Friday, May 13, 2022

The Model for the Redemption


The son of Rabbi Yeshua Halevi went up to heaven and then came down. It doesn’t mean he went up physically. He went “up” in consciousness. He had ruach ha’kodesh--holy spirit so he could see into the world of Yetzira. When he came back, he was asked what he saw up there. He uttered the famous statement, “olam hafoch hu”--it’s an upside-down world. Whoever was great here is, basically, almost a nobody up there, and whoever was nobody here was an incredible godol--person of great stature up there. 

How could that be? How could we not see who’s really worth something? 

The answer is: the critical determinant of who you are is not your physical act; it’s the yegiah--hardship, the darkness of the klippa that you undergo and yet remain G-D-fearing, to believe and trust in G-D. That we cannot see. You could have Mr. A who is unbelievably diligent in doing mitzvahs, and Mr. B who hardly does any, but Mr. B may have a terrible struggle to do the few mitzvahs he does. This makes him much greater than Mr. A.

Excerpt from Rabbi Mendel Kessin "The Model for the Redemption"

Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Shemitah Year and the Stock Market

Once again we have a Stock Market crash in a Shemitah year.  If you're interested to look back at the previous Shmitah years, here is a list of them:

1901-1902 Year of Shemitah – Stock market drops almost 50%. 

1916-1917 Year of Shemitah – Stock market drops 40%. United States enters WWI. Germany, Russia, Austria, Turkey and Great Britain suffer economic collapse. 

1930-1931 Year of Shemitah – The Great Depression. The worst financial crisis in modern history.

1937-1938 Year of Shemitah – Half of the stock market collapses sparking a global recession. 

1944-1945 Year of Shemitah – End of German Reich and Britain’s hold on territories. Establishment of America as the world’s superpower. Bretton Woods Conference giving the U.S. Dollar Global Reserve Currency status; and diminishing of gold’s influence. 

1965-1966 Year of Shemitah (*Super Shemitah Year) – US Stock market drops almost 25% 

1972-1973 Year of Shemitah – US Stock market crashes almost 46%. Global recession; US oil crisis.

1979-1980 Year of Shemitah – Global recession. 

1986-1987 Year of Shemitah – “Black Tuesday”; US stock market crashes by 33%.The biggest Wall Street crash of 1987.

1993-1994 Year of Shemitah – Bond market crash. 

2000-2001 Year of Shemitah – The 911 terror attack happened a day after Shemitah in 2001, September 17; stock market falls 700 points. 37% US Stock Market Crash and Global Recession. Dot Com Bust. Indian Market also crashed. 

2007-2008 Year of Shemitah – On the last day of The Shemitah Year, September 29, the stock market drops a record 777 points. Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy. 50% of US Stock Market Indian Stock Market Crashed. 

2014-2015 Year of Shemitah – Chinese Market crash by 50% Monday, Aug. 24, 2015. The S&P 500 opened at 1965.15 and within minutes fell to a low of 1867.01, a 5% decline.  India Market crashed 6% in Single trading session. Greek/EU bailout.

[Source for List of Years: Bramesh Tech Analysis]

Sunday, May 8, 2022

Revenge is Not Sweet

"You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people" [Kedoshim 19:18]

There are times, said the Chofetz Chaim, that a man grows angry with a friend who did not do him a particular favor.  Such feelings are completely unjustified.

To what can this be compared?  To a man who was walking down the street, looking for his friend.  As he passed people in the street, he would ask them "Have you seen my friend perhaps?"

"Try looking for him in the town square," he was told.  "There are many people gathered there; maybe your friend will be among them."

He went to the town square, searched for his friend, yet he did not find him.

Would it even ocur to him to feel anger toward those individuals who directed him to the town square?  Of course not! He realizes that he must simply continue his search.

The same thing applies to the prohibitions of taking revenge and bearing a grudge, said the Chofetz Chaim.  We are forbidden to feel anger towards a friend who did not do us a favor.  What reason can there be to be angry with him?  Hashem obviously did not designate him as the one who would bestow this particular kindness upon us.  We must simply turn to someone else, and place our request with him; perhaps he is the one who will be able to assist us. 

If a person accustoms himself to constantly thinking in this manner, he will never bear a grudge or feel the need to take revenge.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Testing Times

Everything in the world - whatever it is and whatever happens - is a test, designed to give you freedom of choice. Choose wisely.

Occupy yourself with doing good, and the bad will automatically fall away.

Rely on nothing and no-one but G-d. This is true simplicity. Anything else means pursuing a complicated course of action.

Pray, pray, pray.  Whatever you need... praying is the best way to get it.

Keep in mind that the essence of your prayers is the faith you have in them that they will be answered.

Remember: things can go from the very worst to the very best .... in just the blink of an eye.

from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

The Scapegoat

The he goat shall thus carry upon itself all their sins to a precipitous land, and he shall send off the he goat into the desert. [Acharei 16:22]

For what sins does the scapegoat atone?

Rambam: The scapegoat atones for the entire Jewish people...for all transgressions of the Torah, both severe and less severe sins; those violated intentionally and those violated unintentionally, whether the person was aware of his sin or not - all are atoned for by the scapegoat.  But this is provided that one does teshuvah.  If one does not do teshuvah, the goat atones only for less severe sins.

Which sins are considered "severe" and which are considered "less severe"?

The "severe" sins are those for which a person is liable either for execution by a court or soul excision (kares)... Other prohibitions and all positive commands that are not punishable by soul excision are "less severe sins".

Now that the Temple no longer exists and there is no Altar to atone, there is only teshuvah, and teshuvah atones for all sins.  [Laws of Teshuva 1:2-3]

To learn more about the scapegoat and Yom Kippur click here

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Moshiach's Seudah

Acharon Shel Pesach, the last day of Pesach has a special connection to the coming of Moshiach and is celebrated accordingly, by partaking of Moshiach's Seudah [the meal of Moshiach..... sometimes known as the Third Seder]

The last day of Pesach  is celebrated by eating a special, festive banquet called Moshiach's seudah, a custom initiated by the Baal Shem Tov. The connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach is explained by the Tzemach Tzedek: "The last day of Pesach is the conclusion of that which began on the first night of Pesach. The first night of Pesach is our festival commemorating our redemption from Egypt by the Holy One, Blessed be He. It was the first redemption, carried out through Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the first redeemer; it was the beginning. The last day of Pesach is our festival commemorating the final redemption, when the Holy One, Blessed be He, will redeem us from the last exile through our righteous Moshiach, who is the final redeemer. The first day of Pesach is Moshe Rabbeinu's festival; the last day of Pesach is Moshiach's festival."

Pesach is the festival which celebrates freedom. The first day celebrates the redemption from the first exile; the last day celebrates the future redemption from the final exile. The two are intimately connected, the beginning and end of one process with G-d in the future redemption showing wonders "as in the days of your exodus from Egypt."

That Moshiach's festival is celebrated specifically on the last day of Pesach is not merely because Moshiach will redeem us from the last exile. Being last has a significance beyond mere numerical order, for that which is last performs a unique function. When the Jews journeyed in the desert after leaving Egypt, they marched in a specific order, divided into four camps. The last to march was the camp of Dan, which is described by Torah as "ma'asaf l'chol hamachanos" - "gatherer of all the camps." Rashi explains this as meaning that "The tribe of Dan...would journey last, and whoever would lose anything, it would be restored to him."

The concept of "gatherer of all the camps" - restoring lost property and making sure that nothing is missing - may be applied to various situations. The Baal Shem Tov, for example, taught that just as the Jews in the desert made forty-two journeys before they reached their final destination, Eretz Yisroel, so there are forty-two journeys in each Jew's individual life. The birth of a person corresponds to the initial journey when the Jews left the land of Egypt, and at each stage of life a Jew is somewhere in the middle of one of the forty-two journeys he must experience before he enters the next world.

Not only a person's entire life, but also every individual service to G-d has various stages or "journeys." In particular, the conclusion of a specific service acts as the "gatherer of all the camps" - to make sure that nothing is missing from that service. Pesach, it was noted earlier, is associated with the concept of redemption, and our service on Pesach is correspondingly directed towards hastening the arrival of the final redemption. But even if service on Pesach was deficient, if opportunities were missed, not all is lost: the last day of Pesach acts as "gatherer of all the camps" for the entire festival. Just as the tribe of Dan restored lost articles to their owners, so the last day of Pesach provides a Jew with the opportunity to rectify omissions in the service of Pesach, and thereby regain what is rightfully his.

Because Pesach is associated with the redemption through Moshiach and the last day of Pesach is the finish to and completion of Pesach, the last day of Pesach accordingly emphasizes the coming of Moshiach.

The notion of "gatherer of all the camps" applies not only to each individual Jew's life and service, but also to Jewry in general. The forty-two journeys between leaving Egypt and entering Eretz Yisroel took place in the desert, the "wilderness of the nations," which is an allusion to the period of exile when Jews sojourn amongst the nations of the earth. The forty-two journeys in the desert served as the means wherewith Jews left the limitations of Egypt.  Thus all the journeys undertaken until the Jews actually entered Eretz Yisroel may be viewed as part of the exodus from Egypt. So too with the journeys in the exile: until Jews merit the final redemption, they are still journeying to reach Eretz Yisroel.  In every generation, Jews are somewhere in the middle of one of those forty-two journeys.

As in the journeys in the desert, there is a "gatherer of all the camps" in the generations-long journey of Jews to the Messianic Era. Our present generation is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach," the last generation of exile. It is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations of Jews.

That this generation of exile is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations is not just because it is the last. Exile is not just punishment for sin.

The mission of Jews is to elevate and refine this corporeal world, to reveal G-dliness and to transform the physical into a dwelling place for G-d. Dispersed throughout the world in exile, Jews have been given the opportunity and the means to carry out this mission in all parts of the world.

This has been the Jews' task throughout their history. "Gatherer of all the camps" in this context means that if any portion of that task is missing, it now can be rectified. Thus the era of "gatherer of all the camps" is the era when the world will have been fully refined and G-dliness revealed: the Era of Moshiach.

It is for this reason that it is our generation which is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach" and "gatherer of all the camps." For the service of Jews throughout the generations has been all but completed, and only the finishing touches - "gatherer of all the camps" - is needed. We stand ready and prepared to greet Moshiach.

Moshiach, of course, could have come in previous generations. The Talmud, for example, relates that at the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, a cow lowed twice. The first time meant that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed; the second time meant that Moshiach was born. In other words, the potential Moshiach was born immediately after the destruction and had the Jews merited it then, he would have been the actual Moshiach.

Although Moshiach could have come in previous generations, the future redemption nevertheless has a greater connection to our generation - just as the idea of Moshiach is emphasized on the last day of Pesach,  although the whole of Pesach is associated with the future redemption. For both are the concept of "gatherer of all the camps" and we accordingly celebrate Moshiach's seudah specifically on the last day of Pesach.

There is still more to the connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. The prophet Yechezkel describes the exodus from Egypt - which took place on the first day of Pesach - as the birth of the Jewish nation.

The last day of Pesach, the eighth day, is therefore the day of the circumcision, which is "the beginning of the entry of the holy soul." Moshiach is the yechidah - the most sublime level of the soul - of the Jewish people. Until the body of Jewry has undergone circumcision it is not whole; its holy soul is missing. Moreover, the Alter Rebbe writes, the highest level of circumcision will take place in the future, when "The L-rd will circumcise your heart."

The Haftorah read on the last day of Pesach is also connected with the Messianic Era. It states: "The wolf will lie down with the lamb...He will raise a banner for the return...the earth will be full of the knowledge of the L-rd." All of these verses refer to the Messianic Era.

Thus the relationship between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. But why do we mark this relationship by eating a meal?

Belief in Moshiach is a cardinal tenet of the Jewish faith, enshrined as one of Rambam's thirteen principles of belief: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach; and although he may tarry, I will wait for him every day that he shall come." But abstract belief is not enough. Our intellectual awareness must be translated into concrete action - by eating of Moshiach's seudah. Moreover, the food from Moshiach's seudah becomes part of our flesh and blood, and our faith in, and yearning for Moshiach permeates not just the soul's faculties but also the physical body.

Moshiach's seudah was initiated by the Baal Shem Tov, and there is good reason why it was by him specifically. In a famous letter to his brother in law, R. Gershon of Kitov, the Baal Shem Tov tells of the time he experienced an elevation of the soul to the highest spheres. When he came to the abode of Moshiach, he asked, "When will the Master come?" to which Moshiach replied, "When your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside." In other words, it is the Baal Shem Tov's teachings - Chassidus - which will bring Moshiach, and it is therefore particularly appropriate that it was the Baal Shem Tov who initiated Moshiach's seudah on the last day of Pesach.

In the time of the Baal Shem Tov, the principal element of the seudah was matzah. The Rebbe Rashab, fifth Rebbe of Chabad, added the custom of drinking four cups of wine. Matzah is poor man's bread, flat and tasteless. Wine, in contrast, not only possesses taste, but induces joy and delight, to the extent that our Sages say, "Shirah (song) is said only over wine."

Chabad Chassidus conveys the concepts of Chassidus, first propounded by the Baal Shem Tov, in an intellectual framework, enabling them to be understood by a person's Chochmah (wisdom), Binah (understanding/developmental), and Da'as (conclusive) - ChaBaD. And when a person understands something - in this case the concepts of Chassidus - he enjoys it that much more. Chabad, in other words, introduced "taste" and "delight" into Chassidic doctrines, which until then were accepted primarily on faith alone.

The four cups of wine also allude to the Messianic Age, for which the dissemination of Chassidus - especially Chabad Chassidus - is the preparation. The four cups symbolize: the four expressions of redemption; the four cups of retribution G-d will force the nations of the world to drink; the four cups of comfort G-d will bestow upon the Jews; the four letters of G-d's Name which will be revealed; the four general levels of repentance.

[Source: Sichah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Acharon Shel Pesach, 5742]

Friday, April 15, 2022

A Time to Ask for Whatever you Need


The Rebbe Rashab once told the Frierdiker Rebbe, “Yosef Yitzchok, during the Seder, and especially when opening the door for Eliyahu HaNavi, one should think about being a mentch, and HaShem will give His help. Don’t ask for gashmiyus, only for ruchniyus.” (הגש"פ עם ליקוטי טעמים ומנהגים - סדר הגדה)

When introducing Mah Nishtana, the Haggada says: Kan haben shoel. Simply translated, this means: “At this point, the son asks [the Four Questions].” However, shoel means not only “asks” but also “requests.” So once at the Seder, when the tzaddik Reb Osher of Stolin came to those words, he told those present, “Now is the time for every Yid to ask HaShem for whatever he needs.” (בית אהרן)

Wishing everyone a chag sameach and a meaningful Seder.