Thursday, July 13, 2017

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Parshas Mishpatim-Shekalim 5777 - Adar – The Art Of Joyous Thinking

Welcome back after a long hiatus! IY"H, I will begin posting write-ups of drashos by Rav Moshe Weinberger by other adapters, periodically at first (though another one is coming tomorrow morning!), and then more regularly, which will also be approved by Rav Weinberger. I work with these other adapters as well to ensure that these adaptations are largely consistent stylistically with my adaptations until now.

I therefore am happy to present this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from this most recent parshas Mishpatim 5777 by Dov Elias, a talmid of Rebbe and translator of Rav Menachem Azolai's Ohr HaEmunah, available HERE. Enjoy!

See here for past shiurim at's website by Rav Weinberger both as Mashpia at YU and from the past 20+ years. You can also click on one of the following links to subscribe to the shiurim: emailrss feedpodcast, or iTunes. Please note that these drashos will only be available online for one month. If you notice any mistakes, please let me know so I can correct it. If you are interested in a particular drasha that is no longer online, you can email me (right sidebar) and I'll send it to you IY"H, BL"N.

Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Mishpatim-Shekalim 5777
Adar – The Art Of Joyous Thinking
Adapted by Dov Elias

The Mishna (Megillah 1:1) states, “On the first of the month of Adar, a proclamation is made about the [giving of the] shekalim [the required half shekel contribution] and about kilayim [forbidden grafting of plants or breeding of animals].”  What is the connection between donations to the Temple and forbidden grafting or breeding? 

In addition, Rashi (on Shmos 30:13) says that because Moshe Rabbeinu had difficulty understanding the half shekel, “Hashem showed him a kind of fiery coin the weight of which was half a shekel and said to him, ‘Like this shall they give.’”  In two other places, Chazal offer a similar idea.  Rashi (on Shmos 25:40) tells us, “Moshe was puzzled about the workmanship of the Menorah until Hashem, showed him a Menorah of fire.”  Rashi (on Shmos 12:2) says, “Moshe was perplexed regarding the new moon — how much of it must be visible before it is proper to consecrate it as new moon.  He [Hashem] therefore pointed to it in the sky with His finger and said to him, ‘Behold, when it like this, consecrate it.’”  While we can understand how Moshe might have had difficulty with the concepts of the Menorah and the sanctification of the new moon, because they are complex concepts, what was difficult for Moshe understand about half of a coin?  It is just that – a half coin.

In Megillas Esther (8:5), Esther asks the king to return the letters that contained the “thoughts of Haman.”  The Gemara (Chullin 139b) asks where Haman is known from in the Torah and answers with the verse (Bereishis 3:11), “Is it of the tree,” referring to the Tree of Knowledge that Hashem had forbidden.  Haman is derived from the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil.  As such, Haman’s way of thinking defines the character of the world that we live in because it was the beginning of the world.  In chassidus, this world is called the world of doubt – and the tree of knowledge is called the “Tree of Doubt.”  Amalek has the same numerical value as the word “safek” – uncertainty, doubt and confusion.  Haman’s way of thinking is in play whenever the borders between good and evil, right and wrong, belief and heresy are blurred. 

When Amalek attacked the Jewish people, the pasuk uses the term “karcha,” to cool off, to chill.  When a person is the path to experience G-dliness, to connect to the Creator of the World – there is a coldness along the way.  A Jew begins to wonder - is Hashem among us or not?  How can I be sure?  How do I know?  It is a poison in our lives.

This happens in many marriages, unfortunately.  At first, it is so beautiful.  Then, something happens along the way and the wife begins to wonder, “Why did I marry this man?”  The question as to whether Hashem is among us is not limited to belief in G-d – it questions belief in a husband or a wife – it includes questioning belief in whether we are good parents or good friends.  It means skepticism and uncertainty.  It is Haman’s mindset, “Maybe this was wrong.  Maybe this was a mistake.”

The Beis Yosef (231) says that the rule of life is that a person must weigh (לשקול), on the scales of his mind, all of the details of his life.  When there is an opportunity to go somewhere or do something, one must weigh, measure and clarify in his mind – this moment, what he is about to do, what he is considering reading or the words that he is considering saying.  Will it bring delight to the One who created him?  Will it strengthen the G-dliness within him?  If it will, he should do it.  If it will not, he must push it away with both hands.

The Mishnah’s instruction to proclaim about the shekalim means that the purpose of our lives is to use our minds to distinguish and differentiate – i.e. to weigh and measure every thought, action and word and to ask ourselves if what we are about to do is something that gives pleasure to Hashem and to our Divine soul.  While anything forbidden by the Shulchan Aruch is clearly forbidden - many matters are not clear.  A person can develop rationalizations that would seem to support precisely what he wants to do.  Often, that desire comes from a place that is not right, not holy and not pure.  The scales of our minds have been skewed to think a certain way. 

Proclaiming about the shekalim means, as Rav Moshe Chaim Luzzato (the Ramchal) zt’l describes at the beginning of Mesilas Yesharim, “The foundation of chassidus and the root of the perfect service of Hashem is to clarify and honestly assess what a person’s obligation are in this world – why was he created, what is his purpose in life?”  On the first of Adar, they proclaim about the shekalim because Haman’s lottery indicated this was the best time of year to destroy us.  Haman’s mentality is the world of kilayim (grafting and interbreeding), not knowing the difference between Cursing Haman and Blessing Mordechai.  While it is true that, on Purim, it is considered an accomplishment not to know the difference - that is only for someone who knows the difference during the rest of his life.

Recently, there was a farcical trial in Eretz Yisroel.  The world could not seem to differentiate between a Palestinian terrorist and an Israeli soldier, a boy who was worried and frightened.  There is obvious confusion when a newspaper can print a headline stating, “An Israeli soldier is convicted for shooting an injured Palestinian” - as if the Palestinian was innocently taking his children to the park.  He was terrorist and he was a murderer.  The entire world is besieged by the sickness of kilayim.  Where there were once clear distinctions between good and evil, right and wrong, boys and girls.  There no longer is.  We are living in a time where there are marriages between two boys or two girls.  There is a blurring of boundaries that separate between the species of this world – between what is and what is not; what belongs and what does not.  Hashem gave each of us shekalim – the ability to weigh, on the scales of our minds.  Nevertheless, there is also kilayim.  A person has a choice in life.  When a person thinks like Haman, G-d forbid, it is called kilayim, confusion.  The purpose of his life, right and wrong, and good and bad is not clear to him. 

In this state of confusion, it is impossible to feel joy.  “With joy” (בשמחה) is same letters as “thought” (מחשבה).  When Adar arrives, we increase joy.  The Sfas Emes quotes the Chidushei Harim, who points out that Chazal do not say, “When Adar arrives, we increase joy - it says, “When Adar enters, we increase joy.”  It is not automatic, like some magic potion, as if before Adar, we were depressed, but now that Adar started, we are automatically happy.  Does it suddenly not bother a person that three of his children have strayed from the proper path?  It unexpectedly does not bother another that his 42-year-old daughter is not married?  Is a third person suddenly not troubled by the fact that his wife cannot stand him?  It does not bother a person that he has no money?  It does not bother him that he has not talked to his brother in 45 years?  Adar started so a person is happy and life is great?

“They proclaimed about the shekalim” means that we must weigh our lives – consider the purpose of life.  Of course, there are difficulties and challenges.  The Gemara (Taanis 29a) tells us that if a person has a court case with a gentile, he should try to push it to Adar because Adar has a strong mazal.  The Sfas Emes explains that this refers to a person’s debate with the gentile in his own head, that part of us that comes from the Tree of Doubt and takes away all of the joy of life, the part of us that thinks: “I do not believe that my wife loves me,” “I do not believe that that my kids are good, “I do not believe that Hashem is thinking about me.”  The Beis Yisroel explains that it means that gentile inside of us that tortures us and robs us of our joy because we are not living with clarity regarding our mission in life.  We cannot see the boundaries between good and evil, right and wrong.  Consequently, we cannot feel the joy that we should be feeling. 

The Ropshitzer Rebbe, in his sefer, Zera Kodesh, in Parshas Terumah, asks why all of the measurements given for the Ark are half measures (e.g. “two and a half cubits its length”).  The measurements of all of the other vessels in the Mishkan do not contain halves.  Similarly, why do we donate a half shekel?  Why broken measurements and halves?  He explains that a person’s purpose in the world is to break everything open – to analyze, to examine, to search within himself whether something is right or wrong.  Is Hashem happy with that which a person is about to look at?  One does not always have to look everything up in Shulchan Aruch.  He has a Jewish heart.  If one analyzes and dissects, it becomes very clear that something does not necessarily cause sanctification of Hashem’s name.

To measure, a Jew must examine every moment of his life (every thought, utterance and action) and ask, “Is it ‘Cursed is Haman’ or ‘Blessed is Mordechai?’”  We rationalize by distorting disputes between our holy Rabbis to look for some basis or some opinion that supports what we want to do.  We can play such games that come from the Tree of Doubt, the thoughts of Haman, where life is blurred and unclear.  When a person lives that life, there is no joy.  Everything is marred and stained by uncertainty, doubt, and confusion.

So many aspects of our lives are unclear.  When should we be strict with our children and when should we allow them more freedom?  It is not always clear which choice is correct.
Haman thought Adar would be a good time to defeat the Jews.  The Amalek within our own minds causes the confusion that is the mindset of Haman, the Tree of Doubt.  Therefore, when Adar begins, we proclaim about the shekalim – we weigh things carefully and warn Jews not to become mixed up or lost in the world of chaos.

Chazal (III Zohar 31a) describe the Torah’s prohibition against breeding an ox with a donkey as referring to mixing Eisav, the ox, with Yishmael, the donkey.  The crossbreeding of these two produces the dog, Amalek.  That is our final exile.  The Maharal, based on Midrashim, foretold of a strange grafting of east and west in which Yishmael will invade the western world.  The nations are symbolized by the United Nations, where, over the years, we have seen this bizarre mixture of the coldness of the west (i.e. Eisav, the ox) and the filth and immorality of the east (i.e. Yishmael, the donkey).  The Maharal concluded that the kilayim of East and West, at the end of time, will rise up against Yerushalayim.  These are our times. 
How can a fair-minded, intelligent non-Jew not clearly see the difference between a terrorist and a Jew, a soldier?  How can they discuss “occupied territories?”  How can they even consider the possibility that Yerushalayim may not belong to the Jews?  How can the western world be so reckless as to allow a single Yishmaeli into their countries?  Do they not see the danger?  The other Arabs countries refuse to let them in.  Yet, the west welcomes them.  The newspapers refer to Jews as Nazis and to Palestinians as Jews.  How can there be such confusion?

The Torah, the Zohar and Chazal have addressed this a long time ago.  There was a wedding between Yishmael and EisavEisav married Machlas, Yishmael’s daughter (Bereishis 28:9).  That crossbreeding has propelled the world into such confusion – what is a boy or a girl, what is good or evil, right or wrong.  All a Jew has is the Ark and the Torah, and they instruct us to clarify our obligation in the world.

Moshe Rabbeinu is the intelligence and understanding of a Jew.  When Moshe Rabbeinu asked what the half shekel was, Moshe was very concerned as to how a Jew would be able to differentiate between “Cursed is Haman” and “Blessed is Mordechai.”  How will a Jew have the strength to weigh and clarify?  The world is crazy.  How would they find clarity?

Hashem showed Moshe a fiery coin taken from under the Throne of Glory.  The Sfas Emes explains: every Jew is a half shekel, half of a Jew in this world with a higher half under the Throne of Glory.  The fiery coin under G-d’s Throne represents the essence of who we are; a Jew has a G-dly soul.  The purpose of our lives is to compare and connect to our upper portion.  We have to take the half of who we are in this world and compare it to the half of who we are in the world above.  We must join the two halves – the half in this world that we see with our eyes and the upper half, who we really are, the fiery coin that Hashem keeps under His Throne. 

That is what it means to overcome kilayim and why Megillas Esther speaks of “up to half of the kingdom.”  The King of All Kings tells Esther, who represents every Jew going through a difficult time, “I gave you half the kingdom – I gave you half of Myself.  I cannot give you the rest because the second half is up to you to draw down yourself.” 

How can we keep our heads clear in 2017, even with all of the insanity of the world, the time of Amalek, the kilayim, the dog?  The answer is that there is something much deeper inside of us.  If we daven for that, especially in the month of Adar, we can make good decisions.  When we live a life that is meaningful and purposeful – when we are clear about the truth – then, when Adar comes, when that clarity enters a person, there is more joy.  Serving Hashem with joy does not just happen; it requires a lot of toil, thought, and analysis– a life that is filled with shekalim

Maybe that is what is meant when Chazal say that after the story of Purim, they accepted above what was accepted below.  A Jew can accept below and connect to the half above.  The two halves meet – he feels complete.

Hashem should help each of us, in this time of such confusion, to achieve real joy and clarity by thinking in a Jewish way.  It is hard work, but if we put in the work and we let Adar into us, we are guaranteed to feel tremendous joy and experience the redemption of Purim, Pesach and iy”h Moshiach.

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