Friday, August 17, 2018

The Signs Hashem is Sending Us


This show was recorded a few days ago: Tamar Yonah speaks to Rabbi Eliyahu Kin


''Wake up, look around, we are in an auspicious time.

Lunar events, earthquakes, the world on the verge of a possible WWIII…

what does it all mean, and what are we supposed to do about it?


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Opening The Gates

''Karma'' is the word given to the Hebrew term ''midda kneged midda'' - measure for measure


Judges and police officers you shall appoint in all your cities..... [Shoftim 16:18]


This verse can be understood in the light of the teaching found in the Talmud in Berachos [61b] that "Tzaddikim are judged by their yetzer tov [good inclination] and the wicked are judged by the yetzer hara [evil inclination]. The average person is judged by both."

The righteous have an admonisher inside them who reproves and reprimands them even about the good deeds that they perform. He points out the defects and shortcomings of their actions, how they are lacking and how they should have been performed for the Almighty Creator. In this way they are "judged by their yetzer tov".

The wicked are just the opposite. Not only do all their actions appear good in their eyes, but their evil inclination shows them that even the evil deeds they do are good. Thus, the wicked are judged by the yetzer hara.

But the average person is judged by both, and as the Tanna taught, "we are average people" - that a person should always consider himself a beinoni, average, as someone who walks on both paths. On the one hand, he should constantly rebuke himself, debating his own actions; he should consider himself to be falling short of properly serving Hashem and fulfilling his obligations. When doing mitzvos, he should understand well that he has not acted properly with true clarity and purity as befitting the service of the Almighty; he should be humble and lowly in his own eyes.

Even so, one should not consider himself wicked, Heaven forbid, as our Sages taught: "Do not be wicked in your own eyes" [Avos 2:18] Otherwise if one does consider himself wicked, he will have no motivation to perform the mitzvos, not to learn Torah or pray or perform any good deed. He will give up hope, resigned that he is not worthy enough to do these things. Therefore, one must hold on to both paths at the same time in order to be complete. Then he will fulfill the teaching of our Sages "With all your heart" [Devarim 6:5] - with both inclinations. This is the meaning of "we are average people" and the "average person is judged by both".

Thus it says "Appoint for yourself judges and police officers". This refers to the two judges we spoke about, the good and evil inclinations. The good inclination is an "officer" since it polices the nation, preventing them from committing any offence, and so the good inclination admonishes and rebukes man for his misdeeds and shortcomings in serving G-d.

"In all your cities" [literally "gates"] - every mitzvah and holy act has its own gate. When a person learns, prays, or does any other act of holiness in this world, he opens the gates to that specific mitzvah above.

Source: Mipeninei Noam Elimelech
Translated by Tal Moshe Zwecker

Monday, August 13, 2018

Teshuva: The True Meaning of Repentance


Rabbi Mendel Kessin, latest shiur


3 Elul: Yahrzeit Rav Kook


It was the first of Elul, 5695 [1935], when Rabbi David Cohen [known as ‘the Rav HaNazir’] arrived at the guest house where Rav Kook was staying in Kiryat Moshe.

Exactly twenty years had passed since their first transformative encounter in Switzerland. This time he held in his hands a special document to show his dying master.

For twelve years, the Rav HaNazir had labored to organize Rav Kook’s writings into a systematic, comprehensive work. As his revered master lay on his death bed, he showed him the beginning fruits of his labor - the title page of the first volume of Orot HaKodesh. Rav Kook rejoiced; and he shed tears.

On the day of his death, Rav Kook motioned to his son, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, to come close. “Please pay off any outstanding debts. I do not want to owe anyone, not even the smallest amount.” He then made a second request: “Please prepare my writings for publication. But take care that the only title given to me is ‘rabbi.'”

With great effort, Rav Kook turned his face towards the scholars in the room. When it became clear that his soul would soon depart, the people cried out, “Shema Yisrael!” Rav Kook whispered after them, “Shema Yisrael,” breathing his final breath with the word echad - one. “The Eternal is one.”

The Rav HaNazir wrote:
“When the Rav passed away, We heard a heavenly voice. The voice called out, “Haim, ad olam!” ‘Life, forever!’ Even after completing life in this world, the soul continues, and it grows even stronger, with blessing, in eternal life.”

[Stories from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Malachim Kivnei Adam, p. 420; preface to Orot HaKodesh, pp. 24, 30.]


Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook was born on the 16th Elul 5625 (September 1864). On the day of his bris, he received a kippah as a gift. From that day on, his parents always kept a kippah on his head. Even while he was sleeping, Avraham Yitzchak's parents did not take the kippah off his head so that he should not be bareheaded - not even for a minute. The little boy would not fall asleep without his kippah. When he turned over and it fell off, he immediately woke up.

Avraham Yitzchak was four years old when he was brought to the cheder (school) in his home town of Geriva, to learn to read. The teacher offered him a siddur and turned to the page with the alef-bet. The child stubbornly refused to learn.

"Why won't you study?" asked the teacher.

"I want to learn from the big books" replied Avraham Yitzchak shyly.

"Which big books?" asked the teacher.

Avraham Yitzchak did not know how to answer. Instead he ran home and brought back a Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, and another large heavy book. The teacher smiled and said to the child: "If you want to be able to learn from the big books, you must first study from the small books." Avraham Yitzchak understood and began to read the alef-bet from the siddur.

In the same cheder, there was a class of older children who were studying Torah. Every Friday, these children were tested on the material they learned all week. One Friday, an interesting thing happened. One of the older children did not know the answer. There was silence. Sudddenly, the voice of a small boy from the youngest reading table was heard. It was the answer, spoken clearly and correctly. Avraham Yitzchak had been listening to the lessons of the older children and had understood them.

Little Avraham Yitzchak invented an unusual game to play with his friends in cheder. He arranged the children in rows. Each child had a knapsack on his back, as if they were getting ready for a long journey. Avraham Yitzchak was their guide. The small soldiers asked: "Where are we going?"

"To Israel, to Eretz Yisrael..."

*************************************

After many years of diligent study, Rav Kook was appointed as the rabbi of Zoimel, one of the small villages in Lithuania. After serving as rabbi of the town of Zoimel, Rav Kook was appointed the rabbi of a large city, Boisk. In Boisk, the Rav could sit and learn Torah for many hours each day. There was a time when he would learn 50 or 60 pages of Talmud in one day.

Many years passed before the Rav went to live in Eretz Yisrael. When the possibility of becoming the Rav of Jaffa arose, he refused all other appealing offers which came from European Yeshivot which asked him to be their Rosh Yeshivah or from great cities abroad, whose congregants wanted him to be their rabbi.

In addition, the congregation of Boisk refused to allow their rabbi to leave, until the Jews of Jaffa wrote to them explaining that the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, settling the land of Israel, takes precedence over everything else.

On Friday 28th Iyar 5664 (10 May 1904) Rav Kook went to live in Eretz Yisrael. He was received at the port of Jaffa with great honours and began his term as Rabbi of Jaffa. At that time, Israel was under Turkish rule and Jewish settlements were first being established. Jaffa was one of the main centers of Jewish settlement.

Hundreds of people from Jerusalem, Rishon LeZion, Rehovot and Petach Tikvah came to welcome the Rav and to form their own impressions of this unique figure, and his wife the Rabbanit Raiza Rivka.

The first World War broke out. The Rav had gone to Europe on shlichut, as an emissary for Eretz Yisrael, and could not return to his home in Jaffa because of the war. He stayed in London and served as a rabbi of the city. But he was constantly worried about the fate of his community in Jaffa and the hardships facing Jews in Israel which was then in a state of siege and famine.

After the war ended, the Rav returned to Eretz Yisrael. The Jews of Jaffa wanted him to continue as their rabbi. At the same time, the community of Jerusalem asked him to become their rabbi. The Rav debated this dilemma for quite some time. He knew that a small part of the Jewish community of Jerusalem did not want him as Rabbi. He did not want to be the cause of fights and arguments in the Holy City. On the 3rd Elul 5679 (29 August 1919), the Rav came to Jerusalem and only after a while did he bend to the will of the community, and become the rabbi of Jerusalem.

Here he established the centre of the world-renowned Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, the "Centre of the Rav". Later, along with Rav Yaakov Meir Charlop, he instituted the Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Yisrael, with both rabbis acting as Chief Rabbi. All his time and effort was dedicated to the Rabbinate, the affairs of the community, and to the learning of Torah.

*******************************

The author, Tikvah Sarig, tells the following story about Rav Kook:

On the first Yom Kippur eve, after my father passed away, I was not yet five years old. Every morning since his death, my mother would wake me before dawn and wipe the sleep from my eyes with the same words: "Get up, my daughter, my neshama, my soul, to pray for the memory of your righteous father, the tzaddik".

What a tzaddik was, I did not know, but I imagined he looked like this: a kippah on his head, his beard long, his eyes warm and good, the palms of his hands soft, and his voice, melodic. Just like my father who was taken from me.

It was erev Yom Kippur. After the pre-fast meal, my mother took me to the house of Rav Kook. The sun was about to set. We marched quickly to the Rav's house. The streets were filled with worshippers, clad in white, hurrying to the synagogue to hear Kol Nidre, the opening Yom Kippur prayer.

Opening the door, we were welcomed by the fragrance and warmth of burning candles. Rebbetzin Kook and her daughter opened their arms to us and began to cry. My mother patted my head.

"Soon you will go into the Rav's study to receive his blessing" said the Rebbetzin.

With her words, my fear grew. I sighed loudly. Just then, the great door opened and from within, a righteous man, a tzaddik, came out. He was all dressed in white, his gartel was embroidered with gold. On his head he wore a white kippah; his beard was long. His eyes, warm and good, were looking at me with pity and kindness.

"Aba! Daddy!" I cried and clung closely to my mother, hiding my face in her dress, my limbs trembling. I heard my mother's voice through my tears: "Go my child. Receive a blessing from the honoured Rav!"

She led me a few steps towards him. The Rav took my small hands into his warm, soft ones.

"Do not cry, my child" he said, placing his hands on my head. "Do not be afraid of me. I was a friend of your father. Come here and I will bless you on this holy day."

The Rav's hands were soft and warm - just like my father's. His voice was melodic - just like my father's. I felt as if a river of kindness and warmth washed all over me - from my head to my toes - just like when I used to sit on my father's lap.

*********************************

Rav Kook was so righteous that he always forgave his enemies and even loved and blessed them.

*********************************

In his last days, the Rav became very sick. He suffered in terrible pain. It was difficult for him to learn, and it was difficult for him to hide his anguish from his students and relatives.

On the morning of the 3rd Elul, his condition became worse. Even though speaking was very hard for him, he strained himself and demanded of his family and students not to add any titles to his name on the cover pages of his books, not to eulogize him, telling them (do not call me) "Rabbeinu, our Rabbi, and not the "Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael" - "Simply HaRav - the Rav".

A large crowd stood outside the house, where the Rav lay on his deathbed. He raised his eyes to the window in his room. Everyone in Eretz Yisrael knew that a great leader, a teacher, a man of wisdom, was about to leave the land he loved so much.

The Rav grew weaker by the hour. His family, relatives, and a number of his students gathered around his bedside. In his last hours, the Rav's face was turned towards the wall. His students knew that it was written in the Talmud: "If a man passes away with his face towards the wall - it is a bad sign, and if his face is turned toward the people, it is a good sign". With his remaining strength, the Rav struggled and turned himself to face the people. At the last moment, all those who were standing around the Rav broke out saying "Shema Yisrael".

At sunset, on the third day of Elul 5695 (Sept 1st, 1935) the Rav passed away. The news flashed through the Jewish nation with the speed of lightning. The backbone of the Jewish nation was broken. The Rav of the generation was gone, the Rav of the era, the Rav of Eretz Yisrael at the time of her rebirth.

Exactly 16 years (3rd Elul) after Rav Kook ascended to Jerusalem, he ascended to Heaven.

Source: Reprinted from "Stories from the Life of Rav Kook" edited and translated by Masha Fridman

More on Rav Kook at Rav Kook Torah

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Open Your Hand Generously

 
Rav Kook [at left]
by Chanan Morrison
 
“When... any of your brothers is poor, do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother. Open your hand generously, and extend to him any credit he needs to take care of his wants.” [Re'eh 15:7-8]

Rav Kook taught that the true goal of tzedakah is not to assist the poor, but rather to refine the character traits of the person giving. After all, if the purpose was to help the poor, God could have provided other means for their support without having to rely on the generosity of society.

“The clearest proof that poverty exists in order to perfect society is the fact that it is a constant and common phenomenon... Thus it must have a clear purpose and design by Divine Providence.”

“Without a doubt, [assisting] the needy promotes a number of virtues. It develops our traits of humanity, softens the heart’s callousness, fosters our sense of generosity and empathy for others, and enables us to actualize our innate love for goodness and kindness - precious qualities that crown the human soul.”

Below are two stories which illustrate Rav Kook’s remarkable generosity. Both incidents occurred during the years that he served as chief rabbi of Jaffa, from 1904 to 1914. These incidents were not meant to serve as an example for others, but were simply natural expressions of the rabbi’s profound caring and compassion for those who needed help.

The Rabbi’s Salary

Rav Kook’s wife once appeared before the community directorate of Jaffa, headed by Mr. Meir Dizengoff, with a serious complaint. She had not seen her husband’s salary for months and had no means of support. The leaders of the community were shocked. After investigating the matter, however, they discovered that the rabbi himself was distributing his income to the needy.

The leaders asked Rav Kook how he could act in such a manner, caring more for strangers than his own household.

Rav Kook responded simply, “My family can buy food at the local grocery on credit. Others, however, cannot do so. Who would agree to give them what they need on credit?”

From that day on, the treasurer of the community was given strict orders to give the rabbi’s salary only to his wife.

The Disqualified Guarantor

In 1907, the Jaffa correspondent for the Chavatzelet newspaper published an article criticizing the Anglo-Palestine Bank (now known as Bank Leumi). Apparently, a man applied for a loan in the bank and was asked to provide eleven guarantors. The man managed to find fourteen people who were willing to sign, one of whom was Rav Kook. The bank, however, disqualified most of them - including the rabbi.

The correspondent’s conclusion was that the bank deliberately discriminated against religious Jews.

A few weeks later, a rejoinder appeared in the paper. The author, almost certainly associated with the bank, argued that the bank was justified in its rejection of Rav Kook’s guarantees. He wrote:

“The rabbi is extremely good-hearted and gentle by nature. The poor cling to him. The only reason there are some beggars who do not knock on his door is because they know he has no money. If they only knew that they could get money in exchange for a small piece of paper, which he can always grant them, they would give him no peace.”

“Besides which, [if the rabbi would be accepted as a guarantor], he would unwittingly put himself under the burden of debts, from which he would be unable to escape. Large amounts of money would be lost, and one of the following would suffer: either the esteemed rabbi - and it would be highly unpleasant for the bank to extract money from him - or the bank itself. Therefore, the bank decided unanimously not to honor the rabbi’s guarantees.”

[Adapted from Ein Eyah on Pe'ah, pp. 308-310. Stories from An Angel Among Men by Simcha Raz, translated by R. Moshe Lichtman, pp. 344-346]

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Chessed Shel Emmet



Text by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto 

The month of Elul is at our doorstep, these are days of mercy and supplication as we prepare for the approaching Day of Judgment, the day we will cry out and beg our Creator: ‘Inscribe us for a good life, all the sons of your covenant!’

Rav Eizik Sher Zatzal explained that in order to merit ‘a good life’ in this world we have to keep those Mitzvot in which we specifically eat of it's fruit in this world – such as Chessed, kindness. Of particular power is Chessed Shel Emmet, true kindness, which is the type of kindness where the giver doesn’t expect anything in return. A kindness where the recipient doesn’t know that any kindness was done to him. Such Chessed is termed ‘Chessed for the sake of Chessed’, and it is through this that a person can earn himself a ‘good life’.

During the month of Elul there was a notice hung up on the front door of the Talmud Torah, which read as follows: “A king’s rulership is established only when his servants are united in serving Him, so the way to achieve ‘shetamlichuni Aleichem’ (you shall crown me King over you) is to form a united front. It is incumbent upon us to accept on ourselves that the entire year we will busy ourselves with loving our fellow. And that is how we will crown Hashem king. Let none of us say this is too difficult, because when a person gets involved in various ideas [of chessed] it will slowly become easier, and especially if one follows the path [presented in the book] Tomer Devorah."

Rav Simchah Zissel of Kelm told his students during the final semester of the Talmud Torah in Grubin, that the main Avoda of the approaching month of Elul is to make efforts to tolerate even those with outlooks and opinions differing greatly from our own. “This is our prime obligation this Elul” he instructed.

In a discourse presented by Maran Rosh HaYeshiva HaRav Ahron Leib Steinman, zatzal, during the days of Selichot, he mentioned that it is Hashem’s desire that each individual arrives at Rosh Hashana with the recognition that Hashem is king and that he wants to serve Him. The words ‘vetamlichuni aleichem’ (crown me king over you) means we must resolve to think our every thought through the prism of the Torah, whether in matters between us and our fellow man or between us and Hashem.

If we would stand back and observe the quarrels and fights going on around us, what are they fighting about? Why is it worth their while, what do they gain from it? Don’t they realize that for every ‘Vitur’ (concession to the other) they would reap enormous gains, as Chazal tell us ‘One who goes against his natural tendencies of character Hashem will remove all his sins’. And who amongst us would say we don’t need atonement… for there is no such thing in this world as a perfect Tzadik who has never sinned…

Those who stubbornly stand firm and insist on their rights, not giving in an inch, what do they gain? One must constantly ‘weigh the loss of a Mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of a sin against it’s losses’. When we think along those lines we will see right away when the calculation is not quite right. One must accept the yoke of Heaven in all matters – and when a person makes the correct cheshbonot he will only stand to gain, and perhaps even be saved from dispute, slander or gossip and other types of sins.. it is an unlimited gain. That is how a person should crown Hashem king over himself, and he will merit a good year.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Individual Tests



''...for the Lord, your God, is testing you...'' [Re'eh 13:4]

One of the basic teachings of the Torah is that God does not expect of a human being anything which is beyond the human capacity to carry out.  This is quite understandable, for even a human being, who is very far from absolute perfection, would not expect of a tool that he has fashioned any more than he has put into it.

Certainly God, the Creator of man, knows man's capacities.  From this, it immediately follows that when a person faces any kind of a test of faith, it is certain that he has been given the capacity to overcome it.  And the more difficult the test, the greater are the individual's capacities.

The reason that an individual is tested is not because God wants to know how he will acquit himself, but in order that this person be afforded the opportunity to realize his potential, even that which is unknown to him.

And when one's potential capacities are released and activated, they become part and parcel of his or her arsenal, to be used for personal as well as communal benefit.

Source: Excerpt from a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Friday, August 3, 2018

Where is Moshiach?


Rabbi Anava asks: what are we doing wrong that Moshiach is still not here? We are already past the due date, what's going on? [includes current events, Gog u Magog, the state of the world and the fact that so many people are alone now]


Sunday, July 29, 2018

BD"E


I sat on a roof and watched the moon eclipse over Sydney Harbour early Shabbat morning. It was the most amazing sight, and I watched it for over an hour.

It seemed fitting that the moon would eclipse as my father Mordechai ben Menachem ob''m had passed away only hours earlier.

I will be sitting Shiva this week.