Posted by Rav Yosef Kanefsky
To my dear friends and fellow-travelers:
Whenever the waters get a little choppy, as they have this week, we need to remember only one thing. And that is, that we are serving God, and God alone. We are accountable only to God, and to our own souls and consciences. We believe – down deep in our spiritual core – in a vision of Orthodoxy that never throws up its hands in the face of human suffering, one whose eyes and heart are open to the friendship and thoughts and struggles of all Jews. A vision of Orthodoxy in which success is defined by the promise that “through you all the families of the world will be blessed”, and one in which Torah and Mitzvot are opportunities to be shared, not privileges to be protected. We believe – genuinely and unalterably – that this is what God has told us is good, and that it is this which He requires of us. We are accountable only to God. To God, to the people that we serve, and to ourselves.
Pursuing the path of God involves being open to advice and to constructive criticism. How else could we engage in the critical processes of introspection and self-improvement? But no less important than listening to friends who advise and criticize, is refusing to be distracted by the static of public attack. The public attackers are also sincere, and genuine in their words. But what they are asking is that we forsake God, and instead serve them.
In the end, we will succeed because we will create communities for whom Torah is the Tree of Life, the Mitzvot are sweeter than honey, and Halacha is the tradition with which we engage the human condition and dignify all those created in the Image. We have no energy to spare, or time to waste. The day is short, the work is great, and the Master expects much of us.
11.20.13 at 8:41 pm | 75% of Jews who, according to the Pew report, do. . .
11.11.13 at 1:50 pm | Appreciating the words of a Morethodoxy non-fan
10.31.13 at 12:08 am | We can't afford to be distracted
10.30.13 at 12:06 pm | Why nothing is neutral
8.18.13 at 4:46 pm |
8.15.13 at 2:54 pm | Understanding the message of Yom Kippur
12.2.09 at 11:12 pm | (28)
1.31.13 at 6:55 am | The Orthodox establishment should consider. . . (11)
11.20.13 at 8:41 pm | 75% of Jews who, according to the Pew report, do. . . (10)
October 30, 2013 | 12:06 pm
Posted by Rabbi Hyim Shafner
The Torah describes Sara our foremother’s death by enumerating the years of her life. Then the verse repeats, "…these were the years of Sara's life." Rash”i is bothered by this repetition, and comments, “All of them were equally for good.”
The Rebbe of Tosh, Rabbi Meshulam Feish Segal, may he live and be well, writes in the name of the Ariza”l, the great mystic, Rabbi Isaac Luria, that there are things in our world which hide the Divine light so deeply (klipah) that we can not utilize them at all to raise up their divine potential. These things are forbidden in the Torah, such as the meat of a non-kosher animal. But there is a large range of things which the Torah permits us. These have the sparks of the Divine embedded within them in such a way that if we use them (really this applies also to deeds, speech and even thoughts) in the right way, with the intent to bring them and ourselves through them, closer to G-d then they are holy and the act or speech or thought is a mitzvah. If we do them just to fill our own desires then they are unholy and a sin. Thus, writes the Tosher Rebbe, nothing is neutral. Everything is either a mitzvah or a sin. To eat kosher food is not ok, it is either holy or unholy depending on how we eat it, what our intent is, what our reasons for doing so are. And so it is with everything. Every moment in life, every step, is pregnant with spiritual power, for good or not.
He concludes that Sara was unique among people in that she was able to use everything- all her time, her actions, her thoughts and her speech to raise herself up spiritually; and so all of her days were "equally good."
It is, I think, an important message for us living in today's world. I believe that we should be involved in the life of the world, bringing holiness and compassion to the people, culture and communities around us. Jews today have access to everything- the best restaurants, the best sports tickets, the best shows, the best cars, and the best vacations. But in all we do it is not enough to ask, “Is this forbidden or permitted?” We must ask, will this be a holy act, one that will bring me and the world to a better, more spiritual place, or not. May we merit, in great joy, to know G-d in all of our unique ways.