Chukat-Balak (Numbers 19:1-25:9 )
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GOOD MORNING! What is the greatest pleasure in your life? Love of your spouse? Love of your kids? How about Love of God? Could there be a greater pleasure than that? Would you believe that we are commanded to have this pleasure? "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your possessions" (Deut. 6:5). It must be possible. God doesn't command us to do the impossible!
___Loving God is also one of the Six Constant Commandments - commandments that are upon us at all times and in all places! (The other 5 Constant Mitzvot : (1) Know there is a God. (2) Don't believe in any other god. (3) Know that He is One. (4) Fear God. (5) Don't follow after your desires. (For more information, go to: aish.com and search on "6 Constant Mitzvot").
___First, the definitions: What is "Love" - the pleasure one has in focusing on the good in something or someone. As Maimonides writes: "A person can only love according to the degree he knows the object of his love. If he knows a little, he can love a little. And if he knows a lot, he can love a lot." (Laws of Teshuva 10:6) A parent may have a drug-using, lazy dropout and still love him. If you ask the parent why s/he loves him, s/he will tell you, "Because he has a good heart, he's a good kid." What about the drugs, laziness, dropping out of school? The parent replies, "He was in with a bad group, I should have helped him more" - or some other reason to not focus on the negative. One can only love by focusing on the positive.
___What is "God"? The Creator, Sustainer and Supervisor. The One who made the whole universe and everything in it, keeps it going and Who has a relationship with everyone and everything in it.
___What is Love of God? It is the pleasure in focusing on the good that He has given us in our lives and in the world.
___We all have difficulties and challenges in our lives. As hard as they may be, a person who believes in a loving God understands that they are meaningful and beneficial, though the challenge may seem insurmountable, God never gives us a challenge that we cannot handle.
___For example, pain is something we all wish to avoid. However, the pain reflex helps preserve us from great harm. Imagine if you didn't feel pain and only found that your hand was resting on a hot burner when someone pointed out the flames. Pain can also be a wake up call to look into our deeds so that we will correct them as well as serve as an atonement for past mistakes.
___Difficulties in life should be looked upon as meaningful. We should ask ourselves "Why me?" - but not with an accusatory tone. The Torah teaches that the Almighty loves each and every creation and has an individual relationship with each of us. He wants only for our good. He only gives us what is good for us.
___Perhaps the most important lesson we owe our children is to teach them that the Almighty loves them - just as they need to know that their parents love them. A child may eventually get over the feeling or the fact that a parent doesn't love him. However, if one is taught that God is against him and hates him, it creates a very bitter life.
___I often hug my children and ask, "Who loves you?" They learn early to respond, "Mommy and Daddy." And then I ask and "Who loves you most of all?" And they learn early to respond "HaShem" (a commonly used Hebrew name for God). And sometimes they just respond, "Mommy, Daddy and HaShem loves me the most."
___There are two ways to love God. The first is to look at His Creation -the beauty and the intricacy of everything from the micro to the macro. Maimonides writes: "What is the path to love (and awe) of God? When one ponders God's great and wonderful acts of creation, and sees in them a genius that has no comparison, then automatically a person will love, praise, glorify - and deeply desire to know the greatness of God." (Foundations of Torah 2:2)
___Second, read His words - The Torah. When people say they love an author, it is because they read his book and were moved by the book. To know God and to Love God, it certainly helps to read His Book. Torah study is the way to discover the path of meaning. The Torah is called Torat Chaim -literally the book of "Instructions for Living" - is God's communication to the world. It is the ultimate repository for wisdom on how to succeed at marriage, parenting, community building, and fixing the world. (I highly recommend the Artscroll Stone Edition of the Torah available from your local Jewish book store or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.)
___The mitzvah to love God is to be constantly preoccupied with the pursuit of closeness to God. God is always there. If one does not feel the closeness of God, it is not God Who moved. It is up to us to choose to deepen the relationship. For as the Kotzker Rebbe once said: "Where is God? Wherever you let Him in."
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Torah Portion of the Week
___Another week of action, adventure and mystery as the Jewish people wander the desert in their 38th year. First, the laws of the red heifer (Parah Adumah) which was burnt with cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet thread. The ashes were then used in a purification ceremony for those who had come in contact with the dead. Strangely enough, all who were involved in the making of the ashes became ritually impure, but all who were sprinkled with them became ritually pure. It is a lesson that we must do the commandments even if we can't understand them. God decreed the commandments. They are for our benefit. We may not always know why.
___Miriam, Moshe's sister and a prophetess, dies. The portable well which had accompanied the Israelites on her merit, ceased to flow. Once again the people rebelled against Moshe and Aharon because of the lack of water. The Almighty tells Moshe to speak to the rock for water. Moshe gets angry and hits the rock and water rushes forth. However, the Almighty punishes Moshe and Aharon for not sanctifying Him by forbidding their entry into the land of Israel. (It pays to follow instructions and to withhold anger!)
___Aharon dies. His son, Elazar, is appointed the new High Priest. The Canaanite king of Arad attacks the Israelites and later is soundly defeated. Then there is another rebellion over the food and water which is answered by a plague of poisonous snakes. Moshe prays for the people and is instructed by God to put the image of a snake on a high pole. All who saw it would think of God, repent and live.
___The Israelites then annihilate the Amorites and Bashanites who not only would not let us pass peacefully through their lands, but attacked us. There are many questions which need to be asked. Please consult the original work and a good commentary.
* * *
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
___The Torah states:
|"And the Almighty said to Moshe, 'Make for yourself the image of a snake and place it on a pole. And it will be that everyone who was bitten shall see it and live.' " (Numbers 21:8)|
___The snake bit the people - why is the image of the snake the "cure"?
___Rabbi Chaim Shmuelevitz explained that when a person hits someone, it comes from anger and hatred, but when he helps another person, it comes from compassion and love. With the Almighty, however, even when He causes a person to suffer, it comes from His compassion and love. In the overall scheme of things a person gains from that suffering. It is either atonement, it serves as a lesson to teach a person to improve, or it elevates a person. Therefore, the smiting and the cure can be from the same thing because they both come from the attribute of love. When you find meaning in your suffering, it is much easier to accept with a positive attitude.
CANDLE LIGHTING - June 23
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Guatemala 6:16 - Hong Kong 6:52 - Honolulu 6:58
J'Burg 5:05 - London 9:03 - Los Angeles 7:50
Melbourne 4:50 - Mexico City 8:00 - Miami 7:58
New York 8:13 - Singapore 6:55 - Toronto 8:45
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The best solution for little problems
is to help people with big problems
With Special Appreciation to
Hanoj & Myrna Perez