Simcha and Bitachon

27 07 2011
Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Simcha and BitachonHashem tell us, “I have betrothed you forever.” The bond that binds us to our Maker is faith. A person who has emunah, trusts that Hashem is the tzur-the rock. Tzur can also be translated as l’tzayer-to draw. Hashem is the artist who creates the picture, we only fill in the colors. Just as a sick person will swallow medicine happily, knowing that it will cure him, if a person truly believes that his suffering will heal him, he will rejoice with it. There’s a kind of simcha where people just want to let go of their emotions and escape reality for a while. But there’s simcha where it is life itself, where you bring yourself to a level so profound that you are compelled to dance. Anyone with true bitachon can achieve this. Inner peace brings inner happiness and there is no one richer than one who rejoices in Hashem.

We must develop a new way of relating to mitzvot. Particularly when it is difficult, we should treasure the experience, because it is these commandments that will takes us towards clarity and the interpretation of life, as opposed to the fogginess brought by investing oneself in transient things. Doing a mitzvah with joy earns a thousand times more reward than treating it as a burden. The reward of a mitzvah is feeling closer to Hashem. A mitzvah is compared to a merkava-a chariot, and simcha is the fuel which takes the person where he needs to go. When a person is consistently happy, his soul is connected to the source of joy and Hashem reveals His secrets to him. When one’s soul comes to that level of consciousness, it is in a constant state of delight and it is continually full of desire and yearning for Hashem’s love.

I was reading in Reishet Chochma about the author’s daily routine, how he awakens in the morning and cannot wait to get out of bed, because it’s another new day with fresh opportunities to rise higher and come closer to Hashem. The Shechina can’t dwell where there is sadness because it is a reflection of forgetting who is really in control. Hashem will give a person more simcha in response to simcha and his soul will be reignited and will burn with great love.

True tzadikim serve Hashem with happiness. When they have to say no to themselves, which everyone has to sometimes, it gives them joy. This is a natural consequence of bitachon, as it says “Ohr zaruah l’tzaddik-light is implanted in the tzadik. Rashi says, “Ohr mamush“- they see things clearly. Giving up something for Hashem brings us to a point where we can perceive the Shechina, and that is the greatest simcha of all.


Simcha and Bitachon

18 07 2011
Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Simcha and BitachonWe all understand that we are better off not stealing or murdering. Having a day of rest is great, as is dealing kindly with others. But Torah moves us further than that. It takes us beyond our comfort level. If you don’t believe, you’ll only be ethical when it’s easy for you.  But a person with emunah will stay strong come what may, because he trusts that there’s hashgachic consequences and consequential punishment. The Torah is the blueprint of the world. Hashem wants certain choices to be made and therefore he provided defined consequences. He made the world in a way where one choice brings about another choice. Although all mitzvot have rewards and sins bear punishment, there is always hashgacha even if it seems like consequential reality. The more you are open to seeing Hashem, the more you will see Him. And if you really believe He’s there, you’ll keep the Torah because you’ll recognize it as Hashem’s imprint on reality.

 “A tzadik lives by his faith.”  It says about Avraham that he believed in Hashem and Hashem thought of it as tzedakah. Avraham saw Hashem as the master of all cause and effect in a way that was transcendental. He went beyond his limits of thought. Avraham chose to be thrown into the fiery furnace because he believed that doing what Hashem wanted would only bring good into the world. He could have thought, “I won’t submit, I’m tough, I’m a man of truth.”  Then it would have been all about him, his principles, and his ego. But Avraham not only had courage, he had emunah.

On a collective level, the Jewish nation experienced ruach hakodesh (Divine inspiration) in the merit of emunah. When they sang the shirat yahom, the Song at the Red Sea, it wasn’t just an epic poem, but a song that took them through the end of  time to Mashiach.  The theme of shirat hayom is that Hashem is there all along in many different manifestations.  Certainly the Jews had many merits, but it was emunah which redeemed them from Egypt.

Following the path which begins with emunah, can take you all the way to ruach hakodesh. Galut is meant to challenge us into facing all the things that tell us Hashem is missing. When we affirm His presence, when we acquire true faith, then we can be redeemed. The Gra sent his students to live in Eretz Yisrael because he believed that the mitzvot hat’luyot b’aaretz move a person to emunah more than any other mitzvot in the Torah. In the land of our fathers we can see Hashem’s hashgacha and His presence moment by moment. This is what will bring about our spiritual geulah.

Simcha and Bitachon

8 07 2011

Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Simcha and Bitachon

What does bitachon really mean and how do we acquire it?

You cannot have trust without faith as it says, “Those who know Your name trust in you.” What is Hashem’s name? The word Hashem literally means, “the name” but here it refers to the letters, “yud, keh, vuv, keh,” which have enormous symbolic value. They are a contraction of the time senses-hayah hoveh, v’yiheh-He is, He was, and He will be. Hashem is reality. He is the source of all being. Unless a person internalizes that, he cannot have bitachon. People tend to take Hashem out of their lives. They’ll say, “I trust Hashem but I have to take care of this myself,” or “For this I have to be a realist.” Knowing Hashem means including Him in every moment.

The Maharal writes that the letters of Hashem’s name tell us about Him. The letter yud hints to His creativity. It is above the line which tells us that He is completely one and not a part of this world. His creativity isn’t defined by His having created. He is creative wisdom. The letter Hey is meant to suggest that He made a world with the possibility of descent. Hashem from his unknowable unity brought about this world and He is here at the moment in our lives. The letter vav, like a pillar, is a connective letter. A pillar can measure a million feet tall, yet the top and bottom still remain linked. The vav is completely straight which symbolizes Hashem’s unwavering constancy. Connecting to the meaning of Hashem’s name is what having emunah is about. When you know Hashem’s great name and have a sense of His presence, creativity, and unity, you develop sensitivity towards His greatness and power. Then your whole heart will trust Him. Faith will not automatically breed trust. Emunah is knowing Hashem, by opening your heart and mind. It is the source of the whole Torah. Therefore the first commandment is “Ani Hashem”-I am Hashem.

Every so often, I’ll meet someone who will say, “I don’t believe in Hashem.” And I’ll answer, “The Hashem you don’t believe in, I don’t believe in either.” People have infantile pictures of the Creator as the big guy in the sky. This is not emunah. Emunah is cultivating an idea of Hashem who is unknowable, who created the world, who is connected and involved in everything that happens to us moment by moment.

Parshat Balak: Bringing Spirituality into the Mundane

24 06 2010

Based on a shiur on Chassidut by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Parshat Balak tells the story of the evil prophet Bilam. Bilam was a study in contrasts. On the one hand, our Sages say that he was one of the greatest masters of sorcery and witchcraft. He had the power to bless and curse people. On the other hand, we find that he reached lofty levels of prophecy to the point that he merited to converse with Hashem.

Bilaam recognized Hashem’s all encompassing greatness and mastery over the world. Balak, too heard of the extraordinary miracles of the Exodus of Egypt and the Splitting of the Sea, and knew firsthand, Hashem’s infinite powers. How were they able to entertain the thought that they could defy Hashem’s will by utilizing impure sorcery and witchcraft? The Shem MiShmuel answers that Balak did not necessarily want to destroy the Jewish people. He only
sought to prevent them from entering Eretz Yisrael. The Jewish people’s mission is to bring spirituality into the physical world.
Eretz Yisrael is the land where sanctity and physicality naturally meet. Therefore, it is there that the Jews will ultimately accomplish their destiny.

The Shem MiShmuel writes that if the Jewish nation live up to their calling and work to elevate physicality to spirituality, all the other gentile nations will be positively influenced to do the same. Bilaam and Balak desperately wanted to avoid this. They feared that they would be forced to give up their narcissistic, hedonistic lifestyles. Therefore, Bilaam plotted to use his sorcery to keep the Jews stranded in the desert. Let them continue their purely spiritual monastic
lifestyles. Living in the land of Israel would require elevating physicality to spirituality and the Jews would surely fail, they claimed.

Hashem rejected their evil notions and foiled their plans. A Jew’s raison de’tre is to elevate his physical self through the medium of Torah and mitzvoth. Each of the 613 commandments correspond to one of the 613 parts of the body. Hashem’s will is for us to sanctify our being through the spiritual aspects of the mitzvoth.

When Bilaam fell to his knees and begged forgiveness after sighting the angel with his sword drawn, the donkey said, “Ki Hikaisi Sholosh Regalim”-For you hit me three times. Rashi states that this hints to the shalosh regalim-the three festivals of Pesach, Shavuot, and Sukkot where the Jews were required to ascend to Jerusalem and bring sacrifices to Hashem. Why were these mitzvoth particularly singled out? The Shem MiShmuel answers that Bilaam had 3 bad
character traits, ayin raah-a bad eye, ruach govoah-a wide spirit, and a nefesh revachah-a wide spirit. These correspond to kinah, taavah, and kovod, jealousy, passion, and honor, which in turn correspond to the three cardinal sins. Jealousy leads to murder, passion to adultery, and honor to idol worship. The three avot and the three festivals counteract these three vices. Pesach corresponds to Avrahom and the battle against idol worship. The Jews displayed extraordinary mesirat nefesh by sacri cing the lamb-the symbol of idoltry, in ancient Egypt. Avrahom fought idoltry and introduced monotheism into
the world. Shavuot is Yitzchok and the power to subdue passion and adultery. Torah is the only weapon that can restrict and restrain ones uncontrollable urges. Sukkot symbolizes the ability to battle against jealousy. It’s the festival of emunah- were one trusts that Hashem will ful ll all of ones needs. Kinah is the complete antithesis of trust. Therefore Sukkot is the festival of Yaakov, the quintessential baal bitachon. Bilaam’s blessings reveal each festival’s theme. Pesach corresponds to “Am l’vadod yishkon”-A nation that dwells alone.

Throughout our long bitter exile, the Jewish peoples’ enemies have used Bilam’s age-old ploy to attempt to hurt the Jews with words. Their battle is really aimed at Hashem who does not allow the Jews to stand alone. Hashem protects us, He is our shadow,  rmly standing on our right side, hovering over us, eternally watchful and on guard to protect us from all evil.This symbolizes the closeness between Hashem and the Jewish people engendered on this
festival. Shavuot teaches us Hashem’s unique love for us, expressed in the giving of the Torah. Sukkot is “Ma Tovo Ohelecha Yaakov”-How good is your tent Jacob. This corresponds to the booths that we are enjoined to dwell in for 7 days. In the fourth blessing, Bilaam speaks of the coming of Moshiach which symbolizes Atzeret-the 8th day of Sukkot.

Naaleh – Proving Cyberspace Can Be Personal

25 09 2008

Late in the year of 2006, I came across an interesting website, an “online Torah school.” I was intrigued, and registered for a free trial period. This was before Naaleh went completely Free!
It’s been almost two years since I discovered Naaleh, and it has changed my life. Being able to watch outstanding Torah classes whenever I wanted was impressive enough, but my real turning point started several months ago when Naaleh sent out an email announcing a pilot program. Interested students chose a course, watched one class weekly, took notes, took tests, posted on forums, and wrote a final essay. I enrolled in Rebbetzin Heller’s course on bitachon, “The Meaning of Trust.”

I didn’t realize how much more I’d gain from this program. It brought my learning to a completely different level. Taking notes caused me to follow the class more closely, reviewing my notes helped me understand and retain the lessons much better, and summing it up in the final essay concretized everything I had learned. The course itself taught me the most important thing I have ever learned – how to relate to and bring Hashem into every part of my life. It awakened me to be much more aware of Hashem and, at least now, I know how to redirect my thoughts and deeds to make Hashem the center of my picture.

One of my favorite things about Naaleh is the depth and scope of the learning on the site. The above course had eleven classes, each about an hour long, and in every class Rebbetzin Heller went into clear detail about a different area of bitachon. It’s incredible! I very much enjoyed her teachings on tzniut and achdut, as well as all of her lessons, which I found to be strikingly insightful, refreshing, and beautifully real.

Besides for the actual learning, at Naaleh you get to know these exceptional teachers a little bit – and that is truly inspiring. When Rebbetzin Heller gives a class, she smiles at the video camera, as if we are right there in front of her. She sincerely cares about us far-off and unknown students. When she talks about painful issues, you can feel the compassion and understanding flowing through the screen. In the new question/answer sessions, the connection was powerful. If you don’t believe cyberspace could be so personal, after Naaleh you’ll believe it.

I can never thank Naaleh enough for everything they’ve given me. What they put together is revolutionary. May Hashem bless all the wonderful people who make Naaleh a reality.

Ayelet Elbaz – Long Branch, NJ