Yacov Nordlicht – Parsha Tetzaveh – Experiencing G-d

In this week’s parsha, the pasuk once again talks about HaShem resting His presence amongst klal Yisrael. The pasuk says “…I shall rest among the children of Israel…they shall know that I am HaShem their G-d who took them out of the land of Mitzrayim…” The Ramban explains this pasuk to mean that as a result of knowing that HaShem rests among us, we can properly come to the Emunah that HaShem took us out of Mitzrayim.

On a basic level, this idea is very difficult to understand. HaShem was talking to klal Yisrael at this time. This was the every same klal Yisrael which saw the miracles in Egypt! Why did they need to “know that HaShem is among us”, in order to know that “HaShem took us out of Mitzrayim”? Rav Yitzchak Isaac Sher asks this same question in last week’s parsha. What was introduced with this knowledge which wasn’t already a part of klal Yisrael? They witnessed kriyas yam suf! The ten plagues! How could this knowledge that HaShem is within in our midst add anything to the emunah that He took us out of Mitzrayim?

There’s a very big yesod from the baalei Mussar which is very relevant. There are different levels of emunah. Rav Avigdor Miller would give a mashal of a small child. If you tell the child that the element of a stove is very hot and that he shouldn’t touch it, the child will believe you. However, even though he can know that the stove is hot, he’s never experienced the heat from the stove. On the other hand, if there’s a child who touched the stove top and got burnt, his level of knowledge that the stove is hot is on a much higher level of understanding than the first child.

The same is true with our emunah. A person can know intellectually that there exists a Ribbono shel Olam. That person’s emunah is within the realm of knowing. However, his emunah is limited, for he never experienced it. Feeling HaShem’s presence creates a much higher level of emunah than simply knowing it to be true.

The baalei mussar say that this is what the Ramban is alluding to. A person could intellectually know HaShem. He could have even seen open miracles proving what he knows! However, if a person wants to make emunah a part of him, to take with him the root of emunah which is yetzias mitzrayim, it’s not enough to just know it; one has to feel it. He needs that higher level of emunah called emunah chushis; not just an intellectual emunah, but an experiential one.

This yesod is a major yesod which I personally take much mussar from. The Torah isn’t just telling us to know HaShem, the Torah is telling us to live with HaShem. To feel His presence among us. How many times do we forget this? How many times do we act in a way which is against His will? Or furthermore, how many times do we justify our own agendas by misconstruing His will? If we felt Him in our midst, could we do such things? Would we be able to act in such a way?

The yesod is penetrating. If we want to become people who serve HaShem, who connect to yetzias Mitzrayim, HaShem has to become our reality. And the only way for us to make Him a reality is to feel His presence. To try as hard as we can to focus on Him and to put Him in front of us always. In this way, with this high level of emunah, we don’t just exist as people who know of HaShem, rather we experience HaShem.





Rabbi Efrem Goldberg – Rabbi Of The Boca Raton Synagogue – Have Klal Yisroel In Your Hearts

“Aharon shall carry the names of the sons of Israel in the choshen over his heart when he enters the Holy.”  Shouldn’t it say on his chest, why on his heart?

The Seforno says it was over his heart to inspire Aharon to daven for the Jewish people – sheyispalel aleihem sheyizku b’mishpat – that they persevere and triumph in judgment.   The Abarbanel goes even further. Aharon wore the breastplate with the names of the tribes on his heart – “sheyizkor Aharon tamid b’machshavto u’vitfilosav es Bnei Yisroel,” so that the would always be thinking of his brothers and sisters, the Jewish people constantly.”  Wearing the Jewish people on his heart meant he was always mindful of them. They never grew old, or stale or irritating. He never got used to them or their plight or their fate.

The midrash tells us that when Aharon went into the Kodesh Ha’kadashim, the Holy of Holies, it was bizchus ha’avanim v’hasfatim, in the merit of the stones and the tribes.

Asks the Sfas Emes – but when Aharon went into the Holy of Holies, he wasn’t wearing his choshen with the stones representing the tribes?  How could his entrance be in their merit? Answered the Sfas Emes that in fact he was wearing them. Aharon wore the Jewish people on his heart whether technically donning the choshen or not.  He carried us with him on his heart wherever and whenever.

We too must carry the Jewish people, we must carry our family and their fate on our hearts.  When we learn of the tragedy of the murder of a beautiful Jewish soul in Israel for no other reason that she is a Jew, we should put down our mug and shed a tear.  When we read the anti-Semitic twitter rants of a sitting member of Congress, we must stop in our tracks and pledge to protest, to do something about it and hold her colleagues accountable.

To be a Jew is to have the rest of the Jewish people on our hearts and in our minds always, never looking away or saying its not our problem, but always feeling the pain and celebrating the joys.

Aleeza Ben Shalom – Eleven Dates

What is the goal of each date?

There are no exact rules when it comes to dating, contrary to some modern-day books and articles. But since misguided dating expectations can kill a date, it’s helpful to know your goal for each date.

Date #1: The aim here is to enjoy each other’s company, to get to know a little about each other and to start warming up to being around this person. Some people are better than others at being open and friendly on a first date. I consider a first date a success if you are either feeling positive or neutral about the person you went out with. If you are feeling negative about the person then I know you’re likely to say no to a second date. Neutral doesn’t feel great, but it might still be worth giving it a shot. Some happy couples started out feeling neutral on their first date. If you’re feeling positive about the date, it could be a real feeling or only one of infatuation. Only time will help you to tell the difference.

Date #2: It’s good to keep expectations low for this date. A great first date can lead to a second date that bombs. A neutral first date can lead to another neutral date. Of course, a second date could also be amazing, in which case you won’t need help moving to a third date. However, don’t let a neutral second date throw you off course. Take a minute of quiet reflection after this date and answer these two questions: Do I want to know more about this person? Was s/he pleasant to be around? I’m less concerned with the actual date and more interested in your reflections about the person with whom you just spent a few hours. If you’re feeling neutral, I’d say try again. If you’re confident this isn’t for you then it’s time to end it. The goal of this date is, in a small way, to begin desiring to know this person better or to be around them more.

Dates #3-5: For the next few dates, it’s good to have a combination of fun mixed with getting to know your date. All fun and nothing personal won’t help you build a lasting connection. Too much serious talk will deflate a good thing if it’s not integrated with activity and enjoyment. We long to spend our lives with people we enjoy being around and it’s good to look for someone whom you can connect to and share things in common. Start to make the conversations on your dates more personal, but don’t divulge your deepest secrets just yet.

Dates #6-10: Sticking with someone for the next few dates should start to be an enjoyable process (unless you struggle with anxiety, depression or other challenges in which case it may take you longer to enjoy the process). Deeper conversations should start emerging naturally as the dates progress. Things like your future hopes, wishes and dreams, as well as slowly revealing personal challenges you’ve overcome, are subjects that should come up. People tend to speak about themselves negatively and justify it by saying, “I just want to be honest. I don’t want to hide anything.” Generally speaking, people can see the faults of others; we don’t need to draw extra attention to faults that are already visible to the naked eye. If there are any more serious things you need to discuss, such as illnesses, you will need to determine when to have that conversation. Some people start to share things early on while others wait until the relationship is further along. Since each couple dates for a different amount of time before reaching chuppah, the time frame will be different for each couple. I suggest you speak to your mentor to guide you in how to best approach discussing sensitive subjects in dating.

Dates #11+: These dates are confirmation. I like you and you like me. The more time we spend together, the more time I want to spend together. I have come to recognize the good side of you and I like it. I am also able to identify at last five faults about you and accept those as a part of you. In layman’s terms: I accept both your good side and “other” side.

Your personal mentor will be able to guide you through different dating situations. If you don’t yet have someone you trust, take time before your next date to connect with someone in your community who can support you. Also remember that what worked with one dating situation won’t necessarily work for another. Each relationship is unique.

May you have insight into your dates and may you find the right one with ease.

Originally published at Aish.com.

Featured Purim Guest – Rabbi Gurkow – The Need To Choose G-d

Purim is arguably the happiest day of the year. I say arguably because it is in close competition with Simchat Torah, the day we complete our annual reading of the Torah. I am not sure which is happier, but I will say this, if they both vie for the title happiest day, there must be a connection between them.

At first blush the two days appear completely disconnected. Purim celebrates the salvation of our people, Simchat Torah celebrates the Torah. Where is the link? Our sages provided the link when they read the Megillah and noted the words, “They [the Jewish people] sustained and undertook” the holiday of Purim. The proper order of this verse should have been they undertook and sustained. First one undertakes a commitment and then one sustains it by following through. The reversal of order clues us into a subtext, otherwise unapparent in this verse.

On the surface the verse speaks of the Jewish commitment to observe the holiday of Purim. The subtext speaks of our commitment to the entire Torah. This commitment was made generations earlier, at Sinai, but it had never been given sustenance until Purim. The subtext of the verse “They sustained and undertook” is that they finally sustained what they undertook at Sinai. What took so long?

To answer that we have to answer another question that on the surface seems irrelevant to the subject at hand. The question is why did G-d create the world, what was He lacking that He fulfilled by creation? The answer is as startling as the question – G-d wants to be chosen.

Do you harbor a secret desire to be chosen? It is not respectable to acknowledge such selfish cravings, but there is hardly a human on the planet that doesn’t crave it. It is precisely why marriage proposals are fraught with anxiety and why their acceptance is such a thrill. We want to be chosen, fear we might be rejected and are thrilled to be chosen from among all possible candidates.

Everything about the human condition reflects the Creator in Whose image we were made. If we crave to be chosen, so does G-d, but with a caveat. G-d doesn’t crave it for self affirmation and isn’t insecure. G-d craves it because He does. Why? Because He wants to be chosen. And because He craves it, so do we. Our cravings are imperfect as is all of creation. Our craving is born of insecurity and is geared toward self affirmation, G-d’s craving is perfect and pure.

Before He created the world G-d could not be chosen for one simple reason, there was no one to choose Him. He was alone in His world. Suppose you got tired of society and broke away to live on a desolate mountaintop. You would have all the serenity and quiet you need, but you would lack for one essential ingredient. There would be no one to connect with. No one to touch you and no one for you to touch.  No one to choose you and no one that you could choose. This can be debilitating.

In response you surrender your serenity and emerge from isolation. Your quest for friendship and intimacy begins, but so does your challenge. Now you have to get in line and vie for the attention of the few you choose. You know that you need to stand out in order to get to the front of the line so you allow all your inner qualities to shine. You dazzle them with your brilliance, show your humor and display your wealth and sure enough people begin to choose you as their friend, confidante and even mate. So many choose you that you begin to suspect they aren’t really choosing you. They are choosing what you can do for them. They aren’t your friends, they don’t care about you. They care for themselves, which is why they chose you.

You are back to the drawing board. Your emergence didn’t really help you because you weren’t chosen. You overplayed your hand by revealing too much and now it’s hard to find someone who chooses you for you. You now change your tactic; or play down your beauty, understate your brilliance, conceal your wealth and obscure your talents. You are now playing to the few friends who see past your low-key exterior and seek out the true you. They will choose you for who you are, not for what you do for them.

You are now where you were when you first emerged from isolation; wary of not being chosen, uncomfortable with getting in line and wanting a shortcut to the top. You discovered that shortcuts get you to the front of the line, but not of the line you wanted. You give up on the shortcut and get in line, but you have matured. You no longer seek the adoration of shallow minded throngs. You are now after real friends, you want the few, who can really appreciate value and quality when they see it. When you are chosen this way, you know that you were chosen for yourself and that is a thrill.

This entire analogy applies to G-d sans the fears and insecurities. Before creating the world G-d was all alone. He had everything He wanted and everything went His way, with one exception. There was no one to choose Him. G-d’s solution was to create a world. Now there was someone to choose Him, but the foolish people of this world saw G-d as one option among many. They chose idols over their Creator. He tried punishment, but to no avail and besides, who wants to be chosen for fear of retribution?

G-d’s solution was to dazzle them with His brilliance. He gathered us at Sinai, putting His infinite grandeur and exquisite splendor on brilliant display. We chose G-d, but then again, who wouldn’t? He had literally and figuratively swept us off our feet. We pledged ourselves to G-d and undertook to serve Him with unswerving faith. A pact was born. We would worship G-d and G-d would provide for and shelter us. In peril G-d saved us, in famine G-d fed us and in peace, G-d sustained us.

This went on for a long while, but it wasn’t enough. Where is the joy in being chosen for what you provide for others? It was time for G-d to be chosen for who He is. Enter the story of Purim. For the very first time we were imperiled and G-d did not swoop down on a figurative white horse to save us. He left us to save ourselves and here came the real test. If G-d would not provide, would we still choose G-d?

The Purim story showed for the first time that when we chose G-d at Sinai, we did it for G-d, not for us. Had it been only for what we got from G-d, we would have abandoned Him at Purim. We didn’t and with this we confirmed that we were in it for the real reason. We gave true sustenance to the commitment we made at Sinai. Until Purim it was unclear whether our commitment would survive without the benefits. On Purim our commitment was given sustenance. It survived the trials and deprivations.

In the analogy we presented a person who seeks to be chosen for crass reasons, who seeks a shortcut for shallow reason and who discovers true value in life through experience. With G-d, the opposite applies. G-d chose to display His brilliance because He knew that this was required at that stage for a people to choose Him. He moved away from this during Purim because He perceived that we were spiritually mature and capable of choosing Him despite being seemingly abandoned.

When this saga plays out to its end, however, the analogy will unravel completely. Because in the analogy there are only several people who learn to recognize this person’s true qualities. With respect to G-d, the whole of the world will recognize, acknowledge and choose Him. When Moshiach comes, G-d will be king to the entire world, on that day G-d will be one and His name will be one.

On that day the world will know that G-d does not have to get in line. Not so much because He is brilliant enough to be at the front, but because without G-d there is no line. At that time we will return to the very beginning, that place where G-d and only G-d exists. But we will arrive there having learned this truth for ourselves. We will discover that we, our minds, hearts and egos, are all part of the nothingness that surrounds G-d or even deeper, we are all part of the everything that G-d is.

Rabbi Gurkow is spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Tefilah in London, Ontario. He has lectured extensively on a variety of Jewish topics, and his articles have appeared in many print and online publications.

Attributed to www.innerstream.org.