If Only We Still Had Our Heads in the Clouds!

Parshat Shelach – 5779

This week’s Parsha presents us with one of the saddest, most tragic periods in the history of Am Yisroel. The sin of the ten spies which was the “crowning achievement” among the ten sins of the children of Israel in the desert. The clincher, for which they were told that they would never enter the promised land. One of the first of our many times that we missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity. (In general, throughout history, we have NEVER missed an opportunity to miss an opportunity!)

The biggest problem with this is that it really isn’t clear why they were deserving of punishment for such a seemingly small infraction! What, exactly, did they do that was so bad? More importantly, we have to ask why? Why did they do it? What were they thinking at the time?

The Parsha opens and says, “Send for you people, and they will survey the land…”
Rashi on this verse clearly states that this isn’t HaShem giving us a command to do this. If He wanted to command us, it would say, “Send men,” not “Send for yourself men.” The understanding is that this is voluntary. If you want to – do so, send men la’tur (to scout) the land, and if you don’t want to – that’s also fine! HaShem was not saying that to scout the land was a bad thing. What He was saying was that if they don’t go and scout out the land – it changes nothing. The land remained the same, good land. The peoples’ dwelling upon the land remained the same people. Nothing was changed as a result of the scouting to the facts.
However, the act of actually going to scout the land has consequences. Of that, there can be no doubt.

On the one hand, it has the potential to be a tremendous source of chizuk in emunah. To actually see the land that HaShem has promised them for the past nearly two years spent at Sinai, and to take in the reality. To internalize that every word that HaShem has told them over the past 210 years in Egypt about what will be when the Redeemer comes and the land to which they would be taken has been 100% true is precisely what emunah is all about! However, this is only good if you allow that reality to penetrate. Because, on the other hand, they were also going to come face to face with their future enemies. They would see their strength and power. They would take note of their readiness for battle and hear stories of their prowess on the battlefield, and their emunah would be tested sorely. And tested it was!

However, it is so very hard to understand. How is it conceivable that these people, who stood on the foot of Sinai and witnessed the wonders the splitting of the Reed Sea and the plagues of Egypt, people who watched HaShem destroy the world’s greatest super-power of the time, how is it possible that they felt any fear? What did the Canaanite nations have that Egypt didn’t? The answer is – they had nothing. Yes, they were mighty and of powerful stature. Yes, they heavily fortified cities. Yes, there even were giants in the land at the time. So what? They are like a match in front of a tornado! What chance do they have in front of HaShem? So why did the spies come back and frighten the people so much? What did they have to gain?

The answer seems to be that they wanted to continue living as people in the desert among the outright miracles of HaShem. They wanted to get the Mann daily and to drink from the well of Miriam. They wanted to remain in proximity of the Mishkan (Tabernacle) and to be surrounded constantly by the ananei hakavod (Clouds of Glory). They wanted things to stay the way that they had grown accustomed to. In short, they wanted to live a comfortable life.
However, that’s not what HaShem wants, and that is not what we are here for either.
The following is a parable to describe the issue. It’s like a young guy, a bachur who is learning in Yeshiva. He is a real masmid, spends all of his time learning and growing. He knows Shas (the Talmud) backward and forwards and can give a shiur (exegesis) on varied topics with ease. But he’s not yet married. Say our sages, ob”m, (Tractate Yebamos 63b) “Any man who has not married is without Torah….” Without the Torah? Didn’t we just finish saying that he’s full of Torah? That he knows all of Shas by heart? How can such a person be “without Torah?” The answer is because it requires very little of him to stay on target and because he needs to make practically no sacrifices or has no cause to rise to the challenge that is to live a Torah life in the fullest sense.

As we have mentioned many times in various blogs (this, for example) the reason that we are in this life is to be challenged and to rise up to the challenge. In this regard, one of the most difficult tests of life is to keep, one’s life in balance. It’s very easy to get invested in earning a livelihood or turning a profit. It much harder to keep a balanced perspective of how to juggle your drive to make what you need while keeping your eye on the real you, the potential you by connecting to Torah and Yirah. It is much more difficult to find the time to grow yourself when you are juggling your responsibilities towards your spouse and your children at the same time. Yet if you succeed at doing that – how much more precious is the smaller amount of time that you spend on your growth and personal connection to HaShem, as opposed to the Torah that you learned as a bachur (Bachelor). It’s not about the quantity. It’s far more about the quality.

The parable was that the children of Israel in the desert were like the unmarried young man. They lived in a “perfect” state of closeness to HaShem, they were provided with miraculous food every day, the Mann, they had no need for labor of any sort as they had shelter (Clouds) and all the sustenance that they needed, they had no need to do any laundry or even any sewing[1]. All they had to do was enjoy the closeness of HaShem. But that is not what this world is for!

Bnei Yisroel, the children of Israel were told from the very beginning that the desert was a temporary state. They always had a destination and a destiny and neither could be fulfilled in the desert. The land of Israel was their destination and the place where they were to achieve their destiny: to be a kingdom of Kohanim and a holy people. It’s just that it wasn’t going to be comfortable. It won’t be pristine. Isn’t that what life is like?

You may have noticed, but not every day is a holiday. Yet the holidays themselves are incredibly important times. They bring us closer – with HaShem’s help – as a family. They unify us as a people, and when used well they also bring us close to our Father who is in Heaven. But after the holiday … we go back to the ordinary day. It is during the regular days that we discover where our priorities lie.

The children of Israel were on the verge of going back to “regular life”. The Midrash says that they were so out-of-sync with the reality that the world lives in that when they saw fields of wheat, they wondered what it was! But now they were going to settle down. They were going to build houses and dwell in them, just like everyone else. They were going to plant vineyards and crops, just like everyone else. They were going to build cities and roads, and do all of the stuff that everyone else does. The only question was, would they forget their purpose along the way?

Like Noah after the flood, who, despite the very tough life that he and his family led while being on the ark, couldn’t bring himself to leave it even after it was clear to everyone that the flood was done and over. HaShem needed to command him to leave it. So to the leaders of Israel at the time didn’t want to leave the cocoon of the desert to go back to the real world where they could be distracted from the truth of life by the day-to-day goings on of the world.

However, whereas Noah was leaving the ark to desolation, the people of Israel were entering a lush and vibrant land. A land flowing in milk and honey, a land rich in natural resources and fertile land. A land whose inhabitants grew to be of large stature and power. It was time for them to leave the cocoon and spread their wings in the promised land!

But they refused. Because they knew better.

The spies come back from the land and they tell the people that everything that HaShem has promised them for centuries is absolutely true. The land is vibrant and powerful. It surely is a good land … BUT…

The spies showing off the goodness of the land, only to they corrupt it…

And here is where they begin to undermine the goodness and goodwill of HaShem and turn in into bad. Bamidbar (Numbers) 13:27-29

כז וַיְסַפְּרוּ לוֹ וַיֹּאמְרוּ בָּאנוּ אֶל הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר שְׁלַחְתָּנוּ וְגַם זָבַת חָלָב וּדְבַשׁ הִוא וְזֶה פִּרְיָהּ: כח אֶפֶס כִּי עַז הָעָם הַיֹּשֵׁב בָּאָרֶץ וְהֶעָרִים בְּצֻרוֹת גְּדֹלֹת מְאֹד וְגַם יְלִדֵי הָעֲנָק רָאִינוּ שָׁם: כט עֲמָלֵק יוֹשֵׁב בְּאֶרֶץ הַנֶּגֶב וְהַחִתִּי וְהַיְבוּסִי וְהָאֱמֹרִי יוֹשֵׁב בָּהָר וְהַכְּנַעֲנִי יוֹשֵׁב עַל הַיָּם וְעַל יַד הַיַּרְדֵּן:

(27) And the related to him (Moses) and said “We came to the land that you sent us to, and it is also flowing in milk and honey and this is its fruit. (28) (However, this is) worthless, for the nation dwelling in the land, is powerful and the cities are large and exceedingly fortified, and also the children of giants we saw there. (29) Amalek dwells in the lands to the South (Negev) and the Hittites and the Jebusites and the Amorites dwell in the mountains (where they have a tactical advantage) and the Canaanites dwell near the sea and next to the Jordan (and we won’t be able to pass by).

This already has planted the seeds of fear into the hearts of the people, however, they are not, as of yet, despondent.

Caleb, realizing this quickly jumps into the picture, utilizing his innate wisdom to silence the other spies (see Rashi on the first part of the verse), and says (ibid 30)

וַיַּהַס כָּלֵב אֶת הָעָם אֶל מֹשֶׁה וַיֹּאמֶר עָלֹה נַעֲלֶה וְיָרַשְׁנוּ אֹתָהּ כִּי יָכוֹל נוּכַל לָהּ:

“And Caleb silenced the people unto Moshe, and he said, “We will surely go up and we will inherit it (the land) for we surely can do it.”

Seeing the hearts of the people swaying back in the direction of going, the spies immediately add (ibid 31-33)

לא וְהָאֲנָשִׁים אֲשֶׁר עָלוּ עִמּוֹ אָמְרוּ לֹא נוּכַל לַעֲלוֹת אֶל הָעָם כִּי חָזָק הוּא מִמֶּנּוּ: לב וַיֹּצִיאוּ דִּבַּת הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר תָּרוּ אֹתָהּ אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר עָבַרְנוּ בָהּ לָתוּר אֹתָהּ אֶרֶץ אֹכֶלֶת יוֹשְׁבֶיהָ הִוא וְכָל הָעָם אֲשֶׁר רָאִינוּ בְתוֹכָהּ אַנְשֵׁי מִדּוֹת: לג וְשָׁם רָאִינוּ אֶת הַנְּפִילִים בְּנֵי עֲנָק מִן הַנְּפִלִים וַנְּהִי בְעֵינֵינוּ כַּחֲגָבִים וְכֵן הָיִינוּ בְּעֵינֵיהֶם:

(31) And the men who went up (into the land) with him (Caleb) said: “We cannot (possibly succeed) to go up to the land, for he (the peoples of the land) are stronger than He is!” (32) And they brought out the dibbah (falsehood, according to Ibn Ezra) of the land that they surveyed to the children of Israel saying “The land that we traveled in to survey it is a land that consumes its inhabitants (Rashi says that they witnessed funeral processions wherever they went) and all of the nations that we saw in it were men of stature. (33) And there we saw the fallen ones, sons of the giant from among the fallen ones, and we were in our eyes as grasshoppers (to them) and so were we in their eyes.”

With this the spies succeeded in their plan, only to fail miserably. The people, indeed, wound up staying in the desert for another 38 years, the ten spies… didn’t. But the people who ignored the powerful message of the desert, the open miracles and the truth that is HaShem for the weak and self-interested claims of the spies, lost the opportunity afforded to them: to finally arrive at their promised destination.

This point, that we have to keep our eyes focused on what is really meaningful in life while living that life, (regardless of what one does to make a living, which is, although significant, but a relatively unimportant part of life) is stressed beautifully by the end of the Parsha as well. The Parsha of the mitzvah of tzitzit.

When HaShem commands us (ibid 16:38)

דַּבֵּר אֶל בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל וְאָמַרְתָּ אֲלֵהֶם וְעָשׂוּ לָהֶם צִיצִת עַל כַּנְפֵי בִגְדֵיהֶם לְדֹרֹתָם וְנָתְנוּ עַל צִיצִת הַכָּנָף פְּתִיל תְּכֵלֶת

Speak to the people of Israel and say to them “And they shall make for themselves tzitzit on the corners of their garments for their generations. And that shall place on the tzitzit that is on the corner a string of techelet.”

Amazingly enough, the way that the Torah chooses to present us with a new mitzvah is … to act like we know what it is talking about! “Make for yourselves tzitzit,” it says. Well, what in the world is a tzitzit?

It is my understanding that HaShem is saying to the people as follows. “Make for yourselves a little tzitz (ציץ in Hebrew, which is the root word).” What is a tzitz?” you ask? A tzitz is the gold headband that the Kohein Gadol (High Priest) would wear while he was performing his duties in the Beit HaMikdash. Other than the root word, is there another reason why we should assume that there is a connection between the tzitz and tzitzit? Upon reflection, we find many connections between them.

The tzitz that the Kohein Gadol wore was tied to his head using a ptil techelet, like the one that is tied to the tzitzit. On the tzitz that the Kohein Gadol wore the words Kadosh l’HaShem, “Holy unto G-d” was written, whereas on the tzitzit although there was nothing written, however, the Torah says concerning it (verse 39-40)

(39) “And they shall be for you a tzitzit that you shall see it (the string of techelet) and you shall remember all of the commandments of HaShem and you shall do them. … (40) So that you shall remember and you shall do all of My mitzvos and you shall be holy to your G-d.”

Out of all of the people of Israel, there is only one Kohein Gadol. His job is to dwell among the clouds of glory, in that his entire day and life is centered around the worship of HaShem. Concerning such a person it is possible to proclaim “Holy unto G-d” on his forehead. Most people, however, don’t live like that. Most people wake up in the morning and dredge out to some job somewhere to do something that they don’t want to do but have to out of necessity. After a long day of doing what they have to do, in order to get by, now they have “their own time” ahead of them to do with as they please, but what do they do with it? Do they use it to become better, more spiritual people? If so, they are also kedoshim. If they do not, then they are NOT kedoshim. It is HaShem’s desire that they should be kedoshim, as such He commanded us to wear a garment with tzitzit, so that whatever direction we turn towards – we will be reminded that we have the ability to be holy, to be kedoshim. The average person was never meant to dwell in the clouds of glory. The average person is supposed to live in this world, but to climb above and beyond it. To strive for holiness.

Would it have been easier if the Jewish people remained in the Clouds of Glory in the desert? Of course, it would! However, that isn’t what we are here for. We are in this world to live in it and build it up while keeping our real goals in perspective and striving constantly for holiness.

May it be His will that we, as individuals and as a people succeed in achieving this goal.

[1] This is learned from the verse in Devarim (Deuteronomy) 8:4 שִׂמְלָתְךָ לֹא בָלְתָה מֵעָלֶיךָ וְרַגְלְךָ לֹא בָצֵקָה זֶה אַרְבָּעִים שָׁנָה. “Your dress did not become worn out from upon you and your feet have not swollen (from lack of shoes) over these (past) forty years.” Rashi on this verse states that the clouds of glory would clean and “iron” their clothes, and that their clothes themselves not only didn’t get worn out, but they grew with them.

Core Emunah 2 – Prophecy, part 2.

So, you’re a prophet? Who says? Maybe you’re really a magician or a soothsayer? How is one distinguishable from the other?

חדש מהרב בן זאב. אמנם זה באנגלית, אבל בע”ה יתורגם בקרוב.

Is Pessach “good” or “bad”?

An interesting question that poses itself around the celebration of Pessach is the following question: is Pessach good or bad? Of course, we are celebrating our redemption from Egypt, yet, at the very same time, we have to ask: Didn’t He put us there in the first place?

Obviously this is a very deep issue. I will therefore only answer briefly, and without getting into the question of “Why are we here?” (For that look at the other blogs here, this one, for example.)

There are two fundamental issues that need to be understood here though. 1) The issue of “good” and “bad”. Otherwise known as “How can a Good-G-d, do bad things?”; and the second 2) Why should we thank G-d for the redemption from the situation that He created in the first place?

Concerning the first issue: The Jewish way of looking at life? It’s all good! Therefore, it’s not a good G-d doing bad. It’s a good G-d doing good. Let me explain what I mean.

The main problem that we have with this issue is that the way that we look at “good” and “bad” are incredibly short-sighted and subjective.

Let me give a parable that happens again and again to get us started.

There is a person who becomes incredibly sick. He suffers terribly. It causes him to make significant changes in his way of life. However, as a result he realizes that he really wasn’t using his life in a productive way, and he makes significant changes to his life.

Is his sickness, therefore, good or bad?

Dr. Frankl, in his book Man’s Search for Meaning, mentions that after his experiences in the concentration camps he was shown a picture of a number of the inmates on a wooden bed looking around sullenly. The person who had shown him the picture commented how terrible it was. Dr. Frankl, himself a survivor of the camps, said that just the opposite was true! He said that these people were in the sick ward at the camp, and that they were “enjoying” a respite from the back-breaking labor that they would have otherwise been doing at the time!

So, was the picture good or bad?

Are the parents of a sick child better-off or worse-off, than a couple who has no children?

Again, in his book, Man’s Search for Meaning in the second part, Dr. Frankl, encapsulates his therapy, Logotherapy. He relates the story of a woman who had two children (and presently no husband). One child was healthy and the other severely disabled. After her healthy child passed away, the mother tried to commit suicide together with her disabled son. The son tried to talk his mother out of it, because he enjoyed his life, but the mother had tried to commit suicide and failed.

Dr. Frankl walked in on the group where this mother was sitting in therapy and heard her story. He helped her in the following way:

He turned to a different woman in the group and said to her “Let’s pretend, and tell us what you think. (This is called a psycho-drama) You are a very wealthy, very successful woman who is now 80 and sitting in her death-bed. However, you have no children. You are reflecting back on your life. What are you thinking?”

To be brief she said that despite the money, the prestige, and the success, she has no children, and no real sense of lasting accomplishment in her life as she leaves no one behind.

He then turned to the mother that had tried to commit suicide and did the same thing with her. However, he asked her to pretend that she lived a full life as-is and is now 80 years old. Reflecting back on life, what does she feel?

Of course, her answer was that she felt truly accomplished. She had and raised a child, even though he was different and it was very hard for her.

Is it better to live with suffering than not to have lived at all?

Well, that depends on whether or not there is a meaning to life (Yes, there is. If you don’t yet know what it is, please read the other posts in the blog dealing with this issue. (Or wait for Core Emunah 3. Be”H, coming soon!)

Our definition of “evil” is also due to shortsightedness as well.

Who can tell us what the far-reaching implications of any one action of “good” or “evil” is? An earthquake, although devastating, also has many positive benefits as well, such as lowering global temperatures, spreading valuable minerals and more.

IF you refer to evil that is the result of a human’s decision to do evil, let me ask you this: can we say that a person truly has free-will to chose evil if he is never given the ability to carry it out?

G-d’s greatness is beyond measure and in many ways is well beyond our frail human understanding.

All actions that G-d does are good. Our suffering has meaning. However, that doesn’t mean that we will ever have the correct perspective or be able to overcome our subjectivity in order to understand in what way this is good.

It is for this reason that the halacha states that in this world we have two separate blessings to make on different earthly phenomena. On the good ones we say ha tov, v’ha mei’tiv (He who is good, and does good things (to others)), whereas on the “bad” things we say dayan ha’emmet ((to Him) who is the true Judge).

So, to summarize point 1 everything HaShem does is for the good. Even the “Bad” stuff.

Why should we thank HaShem for taking us out of Egypt if He put us there in the first place?

This is a much deeper issue. I have an article (in Hebrew) that I plan to post on the Hebrew blog, where it will be available to download. However, in this regard we have to differentiate between the status of the Jewish people between the time of Avraham (Abraham) up until the time of Moshe (Moses), our teacher, and the suffering that we were made to suffer for some 100 years in Egypt. It also has a lot to do with prophecy.

There were three issues, say our sages, ob”m, that were “in play” from the times of Father Abraham until our release from Egypt. Issue number one was that we required a place to grow into a nation that wouldn’t interfere with the Canaanite nations until the “right time” came along (more on this soon); we required slavery in order to bind the mitzvos of Pessach to us as a people; and lastly, we were deserving of punishment.

Let’s explain these issues.

The source for the issue of the slavery in Egypt happened during the famous Brit bein ha’betarim, which can be found in Genesis (Bereshit) 15

יג וַיֹּאמֶר לְאַבְרָם יָדֹעַ תֵּדַע כִּי גֵר יִהְיֶה זַרְעֲךָ בְּאֶרֶץ לֹא לָהֶם וַעֲבָדוּם וְעִנּוּ אֹתָם אַרְבַּע מֵאוֹת שָׁנָה: יד וְגַם אֶת הַגּוֹי אֲשֶׁר יַעֲבֹדוּ דָּן אָנֹכִי וְאַחֲרֵי כֵן יֵצְאוּ בִּרְכֻשׁ גָּדוֹל: טו וְאַתָּה תָּבוֹא אֶל אֲבֹתֶיךָ בְּשָׁלוֹם תִּקָּבֵר בְּשֵׂיבָה טוֹבָה: טז וְדוֹר רְבִיעִי יָשׁוּבוּ הֵנָּה כִּי לֹא שָׁלֵם עֲוֹן הָאֱמֹרִי עַד הֵנָּה:

(13) And He said to Avraham “You shall surely know that your offspring shall be wanderers (ger) in an land that is not theirs, and they shall enslave them, and they shall afflict them four hundred years. (14) And also the nation that they shall be enslaved to I shall judge, and afterwards they shall leave with a great amount of property. (15) And you shall come unto your fathers (a euphemism for death) peacefully, and will be buried at an exceedingly old age. (16) And the fourth generation shall return here, for the sins of the Ammorites shall not be complete until here.

Let’s start at the end for a moment. The Torah clearly states that there is a practical issue that HaShem has to deal with: it’s too early to kick out the Ammorites. Why is that? Rashi, on this verse, explains that this is based on a dictum that HaShem set down in the world’s creation: He doesn’t bring about retribution until “the se’ah (an amount) is filled”. This means that his powerful trait of rachamim (forgiveness) prevents punishment from happening all of the time. As a result, even though the Canaanite people were evil and had stolen the land away from the descendants of Shem, HaShem’s attribute of mercy didn’t allow punishment to occur, and as a result, they could not be removed from the land “before the se’ah was filled”. When would that happen? After 400 years, of course!

From when do we count these 400 years? This is explicit in the verse (and Rashi elaborates this point with the math) that it is from the time that Avraham had children, which – as the Torah states explicitly in Bereshis (Genesis) 21:12 – means Yitzchak (Issac) only.

As there was another 400 years before the children of Avraham, (a descendant of Shem) could reclaim the land as a people, it made sense that they couldn’t also grow into a people in that land, as they would be viewed from the outset as a threat. Therefore somewhere else was needed, ergo “in a land that is not theirs” (verse 13 above).

Jumping, for a minute, to the third issue above (deserving of punishment)

This issue is discussed and stated explicitly in Tractate Nedarim 32b, where it says as follows:

אמר רבי אבהו אמר רבי אלעזר מפני מה נענש אברהם אבינו ונשתעבדו בניו למצרים מאתים ועשר שנים מפני שעשה אנגרייא בתלמידי חכמים שנאמר וירק את חניכיו ילידי ביתו ושמואל אמר מפני שהפריז על מדותיו של הקדוש ברוך הוא שנאמר במה אדע כי אירשנה ורבי יוחנן אמר שהפריש בני אדם מלהכנס תחת כנפי השכינה שנאמר תן לי הנפש והרכוש קח לך

Said Rabbi Avahu in the name of Rabbi Elazar “For what reason was Avraham, our father, punished and his sons were enslaved in Egypt for 210 years? Because he did anigariya (forced labor) to students of the wise (a euphamism for people who were engaged in Torah study), as the verse states “And he hastend (vayarek) his disciples, those born to his house.” Shmuel stated “Because he cast doubt (hiphriz) on the attributes of HaShem, as the verse states “For with what will I know that I shall inherit it (the land)?” And Rabbi Yochanan said “Because he prevented people from coming under the wings of the Schechina (the Divine Glory, as it says ( the King of Sodom to Avraham) “Give me the souls and the properties – take for yourself (and Avraham gave everything back, instead of keeping the people).”

Clearly, our sages hold that this was a punishment because of Avraham. So, the question is asked, why didn’t Avraham, himself, get it? The answer is clear: he was too great of a tzadik. The merits of his deeds, especially his chessed, which is greater than tzedakah (charity) saved him. As Shlomo haMelech writes (Mishlei (Proverbs) 10:2)

וצדקה תציל ממות

and charity shall save from death

Similarly, the merits of his children continued to prevent – almost entirely – the evil tidings of this punishment. This continued up until the time that Yosef was sold, which began the descent of Israel down to Egypt. But even this was done with mercy, as our sages, ob”m, teach us in Tractate Shabbos 89b

א”ר חייא בר אבא א”ר יוחנן ראוי היה יעקב אבינו לירד למצרים בשלשלאות של ברזל אלא שזכותו גרמה לו דכתיב {הושע יא-ד} בחבלי אדם אמשכם בעבותות אהבה ואהיה להם כמרימי עול על לחיהם ואט אליו אוכיל

Said Rabbi Chiya son of Abba, said Rabbi Yochanan “It was fitting that Ya’akov, our father, go down to Egypt in chains of iron, however, his merits caused him (to receive mercy, and instead he went down out of love for his son, Yosef) as the verse states (Hoshea 11:4) “With the chains of man I will draw them, with ropes of love, and I will be to them as one who removes the yoke…

But as the people of Israel continued their descent into “meh”-lihood, so, too did they open the gates before the fullness of the prophecy to transpire. As our sages, ob”m, tell us (Midrash Shemot Rabbah) “And the land was filled with them” this teaches that there was nowhere you couldn’t find the Jews, especially in places like the theaters and stadiums and all other cultural activities of Egypt. That’s when the actual slavery began.

So, in truth, it’s our own fault that we suffered all of that. Not because we didn’t need the slavery of Egypt (more on this in a minute), but rather because the extra, additional suffering we brought on ourselves. It’s like when I, as a parent, tell my kids that if they do “X” I will punish them. If they do it, who is at fault? Me, for having set the boundary, or them for having crossed it? Of course it’s the kids fault (assuming, of course, that I am a decent parent, and not overbearing).

So, in reality we got ourselves into trouble, and HaShem, in His infinite mercy, got us out of it.

Lastly, the second topic, we really did “need” the slavery of Egypt.

This is learned from the words of Rashi on the verse in Shemos (Exodus) 13:8 which says

    והגדת לבנך ביום ההוא לאמר בעבור זה עשה יהוה לי בצאתי ממצרים    

And you shall say to your son, on that day, relating “It is for this that HaShem did for me in Egypt

Rashi asks: “It is for this“? What, per se, is “this”? And he answers

בעבור שאקיים מצותיו כגון פסח מצה ומרור הללו

So that I can keep His mitzvos, such as Pesach, matzah and maror

Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz, z”l, in his book Sichos Mussar, explains Rashi as follows: If one pays close attention to Rashi throughout Bereshis (Genesis) we see that the mitzvos already found their expression long before the giving of the Torah at Sinai (for example: matzah was given by Lot to the angels because “it was Pesach” (Rashi) and Ya’akov took to goats from the herd to make a stew for his father, Yitzchak, because one was for stew and the other was the korbon Pesach.) Therefore, says Rav Chaim, the intent of the Torah here, says Rashi, is that the Jewish people now have an historical and an emotional tie to these mitzvos. “For this HaShem took me out of Egypt” so that I know that these mitzvos are special to me and my people.

Accordingly, there was a need for the slavery in Egypt. However, there was no reason that it should have been so long. To achieve the desired effect, it could have been much shorter as well.

In summary: was Pesach good or bad? Of course it was good! It was the source and the fulcrum that made our people into the special people that we are today . It’s what connected us to HaShem and His Torah with unbreakable bonds!

Yet Pesach isn’t entirely over yet. We’re still on our way to the “yom tov acharon” of Pesach, called “Shavuot.” With HaShem’s help, I’ll try and write more before Shavuot.

Core Emunah 2 – 2 – Prophecy 1

What makes a prophet “prophetic”?

After all, it’s what makes a “holy” book, into a Holy Book!

חדש מהרב בן זאב. אמנם זה באנגלית, אבל בע”ה יתורגם בקרוב.

Core Emunah 2 – The Course

1 – The Introduction to the Course.

In Core Emunah 1 we came to an informed decision that this world is a creation and that all of it’s facets point to a Creator.
Fine! So, its a creation.
But WHO is the Creator? Does He know ME? What does He want from me, and how can I know who TRULY speaks in His name?
All that and more in the Core Emunah 2 series.

Core Emunah 2 is LIVE!!!

B”H!!!! she’hechiyanu v’kiymanu v’higiyanu la zman hazeh

https://amzn.to/2XHbdZk – Kindle

https://amzn.to/2EPe4qz – Paperback

The Mishna Berurah (O”C 223:3) writes that there is an argument among the poskim if you can make the beracha she’hechiyanu v’kiymanu v’higiyanu la zman hazeh when one purchases a new sefer, if you have looked forward to it’s acquisition. How much more so when one has – with HaShem’s help – suceeded in producing a sefer. This is a truly happy day for me, I hope and pray that the information in this volume should help anyone who reads it to come to a deeper understanding of the truth and majesty that is HKB”H, and how He is looking forward to a relationship with you.

At the “core” of all of the books that I have written thus far (as I have mentioned, I am, presently, in the middle of writing CE3 and CE4, and translating CE1 into Hebrew) is the desire to help others to properly perform the mitzvah that is emunah. As the gemara in tractate Makkos (24a) says

“Then Chavakuk came and established them on one (principal), as it says (chavakuk 2:4) and a tzadik in his emunah he shall live.

The most important, most fundamental part of one’s life is entirely based on his/her emunah. Yet for some odd reason, people assume that emunah requires no thought, or any deep searching and/or contemplation whatsoever. This makes no sense! How can it be that the fulcrum of our entire lives as Jews, the day-to-day practices and prayers, should be based entirely on unexplored, unknown massorah only?

In this regard I would like to share some tips that I learned from Rav Sa’adiya Gaon, in his book Emunot v’Deot.

!!!! A word for the wise!!!!!

I am not suggesting here that someone should go off on their own and try to make an investigation into matters of emunah without guidance!!!!! There are many people who have done this and fallen on the wayside. The reason for this IS NOT because the information out there is solid. Actually, despite the massive size I find it to be UNDERwhelming. However, as Rav Sa’adiya Gaon writes in his introduction to his book Emunos and De’os, it is because not everyone is trained in the proper practices of logic and proof. In addition, even if one is trained, if they do not investigate fully they are also setting themselves up for failure. Therefore it should be done with guidance.

— Back to the topic at hand—

So emunah, to achieve it’s true potential requires one to spend time and effort, to investigate and to arrive at clear conclusions.

The benefits are immense.

Rav Sa’adiya Gaon writes that one who does this will see a tremendous change in his avodat HaShem, in his yiras HaShem and in his davening. The divedends are great indeed.

I have seen, in my life, how much my avodas HaShem has changed as a result of my investigation (after years of training in how to think, via Talmud learning).

The opposite also tends to hold true as well. Rav Sa’adiya says that sometimes we are carrying around the feeling that what we are doing is fake, which, of course, detracts from our avodas HaShem. This is due to having heard some words of kfirah that “sit in our hearts and stagnate” or even due to haveing heard a weak proof brought by someone trying to improve our avodas HaShem.

What we need, therefore, is a clear, logical way of understanding the issues to dispel any doubts, and show in a powerful way what the emmet is.

I have spent a very large part of my time trying to do this. It has been powerful for me, I hope it can do the same for you as well.

With HaShem’s help CE3 will be about how to make a relationship with HaShem. All of the basic issues, such as:

  • What is life all about?
  • Why am I here?
  • Tools to live a powerful life
  • and much more.

Please read, grow and enjoy!


Thank you.

To Work, Or Not to Work – Is It Even A Question?

While getting ready for tomorrow’s release of Core Emunah 2 “G-d & Me” I wanted to share with you something that’s been at the forefront of my mind for a while now.

One of the biggest questions that face almost all the young men with whom I work is that if, with HaShem’s help, we succeed in “setting them on fire” with a desire to learn; it only sets the stage for a whole set of questions. It’s not just the boys themselves that ask them, rather it comes both from them and their parents.

After all, there is only “so long” that a guy can live the “Yeshiva life.” He has to know, as well, how to make a living. Can Yeshiva provide that for my/your son?

This is a very difficult issue when looked at from a practical side. It is true that the reality of life is such that “there are only two certain things in life: death and taxes” (Ben Franklin. Of course, if he were a Jew, he would know that, in reality, there are THREE things that are certain in life: death, taxes, and Jewish Guilt!). In other words, you’re going to need money at some point in your life, and where are you supposed to get it from? Obviously, you need a job, and almost all jobs require both education and training.

Chazal don’t ignore this issue. They are quite upfront about it. It is for this reason that they speak of the greatness of work, and how it is beneficial to them who do it (as long as they do it well).

Let’s give some examples of this:

  • The Gemara in Tractate Kiddushin 29a states that “one who doesn’t teach his son a profession is like one who teaches him robbery.”
  • The Gemara in Tractate Nedarim 49b says “Great is labor that gives honor to it’s master”
  • The Gemara in Tractate Berachos 8a states “Greater is that which was said about he who takes pleasure in the works of his hands more than he who is a yarei shemayim (has fear of Heaven)”
  • The Mishna in Avos (3:17) states that “if there isn’t flour, there isn’t Torah.”


Aren’t all of these examples of how it is clear that everyone needs a job? Well, yes.

However, as with all things in life, there is always more than one side of the coin. The beginning point in all things Jewish isn’t based on what we think we need, but rather – first and foremost – by our level of bitachon in HKB”H. Which is, of course, dependent on our level of emunah.

There are some individuals who are on such great levels of emunah and bitachon that they are not held to the same standards as most of us are. It is for this reason that the Gemara in Tractate Berachos 35a tells us of the “argument” between Rabbi Shimon Ben Yochai (RSB”Y)  and Rabbi Yishmael (R”Y).

The Gemara records that these two great Rabbi’s had a big argument in life: what do we prioritize?

R”Y said “Make your Torah the mainstay of your day, and your job should be arai (sporadic? temporary) whereas RSB”Y said that one must make his main focus on doing the ratzon HaShem, (HaShem’s will) for only in this way does a Jew truly “succeed”. The Gemara finishes and states that many people did like R”Y and succeeded whereas many did like RSB”Y and didn’t succeed.

It should be clear that this Gemara is talking about how to properly synthesize a life of Torah devotion along with a life in which we work on making a living. Do we need to work? No (RSB”Y, as through total devotion to HaShem the work that “we” should be doing will be done by others in our stead) or Yes (R”Y)? However, if the answer is “yes” then the question really becomes “Then how much do I need to do?” To which R”Y answers “when you find the time”.

Now, it should be clear to everyone that there is a third option as well: make your job the mainstay of your day, and do Torah “when you can find the time.” Why didn’t Chazal think to say this as well? I’m pretty sure that they were smart enough to think of it. I’m also sure that they certainly could have also finished and said: “And a great many people have done this and succeeded as well!” So, why didn’t they write that answer?


This brings me to an epiphany that I had many years ago. What am I working for?

I have asked this question of a great many people in the course of lecturing around the country, here in Israel. The answer is always the same “to make money.” OK. Good answer. Now what? Well, continue the train of thought “What do you need the money for?” “To pay for the things I need in life.” OK, also a good answer. “So, really, what you need the money for is to allow you to live (not just to survive).” “Yes, that’s why I need it.” They all answer “So, what are you living for?” I continue to ask. Silence.

One of the many problems that we have with guys who walk in Yeshiva today, (and it’s not just the Yeshiva I teach at, but virtually all Yeshivos), is the fact that they come in with no real Jewish education. This doesn’t mean that they don’t know how to read a Chumash or that they have never seen a Mishna or a Gemara, or can’t read them either. It’s the fact that despite all of the money that was poured into their Jewish education, there was no real “Jewish” or “education” whatsoever. That is unless you call the capability to answer questions on a test “education” and the fact that some (or more) of the subject matter “Torah related” as meaning that it is “Jewish”.

There is no passion. There is no devotion. There is no fundamental understanding of why the Torah is important to them. Why should they give up “life” for its sake? “I’ve got to make a living, Rabbi” I hear this all the time. I don’t disagree. However, define “living”?

Many are the people who are looking forward to their “careers”, this despite the fact that on the average most people change, not only their jobs but their profession around three times during their lifetime.

It all boils down to this fundamental issue.

What is a job? What is a career? It’s just a means of making the money that you need to cover the expense of living. That’s it.

I need money to allow for me to cover the expenses that my life incurs. But whatever it is that you do as a job, or a “career” is exactly that. No more, no less.

I have never heard at a person’s funeral “he lived an amazing career.” They might mention what he did to make a living, but it’s not WHAT they did that make them a person of mention. It’s HOW they did it.

Now, here’s the thing.

SO, after we have worked our daily work, we hang up our “hats” or “work clothes” in the closet, we now are on our way home. We did the job, whether or not we like it, mainly because we need the money, so now that I have finished “the job” and I’m now on “my” time, the real question is “who am I?”

In most cases “I’m a doctor/lawyer/accountant/garbage collector” or any other such answer will NOT answer the question. You are not what you DO.

What you are is what you aspire to be!

Do you aspire to be a talmid chocham? A Ben Torah? Do you aspire to be an Oved HaShem? That’s the real question that needs to be asked. No other.

What a Jewish education is supposed to be is one that sets the child before the path he or she is supposed to walk on in life. The only time that its “life” is when our drive is a greater, deeper connection to the source of all life, that is HaShem. It’s one in which the measuring stick of one’s worth is not solely his scholastic achievements, not which clubs he joins, nor to which college or Yeshiva he is accepted. The real yardstick of Jewish education is “how much does this child/adult aspire to be like HaShem?” That’s it!

It is for this reason that the Gemara in Berachos didn’t offer the third option “Make work your mainstay and Torah … learn when you can”. It’s because if that is the yardstick, then there is no hope for greatness. The only way to achieve greatness in the realm of Torah, through which we come closer to HaShem’s da’as, is through intense Torah study.

It is for this reason that when I speak with guys on the topic of a job, I spend as much time as possible with them trying to drive home this issue specifically.

Whatever it is that you do in order to make money, be it a job or a career, that’s all it is! It’s a means to make money! This doesn’t mean that it can’t also be a means of kiddush HaShem (or it’s polar opposite, chas v’shalom!) but keep your priorities straight! Regardless of how much or your day is devoted to it – it’s just a job. It’s your means to make the money you need to cover the expense of your life.

But what is your life about? Why are you here? What is your focus supposed to be all the days of your life? That’s what we try and teach in Yeshiva.

Which brings me back to the beginning. What do you say to kids who grew up in the Jewish system, who are now 18, 19 or 20 and are still not sure why Torah is important to them when they walk through the doors? What do you say when their parents are pressuring them to come back “home” to learn a job or a profession? I can’t blame the parents for wanting it… I can’t even blame them for their kid’s lack of fundamental Jewish understanding… only because it is far too little and too late!


To sum up:

When I speak to guys (or even to myself) I always tell them that for the vast majority of them they are going to have to get a job. There isn’t a doubt in my mind. However, for as long as you can – push it off! At least until it becomes clear to you that life isn’t about your job, or your house, or the name of your clothes. Keep your job in perspective. It’s what you do to pay for your life, but live your life for the sake of your life! Don’t, after all of the investment and effort in working to make the money, forget what you did it for: to live a life in which you work hard on attaining the ultimate goal, closeness to HaShem.

Be”H, Core Emunah 2 Goes Live this Sunday!

To any and all people who have enjoyed my blog so far:

First of all I would like to apologize as I have been ignoring the blog for a long time. Between the guys that I teach in Yeshiva, working on book 3 (and some book 4!), translating book 1 into Hebrew (about 65% there!), some britei mila, tefillin and mezuzot and more… (phew!) I have had to prioritize my time.

Be”H, I will be getting back to the blog soon.

Second, in my desire to create some momentum towards the release of Core Emunah book 2, I have produced a video promo to promote and highlight some of the acclaim of book 1. You can see it here:

Third, Core Emunah one has received a 5 star rating at the prestigious site Reader’s Favorite. The reviews and the ratings can be found here:


Please spread the word! Every person who is exposed to these two books that deal with the fundamentals of the entire Torah have the power to help the modern perplexed to get themselves to the path of the Emmet.

Tizku le mtizvos.


The books can be found on Amazon, at:

Core Emunah 1, “Hello? G-d?” AMZN.TO/2ECWIYE

Core Emunah 2, “G-d & Me” can be found at: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07P1LSMN8


T’ka b’Shofar Gadol l’cheruteynu

The meaning of the title “Blow the great shofar, to announce our redemption”.


Sitting at my computer for a few moments, waiting and wondering what the upcoming Yom ha’din will bring. I decided to share some thoughts from last weeks Parsha that might help me and others to have a more meaningful day and more empowering, inciteful Rosh HaShanna.

Towards the end of last weeks Parsha, Moshe Rabbenu says (Devarim 30:15-18)

(ט”ו) רְאֵה נָתַתִּי לְפָנֶיךָ הַיּוֹם אֶת הַחַיִּים וְאֶת הַטּוֹב וְאֶת הַמָּוֶת וְאֶת הָרָע: (ט”ז) אֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי מְצַוְּךָ הַיּוֹם לְאַהֲבָה אֶת ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ לָלֶכֶת בִּדְרָכָיו וְלִשְׁמֹר מִצְוֹתָיו וְחֻקֹּתָיו וּמִשְׁפָּטָיו וְחָיִיתָ וְרָבִיתָ וּבֵרַכְךָ ה’ אֱ-לֹהֶיךָ בָּאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה בָא שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ: (י”ז) וְאִם יִפְנֶה לְבָבְךָ וְלֹא תִשְׁמָע וְנִדַּחְתָּ וְהִשְׁתַּחֲוִיתָ לֵאלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וַעֲבַדְתָּם: (י”ח) הִגַּדְתִּי לָכֶם הַיּוֹם כִּי אָבֹד תֹּאבֵדוּן לֹא תַאֲרִיכֻן יָמִים עַל הָאֲדָמָה אֲשֶׁר אַתָּה עֹבֵר אֶת הַיַּרְדֵּן לָבוֹא שָׁמָּה לְרִשְׁתָּהּ:

(15) See that I have placed before you on this day the life and the good, and the death and the evil: (16) That which I command you today to love HaShem, your G-d, to walk in His ways and to guard His commandments, and His statutes, and His laws, and you shall live and grow numerous and HaShem, your G-d, will bless you in the land that you are coming to inherit. (17) And if your heart shall stray and you shall not listen (to His commandments etc.) and you separate yourselves and you bow down to other gods and you worship them. (18) I say to you today that you will surely be destroyed, you will not have length of days on the grounds to which you are crossing the Jordan river, to go there, to inherit it.

In these verses Moshe sums up what life is all about: follow HaShem’s commandments in order to have the best, truly “good” life that a person can have, or go down your own path, find other “gods” to worship, and suffer a life of death and evil … of your own choosing.

Pondering life, my own and that of the people that I know in my family, among my friends and students and more makes me realize just how true the above statement is.

One of the more popular lectures that I give in Nefesh Yehudi is a lecture called (in Hebrew) Tizrom, achi. Tizrom. (Which translates as “Just go with the flow, brother. Flow with it”). The lecture is about the meaning of life, what man is really looking for and how the only place that he can get it is the holy Torah. Among the hundreds of students that I have said this to, not once has anyone interjected “Rabbi! That’s just not true”. Consider the following:

Out of all the things that I do in the course of my day, I can break my time up into two categories: those things that I have to do, (despite the fact that in most instances I have no desire to do them. Think “go to work”), and those things that I want to do. One would think, therefore, that after a long day at work, doing that which I have to do, that when I get home, after finishing (hopefully) all of the stuff at home that I also have to do, that I would find a productive way to use my “want to do” time. The reality is that the significant majority of my “want to do” time is spent on things that allow for the time to pass in a relatively enjoyable way. Reading novels, playing video games, watching TV or movies, surfing the net, looking at Facebook and more. So, do I do these things because, in reality, I want to do nothing with my life except waste it away, hoping that it will pass painlessly … until I die? Or is it just that I really need to “unwind” so much, so that I can get back to living my “real” life, which is… the one that I don’t enjoy, and yet I have to do it?

B”H! That isn’t the portion of those people who love HaShem and want to delve into His Torah!

Which brings us to the following story that I recently heard (and shared with my students last Shabbos at our oneg Shabbos):

The story is of a young man who was learning in Yeshiva and suddenly contracted a debilitating sickness. He was informed that he only had a few weeks or days to live and he was lying, despondent, in his bed at Hadassah Ein Kerem Hospital in Jerusalem. Despite all of her best efforts, his mother couldn’t get him to do anything. Not to eat, not to drink, not even to carry on a conversation or even acknowledge her presence. Exasperated with the situation she called a Rav whose shiurim her son enjoyed, Rav Azriel Tauber, shlit’a, and asked him to please come and try to get the boy back to life. Hearing the desperation in the boy’s mother’s voice and the story of what was happening he immediately came.

Entering the room, he found the boy laying in his bed, staring blankly at the wall while his mother looked at him wringing her hands. Noticing the Rav, his mother stood up and thanked the Rav for coming.

“Shalom aleychem!” the Rav said to the boy. There was no response. “Shalom aleychem!” the Rav said again. Still nothing. (At this point I was thinking that if it were me, in this situation, I probably would have just shrugged told the mother “I’m sorry. There’s nothing I can do” and left downheartedly).

The Rav mustered his posture and strength and said to the boy “Listen here! I have come from very far away, made a long journey just to visit you. The least that you can do is respond to my welcome.” “Shalom aleychem!” said the Rav again, sticking out his hand. The young man took the hand a responded weakly “Aleychem haShalom.”

“As you are a yeshiva man,” said the Rav “I want to ask you a question. Please let me know if you know the answer.”

“What is the halacha if a non-Jew were to come up to a Jew holding out a piece of meat, chazir (pig-meat), and says to this Jew “Either you eat this meat, or I will take away all of your money”, what is he to do?” “He should give up all of his money,” said the young man. “Excellent,” said the Rav. “Why is that?” the Rav asked, and then answered “It’s to teach us just how terrible it is to do an aveirah, to transgress that which the Torah forbids,” said the Rav. “What would happen if the person in question was a gevir (a wealthy Jew) who supports Torah institutions, chessed projects, needy children and more? Would the law be different in that case?” asked the Rav. “No,” said the young man, “it wouldn’t.” “Do you understand why that is?” asked the Rav. “I don’t either” answered the Rav. “Despite all of the wonderful things that he would no longer be able to do, the halacha is the same. This shows us how severe it is to transgress a lo ta’aseh (a forbidden act) of the Torah.”

“Now,” said the Rav “which is a worse aveirah? Eating pig or transgressing the Shabbos day?” he asked. “To transgress the Shabbos” answered the young man. “Exactly!” said the Rav. “However, what is the halacha if there is a Jew who is deathly ill on Shabbos?” “Under the circumstances, it is permitted to transgress the laws of Shabbos in order to save him” answered the young man. “That is correct” answered the Rav. “This is because if I transgress this one Shabbos, this person will be able to keep many other Shabbosim,” said the Rav. “But, what is the law if to save this man 10, 100, 1000 or more Jews need to transgress the laws of Shabbos to save him?” he again asked. “The halacha is the same. All of those Jews must transgress the laws of Shabbos in order to save the other Jew” he answered. “Do you understand this?” asked the Rav. “No” he answered. “Neither do I. How could the few Shabbatos that this Jew will keep allow for thousands of Jews to transgress Shabbos on his behalf? Yet, that is the halacha. This is teaching us just how important one Jewish life is.”

“Would the law be different if it was only a safek (a questionable outcome) as to whether or not this Jew would live?” asked the Rav. “No,” said the young man. “Would the law be different?” asked the Rav “if all we could give the man by saving him on Shabbos would be a few more hours, a few more minutes, or even just a few more seconds?” Silence. “We both know the answer,” said the Rav. “Even for only a few minutes or seconds of life, it is the responsibility of every Jew to transgress the Shabbos in order to give this fellow Jew even a few more moments of life. Do I understand this? No, I don’t. However,” said the Rav “this teaches us the incredible importance of every moment of life that we are given. It’s more precious than almost everything and HaShem gives it to us a gift”.

With that, the Rav got up and left.

A few weeks later the Rav saw the young man’s name posted on the walls, saying that he had passed and where his family was sitting shiva (the week of mourning). The Rav went. As soon as he entered the room the mother of the young man stood up and told him the effect that Rav’s words had on the boy. “From that point on he was totally different,” she said. “He utilized every spare moment to learn Torah, to pray, to say Tehillim, to do something with the gift of life that HaShem had given him. Up until his final moments”.

I heard this story and it impacted me. I thought about some of the elderly people that I know from America and Israel, and how they spend (or spent) their last days. Having gone on their pension they now had time to focus on what they really wanted to do! Which was… playing golf. Or sitting in a chair, reading a novel, letting the time slip by… waiting for death to take them.

What a sorry existence. What a waste of the life that HaShem gave. But if you don’t believe in HaShem, in G-d, what do you have to look forward to anyway? Nothing.

Yet throughout history, there were plenty of Jews who took that path. Who left the ways of HaShem, to follow the ways of strange gods. Listen to the words of the lament of the prophet Yirmiyahu (2:13) concerning these people:

כִּי שְׁתַּיִם רָעוֹת עָשָׂה עַמִּי אֹתִי עָזְבוּ מְקוֹר מַיִם חַיִּים לַחְצֹב לָהֶם בֹּארוֹת בֹּארֹת נִשְׁבָּרִים אֲשֶׁר לֹא יָכִלוּ הַמָּיִם.

For there are two evils that my nation has done. They have left me, the source of living (life-giving) waters, (the first evil) to dig for themselves water holes, watering holes that are broken and cannot hold the waters (the second evil).


HaShem, who has forever been the source of life, of meaning and purpose, of blessing and goodness for the Jewish people. To leave Him is one thing. To say that there is no G-d of Israel. That is bad. But to replace Him with something that isn’t even “half-baked”, whose claim to Divinity is questionable at best, and whose ability is not as clear as HaShem’s – who does that?

The world is fond of saying “if it isn’t broken – don’t fix it”, so if it’s clearly amazing – isn’t it even clearer that we should not only keep it but give it it’s proper due?

The Rambam (Laws of Repentance chapter 3 halacha 4) says that the sound of the shofar on Rosh HaShanna, even though we don’t really know the reasoning for it, there is a secret that it holds:

It screams “Wake up, o’ sleepers from your (waking) sleep. Those who are drowsy – wake up! Search your actions and do teshuva (return to the path) and remember your Creator!”

Sefer HaChinuch (mitzvah 311) tells us that the day of Rosh Hashana is a chessed from HaShem so that once a year we stop and think about where I have been with my life, and where it is going to. So that the amount of aveiros (sins) that I have done doesn’t pile up and grow beyond redemption. SO that I have the opportunity to renavigate my life if it has been going the wrong way.


On this Rosh Hashana let’s take the opportunity to understand that I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by becoming closer to HaShem and His Torah. A life of goodness and of real life awaits me behind that door. Or, I can choose door number two, and spend the rest of my life spending the rest of my life.


To me, it seems like an open and shut decision. I hope that I have the fortitude to follow through.


Shanna Tova to all.


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