Parashat Hashavua

Portion Shemini – and Incomprehensible Death

Portion Shemini – and Incomprehensible Death 
 
 
Our portion – like many others – teaches rules that are often ignored. It also describes how two of Aron’s four sons died on the day the Tabernacle was dedicated in the desert.

As of today about 31000 Americans have recently died in the throes of the Corona Virus.

Nazis murdered Six million Jewish people along with many others, and millions by Stalin.

We know of the African civil wars and of the Pol Pot murders. Millions. Incomprehensible! Unacceptable!

Why is there so much murder by governments? How does that color our view of today's pandemic?

Hatred is a perverse human emotion. Haters cannot understand love or kindness.

The Torah taught us that Pharoah had children tossed into the river - while HIS DAUGHTER PULLED ONE OUT! Moshe!

Why does the Almighty have to keep reminding us about incomprehensible deaths - and try to teach us about Human Capacity for Kidness?

There is so much hatred in the world. Yet people have stopped praying for the world! Are people "lost in space"? Or just into their "virtual reality"?!

The portion Shemini (meaning 8th)– kabbalistically implying “this portion is BEYOND nature”! 

Does that mean it Is "outside our nature"? I think the opposite - 

THAT THE TORAH SHOWS US  IT IS OUR NATURE TO OVERCOME CRUELTY.

The Portion ends – after describing KOSHER laws, BY SAYING: 

“You must be HOLY; Al Teshaktzu et Nafshoteichem – don’t defile your souls” .

Would that a little holiness might creep back into the world. It could even improve the “Corona-recovery” everyone is waiting for!.

Shabat Shalom and Health and Love ( and SOME HUMOR, Please, this Shabbat)

 

Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

 

Enough washing floors just in case …! Bring on the Matza!

Enough washing floors just in case …!  Bring on the Matza!

When I was a yeshiva student at Mercaz Harav in Jerusalem, I would spend every fourth Shabbat in Hevron – city of our forefathers and mothers. I always stayed with a certain family – father from Brooklyn, mother from Connecticut. We would walk to the Tomb of the Patriarchs to pray Shabbat morning.  (It’s really like a castle, built by Herod, which EVERYONE needs to see.) Chaim let me carry the Uzi when he sometimes allowed me to join the tours he led.

Not long ago I was on a bus in Jerusalem and the Mom was there with daughter number two and a grandchild. I knew it was them behind me because that Connecticut Yankee was saying to her daughter and granddaughter, “You see that guy there in front of us? That’s Chanoch who used to come for Shabbat – and he would always wash the floors in honor of Shabbat while we were preparing for our usual 5-6 guests in our tiny apartment!”

Of course, I turned around and was very happy to catch up with them about things.

So, you see, washing floors and preparing for Pesach or Shabbat leaves an impression in the heavens, and in the hearts of all Yidden! And here, I just finished washing the floors in my “safe house” here in New York.

Thank you S and L for taking me to buy shmura matza what seems like SO LONG AGO – before the total hunker-down-at-home orders! I did all I can do to prepare, had a lot of help from the people here, listened to some Breslav Music – and now can wash the NEW pots and pans I bought, and cook a bit for my alone-but-with-the-Almighty seder.

An hour or so before candle lighting I will hopefully host a “ZOOM – internet - seder” for my little group of Hebrew School students, to get them into a holy spirit. This year they will sing the Four Questions with me - and THEN I will ask them four MORE questions, which I HOPE they will discuss with their parents ...

Then I will put on my Kittel which reminds us this year of so much more than any Yom Kippur, and pray, and Do SEDER.

Chag Samayach – Love and Health and Redemption for ALL! A Zeeseh Paysach!

Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

 

Portion Tzav in an Isolated Tent

Portion Tzav in an Isolated Tent
IN the Beginning of the portion we are still looking at sacrifices while in the middle we switch to consecration of Aron And his Family into the Priesthood - to do not just the bar-b-ques but also the  DOCTOR work - helping to HEAL PLAGUES (see later chapters).
Maybe the consecration of Aron into all those jobs is also a sacrifice!
And like I understood from Rav Sholom Brodt (zatza"l) - that the priests ALSO had to give a little pep-talk, encouragement,- to everyone who came to the Mishkan - the Tabernacle - and later to the Great Temple! 
Think about this - Maybe it is a job ordained in Heaven - But like all outside-ordered situations it may be hard for independent minded individuals! Thus - to do the job, to walk the walk, it comes often at a sacrifice, as difficult as for those who come to the Temple!
So - in the last part of the portion "inauguration of the Israelite Priesthood" - at the end of the ceremony-  we see Aron And his sons get "Put in Solitary"! That's in the last two sentences of the portion- we hear The Final Stage of inauguration/Consecration
 is that they must be Alone  - by the Tent of the Meeting - AND NOT GO OUT! For a Whole Week!
And this is a skill as well as a requirement! AND FOR ALL OF US TO REALIZE AND LEARN IN THESE DIFFICULT TIMES!
 
May we all be strengthened to sit patiently in our tents, ready to serve THE PURPOSES OF THE almighty -
EVEN by sitting (MEDITATING ON THE TENTS OF THE MEETINGS - and communing with the Almighty. 
 
Shabbat Shalom...Health Joy

Portion Vayikra - Joy and Sacrifice and ... the Girls in Paris?

 Portion Vayikra - Joy and Sacrifice and  ... the Girls in Paris?
 
 
The portion teaches about sacrifices – and forgiveness – and transference – and “paying up a spiritual debt” – Korban OLAH  - and PEACE OFFERINGS... etc
 
 
THE PROPHET Amos said in the name of God: “If you offer Me burnt offerings ...– I will not accept them; … But let ... righteousness like a never-ending stream” (Amos 5:21-24). 
 
What is Righteousness?  And What do sacrifices in the Temple have to do with the French girls in the below story?
 
Rabbi in Paris: (I wish - but this was from some years ago)
 
The French Girls in Paris      
 
No. It’s not what you think. 
 
It’s about cookies in a bakery!
 
 
 
How do you connect to others’ souls? And in a foreign city where you don’t speak the language?
 
 
Well, there I was in the Mareille (I don't know if I spelled it right). It’s the traditional Jewish part of Paris.
 
 As usual I had stopped for a break in my travels back and forth between Jerusalem and New York. After “touristing around” on foot, I felt the need for a "nosh". 
 
Vuallah! (Again I’m not sure of the spelling, but it means, “like magic”.) Right there in front of me was a bakery shop (kosher of course).
 
 Time for some French pastries, and maybe a cup of coffee?
 
There was a problem, though. Not that I didn’t have French currency – because the old Boy Scout in me is usually prepared. 
 
But sitting on the step, at the entrance to the shop, were two teenage girls. And they were crying.
 
What do you do? You certainly don't push them aside and walk in. I was also not SURE how to say "Pardon  me" (excuse me) with my horrible American accent,  and go inside.
 
 But in French you CAN say Pahr-Dohn (I think),  and that's what I did. The girls shuffled aside, and kept right on crying.
 
Reb Shlomo used to say "What do I do if I hear my baby crying? I go and pick her up!" No, I did not “pick up” the two girls! 
 
Inside I bought a bunch of cookies, said "Pahr-dohn" again on the way out (the girls were still crying), and  left the store. 
 
Turning around, I presented each of the girls with a little bag of cookies!
 
Is that a sacrifice? I gave them half of my cookies!
 
Or is that righteousness? You can decide - and get back to me.
 
 
This week's CHALLENGE - OIY! To STAY WELL!
 
Rebbe Nachman says - sickness is a response to lack of joy - SO -
 
We All Need to Sing and Dance a  little MORE each day!!!
 
Shabbat Shalom from STATEN ISLAND - not Paris - or Jerusalem (preferably)
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Vayakhel-Pekuday – the Double Whammy or a Double Dip?

Portion Vayakhel-Pekuday – the Double Whammy or a Double Dip?
 
This week's double portion brings us into the World of the Israelite Desert
 
What did they do 40 years in the Sinai? 
 
We were ordered to be centered around our homes and the Tabernacle - so as NOT to suffer TOO much
 
from the doubling-down sins of the Golden Calf and the Spies convincing Israelites NOT to want to be in Israel
 
 
 
So we built a Holy Temple in the Desert - to keep us focused PRESENT AND FUTURE
 
 
 
Our sages tell us it was mainly because we had to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf
 
Some people contributed to building a little golden calf - OIY! So Silly!
 
But EVERYONE kept GIVING to build the little Mishkan – the Tabernacle in the desert
 
They knew they made a GOLDEN MISTAKE – and they knew they had to FIX IT, so
 
EVERYONE gave until Moses had to say ENOUGH!
 
Who doesn’t want MORE and MORE stuff, gold, silver, offerings? G-d!
 
The Almighty tells us EXACTLY what the Temple needs – and it’s ENOUGH - but
 
We Needed - and still need - To be CONNECTED to that Temple EVERY DAY!
 
It's how to make every day SPECIAL –SO  start by saying SHEMA YISRAEL – in the AM and the PM
 
And it is how to make SHABBOS and HOLIDAYS SPECIAL: like
 
JOY ON SHABBOS IS SPECIAL
 
CLEANING FOR PASSOVER IS SPECIAL (yes!)
 
Being part of the Temple Family is special – even if you can’t go because of …well
 
You know, whatever these days ...
 
BUT DON’T FORGET TO STAY CONNECTED –
 
G-d Gave Us Telephones to help get us through!  AND TORAH BOOKS!
 
So be well, follow the GOLDEN rules
 
Stay connected to the Holy Temple and the Almighty
 
And may we all SEE REDEMPTION AND HEALING SOON
 
 
 
Shabbat Shalom
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Tetzaveh - Glorious Clothes, Baby Clothes?

Portion Tetzaveh - Glorious Clothes, Baby Clothes?  
 
 
I was at a Bris this morning and the father spoke about why "the baby wore white"! Like a BRIDEGROOM (they do that in Israel)!
 
So this week's portion is why!  That the child should dress like a priest in the Holy Temple - which is to show:
 
 the Glory of G-d. The WHOLE TEMPLE was for that purpose! All Creation is for that purpose!
 
Okay, so the portion discusses clothes - is that the whole story?
 
This week we ALSO read (at the end) - PORTION ZACHOR - REMEMBER.
 
In this case - we are told to REMEMBER AMALEK - who attacked the Israelites FOR NO REASON!
 
They represent HATRED AND DESTRUCTIVE BEHAVIOR -
 
And the Almighty is forever at war with Amalek, Hatred, and Destroyers!
 
The Temple is ALL ABOUT the OPPOSITE of these!
 
It is about the glory of G-dliness, holiness of children who should emulate the Priesthood that Serves the Almighty.
 
Not Haman, who we are told is a descendent of Amalek.
 
And the Purim story -that proves the Almighty gets things done the Almighty Way -
 
Even if it takes us a while to see it and to emulate it.
 
 
Shabbat Shalom and Good Purim
 
Rabb Andy Eichenholz

Portion Key Tea Sah about golden calves and Shema Yisrael

Portion Key Tea Sah about golden calves and Shema Yisrael
 
 
What
It doesn't have the SHEMA in this portion?
 
My friend zev in Israel Sent me an idea from Kabalist book Marganite d Rav
 
And today we need a little Kabala to get us past the Pestilence!  So
 
Why the letter RESH in this portion is Large
 
And why in the SHEMA it has a Dalet which is Large
 
And From the Beginning of the Torah 
Bereisheet it says not listening to the Almighty  will
Cause the earth to grow only Thorns ... " Koatz v dar dar"?
 
(Dar Dar     has a dalet and a resh )
 
Because the Torah tells us 
 
They didn't listen SHEMA about the golden calf and made it anyway,
And in this portion the Resh is from the sentence warning against idolatry,
And in Bereisheet it reminds us of a thorny end to the golden calf story,
 
And we should all learn to apologize like Moses did in the Parsha!
 
And pray for Deliverance from the thorny Pestilence facing the world today!
 
 
Shabbat Shalom
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz, praying in New York
 

Portion Teruma - . Pray for ... Purim?

Portion Teruma - . Pray for ... Purim?
 
Purim ... and viruses?
 
A number of top Rabbis were at the Westrrn Wall this week praying for corona-victims and for a remedy.
 
Israel has a new diagnostic method and is working on a cure.
 
If we come up with something - will the world care?
 
Is it possible the Corona Virus is here to wake up the whole world to .... stop antisemitism?
 
Knock some sense into Iran?
 
Remind world leaders that we all live on the same planet?
 
Teruma -   this week's portion  - means " Raise up  " ... could it mean Wake Up?
 
Pablo Neruda wrote his poem Levantete (Get Up ) in Chile. Did he like Jews? Did he blame the Jews for his being exiled? Ever read the poem?
 
Terumah.  It talks about building a Holy Sanctuary in the Sinai Desert!
 
Get the point?
 
What really do we need from This World and what from The Next or Other - Spiritual World?
 
Such a long portion and also the next few ... All Dealing with Building a Temple
A Sanctuary ... something that starts in our hearts...not quick but important
 
Our world is a desert with lots of issues...
 
The Torah teaches us to build Holy Sanctuaries.
Noah failed.
Moses succeeded.
 
Got the picture?
 
Shabbat Shalom
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz
 

Portion Mishpatim : A Clash of Ancient Rules and Modern (70's?) Feelings - or Not?

Portion Mishpatim : A Clash of Ancient Rules and Modern (70's?) Feelings - or Not?
 
 
Do we evolve? Does Judaism Evolve? Is Israel as United about our Legal System as we Once Were?
 
And very important:
 
Has "the world" learned ANYTHING from SINAI and from the TORAH of MOSES -?
 
So what if I try to help my neighbours carry groceries up the steps - and their kids are always smiling to me?
 
WHO CARES?
 
Today on Yahoo News the latest medical discovery from Israel was :
 
Bar Ilan University researchers found a way to Test for the CoronaVirus in 15 seconds with lasers - 
instead of the current one hour blood test!!!!!
 
Who else in the world is trying to put the world in perspective?  Every one else is watching the stock market and virus statistics!
 
And Who Cares?  The Torah says WE SHOULD CARE - AND IT WILL GIVE US A SATISFIED FEELING!
 
Mishpatim relates to the rules Moses probably learned on his Sinai trips. 
Do we need to Meditate like Moses to understand what he envisioned?
 
Do we realise that Moses made Israel from a bunch of wild tribes - 
INTO THE PEOPLE THAT ARE THE CONSCIENCE OF THE WORLD (and the greatest healers and scientists of the world).
 
What do SINAI rules have to do with our feelings?  
Maybe most people today make up their own rules and don't think in terms of Biblical Rules? 
 
So how often do you return lost items to people?
 
How often do you try not to damage others - at work, while driving, 
or at parties where you offer drinks to people who need someone to tell them to stop?
 
What about making your workers wait for their pay or reimbursement?
 
The point is - we do not often think of "what is the moral" way in a situation.
 
And most people NEVER think "what would the Torah" way be in a certain situation.
 
Truth is, THINKING is NOT what usually guides our actions-
 
 - AND THAT IS THE POINT! We Act by Gut and Not by GOTT (G-d)!
 
So the Portion gives us direction - AND GIVES US A WAY TO BE HAPPY about our ACTIONS.
 
MAKE YOUR DAY SPECIAL - THINK A LITTLE ABOUT MORAL AND TORAH WAYS TO ACT
 
And it will add value and meaning to your life!
 
Shabbat Shalom
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz

Portion Yitro: Jethro Jews and Justice

Portion Yitro: Jethro Jews and Justice
 
In a nutshell - this week's portion is jam packed with great ideas - and BIG questions!

Jethro the Gentile comes to Moses (at the beginning of the portion)
and the Israelites in the desert - and sets up the Jewish Court System!
(Yesterday in my Maimonides class the lecturer taught about the process of:
SELECTING QUALIFIED JUDGES - a BIG problem here in Israel-
and an interesting concept was Maimonides' "Three Year Probationary Period"!)
 
The Big Jewish Question Is of course : "Is Justice objective or subjective?"
Depends - sadly - on the judge; we all have a LOT to learn from Maimonides,
not just medicine!
 
So the portion ends with "Build me an ALTAR of EARTH (not stones! not cement!). (in the Temple)

Down to Earth - not egocentric! And So:

For one thing the Mizbayach ... the altar   ....  symbolizes PEACE on High and on EARTH.
Elsewhere the Torah relates the altar to JUDGMENT -
and the High Court sat in a chamber  near the Altar!
 
SO - Which is the Basic Functionality?  Peace here on earth - or Almighty (strict) Justice?


The First Rule in Jewish Law - which Jethro the Judge (in Midian) did NOT get into

is Arbitration to Make Peace after listening to both sides.  You need to be a wise and a fair judge to do that!

Let's Pray on that this Shabbat - and may we see that more often than not!
 
 
Shabbat Shalom
 
Rabbi Andy Eichenholz