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GOOD MORNING! Rabbi Eliezer Silver was a leader in Jewish Rescue during the Holocaust. After the war he visited Europe as a representative of United States Jewry to help Jews in any way possible. One of his missions was to reclaim Jewish children who were hidden during the war with non-Jewish families. How was he able to find the children? He would go into a church during the service and loudly and proudly say, "Shema Yisroel Adonoy Eloheinu Adonoy Ehad!" Then he would look at the faces of the children for those with tears in their eyes -- those children who remembered their mothers and fathers who put them to bed each night and said the Shema with them.
The Shema is a declaration of faith, a pledge of allegiance to One God. It permeates the Jewish consciousness as it permeates the Jewish day. It is one of the first things parents teach their children when they start to talk; it's recited in the morning and the evening prayers and, as mentioned, before going to sleep. Last week I presented the first part of an article by my friend and colleague, Rabbi Shraga Simmons which appeared on Aish.com/Shema .
This week we continue with an explanation of the second verse: "And you shall love the Lord your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your resources" (Deut. 6:5).
What does it mean to love God with all your heart? The Talmud explains that the word "heart" is metaphorical for "desires." Even today we colloquially say, "I love chocolate," which means "I desire chocolate." When the Shema says to "love God with all your heart," it means to use not only your "good traits" like kindness and compassion to do God's will, but also to use your more challenging traits to serve Him.
For example, when you go to a nice restaurant, don't go because you want to gorge. Rather have in mind that you are eating in order to keep your body healthy, to be able to serve God. Similarly, if you were buying a CD of music, you should buy it in order to help you relax and better appreciate the world that God created.
What does it mean to "love God with all your soul"? It means even at the cost of your life. For generations Jews have given up their lives rather than submit to conversion. We knew and we know that there is something more important than life itself -- to live, and if necessary, to die with meaning. There is no greater meaning than sanctifying God's name in both life and in death.
The final part of this verse says to "love God with all your resources." This is difficult to understand, because typically the Torah presents a series as a progression from easiest to hardest. Here, the order is: Love God emotionally ("heart"), and even be willing to give up your life if necessary ("soul"), and even be willing to spend your money, too!
If this is a progression, are there really people who consider money more important than life itself?! The answer is yes. The Talmud (Brachot 54a) speaks about someone walking across a thorny field, and picks up his pants in order to avoid getting them ripped. The person's legs get all cut up and scratched -- but at least the pants are saved!
In Nevada, where gambling is legal and every hotel has a casino, hotel room windows are specially designed not to open more than a crack -- so people who lose money gambling won't be tempted to jump out the window. Yes, for some, money is more important than life itself.
Now, in our turbulent times, each of us -- men, women, and children -- can help in a simple, yet powerful way: Every morning and evening, take a 15-second break from whatever you are doing and say the Shema.
The important thing is to understand and concentrate on the meaning of the words. If you don't understand Hebrew, you can say it in English. And then, make it a goal to learn the pronunciation and meaning to be able to say it in Hebrew.
Parents can say the Shema out loud with their children. It can be very comforting to children to have a nightly ritual of saying the Shema, a prayer to the Almighty to protect them. It is a wonderful, bonding-experience, to hold your children each night as they cover their eyes and say the Shema. Saying the Shema is a simple, six-word formula to unite all peace-loving people and to bring more spiritual light into our world!
Terumah, Exodus 25:1 - 27:19
This week's Torah reading is an architect's or interior designer's dream portion. It begins with the Almighty commanding Moses to tell the Jewish people to donate the materials necessary for the construction of the Mishkan, the portable sanctuary.
The Torah continues with the details for constructing the Ark, the Table, the Menorah, the Tabernacle (the central area of worship containing the Ark, the Menorah, the Incense Altar, and the Table), the Beams composing the walls of the Tabernacle, the Cloth partition (separating the Holy of Holies where the Ark rested from the remaining Sanctuary part of the Tabernacle), the Altar and the Enclosure for the Tabernacle (surrounding curtains forming a rectangle within which was approximately 15x larger than the Tabernacle).
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from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.
The Torah states:
"They shall make a Sanctuary for Me -- so that I may dwell amongst them" (Ex. 25:8).
The Shelah HaKodesh says that this verse can also be translated as, "They shall make a Sanctuary for Me, and I will dwell within them" -- within each individual. Every person should make himself into a Sanctuary wherein the Divine Presence can rest. How does one do that?
When Rabbi Mendel of Kotzk first came to Rabbi Simchah Bunim of P'shis'che, the latter asked, "Young man, where can one find God?' Rabbi Mendel answered, "God is everywhere." Not satisfied, Rabbi Simcha Bunim again asked, "Young man, where can one find God?" Rabbi Mendel answered, "His glory fills the entire universe." Still not satisfied, for a third time Rabbi Simcha Bunim asked, "Young man, where can one find God?"
Rabbi Mendel responded, "If my answers do not satisfy you, then please tell me." Rabbi Simcha Bunim replied, "God can be found wherever one permits Him to enter." The Torah says that we must behave in a manner that does not cause God to turn away from us (Deuteronomy 23:15).
The Talmud says that God shuns a person who is vain and arrogant. "I cannot dwell together with him" (Talmud Bavli, Arachin 15b). "I abide in exaltedness and holiness -- but am with the contrite and lowly of spirit" (Isaiah 57:15).
A recovered alcoholic said, "When I stopped drinking, I felt a terrible void within me. That was the space where God belonged. How foolish of me to have tried to fill that space with alcohol!" People who do not drink may try to fill that space with money, power, honor or any one of a variety of pleasures. We must make that space available so that God can enter it!
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
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It's not enough that we do our best --
sometimes we have to do what's required
-- Sir Winston Churchill