Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Think Tree !

We see that the Jewish calendar is rather divinely inspired and in perfect harmony with the school year, even when we are out of school we still end up pacing our years in the same method.
We needed to start anew and afresh with the Yamim Noraaim - and have Hashem wipe the slate clean in order to be ready for the year. After all that praying and cleansing we felt so pure that we could just dive into a mitzva with our whole bodies ! (We sit in the Succah with our entire bodies ! The Lulav & Esrog represent our main limbs ) The long, dark winter set in - we felt estranged from hashem ( chas ve'shalom ! ) so we received a gift of light ! to carry us through.
With most of the winter gone, and our roots strengthening in the soil of Torah - our 'sap' is starting to finally rise within us and we can now begin to think about bearing fruits. As we know - fruits aren't the product of intense concentration on the part of a tree - the tree just focuses on growing and absorbing and assimilating nutrients into itself. The fruit is the byproduct of this focus. It's what happens when the tree builds up it's goodness to the bursting point. If we approach our own growth in order to 'see what we've gained' then we are missing the point. For example - if we want to be the kind of person who loses herself in the sweet words of Tehillim for a half hour every day - taking out a stopwatch is the wrong way to go about it !! If I am concerned that my chessed resume isn't so impressive - going out to do something for someone else - so I can really do it for myself - is missing the boat completely !

It's our job to concentrate on soaking up the 'nutrients' of Torah - the 'fruits' - our maasim tovim - will proceed on their own as a natural outcropping of this. So as we celebrate the renewal of trees and the approach of springtime - remember - "Think Tree !"

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Are you Happy ?

My Rosh Yeshiva, Shlita, always used to ask me
- "Yoyav, are you happy ?!"

I believe the purpose of his question was not just to make sure things were going okay with me.
I think it stemmed from a unique perspective on the dictum of Chazal, "Ivdu Es Hashem BeSimcha"

One can understand it to mean - serve Hashem while being happy, 'besimcha' with happiness - while you perform your mitzvos and other services for Him.

However, the meaning projected here - is 'serve Hashem with your happiness' ! The happiness isn't a condition or mindframe while serving Hashem - it IS the service itself !

Why do some things make some people happy and others do not ? The answer is that Hashem created us uniquely, each one with a sense of what will make us happy. When we are happy we are in fact fulfilling our individual destiny - our mission from on high. Proof ? We're happy !! We are answering the echo of that which Hashem created within us.

So when we want to know how we are doing spiritually - we must ask ourselves
- "Are we happy ?!"

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Taking on G-d

When Moshe Rabbeinu comes to Pharoh for the first time the results are mildly disastrous. Pharoh increases the workload of the Jews to even more intolerable proportions. Then Moshe Rabbeinu does the unthinkable, especially for a prophet who has a clear understanding of Hashem.

He blames G-d.

This is the most righteous person in the generation - the one destined to receive the Torah from G-d's own hand ( so to speak ) and here he is .... blaming G-d ?!?! Why ?!?!

Because he loves us.

Hashem makes us a promise ( see tractate megilla 11a) that he will look out for us in every generation by sending us true leaders who will guide us through the winding, blinding pathways of Olam Hazeh into the wide pastures of Olam Habba. That these leaders are so dedicated to us, their charges, that they are willing even to do the unthinkable and challenge the Ribbono Shel Olam - that is the icing on the cake. A true expression of love from our shepherds who, in turn, represent to us the true love of Hashem.

I feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

On Angels and Men

When we say "Kadosh Kadosh Kadosh ..." in kedusha we are actually echoing the angels. This is the high point of davening - it is there, at the pinnacle of our prayers, that we can really sing G-d's praises with the absolute clarity of a being that basks in His presence constantly. I mean, if these angels were created specifically to praise Hashem, you'd think that they do the best possible job of it! After all, they are tailor-made for the part.

So why introduce the kedusha with our own declaration? "Nekadesh ..." We will sanctify your name in this world ( "BaOlam" with a kamatz - as opposed to in the world " BeOlam" with a sheva na )

This is the difference between us and the malachim. They can sing the praises of G-d in ways we can barely hope to emulate - but their praise is static. The angels can only describe Hashem's majesty and holiness. We can extend it into this world through our actions. As creatures of free will and infinite choice, we can actually spread the mantle of G-d's glory willingly over ourselves and our world... by realizing that in our decisions, there is the opportunity to choose for ourselves or for G-d.

Go on, extend the majesty of Hashem to a corner of the world its never been before - next time you choose to do something right, keep in mind, you are doing it for G-d.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Is it black or white ?

Ever wonder why the sun might bleach hair but darken skin ? The answer may very well be found in Malachi 3:19-21.

Malachi, last of the prophets, culminates his prophecy with these apocryphal words -

"3:19 For, behold, the day cometh, that shall burn as an oven; and all the proud, yea, and all that do wickedly, shall be stubble: and the day that cometh shall burn them up, saith the Lord of hosts,t hat it shall leave them neither root nor branch.
3:20 But unto you that fear my name shall the sun of righteousness arise with healing in his wings; and ye shall go forth, and grow up as calves of the stall. "

The rishonim point out, however, that this is not a case of a great battle between the oven that burns the wicked and the sun that protects the righteous. Rather, they are one and the same ! The judgment you will receive at the end of days is your own just dessert, period. The sun, in this case, is just clarifying the consequences - that's why it can burn the wicked like an oven yet be pleasing to the righteous like a summer's day. May we merit to see the redeemer soon and may we feel the balmy rays of the sun and not it's vicious heat, amen.