entire mind into making a livelihood, constantly thinking of ways to get ahead and making a little more profit, it becomes "Work that has no end and no purpose." 

It has no purpose, because the livelihood of a person comes from Hashem, and his constant thinking of how to get ahead, will not get him anywhere, if anything, it will only make things worse. 

It is also work that has no end. There is no end to his toil, at the end of the work day, when everyone else working for him has gone home, he is there thinking about how to get ahead. When he finally closes up the business, instead of having set times for Torah study, he is at work, in the rat race, either physically or in his mind, he is constantly thinking about it. And what kind of family life does he have, he comes home late, when he is eating dinner his head is in the business, when he is with his wife and children, he is distracted, ignoring them. Even when he finally goes to bed, he dreams about his business. He is in a self imposed servitude, that has no end. 

This is also true for some Torah scholars, ones that have false pride and a overblown ego. If someone G-d forbid slighted him, or even if he imagined that someone slighted him, he can't let it go. In his delusion of grandeur he thinks, "it is not me who was disrespected, but the Torah itself." He can't get it out of his mind, he has to stand up for the honor of the Torah. He becomes obsessed with revenge, he will have to show him. And because "The righteous are similar to their creator," he has to act like Hashem, and exact punishment measure for measure, if not double. He can't get past it, until he even dreams about it when he sleeps. 

When somebody thinks about taking care of his body, it usually has a limit. And there is nothing wrong with taking care of your body and being healthy, as the Rambam says, "that (maintaining) a healthy and complete body is following the ways of Hashem." Because in order to serve Hashem, you have to have a healthy body. 

The Alter Rebbe tells us, that Hashem Himself chose the bodies of the Jewish people. That means that our bodies are precious, and we have to take care of them. So taking care of your body has purpose. 

However, one who is obsessed with work or has delusions of grandeur, there is no limit to it. It is "Work that has no end and no purpose." 

Now we will understand how the crushing servitude, "And they made their lives bitter," made their spiritual lives bitter. 

Everything that Hashem created in the world is limited or finite. The only thing that is unlimited, "it has no end," and is truly altruistic, "it has no (selfish) purpose," is the neshama. The neshama is one with Hashem, and since He is infinite, our neshamas are too. It is from our neshamas that we have the ability to be unlimited. We also have the ability to serve Hashem in a way that "has no purpose," to serve Him lishma, totally for His sake, without personal gain. 

When one uses infinite power of the neshama for holy things, his spiritual life is sweet. However, when he uses it for the wrong thing, for the mundane, then it becomes "Work that has no end and no purpose," and his neshama suffers, his spiritual life becomes bitter. 

The spiritual life becoming bitter, can come in a more subtle way. In a case where he only uses his neshama for holy things. 

The evil inclination knows that it is futile to ask a Jewish person to do an outright sin, so he takes another tactic. He tries to get a person to do something other than what he is supposed to be doing. 

In general, Jewish people are divided into two categories. There is the businessman, and the Torah scholar. 

The businessman is busy during the day with work. His obligation to Hashem, aside for daily prayers and daily Torah study before and after work, is doing good deeds, and at the top of that list is giving Tzedakah. 

The Torah scholar's main occupation is the study of Torah. Of course he is also obligated to do good deeds, but that is not his main thing. 

The evil inclination convinces the businessman that he wants to be a scholar. All of a sudden, he doesn't have time to help another, because when he is supposed to be helping, he is busy studying and praying at length. When he is needed, he is not available, because he has become very holy, and then he has no time for another, because he has to run off to work. 

The same is with the Torah scholar who suddenly has no time to learn Torah, because he is busy doing good deeds. 

In these cases, their happiness trading places will be short lived, because they are not true to who they are, and their neshamas are bitter, because they are not fulfilling their purpose. To the evil inclination, this is a victory. 

This is also why we find, that the Exodus from Egypt came about through taking the lamb of the Passover sacrifice. The lamb was one of the deities of Egypt and Hashem wanted them to slaughter the deity of Egypt, right in front of the Egyptians. This was serving Hashem in a way of "no end," beyond understanding. And that set the Jewish people on a path of freedom, freeing their neshamas from the bonds of any physical constraints. Since we were freed spiritually, the physical redemption was automatic. 

May we merit to see the ultimate redemption, when we will be truly free, spiritually and physically, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 

Thursday, April 11, 2019

On The Haftora Of Shabbos Hagadol: To Touch The Essence

The Haftora for Shabbos Hagadol is from the book of Malachi, who lived at the beginning of the second Temple era. He foretells of the time of Moshiach, and rebukes the Jewish people for putting the wicked on a pedestal, for not serving Hashem and especially for not tithing, and it ends again with the redemption. 

Many communities including Chabad, read this Haftora only when Shabbos Hagadol falls on Erev Pesach. Others read it on Shabbos Hagadol, whether or not it falls on Erev Pesach. 

The reason we read this Haftora, is because it speaks of giving tithes, and on the Erev Pesach of the fourth and seventh years of the Sabbatical cycle, one is obligated to give whatever tithes are left in his possession. Another reason is that it tells about the future redemption, and being that Pesach is the holiday of the redemption and the most opportune time for the coming of Moshiach, we read about the redemption before it, especially since it tells of Eliyahu the prophet heralding Moshiach's coming. 

Both traditions could apply both reasons, but one applies more to one and the other applies more to the other. According to those who read it only on Erev Pesach, the reason of giving tithes takes precedence, but you can also say that Erev Pesach is before the holiday of redemption, and Eliyahu comes prior to the coming of Moshiach. According to those who read it on Shabbos Hagadol, regardless of whether or not it falls on Erev Pesach, the reason of Moshiach and Eliyahu heralding his coming takes precedence, but you can also say that it comes before or on Erev Pesach as a reminder to tithe. 

The Haftora begins, "(V'Arva) The offerings of Yehuda and Yerushalayim will be sweet to Hashem, (kimei olam) as in early days and the (shanim kadmonious) former years." Being that it begins with the word V'Arva, the Haftora is called V'Arva. 

"As in early days and the former years," seem to have the same meaning. Why the double expression? We have to say that they are two distinct things, and that is why the verse brings them both. What is the meaning of these two expressions? And how do they work together? 

The Midrash gives two answers. First that "In early days," refers to the days of Moshe, and "the former years," refers to the time of Shlomo. Second, that "In early days," refers to the days of Noach. 

The Tzemach Tzedek explains, that "kimei olam," which literally means the days of the world, refers to the world, spiritual and physical realms included. And shanim kadmonious, which literally means the years before, refers to before or beyond the world, beyond all of existence, spiritual and physical. 

The Tzemach Tzedek explains, that this connects to Shabbos Hagadol, as it says in the Haggadah, "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and Hashem took us out." "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt," refers to the world, and in the world, to the lowest place, and the lowest predicament, being slaves in exile, and "Hashem took us out," refers to the essence of Hashem, beyond existence, as we read in the Haggadah, "The King, King of kings, the Holy One Blessed Be He, in His glory and by Himself, revealed Himself to them and redeemed them." 

This is the meaning of, "The offerings of Yehuda and Yerushalayim will be sweet to Hashem, as in early days and the former years," Yehuda and Yerushalayim refer to the Jewish people, as all the Jewish people are called Yehudim, and they are called daughters of Yerushalayim. The offerings refer to the general idea of sacrifices, which is meant to bring us closer to Hashem. And in a more general sense, it refers to our service to Hashem through Torah and mitzvahs, which brings us closer to Hashem. And even more, our daily mundane actions that are done for the sake of Heaven. These offerings reach the highest levels of G-dliness, to the essence of Hashem beyond existence. And this is what is sweet to Hashem, our service is sweet and pleasurable to Him, it is the greatest pleasure, as the Sifri tells us, that Hashem says, "it is a pleasure before Me, because I said it and My will was done." 

And this service has both "In early days and the former years," it reaches beyond existence, and it affects the world by drawing G-dliness from beyond existence into even the lowest levels of existence, this physical world. And that is our purpose as Jews, to make this world into a home for Hashem, where His essence beyond existence could dwell openly in this physical world. And it is our service to Hashem through Torah, mitzvahs and our daily activities done for the sake of Heaven, that draws G-dliness from "shanim kadmonious," beyond existence, into "kimei olam," into the world, making a home for Hashem. 

And this is the meaning of, "We were slaves to Pharaoh in Egypt, and Hashem took us out." That the essence of Hashem beyond existence was drawn into the lowest part of creation, Egypt, and He Himself took us out. 

This is a deeper reason for reading this Haftora on Shabbos Hagadol. Shabbos represents the culmination of our service to Hashem all week. As the Alter Rebbe tells us, that the prayer time of every day, is considered the Shabbos of the day, that is the time that all of one's service to Hashem during the day ascend on high. Shabbos is the day that all the prayers of the week go up. Now Shabbos Hagadol is the great Shabbos, it represents our service to Hashem at the highest level. 

Why is it called Shabbos Hagadol? Because a great miracle happened on that day, "To smite Egypt with their firstborn." The Firstborn of Egypt went to war against Egypt on behalf of the Jewish people. This is the ultimate turn of events, when your enemy becomes your advocate, or as the Talmud puts it, "from the forest itself comes the handle of the ax." This is the highest level of service to Hashem, when the actual darkness is turned into light, and bitterness is turned sweet. And that is what Shabbos Hagadol is all about.

Why is it possible for the Jewish people to draw the highest levels of G-dliness into the lowest levels of the physical world? 

The Haftora continues, "For I Hashem have not changed, and you the children of Yaakov have not been destroyed." 

There are a few ways of understanding this verse. 

Some people phrase it like a question, "If I Hashem have not changed, then why haven't you, the children of Yaakov expired (of ecstasy)?" In other words, you realize and sense My greatness, why haven't your neshamas left your body's yearning to be with  Me? 

Others read it as a statement. "Because I Hashem have not changed, therefore you the children of Yaakov have not been destroyed." meaning, that Hashem's love for us has not changed, therefore, we are still here today. Even deeper, because we are one with Hashem, and He doesn't change, we don't either change, therefore, we are here today. And where are we one with Him? In His essence beyond existence, and therefore we have the ability to draw from there into the lowest part of creation. 

The idea of "For I Hashem have not changed," is seen primarily in nature, because miracles are by definition a change in nature. In truth, the greatest miracle of all, is nature itself, but we don't see it that way, because we are used to it. The fact that so much in nature is predictable, every day the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, we plant seeds and they grow, etc. etc., is where we see that Hashem doesn't change. 

We have to be like Hashem, we have to act and serve Hashem in a predictable way, in the Torah way, and being that we are and were consistent in the Torah way, therefore, "you the children of Yaakov have not been destroyed. It is our consistency that has kept us alive, while other nations that were bigger and stronger than us, are only found in history books and museums, the tiny nation of the Jewish people are here and we are making a difference. 

And now we will understand why the Haftora ends with, "Behold I will send you Eliyahu the prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of the Lord, that he may turn the heart of the fathers back through the children, and the heart of the children back through their fathers..."  Because through our service to Hashem, especially in the way of Shabbos Hagadol, that we turn the darkness itself into light, we will merit the "great and awesome day," the coming of Moshiach. And then we will see the connection between us and Hashem openly. Father refers to Hashem beyond existence, and children refer to us within existence. We will see how he will "turn the heart of the fathers back through the children," this is us reaching above through our service, to the essence of Hashem beyond existence, "and the heart of the children back through their fathers," this is us drawing that great level of G-dliness into the world, making a home for Hashem. 

May we merit to see the prophecy of Malachi come true, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 

Friday, April 5, 2019

Uncovering What Is Already There

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In this week's parsha, Tazria, we have the mitzvah of Bris, circumcision, "When a woman conceives and gives birth to a boy... And on the eighth day, the flesh of his foreskin shall be circumcised." 

There are two parts to the mitzvah of Bris. First that a boy should be circumcised, and that it should be done "on time," on the eighth day. And it would seem that if for some reason, the Bris could not be done "on time," for example, if he was sick and it would be dangerous to do it, when he finally has a Bris at a later time, the child would have the mitzvah of being circumcised, and we know that it is a mitzvah to have a Bris at a later time, because we say a blessing with Hashem's name, but the part about being "on time," would be lost. Even though it is in accordance with Torah law, because "saving a life pushes off (any obligation of) the whole Torah," It will help from now on, but it would seem that the time from the eighth day until the Bris is lost. 

The Rambam explains why we don't do a Bris on a sick baby. Because it puts his life in danger, and "When a life is in danger, it pushes off everything, and the circumcision could be done at a later time, and it is impossible (l'hachazir) to bring back one soul of Israel, ever." 

The Rambam gives two reasons not to do the Bris. First, "When a life is in danger, it pushes off everything," meaning, that even if it can't be done at a later time, because of the danger, it is okay, since saving a life takes precedence, Second, since "it could be done at a later time," which implies that it doesn't get pushed off at all, because it could be done at a later time. Meaning that if it's done at a later time, it will help for the time that passed and it would be considered on time. 

The only thing is that it won't be able to push off Shabbos, because our sages have a special teaching for that, it says, "On the (eighth) day, (meaning) even on Shabbos." Only when it's on the eighth day, does it push off Shabbos. 

This is difficult to understand, because: How can a Bris that is done in the future have an effect on the past? A physical act is done when it is done, it can't change the past. 

The only time the future can have an effect on the past, is when the act that is done in the future reveals or uncovers that it was truly that way all the time. Or when a deal is struck that is dependent on a future event, "if you do such and such next week, then it is yours from now." But when it comes to a Bris, it is done when it is done. An effect can't come before the cause. So how can a late Bris change the past, as if he had a Bris the whole time? And how can it be on time? 

Another question. The words of the Rambam, "And it is impossible (l'hachazir) to bring back one soul of Israel, ever," seem out of place. He places it after, "And the circumcision could be done at a later time," it would make more sense to put it after, "When a life is in danger, it pushes off everything." Why does the Rambam put it after "it could be done at a later time"? 

The Alter Rebbe explains that the mitzvah of Bris draws a light from Hashem that is greater than any that could be drawn through the service of people. It is bestowed from above. It is a light that is in our essence, but it can't be revealed until he has a Bris, it is always there, but it is blocked until he has a Bris. 

The same thing is with the entry of the neshama into the body, it happens when he has a Bris. This doesn't mean that he doesn't have a neshama, rather, that it is blocked from effecting the world in the way a Jew is meant to. His neshama doesn't shine to the world until the Bris. It is always there but it is not revealed until the Bris. 

Since it is always there, it is not a new physical thing that didn't exist before, rather the Bris reveals what was always there. Therefore it could affect the past. And therefore it is considered on time, because when it is revealed it shows that it was always there, and if it was always there, it is by definition, on time. 

And now we will understand why the Rambam put the statement, "And it is impossible (l'hachazir) to bring back one soul of Israel, ever," after "And it could be done at a later time." Because it adds a deeper layer of understanding. 

The simple meaning is that "When a life is in danger, it pushes off everything," because "it is impossible (l'hachazir) to bring back one soul of Israel, ever." 

But it could be understood in a different way. The word l'hachazir, which means to bring back, could also mean to go back or undo. 

As explained above, "And the circumcision could be done at a later time," means that when a boy has a Bris at a later time, it helps for the time that he wasn't able to have it, this is because he was really always connected to Hashem, as every Jewish person is always connected to Hashem. 

A Jew is actually one with Hashem. And it is the deepest part of the neshama that is one with Him. That is what is revealed with a Bris. This connection can never be undone, so the words of the Rambam could be understood as, "And it is impossible for a soul of Israel to go back (on his connection with Hashem), ever." 

And it works both ways, as the Talmud tells us that Hashem says, "Whatever may be, they are My children, and to trade them for another nation (G-d forbid) is impossible." 

Hashem truly loves each and every one of us, we are one with Him and He is one with us. It is through serving Him in a way that is beyond our understanding, which the mitzvah of Bris represents - because it is done when a boy is a baby and doesn't understand what is being done - that we reveal the essence of our neshama, and draw the highest levels of G-dly light into the world. It is not something new, it is always there, because that is who we are. 

May we reveal our essence through serving Hashem beyond our understanding, and fill the world with G-dly light, this will surely hasten the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Appreciating The Miracles In Our Lives

Dear friends, 

The Haftora for Tazria is hardly ever read, but it is connected to our parsha. Even though we won't be reading it this year, because of parshas Hachodesh, it is connected to the month of Nissan, and has meaningful lessons. It is a beautiful Haftora, I hope you enjoy it. 


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The Haftora for parshas Tazria is not read often, because in most years Tazria  and Metzora are read together, and when that happens, the Haftora for Metzora is read. Even in a leap year, when Tazria is read by itself, it is often also parshas Hachodesh, and the Haftora for Hachodesh is read instead. 

The Haftora tells of two miracles of our prophet Elisha. 

In the first miracle, a man brought Elisha 20 bread rolls made of the barley flour that recently ripened. Elisha told his helper to give it to his students whom he supported. His helper asked him, "How can I give this to a hundred men? (It's simply not enough)." Elisha responded, "Give it to the people to eat, for Hashem said, 'They will eat and have left over.'" He gave it to them, they ate and there was leftover, just as Hashem said. 

The second miracle was how he cured Naaman from Tzaraas. Naaman was the commander of the king of Aram's army, he was very well respected, because Hashem gave him many victories, but now he couldn't go out to war because he was inflicted with Tzaraas. 

One of Aram's raiding parties captured a young girl from Israel, and she became a servant to Naaman's wife. She said to her mistress, "If my master's request will be brought before the prophet in Shomron (Elisha), then he will cure him of his Tzaraas." We see here, the power of a young Jewish girl's simple faith in the Tzadik of the time, that brought about such a beautiful miracle and positive geopolitical ramifications as well, as we will soon see. 

Naaman went and told the king what the young girl said. The king told him to go to the prophet, and that he would send a letter to the king of Israel, telling him to instruct the prophet to cure Naaman. 

Naaman took a tremendous amount of silver, gold and garments, as a gift for the prophet, and he brought the letter to the king of Israel. When the king read the letter he rend his garments, because he was afraid that it was a trick, and that the king of Aram was using this as a pretext to go to war. Aram was the superpower of the region at that time, so the mere thought of going to war with them was terrifying. 

When Elisha heard that the king rend his garments, he sent a message to him, "Why did you rend your garments? Let him come to me and he will know that there is a prophet in Israel." 

Naaman came with a whole entourage to Elisha's house and stood at the door. Elisha didn't come out to meet him, he just sent a messenger to tell him to wash in the Jordan seven times, his skin will be restored and he will be ritually pure. 

Naaman got angry and left, he expected Elisha to honor him by coming out to greet him, call out to Hashem, wave his hand over the Tzaraas, and it would miraculously go away. But instead, he told him to bathe in the Jordan. He said that the rivers in Damascus are better than any of the waters in Israel, he often bathed in them, and it didn't help him. 

His servants approached him and respectfully suggested, that if the prophet would have told him to do something difficult, he would surely have listened to him, so now that he said to do something easy, shouldn't he try it? He took their advice and bathed in the Jordan seven times like Elisha said, and his skin became like that of a young boy. 

Naaman and his entourage returned to Elisha. Naaman stood before him and said, "Now I know that there isn't any G-d in the whole world other than in Israel, now, please accept a gift from your servant." But Elisha refused to take anything, he said, "By the Living G-d before Whom I stood (as a soul in the higher realms, before entering into the body), I can't accept (any gift)." Naaman begged him to take something, but he refused. Then he asked for two mule loads of earth from Israel, so that he could make it into an altar for Hashem, and he proclaimed, "For your servant will no longer offer burnt offerings or sacrifices to other gods, but only to Hashem!" 

Then he asked for forgiveness in advance, because he will have to go with his king when he goes to serve his idols, and he won't have a choice, but to bow with him. He said, "May Hashem please forgive your servant for this." And Elisha said to him, "Go in peace." From here we learn, that a gentile who accepted on himself to serve only Hashem, and to keep the Seven Laws that were given to the Children of Noah, is not obligated to sacrifice his life to sanctify Hashem. If he would be obligated, Elisha would have told him so, and that he could not bow. Instead he just told him to "go in peace." 

This, of course, was a great geo-political victory for the Jewish people, because now Naaman, the commander of the most powerful army in the region, became an ally to Israel. Also, I am sure that the story of the miracle reverberated throughout the region, and was a great sanctification of Hashem's name. 

The second miracle seems to connect well with the parsha. Parshas Tazria talks mostly about the laws of the Metzora, and the miracle was how Elisha cured Naaman, a Metzora, from Tzaraas. But how does the first miracle, about the loaves of bread, connect to our parsha? 

Rashi and the Radak provide the explanation. Rashi says that it was "During Pesach, when grain ripens." The Radak says, "It was from the first barley that was harvested, it was the time of the barley harvest." The Ralbag, Metzudas David and Metzudas Tzion say similar things. In this instance, the Haftora is also connected with the time of year. 

Whenever Tazria is read by itself, it is in the month of Nissan, before Pesach, or on the Shabbos before, when we bless the month of Nissan. The month of Nissan is a time of miracles, the time when the barley ripens and is harvested, and on Pesach the Omer offering, which was from barley, was brought in the Temple. The first miracle is about barley in the month of Nissan. 

This also adds more meaning to the second miracle, because Tazria doesn't have anything to do with open miracles. So how does the miracle aspect connect to the parsha? It doesn't necessarily, rather, it is connected to the time of year, Nissan, a time of miracles. 

I use the term "open miracles," because, of course, Tazria speaks about pregnancy and birth, which are miracles, but they are the kind of miracles that Hashem put into nature. Also, Tzaraas was not a natural ailment, it was not leprosy, it was a spiritual condition, that came because of spiritual reasons. So in a way, it was a miracle as well. But  being that it was more common, it was not like an open miracle. However, though these kind of miracles are more common, they are still miracles, and perhaps the Haftora is highlighting the point of miracles, to let us know, that we should see and value the miracles in nature and the more common miracles we experience every day. 

We are left with a question. Why did Elisha refuse Naaman's gift? We have rules about when one may accept tzedakah from an idol worshipper, generally we shouldn't, but there are certain situations where we can accept it secretly, and in certain dire situations, one is permitted to take it openly. However, Naaman wasn't an idol worshipper, he proclaimed openly that he will only serve Hashem. The Rambam says that from this kind of person, you can accept tzedakah and distribute it even to Jewish needy. So why didn't he accept it? 

From the Rambam's words, "If... He gave, we accept it," we understand that only after the fact do we accept it, but to begin with we don't. The Rambam also says there, "If he wants to do a mitzvah... in order to receive merit, we don't stop him." Again, we don't stop him, but to begin with, if he wants to make it a regular thing, we would not allow it, because it is as if he is creating a new religion and the Rambam says, that this is not allowed. 

And perhaps, the miracle and the whole experience was all the more powerful, and a greater sanctification of Hashem's name, because he didn't take the gift. And therefore, it had a greater effect on Naaman and all that heard what transpired. 

May we experience and value the miracles in our daily lives. And may we merit to experience the greatest miracle of all, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.