Tuesday, April 7, 2020

Pesach HaGadol Message


Dear Chaveirim and Mispallelim Chashuvim,


The Shabbos HaGadol of this year was so big yet so different… The heartfelt Tehillim being said & Torah learned around the world as a z'chus certainly rendered this as a Shabbos HaGadol. Drashos notwithstanding.


But  שואלין ודורשין we must & the most common שאלה this year (besides what to do about tevilas keilim) was certainly a humble and perplexed "מה העבודה הזאת?".


Chas v'shalom we won't or more accurately - we cannot – ask "לכם". This has unquestionably affected every single one of us. In this experience, there is no dividing line between לכם ולא לו or לי ולא לו. There are no exclusions. Every single person in G-d's universe has been brought together in this one very painful experience. Ironically, Humanity is united, in social distance.


So we leave out the lachem and ask Mah ha'avodah hazos.


The Sefer Chareidim says that EVERY mitzvah is accompanied by another מצוות עשה and that is ולעבדו בכל לבבכם. Every mitzvah is required to be escorted with an avodah sheb'lev. THIS is the true definition of ALL of our AVODAS Hashem. It is only avodah if there is a personal emotion involved. Be it love, dedication, fear, awe, inspiration, joy, or a sense of longing, when the heart is truly involved in a real, very personal way, it can be deemed "avodah".


Besides for the all-encompassing mitzvah therein, we know that this is also a specific mitzvah as well. The primary avodah sheb'lev is Tefilah. And our batei tefilah are closed!


Have we been demoted from the "major leagues" back down to the "minors"?

Or are we being primed for something great? Something huge. An expanse so large that no venue can contain it. An arena that has no walls. An auditorium with no boundaries.


We've had approximately  שלושים יום קודם לחג to practice in the great expanse of our own hearts so that we can hopefully fulfillוהביאותים אל הר קדשי ושמחתם בבית תפילתי . The Beis Hamikdash with all of its unique avodah of korbanos, neiros, ketores, shulchan etc. is labeled  כי ביתי בית תפילה?


This is reminiscent of the original purpose of the Mishkan. If Klal Yisrael had not expressed a need to fixate their eyes on some physical form to arouse their avodah and focus on Hashem

(as the Ramban explains the חטא העגל), then Hashem would have rested His presence within the heart of every Jew. ושכנתי בתוכם. The Mishkan - & eventual Beis HaMikdash – did not replace this expectation that Hashem has of us. Rather, it was to assist us to get Hashem into our hearts. The love & dedication that went into the building of the Mishkan was a catalyst to feel, exercise and express the love and personal connection each yid has with Hashem.


Perhaps we needed to get back into our own hearts to relate deeply and truly with Hashem. If not for the closed shuls, we'd arrive at the Beis HaMikdash and marvel at the walls, comment on the flooring, point out the tapestries and be wowed by the gold. And we wouldn't daven.



The culmination of every shemoneh esray begins with what is called "Avodah". We beg Hashem רצה – to find favor in our avodas hatefilah – and to restore it to His chosen place. The ensuing step is to bow by MODIM. This is echoed in the yom tov davening as well, we ask Hashem והשב כהנים לעבודתם ולוויים לשירם...ונשתחווה לפניך. The follow up to avodah is השתחוואה.


The gemara in Brachos & Megillah (17b) describe shemoneh esray as a very specifically organized 19 step prayer for… the Geulah. All the 13 bakashos in shemoneh esray are leading to its culmination of רצה  and ותחזינה - the return to Yerushalayim. And the subsequent "service" is MODIM.


Mah Ha'avodah? – The gemara in Megillah (18a) tells us that עבודה והודאה חדא מילתא היא  Serving Hashem (korbanos) and Thankfulness is one and the same.


A sense of humble thankfulness that we can connect to Hashem. That we are privileged to do His will and find favor in His eyes. That we are gifted to be alive to fulfill the 13 "ani ma'amins". We are enthralled to be able to say one "amen". We are undeservingly showered with Hashem's graciousness, to be able to speak directly to Him and say Baruch Attah!



This, may I suggest, is the avodah of לעבדו בכל לבבכם  with שני יצריך. Together with the laden heavy heart of the recent tragedies, together with the negative feelings that are saddening our hearts, we join that to cultivate a simcha and thankfulness שהחיינו וקיימנו והגיענו לזמן הזה.

Let's get very personal this Pesach. לי , and yes, we recognize that Hashem took everyone else out as well. But the השתחוואה in the Beis HaMikdash afforded each person a "social distancing" of 4 amos all around to realize & express his own humbling, guilty thankfulness for being the recipient of Hashem's infinite kindness.



The 3rd bayis - more than the first two - will not be built with our financial or physical expression of love. As a matter of fact, it won't be physically built by us at all! It will be solely built by & IN our hearts. THIS is the time to make that room in our hearts. This the time to make the relationship real & full of (a somewhat humbling) thankfulness.

Let us not say "hashata hacha" anymore! This the time to build our mikdash in our חדרי הלב  & Hashem will do the same in His chosen place השתא בעגלא ובזמן קריב!




Saturday, November 23, 2019

chayei sarah

We are familiar with the medrash that says Eliezer was more than a shadchan for Yitzchok, & rather a shliach kiddushin. The bes halevi explains that although eliezer was an eved c'na'ani and unfit to be  ashliach, he was given a shtar shichrur al t'nai that when he completes his mission he wouls be free from the time he was sent retroactively.

I'd like to share another approach from the medrash Rabbah 60.7. The medrash relates that upon completing his mission for his master Avraham he left his status of being an "arrur" & became a "baruch". The very act of reliably fulfilling his duties transformed him to a "baruch". this suggests that a shtar shichrur was not necessary. An eved c'na'ani cannot be a baruch. he is "am hadomeh l'chamor". His transition to become a "baruch" means that he became human! He became a person whose flesh & blood cannot be OWNED by another! Just like an eved ivri's body is not owned because a person is not an item to physically own, rather his TIME is subjugated to his master so  too when Eliezer became a "baruch" there was an automatic "hafka'ah" from Avraham's ownership and thereby he became  a yid.

However I want to continue the medrash. The medrash then goes on to make a kal v'chomer. If an eved - who is an arrur, & who is required to do his master's request, becomes a baruch by fulfilling it loyally & reliably, the klall yisroel, who are already b'ruchim & act with unrequired chessed to each other, both for  big people & small people ( some explain talmidei chachamim & their students) then certainly they will be blessed many times over!

so if you're looking for some brach in your life, here's the winning ticket for blessing! Do chessed! (& most specifically with talmidei chachamim & their students!) 

Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Ha'azinu Esrog message

כ' דור תהפוכות הנה Ha' azinu 32.20
This passuk is a critique about Klall Yiroels' unreliability and how we may reverse good will from Hashem to become anger חס ושלום.
The sifri says that we are הפכפכים - moody. Similar to the gamara's description of Achashveirosh. We make commitments on Yom Kippur, but often, quite soon after, the mood of Yomim Noraim dissipates and we are Overcome with other thoughts & feelings that seem to render our pure intentions of Yom Kippur useless. דור תהפוכות
(This may be another reference point of Yom Kippurim) -
How lucky we are thatwe are judged according to the good intentions a that day באשר הוא שם! 

However dismal as it seems, not all is lost. The esrog has a message For Us about these commitments. Rav Brudny shlitah spoke for KollelH a few years ago and said as unrecognizable as the effects of Yom Kippur may be, they are actually there to remain.
Like one who enters a perfume shop, he exits with some of the wonderful Scent upon him, so too, a Yid who experiences Yom Kippur properly, exits as a different Yid. 
There is an indescernable change and purity that remains with any Yid who "does" Yom Kippur.

Perhaps this is hinted to in the Esrog. The most important part of an Esrog is called the "chotem" - the nose. Hinting that we must ensure that at least the scent of Yom Kippur remains with us. 

The two primary signs of an authentic esrog are it bumps and it's עוקץ - root - that must be sunken in. 
Perhaps our commitment was a bit too bold עז כנמר and it may have ups and downs throughout the year- but the עוקץ - anchor - how we connect back to our good shoresh, must be sunken in, deep inside so at least the aroma, the essence of Yom Kippur has a lasting effect.

Perhaps a small Kabbalah that is easy, light, - perhaps almost indescernable! - 
that is anchored so well that it wont be subject to failure (if the עוקץ) falls out
the esrog is passull) that keeps the lingering scent of Yom Kippur.

Another hint may be the horizontal seeds alluding to the קבלות that are full of future potential, yet they are "low lying" compared to other fruit. Again עז כנמר קל כנשר.