Saturday, September 13, 2014

Parshat Nitzavim: Survival for Your Body & Soul

         How does this weeks parsha effect us in our days today? The learning of the parsha is not only the study of our past, our present, our future, but most importantly it is the WORD of GOD. If you learn to properly delve into the parsha you will understand what Hashem is trying to tell us, His precious children to be aware of, to work on and succeed to be better individuals. This parsha in particular always gives illumination and enables you to react to challenges on a sophisticated level.
Parshat Nitzavim always coincides with Rosh Hashana and gives us guidance as to how we can prepare ourselves for the special days of the High Holidays, Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The parsha begins with the words, "Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem"- " You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God," (29:9). In gematriya (numerical value) these words are equal to "La'Amod L'slechot"- " To stand before God and seek forgiveness." during the entire year we are so busy and occupied with the materialistic world that we tend to forget to our spiritual needs and closeness to Hashem. However, now Hashems' day of judgment is upon us and we are commanded to stand still, probe are souls, examine our hearts, and give an accounting of our lives to Hashem. The passuk continues saying the various groups of the population: the elders, the officers, the men, the small children, the women. The passuk already mentioned "all of you," so why would the Torah find it important to mention each group separately even though it is obvious about who the passuk is speaking about? We learn that every word in the Torah has a meaning and significance as to why it is written so the Torah is coming to teach us that we are responsible for one another. Our destiny is intertwined. The Jewish people are like one  body, and if just one joint is injured, the entire body is in pain; if one limb is amputated, the entire body is disabled. So too, it shows the importance of a single person in the Jewish nation. If one of us is missing, we are all diminished; if someone in the Jewish world is in pain we too, feel the pain in some way. The way we pray is in plural, r'fa'einue- heal us; shema kolenu- hear our voices etc. This lesson is very important to us today because we are the generation that is destined to go through the birth pangs of Mashiach. Chazal teach us that one way to protect ourselves during this difficult time is to unify ourselves, to forgive and to empathize with the our brother and sisters in the Jewish nation. If we can do that then we can be sure that Hashem will forgive us for our sins.
           There is another interesting understanding to "Atem netzavim"- "you are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God." In last weeks parsha, parshat Ki Tavo it discussed all the terrible and painful calamities that would befall Bnei Yisrael, and they were scared. The Midrash teaches us, that they turned colors. Moshe calmed them down with the powerful opening words of our parsha: "Atem nitzavim hayom kulchem lifnei Hashem Elokeichem... You are standing today, all of you, before Hashem, your God." In those words are to be found the secret of our miraculous survival. No matter what the Jewish nation went through in all centuries, various countries we must always see ourselves standing before Hashem. That is the secret of our miraculous survival. Mentioned above, we understood that "Atem nitzavim..." has the same gematriya (numerical value) of the words "La'amod Le'slichot", which teaches us that all we need to do is come near to Hashem with our heart and mind and verbalize our feelings towards Hashem, our father, our king. All a person needs to do is to do teshuva.

Derived from "Torah for Your Table" by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis.

פרק ל פסוקים טו-יט) ראה נתתי לפניך היום את החיים ואת הטוב ואת המות ואת הרע...ובחרת) בחיים למען תחיה אתה וזרעך

See, I have placed before you today the life and the good, and the death and the evil... and you shall choose life, so that you will live, you and your offspring. (30:15-19)

Why was it necessary to write And you shall choose life? Isnt it expected that a person should choose life?

The answer is, that even when the choice between good and evil, blessing and curse is clear, it may not be the easiest choice. Sometimes, pressure from others and even from ourselves, makes us forget where our real priorities should lie. This verse in Parsha Nitzavim, like Moses encouragement of Joshua before entering the Land, are meant to strengthen us, reminding us you shall choose love Hashem, your G-d, to listen to His voice and to cleave to him, for He is your life and the length of your days...

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ki Tavo- What Will You Achieve?

Deuteronomy: (26:1-29:8)פרשת כי תבוא.                      

The title of Parsha Ki Tavo, כי תבוא,translates into English as When you will come. The Parsha opens with the commandment, for when the people come into the Land, to bring to G-d their bikurim, the first of their fruits from the land. Each person is commanded to place the first fruit in a basket and bring the basket to the altar of G-d and recite, before the priest,Aramean sought to destroy my father and he went down to Egypt and lived there with a small number of people and there he became a great, mighty and numerous nation. And the Egyptians treated us cruelly and afflicted us, and they imposed hard labor on us. So we cried out to the L-rd, G-d of our fathers, and the L-rd heard our voice and saw our affliction, our toil, and our oppression. And the Lord took us out from Egypt with a strong hand and with an outstretched arm, with great awe, and with signs and wonders. And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first of the fruit of the ground which you, L-rd, have given to me. (26:5-10).

We are also commanded to give a tithe of our produce to the Levite, the stranger, the fatherless and the widow, so that they may eat within your gates and be satisfied (26:12).

Moses then commands the people to, when they cross over the Jordan, set up great, plastered stones and write on the stones the words of the Torah. He also commands the people to proclaim the blessings and the curses on the tops of Mount Grizim and Mount Ebal, respectively. The tribes of Simeon, and Levi, and Judah, and Issachar, and Joseph, and Benjamin were positioned on Mount Grizim and the tribes of Reuben, Gad, and Asher, and Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali were positioned on Mount Ebal while the elders of the Levite tribe and the Holy Ark were positioned between the two mountains. The Levites were to face the mountain alternately and proclaim the blessings and the curses in a loud voice (27:14) to each of which the tribes were to answer Amen.

The Torah then tells of the many rewards and blessings that one will receive if he/she listens to G-ds word and obeys His commandments. For example, Blessed shall you be in the city, and blessed shalt you be in the field (28:3), and Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out (28:6). The L-rd will open unto you His good treasure the heaven to give the rain of your land in its season, and to bless all the work of your hand. And the L-rd will make you the head, and not the tail; and you shalt be above only, and you shall not be beneath (28:12-13). On the other hand, one who does not heed G-ds word and neglects His commandments will be punished with disease, drought and misfortune.

The Parsha concludes with Moses preparing the people for the renewal of the covenant that we will read in next weeks Parsha Nitzavim. Moses tells the people here that although they saw great wonders and miracles in Egypt and in the desert, G-d did not give you a heart to know, or eyes to see, or ears to hear until this day (29:3).

(והיה כי תבוא אל הארץ אשר ה נותן לך נחלה (כו: א

When you enter the land that the Lord your G-d is giving you as a heritage (26:1)

Although the word והיה or in the phrasewhen you come is understood as a point in the future, the word והיה can also be read as part of a conditional phrase, if you come. This is to teach us that our settling in Israel is conditional; only if we observe G-d s commandments can we settle in the land but if we disobey G-d, then:

ונספחתם מעל האדמה אשר אתה בא שמה לרשתה will be uprooted from the land that you are about to to enter and possess(28:63).

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Parsha Ki Titzeh

פרשת כי תצא(21:10-25:19

In Parsha Ki Teitzei, Moses continues the list of social laws that we began reading last week. Here, he lists seventy-four mitzvot that relate to all aspects of human life, including debtors laws, the treatment of property and various family matters.

The Parsha opens with the laws of the beautiful female captive. It begins,

כי תצא למלחמה על איבך ונתנו ה אלקיך בידך וראית בשביה אשת יפת תאר וחשקת בה ולקחת לך לאשה

When you go out to war against your enemies, and the L-rd your G-d gives them into your hands...and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you have a desire for her, you may take her for yourself as wife. Then you shall bring her to your house and she shall shave her head and cut her nails. And she shall remove her captives garment and remain in your house and bewail her father and her mother a full month; after that you may be intimate with her and she will be your wife (21:11-13).

Following the law of the beautiful captive, we read the law of inheritance rights. This law states that it is forbidden to give precedence to the son of a favorite wife, as it is written,

לא יוכל לבכר את בן האהובה על פני בן השנואה הבכר

He may not prefer the son of the loved one over the son of the hated one the firstborn(21:16).

We also read of the wayward and rebellious son who does not obey his father and his mother and they chasten him, and he does not listen to them (21:18). As it is written,

ורגמהו כל אנשי עירו באבנים ומת ובערתה הרע מקרבך וכל ישראל ישמעו ויראו

And all the men of his city will stone him to death so you shall purge the evil from within you and all the children of Israel shall listen and fear(21:21).

חזל, Our rabbis teach us that the law of a the wayward son comes immediately after the law of the beautiful captive in order to teach us that if a man marries a beautiful captive, he will likely end up with a wayward and rebellious son.

The Parasha continues to discuss such varied mitzvot as the dignity of the dead, השבת אבדה -returning lost items, שילוח הקן -sending off the mother bird before taking her eggs, כלאים- forbidden hybrids, sexual crimes and restrictions, and divorce and marriage. For example, while it is forbidden to marry Ammonites and Moabites but Egyptians and Edomites who convert to Judaism are accepted after three generations.

The Parsha ends with a very important message that we customarily read on the shabbat before the holiday of Purim,

זכור את אשר עשה לך עמלק בדרך בצאתכם ממצרים (כה:יז

Remember what Amalek did to you on the way, when you were coming out of Egypt.(25:17)


תמחה את זכר עמלק מתחת השמים לא תשכח (כה:יט

You shall obliterate the memory of Amalek from beneath the sky; do not forget(25:19).

וראיתה בשביה אשת יפת תאר וחשקתה בה ולקחת לך לאשה (כא:יא

...and you see among the captives a beautiful woman and you have a desire for her, you may take her for yourself as a wife(21:11).

The beautiful woman is a representative of the יצר הרע or evil inclination, which appears beautiful and seductive. The word תאר or appearance can also be read as deriving from the Hebrew word to describe. Like the captive woman, the beauty of the evil inclination is an external one that can be described but we can defeat the יצר הרע (evil inclination) by looking at our inner beauty, our connection to G-d.

The קבלה (Kabbalah) explains this principle:

וחשקתה בה ולקחת

and you have a desire for her, you make take her for yourself

By examining the instructions that are given in the rest of the verse. Just as in the instance of a man who desires the captive woman, if a person desires to be connected to G-d and the שכינה (Shechinah), the G-dly presence, he/she has to take several steps first. For example, just as the verse instructs,

והבאתה אל תוך ביתך

you will bring her into your house,

a person has to bring the שכינה (Shechinah) into his house by orienting his thoughts and feelings to be לשם שמים or for the sake of heaven, and then:

וגלחה את ראשה ועשתה את צפרניה

And she will shave her head and cut her nails (21:12).

The hair and the nails are external things in our body. The Torah wants us to dwell on our inner נשמה (soul) and not to dwell on the superficial. Another explanation is that our hair and our nails are representative of the material items that captivate our attention and our time but we must try to focus on the internal to see the beauty of the שכינה Shechinah, the G-dly presence.

(לא תזרע כרמך כלאים (כב:ט

Do not plant in your vineyard a mixed variety of species (22:9).

The הרב חידא (The Chida) says that a person should not mix מצוות or mitzvot (commandments) and עבירות (sins) together. For example, a person should not speak לשון הרע (slanderous speech) after he/she gives צדקה (charity), or study Torah but not honor his/her parents.

The word כלאים mixed variety of species contains the Hebrew word כלא, a prison. From this we can learn that we should not let our נשמה become imprisoned in and mixed with the daily preoccupations of the physical body. Instead, we should remember that our bodies are only vessels for the pure soul within.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Parshat Shoftim- "The Time Has Come"

We read this Parsha of שופטים (Shoftim) in the month of אלול (Elul), which is known as the month of תשובה (repentance) before Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. חזל (Our rabbis) said that during this month, G-d descends from the seventh heaven to the first heaven to be close to us. During this month we should prepare ourselves to be judged by the real Judge on יום כפור (Yom Kippur), or The Day of Atonement .

שפטים ושטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך

Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourself in all your gates...(Deuteronomy 16: 18).

תתן לך: Appoint for yourself: Appoint your conscience. A person should always judge himself first and his conscience should follow him in every step he takes.

בכל שעריך: The Siftei Kohen explains that our body is like a city with seven gates: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and the mouth. A person should appoint internal judges to examine everything you hear, see and let out of your mouth.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Parshat RE'eh "Be a Blessing"

                                              ראה אנכי נתן לפניכם היום ברכה וקללה.          

See I place before you today a blessing and a curse (11: 26).

The word ראה contains the word אר orlight. This connection teaches us that if we observe G-ds commandments and are able to differentiate between right and wrong, then we can increase the amount of light in the universe.

The directive ראה (See) is written in the singular form, while the word לפניכם is written in the plural form. This is in order to teach us that G-d not only values us as a nation, as it is written,

והיתם לי לעם סגולה

but that he also values each of us as individuals, like a father who loves each of his children.

...ראה אנכי

See I..

Why does G-d use the אנכי form of I, instead of the אני form here?

To teach that in order to merit the first of the Ten Commandments,

אנכי ה אלקיך

I am G-d your Lord

we have to see G-ds deeds. We have to open our eyes and see G-ds creation starting with the daily functions of our body to the rules of the cosmos.

Additionally, the word אנכי can be read as אנוכי or selfish, because when a person is consumed with his ego, he can not see his surroundings and understand that everything is from above.

(Exerted from parsha to go)

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Parshat Eikev- "Medicine for Your Soul"

       The Hebrew word "Eikev" means the heel of ones foot. Why does the first sentence in this weeks parsha start off with the word "Eikev" (which means the heel of ones foot)? In order to teach us that the mizvoth  Hashem commanded us to do are all equally the same. Not one mitzvah has a lower importance than the other. So, this comes to teach us that we cannot pick and choose which Mitzvah we want to keep because every mitzvah is important and we should strive to work on each mitzvah slowly but gradually to  reach the level that each of our precious souls need to reach in this world. The Torah is our prescription to our problems. The word Eikev is heel, to teach us that life is made up of steps, and if we realize that every little step leads to a bigger one that can define our lives, we will automatically be more careful with the steps we choose to take. Every step we take in our life leads us to a destination. Depending on your choice that will lead you to either a good or bad destination. The only way we will bring the redemption closer is if we serve Hashem with happiness. Otherwise, the depression will overcome us and we will not have faith in the coming of Mashiach and we won't care to do mitzvoth so let us all try to find one mitzvah that we will always do with ultimate happiness. Some examples, welcoming guests, kiruv, respecting parents, preparing for shabbat etc.
Make one mitzvah yours. Have a wonderful Shabbat =)

Friday, August 8, 2014

Parshat Va'Etchanan "The Power of Prayer"


      In this weeks parsha Moshe Rabbeynu emphasizes that the covenant Hashem made with our forefathers, Hashem made the covenant with us for every generation and for eternity. Moshe reiterates the the 10 commandments that was handed down to us at Har Sinai. Moshe utters the famous plea of Shema Yisrael that we say twice a day "Hear O Israel: Hashem our G-d, Hashem is One" (6:4) The parsha also continues to teach us of the art of prayer, prophecy and teachings that guarantee our Jewish survival. "For you are a holy people to Hashem, your G-d; Hashem, your G-d has chosen you to be his own treasure, out of all nations that are on the face of the earth" (7:6). In the beginning verses of parsha, Moshe Rabbeynu prays to Hashem, saying even if we are undeserving, we beseech G-d to find favor with us, accept our prayers, and grant our request as a free gift. We as an individual believe that G-d "owes us". Those who think like that are foolish because Moshe Rabbeynu who was on a high level didn't even think like that. The generation we live in is short on patience but long on expectations. If we feel that are prayers haven't gotten answered, we are quick to give up in frustration and self-righteous indignation. However, prayer is our only solution. We should never forget that when problems overwhelm us, it is only God who can help. Our sages teach us that since the destruction of the Holy Temple, all the gates to heaven are locked, except for the gates of tears, which means that genuine, heartfelt prayers can bring many miracles, We should never give up. Each us of should find one holy person from the Torah such-as; Moshe, King David etc. and learn about their greatness and faith of God in order that we can try our best to attain that belief and love of God.