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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Kedoshim

Parshat Kedoshim

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik


"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Kedoshim Edition                                                                              Print Version
6 Iyar, 5782 | May 7, 2022

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
The Big Principle

In this week’s Parsha, we learn about the mitzvah of “V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha,” to love your fellow as much as you love yourself. Now, what happens if you hate yourself? If the Torah tells us to love someone else as we love ourselves; if you hate yourself, does that mean you should hate your friend? The Torah appears to be saying that whatever relationship you have with yourself, you should have with someone else. It would seem to imply therefore that if you are depressed and feel bad about yourself, you’d have those same feelings about others.

Moreover, R’ Akiva tells us that this is the Klal Gadol ba’Torah, the big principle in the Torah. Is it more important than Shabbos, dressing modestly, or honoring your parents?

Rav Elimelech Biderman makes the following observation. Why doesn’t the Pasuk says, “V’ahavta l’chavercha kamocha,” using the term chaver to refer to your friend. Why does the Torah use the word “rei’acha,” a less commonly used word? The root of the word rei’acha, friend, is ra, bad. The Pasuk is therefore saying that you should love the person who is bad to you. Why is this so? Because, as the Pasuk concludes, “Ki ani Hashem,” for I am Hashem. You shouldn’t get angry at someone else, because Hashem is behind it. The person is the vehicle to cause harm to you. But, ultimately, it’s coming from Hashem. Therefore, you should love the bad, because Hashem did it, and ultimately, there is also some hidden goodness to be found in it.

A second lesson from this Pasuk is when it is interpreted to mean that “Your best friend is you.” You should love the friend … and who is this friend? Like yourself. The challenge of our generation is that we don’t spend time with ourselves. We spend time on other endeavors, but we don’t spend enough time with ourselves. There is no one in the world who knows you better than you know yourself. You may not want to know yourself, but no matter who is talking to you, they can’t know you better. Your best human friend in this world is you. There is no one in this world that can hurt you more than yourself, and there is no one that is better for you than yourself. The problem is that most of us don’t have the time and desire to get to know ourselves. We therefore know ourselves only as a reflection of what we are to others. 

Think about it in light of taking selfies. A person takes a picture of themselves. But you are taking a picture of yourself instead of looking into the mirror. Why do we do this? It’s a way that we don’t have to truly face who we are.

Someone once told me, “Rabbi Wallerstein, if I sit with myself and look at all the bad things that I do, I’m going to get even more depressed. You want me to go over everything bad I did that day before I go to sleep?” “Yeah,” I said. “You are not supposed to become depressed from it; you are supposed to grow from it.” If you know you are trying not to lose your temper and you do, then instead of avoiding the issue, sit down with yourself and ask, “Why did I lose my temper? What did they say that triggered me? She said something about my mother … Where did that come from?” If you would spend a few minutes a day thinking about yourself, instead of getting depressed, you would become focused on not doing it again. People make the same mistake again and again because they don’t think why they erred the first time. It’s not about beating yourself up, but thinking about why you did what you did. Why am I jealous of her? Is it because she is married and I’m not? If that’s what Hashem wants, she has her own plans and I have my own plans. When you start thinking this way and meditating on it, you can arrive at a conclusion.

Jewish contemplation is thinking about your life. Who did I help today? Who did I make smile today? How many phone calls did I not return? If I did not do what I could, the next day, I will be a little bit more sensitive. That is the meditation we are talking about. Your best friend is you. And your worst enemy, G-d forbid, is you also.

Someone once put me down, and included in what he said was that, “He’s just a great ballplayer.” I wasn’t upset, because when I heard that, I was happy to hear that I was a great ballplayer. I walked away thinking to myself, “Do you try to help people? Do you try to learn Torah and walk in the ways of Hashem? Do you try to give people chizuk?" Yes. So why do I mind what someone else says about me. If someone calls you names, but every night, you sit with yourself and you are growing, you are not going to let in the hurt.

In light of the above, V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha means that “You can love the bad – the root of the word rei’acha – when you have kamocha,” when you have a strong sense of self. If someone then says something to you, it won’t affect you, because you know who you are. Every night you sit with yourself and look at who you are. You know your strengths, and the way other people see you doesn’t impact you negatively.

I once had a big pimple on my nose and every time someone would speak to me, I used to think, “Why are they looking at the pimple on my nose?” Now, if you would ask the people who spoke to me, “Do you see that pimple on Rabbi Wallerstein’s nose?” they would say, “What are you talking about?” But to me, because I knew I had a pimple, I thought everyone was looking at it. When you have something inside of you that you are not good with and didn’t straighten out with yourself, then every time someone talks to you or looks at you, you’ll think that they don’t like you. But it’s not that they don’t like you; it’s you who doesn’t like you. If you would like yourself, you would find that more people like you than not.

When the Spies came back from scouting out the Land of Israel, they said that there are giants throughout the land. And then they said, “We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.” How did the Jews know that all because they viewed themselves as grasshoppers, the giants viewed them the same way? The commentaries explain that the Jews were projecting perceptions onto the giants based on how they viewed themselves. If you walk into a room and you are not tall, but feel like a giant and carry yourself that way, that is how you will come across. It comes down to how you see yourself. How do you view yourself in your own eyes?

If you feel great, you will become great. If you feel small, you will become small. If you think you can change the world, you will change the world. If you don’t think you can change the world, then no matter what talents Hashem gave you, you won’t change it.

V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha. The most important element in a relationship is yourself. If you don’t like yourself, you are going to walk home and say that no one likes you. A person’s perception of themselves can be askew and yet they believe it to be true. When Boaz called Rus, “My daughter,” Rus said that she promised not to be like the other women around. Because Boaz believed that Rus was great, she wanted to prove him right. And look who she became. It wouldn’t seem at all that Rus was in position to become anything great, given her background. But Boaz believed she was great and that’s how she became.

The same is true of a parent. If you tell your child that they will become great, they will. If the message they get is that they won’t, they will have a very hard time. This is why V’ahavta l’reiacha kamocha is a klal gadol ba’Torah, such a big principle in Torah. If you love yourself and have a sense of self, then you can spend time with yourself and look at the negative in yourself, at the ra. But that requires a healthy and accurate perspective about who you are.

There is nothing bigger and more important than this.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Close to Hashem

Imagine you go outside and tell a child to put his hand up and block the sun. He does so, and you tell him, “Wow, your hand is bigger than the sun.” The child looks back at you and says, “Wow, you’re right, my hand is bigger than the sun.” But you know this can’t be true. The sun is disproportionately bigger than your hand by an unbelievable amount. How then was the boy able to cover the sun?

The further away you go from something, the bigger your hand appears against the object. When you are so far away, the sun becomes a small thing in the sky and your hand can cover it. But as you get closer to the sun, you become smaller.

Moshe Rabbeinu is called the humblest man who ever walked the face of the earth. How can this be? What if I want to be humbler than Moshe? Is the Torah saying that it’s impossible for me to do so?

The answer is that Moshe Rabbeinu is the person who became closest to Hashem more than anyone ever has. He spoke to Hashem “face to face.” He was in Heaven for forty days. Therefore, he felt smaller than any person. He was so close to Hashem that he realized that he is so minute. Someone who is close to Hashem becomes humble, because he recognizes his stature compared to the greatness of Hashem.

This is also how people can stand up for a Rav and the Rav doesn’t grow arrogant. When people stand up for a respected Jewish person, they are not doing it for me, the person says. They are standing up for the Torah I know and the Torah I am teaching. They are honoring Hashem. It therefore doesn’t make them arrogant.

A person can be humble while at the same time knowing they are great.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Talk to Him

A girl once came to me and said that she no longer feels anything when she davens. “How do you get that back?” she asked. I asked her in turn, “What do you do before davening?” “Nothing,” she said. “What do you do after davening?” I asked further. “Nothing, she said again. “In the old days,” I went on to say, “they used to prepare an hour before davening and wait an hour after davening until they resumed their day.” I then went on to explain in more detail.

If you don’t have a relationship with your husband or wife, you’ll go to the store and buy a Hallmark card for your anniversary and give it to them. But you won’t sign it or even write your spouse's name on the card. But that’s not a relationship.

In Shemonah Esrei, at the very end, it is customary to recite Pesukim which begin with the letters of your name. Why do we do this? The general understanding is that after one-hundred-and-twenty years, when we come up to Heaven, Hashem will ask us our name and we’ll respond with the verses that begin our name. I have another angle to add to this.

Shemonah Esrei is like a card we give Hashem. But a card has no meaning if you don’t sign it. After everything we say to Hashem, we need to sign it, and that is why we recite Pesukim which reflect our name. Just like if you don’t sign your name on a card you give your spouse, it’s lacking something very important, the same is true when we recite Shemonah Esrei before Hashem.

Now, before davening, people used to think about Hashem in order to deepen their relationship with Hashem. “So,” I told this girl, “go home tonight and sit on the edge of your bed and talk to Hashem as if he was your father asking you to tell him all your pain, your happiness and your dreams. Tell Him how you’re doing. Whatever you would tell your father is what you need to tell Hashem. Tell your father, if it’s true, ‘I am having the most miserable life and I don’t understand why You’re not helping me get a job and get married. You are my father.’ If that’s how you feel, then that’s what you need to tell Hashem.”

Develop a real relationship with Hashem by talking directly to Him.

Rabbi Zecharia Wallerstein
Because I am

The very beginning of Parshas Kedoshim starts by saying, “You should be holy because I, Hashem, am holy.” It’s interesting that the Torah phrases the Pasuk this way, because why would the fact that Hashem is holy be a reason for us to be holy. Hashem is G-d; we are human. How can G-d as us to be like Him?

The answer reflects the most important aspect when it comes to bringing up children. Hashem is telling us, “I can’t tell you to be holy if I don’t set an example.” Children don’t do what they are told; they do what they see. Even G-d can’t ask us to do something that He doesn’t do Himself.

“Right now, you can’t have a smartphone,” a parent tells a child. “When you get to be my age, you can have one.” People come up to me and say, “I caught my daughter and found out that she has a phone; she did it behind my back, Rabbi. I don’t know what to do!” “Can I see your phone?” I ask. “This is my phone,” they say, holding up a smartphone. “I’m an adult,” they say, “and I need it for work.” “Your child is not doing what you tell them, they are doing what you show them,” I respond.

A child thinks to themselves, “Mommy, Daddy is smart. They are adults and are intelligent. They know the dangers, and yet they still use it. If that’s the case, why should it bother me?”

Hashem therefore says, “I can’t ask you to do something without Me being that way.”

It’s a great lesson and guidepost for great relationships with our children.

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