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The Weekly Share – 30 Av

The Weekly Share – 30 Av

Food For the Soul

Why Do Good Things Happen to Bad People?

The Parsha Re’eh talks about a false prophet. There are three steps in this scenario: 1) “If there will arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of a dream, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, 2) and the sign or the wonder of which he spoke to you happens, 3) [and he] says, ‘Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us worship them.'” Then, G-d concludes, 4) “You shall not heed the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of a dream; for the L-rd, your God, is testing you, to know whether you really love the L-rd, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul” (13:2-4). A con artist is one thing, but this prophet guy really comes through. Unfortunately, he steers his followers away from G-d.

Chassidic masters use this description of the false prophet to resolve an age old conundrum: Why do bad things happen to good people, and good things to bad people? Why would G-d back up the false prophet by validating his prediction? Why would G-d reward an immoral person with success? It makes us doubt the validity of our own moral compass. 

The Torah concludes, “G-d is testing you to know whether you really love Him.” If reward and punishment were so transparent then there would be no test. So G-d tests the waters to measure the depth of our love. Do you love Me? Do you trust Me? Or are you only in it for you?

There is one final question to be asked. If He really is G-d, does He really need to test us to know whether or not we love Him? Can’t He read our hearts like an open book? The third Chabad Rebbe, the Tzemach Tzedek, answers this question. The test is not so much for G-d to know us, as it is for us to know G-d, to breed “daat,” an intimate knowledge of G-d’s omnipotence. Within every false prophet, within each test of faith, G-d plants a seed. When we remain firm in our belief despite the evidence that success lies outside of G-d, the shell of the test simply falls away and the seed emerges. This seed is the gift of deep, intimate knowledge.

We don’t go looking for tests. But if they come our way, we should appreciate that it is critical to our success as G-dly human beings and committed Jews that we face up to the challenge.

From an article by Rochel Holzkenner

Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat: A Special Guest

Our sages tell us that the Shabbat is a “queen,” whose regal presence graces every Jewish home for the duration of the Shabbat day. For this reason, we scrub our bodies, dress our finest and make sure our homes are in tip-top shape on Friday afternoon. According to the Talmud, we actually receive a special additional soul every Shabbat.

The prophet Isaiah foretells great delight that comes as a reward “if you restrain your foot because of the Sabbath, from performing your affairs on My holy day, and you call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the L-rd honored, and you honor it by not doing your wanted ways, by not pursuing your affairs and speaking words.”

Shabbat is so special that even our choice of words, comportment, and the items that we touch must be consistent with this holy day. This includes the admonition not to handle items known as muktzeh, which have been set aside because they generally have no use within the Shabbat lifestyle.

From an article by Rabbi Menachem Posner

Mind Over Matter

The Here and Now

What will be in the next moment is not in this one now. It does not yet exist.
It has yet to be created. When its time comes, then it will be created by the Creator of all things, out of nowhere, emerging from the void. There is only one thing that exists at this moment: That in which you are engaged right now.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Moshiach Thoughts

“You will remember the day you left Egypt all the days of your life!” (Re’ey 16:3)

The phrase “all the days of your life” is interpreted to mean “lehavi liyemot haMoshiach-[‘all the days’] includes even the days of Moshiach.” This means that even in the Messianic era we shall still remember the exodus (our redemption from Egypt) and express gratitude for it. The literal translation of lehavi liyemot haMoshiach is “to bring the days of Moshiach.” This expression, then, has another significance. “All the days of your life,” that is, every day of our life-time, must be imbued by the single and profound objective to bring about the Messianic era. We must always bear in mind that any one good deed, every single one, hastens the coming of Moshiach. 

From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Have I Got A Story

Why the Soul Loves the Body

The Kabbalists teach that the Divine energy that creates the world—the “soul” of the world—is comprised of two parts: light and vessels. The light is the undefined energy, and the vessels express the energy in a limited and defined way.

Just like the human body and soul, the vessels and light are opposites. The light seeks to escape upward and reunite with its Infinite Source, while the vessels are happy to maintain their own distinct personality. Why then does the light bond with the vessels? Why does the light not retreat to its source? Let us understand this by way of a parable:

A brilliant professor taught in graduate school, where he had many gifted students who understood the depth of his teaching and appreciated his profound insights. One day, the professor invited his students to join him on a visit to a first-grade classroom, where he would explain his latest discoveries to the children. Understandably, the graduate students declined to join him. They preferred to experience their great professor’s brilliance in graduate school, not in grade school. They had no desire to limit their learning to the intellectual capacity of a first-grader.

One student, however, decided to go along with his professor. The student understood that for a theory to be projected to the distant world of a first-grader, the professor would need to reach far deeper within himself. In order to communicate with people so intellectually far from himself, he would search for and discover the essence of the idea. The student understood that the first-grade classroom was the place where the professor’s true brilliance would be expressed. The ability to communicate with a distant reality comes from the deepest resources of one’s intellect.

And so, as the first-graders were listening to the older gentleman talk, they were oblivious to the greatness of his wisdom. They would have preferred to play with the toys piled up in the back of the classroom. Yet the graduate student marveled at every word that emerged from his teacher’s mouth. Never before had he experienced this element of the professor’s awesome intellectual power. Never had he heard such deep ideas expressed in such simple words. Interestingly, the first-graders, the cause of this revelation, were not mature enough to appreciate it. It was the graduate student alone who appreciated the lofty nature of what was transpiring in the first-grade classroom.

Similar to the graduate student appreciating the lecture given to the first grade, the soul appreciates the greatness of the body. The body, like the first-graders, does not understand that the body is a deeper expression of G-d’s greatness than is the soul. In order to create a body, in order for G-d to express His energy in a spiritually distant place, G-d must express an even deeper part of Himself. And yet, it takes a soul to understand the great spiritual source of a body.

And so it is with the Divine light. It, too, feels that the vessels, specifically because they are limited and defined, are rooted in a higher place within the Divine. The undefined abstract light senses that the creation of vessels is G-d projecting a deeper part of Himself.

This, then, illuminates Judaism’s attitude toward all things physical. Physicality, left to its own devices, is empty of spiritual light and is a distraction from purpose in life. Yet when the soul engages with the physical, the soul reveals the truth, that physicality is a greater expression of the awesome power of G-d. For when an infinite G-d expresses Himself in a finite realm, that is the true indication of His infiniteness.

In Parshat Re’eh, the Torah describes the Jew’s ultimate spiritual experience during the thrice-yearly pilgrimage to Jerusalem:  And you shall eat before the L-rd, your G-d, in the place He chooses to establish His Name therein, the tithes of your grain, your wine and your oil, and the firstborn of your cattle and of your sheep, so that you may learn to fear the L-rd, your G-d, all the days. 

How does the Jew reach the epitome of spiritual heights? By eating his grain, wine, oil, cattle and sheep! For light feels the superiority of the vessels. The soul feels the superiority of the body. And the Jew senses that if while engaging in delicious meat and wine he can simultaneously experience a spiritual joy, he has reached the essence of G-dliness.

From an article by Rabbi Menachem Feldman

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