Knowing Hashem lovdes us despite the way we feel about our natural reactions is key to accepting the mission He has given to us. We must comprehend ourselves as divine emanations, all of us hairs on His Head, emanating from His Will, placed in the darkness of a body with survival skills internalized but external to our essence, yet attached to these “like a heart” identity thieves, jealousy, lusts and urges, and craving for honor – fire, water and wind. Hashem is concealed in that fire water and wind as Elokim…there is No Other Power. He loves us but does not force Himself on us. He gives us the higher mind of our essence to recognize Him and to pray to Him so that we may bring all of that koach to Torah avoda chesed and mitzvahs. We are here to bring the lights of tohu to the vessels of tikun, and if we get wrapped up in judging how He has designed us to experience Him, we end up bringing the messages of darkness into our consciousness instead of the light concealed by the messages into the world as mitzvahs.
Let’s make choices away from self-loathing, hatred, vengeance, intimidation, shaming, blaming, anger, fear, addictions and honor by confessing these openly to Him (He already knows 😜 ) in order that we recognize Him and beseech His Mercy to rise above the nature so that we may connect and attach to Him and flow that concealed light into the world as…patience, ahavas yisrael, kindness, respect….out of love for Him, out of understanding that we are here to do this and this alone, and that He is doing everything. And it is ok to know that He knows where we extracted that strength from and to trust He will heal our hearts and our circumstances that only He can reach into, despite our best cause and effect thinking. Remember, cause and effect thinking develops starting six months before birth based on attachment to physical world and the love of people who are simply not Hashem, before we can incorporate Him into our understanding. Thus we must reflect on our messages in hisbodedus to hear the Torah that speaks back to us, to help us direct our hearts to what is eternal.
“And Yisro, the minister of Midian, the father-in-law of Moshe, heard everything that Hashem did.’”
What did Yisro hear? He heard about the splitting of the Yam Suf and the war with Amalek. He heard, he abandoned his family and all manners of idolatry that he had engaged in, he converted and came under the shelter of the Shechina. This is the explanation of the expression, “The ear hears the words of Torah and the entire body receives vitality.” As the pasuk states, “Hearken and your soul shall live.”1 Via listening to the words of Torah – the entire soul is resuscitated.2
“ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש” )יט, ו( “You shall be to Me a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation”
Aharon Hakohen received eternal kahuna. Dovid Hamelech was awarded perpetual royalty. We, the Jewish people, received everlasting holiness.
The sanctity of the Jewish nation is eternal. It is our attachment to Hashem. It is the greatest possible pleasure that a Jew can experience – the spiritual bliss of the soul that clings to its Creator. We ask Hashem often for a good life. What is a good life? It is a life of holiness and purity.
We must begin to consecrate ourselves – otherwise we fall to the Golden Calf, G-d forbid – each of us with our own Golden Calf. Even if it is so difficult – we
1 שמעו ותחי נפשכם )ישעיהו נה, ג( 2 שמות רבה כז, ט
must begin – we must want – we must daven for it incessantly! Holiness is a lifelong endeavor. It requires patience – with our children, with our spouses, with our neighbors, with ourselves, with everything that does not go well for us, with our failures, with our hearts that suddenly turn to stone and feel nothing. If we want Hashem to be patient with us, we must exhibit patience towards ourselves and towards those around us. We cannot accomplish everything all at once – but we cannot absolve ourselves either. A person says, “HKB”H knows what kind of difficult corrections I endure in life, how hard the path He has given me is – so, He does not expect too much from me.” That is not true. HKB”H implanted within us the strength to fight the yetzer hora and defeat him, as Rebbe Nachman taught, “In truth, every single Jew contains a precious soul that has the great power to withstand the yetzer hora and its minions. We need only acknowledge our own strength.”3
“You shall be holy, for I am holy.”4 Hashem proclaims that since He is holy, He wants us to be holy. HKB”H does not give up on us or settle. We evolve directly from Hashem and if He is holy, we too must become sanctified.
This world deflects our point of view and prevents us from staying focused on our objective. We become enchanted by the inanity of this world and we forget what is important, what can truly gladden us and fill our souls. It is life or death.
In this week’s parsha, the holy Torah tells us, ““Gods of silver and gods of gold shall you not make for yourselves.”5 However, the Torah already instructed us “You shall not recognize the gods of others in My presence”6 at the Giving of the Torah. What is being added here? HKB”H knows that connecting a physical person to G-dliness is very difficult. There are too many “other” things in the world to distract him. All of these other distractions are “gods of silver and gods of gold” – all of the superfluous things that do not bind us to Hashem and distance us from the truth and a life that is truly good.
Sometimes we need a break – we are not ascetics, cut off from the world. However, it must all be done with attachment, constantly seeking the connection, relentlessly speaking to Hashem. We must incessantly look upwards – towards Hashem. HKB”H created something out of nothingness ( יש מא ). ין There was nothing and He created the world. We must turn the something into nothing – to recall that there is nothing here – only Hashem. A person must pray for every matter in holiness – over everything that distances us from Hashem. Most of all, we must pray for the strength to guard our eyes.7 The yetzer hora is fiercest in that area. It is impossible to experience the taste of holiness when our eyes cause us to be diverted from Hashem. Therefore, we must proceed with Dovid Hamelech’s advice, “My eyes are always to Hashem.”8 When a person is in constant dveykus (clinging) to Hashem – he is automatically rescued from jealousy, covetousness, hatred, contentiousness, loshon hora, etc. He is saved because he does not see anyone – his eyes are always to Hashem. Therefore, tzaddikim never let their eyes wander outside their four amos, even in a closed room. Their guarding of their eyes is not only to avoid gazing at forbidden sights – it is never to allow anything to interrupt their dveykus to Hashem. When we open our eyes, we see something and our thoughts begin to be drawn after the many distractions that surround us. Whatever we see immediately begins a chain of thoughts that can lead anywhere.
5 ” אלקי כסף ואלקי זהב לא תעשו לכם )כ, כ( 6 לא יהיה לך אלקים אחרים על פני )כ, ג( 7 Adaptor’s note: In this context, “guarding one’s eyes” is not limited to avoiding inappropriate content – it includes not being easily distracted from our mission by things that surround us and what others have. 8 עיני תמיד אל ד’ )תהילים כה, טו(
We were created in this world to delight in Hashem, to cling to Hashem. The substitute for the false pleasures of this world is to live a life of holiness. There is no worse punishment than when a person has no desire to daven, to learn Torah – his heart is cold to all matters of holiness because he gives all of his heart’s warmth to the other side. There is no greater pleasure than delighting in Hashem (להתענג על ד’) – to take pleasure in learning, pleasure in davening and hisbodedus, in all manner of getting closer to Hashem, clinging to Hashem, connecting to Hashem – that is the only real delight in the world.
Even when a person realizes that he is not changing, that he remains with all of his illicit desires and negative attributes – every moment that he is disgusted with this world – that is his victory. Every time he cries to Hashem, “Hashem, save me from this” – that is the change. That is his triumph. Every tiny motion of ours towards holiness is never lost. The most important thing is never to give up. Most important is for us stubbornly to persist – to begin anew each time.
When a person sanctifies himself – he is less focused on himself and on physical matters. He understands that the spiritual portion is the main part. It is the root of everything. If his spiritual life is in order – things will even be better for him materialistically. Holiness is only possible with modesty and humility, with submissiveness and a bowed head. Moshe, who received the Torah from the mouth of the Almighty, and Yisro, who came from such a distant and impure place, are called “man to his friend.” “And they inquired man to his friend about the other’s well-being.”9 “Man” refers to Moshe, as it states, “The man Moshe was exceedingly humble.”10 “His friend” refers to Yisro – as if they were equals. “Such is the way of the highest tzaddik, who is an aspect of Moshe. He lowers himself and draws himself so close to those who have a desire to draw near to the truth. He comes so close to him – as if he were his friend, literally, as if they are ‘man and his friend’.’”11
A person’s entire task is self-nullification. That means being certain that everyone else is more
9 וישאלו איש לרעהו לשלום )יח, ז( 10 והאיש משה ענו מאד )במדבר יא, ג( 11 ליקו”ה בכור בהמה טהורה ד, כב
pg. 3 פרשת יתרו
righteous than he is, holier than he is and wiser than he is. That is a person’s entire concern in this world: to reveal Hashem’s honor, not his own. When a person usurps honor for himself, he is in trouble. That is our essential challenge. We must accept a compliment – and, in the next moment, exchange these thoughts for another: the honor really belongs to Hashem. One who knows how to attribute all of the glory to HKB”H – is worthy of being honored, not one who tries to take credit himself.
A person’s greatest challenge is to know that, without Hashem, he is nothing. When a person draws all of his vitality from the illusion and expectation that he will be someone – reality slaps him in the face repeatedly and admonishes him that he is nothing. He does not understand why he is continually disappointed. Even when he succeeds, it is never quite as he imagined it. And when things do not go well, he is completely depressed. This is all a result of seeking vitality from our egos, from the illusion that we are important. By contrast, one who lives with the idea that he is insignificant and that there is nothing aside from Hashem – is always filled with vigor and joy because he is connected to the Creator.
A person who is ever cognizant of his flaws does not become arrogant because he is aware that he is liable to sin – sin crouches at his doorstep from morning until night. Therefore, he constantly speaks to Hashem and Hashem helps him. A humble person never stops thanking Hashem. The Chofetz Chaim would thank Hashem every night for all of the favors He had done for him. He would recount the kindnesses that Hashem did for him that day and every day of his life – how He had helped him when he had been an orphan, to bear his bereavement and loneliness, helped him learn Torah and author sefarim, granted him good, learned and G-d-fearing sons-in-laws, etc. Humility is the source of every holy matter and every positive attribute. In the humble man’s eyes, every Jew is amazing and a tzaddik. A person who lives with humility and modesty, who is not too self-important – can relate to others with tenderness, pleasantness – he loves everyone.
Arrogance leads to the attitude that everything is “owed to me.” When a person is conceited, he feels prominent. The result is a sense of entitlement. When he does not get what “he is owed” – he is hurt,
angry. A humble person does not feel owed at all – no one owes him any special treatment or honor. We must constantly tell ourselves: “we are owed nothing, we are no better than anyone else.” We must never feel superior to others – we never know what difficulties they encounter and overcome. We must stop and contemplate – we must identify illusions of grandeur and fight them. Nothing conceals Hashem’s light more than arrogance. Hashem says that He and the egoist cannot coexist.12 When we are humble – Hashem is with us.
This week’s parsha introduces us repeatedly to the beautiful attributes of submission, humility and selfnullification. Yisro gave Moshe good counsel, to appoint men of distinction, men of truth, to help him judge the nation. Moshe, the humblest man, accepted the advice deferentially. “Moshe heeded the voice of his father-in-law.”13 That is the Jewish nation. The greatness of its greatest tzaddikim is their selfnullification, humility and submissiveness.
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https://www.torahanytime.com/#/lectures?v=102076 Rabbi Dovid Ashear on Torahanytime – Finding Fatih within the Light – an amazing story of vatranos