Monday, September 20, 2010

Lessons of Arba Minim

There are lessons to learn from every mitzvah. Having recently bought my arba minim (lulav, esrog, hadasim and aravos), some powerful lessons crossed my mind. We all know how everyone inspects the esrog carefully to look for blemishes. It occurred to me that even a "barely kosher" esrog is almost all yellow, and there are just a few spots. This can be a reminder that a few days ago, on Yom Kippur, all of our sins were forgiven, and we are "clean" and shouldn't mess up by getting dirt on our soul. As the Medrash Rabbah in Emor says that the esrog is compared to the heart of a person. On the other hand, even a small speck in the wrong place can render an esrog invalid. So too, we need to realize in these days between Yom Kippur and Hoshana Rabbah (when the Zohar says our judgments are sealed) we should watch that our heart should not get sullied. We are so meticulous about the spots on the esrog, even when the esrog is kosher, but the smallest speck on our soul is more damaging.

It is not for nothing that the Baal ShemTov says that אתרג is the first letters of  "אַל תְּבוֹאֵנִי רֶגֶל גַּאֲוָה"- "Do not bring be to the foot of pride". (Tehilim 36:12) At times, people can become haughty showing off how they have the most beautiful esrog. The lesson we should take is that when we say how clean our esrog is, we should say think how we can get our souls to be this clean, and ask Hashem for help in this. As we get closer to Hoshana Raba, most esrogim develop more spots, perhaps symbolic of our getting further away from Yom Kippur and a reminder to do teshuva before Hoshanah Rabbah.

The Medrash compares the lulav to the spine of a person, perhaps a reminder that we should act like an "Adam" and not a animal. An animal walks bent over, while a person walks upright.

The hadasim are compared to the eyes. We should try to look at everyone with a "good eye" and watch our eyes from looking disparagingly at others. We should also try to avert our eyes from the forbidden.

Aravos are compared to the lips. We should watch how we speak of others and how we use our mouth.

These are a few thoughts I had. The point is that although we do a mitzvah because Hashem tells us to, and we have many explanations as to why, we should always try to look for lessons that can make us better people to serve Hashem. When Chazal say the esrog is compared to the heart, it is more than just a nice analogy.

Chag Sameach, a Gut Yor and a Gut Kvittel to all.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Uman Rosh Hashona and the "Quick Fix"

One of the "frum" news sites had an opinion piece in which the author claims, among other things, that those who go to Uman for Rosh Hashona are looking for a quick fix. Here is a reponse I gave:  

Did you ever bother do look into a Chayei Mohoran and Likutei Mohoran to see what going to Uman for Rosh Hashona is really about? Before you criticize something, you need to first know at least the basics of the subject of criticism.

You speak of quick fixes. You obviously know very little about Breslov.

1.It is well known in Breslov, and spoken about much in Breslover seforim that Reb Nachman said that one must be careful to always follow Shulchan Aruch, and that we must learn halacha every single day. The Chofetz Chaim had a talmid, Reb Hirsh Leib Lippel, a great talmid chochom who became a Breslover Chosid. The Chofetz Chaim told him that was good because "Breslover Chassidim are careful to observe Shulchan Aruch". The halacha sefer used by many Breslovers is none other than the Mishna Brura.

2. Reb Nachman exhorted us to recite Tikun Chatzos. Regular bala batim get up to say it every night to daven for Hashem's house to be rebuilt. Most of us have roofs over our head but Hashem kaviyochul doesn't.

3. Have you ever davened in a Breslov minyan? A weekday shachris can easily take 90 minutes. And many daven vasikin and most go to the mikva before davening. Shabbos Shachris starts early enough so that Kris Shema together with the brochos can be said before the Magen Avrohom zman.

4. Besides Shachris, Mincha and Maariv, we spend a minimum extra 1 hour a day in hisbodedus, davening to Hashem in our own words. This includes thanking Hashem for everything, cheshbon hanefesh and asking for everything in gashmius and ruchnius including the smallest things. BTW, the Chofetz Chaim in Likutei Amarim Perek Yud says that all of our troubles come because we don't daven to Hashem in our own words, in addition to the 3 daily tefilos. (look it up inside the Kol Kisvei Chofetz Chaim)

There is much more, but this is a small sampling to show that going to Uman for Rosh Hashona has nothing to do with quick fixes. To go into detail why we go to Uman for Rosh Hashona would take too much time, but you can look it up in the seforim, as opposed to getting info off of a blog. Also, Breslovers spend much time preparing for Rosh Hashona by studying the teachings related to teshuva and Rosh Hashona, and doing extra hisbodedus, more tehilim, etc.

Now, many will say that only some do that but many don't. Many people show up to Simchas Bais Hashoeva in Mir and Toldos Ahron. Would you consider them Mirer talmidim or Toldos Ahron Chassidim? Same thing with Uman. Don't put down the thousands that come "ehrlich" for Rosh Hashona. This includes all types of Yidden, clean shaven, "Chassidic looking", Sefardim, Rabbonim and Ballei batim. The thing they have in common is that they study and follow the teachings of Reb Nachman all year long and this is just one part, albeit a very important part, of our avodah. (As someone else pointed out even those that may not come "ehrlich" may need the "quick fix" and many of the "ehrlich" were once upon a time not so"ehrlich" and got "lit up" in Uman on Rosh Hashona)

A Gmar Chasima Tova to all of Klal Yisroel. May we be zocheh to spend next Rosh Hashona in Yerusholyim with Moshiach Tzidkeinu.