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,

Shoshie

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Bayit Ne’eman: A Faithful Home #7

13 08 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller 

It is customary to wish a new couple that they merit to build a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael (a faithful home in Israel). What does a faithful home mean? It means implanting a foundation firmly in the ground so that the housedoesn’t fall over. It means creating an atmosphere of strength, commitment, and will. Emunah is expressed by being loyal to the inner laws of Torah and this is most readily expressed in the home.

In Parshat Bamidbar the Torah says, “How good are your tents Yaakov! They are like cedars on the streams of water.” A Jewish home should be like a tree planted by the water rooted firmly near its life source. A home reflects the inner life of the people who live there. It is not just a glorified hostel but a place where familial relationships are defined.

The Gemara writes that a man’s house is his wife. When the Jewish people went down to Egypt the verse states, “Ish u’baito,” each man and his house. A house becomes a home through a women’s faithfulness to her husband. This is one of the first praises in Eishet Chayil. “Batach bah lev baala.” Her husband’s heart trusts in her. He has no doubt that her greatest desire is to see that her home is complete. A faithful wife is called an akeret habayit. This comes from the root word ikar, which means primary, as opposed to tafel, secondary. She is the mainstay, the primary force that governs the home with honesty, faithfulness, and strength.

Part of faithfulness is maintaining stability in the home. Whether you’re tired or not, when your kids arrive from school you should greet them with a smile. When your husband comes home after a long day he should have a wife in full control of the situation waiting for him.

The opposite scenario is a home where the laws change every day and for every member. When there is no predictability, there isn’t really a home. Constancy in the home begins with acknowledging the laws of nature. There must be food, clean laundry, and defined times for beginning and ending the day.

It’s hard for parents to let go of their children when they marry. You can alleviate the pain by inviting your parents and including them in your life, but your first priority must be your spouse. A faithful home is where the strongest possible loyalty is observed between husband and wife. In the home, the deepest laws of nature that are internal and spiritual find their expression. This is the core of a person.

The Gemara says forty days before a child is formed a heavenly voice announces, “The daughter of this one belongs to that one.” The unity between a husband and wife is compared to the first match between man’s soul and body. The soul was originally created as both male and female. They are divided as they enter two different bodies. No soul is complete until the male and female aspects are once again united. A marriage that fails injures both the body and soul. Therefore, the word for divorce in Hebrew is called sefer kritut, a book of severance.

The word bayit also describes the place of the beit hamikdash. Avraham called it the mountain. Yitzchak called it the field. But Yaakov called it bayit. A home connotes the connection between Am Yisrael and Hashem.

Avigayil wished David, “Hashem will bless you with a faithful house because you fought Hashem‘s war.” We have to wage Hashem‘s battle both within and without. The inner battle is to conquer our bad middot. When we work to perfect ourselves, when we strain to uphold the honor of Hashem in our home, we will merit to build a bayit ne’eman b’yisrael.





Marriage: The Eternal Structure

3 08 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman 

 The Shem Mishmuel quotes a perplexing Gemara in Brachot. The Rabbis asked Rav Hamnuna to sing a song at a wedding and he began to sing, “Woe to us people, we will die. Where is the Torah and mitzvot that will protect us?” Why did Rav Hamnuna sing such a mournful tune at a wedding?

The Shem Mishmuel explains that marriage is the antithesis of death. It is a binyan adei ad, an eternal structure that is created through the couple’s descendants. In this world, both the soul and body can ascend by making the right choices. After death, the soul can no longer be sanctified by engaging and lifting physicality. If it didn’t achieve what it needed to on this world it cannot do it anymore after death. But the Gemara says there is a way out. If a couple’s children continue to do mitzvot it is as if the parents never died and their souls will continue to ascend in heaven. That’s why Rav Hamnuna mentioned death and mitzvot. Clearly the mitzvah of peru urevu, having children, is a central part of the joy of a wedding.

In Parshat Balak, Bilam says concerning Hashem, “The Almighty in heaven counts the offspring of the Jewish people.” Chazal say this refers to children. Bilam questioned how Hashem could be involved in something so physical.

The Shem Mishmuel explains that in many ways the material world is the antithesis of purity and sanctity. There are religions that teach their adherents to live an ascetic life. Bilam only understood spirituality as an entity on its own. However, the mainstream Torah view, which is emphasized by Chassidut, is to take physicality and elevate it to spirituality. This is the secret of Torah. There is holiness embedded in the material world which is brought out through the mitzvot.

The most important institution where this idea is expressed is the Jewish marriage. The deeper one digs in a mine, the better quality diamonds one finds. The more physical something is, the more sanctity can be extracted. Marriage is called kiddushin. The kohen gadol, the holiest leader of the Jewish people was required to have a wife. The bond of marriage creates a very deep and intense holiness.

The Gemara explains that when we dance at a wedding we lift our body up in the air. We take physicality and elevate it to something holy. This is the essence of marriage. Hashem fashioned man in His Divine Image. He gave us the power to create. Hashem is the third partner in bringing children into the world and since He is eternal it is a binyan adei ad (an everlasting structure).

When we raise children to serve Hashem, we generate more holiness. Chassidut emphasizes the concept of “Olam chesed yibaneh.Hashem created the world as an act of kindness. He wanted to give us reward in the next world. Bringing up children is one of the greatest acts of chesed, a part of which is sharing the wisdom of Torah with them. Spend ten minutes a day with each child one on one, preferably with a Torah book. In this way you will be actualizing one of the greatest aspects of kedusha of a Jewish marriage.





Bringing Torah To Life: Making Pesach Meaningful

19 03 2012
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The essence of Pesach is sipur yetziat miztrayim.

With younger children ages three to six, it’s easy to get distracted with the drama of the story, so it is important to emphasize three main ideas: Hashem is constantly watching over us, He has the ability to transcend nature, and in the end, justice prevails. The wicked ultimately pay for their actions.

The story of the exodus is rich and complex. Although younger children have surely learned all about the plagues in school, they don’t always get the whole picture.

I once overheard one of my grandchildren talking about Avraham Avinu and the tent with four doors.   “I know why it had so many doors. If guests came and you didn’t like them, you could make them leave right away from any room in the house.” Apparently the teacher got across about the four doors but she didn’t quite make the connection about hachnasat orchim (inviting guests).

Tell your children how Yaakov and his children went down to Egypt. Slowly they forgot that they were different from the Mitzriyim. Discuss how we are not like the non-Jews. We know about Hashem and we follow His will. The Mitzriyim forgot how much Yosef had done for them. You can elaborate how a tzaddik is careful to show gratitude while someone who isn’t righteous doesn’t care to remember too much.

The evil Mitzriyim made the Jews work for them. Pharaoh fooled them into thinking it was a mitzvah. Bring the concept of slavery down to your child’s level. “Imagine what life was like for a little boy your age. He would get up in the morning from his bed of straw on the floor. He’d put on his old ugly clothes. He didn’t go to school. He had to work hard and even when he got tired he had to keep on going and sometimes he would get beaten. He’d stop only at night when he’d go home to rest and eat a bit.”

The Mitzriyim enslaved us because they saw that the Jews had so many children and they were afraid that soon there would be only Jews and no Mitzriyim left. We’d be stronger than them. But the real reason they tormented us was because they were evil. You can be dramatic about the suffering, but save the horrific pictures in the Hagadah for older children. It may frighten the younger set.

Pharaoh got worse. He ordered the babies boys thrown into the sea. At this age, kids won’t always understand what death is. You want them to know that killing someone is cruel and that it’s sad for the family. But you can’t be too graphic. Hashem saw how cruel Pharaoh was to the Jews. He heard the Jews’ cries and he selected Moshe to lead them out of Egypt. Moshe was special. When he was born the whole room was full of light. His mother saw that he was righteous, so she attempted to save him.

Talk about some of the tzadikim and tzidkaniyot of the generation. Tell them about Miriam, Yocheved, and Batya. This teaches them that no matter what happens, a person’s innate greatness and nobility can still shine through. Batya didn’t just shrug her shoulders and turn away. She said, “The baby is crying. I must help him.” She stretched out her hand and Hashem enabled her to reach Moshe. Don’t talk about how it got really long. It’s confusing at this age to think that Batya did something good and ended up looking weird.

Discuss how tzadikim do the right thing even when it’s hard. Have them give them examples from their own lives such as sharing their toys with their cousins or offering some of their snack to a friend.





How do I balance giving my son rebuke and elevating his self-esteem?

20 02 2012

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Question:

My eight year old son often hurts his friends with words. I know he’s clearly acting out when he feels bad about himself. How do I balance giving rebuke and elevating his self-esteem?

 

Answer:

 

There are a few concrete things you can do.

 

Talk to him before or after he’s in the act, but not while he is acting out. Catch him when he’s available emotionally and tell him a thematic story. It could be about the animals in the barnyard who put down the weak horse or the new Russian boy in cheder who was excluded. You should convey the point that the good guy is the one who saves the persecuted ones.

 

Once he identifies with the good guy, then you can say, “I wish sometimes that I was like that.” Many times when I read about heroes in the Holocaust who saved hundreds of people I wish I could be like them, but of course we can only do what we can. At least we should never hurt anyone or call them stupid or clumsy. Then list all the words he says without him knowing that you are talking about him. It may not work right away, but it’s sure to enter his heart, even if he doesn’t give you any signs.

 

If you catch him stumbling again, you could tell him, “These are things we don’t say. They hurt people’s feelings.” He already knows from your stories that that’s what the bad guys do.   He may say, “Yes, but he really is stupid.” You could then respond, “That may be true, but how do your words make him feel? You’re supposed to try to make him feel good. This upsets him.”

 

If you’ve done the preliminary work, he’ll get the message.





How Can I Make Tefillah Meaningful For My Daughter?

17 01 2012

Rebbetzin’s Perspective I: Class#7

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin's Perspective

Question:

My ten year old daughter finds davening boring. I can’t think of ways to inspire her except to tell her that Hashem is waiting to listen to her tefilot (prayers)and that she can ask for anything she wants, like new shoes or clothes. Can you help me with more ideas?

 

Answer:

If your daughter is not extraordinarily spiritual, like most ten year olds, she will not like davening. Accept this as appropriate for her stage of development.

 

Babies start out completely materialistic and as their spirits grow, they become more spiritually attuned. It’ll take a good two years for her to become more sensitized to prayer. All you can do during this time is make davening more appealing and inspiring by teaching her the tunes to some of the tefilot and helping her understand what the words mean. Sometimes communal davening with other people helps too.

 

Obviously she’ll need a lot of affirmation and appreciation, but ten year olds in general don’t daven with kavanah (intention), so don’t have unrealistic expectations.





What role does a close and supportive family play in Judaism?

14 12 2011

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Achieving Balance: Class#2

Question:

What role does a close and supportive family play in Judaism? Is it in the spirit of Torah for a child to settle in Eretz Yisrael if the parents who stay behind will feel resentful and unappreciated?

 

 

Answer:

Family is unquestionably a Jewish value. The whole concept of Am Yisrael developing into a nation only began when there were families. When Yaakov and his children descended to Egypt, the Torah describes them as, “Ish u’veito,” man and his household. From that point on, the Jewish people were counted as families. There were no more individual censuses.

 

Rav Hirsch explains that different family roles are designed by Hashem to bring tikun (rectification) to each family member. A man gains more by being a father, husband, son, brother, and grandchild, than he would ever gain by just being an individual. Therefore, family is very important. Even people who cannot put this into words know this intuitively. The low assimilation rate in observant communities is the direct result of our emphasis on family. In other communities, the assimilation rate is high, because people develop a sense of wanting to belong somewhere in order to gain that feeling of connection that family should provide.

 

Family is a means for tikun, not a substitute. Therefore, if tikun can be achieved by moving away from family, that is what the person should do. Our tikun is defined by the Torah. While family closeness is more of a hashkafic value, settling in Eretz Yisrael is a mitzvah that outweighs it.