Thursday, December 14, 2017

To Make The Darkness Itself Shine

ThisThis Dvar Torah Is Dedicated 
 By Chanala Rubenfeld
In honor of Avi Rubenfeld on the occasion of his anniversary
And in honor of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz who is the model and the epitome of the Rebbe's shliach, in his selflessness and dedication to the cause that the Rebbe has charged us with. Turning one of the greatest challenges a human can face into a powerful tool to spread Hashem's wisdom.
 
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The Talmud tells us about the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles, "The House of Shamai says, 'the first day you light 8, from here and on continue to subtract (1 light each day).' The House of Hillel says, ' the first day you light 1, from here and on continue to add (1 light each day).' The House of Shamai's reason, is that it is like the bulls of the holiday (of Sukkos, on the first day 13 bulls were offered, on the second 12, and so on). The House of Hillel's reason, is that you go up in holiness and not down."

What do the lights of Chanukah have to do with the bulls of Sukkos, that we should learn one from the other? The question becomes stronger, when you realize that if it were not for a secondary reason, that we go up in holiness and not down, the House of Hillel would agree to the House of Shamai, that it is because of the bulls of Sukkos. What does Sukkos have to do with Chanukah?

Some would like to answer, that it is because both Sukkos and Chanukah are 8 day holidays, so we learn one from the other. If this is the case, we have to understand, what is the significance of an 8 day holiday?

The holiday of Chanukah was established because of the miracle that happened with the menorah in the Temple, that had 7 lights. So why do we have 8 lights and 8 days?

It seems strange that they compare the lights of the menorah to offerings brought on the altar. For starters they were two different vessels, and while the altar was out in the courtyard, the menorah was in a holier place, the Heichal (AKA the Holies), this tells us that the menorah was in a way holier. Even more, when Aaron was commanded to light the menorah, Hashem told him, "your's (the kindling of the menorah) is greater than their's (the offerings that the Nessiim brought for the altar). In other words, the kindling of the menorah was greater than offerings brought on the altar. What is the meaning of comparing the lights of Chanukah to the bulls of Sukkos?

And finally, the Talmud tells us that the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles begins at sunset. However, the menorah in the Temple was lit an hour and a quarter before sunset (at plag hamincha). If the Chanukah menorah is lit to commemorate the lighting of the menorah in the Temple, why don't we light it an hour and a quarter before sunset? Why do we specifically light it at sunset?

The main point of Chanukah candles is to light up the darkness. Because the miracle of Chanukah came after the darkness of the Greeks, who defiled the Temple, and when they did so, they specifically made a point to defile every bottle of oil that was there, by breaking the seal of the Kohen Gadol that ensured its purity. They didn't break the bottles or pour out the oil, they merely broke the seals. Because they did this, we realize that it was more important to the Greeks to defile the oil than to defile the Temple. What was their intention?

The Greeks didn't want to destroy us physically, they wanted to sever our connection to Hashem. They had no problem with us keeping Judaism, but do it because you want to, not because Hashem wants you to. the oil was symbolic of all that. The whole idea of purity and impurity, is something that doesn't make sense, there is no logic behind it, other than that Hashem said so. And that is what the Greeks couldn't deal with, and sought to destroy. Of course once they started to make decrees, it snowballed into a outright war on Judaism.

This is why the miracle of finding the jug of oil still sealed with the Kohen Gadol's seal was so significant, because it meant that there is a part of us that is always connected to Hashem, and that connection can never be severed.

Each of us has a neshama, a G-dly soul, it is an actual piece of G-d inside of us. This neshama has 5 parts, the highest part is called yechida, this part of the neshama is one with Hashem. Not the way Hashem relates to the world, but much higher, the essence of Hashem, beyond existence. This part of the neshama, can not be touched by negative influences, just the opposite, when we tap into that part of the neshama, we effect the world around us in the most amazing way, lighting the darkness of the world, not that our light dispels the darkness, but that the darkness itself begins to shine.

And this is symbolized by the number 8. As it is known in the teachings of Kabballa and Chassidus, that 7 is the number that represents existence, while the number 8 is beyond existence.

Now we can understand why Chanukah is 8 days, and the Chanukah menorah has 8 lights. Because Chanukah is about our connection to Hashem beyond existence, making the darkness itself shine.

Sukkos is also 8 days, because it also connects to Hashem beyond existence, and this is specifically seen in the bulls of Sukkos. On the first 7 days of Sukkos, we brought 70 bulls representing the 70 nations of the world. This is effecting the world naturally, by shining our light upon them, we dispel the darkness. This means that they don't bother us, and they allow us to do what Hashem wants us to do. On the eighth day we brought 1 bull, representing our singular essential bond with Hashem, beyond existence, the yechida. By revealing our essence, we effect the world by making the darkness itself into light, meaning, that the nations of the world become a help to us.

It is 7 and 1, 7in the world and 1 more going beyond existence.

This is why on Sukkos we spend 7 days in the Sukka and on the 8th day, there is no mitzvah to be in the Sukka. Because for 7 days, surrounded by the Sukka, we are surrounded by a great G-dly energy, but we can't internalize it. On the eighth day is when we connect to our yechida, above existence, and therefore we are able to internalize this great G-dly energy, so we don't need to be surrounded by the Sukka anymore.

And this is why we light the Chanukah menorah at sunset. Because its purpose is to light up the darkness. Until what extent? The Talmud tells us that the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles is until people finish coming from the market place, until the Tarmudai finish coming from the market place. The Tarmudai were the lowest of people, they went against the kingdom of heaven, (as their name suggests, tarmud in Hebrew has the same letters as the word moredes, treason). Even the lowest people are effected by the lights of the menorah, to the extent that they become entirely good and with Hashem.

May the light of our Chanukah menorah turn the darkness of the exile to light in a way that the darkness itself begins to shine, and usher in the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Yosef's Dreams

This Dvar Torah Is Dedicated 
By Mendy and Ita Klein
In honor of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, for the continued inspiration you provide for us all 

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In this week's parsha, Vayeshev, Yosef has two dreams, and he shares them with his brothers. In the first dream, "We were binding sheaves in the midst of the field, when my sheaf stood up and remained upright, then your sheaves formed a circle around my sheaf and prostrated themselves before it." In the second dream, "The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were prostrating themselves before me."

The dreams seem to be conveying the same message. Why does the Torah tell us both dreams if they are the same? The major difference between them, is that the second dream has the addition of the sun and the moon, representing Yaakov and Bilha. Meaning, not only would the 11 brothers bow to Yosef, but Yaakov and Bilha as well. This point didn't need a second dream, it could have been all included in one dream.

In parshas Mikeitz, Pharoah has two dreams, in the first cows came out of the river, and in the second, there were ears of grain growing from a stalk. They seem the same as well. However, when Yosef interprets the dreams, he explains why the dream is repeated, because "G-d is hurrying to carry it out." But by Yosef's dreams there is no such explanation.

We must conclude that there is something new in the second dream. What are the lessons found in these dreams?

Yosef's dreams are a lesson to us, on how to serve Hashem.

The first lessons are found in the differences between Yosef's and Pharaoh's dreams.

Pharoah first dreams about cows and then about grain. In Torah all physical existence is divided into 4 categories. The lowest is domem, inanimate objects, like rocks and sand. Above that is tzomeach, the vegetative domain, things that grow, like trees, grass, vegetables and grain. Above that is chai, living things, like animals. And the highest of the four is medaber, those who have conversation, people.

Both of Pharaoh's dreams happen on earth. The first was about cows, animals, and second went down a notch, about grain, vegetation. It is the way of the impure to go down to lower and lower levels.

Yosef's first dream was on earth, his second was up in the celestial sphere. Reminiscent of Yaakov's dream, where "the ladder was on the ground and its top reached the heavens." Because a Jew must always seek to go higher and beyond the level that he was on.

The two dreams convey the same idea, but one is on earth symbolizing the physical, and the other in the celestial sphere symbolizing the spiritual. Meaning, that we should make the physical and spiritual the same. How do we do this? By filling our physical lives with so much spiritual, that our physical becomes like spiritual.

In Pharaoh's dreams, he is not doing anything. In Yosef's first dream, he and his brothers were working in the field. Because holiness can only be attained through work and effort. There is no free lunch, no bread of shame. Only after the work, do they reach the higher levels in his second dream.

Now that we understand the general aspects of the dreams, let's take a look at some of the details.

In Yosef's first dream the are on earth, in the field, symbolizing chaos and fragmentation, as it says, "Eisav was a man of the field," Eisav was the epitome of chaos and this world is a place of chaos and fragmentation. Every stalk in the field is separate, coming out of its own personal spot of earth.

Our job is to make bundles out of the separate stalks, to make unity of the fragmentation. Meaning, the G-dly soul comes down into the body and animal soul. The nature of the body and the animal soul is to go their own way, following any base pleasure that suits them at the moment, in other words, chaos and fragmentation. Our job is to unite them to follow Hashem's will.

The next thing that happens, is that they bow to Yosef. Yosef is the Tzadik of the generation, like the head that controls the entire body. Our obligation is to bow to the Tzadik, meaning, to take direction from him and to follow his lead.

The problem is that after all this work. We still find ourselves in the field, in the physical. We need to attain a spiritual state. Not to go out of the physical, but to make our physical spiritual. That is the meaning of the second dream. The second dream is up in the celestial sphere, when we reach a high spiritual state.

One might think, "I have reached such a high spiritual state, do I still need to follow the Tzadik?" The answer is that "The sun, the moon, and eleven stars were prostrating themselves before me," before Yosef the Tzadik. Even the person who has attained the highest levels of spirituality, has to follow the direction of the Tzadik.

This work of uniting the fragments and a making our physical into spiritual is not as difficult as you might think. For starters, each of us are called "children of kings," and sometimes we are called "kings," meaning that just like a king and a prince are not required to do work, even the smallest amount of effort they do is considered tremendous. Even more, the Talmud tells us "if you will toil you will find." it doesn't say that "you will succeed," rather, that "you will find." When you say "you will find," it means that you get something unexpected, because when we put in the effort, Hashem gives us much more than the effort we put in. So our little effort goes a long way.

We can all do this with a little bit of effort, and if we do, we will be well along the way to bringing Moshiach. May he come soon.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Yaakov's Staff Of Selflessness

Dear Friends,

This is in honor of Yud Tes Kislev. With Hashem's help, I hope to have another one for Shabbos.

Yitzi 
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In parshas Vayishlach, Yaakov heard that Eisav was coming towards him with 400 armed men, intending to destroy him. Yaakov was afraid of what Eisav might do, so he divided everything he had into two camps, thinking that if Eisav attacks one, the other will be able to be saved. He then turn to Hashem in prayer, asking Hashem to save him from Eisav.

In parshas Vayeitzei, Yaakov had a dream, in which Hashem told him that He would be with him and protect him. Why did he feel that Hashem wouldn't protect him now? Yaakov answers the question in his prayer, he says, "(Katonti) I (my merits) have become diminished, because of all of the acts of kindness and trustworthiness you have done for your servant, (ki b'makli) for with my staff I have crossed this Jordan and now I have become two camps." Yaakov was afraid that with all Hashem has already done for him, he used up his merit, and therefore, perhaps he lost his protection.

Yaakov mentions two events in this verse, as reasons that he felt, used up his merit. First, "(ki b'makli) for with my staff I have crossed this Jordan," and second, "now I have become two camps." The second one, "now I have become two camps," is clearly understood to mean, that he attained great wealth. But our sages give two explanations as to what, "for with my staff I have crossed this Jordan," means.

The first explanation, cited by Rashi, is that Yaakov was saying how poor he was when he first crossed the Jordan 20 years earlier, on his way down to Charan. This explanation brings out the meaning of the second half of the verse, because in contrast to his poverty the last time he crossed the Jordan, you can understand the tremendous kindness Hashem showed him by giving him this great wealth.

The Midrash gives a second explanation. That, "for with my staff I have crossed this Jordan," means that on his way down to Charan, he stuck his staff into the Jordan and it split for him to cross on dry land. According to this explanation, the verse is mentioning two unrelated kindnesses that happened to Yaakov, the splitting of the Jordan and his great wealth.

Whenever there are different explanations on a word, verse or concept in the Torah, there has to be a common thread that they share. The problem here is that they are opposites, the first is a negative, that he was poor, and the second is positive, that Hashem split the Jordan for him. What could possibly be the common link between the two?

The 19th of Kislev always falls in the week before or after Shabbos Parshas Vayishlach, and is celebrated around the world as the Rosh Hashanah of chassidus. One of the reasons for this holiday, is that on this day, the Alter Rebbe, the first Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (the author of the Tanya and the Shulchan Aruch Harav), was released from prison. He was incarcerated on false charges regarding his book, the Tanya, which is known as the written Torah of chassidic thought. His imprisonment was seen as a referendum on the teachings of chassidus, and especially the book of Tanya. It was understood, that a battle was taking place above, over whether or not these teachings should be allowed to be spread and taught openly. When the Rebbe was freed, it was an indication that the war above was over and the side for allowing them to be taught was victorious.

After he was freed, he penned a letter to the community, starting with the word katonti. In it he writes, "Yaakov felt very very small in his own eyes, because of the many kindnesses, '(ki b'makli) for with my Staff . . .'" He ends with "ki b'makli" and he doesn't continue with the rest of the verse.

This is difficult to understand, because "ki b'makli, for with my staff," doesn't point to any kindness that Hashem did for Yaakov. If he wanted to cite the kindnesses he was referring to, it would make sense to write the latter part of the verse, "I have crossed this Jordan and now I have become two camps." Or at the very least, add one more word, "avarti, I have crossed," then it would of at least hinted to Hashem splitting the Jordan for him.

We have to conclude, within the words, "ki b'makli," is found Hashem's kindness to Yaakov, and explaining this, will also help us understand the connection between the two explanations of, "for with my staff I have crossed this Jordan."

The Tzemach Tzedek (the third Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch), brings the words of the Shaloh Hakadosh, who says that the letters of the words, "ki b'makli," make up the first letters of the words, "Baruch kvod Hashem mimkomo," "Lishuascha kivisi Hashem." ("Blessed is Hashem's honor from His place," "For Your salvation I hope Hashem.") The Tzemach Tzedek continues to explain, that this is similar to what is found in Torah Ohr (also by the Alter Rebbe) on the verse, "You do justice and tzedakah in Yaakov," that there has to be both justice and tzedakah, and these are the same as, "Blessed is Hashem's honor from His place," and " For Your salvation I hope Hashem."

To explain. There are two ways our relationship with Hashem could manifest itself. For someone who is righteous, he could ask Hashem for his needs out of justice, meaning, he has rightfully earned it, and because of that, he can outright ask for it. These people connect to Hashem at the highest levels, symbolized by the verse, "Blessed is Hashem's honor from His place." Then there are those of us that are not at that level, when we ask of Hashem, we are like asking for tzedakah, because perhaps we don't exactly deserve it. This is symbolized by the verse, "For Your salvation I hope Hashem." Because we don't think we deserve it, we ask for it as a salvation.

Seemingly, justice and tzedakah are opposites, either you are asking for tzedakah or demanding justice. How can you have both together?

The answer is that there is a third level, the level of Yaakov, where both justice and tzedakah are employed simultaneously. He certainly deserves it, but because of his great humility, he sees himself as undeserving, and asks for his needs as a tzedakah. This is the greatest and truest nullification of one's ego, and draws Hashem's kindness from the highest place, "from His place."

Now we can understand how the two seemingly opposite explanations on the words, "for with my staff I have crossed this Jordan," connect. Because Yaakov embodied both of these ideas simultaneously. He deserved great miracles, such as the splitting of the Jordan, and at the same time he was humble as a poor person having only a staff would be. And specifically because his ego was so nullified, that he merited such a great kindness from Hashem.

Being that each and every one of us are the children of Yaakov, we inherited from him these virtues, to have justice and tzedakah simultaneously. And because we are considered "children of Kings," even the lightest work is considered hard labor, and because we have all put in at least that much effort, we are all deserving, and we are all able to ask for our needs out right, out of justice. This means that we have a tremendous opportunity, if we can nullify our egos before Hashem, we will draw down the greatest blessings of nachas, good health and abundance, and especially the blessing of all blessings, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Are Physical Possessions Good Or Bad?

 This Dvar Torah Is Dedicated 
By Mendy and Ita Klein
In honor of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, for the continued inspiration you provide for us all 

To Dedicate a Dvar Torah Click Here
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In this week's parsha, Vayishlach, Yaakov sends angels to his brother Esav. Part of the message they were to tell him was, "I sojourned (garti) with Lavan." Rashi gives two explanations on the word garti. First, that it is like the word ger, which means stranger, because the whole time he lived by Lavan he was like a stranger. Second, that Yaakov was hinting to Esav, that during his sojourn with Lavan, he kept the 613 mitzvahs, as the numerical value of the word garti is 613.

What is the connection between the homiletical explanation, that Yaakov kept the 613 mitzvahs, with the simple meaning of the verse, that he sojourned at Lavan? Why was it important for Yaakov to let Esav know that he kept the 613 mitzvahs? And finally, what lesson are we meant to learn from this?

Yaakov's descent to Charan, where he lived with Lavan, is the descent of the neshama into the world, and on a broader perspective, the descent of the Jewish people into exile. Your neshama descends to accomplish a mission, to refine your body and the world around you into a dwelling for Hashem. When you do this, you have completed your part of the mission. When we complete our missions collectively, Hashem will dwell openly in this world, and Moshiach will be here.

Yaakov is teaching us the correct approach to succeed in our mission.

Rashi's first explanation, is that garti comes from ger, a stranger. When you are home, everything has to be just right, but when you are traveling on the way, things don't have to be perfect, you make due with what is available, because it is not so important.

Lavan and Esav symbolize physical needs, wants, and pleasures. The question is, are you at home by Lavan, meaning, are your physical needs, wants and pleasures most important, or are you a stranger traveling through Lavan's place, meaning, that the spiritual is most important and the physical is not so important?

Yaakov was saying that he was like a stranger traveling through Lavan's place. The physical was not so important to him, his focus was on the spiritual. Therefore, he was successful in his mission.

To prove that he was successful, Yaakov says, "I acquired cattle, donkeys, sheep..." This seems to contradict what was said before, that the physical was not important to Yaakov. Was it important or not?

There are different approaches you can have to the world. One approach is that the physical is all that is important, and success is measured by how many things you have. This is Lavan and Esav's approach.

A second approach is that only the spiritual is important. In this approach all physical gains are shunned.

Then there is Yaakov's approach. When you make the spiritual most important, but you recognize that everything in the world has a spiritual purpose. In other words, the physical becomes important for the spiritual reason it exists. So the physical isn't bad at all, it just has to be harnessed and used for its G-dly purpose. When it is just physical, it is negative, but when it is viewed through spiritual lenses, it is positive.

This will help us understand a strange thing that the Midrash says. On the verse, "I acquired cattle, donkeys, sheep..." The Midrash says that the word "donkey," refers to King Moshiach, as it says about Moshiach, that he will be "A pauper, riding on a donkey." How does this fit in with what Yaakov was saying?

Because Yaakov was saying that he did his part to bring Moshiach.

In order for Moshiach to come we have to make this world into a dwelling place for Hashem, we have to take ownership of it and refine it. This is done through Torah and mitzvahs and by using your possessions to serve Hashem. Conveying that he kept the 613 mitzvahs, Yaakov was saying that he did this work.

From this perspective, the more you acquire doing your mission, meaning, the more of the physical world you refine, the more successful you become. And that is what Yaakov is telling Esav, "see how much I accomplished, I have acquired the spiritual essence of all these things, now they are realizing their G-dly purpose. I have done my part to bring Moshiach."

By sending these messages, Yaakov was hinting to Esav that "I have completed my mission despite all the difficulties of living in exile, with Lavan. Did you do the same?"

The angels returned to Yaakov with the answer, "we came to your brother to Esav." You were hoping that he would be like a brother, that he would be the same as you, but he is still Esav, he still only sees the physical world as important, he has not done his part.

The lesson here is for everyone, at every time and in every place, no matter the situation. A Jew must do his best to refine himself and his part of the world, making it into a home for Hashem, and readying it for the redemption. This is true even if the world around him doesn't seem to be going in the same direction, and others don't seem to be doing their part, and maybe they are even acting as a Lavan or an Esav. Don't think that it is a waste, because you are bringing the redemption closer, and being that the world is holding in a balance, perhaps it is your effort that will tip the scale and usher in the redemption. This is how powerful the effort of a single individual can be.

The key to accomplishing your part, is making the spiritual most important, and allowing the physical to follow, using it for its G-dly purpose.

May our efforts to make this world into a home for Hashem succeed, and usher in the coming of Moshiach. May it happen soon. The time has come.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Making This World Into A Home For Hashem

Dear Friends,

This post is in honor of the 9th of Kislev, which marks the birth and passing of the second Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Dovber of Lubavitch, and the 10th of Kislev on which he was released from prison, incarcerated for his work to strengthen Judaism in Czarist Russia.

This date is close to my heart, because it is the date that Dina and I got engaged.

Yitzi 
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In parshas Vayeitzei, we read about Yaakov's descent to Charan. On his way he stopped at Mount Moriah, had the dream with the angels going up and down the ladder, in which Hashem blessed him, and he prayed to Hashem.

Everything the Torah tells us about our forefathers, are meant to be a lesson to us, especially in our service to Hashem. Let us examine some of the details of this story and see how it pertains to us.

When he came to the mountain, the sun had set. "And he took from the stones of the place and put it around his head, and he lay down in that place." The Torah didn't have to tell us about how he gathered the stones and put them around his head, so what are we meant to learn from it? If you look at the literal translation of the words, it says that "he put it around his head." first it was several stones, now it is one stone, what are we to derive from this detail?

Now he lays down. It is interesting to note, that the Midrash tells us that before Yaakov's descent to Charan, he spent 14 years studying Torah in the academy of Ever. It says that the whole time he was there, he didn't once lay down to sleep. This was the first time that he lay down. What are we to take from this point?

After having his dream and recognizing that Hashem's Presence was there, he woke up in the morning and set up the stone that was under his head as a monument. Later, in his prayer, he says, "And this stone that I set as a monument will be a house for Hashem." What is the idea of a stone being a house for Hashem?

Yaakov says a prayer in the form of an oath, "If Hashem will be with me, and will protect me on this journey that I am undertaking, and will give me bread to eat and clothing to wear. And if I will return to my father's home in peace (b'shalom), then Hashem (Havaya) will be to me as G-d (Elokim)." The simple meaning of this prayer is understood. What spiritual symbolism is to be found in this prayer?

Yaakov says, "And if I will return to my father's home in peace." When you use the word "return," it means to go back to where you started from. In our parsha, it says that he left from Be'er Sheva, not from his father's home. Shouldn't he say, "And if I return to Be'er Sheva?" Why does he say, "to my father's home?" It is not enough that he return, but he asked to return "b'shalom, in peace." What is the idea of returning in peace?

And finally, Yaakov says, "Hashem will be to me as G-d." What other option is there? Wouldn't Hashem be his G-d even if he didn't return in peace?

On a spiritual level, Yaakov's descent from Be'er Sheva to Charan is the descent of the neshama into the world. And this story teaches us the purpose, the mission and the goal of the neshama's descent, and on a broader perspective, the purpose, mission and goal of the Jewish people in this world.

The mission of the soul is to transform the body and its place in the world into a dwelling place for Hashem. It leaves Be'er Sheva, its holy abode above, and makes its way to this lowly world. Just as in Yaakov's dream, before leaving the heavens, Hashem blesses it and reassures it that He will always be with it and protect it. In other words, Hashem strengthens each of us and fortifies us with what is necessary to accomplish our mission.

Yaakov took stones, symbolizing the lowest physical, inanimate and fragmented existence and he united them into a single entity, that is why they are first called "stones" and then called "It." Then he tells Hashem, that he will make the stone into a home for Hashem. Meaning, that he will turn even the lowest level of existence into a home for Hashem.

How does one do this? Yaakov says, "If you will give me bread to eat," bread is symbolic of Torah, which nourishes the soul. "And clothing to wear," clothing is symbolic of mitzvahs. In Kabballa mitzvahs are called the garments of the soul, because unlike Torah that permeates ones mind and heart, mitzvahs are Hashem's will, which is beyond our ability to understand, therefore it doesn't permeate the mind and heart, instead they remain outside of you, and surround you like garments. Also, just like different garments allow you to be in different environments, it is Torah and mitzvahs you do in this world that serve as garments of the soul in heaven, and allow the soul to enjoy Hashem's radiance. It is through these Torah and mitzvahs that we refine ourselves and the world around us.

However, rocks are symbolic of even a lower level of existence. Not the things that involve Torah and mitzvahs, but the mundane basics and even the pleasures of life, eating, drinking, work, exercise, vacation, etc. they can be done for Hashem and made into a home for Him as well. This is the greatest possible transformation that one could achieve, that even his mundane activities, his "rocks," become a home for Hashem. Not that it becomes spiritual, rather it remains a rock, and that rock becomes a home for Hashem as it is.

This idea is stressed by Yaakov laying down. The head symbolizes the highest level, G-dliness, and the feet the lowest, the most mundane. Normally the head is above and the feet are below, but when you lay down you put them on the same level, symbolizing drawing G-dliness into the mundane.

Not only does Yaakov teach us this lesson, but it is hinted in his name. In Hebrew, the name Yaakov could be divided into the letter yud, which symbolizes Hashem, and the word aikev, a heel, the lowest part of a person's body. When you bring them together, you have Yaakov, drawing G-dliness into the lowest places.

After the soul does its mission it returns above, but it doesn't return to the same place it came from, rather because of its work down here it attains a much higher level. That is the idea of, "and I will return to my father's home." Not just to Be'er Sheva where he came from, but to a much greater place, to his father's home.

This is also the story of our nation going down into exile. We are here to do a mission, to make this world, as it is, into a dwelling place for Hashem. When we complete the mission, we won't return to our previous state, but much higher, infinitely higher, when we will see Hashem in everything, as it says, "That the world will be filled with the knowledge of Hashem like the waters cover the sea."

Yaakov asked to return "b'shalom, in peace (or whole)." Rashi explains that it means that he shouldn't be influenced by Lavan. In other words, when there are obstacles, enemies or negative influences, one can be adversely effected by them, leaving him less than whole. Contending with your body, its natural tendencies, and the world around you, making them into a home for Hashem, can be a great struggle. We ask to succeed without being effected by them. This is similar to what King David said, "Redeem my soul in peace (b'shalom)," because many wanted to do him harm and he fought many wars. He was not only asking to be saved, but that he not be adversely effected by them.

However, there is another meaning of "b'shalom." When you have such a powerful effect on your adversaries that instead of working against you, they become a help to you. Meaning, that the body and the world around you become transformed until they are totally in sync with Hashem's will. This will clearly be the case when Moshiach comes.

Now we can understand why Yaakov says, "Hashem (Havaya) will be to me as G-d (Elokim)." Because although the life force of existence is from the name Havaya, the G-dly energy  that comes from the name Havaya is too much for the physical world to handle. The name Elokim makes existence possible by transforming the Havaya energy so that we could exist. That is why in the story of creation the name Elokim is used, "In the beginning Elokim created the heavens and the earth." Because it is the name Elokim that allows for existence. So the norm for us is that Elokim is to us as G-d (Elokim), because we don't experience the name Havaya, it is in our world, but it is beyond our ability to connect with.

However, through refining ourselves and our place in the world we can attain a higher level, in which we can sence Havaya in everything, to the point that we see Havaya as G-d (Elokim). When Moshiach comes, this will be the norm, as we will see Havaya in everything, as it says, "That the world will be filled with the knowledge of Havaya as the waters cover the sea."

May our efforts to refine ourselves and the world around us be successful and may we merit to see Havaya in everything soon with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Transforming Bad Into Good

This Dvar Torah Is Dedicated 
By Mendy and Ita Klein
In honor of Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz, for the continued inspiration you provide for us all 

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This week's parsha, Vayaytzei, begins, "And Yaakov went out of Be'er Shava, and he went to Charan."

The Midrash tells us that he left "Be'er Sheva, meaning, Be'era shel shavua, the well of the oath," in order that Avimelech (king of the Philistines) won't be able to ask him to take the same oath his parents took, and cause his children's joy to wait 7 generations.

Both Avraham and Yitzchak made peace agreements with Avimelech, in the form of an oath. The Midrash tells us that the consequence of those oaths, was that the Jewish people's entry into the land of Israel was pushed off for 7 generations. Avraham's oath pushed it off until the generation of Moshe, and Yitzchak's oath added another generation, until Yehoshua, who conquered the land, and was the 7th generation from Yitzchak.

It seems that Avraham and Yitzchak weren't afraid to take an oath and make a peace agreement with Avimelech, even though it would push off the entry into the land. We see no effort on their part to avoid Avimelech like Yaakov did. Why was only Yaakov afraid to take an oath of peace with Avimelech?

On the other hand, if our forefathers knew that taking this oath would push off the entry into the land by 7 generations, why weren't Avraham and Yitzchak weary of taking it?

In order to understand this, we need to take a look at the difference between the style of service to Hashem of Avraham and Yitzchak as opposed to that of Yaakov.

Our forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, service to Hashem was on the highest level possible, they were like a chariot to Hashem. Just as a chariot has no will of its own, and only goes where its driver wants it to go, same was with our forefathers, they were so in sync with Hashem, that their will was totally His, and they did what He wanted automatically. But there were differences in the way they effected the world around them.

Avraham and Yitzchak's approach to the bad and evil around them, was to avoid it, or to arrange that it wouldn't bother them, so they could serve Hashem in peace. That is why they made a treaty with Avimelech.

When you make a peace agreement with another, it doesn't change who they are or what they stand for. All it does, is put temporarily halt to negative actions against each other. In other words, for the time being, I won't bother you, and you won't bother me. But Avimelech remained the same immoral Philistine that he always was. Because of this style of service, Avraham and Yitzchak didn't change the nations they lived in, the Cannanites remained the same immoral Cannanites, and the Hittites remained the same immoral Hittites. True, they didn't bother Avraham and Yitzchak, and they even respected them, but they weren't changed. Because of this style of service, Avraham was able to have a Yishmael and Yitzchak was able to have an Esav, they didn't have the influence to change them to good, because their way was to negate bad and evil, and not to transform it to good.

Yaakov, on the other hand, worked on transforming the bad around him into good, he didn't make peace with it, he refined it until it was good on its own. That is why he couldn't make peace with Avimelech, because that would ensure that he wouldn't change. And that is why all of his children followed in his footsteps, because he would have that effect and influence on them, as his way was to transform everything to good.

This is why he left the Holy Land to go to Charan, the lowest of places, as Rashi tells us, that it was "charon af shel Makom, the place that angered Hashem." Because he wanted to refine it, and he did over the 20 years that he was there.

So why weren't Avraham and Yitzchak weary of making peace with Avimelech, if it was going to push off the entry into the land of Israel by seven generations?

It wasn't that the oath they took itself pushed off the entry into the land. Rather, as long as the bad remained, it pushed off the entry. Being that their mode of service didn't transform the bad into good anyway, it didn't matter if they took the oath or not, it would have still pushed off the entry into the land by 7 generations.

It is Yaakov's mode of service that made us who we are, we are even called by his name, the Children of Israel (Yaakov's other name was Yisrael, Israel), because it his mode of service that we are meant to follow. Our purpose is to make this lowly world into a dwelling place for Hashem, and we do this by refining ourselves and the world around us, through Torah and mitzvahs, and by using everything in our life in the service of Hashem.

Hashem has put us in the darkest place and the darkest time, the last moments of the exile. This is the ultimate Charan, the lowest of the low, and we have the power to transform it. When the lowest is transformed into good, into a dwelling for Hashem, our work will be complete, and Moshiach will come.

May our efforts in refining the world through Torah and mitzvahs be fruitful, and put an end to the suffering and pain of this dark and bitter exile once and for all. The time has come.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

The Power Of Yitzchak's Blessings

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In this week's parsha, Toldos, Yitzchak blessed Yaakov, "May G-d (haElokim) give you from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land, and abundance of grain and wine."

Most of the blessings given to Avraham and Yitzchak are given with the name Havaya (yud, hay, vav and hay). Most blessings in general, including the Kohen's blessing is with the name Havaya, so when a different name is used, in our case, Elokim, we have to ask: Why?

Every name of Hashem represents a different expression of His energy in the world. For example, the name Havaya represents chesed, kindness, it is an unbridled flow of His creative energy that makes existence possible. However, being that it is unbridled, it is too much, and in order to make existence actually work, the name Elokim, which represents gevurah, strength, discernment and discipline is necessary. It acts as a converter, translating the Havaya energy so that the world can exist as we know it. It doesn't restrict it, it just makes it user friendly. This is why in the story of creation the name Elokim is used, "In the beginning Elokim created the heavens and the earth." Because it is the name Elokim that allows for existence.

But at the same time, the energy that we receive from gevurah is greater than that from chesed. Because chesed, kindness, is cool and calm, and therefore limited, however, gevurah, strength, is hot and passionate, and therefore unlimited. 

Now it begins to make sense, why these great blessings are given only by Yitzchak, and not by Avraham and Yaakov, because Yitzchak's attribute was gevurah. We also find that right after Avraham died, Hashem blessed Yitzchak with the name Elokim, as it says, "And it was after Avraham died, and Elokim blessed Yitzchak his son." This is the first time we have the name Elokim connected to a blessing and it is specifically for Yitzchak. Before Avraham died, the blessings were according to his attribute and his mode of service, chesed, through the name Havaya. Once Avraham died, the blessings started to come in accordance with Yitzchak's attribute and his mode of service, gevurah, hence the name Elokim.

The blessings that Yitzchak gave Yaakov, "May Elokim give you from the dew of the heavens. . ." are greater than the blessing that Hashem gave Yitzchak, "And Elokim blessed Yitzchak his son." How do we know this?

Rashi tells us that Avraham was afraid to bless Yitzchak, because he saw that Esav was coming from him. So he said, "let the Master of blessings come and bless who is good in His eyes," And Hashem came and blessed Yitzchak. From this story it is understood that had Avraham blessed Yitzchak, his blessing would automatically transfer to his children, including Esav. It therefore stands to reason, that the blessing that Hashem gave Yitzchak, transferred to his children, so that both Yaakov and Esav had this blessing automatically.

We read in our parsha of the lengths Yaakov went to, doing things that were against his nature, just to secure Yitzchak's blessings. If he already had Hashem's blessing, why did Yaakov want Yitzchak's blessings so badly? The answer is obvious, that Yitzchak's blessings were much more than the ones he already had.

We also read in the parsha, that Yitzchak wanted to give his blessings to Esav. Why? Didn't he know that Esav was trouble? Of course he did, but he saw in Esav great potential, because the source of Esav was from a very high spiritual realm, and he felt that if only he got the blessings, perhaps they would bring out his great potential.

We are taught, that although Esav had great potential, the blessings would have been wasted on him. Either they would have gone to waste, being swallowed by his boorish nature, or they would have been too much for him to handle, and they would have destroyed him.

Ultimately, it was Yaakov that got the blessings, and that is good, because it is only through Yaakov, that Esav could be refined, attain his true potential and receive the blessings.

We are Yaakov's descendants, and we have been given the ability to have an amazing effect on the world around us, Esav's descendants, we could bring out their great potential. In this way, they also receive the blessings.

What gives us the ability to have such a profound effect on the world? It is because we have Yitzchak's powerful blessings from the name Elokim, and this is what it means when it says, "through him (Avraham) the nations of the world will be blessed." That we, the children of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov, will finish the mission that they started, change the world for good and bring Moshiach.

May we all enjoy the simple meaning of Yitzchak's blessings, "May G-d give you from the dew of the heavens and the fat of the land, and abundance of grain and wine." Together with every other blessing, including nachas, good health and abundance. And especially the greatest blessing, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.
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In honor of my brothers, the Shluchim of the Rebbe, who are having the International Conference of Chabad Lubavitch Shluchim (Kinus Hashluchim) this week. May you have amazing success in your shlichus, nachas from your children, and good health.