Tuesday, August 20, 2019

The Trait of Arrogance

וְלֹא תָבִיא תוֹעֵבָה אֶל בֵּיתֶךָ 
Nor should you bring an abomination into your house [Eikev 7:26]


The verse teaches us, noted R' Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, just how despicable the trait of arrogance truly is.  It is so abhorred that one is forbidden to even allow a haughty individual to enter his home.

We learn this from a verse in Mishlei: ''Every haughty heart is the abomination of Hashem'' [Mishlei 16:5]

We see, therefore, that a haughty individual is referred to as an ''abomination'', about which our verse explicitly states:  "And you must not bring an abomination into your home''.

Source: Rabbi Y. Bronstein


Sunday, August 18, 2019

Isaiah 53: The Soul of the Mashiach Who Bears Sin


Rabbi Aaron David Poston


Why Hasn’t Mashiach Come?




The three defence mechanisms that prevent Mashiach from coming and how to fix them.

by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

Above and beyond all of our mundane worries and anxiety, one all-encompassing anxiety hovers in the air: Why hasn’t Mashiach come? Feeling incapable of dealing with this mega-worry, most people try to avoid it.

Modern psychology describes three main defence mechanisms that we often employ in an attempt to avoid dealing with the cause of our worries or anxiety. Those three mechanisms are denial, projection and repression. These three mechanisms parallel the lower three worlds: Creation, Formation and Action, respectively.

As a defence mechanism, denial blemishes our world of Creation – the world of our intellect. It is defined as an unwillingness to accept reality as it is. Projection blemishes the dimension of Formation in the psyche—the realm of our emotions. Projection comes as a response to being unable to handle our own negative emotions (including guilt and shame) causing us (again, in defence of our own psyche) to project them on another person. When we project, we actually blame someone else for harboring the emotions that we ourselves feel but are incapable of handling. Repression blemishes our world of Action—the realm of our habits and natural tendencies. Repression defends our psyche by unwittingly pushing our awareness of our negative traits and proclivities into our unconscious.

The negative anxiety we feel regarding the Mashiach and the redemption is the result of our knowledge that, as the sages say, we can only blame ourselves for their not having come yet. Since we cannot handle this truth, which unquestionably casts us in a negative light, we enter denial regarding our actual abilities and responsibility, and/or we project the blame elsewhere—on other people, on other nations, sometimes on God Himself, and/or we repress our guilt.

But, just as our psyches are naturally eager to free us of negative anxiety, we can interject, and consciously decide to heal the anxiety by using it in a positive manner. In the end, anxiety is an expression of psychological energy, and instead of trying to get rid of this energy, we can utilize it in positive ways.

To do this we turn to the highest world, the World of Emanation, which is Above the three lower worlds. While the three lower worlds, Creation, Formation, and Action all inculcate a degree of detachment and feeling of separation from God, thereby allowing a certain measure of evil to take hold of them, the world of Emanation is characterized by its perfect oneness with the Divine. We all possess some glimmer or impression from the World of Emanation in our psyche. The way to transform our negative psychical energy from anxiety to a sense of positive urgency is to allow that glimmer of Emanation to affect our consciousness.

Since Emanation is perfectly one with God, we sometimes call this allowing God’s light and great compassion to shine down on us. In the words of the Psalms, “Send forth Your light and Your truth; they will lead me; they will bring me to Your holy mountain, to Your dwelling-place” (Psalms 43:3). The light (splendor) and truth of the world of Emanation descends into the three lower worlds in order to release them from the evil that has taken hold there. This transformative and illuminating energy of the World of Emanation is concentrated and captured in the Torah. So, now we turn to the Torah and to the foundational psychological verse that encapsulates the ability to face up to reality (reversing denial), to accept our negative feelings of shame (reversing projection), and to confess our sins (reversing repression).

This foundational verse reads (Proverbs 12:25; this verse is studied in length in our book, Transforming Darkness into Light), “If there be anxiety in a man’s heart let him quash it, and a good word will turn it into joy” (דְּאָגָה בְלֶב אִישׁ יַשְׁחֶנָּה וְדָבָר טוֹב יְשַׂמְּחֶנָּה). The phrase, “let him quash it” is actually only the most basic meaning of the verb that describes what we are to do with anxiety. The sages recorded two other, ancillary meanings of this verb: “Let him articulate it,” and “Let him ignore it.” These three meanings of the verb parallel three rectified alternatives for the three defense mechanisms mentioned above.

The literal meaning, “If there be anxiety in a man’s heart, let him quash it,” empowers us to free ourselves from intellectually denying the reality that without the redemption, reality is broken and unbearable. The literal interpretation combats our inability to admit this truth to ourselves. When we can face the truth, we have freed our anxiety at the level of our intellect and the world of Creation and we can truly experience the immediate need for redemption.

The sages’ explanation, “Let him articulate it,” refers to the manner in which projection can be rectified. Instead of projecting our negative feelings on another person, the sages recommend sharing our negative emotions with a caring friend or therapist, who will take part of the burden of the anxiety off our shoulders. The Lubavitcher Rebbe advised that those who are genuinely willing to shoulder the responsibility for bringing Mashiach would do well to sit together with like-minded individuals and share their concerns. The act of sharing our feelings with another person who empathizes with us paves the way to transforming the energy invested in our concern into an operative plan of action to do what we can in order to change the world and prepare it for the coming of Mashiach.

The third interpretation offered by the sages is, “Let him ignore it,” promotes a positive form of repression, which psychologists call, “secondary repression.” Repression is considered an unconscious response that removes (in this case) our misconduct and sins from our consciousness, pushing it into our subconscious, where it wreaks havoc on our mental well-being and burdens our actions with unresolved tensions. Secondary repression is a positive form of repression because it is affected with full awareness. The sages refer to this as, diversion (הַסָּחַת דַּעַת), i.e., consciously removing a worry from our awareness. In fact, there is a well-known statement that (based on Sanhedrin 97a), “Mashiach can only come out of diversion” (אֵין בֶּן דָּוִד בָּא אֶלָּא בְּהֶסַּח דַּעַת). Focusing on other things facilitates diversion. The Lubavitcher Rebbe would often recommend this strategy.

The sages say that, “The Torah’s secrets are only granted to one whose heart is burdened with worry” (based on Chagigah 13a). This statement captures the essence of positive “anxiety in a man’s heart” (דְּאָגָה בְלֶב אִישׁ) whose numerical value, 358, is exactly the same as “Mashiach” (מָשִׁיחַ), suggesting that the most positive anxiety to have is one related to bringing Mashiach.

The ability to positively deal with a burden of guilt allows us to take responsibility for the fact that Mashiach has not yet come and the Temple is not yet built, and to strive for a positive rectification of the evil in the three worlds via the following three ‘routes’ to redemption:

The Mashiach said to the Ba’al Shem Tov that he would come, “When your wellsprings burst forth.” Study and dissemination of the inner dimension of the Torah create a true perception of reality, which rectifies the illusions-denial of the world of Creation.

The rectification of baseless hatred, which was the reason for the destruction of the second Temple, is accomplished through unconditional love – the rectification of the emotions of the world of Formation (while dealing with projection, in which my baseless hatred gives rise to imagination that the other person is actually the one who hates me).

“Israel will only be redeemed through return to God (teshuvah).” This is referring to basic teshuva, recognizing my mistakes, regretting and confessing them. This is the rectification of the world of Action – “the main thing is deed,” by abandoning the sin and progressing on the proper path.

By properly rectifying our negative anxiety and applying these three routes to Mashiach to leverage our positive anxiety, we can bring Mashiach closer every day.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The 15th of Av: Love and Re-birth

L'illui nishmat Mordechai ben Menachem


The Jewish mini-holiday of Tu B’Av

The 15th of Av is undoubtedly a most mysterious day. A search of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] reveals no observances or customs for this date, except for the instruction that the tachanun [confession of sins] and similar portions should be omitted from the daily prayers [as is the case with all festive dates], and that one should increase one’s study of Torah, since the nights are begining to grow longer, and “the night was created for study.” And the Talmud tells us that many years ago the “daughters of Jerusalem would go dance in the vineyards” on the 15th of Av, and “whoever did not have a wife would go there” to find himself a bride.

And the Talmud considers this the greatest festival of the year, with Yom Kippur (!) a close second!

Indeed, the 15th of Av cannot but be a mystery. As the “full moon” of the tragic month of Av, it is the festival of the future redemption, and thus a day whose essence, by definition, is unknowable to our unredeemed selves.

Yet the unknowable is also ours to seek and explore.

Source and more  click here

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

The Pregnant Spoon

"You must not add to the word that I command you, nor subtract from it, so as to safeguard the commandments of Hashem" [Va'etchanan 4:2]

The Dubno Maggid explained this verse by way of a parable:

An individual went to his neighbor and asked to borrow a spoon. The next day, he returned the spoon he had borrowed together with another small spoon.

"Why are you giving me two spoons?" asked his neighbor. "I only loaned you one."

"That is correct" responded his friend. "But you see, the spoon which you had loaned me was pregnant - and it gave birth."

The neighbor realized that his friend's mind had become unstable, but he nonetheless accepted the two spoons without comment.

Several days later, the friend returned and asked to borrow a cup. The neighbor lent him the cup and, surely enough, the friend gave back not one but two cups, claiming that the cup had given birth to a smaller version. The neighbor silently accepted the two cups.

Several days passed, and the neighbor was once again approached by his friend. The time, he requested to borrow a pair of silver candlesticks. The fool, thought the neighbor, will surely give me back four candlesticks. I will happily loan them to him.

Several days later, when the neighbor saw that his candlesticks had not been returned, he complained to his friend "Where are my silver candlesticks? Why have you not returned them?"

"I am sorry" responded the friend, "but your candlesticks have passed away."

"Passed away?" yelled the neighbor, "who has ever heard of candlesticks passing away?"

"My dear sir" responded the friend, "who has ever heard of a spoon or a cup that gave birth? Yet when I gave you two spoons, you took them without saying a word. Now if a spoon can give birth, then a candlestick can most certainly pass away."

With this, we can understand the aforementioned verse, concluded the Dubno Maggid. An individual must perform Hashem's mitzvos with utmost precision, for if he begins to add to the mitzvos, he will eventually come to subtract from them.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, August 12, 2019

515

Artist Unknown


by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

''I implored Hashem'' [Va'etchanan 3:23]

The Midrash states that Moshe offered 515 prayers to Hashem in order to be allowed to enter the Land of Israel.  This is alluded to in the word ''Va'etchanan'' whose numerical value is 515.

Not only does the word ''Va'etchanan'' equal 515, noted the Chasam Sofer [R' Moshe Sofer], but so does the word ''tefillah'' [prayer].

Furthermore, if we add 26 - the numerical value of the ineffable Name of Hashem [yud, hei, vav, hei] to the number 515, we will get 541 - the numerical value of the word Yisrael.

Also see: What Happens to Unanswered Prayers

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Words from the Heart



"These are the words that Moshe spoke to all Israel" [Devarim1:1]

Rabbi David Hanania Pinto offers the following explanation:

The word 'אלה' (these are), has the same numerical value (adding one for the actual word) as 'הלב' (the heart). This implies that Moshe Rabbeinu a"h guided the Bnei Yisrael in the way of Torah and mitzot and led them with words of rebuke and mussar, yet all his words flowed from a warm and loving heart. He behaved like a merciful father who guides his only son with great love. Chazal tell us that "Words that flow from the heart enter the heart". Since this was his approach, the Bnei Yisrael listened to his words and took them to heart.

The Gaon Rabbi Yechezkel Sarna zt"l told one of the distinguished melamdim of Bnei Brak: "One who sincerely loves his students, is promised that they will achieve the ultimate success." For words that flow from a pure and loving heart will eventually enter the heart.

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

Moses began reciting the book of Deuteronomy on the first day of the month of Shvat and according to tradition he died on the seventh of Adar. Therefore, he transmitted the entire book to the children of Israel in just thirty seven days. 

Alluding to the fact that these words come straight from Moses’ heart, the numerical value of the Hebrew phrase “the heart” (halev) is thirty-seven. 

 As Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh has noted, permuting the letters of “halev” may produce the following idiom: “hevel halev lahav,” which means “the vapor of the heart is enflamed.” When the heart is enflamed and inspired, the “vapor” or energy it produces fulfill the dictum that “words that emanate from the heart – enter the heart.” We are taught that the Torah was given in fire, as Mount Sinai was on fire “until the heart of heaven” [Devarim 4:11]. 

[Ohr Chadash]

So too, when we speak words of Torah they should reflect this level of passionate intensity, which in turn enters the hearts of those listening and awakens their souls.



Tuesday, August 6, 2019

The Holy Ari: Speaking to Souls


Today, 5 Av, is the yarzheit of the Arizal.  When I decided to blog this post, I did not know that. It seems that the Ari was talking to me and letting me know....


by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh 

In his book, Shivchei Ha’Ari, the Arizal’s distinguished student, Rabbi Chaim Vital, relates that the Ari knew all the wisdom in the world. The Zohar tells us that in the year 600 of the sixth millennium (the year 5600, approximately 170 years ago) the lower depths of wisdom (science) will be revealed in preparation for the final redemption, and the storehouses of the wisdom of the Torah will be opened from above. The Arizal knew not only all the wisdom of the physical world, but also what is called ‘spiritual knowledge’ – the language of the birds, the palm trees and more.

The Arizal knew how to communicate with everything that exists. Rabbi Chaim Vital related that he saw with his own eyes that the Arizal even communicated with inanimate objects, such as stones. When he would see the flame of a candle, he could communicate with it, as well, for a flame has its own story to tell. This is a special intention for a woman to have when she lights Shabbat candles – to listen to what the flame is telling her. This is also true of the Chanukah candles. On Chanukah, we light 36 candles, parallel to the 36 tzaddikim of the generation. For those who have that special sense, each candle tells the story of one of those tzaddikim. The candles speak.

Rabbi Chaim Vital also related that when someone would come to the holy Ari for a soul-rectification, the Ari, who knew “the wisdom of the face”, particularly the wisdom of the forehead, would look at the person’s forehead and would see – written in letters – everything that had happened to that person. He would see all the positive deeds that he had performed, all the negative things he had done and would then tell him how to rectify his soul.

Further in his book, Rabbi Chaim Vital writes that the holy Ari knew even more than the above. Sometimes, there are very subtle things that are impossible to see or read on a person’s forehead. The Arizal would simply speak with the soul of the person who came to him. He would tell him that although you cannot hear me, I am now speaking with your soul and I hear everything. Your soul is telling me everything. Everything that happened to it in this life and in previous incarnations. Rabbi Vital wrote that the Arizal’s ability to give people the answers they sought was mainly through his conversations with their souls.

This may seem irrelevant to us, something that is above and beyond our own abilities. But it is specifically from this point that we can attempt to learn from the holy Ari. How can we speak to someone’s soul?

First, we must be filled with love for the person. This creates a channel through which to enter his soul. This is similar to what is written about Moses, who was “a lover of Israel,” and who was able to discern the unique melody of each and every person. Rabbi Chaim Vital writes about the holy Ari – and apparently that is what he understood from the Ari himself – that he was the Moses of his generation. With his love of Israel he heard the unique melody of each soul and was able to speak with them.

Of all the secrets that the Arizal revealed, the most important secret is called “the secret of contraction.” When God was about to create the world, there was simple, infinite light. Everything was light. God contracted that light in order to make room for the worlds to exist. This is the “secret of contraction” – contraction of the light so that there will be room for something else.

In the soul, the secret of contraction means that in order to make room for someone else in my world, I have to set my own consciousness of myself aside. If I can remove myself from the picture, I can give the other person space and begin to communicate with his soul.

This is also the secret of the Arizal’s unparalleled efforts at Torah learning, in the merit of which he attained his lofty heights. Countless Torah giants expended tremendous effort in their Torah learning. What made the Arizal unique was his effort to completely remove himself from the picture, to completely contract his self-consciousness, in order to make room for the revelation of the soul of the Torah, to speak with it and to learn from it. This is also how Moses merited that the “Shechinah would speak from his throat,” by completely nullifying himself, as he says about himself and Aaron, “And we are naught.” We can also connect this to another point of praise for the Arizal, whose day of passing always comes out on the week of the Torah portion of Devarim: “And these are the words that Moses spoke to all of Israel.” The book of Deuteronomy is the book of the Torah in which the “Shechinah speaks from his (Moses’) throat.”

From the secret of contraction we can learn that if we love someone and contract ourselves – not thinking about ourselves and our agendas, as if we are not here – then suddenly, we can see the soul of the other and we can speak with it directly. This is the unique wisdom of the Arizal – to speak with souls, and it is deeply connected to the main, deep secret that he revealed, the secret of contraction. When I contract myself in order to make room for someone else, all of my attention is focused on him, with love. When all of my attention is focused on him, his soul manifests and I can communicate with it.

This communication with the soul of someone else is the delights for which God created the world. The ultimate purpose of creation is to “make a dwelling place for God in the lower worlds. God is certainly here, sees our souls and communicates with each and every one of us. We must walk in His ways and learn how to be here without feeling ourselves here, so that our feelings of self-importance will not be figuratively seen, because they no longer exist. This is the secret of contraction, the secret of being, “able to see and not be seen” (רואה ואינו נראה), the secret of “Israel” (ישראל); both have the same numerical value of 541.) When this is the case, we see only the other and can speak to his soul.

This point brings us from the Arizal to the Ba’al Shem Tov and further, to the Alter Rebbe. It teaches us that from the vast, eternal spiritual knowledge of the Arizal, we reach the foundation of the teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov: Love of Israel and seeing God’s Divine Providence in our lives. From this point, we can delve even deeper to understand that in essence, everything is God. When we look at the world from this perspective, of Higher Knowledge, we can perceive that everything is good. This is the ultimate point of the teachings of the Alter Rebbe, for which he sacrificed his life, so that even lowly souls would have some hint of understanding of this Higher Knowledge.

May we all merit to walk in the Arizal’s path and learn from him. “And your nation are all tzaddikim” All of us can learn from the tzaddikim. Even speaking with souls is relevant to every person, when we follow in the footsteps of the tzaddikim and adopt the Arizal’s secret of contraction.

Source: Inner

Monday, August 5, 2019

Tisha B'Av: Tragedy or Consolation


Rabbi Mendel Kessin - new shiur


The Blue



The Blue Below Reflects the Blue Above.

What is the Blue Above? 

Our sages tell us it is the sapphire of G-d’s Throne of Glory, which represents purity and sanctity - thus below too there is purity and sanctity in all of His works!

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Why Does G-d Need Angels?



by Rabbi Aron Moss

Why does G-d need angels? Can't He do things himself? And can we pray to them?

Answer:

I'll answer you with a metaphor. The metaphor is a metaphor about a metaphor.

A preschool teacher wants to teach her little students the shape of planet earth. So she tells them, "The earth is spherical." They don't know what she is talking about. So she says, "The earth is round." They return blank stares. So she takes out a bouncy ball from the toy box and says, "The earth is a big ball." Now they get it.

You can't communicate an abstract concept to young students using abstract terms. You need to express the idea in terms that the students will relate to. The best way is with a metaphor, a parable, an illustration of the concept in more tangible and relatable ways. 'Spherical' or even 'round' means nothing to a toddler. But he knows exactly what a ball is.

That's the power of a metaphor. It conveys a concept that would otherwise be beyond the mind of the listener in a way that is totally relatable to them. And by doing so, an abstract idea becomes concrete and clear.

The metaphor has to have two components. It has to accurately depict the subject being taught by the teacher, but in language and imagery that can be understood by the student. The ball is round, just like earth, but it is readily found in a toy box, just like the kids.

An angel is like a metaphor.

G-d is infinite. We are finite. Our limited world can not handle infinity. So G-d created a medium through which His light can reach us. The angels serve this purpose. They are on the one hand spiritual beings, so they are able to handle divine light, but at the same time they are limited and finite beings, so they can convey the divine light down into this world.

Angels play a vital role. But they have no power of their own. They are just the metaphors delivering the message. Praying to them would be a waste of time. Don't mistake the metaphor for the message. If that kid thinks that his bouncy ball is actually a planet, he has missed the point, and if you think an angel has power over you, you have too. Only G-d can answer our prayers. Angels are just bouncy balls. Metaphorically speaking.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Nega-tivity to Oneg-tivity





Text by Joe

We are in the period known as Bein HaMetzarim – Between the Straits, the three week period between the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha b’Av. In Zechariah chapter 8, the prophet categorically states that the fasts of mourning of the 4th, 5th, 7th and 10th months will be transformed into joyful rejoicing. It is interesting that if we add 4+5+7+10, the sum total is 26, the Name of HaShem.

However, I found great solace in pondering that Geulah – Redemption has already happened………it is just that we have not arrived there in time and space………but occurred, it certainly has. G-d knows the end before the beginning or in other words, He has the cure prepared before the illness.

What do you see ….. The destruction and ruins of temples, the ashes of crematoria, the dust of wilderness or do you see the vibrant light of the rebuilt Beit haMikdash, and the industrious labour of love of G-d fearing Yehudim reclaiming the ancient sites and barren sands? We must see with clarity. The blind negativity of the left eye must be transformed by the light of the right eye. And it has………just open the eyes.

Jewish Mysticism teaches that different Hebrew words that contain the same letters, but in a different order, are intrinsically related to each other.

Rabbi Yehonatan Eyebeschutz zt”l, in his famous work Yaarot Devash, explains that Lashon HaKodesh (lit. the “Holy Tongue” or Biblical Hebrew) reflects a basic aspect of life: Just as the situation of an individual or society can change from good to bad, so too the meanings of the Hebrew letters and words can change from positive to negative ones (through changes in the letter sequence).

In Vayikra – Leviticus 13 v 1-46, the Torah discusses the laws of a person whose skin is afflicted with נגע – nega, a Hebrew word meaning “plague” or “affliction”. The same letters, in different order, spell ענג – oneg, which means “pleasure” or “delight” – the very opposite of nega.

Chassidut explains that the only difference between the words oneg and nega is the placement of the Hebrew letter ע- ayin (which literally means “eye” – how one views the world). Whether a person will experience oneg and pleasure in life or only nega and “plagues” all depends on his perspective – where one chooses to place one’s ayin – does one want to see all the good that there is or just focus on what one sees that’s bad ?

How do we learn from the spiritual afflictions of tzara’at and nega as written in the Torah?.

These afflictions appeared on the skin of a person. In Hebrew, the word “skin,” ohr, is written with an ayin עור. If the ayin is substituted by an aleph, the rendered word is אור “light.” These two words are pronounced almost identically. In other words, the “skin” of the world, the way the world looks from the outside, is that it seems as though things just run by themselves devoid of an Unseen Hand. The “skin” of the world obstructs the Light. Nature is like a skin that obstructs the perception that everything in the world is miraculous, that everything is a manifestation of the Light.

If you take the spiritual affliction that manifests itself in the skin that is called nega and re-arrange the letters, you can form the word oneg, meaning, “pleasure.” By rearranging our view of the world, we can turn nega into the oneg of experiencing the Light. Similarly, if you rearrange the letters of tzara’at, you can form the word Atzeret, another name for Yom Tov, the holy festivals of the Jewish People, which afford yet another unique glimpse of the Light.

Every week, we are afforded an opportunity to make the “skin of the world” transparent, to see beyond to that Light. This opportunity is called Shabbat. G-d called Shabbat “pleasure.”

יא וְנָחֲךָ יְהוָה, תָּמִיד, וְהִשְׂבִּיעַ בְּצַחְצָחוֹת נַפְשֶׁךָ, וְעַצְמֹתֶיךָ יַחֲלִיץ; וְהָיִיתָ, כְּגַן רָוֶה, וּכְמוֹצָא מַיִם, אֲשֶׁר לֹא-יְכַזְּבוּ מֵימָיו. 11 And the LORD will guide thee continually, and satisfy thy soul in drought, and make strong thy bones; and thou shalt be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not.

יב וּבָנוּ מִמְּךָ חָרְבוֹת עוֹלָם, מוֹסְדֵי דוֹר-וָדוֹר תְּקוֹמֵם; וְקֹרָא לְךָ גֹּדֵר פֶּרֶץ, מְשֹׁבֵב נְתִיבוֹת לָשָׁבֶת. 12 And they that shall be of thee shall build the old waste places, thou shalt raise up the foundations of many generations; and thou shalt be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of paths to dwell in.

יג אִם-תָּשִׁיב מִשַּׁבָּת רַגְלֶךָ, עֲשׂוֹת חֲפָצֶךָ בְּיוֹם קָדְשִׁי; וְקָרָאתָ לַשַּׁבָּת עֹנֶג, לִקְדוֹשׁ יְהוָה מְכֻבָּד, וְכִבַּדְתּוֹ מֵעֲשׂוֹת דְּרָכֶיךָ, מִמְּצוֹא חֶפְצְךָ וְדַבֵּר דָּבָר. 13 If thou turn away thy foot because of the sabbath, from pursuing thy business on My holy day; and call the sabbath a delight, and the holy of the LORD honourable; and shalt honour it, not doing thy wonted ways, nor pursuing thy business, nor speaking thereof;

יד אָז, תִּתְעַנַּג עַל-יְהוָה, וְהִרְכַּבְתִּיךָ, עַל-במותי (בָּמֳתֵי) אָרֶץ; וְהַאֲכַלְתִּיךָ, נַחֲלַת יַעֲקֹב אָבִיךָ–כִּי פִּי יְהוָה, דִּבֵּר. {פ} 14 Then shalt thou delight thyself in the LORD, and I will make thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and I will feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father; for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Isaiah 58 v 11-14

The real pleasure of Shabbat is the opportunity to re-orient our world-view, to see the Light. The Light of Shabbat is the Messianic Age with the rebuilt Temple in Yerushalayim enveloped in the glory cloud of Shechinah drawing down the well springs of the Etz Chaim – The Tree of Life and Ohr haGanuz- the hidden Light of creation.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Rabbi Anava, Rabbi Mizrachi and Rabbi Reuven


I put them in alphabetical order.... they are all together in New York giving a joint shiur entitled "A Night to Remember''.  I think Moshiach must be close...


Wednesday, July 31, 2019

How to Perform Miracles



“Lo Yachel Devaroi, K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh”, do not profane your words; do as your mouth spoke. The Torah tells us that we must keep our word and not violate it. Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev in the Kedushas Levi makes a play on the words to explain how mortal people can perform miracles.

He reads the words as follows. If “Lo Yachel Devaroi”, you do not profane your words, then they will be holy and meaningful. Therefore, “K’Chol HaYotzai MiPicha Yaaseh” whatever comes out of your mouth will happen. This is the concept of “Tzadik Gozer, VHaKadosh Boruch Hu Mikayem”, a tzaddik decrees and Hashem makes it happen.

He further explains that this why the Parsha is called Matos. Matos also means to turn (Netia). When a person watches his mouth, Hashem turns the Midas HaDin [judgment] into Midas HaRachamim [mercy].

Source: Revach.net

Monday, July 29, 2019

Temporary World



Aliyas Neshama Michoel ben Mordechai a''h

We are sent down to this world for a short period of time.  This world is temporary, it is just the entry hall to the World of Truth, Olam HaBa.  All our personal journeys are individually designed to ensure we find our way to the ultimate destination.  The tougher the journey, the greater the reward will be at the end.

"They journeyed from Kivros-hata'avah and camped in Chatzeros" [Masei 33:17]

From this verse, remarked R' Yitzchak of Vorka, we learn that for an individual to break the yetzer hara within him, he must constantly recall the fact that this world is but a temporary one intended to be utilized in preparation for the World to Come.

This is hinted in the verse: "They left Kivros-hata'avah" - how will one be able to bury [likvor] his lust [ta'avah] and subdue his yetzer hara?  By remembering that this world is no more than "Chatzeros", a yard [chatzer] in front of a house, a hallway leading to a palace."

A person who ingrains this thought in his heart, said the Rebbe, will triumph in his war against the yetzer hara.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Friday, July 26, 2019

Rabbi Shimon Kessin New Lecture


Rabbi Shimon Kessin
Ramchal's Yarzheit 5779
I believe he talks about Moshiach, but I haven't heard it yet

The Signature of the Torah



Last month I published a link to an amazing article - God in Nature.

Here are a couple more articles from Yosef Sebag which I'm sure you'll find fascinating.


The Midrash says G-d used the Torah to create the universe. Just as a builder first makes a blueprint and then constructs his building using it, so too G-d made the torah first and then He "looked" into the torah and created the universe [Bereishit Rabba 1:1]


Light is the least physical of all creations. A photon of light goes from zero to the speed of light instantly, without any acceleration time What is the secret of light's unique and amazing properties?

Thursday, July 25, 2019

Rewards in This World and the Next

Art Michoel Muchnik

by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"Pinchas…turned back My wrath from upon the Children of Israel…so I did not consume the Children of Israel…Therefore, say: Behold! I give him My covenant of peace" [Pinchas 25:11-12]

It appears that Pinchas received his reward only for turning back Hashem's wrath from the Bnei Yisrael and preventing their annihilation. This is hard to understand, for even had Pinchas' act not saved Klal Yisrael, was the actual deed that was performed with mesirat nefesh and brought about a Kiddush Hashem, not enough to merit a reward?

The 'Birkat Peretz' answers this difficulty by quoting the Gemarah [Kiddushin 40a] that for a deed that only brings benefit for Heaven and not for people, one does not receive reward in this world. Only in the Next World does a person receive his complete reward.

Had Pinchas' act not turned back Hashem's wrath, he would only have received reward in the Next World, but since it also brought about a benefit for Klal Yisrael, he merited receiving the covenant of peace in This World.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Jewish Astrology



One of the most popular pages on my site is the Jewish Astrology page.  Yes Astrology is kosher, when seen from the Jewish perspective, but the main thing to remember is that the Jews are able to change their destiny  or fate through their deeds.  Nothing is written in stone when it comes to the Jewish people.

Lorelei Kude is a well-known Jewish orthodox American Astrologer, and I am going to link to her article Time to rethink everything you’ve been told about Jews and Astrology because I enjoyed it, and also enjoy her other writings.

From the final paragraph of that article: A final note: Look, out Jews! December of 2020 could be “a big turning point in Jewish history” because of Saturn and Jupiter (very powerful energies!) in Aquarius, the sign of the Jewish people. “I don’t like to make predictions,” she said. “But….” 

Lorelei's site  is Astrolojew if you want to follow her.


Do We Have an Obligation to Make Aliyah?


This video came up on my FB feed, it's a few years old but I thought it was interesting,

Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi speaks on whether we have an obligation to make Aliyah.... or not....

Comments are disabled for this post.

Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Soul Attractions



For the Refuah Shleimah of Sarah bat Mina


Sometimes, when a person performs great acts of charity, he is not merely acting under the inspiration of the outstanding baalei tzedakah (masters of charity) of the past, but his act of charity may forge a spiritual link with those great baalei tzedakah.

R' Shmuel Uzida, author of Midrash Shmuel on Pirkei Avos, was a close disciple of the Holy Arizal. One time, he visited his master, and the Arizal showered extraordinary honour upon him. First he stood up before him. Then he sat R' Shmuel at his side in the position of highest distinction.

The Arizal's foremost disciple, R' Chaim Vital, was amazed by this most unusual conduct, and after R' Shmuel took his leave, he humbly asked his master for an explanation.

The Arizal replied: "You should know that it was not for my dear student R' Shmuel that I stood up! Rather, I stood up for the holy Tanna, R' Pinchas ben Yair, who entered the room together with him."

Upon hearing this, R' Chaim Vital ran after R'Shmuel and asked him "What special mitzvah did you perform today which might have earned you great merit?"

R' Shmuel reluctantly revealed what had transpired early that morning. "I was passing by a house and I heard heartrending crying and wailing coming from within. Upon inquiry, the members of the household told me that their home had been broken into that night, and the thieves had stripped the house bare of every last item. The thieves had even stolen the clothing off their backs. I didn't hesitate for a moment, and I gave them the clothing off my back in order to calm them down. I then ran home and put on my Shabbos clothing which, as you can see, I am wearing right now."

R' Chaim Vital went back to his master, the Arizal, and related this story to him. The Arizal observed: "Now you can understand why the spirit of R' Pinchas ben Yair accompanied R' Shmuel today. Because R' Pinchas excelled in acts of kindness, charity and ransoming captives, so his soul is attracted to those who follow his example."

[Shulchan Hatahor, Shaar Tzedakah, Chapter 2]

Monday, July 22, 2019

Pinchas and Eliyahu haNavi: The Same Soul

Art Vladimir Kush

There is a midrash that states that Pinchas and Elijah the Prophet are the same person. 

According to the Midrash, Pinchas and Elijah the Prophet are the same person. The simplest meaning is that the same soul descended to the world twice -- once in the body of Pinchas and once in the body of Elijah.

The same statement can be found in a number of places in Midrash. What is interesting is that "Pinchas is Elijah" and "Elijah is Pinchas" are written interchangeably. When Pinchas is being discussed, the Midrash says that Pinchas is Elijah. When Elijah is being discussed, the Midrash says that Elijah is Pinchas.

Since Elijah the Prophet lived hundreds of years after Pinchas, it would apparently make more sense to say that "Elijah is Pinchas", and not the reverse. After all, Pinchas lived before Elijah, and was Pinchas before he was Elijah.

According to an explanation in the Zohar, the soul of Elijah was actually created during the Six Days of Creation. He has existed ever since as an angel, but on occasion, he descends to the world in human form, born of a mother and father.

This is why the Midrash sometimes uses the phrase "Pinchas is Elijah", even though Pinchas was born first. The essence, the soul of Elijah existed before Pinchas was born.

Elijah and Pinchas led similar lives and their paths complement each other. Pinchas is a symbol of zealousness for G-d and His commandments. He displayed self-sacrifice to prevent G-d's name from being desecrated. Elijah the Prophet is a guest at every circumcision, to witness the Jewish People imprint their bond with G-d in their flesh.

Through our single-minded commitment to fulfilling G-d's will, as epitomized by the deeds of Pinchas and Elijah, we will merit the ultimate Redemption, which will be heralded by Elijah the Prophet, who is Pinchas.

[Bereishis 1:20. Yalkut Simoni, Pinchas. Zohar, 3:15,1; Igrot Kodesh, vol. III, p. 160. Likutei Sichot vol II, p. 343]

Source: Chabad World [original link no longer exists]


Sunday, July 21, 2019

Why Does the Strait of Hormuz Matter?


The Strait of Hormuz seems to be in the news daily, with good reason.  Today we begin the three weeks - not a great time for the Jewish people.  Everyone should take care not to do anything dangerous or risky.

Friday, July 19, 2019

The Jewish State of the Mashiach

Art Michoel Muchnik


by Rabbi Nachman Kahana

Could this be the turning point at which Hashem will usher in a new era leading up to the long-awaited final redemption of our nation?

In 1948, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel published its official prayer for the State of Israel. To this day, it is said on Shabbat and holidays in synagogues the world over, by people who recognize the “hand” of Hashem in our return to Eretz Yisrael. However, there is a big story behind the prayer, as related to me by an individual who was privy to the events.

David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, turned to the Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Herzog z”l to recommend a prayer for the Medina which would be accepted by the Israeli government as its official text.

Rav Herzog turned to Shmuel Yosef Agnon, who would eventually receive a Nobel prize for Hebrew literature, to submit a version of the prayer. After reviewing the proposal, the Chief Rabbi passed it on to the Prime Minister who rejected it off hand. The point of contention was the concluding line that Rav Herzog himself had added, which read - עד ביאת המשיח (until the advent of the Mashiach), intimating that the political, social and religious aspects of the present Medina - as enormous and miraculous as they were - were only a stage in the final redemption of the Jewish nation but not its final destiny.

The secular Ben Gurion denied the existence of any mashiach. He believed that the secular, socialist State was the culmination of the 2000-year aspirations and prayers of the Jewish people. Because the Chief Rabbi refused to omit the final sentence, there is still no official prayer passed by any government. For some strange reason, the official file of these events is stamped with the word Shamur (restricted).

This issue is relevant because, in my view, it lies at the heart of what is now transpiring in Israel's political system.

Despite the many discordant outlooks among the religious factions, we all agree on the basics including: Shabbat, the 613 mitzvot from Mount Sinai, and certainly on the eventual appearance of the Mashiach as stipulated by Rambam in his Thirteen Cardinal Principles of Faith and many other sources.

The eventual Jewish State of the Mashiach is vastly different than today’s liberal, democratic, progressive society whose fundamental tenet is equality among all its citizens and prohibiting discrimination based on religion, sexual orientation, color, race and political leanings.

Our political representatives are elected by popular vote, and the judges who sit on the Supreme Court are appointed by their peers and make their decisions based on their own personal views of morality and social justice.

Shabbat can be observed or desecrated in the public domain according to the majority vote in the Knesset where non-Jews participate. Same-sex marriages can be deemed legal or not based on the vote of the Knesset and without considering the 3000-year-old halachic ruling of the Jewish nation. The underpinnings of Israeli law are Ottoman and British based, while the underlying legal principles of the Torah's jurisprudence in civil matters are largely ignored.

There is no denying that today's Medina has progressed by giant steps. However, ethical and moral outlooks will have to change, and a new direction taken in order to prepare us for the final stage of our redemption.

In the classic Torah society, equality among different peoples is not priority. On the contrary, Jews are dominant in all segments of life. A non-Jew can live here only by fulfilling certain conditions and attaining the status of ger toshav (a resident alien) through a bet din (religious court). In times of military threat, yeshiva students are not eligible for deferment, and the Gemara becomes an essential piece of equipment when jumping out of a plane, and so much more.

Approximately two months remain before the second round of elections, the first having ended without being able to form a viable government. This second round could possibly end deadlocked, forcing another round of elections, ad nauseam.

Could this be the turning point at which Hashem will usher in a new era leading up to the long-awaited final redemption of our nation?

If the upcoming election is again inconclusive, could the resulting political chaos encourage our enemies to seize the moment of our weakness? A political vacuum cannot maintain itself for very long. As a consequence, is it reasonable to envision the army replacing a civilian government and all parameters of rule changing?

But changing into what?

The changes will not be initiated by rational decisions of learned ministers seeking resolutions to problems. They will be the inevitable outcome of new realities in our lives.

I see a militarization of our society caused by the necessity to cope with the violence and hatred of enemies within and without. Islam is fueling the religious fanaticism of our Arab population through the ongoing messages of hate being fed to them in schools and mosques and their media.

Military draft will be replaced with a law stipulating that every Jewish male citizen who has reached the age of 18 will automatically be a soldier in the IDF and serve according to the military’s needs. Those who refuse to fulfill the call to duty will be severely punished, including permanent expulsion from the country or imprisonment.

All Arab towns and neighborhoods will be under military rule.

All our educational institutions will be under the authority of the IDF with emphasis placed on pre-military training and patriotism. The Tanach will be the basis of the new-old patriotism.

Many people will choose to leave the country rather than commit to a more Jewish way of life. Aliya will increase dramatically as it becomes impossible for Jews to live in Europe and other places, and Arab towns will be expropriated for the purpose of housing the new olim.

In its first 70 years, the State of Israel strived to be Athens. The time will come for us to become Sparta.

Rambam (Hilchot Melachim) describes the actions that will determine who is the Mashiach.

He will be a Torah scholar but also knowledgeable in military strategy and tactics. He will lead the nation in miraculous military victories. He will be a charismatic individual who will return the Jews to the Torah and rebuild the Bet HaMikdash. Rambam is obviously describing a time when radical changes will occur in Eretz Yisrael.

And what will the world at large look like? What changes will humanity have to go through? What will happen to the Jewish communities in the galut?

These are all huge issues open to speculation. However, what interests me is the future of the Jewish people who have, with the help of Hashem, returned home, because only in Eretz Yisrael will the fate of the Jewish people - as well as the fate of all humanity - be decided.

In our parasha, the restrained and scholarly Pinchas saved the nation from unbridled heavenly punishment not by standing at a podium and expounding a learned drasha - which was in the realm of Moshe and Aharon - but by using a spear to end the desecration of Hashem's name. Our tradition states that Pinchas is Eliyahu the prophet who will pave the way for the Mashiach.

Is this the message for our generation that the geula (final redemption) will be in the spirit of Pinchas-Eliyahu? I believe so! Will it be soon? Yes! but not soon enough!

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Balak and Nibiru - A Star Shoots Forth !


This post was inspired by Neshama's latest posting about the partial lunar eclipse today [also the 50th anniversary of Neil Armstrong's walk on the moon!]  In Neshama's post, she shows us how a giant orb, suspected of being ''Nibiru'' can be seen.  Click here to see her post.

And guess what.... we are in the Parsha of Balak [in the diaspora that is].... so perfect timing on all accounts.

The following text is by ''Daniel'' - taken from a previous blog post of mine in 2016.  [Readers please do not start anticipating the date of 25th Elul, everything is speculative.... Moshiach can come today or tomorrow, or anytime, we need to remember that]

It was all forecast 3,300 years ago by Bilaam the gentile prophet in Parshas Balak. דרך כוכב מיעקוב -- "When the star of Yaakov is on its pathway towards the earth" -- is that exact prediction. When the star of Yaakov is en route...then קם שבט מישראל... Mashiach Ben Yoseph will rise up.

''Jacks''
The Ramak, Rabbi Moshe Cordevero, classically and clearly explains the Zohar on this key pasuk [Balak 212b] in such detail that he even draws a picture of how the star will look. Remember we used to play with Jacks? That's precisely what he drew. A star with several smaller bodies surrounding it with 70 rays of light streaming out of [Nibiru] connecting itself to each body surrounding the star. 


This display will be seen above the earth when he states that all will marvel at the following event: The rays of light will gradually [over 70 days] swallow each of the seven smaller bodies that will be absorbed into this Star [I believe this represents the seven continents]. 

The whole world will see this happen and will indeed panic but know this is from Hashem who is arranging this display because of us - Yaakov [Yisroel] since he had a family of 70 vs. the 70 nations of the world. 

I believe scientists and astrologers may attempt to explain it away as a "natural phenomena" saying it is either turning into a black hole or going supernova - but they will try to explain it away when it is anything but a "natural " occurrence. 

Immediately after this they will be overcome by Mashiach -- the True Star after the 70 days of viewing this heavenly display. 

The Ramak even gives the date: the 25th day of the six month כה׳ אלול  [Elul 25 -  since that was the date of creation, so HASHEM will begin this display just prior to a briah chadasha - new creation coming.''

*Update:  70 days from today's date 17 July.... brings us to 25 September which is 25 Elul - the date prophesied by the Ramak.

Who Can Bless Others?



by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

 "For I know that whomever you bless is blessed" [Balak 22:6]

The Tzaddik Rabbi Meir Abuchatzera zya"a, told over that in his country of origin - Morocco, there was a simple person to whom people used to go to ask for blessings, and many times his blessings were indeed fulfilled.

Rabbi Meir's son, the Admor Rabbi Elazar zya"a asked his father to explain this phenomenon (brought in the sefer 'Pekudat Elazar').

Rabbi Meir replied that true the man was simple and his father too was known as a simple person, but his father was also well known for his charitable acts.

Among all the kind deeds that he performed, he also used his profession as a tailor to this end. He was accustomed to collecting old or torn clothes from people, which he would then take the time to repair so that they were once again fitting to be worn and distribute them to poor people. It was merit of his father's good deeds that gave his son the merit of his prayers to be accepted.

In the same vein, there is a story told about the Alter of Slabodka. When he was ill, he sent a message to various gedolim and tzaddikim, asking them to pray for him. He also asked the town's pharmacist to pray for him. He explained that since the pharmacist helps others by preparing medications which serve to heal them, he has great merits and therefore his blessings will bear fruit, just like the prayers of a tzaddik or holy person.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Dreams: Angelic or Demonic?


Source: Rabbi Shelomo Almoli - Dream Interpretation from Classical Jewish Sources

The essential characteristic of an angelic dream is that it is orderly, with no extraneous material mixed in.  Furthermore, the dreamer should not be panicked or frightened at the time of dreaming, and he must see himself as though truly awake in the dream.  If all these conditions are fulfilled, you may be certain that the dream is true, and that it comes through an angel and is a one-sixtieth part of prophecy. [Berakhot 57a]

However, a dream which comes by means of a demon is quite different.  The demon stands near the person as he dozes and whispers frightening words, a concoction of many things, into his ears.  This arouses frightening images in the dozer's mind; his heart beats wildly and he awakes in a panic.  [literally the great panic awakens him].  

The demons remain at his side, rejoicing and toying with his mind in order to frighten him, when he falls asleep they begin again.  After this happens several times [after he awakens from a doze and finally decides to go to sleep again for the night], he finally begins preparing for bed by reciting the Keri'at Shema prayer, or deals with them some other way.  He awakens and recites ''Unclean, unclean! Flee from here!'' three times.  At that, the demon will go on his way, and the sleeper will be able to rest, secure from such dreams.  

Below is a lecture on Dreams from Rabbi Alon Anava from 2018.


Monday, July 15, 2019

Does Eliyahu Precede Moshiach?


Following on from the comments on the Rabbi Kessin Moshiach video in the post below this one , this question was put forward.  Here is the response from the Lubavitcher Rebbe:  Source Sichos in English



There is a tradition that Eliyahu [Elijah the Prophet] will come before Moshiach, to inform the world of the advent of Moshiach. Is this showing of Eliyahu a mandatory pre-requisite for Moshiach?

The Talmud relates:1

Once, Rabbi Joshua met Moshiach and asked him: ‘When are you going to come?’ Moshiach replied: ‘Today!’

Rabbi Joshua then met Eliyahu, who asked him: ‘What did he [Moshiach] tell you?’ Said Rabbi Joshua: ‘He lied to me, for he told me that he is coming today, but he didn’t come!’

Said Eliyahu: ‘He didn’t lie, but this is what he really meant: He will come “Today, if you hearken to the voice of G‑d.”2

Maharsha explains that if Moshiach comes today, we assume that Eliyahu came yesterday to the Supreme Beth Din [in Tiberias].

Another explanation is that if we merit, and Moshiach comes sooner (before the appointed time), he may then come on his own before the revelation of Eliyahu. This is presented in Krayti U’playti [by Rabbi Yonason Eibschutz]:3

Rambam posits4 that it is not a certainty that Eliyahu must come before Moshiach. Although some Sages maintain that before the advent of Moshiach, Eliyahu will appear, yet, there is no definite basis for this.

This poses a difficulty, inasmuch as the Talmud states5 that Eliyahu will come first, and as is seen in Tanach,6 “Behold I send unto you Eliyahu the Prophet.” How do we reconcile these two statements re: the coming of Eliyahu?

The answer is seen in the timing of Moshiach, as the Talmud cites the verse:7 “In its time will I hasten it” — If Jews do not merit, Moshiach will come in his appointed time; but if they merit, then Moshiach will come sooner, in haste.

Rambam holds that there is an order to the coming of Moshiach, that Eliyahu comes first to foretell of his coming. This, however, is effective only when Moshiach comes in his appointed time. But when Jews merit and the redemption is hastened, as expressed in,8 “He is leaping over the mountains, skipping over the hills” — G‑d then changes the order, as a sign of His love for Jewish merits and good deeds. This is expressed in the Rambam’s concise words.

The Sages note that Eliyahu comes first, to convey the news of Moshiach; yet, this is not definite. For, perhaps G‑d will have mercy and bestow His holy spirit upon the Jews to serve Him with a full heart; then He will swiftly bring Moshiach without the need for Eliyahu’s message.9

FOOTNOTES

1. Sanhedrin 98a, Rashi

2. Psalms 95:7

3. Yoreh Deah 110, Bais Hasafek/end

4. Hilchos Melachim 12:2

5. Eiruvin 43b

Sunday, July 14, 2019

Rabbi Kessin talks about Moshiach

A 12 minute video
''The Jews will change the world''

''even Moshiach doesn't know who He is until He is revealed''

This is a must listen, and as it's very short you don't have an excuse not to.



Friday, July 12, 2019

Stalin vs Schneersohn

The [6th] Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneerson (1880-1950)



by Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson




A Vain Battle


 If there was ever a battle fought in vain, this was it. Or at least, so it seemed at the time.

The year is 1924. Vladimir Lenin, the father of the communist revolution, is dead; over 900,000 people pass through the Hall of Columns during the four days and nights that Lenin's body lay exposed to the public.

Josef Stalin succeeds him as the new leader of the Soviet Union. During the following thirty years, he would murder 50 million of his own people. Jews and Judaism would be one of his primary targets. He sets up a special government organization, the Yevsektzye, to ensure that Russian Jewry in its millions embrace the new ethos of Communism, introducing a paradise constructed of bullets and gulags.

Stalin would rule with an iron fist till his death in March 1953, when four million people would gather in Red Square to bid farewell to the tyrant still revered and beloved by much of his nation and by many millions the world over.

At his home in Leningrad (today Petersburg), a 44-year-old rabbi, heir to some of the great Jewish thinkers and leaders of Russian Jewry, summons nine young disciples. He offers them an opportunity most would refuse: to take responsibility for the survival of Judaism in the communist Soviet Union; to ensure that Jewish life and faith would survive the hellish darkness of Stalin’s regime. He wants them to fight—in his words—“till the last drop of blood.”

They embrace the mission. He gives his hand to each of them as a sign that they are accepting an oath, one that would transform their destiny forever. "I will be the tenth, he says; together we have a minyan"...

An Underground Revolution

The nine men were dispatched throughout the country. With assistance from similar minded colleagues, they created an impressive underground network of Jewish activity, which included Jewish schools, synagogues, mikvaot (ritual baths used by Jewish woman for spiritual feminine reinvigoration), adult Torah education, Yeshivot (academies for Torah learning for students), Jewish text books, providing rabbis for communities, teachers for schools, etc. Over the 1920's and 1930's, these individuals built six hundred (!) Jewish underground schools throughout the U.S.S.R (1). Many of them last for only a few weeks or months. When the KGB (the secret Russian police) discovered a school, the children were expelled, the teacher arrested. A new one was opened elsewhere, usually in a cellar or on a roof.

One of the nine young men was sent to Georgia. There were dozens of mikvaot there, all shut down by the communists who buried them in sand and gravel. This young man decided to do something radical. He falsified a letter written supposedly by the KGB headquarters in Moscow, instructing the local offices in Georgia to open two mikvaot within 24 hours.

The local officials were deceived. Within a day, two mikvaot were open. Several months later, when they discovered the lie, they shut them down again.

And so it went. A mohel (the person performing the mitzvah of circumcision) was arrested, and another one was dispatched to serve the community; a yeshiva was closed, and another one opened elsewhere; a synagogue was destroyed and another one opened its portals in secrecy. It is a chapter in Jewish history unbeknownst to most.

But it sure seemed like a lost battle. Here was an individual rabbi, with a small group of pupils, staging an underground rebellion against a mighty empire that numbered in the hundreds of millions, and aspired to dominate the world. It was like an infant wrestling a giant, an ant attempting to defeat a military tank. The situation was hopeless.

Finally, in 1927—ninety two years ago—they lost their patience with this man. The rabbi behind the counter-revolutionary work was arrested and sentenced to death by a firing squad. Foreign pressure and nothing less than a miracle convinced the KGB to alter the sentence to ten years in exile. It was then converted to three years, and then—quite unbelievable in the Soviet Regime where clergy and laymen alike were murdered like flies—he was completely exonerated. The 12th and 13th of the Hebrew month of Tamuz (this year it is July 15-16), mark the 92nd anniversary since he was liberated from Stalin’s death sentence in 1927.

The individual behind the spiritual mutiny was the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn (1880-1950), who became the leader of Chabad in 1920, after the passing of his father. He selected nine of his young pupils to wage battle with him. The one sent to Georgia, falsifying the KGB document, was my grandfather, Simon Yakabashvili, my father’s father (1900-1953). He, together with hundreds of his colleagues, Chassidim throughout the Soviet Union, was arrested in 1938, tortured mercilessly and given a 25-year sentence in the Gulag. Most of his eight colleagues who accepted the oath never made it out of Stalin’s hell. They perished in the Soviet Union.

(My grandfather, Reb Simon, made it out of the USSR, but died several years later at the age of 53 in Toronto. He died on 2 Tamuz 5713, 1953, leaving behind there young sons, Gershon, Bezalel and Sholom. My father died in 2005, my uncle Bezalel died six years ago. Their mother, Freida, passed on in 1954, one year after her husband. She was 44. One child remains, may he enjoy many long and healthy years).

Investing in Eternity

More than nine decades have passed. This passage of time gives us the opportunity to answer the question: Who won? Stalin or Schneerson?

one century ago, Marx's socialism and Lenin’s communism heralded a new era for humanity. Its seemingly endless power and brutality seemed unbreakable.

Yet one individual stood up, a man who would not allow the awesome war machine of Mother Russia to blur his vision, to eclipse his clarity. In the depths of his soul he was aware that history had an undercurrent often invisible to most but discernible to students of the long and dramatic narrative of our people. He knew with full conviction that evil might thrive but it will die; yet goodness, holiness, G-dliness—embodied in Torah and Mitzvos—are eternal.

And he chose to invest in eternity.

He probably did not know how exactly it would work out in the end. I am not sure he believed he would survive. But he knew that his mission in life was to sow seeds, though the trees were being felled one by one.

Cynics scoffed at him; close friends told him he was making a tragic mistake. Even many of his religious colleagues were convinced that he was wasting his time and energy fighting an impossible war. They either fled the country or maintained a low profile. Some great rabbis at the time felt he was trying to do the impossible and it was futile.

But 90 years later, this giant and what he represented have emerged triumphant. Today, in 2019, in the republics of the former Soviet Union stand hundreds of synagogues, Jewish day schools, yeshivot, mikvaot, Jewish community centers. Since communism fell, the Lubavitcher Rebbe (the son in law of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe who was liberated in 1927) sent hundreds of ambassadors to create a Jewish renaissance. They span the entire length and breadth of the country, from Siberia to Tashkent; from Tbilisi till Krasnoyarsk. Over the last 30 years they have built more than one hundred (!) full-time Jewish day schools, in which more than 100,000 Jewish children received a Jewish Torah education. As this summer season began, dozens of Jewish day camps opened up throughout the former Soviet Union with tens of thousands of Jewish children who will enjoy a blissful summer coupled with the celebration of Jewish life.

I have a cousin, Rabbi Yerachmiel Garelick, who serves as the Chabad ambassador to Western Siberia. Jewish women had to travel for seven hours to visit a mikvah. He just completed building a magnificent mikvah in Tuman, Siberia!

And the Chabad couple in Birobidjhan, located on the Trans-Siberian Railway, near the China-Russia border, where Stalin wanted to exile millions of Russian Jews, opened a Glat kosher restaurant there.
Last Chanukah, a large menorah stood tall in the Kremlin, casting the glow of Chanukah on the grounds where Stalin walked with Berya and Yezhov. On Lag Baomer (a Jewish holiday), thousands of Jewish children with kippot on their heads marched the streets of Moscow with signs proclaiming, "Hear oh Israel... G-d is One." Jewish life is bustling in Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Lithuania, Uzbekistan, etc.

Visiting Russia last summer, Russia’s chief Rabbi, Berel Lazar, pointed to a massive Jewish school he built in Moscow stretching over a full block. “Right across from here were some of the main offices of the KGB, where the orders to decimate Judaism came from,” he said.

Across the street was a massive Jewish museum, one of the nicest I have ever seen, attracting thousands of weekly visitors, telling the story of the Jewish people and its heritage. “How did you get the money for this?” I asked Rabbi Lazar. He smiled and said that the first million came from the private charity of Vladimir Putin. "The rest was easy."

I then entered, two streets over, the Marina Rashtze synagogue in Moscow, a massive and beautiful 8-story structure. Hundreds of Jews were praying and studying Torah.

Comrade Stalin is dead; communism has faded away as hopelessly irrelevant and destructive. The sun of the nations is today a clod of darkness. The ideology of the Soviet Empire which declared "Lenin has not died and Stalin will not die. He is eternal," is now a mockery. Stalin and Lenin are as dead as one can be. But the Mikvaot built by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1927, they are still here, from Siberia to Moscow, to Tashkent.

If you will visit Russia this coming Shabbos, I am not sure you will find anybody celebrating the life and vision of Stalin, or even Khrushchev, Brezhnev and Andropov. But you will find tens of thousands of Jews celebrating the liberation of the Lubavitcher Rebbe in 1927 and the narrative of one holy man’s triumph over one of the greatest mass-murderers in human history, sharing his vision, committing themselves to continue saturating the world with the light of Torah and Mitzvos.

So on this Shabbos, two days before the 12th of Tamuz, lift up your glasses and say L’chayim! L’chayim to a Rebbe who inspired such heroism in so many disciples, many of them who paid the ultimate price. L’chayim to the incredible Jews of Russia who maintained the embers burning for seven decades, and then—when opportunity came—fanned them into glowing flames. L’chayim to my dear Zeide, Reb Simon, whom I never met but whose life-story is engraved in the core of my heart.

Today, we have many battles to fight, and plenty of darkness to conquer. It is easy to become cynical or depressed, leading to emotional paralysis. But our greatest leaders always knew better. They never allowed the mask of evil to define the narrative of history; they ensured that another story would dominate our imaginations and actions.

So can we.

1) This figure was given to me by Rabbi Sholom Ber Levin, chief librarian of the Central Lubavitch Library in Brooklyn, NY.