MidrESHET Hayil

Friday, June 14, 2013

Parashat Hukat- It’s Not WHY, It’s HOW….Seriously, Ask the Cow


Shabbat Kodesh Parashat Hukat
Hadlakat Nerot NY 8:09pm
Mossai Shabbat Kodesh 9:19pm
Rabbenu Tam 9:41pm
Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!!
Parashat Hukat- It's Not WHY, It's HOW….Seriously, Ask the Cow

Once, on a road trip, we decided to take two cars to get to our destination. One of the cars had GPS navigation and the other car didn't. We decided to play it smart and appointed the car with navigation to lead the way, and we in the second car would just follow without knowing directions ahead of time. While the first car was cruising along leisurely, those in the second car were sitting on the edge of their seats, anticipating what the car ahead would do, trying to figure out the way. In the middle of this frustration, we actually started laughing. Two people, going to the same destination, using the same route had completely different experiences getting there; one was blasting Shwekey's CD along the entire route, while the other car was making noise of its own. The only difference was that one knew directions ahead of time while the other didn't.

We learned that sometimes, the destination isn't what matters most. How we get there has the most profound effect on us.

When Miriam Haneviah passes away, the Be'er Miram, the well that existed in her merit, ceased to provide water for Am Yisrael. Moshe Rabbenu was now given the task of providing water for Kelal Yisrael. How would he achieve this? HaKadosh Barukh Hu instructs him to speak with a rock and water will come flowing out of it. What did Moshe Rabbenu do? He wants to get water from the rock, so he hits it. If Moshe Rabbenu was not told the motive behind why he should speak to the rock, he would have certainly spoken to it directly with no problem, doubts or frustration. But since he knew the reason for interacting with the rock was to draw water from it, he ended up hitting it, thinking that this will achieve the goal. He calculated that as long as the end product is acquired, he could reach it any way he sees fit. But we all know that sometimes, the destination is not of prime importance; the way we get there makes all the difference.

Sometimes when we know WHY we are doing some things, we tend to cut corners, thinking, eh, as long as I get there it doesn't matter how. We put ourselves on auto cruise and don't do much work to get to where we must go. Not good.

A king of Benei Yisrael has certain missvot he must follow. Among them are not to have too many horses, not to have too many wives, and not to have too much silver and gold. Shelomoh HaMelekh was the wisest of all men. Had he not known the reasons for these missvot, he would have kept them impeccably. But the Navi tells us that he didn't. Why?Because he knew the reasons for these missvot.

One of the reasons why a king cannot have too many horses is because the best horses in the world are bred in Egypt, and HaKadosh Barukh Hu does not want us returning there. Shelomoh HaMelekh said to himself, Okay, so I won't take horses from Egypt, I will get them from elsewhere. I'm sure Syria could hook me up with a few stallions. And so, Shelomoh HaMelekh began to amass more and more horses, and sure enough, he collected too many for a king to have. He rationalized his actions. He figured, as long as I get to the right destination, it's okay if I bend a few corners along the way. He missed the point.

When we are given a reason for why we should or shouldn't be doing something, we start rationalizing and compromising different elements of a missvah that we, in our limited minds, don't think are important, and then we miss the whole point. We can even technically do the missvah but completely the wrong way, for the wrong reasons. It's not an easy thing to do. Even Shelomoh HaMelekh faltered with this.

This is why there are some missvot that we will never understand. Built into the Torah, into the system of missvot, are certain commandments called hukim, which by definition we are not meant to understand. One of these hukim is that of Parah Adumah, the Red Cow, which is what our Parashah this week is named after.

HaShem says, You want to become pureDon't ask questions. Burn this Red Cow, mix in some ingredients with its ashes and sprinkle it on yourselves and wait a few days. It'll do the trick.

Does it help me whatsoever if I understand the reason why this works? Absolutely not. Does it lose its value even if I don't understand it? Certainly not. Will I still do this missvah? If only I would have such a zekhout! (Be'Ezrat HaShem soon in the Beit HaMikdash, Amen!!)

Even Shelomoh HaMelekh, who knew all the reasons behind each missvah, did not know the reason behind Parah Adumah.  He tells us, 'Amarti ahkimah, ve'hi rehokah memeni; I thought I could become wise, but it is beyond me'. We don't always need to know the reason behind everything.

This is probably one of the reasons why we do not know exactly what Olam Haba is. If we thought we knew what it was, we would start making our own calculations. Oh, this missvah is definitely worth Olam Haba, but that one so isn't worth it! We would know what we are 'giving up' so to speak and become ready to negotiate. We would overlook certain missvot that seem smaller in our eyes, because in comparison to the grand scheme of things, the investment just doesn't seem worth it. Oh, Gan Eden is only a garden? I rather do what I want here on this world, I never liked flowers anyways, I get allergies in the Spring. It doesn't work this way!

Sometimes, it is not about WHY we do things, it is HOW we do them. HaShem wants something from you? DO IT! What does it matter to you if you know the reason or not? Don't you trust that HaKadosh Barukh Hu knows better? If as intelligent human beings we tend to act based on reason, you don't think our Creator would, too?  When the GPS asks me to make a right onto Main street, do I pull over and ask, Khanoom GPS, can you please explain to me the rationalization behind what you just told me to do? No! Yalla! I make the right and move forward. The GPS knows better than me. I'm not going to start questioning its every statement.

Don't ask WHY you should do a missvah, ask HOW you can do it. You don't understand the reason for kashrut? Don't worry, just keep it! The Reason for Shabbat? Do it either way! (and of course, learn about these beautiful missvot as well; the point is not to hold back from doing a missvah only because you don't know the reason for it). You will reap heaps and heaps of both personal benefit and reward, specifically because you did it without knowing or asking why in the first place. Remember, even the wisest of all men didn't know the reason behind every missvah.

Life isn't meant to be in cruise control. Sometimes we have to put in some energy and effort to get to our destination.  Make the missvah yours. In the end, you want to know who led the way back from the road trip? The car that didn't have a GPS navigation.

Be'Ezrat HaShem, may we all develop the koah and Emunah Shelemah to keep and internalize EVERY SINGLE ONE of HaKadosh Barukh Hu's missvot, whether or not we understand the reason behind it. May we do them the way HaShem requires of us and not only the way that is most comfortable for us. May we very soon be zokhim to be sprinkled with the ashes of the Parah Adumah in the Beit HaMikdash, Amen!
Wishing everone a Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!
Ariellah Samimi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Parashat Korah- Don’t BE Right, MAKE Things Right

Parashat Korah- Don't BE Right, MAKE Things Right

32. The earth beneath them opened its mouth and swallowed them and their houses, and all the men who were with Korah and all the property.

לב. וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת פִּיהָ וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת בָּתֵּיהֶם וְאֵת כָּל הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר לְקֹרַח וְאֵת כָּל הָרֲכוּשׁ:

Rabba Bar Bar Chana was once traveling on the road when a certain Arab said to him, 'Come, let me show you where Korah and his party were swallowed up.' The Arab pointed out two cracks in the ground giving out smoke….He said to Rabba Bar Bar Chana, 'Listen to what you are about to hear!' He heard that they were saying, 'Moshe and his Torah are true, and we are liars!' (Sanhedrin 110b)

Leave aside the meaning of this Midrash is for a moment. What was Korah doing down there in the first place?

In Parashat Korah, none other than Korah himself and his personal group of men approach Moshe Rabbenu and Aharon HaKohen and ask why they have taken for themselves the most desirable positions in Kelal Yisrael. While Moshe Rabbenu was, well, Moshe Rabbenu, and Aharon HaKohen was the Kohen Gadol, the rest of the Leviim, including Korah, felt a certain inequality since they have not received as prestigious positions among Kelal Yisrael. As a punishment for this, the earth opens up and 'swallows' them and their families, even their children, and ALL their possessions (the Midrash tells us that even a needle that someone had borrowed from them flew right into the earth's opening) so that their legacy would be completely obliterated.


But was this really so wrong a request that they would receive such a harsh punishment? I would understand if Benei Yisrael would complain about food one more time and were punished in such a way, but finally, someone here is asking to elevate himself spiritually, to move upward! What did the poor guy do? Even his family was sent off the face of this earth! He must have done something really wrong here to deserve such a punishment. But what?

Haza''l tell us that three things 'take a person out of this world': anger, jealousy, and arrogance. Eh, when Korah asks for a position upgrade, his hands were not exactly clean of any of these three. He didn't really have the right intentions when he was asking. His anger is apparent in his willingness to cause a mahloket (division) among Kelal Yisrael when he gathered a group of over 250 men to accuse Moshe and Aharon of nepotism. His jealousy is evident too, when he requests a higher status; his 'Levi level' just isn't enough, he needs to be ruler of the nation. But on top of these, was his arrogance. Why shouldn't HE be Kohen Gadol? This is why he was deserving to be 'taken out of this world'. Literally.  

When Korah asks for Kehunah, it wasn't really about gaining the Kehunah; he was on a personal vendetta. Korah was the wealthiest man that ever lived, number one on the Forbes 500 list, he had it all. But there was one thing that he didn't have, and it bothered him until no end. While he was able to provide his wife with every jewel possible, Korah could not give his wife what Moshe Rabbenu was able to give his wife Sipporah: a magnificent stone carved from the stone of the Luhot HaBerit (the 'Tablets') themselves.  Why does Moshe deserve of such a thing and not me? I am the wealthiest in the world, I deserve such a gem as well! Who is Moshe over me?? I am also important! Because of his inflated ego, Korah felt he had to be the top. He was ready to take Moshe Rabbenu down.

An arrogant person only sees themselves. They value their own opinion over anybody else's. They think that their own thinking is best and are less inclined to take anyone else's opinion into consideration. This inflexibility can only cause argument since by not giving in, by not compromising, they only escalate the division between themselves and their counterpart.

We learn that the only argument in the world where one side was one hundred percent right and the other side was completely not was the dispute between Korah and Moshe Rabbenu, otherwise, in any other dispute, each side of the argument has to be partially right in some way. A person doesn't argue for no reason; they argue because they genuinely believe that they are correct. Anytime that you may find yourself caught in a dispute (which is one hundred percent normal) try to see the places where your counterpart may be right. Be flexible. Try to work it out together. Don't argue, discuss. Try to reach a compromise.

If the dispute continues, give in, try to appease the other side. After all, who is to say that you are right anyways? If it still goes on, DROP IT. There is nothing worse than an argument that is dragged out. Ooof.  

You want to know how important it is to avoid mahloket (division) and argument as much as possible? Look at the difference between the relationship between Aharon HaKohen and his wife and Korah and his wife.

When Korah returns from a ritual done for Leviim, all his body hair shaven off, his wife looks at him and mocks him, she discourages him. 'You baldy, you fell for their tricks! Aharon and Moshe are also Leviim, I don't see them with shaved heads!' All that did was buy her a piece of prime Real Estate for her husband and kids in Gehenom.        Storage Included.

But look at the understanding and willingness to work things out between Aharon HaKohen (who was Ohev Shalom and Rodef Shalom) and his wife, Elisheva.  When their baby was born, Elisheva approaches Aharon HaKohen and asks 'My dear Aharon, my father's name is Aminadav. Would it be okay to name our son after him and call him Nadav?' Aharon HaKohen has no objection, Of course we can. Little did Aharon HaKohen know, but his own father, Amram, was somewhat offended. When he finds out, he rushes to make amends. 'I'm sorry Abba, our next son we will name after you'. And so they named their sonAvihu-'He is my father'. Even then, these two sons end up perishing tragically. Why? Says Maran HaRav Ovadia Yosef shelit''a, because they came into the world with the undertones of a mahloket. And just look at all the things we argue about today….

Know one thing:

Life isn't about being right; it's about making things right.

There is a saying that goes 'Al Teheh Sodek, Teheh Hakham'; Don't be right, Be wise. When you see a situation arising, put down your ego for a second. What will being right achieve for you anyways? Just focus on making this turn out positively, as best as possible, this way, everyone ends up content-especially you. This takes true intellect. When you are driving down a street and the light is green, you have every right to continue driving along the road, correct? But if you see a car speeding down the cross-street on your right, are you going to continue driving? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But I had the right of way! But you would have severely harmed yourself otherwise. What's the point of being right if the earth is going to swallow you up anyways?

Being right is so overrated.


Be'Ezrat HaShem may we all be a source of Shalom, peace, in this world and not the opposite. May we develop the koah to put our egos on the side in order to do Rasson HaShem, HaShem's will. Anytime we feel a dispute coming, let's remember to take it easy! May we bring Kelal Yisrael closer to each other this way, and in that zekhout may we build the Beit HaMikdah BeKarov TOGETHER, Amen!

 Wishing everyone a peaceful Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!

Ariellah Samimi

Based on the beautiful teachings of HaRabbanit Yemima Mizrahi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Parashat Shelah-He Who Puts You To It Will Pull You Through It

Please learn the following Devar Torah for the ilui Neshamah of Shemuel ben Daniel. Tehei Nishmato Serurah beSeror HaHayim.

Parashat Shelah-He Who Puts You To It Will Pull You Through It

8. If HaShem desires us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey.

ח. אִם חָפֵץ בָּנוּ ה' וְהֵבִיא אֹתָנוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ הַזֹּאת וּנְתָנָהּ לָנוּ אֶרֶץ אֲשֶׁר הִוא זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבָשׁ:

In an interview with 'G', one of the soldiers of Commando 13- not only the best soldiers in the country, but the best soldiers in the universe- he was asked about a certain mission that ended with a big loss.
 'Tell me, isn't this an embarrassment to soldiers such as you?' the interviewer asked. 'G' answered in a serious tone. 'You're asking at a command level,' he said. 'They told me to go, and I went. And if tomorrow they tell me to go again, I'll go and get hit again.'

When a person is on a mission, there is nothing stopping them. They do what they have to do because they know that a higher, more intelligent authority is guiding them. Even though the mission seems scary, and even though we don't know what we are getting ourselves into, and even if it may seem pointless or harmful to us, we do it. Why? Because we know that there is obviously a reason why we are being asked to do such a thing. I'm sure 'G' did not know what was awaiting him when he was asked to go on his mission, but he got up and went. He had to fulfill his mission.

Parashat Shelah (pronounced 'Shlach' by some) is spelled שלח. It means 'to send'; 'Send for yourself spies'. These spies were sent on a mission, just like we are in life. When they get back and start discouraging Benei Yisrael from entering Eress Yisrael, Calev jumps right in and reassures them 'If HaShem desires us, He will bring us to this land and give it to us, a land flowing with milk and honey.' He tells them, I know you are scared, I know you don't know what to expect, I know you think that you have it better now, but trust me, if HaKadosh Barukh Hu wants something for you, He will set it up for you. You're on His mission. Not only will He put you to it, but He will pull you through it.

Sometimes we are put in a situation, but we don't know why we are placed there. Sometimes we think to ourselves that no good can come from it….so we are reluctant to take action. Even more, has ve'Shalom we start to despair. Sometimes we think there is no way out. This is when שלח turns to חלש, weak.

But we must remember, we are messengers. We are sent on a mission and we must fulfill it.

 If you ever find yourself in a situation, know that HaKadosh Barukh Hu put you there. Ask yourself,
'Whose messenger am I right now? What does HaShem want from me right now?' You will find great answers. You will find direction. You will find strength.

You will complete your mission.

The entire thing is not to be afraid. We see in the Parashah what happens to someone who is afraid. Selaphehad is killed because he cuts down wood on Shabbat. He was mehalel Shabbat; he aborted his mission. His own name indicates his fear. 'Sel Pahad'- afraid of his own shadow. Don't be afraid. Just do your mission. HaShem will surely lead the way, He will take you to a land of milk and honey.

Be strong. If you can't be strong for yourself, be strong because people look up to you, be strong because your strength will be passed down to your descendants. The strength you draw will reach farther than you think. When HaKadosh Barukh Hu changes Sarai Imenu's name to Sarah, Sarah objects, HaShem! I worked so hard for this yod in my name, I passed ten trials for this yod- I was dragged in to G'rar, I was given to Pharaoh, I was barren for decades, I'm not prepared to let go of the yod. I suffered for it! How can I replace a yod, which equals 10, with a heh, that equals 5?

Not to worry, says HaShem. All that ability to withstand trials I'll pass on to your descendant who wil need it one day; I will pass it on to Yehoshuah bin Nuun. And this is exactly why in this Parashah, HaKadosh Barukh Hu adds a yod to Hosheah's name, to make it Yehoshuah. HaShem transfers this strength of Sarah Imenu to Yehoshuah, so that when he does enter Eress Yisrael, he will have the ability to withstand any trials there.

We must understand that HaKadosh Barukh Hu was going to give Benei Yisrael the land of Eress Yisrael anyways, THEY asked to place spies for themselves, THEY created their own worries and problems. HaKadosh Barukh Hu already had the best set for them, they just were unsure and afraid and thought by taking matters into their own hands they could calm themselves down. All they really had to do was wait; they would get there shortly. But by pushing it, not only did they become more afraid and discouraged, but they made their wait even longer- 40 years!

Sometimes, while waiting for things, we become impatient. This impatience leads to anxiety. We start doubting, start asking too many question, start going around in circles, but all we have to do is just WAIT. It's that simple. You're on a mission, realize that. Fulfill it.

When a baby is hungry, he begins to cry and cry. He doesn't stop until the baby bottle reaches his sweet little mouth. But all until this point, even when his mother is preparing his milk for him, he continues to cry. He doesn't realize that this whole time his mother is preparing food for him. He only stops once he directly gets what he has been crying for. We are the same, we cry and cry, even when HaKadosh Barukh Hu is preparing our yeshuah(deliverance) for us, we don't realize that all along He is in the midst of preparing it for us. We only stop when we get what we haveve been asking for. And then we start crying again for something else….

Be patient. Be strong. If HaKadosh Barukh Hu wants something for you, don't worry, He will help you get it. We might not understand the process while we get there, but know that anything you face, you're a soldier of HaShem, you're on His mission.

Mission Complete.

May we all gather the koah, the strength, to withstand our trials and grow from them. May we realize Who our Commander is. May we fulfill our missions to the best of our ability. Be strong!

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!

Ariella Samimi
Based on the teachings of HaRabbanit Yemimah Mizrahi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Friday, May 24, 2013

Parashat BeHaalotekha- Free Fish? Something’s Fishy….

Parashat BeHaalotekha- Free Fish? Something's Fishy….

5. We remember the fish that we ate in Egypt free of charge, the cucumbers, the watermelons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.

ה. זָכַרְנוּ אֶת הַדָּגָה אֲשֶׁר נֹאכַל בְּמִצְרַיִם חִנָּם אֵת הַקִּשֻּׁאִים וְאֵת הָאֲבַטִּחִים וְאֶת הֶחָצִיר וְאֶת הַבְּצָלִים וְאֶת הַשּׁוּמִים:

The Missvah of 'BeHaalotekha' is given to Aharon HaKohen, when he 'goes up' to light the Menorah. This Missvah was given to him specifically now because in last week's Parashah, when the twelve representatives of each Shevet brought a korban, Aharon HaKohen did not bring one. He felt deprived of such a Missvah; he also wanted to serve HaKadosh Barukh Hu!....and this is why he was given the beautiful Missvah of lighting the Menorah each and every day. 

This very feeling also translated to those in Benei Yisrael who were given the opportunity to bring Korban Pesah again during Pesah Sheni. A group of people came to Moshe Rabbenu and told them because they lived far or were impure, they were not able to bring Korban Pesah on Pesah itself and felt deeply deprived that they couldn't bring it the first time. They begged for a second chance. They did not want to miss out on such a beautiful Missvah!

In this Parashah, there is also another group of people who feel deprived; except they feel deprived of food. A few times in the Parashah, Benei Yisrael ask Moshe Rabbenu to provide them with meat and vegetables. One of these times, they remind Moshe Rabbenu that they once even had fish for free in Misrayim!

What do they mean? They didn't even get simple straw for free in Misrayim, how could they possibly have gotten fish for free there! Anyways, the mahn they ate could taste like anything they wanted, they could have just wished for it to taste like fish, what's the problem here?

Could Benei Yisrael seriously be complaining about food? They obviously had fish available to them….they weren't really asking for fish; they were complaining about something else.

The Sifri says that when Benei Yisrael say we remember the fish we got 'for nothing', it meant without the responsibility of the Missvot.  Now that Benei Yisrael were obligated to observe the Missvot, their sustenance was dependent upon observance. In Misrayim, they still haven't received the Torah HaKedoshah, it was 'easy' for them there, but now that they received the Torah, it felt 'burdensome' to them, so much so that the Rambam says that in this Parashah, Benei Yisrael left from Har Sinai like children run from school; they did not want to learn anymore, they did not want to hear about anymore Missvot.

This was one of the things that Benei Yisrael didn't do right in the Parashah. Yet, the Torah is so sensitive not to show Benei Yisrael in a negative light that even though we 'sinned' once more, that it doesn't want to list them one after another. To separate these two incidents, the Torah interjects two pesukim in between. How?

Famously, the pesukim of 'VaYehi B'Nsoa HaAron' are added right here in between the two 'wrongdoings'. These two pesukim are enclosed by nuun hafoukhim, upside down nuuns (נ), sometimes backwards. Rashi explains that these nuuns are to indicate to us that this is not the proper place for these pasukim.  Really there are 7 books of the Torah: the portion from the beginning of Sefer BaMidbar until now is one Sefer, these two pasukim are another Sefer, and the rest of Sefer BaMidbar is another Sefer; altogether this is three Sefarim, plus the other four Sefarim of the Torah really makes seven.

The Keli Yakar explains that the word 'nuun' means fish. A fish naturally turns toward the water, it does not want to stay out of the water for even a second; the water is its life source! A backwards nuun, a backwards fish, swims against the water's gradient, against is natural environment. When Benei Yisrael turned away from Har Sinai like school children, they were 'swimming' away from their life source! We acted as a backward nuun - a backward fish!

That explains why the nuun is backwards, but why are they both upside down? The Me'am Lo'ez points out that these two nuuns refer to 'Na'aseh ve'Nishmah' which both start with the same letter nuun. Benei Yisrael's hasty departure from Har Sinai rendered their 'Na'aseh ve'Nishmah' as void. Their 'Na'aseh ve'Nishmah' was flipped over. They wanted fish for free! They wanted to eat without having the responsibility of Missvot; no proper shekhitah needed, no cleaning meat, no waiting six hours after meat to eat dairy. They wanted to eat 'freely'.

Do we feel that some Missvot are burdensome to us, or do we feel that when we do not have the opportunity to do them, that we are deprived of them? Are we passionate about Torah uMissvot or do we do them by rote? Do we wake up in the mornings and recite 'Modeh/Modah Ani' with deep gratitude and vigor, or do we mumble it and go back to sleep? Do we refrain from eating bread because Birkat HaMazon feels like a burden? Do we not daven because those extra fifteen minutes will lose me customers in the store? Or does it feel the other way around? These customers are getting in the way of my davening! Barukh HaShem I have yet another opportunity to bless and thank HaShem! We must realize, MISSVOT ARE A PRIVILEGE!

Don't do things passively. Even a fish that is not alive will appear to be swimming along a river, but that is because he is being carried along by the water's current; he does no work of his own. But who wants to be a dead fish? We are supposed to be those live fish! The ones that swim!

Aharon HaKohen wasn't excited to light the Menorah each day because it was made of one, smooth and elaborate piece of 24 karat gold; he was excited because, even though he would be lighting the Menorah each and every day the same thing over and over again, he had the opportunity to serve HaKadosh Barukh Hu in such a beautiful way. Even after 40 years, he was still as passionate about it as he was the first day!

There was once a man passing by a field, and he saw a Rav with his tefillin on milking a cow. He thought to himself, Wow, look at how this man disrespects his tefillin, he does his davening while he milks his cows! He said to himself, this can't be…. He thought again,Look at how much this Sadik elevates his work! Even when he milks his cows he has tefillin on!

We are supposed to continuously be doing Missvot and stop only to take care of our physical needs, not the other way around. The Shelah HaKadosh has a concise berakha, 'HaKadosh Barukh Hu, please allow me to learn Torah and do Missvot, and anything that gets in the way of me doing so (Parnassah, Health, Shalom Bayit) please take care of it for me!'

We must be passionate about the Torah! It is our life source! Just like we eat three times a day to feel satisfied, we must be involved with Torah and Missvot just as often, if not more, in order to satisfy our Neshamah. When we hear our stomach rumbling, we immediately get up, prepare a delicious meal and take our sweet time to eat. But do we feed our Neshamot this way? Are we so careful with the needs of our Neshamah and tend to it any time it is hungry? Food for thought….

Be'Ezrat HaShem may we get our priorities straight. May we develop such a passion for doing Missvot until a point where if we don't do them, we feel truly deprived. May we feed our Neshamot better than we feed our bodies. May we be those live fish that swim with such intensity at great lengths! May immerse ourselves in Torah, which just like water to a fish, is our life source. In this zekhout may we be blessed with all that is good!

Wishing every special Neshamah a beautiful Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh!
Ariellah Samimi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Monday, May 13, 2013

Shavuot 5773- If You Think The Torah is a Story Book, You Might Want to Take Another Look


Shavuot 5773- If You Think The Torah is a Story Book, You Might Want to Take Another Look

Think about the person you love most. Don't you just want to know everything about them? Don't you want to know how you can get to know them better? To bond with them closer? To spend every second with them?

In this entire world, who do we love most? HaKadosh Barukh Hu! But we can't see Him, we can't feel Him or hear Him….how could He expect us to know Him, let alone to love Him?

There is a story of a King and his Wife who have been writing love letters to each other back and forth. When the king discovers that his beloved wife has been unfaithful to him, he sends her away. After many years, he begins to miss her and decides to forgive her. To his surprise, when he calls her back, he finds her sitting there still waiting for him. He asks her, 'My Beloved! How were you able to wait for me for all these years?' She answers 'Your love letters. I read them to myself everyday and realized how much you really love me. It helped me get through all this time.'

The Torah is HaShem's love letter to us. He asks us 'Eikh hentamtem li kol ha'Shanim?'How did you wait for Me all these years? And we answer to HaShem, your love letter, your Torah got us through all these years!

Without the Torah HaKedoshah we would be completely lost.

The Torah serves us two main purposes: to become familiar with the missvot in order that we can do them and elevate ourselves, and it also is the main conduit through which we can know HaShem and become closer to Him.  The deeper we study  Torah, not only do we become proficient in knowledge and halakhot, but the closer we become to the Being that we love most in the entire world!

Haz"al tell us that Shavuot is considered to be a wedding between HaShem and Benei Yisrael. HaKadosh Barukh Hu is the groom, we are the bride, and the Torah HaKedosha is our Ketubah. Shavuot has no Sukkah and no Massah. So what are we supposed to bind to in order to feel the hag? HaShem himself! In order to do that, we must become familiar with His 'instruction manual', the Torah, to understand how He really works. We must understand that learning Torah isn't the main goal we try to reach, it is only the means of acquiring our goal: to become closer to our hatan, our groom, HaKadosh Barukh Hu Himself! A zoug, a couple, doesn't bind to the Ketubah in a marriage, they bind to eachother! The Ketubah is just a legal document. Likewise, we don't just bind to the Torah, we bind directly to HaShem Himself.

The first word of the Aseret HaDibrot, the Ten Commandments, is Anokhi. The Talmud (Shabbat 105a) says that this is an acrostic that stands for Ana Nafshi Katvit Yahavit,  which means 'I have written myself into this book that I am giving you.' HaShem is giving us the answer, RIGHT HERE! You want to become closer to Me? You want to find Me? Look for Me in this Sefer that I am giving you! I'm right inside!
This is why the event at Har Sinai is called Matan Torah, the GIVING of the Torah, and not Kabbalat HaTorah, the ACCEPTING of the Torah. HaKadosh Barukh Hhu gave us the Torah. It doesn't mean everybody accepts it. It is in our hand to do the accepting. Every Year.

We accept the Torah over and over again every year.  It is not something that happens automatically. It is something we must do ourselves. We are almost like converts that take the Torah upon ourselves by choice.

This is why we read Megillat Rut on Shavuot. Rut was born into the nation of Moav, she wasn't born into Benei Yisrael. She marries the son of Naomi, a Jew. When she sees the beauty and Emet of the Torah, she tells Naomi that she is ready to give up her life as a wealthy princess in Moav (during a time of a powerful famine) and to convert, staying with Naomi who was reduced to poverty over the years.
When Naomi tries to discourage her, look what Rut says

וַתֹּאמֶר רוּת אַל־תִּפְגְּעִי־בִי, לְעָזְבֵךְ לָשׁוּב מֵאַחֲרָיִךְ; כִּי אֶל־אֲשֶׁר תֵּלְכִי אֵלֵךְ, וּבַאֲשֶׁר תָּלִינִי אָלִין, עַמֵּךְ עַמִּי, וֵאלֹהַיִךְ אֱלֹהָי׃
בַּאֲשֶׁר תָּמוּתִי אָמוּת, וְשָׁם אֶקָּבֵר; כֹּה יַעֲשֶׂה ה' לִי וְכֹה יֹסִיף, כִּי הַמָּוֶת, יַפְרִיד בֵּינִי וּבֵינֵךְ׃
But Ruth said, 'Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back from following you. For where you go, I will go; where you sleep, I will sleep; your people are my people, and your G-d my G-d; where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may G-d do to me, and so may He do more, if anything but death separates me from you. (Rut 1:16-17)
The first time I read this I really had tears in my eyes. If a goya from the lowest nation in the world, who is not even allowed to enter Kelal Yisrael realizes how important HaKdosh Barukh Hu is, is so committed to the Torah, loves HaShem this much, WHY CAN'T WE DO THE SAME?
Rut's name is comprised of the letters resh, vav, tav, which add up to a numerical value of 606. Every human being in the world, whether or not they are part of Kelal Yisrael, must abide by the Sheva Missvot Benei Noah, the Seven basic Missvot given at the time of Noah for all of humanity (not to steal, not to kill….).  If we add those seven commandments to the value of her name, we get 613, the number of Missvot in the Torah.
The essence of Rut was the discovery and acceptance of the 606 Missvot she was missing. If we could learn to emulate Rut in passion, acceptance and commitment to the Torah, we are fitting to receive the Torah just as it was giving on Har Sinai and absorb all the kedushathat the hag has to offer. Every Year.

Be'ezrat HaShem, May it be HaShem's will and ours, that we develop a heshek, a passion for the Torah and accept it upon ourselves again each and every day on the same level that we once accepted it on Har Sinai. May we understand that the Torah HaKedosha is anything but a simple book; it's what is the direct connection between us and HaShem; take advantage of ituse it to its maximum. If you want to become close to HaShem, indulge yourself in the teachings of the Torah, there you will find Him. We have been counting for so long since Pesah, the time is finally here! Make the most of it! Enjoy your cheesecake, but realize that there's so much more to this hag than we realize. Draw as much kedusha from these days as possible and harvest it for the rest of this year until next Shavuot, where iy''H we will celebrate Shavuot in the Beit HaMikdash, Amen!

!!!!חג שבועות שמח

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Parashat BeHar BeHukotai- The Product of the Land is Not From My Hand


Parashat BeHar BeHukotai- The Product of the Land is Not From My Hand

Imagine a world where you know HaKadosh Barukh Hu exists, but there is no such thing as missvot. You would wake up in the morning, no Modeh Ani, no Netillat Yadayim, no davening. Then you would proceed to eating breakfast, no berakhot before food, no berakhot after. Comes time for Minha; nothing to say here. Feels weird, right? How would we connect to HaShem in such a world? He seems so distant this way! Since we do missvot automatically, sometimes we don't stop to consider what life would be like without them—empty. Do you see now how doing missvot are the prime connection between us and HaShem? Missvot are constant opportunities to bond with HaShem. If we didn't have missvot, has ve'Shalom it would be so easy to forget HaShem within even a day. Missvot serve as constant reminders that HaKadosh Barukh Hu exists and that He is the One in control.

One such missva is that of shemitah. In Parashat BeHar, we learn that every seventh year in Eress Yisrael, every single Jew must stop working the land. For six years we work the land, and HaKadosh Barukh Hu promises us that if on the seventh year we refrain from working the land, He will bless us with an abundance of three times what grows each year—one for the sixth year, one for the seventh year, and even one for the year after, the 'eighth'  year.

Out of all the missvot given on Har Sinai (that's why this week's Parashah is called 'BeHar'- 'On the Mountain'), why is shemitah so important that it is mentioned especially now? It only applies to farmers working the land, and only to those in Eress Yisrael! But we all learn something so important from shemitah that it becomes the entire basis for accepting the entire Torah.

In Talmud, a farmer is known as 'Emunah'. More than any other profession, a farmer requires the most Emunah in order to be successful. After planting a seed, other than watering it, there is not much else in his control to ensure that his crop will grow abundantly. He can only pray. A farmer relies on his Emunah. When HaKadosh Barukh Hu, in His infinite wisdom, commands us to take every seventh year off from working the field, He is telling us, It is not you who makes it all happen, it is all ME. When the crop grows well, it's not because you picked the best soil and the best seeds and watered it just the right way, it's because HaShem makes it that way! Even if you take an entire year off from working the land, not only do you not lose out, you gain threefold! Only Bitahon has the power to achieve this.

This is why the pasuk says 'Ki Tavo'u el ha'Aress ASHER ANI NOTEN LAKHEM', 'When you come to the land that I AM GIVING YOU'. HaKadosh Barukh Hu is giving us this land, it is not the product of our hands! Sometimes, when we work very hard on something, it becomes very tempting to think that it was our own efforts that got it for us, 'Kohi ve'Ossem Yadi Asah Li Et HaHayil HaZeh'. But this indeed is not true. HaShem, and HaShem only is the one giving you all this berakhah. If a person truly understands this, they have no problem taking a year off from working in order to learn Torah and focus more on their ruhani, spiritual side. If anything, what a privilege!

Okay, but most of us aren't farmers. What can we do to demonstrate this special Bitahon in HaShem? Shemitah is every seven years, but we have something even more often that we may not realize has the same concept behind it—Shabbat Kodesh! Every seventh day, we take a day off from working and declare, HaShem, YOU are the one who is in control, not me. Whether or not I work does not make a difference, all my berakhah comes from YOU. Today I will rest from physical work so I can have the privilege of indulging in my Neshamah's needs, since I know that my physical needs are already being taken care of by YOU HaShem. And of course, we all know, whoever does not work on Shabbat in fact gains more during the week—on many levels. Shabbat isn't something designed to make us feel restricted, it is  truly a gift from our Abba in Shamayim who is telling us, Don't worry, take the day off today, take care of what really matters, I've got the rest covered.

What we have to realize is that whether it be on Shabbat Kodesh or shemitah, HaShem Yitbarakh does not need the work of our hands; He can instantly replicate it Himself. What He wants from us is our Emunah, Bitahon, and adherence to His Missvot. That can only come from us, HaShem won't do it for us. 'HaKol be'Yedei Shamayim, Huss me'Yiraat Shamayim'; Everything is from Heaven except for Fear of Heaven itself. We are blessed with every seventh day, and every seventh year to do just this—to work on things that we in fact, are in control of.

This is why in Parashat BeHukotai we have a choice, 'Eem beHukotai Telekhu', IF you go in the ways of My missvot. What does this mean? That we can choose whether or not we do the missvot. IF we do them, HaKadosh Barukh Hu promises us that we will be blessed, and IF not, then has ve'Shalom, the opposite. Again, HaShem controls the entire world, but the only thing that is in our control is the choosing how much Yiraat Shamayim, Fear of Heaven, that we have.

Some people feel that by doing the missvot they are sacrificing a lot, and by putting all our faith in HaShem they are risking too much. But this is not true! Sheker! Exactly by devoting ourselves to HaShem and putting our lives in the Hands of HaShem who is far more powerful than us will we yield all the more berakha. If we rely on our own limited efforts, we will bear limited results. But if we let the Master of the entire world take care of it for us then don't you think you will end up with much more?

The most expensive coffee and cake in a hotel in the city costs around 150 dollars. I'm not sure why somebody would spend that much but if a worker in the same hotel takes a lunch break, the owner of the hotel tells him he could take whatever he wants for free and to enjoy it. Decide, do you want to be an independent businessman who has to always support himself fully, or do you become a devoted worker of an all powerful corporation and enjoy all its perks?

Be'Ezrat HaShem may we all come to the realization that we are devoted workers of HaShem and because of this, we may benefit from every privilege and enjoy from every pleasure that comes along with it. May we understand that Bitahon is a direct funnel from us to HaShem in Shamayim that brings to us all the berakhot in the world; just like the pipe can't have any holes or damages in it, neither can our Bitahon, otherwise, we lose out on what was supposed to originally come to us. May our Bitahon be complete! In this zekhout, may we merit every berakha directly from Shamayim and realize where it is truly coming from!

Wishing every beautiful Neshamah a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh! Enjoy this special privilege!

Ariellah Samimi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Parashat Emor and Lag LaOmer- Learn it and DO it WELL


Parashat Emor and Lag LaOmer- Learn it and DO it WELL

4. These are the HaShem's appointed [holy days], holy occasions, which you shall designate in their appointed time:

ד. אֵלֶּה מוֹעֲדֵי יְ־הֹוָ־ה מִקְרָאֵי קֹדֶשׁ אֲשֶׁר תִּקְרְאוּ אֹתָם בְּמוֹעֲדָם:

A king was traveling through the desert, and his son, the prince, was thirsty for water. But instead of sending a horseman to bring over water from the nearest town, the king ordered a well to be dug at that very spot and to be marked with a signpost.

'At the present time,' explained the king to his son, 'we have the means to obtain water far more quickly and easily. But perhaps one day, many years in the future, you will again be traveling this way. Perhaps you will be alone, without the power and privilege you now enjoy. Then, the well we dug today will be here to quench your thirst. Even if the sands of time have filled it, you will be able to reopen it if you remember the spot and follow the signpost we have set.'

The Mar'eh Yehezkel tells us that HaShem established the hagim that we read about in Parashat Emor (Pesah, Shavuot, Sukkot) as a signpost at each time of the year that we initially received the gift we are celebrating each year, like freedom on Pesah, joy on Sukkot, and Torah on Shavuot. Since the time of Sukkot is the time of the year most auspicious for joy, that is why Sukkot is established around that time of year, not the other way around. We don't create joy because it is Sukkot, we celebrate Sukkot at that time because that time of year is specific to joy. Therefore, the hag of Sukkot becomes a signpost in the year to remind us that this is a time for joy and should we want to, we can dig deeper into the hag and tap further into our source for joy.

This time of year, the first thirty-three days of the Omer are essentially ones of sadness, since we mourn the loss of 24,000 Talmidei Hakhamim, students of Rabbi Akiva that perished during this time. During these days we observe customs of mourning; we do not cut our hair or shave, we do not listen to music and so on. However, on Lag LaOmer, we celebrate! What are we celebrating? The passing of the pillar of nearly all the learning we have today, Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai. One must stop and think. If we are mourning for an entire month over the passing of Rabbi Akiva's students, then what reason could we possibly be celebrating the passing of arguably the largest, most fundamental Torah scholar and Sadik that ever existed?

The Talmud tells us that the reason Rabbi Akiva's talmidim perished on such a large scale is because 'Lo Nahagu Kavod Zeh laZeh'; they did not treat each other with proper respect. How so? These were the most elite talmidim! They didn't understand the basic concept of kavod? In what sense did they disrespect each other? They did not show sufficient kavod in how they shared their Torah. A talmid thought to himself that another talmid 'inferior' to him was not worthy of his time to come explain simple matters of the Torah to him. He preferred to spend his time increasing his own Torah knowledge and was reluctant to help others 'inferior' to him advance in their own Torah learning. A talmid who really has kavod for other talmidim sees everybody equally, or even greater than himself; he truly cares about sharing Torah with others and even takes away from his own time in order to accomplish this. Otherwise, what good is the Torah he learns? It stays locked up in his head and disappears from the world when he does.

There is a story about a young sheep whose wool was growing out beautifully. Every month, the wool that he grew doubled in size. He went through the winter months so proud that he has such thick wool to keep him warm. Came the beginning of the summer months and his owner wanted to sheer his wool so he could sell it. This sheep protested, 'No! No! This wool is mine, you can't take it away from me! It's what protects me!' and so, his owner could not object. He let the young sheep have his wish. One by one, all the other sheep, freshly shorn, were running around the pasture and jumped into the lake to cool off and then came out of the other side. The sheep who refused to sheer his wool to give to others started building up a sweat under all his wool in the summer heat. He decides he will also swim through the lake to cool off. The sheep never comes back up. His wool was too heavy; he sunk.

The Torah of the students of Rabbi Akiva actually became a burden to them. This is why we mourn. We cry over the loss of all the Torah that could have been revealed, that we could have known, that we could have used to enhance our lives, but is now forever lost….all due to the pride that stood in the way of these talmidei hakhamim. Their Torah weighed them down and they sunk. If they were not going to share their Torah, they had no further purpose in this world, that is why they were taken away.

This is the same exact reason why we celebrate the day that Rabbi Shimon bar Yohai left this world. Not only did he contribute enough Torah for his own generation, he learned and gave over enough Torah for literally every generation to come, even the last one. He shared his Torah with all of us. Is this not reason enough to celebrate him? The teachings of the Zohar we have today are maybe less than one percent of what he originally learned at taught. And look how it fills the world today! When we hear the word Zohar or Kabbalah, we jump up in excitement of revealing these teachings because they are so great and deep. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai, on the high level that he was, did not think he was wasting his time relaying the Torah he knew to people in generations far lower than him. He shared and shared and shared. He gave us sufficient kavod. This is why he is celebrated even on the day of his passing.

The Torah HaKedosha isn't a book; it is something we live by. It is something we infuse into every ounce of our being, every moment of our lives, something we put into action, not just something we read. It is fundamental to the world's existence. Torah is compared to water. Without either of them the world would not exist. Water is not just two Hydrogens and an Oxygen (H2O), it is what keeps us alive! We would never think of water as just three atoms.  Likewise, the Torah is not just five books, IT KEEPS US ALIVE! It is our life source! Can you go a day without it?

The same way in the story with the well, the well must be dug in order to discover the water inside. We must dig with much effort to seize the Torah. Knowing how to build the well is of no help unless one knows how to pull out the water from inside for others to drink. The same way, the students of Rabbi Akiva only knew how to build the well. Even though they were such experts in it, they missed the whole purpose of creating a well—to draw water from it! In this they were deficient. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai may or may not have known how to design the most advanced well in town (I am sure that he did), his strength was in drawing the water up for us to drink. He didn't just fetch a cup of water when he was thirsty, he dug a well for us to enjoy the water as well. He didn't just learn Torah for his own benefit, he taught it to last for generations until the world's end. And even though nowadays we may feel that the well is just filled with sand, remember what the king told his son, 'Even if the sands of time have filled it, you will be able to reopen it if you remember the spot and follow the signpost we have set'.

Pirkei Avot teach us, 'Lo HaMiderash ha'ikar Ela haMaaseh'. It is not the study that counts but rather the action. Torah is not just a pursuit of knowledge; it's not about how much you know or how many hours a day you learn. We see from the students of Rabbi Akiva that amassing knowledge in one's head serves no real purpose. It's what you do from what you learn that counts. Torah is about how you live your life and how you spread it to others.

Be'Ezrat HaShem, we should all develop the proper sensitivity and mindset to what the Torah really is and come to the realization that it is far more than a 3,000 year old Sefer; it is the principle by which the entire world ran, runs, and will continue to run. May each and every one of us develop the koah to be of the people who dig the well and draw the waters of Torah from them and share it with others.  May we all capture the essence of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yohai deep inside every one of us. May we all give the proper kavod to those around us, big or small, and in that zekhout to bring Mashiah ben David beYamenu, Amen!

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh!
Ariella Samimi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!