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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blessings and curses - the Jew’s closeness to Hashem - Thoughts on Kinah 9

Notes on Kinah 9 apropos to Parshas Bechukosai as well

This Kinah takes a look at parshas Bechukosai, where Hashem tells us the wonderful idyllic rewards for keeping His mitzvos and walking in His ways, and chas veshalom the punishments that will befall the Jewish people if we ‘are disgusted with His commandments and stray.
There may be a tendency to not take these seriously. If I don’t wear shatnez there will be peace in the Middle East? Really? And if I ignore some of the commandments, if I don’t cherish my relationship with Hashem then we will (temporarily) lose our rights to being the chosen people, Hashem will turn a blind eye to us?
Here the mekonen, step by step, takes us through the blessings, and shows how they were reversed, and how all the tochachah and curses of Bechukosai came to be. The words of the Chumash came alive, in a very horrible and tragic way.
The kinah is ‘spoken’ alternatively by God, the Jews, and the enemies of the Jews. Hashem speaks and reminds us of the covenant we have with Him, and how we have brought the tzuros unto ourselves. Israel laments, and the enemies says that yes – true Hashem used to be your protector, but now he has turned against you and abandoned you because of your sins.
We have to realize that Jews enjoy a very close and special relationship with Hashem, and along with the perks of being G-ds chosen people, we are held to a higher standard as well. We bear responsibility for our actions, and suffer the consequences of our missteps.
Last night, in the very first kinah of Tisha B’Av, as well as in Kinah 10, the kinah gives us a clear tit for tat for our actions. Each tragedy happened for a specific cause. Although its not for us to be specific, the general principle of responsibility is one that must be held dear.
There is a tremendous upside to this as well. Shmuel Hanavi, after crowning Shaul as king, said to the Jewish People: “I don’t understand you! Until now you had a very wonderful close relationship to Hashem. When you were close to Him and prayed to Him He took care of you. When you strayed and forgot about Him you were attacked by your enemies and you remembered Him. Why would you want to put a king between you and Hashem?” It’s a beautiful special thing to have closeness with Hashem and something we should cherish, but comes along with a responsibility as well. 
I think there is also a deeper point here. Rashi explains that the parsha of Bechukosai is referring to the obligation to toil in Torah. When we are involved in Torah study everything goes right for us, we are close to Hashem and He takes care of us. If we say that c”v its archaic, who needs it and mai ahani li rabanan that brings the kelalos upon us. Indeed the Gemara in Yoma tells us that that the chachamim were in a quandary as to the reason for the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash until it was revealed to them that it was for not making Birkas HaTorah. Rav Michel Birnbaum explains that this is more than a bracha, its our showing appreciation to Torah, recognizing the very dominant role Torah study must play in our life, and feeling and expressing our appreciation to HKBH for giving us this wonderful gift (as is evidenced by the din that Birkas Hatorah can be replaced by ahavah rabbah).
We lost the blessings and received the tochachah due to our lack of respect for Torah. The medrash in Eicha says Halevai they would have forsaken me and protected the Torah, the light within it would have returned them to good. We need, and must recognize within our own lives the need, for the light of Torah to be our guide and our inspiration, and then as the Kinah concludes in the prayer Hashem will dispose of Edom and rejuvenate our relationship and the blessings that come along with it.

Posted on 07/20 at 11:26 PM • Permalink
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Meet Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber

Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch HaberRabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber is sought after by all who know him for his Halachic and practical advice. His keen ability to put complicated matters into a digestible perspective coupled with his ability to get the facts, make him the perfect blogger to help us all “Do It Right”.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Rabbi Tzvi Hirsch Haber spent his childhood globetrotting with his family. His pioneering spirit first surfaced in Melbourne, Australia, where he was excited to be a member of the opening class of Mesivta Bnei Torah. From Australia the Haber family settled down in Monsey, NY. Ever the maverick, Tzvi promptly left home to study in Yeshiva Ohr Hameir in Peekskill, where he became a mainstay of the Yeshiva, and inspired his younger brothers as well as several friends from the Mesivta in Melbourne to follow him. He then joined his chaburah in Jerusalem, first at the Mir Yeshiva and then at the Bais Medrash of Rav Dovid Soloveitchik, a senior scion of the famed Brisk dynasty. As his globetrotting family returned to Jerusalem, Tzvi returned to the US, to freeze in the famed, yet comparatively chilled Beth Medrash Govoha of Lakewood.

 In 2004 he met his wife, Suzanne Schor, a native of the warmer Los Angeles climate, and the couple settled in Lakewood, where he focused his pioneering and independent strengths on the study of Halacha, or Jewish law. His innovative spirit and innate ability to help others seeking to clarify the finer points of Judaism and integrate them into their daily lives inspired his decision to commute daily from Lakewood to the Lower East Side of Manhattan in order to bask in the day to day exposure to the world renowned Posek, HaRav David Feinstein. The daily commute was more than compensated for when he received Semicha from Rav Feinstien and the Kollel L’Torah U’lhorah (a division of Mesivta Tifereth Jerusalem) in Tamuz 5768, June 2008.

In August 2009, the Habers moved west, heading toward Los Angeles where Rabbi Haber joined the LINK-LA Kollel. After being an active member of the Kollel for several years, he joined the business world, however he is still actively involved in teaching and learning in LA.

Actively involved in all aspects of TorahLab, Tzvi has taken upon himself a quasi-role as administrator of quality control and has effectively improved and upgraded many of the smaller yet vital details involved in our site. His advice is eagerly sought and gracefully given.

Rabbi Haber is now living in the La Brea section of Los Angeles with his wonderful family. He can be contacted at