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  • The Reason Behind The “Borrowed” Treasures

    Isn't it strange why Hashem is telling Moshe Rabbeinu to ask the nation, to go and ask for gifts of silver and gold from Egyptians?

    Parashat Bo, 11:2 it says: "דַּבֶּר־נָ֖א בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וְיִשְׁאֲל֞וּ אִ֣ישׁ מֵאֵ֣ת רֵעֵ֗הוּ וְאִשָּׁה֙ מֵאֵ֣ת רְעוּתָ֔הּ כְּלֵי־כֶ֖סֶף וּכְלֵ֥י זָהָֽב׃ - Tell the people to borrow, each man from his friend, and each woman from hers, objects of silver and gold."

    The Chachamim say that there's a promise that was made by Hashem to Avraham Avinu, and Hashem wants to keep His word. So, when the Jews will ask the Egyptians, they will give gladly. 

    But I believe there's much more hidden under such a request. So, please allow me to uncover what may be the reason for such an odd request.

    In Parashat Lech Lecha when Lot was taken captive, Avraham Avinu assembled a small army and went to free him. After the battle of 4 against the 5 kings, Avraham Avinu was on the side of the winners. The victorious king made somewhat an interesting request, in Lech Lecha 14:21: "וַיֹּ֥אמֶר מֶֽלֶךְ־סְדֹ֖ם אֶל־אַבְרָ֑ם תֶּן־לִ֣י הַנֶּ֔פֶשׁ וְהָרְכֻ֖שׁ קַֽח־לָֽךְ׃ - Then the king of Sodom said to Abram, “Give me the people, and take the possessions for yourself."

    To which Avraham Avinu answered in 14:23: " אִם־מִחוּט֙ וְעַ֣ד שְׂרֽוֹךְ־נַ֔עַל וְאִם־אֶקַּ֖ח מִכׇּל־אֲשֶׁר־לָ֑ךְ וְלֹ֣א תֹאמַ֔ר אֲנִ֖י הֶעֱשַׁ֥רְתִּי אֶת־אַבְרָֽם׃ - I will not take so much as a thread or a sandal strap of what is yours; you shall not say, ‘It is I who made Abram rich." It seems like Avraham Avinu wants to attribute his success and wealth to only one source - Hashem, but here I believe - if I may say so - an error was made.

    In Parashat Vayeira when the angels visited Avraham Avinu after he had made the Brit, one of the angels said that he had come to execute a judgment against the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. When they finished speaking to Avraham, they left and went on with their task.

    In 18:23-33 it says: "וַיִּגַּ֥שׁ אַבְרָהָ֖ם וַיֹּאמַ֑ר הַאַ֣ף תִּסְפֶּ֔ה צַדִּ֖יק עִם־רָשָֽׁע׃ - Abraham came forward and said, “Will You sweep away the innocent along with the guilty?   אוּלַ֥י יֵ֛שׁ חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים צַדִּיקִ֖ם בְּת֣וֹךְ הָעִ֑יר הַאַ֤ף תִּסְפֶּה֙ וְלֹא־תִשָּׂ֣א לַמָּק֔וֹם לְמַ֛עַן חֲמִשִּׁ֥ים הַצַּדִּיקִ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּקִרְבָּֽהּ׃ - What if there should be fifty innocent people within the city; will You then wipe out the place and not forgive it for the sake of the innocent fifty who are in it?" And so Avraham went down in numbers each time, lowering it to 10. Hashem said that He would not destroy if He found 10 righteous individuals in that city, and for their sake, he will not destroy other people.. on this note, they parted.

    It seems like this story is talking about Sodom and Gomorrah, but I believe we can look at this incident from a whole different angle. 

    Let's imagine for a second that it may be not Sodom and Gomorrah, but it is talking about the generation that is coming out of Egypt, Avraham Avinu is a prophet, and he has realized that he made a mistake. When the King of Sodom asked him to give him people and Avraham should take the gold and silver, Avraham declined. But now he has realized this was a huge mistake. 

    In Parashat Lech Lecha 15:13-14 it says: "וַיֹּ֣אמֶר לְאַבְרָ֗ם יָדֹ֨עַ תֵּדַ֜ע כִּי־גֵ֣ר ׀ יִהְיֶ֣ה זַרְעֲךָ֗ בְּאֶ֙רֶץ֙ לֹ֣א לָהֶ֔ם וַעֲבָד֖וּם וְעִנּ֣וּ אֹתָ֑ם אַרְבַּ֥ע מֵא֖וֹת שָׁנָֽה׃  - And [God] said to Abram, “Know well that your offspring shall be strangers in a land not theirs, and they shall be enslaved and oppressed for four hundred years; וְגַ֧ם אֶת־הַגּ֛וֹי אֲשֶׁ֥ר יַעֲבֹ֖דוּ דָּ֣ן אָנֹ֑כִי וְאַחֲרֵי־כֵ֥ן יֵצְא֖וּ בִּרְכֻ֥שׁ גָּדֽוֹל׃ - but I will execute judgment on the nation they shall serve, and in the end they shall go free with great wealth." 

    And because Avraham Avinu had declined and did not take the wealth - gold and silver offered by the King of Sodom, which he has earned by fighting in a war - where one goes through pain, blood, and death, and by the rules of war - the treasures taken from the enemy are called loot and are shared amongst the winners. Declining  to take the loot, led Avraham Avinu's descendants to go down to the unknown land into slavery, to experience pain, blood, and death, and then be freed by Hashem, and only then bring out that great promised wealth. 

    Remember the discussion Avraham Avinu had with Hashem, where Hashem agreed to save the city if He finds 10 worthy individuals? So, since Avraham Avinu's descendants had to go into exile, in the Parashat Shelach, the fate of the men ages 20-60 of that generation was decreed to be buried in the desert. Since in this generation, Hashem didn't find the required 10 people to save the "city" - 12 spies went to Eretz Yisrael and 10 spoke against the Land. Since 2 out of the agreed 10 were worthy to stay alive which were Yehoshua bin Nun and Caleb ben Yefuneh, the rest of the men ages 20-60 have died in the dessert - remember the story of the spies?!

    So, at this point, you may ask why such a harsh punishment for not taking gold and silver when they were offered by the King of Sodom? Because Avraham Avinu was raised by a father who was a craftsman, who made idols from clay, wood, gold, and silver. Avraham Avinu should have foreseen the consequences and taken the treasures when he was offered them. Because only he was able to raise them to the levels of holiness to serve Hashem, but since he declined them, those treasures were made into idols and were used to mislead the masses - which eventually led to the destruction of the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah

    That is why Moshe Rabbeinu asked people to get silver and gold from Egyptians and brought the treasures out from Mitzrayim. In the desert, he has raised those treasures to the highest levels of holiness, by making them into Holy items like Mizbeach, Mishkan, Menorah, and other Holy vessels to serve Hashem. And those objects were built from the gold, silver, and other materials for which the nation of Israel has paid with their pain, blood, and death

    Just like the Gemara in Masechet Berachot 5A says, three things are acquired through hardship: The Next World, Torah, and Eretz Yisrael. So are the artifacts of such enormous proportions of holiness can't be acquired merely by money. They require national effort, sacrifice, and suffering, and only then Hashem's presence will be among the nation - when all are molded as if one vessel, and are together working toward one goal - to serve Hashem in holiness.

    PS: The above is the story of how Moshe Rabbeinu was able to elevate the treasures that they brought out from Egypt to the level of holiness. But the same attempts were made by others throughout history as well.

    In Parashat Ki Tisa, people approached Aharon HaCohen and asked him to make them an intermediary between Hashem and the people, because Moshe Rabbeinu has delayed coming back from the mountain. Aharon HaCohen asked them to bring him the golden earrings from their wives, thus trying to delay the time, but men gave theirs - exactly those that they have gotten from the Egyptians, the ones they paid for with pain, suffering and death - thus contributing to the sin of the golden idol and cheapening the national efforts of years of slavery and national sacrifice. This action alone has brought us a lot of trouble for which we still atone for till today.

    Comes King Solomon and tries to elevate the gold in the service of Hashem. We are told in the Book of Melachim 1, that King Solomon has covered most of the Bet Hamikdash with gold along with most of its vessels. There's opinion, that about 1,086 talents, or about 34 tons of gold were brought to Jerusalem from Ophir by King Solomon's workers. This amount of gold is estimated to have been about half of the world’s known gold supply at that time. The First Temple was the most beautiful building in the world in its time - as the House of G-d should be. But there was another problem. King Solomon had around 1000 wives, and for each of his wife he built a palace which also required gold to make them feel "royally accepted" in the society. So each of the wives' palaces were also looking golden and sparkly. But later in life, his wives started to worship their idols in each of their palaces, so all that vast amount of gold in the time of King Solomon wasn't elevated in holiness and did not achieve it's intended purpose.

    The Second Bet Hamikdash, had plenty of its own issues, so let's not discuss it right now. 

    So where do we go from here? 

    We got another shot at it, and it is a Third Bet Hamikdash. When the time comes, under Mashiach's supervision we will build the Third Temple. And this time, we will also use gold, and lots of it too. The Third Bet Hamikdash - The House of G-d will attract people from all over the world as it says in Sefer Yeshayahu, it needs to look awesome and most importantly - holy - according to the Jewish Law. But why you may ask? The beauty of that scale and aggrandizement of it should be used to serve and elevate the Honor and Name of G-d. Because, if anyone that deserves the praise and fanfare, that would be not us - the mere men, it is only Him alone - Hashem, G-d Almighty.

    Shmuel Katanov

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  • The Thoughts Behind The Empty Pit

    "And they took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.", Vayeshev 37:24. It is puzzling that the Torah mentions that the pit was empty. Why would I need to know that? If you ask me, they are in the desert, and if there is water in the pit - it would be called a well, why does the Torah specifically mention the lack of water in the pit?

    I think the answer may be hiding in a few places in the Torah. Let's start with the first key. Yosef, וְה֣וּא נַ֗עַר - Ve Hu Naar, Rashi explains, "And He, Being a Lad - His actions were childish: he dressed his hair, he touched up his eyes so that he should appear good-looking." 

    But I believe there's more to it.

    Ve Hu Naar - And He, Being a Lad, can be also interpreted as him having a child-like imagination. It seemed as if he was a dreamer with his head high up in the clouds. Maybe that is why when he saw the dreams, he was able to come up with great explanations for his and other people’s dreams because he thought out of the box.

    So, after Yaakov Avinu sent him to check up on his brothers, Yosef being the dreamer he is, wasn't just simply walking to his brothers, his mind was thinking. And this time he was thinking about Kayin and Hevel. 

    Our job in this world is to fix what was broken before – making the Tikkunim, and Yosef was a great example of this.

    In Parashat Bereshit 4:9, Hashem said to Kayin, "Where is your brother Hevel?" Kayin said, "I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?" And this is what bothered Yosef that day. Him being the most hated one in the family, he felt that vibe between Kayin and Hevel. And this is where the Tikkun or fixing was being done...given a chance, he thought - he could fix Kayin's error.

    And with these thoughts, he came to Shechem, but there he met a man. Chachamim tells us it was an angel, and when that man asked him, who is he looking for, he said: My brothers do I seek - אֶת־אַחַ֖י אָנֹכִ֣י מְבַקֵּ֑שׁ, Parashat Vayeshev, 37:16, but as you know in the Sefer Torah the Nekudot - the vowels are missing and the word אַחַ֖י - My Brothers can also be written as Achi, so at the end, he meant: אֶת־אחִי אָנֹכִ֣י מְבַקֵּ֑שׁ  and that makes it as - My brother do I seek.

    Fully determined to fix Kayin’s error and with full understanding of why Kayin killed Hevel, Yosef felt that no matter the amount of hate Yosef had seen from his brothers, they were as a Brother to him, and he was looking not for them but for him - all as one. And with this thought, he went to the city of Dotan. 

    But Yosef didn't stop there, he asked Hashem for a sign, that he was on the right track, that his thought process was correct, and his Tikkun was noticed above. 

    He didn't have to wait too long, because when he approached his brothers, they took off his colorful tunic - "And took him and cast him into the pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.", Parashat Vayeshev 37:24. No water in it...?! Notice how the Torah highlights that water was not there.

    In Parashat Bereshit, after Kayin killed Hevel, Hashem came to punish Kayin, He asked him, Where's Hevel? Kayin answered, וַיֹּ֙אמֶר֙ לֹ֣א יָדַ֔עְתִּי הֲשֹׁמֵ֥ר אָחִ֖י אָנֹֽכִי׃ - And he said, "I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?"

    So, Hashem said, וְעַתָּ֖ה אָר֣וּר אָ֑תָּה מִן־הָֽאֲדָמָה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר פָּצְתָ֣ה אֶת־פִּ֔יהָ לָקַ֛חַת אֶת־דְּמֵ֥י אָחִ֖יךָ מִיָּדֶֽךָ׃ - "Therefore, you shall be more cursed than the ground, which opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand." Meam Loez says that the sin of the Earth was that it left no trace of blood, like it wanted to hide the blood completely, so it could not be discovered, thus it completely swallowed the blood.

    So, Yosef got the sign he asked for - no water in the pit when he was thrown into it, just like the incident with Kayin killing Hevel - no blood was left visible on the ground.

    But let's go even further. In Parashat Vayigash 45:12, when Yosef HaTzaddik opened up to his brothers, he says the following:" וְהִנֵּ֤ה עֵֽינֵיכֶם֙ רֹא֔וֹת וְעֵינֵ֖י אָחִ֣י בִנְיָמִ֑ין כִּי־פִ֖י הַֽמְדַבֵּ֥ר אֲלֵיכֶֽם׃ - You can see for yourselves, and my brother Benyamin for himself, that it is indeed I who am speaking to you." Rashi said," ועיני אחי בנימין - And the eyes of my brother Benyamin - just as I harbor no hatred against Benyamin, my brother, for he was no party to selling me, so is my heart free from hatred against you."

    But maybe it can also mean, just like Benyamin my brother looks at me and sees me as His Brother, so am I, looking at All of You and seeing you all, as My Brother - Achi and not as Achai - My Brothers. He was not looking for brothers in Shechem, Yosef HaTzaddik was looking for them all - as a Brother looks for His Brother.

    Kayin fell short by not being able to co-exist with one brotherand was not content with his lofty share - even though he did have more than plenty, Yosef HaTzaddik has proven that he was his brother's keeper - the caretaker of the entire family. When the time came and the family moved to Egypt, he took care of the needs of his father, the brothers, and all of their families, thus making his contribution to the atonement of Kayin's sin.

    Shmuel Katanov

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  • Strong When United...But Troubled When Divided

    The Parashat Shelach opens with interesting words, Shelach Lecha Anashim - Rashi and many commentators translate it as Send for yourself, meaning - Hashem has said that the Land is good, so just go in and take the land, but that generation wanted to see it for themselves, kind of like they wanted to make sure it is a good land.

    To me, it seems like there's some other meaning hiding behind this word. So, let's look at it closer.

    So, Shelach Lecha means - Send for yourself, but if you pay close attention, Lecha is in the singular tense, but it is directed to Moshe and affects 12 people, that are being sent out in this expedition. So, how is the singular tense being used for this group of people, why not just use the plural?

    In Parashat Bereshit, right after Chava and Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, and after Hashem has punished them, it says that Hashem banished them from Gan Eden, but it uses an interesting word for it, in Bereshit 3:23 it says: וַֽיְשַׁלְּחֵ֛הוּ  - And Hashem banished him or sent him out from Gan Eden... Sent him out? Why him? Aren't there two people that were sent out from the Garden of Eden - Adam and Chava, why does Hashem only refer to Adam - sent him out? I believe this is where Hashem is giving us an important message - that Adam and Chava are one, a union, a single entity - a Father and a Mother of all of humanity - The Parents.

    But let's go further into the Parashat Lech Lecha. When Hashem tells Avraham Avinu, Lech Lecha - Go for yourself from your land... Again, in this case, it uses the word Lecha, which again affects many people who came out with Avraham Avinu - his wife Sarah, his nephew Lot, all the souls that they have made in Haran, along with their shepherds. 

    So, we have 3 places where a singular tense was used, that has affected the group - the many. And this teaches us, that Hashem wants a group to achieve unity, and while in their journey to stay as a group - and get from point A to point B as one single entity, with no one left behind

    But it doesn't happen so.

    Later, in the Parashat Lech Lecha 13:5-12 we are told a story of how their shepherds argued, and Avraham Avinu offered to Lot to go left while he goes right or go right while he goes left, and Lot agreed. They both went different ways - but as you remember Hashem said Lech Lecha, which means that Hashem wanted him to go as one single unit without separation, thus the word Lecha is used. 

    Since at that point in time Avraham Avinu, Sarah Imenu, and Lot - were the Jewish nation, and Hashem wanted them to stick together and together get to Point B or the Promised Land, which unfortunately did not happen.

    The Parashat Toldot, tells us about Yitzchak Avinu and his two sons - Esav and Yaakov. Yaakov gets the birthright and the beracha, and Rivkah Imenu worried about the safety of Yaakov, tells him to leave for Charan since his brother Esav might kill him. Yakov leaves, and this is when the family breaks up - the unity is lost once again. 

    The Parashat Vayishlach tells us, that 22 years later Yaakov Avinu is coming back from the house of his father-in-law with his family, four wives, twelve sons, and a daughter Dina. Knowing fully well his brother Esav, Yaakov Avinu hides his daughter in the chest so Esav should not see her. When the brothers meet up, Esav never sees Dina, and the brothers go their own ways. The Chachamim tell us that Yaakov Avinu has made a mistake by hiding Dina. Since Dina should have married Esav - since only she could of bring him back to Teshuva. And then Yaakov with his kids and four wives, and Esav with Dina would have come back to Israel together as one unit - but it didn't happen. The family has broken up once again, Esav went totally off the derech, and billions of his descendants were forever lost to Judaism.

    In Parashat Vayeshev, the nation of Israel is now Yaakov Avinu and his twelve sons. Everything seems to be going well, but suddenly there's a conflict between the brothers and the younger one - Yosef. So, the brothers end up selling him to Egypt, which breaks the family once again. Later on, the whole family moves to Egypt to join Yosef due to the famine in the Land of Israel. 

    210 years later comes Moshe Rabbeinu in Parashat Shemot. He is sent by Hashem, who tells him to take His nation out. Three million people came out with Moshe Rabbeinu after all the punishments brought by G-d upon Egypt.

    And in Parashat Yitro, we finally got it - the nation stood as one body and one soul - we have achieved complete unity. The Jewish Nation received the Torah on Mount Sinai and officially was married to G-d.

    Then the nation traveled closer to the Land of Israel, and suddenly in Parashat Shelach, the people approached Moshe Rabbeinu. They wanted to scout out the land, but in actuality - they wanted to fix what Adam, Avraham Avinu, Yaakov Avinu, and the brothers could not - achieve unity. So, the twelve spies wanted to go to the Land of Israel and come back with one opinion on the strategy and goodness of the Land. But, as you know, for whatever reason they came back with two opinions - 10 people’s opinion versus 2 people’s opinion. Hashem did what He did - males of that generation 20-60 years old lost their lives in the desert.

    Thirty-nine years later, in the Parashat Matot and Masei, when the nation is standing on the banks of the Jordan River, tribes of Reuven, Gad, and part of the tribe of Menashe approached Moshe Rabbeinu and asked to remain in the east of the Jordan due to an abundance of green pastures for their livestock. Moshe agreed, and in return, they promised him to go out and help other tribes to conquer Eretz Yisrael.

    And this is where I believe a mistake was made.

    The word Lecha in the Shelach Lecha does not only mean send for yourself, but it means to go from point A which is Egypt to point B - Eretz Yisrael - as one unit, a single entity - all 3 million people, all 12 tribes with no one left behind or anyone left outside of The Land of Israel. This is where Hashem is telling Moshe Rabbeinu or obligates him to make sure that all 12 tribes make it to the Land of Israel, no matter how appealing it may look outside of it. Since, if only they would have done so, Moshe Rabbeinu would of pass away, but Yehoshua Bin Nun would have taken the nation into the Land of Israel and would have become a Mashiach, and the Geulah or Redemption would have started at that moment, followed by the Tehiyat Hametim - the Resurrection of the Dead, where Moshe Rabbeinu and everyone left behind in the desert would have come back to join the rest of the nation in the Land of Israel.

    But this did not happen. And because of this, we have had our First Bet Hamikdash and its destruction, Second Bet Hamikdash and its destruction, and today this.... current long exile with all its hardships - still going on for almost 2,000 years. But we are still hopeful and waiting for our own Lecha Moment - Mashiach, to unite us and ingather all 12 tribes together in Israel, and to kick off other prophecies, as it says in the Book of the Prophet Yeshayahu and in the books of other prophets.

    Since just like Adam and Chava were sent out from the Garden of Eden as one entity, so are we - all 12 tribes of Israel, have to re-enter our physical Gan Eden - The Land of Israel, as one, united, strong nation. May this happen speedily in our days, Amen.

    Shmuel Katanov

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  • The Bitter Waters of the Sotah

    In Parashat Nasso 5:11-31, Hashem tells about a woman that is suspected of adultery by her husband. I assume you know the details... So the husband takes her to the Bet Hamikdash, to Cohen for the test. A Cohen gives her a drink of bitter waters, if she is guilty, she dies there, but if she is not, she is blessed with a child.

    We have another incident of the bitter waters in a different parsha. In Parashat Beshalach 15:23-25, right after the Am Yisrael goes through the Yam Suf, the nation becomes thirsty, but couldn't drink the waters of the Marah, since they were bitter. So, they asked Moshe, who in turn asked Hashem. And Hashem showed him a piece of wood, that he threw into the water and it became sweet. And.. the nation drank. 

    I believe there's something about this piece of wood. So, let's look at it closer.

    Have you ever wondered, why Aron HaKodesh, looks this way? - click here

    In Parashat Terumah, we are told about the details of the Aron HaKodesh. A wooden box covered with gold from the inside out. On the cover of the box, there are two golden figures of angels - Keruvim facing each other with their wings stretched forward. Inside the box are two sets of Luchot - the 10 Commandments. And on the side of the box, two golden loops on each side, through which wooden poles covered with gold were inserted. The ends of each pole are wider than the opening of the loops, which makes it impossible to insert the poles through the loops, so the Zohar says - that miracle occurs, and the poles pass through the loops miraculously. 

    It is a very holy and mystical structure, where every part of it represents something.

    The tablets with 10 Commandments that are inside the box - represent a Ketuba - a marriage contract. When man and woman get married - they get a Ketuba, and the 10 Commandments is a Ketuba between the nation of Israel and Hashem, since on Shavuot when we receive the Torah, Hashem marries the nation of Israel. 

    Each wedding ceremony or chupa has 2 witnesses, and the two Keruvim - the golden angels on top of the Aron HaKodesh also serve as witnesses. Every time Cohen HaGadol goes into Kadosh Kedoshim on Yom Kippur, based on certain signs of the Keruvim, he determines whether Hashem is happy with the way the nation is leading the way of life or not.

    The wooden poles are covered in gold on the sides of the Aron HaKodesh, which represent man and woman or to be exact  - a husband and wife. Why are the poles covered in gold, you ask? Simple...what is Tzeniut or Modesty? When a couple follows the laws of modesty - in front of Hashem they are covered in gold, but by uncovering themselves, or dressing immodestly they are displaying their wooden-like human body, since wood and the human body are physical products grown by Earth, which makes them look lowly in the eyes of G-d.

    So, there you have it - two wooden poles, covered in gold, miraculously inserted into the rings, as the Zohar says. The Torah adds: And the poles shall never be removed... But if the wife removes her golden wrapping, abandons her position on Aron HaKodesh, and is suspected of having relations with someone else, other than her husband - Torah requires her to go through a test of bitter waters. If she is guilty she dies, if she is not guilty - she is blessed with a child, and Hashem wraps her back in gold and restores her to her former position.

    And this makes Aron HaKodesh a symbol of Loyalty between Husband and Wife, and a symbol of Loyalty between the Nation of Israel and Hashem

    The Midrash says Leviyim carried the Aron HaKodesh by holding the poles from each side. It adds, that it is not the Leviyim who carried the Aron HaKodesh, but it is the Aron HaKodesh that carried the Leviyim in the desert

    So it is, with the husband and the wife. When the couple gets married or later on in life - dedicates their life - their whole existence, to Kabbalat Ol Malchut ShamayimAccepting the Kingship of Heaven, by following the laws of G-d, and leading a family based on Torah values. It is not the couple who carries the burden of The Kingship of Heaven, but it is The Kingship of Heaven just like Aron HaKodesh that carries the couple through their journey of life - by overflowing them with holiness, abundance, and constant miracles.

    Shmuel Katanov

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  • The Loving G-d

    Did you ever hear this expression that G-d loves you, He is all love and it's all love? But is it? When you open Torah books and start flipping through the pages, all you see is the opposite. He seems to be vengeful, and very just, with lots of stories of people being punished for the things they have done wrong. And then we go to shul, we observe the following: people talking, laughing at jokes, sometimes even laughing at others, talking about others, you may even hear arguments and maybe even shouts, and of course, you will see people praying. But don't stop there, keep on observing, and you will see kids of all ages...some walking around, some seating, some reading books, and some praying.

    While there in shul you hear of some kid or a member that no longer comes to shul, or some grew up and moved to a different neighborhood where there is no shul nearby, and we say, Oy! He had such great potential...and, we even got a fancy label for these types of people - Off The Derech.

    But what is this thing called derech or a road? Is it the physical road we walk on daily, back and forth for years to and from the shul, or is it something bigger - like an accepted Way of Life or even a Way of Behavior?! So, these people get off this "accepted way of behavior" by society... but let me ask you a question, are we truly on that "accepted way of behavior"?

    Torah tells us a story of Amalek in Devarim 25:17-19, and it goes like this, the Jewish nation came out of Egypt and a people of Amalek came and attacked the Jewish nation while attacking those that were as Torah calls them כל הנחשלים אחריך - Hanecheshalim, Rashi explains those that were weak ones, in Midrash Tanchuma it says that those that were expelled from the protection of the Clouds of Glory due to their sins and were walking behind the camp... So Amalek attacked those that were walking outside of the camp, out of the protection of the Clouds of Glory, so by attacking them, they have instilled doubt into the hearts of the other nations - which means that all the miracles that Hashem has done when He took the Jewish nation out from Egypt which has made the Jewish nation look powerful in the eyes of other nations - after the war has made them look like nothing, and that the Jewish nation is not untouchable, and you can fight it as well. Amalek did it just to prove this point, even though they lost the war, they were able to achieve their agenda. So, G-d gave us a commandment to kill the nation of the Amalek, and G-d said He will not rest till the end of days until He brings vengeance on this nation. 

    For centuries rabbis tried to figure out who this nation of Amalek is, and in every generation, we see the few that try to annihilate the Jewish nation, and every time G-d saves us from their hands.

    But there's also another explanation given by our Sages. That there's an Amalek inside each one of us, and he overtakes us and influences our behavior. Let's go a bit deeper into this idea.

    It is no coincidence that Torah has used the word, chalashim - the weak - they have attacked the weak, maybe Torah is giving us a hint, since we also got the weak ones in our society, and these are the kids, people with little to no emunah, those that have come to Judaism recently, and the ones that are not firmly established in the Torah society. 

    For kids - with their undeveloped and naïve minds, besides playing and praying, they seat and observe, and watch us, our behavior, our interaction with others, and most importantly our service to G-d. 

    Those that have returned to Hashem, and have accepted the kingship of Heaven upon themselves, still struggling day to day with belief in G-d and details overall, come to shul, join the minyan, and also look around at those "established ones", and ones that have been "in it" for years… The same goes for the ones that are not established in the Torah society.

    And we that have been “in it” for years, through our inappropriate conduct in shul, without realizing, packing and stuffing the hearts of these children and people that have returned to Hashem - stuffing their hearts with doubts - doubt of Hashem's might and mercy, His Torah, and a way of Torah life. 

    Suddenly we hear of someone that moved to another neighborhood away from shul, someone who walked out of the shul never to return, and slowly they fall out one by one...

    Maybe and just maybe, the Amalek is not some other nation, but it is us - our inappropriate behavior, and our urge to crush others around us in the community - just to inflate our worth in public. Our way of mistreating and spreading rumors about others, and feeling great doing it before, and after the fact and all the time, openly or secretly - this behavior places doubt of G-d, His justice and His involvement in our daily lives. Doubt that goes straight into the hearts of these kids and people - daily for years - as being a normal behavior in shul and in life.

    Then the speech told by the rabbi from the podium is not taken seriously, since it feels like a story, cause these kids and people have already seen from their observation that you can do it all, and be ok with G-d and others...since look - everyone is doing it. And their fathers seeing their kids not wanting to pray, or come to shul, scratch their heads, thinking where did they go wrong? 

    So these baaley teshuvah and these kids grow up in life, and their doubts grow with them to the point where doubts become convictions, or even total disbelief in G-d, since their views were already altered from their childhood days, or the early days of praying with the minyan. Worst yet, when some of these kids grow up, finish yeshivot, have a beard and a hat, and pray daily in minyan while behaving with total disregard to G-d and hallacha.

    But there's more...

    A similar scenario we see played out in the Parashat Vayeshev, the incident with the brothers and Yosef of 17 years old. The Torah describes Yosef as vehu na'ar (he was young) - it is not a coincidence that Torah mentions that he was young, but to bring exactly the point I was making above - he was young, naïve, and the weakest among his brothers. His naivety was shown when he saw his brothers do something that he thought was not right, he went and told his father while interpreting it the way he understood it. Worst yet, fully knowing that his brothers hated him, he told them about the dreams that he had, which made them hate him even more.

    But, what happens next? They sell him to Egypt. Years later when the brothers are arguing with Yosef who was a viceroy of Egypt at that moment, Yosef told them - Ani Yosef - I am Yosef, and then he added something that kind of doesn't make sense - Haod Avi Chai - Is my father still alive? Yosef, of course, he is alive, you know it since you already heard it many times over the discussions you have had with your brothers, how can you forget it?

    But, there must be a reason why Yosef asked them this question....

    There are many explanations for this pasuk, but with your permission, I would like to give one as well.

    During all this time, the brothers have been trying to get their brother Benyamin out and leave Egypt. Yosef hinted to them many times when he thought they would recognize their "enemy" that is in front of them, who was their flesh and blood - brother Yosef, but the brothers didn't recognize him. So, when he said, Is my father still alive, he was trying to say the following:

    My dear brothers, you saw me a few times already, and we ate together, and we have been arguing, and talking, and during all this time, you did not recognize me - because I look different. But I am your brother. But do you know why I look different? Because of you. You have mistreated me in the house of my father, and then you have sold me to Egypt. I have been torn away from my father, from the security of my father's house, and thrown to a far and unknown land. Here I went through many troubles and tribulations. And look at me - you didn’t recognize me, I look different than you. You look like Hebrews, and I look like an Egyptian, and so do my sons. So, when I was with my father, my father knew me, but now since I look so different, like an Egyptian - will my father accept me, will he consider me as part of the family - as his son?

    When Yakov Avinu saw Yosef HaTzadik for the first time, our Sages say that he was praying the prayer of Shema Yisrael, because here Hashem has introduced him to the first Off The Derech individual or someone who looked totally different, as it was accustomed in the house of Yaakov Avinu. But this also meant, that since Yaakov Avinu and his whole family were coming down into exile – there will be many more of these types of individuals. And at that moment Yaakov Avinu was praying for all the people that will fall out from the accepted derech for all the generations starting from Yosef HaTzaddik until Mashiach times. Later Yaakov Avinu not only accepted Yosef HaTzadik as his son, but he also accepted his children and raised them to the level of the shevatim.

    But who paid for the sin of selling Yosef to Egypt? The Holy Books tell us that Turnusrufus, a Roman official summoned Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel and his colleagues and presented a question before them:

    What is the law with regards to he who kidnaps a man from the Jewish nation and sells him [into slavery]?” The rabbis replied that Torah mandates that such a man be put to death. “If so,” continued Turnusrufus, “where are your forbearers who sold their brother into slavery? Had they been here, I would have prosecuted them before your eyes. As for you, accept the decree of heaven, for since the times [of the 12 tribes] there have never been 10 sages of your stature [alive at one time]. Take upon yourself to die in accordance with your law; for Joseph, the son of Jacob was kidnapped and sold by his 10 brothers, and their punishment has never been exacted.”

    And so it was - ten of the biggest rabbis of that generation - of all times!, have been killed in order to atone for the sin of the 10 brothers, that have sold the young and weak lad Yosef into slavery, which turned his life upside down, tore him away from his father’s house, and made him the first Off The Derech individual in the family of Yaakov Avinu.

    Take out your phone or grab a newspaper, and open the News section - what do you see? Wars and unrest all over the world, problems in the national and local news with plenty of neighborhood problems. It is not - there, and is contained - no, it is coming closer to home. 

    Now listen.. what do you hear? Do you hear the voice of Hashem - His angry roar? The Gemara Masechet Berachot 3A says the following: “Rabbi Eliezer says: The night has three watches, and at each watch, HaKadosh Baruch Hu sits and roars like a lion. Hashem says: Woe to the Children because of whose sins I destroyed My Temple and burned My Sanctuary, and exiled them among the nations of the world.” 

    All this unrest around us, and in the news is for us to wake up and realize...Haven’t We Done Enough Evil??! 

    Hashem is coming and He is NO Loving G-d, He is angry, since the Amaleks amongst us have turned plenty of His children away from the Torah, and He is coming with vengeance to deal with us as He has promised. By the way - There’s no need to run for the hills, they won’t help us this time. Now...He..is coming for us.

    Shmuel Katanov

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