Chanukah Insight (5760)

One of the most absolutely fascinating and amazing aspects of Chanukah that I ever came across is something that was revealed by the illustrious “Alshich” z”l.  The light of our modest Chanukah candles is from none other than the “Or HaGanuz” of “Maasei Breishis”.  Just to freshen our Memories–on Pasuk 4 at the beginning of Parshas Breishis Rashi brings that the light of the ‘Maasei Breishis’ was put away for the Tzaddikim in the next world; this is the ‘Or HaGanuz’.  I am perpetually shocked and mystified by this insight of the Chanukah light.  Without exaggeration it would be apropos to say that the ‘Avos HaKdoshim’  could to do something to bring the light of the ‘Or HaGanuz’.  Here we have some ignoramus lighting his little colored Chanukah candles, the music box on the Menorah playing the “I Have A Little Dreidel” song, and the remains of a latke still lingering in his mouth, and the light of the “Or HaGanuz’ shining from his Menorah.
I would like to share a possible thought and message about this profound phenomenon.  The who le miracle that Klal Yisroel experienced, the military victory over the Greeks and the miracle of the oil, all came about as a result of nothing but and only because of a tremendous gift from Above.  This is to exclude other instances where the “nuclear core” of the miracle stems from the
inspiration and workings of Klal Yisroel.  This characteristic and concept was carried over to the Mitzva commemorating the miracle.  In consistency with the actual miracle which in essence was a gift from Above, likewise the special Mitzvah of Chanukah brings an awesome gift from Above, the ‘Or HaGanuz ‘.
This thought is echoed in a seemingly humorous question that serious sources have brought up.
Why on Purim do we ‘spin the Groger’, the noisemaker, in a movement facing upwards, while on Chanukah we ‘spin the Dreidel’ in a downward movement?  The answer given is that on Purim the miracle came as a result of Klal Yisroel’s inspiration from ‘below’ contrary to Chanukah where the main source of the miracle was from Divine inspiration Above coming down.
This insight may shed light on a mystical aspect of the sprinkling of the blood of Yom Kippur
The Kohen Gadol sprinkled the blood of the sacrifices of the “Par” and the “Seir”, one sprinkle upward and seven sprinkles downward.  This service is possibly the most significant and important for the existence of Klal Yisroel and the act of the Kohen Gadol pointing his finger upward and downward is certainly very puzzling. Amazingly, our “dreidel–groger” insight might be a possible direction to understanding it.  The sprinkle upward representing the aspect of accomplishment from Klal Yisroel, and the sprinkle downward representing the things that are accomplished mainly through the gifts from Above.
The opinion of Bais Shammai is well known–that we start the first night of Chanukah with the lighting of eight candles and as the days progress the number of candles lit decreases.  The concept of going down might be a reflection of this Divine gift of the pouring down from Above the tremendous blessings that brought about the miracles.  Listen to this ‘remez’ from the ‘Baal HaTurim’ concerning Bais Shammai.  One Pasuk (Vayikra 8:2) says “BeHaaloscha Es HaNairos” in contrast to the Pasuk (Shmos 27:20) ” LeHaalos Ner Tomid”.  According to Bais Shammai the change is from “Nairos” (plural) to “Ner” (singular).  The last letters of the three words “LeHaalos Ner Tomid” is “Tof”–“Reish”–“Daled”  spells the Hebrew word “Tayraid”– to go down.  This might be a beautiful ‘remez’ of the Heavenly gifts coming down.
What does all this mean?  If a person prepares himself and properly connects himself to the Mitzvah of the lighting and in general makes an effort to lift himself and upgrade his spiritual status on Chanukah he will make himself eligible to be a recipient of marvelous spiritual gifts from Above
He might thereby gain some concrete inspiration from Chanukah along with the extra weight gained from those delicious latkes and jelly donuts.  Happy Chanukah!

Parshas Beshalach: The Shira

Parshas Beshalach:  The Shira
By: Mordechai Dolinsky

The Shiras HaYam in our Sedra are the words that were emitted from the mouth of Moshe Rabbenu and Klal Yisroel after having experienced the greatest demonstration and revelation of Hashem.  This is exactly what should be and was said to express the ultimate of praise, appreciation and gratitude for the ultimate from Hashem.  Every word and sequence of words expresses exactly in the best way the thoughts they convey.

The Shira begins relating that Moshe and Klal Yisroel all exclaimed together these words.  This includes millions of people, all expressing simultaneously the Shira.  The conventional understanding of this is that it was a miracle, some type of supernatural prophecy that was placed in their mouths.  This insight is that these words were said since they were the exact expression of the praise.

How do we see in these words such praise, such enthusiasm and inspiration?  The Medrash 26:1 brings the Chazal that the throne which is the kingdom of Hashem was not complete until the reciting of the Shira.  Oh, to understand  these seemingly simple stanzas…

One observation I would like to share—there are two main themes throughout the Shira—the highness and greatness of HaShem and His helping us—down to the smallest details.  This is perhaps one of the high points of greatness of how HaShem relates to the world.  It is also something that is difficult for us to deal with.  HaShem being so high, yet being so concerned and helpful down to the smallest detail.

Saying the Shira is also a ‘segula’ in a time of danger.  We should all be worthy to again say Shira for the great redemption.

Parshas Mishpatim: The Brain Sharpener (5760)

Parshas Mishpatim: The Brain Sharpener (5760)
By: Mordechai Dolinsky

After being put into the lofty spirits by past weekly Parshios, Mishpatim has a strong “sobering” effect with its “ cold, calculated” monetary laws. That these laws were selected to be the first, presents for us a challenging question to grapple with. The Medrash quotes a Chazal 30:3 which says that just as a woman of royalty goes with bodyguards on either side so, too, the Torah was given with monetary laws before and after.

The understanding of this involves the clarification of a point of extremely important significance. There is a principle we find in Chazal – if a person wants to upgrade his thinking capabilities he should engage in the study of ‘Nezikin’, that is, monetary laws. I have a suspicion that the impact of this is not really appreciated. The most valuable faculty we have is the ability to think, to understand and to see things in the true light. Everything we do in life depends on seeing things properly. For every area in Torah study our minds much be sharp—from the study of Tanach to Halacha. How we deal with every life situation depends on our outlook, perspective and paradigm. Our relationship with all our dear ones, our spouse, children, students, bosses and employees, are all affected by our mental ability to understand things in their proper light. Therefore any means we have to enhance this most important function is by far the most precious commodity. The Chazal regarding improving our intellect by the study of Nezikin now takes on special meaning. This also could be the significance of what the Medrash that referred to the monetary laws as the protectors of the Torah means. This can also explain the priority the Torah gave to the monetary laws.

It is said about the famous Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein zt”l that no matter what area of Torah he was especially devoted to and studying at any given time, he always included in his daily learning program one hour of the study of Ketzos HaChoshen, the cream of the laws of Nezikin. Some would interpret this as a type of Torah ‘hobby’ that he had. In light of all that was said above I would venture to say that he was keeping his mental scalpels sharp.

All this should help us understand and appreciate the system of study we find in Yeshivos today with its emphasis on intellectual sharpening. I hope it will also serve us as a motivation and inspiration to “sharpen up” through the study of the laws of Nezikin.

Parshas Shmos 5760: Waiting for the Geulah

Parshas Shmos 5760: Waiting for the Geulah
By: Mordechai Dolinsky

There is a Rashi in this week’s Parsha that in its simplicity is quite striking but when one gives it some serious thought it becomes revealing. The Chazal that Rashi quotes in the text of the Medrash Rabbah is a little clearer. “Moshe Rabbenu was greatly perplexed. In what way was Klal Yisroel worse than all the nations that caused them to be subjected to this bondage. After he heard the slander that was being said about him he concluded that the cause of their affliction was their indulgence in Loshon Horah”.

There was so much wrong with Klal Yisroel that there were many factors with which to attribute their terrible terrrible afflictions. There was a lot of material for serious Rabbanim to give strong sermons about. A lot of material for “Mashgichim”, “Magidim”, “Menahalim”, to give rebuke for. The spiritual fall was catastrophic, down to the lowest, the 49th level of defilement.

There was, however, one great Talmid Chacham, one great leader, one great prophet, that had nothing to say; his name was Moshe Rabbenu. There was nothing that Klal Yisroel was doing that could have been responsible for their awful plight—no Egyptian ‘disco’, plays, or whatever. Punishment is with rules, Middah Kineged Middah, these sins can cause that punishment. Moshe Rabbenu knew all the rules and he knew that as bad as everything was there wasn’t anything that was so bad that could have caused such anguish. Moshe Rabbenu was the only one that had no sermon, no rebuke, no Chizuk. Then he witnessed the Loshon Horah and he knew the answer.

Isn’t this awesome? There are no chiddushim here, no new insights, just repetition of the Medrash. Shmos 1:20—awesome.

The following is an insight what this Loshon Horah caused, sharing a thought that is simple, but I never heard it mentioned. Let’s speculate the alternative. What could have been without the Loshon Horah about Moshe Rabbenu? The salvation of Purim came about because Esther was chosen to become the wife of the king and was able to assert her influence in that role. What a miracle.

Moshe Rabbenu was the son of Pharoh—he was accepted as a member of the royal household—lock, stock and barrel. Although his nationality was known, and his origin was perpetuated through the name that Basya gave him; Moshe—was drawn from the water. He was not a biological son, but he was an accepted member of the royalty, the palace, and the household. Moshe the beloved son of Pharoh, yet the brother of the slaves of Egypt—what a miracle.

How the miracle of Yetzias Mitzrayim, the going out of Egypt, could have been, if not for the Loshon Horah that was spread concerning Moshe.

“You have me as your representative in the palace,
THERE IS SO MUCH I CAN DO FOR YOU AND I AM WILLING TO DO FOR YOU, TO EXERCISE MY INFLUENCE AS PHAROH’S SON
And you talk against me and you spread detrimental, devastating slander, destroying my relationship and position with Pharoh.

How evil, how blind.

I can’t go any further. The flow of tears is diluting any further words on the page. Good Shabbos.