Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Everything from Hashem is GOOD!! Gam zu l'tova.

The Talmud tells a story of R'Akiva who was once traveling and brought along a candle for light, a rooster to wake him and a donkey to carry his belongings. It so happened that the city that he wanted to stay in did not allow him in, and so he was forced to spend the night out in the field. During the night a wind came and blew out his candle, a lion came and ate his donkey and a cat came and ate his rooster .R' Akiva said, "All that G-d does, He does for the good". Later on R'akiva discovered that that night the town had been attacked by bandits and had he been there, he too would have been robbed. And if the bandits would have seen the light from the candle or heard the sounds from the animals, they would have found him. Through him losing his belongings, his life was saved.

So even though R'Akiva did experience loss and pain, at the end it was revealed how it was all for the good.

A better level of good is when the negative experience itself turns out to be positive. Like in the story of Rabbi Nachum ish gam zu, called so, because he would always say, "This too is for the good".
One time, he was sent as a messenger to the king of Rome, to present a chest of precious gems as a gift on behalf of the Jewish people. During the night, the gems were stolen and replaced with dirt. When R'Nochum saw this he said, "This too is for the good" and he continued to present his gift to the king. When the king saw the dirt inside he wanted to punish R' Nochum. G-d though, sent Eliyahu Hanavi in the form of an officer, to suggest that perhaps this dirt is the same dirt that our forefather, Avraham had used to win wars.
They checked it out and indeed this dirt was found to be powerful ammunition.

We are now entering the time of the Redemption, a time when it will be crystal clear how every experience is only good - and not just the it will eventually bring to something good, but gam zu l'tova, this too is for the good.

May we experience this reality speedily in our days!

CHAI ELUL - Warmth....

Rabbi Nechemia of Dubrovna (1788-1852) once witnessed a Russian soldier being disciplined by his commander. The soldier's crime? While standing watch on a freezing winter night, his feet froze in their boots. "Had you remembered the oath you took to serve our Czar," his officer berated him, "the memory would have kept you warm."

"For 25 years," said Reb Nechemia, "this incident inspired my service of G-d"

Something that is alive is warm, it is vibrant. Coldness, apathy are symptoms of deadness. Life, can only come from within: when we know why we are doing something and are excited about what it will achieve, our every act and gesture throbs with vitality; when that knowledge and excitement are lacking, our actions will be dead and sluggish.

Three centuries ago, Jewish life was in a lethargic slump. Technically, Judaism was alive but the spark of life grew cold.

Then, on the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Elul of the year 1698), Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov was born. The baal Shem tov breathed life into Judaism, he added warmth and joy. He spoke of the immense love that G-d has for every Jew, of the cosmic significance of every mitzvah a Jew performs, of the divine meaningfulness that resides in every blade of grass, in every event, and in every thought in the universe. He spoke to the downtrodden masses and to the aloof scholars. He gave meaning to their existence, and thus joy, and thus life.

Elul 18 is also the birthday of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, the founder of the "Chabad" branch of Chassidism. His teachings and works carried the Baal Shem Tov's vitalization of Judaism to greater heights.

This coming Shabbat is the 18th of Elul -18 is chai in hebrew, meaning life, so the 18th of Elul infuses life into the month of Elul, and via Elul into the entire year and life of the Jew."

PARSHA - Ki Seitzei - Pay Laborers

This week's Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, contains the commandment to pay a hired laborer on the same day that he has done his work. We, the Jewish people, are considered the "hired laborers" of G-d. Our "task" is to observe the Torah and its mitzvot (commandments), and our "payment" is the reward G-d grants us for having obeyed His will.

G-d Himself performs the same mitzvot He commands us to observe. If we are forbidden to delay payment to our employees then G-d too is required to "pay" every Jew immediately upon the performance of a mitzva. Yet the Torah states, that we will receive our reward when Moshiach comes. Is this not then a contradiction?

This physical world was created solely because "G-d desired a dwelling place down below." Precisely here, in a coarse material world that obscures the holiness within, G-d wants His Presence to be revealed.

And so our Divinely-appointed job; the task of transforming the world into a suitable dwelling place for G-d is a collective one. The Jewish people has undertaken the collective charge of preparing the world for Moshiach, an undertaking that is not the responsibility of one individual, but is the duty of all Jews, spanning the generations since the beginning of time. Every mitzva that a Jew performs refines his body and purifies the world at large, gradually infusing the material world with G-dliness. Over the thousands of years of the world's existence this holiness has accumulated, readying the world for its ultimate perfection - the revelation of Moshiach and the Messianic Era.

The full reward for our efforts will be granted only when the job is completed and Moshiach is revealed, speedily in our day.

In addition to the main reward that G-d will give us when Moshiach comes, He rewards us now as well, providing us with our sustenance, so that we may be able to complete our task of transforming this world into a Divine abode.

What is Faith?

What does it mean to believe?
Faith is not something that can be learned. If we learn something that is logical, we know it to be true and then there is no need for faith.
Faith indicates something that is above our understanding. Faith comes from our souls. Every Jew has a soul that is G-dly, it is a part of G-d within the Jew. This is our essence and our core. Jews are, 'believers the children of believers'.. In other words, belief in G-d is an inherited trait that every Jew inherited from our forefathers. On the other hand, just because we have this trait within us, does not mean that we necessarily behave according to the will of G-d in our everyday lives. As the sages say, "A thief on his way to commit a theft prays to G-d to help him succeed and not be caught."
This thief believes in G-d and that is why he prays to Him. Yet at the same time, he is going against the will of G-d by committing the sin of stealing. And that is because his belief in G-d is only external, it surrounds him but is not internalized and therefore it does not affect his behavior.
We are not always in touch with our G-dly essence, we need to patiently and consistently nurture our faith.
And how do we nurture our Faith?
Well, first of all, when we behave in a more refined way. When we do Mitzvot our bodies become more refined and we are more spiritually sensitive. Our conduct thus indirectly affects our Faith.
Another way we can nurture our faith and increase our spiritual sensitivity involves our thoughts and minds.
Our minds control how we feel. If we have positive thoughts about a person we tend to like them, we feel good about them.
In the same way, if we use our minds to know more about G-d, it will affect the way we feel about Him. Our minds become the direct route to affect and uncover our feeling of faith.
And cultivating this faith is so vital for each and every person.