Friday, September 28, 2012

HA'AZINU; TOWER OF SALVATION

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

In our parsha, Ha'azinu, as for every parsha, we need to ask: what is the question and what is the answer? 

In this parsha, where Moshe looks back and reflects on the life and mission of Israel, we similarly must reflect, and ask of ourselves- "What pain, has been inflicted on me, and how do I refrain from consciously or unconsciously passing it on to others?" 

In this season of deepest reflection and self-accounting (cheshbon hanefesh), as we stand figuratively before the King of Kings, we ask, "why are we here? What is the ultimate purpose of our lives? What is the point of my life? What is the point of my being Jewish?"

Not "why are we the eternal people," for that is a given, being that it is a Divine oath, but "what are we to do with this sense of eternality?" Will we be IN the garden or OUT of the garden? In the Torah blessing we intone: "vechayey olam nata betochenu- and eternal life you hath planted in our midst." Will we seek shelter amidst the branches under the protective shade of the TREE of LIFE, which is Torah? Or will we we spurn this gift- the Torah, whose mitzwoth and teachings are literally the keys to our soul's eternal life?

"Ha'Azinu haShamayim- Give ear O Heavens...

veTishma ha'Aretz- and Hear O Earth..."

Heaven and Earth were the first born in Creation, partnering with G*d in the Creation of all that was to follow. Being the first of Creation they represent all that is potential. Humankind, being the last of Creation, represents the fulfillment of that potential. The Torah, the Sinaitic Revelation, takes us one step further and asks us to go BEYOND our potential.

The Messianic Age represents the fulfillment of that "going beyond." The Pagan Idea represented the eternal cyclicity of life. The Judaic Revolution realigned human consciousness to synchronize with the DNA blueprint, substituting the two dimensional pagan circle theory which has no sense of progression, with the three dimensional Hebraic spiral theory - G*d, Torah and Israel, which combines cyclicity with growth.

Forty represents transformation. The forty day period from Elul through Yom Kippur represents in miniature mankind's sojourn from Creation through Revelation and on to the Ultimate Redemption. The trumpets we blow on Rosh Hashanah symbolize the same trumpets we heard at Sinai, while the release from the obsessive burden of all bodily cares on Yom Kippur offers us a glimpse into the state of perfection of the Future World, when the soul and the body finally act in harmony instead of at cross purposes, when peace and justice is achieved for all. As such it is our day of greatest joy and celebration.

Shabbat Shuvah is the breather, the shabbat resting point, from which we symbolically catch our collective breath before we ascend to the peak of the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the Shabbat Shabbaton, which is Yom Kippur. The timeliness and concurrence of Haazinu with the Sabbath of Return- Shabbat Shuvah, is uncanny. We so often despair of our journey and grow weary of the effort just when the end is almost in sight. It's always darkest just before the dawn!

When we lose the connection to Sinai, we lose the compass pointing us to our ultimate destination. We are bidden by Moses for ALL generations to contemplate how and why we became prosperous in our land.

"Pay close attention to all the words through which I warn you this day, so that you will be able to instruct your CHILDREN to keep all the words of this Torah carefully."

When Israel seeks to throw off the yoke of the Torah she is bending and distorting the spiral paradigm.

"Answer your souls' deepest yearnings- v'initem et nafshoteychem," and return to Hashem.

If we make the Torah central to our lives we are indeed answering our soul's deepest desire, and INITEM is then translated as "answering our soul." But if we lose our center and allow centripetal forces to spin us around and bear down on us, thus losing the Torah as the guiding central moral force in our lives, then INITEM becomes translated as "afflict your souls."

But as our haftarah reassures us in the end (2 Samuel 22: 49-51), King David declares, "He brings me out from my enemies. You lift me above my adversaries; you deliver me from the violent man (literally "Hamas!"). Therefore I will give thanks to You, O G*d, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. He is a Tower of Salvation to His king; and shows mercy to His annointed, to David and his descendants forever."

MIGDOL YESHUOTH MALKO VE'OSEH CHESED LIMSHICHO LEDAVID U'LI'ZAROAD OLAM.

A most hopeful note indeed.

SHABBAT SHALOM


© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

YOM HA K'PURIM: A YOM KIPPUR THOUGHT


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

When the Torah calls the holiest day of the year Yom HaKippurim, on a deeper level it saying that the day is actually Yom K'Purim, meaning "a day like Purim." And if Yom Kippur is likened to Purim, then on some level one could actually say that Purim is even deeper, in that it is the root holiday after which Yom Kippur is modelled.

Yes, Purim is historically post-Biblical, while Yom Kippur, being Biblical in origin came earlier, but in matters of Divine Truth there is no past or future. It's all happening in the eternal moment. Time is but a function of our human dimension. It lacks relevance from the perspective of the other worlds. Time slows down as we approach the speed of light. And at the speed of G*d there is no past present or future, just as G*d lives simultaneously in the past, present and future. You can be reincarnated into the past just as easily as you can be reincarnated into the future. As we stand before the Aron Kodesh, with our whole future before us, so too is our whole past stretched before us on the heavenly surround sound wide screen projection video.

On Purim we celebrate the vanquishing of evil. Haman is always in pursuit of Mordechai. Mordechai, always one step ahead, escapes his clutches. Esther represents that part of us which takes the leap of faith. Like Esther, we put ourselves on the line, throwing ourselves at the mercy of the king for our very lives. With every fiber of her being and every ounce of energy she summoned her holy chutzpah to plead for her deliverance. Haman, representing evil incarnate, must nevertheless pay homage to Mordechai, who triumphantly leads him through the streets of Shushan.

So too, on Yom Kippur, we realize that while we despair at the sins we may have committed, in the end they may ultimately be harnessed in the service of the good. In the end, the crimson thread turns to white as the High Priest proclaims our atonement. In the place where a Baal Teshuvah stands, holding in his hands a tattered, well-worn valise of sins, no Tzaddik can stand. Still, we are wont to give in to despair because as we aspire in holiness and piety the evil inclination is never far behind.

We often become discouraged in our spiritual strivings because the higher we ascend in our spiritual progress, like Mordechai's ascent in the court of the king, so too do the forces of negativity seem to increase their vigor, and like Haman, nearly succeed in dragging us down into the abyss. The secular world claims the religious sin because of hypocricy, perhaps to justify its antinomian predilections. But the truth is that the greater the Tzaddik, the greater the evil inclination, as its sole desire is to distract and weaken and eventually annul the tzaddik's soul desire. Our mission is to overcome and not surrender.

And yet we revel on this day in the sure knowledge that in the end the evil decree will be anulled, the evil inclination will be vainquished, and like Esther we will soon be dining at the feast of the Great King. On Yom Kippur, the King of Kings holds out His golden sceptre to each of us, thereby anulling the evil decree. That is why Yom Kippur is the most joyous of all holidays. Solemn, perhaps, but certainly joyous. May Hashem's messengers on horseback race to the far ends of the kingdom proclaiming that each and every one of us are sealed in the Book of Life.

Gemar Chatimah Tovah!

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

P.S. The tzaddik in the above is one who valiantly wrestles with his yetzer hara, as opposed to a complete, true Tzaddik, a Tzaddik Gamur, who is in the rarified ranks of those who have completely dominated and subjugated their evil inclination. Among them are the lamedvavniks, 36 in all, clothed in secrecy, whose existence is said to sustain the world. They are the pillars of the world, known for their kind and unassuming natures.


These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Friday, September 21, 2012

VAYELECH: THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER

By Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. This famous expression is so true. We always desire that which is just beyond us, that which we cannot reach, that which lies behind the fence. From the distance, it always looks better than one's own grass, one's own situation.

Every rule has its exception, or else it wouldn't really be a rule, perhaps just a truism. In Parshat Vayelech, Moses urges the people to be strong and have courage (chazak ve amatz), because they will need it to withstand the temptations and blandishments on the other side (of the Jordan). Similar to the soul emerging into the world as a newborn soul carrier, the angel urges the soul to swear to be good and righteous on the other side and to withstand the temptations to be found there. To be righteous, to remain pure and unsullied, requires tremendous strength.

So yes, the grass really is greener on the other side of the Jordan. And likewise, the diversions and the temptations truly abound on the other side of the womb, in this world. This world is greener than the foetal world in its wombic cushion, for the temptations and allures are purposely planted in the garden to tempt us. The evil inclination, the yetzer hara, serves in this world only, as a means to propel the soul to grow by dint of its wrestling. If the grass weren't greener, we'd have no reason to want to leave the warmth and safety of the womb. And, truth be told, it's not a matter of choice.

Green is all around us. The green found in nature, that is. Scientists have even shown that green is the most relaxing of all the colors. God must have planned it that way!

And the idea of being green is also all around us. The idea that we need to radically shift our orientation to nature and to resource allocation and utilization to be in harmony with nature. All actions have consequences. How we use nature also has its consequences.

The Bible in Genesis records the Garden of Eden narrative where mankind through Adam is told "to work it and guard it." Indeed, if we wish the planet to be healthy and to ensure that the earth will continue to be a life-sustaining Eden for us we must continue to take heed and treat the planet and nature with respect, guarding its resources carefully to ensure a healthy environment.

Every seven years the Bible instructs us to let the land lay fallow so that we can tend to our spiritual needs over our material needs. It is in this year that the farmer recharges his spiritual batteries and devotes his time and energy to learning the Torah and delving deeply into the Bible with the same devotion paid to running the farmstead and attending to its myriad responsibilities.

In this season of repentance we must also ask forgiveness and repent for the many abuses we have heaped upon nature and the natural resources of our beautiful planet. There is enough abundance in nature to serve our needs while we at the same time serve as stewards and guardians of nature.

When humanity sees itself as greater than a mere cog in an economic machine and devotes itself to a higher spiritual purpose beyond a "mere" survival mentality, it then attains a degree of dignity heretofore unknown by the masses in human historical consciousness.

When the Greeks and the Romans encountered the Jewish Sabbath, they accused the Jewish People of a certain chronic laziness, in their refusal to engage in any kind of manual labor every seventh day. Little did they know that this was the key to human dignity even as it honored G*d in the process.

So too during the seventh Sabbatical "year of release," the Shemittah Year. Giving the land a rest, allowing it to return once every seven years to replenish its nutrients not only enriches the environment but at the same time recharges our spiritual batteries and helps us to recalibrate our moral compasses. As the Torah teaches, "man does not live by bread alone."

And as Isaiah says, "Days are coming. There will be a hunger in the land. But the hunger will not be for bread and the thirst will not be for water, but to hear the Word of God." 

Green is also the color associated with envy. The Torah teaches that one should never be envious of another person, except in one, exclusive area - the knowledge of Torah. 

In that sense, may we all become green in our love for Torah and righteousness. And may we not fall and succumb to the false "grass is greener" material allures and blandishments of things of foolishness and vanity. Being green. It's a good thing. For all humankind.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

ROSH HASHANA: CHANGELING

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The word "shana" in Hebrew means many things. It is most commonly translated as year, but it also has many deeper related meanings. Shana also means "teach,"and the word "mishna," the oral teachings, comes from the same root. Shana also means "change" or "transformation." In Hebrew, "leshanot" is the infinitive form of the word meaning "to change." So when we teach we are exchanging ideas, both student and teacher changing in the process.

The word for teeth, "sheenayim," also derives from the same root. Our teeth begin the transformation process, begin the changing of inanimate food into the very energy which animates us. That which was once matter of a certain provenance from outside of ourselves, some "other," now becomes a part of our very essence.

The word for tongue, "lashon,"also hints at this idea. Not only does the tongue aid the teeth in the digestive process, whose taste buds help avoid the fetid, the putrid and the rancid, but so too does the tongue form words, helping to change ethereal thoughts into the realm of action- into words, which are the genesis of action. And in Hebrew, the word "shoneh" means "different," apart from the norm by dint of change. Rosh Hashana, then, is often given short shrift by being viewed solely as meaning the "head of the year."

Passover, falling in the month of Nisan, is explicitly enumerated in the Torah as being more properly known as the head of the year, calling her "the first month." Tishrei, the month of Rosh Hashana, is literally called "the seventh month." So what should it then be called? How do we tie all these meanings of shana together to form a coherent, organic whole?

Rosh Hashana should be called "the beginning of changing." Just as nature begins to change with the changing of the leaves and the change in the seasons, and school begins and new TV shows begin, so too should we learn to let go and to embrace a new beginning. Tishrei is the seventh month. Shabbat is the seventh day.

Shabbat, the seventh day, where we change into our heavenly spiritual garments, is mirrored in the seventh month, the month of spiritual transformation. All year long we are learning life's lessons. Each year we try to grow, becoming different and better people than we were the year before. We strive to accept change in life, in others and in ourselves. Only through forgiving ourselves and others can we take the first step in making these changes. Only through a renewed sense of responsibility to the covenantal idea, to the idea of mitzvah, can this change occur.

This responsibility to facilitate this process of change is the essence of the Torah's eternal challenge. But true change is very frightening. As they say, everyone wants progress, but no one wants to change. So the Creator Above understands this and helps us to change, giving us a forty day period from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur to help us to psychologically navigate the transformation. We cannot do it in one day.

The shofar we blow each morning during the month of Elul in this season of changing, itself epitomizes change. From originally being the instrument of animal warfare, of strife and contention, it will one day become the instrument through which we announce the Messianic Age, heralding the dawn of a new age of peace, love and brotherhood.

Shana Tova, the New Year greeting, does not only mean Happy New Year. On the deepest level it means, "Change for the Good." May we all change for the good, and choose life. Amen.


Shanah Tovah!
A Goot Yor!

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Friday, September 14, 2012

NETZAVIM: STANDING AT THE PORTAL



by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin HaKohen Melman

Nitzavim is always read prior to Rosh Hashana. It is a plaintive plea, nay warning, by Moses to the Jewish People, that they have before them a choice in life, between life and death, before good and evil, and that they should choose life.

The later Moses, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, aka Moses Maimonides, aka the Rambam, teaches that we should see ourselves, and the world, as hanging equidistant on the scales of justice, as being suspended evenly between the twin poles of evil and righteousness. Just one meritorious deed, or mitzvah, on our part, can mean the difference between personal salvation and world redemption, on the one hand, and personal ignominy and a world swept away in chaos, on the other.

Maimonides discusses repentence:
"What constitutes complete repentance? He who is confronted by the identical situation wherein he previously sinned and it lies within his power to commit the sin again, but he nevertheless does not succumb because he wishes to repent, and not because he is too fearful or weak [to repeat the sin]. How so? If he had relations with a woman forbidden to him and he is subsequently alone with her, still in the throes of his passion for her, and his virility is unabated, and [they are] in the same place where they previously sinned; if he abstains and does not sin, this is a true penitent" (Mishneh Torah, "Laws of Teshuva," 2:1).

Of course, to attain such a degree of mastery of one's self requires a certain amount of reflection and intense introspection. It requires us to, in a sense, "look back," at the evil we had committed.
Looking back and reflecting on our past deeds is part and parcel of the process of Teshuvah, and
yet, there is an earlier biblical precedent very much related to our parsha, which seems to suggest just the opposite!

In Genesis, parashat Vayera, Lot and his family are rescued by the archangel Raphael from the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah . They are warned specifically not to look back when fleeing from the evil cities (Gen19:17). In Genesis 19:26, we are informed that Lot's wife did indeed look back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt ("vatehi NETZIV melach"). This hidden reference in the first verse of our parsha to the previous flight from sin is joined by a quite explicit reference to the same story just 13 verses later in Deut19:22, where our fate would be joined to that of the overthrown cities, should we not forsake our evil ways.

This usage of the same word netziv in Genesis as well as in the opening verse of this week's portion ("you are standing here this day") seems to suggest that as they are collectively standing at the portal to the promised land, they are figuratively looking back at all the evil they had confronted and overcome in their journey up to this point. Janus-faced, they are facing imminent redemption awaiting them in the land even as they are seemingly mired by their dwelling upon the past. The text seems to be suggesting that it will take a renewal of the Covenant for them to finally point themselves forward, and not be immobilized by wallowing in their past.

This also begs the question. Should we therefore not look back at the evil we are trying to leave behind, following the lesson of Lot's wife? That would seem to contradict Maimonides' definition of teshuvah, of avoiding the same deeds while in the same conditions, advice which is seemingly only achieved through a process of self-reflection on one's past misdeeds.

A resolution of this seeming contradiction can perhaps be found in the same Genesis narrative,
where Lot exclaims (Gen 19:19),

" ...(and I cannot escape to the mountain), lest evil overtake me and I die.

"...pen tiDBaKani haRa'ah veMati."

The word in the Hebrew for "overtake me" is tiDBaKani, literally meaning "stick to me," as the word DeVeK in Hebrew means "glue." It is related to the term, devekut, which in Hasidic philosophy connotes the idea of clinging, or attaching oneself to G*d. But here the reference alludes to sticking not to G*d, but quite oppositely, to evil itself! Hasidic thought revolutionized Jewish thought by using the very weapons of the forces of evil instead for good. In other words, the forces of evil cause depression in the soul by causing one to immerse oneself in the mire of one's old ways. Your evil, sordid past clings to you like mental glue, seemingly preventing any chance of escape, of liberation.

By making the effort to consciously cling to G*d we can thus free ourselves from the muck and mire of the evil forces that strive to drag us down into a soul depression. G*d is throwing us a life line. "Cling to me instead," He is saying.

Resolving the seeming contradiction, whether to engage in reflection on one's past as a necessary step to moving forward to Teshuvah, or not to look back, so as to avoid the fate of Lot's wife, entails this use of devekut. Just as G*d created Torah as the antidote to evil, so too we should cling to G*d as our "teflon" (tefillin!) lifeline even as evil is trying its utmost to cling to us. But know that with G*d you will always prevail against evil, as long as you hold on and cleave to Him. We cleave to G*d through prayer, through Torah study, and through the conscious performance of mitzvoth.

So the idea is that we should look back, but only just enough to be temporarily and momentarily saddened by the idea that we sinned and went off the right path, so as to effectuate a true Teshuvah. But to allow oneself to be mired in sadness over one's past by dwelling on the past only prevents one from making that connection with G*d that has the power to lift one up from depression. We are told again and again that the path to G*d is only through joy, that sadness only blocks one from attaining that bliss which only comes from knowing and feeling close to G*d.

In just last week's parsha, Ki Tavo, we are warned that our lives will become cursed only because we did not serve G*d with happiness (Deut 29:47).

"...tachat asher lo avadeta et Hashem Elokecha b'SIMCHA."

It seems rather obvious, but sadness leads to sorrow, and sorrow leads to depression, and depression robs a person of the will to live. One becomes one of the walking dead.
As a practical suggestion for moving forward into Teshuvah, let us especially not dwell on others' past mistakes. Although perhaps well-meaning, it is often counter-productive, and causes feelings of depression which make it even harder for that person to break free of his old patterns because he then begins to lose hope. In losing hope, he loses joy, and thus again falls victim to his old ways.

I always used to chafe at the requirement to rise in the morning prayers upon reciting Psalm 100, beginning with the words, Mizmor LeTodah. After all, it is very short, but a paragraph in all, and by the time one has stood up one already has to sit back down again! But as short as it is, it is also the most powerful, and most deserving of respect, for it carries within the secret to life itself: 

"Ivdu et Hashem b'Simcha!"
"Serve the Lord with Joy/Happiness!"

To paraphrase the sage Hillel, "all the rest is commentary."

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!
Shanah Tovah!
A Goot Yor!

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new or fresh perspective).

Friday, September 7, 2012

KI TAVO: CATALYST NATION

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman
What does it mean to be called the Chosen Nation? Actually, the term used in Ki Tavo is
am segula, often translated as "treasured nation." But whether understood as chosen or as treasured, it seems to be frequently misunderstood.

It does not imply supremacy or arrogance. Rather, it embraces the idea of service. As Israel is amamlechet kohanim, a kingdom of priests, Israel is a kohein, or holy servant, to the other nations on Earth. It is this idea of service - to Hashem and to all humanity, which gives us our special vitality and energy.

Why is the Dead Sea dead? Because it only receives. It never gives out life sustaining waters. Thus the salts accumulate to toxic levels. Sea salt gives life, but only in very small quantities.

The Golan, by contrast, is bursting with life and vibrancy year round. Its fresh, living waters sustain and replenish Yam Kineret, the Sea of Galilee, whose waters sustain all Israel. And the Torah emanating from Yerushalayim and Tzfat, and indeed from all the heights of Torah, water and give spiritual nourishment to all Israel and to the world at large.

Israel now has the opportunity, our parsha is telling us, of being a catalyst for blessing for all the nations of the world. Indeed, this is a fulfillment of the Abrahamic blessing that "all the nations will be blessed through you." Israel, in a sense, now becomes the yeast for the whole world. As yeast is the catalyst in baking, so too is Israel that transforming agent of change which has the awesome capability of uplifting all of humanity.

Just as yeast is among the least of the ingredients, so too is Israel the least populous of the nations. Just as yeast is less than tasty when eaten as a meal in itself, so too does Israel shine less when consumed solely in a self-absorbed disinterest with the fate of humanity.

Israel is the yeast/catalyst in the rising pungent ferment that is humanity. The more we consciously incorporate Judaism into our lives, the sooner we help elevate all humanity, including ourselves, to achieve the end stage of glorious redemption and peace, and thereby fulfill our true destiny as an "am segula," as a Catalyst Nation.

When we want something good for someone we often say, "do this as a segula." Or sometimes it is said, "say this prayer at the kotel for forty days to find your soul mate as a segula," or "recite this psalm on behalf of sick person as a segula," or "wear this amulet as a segula." So clearly, at least in the folk mind, a segula has the sense of being a catalyst, of bringing about positive change.

As we immerse in our own Teshuvah, to bring about positive change, let us remember that we are not perfect creatures either. We all make mistakes, but the point is to learn from them, to grow from them, to become better people because of the mistakes we have made. Thank G*d I make mistakes! That's the only way I know how to grow!

Shabbat Shalom.
Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

Friday, August 31, 2012

KI TEITZEI: LOVING AND A HATING TONIGHT


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Behind everything which we hate there is to be found a Divine lesson for us. Sometimes we hate a person because he reminds us of a defect in our own character. That is a Divine message. Sometimes we hate someone because they are so good that we become jealous of him and look for petty ways to find fault with him to assuage our sense of regret for our own imperfect natures. Or perhaps he is full of joy and we are depressed or sad and hence we are jealous.

They say that the perfect is the enemy of the good. If you wait for the perfect you'll miss the good. And thus may end up hating the perfect in our passing up of the good.

In our parsha, Ki Teitzei, there is the instruction, if you have two wives, where one is loved and the other is hated, that we must honor the birthright of the oldest, the firstborn son, even if he is the offspring of the hated wife. The hated wife is identified first as the senuah, the hated one, spelled sin, nun, vav, alef, hey. But then she is later identified not as the senuah, but rather as the seniah! Sin, nun, yud, alef, hey. The letter vav is replaced with the letter yud!

What is the significance of this change in spelling? Every word is divine. Every letter is divine. So it must have a meaning. Furthermore, the Torah was given to us to be eternally relevant to every generation. So today when most of Jewry has foresworn polygamy, what lesson can we learn from the change in spelling?

The letter yud represents divinity. Yud is the first holy letter of Hashem's name, represented by the tetragrammaton, YKVK, the ineffable four letter Holy name. It is so holy that we do not even pronounce the actual name. Rather we refer to Him as Hashem, meaning "the name."

It is teaching us that behind everything which we hate there is to be found a Divine lesson for us. Sometimes we hate a person because he reminds us of a defect in our own character. That is a Divine message. Sometimes we hate someone because they are so good that we become jealous of him and look for petty ways to find fault with him to assuage our sense of regret for our own imperfect natures. Or perhaps he is full of joy and we are depressed or sad and hence we are jealous of his joyous demeanor.

A spouse is called an ezer k'negdo, translated often as "helpmeet." Ezer means "helper" and k'negdo means "against." When you are on the correct moral path she is to be a helper. But when you fall off the path she is NOT to be an enabler. Her job is to oppose you and help you get back onto the right path. But then you may hate her for it. But she's just doing her job. The enlightened spouse will recognize this and seek to amend his ways and so be in the circle of love and respect again. So in truth the two wives are really one in the end.

And the son who is to receive the birthright, regardless of which wife is his mother, what does he come to teach us? That even good things may come from seemingly bad origins. After all, David, the future king of Israel and progenitor of the Mashiach, is from the fruit of a Moabitess who in turn stems from the incestuous liaison between Lot and his daughters after witnessing the fiery demise of Sodom and Gemorrah. Sometimes a setback is really a setback. But let us have the eyes to try to see the Divine message behind every seeming setback and to turn hate into love wherever we go.

As the Torah teaches (Lev 19:18), Love thy neighbor as thyself -Ve'ahavta le'reyacha kamocha... Neighbor and evil are spelled with the exact same letters, reish and ayin. And we are to hate evil. So what this means is that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves, despite the evil we may do.

Do we not still love ourselves, even when we know we are imperfect and thus can do better? So too, we should extend that same sense of compassion to our neighbors whom we know to be imperfect. We can show our love for the good they do and try to correct them when we see they can do better. In that sense, we are like the two wives, in that we are really one and the same in our duty to help our neighbor become better. For us today, the two wives are really one and the same wife! Our supporter when we strive to do good, and our opponent when we strive to follow evil.

Evil comes to teach us and test us, and ultimately, to correct us. Spelled backwards it is ayin and reish, pronounced er, meaning awaken. When we love the good (wife) and hate the evil (wife), and yet appreciate that the challenge of evil is really for our own soul's growth, then we will have awakened to a higher order of consciousness.

Isaiah (45:7) teaches that Hashem even created evil: yotzer ohr uVoreh choshech, oseh shalom uVoreh et haRa...: " (He) forms light and creates darkness/makes peace and creates evil..."

In other words, G*d created both darkness and evil. Even darkness and evil are His creation. It is part and parcel of our world which He created.

And as everything in creation has a purpose, even darkness and evil serve a purpose in this world. They come to arouse us and motivate us to do better and rise above the lethargic moral entropy that normally guides us, as a response to evil, or even just to avoid it. We combat darkness and evil by lighting a candle and bringing light by doing a mitzvah, performing an act of kindness to another.

And as Hillel summarized the essence of the Torah: that which is hateful to you, do not do unto others. All the rest is commentary. Now go and study.

Shabbat Shalom.
Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective)

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About Me

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I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!