MidrESHET Hayil

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Parashat Taazria Messora- Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones but Words….MATTER.


Parashat Taazria Messora- Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones but Words….MATTER.

As we transition from Parashat Shemini on to Parshiot Taazria and Messora, we may ask ourselves what connects the two Parshiot? Parashat Shemini just ended with halakhot of kosher animals while Parashat Taazria begins with halakhot pertaining to the birth of a human being. While Parashat Shemini speaks about animals, Parshiot Taazria and Messora focus on Benei Adam, human beings. What makes us humans different from animals is one thing—the faculty of speech. Parashat Shemini teaches us what to put in our mouths while Parshiot Taazria and Messora teach us what should come out of our mouths.

Parashat Messora explains to us the halakhot of saraat, leprosy, which is attained as a result of speaking lashon hara. If a person is to speak even one word of lashon hara, a physical manifestation of their sin appears on their skin in the form of saraat. A Kohen then announces to the entire Benei Yisrael that this person is impure, shaves all the hair on their body, including their head and eyebrows, and places them in herem, excommunication, alone for seven entire days.

Such a punishment for one word of lashon hara?? He just said ONE sentence! What he said was true anyways! Why is his punishment so harsh? Because by speaking lashon hara, one promotes divisiveness among others, so therefore now he is divided from everybody else and deserves to sit alone and feel what it is like to be isolated from others.

There was once a slanderer among a community that would go around and spread malicious lies about people of the community. After a while, he began to see the effects of his negative speech and felt remorse over his actions. He wanted to fix this. And so this man hurries over to a Rav and asks him sincerely what he can do to mend the situation. The Rav advises him to take a pillowcase and fill it with feathers and then to open the pillowcase in the street, letting the feathers fly out, and then to report back to him. The man rushes home and does exactly as he is told. He comes back to the Rav and asks, ‘Now what?’ The Rav instructs him, ‘Now go back and collect all the feathers you let fly out.’

Needless to say, he couldn’t.

The effects of lashon hara are irreversible. We must be very careful with what words come out of our mouths, because many times we cannot retrieve them. We must realize how serious lashon hara is. Lashon hara is a real averah. Just like being mehallel Shabbat and eating taref (non-kosher), lashon hara has the same ramifications. The Hafess Haiim tells us that we must even be prepared to give up our jobs in order not to speak or hear lashon hara, just like we would give up our jobs in order not to work on Shabbat.

If we realize what speech is, we would be more careful in how we speak to others. Speech is nothing but a concentrated rendition of our thoughts. It’s not just words. It’s a representation of our thoughts, how we think. The point is to purify our thoughts and only then our speech will come out pure.

We must love every single Jew, every single creation of HaShem. We must not have thoughts of revenge or hold onto grudges. If this is what goes on in our hearts and our head, then don’t you think it would slip out of our mouths as well? When we look at everyone positively, by default our speech will be purified.

Lashon hara is extremely serious. Just imagine every single time a person would speak lashon hara, they would get saraat that is clearly visible to everybody and have to spend seven days excommunicated. Just imagine the embarrassment and the isolation this person would experience because they spoke in a way that made their fellow look negative. If speaking lashon hara deserves such a punishment, just think to yourself how severe the averah, sin, is!

Lashon hara isn’t just speaking it, it’s also hearing it. It is considered lashon hara even if it’s true! Even if you would say the same information in front of the person themselves, it is still asur. The rule of thumb is, if what you are about to say will cause negativity, it is forbidden. Whether it makes someone look negative, or gives someone pain or hurt, speaking with coarse language, or if it is revealing one’s secret or even misrepresenting the truth, it is all considered lashon hara.

The pasuk tells us ‘Shomer piv u’leshono, Shomer missarot Nafsho’. A person who protects their mouth and tongue from speaking negatively, protects their Neshamah from pain and suffering. We have to realize that we not only must be careful with what we put in our mouths, but also what comes out of our mouths. If we want to daven with our mouths and ask HaKadosh Barukh Hu to help us and answer our tefillot, we cannot use that same mouth to speak lashon hara. By speaking lashon hara, we dirty the very tool we are supposed to be using to bring nahat to our Creator, to sing and daven to Him!

Be’Ezrat HaShem may we all internalize the severity of speaking lashon hara and in zekhout of protecting our mouths, we will also protect our Neshamot. May our thoughts be purified so that there will be kedushah in every word we speak. Let’s ensure that every word we speak is well thought out so that we may be zokhim to bring Mashiah and use those very mouths to sing in the Beit HaMikdash BeKarov, Amen!

Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!

Ariella Samimi

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sefirat HaOmer and Parashat Shemini- Make Sefirah Count!


Sefirat HaOmer and Parashat Shemini- Make Sefirah Count!

9. Among all [creatures] that are in the water, you may eat these: Any [of the creatures] in the water that has fins and scales, those you may eat, whether [it lives] in the waters, in the seas or in the rivers.

ט. אֶת זֶה תֹּאכְלוּ מִכֹּל אֲשֶׁר בַּמָּיִם כֹּל אֲשֶׁר לוֹ סְנַפִּיר וְקַשְׂקֶשֶׂת בַּמַּיִם בַּיַּמִּים וּבַנְּחָלִים אֹתָם תֹּאכֵלוּ:

 What makes a fish Kasher? Fins and Scales. Yet, among all the special traits of kosher fish that the Torah HaKedoshah instructs us about, the Ramban reveals to us even one more distinguishing factor that kosher fish have that others don’t. Even though the water that fish swim in is oxygenated throughout the entire sea, only kosher fish swim up to the top for fresh water, the rest stay near the bottom of the sea and are content where they are.

Just like kosher fish, we must be moving, we must be striving upward, we must be searching for fresh water. We cannot stagnate and be content that way. We must constantly be growing.

The Me’am Loez brings a miderash that tells us that HaShem appoints a malakh, an angel, over every living creature, even single blades of grass, to hit each one and tell it to grow. Sometimes, we need to be hit to grow; we are naturally resistant to growth. Unless we are moved out of our comfort zone, we usually do not have much motivation to reassess and change ourselves. Pirkei Avot teach us that on the first Erev Shabbat during Beriat HaOlam, Creation, ten things were created. Among them was a special wormlike creature called the shamir, which was used to cut the wood used in the Mishkan, since iron tools were not permitted to be used. What was special about this shamir is that any time it was placed on wood, it would move around quickly and cut straight through, however, anytime it was placed on a comfortable, soft cloth or fabric, it would sit there leisurely and not move. We move, we change, we grow when we feel discomfort. When we are too comfortable, we feel, well, comfortable, and have no motivation to move.  Sometimes, we need to be hit to grow.

The period of Sefirat haOmer that we are in now is a time for potential inner growth. On each of the 49 days, we have the opportunity to refine our middot and to work on our own personal character. This time, we don’t have to be hit to grow. With a little bit of an awareness and some effort, we can motivate ourselves to change, grow and develop on our own without having to wait for life’s necessary hardships to give us that push.

According to the Kabbalah, each of the seven weeks of Sefirat haOmer corresponds to one of the seven lower Sefirot (characteristics by which HaKadosh Barukh Hu reveals Himself in this world; there are ten total Sefirot). They are: Hesed (lovingkindness), Gevurah (justice and discipline), Tipheret (harmony, compassion), Nessah (endurance), Hod (humility), Yesod (bonding) and Malkhut (sovereignty, leadership). Each day of each week is also associated with one of these same seven sefirot, creating a total of forty-nine permutations, one for each day of the Sefirat haOmer. Symbolically, each of these 49 permutations represents an aspect of each person's character that can be improved or further developed before we can be fitting to receive the Torah HaKedoshah on Shavuot (below is a chart taken from http://www.nishmathayyim.org/teachings10.php illustrating this concept).

                If we look at the style of counting the Sefirat haOmer, we realize that we are not counting down the days down from Pesah to Shavuot, when we received the Torah. In fact, we are doing just the opposite! Each day, we add on a day that passed to our counting. ‘Today is one day to the Omer, two days to the Omer, three days to the Omer….’ A kallah during her engagement doesn’t count how many days have passed since she and her hatan have been engaged. She is excited! She counts the days down to her wedding day in deep anticipation! ‘Five days left, four days left, three days left….ONE HOUR LEFT!’ If we are so excited to reach Matan Torah, the pinnacle of our relationship to Ribono Shel Olam as an entire nation, wouldn’t you think that we’d be counting down to that day just like HaShem’s kallah? But instead we count each day that has passed since Pesah. Why?

When we count each and every day that has passed, the focus lays on how much we have been past, on how much we have accomplished. We don’t look at how much development we are lacking until we reach the big 49, we focus on each stride that we made thus far, how many singular days we have already experienced. This is very empowering to a person. Sometimes, we feel discouraged because we think we will never make it, or we are not even worthy to reach something of the caliber of Matan Torah. But this is not true! Each and every day of the Sefirah gives us something to work on! We count each day that we have accomplished, not how many unaccomplished days we have left to take care of! Sefirah is not just about keeping count of the days, it is about keeping account of what we have accomplished in those days.

Be’Ezrat HaShem, during these 49 days, and during the remainder of the year, may we be zokhim to constant positive change and growth. May we be like the kosher fish in the sea who are always moving upward to take in fresh water and not like the non-kosher ones who are satisfied where they currently stand (swim). May this Sefirat HaOmer be a catalyst for self-motivated change and growth and that we shouldn’t have to wait for a malakh, or anything else to hit us as a reminder for this responsibility. May we be zokhim to keep the entire Torah Kulah as if we are receiving it directly as we did during Matan Torah!

Shabbat Mevarkhim Shalom uMevorakh!!!!

Ariella Samimi

Based on the uplifting and inspirational teachings of Rebbetsin Ginzburg, Rebbetsin Kalazan, and Rebbetsin Stern. Barukh HaShem that we can always count on them for beautiful shiurim! ;D

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Pesah 5772 and Parashat Shemini- Fill Up That Empty Space with Beautiful Songs and Heartfelt Grace

Pesah 5772 and Parashat Shemini- Fill Up That Empty Space with Beautiful Songs and Heartfelt Grace

א  מִזְמוֹר לְתוֹדָה: הָרִיעוּ לַיהוָה, כָּל-הָאָרֶץ.
1 A Psalm of thanksgiving. Shout to HaShem, all the earth.

Out of all the songs and mizmorim that we recite, the only mizmor that we will sing in the days of Mashiah is Perek 100 of Tehillim, ‘Mizmor le’Todah’, a Song of Thanksgiving. At the same token, the only korban that will be brought in the days of Mashiah is the Korban Todah, the Thanksgiving Offering which we learn about in Parashat Tsav, the Parashah we have learned this past week; all other korbanot will not be necessary. A Korban Todah is brought in four special instances, as we learn from Perek 107 of Tehillim: when one is released from prison, when one travels the sea, when one recovers from illness (mainly brought by hunger) and by one who crosses the desert.

The only other korban similar to the Korban Todah is the Korban Pesah. Both have to be eaten the same day they are offered and cannot be left until the next morning and they both must be brought and eaten with 30 loaves of massah (the Korban Todah is eaten with an additional 10 loaves of hallah/hamess, totaling 40 loaves). If we think about it, during Pesah, we thank HaKadosh Barukh Hu for the same exact things that we bring the Korban Todah for: we were released from the imprisonment of Misrayim, we crossed through the Yam Souf, we cried to HaShem to save us from hunger and He sent us the mannah, and lastly, we traveled the midbar, the desert, for fourty years.

Just imagine eating either of the two korbanot. They are so massive that one certainly will not be able to consume it all himself (imagine eating 40 entire loaves and an entire lamb on your own….in one day); he would have to gather friends, family and even strangers and share it with others. Obviously, they are all going to ask what this korban is all about and instantly, an environment is created where HaShem is thanked in public. But we learn something more from this instance…

When a person saves for tomorrow, it shows a lack of bitahon, Trust in HaShem, on his part. By doing so, he says that he doesn’t believe that HaKadosh Barukh Hu will provide for him on a daily basis, instead, he must save for himself to be ‘secure’. When we are sharing the korban with others, we are showing our recognition that we are thanking HaShem for TODAY, for its own intrinsic value of just loving and appreciating HaShem for everything He gives us, not for wanting to get something tomorrow. Sometimes, people can commit an act of kindness in order to have a guarantee that somebody will pay them back in the future. This is not how we work! We thank HaShem for what He does for us here and now, and obviously, without a doubt He will continue to provide for us every day to follow. We don’t need to thank Him today as an investment to secure tomorrow’s needs.  

It seems that Pesah and Todah, Gratitude, are intricately linked together. Pesah is inherently a festival of Thanks. During Pesah we look at things with fresh eyes and thank HaKadosh Barukh Hu for things we sometimes forget we are blessed with. We thank Him for bringing us this far in the history of the world and for making us HIS nation. What a Kavod!

Parashat Shemini is called Shemini because it is the ‘Eighth’. The eighth of what? Until now was the Shivaat Yemei HaMiluim, the Seven Days of Preparation of the Mishkan so that on this Eighth Day, the Mishkan will be complete and HaKadosh Barukh Hu will finally rest His Shekhinah there among us. Miluim means practice and preparation, but it comes from the word maleh or miluy which mean ‘filled’. During these seven days, Mosheh Rabbenu prepared the Kohanim by filling them. What did he fill them with? With the same exact korban as the Korban Todah.

These Seven days of Pesah are days that we must fill ourselves up in preparation for the coming year. Of course we cannot fill ourselves up physically with the Korban Todah, but we can surely fill ourselves up with Todah itself!

Be’Ezrat HaShem Yitbarakh, may the Thanks and Gratitude we give to HaKadosh Barukh Hu last us through the coming year. May the Gratitude we show be genuine, and not as a collateral for guaranteed favors in the future. May HaShem always gives us what to be thankful for, and may we be zokhim to offer BOTH Korban Pesah and Korban Todah in the near future with all of Kelal Yisrael in Yerushalayim, Amen!

Hag Pesah Kasher ve’Sameah and Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!

Ariella Samimi

Based on the elevating, inspirational and absoluetly brilliant shiur given by Rabbi Levy!

Friday, April 6, 2012

Parashat Shemini-Don't Abide by the Outside; Dig inside the Pig

Parashat Shemini

Don't Abide by the Outside; Dig inside the Pig

4. But these you shall not eat among those that bring up the cud and those that have a cloven hoof….

ד. אַךְ אֶת זֶה לֹא תֹאכְלוּ מִמַּעֲלֵי הַגֵּרָה וּמִמַּפְרִיסֵי הַפַּרְסָה אֶת הַגָּמָל כִּי מַעֲלֵה גֵרָה הוּא וּפַרְסָה אֵינֶנּוּ מַפְרִיס טָמֵא הוּא לָכֶם:
7. And the pig, because it has a cloven hoof that is completely split, but will not regurgitate its cud; it is unclean for you.

ז. וְאֶת הַחֲזִיר כִּי מַפְרִיס פַּרְסָה הוּא וְשֹׁסַע שֶׁסַע פַּרְסָה וְהוּא גֵּרָה לֹא יִגָּר טָמֵא הוּא לָכֶם:

As they stood all lined up, a German gestapo would summon a Jew, offer him a piece of pig and tell him to eat it, otherwise he will be shot. The Jew refuses to put the piece of meat in his mouth and is therefore killed al Kiddush HaShem. Many people, put in such a pressing situation, Rahmana Lisslan, whether or not they are frum, secular, conservative, modern orthodox, or reform, all know that a Jew is not supposed to eat pig and are willing to give up their lives in order not to eat it. But just one piece of meat, just one bite! Save your life while you still can! But well all know very well that eating pig is absolutely assur.

Why is eating pig the most vile of all non-kosher animals?

We all know, for an animal to be kosher, it must have both split hooves and chew its cud. The Torah HaKedosha tells us that in the entire world, there are only four animals who will display one of the two signs and are therefore still forbidden for us to eat. These animals are the camel, the hare, the jackrabbit and the pig. The first three, the camel, the hare and the jackrabbit all chew their cud but do not have split hooves. The only animal in the world that does not chew its cud but has split hooves is the pig. Look it up.

What characteristic then does the pig exemplify?

The way a pig sits, he lays down and sprawls his repulsive feet out in front of him for all who pass by. When people look at him they say, ‘Hey, look! Split hooves, he’s Kasher!’. And maybe from the outside he shows that he’s pure and kosher, but we all know on the inside, he’s lacking. He might have split hooves, but he does not chew his cud.

The pig shows to others what he is not. On the outside maybe he looks frum, but inside, he’s a faker.

How many times do we do a missvah for our own personal honor and status? How many times do we give large sums of sedaka in public gatherings, but when a beggar asks on a private street corner, we turn the other way? How many times do we do extra hessed when our friends are watching, but when we are home with our families, we are reluctant to give a helping hand? How many times do we offer to give a Devar Torah when prominent community members are sitting around the table, but when a young student asks us a question, we do it with haste and aggravation? How many times do we daven extra hard in shul when the cute boy with the black hat walks by?

Don’t be a faker.

Be kosher; make sure your insides match your outsides. Just because somebody has a kippah and sissit on, does not mean that their insides match what they are trying to portray. A long skirt to the ground and a covered neckline might be hiding more than you think.

It is very important not to use the Torah as a status symbol. In the introduction to Hovot HaLevavot, Rav Bahya ibn Paquda warns us not to make the Torah a keter, crown, for ourselves. Don’t use it the wrong way; do things leShem Shamayim, for the sake of Torah, for HaKadosh Barukh Hu, and not your own personal agenda. Torah belongs inside the heart, that’s where it matters most. If it’s placed on top of your head like a crown, the only person that can’t see it is you; it just becomes a display for others to see. What is the use then?

Be’ezrat HaShem, may we all develop the ability to keep our insides consistent with our outsides and vice versa. May everything we do be leShem Shamayim and may we always bring nahat to our Creator. May we be among His kosher creations and not anything less!

Hag Pesah Kasher ve’Sameah and Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!

Ariella Samimi

Monday, April 2, 2012

Pesah 5772 Don’t Let the Bread Rise This Vacation, YOU Be the One to Rise to the Occasion!

Pesah 5772- Don’t Let the Bread Rise This Vacation, YOU Be the One to Rise to the Occasion!

Ingredients for Massah: flour and water.

Ingredients for Bread: flour and water.

Um, so why in the world are we running around since before Hanukkah time searching for every bit of bread and hamess in every corner and crevice of our homes when it’s made of EXACTLY the same thing as Massah? What’s the difference??

To be considered hamess, flour from the five grains and water must come into contact for over eighteen minutes and fermentation has to have occurred. Massah then is flour and water that has been in contact for less than eighteen minutes and no fermentation has occurred. Even though they are both made of literally the same ingredients, the thing that differentiates massah from hamess, which if eaten during Pesah is punishable by karet (where the soul gets cut off), is nothing but TIME. The factor that accounts for one’s soul to be eternally cut off from its source isn’t flour and it’s not water, it is TIME. If flour and water are in contact for even one second over the eighteen minutes, they are rendered hamess, and anybody who eats it is deserving of karet, Lo Aleinu, Lo Al Af Ehad. One second makes the difference of not only life and death, but of Neshama and no Neshama. ONE SECOND.

In fact hamess (חמץ) and massah (מצה) are so similar, that if you look closely, they are made of basically the same exact letters; they both have a mem (מ), both have a sadik (צ), and one has a hey (ה) while the other has a het (ח). Look at the letters. Hey (ה) and het (ח) are exactly the same shape, it’s just that the het (ח) in hamess has just that one little extra piece on the left side connecting it to the top while the hey (ה) doesn’t. Just one extra piece.  Just one piece that turns ‘massah’ to ‘hamess’. Just one extra second that makes massah turn into hamess. Just ONE second.

The message of Pesah is clear: time is of the essence.

Haz”al teach us, Missvah Ha’Baah Le’Yadekha Al TaHmissenah
 מצוה הבאה לידך אל  תחמצנה .When an opportunity to do a missvah arises (no pun intended), don’t let it delay, don’t pass up on it. Do it right away! The word TaHmissenah has the same root as the word hamess. When we leave something to do for later, when we delay the missvot we could be doing right now, we are making them into hamess; we render them invalid and inexistent. I’m actually realizing right now that the word Missvah (מצוה) looks just like the word massah (מצה). When you have massa in your hands, don’t let it turn into hamess; when you have a missvah to do, do it within the eighteen minutes, don’t delay even one second, because you may very well end up with useless hamess in your hands.

When you wake up in the morning, daven right away! Don’t wait until eleven o’clock to say Berkhot haShahar. When you get your paycheck, separate ma’aser right away! If there is a Sefer you’ve been meaning to read, go buy it and start reading it, don’t push it off! If you have to call relatives to wish them a Hag Sameah, don’t push it off! When you get a Devar Torah in your e-mail, don’t push it off, open and read it right away!! ; D When a missvah comes your way, don’t let it delay!

This exactly is the middah of zerizut, of alacrity. Being a zariz (somebody who exemplifies the middah of zerizut) does not mean that you do things quickly to finish them off; things will not get done properly this way, and you will probably have to work double to correct the mess you made the first time. I’m sure you have heard the quote ‘haste makes waste’. There is a Farsi saying ‘Adameh Tambal Doh Bar Kahr Mikoneh’; a lazy person works twice. He works once quickly thinking he got the job done, and he works a second time to compensate for the lack he left the first time. Being a zariz means doing things efficiently, getting them done in time to the best of your ability.

When Benei Yisrael left Misrayim, they didn’t just do it quickly. They did it well thought out and planned. When they left, they left with dough on their shoulders. That means the dough was prepared before they left, they weren’t measuring out a cup of sugar and checking the eggs as they tied their belts and slipped their shoes on to dash out the door. Think, think well, then do. Once our actions are well thought out we are able to then carry them out efficiently.

Being a zariz also means doing these things with enthusiasm! It’s not about just doing the act, it’s about the willingness to act! Don’t do things with resent, don’t drudge around or make faces. Rise to the occasion! When there is something that must get done get up and go! Do it! Yalla!! If you’re going to do it anyways, better that you do it with joy!

When we sit around the Seder table, it becomes very tempting to mumble through the Haggadah or to take a nap while the head of the household drones through the passages. But it is written in the Haggadah itself, Bekhol Dor va’Dor Hayav Adam Lirot et Assmo keilu Hu Yassa Mimisrayim, in every generation a person must see himself just as if he is leaving Egypt right then and there. Engage yourself, get involved, get others involved! Do it with enthusiasm! Really imagine and feel yourself leaving from the bondage of Misrayim on your way to physical and spiritual freedom.

Be’Ezrat HaShem, in this zekhout may we all merit freedom from our own personal bondage, big and small, and merit a Geulah akin to that of Benei Yisrael in Misrayim. May HaKadoah Barukh Hu answer all our tefillot le’tova u’le’berakha anytime we call out to Him, without delay! May we all develop the middah of zerizut to do missvot and hesed in this world with alacrity and enthusiasm! May we be the massah in this world and not the hamess! And finally, May we be zokhim to bring forth the Geulah with Mashiah ben David THIS YEAR IN YERUSHALAYIM, AMEN!!!!

!!!!חג פסח כשר ושמח
Ariella Samimi

Based on the beautiful shurim of Rebbetsin Ginzburg and Rebbetsin Kalazan