Maharal Netivot Olam: Destruction of Self – Part II

5 11 2013
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Rav Nachman of Breslov tells the story of a ruler who desired to have the portrait of a powerful king. One day he asked his viceroy to travel to the guarded island where the king lived and attempt to draw his picture. The viceroy accepted the task and soon discovered that the king was exceedingly difficult to see. So he devised a plan. He let people know he was interested in investments. Then he let himself be duped and took the people to court. The case rose up in ranks until it reached the king. When the viceroy finally entered the royal chambers, he found that the king spoke from behind a curtain. The viceroy had stopped thinking rationally at that point, and began to shout, “What kind of a king are you?! Where are you anyway?!” The more he shouted the lower the curtain dropped, until it was drawn aside completely and he found himself facing an invisible king.

We yearn to have Hashem’s portrait. We want the quick picture but fail to understand that developing a relationship takes years and much effort. Our ego says, “I understand everything, even Hashem.” But in reality we encounter seeming injustice all the time. Hashem made it this way so that we would move past immediacy and pettiness. The moment of enlightenment comes when the curtain is pulled aside and we see that the King is beyond words and anything we can discern. At that moment we feel humble and small before our Creator.

Hashem wants us to be people of truth, greatness, and heroism. He holds back his own honor so that we may see His humility. The Tomer Devora says one of the names of Hashem is Melech Ne’elam, the hidden King. The more a person learns Torah and discovers Hashem’s greatness and His unfathomable nature, the more puny he is in his own eyes. Torah shows us how Hashem contracted His will and understanding in a way in which He can be partially discovered. When we see Hashem’s wisdom, our humility grows progressively greater.

Recognizing the power and incredible intelligence that Hashem invested in the world should engender fear of transgressing any of His laws. When a person sins he’s really saying, “I don’t appreciate this commandment. I don’t trust that the ramifications of violating it can have enormous impact.” This shows a lack of respect for the system and its Author. Yirah (fear) is a direct result of anavah (humility) as the pasuk states, “Eikav anavah yirat Hashem.” The more a person knows Hashem, the more awe he will feel.

Just as anavah and yirah are the roots of many positive traits, desire and anger are the root of all negative traits. The voice of fury and arrogance says, “This isn’t how it should be, it should be how I want it to be.” In contrast humility says, “Hashem wants me to be in this place. I am supposed to contend with this and it will ultimately take me to somewhere good.” While fear of Hashem brings one to awe before the limitations imposed by the Torah, taavah (physical craving) is about following one’s will. Yirah breaks through desire and yearning for this world. The more one see Hashem’s providence in the picture, the more one sees His caring and love for every Jew.

 

The Torah is compared to a woman. The same way a woman bears children, perpetuating the species, the Torah leads to mitzvot. Chazal say, a woman is only for children. The Torah exists for the mitzvot. You can’t perform them properly without Torah. The world changes when good deeds are done.

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Engaging in Kindness

29 11 2011
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hanoch Teller

Rachel and Leah In secular society, chesed (kindness) is considered a positive attribute but it is not something regulated or legislated. In Jewish tradition kindness is a significant value. In fact, the Chafetz Chaim wrote an entire book called Ahavat Chesed, in which he codified the numerous laws pertaining to this middah.

The Gemara in Suka mentions that engaging in chesed is superior to charity in three ways.  Charity is done only with money, but kindness can be performed with money and with one’s body. Charity is only given to the poor but kindness can be given to rich and poor alike. Charity is dispensed only to the living, while kindness can be done with the dead as well. It is called chesed shel emet (true kindness) because it can never be paid back.

The Mishna in Avot tells us that the world stands on three pillars, Torah, avodah (serving Hashem),and gemilat chasadim (kindness). Kindness holds up the world. The Gemara in Yevamot says chesed characterizes a Jew. In fact, being kind is such an intrinsic Jewish attribute that the Gemara says that if a person is ruthless one should investigate his lineage. The Midrash Rabbah asks why Megilat Ruth was canonized in the Bible if it contains no ritual laws. Rav Zeira answered that it was to teach us the great reward for those who do acts of kindness. The prophet Micha teaches that the three primary obligations of a Jew are to do justice, walk humbly with Hashem, and to love kindness.

The Rambam stresses in three of his eight levels of charity the importance of anonymity. We should always look for opportunities to do chesed whether we are acknowledged for it or not. Small acts of kindness that count big in heaven include picking up trash from the sidewalk, giving up your seat for an elderly person, helping someone cross the street, allowing another car to pass you, listening with your heart to someone down on their luck, giving your used clothing to the needy, praising someone for their good deeds, encouraging your children to donate their old toys, and initiating a dialogue at a social gathering with someone who appears left out,.

There was once a mitnagid who set out to prove that Chassidut was not all it was made out to be. He came to a Chassidic town and asked the townspeople where the Rebbe was. They answered that he had gone to say Selichot (the penitential prayers) in heaven. The mitnagid was determined to disprove their foolishness. The next morning he ambushed the Rebbe’s house and observed him walking out dressed as a lumberjack. He headed for the forest, chopped some wood, lugged it to the home of an old sick woman and lit a fire for her. When the mitnagid saw this he humbly admitted, “Surely he is in heaven, if not higher.”





The Extra Simcha of Succos, Succos follows Yom Kippur

8 10 2011

Naaleh.com presents this special post from Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg about the extra simcha of Succos since it follows right after Yom Kippur. Visit Naaleh.com for FREE video and audio classes by Rabbi Ginsburg as well as many other esteemed Torah teachers.

 

We know that there is a mitzvah of simcha on all of the yom tovim. However, on Succos the mitzvah of simcha is particularly emphasized. If one looks at the p’sukim in the Torah[i], simcha is mentioned more frequently by Succos than by all of the other yom tovim. In our davening, we refer to Succos as zman simchaseinu Furthermore, we have the simchas beis ha’sho’eva, the celebration of the drawing of the water, on Succos. Chazal say that whoever did not see the rejoicing of the simchas beis hashoeva never saw rejoicing in his lifetime. What a simcha!

Why is there a special mitzvah of simcha on Succos above and beyond the other yomim tovim? There are different approaches to this question. One approach is that Succos follows Yom Kippur. One celebrates Succos with a particular closeness to Hashem because one celebrates Succos without any aveiros. Every aveirah is a barrier between us and Hashem. On Yom Kippur we remove the barriers by doing teshuvah, and now we approach Succos with this added kedushah, building on Yom Kippur. This is the great simcha of Succos[ii].

This idea of connecting Yom Kippur to Succos is hinted at in the halacha. The Rama writes (the very end of siman 624) that one is supposed to begin building his succah right after Yom Kippur. This shows the link from Yom Kippur straight into Succos. The seforim write that one is so busy between Yom Kippur and Succosbuilding the succah, acquiring the arba minim, plus the general preparations for yom tov– that one does not have time to do an aveirah. Therefore, one is able to enter into Succos with the kedushah from Yom Kippur still intact. This is one beautiful approach to the special mitzvah of simcha on Succos.

Rav Karelenstein zt”l adds[iii] an incredible vort along these lines. We know that we recite l’Dovid Hashem ori at this time of the year. Why? One p’shat[iv] is based on the midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 29,3) which explains that in the posuk “l’Dovid Hashem ori v’yishi,” “ori” refers to Rosh Hashana and “yishi” refers to Yom Kippur. The posuk which the Gemara quotes at the source for the simchas beis hashoeva is, “u’she’avtem ma’yim b’sason mi’ma’ayanei ha’yeshua,” “and you shall draw forth gladness from the springs of salvation” (Isaiah 12,3). The root of yeshua is the same root as yishi, my salvation. ‘Yishi refers to Yom Kippur, and ‘yeshua’ is the source of our simcha and sason. Therefore, the posuk is hinting directly that the simcha of the simchas beis hashoeva flows out of the ‘springs of Yom Kippur’. Exactly! The additional simcha of Succos, as expressed by the simchas beis hashoeva, is due to its being positioned just after Yom Kippur.

Later I found that the kernel of this idea is already hinted at in the peirush of the Da’as Zekanim (Vayikra 23,39.) He is discussing why there is a special simcha on Succos and writes, “v’gam nimchalu ha’aveinos b’Yom Kippur.” Therefore, we see that this theme, which is developed by many of the great Achronim, already has its roots in the Rishonim[v]. This is one approach to the additional simcha on Succos, above and beyond the simcha on the other yom tovim.

 

Chag Sameach,

B. Ginsburg


[i] Vayikra 23,40; Devarim 16,14-15

[ii] Rav Soloveitchik zt”l develops this theme in ‘Divrei Hashkafa’ p. 171-172.

Rav Nevenzahl zt”l develops this theme in ‘Sichos to Devarim’ p. 93.

Rav Karelenstein zt”l (Kuntres for Succos) quotes the Sfas Emes from the year 5638 as follows:

Succos is z’man simchaseinu, based on the posuk, “U’li’yishrei leiv simcha.” Therefore, after Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur when we, B’nei Yisroel, become yishrei leiv, then it becomes z’man simchaseinu.

 

[iii] He quotes this from his father.

[iv] This is the popularly known p’shat. It is interesting to note that the earliest sources which discuss this minhag present a different reason. The original explanation was that this perek of Tehillim contains Hashem’s name 13 times, and this is a hint to the special 13 Middos of Hashem’s rachamim.

[v] See Vayikra Rabbah 30,2 for a possible source in Chazal that the simcha of Succos is related to its following Yom Kippur.





The Power of the Soul- Mitzvot The Divine

20 09 2011

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Eliezer Miller

 


The Power of the Soul-Mitzvot The Divine Connection #6
There is a spark in the innermost part of every Jew’s heart that is meant to expand and reveal the light of Hashem. The Midrash tells a parable of a king who had an only daughter. When she married, the king told his son-in-law, “Wherever you go, keep a room ready for me so that I can be near my daughter.” Similarly, when Hashem gave the Jews the Torah, he said, “I am coming with my Torah. Make a dwelling place for Me.” The dwelling place is in our heart, which is also where the yetzer hararesides.

The Gemara say, “Barati yetzer hara barati Torah tavlin. I created the evil inclination, but I created Torah as a neutralizing spice.” The Torah consumes the bad effects of the evil inclination while at the same time it reveals the Shechina. What is the secret force behind the Torah and mitzvot that gives them the power to purify our hearts? Hashem created a great spiritual light on the first day of creation that he hid away for the tzaddikim. This light originally shone for thirty six hours and is concealed in the thirty six mesechtas of Shas. The happinessa person has when he learns Torah and keeps mitzvot stems from this hidden light. It says in Tehilim, “Ohr zarua l’tzaddik u’liyishrei lev simcha.” The tzaddik rejoices because of the divine light inside of him. Wherever there is godliness, there is happiness.

When a person dies, there is a small bone called luz that does not disintegrate. The Arizal writes that the soulhovers above this bone and does not let it decompose. The soul remains with the person, because of the merit of the Torah he studied and the divine light that he absorbed. The upper root of every Jew’s soul is attached to a letter in the Torah. When a Jew studies Torah, he joins with his letter and with Hashem. Unlike the spiritual world, which becomes more hidden as it touches the physical world, the Torah retains its holiness at its source. However, there’s one condition. The intention a person has when he learns Torah and keeps mitzvot must be for the sake of Hashem. If a person has ulterior motives, the Shechina departs. And in fact we see that although there’s so much Torah and tefila in Klal Yisrael, the exilestill stretches on. Instead of thinking about the pain of the Shechina, we have our own purposes in mind. This is preventing Mashiach from coming.

Each person needs to correct what is in his heart. Although Torah that is not l’shem shamayim has some effect, it won’t save us completely from the evil inclination. Only if it is for Hashem’s sake, will a person merit the full richness and light of the Torah. The Ibn Ezra says that when a person does a mitzva for Hashem’s sake, he fulfills the commandment of ‘Anochi Hashem.’ He affirms that he believes in Hashem. When we do mitzvot in this way, we enable Hashem to dwell inside our hearts and to expand and reveal Himself.





On Sukkot We Reach the Pinnacle of Joy

20 09 2010

Sukkot – Service of the Heart
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Sukkot- Service of the Heart

In Shir Hashirim, King Shlomo movingly depicts Hashem’s profound love for the Jewish people. “B’tzilo chimaditi v’yashavti…. I have desired his shade and I have dwelt there, his fruits are sweet to my palate.” Midrashicly, this refers to the mitzvot of sukka and lulav, which are our central medium of connection to Hashem on Sukkot.  Why did Hashem need to give us two mitzvot, why was one not adequate?

The Shem MiShmuel explains that man is a dual combination of mind and heart. This is reflected in the ten sefirot, which are expressed on intellectual and emotional levels. Moshe, the paragon of intellect, and Aharon, the embodiment of emotion, were the founding fathers of the Jewish nation. Moshe’s role was primarily moach – intellect, bringing Torah to Jewry, Aharon’s purpose was lev­ – emotion, achieving harmony between man and Hashem. His prayers and service in the mishkan were the focal point of Yom Kippur. Additionally, he pursued peace and mended troubled relationships between people.

The Torah emphasizes, “Hu Aharon U’Moshe,” the role of Aharon was equal to Moshe’s. The Shem MiShmuel notes that perfection of intellect is intertwined with perfection of emotion. Both are needed to attain sheleimut. Indeed, when we examine the lives of our Torah giants we see this combination of wisdom of mind and heart.

The Gemara writes that the mitzva of sukkah serves as a remembrance to the Clouds of Glory, which were given in the merit of Aharon. The sukkah signifies the life and essence of Aharon. Aharon personified peace, fulfillment, humility, and total subservience to Hashem. This is the sukkah – modesty, harmony and completion. The lulav represents the teachings of Moshe. It is a straight line that corresponds to the direct intellectual logic of Torah. Both mitzvot help us tap into the dual essence of the holiday.

Rosh Hashana is the head of the year. It signifies a new beginning and corresponds to the soul of Moshe, who personified intellect. It is a day to think about our past deeds, make a personal reckoning, and plan for the future. Yom Kippur is lev – emotion. It symbolizes Aharon Hakohein. The Torah writes, “B’zot yavo Aharon el hakodesh.” It links Aharon specifically with the service in the Mishkan. Rav Soloveitchik notes that the essence of Yom Kippur is not so much the avodah of the kohein gadol but the avodah of Aharon who was the paragon of ahavat Hashem and ahavat Yisrael.

On Rosh Hashana we rededicate our intellect to Hashem. On Yom Kippur we reignite our souls to ahavat Hashem. All this culminates with Sukkot. Then we reach the pinnacle of joy and completion as we celebrate the melding of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual purification.





Shabbat Shuva: Torah & Tefila, Components of Teshuva

6 09 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles

Shabbos Shuva

In the Haftora of Shabbat Shuva we read, “Kechu imachem devarim v’shuvu el Hashem. Take with you words and return to Hashem.” The verse continues, “Kol tisa avon vekach tov uneshalmah parim sfaseynu. May You forgive all iniquity and accept good, and let our lips substitute for bulls.” It seems as if the end of the verse is a repetition of the beginning. The Malbim explains that the first part signifies teshuva m’yirah while the second part refers to teshuva m’ahavah. When one does teshuva out of fear, one gains an understanding of what it means to be close to Hashem and to experience the sweetness of Torah. This propels us further to continue and deepen our love for Hashem.  Teshuva m’ahava transforms sins into good deeds. Consequently, in place of sacrifices, only words will be necessary. Devarim refers to words of Torah and tefila. How do these words impact teshuva?

The Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva notes that a sinner’s mitzvot are destroyed and can only be recaptured when he performs teshuva. What does this mean? Rav Solomon explains that it does not mean that the mitzvot are actually decimated. Rather, they are like burning candles hidden behind a thick veil of sin waiting to be revealed.  “Kechu imachem devarim,” confess your sins. “Imru eilav,” pray to Hashem. “Vkach tov,” allow the good energy to flow through.

This is why we recite on Kol Nidrei night, “Ohr zerua l’tzaddik ulyishrei lev simcha.” Let us bask in the light planted for tzaddikim. Now that we’ve repented, allow us the joy and benefit of those hidden mitzvot. Rav Dessler notes that a critical part of teshuva is praying to Hashem to remove the sins blocking our path so that we can ascend further in avodat Hashem. It is difficult to repent in darkness and the light of mitzvot cannot be accessed before doing teshuva.  Therefore, the first step is to do one or two mitzvot and feel its hidden sweetness. This will ignite a person’s desire to do teshuva and ultimately propel him onward.

In Timeless Seasons, Rabbi Roberts quotes the Gemara that “Kechu imachem devarim” refers to words of Torah. Without knowing what is wrong a person cannot see the error of his ways. Therefore, a pivotal part of the teshuva process is studying the Torah, particularly halacha. One can only be a true servant of Hashem if he studies the details of how to be one.

On Shabbat Shuva, the prophet Hoshea adjures us, “Shuva Yisrael ad Hashem Elokecha. Return   O Israel to Hashem.” The greatest aspect of teshuva is “Ein od milvado,” recognizing that there is no entity that we can rely on, but Hashem. Physical strength, finances, and well connected friends, are all illusory and transient.  Just as an orphan has no one to turn to but Hashem, our only real hope is our Father in Heaven.





Building Harmony in the Home

23 07 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur on Marriage by Rabbi Beinush Ginsburg

Building Harmony in the Home

In Sichot Mussar, Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz discusses the question of why Rachel called her first son Yosef.  Rashi writes that she could now blame her son for minor infractions in the home. Rav Shmuelevitz explains that she was happy that her husband would now not get upset with her as he would assume that their son was guilty. Our Sages ask, would our great forefather Yaakov who loved Rachel dearly, get upset over such misdemeanors? The Sichos Mussar answers that Rachel valued shalom bayit so much that she was overjoyed with the birth of Yosef which would prevent even a slight sense of strife in her home.

When the angels visited Avraham to tell him about the impending birth of Yitzchak, they asked about the whereabouts of Sarah. Chazal say that they wanted Avraham to say she was in the tent in order to endear her to her husband. Rav Shmuelevitz writes that despite decades of a wonderful marriage, the angels went out of their way to ask an extraneous question in order to add to Avraham and Sarah’s shalom bayit. This proves that even if one is happily married for many years, working on one’s marriage should be top priority.

Shalom Bayit is one of the most critical factors in bringing up healthy, well adjusted children to serve Hashem. Children need a warm, happy home to thrive and grow. Rabbi Orlowek writes that the greatest single factor on how it feels to be home is how parents get along with each other. A loving, caring, home is the best defense against the outside world. If one spouse does not treat the other with respect, it undermines the chinuch in the home as the children learn to disrespect their parent.

Middot-good character traits and simchat hachayim-joy of life are the main ingredients of shalom bayit. A person should strive to be calm, flexible, forgiving, and patient. Rabbi Abraham Twerski explains that the mezuzah is placed on the door at an angle as a halachic compromise to satisfy both opinions that hold it should be placed vertically and horizontally. When one walks through the door and glances at the mezuzah, it should serve as a reminder to be flexible and compromise for the sake of Shalom Bayit.

One should keep in mind that many small disagreements start because husband and wife come from different backgrounds and upbringings. Understanding this and trying to judge favorably can significantly lower tension in the home. Rabbi Orlowek writes that disappointment is the difference between expectation and reality. Practicing the “10 second rule” will prevent you from automatically reacting negatively. This means saying, “I would like things to be like this but it is ok if things turn out differently.”

Rav Dessler writes that ahavah-love comes from the root word, “hav”-to give. Giving sends waves of love from the giver to the receiver. When you enter marriage with the focus on giving rather than receiving, your chances of succeeding are high. Rabbi Orlowek writes that one should live with the maxim, “If it matters to you it matters to me.” Doing things happily for your spouse because it matters to them will surely strengthen your marriage.

Husband and wife should put extra effort into maintaining perfect shalom bayit at the Shabbat table. This is mainly where the children see their parents interact and is what they will bring with them when they eventually marry.  The Rema writes of an intriguing custom that one should look at the Shabbat candles before beginning the Friday night Kiddush. One of the reasons for Shabbat candles is to increase Shalom Bayit in the home. In a sense, this custom is hinting to us that Shalom Bayit is connected to Shabbat and is a critical aspect in building a warm Jewish home filled with Torah and Mitzvoth.