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Hanna's Dvar Torah

The fatal mistake - Tisha Beav

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We always look for whom to blame when we are in pain. It is a human instinct. Would you like to know what is to be blamed for all our troubles?

Many years ago, in the Land of Israel, a wealthy man made a feast and invited many of the important people in town. His servant distributed the invitations, but he made a fatal mistake. Instead of inviting Kamtsa, a friend of the wealthy man, he invited Bar Kamtsa, an enemy of his… Bar Kamtsa was surprised by the invitation but he thought that his enemy wanted to reconcile with him. When the day of the feast came, he wore his best clothes and went to the celebration.

When the wealthy man saw Bar Kamtsa in the party hall, he became very angry and started yelling at him. Bar Kamtsa understood the mistake, but he was embarrassed to leave in such a way. He pleaded with the host to allow him to stay, promising that he will pay for his meal. The host would not listen to anything. Even when Bat Kamtsa offered to pay for the whole feast just to avoid the humiliation, the wealthy man refused and threw him out of the hall.

Bar Kamtsa was hurt and enraged. There were so many important people in the hall and not even one of them tried to help him and save him from the humiliation! He decided to take a global revenge. He traveled to Rome and slandered the Jews, accusing them of fomenting a revolt against the Cesar. This is how the destruction of Jerusalem started. Finally, the Romans burnt the Holy Temple, killed many Jews and exiled the rest of them.

Essentially, all our problems started there. During the Exile (Galut), G-d’s presence is not revealed, resulting in many material and spiritual troubles. When Mashiach comes, this entire problem will be resolved, and with it all the other problems. G-d’s presence will be revealed. Peace and brotherhood will reign everywhere. Everyone will have abundance. Illnesses will disappear and the dead will resurrect.

Today, on the 9th of the month of Av, we fast and we mourn the beginning of the destruction, the hatred between ourselves. It is an appropriate day to decide to stop all this pain. How? By uprooting the cause of the Exile. Because of senseless hatred, our Temple was destroyed. In the merit of our love and brotherhood, the Temple will be rebuilt, and the Redemption will arrive.

May it be very soon!

Hanna

The hit on the shoulder - Devarim

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In Jerusalem lived a very cheerful Jew named Nachum Margaliyot. He was always happy, despite leading a difficult life and losing two daughters. When he was asked how he can always be happy, he answered with a parable: “When you walk on the street and suddenly feel a hit on your shoulder, you turn around to see who did it. If it is a stranger, you will naturally get angry. But if you realize it is someone you love, you will understand that the hit was friendly and you will not get upset, even if it was painful. It is the same with me. I indeed received very painful hits, but every time I look back, I understand they came from a loving G-d. This is how I can continue to be cheerful, nevertheless. »

When you love G-d and you know that He loves you too, you interpret everything that happens to you as something positive for you.

In this week’s Parasha, Moses, before passing away, rebukes the people of Israel. Among other things, he reminds them that they complained that G-d took them out of Egypt because He hated them, to kill them in the desert. Their outlook was so distorted that even though they saw open miracles, they interpreted it as hatred.

Everything depends on “who hits us on the shoulder”. Let us wear the correct lenses to look at the reality and interpret it positively. Let us search for the hidden good in everything that happens to us.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Always on a journey - Matot- Masei

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This week, we will read a double Parasha: Matot and Masei, completing the fourth book of the Torah, Bamidbar – Numbers.

Let's discuss to the name of the second Parasha, Masei, which means “Journeys”. The Parasha starts with listing all the wandering of the Israelites in the desert, i.e, they traveled from this place and encamped in that place, they traveled from that place and encamped in a third place etc. Most of their time was spent encamping somewhere. The journey was only a means to get from one place to another. Why then is the whole Parasha called “Journeys”?

Each one of us goes through two phases in his or her life. The first is the “journey” when we grow, i.e when we put in efforts and advance. The second is that of the “encampment”, i.e when we rest and enjoy our achievements.   

Which phase is more important?

It says in the Ethics of our Fathers (Pirke Avot): “Who is wealthy? One who is happy with what he has”. We need not to search for more. If we have a car, we should not constantly be in the search of a better one.

Then, maybe the “encampment” phase is the most important one?

Rabbi Shneor Zalman, the first Rebbe and founder of the Chabad movement, explains that in certain situations, the spiritual and material matters are exact opposites. While in material matters, it is good to be satisfied with what you have, in spiritual matters, this is a big mistake. We must always advance, put in efforts to improve ourselves and the world around us.

This is the message of the name of the Parasha, Masei: Never to be satisfied with what we have, with whatever we have accomplished spiritually. We need to always be on a “journey” towards a better self and a better world.

Let’s think of an action we can take to advance and become better. One Mitzvah, some Torah study, more Tsedaka or volunteering. May these continued efforts bring Mashiach now!

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

The right motives - Pinchas

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What is the most dangerous thing in a psychological analysis?

It's when someone who is not a specialist thinks that he/she is and starts analyzing the people around him/her. “I know why this one gives charity so generously, it’s because he/she wants his/her name to appear on the honorary plaques”. Or: “The reason he/she always ready to help is because he/she has a low self-esteem and is constantly looking for validation from others”.

Is it really that easy to know the motives of someone else’s actions?

In this week’s Parasha Pinchas, Pinchas intervenes and kills the person who was sinning in front of the whole people. Thanks to his action, G-d’s anger recedes, and He stops the plague that had started because of the sin.

But Pinchas’ action was not appreciated by everyone. Some commented that his motives were not right: he had killed the sinner because of his cruel and merciless character. At this point, G-d intervened and confirmed that Pinchas’ motives were pure and that he acted out of true care for the people who were dying from the plague caused by the sin.

Often, when someone does a good action, someone else comes and says that his motives are not correct.

Let’s ask ourselves:

First, how do we know what are the motives of someone else? Are we prophets?

Second, let’s suppose that his/her motives are indeed incorrect. If it is a good action, he/she should continue to do it. Even if someone gives charity for the wrong reasons, the poor people still get the help they need.

Third, before analyzing the motives of the other, let’s first analyze our own motives. Why do we feel the need to criticize someone else’s good actions? Sometimes, we criticize good actions in order to justify why we ourselves are not doing them. Instead of acknowledging that we are egoistic, indifferent or lazy, it’s easier to say that the other’s motives are wrong.

Next time we see someone doing something positive, instead of wondering about his/her motives, let us join the effort and do a good action too. Each good action brings us close to Mashiach!

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

What is true forgiveness (+Bonus Story) - Chukat-Balak

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In the weekly Torah portion Chukat-Balak, the Jews went (again) to Moses to complain, using inappropriate words. G-d got upset and sent poisonous snakes that killed many Jews. The Jews understood they were wrong and went to Moses to ask for forgiveness. Moses forgave them and prayed for the snakes to be removed. G-d commanded him to make a copper snake, place it on a high pole, and all who will gaze heavenward will be healed.

Our Sages teach us that, like Moses, we need not toughen our hearts but be ready to forgive those who ask for our forgiveness. But it needs to be a true forgiveness.

There is the “I forgive you”, which is only oral, but in his heart, the person has not forgiven at all.

There is the “I forgive you” which is not complete. The person will not punish the culprit for his action, but their relationship will never be the same.

Yet, there is the true “I forgive you”, which means that the relationship of the two persons will get back to its previous loving state.

Moses not only forgave the people, but also prayed for them. Not only did he pray for them, but when it came to build a copper snake in order to heal them, he paid it from his own pocket, even though the Jewish people should have paid for it, since they had the need for it. The forgiveness of Moses was a true forgiveness.

Let us try to truly forgive, like Moses.

Let us make an effort this week to forgive someone whom we have not forgiven until now, or someone whom we have not forgiven entirely. Thanks to the love and brotherhood amongst us, Mashiach will reveal himself speedily!

Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna

PS: Do you want to hear a story on true forgiveness? Read on:

There was once a wealthy man who did not have children. Having heard of the holiness of Rabbi Yitschak Meir Alter, he went to ask for his blessing. As he arrived, the line to speak to the rabbi was very long. The wealthy person thought that he was important enough to cut the line. When the helper of the Rabbi did not let him go through, the rich man got angry, slapped him on his face, and entered the Rabbi’s office by force.

The Rabbi, who understood what had happened, refused to listen to the rich man until he asked for forgiveness from his helper.

Having no choice, the wealthy man went to ask the helper for his forgiveness. The helper went inside the Rabbi’s office together with him and told the Rabbi that he will give his forgiveness under one condition: The Rabbi should bless the wealthy man with children.

The Rabbi, smiling with satisfaction, agreed to give his blessing, and indeed, the wealthy man had children.

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