emunah, tefillah, a little mussar, and a shmeck of geula

Sunday, January 25, 2015

May You Be A Meilitz Yosher

That’s usually the parting line made by each maspid (speaker) in reference to the deceased at his funeral.

He’s only gone a few hours and we’re asking favors already.

And what are we asking anyway?

Reduced to its lowest common denominator, we are essentially putting in a bid for proteksia.  The nifter (the deceased) has (hopefully) already gone to a better place and we are asking him to put in a word for us by whatever means such things are effectuated in Gan Eden.

The higher one’s place in Gan Eden the more influence one is presumed to have.  And the more presumed influence the better placed one is to shake things up a bit.  That explains why people flock to the kever of the Baba Sali to pray as opposed to making the trek to the gravesite of their uncle Morris, whose only distinction in life was that he drove a car for forty years without ever getting a ticket.

So what are we doing on our end to move our loved ones out if their cubicle so to speak, to a corner office from where they might be able to exert a little more influence?

Sad to say, not all that much. 

The few dollars that we give or the learning that we do in the name of the nifter is a little something in the right direction that will no doubt serve to some extent to upgrade his accommodations in the Gan Eden.  A nice touch this, but nice touches are not the stuff that serious elevation is made of.  As in everything else, here too Hashem operates in midda keneged midda (measure for measure) mode.

Want to expand a loved one’s horizons in the Olam HaNeshmos?  Then you have to expand yours in inyanai ruchniyas while you are still in this world.

Why so?

Simply put, when you seriously grow in various aspects of your avodas Hashem, be it in deed or thought, you’re a different you, and as a consequence you occupy a different place in this world.  And if you are a different you with a different place in this world then you have made the most compelling argument possible for the one you are asking to be a meilitz yosher to be placed in a position where he is better situated to actually be one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Chesed Without Limits

How much is a mitzvah worth?

Could a $10,000,000 induce you to refrain from eating matzah on Pesach? $100,000,000?  $1,000,000,000?  How about tefillin where the downside of non-performance is much more pareve?

While none of us would give a thought to taking the money let alone actually taking a pass on the observance of the mitzvah, our mitzvah performance, unfortunately, doesn’t reflect this.  

Query: When was the last time you put on tefillin or ate a piece of matzah as if it was a $10,000,000 experience?  Better yet, when was the first time?

And if this is the situation with mitzvahs that have clearly defined halachos, what can be said about chesed whose halachos are subjectively spiced up to a certain extent by context?

The chesed that most of us do tends to be circumscribed by the fact that we are invested in various aspects of this world.  For some it’s material things.  For others it’s people or maybe events.  And for yet others there is the concept of time, in that there are times when we deem doing a certain chesed to be inconvenient.  The chesed performed by the majority is to one degree or another compromised by all of these factors and more.

Enter Aryeh Kupinsky Hy”d, one of the kedoshim that was murdered in Har Nof.

As is well known by now, all of the kedoshim were over the top with anything to do with chesed.  And with that exalted collective madreiga as a baseline Aryeh Kupinsky stood out, not because he was more attuned to chesed than the others but rather because of the nature of its performance was of necessity public.  And because it was public we know more of what he did.
Rabbi Daniel Travis fills us in on the details.  

People ask, he says, how Reb Aryeh could have done so much chesed.  He was thinking about people all of the time to such an extent that if he thought about himself at all it was no more than a random thought.

Rabbi Travis tells us that this is a bad question. We only ask it because we don’t understand what chesed is supposed to be.  If we really had a feel of the essence of the mitzvah we would realize that Reb Aryeh was the norm, not some ├╝bermench who took chesed beyond its outer limits.

The question is on us.

Rather than ask: how did he do it, the question should be: why are we not like that.

Rabbi Travis lets us hear that a Yid has to do chesed without limits, as in whatever you can do, whatever is possible.  This was the madreiga of the Avos and it was because of his seeking to do chesed without limits that Avraham Avenu placed four doors in his tent.  He didn’t want any barriers between himself and an opportunity to do chesed.

If Hashem puts the opportunity to do a chesed in your hand, hold your fingers tight together so that none of it will slip through.  Take it to the max rather than be satisfied with the minimum requirement.  If you’re giving a ride, give it door to door.

Daniel Travis explains that Aryeh Kupinsky was a complete giver who always went for the max.  He was no less a tenacious a giver as some people are takers.

And then there was the freezer gemach which entailed schlepping heavy freezers all over Har Nof so that those who couldn’t afford the exorbitant catering prices would be able to bake well in advance of their simchas.

A person with a limited capacity cannot even comprehend the concept of a freezer gemach.  Rabbi Travis points out that he may start a chair or money gemach.  While they are important they are also small and cheap.  Freezers are big and expensive.

If one does chesed without limits it’s not a problem.

And what exactly is chesed without limits as per Rabbi Travis?

It’s the willingness to do anything for anyone at anytime.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

It’s All About One

In EmunahSpeak: Kol Isha we pointed out that:

It’s no less a nes for a top Brisker bochur, whose father happens to have more money than Bill Gates, to marry a Bais Yaakov princess charming than for a thirty-five year old dirt poor adopted girl in a wheel chair from twice divorced parents to marry a thirty-six year old Talmud Chochim who amazingly seemed to appear out of nowhere.  It’s all one and the same. 

Nissim only come in one size.  They're not easier nor are they harder.  They just are.

So how exactly does one caress the bottom line of a nes anyway? 

For this particular nes….(the nes of shidduchim) we should be davening, and that’s pretty much all we should be doing.  After all, if it's all about nissim then it’s all about davening.  How else should one throw the Divine Presence into gear?

Unfortunately, nothing seems to have changed since Kol Isha was posted over three years ago.  If anything the shidduch situation has taken a turn for the worse in at least some quarters.

Something has to be done here but we’re already davening, so what exactly are we supposed to do for an encore?

We can personalize it.

In EmunnahSpeak: So Say Something Already! we said:

We have the power to talk to Hashem like a person talks to his fellow because the real idea of prayer is communication.  And in the context of that dialogue, we attempt to push the buttons to which everything in the world is connected.  The good news is that no sincere prayer goes unanswered.  That’s heads.  Tails is that sometimes the answer is no….

Moreover, even for those who savor the yes of instant gratification as opposed to a no that may reflect a spiritual or even physical long term benefit, not only does no sincere prayer go unanswered, it doesn’t go wasted either.

You prayed for a loved one’s recovery from an illness, and he died?

If you were sincere, then some other person with an illness benefited because every single wish that passes your lips, infused with the purity of your thought, is acted upon without exception.

This is the method by which Hashem runs His world, and it works in both directions because we all have the potential of benefiting from a prayer that was said for someone else.

It’s not enough to say Tehillim and daven for the hundred names on your list.  We have to take it a step further.

Take one name, preferably of a girl (or a boy) you don’t even know (but at least know where the name came from so that you can be informed if and when this person gets married), but in any case at least not someone close to you, and daven for a shidduch for that person.

But don’t stop there.

In addition to including that name on your Tehillim and davening list you should say a specific number of Tehillim every day, with this person in mind, and then ask Hashem to bring a Torahdike shidduch for her (him) at the right time.  It is also important to either put some money in the pushka just before or after asking Hashem to bring this individual a shidduch or donate a lump sum (as much as you can afford) when you first take this on. 

I personally opted for the lump.  For those who can afford $1200, a very big segula would be to sponsor a baby through the Efrat organization in Eretz Yisroel which uses the funds to induce expectant mothers not to abort their fetuses.  For those with the means and madraiga to do such a thing for a stranger, albeit a fellow Jew, the kavana should be that just as you are enabling a Jewish baby to be brought into this world, the person you are davening for should also be zoche to bring Jewish babies into the world.

For one name a person can have proper kavana and as we said above:

If you were sincere, then some other person with an illness (or in need of a shidduch)benefited because every single wish that passes your lips, infused with the purity of your thought, is acted upon without exception.

This is the method by which Hashem runs His world, and it works in both directions because we all have the potential of benefiting from a prayer that was said for someone else.

If enough people take this on, at the end of the day a lot of people will receive a yes through the back door of their tefillos that they didn’t receive through the front door.

And on what authority do I say this?


You have a better idea?

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Haves and Have Nots

What does being happy and being not happy have in common?

It’s all about focus, and Reb Gutman Locks clues us in as to where we should be fixing our gaze.  He tells us that we all have pretty much the same needs.  We need health and a way to make a living.  We want to have someone to love as well as kids and friends.  We also need some level of spiritual understanding; the higher the better.

But most often, he reminds us, most of us are missing at least one of these.  It seems to just be the way things are.  Not everyone is blessed to be married.  Not everyone merits having children.  Not everyone is blessed to live comfortably in their own home.  And not so many of us live life with the spiritual awareness that we should have.

So if we are missing something so important, how can we be happy?

In EmunahSpeak: Samayach B’Chelko, we quoted Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg that the essential ingredient of our happiness is not what happens to us but rather what happens within us.  It’s how we deal internally with life’s externalities that will define the parameters of our joyousness.

It’s all about whom and what we are, and we write our own ticket.  And if we write it in indelible ink, then our sense of joy will be such that even when we suffer pain in any of its manifestations, be it physical, emotional, spiritual, financial, etc., we will not lose sight of the essential goodness of our lives.

One who is samayach b’chelko may well be dissatisfied with the pain in his life, but he doesn’t allow that pain to take over and become the center of his life.  The pain can be pain, but it doesn’t take away from the joyousness inherent in a life in which everyday blessings are counted like pearls. 

Or as Reb Gutman Locks puts it, it’s the story of the haves and the have nots.

He lets us hear that to be happy; all we have to do is to focus on that we do have.  That’s it.

And to be unhappy; all we have to do is to focus on the good things that we don’t have.

When we focus on the good things that we do not have, we forget all about the good things that we do have.  And when we focus on the good things that we do have, we forget about the good things that we do not have.

It’s nothing more complicated than that.

Are you a have or a have not?