March, 2010 Archives

27
Mar

The Hated Vegetable: Karpas

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

One of the very few things I liked about the first President Bush was that he openly hated broccolli, or brussel sprouts. It was not politically astute for him to admit to this one normal healthy attribute as it caused all sorts of problems for him with the broccolli growers of the country, but he was forced to acknowledge this one admirable trait.

I have maintained my secret for years, but I now openly admit that I hate broccolli. In fact, I dislike most vegetables. The only vegetable I always enjoy is the potato chip. I stand firmly by my ancestor Adam, who complained to God, “I and my donkey will eat from the same trough!” (Pesachim 118a)

Yet on two nights next week I will eat two, yes, two, vegetables! (I am eternally grateful to God for not making vegetable consumption a more frequent Mitzvah!) I will, as is the Weinberg family custom, eat potatos for Karpas, (my father did not agree with me that we should eat potato chips as karpas; something to do with their becoming soggy in the salt water) and Romaine lettuce with ground horseradish for Marror. The latter is proof positive that eating vegetables is a bitter experience. That’s what it is: I save my vegetable consumption for the occassions when it is a Mitzvah.

What has changed on this night from all other nights? The Mitzvah transforms the simple vegetable into something holy and therefore palatable. Even a simple vegetable can become as holy as an offering on the Altar. Even more special is that it can become a meal.

I once had a guest who had never attended a Seder wonder aloud why we didn’t serve any food for all the long hours we discussed the Haggadah. “We DID eat,” I told him. “Don’t you remeber that small piece of potato that we served three hours ago?”

“That wasn’t a meal,” he responded.

“It is more than a meal for many people. It was certainly a meal for a slave in Egypt.”

“No,” he said, “that was a Mitzvah, not a meal.”

“Why can a Mitzvah not be a meal? Isn’t a Shabbat meal a Mitzvah?”

“I never ate a Shabbat meal as a Mitzvah that I must fulfill. It’s just a meal that happens to be a Mitzvah. How can eating be a Mitzvah?”

“Every time you enjoy food you are enjoying God’s creation. That is the Mitzvah.”

“Then why did you give that long speech about hating vegetables? Aren’t they part of God’s creation?”

I was determined to never invite this man again. Unfortunately, in that sense only, he became my father in law a few years later and I had to invite him again!

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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27
Mar

The Hidden Oasis: Tzafun

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

Ah! The pleasure of it! I couldn’t find a book in which I recalled writing copious notes over the past year. I searched through the entire house, you can call it an early search for Chametz. I found money, important receipts, important phone numbers and other important things, but I did not find the book. The search bore many fruit, but not the one intended. I cannot explain why I looked in my pockets for a book, but the search took on a life of its own. I was beginning to enjoy my discoveries, but I still needed that specific book. I looked through all my bookcases, and although I was thrilled to find numerous other notes and books that I had forgotten, I did not find the book.

I sat down at my desk in a mixture of feelings of the joy of discovery and frustration over the book, when I looked at the top of my desk and the book was right there on the bookstand. It was there all along. I cannot begin to tell you how often I spend a great deal of time looking for things that are right there before my eyes, or, in the case of my glasses, right there on top of my head.

Both the thrill of the search and the idea of finding what is right in front of us are part of the theme of Tzafun, when we eat the Afikoman that was hidden. We celebrate the joyous discoveries of life even when we may not find exactly the thing for which we search. We also rejoice in realizing that some many of the things for which we search are right there before our eyes. Sometimes all we need is a Pesach Seder to make both kinds of discoveries.

“What makes the desert beautiful is that somehwere it hides a well.” Antoine De Saint-Expurey

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Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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24
Mar

Stuff

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Reflections & Observations

The opposites do not wait for Pesach to begin. We will act out the contradiction of freedom and slavery on the seder night, but most of us have already begun playing out the theme of contradictions: We complain about all the cleaning we have to do for Pesach even though we also describe the joy of changing our homes over into Pesach houses. We even love to complain. I think it’s part of the joy of cleaning.

My favorite part of cleaning for Pesach is throwing stuff out into the trash. I look at all the barely used boxes of food and wonder why I ever bought them. With each thing that I toss I realize that I need less and fewer things every year. I measure part of my progress by how much less I have to throw away than I did the previous year.

I find Pesach to be a strong lesson in “Do I really need this?” I have far too many things and they seem like weights bound to my freedom of movement. When I consider how much would I keep if I had to move to a small apartment, I realize that I actually need very little. It’s similar to Matzah, which is just basic flour and water. We don’t even eat Matzah Ashira, “wealthy Matzah”, that has more than just water added to the flour.

Perhaps that is why the Children of Israel had to eat that first Pesach Offering with their belongings packed for a trip: They had to be able to take only what they really needed. They learned that possessions often tie us down and hold us back.

Perhaps this is the explanation of the custom of Ma’ot Chittim:

“There is a custom to purchase wheat to divide among the poor for Pesach. Anyone who dwells in a city for 12 months must contribute to this fund.” (Ramah) The Mishna Berurah comments: This is an ancient custom and is mentioned in the Jerusalem Talmud. (Bava Batra 1) The Magen Avraham rules that the community must provide wheat to any poor person who has lived in the city for twelve months. The Semak rules that we now only require that the poor person have lived in the city for 30 days. The Mishna Berurah quotes the Semak and says, “That although we are not required to provide enough flour for the entire Pesach to a poor person who has only lived in the city for 30 days, we are required to provide food for two meals each weekday and three meals for Shabbat. (See too Y”D 256)

The Mitzvah of Ma’ot Chittim, providing grain for Pesach Matzot is not part of the Mitzvah of charity. It is an entirely different obligation.

The Shulchan Aruch (O”C 460) describes how the Rosh would make a special effort to bake his own Matzot and would encourage others to do the same. There are those who understand the Mitzvah of Ma’ot Chittim as our obligation to provide poor people with the opportunity to bake their own Matzot.

The Gra explains this obligation based on the Talmud (Pesachim) that says, “Just as it is the way for a poor person that he heats up the oven and his wife prepares the dough, here too, the husband heats up the oven and his wife prepares the dough for the Matzah. They perform their tasks simultaneously because they are famished, and thus desire to bake and eat the bread as quickly as possible. (Ran)

Ma’ot Chittim is our way of “being poor” of possessions and allowing the “poor” to have all their food, not as charity, but in their hands so that they can be ready to pick up and move without all the burdens of too much stuff.

So, no more complaining about Pesach cleaning! Imagine that you are becoming increasingly free with each thing you can look at and say, “I don’t really need that.”

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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22
Mar

Me First!

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

There were signs all around the medical lab asking: “Have you seen all the changes we made for your comfort? At _____________ the patient always comes first!” It certainly didn’t feel like I came first. I entered a complex bureaucracy. I first had to register my name. I received an electronic notification device, the same type that you see in The Purple Pear in Monsey. The device beeps and then you can go and file your doctor’s orders and your insurance information. You the return to the waiting area until you can enter the actual lab, where you wait again until it is time for your device to beep and you go to yet another desk to review all the necessary information, such as where you went to school, what was the name of your favorite teacher in 7th grade, and your pet’s weight. The tests began about an hour after I entered the lab where “I come first.” I was miserable long before the actual tests began.

I am certain that the Third Temple will have all the latest electronic devices. I really hope that when I go to bring all the offerings I owe that I will not be faced with such a complicated process. Put it this way: I don’t want to be handed the same type of device that is used at the Purple Pear. I don’t want to feel that I am swallowed up in some complicated bureaucracy.

So, it was with some relief that I realized that the Torah first addressed itself primarily to the people who would bring the offerings in the previous portion, and only begins to address the Kohanim in this week’s portion. The person came first; the bureaucracy second. The Torah stresses the importance of the individual coming for spiritual succor over and above the rules of the bureaucracy.

No lines. Hopefully, no fancy devices. Just me and a Kohen bringing me closer to God.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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18
Mar

The Professional Tzaddik

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

The entire Yeshiva was buzzing with the story. A student had the great privilege to bring a hot tea to the holy rabbi each day after lunch. He did this for five years. One day, when he went to the dining room to get hot water he was frustrated to find the urns empty. He ran to the cook and told him that he immediately needed hot water to make tea for the rabbi. The cook wondered, “Where do you usually get the water for the tea?” “I take it from the urns.” The cook was shocked. The urns were never heated at lunchtime. The student had been bringing cold tea to the great rabbi for five years and the rabbi had not said a word! The cook quickly boiled some water and the student, shamefacedly, offered a truly hot tea to the rabbi. The holy man immediately felt the heat of the glass and smiled; “Ahhh! That’s the way I like it!”

Everyone in the yeshiva was discussing the holiness of this great Tzaddik who did not utter a single word of complaint for five years. Everyone, that is, except for me. The entire story struck me as being ridiculous. The rabbi could have saved himself five years of cold tea by simply saying something the first time. He also would have saved the student from embarrassment. But, I was the only one who was unimpressed.

I went to my father and repeated the story. I asked him why the rabbi would have possibly endured such unnecessary suffering for so long. I can still see his smile as he answered; “He is a professional Tzaddik!” The holy rabbi was role-playing a Tzaddik.

It happens all the time. A prominent rabbi sat in my home and listened with tears in his eyes as I explained how he had hurt some people. He listened. He wasn’t defensive. I could not believe how magnificently he handled the situation. Unfortunately, the next Shabbat it was clear that he had not changed any of his behaviors. He cried in my living room as he listened, but he still did not change. Why???? The image of my father smiling and saying, “He’s a professional Tzaddik,” appeared in my head, and I understood: He did everything he believed a Tzaddik would do. He came to me in great humility. He listened carefully to all I said. He actually cried. Unfortunately, he is not a Tzaddik; he simply knows what he believes a Tzaddik would do, and he could not change. He was playing the role of a Tzaddik, but as my father would say, “A Tzaddik; I know you’re not!”

Role-playing is dangerous. We are not ourselves. We behave how we believe we should rather than naturally. We fool ourselves into believing that we are who we are not.

So why do we perform so much role-playing at the Seder? “In every generation a person must see himself as if he went out of Egypt.” How can we protect ourselves from the dangers of role-playing? Is there a way we can find our true selves in the Seder? Leaving you with a question for the night of questions, I wish you all an expansive Chag of change, growth and self-discovery.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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18
Mar

Come Here!

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations

“There is a God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing.” Blaise Pascal “And God called to Moshe from The Tent of Meeting saying.” Rashi goes to great lengths to describe how God called to Moshe. Calling has been part of our story since the first day of creation: “And the Lord called the light, day.” It does not say that the Lord “named,” but that He “called.” Calling is a summons and a naming. When Moshe heard God’s summons, “Moshe, Moshe,” he simultaneously understood his definition; the purpose of his existence. God’s call meant for Moshe, could only be heard by Moshe. A “call” is as unique as a name. I often wish to hear God’s voice calling to me. I listen for God’s voice because it is the only thing that will fill the vacuum in my heart, the one that thirsts for a sense of the purpose of my existence, my definition as me. I listen for His voice when I study His Torah, but what I hear is only an echo of His voice. But just as with Moshe, the echo is calling me to come closer to God. Author Info: Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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17
Mar

The Voice & Its Sound

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

God’s voice stopped at the entrance to the Tent of Meeting. It seems that what Moshe heard calling to him from the Mishkan was also only an echo. He only heard the actual voice of God when he was inside the Sanctuary. The Voice was able to stop at the entrance to the Mishkan, with the sound reaching all the way to Moshe wherever he was in the camp. There is a difference between the Voice and its sound.

Adam heard the Voice of God walking in the Garden, before God spoke to him. God’s voice has presence. So, I wonder, when God told Kayin “the voice of your brother’s blood is calling to me,” was it too, a voice with a presence, or just the sound, an echo.

When Isaac said, “the voice is the voice of Jacob,” was he describing something with a presence or was Isaac describing the sound?

When the Children of Israel “saw the sounds, or voices,” at Sinai, did they see the actual Voice, or did they see the sound? I imagine that if they were able to see, it must have been the actual Voice, not its sound or echo.

Is there a difference between our voices and their sounds? Have we found our true Voice? Or, do we hear only its sound?

When we ask God to “Hear our voices,” in the 16th blessing of the Amidah, we ask that He hear the voice deep inside our hearts and souls, not just the words. We acknowledge the difference between our voices and their sounds.

How can we learn to use our Voice?

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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16
Mar

Mine!

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“Adam – a man, who wants to bring an offering to draw closer to God,”

Rashi wonders about the choice of the word, Adam rather than Ish. He explains that God is teaching us that “Just as Adam, the primal human being, did not bring an offering from something that was stolen, as everything was his, so too, you should never bring an offering from something stolen.”

But Adam did steal! He ate from the Tree that was not his. Obviously, you will say, that the verse and Rashi are referring to Adam before the sin.

Could be. I don’t think so. There is no mention of a sacrifice. There wasn’t much of an opportunity for him to offer a Korban before the sin.

I suspect that Rashi is referring to Adam AFTER the sin. He only understood how to offer a Korban after the sin and its punishment and consequences:

Rabbi Josef B. Soloveitchik, in a shiur recorded by Rabbi Abraham Besdin in Reflections of the Rav, taught that: “The prohibition was intended to teach Adam the concept of Adnut, that God is not only the world’s Creator and Sustainer, but also its owner. The command to not eat of the Tree was intended to teach Adam that all benefits and pleasures are gifts of God, Who offers them selectively and conditionally. They are privileges that are granted, not prizes freely to be taken. Adam viewed the world as Hefker – ownerless property. He accepted that God was the Creator and Sustainer; this was indisputable to him. But he was unwilling to concede that God had retained proprietary rights over His creation; he refused to recognize any “no trespassing” restrictions. Rather, Adam claimed for himself carte blanche rights to partake as he pleased.”

Adam did not accept God as Adon or Konei HaKol – The Owner of all things – before the sin. The punishment and consequences of the sin taught him that God is Adon – Master and Owner. Only then, did Adam truly “own” all he could possibly offer to God.

This then, is what Rashi is teaching us: only after we acknowledge the Adnut – Absolute Mastery of God and His Ownership of All, can we bring a proper offering.

And there’s more.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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16
Mar

Beginnings

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

“Adam – a man, who wants to bring an offering to draw closer to God,” Rashi wonders about the choice of the word, Adam rather than Ish. He explains that God is teaching us that “Just as Adam, the primal human being, did not bring an offering from something that was stolen, as everything was his, so too, you should never bring an offering from something stolen.” All the way back to Adam. How interesting! The Altar was called Mizbach Adamah – An Altar of Earth – because the center was hollow and was filled with earth from the same spot from which God took the earth to form Adam. The Altar is where we go all the way back to the beginning, when all was right, when all was perfect, when all was pure. We go back to Adam. That is the Korban – the Drawing Close. There is Adam in each of us. We can capture moments when we can reach out to God with the innocence and perfection of Adam before any mistakes. That is the opportunity we have each time we pray. And there’s more. Author Info: Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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16
Mar

Change

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Something has changed: Rashi begins his commentary on the portion by teaching us that: “Each time that God spoke to, or said something to Moshe, He began by calling to him, in a loving manner, just as the angels are described by Isaiah as calling to each other before singing their praises of God.”

Something has changed: We recall that in the final moments before the Revelation the verse (Exodus 19:19) says: “Moshe would speak and God would respond to him with a voice.”

At Sinai, before Revelation, Moshe spoke first.

In the Tabernacle, it was God, Who lovingly called out to Moshe.

Something changed.

Why?

There is an interesting Zohar (Vaeira 25b) that says, “The “Dibbur” – God’s Word –was in exile, so to speak, together with Israel. When Israel was redeemed, the Dibbur was freed as well.”

This concept reflects the Zohar’s (Volume 1 4b-5a) understanding of the difference between Torah Sh’bichtav and Torah Sh’Baal Peh – The Written and Oral Laws.

“I will place My words in your mouth in order to plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth,” (Isaiah 51:16) The Written Law is Machashava – The Highest Thought – expressed in words. The Oral Law is formed from words that are transformed into Machashava – The Highest Thought.

The Oral Law is the manifestation of the Freedom of Dibbur – Speech: it is the power of speech to be transformed into Torah, into the Highest Thought.

The Written Law can only begin in Machashava – God’s Infinite Thought. He then called to Moshe to make the Thought accessible as Dibbur – or, words.

However, God wanted Moshe to first understand the power of Dibbur – to appreciate the Freedom of Speech, therefore, in the final moments before the Revelation, it was Moshe who spoke, and God transformed the words into Machashava.

And there’s more.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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