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

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

We're All Connected

Reb Aharon Kotler points out that the Yesod of all of the mitzvohs of the other Yom Tovim is to relive what happened in those times, such as matzos on Pesach and Sukkah on Succos.  But to relive Kabbalas HaTorah there is nothing physical you can do because every time you open a Gemara/Chumash and learn words of Torah, that itself has everything in it on the same level of the revelation that was experienced at Har Sinai.
Reb Aharon says that we live the Sinai experience by learning Torah itself.  Therefore there's nothing to relive.

It's our life.

The first Mishna in Avos says that Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua, Yehoshua to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly.  And by extension down through the various classifications of sages and scholars to our day.

Reb Aharon tells us that when one learns the Torah that has been passed down to us through the ages from Sinai, that person is connected in real time to the Torah at Sinai albeit without the bells and whistles in the same way, lehavdil, that one can hear a recording of a live concert while still be missing out on the charged atmosphere in the concert hall.

Be it a shiur you are attending, the Gemara you are learning on your own or even the aleph bais you are teaching your four year old, while you are so engaged you are connected by a wireless hookup so to speak to Sinai even if you forget every word you learn the moment you close the sefer.  While you are learning you are connected, the subject matter and the level of the learning notwithstanding.

And if you are blessed, in that you manage to remember what you learn, then you remain connected whenever your learning remains in the active part of your memory.

While it is no doubt true that a Torah scholar's connection is by way of a larger bandwidth which brings in a clearer picture of the D'var Hashem as compared to the fuzziness of the picture that comes by way of the snails pace throughput available to the rest of us, at the end of the day we're all connected.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016


The first brocha of the Birchas HaShachar that we say every morning blesses Hashem Who gave the heart(rooster) understanding to distinguish between day and night.

The simple translation of the words and the fact that it is recited at the beginning of a new day shouldn't divert our attention from this brocha's true essence and the reason that it precedes the remaining fourteen brochas of the Birchas HaShachar.

The act of distinguishing between day and night is a template for all things that must be distinguished one from the other.  It's the act of discernment.  And as Rabbi Tuvia Lieff tells us, discernment is the key factor in human behavior.

All of life is about choosing.  It's about tip toeing through an infinite minefield of possible failings courtesy of your Yetzer Hora, and the only GPS that will take us safely through it is the power of discernment that Hashem planted within us.

There are those, like the Rosh, who hold that discernment doesn't come pre-installed, but rather is a by product of the sechel that Hashem has given us.  The sechel is wired to be able to distinguish between the Yetzer Hora and the Yetzer Tov in that it has the ability to think things through so as to clearly see the wiles of the Yetzer Hora for the spiritual three card Monti game that it actually is, but how we use our sechel is up to us.

Therefore, the first brocha we make is to thank Hashem for this ability (either naturally or through sechel) to make a determination in life as to good and bad and right and wrong.

It's certainly the greatest challenge in life and maybe the only one because everything else may well be derivative from it.

But before we can cut through the confusion with which life presents us, we first have to know that we have been given the ability to do so.

And for this we thank Hashem every morning in the very first brocha of the Birchas Hashachar.