Whatever one might say about this parsha would probably be an understatement. In it you will find not only the Ten Commandments and Shma Yisrael, and the mitzvah of Tshuvah and much more. You will find Moshe Rabbeinu speaking to us quite lovingly and even uncompromisingly, exhorting us to "hear", to "listen", to "remember", and "not to forget". He speaks to us of Hashem's love, anger and jealousy [as in caring about our relationship so much that He will always guard it ‘jealously’].
Throughout the parsha Moshe Rabbeinu earnestly advises us to remember who we are, to remember our relationships with Hashem, with our souls, with our people and with our holy land, Eretz Yisrael.
Sharing Reb Shlomo's Famous Nachamu Nachuma song (see the the end of the blog for more about Shabbat Nachamu and T'Bav)
Remember Who You Are - Be Who You Are
Throughout our history and today as well, we have struggled with the urge to be like "all the nations"- to assimilate. In general people don’t really like to be different. However, no matter how much we try to camouflage ourselves in the various societies we live in, the world knows that we are Jewish. Why do we keep on repeating the same mistake of trying to be like everyone else? Is it fear of anti-Semitism? Is it simply our reluctance to take on our role responsibly? Is it because we think that it would be 'more fun' not to be Jewish? Why don't other ethnic groups mind being different?
There are no short answers to these questions; but I would like to present two points. While internal division is our biggest problem, we Jewish people are in fact very concerned about unity. It can even be said that it is because we care so much for unity that we can very easily become intolerant of one another when see things differently. We want unity so much that we think it is okay to dislike [putting it mildly] an ‘other’ who thinks and acts differently.
People like people who are like themselves. There is a well known aphorism, ‘birds of a feather flock together’. But this is actually a natural animalistic character trait; it may be good for animals but it is not the level that we humans need to attain. When you like someone who thinks like you and acts like you, it is really yourself that you are in love with. You [the insecure you] like them because they make you feel good; you feel vindicated when you are with others who agree with you.
“Keshem sh’ain partzufaihem shavin zeh la’zeh, kach ain da’atan shavin.” This teaching is found in a number of places in the Talmudic literature. Loosely translated it means ‘that just like their faces are not exactly alike [each person has his/her unique face] so too their thoughts and opinions are not equal’. There are over seven billion people in the world, bli ayin hara. Each person has two eyes, a nose, a mouth and two ears, etc. nevertheless each person has a unique face. And each person has their own way of thinking, tasting and relating. And that is exactly as it should be, because real unity is much deeper than unity based on superficial similarities.
A great rabbi commented, just like you appreciate the fact that you have a unique face, that everyone else does not look exactly like you, so too, appreciate that everyone has their own mind and opinion.
And the big question is "How can I help unity if I am different?" Should I give up my uniqueness for the sake of unity? Is it our concern for unity that is somehow partly responsible for our wanting to be "like all the nations."
Not knowing who we really are as individuals and as a people, not understanding the meaning of our Covenant with Hashem, is a far greater factor in our readiness and desire to assimilate.
If we were to learn and understand the special role that Hashem gave us both as a people and as individuals, in making this world a dwelling place for the Shechinah, if we would understand what it means to be a real Jew, what it means to be your real self, then we would also know that it is by being real Jews and real individuals that we can best contribute to the unity of the world.
"You have been shown to know that Hashem, He is the G-d; there is nothing other than He." (4:35)
As the Jewish people, our task is to be "a light unto the nations”. Don’t kid yourself, the world knows this. We cannot and we never will be able to run away from this responsibility. Hashem will not allow this nor will the other nations allow it. We need to know who we are; we need to be who we are and we need to do all this b'simcha!
A Free Gift and Being with Hashem
Rashi teaches us that Moshe was asking for a free gift: Rashi 3:23 I entreated: Heb. וָאֶתְחַנַּן [The word] חִנּוּן [and its derivatives] in all cases is an expression signifying [requesting] a free gift. Even though the righteous may base a request on the merit of their good deeds, they request only a free gift of the Omnipresent.
The Alter Rebbe emphasized to his chassidim the tremendous importance of being consciously grateful for all the kindnesses that Hashem is always doing for us. True gratitude brings humility. Realizing that Hashem does for us so much more than we ever imagined ourselves deserving, makes us aware that Hashem is far greater than we had imagined Him to be, and that we are so very far from Hashem. Thus we are aroused to yearn ever more intensely to be closer with Hashem, and then, we come close again; as Jeremiah said, " 'From afar the LORD appeared unto me.' (31:2)
Moshe Rabbeinu asks for a 'free gift' because he knows that the very opportunities to do good deeds are Divine gifts of kindness; he wants to come into Eretz Yisrael with the single awareness that Eretz Yisrael is purely a gift from Hashem to the Children of Yisrael; he doesn't want to even think that he 'deserves' it for what ever many good deeds that he did. He wants it only because Hashem wants to give it to him freely.
Daavening is about being close to Hashem; coming closer and closer; finding and revealing your love for Hashem, within. Daavening begins with subjugating ourselves and expressing gratitude to Hashem. May we all be blessed to practice sincere gratitude, that will lead to honest humility, that will lead to heartfelt yearning to be ever closer with Hashem, with one another, with the Torah and with Eretz Yisrael.
Being with Hashem
At the opening of the parsha Moshe Rabbeinu tells us how he prayed so much that Hashem should allow him to enter into Eretz Yisrael. However these prayers were not answered. Hashem in fact told him to stop his prayers and instead go up to the top of the mountain "and see [the land] with your eyes." It is explained that Moshe Rabbeinu is like the shepherd who enters only after every one of his flock has entered. Moshe Rabbeinu and Rachel Immeinu will enter Eretz Yisrael only after every Jewish child will be back home. may it be soon.
Further Moshe Rabbeinu exhorts us to listen to and obey the laws for our lives and our inheriting Eretz Yisrael are dependent upon our obeisance to the laws of the Torah, which we may not add to or diminish any of it.
Adding to or subtracting from the mitzvoth of the Torah leads to idolatry and destruction. In giving us His Torah, the Talmud explains, Hashem gave His essence Self to us. Through the study of Torah and the performance of its mitzvoth we bond with Hashem's essence. If I were to make any changes to it, by addition or subtraction, 'chas v'shalom', even if for seemingly good reasons, I would at best end up worshiping "my" finite concept of Hashem.
"4:4 But you who cleave to the Lord your God are alive, all of you, this day." We live by cleaving to Hashem and by holding on to the Torah, our "tree of life".
Soon after in the parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu brings us back to Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Torah. Let's go there.
Visualize yourself standing at mt. Sinai ready and waiting to receive the Torah. And this is what we were shown:
לה אַתָּה הָרְאֵתָ לָדַעַת, כִּי ה הוּא הָאֱלֹ-הִים: אֵין עוֹד, מִלְּבַדּוֹ.
4:35 You have been shown, in order to know that the Lord He is God; there is none else besides Him.
Rashi: You have been shown: Heb. הָרְאֵתָ As the Targum [Onkelos] renders it: אִתְחִזֵיתָא, you have been shown.
When the Holy One, blessed is He, gave the Torah, He opened for Israel the seven heavens, and just as He tore open the upper regions, so did He tear open the lower regions, and they saw that He is One.
Accordingly, it is stated, “You have been shown, in order to know
[that the Lord He is God-there is none else besides Him].”
Thus, when Hashem said "I Am Hashem, your G-d," these were not just words that we simply heard. Rather this was a most intense of experience of the highest revelation of the Oneness of Hashem. It was absolutely clear to all that there is none else. That being so, one may ask, why then was it necessary to be told "You shall have no other gods before Me"- was it not obvious that there are no other gods or powers?
Idolatry can be coarse and vulgar and it can also be very subtle. In this world that we live in is known as "alma d'prudah" and "alma d'shikra" - the world of division, the world of lies, there is a very subtle idol- the idolatry of "otherness", the idol of separateness. Thinking that you are "other" is idolatrous. In this world of differentiation and division, we are naturally drawn to this idol of 'otherness'. We might even think of ourselves as 'other gods'.
Before coming down to this world our souls were in a state of blissful union with Hashem. We come into this world because it is Hashem's Will to have a dwelling place here in the lowest of all worlds and it is our role to manifest His Oneness in this world and dispel its lies and division. The very commandment, and being commanded, "You shall have no other gods before Me" is what gives us the the strength to overcome the attraction of "other" gods, the attraction of otherness.
At Simchat Shlomo we seek to find and emphasize that which unites us rather than that which divides us. All who are interested in studying integrated Torah and integrating Torah in a respectful and warm and loving atmosphere are welcome. Students from all backgrounds are welcome, regardless of levels of observance. On any given day you are likely find among us people with very divergent opinions, yet all are respectful of one another.
Torah is that which unites us. We may not be practicing all alike, but we surely can learn together! The most important thing is that we learn together with love and respect and that we be united as one people. Amen.
We look forward to the Ultimate Redemption – may it be very very soon. Amen.
Praying to Pray
tefillah hisbodedus shevach
Chassidut teaches us that when we say "Baruch Attah Hashem ... blessed are You Hashem", Hashem makes Himself present to us. At that moment we can experience Hashem's love and closeness. The gates of prayer are never closed, regardless of whether or not Hashem is granting our requests. The closeness to Hashem that we can truly feel when praying sincerely, is the greatest thing in itself; greater than immediately receiving what you wanted. When we pray with all our hearts something happens inside, there is a stirring of life that is experienced in the soul. Deep inside something is telling us to never leave from this holy place and moment.
The Sfas Emes, similar to the Bertichiver Rebbe’s teaching, explains Va’etchanan, as preparing oneself to pray with all one’s heart and soul. When you achieve praying in this way, you actually forget to ask for those things that wanted to request of Hashem, because when you are so close to Him, you don’t feel the need or desire for anything else. That is why we need a siddur- a prayer book to remind us what to pray for, since Hashem does want us to pray for health and livelihood etc..
Imagine an old peasant and his wife living in an old farmhouse. They have one little field where they grow cabbage and potatoes. They have been there ever since they were born and have never left. They have one old horse to plough their field with and one cow that provides them with milk. One day the old man comes into the house and bitterly complains to his wife that the horse has no more strength to plough the field. He is at a loss, “What will we do now?” And the old woman says to her husband, “Boris, we have a king, why don’t you go to the king and ask him for a new horse. He has so many, maybe he’ll give you one and we’ll be able to continue farming and we’ll survive.”
Boris agreed to go to the king. He had never been away from his farm. All he knew was his little farm, his small barn, his small house, his horse, his cow and a couple of hens. So he set out toward the royal city. As he was getting closer he started to see buildings the likes of which he had never seen. They were big and beautiful. The closer he got to the royal city the more magnificent they were. Finally he arrives at the gates of the royal city and they ask him why he came. “I would like to see the King, because I need a new horse.
The guards allow him to enter and he approaches the palace, it is so utterly splendid that he is overcome with awe. He could barely tell the palace guards why he came. Finally he is inside the glorious royal chamber standing before the king. Boris bows to the king and the king asks him “Why did you come today? What would you like?” And Boris says, “My dear King, I came to ask you for a horse.”
What a fool, you might say. He’s in the royal palace and all he cares about is a horse. If he would have any sense he would have asked the king to remain in the palace, close to the king. Forget about the cabbage patch, just ask the king to send for your wife and never leave the wonderful palace.
After saying Shema Yisrael [which is in this week’s parsha] – after reaching so deeply into your soul that you are prepared to love Hashem with all your heart and soul, with everything you have, what else in the world is there? Why do we continue with the Amidah prayer where we ask for health and wealth? In fact we are taught that the Amidah prayer is the highest prayer. How are we to understand this? What can be higher than the Shema? How can I think about what I need or want, when I am so utterly in Hashem’s presence that my soul can hardly stay in its body?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that to want to do Hashem’s will is higher and deeper than to want to be absorbed into the Infinite One. Hashem sent our souls to this world to fulfill a mission. Namely, to make this world a dwelling place for the Shechinah. And to do this we need intelligence, health, and livelihood. So we pray to Hashem to provide us with all these things so that we can do His will.
Really, if you were to pray on the highest levels of devotion and love for Hashem, you wouldn’t remember what to ask for. That’s why Hashem gave us a Siddur, so we will remember to ask for what He wants us to ask for. We do have to leave that high and holy place in order 'to do' Hashem's will in this world. Therefore we conclude our prayers with a prayer that we should remain close to Hashem throughout the day.
All too often we don't allow ourselves to experience this closeness to Hashem for more than one micro moment. We are scared of this reality; we are scared to admit to the truth of this reality. Because if we would admit to this truth, we know that in all likelihood will have to make big changes in the way we live our lives, and we're afraid of that. We have to pray to pray.
Moshe Rabbeinu says: "Va'eschanan el Hashem." I prayed to Hashem. The Baal HaTurim says that Moshe Rabbeinu prayed 515 prayers asking Hashem to allow him to at least enter into The Land just to see it. But Hashem did not grant his request. Yet he did not give up praying! He became a prayer! As king David says: "v'ani tefillah" ... I am prayer. The gates of prayer that Moshe Rabbeinu opened with his prayers are still open until this very day - every one of us can enter them.
The Ohr Hachayim hakadosh says that Moshe really intended to try and get Hashem to allow all of us to enter into Eretz Yisrael. His plan was that as soon as Hashem would grant him permission to enter the land, he would then say to Hashem, “How could I enter the Holy Land without my flock? I need every yid to enter with me.”
Moshe Rabbeinu, whom the Zohar refers to as the "Raya Meheimna", the true and trusted shepherd, the shepherd of faith, will enter into The Holy Land, but this will occur only once his entire flock will be inside Eretz Yisrael. Similarly, Rachel Immeinu - our mother Rachel is also waiting at the border of the Land for all her children to enter into Eretz Yisrael, before she herself will enter The Land.
The first Word
the first word of prayer
the first word Va’eschanan
the holy Berditchiver Rebbe says
Moshe Rabbeinu prayed to be allowed to pray
he daavened to daaven
learn to pray before praying
pray that Hashem should inspire your prayers
to daaven sincerely with kavvanah
with all your heart in the name of all of Israel
daaven to be moved by your prayers
for your soul to be stirred to come alive
to go deeper within yourself
to reach higher
to want to fix and to fix your relationships
with Hashem with family and with friends
with your people and with your land
to fix your relationship with your ‘essence self’
daaven to sing a true song
daaven to learn one holy word
learn one holy word to daaven
daaven to love
to do one good deed with love
daaven to see the good in another
and in yourself
daaven to see the good in your home
in the land of your soul
daaven to see the soul of your land
to be in the home of your soul
to joyously be in Hashem’s house
daaven that Hashem will dwell in your home
in your words
daaven to daaven for true peace in Yerushalayim
in the Holy Land and in all worlds
daaven to daaven again and again
DON'T EVER STOP DAAVENING!
Reb Shlomo zt"l, always emphasized, "Don't give up! Never give up! Never give up"! Never give up on being close to Hashem.
Shabbos, The Shema & Tzedakah
SANCTIFYING SHABBOS AND MAKING SHABBOS
In this week's parsha V’ESCHANAN we have the second rendition of the 'Asseret Hadibrot' [literally, the Ten Utterances, otherwise commonly known as the Ten Commandments]. Shabbos is the fourth 'utterance'. Here we find the same mitzvah stated in similar and different ways, that complement one another, as we say in Lecha Dodi "Shamor v'Zachor b'deebur echad hismianu E-l hameyuchad – "Observe" and "Remember" the one and only G-d caused us to hear in a single utterance."
In Shemos 20:8-11 it says:
Zachor Es Yom Hashabbos L'kadsho – remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it. Six days you shall work and perform [complete] all your work.
In Devarim 5: 12,14-15 it says:
Shamor Es Yom Hashabbos L'kadsho - Guard the Shabbos day to Sanctify it as Hashem commanded you. ….. . Therefore, Hashem, your G-d, commanded you to 'make' [celebrate] the Shabbos day.
The holy Shabbos is a great and awesome gift that we received from Hashem. In the Talmud we learn [Shabbos 10a]: Hashem said, "I have a fine gift in My treasure house, it is called Shabbos."
We are taught that we ought to make much effort to receive this precious gift with intense love and joy. By doing so we will merit to do tshuvah, somehow; even one who has difficulty in doing complete and lasting tshuvah will eventually merit "the day that is completely Shabbos."
Shabbos is the main source, the headquarters of this holy supportive strength to help us overcome our internal struggles successfully. We need to draw the holiness of Shabbos into our very depths of being each day of the week. "Remember the Shabbos day to sanctify it," as explained in the Talmud, we are commanded to "remember it each day of the week." This is why we do not have any names for any of the weekdays; instead we refer to each day as it relates to Shabbos; "today is the first day of the Shabbos", "today is the 2nd day of the Shabbos" etc.. . [See Likutei Halachos, Orach Chayim, Chap. 29.]
Reb Shlomo z"l explained: Shabbos is "Shabbat Shalom umevorach," the day that is blessed. Reb Nachman taught that there are two kinds of energy [so to speak] in the world, the energy of force or coercion and the energy of blessing. G-d did not force the world into being, He blessed it into being. Concerning Shabbos it says "He blessed the seventh day and He sanctified it." Blessing reaches much deeper than coercion. The Tzadikkim do not force, they bless.
Blessings are received. Blessings need to enter into the depths of our beings, in order for them to have an effect. We need humility and yearning to enable this come about. Humility also implies openness, sensitivity and the recognition that we need to receive a blessing. Yearning implies desire, the desire to be blessed, the desire to improve our conditions of life and being.
Humility. Once a man came to the 'frierdiger Rebbe' of Lubavitch Reb Yosef Yitzchak z"l asking for a blessing. The Rebbe told him that a blessing is like rain. If the rain is taken in by the earth then it helps things grow. But if the rain falls on concrete, it doesn't contribute to growth. The man understood what the Rebbe was telling him. He then asked the Rebbe to at least bless him that the concrete surrounding his heart should crack.
Yearning. In this week's Torah reading of the Ten Commandments, Shabbos is related to Yetziat Mitzrayim. As it says, "And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and Hashem, your G-d, took you out of there with a strong hand and an extended arm. Therefore, Hashem, your G-d, commanded you to 'make' [celebrate] the Shabbos day." Devarim 5:14-15. Like the slave who yearns to be free we need to yearn for Shabbos, for the holiness and blessing of Shabbos.
Shabbos and Yetziat Mitzrayim are both about freedom. Freedom from slavery in Egypt, freedom from being enslaved to the mundane aspects of life in this world, freedom from being enslaved to our nefesh habahamias- our animal soul.
In order to attain any significant level of freedom, in particular true inner freedom, one has to sincerely yearn for it. The slave must want to be liberated. Rav Steinsaltz taught that there are many levels of freedom. Though not may people can honestly claim to have achieved significant degrees of freedom, nevertheless 'wanting' to be free is also important level of freedom.
Similarly with Shabbos. All the Shabbos laws, in particular, the commandment not to perform any labor on Shabbos, are of great importance. But in order to really be connected with Shabbos, we need to, with utmost humility, yearn to receive the 'blessing' and the 'holiness' of Shabbos. We need to yearn to receive the gift of Shabbos – its blessings and holiness. That is why the Friday evening service is called Kabbalat Shabbat- Receiving the Shabbos.
There's a very striking similarity between Shabbos and marriage. The Midrash says that Shabbat came before G-d with a complaint, saying, that each day has its partner: Yom Rishon has Yom Sheini, Yom Shlishi has Yom Revi'i, Yom Chamishi has Yom Shishi, but I, Shabbat am all alone. Then Hashem said to Shabbat: You too have a partner, your partner is the Jewish people.
In Rabbinic Hebrew marriage is called 'kiddushin' - sanctification. In the traditional marriage ceremony the groom says to the bride "harei at mekudeshet lee…"-with this ring you are sanctified to me according to the Law of Moses and Israel." The bride has to willingly allow herself to be married/sanctified, to receive the kiddushin- and thereby enter an exclusive relationship with her husband. It is explained that she nullifies her 'self' to allow her 'self' to be brought into this new exclusive relationship of kiddushin-marriage.
Similarly, at Kabbalat Shabbat there is a marriage taking place between Shabbat and the Jewish people.
Through Kabbalat Shabbat- receiving the Shabbos, we are enter into marriage with the holy Shabbos. Like in a marriage, where the bride is the one to receive the kiddushin, on Shabbat we are the bride and we receive the 'kiddushin' of Shabbos. Like the bride at her wedding, we need to nullify our 'selves' to receive the holiness of Shabbos- to allow the Shabbos to sanctify us, to enter into the marriage with the holiness of Shabbos.
It is interesting that women seem to have a more active role in 'making Shabbos', in particular by lighting the Shabbos candles and thereby bringing the holiness and light of Shabbos into the world. Men don't usually 'do' anything particular to 'make' Shabbos [we'll have to talk about the Kiddush another time] but we do have to nullify our 'selves' to receive Shabbos, to allow Shabbos to sanctify us just as the bride does under the chuppah. This nullification of the 'self' must be complete. We must be ready and desiring to be totally sanctified by Shabbos in order for the union to be complete.
When we truly yearn for Shabbos and we make sincere efforts to welcome the Shabbos queen with intense love and joy, even if only on a small scale, then our tshuvah starts to be real and lasting, for then it reaches us deeper and deeper. Then we come closer to the day that is completely Shabbos, the day that we will no longer keep on faltering after each step we take.
A parable to help us understand the laws of Shabbos a little bit better, to understand why there are so many things that we are not allowed to do on Shabbos. Suppose someone would write a manual of proper behavior during one's wedding ceremony. Now in this manual you might find the following rules: a] You may not answer your cell phone in the middle of the wedding ceremony; b] You may not interrupt the wedding ceremony to conduct business; c] Neither may you stop the wedding to fix your car. And we can go on and on with a long list of what one should not do as they are getting married. Surely we would also find a list of appropriate behavior and meditations. And to be sure there would also be a section of things to do in preparation for the wedding. Can you imagine a bride or groom saying, "I read the manual and there are so many things that I cannot do at my wedding, I think I won't get married." Surely we realize that all the rules are really intended to 'liberate' us from our daily routine, to help and enable us to focus completely on the marriage that is taking place. This parable does not fully explain the various aspects of Shabbos laws and customs. But it does illustrate one point and that is that Shabbos is a weekly wedding between the Jewish people and Hashem and the laws of Shabbos – what is permissible, what is forbidden and what is desirable – is intended to 'liberate' us from the mundane existence of the week and open the gateway to higher consciousness and holiness. And, just like a wedding wouldn't be a wedding without joy, so too Shabbos must be a delight – at least we should try to make it joyous and be in the 'oneg' delight of Shabbos.
SOME TEACHINGS ON THE "SHMA"
In our parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu says to each person of Israel:
"Shma Yisrael Hashem Elokeinu Hashem Echad". "Hear Yisrael, Hashem is our G-d, Hashem is One." We are commanded to recite the Shma twice a day, "b'shachbecha uv'kumecha" – when you lie down and when you get up. Why is it not sufficient to do so only once a day?
The essence of reciting the Shema is to accept upon ourselves the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and the yoke of Torah and mitzvot. (Brachot 13a.) We need to do this in the morning and in the evening. However, Reb Tzaddok HaCohen points out that the verse does not say "in the morning and in the evening," rather, it says - "b'shachbecha uv'kumecha" – when you lie down and when you get up. Reb Tzaddok zt"l explains that morning and evening refer to changes that take place in the world, whereas, "b'shachbecha uv'kumecha" - refers to changes in man. It is not sufficient to recite the Shema only once a day. We have to accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven in the morning when we 'get up' – when we are about to embark on our daily activities, so that all our doings should be done for the sake of heaven. And we have to accept the yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven in the evening when we 'lie down' – when we rest upon our beds, - and this is even a more difficult task - we must be conscious of the One before Whom we are lying down. (Tziddkas Ha-tzaddik #3)
YICHUD – UNIFICATION WITH THE SHECHINAH
The Baal Shem Tov teaches us the essence of the kavannah of the Shema. As we recite the Shma, especially the words Hashem Echad, we are not only proclaiming our faith in Hashem as the Creator of all and that Hashem is One. We also desire to achieve true unification with Hashem.
To do this we must focus our thoughts on the unique Oneness of Hashem – that there is nothing in the universe but the Holy One blessed is He – for all the world is filled with His glory! To achieve this unification with Hashem requires a deep understanding of who we really are. We need to nullify our 'physical' self-concept, our 'separate' self, and to learn to be and to know our true essence – which is our neshamah – a true part of Hashem above!
By meditating upon this deeply and frequently, we come to recognize that there really is nothing in the world other than the essence of the Holy One baruch Hu, and we are freed from our 'physical' self-concept and are thus able to unite in the Oneness of Hashem – in the kavannah that "All the world is filled with His glory," and that "there is nothing, no place and no moment that is void of Him blessed be His Name.
COVERING AND UNCOVERING THE EYES
During daavening when we say this verse, we close and cover our eyes so that we can concentrate on and see the Oneness of Hashem. When we elongate the word "echad" we meditate on its letters and what they represent. 'Aleph'=1 - Hashem is One; 'Chet'=8 – Hashem is One in this world and in the seven skies; 'Daled'=4 – Hashem is One in all four directions.
When our eyes are open we see division. So we close our eyes to better focus on the Oneness of Hashem. The 'avodah'- the 'work', the service is that when we open them again we should continue to see only One. We should always maitain a vision of a united world in front of our eyes.
LOVING HASHEM WITH MESSIRAS NEFESH – TOTALLY READY TO GIVE IT ALL FOR HASHEM
"V'ahavtah es Hashem Elokecha, b'chol l'vavcha ub'chol nafshecha uv'chol m'odech"; and you shall love Hashem your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your wealth."
Reb Tzaddok HaCohen teaches that the word 'chol' – all, alludes to at least three things. Thus "b'chol l'vavcha" – with all your heart – includes attaining mastery over the three emotions that emanate from the heart: jealousy/lust for power, lust for physical pleasures and pursuit of honor. "Ub'chol nafshecha" – with all your soul – this includes your 'nefesh', 'ruach' and 'neshamah' – your animal soul, your spirit and your conscious intellectual faculties. "Uv'chol m'odech" – with all your wealth – includes attaining mastery over how you use your material and financial wealth; that it should not be used for fulfilling the lusts for power, physical pleasures and honor.
I heard from our Rebbe Reb Shlomo zt"l who told us in the name of the holy [Belzer ?] Rebbe, that b'chol m'odecha can also be translated as "with all your very much". I.e. Love Hashem with all your 'very much' ... with all your special gifts and talents.
וּצְדָקָה, תִּהְיֶה-לָּנוּ: כִּי-נִשְׁמר לַעֲשׂוֹת אֶת-כָּל-הַמִּצְוָה הַזּאת, לִפְנֵי השם אֱלקינוּ--כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוָּנוּ
6:25 And it shall be righteousness unto us, if we observe to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as He hath commanded us.'
Hashem gives us ‘tzedakkah’. Tzedakkah is giving to one who doesn’t have, to one who is needy. Hashem’s tzedakkah for us, are the mitzvot and good deeds that He commands us to do. Why is this considered tzedakkah?
The reality is that we are finite beings and Hashem is the Infinite One b”H. A finite being can never reach the infinite. How then can we come close to Hashem? We can do so because He, the Infinite One extends bridges to us.
The mitzvot are the bridges and the connectors. With these, we finite beings can now connect with the Infinite One baruch Hu. That is the tzedakkah that Hashem has given and continues to give us each day.
Shabbos Nachamu & a Song from Reb Shlomo
The Shabbos that follows Tisha B'Av [the fast of the 9th of Av] is known as Shabbos Nachamu, so named after the opening words of the Haftorah, which begins with the words, “Nachamu Nachamu ami,” “Be consoled, be consoled, My nation.” Isaiah 40. We need Hashem's comfort, Hashem's double consolation- NOW!
The famous question, discussed in many Midrashim and many commentaries is, why does Yehshayahu [Isaiah] repeat the word Nachmu- console, twice? The Midrash says that this means that Hashem will console us with a "double consolation.
The Lubavitcher zt"l Rebbe explains: It says 'Nachamu, Nachamu Ami- console, console My Nation' rather than Nachamu Ami, Nachamu Ami- console My People, console My People. From this we learn that Yeshayahu hanavi- the holy prophet Isaiah, did not merely mean to suggest that the people of Israel would merely be receiving a double measure of consolation, or a consolation that had two different aspects to it. Instead it means that My Nation, My one and singular Nation, shall be consoled with one consolation that is a "double consolation"! The Rebbe explains:
The Beit Hamikdash- the Holy House that we lost and was destroyed on the 9th of Av, for which we will be receiving a 'double consolation', was a 'double house'- it was both a 'revealed' physical and a 'revealed' spiritual home at the same time! It was not merely a composite of the physical and the spiritual, nor was the physical structure merely a vessel for the spiritual. The Beit Hamikdash was a 'physical' house and a 'spiritual' house at the same time - Hashem dwelled both in the physical and in the spiritual homes in a manner that could be sensed, just as we can sense anything else. This is alluded to in the verse, "And they shall make for Me a Sanctuary, and I shall dwell in 'them'- both in the physical and in the spiritual sanctuary! Right from the moment that the contributions of the materials needed for the Sanctuary were being taken, the 13 (or 15) 'materials' were already imbued with 'sensible' spirituality. All the more so, when the Beit Hamikdash was completed, and the Shechinah came to dwell in it, then it was totally revealed, how the complete Sanctuary was 'double'- both physical and spiritual at the same time.
Accordingly we understand, that just as the destruction was 'double'- both physical and spiritual, so too, the consolation must be 'double'- both physical and spiritual. This will be actualized with the rebuilding of the Third and final Beit Hamikdash, may it be quickly in our days. This will be the ultimate consolation.
Concerning the Third Beit Hamikdash it says, "Mikdash Hashem konnenu yadecha"- the Sanctuary of Hashem, that You have established with Your hands! The third Beit Hamikdash, may it be built quickly in our days, will be the Eternal Sanctuary- the completion of the 'double' Home- the 'spiritual' Sanctuary, built and assembled in the Supernal realm, that will come down and be vested in the 'physical' Sanctuary, here in our lower realm, in a manner that it will be One Sanctuary- physical and spiritual as one.
A Song of Comfort for Am Yisrael from Reb Shlomo
In honour of Shabbos Nachamu, i am sending you selected transcripts of Reb Shlomo’s teachings, which can be heard on his tape called “Nachmu Nachmu”.. [if you don’t have a copy, look for it on the web. Remember that these transcripts are not meant for commercial use.]
Reb Shlomo zt”l
i’d like to sing one more ... a little bit sad song ... a little bit happy.. both
l’kovod this Shabbos....give me harmony, friends give me harmony..
hold onto the last note
can you imagine .... can you visualize.....can you think about
about 2400 years ago somewhere on a streetcorner
in the holy city Yerushalayim
and maybe maybe maybe maybe it was a ‘motzo-ei Shabbos’
Yeshayah Hanavi the holy prophet Isaiah
came down somewhere somewhere from the Har Habeas
you know sweetest friends let me tell you ... according to our tradition
everybody knows that the Haftorah, the portion of the prophet [that] we read
after a certain portion of the Torah
that means that the prophet prophesized this on that ‘motzo-ei Shabbos’
of the portion of that week ... without getting involved in the depths of it right now
so Shabbos V’eschanan .. 2400 or 2500 years ago .... Yeshaya Hanavi listened to parsha V’eschanan and he came down to the streets and he prophesized and he said:
Reb Shlomo zt"l: On The Relationship Between Tisha b'Av And The 15th Of Av.
[Transcribed from the cassette entitled "Nachmu Nachmu"]
"Every body knows that tomorrow night [this year it's this coming Wednesday] is ‘chamisha asar b’Av’ [15th of Av]
you know what the holiness of us Yidden is that we can get up from the floor and expect Mashiach to come the next second the holiness of us Yidden is that this week was Tisha b”Av and this Shabbos we are ready for the highest.
You know some people when they are ill it takes them so long till they get back on their feet
but "heyn am k'lavi yakum" ["They are a nation that arises like a young lion."] ... Gevalt ... gevalt!
we can lie down on the floor ... we can be in the lowest lowest ... [but the] next minute ... what do you think?