Friday, September 29, 2017

Yom Kippur Message 5778

Rav Yisroel Salanter zt"l used to say: "How great is the Mercy of HaKadosh Baruch Hu upon us!  For if He had given us the Command of Yom HaKippurim to observe only once in seventy years to forgive us for all of our sins, this would be considered for us great fortune and very supreme kindness!  And now that He has given us this opportunity each year, how very much do we need to feel our fortune and the kindness of Hashem upon us!" (HaMeoros HaGedolim).

Rabbosai!  Now that we do have this opportunity, we must use it well.  It is not only the chance to have a clean slate (with Teshuva), but also a new beginning in a way.  

As we discussed for Rosh Hashanah, we need to try to have lasting Teshuva and lasting changes for the better.  But how do we do so?

Perhaps we can glean the answer from a quick story that happened to me this morning:  I had just stepped out before going to do Shacharis, when I saw that some of our outside-rugs needed adjusting, as they had been blown out of position by the wind.  Now, this could easily have waited until after Davening, but I decided to take care of it really quick.  As I went to fix them up, however, a bee came buzzing right near me -- near my legs, mid-section, and even face and head -- and I had to stay almost totally still until, finally, it flew away.  

Well, I was glad it was gone.  Anyway, now I could fix the rugs.  But as I was doing so, yet again, this bee came buzzing all around me, and even landed on my one of my fingers.  Baruch Hashem, however, I didn't get stung and it buzzed away.  After this, I rushed back inside.  But I began thinking about the fact that maybe it wasn't just a bee just happening to fly around here at this moment, acting aggressive; maybe it was a message from Hashem that I should Daven first.  So indeed, I went to do Shacharis.  

After Davening was finished, I went back to fix up the rugs, and sure enough, (Baruch Hashem) the bee didn't bother me at all, and I didn't even see it


The message from this little story is that we might not be able to hear Hashem speaking to us like Moshe Rabbeinu, but maybe we can in a way... Indeed, Hashem does speak to us every day just like we speak to Him!  He sends us messages, but it is up to us whether we hear and take them to heart as we should, or Chas V'Shalom, take them as just coincidences.  The example of this I like to give is say you are about to go do something you aren't supposed to (whatever it is), and you trip.  Hashem is trying to tell you to not go do that thing!

And this is one of the ways to be a better person and have lasting changes for the better:  To try to listen to and internalize the messages Hashem sends us every day.


Before we finish, though, I would like to share with you something beautiful I heard from my Rebbe, Rav Moshe Shulman shlit"a:  He quotes from the Kedushas Levi (Rebbe Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev zt"l) who explains that the difference between having a broken heart (Sheviras Lev) and depression (atzvus) is that if we, Chas V'Shalom, did something wrong, that thing was bad -- we aren't bad.  What we did was evil, but deep down, we are still good people.  

It is up to us, with the Help of Hashem, to clean those bad things out of ourselves, and bring out our true selves -- not just for right now, but for all time, B'Ezras Hashem.

May Hashem inscribe you and your family and friends in the Book of Good Life, may you be helped to do proper Teshuva and have lasting affects for a long, long time to come, and may you continue to grow and grow -- and help others to grow -- in Torah and Mitzvos, for many, many, many more years in good health and be zocheh to see Mashiach Tzidkeinu with your own eyes, very speedily in our days!

Gmar Chasima Tovah, Gut Shabbos, an easy fast, and a Shanah Tovah U'Mesukah to you and your family!

Kol Tuv!

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Rosh Hashanah Message 5778

We begin to do Teshuva more around this time of year, but the question is; does it last?  Or does it just stay at the Yomim Noraim?

This year, let's try to make sure that we really do improve -- not just for 10-20 days, but to make a lasting change.  It's obviously easier said than done, but we should at least pick one thing to try to make a lasting transformation in.  Let's take the Yomim Noraim with us.  

And it is not too late:  We say in the Mincha Shemoneh Esrei today (as almost every other weekday) 'Bareich Aleinu es hashana hazos...' -- 'Bless upon/for us this year...':  Wait a minute; the year is basically over!  How are we asking for Hashem to bless 'this year'?!  

I heard from my Rebbe, Rav Moshe Shulman shlit"a an explanation in the name of the Ruzhiner Rebbe, or some say it in the name of one of his grandchildren: 'Yeshuas Hashem k'heref ayin' -- 'The Salvation of Hashem (comes) like the blink of an eye'.  Says the Ruzhiner Rebbe zt"l; even if it hasn't been the greatest of years, (Rachmana Litzlan), in the last minutes before Rosh Hashanah, Hashem can still help turn it into a great one -- even in the last seconds...

May Hashem inscribe and seal you and your family and friends into the Book of Good Life, and make this Rosh Hashanah  not in Gallus.  May we be able to perform all the Avodos of Yom HaKippurim like it was in days of old, Amein, Kein Yi'hi Ratzon.

A Kesiva V'Chasima Tovah, Shanah Tova U'Mesuka, and Gut Shabbos to you and your family!

Friday, September 8, 2017

Parshas Ki Savo Messages 5777

פּרשׁת כּי תבוֹא:
The Sages Say: 

This day Hashem your G-d commands you to do these Statutes and Ordinances, and you shall guard and you shall do them with all your heart and with all your Soul.’ (Devarim 26:16) 

Says Rashi HaKadosh (from Midrash Tanchuma):  Every day, they (the Commandments) should be new in your eyes, as if in that very day you were commanded regarding them. 

(We usually do a longer Chazal for this section, but the above one, though only around a line, is so meaningful and important to take to heart, I chose it). 


A “Lamdanishe” Insight: 

An Arami tried to destroy my father, and he descended to Egypt…’ (Devarim 26:5) 

Aside from the general connection, why, we may ask, are Lavan tricking Yaakov Avinu and Yaakov descending to Egypt put together, seemingly as if saying that one caused the other? 

Explains the Alshich HaKadosh:  One did cause the other:  Since Lavan tricked Yaakov Avinu and gave him Leah first, then Yosef HaTzaddik ended up not the firstborn, and thus, when Yaakov Avinu did special things for him, etc. it caused jealousy among the brothers, which eventually led to Yosef going down to Egypt.  For if Yosef HaTzaddik had been the firstborn, his brothers would not have been jealous of him, because a firstborn is entitled to certain things. 

(Of course Hashem orchestrated things so that Yosef would end up in Egypt before Yaakov Avinu, but the Alshich HaKadosh explains to us the chain of events that took place, and how the two topics in the verse are connected). 


Mussar Message: 

And it will be when you will come to the Land that Hashem your G-d gives to you as an inheritance, and you will take possession of it, and you will dwell in it.  And you shall take from the first of all the fruit of the ground...’ (Devarim 26:1-2) 

Says HaRav Nosson Scherman שׁליט"א:  After the Land was conquered and allocated, farmers were to take the first ripened fruits to the Temple and present them to the Kohen, in a ritual that included a moving declaration of gratitude to G-d for His eternal role as the Guide of Jewish history.  The Jew’s gift of his first fruits, or Bikkurim, to the Kohen symbolizes that he dedicates everything he has to the service of G-d.   

For a Jew to say that his every accomplishment -- no matter how much sweat he invested in it -- is a gift from G-d, is one of the goals of Creation. (The Stone Edition Chumash). 


Chassidishe Vort: 

And you shall take from the first of all the fruit of the ground, that you bring in from your land that Hashem your G-d gives to you, and you shall put it in a basket, and you shall go to the place which Hashem your G-d chooses to dwell His Name there.’ (Devarim 26:2) 

This is the Commandment of Bikkurim -- First Fruits.  When the Beis HaMikdash stood (may it soon stand once again), we would take the first of all the seven species of produce which Israel is known for (see Rashi HaKadosh to the second verse), put it a basket, and bring it to the Beis HaMikdash.  But what about now; what about when we don’t have a Beis HaMikdash and cannot perform Bikkurim properly?  How can we in a way fulfill it? 

Rebbe Simcha Bunim of Peshischa זצ"ל asks a very similar question -- and he gives an answer too:  Says the Rebbe Reb Bunim זצ"ל:  In our generation, we can keep the Mitzvah of Bikkurim by making the beginning of the day holy. (Instead of sanctifying the first fruits, we sanctify the first moments of the day).  After rising in the morning, our first thoughts, words, and deeds should be dedicated for the Service of Hashem. (Meoros HaParsha). 


Chazak V’ematz: 

Cursed is the man who will make a carved or molten image, an abomination of Hashem…’ (Devarim 27:15)  

And it will be if you will surely listen in the Voice of Hashem your G-d, to guard to do all His Commandments that I command you today, and Hashem your G-d will put you supreme upon all the nations of the earth.  And all these blessings will come upon you and they will overtake you…’ (Devarim 28:1-2) 

And it will be if you will not listen in the Voice of Hashem your G-d, to guard to do all His Commandments and His Statutes that I command you today, and all these curses will come upon you and they will overtake you…’ (Devarim 28:15) 

In this parsha we read a lengthy portion dealing with the blessings we will get if we keep the Commandments, and the curses that will come upon us if, Chas V’Shalom, we do not.  It is noteworthy, though, the order in which the Torah lists them:  #1, The curses pronounced on Mount Eval, #2, the blessings contingent on keeping the Torah, and #3, the curses if, C”V, we don’t… What is the significance of this order and what does it teach us? 

We need to understand the truth about problems and bad things:  If something bad happens, Chas V’Shalom and Rachmana Litzlan, we more than often complain about it and become bitter.  What’s not to complain about? 

But the Torah teaches us with the above order that the inside and truth of hardships is good.  Hashem never wants bad to happen to us, Chas V’Shalom.  All the things that look bad, really only seem bad, but truly are for the best.  The midst of seeming curses are blessings.  Remember whenever anything happens to you that Hashem is making it for your benefit.  (Tal U’Matar). 


Maaseh B’Rabbi… 

One time, an arrogant sinner came to the holy Arizal for the purpose of scoffing at him.  The Ari took one look at him, and began to enumerate all the sins that he (the sinner) had committed that day.  The man fainted from the shock.  Upon reviving, he fell down before the Ari, and asked how he could repent.  And he added "Let the mouth that dared to mock receive its punishment."

 The Ari suggested that he die by having molten lead poured down his throat, as his Teshuva (repentance).  The now-penitent was so sincere about his Teshuva, that he agreed to accept that terrible death -- since it would be his atonement.

The Arizal's men laid the penitent down, blindfolded him, and poured down his throat... a teaspoonful of honey!  That man was ready to accept a terrible death as atonement, and so it was considered as if he had actually had suffered it. (Sparks of Mussar). 


A Gut Shabbos to all!

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Loving our Fellow as Ourself -- #4

#4:  The Alter of Slobodka (HaRav Nosson Tzvi Finkel zt”l) emphasizes that the Torah says that we must love our fellow ‘like ourselves’.

Just as we love ourselves instinctively, without looking for any reason, he explains, so too, we must love others without even looking for any reasons to. (Quoted in The Stone Edition Chumash).

Kol Tuv!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Loving our Fellow as Ourself -- #3

I apologize for missing yesterday.  Hashem should forgive me if I by accident broke my word of saying this program was daily.  

#4:  One of the very foundations of the Mitzvah to love our fellow as ourselves is as Hillel the Elder said (see Shabbos 31a): "What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow." Meaning that what we would not want someone to do to us, such as treating us badly, etc. we shouldn't do to someone else.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Loving our Fellow as Ourself -- #2

#2:  In the midst of the command to love our fellow, Hashem gives us a piece of advice how to perform it: 

The language of the words is 'And you shall love your fellow as yourself'.  One of the ways to indeed love our fellow, treat them well, etc. is to try to see things from their perspective at times.  Before saying or doing something to them that could, Chas V'Shalom be offensive, think about how you would feel if someone did that to you.  

And the same goes for other things:  If they are, Chas V'Shalom, not so nice at times, don't just jump and dislike them.  There are always reasons behind things -- so try to think fom their perspective:  Perhaps there are things going on in their lives that aren't so pleasant, Rachmana Litzlan, and so they are bitter.  And there are many other possible things.  

In summation, we must try to sometimes see things from others' perspetive's -- and, B'Ezras Hashem, this will help us to fulfill many times a very important Mitzvah.

Kol Tuv everyone!

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Loving our Fellow as Ourself -- #1

With all the Achdus problems in the world, it is important to fortify ourselves with Mussar against strife, and so let us, B'Ezras Hashem, begin a short program of insights into the Mitzvah of 'Vi'ahavta li'reiacha kamocha' -- ('And you shall love your fellow as yourself'):  

#1:  Perhaps first and foremost, we must all understand that it is just as forbidden to do something mean to someone else as to, perhaps even break Shabbos or eat treif, Chas V'Shalom.  Because treating another Jew badly is a transgression of the Mitzvah to love our fellow as ourself -- which is just as much from the Torah as any other Mitzvah.