Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Rasha Is(not) As Rasha Does

The prophet Hoshea declares, in this weeks stirring and famous Haftara :

" שובה ישראל עד ד' א-לוקיך כי כשלת בעוונך "

[הושע יד:ב]

"Return, Israel, unto the L-rd you G-d, for you have been stumbled by your sins"

[Hoshea 14:2]

Hoshea is asking, no more and no less than, full and complete teshuva – a return to an intimate relationship with the Creator, without the static and baggage of trangressions. And what mechanism does the Navi offer to reach such a vaunted goal ? The following realization :

You have been stumbled by your sins.

Seemingly simplistic – this concept actually alludes to a deeper idea that can form the backbone for the most meaningful and complete teshuva.

When temptation strikes and defying G-d seems like a viable prospect – there is an underlying cause. A drive and a want to achieve something. Be it a release, or a comfort or even an indulgence. The reason we go through with our illegitimate plans is because it seems the best way to satisfy that drive or want. When we realize that - if it goes against Hashem's wishes – then it must be counterproductive in achieving our goals – we have come a long way.

The Prophet speaks to us – your sins are not bringing you the joy and comfort that you crave – they are only stumbling blocks to true happiness !

When we internalize this message we will be firmly established on the path to teshuva – a path that leads, ultimately, to Hashem Himself.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Are We Men Or Are We Sheep ?


The Mishna in tractate Rosh Hashanna mentions that in the heavenly judgment we pass before G-d "like b'nei maron". The Gemara [Rosh Hashanna 18a] asks what the meaning of this unique phrase is – and answers with three possibilities.

One - sheep. Two – those who pass through a narrow winding staircase. Three – the soldiers of Dovid Hamelech's army.

While explanations two and three refer to people and even sound a mild chord of comprehension, explanation one is particularly perplexing. We may be seen individually – like those climbing a steep and narrow staircase – and we may be judged on our willingness to put our life on the line for the glory of Hashem – like good soldiers should. But why sheep ? A sheep is not responsible for his actions – he doesn't have the capability to choose good over evil.

Because a sheep is the ultimate example of an animal that is led.

We are really sheep. We are constantly being influenced and led in all different directions. If, in fact, we are led – then what remains as a fair criterion of judgment ? We aren't responsible for our actions – since they are the product of those forces that lead us – not our independent thoughts.

But as opposed to sheep – we choose our influences. Yes, we are led – but we choose the lead we wish to follow.

And that is exactly what we are judged on. Not necessarily our end-product actions – but our primary choices. The choice we make before the influence becomes all pervasive – the choice to allow this influence admission into our lives.

May we, and all of klal yisrael, make only proper choices. May we focus ourselves only on influences that will bring us closer to the Ribbonno Shel Olam and His mission for us in this world.

Wishing all a Happy, Sweet, and Torah-full year.

Hatzlacha !!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Happiness or Else ...

In the harsh words of rebuke known as the Tochacha there is a famous passuk that traces the source of all of our national woes and tragedies.

" תחת אשר לא עבדת את ד' א-לוקיך בשמחה ובטוב לבב מרב כל"
"Because you did not serve Hashem your G-d with happiness and a good heart despite having it all"
[דברים כח:מז]

Literally, the passuk actually says that we will be thusly afflicted - "In exchange for" our lack of divine service.

How can we understand this barter ? If I give you something you can give me something in return - and if I refrain from giving you something - then you will, in exchange, refrain from giving me something. What can the passuk mean ?

Olam Hazeh is not only a smorgasbord of mitzvah opportunities - it's also a gauntlet of nisyonos. Every success is wonderful - but every failure, in parallel, is horrible. When we do not serve Hashem we are actually performing an act - an act of rejection - and the price of that rejection on the divine barter scale is the terrifying curses mentioned in the Tochacha.

May we be zocheh to dedicate our efforts to the proper service of Hashem - and may all of our currency be the positive kind.

Hatzlacha !!