Sunday, July 31, 2011

Kapparah in the death of a Tzaddik

by Rabbi Elchanan Lewis

Question: How can the death of a Tzaddik become a Kapparah [atonement]?

Answer: The Tzadik is not a personal individual that has an impact only on himself, he is a public figure who impacts on all those around him; the loss of a Tzadik is therefore a public loss, not an individual or family one. The Tzadikim are here not for themselves, rather for others - that is how they live their lives and that is how they also die; Just as the death serves as atonement to the deceased himself, so the departure of a Tzadik does to his community.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Baba Elazar zt"l, Judgments and Moshiach ben Yosef

The murder of Rabbi Elazar Abuhatzeira, the “Baba Elazar” on Thursday night saved the people of Israel from other tragedies, leading rabbis said Friday.

“Harsh punishments were decreed on the people of Israel, and he wanted to nullify them,” said the slain rabbi's brother, Rabbi Baruch Abuhatzeira, also known as the Baba Baruch, speaking at Rabbi Abuhatzeira's funeral. [Israel National News]

The following is written by Rabbi Yaakov Bar Nahman

Masa’ei 5771 (?5951?)

Our parshah opens with the telling of our travels and tribulation through the wilderness. It is known that the lives of each of us also go through a series of travels and tribulations paralleling those of our ancestors in the wilderness. Some more obvious than others. Later on in the parshah it is brought what is to be done with a man who kills another. If by accident, then he runs off to the Ir Miklath to escape the avengers. If by intent to murder, then he may not and is to be put to death.

We also know that every parshah hints to what happens that week.

Knowing that something is going to happen is not always insurance against shock. People in close contact with me have been hearing me saying that there is a heavy ‘din’ [judgment] on Am Yisrael, and that heavy hard things are coming. With the tragic horrifying murder of Leiby Kletzky zassa”l in Boro Park we saw a Korban Ssibur [sacrifice for the sins of the public] for our brothers/sisters there. Aside from the horror of the actual event, how many people took more notice than that? In our circle [don’t ask for explanation] we asked  amongst ourselves “What next? What is this a part of?”

Then when the Admo’r of Spinka zassa”l passed away this week, the concerns grew larger. We realized that the ‘din’ is as heavy as we read it, if not more so, and that HaShem is taking the clean and pure ones as ‘kaparah’ and we started to worry more. Especially so, since we are now in the three weeks of Bein Hameissarim [3 weeks between 17th of Tamuz and 9th of Av] which is always a time of din.

So you ask if HaShem is taking them as kaparah on the nation, why worry - we go free, no?  No it’s not that simple. That is NOT the way of eternal truth. That concept of a person going kaparah for all your sins and you walking away free is PART of the mistake of the xtian cult.

Look back at the laws of the korbanoth of the Mishkan/Beit HaMikdash. The pardon from HaShem was NOT automatic. Slaughtering a calf or goat or bull did NOT automatically clean anyone from sin!  First was needed the conscious intent of transmitting the stigma of the sin onto the animal.

Then of great and absolute importance, it required a conscious intent of realization of one's wrongdoing, of true desire of stopping the habit, of regret, of asking HaShem for forgiveness and, if the act caused sorrow or damage to anyone, you had to ask forgiveness of him/her and repair what needed repair. All these are stages of tshuvah. Without tshuvah the sacrifice did NOT help the person one mite! Quite the opposite is true. For by slaughtering the animal without doing tshuvah it was a purposeless killing and an attempt to con HaShem. Woe to one who would do such a foolish move!

The horrifying death of Leiby Kletzky zassa”l and sorrowful passing of the Spinka Rebbe zassa”l only work as kapara if the communities do tshuvah, and if they/we don’t then oy vavoy!

There is a Midrash called “Milkhamot HaMashiah” wherein the end-times evil king who is destined to cause more suffering to Bnei Yisrael than any previous ruler in history is identified. This evil beast is mentioned as “the one whom the Gentiles call the anti-xst.” In Muslim literature he is called Arimahn. In Torah literature he is called Armilus. The identity, origins and role of Armilus have been documented in Torah literature since the days of the 2nd Beit Mikdash.    

Saadia Gaon's Tradition of Armilus
Saadia Gaon [born 892; died 942] is the earliest trustworthy authority that speaks of Armilus. He mentions the following as a tradition of the ancients, hence of the eighth century at the latest: If the Jews do not prove themselves worthy of Messianic salvation, God will force them to repentance by terrible persecutions. In consequence of these persecutions, a scion of the tribe of Joseph will arise and wrest Jerusalem from the hands of the Edomites, that is, from the xtians; the Arabic text of Landauer, p. 239, has correctly "Jerusalem," and not "Temple," as in the Hebrew translation, which has it owing to an erroneous interpretation of the Arabic "al bait al muḳaddas." Thereupon the king, Armilus, will conquer and sack the Holy City, kill the inhabitants together with "the man [Messiah] of the tribe of Joseph," and then begin a general campaign against the Jews, forcing them to flee into the desert, where they will suffer untold misery. When they have been purified by sorrow and pain, the Messiah Ben David will appear, wrest Jerusalem from Armilus, slay him, and thereby bring the true salvation.

Armilus appears frequently in the later Apocalyptic Midrashim, such as Midrash Va-Yosha, Sefer Zerubbavel, and Nistarot shel R. Shimon b. Yohai. He is also mentioned in the Targum pseudo-Jonathan, Yishayahu. 11:14 and in the Targum Yerushalmi A [Dvarim/Deut. 34:3]. Armilus is first mentioned otherwise in Saadiah Gaon's Emunot ve-De'ot [Ma'amar 8], apparently under the influence of Sefer Zerubbavel. The legend of Armilus thus originated not earlier than the beginning of the gaonic period. Its basis, however, is the Talmudic telling of Mashiahh Ben Joseph, who would be slain at the gates of Yerushalayim in the war between the nations prior to the redemption that would come through Mashiahh Ben David [Suk. 52a]. In Otot ha-Mashi'ah [Midreshei Ge'ullah, p. 320], there is reference to "the Sat’n Armilus whom the Gentiles call Anti-xt" but this is no proof of Xtian influence.

Armilus and his evil deeds are described in detail only in the above-mentioned later Hebrew Midrashim now republished with detailed introduction and valuable notes, by J. Even Shemuel [Kaufmann] in his Midreshei Ge'ullah [1942, 1944]. Armilus is the least of the kings, the son of a bondwoman, and monstrous in appearance [Midreshei Ge'ullah, Sefer Eliyahu, 42; Yemot ha-Mashi'ah, 96–97; Nistarot shel R. Shimon b. Yohai, 4, 195; see also textual variants, 382b, 402]. He is frequently referred to briefly as "the son of a stone." This brief reference is fully explained in a legend: "They tell that in Rome there is a marble statue of a beautiful maiden, fashioned not by human hand but by the Holy One blessed be He, who created it in His might. The wicked of the nations of the world, the sons of Belial, come and warm her and lie with her (*), and He preserves their seed within the stone from which He creates a being and forms it into a child, whereupon she splits asunder and there issues from her the likeness of a man whose name is the Sat’n Armilus, whom the Gentiles call Antixt. He is 12 cubits tall and two cubits broad, there is a span between his eyes which are crooked and red, his hair is golden-colored, the soles of his feet are green, and he has two heads [can be interpreted as what has been called “double-speak” typical of certain politicians]" [Pirkei ha-Mashi'ah, in Midreshei Ge'ullah, p. 320]. Though the physically monstrous depictions can also be parable-type aspects and not actual physical features.

This Armilus will deceive the whole world into believing that he is God and will reign over the entire world. He will come with ten kings and together they will fight over Yerushalayim, and Armilus will slay Mashiahh Ben Yosef, as well as many righteous men with him, and "Israel will mourn for him as one that is in bitterness for his only son" [cf. Zech. 12:19–12]. Armilus will banish Israel "to the wilderness" and it will be a time of unprecedented distress for Israel: there will be increasing famine, and the Gentiles will expel the Jews from their lands, and they will hide in caves and towers. Armilus will conquer not only Yerusahlayim but also Antioch [the capital of Syria, where non-Jewish Xtianity originated—Acts 11:26]. "He will take the stone from which he was born," and make her "the chief of all idolatry." All the Gentiles will bow down to her, burn incense and pour out libations to her, "and whosoever will venture to look upon her will be unable to do so, for no man can look upon her face by reason of her beauty" [Sefer Zerubbavel, in Midreshei Ge'ullah, p. 80ff.]

[*= There is a source that claims that this statue is in the sub-basements of the Vatican and that there is a secret group of “chosen” members of that building's officiators who do exactly that there.]

This creature, Armilus by name—the Gentiles called him Anti-xt, will set himself up as Messiah, even as God Himself, being recognized as such by the sons of Esau, that is, by the xtians. He outwardly agrees to accept as his doctrine the Gospels, which the xtians lay before him.

After an interval of forty-five days, during which the Jews unworthy of the Messianic glory die out [compare the similar statement in reference to the liberation from Egypt], and the remnant have shown their true worth in sore trials and bitter sufferings in the desert, the Angel Michael will blow his trumpet; then the Massiahh ben David and Eliyahu will appear, gather the dispersed of Israel, and proceed to Jerusalem. Armilus, inflamed against the Jews, will march against the Massiahh. But now HaShem HIMSELF will go to war against Armilus and his army and destroy them. The Army of HaShem made of the Angels and the Teli will do the work while humankind has found themselves unable to fight the terrible beast Armilus.

As I have said many times before, the war is not only a physical military campaign. The central fields of battle are spiritual and moral. The influences upon our people in all currents of Jewish society from one end of the spectrum to the other are hot fields of battle.

Now with all that as an introduction let me proceed. This past week I felt the din on our nation becoming heavier and heavier. This I heard also from a colleague. For the past two weeks I’ve been telling myself that I have got to go visit Rabi Baba Elazar while he’s still alive.  Then I asked myself “What do you mean still alive? He’s not that old, he’s about my age, maybe even younger”. There had been increasing talk of him being Mashiahh ben Yosef or at least very closely connected. This yom shlishi Baba Sali zessavek”l appeared in a dream to a family member stating that there is a gzar din [a sentence of heavenly judgment] on the family, beware.

From the following day I started getting “bad feelings” that something really hard is about to happen. I was “waiting for the other shoe to drop”.

What I did not know at that time was that a melamed [teacher] in a Talmud Torah [cheider/boys’ elementary school] in the hhareidi city of Elad told his young students “Boys, pray that no one kills Mashiahh Ben Yosef”. An odd statement to plop before little boys.

Last night at about 11pm M I started doing some paperwork for my Yeshiva. Then I felt something “off” and time disappeared. I don’t know where ¾ of an hour disappeared to. At 12:30 with immense effort I managed to continue typing and faxing the letters. The effort required to do my normal night studies, Tikun Hhassoth and bedtime seder Kriyath Shema were like running uphill with full battle gear plus. I felt super exhausted, couldn’t see straight. Plopped into feeling half dead. I dreamt of an announcement of a big mekubal dying and discussing what is done in the Heavenly Court with him. Into the dream appeared also the current president of the USA whom I have said several times that I strongly suspect that he is Armilus, or at least a major agent of that monstrous false messiah king whom many Jews [JINO’s] will foolishly support in his attack on Israel. I knew something was up but what?

This morning while praying shahharit the puzzle came clear.

That very same melamed from Elad had gone to Rabi Elazar’s regular nighttime kabalat kahal [receiving visitors asking for his blessings and guidance]. He entered the Beit Kneset shouting “Pikuahh Nefesh Pikuahh Nefesh!” [S.O.S.]. Everybody stood aside and let him pass them by to get to the door of the Rav’s room. The shamashim [assistants] of the Rav stood aside too and let him in and everyone, including the shamashim [who usually never left him alone] left the room. A minute or so later the man from Elad left the room and drove away in his car. The shamashim entered the room and saw Rebi Elazar zessavek”l had “fainted”. Then they noticed the blood.

One or two of them fainted on the spot. They screamed “bloody murder, the Rabi has been murdered" and several men in the Beit Kneset fainted as well.

Police were notified and closed all exits of Beer-Sheva and caught the murderer near an exit.

Oy yoy, willy wy what a loss!!!! I tell you now loud and clear. Even people close to him, people who turned to him for every question, did not know how big and important he was for Am Yisrael, and if so then for the world at large as well.

I was in shock. Knowing that something heavy was coming helped none. I was in shock and still am. It took me a couple hours to be able to collect my mind to be able to continue praying.

I remember a couple decades ago when Baba Sali zessavek”l and Baba Meir zessavek”l were notified the same type of message regarding Baba Sali himself and that Baba Meir pleaded before the Heavenly Court that they take him instead and so they did. However they still took Baba Sali zessavek”l a year later.

Baba Sali’s holy grandfather Rabi Yaakov zessavek”l Hay’d was also murdered. That was by an Egyptian Arab who stabbed him to death. Rabi David Abuhhassirah zessavek”l Hay’d was murdered by a Moroccan Arab governor who had him shot out of a cannon.

These holy and pure men went as kaparah Korbanoth Ssibur for Am Yisrael. We ALL have to do tshuvah, seriously and fast.

All the more in this one where is a BIG chance that yes there is a connection to the concept of Mashiahh Ben Yosef.

But you ask how can this be - after all he was murdered in Beer Sheva and not at the gates of Yerushalayim? Now hear that our great teacher Hahhakham Rabi Ben Ssion Aba Shaul zessavek”l taught us that any city here which is a town of Torah has the aspect of Yerushalayim. There in Beer Sheva where Rav Elazar’s home and Beit Kneset and Beit Midrash are is a “town of Torah”. Also being as he is buried in Har Hazeitim [Mount of Olives] which is definitely a gate of Yerushalayim. All this fits the picture well enough.

Is there a good possibility that this stage of the Armilus tract is unfolding? Yes. Do we know for sure? Those who say openly and clearly don’t know; those who know won’t say openly and clearly. Not yet anyhow.

Only this we do know - that yes things are moving, moving fast and heavy and the tempo is picking up.

It’s high time for all of us to get our acts together. What this means I’ve been telling you for some months now. More than that I cannot say.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Torah Codes and Moshiach

Rabbi Glazerson shows how the discovery of the Torah Codes plays a major role before Moshiach: A code which validates the de-coders. ["Bible Code in the Secret of Kabbalah" - video]


Written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

"These are the journeys of the Children of Israel" [Masei 33:1]
אֵלֶּה מַסְעֵי בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל

This verse alludes to the four exiles that the Jewish nation would endure:

אֵלֶּה - Eileh - Edom [Rome]
מַסְעֵי - Masei - Madai and Paras [Medes and Persia]
בְנֵי - Bnei - Bavel [Babylonia]
יִשְׂרָאֵל - Yisrael - Yavan [Greece]

Why, asks Rashi, was it necessary to enumerate all of the different journeys?

To answer this question, Rashi quotes the words of the Midrash Tanchuma: "This can be compared to the case of a king whose son was ill and he took him to a distant place to cure him. Once they started back, his father began to enumerate all the stages [of their journey] saying to [his son]: "Here we slept. Here we felt cold. Here you had a headache, etc."

What is the nimshal [the application] of this parable? asked the Imrei Emes [R' Avraham Mordechai of Gur]. Is the Torah merely telling us that the Jews rested or cooled themselves in these places? Isn't it obvious that they had to do these things? What, then, is the Midrash coming to teach us by listing the places where they slept or felt cold?

These verses and Chazal's parable, answered the Rebbe, have deep meaning and contain hidden admonishments.

"Here we slept" - this is an allusion to the time of the Giving of the Torah. For on that monumental morning when the Torah was to be given, the Jewish nation overslept.

"Here we felt cold" - this alludes to when Amalek "cooled down" the Jewish nation's enthusiasm for serving Hashem, as the verse states "That he happened [karcha, "made you cold"] upon you on the way" [Devarim 25:18]

"Here you had a headache [chashasta es roshecha]" - this is an allusion to the sin of the Golden Calf, when the Jewish people had uncertainties [chashashos] regarding the whereabouts of their leader [rosh] Moshe Rabbeinu.

This is why, concluded the Rebbe, the Torah specified each journey, in order that the Jewish nation should remember what transpired at each place and repent wholeheartedly.

Tisha B'Av, Exile and Anti-Semitism

A new video from Rabbi Pinchas Winston:

There is a reason why Tisha B'Av falls out on the same day of the week as Pesach does, and it has everything to do with why the Jewish people are still in exile, and anti-Semitism is increasing.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Obama's Temptation

The Last Laugh

Mann tracht und Gott lacht   -    Men plan and God laughs.

As a result of Yaakov's having taken the blessings, Eisav hated him with an unquenchable hatred that sought revenge. He devised a plan whereby he could dominate the world.

Eisav thought:
Kayin killed his brother Hevel before his father Adam died. That was his mistake. After Hevel was removed, Adam had another son Shais. Therefore I will do better, I will make sure that both my father and my brother are dead.

Pharoah thought:
Eisav waited until Yitzchak died before attempting to kill his brother. Did he not realize that his brother would meanwhile have children? I will be smarter, I will drown all newborn boys in the river.

Haman thought:
Pharoah didn't realize that the girls would marry and bear children. He should have wiped out the girls as well as the boys. I will be the one to wipe out all of them.

At the end of days, Gog and Mogog will say:
Didn't Haman know that they have a Protector in Heaven? We will first overcome their Protector and then destroy them.

But Hashem answers them all: "I have many messengers to frustrate your plans". Then Hashem will go out to wage war against the nations, and on that day Hashem will be the sole King of the Earth.

Source:  The Midrash Says

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Returning to Dust

The Talmud [Shabbat 152b] relates the following discussion regarding the body's return to dust after leaving this world:

"There were grave-diggers who dug in the earth belonging to Rav Nachman and were rebuked by Rav Achai bar Yashia (whose grave the diggers disturbed). They came and said to Rav Nachman: "We were rebuked by a dead man".

Rav Nachman went there and asked him: "Who are you, master?"

He responded: "I am Achai bar Yashia".

"Has not Rav Mari said that "In the future, the bodies of the righteous will return unto dust?" said Rabbi Nachman (and why therefore is your body preserved?).

"Who is Mari? I know him not" said the dead one.

Rav Nachman replied "But it is said that when the dust will return to the earth as it was..."

The dead one responded "He who read with you Kohelet did not, however, read with you Mishlei, where it is written "But jealousy is the rottenness of the bones" which means that only he who has jealousy in his heart, his bones shall rot after death."

Then Rav Nachman tried to feel the dead body's substance and he found it to be real. Rav Nachman then said to him: "Let the master arise and go to his home." The dead one responded saying "You show that you have not even read the Prophets, for it is written "And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and when I cause you to come out of your graves, O my people."

"But" said Rav Nachman, "it is written "For dust you are, and unto dust shall you return".

Then Rav Achai explained to him, saying "This is meant for one moment before the final resurrection of the dead (that all dead, including tzadikim, will return to dust).

The Rif says that since the last verse mentioned was told to Adam Harishon, it applies to everybody, whether they are tzadikim or not, for everyone is a descendent of Adam. The Maharsha explains that the return of every body to dust is necessary, so every body will be recreated from nothing at the time of resurrection, comparable to the original creation of man.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Commentary: Why is it so important to return to dust and to be recreated at the time of resurrection?

Creation, and the soul's descent into the body, were both intended for the purpose of elevating the body and the vital soul, and through them the entire world. Moreover, this objective is reached primarily through the mitzvot involving action, inasmuch as these mitzvot are performed by the body. The body hosts and serves the neshama. The soul, being so spiritual, needs the body to perform mitzvot in a physical form. [See Tanya Ch 37]

When the neshama leaves the body, the dead person cannot do anymore mitzvot since all the mitzvot are associated with something material. Hence, in Heaven the souls can study Torah in a spiritual form but cannot perform any of its commandments [Berachot 17a]. The body then serves no more purpose so it disintegrates.

A similar idea can be understood from the analogy found in Rashi [Devarim 10:7] between the breaking of the tablets (of the Ten Commandments) and the death of tzaddikim. The Ten commandments were engraved in stone by Hashem. When Moshe came down from Mt Sinai and saw the golden calf that the Jews had made, the letters flew away [see Pesachim 87b] and the stones became too heavy for Moshe to carry. Consequently, they fell from his hands and broke. The letters are comparable to the soul and the stone to the body which hosts it. When the letters flew away, the stones served no more purpose, hence they shattered.

The life of a tzaddik is not a physical one but rather a spiritual one [Tanya Igeret Hakkodesh Ch 27]. His body is as holy as his neshama. He elevates and sanctifies his body and all the physical world around him. Even after his neshama leaves this earth, his body remains holy, so it remains intact. [Eliyahu Hanavi elevated his body to the point that it was comparable to the sanctity of his soul. Therefore, he was not buried but he ascended to the sky. The gematria of Eliyahu is 52, equal to the value of the Hebrew word "beheima" which means animal. He sanctified the animalistic part of his being (ie his body) to transform it into Eliyahu - G-dliness]

Why then is it necessary for Tzaddikim to return to dust even for a moment before resurrection?

The Admur Hazaken explains this through a parable [Torah Ohr]. In order to pick up a house, it must be lifted from the bottom. If the house is picked up from the top, only the top will be lifted and the bottom part will remain below.

Every creature is composed of four basic elements, namely fire, water, air and dust [see Tanya end of Ch 1]. By returning to dust, the tzadik elevates the lost sparks of holiness found in the lowest of these elements, completing the elevation of all parts of his being. [The Baal Shem Tov said that he could have ascended to heaven like Eliyahu HaNavi did, but he wanted to return to dust so he could elevate the other basic components of his being]

Nevertheless, there is a way to avoid the need to return to dust, even for a moment. We say in our prayers [Liturgy, end of the Shemonei Esrei prayer] "My soul should be as (humble as) dust for all". By annulling ourselves with humility towards others, we are fulfilling the verse of "and you shall return to dust" in a spiritual manner. Then when Moshiach comes during our lifetime, we will be able to live an eternal life without a moment of interruption.

Source: Written by the students of Seminary Bais Menachem Montreal, Canada and based on the Sichos of 20 Av 5735 Ch. 3 Acharei-Kedoshim 5724 Ch. and Maamar Ze Yitnu 5748

Tikkun for Amy

Amy Winehouse lived a tragic life, which ended suddenly last week.  Her funeral was held yesterday, after which her body was taken to the Golders Green Crematorium and cremated.

According to Jewish law, a person is only held accountable for his/her actions when they are done willingly, and with full cognizance of their implications. I doubt that Amy had much input into her lack of a proper Jewish burial - a spokesman for the family said "Cremation is part of the family's tradition"

"Shiva - the Jewish ceremony of bereavement - will be observed for two days starting at 5pm today at the Schinder Hall at Southgate Progressive Synagogue."  

Southgate Progressive Synagogue should be totally ashamed of themselves for allowing this family to go ahead with the cremation of their daughter.     

Here are the reasons why Jews are not cremated.  May the learning of this topic be a tikkun for Amy's soul:

Jewish law ("Halachah") is unequivocal that the dead must be buried in the earth.

As a deterrent measure, cremated remains are not interred in a Jewish cemetery. Furthermore, we are told that many of the traditional laws of mourning are not observed after the passing of an individual whose body was cremated. Kaddish, however, is recited for such individuals, and it is certainly appropriate to give charity and do mitzvot in memory of their souls.

Responsibility for the deceased's proper burial lies with the next of kin. While ordinarily Jewish law requires the deceased's children to go to great lengths to respect the departed's wishes, if someone requests to be cremated or buried in a manner which is not in accordance with Jewish tradition, we nevertheless provide him/her with a Jewish burial. It is believed that since the soul has now arrived to the World of Truth it surely sees the value of a proper Jewish burial, and thus administering a traditional Jewish burial is actually granting what the person truly wishes at the moment. Furthermore, if anyone, all the more so your father and mother, asks you to damage or hurt their body, you are not allowed to do so. For our bodies do not belong to us, they belong to G-d.
Learn more at: Why Does Jewish Law Forbid Cremation

Temporary World

We are sent down to this world for a short period of time.  This world is temporary, it is just the entry hall to the World of Truth, Olam HaBa.  All our personal journeys are individually designed to ensure we find our way to the ultimate destination.  The tougher the journey, the greater the reward will be at the end.

"They journeyed from Kivros-hata'avah and camped in Chatzeros" [Masei 33:17]

From this verse, remarked R' Yitzchak of Vorka, we learn that for an individual to break the yetzer hara within him, he must constantly recall the fact that this world is but a temporary one intended to be utilized in preparation for the World to Come.

This is hinted in the verse: "They left Kivros-hata'avah" - how will one be able to bury [likvor] his lust [ta'avah] and subdue his yetzer hara?  By remembering that this world is no more than "Chatzeros", a yard [chatzer] in front of a house, a hallway leading to a palace."

A person who ingrains this thought in his heart, said the Rebbe, will triumph in his war against the yetzer hara.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Last Thing Created

The Mishna in Pirkei Avot 5:8 says that ten things were created during twilight on Erev Shabbos, the sixth and final day of creation. The last thing mentioned in the Mishna is tongs, a work tool to build things. What is the significance of the twilight creations, and what is with the tongs out of all things? Moreover it says "also tongs with the original tongs were created", what does this mean? 

The Meforshim explain that twilight is the time that things are wrapping up and all major work is already completed, except for the finishing touches. With this understanding maybe we can offer as follows. The whole point of the world is to create a situation that masks Hashem's control over every facet of the natural world, and every detail and happening in our life. To this end for six days Hashem created a nature that is used to deny his presence. Nature, to the blind, screams that a system is in place that runs on its own. Hashem need not control everything all the time. He can take a break and let it run on auto pilot, which although terribly incorrect, seems to be the case to the undiscerning eye. 

The last key to the ability to deny Hashem's control is the power of man himself. Each and every day we fight for our self survival and use serious brain power to accomplish it. Our power to think deludes us into believing that we are masters of our own fate. Where did this notion come from? The tongs! Animals do not need to work to earn a living and their needs are naturally supplied without much effort. Rebbi Shimon B"R Elazar says [Kidushin 82b], in my life I have never see a wise fox operate a store, yet the fox and all the animals sustain themselves without toil, while man, who they are meant to serve, toils to survive. 

The finishing touch of the world, which is meant to be a test for us, is the tongs. Without the tongs we would know that only Hashem sustains us. However with tongs in our hands, we ply our trade, thinking it is the tongs that sustain us. This was Hashem's final creation before he sent our Neshamas down for their big test. 

Yet like everything else in the world, Hashem makes the truth abundantly clear to all who look past the surface, otherwise we'd be doomed to fail our test. In this case the Mishna teaches us by answering the question that we all need to ask, who made the first tongs? Obviously Hashem. Every subsequent tongs and all the fruits of our labor are nothing more than His decree and His will. As we play the game called Hishtadlus and survival in Olam HaZeh we need to ask ourselves, who made the first tongs? For He is the one who, with or without our hard work, is controlling everything, and our tongs are just a show.

Source: Revach L'Neshama

Monday, July 25, 2011

Interpreting Dreams

Art: Sharon Tomlinson

written by Chanan Morrison

The Sages made a remarkable claim regarding dreams and their interpretation: "Dreams are fulfilled according to the interpretation" [Berachot 55b]. The interpreter has a key function in the realization of a dream. His analysis can determine how the dream will come to pass!

The Talmud substantiated this statement with the words of the chief wine-butler: "Just as he interpreted, so (my dream) came to be" [Gen. 41:13].

Do dreams foretell the future? Does the interpreter really have the power to determine the meaning of a dream, and alter the future accordingly?

The Purpose of Dreams
Clearly, not all of our dreams are prophetic. Originally, in humanity's pristine state, every dream was a true dream. But with the fall of Adam, mankind left the path of integrity. Our minds became filled with wanton desires and pointless thoughts, and our dreams became more chaff than truth.

Why did God give us the ability to dream? A true dream is a wake-up call, warning us to correct our life's direction. Our eyes are opened to a vivid vision of our future, should we not take heed to mend our ways.

To properly understand the function of dreams, we must first delve into the inner workings of Divine providence in the world. How are we punished or rewarded in accordance to our actions?

The Zohar [Bo 33a] gives the following explanation for the mechanics of providence: The soul has an inner quality that naturally brings about those situations and events that correspond to our spiritual and moral level. Should we change our ways, this inner quality will reflect that change, and will lead us towards to a different set of circumstances.

Dreams are part of this system of providence. They constitute one of the methods utilized by the soul's inner quality to bring about the appropriate outcome.

The Function of the Intepreter
But the true power of a dream is only realized once it has been interpreted. The interpretation intensifies the dream's impact. As the Sages taught, "A dream not interpreted is like a letter left unread" [Berachot 55b]. When a dream is explained, its images become more intense and vivid. The impact on the soul is stronger, and the dreamer is more primed for the consequential outcome.

Of course, the interpreter must be insightful and perceptive. He needs to penetrate the inner message of the dream, and detect the potential influences of the soul's inner qualities that are reflected in the dream.

Multiple Messages
All souls have imperfections. All souls contain a mixture of good and bad traits. A dream is the nascent development of the soul's hidden traits, as they are beginning to be realized. A single dream may contain multiple meanings, since it reflects contradictory qualities within the soul.

When the interpreter gives a positive interpretation to a dream, he helps develop and realize positive traits hidden in the soul of the dreamer. A negative interpretation, on the other hand, will promote negative traits. As the Zohar [Miketz 199b] admonishes:

"A good dream should be kept in mind and not forgotten, so that it will be fulfilled. ... Therefore Joseph mentioned his dream (to his family), so that it would come to pass. He would always anticipate its fulfillment."

It is even possible to interpret multiple aspects of a dream, all of which are potentially true. Even if they are contradictory, all may still be realized! Rabbi Bena'a related that, in his days, there were 24 dream-interpreters in Jerusalem. "Once I had a dream," he said, "and I went to all of them. No two interpretations were the same, but they all came to pass!" [Berachot 55b]

Dreams of the Nation
These concepts are also valid on the national level.

Deliverance of the Jewish people often takes place through the medium of dreams. Both Joseph and Daniel achieved power and influence through the dreams of gentile rulers. The Jewish people have a hidden inner potential for greatness and leadership. As long as this quality is unrealized, it naturally tries to bring about its own fulfillment — sometimes, by way of dreams.

When a person is brought before the Heavenly court, he is asked, "Did you yearn for redemption?" [Shabbat 31a] Why is this important? By anticipating and praying for the redemption, we help develop the inner quality of the nation's soul, thus furthering its advance and actualization.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Follow Your Heart

R' Avrohom HaKohen Pam, Rosh Yeshiva of Mesivta Torah Vodaath, gives the following advice on distribution of tzedakah : "After all is said and done, every person is drawn to certain individuals and institutions which, for some reason, seem to grab his heart. This is how it should be. A person must follow his heart in his service of Hashem.

"This concept is explained at length by the Netziv of Volozhin, in his commentary Haamek Davar [Numbers 15:41], who observes: in Koheles, King Solomon says "Follow the path of your heart and the sight of your eyes" [Ecclesiastes 11:9] - meaning that the service of Hashem is highly individualized and no two people are alike. One person is immersed in painstaking toil in the study of Torah all day long, while another puts tremendous effort into prayer and supplication, and yet a third person throws himself heart and soul into acts of charity and kindness.

All of them are sincerely dedicated to glorifying the Name of G-d, each in his singular way. Even in the quest for Torah knowledge, no two scholars are alike; each has a unique methodology and approach to his studies. Likewise, in the pursuit of mitzvos, everyone has a preference for certain good deeds over others. And in the practice of philanthropy, no two benefactors follow the same path.

"Therefore, if a person comes to ask for advice "What area of Divine service should I emphasize?" the only answer is to paraphrase the words of King Solomon - "Follow the path of your heart" - if your heart is attracted to a certain mitzvah, it is because your celestial soul has recognized this as the mitzvah which is bonded to the root and essence of your being."

Source: Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Japan's Black Rain [video]

Ex Japanese Nuclear Regulator Arnie Gundersen blames radioactive animal feed on "Black Rain"

While many radioactive cattle have been discovered large distances from Fukushima, what is more important is where their feed is coming from. "It's not only about the radioactive cattle in Fukushima Prefecture; its also about the radioactive straw the cattle eat that was grown elsewhere". Straw found 45 miles from Fukushima is highly contaminated with radioactive cesium, which is an indication that radiation has contaminated large portions of Northern Japan. More than half a million disintegrations per second in a kilogram of straw are comparable to Chernobyl levels. This proves that the American Nuclear Regulatory Commission was correct when it told Americans to evacuate beyond 50 miles and that the Japanese should have done the same. An Ex-Secretariat of Japan's Nuclear Safety Commission blames this contamination on "Black Rain". Rather than minimize the information the Japanese people receive, Gundersen suggests minimizing their radiation exposure."

Blown Away

Sydney: Cyclonic winds and rain - for a week.
Read more at: Sydney Morning Herald

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Changing Times

"And he shall speak words against the Most High, and shall wear out the saints of the Most High; and he shall think to change the seasons and the law; and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and half a time."  Daniel 7:25

Obama to Back Repeal of Law Restricting Marriage

WASHINGTON — President Obama will endorse a bill to repeal the law that limits the legal definition of marriage to a union between a man and a woman, the White House said Tuesday, taking another step in support of gay rights. 

Source: NY Times

Gateway to Geulah

Here in Jerusalem, everyone’s talking about the approaching Redemption. In my neighborhood, two classes are being given on “the End of Days” according to sources in Chazal and the Rishonim. A woman who just moved to Israel told me that she went to see Rebbetzin Kanievsky, who said to her, “It’s good that you’ve come to Eretz Yisrael now, because the Geulah is coming very soon.” At the entrance to the women’s section of the Kosel, women hand out what I call “Moshiach sheets.” These are two-sided Hebrew pages quoting statements by contemporary Gedolim about the imminent arrival of Moshiach, as well as Talmudic and Midrashic statements describing the advent of the Geulah (sounding like today’s headlines). For example, Rav Dovid Abuchatzera of Nahariya, the grandson of the Baba Sali, dreamed that the Baba Sali appeared to him and angrily upbraided him, “Moshiach has been by you twice, and you didn’t stand up for him.” Since then, Rav Dovid stands up for every one of his visitors.

Thus filled with excitement about the dawning Redemption, I was sitting at the Shabbos table on Shabbos Shmos when my husband delivered a Dvar Torah that turned my anticipation into worry. He was describing how, the day after Moshe killed the Egyptian taskmaster, Moshe came upon two Jews fighting with each other. After Moshe tried unsuccessfully to stop their quarrel, the posek states: “Moshe was frightened, and he said, ‘Indeed, the matter is known.’” [2:14] Of course, we all know what was “known”: that Moshe had killed an Egyptian. My husband, however, quoted Rashi, who cited the Midrash that Moshe suddenly knew that because Jews were fighting with each other they did not deserve to be redeemed.

I felt like the Redemption is a ripening fruit almost ready to fall. Could our divisiveness and discord be a sticky black pitch that keeps the Redemption stuck to the branch?

Two weeks later an article in Hamodia sent me into further paroxysms of doubt. The author quoted Rav Gedaliah Schorr, zt”l, who said that even when things are decreed Above and destined to happen here below, whether or not they actually occur depends on human behavior. Thus the Ramban accounts for the discrepancy between Hashem’s prophecy to Avraham that his progeny would be strangers in a land not their own for 400 years, and the final calculation of the Torah in Parshas Bo that Israel left Egypt after 430 years. Although the Geulah from Mitzrayim was destined to occur after 400 years, Am Yisrael’s unworthiness extended the exile for another tortuous 30 years. So, I wondered, Moshiach is here in Israel now, and he’s visited Rav Dovid in Nehariya twice, but could the Redemption be delayed another tumultuous 30 years because of our infighting?

In November, 2008, Rav Noach Weinberg zt”l went to see Rav Elyashuv, shlita. The Gadol haDor said to Rav Noach (and I heard the words from Rav Noach’s own lips): “The danger to the survival of Am Yisrael is greater today than in the darkest days of the Holocaust.”

So how are we supposed to bring the Geulah? The Midrash (Bereishis Rabba 2:4) states unequivocally that Moshiach will come only in the merit of Am Yisrael doing teshuva. The Gemara offers two possible scenarios: Rav Eliezer says: “If Yisrael repents they will be redeemed—and if not, they will not be redeemed.” Rav Yehoshua, however, insists that one way or another the Redemption will come. Either we will do tshuvah out of our own free will, or Hashem will subject us to a “king whose decrees will be as harsh as Haman’s,” and then in desperation, we will do tshuvah. [Sanhedrin 97b] In other words, the Redemption will come, but whether it comes sweetly or harshly depends on our doing tshuvah.

After the conclusion of the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead), Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita, giving a shiur in Har Nof on Shabbos Parshas Vaera, said: “A great world war is on the horizon, and what we have experienced so far is a mere skirmish compared to what the future holds. … Whoever wishes to witness the Redemption must act now and make substantial changes in their lives. … Now is the time to shake ourselves awake and prepare for what Chazal foresaw would take place b’achris hayaimim, in the days preceding the coming of Moshiach.”

But what exactly are we to do tshuvah on? We could make improvements in so many areas: prayer, tsniyus, the way we treat our fellow Jews. The time is short, and we cannot work on everything. What is the most crucial area to do tshuvah on?

The Chafetz Chaim, in his preface to Sefer Chafetz Chaim, states clearly that the Redemption is being delayed because of the sins of loshon hara and sinas chinum, hatred among Jews. As the Manchester Rosh Yeshivah, Rav Yehudah Zev Segal, z”l, summarizes the Chafetz Chaim’s proofs: “The 2,000-year-old exile is not a continuous punishment for the sins of those who lived during the Second Temple era. Hashem stands ready to end the exile immediately—were it not for the sins of sinas chinam and loshon hora which continue to wreak destruction among our people. … The Chofetz Chaim says that if we analyze our sins, there is only one that can be so powerful as to cause Hashem not to redeem His beloved children—the sin of loshon hara. It is simple logic. If loshon hara, and the sinas chinam which it caused, had the negative spiritual power to destroy the Beis HaMikdash, then certainly it has the power to prevent the rebuilding of the Beis MaMikdash.”

The Chafetz Chaim admits that he wondered how good, frum Jews end up speaking loshon hara, a sin as terrible as eating treife. His answer is that the Satan convinces the would-be speaker of loshon hara that the subject of the loshon hara is an evil person and therefore it is permissible (and even praiseworthy!) to speak loshon hara about him.

Let’s be honest. After decades of the grass-root movement for Shmiras HaLoshon, very few of us would gossip about friends and neighbors. The loshon hara that still thrives in our community (and prolongs our nightmare exile) is usually directed at prominent individuals we don’t know personally or groups of Jews who differ from us religiously or politically. Thus, here in Eretz Yisrael, no self-respecting Jew would say, “Did you hear what just happened between _________ and her husband?” But it is common to hear diatribes against political figures, left-wing groups, and even different Torah-observant factions. And all this many decades after the Chazon Ish poskined that the halachas bein adam l’havero apply to all Jews, not just Torah-observant Jews! 

Chazal [Yoma 9] say something that should wake us all up like a splash of cold water on our faces. Although Torah and chesed were abundant among the generation of the destruction, they did not prevent the burning of the Bais HaMikdash and the consequent exile, because the evil of rampant hatred among Jews outweighed the merit of Torah and chesed. 

Our generation, too, abounds in Torah and chesed, but they alone are not sufficient to end the exile and its suffering. No matter how we justify, rationalize, and excuse our hatred, it is the ugly black wall that blocks the gateway to the Geulah.

Blogs are a Lifeline

There was an anonymous comment posted at Yeranen Yaakov, which sums up why it's important the blogs continue.... 

Anonymous said...
I am probably the last person to be able to offer anything worthwhile on any of this, but I would like to say this: I was brought up in a secular home. These blogs, and the various thoughts and concepts expressed have been instrumental in helping me find my way back to Judaism. I am a middle aged, house bound disabled person, and these blogs have restored in me a desire to fight to heal and yet accept. It helped me to begin Torah study, and I have begun to learn Hebrew. It led, from one link to another, an opening of a world within myself, and a greater understanding of the world outside of myself. And now, from some of these sites, I am learning to daven. No medical team of doctors could do this. Nor could the kind words from a friend. It was searching the internet and happening onto blogs such as this. So, before anyone thinks of pulling the plug, think about this, and how it affected someone you did not know existed.

If you've ever been unwell and stuck at home, the internet is a life-saver.
If you live in a part of the world where you have no synagogue, community or rabbi, again the internet is your life-saver. 

I know what it's like to be stuck at home because for several years I was, due to a major illness which B"H has pretty much disappeared now.   I also know what it's like to have no rabbi available to ask questions, and so I use the internet rabbis, without whom I'd be in big trouble. Thanks to all of you who answer me..... much appreciated.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How to perform Miracles

Parshat Matot: Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev

Lo Yachel Devaroi, K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh” - do not profane your words; do as your mouth spoke.

The Torah tells us that we must keep our word and not violate it. Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev in the Kedushas Levi makes a play on the words to explain how mortal people can perform miracles. He reads the words as follows.

If “Lo Yachel Devaroi” - you do not profane your words - then they will be holy and meaningful. Therefore, “K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh” whatever comes out of your mouth will happen.

This is the concept of “Tzadik Gozer, VHaKadosh Boruch Hu Mikayem”, a tzaddik decrees and Hashem makes it happen. He further explains that this is why the Parsha is called Matot. Matot also means to turn. When a person watches his mouth, Hashem turns the Midas HaDin [judgment] into Midas HaRachamim [mercy].

The Geula Bloggers' Dilemma

Do Geula Blogs Prevent Geula ????

Three things come when the mind is occupied otherwise: Moshiach . ... [Sanhedrin 97a]

The Maggid of Dubno : the Zohar even states that it is not God’s will to reveal the arrival date of the Moshiach, but when the date draws near, even children will be able to make the calculation (Bereishis 118a). 

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Tzaddik Decrees

"He shall not desecrate his word; according to whatever comes from his mouth shall he do" [Matos 30:3]

Rashi explains: "Lo yacheil devaro" - [This has the same meaning] as 'he shall not profane [yechalel] his word' [that is] he shall not make his words mundane."

On this verse, R' Menachem Mendel of Kosov remarked: When an individual is careful to speak only of holy matters and consistently avoids speaking of mundane matters, then Hashem rewards him by fulfilling the man's blessings or prayers.  Thus, Chazal asserts "A tzaddik decrees and HaKadosh Baruch Hu fulfills".

This idea, concluded the Rebbe, is hinted at in the verse "Lo yacheil devaro" - A person who does not make his words profane merits reaching the level where "according to whatever comes from his mouth He will do" - A tzaddik decrees and HaKadosh Baruch Hu fulfills."

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Fukushima Residents Plea for Help [video]

A video made by residents of Fukushima, who feel their government has abandoned them.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Whale thanks its Rescuers

A whale of a tale: a humpback whale is rescued and says a huge thank you.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Rainbow in Brooklyn

Just before the levaya [funeral] for Leiby a"h yesterday, there was a [hail] storm  in Brooklyn, followed by a double rainbow.  [Photo: Huffington Post]

A sign of judgment, or a sign of Geulah?

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Living on the Edge, Literally

Residents of Kingscliff Beach in N.S.W. are watching their backyards falling into the sea.  Whilst erosion has long been a problem there, the ocean's intensity of late has caused the problem to magnify with six metres of parkland being lost in the past week.

Months of sandbagging and shoring up the beach with sand from nearby Cudgen Creek has amounted to nothing as erosion continues to swallow large chunks of land at an ever-increasing rate on Kingscliff beach.
Several tourists at Kingscliff Beach Tweed Coast Holiday Park have been forced to relocate, with the park losing 6m of land in the past week, including 4m on Tuesday night when a mature pandanus tree and Norfolk pine crashed to the beach.

Tweed Shire Council officers are scrambling to shore up what is remaining of the beach ahead of tomorrow's full moon and associated king tides, with further sandbagging expected to take place in front of the caravan park and Cudgen Headland Surf Life Saving Club.

Source: Gold Coast News

Audio: Obama in Bible Codes

I haven't listened to this yet: Tamar Yonah interviews Rabbi Matityahu Glazerson on Israel National Radio

What does it say in the Bible about U.S. President Obama and what he will do regarding Israel?  Is he 'The One' to fill the role of Gog in the end times stories about Gog and Magog?  Where does it show in the Bible that indeed this is what it hints to?  Who could Obama be the reincarnation of in the Bible, and where is it written about from the biblical past, about today's Flotilla ships coming to Israel.  it's all in the book called, "Obama in Torah Codes " written by (guest on the show) Rabbi M. Glazerson and Prof. R. Haralick. 
To listen to the interview: click here

Also see: Obama and the Evil at the End of Days or click on the OBAMA label below this post.

A Wake Up Call

When dreadful things happen, I tend to block them out and try to ignore them, because I can't deal with them.

In the case of the little boy HY"D who was found murdered yesterday - murdered by a lunatic who by all accounts should have been locked up long ago - the only way I can deal with it is to get angry at all the frummers who protect these child molesters, who don't go to police and have them locked up, because they don't want to "inform" on another Jew.

Maybe now that the worst possible thing has happened, people will learn.  When you are kind to the cruel, you end up being to cruel to the kind.

Rabbis and communities: stop protecting child abusers, wife beaters and anyone else.  These people are dangerous, maybe you understand that now.  Or tragically, maybe you still don't.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

On the Road

Art:Alex Levin

At the end of Pirkei Avot [Ch. 6:9], Rabbi Yossei ben Kisma tells the following story:

I was once walking on the road, when a man greeted me, and I returned his greeting. He said to me "Rabbi, from what place are you?" I told him "From a great city of scholars and teaching scribes am I."

He said to me: "Rabbi would you be willing to live with us in our place? I would then give you a million golden dinar, and precious stones and pearls."

I answered him: "Were you to give me all the silver and gold and precious stones and pearls in the world, I would not live anywhere but in a place of Torah."

And so it is written in the Book of Psalms [ch 119:72] by David King of Israel: "Better to me is the Torah of Thy word, than thousands of gold and silver [pieces]".... It is further stated [Chagai 2:8] "Mine is the silver, and mine the gold, says the Lord."

The Midrash Shmuel suggests that Rabbi Yossei ben Kisma did not notice the man who greeted him. Had he noticed him, he would have greeted him first, as required by the Torah. [Berachot 17a]

Kehati explains that Rabbi Yossei did not accept the offer, mentioning the verse that states that all the riches belong to Hashem. Therefore, Hashem can provide him with his livelihood without having to move to another town.

From the Commentary of the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

The numerous details told in this story will clarify some intriguing points:

1) Why is it relevant to specify that Rabbi Yossei was once walking on the road?

2) The man only inquired as to where Rabbi Yossei was from. Based on his answer, he made an incredible offer. Wouldn't it be more logical to first ask for the Rabbi's name and credentials before deciding to hire him? And how relevant is it to know where he was from?

3) In his answer, Rabbi Yossei says that even if the man would give him all the silver and gold in the world, he would only dwell in a Torah environment. However, the man only offered one million dinar, so why did Rabbi Yossei reply with such exaggeration?

4) When Rabbi Yossei mentions the verse from Tehilim, he cites the author Dovid HaMelech. He does not name the author of any other verse he mentions.

5) Why was it necessary to cite so many verses in support of his decision? How does the last verse, pointing out that all silver and gold belong to Hashem, strengthen his argument?

6) Pirkei Avot is supposed to teach us morals and ethics. What message can be learned from this story with regard to our actions?

Rabbi Yossei ben Kisman's Divine service centered on absolute devotion to the study of Torah. Involvement with any other matter interfered with his studies. That is why he specifies that this story took place when he was once on the road, pointing out that this was an unusual situation, since he was always studying in the Beit Hamedrash.

Nevertheless, even while travelling, Rabbi Yossei was absorbed in reviewing his Torah, and he did not pay any attention to by-passers. For that reason, he did not greet the man first. It was precisely this intense concentration which triggered the interest of this man. This was enough to convince the man that Rabbi Yossei was an uncommon sage. He did not need to know his name nor to ask for any references.

Then the stranger proceeded to ask where Rabbi Yossei was from. By asking this question, the man wanted to know if Rabbi Yossei was indispensable to his town. When Rabbi Yossei answered that he came from a town full of Torah scholars, the man felt that the Rabbi's departure from his home town would not alter its spiritual standing. Therefore, he invited him to serve in his town and promised him a million golden dinar. This offer was made so Rabbi Yossei would be able to devote his attention entirely to the community, with no worries about his own livelihood. This wealth would also enable Rabbi Yossei to give charity generously.

Nevertheless, Rabbi Yossei declined the offer, replying that all the money in the world will not move him from a place of Torah. Rabbi Yossei meant to say that even if he possessed all the money in the world, allowing him to fulfill the mitzvah of tzedakah in the most complete way possible, he would still pass up this privilege in order to stay in a place of Torah. This offer might have been suitable for another rabbi, but Rabbi Yossei's efforts were to be directed only to Torah studies.

Rabbi Yossei then brought support for his approach by mentioning Dovid HaMelech. As a King, he was very wealthy and all his riches were spent for the needs of the monarchy and the needs of the people [Sanhedrin 21a].  Nevertheless, even though he knew the benefits of wealth, King Dovid proclaimed that he preferred the Torah over gold and silver, even when used positively. Why did Rabbi Yossei, as well as King Dovid, favour Torah study over the abundance of deeds (that are facilitated by wealth)?

The main difference between the study of Torah and the performance of its comandments is that in order to be able to perform any mitzvah, some money is needed. The Midrash says [Vayikra Rabbah 27:2] that if one wants to affix a mezuzah on his door post, Hashem has to give him enough money to buy a house, and this applies to every mitzvah. This is the meaning of the verse that Rabbi Yossei mentioned, that all the money belongs to Hashem. Thus, our mitzvot are facilitated by Hashem. The study of Torah, however, does not depend on Hashem [Devarim 30:12] but rather on our own effort. This was Rabbi Yossei's sole interest and to this end did he aspire.

A story is told about a Jew whom the previous Rebbe advised to spend more time studying Torah and less time indulging in worldly matters. The man replied that a Rebbe is detached from the material world and cannot appreciate worldly pleasures. "Should the Rebbe be put to the test and know the great pleasures life has to offer, the Rebbe would not ask me to forfeit them" said the man.

Here we are given advice by Rabbi Yossei ben Kisman, a man who was put to the test, and nonetheless chose to remain in his Torah environment. No money in the world could distract him from his special way of life.

Based on the Sicha of Bamidbar 5734 and Pinchas 5741
"From The Rebbe's Treasure" Vol.2 - by the Students of Seminary Bais Menachem, Montreal Canada - Merkos Publications

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Behind the Veil

Art: Sharon Tomlinson

Badeken is the ceremony where the groom veils the bride in a Jewish wedding.

Just prior to the actual wedding ceremony, which takes place under the Chuppah, the bridegroom covers the bride's face with a veil. The bride wears this veil until the conclusion of the chuppah ceremony.

The following story is attributed to Rabbi Yaakov Eizik Blatner of Tatrask, written by Rabbi Rafael Nachman Kahn, translated from the Hebrew by Basha Majerczyk

The Mitteler Rebbe's daughter was betrothed to the son of Reb Mordechai of Chernobyl.  During the wedding, when Reb Mordechai asked the Rebbe to present a Torah insight, the Rebbe declined, suggesting that Reb Mordechai himself say something.  This is what he said:

We find that our Matriarch Rivka covered herself with a veil when she first met her groom, the Patriarch Yaakov.  Rashi translates the verse as "vatiskos [she veiled herself] in the reflexive form, as in vatiskover [she was buried] and vatishover."

Now, there are three stages in life - birth, marriage and death. These times always cause a tumult; joyful merriment when one is born and marries, mournful bereavement when one passes away.  During birth and death, the one responsible for all the attention is indifferent to the commotion he is causing.  It is only in marriage when one appreciates the tumult being generated, and it is probable that this will bring him to arrogance and make him haughty.

"Rivka, however, was different. Even during her marriage she veiled herself, exemplifying humility and modesty. She was indifferent to all the commotion - as if she were being born or buried."

Learn more about the Badeken veiling ceremony at: The Veiling Ceremony and Wedding Rituals and Customs

Question of the Week:

I recently attended a Chassidic wedding. It was a very different experience. One thing I had never seen before is that the bride wears a veil at the Chuppah that is so thick she can't see anything at all, and no one can see her face at all. What is the reason behind this?


There's an old stereotype when it comes to marriage. Men marry women for their looks. Women marry men for their money. As cynical as this view may be, there is some truth to it.

Men fall for beauty. The fact that there are plenty of pretty girls with rotten character does nothing to stop the male quest for a beauty queen. And so, many wonderful girls are overlooked simply because they do not fit into today's narrow and superficial definition of beauty.

Meanwhile, women say they want a man who is financially stable, which is often just a euphemism for a rich guy. Somehow she thinks that if he has a seven digit bank balance he will know how to look after her. As if buying expensive jewellery and luxurious holidays is the only way to show her he really cares. And the really nice guys who are not such high flyers are often left behind.

Of course we need to be attracted to our spouse. And of course we all need money to survive. But these are not the most essential ingredients for a happy marriage. Too often people fall for the outer version of what they truly seek. Rather than physical beauty, what we are really looking for is inner beauty and a sweet heart. It is not wealth we seek, what we really want is a steadfast and dependable source of moral support. Looks and money are poor substitutes for good character and emotional supportiveness. It is only when we see beyond these external features and meet a real person that we have a chance of finding and keeping our soulmate.

This is the message behind the thick veil. When the groom veils his bride, he is telling her, "I am not marrying you for your pretty face. I am marring you for the beautiful person you are. So I can marry you with your face covered. Your beauty shines from within." And the bride being veiled is telling him, "This veil will prevent me from seeing what type of wedding ring you place on my finger. I don't care. I will accept whatever ring you give, because along with it I get you. It is you I want to marry, not your money or the jewellery you buy me."

A rich guy can lose his money, a pretty girl her looks. But inner beauty and spiritual wealth are ours forever. A marriage based on such eternal values will conquer just about anything. The bride's face may be veiled, but her vision is clearer than ever.

Rabbi Aron Moss - Nefesh