Food For the Soul
Does modern man and woman have any way to relate to the holy? Or is holiness, being close to G‑d, something which eludes us because the pace of life is too fast, or because we are too materialistic, or because we are living in a secular society, or because times have changed?
According to Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812; founder of Chabad Chassidism), we can learn something about this from a phrase at the beginning of our Parshah. Ostensibly, it is speaking about “a person who wishes to offer an offering to G-d, ” in the sense of an animal offering — something which would appear to concern only the times of the Temple. However, it is well known that each word of the Torah has several levels of meaning. The Hebrew word for “offer” and “offering” (yakriv/korban) also means “draw near.” So Rabbi Shneur Zalman explains the text as saying, “if a person wishes to draw near to G‑d…”
Well, what does it tell us about the person who wants to draw near to G‑d? As explained by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, offering yourself means that the person does not think solely about his or her own benefit but gives of his or her time, energy, money, and comfort in order to help someone else.
This is something which is comprehensible, even in our high-speed, materialistic age. A person needs you. You give of yourself generously. You are helping someone, and you are also coming close to G‑d. Or take another scenario. There is a problem in a relationship. You and another person at work, or you and someone else in the family. What do you do? You surrender something of yourself. Through this, you gain the goal of peace and unity. In addition, you personally are coming close to G‑d.
Through brief instances of self-surrender, we are able to partake of sacred moments — despite our modern age. It might even be suggested that our complex world gives us more opportunities for this than people had before when life was simpler and less involved. There is much good to be done. The teaching of our parshah gives us a path to advance forward.
From an article by Dr. Tali Loewenthal
This Shabbat (March 25/3 Nissan), we read from the Parshat Vayikra (Leviticus 1:1–5:26). In it, G-d communicates to Moses the laws of the korbanot (the animal sacrifices and meal offerings brought in the Sanctuary). Writes Rabbi Yossi Ives
The issue of animal sacrifices has been a sensitive and controversial one for millennia… We are told that they serve as a symbol of our own inadequacy—in the offering, we are symbolically offering up ourselves. We are also told that the offerings also represent our broader efforts to elevate the natural world and offer it up for a higher purpose. Some even argue that the sacrifices were a necessary route away from the pervasive idolatry of the times…. “You are assuming,” says the Lubavitcher Rebbe, “that there is a reason for sacrifices and that what we should be doing is searching for the most rewarding or convincing reason. What if the opposite is true? What if there is no reason whatsoever for animal sacrifices?” … The Rebbe calls in Rashi as an ally to argue that there is no explanation. The entire point of sacrifices is to do something for G‑d without the satisfaction of any reasonable justification, simply because He let it be known that this would be pleasing to Him.
Mind Over Matter
Delusions of Anger
There are people who go about life pretending G‑d is angry with them. “After all,” they say, “why shouldn’t He? I’ve abandoned Him. I’ve done things He doesn’t like. In fact, I hardly ever think of Him anymore. Why should He care about me?”
They delude themselves—not only about G-d, but about themselves. At the core of their consciousness shines a spark of Him, awake and pulsating within everything they do. Indeed, that spark does not let them alone. And from Above pours down only love, an infinite love that neither subsides nor changes. What blocks entry of that love? What holds back the spark within?
Nothing more than those deluded dreams.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
Who Is Moshiach (the Jewish Messiah)?
The Messianic Redemption will be ushered in by a human leader, a descendant of Kings David and Solomon, who will reinstate the Davidic royal dynasty. According to tradition, Moshiach will be wiser than Solomon and a prophet around the level of Moses. Moshiach is not identified by his ability to perform miracles. In fact, he isn’t required to perform any miracles at all (although the performance of miracles doesn’t disqualify him either).
The following are the criteria for identifying the Moshiach, as written by Maimonides: If we see a Jewish leader who (a) toils in the study of Torah and is meticulous about the observance of the mitzvot, (b) influences the Jews to follow the ways of the Torah and (c) wages the “battles of G-d”—such a person is the “presumptive Moshiach.” If the person succeeded in all these endeavours, and then rebuilds the Holy Temple in Jerusalem and facilitates the ingathering of the Jews to the Land of Israel—then we are certain that he is the Moshiach.
Have I Got A Story
A Great Smallness
An article in New York magazine entitled “How Not to Talk to Your Kids” described Thomas, a gifted fifth-grader who attended a highly competitive school. In his school, prospective kindergarteners were given an IQ test to confirm their precociousness and only the top one percent of all applicants were accepted. Thomas scored in the top one percent of the top one percent.
Since Thomas could walk, he has always heard that he was smart. But as he progressed through school, this self-awareness didn’t always translate into fearless confidence in tackling his schoolwork. In fact, Thomas’s father noticed just the opposite. “Thomas didn’t want to try things he wouldn’t be successful at. Some things came very quickly to him, but when they didn’t, he gave up almost immediately.”
The article explained that since 1969, with the publication of The Psychology of Self-Esteem, in which it was opined that self-esteem was the single most important facet of a person, the belief that one must do whatever he can to achieve positive self-esteem has become a movement. Studies over the past ten years, spearheaded by psychologist Carol Dweck, however, have concluded that high self-esteem didn’t improve grades or career achievement.
As parents, we obviously believe that genuine self-esteem is important to our children’s psychological and spiritual development. But how can we avoid the possible negative effects of praising our children’s achievements?
This week’s Torah reading, the first portion of the third book of the Torah, is called Vayikra, which means “He called.” It begins with G‑d calling to Moses from the Sanctuary to teach him the laws that he would transmit to the Jewish people.
There is an interesting anomaly in how the word Vayikra is written in the Torah scroll. The last letter of the word, the letter aleph, is written in a small, undersized script. In contrast, the first letter of the opening word of the Book of Chronicles, “Adam”—also an aleph—is written with a large, oversized script.
What is the message of the small and large alephs? And do they perhaps hold a lesson for us as parents in how to help our children gain a positive and productive self-image? The Chassidic masters explain that Adam was formed by G-d Himself, fashioned in the “divine image.” Aware of his superior qualities as “G‑d’s handiwork” and the crowning glory of creation, he became somewhat proud. The large aleph in Adam’s name indicates his self-importance, which led to his downfall in the sin of the tree of knowledge.
In contrast, Moses was also aware of his superior qualities as the greatest prophet ever to live, through whom the Torah was communicated to this world for perpetuity. But rather than cause him conceit, this awareness brought him humility. Moses recognized that his impressive capabilities were granted to him as a gift from G‑d. Accordingly, he felt no conceit but a pressing sense of responsibility. Thus, when Moses recorded in the Torah that G‑d called to him, he wrote the word Vayikra with a small aleph.
Adam and Moses were both great men, aware of their greatness. But in Adam, this sense of self-worth caused his disgrace, whereas, in Moses, it evoked humility and further greatness. True humility and a productive self-image do not come from denying one’s talents but rather from acknowledging that they are merely a bequest from Above, providing a channel through which to exert the greatest effort in accomplishing His will.
The most empowering self-image that you can give your child is the knowledge that she is a part of something much greater than herself. She is a creation of G‑d, who has great expectations from her. It is not the talents that she is born with that matter, but what she makes of them. The lesson of the aleph is: Teach your child his greatness. Show him his infinite potential, his vast talents and his special capabilitie
But at the same time, clarify to your child that these are gifts endowed to him by G‑d, who desires that he utilize his unique talents to better our world—in a way that he, and only he, can. Help your child experience her largeness, but at the same time, let her feel her smallness. Realizing her responsibility and the significance of her personal attainments will cause her to continually strive to reach ever higher.
From an article by Chana Weisberg