MidrESHET Hayil

Friday, June 14, 2013

Parashat Hukat- It’s Not WHY, It’s HOW….Seriously, Ask the Cow


Shabbat Kodesh Parashat Hukat
Hadlakat Nerot NY 8:09pm
Mossai Shabbat Kodesh 9:19pm
Rabbenu Tam 9:41pm
Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!!
Parashat Hukat- It's Not WHY, It's HOW….Seriously, Ask the Cow

Once, on a road trip, we decided to take two cars to get to our destination. One of the cars had GPS navigation and the other car didn't. We decided to play it smart and appointed the car with navigation to lead the way, and we in the second car would just follow without knowing directions ahead of time. While the first car was cruising along leisurely, those in the second car were sitting on the edge of their seats, anticipating what the car ahead would do, trying to figure out the way. In the middle of this frustration, we actually started laughing. Two people, going to the same destination, using the same route had completely different experiences getting there; one was blasting Shwekey's CD along the entire route, while the other car was making noise of its own. The only difference was that one knew directions ahead of time while the other didn't.

We learned that sometimes, the destination isn't what matters most. How we get there has the most profound effect on us.

When Miriam Haneviah passes away, the Be'er Miram, the well that existed in her merit, ceased to provide water for Am Yisrael. Moshe Rabbenu was now given the task of providing water for Kelal Yisrael. How would he achieve this? HaKadosh Barukh Hu instructs him to speak with a rock and water will come flowing out of it. What did Moshe Rabbenu do? He wants to get water from the rock, so he hits it. If Moshe Rabbenu was not told the motive behind why he should speak to the rock, he would have certainly spoken to it directly with no problem, doubts or frustration. But since he knew the reason for interacting with the rock was to draw water from it, he ended up hitting it, thinking that this will achieve the goal. He calculated that as long as the end product is acquired, he could reach it any way he sees fit. But we all know that sometimes, the destination is not of prime importance; the way we get there makes all the difference.

Sometimes when we know WHY we are doing some things, we tend to cut corners, thinking, eh, as long as I get there it doesn't matter how. We put ourselves on auto cruise and don't do much work to get to where we must go. Not good.

A king of Benei Yisrael has certain missvot he must follow. Among them are not to have too many horses, not to have too many wives, and not to have too much silver and gold. Shelomoh HaMelekh was the wisest of all men. Had he not known the reasons for these missvot, he would have kept them impeccably. But the Navi tells us that he didn't. Why?Because he knew the reasons for these missvot.

One of the reasons why a king cannot have too many horses is because the best horses in the world are bred in Egypt, and HaKadosh Barukh Hu does not want us returning there. Shelomoh HaMelekh said to himself, Okay, so I won't take horses from Egypt, I will get them from elsewhere. I'm sure Syria could hook me up with a few stallions. And so, Shelomoh HaMelekh began to amass more and more horses, and sure enough, he collected too many for a king to have. He rationalized his actions. He figured, as long as I get to the right destination, it's okay if I bend a few corners along the way. He missed the point.

When we are given a reason for why we should or shouldn't be doing something, we start rationalizing and compromising different elements of a missvah that we, in our limited minds, don't think are important, and then we miss the whole point. We can even technically do the missvah but completely the wrong way, for the wrong reasons. It's not an easy thing to do. Even Shelomoh HaMelekh faltered with this.

This is why there are some missvot that we will never understand. Built into the Torah, into the system of missvot, are certain commandments called hukim, which by definition we are not meant to understand. One of these hukim is that of Parah Adumah, the Red Cow, which is what our Parashah this week is named after.

HaShem says, You want to become pureDon't ask questions. Burn this Red Cow, mix in some ingredients with its ashes and sprinkle it on yourselves and wait a few days. It'll do the trick.

Does it help me whatsoever if I understand the reason why this works? Absolutely not. Does it lose its value even if I don't understand it? Certainly not. Will I still do this missvah? If only I would have such a zekhout! (Be'Ezrat HaShem soon in the Beit HaMikdash, Amen!!)

Even Shelomoh HaMelekh, who knew all the reasons behind each missvah, did not know the reason behind Parah Adumah.  He tells us, 'Amarti ahkimah, ve'hi rehokah memeni; I thought I could become wise, but it is beyond me'. We don't always need to know the reason behind everything.

This is probably one of the reasons why we do not know exactly what Olam Haba is. If we thought we knew what it was, we would start making our own calculations. Oh, this missvah is definitely worth Olam Haba, but that one so isn't worth it! We would know what we are 'giving up' so to speak and become ready to negotiate. We would overlook certain missvot that seem smaller in our eyes, because in comparison to the grand scheme of things, the investment just doesn't seem worth it. Oh, Gan Eden is only a garden? I rather do what I want here on this world, I never liked flowers anyways, I get allergies in the Spring. It doesn't work this way!

Sometimes, it is not about WHY we do things, it is HOW we do them. HaShem wants something from you? DO IT! What does it matter to you if you know the reason or not? Don't you trust that HaKadosh Barukh Hu knows better? If as intelligent human beings we tend to act based on reason, you don't think our Creator would, too?  When the GPS asks me to make a right onto Main street, do I pull over and ask, Khanoom GPS, can you please explain to me the rationalization behind what you just told me to do? No! Yalla! I make the right and move forward. The GPS knows better than me. I'm not going to start questioning its every statement.

Don't ask WHY you should do a missvah, ask HOW you can do it. You don't understand the reason for kashrut? Don't worry, just keep it! The Reason for Shabbat? Do it either way! (and of course, learn about these beautiful missvot as well; the point is not to hold back from doing a missvah only because you don't know the reason for it). You will reap heaps and heaps of both personal benefit and reward, specifically because you did it without knowing or asking why in the first place. Remember, even the wisest of all men didn't know the reason behind every missvah.

Life isn't meant to be in cruise control. Sometimes we have to put in some energy and effort to get to our destination.  Make the missvah yours. In the end, you want to know who led the way back from the road trip? The car that didn't have a GPS navigation.

Be'Ezrat HaShem, may we all develop the koah and Emunah Shelemah to keep and internalize EVERY SINGLE ONE of HaKadosh Barukh Hu's missvot, whether or not we understand the reason behind it. May we do them the way HaShem requires of us and not only the way that is most comfortable for us. May we very soon be zokhim to be sprinkled with the ashes of the Parah Adumah in the Beit HaMikdash, Amen!
Wishing everone a Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!
Ariellah Samimi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Parashat Korah- Don’t BE Right, MAKE Things Right

Parashat Korah- Don't BE Right, MAKE Things Right

32. The earth beneath them opened its mouth and swallowed them and their houses, and all the men who were with Korah and all the property.

לב. וַתִּפְתַּח הָאָרֶץ אֶת פִּיהָ וַתִּבְלַע אֹתָם וְאֶת בָּתֵּיהֶם וְאֵת כָּל הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר לְקֹרַח וְאֵת כָּל הָרֲכוּשׁ:

Rabba Bar Bar Chana was once traveling on the road when a certain Arab said to him, 'Come, let me show you where Korah and his party were swallowed up.' The Arab pointed out two cracks in the ground giving out smoke….He said to Rabba Bar Bar Chana, 'Listen to what you are about to hear!' He heard that they were saying, 'Moshe and his Torah are true, and we are liars!' (Sanhedrin 110b)

Leave aside the meaning of this Midrash is for a moment. What was Korah doing down there in the first place?

In Parashat Korah, none other than Korah himself and his personal group of men approach Moshe Rabbenu and Aharon HaKohen and ask why they have taken for themselves the most desirable positions in Kelal Yisrael. While Moshe Rabbenu was, well, Moshe Rabbenu, and Aharon HaKohen was the Kohen Gadol, the rest of the Leviim, including Korah, felt a certain inequality since they have not received as prestigious positions among Kelal Yisrael. As a punishment for this, the earth opens up and 'swallows' them and their families, even their children, and ALL their possessions (the Midrash tells us that even a needle that someone had borrowed from them flew right into the earth's opening) so that their legacy would be completely obliterated.


But was this really so wrong a request that they would receive such a harsh punishment? I would understand if Benei Yisrael would complain about food one more time and were punished in such a way, but finally, someone here is asking to elevate himself spiritually, to move upward! What did the poor guy do? Even his family was sent off the face of this earth! He must have done something really wrong here to deserve such a punishment. But what?

Haza''l tell us that three things 'take a person out of this world': anger, jealousy, and arrogance. Eh, when Korah asks for a position upgrade, his hands were not exactly clean of any of these three. He didn't really have the right intentions when he was asking. His anger is apparent in his willingness to cause a mahloket (division) among Kelal Yisrael when he gathered a group of over 250 men to accuse Moshe and Aharon of nepotism. His jealousy is evident too, when he requests a higher status; his 'Levi level' just isn't enough, he needs to be ruler of the nation. But on top of these, was his arrogance. Why shouldn't HE be Kohen Gadol? This is why he was deserving to be 'taken out of this world'. Literally.  

When Korah asks for Kehunah, it wasn't really about gaining the Kehunah; he was on a personal vendetta. Korah was the wealthiest man that ever lived, number one on the Forbes 500 list, he had it all. But there was one thing that he didn't have, and it bothered him until no end. While he was able to provide his wife with every jewel possible, Korah could not give his wife what Moshe Rabbenu was able to give his wife Sipporah: a magnificent stone carved from the stone of the Luhot HaBerit (the 'Tablets') themselves.  Why does Moshe deserve of such a thing and not me? I am the wealthiest in the world, I deserve such a gem as well! Who is Moshe over me?? I am also important! Because of his inflated ego, Korah felt he had to be the top. He was ready to take Moshe Rabbenu down.

An arrogant person only sees themselves. They value their own opinion over anybody else's. They think that their own thinking is best and are less inclined to take anyone else's opinion into consideration. This inflexibility can only cause argument since by not giving in, by not compromising, they only escalate the division between themselves and their counterpart.

We learn that the only argument in the world where one side was one hundred percent right and the other side was completely not was the dispute between Korah and Moshe Rabbenu, otherwise, in any other dispute, each side of the argument has to be partially right in some way. A person doesn't argue for no reason; they argue because they genuinely believe that they are correct. Anytime that you may find yourself caught in a dispute (which is one hundred percent normal) try to see the places where your counterpart may be right. Be flexible. Try to work it out together. Don't argue, discuss. Try to reach a compromise.

If the dispute continues, give in, try to appease the other side. After all, who is to say that you are right anyways? If it still goes on, DROP IT. There is nothing worse than an argument that is dragged out. Ooof.  

You want to know how important it is to avoid mahloket (division) and argument as much as possible? Look at the difference between the relationship between Aharon HaKohen and his wife and Korah and his wife.

When Korah returns from a ritual done for Leviim, all his body hair shaven off, his wife looks at him and mocks him, she discourages him. 'You baldy, you fell for their tricks! Aharon and Moshe are also Leviim, I don't see them with shaved heads!' All that did was buy her a piece of prime Real Estate for her husband and kids in Gehenom.        Storage Included.

But look at the understanding and willingness to work things out between Aharon HaKohen (who was Ohev Shalom and Rodef Shalom) and his wife, Elisheva.  When their baby was born, Elisheva approaches Aharon HaKohen and asks 'My dear Aharon, my father's name is Aminadav. Would it be okay to name our son after him and call him Nadav?' Aharon HaKohen has no objection, Of course we can. Little did Aharon HaKohen know, but his own father, Amram, was somewhat offended. When he finds out, he rushes to make amends. 'I'm sorry Abba, our next son we will name after you'. And so they named their sonAvihu-'He is my father'. Even then, these two sons end up perishing tragically. Why? Says Maran HaRav Ovadia Yosef shelit''a, because they came into the world with the undertones of a mahloket. And just look at all the things we argue about today….

Know one thing:

Life isn't about being right; it's about making things right.

There is a saying that goes 'Al Teheh Sodek, Teheh Hakham'; Don't be right, Be wise. When you see a situation arising, put down your ego for a second. What will being right achieve for you anyways? Just focus on making this turn out positively, as best as possible, this way, everyone ends up content-especially you. This takes true intellect. When you are driving down a street and the light is green, you have every right to continue driving along the road, correct? But if you see a car speeding down the cross-street on your right, are you going to continue driving? ABSOLUTELY NOT! But I had the right of way! But you would have severely harmed yourself otherwise. What's the point of being right if the earth is going to swallow you up anyways?

Being right is so overrated.


Be'Ezrat HaShem may we all be a source of Shalom, peace, in this world and not the opposite. May we develop the koah to put our egos on the side in order to do Rasson HaShem, HaShem's will. Anytime we feel a dispute coming, let's remember to take it easy! May we bring Kelal Yisrael closer to each other this way, and in that zekhout may we build the Beit HaMikdah BeKarov TOGETHER, Amen!

 Wishing everyone a peaceful Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!

Ariellah Samimi

Based on the beautiful teachings of HaRabbanit Yemima Mizrahi

Make Your Neshamah Fly!