MidrESHET Hayil

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Parashat VaYishlah-Do we respond with Gratitude or Attitude?


Parashat VaYishlah

Do we respond with Gratitude or Attitude?



11. I have become small from all the kindnesses and from all the truth that You have rendered Your servant, for with my staff I crossed this Jordan, and now I have become two camps.

יא. קָטֹנְתִּי מִכֹּל הַחֲסָדִים וּמִכָּל הָאֱמֶת אֲשֶׁר עָשִׂיתָ אֶת עַבְדֶּךָ כִּי בְמַקְלִי עָבַרְתִּי אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן הַזֶּה וְעַתָּה הָיִיתִילִשְׁנֵי מַחֲנוֹת:

You wake up the morning of an important final or meeting already half an hour late; you slept through the alarm. With eyes half open you quickly throw anything on (your socks don't match), gather your belongings, and with one shoe on, dash out the door. By the time you finally make it to school or work, you notice all the parking spots have been taken. You drive around five minutes, ten minutes, twenty minutes….there are no spots to be found; you get desperate. There is nothing left to do but look up at the sky (through the sunroof, of course) and shout, "Master of the universe! I swear I will give 10 percent of my earnings to sedaka each year, pray three times a day, start a Torah study group in my home, I'll wait six hours between meat and dairy foods. I only just need a place to park right now!"

Just as you finish your heart-wrenching plea, a guy pulls out of a parking spot right in front of you, by which you turn to HaShem and say, 'Never mind, I found a spot!'

Does this story sound too familiar?

We all want to be successful. When we finally find it, we can respond in one of two ways: we can show Gratitude to HaKadosh Barukh Hu for providing us with this berakha out of His Mercy and Kindness, or we can have Attitude that we deserved it all along and it even then, it took too long to reach us. We can either be humble or we can be arrogant. The question remains, do we forget HaShem after he blesses us?

'I have become small from all the kindnesses and from all the truth that You have rendered Your servant….'

Just as Yaakov Avinu hears that his brother who is seeking his life is approaching his camp, and he understands that he is at risk of losing all his family and possessions, this is his reaction.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi explains that Yaakov had every right to be arrogant for everything he was blessed with. We see the multitudes off offspring he was surrounded with and we can easily survey his wealth based on the lavish gift he presents Esav. However, despite all of this berakha, Yaakov expressed utmost humility and deems himself unworthy of it all.

We learn that not only do we have to be thankful for the good that HaShem blesses us with, but we also have to be grateful for the 'bad', for even when Yaakov Avinu's life and family were at stake, his initial reaction was that of thanks.

We must understand that there is no such thing as bad being done to us. What would possibly be the purpose of HaShem presenting us with something negative? Revenge? Anger? HaShem doesn't need to play games. Ultimately, everything ends up for the greater good, we just have to be patient enough to see the big picture. When we realize everything comes from HaShem, we realize that literally everything is also good.

Gam Zu leTova, Everything is for the good.

That is why seemingly 'bad' things happen. Not to push us away, but because these things are really good things that happen to us. For this we must be thankful. By being thankful, we strengthen our connection to HaShem Yitbarakh. If has ve'Shalom we become arrogant, we are asking HaShem to move over a little to make room for us, because we think we know what we deserve, and not only that, we want it when it is convenient for us.

The more humble we are, the closer we become to HaShem and the more deserving we are of His berakhot. If we become arrogant and believe we must take things into our own hands, we will be left to fend for ourselves. Let's see how successful that person will become….

So how do we become humble?


We become humble only by expressing gratitude to HaShem. We tell HaKadosh Barukh Hu, Ribono Shel Olam, I know that I would never have been able to achieve this on my own. It is solely YOU who graces me with this abundance of berakha, I am but undeserving. Even if I do not understand the situation right now, I know it is for the best. So THANK YOU for providing me with everything I need, even when I am considered unworthy of such a gift from You.

Be'ezrat HaShem may we all develop the humility to understand that anything that comes our way is a reflection of HaShem's Mercy and Love, and by no means a direct product of our own efforts. May this humility grants us the ability to become thankful for each situation we are faced with and yield may more berakhot to come!

Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!

Ariellah Samimi

Sources: Chabad.org, based on Tanya, Part II (Igeret Hakodesh), Epistle 2, and Likkutei Sichot, vol. 5, p. 396.




Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Parashat VaYesse



Parashat VaYesse


Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotzk poses the question: Where is HaShem? To which he answers: Wherever HaShem is allowed to enter.


As a child, the board game Chutes and Ladders was a favorite. The point of the game is to be the first to reach the 100 mark before all the other players regardless of how many ladders you climbed or chutes you slid down. You just had to get there first.  If you got lucky, you would land on 80 and climb up a ladder straight to the 100 mark and win. Just the same way, sometimes you would reach all the way until 98, just two away from the goal! But would have to slide down all the way to 78 and lose primacy.


Life shouldn't have to work this way.


In Parashat VaYesse, Yaakov Avinu leaves his home town of Be'er Sheba on his way to Haran. As night falls, he rests his head on several stones and drifts into sleep. Yaakov Avinu dreams of a sulam, a ladder connecting Shamayim (Heaven) and Aress (Earth) with malakhim, angels, climbing and descending it. HaKadosh Barukh Hu then appears to him and promises that the land upon which he is laying will be given to his descendants. Yaakov Avinu then designates the stone upon which he laid his head on as a monument to be made as a House of G-d.


The Torah is not a mere storybook, nor is it one to relay history. Each and every letter, word, pasuk and story possesses within it a much more profound meaning and connection to other realms in the world. This incident with Yaakov Avinu begs the question: What is the significance of Yaakov Avinu's dream? What can we learn from it? Even if we do discover the true meaning, Yaakov Avinu is on a level far higher than us!  How could it even be possible for us to apply this on a more personal level?


Among a plethora of many different interpretations of Yaakov Avinu's dream, including that of the Ramban, The Kotzker Rebbe also contemplated the meaning of the sulam and arrives at a spiritual theory of relativity, says Rabbi Shekel.  The Rebbe asked his students, who was higher on the ladder? The person at the top or the one at the bottom? We may think to ourselves, obviously the one on top, just like in the game! However, there is no definitive answer; it depends on where one is going, on whether an individual is ascending or descending within his own life's context.  The person at the top might initially seem higher, but if he is spiritually on the chute, he is actually lower than the person on the spiritual ladder who is moving upwards. A person might be on 73 which is only 27 spots away from a 100 but be lower than somebody on 67, who is 33 spots away. It is all relative to the direction they are moving. The one who got to 73 just went down a chute from 93 while the one on 67 got there from 51. The question here is, who is making the most progress?


Sometimes, it is not all about what level you stand on, it is about how much you are moving upwards.

PROGRESS is of prime importance here, not stature. Sometimes, in life we are so concerned with advancing all the way to the top that we can overlook what is around us. We leave so much behind all for the pursuit of being 'the best', that one goal always in mind. We close ourselves off to the world for our own selfish benefit of becoming the best (sometimes intentionally and sometimes we do not even realize this). For some, it is unacceptable to be on any level lower; second place just doesn't cut it. But regardless of where we find ourselves, HaKadosh Barukh Hu is always there. That is why while the malakhim are busy ascending and descending, the pasuk says 'HaShem was standing beside him'. There is never a top or bottom here. No matter what level you're on HaKadosh Barukh Hu  is right there next to you. The only thing we must do is to keep moving upward. Do not get overwhelmed by how far a goal seems to be. For us it should matter how large ladders are or how far down the chute you slide, it is not about necessarily getting the 100. Just remember: step by step exactly like Yaakov Avinu's ladder. Sure, at time there are setbacks and we can slide down a small chute, but this should only motivate us to regain our position and move forward and climb bigger ladders; as long as we are generally moving upward overall.

Sometimes we cant see our own feet below because we are too busy looking upward at the goal, and sometimes we cannot even see the next rung because we are so intent on remaining where we currently stand, however, in both cases, HaShem is standing next to us, always. The opportunity to experience kedusha is not in the distant, intanglible future, nor is it lodged in the past. Rather, it is here at every moment.  In the words of the Kotzker Rebbe: Where is God? Wherever God is allowed to enter.


Be'ezrat HaShem may we all have the koah to keep striving upwards, our goal being that of progress. Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!


Ariellah Samimi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Parashat Toldot-Change the Channel


Parashat Toldot-Change the Channel

Confession: I have an ego. A big one. For some time I didn't know what to do about it. I really had to find a way to l'eggo my ego but didn't know how. And then I learned a valuable lesson- Instead of trying to 'fight' it, I kind of 'joined' it. You know who I learned this from? Esav HaRasha.

The Torah HaKedoshah describes to us in Parashat Toldot the birth of Esav 'And the first came out red, all over like a hairy garment; and they called his name Esav.' Red means anger, it means rage, it means murder. The Midrash tells us that when Shemuel HaNavi went to appoint David HaMelekh to be King of Yisrael, he saw that David was of 'ruddy complexion'. He became frightened that David HaMelekh would become a murderer just like Esav. HaShem told Shemuel HaNavi that he should not worry. Esav killed violently and needlessly, David HaMelekh would only take a life to carry out the decisions of the Sanhedrin (Jewish Court) which were all just, fair and necessary.

We learn from the Midrash that, while we have basic personality tendencies, certain middot that we are born with, we have free will to choose how these tendencies will be manifested and how we use these middot. Esav's tendency towards bloodshed and murder led him down an evil path. David HaMelekh, on the other hand, was a warrior who would utilize his natural tendencies of 'killing' for elevated purposes.

Sometimes we think that since we were born a certain way that we can't change things about ourselves. Whether or not we can change doesn't matter—we should work with what we have. We can use the very traits that we feel inhibit us to help us thrive. I could use my inflated ego either to be condescending towards others or I could use it to feel like a Bat Melekh, HaShem's daughter, and to act in a more Sanuah, modest and elegant manner.

The Vilna Gaon writes, 'one should not go completely against his nature even if it is bad, for he will not succeed. He should merely train himself to follow the straight path in accordance with his nature.' We could take the effort we use to uproot our 'negative' traits into channeling those traits and using them in the right way. You feel that you are an angry person? Use that fire to teach Torah to others and that passion to do Missvot. Sometimes jealousy can get the best of you? Use that to be 'jealous' of those on a higher spiritual level so that you can strive to be like them-this is a healthy 'jealousy', and helps us move upwards. In this way, we don't have to constantly worry if we completely eradicated our middot, we know we have them but we are using them to our advantage.

HaShem purposely created us 'imperfect' so that we can fine tune our middot ourselves. If we were made perfectly, we wouldn't be put in this world, we would be Malakhim, angels, serving HaShem in Shamayim. Our Avodah is in this world, the only place we can fix up our middot is here. When we become aware of what our inborn tendencies are we can focus on how to direct them.

The Torah tells us that until age thirteen, Yaakov and Esav were pretty much the same-after all, they are twins. But one thing differentiates them from becoming the Sadik that Yaakov is and the Rasha that Esav is—the way they direct their middot. Be'ezrat HaShem may we become aware of our inborn tendencies and use these middot to elevate our Avodat HaShem and not to bring us down has ve'Shalom. In this way, may we perfect the world in preparation for the ultimate GEULAH, Amen!!

Wishing everyone a PERFECT Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!

 Ariellah Samimi

Inspiration and information from Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Monday, November 12, 2012

Parashat Hayei Sarah- This is last weeks' Parashah, I apologize for the delay!


Parashat Hayei Sarah

This week's Parashah is called Hayei Sarah- the Life of Sarah. However we see that already by the second Pasouk that Sarah Imenu passes away when she is 127 years old. Wait, if Sarah Imenu passes away in second Pasouk of the Parashah, then why is this Parashah called HAYEI Sarah, the LIFE of Sarah? By understanding why she passed on, we can learn what she lived for. Sarah Imenu's life is defined by her death.


Sarah Imenu's Neshamah departs from her when she hears news that her son Yiss'hak is being given as sacrifice, as Rashi clarifies. The satan shows her the image of Avraham Avinu placing Yiss'hak down on mizbeah (altar) and binding him down. Traditionally, we learn that this is the reason that Sarah Imenu's Neshamah leaves her. This image is understandably disturbing enough for a mother to be distraught over her son, but says the Divrei Shemuel that this is not the reason why Sarah Imenu passes away. He explains that the satan also shows her the image of Avraham Avinu taking Yiss'hak off of the mizbeah and ultimately not offering him as a korban (sacrifice). This is what affected Sarah Imenu to the point of passing away. She was devastated by the fact that perhaps she did not raise a son worthy enough of being even a korban, that chas ve'shalom he had a moum (blemish) rendering him unworthy (as is the protocol with animal sacrifices).  This bears a powerful message to us.

Just think to yourself, if you were offered a korban, would YOU be complete enough to qualify as a sacrifice or are we not even of this caliber? Do we have a moum? If so, what are they? When we focus on what they are and define them, we can then work on fixing them. 


To do so, we must realize what our goal even is and what our purpose is in this world....


 Avraham Avinu says to Benei Het:

4. 'I am a stranger and a resident amongst you…'


דגֵּר וְתוֹשָׁב אָנֹכִי עִמָּכֶם...

Says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, a Jew is a 'resident' in the world considering that we are physically grounded here and surrounded by worldly things. The Torah instructs us not escape this physical reality but rather to inhabit it and elevate it. Yet at the same time, we are complete strangers to this world. A person's true home is a higher and holier place, a spiritual world of G-dliness which our neshamot strive to reach. By detaching ourselves from this world and deeming ourselves strangers to it, we are able to maintain the spiritual integrity needed to elevate our neshamot to the level of HaShem's home and meanwhile, to sanctify the world around us in order for HaShem's Shekhinah to reside here.

There is a story of a visitor who stopped by the home of the Hassid Rabbi DovBer of Mezheritch, who lived a simple life in a home devoid of any furnishing or luxury except an assortment of rough wooden planks and blocks that served as benches for his students during the day and as beds for his family at night. The visitor asks in astonishment 'Rebbi, with all due respect, how can you live like this? I myself am far from wealthy, but at least in my home Barukh HaShem you will find the basic necessities like chairs, a table, beds...Why don't you have any furniture?'

Rabbi DovBer deftly responds by asking the visitor 'Well, where is your furniture?'

Taken somewhat aback, the visitor answers the Rav 'Rabbi, I am just traveling. I do not take my possessions with me everywhere I go. I am simply a visitor here; I will soon return to my own home where I keep all of my furniture. For now, I do not need those furnishings on my journey.'

'Ah, yes' says Rabbi DovBer 'but I am also just a traveler….' 


Rabbi DovBer's answer to his visitor defines our purpose in this world. We are simple travelers. We travel from one world to the next; there is no need to carry over our worldly possessions during our journey. What purpose does this serve us?

In Pirkei Avot we learn that this world is like a corridor that leads to a grand living room, the next world, Olam HaBa. We must prepare ourselves in the corridor so that we can be ready when we reach the living room. Either we can walk around at a leisurely pace, distracted by the paintings hanging on the wall or the intricacies of the tapestries, forgetting our destination; or we can have our goal in mind and walk directly into the living room, ultimately receiving a much greater benefit than enjoying the beauty of mere paintings. The narrower the corridor, the longer we stand there, the more discomfort we feel there, the more rest and comfort we will find when we finally reach the living room and seat ourselves on its lofty couches and sink into its delicious cushioned seats. In this life, the more hardships we endure, the longer we are kept on our feet, the narrower its straits, the more joy we can pull from the World to Come. This life is a preparation for the next. The better we can prepare ourselves in this life, the more ready we will be in Olam HaBa. All decisions, experiences and struggles in this world are preparation, to cultivate our Neshamah and develop the spiritual receptors we need to thrive in a spiritual world above. Keep this in mind. Anytime we are faced with a challenge or decision, ask yourself: Is this contributing to the development of my Neshamah or has ve'Shalom, detracting from it? This is our purpose in this life.

We can understand the magnitude of this concept with the following analogy. This world is to the next as Friday is to Shabbat Kodesh. During Shabbat we are not permitted to do any work; we therefore are dependent on the preparations we make on Friday to carry us through Shabbat Kodesh. If we don't get it done on Friday, there is no other time to do it. If you do not cook on Friday, you will be left with nothing to eat on Shabbat- and there is nothing you can do about it; you will be left hungry on Shabbat. The better we prepare on Friday, the more meaningful and comfortable our Shabbat will be. Fridays are often the most hectic and busy days of the week. How early do we wake up, how much do we run around, how many errands do we take care of, how much do we clean, how many meals do we cook, how many guests do we invite all on Friday in order to contribute to our Shabbat experience??? This is certainly not easy work. But do we complain? No! Because we know the payoff. We work this hard because we know the beauty of Shabbat Kodesh. We realize the spiritual levels we are capable to reach on Shabbat Kodesh and we are more than willing and even happy to take on all the responsibilities that we do take upon ourselves on Fridays. It's worth the investment.

If we even realized what levels we are able to reach in Olam HaBa, we would make a corresponding investment in this life for the next. It is surely worth it. Sometimes it may seem difficult, and sometimes you may feel like you are working to no avail, but every single action you do is contributing more and more to your preparation for the next world. If you do not make your preparations in this world, if you do not cook the meals you need, you will be left starving in the next world- and there is absolutely nothing you can do about it then; it is too late.

Sarah Imenu was well aware of her purpose in this life. It is this reason that she never really dies; she just transitions from this world to the next. Perhaps this is why this Parashah is called 'Hayei Sarah', the LIFE of Sarah. This realization allows her to live on, she never really passes away. Perhaps this is also why is it called 'Hayei Sarah' in the plural, implying that she lived one life after the next.

May HaKadosh Barukh Hu grant us the clarity and integrity to realize which of our decisions and experiences truly contribute to the development of our Neshamah in order to prepare ourselves to become spiritually receptive to the beauty of the Next World that awaits us.

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh out of this world!

Ariellah Samimi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Parashat VaYera- Don’t Think Twice, Just ‘Sacrifice’


Parashat VaYera- Don't Think Twice, Just 'Sacrifice'


1. Now HaShem appeared to him in the plains of Mamre and he was sitting at the entrance of the tent when the day was hot

א. וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו ה' בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם:

This is Pasouk alef. From the first Pasouk we can already extract a powerful concept that will carry us through the rest of the Parashah…and our lives.  

Among other Berakhot, HaShem Yitbarakh promises to make Avraham a father of all nations specifically through the lineage of his son Yiss'hak. But in the Parashah here we see that HaShem commands Avraham Avinu to sacrifice this very son before he has children of his own. Yiss'hak had no descendants yet! From Avraham Avinu's viewpoint, how could this promise be kept? How can HaShem back away from what He promised? 


The English translation of the first verse in the Parashah is "And HaShem appeared to him," Yet this is not a strictly accurate translation. A literal translation of the verse would be "And He appeared to him, HaShem…"

The way the Pasouk is ordered, the one who sees – Avraham - precedes the One Who is seen – Hashem. What is the message we can learn from this unusual syntax? Why did the Torah HaKedoshah phrase the Pasouk this way?

The Rambam, in his Sefer Moreh Nevukhim, Guide for the Perplexed, explains to us that it is clearly manifest and obvious that HaShem Yitbarakh cannot change, alter, or move in any way; He is Omnipresent, He is present everywhere.  Since HaShem's presences fills the world, if He 'moved' it would undermine His Omnipresence, implying that He had been previously absent in the place which He is now moving to.  There is nowhere where that is empty of HaShem's presence that He would need to move to, He is already there.

Now, with this concept in mindwe must realize that any distance we may feel between us and HaKadosh Barukh Hu it is on our behalf. HaShem is not moving anywhere. Even if He did, we can always find Him since He is everywhere. If you ever feel that HaShem is 'backing away' from what is rightfully due to you, think again; it is not HaShem that moved.


Avraham Avinu understood this. This is why he was so readily able to bring Yiss'hak as a sacrifice. He knew that anything HaShem promises him, it will ultimately be carried out. He had the Emunah that it will all turn out for the best and followed through with what was requested of him. We can see this through his actions. 

The day of the Akedah, the sacrifice, the Pasouk reads 'VaYashkem Avraham baBoker' that Avraham woke up early in the morning. Traditionally, we know that anytime the Pasouk says 'VaYashkem' about an individual, it implies that they woke up early because they were enthusiastic about a Missvah, just as Avraham Avinu is here. However, if we consider the Pasouk in a different perspective, we may also learn something else about Avraham Avinu. The Pasouk tells us that Avraham Avinu woke up early. This means he went to sleep the night before. Think about it. Most of us can hardly fall asleep when we have an important meeting or exam the next day. Avraham Avinu was destined to sacrifice his most beloved child the next day and by doing so, forever cutting off his lineage and essentially eliminating the promise made to him, yet he was still able to sleep the night before with a sound mind.

This is the level of Emunah that we are supposed to have. HaShem will never back away from us. We just have to do our part. If we seek Him, He is always there. We just have to seek Him. We have to see HaShem in everything we do and everywhere we go. Perhaps this is why the Parashah has so many references to sight; 'VaYera' means 'And he saw'. We are the ones who have to lift our eyes and see HaShem just like Avraham Avinu lifted his eyes, 'VaYisa eynav', to see the mountain where he would serve HaShem on the highest level by sacrificing his son, the mountain which would ultimately become the site for the Beit HaMikdash.

Be'ezrat HaShem may we all have the zekhout and clarity to find HaShem in all aspects of our lives and to turn to Him not only in every place but also in every time we may need. May we realize that our relationship with HaKadosh Barukh Hu mainly depends on our efforts to seek Him and we must do so even if it may seem illogical to us at that moment.  Keep in mind, 'If you ever feel distant from HaShem, remember He is not the one Who moved.'

Wishing everybody an eye-opening, uplifting, inspiring and absolutely beautiful Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!


With deep gratitude to HaKadosh Barukh Hu,

Ariellah Samimi


Sources: Ohr HaChaim and Dvash v'Chalav in Iturei Torah; Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch on the Parasha. Thank you R.P. for the beautiful quote! May HaShem bless you with all that is good!


Make Your Neshamah Fly!