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April 19, 2014 / 19 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘heart’

Respect For Our Fellow Human Beings

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

How often we, even the greatest among us, tend to forget the respect and honor due every single human being. Every one who walks the face of the earth was created in the image of G-d and carries within him the Divine Spark. Therefore, when we insult any human being we are really insulting the Almighty Himself which is the worst of all sins.

Unfortunately, because we are all fallible, even great men, learned and wise may sometimes slip, so we must always be on our guard. The Talmud illustrates this for us in the following story.

The Ugly Man

Rabi Elazar the son of Rabi Shimon was a great man and scholar. He learned day and night and the fame of his Torah teachings spread throughout the land.

One day, after spending a period of time with his rebbe in the town of Migdal Eder, he took his leave and set off for home. He was in a wonderfully happy mood. His heart was singing and he was joyful as he contemplated weeks spent in Torah and study. How much knowledge he had acquired. How much Torah he had studied.

As he rode on his mule along the banks of the lazy river he was filled with pride in his achievements and he pitied the average person who could not learn the wonderful secrets of G-d’s Torah. In fact, his heart was filled with too much pride.

As he continued riding he came alongside a traveler who was walking in the same direction. As Rabi Elazar rode past wrapped in his thoughts, the stranger called out a greeting.

“Peace be unto you, Rabi.”

Insults Him

Rabi Elazar looked down from his mule and perceived that the stranger was truly the ugliest man he had ever seen. Without thinking he answered disdainfully:

“How ugly are you! Are all the people of your town as ugly as you?”

The man turned a deep red from shame, but he turned to Rabi Elazar and answered:

“I do not know about that but I suggest that you go with your complaint to the One who made me. Yes, I suggest that you go to the Almighty and say: ‘How ugly is the utensil that You have made’”

Rabi Elazar Shaken

Upon hearing these words the great Rabi Elazar immediately realized that he had committed a grievous sin. He was a G-d fearing man and he knew that at all costs he must beg forgiveness, for all the prayers and repentance in the world and the day of Yom Kippur itself would not wipe away a sin done to a fellow human being until the latter forgave him.

Jumping down from his mule, Rabi Elazar prostrated himself on the ground before the man and cried:

“You have humbled me. I beg of you to forgive me for my foolish words.”

Man Is Unmoved

The traveler, however, far from an understanding person, was in no mood to be mollified. He was still too angry and insulted.

“No,” he answered. “I will not forgive you! I will not forgive you till you go back to my Maker and tell him these words: ‘How ugly is the utensil that You have Made.’”

It was here that Rabi Elazar showed the greatness that lay within him. Instead of getting on the mule and riding off, he continued walking on foot after the man and humbling himself. All the way he pleaded with the man to forgive him.

The man, however, had a hard heart and refused. Down the long road, all the way to the city, passersby we astonished to see the ugly man followed by the great and famous rav pleading for forgiveness.

They Reach The City

Soon they could see the first buildings of the city ahead. The entire population had turned out eagerly to welcome with joy their famous rebbe, returning to teach and guide them.

Imagine their shocked surprise and consternation to see him walking wearily after a simple stranger!

“Welcome Rabi Mori,” they cried out.

The stranger looked at them and asked:

“Who is the one whom you call ‘rabi’?”

“Why, the man who walks behind you,” the people replied. “He is the great Rabi Elazar the son of Rabi Shimon.”

What No Parent Wants to Watch

Sunday, September 2nd, 2012

Twitter is an interesting concept – it is, above all else, a border-breaker. It breaks all boundaries, all separations between people – for the good and the bad. I am quite active on it – and as a result meet so many interesting people.

Only from this blog and twitter did I learn the meaning of a Gold Star mother or Gold Star father. Now when I see those words, my heart fills with pain. A Gold Star father changed his avatar, the picture associated with his twitter account.

It’s a beautiful avatar, a dedication to his son, who was just 20 when he died. All gave some – some gave all. Lt. Cpl Christopher Blake Rodgers gave all.

I clicked on the link associated with his father’s account and came to a YouTube video called “Dignified Transfer.” It is more than 14 minutes long – very long for a YouTube video. I watched every second of it. Tears began to fall just as the plane came into view the first time.

It is agony to watch – agony for anyone; especially the parent of a soldier. It is every parent’s nightmare, but especially the parent of a soldier. I watched it to the end and so many thoughts filled my mind. One of them, I’ll share – the title. It is so appropriate – this is the way civilized nations behave; this is the way we honor our dead and how we thank them. The last salute brought a crack to my heart that will take time to heal.

I have never met, nor will I ever meet this young man but from the way in which he was honored, and the love his father shares with us, I know I am lessened for never having met him. May God watch over Christopher Blake Rodgers and bless his memory. May he always be remembered for his sacrifice, his courage, and the love he clearly instilled in so many and may his family know no more sorrow.

T’Shuva and Finding Happiness

Wednesday, August 29th, 2012

Rabbi Kook teaches that t’shuva encompasses man’s physical being, his moral life, religious life, and his highest, most ideal intellectual endeavor. T’shuva is man’s path to wellbeing, to physical and emotional health, as well as his path to the deep self-discovery which connects him to God.

T’shuva can happen suddenly, in a burst of illumination which wondrously transforms life’s darkness to light, or it can evolve over time, gradually returning the body, psyche, and soul to the true Divine path of existence.

Rabbi Kook explains that t’shuva appears in two different penitential forms: t’shuva over a specific sin or sins; and a general, all-encompassing t’shuva which completely transforms a person’s whole being and life.

If general t’shuva can be compared to a complete car overhaul, where the entire motor is removed and replaced, then specific t’shuva is like a tune-up of engine parts, a spark plug here, a cable there, new brake fluid, oil and anti-freeze.

Specific t’shuva is commonly referred to as penitence. It is the t’shuva familiar to everyone, whereby a person sins, feels guilty, and decides to redress his wrongdoing. Rabbi Kook believes in the basic goodness of man. In his natural, moral, pristine state, man is a happy, healthy creature. When a man sins, his natural state is altered, and the difference causes him pain. Sin causes a distortion. It creates a barrier between man and his natural pure essence and source. Most essentially, sin damages man’s connection to God.

The feeling which results, whether we call it anxiety, pain, darkness, guilt, sickness, or remorse, impels the sinner to correct his wrongdoing, in order to return to the proper course of living. The sorrow which stems from transgression acts as an atonement, and the sinner is cleansed. Returned to his original state of wellbeing, the melancholy and darkness of sin is replaced by the joy and light of the renewed connection to goodness and God.

“There is a type of t’shuva which focuses on a specific sin, or many specific sins. The individual confronts his wrongdoing directly, regrets it, and feels sorry that he was ensnared in the trap of transgression. Then his soul climbs and ascends until he is freed from sinful bondage. He feels in his midst a holy freedom which brings comfort to his weary soul. His healing proceeds; the glimmers of light of a merciful sun, shining with Divine forgiveness, send him their rays, and, together with his broken heart and feelings of depression, a feeling of inner happiness graces his life…” (Orot HaT’shuva, 3).

There are times in everyone’s life when a person decides to change a particular habit, to improve a trait, or to right some outstanding wrong. He is not looking to change his whole life. Generally he is content, but he senses a need to remedy a specific failing. If a person realizes that he is stingy, he may decide that he wants to be more charitable. Or he may feel a pressing need to return a tennis racket which he stole. In the same light, a religious person may realize that his prayers lack enthusiasm and proper concentration. So he sets out to pray with more fervor. In these cases, his t’shuva deals with a specific life problem which he sets out to correct.

A person whose soul is sensitive to moral wrongdoing will feel remorse for his sins. The remorse weighs down on him, and he longs to break free from its shackles. The longing to redress his wrongdoing works like a force to shatter the darkness, opening a window of light. This light of t’shuva is a stream of Divine mercy. It is as if God reaches out and accepts the penitent’s remorse. The sin is forgiven. The path back to God has been cleared. Instead of darkness and gloom, happiness envelops the soul.

“He experiences this (happiness) at the same time that his heart remains shattered, and his spirit feels lowly and sad. In fact, this melancholy feeling suits him in his situation, adding to his inner spiritual gladness and his sense of true wholeness. He feels himself coming closer to the Source of life, to the living God, who had been so distant from him a short time before. His longing spirit jubilantly remembers its former inner pain, and, filled with emotions of gratitude, it raises its voice in song and praise: ‘Bless the Lord, O my soul, and do not forget all of His goodness; He forgives all thy iniquities, heals all thy diseases; redeems thy life from the pit; adorns thee with love and compassion; and satiates thy old age with good, so that thy youth is renewed like the eagle’s. The Lord performs righteousness and judgment for all who are oppressed’” (Tehillim, 103: 2-6. Orot HaT’shuva, 3).

The person who sins and feels remorse senses its cleansing power. He recognizes his pain as an atonement, and this brings him relief. Almost miraculously, the clouds of his transgression are lifted, and the light of t’shuva fills his being with joy. He senses that it is G-d who has freed him, and his heart abounds with gratitude and song.

Captain Picard Visiting our Planet

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

British actor Patrick Stewart, aka Captain Jean-Luc Picard, the finest captain of the Starship Enterprise ever, is seen here on a movie set on Jaffa Street in the center of Jerusalem.

According to JTA, Stewart is playing a disgraced, eccentric British lord in a heist comedy titled “Hunting Elephants,” in which three Israeli senior citizens help a 12-year-old boy hatch a plan to rob a bank in order to save his home.

Stewart is replacing John Cleese of Python fame, who reportedly withdrew from the project due to heart trouble.

Refuah shleima.

Hamas Leader’s Family Treated in Israeli Hospital

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Suhila Abd el-Salam, the sister of Hamas Prime Minister in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, accompanied her husband for treatment in an Israeli hospital four months ago. According to Israel’s Ynet News, the sister’s husband was admitted to Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva, for immediate medical treatment following a serious heart condition.

Because Gaza hospitals could not properly treat the condition, Haniyeh’s sister and her husband requested permission to travel to Israel to receive the necessary medical treatment. The husband was taken by a Palestinian ambulance across the Erez crossing, where he was transferred to an Israeli MDA ambulance. He was taken to the hospital with his wife, who was with him during the entire week until his condition stabilized.

The couple could have gone to a more advanced medical center in Egypt but opted to come to Israel for medical treatment instead.

According to the Ynet report, Israeli sources have refused to address the report and Beilinson hospital said that it could not offer any details on the visit.

This was not the first time that a Gaza resident was treated in Israel. This past March, a 15-year-old Palestinian boy transported to the Kaplan Medical Center in Rehovot after suffering from severe burns and shrapnel injuries from an alleged rocket launching pad that was set up in Jabalya, a neighborhood in northern Gaza.

Israel’s Civil Administration released a report in March stating that 115,000 Palestinians were treated in Israel in 2011, a 13% increase in comparison to the previous year. “Every year more patients are sent to Israeli hospitals,” said Dalia Bassa, Civil Administration Health Coordinator. Over 100 Palestinian doctors interned at Israeli hospitals and five organ transplants were performed to save the lives of Palestnian patients treated in Israel.

Furthermore, data published in the World Health Organization’s February 2012 report reflected the efforts of both the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) and the Israeli government to facilitate passage of Palestinian patients from Gaza to Israelis hospitals. According to the published data, over 90% of requests for medical treatment at Israeli hospitals were approved and carried out.

The sister and brother-in-law of Ismail al-Haniyeh were no exception to this Israeli government policy of treating medical cases.

Meanwhile, Haniyeh, who refuses to recognize Israel and calls for Palestinian violence against the Jewish state, wasted no time on Monday to declare that Israel was somehow “responsible” for the attack that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers on Sunday night, when terrorists targeted an Egyptian army post and then infiltrated into Israel, using two stolen Egyptian military vehicles. The terrorists were prevented from killing further Israeli civilians when the Israel Air Force shot down the speeding armored vehicle heading towards Kibbutz Kerem Shalom.

Shmuel Hakatan

Friday, August 3rd, 2012

In the days of Shmuel Hakatan a terrible drought held the land in its deadly grip. The wheat withered in the field and the grass dried and died. Day after day, the skies remained leaden and no clouds appeared to bring rain and salvation to the parched land.

The people knew that Shmuel Hakatan was a saintly and righteous man and they hoped that in his merit the Almighty might bring rain to them.

Coming to Shmuel Hakatan, they said: “The people of Israel are in great distress. Pray to the Almighty that He send us rain. Perhaps He will hearken to your prayers.”

The Rains Come

Shmuel Hakatan then answered the people saying: “Proclaim a fast for the morrow and call unto G-d with all your might and He will have mercy upon you.”

The leaders of the community immediately issued a call throughout the area for a fast and prayers to begin the next day. No sooner had the sun risen, then a great shower of rain began to fall on the land, soaking all the fields and fill­ing all the wells with precious water.

The people were overjoyed and they called out in great happiness: “Today we have seen that we are good in the eyes of the Almighty for He answered us rapidly, even before we called out to him.”

But Shmuel Hakatan shook his head and said: “No, what happened here today is a sign not of great love. On the contrary, it is a bad omen.”

The people looked at the great sage in puz­zlement.

“Why do you say that Behold, G-d sent us rain before our prayers were even ut­tered. Is this not a good sign?”

“No. It is similar to the case of a servant who seeks a favor from the king. The king knows of this and quickly tells his other ser­vants: ‘Hurry and give him what he wants, for I do not wish to be bothered with him.’”

Another Drought

Some time later, still another drought struck the land. Once again the fields dried up and the people were in great distress. Shmuel Hakatan called for yet another fast and more prayers.

This time, the people continued fasting and praying the entire day.

“Please G-d, Have mercy upon us! Redeem us, Grant us salvation and do not turn us away empty-handed.”

All day they prayed; all day they fasted. It was to no avail. The skies remained as before, the rain locked in and the land still thirsty. The people returned to their homes that night, sad and forlorn. Only then did the skies open up and the rains came down on the earth bringing life and hope.

“This, too, is not a good omen,” said Shmuel Hakatan. “To what may this situation be compared? To a king, whose servant re­quests a favor and the monarch tells his ad­visors: ‘wait until he suffers a little more before giving it to him.’”

The Good Omen

The people then asked Shmuel Hakatan: “If this is so, how can we know when the people are acceptable in the eyes of the Almighty?”

And Shmuel Hakatan answered: “This is how you shall know. When the peo­ple are in need of rain and they come to the synagogues and say, ‘Who makes the wind to blow and the rain to come down,’ if then, the Almighty grants them what they ask, this is the sign that they have found favor in His eyes and at that time you may rejoice.”

In The Days To Come

And the spirit of G-d rested on the great Shmuel Hakatan and he was permitted to see the events that would occur in the future for Israel. He saw the terrible tragedies and terror that would befall his people and his heart grew heavy within him. He would not eat or sleep and he walked about the entire day as a mourner, with his head bowed and bent. He grew ill and was forced to lie in bed but his situation grew worse and he lay at death’s door!

The sages, hearing the sad news, hurried over to see how he was. They found him only a shell of the man that he had been, pale and emaciated, unable to speak above a whisper.

Prayer to Come to the Land of Israel

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

In our previous blog, we mentioned that Moshe Rabainu offered 515 prayers to Hashem, at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, begging Hashem to let him enter the Land of Israel. Some people have trouble making up prayers if it isn’t written out for them in a siddur. So here’s a prayer I wrote for coming to the Land of Israel. Print it out and say it every day for the next 515 days. If it doesn’t work, crumple up the page, send it to me, and I’ll eat it.

It may be the most important prayer you say in your lives.

Prayer to Come to the Land of Israel

Please God, and God of my fathers, please help me to come to the Land of Israel, Your chosen Holy Land, the Land where the Torah is meant to be kept, the Land where the commandments have their true value, the gateway to Heaven where all prayers ascend, the Land that You watch over from the beginning of the year to the end, the Land of the Shechinah, the Land where our holy forefathers longed to dwell and never wanted to leave.

Please God, fill my heart with a burning desire to reach the Land of Israel and to live there, for I know that the service of God can only be complete there, in the Land which You created especially for the Jewish People and for the Torah, as it says over and over and over again in the Torah, and just like our Prophets and Sages have told us in dozens and dozens of ways, emphasizing that it is the Land of our life, the only place we can have our own Jewish Nation, the only place where we can live as free men and not minorities in foreign countries, immersed in foreign cultures that surround us wherever we live in the exile and which pollute our true understandings of Torah.

And now that You in Your infinite mercy have opened the gates of aliyah after almost 2000 years, in fulfillment of Your promises in the Torah, and through the words of our Prophets, please help me to come to the Promised Land and do my share in the Redemption that is unfolding in our time. Now that the 2000 year longing “Next Year in Jerusalem” has become a reality, please let me shed all of my fears of the future, and of started out anew, and let me race after You with blinders, trusting in You and You alone, not listening to anyone who tries to discourage me from attaining the ultimate goal of a Jew – living a Torah life in the Land of Israel.

Please Father in Heaven, and Master of all the Earth, gather me also with the millions whom You have already brought home, let me take my place beside them in building the Land, Your cherished Holy Land, which is the beauty of all the earth, which our teacher, Moshe, yearned to reach all of his life, and now that I, a simple Jew like myself, has the chance to do what Moshe was denied, how can it be that I won’t do everything in my power to come?

I beg you, my Father, my King, strengthen my conviction until it be like steel, so that all of the distractions don’t confuse me along the way and prevent me from making aliyah, because I know that coming to Israel is the most important thing for a Jew and that the yetzer hara (evil inclination) rises up against him with all of its strength to prevent him from reaching his goal, even confusing people who are far greater in Torah than me, just as it twisted the thinking of the Spies in the Wilderness, who were all great men, leaders in Torah, but who rebelled against Your command to journey on to the Promised Land, because they wanted to remain in the wilderness and be protected by the Clouds of Glory without having to face the challenges of conquering and dwelling in the Land. Deafen my ears to all of the excuses for not coming, however reasonable they might sound, and put true faith in my heart that in doing Your will, knowing that You will surely guide me on my path, and watch over me. Even though the journey be hard, give me the strength to overcome all difficulties and setbacks, and the wisdom to know that all of the tests are for my good, to break down the walls of my swollen American ego so that I may become Your true humble servant, trusting in You and living according to Your will in the Land that you promised to our forefathers.

A Family Torn Asunder

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

Last week I shared a tragic letter of family disintegration. What could have been a most beautiful mishpachah was torn asunder by one son and his wife who decided to sever all relationships with their siblings. Despite all the efforts on the part of the parents and the siblings, this son and his spouse remained refused to be reconciled. When simchas came – births, bar mitzvahs, weddings – the parents were invited but never the siblings. To add insult to injury the parents were treated disrespectfully on all of these occasions.

Over the years the gap only widened. The cousins did not know one another and the family feud, for which no one could really find an explanation, festered and poisoned the atmosphere. The immediate problem that prompted the letter was an upcoming simcha to which, as usual, the parents were invited but not the rest of the family. The parents wanted to know whether they should attend or finally put a stop to this shameful state of affairs by declining – and whether, if they decided not to go, they should state the reason or make up some excuse. The following is my response.

My Dear Friends:

Perhaps it was not by coincidence that I received your letter at this time – the most catastrophic period in our long and painful history. As we remember the tragic destruction of our holy Temple, the razing of Jerusalem, and our people taken in chains into the darkness of exile, we must ask, “Why did such a tragic fate befall us?”

The answer is well known: sinas chinam – hatred between Jew and Jew. It was hatred that brought on this horrific calamity, and it is hatred that continues to consume us to this day. But as much as we know this, we have yet to absorb this simple truth and apply it to our lives. Sadly, we have become so conditioned to this venom that we no longer know how to identify it. We view it as “normal” rather than abominable. It doesn’t even occur to us that it must be expunged from our minds and hearts.

Our First Temple was destroyed because of three cardinal sins: idol worship, murder, and adultery, but after seventy years of Babylonian exile the Almighty forgave us and returned us to our Holy Land. Our present exile however, is almost 2,000 years old and we have yet to be redeemed; we have yet to shake off the shackles that keep us chained in jealousy, animosity and, yes, hatred. In Israel and in all the lands of our dispersion the germ continues to fester and infect us with its deadly venom.

I will never forget the words of my saintly father, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Avraham HaLevi Jungreis, zt”l, after our liberation from Bergen Belsen. With tears streaming down his holy face he said, “Noch azoy ah churbon men darf kushen un lieb huben yeden Yid” – “After such a cataclysmic conflagration, we have to kiss and embrace with love every Jew.”

Every Kol Nidre night, before commencing the sacred prayers, my father would weep and plead for parents and children, brothers and sisters, to reconcile and make peace.

Alas, it hasn’t happened. Even the Satanic horror of the Holocaust has failed to wake us up. So the question to your letter remains: What to do?

Before addressing your dilemma, I must tell you that I write with pain. There is nothing as agonizing for parents as to see walls of hatred separating their children. May Hashem have mercy on us all.

Those of you who have read my columns or consulted with me regarding personal problems can testify that I try not to put forth my own opinion but rather to find a Torah example for guidance. You ask whether you should attend the forthcoming simcha and suffer silently as you have in the past, or whether you should once and for all put your foot down and refuse to participate.

Do we have an example that could shed light on your dilemma? The answer, tragically, is yes. Even as your son and his wife refuse to allow their siblings to come to their simcha, so it was in the days of the Second Temple in the shameful story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, in which one Jew ejected another from his celebration in Jerusalem. Our Heavenly Father, Who desires to see all His sons and daughters living in harmony, does not countenance acrimony and hatred among His children. Despite the meticulous religious observance of the generation of the Second Temple, our Father’s fury raged and He set His House and the entire city afire and cast us all into exile.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/judaism/rebbetzins-viewpointrebbetzin-jungreis/a-family-torn-asunder/2012/07/25/

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