Wednesday, August 31, 2011
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
The Serenity Prayer
Interesting stat. - 43 percent of American's are on some type of mood-altering medication. People aren't happy. People are tense!!
Serenity is the goal. The gemara [brachos 17] says that women [in general] are more prepared for olam haba because olam haba is a place of serenity and woman are naturally more relaxed than men. [That is why you have MILLIONS of stay at home mothers and virtually zero stay at home fathers (by choice). Men feel a need to conquer. Watch football players at the line of scrimmage. Can you imagine women doing that - all for a brown piece of chazir:-)].
Avoda for Elul - CHILL!!
We say it EVERY MORNING IN ELUL - "Hashem maoz chaya mimi efchad" - G-d is the strength of my life - whom shall I fear?! "Ki yitzpinaini bi'sooco biyom ra'a, yasteereinee bi'seiser oholo" - He will hide me in His shelter on the day of evil, He will conceal me in the concealment of His tent".
So men, women and children - RELAXXXXXX!!!
Love and blessings!:-)
Tuesday, August 30, 2011
“I find myself constantly thinking and wanting to speak exclusively about t’shuva. Much has been written on the subject of t’shuva in the Torah, the Prophets, and in the writings of our Sages, but for our generation, the matters are still obscure and require clarification…. My inner essence compels me to speak about t’shuva. And yet I am taken aback by my thoughts. Am I worthy enough to speak about t’shuva? However, no shortcoming in the world can discourage me from fulfilling my inner claim. I am driven to speak about t’shuva….”
Tonight we began. Kollel Iyun HaNefesh is on the road. We started our Elul seder with chavrusas in the essays of the Sfas Emes on Elul, Maharal's Nesiv Hateshuva and a shiur on the Rambam's Hilchos Teshuva showing the GEMS AND PEARLS that the TITAN of our last thousand years has to share - if you think and analyze properly. We showed how the Rambam guides us in the fine art of TRANSFORMING OUR ESSENCE into something much greater.
Hopefully all of the lomdim are ALREADY slightly better people and will only keep growing.
THIS ONLY HAPPENED BECAUSE OF THE GENEROSITY OF OUR SUPPORTERS SO A MAJORLY, HUGELY, GIANT, ENORMOUS DEBT OF GRATITUDE IS OWED. I am your indentured servant forever. I hope and believe that the merit of our learning [and davening - I gave out a list with our supporter's names and mother's names with instructions to daven daily on their behalf] will stand in good stead for all.
LOVE AND BLESSINGS TO ALLLLLL AND A CHODESH TOOOOOOOVVVV!!!!!
Sunday, August 28, 2011
Mizmor shir li'yom ha'shabbos - That's the title of the chapter. Then - NOT A WORD ABOUT SHABBOS. Sorta like sending an email with a subject on top and then the email has NOTHING to do with the subject.
Li'dovid Hashem Ori Vi'yishi - We read it every day of Elul at the end of davening after we blow the shofar. Elul and the shofar are supposed to instill fear in us. The theme of Li'dovid Hashem is "DON'T FEAR, EVERYTHING WILL BE OK".
The ENTIRE chapter mentions NOT A WORD about any bayis. Which bayis is he referring to and why does the opening sentence lead us to believe that the theme is about this anonymous bayis which is never again mentioned.
PLEASE! Read the chapter [in English if necessary] and think about it.
That she should leave and never come back.
Friday, August 26, 2011
Thursday, August 25, 2011
Parshat Re’eh begins with the following words:
Re’eh anochi noten lifneichem hayom bracha u’klala
See, I set before you today a blessing and a curse (Devarim 11: 26)
In Moshe’s final speech to the Jewish people, he calls upon the Jewish people to listen to the blessing they will receive if they heed to God’s command, and the curse that they will have to endure if they do not. In reading the opening line of this parsha, we are stricken by Moshe’s call to see the blessing and curse. Throughout the Torah, including several times in our parsha itself, Moshe calls upon them to listen to the words of Hashem. Why do we find Moshe introducing these words with the seemingly odd command to see? What exactly did Moshe want the Jewish people to see?
The Kli Yakar asks also on this verse: why Moshe first addresses the people using the singular word reeh (see), but then refers to them in the very same sentence in the plural with the word, lifneichem (before you all)?
In answering this question, the Kli Yakar here provides a beautiful insight into the deeper meaning of Moshe’s words. He suggests that the use of the singular word re’eh was intended to speak to each individual – to remind each individual that each one of them has the potential to make this choice between a blessed or a cursed life. At the very same time, the use of the plural word was to remind them that they each are part of a greater whole – and with each decision they make, they have the power to affect not only their own lives, but also the lives of all those that stand with them.
In essence, Moshe is asking the Jewish people to see, to notice, themselves, and to acknowledge their individuality, uniqueness, and potential – and to see all of this within the context of the larger community. This responsibility each individual has in this world is an important concept in Judaism. Rabbi Yisroel Ciner points to the Gomorrah (Kiddushin 40B), which teaches that a person must always see themselves as hanging in a perfect balance between merits and sins. In a similar vein, the Rambam write that the entire world is judged on Rosh Hashana. At this most precarious time, the entire world stands in this balance between merits and sins. With every action we take, each individual does not only have the power to tip his own scale to mark him in the book of life, but to determine the fate of the entire world.
When we do not recognize our own potential to make a change in our own lives, we certainly do not see the power we have to make a difference in the world around us. Moshe understood this about human nature – and for this reason he first calls attention to the individual – see yourself, find yourself amongst the crowd and realize your own greatness and potential. Then you can and will me moved to make choices that will ultimately bring goodness into this world.
This idea is also developed by Rabbi Zev Leff, based on the teaching of the Sfat Emet who suggests that the word today is emphasized throughout Moshe’s speech to encourage the Jewish people to take action today. Rabbi Leff suggests that each da a Jew should feel that he could make a fresh start, not hindered by yesterday’s mistakes or poor choices. He suggests that this is why the blessing and curse were given just as they were entering the land of Israel, when the Jewish people are starting anew.
In fact, we understand the message of constant renewal most clearly from the shofar blasts that we hear throughout the month of Elul and culminating on Rosh Hashanah as we enter the new year.
The familiar pattern is as follows: tekiya, shevarim-teruah, tekiyah gedolah. There is a continuous straight tone, followed by broken blasts, and concluding once more with the long, continuous and unbroken sound. This pattern is meant to symbolize our own life patterns and paths – as we start out straight, but are bound to make mistakes along the way.
Ultimately, though, we can return to the straight path – and this time we are stronger than we were the first time around. We mustn’t judge ourselves too harshly. We mustn’t think that we are too far-gone. We mustn’t depend on the others who perhaps seem more righteous or holy than we are to bring blessing and merit to this world.
The Belzer Rebbe points out that it seems strange to ask Hashem during the Mincha prayer, just minutes before Rosh Hashana, the New Year, to bless the year (baruch aleynu et Hashanah hazot) – after all, there are only minutes left – what could possibly change?
The answer he poses is a powerful lesson to be learned: Yeshuat Hashem k’heref ayin – the salvation of Hashem can come with the blink of an eye. Perhaps when we make the decision to change it cannot be accomplished with the blink of an eye. But, I think these powerful words remind us that change is always possible – and with the help of Hashem and our own efforts we can change ourselves, and the world around us, for the better.
It is worth noting that Netivot Shalom suggests that the call to see is not merely to see the different opportunities for mitzvot or to acquire blessings and merits – but instead the call is to recognize all of the conditions in our lives that lead us to fulfilling our own individual missions and potentials. The call is to see that all of the struggles, failures, and successes of our lives are part of the very conditions that allow each of us to fulfill our Divine mission - a job that only one individual has the potential to fulfill. When we see that by changing ourselves, we are really changing the world.
As we head into the month of Elul, a time of repentance and self-growth, let us be able to learn from our past – both the good we have accomplished and the wrongs we want to correct. May we all be able to recognize our value and potential for good – and be inspired to raise ourselves higher – knowing that the power to change not only ourselves but the world around us rests within each of us. May we all be zocheh to live up to that potential! Shabbat Shalom, Taly
What caused this sudden change in his attitude?? First he desecrates the beis hamikdash and then he is willing to die in order to refrain from repeating the sin?
The experience of being in the beis hamikdash is what affected him. It wasn't enough to prevent him from taking out the menorah in the first place but it had taken its desired affect by the time they told him to go in a second time.
A beis medrash is the closest thing we have today to a beis hamikdash. Just ENTERING the beis medrash can elevate a person.
[Based on the Ponivitcher Rov Ztzl"]
THANK G-D that Elul is around the corner and we can finally return to the batei medrash!!
Even better for those fortunate ones who never left:-).
Love and blessings!
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
שואל אני לעצמי זה כמה במה זכיתי לכל זה? הלא ידעתי את פחיתותי, והאם לא מצא השי"ת מי שיברר את שרשי התורה הק' ע"פ ספרים וסופרים יותר ממני, השפל והנבזה? ברור לי שאין כל זה משום משהו מעלה שבי, אלא משום שהצליחו מעשי שטן וגדולי התורה כולם שמו את כל כחם לחלק ההלכה, ובחלק ההוא יש הרבה מי שילמדו, משא"כ בחלק האגדה שמניחים אותו ומסתלקים מלהאיר באורות האמת המזהירים כ"כ את כל פינה מפינות הנפש. ובאמת על זה יש לדאוג הרבה, אם כ"כ ימעטו מי שיודעים לפרש, במה תהיה האפשרות להשפיע על פנימיות אנשי התורה ומי יהיה ראוי להשפיע השפעה זו? השי"ת ירחמנו וישלח לנו את עזרתו מקודש.
מכתב מאליהו ח"ה עמ' 511
"I have asked myself, how did I merit all this [to spread deep Torah of the soul]? I know my inadequacies, can Hashem not find someone to explain the depths of His holy Torah who is more worthy than my lowly self? It is clear that it has nothing to do with me but it is because the Satan has succeeded and the Torah Giants have invested their energies in the Halachic areas of Torah, and many others learn Halacha as well, while the non-halachic, spiritual areas of Torah which radiate the lights of truth into one's soul have been all but ignored. In fact, this is something to worry about very greatly, if such few people are learning deep spiritual Torah - who will influence this generation?? Hashem Yisborach should have mercy and send us His help from a holy place.
Sweetest friends - the ultimate goal of all of our learning is to know Hashem, yet Hashem is often forgotten! A person can learn and learn and learn and forget the purpose. Hopefully our project of Iyun HaNefesh will make the tikkun BISIYATA DI'SHMAYA!!!
The very first meeting/shiur of Kollel Iyun HaNefesh.
We spoke about the purpose of our existence and how our VERY UNIQUE seder halimud is going to bring ourselves and the world closer to their ideal state.
The location: HOLY OLD CITY in my humble palace - Ohr Hachaim 5.
THANKS TO MY SWEETEST, MOST BELOVED FRIENDS WHO MADE IT POSSIBLE!!
It is also the very first time I put a picture on the blog!!
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I really wanted to share some thoughts from her husband about what the last 17 years have taught him but by GOOOLLLLLY he was so busy with various things that he had no time!
So please stay tuned.
[I would love her to do a guest blog and share her thoughts but her middah of tzniyus prevents her from doing so. Her husband unfortunately doesn't possess this quality in this same way and shares his feelings with thousands (hundreds? dozens? two?) of his SWEEEEETEST FRIENDS!!! Thanks for letting me share. Sharing is caring!]
Monday, August 22, 2011
Said Dovid Hamelech - I sing to Hashem "bi'odi" with every "od" [more] of mine. Every time I think of a positive quality I possess I break out into song. You can walk down the street or sit on the train [the trains in Jerusalem are FINALLY running! The price is right - free - and there were sooooo many people on the train yesterday it brought to such ACHDUS when everybody was squished together. How unifying!] or drive down the highway and SING about a myleh of yours. You sing nicely, you are good looking, you are smart, whatever it is - SING! You are special in ways nobody else is. You are a singularly unique reflection of the Divine.
Truly a reason to sing.
[Based on Rebbe Nachman]
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Thursday, August 18, 2011
This week, the second of the 7 Shabbatot of comfort in the weeks that follow Tisha B'Av, we read Parshat Eikev. Let us try to understand what message of consolation we find in our parsha. In the opening verses of the parsha, we find words of reassurance that if we keep Hashem’s mitzvot, Hashem will love us and bless us with all the things that He promises: And He will love you and bless you and multiply you; He will bless the fruit of your womb, and the fruit of your soil, our grain, your wine, and our oil…you shall be bless above all peoples: there will be no sterile male or barren female among you or your livestock (7:13-14).
It becomes immediately apparent that there is a connection between the idea of bracha (blessing), and multiplying from the above verses. In fact, Rav Soloveichk points out that the very first time we find a blessing in the Torah, this same association is found after Hashem creates man:
Veyivarech otam Elokim lamor, pru u’revu u’milu et ha’aretz
And G-d blessed them, saying, be fruitful and multiply and fill the land (Breishit 1:28)
The Rav explains that the concept of a blessing is not necessarily to thank Hashem (as we have other words in Biblical Hebrew that mean to thank - we do not use the word baruch in such a context). The Rav offers an often quoted explanation of the word levarech, to bless, as synonymous with increase – when we bless someone with happiness, wealth, or children we are hoping that these things are increased in their lives.
If this is what a bracha really is, then we can understand why and how Hashem blesses us - He blesses us with all that we have. Given the Rav's understanding of a bracha, Rav Binny Friedman and others grapple with the question of what it means for us to bless Hashem? What do we, or can we, increase when we bless Hashem in our prayers and our daily brachot on the food we eat?
Perhaps the answer to this question can be found the verse in this week’s parsha in which we find the source for the mitzvah we have to recite 100 blessings each day:
And now, O Israel, what does the Lord, your God, demand of you (Ve’atah Ysirael ma Hashem Elokecha shaal me’amcha)?
Only to fear the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways and to love Him, and to worship the Lord, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul (10:12)
The rabbis learn out that the word “mah” (what) should be read as meah (100), so the pasuk should read that Hashem only asks of us to recite 100 blessings each day. It is from these very same verse, from the words, fear the Lord, that the rabbis derive the basic principle:
Hakol bidai hashamaim chutz me’yirat hashamaiim
Everything is in the hand of Heaven except for the fear of the Heaven (Brachot 33B)
There are several times in the Torah that we are commanded to fear Hashem; yet Chazal specifically chose this verse as the source for this principle. We must try to understand what connection the rabbis want us to understand that links the obligation to say 100 brachot a day AND the notion that Hashem controls everything except our fear of Him?
When understood in their deeper meanings, these two ideas are actually one in the same. The word yirah, fear, also means see. Chazal explain that to fear Hashem is really to see Hashem all around us – in our lives and in the world around us. And, it is through the recitation of 100 brachot a day that we come to see Hashem in our lives. Rav Binny explains that when we bless Hashem, we increase His presence in this world and in our lives. It is through these brachot that we recognize that Hashem is in control, and we should be aware of this at all times of the day. This is precisely the reason the Torah commands us to bless Hashem after we are satiated from eating a substantial meal:
And you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless the Lord, your God, for the good land He has given you…lest your heart grows haughty, and you forget the Lord, your God" (8:10-14)
We must bless Hashem after we are satiated in order to remember that it Hashem who provides for us and satisfies us. When we are aware of this, we are able to see Hashem in all that we do and all that we have – and that is when we truly live our lives be’yirat shamaim, with fear of the Heavens.
At the end of the parsha, the Torah tells us that Hashem will bring us to “a land the Lord, your God, looks after; the eyes of Lord your God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end of the year” (Devarim 11:12) Rashi explains here: tamid eynei Hashem Elochecha doresh otah – Hashem’s eyes are always watching over us in Israel.
Hashem watches us because He loves us so intensity. While the Torah tells us to constantly be reminded of Hashem, we also learn that Hashem is constantly thinking of us - it is as though Hashem does not, or cannot take His eyes off the Jewish people. This may be truly especially when we are in the land of Israel, but a powerful and comforting verse in this week;s haftorah tells us it is true all the time:
Can a mother ever forget her child; cease to have compassion for him? Even if she could, I will never forget you! (Yeshaya 49:15)
Hashem does not forget us, Hashem always wants to be closer to us – it is up to us to open our eyes to see Hashem and to open ourselves to feeling His presence in our lives and in so doing increase Hashem’s presence in this world.
Let us then remember Hashem as He remembers us; let us see Him as He sees us. Chazal explain that fear of Hashem is the first step towards our ultimate goal to love Hashem. With our understanding of yirat Hashem, as seeing Hashem in our lives, we can better appreciate how doing so can lead us to truly loving Hashem. In fact, Rav Dessler explains that one way in which we can fulfill the command to love Hashem is to contemplate all of the things that we are thankful for, all of the things that Hashem has given us in our lifetime.
When we become aware of what Hashem gives us each day, we are automatically in awe of His endless kindness, and it is through our blessings that we bring Hashem into our lives – and ultimately it is these blessings that allows Hashem to shower more blessing on us and into the world. I hope that we can all work to see Hashem in our surroundings and in our lives. May we see and know all of the blessings that Hashem showers on us and bless Him in response. After all, as we learn from our parsha, the first step to being blessed, is feeling blessed.
Have a blessed week & shabbat shalom, Taly
And to R' Avi Hoffman and Amanda Krasna on their upcoming wedding!!
And to R' Menchem Mendel Plaut and Nomi Spector whose wedding is going on RIGHT NOW [as I am informed by someone who emailed me from the wedding]!!
And to EVERYBODY ELSE who is getting married in these days of weddings!!!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Dead? Walking around????
Ahhhhh the Rambam! He says in Hilchos Rotzeach that intelligent, educated people who don't learn Torah are like dead.
May they all merit tchiyas hameisim soooon!!!!!
Monday, August 15, 2011
Spouses argue. Siblings argue. Jews argue.
An exercise to get ready for Elul: Three times a day, take something someone else says, affirm it, then build upon it.
About Tzvi we can say "One swing and out of the ballpark" [he doesn't care for baseball but I LIVED baseball in my childhood]. Halevai by all of my tyere single fryndlich...
May they build a home on the pillars of Torah, Chassidus and Chessed!!!
A majorly huge mazel to all of the couples who are creating their eternal bond during these days!
And a bracha to those who are patiently waiting that BY GOLLY it should happen BEFORE CHANUKA this coming year.
If it does - you may make a tax deductable contribution of 100,000 dollars or more to Kollel Iyun HaNefesh, the hottest thing to hit Jerusalem since the creation of the sun. And if it doesn't - then GEE WHIZ it should happen before Purim and she should see the REAL you [not the relatively fake you she saw on dates]. If it happens - PLEASE come over for a li'chaim! If it doesn't - come over anyway!!
Sunday, August 14, 2011
The holy Ohev Yisrael of Apta Rebbe Avraham Yehoshua Heschel [d. 1825] explained that this mishna can be better understood in light of the last gemara in Taanis. The gemara teaches that at the end of days the tzadikim are going to make a circle [machol] and dance around Hashem and sing to Him. A circle symbolises EQUALITY and UNITY. Nobody is ahead of or behind anyone else and everybody is equidistant from the center. The dancing of the girls took place on the 15th b'av - 15th of the aleph beis. What is the fifteenth letter of the aleph beis? Samech! A circle!! The BEST day of the year is the day of the circle. EQUALITY, UNITY, LOVE, CONNECTION. The word for circle is "machol"- which also means to forgive. Both Tu B'av and Yom Kippur were days of forgiving each other. The mishna also says that the girls would lend each other white dresses so as not to embarrass the girls who couldn't afford to buy a dress. Once again we see the theme of equality and sisterhood. Everybody wearing a pretty white dress. The dancing girls were from Yerushalayim which is the city "she-chubrah lah yachdav" - the city where everybody is connected [Talmud Yerushalmi].
May we all have a Tu B'av that brings us closer together and may all of those people who would like to get married quickly find their zivug! :-)
Six happy events:
1] The tribes were allowed to intermarry: In the Torah the daughters of Tzlophchod were forbidden to marry men from other tribes lest the inheritance the women received pass over to a different tribe. On Tu B'av women were automatically permitted to marry men from different tribes.
2] The tribe of Binyomin was allowed to intermarry: After the ignominious [GOOD WORD!!] event of Pilegesh bi'giva the Jews decided that they are not going to marry into the tribe of Binyomin [Sefer Shoftim 21/1]. On Tu B'av this decree was rescinded.
3] On this day the Jews stopped dying in the desert.
4] Hoshea removed the guards who Yerovom had placed in order to prevent Jews from going up to Jerusalem. He wanted to disconnect between the ten tribes of Israel and the kingdom of Yehuda in Jerusalem.
5] After the massacre of Beitar the Jews were buried.
6] On this day they stopped cutting down trees for the fire on the mizbeach.
According to Reb Tzadok HaKoohen [that was a typo but I like it so I'll keep it:-)] the common denominator of theses six reasons was the relationship to the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. The first Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of three reasons: Jealousy [bloodshed], Illicit desire [gilui arayos], Honor [avoda zara]. The second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of hatred and lashon hara. The six reasons for the joy of Tu B'av are the tikkunim that will bring the third Beis Hamikdash.
1] The tribes intermarried and the inheritance was now allowed to pass from one tribe to another. This fixes the jealousy of the sons of Yosef [Tzlofchod's tribe] towards the other tribes that made them be particular that their inheritance shouldn't pass to a different tribe.
2] Permission for the tribe of Binyomin to intermarry. This proves that they fixed the sin of illicit desire which brought about the terrible episode of Pilegesh bi'giva.
3] The postponing of the burial of the people of Beitar was according to Reb Tzadok was a punishment for their arrogance. A sign of this arrogance was their custom [gittin 57a] to plant a cedar tree upon the birth of a child [see Rashi in Vayikra 14/4 that the tall cedar tree represents arrogance]. Another indication of arrogance was Bar Kochva's rule that all soldiers have to have a finger cut off in order to prove their machismo [Yerushalmi Taanis]. Their punishment was that their bodies lay without a burial place. The burial of the corpses fixes the blemish of arrogance because it represents true honor.
4] The Jews stopped dying in the desert. This showed that they fixed the sin of lashon hara about Israel for which they died.
5] The renewal of the connection between the ten tribes and Jerusalem shows the desire to reconnect between the kingdom of Israel and the kingdom of Yehuda.
6] The conclusion of the cutting down of the trees for the mizbeach represents an addition of FIRE and enthusiasm for avodas Hashem due to the other wonderful things that happened on this day. Now, there is more time to learn Torah because the work is done.
A freilichin Tu B'av teire Yidden!!!!!!!!
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Somebody once actually said that!
One of the keys to having good relationships with others and with Hashem is an a priori [use that word on a date - then say that when you are bored you speak Latin to yourself. Then giggle. Then say that when you are really bored you go to mevakeshlev. If the date says he/she does to - marry each other!!], willingness to admit error. Once you have this quality you are free to search for truth and goodness without fear of losing self-worth. Life will then be vastly improved, mutatis mutandis [see earlier brackets]. See Taly's previous post.
LOVE AND BLESSINGS SWEETEST FRIENDS!!
This Shabbat, like every Shabbat that follows Tisha B’Av, is known as Shabbat Nachamu - the Shabbat of comfort. The Haftorah we read brings comfort to the Jewish people as it tells of the prophecy of Yishiahu, as he assures the city of Jerusalem that the suffering will end and the ultimate redemption will come.
We also read Parshat Va’etchanan each year on this special Shabbat. At first glance, however, it would seem that this parsha is not very comforting at all. In fact, Rav Binny Friedman points out that the parsha begins on a seemingly pessimistic note when Moshe Rabbeinu is denied his request to enter the land of Israel. If the prayer of greatest Jewish leader of all times seems to have been rejected by Hashem, then what hope to we have in hoping that Hashem will answer our prayers? If Hashem did not accept Moshe’s repentance and override the decree made against him, is there any hope that Hashem will accept our teshuva (repentance) either as individuals or as a nation?
So we must ask: in what way does this move us as we head into the month of repentance and atonement in the coming weeks?
In order to answer this question, we must have a better understanding of what the Jewish perspective on prayer is. Perhaps we can start with an analysis of one of the most fundamental parts of our daily tefila that we find in this week’s parsha. It is the first prayer the Jewish child learns, and it is the sentence uttered by all Jews in their most trying moments:
Shema Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem echad
Hear Israel Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One
Though we say these words when we are speaking to Hashem in our daily prayers, the words themselves are not addressed to Hashem. We need not remind Hashem that He is our G-d and that He is the singular most powerful force in this world. With these words we remind ourselves of these truths each time we recite them.
When we pray, we do not tell Hashem anything that He does not already know. No matter how great an advocate we are for ourselves, there is nothing new that we can tell Hashem to convince Him to change His mind. In fact, if we believe that Hashem knows and does what is best for us, I am not so sure we even want to change His mind!
What then are we doing when we sing Hashem’s praises and make our requests from him in our tefilot? And how do we accomplish this? The answer can be found in the following words that we often associate with the weeks surrounding Elul and leading into Rosh Hashana:
Teshuva, Tefila and Tzedaka mavirin et roah ha’gezera
Repentance, Prayer and Charity can override an evil decree
Tefila, which we find in the center of this axiomatic sentence, has been said to be a synthesis of the two concepts of teshuva and tzedaka. By understanding the essence of teshuva and tzedaka, we gain a new perspective on the purpose of prayer as understood from our parsha.
Teshuva (repentance) requires that we admit where we have erred and dec
lare that we will work to change for the better in the future. Through this process of introspection we are changed for the better. Tefila, Rav Hirsch notes, come from the root word, pillel, which means to judge. He explains further that the word le’hitpallel (to pray) in the reflexive form (as if to say, it is being done to the one who is praying), meaning to judge oneself.
Like the teshuva process, tefila is about introspection and self-evaluation – it is about taking a pause from our busy lives to reassess what direction we are heading in and whether we want to continue in that path or perhaps make a change. I think that this is at least one way that tefila functions as a comfort for us – in knowing that no matter how far we may strayed from the path we want to be, as an individual or as a nation, we always have the ability to stop and talk to Hashem, and ultimately to return to Him in this ongoing teshuva process of prayer.
Tzedaka (charity) is ultimately about recognizing that all that we are given in this world is a gift from Hashem – and we are therefore moved to both literally and figuratively “pay it forward” by sharing it with those around us – using the gifts that granted are granted to us in positive ways. So too when we pray, we are reminded that Hashem is the ultimate provider, healer, and redeemer for us as individuals and as a nation. When we are reminded of this and accept this as true, we have changed ourselves for the better – and it is then that we merit that Hashem will provide, heal and redeem us.
On a second level then, tefila serves as a source of comfort for us by reminding us that while our efforts are important, in fact, necessary for us to be successful, Hashem is watching over us and providing us with our every need (as we bless Hashem each morning saying, sheasani kol tzorchi - you have given me all that I need).
Perhaps this understanding of prayer as a means to change ourselves, rather than Hashem, explains the strange reaction of Moshe Rabbeinu after Hashem does not seem to answer his prayer to enter the land - we might expect that Moshe would be angry, frustrated, or sad at the very least. Instead we find that Moshe moves on quickly, telling the people right then that Yehoshua will replace him as the leader as they enter the land. Moshe understood that if Hashem stood by this decree that he should not enter the land, this would be best both for him and the Jewish people.
We learn from Moshe that the “success” of our prayer is not measured necessarily by whether Hashem grants us our request or not. A person can and should feel close to Hashem after they have a meaningful prayer, regardless of what the response may be - because we know that after a meaningful prayer, we are changed for the better, we are closer to Hashem for it.
It is also worth noting that, upon closer examination of the text, we see that Moshe's prayer was answered at least to some degree. Moshe asked to cross the waters and to see the Land, while G-d refused the first part of the request, He granted the second: Hashem instructs Mosher, "Ascend to the top of the summit and see it with your eyes; for you shall not cross this Jordan."
So often we focus on what we do not have and what Hashem has not given us, and we neglect to see that Hashem has answered our prayers. Even when we cannot get exactly what we thought we wanted, when we open our eyes, we realize that Hashem has listened and heard prayers.
We do not have to tell Hashem to listen to our prayers – but perhaps we must be reminded to hear our own voices and listen to the words we are saying. I think this is why Shema Yisrael has become the quintessential prayer of the Jewish soul – because ultimately prayer is both about speaking to Hashem, but our words must penetrate our own minds as we say them.
As we transition from the weeks of mourning, we are meant to channel the emotions we felt and be moved to repent-both as individuals and as a nation. As we do make this transition into a time of repentance, may we take comfort in knowing that Hashem always hears our prayers. May we learn to hear the messages and meanings of our own prayers and internalize the fundamental lessons we learn about prayer from our parsha - and through this may we strengthen ourselves in our prayers and merit that they will soon be answered! Shabbat Shalom, Taly
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
So before giving advice first make sure that the person wants to hear your advice. Unsolicited advice is often unwelcome as well. "Would like to hear my opinion on the matter?" is all it takes. If the answer is in the affirmitave - shoot! If not - abstain. Empathize and be with the person but refrain from expressing your opinion.
After the advice is given ASK the person how he feels about it, if it works for him, if it is a possibility in his mind. If the answer is that NO, he doesn't like it - then step back and retract it. That is called "RESPECT". Respect is allowing a person the right to decide what is right for him. If you show a person respect - he is much more likely to be receptive to your ideas.
Now that we mentioned it - a note on respect.
EVERYBODY needs respect.
And they get the least.
A good avoda is thinking about different ways to show people respect. I have many ideas but I would LOVE to hear yours...
Tuesday, August 9, 2011
So it should be known that all the laws [washing laundry etc.] of the 9 days apply [according to the mishna brura] until tomorrow the tenth of Av at midday. If this is a problem for you see a Rabbinic authority. [There is a biur halacha who sings a slightly different niggun].
Monday, August 8, 2011
Why is it so important for the gemara to note the beauty of this child? The hallmark of the tzaddik is that even in the worst of times he remembers that he is a prince, the son of Hashem, and he looks accordingly. He made sure that even his hair was arranged appropriately as Yosef Hatzadik did in his time. The gemara says that a king must make sure his hair looks good from the passuk "Melech biyofyo techena einecha" - You should appreciate the beauty of a king. We must never lose hope - even at the worst of times. Just from looking at him there was already an indication that he was someone special.
Another question: Why was Rav Yehoshua so impressed by what the child said? It was just the end of the pasuk that he had quoted? Rav Unterman [former Chief Rabbi] - The child was on the road to greatness becuase he took personal responsibility. He could have said that the reason things are so bad is becuase of the hatred of the goyim, or because of political reasons or given a thousand other explanations but instead he quoted the pasuk which requires us to take personal responsibility for our circumstances.
Mussar haskel: 1] Always look respectable - you are a ben melech. 2] Don't be influenced by the media who provides much commentary as to why things happen. Things happen because He decreed and "AIN OD MILVADO!!!!"
[Based on the Meshech Chochmah]
Sunday, August 7, 2011
What a tragedy.
Even in his old age Rabbi Robbin's mental agility was impressive. We learned Bava Metzia together and he was on top of things - sharp and quick.
He loved doing chesed. He would always look for projects - whether it was giving chickens to poor families or giving out money before yom tov. He would say "We can't just sit here and do nothing". The truth is that when you are 90 there is an option like that but he never wanted to choose it.
He was an Army Chaplain for the US during World War Two. He helped a lot of people both spiritually and materially.
I am deeply saddened by his death and feel remorse that I didn't do more for him when I still had the chance.
Mussar Haskel: Do mitzvos and maasim tovim today for tomorrow the opportunity might no longer be available.
Please learn mishnayos or do other mitzvos li'lui nishmas Rav Yaakov Shlomo ben R' Dov Ber.
יהי זכרו ברוך
Saturday, August 6, 2011
Also, please daven for the Stock Market who needs a refuah shleima. One of the donors to Iyun HaNefesh specifically asked me some time back to daven as he is an investor and I feel personally responsible when it goes down....
It is an experience common to all freshmen. One comes to a new campus, knows no one, and tries to orient himself by identifying the senior students who seem to have prestige. Then, he tries to connect with these campus big shots. This was my experience precisely when, many years ago, I explored a new yeshiva at a transition point in my life. I was barely 19 years old, and I was trying to decide whether I would pursue an exclusively Talmudic education or combine my Talmud studies with college courses. I decided to spend the spring semester in an elite institution devoted only to Talmud, and to determine whether this approach suited me. I quickly came to learn that the senior students were organized in a kind of hierarchy which reflected their respective degrees of erudition and their relationship to the world-famous dean of the school. I was somewhat impressed by all of them, but one in particular stood out for me.
I do not recall his name now, but I can close my eyes and easily conjure up an image of him. He was about 25 years old, of medium height, thin and wiry. He had a precision to him which resulted from his carefully measured movements. When he walked, he seemed to be taking each step intentionally. When he moved his hands, there was a precision to his movements. The words that came out of his mouth were few and deliberate; and his comments,short and to the point. I remember being impressed by how he sat down before the texts he studied, first brushing the dust off of his desk and chair, then opening his book cautiously, and then taking from his pocket a plastic six-inch ruler. He placed the ruler under the line of text which was his focus, almost as if he intended to literally measure the words on the page. I was fascinated by him and began to inquire about his background. I soon learned that he was the wunderkind of the school. His scholarly achievements impressed everyone. In early adolescence, he had found his studies extremely frustrating. Had this occurred but a decade or two later, he would probably have been diagnosed as learning disabled. He was not as bright as his peers, had great difficulties in following the give and take of Talmudic passages, and couldn't handle the bilingual curriculum. At the suggestion of his high school's guidance counselor, he made a trip to Israel to study there, something more uncommon in those days.
While there, still frustrated, he sought the blessing and counsel of the famous sage, Rabbi Abraham Isaiah Karelitz, more commonly known as the Chazon Ish. This great man, then in his waning years, encouraged the young lad to persist in his studies, but to limit the scope of his daily efforts to small, "bite-sized chunks" of text. He concluded the interview with a blessing, quoting the passage in Psalms which asserts that Torah study can make even a dullard wise. I befriended the young man, easily five or six years my senior, and attempted to enlist him as my study partner. But I soon discovered that his keen intelligence and the broad scope of his knowledge were far too advanced for me. The advice and blessing of the Chazon Ish coupled with the young man's years of toil and commitment had the desired effect. He may indeed have once been a dullard, but he was one no longer. He was now an intellectual giant.
Although I did not learn much Talmud from this fellow, I did learn a most important life lesson from him. I learned that one can overcome his limitations if he persists in trying to overcome them. I learned that one could undo his natural challenges with a combination of heeding wise counsel, becoming inspired spiritually, and devoting himself with diligence and dedication to the task. It was much later in life when I realized that I could have learned the same important life lesson from this week's Torah portion, Parshat Devarim, and from no less a personage than our teacher, Moses, himself. This week, we begin the entire book of Deuteronomy. Almost all of this book consists of the major address which Moses gave to the Jewish people before he took his final leave from them. "These are the words that Moses addressed to all of Israel..." (Deuteronomy 1:1).
Although it is now the long, hot summer, all readers of this verse remember that cold, wintry Sabbath day just six months ago when we first encountered Moses, back in the Torah portion of Shemot. We then read of how Moses addressed the Almighty and expressed his inability to accept the divine mission. He said: "Please, O Lord, I have never been a man of words, either in times past or now that You have spoken to Your servant; I am slow of speech and slow of tongue..." (Exodus 4:10). Moses stammered and stuttered, and suffered from a genuinespeech defect. How surprising it is, then, that in this week's Torah portion, albeit forty years later, he is capable of delivering the lengthy and eloquent address which we are about to read every week for the next several months! How did he overcome his limitations? What are the secrets ofhis path to eloquence? These questions are asked in the collection of homilies known as the Midrash Tanchuma. There, the rabbis speak of the astounding power of sincere and sustained Torah study. They speak too of the effects of years of practice. And they emphasize the healing which comes about from a connection with the One Above.
The rabbis of the Midrash Tanchuma could have cited the Lord's own response to Moses' initial complaint: "Who gives a man speech? Who makes him dumb or deaf, seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord?" But those rabbis chose another proof text entirely to illustrate that man, with God's help, can overcome his handicaps and challenges. They quote instead that beautiful passage in the book of Isaiah which reads:
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
And the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.
Then the lame shall leap like a deer,
And the tongue of the dumb shall shout aloud;
For waters shall burst forth in the desert,
Streams in the wilderness. (Isaiah 35:5-6)
We seldom contemplate the development, nay transformation, of the man who was Moses. But it is important that we do so, because, although we each have our unique challenges and personal handicaps, we are capable of coping with them, and often of overcoming them. We all can develop, and we all can potentially transform ourselves. This week, and in all ofthe ensuing weeks which lie ahead, as we read Moses' masterful valedictory and are impressed with the beauty of his language, we must strive to remember that he was not always a skilled orator. Quite the contrary, he was once an aral sefatayim, a man of impeded speech, who grew to achieve the divine blessing of shedding his impediments and addressing his people with the inspiring and eminent long speech that is the book of Deuteronomy.
Thursday, August 4, 2011
Why did we enjoy and rejoice in Yerushalayim? Because Yerushalayim connected us to the Source as the pasuk in tehillim says שמחתי באומרים לי וכו' ירושלים הבנויה כעיר שחוברה לה יחדיו I rejoiced when they told me .... Yerushalayim when built is the city that connects us to the Source. When Yerushalayim was destroyed we lost that connection. That is what the pasuk means when is says איכה היתה לזונה קריה נאמנה - How did She turn into a harlot that faithful city. The word "emuna" [kirya neemana] means "drawn after". When Yerushalayim was built we were "neeman", drawn after Hashem, but when we sinned we were unfaithful, we were no longer drawn after, which is metaphorically like a harlot who by connecting to everybody is connected to nobody.
A gematria! The gematria of Eicha is 36 which is the number of prohibitions for which one gets kares, excision, being cut off from G-d. "Eicha" means that as a community we were cut off. Eicha means "HOW CAN THIS BE?"
We are cut off. HOW CAN THIS BE?????
The tikkun of course is to reconnect. From churban to chibbur.
[Sfas Emes Dvarim 1893]
TZVI MOSHE - HERE
In the beginning of Sefer Devarim we find the rebuke that Moshe offers the Jewish people shortly before his death. Though the words have much to do with the desert experience of the last 40 years, we know that all words recorded in the Torah are eternal and hold meaning for all generations to come. With this in mind we must try to understand how the words of Moshe Rabbeinu can and should impact us just as it did the Jewish people at the end of their journey together.
In recounting the events of the last decades of travails in the desert, Moshe says:
Eicha eseh levadi tarchachem masaechem ve’ribchem
How can I alone carry your contentiousness, burdens, and quarrels? (1:12)
The familiar word Eicha, is also the opening word of this week's Haftorah: Eicha hayta lezona - how has she become a harlot (Yeshayahu 1:21). It is also the first word of the Megilat we read on Tisha Be’Av: Eicha yashva badad - alas she sits in solitude (Eicha 1:1).
The use of this very particular word used three times in the texts surrounding Tisha B’Av undoubtedly clue us in to a deeper connection between the three events described in these texts. Indeed the Midrash explains that the sinful behavior of the Jews in the desert (as described by Moshe in Devarim) set the Jews on a path for the Jews in Eretz Yisrael to become harlots, unfaithful to Hashem (as described in the Haftorah), and ultimately to the divorce, so to speak, between Hashem and the people with the destruction of the temple (as described in Megilat Eicha).
The Talmud tells us that on the day of Tisha B’Av, when the spies returned with negative reports about the land, Hashem declared that because the Jews cried for no reason, Hashem would give them a reason to cry on that day (Taanit 29a). Years later this was the day both Temples were destroyed.
In reading these two rabbinic sources, we are confronted with a fundamental question: It seems that the notion that the Jews were destined for destruction because of their sin in years past seems very antithetical to Jewish tradition. In a religion that stresses the idea of teshuva so strongly, it does not seem fitting that Hashem would decree a punishment that seems to be inescapable and inevitable. A deeper understanding, however, will reveal that these rabbinic sources do, in fact, highlight the possibility and opportunity for teshuva.
In linking the sin of the spies with the ultimate destruction of the Temples generations later, the rabbis are telling us that the same underlying root of the first sin in the desert caused the Jewish people to sin again once they were in the land if Israel. It is the same lack of faith and trust in Hashem that led the Jews to question Hashem in the desert at the sin of the spies, that caused the Jewish people to sin against Hashem during the First and Second Temple periods. Hashem knew that if the Jewish people did not fully repent and uproot the source of the sin – their lack of full faith in Hashem – then in generations to come they would have to face the consequences of their actions, again.
When understood on this level, we learn an important lesson about the nature of sin and teshuva. If one does not address the source of the problem, the root of the sin, then one sin can be the start of a downward spiral, making it harder and harder to get back to where we first began. This is the intention of the rabbis in telling us that the sins in the desert ultimately brought about the exile generations later. This is, of course, why the teshuva process places such emphasis on introspection—it requires that we understand what caused us to sin—only then can we truly get back to where we were before we sinned.
So often when we make a mistake, we lose faith in ourselves, we convince ourselves that we are unable to raise ourselves up, and then fall down even farther. This is the true lesson of the word eicha in the 3 texts cited above.
Rav Winston points out that if rearranged, the letters of the word eicha becomes ayecha, meaning where are you? This is the word Hashem asks Adam HaRishon after his sin in Gan Eden. Of course Hashem knew where Adam was – the question he was asking was for Adam to ponder – where did you go, Adam?
The word eicha reminds us, like the word ayecha reminded Adam, that man is inherently good. When man sins, it is because he has lost touch with his true self, his inherent goodness. Often times, when we become out of touch with our inner voice that guides us in the right direction, we need an outside perspective to come along and remind us. Sometimes, without the voice of a teacher, parent, or a friend reminding us in which direction we really want to be heading, we may continue to take one wrong turn after the other until it is that much harder to get back to the path we really want to be on.
It is no wonder then that in this parsha we find the rebuke of Moshe Rabbeinu speaking of the past mistakes of the Jewish people. Moshe is the outside voice of rebuke, but also of reassurance - reminding us that Hashem gives us the tools to return to Him after our sins.
We know that Moshe is not merely recounting the past mistakes of the Jewish people in the desert as a way to bring them down. In fact, Rashi points out that only the locations of their sins mentioned as a reminder of what they had done—in order to avoid retelling the sin directly and embarrassing the Jewish people. Moshe rebukes the people in order to lift them up—in order that they can mend their ways and learn from their pasts and strengthen themselves in their relationships with each other and with Hashem.
On Tisha B’Av we will read Megilat Eicha and several other kinnot (lamentations) that recount the sins of our past and the consequences we had to face. As we hear these words, we must also be reminded of our inner goodness—our inherent ability to do good and to be good. We must recognize that the retelling of our past serves not simply to call attention to the bad, but as a call for us to find our inner good.
Chazal tell us that on Tisha B’Av the Mashiach is born, the redemption begins, and this most sorrowful day will be the most celebrated holiday of the year. It is perhaps only through this national mourning and teshuva process of reconsidering our past mistakes that we will be moved to uproot any doubts we have that have lead to sin in generations past and merit the redemption we pray for on all days - but especially on Tisha B'Av.
During this pivotal time in the year, may we all try to tune in to our own inner voices leading us back to or further on in our paths. And, at the same time understand the importance of looking out for one another and in the proper and respectful way that Moshe has modeled for us, and may we serve as each other’s teachers and friends leading one another on the path of personal repentance and growth. Shabbat Shalom, Taly
"Zocheh" is written in the present tense. Why? Mourning over Jerusalem doesn't bring one to merit rejoicing in the present - but in the future?!!
Ahhhh Rov Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev!!!: "Zocheh" ALSO means "zikuch" - purification. If one mourns over Jerusalem he will be so purified, that at that moment he will taste a little of the future joy of the building of Jerusalem.
Wednesday, August 3, 2011
They made me guard the vineyards but my own vineyard I haven't guarded.
Many people are doing things in life that aren't really them. Society or other circumstances often compel a person to be involved in activities for which he feels no passion or excitement. Sort of like guarding someone else's vineyard [i.e. doing something foreign to me] and not my very own.
Fascinating. The first letters of the aforementioned pasuk read "Sinah Nichshal" - Hatred, Failure.
[Sefer Mibsari Echeze Eloka]
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Please open your hearts and read...
מצווה היא לאהוב כל אדם מישראל, שהרי כל אחד כלול מכל נשמות ישראל, כדוגמת איברי הגוף, הכלולים זה מזה ומקושרים
יחד. ורק כך תהיה נשמתו שלימה ובריאה ותעלה לרצון לפני ה'. והתכללות זו חלה כאשר האדם מראה שהוא אוהב את רעהו ו'שלי שלך' כי עצמו ובשרו הוא. מה שאין כן כששונא לאחד מישראל בלבו, הרי הוא מפריד מנפשו את אותו חלק של זולתו הכלול בו ודוחהו מעליו ומסלק רצונו ממנו, וממילא יוצר פגם וחסרון בנפשו שלו שנחסר בו אותו חלק מחברו ונעשה בעל מום.
56 'צמח צדק דרך מצוותיך עמ
תרגום חפשי -
It is a mitzva to love every Jew, because every person encompasses within his soul the soul of every single Jew, just like the physical organism, where every part and limb is interconnected with every other part and limb. Only in this way can a person's soul be complete and healthy and find good will in G-d's eyes. This connection with every other Jew is activated when he shows that he loves his friend and that he relates to whatever is in his possession as if it belongs to his friend, because on a deeper level he and his friend are really one. However, when one hates a fellow Jew, he separates himself from that part of his friend which is part of himself and this creates a blemish in his soul and he becomes a spiritual cripple.
Hashem save us.....
Love and blessings!
Monday, August 1, 2011
The Medrash on the pasuk tells a story. One night a woman was crying over her young son who had died. When Rabban Gamliel heard this he, too, started to cry - over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash!
Why did her tears remind Rabban Gamliel about the churban???
Rav Gifter ztz"l: What is the source of our suffering in this world? The absence of Hashem's presence. If there would be a Beis Hamikdash bad things wouldn't happen because His presence amongst us would be palpable. Her personal anguish reminded Rabban Gamliel about the source of suffering in the world.
One day soon, Hashem will return to dwell amongst us in a revealed way and all of the tears will be wiped off our face.