UP load! Uplifting thoughts from Na’aleh by Rebbetzin Shoshie Nissenbaum

16 02 2016
My dove, in the clefts of the rock, in the covertures of the steps, show me your appearance, let me hear your voice, for your voice is pleasant and your appearance is comely.’ יוֹנָתִי בְּחַגְוֵי הַסֶּלַע בְּסֵתֶר הַמַּדְרֵגָה הַרְאִינִי אֶת מַרְאַיִךְ הַשְׁמִיעִנִי אֶת קוֹלֵךְ כִּי קוֹלֵךְ עָרֵב וּמַרְאֵיךְ נָאוֶה:

Am Yisrael cerainally imbodies the proverbial “caught between a rock and a hard place”. Each one of us identifies with this on a personal level as well as a national level.

The “Terror Wave” as its being called, has conjured up a kaleidoscope of thoughts and emotions. Looking at the face of Hadar Cohen, at her natural chen, at her eyes so full of joy and hope, my mind begins to wonder into the world of “what if”. What if it would have been my child. . what if it would have been me. . the “what ifs” begin to invade me, consume me and spread their guilt. And than someone whose been standing behind my shoulder unnoticed during my sojourn into “what if” land, asks: “Mommy, who is that girl? “ What a question! Who is that girl? She is a girl who stopped a catastrophic terror attack with her life. She is a girl who has loving parents, siblings, and friends who are so proud of her bravery and so pained at her tragic death. How do I explain to an already fearful eleven year old, what happened. (i.e. How to I explain to a 39 year old fearful woman what happened!) I respond to him in a calm Mommy, matter of fact voice, which is completely incongruent with my emotions. “This girl is Hadar Cohen, she noticed something strange about three Arabs trying to enter the Old City of Jerusalem, she stopped them and they hurt her very badly, but Hadar and her fellow policemen stopped all of the terrorists. Let’s daven for her friend who is also very hurt Rivital bat Penina”. Not exactly the most factual recounting of the events, but much better than CBS. I was hoping that that would end the conversation. I shut the computer off, in wistful thinking that I could just shut off emotions. Of course Eliezer wanted to know if she would be ok and I slowly broke the news to him that Hadar passed away. And again, I find myself caught between wanting to break down and cry and the responsibility of being the stable adult in the lives of precious and fragile children. And the dance begins. As I begin to sway between the different emotions, a pattern begins to emerge. The pain can dance with love, hope can lift despair, grief can coexist with appreciation as these emotions swirl and tap around my heart, I begin to understand the dance of Klal Yisrael, the dance of Miriam HaNavei. The steps of coming closer to Hashem when we are in the clefts of the rock. Of knowing that He hears our voice as sweet even if I sing like a raven (ערב as in sweet is similar to work עורב a raven), He sees us a beautiful even when we don’t perceive ourselves as such. Hashem Yisbarach, allows us to function on two contradicting ways at the same time. We can be stuck and we can be hopeful. Life doesn’t need to be departmentalized. By turning to Hashem, who is above time, and talking it out with Him, bringing all our emotions into our tefilah (both formal and non-formal) create for us an island of stability in the midst of raging waters. כאב, which means pain also means כאב like a father. When in pain we turn to our Father in Heaven. So, if you were hoping to find the magic answer or quick fix tikkun here, sorry, I don’t have any to offer. I have no suggestions of what Kabblot to take upon oneself or what to fix or where to go. I have only one suggestion, don’t switch off the feelings of pain. Take them to Hashem, find comfort and stability in knowing that He heard you and perhaps one day when the veil of concealment is lifted we will understand that all that we thought was bitter was really sweet.

 

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Principles of Faith: A Deeper Glimpse Into Prayer

1 02 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Unique Prophecy

Shacharit begins with the morning blessings that relate primarily to the world as we know it. Psukei D’zimra, a selection from Psalms, follows. These poems are meant to express who we are in a greater context. Next comes Shema and its blessings, which move us a step higher. Shema tells us that Hashem is one in the world and that the world has no existence without Him. We are totally dependent on His will for our present and continued existence. We are now ready for the pearl of prayer, the Shemoneh Esrei. Everything that is recited prior to this is only a preparation for this.

 

The Shemoneh Esrei consists of praise, request, and thanks. We begin with praise. On a human level, blessing is about letting the person know who they are.  Praising Hashem means letting ourselves know in whose presence we are.  The first blessing is called Avot because we attempt to see Hashem through the eyes of our forefathers. The Avot lived spiritual lives that were so vast that Hashem promised them that their spiritual message would endure with their descendants.

 

Each forefather had a different glimpse of Hashem, just as a circle of dancers see the same center from different angles. We describe Hashem as hagodol hagibor v’hanora, great, powerful and awesome. “Great” means that everything in the world has one source, Hashem. Avraham was the first to recognize this. Yitzchak continued where Avraham left off. He saw Hashem as powerful, as one who constrained himself within time, nature, and the possibility of distance. Yitzchak developed this strength within himself through self-control and overcoming his ego.  Yaakov experienced Hashem as awesome. This does not mean scary, where one anticipates something bad, but rather overpowering.

 

The second blessing is Gevurat Hashem. It describes how Hashem conceals Himself within nature. He created death, which conceals His presence, and rainfall, which allows us to see life as seemingly continuing on its own.

The third blessing is Ata Kadosh, which depicts Hashem’s holiness. Holiness means above everything and not limited to the mundane. Hashem is transcendent. A person who recognizes Hashem and is grateful for all His goodnes will be happy all his life. This is because one naturally rejoices more in a gift received from a loved one rather than something received from someone he does not know. Likewise, if we recognize Hashem as the author of all our challenges, our responses change. If we learn to perceive Hashem as holy, we can see holiness in other people and ourselves. Our lives then become very different.

 

The blessings of requests are divided in four groups, spiritual, material, requests for meaning in our lives, and requests for the sake of the Jewish people. We first ask for consciousness and insight because without that, nothing Hashem gives us has value. Daat is the ability to know what to do practically. One should concentrate on asking Hashem for the intellect to make the right decisions.

 

In the next blessing we ask for redemption. The only way to change is by changing and many times we try but do not succeed. We ask Hashem for physical and emotional energy to effect change. Whether it is by meeting inspiring people or dealing with life altering situations, we need to take the first step. The rest is up to Hashem.

 

The third blessing deals with forgiveness. True forgiveness means that the damage was completely rectified and ultimately only Hashem can grant that.

 

In the next group of blessings we ask Hashem for material things. We ask Hashem to see our pain and redeem us. This is not about our collective exile but about our own personal pain and exile. Some of us are entrapped in difficult relationships, bad financial decisions, or corruptive desires and ego. We ask Hashem to release us from our individual prisons and help us confront our struggles.

 

We then pray for healing. We need to recognize that some effort must be invested to heal ourselves, but ultimately the results are up to Hashem. The Rambam teaches us that a person can relate to illness in three ways. He can say he is a victim and the illness just happened to strike. A different response is to think whether or not he recovers is up to the skill of the doctor. Alternatively a person could respond by realizing that if this happened to me it has something to do with me. Some people handle grave illnesses by becoming more humble and appreciative. Others become embittered, angry, or suicidal. A person must acknowledge that challenges are tailor made for us and the one thing one should not do is remain the same.





Parshat Balak: Bringing Spirituality into the Mundane

24 06 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com 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.