Friday, July 25, 2008

Last Act Of Sacrifice

When Moshe Rabbeinu is commanded to fight the Midianites and then 'hang up his spurs', he doesn't hesitate one bit - but rather pushes ahead full steam with plans for the battle. Many reasons are given for this - and all of them indicate Moshe's praise. Some contend that Moshe would not delay a battle to avenge the honor of G-d, while others point out that Moshe would always perform every mitzva alacritiously - even if it was his last act alive.

I would like to add the following explanation - Moshe's love for Eretz Yisrael. Knowing that he would not bring the people into the land, Moshe actually hastened to perform his final mitzva so as not to delay their entrance into the land.

Parshas Mattos is usually read during the three weeks - a time of national tragedy. The anchor of this sad time is our abuse and disregard of Hashem's special 'daled amos', eretz yisrael. With his final act Moshe is trying to teach us how to be moser nefesh for this great zchus - even without entering it himself ! Sadly, at the end of the parasha we see that the shevatim of Gad and Reuven ( and half of Menashe ) didn't learn this lesson.

But we can !

Whether we have been privileged to live in Eretz Yisrael or just been here as a visitor - if we would internalize this, the last message of Moshe Rabbeinu, and see the land for it's immense and awesome importance - perhaps we will merit to reverse this period of time from sadness to gladness and from our current exile to redemption, bimheira beyameinu, amen.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Are We Angels Or Are We Men ?

Regarding the most basic of all the korbanos - the korban Olah - the passuk makes an interesting association.

"Olas tamid ha'asuya behar sinai lereiach nichoach, ishei l'Hashem" [Bamidbar 28:6]
"An Olah sacrifice that is brought consistently, as is was brought on mount Sinai, a pleasing aroma, a burnt offering to Hashem" [Bamidbar 28:6]

Why the comparison to Har Sinai ? There were no sacrifices brought on Har Sinai ?

The Sefas Emes offers an explanation. There are two modes that man functions in. A journey to raise man's personal level of kedusha and to raise the levels of kedusha of the surrounding world, and a static mode - for when man has reached the source of kedusha.

Most of the time we are journeying, attaining higher levels of kedusha - but at times we are zocheh to tap into and be present at the root of all kedusha - Hashem Himself. At these times we are similar to the angels who are always before G-d. At those times our service of Him is categorized by standing, just like the angels stand.

This second, holier type of avodah is the highest form we practice - and is represented in every experience we had as a nation when we were in the presence of the Root of All Kedusha. At Har Sinai - we stood, like the angels. The avodah in the beis hamikdash is done standing - in deference to the shechina that rests there - and even in our private davening - the pinnacle is the section called the 'Amidah'.

And there is a connection between all these avodahs - that's why the korban Olah is reffered to as having been 'made' on Har Sinai - because the service of Hashem that we perform with the korban is similar to the experience we had at Har Sinai - tapping into the Root Of All Kedusha.

May we all be zocheh to realize that we stand before the Root Of All Kedusha three times a day - and in this realization may we be soon in the presence of the shechina in the Beis HaMikdash, bringing the korban Olah as it was 'brought' on Har Sinai, bimheira byameinu, amen.

Hatzlacha !!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Wouldn't You Like To Be A Donkey Too ?

Why did Hashem choose to put the power of speech in the hands of a donkey to rebuke Bilaam for his wicked intentions ?

A donkey is the symbol of irreverance and disregard for the higher stature of someone greater - as Chazal teach us "If the earlier generations may be compared to angels then we may be compared to men - but if they are men, then we are donkeys" [Shabbos 112b]. My Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Rhodes shlit"a, would explain that viewing earlier generations through our own myopic lens is tantamount to the attitude of a donkey - to him everything is on a level playing field - earlier generations, current generations, scholars, lay people, sinners - even animals !

It is therefor fitting for Bilaam, who is guilty of the very same irreverance ( he is so full of himself that he believes he can outwit G-d and curse the Jews ! ) to be rebuked by his donkey. And it is also fitting for an animal, who has no gift of speech, to point out to Bilaam his errors - seeing as how he planned his misdeeds with the very same gift of speech.

And us ? What can we take away from all this ?

Two things.

Firstly, appreciation for Hashem's justice that governs all aspects of life right down to how He deals with rouge gentile prophets.

Secondly, when we go down the path of irreverance and arrogance - we may deteriorate down the slippery slope until we attempt to challenge even Hashem himself ! And so we need to be extra careful to avoid this trait.

Hatzlacha !

Sunday, July 06, 2008

What is Pure ?

Once something is defiled - there is no such thing as re-purifying it. The entire concept of purity is something which has never been tainted.

So how does the Torah have all sorts of recipies for the repurification of man and kli ? The answer lies in the final ingredient. Time.

For light 'tumah' we are commanded to bathe ( either ourselves and our clothing or just ourselves ) and " tameh until nightfall". Even once we have fulfilled all the requirements of tahara - we still must wait for a new day to begin.

Why ?

Because we aren't removing the tumah - we are being recreated without it. And recreation occurs constantly - every day. When we are impure - we actually drag the tumah with us into our next day, into our next recreation. By toivelling and fulfilling all conditions for tahara - we are actually just leaving the tumah behind when Hashem recreates us.

And what about serious tumah ? We need an entire, seven day, repurification process. Seven days is the paradigm of creation - Hashem initially made the world in these seven days - and He recreates it every week. ( incidentally - that is one of the most special things about shabbos - but that's for another post )

So, now that we are unable to keep most of the laws of tumah and tahara - what does this mean for us ?

It means that every tomorrow is affected by today. Without effort and intervention - my mistakes of yesterday will roll over into my today. But, with a serious attempt at re-attaining my pristine status - Hashem, in his kindess, will grant me a recreation in the same pure state that He initially granted me life.

Hatzlacha !