Thursday, May 13, 2021

Fixed link. Dvar Torah Booklet for Sthavouth


These are two booklets I prepared for Shavouth, I wanted to make it available to you and to your communities as you see fit. If you are going to print it I suggest printing it in black and white and in booklet form. Enjoy. 
   
Thank you MMK for all your help making these booklets. 
 

 

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Dvar Torah Booklet for Shavouth


These are two booklets I prepared for Shavouth, I wanted to make it available to you and to your communities as you see fit. If you are going to print it I suggest printing it in black and white and in booklet form. Enjoy. 
   
Thank you MMK for all your help making these booklets. 
 
 

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Dvar Torah Booklets for Pesach


These are two booklets I prepared for Pesach, one for the first days and one for the second days. I wanted to make it available to you and to your community as you see fit. If you are going to print it I suggest printing it in black and white and in booklet form. Enjoy. 

Thank you MMK for all your help making these booklets. 
 


Monday, March 22, 2021

If It Wasn't For The Frogs

 print        Shabbos Haggadol

In the story of Pesach “Hashem said to Moshe, ‘Go to Pharaoh and say to him, Thus says Hashem… if you refuse to let them go, I will plague your entire country with frogs.’” 

On this the Midrash says, "Our teachers taught, what is ‘the greatest advantage in all the land?’ Even things that seem unnecessary in the world, like flies, fleas and gnats, they too are a part of G-d’s creation... Even things that seem unnecessary in the universe, like snakes and scorpions, were also a part of G-d’s creation of the world. Hashem says to the prophets, Did you assume that if you do not fulfill my charge I do not have other messengers? “The greatest advantage in all the land is His.” My mission will be fulfilled even by a snake, even by a scorpion and even by a frog. Know that so it is, for if not for the tzirah, how would Hashem have inflicted retribution on the Amorites? And if not for the frogs, how would Hashem have exacted retribution from the Egyptians? Thus, it is stated, “I will plague (your entire country with frogs).”

There were other plagues that were by far more severe than the frogs. For example, There was the first plague of blood that hit the Nile, which was not only their source of drinking water, but it was also what drove their whole economy. Egypt was an agricultural giant, the water of the Nile was the source of all their produce and they also had a fishing industry which was devastated by the blood. 

There was the last plague, the slaying of the firstborn, which was definitely more devastating than the frogs. The rest of the plagues were also hard on the Egyptians, and at the splitting of the sea they all drowned, which was surely worse than frogs. So how can the Midrash say, "If not for the frogs, how would Hashem have exacted retribution from the Egyptians?"? 

The purpose of the plagues was not to punish Pharaoh and the Egyptians, rather, as the verse says, "And Egypt will know that I Am Hashem." That G-dliness should be revealed in Egypt. And that only could be done by breaking Egypt and that was done through the plagues. 

And since what was blocking G-dliness from being revealed in Egypt were the attitudes of Pharaoh and the Egyptians, the main thing that broke through and changed their attitude was the frogs, as will be explained. 

There are three ways rebellion or denial of Hashem takes form, each one getting worse than the previous one. 

The first form of rebellion in Hashem, is claiming that there is another that has power other than Hashem. He doesn't directly deny Hashem's existence, because he knows that his existence depends on Hashem, rather he calls Hashem, the G-d of gods. 

The second is the one who says that Hashem is G-d of gods, but denies that existence is dependent on Hashem, rather he thinks that he is responsible for his own existence and the things around him. Like Pharaoh who said, "the Nile is mine and I made it." And when he says that Hashem is G-d of gods, he means that Hashem is more powerful than him or his gods, but denies that existence is dependent on the G-d of gods. 

The third is the one who outright denies and fights against Hashem's existence, he doesn't even consider Him the G-d of gods. 

While on the surface the third one, the outright denial of Hashem seems the worst of all, but when you look deeper, the one who says, "the Nile is mine and I made it," is a lot worse. 

To explain. In the first way of thinking, he believes in another power, but by saying that Hashem is the G-d of gods, he is recognizing that his existence is from Hashem. 

In the third way of thinking, true he outright denies and fights against Hashem's existence, but the fact that he is fighting so hard to deny it, means that it bothers him, deep down he believes in G-dliness. 

However, the second way of thinking, the way of Pharaoh who said, "the Nile is mine and I made it," he only sees himself. The fact that he calls Hashem the G-d of gods has nothing to do with him, he is his own entity. Therefore he is totally apathetic to G-dliness. 

The same as it is with these three groups, so it is with the creations that Hashem created. 

There are creations that give honor to Hashem, as you can immediately see their positive purpose that they were created far. Then there are those that are dangerous or their purpose is a negative one, like snakes and scorpions, but you can see their purpose, and you can see through them that Hashem doesn't create anything in vain. 

These two attest to Hashem's existence, because through the handiwork you can get a sense of its creator. 

Then there are things like frogs, which to the average person, and to Pharaoh and the Egyptians, have no purpose, they are benign. When you see them, you wonder what purpose could they possibly have? It makes room to question if there is someone in charge. 

These frogs did Hashem's bidding, and what more they did it with self sacrifice, they even jumped into the Egyptian ovens. When they saw what the frogs did for Hashem, it broke their way of thinking and they knew that "I Am Hashem!" None of the other plagues were like the frogs, they were either things that are normally positive or negative, and they showed that there was a Craftsman Who created them, Hashem. 

May we merit to once again see the hand of Hashem in everything with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 

Thursday, December 31, 2020

The Reward for Keeping, Enjoying and Honoring Shabbos

     
print        Vayechi  
On Shabbos, Before reciting the morning kiddush we say verses  from Isaiah, "If you will restrain your foot because it is Shabbos, from doing your desires on My holy day, and you will declare Shabbos as a (time of) pleasure, a holy day of honor for Hashem, and you will honor it by not carrying out your (regular) activities, not pursuing your desired (labors), and not speaking about (financial) things. Then you will find pleasure with Hashem, and I will raise you on the high places of the earth, and you will enjoy the heritage of Yaakov, your father, for the mouth of Hashem has spoken."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just before the Rambam says the reward for keeping Shabbos, he says, "Both Shabbos and idol worship are equal to all the other mitzvahs of the Torah, and Shabbos is the sign between us and the Holy One Blessed Be He..." Idol worship is a denial of the essential underpinnings and sanctity of the Jewish people. By comparing Shabbos to idol worship, he is saying that Shabbos is different from the other mitzvahs. While all the other mitzvahs add to our holiness, not doing them does not constitute a denial of the essential underpinnings and sanctity of the Jewish people. Shabbos, on the other hand, is an essential part of who we are, keeping Shabbos is therefore, upholding the essential underpinnings and sanctity of the Jewish people. 

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

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

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Challah and Salt


print         Vayigash  
Why do we call the bread we eat on Shabbat Challah? 

It gets its name from the mitzvah of separating challah. When making dough, it is a mitzvah to separate a piece of it for Hashem. In Temple times, we would give it to a Kohen, but now we burn it. This mitzvah is a statement, bread is symbolic of our sustenance, by separating challah we recognize that the sustenance we have is from Hashem. 

This mitzvah is done in the home as well as in bakeries. 

Although this mitzvah is for both men and women, it has become near and dear to women. They use the time of separating challah to pray, pouring out their tender hearts to Hashem. 

To learn more about the mitzvah of separating challah goto www.chabad.org/363323

Why do we braid them? 

I don't know. But I would guess that women who wanted to make Shabbat special and beautiful started this custom. If anyone knows the reason for this, please comment below. 

Why do we have two challahs? And why do we cover them? 

As mentioned before, bread is symbolic of our sustenance. During the forty years that the Jewish people were in the desert, their sustenance came in the form of manna from heaven, and it was clear that their sustenance was from Hashem. On Shabbat the manna would not fall, instead, on Friday enough would fall for them to collect a double portion, for Friday and Shabbat. We have two challahs, to remember the double portion we received in the desert. 

When the manna would fall, it would be packaged between two layers of dew, one below it and one above it. To commemorate that, we have two covers, one below the challah, which is the tablecloth, and the other above it, traditionally a beautiful challah cover that makes the table look beautiful. 

Another reason we cover the challah, has to do with the order of blessings before eating food. The normal order is that when you have a meal with bread and wine, the blessing over the bread goes first, only after that, do we say the blessing over wine. However, by the Shabbat meal, we are obligated to make Kiddush, which is to sanctify the day of Shabbat over a cup of wine. This has to be done at the beginning of the meal, before anything else. In order that the bread does not feel bad that it is being put into second place, we have it covered during Kiddush, so it doesn't see that we are saying the blessing over the wine first. 

This is a lesson in sensitivity. If we have to be careful with the feelings of things like challah, which doesn't have feelings, how much more so, do we have to be careful not to hurt the feelings of others. 

Why do we have salt at the Shabbat table? 

The closest thing that we have to an altar, is the table we eat at. The food we eat can be offered to Hashem. 

How does this work? If we use the energy of the food we eat to do what Hashem wants, that food is an offering to Him. 

This doesn't necessarily mean prayer, Torah study, and mitzvahs, but everything that Hashem wants from us, including being a mentch, honest, kind, giving, as well as Torah, prayer and mitzvahs. 

If we have it in mind when we are eating it is even better. And of course when we give an offering to Hashem, we would do it like he wants, meaning, first that it is kosher food, and that we say the blessings before and after we eat it. 

On Shabbat, eating food is a mitzvah in itself, because it is a mitzvah to take pleasure in the Shabbat. One of the ways to take pleasure in the Shabbat is by having good food. 

The altar in the Temple always had salt on it, and every offering was brought with salt. To commemorate that we have salt on our Shabbat table, our altar. 

It is our tradition to dip the challah into the salt after we say the blessing over it, except for during the time of the holidays from Rosh Hashanah until Hoshana Raba, during which time we dip the challah into honey, so that we are granted a sweet year. Rosh Hashanah is when the books are opened, and on Hoshana Raba the final books are sealed. Even though we don't dip our challah into salt at that time, it is still a tradition to have the salt at the table. 

Friday, December 4, 2020

The Tree of Knowledge and Kiddush

print          Vayishlach
Adam and Chava were in the Garden of Eden, and they were totally naked, but they were not embarrassed. After they ate from the tree of knowledge, they recognized that they were naked, and they were ashamed. 

What was the difference between before they ate from the tree and after? In other words, why weren't they embarrassed before they ate from the tree? 

Before they ate from the tree, their awareness was of Hashem, and their thought process was, if Hashem wants it, it is good, if He doesn't want it, it is bad. 

Eating from the tree was doing what they wanted, all of a sudden it was about them and not about Hashem. So they became aware of themselves, and they were ashamed, because now they recognized that they were naked. 

The more you think about yourself, the more selfish you are. Naked is the word for thinking about yourself and the more one thinks about oneself, the more Hashem is out of the picture, and the more naked he is. 

The Torah calls the snake, who in the story of Adam and Chava, was the evil inclination, "the most naked," because he was the most selfish. It was only about him, Hashem wasn't in the picture, at all. 
Adam and Chava were created on the sixth day and the seventh was Shabbos. The prohibition to eat from the tree was only on the sixth day, once Shabbat came they were allowed to eat from the tree. In other words, self awareness isn't bad in and of itself. It is just that it has to be within Hashem's framework. There is Hashem, and I am part of his world, and we are here for His purpose. And that is not selfish. 

The main thing is to make Hashem first in your life, that is the cure for the blemish caused by the first sin. 

What kind of tree was the Tree of Knowledge? 

There are many opinions. One is that it was a grapevine, and the fruit were grapes. Adam was supposed to make wine from the grapes and say kiddush over it. 

What is kiddush? We are meant to sanctify Shabbat as it comes in and as it goes out. What does it mean to sanctify? It means to separate between holy and mundane, as Shabbat comes in we make kiddush, and as it goes out we make havdala. And we do this over a cup of wine. 

The best wine to use is red sweet wine, if you can't make it on sweet wine, the next best thing is red wine, then white wine, if you are not allowed to have alcohol then you can make it on grape juice. What if you don't have wine or grape juice? Then you can make it over challah. 

What do we say in kiddush? 

"That He sanctified us with His mitzvot," that He separated us to do His mission, the reason that He created this world. 

"And He wanted us," literally, "He willed us," His will is the essence of Hashem that comes into the world on Shabbat. Which means that He chose our neshamot, true choice that comes from the will of Hashem, He wants us. This is revealed on Shabbat, we are truly one with His essence. 

"And His holy Shabbat with love and will He gave us as an inheritance," meaning that we alone were given the Shabbat, it comes from His love and will. 

"A remembrance to the creation of the world," meaning that it is the reason that the world was created. So we could be united with Him, which is the ultimate goal of the world, to bring Mashiach, which Shabbat is a taste of, a reminder of our goal. 

It was the "first to be called holy," meaning that it is so important to Hashem, after all, it is the reason He created the world. 

"A remembrance to the exodus from Egypt," that is the reason that He took us out of Egypt, to take on His mission, to turn this world into a home for Hashem, that by definition is the time of Mashiach, which Shabbat is a taste of. 

"For You chose us and You made us holy from all of the nations, and Your holy Shabbat with love and will You gave us as an inheritance," now this is said in the first person, because it is personal and we have a close relationship with Him. 

Now we can understand why Shabbat is so important to us, because it is the essence of who we are, our relationship with Hashem, and our mission. 

May we keep the Shabbat, and in this merit, may we merit the coming of Mashiach. The time has come.