Friday, December 31, 2010

Why belief in Moshiach is one of the 13 Principles

"Eternity" by Charnine
Why is the belief in Moshiach one of the thirteen principles of the Jewish Faith? Rabbi Gershon Avtzon, Menahel, Yeshivas Lubavitch Cincinnati answers:

To clarify the question: There are 613 commandments, yet there are only 13 principles. This shows us clearly that not every commandment is a principle. To put things in perspective: Two of the most basic Mitzvos are putting on Tefilin (for men) and keeping Shabbas. Yet, neither of them are part of the 13 principles. This shows us that the principles are more than just basic commandments, they are the pillars of Judaism.

For example: Principle number one is the belief in Hashem. This is understood: One can not claim to be a believing Jew, if he does not believe in Hashem. [A Perspective: For many of the commentaries, there is no Mitzva to believe in Hashem! How can one ask "what are the commandments" if he does not believe in a commander?]

Another one of the principles is that the Torah was authored by Hashem and only written by Moshe Rabbeinu. This is also understood. Most of the laws of the Torah are learned  from extra letters or words in the Torah. If one believes that the Torah was authored by a human, is it shocking that there are extra letters or words?

If the above understanding of the 13 principles is true, why is the belief in Moshiach one of them? Can't I be considered an orthodox Jew - Keeping Kosher, Shabbas, and just not believe in Moshiach?  

A perspective: The Chasam Sofer [Shalas U'teshuvos on Yorah Deah, letter 356] writes that in truth the belief in Moshiach is not in itself a principle. It is just that being that Moshiach is written about in the Torah, if one denies Moshiach, he is denying part of the Torah! However, the accepted opinions are that believing in Moshiach itself is a principle. For all Mitzvos are written in the Torah, and according to the above, they should all be included.

The Answer: The Lubavitcher Rebbe gives a fascinating explanation [Hadran on Rambam 5746 chapter 10]. In order to understand it, we must first explain a basic Chassidic idea. What do we mean when we say - in the Sh'ma prayer, with our eyes covered - that Hashem is ONE? The explanation: Hashem's oneness - does not only mean that there is no other creator, rather - means that there is no other creation but Hashem. The entire world - even though it seems as an independent entity - is really G-dly.

In the time of exile, this truth is hidden. It seems that the world is an independent entity, and that keeping Torah and Mitzvos are a struggle. When Moshiach comes, the Truth of creation will be revealed. The world will be seen as a place created solely to do Hashem's will.

Chazal tell us [Yalkut Shimoni on Yirmiah Remez 315 and others] that in the messianic era, if one would want to desecrate the Shabbas by picking a fruit off the tree, the tree will "scream" at him to stop.

If one does not believe in Moshiach, then one does not believe that Hashem's true unity will show. He then believes that the world will remain "independent" of Hashem's oneness. It is obvious that such a person is missing in his basic belief in Judaism.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Miriam Hakoveses — Miriam The Laundress: Yarzheit 24 Teves

Art: The Laundress by Greuze

Miriam, a worthy and modest woman, visited the house of Reb Shloimele, the Rebbe of Zevihl zt"l every week. After exchanging a few words of greeting, she would set to work doing the household laundry. Swiftly and reliably, she would soak, soap, scrub and rinse the clothes. She felt it was an honor to care for the garments of the Rebbe and the members of his household.

She was very pious and would fast frequently; all her adult life she fasted every Monday and Thursday, and every day of the month of Elul too. Prayers were constantly on her lips and her heart was always filled with a strong desire to fulfill Hashem's will.

There was always a tinge of sadness in her eyes though, even on joyous occasions, for she was childless. She never complained, neither did she speak very much about her situation. As the years passed, however, she decided to make use of her presence in the Rebbe's house and ask him to pray for her and bless her with offspring.

One day, when her work was finished, she stood in the doorway of the Rebbe's room and asked him to give her his blessing that she have a child. The Rebbe was immersed in his holy thoughts. After a few minutes he shook his head in the negative and told her, "I can't help you." She was stunned by this reply, but after a few moments the Rebbe added, "I give you my blessing that in your merit, others should merit having children . . ."

Miriam carried the Rebbe's promise with her for many years, until she passed away in 5724 (1964). Her petiroh went all but unnoticed. She had no son to say Kaddish after her. On the stone over her grave the following words were inscribed, "Here lies the woman Miriam bas Mamah a'h. She passed away on the twenty-fourth of Teves 5724." Nobody knew about the Rebbe's promise to her.

Twenty-nine years later, in 5753 (1993), the time arrived for the promise to be kept. One of her neighbors described a dream in which Miriam had appeared to her and said: "I was the laundress in the house of the Admor, Reb Shloimele of Zevihl. I was childless and I asked him for a blessing and for salvation. The Rebbe said, `I can't help you but I give you my blessing that in your merit, others should merit having children . . .' The time has arrived for holy souls to descend to Olam Hazeh. I request that people go to my grave and pray for the elevation of my neshama. I promise barren women that they will have children. Here are the exact details of how to find the grave . . ."

The woman who had the dream told one of her friends about it and it was mentioned at a shiur for ladies in Yerushalayim. People followed the directions to the grave and found it easily, though it was just one among thousands of others on Har HaMenuchot.

On Sunday, the twenty-fourth of Teves 5753, the pathways of Har Hamenuchot were crowded with people. One after another, buses arrived and disgorged more and more visitors, all headed for the grave of Miriam bas Mamah a'h.

An avreich stood at the graveside emotionally reciting Kaddish in a tear-choked voice for the elevation of the soul of the childless laundress. "Yisgadeil veyiskadeish Shemei rabbo . . ." and the crowd responded "Amein!"

People were weeping as they called in unison: "Yehei . . .Shemei . . .rabbo . . .mevorach . . .le'olam . . .ule'olmei . . olmayo!"

There were many emotional dambursts that day; many long-pent- up tears were shed by the side of the grave that had suddenly become a source of hope for childless women.

The prayers and supplications for the soul of the deceased woman ascended Heavenward. There are thirty-two known cases of women who prayed at the graveside and had children that first year. The grave has since been renovated and enlarged. The candle flames that flicker and dance there bear witness to the power of a single righteous woman who served Hashem with all her might, in anonymity and through her love of Hashem and His people, merited becoming the bearer of their prayers to their Father in Heaven.

Chassidishe Penguin

A penguin does the Mitzvah Tanz (wedding dance) Hat Tip:  The Cool Jew

Wednesday, December 29, 2010


"Through the Looking Glass" by Karl Bronk
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov taught: "Your fellow is your mirror. If your own face is clean, the image you perceive will also be flawless. But should you look upon your fellow man and see a blemish, it is your own imperfection that you are encountering - you are being shown what it is that you must correct within yourself."

Nothing is by chance, the Besht would always stress. Every event in a person's life is predetermined and purposeful, and an integral part of his divinely ordained mission in life. So a person never "chances" upon anything: if he witnesses an event or phenomenon, there is a reason for this experience, a reason that is closely tied to his own path in life. It therefore follows that if divine providence causes him to see his fellow's degradation, it is for a positive and constructive end: to open his eyes to a failing of his own.

Ultimately, this is the only way a person can truly recognize and deal with his own imperfections. "Love covers up all sins," said the wisest of men, and what greater love is there than the love of self?

A person's self-kinship blinds him to his own deficiencies. Yet a negative trait or deed, so innocent and justifiable in himself, appears in all its dreadfulness when discerned in others; here he cannot but be appalled at the depths to which his fellow has sunk.

So the most effective way to open a person's eyes to the negative in himself is to show him what is wrong with his fellow and to then tell him that he, too, suffers from the same lack in one form or another. If he truly wishes to improve himself, if he truly searches his heart until he discovers what it is that the Almighty was pointing out to him by causing him to see what he saw, his self-love will no longer obscure what has been so glaringly presented to him in the person of his fellow.

Still, one may ask: A person's mission in life involves not only the development and perfection of his own self and character but also his responsibility towards his fellow man. So why must he conclude that he is being shown his fellow's failing as a message concerning his own personal state? Perhaps he is being prompted by divine providence to rebuke and rehabilitate his fellow?

To answer this question, we must first take a closer look at the principle of "Particular Divine Providence." Particular divine providence means that not only is every event purposeful, but also its every aspect and nuance.

For example, the same event can imply different things to different observers, depending on how much they know about the people involved and the events that led up to it. Divine providence is particular in that it shows each observer precisely what is applicable to him. So if you witness an event, it stands to reason that everything about it, including the particular way in which it has affected you, has a specific application to your life.

The same applies to a person's witnessing of a negative act or behavior pattern on the part of his fellow. There are two distinct elements here: a) the fact of his fellow's wrongdoing; b) his fellow's guilt, culpability and decadence. The former does not necessarily imply the latter: one may be aware of what his fellow has done wrong, yet such knowledge may be accompanied with understanding, compassion and vindication.

So when G-d makes a person aware of his fellow's deficiency for the sole reason that he can do something about it, this is all that person would perceive-the fact of his fellow's problem and what he could do to resolve it. To also sense another's guilt and lowliness is completely unnecessary; on the contrary, it only hinders his ability to reach out to him in a loving and tolerant manner.

Thus, if he also senses his fellow's degradation, he must conclude that this aspect of the experience also serves a purpose. Divine providence has provided him with a mirror with which to discern his own shortcomings.

If you see it in someone else... then it is in you too.

by Yanky Tauber

The Mirror - by Chanah Zuber Scharfstein

This is the story about a very beautiful and very special mirror. It hung on a wall in the dining room of a fine house belonging to a rich man.

The mirror was large and square, with a wide, thick gold frame carved with beautiful designs of leaves and flowers. Everyone that saw the mirror admired it, but everyone also noticed that it was imperfect. On one of the corners, you see, the silver backing had been scraped off so that this part of the mirror was plain glass. People would remark upon its beauty and then say, "Oh, what a pity! Too bad the mirror is damaged." To everyone's surprise the mirror's owner would tell his visitors that it was he himself who had deliberately scraped the silver backing off! Can you imagine owning such a costly mirror, a work of art, and then ruining it? But let me tell you the story of that mirror.

Many years ago, in a small town in Poland, there lived a man called Abraham. He owned a small store and he earned just enough money to take care of his family. He was not a rich man, but he also was not a very, very poor man. He had only a few customers. Sometimes people left without buying anything because Abraham did not have many things to choose from. They went to the big stores instead where they could find what they wanted.

Abraham was happy with his life. Though he was not rich, he always had enough to share with others. No visitor that came to his home ever left hungry. Every time a poor person needed help, Abraham always found money to give him. Abraham and his wife lived a very simple life. Their home was small. The house really needed a paint job, but there was never enough money for that. It seemed to them that it was more important to help someone in real trouble than to paint a house. Their furniture was old for the same reason. The curtains on the window had probably been washed a hundred times. Abraham and his wife had no carpets on their floor. Their clothes were plain, and they did not often buy new things. Many of their cups and plates had chips and cracks. The food they ate was simple.

Yes, it was not a very fancy home. But it was a real home. It was a warm and happy place. Everyone felt comfortable and relaxed there. Abraham had many visitors because everyone knew that he was kind and liked to be helpful.

One day Abraham was standing in the doorway of his little store waiting for customers. Suddenly he noticed a stranger walking toward his store. Abraham lived in a small town so he knew all the people there. When the stranger was near the store, Abraham asked him how he could help. "Maybe you would like to come to my home and rest awhile," he said. "If you are hungry, please be my guest. If you are thirsty, please come with me for something to drink. Perhaps you need money? We will help you."

Abraham's invitation was so warm and friendly that the stranger decided to stop in his house for a rest.

What Abraham did not know what that this was no ordinary stranger. This was a very holy, wise and famous Rebbe from a town far way. He was on his way to a wedding and happened to pass through Abraham's town. The Rebbe was an important man and many people in Poland traveled long distances to listen to his words of wisdom, or to ask for a blessing or prayer in time of need. It would have been a great honor for any home to have this Rebbe as a guest.

The Rebbe soon noticed Abraham's kindness and generosity. He knew many rich people who could have helped the poor much more easily than Abraham, but who did much less than he. The Rebbe enjoyed his short stay. Before he left he blessed Abraham with riches, so that he should be able to continue helping the poor and needy more easily.

After the Rebbe left, Abraham's store suddenly became a very busy place. All day long customers were coming in. Everyone found what he wanted, and no longer did people leave his store to shop somewhere else. With each day that passed, Abraham had more new customers and more money to bring home. Soon he had to make his store larger to fit all his new customers. After awhile, Abraham became a very big, important and rich storekeeper. He became one of the richest men in the town. The Rebbe's blessing that Abraham should become wealthy had been fulfilled.

To be rich seems mighty good when one is poor. People sometimes think that if they were rich, life would be beautiful. But being rich can be a problem too. Now that Abraham had a big store, he had a lot more work to do. He worried about robbers breaking into his store or home. He worried about his business. He wanted his store to keep on growing. He wanted a very beautiful home. He wanted new, fancy clothes. Because Abraham was busy with his store, he found less and less time for studying Torah and going to shul to pray. He did not even have time to bother with poor people. Abraham could only be seen by special appointment. His secretaries were told to give money to needy people who came for his help, but Abraham had no time to listen to their stories or problems.

Abraham and his wife built a brand new house that almost looked like a palace. It had many rooms, and all the rooms were large and beautiful. On the windows hung soft velvet drapes. The floors were covered with thick rugs. There was wallpaper on the walls. The kitchen was filled with new pots and pans. There were lots of fine dishes in the cabinets. All the furniture was new and expensive. The dining room table was made of shiny wood. The chairs in the living room were soft and plump. On the walls hung paintings by real artists. And on one wall in the living room there hung a huge mirror. It was so big it almost covered the whole wall. All around this mirror there was a wide, thick frame of gold. No one else in town had such a fine mirror. Everyone who saw it spoke of its beauty. It was truly a masterpiece.

There were many servants in this new house. But this house was so fancy that Abraham did not want to let beggars or poor people come in. Strangers were no longer invited for a meal. Servants would open the door and give some money to the needy, but that was all.

"Abraham is different," people said. "He has changed since he became rich. What a pity! He was always so kind and good, and now look at him. He has no time for any of us any more." And they would shake their heads sadly and remember the good old times when Abraham had never been too busy to help others.

Time passed . One day a messenger came to visit Abraham. He had been sent a long distance from the famous Rebbe who had given Abraham the blessing of riches. The news of Abraham's good fortune had reached the ears of the Rebbe and now he needed his help. An innocent Jewish man had been put in prison on false charges and a great deal of money was needed for his ransom. Of course Abraham was happy to help. He gave the messenger the money and sent him off with good wishes for a safe trip home. He also sent regards to the Rebbe.

The messenger had completed his job, but he did not feel happy. It had been difficult for him to speak to Abraham in person. His secretaries had not wanted to let a stranger into Abraham's private office. Abraham had given him the money, but he had not invited him to his home for some food and rest. The messenger was surprised. The Rebbe had praised Abraham and often spoken of his hospitality and charitable ways. The messenger could not understand what had happened.

When he came back to the Rebbe, he gave him the money and told him everything about his trip. The Rebbe shook his head sadly. He understood that Abraham, the poor man, had a heart of gold, but Abraham, the rich man, with all his gold, seemed to have a heart more like stone. The Rebbe decided to visit Abraham to see what could be done.

When the Rebbe arrived at Abraham's house, Abraham welcomed him warmly and invited him into his home. This house looked very different from the home that Abraham had lived in when the Rebbe first visited him. It was was big and beautiful, but gone was the friendliness and warmth one had felt in the simple, old home. The Rebbe walked on the heavy rug. He saw the costly paintings. He looked at the expensive, new furniture, and at the drapes made from the finest, softest velvet. And then he noticed the mirror. He looked at its shiny gold frame. It was the biggest mirror he had ever seen.

"Quite a change, is it not?" said Abraham with a pleased smile on his face. "And that mirror, " he continued, "is my favorite treasure. Of all the lovely things I own, I like that mirror the best. It cost a great deal of money, but it was worth it. It is truly a masterpiece, a work of art, is it not?" he said and turned to the Rebbe.

"Yes," the Rebbe answered. "Quite a change. Quite a change." He said this softly, in a low, serious voice, and his face looked sad.

Suddenly, the Rebbe called to Abraham. "Come here," he said, and asked him to walk over to the mirror and stand in front of it. The Rebbe then walked away a bit and asked Abraham to tell him what he saw.

Abraham was puzzled at this, but answered, "Myself. That is what I see in this mirror. My own reflection -- that is all I can see."

"Look closely," the Rebbe said. "What else do you see?"

"I see my lovely furniture reflected in the mirror. I see my paintings, I see my rugs and drapes. I can see many things in my beautiful home," answered Abraham.

The Rebbe then walked over to the window with Abraham. He pushed aside the drapes and told Abraham to look out into the street. Abraham's home was on a big street and people were always passing by. Since it was a small town, Abraham knew almost all the people walking past his house. The Rebbe asked him many questions about all the people they saw. And Abraham told him that the woman with the basked was a poor widow with many small children. She was hoping that kind people would put food in the basket for her family. He told the Rebbe about Bentze, the water-carrier, who was getting old and found it hard to carry the water. He pointed out Yankel the tailor, a fine Jew who went to shul every day, but was very poor and never had enough money for his family.

Abraham was wondering why the Rebbe was asking him all these questions. The Rebbe was a serious man who never had time to waste. Why should he be so curious about all these people?

Then the Rebbe said to Abraham, "It is strange, is it not? A mirror and a window are both made of glass and yet they are very different."

"What do you mean?" asked Abraham.

"Well," said the Rebbe, "when you looked in the mirror you could only see yourself and the things that belong to you. You could see much more when you looked out the window. Then you could see all your neighbors and friends from the whole town."

"That is true," said Abraham. "A mirror and a window are both made from glass. The window is transparent. Light can pass right through it. It is clear and you can see everything through it. The mirror, on the other hand, is covered with silver on one side. The rays of light cannot pass through, and therefore a mirror can only reflect what is in front of it."

"I see," said the Rebbe and nodded his head. "I see. The piece of glass that is plain is clear through and through, allowing you to see others and their lives. But when it is covered with silver, then you can see only yourself. Hm, very interesting. It is really quite fantastic, isn't it? Now do you think it will work the other way too? Could you take a mirror and scrape off the silver so that you would be able to see everyone else instead of yourself?"

Abraham's eyes filled with tears. He felt so ashamed. Finally, he was beginning to understand everything that had happened to him since he became rich.

That evening, Abraham made a big party in his home. The whole town was invited, especially all the poor people. Everyone had a fine time. Then Abraham asked for silence. He made a short speech and asked for everyone's forgiveness. He told his guests that he was sorry for the way he had acted after he became rich. His life would now be different. He promised them that his doors would always be open for everyone, and that he never would be too busy to help those that needed him.

After all the guests had left, Abraham walked over to his beautiful mirror. With a sharp knife he scraped off the silver covering in one corner. He did not stop until that part was as clear as glass. Only then was he satisfied.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Impeding The Redemption

I know, I've blogged this before, but it was one of those posts that got deleted.... so here it is again.

I heard from my teacher and father-in-law, who was the chief disciple of Rebbe Yechiel Michal of Zlotchov, that once when the Baal Shem Tov was traveling on the road, he stepped into a wooded area to pray the afternoon prayer. His disciples were dumbfounded to see him hitting his head against a tree, crying and screaming. Afterward, they asked him what had happened. He explained that he had seen, with divine inspiration, that in the generations before the coming of the Moshiach there would be a multitude of rabbis, and that they would be the very ones who would impede the redemption. [Otzar Chayim]

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Healing: Doctors, Rebbes and Relying on Miracles

Following up a comment on Emunah and C-Sections regarding Rebbe Nachman's aversion to doctors.... I wanted to clarify things, not only for myself but for the readers of this blog who may also be wondering about all this.

I found this almost instantly, (it's long but worth the read): Rebbe Nachman and the Doctors

"It is a positive obligation and a mitzvah to turn to the doctor at a time of sickness, and the Torah itself accepts that healing can come about through natural means. For the Torah penetrated the innermost recesses of man's mind and knows that his merit will not be sufficient to enable him to be healed through a miracle from heaven."  [Turey Zahav on Yoreh Deah #336, and see Birkhey Yosef ad loc]

Genuine Wonder or Optical Illusion ?

Art: Jacek Yerka
"Provide a wonder for yourselves" [Va'iera 7:9]

Why, asked R' Elimelech of Lizhensk, would Pharoah ask Moshe to "provide a wonder for yourselves"?  Since Pharoah was the one who wanted proof of Moshe's legitimacy, would it not have made more sense for him to say "Provide a wonder for me"?

The difference, answered the Rebbe, between a genuine wonder and one which is no more than an optical illusion is that the illusion amazes only those who witness it.  However, the one who performs the feat is not impressed in the least, since he knows that it was no more than a delusion.  A genuine wonder, on the other hand, amazes not only its spectators, but even the tzaddik who performs it.

This, then, was Pharoah's intention when he said: "Provide a wonder for yourselves" - Provide us with a true wonder, one that will not only dazzle us but will even make an impression upon yourselves."

Source: Rabbi Y. Bronstein

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Gadol in our Midst

Here's a truly inspirational Rabbi - and someone who, although I have never met him personally - has changed my life, as he has done for countless other people......  and I would like to publicly thank him for it.

Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski M.D. who turned 80 last October,  has just published his latest book "Gevurah: My Life, Our World, and the Adventure of Reaching 80".

Besides authoring more than 60 books, he estimates he has helped more than 40,000 people recover from substance abuse through rehabilitation at Gateway in the last 40 years. He is also recognized as having called out addiction problems in the Jewish community, as well as exposing the problems of Jewish spousal abuse, which many people are still unwilling to recognize.

“I don’t think there is any question that my constantly beating the drum has brought it out,” Twerski said of spousal abuse in the Jewish community. “There is no question that my efforts have paid off in the long run.”

While Jewish spousal abuse continues to be a problem, Twerski said, “more women are now getting help. There are more organizations and more hotlines, and there is more education among rabbis. Unfortunately, there are some [rabbis] who are still in the dark and simply don’t believe it could happen in the Jewish community.”

Rabbi Twerski's excellent book on Spousal Abuse is a life-saver and highly recommended:  "The Shame Borne in Silence" is available here.

For  the complete article on Rabbi Twerski's latest book go to:  The Jewish Chronicle

Emunah and C-Sections

My trust in rabbis was eroded long ago, and several internet rabbis have done nothing to improve that situation.   I was unfortunate enough to have to learn several lessons the hard way, because I listened to certain rabbis giving advice that they had no right to give - and which I later discovered was totally wrong information.

For this reason, I feel it necessary to respond to Lazer Beam's latest blog post Emunah and Childbirth where a guest female writer (RF) pleads with women around the world to cease having babies via C-section.  She then equates having caesarean sections to a lack of emunah.  By publishing her rant, Rabbi Brody acknowledges his agreement with it, and - (worse) - implies that such an opinion is endorsed by Breslov and the great Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.

I find the entire blog post to be (1) misleading and (2) insulting.

There are many reasons why a woman needs to deliver her baby via caesarean section:

Here are the most common indications for cesarean birth:

•Previous surgery on the uterus makes a cesarean necessary
•Placenta previa, to prevent excessive maternal bleeding that may affect the fetus.
•Abruptio placenta, to prevent rapid blood and oxygen loss to the baby as a result of the placenta separating.
•Herpes infection, a cesarean will prevent the possibility of passing it on to the baby through the birth canal.
•Severe toxemia, to prevent fetal complications.
•Fetal distress, as identified through ultrasounds and/or fetal monitoring.
•Abnormal fetal position, making it impossible for the baby to pass through the birth canal. An example would be a breech or transverse presentation.
•Diabetic mother, if the disease results in a very large baby, or poor blood flow to the placenta.
•Prolapsed cord, to prevent loss of oxygen to the baby.
•Cephalopelvic disproportion (CPD), when the baby’s head is too large to pass through the birth canal.
•Failure of labor to progress, or if oxytocin has not been effective.
•Forcep or vacuum failure.
Having emunah doesn't mean you ignore your doctor's advice and run straight for your prayer book and rely on a miracle.  Having emunah means that you understand Hashem gave us doctors and operating theatres, anaesthesia, and miraculous ways of bringing babies into the world - unlike past generations where the mother and baby would both die.
Providentially, an email just arrived, showing an (old) amazing photo of a baby in the womb, being operated on.  The baby is holding the doctor's hand, almost as if saying "thank you doctor".   Rabbi Brody, it's time to think before you publish your misleading articles.......
Photo: 21-week-old unborn baby named Samuel Alexander Armas, who is being operated on by surgeon named Joseph Bruner. The baby was diagnosed with spina bifida and would not survive if removed from his mother's womb. Little Samuel's mother, Julie Armas, is an obstetrics nurse in Atlanta. She knew of Dr. Bruner's remarkable surgical procedure. Practicing at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, he performs these special operations while the baby is still in the womb.
During the procedure, the doctor removes the uterus via C-section and makes a small incision to operate on the baby. As Dr. Bruner completed the surgery on Samuel, the little guy reached his tiny, but fully developed hand through the incision and firmly grasped the surgeon's finger. Dr. Bruner was reported as saying that when his finger was grasped, it was the most emotional moment of his life, and that for an instant during the procedure he was just frozen, totally immobile.
The photograph captures this amazing event with perfect clarity. The editors titled the picture, "Hand of Hope." The text explaining the picture begins, "The tiny hand of 21-week-old fetus Samuel Alexander Armas
emerges from the mother's uterus to grasp the finger of Dr. Joseph Bruner as if thanking the doctor for the gift of life." Little Samuel's mother said they "wept for days" when they saw the picture. She said, "The photo reminds us pregnancy isn't about disability or an illness, it's about a little person" Samuel was born in perfect health, the operation 100 percent successful.

The Complete Guide to Problem Solving

Art:  Mike Worrall

There is no problem in the world that cannot be solved by using one of the four options below:
(1)  Fix it
Some people know they have a problem but they forget they can actually fix it. There's a story told about a man who complained that every day for lunch he had tuna sandwiches.  “If I have tuna sandwiches one more time I”m gonna kill myself!” he said.  But the next day, he again has tuna sandwiches! Someone asked him who made the sandwiches, and he replied: “I make my own sandwiches”.    This may sound like a silly story, but if you think about a situation hard enough, you may come to the conclusion that you are the one responsible for it, and you can do the changing.

(2)  Seek Advice
If you personally can’t fix the problem, talk to someone who can.  Talk to a doctor, a friend, a lawyer, an accountant.... whatever the problem is, talk to someone who you respect and has the extra knowledge with which to help you fix it.

(3) Walk Away - and don't look back
If the first two solutions are not applicable: that is, you cannot fix it, and you cannot talk to anybody who can fix it, then there’s a simple solution: Walk away from it.  Remove the problem from your life and your thoughts and forget it ever existed.

(4)  If none of the above are applicable to your situation: in other words, you cannot fix it and you cannot walk away from it..... because it could involve a child, or close friend or relative.... and you cannot change them and you cannot walk away from them....... then there is one more solution:
Accept it.
“Accept it” doesn't mean “tolerate it” - it means Accept it. This is what Hashem has given you, and there is obviously no way out. You must accept it, and by doing so your entire outlook will instantly change.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

At the Gates of Heaven

Art by Schnette
R' Meir of Premishlan or, as he was fondly known, R' Maer'l, was renowned for his devotion to tzedakah. Any gifts he received from his Chassidim he immediately distributed to the poor. He explained himself in this way:

"Meir'l once went up to Heaven in a dream and observed what happened to people as they came to Heaven after they died.

"The first to appear by the celestial gates was a great Torah scholar, who was not granted immediate entry into Heaven. Instead, he was politely asked to wait outside a while so that the angels could determine whether his studies were pursued with pure intentions or in order to be recognized and praised for his great wisdom.

"The second soul to appear before the gates was that of a tzaddik who devoted his life to leading and advising his flock in their search to serve Hashem. He too was cordially asked to wait outside while his motives were thoroughly investigated.

"The third to arrive was a poor innkeeper who accepted all guests into his inn. If someone had money to pay for his room and board, the innkeeper would graciously accept it. However, if the person were too poor to pay, the host would gladly provide hospitality free of charge.

"The angels immediately decided that he should be ushered into the presence of Hashem without any delay. They had no doubt that his charity was pure because he had not done it for recognition and he helped the poor without expecting any reward in return.

"From this dream Maer'l learnt the enormous importance of tzedakah and decided to become a gabbai tzedakah to distribute Hashem's money among the poor."

Source: Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Min HaShamayim

Pennies from Heaven by Heidi Malott
The Gematria of Parnosa [Sustenance] -  פרנסה -  has the same value as haShamayim [Heaven] - השׁמים - to teach us that our sustenance comes from Heaven.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wisdom from the Past

Art: Alex Levin
In an effort to assert the authority of the Sanhedrin (the high court), Rabban Gamliel, the first Nassi (President; Head of the Sanhedrin) after the destruction of the second Temple, would ensure in the strictest fashion, that his rulings would be followed by all. To this end, he harshly sanctioned and reproached Rabbi Yehoshua publicly on numerous occasions for his opinions which were contrary to the ones of the Nassi.

The following Talmudic passage [Brachot pp27b-28a] recounts the steps taken by the leading rabbis of that time to stop Rabban Gamliel.

"Let us take steps to deprive Rabban Gamliel of his dignity (of being the Nassi). But who shall be his successor? Shall we appoint Rabbi Yehoshua? He is personally involved in this incident (and it would cause Rabban Gamliel too much aggravation - Rashi). Shall we appoint Rabbi Akiva? He has no ancestral merits (and may be disposed to Heavenly punishment through Rabban Gamliel's prayers - Rashi). Let us therefore choose Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah for he is wise, wealthy and the tenth generation from Ezra.

So they came to Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah and said to him: "Is the master willing to become the head of the Academy?" Rabbi Elazar replied "I will go and consult with members of my household." He went and consulted with his wife. She replied "Perhaps you will also be removed from this position."

He responded: "There is a maxim. Use your precious bowl while you have it, even if it be broken the next day." (Meaning, I will be the Nassi for as long as it will last)

"But", she said, "you do not have any white hair (and it is fit for the Nassi to be an elder - Rashi)

At that time he was only 18 years old. Thereupon, miraculously eighteen of his locks turned white. And this is what Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah meant when he said: "Behold! I am as a man of seventy years of age" - but not aged seventy.

The Iyun Yaakov suggests that the rabbis specifically elected Rabbi Elazar for his wisdom despite his young age, to emphasize that knowledge is more important than experience. However, this commentary leaves many questions unanswered.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe commented as follows:
Many points in this story need to be clarified:

1. The quality of old age lies in the years of life experienced by an elder. As written in Navi [Iyov 32:7] "The abundance of years will testify on wisdom". One does not become wise merely by appearing old. So how can Rabbi Elazar's appearance command the respect fit for elders?

2. The Talmud [Brachot 28a] mentions the importance of sincerity, observing that specifically in Rabban Gamliel's time, all scholars had to be as pious inwardly as they appeared to be outwardly. It seems that Rabbi Elazar did not adhere to this principle as he was a young man portraying himself to be a 70 year old man.

It is certain that Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah was an honest and sincere person. His elderly appearance was not a disguise. He really had all the qualities of a 70 year old man. However, until he received a white beard, this fact was hidden from everybody. After the miraculous emergence of his white hair, it became obvious to all that he was as old inwardly as he was outwardly. His new appearance testified to his true spiritual age. (Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn said that the true age of a person is not necessarily the one inscribed on his passport, but rather his inner age, the one that reflects his qualities and knowledge)

But how can a young man have the qualities acquired through old age? He does not have the "abundance of years" required to earn wisdom.

The Arizal explains [Sidur HaArizal] that Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaryah was a reincarnation of the prophet Shmuel. Rabbi Elazar inherited his strength and wisdom. Shmuel died at the age of 52. According to the Talmud, Rabbi Elazar was 18 years old at the time he became the Nassi. Adding the years of Shmuel's life to his own, Rabbi Elazar was effectively 70 years old. Similarly we find that the Rabbis mentioned the fact that he was the tenth generation from Ezra. The Mishnah states [Eduyot 9:2] that a son inherits his father's wisdom. Therefore, Rabbi Elazar inherited the wisdom of Ezra, who was himself a Nassi.

This point can be better understood through a story told about Rabbi Shmuel, fourth Rebbe of Lubavitch - "the Maharash". Once, his elder brother Rabbi Yisrael Noach, sarcastically asked the Maharash how a young man such as him could be so knowledgeable in Talmud. The Maharash answered: "You might be older than me with your own years, however I am older than you, counting my father's years." Since the Maharash was born after Rabbi Yisroel Noach, at the time of his birth, his father the Tzemach Tzedek was older and wiser. Therefore he inherited a greater amount of wisdom and knowledge from his father, albeit vast knowledge can only be acquired with time.

An encouraging message can be taken from this story. Throughout life, we are faced with challenges and tasks that seem to be much too difficult for us to endure. We might wonder if we are up to the challenge. This story demonstrates that with the power of our ancestors and earlier gilgulim (reincarnations) we have all we need to succeed. [see Shaar Hagilgulim, preface 3 and 4]

This is particularly relevant with regards to the imminent redemption. considering the low spiritual level in which we find ourselves, in the global decadence of this era in which "the darkness shall cover the earth", we might skeptically ask ourselves how we can bring Moshiach, considering the fact that the great generations that preceded us did not succeed.

Once again, we learn from the tale of Rabbi Elazar ben Azaryah that we are not alone in this struggle. We are only completing a task that was started by our illustrious ancestors. The merit of their good deeds is eternal [see Tanya ch 25] in contrast with evil which is not everlasting (when a person repents for his sins, his transgressions are transformed into meritorious deeds). The light they brought to this world through their Torah and mitzvot has accumulated during all these years and is standing by our side, making it possible to finish the work they started, and finally bring Moshiach.

Based on Likutei Sichos (Lubavitcher Rebbe) vol.1 p246 and vol.7 p.123
Written by the Students of Seminary Beis Menachem, Montreal Canada

The Famous Donkey

"Moshe took his wife and his sons, mounted them upon the [famous] donkey, and he returned to the land of Egypt....Moshe took the staff of G-d in his hand." [Shemos 4:20]

Why was a donkey chosen for Moshe's mission?

Rashi: Moshe mounted his wife and children on a unique donkey. This was the donkey which Avraham himself prepared for the journey to sacrifice his son Yitzchak. And it is the donkey on which Moshiach is going to be revealed on, as the verse states that Moshiach is "a poor man riding on a donkey" [Zechariah 9:9]

Be'er Mayim Chayim: Rashi is troubled why the verse says that he "mounted them upon the donkey" rather than merely "a donkey". Therefore, he concluded that the Torah must be hinting that it is a famous donkey.

Pirkei d'Rabbi Eliezer: This donkey was born to the famous donkey formed on the first Friday of creation, after sunset [see Avos 5:6]. It is the donkey on which Moshe rode when coming to Egypt. And it is the donkey which the son of David (Moshiach) will ride upon.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Entering the Twilight Zone

A light show in the Heavens and a nuclear war on the horizon (Korea)..... we have the total lunar eclipse of the full moon on December 21 - the winter solstice - (the last time this line up occurred was during the Great Depression, and it will not occur again until December 21, 2485)  and the threat of Korea which could begin WW3 - is this the final war before Moshiach?  

An occasional contributor to this blog, Daniel S, shares his thoughts below:

"This upcoming virtually guaranteed war, (we wrote about it several months ago before any tensions) according to my near term calculations, may break out in the next few weeks and last a total of three months, as I have written, before the much broader war is over in the second month of Adar when, according to Sefer Bnei Yissaschor (Adar Ma'ammar 4), nations who behave like Amalekites (who also aid others to destroy Israel -- give Iran the technology to do so) are wiped out just as they were on Purim which took place that year in the second Adar. He also writes that in the End of Days, you will see that Amalek will be wiped out in the month of Adar (containing Purim) and more so in Adar 2 - Hashem, at times, working through the better nations to do so.

For example: the first Gulf War against the Amalekite Sadaam Hussein, ended precisely on the day of Purim (when we also read Parshas Zachor to remember and wipe out the memory of Amalek the first nation to attack us upon our exit from Egypt having just become the nation) while the second Gulf War began precisely on the day after Purim called "Shushan Purim." So anyone who thinks this is not the very end of days, is naive.

This month of Adar, the month of Purim, this year (a leap year) has a hidden second such month called Adar Bet (or Adar 2). There isn't another one like it for 3 more years.

So we are now in the middle of Tevet (coincidentally my Hebrew birthday is today hence the attachment of codes* displayed from my Bar Mitzvah Parsha, Vayechi) when historically, as the Talmud records, the world generally has tragic events that in the past have threatened Israel and the world.

Moreover, this Tuesday night is a total eclipse of the moon, potentially portending bad events in the world.

Following this month of Tevet, only leaves three months of Sh'vat, Adar, and Adar Bet for the duration of this war.

While obviously no guarantees it will be now, however, one just has to read the news to know it is inevitably close."
Also see a post from 2005:  "Years of Awe" blog: Koreas in Twilight Zone

*codes are in PDF format, Email me if you want a copy

Within Reach

"She sent her maidservant and she took it" [Shemos 2:5]

Chazal inform us that the basket carrying Moshe was too far for Pharoah's daughter to reach from where she was standing. Still, she stretched out her hand (amasah) in the direction of the basket and Hashem miraculously lengthened her arm for her.

R' Meir Shapiro, the rosh yeshivah of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, called for an emergency meeting of the leaders of Lublin to discuss a certain person whose life was in danger.  R' Shapiro demanded of them to do something to save his life.

"This matter that you speak of" responded one of the leaders, "is beyond our capabilities.  We regrettably do not believe that we can carry it out."

"In this week's parsha" replied R' Shapiro, "the Torah states: "And she sent her maidservant".  Chazal teach us that the arm of Pharoah's daughter was miraculously lengthened in order for her to take hold of Moshe's basket.

"I wonder" continued R' Shapiro, "why did Pharoah's daughter even attempt to retrieve the basket in the first place?  After all, if it is obvious to an individual that something is not within his reach, does he waste his energy trying to obtain it?"

"We see from here" concluded R' Shapiro, "that when a person is expected to accomplish something, he should not deliberate whether or not he is capable of succeeding - he must try! Let him first make an effort, and then Heaven will assist him."

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Strength in Unity

A father invited all of his children to his home. When they arrived, they gathered around him.

The father held several thin twigs in his hand. He gave one to each of his children and then asked them to break them.

His children snapped the dry twigs with ease.

The father then passed around a bundle of several twigs.  "Now" said the father "please try breaking this bundle."  Each one tried to break the bundle but none succeeded.

"You see" said the father "as long as you remain united in the same way that these branches are united, nobody will ever be able to harm you! But if you act divisively and there is disharmony among you, then be aware that a lone individual is as feeble and easily broken as a thin twig."

Friday, December 17, 2010


Art by Luis Beltran

To be a person of truth, be swayed neither by approval nor disapproval.

Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslov [L.M. 1:66]


Art: Jacob Taanmann

Yarzheit: 11 Teves - In memory of two great teachers: Ze'ev Yosef ben Sholom a"h and Rochel bas Mordechai a"h  who tragically left this world as the result of a surreal car crash on December 20, 2007 - we miss you and think of you every day.

Tzadikim never die, their light continues to shine forever.

"Teach them thoroughly to your children" [Devarim 6:7] - "your children" refers to your students. [Sifrei]

"Whoever teaches another man's son Torah is considered as if he had borne him." [Sanhedrin 19b]

A talmid once approached R' Chaim Shmulevitz to relate a chiddush (original Torah thought). R' Chaim listened to the student in amazed silence. The "chiddush" was, in fact, an idea which R' Chaim himself had offered in a shiur (lecture) which this student had attended.

R' Chaim was certain that the student was not trying to deceive him. There could only be one explanation. The student had absorbed R' Chaim's lecture well, but after a period of time, had forgotten having attended it. Later, when reviewing the relevant material, the student had thought of R' Chaim's chiddush, thinking that it was his own.

R' Chaim later remarked: "I then realized that here was a real talmid, assimilating my chiddushim in his thoughts as if they were his very own! It was the happiest day of my life!"

Ever Mindful

When still active as Rosh Yeshivah of Mesivta Torah Vodaath, R' Yaakov Kamenetzky once visited the home of his son R' Shmuel. Late at night, R' Shmuel heard his father leave his second-floor bedroom and go downstairs.

Concerned, R' Shmuel made his way downstairs, only to find his father jotting something down in a pocket notebook. R' Yaakov explained: "A certain bochur in yeshivah has been having some problems. I just thought of a way to help him. I jotted it down in my appointment book to make sure that I won't forget."

How Can I Leave?

The weddings of his talmidim were of particular importance to R' Moshe Feinstein. One Friday morning, someone met him in New York's Port Authority bus terminal, waiting to board a bus to the annual convention of Agudath Israel.

It seemed hard to believe that a car had not been provided to take R' Moshe to the convention. R' Moshe's companion explained: "Certainly a car was provided. The Rosh Yeshivah was to be driven to the convention last night, following the chuppah at a talmid's wedding. The car was waiting after the ceremony ended, but the Rosh Yeshivah said: "How can I leave without first dancing with the chassan?" He insisted that the car, which was to pick up other Roshei Yeshivah, not wait for him, and he would not trouble anyone to come for him a second time."

For a Student's Honour

R' Eliyahu Moshe Shisgal (late son-in-law of R' Moshe Feinstein) was a revered and beloved Rosh Yeshivah. Once, during a lecture, a student disputed a point that R' Shisgal had made. The student's remarks seemed so ludicrous that the rest of the class burst into laughter.

R' Shisgal chastised his students. "Why do you laugh? Is this the proper way? Besides, how can one be sure that what he suggested is wrong? Perhaps it is we who are in error?"

Having spoken, R' Shisgal excused himself and left the room, returning a few minutes later with a gemara that he had climbed two flights of stairs to get. He read aloud a passage from the commentary of Rashi and concluded "It is apparent from Rashi that our explanation is correct." The student who had posed the question no longer felt chagrined.

Source: Rabbi Shimon Finkelman "For Love of Torah"

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Talking to Yourself

Art: "Hannah's Reflection" - Jana Bouc

Sometimes when you speak to a friend, your words are not accepted.

Still, you can be motivated by your own words.

A ball cannot enter a stone wall, and therefore bounces back from it.

When your friend refuses to accept your words, they likewise are reflected back to you.  You are therefore influenced by your own words.

These same words may have had no effect if you would have spoken them to yourself.  But when you speak them to your friend and he is not influenced, they are reflected back to you.  You are therefore motivated by them.

Source: Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom by Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov
Translated by Rabbi Ayreh Kaplan

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Guiding Hand of Heaven

A young man once approached the Chazon Ish, Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz ztzl, to ask a pedagogical question. This young rabbi was about to assume the position of mashgiach ruchani (spiritual mentor) in a boys' Yeshivah high school. He wanted to know what moral points he should try to stress to the boys during his lectures. Which ethical principles should he emphasize?

The Chazon Ish replied that the mashgiach should focus on one point and one point alone: hashgacha pratis (Divine Providence). "If the boys come away from your lectures with one lesson, it must be that the world is not hefker (abandoned, in no-one's charge), that there is a Creator and nothing happens by chance! If you manage to teach this to your students, you will have achieved a great success. If you plant within them a deep appreciation for hashgacha pratis, their lives will be changed forever."

The Hebrew phrase, hashgachah pratis, is generally translated as "Divine Providence" but literally, it means "individualized supervision" from Hashem. It refers to the fundamental Jewish belief in the constant guiding hand of Heaven, which controls all Creation - from the orbits of the planets to the flight pattern of a mosquito.

As the Midrash [Midrash Rabbah, Bereshis 10:7] explains: "Rabbi Simon said: There is not even one blade of grass that does not have its own mazal in Heaven that taps it and says "Grow!" And the Talmud states that every living creature "from the massive ox to the tiny flea, is directly sustained by the support decreed for it in Heaven" [Avodah Zarah 3b].

Hashgachah pratis means that Hashem notices, cares, and pays attention to all creatures. If this is true for plants and animals, it is even more so for human beings. Although events in our lives may be masked as "natural", hashgachah pratis means that everything that happens to us is Hashem's Will. As Rabbi Chanina declared: "A person does not prick his finger below (on earth) unless it is decreed for him above (in Heaven), as it is stated [Tehillim 37:23] "A man's footsteps are established by Hashem" [Chullin 6b]

Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler explains how even seemingly natural events are really acts of Heaven. He points out that with minimal effort we can all recognize the miracles of daily life:

Even someone on the lowest (spiritual) level, someone to whom it appears that all events are 'natural', if he will simply desire to think into the matter honestly, he will see that everything happens with direct guidance - that Hashem guides all 'natural' events.

In order to understand how all natural events are really miracles, consider the following metaphor. A man is standing behind a curtain and is peeking into a room through a tiny hole. He sees a pen writing but he does not see the man who is writing with the pen. (Nevertheless, he knows that a man must be there, guiding the pen to write). In a similar vein, the one whose eyes are closed and sees only 'natural' events does not understand that Hashem is at work. All 'natural' events are being directed by Hashem. Just as the pen does not write by itself, so too, events in this world do not happen by themselves.

Rambam cites belief in hashgachah pratis as the first of his Thirteen Principles of Faith which constitute the basis of Judaism. These principles are listed in many siddurim at the end of Shacharis, the morning service, and they are recited by many at the conclusion of their prayers:

I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, creates and guides all creatures, and that He alone caused, causes, and will cause everything that happens.

Why did Maimonides and the Chazon Ish place such a primary emphasis on hashgachah pratis? Why is this principle so important?

Perhaps we can understand this with the insight offered by Rashi. In his commentary on the Torah verse which commands us to remember how Amalek attacked the Jews after the Exodus from Mitzrayim [Devarim 25:17]. The Torah further commands us to destroy the very memory of Amalek.

Why is this enemy of the Jews singled out for total annihilation? Wheren't there other nations who also attacked the Jews? What was so terrible about Amalek?

The Torah commands us to remember Amalek and "what happened to you on the way". Rashi emphasizes that the Hebrew word "happened" is similar to the word "happenstance". In other words, Rashi lists as the first of his three interpretations of this phrase, that Amalek's wickedness was rooted in their attitude of happenstance - as if the Exodus had occurred, and did not result from Providence; as if the Jews were freed from slavery because of geopolitical forces and not Divine Intervention; and as if the Red Sea "coincidentally" split just when the Jews needed to go through, and was not a miraculous event.

According to Rashi's commentary, we can now understand why Amalek was singled out for total destruction. The attitude that events in this world are happenstance or coincidence is diametrically opposed to all that Judaism stands for. It is an attitude which contradicts everything that Jews believe. It is an attitude which the Torah declares cannot co-exist with the Jewish people's fulfillment of their mission in this world.

Throughout the history of the Jewish people, the greatest idological threats have come from the "isms" which espoused philosophies antithetical to the principle of hashgachah pratis. On the other hand, in ghettos and concentration camps, the greatest inspiration that kept Jews alive both physically and spiritually was the unshakeable belief in hashgachah pratis.

Especially now, as we hear Moshiach's approaching footsteps, let us re-affirm our belief in hashgacha pratis as we witness its impact on our daily lives.

Source: Dr. Meir Wikler "Einei Hashem" [Feldheim Publ]

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Oprah at the Sydney Opera House

For all the Oprah fans, here she is, at her first Sydney Opera House gig today.

"This experience for me has been really of divine order. It has been heaven sent.
"More power and love to you Australia," she said to the crowd, who gave her a standing ovation.
And she thanked Australians for teaching her to "work to live, not live to work".

Full article click here: Oprah in Sydney

The Mad Dancers

by Meyer Levin

Already the voices of opponents were raised against the Baal Shem Tov's teachings, for many rabbis could not understand his ways.  Some said of him that he dishonoured the Sabbath, with singing and freedom, some said that his ways and the ways of those who followed him and called themselves "chassidim" were truly the ways of madmen.

One of the scholars asked of the Baal Shem Tov: "What of the learned rabbis who call this teaching false?"

The Baal Shem Tov replied: "Once, in a house, there was a wedding festival. The musicians sat in a corner and played upon their instruments, the guests danced to the music and were merry, and the house was filled with joy. 

A deaf man passed outside the house; he looked in through the window and saw the people whirling about the room, leaping and throwing about their arms.  "See how they fling themselves about!" he cried.  "It is a house filled with madmen!"  For he could not hear the music to which they danced.