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Hanna's Dvar Torah

Do involuntary sins count? - Ki Tetse

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When someone does something positive by mistake, does it have any value? If someone does something bad involuntarily, what does it mean?

In this week’s Parasha Ki Tetse, we learn about an interesting Mitzvah. When we put an ox to thresh the grain, we are forbidden to muzzle it, in other words we must allow him to eat from the grain it is threshing. This law applies whenever we give a task involving food to an animal.

What happens when the ox walks over the field, not in order to thresh it, but to make a shortcut. Does the law prohibiting to muzzle it apply? The ox may not intend to thresh, but it is doing it, nevertheless. The conclusion is that since the ox is not intending to thresh the grain, we are allowed to prevent it from eating it.  

We can learn from this something very meaningful regarding the actions we do by mistake.

The sins we do without intending to, do not count as sins. If someone did not intend to open the light on Shabbat but he did it involuntarily by leaning on the wall, this does not count as a sin. G-d knows the truth.

On the other hand, the Mitzvot that we do always count, even it we did not do them on purpose and even if someone else forced us to do them. If someone’s money fell in the street, and a poor man found it and used it to feed himself and his family, this counts as “Tzedakah” for the man who lost the money. Even though this was not his intention at all.

Why does a positive action done without intention still count as a Mitzvah, whereas a sin done without intention is not counted as an Avera?

Because the truth is that we are never separated from G-d, our soul is always united with Him. Deep inside, we always want to act according to G-d’s will. What is strange and unnatural is when we do not act like this. Someone has to do the wrong thing on purpose in order for it to count.

Let us start every day of the upcoming week with the special words of Mode Ani*, reminding ourselves of our true identity. Let us contemplate that our soul is always united with G-d, and that the natural thing for is to do is to act righteously.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Does my body belong to me? - Shoftim

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The idea that “my body belongs to me” is discussed a lot these days. “Since my body is mine”, some argue, “I can do with it whatever I wish, as long as I don’t harm those around me.” It sounds logical. Naturally, there must be laws about what affects other people. But why should anyone mix in what concerns my own body?

In this week’s Parasha, we learn that the Jewish penal system includes death penalty for some very serious sins. Death penalty can only be given if there were two witnesses who saw the sin with their own eyes. The Maimonides explain that the death penalty cannot be applied based only on the admission of the sinner. If someone admits to committing a murder but there were no witnesses, he is not sentenced to death. Yet, in matters relating to money and other property, if someone admits something, that is accepted and considered as the best proof for his culpability. In the words of the Talmud: “The admission by a litigant is worth a hundred witnesses”.

Why this difference between the laws relating to someone’s body and someone’s possessions?

From the Torah’s perspective, our body does not belong to us and is exclusively G-d’s property. Our money, our house and the rest of our possessions were given to us by G-d. We must utilize them according to G-d‘s will, but they are considered ours. On the contrary, our body does not belong to us. It is a loan from G-d and even though we have it in our control, it remains a divine property with a higher spiritual quality.  

Since our body does not belong to us, we are forbidden to harm it, not with actions, not even with an admission in court. We have a special responsibility to handle it correctly, according to the instructions of the Owner. Feed it with kosher food, dress it with modest clothing, not to harm it intentionally, as with a tattoo and generally take care of our health.

Let us keep the sanctity of our bodies and protect it. Let us choose a Mitzvah that is related to our bodies, such as avoiding mixing meat and dairy, which we will keep more carefully this week. When Mashiach will come very soon, we will be able to see with our eyes this sanctity, and not only believe that it exists.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

 Based on an article from Tali Lowenthal  

Why does evil exist? - Ree

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The air hostess in the El Al plane asks the passenger if he wants to have lunch. “What are my choices?” the passenger asks. “Yes, or no” the air hostess answers...

In this week’s Parasha Ree, G-d presents to the Jewish people one of the basic values of Judaism, the freedom of choice. We always have the choice of action, the choice between good and bad.

But why does evil exist in our lives, which stops us so many times from doing the right thing? Why did G-d create evil at all, why create something that will fight the good?

The answer lies in the basic value we mentioned, the freedom of choice. This possibility distinguishes us from the animals, who can act only according to their instincts. G-d does not want us to act like robots. He wants us to choose the right thing to do and this is why He created a second choice. Only in this way will our actions have importance and meaning.

This is why we should not get frightened when we see the evil around us. We need to remember that it is there only to give us the opportunity to make good and valuables choices. In other words, evil does not have a true existence; it is there only so we do not choose it. We will certainly overcome it!

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

The self-repetition of the Shema - Ekev

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Try to imagine a world without the word “because”.

We get a salary because we went to work every day. We leave the shop with our bags full because we paid. We are loved because we love, we are treated well because we treat others well.

Can we get past having a “because” for everything?

The Maimonides speaks about the person who “does the truth because it is the truth”, not only “because” of this or that… There are people who do good actions because this is the right thing to do, not as a means for something else.

We sometimes see it in our everyday lives. A parent loves and cares for his/her child “because it is my child”, not as a means to something else. But this rarely happens in other circumstances. Outside of our children, what we do is usually “because” of something.

The Shema Israel is one of the most important prayers. It accompanies us from our birth until our last breath, and we recite it twice daily, in the morning and in the evening.

The Shema is composed of 3 parts. The first two speak about G-d’s unity and various commandments: to love G-d, to study His Torah and teach it to our children, to wear Tefillin and fix Mezuzot on our doors. The third part speaks about the Mitzvah of Tzitzit and the remembrance of the Exodus from Egypt.

When looking closely at the Shema, we will notice that the first and second parts are almost identical. There is a basic difference: in the first part, the commandments are simply stated, while in the second part, they are accompanied by the promise of the reward we will receive if we follow them, and the punishment we will get if we don’t. Besides for this difference, these are the same exact commandments, with only small syntax changes.

If G-d was expecting us not to have any selfish motivations, then He would have told us only the first part of the Shema.

If G-d wanted us to stay as we are, motivated only by what will benefit us, He would have told us only the second part of the Shema.

But G-d wanted both. He accepts us as we are in this world, but He encourages us to rise above our natural state and try to approach the description of Maimonides, that is the person “who does the truth because it is the truth”.

Let us decide this week to say the Shema Israel every day, morning (for men while wearing Tefillin), or in the evening. As we recite it, let us think of G-d, who wants us to advance and do the right thing not only when or because we benefit from it. Let us try to rise to His expectations.  

May we merit to see the coming of Mashiach even before we fulfill our good decision!

Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna

Based on an article of Rabbi Yanky Tauber

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