GOOD MORNING! Last week I shared with you the "Letter to His Son" -- the Ethical Will of the Ramban. This week I share with you a modern day Ethical Will. Recently, Mrs. Helen Berman of Toronto passed on to the next world. She and her husband Joe were visionaries and philanthropists who cared deeply about the Jewish people. Their leadership and generosity enabled the founding of the Aish HaTorah branch in Toronto. So many organizations world-wide have benefited and made a difference because of the Bermans. In their merit, here is Joe's Ethical Will. (I don't know if Helen also left one.)
Joe Berman's Ethical Will:
"All of you are familiar with a legal will, in which you dispose of all your property and designate the beneficiary of each asset. Likewise, according to Jewish tradition, an ethical will is your reflection on your life as a Jew. What the prime motivating values governing your life are -- and how through the prism of your own experience, God's laws are enacted and validated.
"Make a commitment, and get thee a spouse -- a lone person is nothing but lonely -- but with a spouse, and with God's help, children can be a reality. A family is formed, and you are at the beginning of the future. A family leads to being part of a community, and within a community, you are a force and you have strength. As a community you claim kinship with your people, its collective experience and its collective memory, roots, a past.
"Make your family home an oasis of faith, tranquillity, light and warmth so that it becomes an example worthy of emulation.
"Share -- share your feelings, your joys, your sorrows, and your blessings. Sharing is caring and its material implementation is Tzedeka (righteousness -- philanthropy). All you have is not only a result of your own efforts, but by and large, it is Providential. When trouble strikes we all ask 'Why me?' Similarly, when you have abundance, you should ask 'Why me?' Share your earnings, your income, and your assets with your community and its institutions.
"This must be planned, not only on a current basis, but on an endowment basis, for continuity of support. A balance must be struck between competing needs, between institutions and individuals, between impersonal-giving and one-on-one interacting, and between the mature and the new, the innovated, the untried.
"Be alive. Learn to let yourself feel. Learn the language of emotion. Learn to savor each moment even if it does not last - in fact savor it because it does not last.
"Learn to thank God for creating emotions and feelings. Each day let one person feel comfort because of you. Each day let one person see hope because of you."
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When your time on this earth is complete, what is it that you would like to leave to your children? Most people who have something of value expend the money to hire a lawyer to create a will to pass on their material wealth. Think about your spiritual wealth -- what you have learned about life, what is truly valuable, insights into character and relationships, how to use the time allotted us. Is it worth the time and expense to pass on that wealth? There are guide books and workbooks available to help you in your library, bookstore or on Amazon.com.
Chukas, Numbers 19:1 - 22:1
Another week of action, adventure and mystery as the Jewish people wander the desert in their 38th year. First, the laws of the red heifer (Parah Adumah) which was burnt with cedar wood, hyssop and scarlet thread. The ashes were then used in a purification ceremony for those who had come in contact with the dead. Strangely enough, all who were involved in the making of the ashes became ritually impure, but all who were sprinkled with them became ritually pure. It is a lesson that we must do the commandments even if we can't understand them. God decreed the commandments. They are for our benefit. We may not always know why.
Miriam, Moshe's sister and a prophetess, dies. The portable well which had accompanied the Israelites on her merit, ceased to flow. Once again the people rebelled against Moshe and Aharon because of the lack of water. The Almighty tells Moshe to speak to the rock for water. Moshe gets angry and hits the rock and water rushes forth. However, the Almighty punishes Moshe and Aharon for not sanctifying Him by forbidding their entry into the land of Israel. (It pays to follow instructions and to withhold anger!)
Aharon dies. His son, Elazar, is appointed the new High Priest. The Canaanite king of Arad attacks the Israelites and later is soundly defeated. Then there is another rebellion over the food and water which is answered by a plague of poisonous snakes. Moshe prays for the people and is instructed by God to put the image of a snake on a high pole. All who saw it would think of God, repent and live.
The Israelites then annihilate the Amorites and Bashanites who not only would not let us pass peacefully through their lands, but attacked us. There are many questions which need to be asked. Please consult the original work and a good commentary.
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
After the war with Sihon, king of the Amorites, the Jewish people took all the cities and settled in the Amorite cities. The Torah, in speaking about the city of Cheshbon, says:
"Because of that, they who speak using parables (HaMoshlim) say: 'Come to Cheshbon (Bo-ooh Cheshbon). Let the city of Sichon be built and established' " (Numbers 21:27).
The Talmud (Bava Basra 78b) uses a play on words to teach us a lesson in life: " 'Hamoshlim' refers to those who rule over their impulses. 'Bo-ooh Cheshbon', is telling us to come and make an accounting of our behavior. Think about what you lose by performing a mitzvah (a commandment) and weigh that against all that you gain from it. Think about what you gain from transgressing and weigh that against what you lose. If you do this, you will be built up in this world, and will be established in the world to come."
Regarding making an accounting of one's behavior, Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato writes that a person needs to keep an eye on all that he does; he should work on overcoming his negative habits and traits. Successful businessmen keep close track of all of their investments and constantly weigh their financial situation. Likewise, a person should make an accounting of his behavior each day to work on self-improvement.
When you do make an accounting of your behavior, feel joy in every bit of improvement. Do not allow yourself to become discouraged when you see your faults and mistakes. When you keep your focus on how you have already done something positive, you will be motivated to keep on improving.
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)
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Failure is when one stops trying,
not when one doesn't succeed
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Rabbi Kalman Packouz
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