No Pain, No Gain – Mrs. Mindel Kassorla
A couple of years ago, at exactly this time of year, I was in the hospital recovering from a recent surgery. I called for the nurse to tell her I was having some unexpected pains. Immediately, she asked if I wanted medication.
My response was: “No, I don’t need medicine, because it’s not so bad. What I really want is for you to tell the doctor, because the pain is concerning me… I don’t know why it’s happening. Actually, I specifically don’t want medicine because if it gets worse, I won’t realize, and it’s important for me to be aware of it, since it could be indicative of a real problem…”
I think sometimes we have a mistaken view of the inflictions we impose upon ourselves on Tisha b’Av. It looks like we are trying to artificially induce pain. But this experience taught me a new approach: All year long we are in pain over the loss of the Bais Hamikdash. We just don’t feel this pain, because we are allowed to take painkillers… Music…. Food… Fun…. And that is OK! We need that to survive. But in truth, all of our challenges and suffering are only due to the fact that we are in galus. It can be hard to make that connection when we “treat” the pain without analyzing the real source.
But on Tisha b’Av, we recognize that pain is an indication of a real problem. Instead of numbing ourselves to it, we remove all the distractions and allow ourselves to feel it. That’s the only way we can properly treat it. And hopefully, if we can really feel the pain and loss, we will once again feel the connection to Hashem as well.
In the Center or in the Circle? – Mrs. Sheva Rand
Tammuz is a hard month.
It’s the beginning of the end.
It’s when we start re-going through the motions of how we ended up in galus.
Sometimes, if you really think about it, you might wonder: How did we got ourselves into this mess? And and how we can get out of it?
Rav Dessler explains that when B’nei Yisrael deteriorate to a point where their only hope for continued spiritual survival is galus, then Hashem handpicks the nation which epitomizes the negative traits which lead to our decline.
This serves two purposes:
1. By living among people who display this characteristic in such an extreme way, it becomes abundantly clear to us where we have gone wrong.
2. If we are able to correct this negative trait in an environment where it is so pervasive, then we have truly perfected ourselves.
The galus that we are in now is called Galus Edom. Edom is another name for Eisav. Although Eisav had many negative traits, the medrash says that his essense was a rotzeach – a murderer. Rav Dessler explains that the root middah of his murder was ga’avah. He so desperately needed to be “the center” that he couldn’t even tolerate another’s existence! We know that Chazal tell us that the second Beis Hamikdash was destroyed due to Sinas Chinam. Although it is less extreme, Sinas Chinam comes from the same root as Eisav’s murder – ga’avah. “I don’t hate you because you are in my way or in competition with me or because of something bad you did to me. Intrinsically, it is just your existence that is a threat to me, because it takes me out of the center.”
The message here is clear. Hashem already gave us the formula to get out of galus. When we perfect the middos that got us here, then we will get out. If Eisav’s whole hashkafa is that “I am in the center and everything revolves around me,” then in contrast, our hashkafa is: “Hashem is in the center and we are all equidistant points in the circle around Him.” We just have to make the switch of stepping back into the circle and recognizing that Hashem is in the center.
Two Way Street – Rabbi Moshe Rosenstein
We know that one of the crowning achievements of Klal Yisroel in the Midbar was as they approached Har Sinai. Hashem offered us the Torah and we responded with what is always seen as a tremendous leap of faith – “naaseh vinishma!” Before we even knew what was in store for us, we placed our implicit trust in Hashem that He would know what was best for us and our well-being and future.
What many of us don’t realize is that Hashem actually beat us to it in this respect. It is fascinating to note that the very first mitzvah that all of Klal Yisroel was given together, as a nation, was the mitzvah of “HaChodesh hazeh lachem” – the mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh. What is so significant about this mitzvah? The Daas Zekeinim m’Baalei Tosafos comments (Shmos 12, 2) that with this mitzvah, Hashem placed His implicit trust in us! Beis Din is the one who decides when Rosh Chodesh is, and Hashem and the entire Heavenly Court are “dependent” on the decisions of man. In The mitzvah of Rosh Chodesh, Hashem empowered Klal Yisroel with the ability to be partners with Hashem in the ongoing running of the universe.
How beautiful it is that Hashem gave us the opportunity to return the favor and accept His Torah with blind faith as we accepted our roles as Hashem’s partners officially and eternally with the Bris Torah that we made with Hashem at Har Sinai. May we all merit to feel this partnership with Hashem, and maximize our kochos in working on it, as we accept the Torah this Shavuos with faith and love.
Counting Once Again…But Does it Really Count? – Rabbi Noam Fix, Dean
We are familiar with the routine: work hard cleaning and helping for Pesach, enjoy the chag to varying degrees and then try to remember to count sefiras haomer and see how long you can last. Maybe commit to getting yourself a small reward if you succeed to finish (besides for the obvious spiritual reward that you receive) or if you “break your record!” Sounds familiar…
At some point we begin to ask ourselves does this type of counting “really count?” What is the point or meaning of it anyway? Isn’t it a bit silly to go through the motions when the whole thing seems so devoid of meaning!? It is a question that arises in many areas of our avodas Hashem (or lack there of…). Obviously it is ideal, and one must try, to “tap-in” to the koach of the days and connect to the spiritual elements they possess. But what about when we can’t, or don’t care to…?
One of the main ideas that is accentuated throughout the Haggadah is that Hashem took us out of Egypt even though we were not deserving. One of the main messages of Pesach being: Hashem gives to us, bestows upon us, provides for us even though we are not worthy. His love is unconditional, irrespective of our spiritual standing. Hashem provides for us just because He loves us! That being said, we also find that a staggering 80% of Klal Yisrael did not make it out of Egypt! The reason being that they categorically rejected the idea of leaving. They could not fathom that Hashem would take them out, or they just didn’t care to leave. They did not even express a desire!
I am suggesting that our counting – our routine, devoid of meaning, external act of counting – represents a yearning deep inside which expresses to Hashem that we want a connection. And that is all that is necessary for Hashem to provide us with greatness. That is all that Hashem needs in order to create for us our personal Geulah – to leave our own personal Mitzrayim!
“I want spirituality in my life”, “I would like to have the time and energy to tap-in to these special days, but my life circumstances don’t allow me to! I am too busy with school, dating, marriage, children, familial, emotional, social challenges…I am simply not motivated!”
No matter, Hashem doesn’t need much…
Train yourselves to view any small act as an expression to Hashem of our interest in wanting to stay connected, and that is all that He needs. Taking a second to count the omer, a minute to read this d’var Torah, maybe going to a shiur here or there or having a chavrusa are all small acts that send a message…Leave the window open and that allows Hashem to work His miracles and to provide you with spiritual greatness, even if you are not deserving! Hashem is looking for ways to provide and give us, we just have to make sure the door isn’t closed.
Keep on counting and then “count on Him” that He will provide!