Optimal Environment – Appreciating Eretz Yisrael: Holy Land, Holy People #3

18 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum

The Arizal taught that the place where one lives has a spiritual effect. A society builds its unique aspects based on the physical place where it is located. This in turn influences the nation on a spiritual level. Chazal tell us that each land has an officer in heaven that guards it. The officer of Eretz Yisrael is Hashem himself. A Jew who lives in Israel receives his spiritual nourishment directly from Hashem. One who leaves the land is like a fetus straining the cord to move far away from its mother.

Every year when the parsha of Pinchas was read, the Lev Simcha would emphasize the greatness of the parsha, which describes the settling of the tribes in Israel and the different portions of the land that were given to each shevet. Zevulun was allocated territory near Haifa. Yehuda received the area of Yerushalayim and to the south and west. Each tribe received the portion of land that would bring them closest to Hashem.

The Baal Haturim quotes the Sifri, which says that Hashem showed Moshe all of Israel, the tunnels, the caves, and the buried treasures of silver and gold. Why did Hedo this? On a simple level it was to assure Moshe that He would fulfill the promise He made to the Jews to give them a bountiful land. But there’s a deeper explanation. When the Torah mentions treasures it refers to the heart of Eretz Yisrael. Kesef, silver, comes from the root word kisufim – longing. The treasure hidden in Israel is the yearning to serve Hashem.

The Shla Hakadosh wrote that a Jew should have an innate love for Israel and a deep desire to settle there just as a child longs to sit in his mother’s lap. Tisha B’av was given to us because we didn’t appreciate the land. The Jews rejected eretz chemda, the land of desire. The tikun (rectification) is to long for Eretz Yisrael with all our soul. “Ki ratzu avadecha et avaneha.” For your servants desired her stones. To appreciate the land one must yearn to kiss its dust.

Sefer Otzar Hayirah states, all the holiness of Klal Yisrael is in Eretz Yisrael. When a person purifies himself, it is as if he conquers a portion of the land. The evil inclination tells us, “Listim atem,” you are thieves. Israel doesn’t belong to you. Spirituality is beyond your grasp. You can never achieve perfection. Therefore, Hashem begins the Torah with Bereisheet and Rashi says, “The strengths of his deeds he told his nation.” Hashem assured us that the land would be given to us. Israel, and its associated spirituality, is our destiny.

Bilam, Balak, and Amalek attacked the Jews at great personal risk. They knew that if klal yisrael would come into Eretz Yisrael and keep the mitzvot haelyut b’aretz (commandments connected to the land), they would radiate holiness to the whole world, which would affect them too. Therefore, they risked their safety to prevent it.

A person who succeeds in coming to Israel, the source of holiness, has achieved victory over the yetzer hara. He accomplishes this through brazenness and stubbornness. The Shulchan Aruch says a person must be bold to serve Hashem. The Almighty has tremendous joy in us when we stand strong and don’t let anything move us away from sanctity.

The verse in Tehillim says, “Yerushalayim harim saviv la.” Yerushalayim is surrounded by hills. There are constant ups and downs. “V’Hashem saviv l’amo.” Hashem encircles us. He gives us the strength to overcome all obstacles.

Naaleh.com Announces Fogel Family Remembrance Learning Program

17 03 2011

In response the brutal murders by terrorists of Udi and Rut Fogel and three of their children, Yoav, 11, Elad, 4, and Hadas, three months, in Israel, Naaleh.com has announced a special learning program in their memory.

People around the world are looking for ways to help but are left feeling frozen and helpless.  The only response to such overwhelming tragedy is to strengthen ourselves spiritually.  Naaleh.com is therefore now featuring a variety of classes, on the topics of Tefilla, Emunah, and Ahavat Yisrael, in memory of the Fogels. May the extra Torah study, and our inspiration to improve ourselves, serve as a merit for the innocent souls who died al kiddush Hashem.

The first two classes in the Fogel Remembrance Learning Program are now available for Free at Naaleh.com in streaming video plus mp3 and ipod video download formats:
Tefilla: Proactive Response
by Mrs. Shira Smiles
Mrs. Shira Smiles teaches about Tefilla, prayer, as the proper response to tragedy.  Mrs. Smiles also shows the important role of Tefilla in the celebration of Purim.

Approaching G-d
by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg
Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg helps to understand our relationship to Hashem through a study of the wording on the brachot, the building blocks of prayer.

Over the next 2 weeks more classes will follow by these Naaleh.com teachers: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller, Rabbi Shimon Isaacson, Rabbi Moshe N. Reichman and Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum.

Please join us in increasing Torah study and spiritual self- improvement through these shiurim, as a merit to the souls who were taken from this world al kiddush Hashem.

Optimal Environment: Appreciating Eretz Yisrael

21 01 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum

Optimal Environment: Appreciating EretzYisrael Class #1

The first verse in the Torah is, “Bereishet bara Elokim. In the beginning, Hashem created heaven and earth.” Rashi explains bereishit to mean, bishvil reishit. The purpose of creation was Torah and KlalYisrael, who are reishit. He further adds that Hashem specifically began with the story of creation rather than with the first mitzva of kiddush hachodesh to emphasize that Hashem is Master of the world and that the Jews have full rights to Eretz Yisrael. The Torah immediately explores our connection to the land to teach us that we need Eretz Yisrael to fulfill our destiny of being reishit.

Why does the land of Israel play such a critical part in our ultimate purpose? In Parshat Shelach, when the spies returned from their mission, they reported, “Eretz ochelet yoshveha.” It is a land that consumes its inhabitants. The spies noticed many funerals while they were there. Hashem made the natives die so that they would be busy burying their dead and not notice the spies. Why the strange word ochelet? Would it not have been more appropriate to use the term horeget, to kill? The Zohar explains that just as everything a person eats becomes absorbed into his essence, one who enters Eretz Yisrael is immediately transformed and becomes a part of the land itself. Eretz Yisrael changes a person, and the spies were afraid of this. One who ascends to the holy land exchanges his soul for a higher soul. Living on a more elevated plane lends itself to achieving loftier goals. And just as the digestive process involves chewing and breaking down food, attaching oneself to the land involves suffering and hardship.

Hashem commanded Avraham, “Lech lecha m’artzecha, m’moladetcha. Go from your land, from your birthplace.” Rav Nosson explains that to a certain extent everyone feels bound by their physicality. Hashem tells us, go inside yourself, see how you can live without the materialism that holds your soul in its grip. Similarly, people are branded by the society they live in. When the holiness of the land consumes a person, he is given wings to fly. New vistas open up, enabling him to come closer to Hashem. Hashem tells Avraham to go the land “asher araeka, that I will show you.” When we go to the Land, Hashem will show us how great we can become, what latent potential is hiding within us waiting to be developed.

The Sefer Hayirah writes that one who wants to ascend to the land needs azut d’kedusha and akshanut gadol, boldness, bravery, and great determination. This desire to grow, of never being complacent, can be drawn mainly from Eretz Yisrael. The entire avoda of a Jew is dependent on this. Indeed, the first halacha in Shulchan Aruch is, “Be bold as a leopard…to do the will of Hashem.” The Orchot Tzaddikim writes in Shaar Haratzon that the people who will merit to sit next to Avraham in the World To Come will be those with the iron will to come close to Hashem. Eretz Yisrael gives us this power of desire.

The Midrash says that when Sarah was taken to Pharoh, she cried that Avraham came to the land with the promise that he would grow into a great nation, while she only came with the strength of emuna. Immediately, Hashem sent an angel to strike Pharoh ten times. Later Hashem struck the Egyptians with the ten plagues. As Sara left the king’s house, the Jews eventually left Egypt. This is the meaning of the statement, “In the merit of righteous women our forefathers were redeemed, and in their merit we will be redeemed.”

Mashiach will come in the zechut of emuna. Indeed Tehillim tells us, “Trust in Hashem and do good, dwell in the land and live emuna.” Just as every seed has the potential to grow, every Jew has the power to come close to Hashem. And just as all vegetation needs the right sunshine, soil, and climate to flourish, the Jewish people need Eretz Yisrael to blossom and bring out their hidden strengths. There is no greater place for a Jew to grow than in the holy land. The mitzva of challa connects all Jews to the land. It is the only mitzva of the seven gifts given to the kohanim that is practiced outside Eretz Yisrael. At the moment of separating the dough, you can mentally bring yourself to Eretz Yisrael and pray to be zoche to come back again.

May we merit to live the verse, “Shechon eretz u’reah emuna..,” to dwell in the land with true emuna.

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.

Prayers of Our Forefathers

31 05 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichmanvisa

Meaningful Prayer is an exciting new series of short classes by Rabbi Hershel Reichman on the meaning and depth of the Shemoneh Esrai prayer. With extra focus on the simple translation of the words, as well as the intent one should have while praying, this course is sure to transform your tefila experience.

Prayer dates back to time immemorial. If we examine the lives of the avot, we find many instances where they davened to Hashem. Avraham beggedHashem to save Sedom, Yitzchak and Rivkah prayed for children, and Yaakov asked Hashem to return him to Eretz Yisrael safe and sound. Although the three prayers we know today were only formally instituted as a rabbinic commandment during the Second Temple era, the custom is ancient and stems from our forefathers.

When we wake up in the morning we should be overwhelmed by the amount of chesed Hashem put into our world. Weather, gravity, botany, and the human body are all wonders of His creation. It is fitting, therefore, that Avraham, the pillar of chesed, instituted Shachrit, the morning prayer.

Yitzchak represents the concept of kviut, unwavering commitment to Hashem. He is the pillar of avoda service. He instituted Mincha, the afternoon prayer, to teach us that although we may be harried and involved in our everyday affairs during the afternoon, we need to step back and focus on our Creator.

The prayer of Yaakov is in times of distress. He communed with Hashem on his perilous journey to Lavan and again when he was about to face Esav, who wanted to kill him. The darkness of night evokes feelings of fright. Yaakov, who instituted Maariv, the evening prayer, teaches us to turn to Hashem in our hour of need.
In a sense, Avraham and Yaakov represent two opposite extremes while Yitzchak is in the middle. Avraham teaches us to thank Hashem when life is full of bountiful goodness and chesed, Yaakov exhorts us to pray when we are drowning in pain and suffering, and Yitzchak tells us that no matter what the situation is, whether good or bad, we must always remain dedicated and loyal to Hashem.

‘I know intellectually that my role is to be a wife and mother…Yet I still feel unfulfilled’ Rebbetzin Heller is here to help!

28 08 2009

Rebbetzin’s Perspective: Balancing Life’s Challenges

This unique class features Rebbetzin Tzipora Heller answering real questions sent in by Naaleh’s female members across the globe. Rebbetzin Heller addresses the challenges and struggles encountered by contemporary Jewish women with wisdom, humor, and understanding.

This past week the following question came in:

I know intellectually that my role is to be a wife and mother, but I often get stuck in the shallow and superficial aspects of it. I try to listen to at least one shiur a day, I’m involved with different self- growth groups, and I am busy with different chasadim.  Yet I still feel unfulfilled. What can I do to make sure that I am maximizing my spiritual potential and that when I go to sleep at night I don’t feel that it was just a meaningless day?

Rebbetzin Heller’s Answer:

You’re doing everything right, but for some reason the spiritual messages you’re getting are not sinking into your life.  I would advise you to switch the topic of your shiur to something with penimius that will affect your attitude. Studying Chassidus such as Nesivos Sholom, is a good start. Here you will find that when you learn about ahavat reyim it will effect actual changes in your interaction with your friends, children and husband. Alternatively, if you prefer something more challenging, I would suggest studying the first Maamar in Likutei Maharan.  Not for the sake of intellectual stimulation, but to help you refocus on the way you look at things. Let the learning flow down to who you really are when you are sorting laundry or checking rice.  Your soul, mind, emotions, and actions should all ideally be on the same page. This was the level Yaakov Avinu reached and this is why he was called “Ish Tam“. Try to step away out of yourself and see the beauty and preciousness in the little things in life. For example, when you are feeding a baby, don’t try to finish quickly so you can get on to the next thing. Revel in the fact that you have a baby, that he can eat, and that he is delighting in his food. Realize that the light that you see here comes from a single Source, which is the Power that energizes everything. Focus on the depth and intricacies of creation and its subtle meaning. Internalizing the inner meaning of Torah will help you discover fresh profundity and purpose in your life.

To listen to the rest of this class cession, click here: Questions and Answers for Today’s Jewish Woman, Part 15 The rest of the class Rebbetzin Heller addresses questions about moving to Israel, giving mussar to a friend in a delicate way, and breaking out of destructive patterns in marriage.

‘You Have No Idea’

14 01 2009

I just wanted to tell you how much I incredibly enjoy this website and how important I think it is that we have these unbelievable shiurim and speakers online. It’s not easy for me to be here, so far away from the kedusha in Eretz Yisrael, and being able to grow anyway is a huge comfort to me. Thank you so much- you have no idea.

– Tzipora S.  Cedarhurst, NY