Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Special Hoshana Rabbah / Pre-Shemini Atzeres Post - Of Dew and Rain

During the summer I took along a companion on my four hour drive up to Camp M. to visit my family. Every week I would download multiple shiurim on the parshah given by Rabbi Eli Mansour which were made available on the http://www.learntorah.com website.

One of the best shiurim which I heard from R' Eli was on Parshas Shoftim and was entitled "Dew and Rain." I have attempted to reproduce a number of thoughts from the shiur to the best of my ability. As always, any inconsistencies are my fault and should not be attributed to R' Mansour.

Rabbi Mansour quoted a pasuk from Shir Hashirim where it is written "Kol Dodi Dofek" - my beloved one is knocking on the door. The pasuk ends with the statement - please open the door for me because my head is filled with dew ("nimla tal"). R' Mansour commented that the pasuk seems not to make sense - if the person is waiting outside to come in, his head could be filled with rain if it is raining, but why dew? Also, who is the one who is knocking?

The literal translation of Shir Hashirim would imply a man talking to his wife, but Shlomo HaMelech has better things to do than tell us love stories. We know this from a gemara which writes that all the books of the Tanach are kodesh (holy), but Shir HaShirim is kodesh kadashim. Thus the story is Hashem knocking on the door of each Jew's heart and He is asking to come in. He is saying - knock knock, open up for Me.

The gemara writes that Hashem asks each every Jew - open up your heart like the opening of the eye of the needle, and if you make that opening I will take you back.

Rabbi Mansour explained that there are many many mitzvos and Hashem is not saying accept on yourself to do all of the things you have not been doing properly. He is saying, make a small change like the eye of the needle. These could be things like benching from a siddur. Or accepting on one's self not to speak lashon hara for a specific hour (9-10 AM) every day. If one does something small, it will grow and a mitzva will lead to the other.

Rabbi Mansour explained how this defeats the yestzer hara. The yetzer hara says to the person - you can't do all the mitzvos, so why are you even trying. Are you a hypocrite? However, by chosing one mitzva we can defeat the yetzer hara and feel good about our path back to Hashem.

Why does the gemara use the example of the hole or eye of the needle? Why not the hole when you stick your finger in the sand? R' Mansour answered that it is a small hole, but it lasts. Once the hole is made in the needle, it will stay forever. Hashem is saying, choose one small mitzva and keep it.

R' Mansour then gave another explanation for the use of the needle analogy. He observed that people make resolutions and promise change around Rosh Hashanah. Then as we get further away from the yamim noraim, we forget our resoultions and ease back into our old ways. By mentioning the opening of the needle Hashem says - much like a garment which has developed a hole, we have separated from Hashem. As such he tells us give Me an opening like the eye of the needle and I will use the needle to sew us back together.

R' Mansour then returned to the pasuk from Shir Hashirim and he used a medrash to explain it. At the end of time, Hashem will say to the Jews - come to me and drink a cup of consolation. The Jews will respond - initially, you got so mad at us that you threw us out and sent us into exile, now you want a cup of consolation. Hashem responds by saying here is an example - a man kicks his wife out and later wants to appease her. She says to him, you got mad and now you want to appease me? He responds, do you think that from the day that I kicked you out, I was still in the house? I left too! Hashem tells the Jews - from the day that I kicked you out of the Beis Hamikdash, I left my Beis Hamikdash shel ma'alah. And here's my proof - my head is filled with dew, because I have been sleeping outside in the streets like you.

R' Mansour then started talking about the mitzva of hosting guests, a great mitzva. R' Mansour said - imagine that you get a call that the Chief Rabbi of Israel wants to stay at your house. You would paint the house for him! But then imagine that its not the Chief Rabbi - its David Hamelech, or Adam HaRishon. You would really want to host these people as guests. But what if it is Hashem who is knocking and asking to stay by you? Can you imagine the z'chus, the blessing you receive from Hashem if you host him? Hashem is knocking on the door like a guest and is asking to come in. Are we going to answer - sorry I am busy shopping or watching TV?

If we don't answer, Hashem asks - why have I come and there is no one there? Open the door and let Me in as my head is filled with Dew.

R' Mansour then gave an introduction to the concept of dew. He quoted the Zohar that all the bounty that comes from Heaven initiates on the from Earth. If we want the water supply to be blessed, we make a bracha on the water and drink it. Not only does that allow us to drink the water, it creates a shock in shamayim that allows Hashem to bless the water. Hashem says, they appreciate my water so I will bless it. If a person does something good on Earth, the good deed travels up to Heaven like a pinball and hits the target and the bracha comes down. If a person wants a bracha they need to do something to get it. If you don't put a quarter in the pinball machine and hit the flippers, the score will not register. If a person wants a bracha they must do good deeds on Earth to merit it.

In addition to the rain which comes when we merit it and is caused by our actions, Hashem also gives us moisture because He loves us, even if we don't merit it. R' Mansour gave an example of a person who wanted to support his child so he gave him an allowance. The only proviso was that the son had to come every Sunday to get the allowance. The pattern continued for a period until the son stopped coming. After three weeks, the father came to the son's house, looking to see where he is and why he has not come for so long. The father sees the son in the house and says where were you - I was worried.

In the same vein, Hashem wants us to do teshuva, but sometimes we don't come. So Hashem makes an event on the Earth to inspire us to return - an open miracle or a natural disaster which should motivate us. In the month of Elul, Hashem knocks on the door and calls out to us and ask us to let him in.

I will iyh finish this post after yom tov in a separate post.

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