Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mind Games


Art: Mike Worrall

The Baal Shem Tov said : "The world is a mirror. The defects you see in others are really your own."


That solves one problem: if we see a defect in someone else, we can rest assured that defect exists in us too, otherwise we wouldn't have noticed it.

But what happens when that defect does not exist in you, and therefore you don't notice it in someone else........ ?

That's how simple, naive, innocent people fall for con-artists [and narcissists]. These innocent people don't possess a sneaky or manipulative trait: for them, it would be unthinkable to deceive someone else or use a friend to further their own agenda.... and therefore they do not realize when they are being taken for a ride, being used and manipulated.

They didn't see it, because they don't have that quality themselves.

When the truth finally hits, that they have actually been deceived, they are in a state of shock. It's hard to believe, how could this happen? Sometimes the victim may turn nasty and try to shoot the messenger, but ultimately, once they have given the matter a lot of thought, they should realize that the "messenger" was the one they should be thanking for waking them up and ensuring that they will be on their guard in future relationships.

It's no crime to be innocent and naive, in fact it's a virtue, but these days the world is a very dangerous place, and we need to be on the alert for anyone who's messing with our minds.

Geneivat da'at - Theft of the Mind - is the worst theft of all.

Geneivat da'at is not limited to con-artists..... it's practised all the time by abusers and manipulators.  They do the crime, but they won't admit it, or accept responsibility for it.  Instead, they'll blame you, the victim, for everything, and bring attention to your defects in order to take the heat off themselves.   They will try to discredit you in every way possible in order to ensure that no-one will listen to a word you're saying.

Be aware that this is how abusers behave, and be on your guard in the future. Get as far away from these people as you can, and don't go back. 

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

The Day Our Suffering Will End

Art Tomozei Maximilian


Mi She'amar L'Olamo Dai Yomar L"Tzaraseinu Dai  - He who said to His world enough should say to our pain enough. What does it mean that Hashem says to His world enough, and how is that connected to our suffering?

Olam is like the word Haalem which means hidden. The definition and essence of the world is the hiding place of Hashem. Hashem created our world to challenge us to recognize Him even in the randomness of nature and the apparent unabated evil acts that are perpetrated daily without Divine reprisal.

The gemara in Pesachim [50a] says that in this world we make two brachos, one bracha on good, HaTov V'HaMeitiv and one bracha for bad, Dayan HaEmes. However says the gemara, in the next world there is only one bracha since we will have the ability to recognize the goodness in everything. What the gemara is saying is that even in this world everything is good but we don't have the ability to recognize it, for Hashem hides it from us. Even people with steadfast Emuna that accept Hashem's decree and believe that it's good, still suffer and therefore must say Dayan HaEmes. That is the nature of our world.

In other words our pain is, simply put, a lack of understanding, for if we understood the reason for the seemingly bad things that happen to us we would thank Hashem for they are always good. When will we understand? Only when Hashem reveals Himself to the world and says to His Olam, His hiddeness, Dai enough. Only then will our Tzoros be behind us forever.

Source:  Revach

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Why Does Hashem Allow Catastrophes to Occur ?


After the Haiti earthquake in 2010, Rabbi Dr. Abraham Twerski wrote:

Rabbi Twerski


The recent tragedy in Haiti has elicited a number of comments. People question why G-d permits such catastrophes to happen. Others ask, why go to places of worship to pray for the victims to the G-d who smote them? Some people see such tragedies as expressions of G-d’s wrath, but, are the victims of earthquake, tsunami and tornadoes to be considered the most sinful people in the world?

My understanding of these happenings is based on the statement of the Zohar, that the Torah was the “blueprint” according to which G-d created the world. In other words, Torah is Natural Law, according to which the world operates. The Law of Gravity is Natural Law and is inviolable as are other physical laws, and so is the Natural Law of Torah. If the physical law that keeps the moon in its orbit were somehow suspended, the moon would crash into the earth, but this would not be a punitive act by G-d. If someone puts one’s hand into a fire, one gets burned, but that is not a punitive act of G-d. Rather, it is the result of Natural Law that fire burns.

According to the Torah, there are seven Noahide Laws that are binding on all human beings, and these constitute the Natural Law according to which the world operates; these are:

1. Prohibition of idolatry
2. Prohibition of murder
3. Prohibition of theft
4. Prohibition of sexual promiscuity
5. Prohibition of blasphemy
6. Prohibition of flesh taken from a live animal
7. Requirement to have just laws.

All human beings, religionists and non-religionists are required to abide by these laws, which underlie the Natural Law according to which the world operates. Violation of these laws is tampering with Natural Law, whose consequences can be catastrophic.

The world is a closed system. When a butterfly flaps its wings in Norway, it affects the ecology in Australia. When the Natural Law is intact, the earth’s crust and the atmosphere are stable. When air pollution tampers with the ozone layer, or sulfur dioxide pollution causes acid rain, the effects may be felt hundreds of miles away from the perpetrators. The people suffering these effects are not being “punished” by G-d, but are the victims of the reckless behavior of other people.

Is this an injustice? Yes, just as it is an injustice for a pedestrian to be killed by a reckless driver. Such happenings occur because G-d does not interfere with the free choice and behavior of human beings. Just as we do not fault G-d when an innocent person is killed by a reckless driver, we should not fault G-d when innocent people, victims of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and tsunami, suffer from the reckless behavior of those who violate the Natural Law.

No one is singled out to suffer the consequences of tampering with Natural Law. Violation of the seven Noahide Laws by people on one continent may result in a disruption of the Natural Law according to which the world operates, and the consequences of such disruption may occur on a distant continent. The disruption of the Natural Law which affected Indonesia and Haiti may have been caused by violations of the Noahide Laws by people the world over. No individual or group of people can be singled out as responsible and as being punished.

The seven Noahide Laws are the basis of decency and morality. Every human being should behave according to them.

Source: Vos Iz Neias

The Fall of Nepal

Not so long ago we saw many instances of churches being destroyed by earthquakes.  I blogged many of these events, which you can see by clicking on the STEEPLES label at the bottom of this post.

Devash has written an excellent post regarding the Nepal quake, and if you have not read it yet, please do so : The Message of the Nepal Earthquake


"Before the world of truth can come, the world of lies must disappear" - Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak Kook ztl

Monday, April 27, 2015

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

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Friday, April 24, 2015

Calbuco Volcano Erupts in Chile - Video

Incredible sight as this monster volcano in Chile erupts for the first time in more than 42 years.





Also see:  Concerns Rise for Contaminated Water, Respiratory Illnesses

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Rainbow's Message


Double and quadruple rainbows at Long Island....  see Everyone is Looking for a Sign
and Devash is correct because whilst a rainbow is beautiful it is not something we really want to see
as it is telling us that our generation is being judged.  See below for more details.

A quadruple rainbow was spotted in the skies over the Glen Cove LIRR station Tuesday morning - Photo Amanda Curtis

God made a covenant with Noah that He will not destroy the entire world again with a Flood. The symbol of this covenant is the rainbow.

When observing a rainbow, we recite a blessing: "Blessed is God, Who remembers the covenant (of Noah)."

However, the rabbis discourage one from staring at a rainbow, since it has a negative message:  It is telling us that the world deserves (another) flood but because of God's covenant, it will not happen.
The Talmud relates that during the lifetimes of certain great sages, a rainbow was never seen, because they were capable of saving the world from a flood, in their own merit.



Rav Kook writes:


Were there not rainbows before the Flood? How did the rainbow suddenly become a symbol of protection from Divine punishment?

In truth, the rainbow was created immediately before the Sabbath of creation (Avot 5:6). Before the Flood, however, the rainbow could not be seen. It was a "Keshet Be'Anan," a rainbow in the clouds. The thickness and opacity of the clouds, a metaphor for the world's dense physicality — obscured the rainbow. Only after the Flood, in a world of diluted physical strength, did the rainbow finally become visible.

The rainbow is a symbol of weakness. Physical weakness, that the cloud no longer conceals it. And also spiritual weakness, that only a Divine promise prevents destruction of the world as punishment for its sins. The Sages taught in Ketubot 77b that rare were the generations that merited tzaddikim so holy that no rainbow could be seen in their days.

The Flood restored balance to the world in two ways. In addition to weakening the material universe, the aftermath of the Flood resulted in a bolstering of the spiritual and moral side, through the Noahide Code. The Flood annulled all previous obligations, and initiated a new era of repairing the world via the seven mitzvot of Bnei-Noah.


Read entire essay at Rav Kook Torah


Why was the rainbow chosen as a symbol of peace between Hashem and mankind?

Hashem said: "When I brought the mabul (flood), My bow was drawn against man. The rainbow resembles a reversed bow, signifying that there shall be no more "arrows from Heaven" sent to destroy humanity".

In the Torah portion that relates the establishment of the covenant between God and Noah (and all generations to come) by means of the rainbow, the word "covenant" (בְּרִית) is repeated seven times. These seven appearances of the word "covenant" allude to the seven colors of the rainbow studied and documented by Isaac Newton, and to the seven Noahide commandments.

The seven colors of the rainbow and the seven Noahide commandments correspond to the seven lower sefirot as follows:

RED - Gevurah (might) - The prohibition against murder

BLUE - Chessed (loving-kindness) - The prohibition against adultery

YELLOW -Tiferet (beauty) - The prohibition against theft

ORANGE - Hod (thanksgiving) - The prohibition against blasphemy

VIOLET -Netzach (victory) - The prohibition against idolatry

GREEN -Yesod (foundation) - The prohibition against eating the flesh of a live animal

INDIGO -Malchut (kingdom) - The injunction to establish a just legal system


by Rabbi Y. Ginsburgh
Read entire essay at: Inner.org

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Cyclone Sydney

Bondi Beach: closed !


We're in the middle of some pre-Moshiach weather right now.








Lessons to be Learned


"This shall be the law of the metzora" [Metzora 14:2]

Why, asked R' Shmuel of Sochotchov, does the verse state: "This shall be the law of the metzora" and not "This is the law of the metzora"?

The tzara'as affliction, answered the Rebbe, is brought about by the sin of haughtiness.  Once he is afflicted, however, and individuals begin to distance themselves from him, he feels contrite and humbled.

But this feeling of humility must accompany him for the rest of his life.  Even after he is healed, let him not return to his previous state of arrogance; rather, he must ingrain the lesson he has learned as a metzora and remain humble until his very last day.

Source: Rabbi Y. Bronstein

Sunday, April 19, 2015

5776 Moshiach Codes, and Obama

A Deafening Silence

Dedicated by Sruly Heber in loving memory of his grandfather, R' Moshe ben Eliyahu HaLevi ​ respectfully known as Reb Moshe Heber of Toronto.

~~~~ A Deafening Silence
In Tribute of Holocaust Remembrance Day

by Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson

In Germany they came first for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant. Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.—Martin Niemoller

Throughout history it has been the inaction of those who could have acted, the indifference of those who should have known better, the silence of the voice of justice when it mattered most that has made it possible for evil to triumph.—Haile Selassie

As many survivors and their families commemorated Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, to remember the 6,000,000 who perished; as Jews in Israel continue to be threatened by nations determined to destroy it; as bloody wars continue to claim lives inmany parts of the world, with the thunderous silence coming from the international community; as anti-Semitism has increased over the last year by 400 percent; as abuse and injustice often take root in our own communities due to the silence of good people—let us reflect on a stirring Midrash on this week's Torah portion.

The Fateful Conversation
This week's Torah portion, Shmini, relates the tragic episode of the premature death of Aaron's two sons, Nadav and Avihu.

On the day that the Tabernacle in the desert was erected and Aaron's four sons were inaugurated as priests, the two oldest children entered into the tabernacle and did not come out alive (1).

The Talmud (2) relates the following story to explain the cause of their death:

"It once happened that Moses and Aaron were walking along the road and Nadav and Avihu (Aaron's two sons) were walking behind them, and all Israel was walking behind them. Said Nadav to Avihu, 'When will these two old men die and you and I will lead the generation?' Thereupon G-d said to them: 'We shall see who will bury whom!'"

A Cryptic Midrash

Now, this story of Aaron's two sons, engendered a cryptic Midrash. It reads like this (3):

"When Job heard about the death of the two sons of Aaron, he was seized bytremendous fear. It was this event that compelled Job's best friend, Elihu, to state (4): "Because of this my heart trembles and jumps from its place."

This Midrash seems strange. Why did the Nadan-Avihu episode inspire such profound fear in the heart of Job's friend?

Rabbi Chaim Yosef David Azulaei, the 18th century Italian sage and mystic known in short as the Chida (5), presents the basis of the following interpretation on this obscure Midrash. He quotes it (6) "in the name of the Sages of Germany."

Three Advisors

The Talmud relates (7) that Job served on the team of advisors to Pharaoh, the emperor of Egypt. The other members of the team were Balaam and Jethro. When the Jewish population in Egypt began to increase significantly, developing from a small family of seventy members into a large nation, Pharaoh, struck by the fear that this refugee group would ultimately pose a threat to his empire, consulted his three advisors on how to deal with the "Jewish problem."

Balaam chose a tyrannical approach. He suggested that Pharaoh drown all Jewish baby boys and force every adult Jewish male into slave labor.

Job remained silent. He neither condemned the Jews to exertion and death, nor defended their rights to life and liberty.

Jethro was the only one among the three who objected Balaam's plan of oppression. To escape the wrath of Pharaoh, who enthusiastically embraced Balaam's "final solution," Jethro fled from Egypt to Midian, where he lived for the remainder of his years.

The Talmud (7) relates the consequences of the advisors' respective behaviors. Balaam was slain many decades later during a Jewish military campaign in the Middle East (8). Job was afflicted by various maladies and personal tragedy (9), while Jethro, the exclusive voice of morality in the Egyptian palace, merited not only Moses as a son-in-law but also descendants who served as members of the Jewish Supreme Court (Sanhedrin) in Jerusalem, loyally representing the Jewish principles of justice and morality (10).

Job's Self-Righteousness

What went through Job's mind after this incident? Did Job consider himself morally inferior to his colleague Jethro who, in an act of enormous courage, stood up to a superpower king and protested his program of genocide? Did Job return home that evening and say to his wife, "I discovered today that I am a spineless and cowardly politician who will sell his soul to the devil just to retain his position in the government."

No.

Job, like so many of us in similar situations, did not entertain that thought even for a moment. On the contrary, Job considered himself the pragmatist and Jethro the idiot.

"What did Jethro gain of speaking the full truth?" Job must have thought to himself. "He lost his position and was forced to flee. He acted as a fanatical zealot. I, Job, by employing my savvy diplomatic skills and remaining silent, continue to serve as Pharaoh's senior advisor and thus will be able to assist the Jewish people, subtly and unobtrusively, from within the governmental ranks of power." For decades, Job walked the corridors of the Egyptian palace saturated with a feeling of self-righteousness and contentment.

Till the day he heard of the death of the sons of Aaron.

Job's Shattering Discovery

When Job inquired as to what might have caused the premature death of these two esteemed men, he was answered with the famous Talmudic episode quoted in the beginning of this essay:

"It once happened that Moses and Aaron were walking along the road and Nadav and Avihu (Aaron's two sons) were walking behind them, and all Israel were walking behind them. Said Nadav to Avihu, 'When will these two old men die and you and I will lead the generation?' Thereupon G-d said to them: 'We shall see who will bury whom!'"

Job was astounded. "I can fully understand," Job said (11), "why Nadav was punished. It was he who uttered these disgusting words. But why was his brother Avihu punished? He did not say anything (12)."

"Avihu?" came the reply. "He was punished because he remained silent (13)."

Because when a crime is happening in front of your eyes, your silence is deafening.(14)

Footnotes:
1) Leviticus 10:1-3; 16:1.
2) Sanhedrin 52a.
3) The Midrash is quoted in Nachal Kedumim and Chomas Anach by the Chida Parshas Acharei Mos (see footnotes 5-6); in the book "Midrash Pliah," and in Pardas Yosef to Leviticus 16:1. - See Vayikrah Rabah 20:5 (and commentaries of Matnois Kehunah, Yefah Toar and Rashash).
4) Job 37:1.
5) 1724-1806. The Chida, author of more than fifty volumes on Torah thought, was one of the great Torah luminaries of his day. He resided in Israel, Egypt and Italy.
6) In his book Chomas Anach (However, see there for his refutation of this interpretation). This answer is quoted also in Pardas Yosef ibid and in "Midrash Pliah - Chedah Upelpul."
7) Soteh 11a.
8) Numbers 31:8.
9) See the biblical book of Job chapters 1-2. Job, just like Balaam, received a punishment measure for measure. One cries when he suffers even though he knows that doing so will not alleviate his suffering. Why? Because pain hurts. This keenly demonstrated to Job his state of moral apathy. For if he were truly perturbed by the plight of the Jewish victims, he would have voiced his objection to Balaam's plan even if he thought that protesting it wouldn't bear any results, just as one cries out in pain upon suffering though the cry will not help the situation (See Chidushei HaGriz by Rabbi Yitzchak Ze'av Soloveitchik to Soteh ibid.).
10) Jethro, too, was rewarded measure for measure (see Toras HaKenaos to Soteh ibid.). 11) It is unnecessary to assume that the Chida's intent is that Job actually heard of this Talmudic tradition and posed the following question. As is the case with many Midrashim, certain statements and episodes may be understood symbolically. Possibly, the Midrash is conveying to us its perspective on moral silence by employing the images of Job, and Aaron's two sons, as examples.
12) This question is raised (independently of this entire discussion) in Birchas Shmuel to Soteh ibid. 13) Cf. Eyoon Yaakov to Ein Yaakov Soteh ibid.
14) This essay is partially based on an address by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Purim 1971. Published in Sichos Kodesh 5731 vol. 1 pp. 560-568.

Source: The Yeshiva.net

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Sobering Thought

Art Rob Gonsalves

Everything can change in the blink of an eye. [Rebbe Nachman of Breslov]


"Do not drink wine that will lead to intoxication, neither you nor your sons with you, when you go into the Tent of Meeting, so that you shall not die. [This is] an eternal statute for your generations..." [Shemini 10:9]

There is a view [see Rambam, Laws of Entering the Temple 1:7] that even nowadays a priest [kohen] may not drink a revi'is [86ml] of wine, for this is sufficient to cause some degree of intoxication, and since it is quite feasible that the Holy Temple will be rebuilt within the time it takes for him to become sober, the wine would thus render him unfit for service in the Temple.

Now, according to Jewish law, intoxication caused by a revi'is of wine can be removed by either a short sleep, or by waiting the time it would take to walk a mil. (There are different views as to precisely how long this is: either 18 or at most 24 minutes).

From here we see a remarkable ramification of the above principle: that Jewish law takes seriously into consideration the fact that it is possible for Moshiach to come, with a completed Holy Temple, within a maximum of 23 minutes and 59 seconds, thus requiring the priests to be ready for service immediately!

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe [Gutnick Chumash]

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Tazria: Following Your Destiny

The Angel in charge of conception is called לילה / Leila. When Hashem wishes a human being to be born, He bids the Angel Leila "Bring me this neshama from Gan Eden". The neshama, though, resents being uprooted from its Divine source, and complains to the Almighty "I am pure and holy, linked to Your Glory. Why should I be degraded by having to enter a human body?" Hashem responds: "The world where you will live surpasses in beauty the one from whence you emanated. You were fashioned for the sole purpose of becoming part of a human being and being elevated by his deeds."

The meaning of this is that although in Olam Haba the soul enjoys undisturbed tranquility and bliss, nevertheless the present world, despite all its tribulations, is of greater beauty. Only as long as a person lives on earth does he have the opportunity to study Torah and fulfill the mitzvos, thus accumulating merits.

Hashem subsequently compels the soul to merge with the seed for which it was destined. Even before the fetus is formed, the angel inquires of Hashem "What shall be its fate?"

At that point, the entire future of the unborn child is preordained. Hashem determines whether it is to be male or female, whether he or she shall be healthy or suffer from some sickness or handicap, his appearance, the degree of his intelligence, as well as all his mental and physical capabilities. Moreover, all particulars of his circumstances are already decided - whether wealthy or poor, what shall he possess, and who will be his future spouse.

We see that all details of a person's life are predestined. However, there is one exception. Hashem does not decree whether someone will become a tzaddik or a rasha. Each one decides how to fashion himself by means of the faculties and capabilities that were pre-ordained for him.

A person should not feel pride in his intelligence, strength or money, for these qualities are not of his own achievement, rather they were Divinely decreed for him before birth. There is only one field of endeavour in which accomplishment results from the individual's effort - whether and to what extent he will study Hashem's greatness by delving into His Torah and emulating His ways. To the degree in which he succeeds in this endeavour, he has actually accomplished something for himself.

While still in the mother's womb, the child is taught the entire Torah. He is shown a vision of both Gan Eden and Gehinnom, and the angel in charge of him entreats him "Become a tzaddik! Do not become a rasha!" When the child enters the world, the angel strikes his lips, causing all the Torah knowledge previously imparted to him to be forgotten. [Nevertheless, that knowledge was absorbed by his subconscious mind, enabling him to retrieve it during his lifetime].

Source: The Midrash Says

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Seudah Moshiach

Acharon Shel Pesach, the last day of Pesach [this coming Shabbat] has a special connection to the coming of Moshiach and is celebrated accordingly, by partaking of Moshiach's Seudah [the meal of Moshiach..... sometimes known as the Third Seder]

The last day of Pesach  is celebrated by eating a special, festive banquet called Moshiach's seudah, a custom initiated by the Baal Shem Tov. The connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach is explained by the Tzemach Tzedek: "The last day of Pesach is the conclusion of that which began on the first night of Pesach. The first night of Pesach is our festival commemorating our redemption from Egypt by the Holy One, Blessed be He. It was the first redemption, carried out through Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the first redeemer; it was the beginning. The last day of Pesach is our festival commemorating the final redemption, when the Holy One, Blessed be He, will redeem us from the last exile through our righteous Moshiach, who is the final redeemer. The first day of Pesach is Moshe Rabbeinu's festival; the last day of Pesach is Moshiach's festival."

Pesach is the festival which celebrates freedom. The first day celebrates the redemption from the first exile; the last day celebrates the future redemption from the final exile. The two are intimately connected, the beginning and end of one process with G-d in the future redemption showing wonders "as in the days of your exodus from Egypt."

That Moshiach's festival is celebrated specifically on the last day of Pesach is not merely because Moshiach will redeem us from the last exile. Being last has a significance beyond mere numerical order, for that which is last performs a unique function. When the Jews journeyed in the desert after leaving Egypt, they marched in a specific order, divided into four camps. The last to march was the camp of Dan, which is described by Torah as "ma'asaf l'chol hamachanos" - "gatherer of all the camps." Rashi explains this as meaning that "The tribe of Dan...would journey last, and whoever would lose anything, it would be restored to him."

The concept of "gatherer of all the camps" - restoring lost property and making sure that nothing is missing - may be applied to various situations. The Baal Shem Tov, for example, taught that just as the Jews in the desert made forty-two journeys before they reached their final destination, Eretz Yisroel, so there are forty-two journeys in each Jew's individual life. The birth of a person corresponds to the initial journey when the Jews left the land of Egypt, and at each stage of life a Jew is somewhere in the middle of one of the forty-two journeys he must experience before he enters the next world.

Not only a person's entire life, but also every individual service to G-d has various stages or "journeys." In particular, the conclusion of a specific service acts as the "gatherer of all the camps" - to make sure that nothing is missing from that service. Pesach, it was noted earlier, is associated with the concept of redemption, and our service on Pesach is correspondingly directed towards hastening the arrival of the final redemption. But even if service on Pesach was deficient, if opportunities were missed, not all is lost: the last day of Pesach acts as "gatherer of all the camps" for the entire festival. Just as the tribe of Dan restored lost articles to their owners, so the last day of Pesach provides a Jew with the opportunity to rectify omissions in the service of Pesach, and thereby regain what is rightfully his.

Because Pesach is associated with the redemption through Moshiach and the last day of Pesach is the finish to and completion of Pesach, the last day of Pesach accordingly emphasizes the coming of Moshiach.

The notion of "gatherer of all the camps" applies not only to each individual Jew's life and service, but also to Jewry in general. The forty-two journeys between leaving Egypt and entering Eretz Yisroel took place in the desert, the "wilderness of the nations," which is an allusion to the period of exile when Jews sojourn amongst the nations of the earth. The forty-two journeys in the desert served as the means wherewith Jews left the limitations of Egypt.  Thus all the journeys undertaken until the Jews actually entered Eretz Yisroel may be viewed as part of the exodus from Egypt. So too with the journeys in the exile: until Jews merit the final redemption, they are still journeying to reach Eretz Yisroel.  In every generation, Jews are somewhere in the middle of one of those forty-two journeys.

As in the journeys in the desert, there is a "gatherer of all the camps" in the generations-long journey of Jews to the Messianic Era. Our present generation is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach," the last generation of exile. It is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations of Jews.

That this generation of exile is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations is not just because it is the last. Exile is not just punishment for sin.

The mission of Jews is to elevate and refine this corporeal world, to reveal G-dliness and to transform the physical into a dwelling place for G-d. Dispersed throughout the world in exile, Jews have been given the opportunity and the means to carry out this mission in all parts of the world.

This has been the Jews' task throughout their history. "Gatherer of all the camps" in this context means that if any portion of that task is missing, it now can be rectified. Thus the era of "gatherer of all the camps" is the era when the world will have been fully refined and G-dliness revealed: the Era of Moshiach.

It is for this reason that it is our generation which is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach" and "gatherer of all the camps." For the service of Jews throughout the generations has been all but completed, and only the finishing touches - "gatherer of all the camps" - is needed. We stand ready and prepared to greet Moshiach.

Moshiach, of course, could have come in previous generations. The Talmud, for example, relates that at the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, a cow lowed twice. The first time meant that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed; the second time meant that Moshiach was born. In other words, the potential Moshiach was born immediately after the destruction and had the Jews merited it then, he would have been the actual Moshiach.

Although Moshiach could have come in previous generations, the future redemption nevertheless has a greater connection to our generation - just as the idea of Moshiach is emphasized on the last day of Pesach,  although the whole of Pesach is associated with the future redemption. For both are the concept of "gatherer of all the camps" and we accordingly celebrate Moshiach's seudah specifically on the last day of Pesach.

There is still more to the connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. The prophet Yechezkel describes the exodus from Egypt - which took place on the first day of Pesach - as the birth of the Jewish nation.

The last day of Pesach, the eighth day, is therefore the day of the circumcision, which is "the beginning of the entry of the holy soul." Moshiach is the yechidah - the most sublime level of the soul - of the Jewish people. Until the body of Jewry has undergone circumcision it is not whole; its holy soul is missing. Moreover, the Alter Rebbe writes, the highest level of circumcision will take place in the future, when "The L-rd will circumcise your heart."

The Haftorah read on the last day of Pesach is also connected with the Messianic Era. It states: "The wolf will lie down with the lamb...He will raise a banner for the return...the earth will be full of the knowledge of the L-rd." All of these verses refer to the Messianic Era.

Thus the relationship between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. But why do we mark this relationship by eating a meal?

Belief in Moshiach is a cardinal tenet of the Jewish faith, enshrined as one of Rambam's thirteen principles of belief: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach; and although he may tarry, I will wait for him every day that he shall come." But abstract belief is not enough. Our intellectual awareness must be translated into concrete action - by eating of Moshiach's seudah. Moreover, the food from Moshiach's seudah becomes part of our flesh and blood, and our faith in, and yearning for Moshiach permeates not just the soul's faculties but also the physical body.

Moshiach's seudah was initiated by the Baal Shem Tov, and there is good reason why it was by him specifically. In a famous letter to his brother in law, R. Gershon of Kitov, the Baal Shem Tov tells of the time he experienced an elevation of the soul to the highest spheres. When he came to the abode of Moshiach, he asked, "When will the Master come?" to which Moshiach replied, "When your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside." In other words, it is the Baal Shem Tov's teachings - Chassidus - which will bring Moshiach, and it is therefore particularly appropriate that it was the Baal Shem Tov who initiated Moshiach's seudah on the last day of Pesach.

In the time of the Baal Shem Tov, the principal element of the seudah was matzah. The Rebbe Rashab, fifth Rebbe of Chabad, added the custom of drinking four cups of wine. Matzah is poor man's bread, flat and tasteless. Wine, in contrast, not only possesses taste, but induces joy and delight, to the extent that our Sages say, "Shirah [song] is said only over wine."

Chabad Chassidus conveys the concepts of Chassidus, first propounded by the Baal Shem Tov, in an intellectual framework, enabling them to be understood by a person's Chochmah [wisdom], Binah [knowledge], and Da'as [understanding] - ChaBaD. And when a person understands something - in this case the concepts of Chassidus - he enjoys it that much more. Chabad, in other words, introduced "taste" and "delight" into Chassidic doctrines, which until then were accepted primarily on faith alone.

The four cups of wine also allude to the Messianic Age, for which the dissemination of Chassidus - especially Chabad Chassidus - is the preparation. The four cups symbolize: the four expressions of redemption; the four cups of retribution G-d will force the nations of the world to drink; the four cups of comfort G-d will bestow upon the Jews; the four letters of G-d's Name which will be revealed; the four general levels of repentance.

[Source: Sichah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Acharon Shel Pesach, 5742]

Prophecy: Iran and Saudi Arabia: Moshiach

Update:  There may be a few errors in this blog post regarding the Yalkut Shimoni, thank you to Josh Waxman for bringing it to my attention - please see Parsha Blog for a critique with some extra information.

Today's News:

Iran sends navy vessels to waters off Yemen, raising stakes

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Iran dispatched a destroyer and another naval ship to waters off Yemen on Wednesday, raising the stakes amid a Saudi-led air campaign targeting Iranian-backed Shiite rebels fighting forces loyal to the country's embattled president.  The Iranian maneuver came as the U.S. deepened its support for the Saudi-led coalition, boosting weapons supplies and intelligence-sharing and carrying out the first U.S. aerial refueling mission of coalition fighter jets.


2,000 Year Old Prophecy

A medieval Jewish prophecy regarding the coming of Israel’s Messiah appears to correspond to the current situation in the Middle East.

A piece of rabbinic literature [written 2000 years ago] known as the Yalkut Shimoni touches on many future scenarios both for the nation of Israel and for the world. In its section on the biblical Book of Isaiah and the prophecies contained therein, a rabbi cited by the Yalkut Shimoni states:

“That the year the Messiah will arrive when all the nations of the world will antagonize each other and threaten with war. The king of Persia (Iran) antagonizes the King of Arabia (Saudi Arabia) with war. The King of Arabia goes to Edom (The Western Countries, headed by USA) for advice. Then the King of Persia destroys the world (and since that cannot be done with conventional weapons it must mean nuclear which can destroy most of the world). And all the nations of the world begin to panic and are afraid, and Israel too is afraid as to how to defend from this. G-d then says to them “Do not fear for everything that I have done is for your benefit, to destroy the evil kingdom of Edom and eradicate evil from this world so that the Messiah can come, your time of redemption is now.”

We can see examples of this prophecy unfolding – On September 25, 2007 Ahmadinejad spoke at the UN Assembly and said that “soon the regimes of the Western world will fall and be destroyed. This threat is not just an ideology, we know based on Israeli and world intelligence that Iran has a secret nuclear plant where it is producing nuclear warheads for their missiles.

Another interesting fact recently published in the world press is that astrologers see this winter as the “Nuclear Winter” in which the Western world will be destroyed by Iran with Nuclear weapons [which matches up with ancient prophecy].

This clearly indicates the pending probability of a Third World War, the likes which we have never seen before, to be initiated by Iran. Based on the Prophecy mentioned, the war will have three stages:

Stage One – President of Iran threatens and antagonizes the King of Saudi Arabia

Stage Two – The King of Saudi Arabia turns to the West for advice and protection.

Stage Three – Iran opens fire, starts Third World War and destroys the West.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Suffering and Debt - Zol Zein a kapara

Dovid HaMelech in Sefer Tehillim [Psalms 25:18] makes the following request of Hashem: “Look at my affliction and toil and bear all my sins.”

The seventh bracha of the Amidah, “Re’ah [Na] V’anyenu” ["Look… at our afflictions"] closely parallels this passage in Tehillim, and it is, in fact, the only bracha in the Amidah where we ask Hashem to “look” at something for us.

It is said in the name of the Apter Rav that if a person is suffering, he should affirmatively acknowledge and state “may my pain and suffering be a kapara [atonement] for all of my sins”. In this way, a person acknowledges that the purpose of his suffering or affliction is not meaningless or some kind of torture, but to achieve redirection and/or atonement. With this affirmative acknowledgement, the kapara is achieved.

"Gam zu le'tova" : this too is for the best

"Zol zein a kapara" : it should be accepted as a recompense for punishment.


Rebbe Nachman said : "There are sins whose punishment is debt. One who is punished for such a sin is constantly in debt. All the merit in the world does not erase his punishment. He can do every possible good, still he must remain in debt.

These sins can even cause others to fall into debt. When such transgressions become common, there are many debtors in the world.

The remedy for this is to repent in general for all your sins. Even though you do not know what sin is causing these debts, repent in general and ask G-d to also save you from this particular sin.

If the Torah were written in order, we would know the precise reward and punishment for each commandment."

[Rebbe Nachman]

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

The Immense Challenges of the Present Exile

The Maharal states in Netzach Yisrael: "In order for the new state of Redemption to be born the previous state must first dissolve." 

His descendant, Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, added [in Torah Ohr] that this is why shortly before the Jews were redeemed from Egypt, the exile worsened. 

In preparation for the new revelation at the Giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai, whatever light remained had to be withdrawn. 

His great-great grandson the Rebbe Rashab explains in a Chassidic discourse that during the final exile, it is our task to elevate the highest sparks that have fallen the lowest. 

This is the reason for the immense challenges that we face during the present exile. 

[L'maan Yishmeu]

Monday, April 6, 2015

Reaching Out and Beyond

The Chasidah [white stork]

 וְאֵת הַחֲסִידָה  "The chasidah" [Shemini 11:19]

Why is its name chasidah (literally meaning "kind one") asks Rashi. "Because it does kindness with its companions with food."

According to the Ramban, said the Chiddushei HaRim (R' Yitzchak Meir Alter of Gur), the reason why the nonkosher birds are not kosher is because of their cruel nature.  If so, the chasidah should have been a kosher-type bird; after all, it bestows kindness upon its companions!

The chasidah acts kindly towards its companions, answered the rebbe, but it does not act kindly toward anyone else. This is why it is considered not kosher.

The following was submitted by a reader: [thank you!]

A lesson we can learn from the Chasida

by: A. Faynberg

In Parshat Shemini which is read after Pesach, we are presented with a list of the Kosher and non-kosher birds and animals, among which is the chasida, translated as the Cinconia, a non-kosher bird from the stork family. Rashi explains that the reason this bird is called the Chasida is because it does chesed, showing kindness to its friends by sharing its food with them. If so, it would only seem proper that such a bird should be classified among the kosher species, as according to the Ramban (Ramban on Vayikra 11:19), the state of impurity which exists among the species of birds, stems from their attribute of cruelty.

The commentator, the Chidushei Harim zatzal explains in Wellsprings of Torah, compiled by Rabbi Alexander Zusha Friedman Hy"d, that since this chasida only does kindness with its own friends, and does not share its food with those outside of its own circle, it is unworthy of being classified as a kosher bird and is therefore impure. If Rashi points out the attribute of kindness found in the Chasida although it is a non-kosher bird, there must be an important lesson for us to learn.

The explanation given by the Chidushei Harim gives us a broader understanding of the true meaning of chesed. We see that doing chesed only with those who are part of our own circle while excluding and pushing others away is in fact looked down upon. True chesed is reaching out and beyond our own circle even if this involves some discomfort; it means being accepting of those who follow the derech and mesorah of Rabbanim from other backgrounds as well.

This could be applied both on an individual and communal level. On an individual level, we find it easier to do chesed with those who perhaps share the same character traits, goals and interests and a similar standard of living with us. On a communal level, this holds true as well. It is far easier for us to reach out to those within our own sector who share a similar outlook as we do on matters of religion and politics. However, the challenge is to reach out and beyond our own individual and communal circles. We must aspire to do chesed lovingly, reaching out with compassion also to those who do not share our social and religious criteria, without being judgmental.

We are capable of doing so and have proven that it's possible for us to break through all barriers and rise above our differences. We've proven that it's possible for us to step out of our own limited zone and reach out towards those who are not exactly like us. We proved it when our three precious bachurim were abducted in Israel and we Jews worldwide were united in prayer, taking upon ourselves many meaningful and great acts in hope for their safe return. We proved we can reach out and beyond our own individual and communal circles during this past war in Gaza where Jews of all circles came to the aid of one another both spiritually and practically. We all prayed for the well-being and safe return of the soldiers, and many went out of their way to arrange the delivery of food supplies and other basic necessities for them. Many attended the funerals of lone soldiers to show their solidarity and others concerned themselves with and attended to the needs of the residents living in fear and danger under a constant barrage of rockets in the south.

We do not need a tragic event or a bitter war to awaken us and remind us that we are one nation. Our enemies yimach shemam know this well and do not differentiate between us when they carry out terror attacks or shoot missiles and rockets at us. We may have forgotten this during the recent elections that took front stage in Israel when the public was exposed to endless degrading statements and remarks of one party or one politician against the other. We are all one nation and our moments of conflict and dispute are only a part of our external crust, but when we peel that off, we get to the inner core of who we really are – a nation who lives by ideals of loyalty, kindness, compassion and love towards the other.

We can and should be united in good and peaceful times too. The navi tells us (Yeshayah 11:6) that during the time of Moshiach “a wolf will dwell together with a sheep, and a leopard and young goat will lie down beside each other,” which is a vivid description of the ultimate peace which will prevail among all the different species during that era. There will no longer be any carnivores preying on herbivores and Hashem's entire creation will live in harmony. A question arises: During the flood in Noach's generation, we also find that the animals existed in peace and harmony and did not devour each other, so what then is so special about the time of Mashiach when such a phenomenon will recur? I recall hearing an explanation in the name of Rav Shimshon Rephael Hirsch Zatzal that during the flood in Noach's generation, uniting with one another was easier and more desirable since there was a common danger outside the Ark, so uniting was necessary for everyone's survival. However, the real test and challenge behind our ability to unite is during a time of ultimate peace, during the time of Mashiach when we won't be facing any common threat or danger from the outside world.

We are all Hashem's children and each of us is precious in His eyes. It is not our duty to evalutate the exact and true worth of another Jew, nor are we capable of doing so, but if we search carefully, we'll find something positive in each individual and in each community. The Gemara (Taanis 31a) says that when Moshiach comes, HakadoshBaruch Hu will sit all the tzaddikim in a circle and “He” will be in the center. I recall hearing that as in a circle, where the radius — the distance from any given point to the center — is always equal, so too all tzaddikim will sit at an equal distance from our common Center, pointing and declaring in unison:

“This is Hashem!” They will say, “This is Hashem for Whom we hoped; let us rejoice in His salvation!”

Friday, April 3, 2015

Jews Outside of Israel: A video from Moishela


This is Part 3 of a set of videos from Moishela, the autistic boy in Israel. Links to Parts 1 and 2 are below.


Part One here

Part Two here

Blood Moon Predictions by Great Rabbi

A mystic rabbi living in southern Israel is urging all Jews to pray and repent as the third Blood Moon of a tetrad cycle approaches.

Rabbi Amram Vaknin, who similarly predicted the events of the Gaza flotilla and the Carmel forest fire in 2010, and Operations Pillar of Defense (2012) and Protective Edge (2014), warns that Israel is facing great judgment and potential danger at this time.

One of Rabbi Vaknin’s students, Gil Nachman, spoke to Breaking Israel News and, quoting the sage, explained that the numeric value of the Hebrew word for blood, dam, which is 44, alludes to the 44th president of the United States.

Vaknin predicted that the 44th president would bring bloodshed (dam) to the Jewish people. It should be noted that the rabbi made this prediction before President Barack Obama’s election to office. [Also see Obama and the Evil at the End of Days]

Vaknin believes that only 44 plus one, or 45, can counter the danger represented by the blood moons. This, he says, is Adam, or Man, which in this case refers to the Messiah.

The repeated number four is also noteworthy, as in addition to the value of 44 and the four Blood Moons of the tetrad, this will be the shortest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century, lasting a mere four minutes, 44 seconds.  [Note: According to this link, it will last 3 hours 29 mins]

Read more at Breaking Israel News

 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Mah Nishtanah: Gad Elbaz

Blood Moon Rising


This Total Lunar Eclipse or "Blood Moon", is on April 4, 2015 and will be visible in most of North America, South America, Asia and parts of Australia. The Moon will be totally eclipsed (totality) for about 5 minutes. From beginning to end, it will last for 3 hours and 29 mins. This is the third eclipse in the 2014–2015 tetrad.

Full details of eclipse:  4 April 2015 - Total Lunar Eclipse

Blood Moon Tetrad Calling: Passover 5775 Lunar Eclipse - Blood Moon Tetrad Calling Your Name!

Jewish Holiday Moons:  4 Blood Moons Coming On 4 Jewish Holidays Might Have MAJOR Implications

Iran: ''Israel's Destruction is Non-Negotiable''

Statement by Benyamin Netanyahu [video]

 

'Erasing Israel Off the Map' Is 'Nonnegotiable'

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Para Adumah

I'm a bit late with this one, but wanted to blog it once I'd watched it.