Friday, March 5, 2010

PARSHA - KI SISA - All yidden needed!

Many topics appear in this week's Parshah, Parashat Ki Tisa. There is the story of the making of the Golden Calf, and of how Moses pleaded with G-d for forgiveness on behalf of his people. But before these major events there is a passage that tells us something about the way the Torah sees the Jewish community.

There was a beautiful aromatic incense that was burned on the small golden altar in the Sanctuary, and later in the Temple, every day of the year.

As explained by the Sages, there are eleven ingredients in the incense. One would expect the fragrance of each of the ingredients to be of the best. And so it was, with one exception. Called chelbona (galbanum) this in fact had a rather unpleasant odor.

And the Torah makes it clear that each ingredient is essential: if any one ingredient were missing, the whole mixture would be invalid.

From this we learn a powerful lesson. The Sages tell us that the different ingredients of the incense represent the different types of Jews. The poor smelling spice represents the person whose deeds are less than perfect. He may even be, in various ways, a transgressor. The incense tells us that he is as much part of the Jewish people as anyone else. In fact, if he is missing, if we let him feel remote and excluded, then we are not functioning properly as a people.

This relates also to the theme later in the Parshah: asking G-d for forgiveness. When we are all pleading to G-d for mercy, the "transgressors" must also be present. As we announce in the beginning of the Yom Kippur Kol Nidrei service: We are one people together, and only by being one can we come closer to G-d.

From the point of view of G-d, everyONE belongs

Thursday, March 4, 2010

PARSHA - KI SISA - Coin of fire/Tzedoko

The Torah portion this week is Ki Tisa which translates both as "When you count", as well as "When you raise up." It begins with G-d telling Moshe that when he takes a census of the Jewish nation, he should do so by having each individual give a half-shekel atonement offering. When Moshe was perplexed as to how the Jews would be uplifted, G-d told him that it would be accomplished through this half-shekel gift.

The Rambam writes that the highest form of tzedakah is when the Jew gives tzedakah as a reflexive response to G-d’s command, without any motive or desire whatsoever. It was in this manner that the Jewish people gave the half-shekel.

For, with regard to the coin that the Jews were to use, we are told that “G-d showed him [Moshe] a coin of fire whose weight was half a shekel , and said to him: ‘similar to this [coin] shall they give.’ ”

By exhibiting a “coin of fire ,” G-d empowered each Jew to give his or her half-shekel with all the fire of their Divine soul, thus enabling the gift to be wholly selfless — the epitome of tzedakah.

This half-shekel gift was therefore very different from all acts of tzedakah performed until then, and enabled the Jews to be uplifted to a far greater degree than they had yet experienced.

This lofty manner of tzedakah is alluded to by the phrase “a coin of fire, whose weight was half a shekel ” — a combination of two opposite qualities.

A coin possesses shape and form, while fire has no distinct shape. Fire rises, while the value of a half-shekel coin lies precisely in its weight.

Because fire rises, it symbolizes the selfless desire to leave the physical and become one with our Source above; the weight of a coin is symbolic of the heaviness of physicality that causes one to be dragged downward.

The combination of these two opposites in the half-shekel — weightless and formless fire with weighted and shaped coin — thus denotes a level of tzedakah that surpasses all limitations. It is tzedaka given with fire and passion, and not as a result of one’s emotions or intellect, or for the sake of reward, but simply — like fire itself — because of every Jew’s limitless and intrinsic response to G-d’s command.

Thus, we understand how the Jews were uplifted through this counting.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

JOY :)

Simcha Poretz Geder - Simcha/happiness breaks thru all barriers.
We all encounter obstacles in life that appear to block our path to growth and success. Some are external, challenges presented by the world at large, and others are internal, personal problems which hold us back. We often react to these challenges with feelings of anger, hate, depression or despair.
How unproductive that is! Not only are these feelings painful themselves but they also intensify and magnify the problems we face, making the obstacles more difficult to overcome.
Joy, on the other hand, is in itself a pleasant feeling. And more so, it is the key to the inner power of the soul, unlocking personal strength we didn't know we had.

Rabbi Simchah Bunim of Pshische related the following example.

He once saw a man drowning.

There was no way anyone could save him; the person himself had to summon up his inner energy to fight the waves.
At first, the man was struggling vigorously. But he was quickly losing his strenght. Reb Simcha saw a look of despair on the man's face and that he was prepared to give up. With a slight smile, Reb Simcha shouted to the man: "give regards to the Livyoson" (the great whale)

A light smile then broke out on the drowning man's face, and with fresh vitality, he renewed his struggle and persevered until he was able to save himself.

The smile, brought on a surge of new energy, that saved his life.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mordechai teaches Jewish Children. Chinuch.

Our Sages say that the Miracle of Purim, which reversed the Heavenly decree for the Jews from death to life, both physically and spiritually, was brought about by the fact that Mordechai had gathered 22,000 Jewish children, whom he taught the Torah and with whom he prayed for G‑d's mercy. He imbued them with the spirit of self-sacrifice.

Mordechai was one of the heads of the Sanhedrin, and the greatest Jew of his time in scholarship, piety and all possible attributes of greatness. Nevertheless, he set everything aside in order to strengthen the foundations of education, actually going in person to teach the holy Torah with fervor, devoutness and self-sacrifice, to small children.

The profound message for us in this is: No matter what one's position in life is, or how important one's activities seem to be, one must first and foremost dedicate at least some part of his time and efforts to the most important of all causes — saving our young generation. This is accomplished through implanting in them the devotion to all that has been holy to us ever since our ancestors received the Torah at Mount Sinai, devotion to the point of self-sacrifice. Only in this way can we make sure that the young generation will remain with us, and, as a matter of course, ensure the existence of our people. Moreover, herein lies our strength against all Hamans, and our security under G‑d's protection.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

To 'drink' on PURIM

The Talmud states that “on Purim we are obligated to drink wine to the point where we do not know the difference between 'Blessed be Mordechai’ and ‘Cursed be Haman'."

On Purim, we are required to elevate our understanding to the point that we perceive no essential dis­tinction between Mordechai and Haman. For the ultimate goal in the creation of Haman is that he become a force for good - like Mordechai.

The threat posed by Haman endangered the very existence of the Jewish people. In response, they demonstrated self-sacrifice and dedication to Torah which transcended the limits of reason.
Their commitment transformed the entire nature of the situation. Thus, instead of destroying our people, Haman’s plot enriched us with a festival and a day of rejoicing.

Within the limitations of this world, understanding repre­sents the highest of our faculties. G‑d’s essence however, is not bound by the limits of our faculties: it transcends all definition and restriction.

“The ultimate in knowledge is 'not to know'."
Reason is, by nature, limited. It prevents the expression of our unlimited potential. The divine service of self-transcendence is the goal of our drinking on Purim.

The state which transcends the limits of reason is related to the concept of transforming evil to good.

From an intellec­tual perspective, good and evil have clearly defined bounda­ries. The infinity of G‑d’s essence (and the potential of our souls) is not bound by these limitations. At that level, “darkness is like light.”

Regardless of a person’s state, he is always able to turn to G‑d in repentance. And his sins are then transformed into good.

Purim means “lots”, and casting lots symbolizes a step above the realm of the rational.

During the time of the Purim miracle, the Jews rose to a level of commitment to the Torah that transcended the realm of intellect. And that is what brought about the transformation of evil into good. Instead of the annihilation of the Jewish people, we merited great deliverance.

May the darkness of this exile give way already to the light of Redemption!