Embarrassment: The Torah’s View
If You Are Supposed To Get Embarrassed, Then It Will Come To You Regardless Of What You Do
The Sefer Vayikra introduces us to the laws of sacrifice. One of the rules is that every Korban had to have salt on it- ולא תשבית מלח ברית ,(”you may not discontinue the covenant of salt”). The Gemara tells us that Raish Lakish equated this mention of ברית by salt to the mention of ברית by יסורים ,hardships, that just like salt tenderizes the meat so too hardships tenderize a person by erasing his sins.
The Sefer Shomer Emunim says that all hardships, even small hardships,that a person faces on this world, cleanse him from needing hardships in the next world, for even small hardships in this world one is saved from great punishment in Gehennom. This is true only if one believes and recognizes that it’s coming from above and doesn’t question Hashem. If one would understand this, then, at the advent of hardships, one would dance with sheer delight at the opportunity that Hashem is giving him
The Chafetz Chaim says that one should accept hardships humbled and not try to run away from them for it is impossible for one to run away from that which is coming to him. The Steipler writes similarly that all one’s troubles are decreed on him on Rosh Hashana and there is no way to run away. If one tries to avoid these troubles, then another one will just come in its place. Chazal (Rabbis) tell us that no one can avoid hardships; praiseworthy is the one whose hardships come from Torah. As we just said, there is no way to avoid hardships completely. Even if one could, he would be losing out on the eternal benefits. So what can we do to make our hardships as easy to handle as possible, while still receiving the eternal benefit of having sins erased?
Story is being said that Once, Reb Elchanan Wasserman came to a town to collect money for his yeshiva. He asked one of the rabbis of the town to come around with him to the people to help him collect. When the rabbi was hesitant because he was going to be embarrassed to go around collecting with him, Reb Elchonan told him “you should know if you are supposed to get embarrassed, then it will come to you regardless of what you do. You can’t run from it, so it’s better to suffer embarrassment because of the Torah then having it come from somewhere else. Reb Elchanan wrote in his sefer that when one is busy and works hard at doing a Mitzva or is embarrassed because of the mitzvah, then Hashem will decrease his work and embarrassment somewhere else The Vilna Gaon was once teaching his students Mussar when he said was that people think that the way Gehennom is described is exaggerated. One should know that that’s a mistake, for there is no exaggeration. It’s exactly as described. When one of the students heard that, he became physically ill and confined to bed. When the Gaon heard how sick this student was and why, he went to visit. While he was there, he got up and said “I had told you that all the descriptions of Gehennom were true. That’s a fact. However, there was one thing I forgot to mention; had I said it, you never would have gotten sick. If a person would know how much the pain and troubles of this world serve to cleanse him of the punishments of the next world, one wouldn’t hesitate to accept on himself the worst of hardships. Now, since most of us wouldn’t want real hardships on this world and also not the real punishments of the next world, the way to accomplish both would be to put all our energy into Torah and mitzvot, for if one were to lose sleep because he was learning or doing chesed, that’s classified as hardships. If one were to be embarrassed in front of his friends for doing the right thing, for going that extra step, then he won’t be embarrassed for other things and it will erase his sins. Let’s take this opportunity to strengthen our commitment to Torah and Mitzvot not only to get their reward but to ensure that the hardships we endure will also cleanse us of any sins we may have!
by Yitzy Adlin
15 Steps To Freedom
We make the “hamotzi” blessing to thank G-d for “bringing forth bread from the ground.” Which is odd because G-d bring wheat from the ground – and man turns it into bread! In truth, G-d gives us two gifts:
1. 1) the raw materials, and
2. 2) the tools for transforming it into life.
Today, technology has pulled us away from seeing the beauty of G-d’s creation. We fine-tune our environment with air-conditioning, synthetic foods, cosmetic surgery, and genetic engineering. Mankind is perilously close to “playing G-d.” But in truth, man cannot create anything perfect; man can only tune into G-d’s ultimate perfection. Which is more awesome to behold – the world’s biggest super-computer, or the human brain? Between your two ears are 10 billion nerve cells — a communication system 100 times larger than the entire communications system on Earth. When we make “hamotzi,” we hold the matza with all our 10 fingers – reminding us that while human hands produced this food, it is yet another gift from the Creator and Sustainer of all life.
Both bread and matza are flour mixed with water, then kneaded into a dough and baked. What is the difference between them? The difference is that dough has sat unattended for 18 minutes and becomes leavened (bread). The matza which we eat on Passover has been baked quickly. The spelling of “matza” is similar to “mitzvah:” Just as we shouldn’t delay in the making of matza, so too we shouldn’t procrastinate in performing a mitzvah. The lesson of matza is to seize the moment. Delaying even one second can mean the difference between an opportunity gained or lost. Why 18 minutes? Because the number 18 is the numerical value of “Chai,” meaning “life.” They say that “baseball in a game of inches.” In reality, life itself is a game of seconds. The Talmud tells of people who had sunk to the depths of humanity, and then in one moment of insight reversed their lives for all eternity. More than just the difference between matza and bread, the Seder teaches us the difference between life and death.
At the Seder we say: “In every generation they rise against us to annihilate us.” The Egyptians broke our backs and our spirits. The Romans destroyed the Second Temple and rivers of Jewish blood flowed. And so it was in every generation: Crusades, Inquisitions, Pogroms, Holocaust, Arab terrorism. Intense and irrational violence has stalked our people to every corner of the globe. Why the hatred? The Talmud says the Hebrew word for “hatred” (sinah) is related to the word “Sinai.” At Mount Sinai, the Jewish People acquired the legacy of morality and justice – a message that evil cannot tolerate. We taught the world “to beat their swords into plowshares.” We taught the world “to love your neighbor as yourself.” We taught the world equality before justice, and that admiration belongs not to the rich and powerful – but to the good, the wise, and the kind. Hitler said: “The Jews have inflicted two wounds on mankind – circumcision on the body, and conscience on the soul.” How right he was and how much more work we have to do.
Throughout the generations, the forces of darkness have sought to extinguish our flame. But the Jews have somehow prevailed. We have G-d’s promise that we will be the eternal nation. For without our message, the world would revert to utter chaos. At the Seder, we eat the bitter herbs – in combination with matza – to underscore that G-d is present not only during our periods of freedom (symbolized by the matza), but during our bitter periods of exile as well. He will never forsake us.
We are always puzzled by the beginning of the Haggadah, where we declare, “All who are hungry, come and eat; all who are needy come and celebrate Passover.” Being that this is said while sitting at the dinner table, the only people hearing it are those who are already there. What is the point of making grand invitations when the truly needy can’t hear it?
Answer: That invitation is not intended for outsiders. We are inviting ourselves and the people around us to really be present at the Seder. While we may be sitting at the table, our minds can be miles away. But then we may miss out on the most powerful spiritual journey – the Seder.
Each one of us is hungry, and we are all needy. We have a soul that hungers for nourishment and inspiration, and we all feel a profound need for our inner self to be freely expressed. Our soul yearns to love, to give, to contribute to the world and to connect to G‑d. But our soul is sometimes trapped, surrounded by obstacles to its being free – scars from the past that cripple us; fears that prevent us from opening our hearts; bad habits that waste our time and divert our energy; toxic relationships that we have become dependent on; negative attitudes that darken our vision; egotism and complacency that stunt our growth.
We are stuck in our own inner Egypt, with these internal slave-masters holding us back from becoming who we are supposed to be. Like Pharaoh of old, our ego doesn’t want to let us go. Even as we sit down to the Seder to read the story of the Israelite Exodus from slavery, we are still slaves.
So at the beginning of the Seder we invite ourselves to really come to the Seder and experience freedom. Don’t let yourself be enslaved to your Egypt any longer. “Whoever is hungry, come and eat. Whoever is needy, come and celebrate Passover.” If you hunger for inspiration, come and absorb the Haggadah’s message of liberty. Don’t just sit there – enter into the Passover experience with your entire being. Read the story of the Exodus, taste the Matzah, the food of faith, and drink in the wine of freedom.
The Seder night is more than just a commemoration of miracles of the past; it is a personal experience, the exodus of the soul. The same spiritual energies that brought about the miracles long ago are reawakened. Freedom is in the air. On Passover long ago we left Egypt; this Passover we can free ourselves from our own slavery.
We can rush through the Haggadah to get to the main course. Then our souls remain trapped. Rather let’s take our time, allowing the eternal story of freedom sink in and become a part of us. Let yourself go – free your soul.
Pesach: the fifth child
You may have heard of the fifth child. That’s the one who didn’t turn up tonight. Probably not his fault. He might not even know it’s Passover. If he would, and if he knew how much we would like to see him, good chance he would be real eager to come.
There was a generation not long ago that was the wise child. They had learned much Torah and knew how to ask questions. Then there was a generation that learned Torah, but wanted out—the generation of the chilled-out child.
Next came a generation that learned only for the bar mitzvah, and could ask only simple questions. Then a generation that didn’t even know that there was a question to ask.
And now, the fifth child. The child who doesn’t even know that he or she is a Jew.
This Seder is for the fifth child as well. Because if we’re inspired enough by this Seder, we’ll make sure that the fifth child will be at the next one.
The doctor entered the room and advised his patient that a brain transplant was the only remedy.
“Fortunately” he continued, “this hospital has perfected the procedure,
however, it is not yet available on the National Health and you will
therefore have to pay.
We have two brains in stock at the moment, a female brain costing £30,000 and a male brain at £100,000″
“Why is the male brain so expensive?” asked the patient.
“Oh, that’s easy, male brains are hardly used.”
First Aliyah: G‑d calls out to Moshe from the Tabernacle and teaches him the laws of the elective burnt offering, the Olah sacrifice. This aliyah discusses the laws of the cattle, sheep, or goat Olah.
Second Aliyah: G‑d then teaches Moshe the laws of the fowl Olah. This aliyah then continues with a description of three types of voluntary meal offerings: unbaked flour, baked loaves, and the shallow-fried meal offering. All voluntary meal offerings also contained olive oil and frankincense.
Third Aliyah: The Torah describes the last type of voluntary meal offerings — the deep-fried meal offering — and the mandatory barley offering, the Omer offering, brought on the second day of Passover. G‑d instructs the Jews to add salt to every animal sacrifice or meal offering, a symbol of our everlasting “salt covenant” with G‑d. We are also commanded not to include any leavened items or anything which contains honey in any Temple offering (there are two exclusions to the leaven prohibition).
Fourth Aliyah: The “Peace Offering,” the Shelamim sacrifice, is described in this Aliyah. The Shelamim — which could be brought from cattle, sheep, or goats — was shared by the altar, which consumed some of the animal’s fats, the Kohanim, and the donors of the sacrifice who were given the bulk of the meat. The aliyah ends with the prohibitions against consuming blood and the specific fats which were offered on the altar. These prohibitions apply to all animals, even those not offered in the Temple.
Fifth Aliyah: We now begin learning about the “Sin Offering,” the Chatat sacrifice, brought by an individual who is guilty of inadvertently transgressing a sin. This section discusses the unique Chatat sacrifices brought by a High Priest who sins, by the Sanhedrin (Jewish Supreme Court) who issue an erroneous ruling which causes the populace to sin, and a monarch who sins.
Sixth Aliyah: The Torah discusses the fourth and final type of Chatat, that of a common person who sins. Also discussed is the Korban Oleh Viyored, a “vacillating” Sin Offering, brought by an individual guilty of certain specific sins. The Korban Oleh Viyored depended on the financial position of the transgressor — a wealthy person brought a sheep or goat, a person of lesser means brought two birds, and a pauper brought a meal offering.
Seventh Aliyah: This section concludes the laws of the Korban Oleh Viyored. We then move on to the last sacrifice discussed in this week’s Torah reading, the “Guilt Offering,” the Asham Sacrifice. Three types of Asham Sacrifices are discussed: a) an Asham brought by one who inadvertently misappropriates Temple property. b) An Asham brought by one who falsely swears regarding money owed to another. (In addition to bringing a sacrifice, these two individuals must repay the principal amount, and pay a punitive fine equal to one fourth of the principal.) c) An Asham brought by a person who is uncertain whether he violated a Torah prohibition.