Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Nitsavim-Rosh Hashana - Breaking Barriers

In the verse speaking about the fact that the Torah and mitzvah of repentance are not distant from us, the Rabbenu Bachai says that there is a hint to the concept of circumcision - what does these concepts have to do with each other? How are we able to correct our behavior of the previous year, upon which we are being judged, if we are already standing in the new year after Rosh Hashana? What does the Torah mean when it says that the mitzvos and the concept of Teshuva are 'very close to you - in your mouth and your heart to do it?' How do we remove the barriers upon our hearts and mouths which prevent us from having a full relationship with Hashem, ourselves and others?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 24:39

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Ki Savo - Rain Revival

What is the connection between the blessings of rain and the revival of the dead? Why is Hashem the only One Who can 'open' the door for them? How is rain connected to the general concept of earning a livelihood? How is it connected to the concept of fish? How does this teaching relate to the idea of 'opening,' 'hand,' and 'song?'

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 24:26

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Nahama D'kisufa - Beating the Bread of Shame

Nahama D'kisufa is the Bread of Shame - which in the Ramchal refers to the experience we have when we receive something that we have not earned - a feeling of shame. But hey, don't you love getting a free gift? Where's the shame? Wouldn't you love to win the lottery? Where's the shame?

But it's the foundation of reality as we know it - we're here in this world to learn Torah and do Mitzvos, so we can 'earn' the light Hashem wants to give us; a light which would be too much to handle if we had not earned it.

But why is it called the 'Bread of Shame?' Why isn't it simply referred to as something like the 'uncomfortable principle?' Or something like that?

I realized today that the 'Bread of Shame' is actually a play on the passuk which speaks of the response Hashem gave to Adam's sin. He was told he would 'eat bread by the sweat of his face.' (actually it's literally 'sweat of his nose.') Whereas the bread he ate before in the Garden of Eden was given to him without any need for effort on his part - it literally grew on trees - now he would have to be involved in the process of bringing the bread from the earth.

But notice that it doesn't say he would have to work for his bread. It just says that he would have to sweat for it. It would require effort.

So what is the way out of the 'bread of shame?' The way out is through perspiration.

Naturally, we could think that this means that whereas before it came on its own, without any effort, now I must expend much effort to receive the bread.

But it's not so.

The bread that I receive is actually still received without effort. (Just go to the supermarket if you don't believe me!) But I have to sweat in order to remove the shame of receiving something without effort.

Before, in the garden of Eden, I could receive without feeling shame, without needing to earn it by putting in effort. It felt like it was mine. And it was, because as a child of Hashem, it is my birthright to have my needs provided for. (Look around at the animal world.)

But after Adam's sin, I still receive it for free - only after I earn it.

And I can earn it in different ways.

The chiddush here is that the effort and sweat I put in does not have to directly result in the bread I receive. The effort just takes away the shame.

I can also lose the shame by going through challenging circumstances. Or by going through a process of teshuva which brings me back to Hashem and aligns me closer to the original state of Adam.

Another chiddush that comes out of this idea is that the concept of nahama d'kisufa is a state which is only applicable post-sin of Adam. Previous to it, Adam and Eve could receive great blessings without feeling shame.

It's worth thinking about how this applies to the passuk which talks about their being unclothed and not being ashamed.

Perhaps thoughts for another time...

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Ki Seitze - Honest Accounting

Why does the Torah focus on the sin of Miriam, one of the greatest prophetesses of all time, when warning us of the sin of Lashon Hara (gossip)? Why does the midrash specifically point out the individual sins of Eve, Sarah, Rachel, Leah and Miriam? Why does the Midrash teach us that in Moshe's prayer for Miriam, he recalled his own sin in speaking Lashon Hara? How can we honestly look at our shortcomings and become greater people? Why is the person with Tzara'as (spiritual leprosy) enjoined not to touch or disdain their affliction?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 25:14

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Shoftim - Winds of Peace

Why do we call out for peace when we go out to war? Why does Hashem order things in the celestial and spiritual realms so that there will be peace if there is no jealousy or competition in those realms? How was Moshe able to contradict Hashem and look for peace or mercy when Hashem seemed to want war and judgment? Why did Hashem ultimately agree to Moshe?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 26:50

Friday, September 2, 2016

Re'eh - Hearing and Transcending

Why does the Torah speak about 'seeing' and 'hearing' in the context of our free will choices? What do we learn from the 'listening' that Adam did as opposed to Avraham? What is the depth of the concept of voice, sound and hearing? How does it relate to the mitzvah of blowing the shofar on Rosh Hashana?

Find out in this week's parsha podcast.

Running time: 26:55