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.





Feeling the Churban

25 07 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The Gemara writes that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed on the ninth of Av towards night. This would seem to imply that the halachic strictures of mourning would increase as the day wanes. But the opposite is true. From noon and onwards our mourning begins to lessen in intensity. Why is this so?

Until the destruction actually began the Jews didn’t believe it would ever happen. Therefore, they didn’t repent wholeheartedly. When the churban finally came, there was a revelation of great love. They saw that Hashem’s promise had come true. When they realized that there would be a long separation they felt a need to express their feelings. This overwhelming feeling of intimacy between Hashem and the Jewish people is what is meant when it says that Mashiach will be born on Tisha B’av. Everything that brings about Mashiach‘s coming can be born within us on that day. When we can sincerely tell Hashem, “We don’t want this distance,” that is the beginning of the Messianic promise.

Maharal quotes the Gemara that the pre-Messianic era will be a period when people will disparage the authority of talmidei chachamim. There will be great chutzpah prevalent among the nations. Chutzpah is pretending to be something you’re not. When we seek to find connection in ways not related to Hashem, it becomes like a wall. This is meant to be so, so that we will ultimately reject it. Maharal says you have to know what you are not and what you really don’t want in order to move forward and truly want Hashem.

The mishna says the face of the generation we’ll be like the face of a dog. The dog doesn’t have a spiritual self. It becomes who it’s with. In the days before Mashiach, our sense of self will be so diminished that we won’t believe in our own strengths. We certainly won’t trust the goodness and capacity of others. Ultimately we will turn to Hashem.

The Bnei Yissachor says that the nine days before Tisha B’av consists of 216 hours which equals the same numerical value as aryeh (a lion). A lion’s roar inspires fear. Eicha describes Hashem “like a bear who waits for me in anguish or like a lion in a hidden place.” The ktiv is aryeh while the kri is ari. The difference between these two words is the letter heh, which equals five. This hints to the last five hours of Tisha B’av, which express Hashem‘s love. Only the ari hours, the 211 hours, inspire yirah. The first five sefirot of Hashem relate to an outpouring of chesed. The next five sefirot signify gevurah, concealment and withholding. Although the last five hours of Tisha B’av were filled with the horrors of the destruction it was also the beginning of the revelation. It says that the building of Yerushalayim and bayit shlishi commenced at the very moment when the second beit hamikdash began to burn. As we mourned, Hashem began to rebuild.

All of our suffering has its root in Tisha bav. We have to rectify it at the source. The first act of distancing was the sin of eitz hada’at. This brought about the introduction of dimyon (imagination). Dimyon makes us see good as bad and bad as good. Often we know something in our mind but when it comes down to action we go back to what gives us pleasure. The key is to use imagery in a positive way. Using negative imagery includes thinking, “I’m not who I want to be. If people really knew what I was they would reject and despise me. Therefore, I have to pretend to be the person I wish I could be. But beneath it all I hate myself.” This is self-destructive thinking. A positive image might include seeing yourself as a valiant warrior trying to do battle against the obstacles. You treasure your victories and are willing to live with the failures because a warrior doesn’t always win. He fights and falls and gets up again. Using one’s emotions and imagery to create a new self is a form of correcting what Adam did.

The sin of the spies signified a lack of emunah (faith). They realized they couldn’t conquer the land by natural means and they didn’t trust Hashem.

The first temple was destroyed because of the three cardinal sins. With the right imagery all of these sins would have been intolerable. The desire to murder could have been controlled by seeing the good and beautiful in every person. Adultery could have been repressed by discerning the integrity of mesirat nefesh. Idol worship could have been overcome by saying, “It’s just a creation, not the creator.” But they failed. Hashem‘s presence was missing in their mind and heart. The second beit hamikdash was destroyed because the Jews were fragmented. They lacked the common emunah of believing and wanting the same thing. .

The Zohar says that each of the 365 days of the year parallel one of the 365 negative mitzvot. Tisha B’av corresponds to the mitzvah of gid hanashe. Nasha means forgetfulness. On Tisha B’av we forgot who we could be.

Yaakov battled the angel of Esav. They were fighting primarily over their future identity. Yaakov’s main quality was truth, which is seeing the whole picture and wanting to use everything in the inner and outer world for Hashem. Esav was a conqueror. There’s an Esav part within each of us. The battle was really a struggle between Yaakov and Yaakov. He had to annihilate his evil side. This will take place again when Mashiach comes.

Yaakov is referred to as tolaat (a worm). He was humble. He cried out to Hashem. Esav was a hunter. The most engaging prey is a human. When people idealize themselves and make demands on other people to see life through their eyes they are following the path of Esav.

The internal galut and relationship to Esav has an external manifestation which is the West. Modern society idealizes selfishness and conquest. In these days of bein hamitzarim let us strengthen ourselves with the voice of Yaakov and the power of Torah and tefilah.





Meaning of Trust: Obligation For Effort #7

10 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

We live within the realm of cause and effect. Our choices affect us both in this world and the next. To what degree should we see ourselves as part of nature and to what degree should we see ourselves as something separate? Are we natural beings or are we on a different higher plane?

Man always wants more than he already has. This subtle longing existed before the sin in Gan Eden in the form of Adam’s deep desire for attachment to Hashem. Hashem placed Adam with all his yearnings into a physical body, which he was meant to express through his deeds and creativity.

Hashem looked in the Torah and created the world. When He began the creative process he fashioned an idyllic environment in Gan Eden which reflected His will and wisdom. It was designed to be a place in which His sanctity and exaltedness would come forth. But Hashem made the possibility of not seeing his unity an inherent part of the plan too.

It is possible to see Hashem‘s wisdom even without his involvement. By choosing not to see the fragmented picture, but to view Him as one and every creation and event that takes place as stemming from that one source, we draw closer to Him.

Before the sin, everything in the world was there as it should be. Man’s role was l’avdah ul’shomrah, to work and guard the world. The Ohr Hachaim says l’avdah means to uplift things, to make everything into an avoda (service).You can admire a beautiful orange, gaze up at the blue sky, inhale the fresh air, and turn it all into avodat Hashem (service of Hashem). Adam’s physical body found expression in the performance of the will of Hashem through the positive mitzvot. L’shomra was later manifested in the negative mitzvot.

Hashem responded to the sin of the tree of knowledge by bringing curses upon the world. Adam was cursed, “By the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread.” Only after the sin were we forced to become physically involved in the earth’s actual bounty and physical productivity. We moved from being on a level that was more spiritual to a level that was more physical.

The Mesilat Yesharim says bitachon means relying on Hashem completely. David Hamelech wrote, “Hashlech Al Hashem Yehavcha V’hu Yechalkeleka. Throw your burden upon Hashem and He will provide for you.” The Gra says yahav means feeling an absolute emotional reliance on Hashem. We’re supposed to invest our physical effort but we are not supposed to rely on the consequences of it.

What is hishtadlut (effort) about? The Leshem says the only way something can become your identity is through choice and action. Adam was created with absolute knowledge. He was able to see from one end of the world to the other. However, none of his wisdom was integrated through choice. Therefore, Hashem presented him with a test. If he would have done more of l’avdah ul’shomra, his ability to deal with the fruit of goodness and evil would’ve been different. Therefore, the consequence of the sin had to be consciousness, so that he would now make better choices.

He was cursed with the sweat of his brow. When you work, there’s a conflict to view what you have produced as yours or to recognize that these are your actions and choices, but the consequences belong to Hashem. Sometimes we outright sin, sometimes we decentralize Hashem.

How much effort do we really have to put in? The Maharal’s view was that you have to maximize your hishtadlut because it is the catalyst through which a person utilizes his talents for tikun olam and tikun atzmi (rectifying the world and himself). But the results are always dependent on Hashem.

Rav Zundel Salanter held that the necessity to expend effort is because we are not worthy of revealed wonders. Any minute level of hishtadlut, as long as it conceals the miracle of our sustenance, is enough. The Michtav M’Eliyahu maintained that one should do whatever the natural cause and effect demands of us.

Some people investigate all possibilities, commit themselves emotionally, and do everything they can. They wage war against their competitors and drive themselves to achieve to the max. This is a whole other level. These people feel vulnerable, they compete, they are scared. If you ask this kind of believer why are you doing this? He’ll answer with religious clichés such as, The Torah says, “Sheshet yamim ta’avod” (work six days) and the Gemara says that one who supports his family is continually involved in charity. In reality, hishtadlut is not a mitzvah but a consequence of bad choice. Although the Gemara says that supporting your family is charity it doesn’t say going to the extreme will earn you more money. Your responsibility is to do the hishtadlut but Hashem‘s responsibility is to support your family. There are people who expend enormous effort and fail and there are people who make little effort and succeed. It’s not in our hands completely.

The real test is to ask yourself when you are doing hishtadlut, “Are my intentions to fulfill a mitzvah? Am I making myself into a vessel to draw down Hashem‘s bounty or am I just thinking business deals and office politics when I should be talking directly to Hashem?” Taking Hashem out of the picture means worshiping ourselves. The popular mantra is, “I must be realistic and competitive, I can’t be a fool and leave it all to chance.” The Torah way is, “I’ve done what I can. Now I let it go. It is in Hashem‘s hands.”

Besides being control freaks, some people hide under the guise of laziness. They don’t have the courage or the will to make the necessary effort or sufficient control of their body to get themselves going. It’s easy to call that bitachon. Hashem is not in the picture any more for a person who’s not actively involved because of laziness than in the heart of someone trying to control everything.

Sometimes the evil inclination will tell us to overdo hishtadlut and sometimes he will tell us not to. How do we know what the truth is? One approach is to learn to see Hashem in the world. Ask yourself, “What am I learning about myself and Hashem as I walk through life?” The more aware you are of Hashem, the more honest you can be. The more you see yourself as a creation of Hashem, the more you can see the events in your life as being arranged.

The Midrash describes how Hashem assigned Adam to give names to all of creation. When he was finished he asked Adam, “Who are you?” He answered, “I am Adam.” I am earthly and even my spiritual essence is meant to be expressed through physical reality.” And then Hashem asked, “Who am I?” And he said, “You are Adon, the master.” Hashem is absolutely involved. Everything is a consequence of His providence. When a person learns to think this way, to walk through the world with open eyes, then all worries about earthly matters will fall away.                                                       





Receptacle of Blessing

5 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Parshat Naso discusses the sotah (the woman suspected of being unfaithful to her husband). The Torah tells us that if she was found guilty she died a horrific death. If she emerged innocent, she was blessed. This seems perplexing. Why was she rewarded for not being guilty?

The sages teach us that in the times of the beit hamikdash if a man refused to give his wife a divorce, the religious court was authorized to beat him until he capitulated. If the husband just said, “I will give a divorce,” or, “All right I’ll sign,” it wasn’t enough. He had to say, “I want to give her a divorce.” The Rambam and other commentators ask, what validity does this coerced contract carry? The Rambam explains that the husband really wants to do right but he is trapped by his evil inclination. After the beating his true will is revealed.

Similarly in the case of the sotah, she was seized by her yetzer hara. If she could step back and review the situatino, she would certainly not compromise herself again. When she was proven innocent, it was a revelation of her true will. That moment of clarity, when she saw her real essence, was enough to make her into a receptacle of blessing.

May we discover our true will and accept the Torah fully and with love.





Builder of Her Home: The Value of Faithfulness #4 Part II

4 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The verse in Tehilim states, “Kol kevuda bat melech pnima.” The honor of the king’s daughter is within. One of the names of the soul is kavod. A woman’s kavod, her true essence, is her home.

The Gemara says, “Nothing is missing in the king’s house.” When a woman has a deep need, the possibility of receiving what she is lacking is there, by turning towards her husband and touching his desire to give. This will bring down bounty from Hashem.

In Tehilim it says, “Shimi bat u’ri v’hati ozneich.” Listen daughter and see, incline your ears. The Alshich explains that a woman’s soul stands before Hashem in heaven and He shows her the light and happiness that could be hers when she finds her mate. Hashem then tells her two things. She must look at her husband and regard him as a king, and incline her ear and listen to what he says. Her goal should be to fulfill his will and desires. She must forget the expectations she developed from observing her parental home. She’s living a new chapter in her life. What she must receive from her husband is different than what her mother had to receive from her father.

Secure children are nurtured in a home where both parents turn towards Hashem and towards each other. A woman feels inner tranquility when she knows her husband cares about her needs. A husband feels at peace when he sees that what he gives is desired and appreciated and is used to build.

This kind of relationship is impossible unless the woman has emunah (faith) in Hashem. The Shechina is ultimately who she turns to. A husband is who he is. If she realizes he is giving what he can, and that she has to ask Hashem to give him more to give her, then everything is different. She doesn’t have to struggle. She should give her husband permission to do that. Her job is to be vulnerable and to ask and this will bring down blessing.

The key element that makes us Jews is our faithfulness to Hashem, our turning only towards Him and not to other forces. We are called bnei brit, the children of the covenant. There is no end to our trust in our ability to receive from Hashem and this power to be faithful comes through the woman.





Builder of Her Home: Women and Communication #3

22 04 2012
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

When the Jews reached Har Sinai, the Torah writes, “Vayichan sham Yisrael.” (He (Yisrael) encamped there). Rashi explains that the singular word Vayichan is used because the Jews were like one person. When they were together in that place of true unity Hashem said, “Ko tamar l’beit Yaakov,” so shall you say to the house of Yaakov, “V’tageid l’bnei yisrael,” and tell the children of Israel. Hashem spoke to the men in the plural form but to the woman in the singular form because they signify the unifying force. Women are not meant to lose their individuality. In fact, the Talmud says one thousand women are a thousand individuals. Rather, they are supposed to use their inherent power of bonding to unite others.

The woman is the force that enables connection. This exalted power unites each individual with all the different aspects of his personality. It also unites all of klal Yisrael. Unity doesn’t mean becoming something other than oneself, but rather working towards a shared goal.

Even Jews who are very far from Torah still sense a deep inner drive for something higher. Women retain this power to unify people on this meaningful search.

Mishlei states, “The wisdom of a woman builds her home.” Her task is to unite the members of her family with a sense of purpose. When a woman takes disparate parts and joins them together using the wisdom of her heart, she turns all of the stray threads into strands that are fine and beautiful. She does this by being connected (kesher) and having a relationship (yachas). Being connected means offering real understanding. Having a relationship means giving the other person a sense of belonging to something greater. A woman’s wisdom involves weaving together people’s lives. She begins by making cords of connection, extending threads that connect her and her husband so that all the disparate people in her home become like one person.

The Torah is compared to a woman because it too unifies all the different forces within us. The Torah is called the tree of life. When a person dies, his limbs and organs are still there, but there is no longer communication between them. A person is alive when all of the parts of his body and soul are connected and are working in synch. In order to create kesher (connection), there has to be commonality. The woman’s task is to find that common goal within her home.

The relationship of the woman and her husband, their willingness for kesher and yachas, enables experiential possibility for making a true kesher with Hashem. Through a woman’s ability to make connection, she makes kesher with herself and with the godliness within her.

Even her seeming disadvantage of wanting to charm her husband has purpose. The Gemara says, “There’s no purpose for a woman other than for beauty, children, and feminine jewelry.” These powers enable a woman to make connection. Her beauty allows her to create a bond with her husband. Her role as the mother of their children gives them commonality. Her regality gives her husband a sense of how much he desires her. These gifts draw both the husband and wife to their home. The woman can make her home a place of meaning and significance.

Kol kevuda bat melech penima.” One of the ten names of the soul is kavod. A woman’s glory is expressed within her. The home is the place where a woman senses her inner beauty. The environment she creates, the kesher she nurtures within her home, becomes her crown.

In today’s modern culture, women are brainwashed to avoid the home. We’re told that real life is where you’re achieving something out in the world. This way of life diminishes the home as a place of significance. The idea that a home communicates to its inhabitants a sense of their own value and chashivut (importance) is completely lost. Cooking a warm, satisfying, meal encourages communication, bonding, and a relationship. Straightening up the house so it looks orderly and pleasant creates a sense of kavod (honor).

Judasim teaches, “A woman of valor is her husband’s crown.” Granted that she is dependent on him and it puts her in a weaker position, but this enables her to receive and it enables him to provide. Together they can achieve shleimut (wholeness).

A woman is in a position of continued choice making in her home. Her choices are very deep and touch the roots of the inherent good and evil that live in every human heart. The framework a woman creates can either bring forth her hidden higher self that will in turn engender a positive kesher and relationship or the opposite. A woman’s ability to build or to destroy has no parallel.

The root of all evil is separation and divisiveness. The Hebrew word for trembling, falling apart, is ra’u’ah, from the root word ra, evil. Evil is disintegration. There’s no greater place than marriage where the choice between giving life or causing death, creating unity or disunity, has such a lasting impact. When you choose between unification and separation, between connection or disintegration, it’s not just about you or your home, but about the very root of good and evil.