| Spirit and Sparks |


As leaves sprout and flowers bud, we choose renewal



For months, nature has appeared dead, the landscape covered in white burial shrouds of snow. With Nissan, the world becomes alive. Soft pinks, bright purples, shiny yellows, and clear greens appear as vegetation begins to sprout. A comforting breeze caresses our cheeks.

Why is Nissan so pleasant? Every month is connected to a pasuk that contains the four letters of Hashem’s name as either roshei teivos or sofei teivos. (These are written out in many siddurim next to Mussaf of Rosh Chodesh.) The pasuk connected to Nissan is “Yismechu haShamayim, v’sagel ha’aretz — the Heavens are happy, the earth rejoices.”

The word “v’sagel” shares the same root as l’galos, to reveal. The Heavens are joyous in Nissan because it’s the month of spiritual rebirth, of geulah, when our emunah in Hashem is sharpened. “V’sagel ha’aretz” — the earth reveals this happiness; it reflects it by a rebirth of its own.

The Heavens rejoice, all of creation is reborn. What is left for us to do? To join the process. We’re the only creatures with free will. We need to actively choose renewal in the month when all of creation rejoices in its rejuvenation.

—As heard from Rav Moshe Wolfson shlita

The Ultimate Question

How do we know the Torah is true, that Hashem actually said all these things?

I’ve gotten this question in many different forms and levels over the years. My challenge is that while my students are intelligent enough to ask the question, they often aren’t sophisticated enough to appreciate the answer: “Because Mass Divine Revelation is something that can’t be claimed if it isn’t true.”

Therefore, when I teach about Matan Torah, I ask, “Why are you Jewish?”

“Because my mother is.”

“Why is she Jewish and what does she do as a Jew?” I have them bring in pictures of their mothers and grandmothers, and we have a discussion — and they realize: “Hey, this is mesorah!” Then we speak about when this all began — at Har Sinai, when all those present saw Hashem, and passed descriptions of the events down to their children and grandchildren, who passed it on to their descendants.

For those girls connected to a loving Torah life, this lesson fills them with joy and inspiration. For those struggling, it doesn’t solve their problem at its roots — that requires much more work — but it does provide a bigger picture and the knowledge of where all this is coming from.

—Goldy Machlis, special education teacher for over 12 years

Light the Flame

I realized that while I was fully alert when eating, I’d nod off while bentshing… especially after a late night seudah. So I took on a kabbalah to bentsh in an audible voice. If I utilized the physical energy required to recite the words loud enough for me to hear, I wouldn’t be able to dream while doing so.

It’s already a few years since I took on this kabbalah and I’ve been slowly — very, very, very slowly — improving. I still have enough headway to make with my bentshing to last for the rest of my life, but at least now that I’m awake, I stand a chance!

—BG from Boro Park

Longing for Mashiach

Wherever and whenever I teach about Mashiach, I’m asked the same questions. They aren’t coming from intellectual curiosity, but reveal anxiety, confusion, and fear. In this section, I’ll attempt to bring clarity and calm to the topic so that we can all develop a deep longing for Mashiach.

Question: I heard that just as only one-fifth of the Jewish People came out of Mitzrayim, so will only one-fifth of Klal Yisrael come out of this galus. I’m supposed to wait for Mashiach, but how do I know if I’ll be zocheh to be redeemed by him? And how can I eagerly anticipate something that may be bad for me?

Answer: The short answer to this question, one that all sifrei chassidus stress again and again in many different ways and that I’ve heard from Rav Moshe Wolfson shlita hundreds, if not thousands, of times is: We’ll all be zocheh.


And not only will every Jew join, but every person with a spark of goodness among the non-Jews will too. All creatures, every blade of grass, stone, and sub-atomic particle will be redeemed with Mashiach. Only evil will disappear in the bright light of truth and goodness that will shine then, and that’s because evil is really only a mirage, albeit a very convincing one.

So many Jews were left behind in Mitzrayim because we didn’t have the Torah then. But today we have the Torah, which provides a guiding path for every last Jew. This is what we say in the Haggadah regarding the rasha: “If he had been there, he wouldn’t have been redeemed.” But here, from this galus, there will be no Jew left behind.

In the next installment, we’ll explore what the sources that seem to contradict this are really saying. For now, go toward Pesach, the month of Geulah, with a light and joyous heart. You’re Hashem’s child. He’ll never leave you behind.

From Israel with Love

I was a teenager when my family moved from Israel to a small community in Europe. The change was overwhelming. I cried a lot, I missed my friends, cousins, neighbors, our old apartment and lively neighborhood, the food, the noise, and the shampoo! I couldn’t get used to the European shampoo that, in my opinion, was making my hair frizzy and just didn’t smell like my Israeli Pinuk-brand shampoo.

Pinuk reminded me of everything I missed. I’d come back from every visit to Israel with a Pinuk shampoo bottle, enjoying it to the last drop.

When my aunt came for a visit, she asked what I wanted, and my immediate answer was, “A bottle of Pinuk shampoo.” When she arrived, she handed me a suitcase. I expected to open the suitcase, take out the bottle, and give it back. To my surprise, the suitcase was filled with Pinuk shampoo bottles! I was in seventh heaven!

What touched me most was that my aunt knew I was struggling and wanted to give me that sense of security and familiarity for as long as possible. It felt so validating.

Once that stock of shampoo was finished, I didn’t need Pinuk shampoo anymore. I’d been given the validation I was asking for, and that helped me to accept my situation and enjoy it in whatever scent it came.

—Chani S.


(Originally featured in Family First, Issue 787)

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