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].

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Obstructing Shadow Part 2



by Rav Ephraim Kenig shlita

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

The Obstructing Shadow


by Rav Ephraim Kenig shlita


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

...to be continued


Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sh'lach: Rejecting the Land of Israel

Art: Jerusalem Landscape by Michoel Muchnik

"And [the spies] began to speak badly about the land that they had explored." [Sh'lach 13:32

A dispirited discussion took place at Beit HaRav, Rav Kook's house in Jerusalem, not long after the end of World War II. The Chief Rabbi had passed away ten years earlier; now it was his son, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook, who sat at the head of the table.

One participant at the Sabbath table had brought up a disturbing topic: the phenomenon of visitors touring Eretz Yisrael and then criticizing the country after returning to their homes. These visitors complain about everything: the heat, the poverty, the backwardness, the political situation - and discourage other Jews from moving here, he lamented.

Rav Tzvi Yehudah responded by telling over the following parable, one he had heard in the name of Rabbi Samuel Mohilever, the rabbi of Bialystok.

The Failed Match
There was once a wealthy man who sought the hand of a certain young lady. She was the most beautiful girl in town, and was blessed with many talents and a truly refined character. Her family was not well-off, so they were eager about a possible match with the prosperous fellow.

The young woman, however, was not interested in the match. Rich or not, the prospective suitor was known to be coarse and ill-mannered. She refused to meet with him.

The father asked her to at least meet with the young man in their home, so as not to embarrass him. After all, one meeting doesn't obligate you to marry him! To please her father, the young woman agreed.

The following Sabbath afternoon, the fellow arrived at the house as arranged, and was warmly received by the father. Shortly afterwards, his daughter made her entrance. But her hair was uncombed, and she wore a faded, crumpled dress and shabby house slippers. Appalled at her disheveled appearance, it did not take long before the young man excused himself and made a hurried exit.

What everyone says about this girl - it's not true, exclaimed the astonished young man to his friends. She's hideous!

Rav Tzvi Yehudah stopped briefly, surveying the guests seated around the table. Superficially, it would appear that the brash young fellow had rejected the young woman. But in fact, it was she who had rejected him.

The same is true regarding the Land of Israel, the rabbi explained. Eretz Yisrael is a special land, only ready to accept those who are receptive to its unique spiritual qualities. The Land does not reveal its inner beauty to all who visit. Not everyone is worthy to perceive its special holiness.

It may appear as if the dissatisfied visitors are the ones who reject the Land of Israel, he concluded. But in fact, it is the Land that rejects them!

A thoughtful silence pervaded the room. Those present were stunned by the parable and the rabbi's impassioned delivery. Then one of the guests observed, Reb Tzvi Yehudah, your words are suitable for a son of your eminent father, may his memory be a blessing!

Seeing the Goodness of Jerusalem
Rav Tzvi Yehudah's response was indeed appropriate for Rav Kook's son. When visitors from outside the country would approach the Chief Rabbi for a blessing, Rav Kook would quote from the Book of Psalms, "May God bless you from Zion" [128:5].

Then he would ask: What exactly is this blessing from Zion? In fact, the content of the blessing is described in the continuation of the verse: "May you see the goodness of Jerusalem."

The rabbi would explain: The verse does not say that one should merit seeing Jerusalem; but that one should merit seeing 'the goodness of Jerusalem.' Many people visit Jerusalem. But how many of them merit seeing the inner goodness hidden in the holy city?

And that, he concluded, is God's special blessing from Zion.

[ Source: Stories from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Malachim Kivnei Adam]

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Pink Moon

How could I resist a pink moon.....

Photos by Glick Photography
Moon rising over Bondi Beach Sydney - May 29 and May 30




Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Random Links




Firstly my apologies for the lack of blog posts lately, I could give you several reasons why but in the end all that matters is that this blog keeps going until Moshiach arrives.

To that end, here are some interesting reads [the first one is actually audio and videos, please check it out]

Wellsprings of the Deep - the vast wisdom being revealed today as predicted in the Zohar - by Yosef Sebag, physicist, electrical engineer

The Hidden Meaning of Ramadan  [HT: Yaak]

G-d to Klal Yisrael… Believe in Yourselves

Monday, May 28, 2018

Hawaii

These flames give a whole new meaning to Blue Hawaii


From the comments at Guatemala The Second Nation 

[commenter Tishbi] It mainly symbolizes paradise; but also hell – as all the recent volcano video clips show. It owes its very existence to volcanic action, the islands having been formed by what got spewed up from the fiery depths of hell. However, in time, it became as tropical paradise. Optimistically, perhaps this epitomizes redemption from hell. The Talmud says there’s a fine line between Gan Eden (Paradise) and Gehenom (Hell) (lit. separated by a thin curtain). You’d think they’d be polar opposites, as far away from each other as you can get. No place more than Hawaii illustrates the proximity of these two extremes. Not hard to imagine after seeing those volcanoes. This was well illustrated by a picture of a guy playing golf with lava spewing in the background.

Hawaii is not too far from being the geographical polar opposite of Jerusalem. As such, perhaps it displays an inverse relationship to the Holy City, which is known as the portal to Heaven. Being the 50th State – it may also be a symbolic portal. Hawaii’s connection to 50, was further broadcast by the popular TV series know as Hawaii Five-O. Hawaii is a tiny speck in the huge sea. The word for sea in Hebrew (yam) = 50. This blog has spoken numerous times of the significance 50. Though we tend to think of California of being the “progressive” vanguard of the United States; it may be Hawaii that is the portal through which the United States is lead. Recall the attack on Pearl Harbor, was what forced the U.S. into the fray of WWII. What happened in Hawaii pulled the other 49 states.

A word in Hebrew for portal is פה (mouth). As in פי הארץ the portal to the earth, which is an apt description for a volcano.

Dov mentioned the Hebrew name for Hawaii (הוויי) being composed solely of letters from the name of Hashem. Interestingly, this name appears at the minimal skip distance of 2 in Exodus 4:15 starting with the letter ה of the word פיהו.

וְדִבַּרְתָּ אֵלָיו, וְשַׂמְתָּ אֶת-הַדְּבָרִים בְּפִיו; וְאָנֹכִי, אֶהְיֶה עִם-פִּיךָ וְעִם-פִּיהוּ, וְהוֹרֵיתִי אֶתְכֶם, אֵת אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשׂוּן. “And thou shalt speak unto him, and put the words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do.”

Amazingly the word mouth (portal) appears 3 times in this single verse which contains the name Hawaii! And the verse itself refers to instruction from God. So opposite Jerusalem and Zion, where Torah issues from, lays isolated Hawaii which seems to be a portal for other Divine messages. 


Suggested reading:



Exellent post at Emunaroma Kilauea and the Slow Pace of Redemption, and as an aside to some of the information there, an older post from Yeranen Yaakov An Icelandic Volcano is one of the Openings of Gehinnom

The wall of lava from the volcano has now breeched the power plant.



Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Entering the King's Palace



"A man's holy items shall remain his" [Naso 5:10]

To what can this be compared, asked the Chofetz Chaim? Answer: to a King who summoned his servant Reuven, to appear before him.

Reuven was filled with dread and thought "why has the King summoned me? Perhaps someone has slandered me and falsely accused me of committing some crime".

Reuven approached his trusted friend Shimon, and asked him to accompany him to the King's courtyard; yet Shimon refused!

"What shall I do" thought Reuven. "Shimon my closest friend has refused to join me; I will go and ask Levi. True, Levi is not my best friend, but perhaps my plea will sway him enough that he will accompany me."

"I am prepared to join you" replied Levi, "but I am afraid of entering the King's palace. I will accompany you to the King's courtyard, and then I will have to part from you."

Left with little choice, Reuven approached Yehudah, whom he hardly knew.

Surprisingly, it was Yehudah who agreed to join Reuven on his visit to the King. He agreed to enter the palace and intercede on Reuven's behalf.

"When a person departs from this world", concluded the Chofetz Chaim, "and is summoned to appear before HaKadosh Baruch Hu, the King of all kings, his closest "friend" - the gold and silver that took so much effort to amass - will refuse to accompany him. His sons and daughters escort him partway, but they will not enter the King's palace.

"Only the mitzvos and good deeds that he performed during his life - the things he appreciated least - will be the ones to accompany him all the way to the Throne of Glory. Only they will plead on his behalf!"

This is as the verse states: "A man's holy items" - the mitzvos and holy deeds that a man has done throughout his life - "shall remain his" - only they will remain with him to intervene on his behalf after passing from this world.

Source: Rabbi Y. Bronstein on the Weekly Parsha

Friday, May 18, 2018

Tikkun Le'il Shavuot

Etsy Art


by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto


The custom to learn Torah on the eve of Shavuot [also see here for more information]

Millions of people all over the world are eager to receive “only” one blessing from the Creator of the world. They are willing to work hard with all their heart and soul in order to merit being included in the category of fortunate people, who are listed in the sefer zichronot of Hashem. Of course, to merit receiving The ultimate blessing, with a capital “T”, is not simple. However, once a year a unique opportunity presents itself to receive not only one blessing from Hashem, but to receive a package full of blessings, with seventy blessings all together.

This unique opportunity will commence on Motzei Shabbat, on the eve of Shavuot, since on this night it is the common practice throughout the Diaspora to remain awake all night to study Torah until dawn.

What is the reward for those who learn Torah all night on the eve of Shavuot?

This is what the holy Zohar reveals [Introduction to the Zohar chelek I, p. 8]:

All those who complete the tikkun on this night and do so joyously, will be registered and recorded in the sefer zichronot, and Hakadosh Baruch Hu blesses them with seventy blessings and with crowns from the Upper world. Regarding them it says, “Then those who fear Hashem spoke to one another and Hashem listened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for those who fear Hashem and those who give thought to His Name.”

Regarding the segulah of learning Torah throughout the eve of Shavuot, the sefer on the customs of the Arizal, called Pitora d’Abba, states: All those who did not sleep in this night at all, not even for one moment, and was involved in the study of Torah the entire night, is promised that he will live out the year and no harm will befall him in that year. As Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai writes in his introduction to Bereishit, “He will live through the year in peace.” Moreover, a person’s life is determined according to this matter, because if he will not sleep at all on the eve of Shavuot, then he will surely not die that year. This is why it became a custom for Am Yisrael to delve in Torah the entire night of Shavuot.

Moreover, it is important to note that there are many communities that are meticulous about not speaking any mundane words the entire night until after the Kedushah beginning with “Keter” (כתר) in the tefillah of Mussaf. This is a special segulah, according to the Arizal, to be saved from death defined as “karet” (כרת), since the word “karet” (כרת) contains the same letters as “Keter” (כתר)

Befitting Teshuvah

The reason for learning Torah on the eve of Shavuot is explained in Pirkei d’Rabbi Eliezer. At the time of Matan Torah, Bnei Yisrael had slept throughout the night, since sleeping on the Atzeret is pleasant, and the night is short. Hashem had to wake them up from their sleep with thunder and lightning, which occurred prior to receiving the Torah on Har Sinai. In order to make amends, Chazal established, as befitting teshuvah, to be on duty that entire night and study the holy Torah in the way they outlined, until dawn, and hear kriat HaTorah and the Ten Commandments as if we had just received them on Har Sinai.