Monday, August 28, 2006
Parashá Ki Tetzei
Rabino Kalman Packouz
GOOD MORNING! A few weeks ago my son came running into my home office late one night. "Come quickly! There is something wrong with the stove." I ran into the kitchen and all 4 burners were clicking like they wanted to ignite, the stove was extremely hot to the touch and ... the knobs had all melted! I pried the stove away from the wall, turned off the gas and unplugged the electricity. My wife had put it in self-cleaning mode and something evidently had gone wrong.
The next day the repairman informed me that the stove was defective and though repairable, he would advise never using the self-cleaning function again. I immediately calls Sears, where I have always purchased my appliances. "No longer under warranty and probably defective? Call Kenmore, the maker of the stove" they said. Kenmore informed me that they are "just a brand name" and that my stove was manufactured by Frigidaire. Frigidaire directed me to Electrolux who had bought them out the previous year. And Electrolux told me to call Husqvarna who had recently bought them. Husqvarna? They're the Swedish company that makes chain saws! And what was Husqvarna's response? "Why are you calling us? You bought it at Sears!"
All of us have frustrations in life. The question is: how do we deal with them? Do you get angry? Depressed? A nervous wreck? How are we supposed to keep life's events from ruining our days?
If you don't define the moment, the moment will define you. Life is filled with frustration, difficulties, pain; however, suffering is optional. We all have control over our emotions, if we focus on the moment and don't just flow with our emotions. If someone accidentally spills coffee on you, you may initially feel anger. However, if it is your boss or that special someone you wanted to meet, it is amazing how fast you can control your anger!
From a Torah perspective, there is meaning in everything that happens in life. The Almighty has gifted every human being with a body and a soul. It is upon us to develop our souls by acting righteously. Life is an opportunity for us to control our basic animalistic instincts and instead work on perfecting our behavior and perfecting the world. Just knowing and integrating this concept into your consciousness can dramatically change how you perceive and react to the vicissitudes of life.
If you come back to the parking lot and find that someone has dented the side of your car, the initial tendency is to get angry: "How could a person do that and not leave a note? My car is damaged! Now I have to spend the time and money to get it fixed!"
If one lives life understanding that everything that happens has meaning and a lesson for him, he would have all of the initial responses, but then ask: Why did this happen? What's the meaning in this event? The answer may be as mundane as, "I should have parked in a manner that gave the other guy more room to get out." Or, the answer may also be, "Who have I damaged and not owned up to my responsibility?" One way the Almighty deals with us s measure for measure - as we do, so we reap.
There are consequences for our actions both in this world and the next. One receives reward for good deeds and punishment for one's transgressions - unless one seeks to do teshuva, repentance. Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, is coming up. However, Yom Kippur alone does not always atone for all transgressions. In addition to regretting one's transgression, making restitution, asking forgiveness, making a plan to avoid the transgression in the future and asking the Almighty for forgiveness ... some transgressions require physical affliction as part of the atonement. Better a dent in the side of a car than sickness or injury to us or one of our children!
Part of our distress when we take a financial loss is that it is unexpected. Life is what happens while you're making other plans ... we actually expect NOT to have financial losses. If one mentally sets aside a sum of money for repairs that need to be done again, for replacing items that stop working, for someone cheating him, then when something happens it won't be such a shock. I think of this as my "Mental Rip Off Fund."
Oh, and if you're wondering what I did about the stove... I decided that life is too precious to spend the time pursuing recompense. So, I bought a new stove ... at Brandsmart.
Topics in this week's portion include: Women Captives, First-Born's Share, The Rebellious Son, Hanging and Burial, Returning Lost Articles, The Fallen Animal, Transvestitism, The Bird's Nest, Guard-Rails, Mixed Agriculture, Forbidden Combinations, Bound Tassels, Defamed Wife, Penalty for Adultery, Betrothed Maiden, Rape, Unmarried Girl, Mutilated Genitals, Mamzer, Ammonites & Moabites, Edomites & Egyptians, The Army Camp, Sheltering Slaves, Prostitution, Deducted Interest, Keeping Vows, Worker in a Vineyard, Field Worker, Divorce and Remarriage, New Bridegroom, Kidnapping, Leprosy, Security for Loans, Paying Wages on Time, Testimony of Close Relatives, Widows and Orphans, Forgotten Sheaves, Leftover Fruit, Flogging, The Childless Brother-in-Law, Weights and Measures, Remembering What Amalek Did to Us.
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based on Growth Through Torah by
Rabino Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"When you go out to war against your enemies, and the Almighty, your God, will give him into your hand." (Deuteronomy 21:10)
What lesson can we learn for ourselves from this verse?
Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm writes that the greatest enemy that anyone has is one's yetzer hara (one's desire to follow his own passions - the little voice you hear in your head telling you to "go ahead ... it really doesn't matter ... it's worth it ... it will be fun ... it will taste good...). He (the yetzer hara) constantly wants to ambush you and capture you. He acts as if he were your close friend and loves you. However, his real goal is to destroy you.
How does one wage war against one's yetzer hara? You must use your intellect to contradict his false arguments and to see the truth when he shows you illusory images of how you will gain by following him. Do not allow him to cause you to panic for: "when you go out to war against your enemy, the Almighty will give him into your hand." When you are resolved to overcome your yetzer hara, you will be victorious.
Rosh HaShanah is coming up in less than a month - Friday evening, September 22! Here are:
10 THINGS YOU CAN DO
TO PREPARE FOR ROSH HASHANAH
Take a spiritual accounting. Each day take at least 5 minutes to review your last year: (a) your behavior with family, friends, associates and people with whom you've interacted, and (b) your level of mitzvah observance.
Attend a class or classes at a synagogue, Aish center, or a Yeshiva on how to prepare. Read articles on aish.com and listen to world-class speakers on aishaudio.com .
Study the Machzor (Rosh Hashanah prayer book) to know the order of the service and the meaning of the words and prayers. You can buy a copy of the The Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit, by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or call 877-758-3242).
Make sure that you have given enough tzedakah (charity) and have paid your pledges (One is supposed to give 10% of his net income). It says in the Machzor that three things break an evil decree - TeshuvaTefilla (prayer) and Tzedakah (charity). Why not maximize your chance for a good decree?
Think of (at least) one person you have wronged or feel badly towards -and correct the situation.
Make a list of your goals for yourself and your family - what you want to work towards and pray for.
Limit your pleasures - the amount of television, movies, music, food -do something different so that you take this preparation time seriously.
Do an extra act of kindness - who needs your help? To whom can you make a difference?
Read a book on character development - anything written by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin would be great!
Ask a friend to tell you what you need to improve. A real friend will tell you ... but in a nice way!
CANDLE LIGHTING - September 1
Guatemala 5:56 - Hong Kong 6:22 - Honolulu 6:29
J'Burg 5:36 - Porto e Trás-os-montes 7:29 - Los Angeles 7:02
Melbourne 5:40 - Mexico City 7:33 - Miami 7:24
New York 7:12 - Singapore 6:51 - Toronto 7:36
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
Life is full of misery, loneliness, and suffering...
and it's all over much too soon.
-- Woody Allen