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Hanna's Dvar Torah

You just have to live this! - Shavuot

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Did you ever try to describe to a blind person the sunset in Santorini? Did you ever try to explain to a deaf person how good music sounds?

It’s impossible. Without having lived themselves these experiences, it’s impossible for them to understand.

Now imagine a biology professor that has in front of him an appetizing steak. He may know everything about its components, about its nutritional value but he cannot know its taste until he will try it himself.

It’s obvious. Anyone would question a person that says that he knows the taste / the sight / the music of something he never experienced himself.

So why do so many people not understand that the same applies to Judaism?

When we fulfill one Mitsvah, something deep happens inside of us, our soul unites with the Creator. It is something that words and sentences cannot describe. We can talk indefinitely about the Shabbat, the calm and the spirituality that it brings us but until we try it for ourselves, we cannot understand its essence. We can write entire books about prayer but until we try it ourselves we will not understand how special, almost magical it is to speak directly with G-d.  

This Sunday (May 20 2018), exactly 3300 years ago, at Mount Sinai, G-d gave us a precious gift: the possibility to raise ourselves from our everyday worries and find a deeper meaning in everything we do when we follow the Torah. Let’s open the gift that was given to us, let’s try it, let’s taste it and then we will understand how good and precious it is.

Our Sages tell us that, every year, on the day of Shavuot (this year, Sunday 20 May, 2018), when we read the Ten Commandments from the Torah scroll, it’s like a reenactment of the special moment when G-d revealed Himself to us and spoke to us.

Let's take advantage of this exceptional gift!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach!


Why the need for “Don’t steal”? - Shavuot

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Why does the Torah command us “Don’t Steal”?

Some think that G-d created man and suddenly realized that he has an inclination to steal. Oy! Immediately He opened the Torah and added a commandment: “Don’t steal”.

But what really happened was different.

G-d wrote the Torah before He created the world and created the world according to the Torah. Man’s inclination didn’t happen by mistake. It was created on purpose, in order to challenge the person and to give him the opportunity to act properly despite the difficulties. G-d has a special pleasure from seeing us winning these small-big battles.

There are two types of statutes: statutes that create life and statutes created by life.

Human laws are created by life. In an area with a lot of accidents, the government will add different traffic laws. In a place with a lot of thieves, they will increase the penalty for stealing. Of course, the laws vary from place to place, since the conditions of every place are different. The laws need to be updated according to the changing circumstances and technological development.

On the contrary, laws of Torah create life. G-d, our Creator, gave us the book of instructions. Since we were created according to Torah, its laws apply always and everywhere. By following the Torah rules, we handle ourselves in the best way and can have a good and happy life.

“In the modern world it’s impossible to keep Shabbat” some people think.

“Under the current circumstances I can’t make a living totally honestly” others imagine.

Let’s remember that Torah creates life and that it is the book of instructions for a happy and good life. Whatever it says is applicable and doable, we just need to put in a little effort.

Happy Shavuot and Shabbat Shalom!


Census takers wanted - Bamidbar

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Remember the last census in Greece? It happens every 10 years. The census collectors go from door to door to write down the residents’ personal information. Who are these people? What do they do the rest of their time? It seems that census collecting is not a very popular job.

Now imagine the big politicians knocking on your door to ask you for your personal information. Sounds surrealistic? 

In the weekly Torah portion Bamidbar, we read about the counting of the Jews, one of the censuses that took place in the desert. Who were the census collectors? Moshe and Aaron in person, the leaders of the Jewish nation.

Seriously? I am sure they had more important stuff to do. The study and the teaching of the Torah, the services in the Mishkan, the leadership of the people… Why did they have to spend their precious time doing a job that anyone could accomplish?

Because they were counting souls.

Every single Jew is precious and has in him a G-dly soul. It’s a privilege and a pleasure for someone to be able to serve G-d’s people. Moshe and Aaron had the special ability to see and appreciate the individual value of every Jew, and to present this information to G‑d. That’s why they were the ones to make the census.

The opportunity to meet someone in his own turf, to become involved in their lives and learn about their pains and pleasures, is a unique gift. We can all become census takers for G‑d. To care, to make a phone call to a member of the community who’s not necessarily my best friend. To be there for them and to help them.

We should go out to find them, not wait they come to us. If G-d cares enough to ask for a census, if Moshe and Aaron had enough time to dedicate for that, then we could too care and help the others.

Remember that acts of good and care, except that they make our world a much more pleasant place and fill us with satisfaction, bring us closer to the perfect world that we all await, with the coming of Moshiach now!

Shabbat Shalom!


Βασισμένο στο άρθρο του Elisha GreenbaumCensus Takers

"One for me, two for me..." - Behar-Bechukotai

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Once, a rabbi went to a wealthy Jew to ask him for a donation for the city’s poor people. The wealthy man started giving excuses, that he had already donated to this organization and that organization… The rabbi responded that thanks to this answer, he finally understood a big question he had about the laws of the Maaser.

Maaser, one of the Mitsvot (commandments) discussed in the weekly Torah portion Behar-Bechukotai, means that we should give 10% of our earnings to charity. This applies to harvest in the land of Israel, to newborn kosher animals (at the time of the Temple) and of course – to our salary. The Torah promises that G-d blesses whoever keeps Maaser and that at the end, his earnings will increase.

There is an interesting law about the calculation of the Maaser for the animals. The cattleman takes all the animals that were born during the specific year and puts them in a corral, while their mothers are outside. The animals want to join their mothers, but the gate is narrow and only one animal can pass at a time. The cattleman stands by the gate and counts the animals that go out. When he reaches the number ten, he puts on it some red color, says “this is for G-d” and starts again counting from the beginning.

The rabbi had a question: why should there be such a complicated procedure? It would be much easier to count all the animals and make the calculation of the 10%.

But with the answer of the wealthy man, the rabbi finally understood the procedure of the Maaser. If the cattleman would see that he needs to give e.g. 10 animals out of the 100 that were born that year, it may have seemed a lot to him. Why should he give away so many? That is why there is all this procedure, so that the cattleman sees and realizes that: “one for me, two for me, three for me… nine for me and the tenth for G-d”. This way, it is easier for him to give, since he comprehends better the blessings that G-d gave him.

A lot of times, when we are called to give from our money or our time, we think like the wealthy man. I have already given money, I have already dedicated time… Let us think more proportionally. Let us realize how much money and time we were blessed with, and how much of it we use for ourselves and how much of it we dedicate for others and for G-d.

Shabbat Shalom!


We are all ambassadors - Emor

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Albert Einstein is reputed to have once stated, "If my theories prove correct, the Germans will claim me as a German, the French will say I am theirs and the Americans will call me their own. If my theories are incorrect, they will all say I am a Jew."

How proud are we when one of us is mentioned for his good deeds, when a Jew wins the Nobel prize. And conversely, how ashamed are we if there is a moral or financial scandal involving one of our own. Fair or or not, it is a fact that Jews and their actions are examined much more carefully. Each and every one of us represents his faith, his nation and his G-d.

In the weekly Torah portion Emor, we learn about the Mitzva (commandment) to sanctify the name of G‑d. This means that we should behave in a way that will cause the world admire G-d and our devotion to Him.

The classic interpretation is as follows: if you’re given the choice to convert or die, you shouldn’t deny G-d. We all have in our family history such heroes who preferred exile, poverty or even death – for their faith.

Today we could freely be Jews. No one asks us to die for our believe. We are required to live for our belief. When we act nicely, correctly and honestly, we create a “good name” to Judaism and to G-d.

Here is a classic example for  background-clip: initial">sanctifying the name of G‑d: if someone was given more change than he deserved and gave back the money to the cashier. Of course, this is the correct way of behavior, but there are also some people who would not inform the other of his error. Since the Jew acted correctly, he brought honor to himself, but also to the entire Jewish people and to G-d.

Let’s think about it next time we have a dilemma how to act. Right behavior will sanctify the name of G‑d.

Let us always be good ambassadors.

Shabbat Shalom!


Based on Rabbi Yossy Goldman's article 

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