MidrESHET Hayil

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Parashat Naso- Naso, Naso, Naso, Naso, Naso….

Parashat Naso- Naso, Naso, Naso, Naso, Naso….

**Please learn for the immediate and lasting Refuah Shelemah of Parvin bat Shokat. Thank you!

23. Speak to Aharon and his sons, saying: This is how you shall bless Benei Yisrael, saying to them:

כג. דַּבֵּר אֶל אַהֲרֹן וְאֶל בָּנָיו לֵאמֹר כֹּה תְבָרֲכוּ אֶת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל אָמוֹר לָהֶם:
24. "May HaShem bless you and watch over you.

כד. יְבָרֶכְךָ ה' וְיִשְׁמְרֶךָ:
25. May HaShem cause His countenance to shine to you and favor you.

כה. יָאֵר ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וִיחֻנֶּךָּ:
26. May HaShem raise His countenance toward you and grant you Peace.

כו. יִשָּׂא ה' פָּנָיו אֵלֶיךָ וְיָשֵׂם לְךָ שָׁלוֹם:

At 176 pesukim, Parashat Naso is the longest Parashah in the Torah HaKedosha. This is probably because the Torah takes the time to recount every single korban that each of the twelve Nesi’im (princes) of each Shevet brought on the day of the inauguration of the Mishkan, even though each Shevet brought literally the same exact korban as the other eleven Shevatim. Each Shevet brought the same type and amount of animals, the same amount of ketoret (incense), the same amount of flour, and the same weight of gold and silver bowls and spoons in which they offered the korbanot. Couldn’t the Torah just describe the korban once and say that each of the Twelve Shevatim brought this korban, instead of listing it twelve times the same exact way? Did HaShem have extra ink to spare when He was writing the Torah? I think not.

Let’s explore…

Among the topics in this Parashah of counting the Levi’im, Ishah Sotah (a woman suspected of being unfaithful to her husband), a Nazir (a ‘monk’), and the gifts of the Nesi’im is also that of Birkat Kohanim. Birkat Kohanim is a special berakhah that the Kohanim give to Benei Yisrael as a direct channel from HaKadosh Barukh Hu. It consists of three pesukim, fifteen words, and sixty letters (see pasuk above). The berakhah ends off with the word ‘Shalom’. The first time that we received the Birkat Kohanim was the inauguration of the Mishkan.

Hold on, this sounds familiar….

Each Shevet brought three types of animals for the korban (rams, goats, and sheep) and brought five of each, totaling fifteen animals each. Between all the Nesi’im, sixty of each type of animal was brought. Most of these animals were brought as a Korban Shelamim, a Peace Offering. When did the Nesi’im each bring these korbanot? The inauguration of the Mishkan!

Do you see the direct connection? It’s truly astounding!

It gets even better. What do we call the prince of each Shevet that brought a korban? Nasi. What do we call Birkat Kohanim? Nesi’at Kapayim (‘Lifting of the Palms’ since the Kohanim lift their hands when they give us this berakhah). What is the name of the Parashah? Naso (to count, since the Levi’im are counted here).  Is that normal? They all have the same root- nasa (נשא)- to raise up. (Okay I can’t help it, but the word for marriage is Nisuin, which is what Ishah Sotah is all about- same root word. I seriously don’t understand how there are atheists walking around this world, the Torah is so beautiful! Their loss…)

The Rambam explains the although each Shevet physically brought the same korban, the Kavanah and the symbolism behind each korban was completely different. For example, Nahshon ben Aminadav of Shevet Yehudah offered a Ke’arah to symbolize Shelomo HaMelekh who was destined to emerge from his Shevet and who would rule over the sea as well as land.  The Ke’arah symbolizes the sea because it is round, just as the ocean surrounds the entire world.  The second Nasi, Netanel ben Ssuar of Shevet Yisakhar, offered the same Ke’arah but in his mind he brought it to symbolize that his Shevet will produce the Torah teachers in Kelal Yisrael, and the Torah is called ‘Lekhem,’ bread, and the Lekhem HaPanim in the Beit HaMikdash was accompanied by Ke’arot. Each Shevet on its own decided to bring its specific korban with its own special meaning. No two korbanot were alike.

This is why each korban deserved to be mentioned and recognized as standing on its own.

Nowadays, we do not have the ability to bring korbanot. Is there anything else that we could offer in order to ‘raise’ ourselves up just like these Nesi’im did?

There sure is!

In Tefillat Musaf we daven, ‘u’Neshalmah Parim Sefateinu’, that our lips pay service instead of the cows that we used to bring as korbanot in the Beit HaMikdash. TEFILLAH REPLACES KORBANOT.

Instead of doing the Avodah (‘service’/work) in the Mishkan, we do Avodah she ba’Lev, the Avodah in our hearts. What is Avodah she ba’Lev? HaRambam tells us that it is nothing more than Tefillah.

A single Tefillah has the same power as an entire Korban.

Sometimes we may feel that our Tefillah is so redundant. We daven the same exact thing three times a day, ask for the same things, over and over (and over) again. Not only that, but our Tefillah is the same exact Tefillah that the rest of Kelal Yisrael daven three times a day as well. Who is to say that my Tefillah will be answered among the multitudes of identical Tefillot being raised up to Shamayim? What makes my Tefillah any different?

You tell me.

Just like the korbanot of the Nesi’im were different from one another, no two Tefillot are the same. Each and every Tefillah, whether in comparison to the one you davened that morning, or compared to the Tefillah of the other nine men in your minyan, has its own special kavanah, its own special flavor and meaning that only you could create. Only you can decide on the intensity of your Tefillah. Only you can decide the sincerity of your Tefillah. Only you can decide how inspiring, meaningful, focused, emotional and heartfelt your Tefillah is. Only YOU can decide how high you want to raise your Tefillah to Shamayim. Make it your own. No two Tefillot are the same.

The fact that the structure of our Tefillah is repetitive allows us to focus more on the feeling and emotions we have while davening instead of just trying to master new words each time. It’s not just reading a book out loud; HaShem doesn’t need storytime. He doesn’t need to hear us droning on in a monotone either. He wants to hear the beautiful melody only you can produce. Instead of trying to focus on the body of your Tefillah, give it a Neshamah, infuse it with life, with vivavcity!

Be’Ezrat HaShem, May HaKadosh Barukh Hu answer every single one of our Tefillot le’Tova u’le’Berakhah! May we all be zokhim to be blessed with Shalom which is ‘keli mahzik berakhah’ the vessel that holds all the berakhah that HaKadosh Barukh Hu blesses us with! May each of our Tefillot become more meaningful and more powerful than the previous one and may they burn as intensely as the korbanot once did and will do once more in the Beit HaMikdash, Amen!

Wishing each and every one a Shabbat Shalom u’Mevorakh!

Ariella Samimi

Based on the brilliant teachings of: Rabbi Winston, Rabbi Eli Ozarowski, and Yeshiva.co.il

****BH FlyingSoul-o is now being sent through email. If you would like a Devar Torah sent to your email once a week (beli neder), kindly message flyingneshamah@gmail.com with your email address as well as the emails of anyone else who would like to join in order to be added to the list. Thank you! Tizku leMissvot Rabot!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Parashat BaMidbar and Shavuot- If You Think The Torah is a Story Book, You Better Take Another Look

Parashat BaMidbar and Shavuot- If You Think The Torah is a Story Book, You Better Take Another Look

1. HaShem spoke to Moshe in the Sinai Desert, in the Tent of Meeting on the first day of the second month, in the second year after the exodus from the land of Egypt, saying.

א. וַיְדַבֵּר ה' אֶל מֹשֶׁה בְּמִדְבַּר סִינַי בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד בְּאֶחָד לַחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בַּשָּׁנָה הַשֵּׁנִית לְצֵאתָם מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם לֵאמֹר:

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

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

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

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

Without the Torah HaKedoshah we would be completely lost.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

!!!!חג שבועות שמח ושבת שלום ומברוך 
Ariella Samimi

Thursday, May 17, 2012

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ariella Samimi

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wishing everyone a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh!
Ariella Samimi

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Parashat Aharei Mot-Kedoshim: The Secret to Being Holy

Parshat Aharei Mot-Kedoshim: The Secret to Being Holy
2. Speak to the entire congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them, You shall be holy, for HaShem, your God, am holy.

ב. דַּבֵּר אֶל כָּל עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם קְדֹשִׁים תִּהְיוּ כִּי קָדוֹשׁ אֲנִי יְ־הֹוָ־ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶם:

Think to yourself of a holy person. What picture do you have in your head? The image of an elderly man with a white beard, a black hat on his head and on top of that hat a golden halo?

Why didn’t you picture yourself?

Didn’t you think to yourself for a moment that YOU yourself are holy? Did you not know? YOU have the ability to be Kadosh!

You may be thinking to yourself, Who am I kidding? I’m a simple person who goes about their day just like anybody else. I’m not anywhere near that Rav or Rebbitsen’s level. I wish I was!  Or maybe, I’ve done so many wrong things in the past, there is no way a person like me can ever reach such high levels, I’m so sunken in my avonot, my sins! I’m a lost case (has veShalom)! And so, you discourage yourself from even trying to seize this thing known as Kedushah.

This isn’t correct thinking.

In Parashat Kedoshim, HaKadosh Barukh Hu instructs Moshe Rabbenu to gather the entire Kelal Yisrael as a congregation to speak to each and every one of them. This is one of the only times this happens in the Torah HaKedoshah. The pasuk says, Daber El Kol Adat Benei Yisrael ve’Amarata Elehem Kedoshim Tehiyu, Speak to the ENTIRE Kelal Yisrael and tell them, You Shall be Holy.  What is so urgent that the entire Benei Yisrael, the religious ones and the sinners alike, needs to be told in unison to be holy? What is the purpose of telling those who it seems the Missvah doesn’t even pertain to that they must be holy? If we told a Rav to maintain his holiness and strive for more, I understand. But even the lowest of the low, the heretics and the complete resha’im (wicked  and immoral people) are required to be there and are commanded the same thing as the rest of the nation is. It’s like telling a student who can’t even get a 20 on an algebra test that they will be a world renowned calculus professor one day.  Impossible! Why should we even waste their time? Because every single person in Kelal Yisrael has the ability to be Kadosh. Everybody, no matter what their level now, no matter what they think of themselves, can reach such high spiritual levels. Don’t be discouraged!! If even the most wicked and lowly person in the entire nation, who doesn’t even recognize HaShem is required to be present when HaShem instructs Benei Yisrael ‘Kedoshim Tehiyu’ because he too is capable of such sanctity, so are you.

The Parashah reveals to us how.

There are different levels of attaining Kedushah, depending on how we define the concept. The main factor of Kedushah is that of separating ourselves. Rashi tells us that Kedushah is attained by separating ourselves from immorality, from what is not good. On the most simple level, pull yourself away from lying, stealing, coveting what is not yours, and you will end up being kadosh. So you can lock yourself in a room away from it all and bam, you’re Kadosh! But the point isn’t to be a holy hermit. We must find Kedushah within our daily lives. The Ramban explains the next step, separate yourself from what is permitted to you. True, we are permitted to eat meat and drink wine, but a kadosh person will not over indulge; they know their limit. One should not stuff themselves until they can’t breathe or get so drunk that they cannot function. Just because the Torah gives us the license to do something, doesn’t mean that we should take advantage of this privilege. If you do eat and drink too much it is not that you sinned, it is permissible after all, but you are missing out on attaining a higher level of ruhaniut, spirituality. You are missing the whole point of what Kedushah really is.

Believe it or not, there is a level even higher that this one. HaRav Ginzberg revealed to me that the reason why during Kedushah we jump up three times when we say ‘Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh’ is because to attain Kedushah, we must elevate ourselves; we separate ourselves from what is below. So far, we discussed how to attain Kedushah by not doing something, by holding back, by not overindulging, but an even higher level is by actively pursuing good things until we won’t even have the desire to do the bad that we so much want to pursue. The Baal Shem Tov explains that this is exactly what is meant by the pasuk ‘Sur me’Rah ve’Aseh Tov’. Turn yourself away from bad and do good. By the time you turn back around, you won’t even consider taking up the bad you once left behind.

In the first two levels, we tell ourselves we have to stop everything we are doing and give up so much in order to end up a kadosh person. The highest form of Kedushah can be attained, not by suddenly stopping to do all those ‘bad things’ but rather doing so much good, so much Torah and Missvot, that we become so elevated that we won’t even want to look at the things we used to do before. This way is doesn’t feel like such a sacrifice after all. This way, it’s really true, ALL of Kelal Yisrael have the opportunity to be Kedoshim! Just keep doing good, keep doing Missvot! This way we actively build ourselves to become Kadosh people.

The Lekah Tov brings that the Zohar HaKadosh describes in more detail how a Missvah brings a person to Kedushah. In Parashat Aharei Mot, the pasuk tells us, ‘U’Shemartem et Hukai ve’Et Mishpatai Asher Yaaseh ha’Adam Otam ha’Adam ve’Hai Bahem’. Essentially, a person lives on and by their Missvot. When we do a Missvah, what we are doing is really taking the actual source of that Missvah in Shamayim and bringing it down to this world. This Missvah gives off a certain light that envelopes us. The source of this light is none other than the Kedushah of HaShem; the Missvah simply creates the bond between the two. When we do a Missvah, we literally become holier. This is why we say ‘Asher Kideshanu be’Missvotav ve’Sivanu’ in a berakha before we do a Missvah; HaShem surrounds us in his Kedushah when we do His Missvot, and in this way, we are directly connected to Him. We survive based on the Kedushah we attain from the Missvot we do. That is why the pasuk tells us, You Will be Holy, Because I, HaShem am Holy. The Kedushah we are getting is actually HaShem’s Kedushah which is brought down to this world.

We learn, Kol HaMekadesh Assmo mi’le’Mata, Makdishin Oto mi’le’Maala. One who sanctifies himself from the world below, by doing Missvot, They sanctify him from the World Above, from the actual source of the Missva, the Kedushah of HaShem!

Be’Ezrat HaShem may we all develop the intuition to actively Mekadesh ourselves every single moment of our lives, not only by giving up what is not good but by doing such abundance of good that we should no longer even have a desire to be amidst the bad. May the Kedushah that we bring to this world through our Missvot envelope us and sustain us and may we only continue to elevate our levels of Kedushah each day!

Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom Kadosh u’Mevorakh!

Ariella Samimi