Tuesday, September 7, 2010

241 - Rosh Hashana

Rav Yisroel Salanter said that the way to ensure that one is signed and sealed for life on Rosh Hashana, is to be a person that is needed by many people. Since this person plays such a pivotal role in this world, Hashem will make certain that he continues to dwell amongst those people who need him.

Rav Wolbe writes (Alei Shur vol II pg. 424) that when one lives a Torah true life and observes his brethren who have not sampled the beauty of such a lifestyle, surely his heart will go out to them with a desire to bring them closer to Hashem and His Torah. If a person would see a man lying in the street immersed in blood from his wounds, he would certainly run to attempt to save his life. If so, when we see thousands that are dying from spiritual starvation, how can we not try to save as many of them as possible?

We can't just serve Hashem in our little corner and block out the rest of the world. If we have tasted some of the sweetness of Torah, we must share it with others who have not yet been worthy. This is one way to gain the title of a person needed by others, and ensure a sweet new year.

There is always someone out there that knows less than you about Yiddishkeit and could gain immensely form your knowledge. A Shabbos invitation, a telephone call (e.g. Partners in Torah), or a sincere inquiry as to his wellbeing can not only make an indelible impression on another Jew; it can ensure one that he will inscribed in the book of life for the year to come!

Kesiva V'Chasima Tova!

240 - Nitzavim-Vayeilech

"Life and death I have placed before you - blessings and curses - and you shall choose life" (Devarim 30, 19). The most elementary aspect of bechira (free will) is that people have the ability to choose not to sin, thereby saving themselves from death in this world and the next.

Rav Wolbe writes (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 41) that there have been various different apostasies throughout the generations. However, our generation has reached an all time low of apostasy. We don't even believe that we have free will. Courts of law absolve murderers from responsibility for their crimes because of psychological disorders and the like. We have absorbed some of this mentality and many of us believe that we are compelled to sin. Do we believe that it is possible to live from Yom Kippur to Yom Kippur, or even one single day, without sinning?

We must realize that we are responsible for our actions, and ultimately it is we and only we that will have to answer for them. Integrating this idea can aid us in our avodas Hashem, since the very knowledge that one has the ability to choose to uphold the Torah, gives a person the strength to overcome his yetzer hara when temptation knocks on his door.

239 - Ki Savo

In conjunction with the covenant that Bnei Yisroel would make with Hashem to perform the commandments of the Torah, Moshe tells Bnei Yisroel the following: "Haskeis U'shema Yisroel, today you have become a nation to Hashem your G-d and you shall heed the voice of Hashem" (Devarim 27, 9-10). The Sforno explains, "'Haskeis' - picture in your mind, 'U'shema' - and contemplate, 'And you shall heed the voice of Hashem' - when you picture this and understand it, then you will undoubtedly heed the voice of Hashem."

Rav Wolbe (Alei Shur vol. II pg. 274) writes that according to the Sforno the Torah is revealing to us that picturing Torah concepts can aid us in our fulfillment of the mitzvos. For example, we are commanded on Pesach to perceive ourselves as if we left Egypt. This includes conjuring up a picture of this momentous occasion. We should imagine the pillar of fire that illuminated the area, the awesome procession lead by Moshe and Aharon - each family surrounded by ninety donkeys laden with bounty - all marching out of Mitzrayim in an incredible display of Hashem's might. The same concept applies to the commandment not to forget the revelation at Har Sinai.

Picturing these events that defied all the laws of nature is not merely a fulfillment of a specific mitzvah; it is an essential part of our emunah. One's emunah in Yetzias Mitzrayim and his belief that the Torah came from Hashem, is not complete until he has depicted and contemplated these occurrences in his mind. Conjuring up a picture gives life to these events of the past, and this simulated experience can make an indelible impression on a person's life.

This is an activity that can be performed anytime and anywhere. Picture the Bais Hamikdosh, Akeidas Yitzchok, Yetzias Mitzrayim, Har Sinai, or any of the numerous momentous occasions in our rich history. Take a few minutes to let your imagination draw as many details as possible. The more time invested, the more real the event becomes. This is a simple exercise than can not only strengthen one's emunah, but hopefully aid one's preparation for Rosh Hashana. A true "picture" of Hashem as The King over the entire world will make it easier to accept the yoke of Hashem upon himself.