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Hanna's Dvar Torah

"I give, therefore I belong" - Terumah

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The rabbi started his speech by saying he had good news and bad news. Which one did they want to hear first? “The good news”, everyone answered. The rabbi told them that the money that was needed to renovate the synagogue was found. All were very happy and then asked what were the bad news? It was that the money was inside their pockets…

In this week’s Parasha Teruma, G-d asks everyone to make donations in order to build the Holy Tabernacle: gold, silver, copper, wood, precious stones etc. We immediately ask ourselves why G-d, to Whom everything belongs, needed to ask humans for donations? Second question, why did Moses have to go through the whole procedure of collecting even small donations from all Jewish people, 35 grams of gold from one, 2 precious stones from the other? It would have been easier and faster to get a few large donations from the wealthy ones.

G-d indeed did not need donations from anyone in order to have material goods. He wanted it for everyone to feel part of the Tabernacle. The motto was simple: “I give, therefore I belong”.

A mere 40 days after the Giving of the Torah, the Israelites sinned with the Golden Calf. How was it possible for them to do such a thing, so shortly after hearing from G-d Himself “I am the Lord, your G-d”? The answer is simple. Since the Jewish people did not have an active role at Mount Sinai, the great enthusiasm could not truly and deeply change them. This is the reason the donations to the Tabernacle were needed. Because only with active participation in Jewish affairs do we truly change.

Let’s take an active role in our Judaism: attend a Torah class, organize at home a Shabbat dinner with Kiddush, financially support Jewish initiatives or spend some of our precious time to visit someone elderly or sick.

Thus, we will really feel that we belong. Finally, the rabbi may have been wrong when he said that the bad news was that the money was inside their pockets. This was good news, since it gives us the opportunity to participate actively. I give, therefore I belong.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

What does “eye for an eye’ really mean? - Mishpatim

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Based on a insight from Rabbi Nechemia Wilhelm 

There was once a king that went hunting in the the forest and got lost. When he realized it, it was too late. Frightened, he heard the voices of robbers who took away everything he had, tied him to a tree and prepared to execute him.

At the last moment, the voice of the forest guard was heard. The robbers fled immediately, and the king’s life was saved. The grateful king invited the forest guard to his palace and asked him what he desired as a reward.  

The guard answered that he didn’t need anything. The only thing he wanted what to have the king describe to him how he felt when he was tied to the tree, knowing that he will die in a few seconds.

The king got angry and ordered the guard to be killed for his impudence. At the last minute, before the execution, the king arrived, freed the guard and explained to him: “Now you can understand what I felt. I could not describe it to you in a better way…”

In this week’s Parasha Mishpatim, we learn about various laws and commandments that relate to our everyday life. For example, the commandment to help the poor, either with charity or with a interest-free loan. When the Torah, speaking about this help, says: “the poor with you”, to teach us that when we help our fellow, we need to try to feel what he or she is feeling. Get into his or her shoes. Thus, our help will be completely different.

Later, we read about what happens when someone causes damage to someone else, for instance, he takes out his or her eye. The Torah says “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth…”. The Sages explain that this is not to be taken literally, to take out the eye of the offender, but have him pay financial compensation for the value of the eye.

Why does the Torah write in such a confusing way? So many misunderstandings could have been avoided if it was written clearly that the offender has to pay…

The Torah wanted to emphasis that it is not enough to pay financial compensation. We need to truly try to understand what we have done, to identify with the victim.

We all encounter people that need our help, and we want to assist them. If we think a little about how they feel, we will be able to help them in a much better and suitable way.

Thanks to our actions of solidarity and kindness, G-d will surely send us Mashiach now!

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

The big deal with the 10 Commandments - Yitro

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If you were G-d and you wanted to reveal yourself to your nation for the first time, in the unique setting of Mount Sinai with fire and thunderstorms, what would you tell them?

The Jews prepared themselves and awaited the giving of the Torah in Mount Sinai and finally, what did they hear? “ You shall not murder, You shall not steal …”. Is that what they had to wait for? Who doesn’t know that murder and theft are forbidden?

If we look a little bit at the setup of the two Tablets with the Ten Commandments, we will discover something interesting.

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The first – right tablet (in Hebrew we read starting from the right side) talks about commandments regarding our relationship with G-d. The second – left tablet talks about commandments regarding our relationship with other people.

We all know that stealing is forbidden. But there will always be one person who really, perhaps deserves we should steal from him. There will always be an action which we can claim is not considered as stealing. We will always find excuses to making shortcuts and cutting corners when we want to.

But if we remember that stealing is forbidden, not only because this is what we think so, but because “I am the L‑rd your G‑d”, then the “You shall not steal” becomes absolute and non-negotiable. The same applies also for the rest of the Commandments regarding our relationship with other people.

Notice also that the right tablet starts with spiritual commandments like belief (I am the L‑rd your G‑d…) and ends with practical commandments such as keeping the Shabbat. On the contrary, the left tablet starts with practical commandments (You shall not murder) and ends with spiritual (You shall not covet... anything that is your neighbor's).

In topics between us and G-d, some people believe that action doesn’t matter. The most important is the faith in the heart. But G-d tells them that faith must be expressed also practically. Faith in the heart is not enough.

In topics between us and other people, people believe that action is the most important. G-d tells them that indeed action is very important, but the thoughts and feelings should match it too.

Let’s think of one of the Commandments that we could do better this week. Surely, because of all of our good deeds G-d will bring us Mashiach now!

Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna

Spiritual science fiction - 10th of Shevat

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In 5706 (1946), there was a 7 year old girl named Nehama. Her family wasn't observant, but her grandfather was, and she would often go to visit him. Her grandfather lived in Crown Heights, in Brooklyn, New York. When his granddaughter Nehama visited him, they used to go together to the park. The grandpa would read the newspaper, and Nehama would play. Nehama noticed that when a rabbi with a black beard passed by, her grandpa would stand up as a sign of respect, chat a few minutes with him, and when the Rabbi left, her grandpa looked very happy. This was strange for her, because from what she had heard from her parents, rabbis were something frightening…

Once, as her grandpa was speaking with the Rabbi, he called Nehama to speak with him as well. The Rabbi asked her for her name, which school she goes to and what’s her favorite class. Her favorite class was Physics. She also liked a certain science fiction book, and asked the Rabbi is he had read it. He answered that the had not, but that he would read it until the next time they would meet.

One or two weeks later, the Rabbi passed again through the park, while Nehama was there with her grandfather. The Rabbi had read the book and asked her what its central idea is. The story was about a faraway galaxy with a group of dark evil men, who was trying to send many dark evil people to the entire world. If they succeeded, that would be the end of the word, and we needed to be very careful.

The Rabbi continued: “You know, I too have a dream. Similar, but slightly different from the book. I want to send good people to the whole world, so that the world is filled with light and goodness.” Nehama liked the idea a lot and asked if she could be part of his people. The Rabbi answered that yes, she can. And whoever else wanted to, could.

50 years later, Nehama read in the New York Times an article about the Rebbe and Chabad and the light they bring to the world. There was the big picture of all the Chabad Rabbis from all over the world and a picture of the Rebbe. She looked at the picture, the face looked very familiar, only the beard was white. She recognized the Rabbi who had told her about his dream to fill up the world with light. She understood that while she could have joined, she finally didn’t do it. So, she called the Chabad offices and asked if it was too late to join. Of course, it was not to late, it is never too late…

This past Wednesday was the 10th of them month of Shevat, the day that the Rebbe became the leader of the Chabad movement and started to fulfill his dream, turn the world into a good and bright place. We can all join. Whoever wants to, can.  

Let’s this of a small good action that we can do to participate. Make one more Mitzvah, help someone in need, bring joy to a fellow person… Let’s start!

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

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