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.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Making A Parapet

In this week's parsha, Ki Seitzei, we learn the law, that "When you build a new house, you must make a parapet (fence) for your roof, in order that you won't cause bloodshed in your house, by one who falls, falling off of it."

The law of making a parapet applies even when you buy a house that you didn't build, and to an old house as well. So why does the verse say, "When you build a new house?"

Why does the verse call the person who might fall, "one who falls," even though he didn't fall yet? Even more, it is written in the present tense, as if he is presently falling, but he hasn't fallen yet. What kind of person is called, "one who falls?"

The Sifri explains why it says "new," because "from the time it is new, you have to make a parapet." In other words, the obligation to make a parapet begins before you move into the house. The moment it is new to you, whether you built it or bought it, you are obligated to make a parapet. Unlike mezuzah, whose obligation doesn't begin until after you move into the house.

This leaves us with a question. From the words in our verse, "When you build a new house," it seems that the obligation is only for a new house. Why doesn't the verse use terms that indicate, that every house needs a parapet?

The Talmud tells us, that the reason he is called, "one who falls," is because he was already destined to fall.

But you don't have to be the one that makes it happen. Making a parapet, will ensure that it doesn't happen in your house, because when something like that happens in your house, it shines negatively on you. 

Again, this leaves us with a question. The word in our verse that means "one who falls," is hanofel, which doesn't refer to someone who is destined to fall, but rather to someone who is presently falling. Who is the one who is presently falling?

Every verse in the Torah is meant to be understood on many levels. When we look deeper into this verse, we can learn lessons that apply to all of us, even to someone who doesn't own a house.

Our sages say, "A man's home is his wife." "When you build a new house," on a deeper level, refers to beginning married life, which is the time that one is first obligated to remove himself from his spiritual cocoon of yeshiva and involve himself in the physical world, to begin making a living. He is therefore actively falling from the spiritual life into the physical world of making a living.

It is at this time that he has to make a parapet. The idea of a parapet, is to set up a fence to protect someone from falling. The parapet he has to make, is new protections and boundaries that will keep him from falling into the trap of being enticed by the physical, and making it more important than the life of Torah. The parapet also provides separation, so that even when he is involved in the physical, he remains separate and holy.

Our purpose is to infuse the physical with G-dliness, making this physical world into a dwelling place for Hashem.

This work primarily begins with marriage, and his obligatory descent into the physical world. It is a mistake to refrain from getting involved in the physical and locking yourself into a spiritual bubble, because if you do, you are not accomplishing what you are meant to. Hashem put you here specifically to develop your part of the physical world, infusing it with G-dliness.

On another level, when you say "house," it refers to the body, every one of us is a soul, and we move into our home, the body. The purpose is the same, to make this world into a dwelling place for Hashem. it is called a "new house," because for the G-dly soul, the physical world is all new. It is "falling," because for the soul it is a great and constant descent, having to deal with the body's natural yearning for physical pleasures, which is not the interest of the soul. At the same time, the soul is happy to be in her new home, because she knows that through the work of the body, making this world into a dwelling place for Hashem, it will draw down levels of G-dliness, beyond anything she experienced before.

How does this work? When we do our part, making this world into a dwelling for Hashem, we are creating for Him a "new home." Everything we do down here affects the spiritual realms as well. We so to speak create a new home for Hashem above. What is new about it, is that there is an expansion in the spiritual realms allowing for levels of G-dliness that before were beyond the loftiest spiritual realms to enter the spiritual realms. And ultimately, we will  be able to draw these levels of G-dliness into the physical as well.

To be able to do this work, we have to make a parapet. First, by setting boundaries and protections not to falter, and by creating a degree of separation, so you can be in the world and at the same time, separate.

May we be successful in drawing down G-dliness into the physical, making it a home for Hashem. His presence will fill the world openly, and Moshiach will be here. May it happen soon.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The King And The Nassi

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In this week's parsha, Shoftim, we are given the mitzvah to appoint a king, "You should surely appoint over yourself a king." The Rashba writes, that "The king is like the community, because the community and all of Israel are dependent on him." Similarly the Midrash Tanchuma says, "The head of the generation is the entire generation. Rashi also says something like this, that "The nassi (the leader, the king) is like the entire generation, because the nassi is everything." The Rambam says about the king, "That his heart is the heart of the entire congregation of Israel."

The king is like the heart of the Jewish people, because just as all of the organs in the body are dependent on the heart, all of Israel are dependent on the king.

It is true that the heart pumps the blood, bringing vital oxygen and nutrients to every organ of the body, but it is the brain that directs the entire body, including the heart. So why is the king called the heart and not the brain of the Jewish people?

In the Torah, when it says the word nassi, depending on the context, it either means the king, or the head of a tribe. In the Mishnah or Talmud, nassi always refers to the head of the Sanhedrin, the supreme court of the Jewish people. And it always uses the conventional word melech, to say king.

By making this differentiation between melech and nassi, our sages are teaching us, that they have different positions and different qualities. And even when a king is called a nassi, it is referring to the nassi qualities found in the king.

What are the differences between a nassi and a melech? The differences are similar to those of the brain and the heart.

A king's job is to take care of the needs of the nation, just as the heart serves the entire body. As king, he doesn't have any purpose other than serving the nation, just as the heart has no other function than to provide the needs of the organs of the body.

Therefore, he is attached to the people in two ways. First, he is involved in the needs of the nation, and second he gets whatever he wants from the people. Getting his wants from the people, also demonstrates the weak position of the king, as he is totally reliant on the people. Similarly the heart serves the needs of the body, and as the Zohar says, "The heart is tender and weak," because it has no function of its own. This is why the king is called the heart of the entire congregation of Israel.

The nassi is the head of the Jewish people, the brain. The nassi's job is to be an impartial arbiter of Torah law, he directs the entire nation in Hashem's ways. Just as the brain directs the entire body. Different than the king, the nassi is not totally reliant on the people. Yes, he gets a salary from the people, but he is getting paid to work, just like any person who holds a public office. Similarly the brain directs the entire body, but it also has a function of its own, to think and impartially scrutinize ideas. It gets nourished from the heart just like any other organ does.

Now we can understand why a king is not called the brain, that is the job of the nassi.

Some of the laws pertaining to the king and the nassi.

  • A nassi may forgo his honor, a king may not. 
  • A king must rise out of respect when the Sanhedrin or Torah scholars enter before him.
  • A king doesn't make laws (other than those necessary for the immediate needs of the nation), but he enforces the laws handed down by the Sanhedrin. 
  • A king isn't given the position of Head of the Sanhedrin.

However, two kings of Israel have both titles, nassi and melech. The first was Moshe, our first redeemer. He was a king, as it says, "And there was a king in Yeshurun (AKA Israel)," which refers to Moshe. He took care of the Jewish nation in the desert, just as a king was meant to. He was also the nassi, head of the Sanhedrin, the primary teacher of Torah to the Jewish people.

The second will be Moshiach, our final redeemer, who will be our king and nassi, he will teach us new insights in Torah that will take us to spiritual heights, beyond anything we could imagine.

In Kabbalistic and Chassidic teaching, the cognitive abilities are connected to the brain and the emotions are connected to the heart.

The brain is above the body, it is not intermingled with the organs of the body. This is because, to be impartial when thinking, you need to be separate or above feelings, if you want to come to the a true conclusion. Because your feelings will skew your thinking. The same is true about a nassi, he is above the nation, he needs to be able to determine the true Torah law, and he can't let his feelings get in the way.

On the other hand, the heart is inside the body, among other organs, because emotions are connected to your feelings. The same is true about a king, he needs to be among the nation, he needs to be able to feel for them, so he can properly serve them.

Each of us is king and nassi over ourselves, our families and our surroundings. it is very important to know when to be a nassi and when to be a king. When you are learning Torah or you have a question in halacha, you need to be the nassi, to follow what is true and right. But when it comes to your welfare and the welfare of your family and friends, you need to be the king. You need to feel for them, and provide for them accordingly. Of course within the boundaries of halacha.

May our efforts to lead a Torah based life, hasten the coming of Moshiach, who will be our king and our nassi. May it happen soon.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Chosen And Sanctified

In this week's parsha, Re'ay, we have verses that speak about the place where the Temple would be built. Speaking about the different offerings which are offered to Hashem it says, "Rather, to the place that Hashem your G-d will choose..."  "And it will be, that the place, that Hashem your G-d will choose to rest His Name..." "But only in the place that Hashem will choose..." What these verses are telling us, is that once Hashem will choose the final resting place of His Name, offerings to Him will only be able to be brought there and nowhere else.

What did they do before Hashem chose the place to rest His Name? Our sages said, "As long as Yerushalayim wasn't chosen, all of the land of Israel was allowed to have altars... As long as the eternal home wasn't chosen, Yerushalayim was able to have the Divine Presence..." This means that before Hashem chose the place for the Temple, anyone could have an altar in his back yard and bring offerings to Hashem whenever he wanted to.

The Rambam tells us that it was well known, that on the place that the Temple was built Avraham, Noach, Kayin and Hevel, and even Adam brought sacrifices. And Adam was created from the earth of the Temple. Then the Rambam adds, that "our sages said, 'Adam was created from the place where he atoned.'" From the Rambam it seems that this was already a holy place before Hashem chose it.

The question is, was this place always holy, or did it become holy when Hashem chose it?

Another question. From our verses that say, "the place that Hashem your G-d will choose," it is clear, that only after Hashem chooses the place, will it become holy. So why does the Rambam tell us the history of the place, that Avraham, Noach, etc. Brought sacrifices there?

To understand this, we first need to understand the difference between when Hashem chooses a place, making it holy, and when people sanctify a place or an object and make it holy.

When we sanctify a place or an object, the holiness is permanent, however, because the place or the object is limited, the holiness is limited to the limitations of the place or the object.

When Hashem chooses a place, the holiness is not limited to the limitations of the place, rather to the One Who is choosing, Hashem, therefore it is unlimited. However the place itself does not become permanently holy without us making it holy. When Hashem moves on, the place doesn't retain the holiness.

Hashem chose other places before the Temple Mount. For example, the Mishkan in Shiloh, that stood for 369 years, and the Mishkan that Moshe erected at Mount Sinai, and later it was erected wherever the cloud that led the Jewish people would stop. These places were all chosen by Hashem, yet when the Divine Presence moved on, they didn't retain their holiness. Why not?

It is only when we have the combination of both, Hashem's choice and our effort to sanctify the place that it becomes the eternal resting place of His Name, the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah in Yerushalayim.

This is why the Rambam tells us that Avraham, Noach, etc. Brought sacrifices. To explain why the Temple Mount became the final and eternal resting place of His Name. It wasn't enough that Hashem chose the place, we also needed Avraham, Noach, etc. To sanctify the place, and the combination of the two made it eternally holy.

What moved Avraham, Noach, Kayin, Hevel, and Adam to bring their sacrifices on Mount Moriah? It was because they knew through prophecy, that in the future Hashem would choose this as the final resting place of His Name. So ultimately it was Hashem's choice in the future that made it the resting place of His Name.

We are left with a question. The Rambam says that Adam was created from the earth of the Temple Mount. If this is the case, it would seem that Hashem already chose this place even before he created Adam. So why does He say, "the place that Hashem your G-d will choose," which means that it will be in the future?

To answer this question, the Rambam quotes the words of our sages, that "Adam was created from the place where he atoned." In other words, the reason Hashem created Adam from the earth of the Temple Mount, was because He knew that in the future, Adam would bring sacrifices there, it was Adam's choice not Hashem's.

Each of us was chosen by Hashem, each of us are a small Temple. Hashem rests His Name on us in the form of a Neshama. But it is up to us to put in the effort to experience what we have. It is the combination of both Hashem's choice and our effort, through Torah study and the performance of mitzvahs, that we experience the eternal holiness of Hashem.

May our efforts in Torah study and the performance of mitzvahs, bring Moshiach, when we will once again experience Hashem's unlimited holiness, in the eternal resting place of His Name, the Third and final Temple, in Yerushalayim, on the Temple Mount, Mount Moriah. The time has come.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Going Beyond The Natural

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In this week's parsha, Eikev, we have the second paragraph of the shema. In it, Hashem says, "And I will give your land's rain in its time." Rashi explains the words, "And I will give your land's rain," that Hashem is saying to the Jewish people, "You did what was upon you, I will also do what is upon Me." In other words, because we do what Hashem wants, he will do his part, by giving us the rain we need.

Rashi comes to explain difficulties in the simple meaning of the Torah. What is the difficulty in this verse that Rashi is clarifying?

In a previous parsha, Bechukosai, Hashem says, "And I will give their rain, in their time." The question on our verse is, what is the difference between the blessing of rain in Bechukosai and in our parsha? Rashi explains that over here it means, "You did what was upon you, I will also do what is upon Me." In other words, you did just what was asked of you, so I will keep my end of the bargain, and send the natural rain that you need. However in Bechukosai, the blessing is beyond the natural, as we see in the continuation of the blessing, "And the tree of the field will give its fruit," Rashi explains that it is talking about plain trees that don't normally give fruit, in the future they too will give fruit, which is not natural, rather above the natural.

Why is the blessing in Bechukosai greater? Because as Rashi explains on the words, "Im Bechukosai tailaichu, if you will go in my statues," means, that you should toil in Torah. Toil means going beyond your norm, putting in effort that is beyond your nature, so the blessing Hashem gives is also beyond nature.

How does Rashi know that in our parsha the blessing is within nature and not above nature? Because the verse says, "And I will give your land's rain," the rain is the land's, land is within nature. In Bechukosai it says, "And I will give their rain," meaning, the Jewish people's rain, and Jewish people are above nature, so the rain is also above nature.

How does this blessing of rain manifest itself? In our parsha Rashi explains the word "B'ito, in its time," at night, so you won't be bothered. In other words, you won't be bothered by the rain during the day when you are working in the field, but the rain will be the natural amount necessary for the fields to produce its crop. In Bechukosai Rashi explains the word "B'itam, in their time," at the time that it is uncommon for people to go out like Shabbos night (Friday night). Meaning that it will rain one night a week, and with that small amount of rain the fields will yield their full potential, which is beyond the natural.

So the blessing in Bechukosai is greater, because our effort is greater.

We need to strive for the greater blessing, it is not enough for us to get by with what comes natural to us. Hashem expects more from us, to go beyond our nature, to toil in Torah and mitzvahs, to go the extra mile.

In a way, doing just enough, just what is in our nature, is not an accomplishment, it is when we go beyond our nature, that we've accomplished. Hashem wants us to go beyond our nature, and when we do that, He showers us with blessings beyond the natural.

Every day I see this as my wife Dina goes beyond herself for our family and to give to others. I used to do a lot for our family, but now stuck in bed, it has all fallen on her shoulders. It is a daily struggle for her, but she finds a way to do it, through tears and love she supernaturally does it all. I am amazed by her everyday, she is a Jewish mother, a miracle, and my hero.

On top of that, she goes all over giving talks, strengthening people, lifting their spirits, and filling them with emuna and bitachon (belief and trust in Hashem). But what many don't know, is that she has terrible stage fright, but she fights through it, because she knows that this is what Hashem wants from her. I find that amazing and I am in awe of her.

We all have it in us to go beyond ourselves to do what Hashem wants, He created us to do just that, and when we do, we are doing what we are meant to do, and that brings supernatural blessing.

May our efforts and toil, going beyond the natural bring the greatest blessing of all, the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Marriage Tips For Men Part 4: Making A Home

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Being a husband I have made my share of mistakes. Here are some of the things I learned along the way. When I got it right, I saw how it made such a big difference. Of course I am human and didn't get everything right.

Your marriage is so precious, and your family is your life. Balancing a home, work and family is hard, especially that in so many families both parents are working. Yet when mom comes home, it is common that all the traditional tasks of motherhood is on her shoulders. Even those that are able to be a stay at home mother, are in an endless state of keeping up, especially if there are small children.

As you and your wife build a home together and as you grow as a family, you need to plan and set things in place, so that both you and your wife are happy, close, and loving. Think of yourselves as one unit, and as equally responsible parties in the home. Be realistic and divide the responsibilities according to your abilities, your energy and your time.

If your wife is the high energy, creative, pintrest, on top of it, organized type, then just go with it, do what she says and count your blessings.

This article is written to husbands who have a growing family and a wife with average or low energy, who is trying her best. But there are also lessons here for all couples, just use what applies to you.

Here are some things I did, and a few things I wish I did.


Make Things Easier For Your Wife


Being a wife, a mother and a homemaker is a huge job, anything you can do to relieve your wife from these burdens will be appreciated, and if you do them with joy, she will love you for it.

1) If You Can, Hire Help.

Hiring help for housekeeping and for taking care of the children, is a good idea. If you can afford to have it all the time, then you should. If your budget doesn't allow you to have it all the time, then have it as much as you can, and at least for the hardest tasks, even once a week, it will make such a big difference.

If you want to know what the hardest tasks are, it is the things that your wife dreads doing, if you ask her, she will gladly tell you.

2) Be a Mentch.

When you are home, be involved, don't sit on your bottom while she slaves away. Ask her what you can do, remember that it is your home too.

When you are taking care of the children don't call it babysitting, they are your children and your responsibility. When you are with them, you are being a father, not a baby sitter. When you call it babysitting, you are saying that they are not your responsibility and that you are doing a favor. This is hurtful to your wife, because she wants you to be a father to them. When you are a good father to your children, it is so endearing to your wife, she will fall deeper in love with you every time she sees it.

When she does things for you, don't take her for granted, say thank you, let her know that you appreciate the things she does for you and that you respect her. This might seem small to you, but when she feels appreciated and respected, it will lift her spirits, she will be happy and she won't feel used.

3) Have Things That You Do Around the House and Be Reliable.

Pick a few regular chores and make them your responsibility. It could be cleaning, food preparation, laundry, shopping, taking care of the cars, etc. It is your choice, but pick a few and do them well and reliably. The best things to choose, are the things she likes to do the least.

4) Have Things That You Do in Preparation for Shabbos and Yom Tov.

It is a long standing tradition, that husbands set up the candles for their wife and daughters to light. This is the way that it is done. Before shabbos, set them into the candelabra or candlesticks, light them for a few seconds and put them out. This will make them easier to light when it comes time for her to light them. Before Yom Tov do this as well, but on Yom Tov you will be in shul when it is time to set them, so she will do it. But if you do set them up on Yom Tov, don't light them, because you are not allowed to put them out.

Have a dish or two that you make for Shabbos and don't leave a mess for your wife to clean up. If you can't do that, have some other preparation that you do, it can even be done on Thursday.

If you can't help prepare, then help clean up after the Shabbos meal, especially Friday night. She has been on her feet all day preparing for Shabbos and she is probably exhausted.

(I am a big advocate of using disposable dishes, especially when the children are young, it makes clean up a breeze. Unless you have hired help, keep the fancy dishes for special occasions.)

5) Give Her Time to Put Her Feet Up.

Most mothers work hard and hardly ever get a break. If you could give her a respite from the kids she will be grateful and you will be a good husband. Being that you will be with the kids you will be a good father as well.

Here are some things you can do to give her rest.

  • Learn how to make one or two simple dinners, like sloppy Joe or something else the kids like. Once a week, or every other week, make dinner with the kids, while your wife rests. Make sure to clean up after. Your wife will appreciate it, and your kids will enjoy spending time with you.
  • When you have off of work, take the kids out to the park, or do some other activity they enjoy. This will give your wife some quiet time.

6) Give her time to get together with her friends.

At minimum once a month watch the kids so she can get together with her friends. Once a week is better. She needs time with her friends. If you can't be home, the baby sitter can watch the kids.


Be Loving


Here are some things you should do just to be loving.

1) Do small sweet things.

After a long day do something sweet to make her feel special.

Here are some ideas.

  • Make her favorite tea, the way she likes it, and bring it to her in a pretty cup.
  • Cut up a fruit she likes and bring it to her.
  • Bring her a piece of chocolate.
  • Bring her some warm water to soak her feet in.

With a little bit of thought, you will come up with some of your own ideas. Small sweet things that will make her feel special.

2) Be Supportive of Her Interests.

If your wife has a hobby she likes or she would like to try, be supportive. Here are some ways to do this.

  • Buy her a book or a magazine on the subject.
  • If you come across an article on the subject, bring it to her or email it to her.
  • If she asks you to join her, don't be difficult, go along with her. You might find that you enjoy it, and even if you don't, at least you tried, and that will make her happy.
  • Offer to get her classes or supplies.
You have to realize that your wife is multifaceted, you have to love and respect all her different qualities. Including her interests, her creativity and her wishes.


3) Do Things Just Because She Wants You To.

The home is the place your wife makes her own, she should have the last word in designing and decorating it. Unless something is offensive to you, you should not argue with her choices. If she wants things a certain way, have it that way.

If something is important to her, like putting your dirty laundry in the hamper, hanging up your wet towel, putting down the toilet seat after your done, etc. Do it and train your kids to do the same. These are small things, and the decent thing to do.

You will find, that it is the small thoughtful things you do, that will make her feel special, appreciated and loved.


These are just a few things that will make your wife happy and your relationship better. I hope that you will put them to the test.


The things to remember that is the basis of this article is to:
  • Make things easier for your wife.  
  • Respect your wife.
  • Show her appreciation.
  • Be loving.

Marriage Tips for Men Part I
Marriage Tips For Men Part II: How To Listen
Marriage Tips For Men Part III: What to say to your wife and how to say it 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Tu B'Av And Nachamu Everlasting

The way our calendar is set up, parshas Vaeschanan is always Shabbos Nachamu, when we read the first Haftora of consoling, Nachamu Nachamu Ami, console console My nation. It is also the Shabbos right before or after Tu B'Av, and sometimes it falls on this Shabbos itself. Tu B'Av is the 15th of Av, of which the Mishnah tells us, "There weren't holidays for Israel, like the 15th of Av and Yom Kippur." In other words, the holidays of Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur are ranked as the greatest holidays we have.

What is the connection between parshas Vaeschanan, Nachamu Nachamu and Tu B'Av? Why is Tu B'Av so great?

From the words of the Mishnah, it seems that Tu B'Av is even greater than Pesach, Shavuoth and Sukkos. Why is Tu B'Av so great?

The Pri Eitz Chaim, which is a work on Kabballa, says that it is because at that time the moon is full. But aren't Pesach and Sukkos also on the 15th of the month, when the moon is full? So what makes Tu B'Av greater than Pesach and Sukkos?

The answer that is given to this question, is that because Tu B'Av comes in contrast to Tisha B'Av and the Three Weeks, the saddest time on the Jewish calendar when our Temples were destroyed and we were thrown into exile, therefore it is the greatest holiday.

You may ask, doesn't Pesach also come in contrast to the exile in Egypt? What makes Tu B'Av greater than Pesach?

The exile in Egypt was before we received the Torah. When we received the Torah, we became a "Kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation." When we went into exile after the destruction of the Temple, it was the exile of a Kingdom of Kohanim and a holy nation, which is a more painful exile than the Egyptian exile, in which we were just a nation.

Tu B'Av represents the opposite of Tisha B'Av. Tisha B'Av we went into exile because of our sins. As we read in the Yom Tov Mussaf prayer, "Because of our sins we were exiled from our land." Tu B'Av, on the other hand, is a time of forgiveness of sin, that's why the Mishnah mentions it together with Yom Kippur, which is also a time of forgiveness of sin. Tu B'Av represents what is accomplished through our descent into exile, the coming of Moshiach and everlasting life. For the greater the descent, the greater is the ascent that follows. It is our efforts in this dark and bitter exile, that accomplishes the coming of Moshiach, which is everlasting, and the building of the Third Temple, that will be everlasting.

The Mishnah continues to say, that on Yom Kippur and on Tu B'Av, the daughters of Jerusalem (or Israel) would go out to the vineyards and dance. What moved them to dance specifically on those two days? The daughters of Israel sensed Hashem's joy, forgiving us, that filled them with joy, and so they danced.

Vaeschanan means and I prayed. Moshe prayed that he should lead the Jewish people into the land of Israel. The reason that he wanted to lead them into the land, was because everything that Moshe did was everlasting. He knew that if he would lead the Jewish people into Israel and build the Temple, it would be everlasting and no exile would follow. In other words, Moshiach would come.

When it says Nachamu Nachamu, it is referring to us being consoled when Moshiach comes. The double expression of Nachamu, doesn't mean just two, rather it means multiple, everlasting, that we will be consoled forever.

Now we see how Vaeschanan, Nachamu and Tu B'Av are connected. They are about the coming of Moshiach and everlasting life. Now that we have descended to the lowest possible place in the exile, and accomplished our mission, it is time for Moshiach to come and lead us to the greatest and everlasting ascent. May it happen soon, the time has come.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

How Hashem's Unlimited Blessing Enters The World

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In this week's parsha, Devarim, Moshe blessed the Jewish people, "Hashem, G-d of your fathers, add to you a thousand times as many as you are, and may He bless you as He spoke about you."

The Sifri, the Midrash and Rashi explain, that when Moshe blessed them with a thousand times as many descendants, the Jewish people said to Moshe, "Moshe, you are setting a limit to our blessing, Hashem already promised Avraham 'if a man will be able to count Them...'" Meaning, that they would be uncountable, like the dust of the earth, the stars in the sky and the sand by the sea. Moshe responded to them, "This (blessing) is from me, however He 'will bless you as He spoke about you.'"

Many ask, being that Hashem's blessing is unlimited, what does Moshe's blessing add?

There are two common answers given to this question.

That Hashem's blessing applies when we keep Torah and mitzvahs, and Moshe's blessing applies even when we are not observing Torah and mitzvahs. Or that Hashem's blessing applies after Moshiach comes, and Moshe's blessing applies before Moshiach comes.

Both of these answers divide the blessings into two separate times or eras. The problem with this is that the verse says, "Hashem, G-d of your fathers, add to you a thousand times as many as you are, and may He bless you as He spoke about you." Which seems to indicate that the blessings are simultaneous, and not at different times or eras. If the blessings are simultaneous and Hashem's blessing is unlimited, what does Moshe's blessing add?

Another question. It is obvious that Moshe's blessing does add something. Being that the case, you have Hashem's unlimited blessing and Moshe's limited blessing simultaneously. How can something be limited and unlimited at the same time?

The Midrash says, "Hashem had a desire to make for Himself a dwelling place down here." In other words, why did Hashem create the world? Because He wanted to dwell in it. And in which part of the world? Down here in our physical realm, which is the lowest. The word for dwelling place used here is dirah, the place where you live, where you can be yourself. Everything Hashem created, compared to Him, is limited, even the most sublime spiritual realms. And He wants to be Himself, unlimited, in this lowly limited physical realm of ours, and He created us, the Jewish people, to accomplish this desire of His. Here again, we see the idea of meshing limited and unlimited.

How do we accomplish this? And why are we able to accomplish this?

Hashem's desire comes from His will, which is beyond the created world. Mitzvahs are Hashem's will as well. When we do mitzvahs, we draw Hashem's unlimited essence from beyond creation into the lowest realm of creation.

In the blessing we say for Torah study and before reading the Torah, we say, "Because You have chosen us." In the Yom Tov amidah (silent prayer) we say, "You have chosen us." Hashem chose us, and true choice comes from one's will, and in this case it is Hashem's will that is beyond creation, His essence, that chose us. So we are connected to His will, and therefore we can draw His unlimited essence from beyond creation.

But aren't we in a limited physical world, making us limited as well? And aren't mitzvahs done with limited physical objects? How are we able to draw the unlimited essence of Hashem?

In truth we can't, but because this is what Hashem wants, and He can do anything, He Himself puts His unlimited Self into our limited realm as a gift to us. Here is how it works. Hashem wants this to happen, but He wants it to come through our effort. When we do a limited physical mitzvah, we set the stage for Hashem to do His part. It is our physical act that makes Hashem want to gift us with His unlimited essence, thereby meshing the limited with the unlimited.

Now we can understand what Moshe's blessing adds and how they work simultaneously. Hashem wants His blessing to come into the limited physical world, but there has to be an action from below that draws the blessing down. Moshe's blessing, although limited, was the act that made, that Hashem's unlimited blessing should come into the limited physical world. Without Moshe's blessing we would not have Hashem's blessing.

Right now we can't see the unlimited blessing or the unlimited essence of Hashem in the physical, that is accomplished by our mitzvahs, but it is there. When we complete our mission, the world will be a true home for Hashem's unlimited essence, and our eyes will be open to see our accomplishment. That is what the era of Moshiach is, Hashem's essence dwelling openly in the world.

By now we have done so much, we are so close. May Hashem send Moshiach and take us out of this dark and bitter exile. The time has come.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Why We Immerse Vessels

In this week's parsha, Matos, we read about the victory over Median. Then we are taught the laws of how to purge vessels (kashering), which is to purge them of any non kosher foods that have been cooked or baked in them, and the law of submerging vessels (toiveling), which is to submerse them in a mikvah or into a body of water suitable for submersion. This was relevant to the war against Median, because in the booty from the war, there were many vessels, and if they wanted to use them for food, the vessels would need purging and submersion.

The Ramban asks, why weren't the laws of purging vessels taught earlier, after the wars against Sichon and Og, mentioned in parshas Chukas? There were definitely vessels in the booty captured in those wars.

The Ramban answers, that because the lands of Sichon and Og is part of the land given by Hashem to the Jewish people, all of the booty was permissible to them, even things that are normally forbidden... And our sages say, "dry meat from pigs were permitted to them," but Median was not theirs, they didn't take their land... Therefore their vessels were considered forbidden.

That is why these laws were taught here, because now they became relevant.

There is a question on this Ramban. Why does he only ask about purging vessels? The same question could be asked about submerging vessels. How come it wasn't taught earlier by the wars against Sichon and Og?

Purging is to remove the physical forbidden flavor that was absorbed into the walls of the vessel. Submersion is for removing spiritual impurities from the vessel. In the wars against Sichon and Og things that were usually forbidden were permitted. But when it comes to submersion, any vessel used for food, that transfers from a gentile's possession to a jew's, needs submersion before he can use it, even if it is brand new. It would make sense to say, that the vessels from the wars against Sichon and Og, needed submersion. So why wasn't the law of submerging vessels taught by Sichon and Og?

To understand this, we need to understand why a vessel we get from a gentile needs submersion, even if it is brand new.

Rashi explains about submerging vessels, that the simple explanation is, that submersion is to remove spiritual impurities. And he continues to explain that Elazar told the Jewish people, that vessels need purging to remove the forbidden flavor that was absorbed into them and submersion to remove the spiritual impurities. Then he says, "Our Rabbis learned from here, that even to make them ready for use, from being impermissible (issur), they need submersion." The sages use the term issur, which doesn't refer to impurity, but rather to something that is not kosher. But isn't that what purging is for? How does submersion help take the vessel from a state of not kosher to kosher?

When a vessel is in a gentile's possession, even if it is brand new, it has the possibility to be used for issur, not kosher. Even if he doesn't use it, it is considered in a state of issur, because it has the possibility to be used for not kosher. When a Jewish person takes possession of the vessel, it doesn't have the possibility to be used for issur any more. To take it out of its previous state of issur, it needs submersion.

Now we can understand why the Ramban doesn't ask, Why weren't the laws of purging vessels taught earlier, after the wars against Sichon and Og? Because the answer is the same. Being that the concept of issur was suspended in those wars, that even "dry meat from pigs were permitted to them," nothing was in a state of issur, therefore nothing had to be submersed.

This will also clarify some other ideas.

When we sell our chametz before Pesach, it is sold to a gentile. If a vessel is among the items being sold, then after Pesach, when the chametz is bought back from the gentile, the vessel doesn't need submersion. Why not? Doesn't his purchase put the vessel in a state of issur?

The answer is, that it does not. Being that the sale is done with the intention to buy it back after Pesach, it doesn't enter a state of issur. Even though he can potentially come and take it, the reality is that he doesn't. It is therefore extremely unlikely, if not impossible that he will come to use it. Also, according to many, the sale is a kind of trick, nevertheless, it works for not having chametz on Pesach. So it doesn't need submersion.

On Shavuoth we have a custom to eat dishes made with dairy products, milk, cheese, butter, etc. One of the reasons for this tradition, is because on Shavuoth we received the Torah and became obligated to keep the laws of ritual slaughter (shechita), and only one who is obligated to keep these laws can do them. So none of their meat was kosher to eat. They couldn't slaughter new meat because according to all opinions, it was Shabbos and on Shabbos we are not permitted to slaughter. But they didn't have these issues with dairy, so they ate dairy.

It is certain that the dishes they ate were prepared in vessels. Before the giving of the Torah, they were not obligated to separate milk and meat, so they would need to be purged. And even if they had vessels that are normally used only for dairy, it would seem that they would need submersion before they could use them, because they had the possibility to be used for issur. If so, how were they able to use their vessels?

When the Jewish people left Egypt, they knew that the purpose was to receive the Torah. Therefore they already started to keep some of the laws. One of the laws they kept, was separating milk and meat. Being that this was the case, their vessels were not in a possible state of issur before the giving of the Torah. Therefore they didn't need submersion.

So it seems that there are two reasons for submerging vessels, to purify them from spiritual impurities, and to change their status from forbidden to permissible.

Every mitzvah we do is precious to Hashem. Some may seem more important than others. For example, we can easily understand purging vessels, it makes sense, it is even scientific, but it is harder to wrap our heads around the mitzvah of submerging vessels, which is more spiritual in nature and we don't see the change in the vessel. Perhaps when Moshiach comes, and our spiritual awareness is heightened, we will see and understand the spiritual.

For now we do them just because it is what Hashem wants, and that to Him, is most precious of all.

May the merit of the mitzvahs we do tip the scale and usher in the coming of Moshiach. May he come soon.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Making The Torah Yours

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In this week's parsha, Pinchas, we read about the laws of inheritance of the land of Israel.

The daughters of Tzelafchad brought their case before Moshe. They were five women who were very learned in Torah, and they had no brothers. In the laws of inheritance, when there are brothers and sisters, the land goes only to the brothers, and they support their sisters, so they benefit from their father's estate. When they get married, they are supported by their husband, so they benefit from his estate.

The outcome is that land doesn't shift from tribe to tribe, keeping the tribe's territory intact. For example, if a daughter of the tribe of Menashe were to inherit her father's land, and then marry a man from the tribe of Efraim, that land would shift and become the territory of Efraim.

The question that the daughters of Tzelafchad had was, what if a man only has daughters, who inherits his land?

There are two possible answers. Either it goes to the closest male relative, or to the daughters. In Tzelafchad's case, if it goes to the closest male relative, it will get swallowed into his estate, and not be identified as Tzelafchad's land. And that is what his daughters wanted, that a part of the land of Israel should carry their father's name.

Rashi tells us, that Moshe forgot the law. Not that he didn't yet receive the law from Hashem, but rather, that he knew it and forgot it. One of the reasons brought by Rashi for this memory lapse, is that Hashem wanted that this law "be written by their hands," meaning, in the daughters of Tzelafchad's merit.

There was one other time that Rashi tells us that Moshe forgot the law, in last week's parsha, by the story of Zimri. When he took a Midianite princess to have relations with her. Moshe forgot the law, that if a Jew has carnal relations with a non Jewish woman, zealots may take action against him.

Why would Hashem make it that Moshe, the teacher of the Jewish people, should forget specifically these two laws? It is obvious that it was necessary for him to forget them, and that there is a positive gain and outcome from his lapse of memory in these laws. If not, what was the purpose of telling us these stories. So what is the positive outcome of this event?

Another question. Why is so much prominence given to the daughters of Tzelafchad? They are mentioned by name three times in the Torah.

In both of these stories, Moshe would not have been believed to say what the law was, because he was personally involved. By forgetting the law, it had to be transmitted in a different way, or it had to be retransmitted by Hashem to Moshe, to give it the strength and validity of every other mitzvah that Moshe taught.

In the case of Zimri, he wanted to be with a Midianite woman, and being that Moshe's wife was Tzipora, Yisro's daughter, a Midianite, he was too involved to give the ruling. Because of this, the Torah law had to be transmitted through a different person, Pinchas.

In the case that the daughters of Tzelafchad brought, Moshe wasn't originally involved, but they dragged him in. They said that their father wasn't part of Korach's rebellion against Moshe. Which although it seems like a minor thing, it would be enough to weaken the ruling. By forgetting the law, he had to go to Hashem to receive it again and that was enough to give it the full strength of Torah.

The daughters of Tzelafchad are mentioned three times in the Torah, each time it says their names, Machla, Tirtza, Chagla, Milka and Noah, specifically connected to the laws of inheritance. This is because of their self sacrifice and total investment into these laws. Their father died in one of the first years after the Exodus, so some of them were born yet in Egypt and their case was brought in the fortieth year after the Exodus. They all refrained from getting married until their case would be heard, because once they would be married, their case would not be so strong, because they would be connected to their husband's land. This was a major sacrifice on their part, now they were around forty. They also delved into the subject with all their being, making it theirs, hence they merited to have it "written by their hands," in their honor.

This is a lesson to each of us, that if we put our effort into Torah study and do it with self sacrifice and not for a personal gain, like the daughters of Tzelafchad. Then the Torah becomes ours, and as if it was written in our honor. This is true for any sacrifice that is done for Hashem and His Torah, it makes it yours and in your merit.

May the merit of our sacrifices for Hashem and His Torah stand up for us, and storm the gates of heaven, asking that Moshiach should come already. The time has come.

Friday, July 7, 2017

How To Respond To A Nudnik

Dear friends,
With this article, I begin the forth cycle of Dvar Torahs. Please forgive the lateness, as my computer was giving me trouble. Enjoy!
Yitzi

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At the end of this week's parsha, Balak, we have the story of Zimri who was the Nassi (the leader) of the tribe of Shimon, who together with others, were tempted into having relationships with Midianite women. The Midianites put their daughters up to doing it, even the king of Midian, Tzur, sent his own daughter, the princess Kozbi, to take part in the scheme.

What was the point of this scheme? As the Jewish people made their way to the Holy Land, all the nations were afraid to engage them in battle. Not because the Jewish people had a powerful army, they certainly did not, but because they realized that Hashem was with them and was granting them miraculous victories over very mighty nations. They searched for a way to get us to do something that will put us at odds with Hashem. They reasoned that our close connection to Hashem, was because of our holiness and purity, and they were right. How can they get us to betray Hashem and defile ourselves? Their answer was this ploy, and to some extent, it worked.

The story continues that Zimri took Kozbi to be with him, and Pinchas killed them, saving the Jewish people.

The Midrash tells us that Zimri brought Kozbi before Moshe and asked him, "Is she allowed or forbidden? And if you say she is forbidden, then who permitted the daughter of Yisro (a Midianite) to you? The law was hidden from him (from Moshe)." Which law did he forget? The Midrash continues that Pinchas "saw what (Zimri) was doing and he remembered the law..., that one who does a carnal act with a non Jewish woman, zealots may take action against him."

Why was Moshe allowed to marry Tzipora, Yisro's daughter? And why didn't Moshe answer Zimri, and explain how it was different?

Moshe married Tzipora before the receiving the Torah, and standing at Mount Sinai we all became Jewish together including Tzipora. So she was definitely permitted to him.

However during the inauguration of the Mishkan, Moshe played the role of Kohen, and according to some opinions, this put him in the status of Kohen for the rest of his life. A Kohen has to keep to a higher standard, he is not allowed to marry a convert, someone who was previously from a different nation. So it seems like Zimri had a good question.

The rule is that a Kohen can marry a widow, a Kohen Gadol cannot, but if he married a widow before becoming a Kohen Gadol, they are permitted to remain together, because when they got married they were allowed to marry.

The same could be said for Moshe, when he and Tzipora married, because it was permitted, now that he was a Kohen, they could stay together.

The Talmud tells us that the law of Jewish marriage was given to us while we were still in Egypt. Therefore, after the giving of the Torah, there was no need to redo marriages.

So according to all opinions Moshe's marriage to Tzipora before the giving of the Torah was valid and held the weight of the Torah. So why didn't he explain this to Zimri? Zimri wanted to blatantly take a non Jewish woman, and he knew that it was clearly forbidden.

There is a rule that a sage that teaches Jewish law, who is asked about a law when he is in a similar situation, is not supposed to respond, because he is not believed to say, "so has the oral tradition been transmitted to me," in this case. It is like a judge that recuses himself from a case because he has a stake in the outcome of the case.

This is one reason that Moshe wouldn't respond.

Another reason is a practical one. When a person asks a question sincerely, you should try to give him or her the answer. However, sometimes a person asks a question insincerely, and he doesn't really want your answer. He just wants to do what he wants, and engaging him in this discussion, will only bring you down to his level. In this case, Zimri clearly knew the law, he didn't really care for an answer.

The same is true when the evil inclination tries to engage you to do something wrong. He is insincere, and he doesn't have your best interest in mind. Don't even entertain the thought, he is a nudnik, don't let him bring you down to his level. Instead drag him with you to do something that Hashem wants, like learning Torah or some other mitzvah.

I remember when I first went out to be a rabbi, when I started giving classes. Young and naive, I would engage every nudnik and try to answer their questions. It would leave me feeling empty and like I wasted my time. So I took a new approach. When I would be asked that kind of question, I would say, "good question," and then I would invite them to learn. Most of the time, they would enjoy the Torah study, and forget about their question. As it turned out, they weren't nudniks at all, and many became life long friends.

May we have the strength to persevere and overcome the evil inclination and get closer to Hashem. And may we soon merit to see the coming of Moshiach. The time has come.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Jewish Leaders

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The Haftora for parshas Chukas is from the book of Shoftim (Judges). It tells the story of how Yiftach (Jephthah) became Judge, and won a battle against Amon.

Yiftach was the son of Gilad, however his mother was a harlot. His half brothers from Gilad's wife drove Yiftach out, they said to him, "You will not inherit in our father's house because you are the son of another woman." He ran away from his brothers and settled in the land of Tov, empty people gathered around him and would go out with him, like a gang.

A while later Amon went to war against Israel. The leaders of Gilad went to Yiftach and asked him to become the chief and lead Israel in battle against Amon. After some discussion he agreed on the condition that they appoint him leader first, which they agreed to.

After appointing him as the leader, he sent a message to the king of Amon, asking why are you waging war against us? He responded, because we want our land that you captured when you came up from Egypt.

Yiftach sent back a message, with the information found in this week's parsha, explaining that when we came up from Egypt, we went around Edom, Moav (Moab) and Amon, because they wouldn't grant us passage through their lands. The land we captured was the land of Amori who waged war against us, and Hashem gave them into our hands. Why hasn't anyone made this claim before in the past 300 years? He concluded with a strong warning, that "Hashem the Judge will judge today between the Children of Israel and the Children of Amon."

The king of Amon did not pay heed to Yiftach's words. The spirit of Hashem was upon Yiftach and he went to war against Amon. He took an oath that if he would be victorious, he would offer as a sacrifice, the first thing that would come out of his house to greet him. He had a massive victory, and Amon was now under Israel's rulership.

The connection to our parsha is that parshas Chukas tells of how we went around Edom, Moav and Amon, which was mentioned in the message from Yiftach to the king of Amon. It also tells about the amazing victories over Sichon and Og, similar to the great victory over Amon. There are more similarities, when Moshe sent messengers to Edom it says, "And Moshe sent messengers," and when he sent messengers to Sichon it says, "And Israel sent messengers," when it was Moshe who actually sent them. Rashi explains that this is similar to the verse in the Haftora, when Yiftach sent messengers to the king of Amon it says "And Israel sent messengers," teaching us that Moshe is Israel and Israel is Moshe. Because the Nassi (the leader) of the generation is like the whole generation, because the Nassi is everything. Similarly, Yiftach is Israel and Israel is Yiftach. Also in the parsha the Jewish people took an oath similar to that of Yiftach.

The Talmud tells us, that "Yiftach in his generation is like Shmuel in his generation." What does this mean? There is no comparison between the two. Shmuel was a holy and righteous man, Yiftach was not. Shmuel was learned in Torah, Yiftach was not. Rather it is telling us that the leaders we have are appointed by Hashem, and we are obligated to accord them with the same respect. Also it is a mitzvah to follow the laws set by the court of the time. And though Yiftach's court was not at the level of Shmuel's, we were still obligated to follow its rulings.

The Haftora stops before the end of the chapter, where it tells us the tragic story of what became of Yiftach's oath. When Yiftach came home from his victory, his daughter came out to greet him dancing with a tambourine, she was his only child, and she was the first to come forth from his house. He realized his grave mistake and rend his garments. He told her of the oath he had taken. She was a smart girl, and she brought proof that one is not permitted to sacrifice a human. He didn't want to hear. She brought proof that he wasn't obligated to keep this kind of oath, again, he wouldn't accept her arguments. She asked him for two months, she said, "I will go down onto the mountains," which meant that she was going to go to the Sanhedrin, and show them that she is a pure maiden, perhaps they would annul the vow. In fact she was right, he was not obligated to keep his oath, at most he would have to bring a sacrifice in her stead, but he was ignorant, proud and stubborn, and wouldn't hear from it.

What happened to her? There are two opinions. Some say that he actually killed her, and that every year the Jewish maidens would lament her fate for four days. Other say that he built her a home where she was secluded for the rest of her life, and she never married. According to this opinion, four days a year the Jewish maidens would visit her and talk with her words of comfort over her tragic situation.

The Kohen Gadol at the time was Pinchas, he could of annulled Yiftach's oath, but their pride got in the way. Pinchas said, "he needs me, and I should go to him? (He should come to me)." And Yiftach said, "I am the Chief of Israel, and I should go to Pinchas? (He should come to me), between the two of them, the girl was lost. They were both punished for this, wherever Yiftach went, limbs would fall off his body and would be buried there, and Pinchas lost his Divine inspiration.

This is not included in the Haftora, because it has no connection to the parsha. I included it because Yiftach's oath is mentioned in the Haftora, and because it is interesting.

Yiftach was the judge for six years.

What are some of the lessons from the Haftora?

First, that Hashem doesn't always give us the holiest person as our leader. Rather, He give us the leader that we need and perhaps deserve.

Second, that anyone who wants to do Hashem's will, could have the spirit of Hashem with him, even a person like Yiftach.

Third, although Yiftach was a boorish man, we see from his words and actions that he believed in Hashem. Perhaps the leadership in Israel today, should learn from him how to stand up against the enemies of Israel, with truth and without fear, knowing that Hashem is with them.

From the story of his daughter we learn not to make vows lightly and not to let pride get in the way of better judgment.

May we merit to have great and holy leaders, and may we have true peace and the entirety of our land, with the greatest leader of all, Moshiach. The time has come.