Thursday, December 18, 2014

Happy Chanukah! and Good Shabbos!


I have pre-recorded a class for this motzai Shabbos that Shira will be sending to you, b'ezras Hashem, (thank you Shira).  Now we have finished the first two sections in Bilvavi 1 and the first three chapters in our handbook.

Here is our avoda for the next few weeks.

From Bilvavi:

1. Remember that our purpose in this world is to have deveikus to Hashem.

2. Remind ourselves that there is a Creator of this world and He created everything.

From  our handbook:

3. one to three times a day ask yourself:

"Why am I doing this? Is it for me/my ego or am I doing it to serve Hashem and reveal Him in the world? (this is geulah mentality)

Here is my thank you letter to you, in case you didn't receive it yet.

To my dearest soul sisters;

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.  

Your gifts, your words, your efforts, your thoughts, have rendered me speechless.

 I was completely shocked to see Reitza Sarah handing me a gift from all of you.  Perhaps because I don’t think you realize that you have already given me a gift every week by learning with me and bringing your beautiful light into the world for me to be in awe of!  I wish I can give you each a gift back so that you can feel the love you sent me, flowing back to you.  It is precious and humbling, sweet and strong, all at the same time!

Thank You Hashem for bringing these beautiful neshamos into my life.  

Each one of you is magnificent and noble.  

I am so thankful that you have allowed me to share in your journey in this world and to grow with you in serving Hashem. 

May all the love and deveikus we are striving to share, herald the geulah- b’korov, b’yameinu,

Love, aviva rus

ps. Thank you Shira, Reitza Sarah, and Hindy for organizing this special moment.  

Each of you have mentioned to me how special you think each of you are and Shira said this has been the best experience she’s ever had- in working with all of you!  
                                the gift

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Last Night was our pre- Chanukah class

Here is Chanukah Torah that is from the Rav's website.  I am underlying the ideas we spoke about.

All the Torah we shared is leading us back to the same thing: Total Emunah in Hashem; Ain Od Milvado consciousness; Hashem Echad. (I will email an outline of what we spoke about through Shira- please contact her if you do not receive it).

We are now approaching Chanukah. Let us understand what the concept of this Yom Tov is, in a way that can affect us in our souls.

We have three Yomim Tovim according to the Torah – Pesach, Shavuos and Sukkos. 

The Sages enacted two more Yomim Tovim – Chanukah and Purim. The Yomim Tovim of the Torah are seven days each that become eight. Sukkos is seven days, plus Shemini Atzeres. Pesach has seven days, but it really has eight, because  the Ramban says that Shavuos is the Shemini Atzeres of Pesach. 

Chanukah, though, is eight days to start with.

What is the difference between the Yomim Tovim of the Torah, which are seven days that really total for eight, and Chanukah, which is eight days to start out with?

Chazal say that when a person smiles at someone, it is better than giving him a cup of milk. Why? This is because when you smile at someone, you radiate a light towards him, and this is more illuminating than even the white color of the milk.

This is Chanukah: it is a light that radiates outward. The oil of Chanukah which we light with is that illumination that radiates outwards.

Oil is shemen in Hebrew, which is similar to the word shemoneh – eight. This alludes to how the oil of Chanukah, which we light to commemorate the miracle of Chanukah, continues to be lit long after the miracle happened. 

Chanukah is a light that transcends time – it continues to radiate. 

We aren’t commemorating Chanukah because it was a miracle in history, but because it is a time of light, even now.
Chanukah is eight days, hinting to the fact that it is above time. 

There are seven days of the week, and the Yomim Tovim are seven days; seven represents regular time. 

But Chanukah is eight days, because it reveals a light that is above time.

Hashem created the world to be seven days. But if we count the Shabbos that Hashem started out the world with, we get eight days. 

On a deeper understanding, there are really eight days in Creation – the Shabbos of before Creation, the six days of the week, and then Shabbos of after Creation.

The light of Chanukah, which we light for eight days, reveals this “eight-day” concept. Normally, time consists of seven days, but the deeper aspect of Creation is that there is an eighth day – a spiritual light that is above time.

We find in halacha that if Chanukah begins on Friday night, we light 30 minutes earlier than sundown on Friday. How can this be? How are we able to light for Chanukah when it isn’t Chanukah yet? We aren’t able to bring the korbon pesach early. So why are we able to light for Chanukah earlier than its time?

The answer to this mystery is because Chanukah is above time.

What exactly is this special light of Chanukah, which transcends time?

 It is really the light of Emunah (faith in Hashem).

 Emunah is a power that is not limited to any time.

 Emunah says to us that what you see as the beginning isn’t really the beginning, because there was something that came before it. You see seven days of the week, but there was a Shabbos that came before it.

(This also alludes to the “letter aleph” which Hashem used to create the world with, before He created it using the letter beis. We only see Creation starting from the letter “beis,” Beraishis, and we do not see what preceded it – the letter aleph).

During our regular seven-day time period, we can reach the “letter aleph” of before Creation, though utilizing the seven days. But on Chanukah, we start already from that point preceding Creation.

Avraham Avinu illuminated the world through his Emunah – how? He radiated that power of Emunah, which came before Creation, onto the seven days of the world that are after Creation.  He used that letter “aleph” which was around before Creation – the light of perfect Emunah in the Creator.

This is why some say that in the future, Chanukah will not cease, while all the other festivals will cease. It is because the power which is Chanukah – the light of the perfect Emunah, which existed even before Creation – can never cease.

Now that we have seen this concept, let us see how this applies to our very soul.

Any light which exists in the world seems to be coming from the sun. But from where is the sun getting its light from? It gets its light from the heavenly spheres above it, which Hashem sustains.

The light of our Chanukah Menorah seems to be coming from this world, but all light comes from Heaven, so we are really using a spiritual light that is Heavenly.

That is the meaning behind the halachah why it is forbidden to benefit from the Chanukah lights. It is really because the light gets its source from Heaven, and thus we are not allowed to use it.

Normally, we are allowed to benefit from light. We were also allowed to benefit from the light that shined by the Simchas Beis HaShoeivah

But on Chanukah, we are prohibited from benefiting from the lights.

There is a special halachah that on Chanukah, it has to be recognizable from the street who is lighting the Menorah. This hints to how we must recognize the True Source of the Chanukah lights – “Who” is really lighting this Menorah….
The possuk says, “Ner Hashem, nishmas adam.” 

The soul of a person is called a ner, a light. Who lit it? 

Every light was lit by a Source. 

By seeing the lights on Chanukah, we can recognize Who lit these lights, Who the beginning of all this is. We can see the Chanukah lights and see which Master lit it – where the beginning of these lights is.

This represents the power of complete, perfect Emunah – the real light of Chanukah.

When a person walks into a building and he sees light, it usually doesn’t make a difference to him who lit up the building. But Chanukah teaches us that we must see the beginning, the source, of all light – Hashem.
We usually only focus on the purpose of everything, but do we ever think about the source of things? That is the lesson of Chanukah: we can see the beginning of everything.

“I am the First, and I am the Last.” It is not just enough to know that Hashem is the Last and the goal of everything. We have to also be aware that He is the beginning of everything. We must see how He is both the beginning and end of everything.

Chochmah, wisdom, is called ohr\light. The Torah, which is Chochmah, is called Torah Ohr.  This is because ohr serves to show us what the beginning of all things are. 

This is the special ability of the Jewish people: we can see the beginning of things, not just the goal of whatever everything leads up to. The nations of the world only focus on what something leads up to, but they do not have the power to trace everything back to its beginning.

Take a look at the world today. All of the world is running after more and more new gadgets. They aren’t interested in beginnings of things, only in what they can get out of something.

The Torah, however, is a revelation of the Beginning that it comes from. Although we also must pursue the goal of everything, we also need to search for the Beginning of everything.

Chanukah is not about the “purpose” of things. It is about the Beginning. It shows us that we must search for the Beginning of everything. The Beginning of everything is Hashem, and so are Torah and the Jewish people called raishis, the beginning.

The light of Chanukah thus reveals how the Torah radiates through the light of Chanukah. It reveals “Torah Ohr.”

There is a minhag on Chanukah to eat dairy. We understand why we eat foods with oil in it, because the miracle happened with oil. 

 But why do we eat dairy on Chanukah?
Before, we quoted the words of Chazal, that smiling at someone is better than giving him a cup of milk. In this we can find the answer to our question. If I smile at someone, I am showing him the white of my teeth - I am radiating a light toward another, I am giving him he’aras panim (a radiant countenance). I am bestowing upon another, with my smile, the Chochmah\wisdom that is found within me – as it is written, “The wisdom of man lights up his face.” With a smiling countenance, I am shining upon another the light of the beginning of all wisdom.

This is why we eat dairy on Chanukah, to allude to how we must radiate our “white” teeth toward others, which Chazal say is even valuable than giving your friend a cup of milk.
On Chanukah, we light the Menorah to radiate that spiritual light outwards toward others – the light of the Beginning.
Thus, Chanukah does not come to show us the “purpose” of these days. It rather comes to show us what the beginning of it is.

What we learn from Chanukah is that we must make sure to always look for the beginning of something. We shouldn’t only pursue our goals that we are heading towards. What we mainly need to do is to reflect about the beginning of everything. 

In whatever you do, think about its beginning. The beginning of anything is Hashem. 

When you think about this, you will find that you will be much more motivated to get to your goal.
It’s more important to think about the beginning of each thing than to think about the purpose of each thing.
Let’s say a person loves a certain thing. Why does he love it? If he reflects, he can discover that all loves are rooted in the Creator, because love is a power which comes from the Creator. 
He is the source of everything.

We must access our power of seeing the “beginning” in everything. This is really the ohr haganuz, the hidden light, that Hashem hid away at the beginning of Creation. We can access the “hidden light” when we think into the beginnings of everything, and we discover that Hashem is the source of absolutely everything. It is a “hidden light” because at first this perspective is hidden from a person – until he finds it.
This power can be revealed on Chanukah. By accessing our power to see the beginning of everything, we can truly come to connect to the Creator  - Who is the First, and the Last.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Nullifying our "I"....

Before you can find G-d, 
you must first lose yourself

(Baal Shem Tov) 

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Part 2 : Achieving Inner Redemption

( We will be discussing this on Motzai Shabbos, IY'H, and 55-60 in Bilvavi- please email Shira at to receive what we will be covering each week- as i will not be putting everything on the blog-)

Nullifying Your “i” 
(Adapted from sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, Vol. VI, Chapter 3)

Many Ways, One Goal
The essence of life is Hashem- Who is found in our heart.  Our mission is to reveal Him from within ourselves.  There are many paths to get there.
Generally speaking, the mitzvos are the ways to get to Him.  There are 613 Biblical commandments and 7 Rabbinical commandments; if so, there are altogether 620 ways to reveal Hashem.
Each of our forefathers had his own way as well.  Avraham Avinu intuited the whole Torah by himself (Beraishis Rabbah 95:3), and that was one way.  The Torah which we received at Har Sinai is another way.  What both ways have in common, though, is that they are both paths to reveal Hashem.
The Nefesh HaChaim explains that the giving of the Torah didn’t add anything new to our goal; the goal always remains the same – revealing Hashem.  What the giving of the Torah revealed was how to get to Hashem, but the inner point, which is to reveal Hashem, never changes.  It is unaffected by the sin of Adam.
The constant search remains: to search for Hashem.  The ways to get there are many; before the sin of Adam, there was a certain away to get there, and after the sin, the plan changed.  Avraham Avinu’s path was chessed, Yitzchok Avinu’s path was gevurah, and Yaakov, (who is emes) is the synthesis of these two;  while Moshe Rabbeinu is the inner dimension of Yaakov’s path.  Still, the goal of getting to Hashem always remains the same. 
The many ways to serve Hashem are only “garments” of the inner point they cover, which is to search for Hashem.  “Just like all faces are different, all de’os (opinions) are different” – there are many paths to “know” Hashem, but the common denominator between all the paths is that a person has to become close to Hashem.  How we look for Hashem differs with each person, but What we look for is always the same.
This should be very clear.  When we learn sefarim hakedoshim, especially the works of Chassidus, a person may attempt to discover himself within the sefer.  A person may think, “My soul is rooted in Avraham Avinu, who is chessed”, or “My soul is rooted in Yitzchok Avinu, who is gevurah”.  This is dangerous because people end up basing their entire lives on all kinds of speculations.
We must all know, however, that we have only one goal – to become close to Hashem.  Where each one of us should begin is a different issue, but What we search for should always be the same.
The Danger of Thinking About Yourself
The words here are deep matters about how to work with our soul.
Oftentimes, when a person is more involved with avodas Hashem (serving the Creator) and he seeks to improve, he may begin to become very self-absorbed. He thinks about himself all the time – about his spiritual situation, and he is totally absorbed in himself.
Now, if someone isn’t an internal kind of person, he doesn’t have this problem, and he just lives life.  He also has desires for glory, but he’s not immersed in himself, and he leads a superficial kind of life.  He looks for outer kinds of desires and isn’t connected to his inner self to begin with.  He experiences jealousy, desire, and a longing for honor, but these are just desires to enter outside one’s self.  A superficial person doesn’t have the kind of problem we are describing.
Only an internal kind of person, who really seeks to serve Hashem better, is faced with the danger of becoming too self-absorbed.  An internal kind of person really wants to know his soul, and he is critical of himself, as he is involved regularly with making a cheshbon hanefesh (soul accounting); each to his own.  He wants to know who he is. 
On the one hand, this is wonderful; Chazal say, “Know the G-d of your father and serve Him”, and it is written, “From my flesh I see G-d.”  A person indeed must know himself well and what his soul is, so he can figure out in which way he should serve Hashem.  Without this internal self-examination, a person lives a superficial life.
On the other hand, when a person enters himself and he begins to clarify who he is, he wants to know very much what his “I” is, and this is apt to make him become very self-absorbed, and it can have disastrous results.  It can either make one become very broken and sad, and if this doesn’t happen, the opposite will happen - it can make him become haughty and arrogant, because he thinks he knows himself so well.  Either of these is not what we want to achieve.
When a person is too absorbed in himself, it can be said of him in a subtle sense the statement of Chazal, “I and him cannot dwell under one roof” .  Chazal say this of a baal gaavah (haughty person), but the root of haughtiness is when a person is absorbed in himself, and thus it can be said that Hashem doesn’t want to be with someone who is self-absorbed.
When a person is truly humble, he doesn’t think he’s a nothing.   True humility is that a person doesn’t think about himself at all – he’s not thinking about “i”.  He thinks only about Hashem, the Torah, and how to help other Jews – both physically and spiritually – and he takes his mind off himself.
When a person thinks very much about himself all the time, this itself prevents him from reaching the goal, which is to be close to Hashem.

“Ani” Vs. “Ayin”
We said in the beginning of this chapter that there are many methods on how to begin serving Hashem, but the end goal of all these ways is always the same: Hashem.  What we really mean is as follows.
A person’s “i” (ani) is to be used as a tool to get to the purpose, which is to reach Hashem.  Our mission is not solely for the sake of building our “I”.   Just to be in it for the sake of developing our self is like how “the building of children demolishes” (Nedarim 40a).  A person only reaches perfection when he is totally divested of his ego; instead of ani (I), he has reached ayin, “nothingness”.  Perfection is not when you build your “I” – it is when you leave your “I “.
Perfection is not about building your “I”; it is rather about negating your “I”. This does not imply that one should feel low about himself; it is instead that a person should realize that he doesn’t live for himself, and that he is not meant to think and worry about himself.
This is the ideal situation which we are trying to achieve.  The more a person enters into avodas Hashem, if he becomes more self-absorbed in the process, although he gains in that he has left the materialism of this world, he has harmed himself in a way that is very hard to come out of.
If a person isn’t aware of this as he starts out in his avodas Hashem, he will suffer from his self-absorption until the end of his life.  This is like what is written, “Until elderliness and old age, I will endure”.  His “I” will prevent him from any true progress, and his whole life he will only be interested in how his “I” come into the picture.
The recognition we are supposed to have, though, is that when we want to search for closeness to Hashem, we should know that this is the common goal of whatever we are doing.  The more a person purifies his “I” and leaves his ego, the more he will live with Hashem in his life, and come to the recognition of Ain Od Milvado, “There is nothing besides Hashem”.
“Your Face, Hashem, I seek”
We are stating this point at the beginning specifically, and not at the end. Simply speaking, our mission is to first build up our self and then nullify it.  But it is really more than that.  Instead of entering our “I” and then leaving it, it’s better to stay outside of the “I” altogether.  This is because we must be clear in what we are searching for: are we just searching to find ourselves, or are we searching to find Hashem?
When a person hears that he has to work on his middos, if he has only a superficial perspective, he will likely groan to himself, “Oy, I have so many faults, I am full of so many problems I need to fix”.  It is indeed true that no one is perfect, and that we all have areas we need to work on.  If you ask a person why he wants to work on himself, he might respond, “Because I want to give pleasure to Hashem”.  But the truth is that he is only working on himself for the concern of his own well-being.  He views “working on himself” in the same way that he has to fix a broken machine. He is aware that “working on yourself” and “getting to know yourself” is part of serving the Creator, and thus he thinks about himself a lot and does all kinds of outer actions to try to improve himself.
This is an erroneous attitude. 
We need to correct this outlook from the start and clarify what the goal here is, what we are really trying to arrive at.
If someone is really searching for avodas Hashem, he must know that it’s not about himself.  You don’t need to find yourself, and the only search you need to have is to search for Hashem. 
When people want to know, “Who am I? What am I? What is my shoresh haneshamah (soul root)?” – people have all kinds of questions like this – it shows that the intention isn’t for the sake of coming to better their avodas Hashem.  They are seeking knowledge about themselves, and that is not the true depth of avodas Hashem.

The proper attitude to have about self-knowledge is that knowing about yourself can definitely enhance your avodas Hashem, but to be aware of what we are really searching for – Hashem.  It is written, “Your face, Hashem, I seek.” One should not be looking for his “I”, but for Hashem!  Our mission is not to build ourselves; it is rather to realize that there is nothing else other than Hashem, and that we search for nothing other than Him.