Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova !

On Ahavas Yisrael

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anticipation of judgment

The Holy Ari of Safed disclosed that if one doesn’t shed at least a few tears during the High Holy Days, it is evidence that his soul is flawed. He added that when one finds oneself suddenly aroused to tears on the High Holy Days, it is a sign that at that moment, one’s soul is being judged in the Heavenly Court above. In anticipation and trepidation of the judgment, one is overwhelmed by tears. [Shulchan Aruch of the Arizal, Hilchos Rosh HaShanah]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


After obtaining some third-party rabbinical advice, I was advised to remove that last post.

Mr. Netanyahu, Here's the Truth

Netanyahu meets the Rebbe...... many years ago
R' Mayer Schmukler of tells Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the true opinion of the Rebbe about Mideast "Peace."

26th of Elul, 5771

Mr. Benyamin Netanyahu,

I write this letter with the hope that you will read it with an open heart and mind. Please do.

We are standing now a short time before the world will get together to try and decide the fate of certain parts of the Land of Israel. This is an open attack on the Jewish homeland and in turn, an attack on the Jewish people.

In your speech at the United Nations, you eloquently explained how all previous "peace deals" brought about only terror and bloodshed. You pointed out how the PA is not a partner for peace. Then, you went on to proclaim that you're ready to speak peace with the above partner, if they are only willing. In addition, you even announced the results of those negotiations: the ceding of parts of the Land of Israel. Those same lands which you had just shown in your speech - by giving them away - would endanger the lives of the citizens of Israel.

If it is anything that the government in Israel should have learned over the years, it is that concessions and offers of concessions - lead to pressure and more concessions, then more pressure and more concessions.

In no way is this a way of gaining respect in the world. Not only does this approach not forestall pressure, but it only increases it tenfold.

Imagine this: A burglar attempts to strike at the homeowner of the house he is burglarizing; the victim defends himself, ejects the burglar from his home, and leaves him whimpering on his front lawn; the victim then taps his assailant on the shoulder and asks if he would like his weapon back on condition that he promise not to use it again; the former burglar yells back in no uncertain terms that he will never agree to cease using his weapon; the former victim begs the man to agree; showing his willingness to return the burglar’s weapon – he invites him into his house and gives a kitchen knife saying "see! I don’t mind your having a weapon; all I want is for you to say these 5 words: "I will be your friend!""

Now, besides for the suicidal behavior of the victim, he will also turn everyone against him; the average person watching this scene will surely come to the logical conclusion that there is something more behind the seemingly simple good/bad guy scene. This conclusion, or assumption (that the good guy might really be the bad guy), would in effect be totally confirmed when the bad guy actually says and claims just that.

Make no mistake about it; we are on a direct path to a situation when Israel will be forced to stand up to the world. These are not my words (to be sure, nor is this whole letter), but rather the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Moshe of our generation (said in 1978). And unfortunately, as you know all too well, this is already the situation. We must wake up before we find ourselves forced to defend our very right to exist in the Land of Israel (if that is not already happening).

The key to the situation is in your hands – a key being a tool which opens doors standing in ones way while at the same time locks doors against undesirable elements:

You must stand unshakable and uncompromising – firm in our right to the entire Land of Israel given to us by the God of Israel. It is time to stand up to the world, not only in rhetoric and with hypocritical policies; you must be clear in speech and most importantly in action; no part of the Land of Israel is up for negotiation!

This approach will bring security to our land by making it clear to terrorists etc. that we are here to stay and that we are ready to protect ourselves to the fullest. And it will likewise forestall pressure when the the world realizes the futility of such pressure in having any effect.

Now the arguments of "It's too late," "what will the world say," "its not realistic," etc. are simply ludicrous when someone thinks objectively. No one is saying that the above mentioned approach is perfect, it is far from perfect, precisely because of the criminal neglect of it for so long. There are only two choices: give in until there is nothing left to give or hold on strong to the Land and fight our enemies.

As mentioned, we must wake up to a hard reality. We must finally heed the warnings of the Rebbe. Time and time again he warned that negotiations would lead to terrorism and pressure and eventually to a Palestinian (terror) state. Even though he has unfortunately been proven right, again and again – it is as if we are blind and deaf, as we continue down the path of self-destruction. One has only to look in the Tanach for such precedents, as the prophet of the generation begged, pleaded, and warned the Jewish people, only for his words to fall on deaf ears. In the words of Yishaya Hanavi (50:2.): "Why have I come, yet there is no man? I have called, but there is no answer?"

In conclusion, it must be emphasized, that in addition to there being only one logical solution in any case, we are given chances from above every now and then to make it all the easier to do the right thing. Now is such an opportunity. As the Arabs declare statehood at the UN, the government of Israel now has the political right to cancel all previous agreements and can more easily say to the world: "We have now learned our lesson, we will now focus solely on the security of our citizens and we will never give up our God given homeland."

This takes strength, but you already have it, as you have been blessed by the Rebbe, in particular, a few days before Shavuos in 1991. Mr. Morad Zamir then requested a blessing for you. The Rebbe responded: "Tell him that certainly he'll continue to hold on to the hard line as before and (if) there be occasion to add strength, he certainly will find strength in himself to continue for the time being and after that."

It is also important to note that if you do follow the right path, you are guaranteed by the Rebbe that it won't be long before much of the world, as God fearing people, will begin to respect us and our right to the Land of Israel. We must do our part in first respecting ourselves – the opposite of which it states in the Torah (Bamidbar 13:31-33) concerning the spies sent by Moshe into the land of Israel who said (while giving a bad report on the Land that God had promised them): "we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and [therefore] so we were in their eyes!"

Let us speedily merit the fulfillment of the Pasuk (Bechukotai 26, 6.): "And I will grant peace in the Land, and you will lie down with no one to frighten [you]; I will remove wild beasts from the Land, and no army will pass through your land" Amen.

With blessings for the new year - K'tiva Vachatima Tova L'shana Tova Umetukah,
Mayer Schmukler

Who Do You See?

Art: Gustave Caillebotte

''But Yeshurun grew fat and kicked'' [Ha'azinu 32:15]

The maggid R' Yechiel Michel of Zlochev had a chassid who at one time was very poor.  But then he tried his hand at business, and he quickly became a very wealthy man.  However, the more his wealth and standing grew, the further he drifted from Torah and mitzvot.

One day, the maggid paid a visit to his disciple and requested that he make a charitable donation to an important cause.  The chassid, however, evaded the request with several excuses.

The maggid walked over to the window and asked the chassid to join him.  As they gazed out into the streets, the maggid asked him, ''What do you see?''

''I see people walking through the streets'' responded the wealthy chassid.

The maggid then led the chassid to a mirror: ''Now what do you see?'' asked the maggid.

''Now'' answered the chassid, ''I see myself.''

''Do you know what the difference is between a window and a mirror?'' asked the maggid.  ''A window is clear and transparent and therefore, when you look at it, you see others.  A mirror, however, is coated with silver. Therefore, when you look at it, you see only yourself.''

[Written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein]

Monday, September 26, 2011

All there is

''Connected'' by Schnette

Rely on nothing and no-one but God.  This is true simplicity.  Anything else means pursuing a complicated course of action.

[from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov]

Ben Gurion Airport Congestion: Lubavitchers & Breslovers

The tens of thousands who will be leaving Eretz Yisrael ahead of Rosh Hashanah began making their way to Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday morning (26 Elul), and the congestion was evident, especially flights to Kiev, impacting Breslov Chassidim. Organizers in Uman report that expect upwards of 35,000 mispallalim this year, many coming from Eretz Yisrael.

YWN-Israel visited Ben-Gurion on Sunday morning and Terminal 3 was abuzz with Yidden heading to both Uman and 770. Many Chabadnikim were seen heading for El Al, but the main focus was on the other side of the top floor of the terminal, where an entire area was designated for flights to Kiev. There were chareidi floor monitors in tan jackets on hand, hired to maintain order and deal with those heading to Uman, to keep them organized, assist them in finding minyanim and other needs.

But all of that was not the cause – airport workers, baggage handlers in particular, decided to hold a one-hour strike. The backlog created in that hour has ramifications for hours to come. The exact cause for the walk-out remains unclear.

The Breslov chassidim appeared unfazed, confident they would reach their destination in time for yomtov.

Secret Codes of Ha'azinu

Seder Hadoros relates that Ramban once confronted his former student, named Avner, and asked him why he had strayed from the path of observant Judaism.  Avner replied that Ramban had once taught that "everything is to be found in the Song of Haázinu" and Avner found the idea so utterly preposterous that it led him to lose faith.

When Ramban stated that he still held by his assertion, Avner challenged him, "If so, where is my name to be found in the song?"

Ramban turned to the wall praying to G-d, and it soon occurred to him that the third letter of each word in verse 26 spelled Avner's name:

 אָמַרְתִּי אַפְאֵיהֶם אַשְׁבִּיתָה מֵאֱנוֹשׁ זִכְרָם

On hearing his, Avner repented and mended his ways.

Even though Avner had strayed far from the path of observance, his name was nevertheless recorded in the Torah with his title, Reb Avner, referring to his status as a fully observant Jew, after he had returned - for this was indeed his true essence.

Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Haázinu 5742 Lubavitcher Rebbe

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Netanyahu at UN: Quoting Lubavitcher Rebbe

This part seems to have been edited out of the video below, not sure why.... but anyway, here it is:

Netanyahu at the UN [video]

Moshiach Talk

Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi has a new lecture - part of "The Talmud Series" -  this one focuses on the ever-increasing signs of Moshiach, and what to expect... and he also some things to say about the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Messianic movement in his name.

Click here for video
and here for MP3

And at the Huffington Post, Rabbi Chaim Miller writes about the ongoing parade of thousands of people to the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

It's sad but true that religion kicks in spectacularly well when we are desperate. This week, some financial challenges that I am going through began to get the better of me and I decided to pay a trip to the graveside of my mentor, the late Rabbi of Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, who is buried in Queens. Now, don't get me wrong, I may sport a beard and some other traditional trappings, but the idea of going to gravesides and asking the spirit of saintly rabbis to intercede on high still irks me out. Let's just say it's not the Judaism I grew up with. So I tend to only do it when I am desperate.

I'm standing there last Monday night in a moment of intimate soul-to-soul connection with my rabbi's parted spirit, and as my outer facade finally starts to lift, unleashing that ball of repressed emotion which lurks beneath, the darkness of the night is abruptly pierced by bright lights in my face. No, it's not some sort of revelation from above, but a full television crew from Israel's Arutz Sheva.

As it turns out, someone else is also desperate: Bibi Netanyahu. Stirrings in the UN have convinced Bibi, who was close with the Rabbi Schneerson during his lifetime and consulted with him regularly, that it's time for another trip to the graveside. And if you can't go yourself, you send a representative, in this case Knesset Member Danny Danon, who comes and stands right next to me.

Continue reading at: Alternative Energy, Alternative Wisdom

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Timely Advice

from Rav Yaakov bar Nahman
Nissavim-Vayeilekh 5771-5951

29: 9 “You are standing this day all of you before HaShem your God: your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel, 10 your little ones, your wives, and your stranger that is in the midst of your camp, from the hewer of your wood unto the drawer of your water; 11 that you should enter into the covenant of HaShem your God--and into His oath--which HaShem your God makes with you this day; 12 that He may establish you this day unto Himself for a people, and that He may be unto you a God, as He spoke to you, and as He swore unto your fathers, to Avraham, to Yisshhak, and to Yaakov. 13 Not only with you do I make this covenant and this oath; 14 but with them who stand here with us this day before HaShem our God, and also with they who are not here with us this day—“

HaShem is telling us very plainly that ALL the commandments given were for ALL generations, for ALL communities and “brands” of Judaism, and included converts as well.

HE also puts before us the plain truth of “free choice” and recognition of the laws of cause and effect. Knock your head against a brick wall and booby it’s gonna hurt. Not only is it gonna hurt, but as long as you keep banging your head against that brick wall no aspirin in the wall is going to help you, plus eventually you will cause yourself permanent serious damage. Sin and you close a pipeline of Divine sustenance to you, be it on an individual level of a group level; cause and effect, measure for measure. It’s that simple.

Deny the ONE who made the world and declared the 7th day as a day of non-production/non-alteration of existence and deny the rules of that day, then expect that creation will go against you. Deny the rules of family purity and or deny the need to teach and bring up your children the Torah way, then don’t expect much joy from your descendants. Those are just two examples. You folks are smart enough to think and realize more.

It is significant that every year these two parshioth come right next to Rosh Hashanah; either together before, or one before and one after.

Here we are folks less than one week before The Big Day of Judgment of the Year, Rosh Hashanah the 48 hour day. Everybody ready? Are you sure? Do you know that every little thing you did or thought is registered “up there”? Yes the entire year is on record and will be examined in detail.

However, there is a chance that you just might come to Rosh Hashanah more or less clean. How is that? If you did a personalized admission session every day then there is not much, if anything at all, left to judge you on come Rosh Hashanah. You may know that there is in USA and I think several other countries a law called “double jeopardy law”, which states that once a person has been judged on a crime he cannot be judged again. Well folks that law was copied from our Torah and Divine laws.

So if you did hitbodeduth with that admission session daily what is there left? Ooooh, what if we didn’t do that? Well now you still a few days to try to catch up BUT you can never remember everything you did every single day of the year, at least not consciously. But try your best, get rid of the most you can from your docket. Then add to that a plea to HIM THE BIG BOSS stating that HE knows that your little mortal mind is incapable of remembering every detail of every day. Ask HIM to let the details be covered by several more general titles; e.g. Dear HaShem YOU know even better than I that during the year there were days that I did ….., and ……. and ……. I don’t remember the exact details where when precisely how etc, but I admit having done them, I am regret having done them, I wish to never do it again, PLEASE HELP me not repeat those sins, please guide and help me repair what needs to be repaired.

That should cut down the size of your docket somewhat, BUT ONLY IF you are serious about it, and ONLY IF you really try to tell/admit as much as humanly possible, and TRULY intend to do better.

BUT there is another catch, a VERY BIG catch to boot.

Are you ready?

It’s one I have mentioned several times, but it’s so very important that I will say it again.

If you harmed, insulted etc another person and did not ask his/her forgiveness and did not truly attempt to repair any damage done then KNOW that you have set up an immense hardened steel and reinforced concrete barrier that blocks forgiveness by HaShem even for sins between you and HIM.

OMG ………….. you fainted?

You called your husband/wife/co-worker etc an idiot, if you have not apologized and calmed the injury by Rosh Hashanah, neither Rosh Hashanah nor Yom Kipur will clean your record, and your record of Divine offences will not be cleaned either.

Rosh Hashanah is the Day of the Coronation of The King of Kings, King of the multiverse. HE is The Supreme Judge. HE is also the ultimate father of all of us.

As a parent, how do you feel when your kids are nasty and harmful to each other?

As a parent, when you see one of your children hurt a sibling, that sibling suffers, maybe even cries in pain and or grief, and then the child who did the harm refuses to apologise and to soothe the injured sibling, yet comes to ask you a favor, asks for something, how will you respond?

You got the idea.

Well what if the person refuses to accept my apology? You have to try 3 times. By Halakha, if after 3 attempts to apologise and there are 10 witnesses that you tried to apologise and make amends and that person stands adamant in refusal, you are free and s/he is considered an evil one.

What if s/he never knew that it was I who did the harm, and it would only awaken the bad feelings and likely cause more sorrow than good? In that case don’t tell him/her, send a messenger or anonymous letter with apology and any recompense needed.

What if neither of the above are possible? Then pour out your heart to HaShem that such is the case and the recompense money use for ssdakah, zikui harabim (merit the public – e.g. buy and hand out free Torah CD’s, books and the like).

Rosh Hashanah is the 48 hour day of judgment and Yom Kipur is the 24 hour day of appeals. From now to, and including, the day before Rosh Hashanah do all the vidui (admission/confession) you possibly can, especially the day before. Then during Rosh Hashanah DO NOT do any at all, it’s super dangerous to do so.

Instead do this; ask HaShem to help you do good, to help you improve, in deeds in thoughts in desires etc. For example; HaShem please help guard my eyes to not desire and to not look at women for their femininity, to not be ruled by lusts, to be honest in my dealings, to pray better, to put my heart into my prayers and blessings, to be kinder to others, etc. That is the kind of tshuvah to do on Rosh Hashanah.

Saying the 10 tehilim of Rabi Nahman’s Tikun HaKlali (general repair) is very good to do on Rosh Hashanah as well, do it several times those two days.

Also do not sleep the first day, at least not till after noon. It is said by Hhaza”l that the mazal (luck/fortune) of one who does sleep that morning will also sleep during the ensuing year.

Soooooo WAKE UP!

While you’re at it spend some time during Rosh Hashanah to pray for the world, pray for HaShem to give more people a chance to mend their ways before Mashiahh does become revealed and do his job. YES we want him desperately and soon. Yet along with that we want the final process to be as mercifully as possible.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Healing Powers of Apples and Honey

It is customary to eat an apple dipped in honey on the night of Rosh Hashanah and ask G-d to grant us a good sweet year. Ideally, the apple should be red and white, as an allusion to the verse "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow" [Yeshayahu 1:18]

Apples help cleanse and purify the blood, are beneficial in the treatment of diabetes, respiratory tract infections, skin problems, the liver and the kidneys. They strengthen the body, are soothing to the nervous system, help prevent hardening of the arteries and are recommended for disorders of the kidneys and digestive system. There is a great deal of truth in the saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away".

According to Kabbalah, the apple is an allusion to the mystical level of the Holy Apple Field. Also, when you cut an apple in half horizontally you will see ten little holes and a five pointed star. Ten is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter "yud", and five is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter "hey". The stalk of the apple represents the "vav" - together these letters spell out G-d's name.

The Zohar tells us that the apple has healing qualities: just as the apple heals all, so the Holy One, blessed be He, heals all. Just as the apple has various colours (white, red, green), so the Holy One, blessed be He, has various supernal colours (white, red, green - corresponding to the attributes of chesed (loving kindness), gevurah (might) and tiferet (beauty). The symbol of the green apple reveals some of the hidden meaning behind this teaching of the Zohar. Tiferet, the kabbalistic attribute of harmony and beauty, is associated with green, the colour of healing.

The Ben Ish Chai writes that the apple tree is the only fruit tree that has its spiritual source in the attribute of tiferet. This is yet another indication of the special connection of the apple with healing.

Honey was called "one sixtieth of manna" by the Sages because it shares many of the curative qualities of the manna from Heaven.

Nowadays the term honey means bee's honey, but the famous Biblical verse "A land flowing with milk and honey" refers to date honey. Dates are one of the seven species characteristic of the Land of Israel. Honey is fuel for such organs as the heart, brain and liver. Predigested in the bee's crop it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream where it stimulates circulation and raises the red blood count. It is invaluable for those with heart conditions or weak hearts. Honey strengthens, invigorates and refreshes.

It is helpful in the treatment of stomach ulcers, and is a useful sweetening agent for diabetics since it helps reduce sugar levels while it boosts vitality and physical stamina. Because of its positive effects on the blood count, honey is highly recommended for sufferers of anaemia.

Honey is unique because of where it comes from. It is the only food taken from a non-kosher animal that we are permitted to eat. Furthermore the bee is an insect that stings and causes pain and bodily damage. Yet at the same time it is able to produce a sweet food that can add a delicious flavor to other things.

This is specifically why we use honey - because it represents the power of Rosh Hashanah. When we begin a fresh new year, the past is not always so sweet. Not everything in the last year might have been completely "Kosher". Sometimes we may have stung and hurt those close to us. But on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we can turn it all around. We can learn from last year's experiences and make the future more positive and filled with blessing. Like the bee, we can produce sweet honey.

When we eat the honey on Rosh Hashanah we are making a statement: We are not perfect, but with a little effort we can achieve sweetness. G-d accepts our commitment, and blesses us all with a happy, healthy, prosperous and sweet new year.

24 Elul: Yarzheit Chafetz Chaim

1838-1933 [5598-5693]

Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan is commonly known as the "Chafetz Chaim," the name of his famous work on guarding one's tongue.

Born in Zhetel, Poland on February 6, 1838 [11 Shvat 5598], he was taught until age 10 by his parents and then moved to Vilna to further his Jewish studies. Refusing the pulpit rabbinate, the Chafetz Chaim settled in Radin Poland and subsisted on a small grocery store which his wife managed and he did the "bookkeeping"-watching every penny to make sure that no one was cheated. He spent his days learning Torah and disseminating his knowledge to the common people.

As his reputation grew, students from all over Europe flocked to him and by 1869 his house became known as the Radin Yeshiva. In addition to his Yeshiva, the Chafetz Chaim was very active in Jewish causes. He traveled extensively (even in his 90's) to encourage the observance of Mitzvos amongst Jews. One of the founders of Agudas Yisrael, the religious Jewish organization of Europe and later the world, the Chafetz Chaim was very involved in Jewish affairs and helped many yeshivos survive the financial problems of the interwar period.

Exemplifying the verses in Psalms 34:13-14, "Who is the man who desires life...? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit," the Chafetz Chaim passed away in 1933 at the ripe age of 95.

The Chafetz Chaim's greatest legacy is the 21 sefarim [holy books] which he published. His first work, Sefer Chafetz Chaim [1873], is the first attempt to organize and clarify the laws regarding evil talk and gossip. He later wrote other works, including Shmirat HaLashon, which emphasized the importance of guarding one's tongue by quoting our Sages. The Mishnah Brurah [1894-1907], his commentary on the Daily Laws of a Jew [his first series in the Shulchan Aruch], is found in many Jewish homes and is accepted universally to decide Halacha.

Firmly believing that he was living right before the time of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the Chafetz Chaim wrote a work that stressed the learning of laws concerning sacrifices, the Holy Temple, and related topics. He also published seforim to strengthen certain aspects of Jewish life including kashrus, family purity, and Torah study.

More on the Chafetz Chaim click here

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Obama-Netanyahu Press Conference [video]

Leaders discuss hopes for peace in the region during the UN General Assembly. September 21, 2011.

Obama's UN Speech [video]

Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s speech to the United Nations was elegantly written and eloquently delivered. But it missed an opportunity to promote a strong U.S. role in the world and voice his opposition to this week’s paramount issue: Palestinian plans to seek UN recognition as a nation.

Yet we were struck by the force of Obama’s description of the U.S.’s “unshakable” commitment to Israel. Rarely has a speaker at the UN rostrum spoken so clearly and obviously sympathetically on how Israeli and Jewish history shapes that nation’s security concerns. That point might seem self-evident, but it was a pointed and welcome rebuke to Holocaust deniers or minimizers in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Source: Business Week

Typhoon Roke Hits Japan [video]

More than a million people in the central Japanese city of Nagoya were advised to evacuate as Typhoon Roke approached, bringing heavy rain and floods to large parts of western Japan.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Time of the Redemption: Hidden or Revealed

"The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever: that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah." [Nitzavim 29:28]

[Written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein]

In Maseches Sanhedrin[98a], R'Yehoshua ben Levi poses a question regarding a verse dealing with the eventual redemption of the Jewish people. The verse sates, Ï am Hashem, in its time I will hasten it" [Yeshayahu 60:22]

Asks R'Yehoshua ben Levi: If the redemption will ultimately occur "in its time", then how can Hashem promise the Jewish people "I will hasten it"?

The answer, says the Gemara, is as follows: If the Jewish people will carry out the will of Hashem, then the redemption will, in fact, be hastened.  But if not, then the redemption will occur at its assigned time.

Chazal's words, said the Kesav Sofer [R'Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, son of the Chasam Sofer] are alluded to in the above mentioned verse: "The hidden are for Hashem, our G-d" - if the Jewish people will not perform the will of Hashem, then the redemption will come at a fixed date, one that is ultimately hidden from us and known only to Hashem.  However, "the revealed are our and our children's [responsibility]" - if the Jews choose to follow the will of Hashem, then the redemption will arrive immediately.

The time of the redemption, therefore, can be revealed and known to the Jewish people, for it is something that can be determined by their actions.

Typhoon Roke heads for Japan

TOKYO — Japan on Tuesday urged the evacuation of more than 1.2 million people ahead of a typhoon that will bring heavy rain to areas already hit by record rainfall.

Typhoon Roke has prompted concerns of landslides and flash flooding, particularly in the industrial city of Nagoya, where downpours could cause a main river to burst its banks.

Source: Washington Post

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

25 Elul: Abu Mazen, Netanyhu, United Nations - Torah Codes

We found in the Zohar (Balak 212b) that in the beginning of the process of the coming of Mashiah, the day of the 25th of Elul - which is the first day of the creation of the world - will fall out on a Shabbat. And in 5771, the 25th of Elul falls out on Shabbat.... [Sept 24]

And on Friday, the Palestinians are expected to announce their state in the UN at a time when it's already Shabbat in the Land of Israel. The implication of this announcement is a declaration of war. All these things are not simple at all when Turkey and Egypt are already in a state of declaration of war. In addition, I heard that Gedolei Yisrael, Maranan VeRabanan, Hagaon Rav Elyashiv Shlit"a, Hagaon Rav Shteinman Shlit"a, and Hagaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlit"a expressed to those close to them that they are very very concerned about the upcoming Shabbat. [extracted from Yeranen Yaakov's Geula update from Rav Fish]

Rabbi Glazerson finds the relevant words and names encoded in last week's parsha Ki Tavo 28:52 :
"And they will besiege you in all your cities, until your high and fortified walls in which you trust come down, throughout all your land. And they will besiege you in all your cities throughout all your land, which the Lord, your God, has given you."

The Voice of the Shofar

by R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
In Keren LeDovid, the Puppa Rov, Rav Greenwald has an amazing short but succint message for us Rosh HaShanna:

He begins with a question:

In mussaf on Rosh haShanna we recite a blessing saying "Because You hear the sound of the kol shofar and listen to the teruah blast of the shofar and there is none like You,"

Why does the verse seemingly repeat the fact that Hashem hears us blowing shofar twice, once saying that He hears the kol shofar and once saying He listens to the teruah of the shofar, isn't that saying the same thing twice?

And what does the end statement mean, and there is none like You,? we know that no one and nothing can compare to or with Hashem, what connection does this idea have to the fact that Hashem hears our shofar?

In essence the answer is based on the well known statement of our sages, Chazal tell us that where the baal teshuva, the masters of repentance stand, not even the righteous can stand.

Citing the holy Shel"ah, the Keren LeDovid teaches that there are two distinct forms of blowing shofar and what they represent. The holy Shel"ah says that the kol shofar - the simple basic trumpet like blast - is the sound of a righteous tzadik. Whereas the wailing cries of the teruah represent the penitent baal teshuva,  crying as he repents over his sins and mistakes.

Thus we now understand the symbolism and language, the Puppa Rav writes, that hearing and listening are also different. In Hebrew one can hear (Shomea) from afar, but (Haazana) listening connotes intimacy and closeness.

Thus G-d is saying that he hears the kol shofar, He is saying that He hears and accepts the prayers of the whole and simple righteous tzadik. Yet when it comes to the penitent baal teshuva, the master of return, Hashem listens up close. There is a closeness and intimacy there that the tzadik does not share.

This is why the blessing ends declaring there is none like You Hashem, because normally we would expect that a blameless righteous tzadik should be the closest to G-d, yet Hashem shows us that just the opposite is true, He values the close intimacy of the baal teshuva, thus none is like You.

The story is told about a student studying in a yeshiva for newly devoted returnees to Judaism who himself came from a religious background. He once approached a famous rabbi and introduced himself. "And in which Yeshiva do you learn?" asked the rabbi. "I study in such and such yeshiva," he answered and quickly he added, "but I am not a baal teshuva!" The rabbi smiled looked at him with a piercing glance and asked him "Nu why are you not?"

May we all merit to make this new year our best year, repent and correct our mistakes and learn from the holy words of the advocate for Klal Yisroel the holy Berditchever who declare all month long during Elul, "Today I shall repent and  return Hashem!" "Who are you kidding?" he would berate himself, "thats what you said yesterday." "ya, but yesterday I didnt really mean it, today, I mean it." And thus he would try again and again. let's give ourselves a second chance and we will all be masters of return.

Shana Tova -  A Sweet New Year to you, your family and loved ones

Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim Publishing
Chassidic Classics in the English Language

and my favourite shofar video, with the dog in the park [a new year tradition on this blog]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Future Man

A Much Bigger Picture

The gemara in Chulin (63a) says that when Rebbi Yochanan saw a Shalach (a non Kosher bird) he would say the pasuk "Mishpatecha Tihom Rabba", your judgement is like a deep abyss (Tehilim 36:7). Rashi says that the Shalach is a bird that flies over the water and swoops down to prey on a fish, which it plucks from the water. This, says Rashi, shows that Hashem takes revenge on those who deserve to die. What is the significance of this particular act of preying that depicts Hashem's revenge?

Maybe we can conjecture that the fish that the Shalach eats is a predator himself. Yet he knows that in his turf in the ocean no one can exact revenge on him. He is the king of his turf and is protected in his environment. Hashem teaches him a lesson, that although in his eyes the world is limited to his underwater habitat, in reality there is a much bigger picture. There is a world above his cloistered confines. And from that world, from the Heavens above, Hashem can send an angel in the form of a Shalach to swoop down and take revenge, even in his deep water abyss.

We often look around and think that the cards are stacked in our favor and we are protected from Hashem's judgement. But it is not so. Our picture is limited to the confines of our mind. Hashem's world is far beyond our naive outlook. From the Heaven's, Hashem can come down and strike us and we wouldn't even know what hit us.

On the flip side look at it from the small fish perspective. We must realize that even if we are being hunted by a far larger fish and it seems there is no help in sight and we are doomed, there is far more to consider than meets the eye. Even when we think we are trapped and the bigger fish are closing in on us, a Yeshua can come from places far beyond our imagination. Hashem's means are vast. Never lose faith!

Source: Revach L'Neshama

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Until Hoshanah Rabbah....

Last week, in his post The End of Repentence (B'Ahavah) , R' Dov bar Leib wrote:

Yes, this is it folks. We have finally arrived. The Cosmic Clock says that we are ending the Year of Hoshana Rabbah. The end of repenting out of love for our lack of human decency is very, very near. Technically and maybe even in action the last time that one can repent for one's lack of human decency out of love will likely be this coming Yom Kippur 5772. And the last time that one can repent for this through joy is likely this coming Hoshana Rabbah 5772. After that the Cosmic Clock predicts that the only way that one will be able to repent for one's lack of human decency will be out of reverence for G-d or sheer terror from his Wrath......

The following is Rav Yaakov bar Nahmann's weekly email, where he writes that the war has only been delayed until after Hoshanah Rabbah 5772:

Ki Tavo 5771 (5951) [Dvarim/Deut 26:1-29:8]

First here’s some good news. You will likely remember that last week I sent you the warning that a major catastrophic war is in the offing and was due to hit before Rosh Hashanah (within 2 weeks). Along with that I also gave you Rav Arush’s suggestions/requests for what to do to delay it until after Rosh Hashanah. Remember that the decree from Heaven is that it MUST happen; there is no more ability to cancel it, only to delay it. As per HIS instructions hundreds of people did 6 hour personal prayer/discussions with HaShem to beg for the delaying of the war in order to give more people a chance to start tshuvah, to do something right that they did not do before. Also there was a gathering of nistarim (hidden sages/pious/righteous ones) at the Kotel (Western wall) this week. The plea was accepted the decree has been delayed. Now we must continue that it be delayed to after Hoshana Rabah (the last day of Sukoth) so that the harsh judgments that were to fall on Israel be shifted to fall upon the enemies of our nation.

It never fails. HaShem programmed the Torah and HIS world together. Again, as usual, we find the “current events” in the week’s parshah.

26:1 “And it shall be, when you have come into the land which HaShem your God gives you for an inheritance, and do possess it, and dwell therein.”

A few days ago the president of the “Supreme Court” in Israel Erev Rav Dorit Beinish handed down yet another anti-Jewish decision giving Arabs the upper to grab lands in our Holy Promised Land that are not listed as being state property. Among other laws she is in direct violation of the Torah Law against giving Holy Land lands to goyim. The Rambam zassa”l and the “Alter Rebbe” of Lubavitch zassa”l both declared very harsh halakhik rulings against anyone doing what she has been doing.

HaShem gave it to us as an inheritance. Who is she to give it to someone else? If I may borrow an American street cliché “Who died and left you god?”.

More than that just look a bit further in the parshah. See that we are commanded to express and show our gratitude for HaShem giving us the land and its fruits.

2 “that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you shall bring in from your land that HaShem your God gives you ; and you shall put it in a basket and shall go unto the place which HaShem your God shall choose to cause HIS name to dwell there. 3 And you shall come unto the Cohen that shall be in those days, and say unto him: 'I profess this day unto HaShem your God, that I am come unto the land which HaShem swore unto our fathers to give us.”

Will somebody try to explain how giving away the land, and yet to the very populace that continues to threaten our very existence, is an expression of gratitude?

Let’s look on further yet and we will surely see what is behind this.

16 “This day HaShem your God commands you to do these statutes and ordinances; you shall therefore observe and do them with all your heart, and with all your soul. 17 you have vowed to HaShem this day that HE be your God, and that you would walk in HIS ways, and keep HIS statutes, and HIS commandments, and HIS ordinances, and hearken unto HIS voice. 18 And HaShem has avowed you this day to be HIS own treasure, as HE has promised you, and that you should keep all HIS commandments; 19 and to make you high above all nations that HE has made, in praise, and in name, and in glory; and that you may be a holy people unto HaShem your God, as HE has spoken. 27:1 And Moses and the elders of Israel commanded the people, saying: 'Keep all the commandment which I command you this day. 2 And it shall be on the day when you shall pass over the Jordan unto the land which HaShem your God gives you , that you shall set up great stones, and plaster them with plaster. 3 And you shall write upon them all the words of this law, when you have passed over; that you may go in unto the land which HaShem your God gives you , a land flowing with milk and honey, as HaShem, the God of your fathers, has promised you ”


Maybe there is a hint there….. Maybe the Torah is warning us of something. Jump forward and you will see that there is again mentioned the concept of blessing opposite curse; cause and effect; do what HaShem demands of us and we are blessed; do not do as told and we are cursed (hhas veshalom/God forbid).

There are two kinds of inheritance. One only actually given when the parent (or whoever else it is) has died. One given while the parent etc is still alive. In the latter the owner still has power to alter the gift, at least temporarily. Read also well the above psukim, there is a condition hinted there. The land is ours as long as we do what HaShem wants of us! Violate the rules and HE has the contract rights to let others play around with our rights to the land.

Face it, the cause and effect is there right before our very eyes. The Arabs and their erev rav friends in the courts, the army, the education system the (mis)government etc have the power to steal Jewish lands (of course that can be repaired if we do what we should).

As Rabi Nahman of Breslov said, “If you believe that you can damage, believe that you can repair”.

If we are already speaking again of cause and effect, let’s look at the pasuk # 5. “And there shall thou build an altar unto HaShem your God, an altar of stones; you shall lift up no iron tool upon them.”

We are to build an altar without the use of iron tools. Why, what’s wrong with using iron tools? That answer is the same as the answer as to why on Shabat and Hhagim (Holy Days) we must remove knives, and on regular days all steel/iron flatware, from the table before the post meal blessing. The table we eat on is equivalent to the altar. The altar is there to bring/promote/protect life. Iron was originally, and largely still is used, to kill. Even when harming or killing is done with other metals, the symbolic essence of those metals is still iron. The accuser cannot be the defense lawyer. The iron cannot be applied to promoter of life.

A government and its infrastructure that is controlled by heretics, and that does all it can to oppose those who wish to follow the path HaShem calls for to be followed cannot be expected to have wisdom or will or ability to take proper care of its citizens. An army that excludes HaShem, which opposes the followers of HaShem’s demands of its people, cannot be expected to have Divine protection or guidance either.

A nation that avoids, evades its responsibility, its required recognition of and gratitude to HaShem cannot expect to be given leaders who will see properly to their needs. This was already taught to us by the sages of the Talmud many centuries ago.

From 27:15 to 28:69 there is a list of curses that HaShem warns will befall us if we violate HIS commandments. They have fallen upon us time and again. Yet this need NOT be. ALL those curses are avoidable. Just do what HaShem wants of us, Pure and Simple.

Remember well dear ones, that paramount of all are the duties of the heart and the way we relate to each other.

Remember too that when we do what HE wants of there are plentiful greatest blessings waiting for us. 29: 8 “Observe therefore the words of this covenant, and do them, that you may make all that you do to prosper.”

HaShem loves you. Remember that always, HE loves you as like a doting father is waiting for us to show our love and gratitude to HIM. Remember too that along with simply saying “thank you” to HIM many times a day for every little thing in our lives, one of the best ways to show our love and gratitude to HIM is in loving each other, tolerating each other, being good to each other. Just like a loving human parent gets great grief if HIS children are fighting or hating each other, so too the GREAT FATHER of us all.

So let’s all shape up. Let’s all keep up the campaign of pestering HaShem to hold off the war until after Hoshana Rabah 21st of Tishrei (19th of the 10th month 2011), asking HIM to wait for more people (Jews and non-Jews) to do tshuvah, to express and show our love and gratitude to HIM, and to repair our errant ways, to fix the way we relate to each other. That will make the good news we opened this lesson with even better. For it will enable bringing the final full Geulah in more rahhamim (mercy/grace) and very soon in our near days, AMEN KEN YEHI RASSON!

With that I sign off for this week sending to all of you my precious beloved brothers, sisters, friends and students my blessings.

When Silence is Deafening

"The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever: that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah." [Nitzavim 29:28]

[Written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein]

Rashi explains that a Jew is not expected to offer his friend rebuke for the sins that lie hidden within his heart, for how can he possibly know what another man is thinking?  Therefore, in the case of hidden sins, Hashem exacts retribution from the sinner alone.

On the other hand, a Jew is expected to rebuke his fellow man for the sins he does openly.  Consequently, when Jews overlook other people's misdeeds, Hashem's anger is brought upon all of them.

A terrible dispute broke out in Radin, the Chofetz Chaim's hometown. Though the Chofetz Chaim was by now in his later years, he rushed to the shul and approached the bimah.  From there, he addressed the community.

"My dear brothers!" began the Chofetz Chaim.  "If someone would have offered me 2,000 rubles to deliver a derashah in shul, I would not have accepted it! I am not willing to sell my precious time for money.  However, because of the situation, I am forced to speak.  We must know that there will come a time when each and every one of us will be required to stand before the Heavenly Court and give an account of all the deeds that he performed over the course of his life.

"You must be aware that strife is a very serious matter!  A person may have performed scores of mitzvos in his life, but if he was guilty of causing or involving himself in matters of dispute, then he is like a person who tried filling a bag that had a large hole at its bottom - all the mitzvos he performed will be lost.

"I have no doubt that when the individuals from Radin who were involved in the dispute come before the Heavenly Court, they will attempt to clear themselves by stating the following:

"We cannot be held accountable! For in our city there lived an elderly Jew, by the name of Yisrael Meir, whom we deemed to be a talmid chacham.  He saw all that was transpiring, yet he remained silent."

"Therefore, my dear brothers" concluded the Chofetz Chaim in a voice filled with emotion, "I beg of you - do not mention by name before the Heavenly Court!"

As these words left the mouth of the Chofetz Chaim, he broke down and wept bitterly, and his frail body trembled. This sight made a very powerful impression on the people of Radin, and the dispute was resolved immediately.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. .... Edmund Burke
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.....Elie Wiesel

Friday, September 16, 2011

You are where your thoughts are

Guest post from a reader:

I woke up feeling unusually happy and full of chiyus today, in stark contrast to the previous weeks of feeling down and utterly physically and mentally drained from all the mishigas happening on the personal, national and international scene.  I had a sense of real closeness to H-shem, and a feeling of overwhelming gratitude. It was the first time in a long time that I said "modeh ani" and really meant it . 

Then, while still in bed, the thought flashed through my mind that we, the Jewish people, were starting a new era, a new beginning in some way. That every Jew had the power to transform the present perceived reality of "doom and gloom" into a reality of  joy and thanksgiving. I had this vision of every Jew being the center of concentric circles of light and positivity radiating outwards and intersecting with all those around them, ripples in a cosmic pond, until the whole world vibrated with this encompassing light. 

The saying from the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe came into my mind: Think good and it will be good. I'd always related to this injunction as a nice intellectual idea, but never really felt it on a gut level.

Today, I believed in my heart that not only could I live this but that all of us could. I decided then and there that when I spoke to the people around me, I would say, "Did you know that today is international "Think good and it'll be good" day?" From the few people that I mentioned this to, I got some amused reactions; nobody took me seriously. But I still figured that change has to start somewhere and it can (and often does) start with one person.  So what's holding any of us back from truly believing in and living this motto? Our fears and doubts, basically. Fears imposed from the outside Amaleks as well as fears and doubts welling up from our internal Amalek. After all, they don't call the Moslem monsters wrecking havoc on the world terrorists for nothing. And they're not the only sowers of terror and hopelessness. The global media, with their constant emphasis on disaster and horror, is doing an excellent job, too. So that at the end of the day, we're drowning in a painfilled, black sludge that masks the vitality within us and obscures H-shem Himself.

Can we overcome this and finally start to believe that we have the ability to change reality? I think so. And not only by thinking positively and changing our personal circumstances (as some New Age gurus emphasize with their magical formulas that "guarantee"wealth, health and personal happiness).  But to be partners with H-shem, in the fullest sense of the word,and through our positive, holy thinking actually bring the Moshiach and the Geulah NOW!!!

Who Is Religious?

Question of the Week - by Rabbi Aron Moss

My brother is very religious and I am not. We are on good terms now, but for a while he disowned me for what he deemed as my straying from the path. Is this the Jewish way, to shun those who are less religious than you?


Let me share with you a different view. Here is a story of how a spiritual giant of the last century saw the religious/secular divide.

In the 1940's the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, was looking for a sponsor to publish a religious text. The funding came from an unexpected source. An elderly woman who was known to be completely secular made a large donation to pay for this project. She had come from a religious background in Europe, but had long abandoned the ways of her family and raised her children without the traditions of her people. Nevertheless she maintained certain emotional ties to her past, and would occasionally support Jewish causes such as the Rebbe's.

When the book was published she was invited to a private audience with the Rebbe. He thanked her for her generosity, and then blessed her that her children and grandchildren should go in the path of Torah and be G-d fearing and righteous Jews.

This blessing came as a surprise to the lady. She thought the Rebbe may have mistaken her for someone else. Her children were far from anything Jewish, so why would he bless her that they be righteous Jews? 
She said, "But Rebbe, I am not religious."

The Rebbe looked at her with serious eyes. Then he told her, "We don't know who is religious."

This response is striking. Here is a venerable rabbi with a long white beard telling an assimilated modern woman that we don't really know who is closer to G-d. He was not giving an easy excuse for rejecting Judaism. Rather he was completely destroying the idea of a spiritual hierarchy based on human standards. In true religion, there is no room for snobbery on the part of those who see themselves as committed, nor feelings of inadequacy on the part of those who feel they are on the periphery. We don't know who is religious. So we all need to try harder.

We don't know which mitzvah is the one our soul came into this world to do. We don't know how precious our efforts are in the eyes of G-d, even if they seem small in the eyes of man.

So who is religious?

G-d knows. We don't.

Overcoming All Obstacles

Elul - L'Dovid Hashem Ori - When You Carry Valuable Merchandise

The Ohr HaMeir says that in life there are certain people who have it easy. Everything goes smooth for them and no obstacles stand in their way. They think that they have reached perfection, they are on top of the world. On the other hand some people cannot catch a break. Every time they make a move something goes wrong. Are they traveling on the wrong road?

The Ohr HaMeir explains with a Mashal. If someone is traveling on the road carrying a sack of wheat husks, his trip is easy. He can travel wherever he wants, for as long as he wants, feeling secure and knowing no one will rob him of his goods. However, if he is carrying a satchel of precious stones he sweats every step, knowing that he is a hunted man.

Dovid HaMelech says in L'Dovid Hashem Ori [Tehilim 27:3] "Im Takum Alai Milchama B'Zos Ani Botei'ach" - if the enemy is constantly attacking me, in this I find confidence. Why? If my path in life was devoid of any value I would not encounter constant resistance from the Yetzer Hara. The fact that there is an obstacle in my path at every turn is a sign that I, my actions, goals, and ambitions are very valuable. So valuable that the Yetzer Hara is throwing all his resources at me to stop from accomplishing my dreams.

As we start Elul and head quickly towards Rosh Hashana and a new year, contemplate the past year. Did you have it easy? Did you get anything worthwhile accomplished? The Ohr HaMeir would venture to guess that the answer to the first question is not the answer to the second!

Source: Revach L'Neshama

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rav Calls For Tefilos for Critical Situation

Hagaon HaRav Shteinman Calls For Tefilos In Light Of Critical Situation

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
HaGaon HaRav Aaron Leib Shteinman Shlita is calling upon Am Yisrael to daven, for residents of Eretz Yisrael to increase tefilos in light of the perilous threats facing Eretz Yisrael on many fronts.
The Gadol HaDor’s statement comes in response to a question from HaGaon Rabbi Meir Kessler Shlita, Rav of Modi’in Illit, who called upon Rav Shteinman to ask what we should be doing at present due to the situation.
Rav Shteinman said that each and every person in Eretz HaKodesh should take upon himself to increase tefilos, and Tehillim, especially Chapters 93, 130, 142, and the Mizmor, Ki Yaancha Hashem Beyom Tzora.
[YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem]

A Bit More Salt

"Cursed is he who secretly strikes his fellowman" [Ki Tavo 27:24]

Rashi explains that this curse refers to one who speaks lashon hora - when someone speaks evil, he secretly "strikes" his fellowman.

The Chofetz Chaim was traveling in the company of a well-known rabbi on their way to performing a mitzvah.

After traveling for some time, they decided to rest at an inn.

The woman who owned the inn realized that her two new guests were highly esteemed rabbis, so she quickly set a table and offered them various delicacies.

When they had finished eating, she approached them and asked "How was the meal?"

"It was excellent!" remarked the Chofetz Chaim. "The food was delicious."

"And how did you enjoy the food?" asked the hostess to the other rabbi.

"The food" answered the rabbi, "was certainly adequate, but it could have used a bit more salt."

Their hostess cleared the table and entered the kitchen.

As soon as she left the room, the Chofetz Chaim turned to the rabbi and, with sorrow in his voice, said: "All my life, I have taken the utmost care not to speak or hear words of lashon hora. But now that I am in your company, you have caused me to falter - I am greatly distressed that I have made this trip. I am sure that this trip was not truly for the sake of a mitzvah, for it is impossible that one who has set out to perform a mitzvah should come to violate such a grave transgression!"

"But what did I say?" asked the rabbi. "I said the food was good. I just added that the food could have used a little salt."

"You have no idea," answered the Chofetz Chaim, "of the incredible power of one's words. In all likelihood, the cook is a poor widow who works in this inn to support her family. I am sure that because of your comment, the hostess will go to this poor widow and tell her that the guests are complaining about her cooking. The widow, in defense of her cooking, will deny that the guests have any grounds for complaints. At that point, the hostess will become incensed and shout at her "Do you think the distinguished guests are lying? You are the one who is the liar!" Ultimately, the hostess, in a fit of anger, will fire the poor unfortunate cook."

"Just look at how many sins you have committed with your words: (1) You spoke lashon hora; (2) you caused both the hostess and myself to hear lashon hora; (3) you caused the hostess to relate the words of lashon hora to the cook; (4) you caused the cook to lie in defense of her cooking; (5) you caused the cook terrible suffering."

"Surely you are exaggerating" said the rabbi to the Chofetz Chaim.

"Not in the least" responded the Chofetz Chaim. "Come with me and I'll show you."

The two rabbis entered the kitchen and were greeted with a sorry sight. The poor cook was standing with her head in her hands, sobbing.

The rabbi took one look at the widow, and immediately understood just how correct the Chofetz Chaim had been. He quickly made his way to the hostess and pleaded with her to forgive the cook and restore her to her position.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein