Purim and the Gan Eden Experience

25 02 2010

www.Naaleh.comBased on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles

Appreciating the greatness of Purim is a challenge because it seems so full of fun, partying, and dressing up.  How do we connect to the holiness of the day?

Rav Salomon explains the Gemara that asks, where is Haman found in the Torah? The Gemara answers with a verse in Bereishit, “Hamin ha’eitz…, Have you eaten from the tree that I commanded you not to eat?” The first word is a reference to Haman.

Rav Salomon connects this to the prohibition of baal tashchit, refraining from cutting down fruit trees. The Sefer Hachinuch explains that this mitzva is meant to develop sensitivity in us not to destroy even the smallest item. This in turn will help us relate with sensitivity to people.

Every life experience is a challenge.  If a person chooses to distance himself from Hashem, he destroys himself and the world. If he cleaves to Hashem, and uses the world to serve Hashem, he and the world are elevated. Adam had free choice to sanctify the world, but instead he destroyed himself and the world when he sinned with the eitz hadaat.

The key to the simcha of Purim is understanding the two contrasting worlds of Gan Eden and egocentricity. This is found in the story of Amalek and the story of the desert food that fell from the sky for the Jews, the mahn. Amalek’s goal was to rootout every vestige of Hashem. In contrast, when the Jews ate the mahn they realized that even physical food could be elevated to a spiritual experience.

The difference between these two worlds can be found in the inner attitude a person adopts in his approach to life. Our happiness is self-generated and is in direct proportion to the amount of effort we invest in fulfilling mitzvot. Adar helps us develop an appreciation for life. It’s about focusing on Hashem rather than on yourself. There is a special emphasis on respecting others and valuing the importance of every individual. This is actualized through dressing up, mishloach manot, and matanot l’evyonim. A mask forces one to look beyond the external appearance of a person towards his inneressence. Mishloach manot is best fulfilled by sending gifts to people we don’t particularly like or get along with.

On Purim the Jews accepted the Torah once again out of joy, love, and passion. On this day we come back to Har Sinai and the Gan Eden experience. It’s a moment of closeness with Hashem that’s indescribable. The Otzrot Purim notes that mishloach manot customarily include sweets to signify that Torah is compared to milk and honey.  We have milk on Shavuot and honey on Purim.

The Netivot Shalom points out that the external frivolities of the day are the satan’s way of distracting us. Those who recognize the power of Purim will use their time wisely. The gates of mercy are open on this day.  Try to use every spare moment especially after the megilla reading and during the seudah to daven. It is good to recite Tehillim. Our tikun on Purim is to say to Hashem, “Adam ate from the tree, but we will be more careful. We will take this world and elevate it
and bring it closer to perfection”

The Unique Joy of Adar

24 02 2010

The Unique Joy of AdarBased on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Eliezer Miller

Our Jewish calendar is full of special days that have a unique influence on us and help us come closer to Hashem. The Torah calls the holidays, moadim, times of meeting with Hashem. The month of Adar contains the hidden power of repentance. Teshuva comes from the root word “shuv,” meaning return. Sin distances us from Hashem, and teshuva brings us back close to Him again.  The Sar Shalom MiBelz explains the verse in Breishit, “Ki lulei hismahmanu ata shavnu zeh pamayim. If we had not delayed we would have returned twice already.”  Lulei has the same letters as Elul. “Zeh” is the numerical value twelve. If one delayed repenting in Elul then one can return in the twelfth month, Adar.

Purim is also a special day for teshuva.  The Tikunei Zohar says that Yom Kippur is Yom KiPurim, it is compared to Purim.  The Midrash says that when Mashiach will come all the holidays will be annulled except Yom Kippur and Purim. The Gra explains that both are days of kabalat haTorah. The second luchot were given on Yom Kippur and the Jews accepted the Torah again out of love on Purim. Rav Tzadok Hacohen writes that just as Yom Kippur is a day of atonement, so Purim has the power to weaken the strength of Amalek. The Zohar in Ki Teitzei says that the root of Amalek is the yetzer hara. Each one of us has a bit of Amalek – the yetzer hara – inside of us. The more a person taps into the holiness of Purim, the more he weakens the Amalek inside of him.

The book Segulot Yisrael writes that just as Yom Kippur is an auspicious time for teshuva and tefilla, so is Purim. Many have a custom to arise early to pray for their own personal yeshuot and for all of Klal Yisrael. The Zohar says that with happiness on Purim one can attain the same lofty level of closeness to Hashem that one achieves through fasting and affliction on Yom Kippur.  The Sefat Emet notes that whereas Elul is a time of teshuva out of fear, Purim is a time of teshuva out of love. Adar connotes an expression of strength. Doing teshuva requires tremendous inner power, and if one repents out of love, one’s sins are transformed into merits. This is why we are enjoined to increase our happiness in Adar. Even if a person doesn’t feel naturally happy, the avoda of Adar is to arouse our feelings for happiness. When we rejoice, our hearts are open to Hashem, which in turn leads us to return to Him in love.

The Shem MiShmuel writes that an extra measure of Divine Presence is found in the world during the month of Adar. He cites the Arizal, who says that any awakening from below always stems from an awakening from above. During Adar, Hashem opens up his wellsprings of generosity and love for the Jewish people. This, in turn, inspires us to express our love towards him.  When a person feels more connected to Hashem, he realizes his own importance and how the world will not run properly without him. This gives him the motivation to want to do Hashem’s will and repent.

May we merit todo teshuva out of love, and may Hashem help us awaken our feelings of happiness, generosity, and love for Him.

Question Index for Rebbetzin’s Perspective II: Questions and Answers for Today’s Jewish Woman

23 02 2010

Rebbetzin’s Perspective II

Class 1

  • Rewarding children for helping around the house
  • Suspect neighbor abusive to wife
  • Clarity of Jewish women in Mitzrayim
  • Help avoiding Loshon Hora and dealing with anger and disappointment caused by machlokes
  • Understanding the dynamic of husband and wife in reference to Ruchnius goals
  • Should I stop nursing my child to increase my chances of having more children?
  • Explaining my parents divorce to my children
  • Explanation of custom of not allowing babies to look in the mirror
  • Spiritual significance of Hebrew birthdays
  • Understanding the atonement ritual of the Azazel
  • Men and women’s roles – the generally accepted view
  • Bringing HaShems Shechina into the world
  • Husband doesn’t attend Minyan regularly

Class 2

  • Understanding the atonement ritual of the Azazel
  • Men and women’s roles – the generally accepted view
  • Love and respect in marriage

Class 3

  • Balancing obvious chessed opportunities with a healthy family life
  • Feasible to take on 5 new children?
  • Good friend struggling with shidduchim
  • At what age should father insist that his child daven every word of Shemoneh Esrei?
  • Sensitivity to having single mothers for Shabbos meals
  • Dealing with 13 months olds tantrums
  • Gift recommendation for a 14 year old boy to help be mekarev him.

Class 4

  • Rain
  • Getting rid of bad thoughts
  • Practically respecting your husband
  • What obligations do I have to my Jewish help in the house?
  • Perek Shira
  • Dealing with husband’s criticism
  • Shidduchim and losing weight
  • HaShems hashgacha in terms of rain
  • Helping guests feel appreciated while maintaining the Kedusha of our home
  • Helping young children understand HaShems love and Din on their level

Class 5

  • Defining ones tafkid without the role of being a mother
  • Practical advice on organization and increasing self esteem.
  • Practical help contacting Gedolim.
  • Planned parenting and knowing when I’m ready for a second child.
  • Davening tips for Tefillah at home with my seven year old son.
  • Response for a child being bullied.
  • Balance of giving child rebuke for onaas devarim and building his self image.
  • Encouraging 10 year old daughter to stop playing with neighbors who are boys.
  • Comments on Kollel lifestyle

Class 6

  • Shidduchim conflicts caused by choice of college major.
  • Labor in Judaism
  • Handling chutzpah for children ages 10-13
  • Kollel at the expense of children
  • What lack did Chava fill for Adam?
  • Tefillah
  • Tefillah B
  • Understanding the role of a wife who is stronger in spirituality than her husband.
  • Women and visiting cemeteries
  • Old meaningful friendship- should I maintain it even though our lives are so different now.
  • Teaching Shmiras Einayim to children
  • Stories on jealousy to be mechanech children

Class 7

  • Response to 7 years old child’s questions about goyim kissing in the street.
  • Parameters for a relationship with angry family member.
  • Response to others who cut ahead in line.
  • Hashkafa on Chanukah gifts.
  • Bad dreams in Judaism
  • Understanding Medrash about women wearing jewelry exclusively in the house.
  • Practically applying the idea of the Medrash that a married woman should stay in her home to avoid being a stumbling block for men.
  • Correct attitude toward husbands decision to paskin his own shailas
  • Help deciding which school system to choose for son.

Class 8

  • Love for music
  • Conflict between value of working and staying home with my children
  • What is the parent’s role towards childrens gift money?
  • Explanation of the mitzvah of sanctifying time
  • Emunas chachamim today
  • Practically cultivating simcha and relating positively to nisyonos
  • Halachot of sleeve length and explaining the psak
  • Clarification on quantity vs. quality time with children
  • “Friend’s” judgmental comments and tznius in speech

Class 9

  • Practical ways to improve middot
  • How to deal with the neighbor’s child’s negative influence
  • Are Polly Pocket dolls really not ok?
  • Frum perspective on piercing ears
  • Judaism’s view on vegetarianism
  • Hashkafic difficulties with entering the mental health field
  • Making shidduchim the right way
  • How to calm son’s fears at the dentist

Class 10

  • Coping with the trauma of a son’s brit
  • Chinuch on fitting in with friends and refined speech
  • Taharat Hamishpacha and is this a chumra?
  • Dealing with threats of war
  • What defines time which is actually lived?
  • Different standards in kashrut and avoiding offending others
  • Handling sibling personality clashes
  • Is it ok to follow the news?

Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s ‘Rebbetzin’s Perspective’ Q&A Index

23 02 2010

Rebbetzin’s Perspective’ Index

Class #1

Introverted child
•      Women in Judaism
•      Prayer for others
•       Junk food for kids
•      Jewish tragedies
•      One mitzvah- “get well”
•      Hard time with self definition
•      Obsession with looks
•      Alone in a crowd
•      Fixing the world

Class #2

•    Changing others by changing yourself
•    Dealing with suffering
•    Building a relationship with my teenager
•    Childless friend
•    Filling my day meaningfully
•    Meaning of achdus
•    Child born with illness
•    Length of existence of immoral society
•    No choices in suffering
•    Different spiritual battles than Goyim
•    Hachnasat orchim
•    Election confusion
•    Bashert second time around

Class 3

  • Torn: Father vs. Full time learning
  • Recent miscarriages
  • Sexist remarks in Judaism
    • Need for approval
    • Avoiding over involvement
    • No nice boys
    • Purim for kids

Class 4

  • What does Loving Hashem mean?
  • Everything comes from Hashem
  • Balance between Torah and daily life
  • Need a program for your own spiritual growth
  • Discovering yourself – Who are you?
  • Bais Yaakov teaches how to respond to life
  • Schools need to teach how to put into practice
  • Tznius guidelines in relating to men
  • Girls learning Torah
  • Relaxation
  • Tzniut

Class 5

  • What is Bashert the second time around?
  • All those kids – what is that about?
  • Kids not happy and don’t know I care
  • How does a woman choose her husband’s ratzon
  • Is my identity what I do?
  • Conforming in dress and culture
  • I stick out from my pre-religious friends
  • Husband learning skills question
  • Tithing time in kiruv
  • Why do men and women have different Mitzvot?

Class 6

  • What are the proper boundaries for being a vatran?
  • Giving to fellow Jews
  • Haunted by the tragedy of Esther
  • Male guests
  • Fighting adversity
  • Kiruv oriented classes
  • Promoting Ahavas Chinam
  • Spiritual level of Jews in Egypt
  • Leah hated wife
  • How could Esther mary Achashveirosh
  • Reaching out

Class 7

  • Inspire davening
  • Kollel
  • Hashkafic points about Pesach for kids
  • Inspire ten yr old to daven
  • How talk to daughter about boy/girl interaction
  • How can I know who I am?
  • Getting drunk on Purim
  • A) Poorly treated animals B) Oral Torahs Mesora
  • Teaching a parent
  • Feeling and action
  • What is the message HaShem wants me to take from the troubles Ive been having?

Class 8

  • Hahkafic lessons of Sefiras HaOmer and Shavuous for children
  • Handling insults
  • Halachos of Sefer Torah and Niddah
  • How do I naviget between feeling greatful for the good I have while      knowing that I have a lot that I want to change
  • Living with critical family
  • Explaining Kiddush and Chillul HaShem
  • Listening to non-Jewish music
  • Beauty in the Torah
  • How do I stop talking about others to avoid talking about myself?
  • Questions about women in Tanach
  • Understanding how ALL parents leave children as mention in Tehillim
  • How do I deal with judgements people make about me based on my clothing?

Class 9

  • How do I deal with my difficult family situation in the most positive    way?
  • How should I respond to antisemitism around me?
  • Davening at ancestors graves
  • Women vs. men as formal teachers of Torah
  • A)Tznius often expressed externally B) Womens preformances
  • A)Compassion for non-jews- a Jewish perspective B) Value of life- spiritually and physically
  • Couples status in Olam Habah
  • Feeling judged
  • Why did G-d create us?

Class 10

  • Finding time to contribute uniquely
  • Should my husband stay in an unfulfilling but secure job?
  • People are involving themselves in my married life and I don’t want them to.
  • People try to get me to date when I’m not interested yet
  • Why are there so many people who have no knowledge of G-d
  • Security worries in Israel
  • What should our attitude be towards the danger of living in Israel?
  • Viewing G-d as sadistic and the connection it has to other relationships
  • Feeling more compassionate toward socially awkward relatives
  • Loshon Hora and Kibbud Eim
  • Series of questions to help women be inspired by their avodah in the home
  • Are women an inherently lower creation than men?

Class 11

  • Israel is not subject to derech hatevah
  • Is Hashem sadistic?
  • Tzius stringencies

Class 12

  • Posistive approach to teaching an 11 year old girl about Mitzvot in a difficult home dynamic
  • Connecting head and heart about living day by day in a hard situation
  • Practical approach to Tznius in thought and speech
  • Balance of Bitachon and Hishtadlus
  • How should I react to judgments based on clothing
  • Women dancing in public and on video
  • Minhag hamakom and covering the lower leg
  • Mental disorders in the Torah and Bechira

Class 13

  • Approach to Prayer as a woman parameters and suggestions
  • Approach to Tehillim and suggestions
  • Is it right to encourage a career in chinuch?
  • Emotional wellness vs. Kibbud Av V’Aim
  • Smooth sailing and worried – is this a lack of Bitachon
  • Smooth sailing and worried – is this a lack of Bitachon
  • How so I lift myself out of constantly worrying about my son?
  • Women in black/dark colors
  • Women asked strongly to improve in Tznius while men are not asked to improve in other things as severly
  • Giving over The 3 Weeks and Tisha B’Av to children

Class 14

  • I believe my father is a bad person
  • Difficult dynamics of mother and married daughters relationship
  • Too comfortable talking about “anything”
  • Questions about Megillas Rus
  • Recognizing Hashgacha Pratis in family relationships – who does this apply to?
  • Who does a single woman nurture?
  • Understanding Jewish and Non-Jewish souls
  • Moving to Israel and questioning the choice
  • Learning to “take the heat” while doing klal work
  • Setting up a learning schedule

Class 15

  • As a wife and mother how do I focus on spirituality throughout my day?
  • Prioritizing responsabilities
  • Friends elbows
  • Would like husbands help planning vacations
  • How do I learn healthy life skills to interact well with my family?
  • Rebbetzin Hellers stories of marrying off her kids
  • Chizuk in supporting husbands learning
  • Finding time for myself in a very busy schedule
  • Struggling with finances

Chassidut: Parshat Mishpatim – Hashem’s Emblem of Truth

11 02 2010

Chassidut: Parshat Mishpatim – Hashem’s Emblem of Truth
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur on Chassidut by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Parshat Mishpatim: G-d's Emblem of Truth

In Netivot Shalom, the Slonimer Rebbe discusses why Parshat Mishpatim comes after Parshat Yitro.  Rashi says that mishpatim, the code of civil and criminal law, completed the Sinai experience. What is the function of the mishpatim in terms of the original giving of the Torah?

In Tehilim we read, “Magid dvarav l’Yaakov u’mishpatav l’Yisrael. The Almighty related his word and bylaws to Israel (but did not do so to the other nations of the world).” One of the seven mitzvot bnei Noach is dinim, to establish a code of civil law. How may we understand this verse?

King David meant that a Jew has a different imperative for keeping the same laws as the non-Jews. The Jewish judicial system is ordained by Hashem, while the non-Jewish code of law is up to each nation’s discretion. The Gemara says that a Jewish judge who adjudicates a case truthfully becomes a partner with the Almighty in the creation of the world.  Hashem looked into the Torah to form the world. Jewish judges seek to apply the ideals of Torah correctly. When three judges adjudicate honestly, Hashem lowers himself to join them. The judges in the courts of Jewish law are messengers of Hashem. They enforce the laws of the Torah. In contrast, the non Jewish courts merely impose man-made mandates.

The Gemara writes that a Jewish court is “dan din emet l’amito,” judges the truth of the truth, the real truth. What does this mean? The Netivot Shalom relates an intriguing story about the Baal Shem Tov. His student was once framed, and forced by a beit din to pay the claimant a sum of money he had never taken. The student came to the Baal Shem Tov and asked him, If Hashem sits with the judges in the beit din, how could this beit din ruled unjustly? The Baal Shem Tov answered that the real truth had come out. In a previous lifetime, the student owed the litigant money which he never repaid. Now, in this reincarnation, he framed the student and got his money back. A Jewish court might commit what appears as a mistake, but in reality, there are always Divine reasons behind it.  Any judgment adjudicated with truth and sincerity becomes a part of the Torah. Indeed, many volumes of Halachic literature are accounts of judgments and decisions made by great Jewish judges over the course of centuries. Sheilot u’teshuvot comprise a significant body of the Oral Torah. This is how Parshat Mishpatim relates to the Sinai experience.

Chassidut teaches that Hashem created the world because He desired to rest His presence in the lower spheres, where He could express himself. The Jewish court of truth provides a home for Hashem.  Falsehood banishes Him. This is the secret of the power of mishpatim. Falsehood must not flourish. Truth is so essential that its message is positioned next to one of the most critical events in Jewish history, the giving of the Torah.

We cannot and dare not ignore our responsibilities to our fellow man, especially in regards to honesty in monetary matters. Our Sages would go to great lengths to clear any financial claims against them even if it meant paying back people who were themselves thieves and charlatans. In this way they sanctified Hashem’s name. It is crucial for parents to show children that their monetary obligations are sacred. Conducting ourselves with honesty brings the Shechina into our homes.

The Netivot Shalom quotes the Maharal that one must keep the Torah honestly between man and Hashem, man and man, and man and himself. This includes avoiding self deception, and being  true with oneself regarding ones potential, abilities, flaws, and power to change. By dedicating ourselves to live a life of emet, truth, we will merit to walk hand in hand with Hashem, whose essence is truth.

NEW Course! ‘Chofetz Chaim Laws of Proper Speech III’

3 02 2010
Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg is back with his popular Lashon Hara class for a third series!
Powerful Words: Chofetz Chaim Laws of Proper Speech III
The Laws of Proper Speech, codified in Sefer Chofetz Chaim, are the foundation of many of the laws governing human interaction. Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg teaches Sefer Chofetz Chaim, detailing the laws of proper and improper speech. Every class begins with a textual analysis of the sefer, and then discusses practical applications of the material discussed. Rabbi Ginsburg’s ultimate goal is encouraging self awareness and self-improvement in the areas of Mitzvot bein adam l’chavero (human relations).
Check out the first class in this series:
Believing Lashon Hara
In this Torah shiur on the laws and perspectives pertaining to one’s speech, Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg begins klal 6 of Sefer Chofetz Chaim, which talks about the prohibition to believe or hear any derogatory speech about others.

Hebrew Birthdays

1 02 2010

Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller discusses the significance of Hebrew Birthdays in her question and answer series:

The Mussar RevolutionQuestion: Is there spiritual significance related to one’s Hebrew birthday? Are our prayers more powerful or is there anything customarily done in Judaism in this day?

One of the things related to your mazal is your day of birth. A verse in Tehilim says, “Ani hoyom yeliditicha, sheal memeni v’etna. I have given birth to you today. Ask me and I will give it to you.” Certainly tefilot are more potent on this day. The very elaborate birthday parties we see sometimes have no source in the Torah. The only birthday party mentioned in the Torah was Pharoh’s. The reason is that the ultimate celebration is really the hilula, the day of one’s death, when a person goes back to Hashem with hands full of achievements and accomplishments. Just being born is not a cause for celebration, although it is cause for reflection, thankfulness, and new resolutions for the coming year.