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ב"ה

Hanna's Dvar Torah

"And they lived happily ever after..."

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“And they lived happily ever after”. This is the optimistic end of children’s stories. Yet the Torah chooses to finish with something less happy.

On Simchat Torah, this upcoming Wednesday 29/09/21, we will finish the reading of the Torah (the Pentateuch), completing the weekly portions (Parashot) which we analyzed every week, and then directly begin the new cycle of readings. It is a very joyous holiday, which we celebrate with Hakafot, i.e circles and dances around the Bima, holding the Sefer Torah. Amidst all this rejoicing, the last verses of the Torah do not seem to fit the joyous atmosphere. The Torah ends with the passing of Moses and a few words summarizing his life. Could we not read something happier as a conclusion, especially on that day?

Simchat Torah completes the period of the holidays of the month of Tishri. We started with Rosh Hashana, the Shofar and the symbolic foods, we continued with Yom Kippur, the fast and the repentance, then with Sukkot, the Sukkah and the Four Kinds and now we reach the culmination. Now we need to take all the inspiration we gathered during the holidays and internalize it, so that it gives us strength to continue during the grey routine of our everyday life which awaits us “after the holidays”. This is one of the basic messages of Simchat Torah.

This is why we read about the passing of Moses. When Moses led us, we lived in the series of miracles. The Exodus from Egypt, the Parting of the Sea, the Giving of the Torah, but also more “simple” everyday miracles such as the Manna, the bread from Heavens and other miracles. After Moses’ passing, G-d started to lead is in a more “natural” way.

Certainly, there are miracles always and everywhere, but they are usually not revealed miracles. Thus, we need more strength to continue to believe and connect to G-d when we don’t feel that He is close to us in a revealed way.

But this is precisely what G-d appreciates more, when we do an effort for Him, when we do an action that does not come easily for us. We must not get distracted by the difficulties but uncover and reveal G-d’s closeness to us in those challenging moments.

The same happens on Simchat Torah. We are now finishing the holidays and it is more difficult to feel the inspiration on a normal Tuesday. But this is exactly what G-d enjoys more, when we serve Him despite the difficulties.

Let us take the inspiration for the holidays with us through a small action that will accompany in our everyday routine for the upcoming year. Let us choose a weekly study of the Torah, a weekly phone call to an elderly or lonely person, wearing the Tefillin daily (for a man, except on Shabbat), the weekly lighting of the candles for women and girls, or simply the reciting of the Shema or any other good action. And let’s carry this on for all of 5762!

Chag Sameach!

Hanna 

 

Is everything temporary? - Sukkot

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I read the other day something that I liked: “Everything in life is temporary. If things go well, enjoy it because it won’t last forever. And if things do not go well, don’t worry. It can’t last forever.”

A central theme of the holiday of Sukkot is the temporality. We build a Sukkah, i.e. a temporary construction and we live there for the week of the holiday. It is temporary, this is why the schach, the roof, is made of leaves and cannot protect us from the rain. On the other hand, we should consider this temporality as permanent. In fact, it lasts only 8 days (7 in Israel) but we should try to live in the Sukkah as in our (“permanent”) home. We eat, study, play, sing, (some even sleep) inside the Sukkah. In other words, we have at the same time temporality and permanency.

This message of Sukkot applies to the whole year. We are in a temporary world, where everything changes constantly. Our environment changes and we change as well. Sometimes the changes are good, sometimes they are better… The only truly permanent thing is G-d and what He asks from us. Our role is to bring this permanency – G-d – in our temporary environment.

Sukkot reminds us to thing again about the way we approach our lives. What are the temporary things in our life, and what are the permanent ones? Does the way we utilize our possessions, our time, our money and our energy correspond to our priorities?

Let us deal with the permanent things in our life as they deserve, and with the temporary things not more than necessary. Let us bring the permanent G-d inside the limits of our temporary world.

Chag Sameach!

Hanna

Can we change the past? - Yom Kippur

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The 10 Days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are called the “10 Days of Teshuva”. Teshuva means repentance and return to G-d. G-d is very near us during these days and it is an ideal opportunity for Teshuva.

How is it done? Can we rewrite the history and the past?

There are two ways with which G-d governs our world: through His names “Elo-him” and “Hava-ya”. The name “Elo-him” is the regular, natural rule in the world: time and space are differentiated. I cannot be simultaneously on Monday and Thursday in Athens and Larissa. On the other hand, the name “Hava-ya” is higher and beyond time and space. They are creations of G-d and He is therefore is not limited by them.

Normally, when we connect to G-d through the name “Elo-im”, we have the freedom of choice only regarding our future. Our past is already determined.

But when we make a proper Teshuva, we connect to G-d through the name “Hava-ya”, which means that we go beyond the limits of time. That is, we have the possibility to influence not only our future but also our past.  

How does it happen exactly? For example, if someone killed someone else, will the Teshuva make the dead person come back to life? No. The past will not change, but we will be able to see it in a different way, to give it a different meaning.

Basically, what is the problematic part of the killing? Is it the result, i.e the death of the victim? No. Only G-d decides how long each person will live. G-d had decided that this person would die. But no one asked the murderer to do it. Since he chose to do it from his free will, he must be punished. But the victim would have died anyway at this exact moment.

Then, is the problematic part the action in itself, i.e the killing? No. Sometimes, this very action constitutes our obligation, for instance, in case of self-defense or to defend others in danger.

The problem is the intention of the killer. At the specific moment, he did something that was contrary to G-d’s will. It was a moment when he “disconnected” from G-d.

This is something that we can change with a true and deep Teshuva that originates from a great love towards G-d. When connecting to the name “Hava-ya” which is beyond time, the sinner can change the intention and the meaning of his act. In this case, the sin is transformed into something that amplifies and deepens his yearning for G-d, something that pushes him to become a better person. Metaphorically, the Teshuva transforms the sin into “fuel” for becoming closer to G-d. It is not anymore, a moment when he was disconnected from G-d, but a significant moment that strengthened his connection to G-d.

Let us imagine for instance, that the person understood the severity of his action and establishes an institution that saves many lives. The action in his past has now a different meaning, since thanks to his Teshuva, many people were saved. (This is in addition to the appropriate punishment for his crime and compensation for the victims).

It is not easy to accomplish such a deep Teshuva, but we can all try. Let us take our sins from the past and utilize them as motivation and energy to do more good deeds.

Gmar Chatima Tova Leshana Tova Umetuka,

Hanna

Whose responsibility is it? - Ki Tetse

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When something unfortunate happens, the question immediately arises: Whose responsibility was it? What could have been done differently to avoid the tragic outcome?

During my studies to become a teacher, we learnt many laws and safety regulations decided by the Ministry of Education for the protection of the children, from the requirements of the school building and classrooms to the guidelines for recess and school outings. But they were not the first to think about it.

In this week’s Parasha Ki Tetse, G-d commands us to erect safety fences on our terraces, so that no one falls down and hurts himself. This Mitzvah includes many safety guidelines, such as having steady stairs in our home and anything else that may endanger someone. Our house needs to be a safe place.

The expression used by the Torah to explain this Mitzvah is strange. The person has not yet fallen but the Torah calls him “Nofel”, i.e the one who has fallen (Deuteronomy 22:8). Rashi explains that this is a person who had to fall anyway, because G-d had decided so. Nevertheless, it should not happen in my house, I should not be the one responsible for his accident.

This is generally the Jewish approach to life: on the one hand, G-d decides what will happen, on the other hand, we need to do whatever is possible on our part. G-d decides how much money we will earn, but we need to go to work. G-d decides who will become ill, but we need to protect our health etc. Yes, it is not easy to understand how these two sides coexist, but this is how it is. G-d is not limited by our logic, and this is how He decided.

Let us not underestimate the power that we have on our hands and the responsibility we carry towards the people around us. Let us act to fix the problems we encounter. If G-d made us notice them, it is because we have the power and responsibility to help change the situation.

This Mitzvah teaches us the Jewish approach to life. But we mustn’t forget to observe it on a practical level. Let’s go around our house and check if it is safe enough. Rails, plugs, sharp utensils, poisonous detergents… What can we do to make it safer?

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Before you eat, do this - Ekev

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The teacher asked the pupil what prayer do they say before the meal? Little Moshe answered that he doesn’t say any prayer, there is no need, because his mother is a good cook!

Seriously now, why do we need to bless G-d when we eat? G-d is so High, why does He need our blessings?

The truth is that we need the blessings more than G-d needs them. We need to notice the blessings that we receive. We need to remember Who gives them to us and thank Him. And why does He send all of that to us? For us to utilize them to make the world a better place.

Today is a good opportunity to discuss the blessings over the food, since in this week’s Parasha Ekev, we read G-d’s commandment: “And you will eat and be sated, and you shall bless the Lord, your G-d” (Deuteronomy 8:10).

How do we do it?

First, before eating, we say a blessing, where we remind ourselves that the world belongs to G-d and we ask Him for permission to use it. We have six groups of food with different blessings: a) bread b) everything that is made of flour except bread c) wine d) fruits e) vegetables and f) the rest of the food.

Then, after we are sated, we say the respective blessing and thank G-d.

Let us try this week to say the blessing before the vegetables that we will eat:

“Baruch Ata Ado-nai Elo-enou melech aolam, bore peri haadama.”

Blessed are You, L-rd our G‑d, King of the Universe, Who creates the fruit of the earth.

Copy it on a small note of paper and hang it on the fridge. It does not take a long time, but it makes such a difference!

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

Your money or your life? - Vaetchanan

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The most famous Jewish prayer, the Shema, is found in this week’s Parasha Vaetchanan. G-d commands us to love Him with "בכל נפשך" (bechol levavecha), with all our heart, בכל" נפשך" (bechol nafshecha), with all our should and "בכל מאודך"(bechol meodecha). The last words bechol meodecha have two meanings: with all our might, or with all our fortune. Since G-d told us to devote ourselves to Him with all our soul, which means that we should be ready to die for Him, we should be willing to give Him all our possessions. Is this not self-understood? Is it possible that someone should be ready to give his life for G-d, but not his money?

It is odd, but we do know such people. People who ignore the risk simply to earn more money. People who are so immersed in their work and their quest for money that they forget to devote time to their families.

The prayer of Shema Israel reminds us to have our priority list in the right order, with our lives being above our possessions, and G-d above the rest.  

This is the explanation of the ceremony of the Redeeming of the Firstborn. During this ceremony, the Kohen asks the father of the child what does he prefer, five coins of silver or his son? It seems like a silly and superfluous question: Why ask this question at all, is there any parent that will prefer the money?

The question here is deeper and is related, as we mentioned before, to our priority list. How will you educate this child? Will you show him with your example that money is more important than anything? Or will there be in the family values, study, and kindness?

Let us set our priorities in the correct order.

Let us devote time to our families, without being constantly immersed in our work. No one regretted in his last moments of lives not to have spent more time at the office.

Let us love G-d with our money as well. Even though the Jewish school is costly, Kosher meat more expensive, and the Mezuzot on our doors are an expense as well, let us express our love for G-d with our money.

Thus, we love G-d, and G-d loves us back.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

*Redeeming of the Firstborn: In the beginning, all the firstborn Jews were destined to be the priests in the Temple. But because of the sin of the Golden Calf, this honorary position was given to the tribe of Levi who did not sin. But the firstborn of the rest of the Tribes have a special holiness, as they belong to G-d, and they need to have this ceremony through which the parents “redeem” their child.

Based on an article of Rabbi Yossy Goldman 

Lost in translation - Devarim

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When my family came to Greece, 20 years ago, my parents did not know Greek. There are a few funny stories that happened then but one of my favorite ones is about a translation mishap. They wanted to write that Yom Kippur is a “fast day”, i.e., a day where we do not eat or drink, but the translator wrote that Yom Kippur is a…. “quick day”! We certainly hope that the Fast of Yom Kippur passes quickly! 😉

The 5th Book of the Torah, Deuteronomy, which we begin this week, recounts the words of Moses to the Jewish people during the last days of his life. An important work Moses did during this time was to translate the Torah in the 70 languages that existed then. Since Moses did it, the act of translation is something positive, isn’t it?

Years later, the Hellenistic king of Egypt Ptolemy ordered to translate the Torah in Greek. He closed 72 sages in 72 different rooms so that each one does his own translation without being able to discuss or coordinate with the others. It was a miracle that all the translations were identical, including identical changes in 13 places (where they each sage felt that a literal translation would constitute a corruption of the Torah's true meaning).

Was this translation something positive? Our Sages said that the day this translation was done was as difficult for the Jewish people as the day of the sin of the Golden Calf! Then, Moses had ascended to the heavens for 40 days to be taught the Torah by G-d. But the Jews miscalculated the amount of days Moses was to be absent. They thought Moses had to be back before the 40 days had actually been completed. Since Moses did not come back, they believed he was lost and that they needed another channel to communicate with G-d instead of Moses. So, they made the Golden Calf, which turned out to be one of the most severe sins of the entire Jewish history.

The intention of the Jews was a good one. Essentially, this was also the purpose of the Holy Temple, to constitute a material place through which G-d would reveal Himself to the world. But they did a critical mistake. When G-d defines a means of communication with us, it is clear that this is only a means. Not something with its own powers. But when we decide what will connect us to G-d, then we are in danger of falling into idolatry.  

It is the same with the translation. When G-d ordered Moses to translate the Torah, it was clear that it would be a holy endeavor and that there would be no misunderstandings because of this translation. But when the translation was a human idea, there was the danger of mistakes happenings and translation having unfortunate consequences.

Finally, the translation of the Torah in Greek did not have negative consequences. On the contrary, the light of the Torah reached more people, even Gentiles. Also, since then, the only language in which it is allowed to write a Sefer Torah besides for Hebrew is Greek. In practice, we do not do it, since we do not have the original translation of the 72 Sages (later versions that carry the name “Septuagint” are not believed to be true to the originals).

Let us remember that good intentions are not enough. When we do something that we were not ordered to, we need to be careful it should not end up turning something negative.

Also, let us remember that the Torah exists also in Greek and other languages (even if the translation is not completely accurate). We do not need to wait to learn Hebrew to study the world of G-d.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

When the branch becomes a rod - Matot-Masei

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Most parents, when they send for the first time their child to the kindergarten, feel some anxiety. Will the child manage without them? Nevertheless, they prefer sending him to the kindergarten over keeping him at home, since this is how s/he will mature, develop, and socialize.   

This week, we read 2 Torah portions: Matot and Masei. Matot means rods, sticks and it refers to the 12 Tribes of Israel, the 12 rods of Israel. The more usual name for the tribes is Shevet, which means branch. Why are there two names and what do they symbolize?

The branch and the rods are basically the same thing at a different stage: when it is united with the tree, it is a branch, when it is disconnected from the tree and hardens it becomes a rod.

These two stages correspond to how revealed the relationship between the Jewish people and G-d is. When the relationship is revealed, we are called branches, which are united with the tree. When the relationship is hidden, we are called rods.

Generally, before the birth, someone is like a branch. His relationship with G-d is revealed. But when he comes to the material world, with all its problems, the relationship with G-d becomes more concealed. It is not self-understood, we do not feel it at every moment. Even though it exists, it is not revealed.

Then, why should we come to this world? Why descend to such a low level?

Because when the brand leaves the tree, it toughens and becomes a strong rod. Through the challenges that we go through, we discover the great strength we have inside us. Thus, our relationship with G-d becomes even stronger.

Like the child in the kindergarten, who matures and develops there.

Let us not despair when facing the difficulties of life. Let is uncover the hidden powers we have and become stronger!

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

Would you dare? - Pinchas

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Imagine yourself in the following situation.

You are in a hall full of important leaders, professors, parliament members and judges. Suddenly an important personality comes in and does something completely forbidden. All the honorable people stay silent. Would you intervene to stop it?

In this week’s Parasha Pinchas, something similar happens. In presence of Moses, the High Priest Aharon and the Sages, all the important people of the time, one leader from one of the 12 Tribes makes a very severe sin. Everybody stayed silent. Only Pinchas, who was the youngest there, stood up and stopped him. His action was right and thanks to it Pinchas became a Priest in the Temple*.

But why did the rest of the people stay silent? Was Pinchas the only one who knew what needed to be done? According to the Midrash, G-d arranged the events in such a way for Pinchas to have a chance to be rewarded and become a Priest.

The same applies to us as well. Sometimes, we notice an issue that needs change, but no one is doing anything to improve it. This does not mean that it is not important. It could simply mean that it is waiting for us to do something about it.

Rabbi Nissan Mangel recounts that when he was a young student in a yeshiva in Montreal, he had an audience with the Rebbe. The Rebbe asked him if he was going every Shabbat to other synagogues in the city to share the things he had learned during the week. He answered in the negative. The Rebbe asked him “Why not?”. He answered that there were older students with more knowledge than him and since they did not go to speak in other synagogues, he thought that he did not have to do it either. The Rebbe then asked him: “Tell me Nissan, if you saw $1000 on the street and no one was picking them up, would you not pick it up?”

Let us dare to be the first to do something right and good. Even if the esteemed people around us do not do it. Do not let the opportunity pass.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

*The Priests were all descendants of Aharon. How could Pinchas suddenly become a Priest? Pinchas was a grandson of Aharon. But his case was different. He was a baby when the Priests underwent the ceremony to become Priests, ceremony after which all the newborn babies would automatically become Priests. But Pinchas was already born, yet not old enough at the time to go through the ceremony. This is why Pinchas was not a Priest until this story.

The "parent" and the "children" inside us - Balak

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Is it good to be generous? Is it good to be sensitive and compassionate? Is it good to be altruistic?

Not necessarily. When someone gives and gives, without keeping anything for himself, it is not good. When someone pities its enemies during a war, he puts his country in danger. The mother of a child who cries because he wants to eat only chocolate instead of food, and she feels sorry for him and lets him eat whatever he wants, this is not good for the child. Even the good feelings need to be evaluated.

In this week’s Parasha Balak, we read about the magician Bilam and how he tried to curse the Jewish people. Since he was a real magician, his curses were very dangerous. He was looking for the bad elements in the people and when he outlined them, the curse could work out.

So Bilam tried to find something bad in the Jews, but he could not find anything. Instead of curses, he spurted out blessings. From the words he actually said, we can understand what he was trying to do, which is to curse them.

Bilam started by speaking about our Forefathers and our Mothers, thanks to whom we have a lot of powers. Not only were they significant, but they also influenced us.

The Kabbalists explain that we also have inside us parents and children. Our mind is the “parent” and our feelings are the “children”, since the mind “gives birth” to the feelings. Bilam was trying to find if the relationship between the mind and the feelings is right. Maybe the mind does not guide the feelings, defining its limits. But he did not find such a thing, and thus could not give out his curse. Because the Jews were not only following their feelings. For every action they wanted to do, even with a good intention, they carefully considered it with their mind, to make sure it is indeed good and appropriate.

We need to remember this as well. It is not enough for the feeling to be good; it also needs to be guided by the mind. Every action that sounds good is not necessarily actually good. If we are not sure, we may get advice from someone.

Thus, we will succeed in having our good intentions end up in good actions. We will fill up the world with good deeds and bring Mashiach now.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

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

Για να το διαβάσετε στα Ελληνικά, κάντε κλικ εδώ

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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

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