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