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March 05 Kosherpages launches 

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Do you have a Dvar Torah you would like to share on KosherPages?

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Lech Lecha

Tuesday, 16th October 2018

The first Posuk (verse) in this weeks sedra (Torah portion) starts with Hashem (G-d) telling Avram (Abraham) to leave his homeland, his neighbours and his father's house. Hashem then says "I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you, and I will make your name famous, and be a blessing." What is the BIG test??

If Hashem came to you and said leave London, leave Golders Green and leave your home and go to Israel and I will make you wealthy and famous worldwide, would you not go??

The commentaries say that the test was whether or not Avram would go for the reward or go because Hashem wanted him to go.

That is why it such an enormous test. With all that reward staring you in the face its extremely hard to go “because Hashem told you to go” and not think about the reward. Similarly we know that some of the mitzvos (commandments) we perform, carry with them a reward. There are certain mitzvos that guarantee Olam Haba (Heaven in the next world) if we perform them, Kibud Av v'Em (Honouring one’s parents) and Talmud (the study of) Torah etc. It is up to us to see beyond the reward and do them because G-d wants us to instead of doing them because we know the reward!!

And that is the message we see in Pirkei Avos 1:3 "Antignus...used to say don't be like servants who are serving their master in order to receive reward, rather they should be like servants that serve their master not on condition of receiving reward"

Noach

Thursday, 11th October 2018

 

 

We are told of how Noach (Noah) emerged from the Ark and brought sacrifices to G-d. Then Noach set out to plant a vineyard. From its grapes he made wine, drank and became drunk. He was found by his son Chom (Ham) in his tent, undressed, and in an embarassing state. Instead of taking action, Cham left Noach in his drunken state and reported the incident to his brothers, Shem, and Yefes. Shem and Yefes immediately set out to cover their father and minimize his embarrassment. They took a blanket, and walking backwards they draped the blanket over their father without staring at him in his low state. When Noach awoke, and found out what happened, he blessed Shem and Yefes, and cursed the descendants of Chom. (See Genesis 9:18-29)

The lesson and and focus of this story is what Shem and Yefes did. Unlike Chom who publicized the shame of his father, Shem and Yefes sought to hide it. Shem and Yefes showed their father consideration, and attempted to restore his dignity.

In the book "Reaching the Stars" by Ruchoma Shain, the following story is told:

Mrs. Shain was a general studies teacher in a Jewish school, teaching 1st grade. There was a child named Ruthie in her class whose parents were immigrants from Hungary. Ruthie's father, a bricklayer, had fallen off of a scaffold and injured his spine. He was confined to a wheelchair. Her mother with the burden of caring for the family singlehandedly, suffered a breakdown and was hospitalized. The children were shunted between relatives and friend, their lives falling apart in front of them. This young child, suffering and confused, came to school every day, but never spoke a word. Every attempt to coax the child out of her shell met with failure. Toward the spring Ruthie still had not uttered a word in class. During a game, the children were sitting on the floor near the radiator. Mrs. Shain noticed a puddle growing under Ruthie, and she knew what would happen to Ruthie if the other girls became aware that she had had an accident. The embarrassment would be a death blow to the child. The children were absorbed in their game and had not yet discovered what had occured. Mrs. Shain rapped on her desk with her ruler, and got everyone back to their seats. "The radiator is leaking badly and causing a puddle on the floor, and so you should get ready for dismissal." Mrs Shain never lied to her students, but in this case she made an exception. Another few minutes and the children were gone. The door opened and there stood Ruthie. "Uh... Uh... Mrs. Shain," she whispered. Those were her only words. Then Ruthie took Mrs Shain's hand, kissed it, and fled from the room.

The student of Torah takes an important lesson from the events of this week's parsha (portion). We must always try to understand others; not to seek their faults, and to try to bring out the good which is in everyone. When the opportunity presents itself, we should even try to prevent others from becoming aware of other's mistakes, shortcomings, and personality flaws.

 

Bereishit

Wednesday, 3rd October 2018

“And dust shall you eat all the days of your life” (3:14)

Dust is readily available, so this seems to be more like a blessing than a curse. However, in truth a trouble-free existence is not the type of life Hashem intends for us.

Rabbi Sternbuch recalls a bochur (young student) asked the Rosh Yeshiva (Dean), Rabbi Schneider, for a brocho (blessing) before his wedding. Rabbi Schneider asked him what blessing he wanted, and the young man replied: “that everything should go smoothly in life”.  Rabbi Schneider responded that that was no brocho, and he blessed him instead that when he would be faced with difficulties, he would overcome them successfully.

Something attained effortlessly has little value, and it is only by surmounting difficulties that a person becomes elevated and realizes his potential.

A Dvar Torah by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Thursday, 27th September 2018

 

A Dvar Torah by Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis

Click here to watch the video

Sukkot

Thursday, 20th September 2018

We have special brochos (blessings) for so many mitzvos(commandments), why not for building a sukkah? The Classic Commentaries bring a multitude of answers to this question.

The Imrei Shaul tells us that the brocho (blessing) is actually hinted at in the very mitzvah itself. For when one builds a "complete" sukkah, it is composed of four walls (d'fanos - singular dofan) with s'chach (material used as a roof for a sukkah) on top. If one adds up the numerical value (gematriya) of the Hebrew word dofen (singular for wall), multiply it by four, and then add the gematriya of the word s'chach, one comes up with the same gematriya as the words "Baruch Atah Hashem" [ a total of 660]. The brocho is hidden in the very sukkah itself!

Yom Kippur

Thursday, 13th September 2018

Yom Kippur seems to have two contradictory natures to it. On the one hand there are five afflictions prescribed on Yom Kippur, but on the other hand the gemarra (Talmud) calls it one of the two happiest days in the year, and some learn that there is a mitzvah (commandment) of simchas ha’chag (festive joy) even on Yom Kippur. How can one balance simcha (joy) and affliction? 

The idea seems to be that both the simcha and the affliction stem from the same point here. As the gemarra says, the simcha of Yom Kippur is due to the fact that it is the day when we cleanse ourselves of sin, as well as the fact that this is the day we received the second set of luchos (tablets). Likewise, the five afflictions are aimed at removing ourselves from the contaminating distractions of the physical world (distractions which take us away from our real selves) and allow us to focus on the spiritual nature of the day - thus facilitating our Teshuva (repentance). So, the simcha and the affliction are not contradictory at all - on the contrary, they stem from the same point; atonement and purity.

Nitzavim/ Rosh Hashona

Thursday, 6th September 2018

In this week's portion, we read the following verses:

"For this commandment that I command you today, it is not hidden from you and it is not distant. It is not in the heavens, where one could say 'Who can possibly go up to the heavens for us and take it for us, then we'll hear and perform it!?' Nor is it across the sea, where one could say "Who can cross to the other side of the sea for us and take it for us, and then we'll hear it, and perform it!?" Rather, the Torah is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to perform it." (Devarim 30:11-1)

These verses have great meaning to us, especially at this time of year, leading up to Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Hashem (G-d) tells us that teshuva (repentance) is not impossible. It might seem impossible, and just simply too difficult for us to do, but it's not! The Torah is always within arms reach. It's very close by.

A comforting message. But is it true? Teshuva is very, very hard. Imagine a person who doesn't keep any mitzvos at all. Is it an easy thing for them to change their lives around and live a Torah observant life? Of course not! It's the hardest thing in the world! So what do these verses mean?

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter writes that people make a classic mistake around this time of year. We go to shul (synagogue) Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, and we get inspired. That's not a mistake! It's good to be inspired. The problem is we become so inspired and regretful of our previous mistakes that we decide to change.... Completely! We want to really impress Hashem and be blessed with a good year, so we guarantee Him big changes this year. BIG changes.

And here lies the mistake. Because big changes take an incredible amount of strength to stick to, and more often than not, a few weeks after Yom Kippur, maybe even less, those big changes have disappeared out the window of all the temptations the outside world sticks in front of us, and we are back to our pre-Yom Kippur selves. Unchanged.

When this happens year after year we never get anywhere! So Rabbi Yisrael Salanter tells us that we should be doing teshuva differently. We have to focus on the small things. Things that are within our reach. Things that we know we will be able to stick to. And now we can understand how Hashem tells us in the weeks Torah portion not to worry, because teshuva is not so hard, and the Torah is never out of reach. Because Hashem Himself doesn't want us to bite off more than we can chew. The Torah itself speaks to each of us where we are and tells us to take that one step forward. That's not too hard. That's not out of reach. It's not way up in the heavens and it's not across the sea. It's right at your doorstep.

Ki Savo

Thursday, 30th August 2018

Firstly, what is all this about? Does G-d really want our fruits?

The farmer has toiled all year on the field by the sweat of his brow to produce this fruit. The culmination of hours of time and effort, he has finally reached the time when he can enjoy the fruits (pun intended) of his labour, the moment he has been waiting for all year and of course he has a tremendous desire to pick it and eat it there and then. What is the first thing he does? He immediatly designates it to G-d. Even though this fruit does not have any intrinsic worth to G-d, He wants us to give it to him. This is the ultimate in self sacrifice and service to G-d, it was noy the farmers' fruits that he wanted.
 
Secondly, the verse states "VeSamto Bateneh" - "You shall place the Bikkurim - first fruits - in a basket". What is the significance of the baskets? Isn't it the giving away of the first and best fruits that is the proof of the farmers' self sacrifice and the important factor?
 
The answer is so as not to embarrass the poor.

Our Sages tell us that the wealthy people would bring their Bikkurim in golden baskets, the Kohanim - Priests - would remove the fruits and return the baskets to them, as opposed to the poor who would bring it in wicker baskets which the Kohanim kept along with the fruit. Why did the Kohanim return the baskets to the wealthy who did not need their baskets, and keep the poor man's basket?

The Commentaries explain, this was in order not to shame the poor. The wealthy gave expensive, beautiful fruit. Even when not in the golden basket the fruit looked impressive. Therefore the Kohanim returned the baskets to them. On the other hand, the poor gave lower quality fruit. If the fruit would have been removed from the basket, the poor man would be embarrassed. Therefore the Kohanim kept their fruit and the baskets. Hence the reason for bringing the fruit in the baskets
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 

Ki Seitzei

Thursday, 23rd August 2018

 

 Parshas Ki Seitzei introduces us to the heart-warming but puzzling mitzvah of sending away the mother bird: “When a bird’s nest happens to be before you on the road…You shall surely send away the mother and take the young for yourself, so that it will be good for you and will prolong your days.” (22:6-7).

 

By sending away the mother bird before removing the baby birds, the Torah is teaching us to be compassionate. The reward for this, the pasuk (verse) tells us, is long life. Interestingly, the Torah tells us that this is also the reward for honouring your parents. What is the connection between these two mitzvos (commandments) that the pasuk specifically mentions that a person receives the same reward for each of them?

Rashi here gives an answer: “If for an easy mitzvah which is not expensive, the Torah said ‘It will be good for you and will prolong your days’, all the more so is the reward for a hard mitzvah”.

 

The Kli Yakar wants to connect the two mitzvos intrinsically. The pasuk says that doing the mitzvah of Honouring Your Parents will be good for you. What exactly is the good that you get besides for the reward of long life? He explains, how do children learn to respect their parents? From seeing their parents respecting their own parents. So we see that the good that will come from you honouring your parents is that in turn your kids will honour you. The pasuk here by sending away the mother bird, gives parents another opportunity to teach their kids to respect them. When the kids see how their parents respect and are sensitive to the needs of animal parents, they will learn to be respectful of their own parents, causing good to come to you as a result of this mitzvah!

Shoftim

Thursday, 16th August 2018

The Posuk (verse) in this weeks Torah portion states: "Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue so that you will live and take possession of the land that Hashem (G-d), your G-d, gives you." Why does it need to say righteousness twice? We see often in the Torah that words are used to emphasise a point G-d is trying to get across! Being Righteous isn't enough in Hashem's eyes, one must be righteous and pursue righteousness!
 
A man has a favourite TV program, he prepares to sit down and watch. He prepares the perfect cup of tea or cold beer, he gets the TV to the perfect volume, he adjusts his chair to the perfect reclining position and he is ready to watch.
 
A few minutes into the program, it is interrupted with a commercial showing a thin black child in Africa, "This child like many others is starving day in day out and needs your help" reads the caption. "£2 per month is all we need!" 
The man feels sick with guilt but decides to do nothing about it. Day after day he gets the same guilt feeling when he sees the adverts and posters so decides to so something about it and gives the £2 per month! This is being righteous; he is fulfilling a mitzvah of giving charity after all.
 
However another story may help you understand the difference between being righteousness and pursuing righteousness.

A very wealthy man decides one day that he is bored of making his millions he wants to really change the world, he decides to take a year out to the African desert to help feed and educate hundreds of kids in a tiny village in Ethiopia, he invests hundreds and thousands of pounds to build schools and teach kids and to buy irrigation systems that will help grow crops that will feed the families in the village for years to come. Not only did he invest the money, he personally went there and invested time and effort to helping the cause of others. This is the difference between being righteous - ie doing the right thing - and pursuing righteousness.

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