by Reb Gutman Locks at Mystical Paths
-Perhaps the most misunderstood
teaching in the entire Torah. How are we to deal with this huge yoke?
by Reb Akiva @ Mystical Paths
The gazelle leapt in front of my speeding car, almost joining me in the front seats. It sped off shaken, surprised by our almost intimate encounter. So did I.
Life in the Land of Israel, the holy land, G-d’s gift to the Jews, has it’s surprising moment. Gazelle on the road is definitely one of them.
There is a major problem going on again in Israel over the forced draft of religious youth into the IDF (Israel Defense Forces). The Haredim, the "ultra- religious" Jews who are known to reject modern secular culture are resisting, often violently, and the State is defending, often violently, against their resistance. Who is right? Or better yet, what can be done to solve this problem?
Both sides have legitimate complaints; the State says that all citizens are obligated to share in the responsibility of defending our Nation, and the Haredim say service in the army is like throwing their youth into a pit of secular, irreligious futures.
My opinion: both are right. All of us have to share in the burden of defending ourselves from the aggressive, violently anti-Jewish surrounding countries, and the Haredim are right too. The IDF today mixes young men and women, throwing them together into "free" immodest situations that encourage premarital sex, wild weekend partying, spending their days without Torah, wasting almost all of their time, causing them to leave their parents' traditions. These religious parents correctly demand the right to raise their children in sane, religious environments.
The IDF is not going to change the Haredim, and the Haredim are not going to change the army. What can be done?
I suggest that the youth who are subject to the State's military conscription law be organized into units that serve their required time in National Service in such activities as educating other Jews in Torah studies, or learning and applying such skills as emergency medicine, and emergency protection of their communities, any skills or practices that would improve the living standard of the poor in their communities. This could be done without removing the religious youth from their religious environments, and it will also satisfy the State's requirement of everyone sharing into the burden of self-defense… a simple, peaceful win/win solution. Hashem, let it be.
Two angry viewers wrote;
"Get out of Isreal. How dare you say that the most high gave that land to the jews. He gave it to Isreal not to you Jews. You are surely not from the line of Ham. Blacks are the true Isreal."
(I censored out the many lines of violent hate speech)
Gutman's reply: (Not that I think anything I could write would ever change their hatred… this reply is for others to see how wrong these people are.)
Why invent things to fit your desires? The facts have been written for thousands of years. Accept the facts and move on.
Avraham, his wife Sarah, and their son Isaac were called Hebrews from the word Ivrit.[i] As for Avraham's other children; Ishmael was the son of Hagar. Hagar was an Egyptian maidservant of Sarah, so Ishmael was also an Egyptian servant of Sarah. Avraham's other children whom he fathered with Keturah, the wife he took after Sarah passed away, were sent away from Isaac to the land of the East[ii] so they would not come to claim the land that Hashem promised to Avraham and Isaac and their descendants forever.
Yaacov had 12 sons and each son became the leader of one of the 12 tribes of Israel. Many years later when the children of Israel were exiled from our Land and many of the tribes were lost, all of the children of Israel became known by the name of the tribe of Yehuda. This is where the name Jew comes from. The first recorded record of an Israeli being called a Jew is found in the Bible in the book of Esther; Mordecai the Yehudi.[v] This book was written in about the year 450 BCE. So this is a record of Israelis being called Jews from at least 2,500 years ago. The promise to give this Land to Avraham was given some 3,600 years ago and the Torah records this promise some 3,300 years ago.
This is clear proof that Israelis and Jews are two names of the same people. As for the attempt to discredit today's Ashkenazi Jews see this short video.
As I said above, there is nothing that will change the minds of people who come from a place of hatred. They will always invent another false charge trying to gain support for their hatred. The facts are clear. Today's Jews are the descendants of Avraham, Isaac, and Yaacov, and it is to us that Hashem has promised and has given this wonderful Land.
Soon, the Redemption will come and all of these people who have been filled with hatred of Jews will deny that they ever hated us, and will try to gain the reward of those righteous people who have always supported Israel.
I was putting tefillin on an Israeli who stunk from cigarette smoke. I held back and didn't say anything because I didn't want to get him angry before he did the mitzvah. He may have left without doing it. I sent him to the Kotel to "talk to G-d" and then I put tefillin on his friend and sent him to the Kotel, too. When he returned I quickly thought of what might be the best way to get him to listen to me about smoking.
"Did you hear what G-d told you?"
"No, I didn't hear anything."
"He said that you should stop smoking!"
He looked at me with shock, even awe. I took the tefillin off him and his friend and a few minutes later the friend came back. He leaned over and kind of whispered, "Can you tell me what G-d said to me?"
"If you want G-d to talk to you, you have to do a mitzvah and then listen."
He ran over to the tefillin stand charity box, put a coin in and ran back to me, "Okay, what did He say?"
"Oh boy, I blew it," I thought, "Now this guy thinks that Hashem tells me what He says to them. I looked at him and saw that he was a tough guy so I told him one of my favorite Rebbe sayings adjusted for what I thought would help him.
"When you deal with people, especially your wife it is better to be kind than to be right."
He stopped and looked deeply inside himself and walked away.
"Okay", I thought, "the end of it, right?" But then a third guy came running over to me and asked, "Do you study Kabballah?"
"No, I'm just a Baal Teshuva."
He wouldn't listen. "Tell me what did G-d say to me?"
I told him, "Every time you do a mitzvah talk to G-d. Tell Him all that you want and need and pray for others, too."
Hopefully that's the end of that one. Next time I'll tell the guy to quit smoking in a different way.
Why the key in the challah? So many people misunderstand this custom and therefore think that it is foolishness. The fact is, as always, the custom makes a lot of sense when we understand its meaning.
We are told that on the first Shabbos after Pesach placing a key in, or on the challah, or forming the challah into the shape of a key is a segula for parnassa, a remedy for our livelihood.
The custom is to remind us the reason we have two challahs (loaves of bread) on Shabbos. It is to remember the Manna in the wilderness.
When we went out of Egyptian slavery, out into the wilderness there was no visible sustenance. Then Hashem provided for us miraculously by providing the Manna lying on the ground right in front of us. But one of the biggest lessons of Egyptian slavery was/is that if we take more than we need the extra will rot. So how then could we provide for the family's needs on Shabbos when we were not allowed to go out and pick up the manna? The manna that we picked on Friday would miraculously double and provide us with our needs for Shabbos. This is the reason for the two loaves on Shabbos all year long, to remind us of the double portion that Hashem miraculously provided for us in the desert.
The key to our successful livelihood is in remembering to go out into the world to make a living as the tribe of Levi did in Egypt. They went there with Torah and Mitzvahs and not with the greed that comes from just focusing on money. This is an ongoing lesson. If we go out into the world to make money and the money is our sole purpose we are going to become enslaved just as we were in Egypt. But if we go out into the world to that same job, to earn that same money in order to use that money for a life of Torah and mitzvahs, that same work will become holy work.
This is why remembering the reason we have two challahs on Shabbos is the key to a successful livelihood.
Have a nice Shabbos.
I asked the younger boy who the man standing next to him was.
"That's my father."
I told the father to put his right hand his son's head and to repeat the blessing. Then I had him say out loud what he wanted G-d to give the boy. When he finished I asked the father who the other boy was,
"They're twins. He is 15 minutes older than his brother."
You surely couldn't tell it by looking at them. I had him bless the "older" boy too. Then I asked who the other man was.
"That's my father." I had the grandfather bless his son and say out loud what he wanted G-d to give his son.
Having them bless their children is a wonderful thing. It is not only a mitzvah but it opens their hearts and has them feel love for their children at the Kotel. It can get quite emotional at times.
Then I tried to get the older man to put on tefillin but he refused,
"No, I haven't put them on for 70 years and I am not going to do it now either!"
"Yes you are. It's a mitzvah! Come on I'll help you."
I pulled him but he wouldn't budge. Then his son jumped in and tried to defend his father.
I yelled at him, "How can you try to stop your father from doing a mitzvah!"
Then I asked the grandfather where he was when he last put on tefillin.
"Shanghai. I was born in Austria and we fled to Shanghai. I had my bar mitzvah in Shanghai and I put on tefillin for a while but then I told my Grandmother that I would never put on tefillin again and I haven't."
"It's a mitzvah and you are at the Kotel with your family. You have to show your grandchildren the right thing to do." I pulled his arm, rolled up his sleeve and had him repeat the blessing.
He remembered some of the blessing from somewhere. Then I put tefillin on the boys and their father and had them all read the Shema.
Their wives and daughters were standing behind the low wall by the entrance. They told their tour guide to put prayer shawls on them. I could see them smiling, and their cameras flashing. They loved it.
I explained how doing a mitzvah anywhere in the world opens the door to Heaven, this means that a spiritual opportunity comes, and all the more so does it open when you do a mitzvah at the Kotel.
"Close your eyes and picture everyone you love one at a time with light on their faces and smiling, and ask G-d to bless them. Then thank Him for all the good that He has given you… ask Him to protect the Jews in danger…. Take a couple of minutes and talk to G-d in your heart"
That's what they were doing when I took the picture.
When they were finished we took more pictures and the old man didn't want to take the tefillin off. He walked around, waved at the girls; he was having a great time.
When they were leaving I said, "You did great."
The Grandfather yelled back, "You did great," and they walked away with warm memories and great pictures of their visit to the Kotel.
Maybe I will never see them again, but they certainly are in the family photo album now.
There is a nice guy who likes to help out at the tefillin stand from time to time. Last week he asked me, "What do you say to them when they say that they do not want to put on tefillin?"
"Tell them that maybe they don't want to put them on, but their soul wants to put them on."
A half an hour later he came running up to me, "See that big Israeli guy over there…he told me that he didn't want to put on tefillin so I told him that maybe he didn't want to put them on but his soul wanted to put them on, and he said 'okay'! It worked!"
A Jew has an animal soul, an intellectual soul, and a holy soul. The holy soul always wants to do holy things but if the animal soul doesn't agree, or if the intellectual soul gets lazy, the holy soul will not get its way. Sometimes reminding a Jew that he has a holy soul will wake up his intellectual soul, and then with both the holy soul and the intellectual soul pulling for it, the animal almost always gives in.
Pushing the animal doesn't work. You can't be tough with the Jews you are trying to help or they will push back even harder. You can't push them, but you can pull them. Pull them with kindness, intellect, and holiness.
There is a song that has no words
No words that sing out loud
But no notes
In fact, it is so still
It seems silent
But when you see it with your eyes
It is startling
It makes you try to look for more
In this silence you begin to see the song
A single note that does not move
In all directions
Increasing so fast
You cannot hold it
None of it at all
To see this sound
Look between the light and its shadows
A thunder of silence
Like the cracking of dawn
Lightning quickly sending out glory
A royal garment
Announcing the King's Presence…
Light that says, look higher
In this silence we begin to see
Yes indeed, the King is really here.
What is the nature of life? What is its essence? What makes it drive so hard and then suddenly disappear? A tiny plant growing through a small crack in the stone, pushing up, looking for light and hopefully a few drops of rain water.
The life of a plant…the life of an animal…the life of a person… What is life?
There is a prayer we say after we quench our thirst. It ends with the words, "Blessed is the Life of all the worlds." Most of us live our lives believing that there is one world and many lives living in this one world. But no, this blessing tells that there are many worlds; for instance there is this world and the World to Come, and it also tells us that in all these worlds there is only one Life. Blessed is the one Life of all the worlds.
A Kosher and Happy Passover to all our Jewish readers! Especially to our soldiers, many of which are spending this Passover defending the Jews, the State of Israel and all her citizens. This Passover, after spending the week koshering a full army base for Passover, my older son is spending Passover on base making a seder for the soldiers. My younger son was released to join us for the seder, but will be heading right back afterwards to guard the many visitors to Hebron as they enjoy the intermediate days of Passover (Chol HaMoed).
The soldiers and their families sacrifice much to, with help from Above, keep us safe in Israel from the many who would slaughter us…just a short time before I wrote this a rocket was fired from the Sinai by ISIS, striking a tomato hothouse in southern Israel – fortunately, thank G-d, no one was hurt.
May everyone enjoy a kosher, safe, and happy Passover, and may we merit to meet in Jerusalem and bring the Korbon Pesach in the Beis HaMikdash THIS YEAR.
Although Passover is by far the most memorable and beloved holiday of the entire Jewish calendar it also brings the greatest number of details requirements and restrictions. Observing each of these elements is essential during this week of preparation and especially for the Seder itself. To list them all would (and does) fill an entire book.
There are the Torah commandments and there are the rabbinical commandments. There are also the customs that, surprisingly, vary tremendously between the Sephardim and Ashkenazim. There are the unique customs that have developed around the diaspora. For example, Indian Jews eat different foods on Passover than Temanni Jews, and some Jews will dip their matzah in their soup, while others would be aghast at such a move! Some will eat beans, and some would never do such a thing. There are strict requirements as to the minimum amounts of matzah, bitter herb and wine that must be consumed, and only within a specific period of time. And perhaps most important of all are the amazingly strict requirements not to have any leavening or related products in our possession for the entire week. Confusing this even more is that some authorities say certain foods are leavened while others swear that they are not.
On and on, the list of requirements that ensure a successful Seder can certainly seem overwhelming. It is no wonder that the favorite question a sharp student will ask his rebbe right before the Seder is, "What is the most important thing that I must watch out for?"
Last Pesach, right before leaving the Kotel to rush home for the Seder, a rabbi friend of mine asked me that very question. To his great surprise, I immediately answered, "Make sure that the children have a good time." He looked at me as if I might be joking; his face was all twisted up. He wanted to know some great Kabbalah about the four cups of wine, or maybe how to lean to the side when drinking them. Or maybe I could give him some great Chassidic teaching on how to do teshuva (repentance) while trying to gulp down that impossibly hot horseradish. AAGHHHH! But, no, I simply said, "Make sure that the children have a good time."
The next afternoon, he came up to me, smiling. He's a smart guy and he took my words to heart. He said, "It was the best Seder ever. The kids were great. Everyone was laughing. We all enjoyed ourselves tremendously. But tell me, how can you really say that keeping the kids happy was the most important thing to watch out for? After all, this is a very serious holiday."
I explained, "There is only one reason we have the Seder at all: to remember the Exodus from Egypt. And there is only one reason why we must remember the Exodus from Egypt: so we will remain Jews. If we forget our past, there will be no reason to go on as a people. There is only one way for us to remain Jews, and that is to raise Jewish families. Without the children coming back next year, there won't be any Jewish families. It's for the kids' sake that we go through all this each year and, God willing, we will get to do it for them again next year, too. And if they have a good enough time, then surely someday we will even get to do it for their kids."
Have a happy Pesach. It's essential.
Have a nice day.
Two life-changing Pesach teachings:
First; the entire story of going down into Egypt, becoming enslaved there, and coming out to freedom is an ongoing story. Yes, it is historically true…it did happen. But the most important thing about this story is not that it happened way back then, but that it is happening to us right now. This story is really talking about us in the world today.
When we go out into the world to make a living to feed our families, if we go out only for the money…, if the money is the goal, then we will become enslaved by our work. We will never have enough. We will always be working harder and harder trying to get more and more, working for things that we do not need nor even really want. Indeed, it is a bitter, never ending slavery.
But then, instead of thinking that the money is our salvation, if we look toward Hashem and follow His instructions… even going out into a wilderness where there does not seem to be any food or water we will find our livelihood laying on the ground before us… and all we have to do is to pick it up. But be careful, if you take more than you need it will rot!
And the second life-changing Pesach teaching; if you take simple flour and water and bake it you will get flat matzahs. They all look alike. Indeed a humble food. But if you add yeast that makes gas, then that same simple flour and water will rise up and become puffy, even proud of how it has been shaped into something big. So it is with life. All of us are really just simply flour and water. Our bodies come from dust and will return to dust. But, when we puff ourselves up with gas we seem to be something more than we really are.
To come out of Egyptian slavery, our self-imposed slavery to our material desires we have to get rid of that yeast, the gas, the huge egos. We have to become servants of the Holy One. Then, if we succeed in this we will be able to return to those same jobs earning those same dollars but working to do mitzvahs, to serve Hashem, and then we will not become enslaved by material desires.
Have a happy Pesach
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