MidrESHET Hayil

Friday, April 26, 2013

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

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Friday, April 19, 2013

Parshat 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 KadoshEverybody, 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!
Ariellah Samimi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

REBBETZIN TZIPPORAH HELLER SHIUR TOMORROW+Parashat Taazria Messora- Sticks and Stones May Break My Bones but Words….MATTER.


MidrESHET HAYIL Seminary Presents....



All Ladies Welcome! Bring your friends!

please see and share  attached flier :)

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 stillasur. 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!
Ariellah Samimi
Wishing everybody a Shabbat Shalom u'Mevorakh veHodesh Iyar Tov uMevorakh!

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Friday, April 5, 2013

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 כֹּלאֲשֶׁר לוֹ סְנַפִּיר וְקַשְׂקֶשֶׂת בַּמַּיִם בַּיַּמִּיםוּבַנְּחָלִים 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.phpillustrating 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 keepingaccount 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 counton them for beautiful shiurim! ;D

Make Your Neshamah Fly!