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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Parshat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter    Print Version

Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim
10th of Iyar, 5777 | May 6, 2017

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Benzion Twerski
Spiritualizing the Physical

קדשים תהיו כי קדוש אני

You shall be holy for I am Holy (Vayikra 19:2)

Imagine the following scene.

You walk into a Jewish home on a busy Friday afternoon and notice all the Shabbos preparations underway. You see the house being cleaned, the potatoes being sliced and Challah being braided as you inhale the myriad of aromas wafting through the air. And then you wonder and ask a series of questions, “Is this what Shabbos, a day of sanctity and spirituality, is about? What is this obsession we Jews have with taking the physical world and involving it with G-d? Doesn’t G-d operate in the spiritual realm? Why not leave Hashem out of the kitchen?”

That’s a good question. But there’s a good answer.

If we would only revisit a few lines we read on the night of Pesach, this question will sound quite similar: “What does the wicked son say? ‘What is this work to you?’ By excluding himself from the community of believers, he denies the basic principle of Judaism.” Just exactly what principle of faith does the wicked son deny?

Rav Yisrael of Kozhnitz, known as the Kozhnitzer Maggid, explains that the rasha denies the realm of man’s service to Hashem in a physical world. The rasha does not outright reject G-d; he only has difficulty incorporating G-dliness into the kitchen, the business office, recreational activities and all other areas of life that do not seem to be of “spiritual nature.”

It is on this account, says the Kozhnitzer Maggid, that we respond by blunting the wicked son’s teeth, as the Haggadah continues to tell us. If he does not believe in elevating the physical world in the service of G-d, he might as well not have teeth with which to chew his food. Our physical bodies are meant to serve Hashem, and if such a premise is rejected, what purpose do his teeth have?

The fundamental principal rejected by the rasha is, “In all your ways know Hashem,” a verse which the Shulchan Aruch deems to be, “A small section upon which the entire Torah is dependent.” Every aspect of our lives is to be infused with spirituality and used in service of our Creator. As the Kotzker Rebbe put it, “Hashem is looking for physically holy people to serve Him; He already has plenty of angels.”

As we prepare for Shabbos and certainly a holiday and so much of what our time is dedicated to seems to be the material world and removed from G-dliness, we must realize that it is exactly the opposite. That which Hashem desires from us is to take the physical world and declare His mastery over it. And indeed, what leads much of the world into an abyss, Klal Yisrael sanctifies and elevates. We utilize it to serve Hashem and create a dwelling place for Him in every crevice and corner of our life.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Behind the Scenes

דבר אל כל עדת בני ישראל

And speak to the entire assembly of the Children of Israel… (Vayikra 2:19)

Allow me to take you behind the scenes of some of the work done at Ohr Naava.

It was just two weeks before Ohr Naava’s 11th Shabbos of Inspiration that the staff at Ohr Naava approached me with a major concern. “Rabbi, there are only two weeks left, and we have only 32 out of 250 rooms booked.” From both a logistical and financial point of view, it only made sense to entirely cancel the Shabbaton. But I had other plans.

The next morning, I entered the Ohr Naava offices, only to be encouraged once again to call off the Shabbaton. “In the contract, we agreed to booking 250 rooms, but we reserve the right to use only 225 of them and be reimbursed for the others,” one of the staff members said. “Do you want us to call the hotel to arrange that?” “Call the hotel and see how many more rooms they have available in addition to 250,” I replied. Unsure how that made any sense whatsoever, the staff had nothing to say. “Just ask them,” I said.

A short while later, the staff rejoined. “They have ten more rooms available.” “Book them,” I said. With no idea how they would ever pull off filling the now 260 rooms when only 32 were currently reserved, I went on to explain.

“Every morning after davening, while wearing my Rabbeinu Tam tefillin, I learn a Mishnah from Pirkei Avos. And guess what I learned today? The Mishnah said, ‘Any gathering which is made for the Sake of Heaven will be successful; and any gathering which is not made for the Sake of Heaven will not be successful’ (Avos 4:14). If we make this Shabbaton with the right intentions, we will have all those rooms full.”

And indeed, for the 48 hours between February 3rd to 5th, 798 men, women and children filled the Parsipanny Hotel in New Jersey. Not only was every room in the hotel booked, but the phone kept ringing with requests from dozens of people asking if they could stay in other nearby hotels and simply drop in to hear the fantastic lectures. It is not coincidental that the theme of the Shabbaton was “Dare to Dream,” and that is exactly what happened here. We dreamed big and the dividends it paid were tremendous.

On various occasions during different Shabbatons, people have come to me and asked, “Why so lavish? Why do you make these Shabbatons at such beautiful hotels with stunning rooms and delicious food?” And I remind myself of what my Rebbe, Rabban Gamliel Rabinowitz, said, “Always treat Hashem’s daughters like your own.” When the girls come out of this, they say, “Wow! I never had such a bed, such a hotel and such food!” And I know that Hashem is smiling.

At a Shabbaton a few years ago, a girl approached me and said, “Rabbi Wallerstein, something is wrong. I left my room in the morning to go to shul and my bed wasn’t made. When I later returned, though, my bed was made. But I don’t know who made it?” Staring back at her with a smile, I said, “It is a hotel. There is a maid.” “What?” she said. To my surprise, she had never been in a hotel before. “In a hotel,” I explained, “they make your bed.” “That’s amazing!” she said.

That is why we make the Shabbaton like we do.

Every person is asked three questions when they come to the Next World, yet a Rebbe or anyone in chinuch has one other question: did you treat My children like they were yours? I am asked every question I can imagine. Whether it is questions relation to raising children or shalom bayis or anything else. How though can I make such a big and important decision for somebody? It is a life decision. Yet I look at that girl who asked me that question, who is crying or who is depressed and I say, “That’s my daughter Malkey. What would I answer my daughter?” And I know what I would answer my daughter regarding any question she would ask me. And therefore, that is the answer I give that girl. And if that girl is in pain, then it is my daughter Malkey who is in pain. That is all Hashem wants from the people in chinuch. Treat My children like your own.

When I started Ohr Naava, some girls said they would like to have a basketball league on Motzei Shabbos. But I didn’t have a gym. Some girls said they would love to go swimming and have a library, but I didn’t have the financial means to afford any of that. ‘We come from college,’ they said, ‘and if we could do our homework at Ohr Naava, we could come earlier and be there longer.’ There are also many girls who through Ohr Naava have become religious, but otherwise cannot return to a home where there is kosher food. And they don’t have a place to stay for Shabbos either.

The girls therefore said to me, ‘If you could give us a dorm, we would have somewhere to stay, and we could enjoy a real Shabbos. We could belong to a shul and to a community.’ The only way I could do that, though, would be through building dormitories for them. All of a sudden, this little idea of a program for eighteen girls and a budget of $20,000 was now 2,500 girls with a budget of $700,000. But now to have a building with a library, pool, gym and all the rooms, it would cost 5 to 7 million dollars.

People told me, “You are a dreamer; you cannot do this!”
But I told them, “I am not doing this. Hashem is doing this. It is His daughters. And I am sure He wants them to have a gym, and He wants them to have a pool and a library. I am therefore confident that when there is a need to provide for them, Hashem will grant people the siyata dishmaya to understand the need and open up their hearts.”

I was thinking that the dream of Ohr Naava is sort of like Sarah Schenirer’s dream. Her dream was that every city in which Jews live should have a Bais Yaakov. Our dream at Ohr Naava is that every city in which Jews live in should have a night program for girls. I can just imagine if many years ago Sarah Schenirer would have knocked on someone’s door and asked for financial help and they would have known what would happen from her dream. Everybody would be running after her to support her.

Or take Daf Yomi. What if we would have known what would happen from Daf Yomi? If Rav Meir Shapiro would have said, “To get the Daf Yomi started, I need a couple of dollars,” the whole world would have jumped at the opportunity. But no one dreamed his dream.

Throughout life, we need to become people who have this same outlook and understand that with just one little dream, the greatest aspirations can become reality. And that dream begins today.

Mrs. Esther Wein
The Great Conundrum

In today’s day and age, one of the greatest conundrums is the area of relationships. Affecting every part of society, the knowledge of how to create and maintain a meaningful relationship with Hashem, with others and ultimately with ourselves is lacking. But we are not alone on this journey. The Torah itself lends deep insight into the world of relationships. And at the heart of it all, there is one cosmic story which clues us into all that we must know: Kayin and Hevel.

It all began with the primordial sin of Adam HaRishon eating from the Eitz Ha’Daas. As the Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim 1:2) explains, it was this sin that allowed Man to explore and become enamored with the idea of subjectivity. From then on, a historical pattern was set into motion. Man begins to look at the world through his own prism. Anything beyond oneself is understood to be nothing more than a means for self-expression and establishing his own limited and finite goals.

This skewed perspective, however, does not end here. It extends to affect other individuals with whom we interact. If the other people in our lives do not help us achieve what we have decided are our needs, they become a threat. Since they are not helping to promote our ambitions or play an instrumental role in our own self-advancement, they do nothing more than stand in our way.

It was this perception of the world which typified Kayin. To Kayin, his brother was Hevel, nothingness. He was devalued completely. Kayin did not see or hear Hevel for he did not value any reason for his existence outside of himself. Kayin’s relationship with Hashem as well suffered. He was self-absorbed and thus disconnected from G-d as evidenced from his offering Hashem the worst of his produce. It was his self-interests which mattered, and no one or nothing else.

In figurative terms, the Midrash states that Kayin was the offspring of the Snake and Chavah. A product of the passion and determination to live with subjectivity, Kayin spiraled downwards into a narcissistic abyss where he could only see himself. Everyone else became valueless, and if not a tool, a threat. All that awaited was going one step further and completely eradicating the other out of the picture. And indeed, Kayin killed Hevel. “Ayei Hevel Achicha?” Where now was Hevel? Kayin does not know. “Ha’Shomer Achi Anochi?” “Am I my brother’s keeper?” That is the absolute truth. The individual who only looks after his own interests does not know that anyone else exists and knows where no one else is.

But Man’s understanding of himself and his relationship to Hashem and the world at large eventually underwent a paradigm shift. The time arrived when the venom of the Snake which was injected into Man upon eating from the Etz Ha’Daas was expelled (Shabbos 146a). Humanity repulsed egocentricity and accepted itself as part of something much larger and greater than its lone self. It was on that seminal day of the sixth of Sivan that Hashem openly introduced Himself and informed us that we were His distinguished and beloved people. It was at that point that we reached the apex of understanding who we were with respect to ourselves, to others and to G-d.

The underpinnings of this multilateral relationship we share with Hashem, others and ourselves is quite simple, yet profoundly misunderstood in our day. For one, let us delve into the makeup of the human being as he relates to his Creator.

The human being was created as a separate entity from G-d. He feels and experiences freedom as an independent creature. Hashem does not interfere in his life on a moment to moment basis, and that is because he is granted total jurisdiction over his own choices. Man is a distinct individual who can create and implement, plan and decide. Yet what is he here to create? And upon what does he leave his imprint?

It is to this end that our subjective creativity plays a positive role. Although we are meant to keep our subjectivity in balance, as evidenced from the precipitous fall experienced upon eating from the Eitz Ha’Daas, that does not suggest that we required to suppress it altogether. Quite to the contrary, Hashem has granted us tremendous creative freedom with which we are meant to leave our individualized mark on the world.

Utilizing our unique, subjective free will, we are invested the independent power to invent, create and contribute to society. Yet that mark we generate is aimed at achieving something much more meaningful than personal aggrandizement and glory. It is there to serve the highest purpose for which Man was created. We are enjoined to curb our creative abilities to better enable humanity to connect to Hashem. The way we speak, relate to others, lead our lives and influence others are to be geared towards fostering a greater awareness of G-d’s existence in the world.

A Short Message From
Mr. Charlie Harary

One of the big mistakes we often make is assuming that inspiration is the moment when we grow. The truth, though, is that inspiration is the time in which we see matters clearly. They are moments in life when we see who we can become and what we are capable of. And then we say to ourselves, “I know I can do this.” True growth, however, takes place in the darkness, in the rain, on a Tuesday afternoon when no one is looking. It occurs when you walk by and see a cup on the floor, and then you bend down to pick it up and nobody says thank you. It is then, when you are least in the mood and far away from any thought of changing and improving, that the opportunity for reaching that much closer to true greatness awaits.

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