Food For the Soul
Restraint Is Power
Have you ever felt like losing your temper but at the last moment you managed to restrain yourself?
The Parshah of Kedoshim (Leviticus chapters 19-20) starts with the idea that we should be holy. What exactly does this mean? The commenter Rashi explains that the term “holy” implies self-restraint. There are many temptations in life. To be holy means to have the ability to control one’s immediate impulses.
Another commentator, Nachmanides, makes the point that this self-restraint may sometimes take a person to a point beyond the simple letter of the law. Jewish law permits a person to eat kosher food: but should one be an out-and-out glutton? According to this view, even if the food is as kosher as could be, restraint is power; it shows that one is truly free as an individual, rather than just being just a slave of one’s appetite.
Much of the Parshah is devoted to giving guidelines about this kind of self-mastery, in a number of different areas of life. Central is the theme of personal relationships. The keynote to these is the famous teaching “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). Rabbi Akiva said that this is the great principle of the Torah; it relates to all other aspects of Jewish thought. The Parshah also instructs us not to take revenge, nor even to bear a grudge. This certainly needs self-control: in our actions, our words and even our thoughts.
What is power? For a long time people thought that it means mastery over others. Now we realize, it is mastery over oneself.
Daily life presents us with many instances of the personal battles described in our Parshah: in relationships with our parents, in business dealing, in questions about giving charity, in the borders between men and women, and also regarding our behavior when we are genuinely in power over others, as judges. Thus the portion tells us to be fair in judgment to both rich and poor.
The portion presents the challenge of the power of restraint, building a world of goodness for the future, when the whole world will be filled with holiness.
From an article by Dr. Tali Loewenthal
Sanctification of the Moon
Once a month, as the moon waxes in the sky, we recite a special blessing called Kiddush Levanah, “the sanctification of the moon,” praising the Creator for His wondrous work we call astronomy.
Kiddush Levanah is recited after nightfall, usually on Saturday night. The blessing is concluded with songs and dancing, because our nation is likened to the moon—as it waxes and wanes, so have we throughout history. When we bless the moon, we renew our trust that very soon, the light of G‑d’s presence will fill all the earth and our people will be redeemed from exile.
Though Kiddush Levanah can be recited as early as three days after the moon’s rebirth, the kabbalah tells us it is best to wait a full week, till the seventh of the month. Once 15 days have passed, the moon begins to wane once more and the season for saying the blessing has passed.
For further information visit Chabad.org
Mind Over Matter
Loosen your grasp. Stop trying to micromanage your world. The One who made it is already doing that.
What does He leave for you? Opportunities. Another chance and another chance to do good.
And if you should fail, yet another chance.
Grab the opportunities. Let Him decide where they lead.
Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“You shall love your fellow like yourself.” (Kedoshim 19:18)
This is the eternal mitzvah of ahavat Yisrael, loving our fellow Jews, which Rabbi Akiva called “the great principle of the Torah.” It is also a mitzvah of which we are told that its fulfillment will bring about the Messianic redemption. It is certain that nowadays, as we are so close to the redemption from the galut which was caused by gratuitous hatred and discord, we have greatly improved in the observance of this mitzvah. At present, therefore, we have to move to a new level. During these last days of the galut we must try to experience a taste of the wondrous quality of ahavat Yisrael of the Messianic era, an absolute ahavat Yisrael of soul to soul, which transcends all trivial differences that cause strife. When we shall now already live up to the “love of (G‑d’s) creatures,” as it will be with the coming of Moshiach, we shall also merit the “bringing them near to the Torah,” i.e., to the wondrous new insights in the Torah which Moshiach will teach the entire nation!
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I Got A Story
Spiritual Vs. Holy
A Jewish grandmother once took her grandson to a séance. After making her magic, the crystal ball lady claimed she had made contact with the woman’s deceased husband, Chaim. Indeed, they heard a male voice saying how everything was well with him on the other side and he answered all their questions. Then, little Harry the grandson piped up and asked, “Zayde, may I ask you one more question please. When did you learn to speak English so well?”
Whether you believe that those who practice spiritualism are indeed making contact or not, makes little difference from the Jewish perspective. Imaginary or real, the Torah forbids it. Even if it is real that doesn’t mean it is right. Not everything that can be done ought to be done.
Under the general command to “Be Holy” (Leviticus 19:1), the Torah instructs us not to engage in sorcery, superstition and other related activities which were practiced by the heathen nations of old. Elsewhere in Deuteronomy the Torah proscribes other practices such as consulting the dead. Jews are told to be “sincere and wholehearted with G‑d,” to follow the Torah way of life and, when in doubt, to consult the prophet or the recognized spiritual leaders and Torah authorities of the day. Sorcery, dabbling in the occult and “crossing over” are serious infractions to be strenuously avoided.
People seem to be confused by this. They become convinced that if [magic and other forbidden practices like trying to contact the dead] really is able to happen then this legitimizes it. Often, it is those who have been bereaved, especially under tragic circumstances, who are anxiously seeking answers and grasping for comfort through these unholy sources.
Unholy, you ask? Yes. You see, there is a fundamental difference between spiritual and holy. Not everything spiritual is necessary holy, and not everything holy need be spiritual.
Balaam was a heathen prophet (Numbers 22-24). He was able to communicate with G‑d. But he was very unholy. He tried to put a curse on the Jewish people which would allow their enemies to destroy them completely. They had done him no harm. He was a greedy, lustful anti-Semite—far from a holy man. But he was very, very spiritual. Clearly, not everything spiritual is holy.
Money is very, very physical. But if you use it for holy purposes like charity, it becomes holy. Clearly, not everything holy need be spiritual.
It may be possible to “cross over.” But, in the process, we may be getting ourselves involved with unholy forces. There are forces of darkness out there too. And if we are not dealing with Jewish prophets of old or bona fide holy mystics, we may, G‑d forbid, get burned. And, who knows if our connections are not seen as interference. We may well be guilty of disturbing the dead, in which case we might actually be doing more harm than good.
My brother-in-law, Rabbi Shabsi Alpern, is the Chabad shliach in Brazil. Many such practices occur in his community. He once asked the Lubavitcher Rebbe what to tell people about this. The Rebbe answered to tell them that every Jew has a direct connection to G‑d and we do not require a medium to connect. In fact, why take the circuitous route if you can go direct?
If we want to help the deceased, Judaism has many worthwhile suggestions. Kaddish, tzedakah, and any mitzvah in memory are all good deeds which have positive effects on the soul. Torah study, particularly Mishnah, is highly recommended.
By all means should we all deepen our spirituality. Study the esoteric side of Torah with reliable, trustworthy teachers to gain an appreciation into Jewish Mysticism. But be wholesome with G‑d. Don’t dabble in forbidden fields. Be holy—in the way our holy Torah tells us to be.
From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman