Thursday, June 21, 2018

Guarding the Eyes

Art: "Forgotten Sunglasses" by Vladimir Kush


Written by Yosef Peretz, Mirrer Yeshiva Kollel, Jerusalem

The Talmud (beginning of Tractate Berachos) compares a person's soul to G-d himself; just like G-d sees but is not seen, so too the soul of a person sees but is not seen and just like G-d fills the entire world, so too the soul of a person fills his entire body, etc.. What does this mean and from where does the soul "see"? The Kabbalah answers that the soul of a person "sees" through his eyes.

If you look into someone's eyes, you're not just looking at a biological camera. You are accessing the deepest recesses of the person.

In contrast, any animal, even the most intelligent gorilla, lacks this completely. If you look in the eyes of an animal, you'll see a dead emptiness there. The hebrew word for animal is "behema". Which means "bah ma" - what is in it? Behind those eyes, there is nothing beyond the physical creature. An animal is just a machine.

"The candle of G-d is the soul of man".

"A mitzva is a candle and Torah is light".

The Talmud teaches, "sin extinguishes a mitzva but sin doesn't extinguish Torah".

The Zohar explains: sin extinguishes a mitzva and mitzva is a candle. So sin extinguishes a candle. But which candle? The candle of G-d - which is the soul of man. So, when a person sins, he extinguishes his own soul. He then walks through life in darkness (until he repents). Conversely a righteous person who has reached a high level of purity, has eyes that literally glow with a tangible spiritual light. I know from experience that looking into the eyes of such a person can have a life-long effect.

Having said that, a person should be very careful what he exposes his eyes to. Whatever you expose your eyes to, know that you are exposing your deepest essence - your soul. If you look at the wrong things, you literally extinguish some of the spiritual light in your eyes. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler taught (Michtav m'Eliyahu) that if a person does not sense holiness inside himself, it's a sign that his soul has left him.

This is why, according to the Talmud, it is forbidden to look at the face of a wicked person. When you look at his (or her) face, your soul absorbs some of the ruach (spiritual energy) of this person. Your soul which is beyond the physical, senses all the deeds and all the twisted drives and views of this person through his eyes and you become a little bit like him.

This is why children inherit the character traits of their parents. By constantly looking into their eyes, they absorb all of their parents' deepest spiritual traits.

The Torah forbids accepting a convert from the nations of Moab and Amon for all generations. Why? Because these nations demonstrated a lack of hakaras hatov (gratitude) to the Jewish nation when they were about to enter Israel. But why are their descendants excluded for all time to convert? Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian z''l explains (beginning of Lev Eliyahu) since their parents did not have proper gratitude, they will transmit this evil trait to their offspring and their offspring to their offsprings, and so forth forever and ever. By constantly looking into their parents' eyes, the children will inherit completely all of their spiritual traits.

Conversely, looking in the eyes of a Tzaddik (righteous person) elevates you. A person who has reached a high spiritual level has eyes that shine forth with a spiritual light. This is why it is so important to learn Torah from a great Rebbi and not just from books. The Talmud says, if your Rebbi does not look like an Angel of G-d, do not learn Torah from him. Only if you sense "Sinai" in this person should you learn Torah from him. Such a person will transmit to you the non-verbal, "internal" part of the Torah and the proper character traits which can only be transmitted through eye contact. No amount of learning in books can help you here.

I heard from Rabbi Simcha Wasserman zt''l that "when you review your lesson, picture your Rebbi's face while he was giving over the lesson. This way, you will review not only the verbal part of the lesson but also the non-verbal messages in the lesson".

The Steipler wrote (beginning of Kareina D'Igarta) every interaction with a person leaves a spiritual mark on you. The Chafetz Chaim said, the first time he saw a Jew willfully transgressing the Shabbat, he cried for an hour. The second time it lasted only 20 minutes. Why the change? He had exposed his eyes and therefore his soul, and was now no longer on the same level of purity as before.

One who is constantly surrounded by people with no faith is in great danger of becoming like them. This is not because of sharing their ideas. No! During every interaction, your soul absorbs some of the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of the person. If you don't strengthen yourself continuously, you will slowly become more and more like him. This is why it is so important to live in an area with a strong Jewish community. The Rambam wrote, if you can't find a community of righteous people to live in, you should move to the desert.

On a deeper level, everything you come across contains the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of it's source. I heard from Rabbi Shmuel Nussbaum of Gateshead (who is now a Rosh Kollel in Israel) that every book you read, contains part of the soul of the author. If you read the book of a tzadik, you are not only receiving the information he wrote. The soul of the tzadik also has a hashpa (a spiritual influence) on you.

Conversely, when you read the news from CNN or some novel, you should know that you are not just reading innocent information. You are putting your mind into the mind of the author, absorbing the spiritual energy and the drives and mentality of this person and you will tend to become like him (or her). Watch out! They didn't tell you that in the fine print!

The same is with the holy Torah. When a person learns, his soul is absorbing the spiritual energy of the Almighty himself! (Although in this case, the Almighty provided two conditions in order for the Torah to transmit the spiritual light (see Derech Hashem Vol.4:Ch.2). The first is proper Yira (reverence) and tikun hamaase at all times - striving to fulfill what you are learning. Without that, learning Torah is like reading a science book.)

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says a person can learn the laws of an ox that gores a cow, and it will help him in controlling his mouth from saying lashon hara (slander). Why? The light in the Torah, elevates his soul and gives him the spiritual strength needed to fight off the evil inclination to slander.

Think before you look as it says by Avraham in the Akeida - "And Avraham lifted his eyes". Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm zt''l says that from here, we learn that even lifting your eyes should be a calculated and weighed decision. Watch your eyes. Be careful what you read and what you look at. Try to attach yourself to a righteous person and you will become like him. Look at the picture below and in the eyes of the holy Tzadik - Rav Kook zt''l and you will taste greatness.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The 13th Gate



Reb Chaim Vital says in the name of the Arizal that there are twelve gates in the Heavens corresponding to the twelve tribes and each tribe has a designated entrance for their prayers. Each gate and their approach are different from the others.

Each of the tribes had their own specific Nusach Hatefillah [specific prayers]. The Holy Arizal established a Nusach that corresponds to all twelve of the tribes. The "Nusach Arizal" are the prayers for those who do not know their tribe.

The Chasam Sofer writes this concept in the name of the Maggid of Mezritz. He explains that in fact, there are thirteen gates in Heaven for our tefillos to pass through. Each gate is for one of the tribes and everyone’s tefillah can pass through the thirteenth gate.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Four Messiahs and World Peace


Rabbi Glazerson has a Torah Code finding based on yesterday's Rabbi Kessin shiur about the four Messiahs.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Four Messiahs at the End of Time



Rabbi Kessin's latest shiur: Trump and North Korea, Obama [!] and more
Absolutely fascinating, Rabbi Kessin explains it all.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

How Can Faith be Reconciled with Rationalism?

Artist Unknown


by the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn ztz'l

We normally suppose that faith belongs to the realm of transcendence, to the realm of the super-rational. This is analogous to the semi-prophetic state described by the Talmud, “though they did not see, their transcendent soul saw.” [Megillah, 3a] 

Essential faith, however, does not depend on a transcendent vision beyond the self but stems from the subjective essence of the self. At the very core of your own self you are essentially bound up with G‑d, and it is this essential soul bond that is the basis of a faith that is subconsciously synonymous with your own identity. All the faculties of your soul, including your capacity for cognition and critical thought, are windows via which your essential soul makes itself manifest. Accordingly, essential faith does not intrude on your rational mind from beyond but arises from the subconscious realm within. 

Essential faith, in other words, is integral to every aspect of your soul—including the soul as it is vested within the rational mind, within the body, within the world as we inhabit it and experience it. Even the rational mind is ultimately a lens through which your essential soul-faith can be refracted and intelligently internalized.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The secrets of Kabbalah behind the month of Tamuz


A very interesting shiur about the month of Tammuz from Rabbi Alon Anava.  Tamuz is Sartan in Hebrew - ''Cancer'' in english - and I always wondered if that word had the same meaning as the disease of cancer.  [yes it does, learn why in this shiur]

Why do people write notes at the graves of tzadikim, and then tear up the notes? 

Tammuz has a great potential for problems...  Rabbi Anava explains the positive ideas behind this month's energy.


Perceiving the Error of Korach


by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

 "And [if] the earth opens its mouth and swallows them and all that is theirs, and they descend alive into the grave, you will know that these men have provoked the L-rd" [Korach 16:30]

Several commentaries address the obvious question; Why was Korach punished specifically by being swallowed in the ground?

Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz, zt"l, explains that Korach and his congregation mocked the logic of mitzvot: "Is it possible that a cloak of another [colored] material, one string of blue wool exempts it [from the obligation of techelet], and this one, which is made entirely of blue wool, should not exempt itself?"

What can this be compared to?

A truck driver who was carrying a large load of tires from place to place, entered the garage and asked to remove the tires from his truck, and he would continue traveling without them.

The owner of the garage questioned: "If I remove the tires from the truck, how will you travel?"

The driver replied:

"You fool! It is all the more so… if four wheels are enough to make a truck run, then how much more so if the entire truck is full of wheels. Why would it need an additional four wheels under it?"

Korach was a wise man. It is not possible that he intended to sound so foolish, so we need to understand what he was saying.

Korach argued against Moshe Rabbeinu: You say that Hashem wants us to be meticulous with the mitzvot to the last detail?! The end of the time to recite Kriyat Shema is a matter of fraction of minutes; the end of the time to recite the Blessing after the Meal is up to seventy-two minutes; Tefillin must be square…Why does Hashem need things to be so exact?!

Korach further argued: You claim that the thread of techelet is necessary in order to remind people of the sea, since the sea reminds people of the heavens, and the heavens of the Throne of Glory, as the Gemara explains [Menachot 43b]. If so, a tallit that is entirely techelet, how much more so it reminds a person of all this very well… In other words, Korach's main argument was that there was no need for such extreme meticulous observance of the mitzvot!

Says Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz, zt"l, in his sefer "Tiferet Yonatan": Korach and his congregation began to argue about the logic of the mitzvot, but they did not know that the mitzvot are infinitely deep, and do not lend themselves to human logic. We cannot fathom the true logic of the mitzvot, and when we explain a reason for a mitzvah, it is only in order to give us a taste of its beauty, so that it should be more pleasant for us, since it is more enjoyable to perform a mitzvah when we understand its reason. But we should not mistakenly assume that we truly understand its depth and logic, because the mitzvot are expressions of Hashem's Will and His commands, and we do not possess the ability to comprehend their logic. Hashem's depth is beyond our logic.

Since Korach and his congregation argued that the mitzvot did not have such great depth, therefore, they were punished measure for measure, by descending into the depths of the earth. There, deep in the ground, they perhaps would begin to understand that the Torah is infinitely deep…

Monday, June 11, 2018

Supervision & Interaction Between Hashem & Creation


This is part of the Derech Hashem series by Rabbi Kessin, past lectures in this series can be found at Torah Thinking



Rectifying Past Lives


What happens to people who fail to do teshuvah for past wrong-doings - is there no hope for them?

The answer brings us to the Divine gift of reincarnation.

All Kabbalistic sources are in agreement: the soul (or the portion of the soul that requires it) will be reincarnated to rectify any wrongdoings committed in its previous lifetime. To facilitate this, the reincarnated individual will be drawn to the specific areas which require rectification (tikunim).

According to the Arizal, the Talmud [Shabbat 118b] alludes to this when it tells us that Rabbi Yosef was asked about his father Rabbah: "Which mitzvah was he most careful to perform?" The questioner knew that every Jew is required to fulfill all the mitzvot to the best of his ability. Clearly, however, he was asking a deeper question: if a person is inordinately connected to a particular mitzvah, it indicates that his entire mission in being born was to rectify that mitzvah. According to this, the questioner was asking which particular mitzvah had Rabbah's soul been lacking in his previous incarnation.

The Arizal writes that the same applies to every single individual. The main characteristics of one's spiritual weaknesses are the specific areas one must rectify [see Sha'ar HaGilgulim 16]

Everyone has difficulties in their character traits which G-d gave them to work on in this life. If they were given a problem, it is their task to find out how to use it in a way that serves G-d, rather than going against His directives.

The very thing which a person will have the most trouble doing, is perhaps the one thing they need to rectify in this life.

from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
adapted by Chaim Kramer

[Igros Kodesh of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol 5, letter 1257]

You tell me you are giving the proper amount of tzedaka. However your shalom bayis (peace in the home) situation needs great improvement.

The fact that you are having great difficulties in this area is a sign that this mitzvah has not been completed in your previous life. The holy Arizal teaches us that most souls living in a body have been here before. The reason they come back again is to fulfil those mitzvos that they did not do properly the first time around.

Those mitzvos that they did complete in their previous lifetime do not require any more refinement, and therefore their observance is easy.

However, those mitzvos that one did not complete in his previous lifetime are the ones most difficult to do. The yetzer hara targets these non-completed mitzvos as the ones to oppose most.

The fact that the issue of shalom bayis is so difficult for you proves that it is a mitzvah which needs fulfilment. In your past lifetime you did not refine this mitzvah. Now is your opportunity.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Three Levels of Tzadikim


In every generation there exists 36 tzadikim nistarim [hidden righteous men] - sometimes known as "the Lamed Vav-niks" - [Lamed Vav is Hebrew for 36], whose existence sustain the world.

When one of them dies, G-d finds another replacement.

A tzadik nistar is a hidden tzadik, whose righteousness remains unknown to his community. In every generation there are 36 tzadikim nistarim in addition to 36 revealed tzadikim. [see Leviatan and Behemot]. Together they combine to form the 72 "bridges" [corresponding to the 72 Names of G-d] described in the Zohar as linking together the concealed and revealed worlds. It requires tremendous self sacrifice for a tzadik nistar to reveal himself to the world. This was first accomplished in full by the Ba'al Shem Tov.

A tzadik is someone who has succeeded in fully overcoming the evil inclination of his animal soul [and has converted its potential into good] and who dedicates himself to spiritually elevating his people.

There are in general three levels of the tzadik:

1. A "complete tzadik" [tzadik gamur] who not only vanquishes in full his innate evil inclination, but even transforms it into good [for which reason he is referred to as tzadik v'tov lo," a tzadik who possesses only good].

2. An "incomplete tzadik" [tzadik she'eino gamur] who has not yet completed the task of vanquishing his evil inclination, though he has mineralized it in essence [for which reason he is called a tzadik v'ra lo," a tzadik who [still] possesses [a bit of] evil].

3. A "relative tzadik" [tzadik b'shem hamushal, or tzadik b'din] whose merits exceed his liabilities [see Tanya, chapt. 1].