Friday, September 29, 2017

It's in the Details

There is a story told of the Chazon Ish - Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karlietz, (one of the preeminent Torah greats of the previous generation), pertaining to Sukkot preparations.  Several of his disciples brought him a number of Lulavim (one of the ‘4 species’ taken together as part of the celebration of Sukkot), so that the Rav could examine them and choose the best specimen for his own use over the Chag. 

To avoid disruptions, and to allow the Chazon Ish to concentrate on the task at hand, one of the students locked the door to the room.  Rabbi Karlietz saw this action, rebuked the individual and insisted that the door be unlocked immediately.  “After all”, the Rabbi commented, “I can always check my own Lulav at a later time.  But what if another Jew comes to ask a Halachic question or seek advice, (a common occurrence in the home of Rabbi Karlietz), and finds the door locked?” 

The story concludes, that just as the door was unlocked, someone entered to seek the Rabbi’s counsel and the Lulavim were set-aside until later.  Such was the sensitivity of this spiritual giant to the needs of others.

The holidays come with a myriad of technical provisions and requirements.  Often it is too easy to become involved in technical tasks and lose sight of the big picture.  This is a time to celebrate and spend time with friends and family.  It is a time to stay attuned to the needs of those around us as we all rush to accomplish our last-minute goals.  We must build a Sukkah, purchase a Lulav and  Etrog, and  prepare  for  the  Yom  Tov meals.  But it need not be at the expense of another’s needs or   feelings.   

Just   as   the Chazon Ish was able to set priorities and ensure that everyone truly has a Chag Sameach, so must we be attentive to the details of the Chag to ensure that it is, in the words of our sages “zman simchateinu” (our time of joy).

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom, G’mar Tov and Chag Sameach,

Rabbi Don Pacht

Friday, September 15, 2017

Reach for the Stars

In this week’s Parsha, Moshe re-assures the nation that the Torah is “לא בשמים היא” not “in the heavens”, it is not distant from us, but it is close to us and readily accessible. In its simplest interpretation, this tells us that the goals and ideals put forth in the Torah are all well within our reach. Hashem is not asking us to accomplish that which is beyond our capacity and we possess all of the necessary tools and abilities to rise to great heights.
The Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, in his work Chidushei HaRim, offers an allegorical insight on this theme and explains that when we strive and desire to accomplish in Torah, when we put forth intense effort, as though reaching “to the heavens”, it is then that we merit to have the Torah close to us. It is through the trial of trying that we merit success.
On Rosh Hashana we reaffirm our relationship with Hashem and recommit ourselves to upholding his Torah. It is now that we set our own goals for personal spiritual growth for the coming year. Let us remember the lesson of the Chidushei HaRim and set our sights as high as the heavens. In this way, may we all merit to receive all that we ask for in the coming year.
Shabbat Shalom V’Shana Tova
Rabbi Don Pacht 

Friday, June 23, 2017

Seasoned Leaders

Our Parsha describes how Korach, a descendent of Levi, challenged the authority of Moshe Rabbeinu.  Specifically, he questioned Moshe’s appointment of his brother Aharon as the Kohen Gadol.

To counter the accusation, Moshe prays that Hashem send a clear message to the entire nation and that Korach not be allowed to succeed in his deception.

After fulfilling Moshe’s request, Hashem proceeds to reaffirm Aharon’s appointment and to delineate the various priestly gifts to which he, and his descendents, will be entitled. 

This arrangement is referred to by the Torah as “ברית מלח עולם”, (an eternal covenant of salt).  Rashi explains that just as salt never spoils, similarly, the covenant between Hashem and Aharon will never expire.

The NETZI”V, Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin, offers an additional significance to this reference.  Just as salt is used to improve the taste of food, but, if it is used in incorrect proportions it can spoil the food.  The same can be said of the responsibility and authority of Aharon’s lofty status.  As a leader, Aharon has the ability to raise the people to great spiritual heights.  If however, these gifts are exploited or abused, they can ruin the people, just as too much salt will ruin the meal.

We each have aspects of our lives that will put us in a leadership role.  This may be as
employers, parents and confidants or as organizational leaders.  In each of these we have the power to influence and create.  The advice or direction that we dictate can shape the future for an individual or for a group.  It is vital  that  we  learn  from  the  mistake  of Korach and from the successes of Aharon, to apply ourselves fully and unselfishly in our responsibility to those who rely upon us.  Just as a master chef is able to combine the perfect balance of flavors to create a masterpiece, so does the seasoned leader know to measure the perfect balance of patience, wisdom and compassion.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Don Pacht