Friday, September 30, 2016

Rosh Hashanah 5777


I would like to wish all my readers a Shana Tova - may you all be written in the Book of Life for good things, and may we all merit to see the coming of Moshiach .

If I have offended anyone by anything I have published or written, please treat this as a personal apology.

IY''H I'll be back after YomTov.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lekach



Lekach is a sweet cake, traditionally made with honey.  It is customary to ask for and receive "lekach" from someone [usually one's mentor or parent] on the day before Yom Kippur.   One of the reasons given for this custom is that if it had been decreed, G‑d forbid, that during the year we should need to resort to a handout from others, the decree should be satisfied with this asking for food.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe used to hand out Lekach each year on erev Yom Kippur, or for those who did not receive it then, on Hoshannah Rabbah.

To read more about the reasons for this custom, click here.

Below is my recipe for a Rosh Hashanah chocolate honey cake, which is incredibly easy to make, you just place all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and bake.  If possible, buy Organic Honey as some of the big brand honeys are allegedly mixed with toxic honey from China.  [There is currently a court action against this allegation, which has been denied by the company involved, but I already threw out my possibly toxic honey and replaced it with organic.]

These quantities make a very large cake, or two smaller cakes.  Note: this is a very large cake, you may want to halve the ingredients and make two loaf cakes instead.

One Bowl Chocolate Honey Cake

500g honey
3 eggs
One and a half cups sugar [I use raw caster sugar]
3/4 cup oil [I use lite olive oil]
1 teaspoon vanilla essence            
3 cups self-raising flour*
One and a half cups water
3 tablespoons of cocoa powder

Place all ingredients into electric mixing bowl, beat until well combined. The mixture appears to be too liquid, but don't worry, that is how it's meant to be.  Pour into large foil tray [or two smaller cake tins] and bake for approx 75 mins [large size] or 55 mins [smaller cakes] at 350°F - 180°C.  Cooking times may vary depending on your oven.

*If you are using general purpose flour, you will need to add a teaspoon each of baking powder and bicarb soda.  I prefer the convenience of self-raising flour.

Also see The Healing Powers of Apples and Honey

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Judge Yourself before Judging Others



There is a wellknown saying that if you go to Court, you should do so '''with clean hands''.  In other words, if you are guilty of a wrong-doing, and then you take another party to Court, you will not only be judged accordingly in this world, but you will also be judged in Heaven before the other party is judged.

As the Ben Ish Chai wrote:

"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!  [See: Judgments Above and Below]

And also as we see here:

 "You are guilty of the injustice done to me," said the childless Sarah to Avraham when she sensed that Hagar, the maidservant Sarah had given to him as a wife, stopped respecting her after Hagar became pregnant. Sarah was outraged that Avraham had remained silent as Hagar abused her, and she concluded her charge with the words "Let Hashem judge between us!" [Bereishet 16:5]

This summoning of Heavenly judgment, says Rabbi Chanan in our gemara, boomerangs against the initiator, who is punished by Heaven even before the accused is. The proof is that Sarah died before Avraham, who "came to eulogize Sarah and weep over her." [Bereishet 23:2]

The impropriety of summoning Heavenly judgment, qualifies the gemara, is only in a situation where there is an alternative of seeking justice in a court here on earth. What alternative existed for Sarah, who is cited as the classical example of such impropriety?

Tosefot explains that she had the alternative of bringing her complaint against Avraham before the court of Shem, the son of Noach. Rabbeinu Nissim [Rosh Hashanah 16b] offers another approach. Even if Sarah had no court to turn to, she was wrong in not first bringing her complaint to her husband before summoning Heavenly judgment against him.

Heavenly judgment improperly summoned by the wounded party is a two-edged sword. Hashem declared that if the victim cries out to Him the outcry will be heeded and there will be severe consequences [Shmot 22:22-23]. The implication is that both the accuser and the accused will be punished, but the first to suffer will be the accuser. Maharsha points out that in the case of Sarah, her husband was punished with the loss of his wife, for the greatest tragedy of a person's death is suffered by the bereaved spouse. But her punishment of death preceded his punishment, for his grief began only when he returned to Hebron and became aware of her passing.

An interesting historical footnote to this chapter is provided by Ramban in his commentary on Torah. Sarah's oppression of Hagar, and Avraham's consent to her action which eventually forced her to flee, was improper. As a result "Hashem heeded her pain and gave her a son [Yishmael] who would be a wild man oppressing the descendants of Avraham and Sarah in so many ways."

[Source: Bava Kama 93a]

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Why Tishrei ?



What is the reason that it was decided to judge the world in the month of Tishrei?

This is because the conduct of Hashem is not like the conduct of people; It is the trait of people to judge their friends when they are in a favorable mood, and their enemies when they are annoyed. However, Hashem judges the entire world in a favorable time, in the month of Tishrei, which has many holidays and mitzvot. [Rabbi David Hanania Pinto]

Monday, September 26, 2016

Where is the Shechina Now?

Unknown Photographer


"Yeisei V'Lo Achminei" - let Moshiach come but do not let me be alive to see him [Sanhedrin 98b].

Rebbi Yochanan said that he'd give up the privilege of greeting Moshiach in order to avoid living through the terrible days of the Ikvisa D'Mishicha. With the Geula so close at hand why will they be worse than the rest of the Galus?

Rav Yehonoson Eibshitz says that since the Shechina is with us in the Galus we are protected. However at the end of the Galus when it is time for us to return to Eretz Yisroel, the Shechina will need to leave the galus and come to Eretz Yisroel to prepare and facilitate our return. During those waning days of the Galus, we will be left on our own without protection and endless tragedies will befall us. Only then will we realize how fortunate we were to have the Shechina with us.

How does Rav Yehonoson Eibshitz know that the Shechina will return to Eretz Yisroel before us?

The pasuk [Nitzavim 30:3] says, וְשָׁב וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים.  Chazal tell us that the word וְשָׁב, which means ''He will return'', proves that Hashem is with us in the Galus, or else it should say "V'Heishiv"- ''He will return us''. 

Rav Yehonoson Eibshitz says that we see from here that first וְשָׁב, Hashem will return to Eretz Yisroel.   Only after the groundwork is laid, וְקִבֶּצְךָ מִכָּל הָעַמִּים, will He bring us back from among the nations.

Source: Revach L'Neshama

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Dreams and Mazal - What do they really mean?

Rabbi Alon Anava

In this lecture Rabbi Anava explains what Dreams and Mazal really mean and what is actually happening in the spiritual realms and how it relates to us on a physical level!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Nibiru: Tamar Yonah Interviews Rabbi Alon Anava

Yahrzeit: 21 Elul - Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz

Source: Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita

Even as a child, people could see that the gaon Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz was destined to become a great figure in Israel. Originally from the Polish city of Krakow, the name “Eibeshutz” comes from the city where his father, Rabbi Nathan Neta, served as Rav. 

Rabbi Yehonatan had an extraordinary memory and an extremely sharp mind. Well-educated and possessing deep insight, these two attributes supported him during complex discussions in every field of Torah. Witnessing to this fact are his halachic works Kereti OuPeleti [on the Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah] and Urim VeTummim [on the Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat]. In his thought-provoking works Ya’arot Devash, Ahavat Yehonatan, and Keshet Yehonatan, he reveals himself to be a commentator who “draws closer with his arm those who are far.” 

The gaon Rabbi Yechezkel Landau Zatzal, author of Noda B’Yehuda, said of him: “Who in his generation knows how to reprimand like him?” His reprimands addressed the weaknesses of the generation. He protested against Lashon Harah, coarse language, frivolity, praying without concentration, shaving the beard, and immorality.
Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz

He combined gematriot and allusions in his sermons, and in his book Tiferet Yehonatan on the haphtarot, he reprimanded those who shaved. He wrote that the cry of the Prophet Isaiah, “Am zu [This people] which I have fashioned for Myself, yesaperu [they shall declare] My praise” [Isaiah 43:21] pertains to them. In other words: The people for whom I created zu [numerical value: 13] rows of hair in the beard, so that the beard may be My glory, it is what will declare [yesaperu, which also means “to shave”].

Nevertheless, despite these harsh reprimands, he expressed great admiration for the Jewish people, “Israel, in whom I glory” [Isaiah 49:3]. “The Children of Israel are above the wings of the Shechinah, and they shine in exile. In darkness we have seen a light. The idol-worshippers humiliate them, and this holy people accords no importance to their faith. He who is wise of heart, let him open his eyes to fully understand their unity, for the Children of Israel are alert, even in times of trouble, and therefore absolute unity is the truth.”

Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz was a prolific writer. He left behind 98 works, most of which are still in manuscript form and can be found in various libraries around the world.

Besides his greatness in Torah, Rabbi Yehonatan was also versed in the sciences and respected by prominent non-Jews for his riddles, vast intelligence, and great insight.

The Jewish People Live Forever

Numerous communities had the chance of having him as their Rav. In each place that he served as Rav, Rabbi Yehonatan elevated the Torah and encouraged those who were faithful to Torah and mitzvot. Thus for example, it is said that a Bishop once enacted a decree expelling Jews from the city of Metz. When Rabbi Yehonatan learned of it, he went to find the Bishop and asked him to annul the decree. The Bishop read a phrase from a non-Jewish book to him, and said that he would not annul the decree unless the Rav gave him the correct answers to the following questions:

“How many words are in the phrase that I just read to you?”

“Seventeen words,” replied the Rav, “the same number of letters as in the saying: ‘The Jewish people live forever.’ ”

Stunned by this response, the Bishop continued:

“How many Jews live in this city?”

“Forty-five thousand, seven hundred, and sixty.”

The Bishop lowered his head and said, “You are known for your amazing amulets. Take some parchment paper, the size of that found in a mezuzah at the entrance of your homes. On it, write the expression that you just mentioned the same number of times as the Jews who live in this city. If you show me this parchment within the hour, I will annul the decree!”

Rabbi Yehonatan answered him with certitude: “The G-d of Israel can do anything! The number of letters in this expression is also 17!”

In fact Rabbi Yehonatan left, and within an hour he brought the Bishop a parchment the size of a mezuzah. On it was the expression, “The Jewish people live forever.”

For several minutes, the Bishop carefully thought about what was written, and then he rescinded his expulsion order. It is said that for an entire year, he described the number of ways to read “the Jewish people live forever” on the amulet, to the point that he believed that Rabbi Yehonatan was right!

Three Great Communities

After tremendous activity in the city of Metz for nine years, Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz was appointed as the Av Beit Din of the three great communities of Altona, Wandsbek, and Hamburg. These three cities were considered as a single community, to the point that people applied the following verse to them: “For Hashem has chosen Zion; He desired [avah] it for His habitation” [Tehillim 132:13] – avah being formed by the initials of the three cities.

During the time that he served as the Rav of Prague, a prohibition was enacted against the printing of the Talmud. It also prohibited the importing of the Talmud from abroad. It once happened that a certain Jew was caught secretly bringing in eight Gemaras with the commentary of the Rif. The books were ordered burned, and the man was sentenced to clean the streets of the city for an entire year, all while in chains. Since the honor of Rabbi Yehonatan was dear to all the civil and religious leaders of Prague, he succeeded in obtaining permission to print the Talmud, something that wasn’t easy to do. In his wisdom, he dismissed the numerous arguments of the Bishops against the Talmud. The Bishops, however, placed a condition on the printing of the Talmud, namely that every teaching it contained which shamed their religious should be suppressed, and that the name “Talmud” should not appear in it. Thus tractate Berachot was printed under the name of “Hilchot Berachot” along with the Rosh, the Maharshal and the Maharsha, and the commentaries of the Rambam [Prague 5477]. These deletions were authorized by Beit Din of Prague, which was headed by Rabbi David Oppenheim.

Rabbi Yehonatan Eibeshutz lived until the age of 74, passing away on Elul 21.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Watch Your Mouth

Ever since I heard Rabbi Kessin's Power of Speech I have been on guard for things I may say that could be considered Lashon Hara.  It is quite astounding [to use Rabbi Kessin's word] how many times we inadvertently say things that fall into this category, and generally we don't realize it.  But.... once you start focussing on it, it becomes quite painful to hear yourself speaking!

I can't over-estimate the insights gained from that shiur.  And please don't think it's just another boring lecture about watching your words, because it is actually a mind-blowing lesson in how the judgments of the world are handed down.  If you haven't listened to it, do yourself a favour, it will change your life, in so many ways, and you and your family will reap the rewards.

On this topic, here are a couple of instances of what NOT to say:

Know as well that in regard to the prohibition against rechilut [talebearing], it makes no difference if we tell Reuven what So-and-so said about him, or if we tell Reuven’s wife or relatives what So-and-so said about him. In either case, they will certainly be upset, and they will resent So-and-so as a result. Hence even if we have warned them not to tell anyone, it is still considered rechilut.

If Levi tells Reuven something negative about Shimon, and Reuven then goes and tells it to Shimon (thus breaking the prohibition against Rechilut [talebearing]), Shimon is forbidden to ask Levi: “Why did you say that about me?” In doing so, Shimon would be speaking Rechilut about Reuven. Even if he does not say that he heard it from Reuven, if it is easy to deduce that fact, then it is forbidden.

Source: Chofetz Chaim

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

How to Prepare for the New Year


Rabbi Alon Anava : In this lecture Rabbi Anava teaches us the step by step process on how to prepare for the awesome days of Elul leading into Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur so we can attain the utmost from this most auspicious time.

Chai Elul

Art Baruch Nachshon

"Chai Elul" -- the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Elul -- is a most significant date on the Chassidic calendar. The founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, was born on this date, in 1698. It is also the day, 36 years later, on which the Baal Shem Tov began to publicly disseminate his teachings, after many years as a member of the society of "hidden tzaddikim" during which he lived disguised as a simple innkeeper and clay-digger, his greatness known only to a very small circle of fellow mystics and disciples.

 Elul 18 is also the birthday -- in 1745 -- of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, who often referred to himself as the Baal Shem Tov's "spiritual grandson" [Rabbi Schneur Zalman was the disciple of Rabbi Israel's disciple, Rabbi DovBer of Mezeritch]. After gaining fame as a child prodigy and young Talmudic genius, Rabbi Schneur Zalman journeyed to Mezeritch to study under the tutelage of the Baal Shem Tov's successor--as he later explained, "to study I knew somewhat, but I needed to learn how to pray"--and was soon accepted into the intimate circle of Rabbi DovBer's leading disciples. Rabbi Schneur Zalman established the "Chabad" branch of Chassidism, which emphasizes in-depth study and intense contemplation as the key to vitalizing the entire person, from sublime mind to practical deed.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

The True Power of Speech - Rabbi Mendel Kessin



"Cursed is he who secretly strikes his fellowman" [Ki Tavo 27:24] Rashi explains that this curse refers to one who speaks lashon hora - when someone speaks evil, he secretly "strikes" his fellowman.

Rabbi Mendel Kessin presents a two part video series on the power of speech.  I highly recommend listening to this shiur before Rosh Hashanah - you will be truly enlightened, about the way lashon hara works against you, causes you damages, and how it prevents Moshiach coming.  Listen to this, and you will understand....





Monday, September 19, 2016

True Tefillin

Art: Alex Levin

"And all the nations of the earth will see that Hashem's Name is displayed upon you, and they will revere you" [Ki Tavo 28:10]

In Maseches Berachos [6a], Chazal expound on the above verse: "From where do we know that tefillin are a source of might for Israel? - From the verse "And all the nations of the earth will see that Hashem's Name is displayed upon you, and they will revere you". And it was taught: R' Eliezer HaGadol said "these are the tefillin of the head [sheba' rosh]."

The Sha'agas Aryeh [R' Aryeh Leib from Metz] was once travelling. Throughout the trip he wore his tallis and tefillin and engaged in Torah study.

The wagon driver was also wearing his tallis and tefillin - he was praying while steering the horses.

Suddenly, a band of armed robbers jumped out from the forest and attacked the wagon; they demanded that the driver stop the wagon and hand over all of his money.

The driver was terribly frightened. "Rebbe" he screamed, "we're in danger!"

The Sha'agas Aryeh heard the screaming coming from up front, so he stuck his head out the window to see what was happening. But when the ordinarily bold thieves took one look at the Sha'agas Aryeh, they were overcome with fear and immediately fled.

"Rebbe" asked the driver, "I am both younger and stronger than you. Yet it was you whom the thieves were terrified of. Why did the robbers run away when they saw you?"

"The robbers did not run because of my strength" answered the Sha'agas Aryeh, "but because of the tefillin on my head!"

"But I am also wearing tefillin" responded the driver. "Why did the thieves not run away from me?"

The Sha'agas Aryeh explained: "The Torah says "and all the nations of the earth will see that Hashem's Name is displayed upon you, and they will revere you". The Gemara quotes R' Eliezer HaGadol who teaches that this verse is referring to the tefillin of the head [sheba'rosh]. If you read the words of Chazal carefully, you will notice that Chazal did not say "tefillin she'al ha'rosh" [tefillin that rest on one's head]; rather "tefillin sheba'rosh" [tefillin that are inside one's head]. The holiness of the tefillin must be absorbed into one's head, and then it instills fear into the nations of the world. But if the tefillin are simply lying on top of one's head, then the nations of the world do not fear us at all.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Spiritual Beings in Physical Bodies



"that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket" [Ki Tavo 26:2]

First fruits represent the Jewish souls, as the Midrash teaches that the Divine Thought to create Jewish souls "preceded everything" [Bereishis Rabah 1:4]. In this respect, Jewish souls are "first" and cherished in a way similar to first fruits.

When the soul is in Heaven, before it enters a body, it enjoys an intense, ecstatic relationship with G-d.  Nevertheless, the soul is sent down to earth in a body which conceals its relationship with G-d.  This is not without profit since, through this descent, the soul is able to carry out a mission in the physical world, which can eventually result in an even more intense relationship with G-d.  For G-d's innermost "desire" is for His mitzvot to be carried out specifically in the physical world.

This is the lesson from the requirement of first fruits being placed in a basket.  Although the fruits are the finest and first of the crop, they cannot achieve perfection without a basket.

Likewise, the Jewish soul, which is G-d's highest priority, cannot achieve perfection without coming down into a physical body, in a world of concealment and temptation, because it is precisely through that descent that an even greater ascent is achieved.

Source: Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe vol 29

Also see: Yerida L'tzorich Aliya: Descent for the Purpose of Ascent

Friday, September 16, 2016

Remez!

One of the most interesting blog posts I read this week was the Geula Update from Rav Fish Ki Teitze which contained some fascinating insights into computers and the coming of Moshiach.  

Amongst other things, Rav Fish writes [translated by Yaak]: Going deeper to explain the connection between the kelipa of computers and the kelipa of Armilus who enclothes Mashiah: As it's known that according to the size of the kelipa, one knows the size of the holy spark inside. And the holy spark of computers is Mashiah - that is that computers came to the world at the End of Days since they are needed to be a support for Torah during the coming of Mashiah, and especially the Torah of "Remez".

So what is ''Remez''?  Remez is the different hints and allusions which are contained within the Torah. One of the methodologies the Torah employs to make these hints is gematria, the numerical value of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.  See Chabad for more on this.


It is written, “For it is not an empty thing for you” [Devarim 32:47]. The numerical value of these words is equal to that of the term ''gematriot'' (numerical values). From here the book Tosefet Beracha deduces that the gematriot of the Torah’s words are not insignificant, “For it is not an empty thing for you.” Furthermore, even without this, we see that our Sages often took gematriot into account. Finally, gematriot are among the 32 methods of interpreting the Torah listed by Rabbi Eliezer, the son of Rabbi Yossi Hagalili. [by Rabbi David Pinto Shlita]

There are several different ways of calculating the gematriot of a word or phrase, I'm not going to go into them all here but above you can see a diagram of the basic values of the Hebrew letters.


I have a lot of information here in older blog posts which you can access by clicking the labels on GEMATRIA, TORAH CODES and VILNA GAON below this post.


Thursday, September 15, 2016

The Torah perspective on Moshiach and the ''end of the world''.



What is the end of the world going to look like?  How do ''good deeds' bring the Redemption? Will the end be violent or peaceful?  In this video from 2011 Rabbi Simon Jacobson discusses Moshiach and the Future Redemption.


 

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Unconscious Mitzvah

Art Gerhard Nesvadba


''....when you forget a bundle in the field...'' [Ki Teitzei 24:19]

Why should a person be blessed for performing a mitzvah if he unwittingly - and even unwillingly - drops money on the floor, which is later found by a poor person? [see Rashi v.19]

Chassidic thought explains that every Jew, regardless of his status and station, is essentially willing to do all that he is commanded to do by our Torah.  The fact that he might sometimes be influenced to do otherwise is because  his conscious state can be affected by external pressures that induce states of mind and even behaviour which is contrary to his essential nature [Rambam, Laws of Divorce 2:20]

Therefore, if he performs a mitzvah which was not consciously intended, it is nevertheless an act that is consistent with his inner, subconscious desire.  In fact, what has actually occurred here is that his subconscious mind has been able to influence his actions directly, without passing through the conscious state.

So, if a person drops money which is later found by a poor person, he has done an action which is commensurate with his true, inner desire to serve G-d, and therefore he is blessed because of it.

Based on Sefer Hama'amarim Mehukat vol 5 p 50 Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

A Guard Rail for Your Ego

Photo Geof Kern


When you build a new house, you shall make a guard rail for your roof... [Ki Teitze 22:8]

 A roof, being the highest part of any structure, alludes to the ego, which gives a person an elevated impression of himself.

Thus, in order to prevent a person from ''falling off his roof'' by allowing his feelings of swollen self-esteem to degenerate into selfishness, we are warned to ''make a guard-rail for your roof'' - to carefully control and temper the ego with ''guard-rails''.

Based on Likutei Sichos vol 24 p 140 Lubavitcher Rebbe


Monday, September 12, 2016

Blame It On The Tree





When Rav Moshe Kordevero [the Ramak] was niftar [deceased] in Tzfat, he was the leading kabbalist of his generation, and he had many students. He authored many seforim [books] on Kabalah including the classic Mussar Sefer Tomer Devorah.

Before his passing, his talmidim asked him who they will learn with after he passes on. He said the person who sees a pillar of fire above my Aron, he is the one who will lead you. That person turned out to be a little known recent immigrant from Mitzrayim named Rav Yitzchak Luria, better know as the Arizal. 

After realizing that the Arizal saw the pillar, the people asked him to say a hesped [eulogy] on the niftar.  The Arizal said that the pasuk says [Ki Teitzei 21:22], ''וְכִי יִהְיֶה בְאִישׁ חֵטְא מִשְׁפַּט מָוֶת וְהוּמָת וְתָלִיתָ אֹתוֹ עַל עֵץ" And if a man commits a sin worthy of death, he is put to death, and you should hang him on a tree." 

The Arizal explained that the word ''Ish'' means a tzadik. The word "Chait" means lacking. In other words if there is a tzadik whose actions do not warrant him to die because he has no aveirot [sins], yet he dies anyway - וְתָלִיתָ אֹתוֹ עַל עֵץ - blame it on the tree. His death was only because Adam and Chava ate from the Eitz HaDaas [Tree of Knowledge]. For if not, this tzadik would have lived forever.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

The Most Difficult





"When you go out to war against your enemies" [Ki Teitzei 21:10]

"The most difficult war of all" remarked the Chofetz Chaim, "is man's war against his yetzer hara."

In his youth, R' Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky [the Steipler Gaon] was conscripted into the Russian army.

It was not easy serving in the Russian army. He was surrounded by numerous anti-Semites and he often had to stand guard in sub zero temperatures. 

Despite the difficult circumstances, the Steipler used great cunning and devised various strategies that enabled him to observe the Sabbath.

It was so cold outdoors that whoever was on guard duty was given a special, thick coat to wear during his shift. But there was only one such coat, so the soldiers took turns wearing it.

One Shabbos eve, when the Steipler came to do his guard duty, the soldier who was wearing the coat took it off and, instead of handing it to the Steipler, hung it on a tree.

The Steipler now stood trembling in the freezing cold, and he was unsure as to what he should do. It was already Shabbos, and removing an item from a tree on the Sabbath is forbidden. On the other hand, without his coat he would freeze.

Five minutes, he thought. Let me see if I can bear not wearing the coat for just five minutes. If, after five minutes, I feel as if I simply cannot stand the cold, then I will retrieve the coat; after all, this is a life-threatening predicament.

Five minutes passed, as the Steipler stood shivering in the bitter cold. Another five minutes, he thought. I'll wait five more minutes and then I'll get the coat.

Another five minutes passed, then another, and yet another, until the night had passed and the guard on the next shift came to relieve him.

The Steipler had not moved from his place the entire night, nor had he transgressed any of the holy day's sanctified commandments.

The war against one's yetzer hara is a most difficult one. The way to emerge victorious is by devising clever strategies. Yet one should not attempt to overcome his yetzer hara all at once, for that will prove to be too difficult. Rather, he should progress gradually, taking a step-by-step approach, as the verse states: "Thoughts conceived in counsel will be firm; wage war with strategies" [Mishlei 20:18]

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Q & A from Moshiach Video: Rabbi Alon Anava



Following on from yesterday's video on Moshiach, here are the questions and answers for this lecture.

A quote from the video ''Money is going to be worthless in a few weeks'' and at 27:20 he explains Planet X.


Sunrise over Bondi

If you are a sunrise watcher, have you noticed the extra red glow lately?  
Photo by Bondi Harvest 09/09/16 




Thursday, September 8, 2016

Do You Believe Moshiach Is Coming? - by Rabbi Alon Anava

This is a new shiur from Rabbi Alon Anava, recorded in Great Neck, although you may have heard him speak on this topic previously.
See comments for further information on this lecture.


One Small Step, One Giant Leap

Art - The Garden of Melancholia: Mike Worrall

from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan


There was once a tzaddik who became very depressed and melancholy. This depression caused the tzaddik great difficulty, and it became worse and worse. He fell into lassitude and heaviness, where it was literally impossible for him to move.

He wanted to make himself happy and uplift himself, but it was impossible for him to do anything. Whenever he found something that would make him happy, the Evil One would find sadness in it. Therefore it was impossible for him to do anything to make himself happy, since in everything he found sadness.

He pondered G-d's kindness that "He did not make me a heathen" and realized that this could be a source of great joy, without any sadness.

{The main thing is to make a small beginning. G-d said "Open for Me like the eye of a needle, and I will open for you like the gates of the Temple" [Shir HaShirim Rabbah 5:3]. Thus, no matter how low a person is, if he makes even a single motion to serve G-d, it is something very great on high, and it can bring him back completely. [Likutey Halakhoth, Tefillin 5:43]  The main thing is to make the first move. If one begins even a little bit, one can go very high}

When a person tries to find joy in something that he himself did, it is possible to find sadness in every joy. No matter what he does, he can find shortcomings, and he will not be able to uplift himself and be happy. But in the fact that "He did not make me a heathen" there is no sadness. This is from G-d, G-d made him the way He did, and had pity on him, not making him a heathen. Since this was G-d's deed, there are no shortcomings in it, and hence there is no defect in this rejoicing. No matter what, there is an unimaginable difference between him and an idolator.

The tzaddik began to make himself happy with this. He rejoiced and uplifted himself little by little, continuing more and more, until he came to such a level of joy that he was on the same level of joy that Moses experienced when he went on high to receive the Torah. Through this uplifting and joy, he was able to fly many miles into the supernal universes.

He saw himself, and he was very far from the place where he had been originally. This bothered him very much. He felt that when he descended, he would be very far away from his original place. When it was discovered that he had disappeared, people would consider it a great wonder. The tzaddik did not want such publicity since he always wanted to "walk modestly with G-d". [Micah 6:8]

The joy came to an end, since joy has a limit. Therefore, joy begins automatically and ends automatically. When joy begins to end, it ends little by little. The tzaddik therefore descended little by little, coming down from the place to which he had flown during his time of joy. He eventually returned to the place from which he had ascended. He was very surprised, since he was in exactly the same place where he had been at first.

He realized that he had returned to the exact same place where he had been at first. Looking at himself, he realized that he had not moved at all, or if he had moved, it had been at most by a hairsbreadth. The hair on the head is the gate to the intellect. In Hebrew, the word sa'ar (hair) and sha'ar (gate) are the same. Therefore, if a person improves himself by a hairsbreadth, it can bring him back completely. Similarly, if a person strays from G-d by a hairsbreadth, it can do much damage [Likutey Halakhoth, Choshen Mishpat, Nezikin 4:3]

He had moved so little, that no one other than G-d could measure it. The tzaddik was very surprised at this. Here he had flown so far, through so many universes, and at the same time, he had not moved at all. This showed him how precious in G-d's eyes is even the slightest motion.

When a person moves himself even a hairsbreadth in this world, it can be considered more than thousands of miles, and even thousands of universes. This can be understood when we realize that the physical world is no more than the central point in the midst of the spheres. This is known to masters of astronomy. Compared to the supernal universes, the entire physical universe is no more than a dot.

When lines extend from a single point...
When lines extend from a central point, the closer they are to the point, the closer they are to one another. The further they extend from the point, the further such lines get from each other. Therefore, when the lines are very far from the point, they are also very far from each other. This is true, even though near the central point, they are extremely close to each other.

If one imagined lines drawn from the earth to the upper spheres (the orbits of the planets around the earth: a relativistic geocentric view of the universe) one would see that even if one moved a hairsbreadth, the movement would be reflected as a motion of thousands of miles in the upper spheres. It would be in the same ratio as the spheres are higher than the earth. The spheres must be very huge, since there are stars without number, and each star is at least as large as our planet.

This is all the more certainly true when one considers the supernal universe, compared to which, even the highest astronomical spheres are like nothing. Therefore, the distance between these extending lines in the supernal world is without measure. A movement of less than a hairsbreadth, so small that only G-d can estimate it, can consist of a passage through thousands of universes and thousands of miles in the supernal worlds. How much more so is this true when one travels a mile or more to serve G-d.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Rabbi Kessin: 21st Century Final Part 11


To see previous lectures in this series, click on the KESSIN label below


 

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

3 Elul: Yarzheit Rav Kook


It was the first of Elul, 5695 [1935], when Rabbi David Cohen [known as ‘the Rav HaNazir’] arrived at the guest house where Rav Kook was staying in Kiryat Moshe.

Exactly twenty years had passed since their first transformative encounter in Switzerland. This time he held in his hands a special document to show his dying master.

For twelve years, the Rav HaNazir had labored to organize Rav Kook’s writings into a systematic, comprehensive work. As his revered master lay on his death bed, he showed him the beginning fruits of his labor - the title page of the first volume of Orot HaKodesh. Rav Kook rejoiced; and he shed tears.

On the day of his death, Rav Kook motioned to his son, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, to come close. “Please pay off any outstanding debts. I do not want to owe anyone, not even the smallest amount.” He then made a second request: “Please prepare my writings for publication. But take care that the only title given to me is ‘rabbi.'”

With great effort, Rav Kook turned his face towards the scholars in the room. When it became clear that his soul would soon depart, the people cried out, “Shema Yisrael!” Rav Kook whispered after them, “Shema Yisrael,” breathing his final breath with the word echad - one. “The Eternal is one.”

The Rav HaNazir wrote:
“When the Rav passed away, We heard a heavenly voice. The voice called out, “Haim, ad olam!” ‘Life, forever!’ Even after completing life in this world, the soul continues, and it grows even stronger, with blessing, in eternal life.”

[Stories from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Malachim Kivnei Adam, p. 420; preface to Orot HaKodesh, pp. 24, 30.]


Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook was born on the 16th Elul 5625 (September 1864). On the day of his bris, he received a kippah as a gift. From that day on, his parents always kept a kippah on his head. Even while he was sleeping, Avraham Yitzchak's parents did not take the kippah off his head so that he should not be bareheaded - not even for a minute. The little boy would not fall asleep without his kippah. When he turned over and it fell off, he immediately woke up.

Avraham Yitzchak was four years old when he was brought to the cheder (school) in his home town of Geriva, to learn to read. The teacher offered him a siddur and turned to the page with the alef-bet. The child stubbornly refused to learn.

"Why won't you study?" asked the teacher.

"I want to learn from the big books" replied Avraham Yitzchak shyly.

"Which big books?" asked the teacher.

Avraham Yitzchak did not know how to answer. Instead he ran home and brought back a Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, and another large heavy book. The teacher smiled and said to the child: "If you want to be able to learn from the big books, you must first study from the small books." Avraham Yitzchak understood and began to read the alef-bet from the siddur.

In the same cheder, there was a class of older children who were studying Torah. Every Friday, these children were tested on the material they learned all week. One Friday, an interesting thing happened. One of the older children did not know the answer. There was silence. Sudddenly, the voice of a small boy from the youngest reading table was heard. It was the answer, spoken clearly and correctly. Avraham Yitzchak had been listening to the lessons of the older children and had understood them.

Little Avraham Yitzchak invented an unusual game to play with his friends in cheder. He arranged the children in rows. Each child had a knapsack on his back, as if they were getting ready for a long journey. Avraham Yitzchak was their guide. The small soldiers asked: "Where are we going?"

"To Israel, to Eretz Yisrael..."

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After many years of diligent study, Rav Kook was appointed as the rabbi of Zoimel, one of the small villages in Lithuania. After serving as rabbi of the town of Zoimel, Rav Kook was appointed the rabbi of a large city, Boisk. In Boisk, the Rav could sit and learn Torah for many hours each day. There was a time when he would learn 50 or 60 pages of Talmud in one day.

Many years passed before the Rav went to live in Eretz Yisrael. When the possibility of becoming the Rav of Jaffa arose, he refused all other appealing offers which came from European Yeshivot which asked him to be their Rosh Yeshivah or from great cities abroad, whose congregants wanted him to be their rabbi.

In addition, the congregation of Boisk refused to allow their rabbi to leave, until the Jews of Jaffa wrote to them explaining that the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, settling the land of Israel, takes precedence over everything else.

On Friday 28th Iyar 5664 (10 May 1904) Rav Kook went to live in Eretz Yisrael. He was received at the port of Jaffa with great honours and began his term as Rabbi of Jaffa. At that time, Israel was under Turkish rule and Jewish settlements were first being established. Jaffa was one of the main centers of Jewish settlement.

Hundreds of people from Jerusalem, Rishon LeZion, Rehovot and Petach Tikvah came to welcome the Rav and to form their own impressions of this unique figure, and his wife the Rabbanit Raiza Rivka.

The first World War broke out. The Rav had gone to Europe on shlichut, as an emissary for Eretz Yisrael, and could not return to his home in Jaffa because of the war. He stayed in London and served as a rabbi of the city. But he was constantly worried about the fate of his community in Jaffa and the hardships facing Jews in Israel which was then in a state of siege and famine.

After the war ended, the Rav returned to Eretz Yisrael. The Jews of Jaffa wanted him to continue as their rabbi. At the same time, the community of Jerusalem asked him to become their rabbi. The Rav debated this dilemma for quite some time. He knew that a small part of the Jewish community of Jerusalem did not want him as Rabbi. He did not want to be the cause of fights and arguments in the Holy City. On the 3rd Elul 5679 (29 August 1919), the Rav came to Jerusalem and only after a while did he bend to the will of the community, and become the rabbi of Jerusalem.

Here he established the centre of the world-renowned Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, the "Centre of the Rav". Later, along with Rav Yaakov Meir Charlop, he instituted the Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Yisrael, with both rabbis acting as Chief Rabbi. All his time and effort was dedicated to the Rabbinate, the affairs of the community, and to the learning of Torah.

*******************************

The author, Tikvah Sarig, tells the following story about Rav Kook:

On the first Yom Kippur eve, after my father passed away, I was not yet five years old. Every morning since his death, my mother would wake me before dawn and wipe the sleep from my eyes with the same words: "Get up, my daughter, my neshama, my soul, to pray for the memory of your righteous father, the tzaddik".

What a tzaddik was, I did not know, but I imagined he looked like this: a kippah on his head, his beard long, his eyes warm and good, the palms of his hands soft, and his voice, melodic. Just like my father who was taken from me.

It was erev Yom Kippur. After the pre-fast meal, my mother took me to the house of Rav Kook. The sun was about to set. We marched quickly to the Rav's house. The streets were filled with worshippers, clad in white, hurrying to the synagogue to hear Kol Nidre, the opening Yom Kippur prayer.

Opening the door, we were welcomed by the fragrance and warmth of burning candles. Rebbetzin Kook and her daughter opened their arms to us and began to cry. My mother patted my head.

"Soon you will go into the Rav's study to receive his blessing" said the Rebbetzin.

With her words, my fear grew. I sighed loudly. Just then, the great door opened and from within, a righteous man, a tzaddik, came out. He was all dressed in white, his gartel was embroidered with gold. On his head he wore a white kippah; his beard was long. His eyes, warm and good, were looking at me with pity and kindness.

"Aba! Daddy!" I cried and clung closely to my mother, hiding my face in her dress, my limbs trembling. I heard my mother's voice through my tears: "Go my child. Receive a blessing from the honoured Rav!"

She led me a few steps towards him. The Rav took my small hands into his warm, soft ones.

"Do not cry, my child" he said, placing his hands on my head. "Do not be afraid of me. I was a friend of your father. Come here and I will bless you on this holy day."

The Rav's hands were soft and warm - just like my father's. His voice was melodic - just like my father's. I felt as if a river of kindness and warmth washed all over me - from my head to my toes - just like when I used to sit on my father's lap.

*********************************

Rav Kook was so righteous that he always forgave his enemies and even loved and blessed them.

*********************************

In his last days, the Rav became very sick. He suffered in terrible pain. It was difficult for him to learn, and it was difficult for him to hide his anguish from his students and relatives.

On the morning of the 3rd Elul, his condition became worse. Even though speaking was very hard for him, he strained himself and demanded of his family and students not to add any titles to his name on the cover pages of his books, not to eulogize him, telling them (do not call me) "Rabbeinu, our Rabbi, and not the "Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael" - "Simply HaRav - the Rav".

A large crowd stood outside the house, where the Rav lay on his deathbed. He raised his eyes to the window in his room. Everyone in Eretz Yisrael knew that a great leader, a teacher, a man of wisdom, was about to leave the land he loved so much.

The Rav grew weaker by the hour. His family, relatives, and a number of his students gathered around his bedside. In his last hours, the Rav's face was turned towards the wall. His students knew that it was written in the Talmud: "If a man passes away with his face towards the wall - it is a bad sign, and if his face is turned toward the people, it is a good sign". With his remaining strength, the Rav struggled and turned himself to face the people. At the last moment, all those who were standing around the Rav broke out saying "Shema Yisrael".

At sunset, on the third day of Elul 5695 (Sept 1st, 1935) the Rav passed away. The news flashed through the Jewish nation with the speed of lightning. The backbone of the Jewish nation was broken. The Rav of the generation was gone, the Rav of the era, the Rav of Eretz Yisrael at the time of her rebirth.

Exactly 16 years (3rd Elul) after Rav Kook ascended to Jerusalem, he ascended to Heaven.

Source: Reprinted from "Stories from the Life of Rav Kook" edited and translated by Masha Fridman

More on Rav Kook at Rav Kook Torah

Identifying a False Witness



"And they shall judge the people with righteous judgment" [Shoftim 16:18]

A group of wicked individuals in the city of Vilna libeled one of the city's distinguished citizens. To ruin the man's reputation, they even hired false witnesses to substantiate their claim.

When word of the scandal reached the Vilna Gaon, he immediately suspected that the witnesses were hired to slander the man. He therefore requested to personally examine the "witnesses".

The witnesses appeared before the Gaon and related their testimony. The Gaon kept his eyes closed throughout their testimony and waited for them to finish. When they concluded, the Gaon rose to his feet and declared "They are false witnesses!"

The imposters, terrified by the Gaon's declaration, quickly admitted their guilt and revealed that they had been hired to deliver a false testimony.

The judges of the Beth Din were amazed. "How did Rebbeinu know that they were false witnesses?" they asked the Gaon.

"The answer lies in a Mishnah in Maseches Sanhedrin [5:4]" he replied.

"The Mishnah states that the judges first listen to the testimony of one witness. When the witness has concluded, the judges invite the second witness to testify. The Mishnah then states "If the words were found to correspond" then they are believed.

What does "if the words were found to correspond" mean? Either the testimonies match up or they do not; what need is there for the judges to figure out if the testimonies correspond?

"The reason" explained the Gaon, "is as follows: Every individual has his own style and approach when it comes to relating that which he has seen. Therefore, when judges hear two testimonies that differ slightly from one another, if they can find a way to reconcile them, the testimonies will be accepted by the Beth Din. For although the two witnesses expressed themselves in different manners, the two testimonies are one and the same. In fact, it is a sign that the witnesses are honest.

"However, when these witnesses testified before me" concluded the Gaon, "there were no discrepancies between their testimonies. If two people recount the same story, using the exact same words, it is a clear indication that they are false witnesses!"

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, September 5, 2016

Peace

The month of Elul when the King is in the field. I was also in the fields yesterday: in Picton, on a farm, about an hour's drive from Sydney.



Sunday, September 4, 2016

No Fear

Art: ''Havdalah with the Klausenberger Rebbe'' - Raphael Nouril


When you go out to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots, and a people more numerous than you, you must not be afraid of them, for Hashem, your G-d, is with you. [Shoftim 20:1]

Several fortunate students witnessed the fulfillment of this verse in the home of the tzaddik, R' Yosef Yozel Horowitz [the Alter of Novaradok].

During the Alter's later years, a brutal war had broken out in Russia. The battle had taken to the streets, as Russian citizens fought against the marauding bolsheviks.

One motza'ei Shabbos, the Alter stood with a cup of wine in hand, ready to recite Havdalah.

Suddenly, sounds of gunfire and shouting filled the air, as rioters entered the small town of Novaradok. The townspeople were in a panic, and screams of terror could be heard emanating from the houses. The sounds of gunfire and explosions were also clearly heard in the Alter's courtyard.

Yet to everyone's amazement, the apparent danger seemed to have no effect on the Alter. With a calm and pleasant voice, the Alter began reciting Havdalah, displaying a heart full of trust in Hashem.

The students who were present in the Alter's home that motza'ei Shabbos later remarked that in those incredible few moments, they had learned what it means to truly trust in Hashem.


Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Friday, September 2, 2016

His Needs, Which He Is Lacking



It is written, “You shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking” [Re'eh 15:8]

Rashi points out: “Even a horse to ride on and a servant to run before him.” 

In his book Ayelet HaShachar, the gaon Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman Shlita notes that this passage deals with honor, not financial need.

This means that the mitzvah also consists of demonstrating honor to someone if honor is what he lacks.

A person once paid a visit to the home of the Chazon Ish. Upon leaving, the Chazon Ish accompanied him all the way outside, despite the fact that the person in question did not merit such honor. The Chazon Ish explained that it was precisely honor that he was lacking.

Source: Rabbi David Pinto