Monday, December 16, 2013

Snow: A Sign from the Heavens

HT: Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi   and Dr. Miguel Quaresma Brandão, Portugal


The daily page of the gemara learning [Daf Yomi] speaks about snow in Yerushalayim in the month of Tevet on ''erev Shabbat'' [Friday] - the exact day of the snowstorm in Israel coincided with the topic in the Gemara..  

בס"ד Daf Yomi - ''A sign from heaven" (where the snow comes from) that the fast of Asarah be''Teves [the 10th of Tevet] BEH is soon coming to an end!


Monday, November 11, 2013

The Ninth of the Ninth

The Ninth of the Ninth: a most auspicious time to daven for all good things.

Rav Chaim Vital, in the introduction to his work Eitz Hachaim, writes: The sefer Bris Menuchah was written by an early-generation tzaddik to whom Eliyahu Hanavi appeared and revealed secrets, among them the following secrets:

“Once every fifty years, the ninth year of yovel arrives and in it the ninth month, and in it the ninth day, and in it the ninth hour – whereupon all the wheels in the upper worlds are agitated and ‘Your good treasure house upon us do open’ is fulfilled.

“During these fateful moments, an incredible abundance of yeshuos [salvation] is poured into this world. Hakadosh Baruch Hu opens the heavens and is mashpia salvation, joyful events, communal yeshuos and individual ones, Torah, good health, parnassah, zivugim, marital harmony, children, and nachas from the children.”

The key to the abundance of the coming fifty years can be found in these moments.

“It is auspicious for success,” our sefarim say about this hour.

“It is a time of joy and gladness,” the Ramban writes.

“It is a pipeline of abundance,” writes the author of Bris Menuchah.

Out of fifty years – out of all the years, months, days, and hours – there is one solitary hour that never repeats itself, about which it is written, “This is the choicest of all hours and auspicious for all abundance.” What is obtainable during this hour is unattainable at any other time.

Maran Hagaon Harav Wosner, shlit”a, the posek hador, said to the people of Kupat Ha’ir who went to consult with him on the topic of “the ninth of the ninth”:“In Shamayim, they agreed to this eis ratzon.”

Four years ago, Kupat Ha’ir discovered the segulah of the ninth of the ninth. That’s when it became known that “nine” was a very auspicious number in Yiddishkeit. Nine is like the key to the pipelines of abundance in Shamayim. The more “nines” that come together, the more locks to the very highest heichalos of abundance fall away. Because this is what is written in the sefer Bris Menuchah, written by the saintly Tanna’im:

Regarding the source of the segulah, we learned beyond the shadow of a doubt that this is from the mekoros that throughout the generations all the tzaddikim without exception endorsed and confirmed, and so this is indeed a rare, supernatural hour.

Kupat Ha’ir asked the rabbanim, each of whom spent many hours calculating. After Kupat Ha’ir received all the various opinions, we discovered something truly astonishing: There are nine minutes that are definitely, according to all calculations, part of the big eis ratzon described in our holy sefarim.

This year, 5774, is the first time since the “Ninth of the Ninth” segulah became known to the public, that all the factors are coming true! This is the first time, and also the last in the next fifty years. Because this year, according to many Rishonim, is the ninth year of the yovel!

Maran Hagaon Harav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a, writes in his peirush, Derech Emunah (siman katan 137) that the year 5756 is the 40th year of the yovel, and 5765 is yovel.

The ninth year of the yovel, so auspicious to receive G-dly shefa, is this year, 5774!

In the heart of that special hour, there will be nine minutes during which, according to all calculations, Hashem chooses to open all His treasure houses to anyone who comes prepared with vessels to contain the goodness.

Very soon, abundant bounty will flow in all the worlds. Don’t be left behind!

Daven on Tuesday, November 12, 9 Kislev from 1:44 pm - 1:53 pm Israel time

To calculate the time in your part of the world click here
Source and full article, click here : --- Kupat HaIr


Monday, October 14, 2013

Benzion Miller : A Modern Day Chazan



Benzion Miller
Sociologists and other researchers who study a society's norms, customs and behaviors often examine the community's music as a way of tracing the community's historical development. This is particularly true of the American Jewish experience which has always included music in its liturgy, life-cycle ceremonies and daily life.

The first Jews to arrive in North American came in the mid-1600s. These people were refugees whose families had fled the Spanish Inquisition. moved to Holland and then to South America. When the Inquisition came to South America they moved northward, arriving in South Carolina and slowly moving northward to New York and New England.

The early American Jewish community defined itself as Separadic, as most of the members of the community had ancestors who had fled Spain in 1492. Until the 1800s Jewish communal life in America revolved around Sephardic traditions but in the mid-1800s German Jews began to immigrate to America, bringing their own traditions and a new Ashkanazi culture. This wave of Jewish immigration continued through the late 1800s and early 1900s as almost two million Eastern European Jews immigrated to America's shores.

This wave of European Jewish immigration included some of the greatest hazzans -- cantors -- of the era. Singing during prayer can be traced in Jewish liturgy to Temple times and worship through song has continued ever since. Hazzanut began to come into its own in 19th century Europe where hazzans chanted the services, oftentimes before the great rabbis of the era or in Hassidic courts.

The "Golden Age" of hazzanut peaked in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when cantors such as Yossele Rosenblatt, Gershon Sirota, Zaval Kwartin, David Roitman and Yankev Shmuel Maragowski joined the wave of immigration to America. These cantors performed in synagogues, Jewish community centers and in American cultural venues before the general American public. The generation of immigrant Jews adored these hazzans whose renditions of the traditional prayers brought back poignant memories of their shtetel childhoods, families and Eastern European communities.

The Holocaust took a tremendous toll on the world of Ashkanazi hazzanut. The traditional centers of Ashkanazi hazzanim were destroyed and there were no new centers of training in which young hazzanim could learn the traditional craft. In America, however, a new generation of American students has sparked a resurgence of hazzanut.

Benzion Miller is one of the most talented and prolific modern-day hazzanim. He himself is a Hassid and his hazzanut is favored by many Hassidic rebbes, both in America and in Israel. Benzion Miller was born in a DP Camp in Fernwald, Germany in 1947. His father, Cantor Reb Aaron Daniel Miller, was a well-known hazzan and Benzion began to appear with his father at an early age, singing at public gatherings, such as Bar Mitzvahs, "Melave Malka" gatherings, and other Jewish functions. The Miller family were Bobover Hassidim and Benzion attended the Bobover Yeshiva in Brooklyn, NY and the Bobover Yeshiva Kedushat Zion in Bat Yam, Israel. Following his yeshivah experience Miller moved to Montreal to study music theory and voice production with some of North America's foremost cantors. He headed the Yeshiva Choir as a soloist and was invited to sing in many solo performances.

At age 18 Benzion Miller was offered the position of Cantor at the Hillside Jewish Center in Hillside, NJ. Since that time he has filled positions in Montreal, Toronto and the Bronx. He presently serves as full-time "shaliach tzibur" at the Beth-El Congregation of Borough Park/Young Israel Beth-El of Borough Park. He also functions as a mohel and as a shochet for the community.

Miller continues to be a follower of the Bobover Rebbe and often performs for the Rebbe. He is recognized as one of the foremost interpreters of Jewish liturgical music of the times and he is equally at home performing Operatic Repertoire as he is singing Jewish and Chassidic Folk Music. He has appeared with the Israeli Philharmonic Orchestra, the Haifa Symphony, the Rishon L'Tzion Symphony, the Jerusalem Symphony and with members of the London Symphony. Following the fall of communism in Russia Miller appeared before Eastern European audiences in Russia, Romania, Poland and Hungry. He has sung liturgical, Chassidic and Yiddish music with the Budapest State Opera Orchestra.

In November 1998 Miller sang with Barcelona National Symphony Orchestra, recording some of his best known pieces for  Lowell Milken's  Archive of American Jewish music. 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Curing Dissociative or Split Personality Disorder


by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

The verse in Jeremiah states, “I have surely heard Ephraim complaining.”[1] Chassidut explains that someone complains because they have found in their psyche two opposite impulses. The simplest such impulses are known as the good and evil inclinations. Even when one learns Tanya, and reads that one has both a Divine soul and an animal soul, he may not internalize the fact that this is not describing some theoretical situation; this is really how his psyche is! But, as a person matures in his understanding of Chassidut, he sees more and more that he is on a psychological see‐saw; alternating between two personalities.

Jeremiah states, ”I have surely heard (שָׁמוֹעַ שָׁמַעְתִּי),” which literally means, “Heard, I have heard.” One explanation for the use of the double verb is that Jeremiah at times hears Ephraim going in one direction, and at times he hears him going in the opposite direction. This is the prelude to Ephraim’s teshuvah (return to God and His Torah).[2]

Individual and Society
If these two personalities are something that we all have, why is Ephraim (אֶפְרָיִם) brought as such a prominent example? We can find the answer by looking at the letters of his name itself. With regard to the first three letters, פר indicates the individual (as in the word “individual” פְּרָט), whereas the first letter א symbolizes the oneness of the Almighty.

The fact that the second and third letters follow, or are “drawn to” the first, symbolizes how each individual member of the Jewish people is drawn to God’s unity and oneness, represented by the letter aleph (א).[3] But, the first three letters are also drawn towards the fourth and fifth letters of Ephraim’s name; the yud and mem (ים). In Hebrew grammar, these two letters are a suffix that indicates plurality.

This means that a plurality (ים) exists even within an individual (פר). In our drive to actualize our fullest potentials, we must also learn to balance between the animal soul on the one side, and the Divine soul on the other. When each of us is able to manifest our abilities to the fullest, we are all also granted the highest level of life—or the pinnacle of all our pursuits—our connection to the aleph (א), or the oneness of God.[4]
This is one possible explanation for what it means to “complain” (מִתְנוֹדֵד), and why Ephraim (אֶפְרָיִם) is torn between these two extremes more than others. Whereas the animal soul only cares about its own individual cravings and pursuits, the Divine soul seeks to connect and unify with the Godly oneness as manifest in all.
Expressing our Uniqueness

In Rabbinic literature, a desire to express uniqueness is referred to as, "The general that requires the individual." Each person wants to reveal their latent powers and abilities, which is one of the reasons why people want to have children. By having offspring, they reveal their potential. This concept certainly relates to Ephraim (אֶפְרָיִם), as his name is conjugate to the verb, “to be fruitful” (פְּרוּ).

Healthy Anxiety
The form of anxiety that a person feels when they see themselves as having a split-personality is potentially something most positive. A person who harbors false beliefs, or worships idols (as did Ephraim), becomes very anxious and nervous as a result.[5] The best way to cure such false anxieties is to redirect them in a proper and positive way. A person who fluctuates between two impulses, or who is confounded by his two personalities, also has the ability to make the bold decision to “have nothing more to do with idols.”[6]
As will be explained in our upcoming article on Mother Rachel, Ephraim is also the child that Rachel most weeps for. Even though his situation seemed hopeless, in the end he was called the “most precious” child.[7]
Each member of the Jewish people experiences this “split personality” between either being far removed or precious. Although Mother Rachel continues to weep, she has also been promised by God that those children that seem far from the fold of Judaism, will eventually return and be considered the “most precious” children of God in the end of days.

Adapted from Rabbi Ginsburgh’s class, Ra'anana, 6 Tishrei 5774

[1] Jeremiah 31:17.
[2] As was explained earlier in the shiur, relating to the verse; ʺEphraim [says], ʹI have nothing more to do with idolsʹʺ (אפרים מה לי עוד לעצבים). Hosea 14:9.
[3] Which has a numerical value of 1.
[4] This paragraph of course summarizes the formation of the name Ephraim (אֶפְרָיִם).
[5] The word for ʺidolsʺ in the verse, ʹI have nothing more to do with idolsʹʺ (אפרים מה לי עוד לעצבים), is עצבים, which is also used to designate nerves, or having a nervous tendency or anxiety. From this we can learn that whoever has false beliefs, similar to what idolatry was, is prone to suffer from anxiety or nervous tension.
[6] Hosea 14:9.
[7] ʺIs my precious son Ephraim…ʺ (הֲבֵן יַקִּיר לִי אֶפְרָיִם). Jeremiah 31:19.

Source: Rabbi Ginsburgh

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Answers from the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Below is a collection of questions presented to the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1952 and his fascinating answers to these questions.

With best wishes for a ksiva va’chssima tova, a good and sweet year.

Questions and Answers

Q: What is the meaning of a ‘Brocha’ which the Rebbe Blesses?

A: The giving and receiving of a Brocha can be traced back to the times of our forefathers Abraham, Issac and Jacob, whom G-d had blessed with the power of blessing and who blessed their children on solemn occasions. Since that time it has always been a custom. In the words of my father-in-law the meaning of a Brocha is like rain (Gishmei Brocha). Rain can accomplish its function and be useful only when preceded by the plowing and tilling of the soil, planting the seeds and preparing the soil for growing. However, should rain fall on unplowed and untilled soil, not only won’t it accomplish its function but furthermore it may cause damage. The same applies to a Brocha, the body (actions and desires of the body) must be tilled and plowed (properly executing them according to the Torah). Only then will the Brocha be useful and help the blessed elevate himself to a higher standard.

Q: What is the difference between a Rebbe and A Rabbi?

A: a Rabbi is the one who teaches his pupils when they approach him and will answer shaalos [questions] when brought before him. A Rebbe does not wait for anyone to approach him, he reaches forth among the people and tries to awaken them and inspire them, and tries to find ways and methods to bring them closer to their religion.

Q: What is a Rebbe?

A: A Rebbe is one whose soul embraces so to speak the souls of his Chassidim. In other words, his Chassidim have a particular soul relationship with their Rebbe, receiving through him Divine blessings, material and spiritual. When a Chassid comes to the Rebbe with a problem he tries to find in the Rebbe the part of his soul which is included in the Rebbe’s soul and connect it with his soul and thus be connected with the Rebbe’s soul. It is through this connection that the Chassid receives his material and spiritual life and needs. For example, lets us take the electric bulb which produces light. The bulb itself is incapable of producing light, however there are electrical power plants stationed in some distant part of the city which generate the necessary power to produce the light. There must be a channel through which the power can pass and reach each individual bulb. The bulb itself must contain some device which enables it to receive the power. That is the wire which is connected to the power plant and is also connected to the bulb, when this connection is opened by turning on the switch the bulb receives the power and will function. The same applies to a Rebbe and Chassidim. The Rebbe is the power plant which produces the needed strength and power to fulfill the commandments and obligations and also to convey the necessary material needs. The channel through which the Chassid can receive the strength and material necessities is his soul which is connected to the soul of the Rebbe. The sole duty of a Rebbe is to convey the above mentioned spiritual and material necessities to his Chassidim. Although the Rebbe is also required to fulfill his bodily functions (eating, sleeping etc.) however that is not his purpose or true function. The necessity to fulfill them is solely because his soul is bound with an earthly body which cannot exist without these necessities. An example for this would be when one approaches a Rabbi complaining of a headache and the Rabbi offers him an aspirin as a remedy it is useless to say that this is the function of a Rabbi. The same is with the Rebbe in his bodily functions.

Q: Can everyone become a Rebbe?

A: Being this is a special power presented from above, not everyone is capable of receiving this power and help.

Q: Can everyone elevate himself to the standard of ‘Ruach Hakodesh’

A: Every Jew has the potential for it, but it requires special preparations in learning and mainly by limiting ones desires and temptations. Only then can he rise to that standard. But every Jew, being he is a Jew gives him the potentiality to acquire it.

Q: Is the function of a Rebbe like that of a psychologist? Can the Rebbe take the place of a psychiatrist?

A: If necessary the Rebbe would use psychology to help solve the problem of a Chassid, but that is only a small part of his work. And even then there is a difference between a Rebbe and a Psychiatrist. When a psychiatrist speaks to his patient he regards him as an object of study. Though he is interested in curing his patient and in helping him to adjust to life, his approach is to derive not only a healthy patient but an accumulation of information about the human being for his further study. A Rebbe gives himself over completely to the person. When he is seeking a solution, the Rebbe does not study him but is more emotionally involved with the person who comes to see him.

Q: If the actual fulfillment of the commandment is more important than the knowledge behind it, and therefore one should do and carry out the laws even if he lacks the explanation, we are living a life of blind faith.

A: When a child is hungry and wants to eat immediately, his mother does not explain to him all the processes the food goes through, or how the oven functions, rather she gives him the food immediately so as to stop his hunger and then she can proceed in explaining the methods by which the food is prepared. Or when a doctor prescribes a medicine he doesn’t explain the contents or the way it was prepared. The doctor gives the patient the medicine that is to cure him, although he lacks the knowledge of medicine. Just as one needs food for his physical life, so does one need food for his spiritual life. The spiritual food is the commandments and obligations prescribed in the Torah. One must take the food although he lacks the explanation of them, in order to survive (spiritually). After fulfilling them if he still desires to have the knowledge then can he go about to attain it.

Q: What is the purpose (‘tachlis’) of Life?

A: To bring ‘Lichtikeit’ (in the spiritual meaning) into the world.

Q: What is the ‘Tachlis’ of ‘Lichtikeit’?

A: To find a harmonious life. One can be in complete harmony when he has found the truth.

Q: How does one know that he has reached the ‘Tachlis’?

A: One seeks something when he lacks something. When nothing is lacking he will not seek. If one has ‘Lichtikeit’ he will not be seeking anything then he will know that he reached the ‘Tachlis’.

Q: How can one prove and explain scientifically the need of religion?

A: When we see something, we can say that it happened accidently, or that it happened or was made on purpose. For instance take a book in which you find hundreds of words composing many thoughts and finally an entire book. If you have never seen or heard about a printing press what would you say about the making of the book? That a bottle of ink spilled accidently on paper was the cause of this book or you would say that it was made by someone with a purpose. Undoubtedly, you will say that it was made with a purpose and it did not occur accidently by the spilling of a bottle of ink. Now, take a pencil or any article, the pencil contains billions of atoms which have the same law, would you say that all the atoms happen to function by the same law accidently, or that a higher force created them so, we must say it was created by a higher force. This will surely apply when we look about our surroundings and we find various different articles, an entire world with all its inhabitants. The formation of these beings could not have been by incident, it is only through a higher force that made it possible. We have now asserted that the world is a creation, and that it has a creator, Almighty G-d. Therefore, this compels us to state further that the Creator has a specific purpose in creating this earthly world. Considering the standard of living without any purpose, merely to carry out the bodily and earthly functions, we can’t picture a greater cruelty than that. To place the billions of human beings in this earthly world and torture them by equalizing their desires and to that of animals, would be the greatest cruelty. Thus we would be compelled to state that the Almighty is cruel to the fullest extent, this is impossible too. Therefore, there must be some purpose to the creation, which makes the world a means of elevation to a higher life. This means is the belief in G-D and His commandments, through which one can connect himself to G-D. This is a simple proof that there must be religion and that there must be a Creator.

Q: There being more than one religion, how can one prove that the Jewish religion is the true one?

A: A scientific discovery is accepted only when there is enough evidence or proof that the discovery is true. Ample evidence means, after reaching the result of the experiment one time it is repeated again and again and if the results coincide with that of the first we then establish the truthfulness of the discovery. The same is also true, when 600 people performed an experiment using the same implements and 100 people performed the same experiment on that same basis and the results showed that the 600 people stated a belief on the basis of their experiments, while the 100 disagreed with them on the basis of their experiment you would accept the results of the 600 more readily than that of the 100.

Let us now consider the evidence which is given to confirm the other religions. The Moslems are well known to have had only one witness at the time of its origin. Furthermore, the only witness was only a mentally sick person. The Christians had only six or twelve witnesses to affirm its origin. The Jewish religion at the time of it's origin, meaning at the time of the revelation on Mt. Sinai, had 600,000 Jews to witness this occurrence. Those said witnesses themselves were present at the giving of the Torah and they themselves heard the voice of G-D pronouncing the commandments. The 600,000 witnesses consisted not merely of scholars but were composed of all walks of life, different occupations and professions (scholars, workers, scientist etc.), and all of them confirmed that same fact, the revelations of G-D on Mt. Sinai and the giving of the Torah. On that basis you must conclude that the Jewish religion is a more firmly established fact, and therefore it has the greatest amount of truth.

Q: What proof is there that there were 600,000 witnesses present at the time of the revelation?

A: If we will trace back generation by generation, we will find in each 600,000 people who will confirm the said fact, and they were told by their elders who in turn received the confirmation from their elders. This can be continued until the said generation who actually did witness the fact of revelation. This continuous transformation can be traced without the interruption of a single generation who should lack 600,000 people confirming the truthfulness of the giving of the Torah, and the observance of its commandments. Therefore, the proof is still present being it was never interrupted. And in this world witnesses are the best means of proof. No other religion can trace that far back and furthermore, to have that many witnesses. Adding all this together we must conclude that the real true existing religion is the Jewish religion.

Q: How can we say that the Jews truly believe in G-d when immediately after the receiving of the Torah they made the golden calf?

A: The forming of the golden calf did not signify their disbelief in G-d or contradict the fact of the revelation. It was only a transgression of one of the commandments which state the prohibition of believing in any other power but Almighty G-d.

Q: Does Science contradict Religion?

A: Science cannot contradict religion. Religion is true and science is true, therefore there cannot be any contradiction.

Q: Aren’t there many cases that bring up a contradiction between the two?

A: It is not science but the men of science who may state a fact that will contradict religion. While they are in the midst of understanding the truthfulness of science, their knowledge is too limited and therefore they may come out with a statement that will contradict. But, science itself is true and cannot contradict religion.

Q: Some people would feel that being a good Jew does not necessarily mean adhering to the precepts of Torah. They feel they could be good Jews without fulfilling the ‘Mitzvos’. How could this be explained to them?

A: When a doctor prescribes a medicine and the patient is reluctant and stubborn about taking it, the doctor, if he is honest, would not lead him astray and tell his patient to take something else in its place that would not have the same affect. Instead, he would try to explain the patient the necessity of taking the medicine and relinquish the patient until he has exhausted all means of convincing him. Or, if one is in a coma and it is difficult to revive him a good friend would not give up on his task of trying to awaken him. He would do his utmost to help this individual, even if it means to hurt him for his benefit. If necessary he would give him shock treatments if he knows the patient will revive.

Q: Why do we need ceremonies? Aren’t they a burden upon a person?

A: We have already explained that the Almighty G-D is the perfect goodness. He would not create a thing that would be a burden for the people. It is only the people who consider it a burden. For, we are all limited to a certain degree, our mind and understanding is also limited which makes it impossible for us to grasp certain mitzvos to their fullest extent. Therefore, our intellect has not extended that far to grasp the truthfulness of the commandments and the necessity of performing the prescribed ceremonies. However, being Almighty G-d commanded us to do such, it is surely a privilege and not a burden.

Q: Does a Rebbe use his supreme powers always?

A: As the means, the Rebbe tries to apply the most simple method and only after medical help does not prove successful will the Rebbe use his supreme power.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Understanding Dreams in Judaism



A fascinating half hour shiur on Dreams from Rabbi Zvi Zimmerman:

click here to listen [Last one on the page].

HT:  Yaak

Sunday, July 14, 2013



There is no ascent [aliyah] without a prior descent [yeridah]. The lower the descent, the higher the potential ascent.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Judgments: Above and Below


"When there is no judgment below, there is judgment above". [Devarim Rabbah 5:4]

"You shall not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your fellow man. And do not bear (lo tisa) sin on his account."  [Leviticus 19:17]

Reuven scoffed and cursed a Torah scholar.  The following day the scholar went to the rabbinic court to sue.  Reuven's friends asked the scholar to forgive Reuven, but he refused.

The peacemakers said: "You have already renounced your claim against him three times."

"When did I renounce my claim?" asked the scholar, "and before whom?"

"Before Hashem" said the peacemakers.  "In the prayers of Mincha, Arvit and Shacharit, which you prayed since yesterday's unfortunate incident.  At the end of the Amidah you said "To those who curse me, my soul will be silent".  After such a declaration how can you speak in court against someone who cursed you?"

"You have spoken well" said the scholar, "but allow me to explain the true meaning of this prayer.

"There are two ways to lodge a complaint. Either the soul can speak in the Heavenly Court when it ascends each night, or the body can speak in the earthly court.

"The prayer says "To those who curse me, my soul will be silent".  I am still entitled to lodge a complaint in the earthly court.


"Woe to the victim who cries out, more than to the one who wronged him." [Bava Kamma 93a]

A victim calls upon G-d to punish the one who wronged him - and Heaven treats the victim more severely!  Why?

Let's say Reuven called on G-d to judge Shimon for doing him a grave injustice. Shimon will not be punished until the Heavenly Court judges him.  But Reuven himself probably wronged others at some point in his life - and for him, judicial procedures can be dispensed with.  He himself admitted that such sins warrant severe punishment!

Source: from the writings of the Ben Ish Chai

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

How to Perform Miracles



Parshat Matot: Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Thought for the Day

With firm will and unshakable determination, you soon find that difficulties are often imaginary and even when real, not insurmountable! [Lubavitcher Rebbe]

Art Andrzej Radka

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Remembering the Deeds of Irena Sendler



When Yad Vashem was established in 1953 the Remembrance Authority’s mission included a program of honoring the Chasidey Umos Haolam -- the Righteous Among the Nations. As worldwide Jewry memorialized the victims and struggled with the enormity of the loss and the impact of the total abandonment and betrayal Europe’s Jews the Yad Vashem program was established in order to remember those individuals who put their lives and the lives of their families at risk to as they rescued Jews.

In 1965 Yad Vashem honored a Polish woman, Irena Sendler, who worked with a unique Polish underground group which specialized in helping Jews escape the Nazi dragnet. After the Yad VaShem ceremony however, Sendler returned to Poland and her story was almost lost to history although, according to records, she saved more than twice as many Jewish lives as the renowned Oskar Schindler of "Schindler's List" fame.

In 1999, by chance, a group of Kansas City students came across Sendler's story. They were fascinated by the sheer volume of lives that she had managed to save and, in the following years, they embarked on a research project that turned into the "Life in a Jar" project -- an acclaimed book, website and performance.

Irena Sendler was a young social worker when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. She was one of the first Zagota -- an underground group which specialized in assisting Jews -- members. Through the first two years of the war she helped forge documents and locate hiding places for hundreds of Jews who were fleeing the Nazis.

In 1941 Sendler secured false documents which identified her as a nurse and enabled her to enter the Warsaw Ghetto in order to bring food and medicines into the ghetto. Once she saw the situation in the ghetto Sendler quickly realized that the Nazis intended to murder the Jews who had been crowded into the ghetto walls. She felt that the best chance to save lives lay in removing as many children from the ghetto as possible, and she began to do so, picking up orphans from the street and spiriting them out by sedating them and carrying them in toolboxes, luggage, bags and even under carts filled with garbage.

Sendler also approached families in the ghetto and begged them to allow them to remove their children. This was traumatic, not only for the parents, who had to decide where their children's best chance of survival lay, but for Sendler herself. "I talked the mothers out of their children" Sendler told interviewers as she described the heartwrenching scenes that she endured, day after day, as she took children from their parents. "Those scenes over whether to give a child away were heart-rending. Sometimes, they wouldn't give me the child. Their first question was, 'What guarantee is there that the child will live?' I said, 'None. I don't even know if I will get out of the ghetto alive today."

As perilous as smuggling the children out of the ghetto was -- under tram seats, via a secret passage through the Old Courthouse that stood on the edge of the ghetto and even through the sewer pipes that ran under the city -- the second part of the rescue operation was just as difficult. Sendler and other Zagota members had to forge documents for the children and find hiding places for them. Many children were placed in orphanages or in convents while others hid with sympathetic Polish families.

Sendler carefully recorded the names of the children on tissue paper which she secured in glass jars and buried in her neighbor's garden. She wanted to be sure that, after the war, if possible, the children could be reunited with their families or, if that proved to be impossible, at least with their Jewish community.

In October 1943 Sendler was arrested by the Gestapo and tortured. Zagota members secured her release by bribing a guard at the Pawiak prison and Sendler lived out the rest of the war in hiding.

In addition to her 1965 Yad Vashem commemoration Sendler was honored by the Life in a Jar project that the Kansas City students created. The project run by the Lowell Milken Centre pays tribute to Irena Sendler as it educates people throughout the world about what it means to stand up for justice.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Connected

Although G-d guides every detail of our lives, to "feel" His Presence you must be "connected". If not, life seems a series of random events.


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Kabbalah of Time




Miami, FL – May 30, 2013 – Brazilian authors Rabbi Daniel Kahane and Ann Helen Wainer have recently launched a new book, which promises to change the way scholars and laymen understand the Jewish calendar as well as the structure of central Jewish texts.

The book shows how the 52-day period spanning from Passover to Shavuot (Pentecost) is in fact a microcosm of the 52 weeks of the year. Additionally, it demonstrates how 52 rabbis and 52 animals listed in the sacred works Pirkei Avot (“Ethics of the Fathers”) and Perek Shirah (“Chapter of Song”) parallel the year’s weeks as well. Finally, the book explores the kabbalistic meaning behind the numbers and divine attributes (sefirot) related to each day from Passover to Shavuot known as the Counting of the Omer.

“The book’s use as a weapon against sadness should also not be underestimated,” exclaims Ann Helen Wainer, “its uplifting ideas and its connectedness to the song and harmony of nature, as well as the wisdom and foresight of our ancestors, is a true gift.” The book was originally launched in Portuguese, after the authors received a grant from the Safra Philanthropic Institute in Brazil. An expanded eBook English version is available on Amazon, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, as well as ModernJewishHome.com. More information and ongoing classes are also available on Blogger, YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter.

The “Kabbalah of Time” eBook consistently listed as Amazon’s #1 “Hot New Release in Kabbalah,” and now, after a month of its release, was back among the Top #10 Best Sellers in its category.

The Kabbalah of Time [link to Amazon]


About Ann Helen Wainer and Rabbi Daniel Kahane
Mrs. Wainer is a prolific author, having published several works regarding Judaism and Jewish History, as well as Brazilian Law and History. Her titles include: Jewish and Brazilian Connections to New York, India, and Ecology; Family Portrait; A Jewish Perspective on Ecology; Civil Liability of the Developer; and Brazilian Environmental Legislation. Ann Helen earned a master’s degree in corporate law in Brazil, and an MA in religious studies at Florida International University.

Rabbi Daniel Kahane is a graduate from Georgetown Law School and Princeton University, where he received the religion departmental award in Jewish studies, as well as a Certificate in the subject. He also attended Yeshiva University and Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Besides from working full-time as an attorney, Rabbi Kahane teaches weekly classes at Chabad of Aventura, FL.

More at: Kabbalah of Time

Friday, June 7, 2013

You Don't Need Time or Money

by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

Charity and kindness are of the most important aspects of Jewish tradition. The Talmud teaches that compassion and acts of goodness are the trademarks of the Jewish soul. Charity brings blessing, hastens the final redemption and is compared to all of the Mitzvot put together.

There are various forms of giving. We can assist someone in need with something tangible like money or gifts. Another form of kindness, of equal importance, is time. Spending time guiding, advising, motivating, or just being a listening ear are all legitimate ways to fulfill this important Mitzvah.

But there is another form of giving that is possibly even more powerful and important. It takes very little effort and yet does not receive the attention and importance it deserves. This is simply saying something small to someone in a way that makes them feel valued and respected. This can be achieved by saying a kind or uplifting word to someone feeling down or as simple as a warm "hello" greeting to a friend or even a stranger.
The Talmud teaches that he who gives a coin to a poor person receives three types of blessings. However, if he says a soothing word and makes him feel better, he is given eleven blessings. It also teaches that greeting someone properly brings the blessing of longevity.

Giving someone time or money fulfills an external need. They provide important support but don't address the inner essence of the individual. A kind word or a warm greeting respects their human dignity and inner soul. Every human being is created in the image of G-d and possesses a soul of Divine origin. Respecting and uplifting that person is recognition of his/her Divine imprint.

We might not all have a lot of time or financial resources to help others in big ways. But we can all take a few seconds to say something positive to someone else or to greet the neighbor, garbage collector or the mailman with a smile. These small acts of real kindness deepen relationships, and inject a positive energy and a flow of blessing into all of existence.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Revenge is Not Sweet


"You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people" [Kedoshim 19:18]

There are times, said the Chofetz Chaim, that a man grows angry with a friend who did not do him a particular favor.  Such feelings are completely unjustified.

To what can this be compared?  To a man who was walking down the street, looking for his friend.  As he passed people in the street, he would ask them "Have you seen my friend perhaps?"

"Try looking for him in the town square," he was told.  "There are many people gathered there; maybe your friend will be among them."

He went to the town square, searched for his friend, yet he did not find him.

Would it even ocur to him to feel anger toward those individuals who directed him to the town square?  Of course not! He realizes that he must simply continue his search.

The same thing applies to the prohibitions of taking revenge and bearing a grudge, said the Chofetz Chaim.  We are forbidden to feel anger towards a friend who did not do us a favor.  What reason can there be to be angry with him?  Hashem obviously did not designate him as the one who would bestow this particular kindness upon us.  We must simply turn to someone else, and place our request with him; perhaps he is the one who will be able to assist us. 

If a person accustoms himself to constantly thinking in this manner, he will never bear a grudge or feel the need to take revenge.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Iyar: The Month of Healing

The Sefer Ta’amei HaMinhagim writes that our new month of Iyar is tried and tested as a time for refuah, healing, from the ailments and pains that may affect a person. Why is this so? He brings the B’nai Yisaschar, who teaches that most weakness and illness come from foods which do not comport with the person’s nature or composition.  Read full article at: Days of Mashiach

There are a couple of ways to assist in your own healing, and that is by saying the Unique Healing Prayer [but you have to do it properly and say every chapter relating to your [Hebrew] name, instructions are at the site].... and the other thing to do is to change your eating habits for the following reason:

"The reason a person's health returns through taking medicines is that his soul sees that he is able to control himself and to act contrary to his physical desires and habits. Perhaps he is accustomed to eating bread and other foods, but now he curbs his desires and submits to a medical regime, taking bitter medicines for the sake of his health. His soul sees that he has the power to control his impulses in order to achieve a certain goal, and she therefore comes back to him in the hope that he will curb his desires for the sake of the true purpose - which is to carry out the will of the Creator" (Likutey Moharan I, 268).  

Do we recite a Blessing on Medication?  Rabbi Eliezer Posner says:

If the medicine has a good taste, such as flavored chewable pills, recite the Shehakol blessing. [Seder Birchat Hanehnin 7:8] Flavorless medicine, such as pills that you swallow, do not require a blessing—but we do say a prayer that the medicine should take effect:

"May it be Your will that this medicine shall bring healing."

No blessing is recited on water that you drink to swallow down the pill. If you are swallowing it down with a beverage other than water, then you do recite the appropriate blessing on that beverage. [Tip: recite the blessing, take a sip, swallow the pill and then drink it down with the rest of the beverage.]

Friday, April 5, 2013

Moshiach. Really? [video]

Hows your soul? 
Our souls connect us, it is our bodies that separate us. 
Rabbi Sholom Lipskar outlines the process of redemption and what to expect in the times of the Messiah. From the scientists who have discovered the G-d particle, to ancient texts, to the Lubatcher Rebbe's talks, Rabbi Lipskar brings Moshiach out of the texts and into the room.


Watch on TorahCafé.com!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Korean Threat in Torah Codes




Zohar Va'era
In the future the children of Yishmael will stir great wars in the world. And the children of Edom [the West] will gather against them, and make war with them, one on the sea, and one on the land, and one near Jerusalem; and each one will prevail over the other but the Holy Land will not fall to the hands of the Christian nations.

During that period of time, a nation from the "edge" of the world (note where North Korea is located geographically) will be awakened against wicked Romi. And it will make war against her for three months, and many nations will gather there, and they will fall by her hand, until all the children of Edom will gather against her from all corners of the earth. And after, G-d will awaken Himself against them, as it says, a "a sacrificial slaughter for the Lord in Batzra", and it says, "to shake the corners of the Land."

Zohar HaKadosh:
A nation will arise from one end of the world (North Korea) against the wicked Rome (Christian nations led by Obama) and will war against them for 3 months. Other nations will join in this war and will fall into the hands (of the nation from edge of the world), till all Edom will unite against this nation. Aterwards, Hashem will 'arise' against them, as it says, A gigantic massacre in the land of Edom.

Note: Immediately following this 3 month war, the evil leader of Edom (America) will spread out his rule over the entire world. Nine months into that move called the final tribulation and birthpangs of Mashiach, he will get up and destroy all the enemies of Israel and mankind.



Also see: Director's Cut: World War 3

Also see: Geula Update from Rav Fish

Sunday, March 24, 2013

What Rabbi Lau told Obama



During his trip to Israel, President Barack Obama visited the Yad Vashem Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem. Chief Rabbi Israel Meir Lau had something personal to convey.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Parshas Tzav: The Conscious and Sub-conscious


Do we really have free choice? Most people tend to view this as a yes-or-no type of question, but the correct answer is in fact, yes and no.

a) The inner core of the soul is totally at one with G-d. At this subconscious level, the soul of every Jew wishes to observe all the mitzvos and to avoid transgressing any prohibitions. There is no desire for evil here; there simply is no other option than doing good.

b) At the conscious level however, where we interact with the more superficial layers of the soul's complex psyche, there is room for both good and evil. Here, the soul's inner desire to observe all the mitzvos is felt only as a weaker 'signal', which is susceptible to 'interference' from the opposing messages of our animalistic instincts. So at the conscious level, we do indeed possess free choice.

In general, the Torah speaks to our conscious mind. We are told to observe the mitzvos with the full awareness of what we are doing, and we are charged with bringing an awareness of spirituality into our normal, daily lives.

However, at this conscious level, we are susceptible to being drawn away from a life of holiness, or stifled by the limitations that the world appears to present. So while most of the mitzvos were given to the conscious part of the soul, G-d saw it necessary to give us some mitzvos which speak directly to the inner core of the soul, helping the soul's unlimited energy and total commitment to good to flow outwards to the conscious mind. These special mitzvos help us stay in tune with our subconscious commitment to Judaism, when our conscious observance becomes strained or limited.

With most mitzvos, G-d told Moshe to address the Jewish people with the term דבר "daber" (speak) or אמור "emor" (say). While the mitzvos conveyed with these terms are of course obligatory, the more passive, indirect mood of the words "speak" and "say" indicate that these mitzvos are directed at the superficial layers of the soul which possess free choice.

Parshas Tzav, in contrast, uses the more direct imperative term צו "tsav" (command), alluding to a type of mitzvah which speaks to the soul's inner core that does not possess true free-choice; and is simply "commanded" to obey G-d's will. These special mitzvos which are included in this Parsha are aimed at helping our inner identity of unquestioning and uninhibited commitment to the Jewish faith surface in everyday life.

Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
---------------------------------------
Video: Living Mindfully - Rabbi Laibl Wolf


Watch on TorahCafé.com!

Wisdom is cumulative, don’t hesitate to consult those who are older and wiser.
Rabbi Laibl Wolf begins by establishing that each attendee and viewer is a unique, gifted, reincarnated soul, brought into the world for an individual purpose. Living mindfully begins with inner calm, a level playing field, required for the beginning point of any wisdom oriented decision.

Friday, March 15, 2013

An Open Letter on Abuse, by Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson







B”H. The month of liberation, 5773. March 2013.


In response to your request—as well as to the many other inquiries and requests for my reaction to the issue of child abuse.

First, I want to express my sincere gratitude and accolades for all the hard work you and various other organizations and individuals are doing to put an end to the devastating crime of CSA, which has wreaked utter havoc in scores of innocent lives over so many years.

Sadly, many people, including some in leadership positions, are ill-informed of the detrimental effects of child molestation. The average person who has not suffered through CSA doesn’t realize how so many of the abused suffer for years or decades from feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, shame, guilt, and pain. Many of the victims—due to their profound pain and skewed sense of self—find temporary relief in all forms of destructive behavior, including molesting a new generation of children. Many of them fall prey to terrible addictions in order to escape their agony. Untold numbers of these innocent souls are haunted by unbearable nightmares that won’t allow them to lead a normal life internally. Most of them struggle to maintain functional marriages, since their sexual boundaries have been brutally violated.

Though recovery is surely possible—for the soul is more powerful than all else, and the Divine infinite power within each of us can overcome all darkness—the pain they must endure is heart-wrenching.

Many people are equally ill-informed of how rampant the problem is, and of the great number of our youth that have been victimized over the years.

But, thankfully, a new dawn has arrived.

Ever since dedicated volunteers have taken action and established organizations to combat this ugly malady, the issue of child molestation has been brought to the forefront of the community’s attention. It is no longer possible to ignore the seriousness of this epidemic. At last, we have begun—and only begun—to take the necessary steps to eradicate this black stain for good.

Initially, when the efforts began to expose predators’ names and photos, I was concerned that some activists would become obsessed with “witch hunting” and would inadvertently accuse innocent people of committing these terrible crimes—forever tainting their reputation. I was afraid that these investigations might not be thoroughly reviewed and vetted with the hyper-sensitivity and professionalism that this issue calls for. (I still shudder at the thought of an individual’s life being ruined by some mean-spirited person who has an axe to grind.) However, after much scrutiny I have learned that these investigations are thorough and honest. I have also learned that in cases where a past abuser is ready to be fully accountable and to do what it takes to help the victim through the healing-process (and, obviously, with experts testifying that he/she no longer poses a danger to the public), the abuser’s identity is not exposed. Additionally, I am also aware of dozens of cases presented to Jewish Community Watch that are not brought to light due to a lack of sufficient evidence.
Given the above, it is my heartfelt hope that all parents, rabbis, leaders, community activists, educators, principals, spiritual mentors, therapists, social workers and counselors will begin educating themselves regarding the lifelong effects of child molestation. They will then come to understand the untold suffering brought upon victims of CSA. Just as we would do anything to stop a gunman from walking our streets and taking lives, heaven forbid (what Jewish law calls a “rodef”), so must we do anything and everything to stop the people who are murdering the psyches and emotional innocence of our children.

We must also begin educating every single one of our young adults about two critical factors: 1) If they have been molested, help is available. They must know that if they will break the silence and reveal their story, they will be embraced rather than shunned, and will be guided with loving care towards a life of wholesomeness and happiness. We must give all of them the names and contact information of approved professionals, so they can reach out to them if necessary. 2) Preventive medicine: If they might ever be prone to engage in these terrible acts themselves, they must know: A) the horrific impact of such actions, and B) that there are things they can do to help them avoid becoming potential monsters who will surely destroy lives. They must all know that help is readily available for people with an inclination toward touching children inappropriately.

Parents and educators must discuss these dangers with their children and students—both the danger of becoming a victim, as well as the danger of becoming an abuser. Every—and I mean every—Yeshiva bachur must be educated about these two items.

We must also educate the community—both children and adults—on how important it is to talk to someone if they are privy to any sort of abuse being perpetrated in the community. To withhold this kind of information is essentially akin to being an accomplice and an enabler of the unthinkable crime of destroying lives in this vicious cycle. Most victims are too afraid or ashamed to speak up—and surely it is not their fault. They are terrified of being shunned, not believed, and of the possibility of being rejected forever. That is where our community stands today. We must change that and teach all of our youngsters that they will be heard, listened to, believed, and embraced with a loving heart and open arms. They will not be judged or ridiculed. We will treat their pain with the deepest respect and empathy.

***
Lest you think that the above information is based on speculation, I must tell you that unfortunately that is not the case. I come here today after many years of learning firsthand about the tragic plight of victims, and the ugly plight of abusers—who in the process of murdering others, murder themselves, too. It is now abundantly clear to me that by educating every boy and girl in our educational institutions about the horrors of CSA as outlined above, we will literally rescue countless precious souls from untold years of misery.

One case in point: A young man asked to meet with me some time ago. His story is not uncommon: He had been sexually molested in a particular Yeshiva by an older student who had been studying in this Yeshiva and was serving as a spiritual mentor of sorts to younger students. As the victim grew older, he in turn began to molest children himself, including his own siblings. (One of the facts about CSA is that it is often committed by close relatives or friends, and sometimes by very religious-looking people.) Concurrently, he had also become addicted to viewing unmentionable smut, which became part of his daily routine. He completely lost his boundaries for intimacy. Though he was—and still is—an extremely good-hearted young man, he was trapped in the disease of addiction and paralyzed by endless shame and guilt. He got married, but his marriage inevitably soon became dysfunctional. Floundering to survive, he discovered addictive drugs and was soon using them every day—including Yom Kippur. Finally, after hitting “rock-bottom,” this shattered “abused-abuser” shared his story with me. It was the first time that he had shared his true story with anyone, and it took him more than twenty years for to open up! He broke down and wept uncontrollably.
So many lives were destroyed from the actions of that older student. And so many lives could have been spared if the young man, the initial victim, would have known as a young adult that help is available and that he didn’t have to suffer all alone.

The brokenness and utter despondency I observed in this young man—and in many others with similar stories–is typical of victims of CSA. Many of them feel broken and crushed to the very core of their existence. Having been violated in the most vulnerable, holiest, and most sensitive part of their being—the part within us that most reflects G-d, possessing the ability to create new life—makes them feel like their lives are worthless.

Too much blood has been shed on the altar of silence and fear without anyone uttering even a cry. Victims have lived far too long by the code of shame and silence, always blaming themselves for the cruelty of their perpetrators. The devil of abuse has been allowed to grow strong and rampant because of our silence. It is time to declare all-out war—a war of information and education—against the silent bullets that have claimed thousands of our holiest and most beautiful souls.

We as a community must—and will—come forward publicly to support every effort being made on behalf of our innocent and precious youth. With Hashem’s help, we will succeed.
For such is the nature of light: it dispels even the densest of darkness.

Sincerely and thankfully, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Jacobson 
Dean, TheYeshiva.net
www.TheYeshiva.net

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Obstructing Shadow - Part 2

continued from Part 1

by Rav Ephraim Kenig shlita [Reprinted with permission from Tzaddik Magazine]

Levels of Tzaddikim 
The world is divided into groups. Tzaddikim are also divided into different groups. There are tzaddikim in the category of Yesod Olam - foundation of the world - and there are tzaddikim on a lower level, yet the world's existence completely depends upon all of them. The holy Zohar explicitly states that the highest level in each generation is that of Moses. Afterwards, there are the thirty-six tzaddikim called the lamed vav tzaddikim. According to the Zohar, thre are 36 in the Land of Israel and 36 outside of Israel. The entire world stands in their merit, since without them, the world could not exist. The Zohar mentions other examples, such as a category of 10,000 tzaddikim, who are on a lower level. Nonetheless, the world requires all of these tzaddikim to exist. 

We also need to place ourselves in some sort of category of tzaddikim.  You may ask youself ''Why do I need to call myself a tzaddik?''  Don't forget that we were born to carry out a specific mission, so it is not a matter of what we want or not. It is not merely a one-time task like when someone says to you ''Go bring this envelope to someone" - rather it is a mission involving your entire being and everything connected to you.  Your entire life is no more than a simple shlichut - mission.  For example, someone says to you ''Get on a plane, travel to a certain place and do this particular thing.''  You will be well aware of why you are in that particular place, since it is part of your mission.  You'll also take care not to damage anything in the process of carrying it out. Nonetheless, at the same time, you still feel ''something'' from yourself since, despite being on a mission, you still need to eat, sleep, travel, accomplish etc.

In other words, whatever you do in the world, whether sleep, eat, make money, pray, put on tefillin, or any of the other mitzvot, it is all one big mission.  This is the most truthful way to think about ourselves since we have no other function in the world besides our Divinely-given mission.

You may ask ''What is my mission?''  The answer lies in knowing that everything is connected to the kavod of Hashem, since He created the world to reveal His glory.  Before the world came into being, there was no-one to reveal  His kavod.  After creation, it is our mission to reveal it.

When you feel some deficiency, it is a signal that there is some sort of ''shortcoming'' in the revelation of G-d's kavod.  The more we reveal His kavod, the less lack we will feel.  Hashem created us with all of our materiality to serve as a foundation in this world for Him, and to elevate our Divine awareness until we clearly realize that we have no other function than to see the Divine in every detail of life.  Everything should bring us closer to the knowledge that there is a Creator of the World Who desires something from us.  If it is against the Torah, it is not the desire of Hashem.  Every step we take in life should bring us closer to a mindset that nothing exists beyond our appointed function in the world.  Bringing children into the world, working in whatever area Hashem has brought us, or any other life situation, is all part of our mission to reveal what Hashem desires.

Delving deeper, we will sense how limited our understanding is. This is when to pour out our hearts: ''Ribbono shel Olam! Heal us so we can reveal Your kavod. Give us livelihood so we can magnify Your kavod in the world. Redeem us from the oppression of outside influences, so we can carry out our mission.'' The emphasis should be in this direction, rather than driven by the desire to shed the discomfort of exile.  Thinking this way makes us more complete and less demanding of space and self-importance. When we achieve such a level, Rebbe Nachman promises that we will experience no lack.  Obviously this is a process, but we must begin.

This is all connected to Rebbe Nachman's concept of a self-generated shadow that blocks our own shefa.  Every day, the ability to prevent its creation can be drawn from the power of Moses and his humility, since he is the primary soul in which we are all rooted.  Rebbe Nachman describes how the influence of Moses is found within every limb of our body, reminding us to perform the mitzvah associated with that particular limb.  His point of humility is also there, waiting to be developed.  It is this point that will help us better understand how to remove our sense of ''somethingness'' and feel much more authentic.  Most think that kavod and happiness are found by taking up more space in the world, as if this is the purpose of life.  However, this point of humility will save us from being distracted or thrown off by the attractions of the world.

May Hashem help us be encompassed in the humility of Moses, so we will be able to receive an abundant influx of everything good in this world, as well as all the other worlds we will witness in the future.  This blessing very much depends upon us. When we repair ourselves, we repair the entire universe. By drawing Divine awareness into the world so everyone will know there is only Hashem, we will experience the good of the World to Come in this world as well.

Translated and adapted from a lesson based on Likutey Moharan 172.

[1] Likutey Moharan 172.
[2] King Solomon wrote ''Elokim made Man straight, but they pursued many intrigues.'' [Ecclesiastes 7:29]
[3] ''For My glory I created...'' [Isaiah 43:7];  ''The earth is filled with His glory'' [Isaiah 6:3]

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Obstructing Shadow: Get out of the way of your own Blessing

by Rav Ephraim Kenig shlita [Reprinted with permission from Tzaddik Magazine]

''Every lack a person experiences, whether children, livelihood, or health, comes from oneself.'' [1]  [Rebbe Nachman of Breslov] 

There is an old saying: "The One Who gives life will also provide for it." In other words, since G-d created the world, He most certainly provides whatever we need to exist, whether livelihood, children, health, etc. As discussed in the writings of the Arizal and many other holy books, He created the universe to bestow good on it, not so it should be lacking.

If this is true, when why do we need to exert ourselves so much in order to subsist?  An animal usually has everything it needs in its local environment. Why would it be different for a human being, who is considered the choice of creation?

This is Rebbe Nachman's point. The lack is not inherent in creation - it comes from oneself. The human being was created perfect and complete [2], but something happened that created lack and deficiency.  For example, when a baby is born, the parents hover over the infant to ensure that it is warm, well-fed, and has everything it needs. As the child grows and begins to develop its own ideas and direction in life, the parents still desire to bestow good on the child. Sometimes, the child goes out on their own and acts foolishly without realizing the damage caused to themselves and others. The parents still worry, and do their best to warn the child of the various dangers, even when he or she stubbornly persists in pursuing their own ideas.

Likewise with Hashem. As mature as we consider ourselves, we still possess only a child-like understanding of the greatness of G-d. We don't fully grasp the extent to which He wants to benefit us, and instead, we act like immature children who make trouble.  Divine light, called shefa, constantly flows to us. Descending through all of the upper worlds into this world, it arrives to fill any need we may have.  Shefa is very subtle in the heavens, and once it comes into the world, it manifests as a beneficial influence.  Just as parents desire good for their child, G-d's love likewise directs the appropriate shefa to reach us in a ready-made fashion, like children, money, a home, etc.  The only thing that can stop it is the shadow created by our own actions. The shefa is then experienced as a deficiency.

How do our actions create a shadow?  The first thing to understand is that the nature of a shadow is relative, since a shadow is created from something more physical in relation to something more spiritual.  For example, a tree will create a shadow when put up against the light of the sun or moon.  The earth will also cause a shadow in the form of an eclipse, as will the moon itself.  Even the sun will create a shadow in relation to something  higher than it.  In this case, the sun would be considered physical in relation to what is above it.  Anything more physical obstructs light in relation to something more spiritual. Similarly, a person's  physicality and undesirable deeds form a shadow that obstructs the flow of shefa, since something physical will block something more spiritual.

There is a way, according to Rebbe Nachman, to circumvent this problem. If you nullify yourself by minimizing your connection to the world, no shadow is created and shefa is received unhindered. It is normal to want to fill a place in the world, or to feel you possess something.  You enjoy the respect accorded to you by others, you consume, eat, drink and buy, all of which amounts to experiencing some sort of ''somethingness'' that defines your material existence. The more physical you are, the more it prevents you from receiving the constantly flowing Divine light called shefa.

A basic understanding of human character traits can help a person move towards minimizing their connection to the world.  Let's examine the trait of humility. Everyone is born with a specific predisposition and nature, with varying levels of coarseness or arrogance at one end of the spectrum, and qualities such as humility at the other end.  Each quality, though, needs to be expressed in the proper way and proportion.  For example, it is a natural and positive reaction to feel a sense of nullification or insignificance next to a greater person, not the opposite.

Likewise, we should feel our smallness in relation to Heaven. Our only desire should be to fulfill whatever role G-d gave us with self-nullification, which will naturally bring a tiny perception of G-d's greatness.  Even if we are not currently on this level, it is something that needs to be deeply contemplated, since it is the true reality.

As creations of G-d, we belong to Him.  To the extent we comprehend this message and internalize it, our entire existence and relationship to the world will change.  As we go about our daily business, we will begin to understand that we are nothing more than messengers on a mission given to us by Hashem.  We will also be much less exacting of our own honor and care less about what others say or think about us. These concerns are exactly what make us more material.  Freed of these concerns, we are less physical. More shefa reaches us and we experience less deficiency and lack.

The world was created with such compassion, in a way that is truly good for us in this world and the next. Consider the generation of Noah and the Flood. How did this generation come to such depravity that it had to be completely wiped out?  The Midrash explains that this was actually caused by the abundant and awesome shefa they enjoyed on a constant basis.  They had everything they wanted, immediately, with incredible opulence, which is what brought them to such coarseness and vulgarity.  They believed the shefa came from their efforts and the strength of their own hands. They knew very well G-d was sending this goodness, but they didn't believe He was the ultimate power behind sending it, or had the ability to halt it.  When Noah repeatedly warned them about the impending flood, they taunted ''Where will the flood come from, Heaven?'' since they felt they could stop the Heavenly wellsprings themselves.  Although the good was indeed meant for them to enjoy, their way of thinking was a serious error because it overturned everything to the opposite.

Where are you holding?
You can actually sense where you stand before Hashem through evaluating your current situation, whatever it may be.  The very deficiency you experience is a gauge to how physical you are, since the perceived lack is a result of Divine light that has been blocked.  It is now expressed as a specific shortcoming, which indicates a lesser level of self-nullification to what Hashem desires.

How do we know what Hashem wants from us?  According to Rebbe Nachman, it is all related to kavod - glory and honor.  He writes: '''The essence of the light of Hashem is kavod, since whatever Hashem created, He created only for the sake of His glory.''  The entire world was created only to reveal His kavod, as written throughout the holy writings. [3]  Since Hashem's glory fills the world, when you don't take up space in the world, you receive the light of Hashem unhindered.

Self-Nullification and Humility
The Jewish people have an inherent power of self-nullification, which is epitomized by Moses.  He brought us the Torah in such a way to show anyone, in any situation, that they are connected to the Torah and mitzvot, and what they need to uphold.  Moses was considered to be the most humble human being. Although our own perception of humility is very far from its true nature, we still have some conception of it, since Jews possess a natural point of humility, which is developed when contemplating the greatness of Hashem.

Whatever we have or not, comes from Hashem because of His compassion.  Internalizing this message more and more will generate full Divine consciousness, which is the purpose of our existence.  Our entire life experience is meant to bring us to an awareness of the One Who brought the world into existence. When this is deeply integrated into our daily outlook, we will feel no lack whatsoever in life.

This will be the experience many years after Mashiach will have already arrived, as well as in the Next World, when we will see the world in its perfection. There will be no ''somethingness'' that demands honor and recognition. It will be clear that you are alive only because G-d wants you to fulfill your function in the world, so you will lack nothing required to fulfill your mission.  If you need money,  He will give it to you.  If you need health or anything else, you will receive it.

This is actually the level of the tzaddikim. They already achieved their tikkun, and see the perfection in this world now. Their pain comes only from looking at the Jewish people and seeing how far they are from their true life's purpose.  They are completely given over to bringing each Jew closer to G-d, one after another, by revealing another point of awareness in what it means to serve Hashem.  These tzaddikim, with all of their perfection, are already experiencing the World to Come in this world.  Rebbe Nachman insists this is not only something for spiritual giants, but for us as well.  When we pray for Mashiach and the Temple,we are asking for this level - it is something we must all attain, since it is our purpose.

...to be continued

click here for Part Two