Friday, April 7, 2017

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman

This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated by Mr. Binyomin Philipson in memory of his late mother Mrs. Ellen (Elka bas Zisel) Philipson OBM

Dedicated in memory of Leah bas Rochel OBM

Oftentimes, a small lesson can bring about a major paradigm shift.

At this week's Torah portion Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi shared one such lesson he learned from his master, Rabbi Dovber,  the saintly Maggid of Mezeritch, based on the verse in this week’s Torah portion Tzav(Vayikra  [Leviticus] 6:1-8:36), “A constant fire shall be kept burning on the altar; it shall not be extinguished.” (Vayikra [Leviticus] 6:6)

To bring an offering on the altar is insufficient, taught the Maggid. One needs to kindle a fire under the offering. And this fire will extinguish negativity. Lo tichbeh, which literally means “it shall not be extinguished,” was interpreted by the Maggid to read: “shall extinguish (tichbeh) the ‘no’ (lo),” the negative.

Kabbalistic thought explains that every person has a microcosmic altar upon which they make sacrifices for G d. But sacrifice itself is insufficient without fire. Discipline and commitment to self-growth, but without love and warmth, is inert. Therefore, the Torah advises us to keep a fire constantly burning on the altar.

The fire fueling the altar is so potent that it will raze any element that may stand in its way. Passion has a way of dissolving problems.

This concept reminds of the story where the wind and the sun once competed to make the lonely traveler take off his jacket. The wind blew fiercely, but the man only clung to his jacket with more intensity. Then the sun began to project its warmth, and the man naturally removed his jacket.

Keep a constant fire burning on your altar, and lo tichbeh—the “no” will be extinguished. This became a vital paradigm shift, which was popularized by the Chassidic masters.
There are two ways to deal with our inner demons and dysfunctions. The first, and most natural, would be to fight back; to criticize ourselves for our inadequacies and mistakes. But sometimes this head-on approach can work to our disadvantage and the frustration that we invest in criticizing our character flaw will only aggravate it.

The second approach works by first generating a passion: With passionate energy circulating, there’s less energy to be had for dysfunctional tendencies, and less focus put on them. A teenager whose vivacity is channeled through noble pursuits may not fight to break rules.

When you love your spouse, you are less likely to be enraged by his or her flaws. At times, words of affection can be a more effective catalyst for change than scrutinizing the problems in a relationship. And so also, a passion for G-dliness will mitigate physical inconveniences.

Lo tichbeh—the negative becomes extinguished. Sometimes it’s about working smarter, not harder. Turn up your fire, says the Maggid, and your inner demons may just sizzle away.

May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos and A Kosher and Joyous Holiday of Pesach to all!

If you would like to dedicate the weekly Parsha Perspective in honor or memory of a person or occasion, please contact Rabbi Shusterman at

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