Extra Shabbat Soul – Short Dvar Torah on Parshat VaYakhel 5776 2016

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In today’s Sidra we read how Moshe gave instructions to begin building the Mishkan. He starts, however, by emphasizing that the Shabbat is not to be desecrated, implying that even in building the Mishkan, the Shabbat has to be observed. Later Chazal learned the laws prohibiting work on Shabbat from the work necessary in building the Mishkan.

Rabbi Moshe Zevi Neriah, one of the founders of the Benei Akiva Yeshivot in Israel, points out that not only do we learn the negative laws of Shabbat from the Mishkan but also the positive laws.

The practice of wearing special clothes of Shabbat comes from the fine clothes that that Kohanim had to wear in the Mishkan. Lighting Shabbat candles mimics the Menorah or candelabra. The Shabbat table with its distinguished Shabbat meals comes from the Shulchan or table for the Showbread in the Mishkan.

When Shabbat enters the Jewish person is transformed into a holy soul,

just like the holiness of the Mishkan.  He, indeed, gets a Neshama Yetera, an extra Shabbat Soul.


No limitations For Matters Of The Soul – Dvar Torah Parshat Ki Tisa 5776 2016

birdflyThe Torah informs the Jewish people in the Wilderness that each one must donate half a Shekel towards the building of the Mishkan. The Torah adds: הֶעָשִׁיר לֹא יַרְבֶּה וְהַדַּל לֹא יַמְעִיט, “The rich shall give no more and the poor give no less…” (Ex. 30,15) This presents an Halachic problem. Our Sages tell us: המבזבז – אל יבזבז יותר מחומש, “If a man wants to spend lavishly (on charity or a Mitzvah) he should not spend more than a fifth (of his wealth). (Ket. 50a)
In the case of the poor man, half a Shekel may represent more than a fifth of his possessions. How is he permitted to perform this Mitzvah?

Rabbi Soloveitchik posed this question and he answered by reading the remainder of the verse. The Torah states this money was to be given: לְכַפֵּר עַל נַפְשֹׁתֵיכֶם, “to atone for your souls.” In matters of the soul there are no limitations.
The Chafetz Chaim states that when it comes to studying Torah there is also no restrictions. We all know the story of Hillel who earned half a dinar a day and paid half of that to get into the House of Study. This is true for the study of Torah and is also an exception since it brings life and meaning to your soul.
We must be careful with our money so that we ourselves not have to resort to the help of others. However, in certain situations we must not withhold our help.

Dvar Torah Parshat Tetzaveh 5776 2016

We are told how Moshe was to inaugurate Aharon as Kohen Gadol and his sons into the priesthood. One of the acts was to sacrifice a ram and to take from its blood and smear it on the lobe of the right ear of Aharon and his sons, on the thumb of their right hand and on the big toe of their right foot.

This was a very significant symbolic act. Aharon and his sons and the Kohanim who followed in future generations were to serve as spiritual leaders of the Jewish people. Placing the blood on the ear, the hand and the leg of the Kohanim indicated that they must ever be mindful of the people to be prepared to serve them in every way.

They must listen attentively to all their needs. They must be ready to extend their hand to help in whatever way was necessary. They must be prepared to go and run to help those who require their assistance.

This applied to Kohanim in generations past when they were the leaders. Today it applies to our current leaders. They must be ready to know what our people need, to be ready to extend the help, and be prepared to reach out to meet the necessary needs of our people.

Dvar Torah Parshat Mishpatim 5776 2016

We live in an environment where we want to understand everything that we are required to do. That has helped us advance in science and in all the new innovations and medical progress in the last centuries.

This is not desirable in all fields. When a doctor prescribes a medication we do not first try to understand what is in it and how it works. We have faith in him because we know he has had medical training that we do not have and he is using his best understanding when he prescribes a medicine.

When a captain in the army gives a command the soldiers do not ask him to explain why he chose that method of operation The soldier follows the orders because he believes that the captain has had better training than he has had and supposedly knows that  he is ordering the correct action.

The Midrash tells us when Hashem came with the Torah and wanted to give it to humanity, he went to each nation, one at a time, offering it. Everyone asked what was in it and when told they found objections to some item that they could not live by.

When Hashem approached the Jewish people their instant response was: נַעֲשֶׂה וְנִשְׁמָע, the literal translation is, “we will do and we will listen”. (Ex. 54,7) The meaning is we are ready to obey whatever the Torah says, now we will listen to hear what is in it.

The observant Jew today recognizes that the Torah came from Hashem and hence we should obey even if we cannot rationalize all that is in it.

Dvar Torah Parshat Yitro 5776 2016 – To Life!

In the Ten Commandments that we read this Shabbat, one of the commandments is to honor ones parents. The reward for observing this Mitzvah is: לְמַעַן יַאֲרִכוּן יָמֶיךָ, “…so that your days be lengthened…”. (Ex. 20,12) What is the connection between honoring one’s parents and lengthening one’s days?

The Dubno Maggid had  a unique explanation. Every individual in his lifetime gathers experience. This experience helps him develop and teaches him how to deal with all the challenges that confront him. Parents have lived a life time and have gathered in those years a vast experience. When one respects his parents he will also listen to their teachings and their advice. He will benefit from what they had acquired during the years of their experience.

This person does not have to start from the beginning and learn everything anew. He can take off from where his parents have taught him. He can add on the knowledge and way of life his parents gave him. Thus his life experience expands and it is as if he had a longer life.

Dvar Torah Parshat BeShalach 5776 2016 – Shabbat Shalom!

Did you ever wonder why on a holiday the Kiddush made over wine ends with the words; מקדש ישראל והזמנים, “Hashem sanctifies Israel and the festivals”? On Shabbat we do not mention Israel but merely mention: מקדש השבת, “He sanctifies the Shabbat”. Why is Israel left out on Shabbat?

We read in this week’s Portion that the Shabbat was just given to Israel after the Exodus as a commandment to obey. רְאוּ כִּי יְקֹוָק נָתַן לָכֶם הַשַּׁבָּת, “See that Hashem has given you the Shabbat…”. (Ex.16,29) The Mitzvah of Shabbat was given even before the Torah was given. But notice it does not say that the Shabbat was sanctified at this time.

Shabbat was sanctified by Hashem during the days of Creation. There we read: וַיְבָרֶךְ אֱלֹקִים אֶת יוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי וַיְקַדֵּשׁ אֹתוֹ, “Hashem blessed the seventh day and sanctified it.” (Gen.2,3) Hence we see that the sanctification of Shabbat did not depend on Israel. Hashem had sanctified it during Creation.

The Jewish holidays, on the other hand, depend of the proclamation of the Jewish Bet Din, the court that sets the day of the New Moon, and thus the days when the holidays occur. Therefore it is really the Jewish people who sanctify the holidays, hence we recite during Kiddush, that Hashem sanctifies Israel who in turn sanctifies the holidays.

Dvar Torah Parshat Bo 5776 2016 – Act Now!

jumphighWhen giving the Bnei Israel their final instruction before they were to leave Egypt, Hashem says that they should eat the Pascal Lamb: וְכָכָה תֹּאכְלוּ אֹתוֹ מָתְנֵיכֶם חֲגֻרִים נַעֲלֵיכֶם בְּרַגְלֵיכֶם וּמַקֶּלְכֶם בְּיֶדְכֶם, “So shall you eat it, your loins girded, your shoes on your feet, and your staff in your hand…”. (Ex. 12,11)

Obviously, Hashem wanted the people to be ready as soon as they were given the word that they must leave Egypt. The important message here is that when you know you have a task before you, do not procrastinate but be prepared. Do not delay and feel there is plenty of time. No, there is not plenty of time. What you know you have to do later, do it as soon as you are able.

It is very disturbing, and sometimes disrespectful, for people to come late for an appointment. It is certainly improper to come late to Shul. It is not advisable for students to delay doing homework or workers to leave for later what they know must be done.

I don’t know if it is still among the stories that children read in school but I remember when I was in the early grades we read a story about a race between the Tortoise and the Hare. In the middle of the race the hare who was obviously leading stopped to rest and the turtle who kept plugging away actually won the race. The point is, do what you have to do and rest later.