Rabbi Mordechai Lipskier
Is your device giving off heat?
CHUKAS- BALAK- YUD BEIS TAMMUZ
A non-Jewish professor asked the Holy Ruzhiner why the ananei ha’kavod left when Aharon passed away. It’s known that bodies give off heat, explained the Ruzhiner. When people gather, if they share an emotional connection, their body heat will mix. If they’re not emotionally connected, however, their heat will rise but remain separate. We know that Aharon “loved and pursued peace,” so the clouds were not an arbitrary miracle, but an actual outcome of his influence. Once he passed, the clouds, generated by the heat of the love he created, disappeared. Over the past few months we’ve experienced the painful reality of how social closeness can rapidly spread disease. At the same time, we’ve also lost out on much-needed healthy social interaction. What now?
This Shabbos, the 12th of Tammuz, we mark the release of the Frierdiker Rebbe from communist prison in 5687 (1927), where he was punished for spreading and strengthening Yiddishkeit. On the very first anniversary of his release, he disseminated a letter and a ma’amar in which he beseeched every single Jew to strengthen his or her commitment to Torah, and particularly to learning Torah in public. Our Rebbe followed by reiterating this every year during the farbrengens marking 12 Tammuz. This Shabbos we also read about Bilam’s bracha to the Jews—“How good are your tents Jacob, your dwellings Israel.” His blessing is twofold. He was impressed that the Jewish nation pitched their tents so that the doors faced away from each other and they couldn’t see into one another’s homes. And according to the medrash, the doors Bilam refers to are actually those of shuls and batei medrash. He prophesied that these doors would never close, i.e., Jews would always have places to daven and learn. What an opportune time this Shabbos is to reconsider our social lives! Is my social activity, in person or on social-media, healthy? Am I generating cyber clouds of closeness and holiness, or am I spreading unholy disease by gossiping or giving people an inappropriate window into the privacy of my home? Zoom has helped us connect for Torah learning, farbrengens, and other holy purposes. But the heat our electronic devices produce will never compare to the closeness we’re capable of generating when meeting in person. This year we’ve had graduations on Zoom, but now it’s time to graduate Zoom as much as possible. Of course, many of us are still restricted to social distancing, but whenever and wherever possible, let’s aim for the ideal: davening and studying Torah in person. When doing so (safely, and with precautions), we will generate the protection we so desperately need. Our rebbeim showered brachos—both spiritual and physical—upon all who take part in celebrating the 12th of Tammuz and resolve to strengthen their own Torah study and help others do the same. May we all merit the fulfilment of these brachos and the ultimate redemption, with the coming of Moshiach now.
 Beis Yisroel.  Talmud, Sanhedrin 105b. Good Shabbos, Rabbi Lipskier