And Moses assembled all the congregation of the children of Israel, and said unto them: 'These are the words which the LORD hath commanded, that ye should do them.'
It's not so easy to be a real Yid; woa, it's so easy to get trapped into idolatry, spiritually, psychologically and philosophically. From the story of the 'golden calf' we moved into Yom Kippur in last weeks parsha. This week's parsha begins the day following Yom Kippur, and the first thing that Moshe Rabbeinu does is to gather us all together. Only then does he talk to us about Shabbos and the building of the Mishkan.
We have learned that the Shechinah dwelled in the Mishkan only when it was truly complete; from the holy Ark to even the smallest peg and hook, everything had to be there and in its right place. Only when every single Jewish soul was there together would the Shechinah be revealed in the Mishkan.
The Chassidic masters teach that our being gathered together sets the context for the message - and the message takes on relevance and is truly meaningful only within this context of our unity. Shabbos is about unity. The Mishkan is about unity. The Torah is about unity. Hashem אחד is One all encompassing unity. And we are the ones charged with forming a vessel of unity to receive and be in Hashem's unity.
If we would leave out a single item, even the smallest seemingly least important item; - if we would, חס ושלום heaven forefend, ignore the simplest or even lowliest Yid; - if I might think that we don't need him or think that he has nothing to contribute, that i can manage without him; or if i think that he needs me to connect with Hashem, but i don't need him, - then I will have turned myself into a 'golden calf' and my tablets are smashed חס ושלוםand the Shechina will not dwell in this sanctuary.
The holy Sadigerer Rebbe זצ"ל taught that the opening words of our parsha וַיַּקְהֵל מֹשֶׁה אֶת-כָּל-עֲדַת בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם: אֵלֶּה הַדְּבָרִים אֲשֶׁר-צִוָּה ה' לַעֲשֹׂת אתָםteach us that our very getting together is a mitzvah of great importance.Thus in many Chassidic communities it is customary to get together after the meal on Friday night, to sing and hear divrei Torah, until midnight. Some Rebbes said that if you do this you are guaranteed not to leave this world without doing tshuvah.
Parshat Hachodesh is about renewal. The Mishkan is about renewal. Renewal begins in unity, at the source where all our neshamot are in true union.
Have a wonderful Shabbos. Be renewed in loving unity, b'simcah ub'ahavah Sholom
Classes Broadcast This Week:
Sources: with R Avraham Sutton
Parshat HaShavua: with R Sholom Brodt
Reb Shlomo's Teachings with R Sholom Brodt: Sunday, Monday, Tues, Thursday
To Sit at Hashem's Table
This is the last Shabbos of Adar, the month of increasing joy- may it be a most joyous Shabbos. tonight when singing Sholom Aleichem to the angels in your home, when you get to the last stanza- Tzeitchem l'shalom, please ask your angels to go and bring Shabbos joy to all the homes that have been broken this week, to all the people who need and can use your help to be b'simcha.
As we are getting closer to Pesach we have begun to study the halachot of the holiday as well as the teachings of the Chassidic masters. This week we came across the following in one of Reb Shlomo's Pesach teachings:
"I want you to know that Seder night is one of the nights that my father made a Jew out of me, and my brother and my sister. I remember from the age of three we would sit by the Seder and my father would say to us, 'Children, tonight we are all royalty, princes and princesses, tonight we are sitting at G-d's table. This is not my table. It is G-d's table.'" This is not my table," said father, "this is the table of the King, king of all kings." I remember how my eyes and those of my brother and sister, and the eyes of all who were sitting at the table, were shining. Gevalt! - Awesome! To eat at the table of the Master of the World!"
We stopped for a few moments to discuss the meaning of sitting at Hashem's table. A number of questions were raised. To what extent can you / I see our selves sitting at Hashem's table and what would that mean. If we were to sincerely experience that, would we ever be the same again? How would we be different, and are we ready to live that way? We tried, at least for a few moments, to answer these questions honestly, only to discover that for most of us, though the thought was nice, it was not so easy to see ourselves sitting at Hashem's table. And so we wished to understand, why not?
If you wish try the meditation yourself before reading on. As part of the meditation it was suggested that we look at the people sitting next to us and nearby. Did it matter who was sitting with you, now that you are at Hashem's table? Could you see yourself there sitting next to the person with whom you always argue and fight? Etc. etc. As we looked at some of these questions, we saw that we might not yet be ready to sit at Hashem's table. But this did not really surprise us too much. The next question raised was, if this is something that we all desire, what is it then that is preventing us? Was it something large or something small?
Reb Shlomo zt"l was a master at conveying the deeper meanings of 'Halacha'- Jewish law. From learning with Reb Shlomo and studying his lessons, one comes to a deeper understanding of Halacha. Halacha essentially means law. However, the word is derived from the verb lalechet-to walk. Thus, Halacha delineates the pathways of the Jewish people in relating to G-d, mankind, the universe and all its creatures. Halacha tells us what we must do, what we may do and what we may not do. The Jewish people are the servants of Hashem, and we serve him by following the Halacha.
The Talmud tells us that our ancestors, Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov, observed all of the halachot (laws), even before the Torah had been given. The obvious question is: how did they know what to do and what not to do? Our Avot were so totally devoted to Hashem and so totally connected to Him that they are referred to as the Merkavah-the chariot. Chassidut explains just as a chariot does not move on its own, so too they did not move on their own. Every move they made was directed by Hashem.
The implication of this is that anyone who is completely given over to Hashem and doesn't make a single move that is not in accordance with His will, would in effect never have to read or learn the Shulchan Aruch-The Code of Jewish Law. They instinctively knew what to do at all times, at each moment every day of the year.
But what are we to do? We who are not yet chariots of G-d, how can we come closer to Hashem? Though we may not achieve the same levels of divine service achieved by Avraham Avinu, Yitzhak Avinu and Yaakov Avinu, nevertheless we should and are expected to move in that direction. Halacha is the answer, for not only does it teach us what to do, it also informs us of the desirable and necessary inner transformations that need to be accomplished in order to be a sanctuary for Hashem. Halacha actually teaches us WHAT TO BE AND HOW TO BE, not only WHAT TO DO AND WHAT NOT TO DO. Halacha teaches us how to BE close to Hashem and all His creatures.
There is a law that is unique to Pesach: "chametz assur b'mashehu" even the slightest amount of chametz [leaven] is prohibited on Pesach. Whereas all forbidden foods have a shiur-a certain minimal amount which must be consumed in order to technically transgress the law, chametz has no such minimal shiur. Even a mashehu-the very slightest amount, is prohibited. Nor are we allowed to even possess the slightest amount of chametz.
Explaining the inner meaning of the law, "chametz assur b'mashehu," Reb Shlomo said that very often it is actually something very small that makes all the difference. What makes something acceptable and desirable, or undesirable, is often just a very small thing.
What is true freedom? To be free is to be that high person that Hashem envisioned when He dreamt of you, before He created the world. To be truly free we need to be in touch with Hashem's dream and to be in touch with Hashem's vision of ourselves. Hashem saw us as holy and exalted, kind, generous beings. To be free is to be the most wonderful father, mother, friend, husband, wife, son and daughter you can be. To be free is to be as great as you know you can be.
Why is "chametz assur b'mashehu?" Because when it comes to achieving true freedom, even the smallest amount of leaven is enough to prevent us from attaining it. In order to attain complete freedom we must get rid of every bit of chametz.
What prevents you or me from sincerely sitting at Hashem's table, is not necessarily something big or vulgar. It very well may be something very small – even the smallest amount of chametz! So how are we to discover our chametz- leaven and dispose of it?
Again we find the answer in Halacha, elucidated by Reb Shlomo's Chassidic teachings. On the eve of the 14th of Nissan we are instructed to do 'bedikkat chametz' – to conduct a search for the chametz- leaven. By the light of a candle, we search our homes, our cars, our offices, all the personal places in which we have kept chametz during the year. We wrap up the pieces of chametz that we found and put them away until the next morning when we burn them in fire. On a personal level we search our hearts for the chametz that is preventing us from sitting as free people at Hashem's table.
How do we do the search? In your worldly home you do it with a candle. In your spiritual home you also use a candle, but of a different kind, as we learn in our Holy Scriptures: Psalm 119:105 NUN. Thy word is a candle unto my feet, and a light unto my path. Proverbs 6:23 For the commandment is a candle, and the teaching is light, and reproofs of instruction are the way of life; Proverbs 20:27 The spirit of man is the candle of the LORD, searching all the inward parts.
The mitzvot are our candles and the light is the light of the Torah, and the chametz is consumed with the fire in our heart, the fire with which we serve Hashem.
Maybe you think that it is too difficult to do this, but one of the most essential teachings and elements of the Torah, of Yiddishkeit, is precisely our faith that Hashem has liberated us from the enslavement of Mitzrayim and continues to do so. The reason we have difficulty with all this is precisely because we have not yet rid ourselves of our chametz. The deepest question is, are we willing to get rid of ALL OF IT?
Children have no trouble sitting at Hashem's table. You and I were once children. Let's not completely lose touch with that. We can get back in touch with that purity and love of Hashem. We can re-learn to let go and rid ourselves of our chametz. But we have to want to, or at least want to want to be free. We must let go of our idols and paganism, at the very least we must want to do so.
The following teaching illustrates how subtle paganism and idolatry can be: Reb Simcha Bunem of Pshischa once asked a question: "How is it possible nowadays for a man to offer a sacrifice to a pagan god?" And he answered his own question: "If a man withholds himself from eating because of anger; or if a man is commonly considered to be a scholar and a tzaddik, and though he is hungry he refrains from eating in order that those around him should consider him saintly and abstemious - then such a man is offering a sacrifice to a pagan god." (Sippurei Chassidim p. 282)
The overriding theme of the opening of parshas Vayakheyl and of the last few parshiot is unity, the unity and unification of heaven and earth, as in the in-dwelling of the Shechinah, and the unity of the Jewish people as a pre-condition for that. [See the enclosed teachings of the previous years.]
This Shabbos is known as Shabbos Hachodesh, since we will have an additional reading from Shemos [Exodus] chapter 12, serving as a reminder to get ready for the holiday of Pesach.
In this passage we are given the first mitzvah that we ever received as a nation. this is the mitzvah of "Kiddush Hachodesh" - the sanctification of the new moon, the establishment of the month of Nissan as the first month of the year, as well we received the commandments concerning the 'korban Pesach' and Pesach, all in preparation for 'yetziat Mitzrayim', the exodus from Egypt.
In each generation, each year, each day and each moment we are to see ourselves as having been liberated from Mitzrayim/Egypt. The reading of parshas Hachodesh is a heavenly reminder to get ready to be free, for in just a few more days we are all invited to sit at Hashem’s Seder table. It is also a divine gift and infusion of hope and faith, a heavenly inspiration to reassure us that we can and that we truly want to be free, that we can and we truly want to sit at Hashem's table.
Parshiot Vayakheil - Pekkudei: Teachings From Previous Years
▪ Vayakhel - Pekudei ▪ Really? Is It All In Your Hands? ▪ The Beit HaMikdash And Bringing Light Into The World ▪ Pesach To Jump Over And Spring Forth
Vayakhel - Pekudei
For The Sake of The Unity of Am Yisrael
and he gathered us together our holy shepherd Hashem’s trusted shepherd of faith gathered his flock together
we were so broken apart and in pieces yes our shepherd Moshe Rabbeinu did arouse Hashem’s compassion upon us yes we were forgiven but we were broken apart and in pieces we had made a golden-calf the Shechina retreated away from our camp
yes we were forgiven but how long would it be before we’d do it again would we could we repair return and restore what kind of life what kind of relationships would we live now
our holy sensitive shepherd gathered us together to once again experience being together to meditate and realize it is so precious so vital to be together
dis-unity is next to idolatry but where can we find the strength to go against the tides of nature where is the power of Unity in this world to be found
listen our shepherd is speaking to us to me to you Shabbos is holy so holy Shabbos, Hashem’s gift of unity holy unity strength and power just a taste of Olam Habah a taste of Gan Eden in this worl
yes we can be in love with Hashem again the gateway said the holy Baal Shem Tov is ‘ahavas Yisrael’
This week we are reading the last two parshiot of 'sefer Shmot', the book of Exodus. In addition we have an additional reading for 'Parshat Parah', read from a second sefer Torah. At the conclusion of the Torah reading we will energetically say out loud, "Chazak Chazak V'nitchazeik!" Strong, strong! And we will be strengthened!" May this be true for all of us b'simcha! Amen !!!
In the last parsha of Sefer Shmot, Pikudei, we learn about "Pe'kudei ha'mishkan" – the accounting of all the donations received and used in the making of the Mishkan. The word 'pekudei' implies that each part of the Mishkan is accounted for; each contribution was noted, respected and valued; every half-shekel, even the smallest button and peg, was noted and significant. The Shechinah would dwell only in a complete and unified Mishkan. In a 'sicha' on this parsha [5749 – 1989] the Lubavitcher Rebbe zt"l taught that whenever we come to the completion of something holy, we are to be especially aroused to honestly evaluate our efforts and contributions towards the fulfillment of Hashem’s desire to have a dwelling place here in the lowest of all worlds. So too, as we complete the reading of Sefer Sh'mos this Shabbos, the Rebbe instructed his students and Chassidim to make an honest accounting of their personal contributions. [It is very worth nothing that the Rebbe always concluded his lessons in Torah and Chassidut by elucidating and deriving their practical implications and applications which we need to work at and achieve. He always emphasized that no matter which Torah lessons we are learning, we should always conclude with deriving practical lessons that we will put into practice.]
Sefer Sh'mos, the second book of the holy Torah, began with the story of the descent of the people of Israel into the darkness and slavery of Egypt, and concludes with the building of Hashem's Sanctuary. The story of our people is also a parable for the descent of the soul into this world of darkness, its enslavement to the mundane and its liberation, all the way until it builds a home for Hashem. May we be blessed that every person, every moment, every good deed, every Hello, every Shalom should be precious and significant. May we continue to make our contributions joyously. Amen.
For The Sake of The Unity of Am Yisrael The theme of Parshat Vayakheyl is Unity and Restoring Self-Confidence. Parshat Vayakheyl follows right after the story of the 'golden calf'. As a result of having committed such a tragic transgression a mere forty days after receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai, we were quite demoralized and we lost our self-confidence in our ability to return to and be close to Hashem once again.
Before receiving the holy Torah at Har Sinai, we had achieved true unity – we were "as one person with one heart". Then Hashem gave us His Torah we experienced the most awesome Divine Revelation. Tragically, we managed to retain this revelation for only forty days. Then we lost it. In making the golden calf we caused the Shechinah to retreat from amongst us. Would Hashem ever return to dwell in our midst? Would we ever be in complete unity again?
Moshe Rabbeinu prayed on our behalf and managed to arouse Hashem’s compassion on us and we were forgiven. But we were broken inside. We lost our self-confidence in our ability to live in unity with Hashem and with each other. And though Hashem forgave us, we wondered but how long would it be before we’d do it again, what kind of life, what kind of relationships would we live now? Would we, could we repair return and restore?
And here is where our parsha begins: "And Moshe gathered the children of Israel and said to them, "these are the things that Hashem has commanded, to do them. Six days [a week] work shall be done, but the seventh day must be holy to you, it is a Shabbos of Shabbos to Hashem..." Moshe said to the entire congregation of B'nai Yisrael, "This is the word that Hashem has commanded: Take from your possessions a 't'rumah'-contribution to Hashem." Sh'mot 35: 1-5 We wonder why did Moshe gather us together, after all we do not find that Hashem told him to do this? And why did he choose to speak to us about Shabbos and about the building of the sanctuary, again without having been instructed to do so by Hashem!
The Ishbitzer Rebbe teaches that Moshe Rabbeinu gathered us together to restore our self confidence, [also to comfort us] and to explain to us, how it came about that we made a golden calf and what we needed to know and be conscious of to prevent a similar reccurrence. In gathering us together Moshe Rabbeinu conveyed that we made the golden calf because we did not maintain our unity!
To convey the importance and necessity of our re-uniting Moshe Rabbeinu did not this time transmit his teachings in the usual manner, via the Kohanim and the Seventy Elders. Instead, he gathered all of us together and spoke to us in community, to realistically convey that first and foremost we must be united; to be "as one person, with one heart". Moshe Rabbeinu then speaks to us about the holiness of Shabbos and about the holy Mishkan sanctuary. We need to understand, why is Moshe Rabbeinu talking to us about these two matters in particular? How do we restore our unity? How can we regain our self-confidence, our 'azzut d'kedusha' holy chutzpah, to not give up? What is the source of our unity?
Moshe Rabbeinu teaches us that the holy Shabbos is the source of our unity. Hakadosh Baruch Hu wants to have a dwelling place here in the lowest of worlds and He gave us the task to prepare the vessel to receive the Shechinah. Moshe Rabbeinu is teaching that if we want to build a holy sanctuary for Hashem we can only do so if we are really united, only then will the Shechinah dwell in it.
The Ishbitzer Rebbe continues; one of the miracles that occurred in the building of the Mishkan was that although hundreds of people were involved in its' construction, when it was completed it looked as if it had been made by one person. The Mishkan possessed an inherent unity. This was possible because miraculously all the craftspeople were inspired with a spirit of unity; they worked in spiritual unison and that is what made it so special and holy. By keeping Shabbos holy we are inspired by its unity, for Shabbos is the unity that permeates through each one of us and allows us to be in harmony with each other. When we are united, when we really care about one another the Shechinah dwells amongst us, and no one has any desire to make any kind of golden calf. But if we are divided we [can] become idolatrous and make idols, i.e. we deify and worship division. The idols we make and idolatrous worship that follows, divide us even further. But when we unite, when we live in Shabbos, Hashem joins us and dwells among us.
There is a 'natural' truth: the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The vessel is greater than all its bits of clay. Then there is the additional aspect of what the vessel is filled with. When the Jewish people unite and form the vessel of "Knesset Yisrael" - the community of Israel, then the holy Shechinah dwells in it. We are obligated not only to believe that Hashem is one, we are obligated to live Hashem's oneness. When we say the Shma Yisrael, we put our hand over our eyes and close them in order to better focus on the words "Hear O Israel, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One". Then when we open our eyes we have to see that Hashem is One, that everyone and everything we see and don't see, is all part of Hashem's oneness. The truth of this concept will be fully appreciated only when Moshiach comes.
"V'atem tee-h-you lee mamlechet kohanim v'goy kadosh". Sh'mot 19. We are commanded to be a 'kingdom of kohanim and a holy nation'. In Vayikra Chap. 19, Hashem tells Moshe Rabbeinu to gather everyone together in order to tell the people of Israel "kedoshim tee-h-you" you shall be holy. The commentators explain that here too we all gathered together because everyone had to be there to personally hear this mitzvah that calls upon us to live a life of holiness. Many people believe that being holy and living holy is possible only for a few select individuals in each generation. However the truth is that every one of us can live a life of 'kedushah' holiness. That is why everyone had to hear this mitzvah personally.
The Hemek Davar offers an additional explanation; the reason that every one of us had to be present to hear this mitzvah together is that we were thereby being informed that kedushah-holiness can be found only in togetherness and unity. No matter how scrupulously you observe the mitzvot, no matter with how much 'kavanah' holy intention and focus you perform your mitzvot, you can be connected to holiness only if there is a real place for every Jew in your heart and soul. As we have learned in the past a Sefer Torah which is missing even only one letter, or if one letter is damaged, the whole Sefer Torah is not kosher and may not be read from in public. Chassidut explains that each letter represents a neshamah, and if one letter is missing, it is as if that neshamah is missing, chas v'shalom.
The same is true about the Mishkan. Reb Shlomo ztz"l used to emphasize the teaching, that if even only one tiny peg was missing in the Mishkan, then the Shechinah would not dwell in it. The Mishkan was constructed with the t'rumot contributions of every 'nediv leyv', everyone contributed generously, and when everyone's 'generosity of the heart' was brought together, the Dwelling Place of the Shechinah was created. "Olam chessed yiboneh", the world was built with the attribute of chessed, kindness. Creation is an act of 'chessed'. The building of the Mishkan was a re-creation of Bereishis, the creation of the world. Just as Hashem created the world with chessed, we too can create the home for Hashem, the Mishkan, only through our acts of chessed, generosity of the heart. Hashem, the One, created the many; we the many have to bring it all together to create the home for the One.
The deepest generosity that we have been given is the holy Shabbos. The deepest way we can celebrate Shabbos is by being "nediv leyv", of generous heart, sharing and being together rather than doing commerce with each other. The Slonimer Rebbe explains that, from the fact that the Torah is teaching us about Shabbos and the Mishkan again in this week’s parsha, right after we read the story of the golden calf last week, we learn that there is Shabbos before the sin, and there is Shabbos after the sin. Even after making a golden calf, we still have the Shabbos; we still can connect deeply with Shabbos.
It is natural for us to feel embarrassed when we daaven to Hashem after we have done something very wrong. After we made the golden calf we were very broken hearted, we were very ashamed to stand before G-d again and to sing to Hashem. How could we ever really open our mouths in song and prayer again? But we must not allow our shame to interfere with our singing to Hashem, or our celebrating Shabbos fully again.... but how do we overcome these feelings?
So we have Shabbos after the sin. We have Shabbos again, but now we need to prepare ourselves for it. All the work that we have to put into our Shabbos preparations is but Hashem's way of helping us overcome our shame. By allowing us the opportunity to 'do' something in preparation for Shabbos, Hashem is restoring our self-confidence and we are healed in our 'making Shabbos'.
Parshat pekkudei In this parsha we read the concluding chapters about the completion of the building of the Mishkan.
“All the work of the Mishkan, the Tent of Meeting was completed, the children of Israel had done everything as Hashem had commanded Moshe, so they did.
And they brought the Mishkan to Moshe, the tent and all its vessels, its clasps, planks, pillars and sockets.” (Sh’mot 39: 32-33)
Rashi brings us a very interesting teaching, to explain why the children of Israel brought the Mishkan to Moshe in all its parts.....[why did they not set it up themselves once it was completed? ....]
“...for they were unable to erect it. Because Moshe did no work whatsoever in the [making of the] Mishkan, the Holy One Blessed Be He left it for him to erect it because of the weight of the planks, for no man had the strength to stand them up, but Moshe stood them up. Moshe said to Hakadosh Baruch Hu: How is it possible for man to erect it? He answered him: “You busy yourself with your hand!” It appeared as if Moshe had erected it, but it was erected on its own. This is what is meant by the what is said in the verse: “The Mishkan was erected”-- it was erected of its own. From the Midrash Tanchumah.
What is Laughter?
When we are confronted with the realization that ‘many things in my life have not gone according to ‘my’ plans,’ we need to sit down and think carefully-‘what is this all about?’
My mother taught me an old Yiddish proverb- “der mentsh tract, un Got lacht!” – ‘man thinks and G-d laughs’; man makes plans and strategies to achieve his desires, but alas! - he forgets to think about “what does Hashem want.” And ‘why does G-d laugh? What kind of laughter is it? Surely Hashem’s laughter is not derisive- we are His children! Am I supposed to laugh along? Why did we laugh when we saw someone slip and fall in the cartoons?
What is laughter? Why do we laugh? What kind of laughter is King David talking about? Why do the Rabbis interpret (Ps.126:2) saying that only when we will have the final Redemption will we truly laugh? What is holy laughter? (Ha Ha not such funny questions- are they?)
Once at a concert in Montreal, Reb Shlomo zt”l was almost crying when he said, ‘we don’t know how to laugh, we don’t know how to cry! we laugh at stupid and dirty jokes; we hardly shed a tear over things that are really important.’ This is what it’s like in galut- exile.
Consider – there really is such a thing as holy laughter! Consider there is a G-d and that He is always interacting with us!
Once at a concert in Montreal, Reb Shlomo zt”l was almost crying when he said, ‘we don’t know how to laugh, we don’t know how to cry! we laugh at stupid and dirty jokes; we hardly shed a tear over things that are really important.’ This is what it’s like in galut- exile.
Consider – there really is such a thing as holy laughter! Consider there is a G-d and that He is always interacting with us!
One day in my gr. 5 class at SSA in Montreal, in the early 80’s Moshe S. asked, “Mar Brodt, you talk about Hashem as if He is Real, but how do you ‘know’ that there is a G-d?” Before I could say anything. Adam F., one of Moshe’s classmates answered, “you can’t prove it- it’s just obvious!’
Let us learn and think about a few words from the Tanya about believing in Hashem; about making and opening your ‘Mishkan’ for Him to dwell in; about the joy and the laughter. (the full chapter of Lessons in Tanya can be found at- http://www.chabad.org/library/tanya/tanya_cdo/aid/7912/jewish/Chapter-33.htm)
‘In ch. 31, the Alter Rebbe discussed various means of arousing joy to counteract the sadness brought on by contemplation of one’s spiritual failings. Ch. 33 resumes this discussion.’ “Yet another means of leading one’s soul to true joy, especially at those specific times when one finds it necessary to purify his soul and illuminate it with a gladness of heart: Let him then think deeply and picture in his intellect and understanding the subject of G d’s true unity. Now when one contemplates deeply and at length on this matter of G d’s true unity, his heart will rejoice with this faith; his soul will be gladdened by it to the point of rejoicing and singing with all his heart, soul and might. For this faith is tremendous — when it fills one’s mind it actually constitutes [an experience of] the closeness of G d. This in fact is the whole [purpose] of man, and the purpose for which he, and all the worlds, both upper and lower, were created: that G d should have such a dwelling-place here below, as will be explained further at length — how this earthly abode for G d is the purpose of all creation. Man’s faith in the unity of G d fulfills this goal. For when G d’s unity is revealed in the mind and heart of men, this world becomes an abode for G d; He is revealed there just as one reveals himself completely in his own home. How great is the joy of a common and lowly person when he is brought close to a king of flesh and blood who furthermore lodges and greater still dwells together with him — not in the king’s palace, but in his (the commoner’s) home; that G d should have such a dwelling-place here below, as will be explained further at length — how this earthly abode for G d is the purpose of all creation.” Man’s faith in the unity of G d fulfills this goal. For when G d’s unity is revealed in the mind and heart of men, this world becomes an abode for G d; He is revealed there just as one reveals himself completely in his own home. Further in the chapter the Alter Rebbe presents the following parable: “How great is the joy of a common and lowly person when he is brought close to a king of flesh and blood who furthermore lodges and greater still dwells together with him — not in the king’s palace, but in his (the commoner’s) home.”
Yes, take a moment and imagine that the person you love and respect the most is coming to stay with you in your humble abode. Surely you will be joyous.
Now imagine further believing in Hashem not just intellectually, not just as an idea; imagine what it is to sincerely experience your faith in Hashem. We continue in the Tanya:
“Yet in one’s awareness of G d’s unity and through self-nullification before Him, one does come near to G d. Furthermore, G d thereby dwells with him and within him. For this ability to experience and to be absorbed in G d’s unity, it was instituted [by the Sages] that one should render praise and thanks to G d’s Name each morning, saying: “How fortunate are we! How good is our portion, [how pleasant our lot,] and how beautiful our heritage!”
In other words, just as a person rejoices and is glad when an immense fortune falls into his possession — by inheritance, through no toil of his own, similarly, and infinitely more so, ought we to rejoice over the inheritance which our forefathers bequeathed to us. This [inheritance] is the true unity of G d — that even here below on earth there is nothing else besides Him alone, and this is His abode amongst the lowly beings of this physical world — when they are pervaded by the awareness of G d’s unity and nullify themselves before it. _ Our own unaided efforts would never win for us the ability to experience G d’s unity; it is our inheritance from our forefathers. This is [the meaning of] what our Rabbis, of blessed memory, said:6 “Six hundred and thirteen mitzvot were given to Israel;... came Habakkuk and based them all on a single one - faith as it is written: 'a tzaddik lives by his faith.'" This means, it is as if they — all the mitzvot — consisted of this one mitzvah of faith alone, for through faith alone one will come to fulfill all the 613 mitzvot.” Carefully note how the Alter Rebbe describes and defines the experience of faith in Hashem:_
“_That is, when his heart will rejoice and be glad with his faith in G d’s unity, in perfect joy as though he were obligated by just this one mitzvah, and it alone were the purpose for which he and all the worlds were created — surely, if there were but one such mitzvah for him to do, he would fulfill it with utmost joy. Let him thus rejoice in the mitzvah of faith, and by the power and vitality of his soul [generated] from this great joy, his soul will soar far above all obstacles hindering his fulfillment of all the 613 mitzvot; both [obstacles] from within — from one’s animal soul, and from without — arising from one’s environment_.“
Once when the Kotzker Rebbe zt”l was still a child, someone asked him “Where is Hashem?” And he immediately replied, “wherever one lets Him in!”
I am ready to accept Hashem in my mind. Am I ready to let Him into my heart? When I find obstacles on my path, when I confront my mistakes, past and present, will I learn from them? How much am I willing to live and walk with Hashem? How deeply joyous do I wish to be on Purim? Will Hashem come and be in the Mishkan of my heart? Will He be in our Mishkan? Is Hashem welcome in my shul?... Maybe we are getting a little closer to understanding true joy, getting closer to real joyous laughter?
”Even the erection of the Mishkan was not entirely in our hands. Surely we did all the work that we were instructed to do. But whether or not we will be granted the gift and the pleasure of attaining our goals and seeing the fruition of our labors, is Hashem’s final decision. We cannot do anything entirely on our own. We can build the sanctuary, but we need to pray from the depths of our hearts and souls that Hashem should dwell therein. We can study the Torah day and night, but we need to daaven to Hashem that the words of the Torah should enter our hearts, and shine their beauty through us... and so we find in the prayer at the end of the Amiddah: “Open my heart to Your Torah, and let my soul eagerly pursue Your commandments”...
The Mitteler Rebbe [the second Lubavitcher Rebbe] once said that a Jew has to always pray to BE a Jew. It is not enough to only do what a Jew does... we need to BE Jews...... It is so easy to lose it all [seemingly, though we can never really completely lose our Jewishness]..... without Hashem’s help... Our ‘kavannah’ intention in every deed and action is of great importance. But as everyone knows it is not at all easy to maintain proper ‘kavannah’ at all times. So what can we do about that?
The Baal Shem Tov teaches that when find it hard to pray with the right ‘kavannot’ intentions, we can and should join our prayers to the prayers of the community of Israel and of all the holy tzadikkim. In another teaching we also find his advice about praying with simple faith. We are not always capable of climbing upwards into the celestial spheres, but we can say: “Ribbono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe, I wish I could properly express my love and prayers to You...but all I can tell You right now is that I am Your child who wants to come home to You and to be very close to You.”
Remember the simple ‘yid’ in Reb Levi Yitzchak Berditchiver’s shul who did not know how to read the prayers.... but he wanted to pray so he said: “Hashem all i know is how to recite the ‘aleph-beit’ so here i am saying, aleph, beis, gimmel........ and You know all that we need, so please Hashem take my letters and compose my prayers!”... and so he kept on reciting the aleph-beit throughout the services..... these Aleph-Bet letters pierced the heavens and brought great blessing to his community.
Have a wonderful Shabbos, may all our prayers be simple and yet deep, may Hashem answer all our prayers...’le’tovah, bimheyrah b’yameinu’
May we all be blessed to dance together in the rebuilt Beit Hamikdash quickly in our days, with great joy.
Really? Is It All In Your Hands?
The Beit HaMikdash And Bringing Light Into The World
In honor of Reb Elyah Chayim's yahrtzeit
I once heard from Miriam Futterman that one Shabbos it happened that she wasn`t able to attend shul because she wasn`t feeling well enough. Right after Shabbos, Reb Elyah Chayim z`l, [Reb Shlomo's twin brother] and Rebbetzin Hadassah, - may she live long and always be in very good health and have much nachas, went over to visit her and wish her well. Before she even realized what was happening, Miriam was totally astounded to see that Reb Elyah chayim z`l had quickly rolled up his sleeves and together with Hadassah washed all the dishes that had piled up over Shabbos.
Giving `brachot` - to bless one another is always very special. Bikkur cholim-ביקור חולים visiting the sick is one the various ways we do ‘gemilut chassadim’- practical loving kindness. So it is beautiful to bless and even more special to visit and most special and holy to roll up your sleeves and DO GEMILUT CHASSADIM with your whole being. A real rabbi, a real rebbetzin , all real Yidden know this and live this. – when Hashem gives you an opportunity to do someone a favor, don’t let your ‘foolish’ ego get in the way. Be a real yid! Be a lively joyous Yid!
And don’t think you can’t do it! One of the well-known students of the holy Baal Shem Tov related that a Cossack taught him a very deep lesson in avodat Hashem- serving Hashem. It is important to respect your כבוד – honor. And it is very important to know that your highest and deepest ‘kavod’ is that all who are around you feel important and elevated in your presence. This is accomplished with true bittul to your neshama, to your higher self, which is a ‘chelek Elokah mima’al- a true part of Hashem.
He, the student, had been walking on a muddy road through the woods when he came upon a Cossack who was trying to push his wagon out of the mud. The Cossack called out to him for his help, and he said “I can’t.” Immediately the Cossack started beating him and shouting, “you can’t? you don’t want to!`` All too often saying “I can’t” is the egotistical-self saying “I don’t want to!”
If you are connected to your most humble and highest soul essence you want to do it b’simcha. Today, [Thurs], the 21st of Adar is the ‘yahrtzeit’ of the holy Rebbe, Rebbe Elimelech of Liszensk, may his merits protect us. Once a chassid of the Rebbe entered a ‘beit-midrash’ and saw there a yid engrossed in his Talmud, with his foot resting on the holy sefer Noam Elimelech, his Rebbe’s sefer. The chassid immediately picked up the sefer and kissed it. So the missnaged who obviously did not have any liking for Chassidim said to the chassid, “what do you know about the author, why do you care so much about him?” To which the chassid replied, “I can tell you one thing, if my Rebbe was on the floor and you would use him as your footstool, he wouldn’t complain.”
We are here to bring Hashem’s light into the world, to make this world His dwelling place. The more humble we are, the more we are connected to our essence, the more we are our essence, the more joyous we are; the more we are one with Hashem, the more we are one with each other; the more we are one together, the more we are in Hashem’s Unity. One great way to increase your joy each day is by giving lots of blessings and by doing lots of favors from the depths of your heart.
In the sefer ‘Chayei Olam’, collected talks on the parsha, Rav Steisaltz shlit”a, delves into many questions concerning the building of the Mishkan. Serving and drawing closer to Hashem by bringing ‘korbanot’ was already begun by Adam. What makes serving Hashem in the Beit Hamikdash different from serving Him on your backyard personal ‘bammah-במה’- altar? What could be achieved through the Beit Hamikdash, that you could not achieve in your personal sanctuary?
Rav Steinsaltz says; “The Beit Hamikdash was created primarily to bring individuals to desire much beyond that which they desire when they are alone; and also to accomplish that which individuals cannot accomplish on their own.” [my free translation, any inaccuracy is mine]
The Beit Hamikdash affords us a place and opportunity to yearn for much more and beyond anything we can yearn for on our own as individuals. Furthermore, with the Beit Hamikdash we, not only as a community, but also as individuals, get to accomplish so much more; within the holy unity each individual contributes of his self and his very self, and is also thereby strengthened.to go much higher and closer. The Beit Hamikdash cannot be built by an individual alone. Even the holiest of our people cannot do it alone.
So as Reb Shlomo used to say “I bless you and please bless me back,“ to love one another, to enter into the secret of Shabbos, to enter into the holy Beit Hamikdash, to see you on the way to the Beit Hamikdash, to enter into the holy Beit Hamikdash together with you and see you there on Shabbos.
Pesach To Jump Over And Spring Forth
Pesach is celebrated in the month of spring, when nature comes back to life. The life force which revives the world, is of the life force which will bring everything back to life when Moshiach will come, and there will no longer be death. We get a little of this revitalizing life force every year, enough to last one year at a time; enough to refresh our faith in the future, enough to remind us of the beautiful beings that we are meant to be and that we can be. To restore our souls.... enabling us to be ready to be, to be ready to transform to be fully alive again. [Mooo! what are you waiting for?]
SHMA YISRAEL HASHEM ELOKEINU HASHEM ECHAD! Have a wonderful Shabbos. b'ahavah ubivracha sholom