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the video clip in my brain

Friday, 31 July, 2015 - 4:42 am

There are moments in life that become engraved in one’s consciousness, something like a video clip saved on the video player in the brain. I have a number of those, and one of them came to mind when I was learning this week’s Parasha.

One of the most famous verses in the Bible appears in this week’s Parasha, Parashat Va’etchanan: “And you shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” As familiar as this verse from Kri’at Shema is, so too is the question that comes up when one studies it: The verse commands us to love Hashem, our G-d, with all our hearts, and the question is, how can one command the heart? Is it possible to force a feeling? Will my heart fill instantaneously with love to the Creater at the moment that I say “And you shall love Hashem, your G-d, with all your heart” – just because I was commanded to feel that way?

Here is what the Rambam (Maimonides, Laws of the Foundations of the Torah, Chapter 2) says about this: “What is the way to love and fear Him? When a person observes His great and wonderful deeds and creatures… immediately he loves and praises… and has a strong desire to know the Great Hashem.”

In other words, there is a command to love Hashem. How should you observe it? How can you create love? Just look at Hashem’s wonderful deeds and creatures and the love will come… Simple, isn’t it?

And here we come to that video clip that has been sitting in my brain for 18 years already.

I was touring with some friends at the Niagara Falls. We stood there, amazed at the wonder: the tremendous power of the water, flowing this way since Creation. When you stand on the Canadian side you can see the Falls in all their beauty, power and glory; your heart skips a beat and you are struck speechless.

At that point, a group of tourists arrived with T-shirts emblazoned with “Motti Tours – Touring in America in Hebrew”. Not that without the shirts I wouldn’t have known, even from afar, that they are Israelis. Their “Wow!” was quite loud, and then, as they were expressing their wonder at the sight, one of them, who was holding a cup of juice in his hand, placed his hand on his head and said out loud, “Chaverim (friends), when you come here and see all this, it is impossible not say ‘Baruch Atah Hashem, Elokeinu Melech Ha’olam, Shehakol Nihyah Bidvaro (Blessed are You, Hashem, our G-d, King of the World, that everything came into being by His word.” And all of us roared together, “AMEN!!”

That was the moment when I understood the Rambam. I suddenly saw, live, how observing “His wonderful, great deeds and creatures” bring a person to “immediately he loves and praises…”

The entire teachings of Chassidut are based on that verse, for in order to love you must know who the beloved is, and in order to pray, you must know whom you are praying to, whom you are speaking to. When you observe the mitzvahs, you must know Whose will you are upholding, and with Whom you are really connecting when you perform a mitzvah.

Chassidut deals with knowing Hashem as much as a human being can know, and understanding as much as a human being can understand. Believe me, it is possible to understand much more than one would think. It is possible to know and deepen one’s knowledge more than people tend to think. When one learns and deepens one’s knowledge, one discovers more and more levels of His great and wonderful deeds and creatures, and then, when we say “Shehakol Nihyah Bidvaro” we really understand and say it sincerely; really love, and really fear.

 

Shabbat Shalom,

 

Zalmen Wishedski

 

i wrote it last year, unfortunately, its relevant today again:

Excuse me for writing in the middle of the week, for a change. But something terrible has happened.

I am in pain – I am hurting! What comes to mind is the story of the Klausenberger Rebbe zt”l, who lost his wife and eleven children in the Holocaust, and still remained a beacon of faith and encouragement for the Jews who were with him in the camps.

Once, the Nazis commanded them to carry rocks from place to place for no reason at all – not in order to build or create anything, just in order to make them work.

Rain started to fall, and then the Jews turned to the Klausenberger Rebbe and asked him: “Rebbe, even now you would say happily, ‘You have chosen us from all the nations’?”

“Yes,” said the Rebbe. “I thank Hashem that we, the Jewish People, are not like them. We are not those who hold the whip, who hit and murder.”

But this week something terrible happened. This week, the Klausenberger Rebbe would have had nothing to say. Because it has been revealed that some Jewish youths kidnapped an Arab youth and simply murdered him. And that hurts! It is an outrage, and it must awaken some soul-searching inside us.

That’s it. I have no more to say.

 

In pain,

 

Zalmen Wishedski

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