Parshat KI Tisa: Life and Death

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When the Jewish people came out of Mitzrayim many of them still had a pagen mindset. This mindset comforted them in worshipping death, and a life in the world to come, over truly living in the world which they physically walked.

Many pagan religions, and even some religions today, worship the comfort of death and a life in a world to come over the hear and now.

The worship of the golden calf, that the Jewish people made and worshiped as a replacement for their leader Moshe, and as a symbolic connector to G-d, symbolizes death. With the act of building and worshiping the golden calf,  the calf itself becomes a representation for disconnection and separation from the physical world in which they live and the laws an statutes which they pledged to follow.

Hashem, through his wisdom, transformed the cow from a symbol of death into the life affirming symbol. Through the ritual of the sprinkling of the ashes of the red heifer (known as the parah adumah), in order to cleanse oneself after coming in contact with death, an animal once used in separation and disconnection to the world around becomes important in daily life, as a representation and reminder of the importance of living.

Hashem, through the Torah, stresses for us the importance of living a G-dly existence here on earth. The main purpose of our existence is not to reach a world to come, but to do G-d’s will here on earth and live a life worthy of Hashem’s praises. Chassidus and kabbalah teaches us that our existence here on earth is of the utmost important, and when we live a life centred on Torah and mitzvoth, and thorough the act of elevating the mundane to the status of holy, we can create a world of holiness. This holiness allows for Hashem to come a dwell amongst us, and how much more life affirming can we get than this?

But if the above mentioned life affirming examples are not enough, the Torah not only symbolically stress the importance of life, it explicitly show us the transcending importance of life over death through the principle of Pikuach Nefesh – saving a life (Vayikra 19:16, parshat Kedoshim “Neither shall you stand by the blood of your neighbor”). This principal takes precedence over almost every other Torah commandment and reaffirms the importance of living over dying.

So, even though the worship of the golden calf was a symbol for death, through the commandment of the parah adumah the cow is turned into a symbol of the reaffirmed importance of life. Gut Shabbos.

Kiddush at Shul

ImageSeems to be that if you don’t have motzi (bread) at “lunch” at Shul on Shabbos, you need to have at a home meal because your meal at Shul doesn’t constitute as kiddush lunch. Also, if you have no bread at Shul, you have to make kiddush (hagafen) at home, even if you heard at Shul. OPINIONS PLEASE? Should I make this my practice? Another issue that might come up is that if one doesn’t wash for motzi at Shul are they eating before kiddush, therefore breaking halacha? I’d like to know what is the established opinion. And not one that has a minhag seemingly breaking halacha as sometimes happens (or using one halachic principal to supersede another).

Reference: http://www.torahmusings.com/2014/02/when-is-a-kiddush-not-a-kiddush/?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

Segula for Panosa

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Even though it is the custom of some to read Parshat Hamon on the Tuesday before Parshat Beshalakh,  I think its still a good idea to read the tefilah (prayer) for parnosa (honourable livelihood), if you have not done so, as the reading of parshas Beshalakh on Shabbos has not arrived. Some people advocate reading it everyday, so why not today. I think its always a good idea to read the prayer, but extra special this week as it corresponds to the parshat. It is of course a segula (protection or reinforcement) for good parnosa, and who amongst us doesn’t want that.

Even if you don’t believe that it will help you and your parnosa situation, two things:
1) It can’t hurt, only help. And if Hashem does grants you based on your reciting of the tefilah, then, its worth while.

2) When reading “Parshat Hamon” we learn how Hashem sustains us and how everything comes from Hashem. And this is a great lesson. Once you fully understand this, your life will be turned upside down, but for the better. If you want to learn about how this happens you can always join me for some learning of Chassidus and Tanya (seminal work of the Alta Rebbe). Just ask!

Remember though, Hashem grants you, more or less kindness and mercy (Chessed and rakhamim), based on your action. So you can’t just wish for panosa, you need to get out and do. Hashem will always reveal to you opportunities and pathways, but you need to have done the preparation in order to see them and capitalize on them.

Preparation + opportunity = success!

Text of Prayer: http://myparnasa.com/full-parshas-haman-text/

Meditate on G-d’s Embrace

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Parshat VZot Habracha

And this is the blessing with which Moses, the man of G-d, blessed the children of Israel [just] before his death. why “and” this..? Why not just “this” is the..? There is a biblical tradition of fathers blessing their sons just before their death. Some commentators (I think Rashi) say maybe Moshe was trying to be a part of this tradition, in essence connecting himself to this tradition.
And is also a connecting word.

This week please connect (and meditate on) Hashem’s embrace (Hashem hugs you with the walls of the Sukkah) with a blessing of love. G-d’s external love for you.

-Everyone, hot a gut Sukkos, un a gut Shabbos. Zayn freylekhn
– Have a good Sukkos, and a good Shabbos. Be joyous.

Hisbodedus and other forms of Chasidic meditation are practices that I try to do regularly. Just find a quite place to talk to Hashem (Aibishter) as you would a close friend, or deeply think about a concept or idea in Judaism/Chasidus to try and fully understand it.

Recycled Nine Dollar Bicycle

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I would have thought that the world’s cheapest bicycle would have come out of China. Don’t they have the worlds largest population of bicyclist? If not China then another over populated Asian bicycling enthusiastic country? Maybe even a country like Holland might have produced the woulds cheapest bicycle? After all they do have a reputation for loving their peddle power. But no, not Asia and not Holland was were the worlds cheapest bicycle was produced. It was Israel, a place where you hardly see a bicycle. At least when I was there I saw very few.

Produced by Izhar Gafni, an Israeli Kibbutznick,the bike is made almost entirely from recycled cardboard and can withstand wind, rain and sun.  I venture to say that this might be the first truly green transpiration vehicle. It also doesn’t hurt that the bike is very inexpensive. It costs Izhar only nine dollars to produce a single bike.

Read more about the amazing bicycle here:

http://nocamels.com/2012/07/recycled-cardboard-bicycles-for-9/

Parshat Pinchas : Choosing An Appropriate Leader

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27:15/16- Moses spoke to the Lord, saying: “Let the Lord, the G-d of spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the congregation…”

27:18- The Lord said to Moses, “Take for yourself Joshua the son of Nun, a man of spirit, and you shall lay your hand upon him.

Why did Moshe Rabbenu specifically ask for a person/man to be the leader of Klal Yisrael. Why not ask for an angel, or even a Tzadik on the level of an Angel?  And why, if the parshat is called Pinchas, was Joshua chosen as Moshe Rabbenue’s successor to lead the Jewish people into the land of Israel?

Clearly, the answer is to be found in the qualities of leadership needed at that time and the differences in character of Pinchas on the one hand and Joshua on the other.

G-d knows, and so do the truly righteous, that leadership cannot be defined by extreme and solitary behaviour. The extremist ordinarily appeals to, and willingly followed, by only one segment of the population. The rest of the group complies because of threats, fear or general apathy. This is not true leadership. The true leader for the Jewish people has to lead all, not just a chosen few, because he has personal credibility beyond toughness. At the other extreme, indifferent popularity trades on apathy does not serve the group in the most productive fashion. A leader’s character must personify active, sincere care of and contribution to community. They must proclaim a personal lifestyle that sets an example for all, they must also show the ability to be forward thinking and know, or at least prepare for, what lies ahead. Moshe knew this in his pursuit of a leader for all of Klal Yisrael. This is why he asked for a human being and not an angel, or a leader just for the “religious elite”. Also true Jewish leaders know that one must create an environment where one, even the Rosha (wicked person that denies Torah), can thrive and grow to live a G-d focused life.

Pinchas’s actions as a leader were too extreme. Moreover, some commentaries say he was a “lone-wolf” unsuited to moulding a diverse group into a united nation. Pinchas virtuously and zealously avenges the honour of G-d with good intentions, but also reveals an abstract, isolationist style that is really only effective in a vacuum and, if even if outside that narrow confine, only for short periods of time. A extremist style usually appeals only to extreme segments in a community and can be a cause of communal fractioning. Hashem, while acknowledging the good intentions of Pinchas, does not see him suitable a leader to help the Jewish people forge ahead in a new land at a new time with very different circumstances to what they had been accustomed to.

Joshua, on the other hand, who had trained under Moshe, was not only a capable military commander, but was also a learned religious leader and teacher. Having military leadership skills, not only religious leadership abilities, shows us that he had good understanding of what the Jewish nation would need in order to face the near future as the nation moving into being settled state. In the desert, a strong spiritual leader had been needed to assist G-d as he provide for his people. Now the Jewish people would have to take greater responsibility for their military, lifestyle and economic survival, engaging in active partnership with G-d. Joshua’s leadership style as a teacher and a military commander of the Jewish people in a land amongst many other nations would provide the necessary leadership that would enable survival in a new environment amongst many varying nations, many hostile, in a land that needed to be tended for the necessities of spiritual and economic prosperity.

Today, true Jewish leaders know that while we must make every effort to create a holy place to dwell in, for both G-d and mankind, we must also remain connected to the place where one lives, as well as the wider world around us and know how to live and survive amongst many different nations, peoples and modernity (diverse society and influences). As Jew’s we must not isolate ourselves or shut ourselves off, from, the wider world and the things that G-d has bestowed upon us. This idea is especially important for our leaders and Tzadikim who must also remain connected to where they live and the wider world around them. As teacher of Hashem’s values one cannot properly lead and inspire followers unless they live and breathe in not only the Judaic world, but the wider world as well, as almost all Jews have to do on a daily basis.

As a note: after Joshuas death, there was no appointed leader for the Jewish people and the nation began to sin shortly after his death.

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks speaks at annual Chabad emissary (shluchim) conference. He talks about being inspired to be a leader by the Rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneersohn. He also speaks about getting wise counsel from the Rebbe on a number of occasions.  This video is a must see.