Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks addresses Chabad Kinus

At the Chabad Kinus HaShluchim last weekend where over 5,000 Chabad rabbis gathered, as they do every year, the guest speaker was Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. Addressing the theme of the Chossid's need to strive for a higher standard in everything he does, Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks speaks of the role of the Shluchim, his experiences with the Rebbe, and of the need for “Unashamed Jews.” 

[absolutely worth half an hour of your time!]  HT: Chami

"Why I chose to speak at the Kinus" - UK Chief Rabbi Speaks with Arutz Sheva at Chabad Conference

Provocation #5

Iran threatens 150,000 missile response to Israeli Jerichos

Saber-rattling rhetoric in the Middle East is reaching new heights. Israel is reportedly deploying its long-range Jericho missiles around Jerusalem, while the Iranian defense minister threatened massive missile retaliation against Israel.

The threat to launch “150,000 or more” missiles was voiced by Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi on Sunday as he was delivering a speech before army volunteers. Earlier Iranian officials threatened retaliation against both Israel and NATO, should an attack on Iran be carried out.

Meanwhile Israel is reportedly deploying its own missiles around Jerusalem and in the West Bank. The missiles carried into position by military tracks resemble the Jericho missiles, says Aaron Klein, head of the Jerusalem bureau for WorldNetDaily, citing several eyewitness accounts.

Source: RT News

Taking Yaakov out of Be'er Sheva

Art: Evelyn Taylor

Yaakov left Be'er Sheva and headed toward Charan [Vayeitzei 28:10]

Rashi comments that the verse could have just read "And Yaakov went to Charan" - why does it mention his departure? It is teaching us that the departure of a righteous person from a place makes an impression. For at the time that a righteous person is in a city, he is its magnificence, he is its splendor, and he is its grandeur. Once he has departed from there, its magnificence [hodah] has gone away [panah], its splendor [zeevah] has gone away, and its grandeur [hadarah] has gone away.

Rashi's words are alluded to in the verse by way of gematria: If we take "Yaakov out of Be'er Sheva" - that is, if we subtract the numerical value of the word Yaakov [182] from Be'er Sheva [575], we are left with the number 393 - the exact numerical value of the words: panah hodah zeevah u'hadarah - "its magnificence, splendor, and grandeur have gone away."

Written by Rabbi Y. Bronstein

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The End Times and the Middle East [video]

Torah Codes of the End Times, from Rabbi Glazerson

Leftover Sparks

".... Lavan was informed that Yaakov had fled. He took his relatives with him and pursued him" [Vayeitze 31:22,23]

The Maggid of Mezritch taught: "Yaakov had left behind letters from the Torah which he had not yet extracted from Lavan. This is why Lavan pursued him - to give him the letters which remained with him.  An entire chapter was added to the Torah by these letters."  [Ohr Hame'ir, beg. Parshas Vayeitzei, see Ohr HaTorah vol 5, p.869a]

The "letters of the Torah" which Yaakov left behind were "sparks" of holiness.  In fact, Yaakov had spent twenty years in Lavan's house extracting whatever sparks of holiness he could find there, and when the process was complete, he left. At least he thought it was complete....

In truth, however, Yaakov had left some sparks behind, so Lavan chased Yaakov to give them to him.

Why did Yaakov leave sparks behind?

Chassidic teachings explain that, while most of a person's achievements in life come through his own conscious efforts, there are some "super-conscious" achievements that are so lofty they cannot occur intentionally.  So, while we are usually the ones that choose our own paths in life - to find the sparks which we are destined to elevate - sometimes our "sparks" pursue us, because they are too sublime to be "extracted" solely by our own endeavors.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Gutnick Chumash

Monday, November 28, 2011

Yaakov's Dream

Jacob's Dream: David Coker

Yaakov had a vision of a ladder that extended from the earth to Heaven. He visualized an angel climbing it whom he recognized to be the sar [protective angel] of the Babylonian kingdom. [Our Sages depict each of the 70 nations as possessing its own sar. A nation's downfall is preceded by the downfall of its sar, its spiritual image in Heaven.] The angel ascended seventy rungs of the ladder. Yaakov then understood that his descendants were to stay in the Babylonian exile for seventy years. After the angel had reached the seventieth rung, he fell, and Jacob understood that after seventy years of exile, the Jews would be liberated from the yoke of the Babylonians.

Next, Yaakov perceived the protective angel of Media ascend the ladder. He mounted fifty-two rungs and fell. He understood as a result that the Median exile would end after 52 years.

He then saw the sar of Greece climb up 120 steps and plunge downwards, foreshadowing the length of the Greek exile.

Finally, Yaakov was shown the angel of Edom [our present exile] stepping up the ladder. He climbed higher and higher still, an apparently endless ascent into the very heavens. Jacob did not see him fall and was gripped by fear.

"Will this fourth exile be unending?" he asked Hashem.

"No" Hashem reassured him. "Even if the angel climbs as high as the stars, I Myself will take him down when the time comes!"

Yaakov heard the angels of the nations comment: "This Jacob will in the future dominate the world and subdue all the kingdoms. Let us kill him now!" But Hashem Himself appeared and stood above Jacob to protect him.

Then Yaakov was shown a new vision. In this vision, the ladder represented the ramp leading up to the altar of the future Bais Hamikdash. [The ramp was symbolized by a ladder, since the pleasant aroma of the korbanos rises to Heaven.] He perceived the kohanim, compared to angels, hurrying up and down the ramp of the mizbayach [altar], eagerly performing the avodah. Subsequently Jacob received a prophecy in which he foresaw that the Bais HaMikdash would go up in flames. He then saw the second Bais HaMikdash being built.

Yaakov was given yet another preview of the future: he had a vision of matan Torah, the pinnacle of Creation. The ladder symbolized Har Sinai, ablaze with flames that reached the heavens, and he foresaw that his descendants would stand at its foot to receive the Torah. In this vision, the angels represented Moshe and Aharon who would ascend Har Sinai, Aharon remaining on the mountain and Moshe going up to Heaven to receive the luchos [tablets] from Hashem.

Yaakov was given an additional prophecy. He was shown that the angels climbing upwards were the angels of Eretz Yisrael who had so far accompanied him on his journey. Now that he had reached the borders of the Holy Land, they returned to Heaven and new angels, destined to protect him outside Eretz Yisrael, descended. Suddenly all the angels vanished, and he beheld Hashem Himself who stood on guard above him, announcing: "I am the G-d of your father Avraham and the G-d of your father Yitzchak. The land upon which you lie will be yours and your descendants."

He then experienced a vision in which Hashem folded the whole land and placed it beneath his head just as someone folds a paper map. His head now rested on the land in its entirety. This was a symbol that Yaakov would be given ownership of Eretz Yisrael and that his descendants would conquer it with ease.

Hashem prophesied to him: "Your descendants will be like the dust of the earth. Just as earth is the foundation of the world, so will your children be the foundation of the world. The world will be blessed in the merit of your descendants. I shall guard you wherever you go, in Lavan's house and in Sh'chem."

Yaakov awoke and knew that his dream had been a prophetic one.

Source: "The Midrash Says"

The Frum Blogs: Do We Matter?

An interesting post at Emes Ve-Emunah:

"Do the Frum blogs have any effect on rabbinic leaders such as those on the Agudah Moetzes? The answer has now been given in a public forum at the Agudah convention. At a Thursday night session described in a blog that reported on it - the internet was attacked it seems with an anger heretofore unseen. As it pertains to Frum Blogs - here is the money quote:

The topic discussed was The Internet and confronting unprecedented challenges of modern technology. Its dangers that have affected our community young and old alike including the content on frum blogs that is harmful to our community. Someone told him that those in Washington are reading these blogs and they said you don't know what harm it is doing to us. It has changed the way we are being perceived."

To read the entire article: click here

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Provocation #4

The deeply strained relationship between Pakistan and the United States appears to have taken yet another turn for the worse, in the aftermath of what Pakistan describes as an unprovoked pre-dawn attack on its forces by NATO aircraft across the Afghan border. At least 26 Pakistani military personnel, including two officers, were killed, and 14 others were wounded. Islamabad is strongly protesting the incident.

More at: Pakistan Halts NATO Supply Route

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Perfect Double Rainbow

An amateur photographer was lucky enough to stumble across the arresting sight of a 'twin' rainbow reflected out of the sea. Phil Thompson, 57, took his photograph of the rare phenomenon from the jetty at the Bellarine Peninsula in Victoria, Australia.  Not only was the rainbow reflected in the sea, but it had a double seemingly emanating from the water at a different angle.

Source: Daily Mail

Provocation #3

North Korea threatens 'sea of fire'

North Korea has threatened to turn Seoul's presidential office into a "sea of fire," one day after South Korea conducted large-scale military drills near a front-line island attacked by North Korea last year.

The exercises marked the first anniversary of North Korea's artillery attack on the South Korean island of Yeonpyeong that killed two marines and two civilians.

The North's military warned in a statement that "a similar sea of fire" may engulf Seoul's presidential Blue House if South Korean forces ever fire a single shot into North Korea's territory. The warning was carried by North Korean state media.

Source: The Australian

Provocation #2

Medvedev threatens to target U.S. missile shield in Europe if no deal is reached

MOSCOW — President Dmitry Medvedev said Wednesday that Russia will target the American missile defense system in Europe with its missiles if Moscow cannot reach an agreement with Washington and NATO on how the system will be built and operated.

Medvedev, who is leading the ruling United Russia party to the polls in the country’s Dec. 4 parliamentary elections, accused the United States and its NATO allies of failing to negotiate with Russia in good faith, and he said Russia reserved the right to halt its arms control efforts.

Source: Washington Post

The Voice of Yaakov

"The voice is the voice of Yaako, but the hands are the hands of Eisav"  [Toldos 27:22]

"There are certain Jews", the Dubno Maggid once said, "who are the very personification of the words: "The voice is Yaakov's voice" as the way they pray and study conforms perfectly with all the pertinent halachos.

"Unfortunately," continued the Maggid, "their hands are Eisav's hands. For when it comes to the mitzvos of tzedakah or gemilus chasadim, these same Jews keep their hands tightly shut.

"It is vital for such individuals to know that one aspect of avodas Hashem without the other will not last."

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Yaakov's Tikkun

According to kabbalistic teachings, Yaakov corrected the spiritual damage caused by Adam's sin.

Therefore, just like Adam had been misled by the ingenious plot of the serpent, the correction of Adam's sin had to come through ingenious trickery - "Your brother came ingeniously and took your blessing" [Toldos 27:35]

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Guarding Your Speech

The Baal Shem Tov taught:
Your soul is mixed with good and evil, in order that it should be free.
Therefore, when you speak holy words, they draw down new life from holiness, and when you speak evil words, they draw down new life from the root of evil and the Other Side. The latter causes you to do evil.
So everything in your life, whether for evil or for good, depends upon your speech.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Upon Me

"His mother said to him: My Son, let your curse be upon me" [Toldos 27:13]

Why, asked the Vilna Gaon, would Rivkah invite a curse upon herself? Why did she not simply say "He will not curse you, my son?"

Rivkah, answered the Gaon, was hinting to Yaakov that he would face three main forms of hardship in his life. These hardships are alluded to in the acronym of the word עָלַי [upon me] - Esav, Lavan and Yosef.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Born Yesterday

HT: Yaak

A 30-year-old guy goes to Rav Chaim Kanievsky to receive a beracha [blessing] for a Shidduch [marriage partner]. Rav Chaim Shlit"a tells him, "Your Bashert [soul mate, intended partner] wasn't born yet. It should be with Beracha Vehatzlaha [blessing and success]"

The news hit the man hard and he left the house crying, asking himself why he has to wait so long for a Shidduch.

Two months later, he comes back to Rav Chaim Shlit"a and announces he's engaged to a Giyoret [female convert to Judaism] who had just converted a month earlier.

[Note: when a person converts to Judaism it is as if they are re-born.  They receive a new name , and even a new birthday - the day of the conversion]

Source: KikarHaShabat

Things to do today

Monday, November 21, 2011

Life is a Rollercoaster

The lower the descent, the higher the potential ascent.  Known in chassidus as: "Yerida l'tzorich Aliyah" - it is a descent purely for the purpose of ascent.

When your life takes a turn for the worse, know that this is the preparation for a future elevation.  It's the ricochet effect.  The harder you throw a ball down, the higher it will bounce back up.

People are tested all the time: know that is all it is:  a test.  Sometimes it may last for many years, sometimes just a few days.  The lower you have fallen, the higher you can potentially rise.  If you know this, then nothing should ever bother you again.

Deceptive Appearances

In Parshas Toldos we read about Eisav's deceptive acts towards his father, climaxing here at the end of the parsha, where he marries one of Yishmael's daughters in order to appear righteous in Yitzchak's eyes.

Rashi however comments that, in fact, "he added wickedness upon his wickedness, in that he did not divorce the first ones" [Toldos 28:9] i.e. just like he had married his first wives in an attempt to appear righteous, so too here "he added wickedness upon wickedness" marrying once again, this time to a member of Avraham's family in order to maintain his deceptive veil of righteousness.

In the following parsha, Vayeitzei, we read of another trickster, Lavan, who acted deceptively towards Yaakov. However, it could be argued that Eisav's deception towards his father represented a greater degree of moral corruption than the acts of Lavan, because Eisav actively promoted himself as a righteous person. Lavan, on the other hand, may have acted deceptively, but he did not scheme to find ways of proving his righteousness to others. He merely concealed his selfish and corrupt motives so Yaakov would not come to uncover his plans.

So, the Torah's description of Eisav here, at the end of parshas Toldos, comes to warn us of the moral corruption which was exemplified by Eisav. Here we are warned to steer clear of this lowly activity: promoting oneself as righteous while the truth is something very different indeed.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Perfect Timing

COUSINS Maya Gray and Isaac Bushell timed their grand entry into this world perfectly, right down to the minute.

Both were born at 7.55am on Saturday, in Peninsula Private Hospital, weighing almost exactly the same.

Mums Stacey Bushell, 32, and Kylie Liddicoat, 27, who are sisters-in-law, were amazed by the coincidences.

Both were second children for the women, and both came early, with Maya weighing in at 3.52kg, while Isaac was close behind at 3.49kg.

Midwife Judith Lane said she had been running between their neighbouring rooms during the births.

"As soon as Maya was born I raced into the other room and Isaac was just being placed on his mother's chest," Mrs Lane said.

"Occasionally babies are born at the same time, but for it to happen with cousins is amazing, it blew us away, it's a bit freaky."

Source: Herald Sun

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Naturally Inclined

How could Yitzchak, our righteous patriarch, have a son whose very nature even in the womb was inclined towards idol worship? [see Rashi - Toldos 25:22]

G-d can either make a person's disposition naturally good or naturally bad. But, even if a person has a natural inclination to evil, that does not mean that he is evil per se, for he is given free choice. Rather, the reason why he was given such an inclination was to rise to the challenge and overcome it. Thus Eisav was given a natural tendency to evil so that he could excel in the Divine service of "quashing" the evil inclination.

Even though he failed in his task, we can nevertheless learn from Eisav that if a person has strong desires to do something bad, it means that he has been given the special Divine mission of overcoming his inclinations.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Friday, November 18, 2011

Rivkah's Candles

Art: Michoel Muchnik
In recent years the custom for girls to light Shabbos candles before they are married has re-emerged.  This is actually an ancient practice which is indicated by Rashi's comment to verse 67

Here we see that Rivkah lit candles before she was married, for only after Yitzchak had taken her into "the tent of Sarah his mother" and witnessed her Shabbos candles burning for the entire week, did he take her to be his wife.  In fact, it was primarily the observance of this mitzvah that proved to Yitzchak the suitability of Rivkah as a spouse, and a mother in Israel.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavicher Rebbe


In the year King Moshiach is revealed, nations will be provoking one another...... [Yalkut Shimoni]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Barry learns the lingo

US President Barack Obama has entertained his Australian hosts by trying his hand at the local lingo at an official dinner.

Mr Obama told of speaking to American troops in Afghanistan who were mystified as to why their Australian counterparts were always talking about cheese.

It transpired the Aussies were just greeting them with "Cheers''.

"We may not always speak the same way or use the same words but I think it's pretty clear ... that we understand each other, we see the world in the same way,'' Mr Obama told the more than 600 dinner guests last night.

He told last night's parliamentary dinner hosted in his honour he'd had "a real chinwag'' with Julia Gillard.

"When Julia and I meet we listen to each other, we learn from each other. It's not just a lot of ear-bashing. That's a good one - ear-bashing. I can use that in Washington,'' Mr Obama said.

Read more:

Sound the Alarm

by Rebbetzin Esther Jungreis

My column usually focuses on guiding and advising those who have difficulty navigating the murky turbulent waters that challenge their personal lives, be they shalom bayis, shiduchim, etc. From time to time, I depart from this format to comment on the issues that affect our very lives as a people.

Of late, this has occurred more often than I would care to admit. Events are unfolding so rapidly that before we can absorb one, another befalls us. Most of us opt for the easy way out........We shut our eyes, close our ears, and just glide along. I have sounded the alarm through this column myriad times and I realize that some of my readers may have tired of hearing it.... but just the same, I am writing again for I know that we dare not remain silent and feel the responsibility to raise our voices.

Some years ago, I came across an old Jewish newspaper printed in Warsaw in the early thirties. Incredibly, there was no mention of the dangers that loomed ahead. This, despite the fact that the menacing, hateful voices of anti-Semitism could be heard throughout Europe, provided of course, that you had open ears and were willing to listen. But then as now, people chose to ignore the warning signs. They preferred to attribute them to a few “crazy fringe fanatics”.... not to be taken seriously. Even as now, they assured themselves that the world had changed. “It’s not like it was in the dark ages. Today, we live in an enlightened society.... people are educated and cultured. No. There is nothing to worry about, There is no reason to pay heed to a few lunatics”.

Amazingly, we never learn. Despite having known the unspeakable horrors of the Holocaust, we continue to follow the same pattern. We too choose to shut our eyes, We too close our ears and lull ourselves into believing that catastrophes such as occurred in the past can never again befall us. After all, we live in a democracy in which the rights of every individual are protected and guaranteed. And moreover, Israel is a close ally of America and Washington will never abandon her.

Despite all this however, I once again take pen in hand and write. I invite you to consider the events of the past few months, past few weeks, past few days..... Tragic events have befallen us, but should you say this to the average Jew, he will stare at you uncomprehendingly and wonder what on earth you are talking about.

Let us open our hearts and listen carefully. In every generation, we, the Jewish people have “loyal shepherds” who champion our cause and plead on our behalf in front of G-d’s Holy Throne., These shepherds are the sages and Roshei Yeshiva (heads of Torah Academies). In the last few weeks and months, many of our loyal shepherds have been called on high. These sages span three continents.... Europe, America, and Israel. One after the other, they were taken from our midst, and most recently, the loving “shepherdess”, the kind, warm Bubbie of our people, Rebbetzin Batsheva Esther Kanievsky of B’nai Brak, was also summoned. The Rebbetzin left thousands of women mourning and lost.... Additionally, the eminent Rosh HaYeshiva, HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Nossen Tzvi Finkel, Rosh Yeshiva of the Mir in Yerushalayim where thousands upon thousands of students received the light of Torah, was also taken from our midst, as was HaRav HaGaon HaTzaddik Dov Schwartzman, Z”l of Beis HaTalmud in Jerusalem.

Again, to the average Jew, these names and titles are of little consequence, but know and make no mistake about it, these are the loyal shepherds of our people – the “Giants” in whose merit the world is sustained, and in these past few weeks and months, they have been called home, leaving us vulnerable and challenging us to take responsibility for our lives and take upon ourselves a Torah way of life.

But disaster upon disaster continues to befall us – the tragic accident in which two outstanding yeshiva students were killed. Doniel King, age fifteen Elie Schonbrun, Z”l, age sixteen. The boys, together with fellow students were on their way to the yeshiva when their van skidded off the road... There is no way in which anyone can comprehend the terrible suffering of their parents.

But even as this catastrophe struck, we learned of the lamentable, freak accidental deaths of babies and toddlers, here as well as in Jerusalem, and all this unfolded before we could recover from the savage barbaric slaughter of our precious Leiby. On this very same week seventy three years ago, Hitler’s satanic Krystal Nacht, set afire Jewish synagogues and homes, in Germany and Austria. Jewish businesses were ransacked and destroyed, their windows shattered and the streets paved with thousands of glittering pieces of broken glass.

Some years ago, I spoke in Washington Heights, a community which was populated by many Jews of German descent. An elderly gentleman shared some of his Krystal Nacht experiences. “My synagogue and my home were torched by the Nazi Youth. I called the fire department only to be told that it was against the law to put out fires on property that belonged to Jews.”

Today, 73 years later, as we remember Krystal nacht anti-Semitism once again rears its ugly head. a tragedy once again unfolds. In the Jewish neighborhood of Midwood, Brooklyn, cars were set on fire and swastakas with obscene curse-words vilifying Jews were sprayed on sidewalks and benches.. Even a blind man would have to see it, but we continue with “business as usual.”

Coincidence? Accident? What possible connection can there between the barbaric events of yesterday and that which is befalling us today?

Can it be that there is a message behind it all – a message that we should ponder? ....Can it be? 

(To be continued)

The Great [Debt] Mabul

The great flood in the time of Noah began on 17 Heshvan.  

I know it's raining in Israel, and I know it's raining here.

But the bigger worry that is affecting the world is the financial flood: it's raining debt.  Why should we not care?   I borrowed this comment by Klishlishi from Money: It's a Crime :

The lesson of The Flood has shown that Hashem will not allow the pleasures of material existence to reach orgiastic proportions, and thwart mankind's raison d'etre by overwhelming the spiritual. Investment falls, company and bank crashes, pension fund scams, share price slumps, land value slides, mass unemployment, recessions and depressions are all examples of these checks and corrections.

"Before those days come, there will be no wages, not for man nor beast; I will set every man against his neighbour" [Zechariah 8]

"Before the Messiah, human wages will not exist" [Chofetz Chayim].

"There is no clearer sign of the coming of Moshiach than when all prices become equal" [Sanhedrin 98].

"Before the Moshiach, poverty will increase, prices will rise; even though the vine will produce its fruit, the wine will still be expensive" [Sotah 49].

"The Moshiach will not come until the Jewish People have been cured of their obsessional love for money!" [Rav Rafael Eisenberg, 1976].

"It will become harder to provide a man with his livelihood than to bring the Redemption" [Pesachim 118]

"There are certain sins for which the only atonement is to be in debt. When these sins multiply, then everyone falls into debt" [R.Nachman of Breslov].

"Three types of individual will not be required to see even the entrance to Gehennom: he who was pursued by his creditors..." [Eruvin 41]

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Prepare Yourself for the Banquet

"I am an alien and a resident among you" [Chayei Sarah 23:4]

What is the meaning, asked the Dubno Maggid, of the expression "alien and resident"?  An alien is a person who resides in a land temporarily, while a resident's status is a permanent one.  An alien, therefore, is not a resident, nor is a resident an alien.

The answer, said the Maggid, is as follows:  Chazal comment on the verse "For you are aliens and residents with Me" [Vayikra 25:23] - "This world is like a lobby before the World to Come; prepare yourself in the lobby so that you may enter the banquet hall." [Avos 4:21]

Each individual is required to prepare himself for his eternal residence in the World to Come by performing mitzvos and good deeds in this world, his temporary dwelling.  Thus Avraham Avinu was saying "I am both an alien and a resident; I am an alien temporarily living in the world before I will become a permanent resident of the World to Come."

The Chofetz Chaim illustrated this idea by way of the following parable: There was a very wealthy man who wished to build himself a luxurious house. He contracted an architect who began to draw blueprints for the future home.

"It is very important to me" said the wealthy man to the architect, "that the living room be spacious and comfortable. Yet it is also important that the hallway leading to the living room be very large as well."

The architect took the necessary measurements and began to tell the man what he thought. "There is most certainly not going to be enough space for both the living room and the hallway to be large and roomy. You are going to have to make a decision - do you want a spacious living room or a spacious hallway?"

"I'll give you a bit of advice." continued the architect.  "Being that the prevailing custom is to make the living room as large as possible and not to invest very much in the hallway, I'd suggest that you do the same. It would be ridiculous to do the opposite and make the hallway larger than the living room.  After all, you don't want people to laugh at you."

So it is with us, said the Chofetz Chaim. Our duty in this world is to prepare ourselves for the eternal life, so that our portion in the World to Come will be as great as possible. How are we supposed to do this? By living our lives according to the Torah and by performing the mitzvos.

How foolish is the man whose sole concern is to ensure himself a comfortable life in this world. He is comparable to the wealthy man who requests a large hallway but a small living room. When he arrives in the World to Come everyone will laugh at him!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Vegemite, Crocodiles and The Obamas

Australia is preparing itself for President Obama's arrival tomorrow, where he will address Parliament in Canberra and then fly to Darwin.
When Barack Obama lands in Australia tomorrow he'll have a "quasi-vegetable by-product paste" shoved into his mouth and told to like it.....  Even if Mr Obama manages to dodge an unwelcome breakfast, he'll still have to contend with crocodiles.

The NT News reports that the President has been insured against crocodile attack for his visit to the Northern Territory.  TIO insurers issued him the standard policy - a cover note carrying a photograph of a salt-water crocodile with the promise to pay his family $50,000 in the event of a fatal attack. TIO usually charges $10 for this sort of service but it gave Mr Obama his cover for free (although the $50,000 payout still feels a bit low for a presidential death).

Cleaning The Table before Moshiach

[HT: Yaak]
“HaKadosh Baruch Hu” is closing cheshbonos” stated HaGaon HaRav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita in regard to the difficult events that have taken place of late, Kikar Shabbat reports.

A number of askanim met with the Rav on Thursday afternoon [13 Cheshvan] in his home, including Rabbi Chananya Chulik of Ezer Mizion. Rabbi Chulik mentioned the recent tragedies that have befallen the chareidi community, including the passing of roshei yeshiva and how many are trying to understand what is taking place. 

“What is going on of late? Why the tragedies – what should we do and how does one respond?”

At first, Rav Kanievsky referred him to HaRosh Yeshiva HaGaon HaRav Aaron Leib Shteinman Shlita, telling him to ask Rav Shteinman on what should we focus and in what areas we should  strengthen ourselves.

Rabbi Chulik then stated that on motzei Shabbos he is supposed to address the shloshim kinos for women in Bnei Brak and he needs to know what to say to the thousands women who are seeking a chizuk.

בעקבתא דמשיחא” stated the Gadol Hador, that Moshiach is on his way and “Hashem is closing cheshbonos”, Kikar quotes the Gadol HaDor as saying.

Rabbi Chulik:Is Moshiach arriving soon?

Rav Kanievsky: This is what we believe and expect. Perhaps this is the time. In the past there were prophets who could tell us about the future, and why there is suffering and troubles, but today we have no explanation.

And in his address on motzei Shabbos to thousands of women, Rabbi Chulik explained “Hashem is closing cheshbonos and is cleaning the table ahead of Moshiach and compelling us towards tshuva”.

Source: YWN

And the water rose toward her...

Art: William Adolphe Bouguereau

"The servant ran toward her" [Chayei Sarah 24:17]

Rashi comments: "Because he saw that the waters went up toward her".

Where does the verse indicate, asks the Ramban, that the waters actually went up toward her?

Later on, answers the Ramban, the verse states:  "She drew for all his camels" [24:20].  In this verse, however, we find no mention of Rivkah "drawing" any water.  This teaches us that Rivkah, in fact, had no need to draw water for the water rose up toward her.

Yet, asked R' Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, why did the water not rise for her when she drew water for Eliezer's camels?

Initially, Rivkah had gone to draw water for her own personal needs.  In order that the tzaddekes should not have to burden herself with the task of drawing water, the water, instead, rose to her.  However, when Rivkah went to draw water for Eliezer's camels, she had undertaken to perform a mitzvah.  Heaven wanted Rivkah to earn as much merit as possible for her act of kindness, so, this time, the water was not allowed to rise for her.  In this way, Rivkah would receive maximum merit for performing this mitzvah, for as Chazal teach us, "According to the exertion is the merit". [Avos 5:26]  Thus the more she exerted herself, the more merit she would receive.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, November 14, 2011

Body and Soul

The Zohar teaches that Sarah represents the body, whereas Avraham represents the soul.  Even after death, the soul still remains related to the body, thus "Avraham - the soul - came to eulogize Sarah - the body - and to weep for her"  [Chayei Sarah 23:2]

Chassidic teachings emphasize the importance of the body as a tool in the service of G-d.  Since the ultimate purpose of creation is to sanctify the physical world, the body has a distinct advantage over the soul, in that it is the means by which G-d's Will is enacted.  Therefore, G-d told Avraham [the soul] "Whatever Sarah - the body - tells you, listen to her voice" [21:12], indicating that there is an inherent superiority to the body, over the soul.

Although the soul is incomparably more refined than the body, nevertheless, in the times of Moshiach we are promised that the superiority of the body will be revealed such that "the soul will be animated by the body".

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Narrowness of the Throat

Written by Rabbi Michoel Gourarie

I have been coming to your Thursday morning series on 'forgiveness'. The lessons you teach about letting go of resentment, acceptance and freeing yourself are all wonderful. But even though I fully understand these ideas I still cannot find it in my heart to change my feelings towards some of those people that have wronged me. This is extremely frustrating. Any suggestions?

Like many of us, you suffer from a condition called "narrowness of the throat". The Kabbalah teaches that the physical design of the human body reflects the spiritual and psychological makeup of the soul. We possess two powerful forces that govern the human experience - intellect and emotion. Intellect and cognition live in the brain while emotions and feelings are expressed in the heart.

Each of these forces is different and important. The intellectual mind is cold and aloof, with objectivity and maturity. The heart on the other hand is subjective and involved, infusing life experience with passion, excitement, determination and ambition.

Here is the problem. In order to implement a lesson or a value it needs to travel from the detached mind to the involved heart, with a transformation from a theoretical idea to real feeling. But because intellect and emotion are so different, the transition is often unsuccessful. As it travels from the head to the heart it gets stuck in the "narrowness of the throat". This is a common condition.

Learning a lesson once, even if it is well understood, won't do the trick. The concept will just remain theoretical and detached from the reality of life experience. To break through the blockage of the throat the idea needs to become much more forceful. This is achieved by constant review, repetition and deep reflection on its relevance. Eventually, after revisiting the concepts from different perspectives and with deeper understanding, we build an attachment to these lessons and values, giving them enough force to break through and unclog the pathway to the heart.

So keep coming, keep reviewing and reflecting and eventually some of what you learn will trickle though to the heart and become part of real life.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Chief Rabbi Metzger ‘sees the light’ after visiting shelter

by Sharon Shenhav - JPost

Rabbi Yona Metzger
It’s good that Rabbi Metzger is sympathetic to the plight of battered women. But where has he been for 40 years?

On October 31, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi Yonah Metzger informed Israel Radio, Reshet Bet, that he had visited a shelter for battered Orthodox women in Beit Shemesh and was horrified to hear of their suffering.

Apparently the chief rabbi had not been aware that Orthodox women were victims of domestic violence and expressed sincere compassion for their plight.

He described how he spoke with the women and listened to their stories. This eloquent spiritual leader pointed out that Jewish law (Halacha) does not condone violence in the home and that good Jewish husbands honor their wives and treat them with dignity and respect. He was so impressed by the experience that he is now going to recommend that all dayanim (religious judges) visit this shelter.

Rabbi Metzger’s concern and compassion is well deserved and to be commended. However, it comes a little late. Where has he been for the past 40 years? Has he been so out of touch that he doesn’t read newspapers or listen to radio or television? He served as chief rabbi of north Tel Aviv and has been the chief rabbi of Israel since 2003. In that position, he serves as a judge on the Bet Din Hagadol (the Great Court). Has he never heard of women seeking divorce from abusive husbands? The first shelter for battered women was opened in Herzliya in the 1970s. Why did it take him so long to visit one? What does his lack of knowledge say about him personally, or about the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts in Israel? FROM 2003 to 2009 I served as the only woman on the Commission to Appoint Dayanim. During that period I interviewed over 350 candidates who sought appointment.

My colleagues on the Commission who participated in these interviews, including a dayan from the Bet Din Hagadol and an Knesset member, would discuss the candidate’s yeshiva education and the rabbis who had been his teachers.

I would ask the candidates how they would handle cases where abusive husbands refused to give their wives a get (a divorce). Apparently these questions had not been asked of potential dayanim prior to my participation in the interviews.

The candidates seemed surprised by my questions and a leading rabbi told me that everyone was talking about the questions I asked during the interviews.

Like Rabbi Metzger, these candidates were well versed in Halacha, but seemed to know nothing about the problem of domestic violence in the Jewish community. When asked how they would handle such a case, they stammered and faltered.

Several remarked that abusive behavior doesn’t take place in Orthodox homes! Given this lack of knowledge in the world of rabbis and dayanim, the way abused women are treated in the rabbinical courts when they file for divorce is not surprising.

The rabbis simply don’t believe their testimony.

Even in cases where women have required medical treatment, including the need for hospitalization due to physical abuse by their husbands, too many dayanim seem to find such objective evidence unconvincing. Is it because all of the dayanim are men that they tend to conclude that abusive husbands’ behavior is the result of provocation by their wives? In most cases involving physical abuse, dayanim are reluctant to obligate the abusive husband to give a get. Let’s not even talk about emotional abuse. Most dayanim have never studied psychology, sociology or child development.

They don’t understand the concept of emotional abuse and certainly do not recognize it as grounds for divorce.

NO WONDER that studies of abused Jewish women show that they remain in abusive relationships four times longer than non- Jewish women. When they approach a rabbi for advice on how to deal with an abusive situation, they are often told that shalom bayit (domestic peace) is of the utmost importance. To improve the situation and reduce the abuse, these women are advised to lose weight, wear more attractive clothes, clean the house, keep the children quiet and cook more creative meals.

Now that Rabbi Metzger is aware of the problem, perhaps we can expect some changes. It’s possible that he could do something about raising awareness amongst other Orthodox rabbis and dayanim.

I would suggest that the chief rabbi begin by requiring all Orthodox rabbis to take a course in domestic violence which is prepared and delivered by social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers and civil court judges.

Hopefully, women who have been victims of abusive marriages could also participate in these courses, giving the rabbis an opportunity to hear the victim’s version of events.

The chief rabbi could organize such courses and require that every sitting dayan as well as all of those who submit their candidacy to be appointed as dayanim take such a course.

Feminist activists have marked November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women since 1981.

In 1999, the UN General Assembly designated November 25 as International Elimination of Violence against Women Day and encouraged non-governmental organizations worldwide to organize activities designed to raise public awareness of the problem. In Israel, there have been organized marches, demonstrations and conferences to mark the day for over a decade.

Perhaps this year Rabbi Metzger could, at long last, participate in these activities.

Would it be too much to hope that rabbis and dayanim could treat abused women with dignity, compassion and respect? Can we now expect that the dayanim will deal with abusive husbands by requiring them to give a get without requiring their wives to give up financial rights? Jewish women will be waiting to see what kind of action Rabbi Metzger takes, now that he has “seen the light.”

The writer, a Jerusalem-based women’s rights lawyer, is the director of the International Jewish Women’s Rights Project of the International Council of Jewish Women.

Source and talkback: JPost

The Key

All beginnings require that you unlock new doors.
The key is giving and doing.
Give charity and do kindness.

[Rebbe Nachman of Breslov]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Why Iran's Top Leaders Believe That the End of Days Has Come

By Joel C. Rosenberg
Why would Iran authorize a major terrorist operation on American soil? Skeptics say the much-discussed “foiled” Iranian plot makes no sense. We will know soon enough if the Feds have sufficient evidence related to this specific plot. But Iranian leaders may, in fact, have a motive to accelerate direct attacks on the U.S.: Shia Islamic eschatology, or "End Times" theology.

Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad are convinced that the End of Days has come. They believe the Shia messiah known as the “Twelfth Imam” or the “Mahdi” will appear soon to establish a global Islamic kingdom known as the caliphate.

What’s more, they believe the way to hasten the coming of the Twelfth Imam is to annihilate Israel (which they call the “Little Satan”), and the United States (which they call the “Great Satan”). We should not, therefore, be surprised that Iran is probing for weaknesses in American intelligence and homeland security.

Khamenei told Iranians in July 2010 that he personally met with the Twelfth Imam. He also claimed to be the personal representative of the Mahdi on earth, and said all Muslims must “obey him.” Meanwhile, Western intelligence agencies say he continues to work with Ahmadinejad and the Iranian military to develop nuclear warheads and the ballistic missiles to deliver them.

Much of the media has focused on Iran’s threats to wipe Israel “off the map.” But journalists have generally ignored the fact that the Iranian regime is equally determined to destroy the United States.

On October 26, 2005, for example, Ahmadinejad said, “God willing, with the force of God behind it, we shall soon experience a world without the United States and Zionism.”

On June 2, 2008, Ahmadinejad said, “Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come, and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.”

Iran’s leaders actually believe that the destruction of the U.S. is foreordained, just as the Soviet Union’s implosion was predetermined. They see U.S. economic weakness as a sign that the end of America is near.

Other signs include President Obama’s political weakness in the polls and his unwillingness to use force against Iran even after the Iranian murder of Americans in Iraq, Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia and Lebanon over the years.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu sees the gravity of the situation. “The Obama presidency has two great missions: fixing the economy, and preventing Iran from gaining nuclear weapons,” he told The Atlantic magazine in March 2009. “You don’t want a messianic apocalyptic cult controlling atomic bombs,” Netanyahu said of the Iranian leadership. “When the wide-eyed believer gets hold of the reins of power and the weapons of mass death, then the entire world should start worrying, and that is what is happening in Iran.”'

Unfortunately, Netanyahu hasn’t seen the Obama administration strengthen the American economy or take decisive measures to stop Iran from getting the Bomb, and he is getting anxious. “The international community must stop Iran before it’s too late,” Netanyahu warned in his United Nations speech last month. “If Iran is not stopped, we will all face the specter of nuclear terrorism, and the Arab Spring could soon become an Iranian winter….The world around Israel is definitely becoming more dangerous.”

To truly understand how just how dangerous Iran’s regime really is, American leaders need to better understand Shia eschatology.

Read more: Fox News

Tov l'hodot la'Hashem

טוֹב לְהֹדוֹת לַה', וּלְזַמֵּר לְשִׁמְךָ עֶלְיוֹן. לְהַגִּיד בַּבֹּֽקֶר חַסְדֶּֽךָ, וֶאֱמוּנָתְךָ בַּלֵּילוֹת

Tov l'hodot la'hashem, ulzamer l'shimcha elyon, l'hagid baboker chasdecha v'emunatcha baleylot.

It is good to give thanks to God, and to sing to his name on high - to tell in the morning of His kindness,​ and in the evening of His faithfuln​ess. [Psalms 92:2]

The Reward for Praying for Someone Else

A person might pray for his friend before praying for himself for one of two reasons:

a) because his friend's problem genuinely bothers him more than his own problems; or
b) because he wants the reward of being answered first. [see Rashi Vayeira 21:1]

Generally, with acts of kindness, the result for the recipient is more important than the donor's motive. So even if a person prays for another because he wants the reward of being answered first he will still be rewarded, for after all he performed an act of kindness in praying for another.

Nevertheless, it goes without saying that the first approach above - the person with pure motives - is vastly superior.

Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Vayeira 5743, Lubavitcher Rebbe


Art: Dalhart Windberg

Words by Rebetzin Esther Jungreis

Yes, I`m afraid. When I say these words, most people do not understand, and they attribute my fears to the fact that I am a survivor and live in the shadow of my Holocaust experiences. Still others attribute my fears to "overreaction", and assure themselves that everything is okay, that there is nothing to worry about. "Fear", they rationalize, is a Jewish neurosis, identified with past generations, when our people lived in the darkness of the ghetto.

But today, things are different. Today, we live in the United States, a free, democratic country, in which all people have the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness..” And more, for the very first time in almost two thousand years, we have our own State and because of that, there is nothing to fear. I wish that I could be as confident as they, but I smell the noxious fumes of pre-Holocaust Europe, and so I write and speak wherever I can. It is not Hamas or the Moslem Brotherhood, nor for that matter, Ahmadinejad that I fear. Nor do I fear the United Nations, an institution notorious for its despicable hypocrisy and anti-Israel bias. I do not fear the sophisticated, intellectuals who camouflage their hatred of Jews behind politically correct pseudonyms that mis-lead all too willing ears, but what I do fear is our own people – yes, our own people who have forgotten who we are, who no longer remember that we stood at Sinai, that we heard the voice of G-d, that we belong to a priestly kingdom, a holy nation and that everything that befalls us is choreographed by Hashem, and is a reflection of our own deeds, our own hands.

To be sure, there is nothing new about all this. It is a “Truth” that is a very pillar of our faith and is inscribed for all eternity in G-d’s Book – the Torah. The warning screams out to us from almost every portion, yet we refuse to heed it. How can it be that we, the nation that is so brilliant, is so blind? How can it be that after thousands of years, we still fail to understand?

Our history is constant replay – again and again, tragedies befall us, yet we refuse to comprehend. It could all be so simple if we would all be willing to understand. But no matter how unbearable our pain, how agonizing our suffering, we continue to reject it. Every day, a Bas Kol – a Heavenly Voice calls us, but we choose to remain deaf. We have shed our Priestly garments and no longer recognize ourselves.

Time and again G-d sends His prophets to remind us that our destiny is different from that of all other nations, that our very existence is directly linked to our adherence to G-d’s commandments. Hashem has guaranteed our eternity, for we, the Jewish people have been chosen to be His witnesses, but tragically, we fail to see the glory of our calling, and that is the painful reality of our long, tormented exile. We have seen mighty nations come and go, rise, only to fall, but even as we have endured and triumphed,....but it’s all to no avail. We continue to remain obdurate.

Even as a young child in Bergen Belsen, I was aware of this Truth. My saintly father, HaRav Avraham Halevi Jungreis, Z’tl, embedded it in my heart and soul. But I could never have imagined that, before I would see the dawn, six million of our people would be consumed in the flames. Despite it all however, by the grace of G-d, not only are we here, but we have reinvented ourselves. We have given new life to the great academies of Torah that once shone so brightly throughout the shtetlach of Europe, and we have returned and rebuilt our ancient land. We have brought new life to the barren wasteland. We have planted gardens and forests, and despite the constant barrages of missiles and rockets, we redeemed our land. Yes, miraculously, we did it all and yet we still failed to see G-d’s guiding Hand.

As I said, I smell the noxious fumes of pre-Hitler Europe. Once again, the nations are bent on swallowing us, and, as always, there is no one to come to our aid, no one to even raise a voice on our behalf. Once again, we are reminded of the eternal words of our Torah: “They are a people that dwells alone and not reckoned among the nations.”....”We are like one lamb surrounded by seventy wolves” – all to remind us that our salvation can come from only One source – AVINU SH’BASHAMAYIM – our Heavenly Father.

Time and again, G-d has impressed this Truth upon us. Not only did He engrave these words in our holy writ; not only did He send His prophets to remind us, but He constantly speaks to us loud and clear. And yet, we continue to fail to heed His messages, and it is that which I fear. Our generation has seen darkness and light. We have seen the most painful, the most tragic, and also the most spectacular, the most miraculous. I am not only referring to the Holocaust, but to the ongoing, savage, brutal and blood soaked hands of our neighbors who are united by only one purpose – to slaughter and exterminate our people. They surround our tiny State and encamp on all our borders, but miraculously, we have survived in this sea of murderers. Just the same however, we still fail to see the Hand of G-d – We refuse to hear His voice calling us.

I invite you to consider only the recent attack on Ashdod.....On Shabbos afternoon as our people gathered to daven mincha, Ashdod was hit by rockets. Such an onslaught could have resulted in catastrophe, but while there were some injuries, Ashdod held fast. Although a synagogue and a school suffered a direct hit, miraculously, the building was empty. This synagogue usually has a large minyan in one of the classrooms, but on that Shabbos, services did not take place. The Gabbi was not feeling well and could not make the necessary preparations. Just think about it..

All those who came to see the sight were awestruck. It was an open miracle. Had the Gabbai not been ill, had services taken place, the tragedy would have been to painful to contemplate...and there was more. The entire place was covered with shattered glass and debris.... Everything in the room was damaged, but the Holy Ark and the Torah within remained untouched! And there was still more!

Just two hours later, another rocket hit a parking lot setting cars afire, but the adjacent building escaped damage. Miraculously, the rocket exploded near a large gas tank. Had there been a direct hit, the result could have been catastrophic.

Coincidence or the Hand of G-d? Yet we fail to see it – we fail to understand.

Darkness and light in the very same breath, and once again, I ask, Coincidence or the Hand of G-d?

It is the blindness of our people that I fear!

When will we wake up? When will we don our Priestly garments and fulfill our G-d given destiny and be “a light unto all mankind?”

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Chazal teach us [Bava Metzia 86b] that Avraham served his guests three tongues in mustard [b'chardal] - one for each guest.

The Vilna Gaon was sitting and teaching Torah to a group of students. Said the Gaon: "We find that there are three positive characteristics that can be found in all righteous men:

1. They feel compassion for the poor
2. They suffice with little
3. Their hearts quake with fear of Hashem.

These qualities are alluded to in the word b'chardal - as the Hebrew letters of this word can be rearranged in three different ways:

1. bachar-dal - they choose the poor and love them
2. chadal-rav - they shun excessive lifestyles and make do with less
3. charad-lev - their hearts quake with the fear of Heaven

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

All beginnings are difficult

Our Sages taught that "all beginnings are difficult" [Mechilta to Shemos 19:5].

Chassidic thought explains that for a person to perform a new type of act which he has never done before, a "channel" needs to be opened allowing the reserves of spiritual potential in his soul to spread through his body.

In a more general sense this applies on a global scale.  A person who commits a spiritually unprecedented act in the world becomes a pioneer who actually makes it possible for others to follow in his footsteps.  He opens a new "channel", breaking down barriers not only for himself, but for his descendants and followers.

Thus, the Akeida was not merely an inspiring historical event from which we can learn.  It actually made an indelible mark on the Jewish personality, enabling Avraham's outstanding subordination to God to be duplicated by any Jewish person who avails himself, or herself, of the challenge.

Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Hidden Blessings

“A blessing rests only on something that is hidden from the eye.” [Taanit 5b]

"And they gave their father wine to drink on that night....."[Vayeira 19:33 ]

According to the Zohar, the dot on the word - וּבְקוּמָהּ - alludes to the fact that God was secretly assisting this event, because Moshiach was to materialize from it, since Ruth, King David's mother, was a convert from the Moabites.

The latter event between Lot and his younger daughter [19:35] is written without the letter vav, to indicate that the union did not produce such great offspring.  Rabbi  Shimon said "When the verses states that Lot wasn't aware, it means he wasn't aware that Moshiach was destined to come from this union."

Why should the beginnings of Moshiach occur in such an undignified manner?

Ramak explains that when a very lofty soul is about to descend into the world, the forces of kelipah [evil] oppose the soul's descent vehemently.  Sometimes, however, kelipah will consent to the soul's descent if it occurs amidst a particularly sinful act.  Thus we find that from this undesirable act the ancestor of Moshiach was born.

Source: Lubavitcher Rebbe