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Hanna's Dvar Torah

Love your fellow as yourself: Feasible? - Achare Mot - Kedoshim

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Dedicated in the memory of the father of my friend Moussy, the friend of my father and Chabad emissary in Hanover, Germany – Rabbi Binyamin ben Menachem Mendel Wolf, who passed away last Shabbat at the age of 43. His loving smile and care for each and every one will be deeply missed by his community and around the world.

Based on an article of Rabbi Yossi Goldman


As Yom Kipur was approaching, two people decided to reconcile. At the end of their conversation, one told the other: “I wish you exactly what you are wishing me!”. The other man answered: “oh, you‘re starting again?”.

The weekly Torah portion Achare Mot – Kedoshim contains one of the hardest, most important and much discussed Mitzvot: “Love thy fellow as thyself”. Seriously? How can I love other fellows, including those who annoy me, in the way I love myself? Is it possible?

Some of our Sages explain that the Torah’s commandment does not refer to the feeling but to the action: we need to act towards every other fellow as if we love him, to help him, to talk nicely to him etc. Through the actions, the feeling will come eventually.

The Tanya, the basic book of Chabad, explains that if we will to focus on the spiritual part of the others, we will be able to truly love them. Essentially, the reasons why we don’t like someone come from our material preferences. We either approve or disapprove his/her appearance, words or behavior. But all these do not constitute the essence of the person.

What matters most is the spiritual. The real person is not the body but the soul. This soul may have a strange nose or an annoying habit, but the soul is pure and good. Some people have buried their soul with layers of fancy clothes or vulgar behaviors, but everybody possess it inside themselves. And no one can claim that his soul is better than the other’s.

If we focus on the soul of the person, we’ll be able to stop allowing his or her external faults from angering us. Inside – he/she is good. Looking inside to the essence of people, loving and believing they’re truly good, will help them reveal their goodness and prove that we were right in trusting him.

Let’s try it! Let’s be more generous, a little more patient and forgiving. We may well be surprised at how lovable some people can be.

There’s nothing that satisfies G-d more than seeing His children united. When are all together as brothers, G-d gives us His best blessings. In the merit of our love and unity, He will bring us Mashiach and the final Redemption very soon!

Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna 

Sanitized criticism - Tazria-Metsora

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Rabbi Yosef Yitschak Schneorson, the Previous Rebbe of Chabad, once had to get a medical injection. He noticed that before giving the shot, the doctor cleaned his hands very well, as well as the needle of the syringe and the part of the body where the needle would enter, to make sure no microbes would enter together with the injection. Otherwise, the injection may make things worse instead of better.

The same applies to criticism that we give others, explained the rabbi. Criticism is like an injection. Before giving it, we need to clean it up from the “microbes”, in other words, we need to make sure that our intervention does not stem from jealousy, arrogance, anger or hate, but from true care for the other. Otherwise, our criticism may make the situation worse instead of better.

In this week’s Parashot, Tazria-Metsora, we learn about the Tzaraat (often mistranslated as leprosy). Tzaraat was a disease that existed in the time of the Temple. According to Judaism, it came as a punishment for gossiping. A person with Tzaraat had to be in isolation outside the city until it disappeared – a sign that G-d had forgiven him. It was not such a pleasant process…

How was someone diagnosed with Tzaraat? Only a Cohen, a priest, could do so. This applied even if the Cohen was not well versed in the laws of Tzaraat and had to consult with a Rabbi in order to establish the diagnosis. Then, what was the need to involve the Cohen?

The Cohanim, the Priests, symbolize the love and concern for every Jew, since the first Cohen, Aharon, who cared for every person in particular. This characteristic was inherited by his descendants, the Cohanim. This is the reason why they give the Blessing of Birkat Cohanim to the community during the Holidays with love.

When we are talking about such a terrible punishment, isolation outside the city, we needed to be completely sure that the decision was taken by someone who really cared for the person. This is why we called the Cohen, even if he was not a specialist in this domain.

Next time we want to criticize someone, let’s examine if the decision was made by the Cohen inside us, if it comes from care and love. Let’s make sure the needle is sanitized.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Tambourines in the Desert - Last Days of Pesach

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During the last days of Pesach, we celebrate the Splitting of the Red Sea and the final and complete Redemption with Mashiach, we hope very soon.

After the Jews went out of the Red sea, they saw it close back on the Egyptians pursuers and they understood that they were saved. Immediately, the women took out their tambourines and started to sing and praise G-d.

But…. the Jews were in the desert! Where did the Jewish women find these tambourines in the middle of nowhere?

Our Sages explain that the Jewish women always had faith and believed that they will be liberated and that G-d will make big miracles for them, even in the darkest days of the slavery. This is why they made tambourines before, in order to be ready when the miracles would happen, to sing and praise G-d with them.

There are many common points between the Exodus from Egypt and the Redemption that will come with the Mashiach. One of them is the special role of the women, thanks to whom we were liberated then and will be liberated in the future. Even in the darkest and most difficult moments of our lives, we must continue to believe, to await and prepare for better days.

A very nice custom, which renews and revives our faith in the coming of Mashiach is the meal of Mashiach. We do it the last day of Pesach (i.e, this Shabbat), in the afternoon. In this meal we eat Matsah, we drink wine, we sing Jewish songs and we speak about Mashiach. We remind to ourselves and to others that he can come at every moment and we encourage each other to make one more good action which will hasten his coming and the end of all our sufferings.

Chag Sameach & Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna

Two Jews, how many opinions? - Last Days of Pesach

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It is well known that wherever there are 2 Jews, there are 3 opinions. But in front of the Red Sea, there were 4. The Jews, shortly after their Exodus from Egypt, found themselves trapped. In front of them was the sea, behind them were the Egyptians who had regretted that they let them go, and here they were in the middle, not knowing what to do.

There were four opinions: the first group wanted to fall into the sea and drown, the second group thought it is better to go back to Egypt, the third group proposed to fight the Egyptians while the fourth group believed they need to pray to G-d. But G-d said to Moses to order the Jews to go forward. And then the big miracle happened, the splitting of the sea that we celebrate during the last days of Pesach, which are tomorrow Friday and Shabbat.

These ways of facing problems exist spiritually in our lives. When someone sees the turmoil of the sea of life and all the evil that surrounds him, he can react in four ways. He can choose to fall into the sea, to drown in to the study of Torah and seclude himself from the rest of the world. He will not try to improve the world around him and will only take care of himself. Someone else will choose to get back to Egypt: he sees the awful darkness around him and thinks he cannot win it. But since he knows he needs to stay in this world, he does not seclude himself but is despaired, pessimistic and apathetic. Another one will decide to fight. He will devote his life to a war against the evil. Finally, there is the one that devotes himself to prayer, asking G-d to save the world.

None of the above though, is the right way to react. When someone is one the way to receive the Torah, he should not stop even if the motive is important. He needs to advance in the way that leads him to G-d.

The problem with the four reactions mentioned above is that they are based on the human rationale. But we need to do what G-d wants from us and not what we think is best.

When we go forward according to the word of G-d, even obstacles such as the sea, split apart so we can continue on the way that G-d has traced for us and bring Mashiach now!

Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna 

Perfect timing for Pesach

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This period, when huge changes happen every day and new procedures and rules are implemented, is the perfect time for Pesach.  

How do people change? Usually, we think that the procedure needs to happen in stages, slowly-slowly.

Yet, there is a second way, the abrupt changes.

The word Pesach comes from the Hebrew word “pass over”, leap. The holiday received this name because G-d passed over the Jewish homes during the plague of the death of the firstborn, without hurting them.  

Looking deeper, the message of Pesach is that is possible to make abrupt changes. We do not always need to advance gradually step-by-step, but we can leap forward. At one moment, the Jews were slaves, the next, they were free. At one moment there seemed to be no hope to leave from Egypt, the next, Pharaoh was begging them to leave as fast as possible. Things can change abruptly.

Sometimes, we hesitate to start something, even though we know it will be good for us, because we think the process will be long and complicated, and we are afraid that we will finally not succeed. But we can simply gather our courage and start. It’s not impossible. The only thing needed from us is to overcome the fear inside us.

Let’s start something good that we believe we cannot manage. Without a lot of thought and procedures. Just Do It!

Now, more than ever, we know that things can change abruptly in ways we never imagined. This is somehow the way things will be when Mashiach comes with the Final Redemption. Suddenly, everything will change. But this time, for the good. Illness, death and all the problems will disappear and there will be so much good in the world that we cannot even imagine it. Let us add our little effort to make this happen more speedily.

Pesach Kasher Vesameach!

Hanna

The most important sentence of the Torah - Tsav

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“What is the most important sentence in the Torah?” a few Talmudic Sages wondered. What do you think?

One rabbi said it was “Shema Israel” (Hear O Israel, G-d is your G-d, G-d is One”. Another rabbi said that it is “Veahavta Lereacha Kamocha” (Love your fellow as yourself). Rabbi Shimon ben Pazi though chose another verse: “You will offer the first lamb in the morning and the other lamb in the afternoon”, which speaks about the “Korban Tamid” (Perpetual Offering). The other rabbis agreed with him and this was their final conclusion.

This sounds odd. What is so special about this daily offering?

We also ask ourselves why this sacrifice is called “Perpetual Offering”, since it is only offered twice a day. It would be more appropriate to call it, daily offering, or regular offering. Since it was not being offered all the time…

Here lies an important lesson – the power of the small and regular practices. These influence our entire day and our whole personality. In practice, they may happen only at some point during the day, but their influence is perpetual.

Our Sages tell us that it is better to give 5 cents every day to charity, than to give 1 euro a month. The final sum may be about the same, but with this daily giving, the person gets more used to being generous.

Something small but daily has more value that something big that happens only once. A daily smile and care for a loved one is more valuable that a great birthday party… the examples are endless.

Especially these days that our routine is so unusual, we need to choose a few daily things that will boost us. Put a coin every morning (except Shabbat) in the Tzedakah box, read every day an article on a Jewish theme on chabad.gr, spend 5 minutes saying the Shema, while wearing the Tefilin (for men), devote 10 minutes daily to call someone who may feel lonely etc.

In the merit of our small actions, G-d will certainly bring us Mashiach together with the solutions to all our current problems!

Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna 

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