Friday, March 14, 2014

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

Seven years old, and yet to speak. His parents would have been more worried if the doctors hadn’t reassured them that their child seemed neurologically sound, and that he fitted within all the expected parameters of normal development.

One day, at breakfast, he suddenly turned to his mother and complained, “Mom, this porridge is cold and the toast is burnt!”

Shocked, his mother responded, “If you can talk, why have you said nothing till now?”

“Till now, everything has been fine.”

How many act like the little chutzpanyak in the above story; never a word of gratitude until everything goes pear-shaped, and then, don’t we just kvetch and moan. It’s almost as if we expect and demand that the good times keep rolling without any effort on our part, while we reserve the right to blame everyone else when the music stops.

A key element in human relationships is the ability to express thanks. We also need the complimentary skill: to accept thanks graciously. The simple step of appreciating the effort made by another person helps to join hearts, and to traverse the natural barriers, such as the layers of self, which divide one individual from another.

While the concept of giving thanks is important among human beings, it is also central in our relationship with G-d. Almost all of our responses to G-d through following the path of Jewish teaching can be seen as expressions of appreciation and thanks, for the infinite bounty that G-d bestows day by day -- despite all the apparent problems and dark patches.

One of the methods of expressing thanks to G-d is described in this week's Torah portion (Tzav [Leviticus] 6:1-8:36) .This is the Thanksgiving Offering, which an individual could bring to the Temple on any weekday. It was brought as expression of thanks to G-d by someone who experienced any of four specific kinds of danger: a captive who was freed; a person who crossed the sea; one who traversed the desert, and someone who has recovered from an illness. During the offering of this sacrifice on the Altar in the Temple, the joyful Psalm 100 would be sung by the Levites. This Psalm is now part of the morning service each weekday.

Today in 5774 (2014), for us as well, this particular Torah portion immediately precedes the joyful holiday of Purim. Purim, as we know, commemorates the time when the entire world Jewish population was saved from annihilation by the decree of the wicked Haman, approx 2,500 years ago. Thanks to the intervention and leadership of Mordechai  and Esther who put the Jews back on the right track in their observance of Torah and Mitzvos  (and a few “hidden” miracles thrown in for good measure!), we celebrate this day of salvation, Purim, with feasts of thanksgiving and added measures of charity and exchange of food gifts.  This is, then, a day which becomes an expression of our thanksgiving and recognition of G-d Al-mighty’s constant Providence and concern for the Jewish people.

(Excerpts from Chabad.org )

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos and joyous holiday of Purim!

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