The King and His Old Teacher

One of the kings had a wise teacher who had instructed him since his childhood in all matter of things such as mathematics, differences between light and dark, sciences, as well as matters of honour and respect. Every day was a new lesson as the teacher instilled into the king, “Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever…Many shall be running back and forth, and knowledge shall increase.” (Daniel 12: 3-4) The teacher grew old and age was heavy upon him and weak­ness and want had overtaken him. After many years, the teacher came to visit the king one day, with his son to support him at his side. When the king saw him, he rose from his throne to bid him welcome and to receive him with honour. He seated him at his right hand, then turned to his ministers and servants and said to them: “This was my teacher in my childhood and he taught me what is good and right and instructed me in the ways of goodness and wisdom.

Then he turned to the old man and asked him: “Is all well, father mine? And the old man answered: “Your majesty, well-being is far from me, for the pangs of old age will not let me be and the days of evil have come upon me and the years with no purpose press wearingly. What good is life to a man whose moments are long and whose arms are no longer strong, and he sleeps by day and remains awake all night long. I dare say, and whose ears are too heavy for him to hear and his eyes are too dim to see with, I fear. Food he despises when it is there, yet he longs to feast when it is somewhere else. His pains slow him down and the birds wake him up, and his dear ones annoy him and his dreams frighten him enough to destroy him, and his bones have grown dry and he has forgotten his good days, they are so far away!”

Old Teacher

The king and all those who were seated before him wept aloud and said: “Alas, for living when the beginning is forgotten in its ending and people would sooner be dead than alive.” The king told those before him that one must always “Revere your teacher as you revere Heaven.” (Avos 4:12) The king said to him: “Father mine, I can change your lack to wealth, G-d be praised, but I cannot change old age to youth.” And he gave him money and the robes he wore, and endowed his children with a good inheritance and ordered them to support their father honorably and treat him with re­spect. Then the old man blessed him saying, “He who pleases his teachers is destined for the World to Come” (Shabbos 153a) The old teacher and his son left the king in peace.

 

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The Island of the Shofar and the Horn of Plenty

There was a holy rabbi who was famous for his ability to blow the shofar. So powerful were the sounds he drew forth that those who heard the shofar were sure that its voice would ascend on high all the way to the Throne of Glory.

Now it was the dream of the holy rabbi to travel to the Holy Land to blow the shofar in the holy city of Jerusalem. One day the opportunity came and the holy rabbi prepared to leave on his journey when an old man offered him advice, “Along your way, you will meet many people but remember this: when anyone asks you a question, be careful to measure your words and consider your reply.”

Shofar

So the holy rabbi set out for the Holy Land, and when he reached the Black Sea he took a ship to Constantinople. Now for the first few weeks everything went well, but one day, the skies grew dark and the seas raged as a terrible storm suddenly struck the ship and thrust into rocks so hard that it split apart. Everyone on board the ship was swallowed up by the sea except for the holy rabbi, who somehow managed to grab a long plank. He held tight to that plank for three days and nights, until the waves cast him onto an island.

The holy rabbi was so tired that he could only crawled onto the shore and fell asleep. When he regained his strength, he got up to explore the island to look for food for he was hungry from the three days he had spent at sea. He didn’t find any fruit or anything else to eat, but he did find a freshwater stream. He drank the cool water and satisfied his thirst. The Holy rabbi followed the stream to its source where he discovered a magnificent mansion.

The holy rabbi made his way to the door of that mansion and used the last of his strength to knock on the door. To his surprise, the door opened by itself. At first he stood in the doorway and called out, but no one replied, so he decided to see if anyone lived there. He walked through the halls, opening every door. Every room was beautiful and filled with wonders, but still no one was to be seen. Finally he opened the door to a large dining room, and there he saw the longest table he had ever seen in his life. It was so long that he could not see the other end, which seemed to be hidden in a thick fog. At another time he might have wondered at this, but at that moment all he noticed was that there was one place setting at the table, although there was no food to be seen.

When he came closer to the table, the holy rabbi saw that two precious objects had been placed there. One was the largest and most beautiful shofar he had ever seen, and the other was a golden horn whose value he could not begin to guess. He stood before those precious objects and wondered which he should examine first. Just then a single grape rolled out of the golden horn, and that decided the matter for him. He picked up the horn, and as he did, an enormous amount of the finest food fell out of it, rolling across the table.

The holy rabbi was overwhelmed at this unexpected abundance and quickly sat down so that he might partake of that delicious food. He closed his eyes and with much kavannah (concentration and sincere feeling) he said the blessings before eating, and just as he was about to take his first mouthful, he heard a deep voice that seemed to come from the far side of the table: “So, how are my children faring?” Now all that the holy rabbi could think of was that delicious food, and he quickly replied: “So, how should they be faring?” and he took the first bite. Then the voice replied: “So be it.” At that instant the fog lifted. The holy rabbi was able to see to the other end of the table, but no one was there. That is when he noticed that the shofar was missing, although the golden horn still remained. He decided to look for the shofar once he had finished eating, and he turned back to his plate. But each time he lifted his head, it seemed that the table had grown smaller. When he had eaten his fill, he looked down and saw that the table was no bigger than a plank. At that moment a deep exhaustion came over him, his head sank down, and he fell asleep.

All at once the holy rabbi was awakened by cold water washing over him, and when he opened his eyes, he found himself back in the sea, still clinging to the plank. He began to wonder if his visit to that mysterious mansion had been a dream or if it had really taken place. When he realized he was no longer hungry, he knew that some kind of miracle had happened.

Not long afterward, a fishing boat found him floating in the sea and brought him back to shore. Then he knew that he must not attempt to continue his journey to the Holy Land but must return to the wise old man, to tell him all that had taken place.

When the holy rabbi reached the small cottage of the wise old man, the old man greeted him sadly and said: “What a shame that you did not pick up that shofar and sound it, as you and only you can do so well. For if you did, the footsteps of the Messiah would have been heard every­where. For that is the shofar made from the horn of the ram that Abraham offered on Mount Moriah in place of Isaac. It is said that Elijah will blow that shofar at the End of Days. It was within your grasp to do so, so that all our waiting would come to an end.

shofar

“Or at least if you had held on to that golden horn, hunger would have been banished from the world. For that is the Horn of Plenty, and it you had brought it back, no one would ever know hunger again.

Horn of Plenty

“Or if you had replied otherwise to the question that was asked of you and told the Holy One, blessed be He, about our suffering in this world, surely everything would be different.

“But at least you were wise enough to say the blessings before you ate. For if you had not, you would have been lost at sea, as were all of the others who set out in that unfortunate ship.”

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The Cottage of Lights

There once was a Jewish man who learned “Justice, justice, you shall pursue (Deuteronomy 16:20) and so he decided to travel throughout the world to find justice. He knew that somewhere in the world true justice must exist and he was determined to find it. He went from town to town and village to village, and every­where he went, he searched for justice, but never could he seem to find it.

tzedek

He thought that he may find true justice as he traveled across the many streams and rivers as he had learned “let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.” (Amos 5:24) Sadly all he found was that his feet were wet. He climbed steep hills and mountains that touched the heaven and then trekked through many valleys in the hopes of finding true justice as he studied and faithfully believed that “Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains; your judgments are like the great deep.” (Psalm 36:6)

He journeyed for many years going from place to place, until he had explored all the known world except for one last great forest. He entered that dark forest without hesitation, for he had seen many frightful things in his travels. He went into the caves of hermits and thieves, but they taunted him and said, “do you expect to find justice here?” He went into the woodland huts of foresters and hunters, but they looked at him with questions in their eyes.

The man went deeper and deeper into that forest, until at last he arrived at a little clay shack. Through the window he saw many flickering flames, and he was curious about them. So he went to the door and knocked. No answer. He knocked again. He pushed the creaky door open and stepped inside.

As he stepped inside the cottage, the man realized that it was much larger on the inside than it seemed to be from the outside. It was filled with hundreds of shelves, on every shelf there were dozens of oil lamps some of those lamps were made of gold, silver or fine cut glass, while others were made of simple clay or tin. Some of the lamps were filled with oil and the flames burned brightly, while others had very little oil left.

Suddenly an old man wearing a long white robe and a long white beard appeared before him. “Shalom Aleichem, my son” the old man said. “How can I help you?” The man replied, “Aleichem Shalom. I have going everywhere searching for true justice, but never have I seen anything like this. Tell me what are all these lamps?”

The old man said, “each of these lamps is the light of a person’s soul. As long as the flame continues to burn that person remains alive. But when the flame burns out that person’s soul takes leave of this world.”

The man asked, “can you show me the lamp of my soul?”

“Follow me,” the old man said, and he led him through that long labyrinth of the cottage, which the man thought must be endless. Finally, they reached a low shelf and there the old man pointed to a clay lamp and said, “that is the lamp of your soul.”

Now the man took one look at the flickering flame, and a great fear fell upon him. The wick of the lamp was very short there was very little oil left. The man feared that at any moment the wick would slide into the oil and sputter out. He began to tremble. Could the end be so near without him knowing of it? Then he noticed the clay lamp next to his own, but that one was full of oil and the wick was long and straight and its flames burned brightly. “And who’s lamp is that?” The man asked.

I can only reveal each man’s lamp to himself alone,” the old man said and he turned and left.

The man stood there, quaking. All at once he heard a sputtering sound, and when he looked up, he saw smoke rising from another shelf, and he knew that somewhere, someone was no longer among the living. He looked back at his own lamp and saw that there was only a few drops of oil left. Then he looked again at the lamp next to his own, so full of oil, and a terrible thought entered his mind.

He stepped back and looked in every direction for the old man, but he didn’t see him anywhere. Then he picked up the lamp next to his own and lifted it up above his own. At that instant, the old man appeared out of nowhere and grabbed his arm with an iron grip.

The old man asked: “Is this the kind of justice you are seeking?” he continued, “are we not taught that “the soul of man is the lamp of the L-rd, searching all his innermost parts. (Proverbs 20:27)

The man closed his eyes because it hurt so much. When he opened his eyes, he saw the old man was gone, and the cottage and the candles had all disappeared. He found himself standing alone in the forest and he heard the trees whispering his fate. All the time wondering, had his lamp burned out? Was he, too, no longer among the living.

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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The Ladder of Prayers

A Holy rabbi once began praying with his students:

“Y’hi ratzon milphanecha…May it be your will G-d to allow me to pray to You with the devotion of my heart, soul and strength. Help me focus on the meaning of every word I say, and may no other thoughts interfere with the holy words I speak to you.

Let me find the holiness hidden in the words of my prayers and may my prayers rise up to You and you hear them with mercy. May my prayer form a beautiful crown for You and be a delight.”

Then he continued to pray very slowly and with great kavannah (intensity). Not word by word as others, but letter by letter. So deep was his concentration on his prayer that that he appeared to be in another world to the students who surrounded him. The holy rabbi’s prayer was slow and very strong.  At first his students waited for him, but after some time, they slowly left left the holy rabbi to his prayers.

Ladder of Prayer

Much later the holy rabbi came to them and said:

“While I was praying, I ascended the ladder of your prayers. As I climbed higher and higher, I heard a song of great beauty, it was sorrowful, but full of hope. I had no idea where it came from. At last I found myself outside the palace of Moshiach (Messiah), in the highest of the heavens. There I saw Moshiach himself standing by his window, and I saw the brilliant light that radiated from his face. He was looking at something behind me, but I could not see what it was. So I turned around and there I saw an enormous tree, whose branches reached into every corner of the heavens. T the very top of that tree there was a nest, and in that nest there was a golden dove. It was the song of that dove I had heard as I ascended on high. Then I understood that the Messiah could not bear to be without that dove and its song for as much as a minute. And it occurred to me that if I could capture that dove, and bring it back to this world, Moshiach would be sure to follow.

So I ascended higher, until I was within arm’s reach of the golden dove. But just as I was about to reach for it, the ladder of your prayers collapsed.”

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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The Twelve Golden Calves – A Jewish Story from China

In the city of Kaifeng, there lived a Jewish craftsman whose name was Shi Ziyu, who was known by his Hebrew name of Yehudah. He worked his loom in a small workshop. He wove beautiful silk, satin, and brocade with intricate designs. Everyone who saw his fine work wanted to buy them and with such a demand for his beautiful silks, satins and brocades he wanted to ex­pand his workshop, so that he could produce more. Next to his workshop there was an abandoned yard. Yehudah would have liked to purchase it, but even though it wasn’t expensive, he still could not afford it.

Kaifeng Jews

One night Yehudah had a dream in which he saw twelve golden calves danc­ing outside his workshop. In the dream he was puzzled about why they were there. When he went outside, they all looked at him, and ran away. He followed after them and they led him to the abandoned yard nearby. There they played happily and even did somersaults. Then they all ran to one corner of that yard and disappeared. That is when Yehudah awoke. He wondered about this strange dream, but didn’t pay much attention to it.

Then it happened that the dream repeated itself the next night, and the next. After it recurred the third time, Yehudah started to wonder what it meant. He told his wife about the dream, but she dismissed it, saying “Dreams are of no effect either one way or the other.” (Gittin 52a) Yehudah thought about what his wife said for some time and he decided to seek the advice from a wise and venerable wise man who lived in Kaifeng, who was known for interpreting dreams. The wise man said: “The place where the calves led you must be a good place, and may good fortune come to you.”

Yehudah was struck by the words of the wise man, and he felt it was a sign that he should risk all his savings and purchase that yard. He did so, but even after he owned the land, he was too poor to build a silk mill.

One rainy day Yehudah walked through the yard, thinking about his dream of the golden calves. In every dream they had run into one corner of the yard and disappeared. He went to that corner and noticed that the land dipped and saw that the rainwater was flowing into it. Yehudah went over to the growing hole and it caved in and he discovered a cavern. Yehudah reached in and touched something hard. He quickly uncovered it, and pulled out a beauti­ful gold-plated treasure box. When he opened it, he couldn’t believe his eyes—inside were twelve gold ingots bearing the stamp of calves.

Yehudah picked up the box and showed it to his wife, and the two of them thanked the Holy One, blessed be He and celebrated their good fortune. Now Yehudah was able to build the silk mill he so desired. When the mill was completed, it produced some of the most beautiful satin tapestry in all of China. Even the emperor purchased twelve bolts of the finest brocade. He was so pleased with it, that he decreed that Yehudah’s silk mill was the in the world. After that the brocade made in Yehudah’s silk mill became more precious than gold, Yehudah gave thanks to G-d every day for his abundant blessings.

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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A Father’s Wish and a Secret Note

The Western Wall (Kosel haMa’aravi) is the remaining wall of the Beis haMikdash (Holy Temple) from 2,000 years ago. When Shlomo haMelech (King Solomon) dedicated the First Jewish Temple, Hashem said His eyes and heart would always be there.

According to the Torah, Holy writings and mystical teachings, the Western Wall in Jerusalem is the holiest place on earth and currently the best place to send prayers because the divine presence of the Holy One, blessed be He (the Shechina) dwells there.

That is why the Western Wall (Kosel haMa’aravi) is very famous for Jewish people and people of many other faiths to come and pray and to put requests even in writing to the Hoy One, blessed be He, and this is a tradition for thousands and thousands of years.

Western Wall

An old man called his children to him and told them, “I always wanted to travel to Yerushalayim Ir haKodesh (Jerusalem the Holy City), but now I am too old. Promise me that you will one day go there and pray by the Kosel haMa’aravi (Western Wall).” Not long after, the old man went onto the World of Truth.

The years went by and the old man’s son became a successful merchant and was always busy. Many times his sister asked him to travel with her to the Hoy City, but her brother always told her he could not leave his business. One day she asked her brother if she could travel on one of his ships to the port of Yafo and from there she would travel by foot to Yerushalayim.

Seeing how determined his sister was to make the long journey, he made arrangements for her to travel on one of his merchant ships and he told her that he instructed all the ship hands saying, “I have ordered the young men not to bother you.” (Ruth 2:9) The wealthy merchant then blessed his sister: “May God in heaven bring you safely there and return you in good health to me; and may his angel, my son, accompany you both for your safety.” (Tobit 5:17)

The young woman left the ship and immediately set out to fulfill her father’s request on the ancient road, which was reasonably paved, through the orchards of the Plain of Sharon, the towns of Lydda, Ramle, the Ayalon valley, Bab-el-Wad and Abu Gosh to the outskirts of Jerusalem and through the Jaffa Gate. This journey took her a day.

She trembled as she walked the ancient streets and the winding alleyways to the holy Kosel haMa’aravi (Western Wall) and gazed up at the ancient stones before her. She had dreamed of this day, when she would be able to stand and pray before the Kosel in Yerushalayim and fulfill the wishes of her father.

She slowly prepared to pray when she noticed a woman approaching, carrying a patched sack. The woman held her hand out and looked at the young woman with sad eyes, and she understood that she penniless pilgrim, completely dependent on the goodwill of other travelers. The young woman reached into her purse and gave the poor women some gold coins, which she accepted with a smile as she continued on her way.

The time for afternoon prayer came, and the young woman decided to daven Minchah (afternoon prayer). Shortly after she began, the young woman noticed that the poor woman had also begun to daven Minchah. When she had finished praying the afternoon prayer, the young woman stood there for a few moments, watching the poor woman, who was just completing her prayer.

The poor woman searched through her sack and took out a small piece of charcoal. She then ripped a page out of her prayer book and began to write. After finishing, she folded the paper and wedged into a small crevice between the holy stones of the Kosel.

Western Wall Kvitl

As the poor woman turned to go, the page she had wedged in the wall fell out onto the ground. The young woman saw the folded page fall, and she bent down to put it back. As she held it in her hand and lifted it towards the stones, the paper suddenly unfolded.

The young woman stared. The handwriting was shaky and ill-formed, but what shocked her the most were the words on the page. This poor, penniless woman, who owned almost nothing, had scrawled on the paper, “Hashem, I love you.”

She may have had very little in the way of material possessions, but she was nevertheless completely content in her relationship with Hashem.

The young woman stood there in the shadow of the Kosel and realized that she had honoured her father, merited to do the mitzvah of tzedakkah (charity) and shared a blessing with a stranger. All this she did in the merit of her father.  She stood there for some time as the sun set on the Kosel, smiled and said, “I love you taty” (Father/Papa)

 That note was meant to be read.

 

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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Alexander the Great and a Fair Judgment

Alexander the Great set out across the Mountains of Darkness led by a certain pearl which gave light before him. Now the king of the lands to be found there came to meet Alexander and honored him greatly and did whatever he desired. One day as the two kings sat together with their crowns on their heads, two men appeared before the king. And one of them said to him: “By your leave, my lord, I purchased a certain piece of land from this man and wished to erect a building on it. When I began digging, I found a very great treasure hidden there. So I said to him: ‘Take you the treasure because I only purchased the land from you, but the treasure I did not buy.’ “

Alexander the Great in Synagogue Mosaic

Then the other said to the king: “By your leave, my lord, when I sold my land I sold him all that was to be found therein from the nethermost deeps to the heights of the sky. And just as he does not wish to rob or steal, so I too do not wish to rob or steal.”

Then the king said to one of them: “Have you a son?” “Yes, my lord,” said he. And he asked the other: “Have you a daughter?” And he answered: “Yes, my lord.”

Then the king said: “Give your son to his daughter, and give the whole treasure to both of them!” And so they did.

Alexander laughed, for it seemed strange to him. “Why are you laughing?” the king asked him. “Have I not judged well? Have I not done well?” Then Alexander answered: “You have judged well and done well. But in my kingdom I would not have judged in that way.” “And how would you have judged?” asked the king; and Alexander said: “If it had happened in my kingdom, the king would have slain them both and taken all the money.”

Then the king of those lands said to him in astonishment: “Does the sun shine in your kingdom?” “Yes,” said he. And the king asked again: “Do you have cattle and sheep and goats in your kingdom?” “Yes,” said he. Then the king said to him: “It is only because of the cattle that the people live and find sustenance.” Just as it is written: “Man and beast the L-rd will aid” (Ps. 36:7).

 Based on Sefer Alexander haMokdoni

Y. Bava Metzia II 8c and Bava Metzia 32b

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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A Sandwich at the Seder

The holy rabbi welcomed everyone and seemed to be able to talk to anyone. He took time to hear what each person had to say. No matter what anyone did, he would always find something positive to say. He believed in treating everyone kindly, no matter how much his patience was tested.

A merchant came to the holy rabbi because his son no longer wanted to follow Jewish customs, traditions or rituals. One year, during the Seder, as the family recited:

Korech Passover Seder

And the family was about to make a sandwich of matzah and maror for korech. To everyone’s surprise, the boy pulled from his pocket two slices of bread and some meat, and made himself a sandwich. His father started to cry: “How dare you bring bread to my Seder?”

“I’m hungry after reading the Haggadah, besides what difference does it make if I eat bread or matzah? I’m sure the holy rabbi wouldn’t mind.  the boy answered. The father in his anger, jumped up from the table and grabbed his son. “Oh that’s what you think. Let’s go ask him.” The whole family marched to the holy rabbi’s house, the father leading the boy by the ear. “Rabbi,” the man said, “even you would not tolerate what my son just did. He ate bread at our Seder. I have four sons, rabbi, and I don’t have to tell you which one he is.”

Everyone room was shocked; everyone, that is, except for the holy rabbi. He smiled at the boy and asked if it was true.

“Of course, rabbi. I was hungry so I made myself a sandwich.”

“Don’t you know that on Pesach Jewish people don’t eat bread,” asked the holy rabbi. “Well, rabbi,” the boy responded, “to be totally honest, I don’t really believe in all this Seder stuff. What difference could it possibly make if I eat bread or matzah?”

The entire room was silent. Only the boy’s mother could be heard crying in the doorway. “Please come here,” the holy rabbi invited. The boy walked slowly, afraid that this time he had gone too far. As he approached the table, the rabbi hugged him. “Such a fine boy,” he said to the father, “and so honest too,” he added to the mother.

“Come here my boy and have a seat by me at the Seder table”, the holy rabbi instructed as the surprised parents watched. “He’s ready to admit what he did and he’s acting according to his beliefs. Such a fine, honest boy must sit with me at my Seder. I have so much to learn from him! Just one thing though.” The rabbi turned to the boy and said, “There’ll be no sandwiches at this Seder table – unless you make them with matzah.”

The shocked merchant, lost for words, asked, “Why?” The holy rabbi closed his eyes for a moment and answered, “The Torah speaks of four children, including your son. The Holy One, blessed be He spoke to all the Jewish people at Sinai, when He said: ‘I am the L‑rd Your G‑d.’ Those words were inscribed into the depths of the soul. In other words, in spite of your son’s distance, the Torah considers him connected to the Jewish people.”

“We learn in our holy writings that a Jewish person cannot lose their Jewishness. (Sanhedrin 44a) Regardless of the degree of his disengagement from Judaism, the Jewish spark lives on within him.”

In today’s day and age, there is almost no such thing as a renegade Jewish person! Those who do not observe Jewish practices and the like, cannot be faulted, since many of them never really experienced Judaism. In the past, there were those who had a choice and chose to rebel…. But too many children were never told about Jewish traditions and rituals in such a manner that would translate into observance. They cannot be blamed for their disinterest…

The yetzias Mitzraim (Egyptian Exodus) was incomplete. It will only be fully realized in the time of Moshiach (Messiah), a time that will be ushered in by uniting all Jewish people — including those who seem most distant—and revealing their inherent connection to the Holy One, blessed be He, their inner “wise child.”

Chag Kasher vSameach Passover

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The First Question and the Captive Prince

Passover is coming fast. It is a time filled with questions and the reading of the Haggadah. Too many times within the questions and the retelling of the journey from slavery to freedom we become lost in the yearly ritual.

The prominence of science and technology has weakened faith throughout the community. Sadly, this has led to many to go through the motions of faith by conducting rituals by rote.

During this season of Pesach (Passover) maybe we need to ask, “What is the first question in the Torah (Scriptures)?

Before man was created, there were no questions. The first occurs in the Garden of Eden. The man and Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. G-d calls out to them, “Ayecha?” “Where are you?” (Genesis 3.9)

How can that be? Does G-d not know where the man and Eve are? For centuries, the Jewish people have recognized that this question has a deeper meaning. G-d is not seeking to find the man and Eve. That is why they do not answer, “We are over here!” Instead, it is a question of spiritual geography. The man, understanding the importance of G-d’s question, and answers that he was frightened, so he has been hiding.

Man has seen, enjoyed and explored the wonders and mysteries of creation, yet still questions faith. People become lost as they question everything, many times using science and technology to define “what is real(ality).” It is easy for many to separate the “religious” from the “spiritual” to those who are simply “unbelievers.”

It is hard to understand, but easy to accept and follow what others say, and so we come back to that first question, “Where are you?” This simple question leads to many many more. “I have not lived according to my religion so I can’t be special or holy” “Why should I believe in this religious stuff that has so many rules and restrictions?” “It too hard to believe in something that cannot be proven?”

It once happened that there was a king had two strong and brave sons. The sons loved their father very much and tried to honour him in all they did. One day the kingdom was attacked by a powerful enemy that wanted to destroy the king and prey on the people and lands of the kingdom.

The king went into battle with his sons to stop this powerful enemy. His two sons were  commanders in the army. Each son led his soldiers into battle and fought with much strength and bravery, but the enemy was able to surround one of the sons. The battle raged on, but at the end he was taken captive by the enemy.

The enemy commander ordered, “Put this fellow in prison, and feed him on reduced rations of bread and water.” (1 Kings 22:27) The king’s son suffered in the enemy prison, starving and deprived. He asked many times, “What wrong have I done to you or your servants or this people, that you have put me in prison?“ (Jeremiah 37:18) But he never received an answer. After being in the enemy prison for a full year, he finally succeeded in digging a tunnel so that he could escape.

The prince journeyed at night, crossing over rivers and lakes, and trekking through forests and over mountains. After a while, he finally returned to his father’s home. How great was the happiness and joy in the king’s palace upon the prince’s return. Large celebrations were held in his honor, and the king sat him to his right and showered him with gifts. Without a doubt, this son’s joy is ten times greater than a son who had never left his father’s home.

This is the identical happiness that a person feels when they rediscover and explore their faith in our Father in Heaven. A person’s joy is ten times greater than one who has never questioned their beliefs and faith, for only once a person has returned and strengthens themselves in faith can they truly perceive the taste of “captivity.”

The RaMbaM (Rabbeinu Mosheh ben Maimon –  Maimonides) wrote, “The Children of Israel believed in our teacher Moses not because of the miracles he performed. If one believes in something because of miracles, he may suspect that they were performed through sleight of hand or sorcery. All the miracles that Moses did in the desert were performed for the needs of the moment, not in order to prove his prophecy to them” (Yesodei HaTorah 8:1).

The question ““Where are you?” is not only the first question; it is also the eternal question. At each moment in our lives, this question is addressed to us: Where are you? Where are you spiritually? Where are you morally? What have you done with your life, and what are you doing with it now? Are you proud of your conduct in the garden?

We say at the beginning of the Seder:

 

This is the bread of affliction which our fathers ate in the land of Egypt. Let all who are hungry come and eat.

As we become more and more involved with the trends of society, we are afflicted by the urges to abandon our traditions and beliefs. Too many have been lost and enslaved by the impulse to blindly follow others or assimilation. Let’s invite those at the Seder who are hungry for spirituality and searching for meaning to their beliefs to “come and eat” because “today we are slaves” to all types of distractions and confusion, but “next year may we be free men” able to grow in faith.

The first question is a single word, whose echoes are endless. “Ayecha?”

 Where are you?

Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. (Joel 1:3)

 

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Burning the Chametz

Holy Rabbi once asked, “how do you burn the chametz? With the fire of your heart, with the fire of serving the Holy One, blessed be He.” And the fire goes one burning all through Pesach.

The holy Rabbi continued, “I once learned how to serve Holy One, blessed be He from the knights that serve the king, especially in the cold winter. I was once passing by a training camp filled with squires and young knights when I saw a number of the young knights beating one of their own as a punishment. I asked them, ‘what terrible thing did this knight do that he deserved such punishment?’ One of the young knights stepped forward and answered, ‘last night he was standing guard, and in the morning we found him half frozen.’ I thought this was strange and said that the knight who stood guard should be given honor and respect, since despite the cold he stood by his post. The young knights laughed and said, ‘you don’t understand! If you’re really serving the king, everything you do gets done with so much fire, it keeps you warm.’ “

We learn that “The soul of man is a lamp of G‑d” (Proverbs 20:27).  In today’s society that is dominated by science and technology it is easy to forget that man is a very complex mixture of heaven and earth, spirit and matter, fire and wick. Like the lamp, man, too, is comprised of three elements which determine the direction of his actions. The candle’s wick, flame and oil resemble man – mind body and soul – the very source of Torah and its mitzvos.

As we prepare for Pesach/Passover would look forward to conducting the Seder. Just as Passover represents freedom – of body and soul – so it is today that we must remember that slavery is more than just physical bondage. The lessons and messages we share at the Passover Seder remind us of yesterday and today and prepares us for tomorrow. The stories eternal, just as the Jewish spirit has endured through the ages.

As we look into the holiday candles and see the flames dance as we recite the story of the leaving of Egypt we become the everlasting light. We know this because it is written in the Torah, “A continuous fire shall remain on the altar; it shall not be extinguished” (Lev. 6:9).

As we gather around the Seder table that is filled with meaning and holiness let us allow it to fill our hearts to strive to the beauty and wonder that happened so many years ago and is still happening today to give us the strength to turn away from the glowing screens of cell phones and computers and focus when the fires of our souls there ignited during the Passover Seder. Let us allow ourselves to remember the miracles that brought us from Egypt to this very day and remember that the “… Fire will renew the righteous….(Saadia Gaon, Emmunos v’Deos 9:3)

Bedikas Chometz Story Tour

So on Pesach we are really serving the Holy One, blessed be He, once we found the chametz and burned it in our hearts on fire.

Chag Kasher V’Sameach

 

May all your tales end with Shalom (peace)

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Tell it to your children, and let your children tell it to their children, and their children to the next generation. (Joel 1:3)

 

Please share this story with family and friends and let us know what you think or feel about the stories in a comment or two. Like us on Facebook  or tweet us on Twitter  If the stories are not shared they will be lost.

 

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