Tag Archives: G-d

Don’t Let Boredom Wreck Your Soul

“And Aaron did so . . .” (Bamidbar/Numbers 8:3). G-d explains how the Menorah will be lit and Moses conveys this information to Aaron who carries it out. He was such a good man. Why would he do otherwise?

Menorah

This coming Sabbath we read Parshas Beha’aloscha.  In it we learn about lighting the Menorah; the consecration of the Levites; the bringing of the Korban Pesach, the Passover Offering and Pesach Sheini; the cloud and pillar of fire with which G-d led the Children of Israel and other aspects of their travels; the people who complained about eating the Manna and what G-d did about it; and finally Miriam’s affliction with tzaraas.

At this point in the Torah, we have read numerous times that: “G-d spoke to Moses saying . . .” Not once did Moses forget or fail to convey the message. And in many cases the Torah notes that the person being directed complies. There must be reasons why tasks completed are noted.

Sifrei explains the first day the Menorah was lit was also the day that Aaron’s sons, Nadav and Avihu, died. Nonetheless, he put his duty to G-d and the well-being of the Israelites before his own feelings. Although as Kohen Gadol he could have assigned this responsibility to another kohen, every day for the rest of his life he not only lit the Menorah but performed the menial tasks of preparing the wicks, removing the soot, and pouring the oil.

The Sfas Emes notes that whereas most people lose their initial enthusiasm for a task after doing it for a long time, Aaron was always passionate when performing this duty.

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How would your life be different if you sustained your enthusiasm for the most mundane aspects of your life? Imagine wholeheartedly greeting your spouse, children, and co-workers every morning. Undeniably, the quality of these relationships would improve. Can you imagine exuberantly taking out the trash? How sorry would you be if, G-d forbid, you were unable to do so again? The way you answer the telephone, drive to work, transact with a cashier – have you noticed that when you are polite and engaging the whole spirit of the interaction brightens?

I acknowledge it sounds exhausting to always be on. This highlights the importance of spiritual fitness. Just like an athlete has to train consistently to improve stamina, so too we have to regularly exercise our spirits to increase endurance. Fortunately, Aaron sets the example of verve even in the face of mundanity.

How do you exercise your spirit?

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Why You Must Distinguish between Self-Discipline and Self-Denial

“From wine and hard drink he will separate . . .” (Bamidbar/Numbers 6:3). G-d tells the Israelites that a person who takes a Nazirite vow must not drink what we know as unfermented grape juice and wine. Why only these beverages and not any type of food?

Why You Must Distinguish between Self-Discipline and Self-Denial

This coming Sabbath we read Parshas Nasso.  In it, we learn about the census of Levites and the assignment of their responsibilities, the Sotah, the Nazir, the priestly blessing, and the offerings that the leaders of the Twelve Tribes brought to dedicate the Tabernacle.

A person who feels his spiritual level is on shaky ground can take a vow to abstain from grapes and grape products and to refrain from cutting his hair. But if improving one’s sense of holiness is the goal, would it not be more logical to shun all earthly pleasures?

Sforno points out that giving up drinking wine will not weaken a person’s health. We learn from this it is wrong to abstain from those things we need to sustain us physically thereby decreasing our capacity to do mitzvahs and improve our character. Activities, such as fasting for multiple days, impede rather than improve our ability to elevate our spirits.

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Noteworthy is that a Nazir brings a sin offering to complete his vow. Thus we see even a vow of limited abstinence is not meritorious but rather a last resort. While wine is not necessary to sustain life, the only beverage over which Kiddish, the prayer that begins the Friday night Sabbath meal, can be said is wine or grape juice. A Nazir gives up this crucial ritual.

Most important is to distinguish between self-discipline and self-denial. The former helps us be focused on the important goals in life. The latter weakens us, making it more difficult to fulfill the purpose for which G-d made us.

Question – How do you balance being disciplined while not being overly strict with yourself?

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You’re Never Too Spiritual to Count Yourself Out

“But the Tribe of Levi you will not count and their census you will not do among the Children of Israel” (Bamidbar/Numbers 1:49). G-d tells Moses that the Levites will not be included in the census he takes of the Israelites. Why are they excluded?

You’re Never Too Spiritual to Count Yourself Out

This coming Sabbath we begin the fourth book of the Torah with Parshas Bamidbar.  It starts with G-d commanding Moses to take a census of the Children of Israel: first of the Twelve Tribes and then a separate one of the Levites.  Next G-d gives the arrangement of the Tribes into four camps that will travel with and encamp around the Aron, the Holy Ark. Then the Levites are appointed to the service of the Tabernacle in place of the firstborn, giving us the mitzvah of Pidyon Haben, the redemption of the firstborn, still done today.

Our intrepid commentator Rashi gives a thought about why the Levites were excluded. He notes G-d left them out of the census because they would be not be included in those who were decreed to die in the Wilderness since they did not participate in the sin of the Golden Calf. The strange thing is the judgment to die in the wilderness resulted from accepting the negative report about the Land of Israel given by the spies. The Levites did commit that sin. The Sifsai Chachomim, a collection of commentaries on Rashi’s insights, resolves this conflict by noting that the decree applied to those who were guilty of both sins. Since the Levites did not take part in the sin of the Golden Calf, they were spared.

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From this distinction, Rabbi Baruch Sorotzkin derives a valuable lesson. Even though the Levites were elevated enough to refrain from participating in the Golden Calf incident, they still succumbed to the sin of believing Loshon hora, literally evil language, about the Land of Israel.

If people on such a spiritually elevated plane fell prey to this sin, how much more so may we? Though we justify listening to gossip by saying we will not believe it, too often we pass it along thereby enticing others to pay credence to it even if we do not. Better that we should ask the person to refrain from saying negative things and if not, walk away

Question – How do you deal with gossip?

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How You Can Bring the Holiness of God Right into Your Home

“And a person if/when he will sanctify his house holy to G-d, and the Kohen will evaluate it whether good or whether bad . . .” (Vayikra/Leviticus 24:17). Ostensibly, the Torah discusses the process for donating a house to support the Holy Temple.How You Can Bring the Holiness of God Right into Your Home

This coming Sabbath we complete the book of Vayikra/Leviticus by reading a double Parshah, Behar and Bechukosai.  In Behar, we learn about the shemitah or sabbatical year and the yovel or jubilee year, laws about selling land, and how to prevent poverty.

Bechukosai gives the blessings and the curses that will befall the Israelites depending on whether they follow G-d’s decrees and commandments. The rest of the parshah deals with gifts to the Temple and how they are redeemed, how houses and fields are redeemed, and tithes.

Maybe it is because I spent so many years appraising real estate, but when I think of evaluating a house as a donation the words more or less valuable, not good or bad, come to mind. Truly there are bad houses, like the haunted ones that torment their inhabitants, but I doubt that is what the Torah has in mind. There must be something more.

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotzk comments that it is comparatively easy for a person to be in a sanctified state when he is engaged in spiritual matters. But to be truly holy, a person must sanctify the mundane, daily activities of managing a household and act properly even when only G-d is watching, such as in his house.

This sounds good in principle. But how do we do it?

Do you speak to your family as nicely as you to do to your commanding officer, supervisor, or customer? Do you take as much care with household chores as you do with your job? A home should be a place in which you can be yourself, but is it proper to expend your better self on co-workers and then subject your family to the leftovers?

Perhaps you will think about orienting your day so that it begins when you get home. Click here to learn how.

When we consider how difficult it can be to connect with G-d through prayer, the challenge of elevating run-of-the-mill tasks may seem insurmountable. Yet, if we truly wish to improve our relationship with Our Creator we must strive to elevate our home life so that when the Kohen comes to evaluate it his unavoidable assessment is good.

Question – What ideas do you have for sanctifying your home?

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Learn How to Create Better Relationships

Uva asher lo habayis vehigid lakohein leimor; kenega nirah li babayis. “And will come, that to him that is the house, and explain to the kohen saying, ‘something like an affliction has appeared to me in the house.’” (Vayikra/Leviticus 14:35). Depressed areas of deep red or green appear in the walls of a house and the owner seeks guidance from a kohen.

Learn How to Create Better Relationships

This coming Sabbath we read a double Parshah Tazria-Metzora. They tell about how a woman becomes tahor after giving birth; how to verify when a person has a tzara’as, baheres or s’eis affliction on one’s body or tzara’as affliction of a garment; how a metzora and a house with tzara’as become tahor; and how a zav, zavah, and niddah become tahor. Wrongly translated as leprosy, tzara’as is a spiritual affliction that manifests itself physically but is not communicable like leprosy. Like tumah, it interrupts one’s connection with G-d.

Imagine one day you walk into your house and find a portion of a wall is sunken in with a dark red or green color (presumably not the color of the paint). Would there be any doubt in your mind that something was wrong? Indeed, having read this week's parsha that describes tzara’as of a house, is seems to me you could not come to any other conclusion than that your house was so afflicted. Why does the Torah require you to equivocate and say, “something like an affliction has appeared . . ?” What else could it be?

Rashi notes that even if you are a great Torah scholar and know with certainty what it is you must still use this language. Why?

According to Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz, in Daas Torah: Vayikra, whatever words you were to use, the priest will come and inspect the house. Rather the Torah is giving a practical lesson on how to speak. In the Talmud, (Brochos 4a) our Sages tell us we should become accustomed to saying, “I do not know.” Likewise, instead of speaking with certainty, we should develop the habit of saying, “It appears to me,” or “I think perhaps that.”

So often we are sure we are correct. Only later do we find out we have perceived things incorrectly, drawn a mistaken inference, or received inaccurate information from someone else. If we are conscious of how often we are in error, we will see the necessity of qualifying ourselves with “it seems to me” and similar phrases. By doing so we will find it much easier to correct our mistakes, keep our relationships intact, and most importantly retain our bond to G-d.

Question – What downside do you think there might be in speaking less certainly?

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