Sunday, October 31, 2010

Torah Codes: 5771: Atomic Threat, Bin Laden, Yemen and Geula

Yesterday a plane carrying an explosive device from Yemen, headed for the United States, was intercepted in Britain. [Full story here]

Interestingly, Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson uploaded some new videos just 4 days prior to this: some new Torah Code discoveries which show that the words Yemen, Bin Laden, and atomic are encoded together.  In Video #4 of this series, Rabbi Glazerson shows that this year, 5771, is potentially the year of Geula (Redemption).

The four videos appear below:







A longer video on this subject by Rabbi Glazerson can be seen at Torah Anytime

On Ahavas Yisrael



Art: Lisa Viger

from the writings of Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn of Lubavitch [the Rebbe Rashab]


On account of our many transgressions, the sin of baseless hatred is found especially among pious people. Each builds himself a pedestal based on his own exclusive conception of Torah scholarship and avodah. There is neither bond nor unity between them. In truth, it is of fundamental importance for those who are occupied in Torah and in the service of G-d to join together and communicate with each other; for regarding the study of Torah our Sages applied the verse "Just as iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another." Just as one iron sharpens the other, two sages sharpen each other in Halachah.

No person can assume (on his own) that his own perspective is valid. Only when one hears a colleague's opinion and each dialectically debates with another seriously, is it possible to arrive at a true view of the matter at hand.

Similarly in avodah (the service of worship and personal development), when people reveal and speak about their inner faults to each other, a number of benefits can be attained. For one thing, each person has certain faults of which he is not aware, for his own self-love [as the verse declares [Mishlei 10:12] "Love covers all faults"]. This surely applies to one's shortcomings with regard to various character traits. One's innate self-love masks them, and another person will help him by bringing them to his attention.

Furthermore, when a person reveals his inner faults he feels greater remorse than he felt before speaking. This stronger sense of regret over all past faults (leads him to totally) uproot his desire for them, thereby correcting his soul considerably. The confession of sins must be verbal. This corrects the soul of the sinner to a great degree, for the verbalization of one's sin strikes the innermost chords of his soul, causing him to feel great pain and regret.

Our Sages explained [Yoma 75a] a similar concept in their commentary on the verse [Mishlei 12:25] "Worry in the heart bows it down". The Hebrew verb ישׁחנה suggests a similar verb ישׁיחנה , meaning "speak of it". Thus the verse can be interpreted to mean "If there is worry in the heart of man, let him tell others (about it)". At the time one talks about his troubles, his pain becomes greater, but afterwards he feels better. Similarly in avodah, when one talks about one's inner faults, he feels greater pain at the time, but afterwards he feels better, for many flaws and sins have thereby been removed.

Furthermore, when people discuss spiritual improvement, each one proposes means of correcting flaws, and they can jointly resolve to correct certain aspects of their behaviour. A resolution reached by two or more people is more lasting than a resolution made by one person alone. Thus, it is obvious that many benefits result when those who serve G-d combine their efforts.

Now, this is only possible if one possesses the quality of bittul (selflessness) and is capable of coming close and becoming one with another person. But if one is dominated by yeshus (self-concern), it is impossible for him to reveal his inner faults to someone else. If he has a low opinion of others, how can he reveal his affairs to him, and what purpose will it serve? How could another person benefit him?

The fundamental reason however, for this attitude, is that he cannot become one with someone else, for in Torah study he stubbornly defends his opinion and thinks that his wisdom and knowledge is truth. He refuses to accept another opinion, or even consider it impartially without prejudice. When people discuss an idea in this manner, they draw further apart and become opponents. This disagreement in turn becomes a reason for preventing future co-operation and joining together, (for "he said such-and-such", and so on.)

Similarly, in avodah, such an attitude prevents cooperation and unity. One will not value the Divine service of another person or consider him to be an oved (one who devotes himself earnestly to Divine service through worship and self-refinement). He will minimize the worth of the other person's service and scorn and negate his positive qualities.

When he sees that another person possesses a fault - albeit a superficial one which does not at all affect the main body of his service - he will magnify it, speaking about it often, and humiliating him. Should he discover a character flaw in his fellow, (which is inevitable) for "who is so righteous as to have no flaws?" - he will say that this flaw proves that any good his fellow possesses is really of no consequence. He will exaggerate the evil to the point where any good the person possesses will be unnoticeable.

This is simply not true, for that individual's Divine service in prayer, Torah study and the fulfillment of mitzvot is in itself good, and constitutes his primary labour throughout the day. The negative character trait he possesses is merely one not yet corrected. "Man is born like a wild young donkey." [Iyov 11:12] He is born in an unrefined state and he must strive to correct his character traits throughout his entire life.

This service is alluded to in the verse "The days of our years - there are seventy years in them". The Hebrew word for "in them" בהם is spelled almost the same as the word for "animal" בהמה. A person is given seventy years in which to refine the seven evil character traits of his animal soul. This process of self-correction cannot be completed at once, rather [Shmos 23:30] "little by little will I drive (the heathern Canaanites) out from before you", i.e. considerable effort is called for. Only after extensive endeavours in prayer, meditation on G-dliness, and strengthening of the attributes of one's G-dly soul, is it possible to weaken, refine and purify, the natural emotions of the animal soul. And since the abovementioned individual serves G-d, he will surely refine and correct his character traits.

At times one needs help from others in order to achieve this goal, for one's own self-love will sometimes blind him from recognizing a negative character trait. A friend can make him aware of this fault and advise him on how to correct it. If one really loves another person, he will do so privately. If instead he dismisses him, scorns him, and humiliates him - particularly if he does so in public - this is a clear sign that he hates him and does not seek his good. (Nor does he genuinely want what every individual should desire - the service of G-d within the world, for this is G-d's will and desire).

The reason for this behaviour is his own lack of service; his own service is not sincere. Although he serves G-d in prayer and in study, he is not sincere, since he lacks bittul and selflessness, possessed as he is by yeshus and self-concern.


Source: "On Ahavas Yisrael - Heichaltzu" - A Chassidic Discourse by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn of Lubavitch - Kehot Publications

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Keeping Good Company


[Written by Rabbi Yisroel Bronstein]

"The children struggled inside her" [Toldos 25:22]

Why is it, asked the Chasam Sofer R' Moshe Sofer, that when Rivkah passed the beis midrash, Yaakov attempted to escape from her womb? After all, Chazal teach us that during the time a child is in its mother's womb, an angel comes and teaches it the entire Torah. Did Yaakov think that he would actually be able to lean more in the beis midrash than he would from the angel?

The answer, said the Chasam Sofer, is that though Yaakov was learning the entire Torah from the mouth of an angel, he was forced to do so in the presence of Esav. Yaakov preferred to learn Torah in a beis midrash, free from the company of his wicked brother, than to be taught the entire Torah directly from the mouth of a holy angel !

From the words of the Chasam Sofer we are able to learn, remarked the Chofetz Chaim, just how important it is to stay far away from people who may have a negative influence on us.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Spiritual Healing

Dr. Arnie Gotfryd interviews kabbalist/healer Rabbi Ofer Elfassy :

AG: I know about physical energies - heat, light, chemical, electric, kinetic, atomic - but you work with spiritual energy. What is that exactly?


OE: To understand spiritual energy, we should first understand the concept of give and take. There are those that are givers and others that are takers. For example, someone may be wise and scholarly, even a genius in Torah, but not have the merit to give, to share. The Creator is a giver, His kindness and care are infinite.

My definition of spirituality is giving. If we are to access true spirituality, we must becoming giving people ourselves. Once we tap into G-d's grace, we can then access His healing energy and transfer it to others. That's how I work with spiritual energy.

AG: What does it take to access this energy?

OE: The most important thing is bitul. One must put aside the ego entirely. A selfish person can never be a spiritual healer. The extent to which one negates his sense of self is the extent to which s/he can be successful in this mode of healing. The person with the greatest bitul is the greatest healer.

Read complete article at: Chabad World

Hat Tip: Dovid Chaim




Patience



You write that you suffer from talking before thinking, which means you are not being thoughtful.

The teaching of the Alter Rebbe is well-known regarding the verse "you shall quickly eradicate the unwanted elements from the good land of Israel which G-d gives you". The Alter Rebbe explained the verse in another way: One is to abolish "mehera" - hastiness and impatience - the opposite of thoughtfulness. When this is accomplished, the "good land", spiritually speaking, is revealed.

Practically, this means you are to study calmly and patiently, enjoying the essence within your studies. You need to eliminate impatience from your approach to learning and life. When you dwell on the Alter Rebbe's words, it will correct your problem, enabling you to learn with thoughtfulness.

The Rebbe then referred to a talk from his father-in-law [Sefer HaSichos 1940 p.59] which documents the original story with the Alter Rebbe. The Previous Rebbe recounted the story as follows:

Rabbi Yosef Binyomin relates how his grandfather, Reb Elye Reuven, once sat and studied in the beis medrash of Reb Moshe. He learned with extraordinary diligence, out loud and very quickly.

"I understood well what I learned, but learned very fast. The Alter Rebbe was sitting in the library of the study hall. As he passed by, he told me I was learning with much passion, but too quickly. I told the Alter Rebbe I was by nature an impatient person. The Alter Rebbe replied "One needs to change one's character".

I retorted "I cannot change my nature".

The Alter Rebbe responded "A Jew has soul powers and can change his nature by accepting the yoke of G-d. If one practices making the change, ultimately it becomes second nature, and the newly acquired nature transforms the original nature. Kabbalas ol (accepting the yoke of G-d) is a fundamental teaching in Torah and serving G-d."

Reb Elye Reuven said "The Alter Rebbe told me that the passion with which I learned was a gift from G-d. The Torah says "v'avadetem mehera meial haoretz hatova asher Hashem nosen lachem". The word "haoretz" also means "willpower", derived from the root word "ratzon" and this means that that willpower to learn Torah with passion comes from G-d. However, the Torah cautions one to use that passion for learning Torah by enjoying the spiritual delight of Torah. This can only be felt if one eradicates the hastiness from his learning. This is the meaning of the words "v'avadetem mehera": Get rid of "mehera" (hastiness and impatience)".

"The Alter Rebbe, with his few words, eliminated my impatience and changed my nature. My hastiness was removed and substituted with patience, which made me fortunate for the rest of my life."

Source: Igros Kodesh of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol. 9, letter 2923
"The Rebbe's Advice" adapted by Rabbi Chaim Dalfin

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Past Life Sins

QUESTION: I don't feel responsible for whatever wrong I might have done in a previous life. I am not exactly the person I was in a previous life. How can I be responsible for that other person's deeds? I also say that my free will is reduced by the fact that there is a history that I am not aware of that weighs on my soul and that also is contrary to Torah.
ANSWER: You make a good point about not being responsible for whatever wrong may have been done in a previous life. You are not. Similarly, if, for example, you were a woman in a previous life and now you’re a man, you cannot say, “Well, I refuse to do mitzvot that only a man does.” What you were in the past is irrelevant now. We can only go by what we are now, even if we actually know for a fact some circumstance of a previous life (and certainly if we only surmise it). In that regard, what you do or who you were in a previous life is inconsequential.

Nevertheless, the Vilna Gaon writes [Commentary on Jonah]:

“The main thing [to keep in mind is that the purpose of reincarnation] is to effect the repair of a [negative] influence originating in a previous lifetime... [One way] to discern exactly what that negative influence is is to reflect upon the type of wrong your soul yearns after the most in this lifetime. That which you yearn after most is likely something you became habituated to in a previous life. And therefore pay attention to your vices. [They tell you exactly what you have to work on in this lifetime.] ...The main thing is to repair that which one stumbled in in a previous [life] ... How can one know what one stumbled in during a previous life? ... [Pay attention] to that particular sin one’s soul longs for greatly (for it was emblazened into the soul as a habit in the previous life). That’s why some people are drawn after one type of sin more than another. And that’s also why our Sages say that one must continually judge himself and weigh his actions..."

Note the subtle difference here between culpability and character improvement (tikkun). Consider yourself not responsible for any sins you may or may not have done in a previous life, if you even had one (and/or know about it). Nevertheless, since in principle, at least, a previous life may be impacting on your present life circumstance pay attention to your vices. Rather than limiting your free will, this information can, in theory, help it. For instance, you may feel you have no chance to overcome your lust for cheeseburgers. You may tell yourself you were born with this lust. It’s genetic. You feel you have no free will to oppose it. Every time you pass a McDonald’s you have to go in there and order a Big Mac.

However, if you take the Vilna Gaon’s teaching to heart, you may then come to realize that, although you are not now responsible for the sin of eating cheeseburgers in a previous life, you have this great lust as an opportunity for tikkun. Had it been just a regular lust for cheeseburgers your overcoming it may not be metaken (fix) the original weakness emblazoned into your soul. You don’t want this weakness when you are given your place in Eternity. So you were sent back here for the opportunity of eliminating the weakness; indeed, turning it into a strength. Overcoming this extra-powerful lust in this world turns your soul into a “body-builder’s” soul; perhaps even a “Mr. Universe” soul. It’s now stronger than it ever was. In any event, the point is that knowledge or even intuition about a past life can be a powerful aid to free will in this life.

Granted, it can theoretically create the opposite effect. A person may think, for example: What the heck; I’ll get it right in the next life. Or: If I didn’t get it right in the past what’s the point in trying in this life etc. The latter fear is the reason I believe the doctrine was restricted to Kabbalah, which ideally is reserved for select individuals of a higher spiritual standing to begin with.

Emunah

from the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

Faith is a very strong thing, and it can greatly fortify your life.

If you have faith, then you have a source of comfort and inspiration even when troubles strike. You realize that all troubles are ultimately for your good and are an atonement for your sins. You know that G-d will be good to you in the end, both in this world and the next.

The faithless skeptic, on the other hand, has nowhere to turn when troubles strike. He is utterly alone, without comfort or inspiration.

It is impossible to put everything into writing, but an intelligent man should be able to build upon this himself.

The main thing is innocent faith. With it, one can have a portion both in this world and the next. Happy is he who has such faith, for he shall never be moved.

There are souls conceived in absolute holiness. When such a holy soul comes down to this world and is not tainted with sin, it results in a person with perfect faith. Such a person never has any doubts.

Others can express their skepticism in such a man's presence, but his faith is no way disturbed. He is totally oblivious to all doubts. His ears are deaf to all their speculation and confusion.

Even one who is not endowed with such an extraordinary soul can realize that the average person's questions are mere foolishness. Upon close examination, their questions turn out not to be questions at all.

Many people are disturbed by questions for years, not realizing that their questions are actually answers. It is only their lack of intelligence that makes them seem like questions in the first place.

They have questions like those one might ask a child: "If we have a broken window, why replace it with a pane from the next window if a bird can then fly through the remaining empty frame?"

Such a question actually includes its own answer. But a child does not realize this and considers it a very difficult question. He will ponder it and not know what to reply.

But the question itself is really very foolish. The question about the bird is really the answer to the first foolish question. The reason why we do not use the adjacent pane is precisely because it leaves a space through which a bird can fly.

A young chld does not have enough intelligence to realize that the answer is included in such a question. For this very reason, the question seems very difficult to him.

The same is true of many people. A foolish question enters their mind, and they have no idea that this question actually includes its own answer. It seems like a difficult question, but only because of their lack of intelligence. Understand this well.

Consider all this and be strong in faith. Flee from this foolishness and confusion, and cast all questions and doubts from your mind.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Hidden Blessings

Source: Adapted from a Sicha of  the Lubavitcher Rebbe: 
"From The Rebbe's Treasure" - Students of Seminary Bais Menachem, Montreal Canada


The Talmud in Moed Kotton discusses the true meaning of blessings. The following story is told:

Rabbi Yonasson ben Asmai and Rabbi Yehuda ben Gerim had been studying the chapter concerning vows in the presence of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai. In the evening they took leave of him.... He then said to his son: "These are worthy men. Go and let them bestow a blessing upon you."

His son went... Then they turned to him (the son) and said "Why did you come to us?"

"Father sent me here to receive your blessing" was his answer.

Whereupon they said to him: "May it be His will that thou sowest and never reapest; thou shalt bring in but never carry out [Rashi explains that the son understood this as "You should bring in merchandise and never sell it"]; thou shalt give forth but not bring in [the son understood this as "You should sell but not receive payment - Rashi]; thy permanent house shall be waste and thy temporary dwelling shall be inhabited; thy table shall be confused and thou shalt not see a first year."

When he returned to his father, he said: "Not only did they not bless me, but on the contrary they caused me grief with their words!"

"What did they say to you?" asked his father. He recited the above. "All these are blessings!" exclaimed his father:

"Thou shalt sow and not reap" means (allegorically) that you shall bear children and they shall not die.

"Thou shalt bring in and not give forth" means that you will bring in your house wives for sons, and your male children shall not die, so their wives will not need to leave your house.

"Thou shalt give forth and not bring in" means that you shall have daughters and their husbands shall not die, so that they shall not be compelled to return to your house."

"Thy permanent house shall be ruined and thy temporary dwelling shall be inhabited" means that this world is only a temporary dwelling and the world to come is the real house. As it is said [Psalms 49, 12] "Their inward thought is, that their houses are to be forever". Do not read kirbom (their inward) but kivrom (their graves) - [that is, you should be revived immediately through Techias Hameissim - Rashi].

"Thy table shall be confused" - on account of many chldren.

"And thou shalt not see a first year" means that your wife shall not die, so that you shall not be compelled to marry another." [the first year refers to the first year of marriage in which the chosson is compared to a king - Rashi]

The Maharsha suggests that Rabbi Yonosson and Rabbi Yehuda spoke in a riddle in order to test Rabbi Shimon's son's wit. He also says that the son knew that the rabbis meant to bless him, but he was troubled that he could not figure out the riddle. That is why he told his father: "they caused him grief" rather than "they cursed me", for he was confident that the rabbis would only bless him.

The Rif explains the rabbis' action by suggesting that the rabbis spoke in a riddle knowing that the son would not understand, in order to get the blessing from Rabbi Shimon's mouth, who would surely interpret it as a blessing.

But the Iyun Yaakov asks, how could they have been so sure that Rabbi Shimon would be able to discover the answer to the riddle?

From the Rebbe's Commentaries

The Tzemach Tzedek comments that it makes more sense to interpret the foregoing in a simple way. He explains that because these blessings were so sublime, the rabbis had to conceal them in what appeared to be a curse.

We can understand this in the context of a premise explained in the Tanya (Ch.23): Affliction is really the goodness of the "hidden world"; that's why it manifests itself "like a shade and not as light and revealed goodness". The light is too powerful in its original form and so it must be concealed and "funneled" so that it can be received at a low level. When accepting suffering with joy, one merits that "they who love Him shall be as the sun going forth in its might", which will be in the future to come, when the present sufferings will be seen as visible and manifest goodness just like the uncovered light of the sun.

If, however, these blessings were so high that they had to be disguised, how, then, could Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai interpret them so openly?

There are souls whose task it is to reveal Pnimiyus HaTorah, the hidden inner dimension of the Torah. These souls experience even now an illumination of the future revelations. They are at the level in which they can accept such a sublime light without the need of shade. Therefore, they can recognize the true goodness hidden beneath the veil of the physical world.

Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, who wrote the Zohar and whose mission it was to reveal Pnimiyus HaTorah, was therefore able to interpret those blessings in a manifest way. He already had an illumination of "the sun going forth in its might", and thus he already saw the reality of the concealed blessings. (This answers the abovementioned question of the Iyun Yaakov).

Revealing the meaning of the blessings is bound up with Pnimiyus HaTorah. Thus, just as Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai revealed Pnimiyus HaTorah to everyone, so he interpreted the blessings for his son, notwithstanding the fact that at the time his son was not yet of high stature. The incomplete status of his son at that time is evident when noting that the Talmud does not refer to him by his name (Rabbi Elazar Berabbi Shimon), but merely as "his son" [See Sanhedrin 41b where the Talmud explains that a student is called simply by his name and not with the title Rabban or Rabbi], and also from the fact that Rabbi Shimon sent him to receive a blessing from Rabbi Yonassan ben Asmai and Rabbi Yehuda ben Gerim

In the time of Moshiach, Hashem's goodness will be revealed. Everyone will see the good that is concealed in anything that may have appeared negative. But from the perspective of Pnimiyus HaTorah we do not have to wait for the World to Come to realize Hashem's infinite and true goodness. We can interpret everything in terms of manifest goodness now.

All Your Deeds Are Recorded


from the writings of the Ben Ish Hai

"Know what is above you: a watchful eye and an attentive ear. And all your deeds are written in a book"   [Pirkei Avot 2:1]
Which deeds are written in a book? If they are what the Divine eye and ear monitor, our Mishnah should have said: "A watchful eye and an attentive ear monitor all your deeds, which are then written in a book."

The Mishnah's "Book" contains a description of how we behave at home with family and servants, and how we treat friends and workers.

We would all like loyalty and respect from our family, workers, and friends. We expect them to do things for us faithfully, quckly, and well.

G-d wants the same of us. And we owe Him even more than a servant owes his master, for He gives us life, strength, intelligence, talent, health, livelihood and everything else we have.

On Judgment Day, a person's shortcomings in serving G-d will become painfully clear. Then, if he was angry and vengeful toward those who took his honour lightly, G-d will behave toward him the same way. Job therefore said: "If I despised the cause of my servant or maid when they argued with me, what will I do when G-d arises, and when He remembers, what will I answer him?" [Job 31:13-14]

That is why a person's behaviour toward others is recorded in a register. After the Heavenly Court judges him, his punishment will be adjusted, measure for measure, according to how strict or forgiving he was with his family and servants.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Psychic Connections

Reb Yisrael Yaakov said that the Heavenly signs that inform a person of his spiritual level do not exist in our times. My teachers told me that today we shouldn't concern ourselves with the meaning of dreams. But the Brisker Rav did because, as he said, his father had a Shulchan Aruch on thoughts. For some people, dreams still have meaning.

There is another form of extra-sensory perception that's not as mystical as Ruach HaKodesh or dreams - the capacity to feel fear though the cause of that fear is far away. Rabbi Ephraim Epstein, the brother of the Levush Mordechai, told me that at the time of the Hebron Massacre of 1929, he woke up in the middle of the night and sat trembling in fear at the edge of his bed without any idea what was wrong. The next morning he learned that his son, who was learning in Hebron at the time, had been killed in the pogrom.

This, he said, is what the Gemara [Bava Basra 16b] meant in relating that the friends of Iyov knew when to come visit him because something was wrong with their tree. We see from this how strongly one person can be connected with another.

Source: Rabbi Mendel Kaplan - "Reb Mendel and His Wisdom" by Yisroel Greenwald

At Peace

Be like God and don't look for people's shortcomings and weak points. You will then be at peace with everyone.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Eight Levels of Charity

Rambam: Hilchos Matanos Aniyim: Laws of Gifts to the Poor

Level One: A Helping Hand
There are eight levels of charity - each one higher than the next. The greatest form of charity, which is unsurpassed by any other, is to give a helping hand to a Jew who is on the verge of financial ruin. This may be accomplished by giving him a gift or a loan, by entering into a partnership with him, or by providing him with gainful employment. Any of these efforts should be undertaken to strengthen this person before he would have to ask for charity. This is what the Torah means when it says: "If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him so that he can live with you" [Leviticus 25:35] In other words, support him before he falls and becomes needy.

Upholding a poor person to save him from falling below his level has priority over supporting a wealthy person from slipping from his level of prosperity, even if the wealthy person is a neighbour or a relative [Ahavas Chesed 1 note 25]

The Chofetz Chaim [Ahavas Chesed 21:1] says that the conclusion of this verse - "so that he can live with you" can be explained by reference to the verse: "The rich man and the pauper meet: Hashem is the maker of them all" [Proverbs 22:2]. The Sages expound: "When the poor man approaches the rich man and pleads "Support me!" - if the rich man supports the poor, well and good. If not, then Hashem is the maker of them all. The very same G-d who made this man rich, can turn around and make him poor!

Thus, says the Chofetz Chaim, whenever a poor man approaches you, you should imagine that your own finances are also insecure. And it really is so, because if you do not respond positively to the pauper, your financial position may collapse like his, Heaven forbid. If, however, you do help him to stabilize his position, both of you together will endure and prosper, thereby fulfilling the Scriptural pledge, so that he can live with you.

Sefer Chassidim writes than an excellent form of charity is when the poor man attempts to sell an article that no-one wants to buy, but the rich man nevertheless purchases it from him. This is a supreme act of charity because the pauper does not feel that he has received alms.

Level Two: Double Anonymity
The next level, a step lower, is to give a charitable gift to the poor in such a way that the donor is unaware of the identity of the recipient, nor does the recipient know his benefactor. This is pure charity (lishmah) performed for its own sake. An example of this was Lishkas Chasholm - "The chamber of the Discreet" - in the Temple. The tzaddikim would deposit money into it quietly, and the poor sons of good families supported themselves from it discreetly [Mishnah, Shekalim 5:6]. The closest thing to this (today) would be the community charity chest. However, one should not contribute to the community charity chest unless he knows that the person in charge of it is as trustworthy and wise and capable of administering it properly as Rabbi Chananya ben Teradyon [Bava Basra 10b].

Level Three: Incognito Benefactor
The next level, a step lower, is when the donor knows to whom he is giving, but the poor man is unaware of the identity of his benefactor.

This means that when a gabbai tzedakah is not available to serve as a middle-man and the donor must personally allocate the charity, he should still attempt to deliver it in secrecy. He can, for example, throw the money into the poor man's house or send it with a messenger or a mailman who will not divulge who sent the money.

The Talmud [Kesubos 67b] relates how Mar Ukva was accustomed to secretly placing a sum of money on a poor man's doorstep every day. One day the poor recipient decided to discover the identity of his mysterious benefactor. The man waited behind his front door until Mar Ukva and his wife approached. When the poor man flung open the door, Mar Ukva and his wife fled at top speed lest their identity be discovered. In order to elude the poor man who was running after them, they both dashed into a burning furnace to hide, saying that it was preferable to throw oneself into an inferno than to embarrass a poor recipient.

Level Four: Unknown Recipient
The next level, a step lower, is when the recipient knows from who he is receiving, while the giver is unaware of the identity of the recipient. This was the practice of certain great Sages who would wrap money in their cloak and throw it over their shoulders behind them so that the poor could take the money without being seen, thus avoiding embarrassment.

Another example of this level of giving is described in the Talmud [Berachos 58b] regarding R' Chana bat Chanilai who left bags of grain outside his home every night during years of famine for the benefit of those indigents who were too embarrassed to personally beg for food in the daytime.

This level of giving is a degree lower than the preceding one because here the poor person feels somewhat embarrassed and beholden to his patron. This method is, however, preferable to the following level, because the poor man is spared the need to confront his benefactor face to face.

Level Five: Giving Before Being Asked
The next level, a step lower, is for the donor to present the money directly to the poor man, but to give it to him before he asks.

When a confrontation between the donor and the poor recipient is unavoidable, one should make a special effort to enhance his mitzvah by giving before being asked. With this sensitivity and kindness one emulates the ways of the Almighty Who says "And it will be that before they call I will answer" (Isaiah 65:24)

Level Six: A Generous Response
The next level, a step lower, is to give an appropriate amount to the poor after being asked.

Level Seven: Bestowing Words of Comfort: (11 blessings)
The next level, a step lower, is to give the poor man less than the appropriate amount, but to give with a smile and a pleasant disposition.

Sometimes, even a person who is usually a generous donor, is incapable of giving a generous amount. Embarrassed by his inability to respond in a dignified way, this donor may feel that it is better to give nothing at all. That is incorrect. Better to give a small amount with sincere apologies and regret than to give nothing at all, thus losing the mitzvah and depriving the poor of everything.

Even if a person is unable to give anything because of his own poverty, he can still offer encouraging words of comfort to the unfortunate collector. The Talmud [Bava Basra 9b] teaches that when a person offers kind words, even without any financial aid, Heaven bestows eleven blessings upon him. Encouraging the poor man should be a primary objective in giving tzedaka.

Level Eight: Giving With Misgivings
The next level, a step lower, is to give charity with sadness.

The very lowest level of tzedakah is to give with hidden, unexpressed feelings of reluctance.

If the donor openly expresses his annoyance and dislike of giving, then he loses the entire merit of his tzedakah, even if he gave a large, generous amount. This type of callous contribution is not even considered among the Rambam's eight levels of charity, for it is actually a sin. The giver transgresses the prohibition "Let your heart not feel bad when you give him" [Deut 15:10]

Source:  Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer "The Tzedakah Treasury" Published by Artscroll

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Miracles


from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Miracles are performed for a person who has been tested. Before G-d performs a miracle for someone, the person first falls upon bad times - the difficulty of which is determined by the greatness of the miracle about to be performed on their behalf.

If you find yourself being tested, you should realise that if you withstand this test, G-d will perform a miracle on your behalf.

Miracles are not performed for an immoral person.

Do not rely on a miracle as long as it is possible to save yourself by using money or some other (similar) means.

Tzedaka (giving charity) frees you from having to rely on a human being for help.

Standing while studying Torah overturns the machinations of the goyim.

Trust in G-d and He will reward you with loving-kindness.

Humility brings salvation.

Miracles are performed because of truth.

Miracles are performed because of G-d fearing people.

When a person teaches G-d's ways in public, even if amongst the gentiles, the Holy One will save him.

When Jews speak truthfully, they are blessed with Heaven's loving-kindness.

Source: Rabbi Nachman's Aphorisms on Jewish Living

A Woman's Tears

Art: Sharon Tomlinson
Rabbi Chaim Vital, one of the great kabbalists, said, "A man's soul is judged in the next world according to how he treated his wife."

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov said, "If a man spends his rage on his wife, shames her, or raises his hand to her, God forbid, the Almighty will demand recompense of him."

A man has no right to ever hit or abuse his wife [see Rabbeinu Yonah, Sha'arei Teshuva 3:77]. In fact, millennia before any civilization or country in the Western world deemed raping one's wife a criminal act, Judaism did. Neither the Torah nor rabbinic literature permitted men to harm their wives emotionally or physically.

The Talmud says that God counts a woman's tears, and men are warned to make sure that they do not cause their wives pain [Baba Metzia 59].

A wife is the source of blessing for her husband; she is the vessel for the husband’s blessings and in her the blessings are found. To receive the special light a man must be married; to be complete and be one with his wife. Only in unity the light is revealed. When a wife is not in harmony with her husband, the next thing to go is his ability to receive the light, which adversely affects his health, wealth, and happiness.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

16 Cheshvan - Reb Shlomo Carlebach zt"l


Reb Shlomo with daughter Neshama

Shlomo Carlebach's ancestors comprised one of the oldest rabbinical dynasties in pre-Holocaust Germany. He was born January 14, 1925 in Berlin, where his father, Rabbi Hartwig Naftali Carlebach (1889-1967), was an Orthodox rabbi. The family fled the Nazis in 1931 and lived in Baden bei Wien, Austria and by 1933 in Switzerland before coming to New York City.

Carlebach emigrated to Lithuania in 1938 where he studied at a yeshiva. In 1938 his father became the rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jacob, a small synagogue on West 79th Street in New York's Upper West Side. Carlebach came to New York in 1939 via Great Britain. He and his twin brother Eli Chaim took over the rabbinate of the synagogue after their father's death in 1967.

Carlebach studied at several high-level Orthodox yeshivos, including Yeshiva Torah Vodaas and Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Berlin in Brooklyn, New York, and Bais Medrash Gevoha in Lakewood, New Jersey. His voice and musical talents were recognized quite early during his days in yeshiva, when he was often chosen to lead the services as a popular Chazan ("cantor") for Jewish holidays.

As is engraved on his tombstone, he became a devoted hasid of Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneersohn, the sixth Rebbe of Chabad-Lubavitch. From 1951-1954, he subsequently worked as one of the first emissaries (shluchim) of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, until he departed to form his successful model for outreach, reaching hundreds of thousands of Jews worldwide.

In 1972 he married Elaine Neila Glick, a teacher. They had two daughters, Nedara (Dari) and Neshama. Neshama Carlebach is a songwriter and singer with a substantial following who has written and sung many songs in her father's style.

Carlebach died suddenly of a heart attack on 20 October 1994 while traveling on an airplane to relatives in Canada. Seated next to him was the Skverer Rebbe's gabbai; they were singing the Rebbe's favorite melody, Chasdei Hashem ki lo Samnu ["G-d's lovingkindness does not end"].

Carlebach was very close with many famous hasidic rebbes, including the Amshinover Rebbe and Bobover Rebbe. He is regarded as one of the most successful kiruv personalities of the 20th century, reaching many Jewish souls through his music, storytelling, and teaching.

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

From the teachings of Reb Shlomo:

REBUKE YOUR FELLOW MAN IF YOU SEE HIM DOING WRONG
If you see someone doing wrong, you have to tell him. You have to tell him. You have no right to remain silent. If someone sees his friend walking in the wrong path, it is a mitzva to talk to him, tell him he is doing wrong, but it has to be done in private. Don't tell someone in public that he did wrong, because if you do, you are transgressing about fifteen laws. The G'mora says it's very easy to keep Shabbos, very easy to put on t'fillin, but Rabbi Akiva says the hardest thing is to tell someone when he is doing wrong. Rabbi Akiva was very holy, and he said, "I don't know if there is anyone in my generation who would know how to rebuke." You have to do it in a way that he listens to. Rabbi Tarphon said there is no one who knows how to receive rebuke either.

Both are really hard things to do. Before you tell him what he did wrong you have to tell him, "I am saying it to you because I am really your friend, I am concerned. It is not that I can't stand sin, like a missionary, that I want to abolish sin in the world. I really care for you, and it hurts me that you did wrong." Say to the person, "I don't want to change you. I'm not putting you down on a couch and analyzing you. I care for you, and it seems to me that you did wrong, so can you tell me why?"

Then he can tell you, "I know I did wrong. I'm sorry, and I probably won't do it again." Or he can tell you, "I didn't do wrong. You are wrong, because you don't know the whole story."

In any case, there has to be communication. What is communication for? Why did G-d give us the power of speech? The Torah is very strong on communication. I have the right to hate someone who did wrong, but if I didn't tell him, I'm transgressing. If the person accepts what you tell him, it is good; if not, tell him a few times. If he says, "I don't want to hear you; I don't want you to talk about it to me anymore,"then you don't have to grab him, tie him to a chair; you don't have to be drastic. Talk to him like a human being.

The Torah wasn't given to the angels. G-d gave the Torah to human beings. There is such a thing as hating; what can we do? Moishe Rabbenu came up to Sinai, and the angels were complaining to G-d, "Why are You giving the Torah to Moishe? Why aren't You giving it to us?" G-d said to them, "There is no hatred between you, so you don't need the Torah. They need the Torah below, because there is hatred in the world." So the Torah says if you hate someone, you have to talk to him. Imagine, if every anti-Semite took the time to talk to one Jew there would be less killing in the world. If everyone followed this one thing: if you hate somebody, talk with him, make contact with him, it would be a different world. If you want it to work, it will work.

The G'mora and Maimonides both say that if I see someone doing wrong and I don't tell him, then I become a partner in the sin. The G'mora says if I see the people of my house are doing wrong, and I don't tell them, I become a partner. If I see the people of my city doing wrong and I'm not raising my voice, I'm becoming a partner in what the city is doing. If the whole world is doing wrong, and I'm not speaking up, then I'm becoming a partner in the sin of the whole world.

This is one of my favorite stories. Once I was visiting my cousins in Belgium, and when they invited me for dinner, they said because of me they would eat kosher. So I come to see what is going on there, what they are going to be feeding me. "Because of you it will be really strictly kosher. We know you don't eat ham, so we bought horsemeat." What if I take out a bible, because you have to tell people when they do wrong. "Sit down you dirty sinners. You know horsemeat isn't. . ." Naturally this does not go. It says to rebuke, and that is not the level of rebuking. They don't know anything, so you can't rebuke them. It says you have to tell them in such a way that they know you care for them. If I say, "I am here for Shabbos, and it makes me uncomfortable that you don't keep Shabbos,"that means I don't give a damn about their Shabbos, just about my own. It is a very delicate thing.

The truth is, most of the time people know when they do wrong, they just don't have the strength not to do it. When you tell people they are doing wrong in a good way, it gives them strength not to do it again. The Mittler Rebbe says it suddenly becomes like two souls against one evil. If I'm too weak to overcome my evil, the minute someone tells me it is like two fires against one darkness. But it is hard to know how to tell people in a good way.

Video: The Story of the Crakow Niggun


Friday, October 22, 2010

The Wealth in Torah

Adapted from a Sicha of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Shavuos 5718
Source:  "From the Rebbe's Treasure" written by the students of Seminary Bais Menachem, Montreal Canada


Our Rabbis taught: "When a poor, rich or wicked man will appear for Divine Judgment, he will be asked why didn't he study Torah?"

The poor man will be asked and if he will reply "I was so poor that I was always busy trying to earn a living", he will be told that he was no poorer than Hillel Hazaken who, despite his poverty, managed to study Torah and do mitzvos. Hillel's devotion to Torah despite poverty is demonstrated by the following story:

Every day Hillel would go to work and earn a tarpick (half a dinar.. Rashi Yoma 35b) of which he gave one half to the porter of the Beis Hamidrash (in order to enter and study, for not every one was admitted), and he used the other half to sustain his family. One day he didn't earn anything and the porter wouldn't admit him. He went up to the roof and swung himself over to an opening where he sat down to listen to the words of Hashem from the mouth of Shmaya and Avtalyon. It was an erev Shabbos in Teves and it began snowing and soon he was covered in snow.

The next morning, Shmaya said to Avtalyon "Why is it so dark? Is it such a cloudy day?"

They looked up and saw the figure of a man above the window. They rushed outside and swept the snow off Hillel, washed him, smeared him with oil and sat him down next to the fire. They then declared "Such a man deserves that the Shabbos be transgressed for his sake!"

The rich man will be asked why didn't he study Torah, and if he will reply "Because I was too preoccupied with my estates (and so had no time)", he will be told that he was no richer than Rabbi Elazar ben Charsum who managed to learn Torah. This is demonstrated by the following story:

Rabbi Elazar inherited one thousand villages and one thousand ships at sea. His servants managed his business affairs while he took a bag of food and travelled from place to place in order to learn Torah from other chachomim. One day his servants drafted him for a job, not knowing who he was (it was customary for landlords to have tenants performing civil duties for them - Rashi). He insisted that they let him go because he wanted to learn Torah. They replied "By Rabbi Elazar ben Charsum's life we will not let you go before you do your work." He gave them some money in order that they should release him so he could go and study, for he studied Torah by day and by night (and didn't concern himself with his business).

At the Divine Judgment, Hillel will bring about the conviction of the poor folk who did not study Torah during their lifetimes and Rabbi Elazar will bring about the conviction of the rich peole, even if these rich people had never heard about the deeds of Hillel and Rabbi Elazar, who proved to the world that it is possible to study Torah under any condition.

The message we can learn from this story is not limited to the way we perceive rich and poor. Chazal says [Nedarim 41a] "Ain ani ela bedaas ve'ain ashir ela bedaas" (Wealth and poverty apply to the mind). A rich man with a poor mind and limited knowledge is considered an ani (a poor man). Likewise, a poor person with high intelligence and broad knowledge is called an ashir (a rich man).

If an ignorant person argues that he cannot learn Torah because he does not understand it, we tell him, "you are not as poor as Hillel." No matter how ignorant (poor) one might be, he still has the obligation to apply himself and to learn, even if it requires the kind of mesirus nefesh (self-sacrifice) Hillel demonstrated in the story. Even if he merely reads without real understanding or studies extremely simple things, ultimately he will connect himself to Hashem.

As the Alter Rebbe writes in Tanya [ch. 4 and 5], when a person learns Torah, the subject that he studies is assimilated into his intellect. Being that the Torah is Hashem's chochma and thus one with Hashem, in the process of learning any subject in Torah, a person unites himself with Hashem. In the physical realm, there is no unity comparable to it, i.e. of two things as far apart as the human intellect and Torah (Hashem's intellect), yet so utterly united from every possible perspective.

Hence, in spite of his "poverty" and inability to engage in intense studies, even the study of the simplest subject of Torah will unite him with the Almighty; with respect to Hashem's greatness, differences in levels are irrelevant.

Analogously, no matter how knowledgeable (rich) a person might be, he should never think that he has studied enough Torah, and now he can attach himself to Hashem through different means. Learning Torah involves the use of the intellect, thinking, reasoning, concentrating etc, and thus the mitzvah of Talmud Torah is confined to the limitations of the human brain. Although he will attach himself to Hashem, this will come through a limited channel and in a restricted manner. On the other hand, the avoda of mesirus nefesh, which involves devoting himself to Hashem even if it means risking his life for that purpose, transcends the level of understanding and reasoning inherent in the mitzvah of learning Torah.

A knowledgeable man might think that he already has ascended to the point of attachment to Hashem through Torah and that now it is time to stop learning and proceed to the avoda of mesirus nefesh. To him, too, the answer is "you are not as rich as Rabbi Elazar ben Charsum..." you must learn more, and this is the only way you will truly attach yourself to Hashem. This can be achieved only if he doesn't let his "wealth" distract him from his learning, following the example of Rabbi Elazar.

In practice, it is important to remember that we should always learn Torah, not just to minimally fulfill our Halachic obligation which is a perek echad arvis vepereh echad shacharis (one chapter in the evening and one in the morning). Whether we are very busy or simply ignorant, we must set aside time to learn with determination and enthusiasm.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

The Punishment of Debt

Art: Maryana Beletskaya
If the Torah were written in order, we would know the precise reward and punishment for each commandment.

There are sins whose punishment is debt. [See Likutey Halachos (Choshen Mishpat) Gevias Chov MeYesomim 2]

One who is punished for such a sin is constantly in debt. All the merit in the world does not erase his punishment. He can do every possible good; still he must remain a debtor. These sins can even cause others to fall into debt. When such transgressions become common, there are many debtors in the world.

The (tikkun) remedy for this is to repent in general for all your sins. Even though you do not know what sin is causing these debts, repent in general and ask G-d to also save you from this particular sin. In times like these, it is very difficult for a religious person to have wealth. To obtain riches, one must lower himself very greatly. But even if he abandons the way of devotion, there is no guarantee of wealth, for even the wicked man can be poor. But if one is truly religious, then he is always far from riches.

-----------------

When the Temple was destroyed, all wealth left the core and fell into the realm of the evil husks (klipot). It is written [Lamentations1:9] "And she fell with wonders". "Wonders" in Hebrew is PeLAIM. Reverse the letters and you have ALaPHIM, the thousands of wealth. We then read the verse: "And the thousands fell". The thousands of wealth have fallen with wonders. They have fallen so deeply, it is a wonder. If one covets these thousands, then he too must fall with them. But even then he is not sure of riches.

Therefore, it is very difficult for a truly religious person to become wealthy. There are some rich Tzaddikim, but their wealth causes them great difficulty and keeps them from G-d. And though they seem wealthy, they still do not have the ready millions of the irreligious. For true wealth and G-dliness are not found together.

My grandfather, Rebbe Nachman Horodenker ob"m once spoke on the verse [Prov. 3:16] "Long life is in her right hand, and in her left, wealth and honour." The Talmud asks if this means that the right hand of Wisdom can provide only long life, but not wealth and honour. It answers that long life is there, and more certainly wealth and honour.

My grandfather explained that this wealth can be logically derived from the verse, but is not actually there. It is fitting that the righteous have wealth, but it is not actually theirs."

Source: "Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom" by Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov

The Three Levels of Forgiveness

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. [Oscar Wilde]

The people criticized G-d and Moshe: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There's no bread and no water, and we're sick of this unwholesome (manna) bread." G-d sent venomous snakes upon the people, and they bit the people. Many people of Israel died. The people came to Moshe and said "We have sinned! For we have spoken against G-d and against you! Pray to G-d that He should remove the snakes from us!" Moshe prayed on behalf of the people. [Chukas 21:5-7]

Even after the people criticized Moshe heavily, resulting in a punishment of venomous snakes, we nevertheless find that Moshe did not bear a grudge and prayed for the people to be saved. "From here we learn" writes Rashi, "that if a person asks you for forgiveness you should not be cruel and refrain from forgiving."

This principle is recorded by Rambam in his legal Code, the Mishneh Torah, in three places and there are a number of variations which need to be explained.

1) In Laws of Personal Injury, Rambam describes the method and process of forgiveness. "Once the attacker has asked forgiveness once, and then a second time, and we know that he has repented for his sin and he has abandoned the evil that he has done, then one must forgive him". However in Laws of Teshuvah these details are omitted. Instead, we are told that "When the sinner asks him for forgiveness, he should forgive him with a full heart and a willing spirit." Similarly, in Laws of Moral Conduct: "If the person returns and aks him for forgiveness, then he should forgive."

2) The person who forgives is given a different name in each of the three laws. In Laws of Moral Conduct he is called the "forgiver"; in Laws of Teshuvah a "person", and in Laws of Personal Injury he is called the "injured party".

3) One further detail is that in Laws of Teshuvah a person is told not to be "difficult to appease". Why does Rambam use this phrase, and why only in Laws of Teshuvah?

The Explanation

Forgiveness can be carried out on three levels:

1) When one person sins against another, he becomes liable to be punished for the sin that he committed. In order to be relieved of this punishment he needs to appease both G-d and the person that he sinned against. Therefore, through forgiving a person for his sin, one alleviates him from a Heavenly punishment.

2) A higher level of forgiveness is to forgive not just the act of sin but the sinner himself. i.e. even though one person may forgive another for a particular bad act (thus relieving him from being punished) there still may remain a trace of dislike for the person in general. Thus, a higher level of forgiveness is to forgive the entire person completely for his wrong, so that there remains no trace of bad feeling between them.

3) The highest level of forgiveness is an emotion that is so strong and positive that it actually uproots the sins of the past, making it as if they never occurred at all. After such a forgiveness, the sinner will be loved by the offended party to the very same degree that he was loved before the sin.

It is these three types of forgiveness which Rambam refers to in his three different laws:

1) In Laws of Personal Injury, Rambam discusses the laws of compensation for specific damages that one person causes another. Thus, when he speaks there of forgiveness for a sin, he is speaking of the forgiveness that is required to relieve the sinner from the punishment of that specific sin. Therefore, Rambam spells out the precise method of forgiveness that is required to achieve atonement ("when the attacker has asked forgiveness once, and then a second time, and we know that he has repented for his sin etc. then one must forgive him"), because only by following this precise method can we be sure that the sinner will be acquitted of this punishment.

To stress the point further, Rambam speaks in terms of an "injured party" and the "forgiving" of the injury, as we are speaking here of a specific sin and its atonement.

2) In Laws of Moral Conduct, the focus is not on the actual sin and its atonement, but rather, the character of the forgiver. And, if a person is to be of fine character, it is insufficient to forgive a person just so that he will be freed from punishment. Rather, one should forgive another person completely (i.e. the second level above). Therefore, in Laws of Moral Conduct, Rambam stresses that "When one person sins against another, he should not hide the matter and remain silent" for it would be a bad character trait to harbor resentment, keeping one's ill feelings to oneself. Therefore "it is a mitzvah for him to bring the matter into the open".

Thus, we can understand why Rambam omits here details of the process of forgiveness, for the main emphasis here is not the atonement of the sinner, but the required character traits of the victim.

To stress the point further, the person is termed here not as the "injured party" but as the "forgiver".

3) In Laws of Teshuvah, Rambam is speaking of the highest level of forgiveness which is required for a person to achieve a total "return to G-d". For this to occur, the forgiveness must be done in a manner that is so deep that one uproots the sin totally; as if it had never occurred at all. This is because total forgiveness is a crucial factor in the sinner's overall return to G-d, as Rambam writes: "Sins between man and his fellow man... are not forgiven until... the person has been asked for forgiveness..."

Thus, Rambam stresses here that "A person should be easily placated and difficult to anger, and when the sinner asks him for forgiveness, he should forgive him with a full heart and a willing spirit" (despite the fact that these details are more appropriate to Laws of Moral Conduct), because the goodwill of the victim is a crucial part of the sinner's teshuvah. Only when the victim is completely forgiving - to the extent that the sin is uprooted, as if it never existed - can we be sure that the sinner has returned to be as close to G-d as he was prior to the sin.

To stress this point further, Rambam writes "It is forbidden for a person (not an "injured party" or "forgiver") to be cruel and difficult to appease" - i.e. here we are not talking merely of the minimum forgiveness that is required to relieve the sinner from his punishment. Rather, here we are talking of the victim as a "person". And one can hope that he will not merely "forgive" his fellow who hurt him, freeing him from punishment, but that he will allow himself to be "appeased" completely, thereby helping his fellow Jew to come to a complete Teshuvah.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos Vol 28 Lubavitcher Rebbe

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Portrait of the King


Once there was a king who had a wise man. The king said to the wise man:

"There is a certain king who designates himself  'a mighty hero', 'a man of truth', and 'a humble person.'  As to his might, I know that he is mighty, since the sea surrounds his country, and on the sea stands a fleet of ships with cannon, and they do not let anyone approach. And inland there is a big swamp surrounding the country. Through the swamp there is only one narrow path and on the path only one man can walk at a time, and there, too, there are cannon. When someone comes to fight them, they shoot the cannon, and it is impossible to approach. But why he designates himself 'a man of truth' and 'a humble person,' this I do not know. And I want you to fetch me the portrait of that king."

That king (who spoke to his wise man) had all the portraits of all the kings, but no portrait of the king who had designated himself (with these titles) was available because he is hidden from men, since he sits under a canopy and is far from his subjects.

The wise man went to that country. The wise man made up his mind that he had to know the essence of the country. And how could he know the essence of the country? By the country's jokes. Because when one has to know something, one should know the jokes related to it. There are several kinds of jokes. Sometimes one really intends to harm his friend with his words, and when the friend becomes angry, he says to him: "I am joking as is written: 'As a madman casts firebrands, arrows, and death.' " (It is like one shoots arrows into his friend's heart and says, "I am joking.") And sometimes one does not intend it as a joke, even so his friend is harmed by his words. Thus there different kinds of jokes.

Among all countries there is one country which includes all countries (in that it serves as the rule for all countries), and in that country there is one city which includes all cities of the whole country which includes all countries. In that city is a house which includes all the houses of the city which includes all the cities of the country which includes all countries. And there is a man who includes everybody from the house, etc. And there is someone there who performs all the jests and jokes of the country.

The wise man took with him much money and went there. He saw that they were performing all kinds of jests and jokes, and he understood through the jokes that the country was full of lies from beginning to end because he saw how they were making fun, how they deceived and misled people in commerce, and how, when he turned for justice to the magistrate, everyone there lied and accepted bribery. He went to the higher court, and there, too, everything was a lie and in jest they faked all those things.

The wise man understood through that laughter that the whole country was full of lies and deceit, and there was no truth in it. He went and traded in the country and he let himself be cheated in commerce. He went to trial in court and he saw that they were all full of lies and bribery. On this day he bribed them, and on the next they did not recognize him. He went to the higher court, and there, too, everything was a lie, until he reached the senate and they, too, were full of lies and bribery. Finally he came to the king himself.

When he came to the king he stated: "Over whom are you king? For the country is full of lies, all of it, from beginning to end, and there is no truth in it!"

He started telling all the lies of the country. The king bent his ears toward the curtain to hear his words, because he was amazed that there was a man who knew all the lies of the country. The ministers of the kingdom who heard his words were very angry with him but he continued to tell about all the lies of the country.

That wise man concluded: "And one could say that the king, too, is like them, that he loves deceit like the country. But from this I see how you are 'a man of truth.' You are far from them, since you cannot stand the lies of the country."

He started praising the king very much. The king was very humble, and his greatness lay in his humility. And this is the way of the humble person: The more one praises and exalts him, the smaller and humbler he becomes. Because of the greatness of the praise with which the wise man praised and exalted the king, the king became very humble and small, till he became nothing at all. And the king could not restrain himself, but cast away the curtain, to see the wise man: "Who is it who knows and understands all this?" And his face was revealed. The wise man saw him and painted his portrait and he brought it to the king.

from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, translated by Joachim Neugroschel

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.