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Hanna's Dvar Torah

My superhero - Noach

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The world, especially children, loves superheroes. Why? Good question. It’s very gratifying to imagine yourself flying in the sky, climbing skyscrapers and saving the world. But this is only a fantasy, very remote from our everyday lives. Can superheroes help and inspire us in our daily lives and our simple problems?

Who is a real hero? Who would you choose as your biblical Hero? What about Noah?

In this week’s Parashah, Noah, although the best of in all his generation, was not perfect. Our Sages note that his faith in G-d and His promise that a Flood will come was not complete. G-d had told him to enter the Arch, but Noah waited until he had no choice and was forced by the flood to go inside...

This, in my opinion, makes him a more approachable hero that we can all relate to and imitate. Noah’s faith may not have been perfect but bottom line he did the right thing. He built the Ark, gathered the animals and at the end of the Flood build again the world from scratch.

There is a proverb in Yiddish: “You don’t die from having a question”. It’s not the end of the world if we don’t have all the answers to the philosophical questions of life. We can live with unanswered questions. What is important is not let our doubts stop us from acting correctly. At the end of the day, what matters is how we acted.

We can all be like Noah. We do not need to be fearless in order to get involved. We do not need to have understood it all before contributing. We do not need to be a Tzadik in order to make a Mitzvah. There is no need to be a rabbi in order to eat kosher or be a professor to attend a Torah class.

Noah wasn’t perfect, he was full of doubts, but he did the right action. Let’s imitate him!

Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna

An awful murder - Bereshit

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We’re talking about one of the worse murders of human history. A murder where one person killed a third of the men of the entire world.

Everything started with a cute baby called Cain who was born to Adam and Eva. Cain got a baby brother who was called Abel. Cain probably started to be jealous already then until the explosion happened.

Cain and Abel decided to bring a sacrifice to G-d. Cain brought something small, from the vegetables of his field, while Abel brought a sacrifice from the best animals he had in his flock. Guess what happened then…

A fire came down from the Heaven that consumed only Abel’s sacrifice, while Cain’s sacrifice remained untouched. Cain’s anger and jealousy were immense, overwhelming. Shortly after, the first murder of history happened: Cain killed his brother, who constituted 1/3 of the male population then (Adam, Cain and Abel).

We are all subject to anger, jealousy and other feelings that push us towards certain actions, not always positive… But what can we do? This is our human nature. Anger and its companions are overwhelming, irresistible. Or are they? Can one say that s/he does not have responsibility for his/her actions because circumstances or anger caused him/her to act in a certain way?  

A little before the murder, G-d revealed Himself to Cain and asked him why he was angry. On this occasion, G-d explained to him the human system He created. In each one of us, there is the Yester Hara, the inclination towards negative things. G-d placed it inside us, and it is almost impossible to get it out of us. But along with the Yetser, G-d gave us the power to overcome it. The way we behave depends on us. There is no passion that we cannot master, with one condition. We need to will it. If we will it, we will manage it.

Let’s utilize the powers within us. Let us not succumb to anger. Let us not control ourselves. This is how we will have a better life and achieve the coming of Mashiach, may it be speedily.

NB: Happy birthday! My blog is celebrating today 4 years and is starting its fifth year with full force! I give thanks to G-d who give me the strength to write. To the Rebbe, whose teachings are the inspiration for my posts. To Nina and my mother, who with patience edit my tests. To all of you who read my writings and especially those of you who send me feedback and give me the strength to continue even during the exam period or while I’m in summer camp. May all the nice ideas that I write about influence me and you and bring us closer to the perfect world, with the coming of Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

The old man from the Warsaw Ghetto - Simchat Torah

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Art:Rabbi Zalman Kleinman

In the synagogue during Simchat Torah, someone saw an older man holding and carrying a very heavy Sefer Torah. He asked him why he chose this particular Sefer, and not a lighter one, when he has difficulty walking himself! The old man explained: “I’m not carrying the Torah. The Torah carries me”.

The old man then told him a story: when the Nazis expelled the Jews from the Warsaw ghetto, there was a grandfather with his small grandson. While they walked, with the Nazis screaming to hurry up, the grandchild fell and started to limp. The grandfather picked him up, put him on his shoulders and they continued. Someone there asked him: “how can you carry your grandson? You carry your own self with difficulty!” The old man answered: “I do not carry the child. He is one carrying me. Without him I would not have the strength to make one more step”.

Each week in this blog, we learn together something about the Parasha of the week. On Simchat Torah (Monday and Tuesday, October 22 & 23), we will celebrate the end of the cycle of reading the Torah and will start again immediately from the beginning. This is a very happy holiday. We take out all the Sifre Torah from the Eichal and we dance with them in the synagogue, making rounds which are called Hakafot.

We will hold the Sefer Torah, dance and remind ourselves: Indeed, the Torah may seem a little heavy at times, with all its rules and demands, but she is what supports us, what carries us, what gives us a meaningful life and the strength to continue.

The Previous Rebbe of Chabad, Rabbi Yosef Yitschak Shneerson of Lubavitch, said that on Simchat Torah, through the dances with the Torah, we can receive great and important blessings.

No one wants to miss those great blessings… See you at the Hakafot, dancing with the Torah!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Hanna

The right size for a Sukkah

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All the Jewish holidays are connected to some object: On Rosh Hashana we sound the Shofar, on Sukkot we build a Sukkah, on Chanuka we light the Chanukiya, on Pesach we eat Matsa etc.

Naturally, all these objects need to be of a specific size. A chair 3 cm high cannot count as a chair, since no one can sit on it, but a chair 3 meters high is not suitable either. Therefore, Jewish law is full of technical details, from the minimum amount of Matza one must eat until the maximum height of a Chanukiya.

A Sukkah is a “temporary dwelling” where we stay for the duration of Sukkot. In order for it to fit this description, it cannot be very low, since a Sukkah’s lower than 81,7 centimeters cannot be considered a dwelling as someone can only crawl in there. On the other hand, a Sukkah higher than 9,6 meters is not a temporary dwelling.

The sources in the Talmud that speak about the Sukkah look like instruction of a “Do It Yourself”. But this detailed guide is missing an important detail: the maximum length and width of the Sukkah. Because there is none: we can build the Sukkah in the size of a city, a country of even a continent and the Sukkah will be Kosher.

Why? The Talmud declares that all Jews are worthy of sitting together in one Sukkah.

Every holiday has a central theme. For Pesach it is freedom, for Shavuot it is the study of the Torah etc. The central theme of Sukkot is the unity of the Jewish people. This unity is reflected in the 2 Mitsvot of the Holiday: The Sukkah, where we all sit together, and the 4 Kinds, which symbolize various type of people, but we shake them all together.

Everyone sits in the Sukkot, everyone is welcome. This is why there is no limit to the length and width of a Sukkot, so we should make it big and welcoming.

Let’s think of something small we can do for this beautiful theme of the Holiday, the unity, to inspire our daily lives.

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!

Hanna

The water that pierced a hole in the stone - Yom Kippur

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What is the secret of people who make their dreams become reality? For most of us, inspiration disappears before it manages to change something in our lives… How can we transform the year 5781 that just started into a meaningful year?

Our Mitzvot are varied. On Sukkot we shake 4 Kinds, on Chanukah we light 8 candles, on Pesach we will put 3 Matsot on the Plate and we will drink 4 cups of wine. There is always more than one.

Always, except for one Mitsva. On Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, we do not have an orchestra with a flute, trumpet and saxophone, but only one Shofar that we blow.

Why? To teach us that in order to start a new year, one good action is enough. Every big journey starts with a single step. The intelligent person knows how to advance with small and consistent steps, instead of shaking up the whole system with changes that will not last for long.

One of the most important sages of the Talmud was Rabbi Akiva. What is interesting in his story is that until age 40, he did not even know how to read. Once, he saw a big stone that was holed. This hole was formed by water drops that continuously fell on it. Rabbi Akiva understood that if the water had managed to create a hole in the stone, then with tenacity and perseverance, the words of the Torah will manage to enter even his own heart of stone. This conclusion changed his entire life.

This is the message of Yom Kippur: make changes, slowly but persistently. At the beginning, when the water falls on the stone, we do not see any change. But the truth is that, drop after drop, the water finally changes the very shape of the stone. Slowly- slowly, our heart will open, and we will realize that something different and meaningful happened.

Let’s start this New Year with a small change, but that we will uphold persistently. This small drop may light up all our life. Then, at the end of the year 5780, we will look back and tell ourselves that this year, we managed to realize one dream. This past year we became better. The inspiration did not go to waste.

Shabbat Shalom, Gmar Chatima Tova and have an easy fast!

Hanna

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