Friday, October 5, 2018



The Chovos HaLevavos[2] relates a poignant parable:
There was an island that had a very unusual practice. Each year they would appoint a stranger to serve as their king.
There was a single path that led to the front gate to enter the kingdom. On the day when they sought the new king, all the dignitaries and nobleman of the country would gather at the end of the path. As soon as the first person walked down the path, they would all bow before him and call out, “Long live the king.” Before he had a chance to comprehend what was happening, he was dressed in royal robes, and carried royally during a great parade to the palace. 
At the end of that year, the king would suddenly be forcefully removed from his throne, stripped of his royal garments, and given back the clothing he was wearing on the day of his coronation. He would be given three loaves of bread and a flask of water, and then would be cast onto a lifeless deserted island where there were no plants or drinking water. It wasn’t long before the former king would die of thirst and starvation.
The fate of the king was kept a strict secret by all its citizens and the king was never informed of what would happen to him.
One year, it was a wise Jew that was proclaimed king during the bizarre procession. The wise Jew would not stop asking questions about how and why he was appointed king, or where the previous king was. But they would not answer his questions. They continue to shower him with praise and served him regally but would not tell him anything more. When he threatened to leave, they informed him that he would be unable to shirk his duties as king.
Late at night, the wise Jew would shed his royal clothes, dress like a peasant and mingle with the commoners to try to find out what the real story was. But despite his efforts, he could not get anymore information.
With time, the wise Jew realized that one of his ministers was humble and kindhearted. He approached the minsiter privately and asked him how often they appointed a new king. Without thinking, the minister replied once every year.
The wise Jew immediately realized that his monarchy was limited. “And what do they do with the king at that time?” The minster realized that he had slipped. He told the wise Jew that he could be killed for what he said. He agreed to tell him the true story, if the wise Jew promised to never reveal that he had told him.
When the wise Jew heard what was in store for him, he gathered some very poor but talented peasants, and offered them great wages. He brought them and their families to the ill-fated island, and had them build a strong infrastructure, including a fresh water supply, housing, and all other amenities.
Every week, the wise Jew would visit them, bring them gifts, and compliment their work. They loved him and were always excited with his visits. Slowly, the population grew, and the little island flourished. The wise Jew also had them construct a magnificent palace for him, with many servants and ministers.
On the day he was deposed, as soon as the wise Jew was cast onto the island in his plain clothes, he immediately headed to his palace. When the inhabitants saw him they greeted him excitedly as they always did. His monarchy continued to grow, and he ruled happily for the rest of his days. 
Koheles declares: “I have seen that there is nothing better than a person rejoicing in his deeds, for that is his portion, for who will bring him to see what will be afterwards?”[3]
The Chovas Halevavos explains that our lives in this world are similar to the king of the island. We are granted blessings with which to accomplish our mission, but our time here is limited. On the day of our death we are suddenly removed from this world. What awaits us at that time is wholly dependent on what we prepared during our time here.

The sublime and unique service we merited observing during the holidays of Tishrei have allowed us to connect ourselves with the divine celestial world.
The gemara[4] states that when one hears the shofar blown on Rosh Hashanah, it is analogous to his standing in the innermost sanctum of the Bais Hamikdash, the Holy of Holies. During the Rosh Hashanah prayers we constantly mentioned the monarchy of Hashem, as we reaccepted it upon ourselves.
During the Mussaf of Yom Kippur we recounted the Kohain Gadol’s performance of the Avodah in the Bais Hamikdash. For a few moments we were mentally transported there as we read about the Kohain Gadol sprinkling the blood and offering each of the korbanos. Then we prostrated ourselves as our ancestors did when we recounted how the Kohain Gadol uttered the ineffable Name of G-d while reciting the confessions.
We lived in Succos which contained the holiness of the Bais Hamikdash[5].
We held the Four Species which symbolize the four letters of Hashem’s Name[6].
We celebrated with Simchos Bais Hashoeivos that reminded us of the incredible event that took place in the Bais Hamikdash, when water was drawn from the earth and poured down the hole on the side of the Mizbeiach. 
We danced on Simchas Torah, raising our feet from the ground, in a display of desire to transcend our physical confines.
Each of these special Yomim Tovim connected us with the Bais Hamikdash in a different manner, enabling us to transcend time and place, and transport ourselves to a world where heaven and earth joined together.
Then on Simchas Torah we recommenced the Torah and read: “In the beginning, Hashem created the heaven and the earth.” As the majestic opulence of the holidays began to draw to its climactic close, we were thrust back into the earthly world with all its banalities and challenges.

Parshas Bereishis is a rather tragic parsha, recounting one failure after another – the primordial sin of Adam and Chava, Kayin killing Hevel, Lemech killing Kayin and Tuval Kayin, and humankind’s rapid moral degeneration.
The separation between heaven and earth had become so complete and irreparable, that G-d concluded that the only hope for the world’s future was to destroy it and begin again.
Noach was worthy of being saved, but he was unable to save the world. Noach himself lived a heavenly life, but he was unable to bring heaven down into this world. He wasn’t able to influence others to repent and live a more spiritual life.
It was only with the holy patriarchs – Avrohom, Yitzchok, and Yaakov, that the purpose of the world – to raise it and make it heavenly – was finally achieved. They lived their lives promulgating the Word of G-d and bridging the divide between heaven and earth.
After two centuries of persecution in the bitter Egyptian exile, their descendants were redeemed from Egypt, whereupon they accepted the Torah at Sinai.
We recite in the Shemoneh Esrei of Shabbos morning: “Moshe rejoiced with the gift that was his portion, because he was called a trustworthy servant. A crown of pride was given to him when he stood before You upon Har Sinai…” Moshe Rabbeinu, who transmitted the Torah from heaven to earth, rejoiced in the fact that he was worthy of creating a permanent connection between heaven and earth.
As the month of Tishrei nears its end and we anticipate the arrival of Cheshvan and the winter months, we seek and pledge to maintain the bridge we have created between heaven and earth. We can accomplish that by constantly growing in our learning and fulfilling our renewed commitments, valuing the daily mitzvos we perform including tefillah and chessed, and by growing with each Shabbos Kodesh, and the timeless lessons each parsha provides.  
When Adam Harishon was banished from Gan Eden, the Torah states “And Hashem Elokim sent him from Gan Eden to work the soil from which he was taken. And he chased the man…”[7]
Rabbi Avrohom Schorr[8] quotes Rav Yitzchok Eizik Chaver zt’l who explained that there were two components of Adam’s leaving Gan Eden. On the one hand he was sent on a mission “to work the land” to rectify his mistake and to grow from it. On the other hand, he was banished from Gan Eden. His sin had caused a significant rift in his spiritual connection with G-d and he was no longer worthy of being in G-d’s direct embrace.
Rabbi Schorr notes that as we take leave of the holidays of Tishrei, we should not view ourselves as being banished from the world of spiritual elevation and Yom Tov. Rather, we should view ourselves as on a mission, to take with us what we gained from these great days, and to invest the inspiration into our daily living.
The most challenging Avodah of all is to hold onto the holiness of the succah and bring it into our homes, to see ourselves as the Kohain Gadol in our homes, and to live as if we are constantly standing in the innermost sanctum of G-d.
The parable we began with applies to Elul and Tishrei too. Throughout these weeks we have been engaged in holy efforts, serving Hashem on a higher level. As the holidays conclude and life returns to normal, will it be a new and elevated living, or will it all be just a fading memory?
That is up to us.  

“In the beginning, Hashem created the heaven and the earth.”
“And Hashem Elokim sent him from Gan Eden to work the land”

Rabbi Dani Staum, LMSW
Rebbe/Guidance Counselor – Heichal HaTorah
Principal – Ohr Naftoli- New Windsor

[1] The following is the lecture I was privileged to deliver in Kehillat New Hempstead, Shabbos Kodesh Parshas Bereishis/Isru Chag 5778.
[2] Sha’ar HaAvodah chapter 9
[3] 3:22
[4] Rosh Hashanah 26a
[5] See Succah 8a and Ma’amaei Pachad Yizchok (Succos 119); Sefas Emes (5643) writes that the Succah contains the holiness of Gan Eden
[6] See Bais Yosef (Ohr Hachaim 651) about the dream of the Rikanti
[7] Bereishis 3:23-2
[8] Halekach V’halibuv


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