Shana Tova U Metukah – A Good and Sweet Year

The way something starts sets the tone for the continuation. Thus we make signs to eat in the Rosh Hashana Seder.

Once someone proposed a shidduch- match to a young bachur – Torah learner. He said – “ask me after Rosh Hashana – the new year. Because I didn’t pray to Hashem for a good shidduch last Rosh Hashana. I will pray on the new year so the prayer will be fulfilled and have an effect on the shidduch. “

Shana Tova.

How does G-d Forgive? Is G-d Fickle?

Mount Sinai?

Why are people Fickle? Apparently they want to make the best decision. Thus they search for more information. When they find it, they change their mind. It could be new information that changes their decision- it could be a whim, a mood change. OK. But said and done – apparently if they have all the information at their disposal- that will help them make their decision.

A person might encounter new information that alters their direction in life. This information was not before them – is that considered fickle? They made the best decision. Now they have another variable to deal with.

G-d has all information before him. He knows all past , present and future- thus he doesn’t change his mind.

Two things you can derive –

1. A person who follows a religion that says G-d gave the Torah to the Jews and then changed his mind – by choosing another people or – nullifying what He expects them to do (ie, nullified the responsibility to follow the commandments He gave at Mount Sinai) – must answer the question “Am I following a religion that assumes G-d is fickle?”

The Torah Stance : G-d in making the Torah commandments had all information at His disposal when He made the commandments of the Torah. He knew some people could follow all 613 commandments – and gave them for the Jewish nation. He gave 7 commandments (which are really 30) to people who can’t commit to doing the 613 – the 7 Noahide laws for all non-Jews / gentiles to follow.

A gentile can decide to become Jewish and then follow the 613 Laws. A Jew cannot relinquish their commandments. When each reaches the next world – Heaven – they will be judged based upon their respective laws. Based upon observing these laws – they with receive a portion in Heaven.

2 – How can G-d forgive if he doesn’t change his mind? When a person repents / does Teshuvah for not having followed in the pleasant path of the Torah – he or she is changing themselves. Thus they are not the same person as they were before Teshuvah. Now Hashem takes this information into account and forgives them.

G-d loves those that return to His path.

The Man who Converted to Judaism because of Shoes

I was speaking with a friend. He said people commented to him that they would observe Torah Judaism (a better name for Orthodox Judaism) if there weren’t as many prohibitions. He told them “But look at all the things you can do!”

I told him it’s much more than that. It’s that by doing Mitzvot you improve your world tremendously. By doing Shabbat – one person will say – I can’t do it. I can’t drive.. I can’t go shopping. I can’t light a fire. I can’t use the phone, internet, other media and electronic games

But really, by not doing all those things you are guided to spend time with your friends and family. you are guided to focus on priorities in life. After 120 years, when a person is about to die he or she will not say, it is too bad I should have shopped more. They will say it’s too bad I would have liked to spend more time with loved ones.

Doing Mitzvot you change the world for the good. You have more meaning for every mitzvah that you do. Every mitzvah is an opportunity to improve. it’s a beracha – blessing.

A religion or movement that tries to reduce the commandments from people is completely missing the point. Every mitzvah is an opportunity to connect in a meaningful way with others and with Hashem. why do I want to limit connection?

A man converted to Judaism. Asked “why?” – he responded “there is a mitzvah – commandment (rabbinical ) to tie your shoes a particular way. I wanted to be in a religion that G-d is with me even agent I tie my shoes.”

Your Personal Messages from G-d

G-d communicates with us daily. We just have to understand His messages.

When in Israel, someone asked me for a donation. I checked my pockets – no change to be found. I wanted to give. He then said to me in Hebrew “Yesh Bo Mamash.” There is something there. In Hebrew – the word “Mamash” is spelled Mem-Mem-Shin. Those are my Hebrew initials. Apparently he didn’t know that. He was telling me there was money in my pocket.

I thought of the message – perhaps Hash-m was telling me – You have capabilities – Mamash.

So I took the statement – that may have offended others in the positive way.

If you listen to the messages and hear what happens to you daily – you can understand where Hash-m wants to guide you or test you.

If someone asks you for a donation – it might mean that you need a kapara / an atonement or a zechut / merit. Or perhaps G-d simply wants you to give you an opportunity to do a mitzvah.

In Morocco – once a rabbi saw a person with a sign of death on his face. He went up to him to ask him for Charity. Charity saves from death. He pleaded with him to give charity to save him. I don’t think he gave in the end. I don’t know the rest of the story.

Even if you pass a person talking with a friend and you over hear them saying “Your friend is so generous.” It might be a message for you – either in the positive way – that you are also generous – or perhaps you should work on your generosity.

The other day a rabbi told me a story. He said that someone told him that people should be more generous in giving blessings to others. He said he took it to heart. He was sitting at someones house – and children were kind of looking for attention and running around him. A bit annoyed – instead of screaming at them – he shouted “Zei Gezunt!” “Be Healthy” in Yiddish. The children continued running around him and started also yelling “Zei Gezunt.”

I took it as a message that perhaps I should be more flowing with blessings and positivity and compliments.

The Intelligent Design Test

Intelligent Design is a concept that says If you look at the world – it seems that it was formed with Intelligent Design.

That is the statement. The Repercussion – that G-d created the world.

Some are fighting it. They would rather accept the illogical than to accept logic.

Let’s examine Intelligent Design.

Does the world have order? Yes.
Example : The Animal kingdom, the Plant kingdom.

Does the world have structure? Yes.
Example the Sun comes out every day due to the Earth revolving on its axis. The moon revolves around the earth.

Does the world have movement? Yes.
People move. Animals Move. Plants move.

Does the world have growth? Yes.
Animals grow. Plants grow.

Does the world have function? Yes.
The sun functions to provide light and vitamin D to plants. The rain Irrigates the world.

Does the world have interaction between parts? Yes.
The Human body systems interact together.

Does the world have interaction between different beings? Yes.
Males and Females – though are two different types of beings – interact together to be able to reproduce.

Does it Have interaction of weather systems? Yes.
Evaporation brings water to form clouds. Wind pushes clouds. Rain drops water on land.

Does the world Have Reproduction? Yes.
Animals, Humans, Fish, Birds all reproduce.

Does the world have Prediction? Yes.
One can predict that something will happen. You can predict where the sun will be at a certain time during the day.

Does the world have regularity? Yes.
The earth rotates around its axis every 24 hours.

Does the world have a food chain? Yes.
Fish eat plants. Bigger fish eat smaller fish.

Does the world have systems? Yes.
In a human and animals – There is the circulatory system, the nervous system, the digestive system, the endocrine system, the skeleton system.

Does the world have continuity? Yes.
One plant or animal will help to create another of its species.

Does it have stored information? Yes.
DNA stores information about creatures.

Does it have laws of nature? Yes.
Gravity will pull an object to the ground at a certain rate.

Does it have design? Yes.
Trees look alike. Humans look alike. Similar Animals look alike.

Does it have intelligence? Yes.
Birds can build nests. Ants store food.

Does it have Diversity? Yes.
No two people have the same fingerprints or DNA.

Does it Have relationships? Yes.
Parents care for their children.

Does it have families? Yes.
Families live together to help the group survive.

Does it have Music? Yes.
Birds make music.

Are their heavenly bodies? Yes.
Stars, planets, meteorites, asteroids.

Does it have speech? Yes.
Humans can speak to each other.

Does it have communication between beings? Yes.
Animals communicate in various ways with one another.

Does it have energy? Yes.
Fire, electricity, nuclear energy.

Does it have Building Blocks? Yes.
Atoms are building blocks of elements and molecules. Molecules are building blocks of matter. Cells are building blocks of living beings.

Does it have microsystems and macrosystems?
See Nuclear physics and microbiology. See astronomy and earth science.

Does it Have Logic? Yes.
A tree that is watered grows. A ball that is thrown flies.

Does it have kindness? Yes.
All animals are fed on a daily basis.

Wisdom & the Menorah

The Meiri / commentator on Mishna and other Rishonim / First Rabbis  say that the Beit Hamikdash’ / Holy Temple Menorah’s seven lights represent the seven wisdoms. The Rishonim classify them as follows:

1) Tevunah, the ability to understand and draw conclusions.

2) The knowledge of nature – in subjects like chemistry and physics.

3) The knowledge of the soul – or as Rav Aharon puts it, the study of psychology.

4) The knowledge of biology

5) Music

6) Metaphysics… (philosophy)  and

7) The knowledge of Torah …. which is the most significant branch.

All the lights of the Menorah pointed to the center branch representing Torah. Torah encompasses all wisdoms. Torah is Hash-m’s word and the ethics of the world. Intelligence is possible without Ethics. The menorah teaches – intelligence without ethics – can destroy a society or a person. The Roman empire fell due to its decadence.

Given the above: Does that show Intelligent Design or not?

I came up with a new law of Intelligent Design:

Any thing that has any of the following – order, structure, movement, growth, function, interaction between parts, interaction between different beings, interaction of micro or macro systems, Reproduction, Prediction, regularity, a food chain, systems, continuity, stored information, laws of nature, design, intelligence, Diversity, relationships, families, Music, heavenly bodies, speech, communication between beings, energy, Building Blocks, microsystems and macrosystems, Logic, kindness – necessitates Intelligent Design.

or to make it simple – here is one question:

What Takes More Intelligence to Make –  Eyeglasses or an Eyeball?
– a hearing aid or an ear?
a dialyzer – or kidneys?

If you take the logic further you can come to the conclusion that Torah is the true law of the world with 4 questions.

in any case

Once a secular cab driver in Israel wanted to chide a religious Jewish passenger. He wanted to show the superiority of human intelligence. He showed him his watch- “Do you see this watch – imagine how superior is the intelligence of man – that he made a watch that only loses one second every thousand years!” Unfazed the religious Jewish passenger responded – “Imagine the intelligence of the Being that created man that was able to create such a watch!”

Your Purpose in Life – How to Find It

Rabbi Hanania ben Akashia says “The Holy  One – Blessed be He – wanted to give merit to Yisrael – therefor he increased the Torah & Mitzvot – as it says “Hashem – because of his Righteousness – increased the Torah and made it mighty.” (Pirkei Avot 6:11)

רבי חנניא בן עקשיא אומר רצה הקב”ה לזכות את ישראל לפיכך הרבה להם תורה וכו’

Some explain this as – G-d wanted a person to observe more mitzvot so he gave them a greater quantity of Mitzvot. The Rambam – Maimonides explains – that G-d gave a person a greater choice so that they could choose one mitzvah to do with the best quality.

If one does one Mitzvah to perfection – he or she will be able to receive a portion in Olam HaBa / the World to come.

Rav Shaked Bohdana explained in a Shiur / lesson that the key word is “Meyamay” / in all my days. In the Talmud – we have Kimchit that had 7 Chief Kohens . Cohen Gadol serve in the Beit HaMikdash / the Holy Temple. What was her merit? She responded “In all her days she never let the wallls of her house see her hair uncovered.” (Talmud Yoma / 47a) Meaning she was exemplary in the trait of being modest / Tzanuah. Rabbi Hanan

Rabbi Adda bar Ahava lived long. The sages asked what was your merit that you have long life? He responded In all my days I was never never angry in my household and I never walked in front of a sage that was greater than me. (Talmud Yoma / 47a)

Rav Bohdana mentioned that doing a good need regularly applies not only to a mitzvah from the Torah or From the Sages – but to a good character trait – like we see from Rav Adda bar Ahava.

Consistency is key. When we find a mitzvah that we feel is particularly important – doing it to perfection will give us great merit in this world & reward in the next.

How do we find a mitzvah that we find important? See what good deed or mitzvah or good action that we find important and learn about the details in the Torah and be consistent.

Two small points: One – because we do one mitzvah to perfection – it does not mean that we neglect the other Mitzvot.

Secondly – we should assure that something is a mitzvah from the Torah according to an competent Orthodox Rabbi before we take upon ourselves something that we feel is a Mitzvah. Someone might think giving out cigarettes or encouraging people in a certain way of life is a Mitzvah – it might be just the opposite. Get things clear before you start.

Learning to Give Compliments from a Rabbi

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A New Book by Artscroll Publishers, “Yedidi – Rabbi Shmuel Berkovicz, whose warmth and caring inspired people to strive for greatness by Rabbi Yechiel Spero” is about a Congregation Rabbi that lead with love.

Recently, in the Weekly Mesorah Heritage Foundation’s Torah pamphlet called “AT THE ARTSCROLL SHABBOS TABLE – WEEKLY INSPIRATION AND INSIGHT ADAPTED FROM CLASSIC ARTSCROLL TITLES” Acharei Mos / פרשת אחרי מות / כייט ניסן תשפייב / 5782 / APRIL 30, 2022 / ISSUE #88 – it talks of his all compassing love for others.

Here is a quote I found particularly Helpful in the quest to make others feel good.

It Doesn’t Cost Money
Shlomo Hamelech / King Solomon teaches (Mishlei / Proverbs 25:11), “Tapuchei zahav be’maskiyos kasef davar davur al ofnav” Like golden apples carved on silver plates, so is a word spoken in its proper place.” Rabbi Berkovicz was the master of saying the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. He understood the power of a compliment and did not hold back. No one was too smart or too simple, too old or too young, too chashuv or too insignificant for a compliment from Reb Shmuel. As he always said, “Es kost nisht kein gelt. It doesn’t cost money to make someone feel good!”

The Smart Phone & Tolerance – Where Are You Holding Spiritually?

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In a Beit Midrash / house of Torah study in Brooklyn, someone asked me to use my phone. I said “sure”. When I pulled out a Smartphone – he said “Oh, no thank you.” I wanted to help him but he didn’t want to use a Smartphone – because it is an object of temptation and wasting time. I respected him for that. I now use a flip phone for personal use.

Someone I know stopped using a Smartphone. His rabbi told him to stop. He listened. Once a Jew with a knitted Kippah in Israel asked him to take a picture of him with his smartphone. The young man replied in a nice way “sorry, I try to stay away from smartphones.” The man replied in Hebrew “Ashreicha” / “Happy are you” [meaning that’s a great thing].

Others would not react so kindly. The question is why do we react a particular way to people with higher Torah standard than us? Some react to one who proposed something that is above their standards by accepting, being positively envious and aspiring to also do the same. Others may react by yelling and insulting the person. It happened to me several times.

Can You Handle Truth?

Knowing how we would react to higher Torah standards indicates what spiritual level we are on. Are we envious of people with higher spiritual Torah aspirations in a positive way – by wanting to emulate them now or in the future or envious in a negative sense – by degrading or looking down upon them?

What is Our Level of Spiritual Aspirations?

Torah is truth. Torah is Hash-m’s / G-d’s word. G-d knows all and does only good. We are limited beings. Our objective is to emulate the kindness of G-d. Thus it is important to know where are we holding spiritually. 

So – it is helpful to ask ourselves are we willing to go all out to do the utmost to accept those who have higher Torah standards or are we going to put the others down because we feel uncomfortable that we are not on their level? Or worse – G-d forbid – change what we think the Torah says because we want to feel comfortable?

I once had a conversation with someone in college – a secular Jew. I explained that it is better to accept G-d’s word – the Torah and say – I accept that the Torah is G-d’s word – but I am currently not on the level – than to say I am on the level – and  think of rejecting the Torah or try to change what they think that the Torah says.

It’s a challenge. But this is true Tolerance – to accept the people’s actions – whose actions are on a higher level than yours. That’s true Tolerance. Even greater is wishing & aspiring to also be on that higher level.

On the negative side – Tolerance is not accepting the actions of others that go against Torah. That is decadence. Real Tolerance is being respectful to others regardless of what they do. That does not mean to condone their actions. Hold people accountable for their actions but act respectful when dealing with them.

Deep down a person wants to do good. Every Jew has a spark of the Divinely given soul that wants do do the Will of G-d. The question is how will the situation that causes spiritual cognitive dissonance be expressed emotionally? Positively or negatively. A person can always grow. At times a person can react negatively at first way and after learning the importance of the mitzvah will change and react positively. This happens through learning works of mussar / Jewish Ethics and halacha / Jewish Law.

The Torah is the divine work that G-d / Hash-m gave the Jews to become closer to Him. A person who wants to become closer to Hash-m tries to find ways to become closer – by accepting Mitzvot. Even greater is trying to bring other’s closer to Hash-m. Like it says in Pirkei Avot  / Ethics of the Fathers 1:12

“Love Peace & Pursue Peace – Love the creations and draw them closer to Torah.”

In the Sefer / Book “Or La’amim / A Light unto the Nations” (p. 17) Rabbi Yoel Schwartz explains Bringing people closer to Torah & Hashem is a Mitzvah D’Oraita (A Torah Based Commandment). He brings accountability of Jewish people to teach the 7 Noahide commandments to all people in  Midrash Vayikra Rabba 6:5 (on Leviticus 5:1 & Deut 4:39) and the Positive Commandment to do so in Rambam (Maimonides) in his “Book of Commandments” (Positive Comandment 3) quoting Sifri Devarim 32:2

explaining the Verse in the Shema Yisrael:

You are to love Adonoy, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your possessions. (Devarim / Deut 6:5)

 

“We have already explained that this commandment (love of Hash-m/ G-d (Devarim 6:5)) involves calling upon all mankind to worship Him and to believe in Him”

Pursue & Practice Pleasantness

It’s a challenge to always be nice and pleasant.

I feel you can say almost anything to a person in a nice way. I try – but it doesn’t always work. So how can one learn?

Emotions get in the way. One first step is getting control of one’s emotions.My rebbi used to say a person’s mind should control their heart not the other way around.

Another is practice talking nicely and weighing one’s words.

Another is learning works of mussar / Jewish ethics – like Duties of the Heart (Chovos ha-Levavos R Bachya ben Joseph ibn Paquda) and Pirkei Avot.

Duties of the Heart – talks about how a Jewish person is to act, feel, think. It is a good start.

In the introduction to the Sefer / Book we read:

Inward service, however, consists of the fulfillment of the Duties of the Heart such as: to acknowledge the Unity of G-d in our hearts, believe in Him and His torah, to undertake His service, that we revere Him and humble ourselves before Him, that we love Him, trust in Him, and give over our lives to Him, that we abstain from what He hates, devote our actions to His Name, that we reflect on the benefits He bestows, and similar things which are performed by the thoughts and sentiments of the heart but do not associate with activity of the visible limbs of the body.

Belief & Trust in G-d is also an important aspect of being pleasant. When a person believes in G-d – knowing that all that comes from Him is for the good – his or her reactions are different than one who lacks trust. A person who trusts Hash-m will understand that all that happens is for the good. Keeping that in mind at all times is a challenge. To do so one can read books like the series “Living Emuna – Living a daily life of Trust in Hashem” By Rabbi David Ashear illuminates practical stories of how simple people who trusted Hash-m were able to overcome many difficulties.

Practice smiling.

Practice connecting.

Become better every day.

Gaining Emuna in Hash-m / G-d

Faith / Emuna in G-d takes time. A person lives a more fulfilling life with Hash-m than without. He or she sees the hand of G-d. He or She is never alone. They always have Hash-m to turn to for problems, concerns or prayer.

A great book on the subject is “Living Emuna” by Rabbi David Ashear. He tells stories and gives Torah guidance on how to gain emuna.

I was recently listening to a Shiur / Lecture on the subject by Rabbi David Ichay in French. He told the following story:

Once someone asked the Hazon Ish – a Great Sage of the past generation – how can one gain emuna. He said “When you go out to buy shoes – ask Hash-m to help you find the right store. Ask Him to help you find the right pair. Ask Him to help them to have your size.” As Jews we don’t just turn to G-d when we are in desparate need – but even for the small matters as well. This is how we build belief – this is how we build a relationship.

If we put our trust in Hash-m we can overcome any concern.