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April 18, 2014 / 18 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Dvar Torah’

A Time to Perfect Ourselves and Thereby the World

Thursday, September 27th, 2012

Note from Harry Maryles: R. Netanel is a young man (age 20) who learns in Yeshivas  Mir Yerushalayim. He studied at Hasmonian in London and describes his Hashkafos as moderate Charedi  influenced by Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch and Rav Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

Netanel  runs a Torah Website  - Geshmak Torah - which he describes as “a user-friendly Dvar Torah service with compelling, “say-able” Divrei Torah. gTorahmakes them navigable, accessible, and pleasant to read; with content that will speak to everyone”.

I am pleased to post this Dvar Torah submitted by him for Erev Yom Kippur. His words follow.

As Moshe winds down in his final address to the people, he reiterates the responsibility they took on when they agreed the covenant at Sinai:

Today, Hashem your God commands you to perform these laws and statutes; to guard and keep them – with all your heart and soul. Regarding Hashem you have said today, that He will be a god to you; that you will walk in his ways, to keep his laws and statutes; and listen to His voice.

Hashem has said of you this day, for you to be a Chosen People for Him, as He has said to you; and you will keep His mitzvos. And He will place you supreme, above all the nations He made; for praise, honour and glory, that you would be a holy nation dedicated to Him, as was said (26:16-19).

The first part relates to our commitment to the relationship, and the second part to Hashem’s commitment. The transition though, is quite difficult:

Hashem has said of you this day, for you to be a Chosen People for Him, as He has said to you; and you will keep His mitzvos.

The opening is clearly Hashem speaking of us, but the ending, which discusses mitzva performance is clearly back to our commitment. How is adherence to Torah related to being called Am Segula? Whose commitment is this about? And what is the supremacy granted as a result?

Rabbeinu Bachye teaches that being called Am Segula – “chosen” – is not what it seems at face value. It is not a status we are born with; it is a title, an achievement that we have to work towards.

Similarly with circumcision. The very first mitzva a newborn is party to is a microcosm of the Jewish mission; perfecting what we have with what we are given, working towards the ultimate goal of perfection.

Rabbeinu Bachye says that the entire verse pertains to our commitment –– we just have to earn it.

So being chosen is in fact a bestowing of responsibility, but is in turn rewarded with being “supreme” over the other nations. What does this mean?

R. Shamshon Refael Hirsch writes how when the responsibilities are met, the world becomes a better place. The world is damaged, and being a better person repairs it.

Adam was commanded to “conquer” the world, when he was still all alone. His conquest was through listening to God; this is how all the animals knew to come to him to be named – they perceived godliness in him.

The same with Yakov – the Torah emphasises how he left Beersheba and went to Charan. The former seems redundant – it should only matter that he arrived somewhere – and the answer is that his departure does matter. When someone righteous leaves or goes somewhere, the environment and atmosphere of the place fundamentally change.

There is a story told of a young Chafetz Chaim, who saw the ills of the world, and decided to change the world. Seeing that the task was too monumentally large, he changed his mind, and set out to change his community. After seeing that that too was impossible, he downgraded his ambitions again, and decided that if he could not make them better, he’d at least himself.

And by making himself better, he really did change the world.

R. Hirsch teaches that by being better people, the world becomes a better place. There is famine, war, child slavery and kidnapping in the world, and while people attempt to deal with the symptoms, it is ultimately futile if humans aren’t more humane.

This is also what we mean when we make brachos, when we say Asher Kidshanu; and what we mean we say Ata VChartanu on Yomim Tovim – the very next words confirm that v’Kidashtanu b’Mitzvosecha – what distinguishes us is our mitzvos.

The Torah assures us that perfection of the world comes through perfection of self. On Rosh HaShana we daven for the world to become a better place. It’s in our hands to make it so.

Visit the Emes Ve-hmunah blog.

From Monsey With Love

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2003

It was not easy and it took a long time but recently the Hashmonaim community was finally able to celebrate the dedication of a new ambulance with the latest life-saving features. The ambulance was donated to the community by Sarah and Rabbi Nachum Muschel of Monsey, New York in memory of their son, Dr. Joseph N. Muschel (ob”m) and by the Memorial Foundation established in his name.

More than 350 people turned out for the dedication of the ambulance. The dedication was held in the square surrounded by the three central synagogues of the community, the Sephardic Shul, the Yemenite Shul and the Askenazi Shul. Rabbi and Mrs. Muschel recognized quite a few faces as many of the Monsey community who were enjoying their
vacation in Israel came to the dedication.

Avi and Justin Muschel, two young cousins of Joseph (ob”m), began the ceremony by reading a chapter of Tehillim. Rabbi Itamar Auerbach, the Hashmonaim community rabbi, gave a short Dvar Torah praising the family. Mrs. Sara Muschel related several stories about her son and read a portion of his diary. He had written about how he coped with the question of medical practice on Shabbat and how he loved the people and the land of Israel. Mrs. Muschel
spoke of how fitting it was that an ambulance was being dedicated in his name because he loved to help people and he loved medicine.

Rabbi Muschel thanked the many residents and friends who gathered to honor his son’s memory. He praised the Hashmonaim community that preserved Jewish tradition and he expressed his pleasure at being able to provide an ambulance to the community. He also praised two Hashmonaim residents, Ella Hyman and Chana Spiegelman, who had worked so
hard to influence the family to donate the ambulance to Hashmonaim.

Avi Zohar, the general manager of Magen David Adom (MDA), honored us with his presence. He thanked the family for their gift and he thanked the MDA volunteers of Hashmonaim for their devotion to saving lives.

Two of Joseph’s friends, Meir Becker and Naftali Hammer, spoke poignantly of his friendship with them and told of some of the exploits that they had enjoyed together.

The chairman of the local council, Shimshon Mehudar, presented the family members with
certificates of appreciation for their donation.

At the end of the ceremony, after everyone had returned from the formal presentation of the
ambulance to the community, the MDA volunteers presented one of their own, Yitzchak Hartman, with a special award for his many years of dedication as the coordinator of the MDA volunteers in Hashmonaim. In his short thank you reply, Yitzchak shared with us parts of “The Prayer of every MDA volunteer.” They pray that the emergency call will come before or after a shower and not during the shower. They pray that a call on Friday night will come at least after the soup and they pray that when they rush a pregnant woman to the hospital, they will arrive with one patient rather than with two.

The Hashmonaim community is very grateful to the Memorial Fund and to the Muschel family for their generous donation. (Comments may be sent to dov@gilor.com.)

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/from-monsey-with-love/2003/12/03/

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