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Hanna's Dvar Torah

Who got a miracle today? - Chukat

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In this week’s Parasha Chukat, we continue to read about the journey of the Jewish people in the desert. On their way, they had to go through a narrow path between two mountains. The problem was that their enemies knew that they had to go through there and prepared them an unpleasant surprise from the top of the mountains… It was a perfect plan, but they did not take into account G-d’s protection of His people. G-d caused both mountains to unite, crushing in between them the enemies who were waiting there. Then, the mountains went back to their place as if nothing happened.

When the Jews finally arrived at the pass between the mountains, everything was quiet and peaceful. Then, how do we know the story? It was important for G-d that we should know what He had done for us. So, He created a river that passed through there and carried away with it the bodies etc. of the warriors. The Jews then understood that they had once again been saved by G-d and started to sing and praise Him.

How does it all concern us?

First, it is always touching to think about all the miracles that G-d does for His people. How much He loves us, how much He cares for us! Sometimes, we do not even notice it because He protects us so well. And He continues to do so even when we do not behave exactly as He wishes.

Second, we realize how important it is to thank G-d for what He gives us. G-d made an extra miracle for us to learn what had happened, exactly for us to have the opportunity to express our gratefulness. When we thank G-d for everything we have, we gain double. We appreciate more what we have, and when G-d sees it, He wants to give us even more.

Let us thank G-d for everything that He gives us. We can every evening before going to sleep think about 5 good things that happened to us during the day and thank Him directly, in our own words. Or simply at various moments during the day, when we realize that something good happened to us, such as closing a good commercial deal, or just succeeding in making a recipe or crossing safely a busy boulevard. At this moment, let us just lift our eyes and say ‘thank you!’. Things may look calm and peaceful, but in life they are all small or big miracles.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

An instructive handwriting analysis - Korach

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Did you ever hear of the graphic analysis of Korach?

In this week’s Parasha Korach, we read about the rebellion that Korach led. Korach wanted equality among the people. Why should there be spiritual leaders, Moses and Aharon, who should be more important than the rest? We are all Jews, and we can decide what to do on our own. The Sages should not get involved in physical matters.

But Korach made a mistake. G-d wanted for the world to have harmony between the thought and the wisdom, and the actions. The spiritual leaders guide the people, actions are guided by thought and wisdom.    

We do not have in our hands a sample of Korach’s writing. But Kabbalah helps us analyst the letter of the name of Korach and learn a lot.

The right balance between thought and action appears in the letter Hey, ה. The line on top represents the thought, the right line represents the speech and the left one represents the action. The line of the action is a little shorter than the others, symbolizing that it obeys and follows them.

The letters of the name Korach קרח, all resemble the Hey, ה but there are a few differences which reveal his arguments.

ק – The line of action continues lower than the other lines. The people – action – do not follow the thought – the words of our Sages. This is what Korach wanted. But in this way, they are in the danger of falling very low…

ר – There is no line of action. Korach wanted spirituality to say away from action. Religion should be expressed only in the synagogue. The sages with their affairs, and the people with their own affairs.

ח – The line of action is equal to the others. In other words, action on its own is equal is equally important with the thought. Someone that deals with the world does not need to add spirituality in their life. Action is enough.

The story of Korach reminds us to keep the right balance between study-thought and action, between spiritual leaders and the people. We need it all.

Shabbat Shalom,

Based on the article of Rabbi Chaim Heber  

When to speak and when to keep silent - Shelach

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Dedicated to the full recovery
of Israel Yehuda Binyamin ben Dvora Dobra

If someone says the truth, why is there a problem to say it?

In this week’s Parasha Shelach, Moses sends spies to the Land of Israel. He asks them to tour the country and see how good the land is and how strong its inhabitants. The spies return and in front of the entire assembly of the Jewish people, they announce their conclusions: the land is good, but its inhabitants are very strong, and they will not be able to conquer them. The people panicked and started to cry and complain. G-d got angry with the Jewish people who do not believe in Him despite all the miracles He had performed for them. He decided that the people will wander 40 years in the desert and that only the next generation will enter the Land of Israel. The spies were also punished severely.

But what was the terrible sin of the spies? It seems that they did exactly what they were asked to do: bring back information about the Land of Israel.

The mistake of the spies was to whom they spoke to. Such information needed to be transferred personally to Moses and Aharon. Not publicly, causing panic and chaos.

In the same way, we have in our hands various pieces of information. They are true, they are important. But before we transmit them to others, we need to ask ourselves is this the right person to talk to.

Will our words help the situation? Is the person we are talking to the right person to receive this information? Will he be able to do something about it? If yes, we can say it. If not, we must hold them. Even true information must not always be published.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

A compliment for Aharon - Behaalotecha

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In this week’s Parasha Behaalotecha, we read about the Menorah, which was lit every day in the Temple. Later, the Torah mentions that Aharon, the High Priest, did exactly as he was told. Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Itschakis, points out that this is written as a compliment to Aharon. But seriously, couldn’t a better compliment be found?

There are two kinds of spiritual light, one that arrives as a result of our actions, and another one that comes from Above, something that is so high that we cannot achieve it on our own. The light and the spiritual energy that the Menorah brought was of the second kind. Something supernatural.

Someone could have thought that since this is about a G-dly light, which is anyway supernatural, it is not that important to pay attention to all the material details and make it exactly as they should be. But not Aharon. Aharon knew that his actions had great significance. Even the things that we cannot achieve on our own are still dependent on our actions. Even though the light is so elevated that we cannot call it a “result” of our actions, our actions are significant.

Let us not underestimate our actions. Let us not underestimate the details of the Mitzvot. Even though it is about spiritual matters, exactness is important.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

Today is my birthday! - Psalm 22

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Today is my birthday and I am turning 21. The day of the birthday is special, on which we are given special powers that we need to utilize correctly. One of the things we do on this day is study the new Psalm corresponding to our new age. As I am now entering the 22nd year of my life, I will start saying daily the Psalm 22. One verse of this Psalm is the main character of an interesting story.

Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, later known as the famous Baal Shem Tov, was going from community to community, encouraging and strengthening the Jews. He was asking them how they were doing, how they feel and how does their work go. The Jews would answer “Baruch Hashem”. Literally, “Blessed is the Name [of G-d]”, thanking G-d for whatever they had.

Once, the Baal Shem Tov met a rabbi that was studying. As he asked him how he was doing, the rabbi did not want to interrupt his study and ignored him. The Baal Shem Tov then asked: “Why do you deprive G-d from His sustenance?”. The rabbi got surprised. We live through the blessing that G-d sends in our work, but what does “sustenance of G-d” mean?

In the Jewish families of Eastern Europe, young couples used to “sit” at their parents for a year or more, in other words, to be supported by them. Thus, the expression to “sit by someone”, meant that this someone provides us with our sustenance.

In Psalm 22, King David says: “And You the Holy sit on the hymns of Israel”. The Baal Shem Tov explained: “G-d sits”, he is “sustained”, as it were, by the praises of the Jewish people. Thus, our thanks are very important to G-d!

Let us not “deprive” G-d from the joy that He gets from our hymns. When someone asks us how we are doing, let us answer “Good, Baruch Ηashem, thank G-d” or something similar. Let us remember thanks to Whom we have all that we have in our life, health, love, work, and pleasure and let us thank Him for that.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Approved guarantors - Shavuot

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Did you ever look for guarantors, so you can take a loan at the bank? Not everybody can be a guarantor. He or she needs to have the possibility (and the willingness 😉 ) to pay.

Something similar happened to our ancestors, 3333 years ago in the Desert. G-d wanted to give them the Torah, His previous wisdom, but He wanted guarantors. Who would be responsible that the Jews would always keep the Torah?

The Jews proposed our Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but G-d did not agree. They then proposed our Prophets, but this was not approved either. Then, the Jews proposed their children, and G-d agreed. But how exactly could our Patriarch, our Prophets, or our children guarantee that we will keep the Torah?

When they proposed the Patriarchs, the Jews meant that the guarantee would be the characteristics we inherited from them. Each one of us, inside him, has a strong faith and love for G-d. But G-d knew this would not be enough. Because this faith can stay hidden and not express itself in action…

When they proposed the Prophets, the Jews were relying on the leaders of each generation. Those who will lead us and inspire us to keep the Torah. But this is not enough either…

Finally, the guarantors which were approved were the children. G-d knows that when it comes to our children, we will do anything. When it comes to ourselves, it does not matter to cut corners, but for our kids, we want the best! Yet… if we want to raise proper children, we ourselves need to show the good example. Children imitate their parents and learn a lot from them. But not so much what what the parents say. They lean much more from their behavior, their priorities, their characteristics and their actions.  

Thus, our children, and more specifically our responsibility to raise them, can guarantee that we will continue to keep the Torah.

On Monday and Tuesday, we will celebrate Shavuot, the holiday of the Giving of the Torah. Especially on this holiday, we cannot leave the children out of it, since they are the guarantors… But as we said before, if we want our children to be interested, we first need to be interested ourselves. Let us study the 10 Commandments. Let us think about how we can improve our observance of Torah and Mitzvot.

This Shavuot, let us receive once again the Torah in joy and health. In this merit, G-d will protect all of us from illnesses and from the terrorists that want to harm us and bring Moshiach now!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach! 

Hanna

Contradictory expectations? - Behar-Bechukotai

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Everyone expects me to be so many different characters at the same time. On the one hand, to be patient and understand the difficulties of every student, and on the other hand to have high expectations from them and uncover their hidden capabilities. On the one hand, to be nice and kind with them and on the other, to be strict so they listen to me. To teach all the lessons of the school program but also to spend time on sensitive topics and current events.

Tell me, is it at all possible?

This week’s portions Behar-Bechukotai begin with the laws of Shemita, that is, the Sabbatical Year we give to the land of Israel every seven years. It is a year where we do not cultivate the fields and strengthen our faith in G-d Who rules the world and gives each one of us what he needs.

Even though on a practical level, the Mitzvah of Shemita applies only to Israel and its fields, it has a significant message for all of us, Israelis and not.

On the one hand, we need to work for six years, to plant and water. G-d wants us to live within the world system He created. Not to isolate ourselves in prayer, but the exact opposite.

On the other hand, every seven years we stop for an entire year. A year where we devote ourselves to more spiritual activities and do not cultivate our fields. What will we eat then? G-d promises that the crop of the sixth year will be enough also for the year of Shemita.

In other words, we Jews are expected to live in two different states of mind. We need to take into consideration the world and its rules, but on the other hand not to think that we people govern it. G-d also does for us things that are not within the rules.

It seems difficult and unattainable, but G-d is above the limitations of the world, and He gives us the power to overcome these limitations as well.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

How to talk so kids will listen? - Emor

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How to talk so kids will listen?

How can we give over our traditions and our values to our children?

These are big questions that preoccupy all parents and teachers. This week’s Parasha Emor gives us a precious advice.

“G-d said to Moses: Tell the Kohanim (Priests) and tell them…” and introduce the laws of ritual purity. But why the repetition? Why say twice “tell them”? Our Sages explain that this indicates that the Kohanim also have to give over this message to their children, and the older ones have to watch over the younger ones and make sure that they keep the laws.

But the word the Torah uses is not to “teach” but “to enjoin” (lehazhir), which comes from the same root as “to shine.” (zohar). Thus, the Torah teaches us how to convey messages, with light and joy, with love and patience. Not with shouting and punishments…

When the older ones teach the younger ones, the students are not the only ones to benefit. The Talmud mentions that when one person teaches and helps another, G-d “opens the eyes” of both. Eventually, the teacher will end up with a better understanding than before.

I personally see feel this very strongly. Every time I write to you, I need to study the subject well, and in this way, I understand it and I remember it better. It is the same when I study for a test with a friend that has difficulties with the lessons, I benefit from it as well.

Let us think how we can transmit important values to the people in our circle of influence. Let us do it in a shining manner, full of love and patience. Let us remember that this is not a waste of time, because eventually not only will we have helped someone else, but we will benefit ourselves as well.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

 

A "Moment of Silence" in school - Acharei-Kedoshim

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What is the “moment of silence” and why did the Rebbe encourage it?

Two thieves broke into a clothing store and started to empty it. As they were carrying the goods, one thief looked at the label of a dress, sees the expensive price and said in shock: “They are such thieves!”.

The Talmud tells us that a thief is like and idol-worshipper. But what is the connection between those two sins? One is about our relationship with G-d, and the other our relationship with fellow people. Also, why is there mention only about the thief who steals secretly at night and not the robber who steals openly and violently?

The robber does not care about anyone. He does not fear G-d but does not fear people either. On the other hand, the thief comes in hiding. He is scared to see people. But G-d? He does not care about Him, he does not fear Him… This is like idolatry because it shows the thief’s approach to G-d…

In 1983, the Rebbe said that the only way to raise and educate honest people is based on the faith in G-d. Each one of us needs to know that G-d always watches over us and cares about our actions. We may escape the policeman, but we can never hide from G-d. We need to act with honesty at every single moment.

The Rebbe proposed and encouraged to have a daily “Moment of Silence” in all schools, including public schools. A moment for all pupils, regardless of their religion, where each one will think about G-d and what He wants from the people. This has become a routine in many schools in the United States. The Rebbe insisted that the “Moment of Silence” does not concern only Jews, or only religious people but every one of us, in order to have an honest society.

Ας αρχίσουμε και εμείς να αφιερώνουμε ένα λεπτό κάθε μέρα σκεπτόμενοι τον Θ-ό. Ας ενθαρρύνουμε τους φίλους και συγγενείς μας να κάνουν το ίδιο. Και το σημαντικότερο, ας έχουμε πάντα στο μυαλό ότι ο Θ-ός μας κοιτά συνεχώς, και αυτό θα μας οδηγήσει να πράττουμε καλύτερα.

Let us start ourselves to dedicate one moment every day to think about G-d. Le us encourage our friends and relatives to do the same. And most importantly, le us always have in mind that G-d watches over us and this will lead us to behave better.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Find out more about the Moment of Silence here

 

Harmless talk - Tazria Metzora

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We talk, talk, talk… We tell our adventures, we share our dreams and concerns, we exchange opinions about important topics. But sometimes, we also gossip, we criticize the rest of the world. Does it disturb anyone? After all, we did harm to no one, we just talked…

The Talmud has a different opinion. It explains that the evil tongue and the gossip hurt three people: the speaker, the listener, and the one that is being talked about. But what is the last one guilty of? Is it his or her fault that other people spoke about him or her?

Words have the very strong power to uncover things which are hidden. Speech reveals our hidden thoughts to others but also uncovers and strengthens our characteristics and feelings. When I say about someone that s/he is cruel, at the same moment I strengthen and reveal his cruelty. This is not exactly what I intended to do…

On the other hand, I can use this power for the good. If I praise the generosity of someone, I will strengthen it. Incredible, isn’t it?

Of course, besides for the spiritual power of the words, there is also the practical effect. Words that we say spread around can cause big damage or bring great help, depending of what we choose to say.

Let us decide to avoid saying bad words about others, even if we feel that they deserve them. If we speak, we may strengthen their negative traits. Let us try to see and point out the good characteristics of other people. We will all benefit from it.  

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

 

 

A strange count - Shemini

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One comic used to say: “There are 3 types of people: those who know how to count, and those who don’t…” 😉

In this week’s Parasha Shemini, we see a strange count.

When the Mishkan (Tabernacle) was ready, Moses and Aharon had 7 days for rehearsals before the Service at the Temple started normally. Then, on the 8th day, the service of the Mishkan started formally and the Divine Presence appeared. But why is it called the 8th day? Would it not be more appropriate to call it the 1st day?

The question becomes stronger when we understand the tremendous difference between the 7 first days and the 8th. During the preparations, the Jews did whatever they could as humans with limited capabilities. The Divine Presence that appeared on the 8th day was very high and infinite, it was something on a totally different level. Why then, do we count all the days together?

The answer is that, indeed, the 8th day was much more special than the previous 7, but it happened because of the 7 days of preparation. Even though the human actions were limited, it was thanks to them that G-d accorded a much bigger result, which we could not have achieve on our own.

Sometimes, we get discouraged and we think that some things are unattainable for us. We feel that we do not have the necessary strength and we give up before even trying. Here the Torah teaches us that we have the possibility to achieve it! We will do what we can on our side and G-d will complete the parts that we did not have the capability to achieve.

Let us not be afraid from something that seems difficult and out of reach from us. Let us dare, let us do whatever we are capable of and G-d will complete what is needed and help us achieve it.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

An unbelievable redemption - Last Days of Pesach

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Can you imagine our world without violence, illness, egoism, and poverty? Difficult, ah?

Our ancestors in Egypt also could not imagine a different reality. After all, they were slaves all their lives… In the beginning, when Moses came with the promise of the liberation, it was difficult for the Jews to believe. And yet, they were liberated.

The Redemption from Egypt was the first Redemption, but not the last one. Since we are not living yet in a perfect world… We are waiting for the final and complete redemption with the coming of Mashiach.

But, as then in Egypt, many of us find it difficult to believe that something like this is possible. And yet… it will happen.

This is timely, because while the First Days of Pesach are connected with the first Redemption from Egypt, the Last Days of Pesach, which begin tomorrow evening (Friday 5/04/21) are connected with the Final Redemption.

First, the very anticipating and believing is very important, and brings the Redemption closer.

Second, when we remember and await the Redemption, this urges us to behave better and add more Mitzvot and good deeds in our lives. Thus, we will merit the Redemption more speedily.

Let us anticipate Moshiach, even though it seems far away from our reality.

Let us add one more good deed to bring him closer.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Hanna

The worth of a gift - Vayikra

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Which gift would you give more joy, a new iPhone or a keychain?

Does who the giver is make a difference?

This week’s Parasha Vayikra teaches us about the possibilities a Jew has if he wants to offer something from his self to G-d. He can offer a fat animal as a sacrifice for the Temple. If he does not have enough money, he can offer a bird. If even this is difficult for him, he can bring a sacrifice made of flour and oil.

Which sacrifice is better? Which offering brings more joy to G-d?

Our Sages explain us that for G-d, quantity doesn’t matter. One brings more, one brings less, the most important is that they do it for G-d. If it is done with the proper intention, the sacrifices have an equal value in the eyes of G-d.

Sometimes, we think that our efforts don’t have value. Since we cannot compete with the incredible Chesed philanthropy projects or our neighbor or the prodigious Torah study of the rabbi. Then, why try at all? From the words of our Sages we understand that what matters is to give what we can wholeheartedly.

On the other hand, if someone wealthy decides to bring an inexpensive sacrifice, it will not be counted for him. Intention is not enough; our efforts need to correspond to our possibilities.

There was once a farmer who spoke a lot about how much he loves the kind and how devoted he is to him. If he had a golden palace, he said, he would give it to the king. He if had plenty of gold, he would give it all to the king. He would do the same if he had large flocks and expensive diamonds. Someone asked him what he would do if he had two chickens. Would he also give them to the king? The farmer answered negatively, and upon seeing the surprise of the listeners, explained: Palace, fields, flocks, he doesn’t have any of this, but two chickens are his only property…

Let us give to G-d what we have. Let us not be discouraged by what others give that we cannot give, it is enough to know that we did the best that we can, with all our heart.

Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna

4 tips for educating our children - Vayakhel-Pekude

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What is the secret to being good parents?

In the portions of this week Vayakhel-Pekude, we read about the donations of the Jews towards the building of the portable Sanctuary. The first donations came from the women, who brought their jewelry: earrings, nose rings, (finger) rings and bracelets that are worn on the arm. Each of these pieces of jewelry has something to teach is about the education of our children.

First, we need ears. We need to listen to G-d’s commandments, because they guide us towards the best possible way to live our lives. We also need to listen to our children, not only when we talk to them, but also when they speak with their siblings and friends. This can teach us many things about them, which will help us educate them right. On the other hand, our children listen to us and many times, express themselves like us and imitate our behavior. Therefore, parents need to educate themselves and make sure to be good role models for their children.

Then, we need a nose. We need to improve our sense of smell. We need to “smell” and sense who are the friends of our children. Are they a good influence on them? Good friends influence our children towards the good, and the opposite is true as well…

The ring is worn on the finger. We need to show and explain to our children what the right way is, with patience and in a pleasant manner.

Finally, we need something on the arm that symbolizes discipline. To grow healthy children, we need limits, discipline, and order. Children who grow without rules will not be happy at the end.

May we grow happy and healthy children, who will make the world a better place.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

A coin on fire - Ki Tisa

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What can you buy with one coin?

A snack, a toy, or a pen.

You will not be able to buy something bigger. You would definitely not be able to buy your very life.

Yet, in this week’s Parasha Ki Tisa, the Jews bought back their lives with one coin. Because of the sin of the Golden Calf, all the Jews who sinned merited the death penalty. Moses prayed on behalf of the People and begged G-d to forgive them. G-d listened to Moses and told him to gather from every Jew a coin of a half-shekel, to atone for them.

Our Sages tell us that it was difficult for Moses to understand this commandment. How is possible for a small coin to bring forgiveness for such a great sin?

G-d answered, showing him a coin of fire. Indeed, a small coin on its own does not have such a big power. But when a Jew gives it with “fire”, with warmth and feeling, from the bottom of his heart, it can bring him forgiveness.

Do not underestimate the small actions. Do not underestimate the feeling that accompany them.

Let us try this week to do one good action with more “fire” than what we are used to.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

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