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. 

Yitzi 

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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. 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

Serve Hashem And No Other

Dear friends, 
Although this year we will not be reading the Haftora for parshas Mishpatim, because a special Haftora for parshas Shekalim will be read, I am still publishing this article on the Haftora of parshas Mishpatim. There is a valuable lesson to be learned from it. 
Yitzi 

The Haftora for parshas Mishpatim is from the book of Yirmyahu. Tzidkiyahu king of Yehuda made a proclamation to free all Jewish slaves, because by Torah law a Jewish slave must be freed after six years, but the powerful and the rich made it their custom to keep Jewish slaves perpetually. After freeing them, they had a change of heart, recaptured their Jewish slaves, and placed them back into servitude. 

Hashem then gave Yirmyahu a prophecy, that because they are enslaving their brothers and sisters against Hashem's will, they will suffer horrible consequences, including the sword, pestilence and famine. Tzidkiyahu and his nobles would be placed in the hands of their enemies, namely the king of Babylonia, who would also capture Jerusalem and burn it. 

The connection to our parsha is that parshas Mishpatim opens with the laws of Jewish slaves, that they go free after six years. Because the Haftora focuses on this specific point, that means that it is the central theme of our parsha. 

How is the law of Jewish slaves the central theme of our parsha? And what lessons are here for us, in a time when there is no more slavery? 

After parshas Yisro, and the giving of the Ten Commandments, parshas Mishpatim is the start of the general laws between people. Most of these laws are understandable, as common sense dictates them as well. It begs the question, why did Hashem choose to begin these laws with the laws of Jewish slaves? 

The question becomes stronger when you consider that at the time that they were given this law, there was no possibility of owning a Jewish slave. 

There are two ways that a Jew can become a slave. Either he is so destitute, he sees no way to survive, other than selling himself as a slave. Or if he steals, and does not have the money to pay back what he stole, the court would sell him as a slave for the amount he owed. 

When the Jewish people left Egypt, they all left with tremendous wealth. Seven days later, after the splitting of the sea, they became even richer, because the Egyptians would adorn their war horses with gold, silver and jems. After they drowned in the sea, Hashem made all the valuables wash up on the shore. There was so much that even when it was time to continue on to Sinai, they didn't want to leave. 

Just 43 days later they received the Torah at Mount Sinai, and right after that, they were given these laws. So no one was destitute, and if someone stole, he would surely have been able to pay back. 

On top of that, during the 40 years in the desert, Hashem took care of their basic needs. There was the manna from heaven, water from the well of Miriam, and the clouds that surrounded them, took care of their clothes. So no one was destitute. 

With all this said, why did Hashem choose to begin these laws with the laws of Jewish slaves, which was totally irrelevant at that time? 

We must conclude that there is something so basic found in these laws, that it serves as the foundation of all the laws that follow. What is this basic idea? 

We know that our forefathers learned and kept the Torah and mitzvahs even before the Torah was given at Sinai. So what was unique about the Sinai event? 

The Midrash tells us, that the main thing that happened with the giving of the Torah, was that the decree, that what is above can't go below and what is below can't go above, was abolished. In other words, before the giving of the Torah, although they did mitzvahs, it didn't affect the physical world. Now, when we do mitzvahs, it does affect the physical world, infusing it with G-dliness. That was what happened in last week's parsha, Yisro. 

In this week's parsha, the actual work of refining the world, making it into a dwelling place for Hashem, by infusing it with G-dliness, begins. It has the most mundane laws, because Hashem wants to dwell in the most mundane, and he wants us to make it livable for him. Not to change it, but to bring out its true potential. This is our main service to Hashem, to bring Him into every part of our lives. 

When a Jew becomes a slave, or when a Jew forces another Jew to be a slave, he is undermining the fundamental purpose of a Jew, to serve Hashem in every aspect of his life. 

It is one thing when a person is destitute, or when he finds himself in a position, that he has no way to feed himself and his family, other than stealing. Hashem made a provision for that, he could become a slave for no more than six years. After that, if he wants to stay longer, the owner is to pierce his right ear, because as Rashi explains in the name of Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, "...This ear that heard on Mount Sinai, 'the children of Israel are Mine, they are My servants,' and yet he went and acquired for himself (another) master, should be pierced," 

The fundamental idea in this law, that comes before any other, and is the foundation of all the rest of the mitzvahs in the parsha, and for that matter, the whole Torah, is that we have to be free to serve Hashem, and no other. 

In the Haftora, when the powerful were enslaving their Jewish brothers and sisters, keeping them for more than six years, Hashem says that they will be given into the hands of their enemies and the city would be captured, in other words, they will be in exile. This is not a punishment, it is the consequence of their actions. Since the Jewish people were enslaved, they couldn't serve Hashem, making a dwelling for Hashem, which brings redemption. Therefore, the opposite would happen, they would go into exile. 

Although there is no slavery today, there are those who enslave themselves to their business affairs. They forget that it is only a means to a greater end, serving Hashem. They are so endentured to their business, that even during times of prayer, Torah study and Shabbos, when one is meant to serve Hashem, they are thinking of how to get ahead in the rat race. They have chosen to remain slaves, even after the time of business is up. 

Hashem wants us to be free to serve Him, and not to any other, not even to our desires or false notions. 

The Haftora ends on a positive note. Even though they will go into exile, Hashem will never forget the covenant He made with the Jewish people. He will return them to their land, and have mercy on them. 

May we soon see the completion of our service to Hashem, when He will dwell openly in the home we created for Him, through our Torah and mitzvahs, and through bringing Him into every aspect of our lives, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Above And Below United

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In parshas Yisro we read the (Aseres Hadibros) Ten Commandments, which begins with, "(Vayedaber) And G-d spoke all these words (laimor) to say." Usually when it says laimor, it means that it should be repeated to the Jewish people or to later generations. However, at the giving of the Ten Commandments, all of the Jewish people were present, even the souls of all later generations. So, what is the meaning of the word laimor in this verse?

The Maggid of Mezritch says, that it means that we have to put the Vayedaber into laimor, we have to put the Aseres Hadibros, the Ten Commandments, which means the Torah, into the Asara Maamaros, the Ten Sayings with which Hashem created the world.

In other words, don't make the mistake of thinking that the Torah and the world are separate domains. Don't say, "when I am doing Jewish things, like praying, studying Torah, doing mitzvahs, etc. I will do as the Torah dictates, but when I am doing worldly things, eating, drinking, business, etc. I will act as the world dictates." Hashem wants us to bring our Torah way into worldly affairs, that we should eat, drink and do business the way the Torah wants us to. Even when we talk, it should be apparent that Torah is our way of life.

The Midrash tells us, that when Hashem gave us the Torah on Mount Sinai, the decree, that what is above can't come below and what is below can't go above, was abolished. Our forefathers studied Torah, and did mitzvahs even before the giving of the Torah, but their mitzvahs didn't affect the physical world, imbuing the physical with holiness, above and below didn't mix.

All this changed with the giving of the Torah. Now we can infuse the physical with holiness, the mundane and the holy become one.

This is clear from the Ten Commandments themselves. From all of the 613 commandments that Hashem gave us, He chose to give these ten personally, to every Jewish person. One would think that He would have chosen the most spiritually sublime ideas to tell us, and while He did say, "I Am the Lord your G-d," and "You shall not have any god before Me," which are holy and sublime ideas, it also has, "You shall not murder," and "you shall not steal..." which are the most basic physical no nos. Even if Hashem wouldn't tell us these, we would understand that they are wrong.

The fact that Hashem juxtaposes the oneness of G-d together with not murdering and not stealing, shows that He wants us to fuse the physical and the spiritual. This works both ways, that which is above comes below and that which is below goes above, as will be explained.

Murder and stealing are wrong, and each of us understand that, but we shouldn't only keep them because they make sense, we should keep them because of the "I am the Lord your G-d," that is hidden in these laws, meaning, that they are Hashem's will. This should be the primary reason for keeping them. And the same is true for all the Torah laws that make sense, we should keep them because they are Hashem's will. This is drawing what is above down below.

On the other hand, those who need commandments to tell them that murder and stealing are wrong, that Hashem should have to say it with thunder and lightning, otherwise they wouldn't get it, they too should contemplate on the greatness and oneness of Hashem. This is, below going above.

How do we bring the above and below, spiritual and physical together? Through mitzvahs. Because the 613 commandments that we received at Sinai, came from the essence of Hashem, as the first word of the Ten Commandments is "Anochi, I Am," which refers to Hashem's essence, above all of creation, physical and spiritual. It is the part of Hashem that has no name, and no description. Since it is above creation, it can fuse opposites, above and below, spiritual and physical together.

This is why our mitzvahs can do this, while our forefathers mitzvahs could not. Because with the giving of the Ten Commandments, our mitzvahs gained the power of "Anochi," Hashem's essence, which can bring opposites together.

Hashem did this because our essential purpose is to make this physical world into a dwelling place for Him. By infusing the physical world with holiness, we make it ready for Him to dwell in.

This is also hinted in the first three words of the Ten Commandments, "Anochi Havaya Elokecha."

The name Elokecha, is like Elokim and Elokeinu, it is the only name of Hashem that is written in the plural, and it is the only name that is written in the possessive, Elokecha, your G-d, Elokeinu, our G-d, etc. This is because it refers to how Hashem relates to the physical world, and it fills everything in nature with the specific amount of G-dliness it needs to exist. It is also the only name of Hashem that people can relate to somewhat, that is why we say it in the possessive, Elokecha, your G-d, Elokeinu, our G-d. This is the name that fills the physical world, it is below.

The name Havaya surrounds the world, it is beyond any physical limitations. Havaya is the words, hayahhoveh and yehiyeh (past, present and future) combined in one word. In other words, it is beyond space and time. It is above.

Anochi, as mentioned above, is the essence of Hashem, beyond all of existence, physical and spiritual, and therefore, it can unite opposites, Havaya and Elokecha, above and below together.

May we be successful in bringing the two together through our mitzvahs, making this world into a dwelling for Hashem. This is the work that will bring Moshiach. May he come soon.
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In honor of my son Moshe, whose birthday is this week. May you have an amazing year, in which you make Hashem proud, the Rebbe proud, your parents proud, and most importantly, yourself proud. Shnas hatslacha my precious boy. 

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Fleeing From Our Personal Egypt

DEDICATED IN LOVING MEMORY OF OUR GRANDMOTHER
FLORY “MAMAN” LEVY
We love you and miss you
________________
BY HER GRANDCHILDREN
DAVID & EDA SCHOTTENSTEIN

In parshas Beshalach we read, "The king of Egypt was told that the nation (of Israel) has fled." Rashi explains that Pharaoh sent officers along with the Jewish people when they left Egypt, because they said that they were going for three days. When they continued on after the third day, the officers returned to Pharaoh and reported that "the nation has fled."

During the plague of the death of the firstborn, Egypt was willing to do anything to have the Jewish people leave. Why didn't they just say that they are leaving for good? What is the deeper meaning of the Jewish people fleeing from Egypt?

To understand this, let us look at another Pesach law.

At the Seder, in order to fulfill our obligation of eating matzah, we have to have lechem oni, bread of affliction, which means that it only has two ingredients, flour and water.

However, there is another kind of matzah, called matzah ashira, rich matzah, which is made with wine, oil, honey or other fruit juices, so that it has a good taste. Also, as long as it doesn't have any water mixed into the dough, it will never become chametz (leavened), but if any amount of water is added to the mix, it will rapidly become chametz, quicker than flour and water alone. One cannot fulfill the obligation of eating matzah, with matzah ashira.

The reason for this is because when it comes to the mitzvah of eating matzah for future generations, the verse says, "You shall not eat (the Pesach offering) with chametz, seven days you must eat matzah, lechem oni (bread of affliction), because you went out of Egypt hastily." Since it says, "lechem oni," we know that it can't be matzah ashira, and because it says, "You shall not eat (the Pesach offering) with chametz," we know that it has to be able to become chametz, in other words, it has to have water in the mix, and we have to be careful that it doesn't become chametz.

The reason that the verse gives for both (that it has to be able to become chametz and that it has to be lechem oni), is "because you went out of Egypt hastily." This is the same as fleeing Egypt, "the nation (of Israel) has fled."

This is all with regards to the Pesach of later generations, but by the first Pesach Seder, before leaving Egypt, there was the possibility of having matzah ashira, because it doesn't say "lechem oni," but it had to be able to become chametz, as it says, "and you should guard the matzahs," meaning, that you should not allow it to become chametz. However, at the actual time of the Exodus, they only had lechem oni.

This is all with regards to the Exodus from Egypt. However, when Moshiach comes we will not flee, as it says, "You will not go in haste."

What is the symbolism of matzah ashira and lechem oni?

Lechem oni doesn't have much flavor. It is symbolic of serving Hashem by accepting the yoke of serving Him. This is done through hard work and effort, submitting yourself to His will, even though you may not be there spiritually, going against your own desires, forcing yourself to do what Hashem wants.

Matzah ashira, on the other hand, has flavor, it symbolizes serving Hashem through understanding. This is pleasurable because you want to do it, because through your understanding you become in sync with Hashem's will, until it becomes your own.

When leaving Egypt they had to flee, because "The bad in the lives of (the people of) Israel was still prevalent," they were not yet in sync with Hashem's will. That would only happen later, after much work, by the giving of the Torah. And this is true about our lives now. Whenever we are in a negative spiritual phase, an Egypt of our own, we must force ourselves to do what is right, and flee from the negative. Only later on will we be able to become in sync with Hashem.

When Moshiach comes, we will be in perfect sync with Hashem's will, so we won't have to go in haste, we won't have to flee.

Yet we see an interesting thing. The verse that tells us about the mitzvah of matzah for future generations continues, "in order that you will remember the day that you left Egypt all the days of your life." In the Haggadah we read, that this means "including the days of Moshiach." You may ask, why do we have to remember the Exodus when Moshiach comes? If we will be in sync with Hashem's will, what kind of Egypt will we have to break free from?

The answer is, none. But there will be one aspect of the Exodus from Egypt that we should continue, in line with accepting Hashem's yoke, that we should put in the effort and hard work in our service to Hashem.

On the other hand, by the Exodus from Egypt it says. "And I will raise you also raise." Why does it say "raise" twice? The first is the Exodus from Egypt, and the second is the coming of Moshiach, because at the time of the Exodus, there was also an aspect of Moshiach that we had to be cognizant of, and this is true about any personal Egypt. We have to know, that our hard work will eventually lead to becoming in sync with Hashem.

This is also why after the splitting of the sea, in the Song of the Sea, there are allusions to the coming of Moshiach. Because that was the conclusion of the Exodus from Egypt.

Laying here in my bed, unable to move or speak, unable to hug or kiss my precious children, I am in a physical Egypt. However, I know in my heart, that Hashem has put me here for a reason, to uplift people through my writings, my heart and my smile. That is why I work so hard writing these Dvar Torahs with my eyes.

I know that eventually I will go out of my Egypt, and be able to teach Torah with my mouth, and write these Dvar Torahs with my hand. I will be able to do father and husband things for my wife and children. Either by cure, by miracle or with the coming of Moshiach.

May we break free from our personal Egypts, and become in sync with Hashem, whether it be a physical, spiritual, emotional or psychological Egypt. Our personal redemption will lead to the ultimate redemption, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon. 
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This Sunday Team Yitzi will be running in the Miami Half Marathon, including my wife Dina and my daughter. Please support our teams fundraising efforts by donating what you can at what you can at https://run4yitzi.com
It is tax deductible and every penny goes to the Hurwitz Family Fund.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

I Will Go Out, I Will Pass Through: Hashem Loves Every Jew

Dear Friends, 

This is a second dvar Torah for this week. To read the first one click on the link. Enjoy! Why Take The Pesach Lamb 4 Days Before Offering It? 

Yitzi
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In parshas Bo, Hashem tells Moshe what he will do, while the Jewish people take part in the first Seder, on the night before the Exodus from Egypt. "I will pass through Egypt on that night, and I will strike down every firstborn... I will see the blood (on your houses) and I will pass over you..." 

However, earlier, when Moshe warned Pharaoh about the plague of the death of the first born, he says, "So says Hashem, 'around midnight I will go out in the midst of Egypt. And every firstborn will die.'" 

There are different expressions that Hashem uses in these verses, and they seem to be almost opposites. First Hashem tells Pharaoh, "I will go out in the midst of Egypt," which sounds like He will be involved in doing something. And then He says, "I will pass through Egypt," which means that He will be doing something in passing, without much involvement. 

When Hashem continues to tell about the death of the firstborn, he also seems to be saying opposite things. First He says to Pharaoh, "And every firstborn in Egypt will die." which sounds like it will happen in passing. Then he says to Moshe, "I will strike down every firstborn in Egypt," which sounds like He will be involved in doing it. 

Then Hashem tells Moshe, "I will see the blood and I will pass over you," again He seems to be involved. 

Was Hashem involved or passive? How do we reconcile these verses? What lesson can we take from here with regards to our relationship with other Jewish people? 

On the night of Pesach there were two things happening simultaneously, one Hashem invested Himself into totally, and the other was done in passing. 

The main thing Hashem was doing, was saving the Jewish people from Egypt. He was personally involved in that, as He said, "I will go out in the midst of Egypt," and "I will see the blood and I will pass over you." 

Rashi explains that "I will pass through Egypt," means that it will be in passing, ''like a king who passes through from place to place, and in one pass, in one second, everyone is smitten." From this is understood, that although the next words, "I will strike down every firstborn," sound like Hashem will be personally involved, it actually means that it will happen in passing. So the death of the firstborn was automatic, as Hashem told Pharaoh, "every firstborn will die," just like that, in passing. 

So Hashem went out in the midst of the lowest and most impure of all places, Egypt, to protect and save each and everyone of us. Rashi says, that even if a Jew was in an Egyptian home, Hashem saved him as well. 

We see from here, the great love Hashem has for every one of us, even a Jew that is at the lowest level. On the night before the Exodus, while everyone was with their families celebrating the first Seder, he was hanging out with an Egyptian. Nevertheless, Hashem went into that lowly Egyptian home and protected that Jew as well. 

The lesson for us here, is that we should try to help another Jew physically or spiritually. 

One might ask, "Am I obligated to go out of my religious environment to bring a Jew closer to Hashem? If he comes here I will learn Torah with him, but I don't want to go to him and his environment." 

The message here is that we should emulate Hashem, and go out of our comfort zone to save another Jew physically or spiritually. This is true even for a Jew that is not at all involved, and even if he is in the lowest of places. Of course you should do it with keeping Torah law. 

As a Chabad rabbi, I saw first hand how precious every Jew is. Even though it meant going to a city that had little Jewish infrastructure, it was extremely rewarding. Every neshama is invaluable, and when you reveal the spark of a Jew, you begin to understand why Hashem loves every Jew. Because in truth, there is no lower level Jew, even the one who is in the Egyptians home during the Seder is a good and beautiful Jew. And if you show him love, you will uncover the beauty within, and his neshama will shine bright. 

May our efforts to reach every Jew be successful, and may we see every neshama shine. This will surely lead to the coming of Moshiach, when every Jew will be redeemed. May it happen soon. The time has come.