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Parsha Emor - Breathe , Appreciate

When looking what to post on Parsha Emor, I could not think of more approtiate, sensitive and spitritual thoughts as written by Reb Sholom Brodt z"l. These words take on an even deeper meaning when viewed through Corona glasses.

We feature 2 teachings from Reb Shlomo. The First one on Lag B Omer.

The 2nd one is

Incredibly Powerful Teaching on Emor

which features Reb Shlomo speaking to R' Zalman regarding the Torah at a Dharma Confrence

Dear friends “ad 120 b’simcha” Shalom Uvracha mi'Yerushalayim!

We hope that all of you are very well B”H.

May we all be blessed to appreciate and celebrate every moment of Shabbos, every word and letter of Torah. We should be blessed to appreciate every Jewish soul and to truly believe that every one of us has the potential to hasten Moshiach's arrival.

Baruch Hashem we have a holy Torah – let us all learn together to discover and focus on what unites us, rather than on what divides us.

When we will learn together b’ahavat Yisrael, with true love, the words of the Torah, all the words of the Torah will shine brilliantly into our hearts. Let’s start gain right now, b’simcha!

B”H we have some very special holy days coming up. “Modeh ani” – I am grateful to you Hashem, these are the first two words of the day. Everything that follows is dependent on this expression of gratitude, therefore it is so important that we express these words with sincerity and joy. And as we have learned in the past, the Alter Rebbe explains that מודה אני also means, ‘I admit’. I admit that Hashem is the only true reality and that our existence is totally dependent on His ongoing creation and provision of life energy. I admit that that his is present with us at this very moment and that I can turn to Him right now, if only I would be totally open to admitting Him into my heart. This how we are to start our relationship with life each day.

הודו לה' כי טוב כי לעולם חסדו – Give thanks and praise to Hashem, for His love and kindness are eternal. We have so much to be grateful for. Soon it will be Shabbos and then we will celebrate Lag B’omer . Then we will b’ezrat Hashem have another Shabbos, and a few days later on ‘yom revi’i’ 28 Iyar we will rejoice and celebrate “Yom Yerushalayim” – the 53th year since the miraculous liberation and reunification of Yerushalayim, the Holy City, and all the amazing lifesaving miracles of the Six-day War (1967). And then a few days later we will celebrate another Shabbos followed by Shavuot, the holiday of the Giving of the Torah. May these days be filled with much gratitude and great unifying simcha-joy, for all of Israel.

Rabbi Levi and Rebbe Meir taught that with each inhale of breath we should be aware of Hashem revitalizing our life soul energy, and practice expressing gratitude with each exhale. [note that נשמה – neshamah, and נשימה – breath, are the same word]

רַבִּי לֵוִי בְּשֵׁם רַבִּי חֲנִינָא אָמַר, עַל כָּל נְשִׁימָה וּנְשִׁימָה שֶׁאָדָם נוֹשֵׁם צָרִיךְ לְקַלֵּס לַבּוֹרֵא, מַה טַּעַם (תהלים קנ, ו): כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ, כָּל הַנְּשִׁימָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ [בראשית רבה 14:9]. R. Levi said in R. Jianina's name: It repeatedly ascends. For every breath which a man breathes, he must give praise to the Holy One, blessed be He. What is the reason? Let every neshamah {soul-breath} praise the Lord (Ps. cl, 6), which means, for every breath [let one praise Him] Bereishit Rabbah 14:9

אָמַר רַבִּי מֵאִיר עַל כָּל נְשִׁימָה וּנְשִׁימָה שֶׁאָדָם מַעֲלֶה חַיָּב לְקַלֵּס אֶת יוֹצְרוֹ, מִנַּיִן, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (תהלים קנ, ו): כֹּל הַנְּשָׁמָה תְּהַלֵּל יָהּ [דברים רבה 2:37]. Said Rabbi Meir: Man must praise his Creator for every breath.” Devarim Rabbah 2:37

All our prayers, all our learning, all our daily work first begin with the first conscious breath and words of gratitude of the day – מודה אני. It is a good practice to keep on expressing gratitude throughout the day. In fact the Talmud teaches us that man must make a hundred blessings each day. Every word of Torah is life. We need to learn to relate with the Torah as the Tree of Life. If we relate with it only through the Tree of Knowledge, we will keep on having real problems and fall into sadness and G-d forbid despair.

The holy Meor Eynayim always sought to learn holy Torah life lessons from each and every mitzvah, even from those that are unique to Kohanim. Actually, we are all Kohanim- servants of Hashem, as it says, “And you shall be unto Me a Kingdom of Kohanim and a holy Nation.” (Shemot 19) The entire Torah was given to all of Israel, to every Jewish soul, as a living Torah of life, not just as intellectual or spiritual information. Chassidut explains that it is only in the realm of action that there are differences between Kohen, Levi, Yisrael, man, woman and child. But as for the ‘garments’ of thought and speech, every mitzvah, every holy word and letter of Torah, pertains to each one of us. So, I need to and want to learn and understand what each mitzvah is teaching me about how to serve Hashem, and how to ‘live’ my life.

But first we should understand that the very name of the parsha אמור –‘Emor’ teaches us a very important lesson in communication. In a sicha delivered in 1982, the Lubavitcher Rebbe underlined the connection between the name of the parsha – Emor, and Shabbos. 'Emor' means to say, to speak in a soft manner, whereas, 'dabeyr', also means to speak, but more directly and in a stronger manner. The opening message of parshat Emor is that we should and must communicate with each other, especially concerning spiritual matters. But this must be done in a soft and loving way. Shabbos is all about 'oneg' – delight and pleasure. If we wish to communicate effectively in spiritual matters, we must talk softly and with respect. To speak harshly is generally ineffective, and to do so on Shabbos, is totally contradictory to what Shabbos is all about. And that is why we bless one another with Shabbat Shalom- a peaceful and loving Shabbos.

“The Shechina does not dwell in a defective place.”

The first half of parshat Emor relates particularly to the sanctity requirements of the Kohanim – the servants of Hashem, and to the animals that may be used as ‘korbanot’- sacrifices in the Divine services of the temple. Both the Kohanim and the animals, must be perfect- without physical defects. What does this teach us about our serving Hashem today? The holy Zohar (Vayechi 216b) teaches that “the Shechina does not dwell in a defective place.” [[For a complete discussion on this, see Rav Stenisaltz’s sefer “Talks on the Parsha” p. 252 ff. I wish to share a small part of his beautiful lesson; and I hope to do so accurately בס"ד.]]]]

I am the Kohen and I am the ‘korban’

In his introduction to sefer Vayikra, the Ramban z”l explains that when bringing a ‘korban’- an animal sacrifice, one should consider that it is really I who should be offered on the Altar- it is only by the grace of Hashem, that we may offer animals as personal substitutes.

Unfortunately, we do not have the Beit Hamikdash yet, may it be rebuilt quickly in our days; and though we cannot practically fulfill most of the priestly and sacrificial mitzvot today, Hashem hasn’t changed, nor has the Torah changed, both are eternally true and continue to provide us with relevant life lessons.

Every one of us should see himself/herself both as a Kohen- the servant offering the sacrifice on the Altar, and as the ‘korban’, the sacrifice being brought to the Altar. Both have to be perfect- without defect. All aspects of the services have to be beautiful, complete and whole.

Say we could understand this concept, but I am not whole. Just as there are aspects of me that wish to serve Hashem, there are parts of me that wish to disregard Him and His Torah. Sometimes I am being good and sometimes I am not, sometimes I even act rebelliously. Can I really be complete and whole in my service?

Consider this. A physically perfect bull can cause a lot more harm and destruction, than a castrated bull, which, as known to farmers, is a much less dangerous and more manageable. Would it not make sense to do whatever is necessary to prevent my bull from causing harm or damage to another- isn’t a harmless bull holier? Would it not mak a better ‘korban’?

Hashem knows and I know that I constantly have to struggle with my ‘yetzer hara’- evil inclination. Each one of us possesses a personal and very clever ‘yetzer hara’. Don’t think that your personal struggles are more difficult than those of more talented, perfected, smarter or holier successful people. The Talmud teaches כל הגדול מחברו יצרו גדול ממנו – “whoever is greater than his fellow, his ‘yetzer hara’ is greater than him” (Sukkah 52b). Some have a big ‘yetzer hara’ in matters between ‘man and G-d’, some in matters between ‘man and man’, and some have a big ‘yetzer hara’ in both. For some, their personal struggles can be pretty vicious.

So, one might think ‘I wish there was some pill or procedure that would rid me of evil thoughts, or at least prevent me from doing any evil, be it lying, stealing, cheating, stealing, murder or sexual abuse. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?’

No! It would not! That is not what Hashem wants! He wants the service of a physically, emotionally and psychologically whole person- a complete and healthy servant. He wants us to offer our ‘selves’ as complete and healthy servants – as complete and healthy animals.

Yes, we are potentially quite dangerous, and we have the history to prove that. But Hashem willingly took the risk in creating man, because only such people, only such animals, can serve Hashem completely with all their hearts, souls, wealth and talents. We are not allowed to neuter animals, nor are we allowed to neuter ourselves neither physically, emotionally or spiritually.

Maiming or crushing the ‘yetzer hara’ destroys desire and creativity, leaving you impotent- unwilling and unable to do all the good you came to this world to do. The evil inclination is a mighty bull. Hashem knows exactly how strong it is, He designed it and He gives me the strength not only to overcome it, but also to use its energies in serving Him. אלא שאין הקב"ה בא בטרוניא עם בריותיו - (Avodah Zara 3a). Hashem does not make impossible demands on His creations. Hence, we are always responsible for our decisions and behaviors. And only when I honestly take responsibility can I grow and come closer

Chassidus teaches that we must constantly work at subjugating the evil inclination, and ultimately transform it- bring it to the point where it willingly will contribute its powerful energies to your Divine soul, helping it do more and more good.

How? Learning how to do this is tremendously important. I can have all the best intentions and will to do my best, but if I don’t learn how to work with my ‘yetzer hara’, I won’t get very far in implementing them. This is what deep Chassidut is all about- learning how to unify the Holy One b”H with the holy Shechina, learning how to be in true union with Hashem and with one another as complete whole servants working with complete whole animals.

Love, Awe and Compassion

At Pessach we were liberated from slavery but only sufficiently to leave Egypt and ‘rush’ after Hashem. Our souls and bodies were drawn to follow after Hashem. We were so to speak pulled out from there by the great Divine revelation that manifested on that awesome night.

However we still remained quite attached to the mundane realities of life; as soon as we encountered obstacle and danger in the desert we wanted to return to Egypt.

Chassidut describes our journey from Mitzrayim to Mt. Sinai, from the start of our liberation from slavery to the receiving of the Torah, as רצוא RATZO and שוב SHOV. In the awesome vision of the Supernal chariot the prophet Yechezkel relates that he saw theחיות CHAYOT angels RATZO- rushing forward and SHOV- returning. He saw myriads of angels serving Hashem in this manner. Metaphorically we understand RATZO as inspiration and SHOV as application. When Hashem revealed His presence on the night of our Exodus we were intensely inspired to leave our slavery and we rushed towards him.

But RATZO- inspiration alone is not enough. The soul naturally desires to be liberated from its exile in the body and return to her Source. is her deepest desire As beautiful as it is to be liberated from our spiritual enslavement in the mundane world, it is Hashem’s Will that we live here in this world and make this world a dwelling place for the Shechina. And so, our inspiration must lead to realistic application.

Pesach is the time of RATZO- the great rush and inspiration. Shavuot is the time of SHOV- application. In giving us his holy Torah, Hashem gave Himself to us in ways that allow us to bring Him into our world and making it a dwelling place for him. Through the study of Torah and doing all the Mitzvot we joyfully bond with him in this world, and transform our cities and homes, even our bodies are meant to be sanctuaries for Hashem.

Two levels of liberation: Liberation, elevation, transformation.

In other words, at the Exodus we were not fully liberated yet. Our souls were still in exile in our physical animalistic drives for gratification and 'self' preservation. Our worldly perspective continued to dominate our thinking and decision making. The inspiration was great but the application was yet to be fulfilled.

The ability to be a free servant of Hashem and live a truly liberated life, the opportunity for the soul to not only lead the body, but also to transform it, was given to us at Sinai- when we received and "got" the Torah.

Everyone is familiar with the struggle to keep mind and heart connected. If you are a sports fan or like to go to concerts there is no problem for body mind and heart to be where they want to be. However for the divine soul, mind, heart and body to all be together where the soul wishes to be- that is the struggle. To completely receive the Torah means that our hearts and bodies need to be engaged no less than our minds.

To receive and truly acquire the Torah, to receive all that He wants to give us, and to illuminate our surroundings with His eternal light, our vessels must be clean and clear. The seven weeks of the Omer counting, between Pesach and Shavuot is a period of cleansing and 'fixing' our emotional attributes, strengths and weaknesses in order to fully receive Hashem's revealed Will with our entire beings. The key word in this process is ביטול – nullification of the egotistical self-centered “I”. I need to do all this as a servant of Hashem, as His child who is deeply connected with Him and wants to be with Him and wants Him to be with me, at all times.

How do we do all this? How do we bridge the gap between mind and heart? In addition to studying Torah and doing mitzvot, prayer and meditation play a key role. Daavening is bonding with Hashem. Whether we aware of it or not, the deepest desire of our souls is to be in complete union with Hashem, to love Him and be in awe of Him. Teffila – real sincere prayer involves arousing the primary attributes of all relationships, love fear and compassion.

The Alter Rebbe explains that in our daily prayers there are verses of love- to arouse our love for Hashem; there are verses of fear to inspire us to be in fear and awe of Hashem and there are verses of compassion to draw Hashem's compassion upon our souls.

Love of Hashem is our spiritual inheritance from [our father] Avraham Avinu. Fear and awe of Hashem is our spiritual inheritance from [our father] Yitzchak Avinu. Compassion is our spiritual inheritance from [our father] Yaakov Avinu.

In davening we are acutely aware of the quality of our relationship with Hashem. Do I love Him? Do I fear Him? Am I attentive to the desires of my essence soul? How much do I care about my soul’s desires and well-being? And what about my relationships with others? Our souls care deeply about all these matters.

Unfortunately, much of the time I barely remember to recognize and listen to my Neshamah. In this ‘world of lies’, most of our thoughts and energies are driven by the animal-soul's demands for self-gratification.

And so we daven three times a day to bond with Hashem. But as everyone knows it is so hard to maintain our kavanah -focus on the words we are saying and why we are daavening. We are constantly being distracted by all kinds of "strange thoughts" which are quite effective in disturbing and confusing our attempts to be close with Hashem. And sometimes our faith in the value of daavening wears down and we ‘chas v’shalom’ consider giving up. But we must NOT DESPAIR! You really need to hear Rebbe Nachman shouting "DO NOT DESPAIR!"

Know that when you pray you are not alone. There is a holy teaching that when we say at the opening of the Amiddah "Baruch Ata Hashem Elokaynu v'elokay avoteinu, G-D of Avraham, G-D of Yitzhak, and G-D of Yaackov,” our fathers Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov are ready to stand and pray with us. They come to give us strength to arouse our love – Avraham Avinu, our fear and awe - Yitzhak Avinu, and our compassion – Yaackov Avinu.

The Siddur- is an arrangement of deep meditations to be in complete union with Hashem. To achieve this, we engage in prayer- the service of the heart. Entering into prayer is also described as engaging in battle. Maintaining focus on living sincerely with Hashem and with each other does not come easily. Humility, wisdom, practice, joy, vitality, strategy, honesty and commitment are as important in daavening and opening our hearts to Hashem, as they are in any battle.

Meditations are very powerful when we do them properly, deeply and frequently. However, what is one to do when the heart is "a heart of stone" – when after sincerely meditating on Hashem’s love we still do not succeed to arouse our love for Him chas v'shalom. What can I do when I don’t manage to arouse my fear and awe of Hashem to really care and be mindful of my relationship with Hashem, when I don’t protect it and grow in it honestly.

The heart of stone, as impervious as it seems to be can actually be opened with compassion – our inheritance from Yaakov Avinu. Chassidut explains "l’Yaakov asher padah et Avraham- to Yaakov who redeemed Avraham" (Isaiah 29:22) to mean that COMPASSION REDEEMS LOVE. If you are having trouble arousing your love, pray for Hashem to have compassion on your soul. At the same time, I must consider “Do I have compassion on my soul?”

רחמנות Rachmanut is the Hebrew word for compassion, is related to רחם- "rechem" which means a womb. The relationship between mother and fetus defines and teaches us the meaning of compassion. The mother accepts the fetus into he