Follow by Email

Wednesday, 22 February 2017

Halacha is not Black & White

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 31

Should we give an aliya to someone who is not Shabbos-observant?  That was the question on the agenda of the ritual committee at the Young Israel of Dayton.  For Rabbi Moshe Parnes the answer was obvious: exclude people who were not yet observant and you might as well close up shop. 
But one stubborn fellow wouldn’t let it go.  “Rabbi, the poskim (halachic decisors) clearly prohibit it!  If we allow people who are not shomer-Shabbos to be called up, what’s next?  Pork-eaters as the chazan?”

Finally, Rabbi Parnes caved in to the man’s obstinacy.  “I’ll tell you what,” he informed the fellow, “let’s ask your rebbe in Boro Park, Rabbi Menashe Klein, what he thinks.”  And so off they travelled to New York to see the counsel of the wise sage.
“Whether or not to call up people who are not shomer-Shabbos?  That’s a very important shayla (question),” responded the Ungvarer Rov.  “Now let me give you the teshuvah (answer).  It is absolutely assur (forbidden) to give an aliya to someone who is not shomer-Shabbos . . . here in Boro Park.  But in Dayton, it’s absolutely assur NOT to give an aliya to someone who is not yet shomer-Shabbos!”

Two people appeared before the beth din (court).  One claimed, ‘This land always belonged to my family.’  The other claimed, ‘The land always belonged to my family!’  One of them brought witnesses testifying that it was family property and he was personally living there.  The other only offered witnesses testifying that he was personally living there.
Rav Nachman ruled: The two testimonies regarding current personal use cancel one another out and we award the property to the one who brought witnesses that it belonged to his family.

The second litigant later produced witnesses that it was family property.
Rav Nachman ruled: We placed the first fellow in the property and we may likewise remove him (and reopen the case).  We are not worried about the consequent disrespect for the beth din.
Rashbam explains: We are not worried that people may mock the beth din, alleging that they contradict their judgments and they appear to be a joke.

Halacha is an art-form.  Very often, questions are not black and white.  Each situation is unique and must be judged on its individual merits.  Rabbi Klein had never been to Dayton, Ohio.  He probably never made it across the Brooklyn Bridge.  But he knew that not everywhere is Boro Park.  Moreover, he understood firstly that each time and place requires unique consideration, and secondly that Rabbi Parnes, as the mara d’asra (city rabbi) was best placed to respond to the specific needs and level of his community.

Unfortunately, there are those who misunderstand the depth of halachic rulings such as Rabbi Klein’s distinction between Boro Park and Dayton.  To them, the rulings appear inconsistent.  How can the same behavior be a sin in one place and a mitzvah in another?  And so they deride the rabbis and their halachic determinations.

Maybe it would be simpler if we just kept things constant and homogeneous?  That way nobody would question the integrity of rabbinic law!  Comes along Rav Nachman and says, ‘No. We have to do the right thing for the question at hand.  Even if that means the naysayers start their mockery and questioning.’  In our Gemara’s case, it meant overturning the previous ruling and starting fresh.  Who knows what people would say about rabbinic process?  Rav Nachman wasn’t worried.  He needed to do what was right for that time and place.

At some point, you might have asked your rabbi a question expecting a certain answer.  Only to find the ruling to be quite the opposite.
‘But you gave so-and-so a completely different response!’ you cry. 
‘What can I say?’ he responds, ‘I love you and I love him.  But, here’s the difference.  For him, he was looking for an out.  You, on the other hand, I know you can handle the more stringent halachic position!’

Now you begin to understand how these things work.  An accomplished rabbi knows how to respond to each shayla uniquely.  Essential to emunas chachomim – trust in our sages – is the belief that ‘there’s a method to the madness’ of rabbinic rulings that you might feel are inconsistent.  If your rabbi knows his stuff and understands his people, he will know exactly how to respond to each particular inquirer.

That’s where Rabbi Google falls short.  He might be able to provide you with answers, but he doesn’t know you and your specific circumstances.  To a large extent, it’s also why you need to have a personal relationship with your rabbi.  Sure, there are rabbis who will respond to anonymous inquirers, but it’s never as effective as having a conversation with a rabbi who knows all the particulars of your situation.

Halacha is not black and white.  It’s complex.  That’s why we have expert rabbis who have spent years pouring over the poskim.  May you have faith in the integrity of rabbinic law and be the first to defend our holy tradition from those who seek to make a mockery of it! 

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Is anyone (really) home?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 30

One day, following the morning Shacharis services in Berditchev, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok went over to a businessman who was a regular at the minyan.
“Shalom aleichem!” he said to the businessman.
“Aleichem shalom?” the man responded, a little confused, “But Rebbe, I haven’t gone anywhere.  I’ve been here in town all along!”
“Oh, I know that you were here physically.  But your face during Shacharis told me that in your mind, you were at the market in Leipzig!  So now, here I am welcoming you back to Berditchev!”

A fellow once told his friend, “What are you doing in my house?”
“You sold it to me,” he responded, “and I have proof that I’ve been living here for the past few years!”
“I was doing business overseas,” the first one replied. (Rashbam: And so he didn’t know the friend was squatting in his house and therefore didn’t protest.)
“But I have witnesses that saw you at the local market for thirty days each year!”
“That’s true,” he admitted, “but those thirty days I was occupied in the market!” (And therefore still unaware of the squatter.)

Sometimes we spend so much time away from the house that we no longer know what’s going on there.  How our spouse is doing.  How our kids are.  What’s going on in their lives.  Friends, work, school.  We’re so busy doing our own thing that we don’t realize how out of touch we’ve become.

Until one day we wake up and realize that we’re not around enough.  And so we resolve to be home more.  But even though we might be there physically, we still seem to somewhere else.  Like the fellow davening in Berditchev.  Sure he was right there in shul, but in reality he was off in Leipzig.  Or the fellow from the Gemara who was home one month a year.  He might have been physically in the city but he still had no clue who was living in his house!

When you’re home with your family, you need to be 100% present!  Not on your phone, not on your computer, not sitting in front of the TV.  None of those ‘moments’ count!  You have to deduct all that time from whatever amount of hours you think you’re spending at home with the family.  Being with them means taking the time and transforming it into an unforgettable experience!

There’s no time more precious than quality family time.  Your spouse and kids should be counting down the hours and minutes until you get home.  And so should you!  But that only happens if you give the time you spend with them the same focus and honor you give your work and other commitments.

If you’ve come home to watch TV or play on your phone, why bother?  You could have done that at the office!  May your family time be the most quality moments of your day!

Monday, 20 February 2017

Can your kids pick up where you leave off?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 29

Rabbi Yitzi Hurwitz was the founding rabbi of the Jewish community of Temecula, California.  In 2013, he was diagnosed with ALS and he quickly began losing his fine motor skills.  Today, he is confined to life in bed, surrounded by his loving wife, Dina, and seven children.

But Rabbi Yitzi never let his illness end his life’s mission to inspire others and bring them closer to our Father in Heaven.  Each week, incredibly he writes a Torah blog, using his eyes to choose letters on a computer screen.  Letter by letter, painstakingly he composes his weekly D’var Torah, which is read by thousands across the globe.

In 2014, his daughter discovered an SD memory card and inserted it into her computer.  Lo and behold, it was a song that Rabbi Yitzi had composed and roughly recorded.  She showed it to her mother who shared it with members of the Jewish music industry that she knew.  They loved it and arranged for it to be recorded by a conglomerate of all the top Chasidic music artists in the world today.  Shine a Little Light became an instant hit and Rabbi Yitzi became a household name and an inspiration to Jews everywhere.

The Gemara asks: Whence do we derive that three years of property occupancy establishes a presumption of ownership?
Rava says: The first year, an owner can forgive a squatter, the second year he could likewise forgive, but three years, one would not forgive!
Abaye said to him: But now, when the property returns to its owner, it should return without the fruit yielded in the meantime.  If you are correct that the first two years an owner forgives, why did Rav Nachman teach, “The property returns and the fruit must be returned?”
Rashi explains: Further in this chapter . . .
RASHI Z”L DIED HERE.  From here on, it is the explanation of Rabbeinu Shmuel ben Rabbi Meir (Rashbam). 
Rashbam explains: Further in this chapter, Rav Nachman teaches that if an occupant fails to produce proof of ownership after two years, the property returns to the original owner and he must recompense him for the fruit yield.

This page of the Gemara always bring tears to my eyes.  Stop and picture what happened here.  I can’t imagine Rashi took a break in the middle of an explanation to run some errands.  If his commentary discontinues mid-sentence, that was probably his final moment on Earth. 

What happens next is simply awe-inspiring.  Rashi’s commentary doesn’t come to an end.  It is picked up by his grandson, Shmuel, who finishes not only his grandfather's sentence, but the remainder of the tractate!

That is incredible on so many levels.  Firstly, it is a tribute to Rashi that his grandchildren were able to step into his huge shoes.  Sometimes great people are so focused on their own achievements in life that they fail to take the time to invest in their own offspring.  Not Rashi, his children and grandchildren were great Torah leaders who similarly left volumes of inspiration for all generations.

But the second aspect of the matter that I find breathtaking is the fact that Rashi’s family knew exactly what his dreams were.  Following his passing, they immediately saw to it that his vision and life-goals were completed.  They knew that he had set out to write a commentary on the Talmud and they were determined to bring that dream to fruition.

What are your life-goals?  What great spiritual projects are you in the midst of?  Do your family members know your dreams?  Are they able to complete your vision if you are no longer able to?  In Rashi’s case, he passed on but his grandchildren knew what needed to be done with his commentary.

In Rabbi Hurwitz’s case, he is Baruch Hashem still going strong but he can no longer perform his own music.  His family has figured out not only how to bring his music to the world, but with the wonders of modern technology, they’ve found a way to help him continue teaching Torah around the world!  We pray that a cure for ALS be found very soon and that he have a refuah sheleimah!

No matter what stage of life you find yourself, if you’re still kicking, you should be deep in the midst of a spiritual life-goal project.  Maybe it’s fundraising to build a new shul.  Maybe it’s ending homelessness in your town.  Maybe it’s writing a powerfully-inspiring movie script.  Maybe it’s learning all the way through Tanach.  My wife and kids know that my current goal is to write a ‘peirush oif gantz Shas’ – an inspirational message on every page of the Talmud!  Whatever your goal is, make sure your loved ones know about it, so that they can complete it if and when you no longer can.

And if you’re ever thinking you’re no longer up for a new project, just think of Rashi who never retired till his very last day.  Or think about Rabbi Yitzi who literally spends hours plugging away at his weekly D’var Torah, letter by letter.  And while we’re on the topic, if you’re ever feeling like life’s got the better of you and you can’t deal with the challenges you’re facing, just go online and watch the video of Rabbi Yitzi creating his D’var Torah from his hospital bed.  Most of us have no clue what the word challenge even means.

Let us briefly return to our Daf and remember that nothing in life is coincidental.  Dr. Nathan Light teaches that it wasn’t by chance that Rashi handed over the reins to his grandson when he did.  Rav Nachman’s teaching was that the fruits accompany the field when it returns to its owner.  When we return to our Owner, will we be proud of our fruits – our children and grandchildren?  Will we be able to say that we are one with them?  That they understood our mission?  That we made our life’s message so crystal clear to them that they are able to smoothly slip into our shoes and continue our life-goals?

What is your life-goal?  What project are you in the midst of right now?  Do your loved ones know how to pick up precisely where you leave off?  May you make every second on Earth count and may your fruit be one with you!  

Where's your umbrella?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 28

Jerusalem was under siege.  While there was no shortage of false prophets predicting the loss of the enemy, Nebuchadnezzar, the one true prophet, Yirmiyahu, was undeterred in his message.  He boldly stood up and declared that the end was nigh.  The Babylonians would conquer the city and take King Tzidkiyahu captive.

That was too much for the king to bear!  How could Yirmiyahu utter such treasonous words?  The king nabbed the prophet and threw him into prison.  Suddenly, Yirmiyahu had a completely different vision.  He prophesied that his cousin Chanamel would appear at the prison seeking to sell his field.

Sure enough, Chanamel shows up and Yirmiyahu purchases the field.  He then instructs his scribe, Baruch ben Neriyah to secure the title deed in an earthenware container for the future.  Turning to the downtrodden people, the prophet declared, “Today, we are going into exile.  But in a few short decades, Hashem will return us to the Land of Israel.  Now is the time to buy!”

What is the source for the Rabbis’ dictum that in order to establish a presumption of property ownership, three years of unchallenged occupancy are required?
Rav Yosef says: Yirmiyahu declared, “They shall purchase fields with silver and inscribe and seal the transaction in a ledger.”  Now, the prophet made his declaration in the tenth year of King Tzidkiyahu and warned that they would be exiled in year eleven.
Rashi explains: If Yirmiyahu instructed them to record their transactions in a ledger and document the sales before witnesses, it means that their two-year occupancy (years ten and eleven) would not suffice to establish a presumption of ownership.  From here we see that (sans documentation), one needs three years of continuous occupancy to establish a presumption of ownership.

Why would Yirmiyahu tell the people to purchase property that they would not be able to enjoy for at least another seventy years?  If exile was clearly happening, didn’t it make more sense to sell off everything now and emigrate with liquid assets that they could use to purchase property abroad?  Upon their return to Israel, they or their children or grandchildren could repurchase the fields then!

Yirmiyahu was offering the people a powerful message of hope: Right now, all may seem bleak, but things will turn around.  Guaranteed.  But it’s not enough just to believe me.  Go out and purchase a field.  That tangible act will make your belief unshakeable.  Once you’ve invested your hard-earned cash, you’ve translated your faith into practice.  And there’s no turning back. Keep that document with you throughout the exile, show it to your children and grandchildren, and it will solidify your faith through the most challenging times.

If you really believe in something, you need to translate your faith into action!  Maybe you hope to be a doctor one day.  At the moment, you’re just beginning to apply for college.  It might seem like a long way away, but if you really believe, go out today and buy a stethoscope.  Hang it up on your bedroom door and it will serve as a constant reminder of your eventual destination!

Maybe you’ve been given a poor health assessment by the doctors.  They’ve told you that there’s 80% chance you won’t make it.  But you know that means there’s 20% chance that you will make it!  Put differently, one in five people beat the illness and go on to live productive, fabulous lives!  Don’t just believe that you will be one of the fortunate 20%, send someone out to buy you a brand new pair of running shoes.  Keep them right next to your bed.  You might not be able to use them today, but seeing them each day will remind you to maintain your faith that you are getting up from this setback in no time at all!

Maybe your child has dropped out of school or yeshiva.  You certainly haven’t given up on them.  Every day you turn your eyes Heavenward and wait faithfully for Hashem to set your child back on the right path.  It’s time to turn that faith into action.  Call the school and tell them you’d like to start making a monthly donation that will, please G-d, become the future tuition account for your child.  Pay in advance now – it will save you a lot of money in the future when your child is ready to get back on track!

The story is told of a drought that once took place in the area of Teveria (Tiberias).  It hadn’t rained for months and the crops were now suffering.  Food prices were out of control and drinking water was at a premium, let alone water to wash with. 
But then word gets out that Rabbi Moshe had called for a communal prayer service at the main synagogue.  “We will all pray together and I promise that the rain will come immediately!  As long as we have faith in Hashem, our united prayers will bring the rain without delay.  Everyone should gather tomorrow morning and we will bear witness to the miracles of Hakadosh Baruch Hu (G-d)!”
The next day, all the townsfolk appear at the shul, siddurim (prayerbooks) in hand.  Finally, Rabbi Moshe arrives.  He looks around and shakes his head despairingly.
Exiting the synagogue, he declares, “My friends, if you really believed that the rain would come immediately, where are your umbrellas, raincoats and galoshes?”

If you truly believe in the Almighty’s blessing, you need to translate your faith into tangible actions.  Hashem will turn your life around, but you must demonstrate your total commitment to the outcome.  May you accept His blessings into your life today! 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Are you considering everything that could go wrong?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 27

The Children of Israel were weary.  They had been travelling through the wilderness for over a year and all they wanted to do was begin life in their own country, hassle-free.  They reach the border of the Land of Canaan and send spies to check out the situation.

But, to Moshe’s shock, the spies return with a terrible report of the land. 
“The land is full of giants!”
“Their cities are impenetrable!”
“The land will eat us alive!”

The Israelites spend the entire night weeping.  And despite the begging and cajoling of Moshe, Joshua and Calev, they refuse to take one step further towards the land promised to their forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov.  As a result, they end up wandering in the desert for the next forty years, and ultimately never make it into the Land of Israel.

Mishnah: If one’s tree is leaning over into the public thoroughfare, he must cut off the branches that would impede the passing of a camel and its rider.  Rabbi Yehuda says: A camel carrying flax or bundles of wood.  Rabbi Shimon says: He must cut any branches extending over his property line, due to concern for the transfer of impurity.
Gemara: Who is the author of the Mishnah?  He maintains that regarding damages, we assess the situation as it stands now.
Rashi explains: The Mishnah teaches that the tree owner must cut off the branches so they do not impede a camel and its rider today, despite the fact that with the passage of time, they will grow back.

Some people spend their entire lives worried about all the things that could go wrong in the future. 
‘I can’t start this business, because I won’t get a loan from the bank.  Customers might not like the product.’
‘I can’t join that social group, because they might not like me.’
‘I can’t join that Daf Yomi class because I won’t be able to wrap my head around the Talmud.’

But with that attitude, you can never move forward.  Because so many things could actually take your plans off the rails.  Our Mishnah teaches that ‘regarding damages,’ you need to ‘assess the situation as it stands now.’  Worrying too much about what might happen in the future guarantees one outcome: stagnation, which equals zero accomplishment.

The Israelites were so worried about the great leap into the Holy Land that they simply couldn’t move forward.  They were stuck in their comfortable life, protected by the Clouds of Glory, fed with manna from Heaven, and satiated by Miriam’s well that accompanied them wherever they journeyed.  The thought of facing the inhabitants of Canaan and subsequently becoming responsible for their own food provision by way of agriculture and farming was too scary for them to consider.

But if you shouldn’t worry, does that mean you shouldn’t plan for a rainy day?  Of course you should.  You can’t go through life blindly assuming things will always be perfect.  You need to take reasonable precautions as you traverse the game of life.  But don’t let your worries get in the way of your vision! 

Trust in the Almighty that He will minimize the risk!  Success in life means having a plan and then taking calculated risks to see that plan come to fruition.  Will there be potholes along the way?  Of course.  But have faith in Hashem that He will guide you around – or better yet, over – the ditches! 

With the Almighty guiding your life, you will reach your Promised Land.  Instead of worrying about all the ‘giant’ obstacles and everything that could go wrong, you need to trust in the One Above that it will all work out for the best.  Knowing that He is leading you means expecting success in every aspect of life’s journey.

Expect that He will bring blessing into your life!  Expect that He will restore your health!  Expect that He will make your business successful!  Expect that He will bring the right person into your life!  Expect that He will guide your children along the right path! 

Negative thoughts only draw down negative energy which turn your worries into self-fulfilling prophecies.  The old Chasidic adage says, “Tracht gut, vet zayn gut” – when you expect the best, the best will happen.  May you take the leap of faith to success in every facet of your life!

Saturday, 18 February 2017

Does the Environment matter?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 26

Choni Hamagel was once walking along the road when he noticed an elderly man planting a carob tree.  
“Tell me, my good man,” asked Choni, “how long does it take for this tree to bear fruit?”
“It takes seventy years to produce fruit,” answered the old man.
“Do you really believe that you will live seventy more years to enjoy the fruit of this tree?” asked Choni.
“Of course not,” replied the man, “ but just as my ancestors planted for my sake, so do I plant this tree for the sake of those who will follow me.” 

Choni then sat down to eat. After he finished his meal, a deep sleep fell over him.  Hashem then caused a rock to take shape around him, protecting him from the elements and wild animals.

Seventy years later, the rock unfolded and Choni awoke.  He got up and noticed a young man picking carob from the tree.
Amazed, he asked the man, “Are you the man who planted this tree?”
“No, I am not,” was the reply. “This tree was planted by my grandfather, seventy years ago!”

Rava bar Rav Chanan had palm trees adjacent to his neighbor, Rav Yosef’s, vineyard.  Birds would come and perch on the palm trees and descend onto the vineyard and damage it. 
Rav Yosef said to him, “Go and chop down your trees.”
Rava said to him, “But I distanced them from your property!”
Rav Yosef replied, “That distance you created applies only to trees, but a greater space is required for vines.”
Rava responded, “But didn’t we learn in the Mishnah that the same is true whether one is planting grapevines or any kind of tree?”
Rav Yosef said to him, “The law is so only between one tree and another tree, or between one vine and another vine. But the space between a tree and vines necessitates a greater distance.”
Rava replied, “I will not cut them down, for Rav said: A palm tree that produces one kav of fruit, it is prohibited to cut down.  And Rabbi Chanina said: My son Shikcḥas died only because he cut down a fig tree before its time.  If you wish to chop it down, you go right ahead!”

When Hashem created Adam and Eve, He took them for a tour of the planet.  Once they had enjoyed all the beautiful sights, He turned to them and said, “See my works, how lovely and how excellent they are.  Everything I created, for you I created.  Pay attention that you do not corrupt it, for there is no one to fix it after you!” (Koheles Rabbah 7

We are stewards of planet Earth.  We were placed into this world with the instruction “to work it and to protect it,” meaning that we must work to make this world a better place.  But at the same time, we have an obligation to protect the physical environment for ourselves and for generations to come.  Just like our parents bequeathed a relatively clean planet to us, we must leave the same – or better – to our children.

That’s not just a pipedream.  As we all know, just a century ago, the Land of Israel was swampland.  And our grandparents tilled the soil and made the desert bloom.  What that means is despite all the reports of doom and gloom we hear, we have the ability to improve the planet for the future.  But just like our grandparents who weren’t afraid to get down and dirty, care for Hashem’s creation takes serious effort.

We can all make a difference, as long we are consciously aware of the consequences of our actions.  A little thought goes a long way to protecting this planet.  If we would all just pay attention to our personal consumption and unnecessary waste, this world would be pure and clean for generations to come!

What extra effort are you making to fulfill the Divine command “to protect it?”  Are we thinking about the kind of paper we purchase?  How long we leave the tap running?  If we really need to leave our car idling?  How many JNF trees we’ve invested in this year?  To many of us, concern for the environment might not sound like a religious imperative, but our Sages were clearly very environmentally-conscious.   And way before it was a hip cause!

One of the tenets of our faith is the resurrection of the dead.  That means we are destined to be on this planet for a very long time!  Let’s make sure we make the experience as comfortable as possible!  

Must I choose between wealth and spirituality?

Daf Yomi Bava Basra 25

I feel like it’s a trick question.  Every time I reach the part of the High Holy day kedusha that offers choices, I get dumbstruck.  I wonder whether maybe I should check with Batya, first!  Some of you won’t have a clue what I’m talking about, but I see many of you silently nodding.

The perplexing section of the service appears in many (primarily Nusach Sefard) machzorim.  While the chazzan is saying the word “ayai,” the congregation is offered the choice to pray for either Divine inspiration, or parnassah (material prosperity), or holy children.

Great, what an awesome opportunity!  But, honestly, which one of these three important blessings should you choose?  Everybody knows that holy children is the right answer, right?  But it’s so tempting to choose one of the other options. . . Is this a test or something?!

Rabbi Yitzchak taught: One who wishes to be wise should face south during his prayers.  And if one seeks wealth, he should face north.  The symbolism is the fact that the Holy Table was at the northern part of the Tabernacle and the Menorah was in the southern part.
Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi taught: One should always face south, for with wisdom he will gain wealth, as the verse states, “For long days is in the Torah’s right hand; in its left are wealth and honor.”
But did not Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi teach the following?  One must pray towards the Shechina (Divine Presence), in the direction of Jerusalem!
The Gemara answers: One should (face Jerusalem, but) turn a little southward.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi provides the solution to the quandary.  When you pray for Divine direction, everything else falls into place.  In elucidating the path to prayer, he explains that you don’t need to choose between wisdom and wealth.  For if you have wisdom, you will figure out how to create and sustain wealth!

His proof text is interesting.  “For long days is in the Torah’s right hand; in its left are wealth and honor.” Not only does Divine direction provide wealth, but it also brings honor.  What is honor?  In Pirkei Avos (6:8), Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai teaches that the ultimate honor of the wise is seeing grandchildren who follow in their footsteps.  In other words, wisdom leads to wealth and honor, and so in the High Holy day prayers, the ‘right’ choice is Divine inspiration, because that really contains all three blessings!

What is Divine inspiration?  It’s the ability to tap in to the spiritual vibe all around.  The Rambam explains the concept of prophecy as the ability to tune in to the Divine message that is everywhere.  Most people only see the external shadow of this world, but really there is a whole other program operating beyond the façade of this physical world.  With the proper spiritual antennae, you can hear the waves of the Divine.  Living in the twenty-first century, it’s simple for us to grasp – all you need is a handheld device and suddenly you have access to all the wisdom in the world!  Likewise, with the right spiritual transmitter, you have access to everything the angels see! 

Imagine you had all the secrets of the universe at your disposal!  With the secrets of wealth acquisition and accumulation, you could be rich beyond your wildest dreams!  With the secrets of relationship perfection and character building, you could have the finest children on Earth!  And so all you really need is the blessing of Divine inspiration, and everything else falls into place!

How do you acquire Divine inspiration?  One way is to pray to Heaven for the blessing.  That’s the meaning of the machzor’s option and that’s the segulah (omen) offered by Rabbi Yitzchak. 

But beyond those ‘short-cuts,’ true Divine inspiration requires effort.  Pirkei Avot teaches, “Nullify your will before His will and He will nullify the will of others before your will.”  When you become one with the Divine, everything else falls into place.  It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes a lot of asking yourself in every situation, ‘Am I doing the most efficient thing Heaven would want of me right now?’  But the more you do it, the more it becomes second nature and at that point, all the blessings start pouring into your life, effortlessly!

You can have all the blessings of the universe.  All it takes is tuning in to the Divine energy all around you.  May you become a vehicle for G-dliness and tap into the complete bounty of Heaven!