Hakhel Email Community Awareness Bulletin
OCTOBER 2007 DAILY EMAIL ARCHIVE
Special Note One: A
question to think about while walking home:
Where the first place in
the Torah that money is mentioned? Why do you think that this is the
We look forward to your
Special Note Two: Chazal
teach that “Tefillos Avos Tiknum…”--our forefathers Avraham, Yitzchak
and Yaakov instituted our three daily prayers. The source for Avraham
establishing Shacharis is in last week’s Parsha, “VaYashkeim Avraham
Avraham arose early in the morning…” (Bereishis 19:27). The source for
Yitzchak Avinu establishing Mincha is in this week’s Parsha, “VaYatzay
Yitzchak Lasuach--Yitzchak went out to supplicate in the field towards
evening” (Bereishis 24:63). (Yaakov’s establishment of Maariv is at the
beginning of Parshas Vayeitzei.)
As we have noted many
times before, the Parshios of the week are always instructive--always
provide a message to us--as to how we should be conducting ourselves at
that time. It is well known, for instance, that the Chazon Ish
recommended naming a newborn child with the name of a great Torah
personage from the week’s Parsha in which he/she is born. So, that
leaves us with a conclusion that we should be spending time during these
weeks in improving our daily Tefillah. Hashem, of course, has also
given us some additional stimuli to improve our Tefillah during
particular brochos of Shemone Esrei: The ridiculous proposition
regarding the division of Yerushalayim must spur us to have Kavannah in
V’liYerushalayim Ircha, the rise of neo-Nazism (especially in Eretz
Yisroel) appears to be an obvious message to supplicate more when
reciting V’Lamalshinim. Similarly, on a personal level, if someone
close to you is not feeling well, the Hashgacha Pratis for you may be to
increase your feelings in Rifaeinu.
Let us take the time to
make a concerted effort for those things that we know that only prayer
will help, and really improve our Tefillos for them.
Special Note Three: In this week’s Parsha,
we also learn that Yitzchak Avinu was consoled after the passing of his
mother, Sara (Bereishis 24:16). In fact, the Rambam codifies the
mitzvah of performing Chesed, which is based upon “V’Ahavta Lereacha
Komocha,” in Hilchos Aveil, the Laws of Mourning (14:1). When one
properly comforts a mourner, he is doing a Chesed to both the living,
and to the departed (ibid., 14:7). As great as providing comfort may
be, finding the right words to say may be even more important, yet
difficult. The Rema (Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah 376:2) importantly
tells us what one should not say. “Do not say, however, ‘What can one
do? One cannot change what happened,’ for that is not consolation but
blasphemy.” The Aruch HaShulchan (ibid., at paragraph 5 ) explains that
making such a statement implies that you must resign yourself to what
happened against your will, rather than comforting the mourner with
words of faith, with words that Hashem loves us all and that only He, in
His infinite wisdom knows what is best. HaRav Shamshon Refoel Hirsch,
Z’tl, echoes this thought and adds that it “is the murmuring of the
helpless against his helplessness, not the recognition of the blessed
wisdom of G-d” (Horeb page 433, cited in Love Your Neighbor by
Rabbi Zelig Pliskin, Shlita, page 93).
HaRav Feivel Cohen, Shlita, in the recently
published Badei HaShulchan on Hilchos Aveilus (Shulchan Aruch,
Yoreh Deah 376:2, seif 27) extends this thought and writes that it is
prohibited to make any kind of statement such as “What can one do?” to
anyone who is in any kind of difficult situation, in any Tzara,
whatsoever. Obviously, one can daven, learn Torah, do mitzvos and
especially Chesed, as a zechus for oneself or others--but one should
never, Chas V’Shalom, question Hashem’s Supreme Judgment.
One additional note. The
Pasuk in Iyov states: “Hashem Nosan, Hashem Lokach, Yehi Shem Hashem
Mevorach--Hashem gave, Hashem took away, may Hashem’s Name be blessed.”
HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, explains that the blessing referred to
in this Pasuk is not necessarily for the taking away, but for the
giving. We bless Hashem for every moment that we had the “Nossan”--the
gift--of the person, now departed to a higher world, with us. Every
moment of our lives is a gift, and every moment that we are able to
share in someone else’s precious life is a similar gift. We have much
for which to be thankful.
Special Note One: We
present below what we believe was the most thoughtful response regarding
the lessons to be learned from the eyesore of an unfinished building:
“I always enjoy reading
your daily email, it's a true inspiration. Thanks for making me think.
Below are my thoughts on the question you posed today: When the
workers started to build they must have been full of enthusiasm. But as
time moved on, they lost their enthusiasm, because this is the nature of
a person. We get excited to start something new, but as soon as we get
used to it, we slack off in our work. Aaron Hakohen was just the
opposite, as we learn from the Torah in Parshas Beha'aloscha. His
enthusiasm for lighting the Menorah stayed the same throughout the year,
like it was on the first day.
“Another idea we can take
by spotting an unfinished building is a logical approach. The people
who wanted the building up probably didn't put enough thought into the
outcome of the project. They didn't consider how much money it would
involve, etc. When we want to start a project we have to make our
Hishtadlus and try to figure what will be in the long-term. We have to
think before acting. This is why we have a brain that makes us superior
to animals, who act instinctively.
“A third thought, that
should occur to a person that sees an unfinished building is the
following: When we start doing a Mitzvah we have to finish it properly.
The person who finishes a Mitzvah is considered as doing it. Moshe
Rabbeinu started separating the Arei Miklot already in the desert. But
it was Yehoshua who later separated the additional three towns as Arei
Miklot, thereby completing the Mitzvah of Arei Miklot. The Torah
considers Yehoshua to be the one who did this Mitzvah. How you start is
important, but it's how you finish that counts!”
We add only that each one
of us can view our lives as a building that we ourselves must finish.
Rather than creating an eyesore, we should try to construct an edifice
that is more beautiful than even what was originally planned.
Special Note Two: This
past Sunday (16 Cheshvan) was the Yahrtzeit of HaRav Shach, Z’tl. HaRav
Shach not only set a standard for all in his dedication to Torah study,
but raised the bar as well in basic care and concern for our fellow
man. The following story excerpted from Rav Shach on Chumash (Artscroll,
page 38) beautifully highlights conduct that we, too, can emulate.
Avraham--Avraham arose early in the morning” and saddled his donkey (Bereishis
He hastened to fulfill the
commandment as soon as it was possible (Rashi).
One time, an acquaintance
of Rav Shach from Petach Tikva came to consult with him regarding a
certain Shidduch that had been suggested for his son. The Rosh Yeshiva
told him that he would find out some information, and would clarify a
few points about the person involved, before giving an answer.
The man returned to Petach
Tikva, and Rav Shach set himself to the task. That evening, he got the
information he was seeking and as soon as the buses started running in
the morning, he traveled to Petach Tikvah--a trip that involved taking
two buses. Since it was still early in the morning when he arrived, and
the Rosh Yeshiva did not want to disturb his acquaintance, he wrote down
his answer, put it in the man’s mailbox, and headed back to B’nei Brak.
By 7 o’clock he was in the Yeshiva for morning prayers!
Hakhel Note: It is
interesting that HaRav Dessler, Z’tl, explains the Viduy confession of
“Ritzas Roglayim L’Hora--running towards evil”—not as actually running
to sin, but simply as “zerizus shelo b’mekoma--misplaced or misdirected
alacrity.” We must understand that there is only a certain measure of
zerizus that a person can extend, as he is bound by his physical
limitations, and we must be careful to use it in the manner that Avraham
Avinu did, as followed by HaRav Shach--in fulfilling our real purpose in
life. The next time you feel yourself acting "B'Zerizus"--ask yourself
why--and make sure before continuing that you are honestly satisfied
with the answer!
WORLD BUILT ON KINDNESS
Special Note One: It is
interesting to note that the Gematria of Chesed is 8+60+4--72. There is
a dispute as to whether the Sanhedrin HaGadol-the Great Sanhedrin, which
represents Din (justice) of the highest order, consisted of 70 or 71
members. The number 72, then, represents something that is beyond all
Din—which is Chesed.
HaRav Moshe Cordevero,
Z’tl, in the classic sefer Tomer Devora explains the 13 Midos of
HaKadosh Baruch Hu. In explaining the Midah of “Chesed L’Avrohom” (Micha
7:20), HaRav Cordevero writes:
“This attribute applies to
those whose conduct goes beyond the requirements of law, like Avraham
Avinu. Hashem will conduct Himself towards them in a way that goes
beyond the requirements of the law. That is, he does not demand the
strict execution of justice. Rather, he goes beyond the letter of the
law, just as they do. This is the aspect of ‘Kindness to
Avraham’--Hashem displays the attribute of kindness to those whose
conduct is like Avraham’s.”
We all recognize how
necessary element acts of Chesed are in being considered a “nice guy”,
or a “good person.” However, it is essential for us to realize that
acts of Chesed for the Torah Jew are much more than that. Not only was
Chesed a building block of creation (as Dovid HaMelech teaches in
Tehillim (89:3), “Olam Chesed Yibaneh”), and not only was the world
rebuilt at the time of the Flood by Noach’s acts of Chesed to all of the
creatures in the Ark, but even Klal Yisroel itself only can begin and
take root with the Chesed of Avraham Avinu. Before reaching the level
of devotion of Yitzchak Avinu (who symbolized Yirah), or attaining the
level of service of Yaakov Avinu (who symbolized Torah Truth), Klal
Yisroel must first be imbued with the Chesed of Avraham.
Let us take a moment to
look at some of Avraham’s specific, classic acts of Chesed, which were
so important that the Torah describes them over and above the
undoubtedly tens of thousands of acts of Chesed that he performed in his
175-year life span. Last week, we saw Avraham’s great personal
sacrifice (with no monetary reward) for the sake of his nephew, Lot, who
had rejected him and separated himself from his tutelage and influence.
This week we see how, as a 100-year old man, Avraham serves apparently
the simplest of wayfarers, and shortly thereafter pleads to save the
lives of those who were his antithetical opposite, whom the Torah
describes as “Roim V’Chatoim L’Hashem Meod--bad and sinful to Hashem
greatly” (Bereishis 13:13).
To Avraham Avinu, Chesed
was not that which he thought was nice, useful or even good or right.
Instead, it was the emulation of the Midah of Hashem. Hashem is
“Chassid B’Chol Maasav--benevolent in all His actions” (Tehillim
145:17). Hashem cares not only for the pious, wealthy, indigent, or
desperate, but for everyone at all times in all situations. Hashem even
cared enough about a world already so quickly corrupted after the Flood
that He refused to destroy them, and instead sent Avraham Avinu to be
His emissary throughout the land.
So when we “do Chesed,” it
is not because of social mores, or because we are extremely civilized or
good-hearted. Rather, it is because the Torah teaches “V’Halachta
B’Drochov--and you shall walk in His ways” (Devorim 28:9) (Mitzvah
#611)--which is actually our source for the Mitzvah of Kindness. Our
Chesed transcends the physical act of taking someone by the hand,
presenting someone with a good meal, driving someone to a Simcha or even
providing someone with a kind word or good advice. Rather, our act of
kindness should be an act of Avraham Avinu, an act of Ruchniyus--an act
of emulation of the Middah of Hashem.
When it comes to “70” or
“71”, man (in this case, the Sanhedrin) must judge another man for the
foibles and mistakes of humanity. When one raises himself to “72”, he
elevates himself to a Midah of Hashem which, as the Tomer Devora
writes--only Hashem can recognize and repay!
Special Note Two: We
provide a few additional questions to think about while walking home:
Everything that we experience is for a
purpose. When one passes an unfinished building in his
neighborhood, what should he think about, and how can he use what he
has seen for his benefit? Does it make a difference as to why it is
After the Flood, as Rashi explains,
Hashem left some of the hot springs available to heal us (Bereishis
8:2). Similarly, with the destruction of Sodom, we were left with
the healing qualities of the Dead Sea area, another positive benefit
out of destruction. What is the lesson here?
Why did Avraham Avinu have to go through
ten Nisyonos--the ten tests--culminating with the Akeida at the end
of this week’s Parsha? After all, as we all know and appreciate
Avraham Avinu, couldn’t he have just taken the last test and passed,
obviating the need for the first nine?!
As always, we look forward
to your comments.
THE PROPER RESPECT
Sometimes, we get too used to
the gifts around us to fathom their greatness, and do not treat these gifts
with the proper appreciation or with the due respect. The Kitzur Shulchan
Aruch teaches (10:1) that “One who is careful with the holiness of his
Tefillin--not to speak “Divrei HaVolim V’Sichas Chulin--unnecessary words or
even ordinary conversation”--while wearing Tefillin will cause his days to
be lengthened, and will surely be a Ben Olam Haba…” What a unique formula
for increasing one’s life span!
Tefillin are, of course, not
the only Mitzvah which demands our special attention and high level of
respect. Men most certainly should be careful for the short period of time
in the morning that they don their Tefillin to realize what they are
wearing. However, at other times during the day, when one realizes that he
is performing a Mitzvah, he should also attempt to perform it with the
“Kovod Rosh,” with the reverence that it deserves. So, the next time (and
perhaps from time-to-time when) you enter a Shul, go shopping for Shabbos,
make a brocha, review the Parshas HaShavua, or do even the simplest Chesed
for another--Stop, Reflect, and Revere!
Special Note One: In a
previous Bulletin, we had raised the issue as to whether one can
provide a concise Torah definition of “life”.
HaRav Matisyahu Salomon,
Shlita, relates that his rebbe, HaRav Eliyahu Lopian, Z’tl, defines life as
“that which a person can never have enough of.” This is truly an amazing
definition, for it teaches us that essentially every person must define life
on his own.
To some people, money is life,
because that is what they cannot get enough of, to others, it may be music,
and to others, it may even be sports. Hashem, of course, would like the
Torah and Mitzvos to be how you define life, as the Pasuk states “ Lishmor
La’asos……Ki Hu Chayeichem…--be careful to perform all the words of this
Torah, for it is your life…(Devorim 32:46,47).” Indeed, Chazal reiterated
these words when they instituted the nussach of “Ki Heym Chayeinu--for it is
our life” in the Maariv prayer.
With this definition, no one
could claim that he has had “enough” of life, for life is only defined as
something that one truly wants and pursues.
It is interesting to note that
the Shem M’Shmuel writes that if a person’s aspirations are for
Ruchniyus, spirituality, in this world, then these aspirations continue in
Olam Haba, and he continues to soar from madregah to madregah--from level to
level--in the next world as well. His “life” actively continues there for
he could never have enough in the here and now. On the other hand, one
whose “life” is defined by materialism, or any aspect of it, does not have
much place to go in the next world, which has no materialism in it.
We should make sure that we do
not distort the definition of life. At the beginning of each day, as we sit
down to map out or begin to perform the various tasks, chores,
responsibilities and duties of the day, we should ask ourselves, “How will I
define life today?”
Special Note Two: As we all
know, today is the yahrzeit of Rochel Imeinu. The Pasuk in Yirmiyahu
(31:14) writes that Rochel cried over the exile of her children and that
Hashem, in turn, responded to Rochel that she need not cry further.
HaRav Chaim Shmuelevitz, Z’tl,
while once at Kever Rochel, was overheard to have said that although Hashem
had instructed Rochel Imeinu not to cry, he, “Chaim,” was asking her to cry
for her children. The question is clear--if Hashem told Rochel Imeinu not
to cry, how could HaRav Shmuelevitz--“Chaim”--seemingly go against this
order and ask her to cry?
Some say, that HaRav
Shmuelevitz himself answered the question by explaining that while a father
(Hashem) could tell his daughter to calm down and not cry, a child (such as
HaRav Shmuelevitz) could ask his mother to show a special care and concern
for her children.
A second explanation is given
in the name of HaRav Moshe Aharon Stern, Z’tl, who teaches that Hashem, by
telling Rochel that she didn’t have to cry, was actually inviting further
supplication and tears. HaRav Stern draws the parallel to Hashem’s response
to the sin of the Golden Calf, where He tells Moshe Rabbeinu “Leave me alone
and I will destroy them,” even though Moshe had not yet asked for mercy from
Hashem for the Chait HaEgel (See Shemos 32:10 and Rashi there).
There is an extremely
important lesson for us here. HaRav Matisyahu Salomon, Shlita, notes that
the Bais HaMikdash is referred to as the “Sukkas Dovid HaNofoles” (Amos
9:11)--as the falling/fallen booth of Dovid. He explains that the word
“Nofoles” is meant to inspire us to picture a person or a precious object as
it is falling and as it finally falls. He or it is not in its natural or
proper position. Something that is falling or has fallen, must be picked up
and placed where it is supposed to be.
The Navi teaches that Rochel
Imeinu cried for her children. HaRav Shmuelevitz asked her to keep crying.
Likewise, the Navi tells us that we must recognize that the Bais HaMikdash
is Nofoles. We, too, must do everything in our power to pick it back up.
How? May we suggest that at some point in the day we follow in the
footsteps of our Mama Rochel. We should take a moment out to envision the
fall in front of us--and do what we can to stop the fall by asking Hashem to
raise up, and keep up, that most precious possession, to him and to us, the
most special place on earth, the Bais HaMikdash.
May the words of Hashem to
Rochel--“there is a reward for your actions--and your children will return
to their borders” ring true for our actions as well, speedily and in our
Special Note One: On one
of the Questions for Thought we posed in a recent email, why do we both
close our eyes **and** then cover our closed eyes before reciting the
Shema, we received the following response from a reader:
“Someone told me (not sure in
whose name) that covering our eyes is the equivalent of returning the world
(in our minds) to tohu va’vohu, the primordial state in which Hashem was
We note that although we have
not verified this , it is said that HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl, addresses
this question, and answers that there is a difference between closing the
eyes and covering them, and explains why one must do both. Closing the eyes
is a symbol that one is engaging in internal reflection--he is looking
in--and contemplating Hashem’s mastery over all places, all people, all
things and all time. However, this is not enough--for there is a lot in the
world out there which could spoil and ruin that which you know and conclude
is true on your own. So many out there mock, scorn, or scoff at our way of
life, our “ancient” beliefs which (they claim) are so unbefitting for our
especially “advanced” times, that merely being in the presence of those in
the world around us could, at least subconsciously affect even the purest
emunah and bitachon (faith and trust in Hashem). Thus, we first close our
eyes, showing that within ourselves we are whole in our belief, and then we
cover our eyes to demonstrate that no outside influences, no external event,
no outside pressures, and no inappropriate, licentious or subhuman conduct
of others will adversely impact upon our beliefs.
Special Note Two: R’ Yisroel
Salanter, Z’tl, while once in Paris, noted that in a particularly posh
hotel, a customer is charged several francs for a cup of coffee that
otherwise costed only a few ducats to make. In thinking about it, Rebbe
Yisroel reflected, the hotel was entirely justified in charging this amount.
When one sits in hotel,
beautifully decorated with carpeting, marble, artwork, moldings, designs,
furniture and exotic plants, there is a sense of pleasantness, serenity, and
personal satisfaction. Moreover, in addition to the ambiance, Rebbe Yisroel
realized that the cup of coffee itself, presented in these special
surroundings and in a fine cup and saucer, will actually taste better as it
is imbibed. It is a very different drink--simply because of where it is and
where you are.
Likewise, Rebbe Yisroel noted,
when a person partakes of even a cup of water while sitting in his home with
his feet on earth, as the sun shines through his kitchen window, and as he
takes a breath of life-giving air, sees blossoming flowers, and hears
different birds chirping outside, oh how he should appreciate that
“ordinary” cup of water! It is certainly not worth the “ducats” that an
unappreciating cat, horse, rhinoceros, or elephant would pay for it, but it
certainly is worth the several “francs” that a human being should be honored
and excited to pay.
Indeed, HaRav Shimshon Pincus,
Z’tl, teaches that the movement of your lips in making a brocha is not
merely a prerequisite to partaking of the drink in the cup, but a necessity,
in much the same way as the necessity of lifting of the hand to get the cup
to your mouth. Rather, one should take a brief moment and reflect upon the
“Gaonus”--the unfathomable Genius, which created you, the cup, the drink,
and everything around you. One should appreciate what he is making a
blessing upon and to Whom he is reciting the Blessing.
We note that the word “Baruch”
in Hebrew is translated not only as a word of praise and thanks, but also as
in indication that Hashem is the Source of everything.
Whether we are making a Brocha
in our regular Tefillos, over a mitzvah that billions of others in the world
do not have, over a special event in your life, or even over a cup of tasty
bottled spring water, just that extra moment before reciting the word
“Baruch” can move you out of a rhinoceros’ setting in the Amazon jungle--and
into the finest five-star hotel in Paris!
Special Note Three: In this
week’s Parsha we find a stark contrast, as pointed out by HaRav Zelig
Pliskin, Shlita, in his great work Growth Through Torah, as follows:
The Pasuk (Bereishis 12:5)
writes: “Vayaitzu Loleches…VaYavou Artza Canaan--and they left to go to the
land of Canaan, and they came to the land of Canaan.” What is the Pasuk
teaching us? Where is the lesson here?
The message, Rabbi Pliskin
teaches, is enormous for everyone! The Torah teaches by this Pasuk that
Avraham Avinu set out to get somewhere--and he arrived there. Terach his
father, however, who also set out from Ur Kasdim together with his son, did
not get to Canaan, but instead stopped in Choron, “and settled there” (Bereishis
11:31). The rest is history. Terach died in Choron, and Avraham Avinu and
his descendants have the eternal right to the land that Avraham reached--Eretz
Canaan! Avraham accepted upon himself to accomplish his goal and refused to
become side tracked by the pleasures--or even the vicissitudes--of the
situations around him. To succeed in any venture, you must complete what
you start. You must be driven, and not lose sight of what you really must
In fact, Rabbi Pliskin
continues, it is a very important goal that you are attempting to
accomplish; you should even become obsessed with it. While obsessions can
be negative, they can also be very positive. A person should never, ever
quip “I never finish what I start.” Rather, a person should recognize his
own importance, and move aside the deterrents (however expertly dressed up
by the Yetzer Hora) in order to fully and finally realize his objective.
The year is in front of us.
Let us take this great lesson presented to us by the Torah so early on in
the year, so that we accomplish and reach our destination--this year--and in
We conclude Neilah on Yom
Kippur with Kabalas Ol Malchus Shomayim. We accept Hashem’s Kingship over
us--now and forever. While this may be a difficult concept for those who
have been raised in Western Society, and for those of us who are impressed
by their own shrewdness, wisdom, prowess or strength, the fact is that it is
as absolute as the truth gets. It is interesting to note that the
penultimate Pasuk of the Shiras HaYam (Shemos 15:18) is “Hashem Yimloch
Le’olam Voed--Hashem’s malchus will last forever.” The teaching is so
fundamental to our daily life-that this Pasuk is actually repeated ten (!)
times daily during the course of our three daily prayers (Nusach Ashkenaz),
and even once in Kriyas Shema Al HaMita! We will leave it to you to
double-check our count in your next three tefillos. If someone could give
us the Nusach Sefard/Sefaradi/Ari counts, it would be most appreciated. In
all events, as we go through events in the day in which we sense that there
is more to what happened than meets the eye--that there had to be a reason
why you met up with him, or for why that certain unexpected thing happened,
or even why you just missed the light--bring to mind and state this Pasuk--and
you can touch daily that most sublime moment of Neilah on Yom Kippur!
Some questions for thought as
you are walking home:
a. Is there a Torah
definition of “Life”?
b. When reciting the first
Pasuk of Shema, why do we both close our eyes and then cover our closed
c. If you had five minutes
with a Gadol HaDor how would you want the script of your conversation to
d. The Moshiach is coming
TODAY--how will you--and will you not--spend the time prior to his arrival?
Remember--this could be today!!
DON'T GIVE UP!
Special Note One: This week’s
Parsha, Lech Lecha, highlights for us how far Avraham Avinu went in order to
save his captive nephew (Bereishis 14:14). We are taught “Ma’aseh Avos,
Siman L’Bonim--the deeds of the forefathers are a sign to their children.”
We should take a special note of the fact that the great efforts of Avraham
Avinu are recorded in **this week’s** Parsha and take action **this week**to
help at least those currently in captivity whom we know about. What is the
“action” of a Jew in this circumstance? The Torah gives us the answer:
“HaKol Kol Yaakov V’Hayadayim…” (Bereishis 27:22)--unlike the rest of the
world, our words speak louder than our actions. We add that when HaRav
Chaim Shmuelevitz, Zt’l, spoke to those assembled for prayer in Yeshivas
Mirrer Yerushalayim on behalf of the Entebbe Airport captives, he urged
those there to consider the Entebbe captives as their very own close
relatives, and pray as such.
We provide, once again, the
names of the three Israeli soldiers being held for over one year of their
Eldad Ben Tova
Ehud Ben Malka
Gilad Ben Aviva
Recent news events concerning
heightened negotiations relating to the captives may be a further reminder
from Hashem that this week is an auspicious time for us to remember the
soldiers in our Tefillos.
On a very related note, we
remind everyone to likewise pray for Jonathan Pollard, Yehonasan Ben Malka,
who is also being detained in our very own country for an extended period of
Special Note Two: A bumper
sticker reads: “I vote that we give up!” In reviewing the first three
Parshios of the Torah, we find that a cornerstone of the Torah’s teaching is
to absolutely and unequivocally perish the thought of “giving up”. Adam,
after sinning and being exiled from Gan Eden, had the courage and
determination to have another child--Shes--whose descendant, Noach, is the
progenitor of mankind forever. Kayin, after his dreadful sin, demonstrates
the willpower and resolve to do Teshuva as well. Noach’s fortitude and
perseverance before, during, and after the Flood, saves not only
mankind--but the entire world--from extinction. Avraham Avinu is ridiculed
and degraded even by his own father, thrown into a fiery furnace, and told
by Hashem to leave his country to a land inhabited by the descendents of the
cursed Cham. Nevertheless, his love, dedication, and purpose lead even
Cham’s descendants to refer to him as the “Nesi Elokim--the prince of Hashem.”
At this time of year, there
are those who could feel depressed, or at least dejected, or down on
themselves. After all, Yom Tov was over a little over a week ago, and many
seem to be back to the same drudgery without visible signs of improvement.
The Torah, in these recent Parshios, however, shows how much, much greater
obstacles were overcome by those who met the individual challenges that
faced them. What is needed is the fortitude to keep the Kabalos that we
thought of or made and an uplifted spiritual state at least in some way,
such as when reciting Shemone Esrei or Brachos during the day.
If your Plan A as to how this
year would be different needs some tweaking, or perhaps a real adjustment or
even a change, now is the time to focus and fix , so that the rest of the
year can be, quite literally, elevated and successful.
Hashem has given us a special
Bracha in that, because it is a leap year, even now we still have just about
12 months until next Rosh Hashana. Let’s get ourselves together--and not
yield and capitulate, not surrender and acquiesce--but raise ourselves, just
as Avraham Avinu in this week’s Parsha, was raised above nature and the
stars (Bereishis 15:5)--in order to really and truly reach the potential
that we can, should--and must!!
Remember the day that your
parent, sibling or friend let go of the seat of you bicycle, and let you
ride down the block on your own?! Although a bit shaky at first, the ride
became more sure and steady as you proceeded down the path.
HaRav Shimshon Pincus, Z’tl,
teaches that, in much the same way, with the education and training we have
received over the period beginning with Rosh Hashanah and concluding just
yesterday on Isru Chag, Hashem has now just released us to ride on our own.
We must be confident in our ability to succeed, and make sure that we do not
regress to the point in time which preceded the very special period we have
just passed through. Quite to the contrary, we should exert all efforts to
ensure that we succeed at our new undertakings.
As Rabbi Pincus puts it--the
Esrog dealers should not be the only ones who walk away from Yom Tov feeling
accomplished--their success should serve as an allegory for each and every
one of us, as we plan at making the year that lays ahead our most successful