The Jewish Experience | Denver https://www.theje.com Making Judaism Meaningful Mon, 13 Nov 2017 18:24:13 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9 Climbing the Ladder of Personal Greatness – Class Recordings https://www.theje.com/climbing-ladder-personal-greatness-class-recordings/ Fri, 03 Nov 2017 20:41:44 +0000 https://www.theje.com/?p=45137 The post Climbing the Ladder of Personal Greatness – Class Recordings appeared first on The Jewish Experience | Denver.

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Yom Kippur | “Look for the Helpers” | Ellyn Hutt https://www.theje.com/yom-kippur-look-helpers/ Thu, 28 Sep 2017 23:33:56 +0000 https://www.theje.com/?p=44923 Yom Kippur 5778 By Ellyn Hutt Mister Rogers is not usually my source for Torah inspiration, but today I learned that when he was young and became distressed by various calamities happening in the world, his mother would tell him to “look for the helpers” and he would see how many good people always come […]

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Yom Kippur 5778

By Ellyn Hutt

Mister Rogers is not usually my source for Torah inspiration, but today I learned that when he was young and became distressed by various calamities happening in the world, his mother would tell him to “look for the helpers” and he would see how many good people always come and extend themselves with acts of great kindness in times of need.

The recent catastrophic hurricanes and earthquakes which have devastated so many communities have left people shaken by the extent of the unprecedented destruction. Whether or not we live in the places directly affected, many have friends and family members who have suffered, and we all are impacted by the reports we have seen and heard. What is our response? In addition to our own contributions of money and supplies and time to help alleviate some of the practical and emotional difficulties, the advice Mister Roger’s mother gave him is the best: “look for the helpers” and see the outpouring of compassion and kindness people are demonstrating.

Yom Kippur is almost here. The first Yom Kippur the Jewish people experienced occurred while they were in the desert. Following the sin of the Golden Calf, Moshe returned to Mount Sinai to gain Hashem’s forgiveness for their sin. In addition, Moshe received the second set of tablets (Moshe shattered the first set upon witnessing the revelry that accompanied the people’s betrayal). Perhaps the biggest gift the Jewish people received, however, was Hashem’s revelation of His 13 Attributes of Mercy: “Hashem, Hashem, G-d, Compassionate and Gracious, Slow to anger, and Abundant in Kindness and Truth. Preserver of kindnesses for thousands of generations, Forgiver of Iniquity, willful sin, and error, and Who cleanses.”

“Rabbi Yochanan said: … He (Hashem) said to him (Moshe): Whenever Israel sins, let them carry out this service (the 13 Attributes of Mercy) before Me, and I will forgive them.” (Rosh Hashana 17b) Our Yom Kippur liturgy, modeled on that first Yom Kippur, repeats these Attributes throughout the day.  However, there’s more to the process than just saying the words. According to Rabbi Yochanan, Hashem said we are to ‘carry out this service’ which conveys the idea that we’re supposed to do something. We are directed to activate these attributes of mercy in ourselves, which will trigger Hashem’s response of forgiveness. Each of the attributes is worthy of in-depth study to fully understand it, but we can focus on two that are related and particularly relevant at this time.

We notice that kindness is mentioned twice in the list. First it says that Hashem is abundant in kindness, which is a statement about the quality, quantity, and consistency of the kindnesses that Hashem does for us. The message in this statement is clear. In order to imitate Hashem, we need to do acts of kindness in the same way – acts that are thoughtful, appropriate, frequent, and consistent.  However, kindness is mentioned again when Hashem says that He is a “Preserver of kindnesses for thousands of generations.” What does that add? Here we are learning that Hashem collects and treasures all the acts of kindness that we do and He preserves them for thousands of generations. Our acts of kindness – big and small — are precious to Hashem. The impact of our actions ripples throughout Creation in ways we can’t fathom. Who knows how a small act of kindness that was done years ago in a distant place has blossomed and is benefitting us here and now? If Hashem didn’t tell us this, we wouldn’t believe that our actions could be so significant. Imitating Hashem in this attribute requires us to be a preserver of kindnesses as well. We need to recognize, appreciate, and remember the big and small kindnesses that others constantly do for us and for those whom we love.

Perhaps the recent disasters we’ve witnessed and experienced, specifically at the High Holiday season, have given huge numbers of people abundant opportunities to activate the attribute and merit of kindness in the world at a time when it was sorely needed. And with all of the technology that allows us to see exactly what is happening at every moment, we can also activate the merit of being a preserver of kindnesses by following Mister Roger’s mother’s advice to look for, see, and appreciate the helpers.

May Hashem grant all of us atonement for our mistakes and see all of our helpful and worthy deeds and acts of kindness as an expression of the love and devotion that defines our true essence.

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The Good Word – News from The Jewish Experience https://www.theje.com/the-good-word-news-from-the-jewish-experience/ Tue, 19 Sep 2017 01:46:27 +0000 http://www.theje.com/?p=44825 The post The Good Word – News from The Jewish Experience appeared first on The Jewish Experience | Denver.

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Sparks of Torah – Purim https://www.theje.com/sparks-of-torah-purim/ Fri, 10 Mar 2017 17:17:26 +0000 http://www.theje.com/?p=44780 THE ULTIMATE PURIFICATION In a few short hours Purim will arrive and we need to prepare ourselves for this important Yom Tov. Perhaps you may question why I am referring to it as a Yom Tov since we are not barred from any forbidden work as on Shabbos or other Yomim Tovim? The saintly Arizal […]

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THE ULTIMATE PURIFICATION

In a few short hours Purim will arrive and we need to prepare ourselves for this important Yom Tov. Perhaps you may question why I am referring to it as a Yom Tov since we are not barred from any forbidden work as on Shabbos or other Yomim Tovim? The saintly Arizal commented that the holiness of Yom Kippur is secondary to that of Purim. Surely this statement requires much explanation. On Yom Kippur we are compared to the angels as we fast and abstain from earthly matters whereas on Purim we enjoy a day of merriment and exuberance.

We know that on Purim we have an obligatory meal on the afternoon towards the end of the day. The commentators question why is Purim different from Chanukah where there isn’t an obligation to partake of a festive meal? They answer that the intent of Haman was to annihilate us and therefore since our very existence was threatened the salvation and subsequent celebration focuses on the physical, the essence of the struggle between Haman and the nation. Whereas Chanukah was essentially an attempt to steal the soul of the people from Torah and mitzvos and Hellenize us. Therefore, the mitzvah is to relate to Hashem on a spiritual level, hence we have an obligation to recite Hallel. However, perhaps we can suggest another approach.

Hashem’s name doesn’t appear at all in the entire Megillah that we read on Purim. The commentators understand this omission to indicate that Hashem’s role in the entire episode is hidden. Although we realize that the events that transpired were orchestrated by Hashem, nonetheless, the Divine intervention and assistance that occurred was concealed by the overlay of political intrigue and the interpalatial dynamics that took place. Therefore, His name is not mentioned outright in the Megillah, only alluded to. We may say that Hashem’s name is hidden and concealed within the context of the episode of Haman and Mordechai. Therefore, it is possible to suggest that there is a need to stress that the physical events that transpire in this world are truly Heavenly ordained and coordinated. We need to elevate the material resources at our disposal to a higher level of existence. When we are involved in the mundane matters of life, we must view them with a different perspective. They are not simply necessities in life that we attend to; rather they are avenues of approaching Hashem through the element of this world. As a result, the obligation to feast on Purim is a direct extension of that concept. We take food which is the ultimate physical reality of this world and transform it in to a sacrifice, so to speak, a way to draw close to Hashem.

On the other hand, Chaunkah was visibly a war that was only won due to the intervention of Hashem. We were outgunned, outmanned and outmaneuvered and nonetheless we defeated an army of well trained warriors. Certainly Hashem’s hand is quite noticeable in that setting. Therefore, our obligation on Chanukah is to sing Hashem’s praises and glorify His Name as we recall the events that took place so long ago yet remain fixated in our minds.

Subsequently as we approach Purim it is incumbent upon us to take stock of our lives and asses how we can upgrade our actions from simply being a way to live from one day to the next into vehicles to express our ongoing gratitude to Hashem for all that He has bestowed upon us.

A BYTE FOR SHABBOS
The Kohen Gadol, High Priest, wore a garment that atoned for the sin of loshon hora. It was made with a fabric that resembled the sky. Upon viewing that color one would remind himself of Hashem’s throne which exists in the uppermost regions of the Heavens. We can avoid defying the Torah if we take simple steps such as small reminders of our obligations to Hashem. Another example is the mezuzah which is affixed on our doorposts. When we see a mezuzah we can remember that Hashem took us out of Egypt and therefore we need to reciprocate and fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah.

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The Jewish University 2016-2017 Audio https://www.theje.com/the-jewish-university-2016-2017/ Mon, 13 Feb 2017 21:07:09 +0000 http://jewishexp.staging.wpengine.com/?p=43923 The post The Jewish University 2016-2017 Audio appeared first on The Jewish Experience | Denver.

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Sparks of Torah – Parshas Kedoshim https://www.theje.com/sparks-of-torah-parshas-kedoshim/ Fri, 13 May 2016 17:22:20 +0000 http://jewishexp.staging.wpengine.com/?p=43619 By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum WORN OUT This week the Torah introduces one of the chief guiding mitzvos that potentially affects our lives on a daily basis. It is the mitzvah of “Kedoshim T’hiyu”; we are obligated to elevate our lives to a level of sanctity bordering on the sanctity of Hashem. Obviously we cannot actually […]

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By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

WORN OUT

This week the Torah introduces one of the chief guiding mitzvos that potentially affects our lives on a daily basis. It is the mitzvah of “Kedoshim T’hiyu”; we are obligated to elevate our lives to a level of sanctity bordering on the sanctity of Hashem. Obviously we cannot actually emulate Hashem, however just as He is the epitome of spirituality, so too, we must strive to uplift and enhance our lifestyles to the utmost degree. Nachmonides in expounding upon this mitzvah explains that even though we could be technically satisfied with just the basic fulfillment of the Torah that is not the intent behind the 613 mitzvos. Rather, the Torah truly frowns upon the individual who seeks to avoid serving Hashem in only the most limited manner.

Besides the obvious benefit that this mitzvah yields, Nachmonides adds another dimension to this important mitzvah. The verse concludes that we should pursue an uplifting style of living because Hashem is divine. He explains that when we fulfill this mitzvah of being kadosh, then we have the opportunity to become close to Hashem. Therefore, that is truly a climatic goal that one can aspire to and accomplish a tremendous achievement. Essentially, that is the theme that underscores all of the mitzvos of the Torah, however, this particular aspect in fulfilling mitzvos is the primary goal of this mitzvah. Therefore, this  theme is a prevailing viewpoint that envelopes all mitzvos.

To extend the thought mentioned by Nachmonides that we strive to become closer to Hashem, perhaps we may suggest that in order to accomplish that goal we need to accept that we must distance ourselves from those influences that serve to corrupt us. If we will take note of how our ancestors conducted themselves in Egypt to avoid assimilation as much as they could, we know that there were three matters that they did not compromise. First of all, they all spoke Loshon Hakodesh, Hebrew, they dressed differently from their Egyptian counterparts, and lastly, they used only Hebrew names. Certainly, it stands to reason that the idea behind dressing in a way distinct from the cultural environment that surrounds us can serve as a deterrent to avoid absorption in to their milieu.

Conceptually, it stands to reason that the most important identifying symbol that one can present is the way a person portrays himself in the public arena. We are exposed to a whole array of identifying features that we encounter such as different types of rings and where they are placed. Furthermore, the influx of tattoos and the unusual types of clothing that are worn today serve to remind us that the times that we are living in are indeed troubling and challenging to maintain our equilibrium and not succumb to their persuasion.

These days between Pesach and Shavuos are a time of deep introspection to prepare us to receive the Torah. What better time could there be than now to revisit our priorities in life and set goals and standards that will assist us in developing ourselves. Nachmonides comments that these days are like Chol Hamoed. Just as Chol Hamoed connects the beginning and end of Yom Tov, so too the days of counting the Sefira connect the tremendous lessons that we gleaned during Pesach and the Yom Tov of Shavuos. Therefore as we count these days, let us truly make every day count.

 

A BYTE FOR SHABBOS

The Torah includes in this week’s parsha the mitzvah to love your fellow man. In order to fulfill the mitzvah of being ‘kadosh’ one has to merge with the entire Klal Yisroel and we strive together to uplift the entire nation. Therefore it is incumbent upon each and every one of us to have only positive feelings toward each other.

S’FAS EMES

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You Can Count on It! – Parshas Kedoshim https://www.theje.com/you-can-count-on-it-sefiras-haomer/ Fri, 13 May 2016 17:01:36 +0000 http://jewishexp.staging.wpengine.com/?p=43615 By Ellyn Hutt The count is on. Since the second night of Pesach, Jewish people around the world have been involved in Counting the Omer, counting the 49 days that took us from the Exodus from Egypt in the month of Nisan to standing at Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah at Shavuos in the […]

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By Ellyn Hutt

The count is on. Since the second night of Pesach, Jewish people around the world have been involved in Counting the Omer, counting the 49 days that took us from the Exodus from Egypt in the month of Nisan to standing at Mt. Sinai to receive the Torah at Shavuos in the month of Sivan.  Why did the Jewish people need to wait 49 days, seven long weeks, to receive the Torah after they left Egypt? Wouldn’t it have been better to give us the Torah right after we crossed the Sea and had finally and completely escaped the Egyptians?

Our sages teach us that the Jewish people were at the 49th level — out of 50 possible levels — of spiritual impurity and disconnection at the time they left Egypt. We could not have sunk much lower. Even though we were freed from Egypt, we were not spiritually ready to receive the Torah. However, time alone doesn’t elevate a person or a nation. We needed to work on refining ourselves to become worthy recipients of the treasure of Torah.

That was then and this is now. Why do we, today, need to go through this process in any more than a perfunctory and commemorative way? The reality is that Hashem is continually giving the Torah to us, and so the work of refining ourselves to be worthy recipients is ongoing for everyone every year. It is not limited to the Jewish people at the time of the Exodus. Therefore we, too, go through a 49-day counting process between Pesach and Shavuos .

Whenever we count something, our attention is drawn to what we are counting. In Hebrew, counting the omer is called “Sefirat HaOmer.” Looking at the word sefirat will give us insight into what our counting is all about and what can be achieved during this 49-day period of potential growth and transformation. Sefirat is related to the word Sefirot, the seven Divine qualities that we work on during each of the seven weeks of the Omer: Chesed (Kindness), Gevurah (Discipline), Tiferet (Harmony/Compassion), Netzach (Endurance), Hod (Yielding), Yesod (Integrity), and Malchut (Sovereignty). We are in the third week of counting, which means that we are concluding the week of Tiferet. We spent the week looking at the quality of harmony and compassion in our lives. Where are our strengths, where are our weaknesses? How can I make my acts of compassion more compassionate, more consistent? Am I humble or arrogant in my compassion? Have I integrated compassion into my being or does it remain an external task to complete? Do I get overly involved or do I respect my own and other people’s boundaries?  This is an example of the spiritual work we can do that makes our counting count.

The seven weeks of Sefirat HaOmer, the Counting of the Omer, span the months of Nisan (after the first day of Pesach), Iyar, and the first days of Sivan, with every day of Iyar being involved in the count. Having celebrated Rosh Chodesh Iyar this week, we are now in the month that is most focused on the process of counting our steps up to higher and higher levels of personal growth.

Each of the 12 Hebrew months corresponds to one of the 12 tribes of the Jewish people. The tribe associated with the month of Iyar is Issaschar. On the breastplate of the Kohen Gadol, the High Priest, each tribe was represented by a precious stone. The stone for the tribe of Issaschar is the Sapphire, which is Sapir in Hebrew.  Sapir and Sefirah have the same Hebrew root, Samech, Peh, Reish. Interestingly, the precious stone for the month of Iyar, the sapir, gives us a big hint as to what we are engaged in during the month. Like a precious gem coming straight from the mine, which needs to be cut and polished to reveal the inherent value and beauty, we need to work on refining and polishing our characters and personal qualities to reveal the intrinsic value and beauty of our souls. When we make the effort and invest the time to do this, we become beautiful and worthy recipients of the Torah.

The opening words of this week’s Torah portion of Kedoshim are Kedoshim tee-hee-yu, “You shall be holy, for holy am I, Hashem your G-d.” We are to elevate ourselves and to become holy so we can be similar to and connect to the holiness of G-d.  These 49 days of Sefirat Ha-Omer give us a daily path to help us achieve that goal. You can count on it.

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Sparks of Torah – Pesach Edition https://www.theje.com/sparks-of-torah-pesach-edition/ Thu, 21 Apr 2016 01:56:25 +0000 http://jewishexp.staging.wpengine.com/?p=43610 VISIONARIES By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum Pesach has arrived and, of course, the lingering question, have we arrived? The answer is probably a resounding yes. The shelves are lined with contact paper, the Seder table is set, any slight remains of chometz have been eradicated, and everyone is exhausted, yes we have arrived! Yet, truthfully, we […]

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VISIONARIES

By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

Pesach has arrived and, of course, the lingering question, have we arrived? The answer is probably a resounding yes. The shelves are lined with contact paper, the Seder table is set, any slight remains of chometz have been eradicated, and everyone is exhausted, yes we have arrived! Yet, truthfully, we must examine if we are really prepared or we may have just coincidentally arrived due to the calendar date. How can we determine whether or not we are in the right place at the right time or not?

When Hashem commanded Moshe to lead the people out of Egypt, Moshe was dubious. After all, these people had been slaves for many years and with what merit did they deserve to leave? The answer was that when they will leave Egypt, then they will serve Hashem at Mt. Sinai. First of all, what service did the nation perform at Mt. Sinai? Secondly, if they did not deserve to receive the Torah at this time, then why was Moshe decidedly taking them to Mt. Sinai? Sforno explains that when they left the environment of Egypt where they were surrounded by people who denied Hashem’s presence, then they would be able to receive the Torah despite the fact that they were not yet at the level required for that to happen. Rashi refers to this as a merit for the Jewish people. This is difficult to understand because usually one who merits something first attains the merit and then subsequent to that is entitled to receive that privilege. However, in this instance receiving the Torah was the merit itself and nothing else preceded the event of Mt. Sinai!

Perhaps we may suggest that although the nation was presently unqualified to receive the Torah, however, they had the capacity to improve their lives and reach a level that would be satisfactory for receiving the Torah. When Hashem told Moshe that the nation would serve Him, perhaps this is what is referred to. We know that the people underwent intense preparation to merit receiving the Torah once they arrived at Mt. Sinai. Furthermore, their degree of anticipation in order to become proper recipients was such that they said that they would observe every detail of the Torah even before they fully understood the depth of their present obligation and their forthcoming commitments. However, the upshot is even more electrifying. Hashem was informing Moshe that we must not always look at the here and now, but rather the potential for growth and expansion that is present must be perceived and acted upon. Would Moshe’s initial judgment of the nation have been the accepted perception, then, there never would have been an exodus from Egypt and a subsequent acceptance of the Torah at Mt. Sinai since we were not worthy of either occurrence. However, Hashem enlightened Moshe and provided him with a glimpse in to the tremendous capabilities that we possess. One needs only to focus on that potential and then we can assess the necessity to allow its certainty.

This is then the importance of the Seder and the entire scope of Pesach. We do not look at the bondage of our nation as a period in our history to be viewed unto itself. Rather, the difficult stage that we endured as a people in Egypt served as an impetus with which we eventually elevated ourselves from slavery to freedom in the fullest sense of the word. For one who imbibes Torah is truly a free person as is stated in the last chapter of Pirkei Avos. We climb out of the cellar of our vices during the Seder and recapture the victory of our ancestors as they left their physical and spiritual bondage. The apex of the Seder is accessed as we recite the Hallel near the end when we recognize our ascent and attempt to crystallize our simcha in to a thanksgiving prayer to Hashem. As we chew on the matzoh we savor the flavor of freedom and longingly maintain its message as we do not indulge in anything else after those precious bites which eternalize our future as true servants of Hashem.

 

A BYTE FOR PESACH

The more that we expound about the exodus from Egypt the more it is praiseworthy. All the greatness that we have achieved from that time onward is solely on account of Hashem’s benevolence as He extricated us from the grips of a culture that was antithetical to what we became to represent. Therefore, the inherent magnitude of that event is truly magnified as we expand on the enormity of what transpired at that time.        

S’FAS EMES

GOOD SHABBOS AND YOM TOV

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Sparks of Torah – Parshas Metzorah https://www.theje.com/sparks-of-torah-parshas-metzorah/ Thu, 14 Apr 2016 18:46:43 +0000 http://jewishexp.staging.wpengine.com/?p=43593 By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum   THE SILVER LINING Hashem commanded the Kohanim to warn the people that they should not become defiled and enter the Mishkan. The punishment for this action is one of the most severe in the Torah, “Koreis”. The sinner dies prematurely and his children as well.  However, Rashi questions this because […]

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By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

 

THE SILVER LINING

Hashem commanded the Kohanim to warn the people that they should not become defiled and enter the Mishkan. The punishment for this action is one of the most severe in the Torah, “Koreis”. The sinner dies prematurely and his children as well.  However, Rashi questions this because here the Torah states that one who enters the Mishkan in a state of impurity will die through the ‘hands of Heaven. In other words, although Beis Din, a Rabbincal court cannot execute him for this sin, the Heavenly Court will take action and punish the person for this transgression. However, this does imply that only he will suffer but his children will not, seemingly a contradiction.

Malbim explains the severity of this sin based upon the interpretation of the Aramaic translation of Yonason ben Uziel. The Mishkan is where the Divine Presence resides. When we enter defiled, the Divine Presence does not disappear. On the contrary, Hashem maintains His presence despite the fact that we are ‘exposing’ Him to our impure state. Nonetheless, He remains with us and continues to grace us with His Presence although we are debasing Him. Therefore, the Torah addressed this demeaning approach and levies a death sentence upon the individual. However, we still must question this because since Koreis is the more strict retribution, it would be much more appropriate to impose that upon the sinner instead of the death penalty which is somewhat less critical?

Netziv understands the mention of death in association with this sin in a different vein. Although it is true that the sinner is liable the death penalty at the hands of Heaven, however, there is a much more incisive appreciation to glean from this halacha. Granted that the Mishkan and subsequently the Beis Hamikdash were the depository for Hashem’s Presence, however, the main conduit for Hashem in this world is truly each and every Jewish soul that comprises the comprehensive entirety of this incredibly endowed nation. Only when we invite Hashem in to our midst through the purity of our conduct do we merit the existence of the Mishkan. The Mishkan is the physical hologram that permeates the corporeal regions of the world. But the real ‘location’ of Hashem is within us and therefore we are actually the componential building blocks of the Mishkan. When we corrupt the very concept that we represent, then that reality ceases to exist, in other words, it dies. The Mishkan, that spiritually powered structure that embodies the highest caliber of sanctity and purity cannot endure when its very foundation teeters. Therefore, when the Torah states that one who enters defiled is subject to death, it is not only referring to the Heavenly sentence levied against him. Rather, it is defining the reason for its severity. The antithesis of the Mishkan are those forces in the world that seek to introduce impurity and pollution in to our religious ambiance.

Pesach is around the corner and there are frenzied preparations taking place around the Jewish globe. We are cleaning every nook and cranny to eradicate any slight remain of chometz from our midst. However, let us not forget the goal, the objective of all this intense cleansing. It is a preparation for the Seder, when we gather around and rejuvenate our very essence. We relive our escape from the impurity of each and every Egypt that we experienced during the year and yearn to prepare for the Mt. Sinai that will propel us from where we are to those heights that we truly desire to attain.

 

A BYTE FOR SHABBOS

 

Some people mistakenly believe that although they are not accomplishing at the level of their ability, nonetheless, compared to their colleagues they are doing so much more. However, the Torah mentions that if someone can bring an animal sacrifice and instead he substitutes that with a bird or meal offering, he has not fulfilled his obligation. Similarly, we must judge ourselves based upon our capability to achieve and not fall short of our goals.   

CHOFETZ CHAIM

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Parshas Vayakhel: The Wise Artisans https://www.theje.com/the-wise-artisans/ Thu, 03 Mar 2016 19:12:28 +0000 http://jewishexp.staging.wpengine.com/?p=43547 By Sara Wolfe In this week’s Parsha we read about two main topics. First,  G-d tells Moshe to gather all the people of Israel and they are given the reminder to keep Shabbos.  Then they gather again and plan for the building of the Mishkan.  There are many profound life lessons that can be derived […]

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By Sara Wolfe

In this week’s Parsha we read about two main topics. First,  G-d tells Moshe to gather all the people of Israel and they are given the reminder to keep Shabbos.  Then they gather again and plan for the building of the Mishkan.  There are many profound life lessons that can be derived from these verses, we will uncover a few.

The Torah tells us that Bezalel, Oholiab, and “every wise-hearted man” were the ones who built the Mishkan.  As we know, every line in the Torah teaches us profound life lessons.  G-d gave Bezalel and Oholiab a special talent to be able to build the Mishkan.  He gave it to them and that is why he chose them; that was part of their life’s mission.  In our own lives, we are given an array of talents and strengths.  It is our responsibility to use the talents that G-d gave us to bring goodness into the world.

The question is raised: what does the Torah mean when it tells us that “every wise-hearted man built the Mishkan.”  Anyone who had the desire to be involved with the building of the Mishkan could be included.  How?  We had just been slaves in Egypt, and while we may have known a lot about construction, we had less skill in the fine detail necessary for building the Tabernacle.  Nonetheless, anyone who had the desire to help was endowed by G-d with the wisdom and skills to do so.

Along these lines, the story is told of how someone once came to the early 20th century scholar Rabbi Issur Zalman Meltzer to show him two books that he had written. The author said, “These are the last seforim (books) I am going to write.”  Rabbi Issur Zalman asked him, “What do you mean?  May you have many more!”  The man explained, “Very recently I lost my vision.  The doctor checked my eyes and was astounded.  Based on what he saw, I should have lost my sight ten years ago!”  He then continued, “I know the reason I was able to see until now was because despite being old and weak, I had an intense drive and desire to do complete this project and write these books.  That was my goal and I didn’t think beyond there.  Finally when I finished, I thought, ‘I did it and I am done, now I’ll relax and take a back seat.’  That is when I lost my eyesight.”  Rabbi Issur Zalman uses this story to illustrate how when someone is inspired to do G-d’s work, G-d enables him and gives him the strength to accomplish more.  As we finish one project, learn one book, grow in one area, we should immediately look towards what is next and continue to strive.  If we continue to push forward, G-d will enable us to succeed.  

A third lesson we learn is that we must strive to take advantage of the opportunities to serve G-d that come our way. After Moshe gave the people instructions for building the Mishkan the Torah then says, seemingly extraneuously, “they left.”  Why does the Torah make note of their departure?  The reason is that people were so excited to begin their task of building the Mishkan, that even though it would take months to complete, they hurriedly left the meeting and ran to begin their work.  They showed tremendous alacrity, excitement and haste to fulfill the mitzvah.  To praise this admirable trait, G-d uses a whole verse in the Torah.  Rather than procrastinate, the Jewish people savored the opportunity to perform this beautiful mitzvah.

It emerges that while this Parsha seems filled with repetitive tedious details on how the Mishkan was constructed, it actually is filled up with profound lessons to apply to our daily lives: we muse utilize our G-d-given talents, continue to always strive and grow, and catch each opportunity it arises.  With this may we all live meaningful and productive lives in which we merit to fulfill our potential and bring out our uniqueness to light up the world with beauty!  

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