Friday, July 2, 2010

PARSHAT PINCHAS - Daughters of Tzelafchad....

In this week's Torah portion, Pinchas, an incident with the five daughters of Tzelafchad is related. Tzelafchad, a Jew who died in the desert, had no sons. Since sons, and not daughters, were entitled to an inheritance, the daughters of Tzelafchad were not permitted a portion in the Holy Land.

The daughters of Tzelafchad, who were all known to be righteous women, objected to the thought that their family would not have a part in the Land of Israel. They went before Moses who presented the case to G-d. G-d said to Moses, "The daughters of Tzelafchad have a just claim. Give them a hereditary portion of land alongside their father's brothers."

We see here the Jewish woman's love for the Holy Land. The task the daughters of Tzelafchad had set for themselves was not easy. They had to approach various judges, each one referring the matter to higher authorities, until it was finally brought to Moses, himself. Tzelafchad's daughters were willing to try to overcome such a seemingly impossible obstacle to receive their portion.

This incident can serve as a lesson to each one of us in our daily lives, too. G-d demands that we conduct our lives according to certain guidelines. Yet at the same time, He created and organized the universe in such a way that it seems to preclude proper fulfillment of our obligation of Torah study and performance of mitzvot.

But, with the right approach, we too, can merit a portion in our rightful inheritance. We must be willing to try to overcome the seemingly "impossible" obstacles, just as Tzelafchad's daughters did. If we undertake it with the same attitude of love as Tzelafchad's daughters, then certainly we will achieve our goal.

Candle lighting time for L.A. is 7:50 pm.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Parshas Pinchas - we are given a spiritual direction

This week's Torah portion, Pinchas, describes the apportionment of the Land of Israel. The Torah states, "Through the lot shall the land be divided." The Talmud notes that the process by which the lots were drawn was neither arbitrary nor random; the miraculous breastplate of the High Priest, guided the outcome. Rashi explains that the lot itself spoke and announced the result. In other words, the division of the soon-to-be conquered Land of Israel was determined by G-d Himself.

The inheritance of the physical portion of land is symbolic of the spiritual inheritance of every Jew with which he is required to fulfill his individual mission in life. Just as each of the Twelve Tribes was given a specific portion of land to live in and cultivate, every Jew is allotted his own spiritual realm to perfect.

Although a person might think he is free to choose his own spiritual portion, following whichever path in the service of G-d that appeals to his nature, the Torah teaches that this is not a matter of free will or logic, but is ordained by G-d.

A person cannot choose his own spiritual bent; it is an integral part of his individual spiritual makeup. But how does one determine exactly which mitzvot are especially relevant to him? By objectively ascertaining those which he finds the hardest to do!

A person may safely assume that a given direction is his "inheritance" whenever the path seems strewn with obstacles and hindrances. In fact, the more important the mitzva, the harder the Evil Inclination tries to dissuade the person.

A lack of interest in a particular facet of Torah study or indifference to a certain mitzva indicates that it is precisely in these areas that special efforts must be made. In the merit of this effort, G-d grants the individual success in all other areas of his life as well.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Use our time wisely

A time-management professional is brought into a busy corporation for a lecture.
He fills a jar with stones until no more fit in. "Is this jar full?" he asks the audience. All heads nod in concurrence.

The speaker takes out a sack of pebbles and pours them into the jar. He asks the audience again, "Is now this jar full?" A few heads vigorously nod in agreement while others express uncertainty.

The speaker then lifts a bag of sand and begins pouring it into the jar. He continues to pour the sand until the jar can contain no more. "Now is the jar full?" he asks.

Nearly everyone is now certain that the jar is finally filled.

Finally, the speaker pulls out a bottle of water and slowly pours the water into the jar. "Now is this jar full?" asks the speaker. The participants all shake their heads in agreement.

"We learn from this", says the lecturer, "that first we must schedule into our days that which is most essential and significant. Afterwards, we do the 'important' matters. Then, We follow that up by adding to our schedules matters of lesser importance. And only after we have incorporated all of these into our days and weeks do we fill up the rest of our time with the inconsequential matters."

We are now in the midst of the three-week period of mourning for the destruction of the Holy Temples.. For about 2000 years we have been praying for the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the in gathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel, and Moshiach. The hope and prayers for the Redemption have always been part of the personal and collective jar of the Jewish people.

Before our jars get packed with time-wasters and energy-sappers, let's fill them with simple acts of goodness, dignified acts of kindness and the foundation stones of Torah study and mitzva observance. Let's increase in acts of goodness and kindness, in Torah study and in holy deeds, as a preparation for the era that will be utterly good, kind and holy for the Jewish people and the world.

Wishing you all a very fulfilling day.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Ha'Kotel Ha'maaravi - The Western Wall

17th of TAMMUZ

Today is the fast day of the 17th of Tammuz,it is the start of a three week mourning period for the destruction of Jerusalem and the two Holy Temples. Abstaining from food and drink is the external element of a fast day. A fast day is an auspicious day, a day when G‑d is accessible, waiting for us to repent. Now that we are so very near to the final Redemption when “these days will be transformed into gladness, rejoicing and festivals” it is time to emphasize the truer, deeper and essential aspect of this period, that they are part of the positive “building” of the Third Beit Hamikdash.

As the Rebbe describes it: The Three Weeks are compared to a locked treasure chest filled with gems and pearls. The key to the chest has been given to every Jew. We need merely place the key inside the lock and open the chest, to reveal the immense treasure hidden within. It is entirely dependent upon us to have the Three Weeks be a desirable, positive experience.

Unlocking the world's treasure is achieved when we turn this world into a dwelling for G-d. How? By revealing the G-dliness, the “treasure” hidden within.

We should begin by unlocking our true selves – utilizing every physical function,which seems like it's G-dliness is concealed, such as eating, for example, for the sake of Heaven as it says, “In all your ways know Him -G -d."

Today is a day when we are empowered to fix the cause of that destruction, so that our long exile will be ended and we will find ourselves living in messianic times, may that be very soon.
The fast in LA ends at 8:45 pm.

Wishing you an easy fast and may this day be transformed into gladness.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Erev 17th of Tammuz

Tomorrow is the Seventeenth day of the hebrew month of Tammuz, when the ancient city of Jerusalem was assaulted by invading gentiles. Three weeks later on the Ninth of Av (Tisha B'Av), the Holy Temple was set afire and razed. Both the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha B'Av are fast days.

This interval on the Jewish calendar is known as the "Three Weeks". The number three alludes to the inner significance and function of the Three Weeks as a period of preparation for the Third Holy Temple.

On a superficial level the Three Weeks are a sad time, a period of mourning for the destruction of the Temple and the beginning of the Jewish people's current exile. But on a deeper level they contain a hidden good. Why?

Everything that happens in the world is directed by G-d. G-d is the essence of good, and everything He does is good, even if it doesn't appear that way at first. Having come directly from G-d, there is no other possibility.

Accordingly, the Three Weeks, although superficially associated with sadness, contain a positive meaning: At the exact moment when the Second Holy Temple was destroyed, the Third and eternal Holy Temple was constructed up in heaven. In this light the entire destruction can be seen as nothing but a preparatory stage in the Redemptive process, a necessary step toward the Final Redemption with Moshiach, at which time the concept of exile will no longer exist.

At present, the good contained within the Three Weeks remains hidden. But reflecting upon its true, inner meaning hastens the day when its inner goodness will be revealed, when the Temple will be reestablished.

Let us therefore accustom ourselves to seeing the hidden good that exists in all things, thereby meriting the ultimate revelation of inner goodness with the arrival of our Righteous Moshiach.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Our Rebbe

One of the disciples of Rabbi Yisrael Alter of Gur, was very wealthy and at one point lived in New Zealand due to his business dealings.

Once, in 1949, on a trip to New York to visit his daughter, he entered an elevator only to be greeted by a Jew who asked where he hailed from. He responded that he had just arrived from New Zealand.

The stranger asked him, "Is there is a mikvah (ritual bath) in New Zealand?" The wealthy man responded, "I am there for business, not a mikvah."

The stranger responded, "If a Jew finds himself somewhere, he must have a positive impact."

The elevator doors opened, both men exited and went their separate ways.

The wealthy man asked his daughter, who was waiting for him nearby, regarding the identity of the man who had rode in the elevator with him. She responded that he was Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the son-in-law of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, who would later himself become Rebbe.

Over forty years passed, during which time the businessman had aged significantly. He had long since left New Zealand and he was, again, visiting his daughter in New York. He decided to go to the Lubavitcher Rebbe's Sunday dollar distribution.

When he greeted the Rebbe, the Rebbe asked, "Is there a mikvah already in New Zealand?"

The elderly man was clearly amazed. The Rebbe of Gur asked him what he was so amazed about.

He responded that he was amazed by the Rebbe's memory; forty years had elapsed since their elevator rendezvous!

And the Rebbe of Gur said, he was amazed about what was on the Rebbe's mind for forty years—a mikvah in faraway New Zealand. And how bothered he was that there was none there..."

That's our Rebbe.