Tuesday, March 20, 2018

How To Make Pesach Easier

With Pesach on the way, some are filled with dread and overwhelmed with the monumental task that lies ahead called making Pesach. Because most of the preparation is shopping, cleaning and cooking, it is common that the brunt of the work falls on the wife and she shouldn't have to enter Pesach exhausted and feeling used. While it is hard work and some stress is expected, try to make it as least stressful as possible, so you can have a happy home and a happy Pesach.

If the wife is the high energy, creative, organized type, the husband should move out of her way, make sure that she has what she needs and count his blessings.

This article will give some tips on how to make preparing for Pesach and Pesach itself less stressful and more enjoyable for the whole family. Though it will focus on families with young children, you will find ideas in this article for everybody, just take whatever you think will be helpful for you.

Make a Plan and Follow It

Write up a plan and make it as detailed as possible. It should cover, readying the house for Pesach, minhagim (traditions) you will keep, the Seder, meals, Chol Hamoed outings. Based on your plan, you will know what to shop for, clothes, kitchenware, and food.

When you plan, plan on making things as easy as possible. Eliminate everything that is unnecessary, and search for the easiest way to do things. The clearer and more detailed your plan is, the easier it will make your Pesach.

Once you create your plan, you can use it from year to year, but you will probably have to review it and make some changes.

The only thing is that you follow through on your plan.

Preparing the House

Make a checklist for every room. For example.

Bedroom 1
  • Closet
  • Dresser
  • Desk
  • Bed
  • Floor

Do the same for every bedroom, hallway, bathroom, family room, living room, dining room, dinette, kitchen and so on.

Whoever is doing the task, should check it when it is done. You can even add a second checkbox to each task, for you to check, that it is satisfactory.

The next thing is to assign the work to whoever will be responsible for it. Hired help, father, mother and children if they are capable.

Hiring Help

You should hire help according to what you could afford. The more the better. But at least for the hardest tasks, like cleaning the refrigerator, the oven (if you don't have self clean), the stove top, etc.

The Children

It is okay to have your children help, but it is not okay to turn them into slaves or to make them miserable. They have been learning about cleaning for Pesach in school, now they can do it as well. Give them each a sheet of paper with their tasks for that day, explain how you want it done, and they should check the boxes when they complete each task. You can inspect their work when they are done, and check your box. You can even offer a treat as an incentive, for when their work is complete. Their task sheet should be right next to yours in a central location, like the kitchen table, so it is a family thing and they will see you and the other children filling their tasks as well. If it is a lot, split it into two or three days, and have a separate sheet and treat for every day.

Try to Make Things Easier

Be clever and remember that Pesach is just 8 or 7 days, you don't have to have things perfect and you can live without some things.

Here are some ideas of things we do or don't do in our home, to make life easier.

  1. We used disposable goods and plasticware wherever and whenever we could. This makes clean up a breeze.
  2. We don't empty our kitchen, we seal the pantry the cabinets (except for under the sink) and the drawers with tape and sell it with the chametz. We bought a chef rack with wheels to be our temporary pantry and cabinets, and a few plastic bins to hold potatoes, onions, nuts etc. After Pesach, all of our Pesachware are boxed, put on the rack, rolled away and stored until next year.
  3. We don't make Pesach cakes or other things like that, it is not worth the hassle. We have fruits, melons, nuts and chocolate instead. It is healthier and no one misses the cake. The same is for anything else that is to much work, unnecessary or doesn't really enhance the meal.
  4. We cover the counters with plastic drop cloth. It is cheap and goes into the garbage after Yom Tov. We have a few large floor tiles (different colors for milk and meat) on top of the plastic to put hot pots and pans on.

I am sure you will come up with your own clever ideas to make life easier. Please share your ideas in the comments section below.


Sit together with your spouse and discuss how you will celebrate Pesach, and which minhagim you will keep. You might want to be strict about some things, but you have to be practical, taking into account your whole family and their needs. For example, you may not want to buy processed foods, but if you have little children, you might want to buy some lady fingers for snacks and chocolates for treats. Another example, some have a tradition not to use cutlery that fell on the floor for the rest of Yom Tov, but if you have little children, you will find, that very quickly, you will have nothing to eat with. So you will have to decide if you are going to be able to keep that one.

If you have a tradition that will make everyone miserable, you don't have to keep it. For example, if you have a certain food that you ate at your parents Seder, that is a hassle to make or no one but you likes, either don't have it or make it yourself. You will find, that your family will create their own special traditions.

Plan Your Meals

Create a menu for the whole Pesach, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. Also, think about the outings, and what you will eat on them. Once you have this information, you will know what food items you have to buy.

Chol Hamoed

Chol Hamoed is part of Yom Tov and there are specific laws that pertain to it. It is not totally like a weekday, and our sages say strong words about those who disrespect Chol Hamoed. It is a good idea to sit down with the children that are old enough (9) and review the laws of Chol Hamoed from the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch. You will find that your children will take it seriously, because you made it important.

Chol Hamoed Outings

Your children expect to go on outings on Chol Hamoed. There is nothing more frustrating for the kids than waiting for you to get your act together. So plan your outings before Pesach.

The outings should be according to your means, and consider doing an outing with family or friends, it doesn't have to be expensive. It can be a trip to a park or a nature hike.


It is proper to get new clothes for the family for Pesach. And if you can afford it, jewelry for the wife and girls.

Take the menu that you created and based on that, make a shopping list for food, drinks and kitchenware. Fruits and vegetables should be enough to last until sometime on Chol Hamoed, you can get fresh fruits and vegetables during Chol Hamoed.

We are blessed to live in a time, that most things can be ordered from the comfort of your home. So order whatever you can, and have it delivered.

Preparing for the First Days of Yom Tov

Most of the food preparation, is going to be for the Seder. Some of my fondest memories growing up, was of the family preparing for the Seder. We had the music playing in the kitchen, and all of us had something to do. Everything can be done on the two days before Pesach, but mostly on Erev Pesach. You can use the same method as cleaning the house, where they can check a box when they are done.

Plan the Seder

If you have a family with kids under bar and bas mitzvah, you want them to be able to participate in the Seder. But if your Seder goes to the wee  hours of the morning, you are going to lose them. They are most important by the Seder, and you should plan the Seder around them.

Here are a few things that will make this possible.

  1. Have the kids take a nap for a few hours on Erev Pesach.
  2. Get rid of wasted time.
    1. Have the table set and ready to start the Seder before they come home from shul, so that right when they get home the Seder could begin, immediately. Everything needed up until the meal should be on the table, or be a ready to be brought out on a moments notice.
    2. Some should be in charge of running the Seder, keeping it flowing. There is no need to rush, just keep it flowing.
    3. Someone should be in charge of bringing things to the table when they are needed.
  3. Dvar Torahs
The Seder is not the time to start searching for something to share at the Seder. Don't come to the Seder with 10 different Haggadahs, hoping to find something to share. Prepare everything you are going to say a few days before Pesach, and come to the Seder with a plain Haggadah, with no commentary. If you don't have time to prepare, here are some ready made Seder Dvar Torahs.
  1. The children have been preparing for the Seder in school, and surely have something to say. You might want to make rules, such as, 1 or 2 dvar Torahs per person until the meal, and another during the meal. You keep the rule as well. This will force you to say what is most important.

After Pesach

When Yom Tov is over, and you are packing up the Pesach things, take inventory of everything you have and make a note of all the things you thought would make your next Pesach better. Attach the list to the outside of your Pesach goods, so that you will have it when you start planning your next Pesach.

Have a wonderful Pesach!

Friday, March 16, 2018

The Power of An Adam

The parsha of Vayikra begins, "And He called to Moshe, and He spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting, to say. Speak to the Children of Israel and say to them, adam, a man (or woman) from among you that will bring an offering to Hashem, from animals..."

There are many questions that can be asked on these verses, this article will touch on a few.

This is the beginning of the laws of sacrificial offerings to Hashem. Rashi tells us, that before every time Hashem spoke to Moshe, He first called him, as a sign that He cherished him. However, it is only mentioned that He called him here, by the laws of offerings. Why?

According to the Midrash, this was the first time that Moshe was called to the Tent of Meeting since it was first put up and the glory of Hashem filled it. Perhaps that is why it mentions that Hashem called him, because it was the first time. But this brings up the question: Why was the first laws taught from the Tent of Meeting, the laws of offerings?

Being that these are the first, we must conclude, that it is most important. Even the Talmud calls the book of Vayikra, the book that focuses on the laws of offerings, "Hachamur Sheb'sforim," the most important of the books. Also, since it is the third book of the five books of the Torah, the middle of the Torah, shows of its great significance.

More questions. The first word of the first verse, "Vayikra, and he called," is written in the Torah with a small Alef. What is the significance of this?

The second verse says, "adam, a man from among you that will bring an offering." Why doesn't it just say, "If you bring an offering?" We would certainly know that it is referring to a person. What is the significance of saying that it is an adam who is bringing it?

The Zohar says, "We, Israel have the merit that Hashem calls us adam, as it says, 'adam, a man from among you that will bring.' What is the reason He calls us adam? Because it is written, 'And you who are attached to Hashem your G-d...'" Now we can understand why our verse specifically says "adam," because it is the adam part of us, our attachment to Hashem, that makes it possible for us to bring sacrificial offerings, as will be explained.

The Midrash says, that the reason Hashem commanded the Jewish people to bring offerings, is because they are attached to Him, this is the meaning of the verse, "Just as a belt is attached to the hips of a person..."

Although they both speak of attachment to Hashem, they are talking about two different kinds of attachment. The Midrash is talking about an attachment like a belt, that although it is attached, it is not truly one with you. This is called the attachment of vessels, something could completely fill the vessel, but its not truly attached. The Zohar, on the other hand, speaks of an essential attachment, in which we are one with Hashem. This is called the attachment of lights, where the source of light and the light coming from it are one.

They are referring to different aspects of sacrificial offerings. The Midrash is referring to the sacrifice itself, which is brought to sustain the world, as the Talmud Yerushalmi says, "Because through the sacrifices, the rules (of the nature) of the world are sustained." But what gives us the ability to bring offerings that will sustain existence? It is the fact that we are essentially one with Hashem and therefore, higher than the world. Because we are higher than the world, we can have an effect on its existence.

How does bringing a sacrificial offering sustain the world? In Kabbalistic teaching, the whole world is divided into four biological kingdoms. There is domem, inanimate objects, like rocks, sand and water. Tzomeach, vegetation. Chai, living creatures. And medaber, people who have conversation. In sacrificial offerings all were represented. The inanimate object was the salt that accompanied every offering. Vegetation, was the wood that burned on the altar, where it was offered. Also, offerings were generally accompanied by wine libations, cakes made of flour and sometimes oil, all of which are from vegetation. The living creature was the animal that was offered. And then there was the person who brought the offering. By all parts of the world being represented in the offering, and being raised to Hashem, the whole world is energized.

It  is specifically the adam part of us that is one with Hashem. There are four names for man in Hebrew, adam, ish, enosh and gever. Adam is the highest name, it is the G-dly part of us, as it says, "And Hashem created the adam in His image..." It is the part of us that is one with Hashem and therefore, higher than existence, hence it can effect existence. This is why the verse specifically says "adam," because it is the adam part of us that could bring a sacrifice and sustain the world.

This differentiation between lights and vessels is found by Torah and mitzvahs as well, doing mitzvahs attaches us to Hashem like vessels and the study of Torah, like lights . Prayer is a mitzvah, the daily prayers were established in the place of the actual sacrifices, they sustain existence. But it is the study of Torah that gives us the ability to bring prayers that can effect the world.

Now we can understand why the first transmission from Hashem to Moshe via the Tent of Meeting was the teaching of the sacrificial offerings. The main purpose of the Tent of Meeting was the transmission of the Torah, and the main purpose of the Torah is brought about through the sacrifices. The purpose of Torah is to effect the world around us, making it into a home for Hashem. And sacrifices do this in two ways. First, the offering itself, taking a mundane animal and by offering it up to Hashem, it becomes holy. That is how we make the world into a home for Hashem, by taking the mundane physical world and turning it into a holy place. The second way, is as mentioned above, through the sacrifices we effect the whole world.

Although the Torah is Hashem's wisdom and it seems almost sacrilegious to suggest that it has anything to do with this mundane physical world, that is only true about the Torah itself. But when you consider the source of the Torah, Hashem's infinite essence, that has no bounds, not even that it can't be connected to the physical world, and that He desires to have a dwelling in this lowly limited physical world, and that this is the true essence of the Torah as well, then every mundane physical part of existence becomes significant and essentially connected with the Torah.

How do we draw Hashem's unlimited essence into the world? In other words, how is it possible for us to be an adam, reveal our essential oneness with Hashem's essence, and effect the world in the way of sacrificial offerings? It is only through selflessness and humility, by us being naught, we allow Hashem's unlimited essence to come through. This is learned from the first word of the parsha, "Vayikra, and He called." Why doesn't it say, "And Hashem called?" It just says, "And He called," we know that it is Hashem Who is calling Moshe, why does it avoid calling Him by His Name? Because here His infinite essence, beyond any name and beyond any description, called to Moshe.

Why was he able to draw this great level of G-dliness into the world? Because of his selflessness and humility, which is symbolized by the small Alef in the word Vayikra.

We all have a little bit of Moshe in us, and that comes with the ability to be selfless and humble. If we tap into that, we too can draw Hashem's unlimited essence into the world and make the mundane holy.

Through our collective effort, we will make this world into a home for Hashem's unlimited essence and usher in the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. The time has come.

Dedicated to my daughter Chava who is celebrating her birthday this week, I love you and I am proud of you. 

Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Most Is Accomplished In Our Struggles

Print Version    All Parah     All Vayakhel      All Pekudei
At the end of parshas Pekudei, and for that matter, the whole book of Shemos, it tells us how Moshe erected the Mishkan, and that Hashem's Presence filled it. "The cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan. Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting since the cloud had rested on it, and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan." It continues and concludes with these three verses, "Whenever the cloud rose from above the Mishkan, the Children of Israel would embark on all their journeys. And if the cloud did not rise, they did not travel until the day it rose. For the cloud of Hashem was above the Mishkan by day and fire would be there by night, to the eyes of the entire House of Israel, at all their journeys." 

The last three verses seem out of place. We just finished reading all about the completion and the erecting of the Mishkan, and how the Divine Presence filled it. And all of a sudden, it concludes with some rules of journeys. As the Midrash tells us about these verses, "This is the story of the journeys." How does it fit in with the flow of the parsha? 

The question becomes stronger, when you read the Midrash on the next verse, the first verse of the book of Vayikra. It says that the first verse of Vayikra, "And Hashem called to Moshe," comes in continuation of what it says in Pekudei, "Moshe could not enter the Tent of Meeting since the cloud had rested on it, and the glory of Hashem filled the Mishkan." He couldn't enter, so Hashem called him and then he was able to enter. So Vayikra comes in continuation of the verses of the Divine Presence filling the Mishkan, and these three verses clearly seem to be a break between the two. 

Now that we know that Pekudei and Vayikra are connected, with these three verses in between, we have to ask: How do these verses connect to the themes of parshas Pekudei and Vayikra? 

Being that they are the last verses of the book of Shemos, they must encapsulate the theme of the book of Shemos. And since the Midrash says that the end of Shemos is connected to the beginning of Vayikra, these verses must also connect to the theme of the book of Vayikra. How do they connect to the themes of both of these books? 

The book of Vayikra speaks mainly about the different offerings brought in the Mishkan, it is even referred to as Sefer Hakarbanos, the Book of Offerings. One might think that the connection between the two books, is that Shemos tells of the building of the Mishkan, and Vayikra speaks of the offerings brought in the Mishkan. But since the last verses of Shemos tells of the Divine Presence filling the Mishkan, and the Midrash says that this is the connection to Vayikra, we must conclude that the idea of Offerings is more connected to the Divine Presence filling the Mishkan, than to the Mishkan itself. And to take it a step further, being that the final three verses speak about the journeys, and specifically, how the cloud of Hashem's Presence rose away from the Mishkan when they journeyed, we can infer, that the connection is even greater when the Divine Presence is away from the Mishkan, than when it fills it, as will be explained. 

The book of Shemos begins with parshas Shemos, and ends with parshas Pekudei. Both of the names of these parshas indicate some sort of counting. Rashi on the word "Shemos" explains, that even though Hashem counted the children of Israel when they were alive, He counts them again here, because He cherishes them. So Shemos is about counting the Jewish people. 

Pekudei means the tally, it speaks of the tally of the donations to the Mishkan, and what they were used for in the construction of the Mishkan. So the book of Shemos begins with the counting of the Jewish people, and ends with the counting of the Mishkan. 

The theme of the book of Shemos, is the redemption from Egypt. It is strange that it is preoccupied with numbers, because in a way numbers are the opposite of redemption. When you could count something it shows that it is limited. Redemption on the other hand, is breaking out of all limitations. It seems to be limited and unlimited at the same time. 

In the parsha of Shemos itself you have limited and unlimited together. First it counts the number of people who came down to Egypt, then it says, "And the Children of Israel were fertile and swarmed and increased and became very very strong, and the land was filled with them." They had a birth rate that was far beyond the natural. 

Parshas Pekudei also has limited and unlimited together. First it tallies all the details of the Mishkan, then it says that the glory of Hashem filled it, to the point that even Moshe, the greatest of men couldn't enter it. Because the Divine Presence is infinite. 

How do we reconcile having limited and unlimited at the same time? It seems impossible. 

The explanation. Although we are meant to reach for and connect to the infinite, which is the idea of redemption, to go beyond the limitations of the world, that doesn't have to come at the expense of the world's limitations. Rather, there has to be the unification of the infinite and the finite. 

We see this in the Mishkan itself. The infinite Presence of Hashem filled the limited Mishkan and its vessels. 

Since the ultimate purpose is, that "Hashem desired to have a dwelling for Himself below." There has to be two things simultaneously, first, a "dwelling," a home for His infinite essence, and second, that it should be "below," in this limited lowly world. 

We, the Jewish people, are the home for Hashem. Because He "specifically wants to live and dwell in the souls of the Children of Israel." And we are the perfect place for Hashem to feel at home, because, as the Zohar says, "Israel and Hashem are One." We are the ultimate dwelling for Hashem, not the world. It is only that it has to be "below," in this world. Through our interaction with the world, we make it into a vessel for Hashem, and the more we refine the world, the clearer it becomes that He is everything, and the physical world is just a facade. The clearer that becomes, the more the oneness of Hashem and the Jewish people is revealed. When this essential connection is totally revealed, the home is complete. 

While the book of Bereishis tells us about the creation and the settling of the world, the book of Shemos tells of how the Children of Israel became a nation and that Hashem gave us His Torah to fulfill His will, and make a home for Him. This idea is seen in the building of the Mishkan, which was a revealed home for Hashem's Presence. 

But the Mishkan itself didn't show how we can transform the mundane physical world into something holy, it merely was a place for the Divine Presence to be. It was the offerings in the book of Vayikra, that was taking a mundane physical animal and making it into a holy offering for Hashem. And this is what draws the infinite Presence of Hashem into the world. 

That is how the parshas of Pekudei and Vayikra, and the books of Shemos and Vayikra connect to the verses of the Divine Presence filling the Mishkan. Because the whole purpose of the Jewish people, the Torah, the Mishkan and the offerings, were to make a dwelling for Hashem, so that Hashem's essence could dwell openly in the world. 

When is our ability to do this the greatest? That is where the last three verses about the journeys come in. It is specifically when the Divine Presence raises away, and we are forced to journey, that our work is most powerful. And Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi said that the journeys in the desert hint to the journeys in exile. Just as in the desert, they only journeyed on Hashem's command, now too, the place you find yourself, is directly by His command. And when you do what Hashem wants you to do in times of journeys, when it is dark and Hashem is hidden, then, when you reach the place of rest, when Hashem descends and is seen once again, it is a far greater revelation than before the journey began. 

This is a lesson to each and every one of us in exile, and in our personal exiles that we go through. You have to know, that Hashem specifically put you in your situation, and you have a mission to accomplish there. The darker the situation, the more you can accomplish, turning the world into a home for Hashem. 

This idea keeps me positive in my difficult situation, suffering with ALS. I know that Hashem specifically put me in this darkness, and therefore, I am doing everything I can to make a difference in my journey. I could have never imagined the impact I would have in the world, lying in bed unable to move, and how my wife Dina would change the lives of so many with her talks, filling them with strength and hope. But we see and we are grateful for the amazing amount of good being done on behalf of our family. In this tremendous darkness we are going through, the most is being accomplished. 

May our personal journeys come to an end, and may the journey of the Jewish people through this dark and bitter exile finally come to an end. And we will merit to see that it was our work in this great darkness that revealed that we and Hashem are one, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 
Dedicated to Rabbi Shlomo and Tovi Bistritsky and Rabbi Shimon and Chaya Posner, who are marrying off their children this week. And to the chosson and kallah, Mendel Posner and Chana Bistritsky, it should be a binyan aday ad, and Hashem's Presence should fill your home. 

Friday, March 2, 2018

Taking A Stand For Truth

The Haftora for parshas Ki Sisa tells of the confrontation between our prophet Eliyahu, the prophet of Hashem, and the 450 prophets of Baal. 

The Jewish people, were at an all time Low. Queen Ezevel (Jezebel), of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, who introduced Baal worship to the northern ten tribes, set out to kill all the prophets of Hashem. She was successful in killing all, aside for a hundred, who Ovadia (Obadiah) had hidden in two caves and provided food and water for them, and Eliyahu, who eluded capture. 

Eliyahu appeared before King Achav (Ahab), the king of the Northern Kingdom, who blamed Eliyahu for the famine that gripped the region, because he knew that Eliyahu had the ability to end it. Eliyahu told Achav that it was because he turned away from Hashem, and worshipped the Ba'als, that was the cause of the famine. Then he told him, that if he wants the famine to end, he should summon all of Israel to Mount Carmel, together with the prophets of Baal. 

They all assembled at Mount Carmel, and Eliyahu spoke to the people of Israel, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If Hashem is G-d, then follow Him, and if it is Ba'al, then follow him." The people didn't know what to say. 

Then Eliyahu proposed a challenge to lay to rest any doubt, as to what was the one true G-d. He said, "I alone am left as a prophet of Hashem, and the prophets of Baal are 450 men." Then he laid down the rules of the contest. Each side would be given a bull to offer to their deity, it would be prepared, and placed on the wood, but no fire would be put to them. "You will call on the name of your gods and I will call on the name of Hashem. The G-d Who answers with fire, He is G-d." The people agreed. 

Eliyahu said that they should go first, because they were the majority. They chose a bull, prepared it and put it on the wood on their altar. They called in the name of the Ba'al from the morning until the afternoon and "there was no sound and there was no answer." They jumped around their altar, but it was to no avail. 

At noon, Eliyahu started to ridicule them, "cry louder... Maybe he is walking, or deep in thought, or on a journey. Or maybe he is sleeping." They cried louder and they cut themselves until they were gushing blood, but "There was no sound, there was no answer, and there was no listener." 

Eliyahu said to the people, "come near to me," so they would know that there was no trickery involved in what he is doing. He took twelve stones, one for each tribe of Israel and built them into an altar for Hashem, and he dug a ditch around it. He prepared his bull, arranged the wood and put the bull on to it. He told the people to pour water over the bull and the wood, again and again, until the whole ditch was filled with water. 

It was at the time that the mincha offering was brought in the Temple, and Eliyahu called out to Hashem, "... Answer me Hashem answer me, and this people will know that You Hashem are G-d..." The fire of Hashem descended and consumed the offering, the wood, the stones, the earth and the water that was in the ditch. When the people saw this, they fell on their faces and said, "Hashem is G-d, Hashem is G-d." 

The connection to our parsha is that parshas Ki Sisa tells about the sin of the golden calf, and the forgiveness the Jewish people received from Hashem through the Thirteen Attributes of Mercy and the giving of the half shekel, getting back in good stead with Hashem. Also in the parsha the Jewish people sinned with a calf, and in the Haftora, it was through two bulls (grown up calves) that they were put back on the right path. 

There are many lessons to be learned from this Haftora, I will touch on a few. 

Eliyahu asked the people, "How long will you waver between two opinions? If Hashem is G-d, then follow Him, and if it is Ba'al, then follow him." 

Why didn't he ask: when are you going to stop serving Ba'al, a false idol, and start serving Hashem? Isn't idol worship one of the worst things a Jew can do? Yes, but in some ways, wavering between two opinions is worse than idol worship, as will be explained. 

How does it happen, that Jews, who are "believers the children of believers," could serve idols? 

How is it that anyone served idols? The Rambam explains that it was because the flow of energy that comes from above, comes through the stars and constellations. So they began to honor the celestial bodies, hoping to get something from them. But this is silly, because the celestial bodies have no say in the matter, they are but a tool that Hashem uses to do his bidding. It would be like asking a hammer to drive in a nail, it is not the hammer, but rather the person holding it, that has the power to make that decision. 

In other words, they wanted something, and thought that the celestial bodies could give it to them, so they started to serve them. They had no emotional or meaningful connection to the celestial bodies, it was just that they wanted to get something from them. It is like someone who becomes your friend because he wants something from you, there is no real relationship there. 

This is the essence of idol worship, serving something for a possible gain. 

This is also why a Jew was tempted into idol worship, not that he had any meaningful connection to it, but a hope for a personal gain. 

What is wavering between two opinions? There are two kinds. 

First, there is the person who is not sure, he is in doubt as to what is right to serve, so he serves both. 

The second, is the person who really doesn't care who he serves, he just wants the gain, and whoever he thinks could give him what he wants at that moment, he will serve. 

There are three ways that waivering is worse than idol worship. 

First, it is much more difficult to repent and return to Hashem, because being that he still serves Hashem, he doesn't see the wrong clearly and he doesn't feel cut off, so he doesn't repent. In contrast, someone who just serves idols, when he recognizes that Hashem is the only true G-d, he will immediately realize how wrong he was, and repent with all of his heart. 

Second, when someone believes in and serves idols, although he is committing a grave sin, he at least has a general belief in spirituality. It may be wrong, but he wants to serve who he thinks is god. So when he finds out that Hashem is the only true G-d, he will drop what is false, and embrace what is true. In contrast, the one who is wavering, lacks spiritual conviction, if not cold to the whole idea altogether. It is very hard for a person who thinks this way to find his way to Hashem. 

The third problem, is the effect on others. Someone who wants to follow the Torah, will not learn from someone who is a clear idol worshipper. But the waiverer has a facade of someone who follows the Torah. Therefore, others will learn from him and be lead astray. 

Even though idol worship is not an issue today, there are those who worship money, honor, power, fame, etc. It is the same idea as idol worship, it is all for a selfish personal gain. Wavering in this case, is when someone who acts in the light of Torah most of the time, will drop his observance for a period of time, for a personal gain. And this is terrible because of the same three reasons mentioned above. 

Even the waverer could repent and come close to Hashem, but it takes intense teshuva, a sincere search for the truth and an embracing of extreme clarity. Like the Children of Israel on Mount Carmel, where they came to an extreme clarity and proclaimed, "Hashem is G-d! Hashem is G-d!" 

The Midrash tells us, that the bull that was to be offered to Baal didn't want to go. He said to Eliyahu, "Me and my friend came out of one belly... He will go up to the portion of the Holy One Blessed Be He and the name of the Holy One Blessed Be He will be sanctified through him, and I will go up to the portion of Baal, to anger my creator." Eliyahu responded to the bull, "Just as the name of the Holy One Blessed Be He will be sanctified through this one that is with me, so will it be sanctified through you."

from Eliyahu's words, "just as... So too," it seems that the sanctification of Hashem's name of both bulls are equal. But the one that Eliyahu brought up for Hashem, had an open miracle, everyone saw how a fire of Hashem consumed it, and it made them see the truth of Hashem. On the other hand, the bull that was brought for Baal, merely showed that Baal was false. how can they be equal?

The answer is that through what Eliyahu did on Mount Carmel, causing all of the Jewish people to return to Hashem, the oneness of Hashem was revealed as they all proclaimed, "Hashem is G-d! Hashem is G-d!" And when the oneness of Hashem is revealed, the true G-dly purpose of everything in creation is revealed. Meaning, that everything in the world has a G-dly purpose, even the things that we perceive as negative or bad, and when you begin to understand that it is all from Hashem, you realize that underneath the facade of bad is really Hashem's will and purpose, you recognize the good hidden in it. So the oneness of Hashem is in everything, good, bad, etc. Here the essential oneness of Hashem was brought out through the bull that was brought for Baal. And this revelation is equal, no matter where it is revealed, so both bulls equally sanctified the name of Hashem.

This is a lesson to us. Some may think, "I only want to deal with the bull for Hashem, only with the people who clearly serve Hashem, but I don't want to have anything to do with the bull for Baal, those who don't serve Hashem." And in truth, the oneness of Hashem is in them as well, and if you invest your time and heart into that person who may be far from the Torah path, even though it takes you away from your own growth in Torah, you will uncover the oneness of Hashem in that person, and he will return to Hashem. When that happens, all that you perceived as negative in that person, becomes merit, because when someone does teshuva his transgressions turn to merits.

This work, of investing time and effort into someone who is far from Torah is very important and comes before your own growth in Torah. As we read that first the bull for Baal was offered and only after, the bull for Hashem.

May we strengthen our resolve in our service to Hashem, and recognize his true oneness. And through our work with others, we will help them to also recognize the oneness of Hashem. This will surely bring us to hear Eliyahu herald the coming of Moshiach, when all will see that, "Hashem is G-d! Hashem is G-d!" May it happen soon. 

Dedicated in memory of Rivka Farkash OBM, who passed on this week. And in honor of the Farkash family. May you truly be consoled. Especially Dudy who was so close with Riki, I love you my brother. 

Friday, February 23, 2018

We Believe Because That Is What We Are

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This week's parsha, Tetzaveh, begins, "And you (Tetzaveh) command the Children of Israel, and they should take to you pure olive oil, crushed (lamaor) for a source of light, to kindle a (tamid) constant lamp."

There are many questions that could be asked on this verse.

Usually when Hashem gave Moshe a commandment to convey, the Torah would say "And Hashem spoke to Moshe, to say," or something similar. However, here there is no such preface, not even Moshe's name, just plain, "And you command." What is the significance by this mitzvah of just saying, "And you?"

It seems from the words, "And you (Tetzaveh) command," that Moshe will be commanding the Jewish people, as if it is his commandment. Isn't it Hashem's commandment?

Then the verse says, "and they should take to you pure olive oil." Why did they have to bring it to Moshe? Isn't Aaron going to be lighting the Menorah?

Then it says, "crushed (lamaor) for a source of light." Why does it use the word lamaor, which means a source of light? Why doesn't it simply say, "l'ha-ir, to illuminate?"

The verse concludes, "to kindle a constant lamp." The Menorah was only obligated to be lit "from evening until morning," as the next verse clarifies. So why does it say "(tamid) constant?" Rashi explains that sometimes the Torah uses the word tamid (constant) to mean regularly, and in our case, every night. But we are left with the question: Why use the word tamid in this case, when it could have used a term that actually means regularly or nightly?

And finally, our verse says, "constant," while the next verse says, "from evening until morning." Why does it use both terms? And what is the deeper significance of each term?

Every verse in the Torah can be understood on many levels. For this article we will explore a deeper meaning of the verse.

In chasidic teaching the word for command, tzivuy, or in our case Tetzaveh, is related to the term tasvsa v'chibur, a connection. Here we are talking about the deepest sort of connection to Hashem, as will be explained. And it is Moshe, or the "Moshe" (the leader of the Jewish people) of every generation that brings out this connection between the Jewish people and Hashem. This verse is all about that connection.

It uses the word "v'ata, and you," because it is referring to the essence of Moshe, meaning, that this is an essential part of his purpose as the leader of the generation.

Moshe is called the raya memhemna, the faithful shepherd. Faithful shepherd could be explained in two ways. First, that he was faithfully leading the Jewish people. And second, that he is the one who nourishes the Jewish people with faith.

You may ask: Aren't the Jewish people, "believers the children of believers?" Yes, but that is a general aspect of the Jewish people, and sometimes we only experience it as an external part of our makeup. The job of the Moshe of every generation, is to help us internalize it. As it says in the Zohar, "That the faith of above, will be nourished and sustained by your (Moshe's) hand."

Similarly, in the story of Purim, Mordechai, who was the Moshe of his generation, as our sages say, "Mordechai in his generation was like Moshe in his generation," even though during the time of Haman's decree, it was dangerous to learn Torah and do mitzvahs, nevertheless, he held public gatherings to strengthen the Jewish people's faith in Hashem, and to keep them strong in their performance of mitzvahs and Torah study. This was true self sacrifice for Hashem on behalf of every Jew, brought to the fore by Mordechai, through his teaching.

What was it that Mordechai brought out in them, that they were willing to sacrifice their lives for Hashem?

Jewish people believe in Hashem, and they don't feel that they need proofs, this is because of two reasons. First, because although we don't see Hashem, our souls do. That is why you find that Jewish people sometimes, for no apparent reason, have an awakening, and strengthen their Judaism, because the part of the neshama that sees Hashem flares up. Since they see Hashem, they believe in Him. The problem with this experience, is that it is outside of you, your neshama sees, therefore you believe.

The second reason, is that the root of our neshamas are one with the essence of Hashem, and that essence is higher than the part of the neshama that sees Hashem. In other words, we are one with Hashem, we believe because that is what we are. This is not outside of you, this is in every part of your being, it is the essential you.

Since we are in a physical body and in a physical world, our essence is hidden and it is possible not to experience it. However, there are two ways for it to be revealed.

The first is when we are under oppression and our Judaism is under threat. That is why it is so common for Jews to sacrifice their lives when their Jewishness is threatened. This is even the case with the least observant Jewish people, because it is who we are.

This is what happened during Haman's decree, crushed under oppression, the intrinsic connection to Hashem was revealed. It was Mordechai that inspired that revelation, through his teachings. Since their essential connection with Hashem was revealed, it brought to the fore true self sacrifice in every Jew.

This is the idea of "crushed for a source of light," and not for illumination. Because through being crushed under oppression, they revealed their connection with Hashem's essence, which is the source of the light.

This revelation that comes through being crushed, although it is incredible, it has its flaw. As is commonly the case, that under oppression a person will show his amazing connection to Hashem, and tremendous self sacrifice, but once he finds himself in relative freedom, you don't see it anymore.

This is where a more consistent level of this revelation comes in to play. It is the job of the Moshe of the generation, to reveal this essential connection, even at times of relative freedom. This is what we learn from the words, "to kindle a constant lamp," to keep the connection open even when we are not crushed under oppression.

Even though we are not crushed under oppression, it is still considered crushed. Because now that the bond with Hashem is revealed, we sense what Hashem really wants, we realize that we don't belong in exile, and that we really need Moshiach. This understanding is crushing in its own right.

And this is what happened after the miracle of Purim. As we read in Megilas Esther, "And the Jews accepted what they initially started to do." meaning, that although they received the Torah on Mount Sinai almost a thousand years earlier, the true acceptance of the Torah happened after the miracle of Purim.

You may ask: Why is it that the generation that stood  before Mount Sinai, who was the holiest generation, couldn't complete the acceptance of the Torah, while the generation that experienced the miracle of Purim, which was perhaps the lowest of generations spiritually, was able to complete the acceptance of the Torah?

The answer is, that at the giving of the Torah, they experienced great open revelations and miracles, and they were wowed by the lofty event. So it was more like imposed on them from above. But now they sacrificed to stay true to Hashem and to keep the Torah under Haman's decree. And even after the miracle of Purim, when they had relative freedom, they kept the revelation of their essential connection with Hashem shining. That was all from their own initiative, so it was true acceptance.

The way the Moshe of the generation helps us reveal the essential bond, is by providing the initial inspiration, but we are meant to take it and develop it into a constant state. When we do, we raise the Moshe of the generation to a higher level, because he is the head of the Jewish people, and we being the legs, can take him to a place where he can't get on his own.

Now we will be able to understand why they had to bring the olive oil to Moshe. Because through the crushing experience we bring something new to Moshe, that he wasn't able to achieve on his own, we take him to a higher level.

When we develop the connection to Hashem through our own effort, it becomes "constant," but when the revelation is because of circumstances out of our control, like being crushed under oppression, it is only "from evening until morning," during the night, meaning, when the exile is dark, bitter and oppressive. Because as was mentioned above, as soon as it becomes light, when the oppression ends and a period of relative freedom begins, the revelation is no more.

I often wonder what will I be like when Hashem heals me. Will I revert to how I was before ALS, or will I remain the man I have become due to the crushing I have endured? I hope that I remain the man I have become.

Now that most Jews live in freedom, it is an opportune time to work on revealing our essential bond with Hashem through our own efforts, and make it constant. When it will be fully revealed it will permeate every last corner of existence, because it is the revelation of the infinite, which by definition is everywhere. That will surely usher in the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Building A Temple For Hashem Today

Dear friends, 

This Shabbos is my birthday. If you want to give me a gift, please join the Teffillin for yitzi campaign, you can find information about it at  Teffillin for Yitzi

Or the #shinealittlelight campaign, started by my wife Dina, asking women and girls you know, from the age of 3, to light Shabbos candles 18 minutes before sunset. 

Also, it would mean the world to me, if you would share this week's dvar Torah with your friends, family and synagogue. 

Thank you so much. 


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In this week's parsha, Teruma, we are given the mitzvah of making a holy place for Hashem. Hashem says, "And you should make (Li) for Me a Temple and I will dwell in them." In general, this refers to the different Mishkans that we had and then the great Temples that stood on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

However, this brings up several questions.

In the Sifri it says, "Every place it says Li (for Me), it will last forever... About the Temple He says,  'And you should make (Li) for Me a Temple.'" The Midrash says, "Every place it says Li (for Me), it will never move, not in this world, and not in the world to come." The Midrash then lists the Temple as one of these everlasting things, as it says, "And you should make (Li) for Me a Temple." But the Mishkans are gone, and the Temples were destroyed. How could they say that it will last forever?

The verse also seems to be grammatically incorrect. First it says, " And you should make for Me a Temple," and then it says, " And I will dwell in them." Shouldn't it say, " And I will dwell in it?" What is the meaning of dwelling in them? And how can we do this mitzvah today in exile, when we don't have the Temple?

There are different explanations as to what the everlasting component to this mitzvah is.

Some say, it refers to the holiness of the Temple. That the place where the Temple stood retains its holiness forever. According to the Rambam, even though the walls of the Temple no longer stand, we could still bring offerings there. Because the holiness is still there.

Others say, that parts of the Temple are hidden in the ground of the Temple Mount, so it is actually there.

The difficulty with these answers is that they only explain how the Temples still exist, but they don't explain how the Mishkans still exist.

Another difficulty with these answers, is that the simple meaning of the Sifri and the Midrash, is that it is referring to the physical Temple, not the spiritual holiness, and if it is buried, then we don't experience the physical Temple. So what are the Sifri and the Midrash referring to?

The Rambam learns the mitzvah of building the Temple from the words, " And you should make for Me a Temple," even though the actual verse was said about the Mishkan in the desert. The Kesef Mishnah explains, that when the Rambam mentions this mitzvah, he is referring to all the Mishkans and Temples. And being that the Mishkan of the desert is included, that means that this mitzvah applies even out of the land of Israel. In his book of mitzvahs, the Rambam refers back to the Sifri and writes, " And they said, every time it says Li, it means that it exists always." In other words, this mitzvah is a constant mitzvah, for all time. And because it says Li by the mitzvah of building a Temple, it means that this mitzvah is an obligation at all times and in all places where Jews find themselves, even outside of Israel.

This is also the implication of the Midrash on the book of Yechezkel. Hashem said to Yechezkel, " just because my children are placed in exile, should the building of My house be interrupted? Tell them to occupy themselves with reading about the construct of the house in Torah and in the merit of reading about it... I will consider it as if they occupy themselves with the building of the house." So learning about the Temple, is as if you are building it.

However, with all that was mentioned above, it would seem that we should be able to do this mitzvah physically. How can one physically do this mitzvah today?

What is this mitzvah about? The Rambam says, "it is a positive commandment to build a house for Hashem that is ready to be used to bring offerings in it..." In the times of the Temple, our service to Hashem was done by bringing offerings on the altar. Today it is done through Torah study, prayer, and doing acts of kindness. But the mitzvah remains the same, to build a place to serve Hashem.

How is this done? Allow me to share two possible ways.

In the book of Yechezkel it says, "I have become for them as a minor Temple." The Talmud says, "These are the houses of gathering (synagogues) and houses of study."

The Zohar says about the verse, "And you should make for Me a Temple," that every synagogue is called a Temple. Some use the words of the Zohar as proof that building a synagogue, is included in the mitzvah of, "And you should make for Me a Temple."

The Maharik says, "It is proper to compare the donations to a synagogue to the donations for the construction of the Mishkan, because in every place, our rabbis of blessed memory, compared the synagogue to the Temple..."

Although the Zohar and the Maharik speak of the synagogue, it clearly  means houses of study (Beis Medrash) as well. As the Talmud clumps them together, that the minor Temples "are the houses of gathering and houses of study."

So the first way, is to build or donate towards the construction or improvement of a synagogue or house of study.

The second way, is to set up a designated place in your home to serve Hashem. It should have a bookshelf with Torah books, a table to study at, and a tzedaka (charity) box, and that becomes the place you go to study Torah, pray, and give charity in your home.

Children can also get involved, by making their room or their part of their room into a place to serve Hashem. Having their own Torah books, siddur (prayer book) and tzedaka box.

Why specifically these three things, Torah, prayer and doing kindness? Because these three happened regularly at the Temple.

Aside for the fact that the tablets of the Ten Commandments and a Torah being in the Ark in the Holy of Holies, the Sanhedrin, the Jewish supreme court, which was the foremost Torah academy in the world, was by the Temple.

The sacrifices being brought up on the altar, was the main service in the Temple, and our daily prayers are in place of the sacrifices. Also, aside for it being the central place to pray, it is the place where all of our prayers travel through, on the way up to Hashem.

The Temple had a special table called the Shulchan, it was the item that brought Hashem's blessing of sustenance to the world. But the Temple also had a special room, that people could secretly give tzedaka, and the poor could come and take for their needs in secret.

There is another way to make a Temple for Hashem. Please allow me to take you to a deeper place.

In Kabbalistic texts it is taught that, "And you should make for Me a Temple, and I will dwell in them," means, in every single Jewish person. That every Jewish person has in them, spiritually, everything that was in the Mishkan. Just as the Mishkan had panels and coverings, so does every Jew. Just as the Mishkan had vessels in it, so does every Jew.

To make a Temple for Hashem, we have to mirror what is found above. Above there are two types of lights. There is the surrounding light, which is infinite, and there is the inner light that fills the realms according to their respective nature. The panels and coverings represent and draw down the surrounding light, while the vessels represent and draw down the inner light.

We can be a Temple for Hashem and draw these lights as well. We can do it in two ways.

There are two ways of serving Hashem. The first is above our understanding, meaning, that you do it just because it is Hashem's will. Since it is above your understanding, it draws the infinite surrounding light. And then there is serving Hashem through understanding, since it is according to your understanding, it draws the inner light, which is limited, it is limited to your ability to comprehend.

The Talmud tells us that when Moshe transmitted the commandment of making the Mishkan, he first taught about the vessels, the Ark, Menorah, and Shulchan, then he taught about the coverings and the panels. Betzalel who was in charge of building the Mishkan, said to Moshe, "It is the custom of man, to first build a house, and then put furniture in it. Perhaps Hashem told you (to build) the Mishkan (the coverings and the panels and then) the Ark and the vessels." Moshe responded in the affirmative,"you were in the shadow of G-d and you know."

Just as with the Mishkan, first the panels and coverings were made, and then the vessels, first one should employ the service which is above understanding, and only after serve Hashem through understanding.

Another way of understanding this, is that doing mitzvahs, that are done outside of you, draws the surrounding light, while learning Torah, which you internalize, and is limited to your ability to comprehend, draws the inner light.

Being that we are all Hashem's Temple, the Temple is everlasting. The everlasting component of the person as a Temple is not only in time, but also in the quality of our service to Hashem. We should serve Hashem with such intensity, that it stays forever strong.

According to the Rambam, the mitzvah of building the Temple, is an obligation for both men and women. And in Avos D'rav Nassan it says that children also brought donations to build the Mishkan. So this is a mitzvah for men, women and children.

Being that I celebrate my birthday this week, I will connect this teaching to the idea of a birthday.

Hashem wants every one of us to be a Temple. That means that Hashem wants to live in every single one of us. In other words, the moment we were born, we were already chosen to be a home for Hashem. And this is one of the things we celebrate on our birthday.

May we all, men, women and children, make a Temple for Hashem. This will surely bring the third and everlasting Temple, that is already built and will come down from above, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
Dedicated to Harvey Lerner, who shares a birthday with me, and is a good friend. May you have a great year, with nachas, good health and abundance. 

Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Redemption Becoming A Reality

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Parshas Mishpatim begins with, "And these are the laws that you should set before them." 

It is strange for a parsha to begin with "And." When you say "and," it means that what comes next is in addition to what came before. What is this "And" referring to? 

Rashi explains that the "and" here is "in addition to the first (laws, the Ten Commandments and the laws that follow in parshas Yisro), just as the first were from Sinai, also these are from Sinai." 

The previous parsha ended with laws about the Temple altar. Rashi asks, "Why is the parsha of laws next to the parsha of the altar? To teach you that the Sanhedrin (the Jewish Supreme Court), should be next to the Temple (and the altar symbolizes the Temple, because the Temple service mainly centered around the altar)." 

Now that we know that the laws here also refer to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court, we will understand why the verse says that we should put the laws "before them." As Rashi explains, you should bring your disputes before the Jewish court, "and not before that of the nations, and even if you know that they judge a certain law like Jewish law, don't bring it to their courts." 

If they adjudicate the law in the same way as the Jewish court, why not bring it before them? 

The point that Rashi is clarifying here, is that the laws that follow are from Sinai, meaning, from Hashem. Even though they make sense, to the point that even the non Jewish people see them the same way, we should keep them, not because they make sense, but rather, because they are Hashem's will. 

And perhaps we can take it a step further. The reason it makes sense to us and even to the world, is because it is Hashem's wisdom, the Torah. Because the Torah is the blueprint with which Hashem created the world, so of course it would make sense, it is the system that Hashem imbued in the world. 

Why does Rashi say "in addition to the first?" Because there was something new that was added with the giving of these laws at Sinai, that now we could understand them. This is in line with what the Midrash tells us, that the separation between above and below was removed. Now we can understand Hashem's wisdom. In other words, Hashem's wisdom can permeate our minds and so too, the minds of the people of the world. This is why in some cases, their law is in agreement with Torah. 

In truth, when the other nations rule in line with the seven laws that Hashem gave to the children of Noah, even though they make sense, they should do it because it's Hashem's will. When they do, they receive the title, "The Pious of the Nations of the World." Because they are also obligated to believe in Hashem and shun idol worship, and sometimes the idol is themself. 

This will be realized in its fullest when Moshiach comes. As the Rambam says, that "there won't be any occupation, other than to know Hashem... As it says, "For the world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem." And this is true for the nations of the world as well. That people will be able to grasp and understand the "knowledge of Hashem," the deep esoteric concepts that we experienced at the giving of the Torah, with their minds.  

As the time of Moshiach nears, we see a change in the way nations see themselves, and it is more in line with the Torah. Instead of the old way of thinking, "we are strong, let us conquer the weak," the new trend is for nations to gather and protect the weak from evil regimes, and to put their money and manpower into humanitarian efforts. It has become so common, that we don't even remember the old way, and to most of us, the mere thought of it is abhorrent.  In this day and age, most of the military is used for helping people around the world. This is reminiscent of Yeshayahu's prophecy about the time of Moshiach, that "They will beat their swords into plowshares." And this is an indication that the coming of Moshiach is near. 

The time of Moshiach is hinted to in parshas Mishpatim, and the order of the parshas surrounding it. 

In the parsha Hashem says, "to bring you to the place that I designated." Rashi explains, that this means "that My place is already recognizable opposite it. This is one of the verses that state that the heavenly Temple is directly opposite the earthly Temple." And the heavenly Temple is what will come down as the Third Temple when Moshiach comes. 

Parshas Mishpatim follows the laws of the altar in parshas Yisro. And as mentioned above, "Why is the parsha of laws next to the parsha of the altar? To teach you that the Sanhedrin should be next to the Temple." And it precedes parshas Teruma, which has the verse,"You shall make for Me a sanctuary," which is the commandment to build the Temple. Both of these laws reach their ultimate perfection with the coming of Moshiach, when the Sanhedrin will be at the highest level of Torah knowledge and will be next to the third and everlasting Temple. 

Sandwiched between them is the parsha of Mishpatim, symbolic of Hashem's knowledge being understood by the people. Meaning that the idea of the redemption also becomes a reality in the minds of the people of the world. And this becomes clearer and clearer as the redemption nears. 

May we merit to see all these signs become clearer and clearer as the redemption becomes a reality, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon, the time has come. 
Dedicated to my wife Dina and to the Shluchos of the Rebbe, who are gathered in New York for the International Conference of Chabad Shluchos, and work so hard to bring Moshiach.