Friday, April 27, 2012


One of the most famous of the Torah's missives is the all encompassing "קדושים תהיו". Rashi tells us that with these words Hashem is commanding us to keep an extra distance from immorality. The Ramban understood this instruction as a call for moderation and restraint even in areas of permissible pleasures.
Perhaps most striking are the words of the Kli Yakar. To him, the words of Kedoshim Tihiyu are not just a commandment, but also a promise and statement of fact.
This shabbos, let us bask in the knowledge that we posses a divinely granted spark of holiness. And may our shabbos reflect this.
Hatzlacha !

Friday, April 20, 2012

Are We Our Successes Or Our Failures ?

The beginning of Parshas Metzora teaches us an important lesson in teshuva.

After the first two pesukim that refer to the formerly afflicted person as a metzora, he is never again called by this appellation. He is given a new title, האיש המיטהר – the man who is becoming pure.
Now, if he is only becoming pure – that means that he is not yet pure. Without being overly technical, if he is not yet pure – then he must still be impure! Why don't we simply refer to him as the tameh, or better yet, the metzorah, until such time as his purification is complete?
Because that would be inaccurate.
While there are still steps a former metzora must take to achieve divine forgiveness and prevent backsliding, these are all technicalities. Ultimately, he has turned a corner and is now on the mend, spiritually.
This is, in essence, true for any one of us who is struggling with any part of our avodas Hashem. Once we are free and clear of the core blemish, the initial misjudgment that caused us to stray – we can take the vaunted title of "ba'al teshuva". We may still struggle, we may even still fall, but never again should we refer to ourselves as a sinner. We are a "מיטהר"-one who is becoming pure, not there yet – but commited to staying the path.
And with this new, positive self image we are deserving of much siyaata dishmaaya. Even the kohein, who spends all of his days in the innermost camp, communing with the shechina, must go out to the מיטהר to see that he is indeed free of blemish.
May we all be zocheh to recognize our shortcomings and commit to a path to overcome them, thusly earning the polished crown of a מיטהר. And marching with these crowns, may we greet mashiach tzidkeynu, bimheyra beyameinu, amen
Hatzlacha !.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Are We All Wet ?


Why would Hashem punish the Egyptians by splitting the sea ? He has already shown them His mastery over water in the first makka when He turned their Nile god into blood. What greater demonstration of Hashem's power was to be seen ?

Water is that with which Hashem gives life. For that reason Torah is compared to water. Dry land, on the other hand, is, well … dry. We can thusly compare the sea as being the receptacle for Hashem's midda of chessed while on land his midda of din or strict justice prevails.

When Pharaoh catches up to the fleeing Jews at Pi HaChiroth, he is convinced that now he will destroy them. How could Pharaoh be convinced of this ? Has he forgotten the past year, when ten plagues decimated his country and shattered his defenses ? Pharaoh remembered these things all too well. He was just erroneously convinced that this was the manifestation of Hashem's will on land. With the attribute of justice, Hashem dealt harshly with the Egyptians and trounced them in a nightmarish year. But, on the sea, with the attribute of loving kindness playing center stage, Pharaoh was sure that he could beat Hashem and His Jews, too.

Pharaoh was a fool.

And to emphasize that Hashem's plan is unfathomable by the human mind, Hashem saves the Jews by bringing them into the heart of the sea, and saves them by opening it and having dry land in middle! It is thusly not kindness (water) which saves the Jews, but rather justice (land). And the Egyptians aren't punished by justice, as we would expect, but rather by a flooding of kindness!

How does this shape our focus for the end of Pesach ? By offering Hashem our praise. When the Jews sang the shira at the edge of the Sea of Reeds, they reached new and lofty levels of Emunah. Perhaps this was their new recognition. They had seen Hashem's mighty hand all throughout the year as the makkos unfolded. But only by seeing Hashem reverse His hands, so to speak, did they really begin to get a glimpse of Hashem's awesome power. When the Jews understood that there is no objective kindness-mode or justice-mode but rather a unified, all encompassing, dominion over all, that's when they offered the greatest praise to Hashem.

May we, at the conclusion of our Pesach, merit seeing this Divine dominion, unhampered and unconstrained by any regulations of the mundane. And let our praise of this incredible glory reflect this majestic fact.

Hatzlacha !

Friday, April 06, 2012

Skip, Skip, Skip To My Lou


One of the classic ploys of the Yetzer hora is impulsiveness, or the ability or inclination to perform an action quickly and without too much (or any) thought. It is both a tool to perform negative actions that we would usually avoid ("Oh, I can't believe I just said that …") and a deficiency in its own right.

Then why does it seem that Pesach is all about this same trait ?

Because it is.

What makes impulsivity bad is the absence of a rational thought process. While this is usually utilized for bad actions, there is no reason why we can't hijack this for good.

In the same way that an impulsively quick action can drop you (or your actions, or your speech, etc' …) to a pitifully low level in your avodas Hashem – the same kind of action can turn the tables!

Pesach is when Hashem did not examine our overall status in order to redeem us from bondage. It is a time when Hashem asked us to do the impossible (taking the sheep, god of the Egyptians in total and complete defiance) and without thinking too long about the possible ramifications … we did it ! We skipped the part of out decision making process that would have caused us to doubt fulfilling Hashem's command. G-d, in turn, skipped our houses and children when He swept through Egypt in the final retributionary rampage. To commemorate this we even skip the rising of the dough in the baking process.

This Pesach, skip something. At the seder, or in teffila, get into it! Skip the self consciousness, skip the doubts, and have an incredible, meaningful Pesach!

Hatzlacha !