Jan 19, 2009

Blessing for the Righteous

January 18th

Mrs. Raizy Guttman

Prayer for the Righteous

If you remember in the last 2 blessings we asked G-d to bring complete justice to the world to remove all evildoers. Now we pray for the righteous people that they be raised and rewarded. It’s a prayer for now and also continues our stages of events when Moshiach will come. Lets go through all the steps of moshiach:
1. The big Shofar will be the sign that moshiach is here. 2. a great miracle, a banner of G-d will be revealed in the world. 3. The ingathering of the Exiles 4. Restoration of the true judges and leaders of the people 5. people who cause pain to the Jews will repent or be destroyed. 6. All righteous people will be raised and receive their reward.

“Upon the Tzadikim and upon the Chassidim”

What is the difference between a tzadik [righteous person] and a chosid? A Tzadik is constantly putting G-ds will in front of their own. They nullify their own will in front of G-ds. Of course they make some mistakes, “There is no righteous man in the world who only does good in the world” [Ecclesiastes]. The will of G-d is always the uppermost in his mind. When I think of a Tzadik I am reminded of a very special tzadik that I knew personally. Rav Shlomo Zalman Aurebach was agreat man who passed away 13 years ago. He had a smiling, shining face and was beloved by everyone. A righteous person always puts the will of G-d before his own. At his wife’s funeral he said “Normally at a funeral of a spouse the husband asks the wife for forgiveness. I don’t have to ask you for forgiveness and you don’t have to ask me because we lived our lives according to the Torah.” Which reminded me of another story. As soon as Rav Shlomo Zalman got married he said to his wife in the yichud room “Listen, I know that there will be times when we don’t agree on things. I want you to know that if we ever don’t agree on something: You’re right.” Couples always disagree but the question is how do we disagree. There’s a Torah way to disagree!
What is a Chossid? It doesn’t mean someone with payos and streimels. It means someone who goes beyond the call of duty. They do more than they are required. The word chossid comes from the word giving. They are overflowing with their desire to give to G-d and do whatever they can to sanctify G-ds name. Some say that a chossid is a higher level than a tzadik. A tzadik serves G-d out of fear and a chossid out of love.

The Avudraham says that a chossid is one who strayed from the right path and then returned. “In the place that b’alei tshuva stand, even the greatest righteous person cannot stand in that same place.”

There is a concept by the gentiles called “Righteous gentiles”. Like the ones during the war who went above and beyond what was expected of them. They are called “Chassidei umos haolam”. They are also going to get their reward when moshiach comes.

“V’al Zikeni amcho bais yisroel” The word Zaken is usually translated as elderly. But the word zaken really stands for “This person has acquired wisdom”. Therefore we are referring to our sages and the leaders of the people. So then why does it say “On the elders of your nation, the house of Israel?” It didn’t say anything about the house of Israel and the nations by the Chassidim. One answer is that when it comes to the leaders of the generation we should know that they are tailor made for the people. If the gedolim of today are who they are, this is exactly what our nation needs. The leaders of the Jewish people today are just for us.
Another explanation is that when we can also pray for the welfare of the righteous gentiles of the world, but when we pray for leaders of the people, we only pray for our own leaders.
Others say that zekainim also means the elderly people and those who have merited old age. A few months ago my grandmother passed away. I developed a very special bond with her when I lived in Israel for the past 19 years. My other grandmother lived in America and we developed a close relationship when I lived there as well. She always listened, loved and appreciated me. I had a special and unique relationship with her. Both of my grandmothers were true role models for me and gave me so much. Now that I don’t have grandparents anymore I truly feel that void. No one can give me today what they gave me. When we daven for our elders in this blessing I think of my own elders who built me into the person that I am.
Rav Yaakov Kaminetsky was once traveling on a plane with his son. The son was catering to his every need. Sitting next to him was a gentile elderly man. He said to him “Why does your son treat you like that? My son barely looks at me!!” Rav Yaakov said “Listen, you believe in evolution and that you came from monkeys. Your son looks at you and sees you as one step closer to the apes. We believe that we were created in G-ds image and He gave the torah to the Jews at Mt Sinai, when my son looks at me he sees me as one step closer to Moses.” Our elders are that much closer to G-dliness. We pray for all these people here.
The next category is the “Pleitas Sofrim” “Teachers of the Torah”
There are not that many Torah teachers left who teach purely for the sake of G-d! We bless those special people who have educated Jews to go in the way of Torah. Without these people we would cease to exist as a Jewish people. We Ask G-d to show favor to the remaining Torah teachers. Before we read from the Torah scrolls we ask G-d to watch over those teachers who taught it to us.
We can all close our eyes and remember the one or two special teachers who have shaped and made us into the people we are, those who have inspired us to greater levels of serving G-d. It is these people that we are praying for here.
There’s an interesting episode in the gemarah: There’s a story about R’ Chiyah decided that he will reintroduce Torah into a generation where it was nearly forgotten. He went and planted flax in the ground and from there he made nets, caught deer, used the deer hides to make parchments and upon those parchments he wrote the torah. He went from city to city and taught 5 boys each book of Moses, and when the boy knew it well he would teach it to the others. Why was this necessary to do all this work? Why not just open a school?
In order to ensure that the Torah would never be forgotten, there have to be 100% pure motives from the very beginning. Only then will it have pure and holy results. If you had 1 teacher who had pure motives in order to shape, teach and inspire you, you are very fortunate. How fortunate are the teachers, but even more so how fortunate is the student is to have a teacher who is so special. The Chiddushei haRim said that if everyone knew what kind of reward teachers of small children get, everyone would run to be a teacher.
The teacher who teaches someone the Aleph Bais is the one who will get all the reward for when that child continues on to learn.
The next category is the righteous converts; people who converted for the right reason. They didn’t convert for any ulterior motives other than to live for G-d. The commentators say that the classical case of righteous converts are the ones in the story of Yonah. All the people who were left on the ship when Yonah went overboard saw that there was a G-d and they all converted. They become inspired and become righteous converts.
Who are these converts really? What are there souls? Are they Jews? Gentiles?When G-d went around and asked all the nations if they wanted to accept the Torah all the nations as a whole said no. But there were always a few individuals who did really want the Torah. We have a special commandment in the Torah to love the convert. We acknowledge their greatness and we pray for them here.
In reference to the days of moshiach concerning the convert: [Zecharyah, 8:23] “many people and mighty nations will come to seek out G-d, master of legions. In those days it will happen that 10 men of all the different nations will take hold of the corner of a garment of a Jewish man saying ‘Let us go with you for we have heard that G-d is with you!”
When Moshiach comes, all the other nations will want to join the Jews! We will have to determine who wants to join us for pure reasons and who wants to join us because of the honor that we have attained. But by then we’ll have the true judges and they will be able to make this prophetic decision of who is a pure convert and not.
Last but not least of people for whom we pray is for ourselves!! We pray that we should merit all these blessings. Therefore we say “may Your mercy be activated”, what does this mean? We ask that His mercy be felt and experienced. Just like we don’t actually feel the air until the wind blows, we ask to be able to “feel” G-ds kindness.
And with that mercy, we ask for a good reward to those who trust in you truly. This line is sort of a summery of all the people that we’ve spoken about until now. What is the common denominator of all the people? They all trust in Hashem truly. That is the summery of what it means to be a righteous person. The middah of Bitachon – trust is the foundation of this blessing.

Emunah = Faith which is an intellectual idea
Bitachon = Taking that Faith and making it real. Trust is something we feel and experience

A beautiful way to explain the difference is that Emunah is to imagine that you’re standing in line for a roller coaster and watching all the people. They are screaming and turning upside down and screaming “help! I’m going to die!”. You’re standing there smiling because you know that they are not going to die, this amusement park has been around for 30 years and nobody has ever fallen off and died. Its scary when you’re up there, but you know that they’re fine. That’s Emunah. Bitachon means when YOU’RE on the roller coaster! Are you going to be the one to scream that you’re dying? Or do you have that same calmness and relaxed feeling of complete and total trust in G-d and belief that you as you did when your feet were on the ground. Emunah is in theory and Bitachon is in practice.
Another good analogy is that you have a sick old neighbor who is all alone and has no relatives. One day she asks you “Listen, can you do me a favor? I ran out of medication and without this medication I can’t live. Can you please do a favor for me and pick up the medication for me?” And you think “O my gosh, I have the craziest day today, when on earth will I have time to stand on line and be able to do this?” And she says “But you’re the only person I can ask! I have nobody else!” Of course you’re going to get her the medication because you’re the only one she’s trusting. When we say to G_d, You’re the only one who can help me! I know you’re busy and everything, but if You don’t help me, I don’t have anyone else to help me.” Of course G-d will help you there because you really only trust in Him, and He wont abandon you.
“May our lot be with them” May we merit to receive the great reward who are those who have that complete trust in G-d. May we merit the same reward, and also we are requesting that we too reach this level of bitachon. It’s a request to be able to totally trust in Him.
“Forever we will not be embarrassed because we trusted in You” May the level of our trust never be a source of our embarrassment! This area of trust is the contestant job of a Jew. The Aleph Bais of the Jew is “Emunah and Bitachon”. We live in a world where G-d is so hidden. We see so much pain and suffering and we think “G-d, come one, how can you be here with all this craziness going on around us?” We will still say that we know that what happens in this world is from G-d and is good.
The gemarah says “Rabbi Simlai says: there are 613 mitzvos given to moshe and these are the things Jews have to do. David came along and he said ‘you know what? Let’s narrow that down to 11 things that a Jew needs to do.’ He quotes Psalm 15 and lists 11 things that categorize what a Jew is really made up of. Michah then came along and changed it into 3 things: “Be just, Love kindness, and walk modestly with G-d”. Then Chavakuk came along and said no, let’s boil it down to just 1 thing. “A righteous person lives with belief.”
We end of this blessing with “Blessed are you G-d, the support and the source of trust for the righteous people”. We conclude this blessing with reference to those we started the blessing with. In truth, every single on of us has a potential to be that tzadik. That is why we pray for ourselves in this as well. We should really shed tears when we say these words that G-d should make our lots like these righteous people. Every one of us has a specific mission to fulfill. We have to figure out who we are and what our job is.
After 120, we are not going to be asked why weren’t you Moshe? But why weren’t you YOU? Why haven’t you reached the great potential that I have given you?
This is the same idea that we learnt in this past week’s parsha. When moses was born his mother put him in a little ark and put him in the water. The daughter of Pharoa stuck out her hand and saved the baby. She brought him to her and he was crying. She figured he must be hungry and tried to nurse him and he refused to nurse from this woman because she wasn’t a Jew. They were worried and called a Jewish woman to nurse him. There is a halacha that says that any Jewish child should not nurse from a gentile woman. R’ Yakkov Kaminetzky says that just like Moses was going to speak to G-d and the mouth that will speak to G-d cant nurse from a gentile woman, and you would think that this only applies to Moses! But we see here that every Jewish baby has the potential to become a Moshe rabbeinu. We have to aspire always to this greatness. They say if you aim for the top, you might get to the middle. But if you aim for the middle, you wont get anywhere.
We can’t do it alone and we ask Hashem to help us. Hashem is our support and lets us achieve greatness and He is the source of trust. If we do our part, then G-d will help us by doing His. If one puts his trust completely in G-d and we just TRY and realize we have nothing to fear or worry about, G-d will remove all his fears and anxieties. He is the source of trust. Isaiah [17:7] Blessed is the man who trusts in G-d, and G-d will be his source of trust. It is for this that we daven for in this blessing.
Rav Miller says that from these words “Support and source of trust”, this is the reference for the times today [support] and the times of moshiach [source of trust]. We pray for the righteous people today and those in the future. May we all merit being among the righteous people with the coming of moshiach.

You’ve got questions? She’s got answers!

Q: I have a comment for Raizy: when you where talking about the righteous teachers, that hit home that you are wonderful. We think of you whenever we’re doing the shmoneh esrei and you brought so much meaning to it. You put such thought and effort to put such meaning into this and it has made such a difference to me, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Q: All Chassidim are balei tshuva?
A: That’s one explanations. He defines a chossid as a b’al tshuva. A B’al tshuva goes above and beyond the call of duty.

Q: What about all the Chassidim?
A: That doesn’t exclude the other Chassidim!!

Q: You quoted Zechariyah saying that G-d was Master of Legions, and I was wondering if you could explain all the different aspects of the names of G-d.
A: Beautiful question! Master of legions means that G-d is the Master of armies and armies of angels that He has up in Heaven and it includes also the Jewish people. That’s what all the multitudes and legions means.

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