Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Teshuvah: Returning to God

 New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Torah from Shamayim

Photo: Debra and Dave Vanderlaan

Listen, heavens...and I shall speak  [Ha'azinu: Devarim 32:1]

This can be explained based on a statement found in the holy Zohar "When the righteous Moshiach will come, speedily in our days, Moshe Rabbeinu will come along with him and teach the Jewish people Torah. He will reveal to them the secrets and explanations of the Torah."

Moshe said to the people "Listen, heavens" - calling the people "the heavens" because those who study Torah are called "shamayim" - heavens. Moshe commanded them that when they reveal novel original ideas on the Torah, they should do so in a manner of "listening". They should hear those ideas from above, for when they learn, the holy light shines upon them from above, and then they open their mouths to speak and say over the idea they receive.

Through their Torah learning, they can hasten the redemption, as Moshe implies with the words "I shall speak". When you learn Torah by being open to receiving ideas from above, then, says Moshe, you will be able to hear the secrets of Torah from me as in earlier days. You will be the direct cause of Moshe speaking with you in the future by learning in the manner described and thus hastening the redemption, may it be speedily in our days, Amen.

Source:  Mipeninei Noam Elimelech  Translated by Tal Moshe Zwecker

Monday, September 13, 2021

Yom Kippur Thoughts

When we ask forgiveness from Hashem we need to remember that Hashem cannot forgive us for something we have done to someone else.  That is why you need to ask and/or receive forgiveness before Yom Kippur for anything we may have done that caused someone else to suffer.

If I have caused any distress over anything written on this blog I apologise and ask your forgiveness.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Measure for Measure


Whoever shames his friend in public to the point of making him turn pale is as if he sheds blood...for we see that the red drains out of his face and is replaced by white.  [Ben Ish Chai]

A pious man was once insulted in the synagogue.  When he came home, he sent the insulter a basket of grapes as a gift, with the following message: "You have presented me today with a basketful of your mitzvot.  I, too, present you with a laden basket".

Why, if Reuven insults and embarrasses Shimon, do Reuven's mitzvot go to Shimon and Shimon's sins go to Reuven?

Red represents sins, and white represents mitzvot, as in: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they will become white as snow" [Isaiah 1:18].  When Reuven shames Shimon, he replaces the red in Shimon's face with white.  Measure for measure, the red of Shimon's sins will replace the white of mitzvot in Reuven's soul.

Source: from the writings of the Ben Ish Chai

The First Stage of Geulah

 New shiur by Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Major Characteristics of the Negative Redemption

 New shiur, given 22 August 2021, by Rabbi Shimon Kessin

Monday, September 6, 2021

5782 The Year of Moshiach iy"H

 In one of his recent shiurim, Rabbi Mendel Kessin also mentioned this concept.  Im yirtze Hashem.....

Thursday, September 2, 2021



Text by Rabbi Benjy Simons

A young man named George received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's' mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. George tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to 'clean up' the bird's vocabulary. Finally, George was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. George shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even more rude. George, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed...then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. 

Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, George quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto George's outstretched arms and said "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behaviour. George was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behaviour, the bird spoke-up, very softly, "May I ask what the turkey did?" 

As we approach the end of the Jewish year it seems quite apt that this Parsha contains the concept of Teshuva (Ramban, Baal HaTurim and Rabbeinu Yonah to Devarim 30:11) as we take a stocktake of our actions from the previous year and work to become better individuals. Unlike in other religions, Judaism finds greatness in people who despite making mistakes are constantly working on correcting them and thus we look to correct our misdeeds and resolve to not return to such behaviour. This is also reinforced by the Elul acrostic of אֶת לְבָבְךָ וְאֶת לְבַב (Devarim 30:6) which is connected to repentance (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:1), as Elul is the time to be refining oneself and working to improve oneself for the coming year. 

The Rambam (Laws of Teshuva 1:1, 2:2) codifies that repentance involves confession before Hashem together with remorse of past misdeeds and resolutions for the future. Obviously, one must be sincere when mentioning one’s misdeeds, which involves recognising that the action was wrong, that one is entirely responsible and thus in theory deserving of punishment (Rabbeinu Bachya). To verbalise one’s misdeeds without a resolve to abandon such behaviour is akin to immersing in a Mikveh while holding a rodent (the source of impurity) (Rambam ibid. 2:1). 

Incidentally there is no blessing on the Mitzvah of Teshuva and Rabbi Aharon Lewin suggested this is because we may do it incorrectly and thus it may not be accepted (i.e., a blessing in vain). Yet at the same time we are told that repentance and resolve can be done in a moment (see Kiddushin 49b) if one comes before Hashem with sincerity and regret. 

Perhaps therefore Yom Kippur is called the day of Atonement, for it is a contraction of the word ‘at one moment’ which is all it takes to turn one’s life around.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

How We'll All Know Moshiach Is Here

New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin, which is actually Part 2 of last week's shiur which you can find here.

Many think the Times of Israel or J'lem Post will inform them that Mashiach has been spotted on Mt. of Olives on a white donkey. In truth, your heart will be circumcised, that organ that relates to the ruach portion of your neshama. When that happens, you will access olam Yetzira and you, within your own soul, will KNOW he is here. He will BE KNOWN. Yetzira will have come down and have integrated into the physical world. [thank you Rahel for the summary]

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Chai Elul

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

The following is a true story of the Baal Shem Tov.

It was revealed to the Baal Shem Tov that if the two great lights of the world were to meet, they together could bring Moshiach and the Final Redemption. From that time, the Baal Shem Tov desired greatly to go to Eretz Yisrael to meet the great Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh [Rabbi Chaim ben Atar].

In the year 5503, the Baal Shem Tov set out to travel to Eretz Yisrael to fulfill his long held desire to be in the Holy Land and to meet the great Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh. By Pesach, he arrived in Istanbul. There he prayed at the gravesite of Rav Naftali, a tzaddik who had attempted the same trip at an earlier time, but had only managed to reach this far.

That night, Rav Naftali appeared to the Baal Shem Tov in a dream. “Reb Yisrael, it has been decreed in Heaven that you are not destined to dwell in Eretz Yisrael. If you are stubborn and attempt to continue your journey, you will die here as I did. Return home.” The Baal Shem Tov accepted the decree and embarked upon a ship and headed homeward.

His ship was captured by pirates, who let him off at the port of Kilya, from where he continued his journey to Medzibush. Three months later, during the Seudah Shishlit meal on the Shabbat of Parshat Pinchas, immediately after washing his hands and eating a bite of challah, the Baal Shem Tov said with a sigh, “The Western Light has been extinguished.”

At the Melave Malkah (meal following the departure of the Shabbat Queen) on that Motzoei Shabbat, the chassidim gathered their courage and asked, “Rebbe, what did you mean when you said that ‘The Western Light has been extinguished?’” The Baal Shem Tov replied, “The Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh has died. He was known in Heavenly realms as the Western Light.” “How does the Rebbe know that?” one chassid boldly asked.

The Baal Shem Tov answered, “There is a particular kavanna (intention) for the recitation of the blessing for washing hands which I have always wanted to know. However, this kavanna was hidden from me since only one person in each generation can know it, and the Ohr HaChayim had preceded me. This afternoon, as I washed my hands for Seudah Shishlit, I suddenly became aware of a new kavanna. I immediately understood that the Ohr HaChayim had passed from this world and now I become the guardian of that kavanna.”

Another time, the Baal Shem Tov told his Chassidim of another incident related to the Ohr HaChayim. On the Shabbat that the great Ohr HaChayim departed from this world, his friend in Tiberias, Reb Chayim Abulafia, mysteriously fainted, and remained unconscious for half an hour. When he finally was revived, he announced to his students "Today the Ohr HaChayim left this world. I accompanied him until the Gates of Gan Eden." “What Reb Chayim of Tiberias did not know,” the Baal Shem Tov told his chassidim, “was that the Ohr HaChayim’s saintly neshamah [soul] remained in Gan Eden only for the duration of Shabbat. The next day it descended once more to this world.

The souls of tzaddikim,” he explained, “receive greater satisfaction from being in this physical world than by being in Gan Eden. Here the soul can serve the Almighty on the lowest physical plane, through performing mitzvot and good deeds which brings far greater benefit to this world, and is far more pleasurable to the soul than being in Gan Eden. When Moshiach arrives, and Godliness will be seen and felt by even the most common man, we will yearn for the days previous when we were able to serve the Almighty on the lowest level of the physical.”

The death of the Ohr HaChayim occurred just two days before Reb Leib Sorahs’ Bar Mitzvah. It was years later however, that the chassidim understood that it was the Ohr HaChayim’s soul that he received at the time of his Bar Mitzvah, from the Rebbe Reb Dov Ber [The Mezritcher Maggid]. And so it was.