Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks addresses Chabad Kinus

At the Chabad Kinus HaShluchim last weekend where over 5,000 Chabad rabbis gathered, as they do every year, the guest speaker was Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Addressing the theme of the Chossid's need to strive for a higher standard in everything he does, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaks of the role of the Shluchim, his experiences with the Rebbe, and of the need for “Unashamed Jews.” 

[absolutely worth half an hour of your time!]  HT: Chami




"Why I chose to speak at the Kinus" - UK Chief Rabbi Speaks with Arutz Sheva at Chabad Conference

Provocation #5

Iran threatens 150,000 missile response to Israeli Jerichos

Saber-rattling rhetoric in the Middle East is reaching new heights. Israel is reportedly deploying its long-range Jericho missiles around Jerusalem, while the Iranian defense minister threatened massive missile retaliation against Israel.

The threat to launch “150,000 or more” missiles was voiced by Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi on Sunday as he was delivering a speech before army volunteers. Earlier Iranian officials threatened retaliation against both Israel and NATO, should an attack on Iran be carried out.

Meanwhile Israel is reportedly deploying its own missiles around Jerusalem and in the West Bank. The missiles carried into position by military tracks resemble the Jericho missiles, says Aaron Klein, head of the Jerusalem bureau for WorldNetDaily, citing several eyewitness accounts.

Source: RT News

5772 Geula Hint

I heard in the name of Rabbi Eliezer Berland Shlit"a that the letters of year 5772  תשע"ב are the
Roshei Teivos [first letters] of Rabbi Nachman's famous saying: "my fire shall burn till Moshiach
comes":   הָ אֵ שׁ  שֶׁ לִּ י  תּוּ קַ ד  עַ ד  בִּ יאַת  הַ מָּ שִׁ י חַ 

Source: Rav Fish - Geula in 5772 Pt 2

Taking Yaakov out of Be'er Sheva

Art: Evelyn Taylor

Yaakov left Be'er Sheva and headed toward Charan [Vayeitzei 28:10]

Rashi comments that the verse could have just read "And Yaakov went to Charan" - why does it mention his departure? It is teaching us that the departure of a righteous person from a place makes an impression. For at the time that a righteous person is in a city, he is its magnificence, he is its splendor, and he is its grandeur. Once he has departed from there, its magnificence [hodah] has gone away [panah], its splendor [zeevah] has gone away, and its grandeur [hadarah] has gone away.

Rashi's words are alluded to in the verse by way of gematria: If we take "Yaakov out of Be'er Sheva" - that is, if we subtract the numerical value of the word Yaakov [182] from Be'er Sheva [575], we are left with the number 393 - the exact numerical value of the words: panah hodah zeevah u'hadarah - "its magnificence, splendor, and grandeur have gone away."

Written by Rabbi Y. Bronstein

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gilad's Tikkun

Comment by "E.F." on Bat Aliyah's blog:  "Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi Parshat Chaye Sarah 5772":

On October 25, 2011, Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi said: Gilad Shalit doesn't know it, but he enacted a great Tikkun for Yisrael.

On October 18, 2011, the Rabbi said: On the day Gilad Shalit was released, most of the world, and all the Jews in the Land and throughout the world stopped what they were doing and watched on various technologies, in order to see the miraculous account brought about by the King of Kings. Never has there been such an occurrence, that all Am Yisrael was so united... That day was like Yom Kippur, on which all Am Yisrael joined together and prayed to the Holy One that all should unfold in peace, a unique day of the year... Gilad had a mission of five and a half years on behalf of Am Yisrael. The day will come when we will understand this mission.

On the 25th of June 2006, his Israeli Army Unit was attacked by Palestinian terrorists:
2 Soldiers were killed, 3 wounded, and Gilad Shalit was captured.

October 18th 2011, he was released in exchange of over a 1000 Palestinian prisoners.

5 [Years from June 25th 2006 to June 25th 2011] times 365 days = 1825 days
2008 was a leap year, one extra day = 1 day
from June 26th to October 18th 2011 = 115 days
Total of days from Gilad's capture to his return to Israel = 1941 days

Like in Genesis 29:27+28 and other Scriptures, the Bible is counting sometimes one day as one year. If we translate Gilad's 1941 days in captivity to 1941 years, and subtract those 1941 years from his release in October 2011, we arrive at the year 70 CE. That is the very same year when the Roman General Titus destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple, and forced the Jews into captivity.

Is that the mission Gilad Shalit had to fulfill, showing in type the time of the Jews in exile? Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi said he had a mission on behalf of Israel. If this is it, then we know that this is the year when the King of kings will leave the rest of the world and return back to Israel again. The Rabbi has repeatedly said that the time of the exile for the Jews is finished now, this event seems to confirm it.

The End Times and the Middle East [video]

Torah Codes of the End Times, from Rabbi Glazerson

Leftover Sparks


".... Lavan was informed that Yaakov had fled. He took his relatives with him and pursued him" [Vayeitze 31:22,23]

The Maggid of Mezritch taught: "Yaakov had left behind letters from the Torah which he had not yet extracted from Lavan. This is why Lavan pursued him - to give him the letters which remained with him.  An entire chapter was added to the Torah by these letters."  [Ohr Hame'ir, beg. Parshas Vayeitzei, see Ohr HaTorah vol 5, p.869a]

The "letters of the Torah" which Yaakov left behind were "sparks" of holiness.  In fact, Yaakov had spent twenty years in Lavan's house extracting whatever sparks of holiness he could find there, and when the process was complete, he left. At least he thought it was complete....

In truth, however, Yaakov had left some sparks behind, so Lavan chased Yaakov to give them to him.

Why did Yaakov leave sparks behind?

Chassidic teachings explain that, while most of a person's achievements in life come through his own conscious efforts, there are some "super-conscious" achievements that are so lofty they cannot occur intentionally.  So, while we are usually the ones that choose our own paths in life - to find the sparks which we are destined to elevate - sometimes our "sparks" pursue us, because they are too sublime to be "extracted" solely by our own endeavors.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Gutnick Chumash

Monday, November 28, 2011

Yaakov's Dream


Jacob's Dream: David Coker

Yaakov had a vision of a ladder that extended from the earth to Heaven. He visualized an angel climbing it whom he recognized to be the sar [protective angel] of the Babylonian kingdom. [Our Sages depict each of the 70 nations as possessing its own sar. A nation's downfall is preceded by the downfall of its sar, its spiritual image in Heaven.] The angel ascended seventy rungs of the ladder. Yaakov then understood that his descendants were to stay in the Babylonian exile for seventy years. After the angel had reached the seventieth rung, he fell, and Jacob understood that after seventy years of exile, the Jews would be liberated from the yoke of the Babylonians.

Next, Yaakov perceived the protective angel of Media ascend the ladder. He mounted fifty-two rungs and fell. He understood as a result that the Median exile would end after 52 years.

He then saw the sar of Greece climb up 120 steps and plunge downwards, foreshadowing the length of the Greek exile.

Finally, Yaakov was shown the angel of Edom [our present exile] stepping up the ladder. He climbed higher and higher still, an apparently endless ascent into the very heavens. Jacob did not see him fall and was gripped by fear.

"Will this fourth exile be unending?" he asked Hashem.

"No" Hashem reassured him. "Even if the angel climbs as high as the stars, I Myself will take him down when the time comes!"

Yaakov heard the angels of the nations comment: "This Jacob will in the future dominate the world and subdue all the kingdoms. Let us kill him now!" But Hashem Himself appeared and stood above Jacob to protect him.

Then Yaakov was shown a new vision. In this vision, the ladder represented the ramp leading up to the altar of the future Bais Hamikdash. [The ramp was symbolized by a ladder, since the pleasant aroma of the korbanos rises to Heaven.] He perceived the kohanim, compared to angels, hurrying up and down the ramp of the mizbayach [altar], eagerly performing the avodah. Subsequently Jacob received a prophecy in which he foresaw that the Bais HaMikdash would go up in flames. He then saw the second Bais HaMikdash being built.

Yaakov was given yet another preview of the future: he had a vision of matan Torah, the pinnacle of Creation. The ladder symbolized Har Sinai, ablaze with flames that reached the heavens, and he foresaw that his descendants would stand at its foot to receive the Torah. In this vision, the angels represented Moshe and Aharon who would ascend Har Sinai, Aharon remaining on the mountain and Moshe going up to Heaven to receive the luchos [tablets] from Hashem.

Yaakov was given an additional prophecy. He was shown that the angels climbing upwards were the angels of Eretz Yisrael who had so far accompanied him on his journey. Now that he had reached the borders of the Holy Land, they returned to Heaven and new angels, destined to protect him outside Eretz Yisrael, descended. Suddenly all the angels vanished, and he beheld Hashem Himself who stood on guard above him, announcing: "I am the G-d of your father Avraham and the G-d of your father Yitzchak. The land upon which you lie will be yours and your descendants."

He then experienced a vision in which Hashem folded the whole land and placed it beneath his head just as someone folds a paper map. His head now rested on the land in its entirety. This was a symbol that Yaakov would be given ownership of Eretz Yisrael and that his descendants would conquer it with ease.

Hashem prophesied to him: "Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. Just as earth is the foundation of the world, so will your children be the foundation of the world. The world will be blessed in the merit of your descendants. I shall guard you wherever you go, in Lavan's house and in Sh'chem."

Yaakov awoke and knew that his dream had been a prophetic one.

Source: "The Midrash Says"

The Frum Blogs: Do We Matter?

An interesting post at Emes Ve-Emunah:

"Do the Frum blogs have any effect on rabbinic leaders such as those on the Agudah Moetzes? The answer has now been given in a public forum at the Agudah convention. At a Thursday night session described in a blog that reported on it - the internet was attacked it seems with an anger heretofore unseen. As it pertains to Frum Blogs - here is the money quote:

The topic discussed was The Internet and confronting unprecedented challenges of modern technology. Its dangers that have affected our community young and old alike including the content on frum blogs that is harmful to our community. Someone told him that those in Washington are reading these blogs and they said you don't know what harm it is doing to us. It has changed the way we are being perceived."

To read the entire article: click here

Rachel and Leah

Vision of Rachel and Leah: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Lavan had two daughters, the older was was called Leah, and the younger one was called Rachel.
[Vayeitze 29:16]

Rachel represents the approach of tzadikim whose lives are totally holy; and Leah represents the approach of ba'alei teshuvah (penitents) who elevate the secular world to holiness.

Thus, Rachel was naturally attractive: "Rachel had beautiful features and a beautiful complexion" like the tzaddik whose character is flawless; whereas Leah cried profusely, alluding to the process of teshuvah. She was also naturally outgoing, a talent which helps a person to bring the outside world to the realm of holiness.

"Yaakov was an honest person, dwelling in tents" [Toldos 25:27]-  i.e. he busied himself only with matters of holiness - the approach of tzaddikim.  Therefore, people said that Yaakov was destined for Rachel, since their characters matched.  Eisav, on the other hand, was an outgoing "man of the field". Therefore people said that he would be a good match for Leah, for only the talented, outgoing Leah would have the ability to make Eisav do teshuvah.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: Gutnick Chumash

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Provocation #4

The deeply strained relationship between Pakistan and the United States appears to have taken yet another turn for the worse, in the aftermath of what Pakistan describes as an unprovoked pre-dawn attack on its forces by NATO aircraft across the Afghan border. At least 26 Pakistani military personnel, including two officers, were killed, and 14 others were wounded. Islamabad is strongly protesting the incident.

More at: Pakistan Halts NATO Supply Route


Rescue yourself from the dark side

by Rav Yaakov bar Nahman

Toldoth 5952/5772

So much to learn, so many pointers to our lives and world are hidden in our precious Holy Torah. While what I tell here sounds like great tales of the doings of great men and women, it is a pattern and guide for what we the little ones must do in our lives as well. Read, read again, get into what is said here and do what you can and must do. This includes Bnei Noahh as well as Jews.

And remember as stern as things might sound, do it with joy, the joy of holiness. Keep to joy, for only thus can you keep from falling into the awaiting net of the evil serpent who desires your sadness and despair.

"And Yisshhak was 40 years old when he took Rivkah, the daughter of Bethuel the Arami from Padan Aram, the sister of Lavan the Arami, to be his wife." [25:20] We already know her family relations from last week's parashah so what do we need this reminder for? The hint to that is in what Hhaza"l told of the term "the Arami" which has the same letters as the Hebrew word for a con man 'rama'i. Yisshhak's young wife was extracted from the bad influence of her evil family. She was a pure soul, deposited hidden there for him to receive when the time was right. At which point she was to be taken away from there.

Twenty years later after a lot of prayer by both of the couple, Rivkah became pregnant, Mazal Tov. Yet it was not a comfortable pregnancy. The belly was big and a three-ring circus raging inside, and she was alone: no mother, no aunt, not even a mother-in-law to help and comfort her. She cried out, "… im kein lama zeh anokhi?" ["…if this is so what is my life about?"]. Being the pious righteous person she was she went to ask what HaShem will answer to that question. In due term she gave birth to twins as was in the reply she got.

The first one out, Esav, was born covered with hair, much like a furry animal, and with teeth and an adult's face already at birth. Again much like an animal. And indeed he was a wild thing.

His very name, based on the Hebrew word "Asui", shows his essence. He was born appearing as a completed adult. His personality was such that he felt that he already knew everything, he didn't need to listen to anyone else. He knew better and he can do as he chooses. He was the innate rebel incarnate. This klipah appears in people throughout the ages. It is even more common in our generation. There are children in this generation whose tikun includes being born with sparks of this klipah which they must repair. The work is hard, both on them and those around them. Yet as hard as it is, it is important for the finishing off of the Esav/Primordial Serpent-Sam'M in order to bring about the final Geula.

Most people are born a mixture of good and not good traits. But here we have twins in whom one was all good traits and the second full of bad traits. There are of our sages who stated that the two split between them the traits: Yaakov was born with the good-traits side and Esav the others.

This we see in several examples, among them in the incident of the bean stew. Esav returned to the home encampment from a day of murder, cruelly forced "relationships", theft etc, and his hunt for the day had failed. He was hungry, tired, and probably exhausted. He saw his twin brother making a stew of red lentils. Avraham had passed away and Yaakov was making a traditional lentil based meal for their father, Yisshhak, who was in mourning.

So came about the famous deal of Esav trading off his birthright for a bowl of stew and a pita. Now when we read this we wonder, "What was he a Cretin, was he crazy?" After all had he asked politely for a bit of chow like a normal man, Yaakov would likely not have thought of the slick deal. In either case, had he been a normal person and not the hedonist he was, he would have replied something on the order of, "Yo bro' we're family, brothers, you bein' funny?', and ended the incident with a bowl of stew and pita at no charge.

Yet Yaakov knew well what a furry wild beast-man his brother was.

Esav's reply showed how right the younger twin was too. "Vayomer Esav, hinei anokhi holekh lamut velama zeh li berokha?" ["And Esav said, here I am going to die so what good is the birthright to me?"] He felt like he was "dying from exhaustion and hunger". Patience and ability to withstand some temporary discomfort were not among his traits. Esav also knew all too well that the birthright from Yisshhak, which was a Holy Inheritance from their grandfather Avraham, was more than material wealth. It was a spiritual wealth that entailed a big spiritual responsibility. He would have to leave his hedonistic wild life style, live a pure life, learn Torah and even worse teach to the many in order to awaken the masses to the truth of The One Eternal Ephemeral Divine Creator and Eternal World King. This immense responsibility he was most happy to be rid of.

The above mentioned pasuk is joined by a hint in another place to show us what his attitude was. We can also learn from similar wording a totally different attitude in their pious mother.

His words are "hinei anokhi" ["Here I am"] and .."velama zeh li" ["and what is it worth to me?"]; as opposed to Rivkah's "lama zeh anokhi?" ["what is my life about?"]. Those slightly different words as chosen by both of them - "lama zeh anokhi?" vs "velama zeh li berokha?" along with the different "te'amim" [cantilations] show us that the meanings were very different. Rivkah wanted to understand her suffering, the meaning of her life. Esav despised his birthright; to him it was less desirable than a bowl of stew and a pita.

Our sages said, "Maaseh avoth siman lebanim" [The actions of the fathers/ancestors are a sign for the sons/descendants].

Rivkah in her quandary and tribulation turned to HaShem to ask HIS guidance and help. Esav turned to his lusts and physical desires, looking for easy and irresponsible ways to fulfill them. The spiritual/moral line of Rivkah is through Yaakov – to Bnei Yisrael whose true way of life is patterned after Rivkah. Esav's heirs in turn developed religions of lusts, idolatry and even the constructed one that deifies a hung corpse of a rebel who ran away from the 613 commandments, but doesn't even comply with the 7 Noahhide commandments.

Today there is a growing minority of Esav's descendants who are repenting and taking on the seven, or doing a full giur/conversion to Judaism. But those who do not do so, will not have a place in the world to come after Mashiahh's repairs.

Each and every one of us must daily do a self check. Are we in the mode of Rivkah/Yaakov or of Lavan/Esav? We must seek and repair, or as in an army service "search and rescue". Rescue yourself from the dark side.

Another thing to learn from the above incident is shown in pasuk 25:34. "… vayokhal vayeisht vayakaom vayeilekh vayeivez Esav et habekhorah." ["… ate, and drank and got up and went and Esav despised the birthright"].

The letters of the Hebrew word for birthright [bekhora] are the same as for blessing [berakha]. Esav ate and drank without blessing before or after his meal. He despised. What did he despise? He was an ingrate. He made no mention of recognizing what HaShem did to make the food and drink available to him, and no mention of thanking HaShem after his repast. HaShem does not like ingrates. These two men, Esav & Yaakov, were to be the spiritual pillars of the world. Esav held the job in disdain. Blessing? Who needs to bless over food?

In effect he was saying, "I don't need to do a blessing, I don't need no birthright and no birth certificate. I just want to receive what I would if I did bless and did have the birthright and birth certificate!" That was his attitude. Hmmmm. Some people have the klipah to repair and some have it to be part of the Sitra Ahhra-Dark Side powers to battle against the side of HaShem, the Power of Light.

No appreciation? Fine let's see how you feel when the pipeline gets stoppered up!

Immediately after, we have the pasuk of Esav despising the birthright/blessing we have 26:1 "And there was a famine in the land…."

Oh oh now you gone 'n' done it Esav. You jerk. Your despicable behavior, your irresponsibility and lack of gratitude has shut down the pipeline for the entire region. He was danged lucky that the various tribes in the land had zero inkling that he caused the famine. They would have stood in line to kill him.

As the time went by Rivkah with a caring aware and holy mother's eyes/soul saw clearly what her two sons were about. When the time came near for her husband's passing and therefore his giving of his parting blessings and assigning of the heritage, she knew that she had to act to ensure that it went to the correct son.

Here she used her inherited talent of intrigue, for good purpose. Yes the end does not always justify the means but as it is said in Shmuel 2:22:26 and in Tehilim 18:26-27: "With the merciful be you merciful, with the upright man be you upright. With the pure be you pure; and with the crooked be you subtle/clever."

כו) עִם חָסִיד תִּתְחַסָּד עִם גְּבַר תָּמִים תִּתַּמָּם:

כז) עִם נָבָר תִּתְבָּרָר וְעִם עִקֵּשׁ תִּתְפַּתָּל:

Rivkah saw that Esav was unworthy of being a candidate for continuing the supremely important work of Avraham and Yisshhak to bring the light of HaShem to the world. Indeed he was quite the opposite of that. So she devised the trick that arranged for Yaakov the pure one of the two and the proper candidate to get the birthright blessings and assignment.

But that triggered such intense ire in Esav the "dethroned" one that he was bent on murdering his chosen brother.

Rivkah's high soul saw forward and inward and she sent Yaakov on another spiritual "Search & Rescue" mission, a triple one at that. First of all to rescue him from his violent murderous brother, and thereby also save the heritage line of Mashiahh. Second was to rescue Leah from marriage to Esav. Esav was an incarnation of the Primordial Serpent/Sam"M, Leah of Hhava, and Yaakov of Adam. Now Yaakov/Adam had the chance to rescue Leah/Hhava from Esav/Sam"M. This would the first in several steps to repair the damage from the incident of the forbidden fruit in Gan Eden.

Leah knew of the impending hazard of being married to Esav and was terrified of it. She cried a lot over it. Rahhel too was to add to the repair in the union of Yaakov as Yisrael to the higher soul level of Rahhel as we learn in the Holy Kabala.

While Yehudah, son of Leah would be the root father of the Mashiahh ben David which was another reason for rescuing Leah/Hhava from Esav/Sam"M; the two sons of Rahhel would also be important components of the framework of the nation and land of Yisrael and the Geula.

Part of the land on which the Beit Hamikdash and Royal complex would be built would be in the sector of Benyamin. Shaul the first official king of Yisrael would be from the tribe of Benyamin. He was even given the opportunity to be Mashiahh, but fouled up and lost that honor (which therefore turned back to the tribe of Yehudah).

Yosef would be an interim king via the position of viceroy in Egypt. He was also an essential part of the unfolding of the prophecy of the slavery in the furnace which shaped and tempered the budding nation.

Along with that he was the root father of inter-tribal contention that caused the destruction of the first beit Mikdash and the first exile. Also the core root of intramural strife between groups of Jews till today. The final repair will be when Mashiahh ben Yosef will have to surrender and become subject to Mashiahh ben David. This will open the final steps of the final full true Geula, the final and total fall of Esav/Sam"M and bring into being the coronation of Mashiahh ben David with the repair of the world.

Then will all the waiting be fulfilled. The water of Torah will extinguish the fire of evil and we will all become winged immaterial souls in a renewed repaired world.

May it be soon and in our days, Amen!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Perfect Double Rainbow

An amateur photographer was lucky enough to stumble across the arresting sight of a 'twin' rainbow reflected out of the sea. Phil Thompson, 57, took his photograph of the rare phenomenon from the jetty at the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria, Australia.  Not only was the rainbow reflected in the sea, but it had a double seemingly emanating from the water at a different angle.

Source: Daily Mail

Provocation #3

North Korea threatens 'sea of fire'

North Korea has threatened to turn Seoul's presidential office into a "sea of fire," one day after South Korea conducted large-scale military drills near a front-line island attacked by North Korea last year.

The exercises marked the first anniversary of North Korea's artillery attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong that killed two marines and two civilians.

The North's military warned in a statement that "a similar sea of fire" may engulf Seoul's presidential Blue House if South Korean forces ever fire a single shot into North Korea's territory. The warning was carried by North Korean state media.

Source: The Australian

Provocation #2

Medvedev threatens to target U.S. missile shield in Europe if no deal is reached

MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that Russia will target the American missile defense system in Europe with its missiles if Moscow cannot reach an agreement with Washington and NATO on how the system will be built and operated.

Medvedev, who is leading the ruling United Russia party to the polls in the country’s Dec. 4 parliamentary elections, accused the United States and its NATO allies of failing to negotiate with Russia in good faith, and he said Russia reserved the right to halt its arms control efforts.

Source: Washington Post


The Voice of Yaakov



"The voice is the voice of Yaako, but the hands are the hands of Eisav"  [Toldos 27:22]

"There are certain Jews", the Dubno Maggid once said, "who are the very personification of the words: "The voice is Yaakov's voice" as the way they pray and study conforms perfectly with all the pertinent halachos.

"Unfortunately," continued the Maggid, "their hands are Eisav's hands. For when it comes to the mitzvos of tzedakah or gemilus chasadim, these same Jews keep their hands tightly shut.

"It is vital for such individuals to know that one aspect of avodas Hashem without the other will not last."

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Yaakov's Tikkun

According to kabbalistic teachings, Yaakov corrected the spiritual damage caused by Adam's sin.

Therefore, just like Adam had been misled by the ingenious plot of the serpent, the correction of Adam's sin had to come through ingenious trickery - "Your brother came ingeniously and took your blessing" [Toldos 27:35]

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guarding Your Speech


The Baal Shem Tov taught:
Your soul is mixed with good and evil, in order that it should be free.
Therefore, when you speak holy words, they draw down new life from holiness, and when you speak evil words, they draw down new life from the root of evil and the Other Side. The latter causes you to do evil.
So everything in your life, whether for evil or for good, depends upon your speech.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Upon Me

"His mother said to him: My Son, let your curse be upon me" [Toldos 27:13]

Why, asked the Vilna Gaon, would Rivkah invite a curse upon herself? Why did she not simply say "He will not curse you, my son?"

Rivkah, answered the Gaon, was hinting to Yaakov that he would face three main forms of hardship in his life. These hardships are alluded to in the acronym of the word עָלַי [upon me] - Esav, Lavan and Yosef.


Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Born Yesterday

HT: Yaak

A 30-year-old guy goes to Rav Chaim Kanievsky to receive a beracha [blessing] for a Shidduch [marriage partner]. Rav Chaim Shlit"a tells him, "Your Bashert [soul mate, intended partner] wasn't born yet. It should be with Beracha Vehatzlaha [blessing and success]"

The news hit the man hard and he left the house crying, asking himself why he has to wait so long for a Shidduch.

Two months later, he comes back to Rav Chaim Shlit"a and announces he's engaged to a Giyoret [female convert to Judaism] who had just converted a month earlier.

[Note: when a person converts to Judaism it is as if they are re-born.  They receive a new name , and even a new birthday - the day of the conversion]

Source: KikarHaShabat

Things to do today

Monday, November 21, 2011

Life is a Rollercoaster


The lower the descent, the higher the potential ascent.  Known in chassidus as: "Yerida l'tzorich Aliyah" - it is a descent purely for the purpose of ascent.

When your life takes a turn for the worse, know that this is the preparation for a future elevation.  It's the ricochet effect.  The harder you throw a ball down, the higher it will bounce back up.

People are tested all the time: know that is all it is:  a test.  Sometimes it may last for many years, sometimes just a few days.  The lower you have fallen, the higher you can potentially rise.  If you know this, then nothing should ever bother you again.

Deceptive Appearances


In Parshas Toldos we read about Eisav's deceptive acts towards his father, climaxing here at the end of the parsha, where he marries one of Yishmael's daughters in order to appear righteous in Yitzchak's eyes.

Rashi however comments that, in fact, "he added wickedness upon his wickedness, in that he did not divorce the first ones" [Toldos 28:9] i.e. just like he had married his first wives in an attempt to appear righteous, so too here "he added wickedness upon wickedness" marrying once again, this time to a member of Avraham's family in order to maintain his deceptive veil of righteousness.

In the following parsha, Vayeitzei, we read of another trickster, Lavan, who acted deceptively towards Yaakov. However, it could be argued that Eisav's deception towards his father represented a greater degree of moral corruption than the acts of Lavan, because Eisav actively promoted himself as a righteous person. Lavan, on the other hand, may have acted deceptively, but he did not scheme to find ways of proving his righteousness to others. He merely concealed his selfish and corrupt motives so Yaakov would not come to uncover his plans.

So, the Torah's description of Eisav here, at the end of parshas Toldos, comes to warn us of the moral corruption which was exemplified by Eisav. Here we are warned to steer clear of this lowly activity: promoting oneself as righteous while the truth is something very different indeed.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Perfect Timing

COUSINS Maya Gray and Isaac Bushell timed their grand entry into this world perfectly, right down to the minute.

Both were born at 7.55am on Saturday, in Peninsula Private Hospital, weighing almost exactly the same.

Mums Stacey Bushell, 32, and Kylie Liddicoat, 27, who are sisters-in-law, were amazed by the coincidences.

Both were second children for the women, and both came early, with Maya weighing in at 3.52kg, while Isaac was close behind at 3.49kg.

Midwife Judith Lane said she had been running between their neighbouring rooms during the births.

"As soon as Maya was born I raced into the other room and Isaac was just being placed on his mother's chest," Mrs Lane said.

"Occasionally babies are born at the same time, but for it to happen with cousins is amazing, it blew us away, it's a bit freaky."

Source: Herald Sun

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Naturally Inclined


How could Yitzchak, our righteous patriarch, have a son whose very nature even in the womb was inclined towards idol worship? [see Rashi - Toldos 25:22]

G-d can either make a person's disposition naturally good or naturally bad. But, even if a person has a natural inclination to evil, that does not mean that he is evil per se, for he is given free choice. Rather, the reason why he was given such an inclination was to rise to the challenge and overcome it. Thus Eisav was given a natural tendency to evil so that he could excel in the Divine service of "quashing" the evil inclination.

Even though he failed in his task, we can nevertheless learn from Eisav that if a person has strong desires to do something bad, it means that he has been given the special Divine mission of overcoming his inclinations.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

The Bottom Line

by Rav Yaakov bar Nahman

BS"D

Hhayei Sarah 5952/5772

[Bereisheet/Genesis 23:1] "And the life of Sarah was a hundred and seven and twenty years; these were the years of the life of Sarah." Why didn't Torah simply say that Sarah was 120 years old when she died? Pay attention that it doesn't mention death at all.

Sarah Imeinu (our mother), among other fine traits, was the full partner of her husband Avraham in their trait of kindness to others.

In this opening issue of this week's parashah we have the real estate deal for the burial site for Sarah. Avraham openly stated that he was ready to pay the going price for the piece of land. Efron the Hittite said that he would it to him for free – no money. [23:11] "Nay my lord, hear me; the field and the cave that is therein, I give it to you; in the presence of my people I give it to you; bury your dead."

However we are soon to find that this was a mere ploy and that he actually demanded an exorbitant sum. Even with the witness of many of his tribe members he did the double speak trick. Sound familiar from today's news? Pay attention too that the Pharaoh of Egypt who initiated the slavery of the Bnei Yisrael a few generations later was actually a Hittite. 400 trade shekels for a relatively small piece of wild land in an area not fit for agriculture and a mysterious cave in its midst that radiated some unfathomable sensation that actually caused great fear to any Hittite etc who dared approach and therefore was unmarketable, was really gauging. Even if it had been prime land that price in those days should have bought a plot at least five times the size.

Some "I give it to you"…. What kind of character trait do we see here in this Hittite and his people who said nothing when the trick was performed before their eyes?

Further on in our parashah we see Eli'ezer, Avraham's chief servant being sent to Aram to find a bride for Yisshhak. He went with a veritable treasury and ten men who would obey his commands. He could have gone off and started a tribe of his own somewhere with him as tribal chief. After all he had been the son of a king (Nimrod). He could have taken a bride for himself too. Avraham could never have done a thing about it. But he didn't, because he learned the way of good traits from his master.

Next we see little Rivka, 3 years old, being sent by her father to bring home pitchers of water. First of all, consider the actions of the father to demand such work from a 3 year old girl. Then think of the phenomenal trait of the little girl to water all those men and their camels. Each camel drinks 120 liters of water, do the math yourself!

Then we have the attempt by Lavan and Bethuel to poison Eli'ezer so that they can steal the goods and still keep Rivka. Oof, what character traits.

Now we know that Torah is here to teach us. We have learned that we must study Torah again amd again throughout our lives.

Now let me give you a whack with a two-by-four between the eyes.

A person can sit in a study hall day and night for 60 years straight, pass away and when he stands before the judges in Heaven be asked, "Why did you waste your life? Why did you never study Torah?"

When he recovers from the shock of the question he will say, "What do mean? Look at the heavenly video of my life and see how I did indeed sit and study all those years."

To which he will be replied, "We also look at what you did, what you felt and thought, what character traits you developed and did not develop. You may have read millions of words written in many Torah study books. Yet you did not permit the Torah to improve your character. Therefore it is considered that you never studied at all!"

Yes folks, that is the shocking truth. We heard this directly from our venerable teacher Rav Shalom Arush Shlit"a may HaShem protect him and give him a long healthy happy fulfilling life. He told us all the places in our Holy books that back his statements 100%.

Think about it. Realize that Torah study is not merely a history book, or a set of nice folk tales. It is a handbook for living. Its main purpose is to teach us how we must live. That goes for Jews and Bnei Noahh alike by the way. Just as HaShem shows us that HE is patient, so we must learn to be patient. Just as Hashem shows how HE is merciful, so we must learn to be merciful. . Just as HaShem shows us that HE is kind and charitable, so we must do so too. And so on with all the great traits of HaShem.

Without decent character traits a human is worse than an animal!

In Gemara Taanit (fasts) section 2 we read of a Roman soldier who sought to kill two Jews for the blood libel on the death of the Caesar's daughter. They told him point blank that he is no better than a bear or a lion, not even on the level of a human at all. The end was that immediately after he killed those two pious Jews, two high officers of the Caesar entered with an execution order on him, and killed him on the spot. HaShem let people know that he demands payment for the blood of his people.

Anyhow back to our lesson on the parashah. Torah study is only Torah study when you improve your character traits. Bottom line!

That is the message. Now it's your turn.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rivkah's Candles

Art: Michoel Muchnik
In recent years the custom for girls to light Shabbos candles before they are married has re-emerged.  This is actually an ancient practice which is indicated by Rashi's comment to verse 67

Here we see that Rivkah lit candles before she was married, for only after Yitzchak had taken her into "the tent of Sarah his mother" and witnessed her Shabbos candles burning for the entire week, did he take her to be his wife.  In fact, it was primarily the observance of this mitzvah that proved to Yitzchak the suitability of Rivkah as a spouse, and a mother in Israel.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavicher Rebbe

Provocation

In the year King Moshiach is revealed, nations will be provoking one another...... [Yalkut Shimoni]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Barry learns the lingo

US President Barack Obama has entertained his Australian hosts by trying his hand at the local lingo at an official dinner.

Mr Obama told of speaking to American troops in Afghanistan who were mystified as to why their Australian counterparts were always talking about cheese.

It transpired the Aussies were just greeting them with "Cheers''.

"We may not always speak the same way or use the same words but I think it's pretty clear ... that we understand each other, we see the world in the same way,'' Mr Obama told the more than 600 dinner guests last night.

He told last night's parliamentary dinner hosted in his honour he'd had "a real chinwag'' with Julia Gillard.

"When Julia and I meet we listen to each other, we learn from each other. It's not just a lot of ear-bashing. That's a good one - ear-bashing. I can use that in Washington,'' Mr Obama said.


Read more: News.com

Sound the Alarm

by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

My column usually focuses on guiding and advising those who have difficulty navigating the murky turbulent waters that challenge their personal lives, be they shalom bayis, shiduchim, etc. From time to time, I depart from this format to comment on the issues that affect our very lives as a people.

Of late, this has occurred more often than I would care to admit. Events are unfolding so rapidly that before we can absorb one, another befalls us. Most of us opt for the easy way out........We shut our eyes, close our ears, and just glide along. I have sounded the alarm through this column myriad times and I realize that some of my readers may have tired of hearing it.... but just the same, I am writing again for I know that we dare not remain silent and feel the responsibility to raise our voices.

Some years ago, I came across an old Jewish newspaper printed in Warsaw in the early thirties. Incredibly, there was no mention of the dangers that loomed ahead. This, despite the fact that the menacing, hateful voices of anti-Semitism could be heard throughout Europe, provided of course, that you had open ears and were willing to listen. But then as now, people chose to ignore the warning signs. They preferred to attribute them to a few “crazy fringe fanatics”.... not to be taken seriously. Even as now, they assured themselves that the world had changed. “It’s not like it was in the dark ages. Today, we live in an enlightened society.... people are educated and cultured. No. There is nothing to worry about, There is no reason to pay heed to a few lunatics”.

Amazingly, we never learn. Despite having known the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, we continue to follow the same pattern. We too choose to shut our eyes, We too close our ears and lull ourselves into believing that catastrophes such as occurred in the past can never again befall us. After all, we live in a democracy in which the rights of every individual are protected and guaranteed. And moreover, Israel is a close ally of America and Washington will never abandon her.

Despite all this however, I once again take pen in hand and write. I invite you to consider the events of the past few months, past few weeks, past few days..... Tragic events have befallen us, but should you say this to the average Jew, he will stare at you uncomprehendingly and wonder what on earth you are talking about.

Let us open our hearts and listen carefully. In every generation, we, the Jewish people have “loyal shepherds” who champion our cause and plead on our behalf in front of G-d’s Holy Throne., These shepherds are the sages and Roshei Yeshiva (heads of Torah Academies). In the last few weeks and months, many of our loyal shepherds have been called on high. These sages span three continents.... Europe, America, and Israel. One after the other, they were taken from our midst, and most recently, the loving “shepherdess”, the kind, warm Bubbie of our people, Rebbetzin Batsheva Esther Kanievsky of B’nai Brak, was also summoned. The Rebbetzin left thousands of women mourning and lost.... Additionally, the eminent Rosh HaYeshiva, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Nossen Tzvi Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir in Yerushalayim where thousands upon thousands of students received the light of Torah, was also taken from our midst, as was HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Dov Schwartzman, Z”l of Beis HaTalmud in Jerusalem.

Again, to the average Jew, these names and titles are of little consequence, but know and make no mistake about it, these are the loyal shepherds of our people – the “Giants” in whose merit the world is sustained, and in these past few weeks and months, they have been called home, leaving us vulnerable and challenging us to take responsibility for our lives and take upon ourselves a Torah way of life.

But disaster upon disaster continues to befall us – the tragic accident in which two outstanding yeshiva students were killed. Doniel King, age fifteen Elie Schonbrun, Z”l, age sixteen. The boys, together with fellow students were on their way to the yeshiva when their van skidded off the road... There is no way in which anyone can comprehend the terrible suffering of their parents.

But even as this catastrophe struck, we learned of the lamentable, freak accidental deaths of babies and toddlers, here as well as in Jerusalem, and all this unfolded before we could recover from the savage barbaric slaughter of our precious Leiby. On this very same week seventy three years ago, Hitler’s satanic Krystal Nacht, set afire Jewish synagogues and homes, in Germany and Austria. Jewish businesses were ransacked and destroyed, their windows shattered and the streets paved with thousands of glittering pieces of broken glass.

Some years ago, I spoke in Washington Heights, a community which was populated by many Jews of German descent. An elderly gentleman shared some of his Krystal Nacht experiences. “My synagogue and my home were torched by the Nazi Youth. I called the fire department only to be told that it was against the law to put out fires on property that belonged to Jews.”

Today, 73 years later, as we remember Krystal nacht anti-Semitism once again rears its ugly head. a tragedy once again unfolds. In the Jewish neighborhood of Midwood, Brooklyn, cars were set on fire and swastakas with obscene curse-words vilifying Jews were sprayed on sidewalks and benches.. Even a blind man would have to see it, but we continue with “business as usual.”

Coincidence? Accident? What possible connection can there between the barbaric events of yesterday and that which is befalling us today?

Can it be that there is a message behind it all – a message that we should ponder? ....Can it be? 

(To be continued)


The Great [Debt] Mabul


The great flood in the time of Noah began on 17 Heshvan.  

I know it's raining in Israel, and I know it's raining here.

But the bigger worry that is affecting the world is the financial flood: it's raining debt.  Why should we not care?   I borrowed this comment by Klishlishi from Money: It's a Crime :

The lesson of The Flood has shown that Hashem will not allow the pleasures of material existence to reach orgiastic proportions, and thwart mankind's raison d'etre by overwhelming the spiritual. Investment falls, company and bank crashes, pension fund scams, share price slumps, land value slides, mass unemployment, recessions and depressions are all examples of these checks and corrections.

"Before those days come, there will be no wages, not for man nor beast; I will set every man against his neighbour" [Zechariah 8]

"Before the Messiah, human wages will not exist" [Chofetz Chayim].

"There is no clearer sign of the coming of Moshiach than when all prices become equal" [Sanhedrin 98].

"Before the Moshiach, poverty will increase, prices will rise; even though the vine will produce its fruit, the wine will still be expensive" [Sotah 49].

"The Moshiach will not come until the Jewish People have been cured of their obsessional love for money!" [Rav Rafael Eisenberg, 1976].

"It will become harder to provide a man with his livelihood than to bring the Redemption" [Pesachim 118]

"There are certain sins for which the only atonement is to be in debt. When these sins multiply, then everyone falls into debt" [R.Nachman of Breslov].

"Three types of individual will not be required to see even the entrance to Gehennom: he who was pursued by his creditors..." [Eruvin 41]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Prepare Yourself for the Banquet


"I am an alien and a resident among you" [Chayei Sarah 23:4]

What is the meaning, asked the Dubno Maggid, of the expression "alien and resident"?  An alien is a person who resides in a land temporarily, while a resident's status is a permanent one.  An alien, therefore, is not a resident, nor is a resident an alien.

The answer, said the Maggid, is as follows:  Chazal comment on the verse "For you are aliens and residents with Me" [Vayikra 25:23] - "This world is like a lobby before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall." [Avos 4:21]

Each individual is required to prepare himself for his eternal residence in the World to Come by performing mitzvos and good deeds in this world, his temporary dwelling.  Thus Avraham Avinu was saying "I am both an alien and a resident; I am an alien temporarily living in the world before I will become a permanent resident of the World to Come."

The Chofetz Chaim illustrated this idea by way of the following parable: There was a very wealthy man who wished to build himself a luxurious house. He contracted an architect who began to draw blueprints for the future home.

"It is very important to me" said the wealthy man to the architect, "that the living room be spacious and comfortable. Yet it is also important that the hallway leading to the living room be very large as well."

The architect took the necessary measurements and began to tell the man what he thought. "There is most certainly not going to be enough space for both the living room and the hallway to be large and roomy. You are going to have to make a decision - do you want a spacious living room or a spacious hallway?"

"I'll give you a bit of advice." continued the architect.  "Being that the prevailing custom is to make the living room as large as possible and not to invest very much in the hallway, I'd suggest that you do the same. It would be ridiculous to do the opposite and make the hallway larger than the living room.  After all, you don't want people to laugh at you."

So it is with us, said the Chofetz Chaim. Our duty in this world is to prepare ourselves for the eternal life, so that our portion in the World to Come will be as great as possible. How are we supposed to do this? By living our lives according to the Torah and by performing the mitzvos.

How foolish is the man whose sole concern is to ensure himself a comfortable life in this world. He is comparable to the wealthy man who requests a large hallway but a small living room. When he arrives in the World to Come everyone will laugh at him!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vegemite, Crocodiles and The Obamas

Australia is preparing itself for President Obama's arrival tomorrow, where he will address Parliament in Canberra and then fly to Darwin.
When Barack Obama lands in Australia tomorrow he'll have a "quasi-vegetable by-product paste" shoved into his mouth and told to like it.....  Even if Mr Obama manages to dodge an unwelcome breakfast, he'll still have to contend with crocodiles.

The NT News reports that the President has been insured against crocodile attack for his visit to the Northern Territory.  TIO insurers issued him the standard policy - a cover note carrying a photograph of a salt-water crocodile with the promise to pay his family $50,000 in the event of a fatal attack. TIO usually charges $10 for this sort of service but it gave Mr Obama his cover for free (although the $50,000 payout still feels a bit low for a presidential death).

Soul Mazal on Israel National Radio

I know, I know, I've mentioned this a few times now..... Rabbi Katz can tell you amazing things about names, using the Vilna Gaon's insights, and gematria.  And even Tamar Yonah who, by her own admission, is a skeptic, thinks this is an incredible revelation: the ability to de-code the previously unseen wisdom contained in everyone's name..... and she made sure she put him through his paces before she'd allow him on her show....so it's not just me, or the dozens of people queuing up to get their names read... it's a genuine, kosher and totally mindblowing experience which I recommend without reservation.

For those who missed it, here is  Tamar Yonah's interview with Rabbi David Katz at Israel National News where he does Benyomin Netanyahu's name - although it should be noted that this is a very abbreviated and edited version of the name, and did not disclose any personal information which would be unsuitable for a public broadcast [it's in the last half hour of the show] - note that personal name readings are usually 30 minutes long and very detailed, and involve a great deal of work and meditation on the name, as well as a personal recording for the customer to keep.  All information remains totally confidential, and no last names are [necessarily] needed, ensuring your privacy is secured.

Here is a quick download of the interview for anyone who doesn't want to wade thru the entire show:



Cleaning The Table before Moshiach

[HT: Yaak]
“HaKadosh Baruch Hu” is closing cheshbonos” stated HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita in regard to the difficult events that have taken place of late, Kikar Shabbat reports.

A number of askanim met with the Rav on Thursday afternoon [13 Cheshvan] in his home, including Rabbi Chananya Chulik of Ezer Mizion. Rabbi Chulik mentioned the recent tragedies that have befallen the chareidi community, including the passing of roshei yeshiva and how many are trying to understand what is taking place. 

“What is going on of late? Why the tragedies – what should we do and how does one respond?”

At first, Rav Kanievsky referred him to HaRosh Yeshiva HaGaon HaRav Aaron Leib Shteinman Shlita, telling him to ask Rav Shteinman on what should we focus and in what areas we should  strengthen ourselves.

Rabbi Chulik then stated that on motzei Shabbos he is supposed to address the shloshim kinos for women in Bnei Brak and he needs to know what to say to the thousands women who are seeking a chizuk.

בעקבתא דמשיחא” stated the Gadol Hador, that Moshiach is on his way and “Hashem is closing cheshbonos”, Kikar quotes the Gadol HaDor as saying.

Rabbi Chulik:Is Moshiach arriving soon?

Rav Kanievsky: This is what we believe and expect. Perhaps this is the time. In the past there were prophets who could tell us about the future, and why there is suffering and troubles, but today we have no explanation.

And in his address on motzei Shabbos to thousands of women, Rabbi Chulik explained “Hashem is closing cheshbonos and is cleaning the table ahead of Moshiach and compelling us towards tshuva”.

Source: YWN

And the water rose toward her...

Art: William Adolphe Bouguereau

"The servant ran toward her" [Chayei Sarah 24:17]

Rashi comments: "Because he saw that the waters went up toward her".

Where does the verse indicate, asks the Ramban, that the waters actually went up toward her?

Later on, answers the Ramban, the verse states:  "She drew for all his camels" [24:20].  In this verse, however, we find no mention of Rivkah "drawing" any water.  This teaches us that Rivkah, in fact, had no need to draw water for the water rose up toward her.

Yet, asked R' Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, why did the water not rise for her when she drew water for Eliezer's camels?

Initially, Rivkah had gone to draw water for her own personal needs.  In order that the tzaddekes should not have to burden herself with the task of drawing water, the water, instead, rose to her.  However, when Rivkah went to draw water for Eliezer's camels, she had undertaken to perform a mitzvah.  Heaven wanted Rivkah to earn as much merit as possible for her act of kindness, so, this time, the water was not allowed to rise for her.  In this way, Rivkah would receive maximum merit for performing this mitzvah, for as Chazal teach us, "According to the exertion is the merit". [Avos 5:26]  Thus the more she exerted herself, the more merit she would receive.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, November 14, 2011

Body and Soul

The Zohar teaches that Sarah represents the body, whereas Avraham represents the soul.  Even after death, the soul still remains related to the body, thus "Avraham - the soul - came to eulogize Sarah - the body - and to weep for her"  [Chayei Sarah 23:2]

Chassidic teachings emphasize the importance of the body as a tool in the service of G-d.  Since the ultimate purpose of creation is to sanctify the physical world, the body has a distinct advantage over the soul, in that it is the means by which G-d's Will is enacted.  Therefore, G-d told Avraham [the soul] "Whatever Sarah - the body - tells you, listen to her voice" [21:12], indicating that there is an inherent superiority to the body, over the soul.

Although the soul is incomparably more refined than the body, nevertheless, in the times of Moshiach we are promised that the superiority of the body will be revealed such that "the soul will be animated by the body".

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Narrowness of the Throat


Written by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

Question:
I have been coming to your Thursday morning series on 'forgiveness'. The lessons you teach about letting go of resentment, acceptance and freeing yourself are all wonderful. But even though I fully understand these ideas I still cannot find it in my heart to change my feelings towards some of those people that have wronged me. This is extremely frustrating. Any suggestions?

Answer:
Like many of us, you suffer from a condition called "narrowness of the throat". The Kabbalah teaches that the physical design of the human body reflects the spiritual and psychological makeup of the soul. We possess two powerful forces that govern the human experience - intellect and emotion. Intellect and cognition live in the brain while emotions and feelings are expressed in the heart.

Each of these forces is different and important. The intellectual mind is cold and aloof, with objectivity and maturity. The heart on the other hand is subjective and involved, infusing life experience with passion, excitement, determination and ambition.

Here is the problem. In order to implement a lesson or a value it needs to travel from the detached mind to the involved heart, with a transformation from a theoretical idea to real feeling. But because intellect and emotion are so different, the transition is often unsuccessful. As it travels from the head to the heart it gets stuck in the "narrowness of the throat". This is a common condition.

Learning a lesson once, even if it is well understood, won't do the trick. The concept will just remain theoretical and detached from the reality of life experience. To break through the blockage of the throat the idea needs to become much more forceful. This is achieved by constant review, repetition and deep reflection on its relevance. Eventually, after revisiting the concepts from different perspectives and with deeper understanding, we build an attachment to these lessons and values, giving them enough force to break through and unclog the pathway to the heart.

So keep coming, keep reviewing and reflecting and eventually some of what you learn will trickle though to the heart and become part of real life.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chief Rabbi Metzger ‘sees the light’ after visiting shelter

by Sharon Shenhav - JPost

Rabbi Yona Metzger
It’s good that Rabbi Metzger is sympathetic to the plight of battered women. But where has he been for 40 years?

On October 31, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger informed Israel Radio, Reshet Bet, that he had visited a shelter for battered Orthodox women in Beit Shemesh and was horrified to hear of their suffering.

Apparently the chief rabbi had not been aware that Orthodox women were victims of domestic violence and expressed sincere compassion for their plight.

He described how he spoke with the women and listened to their stories. This eloquent spiritual leader pointed out that Jewish law (Halacha) does not condone violence in the home and that good Jewish husbands honor their wives and treat them with dignity and respect. He was so impressed by the experience that he is now going to recommend that all dayanim (religious judges) visit this shelter.

Rabbi Metzger’s concern and compassion is well deserved and to be commended. However, it comes a little late. Where has he been for the past 40 years? Has he been so out of touch that he doesn’t read newspapers or listen to radio or television? He served as chief rabbi of north Tel Aviv and has been the chief rabbi of Israel since 2003. In that position, he serves as a judge on the Bet Din Hagadol (the Great Court). Has he never heard of women seeking divorce from abusive husbands? The first shelter for battered women was opened in Herzliya in the 1970s. Why did it take him so long to visit one? What does his lack of knowledge say about him personally, or about the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts in Israel? FROM 2003 to 2009 I served as the only woman on the Commission to Appoint Dayanim. During that period I interviewed over 350 candidates who sought appointment.

My colleagues on the Commission who participated in these interviews, including a dayan from the Bet Din Hagadol and an Knesset member, would discuss the candidate’s yeshiva education and the rabbis who had been his teachers.

I would ask the candidates how they would handle cases where abusive husbands refused to give their wives a get (a divorce). Apparently these questions had not been asked of potential dayanim prior to my participation in the interviews.

The candidates seemed surprised by my questions and a leading rabbi told me that everyone was talking about the questions I asked during the interviews.

Like Rabbi Metzger, these candidates were well versed in Halacha, but seemed to know nothing about the problem of domestic violence in the Jewish community. When asked how they would handle such a case, they stammered and faltered.

Several remarked that abusive behavior doesn’t take place in Orthodox homes! Given this lack of knowledge in the world of rabbis and dayanim, the way abused women are treated in the rabbinical courts when they file for divorce is not surprising.

The rabbis simply don’t believe their testimony.

Even in cases where women have required medical treatment, including the need for hospitalization due to physical abuse by their husbands, too many dayanim seem to find such objective evidence unconvincing. Is it because all of the dayanim are men that they tend to conclude that abusive husbands’ behavior is the result of provocation by their wives? In most cases involving physical abuse, dayanim are reluctant to obligate the abusive husband to give a get. Let’s not even talk about emotional abuse. Most dayanim have never studied psychology, sociology or child development.

They don’t understand the concept of emotional abuse and certainly do not recognize it as grounds for divorce.

NO WONDER that studies of abused Jewish women show that they remain in abusive relationships four times longer than non- Jewish women. When they approach a rabbi for advice on how to deal with an abusive situation, they are often told that shalom bayit (domestic peace) is of the utmost importance. To improve the situation and reduce the abuse, these women are advised to lose weight, wear more attractive clothes, clean the house, keep the children quiet and cook more creative meals.

Now that Rabbi Metzger is aware of the problem, perhaps we can expect some changes. It’s possible that he could do something about raising awareness amongst other Orthodox rabbis and dayanim.

I would suggest that the chief rabbi begin by requiring all Orthodox rabbis to take a course in domestic violence which is prepared and delivered by social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers and civil court judges.

Hopefully, women who have been victims of abusive marriages could also participate in these courses, giving the rabbis an opportunity to hear the victim’s version of events.

The chief rabbi could organize such courses and require that every sitting dayan as well as all of those who submit their candidacy to be appointed as dayanim take such a course.

Feminist activists have marked November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women since 1981.

In 1999, the UN General Assembly designated November 25 as International Elimination of Violence against Women Day and encouraged non-governmental organizations worldwide to organize activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem. In Israel, there have been organized marches, demonstrations and conferences to mark the day for over a decade.

Perhaps this year Rabbi Metzger could, at long last, participate in these activities.

Would it be too much to hope that rabbis and dayanim could treat abused women with dignity, compassion and respect? Can we now expect that the dayanim will deal with abusive husbands by requiring them to give a get without requiring their wives to give up financial rights? Jewish women will be waiting to see what kind of action Rabbi Metzger takes, now that he has “seen the light.”

The writer, a Jerusalem-based women’s rights lawyer, is the director of the International Jewish Women’s Rights Project of the International Council of Jewish Women.

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