“There are 248 limbs in the body, and each word of Shema serves to protect one of them” [Zohar Chadash, Rus 97b]. However, when making a tally of all of the sections of Shema, one comes up with only 245 words. How do we make up for the three missing words?
“In order to make up the missing three words, the prayer leader should repeat the last three words of Shema, Hashem Elokeichem Emes [Hashem your G-d is Truth]” [Shulchan Aruch 61,3]. This is based on the halachic principle of “shome’a k’oneh,” that when one listens to words it is as if one said them personally. Therefore, these three words, in addition to the 245 words of Shema, bring us to the sum total of 248 words.
Nearly all of Greenland's massive ice sheet suddenly started melting a bit this month, a freak event that surprised scientists.
Even Greenland's coldest and highest place, Summit station, showed melting. Ice core records show that last happened in 1889 and occurs about once every 150 years.
Three satellites show what NASA calls unprecedented melting of the ice sheet that blankets the island, starting on July 8 and lasting four days. Most of the thick ice remains. While some ice usually melts during the summer, what was unusual was that the melting happened in a flash and over a widespread area.
The three weeks leading up to the fast of Tisha b’Av, and especially the nine days of Av, are replete with restrictive customs. These restrictions are intended to bring home to us our loss: the loss of the Bet haMikdash, the Holy Temple, spiritual powerhouse for the whole of the Jewish people and ultimately the world. They also reinforce the need for us to approach with renewed fervour the Assessor Supreme to make good those losses. In so doing we remind ourselves of the reasons for these losses: primarily failure in interpersonal relations, a lack of outward-directed Ahavat Yisrael, in short the kind of self-centred indifference or, worse, sin’at chinam (gratuitous hatred) that is still with us, else the Bet haMikdash would have been rebuilt already. And “any generation in which the Temple is not rebuilt is reckoned to have destroyed it” [Jer. Talmud Yoma 1:1].
One of the restrictions of this period is that we do not bless Shehecheyanu. This is essentially an inward-directed blessing, recited when we are the beneficiaries of something new intended for our personal use or benefit: a new fruit, a new dress, an inheritance of which one is the sole beneficiary. In contrast, another blessing, ha-tov ve-hametiv, is made when others also benefit. This is an outward-directed blessing. It may be said on purchasing new household silverware or on inheriting a legacy also shared by others (siblings, etc.). We do not find that the recital of this latter blessing is explicitly restricted during this period. If it were, it would convey the wrong message. The lesson is that we should at all times find pleasure in others’ pleasure. This is part of ahavat chinam (boundless love). If loving means selfless giving (as it does in the Hebrew language) then hatred is manifested in extreme self-centredness Therefore only inward-directed, selfish pleasure is to be curtailed.
The eradication of selfishness is the key to understanding Tisha b’Av. After all, what could have been more selfish than the burning by the Zealots of storehouses of wheat, barley and wood sufficient to sustain Jerusalem for 21 years, thus forcing Judea to confront Rome with disastrous consequences. Or the perfidious betrayal by Bar Kamtsa of his people to the Caesar to avenge his own hurt.
The tragic history of the ninth day of Av goes all the way back to the slanderous report of the spies and the popular uprising against taking possession of the Land ruefully recalled by Moses in this week’s sidra. This sin too had its roots in the vice of selfishness. Our midrashic commentators explain that the men (and it was only the men who complained) had lacked the courage to go up and fight for the Land of Israel preferring instead to subject their wives and children to the tyranny of renewed foreign domination.
It took forty years of intense introspection and soul-searching in the desert to mend this selfish trait. But when Am Yisrael procrastinated mentally before embarking on the final desert war against Midian, it was for a very unselfish reason – because they knew Moses would perish afterwards [see Rashi to Num 31:5]. Moses himself is alacritous to go to battle against Midian even though he knows he will die thereafter. And when the people do go to war, as Rashi [31:4, citing Sifri] explicitly tells us, they are accompanied in this milkhemet mitsva (obligatory war) by the spiritual elite of Israel, not only the Levites but also Pinchas the Kohen who understood that his presence at the battlefield was essential for the morale of the nation. Possibly it was his inspiration that helped the Bnei Yisrael over the final hurdle and into the Promised Land.
The need to rise above selfish and self-centred interests challenges all strata of our people, whether ‘religious’ or ‘secular’ (and labels are invidious). The yetzer ha-ra (evil inclination) struts around among our nation indiscriminately and with differing degrees of false piety. Ultimately only a deep and abiding cheshbon ha-nefesh (soul-searching) among religious and secular alike (there were no distinctions in the desert) will alter ingrained attitudes which threaten to split our nation into two.
Mashiach awaits us – and only an abundance of ahavat chinam (causeless love), inter-fraternal understanding and outer-directedness will push us those final furlongs to our destination ensuring we will never ever have to fast again on Tisha b’Av.
This is the sign [that the redemption is imminent]: When you see the fall of the King of the East in Damascus, the Eastern Kingdom will fall, and then the Jews will experience salvation, and Moshiach Ben David will arrive, and they [the Jews] will ascend to Jerusalem and enjoy it, as it says [in Tehillim 37:11] But the humble will inherit the land and delight themselves with the abundant peace. May G-d have mercy on us and send us the redeemer speedily in our days, Amen.
[as related to Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai by an angel, while he was hiding in the cave]
This week we begin the fifth book of the Torah, Devarim, which is literally translated as ‘words.’
The Torah reading this week begins with “These are the words that Moshe/Moses spoke to all the Israelites on the east bank of the Jordan.”
Unlike the earlier four books of the Torah where the Torah is written in the third person, as in “And Hashem spoke to Moshe..,” in this book it is Moshe’s voice in first person, as in “These are the words of Moshe.”
In the earlier books, although Moshe wrote the books, he was not present as an individual. In the fifth book however, he is speaking “in his own words” [Megilah, 31b], he is fully present in his voice, even though his words are spoken through Ruach Ha’Kodesh/ Divine Inspiration. [Tosefos]
In the Zohar it is written; "the teachings… in the book of Devarim, were [written by] Moshe himself." Is it possible that even one letter that Moshe spoke came from himself? And the Zohar answers that not even one letter that emerged from the mouth of Moshe was self-generated, each letter and sound issued forth was completely precise and calculated. The words that came from the mouth of Moshe was a manifestation of a Divine voice that possessed him. [Zohar 3, 265a]
“The Shechinah – the divine presence within creation- was talking through the mouth of Moshe.”
So Devarim is Divine Wisdom the way it is revealed and unpacked by Moshe’s own individuality, his unique voice. This book thus becomes the bridge between the written dimension of Torah, which is the revelation from Above, and the oral dimension of Torah, which is the human innovation and creativity, emanating from Below. [Zohar 3, 261a] There is a merging of heaven and earth, a revelation from humanity that originates and is consistent with the Sinaic revelation from Above.
In each one of us there is an aspect of Moshe. [Tanya] There are those who fully realize their ‘inner Moshe’ and are able to channel Torah wisdom, completely laying aside their ego so that they become a pure conduit of energy. This person becomes a vessel which receives and gives the light in a continuous motion. This is the Tzadik.
The Energy of the Week
Connecting to a Tzadik
This week’s energy is our connection with the life and teachings of a Tzadik.
If there is a Tzadik that you have connected with in your past, or know of one whose teachings you have felt connected to - this is a powerful time to study their words and reconnect yourself to the Tzadik.
A true Tzadik is someone who is your perfect mirror, reflecting back to you your potential to be a Tzadik as well.
We all have the potential to be like Moshe [Rambam]. Through observing a Tzadik, or learning his or her teachings, we come in close contact with a fully realized person, one who is living their true potential and this inspires the same in ourselves. A sign of a true, great Tzadik is a person who inspires greatness in others.
This week’s energy allows us to connect ourselves to a Tzadik. It does not have to be a person that is living, for the Tzadikim in their teachings and lifetimes of giving, leave a legacy that we can continue to strongly connect with even after their passing. Study the teachings of the Tzadik and read the story of their life - in this way you begin to reflect the Tzadik and bring out your own inner Tzadik as well.
An additional energy this week connecting to the period of the Nine days which begins on Monday:
In all of our dealings, especially with children, students or employees this week, we must be sure to lessen any forms of aggression.
We need to be extra gentle and compassionate in our communications and disciplining methods during the Nine day period.
A day after the attack on the national security headquarters that killed three top officials, a Damascus-based reporter describes the fear and fighting on the streets of the Syrian capital.
The scene in Damascus is very different today - there is no movement in town, most shops are closed and there is a heavy sense of fear and tension.
There are very few cars on the streets and the number of pedestrians walking around can be counted on the fingers of one hand.
It looks like any Friday morning during these times of tension when people prefer to stay at home to avoid the gunfire. But, even on Fridays, some people would still go to cafes and some restaurants. This seems less likely today.
Most workers who come in from suburbs did not make it to work or were afraid to leave home. The suburbs are cut off and even in parts of areas close to the city centre like Midan, Zahera, Qaboun and Barzeh people either fled or were unable to leave their homes. The battle is now too close.
The killing of Defence Minister Daoud Rajiha, President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law Assef Shawkat and Gen Hassan Turkomani has shaken the country.
Many people believe this will weaken the regime from within, especially as it is believed an insider was behind it.
'City of refugees'
The whole city is shaken. Worried about passing any government building or checkpoint, people are choosing to stay at home instead.
Syrian official media have shown pictures of troops involved in fighting in the Midan area of Damascus
Overnight, the sound of explosions and gunfire was heard in several areas, sometimes very close to the city centre...
Taking into account the possibility of an Israeli attack on Iran during the 2012 Summer Games, the Olympic committee in charge of the London event has formed a special team to prepare for the contingency.
According to the Hebrew daily Yedioth Ahronoth on Wednesday., the team — consisting of politicians, diplomats, security officials and organizing committee personnel — wrote in a report that such a strike was entirely possible.
Yedioth reported that the team was also preparing for the possibility of an earthquake or volcanic eruption.
Hours after the Syrian regime suffered its greatest setback in the yearlong civil war, the U.S. and U.K. defense chiefs feared that dictator Bashar Assad might use his stockpile of chemical weapons — the results of what may be the largest active chemical program on the planet. But because of the structure of Assad’s extensive chemical weapons effort, stopping him from using his weapons may not be possible, even if the U.S. military suddenly decided to openly intervene.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Assad’s rule was “rapidly spinning out of control” after a suicide bomber in Damascus killed the defense minister and possibly other high-ranking security officials. But that raises questions about whether a desperate Assad would turn to his large stockpiles of sarin, VX and mustard gas in order to cling to power. Reportedly, Assad has begun moving his chemical weapons out of storage.
After seven killed in attack on Israeli bus in Burgas, Netanyahu says 'murderous Iranian spreading worldwide.' Barak: We'll apprehend perpetrators
"All the signs are pointing to Iran. Only in the past few months we've seen Iran try to target Israelis in Thailand, Indian, Georgia, Cyprus and more, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said following the deadly terror attack on a bus in carrying Israeli tourists in Burgas, Bulgaria.
"The murderous Iranian terror continues to target innocent people. Iranian terror is spreading worldwide...
With the advent of the footsteps of Mashiach........ prices will soar..... [see Sichos in English]
The historic drought baking the nation's breadbasket is about to hit American consumers where it hurts most -- the supermarket checkout.
"Prices are going to go up.... the only question is when."
Everything from breakfast cereal to roast beef will cost more as a result of the worst drought in 24 years, which has already prompted authorities to declare more than 1,000 counties in 26 states -- nearly two-thirds of land in the lower 48 states, stretching from Nevada to South Carolina -- natural disaster areas.
Only in the 1930s and the 1950s has a drought covered more land, according to federal figures released Monday. So far, officials say there's little risk of a Dust Bowl-type catastrophe, but crop losses could mount if rain doesn't come soon -- and that means across-the-board higher food prices.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has lowered its crop projections for corn by 12 percent, prompting a 34 percent hike in prices in recent weeks. Since corn goes into so many food products for both humans and livestock, its effect on overall food prices is massive.
Camping in front of the Mishkan, in front of the Tent of Meeting to the east were Moses, Aaron and his sons... [Bamidbar 3:38]
Rashi coments: Adjacent to them was the division of the camp of Yehudah, with whom Yissachar and Zevulun camped. The righteous man prospers and his neighbor prospers! Since they were neighbors of Moshe, who was engaged in Torah study, they became great Torah scholars.
A person could influence his neighbour with any good or bad quality. Nevertheless, the fact that Rashi mentions just one good quality - Torah study - and one negative quality - being quarrelsome [see Rashi's Commentary to v. 29 and 38], is certainly no coincidence; it indicates that these two qualities are connected with each other.
Rashi is teaching us that the study of Torah and involvement in disputes are diametric opposites. If a person studies Torah with the proper intentions and sufficient dedication, he simply will not become involved in disputes, bcause Torah is the common thread which unites all Jews.
Based on Likutei Sichos vol 33, pp 16-17 Lubavitcher Rebbe
A man living in California once came to the Lubavitcher Rebbe for yechidus (a private audience). He was afflicted with an incurable case of psoriasis and came to ask the Rebbe for help. He told the Rebbe, “I’ve heard great things about you. I’ve heard that you perform miracles and I came to ask you to perform a miracle for me. As for my background, I went through the Holocaust. I don’t pray to G-d and I don’t believe in G-d. But I do believe in tzaddikim (completely righteous people). My father was a Bobover chassid and always went to his Rebbe for blessings, so I’ve always believed in the power of tzaddikim.”
The Rebbe replied that a tzaddik has no power of his own. A tzaddik is merely an extension of G-d here in this world to help people, which he does by tapping into G-d’s powers. “If you don’t believe in G-d, you cannot believe in me.”
The man waved his hand, “Eh! I still believe in tzaddikim.” So the Rebbe told him to take off his shirt and undershirt and stand up. The Rebbe got up from his chair. He took his two hands and put them on the man’s right arm and slid them from top to bottom, upon which the psoriasis disappeared. The Rebbe repeated the action with the man’s left arm and again the man’s scales receded. Then the Rebbe took his two hands and applied them to the man’s chest and back. The psoriasis fell away. The Rebbe told his visitor that he normally did not perform revealed miracles. Generally, Heavenly assistance would appear in a more concealed manner. But there are always exceptions to the rule. He hoped that from that day on, the man would once again believe in G-d and begin living a life of Torah and mitzvos.
Tzaddik is the eighteenth letter of the alef-beis.
The design of a tzaddik is a yud on top of the letter nun. One interpretation of the nun is that it stands for ona’ah, deceit and fraud. By nature, most of us have the misconception that it is the physical world that is the source of ultimate truth and pleasure. But the yud, or Divine intellect, is added to the nun to teach us that the material world is ephemeral, and not the source of consummate goodness and joy. Therefore there must be something truer and more G-dly upon which to focus. This heightened intention is the essence of the tzaddik.
The Zohar recounts that when G-d wanted to create the world, every letter of the alef-beis came before Him and said, “G-d, create the world with me.” The tav came first, and then the shin, and so on. Then the tzaddik appeared before G-d and said, “G-d, create the world with me. I am the tzaddik, the righteous one.” So G-d responded, “Yes, but because you are righteous you must be hidden. Therefore, I cannot create the world with you.”
Chassidus asks why this is so. If the tzaddik is righteous, why wouldn’t G-d have wanted to use it to create the world? Every creature in the world would then be upright and pure. Rather than living in a realm of immorality, theft and deceit, we would live in a world that is safe, peaceful and G-dly. What would be wrong with that?
The answer is that it would be too easy. G-d’s intention is that we should be born into an incomplete physical world and strive to perfect it. With the G-dliness that flows from the yud, we can strengthen our ability to overcome the nun, the pleasures of the corporeal world. The tzaddik must therefore be concealed in Creation so that one strives for righteousness on his own.
The numerical equivalent of the letter tzaddik is ninety. In Ethics of Our Fathers it says: “When one reaches the age of ninety, one is bent over (lashuach).” On a physical level, this means that at ninety, a man is infirm and bowed with weakness. On a spiritual plane, it represents the concept of humility. When one reaches ninety, he has become so spiritual and humble that he bends over for G-d. He is no longer an independent character but an extension of G-d Himself.
At the age of ninety, one has achieved a heightened level of prayer. He has the ability to feel a direct connection to G-d when he prays. Additionally, it is explained in the Midrash Shmuel that the word lashuach means “to pray constantly.” That connection is the foundation of a tzaddik. A tzaddik exists not for his own benefit, but to serve as an offshoot of G-d. We go to tzaddikim to pray on our behalf because we know that the prayers of the tzaddik will be answered.
The name tzaddik means “righteous one,” a leader and teacher of a generation. We also know that many tzaddikim are called Rebbe. This tradition began with Moses, the first Rebbe of the Jewish people. Another famous tzaddik known as “Rebbe” is Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi, the redactor of the Mishnah. There is a Rebbe in every generation, a tzaddik who is that era’s spiritual leader.
What is the concept of a Rebbe? “Rebbe,” רבי, is an acronym for Rosh B’nei Yisrael, “the head of the Jewish people.” What is a head? The head of a body is its control center. It gives life, nourishment, and direction to the rest of the body. It also feels the pain, desires and needs of every aspect of its body.
A Rebbe, then, is both literally and figuratively the head of the Jewish community. When a person has a dilemma, what should he or she do? Perhaps the problem is whether or not to visit Israel, buy a house, or marry a certain man or woman. That person goes to visit the Rebbe. Just as the head houses the eyes, the Rebbe is the eyes of his community. He has the ability to see things that the lone questioning individual cannot.
A Rebbe’s ability to intervene on behalf of the Jewish people is not magic. It is a natural and organic outgrowth of his righteousness. Just as it is perfectly normal for the head to feel and respond to the needs of the whole body, it is natural for the Rebbe to feel and respond to the needs of his people.
What sources support the premise that a Jew can get closer to G-d through communication with a Rebbe? Moreover, doesn’t Judaism frown on “intermediaries” between man and G-d? The answer lies in the mitzvah u’ledavka bo, which means to cleave to G-d. The Rambam, based on the words of the Talmud, asks, “How is it possible that one should cleave to G-d? G-d is fire and we are physical. One who touches fire will burn.” The Sages answer,“‘To cleave unto Him’ means that we should cleave to wise men and to their disciples,” i.e., tzaddikim. We cleave through connection with a tzaddik, who is one with G-d. Furthermore, believing in tzaddikim is based on a verse in Exodus said every day in our morning prayers: “[The Jews] believed in G-d and Moses His servant.” The Mechilta queries, “Why is it important to tell us that the Jewish people believed in Moses His servant? How can we equate our faith in Moses with our belief in G-d?” The answer is, without faith in Moses, or the Moses of every generation, there cannot be belief in G-d.
G-d puts tzaddikim in this world to testify to the fact that He exists. By virtue of our connection to these righteous people and our belief in them, we are provided with a channel to connect with G-d.
The letter tzaddik has two forms. There is the bent tzaddik which occurs at the beginning or middle of a word. Then there is the straight tzaddik which occurs at the end of a word. What is the significance of each? The straight tzaddik represents the baal teshuvah, one who has worked to improve his connection to G-d and returned to his essential holy nature. The bent tzaddik is born righteous, but has not yet reached the level of a baal teshuvah. As we are told, even a complete tzaddik cannot stand in the place of a baal teshuvah. A baal teshuvah stands higher.
What does this mean? How is it possible that a baal teshuvah—one who has sinned all his life and then decides to change—stands higher than a tzaddik? There are two reasons. The first is that the one who has transgressed has already tasted cheeseburgers and lobster, and relished them. Now he must wrest himself from their grip. It is similar to the difficulty experienced by a long-time smoker who now wants to quit. There might be a certain temptation on the part of one who has never smoked to try a cigarette. But having never smoked, it is much easier for him to control the temptation. One who has already experienced its physical pleasure, however, might be hooked. It is very difficult to extirpate that aspect from his life, and it requires tremendous strength and commitment. Thus a baal teshuvah who was born to a non-religious home, who never learned anything about Judaism, and lives according to the secular ways of the world creates an elevated connection to G-d when he decides to change. G-d says, “You, My dear child, stand higher than the tzaddik.”
The second reason the baal teshuvah stands higher than the tzaddik is that the wrongdoings of the baal teshuvah are converted into mitzvos. Once his past sins have been renounced, they are actually credited as positive commandments.
How is this possible? The answer to that question requires a discussion of the method by which neutral and impure entities are spiritually elevated.There are two arenas in the physical world: the realm of the neutral and the realm of the impure. The realm of the neutral contains things that are capable of being elevated to holiness, like kosher food, Shabbos candles, and an esrog (citron) for the lulav. Those things that are completely impure (i.e., pork, forbidden relationships) cannot be elevated and are therefore prohibited.
As an example of how the neutral realm can be affected, let’s say that I take an apple or a piece of kosher chicken and make a blessing on it before eating it. What’s my ultimate purpose in eating? Not to satisfy or gratify my selfish personal needs, but to acquire the strength to serve G-d. Making a blessing before one eats empowers the individual to elevate the food. In so doing, the neutral realm of the food has been elevated to the level of spirituality.
Conversely, consider the fact that I’m eating simply because I’m ravenous. I just want to fill my stomach, and G-d is the last thing on my mind. In this instance, I’m taking the neutral arena and drawing it down into the three levels of impurity. This arena of impurity denotes not only that which is prohibited—pork, shrimp, non-kosher meat and so forth—but that which is neutral and debased through improper action or intention.
Now, how do I elevate that which is impure by nature—that which is unable to be elevated under normal circumstances? By resisting it. For example, you’re walking down the street and see a hot dog stand. You have a desire to eat a hot dog even though they are not kosher. The moment you say, “No, I won’t eat one,” you’ve performed a mitzvah. You get credit for a mitzvah by not eating it, by curbing your desire. This is the meaning of fulfilling a negative commandment. Nevertheless, while the credit for fulfilling a negative (passive) commandment is similar to performing a positive (active) one, it is not quite identical.
Now, to return to the original question, let’s say you’ve transgressed a negative commandment (e.g., done or eaten something prohibited). How do you transform the penalties associated with violating a negative commandment into the rewards generated by performance of a positive commandment? This is accomplished by the decision to do teshuvah. You say, “G-d, I’m sorry for the past. I want to return to You. I will never sin again.” At that moment, all the accumulated sins become positive commandments.
Perhaps by knowing this someone could say, “Great. Now I can go down to the hot dog stand, eat a few frankfurters, and make up for it by doing teshuvah later.” Unfortunately it doesn’t work that way. Anyone who says, “I will intentionally sin and then return to G-d later” is not given the opportunity to repent. A person can’t engage in the teshuvah process in a deceptive, self-serving manner. The essence of the baal teshuvah’s return is the pure desire to rectify a previous wrong and return to his intrinsic connection to G-d. Can the one who sins in the present with the idea that he’ll repent later, in fact repent? If he is stubborn, yes. Nothing can stand in the way of teshuvah, and even for the worst sins in the Torah a person can repent. But in general, if one sins in order to repent, he will not be given the opportunity to do teshuvah.
It states in the Zohar that when Mashiach comes to the world, he will cause all the tzaddikim to do teshuvah. This means that Mashiach will bring a heightened awareness even to that person who has served G-d perfectly every day of his life. This is the bent tzaddik. This tzaddik will be blessed with an even greater desire and urgency to perform mitzvos than he previously possessed. He will have the ability to go beyond his nature and do more than he did yesterday. Thus the bent tzaddik will also acquire the qualities of the baal teshuvah, the straight tzaddik.
When a child is born, he is administered an oath, “Be a tzaddik and do not be wicked.” From birth, every individual has the ability to become a tzaddik. If one constantly recalls the existence of this oath, he or she can undoubtedly bring it from potential into reality.
I arrived at the address and honked the horn. After waiting a few minutes I honked again. Since this was going to be my last ride of my shift I thought about just driving away, but instead I put the car in park and walked up to the door and knocked.. 'Just a minute', answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 90's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie.
By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets.
There were no clocks on the walls, no knickknacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
'Would you carry my bag out to the car?' she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman.
She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb.
She kept thanking me for my kindness. 'It's nothing', I told her.. 'I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother to be treated.'
'Oh, you're such a good boy, she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address and then asked, 'Could you drive through downtown?'
'It's not the shortest way,' I answered quickly..
'Oh, I don't mind,' she said. 'I'm in no hurry. I'm on my way to a hospice.
I looked in the rear-view mirror. Her eyes were glistening. 'I don't have any family left,' she continued in a soft voice..'The doctor says I don't have very long.' I quietly reached over and shut off the meter.
'What route would you like me to take?' I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator.
We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl.
Sometimes she'd ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, 'I'm tired.Let's go now'.
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico.
Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move.
They must have been expecting her.
I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
'How much do I owe you?' She asked, reaching into her purse.
'Nothing,' I said
'You have to make a living,' she answered.
'There are other passengers,' I responded.
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug.She held onto me tightly.
'You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,' she said. 'Thank you.'
I squeezed her hand, and then walked into the dim morning light.. Behind me, a door shut.It was the sound of the closing of a life..
I didn't pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly lost in thought. For the rest of that day,I could hardly talk.What if that woman had gotten an angry driver,or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don't think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We're conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments.
But great moments often catch us unaware - beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.
“Lo Yachel Devaroi, K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh”, do not profane your words; do as your mouth spoke. The Torah tells us that we must keep our word and not violate it. Rav Levi Yitzchok MiBerditchev in the Kedushas Levi makes a play on the words to explain how mortal people can perform miracles.
He reads the words as follows. If “Lo Yachel Devaroi”, you do not profane your words, then they will be holy and meaningful. Therefore, “K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh” whatever comes out of your mouth will happen. This is the concept of “Tzadik Gozer, VHaKadosh Boruch Hu Mikayem”, a tzaddik decrees and Hashem makes it happen.
He further explains that this why the Parsha is called Matos. Matos also means to turn (Netia). When a person watches his mouth, Hashem turns the Midas HaDin into Midas HaRachamim.
One of the important relationships that form human existence is friends. In Pirkei Avot [Ethics of the Fathers], our sages teach: "Make for yourself a mentor and acquire for yourself a friend". When analyzing the text of this instruction we notice that sages talk about a 'friend' and not 'friends'. Is one friend sufficient? Wouldn't someone with only one friend be considered anti-social?
The answer to this question lies in the definition of a friend. Friends are not just people that we can socialize with and enjoy their company. A friend is not just someone who we can talk for hours with, or a person whose sense of humor we find entertaining.
A true friend is someone with whom we build an inner connection extending beyond superficialities. True friendship is a relationship built on trust and acceptance. The famous Chassidic Rabbi of Kotzk said that each person should have at least one friend that he can tell all of his secrets to, even the most shameful ones. A true friend is someone who is able to accept us unconditionally and would never let us down.
While we might have many acquaintances or many people that we share good conversation with, one real friend might be hard to find. But one good friend is all we need.
I woke up from a strange dream this morning. In the dream it was Friday afternoon, and people were getting ready for Shabbat. Suddenly, all the houses started falling down, rocks and bricks were being strewn all over the ground. People were desperately trying to get back to their homes before Shabbat, and for some people it was impossible to get anywhere, and they were scared. Dead bodies and severely injured people were cluttering the streets. Ambulances were trying to get the wounded out, it was a totally unreal scene. A few orthodox Jews wearing their Shabbat clothes were calmly walking to shul for Friday night service, while the chaos continued all around them.
I've never had a dream like that before. Maybe it was total nonsense, or maybe it was a sign that we are on the edge of erev Shabbat [Geula] and the world is being judged. Those who can't get back to their homes in time for Shabbat will be scared, but those who are prepared will calmly walk through and arrive at their destination.
Our sages tell us that citing Torah sources brings redemption to the world [M. Avot 6:6 and parallels]. They add that not citing sources is a cause of bringing a curse on the world. In one place, they go further, suggesting that people who refrain from mentioning sources effectively kill, as they act as if the person from who they received the teaching does not exist. Moreover, the Talmud tells that people who say halachic matters in the name of the original source, should imagine the person who authored the teaching standing before them as they share the teaching [Y. Kiddushin 61a]
I Love You Because You are Beautiful, vs. You are Beautiful Because I Love You
Why can’t people get along today? What happened to relationships in our world? Why are so many couples struggling to find happiness together? A single commandment in the portion of Pinchas can give us at least part of the answer.
A debate between the Karaites and traditional Jews focused on the anomaly of the Rabbis calling the document of divorce a “get,” neglecting the biblical term for the writ of divorce.
The word “get” is spelled from two letters, Gimmel and Tes. The Vilna Gaon presented an ingenious insight about these two letters of the Hebrew alphabet, showing how they symbolize the reality of a divorce. Building on this idea, his student explained why these two letters were the only ones omitted from the portion in Pinchas dealing with the daily lamb offerings: this portion captures the essence of an enduring relationship hence it has no place for the letters of divorce.
This class presents an explanation why it is specifically the portion discussing the daily lamb sacrifices that conveys the essence of an enduring relationship.
There were two types of offerings brought in the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. While most sacrifices were partially burnt and then partially eaten, ‘the burnt-offering,’ the Olah, had to be totally consumed by the flames of the altar. Nothing remained to be eaten. It was a sacrifice totally dedicated to G-d and the person who offered it derived no benefit from it. The daily lamb offering was an ‘Olah.’
From a spiritual and psychological perspective, these two types of offerings represent two types of sacrifice: Self-motivated sacrifice vs. complete sacrifice; conditional sacrifice vs. unconditional sacrifice.
You may love your spouse and make sacrifices for your spouse because of what you receive, what you expect to receive in return. You appreciate her physical and emotional qualities, you cherish your partner’s looks, wisdom, kindness or candidness, and you gain much from it. Essentially it is not the other person you love, rather it is yourself whom you love. You love that part of the other person which enriches your life.
Then there is another form of love and loyalty, in which you transcend yourself and ask not what your friend can do for you, but what you can do for your friend. Without personal gain and self interest. To paraphrase Kennedy: Ask not what your wife can do for you; ask what you can do for your wife! Ask not what your husband can do for you; ask what you can do for your husband!
It is this type of relationship that eliminates the possibility of divorce. Hence, it is from this offering that the Torah omits the two letters representing divorce.
It was revealed to the Baal Shem Tov that if the two great lights of the world were to meet, they together could bring Moshiach and the Final Redemption. From that time, the Baal Shem Tov desired greatly to go to Eretz Yisrael to meet the great Ohr HaChayim HaKodesh [Rabbi Chaim ben Atar].
In the year 5503, the Baal Shem Tov set out to travel to Eretz Yisrael to fulfill his long held desire to be in the Holy Land and to meet the great Ohr HaChayim HaKodesh. By Pesach, he arrived in Istanbul. There he prayed at the gravesite of Rav Naftali, a tzaddik who had attempted the same trip at an earlier time, but had only managed to reach this far.
That night, Rav Naftali appeared to the Baal Shem Tov in a dream. “Reb Yisrael, it has been decreed in Heaven that you are not destined to dwell in Eretz Yisrael. If you are stubborn and attempt to continue your journey, you will die here as I did. Return home.” The Baal Shem Tov accepted the decree and embarked upon a ship and headed homeward.
His ship was captured by pirates, who let him off at the port of Kilya, from where he continued his journey to Medzibush. Three months later, during the Seudah Shishlit meal on the Shabbat of Parshat Pinchas, immediately after washing his hands and eating a bite of challah, the Baal Shem Tov said with a sigh, “The Western Light has been extinguished.”
At the Melave Malkah (meal following the departure of the Shabbat Queen) on that Motzoei Shabbat, the chassidim gathered their courage and asked, “Rebbe, what did you mean when you said that ‘The Western Light has been extinguished?’” The Baal Shem Tov replied, “The Ohr HaChayim HaKodesh has died. He was known in Heavenly realms as the Western Light.” “How does the Rebbe know that?” one chassid boldly asked.
The Baal Shem Tov answered, “There is a particular kavanna (intention) for the recitation of the blessing for washing hands which I have always wanted to know. However, this kavanna was hidden from me since only one person in each generation can know it, and the Ohr HaChayim had preceded me. This afternoon, as I washed my hands for Seudah Shishlit, I suddenly became aware of a new kavanna. I immediately understood that the Ohr HaChayim had passed from this world and now I become the guardian of that kavanna.”
Another time, the Baal Shem Tov told his Chassidim of another incident related to the Ohr HaChayim. On the Shabbat that the great Ohr HaChayim departed from this world, his friend in Tiberias, Reb Chayim Abulafia, mysteriously fainted, and remained unconscious for half an hour. When he finally was revived, he announced to his students "Today the Ohr HaChayim left this world. I accompanied him until the Gates of Gan Eden." “What Reb Chayim of Tiberias did not know,” the Baal Shem Tov told his chassidim, “was that the Ohr HaChayim’s saintly neshamah [soul] remained in Gan Eden only for the duration of Shabbat. The next day it descended once more to this world.
The souls of tzaddikim,” he explained, “receive greater satisfaction from being in this physical world than by being in Gan Eden. Here the soul can serve the Almighty on the lowest physical plane, through performing mitzvot and good deeds which brings far greater benefit to this world, and is far more pleasurable to the soul than being in Gan Eden. When Moshiach arrives, and Godliness will be seen and felt by even the most common man, we will yearn for the days previous when we were able to serve the Almighty on the lowest level of the physical.”
The death of the Ohr HaChayim occurred just two days before Reb Leib Sorahs’ Bar Mitzvah. It was years later however, that the chassidim understood that it was the Ohr HaChayim’s soul that he received at the time of his Bar Mitzvah, from the Rebbe Reb Dov Ber [The Mezritcher Maggid]. And so it was.
The picture above shows the lights at the Olympic Stadium in London: a triangle with the top third highlighted.
The same pyramid can be seen on the US dollar, and it relates to Thirty-third Degree Free Masonry - ''above the 33rd level, the purpose for serving G-d is for its own sake''.
As the Olympics start on Erev Tisha B'Av, and many have noted that the very words ''Tisha B'Av'' hint to Moshiach this year: ''The words Av 5772 are the same letters as Tisha B'av, when Moshiach was born: אָב התשע"ב אוֹתִיּוֹת תִּשְׁעָה בְּאָב '' [see Rumors of Moshiach Av 5772].
Is this all a hint to us? I agree with Devash when she writes ''....inclined to believe that Heaven had a hand in inspiring these images in order to warn us and to indicate the "why" behind it.....'' and I definitely hope so. [See Countdown to 2012 Summer Olympics]
I have removed a popular blog from my Blog Roll because the following content was written, and I believe it to be extremely controversial and dangerous:
The real Messiah is here. He lives in Jerusalem and will be introduced to the world, I believe with all the evidence, by the end of the year 5772 which is imminent.
What do you think? I really want your comments, as I don't like making these kind of judgments, nevertheless I feel a responsibility to present facts rather than feelings on this important topic. If Moshiach is not evident by the end of 5772 [two months time], then people's emunah is in danger of being eroded. It's one thing to speculate, as we all do, but to parade as absolute truth, with no disclaimer or question nor Gadol or source of Torah backing, is damaging and dangerous. No-one can give a date [or person] and stand by it, that is contrary to all teachings on this subject.
You may immediately think of Rav Fish's constant publicity of 5772 being the time of Moshiach, but that is different, as there are favourable times for Moshiach to come and this year is one of them, but at no time has the blogger publicizing Rav Fish suggested that 5772 is without doubt the year of Moshiach, or said that a particular person IS the Moshiach..... in fact he has always stressed the point that if Moshiach does not come this year, we don't give up hope and we continue to wait every day for the Moshiach that Hashem will choose.
Please leave a comment and let me know your thoughts - be honest but refrain from lashon hara.
The Amidah prayer, recited thrice daily, encompasses requests for the fulfilment of all our fondest hopes and aspirations. Yet not until the very last blessing do we ask G-D for peace (sim shalom). Indeed the word shalom appears nowhere else either in the weekday or in the Shabbat Amidah. It appears as though any sentiment expressing peace has been purposefully set aside until the very end. The burning question is – why?
Assuredly the reason cannot be that peace is unimportant in Judaism. To the contrary, it is one of the three pillars on which the world endures [Avot 1:18]. We may answer, on a straightforward level, that since peace is the ultimate blessing its request is reserved until last.
But there is assuredly a deeper idea here. Our sages wanted us to be aware of exactly to what type of peace our tradition aspires before we request it.
Is it a type of peace that transcends all rational thought, that supersedes all well-thought-out strategy? No! The first petition we utter every day in the Amidah is a plea to be granted “knowledge, understanding and seichel, wisdom (or common-sense)”. The peace for which we ask must be predicated on rational thinking.
May we ask for peace in the world arena if we have not yet striven for wholeness within ourselves? No! In the third request of the Amidah we ask for forgiveness for our sins. This obliges us to search out our faults and our failings from within ourselves before even imagining that we can seek the elusive goal of peace among ourselves and among the family of nations.
May we pray for peace which is not grounded in justice and righteousness? No! In the eighth request of the Amidah we cry “restore our judges and advisors”, let it be our religious leaders who stand at the helm and preach justice and truth – then we shall understand for what we pray when we ask for peace.
Can we request peace without acknowledging our right to the land of Israel? No! “Sound the great shofar for our freedom” we cry out in the tenth berakha “and gather us together from the four corners of the earth le-artseinu, to our land. When we realise that Erets Yisrael is our land the title-deeds to which rest in the Five Books of Moses, then we will know to what kind of peace we aspire.
Can we ask for peace without staking our eternal claim to Jerusalem? No! “Return in mercy to Jerusalem Your city and let your Shechina rest there as You have spoken” we pray in the fourteenth blessing. We ask for it to be rebuilt as a binyan olam, an eternal city with an eternal Temple in which the eternal people can worship the Eternal G-D. Only then can we begin to talk about shalom.
Perhaps most remarkably of all, even the penultimate blessing of thanksgiving for Heavenly grace, modim anakhnu lakh, precedes the ultimate blessing for peace.
I would venture to suggest that the reason might be: shalom is not something for which we either have to petition or to thank G-D. Rather shalom is an ineluctable consequence of all the other blessings falling into place. Being granted knowledge, understanding, wisdom, forgiveness, wellbeing, the wherewithal to aspire to a just society in our own land, and in Jerusalem, G-D’s capital city - for all these things we thank G-D “whose name is All-Good”. The corollary of the fulfilment of all these blessings will be the shalom to which Judaism aspires. The final piece of the jigsaw whose placing is inevitable. Shalom stems from a Hebrew root meaning ‘to be complete’. Shalom must therefore be founded on the complete realisation of all the blessings mentioned heretofore.
In the closing chapters of Sefer Bemidbar, the Book of Numbers, we read about Pinchas. Zealously he defends the honour of G-D by slaying the two ringleaders in the unprecedented orgy that was taking place between the Israelite men and the Moabite women. He consults no sage, not even Moses. Instead he acts unilaterally. His drastic action was not something anyone could contemplate in any normal situation. Yet in this abnormal situation, Pinchas’s zeal calls forth this response from G-D: “Behold I am giving him b’riti shalom, my complete covenant, my covenant of Peace!”
Pinchas, the ultimate zealot, is acclaimed by G-D as a man of shalom. Indeed our sages declare Pinchas zu Eliahu, the same soul that animated Pinchas is present in Elijah the prophet who will announce the final and complete Redemption.
This is just one of those chain emails someone sent me, but this one is worth reading.
---------- Forwarded message ----------
Louise Redden, a poorly dressed lady with a look of defeat on her face, walked into a grocery store.
She approached the owner of the store in a most humble manner and asked if he would let her charge a few groceries.
She softly explained that her husband was very ill and unable to work, they had seven children and they needed food.
John Longhouse, the grocer, scoffed at her and requested that she leave his store at once.
Visualizing the family needs, she said: 'Please, sir! I will bring you the money just as soon as I can.'
John told her he could not give her credit, since she did not have a charge account at his store.
Standing beside the counter was a customer who overheard the conversation between the two. The customer walked forward and told the grocer that he would stand good for whatever she needed for her family. The grocer said in a very reluctant voice, 'Do you have a grocery list?'
Louise replied, 'Yes sir.' 'O.K' he said, 'put your grocery list on the scales and whatever your grocery list weighs, I will give you that amount in groceries.'
Louise hesitated a moment with a bowed head, then she reached into her purse and took out a piece of paper and scribbled something on it. She then laid the piece of paper on the scale carefully with her head still bowed.
The eyes of the grocer and the customer showed amazement when the scales went down and stayed down..
The grocer, staring at the scales, turned slowly to the customer and said begrudgingly, 'I can't believe it.'
The customer smiled and the grocer started putting the groceries on the other side of the scales. The scale did not balance so he continued to put more and more groceries on them until the scales would hold no more.
The grocer stood there in utter disgust. Finally, he grabbed the piece of paper from the scales and looked at it with greater amazement.
It was not a grocery list, it was a prayer, which said:
'Dear Hashem, you know my needs and I am leaving this in your hands.'
The grocer gave her the groceries that he had gathered and stood in stunned silence.
Louise thanked him and left the store. The other customer handed a fifty-dollar bill to the grocer and said; 'It was worth every penny of it. Only God knows how much a prayer weighs.'
THE POWER: When you receive this, say a prayer. That's all you have to do.
Just stop right now, and say a prayer of thanks for your own good fortune..... Then please send this to all your friends and relatives..
I believe if you will send this testimony out with prayer in faith, you will receive what you need Hashem to do in your and your families' life ..
So dear heart, trust Hashem to heal the sick, provide food for the hungry, clothes and shelter for those that don't have as we do.
Don't break this, please! Prayer is one of the best free gifts we receive.
There is no cost but a lot of rewards.
I AM CLAIMING THIS FOR YOU Three things will happen to you this coming week: bli neder!
(1) You will find favor with someone you don't expect;
(2) You will be too relevant to be ignored;
(3) You will encounter God and you will never remain the same, (?)
May you never be 'wanting' Amen.
My prayer for you today:
The eyes beholding this message shall not behold evil, the hands that will send this message to others shall not labor in vain, the mouth saying Amen to this prayer shall laugh forever. (Beholding the ingathering of the Diaspora to her Homeland, Israel).
Have a lovely journey of life!
Trust in Hashem with all your heart and He will never fail you because He is Awesome!
TAKE 60 SECONDS and send this on quickly and within hours, you will have caused a multitude of people to daven to Hashem for each other.
The Zohar teaches that the letter yud was added to Pinchas' name and the letter hei was added to Yosef's name [see Psalms 81:6] because they were both zealous about the prohibition of cohabiting with a non-Jewish woman. Pinchas killed Zimri and Yosef resisted the persistent attempts of Potifar's wife.
This sheds light on Rashi's explanation why each of the family names included in the census consisted of their paternal father's names with a hei added at the front and a yud at the end: ''The nation would taunt [Israel] saying ''Why do they trace their lineage by tribe? Do they really think that the Egyptians did not have their way with their mothers?''... So God placed His Name upon them, hei at one end and yud at the other, as if to say ''I testify that these people are indeed the sons of their fathers'' [Rashi to Pinchas 26:5]. Thus we see here that the same letters, yud and hei, were added to show that the Jewish people had been moral, like Pinchas and Yosef.
Why is this vigilance attested to by these two particular letters? Our Sages noted that the Hebrew words for ''man'' אישׁ and ''woman''אשׁהonly differ in the letters yud and hei, which spell God's Name.* On this, they remarked ''If a couple is found worthy, the Divine Presence will be with them''. [Sotah 17a] Here we see the Talmudic source that the letters yud and hei testify that God's people are pure and holy.
*When the letters yud and hei are removed, both words spell אשׁ - fire - showing that when God is not present in a marriage, there is fire.
This Shabbat, the 17th of Tammuz, marks the beginning of The Three Weeks period of mourning which culminates on the 9th of Av. It commemorates the conquest of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Holy Temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people. Because it is Shabbat, the fast of the Seventeenth of Tammuz is postponed until Sunday.
The 17th of Tammuz marks the beginning of The Three Weeks period of mourning which culminates on the 9th of Av. It commemorates the conquest of Jerusalem, the destruction of the Holy Temple and the dispersion of the Jewish people.
This 21 day period is also referred to as bein ha- metzarim - "within the straits," based on the verse [Eichah 1:3] which states: All of her pursuers overtook her within the straits. The Sages [Eichah Rabbah 1] explained that "within the straits" refers to the days of affliction between the two straights, the seventeenth of Tammuz, when the walls of Jerusalem were breached, and the Ninth of Av, when the Temples were destroyed.
During this period, we lessen the extent of our rejoicing. Marriages are not held, we refrain from listening to music, dancing, taking pleasure trips, and from taking haircuts or shaving.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe also urged that the Three Weeks should be a time of increased giving of charity and Torah study (in keeping with the verse [Isaiah 1:27], "Zion shall be redeemed by law, and her returnees by charity"), particularly the study of those portions of Torah that deal with the laws and the deeper significance of the Holy Temple.
During this period, when writing a letter it is customary to insert the following words under the date: "May these days be transformed into days of gladness and rejoicing". This is based on the biblical verses which prophecy that upon Moshiach's coming, these will become the greatest festivals.
Avrohom went to the Akeida on a Chamor [donkey], Yisachar is compared to a Chamor, Moshe took his family on Chamor to Mitzrayim, Bilam got blasted by his Chamor, Pinchos ben Yair's Chamor wouldn't eat Tevel, and Moshiach will arrive on a Chamor. What is it with the Chamor?
There is no harder working, obedient, and modest animal like a Donkey. It carries its load without fuss with its great strength. Even when it lies down it doesn't throw off its load. It never uses this strength to fight or rebel against the wishes of a human. This is its nature. It never worries about its food because it always knows it will be rewarded by its owner who needs to keep his trusty friend nice and strong.
The K'naf Renanim says that the Chamor is a reminder to us to put aside our own desires and subjugate ours wishes to that of our Master. "Bitul" was Avrohom's reaction to Hashem's command to slaughter his son. Yisachar is completely devoted to Torah. Bilam had to be told off by a Donkey who was practicing Bitul, because he didn't know how to be "Mivatel" himself. Moshiach will arrive when Klal Yisroel understands that we need to be Mivatel ourselves to Hashem and he will take care of us.
The Donkey sings: "Licha Hashem HaGedula, V'Hagevura, V'Hatiferes..." To you Hashem are all the virtues and powers. We look to you and are Mivatel ourselves.
US military strength beefed up at Hormuz as nuclear talks with Iran fade
The Obama administration released details Tuesday, July 3, of a fresh buildup of its military forces in the Persian Gulf, stressing their task is to fend off any Iranian attempt to endanger international shipping by blocking or planting mines in the Strait of Hormuz.
Shortly after the announcement, senior US administration officials said the fourth round of nuclear negotiations between Iran and six world powers taking place in Istanbul Tuesday were most probably the last: Tehran has refused to give way on the key issues of the 20-percent grade enrichment of uranium and the closure of its underground nuclear facility at Fordo.
The new war drums sent oil past $100 for the first time in three weeks.
As for the Gulf buildup, US sources said counter-measures were in place in case the extra forces were targeted for Iranian aggression.
Acharon Shel Pesach , the last day of Pesach has a special connection to the coming of Moshiach and is celebrated accordingly, by parta...
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"But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "we're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." "How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn't have come here."