Erev Shabbos Kodesh Shabbos Chol HaMoed-Pesach Inspiration 5774


I hope you’re enjoying this wonderful Yom Tov of Pesach. On Shabbos many shuls have the custom to recite Shir HaShirim, Song of Songs. One of the underlying themes of Shir HaShirim is contained in the words אִם תָּעִירוּ וְאִם תְּעוֹרְרוּ אֶת הָאַהֲבָה עַד שֶׁתֶּחְפָּץ, loosely translated as: if you dare provoke G-d to hate me or disturb His love for me while He still desires it. The Gemara states that this teaches us that we cannot force the return of the Divine Presence to Yerushalayim. The Ramban, however, writes that from these words we learn that when one has an arousal to spirituality, one should make that awakening into a חפץ, a receptacle that will allow one to keep the arousal strong.

Certainly we have all been inspired by these holy days, through the exhilarating Tefillos, the Seder, the inspiring words of Torah shared, and the delectable holiday foods. Let us keep the inspiration high and HaShem should then, on His own, force the redemption upon us, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

Have a Gut Moed and a delightful Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Acharei Mos-Shabbos HaGadol-Pesach Inspiration 5774


This week we have so much to discuss and so little time to do it but with HaShem’s help, we will become even more inspired to serve our Creator with love and fear. This week’s parasha, Acharei Mos, discusses the forbidden relationships. It is interesting to note that while the Jews were steeped in idolatry until the last moment of the Egyptian exile, they were pure and holy when it came to immorality. Why was this so? The Gemara (Sanhedrin 63b) tells us that the Jews served idols to permit forbidden relationships,and the Vilna Gaon explains that this statement applied throughout Jewish history. For example, when the Jews worshiped the Golden Calf, it is said (Shemos 32:6) וַיַּשְׁכִּימוּ מִמָּחֳרָת וַיַּעֲלוּ עֹלֹת וַיַּגִּשׁוּ שְׁלָמִים וַיֵּשֶׁב הָעָם לֶאֱכֹל וְשָׁתוֹ וַיָּקֻמוּ לְצַחֵק, on the next day they arose early, offered up burnt offerings, and brought peace offerings, and the people sat down to eat and to drink, and they got up to make merry. Rashi cites the Medrash that states that the word לְצַחֵק also connotes immorality. How was it possible, then, that the Jews worshiped idols in Egypt and yet did not succumb to the temptation of immorality?

I believe the answer to this questions is that the Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Beshalach 234) states that when the Jewish People arrived at the Sea, the angel of the Sea did not wish to split the Sea, claiming that the Jews were idolaters. HaShem responded, “foolish one! Do you think the Jews worshiped idols on their own accord? Rather, they worshiped idols because they were deranged and because of the slavery that they were subjected to.” Thus, the Jews did not serve idols of their own volition. For this reason they did not succumb to the temptation of forbidden relationships, as their attachment to idolatry was only superficial.

 

While this may seem astonishing, we find that Halacha (Orach Chaim 622:2) requires us to read the parasha of forbidden relationships at Mincha of Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the year. Apparently, ones Evil Inclination has some power even on this holy and abstinent day,and one has to be on high alert for any hint of licentiousness. This idea relates to Shabbos HaGadol, as the word גדולה, literally translated as greatness, is associated with the attribute of חסד, kindness. While kindness usually refers to acts of kindness, there is another form of kindness that is associated with immorality (Rashi Vayikra 20:17). Although on the festival of Pesach one can attain an exalted level of spirituality, one has to bear in mind the statement of the Gemara (Kiddushin 81a) that the weakest link of the year, ie. the most susceptible time, is the festivals, as people are more prone to engage in immoral acts at this time.

 

HaShem should allows us to maintain the lofty degree of spirituality that our forefathers reached upon leaving Egypt we should all merit the arrival Mashiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.

 

Have a wonderful and elevated Shabbos and an exalted and transcendent Pesach!

 

Chag Kosher Visameach

 

RabbI Adler

 

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Metzora 5774


Two weeks of tzaraas? Can we handle reading so much about a person who speaks Lashon Hara, evil speech, and gets punished in such a harsh manner? Perhaps we can focus on Pesach, which is just around the corner, and upon examining one less discussed topic of the redemption, we can gain a better understanding of tzaraas. The Torah instructs us to redeem the firstborn son and the firstborn donkey must be redeemed through a sheep. The simple understanding of these mitzvos is that the Jewish People were in a precarious situation in Egypt, as they were deserving to die along with the Egyptians (Medrashim are replete with declarations of the Sea and the Angel of the Sea not wishing to split the Sea because both the Jews and the Egyptians were idolaters). HaShem, in His Infinite Mercy, saved the Jewish firstborns by redeeming them through the Egyptian firstborn. Thus, these mitzvos are all about redemption. However, there is another aspect to the redemption of the firstborn, and that is that that we  were redeemed in the month of Nissan, the first month of the Jewish year, and for that reason we are commanded to redeem the firstborn son and firstborn donkey. How does this connect to the idea of tzaraas?

Rashi tells us in this weeks parasha that when someone is afflicted with tzaraas on his house, it is good news for that person, because the Amorites concealed their treasures while the Jews were wandering in the Wilderness. When the person whose house is afflicted with tzaraas removes the stones that are tamei, he will discover the treasures that were hidden within. What is the rationale for this portent? Should the sinner who spoke Lashon Hara or the like and was punished with tzaraas now be rewarded with gold and silver?

The answer to this question is that the one who was afflicted with tzaraas now begins to understand that he must change his ways, and go from a  state of impurity to purity. This is the function of tzaraas. HaShem could have punished the person in many ways, but he chose tzaraas as His instrument to show the person the way for repentance. In a similar vein, HaShem exchanged the Jewish people for the Egyptians and  their donkeys, which are both symbols of impurity. This exchange was specifically done with the firstborn to reflect the idea that one can ascend from an impure place and renew his commitment to HaShem.

Have a Spiritually Ascending Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Tazria-HaChodesh 5774


How should we understand Tzaraas? Spiritual leprosy? The Torah gives us a very explicit hint with the word מצרע as to what the deficiency is in the person who is inflicted with Tzaraas. The word מצרע, which equals 400 in gematria, appears elsewhere in the Torah, with the letters rearranged. One instance is when Lot escapes from Sodom and wishes to settle in the city of מצער, and he tells the angel (Bereishis 19:20) הִנֵּה נָא הָעִיר הַזֹּאת קְרֹבָה לָנוּס שָׁמָּה וְהִיא מִצְעָר אִמָּלְטָה נָּא שָׁמָּה הֲלֹא מִצְעָר הִוא וּתְחִי נַפְשִׁי, Behold now, this city is near to flee there, and it is small. Let me please flee there. Is it not small? And my soul will survive.” The second instance is when it is said (Shemos 21:5-6) וְאִם אָמֹר יֹאמַר הָעֶבֶד אָהַבְתִּי אֶת אֲדֹנִי אֶת אִשְׁתִּי וְאֶת בָּנָי לֹא אֵצֵא חָפְשִׁי: {ו} וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֲדֹנָיו אֶל הָאֱלֹהִים וְהִגִּישׁוֹ אֶל הַדֶּלֶת אוֹ אֶל הַמְּזוּזָה וְרָצַע אֲדֹנָיו אֶת אָזְנוֹ בַּמַּרְצֵעַ וַעֲבָדוֹ לְעֹלָם, But if the slave says, “I love my master, my wife, and my children. I will not go free,” his master shall bring him to the judges, and he shall bring him to the door or to the doorpost, and his master shall bore his ear with an awl, and he shall serve him forever. Lot escaped Sodom on Pesach, and on Pesach we commemorate our liberation from the Egyptian exile, which originally was supposed to be four hundred years. HaShem had informed Avraham of the future exile and slavery, and Lot did not wish to remain in the sphere of Avraham, so essentially Lot enslaved himself to materialism. Similarly, the Jewishs slave who does not wish to leave his master wishes to perpetuate his slavery, so we bore his ear with a מרצע, an awl, and this reflects the 400 years of slavery. The מצרע, afflicted with spiritual leprosy, also is guilty of self-inflicted slavery.

 

One reason that Tzaraas comes on a person is if he is a צר עין, stingy. One who does not wish to lend out his possessions to others has a mental constriction, which is also a form of slavery. One who slanders others also does not recognize the good that HaShem has given him, and he is also confined to his sinful habits. The Egyptian exile consisted of physical labor and spiritual contamination. When one gives to others and does not slander his fellow man, he is liberated from being a מצרע, reflecting the four-hundred years of slavery. The commentators write that Esav and his four hundred men represent the epitome of evil in this world. Esav rejected his portion in Eretz Yisroel, which measures four hundred parsah (1 parsah = approximately 3648, 3840 or 4608 meters)  by four hundred parsah, and the Land is the good component of 400 in this world. Esav chose this path because he did not want to undergo the trials and tribulations of the Egyptian slavery which HaShem had forewarned Avraham would last for 400 years (Rashi Bereishis 36:7).

 

On a  deeper level, however, Easav did not value Eretz Yisroel, which is referred to in the Torah as (Shemos 3:8) אֶרֶץ טוֹבָה וּרְחָבָה , a good and spacious land, and one who does not cherish Eretz Yisroel cannot enter the Land. Similarly, when one does not lend out his possessions or slanders others and Tzaraas appears on his house, he must demolish the house in order to remove the Tzaraas. This is a sign that he is constricted and cannot enjoy the expanse that is manifest in Eretz Yisroel.

 

HaShem should give us the expansion of knowledge to treat others kindly and then we will merit an end to all our suffering and pain, with the arrival of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days

 

Have an EXPANSIVE and slander-free Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

 

 

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Shemini-Parah 5774


In this week’s parasha we learn about Aharon offering sacrifices to inaugurate the Mishkan, and two of those sacrifices are Aharon’s offering of a calf as a sin offering and the Jewish People’s offering of a he-goat as a sin offering. The commentators (Kli Yakar 9:3 citing Toras Kohanim) write that the calf was to atone for the Golden Calf that the Jewish People worshiped and the he-goat was to atone for the sale of Yosef by his brothers, as they dipped Yosef’s cloak in blood and pretended that he had been killed by an animal. The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Beshalach 234 ) states that when the Jewish people arrived at the Sea, the angel of the Sea did not wish to split the Sea, claiming that the Jews were idolaters. HaShem responded, “foolish one! Do you think the Jews worshiped idols on their own accord? Rather, they worshiped idols because of טירוף הדעת and the slavery that they were subjected to.” What is this טירוף הדעת that the Medrash refers to?

The Baal HaTurim (Bereishis 37:3) writes that Yaakov gave over to Yosef the orders of the Mishnah, alluded to in the word זקנים, which forms an acrostic for the words זרעים, קדשים , נשים, ישועות, מועד. The obvious questions i , why is טהרות omitted? The answers that טהרות, purity, is not something that one can transmit. Rather, purity is an ideal that one attains on his own. Regarding Yosef it  is said טרף טרף יוסף, Yosef was torn apart. Yaakov, and subsequently Yosef, represented דעת, knowledge,which is a synthesis of חכמה, wisdom, and בינה, understanding The brothers, in their erroneous decision to sentence Yosef to death, essentially “tore apart” the דעת, “knowledge, of the sons of Yaakov. This was HaShem’s response to the angel of the Sea. The Jews worshiped idols because the catalyst for  the slavery of the Nation in Egypt as the sale of Yosef, who was the דעת of the Jewish People. Furthermore, they worshiped idols because of the servitude, i.e the subjugation to the Evil Inclination and to Pharaoh, who reflects the blandishments of that inclination.

 

Prior to Aharon offering the sacrfices to atone for the sins of Yosef’s sale and for worshiping the Golden Calf, Moshe called to him and his sons. The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 1:15) states HaShem called to Moshe to enter the Tent of Meeting because without being called, Moshe would be lacking דעת, knowledge, and then even an animal carcass is better than him. Nadav and Avihu entered the Holy of Holies without being called, so on their level they lacked דעת. The Mishkan was built with דעת, and דעת reflects טהרה, priority.

We must build our homes with דעת to ensure that they remain pure. Yosef, who remained holy and pure in Egypt, reflected דעת, and HaShem entrusted him with the mission of sustaining Yaakov and his family while in Egypt. The gematria of the word Sעה, knowledge, is equal to the word לחם, bread.

My time is up!

Have a knowledgeable and pure Shabbos!

Rabbi Adler

 

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Erev Shabbos Kodesh Inspiration Tzav-Zachor-Purim-Shushan Purim 5774


 

Shabbos, Parshas Zachor, Erev Purim, Purim, Shushan Purim, drinking, Mishloach Manos, Matanos Laevyonim, Megillah reading, Seudas Purim. So much to talk about and so little time. Let’s talk about the Korban Olah. The Medrash (Vayikra Rabbah 7:3) states that the Korban Olah was offered for improper thoughts. We also find (Zevachim 88b) that the avnet, the belt worn by the Kohen, atoned for improper thoughts. What is the association between the Korban Olah and the belt worn by the Kohen? Perhaps the answer to this question can be found in the story of Purim. There is a  debate whether  the Jews actually partook in forbidden food at the feast of Achashveirosh or if the Sages ran away and others were forced to eat. (See Gemara Megillah 12a and Yalkut Esther 1048.) The Medrash (Esther Rabbah 7:13) however, states that Haman advised Achashveirosh to arrange for immorality at the feast, so the Jews would sin. thus, even if the Jews did not actually violate any overt sin at the feast, it appears that they sinned by having immoral thoughts. For such sins the Jews would have been required to bring a Korban Olah. Furthermore, Achashveirosh bedecked himself in the vestments of the Kohen  gadol and the Jews did not protest this heinous act. The avnet, the belt that the Kohen wore, was the garment that kept most of the clothing together. The mind, the seat of thought and emotion, is the most important component of the body. When one sins with the mind, the entire body is contaminated. Similarly, when the Jews sinned in thought at the feast, they deserved annihilation because, as the expression goes, “the fish stinks from the head.” The Jews were saved, however, because Mordechai, who is alluded to as בשמים ראש, literally head of spices, came to their rescue with prayer and sackcloth. Interestingly, Mordechai donned sackcloth to demonstrate that the Jews should not be reckless in their dress and appearance, which leads to immoral thoughts. And yes, the gematria of הרהור is בזה אבנט מכפר, the belt atones. A person is where his thoughts are, and if one maintains purity of thought, he deserves redemption. Regarding the mitzvah of eradicating Amalek we are instructed to remember what Amalek did to us, with our mouths, and not to forget, with our hearts. When we fill our hearts with love for HaShem and His Torah and mitzvos we can be assured that we will eradicate the evil and raise up the Head of the fish, the mazel of Adar.

Have a Great Shabbos and a Freilichen Purim and Shushan Purim!

Rabbi Adler

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