Friday, April 25, 2008

Eating Is Believing

The Sefas Emes points out that matza is referred to as "מיכלא דמהימנותא" the food of belief. After seven days of eating this food we come to the culmination of Pesach.

While in the miraculous events of the exodus ( the first night ) we find many miracles - we don't see the description of "emunah" applied to the Jews until the splitting of the sea. This is perhaps because, like the matza it is represented by, emunah may be quickly forged - but it needs to be digested slowly over a period of at least seven days.

Hatzlacha !

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Keys To Our Heart

At the end of the Shemonei Esrei we ask Hashem to "Open our hearts to Your torah and may our spirit chase Your mitzvos".

The Maggid of Dubno explained this request with an analogy. When there is a bird trapped in a cage - and you open the cage - you need not offer any additional encouragement to the bird to entice it to leave. It is in this fashion that we wish for Hashem to open our hearts to torah. Not just to make it accesible to us - but to remove any internal barriers we may have - so that we actually chase after it - like a bird fleeing it's confinement.

Another way of approaching this is an alternative reading of the actual phrase; "פתח ליבי בתורתך". While literally meaning "Open my heart to Your torah" we may read it "Open my heart with Your torah". There are many experiences and philosophies out there - each one claiming to have secured a monopoly on it's own little slice of the truth of the human condition. These theories may claim to have profound influence on us and may claim to be the source of experiential wisdom - yet they all strike us as just skin deep compared to the torah.

If we want to understand our hearts and the keys to our emotions - we must search for them in the Manufacturer's instruction manual. If we want to achieve a real self awareness that is prerequisite to serving Hashem - there is no need to look in pop psychology or the current musical hit - these bits of "wisdom" aren't the key to what our hearts truly feel. Only the torah can unlock our self understanding and enable us to wholeheartedly pursue our life.

Hatzlacha !

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Impulse Buy

In preparation for Pesach we observe Shabbos Hagadol. Either this week ( Metzora ) or next ( Acharei Mos ) depending on your understanding of it.

The Chassidic Masters discuss the relative significance of having two specific Shabboses, Hagadol and Shuva ( the shabbos between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur ). The Nesivos Shalom suggests that these shabboses are each to complete the two-tiered approach we have towards serving Hashem - Yiraa and Ahava.

Shabbos Shuva - obviousely the time to work on fear and awe of Heaven.
Shabbos Hagadol - to open our hearts and be filled with "largesse" towards our service of Hashem.

An analogy struck me as being incredibly appropriate to our avodah in trying to motivate our love for G-d. When was the last time we had an impulse buy ? A purchase that wasn't pre-planned, it just happenned because you thought that what you were buying would make someone happy. ( Even yourself - you are suppossed to love yourself too !) This was a quintessential act of love. This is the emotion we want to tap into and direct towards G-d in this week of pre-pesach preperation. We can feel affection towards the Ribbono Shel Olam a hundred times a day ! Whenever we see His guiding hand in our succeses ( or even his hand as a safety net - preventing the failures from being worse ... ) we can deepen the love.

So whenever we have a moment - direct your thoughts heavenward and tell Hashem - "I love you ! - no reason - I just wanted you to know" and watch as your relationship with Hashem blossoms. This is why Shabbos Hagadol is big - because loving G-d is big. Real big. And when you do it - you'll be big too.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, April 04, 2008

A Window or A Mirror ? Reflection or Insight ?

You know how, when you click a button on your screen, it seems to actually be pressed in for a moment. This is, of course, an illusion that is based on shading and light. By shifting the colors and immediate background around the "button" to a lighter shade, the button appears to be depressed.

This is perhaps what the Torah refers to as " ... it's appearance is deeper than the skin ... " [ Vayikra 13:3 ] regarding the brightness of the tzaraas wound.

Why does the Torah describe the tzaraas wound's depth, though (instead of just describing the brightness) ? To allude to it's purpose.

Tzaraas can be seen as a window or a reflection.

Seen as a mirror, tzaraas is a reflection of a person's activities. While a pleasant face and countenance may be presented to the outside world - one who is guilty of violations that would cause tzaraas is certainly conducting themselves in an ugly and blemished manner. In this way the tzaraas simply mirrors on the outside what the person is acting on the inside.

In a more meaningful fashion, however, tzaraas acts as a window into the person's own activities. While many forms of tzaraas-causing activities are perpetrated knowingly, the nature of these transgressions is a hidden one - one that can certainly be downplayed or even ignored by the person committing them. In this fashion the tzaraas acts as a window into the deeper aspects of man's activities. It's presence calls attention to an ill that lies beneath the surface. Only by bringing it to the felon's attention can it be rectified.

If you would see a storm brewing from your window - you might have a few hasty preparations that you would want to accomplish. Without the warning of a window, however, you might be hit blindsided by the winds and rain. Similarly, the metzora may never have taken a week to contemplate and introspect in total solitude. The window into his actions that tzaraas affords him - gives him just that opportunity.

Nowadays we don't have that privilege. We aren't given the divine window into our actions that tzaraas shows us. We can, however, make use of the same 'cure' the metzora is instructed with. A few minutes daily, in quiet meditation, can help put our interactions with others in proper perspective.

A little cheshbon hanefesh goes a long way.

Hatzlacha !!