Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Keeping the mitzvot, even just one.

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Many religious Jews will criticize Chabad for putting tefillin on Jews that "could never appreciate the value of the mitzvah, understand it, or lack the proper intent". It is easy to criticize something when you are doing nothing. We are commanded to put on tefillin today, just as we were yesterday, and tomorrow, and on the third Wednesday of August in the year 2064. Each mitzvot just like each day is independent of itself. You can not rely on your good deeds of yesterday today and except G-d to continue to bless you because six months ago you gave a more than generous amount of tzedakah or three years ago you finished learning the whole Gemara. Non Chasidic Jews are quick to jump on Chasidim which is more so targeted at Lubavitchers for exposing Torah and Mitzvot to the simple Jews. They claim that you must have intent and understanding of mitzvot to perform them properly. Now I agree, perfect intent and full understanding of the mitzvot makes Ribono Shel Olam so very happy. However that is not the main purpose to my understanding of why we have the mitzvot and why we perform them.
Parshas Mishpatim is chalk full of laws, and most of these laws, unlike Chukim are rational. You are responsible for damages from your animals, proper conduct with slaves, things that any moral community could at some point come up with. As compared to the Chukim like eating matzoh or the use of a red heifer which no one could ever think of period. The Sfas Emes, the 2nd Rebbe of Ger exposed a non-pshat aspect of Torah that along with the help of the mussar text Yalkut Yosef helped me understand the concept of Mitzvot.

Exodus 24: (7) Then he took the record
of the covenant and read it aloud to the people.
And they said, “All that the LORD has spoken
we will do and we will hear!”

don't study Torah and perform Mitzvot for a deeper understanding of life. We do it BECAUSE HAKODESH BARUCH HU SAID SO! sorry for the caps. I wanted that to stick out. When we do what G-d has said, then by default he blesses us with a deeper understanding of his Torah and Mitzvot. The Torah says this, Chazel says this, and all the great commentators say this. At what point did we forget this and decide since we (and by we i mean them) know more Torah than the simple Jew that not only do they not deserve the knowledge but its not our job to give it. Imagine if Moses had that attitude, especially after the golden calf.
If you put on
tefillin today and say Shema you have performed those two mitzvot. It doesn't matter if you did it yesterday, or if you have plans to do it tomorrow. The Torah is in the now and here and isn't dependent on the there and before. Thank G-d that the Lubavitcher Rebbe O.B.M. brought the beautiful mitzvah of tefillin to the common unlearned Jews. Nowhere in the Torah written or oral does it say "It is a mitzvah to put on tefillin (only if you are a Talmud Chachum)" and if it does will someone please point it out to me.
I'm not a Talmud Chachum or anything but a humble little chasid desperate for Emes. I make mistakes and understand thing wrong and pray that G-d can give me clarity and insight. I do know one thing though every weekday B"H I put on tefillin. Before this i declare that I'm performing the mitzvah tefillin "for the sake of G-d" not because I have some deep understand thanks to R' Areya Kaplan's book Tefillin that I read, or to get points up in Olam Habah. Simply because G-d said so and that is a good enough reason for me.

I'll leave you with a story....

Once R' Yaakov Yitzhak the Seer of Lublin was learning with his brother R' Pinchas Horowitz. The Seer's shammas kept interrupting him and whispering something in his ear. Finally his brother with irritation and almost anger said, "My dear brother Yaakov how can you let your shammas interrupt you during your Torah study, does he not know how valuable your time is?! It shouldn't be wasted on anything but the study of Torah! The Chozeh of Lublin responded " My dear brother when I study Torah I get so involved in what I am learning that I have my shammas whisper into my ear "There is a Ribbono Shel Olam" so I do not forget.

You see here, sometimes we get so involved in Torah study and the deep Mamash deep as Reb Shlomo would say that we forget the whole reason why we are studying the Torah. For the sake of G-d, thats why. Even studying Torah can be a form of Avodah Zara so always keep in mind for whom we stand before, HaKodesh Baruch Hu.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

When the Aish goes out.

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I'll never forget the moment I knew without question that my life was controlled not by chance, or luck, or by the traffic on the freeway, but in fact by HaKodesh Baruch Hu. I know most people haave amazing stories of returning to Judaism, but mine began with an 80mph impact into a wall on Shabbos leaving me without one scratch or even a sore muscle. The only greater miracle in my mind at that point was the Yam Sof itself. When i first heard the term "Burning Out", it made sense for frum since birther's since most of the time they are forced into the daily routine without much understanding or connection to Hashem. I don't understand how a Baal Teshuva, a "Master of Return" could burn out. You just experienced the moment that made you realize that up to this point you had been living a lie and were ready to submit to G-d and repent and mend your ways. How could you go back? How could you then go on and deny G-d again? There is a question "When does a Baal Teshuva because Frum?" The real question is when does a searching soul really because a Baal Teshuva. This name is something sacred reserved for people that sacrifice everything for the sake of G-d! When you started keeping shabbos for a month, you aren't a Baal Teshuva, or when you keep kosher for six months. So the question at hand isn't really how do Baal Teshuvas burn out, its why do these souls begin a journey and end it so quickly. It revolves around becoming an observant Jew for the wrong reasons. Becoming religious for a significant other is the worst. When you see people end a relationship and girl is back to dressing not tznius out at clubs trying to meet guys. The guys are at that same club with their yarmulkes off trying to meet non religious girls. Its a hard thing to attempt but a lot of this wouldn't happen if religious people learned to be Shomer Negiah. Easier said than done, its something I have struggled with on my journey. I don't think I'm holy or on some other level that I have a right to cast judgment upon fellow Yidden I just think its sad that someone would work so hard and believe me it is VERY hard to be religious just to give it up once a significant other isn't in their life. Putting a person above G-d is the worse thing you can do. I really pray for all those yidden off the derech to come back please. Hashem needs your prayers and your love.

* Note: These posts are not meant to inflate my Ego and show how religious I am. My hope is that people will read this and provide answers to questions that I myself cannot answer.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Learn it for yourself

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I haven't written much since I made this blog, but now I finally have something to write, and it disturbs me more than ever.

Its an infection in the Baal Teshuva Movement. I never thought it was a real problem until I was labeled as acting like a "born again Christian". Besides the fact that I almost threw up after reading it what makes it even more INSANE is the context in which I was insulted.

It doesn't matter what the disagreement was about, because that in itself is worthy of its own Blog and its such a beat the dead horse topic its not even worth mentioning. However the claim that was disputed lead to some exchanging of words.

This Yid told me that his Rabbi made a certain statement about a certain tractate of Gemara. Now I am no one special and will agree 100% that this Rabbi who is only twenty six knows myriads more than myself, yet that does not make him a posek or a ruler on any difficult halachic questions without first consulting his own Rabbi. Or at least i hope.

I told this person that this certain folio was one of the most misunderstood tractates and he should at least look at it himself and learn it with someone. No, his Rabbi says this is how it is so there is no point in learning it and my quote unquote "Quest for Truth" gives him Born Again Christian vibes. Now i know he just said that because I backed him into a corner and his last ditch effort was to insult me to keepsake his own Ego but with all this aside a bigger question must be answered.

What are those Yid doing in that picture up there ???

What type of Orthodox sect promotes learning through Rabbi's and not learning WITH Rabbi's through text?

Ive been to yeshiva for a small time period, and the same one in fact that this person attended and i was pretty sure everyday for a good 4 1/2 hours was an intensive Gemara class.

If anything, the "listen to your spiritual leader instead of reading the text yourself" is a staple of practicing Christians.

I'm not losing sleep on the insult, and I'm not sure if I've lost a friend either, but it bothers me that some Baal Teshuvas think they have maxed their learning and are content with just keeping shabbos and mitvos. This Yid told me that the whole time i was researching the issue i brought to him, "Think of how much Torah i could have been studying" I was so confused because i was learning Gemara almost the whole time. But who am I to tell people that that in itself isn't an amazing thing that brings joy tho HaKodesh Barochu? I'm no one. I'm a humble Yid with the Torah knowledge of a 10 year old chasid from pre world war II and I hate Galus.

Get me out of here Moshiach