Gratitude to the One Who Gives

This week’s parasha – Ki Tavo – talks of the first fruits / Bikurim. Farmers bring the first fruits that blossom – of the 7 species special to Eretz Yisrael / the Land of Israel – to the Beit HaMikdash / the Holy Temple in Yerushalayim / Jerusalem.

He says a text and he gives the fruits to the Cohen. The rich people who would bring fancy baskets of gold and silver – the Cohen would return the basket. Yet the Cohen would not return the baskets – made of reeds – of the poor people. Why?

  1. The poor people worked hard to make the basket – Hash-m appreciates the hard work of the common man for a Mitzvah.
  2. The poor people – may have put the best fruits on top and the lesser quality fruits on the bottom – thus we didn’t want to embarrass him by taking out the fruits.
  3. The Cohen was sending a message that I’ll take this basket – so that, with the help of G-d – you will return next year with a gold basket.

The Mitzvah of first fruits is to show that all that we have we owe our first and foremost gratitude to Hash-m. We also do the redemption of first born boys and first born animals showing our gratitude that all we have is a Gift from G-d.

Is “the L-rd” the L-rd?

Joe ate the sandwich.

A Simple sentence.

The editor edits it – “The person ate the sandwich”

Who ate the Sandwich?

OK. What’s the difference?

Before the sentence is edited – we know who ate the sandwich. After it is edited – we do not know who ate the sandwich.

The Proper Translation of the Five Books of Moses

I don’t know if “editors” or “translators” changed the proper noun of “Hash-m” to the common noun of “the L-rd” on purpose – to mislead people or to refrain from mentioning the true name of G-d because it is forbidden – but that’s what they did to The Torah / the Five Books of Moses. In many translations or editions of the Five Books of Moses / Humash it says “And the L-rd spoke to Moses Saying.”

That is not an accurate translation – in the Hebrew it says “Vayomer ‘Hash-m’ el Moshe Lemor.” Hash-m Does not mean the L-rd. The Word Hash-m replaces the actual name of G-d. Since we are not allowed to use the name of G-d we use Hash-m.

Hash-m refers to a the Name of the Jewish G-d.

It should say “And Hash-m spoke to Moses Saying.”

What is the difference?

When it says “the L-rd” people think it is a generic name of G-d – so anyone can be misled to believe that it is the god of their choice.

But really it says “Hash-m” – the Name of the Jewish G-d.

Some more recent translations of the Humash / 5 Books of Moses accurately translate Hash-m’s name properly. One such edition is The Artscroll Stone Chumash.

Removing the Wool from the Eyes

In the entire Tanach / Torah – 5 Books of Moses, Neviim – Prophets, Ketuvim – Witings – Only Hash-m – the Jewish G-d – is mentioned as G-d of the Universe.

There is No Coincidence Unless … You Believe in Coincidence or G-d’s Daily Providence

As the Joke Goes: A guy is running late to an interview in Manhattan. He’s looking for parking. He prays to G-d : “Hash-m – please help me find a parking space. If you do I will start keeping Shabbat, putting on Tephillin regularly, and keeping Kosher. He turns the corner and right in front of his appointment site – he finds a parking space. He declares “What a Coincidence!”

G-d’s Individual Supervision

Hashgacha Pratit is Individual Supervision. For certain individuals – who believe in Hash-m’s Providence – He will guide the situation. If not He will leave the situation to “chance” – rather let things be guided without His help. Bar Kochba was a great warrior. He believed in Hash-m. He won battles consistently. Rabbi Akiva thought that he was Mashiach / Messiah. He asked Hash-m to “step aside” and let him take care of his battles. He was killed soon afterward.

The Divine Matchmaker

Once a Noble Woman asked a Rabbi – after G-d has created the world – what is G-d doing? He replied he is matching couples. The woman said – that’s all? I can do the same thing. She took 1000 menservants and maidservants and married them together. After the Marriage – they came back to her complaining – one had a broken arm, one a black eye, each with another wound. She told the Rabbi – “Your G-d is truly superior.”

Rabbi Michael Toledano of Ohr Baruch Yeshiva in Yerusalayim explained – “It is not just that G-d is matching couples for marriage. Hash-m is matching a person with a toothache with the right dentist, a building contractor with someone who needs a house, etc. That is the meaning of Mezaveg Zivugim / matching couples.”

If one prays to Hash-m – Hash-m will help. If One believes in Hash-m’s providence He will help. One who does not – He leaves to the hands of “chance.”

Hearing G-d’s Messages

Emmanuel AssarafTo see and understand G-d’s providence we are to be observant to the daily messages he sends us. About a Month ago – my cousin Emmanuel passed away in Florida at the ripe age of 28. He was a kind, smiling, soft-spoken soul.

I feel a bit guilty that I should have reached out to him more. I should have learned Torah with him. If I did perhaps  he would have had the merit to live longer. I regret my indolence towards him. He was a good person.

But with all my other activities it slipped my mind. But G-d apparently did send me messages. I looked on my Talit and Tefillin bag today. I noticed on the tag the name of the artist who made it – embroidered there was “Emanuel”. I didn’t pay attention to that detail. I didn’t make the connection that it should have reminded me of my cousin – perhaps to reach out to him.

I regret. What now? Let’s learn to reach out the people we can help.

Emmanuel in Hebrew means “G-d is with us.” Let’s also learn Hash-m is with us.

G-d Wants the Heart

Once a man was doing the Pesach / Passover Seder. He got everything ready in advance. The night of Pesach he donned his nice garments. He started well in advance and started doing the Seder nice and slow – telling the Hagaddah, singing, drinking the wine, eating the matzot and finished eating the Afikomen right before Hatzot / Midnight.

He was smug and proud about the beautiful seder he did.

The next night of Pesach he took a nap before the seder. He woke up with little time before Hatzot. He had to conduct the entire seder in a short amount of time. Quickly he read the Haggadah, drank the wine and ate Matzot – finishing just in time before Hatzot.

He was a bit upset about how he conducted the second seder. He had a dream – telling him – that his second seder was more beloved than the first. Since he did the second seder with sincerity, humility – it was preferred.

Hash-m / G-d wants the heart.

Do it right. Do it with sincerity.

 

Believe It and Receive It

Believe it will be good and it will be good. If you believe something will be good – Hash-m / G-d will make it good.

Once Hillel Heard yelling from a house in the street. He said to a fellow “I know this is screaming not from my house.” He knew because he taught his household not to scream. But another proposed answer is that Hillel knew everything would be good – so he knew the yelling was not coming from his home.

Hash-m watches people as would a parent. Once I saw a Jewish person filling his tires with air at a Gas Station. I gave Him a card that says “Ein O’d Mile’vado” / There is Only Hash-m. He was astounded. He told me “Thank You. That is my motto in life. Don’t Just give out the card – Live it!”

The way that one wants to go – Hash-m brings him. Live your life a certain way – they will help you in heaven to go in that path. A thief that prays to be successful in his theft will be helped. Though, obviously he will be punished for the theft.

Thus – a person might be led in a path – because he wants to be lead that way. Thus a proper prayer is to ask Hash-m to guide him in the path of Truth. And search for Truth.

Don’t Just Thank G-d – Do This Too

Weekly we read a new Torah portion / parasha at the synagogue. In parasha Be’haalotecha – Hash-m commands Aharon to light the Menora.

He says : “Speak to Aharon, and say to him; When you light (literally: ascend) the lamps towards the face of the Menorah shall the seven lamps cast [their] light.” (Bamidbar / Numbers 8:2)

Ki Ner Mitzvah ve Torah Or / A Candle is a Mitzvah & Torah is Light. Many Torah commentators explain the Menorah’s significance and what it symbolizes. Some say the 7 branches represent the 7 types of wisdom. Some say that it represents the 7 days of the week. The center being Shabbat. It is possible to explain when one sanctifies the Shabbat – (the face of the Menorah was the center lamp) – the 7 lamps shall cast their lights. When one observes the shabbat – the entire week takes on new holliness and light. The observance of Shabbat gives sanctification for the rest of the week allowing a person greater success.

Another interpretation is that – When you ascend to do the Mitzvot / commandments – you shall bring in Holiness 7 days a week. Our attachment to Hash-m / spirituality is really experienced when we are immersed 7 days a week in Torah and mitzvot. When a person is immersed in Torah 7 days a week then they see the light. They see the light of Torah. They see light in their lives. They see the blessing. When people observe Torah as a nice tradition – when convenient – they do not necessarily experience that light. Thus is why many Jews seek other philosophies – they never sought to immerse themselves in Torah & Mitzvah observance completely – 7 days a week. They didn’t feel the closeness to Hash-m – because Judaism was treated as a nice pastime – rather than life itself.

Part of feeling the Spirituality / Closeness to Hash-m of Judaism is being thankful every moment for the good in one’s life. People get depressed because they see the difficulties, the lackings – the Torah says be thankful for what you have. Do not envy. Look at the half full cup as completely full.

When we have good in our lives – let’s be thankful for every single thing.

When we thank G-d – He sees we appreciate our blessings and provides us with more. But we should ask for more after thanking G-d – to continue giving us the blessing or to give us more.

We learn this from Leah – our Matriarch. When she had Yehuda – which means “I will thank” – she stopped having children for a period. Why? Because sometimes thank you may mean “No Thank You” or “Thank you – that is enough”. Thus when we do thank Hash-m – don’t just express your appreciation – ask for more.

But feeling thankful also entails feeling indebted to the person. Many will go out of their way to help others who did them a favor in the past. This feeling of gratitude – should help to motivate us to do more good, do more Mitzvot, to learn more Torah & to reciprocate the good that we received from Hash-m to our fellows.

What Messages is G-d Sending with the Corona Virus?

Many years ago, I was a traditional Jew. What seemed a nice in Judaism to do – I would do. What didn’t fit into my lifestyle, I put aside. I would eat Kosher inside the house, but eat non-Kosher outside – when I went out with friends. I ate the Shabbat meal with family, but would go to see movies afterwards. I observed Judaism because of tradition.

I kept falling. Disregarding Torah & Mitzvot. Not because I was against it. I loved Judaism – but to me it was a nice tradition. In my descent from Judaism – G-d sent me a wake-up call – sufferings. One of my main concerns as a growing teen was – to be popular. This wake-up call taught me there is more to life than to win the popularity contest.

The sufferings made me introspective. I asked – “Why is G-d doing this to me? I am basically a good person.” I was. But I did have my areas to improve.

I decided that my quest of being popular had to take a back seat to being a good human being. I re-thought out my philosophy of life. I thought that G-d had a plan for me and I had to follow His rules rather than the path of popularity. In retrospect – the difficulties I suffered – were well worth what I gained.

The Corona Virus is an ailment that much of world fears. Millions of messages are sent daily – how to avoid it. But the person who wants to go to the root of the problem will ask not only – “How do I avoid it?” but “What does G-d want from me?”

G-d is in control of what happens to each individual in the world. He decides based upon the individuals actions. This – in Judaism – is called Middah Keneged Middah – measure for measure. The way a person acts towards others will come back to him or her. Act kind. Kindness will return to you. It also works for acting negatively.

We all have things to improve. Perhaps we must work on our anger or our generosity or our attitude towards others or our observance of Torah and Mitzvot. Most know what they have to work on to become a better individual. If we don’t we can study the works of Mussar / Jewish Ethics – Like Mesilat Yesharim – the Path of the Just, Pirkei Avot – the Ethics of the Fathers.

It seems with the Corona Virus – Hash-m / G-d is sending a message to each person. Define and refine yourself. It seems that fittest – in good qualities – will survive. Is changing one’s philosophy to follow the will of G-d worth it? It’s a much better bet than to wear a mask.

We are today in the messianic times. The Book of Zecharia talks about the Messainic times. It is interesting that in the 2nd Chapter of Zecharia it mentions that four “horns” are going to gore the world. A horn in Hebrew is the same word used for a Crown – Keren. In plural they ar caled carnot. (sounds like Corona). The Radak mentions that the world will be punished for Being against Israel in History. (ie, the pogroms, persecutions, holocaust, anti-semitism the UN that finds any reason to pass a resolution against Israel). The Commentaries say that the Messiah will come to remedy the situation.

In Zecharia 13:8 it mentions that one-third of the world will survive. Is this talking about Corona Virus? I don’t know – but one thing that is sure – is that it is up to us to take both spiritual and physical precautions – to be saved. On Yom Kippur we say – Teshuva / Repentance, Charity (to worthy Torah Causes) and prayer can save a person. Pray to Hash-m / G-d and He will help.

Grabbing the Light of Hanuka

Candles lit for the eighth night of Hanukkah

Chanuka is great!

What a message! In the darkest of times there is light. Light that starts with the spark of a match. It turns to a flame. The flame lights one light. Then two candles. Until the whole menora is lit.

We experience light and dark every day. Our vision of darkness depends on our faith. Our faith in G-d / Hash-m. There are two aspects 1) believing in a good G-d. (Bitachon) And 2) believing that the Good G-d is doing good for me personally. (Emunah)

This is the light of Chanuka – seeing the light at all times – even when things seem bleak.

Keep Hanukkah in Your Pocket

During Hanuka – we see the light before us. After it is over – we say goodbye till next year. But don’t say goodbye. Take some Chanukah in your pocket. Take some hope. Take the message and keep it in front of you.

It is interesting that Hanuka falls usually during the Parasha / Weekly Torah reading of Miketz. Yosef / Joseph is in the dungeon in Egypt for a crime he did not commit. It has been twelve years since he was thrown in. His family turned against him. He is alone.

His only anchor from being lost in the sea of despair is his faith in G-d / Hash-m.

This suffering – however – transforms him into a new person. Before – he was chattering about the bad his brothers were doing. He was boasting about his dreams of rising to greatness. It was all about “Me”.

In the dungeon he starts seeing the pain of others. Through introspection and repentance he transforms himself into a caring person. By becoming a giver he rises to great heights. Soon after he notices the pain of others he is released. He becomes the viceroy of Egypt. “Hu HaShalit, Hu HaMashbir” He is the ruler – he is the provider. When a person becomes a giver, he or she rises to higher heights.

The Redemption depends upon you

Miketz starts with the verse : “And BEHOLD it was the end of two years [after Yosef interepreted the cupbearer’s dream] and Pharaoh is dreaming” We would expect the Pasuk to say “dreamed” instead of “is dreaming.”

In the 10th year in prison Yosef was supposed to be released and become the viceroy of Egypt. Since he was not ready [he lacked a tiny bit of emuna – faith in Hashem] he stayed 2 more years in prison.

Pharaoh kept dreaming the same dream for 2 years. When Yosef worked on his emuna and bitachon he was redeemed from prison immediately. At times we are supposed to receive good, but are lacking in our emuna or biachon. Improving our bitachon, will help us receive the good destined for us.*

There are three aspects to solving any problem – Prayer, Action and Belief.

The redemption is waiting for us. We must make that little effort to believe in ourselves and believe G-d is doing everything for our good.

The Greeks wanted to remove us from observing Torah learning, Shabbat, Sanctifying the New Month and Circumcision. In essence – they were telling us – you get what ou see. It is only a physical world. We are physical beings. They wanted us to remove Spirituality, believing in Divine Providence and having a relationship with G-d.

The Jews taught the world that there is hope. That G-d is here and to put G-d back into the daily lives of each one of us.

Believe and you will receive.

The Atheist’s Dilemma – There are No Atheists in a Fox Hole

Some people are old enough to remember screen static on old TV screens. When you would turn to a channel that had no broadcast signal – random color dots appeared on the entire screen – accompanied by a loud sound of static noise. You would quickly change channels to avoid the experience.

Now imagine – you are watching static on the screen. All of a sudden a full length movie with sound appears. Everything makes sense – the plot, the story-line, the actors, the shots.

So your friend turns to you and says “Wow! did you see that? All the random static tuned into a full-featured 2 hour movie.” What do you say to him?

Either you agree with him and say he’s a pretty intelligent person – he must know what he is saying? or Do you say – “Excuse me – i just plugged in the broadcast cable!” Just as it is completely illogical for random static to make a full length movie – it is completely illogical that random atoms will form perfect interacting world of order.

If a person thinks logically – he or she can come to the conclusion that G-d exists.

There are two possibilities – Either the World was created by a Super Intelligent Existence or It was formed through random atoms colliding.

The Random Theory

If you say that random atoms formed the world as it is today – you have a list of questions to deal with –

Is it possible for something as complex as DNA to be formed by random?

Where did the atoms come from?

How is movement and growth possible – if random atoms formed the first cell – it would be dead?

Where did the second third – and all the other trillions of cells come from?

Where did the earth come from?

Why is the world made in such a way that it seems to serve man?

Where did the big bang come from?

How is it possible that random growth and random atoms created similar beings found in nature like animals, plants, humans, rocks?

If everything was random how could you have two beings that reproduce with each other. Did random atoms form a male and a female that can interact perfectly together randomly?

I could go on. But there is a limited attention span of people reading articles.

An honest person answering the questions truthfully will come to the conclusion that it is impossible for the world to be formed by random atoms smashing into each other.

If one does believe it is possible – please take a 1,000 piece puzzle. Put it in a Pizza box and shake it. When it forms the completed puzzle please let us know.

Randomness does not create order.

There is tremendous order in the universe.

Believing in G-d

A person believes in G-d also encounters  questions like:

Who created G-d?

Why does evil exist?

Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why do religions – that seemingly represent G-d – commit atrocities?

Did G-d change his mind to form other religions?

if you have any other questions – please feel free to share them with us in the comments.

By the way of all religions only Judaism answers all the above questions satisfactory. But that’s not the Topic today. (Answers in short: No one created G-d. G-d created time; G-d gave man freedom of choice to choose between good and evil; What may appear bad is actually good; People following Judaism did never commit an atrocity sanctioned by the Torah; No. G-d does not change His mind – the Torah’s laws are still in effect – unchanged since they were given 3,300 years ago.)

The Atheist’s Dilemma

A person who wants or does not want to believe in G-d has the following dilemma:

If he or she believes in G-d, they will be expected by G-d to follow rules that might not agree with their lifestyle. So I can live a carefree existence – do what I want without feeling guilt.

If he or she does not believe in G-d, they will live a life devoid of prayer, understanding the reason behind world events, having a connection to a higher power, having a greater to turn to in times of need.

I think lacking a meaningful relationship with G-d – by conforming to the atheist doctrine is greatly more painful than living a life with prudent limits set by G-d.

You decide.

Afro-Sheep – Two Proofs of G-d’s Existence.

A Sheep lost in the forest. He survives on his own. 6 years later they find him – unshorn for all that time. His fleece covers him to the extent of it becoming a walking ball of wool.

He made news and broke some records with almost 40 kg of wool.

Apparently sheep need man. Without man you would have many more afro-sheep.

The question’s that arise are:

1) Was the sheep made for man for him to have nice wool suits and clothing?

2) Or was man created for the sheep – to shear it?

3) Or was there no creation? The sheep came into being by random molecules colliding together.

Proof 1 of G-d’s Existence

Logically and speaking rationally, proposition three is impossible. For it is impossible for random atoms to create a single celled organism – with the complex DNA structure found in a cell. Even more so random atoms cannot create a sheep.

So there must be a creator.

But perhaps you will say man was created to serve the sheep.

We would have to ask 2 other questions to determine – what creature was created for whom.

1) Who gets more benefit from the other – the man or the sheep?

The sheep gets food from man and gets sheared by man.

The man gets wool for warm clothing, carpets, blankets and more. Apparently man gets more benefit from the sheep than vice versa.

2) Who gets more benefit from the world – man or other creatures?

Trees don’t need man. They can live in their forest all their lives – be irrigated by rain – without need of human intervention.

Yet man does need trees – for building homes and other structures from their wood; for getting warmth by burning wood.

Fruits don’t need man. Man needs fruits for nutrition. Fruits and vegetables are the perfect size for man – that a man can hold them in his hand(s) and transport them.

Oil reserves don’t need man. Man needs oil reserves for their cars.

Sound does not need man. Man does need sound to communicate.

The sun does not need man. Man needs the sun for warmth.

You choose your creation and see if it benefits man or if man benefits it more.

Proof 2 – A World made for man was made not randomly happened

Apparently the world was created for man. This can be determined by logic.

If evidence shows that the world is primarily serving man, this points to the existence of a Creator that created man and his surroundings for his benefit

Cute Sheep. Isn’t it?