Monday, December 20, 2010

H-shem Running the World, Events of 2010 to lead us to Teshuva

In last week’s Parsha, Yaakov Avinu gives Yosef the reason behind his switching hands in blessing Menashe and Ephraim: “...but his younger brother shall be greater than him”. HaRav Avigdor Miller, Z’tl, provides the following incisive insight here: “This is another instance of the surprises that Hashem caused in history. Kayin and Hevel left no posterity, for only the seed of the younger Shais survived. Yefes was older, but Shem was chosen. Yishmael was older, but Yitzchak was chosen. Esav was the first-born, but Yaakov gained the birthright and the blessings. Reuven was the first-born, but the Bechorah was given to Yosef. Menashe was the first-born, but Efraim was given the superiority. Rochel was the best-loved; but Levi gained for his posterity the privilege of nearness to Hashem--Moshe, Aharon and the Kohanim came from the Levi; and it was Leah’s son Yehudah who was the progenitor of Dovid and his seed. Indeed, the entire nation of the Jews today are the Yehudim and are accordingly labeled descendants of Leah. Dovid, the youngest son of Yishai, was chosen by Hashem after all the older brothers were rejected. These are not mere coincidences, but are Hashem’s plan of demonstrating by unexpected turns that men’s history is not a result of material causes but the hand of Hashem.”

Hakhel Note: Having provided this essential insight, we provide by the following link (supplied to us by a reader) a secular article with astounding facts about the secular year 2010--which highlights the way the happenings of this world are treated by those in this world without Emunah Chushis:

For those who prefer not to click on the link, we provide the following salient passages: “This was the year the Earth struck back. Earthquakes, heat waves, floods, volcanoes, super typhoons, blizzards, landslides and droughts killed at least a quarter million people in 2010, the deadliest year in more than a generation. More people were killed worldwide by natural disasters this year than have been killed in terrorism attacks in the past 40 years combined....I think it is the end of the world,” she said. “Our planet warns us against what would happen if we don’t care about nature.” ....Preliminary data show that 18 countries broke their records for the hottest day ever....That’s why the people who study disasters for a living say it would be wrong to chalk 2010 up to just another bad year. The Earth strikes back in cahoots with bad human decision-making,” said a weary Debarati Guha Sapir, director for the World Health Organization’s Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters. “It’s almost as if the policies, the government policies and development policies, are helping the Earth strike back instead of protecting from it. We’ve created conditions where the slightest thing the Earth does is really going to have a disproportionate impact.”.... A list of day-by-day disasters in 2010 compiled by the AP runs 64 printed pages long....”

Clearly, it behooves us all to put world events over the past twelve months in proper perspective. The reader who sent us this link also sent us the words of Rashi and the Meiri (to Yevamos 63A)--who write that these kinds of happenings occur: “K’dei LeYiram Ahd She’Yoshuvu--in order to urge us on to new levels of Teshuva. To this end, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita brings the Medrash in Bereishis Rabba which teaches that for twenty-five years Hashem brought volcano and earthquake types of disasters to the environs of Sedom--but the people of Sedom chose to view it in the ways of newsworthy happenings, mother-earth rumblings and the like. HaRav Salomon teaches that when the Pasuk (both by the Dor Haflaga and Sedom) teaches that Hashem “came down to see” it refers to exactly these kinds of events--for after all Hashem does not have to ‘come down’ to see-- his ‘coming down’ signifies His making His presence felt in very tangible ways--and our duty to act on his unusual kind of appearance.

We must all feel the current closeness to Hashem and respond in kind--with especially dedicated acts of Teshuva. The very fact that the secular world at large recognizes the extraordinary nature and degree of the catastrophes and disasters should serve as the springboard of our awakening--for, after all, are we not the Am Segula which is distinguished by its closeness to Hashem? Let us bli neder commit to improve in those areas in which one would be embarrassed to stand before Moshiach if he would see you (or through you). The excess desire, the jealousy, the negative chatter, the lack of ‘give’ in listening to another, the failure to treat Mitzvos with the alacrity, joy and dedication deserved (coming on time, care and helping others to perform)...everyone knows their strengths and weaknesses. What will the next twelve months bring? We hope very great things--if enough of us get the message. Each and every one of us could literally be a very great factor in helping bring billions in this world to the end of a long and difficult flight…with a smooth, successful and safe landing. Let’s accept the great responsibility--and the sacred mission!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Asara beTevet, Teshuva, 8 Tevet, 9 Tevet etc.

From today's Hakhel email:

Special Note Three: Today is the eighth day of Teves, the tragic day upon which the Torah was translated into Greek, the Septuagint, which is marked as a Ta’anis Tzadikim (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 580:2). For further detail on the tragedy of the Septuagint, we refer you to the Sefer HaToda’ah, translated into English as The Book of Our Heritage (Feldheim), by Rabbi Eliyahu Kitov, Z’tl.

Tomorrow, the ninth day of Teves is actually also a Ta’anis Tzadikim, for it is the Yahrtzeit of Ezra HaSofer (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim ibid., Mishna Berurah seif katan 13). As a zechus for Ezra Hasofer, one can review the Takanos that Ezra instituted, as described in Bava Kamma 82A.

These two days are then followed by a third Ta’anis, Asara B’Teves, which is observed by all.

The Chasam Sofer in a Drasha that he gave on the eighth day of Teves (approximately 200 years ago) suggests that after the 70-day period of mourning in Egypt ended for Yaakov Avinu, the Bnei Yisroel traveled to Eretz Canaan and eventually buried Yaakov Avinu--on Asara B’Teves. The date of Eisav’s death is then--yes, Asara B’Teves, as well.

There is much to learn from the Chasam Sofer’s conclusion in our observance of Asara B’Teves. After all, Ma'aseh Avos Siman L’Bonim--that which occurred to our forefathers is a sign for future generations. Firstly, Chazal teach us that “Yaakov Avinu Lo Mais.” That is, even though it may appear to us that Yaakov passed away, in fact, he lives on--most certainly so in spirit. We, too, having experienced the devastating blow of the events of Asara B’Teves more than 2,500 years ago have not rolled over and died as scores of other nations have in the meantime. Moreover, what ultimately happened on Asara B’Teves was the death of Eisav. This, the Chasam Sofer writes, is symbolic of Asara B’Teves in the end being turned from a date of sadness to a day of “Sasson V’Simcha”--joy and happiness.

The missing link to bring us to what Asara B’Teves is supposed to be is Teshuva. We all know that this is the shortest fast of the year, so it should be the easiest. That is a gift in and of itself. However long or short the fast is, in order to be meaningful, it must be accompanied by Teshuva. We must do something. We must make a move to revitalize Yaakov, and to once and for all, put Eisav away.

One suggestion may be to take out your Vidui booklet, or other Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur reminder. We especially note that Asara B’Teves is “Asiri Lakodesh”--the next tenth day in a series of ten day periods since Yom Kippur--an especially auspicious day for personal improvement!

One final, but important comment: Rashi explains that when Yosef and Binyamin fell on each other’s necks in last week’s Parsha (Bereishis 45:14), it was to symbolize the destruction of the two Batei Mikdashos, and the Mishkan of Shilo, which were located in their respective territories in Eretz Yisroel. The Avnei Nezer explains that the “necks” symbolize the Bais HaMikdash and the Mishkan, because just as the neck connects the head (which is the resting place of the soul) to the rest of the body, so, too, does the Bais HaMikdash (and the Mishkan) fully and finally connect our physical lives to our spiritual existence. When we yearn for the Bais HaMikdash, we are yearning to connect our corporeal life to the highest spiritual plane it can achieve. By endeavoring to make a brocha (the spiritual) over food (the physical) properly, we demonstrate that we are sincerely preparing for--and awaiting--the day when we truly can connect our bodies to our souls in the most absolute and outstanding way that we can!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Geulah - Yes, even in this "lowly" generation...

Beautiful insight in today's Hakhel email:

Special Note Four: HaRav Dovid Kviat, Z’tl, in the Sefer Sukkas Dovid writes that the Chofetz Chaim was asked how Hashem would bring Moshiach if the Jewish people had been experiencing deterioration in each succeeding generation. The Chofetz Chaim responded that the Geulah will come based upon the pasuk in Malachi ( 3:16 ) “Az Yidbaru Yirei Hashem Ish El Raieihu--then they who fear Hashem will talk among themselves” [to strengthen the Jewish people]... and then Hashem will send Eliyahu HaNavi. HaRav Kviat continues: “Similarly, at the time of the miracle of Chanukah, the entire Jewish people had not yet repented. It was only a small band that fought the Greeks. The majority of the Jewish people were mired in sin. But following the victory of the Chashmonaim and the miracle of the jug of oil, the nation repented. Just as from the one small jug of oil, the Menorah was able to remain lit for eight days, so, too, did the few Torah-true Jews miraculously save all of Jewry. We must understand that the miracle of Chanukah is different from other miracles because it happened at a time when only a minority was worthy. Therefore, it was established for all generations. This is alluded to in Al HaNissim, where we say that Hashem gave over “the many in the hands of the few.” They were few not only in comparison to the Greeks, but they were also few in the people of Israel . For this reason, their victory was exceptionally miraculous. So, too, when Moshiach comes will the small knot of Yirei Hashem bring the entire people to salvation and repentance.” Hakhel Note: Wouldn’t you like to be among this special group? We have the lessons and the lead of the Maccabim to follow!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Carmel Fire, Haftarah of Shabbat Chanukah, End to Drought

From today's Hakhel email: - I added the hyperlink to Reb Lazer's page as referenced below if anyone wants to see it. BTW if anyone can expound on what the Shir HaShirim Rabbah passage means please elucidate for us!

Thank you and hopefully we will see the Geulah quite soon!
Esther Asna

Special Note One: Now that the unprecedented tragic fire on Har HaCarmel is “under control”, we reflect upon its non-coincidental message of wild fire unleashed in the Festival of Neiros, and in a time when it is not fire--but water--which is so desperately needed in Eretz Yisroel. By now, many have seen the reference to Shir Hashirim Rabbah (on the Pasuk of KeShoshana Bein Hachochim; 2:5) brought by Rabbi Lazer Brody (translator of The Garden of Emunah) which Rabbi Brody suggests points directly to the fire and its meaning. We would like to provide the following message. The Pesikta teaches (we do not follow this Pesikta LeHalacha) that the Haftarah for Shabbos Chanukah is the Haftarah of Eliyahu on Har HaCarmel against the Neviei Haba’al--in which a fire came down Min HaShamayim and consumed the Korban of Eliyahu--upon which the people spontaneously proclaimed Hashem Hu HaElokim! Hashem Hu HaElokim! The essence of Chanukah and the essence of the lesson from Eliyahu Hanavi on the very same Har HaCarmel is Hashem Hu HaElokim--whether it be the miracle of the wars, the miracle of the oil, the quashing of Greece as a world power, the resurgence of the Bais Hamikdash--it was all by the hand of Hashem.

Esther Asna's note: Here is the URL to a blog post that explains the Haftorah in more detail:

As the Artscroll Siddur beautifully pits it in a brief explanatory note in Al Hanissim on the words ‘VeAchar Kein Ba’u Vonecha’: “By their [immediate] actions after the success of the revolt, the Jews proved that they were interested not in military victory nor in political power, but in undisturbed service of Hashem (Chofetz Chaim).” Our Emunah must take us to recognize the absolute and uncompromising reality of Hashem in all happenings, circumstances and events. We have had a reinforcement of this lesson this Chanukah. We hope that a new reality will emerge from these serious events--for almost immediately after the people unanimously exclaimed Hashem Hu HaElokim (Melochim I 18:39) at Har HaCarmel--the Pasuk teaches that the drought in the land miraculously ended with Achav’s sighting of a small cloud in the distance which quickly became a ‘geshem gadol.’ The lesson had been learned then and the people were saved--hopefully we too have sufficiently taken Hashem Hu HaElokim to heart now as well. Practical Actions: 1.We emphasize in Al HaNissim that the Chanukah miracles were undertaken by Hashem “Berachamecha HaRabbim”. Let us find where we use this exact phrase or language very similar to it in the course of our tefillos, and have Kavana to be saved, spared and redeemed again--for Hashem Hu HaElokim! 2. The bracha in Shemone Esrei of Re’eh (Na) VeAnyeinu is a bracha in which we request Hashem’s salvation from difficult situations and peoples--and in which we ask Hashem to ‘wage our wars’ on our behalf just as he did for the Maccabim. It is certainly an auspicious time, and a display of belief in the Chanukah Miracles--if we put extra Kavana into our pleas for contemporary salvations from the Sonei Yisroel and their inventions in the hidden and not so hidden locations all around us--for Hashem Hu HaElokim!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Bitachon thoughts for Chanukah

Some beautiful thoughts from today's Hakhel email:

Special Note Four: HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, recently provided fundamental introductory words to the Yom Tov of Chanukah. Chanukah teaches us yesodos, basics, in Bitachon. With the mighty falling into the hands of the weak, the many losing battle after battle to the few, a little bit of oil lasting eight days, we learn that natural law, statistics and probability are not relevant to the Ba’al Bitachon. What happened in the past is by no means determinative that the same will happen again in the future. On the other hand, Bitachon in Hashem does not mean that we are confident that whatever we want to happen will happen. What is Bitachon? The Rabbeinu Yonah teaches that Bitachon is hope. When statistics say that something is impossible, K’lal Yisroel still has hope, for Hashem can do anything. What we simply do not know is if Hashem, as the HaTov and HaMaitiv wants it to happen. We don’t know and often cannot see the Tov in events that occur. This is where the next step in Bitachon comes in--we believe that notwithstanding our subjective hope, what really happens is all good. One may have davened for what he thought was good for him, but when the opposite occurred, Hashem indicated that in reality what he davened for was not the best for him. When we properly exercise our Bitachon, we do not know what the outcome will be, for it depends on the Cheshbonos of the Ribbono Shel Olam.

Chanukah teaches that “Ain Od Melvado--there is nothing but His Will”--is really the Metziyus, the reality. In everyday life, this is hidden by nature--but in special moments (such as Chanukah and Purim, and perhaps other special times in a person’s life), Hashem makes it visible. It was a clear statistical impossibility for thirteen people (no matter how able bodied they were) to defeat tens of thousands. Hashem willed otherwise --and the rest is history that we celebrate -which reignites the flame of Bitachon within us every year.

HaRav Salomon continues with a beautiful teaching of HaRav Chaim Volozhiner, Z’tl (in Sefer Ruach Chaim to Avos 2:4). There, HaRav Chaim brings the famous Kepital in Tehillim (23)--”Hashem Roii Lo Echsar--Hashem is my shepherd--I will lack nothing.” Dovid HaMelech compares himself to a sheep whose whole existence depends on the shepherd. He leads them in a way that they won’t be injured--all is for their benefit even if they have no understanding. Dovid HaMelech teaches us all to follow the shepherd and feel secure, for even if one may be tired and “harassed”, he can have full confidence that the shepherd is leading him in the path that is really best. Sometimes we see the good, but often it is not visible. Knowing this, the “Shivtecha”--the stick that hits me, and Mishantecha--the stick that I lean upon, are really the same stick. Thus, “Heimah Yenachamuni--they together assuage me because I have Bitachon that everything is LeTova--for the good-- for it all comes from the One who is All Good. At the end of the Parsha, Yosef HaTzaddik places some eminently justifiable reliance on the Sar Hamashkim--after all that he did for him. However, the end was, as the last word of the Parsha testifies--Vayishkacheihu--and he forgot him. [On the other hand, Dovid Hamelech exclaims--V’shavti Bevais Hashem L’Orech Yomim--I look to nothing else and to no one else, other than dwelling together with Hashem for length of days.] With this, Yosef learned that our hallmark for survival in Galus among all those around us who in fact do us a favor if they only ‘forget us’--is looking to Hashem for anything and everything. The lesson learned is quickly brought into practice in next week’s Parsha as Yosef starkly and clearly advises Paroh--”Biladai--it is not me, it is Hashem who makes all determinations and all decisions, and it is to Him that we must turn--in all dreams, and in all realities!

Friday, October 22, 2010

King David's Temple and Yaakov's Temple - Insights on Psalm 30

Some great Mikdash insights from the Praying with Passion email:

The daily learning of this sefer is
L'Zacher Nishmas
Sorah Breina A"H bas Ezriel Shalom
Sarah Klein

Tefillah Focus Of The Week:
Mizmor Shir: Part 1
King David’s Temple

מזמור שיר חנכת הבית לדוד: ארוממך ה' כי דליתני. ולא שמחת איבי לי:
Meaning:(The simple translation of the prayer):
A psalm—a song for the inauguration of the Temple—by David. I will exalt You, Hashem, for you have drawn me up and not let my foes rejoice over me.

NOTE: Nusach Ashkenaz and Nusach Sephard differ in the placement of ‘Mizmor Shir Chanukas Habayis L’Dovid’ (Tehillim 30). In Nusach Ashkenaz, Mizmor Shir is recited before Boruch She’amar; in Nusach Sefard, Mizmor Shir is recited after Hodu.

Word to the Wise (Meaning within the word):
חנוכת הבית לדודThe wordבית refers to the third Bais HaMikdash which will be built at the time of Mashiach. (Tallelei Oros on Siddur, Page 12). The verse (Yeshayahu 2:3) says, “Many people will go and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of Hashem, to the House of the G-d of Yaakov...’”. The Gemara (Pesachim 88a) asks why the verse specifies the third Bais HaMikdash as the ‘House of the G-d of Yaakov?’
Maharsha (Pesachim 88a) explains that each of our Avos, our forefathers, was associated with a Bais HaMikdash. Avrohom called it הר -- ‘mountain,’ which represents the first Bais HaMikdash, as it states ‘On the mountain Hashem is seen’ (Bereishis 22:14). The Shechinah watched over the first Bais HaMikdash like a guard strategically stationed on top of a mountain. This protection was not permanent, for the first Bais HaMikdash was destroyed.
Yitzchak called the Bais Hamikdash שדה -- ‘field,’ as it says, “Yitzchak went out to pray in the field.” (Ibid 24:63). שדה is linked to the second Bais HaMikdash, which merited an even lesser degree of the Divine Presence.
Yaakov called the Bais Hamikdash בית -- ‘house,’ as it states (Ibid 28:19) “He named that place ‘the House of G-d.’” This בית symbolizes the third Bais HaMikdash, which will enjoy Divine protection like a house that is permanent and complete.

Theme: (An essential concept of the prayer):

Justice Is Done

Hashem defends His servants against their enemies.

Insight: (Deeper meanings of the theme):

Restoring a Reputation
Many commentators ask why this Psalm states, “a song for the inauguration of the Temple by David” when it was really King Solomon, King David’s son, who built and inaugurated it. An answer is provided by the Gemara (Shabbos 30a and Sanhedrin 107b), which relates that King Solomon was at first unable to bring the ark containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments into the Holy of Holies, where it was to be kept. When he tried to open the gates of the Holy of Holies, they miraculously clung to each other and could not be pulled apart.
In response, King Solomon recited 24 songs of prayer, but his efforts were to no avail. Then, as he recited the words “Hashem, G-d! Do not turn away the face of Your anointed one! Remember the pieties of David, Your servant,” the gates opened. All the nations and all of Israel knew that Hashem had forgiven David for his sin with Bathsheva (Shemos Rabbah 8:1).
At that moment, the faces of King David’s enemies (the family of Saul, Shimi ben Geira, and others who opposed his ascension to the throne) turned dark with humiliation, appearing black as the bottom of a burned pot. Before this episode, David’s enemies had claimed that G-d did not allow David to build the Holy Temple due to David’s sin. To defeat that claim, Hashem chose the moment when the ark was brought into the Holy of Holies -- the climax of the inauguration of the Holy Temple -- to show that the Temple was built and the Divine Presence would reside in it only on King David’s merit.
Therefore, in effect, the Temple was inaugurated by David. Furthermore, at the time of the inauguration of the Holy Temple, Dovid was vindicated before the eyes of all, including the eyes of his enemies. This vindication came from Hashem and is the inspiration of Dovid’s special praise of Hashem: 'ארוממך ה' כי דליתני ולא שמחת איבי לי' ‘I will exalt You, Hashem, for you have drawn me up and not let my foes rejoice over me.’ (Toras Chaim, cited in the Schottenstein Edition of Tractates Shabbos and Sanhedrin)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Thoughts for the Upcoming Hilula of Rachel Imenu on 11 Cheshvan

Let's take some inspiration from Today's Hahkel Email and daven for the Geulah!

Special Note One: Relating to our Mama Rachel, we provide the following two moving insights, as previously published:

1. From a reader: When we speak about Rachel Imeinu, we say, ‘Kol b’ramah nishma...Rachel mivaka al baneha ki eineinu...--a voice is heard on high...Rachel is crying about her children....’ The word ‘mivaka’ seems to be grammatically incorrect. The definition of ‘mivaka’ is to cause someone else to cry. The question is why do we use this term for cry? If Rachel is crying for us on High (as we know that Hashem says that her tears are going to bring the geula) why is the term ‘mivaka--causing to cry’--used?! The pasuk should simply say, ‘Rachel bocha--Rachel is crying’ because she is constantly crying for us to come out of galus! The answer could be that Rachel Imeinu is crying because we are not crying! She is trying to get us to cry out of the pain of galus because we seem to forget where we are. What we have to do now is cry out to Hashem and beg and plead for Him to take us out! Rachel is trying to get us to cry, to feel uncomfortable in galus. If we don’t feel like we are in galus and we don’t cry out to Hashem, then why should He take us out altogether?! If we are fine where we are, then why should anything change? The only way to get out is by asking for it! So take out your siddur, take out your Sefer Tehillim or use your own words to BEG Hashem to bring us out of galus! And THEN Hashem will be able to tell Rachel Imeinu, ‘Minee koleich m’bechee v’einayich midim’ah,’--Rachel, you can stop crying, because ‘v’shavu banim ligevulam,’ Bnei Yisroel will return to their boundaries. May we all have the zechus to see these very words come true!” Hakhel Note: Thank you, and may the pasuk ‘‘those who plant seed with tears will reap with joy’’ be fulfilled speedily and in our day!

2. HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl, while once at Kever Rochel, was overheard to have said that although Hashem had instructed Rochel Imeinu not to cry, he, “Chaim,” was asking her to cry for her children. The question is clear--if Hashem told Rochel Imeinu not to cry, how could HaRav Shmuelevitz--“Chaim”--seemingly go against this order and ask her to cry? Some say, that HaRav Shmuelevitz himself answered the question by explaining that while a father (Hashem) could tell his daughter to calm down and not cry, a child (such as HaRav Shmuelevitz) could ask his mother to show a special care and concern for her children.

A second explanation is given in the name of HaRav Moshe Aharon Stern, Z’tl, who teaches that Hashem, by telling Rochel that she didn’t have to cry, was actually inviting further supplication and tears. HaRav Stern draws the parallel to Hashem’s response to the sin of the Golden Calf, where He tells Moshe Rabbeinu, “Leave me alone and I will destroy them,” even though Moshe had not yet asked for mercy from Hashem for the Chait HaEgel (See Shemos 32:10 and Rashi there).

There is an extremely important lesson for us here. HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, notes that the Bais HaMikdash is referred to as the “Sukkas Dovid HaNofoles” (Amos 9:11 )--as the falling/fallen booth of Dovid. He explains that the word “Nofoles” is meant to inspire us to picture a person or a precious object as it is falling and as it finally falls. He or it is not in its natural or proper position. Something that is falling or has fallen, must be picked up and placed where it is supposed to be.

The Navi teaches that Rochel Imeinu cried for her children. HaRav Shmuelevitz asked her to keep crying. Likewise, the Navi tells us that we must recognize that the Bais HaMikdash is Nofoles. We, too, must do everything in our power to pick it back up. How? May we suggest that at some point in the day we follow in the footsteps of our Mama Rochel. We should take a moment out to envision the falling in front of us--and do what we can to stop the fall by asking Hashem to raise up, and keep up, that most precious possession, to Him and to us, the most special place on earth, the Bais HaMikdash.

May the words of Hashem to Rochel--“there is a reward for your actions--and your children will return to their borders” then ring true for our actions, as well, speedily and in our day!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Hashgacha Even Without a Mikdash Yet

From today's Hakhel email:

4. It is said that each of the Seven Days of Sukkos represents one of the Seven Ananei HaKavod--with each day being an additional Anan. What, then, is Shemini Atzeres? We may suggest that it represents not the protective Anan in each direction, but the Hashgacha Pratis over the individual within the Anan. It is even a greater closeness to Hashem than the Ananei HaKavod around us in all directions represent. With this in mind, we can understand a seemingly difficult juxtaposition in our daily Shemone Esrei Tefillah. After asking Hashem for the Bais HaMikdash to be rebuilt in the Bracha of Retzei and pleading that “our eyes see Hashem’s return to Tzion,” we surprisingly begin the next Bracha with “Modim Anachnu Lach--we thank You Hashem for….” If we have just expressed our sore need for the Bais HaMikdash, how can we so quickly seemingly take about face and immediately express our overflowing thanks, when so much is missing?! We may suggest that just as Shemini Atzeres represents the Simcha of our relationship with Hashem even beyond the protective warmth of the Sukkah, so too, does Modim express our recognition that even without a Bais Hamikdash, we enjoy the incredible benefits of a personal and direct Hashgacha Pratis relationship with Hashem. Just as this is one of the concluding messages of our recent Chagim, so too is it one of the concluding messages of our Shemone Esrei three times a day. The lasting message of Hashgacha Pratis should stay with us throughout the year…and throughout the day!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Temple Dedication As We Speak!

From Today's Hakhel Email:

Special Note Four: One of the reasons given for which we do not recite Tachanun in the period between Yom Kippur and Succos is because the first Beis HaMikdash was being dedicated during these very days in the times of Shlomo HaMelech. Remember--history repeats itself--in these very days we can still celebrate the building of the Third Bais HaMikdash! Let us do our utmost to make it happen!

Chag Sameach!
Esther Asna

Friday, September 3, 2010

Yartzeit/Hillula of Chafetz Chaim HaKadosh Today

Shabbat Shalom!

From today's Hakhel email:

Special Note Four: Today is the Yahrzeit of the Chofetz Chaim. We provide a sampling of his essential teachings, excerpted from the excellent Sefer, Give Us Life, collected and edited by HaRav Mendel Weinbach, Shlita:

1. Everything approaching its end summons all of its energies for a last stand. A candle’s brightest flame appears before it dies, and it is always darkest before dawn. The power of evil is approaching its end so it has summoned all of its resources and massed the greatest attack in history on the forces of good.

2. People often say “This world is also a world,” but the truth is that “Only this world is a world” because only here can a person improve and accomplish. This is the World of Action, the World to Come is only for the reward.

3. Good manners require a person to carefully prepare for an audience with an important official. If one is privileged to see the king, he takes several days to get ready. So if Chazal tell us that we must prepare for a lifetime before entering the palace of the King of Kings we must appreciate how supremely exalted this palace must be.

4. The reward mentioned by the Torah for certain Mitzvohs such as honoring parents is not their real payment for that is only due in the World to Come. The small reward we receive in the meantime is like the meals given to the king’s soldiers which are not subtracted from their pay.

5. Teshuva must be performed with great energy. A person should return to Hashem with at least the same degree of enthusiasm and energy with which he had sinned.

6. The greatest sinner will be called to account for the slightest wrongdoing because his terrible record is no license for further evil. The Rambam writes that the wicked King Yerovom will be punished for not fulfilling the mitzvah of Eruv Tavshilin.

7. Just as there are rich and poor, strong and weak, so do people vary in their talents and abilities in Avodas Hashem. The Torah therefore commands; “You shall love Hashem with *your* heart, *your* soul and *your* might--each man according to his particular powers. Additionally, the real meaning of “all your might” is whatever is most precious to you--Chazal knew that to most people money is the most precious item. However, to someone who Torah and Mitzvos is most precious, he must be prepared to sacrifice even these, if necessary, for the honor of Hashem. A Rosh Yeshiva, for example, must be prepared to sacrifice his own Torah study--his “all your might”--in order that Torah may flourish among his disciples.

8. An orderly, efficient shopkeeper knows exactly where each item in his stock is located and its precise value. An orderly Jew does every act with Hashem in mind because he knows that the simplest act--like the simplest ware--can bring a tremendous profit if it is used correctly.

9. One of the signs given by Chazal of a madman is that he sleeps overnight in a graveyard. A man has the opportunity of returning from the grave to a new and eternal life by studying or supporting Torah. If he wastes this opportunity and remains forever sleeping in the graveyard, he is truly a madman.

10. If you should ask your wife for Shabbos Kugel on Friday she will suggest that you eat something else because “ this Kugel is for Shabbos”. Honor is like Kugel and is only to be enjoyed on the day which is forever Shabbos--Olam Haba. If you eat the Kugel today, you may go hungry on Shabbos.

11. HaRav Yisroel Salanter, Z’tl, compared momentary interruption in Torah study to the uprooting of two feet of railway track from a line stretching for thousands of miles. Just as this seemingly insignificant act can wreak havoc upon the railroad, so too can a break in Torah study.

12. I am neither a Chosid or a Misnagid. My only ambition is to fulfill what is written in Shulchan Aruch. Chazal teach that a person will be asked whether he set aside times for Torah study and whether he dealt honestly in business. There is no mention of ever being asked whether one is a Chosid or Misnagid.

13. Even a small storekeeper keeps a record to know the small amounts that his customers owe him. Let us not fail to keep records of our life in this world--for it affects us for eternity.

14. A Torah supporter gives a few copper coins and the institution he supports gives him a share in an eternal Torah.

15. What good is our Selichos if all we do is tell Hashem our sins? He knows them well enough already. Our duty is to resolve not to repeat our foolishness!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Seek the Shechina, Then Come to the Mikdash

I am remiss in not having posted anything in quite awhile. Here is a nice insight provided by today's Hahkel email:

And Shana Tova U'Metuka, Ketiva veHatima Tova if I don't "see" you before then - hopefully I will see you, literally, in Yerushalayim, in the event that Mashiach comes in the next few days!

Thanks for reading,
Esther Asna

a. We should try to remember that there are three elements to our lives--Bain Odom LaMakom, Bain Odom Lechaveiro, and Bain Odom LeAtzmo. We should definitely think about at least one aspect in each area in which to improve our lives in the coming year. In this way, our lives will simply become more complete. HaRav Yerucham Levovitz, Shlita makes a wonderful observation on the Pasuk we recently read in Devorim relating to the Bais HaMikdash: "LeShichno Sidreshu U'Vasa Shama--you shall seek the Shechina and come there [to the Bais HaMikdash]." HaRav Yerucham asks--shouldn't the Pasuk have read in the reverse--U'Vasa Shama, VeShichno Sidreshu...You shall come there and seek the Shechina?! The answer, HaRav Yerucham writes, is that the Pasuk is teaching us that we must FIRST seek the Shechina --and only if we first seek the Shechina do we take the SECOND STEP of coming to the Bais HaMikdash. It is the time now of LeShichno Sidreshu--to seek the Shechina through our introspection and improved thoughts, words and deeds. If we can do this, if we yearn to grow in Ruchniyus, we will be zoche to the great SECOND STEP of U'Vasa Shama--we will get to the highest places of Kedusha. What a great guideline in every life activity--LeShichno Sidreshu!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Keeping our Focus on Geulah and the Beit Hamikdash

Sorry I haven't posted anything in awhile - here are some important ideas about why it's necessary to go to the Beit Hamikdash and to keep our longing focused on what good we have to look forward to once we have it!

Special Note One: In last week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches us that, once we come to the Bais Hamikdash, we will no longer be allowed to behave like the other nations who build altars and sacrifice wherever they may be. Rather, we will have only the Mizbeach in the Bais HaMikdash with which to offer Karbonos to Hashem (Devorim 12:13, 14). At first blush, this is difficult to understand. After all, “Meloh Kol Ha’aretz Kevodo--Hashem’s glory and presence is everywhere.” Indeed, another way we refer to Hashem is HaMakom--because He is everywhere. If so, why can’t we come close to Him with a korbon anywhere? Moreover, what does the Jew in Bavel, in Finland, in Manitoba, in Buenos Aires or even in Tel Aviv do--he can’t be in the Bais Hamikdash in an instant. Why can’t he grow spiritually with a spiritual tool in his own backyard? It would seem that for all that would be gained with your own local connection to Hashem, the Torah is teaching us that more would be lost. As Tosfos (Bava Basra 21A) teaches on the pasuk “Ki MiTzion Taizeh Torah...”--it is only in the hub of the universe--in Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash--that we could achieve the Yiras Shomayim that we needed to reach our true spiritual potential. The daily open miracles, the tzidkus and chochma of the Kohanim, the Neviim who lived there, the union of thousands and tens of thousands daily who had come for one purpose--to elevate themselves, was simply incomparable. Getting used to anything less would simply fool the person into complacency and into not reaching his potential. There is at least a dual lesson here: First, we must appreciate our Mikdash Me’at--our Shuls--for providing us with at least a reflection of this--the Rav, the Maggidei Shiur, the place where we come together to daven, learn, and join together in chesed activities. Second, we must recognize how far we are from reaching the potential that lies dormant within us simply because we have no Bais HaMikdash. LeHavdil, imagine a champion swimmer who has only a small pool in the backyard of his attached house to swim in; consider how the educated lament over the overwhelming number of brain cells that are not utilized in a person’s lifetime. Then think about what your life would be like--how it would be changed--with just a few visits to Yerushalayim. Isn’t it worth some serious davening over? The Parsha is reminding us!

Additional Note 1: Rabbi Heshy Kleinman, Shlita, reminded us of the following lesson-for-us-all (originally presented in Reb Shraga Feivel, by Yonasan Rosenblum (Artscroll p.110)):

“One day Reb Shraga Feivel Mendlowitz was teaching Tehillim, whose subject is the Jew’s eternal pining for return to Jerusalem and the Temple that once stood there, “Nichsefa V’Gam Kalsa Nafshi--My soul yearns, indeed it pines for the courtyards of Hashem (Tehillim 84:3).” When he reached the next Pasuk, “Gam Tzippor Matza Vayis…--even the bird finds a home, and the free bird its nest,” the tears ran down his cheeks, as he lamented, “Everything has its place--except for the Shechina (the Divine Presence), which remains in exile.”

When we recite the many brachos in Shemone Esrei three times a day relating to Galus and Geulah, when we recite the words “Ki LiShuasecha Kivinu Kol HaYom,” we should at least be moved to think about what we really need--and how desperately we need it! Are we no less Jews than HaRav Shraga Feivel? Let us move ourselves in the same way he did--by simply taking a moment of reflection to think about it! As the Mesillas Yeshorim (end of Chapter 19) teaches, our thoughts, our feelings, our prayers and our yearnings, mean very much in Shomayim, and it is our great obligation and privilege to bring ourselves, K’lal Yisroel, and the World--to where we are supposed to be!

Additional Note 2: May we suggest that you make a list of twenty things that would change for the better if Moshiach came and the Bais Hamikdosh was rebuilt? Remember, when we fervently daven for the binyan Bais Hamikdosh, we are not just davening for the return of one holy and glorious building. After studying our list, we will recognize that the kavana we have when we daven for binyan Beis Hamikdosh should be enormous…and hopefully it will be!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Every Day's a New Day, Every Time H-shem Creates It :)

(and loves us too but then the title would be a bit long. Sorry I couldn't resist :). But seriously, here is a beautiful insight from today's Hakhel email about why we age, bechira and H-shem renewing the world each moment.

Special Note One: At a recent Hakhel Shiur, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, Shlita (Brooklyn) asked why it was that Moshe Rabbeinu, although 120 years old, did not suffer from weakness or even dimmed vision--why did he not age like everyone else? He explained in the name of HaRav Hutner, Z'tl, as follows: In actuality, none of us should really age because Hashem is recreating us as he recreates the world and everything and everybody in it every millisecond. We should really always stay young because we are always fresh and new. If we were to be immune to the effects of age, however, we would lose our bechira chofshis--our free will--because the only way of our explaining our recurring agelessness is by the Creator recreating us. How then could we ever, ever sin?! Hashem therefore placed the 'natural' progress of aging into the world so that we could do battle with the Yetzer Hora, as we allow ourselves to forget about the constant re-new-al of the world, and the incredible Yad Hashem in every fraction of time in world history. Moshe Rabbeinu, because of his closeness to Hashem, because he was as the Torah describes "Bechol Baisi Ne'eman Hu", did not need to be subjected to the ruse of aging. He truly lived in the real world--the world in which Hashem was the essential and integral part of every moment and every place. In the Bais Hamikdash, we likewise experienced the Lechem HaPonim which was baked on Erev Shabbos, put on the Shulchan on Shabbos afternoon about a day later while still piping hot, and removed and consumed a full eight days later--the next Shabbos--still piping hot! An unbelievable miracle? Not exactly, if you realize that in reality prepared food should stay piping hot as it is being re-heated every moment once baked or cooked. The Lechem HaPonim, then, like Moshe Rabbeinu represents a dugma, a sample of the *real* ever-renewing world. With this thought in mind, we can understand something about Teshuva as well. We each have the opportunity to be like Moshe Rabbeinu (see Rambam in Hilchos Teshuva who actually compares us to Moshe)--we each have the opportunity of rebirth, of rededication, of renewal, daily--because we are granted new life from moment to moment as well.

Knowing that Hashem is with us and infusing us with the miracle of life all the time will help us better appreciate the Pasuk in this week's Parsha which teaches--U'vo Sidbak--one should cleave to Hashem--the source of your constant renewal (Devorim 10:20). Certainly, the claim of "Kochi Veotzem Yodi--my own power and prowess brought me to my position in life (Devorim 8:17)--flies so in the face of the truth--of Hashem's reality--that it becomes absurd and smirkfully amusing.

The more that we feel Hashem always with us, renewing us and invigorating us, the more we will be able to instill the freshness and newness in the Mitzvos we perform that they so rightfully deserve. This Shemone Esrei is not the same as the last, this Daf or this Pasuk is a new opportunity, this restraint from Lashon Hora is not simply a repeat of my last bout with the Yetzer. Just as today's life is a new wardrobe, a new gift, a new treasure separate and beyond that of yesterday's, so too are today's acts of patience, kindness, perseverance, resolve and love a new step and level beyond that of yesterday's as well. This is the real world--the world of truth--the world of Moshe Rabbeinu, the world of Teshuva. Breath in and breath out and feel your Maker's renewal. Then, through your own actions throughout the day, do your part to make the renewal meaningful, worthwhile, inspired...and alive!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Follow-up Source to Yesterday

Mrs. Rochel Chana Riven gave me the link to one of the sources about her discussion on descent for the purpose of ascent here:

Thank you, Rochel Chana! In reading it I saw that it discusses the same theme as that of a book I recently read, or I should say, attempted reading because it really requires more in-depth study, called The Jewish Self by Jeremy Kagan. Basically it's about the various Galuyot and how existence is different without prophecy and it's an opportunity now to construct ourselves from scratch by means of Chiddush in Torah. He is a BT rabbi, studied I think in Ohr Someach and elsewhere, based it on teachings of his rebbe but has various sources. Really brilliant stuff. One amazing aspect of it is that he is a student of general philosophy as well as Torah and it's written in a way that can appeal to a secular as well as a religious reader and all can benefit.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Happy Tu B'Av!

I heard a nice idea on this morning by Rabbi Ruvi New here:
Among other things he expressed the idea that the juxtaposition of Tisha B'Av to Tu B'Av shows us that our relationship with H-shem survives intact and even stronger after the Churban Beit Hamikdash. Last night at a farbrengen, Mrs. Rochel Chana Riven spoke about the important idea of falling as a springboard for elevation in the same vein. I cannot do justice to either of their words though. I will try BL"N to get a link to some of the thoughts she paraphrased from the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

In the meantime here are some beautiful Tu B'Av thoughts from Hakhel:

Special Note Five: Today, joyously, is the 15th day of Av, Tu B'Av. We are all too familiar with the five major tragedies that occurred on Tisha B'Av through the fall of Beitar and the plowing over of Zion (succeeded by other later tragedies as well). We may be equally as familiar with the five corresponding great events of Tu B'Av: Very briefly: 1. It was finally determined that the final group of men aged 20-60 (previously part of the decree to pass away in the Midbar) were allowed the privilege of entering Eretz Yisroel. 2. The shevet of Binyamin was saved from extinction by the shevatim being permitted to marry their daughters to the few hundred men left---so that there would be a kiyum of the shevet forever. 3. The guards posted by the Kings of the Aseres Hashevatim for hundreds of years, which prevented the ten tribes from freely traveling to the Bais Hamikdash, were removed--and all were allowed to make their way to the Mikdash. 4. The people of Beitar who were murdered by the Roman legions, and whose bodies miraculously did not decompose for years, were finally allowed by the Romans to be buried (and as a result the bracha of HaTov U'Maitiv was composed). 5. The people would no longer cut firewood for the Bais HaMikdash commencing on this date, because the sun's rays had begun to weaken, and the people celebrated the completion of the Mitzvah (which also allowed for more time for the study of Torah, as explained by the commentaries).

There is, however, an additional significant point about this day mentioned in the
Mishna in Ta'anis (4:5). There were nine days during the year in which families donated necessary wood to the Bais HaMikdash and celebrated the privilege by bringing a special sacrifice--a Korban Eitzim along with it. One of these special nine days of the year was Tu B'Av. However, there was something more special about the wood brought on Tu B'Av than on the other eight days--for on the other eight days the wood brought was limited to one particular family's gift--but on Tu B'Av, as the Mishna specifically records it was a particular family --"the children of Zeitu ben Yehuda"--but *together with* Kohanim and Leviim; and *together with* anyone who no longer knew which shevet he was from, and *together with* other families who had demonstrated mesirus nefesh to reach the Bais Hamikdash in the past (see Bartenura there for details). In other words, there was a unique achdus on this day which went well beyond the singular family donation, and extended it to a united gift from various groups together. It was almost as if the events of Tu B'Av were to be a blatant demonstration as to how the issues of Tisha B'Av have to be resolved--with togetherness and selflessness. Indeed, the Bnai Yissoschar explains that it is no coincidence (did you really think that it was?!) that all of this happened on the fifteenth of the month--and that the fifteenth letter of the Aleph Bais is a Samech. The Samech has no top and no bottom, no beginning and no end--indicating unity, harmony and accord. It is for this reason, as the Mishna teaches, that the unwed girls would go out on this day in shared clothing (so that there was equality among rich and poor as well)--and dance in a circle --demonstrating that although one may be a Kohen, another a Levi, a third not know which shevet he was from, another rich, another poor--we are all joined as one, and will always be one.

The last Mishna in Ta'anis teaches that there were no greater Yomim Tovim for K'lal Yisroel than Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur. On the surface, we could explain that this is because on Yom Kippur we united with Hakadosh Baruch Hu, and on Tu B'Av we united with each other. The Kopshitzer Rebbe, z'tl teaches, however, that when we dance with each other on Tu B'Av--holding on to the next one's hand and going around in that undefined circle joined together--HaKadosh Baruch Hu's hand is very much holding on to ours as well.

Most certainly, when we dance together at any simcha, we should feel the spiritual elevation--the unity and oneness with everyone in our circle, and with HaKadosh Baruch Hu who joins with us as well. On this very special day, Tu B'Av, let us consciously demonstrate that we appreciate and understand the very special juxtaposition of Tisha B'Av and Tu B'Av. Let us practice extra-special acts of love and caring for our brothers--holding on tight and joyously dancing in that broad and meaningful circle with everyone--whether or not we may actually be on any one plywood floor together!

Don't miss the day's opportunities!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Tisha B'Av Post

I had wanted to post this but didn't - I thought it had some very powerful messages. Not to dwell on negativity - I know Tisha B'Av is over and we are approaching Tu B'Av - I still wanted to share these with anyone interested from the Erev Tisha B'Av Hakhel email:

As we sadly noted last year, if we have to sit down this Tisha B’Av, we should take the time out to go over in our mind some of the difficult concepts that we tend to ignore, or at least avoid, during the rest of the year—the churbonos and the tzaros that have accompanied us through the ages and into our day.

Can we not shed a tear over:
The pain of the Shechina over the chillul Hashem of the Galus (the Father’s pain is greater than the child’s)
The void left by the Beis Hamikdosh that is not with us and the concomitant void of sanctity within us (we could be closer to angels, and not closer to animals)
The honor of Klal Yisroel that has been cast to the ground and trampled upon
The hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews who have been numbed by Communism
The sorry hatred of secular Jews to Torah Jews
The Shapiros and Horowitzes of the world who are not Jewish
The Crusades
The Pogroms
The 1648-1649 Massacres
The Holocaust
The Sbarros bombing, the bombing of Bus Number 2, the Leil HaSeder Attack, the drive-by murders, the tractor terror, the Mosad HaRav murders, the hundreds of other terrorist attacks, the murders and maimings, the mortars and bombs, the soldiers and the children all under attack
All of the unnecessary sickness and suffering for 2000 years (multiplied by each second of pain)
The desolation and ruination of the Har Habayis, Har Hazeisim, Chevron, Teveria…
Sinas Chinam—smiling at the mishap of another, failing to properly rejoice at another’s simcha, and finding it hard to accept another's honor and success
The Jews who do not even know that Tisha B’Av exists
The Jews who know that Tisha B’Av exists and do not grow in their resolve to do something to end this Churban as soon as possible
The Navi (Yeshaya 1:3, which we read as part of last week’s Haftora) teaches “Ami Lo Hisbonan--My nation did not consider.”
Rashi adds that the people knew they were acting improperly but “tread with their heels” on this knowledge, and simply “did not take it to heart.”
We all know too well the desperate straits we are in at this time, in which we deal with the Churban of Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim--the defiling of a land and of a people on the one hand; and the turmoil in Eretz Yisroel today--upon which the nations of the world have heaped additional disgrace and scorn, on the other.
Haven’t we yet reached a point where we will, as the Navi asks, at least “consider”? It is not, it cannot, and should not, be beyond us to go off into a room--our bedroom, dining room, study, or even the floor somewhere, to sit down and cry: “Oh, what has befallen us! A nation in ruins, the holiest people on Earth berated by the lowest nations on Earth. What makes us better today than the captives of Judea taken by the Romans more than 1940 years ago. We cannot allow ourselves to be fooled by the amenities, luxuries, or even just the relative comfort in which we live. We have been in exile far too long, and the longer we are here, the worse off we are.
L’Maaseh, living with reality and practically speaking, we are walking about badly wounded in this bitter exile. Even in Eretz Yisroel itself, the very Holy Land, an estimated 40,000 Russian-manufactured missiles, many of which possess long-range capability, are said to be available in Lebanon alone (without even including what the murderers have in Gaza).
We cannot be ashamed to cry. Ashamed?!--Why, and from whom?! Why can we not pour out our hearts to Hashem, as Yirmiyahu HaNavi cries out (Eicha 2:19) “Shifchi Kamayim Libeich--pour out your heart [to Hashem] like water.”
At least today, on the eve of Tisha B’Av, and no less certainly tomorrow itself, on the day of pain and mourning over the Chilul Hashem that exists in the world today, over Hashem’s pain which is infinitely greater than ours, over a world that has been lowered to the bottom of the bottom-most depths, over all the individual and communal pain and anguish, over these and much more, we must cry real, very real, tears.
Yirmiyahu HaNavi further teaches (31:14), “A voice is heard on high, lamentation, bitter weeping, Rochel weeping for her children, she refuses to be comforted for her children, for they are not.” On this Pasuk, the Mahari Kara (in the Mikraos Gedolos) writes that Rochel Imeinu represents K’lal Yisroel, and that our weeping in exile is heard by Hashem’s ears.
So, as much as we would not like to, we must cry--really cry. We must realize that we are in the nadir of our exile. The Tay-Sachs test, when originally developed, required a person to shed a tear, which was then tested. One had to think of something sad to shed that tear. Is it such a great challenge to cry unabashedly over an unfulfilled world, over the world’s most precious possessions disgraced and derided, over all the unnecessary anguish, unnecessary suffering, destruction, and death that we are currently experiencing?
If, for some reason you cannot cry--at least cry out--as our forefathers did in Mitzrayim. Remember, the gates of tears--and the gates of ruchniyus--are never closed. If we have to sit on the floor in a few hours, it should do more than cause us some temporary physical pain. Plead to Hashem as Dovid HaMelech does: “El Dimosi Al Techerash--Do not be silent to my tears!” (Tehillim 39:13) Hashem, I will not find comfort with the few pleasures I have when the Heavens and the Earth writhe in pain!
Please join with your brothers this Tisha B’Av, as our sincere tears and cries reach the Heavens.
May these tears and cries turn into overflowing sounds of salvation for each and every one of us, as we join together to witness the comforting of our people and the ultimate final and glee-filled redemption--speedily and in our days.


Some Post Tisha B'Av Thoughts

Funny I hadn't posted anything in awhile so I realized I hadn't even looked at the Hakhel email yet from this past Thursday. As usual they have some inspiring insights. But it is amazing bc as I was reading #1 below I was like, wow, I had recently been thinking about a similar idea.

As we find ourselves in Galut (especially in Chutz LaAretz, I suppose) it can be really easy to lose ourselves in enjoying the weather and nature, etc. I realize it's important to appreciate all of our beautiful surroundings that H-shem created for us. But I think an important lesson of 9 Av is to not forget Yerushalayim and as pleasant as life in Galut can be in times this is not where we ideally belong and apart from being tzanua in general we can never "blend in with the surroundings" too much because we are B'nei Yisrael, H-shem's chosen nation. Let's try to remember on our own so we won't have to be reminded in any unpleasant way, or, better yet, let's do all we can to bring the Geulah! :) -EAC

From Thursday's Hakhel email:

1. The Kinnos are in disorder, with Kinnos about the Crusades interspersed among different Kinnos relating to Yerushalayim, the burning of Seforim and Yoshiyahu HaMelech, the Arzei Halevanon and children in exile, because, truth be told, our life in Galus is a life in disarray. Nobody really wants to live with his life turned upside down. We should pity those (and especially ourselves) who have gotten used to (and are actually content ) living in ephemeral conditions and unordinary circumstances. Every so often--look around at the non-Torah world around you and say--'No, this is not my world'.

2. Tisha B'Av is called a Mo'ed, for we 'meet' with Hashem on this day as well--the difference being that on the Yomim Tovim, the Moadim we meet with Hashem and He gives us a kiss, while on Tisha B'Av, we meet with Hashem and he gives us a potch. Both the kiss and the potch are given out of His love for us--one is to reward us and show us how much He appreciates us, while the other is to help set us straight (Telzer Rav). There is a significant difference, however, between the Yomim Tovim and Tisha B'Av in that the Yomim Tovim are referred to as Mo'adei Hashem (Vayikra 23:4), while Tisha B'Av is referred to in Eicha as "Korah Alai Moed" --the Moed is called upon me. Clearly, a Mo'ed of Hashem is superior to a Mo'ed of mine, a Mo'ed of Bnai Yisroel. We should move away from the inferior encounter to the kind of meeting that Hashem would like. All of the Mo'adei Hashem are marked by special activities in the Bais HaMikdash, and Tisha B'Av is not marked--but marred--by the absence of all such activity. When all is said and done, at the end of our 19 Brachos of Shemone Esrei--we finally conclude with the Yehi Ratzon SheYibaneh Bais HaMikdash for it is ONLY there that, as the Yehi Ratzon itself explains, we will: a. finally attain our ultimate potential in Torah; b. serve Hashem with ultimate Yirah; and c. our service to Hashem will be fully and finally pleasing to Hashem. With this realization--that we really and truly need the Bais HaMikdash to attain our own perfection--how can we not recite these concise words of Yehi Ratzon three times a day--paying close attention to the words and with feeling? Perhaps we can even put a hand out while reciting this all-fulfilling request, as we ask and beg Hashem for his extreme consideration. Let us remember that everything we do now is only a replacement for the real. We pray that "Uneshalma Forim Sefaseinu...that the sacred words uttered by our lips serve as a replacement. Lehavdil, if you have a replacement house or a replacement car--don't you want the original back--isn't that the true one, the one that is really yours? Let us turn to what is real: How incredible it was (and will be!!) to enter the Bais HaMikdash and be overtaken by an air of Emunah and Yirah, of Kedusha and Tahara! Even the clothes of the Kohanim, and their partaking of the karbanos brought great Kapparah to us. Outside of the Bais HaMikdash, Yerushalayim teemed with Ruchniyus--as one's physical needs were often met with karbanos and Ma'aser Sheni, and everyone always had a place to s ay. To us, this is not all a world long gone--but a world very much expected back, and very, very much needed. Truly, nothing could be more important than reaching our personal and communal spiritual potential--forever, and ever and ever. Even outside the Shemone Esrei's conclusion we should especially focus our Kavannah when reciting the third bracha of Bentsching (Rachem Na--counting each thing we are asking Hashem to have mercy on as listed there), and at other personal times during the day.

3. The word Mikdash indicates holiness. The Palgei Mayim (the commentary of the Nesivos on Eichah) explains that the antithesis of Kedusha is Tumah--such as when the Greeks or Romans came in and defiled the Mikdash. Something we can do now to demonstrate our affinity to Mikdash is to bring Kedusha into our lives through acts of Kiddush Hashem (such as being punctilious in financial matters), and going to special lengths in avoid Tumah --avoiding and rejecting the pritzus around us --especially during the difficult (but potentially highly rewarding) summer months.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Finishing the Rebuilding

Some thoughts on rebuilding from today's Darke Abotenu email:

Vayomer Yehuda - e"H Ribi Yehuda Cabessa s"t
Heleq 3, p. 135-136
Translated by Shai Cabessa s"t

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Yoma 1:1) says that a generation in which the Bet haMiqdash was not built, is as if it was destroyed in its days. This means that even if the Bet haMiqdash was standing in that generation, it would have been destroyed.

However, reading this a person might ask himself a very important question: Is our generation really greater then all those passed generations? If all the Tanaim, Amoraim and Rishonim were not able to bring Mashiah then how are we, in such a low generation, expected to do so? What are we able to do that all the great Sadiqim (Sages) throughout the ages have not already done?

To answer this we must first understand something else our Hakhamim (Sages) have taught us. The Midrash Raba (Ekha 1:41) says that when Titus destroyed the Bet haMiqdash a Voice from heaven said, "Rasha' ben Rasha', you have nothing to be proud of. You have only crushed flour which was already ground up." On a simple level this means that if not for Hashem's decision that the Bet haMiqdash should be destroyed then Titus would not have had the power to do so; therefore, it is not a such great accomplishment to destroy the Bet haMiqdash after Hashem had already decided that it should be so.

On a deeper level, it is explained in the Kitvé Ramhal that only Bené Yisrael have the capability to affect the spiritual worlds through their actions. The Nations' actions, however, can only affect the physical world. Only once the source of something in the spiritual world is destroyed, do the Nations have the power to destroy it in the physical world.

This is what our Sages meant by "you have crushed ground flour." Hashem was telling Titus that the spiritual Bet haMiqdash was already destroyed and only because of that was he able to destroy the physical Bet haMiqdash.

To take this further, everything we see in this world is only a sign that there still is a spiritual source for it in the spiritual worlds. Once the spiritual source is removed, the thing has to be destroyed in this world as well. This is just as our Sages teach us (Bereshit Raba 10:6) "There is not a blade of grass in this world that does not have an angel appointed over it to tell it to grow." This refers to the spiritual source of even a seemingly insignificant blade of grass, how much more so everything else in this world.

Based on the above, we understand that the only way to build the Bet haMiqdash in our world is to first build it in the spiritual world. With all the Tora and Misvot that we accomplish in this world, we are actually building the Third Bet haMiqdash on high.

Now that this is known to us, what we asked before is not a question anymore. Of course all the great Sadiqim of past generations have already built a tremendous part of the Bet haMiqdash in the spiritual world. The only thing left for us to do is the finishing touches here and there so that the Bet haMiqdash can come down complete in its glory. Therefore, if we all strengthen ourselves to make Teshuva (repentence), to learn a little bit more Tora everyday, and to do just a few more acts of loving kindness, we will surely finish up the Bet haMiqdash on high and merit to see it rebuilt in our physical world speedily in our days, Amen!

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rebuilding and Rededication

Important thoughts for 4 Av from today's Hakhel Email:

Special Note Four: Today is marked on the Jewish calendar in an incredible way. On the Fourth day of Av, Nechemiah, the leader of the Jewish people who had returned from Galus Bavel, began to repair the broken walls of Yerushalayim. Indeed, portions of this rebuilt wall can still be seen today. The repair process took 52 days, and was completed on the 25th of Elul. Thus, the 'repair' of Yerushalayim began during the very Nine Day Period in which we commemorate and commiserate over its destruction and loss. It is no coincidence, as it never is, that those studying Daf Yomi, spent a couple of days beginning on *Rosh Chodesh Av* (and in Mesechta Shevuos of all places!) describing Nechemiah’s rededication of the Azara in the Bais HaMikdash at the outset of Bayis Sheni as well. There is no doubt that the time period we are in reverberates with our relationship to Yerushalayim and the Bais HaMikdash. It is up to us to steer it away from the direction of destruction and ruin and towards the course of an everlasting rebuilding and rededication.

HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, makes a wonderful point in this regard. Chazal teach that when adding on to the Mikdash, one of the chapters of Tehillim that was recited was Tehillim Chapter 30, appropriately entitled “Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis LeDovid--a song for the inauguration of the Bais HaMikdash by Dovid HaMelech.” We are all very familiar with this Kepital, for we recite it in Shacharis every morning, and daily on Chanukah when we also commemorate the rededication of the Bais HaMikdash. HaRav Elyashiv asks a stark question--after we recite the first Pasuk of Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis--what does the rest of the Kepitel have to do at all with the Bais HaMikdash? Take a look at the rest of the Pesukim, such as “Shivati Eilecha Vetirpaeini--I cried out to You, and You healed me.” “Histarti Phanecha Hayisi Nivhal--You conceal Yourself, and I am confounded.” “Hashem Heyei Ozer Li--Hashem be my Helper.” In looking at the Kepitel, it appears to be a moving and personalized plea for Hashem’s help. But, once again, what does it have to do with the Bais HaMikdash?! HaRav Elyashiv answers that Dovid HaMelech truly felt that as long as the Bais HaMikdash was not in a position of great prominence--he himself was suffering, he himself was in anguish and incomplete. However, with a built Mikdash, he exclaims “He’elisa Min Sheol Nafshi--you have raised up my soul from the lower world!” This, then is Dovid HaMelech’s lesson to us from Tehillim Chapter 30. Because we lack the Bais HaMikdash in all of its splendor--we must inwardly feel the full measure of the Yiddish expression: “Se Gait Mir In Laiben--it troubles me terribly, it troubles me personally.” Please look at the Kepital again and envisage how your need for the Chanukas HaBayis bothers you as much as your own predicaments and circumstances, your own troubles and difficulties--and how the Chanukas HaBayis itself will usher in the utmost joy. Every time we recite this Chapter (for Nussach Ashkenaz it actually inaugurates the Pisukei DeZimra)--we should have in mind not only our own trials and tribulations, but also how much the absence of a Bais HaMikdash personally means--after all it is the Mizmor Shir Chanukas HaBayis. With this zechus of a true and proper recital of this Kepitel daily, we come to its the last, conclusory and climactic Pasuk--“LeMan Yezamercha Chavod VeLo Yidom, Hashem Elokai LeOlam Odeka--so that my soul might sing to you and not be still-- Hashem I will thank you forever!”

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Galut Winding Down...:)

Nice Inspirational Words from Today's Hakhel Email:

Special Note Six: In last week’s Parsha, the Torah records that “Elef LeMateh, Elef LeMateh--or "1,000 soldiers, 1,000 soldiers" were to be taken from each Shevet to do battle with Midyan. Why does the Torah phrase it as “1,000 soldiers, 1,000soldiers”--and not simply as “2,000 soldiers”? It is because 1,000 soldiers actually went to war, and the other 1,000 were enlisted to daven for victory. HaRav Yechezkel Levenstein, Z’tl, teaches that the 1,000 who were davening did not stay behind--but actually accompanied the fighting soldiers to battle, so that the soldiers would understand that it was not their military prowess ('Kochi VeOtzem Yadi') that was the basis of their victory--but rather it was Hashem who was the Source of victory through our Tefillos. Hakhel Note: During these times, as we wind down the Jewish People’s career in Galus, we may add that it is not only the soldiers who should be aware of the singular power of our Tefillos, but it is we ourselves who must know and understand that when we pray such tefillos as“VeLeYerushalayim Ircha", "Es Tzemach", "Shema Koleinu", and the like, with sincerity of heart, we are fighting--and defeating-- those who mean us harm from Teheran to Turkey, and from Moscow to Washington D.C. There may be spies and counter spies, politicians and statesmen, military analysts and advisors and the most advanced of weaponry, but the battles are won in Hashem's Court, and Hashem's Court only. Incredibly, Chazal teach that Nevuchadnezzar did not allow the Jewish people to rest upon exiling them, until they got to “Al Naharos Bavel” because he was fearful of their ability to wholly reverse the entire earth-shattering decree against them by simply turning and returning to Hashem. Let us not lose the opportunities that the soldiers in battle were made aware of, that Nevuchadnezzar knew about, and that has been a recurrent theme of our existence since the days of Yetzias Mitzrayim. Let us take out the time in these days to cry out to Hashem, as HaRav Leib Chasmin, Z’tl, teaches “KeShekoeiv Zoakim--when one is in pain, he cries out.” Together we can turn this period from a time of nuclear armament to nuclear disarmament, from a time of swords into a time of plowshares, and from a time of terror to a time of love and peace. This is Hashem's World and no one else's--we all know it--now is the time to feel it--and to meaningfully express it!

Monday, July 12, 2010

L'iluy Nishmat Aharon HaKohen

From Today's Hakhel Email:

Special Note Two: One of the rare dates mentioned in the Torah is today’s date, the first day of Av (once again, last week’s Parsha!) What happened on this date? It is the day of the petira, the passing, of Aharon HaKohen. Chazal teach that the Ananei Kovod, the protective clouds of Glory, which surrounded us in the desert (and will once again surround us in the future) were in the Zechus of Aharon HaKohen (see Rashi on Bamidbar 33:40). Once the Ananei Kavod left us, the initial reaction of the outside world was to attack us, as is described in the Torah there (Bamidbar 33:40). What did Aharon HaKohen do for which he merited the protective clouds both for himself and for the rest of Bnei Yisrael? We may suggest the following: The Mishna in Avos (1:12) teaches that he was an Oheiv Shalom V’Rodef Shalom- that he loved peace and pursued it. The midah k’neged midah--the measure for measure reward becomes very evident. Because Aharon made peace among people, he merited peace being brought upon all of Klal Yisroel with the Clouds of Glory.

Indeed, Hillel in the aforementioned Mishna, enjoins us all to “Be among Aharon’s students” in this regard--to learn the value of peace among brothers. In a letter issued by HaRav Elyashiv, Shlita, and HaRav Shteinman, Shlita, they especially asked that we be very careful in these perilous times “not to fall prey to the opposite of Gemilas Chasodim” which is to cause pain or suffering to your friend. They point out that in the generation of the wicked king Achav, Bnei Yisroel were victorious at war because there was no Machlokes, no strife, among brothers. The Gedolim therefore request that we are “meod mishtadel”--that we put in greater effort at this time to make peace among ourselves.

PRACTICAL SUGGESTION: It is essential that we take the lessons of Aharon HaKohen, as specifically reiterated by Rav Elyashiv and Rav Shteinman very much to heart. We may even posit that the petira of Aharon HaKohen comes out at the beginning of the Nine Days to remind us that if we could rid ourselves of machlokes, of causing pain to others, and of the need quite to the contrary to love and pursue peace between and among ourselves, we can go a long way to bring immediate and long lasting Yeshuos. Let us at the very least focus on one or two people over the next few days and try to promote a peaceful or more peaceful relationship with them. Peace brings peace, for as Dovid HaMelech teaches in Tehillim (121:5)--”Hashem is Your Shadow.”

Friday, July 9, 2010

Let's Strengthen Ourselves in Torah and Mitzvot!

From Moroccan Daily Halakha:

Perashat Matot
e"H Ribi Kfir Dadon s"t
Translated by : Zachary Lubat s"t

Strengthening our Torah Study

In this week's perasha, we read about the request of the tribes of Gad and Reuben, both of whom had large flocks, to inherit land on the other side of the Yarden River (before the Nation crossed the Yarden into the Land of Israel). Moshé Rabenu a"h asks them if it seems right that some of the tribes could settle land peacefully, while the others have to go to war and conquer the Land of Israel. Moshé Rabenu a"h also mentions the sin of the spies of convincing the Nation not to enter the Land, and the result of that sin. He warned these tribes that they might be causing the Nation to want to inherit land outside the Land of Israel by settling this land on the other side of the Yarden River. These tribes answer Moshé Rabenu a"h that they would go to war with the Nation until all of the Land is conquered and divided; they would build houses for their families and continue on with the Nation in its journey.

The main reason Moshé Rabenu a"h was concerned about this situation was because it could have had a weakening effect on the rest of the Nation. When the rest of the Nation saw what was going on, they would likely think that the reason these tribes are settling here and not crossing into the Land of Israel is out of fear. Perhaps the nations in Israel are very strong and their cities well fortified, and this is why these tribes did not want to cross. This has a similar situation as the sin of the spies. However, when the tribes satisfied this concern by saying they would fight with the rest of the Nation the whole way through, Moshé Rabenu a"h agreed and warned them that if they did not keep to this promise, Bamidbar 32:23 "behold, you have sinned against the LORD; and know your sin which will find you." If one looks, he will see that the tribe of Menashé did not request any inheritance across the Yarden at all, so one has to wonder why Moshé Rabenu a"h places them there with Gad and Reuben. The Nesiv writes that Moshé Rabenu a"h saw that in this area the power of Torah would be weaker, so he tried to plant among them Torah giants.

Due to weakness in the study of Torah and the fulfillment of Misvot, the Bet haMiqdash was destroyed, as it says in Yirmeyahu 9:11 "Why is the land perished and laid waste like a wilderness, so that none passeth through?" And the LORD said: Because they have forsaken My law which I set before them, and have not hearkened to My voice, neither walked therein.

It is our holy obligation to strengthen ourselves in the study of Torah and the fulfillment of Misvot. This is especially important in the days of summer and vacation, to be very careful to pray in a minyan, setting time aside for the study of Torah, modesty, and so on. May it be His will that in the merit of the study of Torah and fulfillment of Misvot, we will see the building of the Bet haMiqdash and HaShem's return to Sion in His mercy!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

More About Davening, Pronunciation and Yerushalayim shel Maalah

From Today's Hakhel Email:

Special Note One: Two other points on VeLirushalayim, Bishuasecha and Lishuasecha:

1. One reader pointed out that it cannot be coincidence (as we know, it never is!) that the words we have to be careful with in Shemone Esrei relate to Yerushalayim and our Yeshua. It is like asking the King for a special request and being very careful that you are clearly understood. Could you imagine slurring the words or not being careful with the wording of your appeal? If you are not so concerned with the essential request...maybe the King shouldn’t be either....On the other hand, if your stretched out hand is matched by a careful and pleading voice--the King will surely recognize your urgency and sincerity--and we will all be the better for it!

2. A reader explained in the name of HaRav Shlomo HaKohen of Vilna that the VeLirushalayim Ircha in the bracha refers to the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’alah. At the time of the destruction, the people thought that, through their suffering and their Teshuva, Yerushalayim would quickly be rebuilt. However, when they learned that the Yerushalayim Shel Ma’aleh was no longer above its counterpart below--they were no longer mechuven zeh kneged zeh--the devastating calamity was apparent-and everyone began to mourn. Accordingly, with the words VeLirushalayim Ircha--And Yerushalayim Your City--we are not merely asking for our city below, but rather that Your City, the city above, is reestablished so that the Heavens and Earth can once again unite--at the Makom HaMikdash. No one on Earth can fulfill this request--but we are pleading to the All-Knowing, All-Capable, and All-Merciful King of the Universe--Who wants to return to the City, both above and below, and see the world fulfill its purpose--that is why our plea is so essential!
Additional Note: Our reader who pointed out the proper pronunciations asked us to clarify pronunciation of *Vayire’u* Es Hashem that we described yesterday with the following corrected words: “It should be Va.Yee.R.u. four syllables with the chirik as a chiruk gadol. VaYire’U, as you wrote, makes it sound like three syllables with the chirik as a chiruk katan.” Hakhel Response: Thank you, dear reader. It is because of you that we all have a better appreciation of the word “careful”--we are full of care--over that which we care about!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Proper Pronunciation of Lashon HaKodesh to Bring the Geulah!!

Amazing insight by Rav Yaakov Emden about proper pronunciation in today's Hakhel Email. I think everyone can do this in baby steps on one's own level. We may not know we are pronouncing things wrong but there are siddurim and machzorim with footnotes that point out specific places where it's important to pause and pronounce certain sounds a certain way so it pays to look out for these.

Special Note Five: Many of us are attempting to recite the Bracha of 'VeLirushalayim Ircha' over this Three Week period with extra zeal and feeling--knowing that Hashem Who destroyed his House with heavenly fire will build it once again with that very same heavenly fire (as we recite in the Nachem prayer on Tisha B'Av)--and that there may be no more appropriate time to rebuild it than the time it had previously been destroyed. One of our readers pointed out to us that we should be careful to recite the word VeLirushalayim properly. Because there are no nekudos under the first Yud in the word, the Yud is not pronounced at all--and it is as if the Yud is not there for pronunciation purposes--so that we say VeLirushalayim--and not VeLiYerushalayim. Indeed, there are two more examples of this--where the Yud is not pronounced because there are no nekudos associated with it -- in the very next bracha of Es Tzemach--with the words BiShuasecha (and not BiYeshuasecha), and Lishuasecha (and not LiYeshuasecha).

Additional Note: The reader also pointed to another word which some may read incorrectly. Towards the conclusion of Pesukai Dezimra, at the end of VaYosha and immediately prior to reciting Az Yashir, we recite 'VaYire'u Ha'Am Es Hashem--and the people feared Hashem'. If we misread the word as 'VaYiru'--without pronouncing the sheva na under the Raish--then the word and phrase take on a wholly different and untrue meaning --for we are saying not that the people 'feared' Hashem--but that they 'saw' Hashem--which is not only not true--but, of course, impossible! It is important to note that HaRav Yaakov Emden, z'tl, in his Siddur Bais Yaakov writes that a primary cause for this drawn out galus is our lack of care with Lashon HaKodesh. We have to show ourselves at least desirous of meeting the loftier heights of Moshiach's times--by making at least some effort to properly speak our holy language. One very special place we can accomplish this is in our Tefillos, where we speak to our Master--hopefully in a language that He wants to hear!

Second Additional Note: Speaking Lashon Hakodesh is an elevating experience, for we are speaking the language that the Malachim speak, the language that the Torah was given in, the language that has so much Divinely inspired depth that a key punishment of the Dor Haflaga was to lose this great language (which essentially became the subsequent equivalent to the earth-changing Mabul for the Dor Hamabul in the very same Parsha). K'lal Yisroel is now the only scion of this great legacy of the Holy Tongue. When we see people of other religions with parts of the Torah in book form, it is typically in English, or Spanish or French, losing the power and potency, and indeed to such a great extent, the true meaning, of the Holy Words themselves. We should be careful to pay proper regard to this priceless heritage, and strive to improve our pronunciation and dikduk. Even if it may take some effort and care--would a queen not wear her crown jewels simply because they are too heavy--or would she remind everyone (and herself) that she was the queen--every time she put them on?! We need only note that Chazal teach that the trop itself (Ta'amei HaMikra)in which the Torah is read and pronounced was given to Moshe Rabbeinu as part of Kabbalas HaTorah, and the numerous occasions in which Rashi in Chumash derives and explains Pesukim in the Torah based on the rules of Lashon HaKodesh. Let us show the effort while davening and learning to properly pronounce the Holy Tongue--with the hope that in the zechus of our sincere effort we will merit Lashon HaKodesh in its pristine form--in a VeLirushalayim Ircha that we so desperately need, and for which we so long and strive.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Start Raking in the Profits!

Personally since I heard about it I thought it was a great lesson. The idea that for keeping silent - even when you could say something of value - but there is a danger of saying something forbidden - is worth double the value of saying something is so incredible. I highly recommend the Chofetz Chaim Lesson-A-Day book. I also remember there was the idea that after 120, for the times you kept silent, you could say that you weren't sure if speaking was forbidden in that particular instance. But if you spoke something forbidden in that instance then what would your excuse be?

From today's Hakhel Email:
Special Note Four: We continue our Three Week series on Chizuk and
care in Shemiras Halashon. Chazal teach: "A word for one sela,
silence for two". Incredibly, the value of silence is even greater
than the value of speech--even though it is with the power of speech
("Ruach Mellalela") that we are defined as human beings. In fact,
Rabban Shimon Ben Gamliel (Avos 1: 17--which beautifully incorporates
our lesson for the week from last week's Pirkei Avos) : "All my days I
was raised among the Chachamim, and I found nothing better for the
**body** than silence." Silence is not only better for the mouth, for
the brain and for the soul, but is actually better for the body as
well! (Rabbi Avigdor Miller, z'tl). In order for us to put this
essential teaching into practice,

-especially in a situation where speaking could lead to Lashon Hora,
Rabbi Jonathan Rietti, Shlita suggests that a person picture himself
as receiving $100,000.00 for each time that he remains appropriately
silent. Without doubt, the spiritual reward is immeasurably much
greater, and the average person challenged with such situations
perhaps ten times a day, can become more than a millionaire daily! It
is interesting to note, as Rabbi Rietti teaches, that although Rebbe
Yisroel Meir HaKohen Kagan, Zt'l, wrote a six-volume Mishne Berurah
which is such a great source of our Halachos today, and although he
authored many other Seforim as well, he is known to us all as the
"Chofetz Chaim" because of the primacy of this work, and its effect on
the last generations before the Moshiach. "Who is the Chofetz
Chaim--he who guards his tongue from speaking evil, and his lips from
guile" (Tehillim 34:15). Perhaps we can try Rabbi Rietti's suggested
exercise several times today. Practice that silence...and start
raking in the profits!

Hakhel Note: Of course, even when one does speak, it is important for
it to be "B'Nachas Im HaBrios--with pleasantness to the creations".
If one would review the Igeres HaRamban, he may agree that the most
oft-repeated theme in the Ramban's instructional letter to his son on
how one should lead his life is this point-—to speak softly and
respectfully to others.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

17 Tammuz, 3 Weeks not a Burden but a Time for Action

Some notes for 17 Tammuz and the 3 Weeks from today's Hakhel email:

Special Note One: Today is the Seventeenth day of Tammuz, a fast day by Takanas HaNeviim, which is no small matter. If we look at the number 17, we will soon realize that it is concomitantly the Gematria of each of “Oy”, “Chait”, and “Tov”. Thus, we see that the power of the day need not only lie in the negative, but can and must extend to the positive and good, as well.

We typically remember that the first frightful event that happened on this day was Moshe Rabbeinu’s breaking of the Shnei Luchos which contained the Aseres Hadibros, as a result of the sin of the Golden Calf. If only the people had shown enough faith to wait one more day for their venerable and venerated leader, their happiness and dancing would have resulted in the greatest Simchas Torah ever(!). Instead, we still feel the pain from the torturous event.
In fact, there was one prior significant event on this fateful day which preceded the breaking of the Luchos. The Luach Dovor B’Ito writes that the Yona, the dove sent by Noach out of the Ark, could not find a place to land and so returned to the Teiva (Bereishis 8:8). The obvious question is, why would Noach bother sending the dove out without any indication whatsoever (from Hashem directly, or otherwise) that the waters had receded? Was he taking a stab in the dark? We may posit that Noach sensed or knew that the day was right for renewal and joy. The fact that the dove returned indicated to him that it was he and his family, representing all of mankind, who were the ones not ready for this renewal. The same lesson carried through on this date to the Golden Calf, and thereafter the subsequent tragedies on this day in which our people’s spiritual growth was stunted rather than cultivated.

Today and the three weeks in front of us should not be viewed as a burden to be overcome, evidence by our expression to others to have “an easy time of it.” Instead, it should be a meaningful and important time in which we hope, pray and take action. Depression and despair should not be the hallmark of these days, for they may evidence a breach or lack of faith which is the antithesis of spiritual growth. We should learn from the gift of gravity that Hashem has given us to always keep both feet firmly on the ground despite the forces working against us.

It is the custom of some to recite “Tikun Chatzos” during the Three Week period--some even in the middle of the day. We may not as yet be on this level. However, we should remember that every day, three times daily in Modi’im, we thank Hashem “for the goodness given to us in the evening, in the morning, and in the afternoon.” What goodness is it that Hashem gives us at these especially designated times? We suggest that it is Tefillah itself. If we can conclude the Yehi Ratzon at the end of Shemone Esrei with Kavana during these three weeks, three times a day, we will have sincerely davened for the Beis Hamikdash and our redemption more than 60 times during this short period! Rather than wallowing in self-pity, we will demonstrate a renewal of our faith and have beautifully affirmed our supreme goals.
In the merit of our prayers, may we see with our own eyes the ultimate redemption at the beginning of the short period of special thought that lies ahead.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Avoiding Din, Increasing Torah Study, Brachot and Passing Over Middos

From Today's Hakhel Email:

Special Note Five: With the crisis situation and defeats of the previous weeks, we experience a feeling of fear and strict justice. Bila'am himself exclaimed, "Oi-Mi Yichyeh M'Sumo Kel-- OH! Who will survive when He imposes these?" (Bamidbar 24:23)
It would seem appropriate, especially as we enter the period of the Three Weeks, for each one of us to do what we can to avoid this din, this strict justice, upon us individually and upon our families. After all, Hillel teaches in Avos, "Im ain ani li mi li--If I am not for myself who will be for me?" (Avos 1:14) Last week, we wrote about the importance of Chessed, especially Chessed which is infused with Rachamim--True Mercy. The following are three additional recommendations--life vests supplied in turbulent waters:
1. The Gemara (Rosh HaShana 17A) teaches "For one who passes over his Middos (e.g., does not anger, does not take vengeance, and does not react--even when the situation may completely justify it)--Hashem will, in turn, pass over his sins. The Cheshbon is simple-you control yourself even when justified, and Hashem likewise controls His anger against you--even when justified.
2. The Gemara (Sotah 21A) teaches that the study of Torah does not only save one from punishment once punishment has commenced--but actually even shields and protects one before the onset of any new punishment, as well. The Gemara explains (based upon the Posuk in Mishlei (6:23)), that Torah is compared to the light of the sun, which unlike the light of a candle that eventually is extinguished, successfully provides light for a person day after day. In the summertime, when the Tinokos Shel Beis Rabban--the schoolchildren--study less than when in school, we should try to make up the slack by learning a little more ourselves.
3. It is said that in the name of Gedolim, that one should make Brachos aloud in order to cause others to answer "Amen." This special level of gratitude and faith serves as an affirmation and reaffirmation of Hashem's control over the world, obviating the need for Hashem to remind us personally in other ways. For an excellent review of this concept, you can order the tape "Attitude of Gratitude" (Rabbi Jonathan Rietti and Rabbi Yechiel Spero) from the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation at 845-352-3505.
As is evident from all of the above, Hashem is not asking that we stand on our hands, stretch or shrivel, or do 180 degree flips! Some nicely-made Brachos, some additional Torah study, some self-control in situations which last only a fleeting moment anyway, can be literally life-saving--and as troubles reach from Teheran to Emanuel, and from the Mediterranean Sea to Iowa, we must light up the darkness long enough and strong enough for us to survive until daybreak.

Friday, June 25, 2010

A Nation Dwelling in Solitude - Parashat Balak

A nice note on the parasha in today's Hakhel email that also looks forward to Acharit HaYamim:

Special Note Five: In Parshas Balak (Bamidbar 23:9), we find the prophecy of Bila'am come to life before our eyes: "Hain Am Levodod Yishkon U'VaGoyim Lo Yischashav...behold, it is a nation that will dwell in solitude and will not be counted among the nations." As we see how the nations have turned --to the point where they have championed the cause of terrorists (really out to kill them too) against us--we see how disregarded and despised we really are to them--because of who we are. Perhaps one simple lesson we should take and apply for our times is to recite the bracha of "SheLo Asani Goy" with added kavana. Would we ever want to act like this?! Indeed, the joining of countries otherwise unfriendly with each other towards the common goal of hurting the Jew is reminiscent of the Midyan-Moav alliance for the same purpose, as described by Rashi in this week's Parsha. One thing is for sure, just as the foregoing Pasuk in the Parsha was fulfilled--so too will the later words of Bila'am to Balak in the Parsha also be fulfilled: "Lecha Iatzecha Asher Ya'aseh Ha'am Hazeh LeAmecha B'Acharis HaYomim--Come and I will advise you what this people will do to your people in the end of days.... May it come speedily and in *our* days--after all--it is all in one and the very same Parsha!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Visualizing the Beit Hamikdash

With the 3 weeks almost upon us, as we begin to decrease our joy and yearn for the Beit Hamikdash, it's a good time to visualize it in our davening and learn about it - so here is a great site I just heard about with links to places where one can learn about the details of constructing the Beit Hamikdash -
The reasoning for this being as follows (as quoted from the above site):
"Should the construction of My House be ignored because My children are in exile?"G-d declared: "THE STUDY OF THE TORAH'S DESIGN OF THE BET HAMIKDASH CAN BE EQUATED TO ITS ACTUAL CONSTRUCTION.Go, tell them to study the form of the Bet Hamikdash. As a reward for their study and their occupation with it, I will consider it AS IF THEY ACTUALLY BUILT THE BET HAMIKDASH!!!" (Yalkut Shimoni)

Thank you, Rabbi A for alerting me to the above site!

From Today's Hakhel Email, here is a discussion about visualizing the Beit Hamikdash in one's davening:
Special Note Four: In his classic commentary on the Mishna, Rabbeinu Ovadiah MiBartenura teaches that upon entering the Azarah, when bringing Bikkurim, one would recite the last Chapter of Tehillim (Tehillim 150)--“Halelukah Hallelu Kel Bekadsho.” In fact, we recite this very chapter daily as one of the climactic moments of Pesukei DeZimra. Why? Rabbi Shimshon Pincus, Z'tl, teaches that when reciting Pesukei DeZimra one should view himself as if he is in the Azara! We should not let the daily moment of our recital of this short but powerful Kepitel go by without visualizing our presence in the Azara--as we prepare to enter even further into the Bais HaMikdash, getting into the Heichal for Birkas Kriyas Shema...until we stand before the Kodesh Hakodashim itself as we recite Shemone Esrei. If we can begin to visualize ourselves in the Bais HaMikdash every time we daven Shacharis, coming closer and closer and closer to Hashem's Presence as we proceed through davening--we should naturally have a much easier time walking in, viewing and experiencing--and not only visualizing--the Third and Lasting Bais HaMikdash--may it come speedily and in *our* days!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Yearning for the Redemption

How "convenient" that today's Hakhel email speaks about our general topic of this blog!

Special Note Two: At a recent gathering, HaRav Mattisyahu Salomon, Shlita, spoke on the topic of Tzipisa L’Yeshua--yearning for the Redemption. In light of recent world events, he noted, Yeshua may not be too far away. HaRav Salomon taught that yearning for the Redemption is an Avodah SheBelav--our thoughts must long for the moment. When we recite the important words in Aleinu of “Al Kein Nekave...liros meheira--we yearn to speedily see soon your mighty perfect the universe through Your sovereignty”, the words must emanate not from our lips, but from the recesses of our hearts and minds.
HaRav Salomon related in the name of the Chofetz Chaim the story of a man on the street who was impatiently pacing back and forth. When asked by a bystander what it was exactly that he was waiting for, he tersely responded “For my cab--my flight is leaving in two hours and the cab is not here!” Looking around, the onlooker then queried “But I see no luggage--where is your luggage?!” Startled, the man realized he had no luggage because he had neglected to pack! HaRav Salomon explained that we cannot legitimately say that we are “Mechakim Anachnu Lach” unless we have "packed"--for without the luggage there can be no real trip.

The twelfth of the thirteen Foundations of our Faith--the Ani Ma’amins succinctly describes our belief in the Moshiach’s arrival--there are really two elements. The first is BeVias HaMoshiach--that there is a Moshiach and that he will come. There is, however, a second essential belief as well. It is Ve’af Al Pi Sheyismahmaiah--even if there may be delay, nevertheless I anticipate every day that he will come. In other words, it is not enough to believe that there is a Moshiach and that he will come--one must also be a Mechakeh--truly and sincerely yearn and long for him to come daily. When saying the words “Achakeh Lo Bechol Yom She Yavo--I await his arrival every day, one is asserting an essential declaration of faith--that he expects Moshiach to come at any time.

Rav Salomon referred to the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (12:5) which states that in the time of Moshiach there will not be any famine or war, no jealousy or contention. Everything we need will be plentiful as the sand. The times will be wondrous, as in lieu of physical (and yes, even technological) pursuits we will be involved only in the area of “LoDaas Es Hashem--spiritual elevation and fulfillment--with mankind at its summit. Our Avodah *now* is to yearn for these times--daily. We know that they will come, and that every day that passes brings us a day closer. Each day should be marked by our true and sincere prayers when we recite our Tefillos such as ‘Al Kein Nekaveh Lecha...VeSimloch Aleinu Mehaira…Ki MiChakim Anachnu Lach.” Certainly when reciting the Ani Ma’amin we should visualize the pristine joy of his coming on the very day itself.
We must think and long for the Geulah--for our longing for it will make it a reality!