Thursday, March 15, 2012

Project Genesis Lifeline News from Project Genesis and Volume XIX, Number 22 - Vayakhel & Pekudei - Exodus 35:1-40:38

From HomepageProject Genesis Lifeline 
News from Project Genesis and
Volume XIX, Number 22 - Vayakhel & Pekudei - Exodus 35:1-40:38
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In This Issue:

Note from the Director
What Does Heaven Look Like? -
Revealed and concealed -
New Installments of our Ongoing Classes
This Week's Torah Reading: Vayakhel and Pekudei Featured Article: Hearts of Gold

WalkingEver watch a child learning to walk? While strolling along confidently, albeit a bit wobbly, he'll suddenly drop to the floor. With admirable persistence, he'll usually pick himself right back up on his feet and continue on as if nothing had happened.

The Midrash (Tanchuma 11) says that throughout the seven inaugural days of the Holy Tabernacle, the portable dwelling place built for G-d's Holy Presence, Moses would construct and disassemble it two or three times each day. The Tabernacle, of course, was a large and extremely heavy structure. Many of its parts were solid wood and gold, and it was tens of feet high. To build and dismantle the entire structure 14 times, or more, in one week must have been incredibly taxing to Moses! Why didn't he just assemble it the first day, and then leave it standing until the next time G-d instructed the nation to travel?

There was a deeper meaning, however, to the construction of the Tabernacle, corresponding to the efforts of a person committed to spiritual growth. That person drafts a model of holiness, an ideal setting for rising above material and selfish pursuits, insuring the appropriate goals and safeguards are set. As he takes his first few steps of growth, he feels a sense of pride and serenity, assuring himself that he's on the proper course. But soon, it all crumbles. The habits of the past return, and his best-laid plans for the future appear unattainable.

The continuous building and dismantling of the Tabernacle throughout the inauguration tells us that holy structures are designed to be built and rebuilt before they are completed. The nature of spiritual growth is to move forward and fall back, repeatedly, akin to the toddler's efforts to walk. Although a toddler first falls immediately, after just a few steps, his strength, balance, and ability improve exponentially. Don't be afraid when experiencing setbacks on the road to spiritual growth, because we are promised that the results will come -- if we get right back up and keep trying! (Based on Nesivos Shalom, Pikudei, 279)

Please share your comments!

Good Shabbos!
Rabbi Mordechai Dixler
Program Director, Project Genesis -
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Question: I’m working on a sketch project in which we are being asked to create an image of what we think “the gates of Heaven” look like. Being Jewish, I am interested in contemplating this question from Jewish perspective. What can Jews expect to “see” when they reach Heaven? I am aware of the rough concept that Heaven is a place close to G-d, and that there are varying levels of closeness to him/her based upon what kind of life one lived.

Answer: The Jewish “picture” of heaven is a little different than the Christian view. I always like to give the analogy of a baseball stadium when describing the Jewish view of Heaven and Hell. Imagine you want to go to a baseball game. You go to the ticket window and you are given a list of possible ticket prices. You can pay $5 or up to $100 for a seat. Depending on how much you pay the view of the field improves. So too, in the Jewish view of Heaven and Hell. Heaven and Hell are the results of your personal seat with relation to the pitcher (G-d). Life is all about buying the ticket. That is what we are doing here. With every “good deed” that we do we get a better seat; with every negative thing that we do we sit a little further away – our life is defined by what we make ourselves. The Talmud tells us that all Jews have a place in the World to Come. We, however, define where that place is. While we always say that G-d rewards or punishes us for our action s, the truth is that we directly cause that reward or punishment based on how we live our life. There is no “place of fire” or “pearly gates.”

[Two friends Sam and Dave were huge baseball fans. They agreed that whoever died first would try to come back and tell the other if there was baseball in heaven.

One night, Sam passed away. A few nights later, his buddy Dave awoke to the sound of Sam’s voice from beyond.

“Sam is that you?” Dave asked.
“Yes, it’s me,” Sam replied.
“This is unbelievable” Dave exclaimed. ” So tell me, is there baseball in heaven?”
“Well I have some good news and some bad news for you. Which do you want to hear first?”
“Tell me the good news first.”
“Well, the good news is that yes there is baseball in heaven.”
“Oh, that is wonderful, So what is the bad news?”
“You’re pitching tomorrow night.” – ed.]

When a Jew passes away, we are brought to judgment. That judgment is already determined by how we lived our lives. And the result is either the connection to, or the distance from Our Creator. That is heaven. Heaven is the closeness to the source of spirituality. Imagine seeing the person you love most in this world across the room, never being able to get closer. That is Hell. Take that case versus constantly being “one” with those you care most about. That would be a glimpse of heaven. To be “one” with G-d” at the highest level.

Be well,
Rabbi Litt
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New Installments of our Ongoing Classes

The Courage to Create a New Reality
by Mrs. Leah Kohn
How was Rachav able to manage such an accomplishment? Our sages tell us that any perceivable change is the culmination of a longer process of change that was internal...
Read more in Business Ethics
15. Festivals - Shevisas Yom Tov
by Rabbi Dr. Azriel Rosenfeld
The first and seventh days of Passover (Pesach), the first and eighth days of Tabernacles (Sukkos), the day of Pentecost (Shavuos), and the first day of the seventh month (New Year's Day -- Rosh ha-Shanah) are called festivals...
Read more in Halacha Overview
Chapter 3: Mishna 5: Part 2
by Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky
It is not correct to say that the entire earth is, in general, the place of mankind....
Read more in Maharal
Repentance and Unbounded Souls
by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld
There are really two types of repentance. The type we typically think of is behavior modification, and it can be a a long and arduous process. But there is an entirely different sort of repentance -- and it can be effected instantaneously....
Read more in Maimonides on Life
The Challenge of Life, Part I
by Rabbi Dovid Rosenfeld
Don't look too closely at others' faults; very little is gained from it. But towards ourselves we cannot be so smug and forgiving. We cannot just love ourselves "just the way we are." We were not granted 80 or 90 years down here to just sit around...
Read more in Pirkei Avos
Verbal Promises I
by Rabbi Daniel Travis
Before Avraham approached Efron to buy his field, he spoke with all the Hittites as a group. At that point, Avraham seemed content with their assurance that they would give him a burial site, but when he turned his attention to Efron alone, he would...
Read more in Priceless Integrity
An Hour or Less
by Rabbi Daniel Travis
Are we in fact obligated to spend an hour preparing for prayer?...
Read more in Tefilah: Praying with Joy
New classes on Vayakhel and Pekudei
Actualizing G’d
by Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky
Read more in Beyond Pshat
Story With Rav Chaim of Volozhin and the Meshullach
by Rabbi Yissocher Frand
Read more in Rav Frand
by Rabbi Berel Wein
Read more in Rabbi Wein
It's A Vision Thing
by Rabbi Pinchas Winston
Read more in Perceptions
Adding Sizzle To The Steak
by Rabbi Yochanan Zweig
Read more in Rabbi Zweig on the Parsha
Read previous years' classes on Vayakhel and Pekudei on
Hearts of GoldFrom Moshe’s presence they took the entire gift that the Children of Israel had brought for the work for the labor of the Sanctuary, to do it. But they continued to bring him free-willed gifts morning after morning. … They said to Moshe as follows, “The people are bringing more than enough for the labor of the work that HASHEM has commanded to perform.” …And the people were restrained from bringing, but the work had been enough for the labor of all the work to do it, and there was extra. (Shemos 36:1-7)

One might be lead to believe that Moshe was the most successful fund- raiser of all time. It’s an odd characterization for our all time spiritual guide. In the end there were more donations than necessary. Imagine that! How often does that happen? Many would love to know his secret. How did Moshe do it?

We should not forget that the task was complicated by the requirement that the materials and the monies to be collected had to given for HASHEM’s sake alone and no other ulterior motivation, as the verse states, “And you should take for Me Terumah! (Shemos 25:2)

Rashi comments, for Me: For My sake! That profound caveat should make the fund-raiser’s job that much more difficult if not impossible! It’s an awful handicap to burden a fundraiser with! However, ultimately not only was it not an impediment and may even have been a help! How can we understand that to be so?

Rebbetzin Sarah Schwartzman of blessed memory told the following story about Rabbi Aaron Kotler ztl. Once at a parlor meeting where a select group of Torah supporters were gathered to raise funds for the Yeshiva, a speaker outlined all the benefits that would accrue to Klal Yisrael from Lakewood Yeshiva in terms of providing teachers of Torah, etc. for future generations. The Rosh HaYeshiva, however was uneasy about what was being spoken. He stood up and said, “Rabosai (gentlemen), I fear I am being guilty of gneivas hadaas (deception). Yes, our Yeshiva will, with G-d’s help, produce heads of Yeshivas and Rabbis and teachers, but I want you to know that the main aim of the Yeshiva is the learning of Torah lishma- learning Torah for learning’s sake only, without thinking of career or profession, and it is for that purpose that I am asking for your support!”

The Torah writes, “All generous hearts they should bring Terumah/Offerings to HASHEM! (Shemos 35:5) Rabbi Shmuel Rozovsky reads the verse: “They should bring …their generous hearts with the Terumah for HASHEM. So the main building of the Mishkan was from the generous hearts!” My guess is that Moshe used few gimmicks to raise funds. First he lifted aspirations and that lead to the flow of goods. From the strength of his own clear minded conviction he was not so much a classic fund-raiser as an elevator of spirits. Sanctuary was built from pure intentions. There are no alchemist’s tricks needed to make gold from hearts of gold.

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