The Torah commands us to be careful to deviate from its path in the slightest, neither to the right nor to the left. Here's a story for your Shabbat table, which brings the point home. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Shabbat!
Here's a gift for Shabbat - a Hebrew lesson of the the most important three-word phrase you'll ever need to know, and a lifesaver at that - ein od milvado - literally, there is no one or nothing but Hashem. Only He can help us, both collectively and individually. Like the Rambam teaches in the firsst of our 13 Principles of Faith, "He alone does, did and will do every deed."
The Torah says (Deut. 4:35), "You have been shown, in order to know, that Hashem, He is the G-d. There is none beside Him!" אין עוד מלבדו - "There is none beside Him," is the key to understanding everything that happens to us, both on a broad national scale and on a personal private scale.
"Shown, in order to know", explains the Ramban, refers to the revelation of Hashem on Mount Sinai. Moses received both the written and the oral law from Hashem on Mount Sinai. Therefore, whenever a person deviates - even in the slightest - from "Halacha Le'Moshe be'Sinai", or the law as it was given to Moshe on Sinai, one's understanding that "There is none beside Him," is seriously weakened.
"There is none beside Him" means that everything in the world happens because Hashem decrees that it should happen. No one can lift a finger against Hashem's will. So, if someone harms us or insults us, its pointless to bear malice toward that person. Rather, we should make an accounting of the soul, understand that Hashem does everything for our ultimate good, and pray to Hashem to help us understand the message and correct what needs to be corrected. This is especially important in Elul.
In light of the above, any time a person - or a movement of people - make any compromise on Shulchan Oruch, e.g. religious law, they weaken their own faith with their own two hands. Conversely, when a person strengthens his or her observance of the Torah's commandments, that person automatically benefits from a chizuk, or reinforcement, of faith. That's one of the reasons why Rebbe Nachman of Breslev implores us to learn Shulchan Oruch every single day of our lives, and not to budge an iota from its statutes.
Faith that "There is none beside Him" is the only reliable bridge to traverse this world safely to the other side.
Did you ever feel like the sky over your head was a locked iron door, and that no one is listening to you, much less hearing your prayers? Don't ever despair, because there's a way to reach Hashem, which we'll learn about in this week's emuna shiur entitled. "The Secret Entrance."
Today's shiur (lesson) and live broadcast will take place this evening (Wednesday) at 7:00 PM local time, at our Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva, 13 Shmuel Hanavi Street, Jerusalem, in the main sanctuary. As always, the live shiur is open to the public - both men and women are welcome - so if you're anywhere near Jerusalem, come on by! You can see today's lesson here - the broadcast, as well as our lessons posted from now on - are Mac and iPod compatible. If you tune in too early to the live broadcast link, you'll be sent to the main page of the Breslev Israel website, so try to tune in on time as follows:
9:00 AM in LA and the West Coast, 10:00 AM Denver, 11:00 AM Mexico and Central, 12:00 PM NYC (EST), 5:00 PM in the UK, 7:00 PM Johannesburg and Capetown, 7:00 PM Israel. As soon as we can, G-d willing, we'll post a link to the lesson for all those who couldn't see it live. If you can't see the broadcast, you might need to download a new version of Flash Media player, which you can do here. We hope you enjoy the broadcast.
Here's a clip of my pre-Rosh Hashana message to the distinguished students of the Chut Shel Chesed English-speaker's Kollel in Jerusalem, where my cherished colleague and "brother" Rabbi Dror Moshe Cassoutto is Rosh Kollel:
Despite the personal animosity between US President Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, there is an amazing similarity between the two. Both are at the lowest popularity ratings of the careers as heads of state (Obama, 38% approval; Netanyahu, 32% approval). Both are extremely eloquent speakers with poor records of follow-through. Both have led to eroding deterrence in the international military arena. Both have been caught by surprise by their enemies, Obama by ISIS and Netanyahu by the Hamas tunnels. What does this all mean? Why do our two countries have leaders who flounder in the muck and mire of mediocrity? Who's responsible?
Hashem is. If our leaders were so fantastic, we might be naive enough to depend on them. But, since we know that they are so blatantly independable, we must depend on Hashem - on Him only, and on nothing or no one else.
The Israeli media as a whole seems to be selectively ignoring Barak Ravid's report that Hamas is already repairing its tunnels and is back to producing M75 rockets, capable of hitting the Tel Aviv area. Meanwhile, Hizbulla - with 10 times the firepower of Hamas - has apparently dug assault tunnels with cross Israel's northern border. Everyone in government here appears to be in a deep sleep. Rather than handle the real pressing issues, the unfinished war in the south, the Hizbulla threat from Lebanon and the Al Nusra and ISIS threats lurching all the time from Syria, the Israeli government has renewed its hostilities against the Haredi population. As our sages said repeatedly, those who are kind to the cruel end up being cruel to the kind. If that's not enough, rather than preparing for battle against the real enemies, the IDF brass is preparing for battle against each other. Only Hashem can help us...
As I predicted repeatedly in recent weeks, the Israeli government has once again misinterpreted the current lull. Hashem has freed us from war to give us a chance to assess ourselves calmly and to return to Him before Rosh Hashana. If we do, our enemies will self-destruct. But Heaven forbid, if people view the temporary quiet as a license to sit in sidewalk cafes and open shopping malls on Shabbat, then the next wake-up call will be much louder. We don't want to go there. Elul is the time to arouse from spiritual slumber - don't delay!
In two weeks, on Rosh Hashana of 5775, begins the holy Sabbatical or Shemitta year in Israel.
Trust in Hashem, or bitachon as we say in Hebrew, is especially important in observing the Shemitta year. If a farmer asks how he can possibly let his field lie fallow and make a living at the same time, the Torah promises him a bumper crop in the sixth, or pre-Shemitta year. Furthermore, Hashem gives an opportunity to every farmer in the Land of Israel to take a rest from an entire year of back-breaking work in the field and to taste the double sweetness of learning Torah all day long and eating out of Hashem's outstretched hand. Sure, this requires trust in Hashem, but many in the Land of Israel - as the Shemitta-encouragement committees can attest to - have succeeded.
We learn bitachon from the wonderful story in the Gemara about Yochanan Ben Nouri; you'll therefore enjoy Ben Nouri's Bitachon, my feature article that also elaborates on this week's Torah portion Ki Tavo, in this week's new issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.