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Hanna's Dvar Torah

How to leave our comfort zone - Lech Lecha

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Imagine that you want to drive somewhere that you have never been yet. You type in the address in the GPS and wait to hear instructions. But instead of telling you about your destination, it explains to you in detail where to leave from. “Go out of the second floor, from your home in Iraklitou St number 43, in the neighborhood of Psiri”. If this happened to the GPS, you would think the device went crazy. Yet you will be surprised to learn that this is exactly how G-d gives directions to Abraham in this week’s Parasha, Lech Lecha.

G-d speaks to Abraham and tells him in great detail where he needs to leave from: “from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house”, but He does not tell him where to go. G-d simply mentions “to the land that I will show you.” Why did G-d need to describe to Abraham where to leave from? Abraham knew it very well. Would it not be better if G-d told Abraham where to go?

G-d’s command to Abraham to leave his place is not only about the literal journey but also has a metaphorical meaning. G-d was explaining to Abraham that in order to advance, he needs to go beyond himself, to leave his comfort zone. This is expressed in the three details that were mentioned before, about the place Abraham needs to leave. The elements we need to leave in order to advance.

First, we need to leave behind our innate character, our natural tendencies (symbolized by the land). Some people are more rigorous; others are more lenient. Some are very emotional; others are impassive. For us to advance, we need to go beyond ourselves to do the right thing, even if it does not fit our character. Even if we are not used to doing this. We need to choose the right action, not the comfortable action.     

Second, we need to leave our birthplace, that is the influence of the culture in which we were brought up. Everyone is influenced by the society and the usages of his or her place. But whatever is widespread and accepted should not be part of our decisions. We should not be afraid to be different from others, as long as we know that what we do is right.

Finally, we need to leave our parent’s home. The home where we grew up in influences us a lot, but we cannot use it as an excuse. If we developed a bad habit at home, we can and should get rid of it. If our parents did not observe a Mitzvah, this does not mean we do not have the obligation to observe it. Even more, the good habits we learned from our home need to be adopted as our own. We should not do them only because our parents did it, but because we think they are important.

Let us go beyond ourselves, let us leave our comfort zone and not let our habits, our social or familial environment stop us. Let us think about something in our lives that we have blocked because of our character, our habits, or the fear of “what will others say”.

Let us decide to make a small step to overcome this challenge. It will not be easy, but it will certainly be very rewarding.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

The three victims of gossip - Noach

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This week’s Torah portion Noach begins with the words: “This is the genealogy of Noe”. One would expect the rest of the sentence to list the names of Noe’s children. Instead, the Torah stops to describe Noe himself and tell us that he was a righteous person, and only then does it list the names of his children. Why this interruption and change from the original subject?

To answer this question, we first need to understand something else.

The Talmud declares that Lashon Hara (literally evil tongue, or gossip) metaphorically “kills” three people: the one speaking, the one listening and the one who is being discussed. We can understand why the speaker and his audience are punished, since Lashon Hara is such a terrible sin, but why should the poor victim who they spoke about suffer?

When we speak, we bring to light thoughts that were otherwise hidden. Generally, speech has the great power of revealing hidden things. When someone says bad things about someone else, he uncovers and strengthens these bad elements in him. Thus, the Lashon Hara has an effect on the victim who was being spoken about.

The same applies to positive words as well. When we speak about the good elements of someone, we help to reveal and strengthen them even more.

This is the reason the Torah stops to say something good about Noe, to strengthen his positive traits. Noe, who was the only righteous person in the world, needed a lot of strength in order not to get carried away like the rest of the people.

Let us follow this approach in our personal lives and our personal relationships. Let us discuss the good characteristics and the good actions of the others, and not the opposite. In this way, the world will be filled with better people and will be a kinder and safer place.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

"Let there be light" - Bereshit

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Happy Birthday!

We have many new beginnings today. This week, we start the reading of the Torah from the beginning, after having completed it on Simchat Torah. It is also the beginning of the 6th (!) year of my Parsha column. Finally, the portion of this week Bereshit starts with the Creation of the world, the beginning of everything.

The first thing that G-d created on the first day of the Creation was light. This is surprising. The light is not an independent creature. It is useful only when there is someone like a person, animal or plant that can benefit from it. Why then did G-d start the Creation with it? The light could have waited and be created along with the plants, on the third day.

This resembles an architect who builds a house. Before he begins, he prepares a plan and defines the goal, the destination. In the same way, G-d, at the beginning of the Creation, defined its goal and destination, the light, in the spiritual sense. When we illuminate an object, we reveal it. Metaphorically, when we illuminate something or someone, we reveal his capacities and his potential, the purpose of his existence.

Many people are satisfied with considering themselves good people, only because they live peacefully and do not hurt anyone. If G-d simply wanted us not to hurt anyone, He did not need to create us… If we were not born at all, we surely would not have disturbed anyone.

G-d expects from us the positive action of bringing light, of uncovering the good and the G-dliness in everything and everyone. It is not enough not to hurt, we need to help. It is not enough not to destroy, we need to build.

Like G-d at the beginning of Creation, let us dedicate a moment at the beginning of our creative day to remember the purpose and destination of our creation: to bring light. Let this thought lead and direct the rest of our day. Thus, our days will be brighter, and our world will be better, until Mashiach comes thanks to us and our actions.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

What do we celebrate on Simchat Torah?

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On Pesach, we left from Egypt. On Shavuot, G-d gave us the Ten commandments. But no particular event took place on Simchat Torah. So what do we celebrate?

The Midrash gives us a parable. There was a king who organized a 7-day feast for his children, who lived scattered across the country. When the week came to an end and the time came for them to leave, the king said: “Your separation is difficult. Please stay with me one more day.” The king of the story is G-d, Who after the seven days of Sukkot requests from His people one more festive day, Simchat Torah.

But… how does one extra day help? If the children stay for another day, will the separation on the next day be easier? Also, why does the king speak about “your” separation. He should have said “our” separation.

In Hebrew, the word “separation” (preda) is the same as the word “division”. As we explained last week, Sukkot symbolizes the unity of the Jewish people.

Yet the seven days of Sukkot passed, and G-d sees that the unity is still not perfect. Yes, we are all together, but not truly united. There is a risk that after the end of Sukkot, we will return to the previous situation... This is why G-d speaks about your separation (preda), meaning your division (among the Jewish people). G-d wants us to perfect our unity so it can last for the entire upcoming year.

On Simchat Torah, we all dance together with the Torah. The Torah is closed and covered, and there is no apparent difference between us. One may know more, one even more, but all dance equally together with the Torah. All reveal the deep connection we have in our soul with the Torah and our Creator. Now, all the children can go back to their homes, without this separation causing division.

Let us unite around the Torah. The current situation will maybe not allow us to celebrate in the synagogue with the Sefer Torah, but each one of us has a Jewish book or leaflet in our homes. Let us take it in our hands and dance with it and our family. We will unite spiritually with the thousands of Jews around the world who will do the same.

May this deep unity stay with us for the whole upcoming year and in its merit, may Mashiach come speedily!

Shabbat Shalom & Chag Sameach!

Hanna

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