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.





Essence of Peace- Parshat Pinchas

13 07 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The parsha begins by telling us that Pinchas was rewarded with the brit shalom, the covenant of peace, for boldly avenging the honor of Hashem. Pinchas performed an act of vengeance. He was c

ertainly righteous. He did not express misplaced hostility, egotism, or superiority. However

, Hashem deals with us midah k’neged midah. He relates to us in a way that matches our beha

vior, as the verse says “Hashem tzilcha.” Hashem is your shadow. One would think that the zealous Pinchas would be rewarded with the role of eternal warrior. Perhaps he would have appeared as a reincarnation of King David who slayed Golyat or Yehuda Maccabee who conquered the Greeks. Why was he rewarded with the covenant of peace?

Alacrity and kana’ut (zealousness) are not just the desire to eliminate evil. The motivating force for this middah is that one treasures goodness. Pinchas’s vengeance did not stem from hatred but from love. The more one is drawn towards good, the more one will hate evil.

If there were children trapped in a burning apartment, you’d break down the door and flood the house with water, not because you hate the fire but because you desperately want to save the children. Pinchas acted in this manner. His goal was to preserve holiness. This is why Hashem gave him the covenant of peace. He’d be the one to draw things together.

Pinchas teaches us what true zealousness is about. There will always be issues that we will have to fight against. We must stamp out evil but it should never take on its own energy. Rather kana’ut should come out of a desire for purity and holiness, which is what true peace is about.





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.                                                       





Builder of Her Home: Inner Tranquility; The Key to Womanhood #1-Part II

30 03 2012
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

A man’s mission is to bring Torah down from above by struggling. A woman’s purpose is to take the Torah and address it to this world. She makes Torah the essence of her life by discovering its sanctity and sweetness, addressing it to her environment. This does not happen spontaneously. It requires work and thought. You must ask yourself, “How am I taking the goodness of Torah and bringing it into my home? Is the way I interact with my children giving them self-worth and a sense of who they are as Jews?”

Weaving comments into daily conversation such as, “Isn’t this a beautiful apple? Let’s thank Hashem.” Or “Look what hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence), she called just when I needed her.” Statements like these actualize this idea.

Both a man and a woman have the task of bringing Torah into their home. He accomplishes this through struggle. She does it by melding the physical and the spiritual together.

Chazal say, “Ish v’isha zachu shechina beinehem.” Man and woman are meant to complete each other. They share two letters, alef and shin, which spell aish, referring to the soul, which is like a flame. Yet they are different. A man has a yud, which signifies higher and transcendental things. A woman has a hey, which represents two feet on the ground. Marriage is meant to be a partnership with the common goal of creating a Torah home by using the methods that are specific and natural to each of them. The goal of the Torah home is giluy Shechina, revealing Hashem through goodness, higher consciousness, and tranquility.

After the sin of the tree of knowledge, struggle became a part of the world. The sin created a seeming contradiction between spirituality and physicality. The home is supposed to be the place to resolve this. The one best suited to do so is the woman.

When she comes home from a hard day of work, she might ask her herself, “Where am I here, where’s my person? My body is saying coffee or a nap but what’s my soul really saying? What do I want to give my children from within me? How will I greet them?” She could say, “Ok kids here are some treats on the table. Go play with the lego.” Sometimes that’s all she’s capable of doing. But it would be much better if she could think, how can I make my home into a place of self-discovery and joy? So she’ll put on her children’s favorite CD and give them a snack and sit with them when they eat. She will say a blessing with them and listen to what they really want to tell her.

I was once in the home of the Amshinover Rebbe. He still had young children then. When the boys came home from cheder (school), the table was set with food and treats. Their mother was there to welcome them with a smile and a listening ear. When they finished eating, she asked, “Do you want to play or review?” They chose to play but fifteen minutes later they were at the table with open sefarim (books).

 

It’s possible to bridge the great gap between heaven and earth. The place to do it is in the Torah home. There must be the energy of the man and the energy of the woman. There must not be the image that one has all of this and one has all of that. There has to be sheleimut, wholeness.

For a home to be a mishkan it should have inner content. This is actualized through learning and living Torah. A woman may say about her home, “I’m too big for this. My house is small, I have talents, abilities. I want to affect the world.” But in truth a woman’s home is her place of influence and this in turn can impact and change the face of the Jewish people.

Rivka imeinu brought the Divine Presence back into the tent of the avot (forefathers). The imprint the avot left couldn’t have possibly been grounded in this world without the influence of the imahot (foremothers). Similarly it says that in the merit of the women in Egypt, the Jews were redeemed. The women in Egypt wanted children because they believed that every child was significant. Ue to the severity of their slavery and struggle, the men in Egypt did not see the beauty of life. The women saw this beauty and wanted it to continue.

The power to unify comes from women because they can see the tzelem elokim (Divine image) within every person more readily. If they bring that power into their homes, men will be able to develop this capacity too. Achdut (unity) depends on women. The Jewish nation makes Hashem‘s presence observable in the world by gathering together. When the unifying force is operative, when we bring Hashem into the world, it is similar to a woman giving birth to a child.

There were five curtains on the mishkan that were attached isha al achota, each woman to her sister. The mishkan brought Hashem into the collective life of the Jewish people. The woman represents the koach hamechaber (connecting force), even in an imperfect state. Maharal says when there is unity in the union of the man and woman, there’s a parallel mating between Hashem and Yisrael. When the woman desires to bring forth her husband’s tzelem (Divine image) and he wants to give, it creates a parallel between Hashem who provides and the Jewish people who desire to receive and build.

The pasuk says, “The wisdom of a woman builds her home.” A woman has to approach her goal with inner strength, self-discovery, integration and unification. This requires wisdom and self-knowledge. The Torah says, each woman who had wisdom in her heart would weave and bring what she wove. The woman took the delicate threads and created connection, one thread to the other. Through her strength of connection, a woman enables her family to reach perfection.

A wife and mother express this through meeting the needs of her household and honoring her husband. A wholesome meal, a good word, stability and authority, warmth and encouragement are the building blocks of a healthy home.

Every husband desires respect. A wife’s job is to figure out what aspect of her husband deserves recognition and acknowledgement. The place she honors will be the place where he will dedicate his energies.

The Torah is compared to a woman. It’s called a living tree. A woman gives life and glory just like the Torah. A woman must constantly flow, make connections, and develop new relationships. Her true purpose is bringing it all together.





Builder of Her Home: Inner Tranquility; The Key to Womanhood #1-Part I

16 03 2012
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

When the Torah was given, Hashem told Moshe, “Say to the house of Yaakov and tell to the sons of Israel.” Rashi explains that the house refers to the women and the sons refer to the men. But there’s something deeper. Men and women communicate in different ways. While a woman’s manner is soft and understanding, a man wants to know how it is.

A woman’s nature doesn’t lend itself to struggle and the hard edge. She intuitively turns towards self-discovery, finding the life-spark in her own heart and doing acts that bring her true self forth. She wasn’t meant to be a warrior. In todays’ society there are women CEO’s, women with high positions in the armed forces, women who are as hard as nails. They’re paying a high price for this – themselves.

The Gemara says, “Great is the promise Hashem made to the woman even more than he made to the men, as it says in Yeshaya, ‘You women of tranquility, rise hear my voice, you daughters of security, listen to what I say.’ ” Hashem says, you must hear my voice, you must listen, but you can find it within yourself. You don’t have to struggle. You don’t have to discover it through the kind of competition and battle men must do.

Women have a certain natural closeness to Hashem. They recite the blessing, “She’asani kirtzono,” because they finds their spirituality within. They are inherently willing and ready to do Hashem‘s will. In Pirkei Avot it says, “Make Hashem‘s will your will.” In order to do that we must know who we are and what we really want. So much of the time we’re out of touch. We must ask ourselves, “What do I want most?” Once we know that, the next step is to ask, “What is my highest will?” As a woman, the answer would be retzono. I want to be given a path, I want structure. Ideally one should find this in ones relationship with Hashem.

Hashem said, “Fill the earth and conquer it.” The way of a man is conquest. It can be through competition, athletics, the stock market. A man gets ahead by choosing his battles. He has to decide who he’s going to compete against, what his objectives are going to be. He has to work hard. Because of this when the Torah was addressed to men, the word used was dibur, tell it to them. Make the goals seem one step further than their comfort level, so they will struggle.

In a moving speech to the British nation during WWII, Churchill said, “I promise you nothing but blood, sweat, and tears,” and the people were with him because the men and even the manly part of the women wanted struggle. If he would have said, “Don’t worry it’ll be ok,” he wouldn’t have bought their hearts the way he did.

Yirat Hashem (fear of Hashem)is the beginning of all things. It says, “The beginning of wisdom is awe of Hashem.” Wisdom is the ability to understand the world and its meaning. Yirat Hashem comes from recognizing that the world is a creation on the deepest of all levels. It makes us want to observe, explore and understand. Chochmah is the power of observation unleashed. It involves asking, “What does it tell me? What have I learned?” Chochmah leads to yirat Hashem because the more a person sees the intricacy and purposefulness of the world, the more he stands in awe before Hashem. It is a circle but it must start with yirat Hashem.

In Mishlei, it says, “If you search for it like gold and treasures, then you’ll understand yirat Hashem and comprehend true knowledge of Hashem.” If you want to know Hashem, you have to search for Him the way you search for money. Daat is a state in which the knower and the knowledge become one. For a man, the way to make something his own is through struggle. But a woman must tread a different path. Shlomo Hamelech writes in Mishlei, “A woman who fears Hashem is praised.” Her task is to discover her yirat Hashem inside herself. She must peel away the layers and find it within.





The Song of Devorah #13

6 02 2012
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller 

The Gemara says that the deeds of Yael and Devora were greater than the women of the tent, the Imahot. Every woman wants a husband who will provide, so she can build with what he gives. Avraham had everything Sarah wanted on a spiritual level. Yitzchak was far more than Rivka ever dreamed of. Yaakov was an ish tam (a perfect person). He was so far removed from everything Lavan represented, that Rachel and Leah wanted nothing more than to take what he provided and build the Jewish people. Although the lives of the Imahot weren’t easy, they were only called upon to work within their natures.

Devora and Yael had to contend with far more. Barak demanded that Devora provide him with merit and leadership, something every woman wants from her husband. Yael desired to be a nurturer but ended up having to be a killer. They had to act against their natures as wives and mothers and they did so l’shem shamayim because they saw a picture that was bigger than their individual selves. Sometimes the role a woman thought she would have is not the role Hashem provides her, because he is giving her something greater, not necessarily more comfortable or easier, but more elevated.

All the songs in Tanach are holy. One of the most exalted among them is Shirat Devora. A melody can be sung with harmony. This aspect of song reflects the confluence of life events. All the pieces fit together, which in turn evokes song.

Devora sang, “When vengeance is afflicted upon Israel they dedicate themselves to Hashem.” Precisely when circumstances are at the worst, the Jewish people give themselves up to G-d. In times of great suffering, a person’s true nobility can shine forth. This is true for the Jewish people throughout history.

When Hashem gave the Torah, all nature stopped in its tracks. Matan Torah showed us that the outer and inner realities of all physical things have one master, Hashem. He had to stop nature in its tracks so we could see that it was a mode of Hashem‘s expression, not something with inherent power of its own. Hashem‘s miraculous interventions throughout history all have one beginning point, Matan Torah.

Devora affirms that without the merit of Torah they could not have succeeded in battle. Often, Torah scholars are viewed as lazy, taking the easy way out. On the surface it seems correct but it is not true. Hashem puts us in the world to fight evil. The source of wickedness is in the human heart. The only way to be victorious is to develop a people who have such inherent capacity to be a living example of goodness that they draw down Hashem‘s protection.

If military success is dependent on Hashem‘s help, what was the role of the soldiers? The merit of their mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice) drew blessing from heaven. And the people learning Torah brought merit too. Whatever one’s purpose is in being moser nefesh for Klal Yisrael, even if one is not a soldier or Torah scholar, one must do it with all his strength.

Devora ends her shira with, “V’ohavei Hashem kzait hashemesh b’gevurato.” (Those who love Hashem are as powerful as the sun in its full strength.) This refers to the farmers in Israel who keep shemitta. Letting go of earning a living for two years requires tremendous faith.

It also refers to a person who is insulted and does not respond. There are people who are above insults. They think, “If this person is right, I’ll fix it. If not, it doesn’t matter. ” But most people are not at that level. When someone says something negative about us, it cuts to the core, it diminishes our Divine image. When a person accepts such complete humiliation with equanimity, he is saying, “Hashem, I’ll serve you with my heart, soul, and all my possessions. And if I’m imperfect like this person thinks I am, I’ll serve you even more from my place of imperfection with love and perfect faith.”





How Can I Make Tefillah Meaningful For My Daughter?

17 01 2012

Rebbetzin’s Perspective I: Class#7

Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Rebbetzin's Perspective

Question:

My ten year old daughter finds davening boring. I can’t think of ways to inspire her except to tell her that Hashem is waiting to listen to her tefilot (prayers)and that she can ask for anything she wants, like new shoes or clothes. Can you help me with more ideas?

 

Answer:

If your daughter is not extraordinarily spiritual, like most ten year olds, she will not like davening. Accept this as appropriate for her stage of development.

 

Babies start out completely materialistic and as their spirits grow, they become more spiritually attuned. It’ll take a good two years for her to become more sensitized to prayer. All you can do during this time is make davening more appealing and inspiring by teaching her the tunes to some of the tefilot and helping her understand what the words mean. Sometimes communal davening with other people helps too.

 

Obviously she’ll need a lot of affirmation and appreciation, but ten year olds in general don’t daven with kavanah (intention), so don’t have unrealistic expectations.