Friday, August 26, 2011

With Our Hands


The Torah tells us to open our hands to our poorer brethren. Not just to give to them – not just to make sure they are taken care of – specifically, to open our hands.

Why are hands a metaphor for giving ( aside from the obvious reference to the limb that grabs hold of what we have ) ? Because when the fingers are closed they all seem similar in size – only when they are open do we notice that no two are alike. Similarly, when we consider those who are in need – we may stumble into the fallacy of assuming that they can all be taken care of in the same fashion and that the same basic goods will suffice for them. However, as chazal teach us – one must give to the poor "די מחסורו"- i.e. that which he is lacking. And since we are all different – so are our needs. [quoted in the sefer פנינים משולחן הגר"א ]

There is also another angle from which to understand the role that the hands play in giving tzedaka.

Most other limbs are naturally open, or straight. When the muscles are relaxed – your legs lie flat and your arms are completely extended. Your fingers however, are another story. You must consciously flex your muscles to fully open your hand. This can be seen as an allusion to the fact that we are by nature selfish – we must overcome this inborn trait and learn to "open our hands".

Hatzlacha !!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

To Fear The Crown

"את ד' א-לוקיך תירא אותו תעבוד ובו תדבק ובשמו תשבע"

[דברים י:כ]

"Your G-d, Hashem, you shall fear. Him you should worship. To Him you shall cleave and in His name shall you take an oath." [Devarim 10:20]

Yiras Hashem is a confusing thing. One could (mistakenly) assume that to demonstrate complete awe of the grandeur of the One Above means to be stupefied into a respectful silence. When faced with something of immeasurable greatness we would naturally be overawed and withdraw.

The Passuk comes to teach us that this kind of passive avoidance cannot be considered true Yiras Hashem. Coupled with a healthy fear of the majesty of heaven, we should feel an incredible attraction. Our job is not to avoid involvement with Hashem for fear of messing it up – our job is to specifically engage in acts that mention Hashem's name – just to do it right !

Imagine someone who fears making a beracha with less that the proper kavanna – so they don’t make any berachos at all ! It is obvious that they are missing the point ! For this reason the passuk stresses that we should take oaths in Hashem's name. If we were to avoid it entirely one could assume it is because we do not think that Hashem's name is significant enough to swear by (chas veShalom !) But by stressing that we should swear in G-d's name we are declaring it as being worthy of that awe.

Since we do not take oaths nowadays – how can we apply this lesson ? By focusing on aspects of our avodas Hashem. Do we make berachos quietly out of respect or reverence – or is it because we do not take pride in our level of devotion ? Is our davening relegated to a quiet corner – let it be because of our concentration.

May we have much hatzlacha in our endeavors to properly serve Hashem – finding the balance between withdrawing due to yiraa and embracing out of ahava.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Knowing Heart

"וידעת היום והשבות אל לבבך ..." [דברים ד : לט]
"And you shall know today, and you shall answer it to your heart …"
This famous passuk that we say during Aleinu commands us to perform a task vital to our service of Hashem. While it is a given that we must 'know' that Hashem is the only One Above, what exactly is the passuk adding by instructing us to 'answer it' or 'return it' into our hearts ?
On a simple level, we can understand that there is a difference between academic knowledge and the kind of intrinsic deep down feeling. The former may be a conversation point – the latter, will bring one to action. It is not enough that we 'know' that Hashem runs the world – we have to internalize the knowledge in a way that will yield results.
On a deeper level, however, the Ohr HaChaim HaKadosh elaborates on these concepts. Our innate belief in hashgacha pratis should not be something ill defined and vague – like the nighttime – but rather clear and bright – like the day.
And as far as 'answering' or 'returning' to our hearts – perhaps this is an allusion to our inborn belief. Our hearts may be swept away by desires, emotions and winds of change – but in the end – we must return our hearts to the pristine state of emunah with which we received them. While this may be difficult, we definitely have it in us !
Hatzlacha !!

Friday, August 05, 2011

The White Stuff

One of the misdeeds that Moshe Rabbeinu rebukes the Jewish people for is their disdain for the man. It is interesting to note – the 'complaint' against the man is extremely ironic. What unique property did the man have ? There was no waste generated by it. In addition to being a fundamental aspect of the man it was also an inherent kindness.

Chazal teach us that the Torah could only have been given to those who eat man. That's because only someone fueled by perfection can relate to the Torah which is correspondingly perfect. Once that generation 'brought the Torah down' into this imperfect world – now we, even in our imperfections, can learn it.

But there was an additional kindness to the man. For forty years the Jewish people never needed to worry about that aspect of personal hygiene, their cleanliness was insured.

What was so tragic about the complaint is that it was directed exactly at an aspect of Hashem's kindness. Ungratefulness epitomized.

The next time we have an 'issue' with how Hashem is running our lives – and with a particular occurrence – let us take the lesson of the man. Don't look at the glass as half empty – realize that Hashem put it there to quench our thirst.

Hatzlacha !!