One of a Kind

Posted by Dovid Boruch Kopel
November 15, 2008 - י"ח מרחשון ה' תשס"ט
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Chashivus HaAdam Series
This entry is part 1 of 2 in the series Chashivus HaAdam

If you were to walk into a room and see a desk before you, what would you think? Probably nothing. If someone next to you remarked that this desk was a one of a kind hand crafted desk that was made for President George Washington and is worth a considerable fortune, there is no doubt that it would interest you more than a normal desk. If I asked you what was the inspiration of the carpenter who built this desk, you would probably say that it was a tremendous privilege to have the first President use your desk. Its almost a piece of history. Perhaps he didn’t think that. Perhaps he didn’t even know who the desk was being made for and he just sold it to the greatest bidder. What is the advantage of having a desk made just for you? It is not something that people are very particular about its details. Though it is clearly more dear to you when you know from start to finish this desk was made with you in mind. That means from the chopping of the tree to the finishing touches the desk was made for you. On the other hand if a desk had every single inch the way you wanted from the size and drawers to the wood and patterns, would you honestly want the other one made for you that has absolutely nothing but the thought behind it?

This great world that we have is one of a kind hand crafted by the greatest of builders. No sky-scraper or landscape painting can compare to the natural wonders made by the Almighty in six awesome days. Take a step back and look at it. The World and everything in it is all for you; not just your home and your car but the whole world is for you. We see this desk; knowing it is made just for us, and regardless of that we think it is right off the assembly line like every other desk. Not only do I not like my desk, but I like another better. It is more this and more that. We have the greatest gifts before us but we take the box and play with it like a child, not realizing the mistakes that we are making with all that we have in front of us if we dug a little deeper. As the Chazal[1] say “kol echad v’echad chyiiv lomar b’shvili nivra ha’olam” (Everyone is obligated to say for me the World was created), this is one of the foundations of our emunah that not only is everything in the world made specially for me but I am the reason that the world was created. You may ask the question how is that possible that the whole World can be created just for me if its also created just for everyone else? Obviously Chazal intended that as well by saying kol echad v’echad (each and every), therefore it is clear that my existence is as crucial for your existence as is my own existence. That means just as my Life depends upon trees and animals and all that makes up the World, so too every person is needed for a task. Look at an army, they have generals, and captains and short-range soldiers and cooks and so on. All these jobs are needed and one cannot replace the other. This is each one of us. The world we live in needs us as much as we need it, but overall we are all here for a purpose beyond our own simple lives.

The desk from before is not only the lives that we have but the world as a whole. We see a single picture drawn in front of us but in reality there was a thought before the creation. The World is the desk and the truth is that we know that it was created for us, however as much we know about the desk we only know that the intention was to create a desk. We know this desk is custom-made for us and is the best for us in all ways, but there are crevices and subtleties that only the Creator knows. How are we expected to truly appreciate such a special desk if we don’t know all that it offers? As time progresses we will realize more than we knew before but we will never fully appreciate this gift, and that is an important thing. If we think that we can understand everything we will spend our time trying to figure it all out, though if we accept that there is no end to the details we can appreciate everything that we see, as well as that which we don’t see. We can see the truly spectacular crafted work daily. Don’t lose sight of how great it is by getting caught up with the things that we can’t see.

  1. Sanhedrin, 37a []

Hashkafah, Machshuvah , ,

Boruch Elokaynu Shebaranu L’Chvodo

Posted by Dovid Boruch Kopel
November 20, 2008 - כ"ג מרחשון ה' תשס"ט
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Chashivus HaAdam Series
This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Chashivus HaAdam

We say everyday in our tefillos:

ברוך אלקינו שבראנו לכבודו והבדילנו מן התועים ונתן לנו תורת אמת וחיי עולם נטע בתוכינו. הוא יפתח לבנו בתורתו וישם בלבנו אהבתו ויראתו ולעשות רצונו ולעבדו בלבב שלם למען לא ניגע לריק ולא נלד לבהלה.

Since this is at the end of davenning it somehow gets caught being between Ashrai and Aleinu not given the proper attention it deserves. This is of course our fault not because of the order of the davenning. I don’t want to get too far off topic I would like to take this opportunity to turn our davenning up on notch.

Our tefillos were established in place of the Korban Tamid that was brought everyday as a protection to Klal Yisroel. Our tefillos were instituted in a way to allow us to represent ourselves in the sacrifices place. This is evident in our prayers, as they must be with complete devotion and must be performed in a certain way. The general concept of tefillah has many different parts to it but our tefillos are performed with three steps Shevach, Bekashah and, Hodah (Praise, Request, and Acknowledgement). This is as the great Chazal explain our entrance into the palace of the Almighty. First we walk in and prostrate ourselves to the greatness of Hashem[1] then we ask for all of our needs[2] then we acknowledge all the good that we have been given. It is this path of going up and back down that is also associated with the Karbonos. We don’t just give a sacrifice, you must go from chamber to chamber of the Beis HaMikdash going from one level to the next. The Siddur HaYavitz[3] writes in his explanation of the tefillos that the procession of our tefillos go from one level to the next starting with Brachos going to Psukai D’zimrah going to Yishtabach and so on. We are raising ourselves to levels of kedushah as we finally enter the Kodesh HaKudushim the Shemonah Esrai which is the actual tefillah. I have already gone off on a tangent and will explain this at another time I just want to conclude this point by saying that the end of the davenning is the procession as we leave the palace of the Almighty. Is it not prohibited to take large steps away from a Beis Kenesis[4]!? Then the way we leave our davenning also must be with care and kedushah.

Now that we can focus a little about the chashivus of our davenning from beginning until its conclusion maybe we can see the great lessons that we can learn from this. To give a loose translation of the test which is found after Ashrai at the end of Uva-L’tzion, Praised our Lord for he created us with honor and separated us from the wandering and gave us the Torah (in its written form) that has been instilled in our lives. He should opens our hearts with his Torah and puts on our hearts with his love and trepidation and to do the will of the Almighty wholeheartedly which is my we haven’t been affected by emptiness and out-poured into utter panic. This will be explained much clearer,but we have to start somewhere.

Boruch is very simply translated as “Praise” a similar word, however the Nefesh HaChaim points out that the Almighty doesn’t need our brachos in any way. If that is so, we come back to stage one why do we have brachos why do we have tefillah good, if this still bother you try looking here. We must say a brachah as a tool to praise the Almighty so he can give us a brachah (in that connotation it means the effect of the brachah as opposed to the words). This brachah is to acknowledge the greatness that we have been given called a Birchas Hodah. Unlike what we may think, the nature of the brachos are pure, the Shevach (Compliment) is unusual to us, as if a person is asking for something. So to a person will thank you for all you have done for them, right away we are wondering if there is something else I can do for this person as they have just reminded me of all the great deeds I have done to them. The tefillah is pure, it is the utmost praise and acknowledgement by not mixing them together. Therefore this brachah is not asking for continued salvation, rather it is the pure simcha of the realization of all that we have from Hashem.

What do we have? What is it that we are praising Hashem for day after day? That we were created for respect. Who’s respect? His respect. This is incredible we are praising Hashem for creating us little creatures of nothingness, we have no existence with him and what do we thank him for creating us to respect him!? This is so magnificent I cannot sit down while I write this, that all that we are here for is to provide the greatest kavod to  the Almighty! That is our essence and our goal in this world to provide Kavod Shaim Shemyaim. But why are we so happy about it!? Not only because of what it enables us to do in respect to the alternative lifestyle, rather because we were created with such a greatness that our lives are to provide kavod to the Almighty! We are the agents of the kavod of the Master of the Universe, he comes to us to spread his name around the world. How do we respond to this responsibility? With a brachah, a brachah for the source of our existence, that which gave purpose to our lives, that should make you feel like you are most special being in the world. Know, its true. This obligation makes us the reason for our existence and the reason for why there is an existence at all, to spread the kavod of Almighty.

The glorification of Hashem is both the foundation of our existence but also the reward. The difference between Torah V’Mitzvos more than anything is that by all other actions are motivated by its result. By Torah the action is the result! The spiritual growth that you go through in doing your holy duties are the most precious treasure that we have. This great reward is what gives us direction in our lives and separates us from all those who wander lost looking for some purpose in their lives. It is the nature of Man more than anything else to have a purpose and see its fruition. Whatever he finds to satisfy this seeking will be embrace with all his abilities. When he finds something more suitable or an expected difficulty he will suddenly drop everything and leap towards his newly discovered passion. It is the Torah that Hashem gave us והבדילנו מן התועים ונתן לנו תורה אמת חיי עולם נטע בתוכינו that has instilled our people for generations, nothing else. This is encapsulated by the statement of Rebbe Akiva[5] that a Jew without Torah is like a fish out of water, it cannot survive.

The last part of this tefillah is by asking for aid in our observance of Torah. Please open our hearts to the Torah, both through ahavah and yirah. Then we will be able to serve Hashem completely. The words בלבב שלם literally means with a full heart, however the double beis has an added meaning. Chazal tell us in the pasuk in Krias Shema when we say ואהבת את ה’ אלקיך בכל לבבך וכו’ the double beis is coming to tell us that even with your Yetzer HaRa. This means that your tendency towards evil is present even in your worship is a tremendous leap. to change It is understood that every letter in our tefillos is with great depth and not only asking for our hearts to be opened toward doing Avodas Hashem, but even our Evil Inclination should! Meaning to say that is not limited to just our long term observance but even the short term. Though there its seems there may be different approaches to this matter, it seems that the great Alter of Slabodka was of the opinion that until the coming of the next era with Meshiach Tzidkaynu we cannot completely rid ourselves of the Yetzer HaRa. The internal war of good and evil though present and active is much more controlled and maintained. With that understanding I would like to suggest that we are not simply asking for the destruction of such an evil, rather that even it should be influence by Torah. This does not seem to be a simple concept, or one that I fully grasp. Regardless, I think that it is the mature Yetzer HaRa not to just to do against the Torah but to do its will for other reasons. This concept is known as Lo L’shmah or not for its calling. This is a innyin in itself that is out of the scope of this, but I believe it is the explanation of this tefillah. That is, we ask Hashem to please have the Torah open the depths of our heart. For what reason? If not we will be left with emptiness and panic, much of what we see today. The person who does not seek a life of Torah is left with a searching with no purpose and full of constant fear of all. It is the Torah, and it alone that may guide those who take its path to a life full of sanity and reason. Even to the extent that your internal conflicts are striving for great measures even though they are rooted by poor reasoning. It is much easier to do something for the wrong reason than to not do something for the right reason. It is that concept that sets a Torah life, to do the right actions even when its not done for the best of reasons. With the goal that through your continued Avodas Hashem you will be able to do things entirely in line with the Torah. It is this tefillah that was say everyday, with hope that our realization of how special we are. How we are created with a purpose that no one else can fill. How it is through this journey we take with the Torah guiding our way that separates us from all who ignore it. With that B’azer Hashem Yisborach we should all be zocheh to take steps forward with all of Klal Yisroel. Only following your path, and no one Else’s. To do all of it for the only valid reason of a true Eved Hashem. This is what makes up our lives, and this is what makes us have a Life. That realization alone can be a shield on our lives and bring Meshiach who is so close straight ahead in the path that we follow.

  1. I’ll have to explain this some other time []
  2. This also needs explanation []
  3. A great Kabbilist []
  4. It is, says the gemara in Berachos 6b []
  5. Brachos 61b []

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