New Essay: The Wisdom of the Jewish Sage

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Search Results: vayikra

  • The Power of Names

    by Rabbi Avi Matmon

     Any self-improvement course, for example Dale Carnegie, will emphasize that if one is to achieve the keys to success, one has to incorporate an ability of remembering names. Calling somebody by his or her name, draws them closer and will give them the feeling of, 'Hey, I'm important'. The reason for this is that a name is the essence of who we are.

    The weekly Torah reading (parasha), begins with '"Vayikra el Moshe" - and [G-d] called to Moshe'. Our sages teach us that Moshe was given ten names, and each name represents a facet of his personality. Batya,Pharaoh's daughter, who went against her father's decree, which was to kill all Jewish male newborns, drew the basket containing baby Moshe, out of the water. Moshe is the name she picked. But apparently, there is a linguistic problem with the name. The name Moshe means "will draw from the water" as opposed to Mashehu, drew from the water - past tense. If the Torah wants to reward Pharaoh's daughter and to glorify the courageous, self-sacrificing act she did, why is he called Moshe? Mashehu is better suited. We learn from our sages that when G-d created Adam, the angels asked, "What is the nature of man?" Whereas G-d replied, "His wisdom will exceed yours". This was demonstrated by man naming all beings of creation something no angel could master. It's an accomplished task and takes great wisdom to accurately give someone his or her true name.

    The sages say G-d gave divine spirit to fathers, a gifted trait passed down from Adam to incorporate names to their newborns. Of course the father has to be in unison with the mother. The word 'name' in Hebrew is pronounced 'shem'. If one changes the vowels under the letters of shem, it would be pronounced 'sham' meaning 'there', indicating one has to go there, has to get to a destination for one to complete his task which is associated with his name. Shem and sham are incorporated in the word ne-sham-mah (soul). Man's soul is brought down in this world to fulfill his mission. The Torah hints of people who have fulfilled their name potential. The Torah sometimes writes 'ushemo David' (his name is David), ushemo Manoah (his name is Manoah), 'ushemo Mordechai', etc. Before the name, there is an introduction, a chaperone, 'Ushemo'. This indicates that he will be seated (sham) there in the ultimate destination - heaven. However, the Torah indicates there are those that are written "Naval shemo". Here the shemo follows the individual name indicating he did not accomplish his task in this world.

    Moshe has ten names, each indicating a separate dimension of his multi-faceted personality. Each name portrays a side not described by the other. Yet, it was the name Moshe by which he was known. Apparently, this name, more than others, is the central feature of his personality. Batya prophesized that this baby boy will draw people out of trouble. His task will be to help the Jewish people and to lead them out of slavery. The measure of kindness that Batya showed towards this boy was tremendous. However, the emphasis is not on her accomplishments, but on the potential she saw in this child, which prompted her to call him Moshe.

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  • Identity Crisis - Do I Want To Be Me?

    by Rabbi Avi Matmon

     Why do we recite the Kaddish for a deceased loved one? Out of all the prayers, why was this prayer chosen? Even a person who is non-observant will make it their business to recite the prayer. Its up there with the Shema as the most popular prayers. The Sages say that the recitation is a tremendous benefit for the soul that passed away. Therefore if one wants to honor their loved ones to the utmost he should make the effort to recite Kadish for their sake.

    What's in it? Well, the Kadish starts with YITGADAL which means "great" and YITKADASH which means "holy."

    In order to understand the importance of the prayer, we must start with a little story that will then shed some light.

    Working for a boss can be quite challenging and frustrating at times. Sometimes we have to walk on egg shells in order not to make the employer upset. Sometimes even that doesn't help. There were 2 individuals who had the monotonous task of being water carriers for a very difficult man. The job was to carry buckets of water from one end of the field to the pool. The boss assigned each individual their own personal bucket. However one of the bucket had a hole in it and for the most part the un-lucky employee, as one could imagine, was never able to deliver the full amount of water in the bucket. It reached a point where the other fellow would tease him of the useless task he was assigned with.

    "Why is this lunatic trying to humiliate me" the employee said, about the boss, frustratingly. One day after being needled one time to many, by the fellow worker, he marched up to the bosses office up the hill demanding an explanation for the fruitless work.

    The boss listened to his complaints and after a pause motioned the employee to follow him to the field where the employee had the dubious task of carrying the holy bucket. " Recognize this route" the owner pointed to the ground. "This route which you carried the holy bucket is now full of flowers"." Every day as you carried the bucket and the water leaked on the very same spots, the ground was absorbing its nourishment. You see there was meaning to your hard toil after all. However your friends route has no plants and flowers because his bucket did not leak. So the task wasn't useless after all.

    One may think that someone is inadequate, that his life is useless, however everyone has a unique task in life. Unfortunately, with the pressure of today's America one may point the "useless" finger not just at his friend but at himself as well. We see this lesson the valuable lesson in this weeks parsha.
    "All meal offerings brought near before G-d should not be prepared leavened for you shall not cause to go up in smoke from any leavening or any honey as a fire-offering to G-d" [Vayikra2:11]. The lesson of this pasuk is that the Mincha offering must be pure flour -- no foreign ingredients can be added to enhance the basic requirement of the meal offering. Although honey was held in great esteem, there is a strict prohibition in the Torah against bringing an offering of honey on the altar of the Mizbeach. In this respect honey was treated like leaven, which was also forbidden. Even the incense (Ke'toreth) -which was composed of eleven kinds of spices, all of them with the exception of one-sweet-smelling and fragrant; to which, if only a drop of honey were added, the perfume would have been overpowering (according to Bar Kappara) -even the Ke'toreth was not to have a drop of honey in it, because of the said prohibition. Nevertheless, two pasukim later, the pasuk says that there needs to be an additive that accompanies the offering: "You shall salt your every meal offering with salt..." [2:13]. Not only CAN salt be added, it MUST be added.

    Why is honey not allowed and salt a definite "yes"?

    So what's wrong with honey? The Torah loves honey

    There is a story of Jonathan, King Saul's son, and David's beloved friend, how he single-handedly brought victory to the embattled Jewish armies in their war against the Philistines. He was very faint and tired, after the hard battle, and he could barely drag his feet through the woods. Then he chanced upon a beehive. He drew some honey from it on the edge of his cane, and ate it, "and his eyes lit up", because his energy was restored. This mouthful of honey nearly cost him his life" For unknown to Jonathan, his father Saul had proclaimed a public fast that day, in prayer and supplication to G-d for a, victory over the Philistines, who greatly outnumbered Saul's army in men and weapons. Every- one was forbidden to take any food or water that day, on penalty of death. Jonathan, was not in the camp when his father had proclaimed the fast. When Saul learned that his son had broken the vow, he was prepared to condemn him to death. The people, however, saved him, because he had not known about the prohibition and they were truly grateful to him, for that miraculous victory. (I Sam. chap. 14.)In ancient times, before people knew how to make sugar, honey was a great treat to them. When G-d promised the children of Israel that they would be freed from Egyptian bondage and led to their own land, the Promised Land was described as "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus. 3: 17, etc.)

    The tasteful manna, that heavenly food which sustained the Israelite during their forty years' wandering to the Promised Land, is described in the Torah as having the flavor of "wafers made with honey" (Exodus. 16:31).

    Our Sages recognize the value of honey They call it a "sixtieth of the manna" because it shares many of the curative qualities of the nourishment food from heaven which our ancestors ate in the wilderness.

    Pass the salt.....

    Salt symbolizes eternity, for salt does not change or decay. The RAMBAN sees salt as a unified combination of diametric opposites. On the one hand, it is derived from water, whose purpose is to rain upon the earth and make it bloom, yet, when the sun causes water to evaporate the result is salt and brimstone.

    We see that both salt and honey are very dear to our everyday life, So why when it comes to sacrifices does salt prevail? Why is honey not used?

    The recipe for a Korban can not be improved upon -- neither by the use of a leavening agent to make it rise nor by the use of a sweetening agent to improve its taste. Honey changes the taste. Salt is different, however, because salt brings out the taste which pre-exists in the flour offering. Salt enhances the natural taste that already exists in the food.
    The sacrifices are suppose to represent us In seeking spirituality, a person should not introduce extraneous additives. A person should not try to be someone that he is not or act in a way that does not really represent his real self. In developing one's spirituality, a person needs to work on bringing the essence of his own real spiritual personality to the fore. When a person brings sacrifices as a form of Service of G-d, he is trying to develop his spiritual personality by becoming a Servant of G-d (an 'oved'). When engaged in a quest for spirituality, a person should not try to take on foreign practices that do not represent his real soul. The goal should always be to try and bring out the best of your own self within the context of who you really are. We have to capitalize on our strength. A person should use his unique talents. We are not here to be someone else.

    Ever wonder why man was created alone. All other creatures were created on one day, together. The reason is man is unique. He can boast and say "the world was created for me". What does that mean?

    You are the only one that can be like you . Ones parents, environment, period of time, schooling all comprise a very unique individual. From the beginning of time there hasn't been a human quite like you. With that background he is ready to do the task that he came here on Earth to do.

    Rabbi Gadalia Shorr writes the world is like a symphony. Every musician brings his own instrument. Each one contributes nicely playing beautiful music together. However its not the same without that particular instrument there is a certain loss in the whole general sceam of things when he/she is not part of the orchestra.

    When a person passes away there is a loss of his special way in which he contributed, or should of contributed in this wonderful planet,. G-d though takes it personally. contributing to the world means contribute to G-d. A person unique gift are there to serve G-d which is another way to say praise HIM and when he leaves the world its irreplaceable.

    Therefore we say Kaddish; we praise G-d on the loved ones behalf; we fill the void that they left. That is how they receive credit. We the loved ones play their instruments for them!!

    If one notices towards the end of the Kadish we say the word NECHAMA which means to appease. Who are we appeasing? We are appeasing G-d for his loss of praise by a unique individual, our loved one, that cannot be replaced.

    This is the idea of "Salt it with salt": One must be who he is. Adding sweeteners or leavening agents changes the nature of a substance. "That's not you!" But salt, brings out the true flavor. This is what we are supposed to strive for in our Service of G-d.

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