Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Thursday, December 4, 2008
Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Vilna Gaon on Megillas Esther (3, 13) writes that there are three mitzvos performed on the day of Purim - the reading of the Megilla, Mishloach Manos to complement the Seudah and Matanas L'evyonim - corresponding to the three components that comprise a person. The reading of the Megillah corresponds to his neshama, the Mishloach Manos to his body and Matanos L'evyonim to his material acquisitions. It is evident from this explanation that one's money and possessions are part and parcel of who he is. If so, we can understand the spiritual ascension of Me'aras Ha'Machpeila after it was purchased by Avraham. It had been an essential part of Efron and now it became an essential part of Avraham, the greatest person alive at the time.
Rav Wolbe elaborates that we tend to believe that we are in control of our money and we may do with it as we see fit. However, this is not a correct perception. Every dollar and every material acquisition was Heavenly ordained that it be placed in a person's possession, and he becomes a guardian of all that he owns. Therefore, he must appropriate his money properly and not act negligently with regard to his belongings. One who constantly spends his money on frivolities might very well be lacking in his emunah. Such a person shows that he does not believe that his money was given to him by Hashem with a specific purpose in mind.
The Torah relates a number of stories, which according to Chazal, demonstrate this idea. One such example is when Yaakov Avinu prepared his family in anticipation of their meeting with Eisav, and he crossed over a river with his family and all his belongings. However, he forgot some small vessels and he put himself in danger by going back to retrieve them. Yaakov acknowledged the fact that his money was G-d given and therefore, spent time and effort to retrieve seemingly trivial utensils.
All possessions are given to a person for a purpose. If he doesn't need it himself, then it was given to him to allocate to others who do need it. Just because one may have no use for an item, this does not permit him to act carelessly with it. One who shows care for his possessions has in effect displayed his emunah that the Creator gave him those belongings for a specific reason.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
People tend to believe that the earlier generations were less advanced than later, more cultured, generations. We know that for Jews there is a concept of yeridas hadoros - a continuous decline in their spiritual level as they get further away from Matan Torah. However, with regard to Non-Jews, people think that their spiritual level hasn't changed, and if anything, they have only advanced as the generations have moved along. Moreover, some claim, Non-Jews had no knowledge of G-d before the introduction of the religions of Christianity and Islam. Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) opens our eyes to a number of incidents in the Torah that prove the exact opposite. The earlier generations believed in Hashem to an extent unmatched by later generations.
In Parshas Vayeira (Bereishis 20, 2-8) the Torah relates that King Avimelech took Sarah as a wife - believing that she was Avraham's sister. Hashem came to Avimelech in a dream and warned him lest he touch Avraham's wife. Avimelech rose early in the morning and recounted his dream to his servants who all trembled in fear after hearing what happened. The very fact that Avimelech merited having Hashem speak to him in a dream is proof that he was on an extremely high spiritual level. Additionally, it could only be the fear of Heaven that propelled the king out of bed in the morning and caused his servants to quake in fright.
In addition, Rashi in this week's parsha (Bereishis 16, 1) tells us that Sarah's maidservant, Hagar, was the daughter of Par'oh - the most powerful ruler in the entire world. After beholding the miracles that occurred to Sarah, he sent his daughter off to work as a maid for this extraordinary woman. He declared, "It is better that my daughter be a maidservant in this household than she be a mistress in any other household!" It is doubtful, to say the least, that in our day and age the President of the United States would send his daughter to work in the home of the Gadol Hador!
What caused Par'oh to make such a remarkable statement? The Torah recounts the amazing events that led up to Par'oh's declaration. Due to a famine in the land of Cana'an, Avraham traveled with his wife Sarah to Egypt - the land of plenty. Upon beholding Sarah's beauty, the Egyptians seized her for they felt she would be an appropriate wife for Par'oh. As a result, Hashem brought terrible afflictions upon Par'oh and his family. The Ramban explains that Par'oh contemplated the cause of his suffering until he came to the realization that it was due to the abduction of Sarah. Hence, he scolded Avraham, "Why didn't you tell me that she was your wife?" Par'oh fulfilled Chazal's dictum, "When one begins to suffer he should examine his actions [to determine the cause of his suffering]."
The Mashgiach adds that we are a little too lax in examining our actions. When one catches a cold or virus he immediately attributes it to some phenomenon. Instead he should take a few moments to reflect on what has happened: "Who caused this, and why did it happen?" A minute of introspection might reveal some action that should have been avoided. One can't know for sure if it was that, which was the cause of his suffering, but regardless, it will motivate him to improve in the future.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Every person desires to feel that others take interest in him. Additionally, every person has the ability to display he'aras panim (a glowing countenance) thereby giving others what they so much desire. However, often we are witness to incidents where two people live side by side but without any understanding of one another. They might reside in close physical proximity, but their relationship remains distant and, sometimes, even bitter and full of resentment.
If we were to try to uncover the underlying reason for these feelings, we might discover that the problem lies in that each person is waiting for the other to initiate the relationship. A teacher might be waiting for the student to come forward with his questions and concerns, while the student is waiting for the teacher to reach out to him. This is true with regard to any relationship between two people. Each one thinks there is something causing the other to refrain from nurturing the relationship; the days go by and the chasm between them widens. In truth, all that is lacking is the realization that it is incumbent on each and every person to display he'aras panim, and not ignore the people around him.
How great are our Sages whom encapsulated this idea in a mere few words: "You should [be the one to] initiate a greeting to every person" (Avos 4, 16). One who answers his friend's greeting has acted out of derech eretz, while one who initiates the greeting has brightened another's day. A few well placed words contain an awesome power. Even a mere smile has the ability to light up another's day. Watch a baby who is sensitive to the looks on the faces of people he encounters. When a baby encounters a person who is smiling his face lights up and he gurgles excitedly, however, encountering a frown would immediately cause him to cry. Who knows what is more important for the proper development of a child – the nourishment in the form of food or the nourishment given through the he'aras panim shown to him? One thing is certain: a child that grows up without any he'aras panim is like a plant that grows without any sunlight. There is no possibility that he will be emotionally healthy.
Smile at your neighbor, friend, spouse or colleague. You might very well affect his day in a way you never would have believed. It will also give him the impetus to smile at the next one, causing a chain reaction that will make the world a better place.
Rav Wolbe answers (Ma'amerei Yemei Ratzon pg.273), with an insight from Rav Yeruchom Levovitz zt"l. He explains that the practice of flattering wicked people stems from an internal drive to look to find favor in everyone's eyes. Even if one were to meet a deranged person, he would hope to make a favorable impression during his encounter. Moreover, if there were somebody - even on the other side of the world - who doesn't view him in a favorable manner, he would endure sleepless nights and go to great lengths to rectify the situation. Therefore, when Bnei Yisroel passed through the idol worshipping nations, they too wished to find favor in the eyes of their neighbors. What better way could there be to find favor in their eyes than to worship their gods?
Rav Wolbe continues, explaining that this is the force that pushes people to run after the newest styles and fads, even if they were concocted by foolish people, so that they not be looked down upon by their colleagues and peers. This is a drive which can potentially be very dangerous. It can cause one who feels that others ridicule his religious observance, to disregard mitzvos or halachos for fear of becoming an object of derision.
Halacha mandates that someone who wishes to convert must be told, "Don't you know that currently Bnei Yisroel are scorned and mocked?" If he answers, "I know and I'm not worthy" he is accepted immediately, for such a person is a righteous convert. He recognizes the penimius of Bnei Yisroel and acknowledges that it is worthwhile to pursue his goal, despite any scorn he might endure.
No one wishes to be perceived as a fool. However, our Sages tell us that it is better for one to be considered a fool in the eyes of the world his entire life, than to be considered a fool for even one moment in the eyes of Hashem! Styles and fashions, newspapers and songs that are antithetical to Torah values, have no place in our homes and offices. The drive to be "one of them" is there, but it could, G-d forbid, bring disaster in its wake. It has the ability to cause one to neglect Torah laws and we must nip it in the bud lest this drive gets out of hand.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Rav Wolbe explains (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 314) that for one to fulfill his obligation, he must mention both Hashem and His Kingship in every single bracha. Moreover, if he said "Melech" - the King, but left out the word "ha'olam" - of the world, he has also not fulfilled his obligation, for a king without a kingdom cannot be considered a king. Therefore, every single blessing contains recognition of the Heavenly Kingship. Additionally, many brachos continue, "the Creator of " which gives us another opportunity to strengthen our emunah with the knowledge that He is the One Who created the universe and all it contains. If a person would reflect on the blessings instead of blurting them out of his mouth, one hundred blessings a day would be a more than sufficient means of bringing him to yiras shamayim.