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Hanna's Dvar Torah

Why do we need 2 foods in our Mishloach Manot?

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The happiest day of the year is tomorrow!

Of course, we do not keep the joy to ourselves. We share it with others through the 4 Mitzvot of Purim: Mishloach Manot, donations to the poor, reading the story of Purim from the Meguila and a festive meal.

Every Mitzvah has various details that we need to follow so that it counts as a Mitzvah. For instance, for Mishloach Manot, we need to give 2 different foods, ready for consumption, to at least one person, man to man and woman to woman, on the day of Purim (this Friday 26/03). If we give a kilo of flour to someone, even though it is a useful gift, it will not count as Mishloach Manot, since it is not ready for consumption. The same applies if we give 2 chocolates: it does not count, since it needs to be 2 different foods.  

These details have a great significance. When we study the symbolism of the Mitzvot, we understand better why each detail is important.

The Mishloach Manot represent the “gifts” we give to G-d, that is, the actions that connect us to Him. These “gifts” must be ready for consumption. This means that they need to happen on a practical level. Nice feelings and thoughts are not enough…

In the same way, there must be 2 different kinds of “foods”, that is 2 different kind of actions. If we serve G-d only with one kind of actions, how can we be sure that the reason we do it is indeed to serve Him? Let’s take for example someone who studies the Torah, and someone who is very generous. Maybe this is only a product of their character?

We can judge it by looking at the other facets of his life. If he does other actions that fit with a different character, we know that his motive is indeed the service of G-d. If the scholar also gives practical help to other people, and if the donor also spends time learning Torah, we will know that the study of the first and the charity of the second are truly for the sake of G-d, and not simply because it comes naturally to them.

This Purim, let’s not forget the Mishloach Manot, the regular ones, but also the spiritual ones!

Happy Purim and Shabbat Shalom!

Hanna

The secret of love - Terumah

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What is the secret of love? It is often said that loving is giving. Is there love in receiving as well?

The Parashah of this week Teruma starts with G-d’s commandment to the Jewish people to gather donations for the building of the Mishkan, the portative Temple. G-d says: “Speak to the children of Israel, and have them take for Me an offering; from every person whose heart inspires him to generosity, you shall take My offering”. (Exodus 25:2). Rashi explains that the word “for Me” indicates that the contribution should be made with the proper intention and thought – in order to fulfill G-d’s will.

Generally, in philanthropy matters, the intention is not the most important thing. What counts is the action. The poor person will be satiated even if the donor contributed with the intention of getting recognition and honor. But here, it was about the Temple of G-d, symbolizing the union of spirituality and materiality. This material building needed to be infused with the right spiritual intention…

Did you notice that G-d said to take the offering to Him? Would it not be more logical to say to give Him offerings? It is written in this way to give us over an important message, not only about how charity should be given, but also about how it should be received. The poor person must receive with the correct intention – to fulfill G-d’s will.

G-d created this world in a way that some people are richer and others poorer. This was not done by mistake. In this way, there will we mutual help and relationships in this world. By accepting the charity, the poor person allows the system G-d created for kindness in this world to function.

We all have some qualities, talents, money, and we don’t have some others. We can no do everything on our own and we need the material or spiritual help of people around us. But many people are embarrassed to ask for help. They try to manage on their own.

This week’s Parashah reminds us that G-d created the world in a way that we should need one another. G-d wants mutual help to exist between us. It is not always easy for our ego. But this is how G-d’s system in this world works.

In order to have mutual love, we need to give but we also need to know how to receive from one another. When we have the humility to admit that the other has something to give us that we don’t have, we give him the opportunity to contribute.

Next time someone will propose you help to you, don’t avoid him. With a little humility and the intention to fulfill G-d’s will, let us accept his contribution. In the merit of our mutual help, G-d will send us Mashiach very soon!

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

A pedagogical rule - Mishpatim

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When I studied this week’s Parashah Mishpatim, something very interesting caught my eye.

After reading last week about the Giving of the Torah, we now start learning various laws and commandments. Before starting, G-d tells Moses: “And these are the laws that you shall put in front of them” (Exodus 21:1). What does it mean to put the laws in front of them? The commentator Rashi explains that this is a pedagogical mandate. Moses should transmit the law to the Jewish people in the same manner that he would dress a table for them, ready for the meal. He should not be content to teach the Law and repeat it 2-3 times until the Jews knew it well and could observe it. He should devote time to also teach them the explanations and reasons for keeping these laws. As a rule, we keep all the laws because this is G-d’s will and by doing it, we unite with Him. But there are also specific reasons for each law.

As a student to become a teacher, in this last year of my studies, I teach several hours a week as part of my practice. I teach (currently though Zoom…) 4th and 5th grade. Yesterday actually, I had my teacher watch a class that I taught. (Thank G-d, it went well. Thanks for asking).

Rashi’s explanation about this pedagogical principle, fits exactly with the teaching of modern education, even though it precedes it by hundreds of years. Having the children understand the class and being able to repeat it is not enough, we need to study with them until they understand its essence.

If we think about it, why is there a need to understand the laws? The laws need to be observed. Does it make a difference if, when lighting the Shabbat candles or putting on Tefilin, we understand what we are doing?

Our actions, as ourselves, have both a “body” and a “soul”. The technical action, the “body”, does not change if we know the explanation of the action or not. We only need to know what we have to do. But the “soul” of the action, that is the feelings and the thoughts that accompany the action, are not the same. If we study the explanation of the specific action, we will do it more happily. In order to have the perfect action, we need both the “soul” and the “body”, the action and the feeling.

Since I am a teacher, today, I will give you homework 😊. Think about various actions we do as Jews, in our everyday life, during the cycle of the year or the cycle of life. Which Mitsvah do you observe but do not know its reason? Choose a Mitzvah and look for information about its explanation, reason, and symbolism. I am sure you will find it interesting and that it will help you observe it with more “soul” and enthusiasm. I’ll be glad to hear from you about which Mitzvah you chose.

A good starting point for your research can be here...

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

When the teacher leaves the classroom... - Yitro

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Dedicated‌ ‌in‌ ‌honor‌ ‌of‌ ‌Rivka‌ ‌bat‌ ‌Nava‌ ‌Sheindel,‌ ‌
her‌ ‌husband‌ ‌and‌ ‌their ‌cute‌ ‌newborn‌ ‌baby‌ ‌boy‌ ‌
 

A loooong time ago, when we were still in real classes, with real desks and not behind our Zoom screens, the teacher needed sometimes to leave the class for a few minutes. We all remember what happened then. Even if during the class, the children were behaving properly, when the teacher left the class….

Something similar happened to the Jews in Egypt. This week’s Parasha Yitro, tells us about the surprise Yitro, Moses’ father-in-law, felt when he came to the desert to meet and join the Jewish people. Yitro saw that Moses was the only judge for the Jewish people. He was sitting there from morning to evening, listening and judging. Yitro proposed to him to appoint other judges, creating a hierarchy. Only the complex cases would get to Moses.

Yitro’s idea seems easy and simple. It is evidently better to have several judges and not be all dependent on one person. Why did Moses not think about it himself?

Moses had a reason why he wanted to judge on his own. He, who had received the Torah and communicated with G-d, was on a very high level. Moses wanted to share a little bit of his holiness with the people. At his level, there was no hate, jealousy, fights and politics. The rest of the Jews were people like us, and had such issues. But when they came to Moses to present their cases, Moses lifted them up to his level. Suddenly, whatever was important before, began to seem less critical. In the same way, when someone is happy, he is ready to forgive to the entire world… This was the reason Moses wanted to judge the people himself.

The problem was what would happen later. Yitro saw that we are regular people. We have the evil inclination inside of us and we struggle to dominate it. Our life and human relationships are not always so straightforward… What would happen when Moses would not be with us anymore? Would the “classroom” become again a place of trouble and chaos?

The solution was to create a system with regular judges. Judges who faced difficulties but were able to overcome them. Judges who could understand us and help us at our level. Judges who would have the role of Moses on a lower level, closer to us.

It is very important to have such a figure in our lives, someone who will inspire us and guide us. A rabbi for instance, who may not be perfect, who himself faces challenges in his life but overcomes them. Such a person can understand us and help us to achieve this as well.

I also have such a person in my life, who helps me and advises me on how to face various matters, where to start and how to become a better person.

We all need someone. Who will be the person that will advise you?

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Based on an article of Rabbi Haim Heber 

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