Kohelet: Solving The Complexities of Life

12 10 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Kohelet: Perek 10: Solving The Complexities of Life #11The sages tell us that there are three forces that take a person out of reality: jealousy, desire, and honor.

Jealousy is the illusion that if someone else has more, than I have correspondingly less. In spirituality there are no limitations. We are given exactly what we need to achieve in life. We can be our absolute maximum self regardless of what anyone else has.

Lack of control is the voice of desire. Rav Dessler teaches that unlike jealousy, desire can’t be eliminated because it has a physical and emotional base. Imagery can help. At the moment when desires arises within you, try to imagine how you would appear out of control or, conversely, attempt to picture yourself in control and feel good about it.

Honor is connected to the body. Needing appreciation and validation on the deepest level, means not trusting who you are without external acknowledgement. If you need people’s validation then you are a prisoner to other people on the basis of what they tell you.

Honor takes a person out of intellectual reality, desire lifts him out of physical reality, and jealousy forces him out of emotional reality. The evil inclination then goes right into that empty space and does his work. The heart of a wise person leads him to the good path, the right side, which is stronger, while the desire of the fool takes him to the left side, the road less defined.

Right is chesed (kindness) and left is gevurah (justice). Chesed is the most predominant of the spiritual attributes and gevurah is the most corruptible. A person’s heart can steer him towards exploring things and feelings with the intent of wanting to bring goodness into the world. It can also lead him in the direction of defensiveness and restraint and not wanting to give anything at all. It’s better to trust the side of you that wants to give and make things good, than to trust the part of you that demands justice, because the desire for justice is easily corruptible.

The Baal Hatanya teaches that the heart has two ventricles. While the right side is empty, the left side is full of blood. The right side is the good side of the person, the part that gives itself over to Hashem. The left side is the animal side, the part that’s driven to pursue its goals. The fool doesn’t know the difference between right and left. He will do whatever he wants to do without thinking. His heart and emotions influence his actions.

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An Invitation To Hashem’s House

11 10 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum

An Invitation To Hashem's House One would think Sukkot should have been after Pesach, when Hashem took us out of Egypt. That was when the Jews dwelt in sukkot in the desert. Yet the holiday comes close on the heels of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. It is as if Hashem says, “You invited me into your home, now I will invite you into my abode.”

 

Sukkot contains an aspect of the world to come. For one special week we merit to dwell in the shade of the Divine Presence. The halachot (laws) of this special mitzva help us understand how to come closer to Him. Everything in the physical world has a form and shape, something that gives it borders. Holiness, however has no boundaries. Just as Hashem is expansive and fills the world, spirituality has no limits. The sukkah‘s width is boundless. This teaches us that everything in the world can be included within the framework of kedusha (sanctity). We sleep and eat and spend the greater part of our time in the sukkah as a way of showing Hashem that all physicality can be sanctified for Him. Yet the walls of the sukkah cannot be higher than twenty amot because the boundaries of kedusha require a vessel.

 

The Ramchal in Mesilat Yesharim writes that a person can make himself into a mishkan (tabernacle) for Hashem. Just as the mishkan traveled from place to place, a person can connect to Hashem wherever he is. The more a person attaches himself to Hashem, the more he transforms himself into a dwelling place for Him. On Sukkot we take everything we have and place it within the firm boundaries of the sukkah walls and elevate it for Hashem.

 

Sukkot comes after Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, days of tremendous closeness to Hashem. On Rosh Hashana we pray for sustenance, life, good health, children and a sweet new year. The sweetness is the aspect of uplifting what we have for Hashem. On Sukkot we actualize this by inviting Hashem into our homes and hearts.

 

The Gemara says that the merit of building the walls of the sukkah drives away both our physical and spiritual enemies. The sukkah protects us. It must have more shade than sun. Sun represents the power of the nations. It never changes or grows. We are compared to the moon, which constantly experiences renewal and rebirth.

 

Sukkot is a tremendous opportunity to store up kedusha and tahara (purity). This is why it is called zman simchateinu. This is what eternal joy is about.





Why is Succos in Tishrei as opposed to Nissan?

10 10 2011

Naaleh.com presents this special post from Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg discussing why Succot in in Tishrei and not Nissan. Visit Naaleh.com for FREE video and audio classes by Rabbi Ginsburg as well as many other esteemed Torah teachers. You can sign up for Rabbi Ginsburg’s weekly Divrei Torah by sending  an email to beinishginsburg@gmail.com.

Why is Succos in the fall as opposed to the spring? This is a question which many of the Rishonim[i] and Achronim[ii] have dealt with. One opinion in the Gemara (Succah 11b), is that we build succot in order to commemorate the ananei hakavod, the clouds of glory, which Hashem provided for us in the midbar. This is the more widely accepted opinion[iii]. Hashem provided us with the ananei hakavod immediately after we left Mitzrayim, in the spring. So why is the yom tov of Succos delayed until the fall?

One classic answer is offered by the Tur (siman 625). The Tur explains that Hashem wanted the mitzvah to be done in a way that it would be readily apparent that the booths were being put up for the sake of the mitzvah and not for personal convenience. In the spring it is common for people to leave their homes to go out and to live in booths in the shade. So, if the yom tov of Succos ware to be celebrated in the spring, it would not have been readily apparent that we are sitting in the booths for the sake of the mitzvah. Therefore, Hashem gave us the mitzvah in the fall, in Tishrei, at the time when people normally go back into their homes. If a Jew leaves his house to go sit outside in a booth at the beginning of the rainy season, then it is clear that he is doing so only to serve Hashem and not in response to the onset of the summer[iv]. This is the famous approach of the Tur[v].

However, there is a difficulty with this comment of the Tur. The Rambam provides a different reason why Succos is in the fall. The Rambam writes[vi], “In this season it is possible to dwell in tabernacles as there is neither great heat not troublesome rain.” In other words, Succos is in the beginning of the fall because the weather is quite pleasant now- it is not too hot, it is not too cold, and it is not raining yet. Hashem loves His people and He wants the mitzvos to be pleasant for us, therefore Succos is in the fall. Those of us who live in Eretz Yisroel or spend Succos in Eretz Yisroel know that the Rambam is right. The weather is pleasant now. At first glance it is difficult to square this Rambam with the Tur. Based on this, one can ask, what exactly does the Tur mean? How is it more readily apparent that one is sitting in the succah for the sake of the mitzvah when Succos is in the fall as opposed to in the spring?

There are two possible approaches to the Tur. One is that although the weather is pleasant, the rainy season is close and it does rain sometimes. Hashem could have worked it out the weather was even better, that Succos would have been celebated during the best time to go out to the succah. And, since sometimes it does rain and a person would not go out into the booth when it rains, therefore it shows that it is for the sake of the mitzvah. Even if the weather is pleasant at this time of year, it would still be less apparent in the spring that we are building succahs for the sake of the mitzvah.

The other possibility[vii] is that we have to take a new approach to what the Tur meant. It could be that the Tur’s focus is not that the rainy weather already has begun at the time of Succos. But rather that the rainy season is imminent. In the spring, when it is beginning to get hot, it is normal for a person to go outside and build a booth, which he will then use as his summer home, his summer bungalow, for the hot spring and summer. However, a person would not leave his home and build a bungalow in order to use it for a week or two and then run back into the house when the rain begins. That is what is strange about going out into succot now. It is not that the weather is presently unpleasant, but rather it is very close to the beginning of the rainy season. Therefore, it is clear that a person is going out for the sake of a mitzvah and not due to personal conveniences based on the weather conditions.

These are two approaches as to why Succos is in the fall, the approach of the Rambam and the approach of the Tur.

Chag Sameach,

B. Ginsburg


[i] See the Ramban in Vayikra 23, 39-43

[ii]Aruch HaShulchan siman 625

[iii] Rashi (Vayikra 23,43) quotes this view. The Shulchan Aruch (Siman 625) quotes this view as well.

[iv] The language of this paragraph is taken from the Artscroll on Succos, p. 46.

[v] The Tur’s language is, “yireh la’kol she’mitzvas Ha’Melech hi aleinu,” “it should be apparent to all that this is a commandment of Hashem upon us.” The world “la’kol” is striking. Some explain that the Tur here is saying that it should be apparent not only to the Jews, but also to the non-Jews as well. This is the approach of Rav Chanoch Karelenstein zt”l (Kuntres b’Inyanei Succos p. 22).

Rav Karelenstein explains that he thinks that this Tur is hinting to another famous theme of Succos, the connection of goyim to Succos in general. On Succos we offer seventy special korbanos mussaf, the first day thirteen, the second day twelve, going down to seven. Why? Chazal explain that these seventy korbanos correspond to the seventy nations. This reflects the connection of goyim to Succos.

We read in Zecharya (Perek 14; this is the haftorah for the 1st day of Succos) that l’asid la’voh the non-Jews will come to Yerushalayim to celebrate Succos, and if they do not, they will be punished. This is very striking. We do not find sources that l’asid la’voh the goyim will be commanded to celebrate Pesach or Shavuos. This shows a very strong connection between Succos and non-Jews. What is the explanation of this connection?

The meforshim discuss what is the connection between the goyim and Succos?  One approach is as follows. The basic theme of Pesach is that Hashem chose Am Yisroel as the special, chosen nation. On Shavuos we received the Torah. The themes of these yomim tovim are not universalistic in any way. The basic message of Succos, however, is Hashem’s hashgacha over us, over Am Yisroel. Hashem watched over us, guided us, and guarded us in the midbar. We know that the hashgacha over Am Yisroel is very special. But, Hashem governs the non-Jewish world as well. So the idea behind Succos is more universalistic, the idea of hashgacha applies to the non-Jewish world as well. This approach I heard from Rav Leff shli”ta, and Rav Karelenstein zt”l has a similar approach.

Rav Karelenstein quotes another beautiful remez for the connection of goyim to Succos. The minimum size of a wall of a succah is ten tefachim tall and at least 7 tefachim across. Ten times seven equals seventy. Rabbeinu Bachya says that this is a remez to the seventy nations (Sefer Kad Hakemach, Os Samech).

Rav Karlenstein maintains that the Tur is hinting that we want to perform the mitzvah of Succah in a way that everyone knows that it is for the sake of Hashem, including the non-Jews. Why? Because the theme of Succos has a connection with the non-Jewish world as well. A fascinating chiddush from Rav Karelenstein.

[vi] Moreh Nevuchim part 3 chapter 43

[vii]  I mentioned this approach to Rav Nevenzahl shli”ta, and he said ‘Efshar this is the correct pshat in the Tur.’





Love Beyond Reason

10 10 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman 

Love Beyond Reason #4 The Shem MiShmuel asks, why on Hoshana Rabba do the aravot (willow leaves) play the central role?

 

The Midrash explains that each of the species represent a different type of Jew. The etrog (citron fruit), which has a good flavor and scent, represents the tzaddik who has both Torah wisdom and good deeds. The lulav (palm branch), which has a good flavor, but no scent, signifies a person with wisdom but no good deeds. The hadassim (myrtle branches), which have a good fragrance but no flavor, symbolize a person with good deeds but no wisdom. The aravot (willow branhes), have neither flavor nor fragrance, which signifies a person who lacks both good deeds and Torah wisdom.

 

We find a similar idea hidden in the ketoret (incense offering). There were eleven spices, one of which was the chelbana, which exuded an unpleasant odor. However, when combined with the other ten spices it added a tasteful pungency to the mixture. On Sukkot, we take the four species and symbolically proclaim that every Jew, no matter what level he’s at, has something to contribute to klal Yisrael.

 

On Hashana Rabbah, only the aravot are taken. This teaches us the absolute love Hashem has for every Jew, even the most wicked. Hashem chose us, exercising a choice unbound by logic, and he will never abandon us. Our relationship is otherworldly, something that cannot be contained in words. And just as Hashem remains loyal to us, we must love every Jew regardless of his level.

 

While Yom Kippur is an island of sanctity, isolated from the rest of the year, Hoshana Rabbah contains elements of the weekday. A lot of the influence of Yom Kippur has worn off by the time we get to the end of Sukkot. On Hashana Rabbah, we tell Hashem, “We want to be good, but the complexities of life make it difficult. Give us a free gift and forgive our sins.”

 

During the times of the beit hamikdash, the Jews would circle the altar with the aravot. This signifies that even if we fall to the lowest depths like the aravot, Hashem will lift us to the level of the altar. Large aravot were placed on the altar. The aravot were offered as a sacrifice, just as we offer our own human weaknesses to Hashem. In a sense Hoshana Rabbah goes beyond Yom Kippur. On this day it is as if Hashem tells us, “My children, you are not lost, despite your failings.”

 

Our sages teach us that Shemini Atzeret, the eighth day of Sukkot, is a holiday of its own. Seven signifies the cycle of nature, while eight represents something supernatural. It’s wrong for a person to think, “This is the way I am. I cannot improve.” On the contrary, we can transform ourselves because there is something extraordinary beyond nature inside each of us. Torah study, prayer, and kind deeds empower us to repent. While angels remain stagnant, people have the ability to reach unimaginable heights.

 

When the beit hamikdash stood, the Jews would form a human wall and encircle the altar with the four species. A wall is like an environment. There are terrible environments that must be shattered and good environments that must be built. Walking around with the lulav and etrog is akin to destroying negative barriers. Encircling the altar with the Torah is like erecting\a wall of sanctity. The Zohar writes that the female side of the satan is called yilila. This also means wailing because sadness is fundamental to evil. The opposite is also true. Therefore, the last day of the holiday is Simchat Torah. Torah signifies simcha (happiness). We rejoice with Hashem‘s love and with the privilege to build a wall of holiness and sanctity to last us through the coming year.





The Extra Simcha of Succos, Succos follows Yom Kippur

8 10 2011

Naaleh.com presents this special post from Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg about the extra simcha of Succos since it follows right after Yom Kippur. Visit Naaleh.com for FREE video and audio classes by Rabbi Ginsburg as well as many other esteemed Torah teachers.

 

We know that there is a mitzvah of simcha on all of the yom tovim. However, on Succos the mitzvah of simcha is particularly emphasized. If one looks at the p’sukim in the Torah[i], simcha is mentioned more frequently by Succos than by all of the other yom tovim. In our davening, we refer to Succos as zman simchaseinu Furthermore, we have the simchas beis ha’sho’eva, the celebration of the drawing of the water, on Succos. Chazal say that whoever did not see the rejoicing of the simchas beis hashoeva never saw rejoicing in his lifetime. What a simcha!

Why is there a special mitzvah of simcha on Succos above and beyond the other yomim tovim? There are different approaches to this question. One approach is that Succos follows Yom Kippur. One celebrates Succos with a particular closeness to Hashem because one celebrates Succos without any aveiros. Every aveirah is a barrier between us and Hashem. On Yom Kippur we remove the barriers by doing teshuvah, and now we approach Succos with this added kedushah, building on Yom Kippur. This is the great simcha of Succos[ii].

This idea of connecting Yom Kippur to Succos is hinted at in the halacha. The Rama writes (the very end of siman 624) that one is supposed to begin building his succah right after Yom Kippur. This shows the link from Yom Kippur straight into Succos. The seforim write that one is so busy between Yom Kippur and Succosbuilding the succah, acquiring the arba minim, plus the general preparations for yom tov– that one does not have time to do an aveirah. Therefore, one is able to enter into Succos with the kedushah from Yom Kippur still intact. This is one beautiful approach to the special mitzvah of simcha on Succos.

Rav Karelenstein zt”l adds[iii] an incredible vort along these lines. We know that we recite l’Dovid Hashem ori at this time of the year. Why? One p’shat[iv] is based on the midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 29,3) which explains that in the posuk “l’Dovid Hashem ori v’yishi,” “ori” refers to Rosh Hashana and “yishi” refers to Yom Kippur. The posuk which the Gemara quotes at the source for the simchas beis hashoeva is, “u’she’avtem ma’yim b’sason mi’ma’ayanei ha’yeshua,” “and you shall draw forth gladness from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12,3). The root of yeshua is the same root as yishi, my salvation. ‘Yishi refers to Yom Kippur, and ‘yeshua’ is the source of our simcha and sason. Therefore, the posuk is hinting directly that the simcha of the simchas beis hashoeva flows out of the ‘springs of Yom Kippur’. Exactly! The additional simcha of Succos, as expressed by the simchas beis hashoeva, is due to its being positioned just after Yom Kippur.

Later I found that the kernel of this idea is already hinted at in the peirush of the Da’as Zekanim (Vayikra 23,39.) He is discussing why there is a special simcha on Succos and writes, “v’gam nimchalu ha’aveinos b’Yom Kippur.” Therefore, we see that this theme, which is developed by many of the great Achronim, already has its roots in the Rishonim[v]. This is one approach to the additional simcha on Succos, above and beyond the simcha on the other yom tovim.

 

Chag Sameach,

B. Ginsburg


[i] Vayikra 23,40; Devarim 16,14-15

[ii] Rav Soloveitchik zt”l develops this theme in ‘Divrei Hashkafa’ p. 171-172.

Rav Nevenzahl zt”l develops this theme in ‘Sichos to Devarim’ p. 93.

Rav Karelenstein zt”l (Kuntres for Succos) quotes the Sfas Emes from the year 5638 as follows:

Succos is z’man simchaseinu, based on the posuk, “U’li’yishrei leiv simcha.” Therefore, after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when we, B’nei Yisroel, become yishrei leiv, then it becomes z’man simchaseinu.

 

[iii] He quotes this from his father.

[iv] This is the popularly known p’shat. It is interesting to note that the earliest sources which discuss this minhag present a different reason. The original explanation was that this perek of Tehillim contains Hashem’s name 13 times, and this is a hint to the special 13 Middos of Hashem’s rachamim.

[v] See Vayikra Rabbah 30,2 for a possible source in Chazal that the simcha of Succos is related to its following Yom Kippur.





Making Sukkot and Simchat Torah Meaningful for Children

21 09 2010

Bringing Torah To Life: Sukkot & Simchat Torah #2
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Yom Kippur, Succos, and Simchat Torah for Children

Sukkot is a colorful holiday full of meaning for children. A good way to get kids involved is to have them decorate the sukkah. Sometimes the whirlwind of activity can take on an energy of its own. Therefore, it’s important to take time to explain that the sukkah is holy, that we are beautifying it for the Shechina, and that we are working hard to make it pretty in honor of Yom Tov.
Very young children won’t understand the deeper concepts behind the four species. Try to bring some ideas down to their level by talking about how the species are different. Compare this to how Hashem employs myriad ways to help us in varied situations and how he created all kinds of people that make up the Jewish nation.

Older children already have the ability to grasp the kedusha related to the arba minim and the sukkah. Try to listen to shiurim that explain the depth of the holiday, such as Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg’s sichot. You can then simplify it for your children. Tell them about the love between the Jewish people and Hashem, the encompassing nature of the Shechina, and about the concept of Hashem Hu Elokim, He is with us in every possible way of being.

Sukkot is about bitachon and about Hashem’s love and care for us. Tell them how Hashem acts like our sukkah and constantly envelops us in His protective embrace.

Chol hamoed looms with the big question of what to do with the children. Spend quality time reading stories to your kids about bitachon. For young children, the thin blue Machanayim books are great. For older children, stories about overcoming obstacles, such as Marcus Lehman’s book, are wonderful. Visiting friends and relatives is a good way of spending time together. If you live in Israel or close to Yerushalayim, touring holy sites such as the Old City and the Kotel with the children is a superb option. If you don’t live in Israel, you can take them to a nature reserve, the botanical gardens or the zoo to keep them satisfied.

Entertaining teenagers takes a little more thought. Prepare before Sukkot and plan how you will keep them busy and happy. Make sure whatever they do is appropriate and is appropriate for the extra kedusha inherent in Chol hamoed.

Sukkot is a time of love. Do everything you can to make your teenagers feel beloved and important. Give them freedom and let them choose what they would like to do. If you don’t feel you can trust them, you may need to go to places that may not interest you all that much to make sure they stay in line.

Whatever you do let this message flow through. Sukkot is a special time because Hashem made it so. Let us be grateful to Him for protecting us through the year and bringing us to this point.  Let us tap into the kedusha of the holiday and elevate our joy to simcha shel mitzva.





On Sukkot We Reach the Pinnacle of Joy

20 09 2010

Sukkot – Service of the Heart
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Sukkot- Service of the Heart

In Shir Hashirim, King Shlomo movingly depicts Hashem’s profound love for the Jewish people. “B’tzilo chimaditi v’yashavti…. I have desired his shade and I have dwelt there, his fruits are sweet to my palate.” Midrashicly, this refers to the mitzvot of sukka and lulav, which are our central medium of connection to Hashem on Sukkot.  Why did Hashem need to give us two mitzvot, why was one not adequate?

The Shem MiShmuel explains that man is a dual combination of mind and heart. This is reflected in the ten sefirot, which are expressed on intellectual and emotional levels. Moshe, the paragon of intellect, and Aharon, the embodiment of emotion, were the founding fathers of the Jewish nation. Moshe’s role was primarily moach – intellect, bringing Torah to Jewry, Aharon’s purpose was lev­ – emotion, achieving harmony between man and Hashem. His prayers and service in the mishkan were the focal point of Yom Kippur. Additionally, he pursued peace and mended troubled relationships between people.

The Torah emphasizes, “Hu Aharon U’Moshe,” the role of Aharon was equal to Moshe’s. The Shem MiShmuel notes that perfection of intellect is intertwined with perfection of emotion. Both are needed to attain sheleimut. Indeed, when we examine the lives of our Torah giants we see this combination of wisdom of mind and heart.

The Gemara writes that the mitzva of sukkah serves as a remembrance to the Clouds of Glory, which were given in the merit of Aharon. The sukkah signifies the life and essence of Aharon. Aharon personified peace, fulfillment, humility, and total subservience to Hashem. This is the sukkah – modesty, harmony and completion. The lulav represents the teachings of Moshe. It is a straight line that corresponds to the direct intellectual logic of Torah. Both mitzvot help us tap into the dual essence of the holiday.

Rosh Hashana is the head of the year. It signifies a new beginning and corresponds to the soul of Moshe, who personified intellect. It is a day to think about our past deeds, make a personal reckoning, and plan for the future. Yom Kippur is lev – emotion. It symbolizes Aharon Hakohein. The Torah writes, “B’zot yavo Aharon el hakodesh.” It links Aharon specifically with the service in the Mishkan. Rav Soloveitchik notes that the essence of Yom Kippur is not so much the avodah of the kohein gadol but the avodah of Aharon who was the paragon of ahavat Hashem and ahavat Yisrael.

On Rosh Hashana we rededicate our intellect to Hashem. On Yom Kippur we reignite our souls to ahavat Hashem. All this culminates with Sukkot. Then we reach the pinnacle of joy and completion as we celebrate the melding of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual purification.