I heard an interesting idea this week while I was in Chicago. This idea was shared after mid-day prayer services in an office building!
The 15th of Iyar, this past Thursday, is an auspicious time to ask God for help with our parnussa, livelihood. It was the day in history when the Jewish people ran out of matza in the desert and asked God for food. He responded by sending manna, which provided for them for 40 years. An incredible response!
The speaker encouraged us to trust in God , and to remember to ask Him for His help in all areas, including our need for parnussa, ample livelihood.
A suggestion was given to further increase our merit, to "deserve" a generous livelihood. Our sages tell us that if we look away and "give in" when others slight us, then God will also "look the other way" and give us what we need even if we don't totally "deserve" it.
May we always take comfort in our loving God in Heaven who wants to, and always will, bestow good upon us.
Have a great Shabbos!
Parshas Acharei Mos- Kdoshim
This week, a double header (double portion), is filled to the brim with fascinating topics.
One episode of interest, is when the two oldest son's of Aaron the kohen gadol (high priest) were punished for not following the instructions for the temple service. it is clear from all commentaries that they were well meaning people with sincere intentions. So what was so wrong with what they did?
Last week at Partners in Torah, Rabbi Lapin gave the following analogy. Every year, a devoted husband gave his wife chocolates on their anniversary. Finally after ten years of marriage his wife, musters up her courage and says, "Thanks for all the presents, all these years, but I really don't like chocolate". So the next year for their anniversary the husband, remembering how much HE liked chocolate, again bought his wife chocolates.
As silly as this sounds, we all know that when we give to someone we need to think and take into account what THEY would want. We need to do this in our relationship with God as well. We need to be sincere and we need to be interested in what HE wants of us, the same way we should in any other relationship. To not do so shows a lack of care and concern, just as it would in any other relationship.
Have a great Shabbos!
The metzora (leper) is one of the main features of this week's parasha. The most famous reason why one became a leper was for the sin of lashon hara, speaking disparagingly about others. The Zohar comments that when the verse tells us that the atonement for this is to bring two birds as sacrifices, one bird is for not speaking nicely, and one is for not saying proper speech. What is being referred to by " not saying proper speech" and how is this on the same level as evil speech?
The Shemen HaTov explains that by not using good speech, it can be just as damaging as evil speech. Rabbi Frand shlit"a points out that at the core, they are the same issue: one can push himself up by putting down others or by not seeing the good in them and not complimenting them when appropriate.
All it takes is one wrong word said or not said to cause great hurt, but in contrast, saying one positive word or refraining from a hurtful word can build someone up so much!
Have a great Shabbos!
I hope that everyone had a wonderful Pesach!
Aharon HaKohen (Aaron) gets inaugurated in this week's parasha. He is at first very hesitant, and he needs the courage of his brother Moshe (Moses) to in fact assume his role, because he feels unworthy of such a lofty position as high priest.
The Vilna Gaon offers a fascinating thought related to this, which teaches an important lesson as well.
The Talmud says that a person should have an eighth of an eighth of gaavah, pride. The Gaon asks, what does this mean? For example, why not just say 1/64th?
To answer this, he directs us to our parasha, which is named Shmini - eighth. The eighth verse in this parasha (the eighth of the eighth!) is the verse where Aharon is told not to be so humble!
A person needs to know who he is, and when others (or even he himself) needs him, that is not the time to be unassuming. Aharon was truly humble, but when he was needed, he was able to step up and do what he had to. May we all have the clarity of thought to know when we must be humble and when we need to use the gifts we have been given.
Have a wonderful Shabbos!
Parshas Tzav/ Shabbos Hagadol / Pesach
There is so much to say as we head toward Pesach. I'd like to share with you an idea I saw from Rav Dessler which gave me a new appreciation for the Haggadah. Rav Dessler points out the number of ways in which the author of the Haggadah structured the Haggadah to reach all types of personalities. For example:
Q and A- “Ma nishtana”
Motivation - we do things differently so children will ask
Concrete Illustrations- matzo, maror, seder plate
Imaginative Suggestions “ imagine as if you yourself went out”
Breaking things down to small components: “dayeinu”
Putting things together: "al achas kama vkama", where we add up the pieces of dayeinu.
It is so important that every Jew, no matter what his background or personality feel that he belongs. He/She does belong, and our Torah and its rich heritage is accessible.
I wish everyone an enjoyable and uplifting Pesach!
Have a wonderful Shabbos!
As we close in on Pesach, I figure it would be appropriate to share a thought on the holiday.
In less than two weeks we'll be drinking 4 cups of wine, corresponding to the 4 expressions of redemption God used when freeing the Jewish people from Egypt.
The Sforno explains that one of the expressions is referring to the Jewish people seeing their "masters" dead outside the Red Sea and their no longer being slaves.
RabbI Henoch Lebowitz asks, why is this the case? Weren't they free when they were taken out of Egypt?. The Sforno seems to be implying that they were not really freed by their exodus.
The answer is that, although they were freed by leaving, they were not yet able to act as free men. They kept the slave mentality until they witnessed the reversal of events and only then did they realize their true situation.
We can apply this to our own lives. We also remain "slaves" to situations, thoughts and feelings, waiting to witness changes. Perhaps the greatest reason for personal failure in any area, especially in our spiritual growth, is lack of true appreciation for who we are. We may think, "I am just an average person, I can't do much", and thereby validate lack of success or growth. We must realize who we really are: we are all royalty, children of God.
This is one of the fundamental ideas the Pesach night can bring home to us. As we "witness" our leaving Egypt, we must internalize that we are special and capable of living a life filled with the privileges and responsibilities of a princely nation.
Have a wonderful Shabbos
Purim is finally here! This year we get to be in the swing of things even earlier, because Shabbos goes straight into Purim. Enjoy!
One of my teachers, Rabbi Yosef Lipson of the New England Rabbinical College, shared a thought about Purim which I found very helpful as I prepare myself for this holiday. Purim begs the question, Why? Why are the activities, while enjoyable, considered sacred? What is the goal that we are striving for? In fact, some of the activities of Purim seem contrary to values often taught.
Rabbi Lipson shared that what we are striving for is to get in touch with the essence of who we are and what we stand for. Yes, outer trappings and behavior are important and profoundly influence us, but in reality what we believe in is what truly defines us. There are so many activities and events where the sole difference between what is good and what is not is simply our motivation.
This is what we are striving to show on Purim. Once a year, we are trying to demonstrate that regardless of the outer trappings, we remain the same inside - someone trying to do good and be close to his Creator. This is something to think about as Purim is almost upon us.
Enjoy, celebrate, get inspired and may we all have a very happy and joyous Purim!