GOOD MORNING!  Did you ever want to meet the President of the United States? Unless you are a foreign dignitary or a very generous contributor, the chances of getting an appointment are small. However, there is one time when it is relatively easier to meet the President -- when he is on the campaign trail. Then he seeks out to meet as many people as he can to impact them and communicate his message. In spiritual terms, the upcoming month of Elul is the spiritual equivalent of the campaign trail -- it is the time when the Almighty's presence can most easily be felt.

Shabbos, August 15th, and Sunday, August 16th, are the two days of Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Elul. This is a very special month in the Jewish year as it is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah (which begins Sunday evening, September 13th). Jewish cosmology teaches us that each season of the year has a special spiritual opportunity for success. For instance, Passover is the time to work on freedom and Sukkot is the time to work on joy. Elul is the time to work on personal growth.

Elul, when spelled in Hebrew letters, is the acronym for the words, "I am to my beloved, my beloved is to me" (ani l'dodi v'dodi li -- oftentimes it will be inscribed on the inside of an engagement ring). The month of Elul is a time of heightened spirituality where the Almighty is, as it were, closer and more approachable. It is a time of introspection and preparation for Rosh Hashanah. It is a time to do a spiritual audit and to fix up your life.

To help you prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, I present questions for you to ask yourself and discuss with family and friends. They are an excerpt from a fabulous and indispensable book, The Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit, written by Aish HaTorah alumnus Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf.

 

QUESTIONS FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE

  1. When do I most feel that my life is meaningful?
  2. Those who mean the most to me -- have I ever told them how I feel?
  3. Are there any ideals I would be willing to die for?
  4. If I could live my life over, would I change anything?
  5. What would bring me more happiness than anything else in the world?
  6. What are my three most significant achievements since last Rosh Hashanah?
  7. What are the three biggest mistakes I've made since last Rosh Hashanah?
  8. What project or goal, if left undone, will I most regret next Rosh Hashanah?
  9. If I knew I couldn't fail, what would I undertake to accomplish in life?
  10. What are my three major goals in life? What am I doing to achieve them? What practical steps can I take in the next two months towards these goals?
  11. If I could only give my children three pieces of advice, what would they be?

 

If you find the High Holidays boring, can't follow the prayer service and don't understand it; if the services lack meaning and aren't spiritual experiences, then to have a meaningful experience and to have something meaningful to share with your children and family -- you might want to get a copy of The Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit ... especially if your kids think a shofar is someone who drives a limousine. Unless you prepare in advance, you are relying on a miracle to have any kind of positive experience at all. Available at your local Jewish bookstore, at JudaicaEnterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242. Also, see Aish.com/holidays !

 

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Torah Portion of the week

Re'eh, Deuteronomy 11:26 -- 16:17

This week is a jam-packed portion. It begins with a choice: "I set before you a blessing and a curse. The blessing: if you obey the commandments of God...; the curse if you do not ... and you follow other gods."

The portion continues with rules and laws for the land of Israel primarily oriented towards staying away from idol worship and the other religions in the land. In verses 13:1-12 you will find the section that caused a missionary's face to blanch and silenced him from continuing to proselytize a renowned rabbi.

One of the indications of the existence and necessity of the Oral Torah -- an explanation and clarification (later redacted as the Talmud) of the written Torah (The Five Books of Moses) -- comes from verse 12:21 "You will slaughter animals ... according to the manner I (God) have prescribed." Nowhere in the Torah are we instructed in the manner of shechita, ritual slaughter. One might conclude that there was a very sloppy editor. Or -- one might conclude that there are additional teachings (the Oral Law/Talmud) clarifying and amplifying the written Word.

The source of the Chosen People concept is brought this week: "You are a nation consecrated to God your Lord. God has chosen you from all nations on the face of the earth to be His own special nation ..." (Deut. 14:1-2). We are chosen for responsibility, not privilege --to act morally and to be a "light unto the nations."

The portion then gives instructions regarding: permitted and forbidden foods, the Second Tithe, remissions of loans every 7 years, treatment of those in need (to be warm-hearted and open-handed), a Jewish bondsman, the three pilgrimage festivals (Passover, Shavuot, Sukkot).

* * *

Dvar Torah
from Twerski on Chumash by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski, M.D.

The Torah states:

"You are children to your God -- you shall not mutilate yourselves ... for a dead person ... for you are a holy people to your God" (Deut. 41:1-2).

Grieving for the loss of a loved one is a normal human reaction, but halachah (Torah Law) prescribes regulations for grief. In particular, the Talmud forbids excessive mourning (Moed Katan 26b).

It is only natural to mourn and weep when one has suffered the pain of a loss. However, the intensity of the pain should be somewhat mitigated by the realization that a loving father would not be cruel to a child. The knowledge that God is a loving Father should make one's acceptance of a personal loss more tolerable. "You should know in your heart that just as a father will chastise his son, so your God chastises you" (Deut. 8:5). The pain of chastisement may indeed be intense, but faith in the absolute benevolence of God, even when it is beyond our ability to comprehend, should provide some measure of consolation.

Ramban explains that the phrase "for you are a holy people to your God" in this context refers to the eternity of the soul. As a holy people, when one leaves the earth, one enters into a more imminent presence of God. This is an additional reason why one should not mutilate oneself over a death. Whereas the pain of the loss may be intense, the knowledge that a loved one has arrived at a close relationship with God should mitigate one's initial reaction.

Self-mutilation is not healthy grief. Inflicting wounds on oneself when someone has died may be an expression of guilt. Most often this guilt is unwarranted. However, if one feels that he had in some way aggrieved the deceased person, he should look for ways to refine his behavior so that he does not offend anyone else. This is a constructive response to legitimate guilt. Self-mutilation is destructive and accomplishes nothing.

Grief is unavoidable. We should cope with grief constructively, as befits children of God.

 

Candle Lighting Times

August 14
(or go to http://www.aish.com/sh/c/)

Jerusalem 6:49
Guatemala 6:17 - Hong Kong 6:38 - Honolulu 6:44
J'Burg 5:29 - London 8:07 - Los Angeles 7:24
Melbourne 5:25 - Mexico City 7:47 - Miami 7:39
New York 7:37 - Singapore 6:56 - Toronto 8:04


Quote of the Week

Failure to prepare is preparing to fail

 

 

In Loving Memory of

Miriam bat Avraham Mendelow

Jonas & Judy Mimoun

 

     
With Special Thanks to

Mitchell & Karen
Kuflik


 

 

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Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Copyright © 2018 Rabbi Kalman Packouz