Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shana Tova !

On Ahavas Yisrael

from the writings of Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn of Lubavitch [the Rebbe Rashab]

On account of our many transgressions, the sin of baseless hatred is found especially among pious people. Each builds himself a pedestal based on his own exclusive conception of Torah scholarship and avodah. There is neither bond nor unity between them. In truth, it is of fundamental importance for those who are occupied in Torah and in the service of G-d to join together and communicate with each other; for regarding the study of Torah our Sages applied the verse "Just as iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another." Just as one iron sharpens the other, two sages sharpen each other in Halachah.

No person can assume (on his own) that his own perspective is valid. Only when one hears a colleague's opinion and each dialectically debates with another seriously, is it possible to arrive at a true view of the matter at hand.

Similarly in avodah (the service of worship and personal development), when people reveal and speak about their inner faults to each other, a number of benefits can be attained. For one thing, each person has certain faults of which he is not aware, for his own self-love [as the verse declares [Mishlei 10:12] "Love covers all faults"]. This surely applies to one's shortcomings with regard to various character traits. One's innate self-love masks them, and another person will help him by bringing them to his attention.

Furthermore, when a person reveals his inner faults he feels greater remorse than he felt before speaking. This stronger sense of regret over all past faults (leads him to totally) uproot his desire for them, thereby correcting his soul considerably. The confession of sins must be verbal. This corrects the soul of the sinner to a great degree, for the verbalization of one's sin strikes the innermost chords of his soul, causing him to feel great pain and regret.

Our Sages explained [Yoma 75a] a similar concept in their commentary on the verse [Mishlei 12:25] "Worry in the heart bows it down". The Hebrew verb ישׁחנה suggests a similar verb ישׁיחנה , meaning "speak of it". Thus the verse can be interpreted to mean "If there is worry in the heart of man, let him tell others (about it)". At the time one talks about his troubles, his pain becomes greater, but afterwards he feels better. Similarly in avodah, when one talks about one's inner faults, he feels greater pain at the time, but afterwards he feels better, for many flaws and sins have thereby been removed.

Furthermore, when people discuss spiritual improvement, each one proposes means of correcting flaws, and they can jointly resolve to correct certain aspects of their behaviour. A resolution reached by two or more people is more lasting than a resolution made by one person alone. Thus, it is obvious that many benefits result when those who serve G-d combine their efforts.

Now, this is only possible if one possesses the quality of bittul (selflessness) and is capable of coming close and becoming one with another person. But if one is dominated by yeshus (self-concern), it is impossible for him to reveal his inner faults to someone else. If he has a low opinion of others, how can he reveal his affairs to him, and what purpose will it serve? How could another person benefit him?

The fundamental reason however, for this attitude, is that he cannot become one with someone else, for in Torah study he stubbornly defends his opinion and thinks that his wisdom and knowledge is truth. He refuses to accept another opinion, or even consider it impartially without prejudice. When people discuss an idea in this manner, they draw further apart and become opponents. This disagreement in turn becomes a reason for preventing future co-operation and joining together, (for "he said such-and-such", and so on.)

Similarly, in avodah, such an attitude prevents cooperation and unity. One will not value the Divine service of another person or consider him to be an oved (one who devotes himself earnestly to Divine service through worship and self-refinement). He will minimize the worth of the other person's service and scorn and negate his positive qualities.

When he sees that another person possesses a fault - albeit a superficial one which does not at all affect the main body of his service - he will magnify it, speaking about it often, and humiliating him. Should he discover a character flaw in his fellow, (which is inevitable) for "who is so righteous as to have no flaws?" - he will say that this flaw proves that any good his fellow possesses is really of no consequence. He will exaggerate the evil to the point where any good the person possesses will be unnoticeable.

This is simply not true, for that individual's Divine service in prayer, Torah study and the fulfillment of mitzvot is in itself good, and constitutes his primary labour throughout the day. The negative character trait he possesses is merely one not yet corrected. "Man is born like a wild young donkey." [Iyov 11:12] He is born in an unrefined state and he must strive to correct his character traits throughout his entire life.

This service is alluded to in the verse "The days of our years - there are seventy years in them". The Hebrew word for "in them" בהם is spelled almost the same as the word for "animal" בהמה. A person is given seventy years in which to refine the seven evil character traits of his animal soul. This process of self-correction cannot be completed at once, rather [Shmos 23:30] "little by little will I drive (the heathern Canaanites) out from before you", i.e. considerable effort is called for. Only after extensive endeavours in prayer, meditation on G-dliness, and strengthening of the attributes of one's G-dly soul, is it possible to weaken, refine and purify, the natural emotions of the animal soul. And since the abovementioned individual serves G-d, he will surely refine and correct his character traits.

At times one needs help from others in order to achieve this goal, for one's own self-love will sometimes blind him from recognizing a negative character trait. A friend can make him aware of this fault and advise him on how to correct it. If one really loves another person, he will do so privately. If instead he dismisses him, scorns him, and humiliates him - particularly if he does so in public - this is a clear sign that he hates him and does not seek his good. (Nor does he genuinely want what every individual should desire - the service of G-d within the world, for this is G-d's will and desire).

The reason for this behaviour is his own lack of service; his own service is not sincere. Although he serves G-d in prayer and in study, he is not sincere, since he lacks bittul and selflessness, possessed as he is by yeshus and self-concern.

Source: "On Ahavas Yisrael - Heichaltzu" - A Chassidic Discourse by Rabbi Sholom DovBer Schneersohn of Lubavitch - Kehot Publications

Anticipation of judgment

The Holy Ari of Safed disclosed that if one doesn’t shed at least a few tears during the High Holy Days, it is evidence that his soul is flawed. He added that when one finds oneself suddenly aroused to tears on the High Holy Days, it is a sign that at that moment, one’s soul is being judged in the Heavenly Court above. In anticipation and trepidation of the judgment, one is overwhelmed by tears. [Shulchan Aruch of the Arizal, Hilchos Rosh HaShanah]

Tuesday, September 27, 2011


After obtaining some third-party rabbinical advice, I was advised to remove that last post.

Mr. Netanyahu, Here's the Truth

Netanyahu meets the Rebbe...... many years ago
R' Mayer Schmukler of tells Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the true opinion of the Rebbe about Mideast "Peace."

26th of Elul, 5771

Mr. Benyamin Netanyahu,

I write this letter with the hope that you will read it with an open heart and mind. Please do.

We are standing now a short time before the world will get together to try and decide the fate of certain parts of the Land of Israel. This is an open attack on the Jewish homeland and in turn, an attack on the Jewish people.

In your speech at the United Nations, you eloquently explained how all previous "peace deals" brought about only terror and bloodshed. You pointed out how the PA is not a partner for peace. Then, you went on to proclaim that you're ready to speak peace with the above partner, if they are only willing. In addition, you even announced the results of those negotiations: the ceding of parts of the Land of Israel. Those same lands which you had just shown in your speech - by giving them away - would endanger the lives of the citizens of Israel.

If it is anything that the government in Israel should have learned over the years, it is that concessions and offers of concessions - lead to pressure and more concessions, then more pressure and more concessions.

In no way is this a way of gaining respect in the world. Not only does this approach not forestall pressure, but it only increases it tenfold.

Imagine this: A burglar attempts to strike at the homeowner of the house he is burglarizing; the victim defends himself, ejects the burglar from his home, and leaves him whimpering on his front lawn; the victim then taps his assailant on the shoulder and asks if he would like his weapon back on condition that he promise not to use it again; the former burglar yells back in no uncertain terms that he will never agree to cease using his weapon; the former victim begs the man to agree; showing his willingness to return the burglar’s weapon – he invites him into his house and gives a kitchen knife saying "see! I don’t mind your having a weapon; all I want is for you to say these 5 words: "I will be your friend!""

Now, besides for the suicidal behavior of the victim, he will also turn everyone against him; the average person watching this scene will surely come to the logical conclusion that there is something more behind the seemingly simple good/bad guy scene. This conclusion, or assumption (that the good guy might really be the bad guy), would in effect be totally confirmed when the bad guy actually says and claims just that.

Make no mistake about it; we are on a direct path to a situation when Israel will be forced to stand up to the world. These are not my words (to be sure, nor is this whole letter), but rather the words of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, the Moshe of our generation (said in 1978). And unfortunately, as you know all too well, this is already the situation. We must wake up before we find ourselves forced to defend our very right to exist in the Land of Israel (if that is not already happening).

The key to the situation is in your hands – a key being a tool which opens doors standing in ones way while at the same time locks doors against undesirable elements:

You must stand unshakable and uncompromising – firm in our right to the entire Land of Israel given to us by the God of Israel. It is time to stand up to the world, not only in rhetoric and with hypocritical policies; you must be clear in speech and most importantly in action; no part of the Land of Israel is up for negotiation!

This approach will bring security to our land by making it clear to terrorists etc. that we are here to stay and that we are ready to protect ourselves to the fullest. And it will likewise forestall pressure when the the world realizes the futility of such pressure in having any effect.

Now the arguments of "It's too late," "what will the world say," "its not realistic," etc. are simply ludicrous when someone thinks objectively. No one is saying that the above mentioned approach is perfect, it is far from perfect, precisely because of the criminal neglect of it for so long. There are only two choices: give in until there is nothing left to give or hold on strong to the Land and fight our enemies.

As mentioned, we must wake up to a hard reality. We must finally heed the warnings of the Rebbe. Time and time again he warned that negotiations would lead to terrorism and pressure and eventually to a Palestinian (terror) state. Even though he has unfortunately been proven right, again and again – it is as if we are blind and deaf, as we continue down the path of self-destruction. One has only to look in the Tanach for such precedents, as the prophet of the generation begged, pleaded, and warned the Jewish people, only for his words to fall on deaf ears. In the words of Yishaya Hanavi (50:2.): "Why have I come, yet there is no man? I have called, but there is no answer?"

In conclusion, it must be emphasized, that in addition to there being only one logical solution in any case, we are given chances from above every now and then to make it all the easier to do the right thing. Now is such an opportunity. As the Arabs declare statehood at the UN, the government of Israel now has the political right to cancel all previous agreements and can more easily say to the world: "We have now learned our lesson, we will now focus solely on the security of our citizens and we will never give up our God given homeland."

This takes strength, but you already have it, as you have been blessed by the Rebbe, in particular, a few days before Shavuos in 1991. Mr. Morad Zamir then requested a blessing for you. The Rebbe responded: "Tell him that certainly he'll continue to hold on to the hard line as before and (if) there be occasion to add strength, he certainly will find strength in himself to continue for the time being and after that."

It is also important to note that if you do follow the right path, you are guaranteed by the Rebbe that it won't be long before much of the world, as God fearing people, will begin to respect us and our right to the Land of Israel. We must do our part in first respecting ourselves – the opposite of which it states in the Torah (Bamidbar 13:31-33) concerning the spies sent by Moshe into the land of Israel who said (while giving a bad report on the Land that God had promised them): "we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and [therefore] so we were in their eyes!"

Let us speedily merit the fulfillment of the Pasuk (Bechukotai 26, 6.): "And I will grant peace in the Land, and you will lie down with no one to frighten [you]; I will remove wild beasts from the Land, and no army will pass through your land" Amen.

With blessings for the new year - K'tiva Vachatima Tova L'shana Tova Umetukah,
Mayer Schmukler

Who Do You See?

Art: Gustave Caillebotte

''But Yeshurun grew fat and kicked'' [Ha'azinu 32:15]

The maggid R' Yechiel Michel of Zlochev had a chassid who at one time was very poor.  But then he tried his hand at business, and he quickly became a very wealthy man.  However, the more his wealth and standing grew, the further he drifted from Torah and mitzvot.

One day, the maggid paid a visit to his disciple and requested that he make a charitable donation to an important cause.  The chassid, however, evaded the request with several excuses.

The maggid walked over to the window and asked the chassid to join him.  As they gazed out into the streets, the maggid asked him, ''What do you see?''

''I see people walking through the streets'' responded the wealthy chassid.

The maggid then led the chassid to a mirror: ''Now what do you see?'' asked the maggid.

''Now'' answered the chassid, ''I see myself.''

''Do you know what the difference is between a window and a mirror?'' asked the maggid.  ''A window is clear and transparent and therefore, when you look at it, you see others.  A mirror, however, is coated with silver. Therefore, when you look at it, you see only yourself.''

[Written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein]

Monday, September 26, 2011

All there is

''Connected'' by Schnette

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

[from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov]

Ben Gurion Airport Congestion: Lubavitchers & Breslovers

The tens of thousands who will be leaving Eretz Yisrael ahead of Rosh Hashanah began making their way to Ben-Gurion International Airport on Sunday morning (26 Elul), and the congestion was evident, especially flights to Kiev, impacting Breslov Chassidim. Organizers in Uman report that expect upwards of 35,000 mispallalim this year, many coming from Eretz Yisrael.

YWN-Israel visited Ben-Gurion on Sunday morning and Terminal 3 was abuzz with Yidden heading to both Uman and 770. Many Chabadnikim were seen heading for El Al, but the main focus was on the other side of the top floor of the terminal, where an entire area was designated for flights to Kiev. There were chareidi floor monitors in tan jackets on hand, hired to maintain order and deal with those heading to Uman, to keep them organized, assist them in finding minyanim and other needs.

But all of that was not the cause – airport workers, baggage handlers in particular, decided to hold a one-hour strike. The backlog created in that hour has ramifications for hours to come. The exact cause for the walk-out remains unclear.

The Breslov chassidim appeared unfazed, confident they would reach their destination in time for yomtov.

Secret Codes of Ha'azinu

Seder Hadoros relates that Ramban once confronted his former student, named Avner, and asked him why he had strayed from the path of observant Judaism.  Avner replied that Ramban had once taught that "everything is to be found in the Song of Haázinu" and Avner found the idea so utterly preposterous that it led him to lose faith.

When Ramban stated that he still held by his assertion, Avner challenged him, "If so, where is my name to be found in the song?"

Ramban turned to the wall praying to G-d, and it soon occurred to him that the third letter of each word in verse 26 spelled Avner's name:

 אָמַרְתִּי אַפְאֵיהֶם אַשְׁבִּיתָה מֵאֱנוֹשׁ זִכְרָם

On hearing his, Avner repented and mended his ways.

Even though Avner had strayed far from the path of observance, his name was nevertheless recorded in the Torah with his title, Reb Avner, referring to his status as a fully observant Jew, after he had returned - for this was indeed his true essence.

Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Haázinu 5742 Lubavitcher Rebbe

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Netanyahu at UN: Quoting Lubavitcher Rebbe

Netanyahu at the UN [video]

Moshiach Talk

Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi has a new lecture - part of "The Talmud Series" -  this one focuses on the ever-increasing signs of Moshiach, and what to expect... and he also some things to say about the Lubavitcher Rebbe and the Messianic movement in his name.

Click here for video
and here for MP3

And at the Huffington Post, Rabbi Chaim Miller writes about the ongoing parade of thousands of people to the Ohel of the Lubavitcher Rebbe:

It's sad but true that religion kicks in spectacularly well when we are desperate. This week, some financial challenges that I am going through began to get the better of me and I decided to pay a trip to the graveside of my mentor, the late Rabbi of Lubavitch, Rabbi Menachem Schneerson, who is buried in Queens. Now, don't get me wrong, I may sport a beard and some other traditional trappings, but the idea of going to gravesides and asking the spirit of saintly rabbis to intercede on high still irks me out. Let's just say it's not the Judaism I grew up with. So I tend to only do it when I am desperate.

I'm standing there last Monday night in a moment of intimate soul-to-soul connection with my rabbi's parted spirit, and as my outer facade finally starts to lift, unleashing that ball of repressed emotion which lurks beneath, the darkness of the night is abruptly pierced by bright lights in my face. No, it's not some sort of revelation from above, but a full television crew from Israel's Arutz Sheva.

As it turns out, someone else is also desperate: Bibi Netanyahu. Stirrings in the UN have convinced Bibi, who was close with the Rabbi Schneerson during his lifetime and consulted with him regularly, that it's time for another trip to the graveside. And if you can't go yourself, you send a representative, in this case Knesset Member Danny Danon, who comes and stands right next to me.

Continue reading at: Alternative Energy, Alternative Wisdom

Friday, September 23, 2011

Healing Powers of Apples and Honey

It is customary to eat an apple dipped in honey on the night of Rosh Hashanah and ask G-d to grant us a good sweet year. Ideally, the apple should be red and white, as an allusion to the verse "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be white as snow" [Yeshayahu 1:18]

Apples help cleanse and purify the blood, are beneficial in the treatment of diabetes, respiratory tract infections, skin problems, the liver and the kidneys. They strengthen the body, are soothing to the nervous system, help prevent hardening of the arteries and are recommended for disorders of the kidneys and digestive system. There is a great deal of truth in the saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away".

According to Kabbalah, the apple is an allusion to the mystical level of the Holy Apple Field. Also, when you cut an apple in half horizontally you will see ten little holes and a five pointed star. Ten is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter "yud", and five is the numerical value of the Hebrew letter "hey". The stalk of the apple represents the "vav" - together these letters spell out G-d's name.

The Zohar tells us that the apple has healing qualities: just as the apple heals all, so the Holy One, blessed be He, heals all. Just as the apple has various colours (white, red, green), so the Holy One, blessed be He, has various supernal colours (white, red, green - corresponding to the attributes of chesed (loving kindness), gevurah (might) and tiferet (beauty). The symbol of the green apple reveals some of the hidden meaning behind this teaching of the Zohar. Tiferet, the kabbalistic attribute of harmony and beauty, is associated with green, the colour of healing.

The Ben Ish Chai writes that the apple tree is the only fruit tree that has its spiritual source in the attribute of tiferet. This is yet another indication of the special connection of the apple with healing.

Honey was called "one sixtieth of manna" by the Sages because it shares many of the curative qualities of the manna from Heaven.

Nowadays the term honey means bee's honey, but the famous Biblical verse "A land flowing with milk and honey" refers to date honey. Dates are one of the seven species characteristic of the Land of Israel. Honey is fuel for such organs as the heart, brain and liver. Predigested in the bee's crop it is readily absorbed into the bloodstream where it stimulates circulation and raises the red blood count. It is invaluable for those with heart conditions or weak hearts. Honey strengthens, invigorates and refreshes.

It is helpful in the treatment of stomach ulcers, and is a useful sweetening agent for diabetics since it helps reduce sugar levels while it boosts vitality and physical stamina. Because of its positive effects on the blood count, honey is highly recommended for sufferers of anaemia.

Honey is unique because of where it comes from. It is the only food taken from a non-kosher animal that we are permitted to eat. Furthermore the bee is an insect that stings and causes pain and bodily damage. Yet at the same time it is able to produce a sweet food that can add a delicious flavor to other things.

This is specifically why we use honey - because it represents the power of Rosh Hashanah. When we begin a fresh new year, the past is not always so sweet. Not everything in the last year might have been completely "Kosher". Sometimes we may have stung and hurt those close to us. But on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we can turn it all around. We can learn from last year's experiences and make the future more positive and filled with blessing. Like the bee, we can produce sweet honey.

When we eat the honey on Rosh Hashanah we are making a statement: We are not perfect, but with a little effort we can achieve sweetness. G-d accepts our commitment, and blesses us all with a happy, healthy, prosperous and sweet new year.

24 Elul: Yarzheit Chafetz Chaim

1838-1933 [5598-5693]

Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan is commonly known as the "Chafetz Chaim," the name of his famous work on guarding one's tongue.

Born in Zhetel, Poland on February 6, 1838 [11 Shvat 5598], he was taught until age 10 by his parents and then moved to Vilna to further his Jewish studies. Refusing the pulpit rabbinate, the Chafetz Chaim settled in Radin Poland and subsisted on a small grocery store which his wife managed and he did the "bookkeeping"-watching every penny to make sure that no one was cheated. He spent his days learning Torah and disseminating his knowledge to the common people.

As his reputation grew, students from all over Europe flocked to him and by 1869 his house became known as the Radin Yeshiva. In addition to his Yeshiva, the Chafetz Chaim was very active in Jewish causes. He traveled extensively (even in his 90's) to encourage the observance of Mitzvos amongst Jews. One of the founders of Agudas Yisrael, the religious Jewish organization of Europe and later the world, the Chafetz Chaim was very involved in Jewish affairs and helped many yeshivos survive the financial problems of the interwar period.

Exemplifying the verses in Psalms 34:13-14, "Who is the man who desires life...? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit," the Chafetz Chaim passed away in 1933 at the ripe age of 95.

The Chafetz Chaim's greatest legacy is the 21 sefarim [holy books] which he published. His first work, Sefer Chafetz Chaim [1873], is the first attempt to organize and clarify the laws regarding evil talk and gossip. He later wrote other works, including Shmirat HaLashon, which emphasized the importance of guarding one's tongue by quoting our Sages. The Mishnah Brurah [1894-1907], his commentary on the Daily Laws of a Jew [his first series in the Shulchan Aruch], is found in many Jewish homes and is accepted universally to decide Halacha.

Firmly believing that he was living right before the time of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the Chafetz Chaim wrote a work that stressed the learning of laws concerning sacrifices, the Holy Temple, and related topics. He also published seforim to strengthen certain aspects of Jewish life including kashrus, family purity, and Torah study.

More on the Chafetz Chaim click here

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Obama-Netanyahu Press Conference [video]

Leaders discuss hopes for peace in the region during the UN General Assembly. September 21, 2011.

Obama's UN Speech [video]

Sept. 22 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama’s speech to the United Nations was elegantly written and eloquently delivered. But it missed an opportunity to promote a strong U.S. role in the world and voice his opposition to this week’s paramount issue: Palestinian plans to seek UN recognition as a nation.

Yet we were struck by the force of Obama’s description of the U.S.’s “unshakable” commitment to Israel. Rarely has a speaker at the UN rostrum spoken so clearly and obviously sympathetically on how Israeli and Jewish history shapes that nation’s security concerns. That point might seem self-evident, but it was a pointed and welcome rebuke to Holocaust deniers or minimizers in the Middle East and elsewhere.

Source: Business Week

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Time of the Redemption: Hidden or Revealed

"The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever: that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah." [Nitzavim 29:28]

[Written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein]

In Maseches Sanhedrin[98a], R'Yehoshua ben Levi poses a question regarding a verse dealing with the eventual redemption of the Jewish people. The verse sates, Ï am Hashem, in its time I will hasten it" [Yeshayahu 60:22]

Asks R'Yehoshua ben Levi: If the redemption will ultimately occur "in its time", then how can Hashem promise the Jewish people "I will hasten it"?

The answer, says the Gemara, is as follows: If the Jewish people will carry out the will of Hashem, then the redemption will, in fact, be hastened.  But if not, then the redemption will occur at its assigned time.

Chazal's words, said the Kesav Sofer [R'Avraham Shmuel Binyamin Sofer, son of the Chasam Sofer] are alluded to in the above mentioned verse: "The hidden are for Hashem, our G-d" - if the Jewish people will not perform the will of Hashem, then the redemption will come at a fixed date, one that is ultimately hidden from us and known only to Hashem.  However, "the revealed are our and our children's [responsibility]" - if the Jews choose to follow the will of Hashem, then the redemption will arrive immediately.

The time of the redemption, therefore, can be revealed and known to the Jewish people, for it is something that can be determined by their actions.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

25 Elul: Abu Mazen, Netanyhu, United Nations - Torah Codes

We found in the Zohar (Balak 212b) that in the beginning of the process of the coming of Mashiah, the day of the 25th of Elul - which is the first day of the creation of the world - will fall out on a Shabbat. And in 5771, the 25th of Elul falls out on Shabbat.... [Sept 24]

And on Friday, the Palestinians are expected to announce their state in the UN at a time when it's already Shabbat in the Land of Israel. The implication of this announcement is a declaration of war. All these things are not simple at all when Turkey and Egypt are already in a state of declaration of war. In addition, I heard that Gedolei Yisrael, Maranan VeRabanan, Hagaon Rav Elyashiv Shlit"a, Hagaon Rav Shteinman Shlit"a, and Hagaon Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlit"a expressed to those close to them that they are very very concerned about the upcoming Shabbat. [extracted from Yeranen Yaakov's Geula update from Rav Fish]

Rabbi Glazerson finds the relevant words and names encoded in last week's parsha Ki Tavo 28:52 :
"And they will besiege you in all your cities, until your high and fortified walls in which you trust come down, throughout all your land. And they will besiege you in all your cities throughout all your land, which the Lord, your God, has given you."

The Voice of the Shofar

by R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
In Keren LeDovid, the Puppa Rov, Rav Greenwald has an amazing short but succint message for us Rosh HaShanna:

He begins with a question:

In mussaf on Rosh haShanna we recite a blessing saying "Because You hear the sound of the kol shofar and listen to the teruah blast of the shofar and there is none like You,"

Why does the verse seemingly repeat the fact that Hashem hears us blowing shofar twice, once saying that He hears the kol shofar and once saying He listens to the teruah of the shofar, isn't that saying the same thing twice?

And what does the end statement mean, and there is none like You,? we know that no one and nothing can compare to or with Hashem, what connection does this idea have to the fact that Hashem hears our shofar?

In essence the answer is based on the well known statement of our sages, Chazal tell us that where the baal teshuva, the masters of repentance stand, not even the righteous can stand.

Citing the holy Shel"ah, the Keren LeDovid teaches that there are two distinct forms of blowing shofar and what they represent. The holy Shel"ah says that the kol shofar - the simple basic trumpet like blast - is the sound of a righteous tzadik. Whereas the wailing cries of the teruah represent the penitent baal teshuva,  crying as he repents over his sins and mistakes.

Thus we now understand the symbolism and language, the Puppa Rav writes, that hearing and listening are also different. In Hebrew one can hear (Shomea) from afar, but (Haazana) listening connotes intimacy and closeness.

Thus G-d is saying that he hears the kol shofar, He is saying that He hears and accepts the prayers of the whole and simple righteous tzadik. Yet when it comes to the penitent baal teshuva, the master of return, Hashem listens up close. There is a closeness and intimacy there that the tzadik does not share.

This is why the blessing ends declaring there is none like You Hashem, because normally we would expect that a blameless righteous tzadik should be the closest to G-d, yet Hashem shows us that just the opposite is true, He values the close intimacy of the baal teshuva, thus none is like You.

The story is told about a student studying in a yeshiva for newly devoted returnees to Judaism who himself came from a religious background. He once approached a famous rabbi and introduced himself. "And in which Yeshiva do you learn?" asked the rabbi. "I study in such and such yeshiva," he answered and quickly he added, "but I am not a baal teshuva!" The rabbi smiled looked at him with a piercing glance and asked him "Nu why are you not?"

May we all merit to make this new year our best year, repent and correct our mistakes and learn from the holy words of the advocate for Klal Yisroel the holy Berditchever who declare all month long during Elul, "Today I shall repent and  return Hashem!" "Who are you kidding?" he would berate himself, "thats what you said yesterday." "ya, but yesterday I didnt really mean it, today, I mean it." And thus he would try again and again. let's give ourselves a second chance and we will all be masters of return.

Shana Tova -  A Sweet New Year to you, your family and loved ones

Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim Publishing
Chassidic Classics in the English Language

and my favourite shofar video, with the dog in the park [a new year tradition on this blog]

Monday, September 19, 2011

Future Man

A Much Bigger Picture

The gemara in Chulin (63a) says that when Rebbi Yochanan saw a Shalach (a non Kosher bird) he would say the pasuk "Mishpatecha Tihom Rabba", your judgement is like a deep abyss (Tehilim 36:7). Rashi says that the Shalach is a bird that flies over the water and swoops down to prey on a fish, which it plucks from the water. This, says Rashi, shows that Hashem takes revenge on those who deserve to die. What is the significance of this particular act of preying that depicts Hashem's revenge?

Maybe we can conjecture that the fish that the Shalach eats is a predator himself. Yet he knows that in his turf in the ocean no one can exact revenge on him. He is the king of his turf and is protected in his environment. Hashem teaches him a lesson, that although in his eyes the world is limited to his underwater habitat, in reality there is a much bigger picture. There is a world above his cloistered confines. And from that world, from the Heavens above, Hashem can send an angel in the form of a Shalach to swoop down and take revenge, even in his deep water abyss.

We often look around and think that the cards are stacked in our favor and we are protected from Hashem's judgement. But it is not so. Our picture is limited to the confines of our mind. Hashem's world is far beyond our naive outlook. From the Heaven's, Hashem can come down and strike us and we wouldn't even know what hit us.

On the flip side look at it from the small fish perspective. We must realize that even if we are being hunted by a far larger fish and it seems there is no help in sight and we are doomed, there is far more to consider than meets the eye. Even when we think we are trapped and the bigger fish are closing in on us, a Yeshua can come from places far beyond our imagination. Hashem's means are vast. Never lose faith!

Source: Revach L'Neshama

Sunday, September 18, 2011

When Silence is Deafening

"The hidden things belong to the Lord, our God, but the revealed things apply to us and to our children forever: that we must fulfill all the words of this Torah." [Nitzavim 29:28]

[Written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein]

Rashi explains that a Jew is not expected to offer his friend rebuke for the sins that lie hidden within his heart, for how can he possibly know what another man is thinking?  Therefore, in the case of hidden sins, Hashem exacts retribution from the sinner alone.

On the other hand, a Jew is expected to rebuke his fellow man for the sins he does openly.  Consequently, when Jews overlook other people's misdeeds, Hashem's anger is brought upon all of them.

A terrible dispute broke out in Radin, the Chofetz Chaim's hometown. Though the Chofetz Chaim was by now in his later years, he rushed to the shul and approached the bimah.  From there, he addressed the community.

"My dear brothers!" began the Chofetz Chaim.  "If someone would have offered me 2,000 rubles to deliver a derashah in shul, I would not have accepted it! I am not willing to sell my precious time for money.  However, because of the situation, I am forced to speak.  We must know that there will come a time when each and every one of us will be required to stand before the Heavenly Court and give an account of all the deeds that he performed over the course of his life.

"You must be aware that strife is a very serious matter!  A person may have performed scores of mitzvos in his life, but if he was guilty of causing or involving himself in matters of dispute, then he is like a person who tried filling a bag that had a large hole at its bottom - all the mitzvos he performed will be lost.

"I have no doubt that when the individuals from Radin who were involved in the dispute come before the Heavenly Court, they will attempt to clear themselves by stating the following:

"We cannot be held accountable! For in our city there lived an elderly Jew, by the name of Yisrael Meir, whom we deemed to be a talmid chacham.  He saw all that was transpiring, yet he remained silent."

"Therefore, my dear brothers" concluded the Chofetz Chaim in a voice filled with emotion, "I beg of you - do not mention my name before the Heavenly Court!"

As these words left the mouth of the Chofetz Chaim, he broke down and wept bitterly, and his frail body trembled. This sight made a very powerful impression on the people of Radin, and the dispute was resolved immediately.

All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing. .... Edmund Burke
Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.....Elie Wiesel

Friday, September 16, 2011

You are where your thoughts are

Guest post from a reader:

I woke up feeling unusually happy and full of chiyus today, in stark contrast to the previous weeks of feeling down and utterly physically and mentally drained from all the mishigas happening on the personal, national and international scene.  I had a sense of real closeness to H-shem, and a feeling of overwhelming gratitude. It was the first time in a long time that I said "modeh ani" and really meant it . 

Then, while still in bed, the thought flashed through my mind that we, the Jewish people, were starting a new era, a new beginning in some way. That every Jew had the power to transform the present perceived reality of "doom and gloom" into a reality of  joy and thanksgiving. I had this vision of every Jew being the center of concentric circles of light and positivity radiating outwards and intersecting with all those around them, ripples in a cosmic pond, until the whole world vibrated with this encompassing light. 

The saying from the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe came into my mind: Think good and it will be good. I'd always related to this injunction as a nice intellectual idea, but never really felt it on a gut level.

Today, I believed in my heart that not only could I live this but that all of us could. I decided then and there that when I spoke to the people around me, I would say, "Did you know that today is international "Think good and it'll be good" day?" From the few people that I mentioned this to, I got some amused reactions; nobody took me seriously. But I still figured that change has to start somewhere and it can (and often does) start with one person.  So what's holding any of us back from truly believing in and living this motto? Our fears and doubts, basically. Fears imposed from the outside Amaleks as well as fears and doubts welling up from our internal Amalek. After all, they don't call the Moslem monsters wrecking havoc on the world terrorists for nothing. And they're not the only sowers of terror and hopelessness. The global media, with their constant emphasis on disaster and horror, is doing an excellent job, too. So that at the end of the day, we're drowning in a painfilled, black sludge that masks the vitality within us and obscures H-shem Himself.

Can we overcome this and finally start to believe that we have the ability to change reality? I think so. And not only by thinking positively and changing our personal circumstances (as some New Age gurus emphasize with their magical formulas that "guarantee"wealth, health and personal happiness).  But to be partners with H-shem, in the fullest sense of the word,and through our positive, holy thinking actually bring the Moshiach and the Geulah NOW!!!

Who Is Religious?

Question of the Week - by Rabbi Aron Moss

My brother is very religious and I am not. We are on good terms now, but for a while he disowned me for what he deemed as my straying from the path. Is this the Jewish way, to shun those who are less religious than you?


Let me share with you a different view. Here is a story of how a spiritual giant of the last century saw the religious/secular divide.

In the 1940's the previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, was looking for a sponsor to publish a religious text. The funding came from an unexpected source. An elderly woman who was known to be completely secular made a large donation to pay for this project. She had come from a religious background in Europe, but had long abandoned the ways of her family and raised her children without the traditions of her people. Nevertheless she maintained certain emotional ties to her past, and would occasionally support Jewish causes such as the Rebbe's.

When the book was published she was invited to a private audience with the Rebbe. He thanked her for her generosity, and then blessed her that her children and grandchildren should go in the path of Torah and be G-d fearing and righteous Jews.

This blessing came as a surprise to the lady. She thought the Rebbe may have mistaken her for someone else. Her children were far from anything Jewish, so why would he bless her that they be righteous Jews? 
She said, "But Rebbe, I am not religious."

The Rebbe looked at her with serious eyes. Then he told her, "We don't know who is religious."

This response is striking. Here is a venerable rabbi with a long white beard telling an assimilated modern woman that we don't really know who is closer to G-d. He was not giving an easy excuse for rejecting Judaism. Rather he was completely destroying the idea of a spiritual hierarchy based on human standards. In true religion, there is no room for snobbery on the part of those who see themselves as committed, nor feelings of inadequacy on the part of those who feel they are on the periphery. We don't know who is religious. So we all need to try harder.

We don't know which mitzvah is the one our soul came into this world to do. We don't know how precious our efforts are in the eyes of G-d, even if they seem small in the eyes of man.

So who is religious?

G-d knows. We don't.

Overcoming All Obstacles

Elul - L'Dovid Hashem Ori - When You Carry Valuable Merchandise

The Ohr HaMeir says that in life there are certain people who have it easy. Everything goes smooth for them and no obstacles stand in their way. They think that they have reached perfection, they are on top of the world. On the other hand some people cannot catch a break. Every time they make a move something goes wrong. Are they traveling on the wrong road?

The Ohr HaMeir explains with a Mashal. If someone is traveling on the road carrying a sack of wheat husks, his trip is easy. He can travel wherever he wants, for as long as he wants, feeling secure and knowing no one will rob him of his goods. However, if he is carrying a satchel of precious stones he sweats every step, knowing that he is a hunted man.

Dovid HaMelech says in L'Dovid Hashem Ori [Tehilim 27:3] "Im Takum Alai Milchama B'Zos Ani Botei'ach" - if the enemy is constantly attacking me, in this I find confidence. Why? If my path in life was devoid of any value I would not encounter constant resistance from the Yetzer Hara. The fact that there is an obstacle in my path at every turn is a sign that I, my actions, goals, and ambitions are very valuable. So valuable that the Yetzer Hara is throwing all his resources at me to stop from accomplishing my dreams.

As we start Elul and head quickly towards Rosh Hashana and a new year, contemplate the past year. Did you have it easy? Did you get anything worthwhile accomplished? The Ohr HaMeir would venture to guess that the answer to the first question is not the answer to the second!

Source: Revach L'Neshama

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Rav Calls For Tefilos for Critical Situation

Hagaon HaRav Shteinman Calls For Tefilos In Light Of Critical Situation

Wednesday, September 14th, 2011
HaGaon HaRav Aaron Leib Shteinman Shlita is calling upon Am Yisrael to daven, for residents of Eretz Yisrael to increase tefilos in light of the perilous threats facing Eretz Yisrael on many fronts.
The Gadol HaDor’s statement comes in response to a question from HaGaon Rabbi Meir Kessler Shlita, Rav of Modi’in Illit, who called upon Rav Shteinman to ask what we should be doing at present due to the situation.
Rav Shteinman said that each and every person in Eretz HaKodesh should take upon himself to increase tefilos, and Tehillim, especially Chapters 93, 130, 142, and the Mizmor, Ki Yaancha Hashem Beyom Tzora.
[YWN – Israel Desk, Jerusalem]

A Bit More Salt

"Cursed is he who secretly strikes his fellowman" [Ki Tavo 27:24]

Rashi explains that this curse refers to one who speaks lashon hora - when someone speaks evil, he secretly "strikes" his fellowman.

The Chofetz Chaim was traveling in the company of a well-known rabbi on their way to performing a mitzvah.

After traveling for some time, they decided to rest at an inn.

The woman who owned the inn realized that her two new guests were highly esteemed rabbis, so she quickly set a table and offered them various delicacies.

When they had finished eating, she approached them and asked "How was the meal?"

"It was excellent!" remarked the Chofetz Chaim. "The food was delicious."

"And how did you enjoy the food?" asked the hostess to the other rabbi.

"The food" answered the rabbi, "was certainly adequate, but it could have used a bit more salt."

Their hostess cleared the table and entered the kitchen.

As soon as she left the room, the Chofetz Chaim turned to the rabbi and, with sorrow in his voice, said: "All my life, I have taken the utmost care not to speak or hear words of lashon hora. But now that I am in your company, you have caused me to falter - I am greatly distressed that I have made this trip. I am sure that this trip was not truly for the sake of a mitzvah, for it is impossible that one who has set out to perform a mitzvah should come to violate such a grave transgression!"

"But what did I say?" asked the rabbi. "I said the food was good. I just added that the food could have used a little salt."

"You have no idea," answered the Chofetz Chaim, "of the incredible power of one's words. In all likelihood, the cook is a poor widow who works in this inn to support her family. I am sure that because of your comment, the hostess will go to this poor widow and tell her that the guests are complaining about her cooking. The widow, in defense of her cooking, will deny that the guests have any grounds for complaints. At that point, the hostess will become incensed and shout at her "Do you think the distinguished guests are lying? You are the one who is the liar!" Ultimately, the hostess, in a fit of anger, will fire the poor unfortunate cook."

"Just look at how many sins you have committed with your words: (1) You spoke lashon hora; (2) you caused both the hostess and myself to hear lashon hora; (3) you caused the hostess to relate the words of lashon hora to the cook; (4) you caused the cook to lie in defense of her cooking; (5) you caused the cook terrible suffering."

"Surely you are exaggerating" said the rabbi to the Chofetz Chaim.

"Not in the least" responded the Chofetz Chaim. "Come with me and I'll show you."

The two rabbis entered the kitchen and were greeted with a sorry sight. The poor cook was standing with her head in her hands, sobbing.

The rabbi took one look at the widow, and immediately understood just how correct the Chofetz Chaim had been. He quickly made his way to the hostess and pleaded with her to forgive the cook and restore her to her position.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Obama's Australia visit: No time for golf, Mr President, you're here to work

"Australians hope Barack Obama's trip to Australia will be a case of third-time lucky, but it probably won't include a round of golf for the US President."  [Obama is scheduled to arrive here November 16-17].

Personally, I hope it's a case of third time unlucky, and he doesn't get here at all.  So far his previous announced visits down under never happened..... and whenever he does travel, volcanoes start erupting.

I guess they'll just recycle that Big O from Oprah's visit......

More on Obama's Australian trip at:

The Turkish Ships

This is one of those times when I wish I knew more about what I was writing about.... but according to someone who knows more than I do, the ships from Turkey are a huge event:

Turkey is planning to send three warships to the the Eastern Mediterranean to defend against Israeli vessels if necessary and ensure freedom of navigation for Turkish ships....
"Gaza needs humanitarian aid and Turkey has aid to be sent there," Prime Minister Erdogan was quoted as saying by the National Turk. "And i assure every country of the world our humanitarian aid will not be attacked by Israel anymore like it happened to Mavi Marmara last year," he added. 

According to reports, three Turkish frigates from its Navy's Southern Sea Area Command will be deployed with the humanitarian shipments, and if an Israeli military vessel is confronted outside its 12-mile (19-kilometer) territorial waters, Turkish ships have reportedly been ordered to advance up to 100 meters (328 feet) from them in order to neutralize their weapon system. [more here]

Quoting from Parshas Balak:

Ships will come from the Kittites and afflict Assyria and afflict those on the other side, but he too will perish forever. [Balak 24:24]

According to Targum Yonatan, ships from Italy/ Turkey/ Constantine will come to enslave the sons of Ever [Avraham haIvri  = Ever].... and their end will be to fall into the hands of Moshiach.....and they will be lost forever.

Please leave a comment because there's so much more to this that I haven't blogged because I can't remember it.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Blue skies, blue seas....

.... a perfect day to sit and watch the waves rolling in

Bondi Beach, Sydney
Click to enlarge

Katia batters the UK

In the hurricane's tail: Worst storms for 15 years bring blackouts and transport chaos

The swirling remnants of Hurricane Katia have crossed the Atlantic and hit land by this morning, sweeping across large swathes of the country.

Forecasters issued urgent weather alerts for Scotland, Northern Ireland, the North East, North West and parts of the Midlands and Wales as the storm prepares to make its way eastwards.

The high winds have been accompanied by heavy rain and the Environment Agency has issued several flood alerts for inland and coastal areas.

Read more: Daily Mail

True Tefillin

Art: Alex Levin

"And all the nations of the earth will see that Hashem's Name is displayed upon you, and they will revere you" [Ki Tavo 28:10]

In Maseches Berachos [6a], Chazal expound on the above verse: "From where do we know that tefillin are a source of might for Israel? - From the verse "And all the nations of the earth will see that Hashem's Name is displayed upon you, and they will revere you". And it was taught: R' Eliezer HaGadol said "these are the tefillin of the head [sheba' rosh]."

The Sha'agas Aryeh [R' Aryeh Leib from Metz] was once travelling. Throughout the trip he wore his tallis and tefillin and engaged in Torah study.

The wagon driver was also wearing his tallis and tefillin - he was praying while steering the horses.

Suddenly, a band of armed robbers jumped out from the forest and attacked the wagon; they demanded that the driver stop the wagon and hand over all of his money.

The driver was terribly frightened. "Rebbe" he screamed, "we're in danger!"

The Sha'agas Aryeh heard the screaming coming from up front, so he stuck his head out the window to see what was happening. But when the ordinarily bold thieves took one look at the Sha'agas Aryeh, they were overcome with fear and immediately fled.

"Rebbe" asked the driver, "I am both younger and stronger than you. Yet it was you whom the thieves were terrified of. Why did the robbers run away when they saw you?"

"The robbers did not run because of my strength" answered the Sha'agas Aryeh, "but because of the tefillin on my head!"

"But I am also wearing tefillin" responded the driver. "Why did the thieves not run away from me?"

The Sha'agas Aryeh explained: "The Torah says "and all the nations of the earth will see that Hashem's Name is displayed upon you, and they will revere you". The Gemara quotes R' Eliezer HaGadol who teaches that this verse is referring to the tefillin of the head [sheba'rosh]. If you read the words of Chazal carefully, you will notice that Chazal did not say "tefillin she'al ha'rosh" [tefillin that rest on one's head]; rather "tefillin sheba'rosh" [tefillin that are inside one's head]. The holiness of the tefillin must be absorbed into one's head, and then it instills fear into the nations of the world. But if the tefillin are simply lying on top of one's head, then the nations of the world do not fear us at all.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, September 12, 2011

Pharoah Quotes Psalm 46

Obama's 9/11 speech [video] - stick around the for end, Dubya's face is a treat.

Psalm 46
1 For the Leader; [a Psalm] of the sons of Korah; upon Alamoth. A Song.
2 God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.
3 Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change, and though the mountains be moved into the heart of the seas;
4 Though the waters thereof roar and foam, though the mountains shake at the swelling thereof. Selah
5 There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God, the holiest dwelling-place of the Most High.
6 God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved; God shall help her, at the approach of morning.
7 Nations were in tumult, kingdoms were moved; He uttered His voice, the earth melted.
8 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our high tower. Selah
9 Come, behold the works of the Lord, who hath made desolations in the earth.
10 He maketh wars to cease unto the end of the earth; 
He breaketh the bow, and cutteth the spear in sunder; He burneth the chariots in the fire.
11 'Let be, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.'
12 The Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our high tower. Selah 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spiritual beings in physical bodies

"that you shall take of the first of all the fruit of the ground, which you will bring from your land, which the Lord, your God, is giving you. And you shall put [them] into a basket" [Ki Tavo 26:2]

First fruits represent the Jewish souls, as the Midrash teaches that the Divine Thought to create Jewish souls "preceded everything" [Bereishis Rabah 1:4]. In this respect, Jewish souls are "first" and cherished in a way similar to first fruits.

When the soul is in Heaven, before it enters a body, it enjoys an intense, ecstatic relationship with G-d.  Nevertheless, the soul is sent down to earth in a body which conceals its relationship with G-d.  This is not without profit since, through this descent, the soul is able to carry out a mission in the physical world, which can eventually result in an even more intense relationship with G-d.  For G-d's innermost "desire" is for His mitzvot to be carried out specifically in the physical world.

This is the lesson from the requirement of first fruits being placed in a basket.  Although the fruits are the finest and first of the crop, they cannot achieve perfection without a basket. 

Likewise, the Jewish soul, which is G-d's highest priority, cannot achieve perfection without coming down into a physical body, in a world of concealment and temptation, because it is precisely through that descent that an even greater ascent is achieved.

Source: Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe vol 29

Also see: Yerida L'tzorich Aliya: Descent for the Purpose of Ascent

Friday, September 9, 2011

Washington: Lightning Jolts Presidential Address

Sept 8: Presidential Address: commentary by Richard Adams, The Guardian:

7.15pm: Now Obama is explaining his American Jobs Act, stressing that every proposal in it has been supported by politicians on both sides:

It will provide a jolt to the American economy ... you should pass this jobs plan right away.

At that moment a huge crash of thunder and lightning is heard over NW Washington.

Source: Guardian

Note: video does not contain the lightning, you don't need to watch it.