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 

To Dedicate a Dvar Torah Click Here
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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.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

When The Moon Disappears

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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This week we read a special Haftora for Erev Rosh Chodesh (the day before Rosh Chodesh), called Machor Chodesh. When Shabbos falls on Erev Rosh Chodesh, we read this Haftora instead of the Haftora connected to the parsha.

The Haftora tells us that King Shaul's son, Yonasan, felt that David's life was in danger. So he devised a plan to find out if his father really wanted to kill him. "Yonasan said (to David), 'Machor Chodesh (tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh), and you will be remembered because your seat will be empty.'" He told David to hide for three days in a certain place where there was a travelers marker stone. In three days he would go there with a young boy and have his bow and arrow, to practice. He would shoot three arrows, and send the boy to collect them. If he calls to the boy and says, "they are to the side," then it safe to return. If he says, "they are further," then David's life is in danger.

Over Rosh Chodesh it became clear that Shaul wanted to kill David.

Yonasan went to the place with the boy and his bow and arrows. He shot three arrows, and called out to the boy, "they are further." After the boy collected the arrows, Yonasan sent him back to the city and David came out of hiding. "They kissed each other and wept with one another, until David became great (weeping even more than Yonasan)." Yonasan reiterated his pledge of everlasting friendship and they parted ways.

Before explaining this Haftora, we must first explain why we read this Haftora altogether? Answering this question, will bring clarity to all the symbolism found in this Haftora.

The rule is that the Haftora has to be similar to the parsha, and at least similar to the end of the Torah reading or connected to the time. Most of the time, when we have a special Haftora that is read instead of the weekly parsha's Haftora, we have a special maftir as well, and the Haftora is connected to the maftir. On Shabbos Machor Chodesh there is no special maftir, so why do we read this Haftora?

An even greater question is, what kind of holiday is Machor Chodesh, the day before Rosh Chodesh, that it should have a special Haftora and usurp the regular Haftora? We don't find any other day before a holiday to have a special Haftora. For example, there is no Machor Pesach or Machor Shavuoth (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Sukkos can't fall on Sunday). Why does Erev Rosh Chodesh have a special Haftora?

Reading this Haftora itself doesn't make sense. Aside for the fact that the story in the Haftora begins on Erev Rosh Chodesh, it doesn't seem to have anything to do with Erev Rosh Chodesh. It hardly makes sense that a Haftora be set, based on two words in the first verse, "Machor Chodesh," when the rest of the Haftora has nothing to do with it.

There must be something very special about Erev Rosh Chodesh, and the Haftora must be highlighting that exact point. What is so special about Erev Rosh Chodesh?

Rosh Chodesh is when the new moon appears. Before the new moon appears, it first has to completely disappear. The birth of the new moon brings with it a new light, a new spiritual energy, but in order for the new energy to enter the world, there has to be the total nullification of the self, the moon has to totally disappear. It is the actual nullification of the self, that brings the new spiritual energy into the world.

This idea is symbolized by the words, "you will be remembered because your seat will be empty." "Because your seat will be empty," meaning, because of your self nullification, that is why "you will be remembered," meaning, you will cause something positive to happen.

The Talmud tells us that "Jews count by the moon," "Jews are similar to the moon," and "in the future, they will be renewed like her (the moon)." Just as the new energy enters the world through the total nullification of the self, so too, through our total self nullification and self sacrifice to do Hashem's will, an amazing light is brought into the world, as I will explain.

Our purpose is to make this lowly limited physical world into a dwelling place for Hashem. The way we do this, is through refining ourselves and our place in the world so Hashem will be able to dwell in it openly. This is done by using everything to serve Hashem, either for Torah and mitzvahs, or to help you serve Hashem in some way. And this takes work, especially on one's self, first by forcing your ego to do what Hashem wants, and then through transforming the ego, to the point that it wants to do what Hashem wants. This is hard work, and the nullification of the self. This process brings amazing levels of G-dly light into the world, and it is specifically the nullification of the self to Hashem, that causes the light to come.

The work of refining ourselves and the world around us, is symbolized by the bow and arrow. Just as with a bow and arrow, the more you pull back on the bowstring, the further the arrow will go, the same thing applies to our work. The deeper into ourselves we go and the lower the place in the world we refine, the greater the light that enters the world.

When we complete this process, Hashem will dwell openly in this world, which means that Moshiach will be here.

This dark and bitter exile that we are in, is like the day before Rosh Chodesh. Slowly as the day goes on, the light of the moon gets smaller and smaller until it completely disappears. It is then that the new light comes. It is specifically our efforts in the darkest part of the exile that causes the light of Moshiach to enter the world.

At the end, at the darkest time we do the ultimate refinement through teshuva, as the Rambam says, "In the end, Yisrael will do teshuva at the end of their exile and they will immediately be redeemed." Teshuva means coming closer to Hashem, and everyone can do teshuva. For some it means correcting their ways, but there is a higher level of teshuva, where even someone who doesn't have to correct his ways comes closer to Hashem. He is not satisfied with his current level, as no one should be satisfied, and should always want to get closer to Hashem. Through this higher level of teshuva, he breaks free from his current state and reaches a higher level.

This is symbolized by the first words of the Haftora, "And Yonasan said (to David)." Yonasan symbolizes the Tzadik, and David the Baal Teshuva. It is the service of the Tzadikim that enable Baal Teshuvas to start their teshuva, but they ultimately reach the level of the Tzadik, as we see in the Haftora, "They kissed each other and wept with one another." This means that at that moment they were equals. However, teshuva will take you even higher, that is why the verse continues, "until David became great." Because through teshuva you can reach higher than the level of a Tzadik. So great is the power of teshuva, that the Zohar tells us about Moshiach, that "he is coming to bring Tzadikim to do teshuva." That when Moshiach comes, Tzadikim will harness the power of teshuva and soar to incredible heights, because Hashem is infinite, and there is always higher levels to attain.

Erev Rosh Chodesh is symbolic of our essential purpose and mission. And the day of Shabbos accentuates it even more, because on Shabbos we are raised above creation, and we sense our essence.

With all this said, it becomes clear that Erev Rosh Chodesh is of great importance to us, it therefore deserves to have a Haftora of its own, and even take the place of the parsha's Haftora.

May our efforts to complete our mission and our teshuva, flood the world with the light of Hashem, and usher in the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Making Your Life Your's

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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This week's parsha, Chayei Sarah, begins, "And Sarah's lifetime was 127 years, the years of Sarah's life."

The question is asked: If it already said, "And Sarah's lifetime was 127 years," why does it add, "the years of Sarah's life?"

Another question: Why does the Torah tell us how long Sarah lived, as opposed to the other matriarchs, whose years aren't told to us? The Zohar says, that because she went down and came up from Egypt, she merited to have an exalted state of living. Which means that her life now was filled with a very high spiritual state as a gift from above. He concludes that "her life was her's," meaning, that she was master over every aspect of her life, and even more, not only did she received the gift of an exalted state of living, but she internalized it, and mastered that as well.

The Rebbe Rashab (the fifth Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Shalom Dovber Schneerson of Lubavitch) explains the words of the Zohar, that the first part of the verse, "And Sarah's lifetime was 127 years," means that she merited to have an exalted state of living, and the second half of the verse, "the years of Sarah's life," comes to teach us that her life was her's.

Rashi explains that the extra words, "the years of Sarah's life," comes to teach us that her years were all equally good, which means free of sin. How do we reconcile Rashi's interpretation with the words of the Zohar, that "her life was her's?"

We have a rule, that what our patriarchs and matriarchs did, is a lesson to us, their children, as to what we should do. If the Torah tells us extra words, "the years of Sarah's life," which mean equally good, free of sin, it means that we should also have equally good years. How can this be a life lesson for us to follow? A lesson can be applied to the present and the future, but not the past. If someone had committed sins in the past, how can his years be equally good, free of sin?

This is where teshuva comes in. There is a kind of teshuva that could correct the past as well, as if no sin was ever committed, when someone does teshuva out of love.

What is teshuva from love? There are different reasons a person does teshuva. Sometimes it is done out of fear, either because he is afraid of punishment or he feels that he will not get what he needs from Hashem if he doesn't correct his ways. Then there is the person who wants to get closer to Hashem. He yearns from the depth of his heart and thirsts for a relationship with Hashem, only to get closer and closer. Doing teshuva from this approach is called teshuva from love.

Being that it is possible to change the past, it is possible to follow Sarah's lead and have all your years equally good. In other words, a Jew has total control over his life, even his past , if he wants to. And when he does, it becomes his life just like Sarah's life was her's.

How does changing the past work?

On a basic level, because he realizes that he sinned, he is full of remorse, and he feels cut off. Therefore, he becomes bitter over his lowly situation and that pushes him to do teshuva. Now, because it is the sin that motivated him to do teshuva, repair the bond, and come closer to Hashem than he was before the sin, it is the actual sin that brought him closer. Superficially it is a sin with all its trappings, but through his teshuva he reveals a hidden good from within the sin, and that takes the place of the sin.

On a deeper level, teshuva from love is so powerful, that it reaches a place that is beyond the creation of time. Time is also a creation and there are spiritual realms before or beyond the existence of time. At the moment of teshuva you are beyond time, and there is no past, present or future, therefore, it is as if you are transported to before the sin and it is corrected.

Not only do we learn this lesson from Sarah, but because she was at such a high level, and she was able to internalized it, and take ownership of every aspect of her life, it means that we could as well. Because Sarah is our mother, and it is in our genes to be like her. Therefore, we have the ability to have all our years equally good and that our lives be ours, just like her.

You might think, "I am not holy enough or special enough to be able to do teshuva from love." It is a mistake to think that way, every Jew is holy and special, and can do teshuva from love. It is not the easy route, it will take work, learning about Hashem, understanding why He created the world, and why He created you. But when you begin to understand, your love for Hashem will start to burn inside you, and with time and effort, the fire will grow and lead you to teshuva from love.

If you follow these steps, you will begin to see Judaism differently. Instead of it feeling as a burden you are responsible for, you will begin to have a passion for it and do it with joy. And joy is the key to breaking all boundaries and reaching the greatest heights. You will even do your teshuva with joy, passion and love, and you will become the master over your life, past, present and future, just like Sarah our mother.

May our efforts to get closer to Hashem, bring us to "serve Hashem with joy." This joy will break all boundaries, especially the constraints of this dark and bitter exile, and usher in the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.


If you want to learn about Hashem,  I suggest learning the book of Tanya as a starting point.

Thursday, November 2, 2017

The Power Of Our Mitzvahs

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Moshe Gaerman
לע״נ באשע ליבא ע״ה בת אברהם
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In this week's parsha, Vayeira, Hashem sent an angel to destroy Sodom and Amora (Gomora). He said, "Should I conceal from Avraham what I am about to do? Seeing that Avraham will surely become a great and mighty nation, and through him all the nations of the world will be blessed. For I cherish him, because he will instruct his children and his household after him and they will keep Hashem's way (literally path) to do righteousness and Justice . . ."

Why does Hashem use the terms "conceal" and "path?" The word hamechaseh, which means to cover up or to conceal is not the usual word used in this context. Therefore we must ask, why is it being used? The word derech means a path. Why is following Hashem's way called a path?

The verse says that Hashem cherishes Avraham, "because he will instruct his children and his household after him and they will keep Hashem's way to do righteousness and Justice . . ." What about everything Avraham did until that point? Wasn't he tested over and over again? Didn't he work on teaching people about Hashem? Shouldn't Hashem cherish him for those things?

It seems to be saying that Hashem cherishes Avraham because of us, being that in the future, we will do the mitzvahs. And because of that He is revealing what is concealed.

To understand this, allow me to take you to a deeper place.

The word derech is a way or a path. A path connects two places and allows travel between the two. One place can be a great city and the other can be a small village. They could have nothing in common, yet they are connected. Even more than that, travel goes both ways, someone from the great big city can travel on the path to the small town, and he can return on the same path to the great big city.

In our verse, the words "he will instruct his children," refer to Torah, "and they will keep Hashem's way," refers to the Mitzvahs. The next words seem superfluous, "to do righteousness and Justice," which again means to do the mitzvahs. What do we learn from the extra words?

Though Hashem is beyond the world and there is nothing in common between this lowly limited world and the unlimited infinite Hashem. Nevertheless, Hashem created a pathway for us to connect with Him. First through Torah, drawing from His infinite light down into our limited lives, and then through doing mitzvahs we reach up and connect with even higher levels than where Torah comes from. Because Torah is Hashem's wisdom and mitzvahs are Hashem's will, and will is higher than wisdom.

This is how we make the world into a home for Hashem, not by destroying the lowly physical state and turning it in to spiritual, rather it remains the same world, but we make it ready to receive His presence through our Torah and mitzvahs.

All this is with regards to the part of Hashem that is, so to speak, related to the world. But there are higher parts, that are beyond any connection to the world, they are referred to as "concealed." Hashem is saying that He will reveal these as well. How do we tap into these higher levels?

That is where "to do righteousness and Justice" come in. There are two levels in doing mitzvahs. The first is an outcome of Torah, we draw down G-dliness through the study of Torah, we do the mitzvahs as an outcome of understanding the Torah, thereby reaching even higher levels.

Then there is the greatness of mitzvahs on their own, and not as it relates to Torah study. The power of our mitzvahs will be recognized when Moshiach comes, and it is our mitzvahs that reveals and connects us to the concealed levels of G-dliness.

This is what Hashem cherishes about Avraham, that we, his descendants, will do the mitzvahs, Hashem's will, and therefore He reveals what is concealed.

Even though the power of our mitzvahs will only be revealed when Moshiach comes, meaning, that we will see the power of our actions. Nevertheless, although we don't see it now, it accomplishes the same thing, and we have the power to tap into the concealed levels of G-dliness.

Our mitzvahs are so powerful and Hashem cherishes each and every one of us, because of our commitment to doing them.

Knowing this, we should try to add to the mitzvahs we do, and do them with more enthusiasm. Perhaps it will be your mitzvah that will tip the scale and usher in the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A Call To Every Jew

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
To Dedicate a Dvar Torah Click Here
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In the first verse of this week's parsha, Lech Lecha, Hashem commanded Avraham, "Lech Lecha, go for yourself, from your land, from your birthplace, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." Hashem continues to tell Avraham that, "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name great." This is the first command to the first Jew, therefore, there must be a message here for every Jewish person, for all time. What is the message?

There are two approaches to understanding this verse. The first is that it is referring to the journey of the soul, a descent from above to below. The soul is asked to leave its home in the highest spiritual realms, and make the descent into the lowest possible realm, the physical world. But it is here that it affects the most change and accomplishes its purpose, and the effect is so powerful, that it brings Hashem's blessing and becomes great. Meaning, that the soul is uplifted to higher spiritual realms, beyond where it was before its descent.

In this way of understanding the verse, we are given a glimpse of our purpose, the goal of every Jew, to make this world into a better place, the way Hashem wants it. A place where Hashem could call home.

The second approach is more in line with the simple meaning of the verse. It refers to the ascent from below to above we must make every day from the lowly and mundane, from "your land, your birthplace, and your father's house," which in the context of the verse, refers to a place and an atmosphere of idol worship, " to the land that I will show you," the land of Israel, a place of holiness.

This is especially poignant now after the holidays, when we are thrusted into the mundane, which in chasidic teaching is called, "V'Yaakov halach l'darko, and Yaakov went on his way," meaning that every "Yaakov," every Jew, goes on his  way after the holidays, doing his mission to transform his part of the world into a dwelling place for Hashem.

The name Yaakov is used here, which comes from the word eikev, a heel, which is the lowest part of a person's body, because we can even transform the lowest part of ourselves to do Hashem's will. When the heel is transformed and moves in the ways of Hashem, it takes the rest of the body with it.

We see this on Simchas Torah, the end of the holidays, when we celebrate through dancing with the soles of our feet, and they make the body and head dance as well. This is the same message, and a preparation for the rest of the year, that if you can get the lowest part of you to serve Hashem, then all of yourself will serve Hashem. And if you can transform the lowest part of the world into a dwelling place for Hashem, then you transform the whole world. Because when you lift something from the bottom, you lift the whole thing.

It is through Torah, mitzvahs and living the life of a Jew that transforms this world, and we have the power to do it, we inherited it from our forefather Avraham. It is through this work that we complete Hashem's command to Avraham, "Lech Lecha."

Although these two explanations are opposites, the first a descent, and the second an ascent, they are both explanations of the same verse, and therefore simultaneously true. And we have to take both messages at the same time. That we have descended to effect this world, and we should try to change it from the bottom up.

So "Lech Lecha," is a call to every Jewish person, to do all you can to complete the mission and make this world into a home for Hashem. It is through both of these approaches working simultaneously that we create an environment that the highest levels of G-dliness, even the levels that are beyond the world, to enter the world and become part of our lives.

This is the key to the blessings found in our parsha, and the path to the ultimate blessing, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Water Didn't Drown Me, It Raised Me Up

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This week I had the biggest scare of my life. In the middle of the night, something was blocking my airway. My wife Dina and my nurse tried desperately to clear it, but nothing was working. I can't begin to imagine what Dina was going through, but she did what had to get done and because of that I am alive.

For me it was terrifying, not being able to breathe, slowly fading, thoughts racing. The thoughts I had, first of my wife and children, then I thought, "I can't believe this is happening."The last thing I remember thinking is, "Okay Hashem, if you want me, I am yours, shema Yisrael..."

The next thing I remember is glimpses of the hallway, and I came to in the ambulance.

If it wasn't for this near death experience, I wouldn't have gone to the hospital. Now that I did I am so grateful, because they did routine tests and found a serious issue, that is now under control.

The outpouring of love from the community, from all over the world, was amazing. We were falling and you caught us. Though we were going through what was possibly the most traumatic experience of our lives, because of your love, instead of drowning into the dark abyss, the turmoil raised us up to heights we could never imagine.

That is the way struggles, traumas, difficulties, etc. are, they could destroy you, but with the right attitude they will lift you up. It also helps to have a great support system, which makes you part of something greater than you can be on your own.

In parshas Noach we read about the flood, the turbulent waters that destroyed so much. However, it was the exact same water that lifted the Ark high above the highest mountain tops, and carried Noach, his family and the animals that repopulated the world.

The key is to enter the Ark, especially when the waters get rough.

The Ark symbolizes an environment of hope, trust and closeness and commitment to Hashem.

The word for Ark in Hebrew is teiva, which means a letter of the Hebrew Alef Bet, this symbolizes the Torah. The Torah is a source of strength and a refuge in times of difficulty. It also gives you the right perspective, which will keep you positive.

In the Ark, animals of prey coexisted with the other animals, because the light of Moshiach shined, when there will be no strife. It is the goal of our existence, and when you understand the purpose and are focused on the goal, the waters are easier to navigate.

Being on the Ark was hard work for Noach, feeding and taking care of the animals, but the outcome was that he saved the world. Doing what Hashem wants is hard work, but what it accomplishes is amazing. We have to realize that our struggles are of extreme importance, and when we finally complete our work, we will have brought the world to its ultimate destination, and the reward will be unlimited.

May we merit to see the completion of our toil and our struggles once and for all, with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

I would like to thank all of you who contributed to the fact that I am alive. Especially Hatzolo, and LAFD. And thanks for all of you who advocated for us to have the best treatment. Thanks to the doctors, nurses, hospital and ambulance personnel. And thanks to all of you who prayed for me, and all the well wishes. I am happy to be alive.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How We Succeed

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
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The Haftora for parshas V'zos Habracha, which is read on Shemini Atzeres in Israel and Simchas Torah (which is the second day of Shemini Atzeres) in the Diaspora, is the beginning of the book of Yehoshua, which is the continuation of the events in our parsha. As it begins, "And it was after Moshe died..."

When you delve deeper into the Haftora, you begin to see how it connects with Shemini Atzeres and Simchas Torah, keeping and studying Torah, and doing good deeds, loyalty and brotherhood.

The Haftora records the first communication from Hashem to Yehoshua and the preparation before crossing the Jordan into the promised land.

Hashem tells Yehoshua that they would be crossing the Jordan and that "everywhere that the soles of (the Jewish people's) feet will tread, I will give to you (the Jewish people)." He continues to tell Yehoshua the borders of Israel, that no man will ever stand up against him and that He will be with him just as He was with Moshe.

Now comes a statement that is repeated over and over again to Yehoshua, "Chazak v'ematz," be strong and have courage. He is told this by Hashem three times. First with regards to leading the Jewish people, then about keeping the Torah, and finally about going to war.

About keeping the Torah, Hashem says, "Just be strong and very courageous to observe and do in accordance with all of the Torah that Moshe My servant has commanded you. Do not stray therefrom right or left, in order that you succeed wherever you go. This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth; you shall meditate therein day and night, in order that you observe to do all that is written in it, for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper."

This message said to Yehoshua, is a lesson to each of us, and connects to Simchas Torah, when we conclude the last parsha of the Torah and start reading once again from the beginning.

The Midrash tells us, that from the words, "This book of the Torah shall not leave your mouth," we learn that Yehoshua had a Sefer Torah with him. Rashi tells us that it was the book of Devarim. When he completed the last words, Hashem said, "Chazak v'ematz." From here we have the rule, that when someone completes the Torah, we say Chazak.

The Talmud tells us, "four need strengthening, (meaning, that a person has to constantly strengthen himself with all his might to do them, Rashi) and these are they, Torah, good deeds... As it says, 'Just be strong and very courageous to observe and do in accordance with all of the Torah,' be strong in Torah and courageous in doing good deeds..."

"Do not stray therefrom right or left, in order that you succeed wherever you go." Being that Torah is truth and G-dly knowledge, the closer you align yourself to it and the more accurately you follow it, the more you will succeed and find happiness and meaning.

It is not enough to learn and understand it. But, "you shall meditate therein day and night." In other words, you have to take it to a whole new level, each according to his ability, to make it part of who you are, to have a deeper understanding of what Hashem wants, and to know the inner workings of the Torah. "In order that you observe to do all that is written in it," because you will find pleasure in doing it, now that you see the purpose in it.

Hashem continues, "for then will you succeed in all your ways and then will you prosper." A Torah life, is a successful and prosperous life. It is a life of truth and values, it is real and fulfilling. Therefore you will find satisfaction and you won't feel empty.

Now, Yehoshua sends word to prepare to cross the Jordan and he calls on the tribes of Reuvain, Gad and Menashe to keep their promise to join their brothers in battle, although they were already settled on the other side of the Jordan. They wholeheartedly consented and told Yehoshua that they would do whatever he requests of them.

Keeping their promise was an act of brotherhood and unity. And that is the idea of Shemini Atzeres, while on the seven days of Sukkos there were 70 bulls brought as sacrifices for the nations of the world, on Shemini Atzeres only one bull was brought for the Jewish people. It is a time of unity among the Jewish people and between Hashem and the Jewish people. This idea is seen in Simchas Torah as well, as we all dance with the Torah, irrespective of level of scholarship, we dance together as equals, because the Torah is our inheritance, it is equally ours.

Being the last day of our holiday season, it is meant to set the tone for the whole year. That is why we have these themes stressed at this time, because these ideas of keeping and studying Torah, delving deeply into it, doing good deeds, unity, brotherhood, and loyalty to our Tzadikim, is what fortifies us and enables us to do our mission.

Just as in the Haftora, they prepare to cross the Jordan into the promised land, we will soon complete our mission, go together to our Holy Land, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Monday, October 2, 2017

We Are A Paradox

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
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This Haftora is read twice during the year. First, on the second day of Sukkos in the Diaspora, and with parshas Pekudei. Only that with parshas Pekudei, we add the two verses that precede the Sukkos Haftora.

The Haftora tells us that the Temple that King Shlomo built was completed, how the Ark was brought and placed in it, and that the Ark housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments. Then it tells us that the Presence of Hashem filled the Temple in the form of a cloud, and Shlomo blessed the Jewish people. This mirrors the events in parshas Pekudei, when the Jewish people completed all the work building the Mishkan, Moshe blessed them. And when the Mishkan was erected, and the Ark and the vessels were brought in, Hashem's Presence descended on it, in the form of a cloud. It also mentions that the tablets of the Ten Commandments were placed in the Ark. Even the two extra verses speak about the completion of the Temple and the bringing of vessels into it, just as Pekudei does with regards to the Mishkan.

But why was this Haftora chosen for the second day of Sukkos?

The simple answer is that Sukkos is mentioned in the first verse, because the events happened on Sukkos. But if that was the only reason, then we would only need to read that one verse. Why do we read about the Temple, the Ark, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, and the cloud of Hashem's Presence on the second day of Sukkos? Answering this question, will give us a deeper understanding of parshas Pekudei as well.

On Sukkos, in the Grace After Meals, we add the words, "May the Compassionate One erect the Sukka of David which fell (literally, is falling)." This refers to the Temple in Jerusalem. So the holiday of Sukkos is on some level about the Temple.

In the Haftora it says that the Ark and all the vessels were brought to the Temple, and when the Kohanim left, "The cloud filled the House of Hashem... For the Glory of Hashem had filled the House of Hashem."

We have to ask: How can the infinite Glory of Hashem be contained in a finite building? It seems impossible, and in fact, it is impossible, but Hashem Who can do anything, brings these two opposites together.

At the core of the Temple was the Ark, which housed the tablets of the Ten Commandments. The Ark was the main thing in the Temple, and it was also a paradox. The Talmud tells us, "The space of the Ark was not (bound to) measurements." On one hand it was measurable, and on the other hand it didn't take up space.

We are also a paradox, we each are a soul, which is a part of Hashem, and is infinite, in a body that is finite. We are able to mesh opposites because we are a part of Hashem. Therefore we can draw G-dliness, which is infinite, into the physical world, which is finite. And that is our mission, to make this finite world, into a home for Hashem, infinite.

Our way of life is a paradox as well. On one hand, we are meant to put our total trust in Hashem. But at the same time, He wants us to do our best to work in this world, and accomplish to the best of our ability. It is through this meshing of opposites that we accomplish our mission.

The second day of Sukkos is a only celebrated as a holiday outside of Israel. It is a mundane day that we make holy, we draw the infinite into the finite. It is therefore apropos that we read this Haftora on the second day of Sukkos.

Just as the Temple was infinite in finite, so too the Mishkan was infinite in finite. And this is hinted in the word Pekudei. Pekudei means the count. The fact that you can total the sum of something, shows that it is finite. Pekudei also means to connect and unite, as in the Talmudic expression, "A man is obligated (lifkod) to be intimate with his wife." This translation of Pekudei refers to the ultimate essential bond, where two become one.

Because we are talking about the Mishkan, this refers to the unity of Hashem's Presence that fills the worlds, both physical and spiritual and His Presence that surrounds the worlds. This bond is the essential infinite expression of G-dliness.

The idea of the Mishkan, and by extension, the Temple, is not just that they be filled with Hashem's Presence, but that the actual physical finite construct, becomes one with the infinite Presence of Hashem.

May we soon merit to see the Third Temple, the Sukka of David filled and united with Hashem's Glory, with the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

I Chose To Live, So Should You

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It is now over 5 years since Hashem gifted me with ALS. But this week we celebrated a milestone, it is 3 years since I had a tracheostomy.

It was the day after Rosh Hashanah, I had been using a machine called a bipap to help me breathe, still I seemed to be fading. My wife Dina took me to the hospital, where I was diagnosed with pneumonia, and my oxygen level was dangerously low.

It was at that point, that I was given the choice to have the tracheostomy and live, or not and put an end to the suffering and difficulties. Legally and halachically it was my choice, with Dina's support, I chose to live.

The simple fact is, that if I would not have had it then, I wouldn't be here today and possibly wouldn't have lived through the week.

Another fact is, that the true sacrifice in this story, is my wife's, she is the one who has the brunt of the hardships, taking care of me and the family with love and tears. She has to be mother, father, wife, caretaker, sometimes nurse and a multitude of other titles. I can't begin to imagine how much she suffers, not having a normal husband, to do what husbands do for their wives.

All I am able to do is listen and write to her, but she has given me a life and the ability to watch my children grow up. With her support and womanly cleverness, she pushes me to be a better father, to study Torah more and more, and to write. I owe it all to her.

Being able to see my children grow is one of the greatest pleasures. It is incredible that with all the hardships, they found a way to function as normal and healthy kids should. And I get to see them, talk to them, and experience their personalities and talents.

Over the past five years, we were blessed to see amazing kindness from all over the world. And especially the Los Angeles community. But no one more than the five exceptional people who have taken on the responsibility of taking care of me and my family. We call them the fantastic five, they started the Hurwitz Family Fund, and in over five years, they haven't wavered. They are truly amazing.

After having the tracheostomy, I lost the use of my right hand, and with that went my ability to communicate. Before that I would type on an iPhone for communication and writing blog posts. For those 9 days in the hospital, I couldn't communicate and I just let go and put my trust in Hashem, and my wife made sure I was taken care of.

I was in recovery in the ICU, when I began to understand the importance of bikur cholim, visiting the sick. Even though I wasn't able to communicate, I felt uplifted with every visit, whether it was a rabbi or lay person, man or woman.

My children being too young to enter the ICU, to my pleasure, snuck in, I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed seeing them.

As Yom Kippur was approaching, we wondered what kind of holiday we would have in the hospital. The thought sounded grim, but we were in for a surprise.

Just before Yom Kippur, a woman was ushered into the room right next to mine. Her children were with her and when it came time for davening, they came to my room and with the most melodic voices they sang the davening, it was truly uplifting.

Over Yom Kippur, we had several visitors that walked to the hospital to see us. All and all, that Yom Kippur was one of our most memorable ones.

I am blessed to live at a time when there are technologies that keep me alive such as the ventilator that breathes for me, and the incredible computer that reads my eye movements, so I can communicate.

While life is full of difficulties, pain and suffering, there is so much to be grateful for. While I understand the hardships, I choose to focus on the positive parts of my life and that keeps me going. There is my wife, my children, family, friends and you. I have the opportunity to learn and teach Torah. There is the hope that in the future a cure will be found or perhaps a miracle even sooner.

Each of us has so much good in our lives, even within the suffering and difficulties there is so much good to be found. Focus on the positive in your life now, see all the love that is around you, there is so much you can do, and so much more you can give.

May you have a good and sweet year, and may Moshiach come and put an end to all the suffering. The time has come.

Monday, September 25, 2017

Close To Hashem One With Hashem

 This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL 
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This article is a long one, it is divided into 4 sections. Each section is a lesson on its own. Enjoy! 

On Yom Kippur morning we read a Haftora from the book of Isaiah, which tells us what a meaningful fast is, and what it can accomplish. There are also other messages which connect to the theme of Yom Kippur.

If I were to sum up the Haftora in one sentence it would be: Hashem wants us to be good and real, and when we are, He does amazing things for us, including sending Moshiach. There are also messages of healing, Hashem being with us always and the great reward for keeping Shabbos with pleasure.

The Haftora begins with, "Make a path, make a path, clear the way, remove obstacles from My people's way." In other words, Moshiach is coming and soon we will be on the path of the redemption. The rest of the Haftora tells us how we get there.

1 Teshuva And Humility

First, through teshuva, as Hashem says, "I dwell on high in holiness, yet I am with the broken hearted, and humble of spirit..." This is the Baal teshuva, who realized how far he was from Hashem. Now as he is going through the process of teshuva, he is broken hearted and humble of spirit.

Hashem being with the broken hearted and humble of spirit, shows us that Hashem too is humble. This is difficult to understand, because how could Hashem be humble when He is all powerful?

There are two kinds of humility. The common kind of humility comes as an intellectual decision. Like Moshe, of whom the Torah says, "And the man, Moshe, was humblest of any person on the face of the earth." Moshe, who spoke face to face with Hashem, lead the Jewish people for forty years, did amazing miracles and wonders and transmitted the Torah, how was he to be humble? Didn't he know who he was? Rather he felt that if someone else would have been given his qualities, perhaps he would have achieved more. Intellectually he felt that he wasn't greater than the next person, just that he was given gifts, and perhaps if someone else would have these gifts, he would have used them better.

Then there is an essential instinctive humility, when the humility is a part of the person's essence, a natural part of who he is and not based on an intellectual decision. As our sages said about Hashem, "In the place where you find the greatness of the Holy One Blessed Be He, there you will find His humility." We see this in our verse, "I dwell on high in holiness, yet I am with the broken hearted and humble of spirit..." Moshe's thinking, that someone else would achieve more, can't possibly apply to Hashem.

Yet Moshe had both of these qualities, intellectual humility and essential instinctive humility, that is why he felt humble before any person.

The Haftora continues to say that when Hashem sees that we repent, he makes everything good and right for us.

2 Those Who Are Far And Those Who Are Near

Then the Haftora says, "I will create utterance of the lips, peace peace to those who are far and to those who are near, said Hashem, and I will heal him." What is this new utterance of the lips that Hashem will create? When you say, utterance of the lips, it sounds like it comes automatically, without thought, how does this happen? Who do far and near refer to?

The Radak gives us two explanations on who are the far and the near. First He says that they refer to those who are far or near to Yerushalayim. Then he brings the teaching of our sages, that far refers to Baal Teshuvas, and near refers to Tzadikim.

If far refers to Baal Teshuvas, then utterance of the lips refers to his confession, which comes automatically from the depth of his heart, because he feels so broken and distant.

If far refers to those who are far from Yerushalayim, that means that they lack fear of Heaven, as one of the explanations of the word Yerushalayim, is yiras shamayim (fear of Heaven). The utterance of the lips then refers to Torah study, because the way to combat the lack of fear of Heaven is through Torah study. It is automatic, because he puts himself into Torah study, so much so, that it becomes engraved in him, it becomes a part of him, to the extent that even when he doesn't think about it, he says Torah. This is hinted in the last words of the verse, "said Hashem, and I will heal him." Through what will he be healed? Through what Hashem said, which is the Torah.

You may ask, if those who are far refers to Baal Teshuvas, why are they mentioned before those who are near, the Tzadikim? It would seem that being that they were always near, Tzadikim should be mentioned first.

Our sages learn from this verse, that "In the place where Baal Teshuvas stand, complete Tzadikim don't stand, as it says, 'peace peace to the far and to the near.'" Meaning, that there is something about a Baal Teshuva, that is greater than a complete Tzadik. What about a Baal Teshuva is greater?

This is hinted in the last word of the verse, u'refuasiv (and I will heal him), it teaches us that teshuva is like healing. When a doctor prescribes medicine, a tiny amount, a small pill, is all that is needed to have the desired, and sometimes an amazing effect. The same is true about the Baal Teshuva, in one moment and with one thought of repentance, he is transformed and reaches the highest levels that a Tzadik worked his whole life to achieve and even higher. Because while a Tzadik is always close to Hashem, his service is limited to his abilities. However, a Baal Teshuva's act of repentance is not limited, because he is coming from a place of feeling distant, he is broken. Therefore, the moment is so powerful, that he breaks all limitations and reaches higher than a complete Tzadik can.

Now you may ask, if Hashem says, "peace peace to the far and the near," it would seem that the Baal Teshuva has already come near. So why does He say after that, "and I will heal him," isn't he already healed?

The answer is, that though he has come near, he still has a lot of healing to do. And that healing comes through what "Hashem said," Torah study.

Here we see the common link between the two interpretations that the Radak cites, ultimately it is the Torah that heals. Even going to a doctor for a physical ailment, is what the Torah wants you to do, so it to, is through Torah.

3 The Kind Of Fast Hashem Wants

Hashem now sends Yeshayahu to rebuke the Jewish people for their insincere fasting, for going through the motions, while remaining wicked. You even feel Hashem's hurt, as he says, "Is this the kind of fast I desire?!"

He continues, rather, "This is the fast I desire, loosen the bonds of wickedness, unlock the fetters of injustice, set the oppressed free, and break every yoke. You should divide your bread to the hungry, and bring the moaning poor into your house, when you see a naked person, you should clothe him, and don't ignore your own kin."

He continues, that if we do this we will be successful and when we call out to Him, He will answer. And if we stop the oppression of the poor, the pointing finger and the corrupt speech. If we open our hearts to the hungry and satiate the afflicted, our light will shine in the darkness, and the deepest darkness will be as bright as the morning. Hashem will always guide you, satisfy your needs in times of drought, and strengthen your bones. You will become like a well watered garden, like a spring whose water never ceases. Our ruins will be rebuilt, and our foundations reestablished.

4 Keeping, Enjoying and Honoring Shabbos

The Haftora now tells us about keeping Shabbos. "If you will restrain your foot because it is Shabbos, from doing your desires on My holy day, and you will declare Shabbos as a (time of) pleasure, a holy day of honor for Hashem, and you will honor it by not carrying out your (regular) activities, not pursuing your desired (labors), and not speaking about (financial) things. Then you will find pleasure with Hashem, and I will raise you on the high places of the earth, and you will enjoy the heritage of Yaakov your father, for the mouth of Hashem has spoken."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just before the Rambam says the reward for keeping Shabbos, he says, "Both Shabbos and idol worship are equal to all the other mitzvahs of the Torah, and Shabbos is the sign between us and the Holy One Blessed Be He..."

Idol worship is a denial of the essential underpinnings and sanctity of the Jewish people. By comparing Shabbos to idol worship, he is saying that Shabbos is different than the other mitzvahs. While all the other mitzvahs add to our holiness, not doing them does not constitute a denial of the essential underpinnings and sanctity of the Jewish people. Shabbos, on the other hand, is an essential part of who we are, keeping Shabbos is therefore, upholding the essential underpinnings and sanctity of the Jewish people.

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

Now we can understand why we read about this on Yom Kippur. The Torah calls Yom Kippur, "Shabbos Shabboson," the ultimate Shabbos, the essence of our essence. When our unity with Hashem shines brightest, it is the ultimate expression of our Jewishness.

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

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

We Have The Power

This Dvar Torah is Dedicated
By Irving Bauman, in memory of his father Horav Moshe Aron Bauman ZL. 
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At the end of parshas Haazinu, Hashem commanded Moshe to go up onto Mount Nevo, and told him that he would pass away there.

The passage begins, "And Hashem spoke to Moshe in the essence of this day (b'etzem hayom hazeh), saying. Ascend the mountain..."

Rashi explains that the words b'etzem hayom hazeh, are used two other times earlier. First, when Noach was to enter the ark, the wicked people of the generation attempted to stop him from entering the ark. The second time was in Egypt, the Egyptians attempted to stop the Jewish people from leaving Egypt. In both cases Hashem took them right in middle of the day, and no one was able to stop them.

Rashi continues to explain, that here too, the Jewish people attempted to stop Moshe from dying, but Hashem did not allow it.

In the stories of Noach and the Jewish people leaving Egypt, they had practical plans to accomplish their objectives.

The generation of the flood realized that Hashem wanted to save Noach and his family. So if they could somehow stop him from entering the ark, the flood wouldn't happen.

When the Jewish people were leaving Egypt, they also had a clear plan to accomplish their objective. The Egyptians were planning to kill all of the Jewish people, thereby not allowing them to escape.

How were the Jewish people planning to stop Hashem from taking Moshe? Why would they think that they have any power to do anything to stop him from dying, when life and death is in Hashem's hands? Moshe had a clear command from Hashem, why did the Jewish people, who were righteous, try to stop him from fulfilling Hashem's command? And finally, what lesson could we learn from this story about the power of the Jewish people?

Just a few weeks ago, in parshas Ki Savo, Moshe taught us the laws of bikkurim. That when we settle the land of Israel, we are obligated to give our first fruits to Hashem. At the core of this mitzvah is the obligation to show thanks for the good Hashem does for you, especially while you are enjoying it. By extension, we learn that it is an obligation to show thanks to someone who does something for you, especially while you are benefiting from it, and not to be an ingrate.

Right at that moment, they were enjoying and benefiting from miracles that were done in Moshe's merit. There was the manna that fell from above, the water from the rock, after Miriam passed away, it was in Moshe's merit that it continued. There was the slav, which were birds that would come to the camp, and they would have them for dinner, and much more.

The Jewish people reasoned that if there was a way to show their gratefulness by somehow annulling the decree, they would be obligated to do so. 

It was Hashem Who provided an opening. First, the command to go up onto the mountain was to Moshe alone, not to them. Second, Hashem made Moshe's dying contingent on him going up the mountain, if they could hold him up from going up the mountain at the prescribed time, perhaps they could avert the decree.  But Hashem wouldn't hear of it, and of course, there was no stopping Moshe from going up the mountain and he passed away at the exact time he was supposed to.

On a deeper level, because we are talking about Moshe, the leader of the community, it is a communal affair. The rule is that when it comes to a communal decree, even if it is signed and sealed, it can be overturned through the Teshuva of the whole community. In other words, as Jews, we have the power to overcome a heavenly decree. Similar to the story in the Talmud regarding the strength of Torah below, when Hashem said, "You have bested Me my child, you have bested Me."

Now we have to ask, if they actually had the power to stop the decree, why didn't they?

That is why the verse says, "b'etzem hayom hazeh," in the essence of this day. Because the passing of Moshe on "this day," was necessary for the "essence" of the Jewish nation.

Everything that Moshe did was everlasting. If he would have lead the Jewish people into the land, and built the Temple, they too would have been everlasting. And later, when they would have sinned, there would be no exiling them from the land, and no destroying the Temple. The idea of "The Holy One Blessed be He poured out His anger on the wood and on the stones," wouldn't have been possible. Instead, it would have been on the Jewish people, Heaven forbid. So Moshe's passing was necessary for our survival and the completion of our mission in this world.

Each of us has a part of Moshe inside of us, in the depths of our souls. One might think, "If Hashem wants my Torah study and mitzvahs, why did He make the Moshe inside me hidden? All I seem to feel, are the desires of my animal soul.

The answer is, that Hashem did it for our benefit. Because to bring out essence, could only be done through effort and toil. And when you reveal and redeem the Moshe inside of you, you begin to see that what you thought were hardships, were actually what made it possible for your personal redemption.

Your personal redemption, will then lead to the ultimate redemption, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

A Cry From The Depths Of Our Souls

This article is dedicated
Lizechus Avionam Ben Varda Faiga Bluma for a Shnas Brocho Vihatzlocho Bigashmiyus Veruchniyus.
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Print Version       All Rosh Hashanah Articles
About Rosh Hashanah, the Mishnah says, "The mitzvah of the day is with the shofar."

The Baal Shem Tov explains shofar with a parable. It is like a child that cries out, "father father save me."

The Rebbes of Chabad made it known that the main thing is not the content of the cry, "father father save me," but rather the cry itself.

Being that we are all different, the content of our cries are different, but each of us cry out to Hashem. For one the cry from the depths of his soul is audible, for another it is silent. But it is from the depths of his soul that he cries.

This is what the sounds of the shofar are all about, a cry from the depths of our souls. And that is what breaks through the gates of heaven and reaches Hashem, our father.

Then there is the parable of Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev. There was a boy that wanted an apple, but his father didn't want to give it to him. The clever boy quickly said the blessing over fruits and his father had to give it to him.

Sometimes a father doesn't want to give. Then there are times that the father does want to give, and the only reason he is denying his child what he wants, is because he wants to bring out something more from the child, to see how clever he is. Will he figure out a way to get it?

In our case, Hashem wants to give. As the expression found in the Talmud goes, "more than the calf wants to suckle, the cow wants to nurse." The same idea is said regarding the One above, the verse says, "for the work of your hands, He longs." In other words, Hashem wants us to serve Him. He therefore wants to give us what we need to serve Him.

This is why in the Rosh Hashanah Mussaf prayer, at the culmination of the verses of shofar, we conclude with the blessing, "Blessed are You Hashem our G-d, Who hears the sound of the terua (the sound of the shofar) of Your nation Israel with compassion."

When it comes to saying a blessing with Hashem's name, the rule is that if there is any doubt, we don't say the blessing, because we do not want to say His Name in vain. Yet here we say, "Who hears the sound of the terua of Your nation Israel," and not only that, but He hears it "with compassion." Why are we so certain?

The Men of the Great Assembly, at the beginning of the Second Temple era, were the ones who authored our prayers. They were comprised of 120 Tzadikim of which many were prophets. So they were in the position to know, they were not in doubt. They therefore ruled that we should say this blessing with Hashem's name, because it is absolutely certain that Hashem hears our terua, the cry from the depths of our souls, and that He hears it with compassion. Meaning, that He will grant us all our needs, especially nachas, health and sustenance.

The central theme of Rosh Hashanah is twofold. First we reach up to Hashem, accepting Him as our King, accepting the yoke of His dominion. And then He in turn, so to speak, accepts upon Himself all the blessings he said He would give us in parshas Bechukosai, "And I will give your rain in their time..."

This year, when we sound the shofar, the cry from the depths of our souls, Hashem will surely grant us what we need, including nachas from our children, good health and abundant sustenance. Which is all included in the traditional Rosh Hashanah blessing, that we wish everyone with "a good and sweet year." May he also grant us the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

The Key To Blessing Is Humility And Respect

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This week's parsha is Nitzavim-Vayelech, Nitzavim is always read on the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah, and Vayelech is either read together Nitzavim, or on the Shabbos after Rosh Hashanah, Shabbos Shuva. There are therefore many lessons to be found in the parsha pertaining to Rosh Hashanah and the coming year.

In parshas Vayelech Moshe says, "Take this book of the Torah and place it beside the Ark of the covenant of Hashem your G-d."

The Talmud cites two opinions as to where the Torah was actually placed. One says that it was inside the Ark together with the tablets of the Ten Commandments. And the other says that it was on the side of the Ark. But according to both opinions, both the Torah and the Ten Commandments were in the Holy of Holies, the chamber that housed the Ark.

The Holy of Holies was above nature, the place where the Ark stood was miraculous, though the Ark was there, it didn't take up space. The natural dimensions of time and space were suspended in the Holy of Holies. On one hand it was there and it could be measured, and at the same time, it didn't take up space.

The Ten Commandments were engraved in the tablets. When you engrave letters into stone, nothing is added to the stone, as many words as you engrave into the stone, it remains the same size and the same dimensions. Similar to the Holy of Holies and the Ark which were there, they weren't taking up space.

The Ten Commandments were also miraculous, the engraving went all the way through and through the stone, yet the letters final mem and samech, one being a square and the other a circle, in other words, the engraving completely encircled the center of the letter, nevertheless the center of the letter remained in place.

So it seems that the objects in the Holy of Holies had a common theme. They were miraculous and above space and time.

The question is, what was the Torah doing there? With letters written with ink on parchment, the letters took up extra space and there was nothing miraculous about it. What purpose did the Torah fulfill?

The purpose of the Holy of Holies, the Ark and the Ten Commandments, were not to remain hidden. Rather, that their G-dly light spread out to the Temple, to Jerusalem, throughout the land of Israel, affecting all the Jewish people, and ultimately to the whole world affecting the non Jewish people as well.

Being that the Holy of Holies, the Ark and the Ten Commandments were above nature, there had to be a go between, a conduit, to bring their light into the natural world. The Torah served as that conduit. It is the Torah that brings the supernatural G-dly light into our lives, and by us keeping the Torah, we spread that light throughout the world affecting even those that aren't Jewish.

Rosh Hashanah is the Holy of Holies of the year. Our service on Rosh Hashanah goes beyond our understanding. It comes from feeling null before Hashem, because we are in awe of Him. There is a special G-dly light that shines and it affects us with a sense of self sacrifice that goes beyond understanding and above nature.

Although during the year our mode of service doesn't have to be beyond our understanding, and even our self sacrifice during the year is somewhat from our understanding. Nevertheless, in our mundane, during the year, physical state, we need to try to humble ourselves to the point where we are null, just like on Rosh Hashanah. In this way we draw the light of Rosh Hashanah into our every day lives, bringing them above nature as well.

In order to be able to accomplish this, we must prepare, and set the tone to make this possible. How do we accomplish this?

Parshas Nitzavim begins with, "You are standing here today, all of you (kulchem), before Hashem your G-d, your heads, your tribes... from your woodcutters to your water drawers."

This is always read before Rosh Hashanah, because on a deeper level, "You are standing here today... before Hashem your G-d,"  refers to the Great Day of Judgement, Rosh Hashanah. "Your heads, your tribes... from your woodcutters to your water drawers," refer to the different positions the Jewish people fill.

The Jewish people are compared to one great body. Each of us symbolize a different part of the body. Some of us are heads, others are the body, arms, legs etc. We are all necessary to accomplish the mission, the head leeds, but it can't do anything without the arms and it can't go anywhere without the legs and feet.

The key to our success, is the kulchem, "all of you," that we are united as one, and that we see each other as equally important.

On Rosh Hashanah, because of the greatness of the day and Hashem's overwhelming presence, there is no place for our egos, being that in contrast to Hashem, we are all equally nothing and null.

If you can take the Rosh Hashanah egolessness and apply it all year long, whether you think of yourself as the head or the legs, if you could see yourself as part of the whole, in other words, it is not about you, because you nullify your ego to the point that you don't see yourself as better than the other, but as equally important. You will draw the light of Rosh Hashanah throughout the whole year, and with it comes its blessings of health, nachas and sustenance.

It is so important to treat people with respect, especially those you think are less educated, or perhaps not as well to do. Speaking down to people and arrogance are some of the ugliest traits, and they only divide us. Humility and respect are some of the most beautiful traits, and they unite us. 

When we are united, Hashem's light shines on us and through us, and through us the light shines to the whole world. Through humility and respect for our fellow, we begin to see the value of everyone and how we are not whole without them. This will lift their spirits and unify us, and when we are united, we find joy in our mission. This joy breaks all boundaries, especially the confines of the dark exile, and when it does, Moshiach will be here. May it happen soon.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Drawing G-dliness Into Your Mundane Activities

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This week's parsha, Ki Savo, begins with the mitzvah of bikurim, bringing your first fruits to Hashem.

The first fruits were brought to the Temple, received by the Kohen and placed next to the altar.

When giving it to the Kohen, every person bringing first fruits would declare, "An Aramean was the destroyer of my forefather and he went down to Egypt... and he became a great, mighty and numerous nation there. The Egyptians treated us cruelly... We cried out to Hashem... Hashem heard our voice... And Hashem brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, with great awe, and with signs and marvels."

There were other great salvations and miracles that Hashem did for the Jewish people. Why are specifically these two events, Yaakov being saved from Lavan (Laban) and the Exodus from Egypt, part of the bikurim declaration?

The giving of the first fruits is to give thanks to Hashem for giving us the land, and so we give from the first and the nicest to Him as a gesture of gratitude. It would make sense that the declaration would be the same, giving thanks to Hashem for the great miracles that brought us to the land, of which we have this great bounty.

Following the Exodus, there were great salvations and miracles, without which, we would have never made it to the promised land. There was the splitting of the sea, the miraculous victories over Amalek, Sichon and Og. During the 40 years in the desert, there were daily miracles that kept us alive, like the manna that fell from above, and the well of Miriam, that was a rock that traveled with the Jewish people, water would come out of the rock, providing for the needs of the nation and their livestock. Why weren't any of these miracles included in the declaration? We certainly would not have come to the land without these miracles.

Perhaps we can say that all of these miracles could be viewed as part of the Exodus from Egypt, because the Exodus wasn't complete until they conquered the land. They are therefore included as part of the Exodus, and don't have to be mentioned separately in the declaration.

However, there is an event that happened before Yaakov's descent to Egypt, that seems that it should be included in the declaration, but it isn't.

When Yaakov and his family were finally free of lavan, they had the confrontation with his brother Eisav. Yaakov was afraid that their lives were in danger because of Eisav's wrath, but the danger was miraculously averted. Why wasn't this included in the declaration?

Perhaps because Eisav's evil intentions never came to fruition, it never went further than intent. But if this is the reason that it isn't included in the declaration, then being saved from Lavan should also not be included, because his evil intentions also didn't come to fruition.

We must conclude that there is something unique about the salvation from Lavan and the Exodus, that is connected with the mitzvah of bikurim. What is the connection?

About the mitzvah of bikurim, the verse says, "And it will be, when you come to the land... and you take possession of it and settle it." Rashi explains that the mitzvah of bikurim begins only after the conquering and the division of the land. In other words, once they took up permanent residence and began enjoying the bounty of the land, then they were obligated to do the mitzvah of bikurim.

There were two other times that we took up permanent residence, but in those cases, we didn't get to enjoy the bounty. The 20 years Yaakov lived by Lavan, and the 210 years in Egypt. Therefore, we mention them in the bikurim declaration, to show how grateful we are to be able to enjoy the bounty, in contrast to the times we couldn't.

On a deeper level, the fruit of the tree refers to the part of the neshama that is in the body. The idea of bringing bikurim, is to strengthen the bond between the neshama and its source above. We do this in two ways. First, when we bring bikurim, the first and the best, we bring ourselves closer. And when we recite the declaration, we draw down the source of the neshama, the bikurim of the neshama, which is the first and the best part of the neshama. That the neshama from above should bond and shine in the neshama below.

This will give us a deeper understanding in the words of the declaration. The two events mentioned, Yaakov by Lavan and the exile in Egypt, both begin with a descent, being drawn down from the highest state of holiness, into the lowest places, Charan, which is called, "charon af shel Makom," the place that angers Hashem, and Egypt. Followed by an ascent, being drawn up to the highest level, and in the case of Egypt, to the point that Hashem revealed Himself to us at Mount Sinai.

The point of drawing down from the highest and holiest into the lowest, is to affect it and make it ready for Hashem to be able to dwell there openly as well. This is the idea of bikurim, to make working the land a holy endeavor as well, by drawing down G-dliness into the mundane work we do. And of course, we will reap the fruits of our labor, turning our mundane efforts into the first and the best for Hashem.

It is not enough to bring ourselves closer to Hashem through our study of Torah and the performance of mitzvahs, but we must also draw G-dliness down into the physical, mundane, daily activities that we do, until they become holy as well.

Ultimately, we will reap the fruits of our labor, we will merit the ultimate revelation, with the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.