Revach L'Neshama RSS feed for - Section: MOADIM Category:WEEKLY SEFIRAH DIARY Copyright 2007, Revach L'Neshama en-US Revach L'Neshama Logo 144 31 Fri, 03 Jul 2020 03:00:00 +0000 240 Week 7 Malchus: Do You Want To Be A Hero?

A Chasid once came to the Kotzker Rebbe asking for a bracha and complaining about how hard he works and how little money he makes. The Rebbe asked him "why do you need to make more money?" The Chasid told the Rebbe that he works so hard that he has only a few minutes a day to learn torah. If he had more money he would be able to learn much more. The Rebbe answered him with the following question. "Who said Hashem wants your Torah? Maybe he wants your suffering!"

Yesod is about greatness, Malchus is about acceptance and total devotion to Hashem and negating our own selves. Our entire existence is merely to enhance Hashem's kingdom. We don't worry about hell or heaven. We receive our instructions from the king and run with it. It is not our job to decide if the job given to us is the best use of our unique abilities in service of Hashem. We don't ask and we don't question.

Shaul HaMelech was the epitome of greatness with every possible desirable attribute. His kingdom failed. Dovid HaMelech was not even considered a candidate among his brothers, yet Hashem promises his kingdom will last forever. Shaul with his greatness and one small mistake was told by Hashem "Do not be such a big Tzaddik". Dovid's Tehilim, composed with a devoted heart despite his mistakes, are forever rooted in the heart of every Jew throughout the ages.

Why is devotion better than greatness? Put simply the greatest human is still human, while someone devoted and attached to Hashem stops being human and becomes an extension of Hashem. Shimon HaAmsuni gained worldwide recognition spending his entire life proving his thesis that every time the torah says the word "es" it comes to add something. That is until he got to the passuk "Es Hashem Elokecha Tira"; Fear Hashem. At that point came to the conclusion that since no one is comparable to Hashem his theory must be wrong. Therefore in truth every "es" in the torah must be without meaning. Hearing this Rabbi Akiva said that indeed "es" adds the talmid chochom. How? Why?

The Baalei Mussar explain that Shimon HaAmsuni preferred to forfeit his life's work rather than placing an individual, no matter how great, in the same class as Hashem. Rabbi Akiva saw in this brave act 100% devotion to Hashem with no ego involved whatsoever. With this total negation of self Shimon HaAmsuni lost his humanity and became an extension of Hashem's will. Therefore concluded Rabbi Akiva, a Talmid Chochom of this kind is himself is divine and is the "es" that the torah refers to.

Greatness that misses the mark can lead you far from the path. Unquestioned devotion will always lead you back home no matter how far you stray. Some people in their misplaced ambition miss out on their life's goal because they are always waiting to get rich so that can be "real" baalei chesed or they don't learn torah since they will never be a great Rosh Yeshiva anyway. You may be prepared to die "Al Kiddush Hashem", but are you ready to eat "Al Kiddush Hashem? Are you ready to talk "Al Kiddush Hashem"? Don't wait around for the opportunity to be a big hero. Every second of every day Hashem gives us an opportunity to shine like the stars and light up his world. Sadly, in our narrow view of greatness we just don't realize it.

This last week of Sefirah after graduating week by week in middos and emunah we give it all back to Hashem. We don't demand important roles in life befitting our new skill set. No, instead we tell Hashem we now are fully capable to serve you in any way you wish. The choice is yours and whatever you choose we are ready to accept his Malchus.

As Shavuos approaches we take an honest look at our lives and declare wholeheartedly "Na'aseh V'Nishma"; we will do what you say, without question. Only then can we become the people of the Torah, the chosen nation, the people of Hashem.

Mon, 25 May 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Week 6 Yesod: Some Have It, Some Don't

There always is in every peer group one individual who is bound for stardom. They have it all and we know they were going to be the one to make it. Brains, charm, looks, good family background. But yet they don't. What went wrong? Maybe they lack Yesod. In the first five we weeks we worked on acquiring all the important tools to be successful. Now in order to make it happen we need to put it together. It's not the one with the best tools that makes it; it's the one who has the best command of their tools. To have command of your tools you need Yesod.

Yesod literally means foundation. You can build an amazing building with a beautiful architecture, a lavish lobby, and luxury apartments but if the foundation is not strong it will all come crumbling down and become just a pile of rubble with not even a trace of its previous glory. The foundation is the groundwork upon which a building is built. The building lasts only as long as its foundation.

What is our Yesod? The best and strongest Yesod we can have will be a yesod that is long lasting. Our lives are temporary and we have no idea how long it will last. If our Yesod is an earthly one it will crumble as soon as our time on earth is over. If the foundation of our lives is to earn money and earn respect then all our efforts and all our talents will crumble the day our physical foundation dies.

As the chosen people we are given a great gift from Hashem. We received the Torah which transcends this world. It existed long before this world and will live on for eternity. Despite being creatures that appear to be 100% physical, we possess a Neshama that is eternal. We have the opportunity to make the Torah and our Neshama our Yesod. Our physical selves can hang on to our spiritual coattails and live on forever. Yisroel, V'Oraisa, V'Kudesha Brich Hu Chad Hu. The Jews, the Torah, and Hashem are all one. (Taken literally (and it should be) this statement is the most powerful statement there is!)

The Satmar Rav Zt"l was once walking with his Chasidim when he saw the legendary Mike Tress of holocaust rescue fame walking across the street. The Satmar Rav crossed the street to say hello. One of his Chasidim asked him "Rebbe, How can you cross the street to greet someone who dares shave his beard". The Satmar Rav answered him, "Indeed you are correct. When Mike Tress goes before the heavenly court they will challenge him with the complaint "Jew, Jew, where is your beard. But when you my dear Chasid come before the Heavenly throne, Hashem will ask you, "Beard, Beard, where is your Jew".

Mike Tress had an eternal Yesod, the Chasid didn't. Ask yourself what the Heavenly court ask you?

Mon, 18 May 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Week 5 Hod: Thanks, But No Thanks

When we are without a car and someone is nice enough to stop for us and offer us a ride there are 3 choices of service he can offer.  Basic Plan - Drop us off along his pre planned route at the nearest point to our destination without going out of his way.  Premium Plan - He can go out of his way and take us closer to our destination.   Platinum Service - Door to door service where he is willing to even go around the block rather than drop us off on the corner.  This last plan may go too far for our liking and we prefer to walk from the corner. Why?

Hakaras Hatov is a hallmark of great men. It comes from a combination of numerous sterling character traits among them humility, consideration of others, awareness and conscientiousness, lack of ego, honesty, and also a good long term memory. Too say thank you should be relatively easy but to be thankful is more difficult. In Lashon Kodesh the word for thankful is Hoda'ah which by no small coincidence also means to admit. Thank you means that I admit that you have done something for me and I now owe you something in return. Some people mistakenly think that saying thank you is the payback for the favor. It is not. It is only an admission that I have received something from you and I hope to have the opportunity to repay either by increased friendship or other means. Hakaras HaTov says Reb Yerucham Levovitz is not just a nice gesture or worthy midda. It is a real obligation like any other in Choshen Mishpat. If you withhold it you are a thief!

Most decent people do not want you overextend yourself for them because it becomes a burden on them to repay. At some point the incremental benefit is not worth the incremental debt of gratitude. We would rather walk from the corner since it is easier than paying back extremely generous kindness.

What about the basic plan? It is quite easy to take a favor from someone who doesn't go out of way for you since you don't feel much of debt for his favor. Wrong! shouts the Michtav Me'Eliyahu. True hakaras hatov ignores the effort or intention on the part of the giver. This he proves from Moshe Rabbeinu who wouldn't hit the water to show gratitude, even though the water didn't do anything out of the ordinary for him nor does it have feelings.

If one bases his gratitude on the intention and effort of the giver, says Rav Dessler, he will rationalize away all hakaras hatov. He will always find an ulterior motive on the givers side to diminish the effort on the part of the giver. Hakaras hatov to his parents? No way! They do everything for their own honor and to satisfy their natural love for their children. Hashem? No of course not. It is no sweat off Hashem's back to give him health, happiness, and oodles of money so why should I be thankful for his "imperfect life". Hitchiking? For basic service there is really nothing to be thankful for. He is anyway going in my direction.

As we go through the week of Hod let's keep in mind two things. First, for anything that anyone does for us let's just be grateful without being judgmental. Second let's show real hakaras hatov by outwardly displaying it and even returning a favor. It will make us better spouses, children, parents and friends and most of all better people.

Sun, 10 May 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Week 4 Netzach: The Final Battle

One of the elders of Kotzk was on his deathbed. A young Chasid at his bedside asked him, "Tell us Reb Shemaya, in a few moments you will return your pure soul to your creator, does the Yetzer Hara still incite you to sin?" Reb Shmaya turned to the boy and said "Of course he does. Don't you see him standing near me whispering to me, "Say Shema with great Kavana since you will soon die." "What's wrong with that" asked the student a bit perturbed. "Don't you understand" said Reb Shmaya "He wants me to take poisonous thoughts of pride to my grave. He wants me to feel haughty knowing that all of Kotzk will talk about how the great Reb Shmaya died with the word "Echad" on his tongue."

We are all very good people. We do many acts of Chesed. We learn Torah. We control our temper. We watch our tongue. We are considerate to other people. The only question is, are these singular heroic acts or is this really us? Do we drive sick people once a week to the hospital to fulfill our "Chesed quota" and then decline to help our friends, neighbors, and family because we are too busy or it is too difficult. Do we run after every small Chesed opportunity or do we selectively choose the convenient and dramatic ones?

We all know the joke about the smoker who brags that with his incredible discipline and will power he was successfully able to stop smoking over 100 times! On that score we are all tremendous tzaddikim as well. How many times have we stopped talking lashon hara "from now on"? How many times after losing our tempers have we decided that we are finished with our tantrums "forever"? How many times have we undertaken to learn chumash or halacha or daf yomi "every day"? How many times have we resolved to spend at least a few minutes every day with each one of our kids? Probably more than once.

One of the great tzaddikim of a previous generation once confided in someone that he had a bad midda that took him over 40 years to finally rid himself of.  Netzach is about being a warrior and not resting until the enemy is dead. Dovid Hamelech says in Tehilim "Erdof oyvai v'asigeim v'lo ashuv ad kalosom" I will chase my enemy and catch them, I will not return until I have completely annihilated them. Netzach is not about winning small battles and taking a well deserved break to pat yourself on the back. It is about battling day in and day out until the war is really over. A great warrior doesn't need to win every battle to win the war but he needs to fight every battle, and in the end the victory will be his (Netzach).

Sun, 03 May 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Week 3: Tiferes: Get Into The Driver's Seat

 Was Shammai really as tough as they say? Was Hillel gentle and easy going by nature? Rav Yisroel Salanter says that Shammai believed that a harsh approach with people would enhance Kavod Shamayim. Hillel on the other hand believed that true Kiddush Hashem will only come about with a patient and loving touch.  Had they come to opposite conclusions, Hillel would have been as strict as Shammai and Shammai would have been just as gentle as Hillel.

Most of us are controlled by our emotions. We believe that our job is to reign in these emotions and not let them run out of control. To us controlling the negative side of our personality constitutes the ultimate (often elusive) victory.

Not so our great sages and forefathers. They reached what we would consider perfection. No emotion would ever sway them, cause them to lose control, or perform even the smallest action against the will of Hashem. As Dovid Hamelech said in Tehilim "Libi Chalal Bikirbi" my natural instincts and emotions (yetzer harah) are dead within me. The only thing that distinguished Hillel from Shammai were their respective beliefs in which approach would cause the greatest Kiddush Hashem.

This week's middah is the middah of Tiferes. Tiferes means knowing that both Chesed and Gvura have a place and time. The question for us is when, where, and how. Tiferes is the beautiful and glorious outcome of the perfectly timed and perfectly balanced middos. Tiferes means we control our middos and our middos don't control us.

While Tiferes manifests itself in many forms including Rachamim, Torah, Shleimus, Glory, and Praise which we will briefly come across throughout the week, there is one ideal that is easy to describe but hard to adhere to; that of Emes. This doesn't refer to telling the truth, it refers to a task much more challenging; facing the truth and living by the truth. It means examining your every action under the bright light of the truth. What you say, where you go, what you eat, how you spend your time. Even when your actions check out okay on the surface, you still need to question your ulterior motives. Are you acting out of honest decision making or are you reacting to your raw emotions, animal instincts, and base desires. Truth means that you cannot live on autopilot with a single set of ideals. Truth is about constant re-examination.

This is the week that we praise Hashem and act in a way that is beautiful in the eyes of others and causes others to praise us. This is a week of Torah. This is a week of mercy. Mainly this is a week where we rise above and beyond our inner self. We dominate our emotions and act from a purely honest and objective point of view.  Hatzlacha!

Sun, 26 Apr 2009 03:00:00 +0000
Week 2: Real Gvura - Lifting Dead Weight When I was a child I learned the famous mishna. "Who is a strong man? He who conquers his yetzer hara." While I paid lip service to this "mussar" ideal, in the depths of my heart I had a much grander visions of Gvura.

Now after spending some 15,000 odd mornings trying to get out of bed I now know the truth, that lifting the covers takes much more strength than to carry your daughters overstuffed suitcase to the airport as she goes off to Israel for the year. Lifting a pen to write a check can also be quite strenuous. So can lifting the receiver to call to say hello to your mother (and certainly mother-in-law). Sometimes putting things down can take quite an effort as well, like our fork at a sumptuous meal. Closing a newspaper and taking out a sefer can sometimes be more stressful than closing on a house and taking out a mortgage. Doing twenty pushups is often easier than curling the end of our lips and smiling at someone.

The Vilna Gaon in his peirush on Mishlei says that the reason why a person is put on this world is to break his middos. Life is granted to a person in order to perform the mitzvos he is least inclined to do. He is given a personality and told not to dare come back home to Shamayim with that same personality. He must break his habits and rectify his negative character traits. This is a lifetime struggle.

The Gemara in Bava Metzia (32b) says that if you have a choice between helping an enemy load packages onto his donkey or help your friend unload his donkey that is suffering under its load you should help your enemy even though causing an animal pain may be an aveira di'oraisa. Why the Gemara asks? Because it is better to conquer your inclination and overcome your disdain for your enemy even at the expense of causing Tzaar Baalei Chaim.

Some of the most famous and most accomplished men in history lost it all for nothing other than lack of self control that ultimately did them in. Self discipline and control are real strength. Whether its personal goals, ideals, or social behavior that we'd like to abide by, this is the week we work on it. Perfect timing for our post Yom Tov diet!

Sun, 19 Apr 2009 03:00:00 +0000 Do you consider yourself a Baal Chesed?  At the very least you have performed numerous acts of Chesed in your lifetime, or so you think….

There are two difficult criteria for true Chesed.  Firstly Chesed is without any reason or justification whatsoever.  If there is even the slightest logic why you should perform your good deed (even plain sympathy) then it is technically considered Tzedoka.  Secondly, Chesed is without limits.  True Chesed know no bounds and enough is never enough.

The two lionized Baalei Chesed of our forefathers were Avraham and Rivka and for good reason.  Avraham, ninety nine years old and three days after having undergone a Bris Milah runs out of his tent (in the middle of a conversation with Hashem!) on an excruciatingly hot day to greet three idol worshipping Arabs.  Not only does he bring them into his house and slaughter an expensive cow for them, he slaughters three of them just so each one can have the best piece of meat from the entire cow.  Rivka was a three year old girl shlepping massive amounts of water for a slave of a rich man standing at the well with his camels laden with jewels.  Couldn’t he fetch the water himself or pay someone to do it?  Rivka didn’t ask that question she just kept filling up those buckets.

Helping someone who has less than you is called tzedoka.  Helping someone who has more than you is called Chesed.  Giving what you feel is fair is called tzedoka.  Giving far more than is necessary is called Chesed.  Giving when it makes you feel good is called tzedoka.  Giving when it makes you feel stupid, used, and abused is called Chesed.  Helping when the recipient and others know about it is called tzedoka.  Helping when nobody knows and no one will credit you is called Chesed. Helping someone who you want to like you is tzedoka.  Helping someone who you prefer to never cross their path as long as you live is called Chesed.

The Alter of Novardhok brings in the Madreigas HaAdam that if your friend does you a favor and you pay him pack in kind, exactly what he did for you, you have not paid him back.  Why?  Because what he did was a spontaneous act of kindness while you were simply paying a debt.  In order to not only pay back the actual act that he did for you but also the kindness, you must “one up” him and do more than he did for you.

The Tomer Devora says that there is a special hall in Shamayim where Malachim receive all the Chesed that people do.  In times when Am Yisroel does aveiros and after weighing all the factors Bais Din Shel Ma’ala rules that they may be completely destroyed, Hashem admits these malachim before him and Hashem pities us and saves us.  Why?  Because Hashem is “Chofetz Chesed”.  Chesed has a special place in Hashem’s heart, kviyochol, that transcends all logic and fairness.  Now we know why.  It is not as simple as holding the elevator door for an old lady. Sure we all know “Tzedoka Tatzil MiMaves”. Chesed is far greater.  

This week we have seven days to break our current mindset of what good deeds satisfy our desire to be good people.  It is a week to transform ourselves from occasional givers of tzedoka to true Baalei Chesed.

Sun, 12 Apr 2009 03:00:00 +0000