Friday, October 26, 2018

Dvar Torah - Vayeiro - Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

This week we are privileged to read the portion of Vayeiro. We learn in the end of the previous portion that Avrohom performed a Bris Mila on himself at age ninety nine, and this portion begins with Hashem’s appearance to  Avrohom on the third day. Avrohom, despite being in physical pain, was more bothered by the fact that no guest showed up, due to heat waves. Hashem sends three angels, they appeared as people, to allow Avrohom the ability to fulfill the mitzva of hachnosas orchim (hosting guest). Avrohom despite his senior age and his frail body, prepared a feast for his guest. At the meal they revealed to him that they were sent by Hashem to inform him that he will be blessed with a child at this time next year, and also to heal him. They continued on to Sedom ato destroy the evil cities of Sedom and Amora and to save Lot in the merit of Avrohom. Avrohom pleaded with Hashem to spare the evil people, however their awful behavior, and the absence of pious men caused their ultimate destruction. We learn that Lot’s wife turned into a pillar of salt due to her curiosity to see what transpired with Sedom during their escape. Later we learn of Yitzchok’s birth and the need to get Yishmoel away from Yitzchok to avoid bad influence. We also learn of the great challenge Avrohom had gone thru, by being willing to sacrifice his holy son Yitzchok, by G-d’s command. Obviously it was only a test, from which we merit until this day. The portion concludes with the birth of Rivkah, later to be the spouse of Yitzchok and one of our holy Matriarchs.

We find in the beginning of the portion that Avrohom offered his guest a meal and their  response was kein taase kaasher dibarto - do so, as you have spoken. The Slonimer Rebbe explains, we often find people that do a lot of good deeds, but it does not elevate them. They may perform acts of kindness and do a lot for others, however they frequently remain simple people. Why is that ? Says the Slonimer Rebbe, it is because their language is not clean and that is a basic for a person to be able to be uplifted and grow spiritually. In the absence of clean language one cannot grow. This is what the angels told Avrohom your words should match your deeds. Good deeds along with good words, pure action and pure speech are the ingredients for growth. (Maybe this is why we start Yom Kippur with Kol Nidrei, so that we nullify improper speech, before we begin a new page).

I want to share another idea with you. The Medrash states , that when Hashem sent Avrohom to the Land Moriah, to bring Yitzchok for an offering, he used the term Lech Licho - go for your own good. The same term Lech Licho was used in the previous portion, when Hashem to Avrom to leave his land, his birthplace, his father’s home to an unknown land. The Medrash discusses, which one was greater, the first Lech Licho or the second ? The Medrash concludes the second one was much greater. We need to understand what was even the rational to say that leaving one’s birthplace and land would be greater than sacrificing a son born at one hundred years old ? Although the Medrash concludes that the second Lech Licho was greater, one needs to understand what was even the debate. There’s an important lesson here, to teach us the greatness of unconditional faith - emuna pshuta. Since by the first Lech Licho Avrohom did not even know to which land he was going, it was a complete act of unconditional faith, maybe it was greater than Lech Licho of the Akeido, where he knew to which land he was going and for what purpose. This is the other side of the debate.

Friday, October 5, 2018

Dvar Torah - Bireishis - from Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin

This week we are privileged to begin a new cycle of Torah reading, beginning with the portion of Bireishis. The portion teaches us what was created every day of the week and that from the beginning of creation Shabbos was sanctified. We also learn that Adam was created in the image of G-d. We learn about the sin of Adam and Chava (Eve) eating from the tree of knowledge. We learn about Kayin and Hevel and the tragic ending of Hevel's life. The portion concludes with the birth of Noach.

This Shabbos is referred to as Shabbos Bireishis (beginning). The holy Chassidic masters said that this Shabbos is a foundation for the entire year. It is the first Shabbos after the high Holidays, and it is incumbent upon us to prove that we didn’t just serve G-d externally, but that we internalized what we said, and accepted. The Chida also writes that on Shabbos Bireishis one should be particularly careful to conduct him/herself properly as it is not a good sign if immediately after the High Holy Days one falls back. At least the beginning should be strong. The Rebbe of Tzanz would refer to Shabbos Bireishis as follows: when a businessman goes to an exhibition to buy goods in his field of business, he quickly purchases everything he feels would be profitable for his business. However it is only when he comes home that he begins to go through his purchases to see what will be more productive and profitable. So too, it is with the month of Tishrei. The entire month we were busy grabbing mitzvohs, correcting what needs to be corrected and now we need to work on implementing what needs to be implemented. This is the work of Shabbos Bireishis.

When Reb Shneur Zalman of Liadi (author of Tanya) was imprisoned in St Petersburg, over false allegations, the government tried sending different people to talk to him and sniff out how much he's working to topple the Zarist authority. Amongst these people, they sent a very prominent and learned minister, who entered the prison disguised as an ordinary fellow prisoner. When he entered the room the Rebbe stood up for him and he said to him that he knows he's somewhat connected to malchus (kingdom). The minister was shocked, as they never met and there was no way he could have recognized him ... He began to have an intellectual conversation with R' Shneur Zalman. Amongst the questions he asked was, it is written in the Torah that after the Adam ate from the tree of knowledge Hashem asked him AYEKO - where are you. Why did Hashem ask Adam "Ayeko" , doesn't G-d know everything ? The Rebbe responded that this a call to every individual eternally to check on himself where he is, and he continued to tell the minister, Hashem gave you this amount of years, this amount of months and this amount of days, what did you do with it ? Where are you ? He calculated exactly the age, the years, months and days of the minister sitting in front of him. The minister was shaken up, and later ended up being one of the greatest defenders of the Tzadik before the judge, who ultimately freed him.

The message to us is, after an entire elevated season where we served Hashem more than throughout the year, and now we go back to routine, remember AYEKO!

Gut Shabbos, and
A healthy winter,
Rabbi Yitzchok Wolpin