Friday, December 29, 2006

Wow ! You're Jewish Too ?!?!

It isn't until Yosef fulfills two classic conditions for identifying a Jew out there in galus, that the brothers really accept him for who he is.

He eats gefilte fish and uses vague yiddishisms like chutzpah and kvell.

No, seriously, he speaks to them in their native tongue, lashon hakodesh, and he cries with them. A lot. Only after Yosef cries with Binyamin and cries upon his brothers, do they accept him.

We may be able to use these two benchmarks to define or redefine ourselves vis-a-vis the world at large. What is it that marks us as Jews ? Especially to our fellow Jews, our speech and our empathy.

Do we speak with the refinement and humility or is our speech littered with the boasts and brags of secular society, so alien to our values ? Have we finally absorbed "looking out for number 1" after being bombarded with it from so many media outlets ? These subtle, yet telling, indicators of our spiritual health are given to us to safeguard.
As a testament to Yosef HaTzaddik, who lived for 13 years in the Egyptian slave and penal system and 9 more in the still more morally corrupt palace, and did not succumb to their enticements - let us pledge to watch them and with them our spiritual development as a whole.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

8 days, but why ?

A famous question asked in relation to Chanukah is : If the little jug had sufficient oil to last one day - wasn't the miraculous aspect of the lighting only seven days ? Shouldn't we then have a seven day holiday instead ?

The answers are many - That in simply finding the oil there was a miracle; that the extra day commemorates the military victory; that they only filled up an eighth of the oil cups in the Beis Hamikdash ( so the miracle was evident even on the first day ) - are among them.

I heard another answer that I believe merits to be shared. This was inspired by a very chashuve bochur in my neighborhood.

After years of battle and watching many comrades perish, the Maccabies would be, perhaps, justified in a certain cooling of their dedication to the cause - after seeing the heavy toll that it took. The miracle was not just the oil that was there to be lit - but also the fire ( double meaning intended ) to light it !

If we ever find ourselves triumphing in a struggle and then losing perspective once we've won - maybe we can find inspiration amongst our ancestors - that had the courage to see the fight through and stay the cause afterwards.

Happy Chanukah !

Friday, December 15, 2006

Must we be perfectionists ?

If there was oil in the Beis Hamikdash and the majority of the population was impure - then there is a halachic basis for permitting the Menorah to be lit with impure oil. What was gained, then, by trying to light in a better manner than was necessary ?

In order to understand, let us preempt.

Why did Hashem allow that jug of oil to escape defilement ? I maintain that it happened ( retroactively, perhaps ) because of the desire of the victorious Maccabies to serve Hashem in purity. If they had been willing to settle for impure oil, which would have been permissible, then Hashem would not have tweaked circumstances to save that little jug.

The concept of purity is perhaps the opposite of realism. Realism says "We'll do the best we can - and we'll deal with whatever shortfall there is". Purity says "It must be perfect. Period. Any other option is unacceptable." This dedication to purity is what enabled the Maccabies to serve Hashem in the unique manner ( militarily and spiritually ) in which they did.

It is also this dedication that ennobles our hearts at this time of year.

Are there aspects of our yiddishkeit that are just too impractical for our lifestyle ? Are there steps which are too difficult to take - for which there are legitimate other options ? Or are we chasing the lower standard, content with "acceptable," when the Maccabies, in our shoes would have fought for the ideal to the death ?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Is chasing dreams equivalent to burning bridges ?

Yosef tells his brothers of his impending royal position - and to his great detriment - he finds that they are none too happy with his pronouncement. Should he have kept it to himself ? What about the second dream - surely he could see that this vision was not welcomed by his brothers?! Why did he persist ?

But we must understand - not just the dream - but also the dreamer.

This is the same Yosef who, at six years old, stands in front of his mother to shield her from Esav. This is the Yosef who will be called tzaddik - Yosef the Just. If it is right to block the view of a wicked man from feasting his eyes upon a modest woman - then let it be done ! And if a six year old is the only one acutely aware of that need - he'll do it himself ! Perhaps an average person wouldn't advertise a conviction he had - especially if it would be contrary to popular opinion, or displeasing to others. A true paragon of Justice, however, wouldn't hesitate to state the truth - as it is - however and wherever it is found.
Yosef wasn't trying to hurt his brothers - or his relationship with them - by revealing that he would rule them as royalty in the future. Yosef was simply being himself.
As far as our own bridges - if and when our dreams conflict with them - if we find ourselves pursuing a life course that is inconsistent with the spiritual achievements that we dreamt about attaining - we must ask ourselves - can we not draw inspiration from Yosef ?

Friday, December 08, 2006

Say What ?!?

So Yaakov Avinu finally leaves Lavan after 20 years. After twenty years of exposure to his conniving father in law - Yaakov is justifiably proud of having resisted Lavan's influence - but his proclamation "With Lavan I lived and I kept 613 mitzvos" ( Rashi, Bereshis 32:5 ) - is aimed at ... Esav ?!

Why does Yaakov Avinu feel the need to share his spiritual statistics with his wicked, murderously intentioned brother ? Is Esav going to be his new mashgiach, that he feels the need to tell him of his nisyonos ?

Email me your answers - ydruyan at gmail dot com !

Yaakov was worried about his spiritual state. He was concerned that perhaps his divine protection would be rendered ineffectual due to a sin he may have committed - consequently he would not be worthy of that protection. In order to strengthen his resolve - Yaakov states, in clear, unequivocal terms - I am a taryag Jew - I keep all the mitzvos. In this way, by making the pronouncement public, Yaakov will force himself to live up to it. If he is worried that he may commit a sin - he will raise the bar on his accountability by making his declaration public.

What part of our public persona defines us religiously ? What does it say ?

R Druyan

Monday, December 04, 2006

The sound of silence

The Medrash ( Tanchuma Parashas Pekudei ) compares the various stages of a person's life and afterlife with the four significant events that surrounded the ascension of Eliyahu HaNavi to heaven. The final, and perhaps, most awe inspiring of the four is the silence. It is compared to the final judgment before the throne of glory.

Probably the most powerful attribute of silence is its inevitability. No matter how much noise you make or how many distractions you set up - it's always out there, waiting for your noise to give out or your distraction to finish. It seems as if silence is the inevitable force in the universe - it's the default -to counter it you need to add, to do.

That's probably why the medrash compares it to the final judgment - it's coming, no matter what. And just like silence - it only scares us if we have something to be afraid of. A righteous person - finds comfort and serenity in silence, a wicked one - accusations and guilt.

What do you find ?

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Still Here !!! Are you ?

Sorry about the ultra-long hiatus - I was unavoidably detained by planning, then executing a trip to the States. But, I'm back !

We find that Rivka Imainu is referred to as the daughter of Besuel and the sister of Lavan - why is she associated with such wicked people ? To teach us ( says Rashi ) that she was righteous despite being tainted with their influence... thus teaching us that a solitary person of good in a sea of evil is more praiseworthy than one who is surrounded by goodness.

So why does the Torah imply the exact opposite ?

When giving klal yisrael promises of good, Hashem tells the Jews - [if you will keep the mitzvos] "then five of you will defeat a hundred attackers, and a hundred will repel an attack by ten thousand." (Vayikra 26:8) When pointing out that the ratio is off ( 5:100 is less than 100:10,000 ) , Rashi says that those who keep the Torah in greater numbers are more praiseworthy - thus the greater (divinely inspired) abilities.

So what's better - Rivka who overcame her surroundings, or Hashem's promise which seems to favor mass observance over solitary triumph ?

Email me your answers ! ydruyan at gmail dot com

Friday, September 29, 2006

On burnings and slaughterings

In the Yom Kippur davening, we keep mentioning the zechus of the akeida. We petition Hashem to remember the mesirus nefesh displayed during this monumental trial - and in its merit grant us a chance at life and serving Him better etc. etc. But why is the akeida known as Avraham's nisayon ? And what pivotal role does it play in our convictions to become better Jews ?

When we ponder the meaning of such phrases as 'the ultimate sacrifice', we can't help but assume that there is nothing more heroic than giving up our life for something. Yet, there does seem to be an action that is even more fundamental in it's devotion than dying for something.

It's living for it.

While deciding to die for a cause or an ideal is a tough decision - it's a decision that you can make only once. Living for something - that's a decision that gets replayed over and over and over and over. It takes much more conviction and strength of character to live for something, reaffirming that initial decision a million times over. So, while for Yitzchak Avinu, the willing participation in the akeida was a show of dedication, for Avraham Avinu it was a show of mesirus nefesh a hundred times greater. That's why we ask Hashem to recall the great zechus of the akeida. It represents a truly awesome level of dedication to Hashem. It is also the reason that we seek to employ this merit in our process of teshuva - because Hashem doesn't want us to perish in retribution for our sins ( even if this would cleanse us of them ! ). Rather, Hashem would prefer that we repent from our wayward actions and live. A life of service to Hashem - a life that reaffirms and reenforces that intitial decision to return to Him every moment of every day thereafter.

Secondly, in the prayers there is a strong current of yearning for the return of the avodas beis hamikdash. What about the animal sacrifices that were brought are we trying to recall fondly ? The blood ? The guts ? If our perspective of the holy korbanos is limited to the animals which took part - we are sorely shortsighted. True, animals were slaughtered in a ritual fashion and parts were sprinkled on the mizbeach.

The most fundamental part, however, was the fire that consumed them.

If we look at the pesukim that describe the avodah the most striking refrences are to the consuming fire. We know that the avodah in the Beis Hamikdash was replaced by our davening, but did we realize that the core of the process is still the same ?! Just like a fire - once it gets going will continue to grow and roar of its own volition - so too our prayers just need one little injection of sincere enthusiasm and 'fire' from us - and then Hashem will grant us the divine assistance neccesary for a meaningful davening.

Our tefillos have the power of the Aish Tamid, the power of the ever burning flame that graced G-od's own temple!

May it be His will that all of klal yisrael's tefilos be accepted by the Merciful One Above on this our day of greatest closeness to Him, and that we should merit to be sealed in the books of goodness, repentenance and sincere service of Him, always. Amen.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Go(d) team !!

"We won ! We won !!" Those shouts could be heard echoing all through downtown, especially the bar district. The hometown team had just won the championship and there was a general ecstasy surrounding the entire city. Everyone felt a part of it. They were proud of their team - they were proud of themselves.

"What a load of simpletons !", The cynic sneered contemptuously.
"They are walking around lording their victory over 'lesser mortals' - they didn't even do anything ! Did that lady over there score the winning point ? No. Did that fat man make the defensive play that saved the victory ? Hardly. They are just fooling themselves into believing they had a part in it and relieving the tedium of their lives with sports as their chosen opiate."

"Not so", said the wise man, "While the fans were not on the field - it was their encouragement, if not devotion, that gave the players the impetus to succeed. Any player will tell you he does better with a hundred thousand fans cheering him on than in training. Have you ever heard of any records being broken on the practice field ? Their effort is linked to the fans."

Kal vachomer when we speak of cheering on - or supporting - or coronating Hakadosh Baruch Hu.

A cynic would claim that G-d's kingdom lacks nothing that a mere mortal can give Him. Yet, on Rosh HaShanna we do just that - pledge to Hashem the one thing He doesn't already have - our hearts.

On this holy day - we proclaim to Hashem - "Not only are you the G-d - you are also my G-d - and I am your loyal servant."

Kesiva Vechasima Tova L'Kol Am Yisrael !

R' Druyan

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Reason is the spice of life

While learning the halachos of a meat and milk mixture ( forbidden !! ) I came across an inspirational idea. The sefer I was learning from introduced an explanation of the reasoning for a particular ruling by the Rashba ( Rabbi Shlomo Ben Aderet - a fourteenth century scholar ) - with the words "Taam haRashba" ( Lit. the Rashba's reasoning ). Since we were dealing with the absorbed flavors of the milk into the meat and vice versa - we thought the pun was wonderful !

Then another idea became apparent - the reason that "reason" and "flavor" are the same word (Taam) is because they really do fulfill the same function. If you want your food to be more interesting ( not more nutritious ) you flavor it - and if you want your religion to mean more to you - look for the reason behind the practices you keep.

Happy Spicing !!

'till next time,
R' Druyan

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Be Happy .......... Worry !

Rabbeinu Yonah in his classic work, Shaarei Teshuva, quotes a statement of the sages - "Man is destined to work - joyous is one whose work is in Torah."

The sentiment expressed is as follows : Life is all about work. Effort, toil, perseverance. Mankind must DO something. One who is fortunate, however, will make his portion of toil in the sweet fields of Torah.

In another mashal - chazal say - the one who toils in mundane matters is considered like a tanner, whose person stinks from the chemicals used on the hides. In contrast, a person whose toil is in Torah is like a perfume salesman whose person is pleasing to the nose...

So we see that we're doomed to work. But we get to choose what our work is.

In this life, we are going to worry about something. We are going to strive and make efforts and try to succeed. At some points these thoughts and drives might even define who we are.

Wouldn't it be better if what I worry about, what consumes me is a desire to perfect my tefilah - or my ability to truly empathize with the recipient of my gemillus chasadim - instead of how much money I will make or how good I will look in this outfit ?

To live a better life, work for something that makes you smell good. And play your 'worry' cards on serving God.

'till next time,

R' Druyan

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Is Tzaraas Only Skin Deep ?

The torah says "Guard yourself from the affliction of tzaraas..." and then juxtaposes ( fancy term for putting next to each other ) "Remember what Hashem did to Miriam..."

The simple meaning - Miriam got tzaraas - make sure you don't get it too !
However, Rashi tells us that 'guarding yourself from tzaraas' means making sure not to accidentally peel off any skin sore which may be tzaraas ( eeeeeewwww ). Doesn't sound like much of an accident to me -

'hmm I wonder what this is ? Oh ! Uh, uh, I guess I'll just flick it off and no one will know'

Yet, when we think we can offer a superficial answer to tzaraas - like just flicking it off - comes the Torah to remind us that we can't.
You see, Miriam got tzaraas because she spoke ill of Moshe Rabbeinu ( She said he was acting a little too remote - even for a prophet). But, she really didn't mean to - she thought what she was saying was true - she didn't investigate further to realize that her prophecy and her brother Moshe's prophecy were totally different. Her actions weren't just wrong they were superficial.

Let's remember that every time we feel like someone did something wrong and it would be a 'mitzva' to publicize and not let them 'get away with it'. Are we thinking or acting superficially ? Could there be another side to the story ?

- till next time,

R' Druyan

Friday, August 25, 2006

Yetzer Hara Trick # 72

So at the beginning of shemonei esrei or bentching we go into it with a lot of kavanna - right ?

"Gosh at that pace - I'll never finish! I'll be here all year !"

So then you speed it up a little ....

"Wow, davening / bentching is just flying by ..... Wait! We're up to that part already ?!?!?!"

"If I slow down now I'll be such a hypocrite - slowing down just to show that I don't bentch / daven too fast ... I'll just finish up at this pace - but next time, next time - I'll really have kavanna !"

( go to top of post ....... )

'till next time,

R' Druyan

Friday, August 11, 2006

You Be Good Now, Ya' Hear ?!?!?

We say it in Shema every day. 'If you will surely listen and hearken to Hashem's Mitzvos .....'. We won't even touch the concept of reward and punishment. Yet. However, why must Hashem refer to listening to the mitzvos with a repetitive, doubled phrase ?

Because sometimes we hear but don't listen, or even worse - listen but don't hearken ( to hear and take as a call-to-action ).

In trying to sift through our daily lives and trying to hear the call to do Hashem's work - we should listen for it. And if we don't hear it - we should listen again.

Just like a servant will not just listen to his master when he is commanded to do something, he will also wait, listening for any new commands the master might have.

We should also be constantly 'listening' - waiting to discern more opportunities for serving Hashem.

Be'Hatzlacha !
R' Druyan

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Just a little bit of Yiraah

So Moshe tells us - "And now - what does Hashem your G-d ask of you ? Just that you should be in awe of Him ....." [Devarim 10:12]
The Talmud already asks [Brachos 33b, Megilla 25a] "Why 'Just' - is Yiraas Hashem such a small thing ?'
The answers range from yes to no to maybe ( See the Gemara / Ramban / Kli Yakar / Or HaChaim Hakadosh ad loc. ) but one approach which we can effectively use to keep our own spiritual 'charge' is put forth by the Or HaChaim Hakadosh.

You can have a 'little bit' of Yiraah.

There are some things that can't be done by halves. You can't be a little bit shomer shabbos ( I avoid 26 of the melachos ! ) and you can't be a little bit pregnant ( uhh - yeah ). You can, however, have a little bit of Yiraah. Not all-out fear and awe at Hashem's magnificence. Not an overpowering trembling because of His awesomeness. But a bit. Yes, we feel that Hashem is there and that is a reason for increased observance / seriousness / trepidation. Not a lot - but an actual perceptible 'little bit'. And that's good.

So, even if we see ourselves as never reaching the great levels of the Tzaddikim who would be overcome with Yiraas Hashem they would shake and tremble for hours, we can still achieve our own 'little bit'.

Hatzlacha !

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

G-d is Good. Period.

As we approach the nine days and the ninth day, we conduct ourselves in a certain morbid mentality. Let's face it - we mourn.

Why ?

Because a number of things went wrong on this day - but most of all - the meraglim. The spies that said we couldn't go into Eretz Yisrael and conquer it. And us ? We believed them !! And we cried. So, we cry now for real.

To bring back the Beis Hamikdash and to be metaken the sorrow here - let's attempt to fix the 'root' of this day of tears. Let's repeat to ourselves - G-d is Good. G-d is GOOD ! If He says it - it goes. Period. No doubts. No second guessing. He does what's for the best - even if it hurts.

May we be zocheh to internalize this lofty concept - and may it bring us to a level of emuna that will hearken the return of the dynasty of David and the moshiach, amen.

Friday, July 14, 2006

A Little Bit of Blessing & A Whole Lot of Praise

You just can't have one without the other.

You can't praise someone without wishing good upon them ( or declaring that they are the source of all goodness ). You also can't wish good upon someone without praising them ( i.e. declaring that they are worthy of the good you're wishing upon them).

These are thoughts I had while reciting "Ashrei". In the possuk corresponding to the letter alef we declare that "I will venerate you, my G-d the king, and I will bless your name for evermore" followed by letter beis "Every day will I bless you, and I will praise your name for evermore".

This more than explains the similarity in the cadence ( rhythm of the tehillim ) between the two pesukim - the sentiments expressed compliment each other.

Let's keep that in mind next time we pray - or any time we wish blessing or praise on Hashem.

'till next time,

R' Druyan

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Peace - ???

I hate politics.
I refuse to dabble in the politics-meets-divrei-torah world.
I believe that an idea can have relevance even without referring to a headline grabber.

That being said, however, the thought that peace was what was going through Pinchas' mind when he killed Zimri ( a high ranking political figure ) is very tough to swallow.

Justice ? Yes.
Zealotry ? Sure.
Pour out G-d's revenge in a bloody and immediate fashion on the sinner ? Absolutely !
But peace ? How ?

If we truly understand peace we won't find it so hard to imagine. You see, peace is "shalom" from "shalem" or complete - you can't have a 'good enough' peace - that's not peace that's compromise ( "pshara" - from lukewarm - "posher" - not hot not cold - basically useless ). A real peace has to have a definite solution, and that solution has to be right.

Let's try to picture ourselves in Pinchas' situation. Angry, bawdy crowd - full also of fearful people who are wondering if Moshe Rabbeinu's rule will collapse. Pinchas not only saw what was right, what was just, he also went ahead and did it. Carpei spearum ( latin ripoff for seize the spear ). Can we imagine anything in our relationship with Hashem that is just 'good enough' ? Isn't it time we took the spear by the handle and changed it ?

'till next time !

R' Druyan

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Do It Right !

The Mishna in Tractate Shekalim discusses what was done with left over money that had been earmarked for public sacrifices. Rabbi Yishmael states : Wine and fine flour were bought with it and sold to people (who would use it for individual sacrifices) and the money would go to the temple treasury. Rabbi Akiva disagrees. "One does not institute a practice of poverty in a place of wealth," says Rabbi Akiva - meaning, that in the Beis Hamikdash where everything was done on a grand scale to honor G-d, it would be unfitting to sell off surplus - like a shuk - even if it is for the temple treasury.
This is the concept of 'do it right'.

Don't cut corners.
Don't think that you can get away with 'good enough'.

This is especially helpful to remember when we are on a summer or 'off' schedule. It's easier to do mitzvos when we surround ourselves in an environment of holiness ( aka Eretz Yisrael, Sem, etc... ) but even if we aren't in an optimal place - at least we can try to not let our Avodas Hashem suffer.
Do it Right !

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Against All Odds

So 250 followers from the tribe of Reuven think they can be Kohanim Gedolim ? ( For background see Parashas Korach. ) Forget that they aren't even Levi'im - there are 250 of them !!! And what way do they choose to determine who will be the new Kohen Gadol - they sacrifice Ketores ?!?!?

That's CRAZY !!

They are totally nuts ! We all saw the consequences of bringing Ketores when it wasn't called for - Death ! ( Aharon's two sons - brought it and died - and they WERE kohanim AND they were holy - see Rashi there. ) So what were they thinking ?!

I would like to pose another question - even if they were right and Aharon should not be Kohen Gadol - and the real Kohen Gadol was one of them, what would the other 249 hopefuls do ? Die ? Die.

So this is what their mission statement must have sounded like:
"I, Rabbi so and so from the tribe of Reuven, do solemnly state, being of sound mind and sound body, that I will compete in a holy contest - to the death - against 249 other men. Even though my chances of death are 249/250 or 99.6 % I am still doing it - for the honor and glory of Hashem."

Why would they do it ?

Chazal teach us in Pirkei Avos - "Jealousy, Desire [of pleasures] and [the desire for] Honor remove a Person from this world."

They weren't talking about the fact that sins will make you lose your Olam Haba; this world, they said, this world. If a person is motivated by any of these three things, they can easily slip into a situation that will even force them to dedicate his or her life (to the wrong cause).

This is especially poignant to those of you making life decisions now.

So how do we avoid their pitfall ? Isn't dedication and mesirus nefesh a good thing ?!? Yes, it is - but you have to gauge your motives. If there is any trace of the bad three ( Jealousy, Desire of pleasures and the desire for Honor ), your "dedication" may just be the yetzer hara's doing. If, however, you have no motive for jealousy, no derivation of pleasure and no receipt of honor from your actions then you may be sure they are for the sake of Hashem.

Keep fighting the good fight,
R' Druyan

Friday, June 23, 2006

On Feasts and Fasts

"They tried to kill us
they failed ...
let's eat !"


"They tried to kill us
they succeeded ...
we must fast."

We constantly associate all things with food. If it's Jewish - we either eat it, avoid it or mark it with a meal. We even have the most precise definitions of a seudah, a meal. 'Half an olive's worth' of this or 'half an olive's worth' of that ...

Why ?

Why is kiddush insubstantial ( almost irrelevant ) if it isn't accompanied by a seudah ?

Why is it when we aren't permitted certain foods ( like during the nine days ) or food at all ( fast of the first born ) we are suddenly allowed to eat them when it is a seudah for a mitzva ?

These questions were first posed to me by a neighbor of mine - a holy, holy Jew.
His answer is something that we can mull over as we fork food into our mouths: While we may not readily acknowledge it (because of the prosperity of our times or the instant variety of foods we have) a meal is important. It is the fundamental life action. That's why we must dedicate it to Hashem. This - lowliest of human needs - animalistic in origin ( and in practice, if your gauge is teenage boys ), can be, and is, elevated by the highest and loftiest human ability - dedication to G-d.

So next time we eat - instead of just having kavanna when we make our berachos - intend that every bite we eat is a testament to our ability to honor and grace Hashem with our most prized possesion - our intentions.

And, enjoy the eggs !!

'till next time,
R' Druyan

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Spirituality of Eggs

While reviewing many salient points of hilchos Basar B'Chalav this summer I came across a siman that discusses eggs. I was struck how this is an excellent metaphor for chizuk and growth.
Yes, eggs.

You see, the egg starts off as part of the mother chicken - but at some point is fully formed and gets laid out. Everyone agrees that once they are ready to come out of the chicken, eggs are pareve, while before they are fully formed ( distinct yolk and albumen (eggwhite) ), they are fleishig. At what stage of the egg development does it become pareve ?

( The applicable case is when a chicken is slaughtered and there is a partially formed egg in there - does one have to treat it like meat or not ?)

Two of the answers are : If it is still connected to the chicken (with sinews - ewwwwww ) then it is fleishig - if it is already separate then it is not. Answer two : If the shell has hardened - then it is pareve - otherwise fleishig.

"This is a great analogy to students," thought I. "If they still see themselves as part of their schools - even during vacation - then they are considered connected !" OR "If they wish to be disconnected and still be kosher ( be considered fully developed bnei or bnos torah ) they must have a hard shell !

So, as strange as it may seem, we can take inspiration from anywhere. If we still see ourselves as current students ( as if we were inbetween classes - or on a long weekend ) then you will be able to keep up your chizuk. But, if you are no longer a student ( an alumni, perhaps) you must keep a hard shell between you and the outside world of influences and shtus.

'till next time - be good eggs !
R' Druyan

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Your Own Version of Michelangelo

Gut Voch ! ( that's 'good week' in yiddish)

You know what a week is like - a new week, like the one that is starting ? Like a canvas - bright, white and full of possibilities. Why do we get excited when we see lots of equipment and materials (for any project) just waiting to get used ? Because the excitement is for potential. The more potential we see - the more excited we get.
That's why we have a certain energy on Motzaei Shabbos - it's our inner excitement at the plain, white, pristine canvas-of-a-week that we are given to paint our actions and intentions on.

Just like you would consider it a waste of time to give fancy equipment to a child - Hashem would also consider it a waste to give the opportunities of time to those who would squander it. So it seems like Hashem has an awful lot of faith in how you spend your/His time. He trusts you to make the week a success.

Go ahead, make that first splash of color on your canvas-of-a-week. And, make it a bright one !

Happy painting.

R' Druyan

Friday, June 16, 2006

Do Individual Actions Count ? (Or is it all or nothin' ?)

What happens if I don't do everything I set myself up to do ? What happens if, when I get the opportunity - I falter - and don't complete my tefilla / mitzva / torah regimen for the summer ?
The answer lies in the contributions of the Nesi'im to the Mishkan.

So the Nesi'im give their sacraficial contribution to the Mishkan. They all give the same one. And the Torah lists them.


Why ? We could have just given an accounting of what they brought and said - "they all brought that" or something.

To answer we would have to go back to why the Nesi'im were first to bring their offerings for the Mishkan. During the building of the mishkan, there was a donation taken up to get the construction materials for the Mishkan. Everybody contributed. The Nesi'im had said that they would make up the shortfall, that they would give whatever was still needed after the people finished donating. This was considered a big mistake. To understand this better let's relate it to a story :

Jimmy and his friends want to get a ping pong table for their clubhouse lounge. To raise money they decide to hold a car wash. "Let's get old Mr. Preston," says one of the boys, "yeah, he's got three cars !" The boys enthusiastically go and ask Mr. Preston to bring his cars down for a wash. "Tell you what," he replies, "you boys wash all day and whatever money you're lacking in the end - come to me and I'll top off your fund".

In the beginning it sounded great ! Soon, however, like with all carwashes - the boys got tired and wet and fed up with washin' and scrubbin'. "What's the point?,"said a disgruntled Jimmy, "Since we'll just get the rest of the money from Mr. Preston - we shouldn't have bothered to work hard at all."

While it sounded promising - the effect of Mr. Preston's offer was to diminish each individual car the boys worked on. He made their efforts meaningless.

So did the Nesi'im. Not intentionally, perhaps, but nonetheless. That's why their actions at the building of the Mishkan were considered a sin.

So here, when they are called to offer sacrifices to the newly completed Mishkan - they don't take a back seat. They don't offer to finish up what's needed. They are so sincere in their teshuva - about making each individual action count - that the Torah lists each individual action of theirs. Each one.

Which brings us back to our point. Even if we fail to do everything that we set up for ourselves - even if we don't get to the tenth perek tehillim, even if we don't do our two hours of learning - don't get discouraged. Every action that you do counts. Every one. That's the lesson of the Nesi'im (and of the Mishkan - the place where we offer our services and prayers to Hashem).

'till next time,
R' Druyan

Monday, June 12, 2006

On Birds & Other Harbingers

I traveled today with my seventh graders to a park in Tel Aviv - whereupon we proceeded to paddleboat and make general merriment. Towards the end of the day, as we were sitting on the ground enjoying some twig-turned hotdogs ( we forgot utensils ) we heard the birds chirping. Why were they chirping ? Because it was shkiya time and the birds always sing at shkiya time. They also sing at sunrise. The reason is actually quite amusing. Birds have no memory - so they've forgotten, by morning, about the great big yellow warm orb in the sky. When they see it appear (out of nowhere!) they sing their praises to He Who Brought it. At night, they sing about their fear at its disappearance (forgetting completely that it will reappear tomorrow).

Two lessons.

One - did we thank Hashem ( really thank Him ) for the sun today ? Yesterday ? Maybe it's time we pay attention in the first Bracha of Birchos Krias Shema and really mean our thanks to Hashem for this miracle.
Two - The birds realize when they are about to enter a period without something good. When they are going to lose out. They prepare for it.

Do we ?

'till next time,
R' Druyan

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Passing the Candle

Yes, this is another end-of-the-year-how-to-get-through-the-summer-and-still-be-frum schmooze.

Or at least it was. There was a post here but it was so disjointed I had to scrap it - the underlying idea was phenomenal (big surprise - it is a Rashi after all) but for some reason no matter how I tried to get it to you in a comprehensible fashion - it didn't pan out, oh well.

Let's enjoy an idea from the Dubna Maggid instead.
Hashem told Dovid HaMelech that He will only build the beis hamikdash after he passes away. To understand why this wasn't a sore point for Dovid HaMelech ( as we see in Shir Hamaalos ... Samachti beOmrim Li Beis Hashem Nelech ), he offers a mashal.

There was once a rich man who had a very talented chef. As the chef got older the rich man started to search the entire country for a doctor. He found one, and retained the doctor to be his personal physician. There was one condition, however: the doctor was not to come by until the aging chef had passed away. The people of the rich man's town were anxious for the prestigious doctor to live in their midst - so they would wonder (sometimes aloud) when the aging chef would die so that the doctor may come. 'Fools,' said the rich man, 'you think it is too much bother for me to support them both ? It's not! I am in no hurry for the chef to die - because I would rather be maintained in good health by his cooking, than be cured from any illness by the doctor.'

In this way Hashem explains why He would rather have one day of Dovid HaMelech's praises rather than 1000 korbanos from Shlomo HaMelech. The praise of Tehillim can keep one spiritually 'healthy,' in comparison to becoming 'ill' and having to daven (avodah) for a cure.
'till next time,

R Druyan

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Cosmic Wedding

So we are gonna be part of this cosmic chasuna, right ? We, Klal Yisrael, the kalla - and Hakadosh Boruch Hu, the chassan. And what's the kesuba, you ask ? The Torah !!! "Rabbi, isn't it backwards ?!" - you might say. See, the kesuba details the responsibilities the chassan has to the kalla - while the Torah seems to indicate the opposite (the responsibilities of the kalla to the chassan ) .

Two answers -
Firstly, the Torah also mentions Hashem's responsibilities/rewards ("and I will bring your rains in their time ... "[Vayikra 26:4] - and we know rain is analogous to all blessings. That's why when it rains it is a particularly auspicious time for prayer ... ).
Secondly, in order for a wife to receive the kesuba she must have been faithful to her husband. In marriage this is easily understood - but what are the conditions of faithfulness between G-d and His nation ? So our "Kesuba" first details these items. They are the structure of our marriage to Hashem.

May we enter Chag Kabbalas Hatorah with all the joy of a kalla in addition to the awesome sense of responsibility that is our part of this truly cosmic wedding.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Warning - experimental blog ahead !!

IY"H this blog finds you well and either already in chutz la'aretz or on your way. As I mentioned to you ( either by email or in person ) I am creating this as a forum to get a short geshmake vort or an idea that can make your day / week / hour better.
As the title suggests, when you feel on a spiritual down - or when you are having trouble choosing between what's right and what's easy ( forgive the paraphrase ) - all you need to do is 'tap into Torah' and Hashem will help you out. The gemara phrases this as follows - "If that lowlife accosts you ( referring to the Yetzer Hora ) drag him to the Beis Medrash" - and as we find in places too numerous to mention - the light of the Torah can bring all wrongdoing to screeching halt.
Please either leave me comments or email me directly so that I will be able to gear this experiment to your maximum benefit ( and to stay in touch !!! ). Until next time "Alu Vehatzlichu" - keep rising and succeed !