By: Rabbi Yosef Shemtov
The last Mishna in the tractate of Yoma says:
“Rebbi Akiva said: ‘Fortunate are you, O Israel, before whom do you purify yourselves? Who purifies you? Your Father in heaven. As it is stated: I will sprinkle pure water upon you and you shall be cleaned, and it also says ‘the Mikveh of Israel is Hashem.’ Just as a Mikveh purifies the contaminated, so does the Holy One blessed is He, Who purifies Israel.”
It seems there are two different types of repentance and atonement . Mikveh is when one immerse himself completely inside the water. This refers to a person who repents for all his sins and immerse himself with Hashem. Sprinkling is when just some part of your body gets wet. You are not able to do full repentance, but you make acommitment to decrease your sins and increase your Misvot.
Both ways are considered Teshuva. Rebbi Akiva is teaching us: Try your best. Even if you can not do 100 percent Teshuva, don’t give up. Any step that brings you closer to the Almighty is a big step.
We pray on Yom Kippur that Hashem inscribe and seal us in the book of life. The merit of repentance and getting close to our Heavenly Father for sure will guarantee that.
Shabbat Shalom and Gemar Chatima Tova.
By: Rabbi Shlomo Zargari
Shalom, let’s start with a story. A man was taking a stroll next to the river bank, he suddenly notices a young boy crying for help. Without a moments hesitation, the man jumps into the dangerous river and struggles to save the boy and finally drags him to safety. Turns out that this is the prince. The king owed him a great debt of gratitude and commanded he should be allowed into the treasure for a full day to gather as much wealth as he wants for himself. The man walks out with bags and chests full of gold and diamond and pearl jewelry , antiques and artwork. Over night he became a very very wealthy man. He built himself a beautiful palace, conducted businesses, got accepted in the high society and married off his children to royalty. Every year he would make a party for his friends to celebrate his success. Once during the feast of celebration he asked the assembly :”when do you think was the happiest day of my life ?”. People started to guess : ” the day you built your magnificent mansion” “when your children were born” “when you got married”….he said that all those were memorable milestones, however, the happiest day was the day he spent in the basement of the kings palace. True it was very hard work, he didn’t eat all day and was carrying heavy things the entire day nonstop, but he knew that every moment counts and every package, heavy as could be is for him to keep, down to the last pearl necklace…..
The truth is, says Harav Yisrael Meir HaCohen better known as The Hafes Hayim(1839-1933) this should be our feeling when performing misvot. The problem is that we don’t realize and understand this. If we did we would enjoy every moment we are studying Torah, every misva would be another treasure for us, every minute of Torah would be sixty seconds of huge treasures….when Hashem will open our eyes and heart, we will then see”Hashem will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, to love Hashem, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live.” (Devarim 30,6). Then, we would appreciate just our story, how precious every moment was. These are the last moments of 5755, let’s make them count and with this we’ll have gained ourselves and the whole world much treasures.
Shabat Shalom and Shana Tova.
By: Rabbi Shlomo Zargari
Shalom! Our Sages taught us in the Talmud (Megila 31:A) that Ezra Hasofer instituted for us (approximately 2600 years ago) to recite before Rosh Hashana the portion in the Torah where we are given rebuke if we don’t keep to the commands of the Torah and go after our own desire.
This seems to be symbolic, as if to say :”Let the year end and together with it all the curses and troubles we had in the past year, and let us start the new year with a clean slate and full of Beracha.” A question however should be asked: If that is the case, why don’t we read it even closer to Rosh Hashana? We still have some time to go!
The answer to that lies in the understanding that this is not just a cute blessing we are giving ourselves. It’s to remind us and show us that it all depends on us. If when we read and understand what’s written in this Parasha and realize what the cause of it all was, if we pay attention to the fact that everything that happened to us nationally and individually over the past year was determined and judged and decreed starting last Rosh Hashana, and we regret and make decisions to change and come close to The Creator the way He wants, then we could bring that “Let the new year begin with its blessings.”
Our Sages knew this would not happen overnight. That’s why they dictated that we should read this portion over a week before Rosh Hashana so that we should pay attention to our actions and prayer and Selihot, to open our hearts and make decisions while we still have time, to learn more Torah, to perform more Misvot and more than anything to prove we are sincere. We should all have the true and wholesome Beracha, AMEN!
By: Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh
כִּי-יִהְיֶה לְאִישׁ, בֵּן סוֹרֵר וּמוֹרֶה–אֵינֶנּוּ שֹׁמֵעַ,
The Talmud tells us that the Ben Sorer Umoreh never was and will never be, and that this law is given for the inherent lessons contained within it.
There is a famously asked question regarding this law: Rashi points out that the Ben Sorer Umoreh was punished on the grounds of his future sins, even though they were not committed yet. This stands in contrast to the story of Yishmael. After Yishmael was removed from Avraham’s home and was on the verge of death from dehydration in the desert, Hashem brought about a miracle to save his life. Even though the Midrash tells us that the ministering angels were pointing out that Yishmael’s descendants will cause many Jews to die from thirst (and certainly he should not be worthy to be saved from thirst), Hashem’s response to the angels was that Yishmal should be judged as he is now, and not on account of the future misdeeds.
The Maharsha answers this apparent contradiction by pointing out that the Ben Sorer Umoreh is judged for his own future actions, though in regards to Yishmael it’s his descendants who are acting out of order and not him. That’s why Hashem is willing to save him from thirst.
Perhaps a lesson learned from the Laws of the Ben Sorer Umoreh that is befitting to these days of Elul is that one is certainly responsible for his future misdeeds, and it is upon us to make sure that the path we are on does not lead us to actions not worthy of a Jew, even if at this point everything seems to look fine.
By : Rabbi Shemuel Akhamzadeh
…וְלֹא-תִקַּח שֹׁחַד–כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר עֵינֵי חֲכָמִים, וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִם.
…Neither shalt thou take bribe; for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise, and corrupts the words of the righteous.
Rav Dovid Feinstein in his book Kol-Dodi points out that interestingly Torah does not call a judge who accepts bribery corrupt, rather that his words will become corrupt. This is because bribe makes him in to a lawyer for one side and all his thoughts are to benefit his employer and becomes convinced of the justness of the briber’s case; even though if he were impartial he would realize that he is thinking illogically, he may think he is righteous and even try to judge with honestly and integrity to the law, but he is deceiving himself as the bribe has bought his partiality.
This notion certainly applies to one’s self as we are surly biased and one sided when it comes to judging our own acts, traits and behaviors, we are blinded when it comes to observing our own faults. Perhaps during this month of Ellul as we are trying to reach out to Hashem and seek his mercy , we should choose a close Rav
or a friend who we can discuss our deeds to see where in our actions do we need to work on ourselves to become a better person worthy of Hashem’s and our peers love .
By: Rabbi Moshe Yakoby
One of my students recently was discussing with me how much he should spend on his wedding! At the course of the conversation I realized that he had no concept of money.
This issue in my opinion is a result of our modern day innovation called Credit Card.
I remember the good old days when I was growing up, what you spend at the registrar was what you had in your pocket. The amount you could purchase was commensurate to the extent of the money you can spend right here right now. That concept however is long gone. With the swipe of a card everything and anything could be yours regardless of how much it costs.
In this weeks Parasha while discussing the bringing of vow offerings and freewill offerings the Torah states: (Devarim 12:7) You shall eat (the offerings) there (Bet Hamikdash) before Hashem, your God, and you shall rejoice with your every undertaking, you and your households, as Hashem, your God, has blessed you.
Rashi quoting Sifri takes issue with the seemingly superfluous words at the end of the verse “as Hashem, your God, has blessed you” and explains that the Torah is trying to impress upon us that the amount of your vow offerings and freewill offerings should only be in accordance with the blessing that Hashem your God has bestowed upon you.
If the Torah talking about spiritual matters such as vow offerings and freewill offerings warns us not to spend more than what we can afford, how much more so in the physical mundane matters should we be particular to spend only to the extent that we can readily afford. Chovat Halevavot (Sha’ar Habitachon) discussing the idea of our basic Believe and Trust in Hashem writes that one should not go in debt in order to spend that which God has not given to him. He explains that the fact that Hashem has held these funds from him is a clear testimony to the fact that Hashem does not want him to have it.
By Rabbi Eliezer Rafaelmehr
On the 9th of Av we sit on the floor and cry. We cry of the terrible misfortunes that have befallen us over the past 2,000 years since the Temple has been destroyed.
Rav Spero tells the story about the Chozeh Lublin. It was the 9th of Av and he was sitting on the floor when his personal attendant proposed the following question:
Someone approached me and said, “What should I do? I have a Ketuba (marriage contract), but my wife tore it apart and then pasted it back together with glue. The glue she used contains chometz (which one is forbidden to have benefit from on Passover). I therefore want to know, is it permitted for me to be together with my wife on Passover?”
The people sitting around the Chozeh chuckled in laughter in response to what they had just overheard, but the Chozeh looked around and said, “If only you would understand what the attendant is saying. Hashem gave us the Torah and we defiled and mistreated it, and now we desperately attempt to paste it. It’s pasted with actions of chometz, inadequate and meager performances. The question we should ask is: our actions might barely carry us through the exile, but will it be sufficient for “Passover”, the final redemption?” The Chozeh burst out crying once more.
May Hashem accept our prayers and repentance as a ketuba that will be suitable for the final redemption.
By: Rabbi Shlomo Zargari
Shalom. In the Parasha this week we read about the travels of our nation through the Wilderness. One of the verses which repeats itself is :”The Children of Israel journeyed from…and camped in… “
Rabenu Bahyah ben Asher (14th century) writes in his book(Kad Hakemah): ” The Torah wants us to remember the miracles that Hashem performed for us in the Wilderness, how he sustained us 40 years and gave us the Manna every day! And so that one shouldn’t think they were close to water or places they could get supplies, the Torah writes the names of all the places they camped in…”
He continues: “Even though they were to stay in the Wilderness, they weren’t traveling the whole time. It was only 42 stops in 40 years.” And he explains that every stop was by the command of Hashem, to be precisely at that particular spot and at that time and for how long. This was in order to remove the ideas that were picked up by us from Egypt and to prepare us to enter the Holy Land.
That is a lesson for us. In life, every thing we do and everywhere we end up is through Hashem’s grand plan and providence to give us the opportunity to come closer to Him by removing evil from ourselves and adhering to the Misvot. He continues: “The future Redemption will be similar to the Redemption from Egypt. Just as at that time we journeyed through the Wilderness through the camps designated by Hashem, HE will guide us through this “Wilderness” to our final redemption,AMEN.
By: Rabbi Avraham Levychaim
We are now beginning the Three Weeks, which are called Ben Hametzarim. Why are they so called?
The source of this name is a Passuk in Eicha:
“Kol Rodfeha Hisiguha Ben Hametzarim”.
Rashi brings a Midrash which says that “Ben Hametzarim” refers to the Three Weeks. That’s why it is a time of suffering and tragedy for Kehal Yisrael.
Our Chachamim point out to us that there is nothing negative in Jewish religion; we have such a great G-d that nothing could be negative. There is a deeper way to understand the Passuk, which changes our perspective on the Three Weeks.
We could read the word “Rodfeha” as two words: “Radaf Hashem”, which means that whoever chases after Hashem (G-d) could reach Him in these times.
These are days in which we realize that our deeds have consequences, and by uplifting ourselves to different deeds, we change our relationship with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. The more we realize that our deeds could lead us to such terrible consequences, the greater motivation we will have to come back to Hakadosh Baruch Hu and do greater Teshuva.
It is interesting to note that our Chachamim teach us that there is a parallel between the 21 days of Ben Hametzarim and the days between Rosh Hashana through Hoshana Rabba. Reaching the highlight of Selicha and Mechila of Hoshana Rabbah is dependent upon the understanding of the depth of the Churban and what its causes were.
The greater the impact that the tragedies of these days impress on us, this would result in a stronger Teshuka (desire) to do Teshuva and bring the Geula and a greater Simchat Torah.
By R. Yitzhak Ariel
Parshat Balak, the Torah portion for this week, has something very interesting about it that makes it different than nearly every other Torah portion. Balak, the king of Moab, sees that the Jewish people cannot be defeated by the sword and therefore hires Bilaam to curse the Jews in an attempt to defeat them using their own weapon, the mouth. Every time Bilaam tried to curse Bnei Yisrael, Hashem preformed a miracle to save us from his curses and made words of blessing exit his mouth instead. The commentaries point out that normally the Torah describes what is happening directly to the Jewish nation. Be it the stories of our holy forefathers, the entrance into Egypt, the sufferings and hardships there or the exodus and rigorous journey through the desert, the camera has always been focused on Bnei Yisrael. In this week’s parsha, however, a story is being told of an event that the Jews had absolutely no idea was happening. The scene is shifted to an entirely different nation. It is clear that the Torah is trying to teach us something very important. The Torah here is displaying one of the most fundamental principals in Judaism, Hashgacha. Hashgacha is the reality that Hashem is constantly overseeing everything and is always watching over us. Many times Hashem does things for us to protect us from potential harm or danger and we will never even find out about it. The Torah is teaching us one of the biggest foundations in Emunah, the belief in Hashem. We must always know that whether or not we can detect it, Hashem is always there conducting everything and watching over each and every one of us, making sure to provide us with everything we need. Through this recognition we can awaken our love for Hashem and grow closer to Him.