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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 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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  • The Inner Battle

    The Gemarah says that the First Bet Hamikdash was destroyed due to three sins - idol worship, forbidden relations, and bloodshed. The Second is due to one - Sinat Chinam or Baseless Hatred. The Chachamim say, that the sin of baseless hatred is equivalent to the three severe transgressions of the First Bet Hamikdash and was enough to destroy the Second. Today, I would like to concentrate on the issue of the Second Bet Hamikdash, since I believe there's a message that may be waiting for us to be discovered.

    Let's take for example the times of the Second Temple. The Gemarah tells us of a story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza, but I would assume you know the story, and I will not go into details. But imagine this - a person that has been thrown out from a party, and went through humiliation while witnessing the total silence from the rabbis and other members of his community present at the party, has assumed that they were OK with what was done to him. But the worst thing of all, is his next step - to frame the Country and I don't mean the host of the party or some of the members of his community that were present at the party, but a country where the ones who suffered were all the residents of the ancient Jerusalem, his parents, I assume his wife and children, neighbors and many other people unknown to him - millions were killed and taken into captivity.

    Till today, the Jewish nation has not recovered from this, and the exile has been going on for 1,954 years. Our nation says that we have suffered enough and we deserve redemption - but do we? Have we learned from our mistakes? Have we learned from the mistakes of the generation of the Second Bet Hamikdash? Do we know what this sin is - a baseless hatred?

    What moves the person to hurt someone else - jealousy...ego? Not being happy with his lot, not being happy with what Hashem has given him, and looking into someone else's plate and saying - that plate should have been mine, why he and not me, and going miles, doing and saying much - to destroy the good others have, just to have that feeling - that the other person no longer has more than him.

    That feeling of anger that lurks inside the person at those moments and the bleeding ego springs him into action. That desire to rip the other person's life apart, or simply as he thinks, to level the battlefield, or to totally level the other person to the ground - is an animalistic desire that stems from the other side of the human body. 

    But what is this desire to cause damage, or these traits - anger, ego and jealousy? These are traits that have led to the downfall of many over human history... but they are also the traits that go against G-d, against his decision, and His authority.

    When Adam and Chavah were just created and resided in the Garden of Eden, they were given only one commandment - not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge. But as you know they did not pass that test, and the end result wasn’t that they have acquired all the bad character traits, but this also means that those bad character traits can now compete with the other traits - the good traits

    The human body has two spiritual forces - The Neshama and The Nefesh. The Neshama is the G-dly Soul that pulls the person to do G-dly work, and the Nefesh is an animal soul or an earthly soul that pulls the person to act in the physical world. There's a constant battle between these two souls. Who wins you ask? It depends, on what you fill yourself with.

    If you fill yourself with Torah knowledge, and good deeds then your Neshama becomes stronger and is able to fight off your animalistic soul. But if you indulge in this world, don't learn and transgress the laws of the Torah, and don't keep commandments - the animalistic soul wins every time and the person slowly changes into a different being.

    So, what is baseless hatred? It is a combination of several traits - anger, ego and jealousy of another human being, enough to move the person into action to set some goals for himself - goals not of his growth, but of bringing the other person down - to affect every area of someone's life and to bring him to the point of total destruction of the other's character, income, and social standing. Whether it may take months, or years he will be doing it constantly and will involve many others in this endeavor. And all of this is done, while totally ignoring the laws of Torah and Hashem's authority over his and other person's life.

    In the times of the Second Temple, the nation didn't have a tribe of Yehuda ruling the Jewish nation. Because of this one fact - as was declared by Yaakov Avinu, all other parts of the society were not aligned correctly, which led to many problems in the future, as we'll see.

    The position of the Cohen HaGadol was going to the highest bidder - since the people that were not cohanim were able to become one, even though they knew fully well, that they will die upon entry into Kadosh Kedoshim. And since the office of the King and Cohen HaGadol had problems, there was no system of checks and enforcement of the laws - no one demanded the Kohanim and Leviim to go out and to teach the nation. And since nobody learned, and no one demanded, but the few, the general population was busy hating, ridiculing, spreading lies, and framing others. People were coming to bring sacrifices to Hashem, but on the other hand, continued to hate and malign others. 

    In the Haftorah of the Parashat Devarim, in Shabbat Chazon, it says: "Why do I need your numerous sacrifices? - says Hashem - I am satiated with elevation offerings of rams and the choicest of fattened animals; and the blood of the bulls and sheep and he-goats I do not desire. When you come to appear before Me - who sought this from your hand, to trample my courtyards? You shall not continue to bring a worthless meal-offering - incense of abomination it is unto Me; New Moon and Shabbat, calling of the assembly, I cannot accept untruthfulness from society. Your New Moons and your appointed festivals, My soul hates; they have become a burden upon Me that I am weary of bearing. And when you spread your hands in prayer, I will hide my eyes from you; even if you were to increase prayer, I do not hear; your hands are full of blood. Wash yourselves, purify yourselves; remove the evil of your doings from before My eyes; desist from doing evil. Learn to do good, seek justice, strengthen the victim, do justice for the orphan, take up the cause of the widow."

    The nation was deep in its evil ways, the hate flowed in all directions, along with animalistic behavior. People were killing others with their rumors and words, destroying livelihoods and families, while totally neglecting the sanctity of the place they were in. To Hashem, and to many others it seemed like a WILD JUNGLE in HIS own House - The Bet Hamikdash. And this Hashem did not allow to continue - thus blood flowed - many were killed and many were taken captive when Hashem destroyed the Second Bet Hamikdash.

    In Yerushalmi, Masechet Yoma 1a, the Sages teach, "Any generation in which the Temple is not built, it is as if it had been destroyed in their times". 

    And here we are today. Are we ready for redemption and the building of Bet Hamikdash, or are we in the process of destroying the one we were going to build?

    Not by coincidence, our shuls are called Small Batey Mikdashim. 

    Do we think twice before we malign, spread rumors, and act in an animalistic and hateful way toward others? Are the tefillin, daily prayers, and tzedakah held in high importance, while spreading lies, rumors, and hate is allowed? Do our shuls look like a Jungle in the eyes of Hashem and others, that try to stay as far away as possible from the places of Torah? Or do they look like a place that draws others in, to learn how to serve Hashem better?

    And maybe this is another coincidence, but since the destruction of the Second Temple, we say in the evening prayer of Aravit, in the Hashkivenu part - ...Shevor Ve Haser HaSatan Milefanenu U Meacharenu - Break and remove the Satan from before us and from behind us - could mean that those people with animalistic traits have graduated from an Animal level to a Satan level, and got really good at ruining people's lives - and here we ask for Hashem's assistance to deal with them?! Deal with them while they are in our presence, and deal with them when we are not around them, and they are out there spreading rumors and lies. 

    So, what are we doing with our Bet Hamikdash - building it or destroying it daily? Will it be the next generation that will succeed and build it, or will it be us? 

    For as long as we avoid Torah learning, we’ll repeat the behavior and the mistakes of the previous generations, since we'll think that everything we do is right and we have no need to change. The animal in us will strive and grow, and will take over our lives while trampling over others. We won't notice the bad we do, since we will feel that we are prospering and growing in life, but in reality, we'll be walking over the bodies of other people "to reach our goals" as it happened in the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza who achieved his goal of revenge, but had total disregard to the consequences of his actions.

    But then we realize, that we’ve ended up with nothing good, and have gained whole lot of bad - since we’ve been filling our souls with evil, lies and emptiness of this world while strengthening the traits of anger, ego and jealousy, and committing countless amounts of sins - by making the animal inside of us stronger and bolder every day.

    So, I ask you my reader - who do you give your strength to in your life - to your G-dly Soul or to your Animal Soul?

    Shmuel Katanov

     

    PS: Dedicated to B.S. & F.N.

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  • Modesty or The Holy Scroll

    Modesty or Tzeniut... When one hears either one of these words, the first thing that usually comes to one’s mind is: Oh come on! Do I really have to wear all that? It is so hot outside, I feel so layered up, like an onion... There are lots of excuses one can come up with, but allow me to show you the outcome of either of the choices one decides to make.

    I looked up the word Modesty in the dictionary and this is what I have found: Modesty, is a mode of dress which intends to avoid the encouraging of sexual attraction in others. The word "modesty" comes from the Latin word modestus which means "keeping within measure". 

    The word Tzniut means: it describes both the character trait of modesty and discretion, as well as a group of Jewish laws pertaining to conduct. In modern times, the term has become more frequently used with regard to the rules of dress for women within Judaism.

    The Sages say, if woman keeps the laws of modesty as a reward she will merit to marry a Cohen and have Cohanim Gedolim come from her, she will have children that may be Jewish judges, sages, scholars, and righteous people and so much more and all of this just by being modest.

    But what is it about modesty that so much can be gained from it?

    In the book called Power Points by Rabbi Ephraim Nissenbaum, there's a story in Parashat Nasso, of a young woman that became observant and was bothered that Jews made a lavish Bar Mitzvahs for boys, while for girls - the Bat Mitzvah passes unnoticed.

    So she asked her Rav. To which he replied, "The Vilna Gaon says that tzeniut or modesty is to a woman what Torah study is to a man, meaning it is her vehicle for spiritual growth. When a boy becomes 13 years old, he is counted as part of the minyan and is being called to the Torah. These are public events and the celebration is therefore public as well.

    When a girl reaches bat mitzvah, her defining moment is marked by an image of royalty through modesty. So with this spirit of modesty, her celebration is less public and more reserved."

    An image of royalty - this is a great way of looking at it, but I believe there are could be more to it.

    The Sages compare a woman to a Sefer Torah scroll. Since the Sefer Torah is holy and valuable, we dress it beautifully and hide it in a safe box or the Aron. And not only that, if any of the letters in the scroll are missing or broken, the whole scroll becomes invalid or not kosher.

    But what is the scroll made out of? It is made of the skin of a kosher animal - klaf and the sofer - the person who writes it, writes it in holiness and while meditating on the names of G-d.

    In the Midrash Tanchuma, Bereshit 1 it says: How was the Torah written? It was written with letters of black fire on a surface of white fire or black ink against the white parchment. 

    The black fire on white fire, I believe there are could be more to it.

    We can literally compare them to a married couple - a woman as white fire and man as a black fire.

    Just like in the Torah, if the letter is broken or fallen from its original place, the scroll becomes invalid, so is the woman, if she is dressed immodestly not according to the Jewish law, that makes her lose that energy or her white fire.

    But, what is this energy or the white fire?

    In Bereshit 2:24 it says: "עַל־כֵּן֙ יַֽעֲזָב־אִ֔ישׁ אֶת־אָבִ֖יו וְאֶת־אִמּ֑וֹ וְדָבַ֣ק בְּאִשְׁתּ֔וֹ וְהָי֖וּ לְבָשָׂ֥ר אֶחָֽד׃ - Hence a man leaves his father and mother and clings to his wife, so that they become one flesh." What happens when the two of them become one flesh? Once the man and the woman are united in holy act when allowed according to the Jewish law, this is when they combine their energies or their fires - black fire and the white fire, and this is when the Presence of Hashem comes and lives in their home, thus helping them grow in their holiness.

    When woman dresses immodestly, she looses her energy or her white fire, which in turn causes her to lose her holiness. This causes the couple to get distracted from serving Hashem and their goals switch from spiritual to physical, but this is not the only loss. This distraction causes all the members of the family to weaken from serving G-d  and makes them slowly move further and further away from Him. Since when she is together with her husband, he cannot cling to her, and they cannot become one flesh - thus they lose out in this world and the next. This is when the issues of Shalom Bayit and other problems arise.

    When woman keeps the laws of Modesty, she becomes a holy parchment - the white fire, a man becomes the black fire or the black ink, when they are together in the holy act, the couple becomes a Holy Letter of the Torah - with their children around them as crowns on that letter written on the holy parchment

    As the families all around the world strengthen in their modesty, they slowly grow in their holiness, Hashem handpicks them to be part of his own Sefer Torah - The Living and Breathing Sefer Torah. These holy couples, keep the laws of modesty and the laws of Torah - either from birth, or by returning to their roots later on in their lives, thus they become part of the Holy Scroll of Hashem. And if little is revealed by the woman in immodest way, that letter loses its place in the Holy Scroll of Hashem, but not only the woman looses its place - the whole family is affected by it as well.

    In the Megilat Ruth 2:5 says, "וַיֹּ֤אמֶר בֹּ֙עַז֙ לְנַעֲר֔וֹ הַנִּצָּ֖ב עַל־הַקּֽוֹצְרִ֑ים לְמִ֖י הַנַּעֲרָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃ - Boaz said to the servant who was in charge of the reapers: Whose girl is that? Rashi explains, To whom does this maiden belong. What did Boaz see in Ruth? He saw her modest and wise behavior, how she was picking up the stalks of wheat in order not to bend over and did it in modest way by sitting."

    This act alone, led to her marriage with Boaz - thus paving the way for a royal lineage to come from her - King David, King Shlomo and long awaited Mashiach himself, and all of this because of her modesty.

    But let's look at this from yet another angle. 

    It is written in the Torah, "The Israelites journeyed from Raamses to Succoth, about 600,000 men on foot, aside from children." (Shemot 12:37) They all traveled with their wives and children, and as it says in the Masechet Sotah 11B, "Rav Avira taught: In the merit of the righteous women that were in that generation, the Jewish people were redeemed from Egypt."

    Also, the word "ישראל - Israel" can be read as an acronym for "Yesh Shishim Ribo Otiot LaTorah", meaning: "There are 600,000 letters in the Torah." Therefore, nation of Israel did not leave Egypt until there were 600,000 holy couples that were included in Hashem's Sefer Torah.

    So, if the problems come into this world, we have probably fallen from our minimum count of 600,000 families or letters in Hashem's Sefer Torah for modesty - if we improve on this collectively - this can be the answer to solve the current problems the world faces today.

    And as we bring up the numbers to 600,000+ families, this will increase our chances of bringing the redemption closer and finally meeting Mashiach in the near future.

    Shmuel Katanov

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  • Why should I keep Shabbat?

    Shabbat or Shabbos... we heard it so many times, some heard it since birth if they were born into religious home, while others heard it from a friend, on a lecture or read an article about it later on in their life. This is the only question that is being asked most of the time, whether one observes Sabbath... when one is about to be hired, looking for a shidduch or some other important matter, but what is it? Why such importance is placed on this one day of the week? There are books and books written on this subject and if you search the Internet, there are literally thousands of lectures on importance of keeping Shabbat and its laws. So let's look into it closely, maybe we can understand it better...

    The first time we see the mention of Shabbat is when Moshe Rabbeinu received the Ten Commandments. G-d said: "Remember Shabbat day and keep it Holy". 

    So, what Shabbat is all about?

    A person is not allowed to do the 39 melachot or types of work on Shabbat, according to the Mishkan's activities with which they are associated.

    The commandment of Shabbat is a sign between us and Hashem for generations to come, when one day of the week we unplug ourselves from mundane, and plug ourselves or shall I say flood our life with holy energy of Shabbat for one day of the week that lasts until the next week Shabbat comes around. 

    But I believe there's more to it, so please allow me to offer my explanation.

    When woman lights the Shabbat candles, the Shabbat starts. Men go to shule for prayers, the table is set and everyone is in great mood. This is when the table is set with beautiful tablecloth, and set with fine silverware. The feeling of holiness is in the air. The food is extra delicious, there are more dishes taken out and in overall it feels extra special. Kids are sitting around the table, everyone singing, talking the words of Torah and simply enjoying each other's company. There's a feeling of harmony, and oneness in the family, love and comradery. This is the time when the family bonds and the ties of love between all the members of the family become stronger.

    Suddenly, one member of the family gets up from the table and sits on the sofa, reaches out for the remote control and turns on the TV...and BOOM - all the magic suddenly disappears, the harsh reality of mundane sets in, the voices of the people sitting at the table become louder and louder, the situation switches from the holy to everyday and the feeling of holiness and harmony of Shabbat is no longer there.

    This is how Shabbat is broken. The Holy Books bring some of the harshest punishments to the one that breaks Shabbat, but why go to such extremity? Why is G-d so harsh with the one that breaks Shabbat?

    To answer the question above, we need to look into one incident in the Torah, and hopefully we will be able to look at this with different set of eyes.

    In Sefer Bereshit, G-d created Heaven and Earth, then He created animals, trees, birds, man and everything else to support His creation in the livable conditions, after each day or work He said that - It Was Good - and indeed it was. Everything was simply beautiful, the sky with the birds flying around singing and enjoying life, the land with its animals and greenery, oceans with its creatures and above all there are were Adam with his wife Chava - everything in the Garden of Eden was in harmony and was simply beautiful.

    Suddenly, the Snake comes over to Chava and while Adam was not around, talks her into eating the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge, which she does and then she makes Adam to do the same. And for this, everyone involved were punished. G-d cursed Adam, Chava and a Snake with the harshest curses for breaking His word.

    Since Adam and Chava ate from the Tree of Knowledge, their view of the world has changed in an instant. But more then that, something else has been changed or shall I say got broken. The efforts that G-d put in to create that perfect world that can coexist with its flora and fauna - its harmony and its magic was broken, evaporated, gone and simply faded.

    Murder, rivalry, death, hardships, competition, diseases and more were introduced into the world. We are plagued by this till today and the whole world suffers. Turn on any media outlet and the negative news floods the minds of millions of people daily trying to sway them from spiritual truth and pursuits, we drowning in the lies and it seems that there's no way out. Go out into any social setting, and you'll see lies, slander, murder, and anything bad you can think of is done either openly or stealthily.

    But I believe there's more to the curse of the snake. In Bereshit 3:14 it says: "Then the LORD G-d said to the serpent, Because you did this, More cursed shall you be Than all cattle And all the wild beasts: On your belly shall you crawl And dirt shall you eat All the days of your life."

    In the beginning it may seem that the snake hasn't lost much, but the Sages say the real curse was that snake was walking like a human being in an upright position, but after the curse he has lost his limbs, thus had to crawl on its belly and eat the dust, which is plenty and all around him. He also lost the ability to pray or be heard by G-d, this ability has been taken away from him no matter the situation he may be in.

    When person breaks Shabbat, he breaks the harmony of that day, he breaks the flow of the holy energy, he breaks the ancient creation, and draws more of that negative energy into this world, thus continuing the work of the snake. That is why Masechat Chulin 5A says, that he deliberately takes himself out of the covenant and sets himself apart from the nation - where he is considered to be like a non Jew. By breaking Shabbat, it opens the door to more transgressions, at which point they are committed without a second thought.

    I believe we can even go further and say, that just like the snake lost his limbs, so is the person's spiritual limbs on his neshama atrophies so he can't experience the spiritual, and he pursues physical pleasures in this world. He may enjoy wealth and positions in this world since they become more available and abundant to him, because they become easier to acquire than spiritual items which require functional limbs, but he also loses the opportunity to have a relationship with G-d, and gets paid for any of the outstanding merits and good he may have done over the years in this world to enjoy his life, until he is ready to part with this world.

    When a Jew dies, it is said in the Holy Books, that so and so is joined to his nation, his neshama is joined with his parents, grandparents and so on all the way to the forefathers, but not so with the one that breaks the Shabbat, he is not joined to his nation and his soul goes to a different place not where all the Jews are going, the cleansing process of the soul is longer, and when the time of resurrection comes, he won’t be joining his nation, since he is not part of the Jewish nation and his soul is lost forever.

    By breaking Shabbat we are breaking away from our people, thus making ourselves an outsider not only to the religion, but to the G-d, to the nation, to the future redemption and vulnerable to the outside events and turmoil of the everyday life.

    Our passed on parents, grandparents and the ones before them all the way to our forefathers are praying that we will make the right choice and embrace the covenant so we stay together after our passing as a nation.

    The Sages say that this world is like a hallway before the Grand Ballroom. In order to get to the main room we need to pass through the hallway, make ourselves look presentable - by toiling in Torah and mitzvot - in order not to be ashamed in front of others that have passed before us, and not to shame our relatives because we lack in front of others present in the ballroom.

    But, what should we do, if Shabbat was not on our To Do list as a major and important item? Start today, and keep some of it or all of it, and you will see how your life will change. Make an opening in your heart and let G-d enter and fill your heart, and let the blessings overflow into every area of your life. And when you do that, that's when your spiritual limbs will heal and get stronger and you will be able to easily grow and prosper in the spiritual domain. As it is says in the Devarim 4:4 "וְאַתֶּם֙ הַדְּבֵקִ֔ים בַּיהוָ֖ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם חַיִּ֥ים כֻּלְּכֶ֖ם הַיּֽוֹם׃ - While you, who held tight to the LORD your G-d, are all alive Today." With the turmoil that's going on in the world today, you can hold tight, only if your spiritual limbs are intact and strong.

    So, why should we keep Shabbat? Because life is full of vanities as was told by Shlomo HaMelech, it is full of things that make noise but have no base and no real value. Loyalty to G-d, and to the generations of the past, and loyalty to your own nation - this is something worth living for, everything else is just a fading noise which is not worth pursuing.

    Shmuel Katanov

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