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.

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]

Journeys



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?

Answer:

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


Monday, July 11, 2011

The Motives of a Critic

Art: Norman Rockwell


Source: Based on Likutei Sichos, Lubavitcher Rebbe
Parshas Pinchas

The tribes appeared to have convincing proof that Pinchas' motives were not pure [Rashi] but they were mistaken. This teaches us a powerful lesson whenever we are tempted to find fault with another person's good deeds and question their motives.  One can never know another's true intentions.  So long as a person is doing good, he should not be put down or mocked, even if one has a "solid" proof that the person is insincere. And in any case, even if it were true, and the person indeed had ulterior motives, we are taught always to study Torah and perform mitzvos even for the wrong reasons, since in this way one will eventually come to have pure motives.

A deeper question here is: Where does the desire come from to find fault in people who are doing something good?  In our case, the tribes appeared to have holy intentions: they were concerned that Pinchas had slighted the honor of Moshe by taking the law into his own hands.  Similarly, a person may imagine that he has a low tolerance for other people's bad intentions because he himself is humble, and thus he finds the pride of others distasteful.

In truth, however, the reverse is likely the case.  The fact that a person criticizes the good deeds of another is probably because the critic himself is proud and does not like the idea that somebody else accomplished something that he did not.  Of course, he will not admit this, even to himself, because his pride makes him lazy, and recognizing that somebody else has accomplished something makes it more uncomfortable to remain lazy.  Therefore, his arrogance leads him to put down the other person's good deeds, so they do not wound his pride or inspire him to be a better person, which would require effort.

Furthermore, even if somebody's mitzvah observance does have overtones of haughtiness, the critic's pride is nevertheless more distasteful.  For, ultimately, the person who "showed off" with his mitzvah was at least honest about his pride, and did not attempt to conceal it.  The critic, however, cannot tolerate the truth that he too is proud, and he thus stoops to dishonesty, veiling his pride in a "cloak" of humility and righteous indignation.

The lesson is obvious: It is much wiser to be an activist than a critic.  For a little pride can make criticism destructive, rather than constructive, but a good deed always remains good, regardless of the intention.

Conflict, Strife and Tzaddikim

Art: Jacek Yerka


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

The Talmud teaches "In the future, G-d will grant 310 worlds to each Tzaddik".

Each Tzaddik builds his 310 worlds through conflict. Every word of strife is a stone. The letters of the words are called "stones". Thus the Sefer HaYetzirah states: "two stones build two houses...."

Words of strife are built of slippery stones.
Strife is maChLoKes. Slippery is meChuLaKim.

Stones created through strife are therefore slippery and cannot be joined. However, a Tzaddik can join these slippery stones. He can then build them into houses.

He makes peace between these stones, arranging them and joining them together until a house is built. This is the peaceful home.

The Tzaddik builds a peaceful home out of these slippery conflicting stones. Out of these houses he then builds a city, then a universe, until all 310 worlds are completed.

It is written [Prov. 8:21] "That I may give those who love Me substance".

"Substance" is YeSH [yud shin] - adding up to 310. These are the 310 worlds.



A Tzaddik inclines to the side of kindness. He even presumes the merit of those who oppose him.

The world cannot endure the light of a Tzaddik. Those who oppose the Tzaddik obscure his light enough so that the world can hear it.

A truly great Tzaddik must also face many judgments and accusations on high. Those who oppose him silence these judgments and accusations.

A man is on trial for a serious offence. Suddenly, another person becomes filled with zeal and says "I will judge him myself and take vengeance on him".

The others who wanted to bring the defendant to judgment are then silenced.

There are times when the defendant would find it impossible to endure the judgment of his original adversaries. The one who wishes to take personal vengeance is then actually doing him a favour.

It is better for him to endure the judgment of the individual than that of the many. He can bear the former, but the latter would be too much for him.

It is written [Num 25:11] "Pinchas.... turned My wrath away from the children of Israel when he took my revenge among them, and I did not destroy them."

Pinchas killed the sinner Zimri, taking the judgment into his own hands. Had he not done this, the Jewish people would have been sentenced to annihilation. But because Pinchas took G-d's vengeance into his own hands, the accusation against the Jews was silenced.

A man stands up against a Tzaddik. He says "I will act against him! I will show him my strength and revenge!"

This man is actually silencing all other judgments against the Tzaddik.

There is another benefit that comes from such conflict. Before a Tzaddik can rise from one level to the next, he is first tested. [Sh'mos Rabbah 2:3] Those who can advance are called "those who have the power to stand in the King's palace".

Friday, July 8, 2011

A Lofty Trait


Art: "Be Still and Know" - Melanie Crawford


"He perceived no iniquity in Yaakov" [Balak 23:21]

R' Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev remarked: 

Hashem, to Whom everything is revealed and known, does not look at the sins of a Jew, as the verse states: "He does not look [lo hibit] at the iniquity in Yaakov".

If this is the way of Hashem, how much more so is it forbidden for us - flesh and blood - to look at the sins of another Jew!  We, too, must cling to this lofty trait of "He does not look at the iniquity in Yaakov".

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Don't Mess with Shechita

Remember the Freak Storm in Holland video last week.... the incredible lightning that struck as soon as Shechita was messed with in that part of the world ?    Melbourne Australia had a rare earthquake the other day, which shook them all up..... and here's why:

[You may read this article in the original at AJNWatch]

Were the people of Melbourne and surrounding country areas the addressees of a (not-so) gentle warning message aimed at the state and federal governments?  Saying: "Don't mess with Shechita!"

To many in the community it may indeed seem so.


Only 9 days after the Sunday Age gave front-page coverage to an ignorant and biased anti-Shechita campaign, most of the city and environs felt a 'heavenly jolt' which they claim is a forewarning of what may happen if anti-Shechita laws are implemented.

They cite as proof the case of New Zealand where last year the government declared plans to ban Shechita - under pressure from a minister who was later allegedly found to have a strong conflict of interest in the matter.

Well, we all know what has happened in New Zealand since that time. Not one, but two devastating and destructive earthquakes plus hundreds of aftershocks have almost totally destroyed life in the city of Christchurch. In fact they just had another one today - this time in the North Island.

So who knows? Maybe there is some link between Shechita bans and earthquakes...

Someone, (possibly Michael Danby and David Southwick) should pass on the message to Julia Gillard and Ted Baillieu - "Don't risk it!"

Source: WARNING: "Don't start with Shechita!"

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Believe

 
I heard from my master, the Baal Shem Tov, that "belief" means the mystical attachment of the soul to the Holy One, blessed be He.  [Toldos Yaakov Yosef, Ki Tavo]



When your thoughts cling constantly to G·d, He sends you words to fix yourself and the world.

When you become a chariot for wisdom and your thoughts cling constantly to G·d, as it is written, "to Him you shall cling," [Deut 10:20] the Holy One sends you words to uplift and sweeten in order to fix yourself and the world.  [Degel Machane Ephraim]

The Igros Kodesh


Ever since Gimel Tamuz, chassidim of the Lubavitcher Rebbe have been writing letters to the "Igros Kodesh" [Holy Letters] - the 24 volumes of books containing letters written by the Rebbe during his lifetime.   A letter or "pan" is written and a random volume of the Igros is chosen and opened: sometimes a miraculous answer to the question posed is received, and sometimes not.  There is great debate over whether this practice is kosher or not, and also why some people receive answers, and some do not.  

Some Lubavitchers will tell you that it depends on your emunah.  If you believe enough, you will get an answer.  But just as before Gimel Tamuz, sometimes the Rebbe would respond to a question, and sometimes he would not.  The same thing applies to the Igros answers.

Rabbi Yosef Yeshaya Braun [ex-Sydney and now a member of the Crown Hts Beth Din] gives his definitive response to the practice of writing to the Rebbe, via the Igros, for an answer to a question.

Rabbi Braun:

The hardest questions are those having to do with Igros Kodesh.  When people open to an answer in the Igros Kodesh and they come to me with it, I tell them that these are the most difficult questions because I never did shimush (i.e. hands-on rabbinic internship) in this.

I did shimush with my grandfather and other rabbanim in various areas of halacha but with this, there are no clear-cut rules.  There are no “Rules of Igros Kodesh.”  And to a certain extent, it depends on hergesh (feeling).

People are inclined to grasp at signs like the date of the letter or to whom it is addressed.  On the one hand, they have upon whom to rely because to a certain extent, the whole inyan of answers through the medium of the Igros Kodesh is based upon the traditional Jewish practice (which the Rebbe praised), to open a Chumash or another seifer and to look for signs.

On the other hand, we tend not to regard an answer we open to in the Igros Kodesh as merely a sign, but as an answer from the Rebbe.  People write a letter to the Rebbe and expect a response.  So when they come to me with questions about the answers they opened to, I have to see whether there is a clear answer and if there isn’t, I am inclined to think (although there is no doubt that the Rebbe always responds and blesses, impacting the actual events in our lives) that this is because we don’t always receive an answer from the Rebbe in writing.

In several sichos of 5748, the Rebbe said that when questions arise in health matters, to speak to a doctor-friend; in parnasa matters – to knowledgeable friends.  Also, in the sicha of 2 Adar 5748 of “come and let us make an accounting of the world,” it says to refer all questions to three Chassidishe rabbanim.  Does asking the Rebbe questions in the Igros Kodesh contradict this instruction from the Rebbe?

When we talk about writing to the Rebbe, we must differentiate between requests for a bracha and questions on various matters.  The Rebbe told us that we can continue asking him for brachos.  Today, when we cannot ask the Rebbe directly, we should write to the Rebbe for a bracha.  Ditto for reports of our activities – we should continue sending them to the Rebbe.

Requests for brachos using s’farim of the Rebbe is an old Chabad practice.  We know that Chassidim would put panim in a Tanya, like it says explicitly in the Rebbe’s letter for Yud Shevat 5711, that after reading a pan it “should be placed among the pages of a maamer, kuntres etc. of the teachings of the Rebbe, my father-in-law, and sent to him (if possible, that day) so it can be read at his gravesite.”

This was the practice of Chassidim when they needed a bracha immediately and could not contact the Rebbe (because in those days there were no faxes or emails and even telephone service was expensive and not always handy).  They would write their request for a bracha and put it in a volume of the Rebbe’s teachings, with the knowledge that as soon as they did so, the Rebbe received it and gave his bracha.

However, when you want to ask the Rebbe a question and receive a response, in that sicha of 2 Adar 5748 the Rebbe makes it clear that all questions should be referred to three Chassidishe rabbanim.

I was in 770 at the time and I heard that sicha.  The hanacha of the sicha wasn’t written as clearly as the sicha itself was said.  The Rebbe reviewed these guidelines a number of times and it is impossible to explain what the Rebbe said in any other way.

At the time, when the Rebbe said that certain questions should be referred to mashpiim or doctor-friends or knowledgeable friends, there were Chassidim who refused to accept this and they wrote the Rebbe that they wanted to continue asking him directly.  The Rebbe responded that when you follow the guidance of knowledgeable friends, he is conveying his answer through them.  In the years that followed, the Rebbe said that after 40 years, the sensibilities of the talmid become like the sensibilities of the teacher.

Yet people do ask questions using the Igros Kodesh and many open to amazingly precise answers.

There’s no question that after this practice has spread and we see amazing answers from the Rebbe to many people, that this is (as the Chasam Sofer put it) a “mofes chai” (living miracle) and “experience the ultimate witness,” that the Rebbe answers even those who ask him questions.

However, we should not be doing the opposite of what the Rebbe told us to do! And as I said, this is not a horaa that is debatable.  It’s a clear horaa that the Rebbe repeated a number of times in that sicha.  I don’t understand how Chassidim can ignore a clear horaa of the Rebbe.  A Chassid who wants to fulfill the Rebbe’s horaos should do as the Rebbe said and ask his questions according to the guidelines the Rebbe set out.

It is possible that a rav or knowledgeable friends will decide that they cannot answer his question, and will tell him to write to the Rebbe.  In the Igros Kodesh we find that Rabbi Dvorkin was asked about a certain thing, and he said it was a spiritual question and should be asked of the Rebbe.  Although the Rebbe usually refrained from answering halachic questions and referred the questioner to a rav, in this case, the Rebbe responded.

There are however, many Chassidim who write any questions and put them in the Igros Kodesh.  Maybe it’s because they don’t know the Rebbe’s explicit guidelines or for other reasons.  Sometimes the answer they open to isn’t clear, and they go to a rav for him to explain it.  Although the rav has to try and explain it, since they wrote already, he needs to tell them that if they want to fulfill the Rebbe’s horaos, these questions should be asked of Chassidishe rabbanim from the outset.

I’ll put it this way – those who ask the Rebbe questions through the Igros Kodesh are doing this on their own responsibility, while those who ask Chassidishe rabbanim are fulfilling the Rebbe’s horaa.

I’ll emphasize yet again, all of this is just about shailos (questions).  When it comes to requests for brachos (blessings), the Rebbe said we can continue asking him directly and based on the Chabad practice of putting a pan in the pages of the Rebbe’s teachings, we can certainly ask the Rebbe for brachos through the Igros Kodesh.

More from Rabbi Braun's interview at : Chabad.Info
Related: Igros Kodesh Story from Chabakuk Elisha A Simple Jew