MidrESHET Hayil

Friday, July 29, 2011

Parashat Masei

Parashat Masei- Journeys
Dedicated to the ilui Neshama and the memory of the Sadik Shahin Shemuel Chai Ben Hadassah V’Daniel. May we always take the journey of his life with us in our hearts every place we go.
Parashat Masei opens with the pasuk, “These are the travels of the Jews that left Egypt…” (Bamidbar 33:1). The Malbim (Rabbi Meir Leibush Weiser, 1800’s) poses the question: Why does the verse talk about where Benei Yisrael left from as opposed to focusing on where they were traveling to, Eretz Yisrael? Why focus on where they had already been instead of focusing on where they were going? Is it not more productive to focus on what we still have the ability to change instead of dwelling on the past?
HaMalbim explains that while the destination where Benei Yisrael was headed was special and significant, it is more important for to remember where they had come from, to survey their journey and to witness their growth, to learn from the perils of their trajectories and to gain strength from their triumphs. The Torah HaKedosha saw it imperative to tell us that Benei Yisrael came from Egypt in order for us to witness their growth and be inspired to do likewise. From our past experiences we may begin to cultivate the type of people we will be in the future.
The Ba’al Shem Tov explains that the 42 journeys that Benei Yisrael took in the desert reflect the 42 journeys that a person has in their lifetime. While on the topic of ‘Shem Tov’, I feel that it is important to mention the importance of the lifelong journey that the Sadik Shahin Shemuel Chai Ben Hadassah V’Daniel, who also had such a Shem Tov. Sometimes in life, we have to stop to consider where we came from in order to be able to progress forward. It is the character and deeds of this wonderful man that we must internalize to allow ourselves to become better people and closer to HaKadosh Barukh Hu. His 42 journeys were not easy ones, but they have surely illuminated the paths of the journeys of those around him, leading the way.
I wish to express my love and condolences to his family who are so strong and never cease to inspire me or anybody else who may cross their paths. They truly bear the Shem Tov they were given. May his legacy live on through you all.
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh,
Ariella Samimi

Friday, July 22, 2011

Parashat Matot

Parashat Matot

Please learn in zekhut of the Refua Shelema of Sara Bat Morvarid, Yehezkel Ben Morvarid, Shahin Shmuel Chai Ben Hadassah and Mordehai Ben Iran. Also for the iluy Neshama of Yehuda Ben Ita Ester and Yaakov Ben Mazaltov. Thank you! Tizku lemissvot rabot!
Parashat Matot recounts the war that Benei Yisrael waged against Midian, resisting the efforts of both Moab and Midian to tempt the men of Benei Yisrael into illicit relationships with their women in the hopes that they would come to worship their diety, baal peor. It is understandable why HaKadosh Barukh Hu would want his children to fight against Midian, but why wasn’t Moab also included? Why did HaShem instruct us only to fight the Midianim if the Moabite women were protagonists in the story of Benei Yisrael’s demise?
One reason is that HaShem Yitbarakh prohibits war against Moab because they descend from Lot and are brothers of Benei Yisrael. Rav Zvi Leshem says in the name of Mai HaShiloach that Midian represents dimyon, imagination or illusion. Sometimes, imagination can be a good thing; it is the faculty by which we can transcend reality and enter higher spiritual realms, at times leading to prophecy. Our power to imagine can also bring us closer to HaKadosh Barukh Hu. So why would Midian have any correlation to such a positive feature of the world we live in? Why should the concept of dimyon be looked down upon?
Chazal teach us that, “No one ever sins unless a foolish spirit, ruach shtut, enters him.” What is this foolish spirit? HaKadosh Barukh Hu created this world in order to have a dwelling place in the lower realm, interacting with his creations. He instilled inside each of us the free will to serve Him. We have the choice in how to approach our relationship with our Creator; however, we must ensure that we are not misguided by illusions. In the Kabbalah our world is called alma d’shikra, the world of illusions. Sometimes, we may feel the illusion is that has vehelilah, HsShem may not really present in our lives, that He may be distant from us or inexistent. This is the spirit of foolishness that brings us to sin. This is the very spirit of illusion that brought Benei Yisrael to sin with the Midianim and the children of Moab.
The yesser hara, evil inclination, uses this very mentality in order to cause us to sin. Rebbe Nachman even called the yesser hara the koah hamidameh, the power of illusion. The yesser hara employs the power of our imagination to make us believe that we are actually doing the right thing while we are in fact blindly and sadly committing a grave sin.  Rav Tzaddok writes that we are sometimes convinced that a sin is actually a missva. The Rebbe Rashab teaches in Kuntress U’Maayan that we are often deluded into thinking that even if we transgress a little it won’t really impact upon our relationship with HaShem. We must keep ourselves in check from falling into such a snare. Do not become your own worst enemy.
The antidote to falling to our self-created illusions is to realize in front of whom whe are standing; shiviti HaShem lenegdi tamid, ‘to place God in the forefront of our consciousness’ as Rav Leshem says. When we really internalize the constant presence of HaKadosh Barukh Hu in our lives and grasp a firm reality of it instead of being trapped in our intangible thoughts and imaginations, we can finally become liberated from the shackles of our own minds and from the force of dimyon that can bring us to sin.
I pray that HaKadosh Barukh Hu endows each of us the koah to overcome our greatest adversary, not Midian, but our own minds and to connect to Him with our most powerful faculty; our own minds. May we have the clarity to recognize sin and immorality when we face it and to indulge ourselves only with the good that HaShem, in His infinite mercy has put into this world.
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!!
Ariella Samimi

Friday, July 15, 2011

Parashat Pinhas

Please learn in zekhut of the Refua Shelema of Sara Bat Morvarid, Yehezkel Ben Morvarid, Shahin Shmuel Chai Ben Hadassah and Mordehai Ben Iran. Also for the iluy Neshama of Yehuda Ben Ita Ester and Yaakov Ben Mazaltov. Thank you! Tizku lemissvot rabot!
Parashat Pinhas recounts how Pinhas zealously stabs Cozbi and Zimri, a Midianit woman and a member of Am Yisrael during a public impious act. The Parasha opens with HaShem’s promise to Pinhas and every generation that comes from him a convenant of Peace, Shalom and the guarantee that they will be a family of Kohanim for eternity. What was so special about Pinhas’ murderous act that he merited to such a berakha? Why when Moshe Rabbenu hit the rock, an inanimate object did he lose his merit to enter Eres Yisrael, something he had been looking forward to his entire life, but when Pinhas violently MURDERS two individuals in public, he is guaranteed eternal peace and honor? How did rage and murder bring Pinhas and his family eternal Shalom?
When Pinhas witnessed the immorality going on around him, he took matters into his own hands and in the defense of HaShem’s name and killed the couple during the act. By doing so, Pinhas wished to bring peace onto Am Yisrael and stop the ongoing plague around him. This is why he merited to enter a covenant of Peace with HaKadosh Barukh Hu; he consecrated the name of HaShem. To stress this idea further, HaKadosh Barukh Hu, in his infinite wisdom, inserts the seemingly random episode of the transferring of power from Moshe Rabbenu to Yehoshua in this very Parasha. Moshe Rabbenu did not merit to enter Eres Yisrael because when he hit the rock to bring forth water instead of speaking to it as he was commanded, he did not consecrate the name of HaShem in front of the entire congregation of Am Yisrael, while Pinhas did.
We learn from Pinhas the importance of actively making peace and not passively letting things remain peaceful. Sometimes, we believe ourselves to be the pinnacle of peace, the epitome of kindess because we do not enter arguments with others or because we are not angry people. But do we seek peace? Do we go around looking for reasons to bring Shalom unto us and those around us? It is always easy for us to be good with those that are good. The true test lies in how we deal with those that are not so good or those who do not act in the way which we want them too. Do we have patience with them? Do we act with kindness? Do we ‘hit’ them or do we speak to them softly? Just because the situation around us is peaceful, it does not mean that we are beholders of peace.
We must constantly engage in deep introspection and bring forth to realization how ACTIVELY peaceful we ourselves are as people. We must always analyze our actions, speech, and thought to determine how much peace we actually seek and how much peace simply finds us. May HaKadosh Barukh Hu bless us with the koah and the clarity to achieve peace by taking matters into our own hands like Pinhas did and to perpetuate this Shalom as was done with Pinhas.
Wishing everybody a Shabbat SHALOM!
Ariella Samimi

Friday, July 8, 2011

Parashat Balak

Please learn in the zekhut of the Refuah Shelema Bekarov of Sarah bat Morvarid and Shahin Shemuel Chai ben Hadassah. Thank you! Tizku lemissvot rabot!

Parashat Balak opens with the episode where Balak, the king of Moab requests of Bilaam, a renowned prophet, to curse Benei Yisrael because he believed them to be a threat to his nation. Three times does Bilaam attempt to curse Benei Yisrael, and three times does HaKadosh Barukh Hu put only blessings in Bilaam’s mouth. It came to a point where Bilaam and his donkey were stopped on the way by an angel holding a sword, threatening to kill them. Bilaam’s donkey even began to speak, chastising him.
My question here, and it is a fundamental one, is why did HaShem give the other nations the power of prophecy? Why would Bilaam even have the power to bless and curse in the first place? HaKadosh Barukh Hu, in His infinite wisdom, donned the privilege of prophecy on a representative of the goyim so that they may serve Him. How so? When the other nations see that Benei Yisrael have prophets, they may justify not doing the missvot  (the seven that they have) by the fact that they do not have a prophetic leader, giving the excuse that Benei Yisrael follow the missvot through the connection they have with HaShem; a Navi, a prophet. When Bilaam was given this privilage, he abused it. If HaKadoh Barukh Hu gave him this G-dly right, they should he not have used it to serve the very G-d that gave it to him? Instead, he used it to curse. What he did not realize is that, if HaShem gave him this power, then of course, the same HaShem can control it! When Bilaam tried to curse Am Yisrael, it only turned into a sweet blessing.
Sometimes, we tend to utilize our G-dly gifts for the wrong things. If we understand where our talents, opportunities and our potential come from, we will realize what to use them for. HaKadosh gives us every single tool and faculty we need in order to serve Him. We just need to identify them. Once we do, we are able to maximize our potential and turn any seeming curses into absolute blessing by connecting to our ultimate Creator. Every single person is gifted with a separate set of ‘tools’. This is why we are all so different. This is also why one should never want what his fellow has. Sometimes, we forget who we are and try so hard to be somebody else. But we do not realize that in attempting to do so we will not be successful at being either one. Be good at what you are, excel in your own dominion,For the moment you give up the essence of who you are, you will forget who you used to be. And when you need very much so to access your inner self, to recall facilities entitled to only you, you will find that as much as you search, as loud as you scream, you will never find what you call for; you simply left nobody there inside to listen. We must embrace wholly who we are and work only to strengthen the gifts that we have been blessed with. Be’ezrat HaShem we should all have the koah and clarity to identify what our G-d given gifts are and to use them for all the right reasons bringing only blessings onto our lives and the lives of those around us.
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh! I hope it is special, just like you are!
Ariella Samimi

Friday, July 1, 2011

Parashat Hukat

Please learn in the zekhut of the Refuah Shelema Bekarov of Sarah bat Morvarid and Shahin Shemuel Chai ben Hadassah. Thank you! Tizku lemissvot rabot!
Parashat Hukat takes its name after the hok of Para Adumah. A hok is a missva given to us that seems not to have an explanation, that seems to lack a motive.  Some missvot, like sedaka, have a logical reason behind them; these are called mishpatim. Others, like sha’atnez and Parah Adumah, may seem confusing to considering that we may not understand their purpose while we are doing them; these are called hukim. Even if we do not understand why we are doing them, we must execute these hukim to the best of our ability exactly as HaKadosh Barukh Hu instructs us to without compromising or rationalizing any part of the missva. Sometimes, we may not feel that the motive of the missva is important enough and we tend to overlook certain details or the entire missva altogether; this is arrogant thinking. By doing so, we are implying that we know better, that it is our mentality that is correct, that our actions are the epitome of the missva. Although we do not understand the workings behind the missva of Parah Adumah, it is the highest form of purification of Am Yisrael.
When Miriam Haneviah passes away, the Be’er Miram, the well that existed in her merit, ceased to provide water for Am Yisrael. When they began to complain to Moshe Rabbenu that they are thirsty, HaKadosh Barukh Hu instructs Moshe to speak to the rock with the motive of providing water for Am Yisrael to drink. Famously, Moshe strikes the rock instead of speaking to it. What happened here? Why was this the very reason why he was not allowed to enter Eress Yisrael? When Moshe Rabbenu was revealed the motive behind interacting with the rock, He dealt with the matter in order to reach the objective. He figured as long as the end product is acquired, I am able to do it my way. This showed a certain arrogance on Moshe Rabbenu’s behalf.  He told Am Yisrael ‘Nossi Lakhem Mayim’ , we will bring forth water for you. ‘We’ and not HaShem. Already, Moshe begins to take matters into his own hands, and this is where we find his fault.
Had Hakadosh Barukh Hu just instructed Moshe to speak to the rock without mentioning the cause, as odd as it may have seemed, would Moshe not have spoken to the rock? Surely, he would have. This is how we can view hukim. As unusual and uncomfortable as a commandment may seem, it can even serve to our benefit not to know the reason why we are doing them. Sometimes when we are not told exactly why we are do something, we are more inclined to do them correctly, as directed. If we knew the reason behind all the missvot, we would start to rationalize and compromise certain elements because we believe they may not be as important to us as they really are. Perhaps, this is why HaShems identity is concealed; if we knew who He was exactly, we would be less inclined to become closer to Him and serve Him impeccably.
Sometimes, it is not about WHY we do things, it is HOW we do them. Either way, Moshe Rabbenu’s goal was to draw water from the rock. The difference was in HOW he brought forth the water; the difference between speaking and hitting. At times, our intentions are pure, we want to do the right thing, but are we speaking softly or are we using a big stick? Do we do things the way we are supposed to, or are we taking the easy way out doing it our way? Do we do things to glorify the name of HaShem or are we doing the same exact thing but only for our name and fame?? HaKadosh Barukh Hu tells Moshe, ‘Ya’an lo he’emantem bi lehakdisheni’; by hitting the rock, you didn’t believe in me to sanctify my name. Although Moshe finally produced water from the rock, although the goal was achieved, He defeated the purpose of doing so; he did not glorify HaShem’s name. At times, we think we are properly executing the missvot, but we must ensure that we are not defeating its purpose! Are we making a Kiddush HaShem? Are we doing the missvot for the sake of becoming closer to our Creator? If we are doing the missvot for their true purpose, and not just to clear out consciences, we would never ask ‘Why?’
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom U’Mevorakh!!!!
Ariella Samimi