Hashkofa: Torah Views,
Values & Understanding Life
"Life Messages" For All Year From Jewish Holidays












































During the Ten Days Of Repentance from Rosh HaShana [the beginning of the new year] to Yom Kippur [the Day of Atonement], we focus on correcting ourselves, repairing our spiritual shortcomings and repenting of our sins.

The Torah refers to Rosh HaShana as the day of the shofar blowing [Leviticus 23:24]. The Klee Yakar, one of the classic commentaries on the Torah, asks a profound question [commenting on Leviticus 23:16]. If the essential purpose of Rosh HaShana is tshuva [repentance], why does the Torah call Rosh HaShana the day of the shofar blowing? True, blowing the shofar is a mitzva required on Rosh HaShana but the shofar is used as a call to our doing tshuva. Why does the Torah not refer to Rosh HaShana as the day of tshuva, which is the main point of the holy day?

The Klee Yakar gives a beautiful answer. If the Torah would have referred to Rosh HaShana as the day of tshuva, you might have thought that you only have to do tshuva and behave like a human being one day of the year. The Torah is signalling to us, THROUGH THE MESSAGE OF ROSH HASHANA THAT WE HAVE TO DO TSHUVA EVERY DAY. In fact, Ramban, in his famous ethical letter to his son [Igerress HaRamban] says we have to introspect morning and night, twice a day, over the last half day, and do tshuva twice every day.

In the three weeks leading to Tisha B'Av we focus on the destruction of the Bais HaMikdosh and tragedies of golus. These resulted from causeless hate, loshon hora, serious interpersonal shortcomings. It is a superb time for reflection and correcting our sins in general and our interpersonal sins in particular.

The Steipler was asked why tzoros (troubles, tragedies, suffering) were increasing at such a huge and alarming rate among klall Yisroel in the generations after World War Two. More and more people are: struck by serious illnesses and injuries, unable to find mates, in marital trouble, losing little children, dying young and leaving large families, mentally ill, etc. The Steipler replied that before World War Two, Hashem sent kapara (atonement) from outside (pogroms, persecutions, genocide). Now with more liberty, Democracy, freedom; there are fewer despots that can just ride in and torture, scatter or annihilate large populations of Jews. Since kapara can no longer come from without, the kapara has to come from within. These frightening words give insight why our generation is so replete with more tzoros than anyone remembers. What is more terrifying: people avoid going to the root of the problem which requires DISCONTINUING DOING THINGS FOR WHICH G-D MUST KEEP SENDING KAPARA.

In the weekday Shmoneh Esray (after the three initial brachos), we pray "Chonain Daas (bestow intelligence)," then "Hashivainu (help us return from sin back to Torah) and then "Slach Lanu (pardon and forgive us)." This is significant. The first thing we must ask for is intellect. Then, THE FIRST THING WE MUST USE OUR INTELLECT FOR IS TO DO TSHUVA AND ABANDON SIN WHICH BROUGHT US GUILT AND PUNISHMENT. Only after tshuva shlaima (complete return to Torah) we can talk to G-d about pardon.

A sin's degree of seriousness is determined by the Torah's punishment for it. The most serious sins are those punished by: korais [extermination of one's soul and lineage], death, gehenom extended beyond a year, and ANY INTERPERSONAL SIN FOR WHICH KAPARA AND THE VICTIM'S FORGIVENESS HAVE NOT BEEN OBTAINED.

In my marriage counseling work, I hear people say that they will say Tehillim [Psalms] for marital peace when THEY STUBBORNLY DO NOT MAKE THE CHANGES THAT WILL BRING SHALOM BAYIS. Throughout the community, victims of tragedy or hardship, and concerned people, run to Tehillim (which is meritorious) BUT DO NOT RUN TO DO CHESHBON HANEFESH (SPIRITUAL ACCOUNTING) AND TSHUVA SHLAIMA (COMPLETE PERMANENT RETURN FROM SINFUL DEEDS OR PATTERNS) - ESPECIALLY THE SEVERE ONES WHICH CARRY SERIOUS AND DANGEROUS PUNISHMENTS! THEY DON'T HONESTLY CONSULT A ROV. TEHILLIM WITHOUT TSHUVA DOES NOT TAKE AWAY THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM. This type of thing is nothing new. The gemora calls it immersing in a mikva with a bug in your hand. You cannot obtain purification while you continue to hold a source of impurity.

Doubly tragic is that HASHEM DOES NOT WANT THE DEATH OF THE SINNER. HE WANTS HIM TO DO TSHUVA AND BE A TZADIK [one completely righteous] TO WHOM G-D WOULD GIVE LIFE, KINDNESS AND ABUNDANT PARDON AND BLESSING. G-d wants every sinner to return from sins, serve G-d with loyalty and a good attitude, and merit happy life. It sounds simple, but the yaitzer hora [evil inclination] does his job of confusing and tempting so very well. Human responsibility to use free choice to overcome the yaitzer hora must be executed even better!

We read extensively about abuses and injury by closest family members on those who are stuck, vulnerable, dependent and defenseless. Individuals pain, embarrass, slander, torment, belittle and deprive their children and spouses. Throughout our society, individuals wrong others - in business, with neighbors or relatives: hurting feelings, parking in front of a driveway or double parking even though this traps the other, anger, lying, putting on tzitzis so that it slaps the eye of the guy in the next chair, wasting another person's irreplaceable time (which is considered a form of theft WHICH CAN NEVER BE PAID BACK), disturbing another's concentration by talking in shul, gluing posters up on shul walls and others' property without permission (essentially vandalizing)...the list is almost endless. These sins against people are in addition to all of the sins between man and G-d which cause disastrous punishments [korais or death].

The gemora tells of a sinless rabbi (Pinchos Ben Yair) who was not hurt by a snake bite. He said that the snake's poison does not kill, sin kills. The Torah calls Rosh HaShana "The day of shofar blowing." Tshuva is more essential to Rosh HaShana than shofar (which is a REMINDER TO DO TSHUVA). Why does the Torah not refer to Rosh HaShana as "The day of tshuva?" The Klee Yakar [commentary to the Torah] writes the reason the Torah does not call Rosh HaShana the day of tshuva is so that you would not mistakenly think tshuva is required only one day a year. Tshuva, and behaving like a mentsh, is required EVERY DAY at all times. Igerress HaRamban tells us to analyze our deeds every morning and night and do tshuva for everything wrong we did for the previous half day. Tshuva has required steps:

1. sincere remorse for the wrong,

2. privately admitting it to G-d,

3. abandoning the wrong and accepting upon oneself for the future to do instead what is right, and, if involving wrong to any other person or people,

4. gently talking it out and making it up to each person as needed to appease and to obtain voluntary forgiveness, lasting friendship and complete peace.

The Torah commands (Leviticus 19:2), "Be Holy." Rashi says this is achieved by separating from sins. Being holy is not optional, not "extra credit;" it is a fundamental requirement of every Jew. On Yom Kippur, we read from the prophet Jonah. G-d commands him to go to the city Ninveh to tell the people to either do tshuva from their sins or be annihilated. G-d repealed the decree of punishment and pardoned the city when He saw that they did tshuva and FIXED THEIR DEEDS. It is only the concrete separation from sinful deeds that fulfills our obligation to be holy and only return from sinful deeds IN ACTION that brings G-d's pardon. As Pirkei Avos tells us, "Study is not the main things, only action is."

When we put the Torah into the ark, we say [Eicha 4:21], "Return us, G-d, to you and we will do tshuva, renew our days as they were before." Why would we cite a verse about tshuva while returning the Torah? If we don't do tshuva, we "put the Torah away" and abandon it. Only if we do COMPLETE TSHUVA every time we have to, make up everything we have to with everyone we wronged, and return fully AT LEAST TWICE EVERY DAY, we can truly attach to Torah and Hashem so as to "renew our days as they were before"..."renew our days" - because we do return/tshuva on all days, so days are "as they were before" - before the sins. This way, we'll merit the blessings, life, kindness and pardon that Hashem wants to give us all!



In the Torah Portion "Nitzavim," the Torah says [Deuteronomy 30:2], "Return until the Eternal your G-d and obey His voice." This portion is always just before Rosh HaShana. It is significant that this portion is read at this time, when return [tshuva, repentance] are particularly called for and when G-d is "found" and "near" [Isaiah 55:6]." But note that the Torah uses an unusual term, "Return UNTIL Hashem." This signifies that one must return as much as he has to, to change his ways, correct his faults, heal wounds with and resolve wrongs caused to other people; doing all that is necessary, in order to reach fulfillment of the will of G-d.

The Torah says, also in Parshas Nitzavim, that there will be people who say that the Torah is too difficult; it is too hidden or too far from them; but, "It is not hidden from you nor too far away from you. It is not in Heaven that one should say 'Who will go up to Heaven for us and take it down to us, that we will understand it and do it?' And it is not across the ocean that one should say, 'Who will cross the ocean for us and take it to us that we will understand it and do it?' Rather, the Torah is very near to you, in your mouth and in your heart that you shall do it [Deuteronomy 30, 11-14]."

The Torah here is telling us that the commandments are accessible IF one wants to do them. The Torah is telling us HOW a person could come to say the Torah is too hard, too unrealistic, too unreachable. He says, "I will understand and then I will do." In both cases, when he says that the Torah is up in Heaven and across the ocean, he asks, "Who will bring it, that we understand and do it?" He puts his understanding and approval of the Torah before his acceptance of and commitment to it. He also asks, "Who will bring it," in other words, "Who will do my job for me?"

When the Torah was given, the people said, "Na'aseh vinishma [All which G-d said we will do and then we will understand," Exodus 24:7]. The Jewish people accepted the Torah with the axiom that the commitment was not dependent on understanding [not dependent on justification before acceptance] and was accepted with the axiom that WE have to do it ourselves - not make it someone else's job or responsibility. The obstacle is NOT how far the Torah is from the person who falls short of its fulfillment - it is how far the person HIMSELF is from the Torah. It is BECAUSE he says he must understand before he accepts commitment to the Torah that he considers the Torah to be far away from him and that, in his mind, it must be brought to him by someone else. He is in the "backwards world" [Bava Basra 10b]. "Says the lazy one, 'There is a lion in the way,'" Proverbs 22:13]. This person must "Return until Hashem," do as much as it takes to align himself with Torah, do all that is necessary to accord himself with the will of G-d.

An apikorus saw Rava learning with such deep concentration that he cut his finger, which bled without his noticing. [Referring to "naaseh vinishma - the Jewish People will accept the Torah and then understand it," the apikorus said] "You impetuous nation. Your mouths [at Mount Sinai] preceded your ears and you do so still now. First you should listen and only if you can do the thing, accept [Torah]." Rava answered, "Of we who go in pureheartedness it is written [Proverbs 11:3] 'The pureheartedness of the righteous will guide them'" [Gemora Shabos 88a-b].

Rashi comments on, "Who go in pureheartedness." "We go with G-d with a perfect heart the same way as those who act from love, and we rely on Him that He will not steer us wrong with a thing which we cannot withstand."

The Mishna (Avos, chapter one) tells us, "Learning is not the principal thing but rather action is." The primary determining factor as to whether one fulfills the Torah is his actions. Similarly, the Chazone Ish said that the first criteria for determining if one is an observant Jew is fulfillment of all of halacha [practical law].

The Torah tells us that returning "until" Hashem, doing His will, without hinging it on our understanding or any preconditions, is [Deuteronomy 30:6] "In order that you live." Hashem wants that the Jew return, do mitzvos, be honest and generous and fair with people; G-d wants us to live and to receive His blessings [Ezekiel 18:5-31].

G-d loves us and knows what is best. He only directs us to fulfill the mitzvos because that will benefit us the most. The Torah Jew has complete confidence that everything that the Torah wants from us will only be the best for us.

The very same Heaven, where the lazy or evasive person complains the Torah is, is brought as the very witness that G-d gives us the choice of life and blessing or death and curse [Deuteronomy 30:19]. It is up to us to "Choose life," that we may be allowed by Hashem to, indeed, live. By this coming in the Torah reading that is just before Rosh HaShana and the Ten Days Of Repentance, we see that this is the "ticket" to a good year, to a year of life and blessing.

Blessings and good decrees can only come upon one who is a "kailee [vessel]" to receive them. Otherwise, G-d's gifts will not come, or will not be kept. The way one behaves directly impacts how Heaven behaves with him/her. Heaven is particularly strict about interpersonal matters. Remember that our exile is due to interpersonal failings such as sinas chinam [causeless hate] and lashon hora [damaging, embarrassing or derogatory speech]. One who hurts another or his property cannot be forgiven by Heaven until forgiven by the one he/she harmed.

To merit the bounty that Hashem wants to give us, our sages told us to strive to conduct ourselves sincerely and consistently all the time in the following matters, and to strengthen ourselves exceedingly in them during Ellul and the Ten Days of Repentance. Here are twenty four practical Torah keys to meriting good decrees and succeeding in Divine Judgement:

1. Learning Torah with diligence on a regular schedule; 2. Precise, careful observance of all halacha; 3. Scrupulous observance of mitzvos, particularly those which are foundations of Torah: shabos, yomim tovim, family purity, morality between men and women, koshruss [dietary laws], and all interpersonal or financial matters; 4. Learning Mussar [self-perfection and spiritual elevation studies]; 5. Faith and Trust in G-d, especially at times of difficulty; 6. Devotion in prayer and blessings and, in particular, answering "Yehay Shamy Rabo..." with full concentration; 7. The trait of patience; 8. The trait of mercy; 9. To look away and not be strict with people or "what is coming to you;" 10. To judge people favorably with benefit of doubt; 11. Guard your tongue (be careful what you say or write); 12. Have fear of judgement in your heart, to motivate yourself to do tshuva and purify yourself; 13. Take on "chumros" [stringencies] even if they are not your custom; 14. Strive with all your might to engage in needs of the Jewish public, with your personal service and/or with your money; 15. Bring merit to the Jewish people in Torah AND mussar; 16. See to it that G-d is sanctified through you; 17. Do frequent acts of kindness that help or benefit others; 18. Pursue peace and forgive those who wrong you; 19. Guard against harming others in any way or doing what they won't like; 20. Proper and holy conduct in shul (synagogue), particularly not walking in front of one who is praying and no talking; 21. Do tshuva [repentance for wrongdoing or failings] at least twice a day, morning and night; including working steadily on "self training" and breaking your will, for the will of G-d; 22. The trait of humility; 23. Speak gently with people and 24. Give derech eretz (civil, polite and thoughtful conduct) and kavod habrios [dignity and importance] to people.





[The reader is also directed to the material on tshuva/repentance in "Personal Growth And Self-Perfection".]


The Torah says "viholachta bidrachov" (go in G-d's ways) and "acharai Hashem Elokaichem tailachu" (go after G-d). These tell us to emulate G-d's behaviors and midos. The verse in Job/Eeyov tells us "im tzadakta ma titain lo" (if you are generous to G-d, what do you give Him). G-d is infinite and all-sufficient. He needs and takes nothing. He is only a giver. King Solomon tells us "soneh matanos yichiyeh (the one who hates gifts will be alive)." We see that a Jew must be a giver - emulating G-d thereby - and must hate being a taker. Each gives according to his abilities and blessings. A wealthy person gives charity, a sensitive person gives help and kindness, a talented talmid chochom becomes a rov, educator or dayan. When each gives according to his material and spiritual resources, he is a credit to G-d, Torah and the Jewish people. One who loves taking has no connection to G-d. Going through life, without it be a way of giving to G-d, Torah and the Jewish people, is a CONTRADICTION. The Jew is a giver.

In every walk of life, whether a person is working or learning, each Jew must be scrupulous and an "ambassador for Hashem" in his Torah practice and in all of his daily behavior. When the person's midos, conduct or halacha observance are compromised or deficient; and he does not seriously work on his midos, behavior and personal shortcomings; he is not deserving of being called a Torah Jew or the benefits of good decrees from Heaven.

Chapter 51 in Psalms is called "Perek Tshuva [Chapter Of Repentance]." Upon recognizing a sin or fault, one should be contrite and work on it. A verse from this chapter is used as the beginning of every Shmoneh Esray that every Jew prays three times every day, "Hashem open my lips that my mouth tell your praises." Associating Perek Tshuva with prayer tells us that prayer is an act of introspection: "Am I worthy of what I need and ask for?" If one has been in error, let him repair it. King David is telling us that a significant part of effective tshuva is to improve oneself AND strengthen efforts to tell others about Torah. If you have taken away from Torah, the repair can come from adding Torah to the world, spreading and improving Torah knowledge and observance in the world. Every one has their tests. The Mesilas Yesharim tells us that every moment of life is a test, given for the purpose of our passing it and moving on to the next moment with its test, given by Heaven for us to pass, and so forth, throughout life, so that we each can earn eternal bliss.

Perek Tshuva also says, "G-d, give me a pure heart and renew a correct spirit within me." Tshuva can only take real root, and endure, if one's heart is pure and his reasoning is correct in the eyes of Hashem.

Ralbag (to Proverbs 3:8) says that only Torah can cure one from bad midos and concepts, but only if the person regards the Torah as nourishment for the soul, the way food is nourishment for the body. One must learn Torah entirely with the attitude that he is nourishing his neshama, which must become evident consistently in practical action and behavior all day, and in elevation of midos and hashkafos.

King David tells us, "The Torah of Hashem is perfect, returning the soul...the laws of G-d are straight, making happy the heart; the commandments of G-d are pure, bringing light to the eyes" [Psalm 19:8-9]. One can be truly happy only if he has Torah that is straight; with no compromising or warping. One can only be truly knowledgeable if one has Torah that is pure. Only the Torah of Hashem is perfect. One can only increase his perfection as a person, and as a soul, if his Torah is perfect [Rashi to 19:8]. Being a Torah Jew is an opportunity to achieve spiritual perfection, true service of Hashem and optimized olam habo [eternal life]. Perverting or weakening Torah, and its application to practical life, is a tragic waste. Chazal call a person who has a lot of Torah knowledge but who does not internalize, embody or apply Torah "a donkey carrying a box of books." A Jew is the "image of G-d," and, to make this meaningful, the Jew is obligated to emulate G-d's deeds and traits in daily life and practical relating with other people. Achieving these noble goals, in real and consistent terms, is to fulfill the commandments "Be holy" [Leviticus 19:2], "And you shall speak them [Torah words;" Deuteronomy 6:7], "Go after G-d" [Deuteronomy 13:5] and "Walk in His ways" [Deuteronomy 28:9].

The Torah calls Rosh HaShanah "The day of the shofar blowing." The Klee Yakar says that the Torah intentionally did not call it "The day of tshuva," which is more essential to Rosh HaShana than the shofar (the shofar is a REMINDER TO DO TSHUVA). Why does the Torah not refer to Rosh HaShana with what matters most about that day? The Klee Yakar writes that the reason that the Torah does not call Rosh HaShana the day of tshuva is so that you would not mistakenly think tshuva is required only one day a year. Tshuva, and behaving like a mentsh, is required EVERY DAY AT ALL TIMES. Igerress HaRamban tells us to ANALYZE OUR DEEDS EVERY MORNING AND NIGHT AND DO TSHUVA FOR EVERYTHING WRONG WE DID THE PREVIOUS HALF DAY. For each thing which requires tshuva, we shall do twice a day all the required steps: sincere remorse, privately admitting the wrong to G-d, abandoning the wrong and accepting for the future to do instead what is right, and, if involving wrong to any other person or people, gently talking it out and making it up to each person as needed to appease and to obtain forgiveness and peace.





[The reader is also directed to the material on tshuva/repentance in "Personal Growth And Self-Perfection".]


The midrash says that Heaven informed the Tanna [sage of the Mishna], Rabbi Yehoshua, that his partner in Gan Aiden [Eternal bliss] would be a certain butcher. Rabbi Yehoshua spent his entire life in Torah, mitzvos and holiness. He wanted to understand why his partner in eternity would be a plain workingman. He traveled to the town in which the butcher lived and met him, asking, "Tell me what you do and what is your work." He replied, "I am a butcher and I honor my parents by feeding, clothing and washing them." Notice that Rabbi Yehoshua had not yet asked him about what spiritual merits the butcher might have. Yet, the butcher said, in answer to what he does, that what is primary in his life is honoring his parents.

When Jonah went on the boat, the sailors asked him who he was and what his work was. He answered, "I am a Jew and I fear G-d in Heaven" [Jonah 1:9]. Jonah's essence was not his occupation - it was that he is a Jew who serves G-d. What a Jew does with his day is subordinate to the fact that a Jew's main job, his essence, his identity, is to serve and fear G-d, to spend his life doing mitzvos...the will of Hashem. All throughout every day, in everything he does, his focus is his relationship with G-d and His service. When one views his life, no matter what his daily occupation might be, as being DEFINED by serving G-d, he fulfills the verse, "In all of your ways, know Him" [Proverbs 3:6] and he can merit the same place in Heaven as a holy sage of Israel. It is no accident that the book of Jonah, with this message, is read on Yom Kippur, when Heaven decides our fate for the coming year!

The Torah is a complete package that stands on a foundation of good midos [character traits], good-heartedness, straight hashkofos [views], halacha [Torah law] observance and high behavior standards, especially for interpersonal behavior. One genuinely dedicated to Torah and serving Hashem scrupulously observes all of the Torah. Someone who picks and chooses his mitzvos is serving idolatry (with himself the idol), not G-d or His Torah!

Rabbi Elimelech of Lezinsk said, "A person is born only for the purpose of perfecting his nature." The midrash says, "There is no real joy except joy of wisdom...if there is wisdom in a person, this person studies mussar. If the person has no wisdom in him, he is not able to learn mussar [Yalkut Mishlay 909]." The siddur says, "Blessed is our G-d Who created us for His honor, and separated us from those who err, and gave us the Torah of truth and gave us the chance to earn eternal life. May He open our heart in His Torah, and place in us love and fear of Him, that we do His will and serve Him with a complete heart, in order that we not come to emptiness or to dismay" [Uva litzion].

The Torah says (Deuteronomy 4:39), "And you will know today and you will return it to your heart...". Rabbi Yisrael Salanter (mid 19th century) was one of the greatest Torah analysts of human nature. He says that this verse addresses two levels of human reality, 1. knowledge and 2. heart. In the Torah's need to be explicit about there being these two levels, we learn that the distance between knowing something intellectually and really absorbing it (into the heart, where it becomes genuinely assimilated into you) is as great a distance as the difference between knowing something and not knowing it at all. Torah is for internalization and application in "real life," so that the Jew responds to all stimuli with Torah behavior.

A well known story is told of Rabbi Yisrael Salanter in which he tells how he came upon one of his fundamental principles of mussar (Torah self-elevation). He took his shoes to a shoemaker for repair. The sun was going down. It was getting darker and the shoemaker only had a little bit of candle left. Rabbi Yisrael offered to come back the next day. The sky was getting dark and if the little bit of candle would finish, there would be no light. The shoemaker wasn't finished with the repair of the previous customer's shoes. The shoemaker assured the rabbi that he needn't bother to come back tomorrow. "Don't worry. As long as the candle burns, I can repair." These words hit Rabbi Salanter hard. He realized that these words were a secret to human growth and purpose. As long as the candle burns...as long as one is still alive - I can repair...myself as a human being. Even someone older, more set in one's ways, one can always work on oneself, as long as one still has the gift of life. One's primary purpose in life is to grow, properly use free will choice, serve G-d and earn merit at all times.

"Blessed is the man who does not go in the counsel of the wicked and who does not stand in the place where sinners remain and who does not sit in the proximity of scoffers. His only desire is the Torah of G-d and he will devote himself to His Torah day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by streams of water that will give its fruit in its season and its leaf will never deteriorate and all that he shall do will be successful" [Psalm 1:1-3].

G'mar tov - May all Israel internalize Torah and Mitzvos and, thereby, merit Heaven's decrees for a completely good year!




The holiday of Sukos, and its mitzva of lulav, give us some wonderful insights into what a Jewish marriage is supposed to be.

Let us start by reading portions of two of the Torah's verses in Parshas Emor (Vayikra 23:42-43). "You will DWELL in suka booths for seven days...in order that your generations will know that I made the people Israel DWELL in suka booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt."

Many people know that Chazal say that finding a person's mate is as difficult as opening the Yam Suf [Reed Sea] (Gemoras Sota and Sanhedrin plus midrash Beraishis Raba). Note that the gemoras relate this statement to a second marriage but the midrash does not qualify this, enabling us to apply it to a first marriage). Chazal learn this from Tehillim (Psalm 68:7), which says, "G-d makes singles DWELL in a house and takes out the jailed ones to kosher prosperity." From this verse, we see that Hashem causes a single (unmarried) person dwell in a house, i.e to be married, freeing them from the prison of solitude. In the two verses in Vayikra, we saw reference to the verb "dwell" also.

A suka is a dwelling that was composed by Hashem in a cloud in a desert (Sefer HaToda'a). It was very non-tangible and non-physical. Yet, that was called "dwelling" by the Torah. We see that this is indeed the truest form of dwelling because Hashem is creating that in which we were dwelling in the desert. Hashem can make a home in the wilderness out of clouds and that has more realness and tangibility and substance than the firmest physical house. Consider that Egypt and Paro were mighty and wealthy. Egypt was the world's strongest military power, highly civilized and educated. Egypt's borders were locked. No one could go in or out of Egypt without the country's permission. You would have thought that having a firm, tangible home in Egypt in those days would mean you have a solid and secure residence. Yet, Hashem destroyed the homes and even the entire country. He took away their security and their rulership and brought the Jewish people out from among them so that the Jewish people could see that earthly protection is no protection. Hashem is the only One who provides security, dwelling and protection. Even an intangible cloud of glory, with no physical substance, offered true protection under the shadow of Hashem's suka. This, the Torah testifies, caused the Jewish people to dwell - to have a real residence - even in an open desert. It also says in Tehillim (Psalm 127:1), "If Hashem will not build a house, those builders who toiled to build it did so in vain."

The S'fas Emmess points out that the name of Hashem "Eloka" has the same letters as "ohel (tent [alef, heh, vov, lamed])." This was the kind of home or dwelling that the Jewish people had in the desert. Hashem did miracles for the Jewish people while in the desert; including sheltering us, feeding our entire nation and protecting us under His clouds of glory (ananay hakovod). We left Egypt following Hashem and His word, with emuna (faith). We had no shelter, no food, no protection of any kind. We were leaving a civilized and built up land with houses to dwell in. We followed Hashem into the midbar - an open, hot desert - just on the basis of His telling us to. We had nothing but Hashem and he took care of all of our needs. He provided us with every manner of protection and security. Eloka was our ohel - Hashem was our dwelling and protection.

When Dovid HaMelech tells us that Hashem makes the single individuals dwell in a house, taking the jailed ones out to kosher prosperity, Chazal tell us that the jail that is referred to here (in Tehillim 68:7) is Egypt. But in our parallel, it also means when they are single - unmarried and alone. Hashem miraculously brings a husband and a wife together to make them into a married couple, to bring them to where they find each other through the Providential course of their lives (hashgacha pratis). Hashem brings the two singles out of the jail of their singlehood, of their being alone, one without the other. Hashem takes these two single individuals and, by bringing them together, causes them to dwell in a house, causing them to constitute a house. This is just as miraculous as when He brought the Jewish people from Egypt, through the Yam Suf, to Mount Sinai, which also is a parallel to getting married. At Sinai, Hashem was the choson/groom, the Jewish people was the kala/bride; the creation of the covenant at Sinai corresponded to a marriage.

The Jewish people went through the Yam Suf. A sea does not open up, never mind to avail dry land to walk on, so that a person or nation can get to the other side. But, for the Jewish people, Hashem made a miracle. They went through the sea on dry land. The walls of the sea parted. It is just as miraculous, difficult, impossible for someone in the jail of singlehood to get himself freed to find and marry his/her "basherte" [destined mate] until Hashem intervenes, gets involved and makes it miraculously happen. Then the person is taken out of the jail of singlehood corresponding, in the analogy, to the Jewish people being miraculously taken out of Egypt through the Yam Suf to Sinai. And the single man and woman form a house with kosher prosperity. Rashi comments that Hashem took the Jewish people out of Egypt at the "kosher" time. It was spring time when the weather was not too cold or too hot. It was the most fitting time to travel on foot in the open for a lengthy journey. When Hashem brings the bride and groom together, it is the "kosher" time in their lives, when they are ready for the journey of marriage.

When we got to the desert, Hashem caused us to DWELL in suka booths. He showed us, this way, that when we have nothing tangible or physical, that does not mean that we are without security. When Hashem takes care of us, THAT is security. He not only fed us, he protected us from snakes and scorpions and the heat. To our flesh and blood eyes, Hashem brought us to a wilderness that would ordinarily be dangerous. Hashem destroyed the physical civilization, homes and military might of Egypt. Similarly, G-d wants the single to destroy his inclination to be physical, material, to be combative with other people, to focus on security defined by things of this material world. Only when the single goes forward with emunah (faith in Hashem and loyalty to His will) to cause him/herself to be a person who can DWELL, in a spiritual sense (like the suka), does Hashem take the single out of the prison, the Egypt of singlehood, at the right time, to go through the Yam Suf of his/her life, to be able to be brought to his/her wedding to DWELL in a house as a husband and wife. That is when they will be freed and living with "kosher prosperity."

During Sukkos we have the mitzva of lulav. Lulav is a very important reference for our analogy. The lulav is the Talmud's classic case of the prohibition of doing any mitzva by means of a sin. If X steals Y's lulav to perform the mitzva, X achieves no mitzva. No matter how smug or holy he feels as he shakes the fancy $200 lulav, in the eyes of G-d, his theft leaves him nothing but a repugnant thief.

There are many cases, whether you are a single person alone, dating, engaged or married, where you try to do a mitzva through a sin. For singles, there are four examples of theft that I can think of offhand in dating. If you are not taking someone seriously, or you are treating someone neglectfully or hurtfully, or if you are seeing more than one person at a time, so that it is impossible to really be giving fair and total consideration to either of the people that you are simultaneously seeing, this is a form of theft. It is deceptive. You are stealing the person's ability to explore the relationship with you or to believe that you are giving him/her genuine consideration. This violates several sins: 1.kavod habrios (requisite human dignity), 2. ganayvas da'as (misleading, deception, stealing another's ability to know truth), 3. bitul zman (stealing and wasting time, which is something you can never pay back or replace, making this a very serious sin; this includes showing up late for a date or going on vacation for a few weeks when someone is waiting to go out with you and not seeing anyone else), and 4. bitul momon (wasting money, such as when a woman goes out with a guy she is not really considering seriously so that she can get a free meal; for the dates, he spent the money on food, transportation, flowers or entertainment for nothing; such a woman is a thief of the man's money). The person claims, "I'm trying to get married. It's a mitzva, it's exalted, it's proper at an adult age to get married." A meritorious thing only comes through meritorious means. Torah, halacha and mussar have to accept the means by which one strives to become married or to conduct marriage. If you ever do anything to hurt, neglect, shortchange or disrespect another person, that is nothing but a sin. Any mitzva that comes through a sin remains nothing but a sin.

I see in my practical counseling, husbands and wives, in their relationship failings, actively hurt each other or neglect to do necessary good or responsible things for each other. I've seen cases where the husband doesn't come home at night or comes home very late and doesn't care about his wife. He's not interested in spending time or building a relationship. He's going though motions. I know a case of a wife who wouldn't clean the house because she just was too lazy. She couldn't afford a maid and the house was always a repulsive shambles. This drove the couple apart. Each spouse has responsibilities, duties and roles. Besides practical activities, this includes attitudes and midos. Neither spouse ever has any permission or right to hurt or shortchange the other, whether actively through what they do or passively through what they neglect to do. Either way, when one conducts the marriage through something that is sinful or at odds with what the couple owes to the relationship, that remains nothing but a sin.

A lulav represents and corresponds to the Jewish people. It also represents and corresponds to Torah. It is the main one of the four species that we hold and do the mitzva with. It is the one which receives the blessing. It is the one to which two other of the four species are tied. It is the one that is held in the right hand (the hand of strength and emphasis). The four species are to be "hadar" (glorious, exalted, beautiful to the utmost). A person, tzelem Elokim (the image of G-d) and bonim atem (the beloved child of Hashem), is hadar. The person one is married to is beautiful, the image and beloved of Hashem, His son or daughter. That is not someone who anyone has any permission to mistreat or neglect in any way. One's spouse is for treating with honor, peace and generosity. The mitzva of lulav represents the Jewish people and the Torah. It is symbolic of unity, blessing and a strong bond. G-d brought a husband and wife together to build a home. Eloka is ohel - a home is G-dly. Hashem put us into the desert and there He took take care of us. He showed us that spirituality is the real security, protection and sustenance. That is how husband and wife are to treat each other. They dwell together. Just as Hashem took care of us, fed, clothed and protected us in the desert, marriage partners DWELL together as a couple and give care and security to each other. Hashem made us DWELL in the suka. He showed us that the emphasis is the spiritual. There was no security in the mighty and tangible civilization, in the strong physical house. Hashem's caring for us in the desert is the model of taking care of, sustaining and protecting us.

A home is not of solid walls or any earthly, materialistic aspect. A home has a spiritual orientation and priorities. Hashem takes a single person out of the "Egypt of his/her singlehood" to DWELL in and to constitute a home. This requires that the couple take care of each other, their children and others in the Jewish community - feeding, protecting, caring for and helping others with kindness, accessibility, a sweet and pleasant attitude, diligence, responsibility, humility and generosity. This is approaching marriage correctly. In reward for DWELLING this way, Hashem is telling us that He is going to take care of us the way we take care of people and use the home as a DWELLING used for His service. This is what Hashem wants - and what we must want. On Sukkos we have ushpizin, guests; again signaling that the home is to be used for kindness, spirituality and caring for others. Chazal say that if you spend Yom Tov without having guests, you are only kind to your belly, which is disgusting to Hashem. When we care for others, Hashem cares for us.

On weekdays our focus is more material and mundane. On Shabos and holidays our focus is spiritual and sublime. Accordingly, on Friday night and holiday nights, we modify the text of the nightly prayer "Hashkivainu," said before the evening Shmoneh Esray. Instead of saying, "Who always guards Israel," we say, "Who spreads the suka-shelter of peace ('sukas shalom') over us." Instead of focusing on the need for protection, represented by night and darkness, as we do on weekdays; we focus, on shabos and Yom Tov, on a blissful sense of peace, free of discord, as our Father in Heaven receives His people with protection and lovingkindness (Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch). We see again this image of suka symbolizing peace, harmony, security and lovingkindness. Again, the message is that the suka represents that we can and should DWELL as Hashem ultimately wants us to. Shabos and holidays are spiritual days. When we live with a spiritual focus, Hashem provides us with the resources and ability to DWELL in a "suka of peace."

Hashem wants a home to be a place in which the people are secure and cared for in an ohel (home) that stands for Eloka (G-dliness), the way Hashem took care of the Jewish people in the midbar after taking us out of Egypt to "marry" us at Mount Sinai. The single individuals come out of the state of singleness to DWELL together in a home to take care of someone else, that it be kosher (proper, fitting) in the eyes of Hashem; modeling his/her conduct after Hashem; going in the ways of Hashem; to look after, care for, protect, to be generous, to provide for needs and to mean well for the other person; and to do all this in a manner of hadar (grandeur, glory, the most beautiful way). The four parts of the species come together in an aguda achas (a unified band). A husband and wife are, likewise, unified and peaceful, and thereby DWELL in a home with kosher prosperity. They live together in a true home - a spiritual suka, an ohel that is Eloka, G-dly, a dwelling the way Hashem wants.



While our ancestors were in the desert, G-d caused the Jews to dwell in Suka booths [Leviticus 23:43], which, in their original form, were composed from the "Clouds of Glory," made by G-d Himself. When we move out of our solid homes to the suka booth, we show that the only true dwelling and protection are from G-d. Egypt was a mighty power. One might think that living in a solid home in a powerful country, one is secure in a home that is secure. G-d smashed the Egyptians with ten plagues and the annihilation at the Reed Sea. We lived in frail spiritual dwellings for forty years in a desert; protected from snakes, scorpions and heat. True residence and protection are spiritual. This is the meaning of dwelling in the suka.

People often don't seek guidance needed from a rov. The Torah says, "What does G-d ask of you but that you fear G-d, to go in all of His ways and to love Him and serve Him with all your heart..." [Deuteronomy 10:12].

The essence of being a Torah Jew is devotion of the heart to G-d, with fear of Him at the "essence of the essence." This means that life constantly confronts people with choices between one's own will and the will of G-d, and that each has free will every time to choose as he wants (with, of course, consequences and responsibility for each choice). The foundation of this is always how one operates at the level of the heart.

It therefore is amazing, in our current society, how much the focus has been twisted into prioritizing the surface and discrediting the inner essence. This shows up in almost all areas of life: e.g. decorations of the Suka, the lulav and esrog of Sukkos, fancy homes or judging shidduchim by externals that have nothing to do with the humanity or quality of the person. This is not what G-d wants, as TaNaCH says, "For the human will see the outer appearance and G-d sees the heart (1 Samuel 16:7)." Pirkei Avos says, "Do not look at the outer container, but what is in it." The gemora [Sanhedrin 106b] says that the main thing that G-d wants is the heart.

If one invites friends and family for yom tov meals; instead of the needy, sad, troubled or lonely; this is called by Chazal "service of the stomach and not service of G-d," no matter how much effort or expense went into beautifying the Suka or buying a superb esrog. Chesed is much greater.

Everybody is always in a "milchomas hayaitzer [war against the evil inclination]." This is at the innermost core where a person "truly lives" and who the person really is. There is a mitzva to give people a "saivor ponim yafos [a cheerful, friendly countenance]." If one does not smile at people, or gives a forced and phoney smile, he is not truly a pleasant or friendly person. How would the person act if you, in any way, challenged or criticized them? Chazal tell us that a person is truly recognizable by how he acts when he spends his money, when he is drunk, when he is angry, by how he judges people and things (by what he praises or criticizes) and by how he leaves something/someone at the end of his association with it/him/her/them. These are examples of where you truly see the real person. The midrash says that one's true inner essence, his Torah and dignity, stands in its place. In other words, what other people say or think about you has no affect on who or what you are as a person, or as a Jew. Their opinions or chit-chat about you ultimately mean absolutely nothing. What you are, what your qualities as a person are, are never diminished or impacted in the least by what others think and feel. The mishna says that it is better for everyone alive to laugh at you and call you an idiot for your entire lifetime than to be considered by G-d to be evil for even one moment. The Jew should only concentrate on, prioritize and develope himself in, true spiritual perfection at all times.

In shidduchim, the latest "trend" or "craze" is demanding only someone "who dances in the middle" [at a simcha], as if this indicates or measures how fit for being a marriage partner one is. The experience of most people I know with wisdom and meaningful life experience is that people who "dance in the middle" are more often than not egotistical phoneys who want limelight. Their dancing in the middle is "shtick" regarding their own life rather than regarding entertaining the baal simcha [celebrant]. These egotistical actors who dance in the middle are often the same people who cannot see another person in any real sense and are a catastrophe when they get married when the other wants something that doesn't suit the "middle dancer." It is idolizing superficiality and is nothing short of idiocy.

A rich American Jew was once vacationing in Poland. While there, he "had to" visit the Chofetz Chayim in his town of Radin. When he got to the Chofetz Chayim's shack, the visitor was aghast to find there was next to no furniture; just a plain wooden table, a couple of chairs with no backs, some rickety book shelves and a dirt floor. The American asked the Chofetz Chayim, "Where is your furniture?" The Chofetz Chayim, in Jewish fashion, answered the question with a question, "Where is YOUR furniture?" The visitor said, "I'm just a traveler. I'm temporarily away from home. I don't have furniture on my journey. I have my furniture in my home."

The Chofetz Chayim answered, "I am just a traveler, in my life on earth. I'm temporarily away from home, in Heaven. I don't have furniture on my journey on earth. I have my furniture in my home in olam habo [eternal life]." The Chofetz Chayim was saying that his main purpose in life is accumulating spiritual merits, which would be dissipated and eliminated by spending time or energy accumulating material gains. He wanted only eternal spiritual gains. Every thing else is Soton distracting from true purpose.

On Sukkos we read King Solomon's book of Ecclesiastes, specifically at the time of harvest, to teach us that we must never lose sight, in our material lives, that spirituality is the priority and essence. King Solomon tells us that the purpose of life is "to fear G-d and do His mitzvos, because that is all there is to being a human being." Never forget: give G-d your heart and make all your decisions based entirely on considerations and values of the heart and G-d's service. This is all that life is for.



For those of you who need a "jump start" for your emuna (belief in G-d and the supremacy of His will) consider this. From the time of Joshua till the end of the second temple, a span of approximately 1,300 years, all Jewish adult males were obligated to go to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem for the three annual pilgrimmage festivals; Passover, Shevu'os and Sukkos. This left the entire country barren and unprotected. All women, children and property were vulnerable to plunder and attack; the entire country exposed to conquest. There were always enough enemies, power-hungry kings and anti-semites around for whom such a thrice-annual, predictable, recurrent pattern would have pain uncontrollably tempting. Yet, never once in all of history did G-d allow one iota of harm come upon the Jewish nation. As King Solomon says (Ecclesiastes 8:5), "The one who performs a commandment will not know any bad thing."





One might ask, "Why was the holiday of Simchas Torah [The Joy Of The Torah] placed in the Jewish calendar on the holiday of Shmini Atzeress ["The Eighth Day Of Holding Back," which follows immediately after the seven days of Sukos] instead of on Shevuos, the day which commemorates the giving of the Torah?" Wouldn't having the celebration over the Torah make more sense on the day we celebrate the giving of the Torah?

Shevuos and Shmini Atzeress are both called "Atzeress [a day of holding back]" by Chazal. Shevuos is a time which is the end of a period that starts with Pesach. Shmini Atzeress is the end of the period which starts with Sukos.

There are many differences as well as similarities between these two periods of time. The first period of time (from Pesach to Shevuos) is 50 days. The latter period of time (Sukos-Shmini Atzeress) is eight days. Fifty is one more than seven times seven, and eight is one more than a single unit of seven.

Shevuos is the day we celebrate the giving of the Torah. The atzeress of Shevuos, which would seem to be the appropriate time for celebrating Simchas Torah [the Joy Of The Torah], was the culmination of the redemption of freedom of the body from slavery under the Egyptians. Redemption from Egypt was characterized by yira [fear]; with the ten plagues, pursuit of by the Egyptians and the killing of the Egyptians at the Yam Suf, and the thunder and lightening at Revelation at Mount Sinai. It was a harsh, frightening and involuntary experience. The midrash says that G-d held the mountain over the Jewish people and said that this place will be their burial ground if they would not accept the Torah.

In contrast, Sukos is a time when everyone has been purified by tshuva [repentance] and everyone has come through Yom Kippur. Sukos is the holiday most replete with mitzvos: lulav and esrog, building and dwelling in a booth, the water ceremony (in the time of the Holy Temple) and Hallel. The experience of Sukos is of joy and love and it is voluntary. We have love of G-d and His Torah. Israel, the Torah and G-d are all One [Zohar]. Sukos, in this respect, is the opposite of Shevuos.

Chazal contrast tshuva from love with tshuva from fear. Let us look at this in our context and let us also look at how G-d uses His principle of mida kineged mida (measure for measure, in His responses to people) in this.

When one does tshuva from fear, Hashem turns his sins from intentional sins INTO UNINTENTIONAL SINS. That is a level of forgiveness: G-d regards one's sins as if the person didn't know the act was a sin or did not know that the act was a case in which the act was sinful. But, there still is a status of blemish there because the person still is viewed as having done a sin. The person's motive in repenting is to look out for himself, to protect himself against punishment or trouble. It is as if Hashem says, "You are doing the minimal tshuva because you are frightened and I will give the minimal forgiveness."

However, for tshuva from love of G-d, He turns sins INTO MERITS. Why? This is because love is characterized by giving. Ahava (love, in Hebrew) is related to hav (give, in Aramaic, a related language). So, when one does tshuva from love, he wants to give of himself for G-d, to be the best possible servant of G-d, to be the closest that he possibly can be to G-d. When the person is looking to give, G-d is also looking to give. G-d is, so to speak, saying that He is "giving" by seeing every sin as a step which led to this tshuva, to a new level of commitment to G-d, to a new level of love and service and attachment. He is counting every sin as a "link in a chain" which brought the person to this "development," this high level of tshuva that was voluntary and characterized by joy and love. Hashem acts out of love and "gives of Himself" back to the individual. He counts every step, including the sins, that brought the person to tshuva from love, as a merit.

Seven is a number which corresponds to a complete entity in nature (e.g. seven days is a complete week). Accordingly, eight corresponds to that which is above nature.

Pesach is the time of freedom of the body from Egyptian slavery.

After Pesach, the time until Shevuos required seven units of seven days of effort. The Atzeress, of Shevuos is reached through fear, so it takes seven times seven before arriving at that day of being together with G-d, on the fiftieth day.

The seven days of Sukos are characterized by joy, love and mitzvos. We only require eight days to go through this tshuva and cleansing process. We only need one unit of seven to get to the Atzeress of Shmini Atzeress because these are seven days of love. Only one unit of seven is needed to bring us closer to Hashem, from Sukos to Shmini Atzeress, that day of being together with G-d, on the eighth day.

After Yom Kippur, we have come through freedom of the soul by tshuva [repentance] and kapara [atonement], done voluntarily and through love, through the seven days of Sukos.

With the cold season following, G-d does not ask us to make a pilgrimage to Jerusalem again for half a year, until Spring. In contrast, after Pesach, it is only 50 days until the next pilgrimage holiday.

On Sukos there are 70 sacrifices. These symbolize the 70 basic nations of the world. Our time together with G-d is not exclusive.

Shmini Atzeress is the eight day, coming after one unit of seven. On Shmini Atzeress, there are no mitzvos, no objects to handle. It is as if Hashem is saying, "Wait one more day for us to be alone, just you and I, to share our special love together, before you go back to your long winter of earthly pursuits. Since getting to Shmini Atzeress was through the love and joy of Sukos, and this was voluntary and through renewed commitment to Torah and mitzvos, and this came after cleansing from sins on Yom Kippur, I am only going to require one unit of seven days to bring us to this Atzeress [the eighth day of holding back]."

This explains celebrating the joy, honor and greatness of the Torah on Shmini Atzeress.

We do not experience the Torah in a severe, frightening and legalistic way, as we do on Shevuos. Our perception of Torah is on a lower level when prompted by fear and force and a base physical survival instinct. Our perception of the the greatness of G-d and Torah is on a much higher level on Shmini Atzeress. We have been through the spiritual cleansing of Yom Kippur and the numerous mitzvos of Sukos. We experience the Torah in a manner that is voluntary, joyous, pleasant, spiritual, loving, honoring and for union with G-d and Torah.

On Shmini Atzeress, our appreciation of the Torah and our closeness to its Giver, Hashem, are maximized. It is the appropriate day to celebrate the Torah.



Chazal refer to Shevuos AND Shemini Atzeress as "atzeress [linked to a previous holiday]." Shevuos is connected to Pesach and Shemini Atzeress to Sukkos. The Torah was given with thunder and lightening; after liberation, plagues and killing in Egypt. Sefer HaToda'a says the atzeress of Shevuos is characterized by fear so it takes seven weeks and Shmini Atzeress by love so it only needs seven DAYS. G-d took care of us in the desert, which we commemorate by dwelling in booths, followed by rejoicing with the Torah.

King Solomon said to "Educate each child according to his way so that when he grows old he will never depart from it [Proverbs 22:6]."

I was about to put my fare into a subway turnstile when a young fellow, about 20, ran over carrying a flat take-out pizza box. Recognizing a fellow Jew, he asked me to hold his box. I waited while he bought his fare. We entered the platform and he asked me directions to his stop, which I gave him. Feeling comfortable with me, he asked me how to manage stress. I never told him that I do counseling. He just must have felt that I was someone he could talk to and he had tension pent up in him. He was wearing casual every-day American clothes, with a small yarmulka, but he told me he was a drop out from a Chasidish community, was on the outs with the formal education system and had considerable personal problems. I discussed with him the difference between emotional pressures from within as distinguished from those genuinely imposed by external circumstances, how circumstances can be a test from Heaven or a challenge to grow or to achieve or to be creative in ways that we can't when we are comfortable, and how one handles pressures or issues can be largely a matter of one's attitude and approach. I gave him attention and chizuk. I brought source after source after source, to communicate to him that, as Pirkei Avos tells us, everything is in the Torah, including the answers to his questions. He thanked me and asked if he could remain in touch with me. I gave him my number.

I did something with him that no one in his family or schools did. I made Torah relevant to him, talk to him, to his situation and feelings. He thought the Torah was contributory to his problems. People who fall short of Torah may have contributed to his problems, but G-d's Torah NEVER contributes to problems. Kee haim chayaynu, Toras chayim, Toras Hashem temima [words of Torah are our life, it is Torah OF LIFE, Torah of G-d is perfect]. When young people go off the derech [Torah path], it is because Torah was never presented as relevant to their life, feelings, personality.

One of my early rabbis was both a rov and a psychologist. He said that ninety percent of secular psychology is false, but we need the ten percent that helps; and that a chinuch [Torah education] must be modified to the individuality of each student so that his personality develops to be authentic and psychologically healthy, while remaining true to learning Torah and living the Shulchan Aruch. This helps brings talmidim to their potential, if they have hadracha [Torah guidance] from good rabbonim who teach them Torah, mussar [self-perfection and ethical studies] and derech eretz [polite, thoughtful and civil conduct]. The Chasidish master, Reb Elimelech of Lizensk, said, "One should ALWAYS see the good attributes of each other person and NEVER see his shortcomings." It stands to reason from this that good educators can identify individual qualities in each child and "fan the flames;" to evoke enthusiasm and love for Torah, set a strong spiritual and developmental foundation and bring out good potentials.

If the schools make "mass production," and push the boys to be things they are not, they will grow up to consider Shulchan Aruch at best [Rachmona litzlon] to be "a bunch of optional suggestions" or a "wedding smorgasbord" from which they can "pick and eat what they choose." When the Torah [in Shma] commands us to love G-d, the gemora says that this means to make G-d be loved by others through you. If chinuch fails to make G-d loved, fails to build loyalty to living the Torah, pushing boys to be things externally imposed upon them, their chinuch can make them become alienated to Torah. Before someone becomes a "baal madrayga [person on a very high spiritual level]," his human feelings require that the Torah speak to him, be relevant to him. I have spoken to countless people as a counselor who have been pained by how Torah or their religious social culture was presented to them, and made them feel rebellious or resentful. Their chinuch experience was cold, mechanical and not better than mediocre.

In some yeshivas, there is a pressure and culture that promotes acting super-frum that is not really internalized and assimilated because it is imposing something unnatural, artificial and premature for that age and level of development. In other yeshivas, boys are given more free reign to be themselves and carefree, so they are subject to becoming undisciplined.

Either way, what is missing in many cases is the CAREFUL AND CARING blending of Talmud and mussar, made relevant to each individual and his emotional and spiritual development. Mussar is often downplayed as a waste of time. A working man came to Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, the father of the "Mussar Movement" and asked, "Rabbi, I work long and hard. I only have 15 minutes a day to learn. What should I learn?" Reb Yisroel answered, "Learn mussar and you'll come to find time to learn gemora also." Learning mussar; under the direction of sensitive, capable teachers who are good role models and baalay midos [masters of their character]; brings to adding more time for Torah, mitzvos and spiritual merits of every kind. It makes one a finer and happier person, a better potential spouse and parent, more able to respect oneself and others, and more committed to Torah at every moment.

Parents also must contribute by giving time to get to know, nurture and communicate with each child. It is not enough when a child comes home and his mother is not there because she is doing recreational shopping or the father isn't there because he is a workaholic or otherwise preoccupied.

Two women, old friends, met after several years. Mrs. Moskowitz had her son Akiva with her. Mrs. Stein hadn't seen Akiva since he was six. She was taken by what a pleasant, warm and well-mannered mentsh he turned out to be and said, "I'd give twenty years of my life to have a son like that!" Mrs. Moskowitz responded, "That's exactly how I did it. I gave twenty years of my life to have a son like that" [true story, names changed].

Only if we raise up each child according to his own individuality will the chinuch remain with him or her till (s)he is old. Unless we create Torah instruction that talks to, relates to and cultivates each individual warmly and wisely; and instills love; it is no wonder that their chinuch can be gone before the children reach twenty, like my friend with the pizza on the subway, and countless more like him. By crafting instruction that makes Torah into "real life," thousands of more Jews will find simcha in learning and living Torah - not just on Simchas Torah, but all year!





On the holiday of Chanukah we have an interesting situation in its halachos (laws). There were two miracles on chanukah. The first was the victory of the Chashmanoyim (the outnumbered Cohanim) who were at war with the Greeks, who, at the time, were the greatest military power in the world. After a fifteen year war, they were victorious and kicked the Greeks out of the Holy Temple.

Second, after they went in to clean up the Holy Temple, they found only one container of kosher oil for the menora, which was enough to burn the light of the menora for one day. They lit it, going beyond the strict requirements of the law. Unkosher oil is technically permitted when the majority of the community is spiritually impure. Nevertheless, the Chashmanoyim went out of their way for the service of G-d. They searched the Holy Temple through and through and found one vial of oil with the seal that meant it was pure. Because they went out of their way, Hashem made a miracle. One day's supply of oil lasted for the eight days that it would take to make new kosher oil.

We have a major question on these two miracles. Why was the war, the defeat of the Greeks, commemorated by a paragraph being added in the Shmoneh Esray (the silent standing prayer), which is a spiritual commemoration, and why is the burning of the oil commemorated with a physical candle and action?

In both cases, Hashem was responding to "masiras nefesh (extra effort, self-sacrifice for the service of G-d)." What is more materialistic than a war? Killing people, weapons, blood. This is the most earthly, mundane, physical activity you can think of. But, the Chashmanoyim were devotedly using brutal and bloody war for the service of Hashem. The Greeks went into, took over and defiled the Holy Temple, where the Cohanim did their holy work.

In the case of the menora, the Chashmanoyim were engaged in an altogether spiritual activity, lighting the menora of the Holy Temple with its pure, kosher oil. In essence, once they lit the one day's oil which they found after their strenuous search, Hashem basically took the one day's worth of "burning power" and extended it miraculously for the seven additional days that it would take to manufacture new pure oil (to provide continual lighting exclusively from kosher oil).

I think the sages are telling us, by the way the legislated the holiday's observances, that we can use the physical world in the most mundane and physical way - a violent, bloody war - but when used for the service of Hashem, the most earthly and physical thing is spirituality, Torah and holiness.

When the Chashmanoyim were using what was more a clearly more spiritual activity, the light of the menora, we show that a most spiritual purpose has to be brought down to a concrete, earthly manifestation to be meaningful. We commemorate the spiritual menora with a material act.

Therefore, we see a balance. The earthly, physical war is commemorated in a spiritual prayer. The spiritual light of the menora is commemorated in a physical act of lighting the candles. This shows that in this world, the physical and the spiritual have to be tied, when it comes to serving Hashem. The mundane has to be tied to spirituality and G-dly purpose. The spiritual has to materialize in practical, physical life.



The above is a vital message in marriage. It is taking something that can be relatively earthly and mundane, something that is potentially rooted in a person's most selfish, internal, egoistic and physical aspect. But, by elevating it to holiness and spirituality it is devotion to, and union with, Hashem. The material is raised to the spiritual and holy. The spiritual must be concretized and concentrated into practical, physical life.

Rambam writes that the mitzva of Chanukah is a most beloved mitzva. The Rishonim describe how Hashem's having done the miracles for us at the time of the Chanukah story were a demonstration of His love for us. Because of masiras nefesh (exertion, self-sacrifice) in the service of G-d, Hashem, mida kinneged mida (measure for measure) "exerts Himself" by changing the laws of nature on our behalf. Both Hashem and the Jewish people "go beyond themselves" for one another, us in self-sacrifice, and Hashem in giving us miracles. There is an exchange of love between G-d and the Jewish people.

In marriage, when the husband and wife extend themselves so as to bring out the holiness and spirituality in their practical life and in their relationship, they also create a situation that is also spiritual, exalted, holy and based on the exchange of love.

In the Torah, we learned to differentiate between the personalities of the two genders. The Torah says to speak gently, emotionally and sensitively to "Bais Yaakov (the Jewish women)" and speak in a hard, direct and logical way to B'nei Yisroel (the Jewish men) [Exodus 19:3]."

Marriage will achieve its goals when the differences (which are, especially initially, incomprehensible and unjustifiable in the mind of one gender regarding the other) are the means of bringing out the total potential of the "team." The two have their gender-based differences so that they can complete each other. Having differences is not intended to be divisive. However, to remain consistently loving and peaceful takes masiras nefesh (exertion, extending of self, self-sacrifice). When the two can add up to constitute a totality, when the whole is more than the sum of the parts, they are "making it" in their quest to tie the material and the holy.

If the man and woman do what is right and good in the eyes of Hashem, such that their marriage works, they will be a peaceful and unified team. When they perform the will of Hashem for a lifetime, they will be joined in their relationship with each other, and they, as a unit, will be joined also with Hashem. The husband and wife will be able to achieve unity in their relationship as man and wife, and also will be able to achieve unity between themselves as a team and Hashem.





In the Megilla, the biblical story of Queen Ester and the holiday of Purim, we learn some profound lessens for practical life. Megillas Ester is the only book in the Bible in which G-d's name is never written. A key theme in the Megilla's story is the seeming occurrence of coincidental happenings, which flow with an outer appearance of events in nature.

The Jewish people are in exile in Persia. King Achashverosh makes a feast which the Jewish people attend. Queen Vashti is executed and the King chose Ester, a Jew, as the new Queen. She appoints her uncle Mordechai to the royal gate and, while there, he overhears Bigsan and Teresh plot to assassinate the king. Mordechai passes the information to Ester. The king's life is saved, the conspirators executed and Mordechai's loyal deeds is recorded in the royal records. The king appoints Haman, a descendent of Amalek, viceroy and requires all to bow to him. Mordechai, who bows only to G-d, refuses to bow to Haman, infuriating him. Haman devised a plan to manipulate the king into ordering execution of all the Jews in the vast empire of 127 countries, intending to start with Mordechai. One night, the king cannot sleep and uses his time reading the royal chronicles. Finding that Mordechai saved his life and was never rewarded, he decides to reward Mordechai just then. At the same time, Haman came to visit the king to effectuate the plan to annihilate the Jewish people, starting with Mordechai. Instead, the king orders Haman to carry out the reward of Mordechai. Ester leads the Jewish people in tshuva (repentance), and we accepted the Torah with greater commitment than ever before ("Keemu vikeeblu"). She invites the king and Haman to a private party, putting Haman off guard so that she can reveal his evil effectively to the king. Haman is executed and the Jewish people are saved. There was a complete and unexpected turnabout. It was a massive and joyous salvation.

The Megilla is not the first dangerous brush with Amalek that the Jewish people had. Shortly after Israel was taken by G-d out of Egypt, the belligerent, evil nation Amalek ambushed and attacked Israel unprovoked. In the recounting of this war, the Torah is revealing vital information that does not appear readily to the naked eye. Upon deeper study, a lot of very important information comes to light about life, G-d's management of the world, what G-d wants from us, what G-d does for and to us. One of the things that is very disturbing and intriguing about the story-line is where this story occurs in the chronology of events in the Torah.

The Jewish people had been enslaved in Egypt. Hashem said to Moshe to go to Paro to tell him, "Let my people go that they will serve me." Paro said, "No." There were ten plagues and then G-d opened the Reed Sea miraculously and the Jews fled to safety. The Egyptians who were chasing them were drowned, and the Jews were totally free.

Then, after this, the Jewish people said to Moshe that they needed bread, meat and water. G-d replied that He would take care of them, and He gave Mon (manna, miraculous bread that fell from Heaven in the morning), He blew quails birds into the camp every evening (so that the people would have meat) and He provided water from a rock that would follow them around through the desert and produce water miraculously wherever they would go in the desert.

Now after all of this, the Jews are traveling forward through the desert from Egypt towards Israel. This nation Amalek, with no provocation or justification, ambushed and attacked the Jewish people from behind, killing the stragglers - the elderly, those weak from the effects of slavery, the sick, women and children. Israel rallied and there was a war. Moshe held up his hands and when the people looked at Moshe holding up his hands, Amalek was beaten and the Jews won.

This is a strange story, especially when we consider that on the surface it appears that you have an innocent, weary nation, who have just been oppressed and brutalized for many, many years. After finally being freed, they just want to get going with their lives, and all of a sudden, Amalek bashes them, doing so from behind and killing the most defenseless and vulnerable, for no discernable reason. It doesn't seem to make sense.

Let's look through the eyes of the sages and add material from them, beyond the purview of the Chumash alone. Then, this fuller story becomes extremely and profoundly instructive, especially in a context of having hardships in life in general and in finding a mate in particular. A lot is going to be disclosed about what G-d does and what we need to do, so that G-d (hopefully) will be more inclined to provide our needs, save and help us.

The Torah tells us that Amalek's attack occurred in a place called "Refidim." We know that the Torah is not a geography book. The Torah does not tell us locations of the events recorded within the Torah for the purpose of letting us know geographic information. It is not in the interest of advising readers of the event's location. There are eternal, profound Torah messages whenever the Torah gives us any information - geographical information or otherwise - about any of the events recorded in the Torah.

One of my main Torah teachers and inspirations, Rav Avrohom Osher Zimmerman explained this attack by Amalek at Refidim. The Midrash Mechilta tells us that when the Torah records the attack by Amalek, and that the ambush occurred in "Refidim," this is a "code word." What does "Refidim" stand for? It is short form of the phrase, "Rofu yidayhem midivray Torah (The Jewish people weakened their hands [i.e. grip] on words of Torah)." We see, then, that there was a "cause and effect" which the midrash is telling us, that because the Jews let down their grasp of the Torah, that caused that Amalek should attack the Jewish people savagely from behind, ostensibly unprovoked.

An element which is significant is seen in the Torah, after the depiction of the battle. G-d says that his throne is not complete as long as Amalek will not have been erased and exterminated from the world. Those are pretty harsh terms. There is a mitzva in the Torah for the Jews to annihilate Amalek. They are a nation fully entrenched with pure evil, with no redeeming quality. G-d wants Amalek erased and eradicated from the face of the earth, so that Amalek is not even remembered. Rashi says that G-d was furious and hateful towards Amalek. G-d said that his name and his throne cannot be complete because of the degree of hateful evil that Amalek brings into the world.

If we study who Amalek is, we learn that Amalek, stands for complete hefkairus (wildness, freedom from any kind of structure or discipline, abandonment of all law and order) and Amalek is antithetical to G-d, to G-d's system of law and order, and to what G-d wants in this world. G-d wants the world to have teaching, system, order, obligation, behavior standards, morals, submission to greater and higher authority and law. Amalek is the complete absence and opposite of everything that G-d stands for.

In Hebrew, every name has meaning. A name always represents the essence of the one named. So there is some intrinsic, deep meaning about the name of anyone who has a Hebrew name. That name has a tie to the essence of the personality of the person to whom that name is assigned. An angel puts the idea for a name into the mind(s) of the parent(s) so that the name will correspond to the essential personality of the person being named.

G-d also has his names. The Torah says that G-d's name and throne will not be complete. The word throne (Kisay) is written incompletely (Kais - missing the alef, the last consonant), so that it only has two of the three main (consonantal) letters of the word throne. And, instead of using the four letters of G-d's name (yod kay vov kay), the Torah here only says two letters (yod kay). The very way in which the Torah expresses the idea that G-d's throne and name will not be complete (as long as Amalek is not exterminated) is by writing "throne" and His name in incomplete fashion. And, since a name is the essence of the one named, G-d is telling us that His essence that He wants in this world and prevailing in this world cannot be complete as long as Amalek - and the wild abandonment (i.e. no law, morals, authority, structure, discipline, etc. in the world) that Amalek stands for - is in this world. Amalek hit the weak ones FROM BEHIND under a brutal sun in the desert. Until someone who can be so merciless, cruel, evil, self-centered and purposelessly destructive, is erased from the face of the earth, G-d's purpose for the world cannot be completely achieved, and what G-d wants from humankind cannot fully happen. Until the Jews, who stand for what G-d wants and for manifesting His essence on earth, who stand for G-d's system, values and authority, eradicate what G-d doesn't want, His name and throne - His essence on earth - can't be complete.

It's not like Amalek didn't know, either. The sages tell us when G-d opened the Reed Sea, G-d made the miracle of splitting all the water everywhere in the whole world. If a man was drinking a cup of water in China, the water in his cup separated. So everyone in the whole world knew about the miracle of G-d opening the waters of the Reed Sea. Everyone in that generation knew there is a Creator. Amalek knew what he was doing.

Rashi adds something else that is very intriguing and important, that contributes to the unfolding message. The Torah placed the story of Amalek right after the story in which the Torah tells us that G-d miraculously provided the mon (bread from Heaven), the quails and the water every day in the desert to the Jews.

G-d provided the needs of the Jews. When the people were hungry, thirsty and scared, G-d miraculously saved them and provided all their needs. G-d provides our needs today. When we pray for our needs, G-d is willing to save and help us.

When, however, the Jewish people weaken their grasp on the Torah, G-d cannot respond with what we pray to Him for. What was worse, G-d saved them (from hunger and thirst) and the Jews did not respond with gratitude. They kept complaining against G-d. G-d withdrew His protection and the Jews were, to use the words of Midrash Tanchuma, like a little impudent and ungrateful child thrown off the protecting shoulder of his father, whereupon the boy was bitten by a dog. When the boy was "good," he had his "father's" protection. His father provided all the boy's needs and exerted himself to give and to give to his child. Then the child said that he does not know where his father is. He was sitting on the shoulder of his father! The father put the boy down to be bitten by the dog.

If the Jewish people learn and practice the Torah, are committed and devoted to the Torah, then G-d will provide every last one of their needs. G-d will save the loyal one from hardship, provide needs, save from troubles, will help and take care of him/her, He will be benevolent to him/her. But, if a person weakens his grip on the Torah, weakens his attachment and involvement, his devotion to the Torah, G-d brings Amalek.

The Jew, in essence, brings upon himself the forces of wild abandonment, the relinquishment of the "system," by letting go of his grip on the Torah, his involvement with and loyalty to the Torah. Instead, he takes on the "system," the attitude of Amalek. It is the antithesis of the Torah. It is abandonment of what G-d wants, teaches, of what His essence and name and throne stand for, which is the Torah and G-d's sovereignty. When a Jew lets go at all of the Torah, there is no more G-dly law or authority. So, abandonment by G-d is "mida kinegged mida" (measure for measure) and is perfect justice.

In the book of Esther, the Jews were threatened with annihilation by Haman, who was from the nation of Amalek. When Esther sent a messenger to Mordechai to find out about the decree, the verse (4:7) says, "Vayaged lo Mordechai ess kol asher korohu (And Mordechai told the messenger about all that happened)." The Midrash (Esther Rabba 8:5) says that the verse's use of the word "korohu" [happened] is significant. It could have said another term (e.g. asa, done; instead of korohu, happened). The difference is: korohu refers to Amalek, asher korcha baderech [Deuteronomy 25:18], who happened to meet you on the way out of Egypt (again, the term "happened").

Reference to Amalek is consistently worded in terms of "happening." This is a reference to the fact that Amalek has no recognition of Hashem, divine supervision of the world, absolute authority, right and wrong, law and order. Things just "happen." One may do whatever one wants. There is no meaning or rule. This wild abandon and rebellion against all which G-d stands for is at the essence of Amalek. To Amalek, the world is a free-for-all. Anything goes, do what you want. Like John Dewey said, "If it works, it's good." That's Amalek. G-d is at constant war with this.

Amalek is antithetical to G-d, Torah and, therefore, the Jew. The salvation in the Purim story came with "keemu vikiblu" (when the Jewish people reestablished their commitment to Torah as part of the Purim story). When they strengthened their grip, as it were, on the Torah, G-d rescued the Jews, turned events around and killed Haman and his family. Again, we see the direct correlation between how strong one's "grip" on the Torah is and how favorably G-d treat him; how weak one's "grip" on the Torah is and how punitively G-d treats him - through Amalek.

G-d is at permanent war with Amalek. The Jew must be antithetical to the essence of Amalek, which is wildness, abandonment of Torah and G-dliness, evil, immorality, cruelty, absence of order or right, lack of authority and law. When the Jew aligns with G-d and Torah, G-d will provide all his needs and not be "at war" with the Jew, all the while that he strengthens his grip on the Torah, attaches to the Torah, is devoted to and practices the Torah.

When the Jews were spiritually weak, G-d brought about the punishment through brutal Amalek; which hit the Jewish people in the place they were weak, falling, dependent, vulnerable and defenseless. When, as opposed to this, the Jews attach to and are strong with the Torah; that will increase merit to earn that G-d should provide our needs, to save and to help, and grant our prayers.

This can apply to all needs or troubles, whether finding one's soulmate, having peace with one's spouse, health or recovery, livelihood, a safe journey, or whatever it may be. If one wants to be saved from suffering or hardship, if one wants G-d to provide needs and answer prayers; attach to the Torah, grab strongly to the Torah and do tshuva (repent in all areas that need spiritual correction). It is the opposite of the weakening of grip on the Torah which brought Amalek to attack the Jews in the desert. When Moshe held his hands up, the Jewish people looked up to G-d. By looking to G-d, we strengthen our grip on the Torah and are saved by G-d. By being strong and devoted to the Torah, that's the way to increase merit, that G-d should deem it justice to provide what one needs and to help and to save.

The adjacency-relationship between the story of Amalek and the provision of the food in the desert teaches us that the way to have G-d provide one's needs is to have a strong grip on the Torah: what it stands for and requires from you.

In the story of Ester and Mordechai, the events unfold as if they are coincidental "happenings." This is the "trade mark" of Amalek. The Jews in Persia loosened their grip on Torah, partaking of the gentile king's social feast. Loosing grip on Torah is the same, essentially, as the wild abandon of Amalek. If the Jew gives himself over to the "system," the ways of Amalek, the mida kinnegged mida (measure for measure) result is G-d withdrawing and giving the Jew over to the forces and system of Amalek. His descendent or disciple rises to power, takes charge and finds reason to hate and exterminate the Jew. The Talmud refers to a nation "Germamia" as a nation that will rise up against the Jews. This suggests that Hitler's rise to power in Germany (very close in name to Germamia) and drive to exterminate Jewry were this Amalek system at work, perhaps because 80% of European Jewry had become unreligious by the time Hitler (yemach shmo) came to power.

In any event, the Purim story shows that G-d wants Amalek erased. Amalek and the Jew are "either/or." This is comparable to the story about Amalek attacking us in the desert after leaving Egypt. The Jew is to recognize the kingship of G-d, represented by Moshe lifting up his hands, and that there are law and order in the world which come from G-d. When the Jew look upward, to G-d, where Moshe's hands pointed to, the Jewish people were saved and won.

The Megila adds a dimension which the Torah's story didn't have. The Megila provides and entire intrigue-rich story, not openly mentioning G-d, and showing events as if coincidental happenings. Yet, at all point, G-d is working behind the scenes, setting up events for subsequent steps which further enable subsequent developments, to achieve G-d's plan.

G-d wants every last spec of Amalek erased and wiped out. Because Amalek's system became so infused into Jewry, the appearance of coincidental happening and the removal of clear divine providence resulted. G-d withdrew to a more veiled level of operation in the world, leaving the Jewish people to the forces of the natural world which they embraced. He was always there, but covered from view. As the Jewish people did tshuva, repenting for their misdeeds and growing more close and committed to G-d, His providence became more beneficial and revealed. This too was mida kinnegged mida. The more we accepted that G-d is in charge, the more He showed us that He is. G-d is always paying close and detailed attention to our lives. The stronger our grip on His Torah and devoted to His will, the more he will show us that He is managing our lives, guiding events, producing developments that accord with His divine plan. The closer we are to Him and the more we attribute operation of the world to His providence, the more revealed He is to us. We may always be sure that G-d is fully guiding every aspect and detail of our lives, and the more our lives are directed to the faithful service of His Torah, the more beneficially the details of our lives will be, and the more beneficial the developments will be in the course of our lives.





In the Torah portion "Bo" we have the commandment of Passover. However, the Torah first commands the Jewish people to sanctify the months (Rosh Chodesh - the start of every month) and count Nissan, the month in which we were redeemed from Egypt and in which Passover falls, as the first of the months. Then the Torah proceeds to command us to bring the Passover sacrifice (we actually may only bring it when we have a holy Temple). The Torah goes to considerable lengths to stress that only one who is circumcised may partake of the Passover lamb. The Torah, generally concise, adds a considerable measure of detail. For example, it specifies that only a Jew or convert who is circumcised may join in the Passover ceremony, including a non-Jewish servant who is circumcised, and excluding any foreigner nor uncircumcised Jew.

The S'fas Emmess [the chief rabbi of Gur chassidim in the late 1800's and very beginning of the 1900's] picks up on this and explains as significant that the Torah sequences 1. establishing Rosh Chodesh 2. the Passover sacrifice and 3. the requirement of circumcision.

For starts, the Passover sacrifice and circumcision are the only active commandments (as contrasted with prohibitions, not to do) which are punished by koress (extermination of the soul). And these also are the two commandments which precede Torah and mitzvos. Circumcision is a sign in the body, from removing the foreskin, which prepares the body to be an instrument capable of receiving holiness and escaping the limitations of physical nature. The word "meelah (circumcision)" has the letters mem, yod, lamed and heh, which correspond to the verse (in Deuteronomy) "mee ya'aleh lanu haShomaymo (who will go up for us to Heaven)." The verse means to say that the Torah is right here within us. The fact that its initials (mem yod lamed heh) spell meelah tells us that Torah elevates a person to Heaven, enabling a person to break beyond the limits of earthly nature, becoming holy - when the Jew has meelah.

In order to have a time-calculating system, the Torah legislates our months system of months, which has a new month declared every Rosh Chodesh, and with the cycle of holidays starting in Nissan every year in the spring. The power of the month-system is so great that if today is Rosh Chodesh and a boy turns 13, as a bar mitzva he would be executed for a capital crime. If the calendar works out that tomorrow is deemed the new month, so that the boy is still 12 today, he could commit the crime and get off free without execution. The Jewish calendar can mean life or death!

We are limited by time. By the Torah commanding the Passover sacrifice after Rosh Chodesh, the S'fas Emmess teaches that bringing the Passover sacrifice is removal of "a foreskin and physicality in this natural world which is subjugated under time." This means that circumcision and the Passover sacrifice are two aspects of the identical thing. And, through going out of Egypt, the Jewish people went out of the rulership of the stars and constellations, as the Zohar describes. This is how the Jewish people attained freedom from astrological powers ("ain mazal liYisroel"). The reason is that the plan for the Jewish people preceded Creation, which raises us above time and nature. And Passover is the first in the order of the holidays. Chometz (leavening) symbolizes the evil inclination. Just as leavening puffs us bread, the evil inclination puffs up man. If man is not humble and able to purify himself, he can not receive holiness. And, by getting rid of the chometz (leavening), this is removing the "foreskin" that allows time to be elevated above the natural world. Just as we left Egypt in physical experience, we leave Egypt in terms of time. Therefore, the commandment of Rosh Chodesh preceded the commandment of the Passover sacrifice, so that Israel sanctifies Rosh Chodesh to establish holy times. This power comes through the eliminating of chometz and slaughtering the Passover sacrifice on the eve of Passover [end of segment from S'fas Emmess].

In Deuteronomy 21:10, the Torah says, "When you go out to war." It is ostensibly commanding conduct of Jewish soldiers when they have to go out and do battle. However, the Torah says "When you..." using the singular form of "you." Hebrew has a different term to say "you" in the plural. If Moshe was talking to armies and generals, the Torah should have said, "When you go..." using the plural term. The commentaries deal with the kashia [seeming difficulty, contradiction]. The answer is that war is only an analogy and the Torah is truly talking to the individual, regarding the "milchemmess hayaitzer," the internal war within the individual against the yaitzer hora (evil inclination). A key job of life is battling and conquering the evil inclination. If a person is not engaged in the internal war, G-d sends external wars - suffering, troubles, pogroms, riots, violence.

There is another verse (Psalm 91:5) with an interesting and informative reference to war, "Do not fear the terror of night nor the arrow that flies by in the day." It is also interesting to note that this is from one of the two chapters of Tehillim written by Moshe, not by King David (who wrote most - bit not all - of Psalms/Tehilim).

The first portion of the verse uses one kind of terminology while the second half uses a different kind of terminology. Why does Moshe refer to night with a vague term of terror while being specific about the arrow during the day? At night, one is in the dark and cannot see. When attacked by an enemy, one cannot see who the enemy is, where he is attacking from, what weapon is being used, how to shield oneself, where to aim, how to fight back or devise a strategy with which to win. In the day one can see what the weapon is (such as an arrow), where the enemy is shooting from, how to protect oneself, how to fight back and win.

This is Moshe, who wrote the verse about going out to war with one's evil inclination. He is telling us how to conduct that war against the evil inclination. The evil inclination is wily and keeps "attacking," with trickery, seduction, temptation, desire, rationalization. If we are in the "dark," if it is "night," if we don't know what the Torah says about what we must do or not do, and what the Torah says about how to fight the war against the evil inclination and its weapons, we are like the helpless soldier who is attacked, helpless and just feels that vague terror. If one learns what the Torah says to do or not do, and how it teaches us to fight against the evil inclination, then we can recognize the weapons, represented by the arrow. Following the analogy, we may see where the enemy is coming from, what the weapons are, how to defend ourselves, devise a strategy, fight back and win!

The verse "I hope for your salvation Hashem," (Genesis 49:18) is at the beginning of the circumcision ceremony. The focus of the circumcision is removal of the foreskin and entering the baby into the covenant with G-d inaugurated by Avraham. Why does the text of the circumcision ceremony start with a seemingly unrelated plea for Hashem's salvation? If I need Hashem's salvation on any Tuesday at 10:37 in the morning, I'd be happy to have when I need it then. What does the verse have to do with starting the circumcision procedure?

The S'fas Emmess told us that the Passover sacrifice, with removal of chametz, is a spiritual equivalent of the circumcision. The Jewish people were subjugated by Egypt which represented the paragon of tuma, spiritual defilement. The Egyptians worshipped idols, married relatives incestuously, studied the stars. Egypt was the epitome of all which is antithetical to the Torah. Light is symbolic of Torah, spirituality, holiness and reward. Dark is symbolic of nature, physicality, sin, punishment, impurity and worldliness. Dark represents Egypt. The Jews being in Egypt represented our being subjugated to the forces and impurities of this world. We descended to the 49th of 50 levels of impurity. Had we slipped one more level, we would not have been capable any longer of being saved. We were subjugated to everything connected with darkness: worldliness, astrology, every form of spiritual defilement.

Chametz represent the same things basically as darkness. Leavened bread blows up and rises, symbolizing haughtiness, self-centeredness, ego, doing what one wants. Matzo is bread of poverty and humility, reinforcing this teaching for us: that Pesach represents liberation from the limitations of the physical world and nature.

The Jew is always in a battle between good and evil, the will of G-d vs. the will of self, the will of the spiritual vs. the will of the physical. The message of Pesach and meelah is that we are born limited within the body and the time and nature of the physical word. In Egypt, the Jew was subjugated to that which Egypt stood for - the darkness of this physical world, of spiritual impurity and of evil inclinations. We were freed from Egypt to be subjugated to the Creator of the universe - infinite, spiritual, the Giver of the Torah, the source of true and eternal life - to be connected to His light, holiness, boundlessness and rewards.

The Jew is always going out to battle the forces, wiles and temptations of this world to live up to the commands and standards of the will of G-d. We are beckoned to live up to the Torah; to prepare for holiness, Torah and mitzvos by removing the foreskin of the body and removing the "foreskin" in time and in physical nature, by removing the chometz on the eve of Passover. This means removing the spiritual chametz from the Jewish heart and soul. This requires learning the Torah, learning what G-d wants and how to effectively fight the battle that starts in darkness, with the "terror of night;" doing battle by learning how to fight the yetzer hora, learn "where it is coming from and what its weapons are." From this we can learn how to defend our souls, fight back against the evil inclination, devise weapons and a strategy and win!

The bris meelah is fundamental to Jewish continuity. It seals in every baby boy his symbol of freedom from the bound of the physical body. Meelah is also comparable to Pesach. Hoping for salvation, as it is applied to the text in the circumcision procedure, is just like the Jews needing salvation in Egypt. The Jews were enslaved - physically as well as spiritually. By making themselves instruments for holiness, by the Passover sacrifice and bris meela, they merited G-d's salvation. Just as the Jews were saved from Egypt, we are saved in the merit of our victory over evil inclinations and of separation from the limits of physicality and worldly existence.



It says in the Hagada, "'And [G-d] saw our affliction,' this means [the slavery] separated us from normal family life." The Hagada is telling us that this was a part of what caused Hashem to take us out of Egypt. Let us study this to understand, appreciate and apply it better.

The ninth plague that G-d brought on Egypt was darkness. Of all the plagues, it had special significance in that it showed us what the Egyptians were. Three days of the darkness was so thick that it was tangible. It was so thick that you could feel and touch the darkness. If an Egyptian were standing when the darkness came, he was stuck. If an Egyptian were sitting, he was stuck sitting for the duration. The spiritual darkness of Egypt was so thick that it was as if tangible, the spiritual filth permeating the soul of the country and people.

In contrast, during the plague of darkness, the Torah tells us that there was light in the Jewish homes. The Torah does not merely say that (while the Egyptians had darkness) the Jews had light. It is significant that the Torah "bothers" to add that the light was in the Jewish "homes." It was the Torah in the Jewish home, the wholesome and spiritual practice of Jewish family life, that kept the Jews alive and worthy of salvation. When the Egyptian slavery separated the Jew from normal family life, Hashem saw that the Jewish people would not be able to endure and He acted to save us from Egypt. This applies to us today also. Torah and healthy family relationships in the Jewish home, in Egypt, Israel, America or anywhere, will reinforce the Jew's spirituality and holiness. By living with conquest of the chametz of evil inclinations, with ongoing spiritual growth beyond the limits of this-worldly existence and with loyalty to Torah and mitzvos in practical life, the Jew merits G-d's salvation.



There is another lesson about Pesach that comes from one of the greatest teachers of Jewish ethics, Rabbi Yisroel Salanter.

One's midos must be evident in each person's practical ongoing personal conduct. Working on character is indeed work, but the rewards far outweigh the price (especially in close human relationships).

The literal meaning of mida is "measure." In other words, it refers to a measure of personality that is appropriate under given conditions. It is not mercy to let a killer go unpunished and be a menace to society. It is not kindness to allow a playful baby to put his hand on a colorful fire glowing on your stove just because the fire is attractive to him.

Midos is often a matter of keeping priorities and perspective. Passover is a time when Torah law is very strict and people are cautious to practice many stringencies; for example, as to how to bake the matzos, clean the house from chometz, assure that all food is kosher for passover. Sometimes people get carried away in one area of Torah - and forget themselves in another. The Torah has to be kept in its entirety; never one part at the expense of another. There is a classic story that brings this point out.

The students of a great Torah leader of the mid 1800's, Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, were about to go to the matzo bakery and they asked him which stringency to be careful to observe during the baking of their festival matzos. He told them that there is an elderly widow who works at the bakery. He told them to be careful not to hurt her feelings.



In Parshas Beha'aloscho, the Torah gives the commandment of the Pesach sacrifice. The Torah here focuses on the person who is spiritually defiled or too far from the Holy Temple and could not bring the Passover sacrifice in its appointed time for a cause that was beyond the person's control. In such a case, the Torah commands "Pesach Shaini," the second Pesach, in which the person brings the Pesach sacrifice a month after the "regular" Pesach. The Torah then goes on to say that the person who was able to bring the Passover sacrifice at the regular time and did not will be punished severely.

This past Pesach [5760], we saw an unprecedented number of severe events take place that cost, pained and inconvenienced thousands of Jews. One hotel in the Catskills was condemned by order of New York State and closed a day before the start of Yom Tov. The guests were given less than 24 hours notice not to come to the hotel. Many, who were already en route, or not coming directly from their address of record, were not informed that the hotel was closed.

Another hotel was booked for Passover by a Jewish promoter, whose check to the hotel bounced during Passover. The gentile management had done its business with the Jewish promoter, not any of the Jewish customers, and felt the Jewish promoter's deal with the hotel had been breached. On Passover, the gentile management threw all of the Jewish customers out of the hotel.

A luxurious Passover vacation on a Caribbean island was promoted. A major New York newspaper carried a front page headline story on erev Pesach that all who had booked this holiday package were swindled. There was no hotel. Those who arrived at the island had no food, no matzo, no room, no accomodation. The promoter was a crook who took the money and disappeared a day or so before Yom Tov, leaving all who booked stranded and cheated. It was a huge chilul Hashem.

A famous entertainment theme park Passover was promoted. Much was spent on organizing and advertising, to make this a grand, lavish vacation package. There were to be outings to the famous park and other forms of extravagant programming. After all the hype, a tiny percent of hoped-for attendees showed up, which was an embarrassment. Since there was no budget, the chef was not given needed ingredients and struggled to just get by under tough conditions.

There were at least these four Pesach catastrophies. When so many disastrous events simultaneously occur it has to be a message for us from G-d.

The posuk [Numbers 9:3] tells us that we must keep Pesach with all of its rules and ceremonies. Even though we do not have the Pesach sacrifice, because we do not have the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in which to bring the sacrifice, we do have many laws about Pesach: hagada, chametz, marror, four cups of wine, etc. We have to understand and re-experience the exodus from Egypt. Yom tov is a spiritual undertaking, not an exercise in luxury and fun. I am certain that the occurrance of four Pesach fiascos is a clear indication that G-d is very dissatisfied with turning Pesach observance into convenient vacation packages.

The halacha says that half of yom tov is for G-d and half of yom tov is for us. The half for G-d consists of Torah learning the subject matter of the day, prayer, the mitzva activities prescribed for the day (matzo, lulav, etc.) and providing hospitality to guests. The half for ourselves consists of meals and pleasant family gatherings. We are losing track of the ratios.

When on vacation, people concern themselves with escaping from the doldrums and burdens of life. We have extended our mentality of "escape" to escape from avodas Hashem (service of G-d). When on vacation, we get concerned with whether one is in the mood for the veal or cornish hen, how soon can we pack the jumpy kids off to the children's activities. The seder is in a public dining room with such loud noise you can't hear yourself think, so there is no ruach (proper spirit) for the seder. Tzneeyus (modesty in dress and demeanor) required by the Torah is often seriously lacking. People do not invite guests because they are busy paying to be the hotel's guest. Chazal tell us that when, on yom tov, we do not have guests, we are worshipping our stomachs, not G-d. The promoters and hotel owners obviously are looking to make a bundle of money. It is no longer yom tov, it is party-time. G-d is not pleased. He told us in Parshas Baha'aloscho that if one does not keep Pesach the right way, as sincere true service of G-d, that the perpetrators will be severely punished.

The Torah tells us that the one who is "spiritually impure" or "too far away" on Pesach can have a second chance (with Pesach shaini). Some of us were too impure or far away - spiritually. This brough the "Pesach Potch (smack)." There is a price and G-d is making us know it. We can have a second chance, as the prophet Jeremia tells us [Eicha 4:21], "Return us, G-d, to you and we will do tshuva, renew our days as they were before." Let us re-examine our ways, our relationship with G-d and fulfillment of His will, commit ourselves to greater devotion to Torah, to serving G-d sincerely with a full heart and good attitude, in both the realms of "mitzvos between man and G-d" and "mitzvos between man and fellow man." Let's do things right the first time in all aspects of life - and not need punishments and a "second chance" from now on.





Upon exploring key points in the Torah's recounting of Israel's journey from Egypt to Mount Sinai and numerous statements by the Talmudic sages about these points, a striking parallel, if not equalization, emerges between the journey to Sinai and the journey to one's chupa.

When we consider that Israel was on the 49th level of tuma (spiritual uncleanness) in Egypt, and had come to such tahara (spiritual cleanness) and kedusha (holiness) that they could receive G-d's holy Torah, it is apparent that massive turnabout, transformation and spiritual elevation had been achieved.

Perhaps the most direct link between finding one's zivug [mate] and the journey from Egypt to Sinai is from Midrash Beraishis Raba 64:8. This statement is also brought in the Talmud, but in the Talmud it restricts applicability to a second marriage. In the midrash here, there is no limitation on the applicability, so I am citing the midrash specifically, in which this teaching applies also to a first zivug/marriage.

"[Finding] a person's true mate is as difficult as splitting the Reed Sea, as is learned from Tehillim 68:7, 'G-d causes singles to dwell [together] in a house [and thereby] takes the jailed ones out [of jail] with kosher prosperity.'"

Just as G-d took Israel out of the "jail" of Egyptian bondage, G-d takes lonely singles out of the "jail" of solitude, their singleness. When a person is single, it is like being in jail. Just as G-d took the Jewish people out of Egypt to be committed to the Torah, G-d takes each single out of the jail of singlehood to the commitment of marriage, that they may build a home and dwell together in a house. G-d brings the single "prisoners" out to "kosher prosperity," as if freed from the jail of alone-ness. In the miraculous fashion that G-d freed the Jews from Egypt, G-d miraculously matches couples.

Rashi explains the word "kosher" as meaning the season when G-d took Israel out of Egypt: it was Spring, when weather is not too cold nor too hot. It was the best, the "kosher," the most agreeable time for an on-foot journey. We can infer, given the parallel to finding one's mate, that one marries at the "kosher" time in his or her life - when G-d deems that both parties and all circumstances are ready...it is the sha'a tova umutzlachas (the good and fortunate time).

A person before marriage can be self-indulgent, immature, self-oriented, self-preoccupied. This, in terms of one's "lifeline" and life stage, is the tuma of Egypt. Just as chametz (leaven) on Pesach (Passover) is so harmful, revolting and punishable; so are individual manifestations of spiritual deficiencies of selfish, hurtful, egoistic or physical values and behaviors that characterize the "pre-ready" single. This is key to the transformation which gets the single to being ready to marry.

Of the holiday of Shevuos, which commemorates the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, the Torah says (Vayikra 23:15-16) "And you will count for yourselves from the day after the Sabbath [i.e. the first Yom Tov day of Pesach]...seven complete weeks...you will number fifty days and [on Shevuos] sacrifice a 'new offering' to G-d." The Zohar explains that Israel was immersed in tuma in Egypt like a woman in her nida. She counts seven days till her tahara and Israel counts seven weeks, with seven holy shaboses "for yourselves" to be purified, to be cleansed by the dew at the approach of Mount Sinai, to attach to G-d, in purity and holiness, and to receive the Torah. Rashi to Song Of Songs 3:11 and the last mishna in tractate Taanis say that Israel's stand at Mount Sinai was analogous to Israel marrying G-d. Sinai symbolizes marriage, its characteristics and its commitment. G-d "marrying the Jewish people" through the Torah bond parallels man marrying woman with the commitment bond.

Egypt is synonymous with tuma. In it reigned avoda zara (idolatry), relatives marrying each other (incest, commonly brothers and sisters), homosexuality, militarism, materialism, self-centeredness, depravity, rebellion against G-d...like a catalog of how to live against the Torah.

Israel had been living in Egypt for 210 years and came out of this environment with its completely destructive spiritual influence. The Exodus was on Pesach, when a bite of chametz was punished by korais (spiritual extermination). Chametz, which is characterized by "puffing up," represents the spiritually unclean, self-centeredness, ego, arrogance, the evil inclination. The way chametz is leavening expanding, one's sense of self expands, so as to exclude, the spiritual, the G-dly and other people. One "fills up" with self.

By contrast, the spiritual, G-dly, giving person empties him/herself of sense-of-self to fill him/herself up with the spiritual, the divine, the holy, sincere devotion to G-d, empathy and generosity towards others.

This, basically, is the dichotomy and the contrast between Egypt and Torah, and by extension of our theme, singlehood and marriage. The tuma of Egypt is so alien, unacceptable and severe, that the Torah mandates such revulsion and sensitivity that not even a drop of chametz on Pesach, which represents the characteristics of Egypt - which are antithetical to Torah - and marriage, is allowed.

Sacrifices in the Holy Temple are generally "kosher for Passover." There is never any chametz except one day of the year - on Shevuos, the day on which we commemorate G-d's giving of the Torah. Regarding the citation from Vayikra above, the Kli Yakar (a major commentary on the Torah) writes of, "new offering to G-d," that Shevuos is the one time of the entire year when an offering of chametz is commanded by the Torah and is brought in the Holy Temple...in the "new offering."

Chametz on Pesach is punished by G-d with the terrible punishment of korais. But after the transition from the tuma of Egypt to the tahara and kedusha of receiving the Torah on Shevuos, we see from the Torah itself that we overcome and replace the tuma and yetzer hora (evil inclination) forces. Achievement of this transition is represented by Sinai. The transformation is so much and so great that chametz is a commandment on Shevuos! Similarly, going from singlehood to marriage is a complete spiritual turnaround, elevation and transformation.

The 50 day period which spans the time from Pesach to Shevuos starts with the Yom Tov (Pesach) on which we read "Song Of Songs," the allegorical Biblical statement of love between bride and groom, representing the love between Jew and G-d. Between the exodus from Egypt (at the time of Pesach) to receiving the Torah at Sinai (Shevuos), there was massive spiritual purification, elevation and preparation, progressively accomplished in the 50 days to Israel's "wedding" to G-d. The entire transformation process from single person to married person parallels the transformation process from slave in Egypt (slave to spiritually impure forces and influences of Egypt) to free Jew in a spiritually pure and holy love-bond with G-d. In Song Of Songs, the verse (3:11) says "on the day of his wedding." As cited above, Rashi and the mishna teach that this refers to the day of giving the Torah at Sinai, which symbolizes marriage.

After Israel left Egypt, the Egyptians regretted letting Israel go. The Egyptians decided to get their best armed forces and they pursued the Jewish people. At the time, Egypt was the world's strongest military power. Egypt symbolizes the yetzer hora (evil inclination). Their pursuit symbolizes the yetzer hora's perseverance. It doesn't want to let you go so easily. It pursues you with the force of a world power. When you decide to grow, move on, transform, your yetzer hora will come with wiles and power, chasing after. It wants to keep you as its slave.

The place at which the Egyptians came to overtake fleeing Israel was "Pi Hachiros" which translates "the beginning of freedom." This was located near the shore of the Reed Sea. Targum Yonoson says that here Israel obtained monumental wealth by finding jewelry all over the ground. Valuable stones covered the ground just as the desert sand did. Israel was frightened then, seeing the Egyptian army pursuing and rapidly catching up with them. G-d commanded the Jews to go into the sea and obtain His salvation. The people were perplexed and terrified. They stood in place.

While the nation cried out and complained about the overtaking, powerful and brutally cruel Egyptian army, Nachshon Ben Aminadav (the leader of the tribe of Yehuda) went forward into the sea. When the water got up to his neck, G-d kept His promise, in the merit of Nachshon's trust in G-d, and opened the sea to save incredulous Israel. When Egypt pursued, in a final effort to capture Israel, G-d closed the sea on vicious Egypt and the entire army - to the last soldier - all drowned.

Escaping the powerful forces of tuma and yetzer hora (represented by Egypt) is no easy task. One of the main manifestations of tuma/yetzer hora is self-centeredness. This immature self-orientation is mutually exclusive with the bondedness, commitment and responsibility of a marriage. A child says, in various permutations, "I am important and you are not. What I want is important, what you want is not. I don't care how my self-importance effects you." When the Torah tells us that the threshold of freedom was Pi Hachiros - and that here the Jews found a wealth of jewelry just before going into the sea, the Torah is telling us that one is ready for marriage only when you can see another person as having the worth, beauty, importance and value of a jewel. You are ready to marry only when you are capable of seeing another as BEING A JEWEL, recognizing another as being a jewel.

When one finds that "jewel" of a person, one's mate, is it the "beginning of your freedom?" Do you see that G-d is taking singles out of jail to dwell together as a home? Do you see yourself as headed to or from jail? Do you complain (commitment, responsibility, fear of harm or restriction, nonstop unselfishness, self-control, settling down - oops, I'm better off "back there" or "safe" alone) or do you go in "up to your neck" with the trust in G-d - away from the jail of solitude and loneliness towards the liberation from the "jail of self" that means the wedding chupa (represented by Sinai)?

The forces of tuma will be chasing aggressively after you, holding onto you, like the Egyptian hoards. By going in "up to the neck" with Nachshon's trust in G-d and devotion to G-d's word, one proceeds courageously forward, to see the pursuing enemy, in its final, last-ditch effort to capture and enslave you with tuma, drowned behind you by G-d. Israel saw the Egyptians washed dead on the seashore - every last one (Shmos 14:30) and sang a song of praise and thanksgiving to G-d (Shmos 15:1). Readiness for marriage requires:

* having the ability to see "your Egypt" entirely dead,

* being able to sing to G-d with joy and gratitude about that "Egypt of your past" which you left behind, and

* feeling happy and grateful that G-d saved you from "your Egypt."

As the midrash told us, it is as difficult to get your soulmate as opening the Reed Sea. Without G-d, opening a sea is impossible. With G-d, finding your mate is difficult. Without G-d it's not difficult - it's impossible! With G-d, the "impossible" is routine! He is kol yochol (capable of any and everything).

But regarding you, it takes your free choice to "kill the enemy," demonstrate loyalty to and allegiance with the will of G-d, and to move forward to "your Sinai." When one makes commitment - "up to the neck" - without looking back - leaving the forces of tuma irreversibly behind - G-d opens up the "sea" of your life, and you proceed forward with more wonders, miracles and kindnesses than you can recognize or count.

Psalm represents preparation and sanctification for marriage. Let me bring its last two verses. "Many are the agonies of the wicked, but G-d surrounds with lovingkindness the one who trusts Him. Rejoice in G-d; and delight, you righteous; those with a straight heart will be joyous."

Now that you've decided to make commitment to your "jewel," how do you make it permanent? The Talmud says [Avoda Zara 20] that humility leads to fear of sin. Pirkei Avos [chapter 3] says that wisdom which is preceded by fear of sin lasts permanently. Israel spent 49 days after the Exodus from Egypt working on perfecting their humility (emptying themselves of ego, tuma, self-orientation, evil). This humility brought them to fear of sin, which preceded day 50 so that they could receive the wisdom of the Torah, so that the Torah would endure with them permanently. It was only after the fear of violation of it was cultivated that the Torah could be given.

Similarly, on the trek from singleness to marriage, one must cancel the self-centered "tuma facet," developing instead the quality of humility. Without humility there is only oneself: no G-d and no other people. The Talmud says that wherever you see G-d's greatness, there you see His humility. There is nothing great or lasting without humility. Humility leads to fear of sin. Once you are capable of fear of violation against or sinning against something, you can make commitment to it. When you actually can feel fear of wronging or sinning against something/someone, you may make a commitment that you can permanently keep and be part of. Prerequisite to getting married is a foundation of humility on which is built full FEAR of violating your mate or marriage in any way.

The giving of the Torah is an analogy to marriage (Taanis 26b). Just as a groom marries his bride, G-d married the Jewish people. The Torah is the holy commitment which bonds the Jewish people and G-d the same way that marriage is the holy commitment which bonds man and wife.

The Torah was given ("matan Torah"). It is up to the individual to receive it. Marriage is an analogy to Torah. It is given, but it is up to you to accept and fulfill what is presented beginning when you are under the chupa.

In the marriage of husbands and wives, each must also distance and cleanse from the self-slavery and impurity in which a single or immature person might indulge. The culmination of the greatness of one's self-creation is when one may conduct marriage in the way of the righteous, and in the way of G-d.

King Solomon wrote (Proverbs 5:19), "You will always be engrossed with your love for her." The Yalkut, commentaries, Rambam, and Talmud (Eruvin 54b) explain this verse to refer to Torah with some citing analogy to the love between male and female. Two of the nice ideas that fit our parallel is that when one is really devoted to one's love, one constantly renews that love by ongoing devotion to it and it remains dear at every moment to the one who truly loves. In love for Torah and for one's wife, one can keep that love going at all times, continually. By being engrossed in and attentive to that love, one plays a constant and active role in the maintenance of the permanent love-commitment to a wife. This parallels the Jewish nation's permanent love-commitment to the Torah.

Just as the Torah enables the Jew to elevate all particles of matter in the physical world to holiness, Jewish marriage elevates the relationship of man and wife to the holy. The Torah, through its laws and lessons, empowers the Jew to extract spirituality out from this world.

When Israel came to Sinai, they were ki'eesh echad bilaiv echad (like one person with one heart). The entire Jewish people was unified and could, as a harmonious unit, come to be unified with their Creator.

When one is ready to be one person with one heart with him/herself, and then become united with his or her "jewel," ready to treat the other the way one would treat a precious and valuable "jewel," relating as one person with one heart, they stand under their chupa to become one permanently, as Israel and G-d became one permanently at Sinai. The Talmud (Avoda Zara 3a) tells us that Israel's receiving the Torah at Sinai was the condition for which G-d created the universe and for maintaining its existence. The Torah (Shmos 19:5) tells us that it is because we observe the Torah and our covenant with G-d that we are G-d's chosen nation. The unity and commitment of marriage parallels the unity and commitment between Israel and G-d, which is the reason for which the world is maintained in existence! The Jewish people "married" G-d, by their stand at Mount Sinai (on Shevuos), committing to be faithful forever to the holy covenant with Him. Marriage, similarly, is faithful commitment to the holy covenant between man and wife forever that starts when they stand under the chupa (marriage canopy).