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Hanna's Dvar Torah

A compliment for Aharon - Behaalotecha

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In this week’s Parasha Behaalotecha, we read about the Menorah, which was lit every day in the Temple. Later, the Torah mentions that Aharon, the High Priest, did exactly as he was told. Rashi, Rabbi Shlomo Itschakis, points out that this is written as a compliment to Aharon. But seriously, couldn’t a better compliment be found?

There are two kinds of spiritual light, one that arrives as a result of our actions, and another one that comes from Above, something that is so high that we cannot achieve it on our own. The light and the spiritual energy that the Menorah brought was of the second kind. Something supernatural.

Someone could have thought that since this is about a G-dly light, which is anyway supernatural, it is not that important to pay attention to all the material details and make it exactly as they should be. But not Aharon. Aharon knew that his actions had great significance. Even the things that we cannot achieve on our own are still dependent on our actions. Even though the light is so elevated that we cannot call it a “result” of our actions, our actions are significant.

Let us not underestimate our actions. Let us not underestimate the details of the Mitzvot. Even though it is about spiritual matters, exactness is important.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

Today is my birthday! - Psalm 22

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Today is my birthday and I am turning 21. The day of the birthday is special, on which we are given special powers that we need to utilize correctly. One of the things we do on this day is study the new Psalm corresponding to our new age. As I am now entering the 22nd year of my life, I will start saying daily the Psalm 22. One verse of this Psalm is the main character of an interesting story.

Rabbi Israel ben Eliezer, later known as the famous Baal Shem Tov, was going from community to community, encouraging and strengthening the Jews. He was asking them how they were doing, how they feel and how does their work go. The Jews would answer “Baruch Hashem”. Literally, “Blessed is the Name [of G-d]”, thanking G-d for whatever they had.

Once, the Baal Shem Tov met a rabbi that was studying. As he asked him how he was doing, the rabbi did not want to interrupt his study and ignored him. The Baal Shem Tov then asked: “Why do you deprive G-d from His sustenance?”. The rabbi got surprised. We live through the blessing that G-d sends in our work, but what does “sustenance of G-d” mean?

In the Jewish families of Eastern Europe, young couples used to “sit” at their parents for a year or more, in other words, to be supported by them. Thus, the expression to “sit by someone”, meant that this someone provides us with our sustenance.

In Psalm 22, King David says: “And You the Holy sit on the hymns of Israel”. The Baal Shem Tov explained: “G-d sits”, he is “sustained”, as it were, by the praises of the Jewish people. Thus, our thanks are very important to G-d!

Let us not “deprive” G-d from the joy that He gets from our hymns. When someone asks us how we are doing, let us answer “Good, Baruch Ηashem, thank G-d” or something similar. Let us remember thanks to Whom we have all that we have in our life, health, love, work, and pleasure and let us thank Him for that.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna

Approved guarantors - Shavuot

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Did you ever look for guarantors, so you can take a loan at the bank? Not everybody can be a guarantor. He or she needs to have the possibility (and the willingness 😉 ) to pay.

Something similar happened to our ancestors, 3333 years ago in the Desert. G-d wanted to give them the Torah, His previous wisdom, but He wanted guarantors. Who would be responsible that the Jews would always keep the Torah?

The Jews proposed our Patriarchs: Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but G-d did not agree. They then proposed our Prophets, but this was not approved either. Then, the Jews proposed their children, and G-d agreed. But how exactly could our Patriarch, our Prophets, or our children guarantee that we will keep the Torah?

When they proposed the Patriarchs, the Jews meant that the guarantee would be the characteristics we inherited from them. Each one of us, inside him, has a strong faith and love for G-d. But G-d knew this would not be enough. Because this faith can stay hidden and not express itself in action…

When they proposed the Prophets, the Jews were relying on the leaders of each generation. Those who will lead us and inspire us to keep the Torah. But this is not enough either…

Finally, the guarantors which were approved were the children. G-d knows that when it comes to our children, we will do anything. When it comes to ourselves, it does not matter to cut corners, but for our kids, we want the best! Yet… if we want to raise proper children, we ourselves need to show the good example. Children imitate their parents and learn a lot from them. But not so much what what the parents say. They lean much more from their behavior, their priorities, their characteristics and their actions.  

Thus, our children, and more specifically our responsibility to raise them, can guarantee that we will continue to keep the Torah.

On Monday and Tuesday, we will celebrate Shavuot, the holiday of the Giving of the Torah. Especially on this holiday, we cannot leave the children out of it, since they are the guarantors… But as we said before, if we want our children to be interested, we first need to be interested ourselves. Let us study the 10 Commandments. Let us think about how we can improve our observance of Torah and Mitzvot.

This Shavuot, let us receive once again the Torah in joy and health. In this merit, G-d will protect all of us from illnesses and from the terrorists that want to harm us and bring Moshiach now!

Shabbat Shalom and Chag Sameach! 

Hanna

Contradictory expectations? - Behar-Bechukotai

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Everyone expects me to be so many different characters at the same time. On the one hand, to be patient and understand the difficulties of every student, and on the other hand to have high expectations from them and uncover their hidden capabilities. On the one hand, to be nice and kind with them and on the other, to be strict so they listen to me. To teach all the lessons of the school program but also to spend time on sensitive topics and current events.

Tell me, is it at all possible?

This week’s portions Behar-Bechukotai begin with the laws of Shemita, that is, the Sabbatical Year we give to the land of Israel every seven years. It is a year where we do not cultivate the fields and strengthen our faith in G-d Who rules the world and gives each one of us what he needs.

Even though on a practical level, the Mitzvah of Shemita applies only to Israel and its fields, it has a significant message for all of us, Israelis and not.

On the one hand, we need to work for six years, to plant and water. G-d wants us to live within the world system He created. Not to isolate ourselves in prayer, but the exact opposite.

On the other hand, every seven years we stop for an entire year. A year where we devote ourselves to more spiritual activities and do not cultivate our fields. What will we eat then? G-d promises that the crop of the sixth year will be enough also for the year of Shemita.

In other words, we Jews are expected to live in two different states of mind. We need to take into consideration the world and its rules, but on the other hand not to think that we people govern it. G-d also does for us things that are not within the rules.

It seems difficult and unattainable, but G-d is above the limitations of the world, and He gives us the power to overcome these limitations as well.

Shabbat Shalom,

Hanna 

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