Saturday, April 14, 2012

Parshat Shemini - Learning and Teaching

This parsha brought a very exciting moment to the Jewish world. In the middle of Parshat Shemini in pasuk 10:16, we find the expression, "Moshe inquired insistently about the he-goat of the sin-offering..." In Hebrew the wording is "V'et s'ir ha'chatat darosh darash..." The words darosh and darash are spelled the same. They are also the exact center of the Torah, the half-way point.
We have now officially completed more than half of the Torah.
On the side of the first half is the word darosh, which means to ask or investigate. In other words, to delve and learn Torah. On the other side is the second word darash, which means to give over (a sermon) or to teach.
Just as the center of the Torah is darosh and then darash - learning the Torah and then teaching it - so the center of our lives as well must be learning and studying and understanding the Torah, and then giving it over to others.

Parshat Shemini - Just Do It

Pesach is over, sniff. We went right from our last day of Pesach to Shabbat. Today was Abba's birthday, ad 120. So this blog is dedicated to Abba - Yisrael ben Meir Chaim HaKohen.

"Moshe said, 'This is the thing that Hashem commanded you to do; then the glory of Hashem will appear to you." (Vayikra, 9:6)
The Torah is talking about all the different offerings that the Kohen must bring to Hashem. The book of Vayikra (Leviticus) carefully discusses all the kinds of sacrifices and offerings. If we follow Hashem's instructions carefully His glory will appear to us, BE"H.
The Torah Treasury suggests yet another interpretation, if you change the punctuation of the sentence in Hebrew. "Vayomer Moshe (and Moshe said), zeh hadvar asher tziva Hashem (this is the thing that Hashem commanded), t'asu (Do!!), v'yeira aleichem Kavod Hashem (and the glory will appear to you)."
If we want to see G-d's glory, we must do! We must live a life of action, of making good things happen, of doing something to try to make a difference, of doing and engaging in positive pursuits. It is incumbent on each person to try to make the world better than when he found it. A person must do/act to help others. If we do (even if we don't complete the task, even if we don't succeed), then we have the potential of seeing Hashem's glory.
Any act done with good motivations behind it (whether it succeeds or not) is worthy. In this case, Nike is right. "Just do it."


Monday, April 2, 2012

Parshat Tzav - There are No Small Parts, Only Small Actors

Through "show business", we learn many lessons in life. One of them is, as the title of this post says, "There are no small parts, only small actors." An actor can be assigned a small role, and yet, he can make it something special and memorable through a wholehearted stand out performance.
We learned in this week's Parshat Tzav that the Kohanim in Bet HaMikdash have many different roles. One of them was even taking out the ashes.
That doesn't sound like such a glamorous task. It's not as exciting as sacrificing a bull or a goat. It's not as moving as bringing the ketoret spices.
So, why does the kohen have to do these "menial" tasks? 
This reminds me of a parable I heard long ago. A king told his gardeners that he wanted each to create the most special garden possible, and he would pay them according to the flowers he liked best.
Each created beautiful different types of gardens filled with every type of flower. Those gardens were awash with color, symphonies of flowers. At the end, the king paid more for the roses. "Why didn't you tell us the roses would bring the most money?" the gardeners asked. "I didn't want gardens only filled with roses."
Hashem has given us 613 commandments, and He wants us to immerse ourselves with dedicated to each one of them big and small. Just as the kohen who might shecht (sacrifice) a bull and also clear out the ashes does each with full dedication, so must we do each mitzvah in our lives with dedication and devotion.
We don't know the value of mitzvot. I guess Hashem will tell us that after 120, IY"H. But I know that just as Hashem wants us to learn Torah, keep Shabbat, eat kosher, He also wants us to stand up for the elderly, speak with courtesy, refrain from saying lashon hara, and be kind to others.
None of those are small mitzvot. Only if we look down upon one instead of another, we, G-d forbid, are showing ourselves to be small people

Tzav - Come Home, There's Room

This post in dedicated to our chattan Mati (Matityahu Ehud) and his dear kallah Shaindel (Shaindel Perela) upon their engagement this week.

Shaindel joined our family for Shabbat - Shabbat HaGadol - and it really was a big Shabbat!! B"H, I looked around the Shabbat table, and it was full, bli ayin hara, with our children and grandchildren. In fact, the entire house was overflowing with Katzes. B"H!!! Thank you, G-d. Bli ayin hara!! 
You'd think we couldn't fit one more person around the table, or have room for one more person to sleep. But B"H we can and IY"H we will.
In this week's Parshat Tzav, Hashem tells Moshe, "Gather the entire assembly to the entrance of the Tent of the Meeting." (Vayikra, 8:3) But how is that possible?? There were millions of Jews at that time, B"H. Even if there were only 600,000 men, can you imagine putting 600,000 men at the entrance to the Tent of the Meeting. That would be totally impossible.
But from here we learn a magnificent lesson. Rabbis Yisrael and Osher Jungreis in Table Torah tells us that where there is love and unity among the Jewish people, there is no space too small. Unfortunately where there is dissension and bad feelings among Jews, there is no place big enough. But when there is love and unity and good feelings, where there is brotherhood and caring about one another, no place is too small.
I mentioned this to Rabbi Sholom Eisman, Mashgiach for Meshech Chochma, and Shaindel's Rabbi. He agreed and told me a beautiful story from the gemara. There was a story in the gemara of six people covering themselves with one tallit. That might seem impossible, but where the six care for one another, and they care enough to make sure the other is covered with the tallit, then all six will surely be covered.
I told my children, "Never be hesitant about coming home for Shabbat, a holiday or for any reason. Never feel that there's no room. BE"H no matter how many you are (and you're welcome to be more and more and more, IY"H :) ), when there is love a brotherhood (sisterhood), there will always be room.