Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Rabbi Mizrachi on Trump/Putin


Right at the start of this shiur, hear Rabbi Mizrachi's take on the Trump Putin meeting yesterday.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Secret Message behind the teachings of the Ari'zal


Rabbi Alon Anava


5 Av - Yarzheit Arizal

Arizal Synagogue, Safed - Photo Steven Pinker

The Arizal [1534-1572] - Rabbi Isaac Luria was the most famous Kabbalist in the city of Safed, Israel who became known as the "Arizal" or ARI, an acronym for “The G-dly Rabbi Isaac of Blessed Memory.”

The Arizal passed away at the age of 38, and it was only during the last two years of his life that he met his foremost disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital. The Arizal himself never wrote any books, however all his words were faithfully recorded by Rabbi Chaim Vital in what is known as Kitvei Ari, the “writings of the Arizal.” The Kitvei Ari is the key to the secrets of the Zohar, and it was the Arizal who formulated the Kabbalah into a comprehensive system. Rabbi Chaim Vital writes in the name of the Arizal that, “It is a Mitzvah to reveal this wisdom.” Until the time of the Arizal, knowledge of Kabbalah was not known outside of the tightly knit circle of the tzaddikim.

More about the Arizal at Ascent of Safed or click on the label "ARIZAL" below to read more of his teachings.


The Essence of Tisha B'Av


Rabbi Mendel Kessin


Thursday, July 12, 2018

An Upside Down World

This one is for my brother Michoel ben Mordechai, a"h.


When the light that enters our eye reaches the back of the lens to form a picture the objects appear upside down and backwards. Only when the image reaches the brain is the image corrected, allowing us to see right side up.

As we know, "nothing is for nothing" and everything was created with Hashem's infinite wisdom. This begs the question of why would Hashem make our visual experience so roundabout? Why would our initial viewing experience be, out of all things, upside down?


The gemara [Bava Basra 10b] tells the story of Rav Yosef the son of Rav Yehoshua who became very ill and lost consciousness. When he awoke his father asked him, "What did you see?" He told his father, "Olam Hafuch Ra'isi Elyonim L'Mata V'Tachtonim L'Mata", I saw an upside down world. The rich people who are regarded here as the upper echelons of society were considered lowly people, while the poor wise people who do good deeds and are considered the lower class here were considered the upper crust over there. His father answered him that he was mistaken. He did not see an upside down world, but rather the world as it truly is. The world we live in is the upside down world.

Every one of our 248 physical limbs mirrors a spiritual limb. Our eyes are our main interface with the world beyond us. Yet the image the world projects is upside down. Only when the image enters our brain and we use our mind to process it, do we make heads and tails of it. The same holds true for the story behind the picture. What we see at first glance without using our Sechel [inteligence] - is always upside down. Just like the brain processes images and straightens them out, so too our brain must use its unbiased intelligence to make sense of the things we see.

Just like flipping an image, understanding the story is meant to be simple and a routine operation as the Pasuk [Koheles 7:29] says, "Asa HaElokim Es Ha'Adam Yashar", Hashem made a person straight. Unfortunately we all have forces within us that interfere with this process, be they poor Middos [traits] or selfish motives. We let these things take over our brain, as the pasuk concludes "V'Heima Bikshu Cheshbonos Rabbim". But the choice is our to see the world with clarity if only we choose to do so.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Way of God - Man's Free Will


These are the two latest shiurim from Rabbi Kessin in his Derech Hashem series:  they both are about Man's Free Will and as always well worth listening to. 

I am missing in action at the moment, due to a death in the family.  Sometimes it comes more as a relief, after a long period of suffering it's easier to know they are now pain free.



Thursday, July 5, 2018

Overwhelming Times




The Time Immediately Before Mashiach
 by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

The time appointed by G-d for the Messianic redemption is a closely guarded secret.1 Nonetheless, we are offered many hints to recognize its proximity: when certain conditions come about, await the imminent coming of Mashiach.

Most of these conditions are quite disturbing, clearly displaying a situation of the very “bottom of the pit.”2 One major source describes the world-condition in those days as follows: increase in insolence and impudence; oppressing inflation; unbridled irresponsibility on the part of authorities; centers of learning will turn into bawdy houses; wars; many destitutes begging, with none to pity them; wisdom shall be putrid; the pious shall be despised; truth will be abandoned; the young will insult the old; family-breakup with mutual recriminations; impudent leadership.3

Other sources add: lack of scholars; succession of troubles and evil decrees; famines; mutual denunciations; epidemics of terrible diseases; poverty and scarcity; cursing and blaspheming; international confrontations nations provoking and fighting each other.4 In short, it will be a time of suffering that will make it look as if G-d were asleep. These are the birthpangs of Mashiach, bearable only in anticipation of the bliss that follows them.

“When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for him… when you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him.5 “When you see nations fighting each other, look toward the feet of Mashiach.”6

Little wonder that some sages expressed apprehensions about those days in terms of, “Let [Mashiach] come, but let me not see him.”7 The prevailing attitude, however, is to await his coming in spite of all, even if thereafter we shall merit no more than sitting “in the shadow of his donkey’s dung!”8

The troubles and agony of chevlei Mashiach (birthpangs of Mashiach), however, are not unavoidable:

“What is man to do to be spared the pangs of Mashiach? Let him engage in Torah and acts of loving-kindness!”9

Moreover, there are also good and happy signs indicating the imminent coming of Mashiach: a good measure of prosperity;10 a renewal of Torah-study;11 and opening of the “gates of wisdom above and the wellsprings of wisdom below,”12 evidenced also by scientific and technological discoveries and advances; a manifestation and propagation of the mystical teachings of the Torah;13 and also “In the time that Mashiach will awaken, many signs and miracles will occur in the world.”14


FOOTNOTES

1. Pesachim 54b; Midrash Tehilim 9:2. See Zohar Chadash, Bereishit, 8a.

2. Midrash Tehilim 45:3. See Ma’amarei Admur Hazaken-Ethalech, p. 103f.; and Besha’ah Shehik-dimu-5672, vol. I:p. 551; relating this to the principle (Midrash Tehilim 22:4; Zohar II:46a) that the darkest moments of the night are immediately before daybreak. Cf. Zohar I:170a. For this analogy see also the comment of R. Elijah, the Vilna Gaon, cited in Even Shelemah, ch. 11:5.

3. Sotah 49b

4. Sanhedrin 97a; Shir Rabba 2:29.

5. Sanhedrin 98a

6. Bereishit Rabba 42:4. Note Pesikta Rabaty 37:2 (ed. Friedmann, ch. 36)!

7. Sanhedrin 98b

8. Ibid. See also Zohar II:7aff.

9. Sanhedrin 98b

10. Sanhedrin 97a; Shir Rabba 2:29.

11. Ibid.

12. Zohar I:117a

13. Zohar I:118a. See Zohar Chadash, Tikunim, 96c; and Mayanei Hayeshu’ah, I:2. Cf. below, note 84. Note also Igeret Teyman, ch. 3, that prophecy shall be restored to Israel prior to the coming of Mashiach.

14. Zohar II:8a

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The True Power of Speech


This is a re-upload of the world-famous lecture given by Rabbi Mendel Kessin about the profound dangers of loshon hora [slander] and the tremendous benefit of shmiras halashon [guarding one's tongue].


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Yud and The Hei


Torah learning on behalf of Michoel ben Esther Rivka


The Zohar teaches that the letter yud was added to Pinchas' name and the letter hei was added to Yosef's name [see Psalms 81:6] because they were both zealous about the prohibition of cohabiting with a non-Jewish woman.  Pinchas killed Zimri and Yosef resisted the persistent attempts of Potifar's wife.

This sheds light on Rashi's explanation why each of the family names included in the census consisted of their paternal father's names with a hei added at the front and a yud at the end:  ''The nation would taunt [Israel] saying ''Why do they trace their lineage by tribe? Do they really think that the Egyptians did not have their way with their mothers?''... So God placed His Name upon them, hei at one end and yud at the other, as if to say ''I testify that these people are indeed the sons of their fathers'' [Rashi to Pinchas 26:5].  Thus we see here that the same letters, yud and hei, were added to show that the Jewish people had been moral, like Pinchas and Yosef.

Why is this vigilance attested to by these two particular letters?  Our Sages noted that the Hebrew words for ''man'' אישׁ and ''woman'' אשׁה only differ in the letters yud and hei, which spell God's Name.*  On this, they remarked ''If a couple is found worthy, the Divine Presence will be with them''.  [Sotah 17a]  Here we see the Talmudic source that the letters yud and hei testify that God's people are pure and holy.

*When the letters yud and hei are removed, both words spell אשׁ - fire - showing that when God is not present in a marriage, there is fire.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe