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.





Nachamu Nachamu Ami: Our Destiny

2 08 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

In the haftorah of Shabbat Nachamu, the prophet Yeshaya consoles the Jewish people, “Be comforted, be comforted, my people.” The suffering of exile and the sins that brought it about are part of a journey. The day will come when we will see that it was all meant to bring us to our destiny. This is true for geulat haprat (individual redemption) as well as geulat haklal (national redemption). The Malbim says Hashem is speaking specifically to the prophets. He tells them, “You must comfort my people. You must tell them that the geulah will eventually come, either because of their merits or because they received their just punishment and achieved their rectification.”

The Gemara writes that whenever Hashem remembers our sins he remembers the sin of the golden calf. The Lubliner Rav explains that the golden calf did not lead to our end. In fact Klal Yisrael gained atonement. Similarly, however far we fall there is always hope for return.

The prophet Yeshaya says further, “Speak to Yerushalayim’s heart and call out to her that her time has been filled and her sins have been appeased.” The heart of Yerushalayim is our ability to accept emotionally, not just rationally, that the process of exile was worth it. Part of the exhilaration that a runner experiences is not only the knowledge that he’s reaching his goal, but the feeling of pushing his limits and seeing how far he can go. We grow by facing challenges. It’s not just a trade-off, it’s an expansion. This is our consolation.

The prophet Yeshaya continues, “There’s a voice calling out in the desert, clear the way for Hashem, straighten out the plain, make a path for Him.” In the end we will be comforted seeing that Hashem led us exactly where we needed to go. Rashi says this road is meant to return us from exile. At the seder we say, “Next year in Yerushalayim,” but do we mean it? Do we find living in exile easier? The Gemara teaches that a person who lives outside Israel is considered an idol worshipper because he can only achieve an indirect relationship with Hashem. There’s no parallel to the Divine intervention inherent in Eretz Yisrael.

The Navi says, “Every valley will be uplifted and every mountain and high place will go down and what is crooked will become straight.” There are many obstacles, both material and spiritual, that will prevent a person from coming to Israel. They are compared to hills and valleys. But in the end Hashem will take them all away and reveal His presence.

“The grass will dry and the flowers will wilt but the word of Hashem will be established forever.” No matter how much we suffer in exile, we must keep our spirits up. The mishna says the beginning of defeat is retreat. When we let ourselves despair, we prolong the journey towards our destiny.

“On a high mountain I’ll go up to you, you who give good news to Tzion. Uplift your voice powerfully, you who bring good news to Yerushalayim. Lift up your voice loudly. Don’t be afraid. Say to the cities of Yehuda, behold here is Hashem.” The Radak explains that just as a person who wants his voice to be heard will stand in a high place, our yearning for Hashem will elevate us to be willing to hear the prophecy that was given to us. Ultimately we will be redeemed and we will return.

“Behold Hashem will come with force. And his outstretched hand will be the source of his dominion. And his reward is with him and his action and repayment is before him.” Hashem will reward the tzaddikim. He will shepherd us like a shepherd who gathers in his sheep. When Mashiach comes, Hashem‘s greatness will touch everyone at whatever level they’re at. We will discover our tikkun, the messianic part within us that’s redeemable. We will find our way back because Hashem will make the mountains low and the valleys high. We must not be afraid if we see people that seem irredeemable or distant.

“Who is there from whom we could take counsel, who could give us the understanding to go in the way Hashem has measured out?” The Torah itself is our guiding light in exile. It tells us how to respond to every possible life situation. We can’t be taken in by the nation’s threats or predictions. They are like dust on a scale. We don’t understand Hashem‘s way but we have to be attuned to miracles. We are a nation that lives beyond the laws of nature.

Each one of us is created for a specific purpose. We are all redeemable and none of us will be left behind.





Feeling the Churban

25 07 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The Gemara writes that the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed on the ninth of Av towards night. This would seem to imply that the halachic strictures of mourning would increase as the day wanes. But the opposite is true. From noon and onwards our mourning begins to lessen in intensity. Why is this so?

Until the destruction actually began the Jews didn’t believe it would ever happen. Therefore, they didn’t repent wholeheartedly. When the churban finally came, there was a revelation of great love. They saw that Hashem’s promise had come true. When they realized that there would be a long separation they felt a need to express their feelings. This overwhelming feeling of intimacy between Hashem and the Jewish people is what is meant when it says that Mashiach will be born on Tisha B’av. Everything that brings about Mashiach‘s coming can be born within us on that day. When we can sincerely tell Hashem, “We don’t want this distance,” that is the beginning of the Messianic promise.

Maharal quotes the Gemara that the pre-Messianic era will be a period when people will disparage the authority of talmidei chachamim. There will be great chutzpah prevalent among the nations. Chutzpah is pretending to be something you’re not. When we seek to find connection in ways not related to Hashem, it becomes like a wall. This is meant to be so, so that we will ultimately reject it. Maharal says you have to know what you are not and what you really don’t want in order to move forward and truly want Hashem.

The mishna says the face of the generation we’ll be like the face of a dog. The dog doesn’t have a spiritual self. It becomes who it’s with. In the days before Mashiach, our sense of self will be so diminished that we won’t believe in our own strengths. We certainly won’t trust the goodness and capacity of others. Ultimately we will turn to Hashem.

The Bnei Yissachor says that the nine days before Tisha B’av consists of 216 hours which equals the same numerical value as aryeh (a lion). A lion’s roar inspires fear. Eicha describes Hashem “like a bear who waits for me in anguish or like a lion in a hidden place.” The ktiv is aryeh while the kri is ari. The difference between these two words is the letter heh, which equals five. This hints to the last five hours of Tisha B’av, which express Hashem‘s love. Only the ari hours, the 211 hours, inspire yirah. The first five sefirot of Hashem relate to an outpouring of chesed. The next five sefirot signify gevurah, concealment and withholding. Although the last five hours of Tisha B’av were filled with the horrors of the destruction it was also the beginning of the revelation. It says that the building of Yerushalayim and bayit shlishi commenced at the very moment when the second beit hamikdash began to burn. As we mourned, Hashem began to rebuild.

All of our suffering has its root in Tisha bav. We have to rectify it at the source. The first act of distancing was the sin of eitz hada’at. This brought about the introduction of dimyon (imagination). Dimyon makes us see good as bad and bad as good. Often we know something in our mind but when it comes down to action we go back to what gives us pleasure. The key is to use imagery in a positive way. Using negative imagery includes thinking, “I’m not who I want to be. If people really knew what I was they would reject and despise me. Therefore, I have to pretend to be the person I wish I could be. But beneath it all I hate myself.” This is self-destructive thinking. A positive image might include seeing yourself as a valiant warrior trying to do battle against the obstacles. You treasure your victories and are willing to live with the failures because a warrior doesn’t always win. He fights and falls and gets up again. Using one’s emotions and imagery to create a new self is a form of correcting what Adam did.

The sin of the spies signified a lack of emunah (faith). They realized they couldn’t conquer the land by natural means and they didn’t trust Hashem.

The first temple was destroyed because of the three cardinal sins. With the right imagery all of these sins would have been intolerable. The desire to murder could have been controlled by seeing the good and beautiful in every person. Adultery could have been repressed by discerning the integrity of mesirat nefesh. Idol worship could have been overcome by saying, “It’s just a creation, not the creator.” But they failed. Hashem‘s presence was missing in their mind and heart. The second beit hamikdash was destroyed because the Jews were fragmented. They lacked the common emunah of believing and wanting the same thing. .

The Zohar says that each of the 365 days of the year parallel one of the 365 negative mitzvot. Tisha B’av corresponds to the mitzvah of gid hanashe. Nasha means forgetfulness. On Tisha B’av we forgot who we could be.

Yaakov battled the angel of Esav. They were fighting primarily over their future identity. Yaakov’s main quality was truth, which is seeing the whole picture and wanting to use everything in the inner and outer world for Hashem. Esav was a conqueror. There’s an Esav part within each of us. The battle was really a struggle between Yaakov and Yaakov. He had to annihilate his evil side. This will take place again when Mashiach comes.

Yaakov is referred to as tolaat (a worm). He was humble. He cried out to Hashem. Esav was a hunter. The most engaging prey is a human. When people idealize themselves and make demands on other people to see life through their eyes they are following the path of Esav.

The internal galut and relationship to Esav has an external manifestation which is the West. Modern society idealizes selfishness and conquest. In these days of bein hamitzarim let us strengthen ourselves with the voice of Yaakov and the power of Torah and tefilah.





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.                                                       





Receptacle of Blessing

5 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Parshat Naso discusses the sotah (the woman suspected of being unfaithful to her husband). The Torah tells us that if she was found guilty she died a horrific death. If she emerged innocent, she was blessed. This seems perplexing. Why was she rewarded for not being guilty?

The sages teach us that in the times of the beit hamikdash if a man refused to give his wife a divorce, the religious court was authorized to beat him until he capitulated. If the husband just said, “I will give a divorce,” or, “All right I’ll sign,” it wasn’t enough. He had to say, “I want to give her a divorce.” The Rambam and other commentators ask, what validity does this coerced contract carry? The Rambam explains that the husband really wants to do right but he is trapped by his evil inclination. After the beating his true will is revealed.

Similarly in the case of the sotah, she was seized by her yetzer hara. If she could step back and review the situatino, she would certainly not compromise herself again. When she was proven innocent, it was a revelation of her true will. That moment of clarity, when she saw her real essence, was enough to make her into a receptacle of blessing.

May we discover our true will and accept the Torah fully and with love.





Builder of Her Home: The Value of Faithfulness #4 Part II

4 06 2012

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

The verse in Tehilim states, “Kol kevuda bat melech pnima.” The honor of the king’s daughter is within. One of the names of the soul is kavod. A woman’s kavod, her true essence, is her home.

The Gemara says, “Nothing is missing in the king’s house.” When a woman has a deep need, the possibility of receiving what she is lacking is there, by turning towards her husband and touching his desire to give. This will bring down bounty from Hashem.

In Tehilim it says, “Shimi bat u’ri v’hati ozneich.” Listen daughter and see, incline your ears. The Alshich explains that a woman’s soul stands before Hashem in heaven and He shows her the light and happiness that could be hers when she finds her mate. Hashem then tells her two things. She must look at her husband and regard him as a king, and incline her ear and listen to what he says. Her goal should be to fulfill his will and desires. She must forget the expectations she developed from observing her parental home. She’s living a new chapter in her life. What she must receive from her husband is different than what her mother had to receive from her father.

Secure children are nurtured in a home where both parents turn towards Hashem and towards each other. A woman feels inner tranquility when she knows her husband cares about her needs. A husband feels at peace when he sees that what he gives is desired and appreciated and is used to build.

This kind of relationship is impossible unless the woman has emunah (faith) in Hashem. The Shechina is ultimately who she turns to. A husband is who he is. If she realizes he is giving what he can, and that she has to ask Hashem to give him more to give her, then everything is different. She doesn’t have to struggle. She should give her husband permission to do that. Her job is to be vulnerable and to ask and this will bring down blessing.

The key element that makes us Jews is our faithfulness to Hashem, our turning only towards Him and not to other forces. We are called bnei brit, the children of the covenant. There is no end to our trust in our ability to receive from Hashem and this power to be faithful comes through the woman.





Builder of Her Home: Women and Communication #3

22 04 2012
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

When the Jews reached Har Sinai, the Torah writes, “Vayichan sham Yisrael.” (He (Yisrael) encamped there). Rashi explains that the singular word Vayichan is used because the Jews were like one person. When they were together in that place of true unity Hashem said, “Ko tamar l’beit Yaakov,” so shall you say to the house of Yaakov, “V’tageid l’bnei yisrael,” and tell the children of Israel. Hashem spoke to the men in the plural form but to the woman in the singular form because they signify the unifying force. Women are not meant to lose their individuality. In fact, the Talmud says one thousand women are a thousand individuals. Rather, they are supposed to use their inherent power of bonding to unite others.

The woman is the force that enables connection. This exalted power unites each individual with all the different aspects of his personality. It also unites all of klal Yisrael. Unity doesn’t mean becoming something other than oneself, but rather working towards a shared goal.

Even Jews who are very far from Torah still sense a deep inner drive for something higher. Women retain this power to unify people on this meaningful search.

Mishlei states, “The wisdom of a woman builds her home.” Her task is to unite the members of her family with a sense of purpose. When a woman takes disparate parts and joins them together using the wisdom of her heart, she turns all of the stray threads into strands that are fine and beautiful. She does this by being connected (kesher) and having a relationship (yachas). Being connected means offering real understanding. Having a relationship means giving the other person a sense of belonging to something greater. A woman’s wisdom involves weaving together people’s lives. She begins by making cords of connection, extending threads that connect her and her husband so that all the disparate people in her home become like one person.

The Torah is compared to a woman because it too unifies all the different forces within us. The Torah is called the tree of life. When a person dies, his limbs and organs are still there, but there is no longer communication between them. A person is alive when all of the parts of his body and soul are connected and are working in synch. In order to create kesher (connection), there has to be commonality. The woman’s task is to find that common goal within her home.

The relationship of the woman and her husband, their willingness for kesher and yachas, enables experiential possibility for making a true kesher with Hashem. Through a woman’s ability to make connection, she makes kesher with herself and with the godliness within her.

Even her seeming disadvantage of wanting to charm her husband has purpose. The Gemara says, “There’s no purpose for a woman other than for beauty, children, and feminine jewelry.” These powers enable a woman to make connection. Her beauty allows her to create a bond with her husband. Her role as the mother of their children gives them commonality. Her regality gives her husband a sense of how much he desires her. These gifts draw both the husband and wife to their home. The woman can make her home a place of meaning and significance.

Kol kevuda bat melech penima.” One of the ten names of the soul is kavod. A woman’s glory is expressed within her. The home is the place where a woman senses her inner beauty. The environment she creates, the kesher she nurtures within her home, becomes her crown.

In today’s modern culture, women are brainwashed to avoid the home. We’re told that real life is where you’re achieving something out in the world. This way of life diminishes the home as a place of significance. The idea that a home communicates to its inhabitants a sense of their own value and chashivut (importance) is completely lost. Cooking a warm, satisfying, meal encourages communication, bonding, and a relationship. Straightening up the house so it looks orderly and pleasant creates a sense of kavod (honor).

Judasim teaches, “A woman of valor is her husband’s crown.” Granted that she is dependent on him and it puts her in a weaker position, but this enables her to receive and it enables him to provide. Together they can achieve shleimut (wholeness).

A woman is in a position of continued choice making in her home. Her choices are very deep and touch the roots of the inherent good and evil that live in every human heart. The framework a woman creates can either bring forth her hidden higher self that will in turn engender a positive kesher and relationship or the opposite. A woman’s ability to build or to destroy has no parallel.

The root of all evil is separation and divisiveness. The Hebrew word for trembling, falling apart, is ra’u’ah, from the root word ra, evil. Evil is disintegration. There’s no greater place than marriage where the choice between giving life or causing death, creating unity or disunity, has such a lasting impact. When you choose between unification and separation, between connection or disintegration, it’s not just about you or your home, but about the very root of good and evil.





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.