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Parshat Ki Tavo - Open your Hearts

Featured Video - Full Selichot - Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

Reb Shlomo zt"l would often say to us "open your hearts"; when he wanted us to hear something deep when he wanted us to open up to receive holy teachings that reach our hearts before our minds.

he would sing with us

to open our hearts to Hashem and to one another

for such holy words can be received only

with open and loving hearts

and so he would say again and again

'chevre- let's open our hearts

to the deepest and sweetest Torah'

i imagine that this is how the holy Baal Shem Tov taught Torah

let us open our hearts to Hashem's love and compassion

let us open our hearts to truthfully know אבינו אב הרחמן

that our Father, is the most compassionate Father

Reb Shlomo taught in the names of all the holy Rebbes that the ‘tzaddikim gemurim’- the completely righteous ones who are immediately signed into the “Book of Life” (Bavli, Rosh Hashanah 16b) are those who believe with complete faith that though they don’t deserve anything, nevertheless they sincerely trust that Hashem will give them a good year because He is our compassionate loving Father. Reb Shlomo said that we must meditate on this until we come to know it deep in our hearts.

Is my relationship with Hashem only transactional – earning and losing points? Is the G-d we believe in just a score-keeping game master? Reb Shlomo once said, “Don’t kid yourself, the way you think about yourself is the way you think about Hashem.”

If you keep a 'score card' in all of your relationships, if you don’t believe in altruism, if you can’t step out from the prison of your worldly mind, then all of your relationships, including your relationship with Hashem, all of them are limited and dependent. They don’t even come close to the Light of the Infinite One.

In honestly believing that they don’t deserve anything, no matter how many mitzvot they may have done; in honestly believing in Hashem’s compassion, that He wants to, and is ready to give us a good year, the completely-righteous relate with Hashem on the deepest level – the level of love and compassionate bond between father and son – and whoever is not yet at that level…Reb Shlomo would shout at his concerts, “get up and dance!”

Often he told us the story about the students and chassidim of the holy Chozeh of Lublin and the misnaged who came to see for himself if it was really true that the chassidim were desecrating the holiness of Rosh Hashana by dancing on this holy, awesome day. Sure enough, right after the davening was over, the chassidim started to dance, whereupon the misnaged ran up to the Chozeh, “I really didn’t want to believe the Lashon hara, but I see with my own eyes that it’s true. How can you allow this holy day to be so desecrated?!”

The holy Chozeh passed his hand over the misnaged’s face and suddenly he saw that all the dancing chassidim were already inscribed in the Book of Life. Then he noticed that there was one chassid who wasn’t dancing. Again the Chozeh passed his hand over the misnaged’s face and he saw that this man was not yet inscribed in the Book of Life. Suddenly, the misnaged realized his own predicament – “I’m not dancing, maybe I’m not in the Book of Life. What should I do?” He looked at the Chozeh – ‘what should I do?’ and the Chozeh said, “What are you waiting for, get up and dance!”

So let’s get up and dance joyously! Dance out from your ‘brilliant’ ‘shell-fish’ self. Dance into the joy of your deepest relationship with Hashem, with your true Self, with all of Israel. Dance with joy until the joy dances you!

So let’s get up to dance and bring our ‘first fruits’ to the Beit Hamikdash! Let’s dance Gratitude, let’s dance Faith! Let the mitzvah of Bikkurim, with the reading and expressing true gratitude to Hashem for taking us out of slavery from Egypt and bringing us to His Land, the land of flowing milk and honey, the most difficult to redeem holy sparks of speech of Malchus can be redeemed and elevated out of their enslavement to your slavery.

Don’t limit yourself to being conditional. Don’t limit Hashem to your conditional mindset. Meditate on the truth of your soul, meditate on the truth of Hashem, your Compassionate Father. Dance with joy and gratitude, speak with gratitude. You are no longer a slave, no longer a victim. You are free to manifest and to be your highest self.

And yes, though I don’t ‘deserve’ anything, we ask for chessed chinam – ‘free kindness.” And we trust that Hashem is ready and wants to give it to us with compassion and love. Get up and dance!

Have the best Shabbos!

Judy’s blessing to all of us is that we should be enlightened to know what Hashem wants of us to bring about the complete גאולה redemption NOW. What are the positive and joyful things that we can and must do to draw all of עם ישראל – ‘Am Yisrael’ together, to inspire all our brothers and sisters to come home? Let’s do it! בשמחה!

As Reb Shlomo always would say, ‘Bless me and I bless you back’ that this holy parsha and that this holy Shabbos should permeate us deeply and bring us all close to one another, to Hashem, to His Torah and mitzvot, and to Eretz Yisrael. Yes! We want Moshiach NOW!

Getting Back My "I" - Reb Shlomo on Parshas Ki Savo

You know something friends, basically we are all living in two worlds. On a certain level we are living in a world where I have to do what everybody else is doing. Everybody goes to sleep, I go to sleep; everybody wakes up, hopefully I will wake up. Everybody makes a few rubles, I try to make a few rubles. But then there is something else, the deepest, deepest depths of me - where it's just "I", nobody else in the world.

I want you to know, the Gemara says that Eretz Yisrael is the center of the world. It doesn't just mean that geographically Eretz Yisrael is the center of the world. Eretz Yisrael gives us back that center.

Here is a Modzitzer Torah which you can't forget: It says 'Vehaya Ki Savo El Ha'aretz', when you come to the Holy Land, 'Asher Ani Nosain L'cha', which I am giving you. So the old Modzitzer, Reb Shaul Yedidya, says like this. 'Vehaya Ki Savo El Ha'aretz' when you come to the Land, 'Asher Ani Nosayn Lachem', where G-d gives you back your 'ANI', your 'I'. See what it is, in chutz l'aaretz, outside the land, we have everything, but we don't have our 'I'.

Friends, what's the 'I' of a person? When I am in touch with my 'I', I know what the point of me being in this world really is

Shabbat Shalom b’ahavah ubivracha

Gratitude and True Renewal

Mazal Tov! Your pure soul has arrived in the world, you are born. Your father and your mother are so very excited and happy to welcome you into the world, their world. They have been praying and waiting for you. With full heart they promise you that they will do the very best they can for you, they will always love you, they will be your best friends.

והי' כי תבוא אל הארץ

It will be, when you come to the land that Hashem your G-d is giving you…

Chassidut teaches that this verse alludes to the descent of the Neshama – soul, into the land, into this world. Joyously your neshamah will arrive in this world. The Talmud teaches that the Hebrew word for ‘It will be’ - והי' - ‘ve-haya’ –- suggests joy. Accordingly we can read the verse as saying, 'it will be a simcha- a joy for your soul to come into the land, into this world that Hashem is giving you'.

Sounds unbelievable, doesn’t it? Can it be, that it is a joy for the Neshama to come into this world- which the Zohar calls ‘Alma d’shikra’ ‘the world of lies and falsehood’?!!! Do we have any idea of how high a place the Neshama came from? It came from beyond our highest imaginations of Divine bliss. From there the Neshama descended into this lowest of worlds, a world of lies, conflicts, wars and suffering and hardships of all kinds. So what is there to be happy about?

What is true joy?

What is the greatest joy of the Neshamah?

How and why will the Neshamah find joy particularly here in this world?

The holy Zohar explains that, in heaven our own souls were being nourished with free bread ‘lechem chessed – לחם חסד'’ – bread given just out of [undeserved] kindness. The Zohar calls this free bread, נהמא דכיסופא - ‘the bread of shame’. To be nourished for free, undeservedly is shameful. It leaves you in a deep state of poverty, unable to manifest your potential, to ‘earn’ your sustenance. Without the challenge and gift of free choice you are unable to experience the joy of earning your bread.

So in His kindness Hashem gives us the gift to actualize ourselves. He sends our souls to this land- the holy land that He gives you as a gift and inheritance. He is good and does only good. Hashem give us the land, the theater for growth and actualization of self. He gives us the gift of bread to be eaten with pride because we got to earn it. But, though the land is an ‘inheritance’ that we still have to work to ‘settle’ in it.

Everyone knows that it is so easy to get lost and swallowed up by the land. We get so involved in it that we seldom barely remember our supernal origins. Days, weeks, months and years go by in ignorance of our true selves. We get terribly involved in the reality of the mundane. We get so wrapped up in our egotistical selves, that we hardly take notice of our souls and its desires.

How can we possibly live and navigate in this world successfully? How can we be here and maintain our connection with our supernal roots and with the supernal truth? For this we have a Torah and Mitzvot. The Torah provides us with light תורה אור - ‘Torah Or’ to find our way. Mitzvot are the candles with which to receive and retain the light. But the truth is that even living a light of Torah and mitzvot does not automatically guarantee that we will be conscious of our souls and its needs. It is all too easy to be on a ‘mind trip’ detached from your heart and from conscious and joyous living.

Looking a bit deeper into this very same verse, we find that not only is the verse telling us that to be in this world is in fact a gift for the soul; the opening words also reveal the secret for success. Read והי' כי תבוא אל הארץ as saying it will be when you attain the attributes of the earth. At the end of the ‘amiddah’ prayer we say, “ונפשי כעפר לכל תהי' – let my soul be as dust to all.” The earth is amazing. Though we step on it, it continues to provide us with food and water, with beautiful plants and majestic mountains and valleys. The earth teaches us the depth of true ביטול היש- nullification of the egotistical self. To truly receive the Divine soul gift of being in this world we have to be humble like the earth. When we achieve that, then we truly receive the inheritance and we truly settle in the land- in the holy land where earth and heaven, heaven and earth are connected.

We are talking about true humility. We are not talking about being a ‘shmattah’- a rag. We are talking about honestly manifesting our potential to the fullest. A ‘shmattah’ says ‘I’m just a rag, I’m not good enough to do anything of value’. False humility is dangerous to yourself and to others. Beware! The ‘yetzer hara’ is very clever and cunning.

Real Bittul is to be like the earth, to utilize all your gifts and talents to the fullest, to give joyously and to recognize and be aware that it is all a gift from Hashem that you are blessed with the opportunity to do good, joyously! And when you get stepped on like the earth, though it may hurt, it won’t stop you from continuing to be the truly beautiful person you are meant to be.

The Talmud says that a cup with just a few coins in it makes a lot of noise when you shake it. But a cup that is full, doesn’t make any noise when you shake it. When one only partially achieves his potential, he will likely think that either he is not good enough or he might think that he is better than he really is. But when you fully actualize your talents, then you realize that it is all a gift from Hashem; then you wish you could do even more; then you have the humility to love everyone and to be a really good friend; then you really inherit the land and settle in it.

Now let’s go further and learn “the great mitzvah of Bikkurim”. For it is with this mitzvah that we learn to be grateful every day, every moment of our lives; this mitzvah contains the secret of true renewal. Consider also that we can practice an aspect of this mitzvah every day. Each morning as we wake up, we discover our first-fruits of the day. As soon as our mindful soul returns to us we say מודה אני I am grateful to You Hashem, living and eternal King, for compassionately returning my soul within me – Your faithfulness is great. Your faith in us is great! It is with this humble gratitude that we offer our first-fruits to Hashem. We thank Hashem for the gift of the holy land, the gift of free choice, the gift of living here with conscious connect above, the gift of ascending to heaven and bringing heaven to earth. Sincerely expressing our gratitude, opens the channels to experience the true renewal of each day of each moment.

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Bikkurim: The First Fruits Mitzvah

THE TEXT Devarim 26:1-11

א וְהָיָה, כִּי-תָבוֹא אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹהֶיךָ,

נֹתֵן לְךָ נַחֲלָה; וִירִשְׁתָּהּ, וְיָשַׁבְתָּ בָּהּ.

ב וְלָקַחְתָּ מֵרֵאשִׁית כָּל-פְּרִי הָאֲדָמָה

אֲשֶׁר תָּבִיא מֵאַרְצְךָ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹקיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ--וְשַׂמְתָּ בַטֶּנֶא;

וְהָלַכְתָּ, אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה' אֱלֹקיךָ, לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמוֹ שָׁם

And it shall come to pass, that when you will come to the land which Hashem your G-d is giving to you for an inheritance, and you shall possess it and dwell in it. And you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the earth which you shall bring from your land that Hashem your G-d is giving to you and you shall put it in a basket and you shall go to the place that Hashem your G-d will choose to place His Name there. And you shall come to the priest that will be in those days, and say to him: I profess today, to Hashem your G-d that I have come to the land that Hashem swore to our fathers to give us. The priest shall then take the basket out of your hand, and he will place it before the altar of Hashem your G-d. And you shall then proclaim and say before Hashem your G-d: "The Aramite destroyed my father, then he descended to Egypt and sojourned there with a small community; and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous. And the Egyptians treated us badly and oppressed us, and they imposed harsh labour upon us. And we cried out to Hashem, G-d of our forefathers, and Hashem heard our voice, and saw our affliction, our labor and our oppression. And Hashem took us out of Egypt with a mighty hand and with an outstretched arm, and with great awe, and with signs and with wonders. And He brought us to this place, and He gave us this land, a land flowing with milk and honey. And now, behold, I have brought the first-fruits of *the land, which You have given me, Hashem." And you shall then place it before Hashem your G-d, and you shall then prostrate yourself before Hashem your G-d. And you shall rejoice with all the good that Hashem your G-d has given you and your household; you and the Levite and the convert in your midst.


On the opening verse of the parsha: "And it shall come to pass, that when you will come to the land, which Hashem your G-d is giving to you..." we learn in the Sifrei - DO THIS MITZVAH, FOR AS A REWARD, YOU WILL ENTER THE LAND OF ISRAEL.

This statement of the Sifrei is quite amazing, since in fact we were not obligated to fulfill this mitzvah until fourteen years after entering Eretz Yisrael when we completed settling in the Land! The Malbim explains the Sifrei to mean that it was in the merit of fulfilling the mitzvah of Bikkurim in the future, that we merited to enter Eretz Yisrael.

The Midrash has an even more amazing teaching: On the verse, "B'reishit bara Elokim - In the beginning Elokim created", the Midrash says, 'reishit' refers to "Bikkiurim" as it says: 'reishit bikkurei admatcha...", "the first fruits of your land , you shall bring to the house of Hashem your G-d", FOR IN THE MERIT OF THE MITZVAH BIKKURIM, THE ENTIRE CREATION TOOK PLACE.


When the holy yiddeleh brought his Bikkurim first-fruits, he had to recite [proclaim] the 'parsha' of Bikkurim, a verbal proclamation of thanksgiving, which refers not only to the mitzvah of Bikkurim, but also to the miraculous origins and development of the Jewish nation. Rashi explains the purpose behind this recital is that we should not be "kafuy tovah" – we should not partake Hashem's gifts without expressing recognition and gratitude to Him.


In particular, two aspects of our history are mentioned in the Bikkurim declaration:

"The Aramite (attempted to) destroy my father, then he descended to Egypt and sojourned there with a small community; and there he became a great nation, mighty and populous."

The commentators ask, why do we mention only the miracles that Hashem did for Yaakov when he was at Laban’s home, and the miracles that Hashem performed for us in Egypt – after all, Hashem had done many more miracles for us? We also need to understand why it was only after conquering, allocating and settling the Land that we were finally obligated to perform the mitzvah.

The Lubavithcher Rebbe zt"l explains that it is particularly these two historical events that relate specifically to this mitzvah of Bikkurim. A careful reading of the Bikkurim parsha reveals that the Torah emphasizes that to settle in the Land of Eretz Yisrael is to settle in the land that Hashem has given us and desires us to live in! This is mentioned five times (see the * markers above).

We have lived in exile many times throughout our history. We even speak of various glorious periods in exile and often [even today] many Jewish people feel more secure in exile than in our homeland, the land which Hashem has given to His people to live in.

Yaakov Avinu was the first Jew to be born in Eretz Yisrael and forced to flee. After having settled in Lavan's homeland and living there for 20 years, he had to flee from Lavan. He returned to his homeland. Not long after, Yaakov Avinu and family, descended to Egypt, where we sojourned for 210 years. In both instances, conditions had forced us to leave our homes in Eretz Yisrael and live in exile.

At first we were very welcome in both of these ‘homes in exile’ and we felt secure; after all Yaakov was Lavan’s son-in-law and we had come to Egypt under the auspices of the viceroy of the land - our very own brother, Yosef. Lavan had prospered greatly because of Yaakov Avinu, and the Egyptians survived the great famine thanks to Yosef’s wise leadership. The threats to our survival arose only well after we had settled in these foreign lands.

Thus in offering our first-fruits we would give thanks to Hashem not only for the yields of The Holy Land, but also for the miracles of our survival in exile and the miracle of living in the land that Hashem had given to us.


In the performance of this mitzvah, we are also required to prostrate ourselves before Hashem at the conclusion of the recital and to rejoice - "v'samachta b’kol ha'tov, asher natan lecha Hashem Elokecha... and you shall rejoice over all the good which Hashem your G-d has given you." All the aspects of this mitzvah – the bringing of the first-fruits to Yerushalayim, the Bikkurim proclamation and prayer, prostrating before Hashem and being b'simcha, express our self-nullification - 'bittul' before Hashem. [It is important to note the relationship between being b'simcha and self-nullification before Hashem – not only prostrating reveals self-nullification before Hashem.]

The Sfas Emes cites a Midrash Tanchumah that teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu foresaw prophetically that there would come a time that the Bikkurim would no longer be brought to Yerushalayim and therefore he instituted that we should pray three times a day. The Sfas Emes explains that it seems that this ability to truly bow and prostrate ourselves before Hashem was a reward that we received from Hashem for having done the mitzvah of Bikkurim. We all know how difficult it is to bow sincerely before Hashem. Surely at moment of bowing we are sincere – but does it have a lasting quality? The power of the mitzvah of Bikkurim was such that it fully enabled us to remain in a state of 'bittul' before Hashem!


The Slonimer Rebbe teaches: It is our task to transform this world into Hashem's dwelling place. It is through the performance of this mitzvah of Bikkurim, that we accomplish this. Rebbe Elimelech of Lizensk explains: How was this mitzvah of Bikkurim performed? The Talmud tells us: when a man would go down into his field and would see a fig that had ripened, or a cluster of grapes that had just ripened, he would then tie a ribbon upon them and would say, 'these shall be brought as the first-fruits.'

A human being, who has toiled all year long by the sweat of his brow in his fields, is anxious to see the fruits of his labor. When he finally merits to see the first fig that has ripened or the first cluster of luscious grapes that has ripened, he is overcome with an intense desire to grab it and consume it. This is the moment he has been waiting for all year long. But instead he bridles his passion and ties a small ribbon on the first-fruits, and he then brings them all the way to Yerushalayim, and gives them to Hashem. This is much more than a gift of fruit, it is a gift of love and devotion. This is what Hashem wants and desires of us, that we give Him all our 'firsts', all that which is important and desired by us. These are the gifts that are most appreciated by Hashem.

This mitzvah of "Bikkurim" (as well as the other mitzvot which relate to the 'first'), teaches us to offer up all our 'firsts', our desires and intense joy to Hashem. In this way we are turning this world into Hashem's dwelling place, fulfilling Hashem's purpose. And thus the Midrash says that in the merit of this mitzvah,