Friday, January 15, 2010

Va'Eira - Guest Post By Kovi Fleischmann

Be All That You Can Be

When the Torah speaks of the tasks of Moshe and Aharon the pasuk first states Aharon’s name before Moshe’s, and then in the next pasuk states Moshe’s name first and then Aharon's. Rashi explains that sometimes the Torah mentions Moshe first and sometimes mentions Aharon first to teach that the two of them are equal.

The Brisker Rav sharpens Rashi's point by noting the context in which each name was stated first. When saying that Hashem spoke to the two of them, which was Moshe’s domain (as he was the only one who spoke face to face to Hashem), Aharon’s name is stated first. When saying that they spoke to Pharaoh, Aharon’s domain (as he was the one who spoke to Pharaoh and not Moshe), Moshe’s name is mentioned first. The fact that each one gets precedent in the area which was not his strength proves that they are equal.

How could it be that Moshe and Aharon were equal? Granted, Aharon was a tremendous tzaddik and the first Kohen Gadol, but how could he be compared to the master of all nevi'im, the man who spoke to Hashem face to face and went to shamayim to receive the Torah? Surely, Moshe Rabeinu is on a level of his own!

Rav Moshe Feinstein, in his Darash Moshe, explains that success is not measured by accomplishments, but rather by the person’s success in fulfilling the tasks that Hashem equipped him for in this world. Every person is given a unique ability and a specific tafkid -mission that he is set out to accomplish. Some are given tremendous abilities and expected to achieve a great deal, while others are given lesser abilities and have correspondingly smaller tasks. Every person’s responsibility, however, is identical, to use the skills he has to the fullest.

It is true that Aharon was not Moshe, but he was not supposed to be, as he was not given the gifts and tasks that Moshe was endowed with. He was, however, extremely successful in utilizing his G-d given abilities to accomplish the tasks set for him in the world, just as Moshe was. In this way, he was exactly equal to Moshe. Furthermore, any person who utilizes his abilities in this world is also as great as Aharon and Moshe.

The Gemrara (Bava Basra 10b) relates that Yosef the son of R’ Yehoshua was very ill and his soul left his body, and then returned. His father asked him, "What did you see in your glimpse of the next world?" He replied “Olam hafuch raetei…” - "I saw an upside-down world where great ones were below and low ones we above." His father responded “Olam barur raeta,”- "You saw a world of clarity, for this is the truth."

The simple level of learning this Gemara is that R' Yosef saw a world in which the kings and powerful people were at a low level. He was surprised at their lack of status in the next world so his father explained that these lofty positions have little standing in the next world. Rav Moshe is unsatisfied with this interpretation. Surely, he asks; R' Yosef knew that the power in this world is meaningless in the next world! Why then, would he describe the situation he saw as upside down?

Rav Moshe Feinstein explains that R' Yosef, in fact, saw great, learned people in positions of lesser prominence than more simple Jews, and it was this that he could not understand. His father explained to him that these simple Jews were given much honor, and were deserving of this honor because they were people who used their G-d given abilities to achieve the portions that Hashem set out for them. They fulfilled their missions.

The learned sages, continued R’ Yehoshua, had certainly accomplished a great deal, but they could have accomplished even more. They left a greater percentage of their potential unfulfilled, and were subsequently given a lesser status in the next world. This is the way of Hashem’s judgment. Not everyone is set out to be the Gadol Hador, but if one figures out what his unique abilities are and use them to the fullest to complete his tafkid, he will be zocheh to a prominent place in Olam Habah.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Shmot - May This Learning of Torah Be In The Merit Of My Mother, Freida Mariam Bat Binyamin Maneleh of Blessed Memory

Guest Post By My Student Miles Bronstein

Parshat Shemot contains some of the most renowned stories of the Torah such as Moshe and the burning bush, and the start of the Passover story.

I have chosen a seemingly minuscule point that relates to life in school and to all other aspects of life. In Shemot 1:7 the Torah says “The Children of Israel were fruitful, and increased abundantly and became strong- and the land became filled with them.” The midrash tells a story in relation to this pasuk from which we can learn a great deal.

Once Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi was giving a lecture and noticed that his students had stopped paying attention to him and were even dozing off. To recapture their attention he said that a woman in Egypt bore six hundred thousand children in just one birth. As soon as he said this one of his students (Rabbi Yishmial) inquired how that could have been possible. Rabbi Yehudah answered that he was referring to Yocheved who was said to be equivalent to six hundred thousand children.

Why did Rabbi Yehudah use this story to recapture the students’ concentration? To answer the question we must realize that Rabbi Yehudah was born fifty years after the destruction of the second Temple and was the leader of the fourth generation after the obliteration. At this time the Roman government demoralized the Jews, resulting in a loss of faith in G-d and a loss of hope in redemption.

Rabbi Yehudah realized that the reason that his students - and the larger community - had lost attention to his lecture and what it represented was because they were feeling that there might not be redemption and they would stay in exile forever. They had lost hope in Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi’s Torah and more-so they lost hope in moshiach.

Rabbi Yehudah mentions how Yocheved gave birth to Moshe who would eventually bring six hundred thousand children of Israel out of Egypt. Rabbi Yehudah uses this anecdote to give hope to the Jewish people and to send the message to always believe. Just like in class a student might not feel the need to take notes or pay attention, or simply drift off, you still should not give up. In order to prevail you cannot let go of hope, confidence or belief. Just because you missed fifteen minutes of class you can shoot back instantly and learn something.

Moshe and the redemption he heralded appeared in the blink of an eye to save the Jewish People at a time when they had almost given up. . Similarly, if you don’t do so well on a test you should not give up or lose self confidence, you should keep trying. The Jewish People still believe in G-d and await His redemption despite the Holocaust, destruction of the Temples, Israeli conflict, and financial crises.

If it was not for the Jewish People’s perseverance and even more-so their belief in G- d we would not be here today as the oldest living nation. This lesson was conveyed by way of a seemingly ludicrous statement of Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi. He gained his students’ attention and then inspired them and filled them with faith and hope. Our teacher’s also use humor and dramatic effects to get us to listen, learn, and live inspired lives. I hope you take to heart my points and utilize them in your daily life! Shabbat Shalom!