Friday, February 27, 2009

Growth and Immutability

R' Shimshon Raphael Hirsch points out that the menorah is the only one of the major vessels that contains no wood. Paradoxically, the menorah is the only vessel to resemble a growing object ( with it's trunk and branches - the menorah resembles a tree ). What can we learn from this ?

Regarding the absence of wood in the menorah, R' Hirsch comments that this is an integral fact in our understanding of the torah ( which is what the menorah's light represents ).  The torah, being Hashem's wisdom, is immutable and unchanging. It doesn't go in or out of style and is not subject to the whimsy of fads and trends. Only once we accept this truth can we move forward in our study of the torah. 

Perhaps this is why the menorah is shaped like a tree. Because once we recognize the unchanging nature of the torah, and devote ourselves to it's study - then we ourselves will embark on a journey of growth.  There is always room for development and evolution - but only with the understanding that the growth is within us - we are the ones advancing and the unchanging torah is the vehicle.

As an analogy - when I view a masterpiece from far away - it seems simple and unimpressive. The closer I look and the more expertise I develop - the more wowed I'll be. The masterpiece has not changed - I have.

May we all merit to continue to be nurtured into our own mighty and stately trees - with our roots drinking firmly from the waters of the unchanging torah.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, February 20, 2009


"וגר לא תלחץ ואתם ידעתם את נפש הגר כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים"

[ [ספר שמות כג:ט

 "And you shall not oppress a stranger for you know the feelings of a stranger for you were strangers in the land of Egypt"

[Shemos 23:9]

 Do we need a reason or justification to observe Hashem's mitzvos ? Even more so, is it thinkable that we wouldn't e commanded in this mitzvah if we wouldn't have the negative experience of the Egyptian exile in our national past ?!

 This passuk actually comes on the heels of the warning against accepting bribes. The reason that a bribe is assur is that it will alter your perception and render you unable to distinguish wrong from right.

 The mitzvah of consideration of the ger is similar in that it makes a difference what your perception is. One who has never been a ger wouldn't necessarily feel the acute pain of the forbidden oppression. With the proper perspective however, we can feel the appropriate empathy.

 We can also use this idea to help us get through difficult times. Perhaps the reason that Hashem is sending these trials our way is so we can empathize with our fellow man when he is struck with nisayon

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Happiness Redefined

"ויחד יתרו על כל הטובה אשר עשה השם לישראל אשר הצילו מיד מצרים"
ספר שמות פרק יח 

"Yisro was gladdened by all of the good that Hashem did for Israel, that He saved them from the hands of Egypt"
[Shemos 18:9]

Why was Yisro so happy that Hashem saved the Jews from the hands of Egypt, per se ? Certainly the operative function was the salvation of the oppressed - from whomever it is that is oppressing them ?! 

With this Yisro teaches us a new meaning of happiness. It isn't just about the redemption of the downtrodden and the new light and hope that is coming to them - it's also about the punishment and destruction that are the deserved lot of those who abuse their power and flout G-d's will. 

Happiness, therefore, is a sort of fulfilment - a righting of wrongs, on both sides of the equation, that sets the world back in a shape where the hand of Hashem is more clearly seen.

May we be zocheh to the ultimate happiness with the final redemption, and see all of Bnei Yisrael's - and therefore Hashem's - enemies punished swiftly and justly, bimhaira beyameinu, amen.

Hatzlacha !!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

There's No Place Like Home


 "...אל יצא איש ממקומו ביום השבת" [16:29 שמות]

 "…no man shall leave his place on the Sabbath day" [Shemos 16:29]

 This is the reason the Torah gives for the prohibition of collecting the manna on Shabbos, because we would have to leave the camp, violating the issur of tchum shabbos. Additionally, there was no need to collect, since Hashem had doubled the bounty on Friday.

 The Sefas Emes quotes from the Arizal that the word 'place' is also an allusion to Hashem, who is known as מקומו של עולם. The reason that Hashem is referred to as 'hamakom' is that everything rests on something, usually that which is beneath it, so in some way – the place where you are is what's supporting you. And what supports that ? Hashem. So in His name of 'hamakom', Hashem is the ultimate supporter.

 So it is supremely fitting that regarding Shabbos Hashem is referred to as such and that this parsha deals with the role of man's sustenance. When the Torah tells us that on Shabbos we should not go and collect the manna – it is because on Shabbos we should not leave our place. During the week we must put in our hishtadlus, effort, to receive our daily bread – on Shabbos, though, we need zero effort because we are already basking within the domain of the Sustainer of All, the 'place' upon which we all rest, Hashem.

 Let us use this upcoming Shabbos (and all subsequent ones) to appreciate and fully realize the tremendous gift that is a day spent wholly in the embrace of Hashem, a day when we are exempt from our worldly pursuits. It is a huge privilege, but also an equally august responsibility as shown by the prohibition of leaving the 'makom.' . 

Hatzlacha !!