Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Torah Omelet

The Shulchan Aruch writes in Yoreh Deah 83:8 that there are certain signs that a person can identify and from them determine if an egg comes from a kosher or non-kosher specie.  If both of the ends of the egg are round or if both of the ends are pointed then one can be certain that the egg comes from a tamei animal.  However, if one end is rounded and the other end is pointed then it's possible that the egg comes from a specie that is tehora.  If a person says that the egg is from a kosher specie, then a Jew can take the egg.  But, we do not rely on the signs on the egg alone.

Reb Noson z"l expounds on this halacha through the lens of Torah 19 in LM in an intriguing way.  He writes in Likutei Halachos, Yoreh De'ah: Hilchos Beitzim 2:1:

It is written in the Tikkunei Zohar (Hakdamas Tikkunei Zohar, daf 1) about the passuk "And the mother rests upon the chicks or on the eggs" (Devarim 22:3). "Eggs" are associated with the written Torah.  It also says that that eggs represent the order of angels known as 'Ofanim', and that they also represent the world of Asiya.  There is no useful sign to discern the eggs of a kosher bird from those of a non-kosher bird. It is known that kosher signs and non-kosher signs are associated with the holiness of Yisrael and the impurities of the Akum respectively.  The pure, or kosher signs are of the side of Yisrael, which is the side of holiness.  And, impure signs are from the side of Akum, which is the side of defilement.  Therefore, the nation of Yisrael, which is holy and is separated from the nations, must also be separated from all impurity, which is the side of  defilement.

Reb Noson continues,

Eggs which are associated with the written Torah, are also associated with non-Jews because they use the written Torah in their own capacity. Therefore there's no real sign to show that use of the written Torah implies purity (since both Jews and non-Jews have the written Torah).  In regards to the written Torah it would be difficult to discern Jews from non-Jews.  The only way to distinguish Jews from non-Jews with respect to the Torah is through the oral Torah.  Through the oral Torah the Jew is separated from the non-Jew and is recognizable.  However, because the non-Jews have a minimal grasp on the written Torah, it cannot be used as a sign to distinguish Jews from non-Jews, as mentioned above.  As said before, eggs are a concept of the Torah.  The grasp that non-Jews have on the Torah is a concept of the 24 species of non-kosher birds.  Birds are associated with souls.  And, the 24 species of non-kosher birds are associated with the souls of Akum.  The souls of Akum and the 24 impure species of birds are then associated with the 24 books of the written Torah, which are holy.  

It's very interesting that Reb Noson makes the connection with the wording of the Shulchan Aruch to describe features of an egg and the nature of the connection that non-Jews have to the Torah.  The word "round" as used by the Shulchan Aruch is "כד". The gematria of kad is 24, ie 24 books in the written Torah.  Thus, if an egg only has round sides it cannot be kosher, because it is completely written Torah.
Reb Noson continues,

The birds that are pure and kosher are not enumerated in the written Torah whatsoever (only the impure bird species are written in the Torah), because pure birds, which are a concept of the souls of Yisrael, have an advantage.  This advantage is that they also have the oral Torah in addition to the written Torah.  Therefore, the kosher species were not written in the Torah.  Rather, they were passed on through tradition.  Our Sages said: One can only eat a bird which is known to be pure through tradition (Chulin 63).  This is because the essence of eating kosher bird species in through tradition, ie through oral Torah.

Reb Noson's connections are genious! If an egg only has rounded (kadin) or sharp (chadin) sides then it can't be kosher! If only round, then it only possesses written Torah.  If that's the case then it's impossible to know if it's from a kosher animal anyway, because the written Torah doesn't tell us which birds are kosher.  And, on the same note, if both sides are pointed, meaning if there is ONLY oral Torah and interpretation without written Torah, then that too is invalid.  For an egg to be kosher it needs both a round and pointed side.  For a Jew to keep Hashem's Torah correctly he needs both the written and Oral Torah, which were both given to Moshe Rabbeinu on Har Sinai.  Furthermore, even if an egg have both features, one still must find out from another person if it actually comes from a kosher specie.  This is the "tradition" aspect. There are times when a person still needs mesorah to determine something's validity in spite of both rounded and pointed edges.

If you take a look at this halacha in LH, you'll read further that Reb Noson continues to explain the importance of why an egg (or a Jew) needs both a pointed and rounded side.  The appearance of both a lion and the Bais HaMikdash are larger on one side and narrow on the other.

I can continue this Torah if anyone wants.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Waking Before Daybreak

By waking up at chatzos (midnight) - even someone who is unable to get up at chatzos exactly- when one strengthens himself to wake up before the light of day appears to engage in Torah and avodah he removes all questions and any atheistic notions (from himself and from the world).  He merits complete knowledge and a complete heart, that is like the world which is filled with His glory. He fulfills the pasuk "I have set Hashem always before me." (Tehillim 16:8) By waking before daybreak he merits to daven with tremendous kavanah, for one who wakes at chatzos to engage in Torah is privy to knowledge (da'as) and complete understanding.  This is the essence of da'as.

Likutei Halachos, Hilchos Ha'Shkamas Ha'Boker, Halacha 3

Friday, July 22, 2011

Everything is Dressed in Torah

(painting by Hyman Bloom)

Everything in the world gets its vitality from the Torah.  This is because there isn't a single thing that can exist without receiving its vitality from Hashem yisborach.  The Holy One, blessed is He and the Torah are one.  And, because of this fact that they are one, a person can serve Hashem yisborach through every single thing that exists in the world.  It is written, "in all your ways know Him" (משלי ג:ו).  Everything is dressed in the Torah.  Thus, a person can connect everything to the Torah and can turn everything into Torah.

יורה דעה - הלכות נדרים, הלכה ב:ג

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Translation of Likutei Halachos?

The Breslov Research Institute has big plans to begin translating Likutei Halachos.  It took Feldheim just about 22 years to translate the Mishneh Berurah, which at 6 volumes is a few hundred pages.  Likutei Halachos is thousands of pages, and a mere translation wouldn't suffice in completely opening the sefer up to the English speaking world, because the key to understanding the text is background. So, BRI will have to include much commentary. 

I'm really looking forward to this!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

New Sefer from BRI

This first-ever compilation of Breslov thought on the Five Books of Moses - known as the Torah - shows the Rebbe at his best; extracting the hidden message in the familiar verses to reveal an entirely new way of looking at the Torah and at life. His words speak directly to our hearts, imbuing them with clarity and purpose. Come, take the Rebbe's path and hear what the Torah has to say to you.  Read more...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Death = Desecration of Shabbos

ליקוטי הלכות: הלכות שבת, הלכה ז:יא

ושמרו בני ישראל את השבת - And Bnei Yisrael will keep the Shabbos (שמות לא:טז) - Even though the holiness of Shabbos is inherently permanent as determined by Hashem Yisborach, and there is nothing that can detract from its holiness in anyway, the Jews must accept the Shabbos and keep it, as it's written, "And Bnei Yisrael will keep the Shabbos, etc".  The holiness of Shabbos isn't drawn into the world except through the Jews as it's written, "And Hashem didn't give it to the nations of the lands etc."  The sages say in Bereshis Rabba that Shabbos approached The Holy One Blessed is He, and said, "You gave every [day] it's pair [and not me]! And Hashem responded to the Shabbos, "Knesses Yisrael is your pair." Therefore, the holiness of Shabbos depends on every single Jew.  Therefore, the act of saving a life defers Shabbos, because it's better to desecrate one Shabbos than to desecrate many Shabbosim.  When even one Jewish soul is removed from this world it is considered a desecration of Shabbos.  This desecration is an aspect of the removal and death of holiness as is noted in the words of Rabbeinu z"l, "When a single Jew, who is a part of knesses Yisrael, which is the pair of Shabbos, dies and is removed from the world, it is considered a desecration of Shabbos."  And, thus it's better to save a life and desecrate one Shabbos, than [have a Jew die and] desecrate many Shabbosim.

I gather that one of the reasons why the desecration continues is because there's no way a person can rectify the chilul Shabbos in the future, because, well...he's dead! Rabbeinu writes in רעז that the tikkun for desecrating Shabbos is through achila for the sake of Shabbos.  A dead person cannot eat during any forthcoming Shabbos, and therefore it can't be rectified atleast in this world.  But what about ochel ruchani? Could that rectify the desecration of Shabbos caused by a Jew's death?  And, who actually desecrates that particular Shabbos when the Jewish soul departs this world?  Is it the individual or all of Knesses Yisrael? 

Regardless, the beauty of Reb Nosson's words lies in the fact that he stresses how important it is that the Jews  recieve Shabbos.  If the Jews were to foresake Shabbos, she would not only have no pair, but her intrinsic holiness would be neglected and ignored completely, because "Hashem didn't give it to the other nations."  Shmiras Shabbos is solely up to the Jewish people, and kabbalas Shabbos depends on every single Jew.

Monday, January 31, 2011

What We Will Soon Be Learning In Yeshiva

ליקוטי הלכות: הלכות הפקר ונכנסי הגר, הלכה ד:לב

In the future there will be completely holy yeshivot that will teach the study of holy emunah, which is an aspect of "I will yet again make make you dwell in tents, as in the days of the appointed season" (Hoshea 12:10).  Rashi comments on this pasuk and says that the days of the appointed season refer to the days when Yaakov Avinu sat in the tent (his yeshiva).  And Yaakov's whole yeshiva that learned with his sons and students, just as our Rebbeim z"l have said, learned only about holy emunah.  This is because the mitzvot were not yet given, and the focus of their learning was on the point of holy emunah in order to nullify all of the idolatry and heretical teachings and to continue and to plant and to establish in everyone's heart a complete and holy emunah.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Rectification of Eating

ליקוטי הלכות: הלכות פירות, הלכה ד:ט

The main part of rectifying the act of eating in holiness is through tzedakah.  And, so one must allocate to tzedakah before eating, and one should invite a poor individual to his table, as many suggest in holy seforim.  Doing as such is because through tzedakah one creates a vessel to receive the lofty and pleasant bounty.  The rectification of the act of eating is to connect the taste and pleasantness of food and drink to its root, which is the lofty pleasantness (of Hashem).
One of the things we strive to do as Jews is emulate Hashem in every way possible.  Many of us take the luxury of always having food for granted, but the reality is is that WE are the 'poor person' that Reb Nosson speaks about.  Everyday Hashem invites us to His table to eat delicious foods whenever we are hungry.  He gives us everything that we need without question.  How could we have the chutzpah to not give to others? 

We should be zocheh to realize how much Hashem does for us every second of our lives, and learn from Hashem's dealings with us, so we in turn can treat others in the same manner.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Chok Natan Lamo

Purity is Rooted in Our Desires

ליקוטי הלכות: הלכות דם, הלכה א:יא

All of the impurities draw their energy from one's evil cravings, meaning that a person craves and yearns, Heaven forbid, for evil desires.  Every person needs to prevent the desires of his heart, and to accustom himself to always crave and long for holy desires, for Hashem, and serving Him.  And, this too is an aspect of the purity of the mikveh, for the mikveh is an aspect of the waters of kindness that are made through holy desires.  And, through them (holy desires) one is purified from all of the impurities, and is worthy of having Torah revealed to him, which is also an aspect of water as is known. 
(The Ari z"l's mikveh)

I hear time and time again that the point of Judaism is about the deed, and that one's thoughts have no consequence.  So many people think that while they must act in accordance with halacha and Jewish social norms, their minds are free to have a mental mardi-gras frat party.  There's nothing that could be further from the truth, because action, emotion, overall well being, and connection to Hashem are rooted in thought.

What's interesting about what Reb Nosson says is that tuma isn't nourished or perpetuated by one's evil actions. Rather, he says that tuma draws from one's thoughts.  The evil that exists in this world is fed by one's evil desires and cravings regardless of whether or not that person acts on such desires.  Even if he decides to ignore those thoughts the damage has been done. 

Reb Nosson stresses the importance of always thinking about spiritual matters and serving Hashem, because such thoughts have the power of a mikveh.  As soon as one begins to think about holiness all of the tuma that benefited from one's evil thoughts are now washed away, and one can return to Hashem.  Amazing. 

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Parshas Beshalach: Extra Effort = Extra Desire

ימי מוהרנ"ת ב, לא

ויסב אל-הים את העם דרך המדבר - Hashem took the people around through the desert (שמות יג:יח) - For a number of months before Reb Nosson finally decided to make his journey to Eretz Yisrael he deliberated about the trip for quite some time. In 5582 (1822) during the week of Parshas BeShalach Reb Nosson thought about his own circuitous journey, and felt that it was quite akin to the necessary journey of Bnei Yisrael in the desert prior to their arrival and conquest of Eretz Yisrael.

Odessa is close to Breslov, and everyday there is traffic  - most of Breslov's trade is with Odessa.  But, instead of going straight there I had to travel to Kaminka, Tcherin, Cherkassy, and Kremenchug until I could even get to Odessa! The Torah applies to everyone at every single moment!  The reason a person has to travel a roundabout way is to increase his desire and longing.  When a person wants something and it is withheld from him, he desires it even more so.  The extra travel and effort increase one's desire for whatever it is one wants.

Hashem could have taken Israel straight to the land through the land of the Plishtim at the top of the Sinai peninsula.  Such a route may have taken only a few weeks.  But, in addition to all of the miracles, death of a generation, the reception of the Torah, and the building of the mishkan, the 40 year trip served to increase the Yidden's thirst to be in Eretz Yisrael. 
And, maybe this is why our current geula is taking so long.  Hashem wants us TO CRAVE the geula and LONG to go back to Eretz Yisraelin shlaymus, may it be His will soon.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Parshas BeShalach - Shabbos Shirah

ליקוטי הלכות: הלכות בציעת הפת, הלכה א:יח

ויבאו מרתה - And they came to Marah (שמות טז:כג): One must know and believe that Hashem yisborach sends bitterness in mercy and throws all of a person's sins to His back.  He doesn't send the sinner bitterness in accordance with what he might deserve, but only what he can handle.  And, this is what happened after the splitting of the Sea of Reeds as it's written, "And they came to Marah, and they couldn't drink the water because it was bitter."  At this place Hashem made a judgement on Israel, and then tested her.  This was such because the whole point of a test given to a person who has started to come close to Hashem - he must first suffer bitterness that is due to him... And therefore, Hashem certainly will not send bitterness in accordance with one's deeds, because He is an aspect of "All the plague that I made in Egypt."  He is only here to heal us with mercy with a little bit of bitterness according to what we can handle, "Because I am Hashem your Healer," and He will certainly heal you appropriately.

It is truly amazing how much Hashem loves us.  Even after we sin He doesn't even consider it completely, and only punishes us a little bit.  This is because of what the tzaddikim do for us as Hashem's consultants (look at LM 22).  It may even be that the punishment is in itself healing.  The ikar is to know that the 'bitterness' isn't really so bitter.  Everything is from Hashem for our benefit, and what at first appears to be bitter should be turned into simcha because of our awareness that Hashem is doing us a kindness through the little bit of suffering. Boruch Hashem.

Monday, January 10, 2011

When Falling Is Rising

ליקוטי הלכות: הלכות תפילין, הלכה ה:כב

(Photo courtesy of Ron Finely)

Sometimes, one's falling and descent (in his Avodah) is the purpose of spiritual ascent.  This is such because the whole point of falling spiritually is in order to strengthen and return, and begin anew one's vitality and his mind, because these two things are the essence of one's Avodah.  The whole point is to live a new life of serving Hashem every moment. 

Although it seems counter-intuitive, we sometimes have to fall before we can get up.  It may be that at one moment we find ourselves to be very high, but because of that level we wont be able to climb any higher.  Only when we actually fall can we invigorate and motivate ourselves to push even higher than we were before. 

On the other hand, it may be that what seems to be falling is actually rising.  In Likutei Moharan 25, Rabbeinu elaborates on the idea of levels having two layers.  The inner layer, which radiates what one might interpret as spiritual ascent, and the outer, which could be perceived as descent (think of the outer peel and inner meat and juice of a fruit).  Rabbeinu says that when someone climbs to the next level he must first encounter this outer level, which has the appearance of failure.  But, that is only an appearance, and this person has actually grown, and will soon see the fruits of his struggles.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Hashem Wants You To Be An Individual!

ליקוטי הלכות: הלכות תפילת מנחה, הלכה ז:יד

Even though all the Jews are considered to be like one person, because their roots are in one [source], regardless of that fact every individual Jew has his bounds and contraction within himself when it comes to serving Hashem.  This is such because the knowledge of one person is different than another, and everyone has his own measure within his heart according to his own level, as in the posuk, "Her husband is known in the gates (נודע בשערים בעלה)" - everyone has his own assumptions (משער) about himself in his heart.  Furthermore, everyone serves Hashem according to his good traits: he has this trait, and another has that trait; he is careful in this mitzvah, and another is careful in that mitzvah.  And, even though one must certainly accept the good points of another Jew, one shouldn't overstep his bounds, that is he shouldn't get excited by another Jew's avodah or trait and try to be exactly like him.  Sometimes, a good Jew can overstep his bounds and cause another to fall from his level and change his understanding.  Therefore, one must be cautious, and on that note not overstep his bounds because he may harm his own level, Heaven forbid.  Similarly, he shouldn't destroy the boundaries set between himself and another.  And, this is like the Bais HaMikdash where all the Jews would enter together as one person, and everyone would be able to stand in his space as in, "they stood crowded together, but they could all bow and had space."  They could all stand there together and no one heard the confessions and prayers of another, as Rabbeinu said, because everyone must return to Hashem according to his own level (הלכות תפילת מנחה, הלכה ז:יד). 

It's so important to realize, especially in the frum world (atleast in the States) where this sometimes becomes a problem or really upsets people, that Hashem created every single person with his own talents, abilities, interests, and styles.  Although the Torah wants us to live our lives according to its precepts and to be respectable, I don't think that it demands more than that.  In the frum world people feel so much pressure to be like one another in dress, in how we do the avodah, and in matters of gashmiyus. 

Hashem doesn't want Chezi to be like Yankel or Simcha.  If that were the case he would have made an identical clone of the latter individuals.  Hashem wants us to live our lives on His terms and on our terms.  Another's terms are not included in that.  As long as we stay within the confines of Halacha, Torah, and what's generally accepted by the klal, explore your life! Grow in your own terms and not in another's, because until you know how much potential YOU have, you can never truly know yourself or Kadosh Baruch Hu.  Just as there was space in the Bais HaMikdash for EVERYONE, there is space for you to stretch out and learn about who you are and Hashem's Torah. 

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Every Jew Has a Share in Mashiach, Korbanos, and the Beis HaMikdash

ליקוטי הלכות - הלגכות השכמת הבוקר, הלכה א:ח

All the good points that can be found in every single Jew - these points are an aspect of the sparks of Mashiach.  This is such because the whole notion of goodness is Mashiach.  Furthermore, he is a notion of sustaining and building the world, the Bais Hamikdash, the korbanos, and the ketores (incense). 

It is said by Chazal that the Jew is like a microcosm.  Everything that exists in the world can be reflected back to every individual, and as such, every part of creation (ie. the sefiros) can be traced back to man.  If every single Jew has all of the items that Reb Nosson listed within him, then he must realize that his potential is so great and powerful that even he can uplift the shechinah and bring the final geula through his own merit.  Every Jew has this power!

If only we could realize how much power we really have we could accomplish so so much.  It just takes a little emunah.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


ליקוטי הלכות - הלכות נטילת ידים - הלכה ג:ה

Only through ingenuousness and simplicity and a perfect and complete faith is one worthy to ascend upwards.  This is an aspect of the mind and wisdom.  And, [through simplicity] one merits to receive from there a great mind that is capable of thinking of original Torah thoughts,  able to reveal Hashem's Kingship, and complete knowledge.

Rabbeinu stressed time and time again the importance of serving Hashem with simplicity.  By 'simple' he doesn't mean poorly or without effort.  When one does things in a sophisticated matter he may forget about the whole reason why he's doing a mitzvah, or he may even come to, chas ve'shalom, un-sound conclusions about the ikar of the mitzvah.  The whole point of doing mitzvos is to accept Hashem's sovereignty. 

In Likkutei Eitzos, Reb Nosson points out that (אוצר היראה: תמימות, אות א),

The whole point of accepting the yoke of shamayim is in order to push us to cast off and nullify all our sophistication (written as wisdom), and to only walk (fulfill Torah) with simplicty.  This is because only the holy Torah is the true wisdom, and the rest of the "wisdoms" only serve to nullify Her. 

Every once in awhile it's good for us to be reminded about the necessity of simplicity :)

Parshas Bo

ליקוטי הלכות: אורח חיים - הלכות דברים הנוהגים בסעודה ד:ו

וגם הערב רב עלה אתם  - And the eirev rav also went up with them...(שמות יב:לח)- A person who wants to bring the wicked or Jews who are far away from serving Hashem closer to Him, for such a person there are great and limitless dangers.  And he must employ a limitless number of ruses (for the kiruv) until he accomplishes his work completely.  And therefore, Moshe Rabbeinu, peace be upon him, the master of all prophets where there will never be one like him again, didn't succeed in uplifting the eirev rav through his own efforts (with his hands).  It was the eirev rav that caused all the tragedies: the sin of the golden calf, the breaking of the tablets, etc.  And, the rectification for such things is via original Torah thoughts that are geared specifically to draw in those who are far [from HASHEM]...And he will stand before Hashem as a pauper and indignant, and he will beg of His mercy and compassion.  If Hashem yisborach will give then he will give.  if not, then he won't.  And, he should not push Hashem and should not excessively ask anything of Him, intentionally or by accident, until through His mercy and compassion He allows you to succeed in bringing in those who are far, those who are an aspect of the eirev rav.  

It's quite interesting that Reb Nosson advises one who seeks to be mekarev other Jews to use trickery and ruse.  This advice probably reflects incidents that Reb Nosson saw first hand.  It's well known that Rabbeinu interacted with some of the top maskilim of his day.  When Rabbeinu was moving to Breslov he passed through Uman and met Chaikel Hurwitz and his sons-in-law, Hirsch Ber Hurwitz and Moshe Laundau, who were known throughout Russia to be very learned and respected doctors.  Even the Russian Czar gave them golden swords as marks of honor.  

Chaikel Hurwitz heard that Rabbeinu was spending Shabbos in Uman, so he wanted to pay him a visit.  Upon seeing Rabbeinu he said, "I heard that a great person had come to visit the town, and I wanted to pay my respects." "Then why don't you go see the important Russian general who's staying across the street?" taunted Rabbeinu, "He's more your kind of person."  Chaikel was intrigued and came back later with his sons.   Once they all arrived Rabbeinu was in the middle of saying Torah where he was analyzing a complex geometrical problem from Sukkah 8a.  The three of them were quite impressed with Rabbeinu's knowledge of mathematics.  

Another incident involved these same maskilim.  They came to Rabbeinu to ask him a question that their mentor could not answer.  Rabbeinu answered their question leaving them in a state of awe.  He saw that one of them was holding a book in Greek.  He then proceeded to ask what it was, but every time they would respond, "Oh, this book isn't for you." Eventually he grabbed the book and quickly read a few pages.  Once he returned it he immediately recited what he had read in Greek by heart leaving them astonished. 

What's remarkable about Rabbeinu's accounts with the maskilim is that his whole mission with them was to implant faith and Torah.  But, he understood their outlook and attitudes, and used a very different approach with them.  While warning his followers to stay clear away from them, he himself would speak with them for hours and totally avoid discussing even a word of Torah.  

It's interesting that after Rabbeinu passed away, Reb Nosson records that Hirsch Ber Hurwitz began to cry and said to Reb Nosson, "You miss the Rebbe? I miss the Rebbe! If the Rebbe had lived longer, I would have repented and become a truly God-fearing Jew!"

It should be Hashem's will that the true Tzaddik will continue to bring those who are distant closer to Hashem and to His holy Torah.  

Parshas Va'era

ליקוטי הלכות: יורה דעה - הלכות בכור בהמה טהורה ד:ג

וְאַתָּה, וַעֲבָדֶיךָ:  יָדַעְתִּי--כִּי טֶרֶם תִּירְאוּן, מִפְּנֵי יְהוָה אֱלֹהִים -And I know that you and your servants will not fear Hashem (שמות ט:ל) - The whole point of the creation of the world was to reveal His awe and kingship… And all the miracles and wonders that Hashem made in Egypt were done in order to reveal his awe and kingship… And Par’oh did not want to subdue himself and to accept the yoke of Hashem’s awe and kingship after witnessing the signs and wonders.  About this it is written, “And I know that you and your servants will not fear Hashem.”  But, about Yisrael it is written, “And Yisrael feared Hashem’s great Hand with which He smote Egypt.  And the nation feared Hashem.” . . . . The Egyptians didn’t want to subdue themselves to Hashem’s magnificence, and thus he brought a plague upon them in order to arouse them, so they should know who was striking them, and that they should free Yisrael.  But rather, they didn’t do anything, and they hardened their hearts.  And Hashem brought upon them more plagues every time they failed to wake up.  But, for Yisrael it was good, because after every plague that Hashem brought upon the Egyptians they accepted Hashem’s greatness even more so. 

After every travesty and disaster that unfortunately happens in this world man suddenly asks,  “Hashem, how could you let such and such happen?  Where were you to stop it?” Whether it is a personal sickness ortzara or a global tragedy it is man’s natural reaction to question G-d.  Naturally we say, “Oh, who are you to question Hashem’s wonders?  He does what he thinks is just, and you can’t ever fathom His ways!”  Now, of course this is true, but I think that after some tragedy a question is warranted not to Hashem, but to ourselves!

We know that Hashem is like a father, and it pains Him to cause us strife and grief.  But, he does it for a reason.  That reason is to WAKE US UP! A headache isn’t just a painful constriction of blood vessels in the scalp, but it is rather a knock on our door.  Hashem is at the door saying, “Hey Chezi! I’m trying to tell you something! This headache is from me, and I want you to come back to my Torah!”

Reb Nosson is pointing out that each subsequent plague wasn’t brought upon the Egyptians because they failed to free Bnei Yisrael.  True, that was part of it, but what they failed to do was realize that Hashem yisborach was the Creator and King of the whole world.  Hashem was effectively saying, Mitzrim, you're too dumb to see that all of these creations are from me? Well, guess what's coming to you now.  Maybe NOW you'll see that such a wonder is from Me, and that I am the boreh ha'olam.

It should be Hashem’s will that we heed his every call.  We should know that every pang is just a knock from Hashem telling us to wake up and pay attention to Him.  

Parshas Shemos

חושן משפט - הלכות אונאה - הלכה ג - אות א

אהיה אשר אהיה - I will be who I will be (שמות ג:יד) – This posuk corresponds to the idea of doing teshuva on a previous teshuva, because teshuva is an aspect of אהיה, I will be.  This is an aspect of “I am prepared to be”, because before a person does teshuva it’s as if he never existed in the world at all.  And, when one starts to do teshuva he becomes as aspect of “I will be”, because when he starts to prepare himself to have a real existence in the world he is thus an aspect of “I am prepared to be.”  But, even after he does teshuva, and he is worthy of אהיה, for he has prepared himself to have an existence in this world, he nonetheless must do teshuva on that teshuva.  And, therefore he must start every moment anew, and even though he already did teshuva he must afterward start anew completely. 

Reb Nosson is elaborating on a tremendous yesod in life.  One’s very existence is not determined by what he can do.  Hashem gives everything thing that exists worlds of potential, so what a person can do is of no significance.  However, the degree to which a person exerts himself and uses his potential to bring kedusha into this world is the real barometer of one’s existential value. 

It’s integral to one’s growth that he constantly strive to better himself.  One must do teshuva on a daily basis, because even though he may have completely negated his yezter in one particular moment, there is an infinite amount of space to grow.  He must ask himself what he can do now and what more is there to be done.  And, if  he fails ר"ל, then how much more integral is his teshuva? It's not the past that matters. The past already happened and is gone forever.  What matters is what will be.

We must realize that stagnation is a negation of existence.  The very definintion of our existence is that we are constantly growing and moving.  Why would Hashem have put us into this world if He wanted us to remain static?  "I will be who I will be!" Hashem’s statement to Moshe is in the future tense, and is a testament to the necessity for us to constantly grow and expand on our current existence, because our lives and the imminent geula of Klal Yisrael depends on what is to be only seconds from now.  

The Yom Kippur/Channukah Connection = Sukkos

יורה דעה, הלכות נדרים, הלכה ד:כח

What does Reb Nosson mean when he affirms that the kedusha of one's Channuka is determined by the degree to which he exerts himself on Yom Kippur? At first this might seem extremely outlandish and very difficult to understand. Not so! As we have just ended Sukkas, Channuka is the next chag, and this being my first post, I want to briefly explore this well known idea expressed by Reb Nosson.

And this [screaming out to Hashem] is related to a Sukkah as is related in the Torah of Rabbainu (Tannina VII) that the degree to which one exerts himself on Yom Kippur determines the kedusha that he will merit on Channuka, for Channuka is the embodiment of the Bais HaMikdash.  And, this is an aspect of the mitzvah of dwelling in a sukka after Yom Kippur, because after having worked so hard [on Yom Kippur] to ask Hashem, may He be blessed, for forgiveness we are therefore deserving of the Holiness of the Bais Hamikdash.  The Sukka is related to the idea of the dedication of the Bais HaMikdash (חנוכת הבית המקדש),because the Bais Hamikdash was also known as "Sukkas Shalem".

The Chochomim say that we go into our sukkos at this time of the year to show the goyim that we're willing to sacrifice comfort for Hashem (when pressumably it's cold during Sukkos time).  I think that Reb Nosson had a different idea as to why Sukkos is right after Yom Kippur.  As we cry out to Hashem and beg to be forgiven for our sins, He hears our pleas and immediately forgives us and takes us into His shelter.  What is this shelter?  The sukka! Reb Nosson says that the sukka is comparable to the Ananai HaKavod, the cloud that hovered over Bnei Yisroel in the midbar and watched over them.  And, the Ananai HaKavod immediately resided in the Bais HaMikdash once it was built (on the paroches).  Thus, we can see the connections between Yom Kippur and Channuka! Sukkos is a direct consequence of Yom Kippur, and the Bais Hamikdash, which is synonymous with the sukka, is at the nucleus of the nes of Channuka!