Thursday, March 8, 2012

Purim at Beis Menachem

Photos: Shmuel & Michal Rimler

Parsha Perspective

Compiled by Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

As we go through the day, we believe that G‑d is counting on us, urging us to make good choices, because—more than anyone—G‑d knows we have the strength to do the right thing.

Sure, G‑d presents us with moral struggles, but as a rule, He does not set us up for failure.

But it has happened.

Yes. We know of one occasion on which G‑d presented us with a test that He knew we would fail.

And, strange as it may sound, it was actually done out of Divine love . . . But let’s go back a bit...

The Jews were liberated from Egypt, and then spent seven weeks of introspective self-betterment to prepare themselves for receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai.

When they finally gathered at Sinai, they were in an elevated frame of mind, spiritually evolved, and prepared for the most incredible event in all of history: G‑d’s giving of the Torah.

It was an incredibly real experience. The Jews perceived the world’s Divine purpose with unparalleled clarity, and genuinely embraced the Divine.

But that’s what makes what happened next so difficult to understand. A mere forty days after this Great Experience, the Jews collaborated to fashion a Golden Calf, saying, “This is your god, O Israel . . . who brought you up from Egypt.”

Sounds insane.After such an interface with the Divine, how could they have transferred their loyalty to an idol?

It’s an age-old question, and the Talmud responds by telling us that the Jews were, in fact, above this unseemliness. They shouldn’t have made that mistake.

So what happened?

G‑d set them up. G‑d gave them the “perfect storm,” bringing together a precise collusion of human weakness and incredibly alluring self-interest, so that they would make the wrong choice.

It was a set-up.

But the critical question is: why?

Because they needed to taste failure, and they needed to experience the beauty that comes from turning failure into growth. It was the only way to complete the Sinai experience.

When G‑d gave us the Torah, He was giving us a picture of reality as it is meant to be. To me, the Torah is like the cover on a jigsaw puzzle box. It gives you a vision that helps you put life’s objects and experiences—the “puzzle pieces”—in their respective places.

We achieved that at Sinai. But we needed a crucial element to bring real meaning to the picture.

The experience of failure. And the experience of choosing to grow from our mistakes.

Because Torah is life. And that’s life.

 Have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!

(Excerpts from, Rabbi  Mendy Herson)

Purim Perspective

Compiled by Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

The festival of Purim is the happiest day in the Jewish calendar. One of the traditions of Purim is dressing up in fancy dress and wearing masks. What is the reason for this custom and how does it connect to the celebration of the day?

Our sages tell us that "Happiness breaks boundaries." When people are truly happy they loosen up and do things that are beyond the norm. But there are two types of happiness. The first is egocentric and hedonistic, seeking pleasure and a good feeling. This is the festivity that we often witness in pubs or wild parties where there is little purpose or focus. Here the boundaries that are broken are those of self discipline and self respect. This is when people curse, insult and often become violent. It is not true happiness.

The second form of happiness is one with purpose and meaning. The goal of this joy is not external pleasure but rather the celebration of meaningful milestones, spiritual growth or major accomplishments. This happiness is a true and lasting one.

The boundaries that are broken with real joy are the barriers and fences that separate us from each other. The happiness allows us to develop a different perspective on ourselves and other people. We stop judging others by their external behavior and things they say and do, and we begin to appreciate their inner soul.

We begin to understand that the annoying actions, feelings and personality traits that separate us from others are only external masks that conceal the true human being. Beneath the mask there is a pristine soul that makes him/her a special human being. The energy of the happiness allows us to break through the mask and see what is beneath.

On Purim we dress up, reminding ourselves and others that our outward appearance and behavior is always a mask. We realize that all those things that separate us from each other have nothing to do with our real identity. The celebration of Purim gives us the ability to look behind the mask and discover the real person.

 Have a an inspirational and joyous Purim!

(Excerpts from -  Rabbi  Michoel Gourarie)