Friday, December 31, 2010

Vaera - Lesson of the frogs

Why were the first two plagues the only ones the magicians could replicate? Is there a significant difference between Moshe's miracle of the frogs, as opposed to the magicians'? Why did the plague begin in the water? Why didn't Moshe just make frogs on the land? What is the understanding of the word "צפרדע" - and what does it teach us? What is the connection between the frogs, "הצפרדעים" and the Jewish people, the "צבאות השם"? Why is it that all the frogs remained, as opposed to every other plague, where the plague was completely removed, including the locusts, as per the medrash? What is the significance of the parallel between the frog's transformation and the fetus' transformation into a baby at birth?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 18:54

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

I'm imperfect

I wrote this song this morning. I was having fun. Enjoy!

I'm imperfect

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The thirteenth tribe

In Parshas Vayechi, the Torah describes the bracha that Yakov Avinu gave to Yosef's sons Efraim and Menashe. There are two important points that require explanation. The first is that Yakov says that the Jewish people will always bless their children by saying that Hashem should cause them to be like Efraim and Menashe. What is the deeper significance of this? Why do we specifically bless our children this way? It is also interesting to note that when Yakov gives them their bracha, he says that they should be like fish, multiplying greatly in the land. Why does Yakov refer to fish in this bracha?

The Maharsha in Sanhedrin (12A) gives a very beautiful explanation of this passuk. He points out that there are twelve tribes in the Jewish people, and a thirteenth hidden tribe, when Yosef splits in two. Still, when the tribes are counted, there are always twelve, because when Levi is counted, Yosef is counted as a single tribe; whereas when Efraim and Menashe are counted separately, Levi is not included in the twelve. Similarly, the Maharsha points out, there are twelve months in the year, with a thirteenth 'hidden' month during the leap year. The month that is always repeated is the month of Adar, whose mazal is the fish. Here we have the theme of fish being repeated again. What is the deeper message here?

The concept of the hidden number the thirteen, and the fact that it corresponds to fish, hints to the idea that beyond the reality that we see, there is a deeper root of spirituality animating that reality. Just as fish remain beneath the surface, too numerous to count, so too the spiritual realm is completely hidden, yet it is the multi-faceted life force at the root of all we experience.

This perfectly corresponds to the character of Yosef, who was hidden in Mitzrayim, appearing to be no more than all of the Egyptians for whom he was a leader. And yet, beneath the surface of this Egyptian ruler was a son of Yakov, who remained faithful to the Torah of his father. It was this faithfulness, despite the dangerous spiritual waters of Egypt, that earned him the first-born rights that resulted in his double portion in the Jewish people. Efraim and Menashe were the 'fish' who represented the spiritual power of Yosef, one who is hidden beneath the surface, and at the same time is the spiritual force guiding and supporting his brothers, both spiritually and physically, during their sojourn in Mitzrayim.

This is why we give the bracha to our children that they should be like Efraim and Menashe. We daven that Hashem should infuse our children with that hidden spiritual light that Yosef had, which shone through his Egyptian facade, through his children, and through the Jewish people as a whole. We ask Hashem that our children find that hidden spiritual capacity that may at first be hidden, but has the potential to illuminate their own individual lives, as well as the lives of the entire Jewish people. "May Hashem make you like Efraim and Menashe... may they be like fish, multiplying greatly in the land."

Friday, December 24, 2010

Shemos - Moshe and names

What is the significance of the fact that this book is called Shemos - 'Names?' What is the significance of the numerous mention of names in the parsha - the names of Hashem, the names of the tribes, the name of Moshe? What is the significance of the fact that Moshe was named after the fact that he was 'drawn from the water?' What is the significance of the fact that the first story of Moshe's interactions as an adult is to murder the Egyptian? What is the significance of Moshe's long stay in Midian? Why does Hashem begin His interaction with Moshe by calling out his name? What is the significance of the name Ehkyeh asher Ehkyeh?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 17:54

Friday, December 17, 2010

Vayechi - Modesty and blessings

What is the significance of the fact that Menashe and Efraim are the paradigm which is used to bless all the children of the Jewish people? Why are they blessed to multiply like fish? What is the deeper significance of fish? How do we understand the fact that Yosef is split into two tribes? Why are they blessed before the tribes themselves? What is the secret behind the thirteen/twelve tribes? How does this correspond to the thirteen/twelve months? What is the significance of the fact that the mazal of Adar is fish?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 20:43

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Understanding ourselves

In trying to understand our minds, we find this phenomenon where the mind obsessively repeats a destructive thought, magnifying and distorting it way past the point of normalcy, until that thought completely occupies the mind and overwhelms one with its intensity. Why does our mind work this way? Is there a constructive reason that Hashem programmed us like this? What is the effective way of dealing with these types of thoughts?

With Hashem's help, I have come to understand that these types of thoughts are analogous to a child who is distressed by a certain illogical fear or deep feeling. As they are told that their feeling has no rational basis, and the emotion is quashed instead of first being acknowledged, the pitch and frenzy of their illogical assertion rises in frequency. The intensity of their insistent repetition comes not from a belief of their correctness, but rather, from a deep need for the helplessness of their emotional state to be recognized and acknowledged. The louder and more intense the cry, the greater the need for reassurance before a voice of reason can be heard.

Similarly, when the mind encounters a situation it finds emotionally disturbing - a situation that seems out of control - the pitch and frenzy of its need for acknowledgment rises, to the point where, if not properly addressed, it completely occupies the mind with its distorted emotional view. The underlying subconscious intent is no different than a child who is screaming something illogical, but is really saying, "Acknowledge my feelings." We need to acknowledge our own feelings and release the tension and helplessness that is at the root of it.

This ideas starts to release its true power when we understand that one of the most fundamental needs of a human being is that he feel that his situation is under control. One of the most difficult sensations a human being can face is a sense of helplessness. The human being will do anything in his power to escape this feeling. The healthy person will begin taking action to ameliorate his situation. The emotionally unhealthy person will use any number of unhealthy means to escape into a fantasy world where the lack of control is no longer in the forefront of his mind. This feeling is what causes the mind to scream the distorted and magnified helpless thoughts to the point of obsession. It is rooted in a childlike thought process that says, "If I scream louder and make it sound worse, perhaps then my intellect and conscious mind will take this issue seriously!" This is why acknowledging the feelings is so important, and this is why the approach to their acknowledgment must be delicate. The subconscious, emotional aspect of ourselves is fully aware that its beliefs are unfounded and illogical. All it is looking for is a recognition of its feelings of helplessness and lack of control. Then it needs to be gently shown how the distressing issue can be dealt with and brought within the safe boundaries of some semblance of control. This does not per se mean that it needs to actually be actively manageable, but it is to say that it needs to be emotionally manageable. This could be through an acceptance that everything is from Hashem and all that occurs is truly for our best, though we may not be able to see it at the time. It could also be that, in our overly emotional and distorted state, we overlooked a way that we can actively better our situation. This awareness of the ability we have to actually improve our situation can also have a positive effect on our emotional state.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Ari Goldwag Sefer/Book

Hashem has helped me so much over the last few years in creating Torah that is both inspirational and deep. He also helped me to find wonderful venues to broaden the audience of listeners through itunes, blogger and facebook. I have merited to receive numerous emails with feedback from people whose lives were deeply affected by the Torah that Hashem gave me as a gift. I am gratified that the Parsha podcast garners between 500 and 600 downloads a week, and the daily podcasts get up to 100 or so downloads a day.

Recently, I have decided to take the past three years of Parsha podcasts, as well as the current year's podcasts, which I am working on now, and to create a book that would have the ability to reach a broader audience. The book will iy'H include many inspiring and elsewhere unexplored concepts, including Moshiach ben Yosef, many kabbalistic ideas, and many deep ideas mostly inaccessible to the English speaking public.

Putting together this work involves many expenses, from typing out the shiurim, to editing them for printed form, to final editing and proofing, to a cover and printing costs, as well as advertising costs. It is a tremendous merit to be involved in bringing a deeper level of Torah to the Jewish people, and although I wish I could personally take it on monetarily myself, I do not have the funds to do so. It is not my personality to ask others for money, but in this case, I feel that there is a gift I want to share with the Jewish people, and I can not stand idly by at this time. I therefore am turning to you and offering an opportunity to be involved in this project. Any donation will be accepted, from the smallest to the greatest. I truly believe that the merit for being involved in this project will be very great for anyone who takes it upon themselves.

This is a special donate button for the Sefer/book. If you decide to donate from my website or elsewhere, please make note of the fact that your intent is for the sefer.

Thank you!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Vayigash - Climax and culmination

How do we view the tikkun of the reunification of the family of Yisrael? How do we understand the dichotomy of the redemptive qualities of this event, as opposed to the fact that it is the start of the Egyptian exile? Why does Yakov return to Beer Sheva on the way down to Egypt? Why is the topic of conversation in Paroh's interaction with Yakov all about his difficult life? What is the background behind the location of Goshen being a safe haven for the Jewish people? Why are the Jewish people counted at this time?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Miketz - Chanukah and Yosef

What is the connection between Yosef and Chanukah? What is the 'great miracle' of Chanukah? What is the concept of 'advertising the miracle?' Why does the name of the Maccabi's consist of an acrostic that speaks only of Hashem? What is the contrast between Greece and Yisrael? Why does the story center around the Beis Hamikdash?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Running time: 16:02