Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Connecting Through Working the Land

Haftorat Kedoshim, Amos 9:7-15
(The Sephardic custom is to read Yechezkiel 20:2-20)

I was inspired by shepherd Amos who in this week’s haftorah describes the Jewish people’s connection with our Land through working the land. The people of Israel are moreover compared to Hashem’s plant firmly planted on the soil of the Land of Israel. This week of vacation several seminar students take the opportunity to join us at the Judean hills to enjoy nature and volunteer gardening work

The Haftorah’s Connection to the Parashah –
Living a Torah life is a Condition for Living in the Land of Israel
The weekly Torah portion, Kedoshim, teaches the nation of Israel about the importance of living a moral holy life according to the Torah. The parashah opens with the command to “Be holy, for I Hashem your G-d am holy” (Vayikra 19:2). This parashah includes a wealth of mitzvoth pertaining to every facet of life from interpersonal relationships to our relationship with the environment, from our respect for property to sanctifying time and space to the service of Hashem. Achieving holiness through keeping these mitzvot is the required condition that makes Israel worthy of living in the Holy Land. “You shall faithfully observe all My laws...lest the land, to which I bring you to settle in, spew you out” (Vayikra 20:22). The haftorah reinforces the message of Parashat Kedoshim. During the time of the redemption, only the Jews capable of living a holy life will merit living in the rebuilt Land of Israel. Amos prophesies  how “All the sinners of My people shall die by the sword…in that day will I raise up the Sukah of David (Temple) that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof, and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old” (Amos 9:10-11). Another connection between the parashah and the haftorah is that they both describe the importance of working the land of Israel. “When you come into the land, you shall plant every fruit-bearing tree...” (Vayikra 19:23). Likewise, the return of the people of Israel to the Promised Land during the redemption is characterized by working the land, as the haftorah describes:  “Behold, days are coming, says Hashem, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that sows seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine…(Amos 9:13).

The Way of the Land Precedes the Torah
The Hungarian Chareidi Rabbi Yisachar Shlomo Teichtal turned to religious Zionism during the Holocaust when he wrote his in depth, scholarly work about Eretz Yisrael, Redemption and Unity. He explained that the establishment of a Jewish State in the Land of Israel will affect even the Diaspora Jews, who will become more unified through their soul’s connection to the center established in the Land of Israel (Em Habanim Semeichah page 95). The meraglim (spies) in the wilderness were not interested in entering the Land of Israel, because they claimed that Torah precedes the Land of Israel. Therefore, they preferred to remain in the wilderness and learn Torah from Moshe. However, according to the midrash, Derech Eretz – the way that leads to the Land precedes Torah, as it states: “To guard the way of the land, the Tree of Life” (Bereishit 3:24). There is no Tree of Life except the Torah as it states, “She is a Tree of Life to those who hold on to her” (Mishlei 3:18). This teaches us that the way to the Land of Israel precedes the Torah. (Tana, D’Bei Eliyahu Rabah Chapter 1). Although the term “Derech Eretz” usually is translated to mean “The way of the world,” according to Rabbi Akiva Yoseph Shlessinger, Derech Eretz refers to the Land of Israel. I can personally testify that there is no way I would have come to live the Torah way, if the Land of Israel had not been in Jewish hands, making it possible for Jews from the Diaspora to come to Israel. I was totally un-inspired by the way the Jewish religion was practiced in Denmark, where I grew up. It was only my connection to Eretz Yisrael, fostered by my grandparents who both made aliyah when I was a baby, which eventually led me to become a Ba’alat Teshuva (returnee to Judaism). In the Land of Israel vibrating with holiness, at the sun-glowing rocks of the Kotel, surrounded by spiritual seeking Jewish youth from the entire world, my soul was reawakened.

To Plant and Be Planted
“I will bring back the captivity of My people Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink their wine; they shall also make gardens, and eat their fruit. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be plucked up out of their land which I have given them, says Hashem your G-d ”(Amos 9:14-15). From the sequence of Amos’ promise in our haftorah, it seems clear that if we first work the land and plant, then Hashem will plant us securely in our home land, without ever uprooting us. Planting in the Land of Israel – connecting our souls to their root – connects us to the Land for all eternity. The early Zionist thinker and writer, A.D. Gordon, wrote so beautifully, “We come to our Homeland in order to be planted in our natural soil from which we have been uprooted, to strike our roots deep into its life-giving substances, and to stretch out our branches in the sustaining air and sunlight of the Homeland…” I feel so privileged to be part of the Messianic promise while preparing the soil of Bat Ayin for sowing the summer crop, and while witnessing the orchard at Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin grow, as young women from the four corners of the earth return to the Torah of the Land. Munching on our homegrown grapes of the Judean hills, imparts within us the bitachon (trust) in the prophetic promise of our haftorah that the children of Israel will never again be uprooted from our land.

Please comment about how Diaspora Jews can strengthen the connection with the Land of Israel.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pesach: A Meat & Potatoes Holiday?

The Mystery of Healthy Eating During Pesach

After having slaved for weeks to prepare for Pesach, we have finally been liberated. Now is the time to free ourselves from our daily routine and enjoy the renewal of this blessed holiday. No more scrubbing cabinets, no more re-organizing kitchen drawers, just the minimum of work needed for the enjoyment of the holiday. This work is mainly cooking, cooking and cooking. Let me share with you my personal experience of Hashem's Hashgacha Pratit (Divine Supervision) this Pesach.

I had a late start cleaning this year, as it took me a while to recuperate from my USA speaking tour. With some Yekish (German Jewish) blood within me, Pesach cleaning is quite an ordeal in my home, especially since the month of Nissan is also the peak season for gardening. With all of the good rain, Hashem called me outside of my kitchen, to weed and transplant every single day during the week prior to Pesach. I had emunah that Pesach preparation would work out somehow, and Baruch Hashem it did! You won't believe it, but Hashem actually sent me a professional cook Erev Pesach. My friend, Rivkah, called and asked if I would like an additional guest for the Seder, a young many from Antwerp who has no family here. I was eager to fulfill the mitzvah to invite someone who really had no other place to celebrate Pesach, and I gladly consented. Then to my great surprise, Rivkah told me not to worry about cooking for Pesach; the guest was an experienced chef who would whip it all up. So it "happened" that I became a guest in my own kitchen on the eve of Pesach.

The Mitzvah to Eat
Pesach is a holiday which centers around cooking, because Pesach is the only holiday when we have a mitzvah from the Torah to eat, as it states:
בָרִאשןֹ בְּאַרְּבָעָה עָשָר יוֹם לַחדֶֹש בָעֶרֶב תאֹכְּלוּ מַצתֹ עַד יוֹם הָאֶחָד וְּעֶשְּרִים לַחדֶֹש בָעָרֶב : )ספר שמות פרק יב יח (
"In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month at evening, shall you eat unleavened bread, until the twenty first day of the month at evening" (Shemot 12:18).
Therefore, we must pay special attention to what and how we eat during this time. All the kitchen utensils are new and different, the countertops are covered, and we eat only special food strictly Kosher for Pesach. Not a crumb, not even a spoon that ever touched a crumb of chametz - without being koshered for Pesach - must come near our lips on Pesach. Some people even peel all of their vegetables in case they ever came in contact with chametz. With all of this fuss over food, still, I'm devastated every single Pesach. As an Ashkenazi Jew, not only can I not have my sprouted wheat bread, but I may not even eat any legumes. How can I attempt to eat healthy, in the midst of this potato and meat holiday?

What Can I Eat on Pesach?
Although wheat grass juice is not actually forbidden on Pesach, since the grass and not the wheat kernels are used, I'm unable to drink it because we moved all our kitchen utensils out of the kitchen for Pesach, and use only utensils that have not been used or cleaned within a chametz kitchen. In addition, sometimes on the ends of the wheatgrass you may find a kernel of wheat which mustn't be found on Pesach, so we are not letting any wheat grass into our chametz-free home. I also cannot have my daily morning drink consisting of lemon juice and cayenne pepper diluted with water, since I couldn't find any cayenne pepper with a Kosher for Pesach certification. I tried hot paprika but it just doesn't do it for me. I also really miss my special grey Celtic sea-salt, which could have been contaminated by a trace of chametz as the bag was open in a chametz kitchen. What about sprouts? Why should sprouts be legumes? All vegetables were originally sprouts before they grew and we are allowed to eat vegetables on Pesach, thank G-d! This year our rabbi (Rav Daniel Kohn), permitted those kinds of sprouts which you can easily remove the hull of the seed itself – this rules out alfalfa, radish and broccoli sprouts. Baruch Hashem, I was able to get sunflower sprouts and their (occasional) hull easily comes off.

Quinoa is one of my everyday main food staples, as it is loaded with fiber, protein, and minerals. While being gluten-free, quinoa contains more calcium, iron, and protein than wheat. Every year for almost the last ten years, since I first heard that quinoa has been deemed permissible for Pesach in USA, I have been bugging my husband to ask Rav Daniel to permit quinoa. Every year the answer was "no", but I had emunah that this would change, so I kept asking my husband to ask. Last year, he somehow evaded the issue as he had already asked so many times in the past. This year, I ensured he would ask, and finally my husband came home with the good news: "You can eat quinoa this Pesach!" Speaking with my friend, the rabbi's wife, I marveled, "This year we are finally eating quinoa!" She responded: "Last year we also ate quinoa!"

Although quinoa is a sesame-seed looking kernel reminiscent of rice, it is not a grain, but a member of the beet family. Therefore, Rabbi Heinemann of the Star-K determined that quinoa is not kitniyot (legume). It does not grow in the vicinity of chametz and its growth does not resemble kitniyot. It, furthermore, has no religious precedent included in the prohibition against kitniyot. According to Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, foods which were not consumed by Jews at the time the minhag of kitniyot began are not forbidden on Pesach (Igrot Moshe, Orach Chaim III:63). Since no Jews lived in South America, where quinoa grew, at the time when the minhag to avoid eating kitniyot on Pesach began (3-4 centuries ago), quinoa is not considered kitniyot. As long as we can ascertain that no chametz grains or kitniyot are mixed in, we may consume quinoa on Pesach. In the USA, the whole quinoa sold under the Ancient Harvest and Trader Joe brand names are produced in plants which do not package chametz grains, and are therefore suitable for Pesach use.

Matzah – the Bread of Healing
With quinoa available this year for Pesach, I had decided that I would eat matzah only during the Seder when it is obligatory, since, on the remaining days of Pesach, eating matzah is only an optional mitzvah (Chizkuni, Shemot 12:18, Ma'aseh Rav,175). Although in our home, we only eat shemura matzah, which is made from whole wheat flour, I generally try to avoid eating food made from flour, as all the vitamins are lost when the grain is made into a powder, similarly to the process of producing juice from fruits. However, during the Seder night, something changed in me. I understood in the very fiber of my being how our health is a gift of Hashem. Healthy food is only a vessel for Hashem's life-giving light, whereas keeping Hashem's mitzvoth connects us directly with the light of Creation. Hashem, the healer of all flesh, tells us that matzah is good for us. In the Zohar matzah is called "bread of healing." Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach explains that the matzah is the greatest healing in the world. If we don't feel it, that's because we are not yet on the level to experience this. If Hashem commands us to eat matzah, this means that the matzah heals us both physically and spiritually.

Matzah – Rectification for the Tree of Knowledge
Eating matzah on Pesach is a rectification for eating from the Tree of Knowledge, because when Adam and Chava ate from this forbidden Tree, their eating was like stealing. Any food which is not connected to our soul root is considered "stolen" food. Since the time of eating from the Tree of Knowledge, whatever we eat has a taste of being stolen, and this makes us sad, as Hashem told Adam, ". . . in sadness you shall eat all the days of your life" (Bereishit 3:18). Regular food does not necessarily come from the channel that connects us directly with Hashem. However, matzah is prepared especially for us and therefore it comes down to us directly from Heaven. When I ate the homemade matzah prepared so carefully by my bar mitzvah son for the very first time since reaching manhood, I felt how it brought down Hashem's light directly from Above. My heartfelt prayer while chewing each bite of this matzah was engendered by my son's excitement for keeping the mitzvah of baking matzah.

Pesach celebrates the birth of the Jewish people. According to Ariza"l, we were conceived on Seder night, and born seven days later on the last night of Pesach, at the splitting of the sea which was the breaking of the birth waters. During the seven days of Pesach, when we begin our lives, we may eat only matzah. The beginning – our root – needs to be matzah – the Tree of Life. According to the level of our emunah, is the depth of life which we receive from Hashem. Matzah is called "the Bread of Emunah." On Pesach we renew our emunah that Hashem wants to give us endless life. Rabbi Shlomo explains that the last meal that we eat on the last day of Pesach is called "the meal of Mashiach" because when Mashiach comes, the earth will be healed from its curse, it will again believe in humanity and bring forth blessed produce. At this time one piece of matzah will be enough to give us eternal life. Let us enjoy our special Pesach food without guilt! "LaChaim"!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Shabbat HaGadol - Four Cups Four Mothers

The Four Cups during the Seder and Our Four Mothers
By Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum

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Women at the Pesach Seder
Taking an active part in the Pesach Seder is an important mitzvah for women, since the Exodus from Egypt took place "in the merit of the righteous women…" (Babylonian Talmud, Sota 11b). Perhaps an additional reason why we read most of the Hagadah before the meal, is to keep the women at the table, free from their kitchen chores for a few more hours. Women are obligated to drink the Four Cups of wine during the Seder, and to take an active part in all the rest of the matters that pertain to the Seder (Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 472:14). Maharal explains that whereas Pesach Matzah and Maror are in the merit of the Avot (Fathers) the Four Cups correspond respectively to our four holy Imahot (mothers) (Maharal Gevurat Hashem 48).

Why are the Four Cups linked to Our Four Mothers? 
Just as the grapevine cannot be grafted with any other tree, and is a modest tree in the recesses of the house, likewise the mothers were tznuot (chaste) (Ibid. 60). We open the Seder with the First Cup of Kidush. Likewise, women are the initiators who bring holiness into their homes. The fact that drinking the Four Cups of wine also continues after the meal symbolizes the long lasting effect of women's wisdom. Wine alludes to the פנימיות (inner dimensions) as it states, "When wine enters the secret emerges" (Babylonian Talmud, Iruvin 55a). Women's spiritual connection with inner dimensions of the Torah mirrors their physical hidden dimensions.

The First Cup Corresponds to Sarah
The First Cup corresponds to the first of the four languages of geulah: וְהוֹצֵאתִי אֶתְכֶם מִתַּחַת סִבְלֹת מִצְרַיִם- "I will bring you out from under the burdens of Mitzrayim" (Shemot 6:6-7).This promise comprises physical liberation. When we drink the First Cup it is good to meditate and pray for removing our physical suffering such as pain, illness, anti-Semitism, terrorism etc. Sarah was the first woman who integrated the emuna in Hashem into the very fiber of her body. In this way she created the spiritual genetics from which the Jewish People would issue. The First Cup is the cup of Kidush which elevates and separates the holiday from the mundane days of the week. Likewise, Sarah, was the first woman to become separate from all other people in the world. May we learn from Sarah to strengthen our emuna even if it goes against the grain of the world, and may we be able to integrate our emuna into our daily chores in the physical world!
The Second Cup Corresponds to Rivkah
The Second Cup corresponds to the second of the four languages of geulah:וְהִצַּלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם מֵעֲבֹדָתָם I will deliver you out of their bondage. This promise includes delivery from both physical and spiritual enslavement. We may not be aware, but many of our actions derive from various unconscious scripts imprinted in our psyche from childhood wounds and traumas, which cause fears, jealousy, and anger. Although Rivkah came from a severely dysfunctional family, she was able to heal her childhood wounds by attaching herself to kedusha. Even at a tender young age, she was not afraid to detach herself from her family, and familiar environment, in order to follow a strange man to an un-known place. When we drink the Second Cup, it is good to meditate and pray for removing all our attachments and addictions. This cup also has the segula (ability) to free us from the confinement of performing the mitzvot only out of rote because we are expected to, without conviction and excitement. Rivkah was totally in touch with her neshamah, and all her actions were permeated with her spirit of enthusiasm. The Second Cup corresponds to the reading of the Hagadah. Just as the Hagadah begins with disgrace but concludes with praise (Babylonian Talmud, Pesachim 116a), so did Rivkah emanate from the thorns of her cradle, yet became an everlasting rose (Vayikra Rabah 23:1). May we learn from Rivkah to detach ourselves from all the negative influence of our past!

The Third Cup Corresponds to Rachel
The Third Cup corresponds to the third of the four languages of geulah: וְגָאַלְתִּי אֶתְכֶם בִּזְרוֹעַ נְטוּיָה וּבִשְׁפָטִים גְּדֹלִים I will redeem you with an outstretched arm. Hashem promised to bring our geulah in the zchut (merit) of our mother Rachel's ultimate Ahavat Yisrael. In her selfless mercy, she overcame her jealousy and allowed her sister to marry her beloved, in order to avoid embarrassing her (Eicha Rabah Introduction 24). Likewise, Israel will merit redemption, when we overcome the conflicts and jealousies among our people, and learn to truly unite. When we drink the Third Cup, it is good to meditate and pray for removing gaps between different segments of our people through tolerance and acceptance, so that we may repair the schism between the children of Rachel and Leah. The Third Cup is for birkat ha'mazon (Grace after Meals). Geulah is to reveal Hashem's malchut (kingdom) within the physical world manifesting shefa (sustenance) to the world. This revelation can only take place when there is unity among us. Rachel's son, Yosef, was able to bring sustenance to the world because he did not keep a grudge, but forgave his brothers for what they had done to him. Moreover, Rachel was the mainstay of her home, and the blessing of parnassa (sustenance) in the house comes in the merit of the wife (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Metzia 59a), who causes shalom to reside in her home. May we learn from Rachel to go beyond ourselves for the sake of כנסת ישראל – gathering of the dispersed segments of Israel, and engender true Ahavat Yisrael!

The Fourth Cup Corresponds to Leah
The Fourth Cup corresponds to the fourth and last language of geulah: וְלָקַחְתִּי אֶתְכֶם לִי לְעָם וְהָיִיתִי לָכֶם לֵאלֹקִים  I will take you to me for a people. After having removed our physical, emotional and spiritual blocks by means of the three previous cups, we are now ready to actualize our relationship with Hashem and communicate directly with Him through praise and prayer. The Fourth Cup concludes the Hallel (prayer of praise) at the end of the Seder. Leah is the first person to truly thank/praise Hashem, when at the birth of her fourth son Yehuda she exclaimed, "This time I will thank Hashem" (Bereishit 29:35), (Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 7b). Rav Arosh explains that although others from Adam to Avraham surely thanked Hashem before Leah, no-one thanked Him with her level of conscious intensity. Leah's chidush (new approach) was to truly thank Hashem even for all the hardships she had encountered. With the birth of Yehuda she realized that it was necessary and worthwhile to experience all her previous suffering for the sake of giving birth to Yehuda, the father of King David and Mashiach. When we drink the Fourth Cup, it is good to meditate and pray for strengthening our relationship with Hashem, that we may experience the connection with Him during both prayer, and in everyday life. May we learn from Leah to always recognize, thank and praise Hashem for bestowing us with His continuous blessing!

Women, Let Your Voices be Heard
The inherent connection between our Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah and the Four Cups of the Seder teaches us how each of the four steps of redemption is in the zchut (merit) of one of our holy Mothers. The midrash teaches us how Hashem redeemed us in the merit of both our Fathers and Mothers as it states, (Michah 6:1) "Arise, contend before the mountains, and let the hills hear your voice" (ותשמענה הגבעות קולך). Whereas the fathers correspond to the mountains, the hills represent the mothers Sarah, Rivkah, Rachel and Leah. We learn this from the feminine form of the verb "to hear" used in the verse (Batei Midrashot 2, Midrash alfa Beita, Mesechta 315). The Sefer Hachinuch states that both men and women are obligated to tell about the Exodus from Egypt on this night (Mitzvah 21). It is specifically the mother who is called to answer the son who does not know how to ask, as it states: אַתְּ פְּתַח לוֹ-"You open [the conversation] for him" According to Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, the feminine form of "you" alludes to the women's obligation to tell the story about our Exodus from Egypt    (Otzar Meforshei Ha-Hagadah). Therefore, women, remember during the Seder night that Hashem wants to hear your voice!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Reaching Perfection in Speech

Haftorat Metzora
Melachim 7:3-20
The attribute of the month of Nissan is speech. The culmination of perfected speech takes place of the zenith of Nissan during the Seder when we fulfill the mitzvah of telling over the story of the Exodus. As we clean the nooks and crannies of our cabinets, we also have the opportunity to prepare for Pesach by liberating our speech from the dust of negativity. The students of B’erot have been practicing perfection of speech for the sake of healing the wounded of the last terrorist attack. They added to the regular “Guard your Tongue” regiment, to also abstain from complaining. When I tried to follow suit and do the same, I realized how difficult it is not to complain. Read on to learn from the story of the lepers in our haftorah about how perfection in speech includes refraining from different kinds of negative speech that we may not be aware are also a kind of lashon hara.

The Haftorah’s Connection to the Parashah – Reaching Perfection in Speech
This week’s parashah discusses various forms of tzara’at, (skin diseases), that could befall a person who is not careful with his speech. The haftorah describes the four men afflicted with tzara’at, who were starving like the rest of Israel during the Armenian siege during King Yerovam’s time. The lepers discovered that the Armenian forces had fled during the night leaving behind their tents, horses, and supplies. First, the lepers grabbed as much as they could for themselves, but then they had a change of heart and decided that they really needed to share the good news with the rest of Israel. “So they came and called to the gatekeepers of the city, and told them… And the porters called, and they told it to the king’s household within” (2 Melachim 7:10-11).

To Speak or Not to Speak?
The haftorah teaches us that in order to perfect our speech, we need not only to avoid gossiping and speaking negatively about others, but also to speak up and communicate when necessary for the sake of doing Hashem’s will. The lepers’ decision to share the good news with the rest of Israel, regarding the surrender of the Armenian army, on that very day, rather than waiting till later, was their teshuva (repentance), from their previous evil speech. I once knew a family who was extremely private about everything in their life. When their newly-wed daughter was going through a difficult time in her marriage, a few people tried to speak with the family to urge them to get professional help. The family was traumatized and feared being exposed and becoming the talk of the town. They did not realize that the Jewish way is sharing not only our friends’ celebrations, but also their hardships.

Overcoming Women’s Tendency to Judge
The root of evil speech is negative thinking and judgment. My “non-religious” sister taught me a very important lesson regarding this matter. I will never forget how she responded when I once apologized for a comment I made in error. When I told her, “Sorry, I shouldn’t have said this,” she responded, “You shouldn’t even have thought it!” Training our minds to give the benefit of the doubt rather than jumping to negative conclusions and judging other people, is the best way to avoid negative speech. In the Kabbalalistic structure of the sefirot, feminine energy is placed on the left side associated with judgment and contraction. Therefore, we have to be very careful to use our sense of judgment only when it can make a difference. For example, there is no point in judging our friend for going on an expensive vacation that we think she can’t afford. Yet, it is important to make a judgment that our friend is not feeling well, in order to extend a helping hand.

We are Shown Only What We Ourselves Need to Fix
The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches that if it happened that we see or hear about someone else’s wrongdoing, we have a tinge of the same problem ourselves. Rather than judging the person, we should become motivated to rectify ourselves. Although it is hard to stop ourselves from lashon hara, as it states in the Talmud, “We all fall prey to a tinge of lashon hara” (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Batra 165a), our spiritual work is to rectify ourselves by removing the trace of our own negativity. When someone else’s wrongdoing motivates us to refine our own minute imperfections, we have the ability to elevate the person whom we witnessed act in a negative way. Rabbi Ya’acov Yosef explains that since we are all part of one cosmic person, this unity gives us the ability to include the person who sinned within ourselves when we repent. (Toldot Yaacov Yosef, Parashat Lech Lecha). This is the meaning of, “Guard your tongue from evil…” (Tehillim 34:14) – do not despise or speak about the person who did evil. Rather, “…turn away from bad” (ibid. 15) – and rectify this evil. By means of this you can “…do good” (ibid.), by causing that person to become good and repent from his evil (Arvei Nachal, Parashat Lech Lecha).

Looking Within
Just as our entire psycho-physical makeup is a reflection of our inner selves. Similarly, everything we see or hear is only a reflection of our own selves. A good person will always notice the positive. Someone that once worked for us used to come the times that suited himself rather than the times we had requested. He would also often do the work he felt like doing, rather than the work we had instructed him to do. This would annoy me tremendously until I decided to look within myself, and see if I could find a trace of the same problem within my own character. I realized that I, too, did the mitzvoth of Hashem during the times that suited me rather than at the preferred time. For example, I used to always start preparing for Shabbat too late, and almost never completed everything in time to light the Shabbat candles the preferred time – eighteen minutes before sunset. Moreover, I used to do the mitzvoth I felt like, rather than what was required, such as allowing my husband to get the last word. I tried to really work on myself to complete the Shabbat preparations on time and to show more respect to my husband. Soon after I had this realization, our worker started to come on time and do the job we had asked him.

Evil Speech Comes from a Lack of Emuna (Faith)
The end of the haftorah describes the skeptical officer who disbelieved in the miracle which Elisha had prophesized. Despite the long severe famine, he announced that food would be so plentiful the following day that the prices of barley and fine flour would drop drastically. “It came to pass, when the man of G-d had spoken to the king, saying: ‘Two measures of barley for a shekel, and a measure of fine flour for a shekel, shall be to-morrow about this time in the gate of Shomron’; that the officer answered the man of G-d, and said: ‘Now, behold, if Hashem should make windows in heaven, might such a thing be?’ and he said: ‘Behold, you shall see it with your eyes, but shall not eat of it” (2 Melachim 7: 18-19). As a punishment for his lack of emuna, this officer was trampled by the people, as he stood guard at the gates of the city. From this we learn that lashon hara (evil speech) is not just gossiping and noticing fault in other people. Expressing disbelief and lack of emuna in Hashem is also a form of lashon hara. The end of the haftorah alludes to the fact that the root of all evil speech is a lack of emuna. If we really believe strongly in Hashem, we would never judge others for their shortcomings except for the sake of helping them grow. We would never get angry or upset with anyone, as we would realize that their action manifest Hashem’s will. Moreover, emuna in Hashem leads to emuna in other people. When we believe that there is nothing in the world Hashem can’t do, we are also more likely to believe in other people, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Just as it seems impossible that the physical reality could change so drastically by Hashem’s miracles, likewise actions that appear at first glance to be negative, may actually have good reasons, and in reality be positive. Our emuna in Hashem teaches us to look within for the kernel of good in others and gives us faith in our ability to rectify the trace of negativity within ourselves.