Monday, January 31, 2011

UFO over Temple Mount #2

The UFO at the Temple Mount (see yesterday's post) was filmed by many people. Here is another very clear video of the same sighting.... I have no idea what it is.

Note: It's a hoax: see here: UFO over Temple Mount #3

Rewarding the Wicked

Untitled Painting by Liquid Clouds

For Hashem admonishes the one He loves, and like a father, He mollifies the child... [Proverbs 3:12]

Often, when G-d loves someone, He causes him or her to suffer in this world in order to cleanse him or her of the slightest trace of impropriety, so that they will be absolutely flawless when they enjoy the rewards of the World to Come.

Conversely, G-d showers prosperity upon the wicked in this world, so that they will have no claim to reward in the Afterlife.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

UFO over Temple Mount

I think this could just be someone playing with a lazer light, but it is:

Two witnesses who happened to be at the Armon Hanatziv panoramic lookout over Mount Zion and the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Israel at 1am managed to film what might be one of the most interesting UFO clips ever captured (see video below). The sighting took place only yesterday on the morning of the 28th of January.

The men notice the large ball shaped UFO suspended in the night sky and begin to film. At a little after one minute into the clip the UFO descends almost to ground level directly over the Dome of the Rock/Temple Mount. The craft hovers there for a short while and then flickers and shoots upwards at an incredible speed, to the shock of the witnesses.

One of the witnesses, Mr Eli Gael, notes during the filming, in Hebrew, that he is certain that it must be forbidden for civilian craft to hover over Jerusalem in such a manner.

Note: It's a hoax: see here UFO over Temple Mount #3

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Complete Recovery

הַמַּכֶּה רַק שִׁבְתּוֹ יִתֵּן וְרַפֹּא יְרַפֵּא
"he shall, however, pay for his lost work-time, and he shall provide for his cure. [Mishpatim 21:19]

A man once came to R' Baruch Mordechai of Koidanov. Signs of intense suffering were etched on the man's face.

"Rebbe", said the man, "I have been suffering terribly for a long time. Please give me a bracha that I should recover from my illness."

"I will give you some advice" responded the Rebbe.  "Be extra careful to avoid Shabbos violations, and try your utmost to honor the Sabbath. Do so and Hashem will grand you a speedy recovery."

The man did as the Rebbe had instructed.  Shortly thereafter, the excruciating pain that he had been feeling began to subside. Finally, it went away altogether.

"Do not think that I performed a miracle" the Rebbe later told his students.  "It is a 'treatment' that the Torah itself recommends, as the verse states: "Rak shivto yiten v'rapo yerapei'.  The word 'shivto' can also be read "shabato", meaning "his Shabbos".  The verse can therefore be read as follows:

"Let him give his Shabbos, and he will surely be healed."

That is, if a person pay attention to his Shabbos observance and honors it properly, then Hashem will provide him with a complete recovery.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

5771: A Double Portion of Mazal

by Rabbi Pinchus Feldman

This Shabbat we bless the new month. As this year is a leap year, there are two months of Adar, the first being Adar I and the second Adar II. Adar is associated with an increase in joy. The Talmud explains that during the month of Adar, Jewish "mazal" (colloquially translated as fortune) is very potent. The mazal (or source of influence) of a Jew refers to the higher levels of his soul, which are connected to the essence of G-d at all times. In Adar, we have the opportunity to draw down an abundance of holy energy through good deeds that are imbued with joy.

Interestingly, our Sages taught that "Israel has no mazal" ("ein mazal l'Yisrael"), meaning that Jews are above being influenced by the stars and planets, which are known as "mazalot." By changing the vowels under the Hebrew letters slightly, "ein mazal l'Yisrael" can be read "Ayin - the Infinite - is the mazal of Israel." The Jewish people receive their influence from G-d from a transcendent level, the transmission of which is particularly powerful in the month of Adar.

The name Adar has several meanings, one of which is cloak or mantel. This is a reference to G-d's compassion For His people, the Jews. The purpose of a garment is to provide us with warmth. In Adar (and Adar II in a leap year), when the holiday of Purim occurs, we experience the warmth and comfort of G-d. A garment also conceals the body of the person who wears it. Similarly, the miracle of Purim was "dressed" in a series of natural events.

The word Adar is a combination of the Hebrew letter "alef" and the word "dar" meaning "G-d dwells." (Just as alef is the initial letter in the alphabet, so too is G-d the "first.") G-d created the earth in order to have a dwelling place in the physical world. Through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot, we create an abode for Almighty G-d.

May the positive influence of Adar be expressed in the advent of the true and complete Redemption with Moshiach in the immediate future.

More on Jewish Astrology

Will Eliyahu Precede Moshiach ?

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

The Talmud relates: [Sanhedrin 98a]

Once, Rabbi Joshua met Moshiach and asked him: `When are you going to come?'

Moshiach replied: 'Today!'

Rabbi Joshua then met Eliyahu, who asked him: `What did he (Moshiach) tell you?'

Said Rabbi Joshua: `He lied to me, for he told me that he is coming today, but he didn't come!'

Said Eliyahu: `He didn't lie, but this is what he really meant: He will come "Today, if you hearken to the voice of G-d." [Psalms 95:7]

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

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

Rambam posits [Hilchos Melachim 12:2] that it is not a certainty that Eliyahu must come before Moshiach. Although some Sages maintain that before the advent of Moshiach, Eliyahu will appear, yet, there is no definite basis for this.

This poses a difficulty, inasmuch as the Talmud states [Eiruvin 43b] that Eliyahu will come first, and as is seen in Tanach [Malachi 3:23] "Behold I send unto you Eliyahu the Prophet."

How do we reconcile these two statements re: the coming of Eliyahu?

The answer is seen in the timing of Moshiach, as the Talmud cites the verse: [Isaiah 60:22; Sanhedrin 98a] "In its time will I hasten it" - If Jews do not merit, Moshiach will come in his appointed time; but if they merit, then Moshiach will come sooner, in haste.

Rambam holds that there is an order to the coming of Moshiach, that Eliyahu comes first to foretell of his coming. This, however, is effective only when Moshiach comes in his appointed time. But when Jews merit and the redemption is hastened, as expressed in [Song of Songs 2:8] "He is leaping over the mountains, skipping over the hills" - G-d then changes the order, as a sign of His love for Jewish merits and good deeds. This is expressed in the Rambam's concise words.

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

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Woman's Role in Bringing the Redemption

By Naftali Silberberg

Our sages tell us that "in the merit of the righteous women our ancestors were redeemed from Egypt" [Talmud, Sotah 11b].  It was the women who never despaired of G‑d's redemption. In fact, while the men had lost heart and were dejected and had no desire to procreate, not wanting to subject their children to the hardships of slavery, the women were upbeat—confident that a better day was soon to come. They seduced their husbands in the fields, and raised a generation of children who witnessed G‑d's miraculous salvation.

The souls of the final generation before Moshiach's arrival are reincarnations of the souls of the generation of the Exodus. After the sea split, both the men and the women sang songs of praise to G‑d. From the Torah's description of the episode it is clear, however, that only the women's song was accompanied by musical instruments. Why? The Midrash explains that the women, while still in Egypt, were so confident that they would be redeemed, that they prepared tambourines for the day when they would sing a song of thanks for their redemption! [Rashi on Exodus 15:20, from the Mechilta]

According to the master-kabbalist the Arizal, the souls of the final generation before Moshiach's arrival are reincarnations of the souls of the generation of the Exodus [Shaar Hagilgulim, Hakdamah 20].  Just as then it was in the merit of the women's faith that the Israelites were redeemed, so, too, it will be in the merit of the righteous women of our generation, and their unwavering belief in the Redemption, that we will be redeemed once again.

Source: Chabad
Relevant: Why are so many geula bloggers women

"All salvation comes by virtue of women." [Alter Rebbe]

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Forever Yours

Art by Schnette
Once, a very bitter and frustrated Rabbi in America came to the Kapishnitzer Rebbe and complained of his dire poverty and his inability to afford even basic necessities such as a new hat. He pointed to his head and cried "Just look at this beat-up shmatta that I am forced to wear!"

The Rebbe's eyes lit up and he told the Rabbi "Just stay right where you are, I will return momentarily!" He ran upstairs to his bedroom closet, took out a hatbox, ran downstairs with it and placed it on the table in front of the Rabbi.

Beaming with joy, the Rebbe opened up the box and took out a brand new Rabbinical-style hat and presented it to the Rabbi. The Rabbi was overwhelmed by the Rebbe's generosity but refused to accept the gift. "This is the Rebbe's new Shabbos hat!" he exclaimed. "How can I possibly take it away from him?"

The Rebbe was prepared for this refusal and immediately responded "No! This is not my Shabbos hat, it is really my Olam Habo hat! Don't you want me to have a beautiful hat in the World to Come? Whatever I give away now, here in this world, will be mine forever in the World to Come. What I keep for myself now, in this world, will not be mine in the future!"

[heard from R'Yaakov Greenwald]

Source: "The Tzedakah Treasury" Rabbi Avrohom Chaim Feuer

22 Shvat Yarzheit Rebetzin Chaya Mushka

Tonight is the yarzheit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushkah Schneerson (b. 1901), wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe. The Rebbetzin passed away on the 22nd of Shevat of the year 5748 (1988).

In 1950, upon the passing of her father, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, leadership of the worldwide Chabad-Lubavitch movement passed to Chaya Mushka's husband, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory. Despite the Rebbe's initial adamant refusal to accept the mantle, it was his wife, the Rebbetzin, who, notwithstanding the great personal sacrifice this would entail, finally prevailed upon him to accept the position with all its public and private hardships.

She was steadfast: It is simply unthinkable that her father's thirty years of total self-sacrifice and accomplishment should, G-d forbid, come to naught.

An erudite and wise woman, Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka carried the mantle of her revered and exalted position in a most humble and unpretentious fashion. All her life she fulfilled the ideal of the psalmist: "The entire honor of a king's daughter is within." When calling the Rebbe's office at "770," or calling for a high school girl ill in her dormitory, she always referred to herself simply as: "Mrs. Schneerson from President Street."

Gentle and courteous to everyone, the Rebbetzin saw her role as one wholly devoted to the work of her husband. Even when she relayed advice to those seeking his guidance through her, she would repeat his wording with precision, making sure that it was understood exactly as the Rebbe intended.

Painting of Chaya Mushka by Cindy Michael

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Unique Healing Prayer

Source: Daily Tehillim

There is a time-honored tradition to recite sections of Psalm 119 after a loved one's passing and each year on the yahrtzeit. Additionally, in situations of serious illness, God forbid, it is customary to recite segments from this chapter on behalf of the ill patient. The sections chosen for this recitation correspond to the spelling of the name of the deceased or the ailing patient.

Tehillim 119 is unique not only in its length (consisting of 176 verses), but also in terms of structure. It is arranged as an alphabetical series of twenty-two stanzas, each of which consists of eight verses. The first stanza contains eight verses that begin with the letter alef, the second stanza features eight verses beginning with the letter bet, and so on.

Upon the passing of a loved one, or in the case of an ill patient, Heaven forbid, it is customary to recite the stanzas of Psalm 119 that correspond to the letters of the name of the deceased. Thus, for example, if the individual's name is Moshe (משה), the recitation begins with the eight verses that begin with the letter מ   - and then continues with the stanza devoted to the letter ש  and the stanza featuring the letter ה. This recitation is then followed by the stanzas corresponding to the word “ben” (“son of”) for a male, or “bat” (“daughter of”) for a female, followed by the name of the individual’s mother. (Some have the practice to use the name of the father). If the patient’s name is Moshe and his mother was Yochebed, then one would recite the stanzas of the letters ב and נ (which spell the word “ben”), followed by the stanzas of י,ו,כ,ב,ד (“Yochebed”).

In some communities, after reciting the stanzas for somebody who has passed on, one concludes by reciting the stanzas that correspond to the letters of the Hebrew word neshama ("soul") – נשמה.

When reciting this chapter for an ill patient, it is customary to add the stanzas corresponding to the letters ק,ר,ע,ש,ט,ן, which spell the phrase, “kera Satan” (“tear the Satan”).

For either situation, one can use the tool on our website  [click here] to automatically generate the proper recitation.

Psalm 119 features some of the famous and beautiful prayers in the Book of Tehillim, focusing primarily on the supplicant's yearning for Torah knowledge and spiritual perfection. Throughout this chapter, David speaks of his burning desire to achieve knowledge and fulfill Misvot, and how he is not driven by the ambitions that consume most other people, such as the desire for wealth and prestige. The most meaningful way to bring merit to a loved one's soul, or to accrue merit on behalf of an ailing friend or relative, is to reassess one's priorities and redirect his attention and focus onto the pursuit of Torah and Misvot. Chapter 119 is perhaps the clearest and most inspiring expression of this commitment to making Torah and Misvot one's priority, rather than the endless of pursuit of wealth, fame and physical gratification. By reciting Psalm 119 and internalizing its fundamental message for a loved one, a person brings merit to the deceased's soul, or to the patient in desperate need of divine compassion.

Click here for: Daily Tehillim: Psalm 119

The time has come

R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev lifted his pure eyes to Heaven and said: "Master of the World! You have exhorted us in Your Torah, "You shall not cause any pain to any widow or orphan. [Mishpatim 22:21]

We, Your nation Israel, are orphans, as the Navi laments: "We have become [like] orphans, and there is no father." [Eichah 5:3]

"I turn to You today, O Father in Heaven, and I beseech You to have mercy upon Your nation of orphans who are languishing in a bitter exile.  The time has come for You to take us from darkness into light!"

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, January 24, 2011

Time to take a stand

Two blogs today regarding the current state of affairs in Israel, which only prove the Chofetz Chaim's words below: When Moshiach comes no-one will be sitting on the fence.

See: Geulah Perspectives: Some more thoughts

and Jewish End of Days: With me or Nebuchadnezzar

Chofetz Chaim - "When Moshiach Comes No One Will Be Sitting On The Fence"

Chazal tell us that Moshiach will only come in a generation that is Kulo Zakkai or Kulo Chayav completely innocent and worthy, or completely guilty with not a morsel of good. Under these criteria it is hard to see Moshiach coming. "Completely good" sounds like a fantasy and not something we can imagine in today's. Similarly we see so much good and so many wonderful people that it is equally incomprehensible to imagine a generation without a single good person. So what do Chazal mean?

Rav Elya Weintraub says that the Chofetz Chaim explains as follows. "All innocent" and "all guilty" does not mean that everyone is on the same side of the fence. It just means that everyone sits squarely on one side of the fence. In order for the Moshiach to come the world must be completely polarized. Everyone must choose where they belong, with Hashem or Chas V'Shalom the opposite.

Adam HaRishon was created perfectly good. The element of evil in the world was the snake who stood outside of Adam. Good and bad were separate and clearly defined. When Adam ate from the Eitz HaDaas the boundaries became murky, and good and bad became mixed together. Each person is good and bad at the same time. The face of evil and righteousness look the same to us and we can't tell who is who. We ourselves aren't really sure who we are. Sometimes we are good and sometimes less so. Moshiach won't come until the two sides are clearly divided and everyone knows where they belong, inside or outside. Moshiach's arrival will be the final showdown between good and evil.

People complain that our society is becoming polarized. The "middle ground" is disappearing. Clearly in a sense this is good news, and the best sign yet that Moshiach is on his way. Make sure you are standing on the right side of the fence. The most intriguing part of all is that when Moshiach does arrive, we may be pretty surprised to see who is on each side. The truth will be revealed and it will have nothing to do with our exterior appearance. Moshiach will peer deep within each person's heart and he can't be fooled!

Source: Revach L'Neshama

Bad Habits: Refining the Animal Soul

The Torah portion of Mishpatim contains the law of the goring ox. The Torah distinguishes between two categories: the "shor tam" a bull that is not known to be a gorer, and the "shor mu'ad" a bull that has gored three times. Such an animal is considered dangerous and likely to gore again.

Everything in the Torah can be understood on many levels. Thus not only does the law of the goring ox pertain to animals, it also applies to a person's soul. In general, the ox is symbolic of the animal soul. (According to Chasidut every Jew has two souls, a Divine soul and an animal soul.) The animal soul, by itself, is not necessarily bad. It has many positive qualities and is a powerful force that can be harnessed for good. Nonetheless, like the physical ox, it must be closely guarded to prevent it from inflicting damage.

The natural state of the animal soul is "a bull that is not known to gore." As it is created, the animal soul does not crave forbidden things, only those that are permissible and necessary to sustain life. If the animal soul falters and commits a sin, it is the exception rather than the rule, and runs contrary to its true nature. In this instance it is relatively easy to do teshuva (repent) and repair the damage.

However, if a person commits the same sin over and over again "until it seems permissible," he is considered "a bull that has gored three times." Having already been reinforced several times, his negative behavior is now second nature to him, and he is considered likely to repeat it in the future.

How does a person turn "a known gorer" back into "a bull that is not known to gore"? Simply by training it. According to Maimonides, the transformation is complete "when little children can poke [the ox] and it still doesn't gore."

The same rule applies in our service of G-d. The "repeat offender" must work hard on refining his animal soul and weakening its desires. Then, when he finds himself facing the exact same temptation, yet he remains strong and doesn't falter, his status reverts to "a bull that is not known to gore."

Of course, this not an easy thing to accomplish, so the Torah offers us another method of attack. According to Maimonides, when a "known gorer" acquires a new owner, the slate is cleaned and the animal is considered "a bull that is not known to gore." Because the new owner relates to it differently, the animal's nature also changes for the good.

In spiritual terms, any Jew who wants to undergo a similar transformation must also acquire a new "owner," immersing himself completely in the realm of holiness: learning Torah, doing good deeds and engaging in prayer. His ingrained bad habits will automatically lose their grip on him, and he will become "tam" - literally "perfect and whole."

Adapted from Likutei Sichot, vol. 36 - Lubavitcher Rebbe

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Australia: An "Inland Sea" moves through Victoria

Inland Sea: floodwaters around the town of Kerang
A giant inland sea of floodwater, 55 miles long and 25 miles wide, will spread across the Australian state of Victoria over the next 10 days, officials say.

Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan said the floods would rank as one of the most costly natural disasters in the country's history.

More at: ABC News

Mishpatim and The Mystery of Reincarnation

The Maggid of Mezritch once asked The Baal Shem Tov to explain the passage in the Zohar on the opening verse of the Torah section Mishpatim, "These are the laws" as referring to "the mystery of reincarnation." The Maggid wondered: What connection is there between the esoteric meaning relating to monetary issues, the laws of torts, and the alleged esoteric one of multiple incarnations of souls?

In reply the Baal Shem Tov sent him to a forest and told him to seek out a certain tree next to a fount, and to remain there until evening.

When the Maggid arrived at his destination he saw there an armed man with a horse. The man was tired and had stopped to rest, eat and drink. When he moved on he left his wallet behind. After a while, another man came, found the wallet and took it with him.

Shortly thereafter, a third man arrived. He was obviously poor and exhausted. He sat down under the tree, ate some bread, drank from the well and lay down to sleep. Just then the armored rider returned and demanded his wallet from the poor traveler. The latter knew nothing of the wallet, but the rider, not believing him, proceeded to beat him mercilessly before moving on.

As the sun set Rabbi Dov Ber returned home and told the Baal Shem Tov what he had seen. The master now explained:

The rider, in his previous incarnation, owed the second man a sum of money equal to that in the wallet but refused to pay him. The creditor then charged him before their local rabbi - none other than the third man in his previous incarnation. But the rabbi failed to investigate the claim as thoroughly as he should have done and dismissed the charge.

That is why in their present reincarnation, the Baal Shem Tov concluded, the first man wound up 'paying' his debt to the second one and the rabbi-judge received the punishment he deserved. Now, he added, the connection between G-d’s justice and reincarnation should be clear.

Adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from The Great Maggid by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Friday, January 21, 2011


Bondi Beach

Whoever has not suffered

Art by Charnine
From the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov - Yitro
Keser Shem Tov 46

"The Jewish people were not exiled until they denied G·d and the dynasty of David." [Yalkut Shimoni, I Samuel #106]

"The only difference between the world at the present and the world at the time of the Messiah is the subjugation to the [gentile] kingdoms." [Tractate Pesachim 68a]

The Baal Shem Tov taught:

The Talmud teaches, "Whoever has not suffered for forty days has received thereby his future reward. And what is considered suffering? Even if one puts his hand into his pocket to take out a golden coin and instead takes out one of lesser value." [Tractate Erkhin 16b]

However, since suffering is only in atonement for liability, how can such minor inconvenience constitute atonement?

The explanation is that since the righteous person lives with G·d, he believes in Divine providence and knows that G·d is guiding all events in his life down to the smallest minutiae, and that all his suffering is an expression of Divine justice - DINA, which is represented by the Divine Name of ADoNaI - on account of his sins.

Hence, as soon as the righteous person suffers however slightly, he immediately [searches his soul and] regrets [any misdoing], and becomes filled with anxiety and fear of G·d. He is thus immediately forgiven, since he believes [that his suffering is from G·d], and he repents and binds his mind to G·d.

Therefore, even when one is only slightly inconvenienced by having not taken out the coin he intended, since this only happened because of his sin, and he [is aware of this and] repents, this constitutes atonement.

This concept is referred to as "David" [made from the letters daleth, vav, daleth] :-  for the Infinite One, Who is referred to as Ayin/Nothingness, is represented by the [first] daleth. "Nothingness" is then conveyed via the vav to the [second] dalet, which represents the nadir of nothingness, which is expressed by a belief that everything that happens is Divine providence from G·d.

However, when a person does not believe that everything that happens is Divine providence from G·d, but rather attributes things to his own actions, this is considered having denied G·d and the aforementioned concept of "David" for he is denying the justice [providence] of the Kingdom of G·d/ADoNaI.

But G·d's Kingdom is hidden and subservient to the kelipoth/shells that cover and conceal G·d's providence from mankind. (1) 

In the future, though, with the coming of the Messiah, who will banish the spirit of impurity from the earth, G·d's providence will be revealed even in the minutest of events.

With this we can understand, "The Jewish people were not exiled until they denied G·d and the dynasty of David" and "The only difference between the world at present and the world at the time of the Messiah is the subjugation to the [gentile] kingdoms."

Understand this well (2) for everything that a person is able to comprehend about G·d is only regarding His Malkhut/Kingdom, but above that cannot be comprehended.

1) These "shells" are the "laws" of nature, the apparent cause-and-effect, and in this case, the statistical but "chance probabilities" that seem to govern whether one picks the gold coin or the copper one from one's pocket.

2) Until here is quoted from the Toldot Yaakov Yoseph, VaYishlach #8. The conclusion is that of the compiler of the Keser Shem Tov, and its relevance to the rest of the piece is not clear.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Tu b'Shvat - The Seven Species of Israel

15th of Shevat  is designated as "the new year for trees". On Tu b'Shevat it is customary to eat different fruits, including some listed below, known as the seven species of Israel.

"It is a land of wheat, barley, grapes, figs and pomegranates - a land of olives and honey-dates." [Devarim 8:8]

Wheat has many therapeutic properties. It strengthens the body, improves digestion, increases blood volume, and improves circulation. It is an effective treatment for dissolving kidney stones and promotes lactation.

Bread cleanses and purifies the blood and raises body tempeature. Wheat bread strengthens the brain and sharpens mental acuity (Horayos). Our Sages tell us that "bread is the food of the heart" [Midrash Rabba 48]

Grains are in many ways superior to all other forms of vegetation. Grain is nourishing and filling, the mainstay of the human diet. The Hebrew words dagan (grain) and zan (nourishment) have the same gematria - 57. This is the origin of the time-honored custom of reciting Psalm 23 ("G-d is my Shepherd, I shall not want") before making the blessing hamotzi on bread. In Kabbalistic tradition, reciting this psalm daily is helpful for a good livelihood. It consists of 57 words, the numerical equivalent of dagan and zan. In other words, G-d is my shepherd, and I shall not want: it is He alone who provides grain and nourishment for all mankind.

Barley is mentioned in the Torah more than thirty times. It is the first of the winter grains to ripen and was used for the Omer offering brought in the Temple on Pesach. It's Hebrew name "seora" is similar to "se'ar" (hair), probably referring to its hair-like spikes.

Barley tea helps dissolve stones in the kidneys. It soothes the nerves, counteracts dizziness, and relieves the suffering of diabetics. Gargling with barley tea relieves infections of the mouth, throat and tonsils. Applied externally, it is good for open, infected wounds. Barley baths relieve swelling and rashes.

The Talmud warns that barley may cause intestinal worms. Also, because it is difficult to digest, barley should be avoided by those with gastrointestinal problems.

Fig (Te'enah)
Rich in minerals, especially iron. Current research has shown that the food value of figs is three times greater than that of bread. Figs are also high in calories.

Our ancestors found figs to be of great medicinal value. The Bible mentions dried whole figs as a cure for boils. Rabbi Abraham Ibn Ezra writes that "fresh or dried figs stimulate blood circulation, and thus preserve life". Our Sages said that "one gripped with a powerful hunger should be given figs to eat" because they increase the flow of blood and are rejuvenating.

Both figs and fig leaves have therapeutic properties. Ripe figs help open wounds form scabs. Figs are helpful for digestive problems. They serve as a mild laxative and are especially helpful for infections of the stomach, intestines and urinary tract. Figs are excellent for heart patients. They stimulate and refresh the body, cleanse the blood and improve circulation, give good colour to the skin, and stimulate the appetite. Fresh or dried, they are wonderful for physical debility, exhaustion and anaemia.

Blessing on figs: Borei peri ha'etz.

Date-honey (devash)
The Talmud provides a wealth of information about the cultivation, nutritional value, and halachos surrounding dates. For example, in Kesubos we find that "dates are warming, laxative, filling and strengthening". In addition, "dates eliminate depression, anxiety, intestinal disorders, and haemorrhoids".

Extremely rich in minerals and vitamins, dates help treat anaemia and general debility. They regulate the digestive tract, work wonders for heart conditions and male infertility.

Our sages tells us [Berachos 57a] that when one sees dates (tamar) in a dream, it is a sign that his sins have been eliminated (tamu).

The blessing on dates is Borei peri ha'etz.

Pomegranate (Rimmon)

Mentioned in the Song of Songs six times, and many times elsewhere in the Torah. It is likely that the famous six pointed Star of David was inspired by the "crown" of the pomegranate. When its spikes are flattened, they form the familiar star. According to a Kabbalistic interpretation, the six points of the star are composed of two superimposed triangles.

Blessing on pomegranates : Borei peri ha'etz

Blessing on pomegranate juice : Shehakol niheya bidvaro

Grapes (Anavim)
Generous daily consumption of grapes and controlled intake of wine are helpful for a multitude of problems such as infections of the throat, stomach and intestines, pulmonary and cardiovascular diseases including clogging of the cardiac arteries and angina, high blood pressure, kidney stones and infections, hepatitis, gastrointestinal diseases and hypersensitive stomach, digestive problems and lack of appetite, and chronic colds.

Wine has an astringent effect which promotes the elimination of toxins, germs, mucus, and fatty deposits on the walls of the arteries. It relieves abdominal swelling and gas, and the pain of migraines. Wine stimulates the flow of blood through the tissues and is excellent for elderly people who lack natural body heat. Wine improves eyesight and strengthens the memory. Raisins appear to be beneficial for all the internal organs especially the lungs. Eating grapes and chewing the seeds stimulates blood circulation and prevents clogging of the arteries.

Blessing on grapes: Borei peri ha'etz. Blessing on wine: Borei peri hagafen

Olive (Zayit)
Our Sages had a tradition that fresh olives cause forgetfulness, while olive oil strengthens and sharpens the memory. Massages with olive oil have been used to treat joint pains and arthritis. Children's coughs were successfully treated with olive oil and honey.

Assaf the Physician, who lived in Babylon between the eighth and ninth centuries, wrote that "olive oil soothes intestinal pains, aids the digestive process, alleviates disorders of the mouth and teeth, and is beneficial for illnesses of the head. It increases hair growth and strengthens the hair, so that it will not tear out easily." Applied to the scalp, it strengthens hair roots.

Olives are very rich in iron and vitamin A. Both olives and olive oil possess numerous healing properties. Olives stimulate and increase the appetite and olive oil lowers cholesterol levels.

The olive tree will not accept a graft from another tree, and all its shoots are its own.

Blessing on olives: Borei peri ha'etz.

Source: "Nature's Wealth" -  Rabbi Moshe Cohen Shaouli and Rabbi Yaakov Fisher - based on the teachings of the Rambam

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Psychics, Telepathy, Kabbalah and Judaism

What is Practical Kabbalah?
by Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh

There are two basic types of Kabbalah:

Kabbalah iyunit, "contemplative Kabbalah," seeks to explain the nature of God and the nature of existence via intellectual and meditative techniques.

Kabbalah ma'asit, "practical Kabbalah," seeks to alter the nature of existence and change the course of events via ritualistic techniques. Sometimes practical Kabbalah involves summoning spiritual forces, such as angels, and commanding them or causing them to swear to perform a certain act or function in reality.

Four hundred years ago, the Arizal taught that in our generations we should not be involved with, or attempt to use the methods of practical Kabbalah. As the Holy Temple is not standing, and we do not possess the ashes of the Red Heifer, we are unable to purify our bodies. The practice of practical Kabbalah by a person with an impure body is very detrimental and perversive. Thus the Arizal totally forbade the pursuit of this realm of Kabbalah.

What About People Who Claim to have Spiritual or Healing Powers?
by Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh

In general, if the "healer" is not a true tzaddik ("righteous one"), such as a Rebbe, the healing is always a mixture of good and evil. It is certainly possible for a person's soul to possess psychic powers. However, with the exception of a very few true tzaddikim, psychic powers are a mixture of light and darkness, at best. Often, they are completely negative. When good and bad or truth and falsehood are mixed together, the final result is usually negative. Thus if there is a mixture of good and evil, it is better to stay clear of these practices.
There were great tzaddikim, such as the Rebbes of Kamarno, that possessed psychic powers. They related that when they arrived at a certain maturity of understanding, through being involved in the truth of the Torah and Kabbalah, they understood that these psychic powers were detrimental to their own progress in the true service of God. Even though these powers were purely good, they asked God to remove them as they felt that these powers were not helping them or the world in the true service of God. They desired to serve God purely through the study and teaching of the Torah and the performance of mitzvot.

Spiritual Powers of the Non-Righteous
Although we have stated that telepathy is actually a Divine power of the righteous, we sometimes find that “normal” people profess to have similar spiritual powers. It should be clear that ninety-nine percent of these so-called “healers” and spiritual diviners etc. are nothing more than charlatans. This is true whether they deceive the public consciously or whether they themselves truly believe that they possess such powers. The whole of the book of Tanya is intended to save people from self-deception. However, there is still a minimal percentage of people who truly are capable of such divination even without having purified themselves in holiness.

The powers these people possess do not come from garbing the higher powers of the soul with the garment of thought, rather they have holes in their garments, a type of nakedness through which the light from the upper powers of the soul are manifest.

Before the primordial sin, Adam and Eve were both naked and were not embarrassed of their nakedness, however the rectification after the sin was that they must wear garments. Our sages teach us that the word levush, “clothing,” is a permutation of lo bosh, “unembarrassed,” meaning negation of the negative embarrassment that resulted from the sin.

Garments are of utmost importance, so much so that the word tikkun, “rectification,” is a synonym for levush. Through their prayers, the tzaddikim raise and purify their garments, especially the garment of thought. The pure and refined garments then rise to clothe the inner powers of the soul, which gives the tzaddik the power to act spiritual actions that normal people are unable to carry out. However, there are people whose natural garments are not refined, rather they have “holes” in their garments. They are born with a defect, just as a person may be born lacking a certain limb, God forbid. There are some limbs that are more crucial than others and a person is able to survive without that limb, contrarily, he may even develop sharper senses in another limb to overcome his disability. There are those who are born with the ability to solve dreams, for instance, with holes in the garments such that the inner light is revealed, giving him the power to act. However these are the unrectified lights of chaos and do not result from the person’s having purified his garments, therefore there is always a certain extent of self-conceit in such people.

Read the entire article on Kabbalah and Telepathy at this link: TorahScience

Paranormal Powers
The following is a reply by Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh to someone who has paranormal powers:

The most important principle to remember when considering paranormal phenomena is the one anchored in the injunction: “Be simple (tamim) with GOD your God.” This injunction appears within the context of a constellation of prohibitions pertaining to witchcraft and sorcery. Since these practices were widespread among the pagan peoples who occupied the land of Canaan at the time of Israel’s conquest, they presented one of the first obstacles to rectified service of God. The Divine antidote to these insidious influences is identified in the verse as the attribute of temimut, simplicity or integrity.

That said, the next thing to understand is that the Torah’s abhorrence of occult practice does not imply that a person with unusual sensitivities to spiritual experiences, like yourself, need ignore, suppress, or devalue them. They certainly possess a place, even a prominent one, when incorporated within a Torah-oriented way of life .

It is indicated in various Jewish teachings, that all living beings are endowed with a spiritual consciousness. In particular, we find in the mystical collection of verses called Perek Shirah, the Chapter of Song, that every creature is gifted with a unique song of praise to God .

Although it may not appear this way to most people, it is only by virtue of a person’s choice that the spiritual side of his or her being remains hidden from awareness. At every moment we decide whether it is the external aspect of creation with which we wish to identify—its (apparently) autonomous material character—or whether it is its deep spiritual dimension that we wish to penetrate.

One of the most basic teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the eighteenth century founder of the Chassidic movement, asserts that as we move through life, we are constantly being addressed by God through both our normal and paranormal senses . Every experience in life has some providential significance of which, unfortunately, we cannot always be certain without the benefit of direct prophecy. Although this would appear to leave us in a paradoxical situation, experiencing a constant flow of Divine communication which we are not always able to decipher, Kabbalah teaches us that we can always benefit from these signals by adopting a dual strategy: the innocent path of simplicity together with the focused approach of rational analysis .

These two somewhat antithetical approaches to paranormal experiences work together as follows:

Whenever subliminal vibrations emanating from the created realm amplify themselves into our consciousness, we must try as hard as possible to accept the vibes with equanimity without becoming overly obsessed or concerned with the experience. In true simplicity we should remember that all experiences ultimately emanate from God and thus are equally “normal.” The danger lies in entertaining the possibility that such an experience emanates from some source other than God.

Having accepted the experience with all simplicity, we can then try to analyze the symbols that appear in the experience with the rational tools that are available to us and to attempt to relate the experience to recognized Torah principles.

The very association in your mind with sorcery etc. can totally pollute that which may otherwise be a potentially enriching spiritual experience, for the essence of the occult is denial of God’s absolute unity and His mastery over creation . Thus practically speaking, the permissibility of opening yourself up to the sensations you describe depends upon the degree to which you can rid yourself of such associations.

To some extent, the simple indulgence of the ego in such an experience can be just as threatening as the introduction of occult associations. You should never consciously intend to bring on such an experience for the sake of the gratification it provides you or the feeling of power it gives you. Doing so is a guarantee to either losing your sensitivity altogether or to summoning all kinds of false experiences which are liable to affect a destructive impact upon yourself and upon others .

So don’t attempt to seek out paranormal stimulation. When it presents itself, take it lightly, and try not to exaggerate its significance. In short, be simple with God and you will find joy in having creation sing to you even when the words of the song are unclear.

At the same time, realize that man’s Divine gift of rational analysis is intended to help human beings digest experience so that the moral good inherent therein can be gleaned and the evil discarded. The process of rational analysis, clarifying reality through the prism of our consciousness, is called birur, and it occupies a central place in the Kabbalistic scheme of redemption. The Torah is our representation of the Divine standards meant to be applied in the pursuit of such clarity. Through the process of birur we gradually strip away the layers of illusion that envelope reality and lay bare the Divine essence inherent in all things.

Hence it is incumbent upon you to try to “clarify” your intuitive experience as best you can, using the language and thought patterns of the Torah as a guide.

The teachings of the Torah encompass law (mitzvot and halachah) as well as prayer, ethics, Kabbalah, Chassidut etc. The phenomena that you experience lend themselves in particular to the language and teachings of Kabbalah. Chassidic teachings, which enclothe Kabbalah in an accessible, conceptual form, can surely help you place your experiences into a proper Jewish perspective. Even familiarizing yourself with stories about the great Chassidic masters (especially the Ba’al Shem Tov) will demonstrate to you how relevant and prevalent experiences such as those you describe were to Jews who lived less than three hundred years ago. The stories and parables told by the great Chassidic Master Rabbi Nachman of Breslav are another rich resource for you to explore in pursuing an alternative spiritual language with which to analyze your experience.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Practical Kabbalah, Jewish Fortune Tellers and Palm Readers

by Shelomo Alfassa

In New York City, we have both Ashkenazi and Sephardi 'rabbis' who come from Israel to provide 'blessings' to those who visit them. These rabbis also read palms; claim to be able to tell people when they will be married; advise people if they are infected with 'ayin harah' (the evil eye); promise businessmen they will reap great rewards; advise people about their past lives; and advise people on their future. The events that take place in the privacy of these sessions between the rabbi and his unsuspecting victim often fall under the rubric of Practical Kabbalah.

The people who come to have their fate told and who provide a donation to the rabbi (or his yeshiva, camp or kollel), have no idea that: 1) many times these people are not great Torah scholars or even rabbis; and, 2) they are going against Jewish law by visiting with these men. This paper strives to advise people, male and female, that these charlatans are nothing more than fakes. It is the hope of the author that Jews will read and share this paper, written with a Torah-grounded intellectual (not emotional) approach, to learn for themselves, that they are being taken advantage of by visiting with these pseudo-rabbis.

The author would like the reader to know that by participating with these people, that they are being taken advantage of, and are unintentionally conducting themselves in a way that is not in line with the Torah and goes against the desires of the Almighty.

True mekubalim (kabbalists) through the ages have condemned the practice of 'selling' spiritual remedies. This includes such great rabbis as Hakham Yishak Kaduri (1899-2006) and Hakham Yisrael Abuhatzeira (the Baba Sali 1890-1984), who never sought monetary reward for any advice, discussions or prayers with a person. These men strove to hold by every word (usually in the strictest manner) of the Shulhan Aruh (Code of Jewish Law). Therefore, anyone who seeks monetary gain through hocus pocus, which the Shulhan Aruh says does not affect the Jewish people--is by all means a charlatan.


The following is taken from "Faith and Folly" by Rabbi Yaakov Hillel:

How can we see through a charlatan?

* Stop and think. How could anyone today reach the level of Yeshayahu and Yirmeyahu, when it is so difficult even to achieve the degree of Divine inspiration possible in our times? How could anyone skip the steps and suddenly jump from the bottom of the ladder to the top, so that he knows the future and performs miracles?

The truth about these miracle workers must be that they are using one of three things: deception, the forces of impurity, or Practical Kabbalah.

As for us, Heaven is testing us to see whether we cleave to G-d in perfect faith; and our redemption depends on our passing the test.

* Beware of anyone who asks for money.
It is not fitting for one to whom G-d has given a share in Kabbalah to accept any benefit from man. Unbearably heavy is the sin of those who use Practical Kabbalah to frighten people into giving them handsome gifts. [Zecher David, ma'amar 1, perek 59, 151a]

* Beware of anyone who acts with familiarity toward women outside his immediate family. Unfortunately, there are charlatans who take advantage of the despair and confusion of suffering women who turn to them for help.

Second Thoughts

Guard your thoughts carefully, for thought can literally create a living thing. The higher a faculty, the further it can reach. You can kick something with your foot, but throw it higher with your hand. You can reach still farther with your voice, calling to a person very far away. Hearing reaches yet further, for you can hear sounds like gunfire from a very great distance. Your sight reaches even further, seeing things in the sky. Highest of all is the mind, which can penetrate the loftiest heights. You must therefore safeguard your mind above all else. [Rebbe Nachman's Wisdom]

Knowing that thought can reach the loftiest heights, we must realize that thoughts are never mere thoughts. We must never allow ourselves to entertain the notion that it doesn't matter what we think. Good thoughts are extremely beneficial both to those who think them and to the world at large, while evil thoughts are most detrimental.

Rebbe Nachman taught: In ancient amphitheaters, monarchs used to stage battles between wild beasts and their prey. The same type of battle is waged daily in one's mind: battles between good thoughts and evil thoughts. When the good thoughts emerge victorious from the battle, it causes great pleasure Above. [Likutey Moharan 1, 233]

Rebbe Nachman also explains a related passage from the Zohar [III, 123a]

"Every day contains hidden good. But accompanying each day is an angel that prevents people (who are unworthy) from partaking of this good. This angel can take many forms - darkness, thorns, snakes, scorpions - all of which act as guardians to protect the good of that day and to prevent anyone who is unworthy from benefitting. Indeed, were it not for these guardians, the wicked would be able to freely enter into the mysteries of the Torah (and partake of the hidden good of that day).

"It is for this reason that when someone who is not worthy attempts to gain entrance into the Torah's mysteries, troops of destroying angels, which manifest as darkness, concealment, confusion etc. immediately surround him and confuse his thoughts, preventing him from trespassing. However, when one who is worthy wishes to enter, these guardians assist him.... they bring him to the hidden good and speak in his favour to the Master of the Universe..."

The "snakes and scorpions" are the thoughts that confuse a person when he wants to learn the mysteries of the Torah. Yet if he persists in his desire to find G-d, these very thoughts will assist him, then he will find great good every day.... For a person has the ability to incline his thoughts in any direction he wants. Even when his thoughts stray, it is within his power to harness them and return them to the straight path.

The harmful thoughts that assail people serve as a reminder of the ongoing battle with Amalek, the archenemy of the Jewish people. This is the meaning of the verse "Man's thoughts are rak ra kol hayom [only evil all the day]. In Hebrew, the final letters of these words spell AMaLeK. Evil thoughts represent the Amalek within. Amalek also alludes to doubts and confusion. This is seen in the numerical value of the word Safek (doubt) which is 240, the same as the gematria of the world Amalek. Like Amalek, doubts attack a person stealthily. Even before we realize we are under siege, we find ourselves overwhelmed by conflicting thoughts and emotions. It is therefore a Biblical commandment to remember Amalek, that is to be aware of him and his stealthy manner and to wage a constant battle against him.

Source: "Anatomy of the Soul" - Chaim Kramer - from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Monday, January 17, 2011

Lost at the Fair

"Olam Ha-Ze" by Barbara Mendes

"I was a stranger in a foreign land" [Yitro 18:3]

Moshe Rabbeinu, said the Chofetz Chaim, called his son Gershom ('stranger there') because he wished to be reminded daily that his life in this world was but a temporary one, like a stranger living in a foreign land.

The Chofetz Chaim explained this idea with a parable:

A merchant once went to a fair in order to purchase merchandise at a low cost.  The fair was being held in a distant location, so the merchant was forced to part with his family for a long time.

Before he left home, the merchant comforted his wife and children: "Do not be upset. It's true that I will be away for a long time and I will certainly miss all of you, but the time will pass quickly and, with the help of Hashem, I will soon return home.  You have my word that I will not tarry a moment longer than necessary."  The merchant then gathered his belongings and went on his way.

After a long trip, the merchant arrived at the fair.  Without wasting any time, he hurried to the marketplace and began investigating the merchandise.

At one of the booths, he met a friend whom he had not seen in many years.  After exchanging warm greetings, the friend suggested to the merchant that they leave the fair and go to a quiet area for a day or two, where they could sit and share memories from the past.

"I'm sorry" replied the merchant, "but I cannot accept your offer. Do you think I left my wife and children to engage in frivolous conversations?  Did I travel to such a distant land for my amusement? As soon as I finish acquiring the merchandise I need, I will immediately rush home."

So it is with man, said the Chofetz Chaim.  Every individual is placed in the world for the express purpose of fulfilling Hashem's will by doing mitzvot and performing good deeds.  But then the yetzer hara tries to lure the person into wasting his precious time on meaningless pursuits.

Therefore, concluded the Chofetz Chaim, a person must say to his yetzer hara exactly what the merchant said to his friend: Did I come to this world in order to engage in foolishness?  Do not even attempt to beguile me into wasting my precious time!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

By Special Request: This post is dedicated to "Y" from "B".

Art: Philippe A. Fernandez

The greatest thing you'll ever learn
Is just to love
And be loved in return.

[Eden Ahbez]

A Secluded Spot

Kakadu, Northern Territory, Australia

Even if all you can say to G-d is "Help!" it is still very good.

Repeat this over and over again, until G-d opens your lips and the words begin to flow from your heart.

And even when no words come, do not despair.

Come back day after day to your secluded spot and wait. Just wanting to speak to G-d is in itself a very great thing.

[Rebbe Nachman of Breslov]