Friday, May 14, 2021

Know What to Answer

In the face of the world's animosity towards Israel, here are the answers you need to know:

[I don't know who wrote this, but it's worth sharing]

Here are a few accusations and brief explanations. 

“Israel forcibly removed residents of Sheikh Jarrah”: 

This is a neighbourhood in East Jerusalem, with a population predominantly of Palestinians. No one has been evicted. There has been an ongoing court case (over 30 years!) between homeowners and tenants over rent evasion. To date, the final judgment of the Israeli High Court has been postponed. Also see Israel's Critics are Right:Sheikh Jarrah Exemplifies the Arab-Israeli Conflict

“Israel has commandeered the Al-Aqsa Mosque”: 

Not true. The Al-Aqsa Mosque is built on the holiest site in Judaism – the Temple Mount. Despite this, Israel gave administrative control of it to the Islamic Waqf, while Israel maintains security control. The Waqf doesn’t permit Jews to pray on the Temple Mount. Israel did not take over here, nor did it threaten to. The IDF does bear the responsibility to ensure the safety of all citizens and broke up violent demonstrations in the vicinity of Al-Aqsa. As for that burning tree a few metres from the mosque, that was ignited by Palestinian fireworks aimed at Israelis. Media footage spliced the burning as a backdrop to Yom Yerushalayim celebrations, hence confusion. 

“Israel’s response is disproportionate”: 

Israel is doing its utmost to protect innocent lives on both sides. For example, it sends out advance warnings and uses "Roof Knocking" to allow civilians to evacuate before it takes out military targets. This courtesy, or anything remotely similar, is not reciprocated. Israel is under attack and its first obligation is the safety of its citizens. 

“Israel maintains an illegal occupation of Gaza”: 

In 1967, Israel was simultaneously attacked by Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and Lebanon. Miraculously, Israel emerged victorious and opted to return most of the land, via brokered peace deals. In 2005 Israel evacuated from Gaza, forcibly removing 8,000 Jews from their homes. The hope was that Gaza would become a peaceful Palestinian state. There is no Israeli presence in Gaza. 

“Disturbing photos of the dead flood my newsfeed”: 

Death of the innocent is tragic. Yet view images critically - there is a regular use of fake or doctored photos beamed out about those from Gaza. Do a reverse google search, more often than not, those pictures are actually from Syria. 

“Jewish mobs have done terrible things to Palestinians”: 

There have been a small number of instances over the past week involving unlawful actions by a small number of Jews. The Israeli government does not condone this, the justice system is robust and those perpetrators have been arrested. 

Remember: Knowledge is power. Remain proud and informed Jews who stand strong! The above reflections have merely scratched the surface. Israel is not culpable. This is your homeland; your people. In the past, we have seen the darkest of days. Israel has a right to defend itself. 

Finally there are things we can do, no matter how distant we are geographically. The Torah teaches us (and history has repeatedly demonstrated to us) that the physical protection of each one of us – and, indeed, our very collective destiny! – is intrinsically connected to our spiritual activism. When we pray or dedicate a good deed to our brothers and sisters in Israel, we create a spiritual defence shield for them that will help them through difficult and dangerous times.

That Number 45

A few more 45's I've noticed, for those who are interested. [See 45 is the number of Geula]

In Hebrew, 45 is מה  - in the soul  מה is the trait of self-nullification. It is the primary tool for peace and unity.  [Source Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh]

Each missile launched from Gaza costs $45,000. [Source]

Count 45 days from the Meiron tragedy [L'ag B'omer] and you end up on Gimel Tamuz.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Right Path

"Of Yetzer, the Yitzri family; of Shilem, the Shilemi family" [Bamidbar 26:49]

This verse, said the Chofetz Chaim, can be expounded upon in the following manner:

"Of Yetzer" - One who succumbs to the lure of the yetzer hara (evil inclination) will immediately find himself in the company of the "Yitzri family" - the members of the yetzer hara's family are all more than ready to help him along the path of wickedness.

"Of Shilem" - But one who strives for perfection (sheleimus) will find himself in the company of the "Shilemi family" - those who fear Heaven and have achieved spiritual perfection will help him along the upright path.

"In the path that a man wishes to go, he is led" [Makkos 10b]

Monday, May 10, 2021

Another Brick in the Wall

Thanks to Rahel for transcribing this:

"The Chofetz Chaim brings down an idea that the Mashiach asks 'Who would like to donate to the construction of the Third Temple.' 

What Jew wouldn’t wish to have his name on even one brick? Many would rush to donate. 

The Chofetz Chaim says, 'I can give you a way to donate right now!' 

Every word, every sentence which avoids loshon ha’ra emplaces a brick to build the Heavenly Temple.

'That is the End,' says the rabbi. 

With that begins the descent of the Heavenly Temple into the physical world. From there, the shechina goes out into the entire world and ends this nightmare called “galus”—exile."

--R.Mendel Kessin from "Hashkafa of Tragedy in Meron"

The 3 Levels of Forgiveness

Always forgive your enemies; nothing annoys them so much. [Oscar Wilde]

The people criticized G-d and Moshe: "Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the desert? There's no bread and no water, and we're sick of this unwholesome (manna) bread." G-d sent venomous snakes upon the people, and they bit the people. Many people of Israel died. The people came to Moshe and said "We have sinned! For we have spoken against G-d and against you! Pray to G-d that He should remove the snakes from us!" Moshe prayed on behalf of the people. [Chukas 21:5-7]

Even after the people criticized Moshe heavily, resulting in a punishment of venomous snakes, we nevertheless find that Moshe did not bear a grudge and prayed for the people to be saved. "From here we learn" writes Rashi, "that if a person asks you for forgiveness you should not be cruel and refrain from forgiving."

This principle is recorded by Rambam in his legal Code, the Mishneh Torah, in three places and there are a number of variations which need to be explained.

1) In Laws of Personal Injury, Rambam describes the method and process of forgiveness. "Once the attacker has asked forgiveness once, and then a second time, and we know that he has repented for his sin and he has abandoned the evil that he has done, then one must forgive him". However in Laws of Teshuvah these details are omitted. Instead, we are told that "When the sinner asks him for forgiveness, he should forgive him with a full heart and a willing spirit." Similarly, in Laws of Moral Conduct: "If the person returns and aks him for forgiveness, then he should forgive."

2) The person who forgives is given a different name in each of the three laws. In Laws of Moral Conduct he is called the "forgiver"; in Laws of Teshuvah a "person", and in Laws of Personal Injury he is called the "injured party".

3) One further detail is that in Laws of Teshuvah a person is told not to be "difficult to appease". Why does Rambam use this phrase, and why only in Laws of Teshuvah?

The Explanation

Forgiveness can be carried out on three levels:

1) When one person sins against another, he becomes liable to be punished for the sin that he committed. In order to be relieved of this punishment he needs to appease both G-d and the person that he sinned against. Therefore, through forgiving a person for his sin, one alleviates him from a Heavenly punishment.

2) A higher level of forgiveness is to forgive not just the act of sin but the sinner himself. i.e. even though one person may forgive another for a particular bad act (thus relieving him from being punished) there still may remain a trace of dislike for the person in general. Thus, a higher level of forgiveness is to forgive the entire person completely for his wrong, so that there remains no trace of bad feeling between them.

3) The highest level of forgiveness is an emotion that is so strong and positive that it actually uproots the sins of the past, making it as if they never occurred at all. After such a forgiveness, the sinner will be loved by the offended party to the very same degree that he was loved before the sin.

It is these three types of forgiveness which Rambam refers to in his three different laws:

1) In Laws of Personal Injury, Rambam discusses the laws of compensation for specific damages that one person causes another. Thus, when he speaks there of forgiveness for a sin, he is speaking of the forgiveness that is required to relieve the sinner from the punishment of that specific sin. Therefore, Rambam spells out the precise method of forgiveness that is required to achieve atonement ("when the attacker has asked forgiveness once, and then a second time, and we know that he has repented for his sin etc. then one must forgive him"), because only by following this precise method can we be sure that the sinner will be acquitted of this punishment.

To stress the point further, Rambam speaks in terms of an "injured party" and the "forgiving" of the injury, as we are speaking here of a specific sin and its atonement.

2) In Laws of Moral Conduct, the focus is not on the actual sin and its atonement, but rather, the character of the forgiver. And, if a person is to be of fine character, it is insufficient to forgive a person just so that he will be freed from punishment. Rather, one should forgive another person completely (i.e. the second level above). Therefore, in Laws of Moral Conduct, Rambam stresses that "When one person sins against another, he should not hide the matter and remain silent" for it would be a bad character trait to harbor resentment, keeping one's ill feelings to oneself. Therefore "it is a mitzvah for him to bring the matter into the open".

Thus, we can understand why Rambam omits here details of the process of forgiveness, for the main emphasis here is not the atonement of the sinner, but the required character traits of the victim.

To stress the point further, the person is termed here not as the "injured party" but as the "forgiver".

3) In Laws of Teshuvah, Rambam is speaking of the highest level of forgiveness which is required for a person to achieve a total "return to G-d". For this to occur, the forgiveness must be done in a manner that is so deep that one uproots the sin totally; as if it had never occurred at all. This is because total forgiveness is a crucial factor in the sinner's overall return to G-d, as Rambam writes: "Sins between man and his fellow man... are not forgiven until... the person has been asked for forgiveness..."

Thus, Rambam stresses here that "A person should be easily placated and difficult to anger, and when the sinner asks him for forgiveness, he should forgive him with a full heart and a willing spirit" (despite the fact that these details are more appropriate to Laws of Moral Conduct), because the goodwill of the victim is a crucial part of the sinner's teshuvah. Only when the victim is completely forgiving - to the extent that the sin is uprooted, as if it never existed - can we be sure that the sinner has returned to be as close to G-d as he was prior to the sin.

To stress this point further, Rambam writes "It is forbidden for a person (not an "injured party" or "forgiver") to be cruel and difficult to appease" - i.e. here we are not talking merely of the minimum forgiveness that is required to relieve the sinner from his punishment. Rather, here we are talking of the victim as a "person". And one can hope that he will not merely "forgive" his fellow who hurt him, freeing him from punishment, but that he will allow himself to be "appeased" completely, thereby helping his fellow Jew to come to a complete Teshuvah.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos Vol 28 Lubavitcher Rebbe

Friday, May 7, 2021

45 is the Gematria of GEULA

Following on from Rabbi Kessin's shiur below, a couple of things I have just read.

Firstly, from R' Avrohom M. Alter:

Over this past Shabbos, one of the survivors from Meron, gave over something quite unbelievable, when relating his experience: 

When he was entangled among all the other trampled people, he (this survivor) managed to find a small passage of air that kept him alive. In those precious minutes, this survivor heard another person saying Shema, knowing clearly that he was about to return to His Creator. And then, this victim, after saying Shema, continued: "Whoever is on top of me, I am moychel (forgive) you completely." And those were the last words heard from him. 

Clearly the people who passed onto the Next World, were not simple people! A person whose focus and final thought in this world, is to be concerned about the possible feelings of guilt of the one who is pushing him down (even though it was unavoidable), is not a simple person! 

Though we can not comprehend the Cheshbonos of Shamayim (Hashem's perfect wisdom), we do know that there is always what to be learned for US ALL! Each person knows where they can improve.

Perhaps one lesson we can learn is to always consider the feelings of others, even when we are in difficulty. Reb Chaim Vilozyner said: "A man was born for others, not to serve himself." May this be a zechus for the iluyos neshomos of all the victims z"l.

The second one came via a What's App group, sent to me by Sharon:

"To what could we compare this tragedy to? 45 holy tzaddikim were taken while a hundred thousand Jews were all united, all different types of Jews together in one place, singing and praising Hashem. As we look at the pictures of the pure innocent children, as well as the fathers and brothers who have passed on, we can help, but cry. The Ben Yehoyada writes ( בניהו ר”ה דף מ”ח ) Chazal have taught us that our final geula will be in the merit of 45 tzaddikim. 45 is the numerical value of geula. 

The Gemara says( Zevachim 92:19) the world is held up by 45 tzaddikim. There is no question that these tzaddikim are now enjoying the delights of gan eden with all of the other tzaddikim from the previous generations.  They have completed their mission in this world. It is us who are left bereaved and speechless. It’s a time to cry. We cry over the 45 tragedies that came about, and we cry because we don't know what to say. We don't know exactly what Hashem wants from us. 

We learned in yesterday’s Daf Yomi how during the shalosh regalim that here was so many people cramped into the courtyard of the bet hamikdash that it appeared like the people were floating above the ground, yet when it came time for them to bow Hashem gave each person ample space to make a full bow and not encroach on his friend's space. When the Shechina was dwelling amongst us, crowding was not a problem. When the Shechina was dwelling amongst us, we knew what the ratzon Hashem was, but now what do we do? We don't know exactly what to do, but we can't just do nothing. 

We must react with action. I can't help but think of Rabbi Akiva. After he lost 24,000 precious students, all great tzaddikim. Although he was broken, he immediately took action and went to find more students to teach Torah to. At a time that he could have questioned and given up, Rabbi Akiva said so long as I have life I must continue to be the best eved Hashem that I could be. It was because of that decision that we have Torah today, as we know it.

At a time when our hearts are open and we want to help so badly, the best thing we could do is improve ourselves. Whatever we were thinking of maybe changing, now is the time to do it. We need Mashiach. We could also additionally, work on bringing more life to those people around us, going out of our way to give honor to people and to give them encouragement. 

That gives people more life. Everybody could use a good word, and we are the ones who are able to give it to them. And it doesn't cost us anything. It's not good enough just to hold back from dishonoring people. 

We have to proactively give honor. The gemara says, if someone gives money to a poor man, he deserves six berachot. But if he gives the poor man chizuk, if he lifts him up with elevating words, then he deserves 11 berachot. Tell somebody “you're doing a great job. Keep it up.” Be free with compliments, compliment your spouse, your children, your friends, your coworkers, give people kavod. It'll bring more unity and more love. 

We pray that those who are injured should have a Refuah Shelemah. We pray for those in mourning to have a complete Nechama that only the Ba’al Hanechamot can give them. And we pray that these 45 tzaddikim will go in front of the kiseh hakavod and plead with Hashem to bring us mashiach. 

Then we will see the fulfillment of the pasuk בלע המוות לנצח ומחה ה’ דמעה מעל כל פנים - death will cease to exist and Hashem himself will come down in all of  His glory and personally wipe off the tears of every single person's face. And then we will be able to live together forever in a complete state of joy.

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Rabbi Kessin: Tragedy in Meron and Why Moshiach Isn't Here

 Audio from Rabbi Mendel Kessin - given 5/3/21

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Instead Of


As night fell on Thursday, and Lag BaOmer spread its joyous light throughout Israel, Rabbi Shimon Matlon shared an envelope with a friend, instructing him not to open it until Sunday. 

Later that night, Shimon was among the 45 men and boys who lost their lives in the tragic crowding in Meron. 

As revealed by Israeli journalist Yossi Elituv, the envelope contained a single sheet of paper with the following lines (roughly translated from Hebrew):

Instead of being filled with disappointment, Accept everything with love. 

Instead of being rigid, Be flexible. 

Instead of complaining, Let your mind be in control. 

Instead of harping, Be more grateful. 

Instead of seeing problems, Filter out negativity. 

Instead of drowning in water, Know it's all from G‑d. 

Instead of blaming everyone, Remember Who is the greatest of all. 

Instead of getting angry, Take a deep breath and stretch. 

Instead of being upset, Exercise your faith. 

Instead of choosing darkness, Choose the full half of the glass. 

Instead of sinking into despair, Remember that everything is a test from G‑d, Who saves. 

Because G‑d decides what's going to happen, But you decide what your attitude will be.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Ani Ma'amin @ Meron

L'ag b'Omer at Meron, the yarzheit of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.

At the core of his teachings Rabbi bar Yochai taught that there is more than meets the eye in any situation.  

Minutes before the fatal crush the men are singing Ani Ma'amin b'emunah shleimah b'viat ha Mashiach..... I believe in perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Mourning Restrictions during the Omer


by Rabbi Benjy Simons

This week my wife asked me what I wanted for dinner tonight. 
I responded, well, last night we had… 

As we find ourselves during the period of Pesach to Shavuos commonly known as Sefiras HaOmer, and as this Parsha mentions the Mitzvah of counting the Omer, I thought it would be prudent to understand the historical context of why there are certain restrictions during this time and how we curtail our joy throughout this period. 

The Kitzur Shulchan Aruch (120:6, 10) writes that during the first 33 days of Sefira the disciples of Rabbi Akiva passed away. We thus observe a partial state of mourning, whereby we avoid marriages, haircuts and customarily avoid listening to music. As many of the students of Rabbi Akiva passed away, their Jewish brethren were busy with burying their colleagues and thus it is also written to not do any work from sunset until one counts the Omer (Tur). 

The Talmud (Yevamos 62b) provides the backdrop as to why this occurred, namely that the 12,000 pairs of students lacked an element of respect between each other. Despite Rabbi Akiva’s efforts to match up his students and the importance of loving one’s fellow (Yerushalmi Nedarim 9:4), there was discord and resentment found among his students. According to the Gemara they died of diphtheria, which affects the respiratory system and connected to the spreading of Lashon Hora (Shabbos 33a). 

Another suggestion often cited by Rav Sherira Gaon is that Rabbi Akiva’s students passed away during the Bar Kochba revolt, but this was censored from the Gemara to avoid the political ramifications. This would connect with the above mentioned Gemara in that there were 12,000 pairs of students, as each soldier had a partner who was learning in his merit, but they were unable to get along as each felt that they were contributing more to the cause which led their annihilation. It was perhaps this malicious speech, which the Talmud Yerushalmi (Peah 1:1) identifies as the cause of diphtheria and the casualties of warfare. At a deeper level is it known that Rabbi Akiva supported wholeheartedly the cause of Bar Kochba (Eichah Rabbah 2:4) and that he would be the Moshiach and hence the tragedy of this time represents a Messianic hope that was unfortunately lost. 

May we therefore merit through our observances at this time to usher in the Messianic redemptions, where there will be a flourishing of Torah study and death will be swallowed away forever (Isaiah 25:8).

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