MidrESHET Hayil

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shabbat Shuva Parashat Ha'azinu


Shabbat Shuva- Parashat Ha’Azinu

7. Remember the days of old; reflect upon the years of [other] generations. Ask your father, and he will tell you; your elders, and they will inform you.

ז. זְכֹר יְמוֹת עוֹלָם בִּינוּ שְׁנוֹת דּוֹר וָדוֹר שְׁאַל אָבִיךָ וְיַגֵּדְךָ זְקֵנֶיךָ וְיֹאמְרוּ לָךְ:
         (The Torah HaKedosha, Chabad.org)

The Shabbat before Yom Kippur is known as Shabbat Shuva based on the Haftara that we read in Sefer Hoshea that begins with the pasuk ‘Shuva Yisrael Ad Hashem Elokecha.’  Rav Hida (Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1806) explains to us to take extra caution on this Shabbat Kodesh not to speak of secular topics nor to engage in idle conversation in order for our upcoming year to be elevated and truly Kadosh like we make our Shabbat to be. Instead, we should engross ourselves in Limud Torah and Divrei Torah and surround ourselves with Kedusha.
This Shabbat is the optimal time to look into ourselves and to calculate a ‘heshbon Nefesh’ in order to come to do Teshuva before Yom Kippur.

So how do we do this Teshuva?

With Teshuva comes the spirit of change and transformation.  Rabbi Shemuel Bornstein, (a Hassid who lived in Poland in the late 19th century), makes a chidush on the word ‘years’ in the pasuk above from this week’s Parasha. In Lashon HaKodeshשְׁנוֹת  means ‘years’, but he points out, as Ibn Ezra explains, that the root of this very word, in fact the same exact word also means ‘change’. He reads the verse like this: ‘reflect upon the changes of (other) generations.’

We learn from here that in order to cultivate our future, we must first look into our past and consider where we came from. By doing this, we acknowledge where we might have went wrong and express the desire to change. Introspection should become a turning point in our lives and a point of departure for our Teshuva. The first step is to WANT it. When we internalize the severity of our past actions and ADMIT them, brushing off all denial, this should compel us to commit never to repeat this action, thought, or speech again.

There is a mashal where there is a father and a son who have not seen each other for a long period of time. One day, the son spots his father at the other end of a long road walking at a leisurely pace and begins to feel excited just thinking of the love his father has for him and how it would feel to finally be in his embrace. And so, he begins to pick up the pace. The father, seeing the passion in his son’s eyes isn’t going to just stand there, he’s going to start walking towards his boy faster! The boy sees his father drawing closer and becomes more encouraged, he begins to run!! Would it make sense for the father to continue walking at his normal pace? No way! He is going to run faster to match his son with his arms wide open! He is finally going to be able to hold his son after all that distance. As the father picks up speed, so does his son, until they meet in embrace.

We are the son. When HaKadosh Barukh Hu sees that we take the first step, He takes a step towards us. If we start to run closer, HaShem runs as well! It all depends on us. If we decide to commit, HaShem Yitbarakh is already standing there for us waiting. He guarantees to match us, we just decide at what speed. Once we decide that we want to decrease the distance between us and our Father, HaKadosh Barukh assures us that we don’t even have to run the entire length, He will meet us halfway! Not only that, but we are guaranteed His commitment to us as well, as long as we take the initiative and show sincere effort.  He is always standing there with His arms wide open for us. Run to Him!

Sometimes, we can think to ourselves that the most technologically advanced age is the one with the most accomplishments but ‘reflecting the changes’ in the generations past is a humbling experience. ‘Perhaps the spiritual accomplishments of the previous generation were even greater than our own. We should humbly reflect on both the faults and achievements of those who came before us, and ask ourselves if we’ve really worked on improving the faults and living up to the achievements’ says Rabbi Neal.

This is especially important to think about during this year’s time of introspection, but we can also understand this midrash in a different direction too. Perhaps ‘reflecting the changes of the generations’ means that we can reflect on the potential for change in every generation, explains Rabbi Neal, in the future. An essential aspect of Judaism is the notion that people are never ‘stuck’ on a specific spiritual level. There is always  opportunity for change, growth, forgiveness, reconciliation, and return to our best selves. Are these not all elements of Teshuva?
On this “Shabbat of Returning,” we might understand Moshe’s song as not only urging us to consider the mistakes of the past and learn accordingly, but also to consider that the past does not necessarily predetermine the future; it is very much in our hands. This is the beauty of Teshuva; based on the past, we are able to change our futures. The time has come for you to decide before Yom Kippur whether or not you will learn and grow from your past or if chas veShalom you will repeat those same mistakes. May HaKadosh Barukh Hu bless us with the clarity to always make the right choices and with the initiative to engage in sincere Teshuva and change ourselves for the better.

Wishing you a beautiful Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh and a Shana Tova!
Ketiva ve’Hatima Tova to all!

Ariella Samimi

Monday, September 26, 2011

Rosh HaShana is Here, Decide Who You Want to be this Year

As we approach Rosh HaShana, I would like to share with you a shiur I once heard from Rav Lazer Brody shlita, student of Rav Shalom Arush shlita, disciple of Rabbi Nahman miBreslev alav haShalom.

I want to introduce you to a concept I call FEELosophy; the effects of our thoughts and philosophies on our feelings and the reciprocal. Rabbi Brody explained to us that if you take the same letters in the word בשמחה, which means ‘with happiness’, they also spell the word מחשבה, ‘thought’. How we think is how we feel, our very emotions are lodged in our thought. To FEEL happy, we must THINK happy. This lends us strong insight on how to acquire happiness but also on how to attain the proper mindset to carry us throughout life. The harmony of our feelings with our thoughts is the very faculty that will allow us to actualize our potential. You should be surprised to know that human beings use only about ten percent of their full potential. Even within the brightest and most diligent individuals, ninety percent of their potential lays dormant. This is a scary thought. Just imagine what the world would be like if people woke up and actually used one hundred percent of the potential they were endowed with! Mamash it would be the difference between heaven and earth. The question begs to be asked; WELL, HOW DO WE REACH OUR FULL POTENTIAL? Think about how different this past year would have went had we been equipped with the secret behind this question.

Rabbi Nahman and his followers not only stress Emunah in HaKadosh Barukh Hu (Garden of Emunah, read it!) but they also emphasize Emunah in the SELF! Only when one has faith in their own abilities can they use this as a point of departure for growth. Self doubt will only serve as an impediment to any potential growth in an individual. If you want others to believe in you, if you want HaKadosh Barukh Hu to believe in you, the first and fundamental step is to believe in yourself. If you truly want something, nothing should ever stop you from getting it. This means do not conform. Once you conform to another’s standards, you are also taking upon yourself the limits they have set for themselves (whether or not intentionally). Be and accept yourself. How do you know the lengths you could reach? Maybe you can reach even farther places than anybody before you has! Just don’t ever let anybody set a bar for what you can reach instead of you. Even if they set it high, who says you cannot reach higher?? Set your own standards.

Always look at the things you have accomplished and move on from there, do not dwell on what you think you ‘failed’. Concentrate on your positive attributes and thrive from this, do not let what you think you are lacking to bring you down. Every person was created as a complete ‘package’. They are given the specific tools they need to fulfill their mission. HaShem makes it possible. Realizing and internalizing this cuts out any jealously we may feel towards others. We are each given our own job to accomplish in this world. If we waste our time worrying and wanting what another has, will we ever fulfill our own job? Will we ever reach our full potential? Jealousy only causes one to remain stagnant and chas veShalom even to regress. We still stand in the same place we started except now, we are also consumed with ill feelings as well. My friends, each one of us has our own talents and abilities that nobody else has. Something that comes naturally to you may be something that another person has strived their entire lives to attain. Nobody ever has ‘everything’; they don’t need it. Would it help a carpenter to have the most technologically advanced dentistry tools in his tool box? Absolutely not. What would he ever need them for? Did you ever think, maybe you don’t need the wealth your neighbor has or the beauty your friend was gifted with. Maybe your smile is your most personal and powerful tool in the box. Use that to its maximum capacity and use it well. If we are always trying to be somebody else, then WHEN ARE WE GOING TO BE ABLE TO BE OURSELVES? Not only will we not be successful at being ourselves but we won’t become the other person either, we are not given their tools! You would just be stuck between two incomplete people. In attempting to be another person, 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

A quote by Albert Einstein beautifully captures this idea. “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” It is your job to realize what your tafkid is. Do you need to swim to get there or to climb? You decide.

Now that you understand that you have your OWN specific job with you own personalized set of facilities to accomplish this job, hone in on your tools and talents and develop them. Infuse them with heart and passion and just go for it! Be the best person YOU were destined to be! The only person that can be the best version of yourself is you. I thank Judy Garland for the quote (yes I realize she is a goya but hey, that was her mission in life):  ‘Be a first rate version of yourself, not a second rate version of someone else.’ And that is exactly what we must do this year.

Rav Brody explained to us, during his experience in the army, as soon as a mission was given, it was completed before it even began. In their minds, the end goal of the mission was a set reality, they just had to decide how they will get there. A building was determined to be destroyed as part of the mission. Even before then strapped their boots on and loaded their guns, this building was theoretically destroyed; there was no uncertainty whatsoever that it would not be. Now, they only had to decide on the most effective way to accomplish this mission. Would they walk or would they fly? Would they need to swim to get there or would they climb?

As soon as you get a mission order, it is already completed. Just, how will you implement it? Set your goal, then approach it. Think about what you want to be then direct yourself to there. You must complete your mission, there is no turning back; we can only move forward here. Think to yourself of where you want to be in five years from now and then GO GET IT. Don’t just let the five years go by and then observe what you’ve settled into. Define and decide what you want your reality to be and then just actualize it, with your goal always in mind. This will lend you much direction in life. An archer can stand all day shooting arrows at a given field. He can shoot a thousand finely crafted arrows at a target but as long as he fails to hit the ‘bullseye’, even if he was successful at making a geometrically perfect circle around it, he has not completed his task. Don’t just drift into the general direction of where you think you will be comfortable in life; you have not accomplished anything this way. Hit the target. Make the mark.

It is now that we stand at the beginning of the year that we must decide what and where we want to be at the year’s end. As we stand at this end, we peer all the way to the other end and what is it we see? What are our goals we hope to accomplish? Who do we strive to be? This requires us to know who we are now and involves deep introspection. As Rosh HaShana arrives, answer these questions to yourself honestly. Make the resolution NOW for who you wish to be LATER. Once all the guesswork is done, all that is left is to get up and actually do it. Identify your capabilities so that you can achieve them. Don’t ever forget that HaKadosh Barukh Hu loves you unconditionally and is here to guide us through every step of the way. We are not alone.

I daven that beSiyata diShemaya every single one of us should be zokhe to maximize and to reach our full potential in life. May we appreciate all the gifts that HaShem blessed us with as tools to improve ourselves and the world around us and in this zekhut may we pass all our nissayonot with ease and meaning. May we be given the clarity and the koah to pursue our tafkid in life and to be successful at doing so. May each of life’s experiences bring us and those around us only closer to HaKadosh Barukh Hu. May each moment, day, and year be better than the one before and may they be filled with unconditional happiness and love. May our years be blessed with an abundance of health, happiness, prosperity, inner peace, clarity, patience, love, and understanding, strength and inspiration. May we all share in so many of each other’s Ssemahot this year and every year to come. May it be a year of spiritual growth and closeness to HaShem Yitbarakh. May we be written and signed in Sefer haHayim favorably. May we always make HaKadosh Barukh Hu, our Father, proud of us, His children. May we all live lives of purpose and of substance. May we all be zokhe to do a Teshuva Shelema before HaShem Yitbarakh and in this merit to bring Mashiah Bimeherah Beyamenu and to rebuild our Home in Yerushalayim bekarov, Amen!

Wishing everybody a beautiful upcoming year! Shana Tova!

Ariella Samimi

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Parashat Nissavim-Vayelekh

Parashat Nissavim-Vayelekh

11. For this commandment which I command you this day, is not concealed from you, nor is it far away.
יא. כִּי הַמִּצְוָה הַזֹּאת אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לֹא נִפְלֵאת הִוא מִמְּךָ וְלֹא רְחֹקָה הִוא:
12. It is not in heaven, that you should say, "Who will go up to heaven for us and fetch it for us, to tell [it] to us, so that we can fulfill it?"
יב. לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם הִוא לֵאמֹר מִי יַעֲלֶה לָּנוּ הַשָּׁמַיְמָה וְיִקָּחֶהָ לָּנוּ וְיַשְׁמִעֵנוּ אֹתָהּ
As we approach Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur, Parashat Nissavim offers us the appropriate hizuk and mussar (encouragement and discipline) that we need in order to acquire the proper mindset and initiative while entering these Holy Days. Visualize the ENITRE Am Yisrael, every man, woman and child, all congregated in front of HaKadosh Barukh Hu, Moshe Rabbenu as their intermediary. After an entire forty years spent together, Moshe and Benei Yisrael have finally reached their journey's end. Moshe offers his final words to prepare Benei Yisrael for entering Eres Yisrael. These are the words he wants them to have in mind and keep at heart all of their days. After their slavery in Egypt, after their geula (exodus), after receiving the Torah HaKedosha and after the forty years that proceeded, this is the message he wants the Children of HaShem to take with them; THE TORAH IS WITHIN OUR REACH.
In perek lamed (perek 30), Moshe Rabbenu affirms to Benei Yisrael, the Torah is not an intangible force that exists in the Heavens; it is right here! In our hands! The missvot are all in our grasp. We are given the capability and the potential to attain every level the Torah offers to us. We just have to seize it. And look! It is not concealed and it isn’t even far away as the pasuk says. It literally exists among us.
HaKadosh Barukh Hu reaffirms this in the Parasha:

14. Rather,[this] thing is very close to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can fulfill it.יד. כִּי קָרוֹב אֵלֶיךָ הַדָּבָר מְאֹד בְּפִיךָ וּבִלְבָבְךָ לַעֲשֹׂתוֹ:
Moshe warns us not to throw our responsibilities onto another to say ‘the Torah is an esoteric and mysterious text that I will never understand. Who can I find to teach it to me, and who even says I will understand its’ deep hidden secrets? There is nobody to simplify it for me. ’ Moshe warns us to take heed to this attitude for it is not correct. We cannot and should not EVER depend on another person when it comes to doing any missvah nor should we depend on others in regards to our special relationship with HaKadosh Barukh Hu. It is up to you and ONLY you. There are no excuses.
Now think about it. WHAT IS STOPPING YOU? Is it your job? Your friends? Your honor? Are you embarrassed? Just remember, THE RELATIONSHIP THAT MATTERS MOST IN THIS WORLD IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH HAKADOSH BARUKH HU. All else is secondary and only a tool by which to serve HaShem Yitbarakh. It is better to look like a fool your ENTIRE life in front of others (but be doing the right thing) than to look like a fool in front of HaShem Yitbarakh for even one moment. We must realize, absolutely everything in our lives comes from HaShem, not from the people that surround us. HaShem is the Source for all and to Him we must turn.
We could do this the ‘rational’ way for those who prefer this approach. There are two ways to view our existence in regards to our Master. Either HaShem exists or He doesn’t, right? There are no other possibilities, there is no half deity here. And we know the former is true and that the concept that HaShem exists is more true than it is false. And if He exists, it is one hundred percent (HaShem can’t exist only seventy five percent). So we can agree here that HaKadosh Barukh Hu definitely exists. Now, if we know FULLY that HaShem exists, then why is our commitment to Him only PARTIAL? If I know who my boss definitely is, then every time he or she passes, I sit up right, tuck in my shirt, and work my hardest all in order to appeal to him/her. I work overtime, brew their coffee to impeccability and even offer to pick his/her kids up from school; I am fully committed to the human who provides my salary because I know in my heart and mind that this person exists. Is HaShem not our Boss?? We just rationally proved and agreed that HaKadosh Barukh Hu exists. Where is my full commitment to Him?
I understand there is a fear of failure here and this may lead us to give up before we even try, and that is completely normal. Just know, if you truly want it and show the effort, HaShem will make it possible for you. Just take the first step. I have personally encountered this Mercy of HaShem Yitbarakh many times. It is said, Pit’hu li petah ke’huda shel mahat, ve’Ani eftah lakhem pit’ho shel ulam. Open for Me even the smallest hole like that of a needle, and then HaKadosh Barukh Hu will take care of the rest and open for us a large opening like that of a great hall. It just takes a little bit of sincere effort; we don’t have to take on the world at once.

Parashat Nissavim reassures us, the Torah HaKedosha is not floating somewhere in the cosmos nor is it trapped between the stratospheres of the sky.
My friends, our Torah is not hovering in the heavens; it is within our own personal reach. I pray HaKadosh Barukh Hu grant us all that extra boost we need in order to grasp it and to internalize the Kedusha of the Torah and all its teachings each according to our own personal way.
Wishing everybody a wondrous Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh! Considering this is the final Shabbat Kodesh before Rosh HaShana, let us make it extra special, meaningful, and truly Kadosh. Whether we keep hilkhot Shabbat more strictly, buy beautiful flowers for our family, sing with extra passion at the Shabbat table, invite more guests over or share that one extra Devar Torah (ehemm), DO IT! WE HAVE ONE MORE WEEK TO BE THE BEST PERSON WE CAN POSSIBLY BE, SHABBAT KODESH IS THE BEST TIME TO START!!
Kol Tuv!
Ariella Samimi

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Parashat Ki Tavo


Parashat Ki Tavo

Please learn, make berakhot, and do missvot for the Refua Shelema of Rivka bat Sarah Raizel

Parashat Ki Tavo relays to us the conditions by which HaKadosh Barukh Hu bestows upon s an abundance of blessings and those by which has veShalom one can be deserving of curses. Considering this is my brother’s Bar Missva Parasha, I thought I was familiar enough with the text until I reached the end of the Parasha, where I encountered a pasuk that set me somewhat aback. As we know, Sefer Devarim is a culmination of the forty years in the desert and Moshe offers Benei Yisrael hizuk and warning in preparation for entering Eres Yisrael, which when thought of deeply, is not such an easy transition.

In perek 29, the pasuk states, in pasuk gimmel (3):
וְלֹא נָתַן יְ־הֹוָ־ה לָכֶם לֵב לָדַעַת וְעֵינַיִם לִרְאוֹת וְאָזְנַיִם לִשְׁמֹעַ עַד הַיּוֹם הַזֶּה

‘Yet until this day, the Lord has not given you a heart to know, eyes to see and ears to hear’

What does this even mean? Why would HaKadosh Barukh Hu withhold the senses most imperative to Benei Yisrael while they lived in a desert and choose to return it to them only after the forty year ordeal?!

I continued to delve into the perek. Two pesukim later I read:

לֶחֶם לֹא אֲכַלְתֶּם וְיַיִן וְשֵׁכָר לֹא שְׁתִיתֶם לְמַעַן תֵּדְעוּ כִּי אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם

You neither ate bread, nor drank new wine or old wine, in order that you would know that I am the Lord, your GD’.

This is the answer.

The nature of producing bread and wine will explain to us why it is that HaShem Yitbarakh feels the need to wait until Benei Yisrael enter Eres Yisrael in order to ‘flip back’ these senses within them. Why is this so significant? In order to make bread, it is a rather arduous task. The seeds must be planted and we must wait at least a year for the wheat to grow; the land must be maintained meanwhile. Once the wheat grows BeHasdei HaShem (through HaShem’s Kind acts), it must be harvested and then undergoes several processes until it is finally milled. Once it is milled into flour it must be made into dough and again, we must wait for it to rise and only then is it ready to be baked. Likewise, producing one’s own wine necessitates much human effort. Seeds must be planted, land maintained, and only after four years can we begin to use its fruit. After these four years of waiting, grapes must be picked and crushed until we derive a liquid from these grapes, but even then, we are still not done! We must wait for the wine to age.
These are both processes we do by the work of our own hands. These are means by which we must support our own selves. Or we can just have the mahn.

When Benei Yisrael were in the desert, they did not once have to worry about producing their own food (which evidently took long periods of time to accomplish) or exerting their own effort to sustain themselves; the mahn was instantly delivered to their tent every morning. Everything was provided to them, and they were strongly dependent on HaKadosh Barukh Hu to deliver their sustenance. The next pasuk states ‘I led you through the desert for forty years [during which time] your garments did not wear out from upon you, nor did your shoes wear out from upon your feet.’  The Torah HaKedosha tells us that HaShem purposely did not give bread and wine to Benei Yisrael in order so that they would know exactly where life comes from and who their GD is. We msyt realize, IT IS FROM HASHEM YITBARAKH THAT ALL LIFE AND SUSTENANCE COMES FORTH, NOT BY THE WORK OF OUR HANDS. It is the mahn from HaShem that gave us life in the desert, not the bread that we made by and for ourselves. After a forty year training period, Benei Yisrael is ready to enter Eres Yisrael, which was no longer a vacuum, but a ‘melting pot’ of seven other nations. Benei Yisrael would have to continue to maintain their belief and dependence on HaShem despite their new surroundings.

We must ask ourselves, do we believe that our lives are a direct product of our own efforts or do we understand Who truly runs the world? Who REALLY sustains us? The dough I make or the mahn from Shamayim? Am I wealthy because I am the CEO of a company after all those late nights, years of work and scheming, or am I CEO solely because HaKadosh Barukh Hu sees it is beneficial for me to be so? Be’ezrat HaShem Yitbarakh, may we always have the open eyes, ears, and hearts to understand that it is only by the Grace of HaKadosh Barukh Hu that we continue to survive. He maintains and sustains us with no condition, and we must always be grateful for that!

I hope my Devar Torah didn’t discourage you from making hallah this week ;) Wishing you a Beautiful Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Parashat Kit Tetse


Parashat Ki Tetse

‘מוֹצָא שְׂפָתֶיךָ תִּשְׁמֹר’

Be careful of what comes out of your mouth. Parashat Ki Tetse focuses much on interpersonal relationships, whether between husband and wife or man and his fellow, and an integral part of these relationships is how we speak to one another and how we communicate with others. We must always concentrate on what escapes our lips. If we think about it, all other organs of the body function by taking things in; we breathe IN, we take sights IN, noises are taken INTO the ear (and depending who is speaking to us, they may go out the other). However, the faculty of speaking involves taking something instilled deeply within us and launching it into a world that exists outside us. By the power of speech, we are able to infuse the world with what WE create. We must be very careful how we use this privilege. What we say lingers in the minds’ of others way longer than we can imagine. Think three times before you must speak.
            It is very easy for us to speak nicely to those who address us nicely. And for the most part, we are calm and courteous people in our everyday lives. The true test lies when there is conflict between two people has veShalom. When there is an argument, both sides genuinely think, and are fully convinced that they are right and the other party is wrong. What we sometimes fail to realize is that there is no such thing as a human being who is completely good nor does there exist a human being who is completely bad. We must always focus on our counterpart’s positive attributes and treat them based on such. We should also consider THEIR point of view and reassess the situation. Not everybody is right one hundred percent of the time. Give in to the fact that you just may be wrong, and that is okay. After all this, you still believe that you are completely free of blame, remember, life is never about who is right, it is about who is making it right. So even if we have the right to be upset and to accuse and to yell and scream and huff and puff, IT DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE TO ALWAYS EXERCISE THAT RIGHT! Think about it, if you were safely driving down the street and you had the green light, the right of way is completely yours, correct? But all of a sudden from the periphery of your eye
you see a sixteen year old speeding in from the right, and he is about to pass through red, do you continue driving? OF COURSE NOT! But you did everything correctly! You obeyed the law to the fullest extent, you had your seatbelt fastened and checked your mirrors and drove under thirty miles an hour and had your license and registration neatly set in your glove compartment. I did it all! If I did everything correctly, don’t I at least deserve the right to continue driving down the road without anybody slowing me down? Of course you do, but would it really serve to your benefit? My friend, sometimes it is not about you; it is about the relationship. Maybe you will vindicate yourself, maybe you actually will prove that you are right, but at what cost? Don’t get hit.
Sometimes our anger gets the best of us we just want to blow up at someone, but before you do, keep in mind did they do it on purpose? Will you even remember this in two weeks from now? Is it really even worth it? Will the 5 minutes of ‘pleasure’ you derive from venting worth the pain and embarrassment you cause your fellow being? Before emotions get in the way, THINK.
If something really bothers you, approach the person calmly (not during the act/behavior that is an issue, wait until things calm down) and speak to them respectfully. Anger will never solve the problem, it will only exacerbate it. Only kindness and patience will ameliorate things.

            In our society, we often obsess about what goes into our mouths. We cook gourmet dishes, count our calories (HaShem Yerahem), eat solely organic foods. But do we ever spend this much attention and energy on what goes out of our mouths?! And remember, it is not only aboutwhat leaves our lips; it is also important in which manner they do. When we ask somebody to kindly move over, how do we do it? Do we yell? Do we aggressively mutter it under our breaths? Or do we kindly look them in the eye, share a warm smile and ask ‘I’m sorry, but would it be possible to move over a little to accommodate me so I can also hear the Rav speak?’ It is human nature to remember the not so good things that people do to us and overlook the good deeds they share. Be the kind person that people want to remember. Begin by speaking kindly to others.

It is now, during the month of Elul, as we approach Rosh Hashanah and we must ask others for forgiveness. We all know that most of the misdeeds we ask to be forgiven for are for conflicts rooted in by how spoke to somebody. Be’Ezrat HaShem Yitbarakh this upcoming year we will treat and speak to our fellow beings with such kindness and sincerity that by this time next year we will not have which to beg forgiveness for. May HaKadosh Barukh Hu bless all of us with the integrity to commit to do so.
Wishing everybody a peaceful and inspiring Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!
Ariella Samimi

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Parashat Shoftim


Parashat Shoftim 

תָּמִים תִּהְיֶה עִם ה אֱלֹקיך

Placed in between two sections of the Torah discussing the prohibition against consulting with sorcerers of the foreign nations lies this pasuk instructing us to be tamim with HaKadosh Barukh Hu.
Rashi explains that we are commanded to wholeheartedly trust HaShem with what life brings us without trying to see into the future. Only then will we be "im HaShem Elokecha" - with HaShem our G-d.
The Ramban writes that we must focus exclusively on HaShem Yitbarakh, recognizing that everything emanates from Him alone (and not from sorcerers or masters of magic), and all that occurs depends on the level of our relationship with Him.
The word tamim has a double entendre. It can mean 'simple' but also translates as 'complete'. So how can we reconcile the two? It's completely simple (yes, that was a pun, go back and read it again).

The Sefat Emet elaborates on this pasuk on a deeper level. This verse of being tamim appears in the midst of a prohibition against the use of witchcraft in the attempt to know the future. People pursue such knowledge precisely because they sense their incompleteness. The search for the future is a reflection of human anxiety and insecurity. Often times we tend to ignore our relationship with HaShem on a quest to find the answers ourselves. But what we fail to realize is that HASHEM YITBARAKH IS THE ONLY ONE WITH THE ANSWERS WE SEEK!

If we look closely, we realize that the pasuk is  careful to say, not simply, tamim tehiyeh, that you will be perfect and whole on your own, but tamim tehiyeh im Hashem Elokekha, that you will be able to reach this kind of shelemut, this kind of wholeness, only by being WITH HaShem Yitbarakh; we are incomplete otherwise.
So how can we be WITH HasShem and make Him part of us in order to reach this state of 'completion'?

The answer lies within us; literally.

Inside each and every single one of us is a piece of HaShem. HaKadosh Barukh Hu is already within us to complete us. Rabbi Flaum pointed out to me that we are not only made in the image of HaShem, we actually are made OF Him! Can you imagine? HaKadosh Barukh Hu, in all His Glory and Sanctity, divests a part of Himself and 'installs' it in lowly creatures of flesh and blood like us. Think about how deep this concept is. Inside you, right now, you are composed of the spirit of your Creator, the Master of the ENTIRE UNIVERSE. YOU! Do you realize how special and kadosh (holy) you must be if HaShem, Ribono Shel Olam, decides to rest a part of Himself within YOU? Knowing this, we must ensure that we sanctify our all actions and thoughts. We must act like the G-dly people we were personally designated to be. Do not ignore your mission in this life. Think about this concept over again on your own over Shabbat Be'ezrat HaShem.

Okay, so Barukh HaShem we got the 'complete' part down. Now, what does 'simple' mean?

Simple is the means by which we become complete. Allow me to explain. To become complete, we must cling unto HaShem; this is called devekut. The way by which we can reach this level is through Tefillah (prayer). Prayer, in our own words, is the most simple way we can bind to HaShem and seek those answers we are looking for. Rabbi Nahman of Breslev tells us we should constantly speak to HaShem as we speak to our fellow.It does not get more simple than that! Remember, it is not our bodies that clig to HaShem; infact, our  physical bodies serve as a resisting force to our spiritual Neshama HaKedosha (holy soul) from binding to HaShem. We must establish a means by which we can directly connect our Neshama, that Holy piece of HaShem, to HaShem Himself. And so, when we pray, our Neshama literally unites with its Creator, its original Source; they become One. This is true completion. This is the state of temimut. BY SIMPLY OPENING OUR MOUTHS AND HEARTS, WE UNITE WITH HASHEM, WE BECOME COMPLETE AND WE ARE THEN DESERVING OF THE ANSWERS WE LOOK FOR. Just daven!

This is a very important concept to keep in mind as we approach Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. We must daven for our past, our present and Be'ezrat HaShem, our futures. May HaKadosh Barukh Hu answer all our Teffliot le'Tova ve'le'Berakha at the right time. Wishing you a beautiful Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!!!!!!!!
Ariella Samimi