Yom Yerushalayim 2
Dear friends “ad 120 b’simcha”
Shalom Uvracha mi'Yerushalayim!
We hope that all of you are very well B”H.
B"H the last 12 days of the Omer counting are packed with extra kedusha as we move up to Shavout, to once again receive the Holy Torah. We have several very special days ahead of us. First there is this Shabbos mevarchim- blessing the new month of Sivan.
Then this coming ‘28 Iyar please join together with all of Israel to joyously 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 it will be Rosh Chodesh. Then we will have 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. Let us be grateful for our portion and our inheritance.
May we all be blessed to appreciate and celebrate every moment of Shabbos, every word and letter of Torah, every day in Eretz Yisrael, the Holy Land. 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.
When Rebbe Nachman came to Eretz Yisrael he said that he now understood why it says in the opening verses of our parsha "and it shall be when you will come to the land that אני נותן I Am giving to you," in the present tense. (Usually the Torah says to the Land that I have given to you, in past tense.) In Eretz Yisrael Rebbe Nachman truly experienced Hashem giving us Eretz Yisrael anew, each day. If one merits to really live in Eretz Yisrael, each day is sweeter than the day before, each day you feel more of the beauty and holiness of the Land; it's a new gift each day!
There are many things to learn in these two parshiot, Behar and B'chukotai. And i do hope that everyone will have a chance to learn them this Shabbat. I wish to call our attention to the mitzvot of Tzeddakah (Vayikra 25:35). May we all be blessed to give a lot of Tzeddakah joyously.
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!
We wish you to be blessed with a healthy, joyous reJEWvinating good summer, b'ezrat Hashem.
May Hashem spend a speedy healing and recovery, both physically and spiritually to all who are in need.
Have a wonderful Shabbos and a very healing Iyar
The Holiness of Speech - Lashon Hakodesh
עברית - 'Ivrirt' - Hebrew is known as Lashon Hakodesh" - the Holy Tongue as it is the language of our Holy Torah. Speech is holy and we have to guard its holiness. Hashem creates the world with speech, with letters and words.
Hashem formed man from the dust of the earth and He breathed into his nostrils a soul of life and man became a living soul. (Bereishis 2:7) We have been given the gift of speech to pray, to heal, to bless, to give thanks, to restore one's soul and to share wisdom. We can do all that with holy speech.
But beware! King Solomon said in מ"ג משלי יח · כא Proverbs 18:21, מָוֶת וְחַיִּים בְּיַד לָשׁוֹן וְאֹהֲבֶיהָ יֹאכַל פִּרְיָהּ - Death and life are in the hands of the tongue; those who love her shall eat her fruit. Rashi explains: one who loves the gift of speech and trains her to speak Torah will eat her fruits. It's not only what you say that is important; it's how you say it.
Verbal Misuse and Abuse אונאה Ona'ah
וְלֹ֤א תוֹנוּ֙ אִ֣ישׁ אֶת־עֲמִית֔וֹ וְיָרֵ֖אתָ מֵֽאֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ כִּ֛י אֲנִ֥י ָ֖ה' אֱלֹהֵיכֶֽם׃
25:17: Ve’lo tonu Do not wrong one another, but fear your God; for I the LORD am your God.
Let us take a look into the Talmud's teaching on this verse: The following text was downloaded from Sefaria.com, a wonderful Torah resource sight which is worthy of your support. [The words in bold are the translated words of the Talmud passage. The other words are inserted to help the flow.]
Bava Mewtzia 58b: MISHNA: Just as there is a prohibition against exploitation [ona’a] in buying and selling, so is there ona’a in statements, i.e., verbal mistreatment. The mishna proceeds to cite examples of verbal mistreatment. One may not say to a seller: For how much are you selling this item, if he does not wish to purchase it. He thereby upsets the seller when the deal fails to materialize. The mishna lists other examples: If one is a penitent, another may not say to him: Remember your earlier deeds. If one is the child of converts, another may not say to him: Remember the deeds of your ancestors, as it is stated: “And a convert shall you neither mistreat, nor shall you oppress him” (Exodus 22:20).
GEMARA: The Sages taught: It is written: “And you shall not mistreat [tonu] one man his colleague; and you shall fear your God, for I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 25:17). The tanna explains: The verse is speaking with regard to verbal mistreatment. The baraita proceeds: Do you say that it is speaking of verbal mistreatment [be’ona’at devarim], or perhaps it is speaking only with regard to monetary exploitation [be’ona’at mammon]? When it says in a previous verse: “And if you sell to your colleague an item that is sold, or acquire from your colleague’s hand, you shall not exploit [tonu] his brother” (Leviticus 25:14), monetary exploitation is explicitly stated. How then do I realize the meaning of the verse: “And you shall not mistreat one man his colleague”? It is with regard to verbal mistreatment.
How so? If one is a penitent, another may not say to him: Remember your earlier deeds. If one is the child of converts, another may not say to him: Remember the deed of your ancestors. If one is a convert and he came to study Torah, one may not say to him: Does the mouth that ate unslaughtered carcasses and animals that had wounds that would have caused them to die within twelve months [tereifot], and repugnant creatures, and creeping animals, comes to study Torah that was stated from the mouth of the Almighty?
If torments are afflicting a person, if illnesses are afflicting him, or if he is burying his children, one may not speak to him in the manner that the friends of Job spoke to him: “Is not your fear of God your confidence, and your hope the integrity of your ways? Remember, I beseech you, whoever perished, being innocent?” (Job 4:6–7). Certainly you sinned, as otherwise you would not have suffered misfortune.
Likewise, if donkey drivers are asking to purchase grain from someone, and he has none, he may not say to them: Go to so-and-so, as he sells grain, if he knows about him that he never sold grain at all. He thereby causes the donkey drivers and the would-be seller anguish. Rabbi Yehuda says: One may not even cast his eyes on the merchandise for sale, creating the impression that he is interested, at a time when he does not have money to purchase it. Verbal mistreatment is not typically obvious, and it is difficult to ascertain the intent of the offender, as the matter is given to the heart of each individual, as only he knows what his intention was when he spoke. And with regard to any matter given to the heart, it is stated: “And you shall fear your God”(Leviticus 25:17), as God is privy to the intent of the heart.
Rabbi Yoḥanan says in the name of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai: Greater is the transgression of verbal mistreatment than the transgression of monetary exploitation, as with regard to this, verbal mistreatment, it is stated: “And you shall fear your God.” But with regard to that, monetary exploitation, it is not stated: “And you shall fear your God.” And Rabbi Elazar said this explanation: This, verbal mistreatment, affects one’s body; but that, monetary exploitation, affects one’s money. Rabbi Shmuel bar Naḥmani says: This, monetary exploitation, is given to restitution; but that, verbal mistreatment, is not given to restitution.
Thus far the words of the Talmud.
-Rebbe Baruch of Meziboz ז"ל said, do not fool others with your religiosity- i.e. don't make yourself appear pious to another, for the sake of gaining his trust.
-Rebbe Noach of Lechovithch ז"ל said, you surely can't fool the Creator, and it is difficult to fool a wise person, and you can't fool an entire community. The only one you can fool is yourself- but! how clever is it to fool a fool?
-Rebbe Mordechai Yosef of Ishbitz ז"ל instructed his chassidim to be careful not to fool themselves, nor to mimic others.
May we all be blessed to be very careful with this awesome Divine gift of speech. We can do so much good with it and we can heaven fore-fend do the opposite. May our words be truthful, holy, loving and healing. Amen
Have a wonderful Shabbos b'ahavah ubivracha
Parshat Behar-Bechukosai: Teachings From Previous Years
▪ The One Word That Changed My Life
▪ Filled with Blessings
▪ Eretz HaKodesh- Shmittah, Shabbos, and Am Yisrael
▪ The Giving of the Torah- Insights from the Alter Rebbe
▪ Reb Shlomo: "on the inside every Jew is the Holy of Holies"
The One Word That Changed My Life
Cliff : “ You know Sholom, there is one word that changed my life. You know what that word is?”
Sholom waited to hear the word. “It’s אמונה - Emunah -faith in Hashem. When I learned that word it changed my whole life. Sholom had certainly heard that word many times in his life. From early childhood he was already taught to say as soon as you wake up - מודה אני לפניךמלך חי וקיים Great is our faith in You. Many many times he had heard from his parents and teachers say א ייד גלויבט אין אייבשטער
א ייד דארף שטענדיג גלויבען אין אייבשטער
a yid believes in the Creator, a yid must always believe and have faith in Hashem.
Cliff went on to explain that Emunah is more than just believing in the Creator b”H who created and is continuously creating the world. “Emunah is the belief and realization that Hashem is present here and right in front of you in all that you face. Hashem is in a dynamic relationship with you. He presents you with Torah, with the people you meet, with challenges and with obstacles. Emuna allows you to realize this and to know that it is all for your good. Everything is an opportunity for you to do “tshuvah.” Even if the challenge is painful and frustrating, instead of getting angry, stop to think how can I resolve this challenge? Which of my attributes need to be improved? How can I do it?
Often we need to remind ourselves that while we may not always have the choices to alter the situation we are in, we do have the freedom of choice to choose how we wish to respond in this situation we find ourselves in.
I can choose to just say everything is coincidental and to turn my back and disregard the opportunity to do tshuvah. I can disregard Hashem’s involvement in all. I can choose to eat myself up and put myself down for all the mistakes I have made. Or I can choose not to give up on being b’simcha. I can choose not to give up on being close to Hashem and to my brothers and sisters. I can choose to get help when I need it or ‘chas v’shalom’ act like everything is entirely in my own hands. Emunah in Hashem’s presence allows me to connect with the truth of my life which so often is ignored.
We may be and often are very stubborn; we life to think that we don’t have to submit to anyone, even to Hashem. But in this week’s parsha- Bechukotai; we learn that Hashem will defend maintaining our relationship no matter what, no matter how much He will have to inflict on us – He is far more stubborn about this than we seem to be.
Even the curses are blessings in disguise. When the alter Rebbe would read the parsha in shul on Shabbos morning his son always heard only blessings. One Shabbos the alter Rebbe was away and someone else read this parsha. When he got to reading the ‘curses’, the alter Rebbe’s son fainted. After being revived, he explained that he had never before heard such horrifying curses- from his father’s reading he heard only blessings.
It is so important that we remember the holy Talmudic sage, Nachum Ish Gam Zu who always said, no matter how difficult a situation he was faced with, "גם זו לטובה - this too is for the good." This is what every Jew believes deep inside.
Filled with Blessings
orange and gold flower closeup 2
Parshat B'chukotai, is replete with blessings- both obvious blessings and blessings that look like curses. Behind it all, it's all about our relationships, with Hashem, with our selves and with one another. It’s about bonding.
We all want to bond, we naturally feel that- alone, I am not whole. But life is what it is and we have to 'work' to be truly in tune with our deepest and holiest nature. Unfortunately sometimes we succumb to losing trust in achieving the 'true' relationships we seek. Ever so subtly, we even stop relating to ourselves with courageous sincerity and love. But even when that happens we still do hear heavenly whispers that call us home, to the home of my soul.
The deep question is ‘do I care’ – does what is happening today and what happened yesterday inspire me or convince me to make a change in my life? Or do I just go about my life as- “I’m OK” – nothing out there is my fault or responsibility, I don’t have to change; anyway,things just happen, why should I care?
Hashem cares! And He will not let us forget that. He wants us to care! Everything in life is important. There is a deep lesson in everything we encounter. Hashem tries to reach us in many ways. He wants to see us dancing with one another towards the ‘geulah shleimah’ – the complete and ultimate redemption, may it be very soon.
do you care
or was it just מקרה happenstance
do you appreciate the gift
is it special to you
does it move you to care
to do and not to do
do you hear the cry within
the cry above
are you listening
are you scared to hear
too frightened to trust and
do you want peace
do you want truth
do you care enough
not to hide
do you want to heal and be healed
do you want to receive life and share life
do you care enough to be honest
how dare you not care
do you care enough
to be close to love
do you care enough to care
do you care that Hashem cares
do you hear Him crying
do you hear your soul crying
to be a Jew
is to hear – to listen
to care – to walk – to embrace
love and truth
to never give up dancing towards
the ultimate and complete Redemption
[and just to add a well-known secret- we can only do it b'simcha!!!]
Eretz HaKodesh- Shmittah, Shabbos, and Am Yisrael
paracha behar1-learning during shmittah
One night the holy Sanzer Rebbe zy"a woke up his children and said, "I can't fall asleep, there must be some money in the house; please help me find it." Everyone knows that the holy Sanzer Rebbe lived in poverty. His Chasidim brought him a lot of money, but he would always give it all away to the poor. He would even borrow money to help the many needy that would come to him. "But father, we are so poor we don't have any money in the house."
"Please help me find the money, I'm sure there is money in the house because I can't sleep." So they all got up and searched all over the house. Finally they found ten kopeks in a drawer. The Rebbe gave the money to his son and instructed to immediately go out and distribute it to the poor. This was done and the Rebbe was finally able to get some sleep.
Can you imagine it, not being able to sleep because there was money in the house? Most of us would have difficulty sleeping if there was no money or food in the house. For a tzaddik like the Sanzer Rebbe, going to sleep with money in the house was tantamount to a lack of faith and trust in Hashem. Does all of this have anything to do with our parsha? Let's see.
The Ishbitzer Rebbe points out that there are basically three groups of mitzvot in parshat Behar: Shmittah, Yovel and Reebeet. Parshas Behar begins with the mitzvot of Shmittah, the Sabbatical year:
Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, when you come to the land that I am giving to you, the land shall rest a Shabbos for Hashem. For six years you shall plant your field and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and you shall harvest its produce. But the seventh year shall be a Shabbos of rest for the land, a Shabbos for Hashem, you shall not plant your field and you shall not prune your vineyard... It shall be a year of complete rest for the land.” (Lev. 25:1-5)
Clearly this mitzvah corresponds to the weekly Shabbos Bereishis that we observe every week, but it is also different. Whereas on Shabbos it is we are who commanded to rest, during the Shmittah year it is the Land of Israel that is supposed to rest.
The holy Ishbitzer Rebbe understands our opening verses as related to tranquility of the heart:
"Vechi ta'vo'oo el ha'aretz, when you come to the land that I am giving to you, veshavtah ha'aretz Shabbos l'Hashem, the land, the HEART will rest [be tranquil] a Shabbos for Hashem."
Hashem is promising the children of Israel that when they will come to the 'ARETZ', the Land of Eretz Yisrael, they will attain "naicha d'leeba," tranquility of the heart. ARETZ represents the heart. Hashem created us from the earth, from the aretz, and the heart is the main aspect of our being.
It says "Rachamanah leeba ba'ee,” the Compassionate One desires the (your) heart. When we are really in love with someone, we give them our hearts and we trust them fully. The tranquil heart can be in love. The tranquil loving heart is at home; it experiences tranquility even amidst turbulence.
The Ishbitzer Rebbe further explains that the three groups of mitzvot in our parsha, Shmittah, Yovel and Reebeet are the gateway for attaining tranquility of the heart. Each of these mitzvot is about having faith and truly trusting that Hashem is taking care of us.
Shmittah, 'letting go', letting go of our 'ownership' of the land that Hashem is giving us, letting go of our innate need to feel that we are in power and in control of our survival and destiny, letting go of our fears of saying, "Hashem, I am ready to trust you completely, with my very survival." We are born with clenched hands, but when we die our hands are open. We like to be the owner. We like to be the decision makers. We want to and we have a need to feel that we are in control. Imagine a whole year of not cultivating your fields, an entire year of putting your trust for 'parnassah' livelihood completely into Hashem's hands. There is a didactic aspect to this mitzvah: to increase our 'emunah b'Hashem,'’ faith and trust in Hashem. Our parnassah is always in Hashem's hands. Our awareness of this truth is heightened and deepened during the Shmittah year.
We do need to be in control. But the secret is to know how to be in control of ourselves to make holy space for holy the Shechinah. We need to learn how to be in our space without blocking everyone else out, without blocking out Hashem's light. We need to learn how to bridge our emunah faith from the mind to the heart, and from the heart into our very limbs and bones, so that even our bodies will not feel any lack of space or loss as result of 'letting go'. Even better, we want our bodies to welcome Hashem and all of His creation.
During the Shmittah year, says the Nesivos Shalom, we are learning to bring our faith into our very bones. The holy Shabbos and the holy land nourish the faith of the mind and heart. But the Shabbos of the land nourishes our limbs and bones with faith. Imagine your body being nourished with faith by letting go, by sharing your food with everyone. Sharing equally and not grabbing, opening the hands to give and receive, allowing and teaching the body to join with the soul in the delights of serving Hashem and doing His mitzvot. As our faith is nourished by the observance of Shmittah we attain tranquility of the heart.
Following the mitzvot of Shmittah we learn the mitzvot of the Yovel, the Jubilee Year:
You shall make a proclamation with the shofar... on Yom Kippur... throughout all your land. And you shall sanctify the fiftieth year and proclaim freedom in the land for all its inhabitants, it shall be for you a Jubilee year and each man shall return to his ancestral land and each man shall return to his family... (Lev. 25:8-13)
The Yovel Jubilee year comes every 50th year, immediately after a year of Shmittah. In addition to following the same agricultural laws as in the Shmittah year, [two consecutive years of not working the land!] we are also commanded to let go; to let go of our slaves and our dependence on them, and set them free. To let go of ancestral land that we bought from others who had sold these lands due to financial hardship. Ownership of a portion of land in Isreal that is larger than my real share, is only temporary. During the Yovel year we are restored to our real place in the land. Here too we learn to attain tranquility of the heart by further strengthening our trust in Hashem.
35 Vechi yamuch achicha umatah yado imach vehechezakta bo ger vetoshav vachai imach
If your brother becomes impoverished and his hand [assets] become shaky among you, you must support him, [so too] the proselyte and the sojourner, [so] that he shall live with you.
36 Al-tikach me'ito neshech vetarbit veyareta me'Elokeicha vechei achicha imach
You shall not take from him interest or usury and you shall fear your G-d, and your brother shall live with you.
37 Et-kaspecha lo-titen lo beneshech uvemarbit lo-titen ochlecha
You must not give [lend] him your money with interest, and usuriously you must not advance him your food.
38 Ani HASHEM Elokeichem asher hotzeti etchem me'eretz Mitzrayim latet lachem et-eretz Kena'an lihyot lachem le-Elokim
I am HASHEM your G-d Who brought you out from the land of Egypt to give you the land of Kena'an, to be a G-d for you.
The laws of Reebeet relate to the mitzvah of providing interest free loans. Although one may argue that there is nothing morally wrong with charging and paying interest on a loan, Hashem wants us to be so close with each other, that we don’t charge or pay interest on loans, within the Jewish community. In our interactions with the rest of society, we may follow the societal norm of paying and charging interest on loans. Hashem is instructing us to set aside a portion of our wealth to be used for helping your brother, sister and neighbor to get back on their feet, rather than for increasing personal wealth. Hashem is asking us to let go of a certain degree of ownership over our money and to trust in Him that He is and will continue to provide us with all that we truly need. Tranquility of the heart gained through trust in Hashem.
We make holy space in our lives for Hashem, for others and for ourselves in the observance of these three mitzvot. We create a space of sharing and helping, the space of 'dror', freedom. Then gates of blessings for parnassah livelihood are opened even more and the channels are clear to receive Hashem's abundant blessings. The closer we are with each other, the closer Hashem is with us, and the gates of Hashem’s blessings and vitality open wider and wider.
We bless you to have a tranquil heart, a peaceful heart to do whatever you are doing with all your heart, to feel at home, where you can really be and have permission to be yourself, your higher self. A home in which you can build a home for Hashem, a home in which the holy Shechinah will dwell, in Eretz Yisrael
I have been fortunate to be with and learn from holy souls who truly feel at home here in Eretz Yisrael; even their bodies know that they are at home, B”H.
Tranquility of the heart doesn’t necessarily mean that everything is mammash ok [which it is, though we don’t quite experience it that way] and that we don’t have to do any 'tikkun olam', fixing the world. Rather, tranquility of the heart suggests to me, the tranquility to be able to do your "home-work" that needs to be done, without getting shook up and losing balance, 'chas veshalom'. The heart is working and struggling, but it is doing so in a state of tranquility. It knows that it is at home. It knows that it is 'fixing' its own home, making it more and more beautiful and inviting for the presence of the holy Shechinah.
Let us remember and be inspired by our holy Rebbes and teachers zt”l, the Rebbe zt”l and Reb Shlomo ztz”l, the holy Sanzer Rebbe zt"l and all the other tzadikkim and tzadkkaniot who have taught us how to share lovingly. If we have to lose sleep, let it be over not having done all we could for the needy.
When you come to the land WHICH I AM GIVING TO YOU, the land shall rest – a Shabbat for HaShem
The following is a teaching from the Sfas Emes (Parshat Behar 5661). Some of it is direct translation, and some of it is, hopefully, helpful comments.
The Rabbis z'l note (Sifra Behar 1:7) that the same words "Shabbat le'HaShem" – a Shabbat for HaShem – appear both in the mitzvah of Shmittah– the Sabbatical year (Vayikra 25), and in the mitzvah of Shabbos– which also known as Shabbat Bereishit- the first Shabbos of Creation (Exodus 20) – the holy Shabbos day that we observe on the seventh day of each week. This indicates that there are a number of similarities between the Shmittah year and Shabbos Kodesh.
The similarities are:
1) Like Shabbos, Shmittah is a testimonial sign between HaShem and the children of Israel. Shabbos is a 'sign' and testimony that Hashem created the world in six days and 'rested' on the seventh day as it says, "Elokim blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it, for on that day He rested from all His work that He had created to be done." (Bereishis 2)
In our resting from doing 'work' on the holy Shabbos, we are witnesses that Hashem is the Creator of the entire world and that Shabbos is holy.
In observing Shmittah – the Shabbos of the Land, by letting the Land rest for an entire year, we give testimony that Hashem is the Creator and that everything belongs to Him. Shabbos is one day a week and Shmittah is an entire year.
2) On Shabbos we receive a neshama yeteira – an additional soul – which comes down to us for the duration of Shabbos; so, too, the Land of Israel receives an aspect of "neshama yeteira" – an additional soul during the Shmittah year.
3) Shabbos is a 'commemoration' of our liberation from the land of Egypt. The meaning of our Exodus, explains the Sfas Emes, is that in becoming free people – we were now free from the of the land of Mitzrayim- from the 'meitzarim', the 'narrows' and confinements of Egypt, to be capable of receiving an additional soul. This 'neshama yeteira' is described as an 'inheritance without limitations'.
Shabbos is 'holy' and Eretz Yisrael is the 'holy' Land – Eretz Hakodesh. We were 'liberated' from the 'land of Mitzrayim- mundane Meitzarim narrows' to be brought to the Land of Israel - 'an inheritance without limitation'. Eretz Yisrael is 'liberated' from the nature of the mundane world; it is not merely a land for the Jews, like any other land; it is Eretz Hakodesh – the Holy Land.
When Hashem said "I Am Hashem your G-d" He unified Himself with us. Consequently the Children of Israel received the strength to receive G-dliness. In blessing the Holy Shabbos day, Hashem elevated this day to be a day of holiness. During the Shmittah year the people, the land- space and time all together ascend in kedusha-holiness.
Everyone can understand that every living person and creature possesses a life-soul. Each morning upon awakening we thank Hashem for compassionately returning our souls to us. But what is the meaning of receiving a "neshama yeteira" – an additional soul on Shabbos? In what sense does Eretz Yisrael receive a "neshama yeteira" – an additional soul? These are important questions and it is not enough to find an answer in a book – we also need to find its meaning within.
When Hashem bequeathed the Land to Yaakov Avinu, Yaakov merited to receive its innermost essence – the first point of Creation from which all the rest of creation spread forth. This is another reason why the Land of Israel is considered as 'an inheritance without limitations'.
Reb Shlomo zt"l always taught about getting to the essence, getting to depths of everything, the depths of time and space, the depths of relationships and the depths of being. Not working on Shabbos allows us to get closer to the depth of life. On Shabbos we don't work the land, we don't do business and we let our animals rest. On Shabbos we experience and live in harmony with man, with nature and with wildlife. On the holy Shabbos we experience being in union with Hashem; more directly than during the six days of the week.
During the Shmittah year we don't work the land, we don't do business with the produce of the Land and even the animals are allowed to roam through our fields and vineyards. During Shmittah we experience the holiness of the Land. We are happy with the Land itself, with the holiness of the Land not just with what we receive from it.
Similarly with relationships; at weddings before the 'chattan' – the groom, would cover the face of the 'kallah' – the bride, Reb Shlomo would explain that this signified that the 'chattan' was saying to the 'kallah', "my love for you goes deeper than your external beauty; my love for you goes back to the time, before I ever saw you in this world, when that it was announced in heaven that you and I are soul-mates." Shabbos and Shnittah teach us to relate deeply not only with the world, not only with the Land, but also with each other.
I wish I had time to share more, but it is close to Shabbos, so I wish you all a wonderful and very joyous and healthy Shabbos bs"D. Be blessed with a wonderful Shabbos, may all the sick be healed, may we always appreciate how precious our relationships are, with family and with friends and with Hashem, in love and awe, may we have strong memories of the future, of the world to come, and let us hear good news from each other always...LECHAYIM! LECHAYIM TOVIM U'LESHALOM! Hope to hear from you . . .
"CHAZAK CHAZAK VE'NIT'CHAZEYK." BE STRONG, BE STRONG, AND WE WILL BE STRENGTHENED. Amen.
LIBERATION and FREEDOM
Shabbat, Shmittah, Eretz Yisrael, Torah and The People of Israel
One can say that there is a very deep common thread that runs through the various mitzvot and concepts that we find in this week's double parsha: Behar and Bechukotai. Immediately in the opening verses of parshat Behar we see that Mount Sinai, Shabbat and Shmittah [the Sabbatical year] are all mentionned together. How are they all connected?
Hashem spoke to Moshe on Mount Sinai, saying, "Speak to the children of Israel and say to them, when you come to the land that I am giving to you, the land shall rest a Shabbos for Hashem. For six years you shall plant your field and for six years you shall prune your vineyard and you shall harvest its produce. But the seventh year shall be a Shabbos of rest for the land, a Shabbos for Hashem, you shall not plant your field and you shall not prune your vineyard... It shall be a year of complete rest for the land." (Lev. 25:1-5)
The human being is always in some kind of state of servitude. Yet it is possible to be truly 'free'. To be truly free we must be connected the only One who is completely free- Hashem blessed be He. Paradoxically, we have to accept upon ourselves the "yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven" to be free. The holy Zohar teaches that so long as we are 'enslaved' to another or to anything else, Hashem's liberating yoke cannot rest upon us. The Sfas Emes adds that in order to experience Hashem's liberating yoke, we first have to enslaved to something else. Before becoming a free people we were first enslaved in Egypt-Mitzrayim. Before bonding with Hashem we are subjugated under the 'nefesh habahamis' and the 'yetzer hara' - the animal soul and the evil inclination. Before receiving the holy and blessed Shabbos we work for six days. Before the year of rest for the land- before the Shabbos of the land, it is worked and forced to produce for six years.
Initially at the beginning of Creation, the earth willingly provided all of man's needs for sustenance. After the sin of eating from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, the earth would no longer give forth its produce without man's sweat and toil. Rav Sholom Schwadran zt"l explains that the mitzvah of the Sabbatical year is an opportunity to live an entire year and be provided for without toil, just as it was in the Garden of Eden.
You shall fulfill My statutes and keep My laws and fulfill them, and you will then live in the land in security. The land will give forth its fruit and you will eat your fill, and you will live securely on it. If you shall say (ask) "What will we eat in the seventh year, for lo! we have not planted nor gathered our produce?" I shall command (direct) My blessing to you in the sixth year and it will produce [enough] for three years. You shall plant in the eighth year but you will still be eating from the old produce until the ninth year; until the [new] produce arrives (ripens) you shall eat [from] the old. (Vayikra 25:18-22)
It is true that to survive in this world we must work. Without a doubt, to work and earn an honest living is a most virtuous honor. However as we all know we are easily and all too often enslaved by our work, to the point that begin to think that our livelihood is completely dependent on our work and prowess, and we forget about Hashem. We forget that our very existence at each moment is coming from Hashem. Yes we plough and we plant and we harvest, but it is Hashem who is making it happen at each moment.
Clearly, this mitzvah allows us to be liberated from our enslavement to our mundane perceptions of reality. This mitzvah educates us to get back in touch with the true and only Source of Life, just as Shabbos does. Shabbos for an entire year, free to spend all our time serving Hashem, uninterrupted by the physical realities of this world. An entire year back in Gan Eden. Amen keyn yehi ratzon.
The Giving of the Torah- Insights from the Alter Rebbe
בחודש השלישי לצאת בני ישרא-ל מארץ מצרים ביום הזה מדבר סיני
The opening phrase of this week’s parsha – Bechukotai - אִם-בְּחֻקּתַי תֵּלֵכוּ is explained to mean that you must toil in the study of Torah. The following is my free translation and adaptation of a portion of the Alter Rebbe’s zt"l MA'AMAR* entitled - Bakhodesh Ha-Shlishi. In this teaching the Alter Rebbe delves into what is the great advantage of having been given the Torah.
The purpose of giving the Torah to the people of Israel is to provide our Divine souls with the energy to overpower, the physicality of the body and of the animal soul and their crude demands, and thus enable it to get out of the prisoner's cell that it finds itself in.
ה' עז, לְעַמּוֹ יִתֵּן; ה' יְבָרֵךְ אֶת-עַמּוֹ בַשָּׁלוֹם
"Hashem is giving “oz”, “power” to His nation, Hashem will bless His nation ‘baShalom’ with peace." Psalm 29:11.
Torah is called “oz”, “strength” for she – the Torah, gives strength and power to the Divine soul. Through the Torah which is called "oz" – strength, two aspects of peace are accomplished- [בַ' שָּׁלוֹם ‘BaShalom’ – ‘bet’- two aspects of Shalom]. As the Rabbis have commented on the word בַשָּׁלוֹם ‘baShalom’ - “He makes peace in the heavenly supernal family and in the lower entourage.” Shalom means complete and connected.
Peace in the ‘heavenly supernal entourage’- is the aspect of true revelation of the Light of the Infinite One Blessed be He illuminating the Divine soul; so that it can be (truly) connected and united in a state of real self-nullification. [Making peace] in the 'lower entourage' – refers to the clear bright shining of the strength of the Divine soul, [that is vested and dressed in the body and in the animal soul] with so much brightness, that as a result the body and the animal soul will no longer present any obstacles and barriers, but rather, that they will all be agreeable to participate in this unification. This occurs when the animal soul is subjugated and ‘darkness is transformed into light’.
The Torah which is called “oz” is also called ‘tooshia’- “a salve” for it [weakens and] acts as a salve against the power and the strength of the ‘other side’- that is the strong demands of the body. As it says in Genesis 25:23, "One nation against the other nation will strengthen itself." And, as Rashi explains, "when this one rises, the other one falls.
But, we need to understand how the strength of the Torah gives energy to the Divine soul to overcome the power of the body and its materialism. For is it not true that Torah itself is vested in material things? Even the mitzvot, such as separating the tithes are 'dressed' in the physical – and so we wonder how could that which is vested in physicality give strength to the Divine soul to get out of the physicality?
However, the source and the foundation of the Torah is in the holy and ‘supernal mountains’. The Torah emanates from the Light of the Infinite One, Blessed be He, His very Self, in His glory that is "surrounding- beyond all worlds." As the prophet Malachai says "I Hashem have not changed," [i.e. the Infinite One makes Himself present to us here in our finite world, through His Torah] for 'the Torah and the Holy One b”H is all one.'
Behold, the essence of receiving of the Torah is as is written in the Ten Commandments, "G-d spoke all these words “laymor”-saying: I am…" (Exodus 20: 1-2.) At first it would seem that the word “laymor” which means “to say” doesn’t have any meaning here in this verse. It is not like anywhere else where the word “laymor” is used in Scripture. Elsewhere, the word “l’aymor” means to repeat and say [the words] to someone else. Whereas, in the Ten Commandments you can’t say so, because according to our tradition every Jew was at Mt. Sinai and heard G-d speaking to him/her. As it says in Deuteronomy 5:4, G-d spoke with you "face to face." "With the ones who are present and with the ones who are not physically present." In other words G-d spoke to every Jewish soul at the time of the giving of the Torah. [So then why does it say "l’aymor"?]
But the meaning is as follows. "To say" and to speak all the words of the Torah that have already been said to Moshe Rabbeinu on Mt. Sinai. All Scripture, Mishnah, Halachot, – the laws and the Haggadot – every word of the Torah, all these words of Torah were already said to Moshe on Mt. Sinai.
Even though in the Talmud the names of various Tana'im and Amora'im are mentioned, and they are the ones that said this particular law. For example, "the House of Shammai says" such and such – this is still the word of G-d. This particular halachah for example, this particular rule is the word of G-d. It was said by G-d to Moshe on Mt. Sinai and now it was being iterated by this Rabbi. This is the meaning of the verse, "My words which I have put in your mouth." Isaiah 59:21.
This power– that the Halakhah, the law that is being verbally expressed by them should be literally the words of G-d that were said to Moshe on Mt. Sinai, was given to the people of Israel at the time we received the Torah when the Ten Commandments were given. To say that which was already said; ‘laymor’ – that means that we were given the ability to be in the state of nullification to Him, Blessed be He, so much so that our spoken words of Torah, should not become something separate from Him. But rather [it should be] as it says in Psalms 119, verse 172, “Let my tongue speak/respond with Your words.” For the words of the Torah are the speech of G-d. Allow my tongue to respond, to repeat the words that You are speaking, like one who is repeating after another one who is speaking, exactly what is being said.
The Ten Commandments are the entire Torah- the entire Torah is contained in the Ten Commandments. When they [the Children of Israel] received the Ten Commandments from the mouth of the Mighty One, from G-d, they received the entire Torah, and it was given in such manner that it is possible for them to be in a state of self-nullification to the words of G-d that are being spoken in their mouths, such that that they can be in a status of one who is simply repeating after the one who is speaking.
This is the matter of the revelation of the Light of the Infinite One here below in this world just as it is being revealed in heaven, by being in a state of real and veritable self-nullification.
When the wise one meditates on this knowledge, there will descend upon him a fear and a trembling as he is studying the Torah when he focuses his heart that these words of Torah that he is studying are literally the words of G-d that were said to Moshe on Mt. Sinai. And this is the meaning of the teaching that the Rabbis gave concerning the verse “And you shall make these words known to your children and your children’s children.” (Deuteronomy 4;9-10). Following this it says, “You shall make known to your children the day that you were standing at Mt. Sinai.” And the Rabbis explain – just like at Mt. Sinai, the Torah was given over with trembling and with fear, here too, when you are giving over Torah it should be with trembling and with fear.
At first one wonders about this comparison. "Just like at Mt. Sinai," so too you should be doing the same – [but] at Mt. Sinai it says that "the entire nation saw the thunder" and they experienced that G-d spoke with the people "face to face." But how can you compare our experience at Sinai to the experience of any other person, when he is studying on his own? How could the Rabbis say “just like there it was with trembling and fear so too now when you are studying and giving over Torah it shall be in the same way”?
The matter is as follows. As we said before, for even as an individual is involved in the study of Torah, at all times, the words of Torah he is learning are literally the words of G-d that were spoken to Moshe at Mt. Sinai. By realizing and meditating on this [fact that these are literally the words of G-d] then there will descend upon him a trembling and a fear just as if he received it today from Mt. Sinai.
[The Torah student should yearn to attach his nefesh, his soul, in the love of G-d in such a manner that he should only want what G-d wants without being drawn at all to the desires of the physical, materialistic body.
The desired manner of the study of Torah is that when you are studying Torah your goal should be that G-d’s words come out of your mouth. The person should feel that true understanding of the Torah is not a matter of reaching one’s personal conclusions that such and such is the truth, because ‘your mind’ has drawn that conclusion but rather this is a truth because it is Hashem’s wisdom. The function of the brain and the intellect in the study of Torah is that they should help you to successfully comprehend the wisdom of G-d. In order to attain such a level of Divine a person has to be in a state of self-nullification without any desire for achieving any kind of greatness or growth of your own status, for personal egotistical reasons.
But rather, be like the moon that doesn’t have any light of its own, for it only receives and reflects the light of the sun. And if you can put yourself in that state, knowing that you are ‘receiving’ and reflecting the words of G-d, then the words of Torah that come out of your mouth are the words of G-d.
By learning in this manner you actually experience fear and trembling literally like the fear and trembling that was experienced at the time that we stood at Mt. Sinai. Because in truth even now the experience of standing at Sinai is being repeated. Because G-d is so to speak speaking the words of Torah through the mouth of the person who is learning Torah.]
Be blessed with a wonderful Shabbos, may all the sick be healed, may we always appreciate how precious our relationships are, with family and with friends and with Hashem, in love and awe, may we have strong memories of the future, of the world to come, and let us hear good news from each other always...LECHAYIM! LECHAYIM TOVIM U’LESHALOM!
Reb Shlomo: "On the inside every Jew is the Holy of Holies"
Reb Shlomo zt”l once said ‘maybe not every Jew is holy on the outside, but on the inside every Jew is the Holy of Holies. In the deepest depths of our hearts every one of us is very connected with Hashem, every Jewish person is capable and ready to give his/her life “al Kiddush Hashem”- to sanctify Hashem! Throughout our history even the most assimilated of our people have given up their lives just to die as Jews; rather than renounce their Judaism, they proclaimed Shma Yisrael…. On a daily level this means, as Reb Shlomo said that an assimilated Jew is one who doesn’t believe that tomorrow will be better; meaning that a Jew believes that everyone can do tshuva, everyone can be Holy.
In parshat Emor (22:32), following many mitzvot relating to the sanctity of the Kohanim, we are all commanded to sanctify Hashem’s holy Name. Rashi explains that ונקדשתי means that we have an obligation to give our lives in order to sanctify the name of Hashem. Chassidus explains that a moment before the challenge of Kiddush Hashem occurs, the two uppermost levels of our souls are revealed (Chaya and Yechida) and it becomes so clear in that moment that there is nothing that can tear us away from Hashem and from sanctifying His Name. At that true moment we are alone with Hashem in the Holy of Holies in the name of all of Israel.
We must sanctify Hashem in our daily lives as well; in all that we are involved with, in all that we do, in all our learning, and in all our prayers we must strive to bring Hashem’s light and presence into all that we do; Hashem's reality must be present in our mundane activities as well as in our spiritual lives in the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot.
Everything has an inside and an outside both physically and spiritually. There are many aspects to this seemingly simple statement. There is an outer dimension of a relationship and there is an inner dimension. This is true about our relationships with Hashem; it is also true about our relationships with ourselves, etc.
The Alter Rebbe teaches that the inner dimension of the counting of the Omer days וספרתם לכם- usfartem lachem- you shall count for yourselves, is to rectify and sanctify our emotional attributes – our “sefirot”- they should be bright and beautiful like sapphires reflecting the Holy Sefirot as they are in the supernal realm. The Hebrew words;
Sefirah- spiritual attribute
Even Sapir- sapphire stone
Sfar- border town
Maspeirah- barber shop,
all have the same root ס-פ-ר and share in the same concept – namely the aspect of making the outside a true reflection of the deep inside. In other words to bring about true unity between the inner and outer worlds, through bringing Hashem’s light into everything we do.
Just to illustrate this relationship, for example, what does “sefirah” have to do with “sfar”- the border towns? It is at the border towns that the outer world interfaces with us. It is beautiful to have the Beit Hamikdash and Yerushalayim at the center of the Holy Land. At the same time it is so so important that the holiness and light of the Beit Hamikdash and Yerushalayim reach all the way to our brothers and sisters living at the distant borders; it is so very important that "they" reflect Hashem’s light and holiness, no less than the Kohanim in the Beit Hamikdash. Or in other words it is so important that the borders of our bodies reflect the warmth and light of our hearts. It is so important that our learning and doing of mitzvot be filled with Hashem’s love and light. It is so important that our relationships with one another bring us truly close, closer and closer to being wholly one, Holy One.
The Talmud says that if one says “I have only Torah- he even doesn’t have Torah” – The Alter Rebbe explains that if one relates to Torah exclusively on an intellectual level, then the Torah he is learning isn’t real Torah! You can only receive Torah by connecting with its inner light and we get that only from Hashem.
We receive Torah from Hashem. The Torah is more than a book. “Yisrael v’Oraytah v’Kudsha Brich Hu, Chad Hu” – Yisrael and the Torah and the Holy One blessed is He, are all one! Hashem Gives Himeslf to us in the words of the Torah. But to receive Hashem, to receive His wisdom and the Light, we need to yearn for it, we have to pray for it from the depths of our hearts.
Another example of this relationship between the outer and inner dimensions is Shabbat. The Rebbe explains “V’shamru b’nei Yisrael et HaShabbat” – And the Children of Israel shall/will guard the Shabbat – refers to our receiving shabbos – for it is a gift from Hashem. On Shabbos the lower worlds ascend to the higher realms – this is a gift – we only have to make sure that we don’t interfere receiving the gift by doing work; we have to rest and just receive Shabbos. “La’assot et Hashabbat” – to make Shabbos – is to then bring down the higher supernal realms into our world.
In parshat Behar we move onto the physical sanctity of Eretz Yisrael which leads onto the holiness of relating with and caring for the poor; the wealth of Eretz Yisrael is holy. With holy wealth you save lives physically and spiritually.
This is all the “service” of the counting of the Omer. From perfecting ourselves as Kohanim, to perfecting and bringing our animal selves back to their heavenly source; from sanctifying our lives for Hashem to how we eat and relate; to how we learn, to how we daaven, to how we relate with “your brother, the poor one”, to bringing life to your brother and sister.
May we all be blessed to dance holy dance and sing holy joyous song all together along our journeys to Mt Sinai to truly be as “one person with one heart” in love and unity, awesome love and awesome unity b’simcha rabbah!
Have a wonderful Shabbos