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Parshiot Mattot -Massei - Our Journey to Israel

Parshiot Mattot -Massei – Rosh chodesh 'menachem-Av'

In this week’s blog:

We look at journeys , our journey in life , and the journey of the children of Israel to Eretz Yisrael.

This Parsha brings up a very important matter. How should we actually relate to the Land of Eretz Yisrael? What does it mean to love Eretz Yisrael.

Journey prayers

Every day every hour we’re beginning new journeys. The fact of the matter is that we are all on journeys where we go, where we camp, where we settle down,when we start the next journey, that is all in Hashem’s hands,it’s all by His decisions. We need to learn how to journey. We need [to learn how] to daaven sincerely.

We are about to enter Eretz Yisrael and we look back at the forty-two journeys it took us to get from Mitzrayim to the Promised Land. These journeys are our journeys, both personal and national throughout our history. Presently we are still in the "wilderness of the nations" [Yechezkel 20:35] and we must not and cannot stop daavening.

How do I begin my daily journey, my weekly journey, my Shabbos journey? My family journey, my career journey, how do I do all these things without sidetracking and delaying my arrival at my destination?

We all have a purpose and destination in this world, we want to get there. We are in a relationship with the Ribono shel Olam – the Master of the World. The question is how long is it going to take, how many times will I be diverted, how many journeys, spirals and loops, turn-arounds, ups and downs, and up again, will I have to go through before I get to my destination?

How many more life journeys, how many more steps forward and backwards and forwards before I get to my life destination, before I manage to be and manifest the beautiful person that Hashem dreamt of, when He dreamt of me before creating the world?

Joy and Tshuvah Without a doubt joy is a major factor, a major player in getting to our destination, successfully, as is Tshuvah.

Tshuvah, real tshuvah is so so important. It is a divine gift, that Hashem gives us the possibility of doing tshuvah. It is absolutely the most important and most needed gift for achieving our destinies as individuals, and as a people.

It is so very important not to see ourselves as victims of circumstances. Rabbi Jonathan Sacks relates that when he met the Lubavitcher Rebbe the first time, the Rebbe asked him what he was planning to do on campus for the benefit of the Jewish student body. He began his answer with the words “if circumstances will allow …” but before he could continue, the Rebbe corrected him saying, “you create your circumstances.” We create our circumstances, good or ‘chas v’shalom’ the opposite, within those imposed upon us in life.

As long as we’re breathing, as long as we’re alive, Hashem is giving us the opportunity to begin the next step of our next journey; the opportunity to go deeper within, to discover our true essence. That’s what each journey is all about. We travel with learning Torah and doing mitzvot, and we try to do so no matter how difficult the circumstances. The context of each challenge, creates the opportunity for us to go deeper and higher, to do the mitzvot from within ever deeper depths. Each time we have a chance to do a mitzvah, is another opportunity for our souls to truly manifest.

So I need to do tshuvah to remove all the barriers that have piled up. Basically, I am responsible for all these, even though I can give many excuses that will explain how these barriers came to be. I can ‘excuse’ myself, so to speak, but ultimately it is my decision if I want to let these barriers stay where they are or if I want to try to get rid of them. Whichever way I decide is important, because it is really me who is responsible.

So it is me who really needs to learn to be in touch with my neshamah. It is me who needs to learn and know that no matter how far away my soul seems to be from its source and root, it is never disconnected from its root.

It is for me to say “Ribomo shel Olam, I admit that I have all these barriers, I admit that I am responsible for many of them because I myself brought them on. And I admit that I want to, at least want to want to get rid of them. I admit there are times when it seems like I don’t have any control over them, that I don’t have the strength to do the work. I also admit that You Hashem, do have the power and the compassion to keep me connected, to keep on giving me courage. I admit that I’m not always having an easy time saying sincerely, “Hashem, I am sorry, I regret.” I would like to, but I’m still, to a certain degree trapped in victim consciousness; a victim of jealousy, lust and pursuit of honor, the three biggest obstacles that prevent us from reaching our destiny and manifesting our purpose, our true selves in this world. [Rabbi Elazar Hakapor in Pirkei Avot 4:21]

So I turn to You, Ribono shel Olam, I want to turn to You and ask of You to compassionately open my heart and eyes, to see, to realize and know that I am still connected. To know that I can still serve You with joy, that I can still learn Torah and do a mitzvah with joy. To trust that all these heavy days will soon turn into holidays. I need Your compassion to help me gather my strengths and keep them focused to use my time well, to learn Torah b’simcha, because it’s Your Torah and You want me to learn it, because You gave it to me to learn, because that is how You have given Yourself to us.

I still want to do a mitzvah with joy. I want to be connected in a real way. I really don’t want these barriers and klipos to stop me from being a real Yid, from being a real good father, husband, a real good friend, a real good teacher. Therefore, I ask for Your רחמים מרובים –abundant compassion… This is my journey prayer, I want to be the real Shulim ben Sara Rivkah and Yosef Yekusiel Zusha. Amen

Rabbis teach that since the Beit Hamikdash was destroyed because of 'sinat chinam', it will be rebuilt out of 'ahavat chinam' -- baseless love.

May we all be blessed to truly renew and deepen our 'achdut', oneness and unification with each other and with Hashem, and may we merit to see the reestablishment and return of the Beit Hamikdash, [which is already complete, it only needs to be brought down from heaven to earth] quickly in our days, together with the speedy arrival of Mashiach Tzidkeinu. Amen, kein yehi ratzon.

Have a wonderful Shabbos!!, B'Ahavah U'Bivracha Sholom

VOWS, LIVING IN THE LAND AND LOVING THE LAND

Our parsha this week begins with the laws of nedarim – vows. It is amazing that Hashem has given us the power to infuse and transform space, time and people, with ‘kedusha’ – holiness. Breath, voice and words are very holy and powerful, it is with these that Hashem created us and all worlds. Because we are created in the image of G-d and because it is a mitzvah given to us in the Torah, we too can bring holiness into the world and most importantly, live and be holy.

Vows and Living in Eretz Yisrael – The Holiness and Power of Speech

The commentators ask why are the laws of vows found here at this particular juncture in the Torah – at the end of Bamidbar, just before entering into the Land of Eretz Yisrael? As we have learned and seen, much of 'Sefer' Bamidbar contains stories, mostly about very tragic mistakes and events – and as we have learned, the Ishbitzer Rebbe refers to 'sefer' Bamidbar as the 'Torah' of mistakes and what we learn from them. It would seem therefore, that this section of Torah would belong elsewhere, possibly in 'sefer' Vayikra. Various answers to this question can be found in the commentaries on the Torah. One answer may be as follows.

Life conditions were going to change drastically as soon as we would enter Eretz Yisrael. Most particularly, we would be moving from a rather spiritual and miraculous way life in the desert, to a much more physical 'this world' way of life in Eretz Yisrael. Instead of eating 'manna' – bread from heaven, we would now have to get involved with planting, sowing and reaping, and all other sorts of involvement with the mundane world. When we get very involved with the mundane world, we have the tendency to forget what is of utmost importance, and what is only of secondary importance. Too often the physical and material aspects of life become all important and matters of spiritual importance get very little attention.

Empowerment. When service of Hashem takes a back-seat to pursuit of wealth and power, when we find ourselves losing our faith in actually achieving true connection between our ‘supernal point’ and our ‘lower [mundane] point’, we need to empower ourselves. One can derive much benefit and strength by taking on a vow, be it a vow of abstinence or a vow to do something particular or special. Making such vows can help the individual refocus on what is really important.

In this context of the final preparations before entering Eretz Yisrael, the laws of vows are actually very appropriate here; they teach us how deal with being involved in the mundane aspects of life – how to live in the land and to do so in holiness.

Learn the power of speech; learn the holiness of speech. Especially when feeling like you’re being swallowed up in the 'earthliness' of life, by its demands and its attractions, learn to respect the power of voice and the holiness of speech; learn to speak holy speech.

Our grandson Shlomo, entered the Israeli army this week. May Hashem protect him and all our sodiers from any and all harm. May we all be blessed to live in peace. Our friends hosted a little gathering of family and friends in his honor. At one point Lee asked all of us to shout energetically TODA HASHEM – THANK YOU HASHEM! We did so a couple of times. doing this helps us realize that we don't have live in 'victim consciousness'! Even in the midst of hardships, with sincere holy voice and speech we are empowered to move forward in practical holiness

Loving Eretz Yisrael (5765 – 2005)

This parsha brings up a very important matter. How should we actually relate to the Land of Eretz Yisrael? What does it mean to love Eretz Yisrael? These questions are particularly important now! – not only because we are in the midst of the Three Weeks [of mourning and fasting over the destruction of both the First and Second Temples] but also because of what is happening right now in Eretz Yisrael, and I'm not talking politics.

It was ten years ago when received the sad phone call in the middle of the night, informing us that Reb Shlomo zt"l passed away and that the funeral was to take place in Yerushalayim. A number of the 'chevre' got together at Yakkar, to plan and organize for the 'levayah' – the funeral. The question of who should deliver the eulogy arose. Various suggestions were made and discussed. I was hoping that someone would come up with a name that would be both a great honor for Reb Shlomo and would also be a satisfactory choice as everyone was concerned. Suddenly I was inspired to suggest that Rav Yisrael Lau, who was the Chief Rabbi of Israel at the time, should be the one invited to eulogize our Rebbe Reb Shlomo zt"l.

I had met Rav Lau in Auschwitz of all places, during the March of the Living in 1994. Rav Lau spoke at the memorial assembly in that death camp, and all were very moved by his words. When the memorial service was over everyone was leaving the grounds slowly. As I was walking with some friends, I mentioned to them that my Rebbe, Reb Shlomo thought very highly and was very fond of Rav Lau. My friends continued ahead as I was walking slowly absorbing what was happening. A minute or two later, Rav Lau was coming from behind me. I quickly went up to him and said Shalom Aleichem and I told him that my Rebbe really loves him very much. "Who is your Rebbe?' Rav Lau asked. "My Rebbe is Reb Shloime Carlebach," I said. Lifting his hand skyward and with a big warm and full of love smile Rav Lau exclaimed "Ah Reb Shloimele, Reb Shloimele!"

I recalled that moment and shared it with the 'chevre'. B"H everyone quickly agreed that this was a good suggestion and I went to the phone to call Rav Lau. He wasn't home and I left a message with his Rebbetzin that we wished him to deliver the 'hesped' – eulogy. She asked me to call back soon for an answer. We were all pleased that accepted to do so.

Rav Lau spoke beautifully and said many beautiful things about Reb Shlomo zt"l. One of the striking things that he mentioned was Reb Shlomo's great love for Eretz Yisrael, how he loved every bit of the Land, every stone, every pebble. Here are some of Rav Lau's words:

"…. And now, this day, we follow Shlomo as he experiences this day, a day that is altogether Shabbos and rest eternal. What a great soul you were, Shlomo, what a quintessential soul... Perhaps once in a generation does such a soul turn up—who knows the Source from Whence it was hewn—from the Roots or from the Higher Worlds?

Shloimele, I can only say one thing to you. The Torah talks of four species" Etrog (citrus), Lulav (palm)Hadas (myrtle) and Arava (willow). Their initials spell אעלה "A'aleh" (I shall arise). Shlomole, today is the day that you will arise!

The Hadas is called a branch of interlaced foliage. What is special about the Hadas about which we have been commanded? It’s leaves emerge in three’s, and on a ‘beautiful hadas’ the 3 leaves are in a straight row. These leaves represent three loves. First and foremost, "V'ahavta et HaShem Elokekha" (You shall love G-d")-- this is the first leaf. Secondly "V'ahavta l'reakha komokha" (Love your neighbor as yourself) -- this is the second leaf. And the third is "Uverakhta et Hashem Elokekha al ha'aretz ha tova asher notan lach" (Bless G-d for the good land He has given you) - - the love of our holy land, of Israel.

It is not the case of all of us that these three leaves line up. For one person, love of Torah might be stronger than his love of the Jewish people. Another person's love of the Jewish people might be stronger than his love of G-d. And then there are those whose love of the land of Israel may be stronger than both of these other loves. The Rambam (Maimonides) calls a Hadas of this type—one whose leaves are not equal—"hadas shoteh"—a fool's myrtle.

Shlomole, you were a wise Hadas, whose sweet fragrance was difused to the furthest reaches. The hadas of these three loves were within you, and every leaf of this hadas suckled from that same inner point within all Isael, hewn from the Rock of Israel: an awesome love for the Divine, boundless love of Torah, and total unconditional love for all of Isael, people, land—every clump of earth of it. I might say he was connected to every letter of the Torah, every soul of the nation, every clump of earth of the holy land. … "

Taken from EULOGY FOR REB SHLOMO CARLEBACH, ZY"A BY THE CHIEF RABBI OF ISRAEL, HARAV YISROEL MEIR LAU, HAR-HAMENUCHOT, 19 ROM-CHESHVON 5755

What inspired Reb Shlomo to love Eretz Yisrael so much? Was it the land itself or was it because this is the Land that Hashem gave to His People as a Divine gift? Here are some of Reb Shlomo's words on Eretz Yisrael, taken from "ERETZ YISRAEL: THIS IS OUR LAND" – A Transcription of Rav Shlomo zt"l's words, sung and spoken at "A Celebration of Life and Peace", a concert given in Phoenix, AZ in the last year of our Rebbe's brief time in this world, 1994. [From the Spirit of the Desert production, 2/5/94].

A CELEBRATION OF LIFE AND PEACE Phoenix, AZ 5 Feb 1994

You know, we're living in a time when people have no right to get together without praying for peace. You have to. The first thing and the last thing. This is a passage from the psalms...it says, (singing) Because of my brothers and friends...Because of my sisters and friends...Please let me ask please let me sing..... Peace to you. Join me, with all of your hearts ...This is the house, the house of the Lord, I wish the best for you...(more singing, fade out)

You know my beautiful friends Rebbe Nachman says, how do you know who is the owner of the house? You know I'm walking into a house and I'm sitting there by the table and you come to the door and you think maybe I'm the owner of the house because I'm sitting at the table. No. Sitting at the table does not show that I am the owner. You know who the owner is? The one who is inviting you in. He is the owner.

I want you to know friends, until Yerushalyim was in our hands there was not this big invitation to the world to come to Yerushalyim. Nobody came. Ahhh, we are back in Yerushalyim. We are sending out messages to the whole world, please come to Yerushalyim. And I want to, you know my beautiful friends, one of the paramount prayers on Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur it says, "let them all come to Yerushalyim". Master of the World...if any of you ever doubted...we want the whole world to be in Yerushalyim. You think we're stingy? We're not...we want the whole world to be in Yerushalyim. The whole world.

Let it be clear to you, without getting into politics. EVERY JEW IN ISRAEL NEEDS OUR PRAYERS. AND ABOVE ALL--THE WHOLE WORLD NEEDS OUR PRAYERS. YOU KNOW WHY? HOW WOULD THE WORLD LOOK LIKE IN ONE HUNDRED YEARS FROM NOW IF US YIDDEN AFTER AUSHWITZ AND AFTER MAIDANEK WE BUILT A LITTLE LAND AND THEN THE WORLD HAS THE CHUTZPAH TO TAKE HALF OF IT AWAY AGAIN. WHAT A CHUTZPAH. WHAT A CHUTZPAH. (YELLING) WHAT A CHUTZPAH! OUTRAGEOUS!

Our cousins have millions of miles. Nothing. Empty. We have a little land--we built it with tears. With blood. With prayers. Want to take it away from us? What are you gonna do with it? And I want you to know--our cousins--really, I don't hate them. I love them with all my heart. ..there's only one place that they live like mentchen--and that's in Israel. (And since my concert is over and I can say what I want to...) You know friends, I was one of the first people who walked into the Old City-in '67- and there was so much love in the air if the politicians wouldn't have mingled in we could have mamesh made peace on that very day. But I want you to know I kissed every Arab--every boy every girl--it was a gevalt. One little Arab cousin ran after me and said, you forgot to kiss one of my babies. Anyway, I see a girl of 16 standing in a corner and I asked her, how are you feeling? She spoke English. I said tell me the truth. Are you glad Israel took over the Old City or are you sad? She looked around and she said, you know something? Israel saved my life because my father sold me to an old man of 80 for one hundred dollars. Do you know what's going on in the world? Do you know what's really going on? We don't need to learn civilization from the rest of the world.

And I want you to know. We are not doing any favors when we're giving back half of our land. We want them to live with us. Happily. Peacefully. When Israel moved into the Old City only 9% of those kids went to school. The rest were roaming the streets. And now every child goes to school, every child learns a trade. I don't mind them living next door. If it would make peace they could live in my--dining room--I don't mind. But let it be peaceful with love, with sweetness.

Friends, you know the world thinks peace means that you don't kill officially--only from your back--that's called peace!? Peace is that you love each other. And that kind of peace and love doesn't come from Washington...not from anywhere. It comes only from Heaven. You know what we say..."Oseh Shalom Bimromov," Master of the world. Peace is only in Heaven because the most heavenly feeling is--Peace. Really--you walk into a house and the husband and wife are fighting--how does it feel? Heavenly? The lowest hell! You walk into a house, people love each other for real--it's paradise. We want the whole world to be paradise, the whole world--really the whole world...... (singing) "Borchenu Avinu kulano ki echad ....kulano ki echad v'or panecha..." Bless us, our Father, all of us as one, in [with] the light of Your countenance.

There's still a little bit...the smoke of Aushwitz sometimes... especially in the Holy Land, friends, there are some people who like to blow the smoke of Aushwitz toward the Holy Land. Don't kid yourself. We have to be STRONG. Strong on our feet. Friends I want you to yell: "Am Yisrael Chai!" Israel is Living! The land is living! The land is our land. Jerusalem is our city! (cheers, whistles, applause breaking out).......I want you to know my beautiful friends. And I'm not talking now political peace. I'm talking about a Jew should know where it's at. I want you to know when G!d gave the land to Avraham, when G!d says to Avraham walk around in the land, this is the land I'm giving you. It's our land. It is our land. Gevalt! It is our land.

Do you know every inch of the land is full of blood of our holy soldiers. Think they gave their lives that we should spit at them and say we'll trade it in for a few million rubles that Brother Clinton will give us? No. 100% not! Friends I want us to stand on our feet and say Am Yisroel Chai! (Shouting) Israel is living forever! The land is ours forever! And it's the land of our children. Of our grandchildren. And nobody can take it away from us......

Amen ***********************************************************************Fr the video release by Spirit of the Desert, www.ruach.org .

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HASSwv2u9YA

Transcription by David Miller, originally penned 9 Tevet 5761/ 3 Jan 200 1and prepared for this list on 17-18 Nissan 5761, the 2nd and moving into the next day of the counting of the Omer/ 10 April 2001. May we all become Masters at counting our days.

We love Eretz Yisrael because this Land is Hashem's gift to us. The importance of a gift lies in the love that the giver of the gift puts into it. That's what makes it special! Once my son Netzach'l, when he was still a little boy in kindergarten, came home crying and upset. I asked him why he was so upset, and he told me that the other children were making fun of his whole-wheat bread sandwiches. I spent a few minutes explaining to him that the other children didn't know why whole wheat was healthier etc. etc... All this talk didn't really help him much. Finally he said, "Tatty, I'm not crying because they made fun of my bread, I'm crying because they made fun of something that my mommy did for me."

The Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l emphasized again and again, that we have to declare the truth to the world – that we are not in Eretz Yisrael, nor is it ours because of the UN or the US or the Europeans – it is ours only because Hashem, the Creator of the World and all therein, gave this Land to Avraham Avinu and Sara Immeinu and to their descendants after them. The Rebbe said further, that we need not be afraid to say all this openly, because it is the truth and the world knows that it is the truth. In fact when we will finally say this sincerely the world will say Mazal Tov! What took you so long? The world wants us to be what we are meant to be – Jewish people, living Torah and mitzvot, in Eretz Yisrael b'simcha.

And then all together we will dance with Moshiach; all together we will joyously serve Hashem Echad, in real peace.

May we all be blessed to truly love Eretz Yisrael and to know how live in it. Amen.

The Power of Speech

these lessons are from previous years- always worth learning again... enjoy

"Moshe spoke to the heads of the tribes of the Bnei Yisrael, saying: This is the 'word' that Hashem commanded: A man who vows a vow to Hashem…. He is not to desecrate his word …." So begins the parsha of נדרים – the laws vows, at the beginning of Parshat Matos. Our parsha is dealing with vows of abstinence, and vows to do something particular at a given time. We learn in this week's parsha that not only are we permitted to take vows, but also that once the vow is made, it is a mitzvah – we are commanded to scrupulously honor the vow: "If a man vow a vow to Hashem, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; HE SHALL NOT PROFANE HIS WORD, HE SHALL DO ACCORDING TO ALL THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF HIS MOUTH." (Bamidbar 30:3)

Worldly pleasures can bring us closer to Hashem. However, the Ishbitzer Rebbe explains, that there are times when an individual feels that he/she absolutely must take on a particular practice of abstinance for the sake of gaining self control, or self improvement and coming closer to Hashem. {It is advisable to discuss these things beforehand with a good and trusted friend.} The sanctity of the vow can provide you with the strength to overcome a bad habit [but be very careful]. In such circumstances, even a vow of abstention becomes a mitzvah.

The mitzvah [laws] of vows teaches us that Hashem trusts us to make [some] personal decisions about our spiritual paths. By giving us the mitzvah of vows, Hashem is so to speak providing us with a blank mitzvah card, which we personally fill in. It should be noted that such vows may not contradict any of the Torah's mitzvot. For example a vow to eat a forbidden food, has no validity.

Vows may also be nullified, though this may not be done too easily; after all, the vow was made for the sake of coming closer to Hashem! However, if and when the individual finds that he no longer needs the vow because he has already 'changed' or because his life circumstances have changed, the vow may be nullified by a 'beit din' [a court] of three people, or by one big scholar.

The Ma'or v'Shemesh points out that in this parsha we also learn of the great power and importance of speech. It is by speech that vows are made and it is by the speech of the 'chacham' or by the beit din – a court of three, that vows are annulled. This further underlines the great importance of being extra careful not to speak any 'lashon hara' at any time and especially now during the 'three weeks' of mourning over the destruction of our holy Beit Hamikdash. May it be rebuilt quickly in our days.

To Appreciate The Giver and the Gift of Eretz Yisrael

Our son Netzach started to go to nursery school when he was about four or five years old. Judy would always send him off with a 'healthy' lunch which meant that his sandwiches were usually prepared on dark whole wheat bread. It would happen sometimes that Netzach would come home crying because his friends would make fun of his whole wheat bread that was so different from their white bread. I would sit with Netzach and try to comfort him, explaining that not everyone understood the importance of health food as his mother did and that it was only because she loved him so much and cared about his health that she gave him only the best foods. And even if his food looks different and other children would make fun of it, he needn't get upset over that.

Netzach stopped crying, looked at me and said, "Tatty, I'm not crying because they made fun of my sandwhich, I'm crying because they made fun of something that my mother did for me." I'll never forget that moment of enlightenment. I was stunned by the depth of his words.

After completing our forty years of journeying through the wilderness we finally were at the doorstep of the Promised Land. At this point we received some very specific and pointed instructions about how we were to enter and conquer the land, how we were to deal with the Cannanites who had been living there and how we were to divide the land among the tribes. The paradoxical instruction to divide the land proportionate to the size of each tribe and at the same time to divide it by lottery was already stated last week in Parshat Pinchas and is repeated again in this week's parsha: Bamidabar 26:52: Ad-noy spoke to Moshe saying. 26:53: "The land shall be apportioned among these, as an inheritance according to the number of names. 26:54: To the large [tribe], increase their inheritance, and to the small, diminish their inheritance; each person, according to his number, shall be given his inheritance. 26:55: Only by lot should the land be divided, according to the names of their fathers' tribes should they inherit it. 26:56: By word of the lottery should their inheritance be divided, with regard to whether they are many or few." …. Bamidbar 33:54 : You shall give the land as an inheritance to your families by means of a lottery; to the large [family] you shall increase its portion, to the small [family] you shall decrease its portion. To whomever the lottery [system] ordains, it shall be his; according to your paternal tribes shall you inherit.

Rashi on 26:54 brings us an amazing teaching from the Talmud: Verse 54: To the large [tribe], increase their inheritance. To the tribe with the greater populace, they gave a larger portion.

Although the portions were unequal, as everything was assigned according to the size of the tribe, they implemented the apportioning solely by lots, and the lottery was inspired by the Sacred Spirit, as stated explicitly in Bava Basra. Elozor the kohein was clothed in the Urim veTumim, and said, with the Sacred Spirit, "