Tag Archive | Sages

Many Ways to be a Jew

Jerusalem Post October 9, 1999

Jonathan Rosenblum

IN MUSAF OF ROSH HASHANAH, we find a description of G-d’s “remembrance”: “When the remembrance of every created being comes before you — every person’s deeds and mission…” The term “deeds” refers to a person’s observance of the commandments. But what is meant by a person’s “mission?”

There is no Jew without his or her own individual task. That task can be performed by no one else, for no one else was born with precisely the same configuration of strengths and weaknesses, no one else is born into the same family at precisely the same moment or into the same historical situation, and no one else confronts the same challenges and tests in life.

Because each Jew is a world unto himself and absolutely singular so is his task in life unique. That task is the “mission” referred to in the Zichronos section of Musaf.

We might think that so long as we have kept our sins to a minimum that we are destined for a favorable judgment on Rosh Hashanah. But the Midrash makes clear that our fulfillment of our appointed task is no less determinative. The Midrash recounts the story of Navat the Carmelite, who was put to death by Queen Jezebel. Navat was a completely righteous man, who refused to sell his vineyard to Jezebel. How can I sell that which G-d gave to my forefathers? he told her. As a consequence, Jezebel hired false witnesses to testify against Navat, and he was put to death.

The Midrash asks: How could such a righteous man have come to such a terrible end? And the Midrash answers that Navat had a uniquely beautiful voice. Each festival those going up to Jerusalem looked forward to hearing his beautiful prayers. One year, however, Navat did not come thereby disappointing all those who eagerly anticipated listening to his prayers. That year he was put to death by Jezebel. When a person does not use the gifts that G-d has given him in the manner intended, the Midrash teaches us, he or she has no further reason to live.

The Jewish people together constitute a potential symphony orchestra of praise to G-d. No Jew is born without an instrument or the ability to play it.

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3 Rules for Success in Torah Study!

Commentary of Tiferes Yisrael on Pirkei Avos 2:12

“Rabbi Elazar said:’Be eager to study the Torah. Know what to respond to a heretic. Know before Whom you toil and faithful is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor.'” (Pirkei Avos 2:12)

Tiferes Yisrael: Three things are necessary for success in learning.

  1. Eagerness and Diligence.
    If he’s not diligent to review everyday what he learned the previous day, he will lose before he gains. And the subjects will not be firmly grasped in his mind. Therefore ‘Be eager to study the Torah’
  2. Thoughtfulness and depth in the subjects learned.
    One should not move away from anything he learns (!!) until he can answer 7 questions. (see the hebrew for details). When you can answer the 7 questions, all difficulties will be clarified for you. Also, you’ll understand the background well, and if there’s a contradiction to what you already know. You’ll also ask yourself if there are any extra words, and if yes, why this word was written. This way things will become clear like a new shirt (??). Therefore ‘know what to respond to a heretic’. i.e. It’s not enough to know reasons clearly enough to answer a kosher Jew. Rather, contemplate things so thoroughly that you can even answer a heretic who does not buy into the Torah system and uses only his human logic/common sense.
  3. Removal of worries and all other thoughts when learning. Therefore ‘Know before Whom you toil and who is your employer who shall pay you the reward of your labor.’

1. Know before Whom you toil. Means, be embarassed to think other thoughts while busy doing your Employer’s work.

2. faithful is your Employer etc.. Means due to your efforts in Torah study, you will not need big efforts to obtain your livelihood. (since success in livelihood is also in His hands)

see the original Hebrew for more details.

Comment on 2nd point:Learning a piece of talmud is like going through a labyrinth (maze) at night with a small flashlight. One must focus and keep track of everything as he moves along otherwise he will lose his train of thought and become confused. This requires total concentration and a “nefesh rechava” (a wide mind).

One who trains himself to learn with a “nefesh rechava” will reach clarity of understanding in torah, which brings the greatest joy.

(note: this applies not only to individual sugyas, but also to entire tractates. A yeshiva student once asked to be tested on tractate Gitin. The Rav responded “ok. I’ll tell you the situation, you write the Get.” The student was dumbfounded.

The student did not learn with a “nefesh rechava”. He did not learn to put the pieces together and therefore instead of having a nice complete building in the end, he wound up with a big pile of bricks.

Courtesy of Daf Yomi Review

“And you will be swiftly removed from upon the good land that G_d gives you.” (Deut. 11:17)

The Ba’al Shem Tov has said, that an individual must always have a calm mind and not act impetuously, [for when one does act in this way, then he] “will be swiftly removed from upon the good land.” One [must learn to] swiftly remove impetuousness [rather than be removed because of it. (Ref. SBST, Ekev 62).

The first of all wise sayings attributed to our Sages in Pirkei Avot is “be deliberating in judgment.” In other words, we should never be quick and impetuous to make decisions that are not well thought out, rational and logical.

Every day we are faced with decisions and every day we often make the wrong decisions simply because we rush to decide.

Sometimes the best decision is no decision, at least for the moment. The world WILL NOT come to an end if we wait a while before responding to a matter that is not an immanent crises.

This advice might not be for the battlefield… but we do not always live on the battlefield. Decisions about business, family, expenses and everyday living have to be made based upon the greater and wiser good and not just upon how we feel or how things look at the moment.

Times change and so do feelings. Never make a decision that will affect the future based only on the here and now.

Pause, take a moment, and look towards tomorrow, the next day, and the day after that. Takes these into consideration today before you make a decision that will affect you negatively tomorrow.

Wisdom From Close and Afar By HaRav Ariel Bar Tzadok of Kosher Torah.

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