Thursday, August 27, 2009

PARSHA - Ki Tetzei - (Yetzer hora)

The first verse of this week's Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, reads, "When you go forth to war against your enemies, and the L-rd your G-d will deliver him into your hands." The Torah begins the verse with the plural--enemies-- and then continues, that G-d will deliver him in our hands, singular form.

Every word in the Torah is exact, every letter conveying a multitude of meanings which teach countless lessons. This verse, which seemingly deals with the subject of conventional warfare, alludes also to a spiritual war which is waged by every individual.

A Jew may face two types of enemies: one which threatens his physical existence and one which threatens his Jewish soul. The Torah uses the word "enemies" to refer to both these threats, for the body and soul of the Jew work in unity in their service of G-d.

The Torah tells us, "When you will go forth." A person must gird himself with the strength that comes from absolute faith in G-d, even before encountering the enemy. Know that G-d Himself stands beside you and assists you in your struggle.

Armed in such a manner, victory is assured, not only against conventional enemies, but against the root of all evil -- the Evil Inclination.

When a Jew goes out to "war" fortified with the knowledge that there is no force in the world able to stand in the face of goodness and holiness, not only are external manifestations of evil vanquished, but its spiritual source is defeated as well. The Torah therefore uses the singular form to allude to the Evil Inclination.

If a Jew, though, is not careful and falls prey to the Evil Inclination, G-d forbid, then the Torah teaches that sincere repentance has the power to elevate our transgressions until "transgressions are considered as merits."

Such warfare brings Moshiach and the Final Redemption closer, when the Evil Inclination will be totally vanquished and the victory over sin will be permanent.

Candle lighting time for L.A. is 7:07

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

TESHUVA - Repentance.

Teshuva, repentance - how does it work? How can a single turn in the right direction "erase the slate" and eradicate years of ingrained behavior?

Chasidic philosophy explains this by comparing the Jew's relationship with G-d to a fire, based on the verse "For the L-rd your G-d is a consuming fire."

In order for a physical flame to be sustained it must be given a sufficient amount of material to burn, and it must also avoid any substances that can extinguish it.

Likewise, the spiritual "flame" that symbolizes the Jew's relationship with G-d must have sufficient "food", so to speak, to sustain it. Its food, is Torah study and the performance of mitzvot, and it must also avoid any substances that can extinguish it, like those things that the Torah has forbidden.

When a Jew observes mitzvot and is careful not to transgress the Torah's prohibitions, his "flame" flourishes and burns brightly.

When a person repents, does teshuva, he is merely "re-igniting" a flame that wasn't properly tended. To do so, he must bring a fire from another source, a fire, which is completely incapable to being extinguished, and that actually exists in the depth of every Jew's heart. The potential for a "fiery" and all-consuming relationship with G-d always exists.

When a Jew sincerely regrets his distance from G-d and contemplates his innate love for Him, he accesses this inner and eternal "fire."

Teshuva, then, is the "match" that can rekindle even the tiniest flame, and cause it to burst into a giant blaze.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Shofar in Elul - Prince...

We presently find ourselves at the beginning of the month of Elul, a month, according to our sages, to be used for introspection and repentance.

A very special relationship between G-d and the Jewish people exists at this time:

There is a parable of a king had a son whom he loved dearly and who wished to travel amongst the king's many lands. The king, an indulgent father, allowed his son to travel.

Months passed. No word was heard from the prince. The king was worried. One day, a ragged looking young man approached the gates of the king's palace. He walked toward the entrance but was stopped by the guards.

"Don't you recognize me?" the young man cried out. "I am the prince. You must let me pass."

The guards laughed. Could this common beggar possibly be their beloved prince?

The young man reasoned, cajoled, demanded, that he be allowed to enter. Out of total desperation he began to cry. From deep within the palace the king heard the crying. Something sounded familiar. He listened until he was certain that, indeed, it was the voice of his own son. The king himself came running out to open the palace gates for his beloved son.

The Jewish people are, of course, the prince. Though we travel far, we ultimately return to the palace. And when we return, the sound of the shofar - a simple, wordless cry - brings the King to listen and open the gates of the palace and let us in. For this reason, it is customary to hear the cry of the shofar every day during Elul.

Let us all cry out to the King, with the shofar and with our own voices, that He let us into the palace. We will then be happiest, and, indeed so will He.

Even a small deed - is big

A man was once hired to paint a boat. As he was painting, he noticed a leak at the bottom of the boat and decided to fix it. When the painting was done, he collected his pay and went on his way.

The following day the owner of the boat came back to the painter with a large check. "Here", he said, "This is for fixing the leak".

"That was so small a thing", he replied. "Surely you are not paying me this huge amount for so small a thing?"

"My dear friend", the owner explained, "When I asked you to paint the boat I had forgotten to tell to you about the leak. When the boat was dry, my children took it fishing. I was frantic for I remembered the leak! Imagine my relief and happiness when I saw them coming back safely. I then saw that you had on your own repaired the leak. You have saved the lives of my children! I haven't enough money to repay you for your 'small' , as you call it, good deed...”

Very often, by doing what seems to us a "small" good deed we never know what wonderful thing we have really done. And conversely, in committing what seems to us a "small" transgression, we are causing a terrible catastrophe. As in the following story:

A wealthy merchant once bought a masterpiece of a chandelier for his home, it was made of crystal and precious stones. A real fortune.

To hang this massive beautiful chandelier a hole was drilled in the ceiling, through which a rope was run and fastened to a beam in the attic.

One day a beggar came for old clothes. He was told to go up to the attic, where their old clothes were stored. He went up, collected a bundle of clothes, then searched for a piece of string with which to tie it. He saw a rope wound around a nail and so with his pocketknife he cut the rope.

Crash! There was a terrific smash. The family then rushed to the attic crying: "You idiot! Look what you have done! You have ruined us!"

The poor beggar could not understand. "What do you mean, ruined you? All I did was to take a small piece of rope. Surely this did not ruin you?"

"Yes, all you did was take a small piece of rope. But it so happened that my precious chandelier hung by it. Now you have broken it beyond repair!

Each deed, no matter how seemingly small, may create or destroy worlds.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Story - Tzedoko saved from being drafted!!

One day a chassid came to see Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (the third Chabad Rebbe). He told the Rebbe that his only son was about to be drafted into the Russian army. "Please, Rebbe," he entreated, "help us, save us."

Rabbi Menachem Mendel shook his head sadly: "I'm sorry, I cannot help you in this matter."

This chassid happened to be close with the Rebbe's youngest son (and eventual successor) Rabbi Shmuel; known as the Maharash. And so when he left the Rebbe's room, he ran to Rabbi Shmuel and told him his problem. Rabbi Shmuel promised that he would do his best to influence his father, but when he went to the Rebbe and spoke on the chassid's behalf, he too was told, "I cannot help him at all.

A few days later, to every ones delight they heard that the chassid's son had been released, and for no apparent reason.

Being that Reb Shmuel, (the Rebbe's son) was very curious to find out the course of events that had transpired, he asked the Chasid and his wife to describe what had happened on that day their son was supposed to have been drafted.

"On that very day", they began to relate, "a poor person came to the house and asked us to give him something to eat. At first we told him that we were so worried about our son who was going to be drafted that day that we really couldn't deal with him. But then he pleaded with us: it had been a long time since he had eaten anything at all and he was starving, and how could it be that a Jew did not have time or food for another Jew who was so hungry! We realized our mistake and served him a huge meal, from what we had prepared to be a special farewell meal for our son. Then..."

At this point Rabbi Shmuel interjected, "Thank you, I heard enough. Everything is clear now."