Thursday, April 30, 2015
We are meeting this week on Sunday night at ten pm IYH (instead of motzai Shabbos)
Shira, our administrator, created this beautiful card.
Below, you can click on the links to the two blogs that she writes.
WE ARE UP TO CHAPTER 9:
HERE IS WHAT WE WILL BE DISCUSSING, PLUS CHAPTER 4 IN BILVAVI, IY'H.
How To Merit A Good Year: Coming Out Of Your Ego (Adapted from sefer Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, Yomim Noraim, Chapter 8).
The Hint of the Shofar
On Rosh HaShanah, we have a mitzvah to blow Shofar. A Shofar is designed in a way that one side of its opening is narrow, and the other opening is wide.
The sound of the shofar comes out from a narrow opening, but it is heard on the wide end of the opening.
The Gemara states that the sound of the shofar sounds like someone crying. That is why we blow different sounds that resemble crying (shevarim and teruah). These are two kinds of crying that a person exhibits. When does a person cry? When he is in pain. When a person feels confined by something, and he wants Hashem to release him from his confined state, he blows (and hears) the shofar in order to come out of his “confines” and reveal instead an “expansion”.
The purpose of the shofar is not just the sounds that come out from it – the shofar is an expression of our soul’s mission during these days: “Shapru maaseichem” – “Beautify your deeds.” The Rambam (Hilchos Teshuvah 3:4) writes that the shofar comes to awaken those who are slumbering.
The shofar is narrow in the place where the sound comes from, and it is wide in the opening that the sound escapes from. This reflects what a person’s Avodah is during these days: to come out of his “narrowness” and expand from his “confines”.
What do we mean by this?
In the physical world, we can understand well what a confine is and what an expansion is. When a person’s monthly income isn’t enough to cover his expenses, this feels like he is confined. When he has adequate livelihood, Baruch Hashem, he feels widened from his confines. A person wants to escape the confines of having to live so frugally and instead to live comfortably, without having to worry so much about every penny he spends. People like to be free from any confines.
The lesson of the shofar, though, is not just about escaping your confines when it comes to the physical. It is a lesson about escaping confines within our own soul, and it is upon us to understand how we can leave our “confines”.
There are many ways how we leave our confines, and we will try to go through each of them.
Leaving Your Narrowed State
Every person worries for himself. There is no such person who can say about himself that he doesn’t worry about himself. On the other hand, every person also has some caring for others. There is no person who only cares for himself his entire life and never worried about another person.
The higher level a person is on, the less he worries for himself, and the more he worries for others. The less of a level he is on, the more self-absorbed he is, and he is less worried for others.
To come out of your “confines” means to come out of your narrowness and instead expand beyond yourself. A person has to leave his private little life and look at the world with a widened view, thinking: “There is such thing as the Jewish people, and there are 600,000 souls who are one collective essence. My existence is only one out of these 600,000.”
When a person leaves his self-absorption in this way, it’s like experiencing redemption in his own soul.
Rosh HaShanah is the Day of Judgment. Hashem writes for each person on this day how much income he will make this year, what his health will be like, and all the rest of his needs. We want to have comfort in all these areas. But if we want to take care of our body’s needs, we need to understand that it depends on a healthy soul. If our soul is stuck in a narrow confine, than this will manifest itself in our body. So if a person wants to be comfortable, he has to make sure his soul is comfortable – in other words, he has to make sure that his soul is not stuck in a narrow confine. If a person succeeds in that, his body’s needs will be affected as well by this, and he will have all his physical comforts.
A person expands beyond himself starting by expanding his internal world, and this slowly spreads outward onto his physical body.
A husband and wife can live together in a house, but it can be like a narrow confine – when each of them is living for themselves. If a person only thinks about himself and only worries for himself, that is a confine. When a person understands and feels that there is another person living with him in his house, and he is involved with giving to that other person – he has left the narrow confines.
A person comes to Rosh HaShanah, the Day of Judgment. He is thinking about himself and he wants to merit a good judgment. Is he only preparing with himself for Rosh HaShanah, or is he thinking about others too, about how he can help them come properly into the Yom Tov? Is he concerned for anyone either for their physical needs or their spiritual needs?
If a person comes to Rosh HaShanah only thinking about himself, he has basically already signed for himself his decree….
“Every person signs with his hand on it.” Every person seals his fate on this day. How do you seal your own decree? Aren’t we on this physical world, while the decree is being made in Heaven? Don’t we need to ascend to Heaven to sign a decree?
The simple answer to this is that our soul goes to Heaven at night when we sleep, and then it signs the decree. But the depth of this matter is as the Maggid of Mezritch z”l explained: the way a person lives is what signs the decree. Everyone signs his own decree! How? If a person has left his “confines” and he has expanded beyond himself, he has signed for himself a decree that he has left his confines. If a person still remains in his own personal confines, it is as if he never heard the shofar, from an inner perspective.
If a person blows shofar and one of the openings is closed, he hasn’t fulfilled his obligation of shofar. The mitzvah is only fulfilled when you blow from the narrow opening and it comes out of the wide opening. In terms of our own soul, we need to come out of our narrowness and expand beyond ourselves.
But if a person comes to Rosh HaShanah and he only thinks about himself, from an inner perspective, he has not performed the purpose of the mitzvah.
There is a well-known story that Reb Yisrael Salanter was walking on the street on Erev Yom Kippur, when a certain pious individual walked by him. Reb Yisrael Salanter gave him a blessing, but the person looked so serious about the Yom HaDin that he failed to respond “Shalom.” Reb Yisrael Salanter remarked about this, “This is not righteousness. True righteousness is when a person leaves his confines and expands beyond himself, and he isn’t self-absorbed and only worrying for his private life. If it is Erev Yom Kippur and he is so absorbed in himself that he can’t greet me with a Shalom Aleichem, he is missing the whole point.”
Every person signs his own decree. The narrower a person is, the narrower his income, health and happiness will be. The more a person expands beyond himself, the wider his blessings will be – he will widen his life, his marriage, his income and all other areas.
Inner Redemption - by Nullifying Your Private Life
How can a person expand beyond himself? He has to realize that there is no such thing as a “private” life.
Reb Zusha of Anipoli zt”l merited to see Eliyahu HaNavi, who told him the following: Chazal state that Moshiach will not come until all the peratiyos (coins) from every wallet will be used up. Peratiyos can also mean “private.” The real depth behind why Moshiach hasn’t come yet is because every person is worrying only for himself!
People will for sure react with a question: “Is this the only reason that Moshiach hasn’t come yet?! He hasn’t come because there are still many people who aren’t keeping mitzvos, and even those who fulfill the mitzvos aren’t doing so perfectly. We can make a long list of all the problems in this generation.”
But if a person wouldn’t be thinking only of himself, he would be serving Hashem perfectly.
A person commits a sin not because he wants to do something good for others, but because he only cared for himself at the moment. He cheated in business to make a good deal – why? He only cared about himself at the moment. He might pat himself on the back that he gives maaser up until a fifth of his money, and he might even give half of his money to tzedakah, but that still doesn’t erase his sin of stealing. The reason why he sinned was because he only worried for himself and thus he wanted some pleasure.
If a person erases his private life, he wouldn’t come to commit a sin. A person only sins because his yetzer hora convinced him that it will be good for him to do so. In other words: “Just worry about yourself….”
It seems simply that to get rid of our private life means to have a positive attitude toward others and to give more tzedakah, but really, it means much more than that.
If a person reflects about his life in a true and deep way, he will conclude with absolute, simple clarity: The root of all problems is when a person only thinks and worries about himself. Sometimes a person isn’t necessarily having a forbidden thought, but sometimes a person commits a sin simply because all he thought about was himself.
The Nefesh HaChaim writes in the introduction: “A person was not created except to help others.” If that would be a person’s perspective in whatever he does, he would ask himself each time: Is what I’m doing now for myself, or in order to help others?
When a person eats something with a questionable hechsher (Kosher certification), what is the real reason that he did so? If he thinks about it a little, he will discover that it was because he only worried about himself at the time.
Donating Some of Your Learning
If we would succeed in uprooting our self-absorption, we wouldn’t even come to one sin. “There is no righteous person on the earth who only does good and never sins.” It is impossible for a person to totally get rid of his self-absorption, but he still must try to balance his needs with others’ needs. The Gemara says that one should combine shelo lishmah (ulterior motives) with lishmah (pure motives).
It is a person’s job to examine his deeds and make sure that he’s not only acting for his own concerns. We will give a few examples.
A person goes to a shiur. Why did he come to the shiur? We are not speaking about someone who is bored in his house, so he comes to a shiur. We are speaking about someone who comes to a shiur because he really wants to learn Torah. Why, indeed, does he want to learn Torah? He knows that Chazal say that if a person doesn’t learn Torah, he won’t be resurrected from the dead in the future. A person wants to live forever, and he knows that in order for this to happen, he has to learn Torah. It seems like such a simple reason.
Is he coming to learn only for his own survival, or because he is also worried for others? If he’s only concerned for himself, he will still get rewarded for his mitzvah in learning Torah, but he has taken the holiest thing in Creation, the Torah, and he has used it all for himself.
We can compare this to a guest who visits the king’s palace, and he takes the king’s crown off his head and wears it. Such a person is really rebelling against the king and deserves the death penalty. If a person is coming to a shiur to learn Torah only because he is concerned about his future, he is taking the most precious thing in Creation – the holy Torah – and using it all for himself.
A deeper kind of person not only worries for his own learning, but he worries that others should learn too. Even if he doesn’t get another person to come to a shiur, he can decide before the shiur that he will give a percentage of his reward to other Jews.
How many Jews unfortunately haven’t been worthy to have the Torah in their life! How will they get up by techiyas hameisim? What will be with them?! But if certain righteous individuals give them a percentage of their reward for learning, they will merit to be revived.
If a person gives away some of his reward for learning to other Jews, first of all, he might very well bring other Jews to complete Teshuvah, in the merit of the Torah that he has given to them which can awaken their inner world. On a deeper note, a person like this can help other Jews merit eternity!
The Gemara states that ignoramuses who don’t learn Torah still have hope. If someone benefits a Torah scholar from his assets, it is considered as if he clings to the Shechinah. But many people, besides for not learning any Torah, don’t even help a Torah scholar. They give charity, but not for Torah causes. What will be with them? How will they get up by techiyas hameisim?!
There are millions of Jews all over the world who have no Torah in their life, and they have never even said Shema once in their life. If a person wants to care about any of these Jews, what can he do? People usually don’t have the strength to open up a new kiruv organization, and they aren’t interested in going around raising money. So what can a person do if he wants to help all these Jews?
There is something you can do. You can sit in the beis midrash and hear a shiur, and as you listen to the shiur, you can be giving merits to the whole world. How? By giving away part of your reward to those who haven’t merited to learn Torah yet in their life.
The point of meriting the public (mezakeh es harabim) is to leave one’s private life.
Donating A Building…For Who?
A person donates a building to become a shul. He gets his name plastered on the entrance so everyone should see his name, and he gets the rights to the first Mi Shebeirach every Shabbos. He has all kinds of demands.
Now, if he would donate the building so that it should be a place of learning and closeness to Hashem, why would he need to donate the building in his name? Does Hashem not know who donated the building? Hashem knows every private thought; He surely knows that someone donated a million-dollar building.
But the donor is thinking about himself. He wants the whole neighborhood to know that it was him who donated the building, and he wants to be in all the newspapers. Even though much Torah will be learned in this building due to his charity, all he thought about was himself.
If a person would really search to live a true kind of life, and he wants to donate a shul or beis midrash, I am not saying he has to do this purely for the sake of Heaven, but at least he should be ready to give up some of his reward to others who have no Torah or mitzvos in their life. Is he prepared to do this, or is he just thinking the whole time: “I donated it, I’m the boss over here, It’s all about my name…!”