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Parshas Terumah - Chodesh Adar
ועשו לי מקדש ושכנתי בתוכם, "Make for Me a Mikdash, a Holy Place, and I will dwell within them" (Shemos 25:8). On first reading this is a very difficult verse. One would think it should have read, ושכנתי בתוכו "and I will dwell within it" - that God is telling us to make a Holy Place so that He can dwell there. Chazal say that the possuk is hinting at something very deep: Make for Him a Holy Place, and He will dwell within them, within each and every one of us. (Rav Chaim of Volozhin, Nefesh HaChaim, Sha'ar 1, chap. 4.)
Our job on this lowly earth is to accomplish a holy mission by sanctifying ourselves to the highest level possible while still living our physical existence.
Our whole existence must be raised up above the mundane. Our task is to view our lives not as simple means of attaining as much pleasure as possible while avoiding pain to our utmost ("Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow we die"). Rather, we should see our lives as missions, a form of worship, with very high standards and very important goals. Anything which interferes with this job can only be detrimental.
Our mission is to follow the Torah, and thus raise ourselves to a level in which we attach ourselves to the Divine.
Transcribed and adapted from a recorded lecture of Moreinu v'Rabbeinu Harav Hatzaddik Zeidel Epstein, zt"l, Mashgiach of Torah Ore.
Chazal tells that when Adar arrives, we should increase simcha (joy). The specific use of the word "increase" implies something that is up to the person. If he wants, he can increase simcha. And if he wants, he can decrease it. Whatever he wants. He can want to be happy, or want not to be happy. Chazal dictate to us, that during Adar, one should increase simcha. This is contrary to our normal understanding of simcha. If everything is going good one has simcha. If not, he doesn't. We assume that simcha depends upon things beyond one's control. How can increasing simcha be up to the person?
The word simcha means that the person is freilach, happy. What does happy mean? It refers to being satisfied with what one has, with the state of affairs he is in. That's the definition of simcha.
The opposite of simcha is when a person is missing something. This causes one to not feel simcha. He feels something is lacking. Now if something is really missing, what do Chazal mean when they tell us to increase simcha? Chazal are teaching us that a person really has the ability to increase his contentment, his feeling of fullness and perfection.
Everyone has different situations in his life. There is the situation the person finds himself in right now, and the situation he should be in. If a person would look at what he has, very likely he would have simcha. Once he starts combining this personal analysis with what he should have, where he should be, or wants to be, the simcha vanishes because he sees what he is missing. Chazal are instructing us that there is a personal perfection that one should train himself in: foster your satisfaction with what you have. Concentrate on what you have. Think about it, and give it importance. It does not contradict the other side: where you should be or where you would like to be. Of course we all want more. We want to be better, we want to improve, and we really should be there. But at the same time, we thank Hashem for the little that we actually do have. The need to grow and produce should not overshadow the joy of what one has. Where one is now is perfection in and of itself. Everything a person has is important and in its own right is a level of perfection. If you need more, OK, you need more. But it doesn't mean that the half you actually do have has no worth because you're lacking. Especially in spiritual matters: every little piece of perfection is of infinite value.
Chazal (in maseches Megillah) determined that Purim should always fall on the month before Nisan (even when there are 2 Adars), because we want one geula (the redemption from Haman's scheme) to be next to the other geula (the redemption from Mitzrayim). How do we put one geula next to the other; how do we prepare for geula? By increasing simcha. Increasing our feeling of simcha helps us in our avoda.
עבדו את ה' בשמחה "Serve Hashem in simcha" can be understood in 2 ways. On a simple level, serving Hashem joyfully is an obligation. In the tochecha the possuk states that we received the punishment of the terrible churban "because you didn't worship Hashem with simcha" (Devorim 28:47). A person's job in this world is to serve Hashem in joy. Whatever he does should be with simcha. Daven with joy, learn with joy.
Chazal tell us that worry distracts a person and denies him the ability to function properly. Sorrow and grief are such powerful emotions they impede the Divine Presence to rest upon a person. Chazal relate that Yaakov Avinu suffered tremendous grief, mourning the loss of his dear son Yosef. This deterred him from attaining his previous state of prophecy and communion with Hashem. Sorrow distracts a person and makes him numb so he cannot feel the spiritual light surrounding him.
There is another way of understanding the importance of being happy. "Serve Hashem in joy" is a piece of advice. Simcha is the means to achieve the ability to serve Hashem. Joy and spiritual service go hand in hand. When a person is happy with what he has, whatever it is, that means that this little bit that I have, this is whom I am. This simcha encourages one to continue serving Hashem. Recognize the goodness G-d has bestowed upon you with what you have received until now: everyone in his own situation.
The first bracha we make in the morning is הנותן לשכוי בינה, "Who has given the heart understanding" (see Rashi and Ibn Ezra on Iyov 38:36, and Ibn Ezra on Tehillim 73:7 who translate the word sechvi as "heart"). The fact that a person can understand is enough to stop and make a bracha and give the Ribono Shel Olam a thank you. (According to pshat that sechvi refers to a rooster then we have even more to thank Hashem. All a rooster does is recognize when night is over and day has started, and that little knowledge warrants a bracha.) A person has to recognize the value of the tiniest little gift, no matter how small. He has to be so joyful about this little detail that he makes a bracha and thanks the Creator for having merited this gift. Yes, he has to recognize that Hashem was the one who granted him the gift of this little bit of understanding.
From there we continue on to every action and every movement we make. Each tiny gift warrants a bracha. A person has to develop a deep recognition that Hashem opened his eyes this morning; he received the sense of sight from his Creator. And how much chesed is there in the ability to stand up straight and not remain bent over? What happens when one suffers from any tiny disability in any of these brachos? He feels totally out of sorts. If there is any slight deviation of one of the discs in his spinal column, ooh! he can't straighten out, he can't walk, he's ois mentsch. He's totally out of sorts, he's not himself, he asks everyone to daven for him.
One must have simcha and recognize Hashem's great gift in every small detail, no matter how insignificant it seems. How much more so must one recognize the gift Hashem gave us, the Jewish nation, that we were granted the opportunity to get close to the Divine? As we say everyday in davening: אשר בחר בנו מכל העמים The Ribono Shel Olam chose us, selected us,: וּבָנוּ בָחַרְתָּ מִכָּל עַם וְלָשׁוֹן. וְקֵרַבְתָּנוּ לְשִׁמְךָ הַגָּדוֹל סֶלָה בֶּאֱמֶת: and he truly draws us close to his great name. וְהִבְדִּילָנוּ מִן הַתּוֹעִים. And he separated us from those who are mistaken. Whoever I am. It could be I learn just a little bit. Still, I have a connection to the Torah in some way. Of course we all could do better. We're not perfect. I could learn more and with more depth, daven better, perform more mitzvos, more meticulously. Certainly we must not underestimate the need for improvement. But on the other hand, baruch Hashem, I thank the Ribono Shel Olam for the little that I do have.
Chazal instituted a tefilla when one leaves the Beis Midrash: (Brachos 28b)מודה אני לפניך ה' אלהי ששמת חלקי מיושבי בית המדרש ולא שמת חלקי מיושבי קרנות "I thank you Hashem for putting my place among those who sit in the beis midrash and not among those who sit on street corners." Why did Chazal accent such a minor issue as just sitting in the beis medrash? Shouldn't they have accented something greater? Thank you Hashem that I'm a great lamdan, I finished shas? I'm a great talmid chacham. But thank you for just sitting there? Yes! That is what Chazal wanted to instill in us. We must recognize the greatness of just being able to sit in the beis medrash. It has infinite value in and of itself. And immediately afterwards, one should not be satisfied with just being a sitter. It motivates us to want more and more. Every kleinekeit deserves a bracha.
For example, imagine a first grade teacher. He never made it to the big leagues in Lakewood. He's teaching aleph beis. They once came to the Baal Shem Tov. He was an aleph beis rebbe in cheder. They asked him why such a great talmid chochom is a mere aleph beis rebbe. First he answered them that in the Torah it says that the Ribono Shel Olam was also a rebbe; He taught Klal Yisroel Torah. Then he said, "When a talmid chochom creates new chiddushim, it could be emes (true Torah) and it could be that it's not emes. But my Torah is Toras emes (absolutely true Torah - no one can argue about aleph beis, it's absolutely true.)
It's impossible to know. A person wants to be a great Rosh Yeshiva and teach the most complicated and deepest levels of Torah. Instead he finds himself in a Talmud Torah teaching little children. He says to himself, "Ach, this just isn't it." Never underestimate the value of what you are doing. The Reishis Chochma cites a Chazal that in the next world the teachers of little children will be up front. What! First grade teachers? What's so great about teaching elementary school? The answer is that one cannot evaluate the value of what he is doing. To impart in the children a proper solid foundation in Yiddishkeit is one of the most important jobs in this world. To teach them love of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, love of the Torah. We can't even begin to estimate its value. And for this one has to thank the Ribono Shel Olam with the tefillos, "Who has chosen us... who has separated us…." And what is this recognition? Simcha! The Chovos Halevovos tells us that every mitzvah a Yid does is a wonderful present sent by Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Imagine you received a special delivery package. You open it up and see your friend sent you a present. Wouldn't you feel that much closer to him because of the present? These are the mitzvos Hashem sends us. They declare His love towards us and how much we must feel even closer to Him. We see the other person has opportunities we don't have and it raises within us questions. Why did he get that and I got this? What's the difference which present he sent you? So he sent someone else a different gift. Be happy with yours. Right now you have the opportunity to do a chessed. At this very moment feel that this is your opportunity to gain perfection, perfection in this act of loving-kindness. The holy seforim relate that there is an exact account of what each person has to accomplish each day. There is no such thing that we live randomly and we can do whatever we wish. A person is sent his assignment each day, and if he doesn't finish it, it is sent a second and third time. The job could be in harbotzas Torah, or chessed, or davening; it could be in one's feelings or one's actions, etc. Sometimes one has to suffer the pain that he wants to do something and he can't. Whatever it is, these are all wonderful presents that the Ribono Shel Olam gives constantly every minute. One who becomes aware of this and lives like this has simcha.
It is possible to create simcha. One can work on עבדו את ה' בשמחה "Serve Hashem with joy." The simcha pushes him and gives him the ability to "serve Hashem." The next step is unbelievable: באו לפניו ברננה "Come before Him in song." "Before him!" One with simcha actually stands in front of Hashem! What? That little bit of simcha brings me in front of Him? Yes. As small as it is, that is the power of simcha. Don't underestimate the importance of what seems the most insignificant action.
Unfortunately we don't see this. All we see are the tzoros, the pain and suffering. We don't concentrate on picking up on what we can achieve from every situation.
This is our job in Adar. Be happy. Increase simcha. It is up to us and it is within our grasp. And with this joy we can merit the Geula which is getting closer every day. May we see the coming of the Moshiach speedily within our lifetime.
Wishing everyone a Freilachen Adar and a Gut Shabbos!
Shema Yisrael Torah Network