Monday, April 15, 2019

The Greatness of our Generation


An older Rabbi Kessin shiur recently uploaded to You Tube. [thank you Neshama]

As soon as a new shiur is uploaded, I will publish.


Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Key to Moshiach

Mazel tov Bibi Netanyahu on your re-election.

A blessing for success from the Lubavitcher Rebbe..... how could you fail?   It was predicted long ago that Ariel Sharon's [Likud] party would be the last government before Moshiach, and in fact Ariel Sharon was the ''key to Moshiach''  ..... Rabbi Kadouri zt'l stated that Moshiach will not come until after the death of Sharon.....and so it goes....let us pray that this is the last election before Moshiach and Bibi will lead us there.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Potentially Great



וְאִם דַּל הוּא "And if he is poor" [Metzora 14:21]


Written by Rabbi Yisroel Bronstein

The offerings of a wealthy man and that of a poor man, remarked the Chofetz Chaim, are not equal.  A wealthy man brings an offering in accord with his wealth, while a poor man brings an offering that is within his means.

The Mishnah in Maseches Nega'im states that a wealthy metzora who brings a poor man's offering does not fulfill his obligation with that offering.

The same thing applies, said the Chofetz Chaim, to a Jew's spirituality.  A person must put forth the utmost effort when it comes to serving Hashem, and he must utilize the potential that Hashem has granted him.  For example, Hashem demands much more from a talmid chacham than from someone who is ignorant in Torah learning.  Each individual must harness his own potential and level to its maximum.

There are times when you pray or study Torah and you think to yourself:  "I may not be totally focused during my prayers and learning, but compared to my friend, I am far superior."

This is a grave error.  The friend may fall into the category of a spiritually "poor man" - perhaps he never learned how to pray properly; perhaps he has worries that gnaw at his peace of mind; or perhaps the friend does not possess the same intellectual capabilities that you do.

Your friend's deeds may appear inferior to your own, but Hashem, Who knows and understands the hearts of every man, sees that your friend is praying and studying Torah to the best of his ability, thereby satisfying that which is required of him.  It may very well be that it is you who are the inferior one!

Reb Zusha was on his death bed, and tears were streaming down his face. "Why are you crying?" asked his disciples. "If God asks me why I wasn't like Moses or Maimonides," answered Reb Zusha, "I'll say, I wasn't blessed with that kind of leadership ability and wisdom.

"But I'm afraid of another question" continued Reb Zusha, "what if God asks: Reb Zusha, why weren't you like Reb Zusha? Why didn't you find your inner being and realize your inner potential? Why didn't you find yourself? That is why I am crying."

Thursday, April 4, 2019

A Whiter Shade of Pale


"If he has turned completely white, he remains pure" [Tazria 13:13]

R' Yochanan in Maseches Sanhedrin [98a] taught: "Mashiach, the son of David, will only come to a generation that is either entirely meritorious or entirely guilty".

This statement is difficult to understand, noted the Chasam Sofer (R' Moshe Sofer).  For while it is easily understood why a generation that is entirely meritorious would be worthy of receiving Mashiach, on what basis would a thoroughly guilty generation receive him?

We find a similar difficulty in the verse: "If he has turned completely white, he remains pure".  If a small affliction is considered impure, why is it considered pure when it covers the metzora's entire body?

We can answer both questions with one answer. Skin afflictions come upon an individual in order to inspire him to repent for his misdeeds.  Now, if his entire body has turned white, he will definitely be humbled to repent completely and sincerely. There is therefore no need to declare him impure.

The same applies to a generation that is completely guilty.  The way to awaken a generation that is full of sin is not with reproach but by sending them Mashiach ben David.  Then they will return to Hashem in complete repentance.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein
The Talmud states: "The son of David [Moshiach] will only come when every government becomes heretical".

Rabah said: "Where do we see [an allusion to] this in Scripture?  From the verse: "he has turned completely white, he is ritually pure." [Sanhedrin 97a]

Rashi explains: "Just like when the affliction has spread throughout the entire skin the person is ritually pure, so too when all the governments have become heretical, the redemption will come."

This sign of redemption could be seen as either:

a) A negative sign, that people have become so corrupt that G-d is forced, so to speak, to save the world and bring redemption.

b) A positive sign, that the world has become so refined that it is clear to everybody that any regime or government which is not based on Torah is heretical and corrupt.

This parallels the two views expressed above:

a) If the corruption of governments is a negative sign, it follows that G-d is "forced" to bring the redemption, so to speak, despite the world.  This corresponds to the view that the law ("he has turned completely white, he is ritually pure") is a super-rational decree of scripture, which is followed despite the fact that it is illogical.

b) But if the corruption of governments is a positive sign, it follows that G-d is bringing the redemption because the world has become good. This corresponds to the view that the law is logical.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Blue

Almond Blossom - Vincent Van Gogh


The tassel is blue
the blue is the colour of the sea
the sea is the colour of the sky
and the sky is the colour of the Throne of Glory

[Source: The Talmud on the blue thread of the tassels on the corners of the tzitzit]

Tonight, 27 Adar II, is my mother's fifth yarzheit.  Her favourite colour was aquamarine, the same blue as described above, and spoken about by commenters in The Heavenly Voice.  May her neshama have an Aliyah: Esther Rivka bat Moshe.


When I read the latest post at Tomer Devorah, I was
reminded of this post and what can happen to you if
you dare to mess with a Tzaddik.


[Republished from 2008]

Note to readers:  If you are searching for " ספר תיקונים " - The Book of Corrections, you may find a link to a non-kosher site, proclaiming to have written this book. Please be advised that the book named ספר תיקונים written by יהונתן וואקסמאן  is not derived from kosher Jewish sources.  Update: Mr Waxman has now come to his senses and admits he is not a Jew and writes for his Xtian readers. 

----------------

Rabbi Yosef Dayan, the author of "Sefer HaTikunim", who departed from this world on 9 Tamuz 5745 (1985), was an Israeli Sefardi Tzaddik of Syrian background.

Rabbi Dayan was unusual in a number of ways. Firstly, after the Jewish people were returned to the Land of Israel, he spent a great deal of time discovering and uncovering the tombs of ancient tzaddikim throughout the Land. We are unsure exactly how he did this, but he did! He spent long periods of time at many of these holy sites, sometimes surrounded by hostile Arabs (although he was fearless through his attachment to G-d).

Secondly, he remained un-married, very unusual for a tzaddik.
Thirdly, he taught that prayer should be repeated. He often quoted the Talmud, that if your prayer is not answered, pray more, continue to pray and to beseech G-d. This was Rabbi Dayan's approach. He did not make do with a short prayer offered once. He taught regularity and consistency in prayer, according to Rabbi Hanina's teaching in Berachot 32a: "Everyone who prays long, his prayer does not return empty."

Rabbi Dayan explained the need to pray much and not to tire, until our request is received in Heaven. Because of our little worth and deficient deeds, we do not have the power to make prayer effective immediately. We need to persist in the avodah (service) of prayer, until we succeed in splitting the barrier that separates us from G-d.

He also said that, when you pray for something, you should pray using the same words each time (this explains the efficacy of a mantra**). Any change in the wording, he said, causes difficulties in the prayer being accepted. He also said it is desirable to focus on one request, not many, because according to the Sages, if you grab too much, you grab nothing.

Rabbi Dayan taught that it is helpful to offer tzedaka (charity) when praying and to pray at a holy site.

(From Od Yosef Hai)

** The mantras used in the eastern religions are the "shem tuma" (impure names) which Avraham sent to the east as gifts to the children of his pilagshim. Mentioned in passing in this post, it should be noted that they are STRICTLY FORBIDDEN to a Jew because they bring tuma (impurity) on a person, r"l, and give strength to the sitra achra. A Jew should not say these "mantras", nor should he allow them to be said in his home. (Comment from Yaakov Nathan)

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

Stories about the Holy Tzadik HaRav Yosef Dayan, author of Sefer HaTikkunim

1. Rav Yosef Dayan would always see the name of Hashem in front of him at all times. Once while talking to his student H'Rav Yosef accidentally said "I always see the holy fearsome Shem Havayah engraved in my mind's eye intertwined with the Shem Adnus."

2. Rav Yosef Dayan was on such a high level that he was able to walk in the streets and the Pritzut in front of him would not even register in his mind, since his thoughts were constantly bound to the supernatural lights.

3. Immediately after finishing Shacharis at Netz, H'Rav Yosef Dayan would enter the Beis Medrash. Then while still fasting he would learn straight for hours with great fervor and no interruptions. He would not take a break for a minute, even when people would knock on the door he would not interrupt his learning. This would continue until Mincha time when he would get up and once again and go to the Beis Medrash to pray.

4. Every Motzai Shabbat he would pray Maariv in the Beit Knesset "Shoson". Due to his prolonged prayer he would miss the Kedusha of "V'atah Kadosh." H'Rav Yosef Dayan would therefore go to a second Minyan in Bais Knesset "Ohel Rochel" which had started later. He would arrive there just as the chazan would start with "V'atah Kadosh."The gabby of that Minyan thought Rav Yosef to be a simple and ignorant man. When he saw him come late week after week and start in middle of the prayers, the Gabby would begin yelling at him and publicly denouncing him for missing the first part of the prayer. H'Rav Yosef would remain silent and accept the embarrassment so as not to reveal that he had already prayed and was just coming to hear the Kedushah. These rebukes happened weekly both from the Gabaim and from the members of the minyan.

A student of Rav Yosef who saw what was going on was not able to hold himself back and finally asked Rav Yosef why he simply did not state that he had already completed the first part of the prayers. H'Rav Yosef answered him "Shhh don't reveal that, I am very happy with embarrassments I receive."

5. One year, there was a lack of rain in Eretz Yisroel. The drought continued through Kislev, Teves and even Adar. All over the country mass prayer sessions were organized to plead to our Father in Heaven to send rain. As usual H'Rav Dayan and his students would gather in Kever Shmuel Hanavi to pray and do Tikkunim for the nation of Yisroel.

The students noticed that H'Rav Yosef was not actually addressing the lack of rain. A number of students kept on bringing up the issue but H'Rav Dayan remained silent. One student pleaded with him to pray and do Kavanot for the rain, reminding him of the severe situation the country was facing. Finally H'Rav Dayan replied with a short and definite answer "If there will be no impurity and Pritzut in the world, the rains will not be held back." He then continued praying as usual.

6. There was a long period of time that H'Rav Yosef Dayan was accustomed to light candles every day in the merit of Rebbe Meir Baal Haneis and the Rashbi, may their merit protect us. H'Rav Yosef would light the candles in a certain local Bait Knesset. Before lighting the candles he would recite many prayers in great trepidation, he would then do mighty meditations and Yichudim. At the time of the lighting he would say Leshem Yichud.....I am lighting this candle to raise the Shechinah from exile and to raise the soul of the holy Tzakik in whose merit the candle is being lit. These candles would burn for twenty four hours straight. H'Rav Yosef would prepare special wicks and the right amounts of oil in advance.In the neighborhood there lived two men who were greatly upset by H'Rav Dayan's daily candle lighting ritual. They would steal his wicks and hide his oil in an effort to prevent it from happening. When H'Rav Yosef saw this he was greatly pained. He finally said "These people that are trying to prevent the candle lighting do not know with whom they are dealing with, they are not dealing with me but rather with Rebbe Meir Baal Haneis and the Rashbi, I do not envy their future." That same week the two men were struck by the hand of G-d. The first man broke his leg and had to lay in a body cast for a number of months, the second man became paralyzed in half his body.

7. The Mekubal H'Rav Yitzchak Kaduri would say that he knew for a fact that H'Rav Yosef Dayan was one of the thirty six hidden Tzakikkim. H'Rav Mordechai Sharabi likewise gave testimony that H'Rav Yosef Dayan was one of the thirty six hidden Tzadikim.

8. Once a student of H'Rav Dayan approached him and told him that he was having a lot of problems avoiding being drafted to the Israeli army. H'Rav Yosef Dayan simply handed him his hat and told him to wear it on his next visit to the army office. The student took the hat of the Tzadik and wore it on his next interview. When the general saw the hat, without saying a word he signed his release papers and told him to leave.

Monday, April 1, 2019

Send Me An Angel




An Angel is a messenger - "malach" in Hebrew. An Angel has no free will, they are intermediaries between G-d and the world.... so there is no point "praying" to an angel as advised by some "spiritual" sites. We pray to G-d and only G-d.

There are good and bad angels. The Satan is the worst of all.

Angels can come to earth when sent on a mission. As angels are only made of the elements of air and fire, it is very difficult for an angel to come to earth, they have to concentrate very hard, to focus themselves here. That is why they vanish suddenly when their mission is complete.

Sometimes only one person will see the angel..... sometimes many will see it. You will not realise it is an angel, it may have taken the form of a human in order to carry out its task. Often people are given tests by angels, appearing as beggars, asking for money or help.

The angels such as those who spoke to Abraham and Jacob were purely spiritual forces which appeared in human form.

Before a baby is born, an angel teaches the baby Torah in the womb:

The Talmud says :

A candle is lit on his head and he is able to see from one end of the world until the other end .... There isn't a better period for a person than these days [in the womb] ... They [the angels] teach him all of Torah ... and as he enters the world, an angel hits him on his mouth and he forgets it [to be recalled later throughout the course of his life through learning]. [Niddah 30b]

For every mitzvah (or good deed) a person does, an angel is created. This angel defends you in the Heavenly Court. And when we sin, or tell lies, or harm others.... we create for ourselves a prosecuting angel.

According to Maimonides, the degree of Divine Providence you experience is directly proportional to your attachment to God, and therefore the commandments which create that attachment are the true "guardian angels" of a person.

Rebbe Meir says: "If a person does one commandment, he is given one angel to guard over him; if he does many commandments, he is given many angels."

The angels that accompany us, watching over us, are our own, the ones we have created with each commandment we do. We might imagine that when we leave this world we'll be accompanied by millions of angels, but our Sages teach us otherwise. We are told that the quality of the angel depends on the quality of our mitzvah. It's a long way to the World to Come, and sometimes a person can arrive there with only one angel because all the others fell by the wayside, too weak to complete the journey. In order to create a powerful angel, we have to do each commandment "like fire," in Hebrew, K'AiSh, K = Kavanah (intent), A = Ahavah (love), and S = Simchah (joy), with deep intent, love, and joy.

Everything is by Divine Providence. If a leaf is turned over by a breeze, it is only because this has been specifically ordained by G-d to serve a particular function within the purpose of creation. [Ba'al Shem Tov]

The Talmud teaches that in many matters G-d controls the world through intermediaries (angels). In fact, the Talmud states that there are only three keys that G-d didn’t give over to intermediaries. They are: the Key of Rain (parnosa/sustenance), the Key of Childbirth, and the Key of Techias HaMaisim (the Revival of the Dead).

Thursday, March 28, 2019

The Heavenly Voice


Have you ever heard a voice from Heaven?  I guess not many people have, and how would you know that it was from Heaven and not from somewhere else?   Once I did hear a voice, it was an electric sound that came into my right ear, I felt it as well as heard it.  It gave me advice which I followed, and saved myself from a disaster.  I have no idea what that voice was, I thought perhaps it was an angel.  That was many years ago, and it was the one and only time it ever happened. 

The other day I stumbled upon the following interesting information on the internet, which some of you may like to read.   [If you have ever heard a voice from Heaven, please leave a comment, I'd love to hear about it]


BAS KOL - Ein Mashgichin B'vas Kol 

One of the lower forms of prophecy is called Bas Kol [lit. echo], where certain individuals of a high spiritual status hear a heavenly voice. The Gemara in numerous places cites instances when a Bas Kol was heard, relaying information from Heaven to the earth. The Halachic ruling [Bava Metzia 59b] is that we do not accept the ruling of a Bas Kol when it contradicts the majority opinion of the Sages. [Some Tana'im ruled more stringently, asserting that we do not accept the testimony of a Bas Kol even if it follows the majority opinion. See Background to Yevamos 14:2:b.]

Source: Daf Yomi

Monday, March 25, 2019

Rabbi Kessin on Bringing Moshiach


HT: Rahel

I believe that Rabbi Kessin will be returning to the US this week and hopefully will be giving regular shiurim again.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Purim Sameach


Wishing everyone a wonderful day.

Looking for somewhere to give tzedaka on this special day?  Head over to Boys Town Jerusalem and see for yourself.

To see more Purim posts click the Purim label below.

Friday, March 15, 2019

A Visit to Mordechai and Esther


A French man visits the kevarim [grave sites] of Mordechai and Esther in Hamedan, Iran

An early Purim treat


Thursday, March 14, 2019

Other People's Money

This is a timely post for me. I can't tell you how many times I have encountered ''rabbis'' [and those quotation marks are there for a reason] who are doing the wrong thing with other people's money. It is a sad fact that many rabbis today are not behaving well. This is not only bad for the Jewish people, it is an absolute chillul Hashem [a desecration of G-d's name]. If you call yourself ''rabbi'' you have a duty to behave in an upright and fully honest manner, otherwise you are bringing shame upon all of us.



''He shall return the article that he stole, the withheld funds, the article left for safekeeping, the found article.... or anything else regarding which he swore falsely" [Vayikra 5:23-24]

Gedolei Yisrael have always exercised great caution when dealing with the money of others, so that they would not be guilty of the severe transgression of theft.

by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

One erev Shabbos, when R' Isser Zalman Meltzer returned from the mikveh, he suddenly realized that he had used two clothing cubbies at the mikveh.

Perhaps I took someone else's space, thought R' Meltzer. I might very well owe the mikveh attendant twice the amount that I usually pay!

One of his family members saw how much the matter was troubling R'Meltzer, so he offered to go to the mikveh and pay the attendant for the extra cubby.

"It is I who must go" replied R' Meltzer. "For the halachah states explicitly that one who steals from his fellow must not only repay him, but he must verbally appease him as well. The responsibility to appease the attendant is my responsibility alone."

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Give Life


Dear Friends,

Unfortunately, I do not think there is anyone amongst us who does not know families that have been shepherded through acute or chronic pediatric illness by Chai Lifeline.  A short time ago I blogged about Libby, who B""H is now alive due to the assistance of Chai Lifeline.

For the first time ever, we are at a critical point, with our intake over the past few years reaching 15% more than in each preceding year.  This adds up to a whopping 45% more families impacted by serious disease - lo alienu !  

While we all daven that Hashem will erase the need for Chai Lifeline momentarily, we need to prepare to service these children and their families.

I'm turning to you for help.  Please take a moment to make a donation, open a page of your own, and enlist others to donate - or both!

In the next 48 hours, every dollar raised will be matched !

Thousands of families world wide are counting on us.

May you always be on the giving side.

Please click here to donate and help this incredibly worthy cause: Chai Lifeline - supporting sick children and their families.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

The Ascent of Sin




"He forgives sins.... " [Vayakhel 34:7]

The word for "forgive" here literally means "carry" or "lift". Based on this, the Baal Shem Tov taught that G-d elevates the sparks of holiness in the sin, for nothing - not even a sin - could exist unless it contained a spark of holiness. G-d returns them to their source. This is the essence of forgiveness.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explained this idea as follows: It is indeed impossible to elevate a sinful act; such an act is evil, and the only proper treatment for it is to denounce it. 

In contrast, the power of desire vested in the act is not evil, for it is possible to utilize this power to desire good as well as evil. When we repent properly, we divest our power of desire of its veneer of evil and restore it to its holy source.


from the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Adapted by Moshe-Yaakov Wisnefsky

Friday, February 22, 2019

Ki Tissa: When Bad Things Happen to Good People

by Chanan Morrison

After Moses succeeded in petitioning God to forgive the Jewish people for the sin of the golden calf, he made an additional request from God: “If You are indeed pleased with me, allow me to know Your ways” [Ki Tissa 33:12]

 What exactly did Moses desire to know? The Talmud (Berachot 7a) explains that Moses wanted to understand the age-old problem of reward and punishment in this world:

“Master of the Universe, why is it that some righteous people prosper, while others suffer? Why do some wicked people prosper, and others suffer?”

Two Factors

According to Rabbi Yossi, God fulfilled Moses’ request. The Talmud initially explains that anomalies in divine justice in this world are the result of ancestral merit. A righteous person whose parents were wicked may undergo suffering in this world, while a wicked person whose parents were righteous may be rewarded.

However, the Sages were not satisfied with this explanation. Why should a righteous person who rejected his parents’ evil ways be punished? He should be rewarded doubly! The Sages concludes that if there are righteous who suffer, it must be because they are not fully righteous. (This is usually understood that they are punished in this world to atone for their sins so that their reward in the next world will be complete.) Similarly, the wicked who prosper must not be totally evil. They receive reward in this world for the few merits they do possess.

(The Talmud also mentions an additional factor, called “Afflictions of Love.” Even a perfectly righteous individual may suffer in this world in order to gain additional reward in the afterlife.)

Upon inspection, we discover that these two mitigating factors - ancestral merit and incompleteness of righteousness or wickedness - are interrelated. All actions may be broken up into two categories. Some actions are performed purposely, by choice; while others - the majority - are done without thought, but by habit or training. For a righteous person from a righteous family, good deeds come naturally. He does not need suffering in order to refine his soul. The righteous individual born in a wicked family, on the other hand, must work harder. His good deeds are a conscious effort, going against his education and natural bent. He therefore needs the refinement that comes from suffering in order to perfect his character traits.

The wicked person who hails from a righteous family is naturally helpful to others, and may have inherited many other positive character traits. Therefore, his portion in life is good, as he contributes to the world. But the wicked who comes from a wicked family is usually an utterly evil person. His lot in life is made difficult and unstable, in order to limit the damage that he may cause in the world.

Beyond Our Grasp

The Talmud records a second opinion, Rabbi Meir, who disagreed with Rabbi Yossi. According to Rabbi Meir, God did not fulfill Moses’ request to explain the mechanics of suffering and reward in this world. The complex calculations of how much of our actions is a function of free will, and how much is due to society, education, and family background - belong to the Creator alone. The knowledge needed in order to understand divine justice in this world is beyond the grasp of all humans - even the master of all prophets, Moses.

[Gold from the Land of Israel (now available in paperback), pp. A 162-163. Adapted from Ein Eyah vol. I, p.32]

Monday, February 18, 2019

Sparking Joy


I have embarked on an early Pesach spring clean.  Inspired by Marie Kondo [who has become incredibly popular here] I have been tossing out the bad and tidying up the good.

Marie Kondo has taught us how to tidy up our homes using JOY.  Basically, if an object doesn't spark joy, then  you throw it out.  This includes clothing, books, kitchen ware, furniture.... anything you own.  [A friend jokingly said that her husband is no longer sparking joy, so he may have to go too!]

It occurred to me that it's not only the things in our homes that should be sparking joy.  It's also the things we think about and speak.  If a thought does not spark joy, throw it out.  Replace it with something that does spark joy.  If you are about to speak badly of someone, that should not spark any joy at all, so try and replace that topic with something else that does spark joy.  Try to be someone who sparks joy for others - complaining and whinging is not joyful for anybody.


Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Rabbi Kessin Update on Current Events


Rabbi Kessin speaks about the political situation in Israel, and also about the "Erev Rav''.  Highly recommended listening !

Monday, February 11, 2019

Favoritism in Heaven is Acquired Down Here


by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto


"You shall make vestments of sanctity for Aharon" [Tetzaveh 28:2]

Going about our daily life, we encounter many different sorts of people. There are the successful ones and the ones who constantly fail; those who are energetic and those who take life easy. There are people who are greatly respected and those who are less valued. There are also people who have 'connections' - children of important personalities or famous askanim; they are the ones who can resolve almost any predicament, with minimum time and effort…

This latter group is in a special category; everything falls into place for them almost by itself - they find work easily, they have friends in all the right places, they are accepted in the best educational institutions, and in the Beit Haknesset too they are accorded all the honors. The cherry on the cake is that when they need to deal with an issue in a government office, or sort out a problem with the local council they enjoy special treatment; lengthy procedures are carried out with alacrity and in a most efficient manner and they also receive all kinds of benefits…

But in heaven, Rabbi Osher Kovlesky shlita enlightens us, there is no such thing. All people are considered equal and are judged according to their deeds alone. Benefits are bestowed on those who have earned the merit. But there is nevertheless one group, a special 'elite' group, whose members do enjoy special reprieve in heaven. They are dealt with lightly, processes are shortened for them, they are assisted in closing their case, and their sins are bypassed. They automatically merit lenient treatment, not down in this world but in heaven – the place where it matters the most…

How does one join this club? It is open to one and all. One's country of origin makes no difference, nor does one's financial status. Those who enjoy special benefits in heaven, those who merit efficient service in the most valuable place - are those who give in to others, those who show submission. They behave with restraint, know how to defer to others and to be flexible and they know how to yield even when they truly deserve something.

Chazal have revealed a wonderful concept: "המעביר על מידותיו" – one who yields and doesn’t take a stand over offenses that were done to him, "he is forgiven for all his sins" – he merits heavenly assistance to fully repent. His repentance is given priority, he is treated with reprieve when seeking to erase debts and sins, and the focus is on judging his merits.

But one moment, how can this be? In heaven, nothing is overlooked. Heaven reckons every word that comes out of our mouths and every sight that we gaze at; a careful note of our every deed is recorded, "for all these things G-d will call you to account" [Kohelet 11:9]?

This is certainly correct - if we too behave according to the strict law and we are most particular about everything that others do to us! But, if we know how to yield and we are prepared to behave beyond the strict letter of the law, then in heaven we will merit the same attitude: we will be rewarded with abundant merits which will glide over our sins.

In this parsha we are told about the garments of the kohanim, the special clothing that Ahron and his sons wore. Aharon HaKohen "loved peace and pursued peace". This was his essence. He was a person who exuded peace and went out of his way to make peace between others and to increase peace and brotherhood. One of the most effective tools for increasing peace and friendship is to adopt the trait of giving way, to forgo and forfeit. We should firmly resolve that we are prepared to flee from all strife and peace is our priority, even if this means forgoing in any way.

The next time someone takes our place in the line, or takes advantage of us in any way for example by blocking our air or light, or parking in our private space – we can be right and make sure that he doesn’t get away with it, but it is much more worth it to be clever - to surrender and show restraint, to move on. At that moment we may seem weak in other people's eyes, but right then all our books of debt will be opened in Heaven, and entire pages will be deleted without batting an eyelash. We will merit special benefits and alleviations, which will cause our repentance to be accepted willingly and with ease. It could be that the person will again park in your space, and it is totally correct that someone insulted you so deeply that there is no way you are going to help him, and maybe the neighbor's extension blocks your light – but it is so much more worth it to merit a stream of benefits in heaven! To forgo and receive preferential treatment in the place where life itself is determined, is of much greater worth!

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

The Rebbe, Nibiru, Damascus and Moshiach


In this Torah Code, Rabbi Glazerson tells us how the Lubavitcher Rebbe often spoke about Damascus -  ''I asked and implored at the end of the Yom Kippur war to conclude and complete the victory by conquering Damascus''.

The Defence Minister at the time, Moshe Dayan, said we cannot do it because of Russia, and we don't have enough soldiers.... and so it didn't happen.

Rabbi Glazerson then quotes from the Sefer of a Collection of Midrashim: ''Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, while hiding in a cave, heard from an angel that ''one star will rise from Jacob and if it shines in favour of Israel, Messiah will arise''.



In the code you can see ''Damascus will fall''

The years 5776-5781 are shown, and this suggests it is the time of Moshiach's appearance [note this lines up with Rav Berland's prediction of 5781] - note that 5776 was the time ISIS destroyed many ancient sites in Damascus

and.... wait for it.... in the same code is the word ''Nibiru'' - [click on the Nibiru label below to see more about it]

So we have Nibiru and the fall of Damascus appearing in the same Torah code, together with the years 5776-5781.

Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Vayelech Eisav....


Photo by the Cheeky Scrub Wren and it has nothing to do with the blog post :)

Big HT to Yeranen Yaakov for this one


וַיֵּלֶךְ עֵשָׂו, אֶל-יִשְׁמָעֵאל  -   So Esau went unto Yishmael


Pope meets with UAE leaders

Monday, February 4, 2019

The Book of Remedies



by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum


At one of the most critical junctures of Jewish history, with Assyrian King Sennacherib's vast army closing in on Jerusalem, Hezekiah King of Judah suddenly fell mortally ill. His entire body was covered with horrible sores. The prophet Isaiah came to him and said, "Thus says the Lord: Set your house in order, for you will die and not live" (Isaiah 38:1; Kings II, 20:1).

With God's prophet telling him to make his will and prepare to die, a lesser man might have given up the fight. Not Hezekiah. He had a tradition from his ancestor, King David: "Even if a sharp sword is pressing on your neck, don't despair of pleading for God's mercy" (Berakhot 10a).

The Midrash throws light on the meaning of Hezekiah's illness. "Rabbi Levi said: Hezekiah mused, `It isn't good for people to enjoy constant good health until the day they die. This way they'll never think of repentance. But if they fall sick and then recover, they'll come to repent their sins.' God said to Hezekiah, `This is a good idea. And I'll start with you!'" (Bereshit Rabbah 65:9).

Hezekiah saw that illness can have a positive side if it prompts us to examine ourselves. What have we been doing with our lives? How have we been using our bodies? What is our true purpose in this world? How can we attain it?

As Hezekiah lay in mortal danger, he asked the prophet where he had gone astray. Isaiah explained that he had failed to carry out the first commandment of the Torah, to be fruitful and multiply. Hezekiah said this was because he had seen with holy spirit that his offspring would be unworthy. But Isaiah said this was not his business: he had an obligation to have children. Hezekiah understood his mistake and undertook to marry and have children.

That sickness is a prompt from God to examine ourselves was a lesson Hezekiah, spiritual leader of his people, had long wanted to teach. The point is brought out in a rabbinic comment on Hezekiah's prayer as he lay sick: "I did what is good in Your eyes." Enumerating Hezekiah's achievements during his reign, the Rabbis said he was alluding in his prayer to two major innovations: he "joined Redemption to Prayer, and he put away the Book of Remedies" (Berakhot 10b; Pesachim 56a).

"Joining Redemption to Prayer" literally refers to Hezekiah's institution of the rule that during the daily prayer services no interruption may be made between recital of the blessing of Redemption that follows the Shema and commencement of the silent Amidah prayer. But what about the Book of Remedies? What was it, and why did Hezekiah ban it?

Extant clay tablets and papyruses indicate that the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt possessed a vast body of medical knowledge. Hundreds of therapeutic plant, mineral and animal substances were in use, as well as a wide variety of surgical and other treatments. It would be easy to speculate that the Book of Remedies included medical techniques borrowed from other cultures with which the Jews had contact.

On the other hand, Rabbi Shimon bar Tzemach (the TaShBaTz, 1361-1444) states that the source of the book was supernatural: when Noah was in the ark during the flood, destructive spirits injured his sons, but an angel took one of them to the Garden of Eden and taught him all the remedies in the world (Seder HaDorot #1657).

The Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman of Girondi, 1194-1270) opines that the Book of Remedies was composed by Hezekiah's ancestor, King Solomon, whose God-given wisdom enabled him to deduce the healing properties of the various trees and plants from allusions buried in the Torah (Ramban, Commentary on the Torah, Introduction).

By any account, the Book of Remedies contained the accumulated healing wisdom of the Jewish People. Why then did Hezekiah put it away? It was not that the remedies were ineffective. On the contrary, in Hezekiah's view they were too effective! "When a person became sick, he would follow what was written in the book and be healed, and as a result people's hearts were not humbled before Heaven because of illness" (Rashi on Pesachim 56a). In the words of the Rambam (ad loc.): "They did not have trust that it is the Holy One, blessed be He, Who heals and binds up wounds."

Resort to the Book of Remedies turned sickness and healing into nothing but a mechanical process. Hezekiah was not seeking to withhold medical expertise because of some morbid desire to make people suffer their sicknesses to the full so as to somehow expiate their sins. Far from wanting them to be sick, Hezekiah saw that reliance on the Book of Remedies actually prevented people from being truly healed. While the remedies it contained might alleviate their bodily ailments, the very effectiveness of these physical cures allowed those who used them to avoid confronting the underlying spiritual flaws to which their bodily ailments pointed.

King Hezekiah wanted the people to understand that illness, terrible as it may be, is sent by God for a purpose. It is to prompt us to examine ourselves and our lives, to ask ourselves where we have strayed from our mission and what steps we must take in the future in order to attain genuine self-fulfilment. Concealing the Book of Remedies would encourage people to take their lives in hand and actualize their latent spiritual powers, playing an active role in their own healing process.

Putting away the Book of Remedies was thus intimately bound up with King Hezekiah's second innovation, "joining Redemption to Prayer." This was more than a technical rule of religious ritual. Hezekiah redeemed prayer itself! He taught people how to pray again. Prayer brings us to the ultimate connection with God. And precisely because prayer is so exalted, it is surrounded by endless obstacles. For many people it seems like a meaningless, tiresome burden: prayer is in exile. Hezekiah sought to tear down the barriers and reveal the new-old pathway of prayer in its true splendor.

Prayer is not just a matter of asking God for favors. It is our way to channel divine power and blessing into ourselves, our lives and the whole world. Through prayer the soul rises to God and is healed, and in turn sends healing power into the body. By truly redeeming prayer Hezekiah was able to put away the Book of Remedies. There was simply no more need for it.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

The Time Has Come



R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev lifted his pure eyes to Heaven and said: "Master of the World! You have exhorted us in Your Torah, "You shall not cause any pain to any widow or orphan. [Mishpatim 22:21]

We, Your nation Israel, are orphans, as the Navi laments: "We have become [like] orphans, and there is no father." [Eichah 5:3]

"I turn to You today, O Father in Heaven, and I beseech You to have mercy upon Your nation of orphans who are languishing in a bitter exile.  The time has come for You to take us from darkness into light!"

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein


Thursday, January 24, 2019

The Teshuva of Eisav


Rabbi Kessin talks about the teshuva of Eisav, and I have read on at least one other website that ''Eisav does not do teshuva'' and that Rabbi Kessin is therefore incorrect.  Here is some Torah from Rabbi David Pinto shlita, which would appear to confirm that Rabbi Kessin is indeed correct [not that I ever doubted him in the first place.... ]



It is written, “In the third month from the exodus of the Children of Israel from Egypt, they arrived at the desert of Sinai” [Yitro 19:1

An explanation for why the Torah was given in the third month: It was in order to prevent the nations of the world from saying, “If You had given us the Torah, we would have fulfilled it.” Hashem said, “See in which month I gave the Torah: The third month, which is under the sign of Gemini. 

Thus if the wicked Esav wishes to repent, convert, and study Torah, let him come and study, for I will accept him.” 

The Torah was therefore given in this month, placed under the sign of Gemini, in order to teach Esav that he too can merit it, just as Jacob did.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Moshiach Before Elections ??

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the most prominent rabbis of this generation, made a shocking statement, claiming that the Messiah will precede the upcoming Israeli elections. Several rabbis noted that the writing is on the wall and the signs that the process leading up to the Messiah has already begun…for those who have the eyes to see it.

Read more at Breaking Israel News

Monday, January 21, 2019

Trees and the Hidden Channels of Communication



In honour of Tu b'Shvat  - the new year for trees.  To learn more about the customs of eating fruits go to The Seven Species of Israel




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


Many types of fruit do not grow in some lands, only because people do not understand.

The world has a foundation stone. Channels emanate from this stone, reaching every land. The Midrash teaches us that the wise King Solomon knew the details of these channels and was therefore able to plant all types of trees.

If people knew the exact location of these subterranean channels, they would be able to grow fruit trees even in these lands. They could grow many that never grow there now.

Each channel has the power to stimulate a particular species. Even if a particular channel does not pass through one land, all channels are intertwined and flow into each other. If one knew the exact place, he could plant any type of tree.

If one knew the location of all channels, he could dig a well and know where to plant trees around it. He could then make any type of tree grow.

The foundation stone of the world constantly rises and descends. If one knows its position, then he knows what to plant at a particular time.

All these things are concealed from the world for some things may not be revealed.

People say that the world is gaining knowledge, but earlier generations made the primary discoveries, and this took the greatest wisdom.

Later generations make discoveries only because earlier ones prepared the way. One generation makes the basic discoveries, and later generations apply them, but the latter contribution is really the smaller.

The Talmud says "If you would not have removed the piece of clay, you would not have found the jewel under it."

There are things that may not be revealed, for if they were revealed, later generations would make an idol of them. There is knowledge that may not be revealed, for later generations would use the basic knowledge and continually add to it, often irresponsibly. They could then develop concepts leading to cataclysmic discoveries.

It is written [Lev. 19:23] "When you enter your land and plant any tree... three years shall its fruit be forbidden to you". The Zohar teaches us that the evil forces of klipah dwell in trees during these first three years.

Earlier generations misunderstood this and thought that they were obliged to worship a tree during the three years that it was under the influence of the klipah. According to their error it was a logical necessity to make such a tree an object of worship.


Iran's potential fall, Israeli Elections & The Persecution of President Trump


New shiur from Rabbi Kessin


Sunday, January 20, 2019

Lost at the Fair

"Olam Ha-Ze" by Barbara Mendes


"I was a stranger in a foreign land" [Yitro 18:3]

Moshe Rabbeinu, said the Chofetz Chaim, called his son Gershom ('stranger there') because he wished to be reminded daily that his life in this world was but a temporary one, like a stranger living in a foreign land.

The Chofetz Chaim explained this idea with a parable:

A merchant once went to a fair in order to purchase merchandise at a low cost.  The fair was being held in a distant location, so the merchant was forced to part with his family for a long time.

Before he left home, the merchant comforted his wife and children: "Do not be upset. It's true that I will be away for a long time and I will certainly miss all of you, but the time will pass quickly and, with the help of Hashem, I will soon return home.  You have my word that I will not tarry a moment longer than necessary."  The merchant then gathered his belongings and went on his way.

After a long trip, the merchant arrived at the fair.  Without wasting any time, he hurried to the marketplace and began investigating the merchandise.

At one of the booths, he met a friend whom he had not seen in many years.  After exchanging warm greetings, the friend suggested to the merchant that they leave the fair and go to a quiet area for a day or two, where they could sit and share memories from the past.

"I'm sorry" replied the merchant, "but I cannot accept your offer. Do you think I left my wife and children to engage in frivolous conversations?  Did I travel to such a distant land for my amusement? As soon as I finish acquiring the merchandise I need, I will immediately rush home."

So it is with man, said the Chofetz Chaim.  Every individual is placed in the world for the express purpose of fulfilling Hashem's will by doing mitzvot and performing good deeds.  But then the yetzer hara tries to lure the person into wasting his precious time on meaningless pursuits.

Therefore, concluded the Chofetz Chaim, a person must say to his yetzer hara exactly what the merchant said to his friend: Did I come to this world in order to engage in foolishness?  Do not even attempt to beguile me into wasting my precious time!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Democrats vs Trump


A  six minute video from Rabbi Kessin: The persistent attacks of the Democrats on President Trump - recorded on Dec 29, 2018


Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How God Handles Unrepented Sin


Latest shiur from Rabbi Kessin


God wants us all to experience the bliss of Olam Haba more than we can know. To this end, He devised so many ways sin can be expiated.

Monday, January 14, 2019

The Last Song



The Mechilta states that "there are ten songs" beginning with the song at the sea led by Moshe, and concluding with the tenth song which will be sung with Moshiach. All the [nine] songs mentioned in scripture are written in the feminine [shirah] since their rejoicing was followed by ["gave birth to"] further servitude. The tenth song of Moshiach is written in the masculine [shir] to indicate that it is permanent.

Chassidic teachings explain that the first nine songs emphasized primarily a desire to come closer to G-d from a distance, like a woman who longs to come closer to and receive from her husband. However, the tenth song of Moshiach will be sung from a feeling that G-d is already close and found openly in our midst, like a husband who is gracefully endearing himself to his wife.

Source: Sichas Shabbos Parshas Beshalach 5752, Lubavitcher Rebbe

Thursday, January 10, 2019

4 Shevat: Yarzheit Baba Sali


Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzeirah - The Baba Sali
Born: Tafillalt, Morocco,1890
Died: 4 Shevat, Israel, 1984

Rabbi Yisrael Abuchatzeirah was of a well-known rabbinical dynasty. His grandfather was the famous tzaddik, Rabbi Yaakov Abuchatzeirah. He had great skill in Talmudic interpretation and many of his halachic decisions were accepted and took root among his followers. He was regarded as someone who possessed the Ruach Hakodesh or "Divine Spirit".

Although still very young, people flocked to R' Yisrael for blessings for their parnassa (income), family, and health. Consequently he became known as "Baba Sali," (our praying father) because of the prayers that he would invoke on behalf of those who sought out his guidance.

One day, young Yisrael's father told him, "My child, you have a great power to bless people which you cannot measure. Your words can bring great help to men. From now on, you must use this power to say good things about others and to bless them."

Young Yisrael gave his word. Soon it became known that the blessings of this young child brought miraculous results. He became famous as Baba Sali. A master of the Kabbalah and a great Torah Sage, he took over his father's position as head of the yeshiva and Rabbi of the community. Although he regularly gave many lectures in Torah and kabbalah, he did not permit his students to write them down because he wanted his scholarship to remain unknown. Nevertheless, his fame as a holy man and a righteous Tzaddik continued to draw Jews to him from all over. Even Arabs came to receive his blessings and the coins he gave for charity.

At 19 he was inducted as the Rosh Hayeshiva, after his father's death. After an extended one year trip to Eretz Yisrael he returned, and was compelled to take the position of Rav of the community after the murder of his brother by an Arab. He gave daily lectures, served as a judge in the beit din (rabbinical court), and set the tone for the kehilla. The community appreciated that nothing escaped his holy, penetrating eyes. From throughout Morocco, people converged on his home for his blessings, his counsel, and his encouragement.

In 1964 when Baba Sali noted that much of Moroccan Jewry had emigrated to Eretz Yisrael, he followed them to fulfill his dream of settling there. Baba Sali chose Yavne as his home because many of his followers had settled there.

In 1970 he moved to Netivot where he was steadily visited by Chassidim, Ashkenazim and Sephardim who sought his unique counsel. He stressed emunah (faith), humility, ahavat Yisrael (love of fellow Jews) and kiyum hamitzvot (fulfillment of mitzvot). His phenomenal memory allowed him to access information at will, whether it dealt with law, Talmud, Kabbalah,etc.

He was very humble and did not want to attract attention, however, his prophetic powers and his miraculous prayers soon became renowned. Thousands of Jews from all over the world would come to seek his advice and blessings for children, health, and livelihood. Baba Sali was very close to other great Torah scholars, especially the Lubavitcher Rebbe, whom he referred to as "the Great Eagle in the Heavens." He strongly encouraged the Rebbe's Mitzvah campaigns, especially urging young girls to light candles for Shabbat and Yom Tov.

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

Young and old, men and women, observant and secular, Sephardim and Ashkenazim of every stripe, all streamed to the door of the great kabbalist and tsaddik, Baba Sali, in Netivot, seeking his blessing and help. Everyone, without exception, held him in the highest esteem.

Once a man from Holon, Eliyahu, was scheduled to have his legs amputated. His spinal cord had been damaged by a bullet in the Yom Kippur War. He had already spent much time in the hospital, and so was reconciled to his fate. The procedure was to take place on Friday.

That Thursday, an elderly woman acquaintance suggested that he receive a blessing from Baba Sali before the operation. She said that she knew of someone who had been paralyzed, yet was healed through Baba Sali's blessing. Although Eli was not at all observant, he decided to try it anyway, in desperation. Maybe, maybe....

It would have been impossible to get permission to leave the hospital the day before the operation, so Eli snuck out. He didn't even disclose his intention to see Baba Sali to his concerned family.

Eli sat on a chair in the waiting room near the entrance to the tsaddik's room. After many hours, finally his turn came. The custom was, before anything, to approach Baba Sali on his couch and kiss his hand, but because of the advanced thrombosis of his legs and the crippling pain that accompanied it, Eli was unable even to rise to enter the room.

Following Baba Sali's instruction, Rabbanit Simi, his wife, approached Eli and asked, "Do you put on tefillin?" Do you keep Shabbat? Do you say blessings?

"No," admitted Eli, and burst into sobs.

Baba Sali seemed to be moved by Eli's suffering and his sincerity. He said to him, "If you do my will and observe the Shabbat and repent completely, then G-d, too, will listen to my will."

With great emotion, Eli promptly cried out, "I accept upon myself the obligation to observe the Shabbat in all its details. I also promise to do full tshuvah, to 'return' in repentance all the way."

At Baba Sali's directive, Eli was served tea. After he drank it, the Rabbanit suggested that being that the Rav had blessed him, he should try to get up, in order to go and and kiss the Rav's hand.

After much effort and pain, Eli managed to rise. He couldn't believe it-his legs were obeying him! Shakily, he walked over to Baba Sali and kissed his hand! By then nearly delirious with shock and joy, he began to thank Baba Sali profusely. The Rav interrupted him, saying with a smile, "Don't thank me. Just say: 'Blessed are those who sanctify His name publicly!'"

As if in a dream, Eli stumbled out the door and descended the stairs. He experimented, walking this way and that. He had to know: Was he really awake? Could this truly be happening? With each step, his legs felt better.

On his "new" legs, he went over to Yeshiva HaNegev, not too far from the home of Baba Sali. When the students realized they were seeing the results of a miracle that had just occurred, they surrounded Eli with happy dancing and singing, and words of praise and gratitude to G-d.

Rejoicing in his new-found ability to walk, Eli returned to the home of Baba Sali to say goodbye properly and to thank him again. He also expressed his fear that his legs would relapse to their previous weakness and disease. Baba Sali calmed him, saying cheerfully, "Don't worry. In the merit of your oath to 'return' and repent, and especially that you promised to observe Shabbat according to its laws, which is equal to all the commandments, G-d has done this miracle and nullified the decree against you. Now it is up to you to fulfill your words."

Leaving Baba Sali's house again, Eli telephoned his mother. "I'm all better!" he shouted, without explanation. She figured that fear of the surgery had caused him to loose touch with reality. "Are you coming home?" she asked with concern. "Or will you go straight to the hospital?"

Eli then told her what he had promised Baba Sali, the blessing that he had received from the tsaddik, and the miraculous improvement that had already occurred. As soon as he hung up, he called his doctor at Achilov Hospital in Tel Aviv and informed him of his cure. The doctor told Eli to be back at the hospital the following day, and to "stop acting crazy!"

Eli did go to the hospital the next day. The doctor was barely able to accept the evidence of his eyes. After a few days and many tests, Eli was released. The first thing he did was to return to Netivot, to thank Baba Sali again. The Rav requested of his household that a seudat hoda'ah, a meal of thanksgiving to G-d in honor of the miracle, be prepared and served. At the end of the meal, Baba Sali blessed a bottle of water and told Eli to deliver it to the hospital so that his doctor could drink l'chaim from it. "And tell him," added Baba Sali, "not to be so hasty to cut off legs."

Baba Sali's gabbai (attendant) during most of his years in Netivot, Rabbi Eliyahu Alfasi [who witnessed much of the story and heard the rest of the details from Eli of Holon], reports that he once asked Baba Sali how he performed this great miracle. The tzaddik answered him innocently, "Believe me, Eliyahu, all I did was tell him 'Stand up!'"

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Libby's Story




First published in Binah Magazine December 2018

Re-printed with permission

Written by Suri Epstein

Sometimes a miracle can spark an outpouring of love. And sometimes a groundswell of love can help create a miracle.

Little Libby Nagel, her mother Shoni and her grand- mother Jacqui have had both experiences.

Libby was a bubbly 3-year-old toddler with a head full of curls and a smile that charmed everyone she met, living in Sydney, Australia, with her parents and three older brothers. One Thursday afternoon in 2014, her mother Shoni took her to the park. But Libby wasn’t herself and didn’t want to play. She was fine the next day, but on Shabbos she was so lethargic she fell off Shoni’s lap at shul.

The family ate lunch at the house of close friends. The husband, a pediatrician, observed Libby and by the next day, urged Shoni to take her for an ultrasound on Monday. When the medical staff saw the results of the ultra- sound, the room went quiet.  The head of the department sat them down and informed Shoni and her husband Josh that their life was about to change forever.

“He told us that Libby had stage-4 neuroblastoma, a very aggressive and unpredictable cancer,” Shoni says. “He sent us directly to the Emergency Department of Sydney Children’s Hospital. That was the day our world turned upside down.”

Eight thousand miles away in Ramat Beit Shemesh, when Shoni’s mother, Jacqui Taub, heard the news,  she felt as though her life were ending too. “When I found out about the diagnosis my world fell apart,” she says. “I just screamed. Shoni is my youngest and this was her youngest. I was terrified that we were going to lose my baby’s baby.”

A Grandmother's Love

Jacqui got on a plane the next day, to spend the next two months with her daughter and granddaughter. That was no easy matter. Jacqui’s health was poor; she had undergone three hip replacement surgeries and a spinal fusion, had advanced arthritis, and lives in constant, debilitating pain. The 20-hour flight was physically agonizing for her. She also had the added stress of leaving a sick husband behind in Eretz Yisrael; he had been diagnosed with incurable cancer six years ago.

“It was so hard for me to see Shoni having to go through this and not be able to do something for my little girl,” Jacqui says.

Libby was immediately admitted to the hospital and things started moving at a breakneck speed. “They did surgery within the week,” Shoni explains.

For her mother Jacqui, watching helplessly as the nightmare unfolded, there was a sense of awe. “I was amazed with my daughter, how incredibly strong she was. I couldn’t believe that my baby was handling this tragedy the way she was.” “In that situation there’s no time for contemplation,”

Libby
Shoni says. “It’s just what you do.”

Over the next 15 months, the toddler underwent eight rounds of chemotherapy, three weeks of radiation, a bone-marrow transplant, surgery, and five months of immunotherapy.  Jacqui traveled between Israel and Australia four times during the first year.

“That child of mine, Shoni, she had such strength,” Jacqui says. “She had a smile on her face. She started baking challos, speaking to women’s groups, and was very upbeat. She still managed to laugh.”

Jacqui wrote cathartic stories about her beloved grandchild, “Libbylicious,” describing how her beautiful curls were like petals that would fall out, but grow back again.

Libby’s treatment continued. The results were nothing short of miraculous. “She responded amazingly to treatment,” Shoni says. “She was doing so well.”

But then everything changed overnight.  Again.  Shoni had taken Libby for her end-of-treatment scan. She was driving home when the doctor called her with shocking news. “You’re not going to believe this,” he told her. “A tumor came back to the front of her brain.” Shoni literally was sick on the side of the road.

With neuroblastoma there’s a 50% chance of relapse in children, which is a devastatingly high number.  But out of that, only 4% contract something called a CNS relapse, which is what Libby had. “The only thing worse than a diagnosis is finding out that your child relapsed,” Shoni says. “You already went through it once, so you know what you’re in for.”

Shoni and Josh were dumbfounded.  Jacqui was shattered. “I have no words to express that helplessness you feel as a mother and grandmother,” she says.

The hospital informed the Nagels that there was nothing more to do for Libby. “The oncologist said, ‘Many oncologists are going to tell you just to enjoy the rest of her life.’” But Shoni adamantly refused to accept defeat.  Her husband Josh was sponsored for a job in the US. which opened up life-saving treatment opportunities for Libby. The family moved to the U.S. and Libby began aggressive treatment at New York’s Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, the only hospital in the world that offered hope for a cure for this rare condition.

“We landed in the middle of the winter, the likes of which we had never experienced before,” Shoni says with a laugh. “I literally knew one person in all of New York.”

But a week after the Nagels’ oldest son’s bar mitzvah — a year into Libby’s relapse treatment — her platelets (the cell that causes blood to clot) dropped from a normal level of 150,000 to 400,000... to 0. It wasn’t clear what the cause was, but it seemed that she’d grown allergic to donor platelets.

“This was the start of a year from gehinnom,” Shoni says. It was a period of platelet transfusions on an almost daily basis, of endless surgeries and invasive procedures. The situation was so dire that they had to suspend treatment for the neuroblastoma. And in the middle of that, her mother-in-law passed away.

The situation has also been very hard on Libby’s siblings. “Libby’s treatment was traumatic on her brothers,” Shoni says. “Even today they remember our absence and crave our attention and worry incessantly about their baby sister.” 
Jacqui with Libby and two of her siblings





And the agony that Jacqui felt for her child and grandchild was just another chapter in an already hard life. Her mother had abandoned the family when Jacqui was 2 years old. At the age of 8, she was sent to a Christian boarding school for two years. She dropped out of high school at the age of 16, thanks to an undiagnosed case of Attention Deficit Disorder. Devastated by unresolved childhood trauma, she endured decades of panic attacks as well as a broken marriage. 

“My life was always lived by the skin of my teeth,” Jacqui says. “But fear’s never been part of my world. I’m not frightened to fail.” 

When she was in her 30s, she began to find herself creatively. “Nobody knew that I had any talent at all,” she explains. She became a published poet in Australia, and wrote and illustrated six children’s books. Then she had a sudden image in her head — a picture of a little man made from clay wearing a tallis and a kippah. 
Photo Chana Zuber Flicker

“I had no experience with ceramics,” she says. She bought clay and spent three months crafting her first piece. “I’m self-taught with Hashem’s help,” she says. 

Jacqui moved to Eretz Yisrael in 1997 and continued developing her talents in her tiny Mercaz Klitah (Absorption Center) room in Raanana. “I shlepped the samples back and forth across a huge field to a girl who had a kiln and who fired them for me,” she says. 

When she’d amassed a suitcase full of samples, she took them to an upscale store in Jerusalem’s Old City. The owner immediately purchased most of her items. She continued creating her ceramics and growing her business for the next few decades. 

It was many years later, as Jacqui watched Libby’s horrific situation unfold, that she felt she’d lost her drive. But then she was struck by inspiration. She decided that she was going to make a magnificent ceramic chess set. The pieces would feature different groups of Chassidim telling a story. It would be an important distraction for her from the difficult time they were going through, as well as a means to fund the frequent trips to the U.S. 

“My mom had felt so helpless and frustrated about not living near us,” Shoni says. “She wanted to be proactive, so she did the thing she’s brilliant at.” 

Photo Chana Zuber Flicker

The chess project took a year and a half to complete, and proved to be a life-saving distraction from her emotional and physical pain. Even though her body is wracked with arthritis and she is no longer mobile, she says that when she’s working, she doesn’t feel pain. “I just strap up my hands and my fingers work,” she says. 

“It’s a miracle. I understand why Hashem has given this gift to me. He wanted to help me through these horrible times. But I am convinced that there are so many people out there with talents from Hashem, but they don’t know it. You can be a success doing anything you want.” 

She hoped selling the chess set would fund her flights to the U.S., but she was three-quarters of the way from completing her masterpiece when she was struck by another insight. She realized that the precious chess set was meant to be sold for tzedakah as a zechus for Libby’s recovery. 

“The chess set didn’t belong to me,” she says. 

“My mother is an unbelievable neshamah,” Shoni says. “She was doing something in Libby’s merit, something in return for all the chessed that was done for us.” 

Shoni has been overwhelmed by the amount of chessed that was done for her family in their Five Towns community and across New York. Organizations, schools, and individuals have selflessly offered financial, emotional and medical support. 

“My child is alive because of Chai Lifeline, without  which we would not have been able to navigate a new country and relocation,” Shoni says. “They give to Libby and to the boys and support us in so many ways.” 

While Jacqui worked on the chess set, a friend of a friend heard about it and asked to see it when it was done. She didn’t give his interest any thought. But when she finally completed the set, she had no idea how she would find a buyer. She was at a simchah and this man approached her and asked her if she’d finished the chess set. She sent him photos of the completed item, and he said he wanted it. He purchased the set for a substantial amount of money — and the entire profit went to tzedakah in Libby’s zechus. 

So how is Libby doing? “Libby is a miracle,” Shoni says. “Medically she shouldn’t be walking around. The hospital staff is floored by her. G-d really works in mysterious ways. She’s here because of all of the Tehillim groups and chessed done in her name. There’s no other explanation — she’s miraculous.” Bli ayin hara, she’s gone over two months without a transfusion. Even more amazingly, she still hasn’t completed her cancer treatment for the relapse, but has been cancer-free for two years. “No children have survived without treating CNS; she has only had partial treatment, but is still here.” 

Now six and a half years old, Libby is an upbeat and carefree child who brings joy to everyone around her. No matter how painful her treatments, she bounces back to her cheery self instantly. She’s also a gifted artist like her grandmother. “She’s amazing,” Shoni says. “Thank G-d we’re in a good place at the moment.” “That little girl has taught me so much,” Jacqui says. “She’s given me strength to go on. She’s a source of encouragement.” 

Throughout their ordeal, the family has never wavered in their belief. “When I daven, I say a prayer I composed asking Hashem to give Shoni the strength and the courage to do what she has to do, and keep her family strong, and keep her emunah,” Jacqui says. “And Hashem is answering her tefillos because that’s what she’s doing.” 

As for Jacqui? “I’m blessed with so many blessings. My husband is doing okay. He’s alive. He has a certain quality to his life. My family is my tafkid.” The bond between the three generations is a powerful one that’s sustained all of them. “I’m incredibly proud of my mom,” Shoni says. “She’s wonderful.” “Let me tell you that Shoni is amazing. She’s one of the most amazing people I know,” Jacqui says with a laugh. “And my other kids, of course.”