Don’t Sell Your Birthright

Simple story that we all learned as kids: The older brother Esau is hungry and sells his birthright to his younger brother Yaakov (Jacob) for a bowl of red lentil soup. What was the end of the story? Esau cried out bitterly, finding out that the momentary gain realized by selling his birthright had caused him an eternal loss. 
Many Jews have exchanged their eternal values of: one God for cults or other religions, kashrut for a Big Mac, shabbat for the Malls, marriage to another Jew for inter-marriage and bringing Jewish children into the world for transitory enjoyments. How great and bitter will be the outcry of disappointment in the World of Truth, when they will find out that the real and lasting thing was exchanged for the mirage of a sweet life.

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THE SECRET OF SERVING GOD WELL

The Torah tells us that Noach was a righteous man in his generation and God saved him and his family from the great flood that wiped out humanity.
Noach had three sons: Shem; Cham and Yafet. If Noach was such a righteous man on a high spiritual level, what did he have in mind when he named his sons?
Noach had found the three ingredients involved in perfecting the service of God. He was on such a high level that the Torah testifies that he alone found grace (chen) in God’s view.
What are the three ingredients for perfection in the service of God? The secret is in the names of his sons.
1. Shem; in Hebrew Shem means name. Do a mitzvah or a good deed for the name of God i.e. for the sake of heaven. Le’shem’ Shamayim
2. Cham means hot or passionate. Perform a mitzvah with passion, zeal and excitement.
3. Yafet means beauty – do a beautiful mitzvah. The Rabbis tell us to spend a third extra on a more beautiful mitzvah. In Talmud Baba Kamma 9a, according to Rashi, hiddur mitzvah is expressed by spending up to a third more on the mitzvah’s cost. For example, if an etrog costs $30, one fulfills hiddur mitzvah by paying a third more for a more beautiful etrog, $40. Spending that additional $10 is a hiddur.

Amazing insight from the Zohar

The seven days between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur  correspond to the seven days of the week. It is appropriate for a person to do teshuva during this week and think that they are doing teshuva for all those days in their lives for example on Sunday between Rosh Hashanna and Yom Kippur atone for all the Sundays in their lives, Mondays atone for all the Mondays of their lives etc. Quoted by the Mishna Berura.

INTENSIFYING OUR IMPARTING JEWISH HERITAGE AND VALUES TO THE NEXT GENERATION By Rabbi David Bassous

Despite, or perhaps, because of the many controversies swirling around us this year it is more important than ever not to lose sight of one of our main goals as Jews, to pass on our glorious heritage to the next generation. One of the areas that we need to develop and strengthen as individuals and as community is how to transmit our Jewish heritage and values successfully to the next generation. I personally feel that previous generations have been woefully inadequate in this regard. I have made a list of the values that I think are really important:

  1. Belief, knowledge and love of G-d from the heart.
  2. Love of the Torah and love for learning. Inquisitiveness (thirst for learning), exhibiting itself as excellence in secular and Torah studies, not just knowledge of facts, but also understanding why.
  3. Pride in the Jewish Heritage including: love of Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, love of Am Yisrael, the Jewish people, Knowing our history and that that we are all part of a greater whole and responsible for each other’s welfare – kol Yisrael arevim zeh lazeh; love of the mitzvot, commandments.
  4. Cheerfulness and pleasantness, both in the man and G-d relationship ‘Ivdu et Hashem besimcha’ and in the human relationships ‘vechol deracheha shalom.’
  5. Middot – good character traits, exhibited through Derech Eretz (manners), tolerance, and cooperation with others, and chessed – kindness and giving. Respect and empathy for all humanity that was created betzelem elokim, in the image of G-d. Love and respect for parents and teachers.
  6. Spirituality – deriving satisfaction, joy and a feeling of growth from tefillah, prayer and shemirat hamitzvot, acts of devotion.
  7. The importance of donating to Jewish education and Jewish causes to perpetuate Judaism.
  8. The importance of getting married and adding to the miniscule number of Jews in the world.

I would like to focus this short article on the latter two aspects of parental responsibility. Today we are all busy. Most parents enjoy very little quality time with their children during the week. The only quality time available is on weekends (thank G-d for Shabbat). Teaching and reinforcing good behavior in our children, teaching our children to derive satisfaction, joy and a feeling of growth from prayer and performance of the mitzvot must be applied during this short time that we spend with them each week.

I remember in my own childhood (when I was six or seven years old), being woken up by my father or mother every Shabbat and being bundled off to synagogue with enthusiasm (Theirs, not mine. Believe me, it took a lot of persistence on their part.). One of my fondest memories was sitting close to my father, of blessed memory, enjoying the warmth and security of his presence, his continual pointing to the place in the siddur and telling me to follow the prayers. He would hush us when we kids would sometimes whisper together. On Shabbat afternoons, he was my teacher who used to ‘corner’ me and teach me to chant the ‘zemirot -psalms of praise’ in the synagogue on Shabbat. Needless to say my parents’ enthusiasm and warmth was infectious and my father’s insisting that I follow the prayers with the chazzan gave me the ability to follow the tefillah. It wasn’t very long before I became self-motivated and ran to synagogue early on Shabbat morning for the privilege of reading the ‘zemirot’ I am eternally grateful to them for imbuing me with these qualities.

It is a positive commandment to learn Torah and teach it. This is learned from the first paragraph of the Shema that a Jew should recite at least twice a day from Deuteronomy 6:7, “… and you shall teach them (the words of Torah) diligently to your children.” (Sefer Hahinukh, Mitzvah 419). The mitzvah to teach Torah to one’s children and grandchildren is derived from Deuteronomy 4:9: “… and you shall make them known to your children and your children’s children.” Sefer Hahinukh gives an interesting minimum for a father’s obligation to teach his child: “That the son will be able to read from a Sefer Torah and understand the simple meaning of the words.” The purpose of learning Torah is to enable a person to understand the ways of the Almighty and to provide the know-how to improve the character to make us better, more refined people.

It is important for all parents who attend minyan to engender in their children a sense of belonging, a sense of warmth, and a sense of respect and honor for a holy place. The impressions that a child receives at a young age remain with them for a lifetime. We have to inculcate in them this respect for a holy place, the love of being close to Hashem and the privilege of being able to approach Him and communicate with Him.

We ourselves have to set the example to make sure that we are not chatting with our friends in the lobby, and that we take pleasure in the prayers and Torah reading. We have to communicate this feeling to our children and the expectation that they also take the prayers and Torah reading seriously.

Persistence, firmness, understanding, enthusiasm and lots of love — these are a parent’s tools. Let us use them wisely to inculcate the above values into our children.

 

​Iggeret HaRamban – The Ramban’s Letter

Iggeret HaRamban – The Ramban’s Letter
(Written to his elder son, Nachman, with the instruction to read it weekly.)

Hear, my son, the instruction of your father and don’t forsake the teaching of your mother (Mishlei 1:8). Get into the habit of always speaking calmly to everyone. This will prevent you from anger, a serious character flaw which causes people to sin. As our Rabbis said (Nedarim 22a):Whoever flares up in anger is subject to the discipline of Gehinnom as it is says in (Koheles 12:10), “Cast out anger from your heart, and [by doing this] remove evil from your flesh.” “Evil” here means Gehinnom, as we read (Mishlei 16:4): “…and the wicked are destined for the day of evil.” Once you have distanced yourself from anger, the quality of humility will enter your heart. This radiant quality is the finest of all admirable traits (see Avodah Zarah 20b), (Mishlei 22:4), “Following humility comes the fear of Hashem.”

Through humility you will also come to fear Hashem. It will cause you to always think about (see Avos 3:1) where you came from and where you are going, and that while alive you are only like a maggot and a worm, and the same after death. It will also remind you before Whom you will be judged, the King of Glory, as it is stated (I Melachim 8:27; Mishlei 15:11), “Even the heaven and the heavens of heaven can’t contain You” — “How much less the hearts of people!” It is also written (Yirmeyahu 23:24), “Do I not fill heaven and earth? says Hashem.”

When you think about all these things, you will come to fear Hashem who created you, and you will protect yourself from sinning and therefore be happy with whatever happens to you. Also, when you act humbly and modestly before everyone, and are afraid of Hashem and of sin, the radiance of His glory and the spirit of the Shechina will rest upon you, and you will live the life of the World-to-Come!

And now, my son, understand and observe that whoever feels that he is greater than others is rebelling against the Kingship of Hashem, because he is adorning himself with His garments, as it is written (Tehillim 93:1), “Hashem reigns, He wears clothes of pride.” Why should one feel proud? Is it because of wealth? Hashem makes one poor or rich (I Shmuel 2:7). Is it because of honor? It belongs to Hashem, as we read (I Divrei Hayamim 29:12), “Wealth and honor come from You.” So how could one adorn himself with Hashem’s honor? And one who is proud of his wisdom surely knows that Hashem “takes away the speech of assured men and reasoning from the sages” (Iyov 12:20)!? So we see that everyone is the same before Hashem, since with His anger He lowers the proud and when He wishes He raises the low. So lower yourself and Hashem will lift you up!

Therefore, I will now explain to you how to always behave humbly. Speak gently at all times, with your head bowed, your eyes looking down to the ground and your heart focusing on Hashem. Don’t look at the face of the person to whom you are speaking. Consider everyone as greater than yourself. If he is wise or rich, you should give him respect. If he is poor and you are richer — or wiser — than he, consider yourself to be more guilty than he, and that he is more worthy than you, since when he sins it is through error, while yours is deliberate and you should know better!

In all your actions, words and thoughts, always regard yourself as standing before Hashem, with His Shechinah above you, for His glory fills the whole world. Speak with fear and awe, as a slave standing before his master. Act with restraint in front of everyone. When someone calls you, don’t answer loudly, but gently and softly, as one who stands before his master.

Torah should always be learned diligently, so you will be able to fulfill it’s commands. When you arise from your learning reflect carefully on what you have studied, in order to see what in it that you can be put into practice. Examine your actions every morning and evening, and in this way every one of your days will be spent in teshuvah (repentance).

Concentrate on your prayers by removing all worldly concerns from your heart. Prepare your heart before Hashem, purify your thoughts and think about what you are going to say. If you follow this in all your daily actions, you will not come to sin. This way everything you do will be proper, and your prayer will be pure, clear, clean, devout and acceptable to Hashem, as it is written (Tehillim 10:17), “When their heart is directed to You, listen to them.”

Read this letter at least once a week and neglect none of it. Fulfill it, and in so doing, walk with it forever in the ways of Hashem, may he be blessed,so that you will succeed in all your ways. Thus you will succeed and merit the World to Come which lies hidden away for the righteous. Every day that you shall read this letter, heaven shall answer your heart’s desires. Amen, Sela!

Ten fascinating reasons for eating dairy on Shavuot

1 When the Jewish people received the Torah at Mount Sinai, included was special instructions for how to slaughter and prepare meat for eating. Until then, the Jews had not followed these laws, thus all their meat – plus the cooking pots – were now considered “not kosher.” So the only alternative was to eat dairy, which requires no advance preparation.
2 Torah is likened to milk, as the verse says, “Like honey and milk [the Torah] lies under your tongue” (Song of Songs 4:11). Just as milk has the ability to fully sustain the body of a human being (i.e. a nursing baby), so too the Torah provides all the “spiritual nourishment” necessary for the human soul.
3 The gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew word for milk, chalav, is 40. We eat dairy foods on Shavuot to commemorate the 40 days that Moses spent on Mount Sinai receiving instruction in the entire Torah. (Moses spent an additional 40 days on Sinai, praying for forgiveness following the Golden Calf, and then a third set of 40 days before returning with a new set of stone tablets.)
4. The numerical value of chalav, 40, has further significance in that there were 40 generations from Moses who recorded the Written Torah, till the generation of Ravina and Rav Ashi who wrote the final version of the Oral Torah, the Talmud.
5. Further, the first Mishna in Talmud begins with the letter mem – gematria 40 – and the Talmud ends with mem as well.
6. According to the Zohar, each one of the 365 days of the year corresponds to a specific one of the Torah’s 365 negative commandments. Which mitzvah corresponds to the day of Shavuot? The Torah says: “Bring Bikkurim (first fruits) to the God’s Holy Temple; don’t cook a kid in its mother’s milk” (Exodus 34:26). Since the first day for bringing Bikkurim is on Shavuot (in fact, the Torah calls Shavuot “the holiday of Bikkurim”), the second half of that verse – referring to milk and meat – is the negative commandment corresponding to Shavuot day. Thus on Shavuot we eat two meals, one of milk and one of meat, taking care not to mix the two.
Interestingly, we are instructed not to use the same loaf of bread for a meat meal and then later at a milk meal, lest some of the meat substance had splattered on the bread. Thus by eating two meals – one of milk and one of meat – we inevitably have two loaves. This corresponds to the special “Two Loaves” that were offered in the Temple on Shavuot.
7. An alternative name for Mount Sinai is Har Gav’nunim, the mountain of majestic peaks. The Hebrew word for cheese is gevina, etymologically related to Har Gav’nunim.
8. Further, the gematria of gevina (cheese) is 70, corresponding to the “70 faces of Torah.”
9. Moses was born on the seventh day of Adar, and stayed at home for three months with his family, before being placed in the Nile River on the sixth of Sivan. Moses was rescued by Pharaoh’s daughter, who adopted Moses and took him to live in Pharaoh’s palace. But right away a problem arose: what to feed the baby. In those days, there was no bottled baby formula, so when the birth mother wasn’t available, the caretaker would have to hire a wet nurse. In the case of Moses, he kept refusing to nurse from Egyptian women. The Talmud explains that his mouth needed to be kept totally pure, as it would one day communicate directly with God. Finally Pharaoh’s daughter found one woman who Moses agreed to nurse from – Yocheved, Moses’ biological mother! Appreciate the irony: Pharaoh’s murderous decree against Jewish babies was specifically intended to prevent a new generation of Jewish leadership. So what happened instead? Moses, the upcoming great Jewish leader, was raised, educated and trained – right under Pharaoh’s nose, in Pharaoh’s own home, at Pharaoh’s expense! And on top of it all, Moses’ mother got paid a salary! The eating of dairy foods on Shavuot commemorates this phenomenon in the early life of Moses, which occurred on the sixth of Sivan, the day on which Shavuot falls.
10 According to one commentator, that day at Sinai was the first time the Jews ate dairy products. There is a general prohibition of “eating a limb from a live animal” (ever min hachai), which logically should also include milk, the product of a live animal. Ever min hachai is actually one of the Seven Noahide Laws which the Jews observed prior to Sinai (and which has applied to all humanity since the days of Noah). However, upon receiving the Torah, which refers to the Land of Israel as “flowing with milk and honey” (Exodus 3:18), dairy products became permitted to the Jews. In other words, at the same moment that their meat became prohibited, dairy became permitted. They ate dairy on that original Shavuot, and we do today, too.

SECURITY AND PEACE by Rabbi David Bassous

Leviticus Chapter 26 verses 3-6

‘If you follow My statutes and observe My commandments and perform them…and you will live in security in your land. And I will grant peace in the Land, and you will lie down with no one to frighten [you].’

Isn’t it strange that God promises that we will live in security isn’t this what we all want? Isn’t this on everyone’s mind now that Israel was attacked and defended itself. We hope and pray for security for all of us. Then why does He then promise peace in the land after the promise of security, aren’t peace and security synonymous? Must be they they are distinct from each other: (1) peace and (2) security.

These are the two things that the state of Israel has always demanded from its neighbors, what are they.

Security from attack from without and internal peace within. Peace not just with the neighboring countries but also within Am Yisrael, that we the Jewish people should be at peace and harmony with each other, including husbands and wives, parents and children and siblings.

There is also a third blessing ‘and you will lie down with no one to frighten [you].’ Anyone who has been abused like the Jewish people have over the millennia and Israel has over the last seventy years of existence, has phobias and nightmares of what the future holds. (3)God promises us a good unworried night’s sleep with no fear of what the future may hold.

Can’t wait!!!