MidrESHET Hayil

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Parashat Re'eh


Parashat Re’eh

 ‘If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, [and he] says, "Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them," You shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the L-rd, your G-d, is testing you, to know whether you really love the L-rd, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul.’ (perek 13)

In Parashat Re’eh, HaKadosh Barukh Hu warns us not to trade in our commitment to Him for something perceived in a vision of the future. We are not to become slaves of the world around us based on extrapolations of time created only in our own minds. What do I mean?

Sometimes, we trade in what we have in our hands already because we think we will acquire something much greater later on based on what we are conditioned to think the future will be. This is what the pasuk is speaking about. We are warned not to exchange our love and commitment to HaShem based on a conclusion made about the future, even if it looks guaranteed to us, and logically proven to be so. Often times, we think we know what the future will be because it repetitively happened in the past. Just because something happened many times, by no means can we guarantee that life will continue to take that path. Past occurrences should not serve as an oracle for the future. This is the delusion by which the human mind is narrowed.

Think to yourself, HOW MANY TIMES DO WE GIVE UP WHAT WE HAVE TODAY BECAUSE WE THINK WE WILL HAVE A BETTER TOMORROW? How many times do we repress our ambitions, miss opportunities, and sacrifice precious time because we think we know what the future will be and shape our present day based on something that did not even happen yet? HaShem Yitbarakh warns us not to fall victim to this fabrication of the imagination; these are all tests coming from Him, and we must ensure that we pass them every time.

We cannot give up the opportunities we have TODAY because we are unsure of what will be tomorrow. Likewise, we cannot direct and mold our lives based on what we think the future will be. Think about it: we don’t know for sure if there is an Olam Habah (life after this world), does this stop us from doing missvot and becoming closer to our Creator and Master? It shouldn’t.

Like the false prophet, It is not our job to determine the future; we must only try to understand the present situation that we are given. We must loosen our grip and stop trying to be in control of things that do not lie in our hands. Just because we want our future to turn out a certain way does not mean by any means that it has to be so. This is something that we have to earnestly internalize. Do not ever allow your past of future to set a limit on your potential that you have today. If you want to achieve something, put your ENTIRE self into it and do it TODAY.

I often say that sometimes, life is like standing behind a glass window. We stand behind it observing the entire world, inspecting and analyzing and wanting to change things everywhere because we think that is how it will operate best. But as much as we scream and yell and jump up and down and wave our arms, NOBODY CAN HEAR US, nothing will change. After all, we are behind a glass wall, remember? Our time would be better spent pleasantly observing the passersby, maybe exchanging a smile, taking in what we can in order to better ourselves in order to become closer to HaShem Yitbarakh.

This is our test. How much Emunah do we have in HaShem that we stop trying to determine our futures and let Him take the lead? That even if we think we see signs and allusions, we close our eyes but open our hearts to what HaShem really wants for us. This is true love for HaShem. The pasuk says ‘with all your heart and all our soul’; NOT with your mind. We don’t need to do any calculations. HaShem tells us with our hands we should kill that prophet who pretends he knows what the future is and based on that tries to change your commitments; somebody who lives their life that way is deserving of death.

Remember, don't ever make today the collateral for tomorrow; there will always be a tomorrow, but you will never get your collateral of today back. Don’t make today tomorrow's yesterday before the day passes. Just live in the moment and break away all shackles of time that we tend to be bound by. Every second is an opportunity to grow.
Be’ezrat HaShem may we all have the clarity to realize this and the strength to internalize this.
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!
Ariella Samimi

Friday, August 19, 2011

Parashat Ekeb

Parashat Ekeb reveals to us both sides of HaKadosh Barukh Hu; His attribute of Mercy (Rahamim) and His attribute of Justice (Din). The Parasha opens with a list of bountiful blessing we will be given if we follow the Missvot by 'circumcising out hearts' and lowering our egos in order to accept HaShem's guiding Hand in our lives. However, the Torah HaKedosha warns us, should we begin to think that the wealth and land that we amass are a product of our own effort and strength, should we exemplify such arrogance, then HaShem Yitbarakh will have no choice but to expose his attribute of Judgment.

So, how are we able avoid the strict Judgment of Ribono Shel Olam, HaShem, and to be nourished instead by His Mercy and Kindness?

We must first understand how this world runs. HaKadosh Barukh Hu operates this world on two systems; the system of nature and the system of the supernatural. The system of nature runs by 'cause-and-effect'. If I plant a seed, it will grow. If I throw a rock to the sky, it is sure to fall back down. Under this system, there will always be a specific (and almost expected) reaction to every action. This is the system by which we derive reward and punishment. If you do something good, you will be rewarded as a result. If you do something not so good, you can expect a punishment. This is called Justice; HaShem's attribute of Judgment.

The system of the supernatural does not run under the same concept. If we are able to elevate ourselves from the mundane happenings in life, if we are able to sanctify our daily activities, if we are able to humble ourselves before HaShem Yitbarakh and finally accept that He is our Master, our Father, and our Creator then we can rise to a level where we are not judged but rather accommodated. As long as our hearts are in the right place, even if we mess up from time to time, HaShem will understand and only help us to grow.

This is why the prelude to the Shema in this Parasha explains to us that we are leaving Egypt, a land where we had to plant seeds and water them in order to have sustenance and going to a land where water falls from the Heavens (as is stated in the pasuk). We are leaving a place (physically AND spiritually) which was run by cause-and-effect, which was subject to Midat HaDin (the attribute of justice) and turning to somewhere above nature, where we can obtain unexpected things, things greater that we deserve, because it is reigned by Midat HaRahamim, the attribute of Mercy.

Our job in life is to transcend the system of nature and to tap into the system of the supernatural. In order to do that, we must live the paradox that lowering oneself really elevates a person and that sincere submission brings true freedom. Be'ezrat HaShem may we all have the clarity to realize and internalize this and the koach to execute it. May we all become the supernatural beings that we are meant to be.
Wishing everybody a supernatural Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh!
Ariella Samimi

Friday, August 12, 2011

Parashat VaEt'hanan

Parashat VaEt'hanan

Parashat VaEt'hanan derives it names from the word Hinun (pronounced by some as 'Chinun'), which translates as 'a gratuitous gift'. Zalman Watman explains that Moshe Rabbenu pleaded with Hashem to enter the Land of Israel and he pleaded not in the manner of entitlement but in earnest supplication. Moshe did not cite his many good deeds in his appeal; he humbly asked for Hashem's grace. We can learn much about prayer from Moshe Rabbeinu. We need to appeal to the Master of the Universe humbly and as his true servants. We cannot demand things because we think we may deserve them, we must humbly ask for them just as Moshe Rabbenu did. If we feel that our tefillot were not answered, we must continue to humbly and properly ask HaKadosh Barukh Hu for what it is we are praying for. We also must understand that sometimes, the answer can be No. Further along, our Parsha reviews the Ten Commandments, Shema, prohibition of intermarriage and other foundations for living a Jewish life. The first pasuk of the Shema commands us to love HaKadosh Barukh Hu; 've'Ahavta et HaShem Elokekha'. What exactly is Ahavat HaShem? HaRambam explains to us that we must first learn about HaShem Yitbarakh so deeply until we truly grasp His essence, not just learning ABOUT Him, but learning HIM, until all we do is literally think and breathe HaShem every moment, until HaShem is on our mind and integrated into our actions. Perhaps this is why the missva of Tefillin is mentioned in this Parasha. Men place a crown on their heads and are bound at their arms to signify that we must encompass our thoughts (tefillin of the head) and our actions (tefillin shel yad; tefillin of the hand) around HaShem Yitbarakh.
This is where being a Biology nerd comes in. Interestingly, where men place their tefillin, it is over a part of the brain called the prefrontal cortex (PFC) which is associated with judgment and making decisions. Studies show that women and men's prefrontal cortex operate differently. While the male PFC operates on a more simple basis (calculations/cost- benefit) the womans PFC processes protential reward, regulating worry and error-detection, which is one step forward (no offense guys). When men place their tefillin on each morning, they are placing emphasis on the nucleus of judgement and decision making so that each decision they make that day should be leshem shamayim. Furthermore, according to the kabbalah, the midsection of the head reflects din (judgement) and the sides are symbolic of rahamim (mercy). This further demonstrates the correlation between the prefrontal section of the head and the attribute of judgement.
May HaKadosh Barukh Hu always judge us with Mercy and not Judgement and may we come to truly love Him and understand Him to do His Will, Amen!
Wishing you a lovely Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh!!
Ariella Samimi

Friday, August 5, 2011

Parashat Devarim

Parashat Devarim

Sefer Devarim, also referred to as Mishneh Torah, opens with Moshe Rabbenu’s gentle rebuke of Benei Yisrael and then continues to encapsulate the missvot mentioned in the previous four sefarim of the Torah HaKedosha. Why would HaKadish Barukh Hu commence the final book of the Torah with rebuke? Wouldn’t we be less inclined to take heed to the missvot that follow? What is the purpose of beginning the ‘final statement’ on a rather negative note?
                First, let us examine the nature of Moshe Rabbenu’s criticism of Benei Yisrael. If we look closely, we may realize that a central point in Moshe’s rebuke is the lack of Emunah on Benei Yisrael’s behalf. They wanted to take matters into their own hands instead of allowing HaKadosh Barukh Hu to guide them to their destination just as He promised to Avraham, Yiss’hak and Ya’akob and their offspring to follow. In their skepticism, Benei Yisrael ask Moshe Rabbenu to send spies to scout out the land in order to ensure for themselves that the land would be ready for their arrival. ‘The took in their hands the fruits of the land’ and determined for themselves ‘The land that HaShem our GD gives us is good.’
As if they needed to send spies to prove that.
Even after their own judgment that the land is good, Benei Yisrael still accuse HaShem Yitbarakh of bringing them out to the desert to die because of His hate for them. One must ask, WHERE IS THEIR EMUNAH? They just saw for themselves the bountiful good that HaShem is giving them straight into their hands! But it continues….
Moshe Rabbenu tells them that HaKadosh Barukh Hu has been protecting them all along with miracles, with the Clouds of Glory during the day and the Pillar of Fire at night, He has been carrying them like a father carries his son and yet ‘ainekhem ma’aminim ba’HaShem Elokeikhem’; you are not believing in HaShem your GD. WHERE is their Emunah?
HaKadosh Barukh Hu specifically instructs Benei Yisrael NOT to wage war with the Emori telling them ‘Do not rise and do not fight, because I am not in your midst’. HaShem tells them directly not to go and yet, they do not listen. They think they know best and take matters into their own hands. They fail miserably. Even so, they repeat this episode with Benei Essav. They fail again.
This is why HaShem in His infinite wisdom preludes the missvot in Sefer Devarim with chastise; He wants to tell us that without the proper Emunah, our missvot have no meaning. Sometimes we think we know what is best for us and want to take full control of our lives and destiny. But this is no way to live. Has ve’Halilah we may fail over and over again just like Benei Yisrael did in the midbar. Only after we strengthen our Emunah can we begin to execute the missvot. Only after we understand that HaShem knows best, and it is because of his LOVE for us that he instructs us to follow the missvot are we even deserving to keep them. Sometimes we have to let go in order to be able to latch on to HaShem Yitbarakh. May we all have the koah and Emunah to do so and thus to bring forth the coming of Mashiah Be’meherah Bayamenu, Amen!
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!
Ariella Samimi