ליל ועש”ק פר’ שמות, שנת “שבעת” לפ”ק

Sholom U’Brocho!
Mazel Tov to Shalom Goldberg on the occasion of his engagement. Mazel Tov to Kutty Goldstein on the occasion of his engagement. May they use out the special period of Yokor Mikol yokor to its’ utmost! Mazel Tov to Rabbi & Mrs. Peretz Schapiro on the birth of their daughter. May they bring her up lTOveCHuMAA”T mitoch harchovo, and to be a true chayolo! (If anyone is aware of any mazeltov’s that I omitted please let me know).
Thank you as always for the feedback, it is much appreciated.

Recently I learned of a practice that has, apparently become very prevalent amongst growing groups of Jewish people. I will not be insulted if you have a hard time believing me, I myself couldn’t figure out if this was some poor joke. But I’m not making this up. I verified this with the most reliable sources (and I don’t mean the Rambam, I’m talking about – lehavdil – Wikipedia), and there really is such a phenomenon amongst numerous congregations. So read on, as I quote to you from Wikipedia definition of . . a “Bark Mitzva”:
A Bark Mitzvah is a pseudo-traditional observance and celebration of a dog’s coming of age, as in the Jewish traditional Bar Mitzvah and Bat Mitzvah. The term has been in use since at least as early as 1997 . . The Bark Mitzvah is a celebration not necessarily held in conjunction with a specific age but can occur when the dog turns 13 months or 13 years of age. This is equivalent to about 91 dog years. During some Bark Mitzvahs, dogs wear a tallit, a ritual prayer shawl worn during Jewish religious services and ceremonies.

A male dog wears a specific yarmulke, a thin skullcap . . Although the idea of the Bark Mitzvah is frowned upon by some, the idea spread throughout the United States, and the celebrations have continued to occur. The ceremonies became increasingly popular on the East and West Coasts in the early 2000s. As a result, specialty pet stores and dog bakeries now offer special Bark Mitzvah party packages, party favors, and gifts.

If the above pictures are any indication, they appear to not only be dressed in tallis and yarmulke, but to be going the whole nine yards, including a puppy-pshetel (can anyone tell what sefer that beast is quoting from?).
There are many things that the above article calls to mind. First there is the obvious message, that when one doesn’t base himself on the solid foundations of authentic Torah and Yiddishkeit, then there is no limit to how low he will stoop, and how ludicrous a “religion” he will end up with.
It calls to mind the story of R’ Benyomin Kletzker, who responded (when asked how he can get “distracted” by “ein od milvado” in the midst of his business dealings) “if other people can think about their business affairs in the middle of reciting “Hashem Echod”, then I can think about Hashem Echod in the middle of my business”. If there are people who appear similar to pets (as the gemoro states אלו בני אדם שדומים לבהמה), then why shouldn’t the pets get dressed up as their two-legged masters.
It brings to mind the story with the Baal Shem Tov, who instructed his talmidim to put their hands on each other’s shoulders, and showed them the image of a cow with a shtreimel. If any of us had difficulty thus far picturing a shor with a shtreimel, it now becomes easier having seen the images of these dogs saying droshos!
But the most important idea, I believe, is that, when you think about it, you may come to the conclusion (as I did) that, in fact, these people have a point: Chassidus teaches us that the root of the word mitzvah is tzavsa vechibur; – a connection. Indeed, the essence of a mitzvah is the experience of connecting with Hashem.
But sometimes, it would seem, that connection involves only our neshomo, the G-dly aspect of ourselves. We can connect with Hashem, but the animal within us may be neglected and left behind.
And that is a tragedy.
One of the main themes of the maamar Bosi LeGani 5712 (the first maamar on the perek connected with this year) is about the need to involve the internal behaima – the animal – in the experience of bringing a korbon to the Eibishter. You want to be close to G-dliness? Of course you do! That is everyone’s greatest desire. But that is something that is meant to involve the animalistic aspect of our being as well.
We wear a yarmulke, right? Of course we do, even when we sleep (and if chas veshalom it falls off in the middle of the night, we awaken immediately, don’t we?). A yarmulke represents the awareness that there is a G-d above us to Whom we must submit. It is made up of the 2 words ירא מלכא, – or “fear of the King”.
But is the animal within also wearing the yarmulke? Is that awareness something that I comprehend and relate with in a very personal way? Is the dog within me; – the kelev, that is based on the words “Kulo lev” because it represents exclusive pursuit of desires and whims – also being made aware that there is a Higher Being to Whom he must be subservient (a.k.a. bottul)? Because, if not then there’s a basic ingredient absent from our Yiddishkeit.
It may be possible to subdue the dog, to lock him up in his kennel and silence him, so that he does not interfere with our avodas Hashem. That may be effective, but it does not properly realize the purpose for which we were placed into this world; – to create a dwelling place for Hashem in the lowest of the low. Hashem’s intent is that the dog, although remaining a dog, should nonetheless recognize (in the way in which a dog recognizes this) that Hashem Hu HoElokim.
It would be nice, perhaps, to be relieved of our base instincts, to live a more spiritual lifestyle in which our reality is Elokus. But the fact is that we (at least some of us) are very conscious of the presence of the dog, who is governed solely by “I want” and “I feel” and the like. But, rather than being a source of discouragement, we have to recognize this as a vital part of our mission.
Don’t be in denial, recognize that beast, and communicate to him that even though he’s an animal, consumed by his wants and self-centeredness, he still has to submit to a Higher Authority. So, it’s not that if you can get yourself to be inspired and interested in being chassiddish then there’s hope, but if you realize that you’re a grobbe beheima then what connection do you have with Rebbe, chassidishkeit and yud shvat. Rather, you may acknowledge the animalistic urges that are in you, and nonetheless you try to harness that animal and train him, to the greatest extent possible, to care about the Eibishter.
An animal is not inherently evil. He does not need to be bad. He just doesn’t care about anything except himself. The animal within us is recognizable by his lack of concern for anything other than his own gratification.
But, slow down, think a little bit deeper into what the maamar that you are learning is saying. It is describing how an animal can also be a chosid, because you can be looking for personal gratification, and yet realize that the path to that is by submission to Hashem. Our basest instincts and desires can and should be harnessed and channeled so that they themselves should be expressed as a yearning to G-dliness.
It was therefore rather heartening to see how Jewish communities have – these last 5 years or so – begun getting the point. They aren’t anymore focusing on the neshomo to the exclusion of the inner beheimah. They are, rather, paying heed to the Chassidic interpretation of the Posuk “אדם כי יקריב – מכם קרבן לה'”. They are harnessing the dog himself – that symbol of self-centered kellipah – and adorning him with a yarmulke, even with a talis, so that he should be part of the Jewish experience.
And the dog is standing and the shtender with a sefer and darshening, obviously in dog-language, which is the most important thing of all. Because the key is to understand and grasp the concepts of Chassidus in a way that they are comprehensible to the animal. That is the primary way of making it part of the korbon.
Once, Chassidim were farbrenging in the house of the Rashbatz. After some time they ran out of farbeissen, and they were trying to find a way to obtain some more.
The Rashbatz owned a goat, that provided him with milk, and was a source of livelihood for the family. However, recognizing that provisions for a farbrengen take precedence over anything else, when the Chassidim were unsuccessful in replenishing the supplies, the Rashbatz brought his goat and slaughtered it, providing ample farbeisen for the remainder of the farbrengen.
In the morning, the wife of the Rashbatz came screaming that their goat was stolen. But he calmed her down. She, however, would not calm down, insisting that they must take immediate action, and all the while the Rashbatz told her not to worry, that he knew its whereabouts.
Finally, he couldn’t put her off any more, so he explained to her: “The goat is still here as before; the difference is only that until now it was saying “baaaaah baaaaaaah”, and now, instead, it is saying “Hashem Echad”!
There is no need to be daunted by the realization that we have an animal present. The animal can also be brought to say Hashem echad. We need to deal with it in its way and speak to it in its language, and we are sure to see it come around and get the message.
So, get out your favorite pet, and get him bar mitzvahed (sorry – bark mitzvaed). Learn Chassidus “adaato denafshei”, – in a way that you’re relating with it with your nefesh habehamis as well. And the same with davening, get your whole self to be a part of it.
This is the way to be a korbon, to be closer to the Eibishter!
And maybe we can still teach Wikipedia a thing or 2 about what a real Bark Mitzva is after all!
L’chaim! Let us all take advantage of these days of preparation to Yud Shvat, by getting our whole self involved in the experience (and the way to achieve that successfully is by following the path the Rebbe gave us, – by speaking with your “aseh lecho Rav”), and may the Eibishter bring us to the time of והשבתי חי’ רעה מן הארץ – according to both interpretations, when all animals will be transformed to good, and the entire world will scream “Hashem Echad, with the immediate hisgalus of Moshiach Tzidkeinu TUMYM!!!
Rabbi Akiva Wagner
לזכות ר’ שלום מרדכי הלוי בן רבקה, לגאולה וישועה קרובה ושלימה, תומ”י ממש בטוהנוהנ”ג!