Trekking the Mountain of Life, Parshat Behar and Pesach Sheini

20 05 2016

Trekking the Mountain of Life- Parshas Behar and Pesach Sheini (Motzei Shabbos/Sunday of 5777)


Parsha Behar is our guide to trekking the mountain of life and how to handle the disappointments and falls which are an intrinsic part of the trail.

The first topic of the Parsha is Shmitta, the seven year sabbatical for the land of Israel.  The essence of the mitzvah is the a shift from our illusion of shlita (control) to shmitta (relinquishing) thereby growing in our recognition G-d’s hand in our lives.   Parshat Behar teaches us how to handle the disappointments and failures which are part of the transformation from shlita (control) to shmitta (relinquishing). The subtle one letter difference between these two words, shlita and shmitta is the lamed of shlita and the mem of shmita. The lamed is of a tall and proud shape, towering above all other letters.The mem is bent representing its humbleness and acknowledgement of Hashem.  Hiking up a mountain requires great balance, as does life. The first “tip” in climbing the mountain is to seek balance in thought, emotions and actions. Being conscious and mindful that our actions and efforts are  only displays of our will. Achievement or failures are in the hands of Hashem.  Shmita and shimata’s twin,  Shabbos, realign our lives towards equilibrium so that we can proceed with the climb. When transitioning from shlita שליטה(control) to shmita שמיטה (desisting) make sure you don’t make yourself a shmatta! (rag)

Another central topic of the parsha is the options of a destitute person to reestablish himself financially. The Torah offers him various opportunities starting with selling his handheld possessions; if he still cannot break the cycle of poverty he may sell his field. If selling his field is not enough, he may sell his house. If the sale of his house doesn’t generate the income necessary to survive he may even sell himself as a slave.  The Torah sets a time frame for these sales.  At the end of a certain time period the property, field, home and body (slave) are returned to the seller.  In other words, all of these sales are really a system of loans in order to provide new opportunities for the destitute. After a certain period of time (there are many different complex halachos regarding when different sales revert to their original owners) the destitute person is granted a second chance. Hakadosh Baruch Hu always gives us a second chance. (or more)

Motzei Shabbos is Pesach Sheini. The day has much significance. Besides being the day designated as a “make up” day for those who missed out on the first Pesach to bring the korban Pesach (see Bamidbar 9 2-12), it is the day Amalek attacked Bnei Yisrael and it is the day on which the Mishkan Shilo was destroyed, Eli Hakohen killed and the Aron Bris Hashem taken into captivity by the Plishtim. It is also the yat tziyt of Rebbe Meir Baal HaNes.

All of this takes place in the month of Iyar. The letter connected to the month of Iyar is the vav. This fascinating letter has three unique aspects to it: the additive Vav, the connective vav and the trans-formative vav- changing past tense into present and present tense into past.  The vav takes the wistful longing for opportunities missed and transforms them into future opportunities. It is the original time machine  providing us with a second chance to rectify that which we failed to do in the past. When the people (either those who attended to the bones of Yosef or those who removed the bodies of Aaron’s sons who perished on Rosh Chodesh Nissan) approached Moshe they were full of emunah that Hashem provides second chances. When Hashem responds positively to their request, He adds that if someone was on a “distant roads”, not only one who was consumed with a mitzvah  rendering him impure, can make up the missed sacrifice of Pesach on Pesach Sheini.

When the Rambam describes complete repentance in Hilchos Teshuva, he tells us we know we have completed our repentance when we are faced with a similar test to the one we failed and we do not repeat our mistake. That is why we often feel a kind of dejavu with certain relationships or choices we make. Haven’t I been here before? Why do I keep attracting people who insult me/take advantage of me /ignore me? Hashem in his mercy provides us with a second chance to make things right.

Hashem provides us with means of rectifying our mistakes of getting up when we are down. Angels do not have knees. They are always erect. When the fall they are stuck. They have no dexterity which the knees provide to get up. People have berchaim (knees.) Although the angles have been given the glorious opportunity to say “Kadosh, Kadosh,Kadosh” onl y people can l’barech-bless, related to the word berchaim. Because only people rectify their mistakes! Humans were granted an exclusive contract to bless because to bless is to rectify, to bless is to recognize Hashem’s endless benevolence.

Pesach Sheini is the chag of second chances. It’s a day to daven to Hashem that he provide us with the sechel and the resilience to actualize the second chances He generously gives us to not only heal the past, but elevate it.

Amalek specifically attacked Bnei Yisrael on this day because Amalek is the opposite of second chances. Amlak entire philosophy is the antithesis to Pesach Sheini. Amalak believes what was destroyed is destroyed. Amalek never extended anyone a second chance and their punishment is they are the only nation who at the end of the days will not get a second chance.

We all know the famous story of Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa’s daughter who approaches him Erev Shabbos dejected that she switched the oil and vinegar and filled the glasses of the Shabbos candles with vinegar. Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa responds to his daughter: “What do you care? Let the One who commanded oil to burn command the vinegar to burn”. She light the vinegar candles and they burned till the next Shabbos. Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu zt”L, based on the Maharsha has the most fascinating explanation of this esoteric exchange.

Chazal decreed that we light Shabbos candles for Shalom Bayis. When Rebbe Chanina ben Dosa’s daughter approached him, she wasn’t asking for only practice advice. Why would she disturb her sagely father for this? Why couldn’t she have just spilled out the vinegar and refilled the glasses with oil? Exchanging the vinegar for oil was the physical manifestation of a larger issue. The source of Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa’s daughter distress is that she thought she “soured” her marriage. Instead of oil, instead of words which illuminate she used words which sour (represented by the vinegar). Or she “soured” the chinuch of her children. Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa proclaims that making a mistake is not “carved in stone”. “What do you care? ” Why are you perceiving this mistake as the end of your marriage/parenthood? Hashem had granted us the ability to fix. Go apologize, make right what you have wronged. Don’t obsess about the mistakes you made, fix them! And when she does fix them, the lights lasted until the next Shabbos. When we apologize, take responsibility and fix, Hashem illuminates those relationships even more.

The destruction of the Mishkan Shilo, the death of Eli HaKohen and the capture of the Aron were not messages of Hashem telling us goodbye. They were invitations to rebuild and opportunities for a second chance.

Rabbi Meir Bal Haness also called Nehoray (light) was a sofer stam who specialized in fixing sifrei Torah. The pattern of Pesach Sheini is awesome! He is the grandson on Nero the Roman Emperor or according to some opinions a high ranking general in the Roman army.  He led the Roman army as they approached Jerusalem in order to destroy the holy city.  Upon witnessing what he perceived as clear signs from Hashem that He will always be with His beloved nation, Nero became a Jew. In order to convert without being assasinated by the Romans, he acted insane; he set Rome of fire, acted  in a generally  self-destructive manner, ultimately faking his death and running away to Israel. His name Nero or Neron connotes candle, his grandson Rebbe Meir illuminated the world with his Torah. “What do you care? He who commanded the oil to burn can command the vinegar to burn!”

Rebbe Meir had two Rebbes:  Achair (Elisha ben Abuya, who later rejected the Torah and became an apostate) and Rabbi Akiva. The trajectories of the two couldn’t be more diverse.  Achair who attributes his “OTD” issues to being the fault of his parents, (sound familiar) constantly refuses to listen to Rebbe Meir’s pleading with him that he can still do teshuva. Achair has fallen into the trap of Amalek believing that he has no rectification.

Rabbi Akiva resilience and determination to pursue his “second chances”  is beyond awesome. Both when he began learning Torah at the age of forty and after all his 24,000 talmidim died, he recruits five new students and begins again. Rabbi Meir being one of those students.

Rabbi Meir who declares “ben kach uben kach bani hem”, in any case, no matter what they do, they are My children. Rabbi Meir is insistent that Am Yisrael recognize that Hashem is always our Father not matter what. Hashem is always guiding us offering us a second chance.

On Pesach Sheini we have the mitzvah to eat matzah. Best if the matzah is from Pesach, but any matza will do. You don’t need to eat maror 🙂 or lean. But as you are eating the matzah , you might want eat it with saltwater. Cry and beg Hashem for the second chance.  Ask Him for the fortitude to humble ourselves repair broken relationships including our relationship with Him.  Ask Hashem that He continues to give us strength to climb the mountain and thank Him for the second chances He has lovingly provided us with. Ask that Am Yisrael be given a second chance (really a third one) at having a Bais HaMikdash. Light a candle for Rabbi Meir Bal Haness and give tzedaka in his memory and ask that we bring only light into the world. That our children and all of Hashem’s children illuminate the world with Torah and good deeds. Let us call out to Hashem from the depths of our hearts “lama nigra?” Why should all the lost souls of Am Yisrael be left out? May each Jew be included in the conscious relationship with Hashem! Why should the doors of ruchniyous be closed for me? My husband ? my children? ” And may Hashem answer us with a new chag! A chag where all those who were “defiled” and all of those on a “distant road” and all our spiritual aspirations which were defiled  or on a distant road will actualize and be celebrated!

Iy”H I will be going to Merion on Lag B’Omer and happy to daven for you. You can email me names.

More on Lag B’Omer next week iy”H.

A lichtega’ Shabbos,


UP load! Uplifting thoughts from Na’aleh by Rebbetzin Shoshie Nissenbaum

16 02 2016
My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covertures of the steps, show me your appearance, let me hear your voice, for your voice is pleasant and your appearance is comely.’ יוֹנָתִי בְּחַגְוֵי הַסֶּלַע בְּסֵתֶר הַמַּדְרֵגָה הַרְאִינִי אֶת מַרְאַיִךְ הַשְׁמִיעִנִי אֶת קוֹלֵךְ כִּי קוֹלֵךְ עָרֵב וּמַרְאֵיךְ נָאוֶה:

Am Yisrael cerainally imbodies the proverbial “caught between a rock and a hard place”. Each one of us identifies with this on a personal level as well as a national level.

The “Terror Wave” as its being called, has conjured up a kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions. Looking at the face of Hadar Cohen, at her natural chen, at her eyes so full of joy and hope, my mind begins to wonder into the world of “what if”. What if it would have been my child. . what if it would have been me. . the “what ifs” begin to invade me, consume me and spread their guilt. And than someone whose been standing behind my shoulder unnoticed during my sojourn into “what if” land, asks: “Mommy, who is that girl? “ What a question! Who is that girl? She is a girl who stopped a catastrophic terror attack with her life. She is a girl who has loving parents, siblings, and friends who are so proud of her bravery and so pained at her tragic death. How do I explain to an already fearful eleven year old, what happened. (i.e. How to I explain to a 39 year old fearful woman what happened!) I respond to him in a calm Mommy, matter of fact voice, which is completely incongruent with my emotions. “This girl is Hadar Cohen, she noticed something strange about three Arabs trying to enter the Old City of Jerusalem, she stopped them and they hurt her very badly, but Hadar and her fellow policemen stopped all of the terrorists. Let’s daven for her friend who is also very hurt Rivital bat Penina”. Not exactly the most factual recounting of the events, but much better than CBS. I was hoping that that would end the conversation. I shut the computer off, in wistful thinking that I could just shut off emotions. Of course Eliezer wanted to know if she would be ok and I slowly broke the news to him that Hadar passed away. And again, I find myself caught between wanting to break down and cry and the responsibility of being the stable adult in the lives of precious and fragile children. And the dance begins. As I begin to sway between the different emotions, a pattern begins to emerge. The pain can dance with love, hope can lift despair, grief can coexist with appreciation as these emotions swirl and tap around my heart, I begin to understand the dance of Klal Yisrael, the dance of Miriam HaNavei. The steps of coming closer to Hashem when we are in the clefts of the rock. Of knowing that He hears our voice as sweet even if I sing like a raven (ערב as in sweet is similar to work עורב a raven), He sees us a beautiful even when we don’t perceive ourselves as such. Hashem Yisbarach, allows us to function on two contradicting ways at the same time. We can be stuck and we can be hopeful. Life doesn’t need to be departmentalized. By turning to Hashem, who is above time, and talking it out with Him, bringing all our emotions into our tefilah (both formal and non-formal) create for us an island of stability in the midst of raging waters. כאב, which means pain also means כאב like a father. When in pain we turn to our Father in Heaven. So, if you were hoping to find the magic answer or quick fix tikkun here, sorry, I don’t have any to offer. I have no suggestions of what Kabblot to take upon oneself or what to fix or where to go. I have only one suggestion, don’t switch off the feelings of pain. Take them to Hashem, find comfort and stability in knowing that He heard you and perhaps one day when the veil of concealment is lifted we will understand that all that we thought was bitter was really sweet.


Travel Candles

15 12 2015

It was Zot Chanukah, the zenith of the holiday when all eight flames are kindled to affirm the wonder of Jewish endurance. Judah and Regina Geier, along with their two children Arnold and Ruth, sat silently on a train traveling from Berlin to Holland. They were one of the lucky few who had managed to get American visas and now they were finally on their way to what they hoped was freedom. The Geiers knew they were not entirely out of danger. The German officials at the German-Dutch borders would still need to inspect their passports and travel documents. Under these precarious circumstances, how could they possibly light the Chanukah candles? Regina attempted to comfort her husband. G‑d, who sees and knows all, would surely forgive them and give them many more Chanukahs to celebrate properly.

Judah refused to be consoled. Amid such spiritual blackness, the light of the Chanukah candles seemed more vital than ever. Suddenly, the train stopped at the German-Dutch border. The Germans approached to check travel identities. The Geier family sat frozen in fear. Then without warning the entire train plunged into darkness. Immediately, Judah sprang up and pulled nine candles out of his coat pocket. He lined them up on the windowsill in their train compartment, whispered the blessings, and kindled the lights. In the otherworldly glow of the menorah, his face shone with happiness.

The German officers discerning the light came running in. The Geiers seemed doomed. But the Germans were only focused on checking passports and papers. The flickering candles gave them the light to do that. As soon as they finished, the chief officer of the border police gratefully thanked Judah for prudently bringing “travel candles” on his journey.

The Geier family sat speechless, unable to take their gaze off the menorah. Judah, still under the spell of what had just taken place beckoned his son closer. “Remember this moment,” he said. “As in the days of the Maccabees, a great miracle happened here.”

The Jewish mystical writings teach us that Zot Chanukah is the culmination of the Days of Awe. It is a day to contemplate the supernatural in nature, the miracles clothed in mundanity. For what is a miracle but a revelation of the manifestation of God? And what are the Days of Awe but a period when He is close to us, when God-consciousness is at the forefront?

And so, perhaps Zot Chanukah is our wake up call to ponder how, just as the routine of nature can delude us, making us forget that it is all God’s will, so too can the weeks following the Days of Awe bring us to a state of indifference regarding our deeds. If so, the last night of Chanukah is a particularly fitting time to take an accounting of our lives. As we gird ourselves to face the long dark winter, which many would call, “God-forsaken,” we can take strength knowing that in fact, “His glory fills the universe.”


Adapted from “Small Miracles of the Holocaust” by Yitta Halberstam and Judith Leventhal As told by Arnold Geier (Judah’s son) to Pesi Dinnerstein

The Nature of Nature by Rabbi A. Shafran

The Hidden Menorah

14 12 2015

Kislev, 1944 – Hunger, suffering, and unspeakable atrocities were the daily fare in the Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp. Rav Shmelke Shnitzler, later to become the Tachaber Rebbe, tried valiantly to keep up the spirits of his fellow inmates. The day before Chanukah, as Rav Shmelke was on his way to a barrack to remove the bodies of several people who had died in the night, his foot got caught in a hole in the frozen ground. As he bent down to see what had happened, his eye caught the shape of a small jar. He quickly pulled it out and his eyes grew wide in wonder, Oil for Chanukah!

Rav Shmelke inspected the hole further. There was a small bundle hiding there. In his hands he soon held a carefully bound package. Inside were eight small cups along with eight thin cotton wicks. Evidently a Jew had hid it. But who was this mysterious person? And what had happened to him?

The next night, after the evening roll call, Rav Shmelke set up the makeshift menorah. He recited the blessings with heartfelt emotion and then lit the first wick. The group who had gathered in the barracks observed the wondrous scene in silence as the small, flickering, flame pierced the thick darkness. A radiant spark of hope lit up their battered hearts. Each night of the holiday, as the scene was repeated their faith grew stronger.

In April 1945, Germany capitulated. Bergen Belsen was liberated. Rav Shmelke returned to Hungary and was asked to serve as spiritual leader of a small group of survivors. Several years later he traveled to the United States where he visited Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum, the Satmar Rebbe. While they sat together and recalled old times, the Satmar Rebbe talked about his internment in Bergen Belsen.

“I was rescued on the 21st of Kislev, four days before Chanukah,” said the Satmar Rebbe. “I did not know that my salvation would come so I bribed several camp officials to get me oil, cups, and wicks for Chanukah. I then buried the package in a field. What a pity that my small menorah was never used.”

Rav Shmelke could not contain his excitement at the revelation. “Your menorah was miraculously found. It kindled hope and faith in the hearts of hundreds of Jews and helped them pull through the dark days until their liberation.”

Shlomo Hamelech writes in Mishlei, “Ki ner mitzvah, v’Torah ohr.” The lamp is a mitzvah and the Torah is light. The 248 positive mitzvot parallel the 248 limbs of the body. If one adds yirah (fear) and ahavah (love) it equals 250 which is the numerical value of ner. A mitzvah takes something spiritual and abstract and gives it a foothold in the world of reality. If it is performed with fear and love it can bring down incredible light.

The menorah had seven branches paralleling the seven traits we share in common with Hashem. Our ability to experience our own enlightenment is the menorah within us. When we light the Chanukah lights, we reawaken the awareness of our inner eternal flame. Nes by definition is above nature. We have to skip over nature, remove the materialism within ourselves at least for the moment, to get to the miracle. Whenever we do a mitzvah that uses something physical, it’s an opportunity to get a little bit above that which defines whatever medium the mitzvah involves. It’s an opportunity to get closer to Hashem.



Adapted from 36 Candles: Chassidic Tales for Chanukah by L. Astaire

Chanukah Sefas Emes: Part I Reb. Tziporah Heller




Spinning the Cosmic Dreidel

10 12 2015

In October 1940, Rabbi Chaim Stein z’tzl led a group of students from Telshe on a daring escape from war ravaged Europe via the Trans-Siberian Railroad. The train moved excruciating slow, stopping at every town and village along the way. But the students absorbed in Torah and prayer hardly noticed the days slipping away. One day someone announced that Chanukah would begin that night. How would they fulfill the mitzvah of lighting Chanukah candles?

The students pondered the problem hoping to find a solution. One student tore a small piece of cloth from his shirt and formed a wick from the threads. Another student produced a metal can to serve as the menorah. But where would they find oil? Then suddenly one student had a brainstorm. At the next stop he jumped off the train and put a cup under a small venting pipe to catch the tiny drops of engine oil that continually dripped out. When the train started up again, he quickly jumped back on holding the precious liquid. As soon as the train stopped again, he went back to collect more drops. At every stop, the cup filled with more oil until there was enough to kindle a small flame. Words cannot describe the joy that filled the air that night as the students merited to fulfill the mitzvah of kindling the menorah.

The arduous task of gathering the oil continued every day throughout the holiday. One night the weather turned icy cold. The temperature on the train dropped below zero. One student volunteered to try and gather some oil. He climbed through the snow to the engine but not a drop of oil appeared from the frozen pipes. Sadly, he returned to the train empty handed.

The time to light the candles came but there was no way to fulfill the mitzvah. Despondency is not the Jewish way. If they couldn’t kindle the lights with oil, the students decided, they would do it in their hearts instead. They sat up all night exchanging words of Torah. Halacha, ethics, and mystical interpretations of Chanukah swirled through the air. Suddenly, just before daybreak, a burly Russian man filled the entrance way of their carriage.

“Do you need a candle?” he asked.

The students quickly took the candle, recited the blessing, and kindled it. Moments later dawn broke heralding a new day. They had succeeded in fulfilling the mitzvah with seconds to spare. They turned to thank the Russian but he had disappeared into thin air. They searched through the train with no success. He couldn’t have alighted as there were no stops that day.

Years later on Simchat Torah, as Rav Stein retold the story to his students he concluded, “Uhn efshar, maybe, it was Eliyahu HaNavi.”

The dreidel appears like a top, with a pointed tip on which it spins. Spinning the dreidel makes its square contours seemingly disappear revealing a round top. In a symbolic way, the dreidel’s square face signifies the rational logic of the ancient Greeks, over whom the Maccabbee’s triumphed. The Maccabbee’s believed that it is the infinite God who has no limits who brings all of reality into being. The round contours of the dreidel as it twirls around corresponds to the world of the Divine, which expresses itself as miracles—events that cannot be comprehended by the rational mind.

When a miracle happens, we can envision God playing with His big cosmic dreidel. God spins His inner light—His revealed finite nature as we see it—obscuring the rigid rational rules that govern reality and revealing His inner infinite nature. One might say that God is constantly turning miracles into nature.


The Last Drop by Rabbi Y. Sinclair

Chanukah and the Dreidel by Rabbi Ginsburgh

Old Telz In New World by Rabbi Y. Besser




The Hidden Light

10 12 2015

A group of chassidim once set out on a journey to the Chozeh of Lublin. Yankele, the wagon driver listened closely as the chassidim sitting in his wagon, told wondrous stories of the Chozeh and the miracles he had wrought.

When they reached Lublin, Yankele asked the chassidim to take a kvitl for him to the Rebbe. They happily obliged as they set off for the court of the Rebbe. Upon entering the Chozeh’s chamber each of the chassidim presented their requests and received the Chozeh’s warm blessing in return. Finally they handed the wagon driver’s kvitl to the Rebbe.

The Chozeh took the kvitl and clasped it in his hands for several moments. Then he exclaimed, “This person is a very great man. His name is shining with a very special light.”

One of the chassidim hastened to inform the Rebbe that the kvitl was from a simple wagon driver. “He may be a good person but he is not a holy man.” The Chozeh remained unconvinced, “There is a great light radiating from the soul of this simple wagon driver. Go search for him and you will understand why.”

The chassidim immediately left the Chozeh’s court and began looking for the wagon driver. They heard strains of lively music coming from the street and as they got closer it seemed that the entire town had turned out for a wedding. The people were dancing and singing and rejoicing with the bride and groom but happiest of all was the wagon driver whose face shone with ethereal joy.
The chassidim approached the wagon driver and asked him if he was related to the bride or groom. “No,” said the wagon driver.

“So, why are you so happy?” asked the chassidim.

The wagon driver began to relate what happened. I went for a walk through the town and I noticed a large crowd gathering for a wedding. But instead of the joy that should have been palpable, a pallor of sadness marred the air. The bride-an older woman-stood in a corner of the square weeping, while the groom —an older bachelor — stood off to the other side gesticulating angrily.

The wagon driver approached one of the townspeople and asked what had happened.

“The bride is poverty stricken. She couldn’t offer a dowry, but she undertook to give the groom a tallit (prayer shawl). However, she couldn’t raise the money for that either. So now the groom wants to cancel the wedding because she didn’t keep her word.”

The wagon driver’s heart filled with mercy for the poor bride. He immediately took off his hat and removed everything he had earned over the past few days from its secret hiding place. He rushed to purchase the prayer shawl and sent it over to the groom. Then he vanished into the crowd.

“When the dancing began, an otherworldly joy overtook over me,” the wagon driver said. “When does a simple Jew like me get an opportunity to perform such an extraordinary mitzvah? That is why I was so incredibly happy.”

When the chassidim related the story to the Chozeh he exclaimed, “Yes, that is the light that I saw. The great mitzvah, particularly the joy with which he fulfilled it, caused his soul to fill the Heavens with a wondrous light.”

The Bnei Yissachar explains that the word Kislev can be read as kas, lamed, vav, the concealed thirty six. This alludes to the hidden thirty six tzaddikim who live in every generation. It also refers to the first thirty six hours in which a great light shone in the world. Kislev’s essence is about the ohr haganuz, the hidden light. The Gemara in Sanhedrin says, “A person is commanded to say, “The world was created for me.” Within each person there are thirty six hidden lights and there is a potential within us to be a lamed vavnik, a hidden tzaddik. It is up to us to reveal the holiness within ourselves and other people. In Parshat Noach, we read how the dove came back to the ark with an olive branch. Hashem says just as the dove brought light to the world, the Jews will bring light to the world with the olive oil. This refers to the menora in the beit hamikdash and Chanuka. We are the yonah. Our avoda (mission) in the month of Kislev is to reveal the points of righteousness in ourselves and others.

The sum total of lights on Chanukah is thirty six, which is what the holiday is about. The stories we tell about lamed vavniks who appeared so coarse and uncouth aren’t just folklore. They teach that within each of us is concealed the power of Kislev, thirty six hidden lights waiting to be revealed.




The Light In Lublin by L. Astaire


Chodesh Kislev: Mrs. S. Nissenbaum


The Artist’s Task

8 12 2015

On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the famous violinist, appeared on stage in New York to give a concert. Pearlman wears braces and walks with crutches, remnants of his bout with polio as a child. The audience waited quietly as he laboriously trekked across the stage, settled his crutches on the floor, and undid the clasps on his legs. He then signaled to the conductor and began to play.

Suddenly one of the strings on his violin snapped. The unmistakable sound ricocheted through the hall. You would think he would have halted the concert, limped off stage, replaced the string or violin, and started again. But not Itzhak Perlman. He paused for a moment, closed his eyes, and then motioned to the conductor to pick up just where they had left off. Playing a symphonic piece with merely three strings is nearly impossible. But Perlman refused to capitulate. The audience watched in wonder as he modulated, changed, and recreated the symphony as he played. It seemed as if he was de-tuning the strings to extract something it had never given before. Perlman was at his peak as he played with poise, passion, and purity.

When he finally completed the symphony, the audience sat as if shell shocked. And then they rose as one and applauded as they never did before. They knew they had just observed an incredible scene of human artistry and ingenuity. Perlman dabbed the sweat from his brow and in a quiet, pensive tone said, “You know, sometimes it is the artist’s task to find out how much beautiful music you can still make with what you have left.”

Hakarat hatov means searching out the good. Training ourselves to be grateful means recognizing the good we already have. We are all deficient in something, and so the question challenges us all: Will we create something of beauty out of what we do have, although it may be imperfect? Or we will concentrate on what we are lacking and allow ourselves to wallow in self-pity?

Chanukah is about l’hodot u’lehallel, not just for the miracles of war, but for all the miracles that He does for us every day. We say in davening, “Kol haneshama tehalel kah.” The commentators explain, “Al kol neshima,” for every breath of life we must thank Hashem. The beauty of Chanukah is making that gratitude a part of our life.


Path of the Soul: Gratitude #3, Dr. A. Morinis


Chanukah: Affectionate Light, Mrs. S. Smiles