Month: July 2021

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Eikev

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

One of the challenges we encounter while we study Sefer Devarim is to understand the thread, the sequence of topics in any given parsha. In Parshas Eikev, the Torah instructs us to bless Hashem after we eat, the mitzvah of Birchas HaMazon. Immediately after that, the Torah admonishes us, “Do not forget Hashem your God. Lest you eat and become satisfied, and you will build fine houses and occupy them. Your heart will become proud, and you will forget Hashem.” Here, the Torah is warning us against becoming arrogant when we succeed in life. Unfortunately, it is human nature when a person becomes successful, they tend to become cocky and self-arrogant, the equivalent of forgetting Hashem. When a person attributes his success to his own wisdom and skill, he is forgetting that all good originates from Hashem. This includes a man’s ideas and inspirations which leads to his success.

Rav Shamshon Rephael Hirsch, z”l, explains the continuity of these two mitzvos. We bless Hashem for our food, and we should not become arrogant from our success. He says that that the whole idea of blessing Hashem every time we experience something good, whether it is the food we eat, happy experiences, opportunities to connect with Hashem through mitzvos, special times and special days and holidays, our response is to make a bracha. This duty, to always acknowledge Hashem’s kindness in real time, keeps us grounded. It helps ensure that we will always attribute these positive experiences and achievements to Hashem’s benevolence and generosity and not to our own prowess.

It should be noted that this concern is especially relevant today as society makes great strides in the physical aspects of life such as greater longevity, higher living standards, scientific progress and more. This has, in fact, led to a greater alienation from Hashem and from religion. Many people believe that science and knowledge of the physical world are incompatible with faith. This is exactly what the Torah is predicting here. The antidote to this “slide away from Hashem” is to focus on gratitude and the reinforcement of the recognition that it is all by the grace of Hashem and that we are really not powerful at all.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Vaeschanan

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

True Consolation

In this week’s Haftorah, Hashem tells the prophet Yeshaya to deliver the following message to us.  Nachamu nachamu ami – Be consoled my nation. This is the comforting message we read after experiencing the mourning of Tisha B’Av and the loss of the Bais Hamikdosh. In analyzing this phrase a simple question comes to mind. Why is the word nachamu repeated?

Harav Moshe Feinstein z”l (a 21st leading rabbinical figure in the U.S.) explains this with another question. In reading Megillas Eicha on Tisha B’Av, the phrase Chayt chotoh YerushalayimJerusalem, you have sinned – is read, another phrase containing repetition, the double phrase of sin – chayt chotoh. He answers sin is said twice because the Jewish people need to reflect on two thoughts.  The first thought is the sin itself, and the second one is the fact that one does not even realize a sin has been committed.

With the above explanation, we can now understand the phrase of Nachamu. Hashem is blessing the Jewish people with a two-fold blessing. The first blessing is His people will be comforted and forgiven for their sins. The second blessing, and perhaps the more important one, is His making the Jewish people aware of their actions and the ability to understand the differences between right and wrong. This second blessing has a long-term impact – once one is given the capability of recognizing a sin, one can change one’s future behavior.

Therefore, this week’s Haftorah delivers a very powerful message.  We live in a world where it is sometimes very difficult to discern the difference between right from wrong and where our values are challenged on a daily basis. Consequently, it is incumbent upon us to spend time to think and reflect on our actions so that we can be recipients of this blessing and see the ultimate redemption and rebuilding of the Bais Hamikdosh in our times.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Devarim

Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman

From Exile to Redemption

This coming  week is Tisha B’Av (the fast day remembering the destruction of the Temples) where we read from the Kinnos. The Kinnos is a compilation of writings that reflect on the many tragic times in our history during our long exile. There is one kinnah that compares and contrasts the stark difference between when we left Mitzrayim (Egypt) and when we left Yerushalayim (Jerusalem). When leaving Mitzrayim, we were surrounded by a clear hand of G-d. However, when leaving Yerushalayim, we felt all alone. Throughout this kinnah many differences are pointed out between the two events, and at the end of each corresponding contrast the same line is repeated, “This is what happened when we left Mitzrayim; this is what happened when we left Yerushalayim.” A natural question arises: Why the constant comparison between these two experiences? It is clear that we understand the key difference – one was freedom and redemption while the other was exile.

The commentators tell us that the root of the word Mitzrayim is maytzar which means narrow, confined or restricted. On the other hand, the word Yerushalayim is composed of two parts yeru and shalem which means to see the completeness in everything. These words deliver a simple message we tend to overlook in our daily lives. Often we are caught up in our narrow and restricted worlds. We get lost in our personal lives and daily challenges and lose sight of the complete picture, forgetting about the people around us, the rest of Klal Yisroel, our brothers and sisters wherever they are in the world. We must realize that we are one family. To transition from exile to redemption we need to leave Mitzrayim, the narrow place, and change our mindset to Yerushalayim, the completeness of all of us as a people.

These past few months Klal Yisroel has experienced the tragedy of Meron, Erev Shavuos in Karlin, and most recently the collapse of the building in Surfside, Florida. We have rallied together in so many ways as a nation and a people reciting tefillos for these families, learning in memory of those lost, and campaigns supporting the victims of these tragic events. As a people there has been an outpouring of love from Jews all over the world.  This message is spreading. We need to keep it going constantly.  Not just in tragic times BUT ALL THE TIME. We need to leave Mitrayim and see the fuller picture of all our people.  With that mindset and change of attitude, we will merit the rebuilding of the Temple. May it be speedily in our days.

A Taste of Torah – Parshas Matos-Masei

Written by: Rabbi Avrohom S. Moller

These Are the Stations of the Jewish People

This week’s second parsha, Massei, begins with a listing of the 42 places that the Jewish people camped in during their journey from Egypt to Eretz Yisroel. It begins with Raamses in Egypt and ends with the encampment on the plains of Moav overlooking Jericho. What is the purpose of this listing? Rashi gives the explanation that it is a retrospective on all of the travails that our people endured during their stay in the desert and that in spite of those difficulties, Hashem stayed with us and pulled us through.

As a people, we have endured much travail and barely survived many of them. Our survival is a testimony to G-d’s covenant with His chosen people and the tenacity of the Jewish spirit. The challenges to our existence and our eventual triumph over these challenges are not the entire purpose of these difficulties. When Hashem places his people in any setting, it has many positive outcomes for us as a people. Every station that we have been placed in has provided us with opportunities to learn about ourselves and to integrate new abilities into our national character. An example of this is the Spanish period where we developed the field of Jewish philosophy, poetry and Hebrew grammar. Certainly, there were grave threats to our spiritual and physical safety, and it didn’t end well for us, but we did gain these important competencies because of our 500 year stay there. This is true for individuals as well. Every community we live in, every relationship we have polishes us and adds to our competencies.

Parshas Massei is read during the three weeks of mourning for the Churban, the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash. We are sad for the loss of our national pride, the dispersion of our people, our alienation from Hashem and the manifestations of his closeness to us. At the same time we should reflect on how far we have come, the areas we have developed, and the strengths we have gathered during our long exile. This will give us comfort and a feeling of purpose for what  we have endured as a people.