Friday, August 17, 2018

The Signs Hashem is Sending Us


This show was recorded a few days ago: Tamar Yonah speaks to Rabbi Eliyahu Kin


''Wake up, look around, we are in an auspicious time.

Lunar events, earthquakes, the world on the verge of a possible WWIII…

what does it all mean, and what are we supposed to do about it?


Thursday, August 16, 2018

Opening The Gates

''Karma'' is the word given to the Hebrew term ''midda kneged midda'' - measure for measure


Judges and police officers you shall appoint in all your cities..... [Shoftim 16:18]


This verse can be understood in the light of the teaching found in the Talmud in Berachos [61b] that "Tzaddikim are judged by their yetzer tov [good inclination] and the wicked are judged by the yetzer hara [evil inclination]. The average person is judged by both."

The righteous have an admonisher inside them who reproves and reprimands them even about the good deeds that they perform. He points out the defects and shortcomings of their actions, how they are lacking and how they should have been performed for the Almighty Creator. In this way they are "judged by their yetzer tov".

The wicked are just the opposite. Not only do all their actions appear good in their eyes, but their evil inclination shows them that even the evil deeds they do are good. Thus, the wicked are judged by the yetzer hara.

But the average person is judged by both, and as the Tanna taught, "we are average people" - that a person should always consider himself a beinoni, average, as someone who walks on both paths. On the one hand, he should constantly rebuke himself, debating his own actions; he should consider himself to be falling short of properly serving Hashem and fulfilling his obligations. When doing mitzvos, he should understand well that he has not acted properly with true clarity and purity as befitting the service of the Almighty; he should be humble and lowly in his own eyes.

Even so, one should not consider himself wicked, Heaven forbid, as our Sages taught: "Do not be wicked in your own eyes" [Avos 2:18] Otherwise if one does consider himself wicked, he will have no motivation to perform the mitzvos, not to learn Torah or pray or perform any good deed. He will give up hope, resigned that he is not worthy enough to do these things. Therefore, one must hold on to both paths at the same time in order to be complete. Then he will fulfill the teaching of our Sages "With all your heart" [Devarim 6:5] - with both inclinations. This is the meaning of "we are average people" and the "average person is judged by both".

Thus it says "Appoint for yourself judges and police officers". This refers to the two judges we spoke about, the good and evil inclinations. The good inclination is an "officer" since it polices the nation, preventing them from committing any offence, and so the good inclination admonishes and rebukes man for his misdeeds and shortcomings in serving G-d.

"In all your cities" [literally "gates"] - every mitzvah and holy act has its own gate. When a person learns, prays, or does any other act of holiness in this world, he opens the gates to that specific mitzvah above.

Source: Mipeninei Noam Elimelech
Translated by Tal Moshe Zwecker

Monday, August 13, 2018

Teshuva: The True Meaning of Repentance


Rabbi Mendel Kessin, latest shiur


3 Elul: Yahrzeit 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..."

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

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

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Open Your Hand Generously

 
Rav Kook [at left]
by Chanan Morrison
 
“When... any of your brothers is poor, do not harden your heart or shut your hand against your needy brother. Open your hand generously, and extend to him any credit he needs to take care of his wants.” [Re'eh 15:7-8]

Rav Kook taught that the true goal of tzedakah is not to assist the poor, but rather to refine the character traits of the person giving. After all, if the purpose was to help the poor, God could have provided other means for their support without having to rely on the generosity of society.

“The clearest proof that poverty exists in order to perfect society is the fact that it is a constant and common phenomenon... Thus it must have a clear purpose and design by Divine Providence.”

“Without a doubt, [assisting] the needy promotes a number of virtues. It develops our traits of humanity, softens the heart’s callousness, fosters our sense of generosity and empathy for others, and enables us to actualize our innate love for goodness and kindness - precious qualities that crown the human soul.”

Below are two stories which illustrate Rav Kook’s remarkable generosity. Both incidents occurred during the years that he served as chief rabbi of Jaffa, from 1904 to 1914. These incidents were not meant to serve as an example for others, but were simply natural expressions of the rabbi’s profound caring and compassion for those who needed help.

The Rabbi’s Salary

Rav Kook’s wife once appeared before the community directorate of Jaffa, headed by Mr. Meir Dizengoff, with a serious complaint. She had not seen her husband’s salary for months and had no means of support. The leaders of the community were shocked. After investigating the matter, however, they discovered that the rabbi himself was distributing his income to the needy.

The leaders asked Rav Kook how he could act in such a manner, caring more for strangers than his own household.

Rav Kook responded simply, “My family can buy food at the local grocery on credit. Others, however, cannot do so. Who would agree to give them what they need on credit?”

From that day on, the treasurer of the community was given strict orders to give the rabbi’s salary only to his wife.

The Disqualified Guarantor

In 1907, the Jaffa correspondent for the Chavatzelet newspaper published an article criticizing the Anglo-Palestine Bank (now known as Bank Leumi). Apparently, a man applied for a loan in the bank and was asked to provide eleven guarantors. The man managed to find fourteen people who were willing to sign, one of whom was Rav Kook. The bank, however, disqualified most of them - including the rabbi.

The correspondent’s conclusion was that the bank deliberately discriminated against religious Jews.

A few weeks later, a rejoinder appeared in the paper. The author, almost certainly associated with the bank, argued that the bank was justified in its rejection of Rav Kook’s guarantees. He wrote:

“The rabbi is extremely good-hearted and gentle by nature. The poor cling to him. The only reason there are some beggars who do not knock on his door is because they know he has no money. If they only knew that they could get money in exchange for a small piece of paper, which he can always grant them, they would give him no peace.”

“Besides which, [if the rabbi would be accepted as a guarantor], he would unwittingly put himself under the burden of debts, from which he would be unable to escape. Large amounts of money would be lost, and one of the following would suffer: either the esteemed rabbi - and it would be highly unpleasant for the bank to extract money from him - or the bank itself. Therefore, the bank decided unanimously not to honor the rabbi’s guarantees.”

[Adapted from Ein Eyah on Pe'ah, pp. 308-310. Stories from An Angel Among Men by Simcha Raz, translated by R. Moshe Lichtman, pp. 344-346]

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Chessed Shel Emmet



Text by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto 

The month of Elul is at our doorstep, these are days of mercy and supplication as we prepare for the approaching Day of Judgment, the day we will cry out and beg our Creator: ‘Inscribe us for a good life, all the sons of your covenant!’

Rav Eizik Sher Zatzal explained that in order to merit ‘a good life’ in this world we have to keep those Mitzvot in which we specifically eat of it's fruit in this world – such as Chessed, kindness. Of particular power is Chessed Shel Emmet, true kindness, which is the type of kindness where the giver doesn’t expect anything in return. A kindness where the recipient doesn’t know that any kindness was done to him. Such Chessed is termed ‘Chessed for the sake of Chessed’, and it is through this that a person can earn himself a ‘good life’.

During the month of Elul there was a notice hung up on the front door of the Talmud Torah, which read as follows: “A king’s rulership is established only when his servants are united in serving Him, so the way to achieve ‘shetamlichuni Aleichem’ (you shall crown me King over you) is to form a united front. It is incumbent upon us to accept on ourselves that the entire year we will busy ourselves with loving our fellow. And that is how we will crown Hashem king. Let none of us say this is too difficult, because when a person gets involved in various ideas [of chessed] it will slowly become easier, and especially if one follows the path [presented in the book] Tomer Devorah."

Rav Simchah Zissel of Kelm told his students during the final semester of the Talmud Torah in Grubin, that the main Avoda of the approaching month of Elul is to make efforts to tolerate even those with outlooks and opinions differing greatly from our own. “This is our prime obligation this Elul” he instructed.

In a discourse presented by Maran Rosh HaYeshiva HaRav Ahron Leib Steinman, zatzal, during the days of Selichot, he mentioned that it is Hashem’s desire that each individual arrives at Rosh Hashana with the recognition that Hashem is king and that he wants to serve Him. The words ‘vetamlichuni aleichem’ (crown me king over you) means we must resolve to think our every thought through the prism of the Torah, whether in matters between us and our fellow man or between us and Hashem.

If we would stand back and observe the quarrels and fights going on around us, what are they fighting about? Why is it worth their while, what do they gain from it? Don’t they realize that for every ‘Vitur’ (concession to the other) they would reap enormous gains, as Chazal tell us ‘One who goes against his natural tendencies of character Hashem will remove all his sins’. And who amongst us would say we don’t need atonement… for there is no such thing in this world as a perfect Tzadik who has never sinned…

Those who stubbornly stand firm and insist on their rights, not giving in an inch, what do they gain? One must constantly ‘weigh the loss of a Mitzvah against its reward, and the reward of a sin against it’s losses’. When we think along those lines we will see right away when the calculation is not quite right. One must accept the yoke of Heaven in all matters – and when a person makes the correct cheshbonot he will only stand to gain, and perhaps even be saved from dispute, slander or gossip and other types of sins.. it is an unlimited gain. That is how a person should crown Hashem king over himself, and he will merit a good year.

Sunday, August 5, 2018

Individual Tests



''...for the Lord, your God, is testing you...'' [Re'eh 13:4]

One of the basic teachings of the Torah is that God does not expect of a human being anything which is beyond the human capacity to carry out.  This is quite understandable, for even a human being, who is very far from absolute perfection, would not expect of a tool that he has fashioned any more than he has put into it.

Certainly God, the Creator of man, knows man's capacities.  From this, it immediately follows that when a person faces any kind of a test of faith, it is certain that he has been given the capacity to overcome it.  And the more difficult the test, the greater are the individual's capacities.

The reason that an individual is tested is not because God wants to know how he will acquit himself, but in order that this person be afforded the opportunity to realize his potential, even that which is unknown to him.

And when one's potential capacities are released and activated, they become part and parcel of his or her arsenal, to be used for personal as well as communal benefit.

Source: Excerpt from a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Friday, August 3, 2018

Where is Moshiach?


Rabbi Anava asks: what are we doing wrong that Moshiach is still not here? We are already past the due date, what's going on? [includes current events, Gog u Magog, the state of the world and the fact that so many people are alone now]


Sunday, July 29, 2018

BD"E


I sat on a roof and watched the moon eclipse over Sydney Harbour early Shabbat morning. It was the most amazing sight, and I watched it for over an hour.

It seemed fitting that the moon would eclipse as my father Mordechai ben Menachem ob''m had passed away only hours earlier.

I will be sitting Shiva this week.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The Longest Eclipse


The longest eclipse of the 21st century can be seen Friday nigth/Saturday morning.

Video: Rabbi Simon Jacobson 
Some of life's greatest lessons can be derived (learned, gleaned) from the cosmos. We can learn much from just looking up at the heavens (sky) and watching the celestial bodies in space. This is especially true for the moon, which has always mesmerized the human race. Its close proximity to earth, its haunting glow, its phases and effects on our tides and plants -- have fed science, religion and folklore, and our quest to better understand ourselves and the world in which we live. 

During the night of the full moon this month (on July 27/the 15th of Av) the longest total lunar eclipse of the century will fill the sky (it won't be visible in North America, but most of the Eastern Hemisphere will see it). Totality will last for 1 hour and 43 minutes! 

Please join Rabbi Jacobson for this special full moon edition, and learn fascinating lessons - personal, spiritual and psychological - (personal, spiritual and psychological lessons from this historic lunar eclipse. Discover the deeper meaning of the moon as an archetype reflected in each one of us, and how the lunar cycles and eclipses illuminate and teach us extraordinary personal, spiritual and psychological lessons for our lives and our relationships. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Understanding the Kaddish Prayer


For Michoel ben Mordechai a''h

Why is the Kaddish prayer so important?  What exactly does it mean and how does it benefit the dead?

Rabbi Mizrachi gives some interesting insights, including the topics of reincarnation and Gehennom.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Rabbi Mizrachi on Trump/Putin


Right at the start of this shiur, hear Rabbi Mizrachi's take on the Trump Putin meeting yesterday.


Tuesday, July 17, 2018

The Secret Message behind the teachings of the Ari'zal


Rabbi Alon Anava


5 Av - Yarzheit Arizal

Arizal Synagogue, Safed - Photo Steven Pinker

The Arizal [1534-1572] - Rabbi Isaac Luria was the most famous Kabbalist in the city of Safed, Israel who became known as the "Arizal" or ARI, an acronym for “The G-dly Rabbi Isaac of Blessed Memory.”

The Arizal passed away at the age of 38, and it was only during the last two years of his life that he met his foremost disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital. The Arizal himself never wrote any books, however all his words were faithfully recorded by Rabbi Chaim Vital in what is known as Kitvei Ari, the “writings of the Arizal.” The Kitvei Ari is the key to the secrets of the Zohar, and it was the Arizal who formulated the Kabbalah into a comprehensive system. Rabbi Chaim Vital writes in the name of the Arizal that, “It is a Mitzvah to reveal this wisdom.” Until the time of the Arizal, knowledge of Kabbalah was not known outside of the tightly knit circle of the tzaddikim.

More about the Arizal at Ascent of Safed or click on the label "ARIZAL" below to read more of his teachings.


The Essence of Tisha B'Av


Rabbi Mendel Kessin


Thursday, July 12, 2018

An Upside Down World

This one is for my brother Michoel ben Mordechai, a"h.


When the light that enters our eye reaches the back of the lens to form a picture the objects appear upside down and backwards. Only when the image reaches the brain is the image corrected, allowing us to see right side up.

As we know, "nothing is for nothing" and everything was created with Hashem's infinite wisdom. This begs the question of why would Hashem make our visual experience so roundabout? Why would our initial viewing experience be, out of all things, upside down?


The gemara [Bava Basra 10b] tells the story of Rav Yosef the son of Rav Yehoshua who became very ill and lost consciousness. When he awoke his father asked him, "What did you see?" He told his father, "Olam Hafuch Ra'isi Elyonim L'Mata V'Tachtonim L'Mata", I saw an upside down world. The rich people who are regarded here as the upper echelons of society were considered lowly people, while the poor wise people who do good deeds and are considered the lower class here were considered the upper crust over there. His father answered him that he was mistaken. He did not see an upside down world, but rather the world as it truly is. The world we live in is the upside down world.

Every one of our 248 physical limbs mirrors a spiritual limb. Our eyes are our main interface with the world beyond us. Yet the image the world projects is upside down. Only when the image enters our brain and we use our mind to process it, do we make heads and tails of it. The same holds true for the story behind the picture. What we see at first glance without using our Sechel [inteligence] - is always upside down. Just like the brain processes images and straightens them out, so too our brain must use its unbiased intelligence to make sense of the things we see.

Just like flipping an image, understanding the story is meant to be simple and a routine operation as the Pasuk [Koheles 7:29] says, "Asa HaElokim Es Ha'Adam Yashar", Hashem made a person straight. Unfortunately we all have forces within us that interfere with this process, be they poor Middos [traits] or selfish motives. We let these things take over our brain, as the pasuk concludes "V'Heima Bikshu Cheshbonos Rabbim". But the choice is our to see the world with clarity if only we choose to do so.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Way of God - Man's Free Will


These are the two latest shiurim from Rabbi Kessin in his Derech Hashem series:  they both are about Man's Free Will and as always well worth listening to. 

I am missing in action at the moment, due to a death in the family.  Sometimes it comes more as a relief, after a long period of suffering it's easier to know they are now pain free.



Thursday, July 5, 2018

Overwhelming Times




The Time Immediately Before Mashiach
 by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

The time appointed by G-d for the Messianic redemption is a closely guarded secret.1 Nonetheless, we are offered many hints to recognize its proximity: when certain conditions come about, await the imminent coming of Mashiach.

Most of these conditions are quite disturbing, clearly displaying a situation of the very “bottom of the pit.”2 One major source describes the world-condition in those days as follows: increase in insolence and impudence; oppressing inflation; unbridled irresponsibility on the part of authorities; centers of learning will turn into bawdy houses; wars; many destitutes begging, with none to pity them; wisdom shall be putrid; the pious shall be despised; truth will be abandoned; the young will insult the old; family-breakup with mutual recriminations; impudent leadership.3

Other sources add: lack of scholars; succession of troubles and evil decrees; famines; mutual denunciations; epidemics of terrible diseases; poverty and scarcity; cursing and blaspheming; international confrontations nations provoking and fighting each other.4 In short, it will be a time of suffering that will make it look as if G-d were asleep. These are the birthpangs of Mashiach, bearable only in anticipation of the bliss that follows them.

“When you see a generation ever dwindling, hope for him… when you see a generation overwhelmed by many troubles as by a river, await him.5 “When you see nations fighting each other, look toward the feet of Mashiach.”6

Little wonder that some sages expressed apprehensions about those days in terms of, “Let [Mashiach] come, but let me not see him.”7 The prevailing attitude, however, is to await his coming in spite of all, even if thereafter we shall merit no more than sitting “in the shadow of his donkey’s dung!”8

The troubles and agony of chevlei Mashiach (birthpangs of Mashiach), however, are not unavoidable:

“What is man to do to be spared the pangs of Mashiach? Let him engage in Torah and acts of loving-kindness!”9

Moreover, there are also good and happy signs indicating the imminent coming of Mashiach: a good measure of prosperity;10 a renewal of Torah-study;11 and opening of the “gates of wisdom above and the wellsprings of wisdom below,”12 evidenced also by scientific and technological discoveries and advances; a manifestation and propagation of the mystical teachings of the Torah;13 and also “In the time that Mashiach will awaken, many signs and miracles will occur in the world.”14


FOOTNOTES

1. Pesachim 54b; Midrash Tehilim 9:2. See Zohar Chadash, Bereishit, 8a.

2. Midrash Tehilim 45:3. See Ma’amarei Admur Hazaken-Ethalech, p. 103f.; and Besha’ah Shehik-dimu-5672, vol. I:p. 551; relating this to the principle (Midrash Tehilim 22:4; Zohar II:46a) that the darkest moments of the night are immediately before daybreak. Cf. Zohar I:170a. For this analogy see also the comment of R. Elijah, the Vilna Gaon, cited in Even Shelemah, ch. 11:5.

3. Sotah 49b

4. Sanhedrin 97a; Shir Rabba 2:29.

5. Sanhedrin 98a

6. Bereishit Rabba 42:4. Note Pesikta Rabaty 37:2 (ed. Friedmann, ch. 36)!

7. Sanhedrin 98b

8. Ibid. See also Zohar II:7aff.

9. Sanhedrin 98b

10. Sanhedrin 97a; Shir Rabba 2:29.

11. Ibid.

12. Zohar I:117a

13. Zohar I:118a. See Zohar Chadash, Tikunim, 96c; and Mayanei Hayeshu’ah, I:2. Cf. below, note 84. Note also Igeret Teyman, ch. 3, that prophecy shall be restored to Israel prior to the coming of Mashiach.

14. Zohar II:8a

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

The True Power of Speech


This is a re-upload of the world-famous lecture given by Rabbi Mendel Kessin about the profound dangers of loshon hora [slander] and the tremendous benefit of shmiras halashon [guarding one's tongue].


Tuesday, July 3, 2018

The Yud and The Hei


Torah learning on behalf of Michoel ben Esther Rivka


The Zohar teaches that the letter yud was added to Pinchas' name and the letter hei was added to Yosef's name [see Psalms 81:6] because they were both zealous about the prohibition of cohabiting with a non-Jewish woman.  Pinchas killed Zimri and Yosef resisted the persistent attempts of Potifar's wife.

This sheds light on Rashi's explanation why each of the family names included in the census consisted of their paternal father's names with a hei added at the front and a yud at the end:  ''The nation would taunt [Israel] saying ''Why do they trace their lineage by tribe? Do they really think that the Egyptians did not have their way with their mothers?''... So God placed His Name upon them, hei at one end and yud at the other, as if to say ''I testify that these people are indeed the sons of their fathers'' [Rashi to Pinchas 26:5].  Thus we see here that the same letters, yud and hei, were added to show that the Jewish people had been moral, like Pinchas and Yosef.

Why is this vigilance attested to by these two particular letters?  Our Sages noted that the Hebrew words for ''man'' אישׁ and ''woman'' אשׁה only differ in the letters yud and hei, which spell God's Name.*  On this, they remarked ''If a couple is found worthy, the Divine Presence will be with them''.  [Sotah 17a]  Here we see the Talmudic source that the letters yud and hei testify that God's people are pure and holy.

*When the letters yud and hei are removed, both words spell אשׁ - fire - showing that when God is not present in a marriage, there is fire.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Monday, July 2, 2018

Fooling Yourself

"Seekers of the Truth" - Mike Worrall

It is told that R' Pinchus of Koretz used to warn his disciples: ‘Never fool yourselves! Above all a Jew must be thoroughly honest with himself!’

Once one of his students challenged him. ‘But Rebbe,’ he said, ‘one who fools himself actually thinks he is being honest with himself. So how are we ever to know if we are being honest, or just fooling ourselves?’

‘You have asked wisely, my son,’ the Rebbe said. ‘The answer, however, is simple. It is written in Tanna d-Bei Eliyahu [an ancient Midrashic source] that anyone who is careful to speak words of truth will be sent a malach [an angel] who shows him the truth. One who speaks words of sheker [falsehood] will be sent a malach who fools and deceives him.

So, if you will be careful to always tell the truth, you will never “fool yourself.” If not, well …’ This is a very telling incident. One can live his⁄her entire life in deception, of others and of himself, and not have even the faintest notion he is doing so. R' Pinchus also used to tell his disciples: ‘It is better to choke, than to utter a lie.’”

R' Raphael said: “The Sages teach that the greatest labor of man should be to avoid self-deceit. But how can a man do so when he is deceived and believes his action to be right? By obeying the counsel of his friend, since his friend cannot profit by permitting the deceit to continue. We are also taught that he who labors for truth creates for himself an Angel of Truth who acts as a monitor to warn him of falsehood.”

R' Pinchas said: “He who is filled with self-importance lies to himself and he fools others to believe his importance."

Source: Two Tzaddiks

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Footsteps


"The footsteps of man are directed by G-d" [Psalms 37:23].

When a Jew comes to a particular place it is for an inner Divine intent and purpose -- to perform a mitzvah : whether a mitzvah between man and G-d, or a mitzvah between man and his fellow-man.

– Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1749-1812)

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Rabbi Moshe Aharon Pinto, ztk"l


by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto


The tzaddik constantly anticipated the coming of Mashiach. In addition, he actively sought to hasten his coming. He would tell everyone who came to see him that he should wait for and anticipate with complete faith the coming of Mashiach, who will redeem us.

He explained his move to live in Eretz Yisrael in the following way: The main purpose of establishing the Jewish State was so that Torah would flourish within it preceding the redemption. He would always say, “Too bad that the State was not established by Mashiach, bringing the world to its perfection under the Kingship of Hashem, following the devastating Holocaust.”

He also added, “We live in the State of Israel, but the true State will be established only when everyone will coronate Hashem as their King and will engage in Torah and mitzvot. Then, Mashiach will come and bring the world to perfection.

“Meanwhile, it is preferable to live in Eretz Yisrael as it says, ‘I am an alien and a resident among you.’ Those living in Eretz Yisrael possess an added merit over those outside it. People living in the Diaspora are in a darker exile, as opposed to those residing in Eretz Yisrael, who become imbued with its holiness. How fortunate are we, and how fortunate is our lot.”

Rabbeinu added that his father would often repeat that if not for all the Torah learned in the yeshivot and kollelim in Eretz Yisrael, the State would not be able to exist. It is only the Torah that protects and rescues the Jewish people from all those who rise against them, especially in these days.

Only for the sake of Torah did Hashem grant Divine assistance for the establishment of the State. In fact, until today people come from all over the world to learn Torah in Eretz Yisrael and to settle on its holy soil. The State’s existence is possible only through the mercy of Hashem, as it says, “The eyes of Hashem, your G-d, are always upon it [the Land], from the beginning of the year to the year’s end.”

Rabbi Moshe Aharon would always pray that Hashem would bring the leaders of the State to do teshuvah, since the redemption is so close, as it says, “He was standing behind our wall.” He expressed, “If only everyone would advance a bit more in Torah, teshuvah, and good deeds, we would merit witnessing that which we so yearn to see.”

When Moreinu v'Rabbeinu, the tzaddik Rabbi David Chananya Pinto, shlit"a expanded on the issue of the imminent geulah, he related pensively:

I remember that once my esteemed father, Rabbeinu Moshe Aharon Pinto, zya"a, called me and said: "Take a pen and paper and record the revelation that I am about to impart to you." Then father quoted to me the pasuk [Yeshayahu 52:7]: Ma navu al heharim raglei mevaser tov mashmia yeshua omer l'Zion malach Elokayich – How beautiful are the feet of the herald on the mountains, announcing peace, heralding good tidings, announcing salvation, saying to Zion, "Your God has manifested His kingdom." He repeated this pasuk again and again. I was confused and asked father, zt"l, "What revelation do we see here?" And he answered me, "Look closely at the plain meaning of the pasuk. Is there not an amazing revelation here before your eyes?!"… When I answered again in the negative, father repeated and told me that I should write the pasuk again. So it was repeated a few times. I know for a fact that for years father would repeat this pasuk to anyone who came by his way, and his message was hidden and concealed from us. I could not get to the bottom of his deep thoughts.

Only after many years, Hashem opened my eyes, and I clearly understood his message. It seems to me, with siyata d'Shemaya, that my father intended to convey, "mevaser tov – announcing peace" (lit. good), is referring to the holy Torah, which is called "good," as it is stated, "For I gave you good teaching; forsake not My instruction." This implies that when Mashiach will arrive, and he will "announce peace" (lit. good), and we will hear and be taught Torah directly from him, and we will merit learning from him the Torah of truth in purity, it will be crystal clear, as if strained in a sieve meant to strain flour from all rubbish, and there will be no inaccuracies; then Torah will flourish and shine in the world, and we will witness the fulfillment of "Your God has manifested His kingdom." This will be in the merit of the Torah that will be taught by Mashiach, and then Hashem will be King over the entire worlds, and His Kingship will be accepted universally, and all the inhabitants of the world will recognize that Hashem is G-d over the Heavens Above and the earth below.

Thus father, zt"l, longed and yearned for the coming of Mashiach, and his entire aspiration was to learn Torah accurately from Mashiach himself, and so that the Kingship of Hashem should spread throughout the world, because this is the quality of "Torah of Truth," that it flourishes and leads to more revelations, and consequently the Name of Hashem, Who is the giver of the Torah is glorified, and His Kingdom is recognized by all. May the merit of the Torah protect us and all of Klal Yisrael.

Monday, June 25, 2018

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Physical Organs Correspond to the Organs of the Soul



Text by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto


“Pinchas son of Elazar son of Aharon the Kohen saw, and he stood up from amidst the assembly and took a spear in his hand” [Balak 25:7]

My holy forebear, Rabbi Chaim Vital, zy”a, states [Sha’arei Kedushah 1:1] that man’s body is comprised of 613 parts, corresponding to the 613 mitzvot. Each part of the body corresponds to a different mitzvah. And just as in the body there are 613 organs, so too, the neshamah contains 613 organs, paralleling the 613 mitzvot. This was very difficult for me to comprehend. The neshamah is a most elevated, spiritual entity. What connection can it have with the 613 physical parts of the body?

I thought over the matter and arrived at the conclusion that the body is physical mass. It is naturally drawn to materialism, not to mitzvot. Since the body does not want to part with its natural urges and temptations in favor of observing mitzvot, Hashem created the neshamah, corresponding to the organs of the body. The organs of the neshamah are spiritual, granting power to the body to overcome materialism and observe mitzvot. If not for these vital organs, the body would never be pulled to do mitzvot. How dreadful that would be! Hashem, Who knows our makeup, created spiritual organs in man’s neshamah. These are what motivate him to keep the mitzvot, which correspond to them.

For this reason, the pasuk [Eichah 3:23] states, “They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.” The neshamah, which enters the body anew each morning, fuels it so that it can triumph over its materialistic nature and hurry to accomplish mitzvot. The neshamah, with its powers of purity, descends, sanctifying the body [see Eitz Chaim 29:3].

When Pinchas took note of what was transpiring with Zimri and the Midianite woman, he hurried to grab the spear and, sparing not a moment, killed both of them in one fell swoop. The pasuk [Balak 25:7] states, “He stood up from amidst the assembly and took a spear in his hand.” The Zohar (see III, 237a) states that the word רמח [spear] hints to the fact that Pinchas sanctified the name of Hashem with all his 248 [רמח] limbs.

The gematria of the word בידו [in his hand], adding one for the word itself, is equal to that of the word גידו [his limb]. Pinchas harnessed all his body parts for the purpose of fulfilling the injunction [Shoftim 17:7]: “You shall destroy the evil from your midst.”

From where did Pinchas gain the determination to act so zealously? It was from his neshamah, comprised of 613 organs which affect the physical organs, as explained according to Rabbi Chaim Vital, zy”a.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Guarding the Eyes

Art: "Forgotten Sunglasses" by Vladimir Kush


Written by Yosef Peretz, Mirrer Yeshiva Kollel, Jerusalem

The Talmud (beginning of Tractate Berachos) compares a person's soul to G-d himself; just like G-d sees but is not seen, so too the soul of a person sees but is not seen and just like G-d fills the entire world, so too the soul of a person fills his entire body, etc.. What does this mean and from where does the soul "see"? The Kabbalah answers that the soul of a person "sees" through his eyes.

If you look into someone's eyes, you're not just looking at a biological camera. You are accessing the deepest recesses of the person.

In contrast, any animal, even the most intelligent gorilla, lacks this completely. If you look in the eyes of an animal, you'll see a dead emptiness there. The hebrew word for animal is "behema". Which means "bah ma" - what is in it? Behind those eyes, there is nothing beyond the physical creature. An animal is just a machine.

"The candle of G-d is the soul of man".

"A mitzva is a candle and Torah is light".

The Talmud teaches, "sin extinguishes a mitzva but sin doesn't extinguish Torah".

The Zohar explains: sin extinguishes a mitzva and mitzva is a candle. So sin extinguishes a candle. But which candle? The candle of G-d - which is the soul of man. So, when a person sins, he extinguishes his own soul. He then walks through life in darkness (until he repents). Conversely a righteous person who has reached a high level of purity, has eyes that literally glow with a tangible spiritual light. I know from experience that looking into the eyes of such a person can have a life-long effect.

Having said that, a person should be very careful what he exposes his eyes to. Whatever you expose your eyes to, know that you are exposing your deepest essence - your soul. If you look at the wrong things, you literally extinguish some of the spiritual light in your eyes. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler taught (Michtav m'Eliyahu) that if a person does not sense holiness inside himself, it's a sign that his soul has left him.

This is why, according to the Talmud, it is forbidden to look at the face of a wicked person. When you look at his (or her) face, your soul absorbs some of the ruach (spiritual energy) of this person. Your soul which is beyond the physical, senses all the deeds and all the twisted drives and views of this person through his eyes and you become a little bit like him.

This is why children inherit the character traits of their parents. By constantly looking into their eyes, they absorb all of their parents' deepest spiritual traits.

The Torah forbids accepting a convert from the nations of Moab and Amon for all generations. Why? Because these nations demonstrated a lack of hakaras hatov (gratitude) to the Jewish nation when they were about to enter Israel. But why are their descendants excluded for all time to convert? Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian z''l explains (beginning of Lev Eliyahu) since their parents did not have proper gratitude, they will transmit this evil trait to their offspring and their offspring to their offsprings, and so forth forever and ever. By constantly looking into their parents' eyes, the children will inherit completely all of their spiritual traits.

Conversely, looking in the eyes of a Tzaddik (righteous person) elevates you. A person who has reached a high spiritual level has eyes that shine forth with a spiritual light. This is why it is so important to learn Torah from a great Rebbi and not just from books. The Talmud says, if your Rebbi does not look like an Angel of G-d, do not learn Torah from him. Only if you sense "Sinai" in this person should you learn Torah from him. Such a person will transmit to you the non-verbal, "internal" part of the Torah and the proper character traits which can only be transmitted through eye contact. No amount of learning in books can help you here.

I heard from Rabbi Simcha Wasserman zt''l that "when you review your lesson, picture your Rebbi's face while he was giving over the lesson. This way, you will review not only the verbal part of the lesson but also the non-verbal messages in the lesson".

The Steipler wrote (beginning of Kareina D'Igarta) every interaction with a person leaves a spiritual mark on you. The Chafetz Chaim said, the first time he saw a Jew willfully transgressing the Shabbat, he cried for an hour. The second time it lasted only 20 minutes. Why the change? He had exposed his eyes and therefore his soul, and was now no longer on the same level of purity as before.

One who is constantly surrounded by people with no faith is in great danger of becoming like them. This is not because of sharing their ideas. No! During every interaction, your soul absorbs some of the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of the person. If you don't strengthen yourself continuously, you will slowly become more and more like him. This is why it is so important to live in an area with a strong Jewish community. The Rambam wrote, if you can't find a community of righteous people to live in, you should move to the desert.

On a deeper level, everything you come across contains the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of it's source. I heard from Rabbi Shmuel Nussbaum of Gateshead (who is now a Rosh Kollel in Israel) that every book you read, contains part of the soul of the author. If you read the book of a tzadik, you are not only receiving the information he wrote. The soul of the tzadik also has a hashpa (a spiritual influence) on you.

Conversely, when you read the news from CNN or some novel, you should know that you are not just reading innocent information. You are putting your mind into the mind of the author, absorbing the spiritual energy and the drives and mentality of this person and you will tend to become like him (or her). Watch out! They didn't tell you that in the fine print!

The same is with the holy Torah. When a person learns, his soul is absorbing the spiritual energy of the Almighty himself! (Although in this case, the Almighty provided two conditions in order for the Torah to transmit the spiritual light (see Derech Hashem Vol.4:Ch.2). The first is proper Yira (reverence) and tikun hamaase at all times - striving to fulfill what you are learning. Without that, learning Torah is like reading a science book.)

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says a person can learn the laws of an ox that gores a cow, and it will help him in controlling his mouth from saying lashon hara (slander). Why? The light in the Torah, elevates his soul and gives him the spiritual strength needed to fight off the evil inclination to slander.

Think before you look as it says by Avraham in the Akeida - "And Avraham lifted his eyes". Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm zt''l says that from here, we learn that even lifting your eyes should be a calculated and weighed decision. Watch your eyes. Be careful what you read and what you look at. Try to attach yourself to a righteous person and you will become like him. Look at the picture below and in the eyes of the holy Tzadik - Rav Kook zt''l and you will taste greatness.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The 13th Gate



Reb Chaim Vital says in the name of the Arizal that there are twelve gates in the Heavens corresponding to the twelve tribes and each tribe has a designated entrance for their prayers. Each gate and their approach are different from the others.

Each of the tribes had their own specific Nusach Hatefillah [specific prayers]. The Holy Arizal established a Nusach that corresponds to all twelve of the tribes. The "Nusach Arizal" are the prayers for those who do not know their tribe.

The Chasam Sofer writes this concept in the name of the Maggid of Mezritz. He explains that in fact, there are thirteen gates in Heaven for our tefillos to pass through. Each gate is for one of the tribes and everyone’s tefillah can pass through the thirteenth gate.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Four Messiahs and World Peace


Rabbi Glazerson has a Torah Code finding based on yesterday's Rabbi Kessin shiur about the four Messiahs.

Monday, June 18, 2018

The Four Messiahs at the End of Time



Rabbi Kessin's latest shiur: Trump and North Korea, Obama [!] and more
Absolutely fascinating, Rabbi Kessin explains it all.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

How Can Faith be Reconciled with Rationalism?

Artist Unknown


by the Lubavitcher Rebbe Menachem Mendel Schneersohn ztz'l

We normally suppose that faith belongs to the realm of transcendence, to the realm of the super-rational. This is analogous to the semi-prophetic state described by the Talmud, “though they did not see, their transcendent soul saw.” [Megillah, 3a] 

Essential faith, however, does not depend on a transcendent vision beyond the self but stems from the subjective essence of the self. At the very core of your own self you are essentially bound up with G‑d, and it is this essential soul bond that is the basis of a faith that is subconsciously synonymous with your own identity. All the faculties of your soul, including your capacity for cognition and critical thought, are windows via which your essential soul makes itself manifest. Accordingly, essential faith does not intrude on your rational mind from beyond but arises from the subconscious realm within. 

Essential faith, in other words, is integral to every aspect of your soul—including the soul as it is vested within the rational mind, within the body, within the world as we inhabit it and experience it. Even the rational mind is ultimately a lens through which your essential soul-faith can be refracted and intelligently internalized.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

The secrets of Kabbalah behind the month of Tamuz


A very interesting shiur about the month of Tammuz from Rabbi Alon Anava.  Tamuz is Sartan in Hebrew - ''Cancer'' in english - and I always wondered if that word had the same meaning as the disease of cancer.  [yes it does, learn why in this shiur]

Why do people write notes at the graves of tzadikim, and then tear up the notes? 

Tammuz has a great potential for problems...  Rabbi Anava explains the positive ideas behind this month's energy.


Perceiving the Error of Korach


by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

 "And [if] the earth opens its mouth and swallows them and all that is theirs, and they descend alive into the grave, you will know that these men have provoked the L-rd" [Korach 16:30]

Several commentaries address the obvious question; Why was Korach punished specifically by being swallowed in the ground?

Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz, zt"l, explains that Korach and his congregation mocked the logic of mitzvot: "Is it possible that a cloak of another [colored] material, one string of blue wool exempts it [from the obligation of techelet], and this one, which is made entirely of blue wool, should not exempt itself?"

What can this be compared to?

A truck driver who was carrying a large load of tires from place to place, entered the garage and asked to remove the tires from his truck, and he would continue traveling without them.

The owner of the garage questioned: "If I remove the tires from the truck, how will you travel?"

The driver replied:

"You fool! It is all the more so… if four wheels are enough to make a truck run, then how much more so if the entire truck is full of wheels. Why would it need an additional four wheels under it?"

Korach was a wise man. It is not possible that he intended to sound so foolish, so we need to understand what he was saying.

Korach argued against Moshe Rabbeinu: You say that Hashem wants us to be meticulous with the mitzvot to the last detail?! The end of the time to recite Kriyat Shema is a matter of fraction of minutes; the end of the time to recite the Blessing after the Meal is up to seventy-two minutes; Tefillin must be square…Why does Hashem need things to be so exact?!

Korach further argued: You claim that the thread of techelet is necessary in order to remind people of the sea, since the sea reminds people of the heavens, and the heavens of the Throne of Glory, as the Gemara explains [Menachot 43b]. If so, a tallit that is entirely techelet, how much more so it reminds a person of all this very well… In other words, Korach's main argument was that there was no need for such extreme meticulous observance of the mitzvot!

Says Rabbi Yonatan Eibeshitz, zt"l, in his sefer "Tiferet Yonatan": Korach and his congregation began to argue about the logic of the mitzvot, but they did not know that the mitzvot are infinitely deep, and do not lend themselves to human logic. We cannot fathom the true logic of the mitzvot, and when we explain a reason for a mitzvah, it is only in order to give us a taste of its beauty, so that it should be more pleasant for us, since it is more enjoyable to perform a mitzvah when we understand its reason. But we should not mistakenly assume that we truly understand its depth and logic, because the mitzvot are expressions of Hashem's Will and His commands, and we do not possess the ability to comprehend their logic. Hashem's depth is beyond our logic.

Since Korach and his congregation argued that the mitzvot did not have such great depth, therefore, they were punished measure for measure, by descending into the depths of the earth. There, deep in the ground, they perhaps would begin to understand that the Torah is infinitely deep…

Monday, June 11, 2018

Supervision & Interaction Between Hashem & Creation


This is part of the Derech Hashem series by Rabbi Kessin, past lectures in this series can be found at Torah Thinking



Rectifying Past Lives


What happens to people who fail to do teshuvah for past wrong-doings - is there no hope for them?

The answer brings us to the Divine gift of reincarnation.

All Kabbalistic sources are in agreement: the soul (or the portion of the soul that requires it) will be reincarnated to rectify any wrongdoings committed in its previous lifetime. To facilitate this, the reincarnated individual will be drawn to the specific areas which require rectification (tikunim).

According to the Arizal, the Talmud [Shabbat 118b] alludes to this when it tells us that Rabbi Yosef was asked about his father Rabbah: "Which mitzvah was he most careful to perform?" The questioner knew that every Jew is required to fulfill all the mitzvot to the best of his ability. Clearly, however, he was asking a deeper question: if a person is inordinately connected to a particular mitzvah, it indicates that his entire mission in being born was to rectify that mitzvah. According to this, the questioner was asking which particular mitzvah had Rabbah's soul been lacking in his previous incarnation.

The Arizal writes that the same applies to every single individual. The main characteristics of one's spiritual weaknesses are the specific areas one must rectify [see Sha'ar HaGilgulim 16]

Everyone has difficulties in their character traits which G-d gave them to work on in this life. If they were given a problem, it is their task to find out how to use it in a way that serves G-d, rather than going against His directives.

The very thing which a person will have the most trouble doing, is perhaps the one thing they need to rectify in this life.

from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
adapted by Chaim Kramer

[Igros Kodesh of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, vol 5, letter 1257]

You tell me you are giving the proper amount of tzedaka. However your shalom bayis (peace in the home) situation needs great improvement.

The fact that you are having great difficulties in this area is a sign that this mitzvah has not been completed in your previous life. The holy Arizal teaches us that most souls living in a body have been here before. The reason they come back again is to fulfil those mitzvos that they did not do properly the first time around.

Those mitzvos that they did complete in their previous lifetime do not require any more refinement, and therefore their observance is easy.

However, those mitzvos that one did not complete in his previous lifetime are the ones most difficult to do. The yetzer hara targets these non-completed mitzvos as the ones to oppose most.

The fact that the issue of shalom bayis is so difficult for you proves that it is a mitzvah which needs fulfilment. In your past lifetime you did not refine this mitzvah. Now is your opportunity.

Friday, June 8, 2018

The Three Levels of Tzadikim


In every generation there exists 36 tzadikim nistarim [hidden righteous men] - sometimes known as "the Lamed Vav-niks" - [Lamed Vav is Hebrew for 36], whose existence sustain the world.

When one of them dies, G-d finds another replacement.

A tzadik nistar is a hidden tzadik, whose righteousness remains unknown to his community. In every generation there are 36 tzadikim nistarim in addition to 36 revealed tzadikim. [see Leviatan and Behemot]. Together they combine to form the 72 "bridges" [corresponding to the 72 Names of G-d] described in the Zohar as linking together the concealed and revealed worlds. It requires tremendous self sacrifice for a tzadik nistar to reveal himself to the world. This was first accomplished in full by the Ba'al Shem Tov.

A tzadik is someone who has succeeded in fully overcoming the evil inclination of his animal soul [and has converted its potential into good] and who dedicates himself to spiritually elevating his people.

There are in general three levels of the tzadik:

1. A "complete tzadik" [tzadik gamur] who not only vanquishes in full his innate evil inclination, but even transforms it into good [for which reason he is referred to as tzadik v'tov lo," a tzadik who possesses only good].

2. An "incomplete tzadik" [tzadik she'eino gamur] who has not yet completed the task of vanquishing his evil inclination, though he has mineralized it in essence [for which reason he is called a tzadik v'ra lo," a tzadik who [still] possesses [a bit of] evil].

3. A "relative tzadik" [tzadik b'shem hamushal, or tzadik b'din] whose merits exceed his liabilities [see Tanya, chapt. 1].