Sefirat Haomer Part II-Joyful Anticipation

31 05 2011

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Eliezar Miller 

Sefirat Haomer Part II: Joyful Anticipation

Sanctity is achieved through immersion in Torah. Rav Pinchus Koritzer writes that the or haganuz (the hidden light) that Hashem concealed during creation, is hidden in the thirty six sections of the Shas. Learning Torah purifies our soul. In fact the Ramchal notes that if a rasha would learn Torah, he would repent, because the Torah awakens us, overtakes the evil inside of us, and brings us back to Hashem. The more effort we invest and the more desire we have to attain purity, the more Hashem will assist us. Rav Auerbach notes that there is a hint in the verse, “Lifnei mi atem mitaherim…. Before whom do you purify yourself and who will purify you….” Mi is the numerical equivalent of fifty. If we purify ourselves during the forty nine days of sefirah, Hashem will sanctity us on the fiftieth day, Shavuot.

After yetziat mitzrayim, the Jews had an awakening to sanctify themselves. Every year, Hashem sends down from above an abundance of purity.  We need only seize the opportunity. The Chafetz Chaim writes that when a Jew does a sin, the limb that performed the sin becomes impure. While some limbs are minor, damage done to the heart is critical and affects the whole body. Similarly, sinat chinam, which stems from the heart, draws impurity to one’s entire being. Sefira is the time to rectify this and work on loving every Jew.

In Devarim the Torah writes, “No impurity should be seen in you or I will depart from you.”  The Shechina leaves where there is immorality and immodesty. Conversely, it rests where there is kedusha. During sefira, a person must think about his moral conduct and dress and consider whether it is driving away the Shechina or bringing it closer.

Maintaining a level of kedusha entails drawing away from anything that is repulsive. This includes keeping one’s person and surroundings clean so the Shechina can dwell among us. Our natural instinct is to recoil from anything repulsive. This is the response of the inner holy spark within each of us that cannot tolerate impurity.

Before performing a mitzva we say, “Asher kidishanu, Who has sanctified us,” because all mitzvot purify us. There are 265 negative commandments and 348 positive commandments, which correspond to the limbs of our body. Every limb that performs a mitzva becomes a chariot for Hashem.

The Malbim says that a person can uplift himself above nature and connect to Hashem through bitachon. Trusting in Hashem causes Him to treat us in a supernatural way. Speaking in a refined manner purifies the heart. Our sages say, “Man is influenced by his actions.” Speaking about the ideas of our holy sages brings kedusha into the hearts of those listening.

In Lecha Dodi, we sing, “Shabbat is the fountainhead of blessing.” The more connected we are to Shabbat, the more sanctity we will imbibe. The Reishit Chochma writes that Shabbat is the source of holiness. We must draw from its kedusha for the rest of the week. The Chidah adds that when a person keeps Shabbat he attains such a holy level that drives away the impurity of his past sins.

May Hashem give us the ability to purify our hearts and souls in preparation for the great day of kabalat hatorah and may we merit to receive our true portion in Torah.

Class Spotlight: Self Mastery – A Study of Michtav M’Eliyahu Being A Giver

23 06 2010

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen

Self Mastery - A Study of Michtav M'Eliyahu

Michtav Me’Eliyahu, Rav Eliyahu Dessler’s seminal work, takes a penetrating look at a host of topics ranging from our relationship with G-d, fellow man, and ourselves. In this stimulating course, Rabbi Cohen discusses these profound essays, inspiring us to think and grow.

In his famous essay, Kuntres Hachessed, Rav Dessler analyzes the concept of being a notein, a giver and a notel, a taker. Hashem gives without expectation of anything in return. Man too has the ability to emulate Hashem by becoming a giver. Taking indicates a love for oneself. This desire is so strong it can lead a person to thievery and dishonesty. Rav Dessler notes that a person is obligated to become a giver and not be dependent on others.

If the purpose of our lives is to give and not expect repayment, how can one engage in business where the goal is to profit more than was invested? Michtav M’Eliyahu answers this with two examples from the Torah. The Torah says that Chanoch walked with Hashem. He worked as a shoemaker. With every stitch that he sewed he was meyached yichudim, he unified higher unities. Rav Dessler explains that his mind was not on spiritual matters but on producing a perfect shoe, because if his thoughts would have been on Torah the shoe would not have been perfect. This teaches us that working at peak efficiency in order to produce a quality product is equated with being meyached yichudim.

Similarly, Yaakov worked faithfully as a shepherd for Lavan for over twenty years and did not learn Torah while on the job. The Torah idea of working and business is to take in order to give back a perfect product. Payment is only a way to enable us to continue giving.

The gemara in Nedarim notes three kinds of people who are considered dead: someone who is blind, a poor person, and someone who is childless. What is the shared characteristic of these three people? They are all unable to give in a fundamental way. Life is the ability to help others.

In the beginning of Parshat Shemot, Paro asked his three advisors, Bilam, Iyov and Yitro what to do with the Jews. Bilam devised a plan to enslave them, Iyov kept quiet, and Yitro defended them. Bilam was punished with death, Iyov was stricken with suffering, and Yitro was rewarded.

Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz asks, if suffering seems worse than death, why was Iyov punished more severely than Bilaam? He answers that in fact Bilaam’s punishment was harsher. The mere fact that Iyov was still alive meant that he could still give of himself, help others, and share in other peoples’ happiness. Giving is equated with true life.

Rav Dessler asks, does love cause giving or does giving create love? At first glance it seems that love arouses a person to give. But Rav Dessler argues the opposite is true. In Parshat Shoftim, the Torah exempts three people from going out to war: one who planted a vineyard but did not reap its fruit, one who built a home but did not consecrate it, and one who was mekadesh a woman but did not complete the nisuin. Can one compare love of a field or house to a wife? He answers that all three people invested a part of themselves into something that they have become attached to. This demonstrates that giving causes love.

The Michtav M’Eliyahu writes that true ahavat Hashem can only be achieved by cultivating the mida of hakarat hatov. When Hashem revealed himself to the Jewish people at Har Sinai he said, “Anochi Hashem Elokecha asher hozeiticha m’eretz Mitzrayim.” The foundation of knowing Hashem is feeling gratitude for all the miracles he did and continues to do for us.

There are three instances in the Torah that mention ahava, Yaakov’s love for Rachel, the Torah commandment to love our fellow Jew, and the mitzva of ahavat Hashem. Showing gratitude to one’s spouse and fellow Jews spills over to our relationship with Hashem. Ungratefulness stems from a deficiency in giving. If a person does not have ahavat chaveirim, he cannot come to true ahavat Hashem.

Giving of oneself is the highest level of netina. Working to perfect this mida will bring us to shleimut and helps us come closer to Hashem, the ultimate giver.

Class Spotlight: Honorable Mentchen – Character Pitfalls #2

24 05 2010

Based on a shiur by Rabbi Hanoch Teller


This new course introduces a series of mini-workshops on the vital topic of personal character and the implementation of moral sensitivity into our daily lives. Featuring Rabbi Hanoch Teller at his best, these short 20 minute lectures are sure to add an inspirational lift to your day!

Too often, we spend an inordinate amount of time trying to change others, when in reality we can change only ourselves. The Mishna in Avot says, “Who is mighty? One conquers his evil inclination.” Western society considers one who prevails over others to be mighty, but our Rabbis emphasize that it is really one who prevails over himself.

The more conscious we are of our weaknesses, the more we can try to curb them before they damage ourselves and others. If we refuse to acknowledge our character failings, we will inevitably rationalize our flaws, and try to demonize and find fault with others. Just as our sages instituted numerous rabbinic prohibitions or fences so that we would not come to transgress Torah law, we must erect fences around our evil character traits to prevent us from stumbling. Rav Yisrael Salanter once said that a person is like a bird. He can fly ever so high but if his wings stop flapping, he will inevitably fall down. Working on our middot is a constant battle and we must be watchful at all times.

The first step to improvement is to admit our wrongs. Instead of correcting their mistakes, people have a tendency to persist in their errors. To quote Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, “One who makes a mistake and doesn’t correct it is making a second mistake.” Many times, parents will err with their children and place unrealistic demands on them. They may even see their child suffering and still continue on their ill chosen path.

Time is life and one can literally commit slow suicide by killing time. It is important to have proper priorities and to preoccupy ourselves with doing good for others instead of thinking only of ourselves. We should ask ourselves, “Are we giving our children a feeling of being loved and appreciated?”

Our tombstones will never be inscribed with the epithets, “She had the shiniest floors or he drove the fanciest car.” Instead, people will remember you as, “The good neighbor or the loving mother.” Small acts of kindness, thoughtful deeds, and giving of oneself without thought of remuneration, will remain with us for eternity. The famous coach, Vincent Bardey, was wont to say, “Being the winner is not the main thing, it’s the only thing.” Similarly, Rabbi Shimon Finkelman points out, “Being good is not the main thing, it’s the only thing.”

NEW CLASS! Meaningful Prayer: Daily Insights Into the Shemoneh Esrai

12 05 2010 brings you short daily classes on the meaning and depth of the Shemoneh Esrai prayer. This class focuses on the simple translation of the words, as well as the intent one should have while saying them. Sure to enhance your praying experience. Check out the first class on this new series!

NEW COURSE!! Galut Mitzrayim: Lessons for Today

4 03 2010

Galut Mitzrayim: Lessons for Today
The Egyptian Exile and Redemption are a prototype for all future exiles and redemptions. Rabbi Hershel Reichman weaves together ideas from both Chassidic and Lithuanian masters of philosophy, shedding light on our current struggles, and providing insight on how we can use the galut experience to actualize the final purpose of the Jewish People and the world.
Teacher: Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Check out the first class:

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.

Bringing Torah to Life: Emet and Sheker part II

19 01 2010

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller
Bringing Torah to Life: Emmet and Sheker part IIThis week, we complete the topic of teaching children about truth, specifically with teenaged children.  Adolescents will lie for social reasons. They want their friends to like them so they will say whatever they want to say. If you still have influence on them, you have to correct them. Essentially, they have to see you as a model of truth. In addition, you need to make a point of validating their efforts at honesty.

Teenagers lie to parents a lot and to teachers somewhat. They may lie to anyone they feel they have to, in order to get what they want. It’s not just a problem but a symptom of an additional problem. They don’t see you as a safe place so they will lie rather than be honest with you. At this age, it’s critical that you show them approval and validation. For example, your daughter lied and took money without permission to buy something you don’t allow her to own. The two issues are the lie and that she couldn’t tell you honestly what she wanted. This can mean that she loves you so much that she couldn’t bear to devastate you, or she dreads consequences, which is more common. Burying your head in the sand will just tell her you’ve given up on her.

Make yourself a safe person to talk to. Your first response should be acceptance. The next question you should ask her should be, “Does this fit in with who you want to be?” Build a relationship so your children feel close to you. Take them out, discuss your issues, and make decisions with them. The more a teenager feels loved and included the more likely she’ll stay where she is and not search for affection somewhere else. Kids will discover that adults treat other adults as potential liars. Teach them the concept of “kabdeihu v’chasdeihu.” Be cordial but cautious, so that they don’t perceive it erroneously as dishonesty.

At some point you will want to teach children the value of thinking honestly. Teach them about judging others favorably. You can look at people in different ways, but the more encompassing way would have to include the person’s higher self. When children hear that, they become far more honest. Their need to demonize people is stilled. Then they can go on to become true ovdei Hashem.

Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen begins Course on Michtav Me’eliyahu!

1 01 2010

Rabbi Yitzchak Cohen is back at Naaleh with a new inspirational course on the writings of Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, Michtav Me’eliyahu. The course, entitled Self Mastery: A study in Michtav Me’Eliyahu, will discuss foundations of Torah thought and philosophy as presented in Rabbi Dessler’s classic Mussar work. You can view the first class by clicking below.

Hanoch Teller Returns to!

25 11 2009

Rabbi Hanoch Teller is back at with a brand-new course, entitled The Mussar Revolution. This fascinating series will trace the origins and philosophy of the Mussar Movement, founded by Rav Yisrael Salanter. Click on the image below to view the first class.

The Mussar Revolution

Mrs. Shira Smiles teaches new course, ‘Seeds of Moshiach: Yehuda and Tamar’

2 11 2009

Seeds of Moshiach: Yehuda and Tamar

Mrs. Shira Smiles, renowned teacher of Chumush, Navi, and Parsha, has begun a new in-depth Chumash course, entitled:  Seeds of Mashiach:  Yehuda and Tamar.  This intriguing and difficult portion of Chumash Breishit will be elucidated and clarified through the use of tens of commentaries and sources. The episode of Yehuda’s marriage to Tamar, and the birth of his children Peretz and Zerach, is difficult to understand, yet contains within it the secret of the Davidic dynasty and the seeds of Mashiach.

The first class is the series is now available:

Yehuda's Descent from his Brothers