Purim, the Book of Esther – Hidden Miracles

This week is Purim. It commemorates 2,400 years ago when the Jews were saved from Haman’s evil decree in Persia, as described in The Book of Esther or Megillat Esther. People get dressed up, to hide and mask their identities in the same way that G-d’s identity is masked in the Purim story. He hid behind seemingly natural events such as the appointing of a Jewish queen, the inviting of the Queen and Haman to a feast, which ultimately led to Haman’s downfall on the gallows that he so wanted Mordecai to be hung on.

This is what happens in every day life. G-d is behind everything we do. He is the director of our lives. We are the actors and he is the director. Without the director, the actors have nothing to do they have no lines to say. They don’t know what’s going on. The director is all-important but he is behind the scenes. We cannot see him and the same is with G-d. He directs our lives. He writes the scripts we just act in the way he wants.

It is interesting that the Talmud tells us that on Purim that one should become so inebriated that one does not know the difference between ”blessed is Mordechai and accursed is Haman”. Very strange thing to say. Why should Jews become so inebriated so that we don’t know the difference between the ”blessed Mordechai” and the ”cursed Haman”? Or was that the blessed Haman and the cursed Mordecai? Something like that. I’m not sure. The question is, “What is it all about?” So I heard an answer like this:

That what the Talmud is trying to tell us is that we need to come to a realization that good and evil can both achieve the same result. The Talmud tells us that when Achashverosh removed his ring to Haman to kill all the Jews, that did more to improve the religious status of the Jews than any of the prophets did in their lifetimes. So, we need to realize that bad things are also part of G-D’s plan. Hopefully if we live good Jewish lives we wont need the wake up calls that are sometimes sent our way.

I wish everyone a happy delightful Purim. Don’t forget the 4 special Mitzvos on Purim,
1) To hear the Megillah twice, once at night and once by day,
2) To give 2 ready to eat foods to one person,
3) To give an amount of money to 2 poor people,
4) To have a feast and be merry

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Parshas Tetzaveh- Let’s get dressed up.

This week we learn about the special uniform the kohanim had to wear whilst performing the temple rituals. Ordinary Kohanim wore 4 garments, trousers (pants), tunic, belt and hat. The high priest wore an extra 4, an overcoat, an apron a breastplate and a golden head-plate (tzitz).
The Sedra concludes with the inauguration rituals for the Kohanim. They had to be separated from their families for 7 days. Various sacrifices were offered. Blood was sprinkled on the Kohanim and pieces of the sacrifices were waved up and down. During this inauguration, Moshe served as the high priest. He wore special white garments as he could not wear the special priestly vestments.
This week is also Parshas ‘ZACHOR’. We take out 2 scrolls from the ark. The first we read the sedra and the second we read about the commandment to remember how Amalek tried to kill us when we left Egypt and the commandment to wipe out Aamlek and his descendants (Deuteronomy 25:17-20). However, as all the nations in the world have been mixed up we cannot fulfill this commandment at the moment, so please don’t try this at home!!!

This coming Wednesday night and Thursday is Purim. Purim is the day we celebrate our victory over the Persians (423 BCE) who were instructed by Haman to kill us. Haman had been killed 11 months earlier when Esther had ratted him out to the king.
There are 4 main mitzvos of the day all of which were instituted by Mordechai and Esther and are detailed in chapter 9 of the scroll of Esther. They are,
To hear the Megillah being read both at night and by day,
To give 2 ready to eat foods to one person,
To give money to at least 2 poor people,
To have a joyous feast with wine. The wine aspect helps remember the various parts of the story that occurred at wine feasts.
There is also a custom for children to dress up to allude to the fact that Hashem was hidden behind the scenes directing things just how he liked them. We should take solace from the fact that Hashem did not make an open miracle but chose to conceal it behind seemingly natural events. Purim teaches us that no matter what is going on in our lives Hashem is there pulling the strings and writing the next episodes of our lives.

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Parshas Terumah – Get me an architect.

This week I had the privilege of performing a rare mitzvah. It’s rare because it is difficult to get all the variables together at once. As I was feeding the ducks at the river behind my apartment on the reclaimed Florida Everglades, I noticed a duck sitting on a nest. After investigating I realized she was sitting on eggs. I raced home to check the laws of ”Shiluach Hakan” lit sending away the nest,and found that all one needs to do is distract the bird to move a few feet away from the nest and lift the eggs 12 inches in the air. One need not keep the eggs. A video of my performance of this mitzvah is available on my facebook page. I dangled a piece of bread in front of the bird and she moved to get it, then I shooed her away while I took the eggs and replaced them. After a short while the duck returned and sat on the eggs once again.

Here are the basic laws of ”Shiluach Hakan”,
Must be a Kosher bird,
Must be a female,
The nest can be on ground or in tree,
Must be a wild bird on public property.

I must admit, it was quite difficult to extrapolate an inspirational message from this week’s parsha, Terumah. It mainly discusses details and instructions on building the Mishkan (Tabernacle).

The golden Ark (Aron) that held the tablets of the 10 Commandments inside. On top were two cherubs with eagle wings and faces of children. The table (Shulchan) which held the 12 loaves of bread. The 7 branched Menorah and two altars. A small golden one inside the Tabernacle and a big copper one for offering sacrifices outside in the courtyard.

The entire Torah is a manual for life. However, there are certain areas where the instructions are overtly, well, instructional. Often, there are examples with allegory or a motif attached. However, this week simply comes across as “connect A to B, C to D, and E to F.” It’s hard to find or even see any inspiration in that. However, we can be sure that the materials G-d instructed the Jews to build the Tabernacle with were not chosen at random. They had very specific purposes and specific correlations to our everyday lives.

In this video I discuss the materials used and how they correlate to various sins Jews committed through the ages. These materials correspond to the atonement for those sins. This teaches us that there’s always hope for atonement and teshuva (repentance). G-d constantly presents us with opportunities to turn everything around; to change the err of our ways. It is up to us to make those changes and put the “raw materials” He gives us to good use. The Tabernacle represents a physical amalgamation of these opportunities.

Enjoy the video! Please leave a response below. If you’re enjoying these videos or if you’re just tuning in for the first time, please feel free to pass the message along and share with a friend. Thanks for visiting.

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Parshas Mishpatim – You break you pay.

This weeks Sedra contains 53 commandments. 29 negative things to avoid and 24 positive things to do. These include,
Treating slaves with honour (honor)and dignity,
Observing the 3 pilgrimage festivals,
Laws pertaining to assaults on animals and people by other animals
And not lending money with interest.

At the end of the Sedra (24:7) the Jewish people utter the famous ” naaseh v nishma” we will do and then listen.
These words were uttered prior to the giving of the 10 commandments or statements in last weeks Sedra. Please watch my video for further explanation on this topic.

Please enjoy a throwback video to my previous New York days where I encountered winter.

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Parshas Yisro – Hear the commandments don’t break them!

This week we read of the giving of the 10 ‘statements. I call them that because that is the translation of the Hebrew word ‘Dibros’. There are also a total of 613 commandments. These however, are the fundamental basics of Judaism. They are,

You should believe that I am Hashem your G-D,
Do not make idols,
Do not Say the name of Hashem in vain,
Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy,
Honor your father and your mother,
Do not murder,
Do not commit adultery,
Do not not kidnap people, (the usual translation of stealing refers to stealing people which is a capital offence)
Do not not bear false witness against your neighbor,
Do not covet other peoples property.

These were written on 2 tablets of stone which were given to Moshe.

Please watch my video to hear a valuable lesson from this weeks sedra. Feel free (or expensive) to leave any comments on the website.

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Parshas Beshalach – Anyone got a ship to rent?

This week we read of the Jews crossing the sea of reeds. The Egyptians charged into the seas after the Jews and were swept off to their deaths. On seeing their tormentors lying dead on the banks of the sea, the Jews burst forth in praise to Hashem. Hashem then decided this would be a great time to bestow upon us the gift of keeping shabbos.

On the 15th of Iyar the Jews finished the food they brought out with them and begged Moshe to ask Hashem for some food. They did this by reasoning with Hashem that if they were going to die of hunger they might as well have died in Egypt on a full stomach. Hashem agreed and send them Manna from heaven.

Why did Hashem not give them food before they asked for it? He knew they needed it.
This teaches us that Hashem wants us to reach out to him and make the first move. Even though He knows we need basic essentials he wants us to ask for it. It is not to dissimilar to a parent waiting for a child to ask nicely before he gives the child his food. May we all merit to see our prayers answered immediately.

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My radio appearance talking about elderly parents

https://audioboom.com/boos/2826285-faith-and-finance-with-marcshoffman-on-shareradiouk

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Parshas Bo – Hurry, Hurry get out!!!!

This week we are informed of the first 20 of the 613 commandments. There are 9 positive and 11 negative commandments. They include,
Eating Matzah and Marror on the night of Pesach,
Discussing the exodus from Egypt on the night of Passover,
Eradicating chometz (leaven) for the 7 days of Pesach and
Adorning ourselves with Tefillin on weekdays.

We also read of the last 3 plagues that Hashem brought against the Egyptians. After the killing of the firstborns, Pharoh had enough and kicked the Jews out of his land. However, the Jews did not leave until the next afternoon to show everyone that Hashem runs the world and will do things on his terms.

I think we can take an important lesson away from this week’s Sedra. The Jews were instructed to stay indoors eating Matzah while all the craziness of the firstborns dying went on around them. This could be seen as the Jews putting their feet up while Hashem worked his magic on their behalf. We should internalize this message and realize that everything comes from Hashem. We don’t need to do anything. It all comes directly from him. Even though sometimes we need to do our bit, we still need to understand it is really the work of Hashem. In the merit of this realization may we see the ending of our exile speedily in our days.

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Paershas Va’erah – Croak croak!!!

This week we read about 7 of the 10 plagues Hashem deployed against the Egyptians.
They were;
The waters of the Nile and all other water in Egypt turned to blood;
swarms of frogs invaded everyone’s homes entering their food;
lice infested all men and beasts,
hordes of wild animals invaded the cities;
pestilence killed all the domestic animals;
boils afflicted the Egyptians.
For the seventh plague, fire and ice combined to descend from the skies as a devastating hail. The Jews were not affected by the plagues. Even after all the plagues, “the heart of Pharaoh was hardened and he would not let the children of Israel go, as G-d had said to Moses.” How stupid must he have looked to all his people. The truth is we do the same sometimes as well. We refuse to see the hand of G-d in everything.

Which plague do you think was the most devastating? Please leave your answers in the comments section of the website.

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Parshas Shemos, – Get back to work!!

Pharaoh enslaved the Jews, but what can we learn from this lesson of slavery? Yes actually, we can learn a lot. Something I struggle with everyday is remaining present in all that I do. We don’t even realize how distracted we are with the minutia of our lives that we forget to remember G-d. Turns out the Jews in Egypt had the same problem too. They literally were slaves. Today we are slaves too: to all that distracts us from our true purpose and ability to serve G-d. The difference is that we make ourselves slaves. We CHOOSE this path. We choose to live connected to our phones, internet, TV, gossip, addictions, over indulging. Pretty crazy when you think about, isn’t it?

It is interesting then that Hashem chose a strange site to alert Moshe to Him. He chose a not so burning bush. The verse says (3:3) “And Moshe says, I will turn away and see this great awesome sight”. In the next verse it says “and Hashem saw he turned away to look….” I think Hashem wanted to see if he could distance himself from his daily routine and tune in to Hashem. Also he wanted to see if he could notice his surroundings. As a leader you need to notice and evaluate what is going on around you. You cannot have your head up in the clouds. Moshe certainly passed the test.

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