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Holiness is a word that appears often in Judaism yet is often misunderstood or simply not understood at all. We are given the specific directive in this weeks Parsha of You shall be holy, with no true indication of what this requires and how we are to fulfill it. The actual word for holy kadosh means to be separate, but separate from what and by what means does one achieve this separation? Let us look into one of its interpretations.
The Torah and Judaism wholly reject the idea of shunning all material pleasures. Hashem has created an incredibly beautiful world with many opportunities for physical gratification and the Torah does not endorse a lifestyle of total abstention or asceticism, but only requires us to know when and where to indulge in those pleasures based on the guidelines of our Torah. The separation can therefore not mean simply a severance from all of lifes pleasures. This is not what we believe in.
The Ramban explains the idea of holiness to mean that even within this permitted usage, however, there is a cultivation of personality expected that requires some
limiting of these enjoyments. To live a life of unrestrained excess, even where it is strictly not transgressing a single command, may be following the letter of the law, but not the spirit of it. Once again, there are many ways and times in which we can, and indeed should, partake of the delights that this world offers, but from time to time this must be tempered and restrained, with the restraint and the benefits it bring to us in our lives being an end goal in and of itself.
Every individual has to determine for themselves, where that boundary is and when they are overstepping it, so that there exists in their soul, as part of their very nature, the concept of self-control and appreciation of what are the true goals and treasures of this world. To limit oneself in this manner, is to imbue within oneself the ability to control ones animal self and to let ones divine soul take control. Through acting in this way we are reminding ourselves that the true meaning of our existence is found within the spiritual and not within the material. It is a very fine line, but when negotiated correctly refines ones character and sets ones focus in life towards what truly matters and away from that which is ultimately immaterial. Just because we can have something, does not always mean that we should have it.
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There is a word in this weeks sedrah which is the title of a masechta of mishnayos. If you look at the Targum Onkelos of that word you will see that the Aramaic
translation is a title of another masechta in a different one of the shisha sidrei mishna. What are the 2 words and which sedarim are they from?
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The Gemara (Sotah 14a) instructs us in the mitzvah of imitating Hashem in all His ways, just as He clothes the naked, visits the sick, comforts mourners and buries the dead, so should you emulate His example. Rambam (Hilchos Aveilus, Chapter 14:1) mentions all the above mitzvos, but gives another source: the Torah commandment to love your friend as yourself.
Why the twofold source for the mitzvah of performing acts of kindness? The Midrash (Bereishis Rabbah 24:7) relates:
R Akiva said, Love your friend as yourself - this is a great rule in Torah. Ben Azzai said, This is the book of the generations of man ... in the image of Hashem was man fashioned is a greater rule, for one should not say, Since I was shamed, so, too, should my friend be shamed with me. Since I was cursed, so, too, let my friend be cursed with me.
R Akiva, as Hillel before him, saw in the commandment Love your friend as yourself the foundation of the entire Torah. The purpose of the entire Torah, Rambam says (Hilchos Chanukah 4:14), is to bring peace and harmony to the world, and in order to achieve this, one must conduct himself so that those things which are hateful and repulsive to him are not done to his friend.
Ben Azzai, however, feared rooting a persons conduct towards others in his own subjective feelings and making what is hateful to him the standard for his conduct towards others. There is always a danger that a person might become hardened or insensitive to being shamed or cursed after repeated instances, and thus less sensitive to the need not to humiliate or curse others. Therefore, said Ben Azzai, in the image of Hashem was man fashioned, is a more all-encompassing source for our duties to our fellow men.
Although both verses seem to apply exclusively to relationships between man and his fellow, Rashi in Gemara Shabbos (31a) points out that Hashem is also referred to as your friend, and one must also relate to Him in peace and harmony. In addition, the relationship between ones soul and body must be harmonious. Love your friend as yourself thus applies equally to all relationships: between man and God, between man and man, and between man and himself. It thus encompasses the entire Torah.
There are two reasons for the derech eretz the Torah requires us to show others. One is communal; the other focuses on the individual. The first arises out of the desire to bring peace and harmony to the world; the second because each human being intrinsically deserves the respect and honour befitting one created in the Divine Image. On the one hand, the Torah is concerned with the individual and the development of the Divine
Image within them; on the other hand the Torah is concerned with the community, with the social interactions between people.
At times, these two concerns are harmonious: what is good for the individual is good for the klal and vice versa. But there are times when these concerns are in conflict, and the individuals needs conflict with those of the community. Sometimes the community must yield to the individual, and sometimes the individual must sacrifice for the community. This balance between individual and community is crucial to a proper observance of the Torah and a development toward perfection.
In Parshas Kedoshim, there are a series of mitzvos which highlight the importance of the individual, while at the same time not losing sight of the importance of the individual as a part of the klal. On the one hand, the klal does not become the supreme value, robbing the individual of his intrinsic importance. At the same time, the individual must recognize that he does not exist in a vacuum, that he is a member of society whose actions profoundly affect others.
The Torah exhorts us, Do not spread gossip. Respect the privacy of the individual. And likewise, Do not stand by with respect to your friends blood - be willing to exert efforts to save the life of a fellow Jew, for every Jew is an entire world.
At the same time, do not lose sight of the equal importance for unity and interaction. Thus, Do not despise your brother and distance yourself from him by harbouring negative feelings in your heart, thereby causing division in the common soul that binds all Jews. Likewise, the Torah continues with a command to recognize our responsibility to others by reproving them when necessary.
The command, Do not take revenge also forces us to recognise the communal nature of the Jewish people. The Yerushalmi compares taking revenge on a fellow Jew to one who accidentally strikes his left hand while hammering and then takes the hammer into his bruised left hand and strikes his right hand.
Now, we can understand the necessity for two sources in the Torah for deeds of loving-kindness. On the one hand, one must do kindness out of a recognition of the intrinsic value of a fellow Jew, who is a reflection of the Divine Image. And, in addition, one must also consider the ramifications of his actions on socie