Friday, December 30, 2011

The Mystical Light Of The Baal Shem Tov

Art by Marcus Aurelius

In a letter[1] written by the Baal Shem Tov to his brother-in-law, Rabbi Gershon of Kitov, it states: "I asked my Master and teacher[2] to go with me, for it is exceedingly dangerous to ascend to the highest of the upper worlds and since that time I arrived at my present spiritual level, I had ascended to such places.

I went up, level after level, until I entered the palace of Moshiach, where he studies Torah with all the Tannaim[3] and the Tzaddikim,[4] and with the Seven Shepherds.[5] I beheld very great joy there, but I did not know the reason for this extreme happiness.

I thought this joy was, G*d forbid, because of my demise from this world. But they told me later that I was not deceased and that they derived tremendous pleasure when I performed yichudim[6] in the physical world by means of the Torah. But as to the meaning of this great rejoicing, I still do not know.

And I asked Moshiach, 'When are you coming, my Master?'

He answered me, 'By this you shall know it: Once your teachings become publicly known and revealed throughout the world; when your wellsprings have overflowed beyond, imparting to others what I have taught you and you have grasped; so that they too will be able to perform yichudim and Aliyahs of the Neshama[7] as you do. Then all the kelipos will perish, and it will be a time of favor and salvation."

I was bewildered at this response. I felt great anguish because of the length of time that Moshiach implied it would take until he came.

However while I was there, I learned three Segulos[8] and three Holy Names which were easy to learn and to explain to others and which would allow them to perform yichudim and Aliyahs of the Neshama. So I felt reassured, and I thought that perhaps, using these Segulos and Holy Names, my Chavurah,[9] might also be able to attain my spiritual level. That is, they would be able to practice Ascents of the Soul, and learn and understand the Supernal Mysteries as I do.

But I was not permitted and I am under oath not to reveal them during my life."[10]

[1] Called THE EPISTLE
[2] Achiyah HaShiloni
[3] Jewish Sages of the Mishnah 10-220cCE
[4] Righteous people
[5] Adam, Seth,Methuselah,Abrama,Moses and King David
[6] Contemplative unifications
[7] Ascents of the Soul
[8] Charm or remedy of spiritual potency
[9] Inner circle of followers
[10] Keser Shem Tov

The Incitement Against the Orthodox Jews in Israel - Torah Codes

Rabbi Matisyahu Glazerson Parts 1 and 2


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

[Rebbe Nachman of Breslov]

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Aptly Named George Soros

"Soros' latest Israeli project is a subversive attempt to gain influence and undermine the country"

Read the article at: Soros' Latest Israel Project

Also see:  The Secret Force Behind Obama

Israel Needs a Reality Check

Violent clashes between Israel Police forces and ultra-Orthodox activists amid a public outcry over the exclusion of women from the public sphere is damaging the image of the Haredi community in the United States, Brooklyn community leaders told Haaretz on Tuesday.

New York Democratic New York State Assemblyman Dov Hikind added that "if a young Hasidic man would have spat on or hurt a girl in Borough Park he would have been immediately arrested and handled in the most stern of way."   [Source: Haredi violence is damaging Israel's image, U.S. rabbis say]

Exactly !

And in Australia..... they'd be arrested and charged with assault.....

So my question is:  Israel.... why are these men allowed to get away with abusing women and young girls?  What a chillul Hashem and total embarrassment for all of us.

Elvis and the Lawnmower

It's summer holidays in Australia.... I'm not doing too much typing, so please forgive the lack of Torah posts lately... things will return to normal soon.

but in the meantime, here's a tale of a crocodile named Elvis and a lawnmower:

A huge saltwater crocodile has charged at two workers at a reptile park north of Sydney and stolen their lawnmower.
The five-metre croc, named Elvis, attacked the staff at the Australian Reptile Park at Gosford after they went into its enclosure about 9am (AEST) today.
The men used their lawnmowers as a barrier when the hulking beast lunged. They escaped unharmed.
The 50-year-old croc lost two teeth in the encounter and is now guarding one of the lawnmowers.
"Elvis is sitting at the bottom of the lagoon with the lawnmower next to him. He's guarding it," said park spokeswoman Libby Bain.
"Obviously we have to go in and retrieve the mower.
"It's not something we think he would eat but it's encroaching on his territory and he believes it is his."


Jewish Extremism : Out of Control

BEIT SHEMESH, Israel (AP) – A shy 8-year-old schoolgirl has unwittingly found herself on the front line of Israel's latest religious war.

Naama Margolese is a ponytailed, bespectacled second-grader who is afraid of walking to her religious Jewish girls school for fear of ultra-Orthodox extremists who have spat on her and called her a whore for dressing "immodestly."

Her plight has drawn new attention to the simmering issue of religious coercion in Israel, and the increasing brazenness of extremists in the insular ultra-Orthodox Jewish community

Source: Israeli Girl's Plight Highlights Jewish Extremism
More at : Beit Shemesh Gone Wild

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Beaches Closed

HUGE surf smashed the NSW coast yesterday, closing beaches up and down the state.

At Snapper Rocks, on the Queensland and NSW border, were dwarfed by 3m waves, generated by a storm in the Coral Sea. This picture was taken from the Queensland border looking back into NSW waters.

Source: Dwarfed by power of an angry sea

Iran: "Israeli strike would be suicide"

Brigadier General Vahidi says 'Zionist regime is completely isolated,' threatens deadly strikes from Iran, should Israel attack.

Iran's defense minister said Sunday that any Israeli strike on Iran would constitute suicide, the official news agency IRNA reported.

“The Zionist regime is completely isolated and under no circumstances it can attack Iran unless she wants to commit a suicide," IRNA quoted Brigadier General Ahmad Vahidi as saying. "It is due to the fact that it will receive deadly strikes from Iran which will make it unstable."

Source and more: Israeli Strike would be a Suicide Mission

[Just ignore the JC headline on the video below, it's not part of the feature]

Monday, December 26, 2011

Take care

Personal Encounter

by Rav DovBer Pinson

Parshas Vayigash

The Torah reading of this week begins with the dramatic encounter between Yehudah/Judah and Yosef/Joseph.

There is a famine in the land of Israel and Yosef’s brothers journey to the land of Egypt to purchase food, where unbeknownst to them, Yosef has risen to power after they had sold him into slavery years before. Upon encountering each other Yosef’s brothers do not recognize him as their brother but Yosef knows who they are. Yosef accuses his brothers of being spies and threatens to take the youngest brother as his slave.

The Torah reading opens with the words “Vayigash- Then Yehudah approached him [Yosef] and said, "Bi Adoni/ Please, my master, let now your servant speak something into my lord's ears…for you are like Pharaoh.” [44:18]

The word Vayigash means to encounter.

There were years of misunderstanding and anguish between the brothers until this moment. At this juncture Yehuda, leader of the brothers, approaches Yosef and says – ‘Bi Adoni’ - “please, my master”

Somehow, following this statement, they are finally able to encounter each other in a true and meaningful way, thereby enabling Yosef to reveal himself to his brothers and beginning the eventual reconciliation and reunion with the entire family.

‘Bi Adoni’ can also be translated more literally as – “You are within me, my master.”

To encounter another, we need to first identify with them completely.

When Yehudah says “Bi Adoni,” Yosef is moved, because at this juncture Yosef feels that Yehudah is finally identifying himself with Yosef, and his struggles. Yehudah is finally seeing the “other” as someone close to him, finding the other within himself, and himself within the other.

Yehudah says “for you are like Pharaoh”, which is to say, “we are all part of each other”

When Yehudah is moved to truly encounter another and move toward Yosef, Yosef is also moved forward, and reveals himself as their brother.

In the words of Kabbalah, Yehudah experiences Hiskalelus/intermingling with Yosef, and then Yosef can experience Hiskalelus with them.

I see you and experience you, this is a true encounter.

The Energy of the Week

The Torah reading this week infuses us with the power to have true and meaningful encounters.

We are gifted with the ability to experience a true encounter with another.

In resolving all matters, whether personal and business – one must be fully present in person. In this age of ‘virtual communication’, we need to remember to make real ‘face time.’

We need to take the time to truly encounter the other person and see ourselves within them.

When we focus on that which is similar between us and another whom we are encountering, we begin to see the possibility of resolution.

Look into the other person and see that we are all deeply interconnected. As deeply as we know ourselves, we can know another. From our own reserves of experience and emotion we can relate to the experience and feelings of the other person.

Let us all take some time out to put down our external communication ‘devices’ and use our own G-d given devices, of sight, sound and empathy to relate to another person and truly encounter them in ‘real time.’

Violent Storms hit Melbourne

Australia: Storms pelted Victorians with hailstones as big as billiard balls during a wild Xmas Day barrage.
The damage bill could run into tens of millions of dollars after hundreds of cars were bombarded, windows in homes and businesses were smashed and roofing was torn away.

Read more:

Photo Gallery

Sunday, December 25, 2011

The Hidden Inner Light

If one would look deeply enough into the dark, one will see a light. It is the inner light, the soul of man.

"The candle of the Lord is the soul of man, exploring all of the inner chambers" [Mishlei 20:27]

This is not meant as fanciful poetry or empty words. Those who have experienced the inner glow know that its radiance is very real, very meaningful... it comes in flashes of truth and self-knowledge. And it is, indeed, a very splendid thing.

Our codifiers also recognise the validity of flashes in the dark. The Rambam teaches [Hilchos Talmud Torah] that although one is obligated to study the Torah at all times, the major portion of a person's wisdom is acquired in the still of the night. Torah study is, among other things, an exercise in self-discovery and improvement, and it should be studied in undisturbed nocturnal atmosphere. This inner light is very sensitive and must be carefully preserved: "A hasty step reduces the light of a person's eyes... This light may be regained at the Kiddush" [Shabbos 113a]

The man who is engrossed in the frantic pursuit of all that he sees around him is doomed to lose sight of the candle that burns within him. Only the serene sanctity of the Shabbos, its tranquil cessation of activity and hot pursuit, can restore to man his awareness of the precious inner light of his vision and his soul.

No Jewish holiday so lends itself to the challenges of the Age of Illumination as does the holiday of Chanukah, the festival of lights. If in doubt as to which lights are being celebrated, the outer or the inner - one need only to consult our sacred literature and find that these eight days are dedicated specifically to these latter lights, the internal illumination that brightens the soul.

The Rokeach, Rabbi Eliezer of Worms, a noted medieval scholar and authority, pointed out that a total of 36 candles are lit during the eight days of Chanukah. This corresponds to the first 36 hours of creation when a special unearthly radiance lit the universe. This spiritual light was quite different from any light we know now. But its potency was too intense to serve man's everyday, earthly needs and G-d hid it from view. Yet that light still exists - in the Torah - and it is for this reason that the Aramaic term for Torah is Oraisa - source of light.

One may wonder - if it was destined for concealment why did G-d ever create this advanced form of light? The answer to this is classically Jewish - better a hidden light than no light at all. For even though it was hidden, the light does exist and can be revealed to anyone who sincerely strives to find it. Those few who have succeeded in perceiving this light are the legendary lamed-vav 'niks - the 36 righteous men concealed from recognition in every generation.

Actually, one need not be a lamed-vavnik to uncover at least a portion of this hidden light, for anyone who studies Torah with sincerity may discover its splendour.

Source: "Seasons of the Soul" edited by Rabbi Nisson Wolpin

Australia: Cyclone threat upgraded

On December 24 1974, the Australian city of Darwin was wiped out by Cyclone Tracy , which killed 49 people and a further 22 who perished at sea.. 37 years later, the residents of Darwin anxiously await the arrival of Cyclone Grant.

Weather forecasters have upgraded the threat of a cyclone for Australia's northern coast on the weekend.

A Category Two cyclone strong enough to damage buildings and threaten lives is forecast to hit the Northern Territory coast on Boxing Day, but Darwin is likely to be spared a direct hit.

Read more:

Friday, December 23, 2011

Happy whatever-you're-[not]-celebrating

Half asleep when I read the title of the blog post below [Titanic Victory and A Small Cruse of Oil], and I thought I had the perfect photo to go with it....  and then  I was really disappointed that obviously the essay contained nothing about The Titanic, so I didn't give it a picture at all...

Here's the photo I wanted to put - it's perfect for now when everyone's gone away and the internet has slowed down to a slow trickle.... I'll be here over the holidays, finishing some work I should have done during the year but could never really focus on, and now there's only a week left to complete it, I have finally motivated myself.

Enjoy the holidays wherever you are!  I'll have a Gin and Ti-tonic thanks....

and then there's this one.....  

A Titanic Victory and a Small Cruse of Oil

Eyes Fixed on Eternity

By: Rabbi YY Jacobson

David Brooks, in an engaging but superficial article on Hanukah in the New York Times [The Hanukah Story, NY Times, December 10, 2009], sheds light on the brighter side of the Greeks who emphasized the power of reason and the importance of individual conscience and brought theaters, gymnasiums and debating societies to the cities. He also illuminates the darker side of the Maccabees, who liberated the Jews from barbaric Syrian-Greek oppression, but whose own regime became corrupt, brutal and reactionary. The Maccabees became religious oppressors themselves, fatefully inviting the Romans into Jerusalem.

While admiring the Greek contributions to civilization -- its politics, philosophy, art and architecture – it is easy to forget what Greek society was really like. Mr. Brooks fails to discuss the barbaric daily practices in the Hellenist culture -- infanticide, pedophilia, pederasty, the "Spartan Lifestyle," and the glorification of torture in many instances. None other than Aristotle himself, the teacher of Alexander the Great, argued in his Politics (VII.16) that killing children was essential to the functioning of society. He wrote: "There must be a law that no imperfect or maimed child shall be brought up. And to avoid an excess in population, some children must be exposed [i.e. thrown on the trash heap or left out in the woods to die]. For a limit must be fixed to the population of the state."

But let us focus here on the actual Hanukah narrative. A brief historical introduction is important.

The festival of Hanukah commemorates an extraordinary victory -- of the Maccabees, a relatively small and dedicated force of fighters, against one of the great imperial powers of classical antiquity, the Seleucid branch of the Alexandrian empire.

This story takes us back 2100 years ago, to the year 164 BCE, some 150 years before the birth of Christianity and two centuries before the destruction of the Second Temple by the Romans. Israel was then under the rule of the empire of Alexander the Great. A Syrian ruler Antiochus the 5th ascended the throne and he was determined to impose his values on the Jewish people. He forbade the practice of Judaism, set up a statue of Zeus in the Temple, and systematically desecrated Jerusalem's holy sites. Jews who were caught practicing Judaism were tortutred to death. This was tyranny on a grand scale. Sadly, he was helped in this endeavor by two Jewish high priests, Jason and Menelaus, who assisted him in banning the Jewish lifestyle and turning the Temple into an interdenominational house of worship on Greek lines.

To put it into historical perspective, had Antiochus succeeded, Judaism would have died. Its daughter religions -- Christianity and Islam –- would have, of course, never come to be.

A small group of Jews, led by the elderly priest Matityahu and his sons, rose in revolt. They fought a brilliant campaign, and within three years they had recaptured Jerusalem, removed sacrilegious objects from the Temple, and restored Jewish autonomy. It was, as we say in the Hanukah prayers, a victory for 'the weak against the strong, and the few against the many.' Religious liberty was established and the Temple was rededicated. Hanukah means "rededication."

This was a remarkable event and an extraordinary triumph. We, the Jewish people, are here today only because of the courage and vision of this small group of determined Jews who would not allow their G-d and their Torah to be reduced to the dustbins of history by the Syrian-Greek tyrant.

Yet astonishingly, the Talmud, the classical text of Jewish law and literature, gives us a very different perspective on the Hanukah festival.

“What is Hanukah?” asks the Talmud [Talmud, Shabbat 21b].  The answer given is this:

“When the Greeks entered the Sanctuary, they contaminated all its oil. Then, when the royal Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious over them, they searched and found only a single cruse of pure oil that was sealed with the seal of the High Priest—enough to light the menorah [candelabra] for a single day. A miracle occurred, and they lit the menorah with this oil for eight days. The following year, they established these [eight days] as days of festivity and praise and thanksgiving for G-d.”

So, according to the Talmud, the festival of Hanukah is less about the military victory of a small band of Jews against one of the mightiest armies on earth, and more about the miracle of the oil. The Talmud makes only a passing reference to the military victory [“when the royal Hasmonean family overpowered and was victorious”], and focuses exclusively on the story with the oil, as if this were the only significant event commemorated by the festival of Hanukah.

This is strange. The miracle of the oil, it would seem, was of minor significance relative to the military victory. Besides the fact that this was a miracle that occurred behind the closed doors of the Temple with only a few priests to behold, it was an event concerning a religious symbol without any consequences on life, death and liberty. If the Jews would have been defeated by the Greeks, there would be no Jews today; if the oil would have not burnt for eight days, so what? The menorah would have not been kindled. Would the latkes taste any worse?

Let us grease the question with a contemporary touch.

Imagine that following the extraordinary Israeli victory of the 1967 six-day war, during which six Arab armies were determined to exterminate Israel and its three million Jews, a candle located in a Jerusalem synagogue would have burned for six days. Sure, it would have added a nice sentimental touch to the euphoria of Israel’s salvation, but would have this, rather than the deliverance of millions of innocent human beings from a second holocaust, been the cause of celebration? Would this detail even make it to the front page of the media?

Similarly, the burning of the Temple candelabra for eight days was, no doubt, a heart-warming follow up to a great victory. It was a demonstrative sign that G-d cherished the sacrifice of His children and had rewarded them with an astounding miracle. Yet it is clear that this was merely the icing on the cake, a coup-de-grace to a historical momentous victory on the battlefield. Yet the Talmud turns this minor detail into the decisive motif for the Hanukah celebration?

What is more, the miracle with the oil is the only element of the Hanukah events that we commemorate to this very day. We have no custom or ritual commemorating a miraculous triumph. What we do have is the kindling of a menorah for eight days, commemorating the fact that the oil in the Temple menorah lasted for eight days. How are we to understand this?

The answer allows us to appreciate the essential ingredient that has defined 4,000 years of Jewish history. The military victory was extraordinary; yet it didn't last. The dynasty of the Hasmonean family became entrenched in civil war and corruption. 210 years after Hanukah, in 68 CE, the Temple was destroyed, this time by the Romans. Jerusalem was plundered, Israel was decimated and the Jewish people exiled. It was the beginning of a period of Jewish powerlessness, dispersion and persecution which had lasted almost two millennia.

Unfortunately, the political and military victory of Hanukah did not last. What lasted was the spiritual miracle -- the faith which, like the oil, was inextinguishable. Strength that is founded on military power alone is temporary. It may endure for long periods of time, but ultimately, its might will wane and it will be defeated by another power. Strength that is founded on moral and spiritual light can never be destroyed.

The sages who instituted the Hanukah holiday keenly understood this truth. With their eyes focused on eternity, the rabbis of the Second Temple era grasped that the timeless core of Hanukah was not the victory on the battlefield alone, but rather the fact that this military triumph led to the re-kindling of the sacred light and the moral torch. The military victory was an enormously significant event that we must be deeply grateful for. Yet what makes Hanukah a vibrant and heart-stirring holiday thousands of years later across the globe is the story of a little cruse of oil that would not cease to cast its brightness even in the darkest of nights and among the mightiest of winds.

David Brooks writes that “Rabbis later added the lamp miracle to give God at least a bit part in the proceedings.” He missed the point. The oil miracle constitutes the very foundation of the Hanukah holiday.

For more than two millennia, Jews have been gathering around their Hanukah candelabras, kindling each night an additional candle. As they gazed at the dancing flame atop their menorahs they can hear the candles sharing their story. It consisted of a simple punch line: The flame of Jewish faith, the flame of Torah, the flame of the Mitzvos, would never be extinguished. The candles were right: Judaism lives.

Imperial Greece and Rome have long since disappeared. Civilizations built on power never last. Those built on care for the powerless never die. What matters in the long run is not simply political, military or economic strength but how we light the flame of the human spirit.

Source:  The

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Hidden Greatness of Yosef

וַיִּקְרָא פַרְעֹה שֵׁם יוֹסֵף צָפְנַת פַּעְנֵחַ
And Pharaoh named Joseph "Tzafnas Pa'neach" [Miketz 41:45]

Rashi explains: "Tzafnas Pa'neach - mepharesh hatzefunos [decipherer of the cryptic]"

If that is the meaning of Yosef's title, asked the Sefas Emes [R' Yehudah Leib Alter of Gur], then would it not have been more appropriate to reverse the order of the words and refer to him as "Paneach tzefunos"?

Yosef, answered the Sefas Emes, merited his unique ability to reveal that which was concealed on account of the fact that he acted with extreme modesty, always concealing his own righteousness from the eyes of others.

It is for this reason, he concluded, that he was referred to as Tzafnas Pa'neach. Tzafnas - because he went to great lengths to hide his greatness ["tzafnas" - the hidden one], "paneach" - he merited to decipher hidden matters.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

A Message from Heaven

[HT: Yaak]

A Tale Of Hashgacha Pratis and A Chesed Shel Emes; All The Way To The Supreme Court!

On Sunday, December 11th, Dr. Brian Grobois decided to go hiking. The 54 year old doctor, who was a psychiatrist and lived with his family in New Rochelle, loved to hike. He was in Washington State at the time because of a simcha, and he planned to wrap up his trip with a vigorous walk on the scenic and picturesque trails of Mount Rainier.

But something went terribly wrong.

Dr. Grobois lost his way during the hike, eventually succumbing to hypothermia and losing his life. His passing is, of course, a tremendous tragedy. But it is also the beginning of a remarkable story of courage, perseverance, and a burning desire to be mekayem rotzon Hashem. The heroes of the story are the niftar’s family, a Chabad Rabbi in Tacoma, Chabad Headquarters in Crown Heights, a local attorney, Gary Torgow of Detroit amongst other noted askanim across the country, and an organization called Chesed Shel Emes. The Doctor’s passing, as unfortunate and heartbreaking as it was, served as a catalyst for a powerful and dramatic tale of hashgacha pratis and Kiddush Hashem.

Continue reading at: The Yeshiva World

"This was the goal of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Zt"l  says Rabbi Heber,  "when he sent out shluchim to the far flung corners of the world. Wherever a Jew finds himself, there will always be a Chabad center nearby ready to assist in any way possible."

Alone? You're in good company

Written by Tsivya

I went to a shiur-class last night given by Rabbi Alperin. One of the things that the Rabbi said was that geula comes through loners.

Avraham, Yitzchak, Yosef, Moshe, Esther, David, Rut were all unique in that they were alone in their situation. Therefore, they cried out to HaShem and each merited to bring the geula-redemption-in their own way. And it says that at the end of days that every nation will turn away from the people of Israel. All that will be left is us and the Creator of the World.

That is why, the Rav said, at this time before Moshiach, there are so many people alone and lonely. We all need to be crying out to HaShem in order to speed the geula.

The Seven Souls [video]

The Seven Souls that correspond to the seven branches of the menorah: Rabbi Simon Jacobson

North Korea's link to Terrorism in the Middle East

While the death of North Korea’s leader in the past 17 years, Kim Jong Il, may seem like it is not connected to Israel, Attorney Nitzana Darshan-Leitner who heads the Shurat HaDin organization, reminded on Monday of the connection between North Korea and terrorism in the Middle East.

Source: Israel National News

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chanukah Sameach

It sounds so romantic in French.....
billboards across Paris, courtesy of Chabad


The Dreidel Explained

The Dreidel Players: Elena Flevora
There are four letters on the dreydel. נ - Nun, ג - Gimel, ה - Hay, and שׁ - Shin - These letters stand for "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" - "A great miracle happened there".
[In Eretz Yisrael it is a פ - Peh instead of the Shin: A great miracle happened here.]

The four letters stand for:

a) the four parts of man - Nefesh [soul], Guf [body], Seichel [intellect], HaKol [all the rest].

b) the four foundations of the world - fire, water, wind and earth

c) the four nations that put us in exile - Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome.  The four letters on the dreydel have the gematria of Moshiach [358].  This is also the gematria of Hashem is King etc. Chanukah is the season when the possibility exists for the light of Mashiach to burst forth. Then, man and the world will be restored to harmonious relationship and the last and most bitter exile of Rome will draw to a to a close, and we will see the fulfillment of the verse that Hashem will be King forever. [Bnei Yissaschar]

Chanukah and Purim have much in common. They are two holidays which will enjoy an exalted status when Mashiach comes. They were celebrations which were decreed by the Rabbis to commemorate events that took place in their time. Since the faith of the Jewish people were instrumental in bringing these holidays about, the Holidays of the Torah will pale in comparison to them, like a flashlight shining on a sunny day.

Both days have their special instrument. Purim the gregger, Chanukah the dreydel. Their use is indicative of the nature of the holiday.

Purim's gregger we hold from below to symbolize that the great Teshuva on the Jews provided an initiative from below which caused the divine initiative to bring about the miracle.

On Chanukah we use a dreydel which we hold from above to symbolize that the principle initiative for the miracle came from above, and our actions brought it to fruition.

Source: Nishmas

Korea and Rabbi Nahmani's prophecy

As the world is put on Nuclear alert as Little Kim to rule North Korea ......

North Korea last night dramatically marked the sudden death of its despot leader Kim Jong-il by firing a short range missile, putting nervous world leaders on nuclear alert.

......10Rainbow reminded me of this scary prophecy about Korea from Rabbi Levi Saadia Nahmani zt"l [check out the date on the video..... exactly 17 years ago]

Instant Salvation

"And they rushed him out of the dungeon" [Miketz 41:14]

In the Chofetz Chaim's later years, the Communist Revolution raged in Russia.  One of the aims of the wicked Communists was to stamp out any trace of Judaism from the hearts of the Jewish people.  They spared no effort at trying to achieve this goal. They mercilessly leveled harsh decrees against the Jews, and only thanks to the mercy of Heaven were Jews able to remain firm in their faith.

"Look at what the Torah states in Parshas Miketz", said the Chofetz Chaim to one of his students.  "The verse says that 'Pharoah sent [messengers] and called Yosef, and they rushed him out of the dungeon.'  For twelve years Yosef languished in prison and no one paid any attention to him.

'But when the moment that Hashem had designated for Yosef's salvation finally arrived, he was immediately rushed out of the dungeon.'

''We are in a similar situation. Our predicament appears to be hopeless: the Communist regime, in their cruelty, will stop at nothing to sever our ties with the holy Torah. Yet when Moshiach comes and our moment of redemption arrives there will be no delays and we, too, will be rushed to our Land.''

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, December 19, 2011

You're Jewish?

Yakov Jacobson was doing pre-Chanukah mivzoim [outreach] in Laguna Beach, CA, when he happened upon a familiar character who - he was surprised to find out - is a Jew! The man had never put on tefilin before, a 'Karkafta,' and Yakov helped him do the mitzvah for the first time in his life.

Source: Crown Heights Info

Chaya Mushka

Mookie Cohen, who works in a Crown Heights flower shop, is one of thousands of women named after Chaya Mushka Schneerson, the late wife of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

by Paul Berger, Forward

If in the coming weeks you happen to meet a young woman called Mushkie, here are a few things you should know:

Mushkie is probably younger than 24. She is most likely consumed with her upcoming wedding or her young children.

One more thing: “You have to say the last name when you are talking about Mushkie,” said Mushkie Bronstein, 20, “because everyone’s called Mushkie.”

Mushkie — or to give her full name, Chaya Mushka — is one of thousands of girls in the worldwide Lubavitch Hasidic community named after Chaya Mushka Schneersohn, the wife of the Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson. Born Chaya Moussia [“Mushka” is the diminutive], Schneerson died, childless, 23 years ago, on February 10, 1988 -  [22 Shvat]

In the months that followed, hundreds of Lubavitch parents named their daughters Chaya Mushka. On the first anniversary of Rebbetzin Schneerson’s death, the rebbe was presented with an album of namesakes born during the previous year — 324 Chaya Mushkas from across the world.

Mushky Duchman, born in August, 1988, in Brooklyn was among them. “The rebbe was our leader and when the rebbetzin passed away, it was the greatest thing to give back to the rebbe,” Duchman told the Forward.

During the 1990s in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where the Lubavitch movement has its world headquarters, schools were flooded with Chaya Mushkas. Duchman said that at her Beth Rivkah school in Brooklyn, about 75 of the 120 girls in her grade were called Chaya Mushka.

To differentiate themselves, these Chaya Mushkas adopted various nicknames and alternative spellings: Chaya, Chayale, Moussia, Mushkee, Mushkie, Mushky or Mookie.

Rishe Deitsch, senior editor of a Chabad women’s newsletter, said distinguishing between Chaya Mushkas at school only became a problem when cousins shared the same surname. “Then you start going by the street [they live on],” Deitsch said, “like Chaya Mushka Crown or Chaya Mushka President.”

That was no solution for teachers and classmates of Chaya Mushka Avtzon and Chaya Mushka Avtzon, first cousins who lived three doors away from each other on Crown Street, in Brooklyn.

“We always requested to be in the same class and everyone got us mixed up,” said one of the 22-year-old Avtzons who recently married and officially became Mushky Edelman.

Even today, now that one of the Avtzons has given up her maiden name, the two women still receive each other’s phone calls and text messages, or those meant for their 21-year-old cousin, Chaya Mushka Avtzon, who also lives in Crown Heights.

Mushka Katzman, 21, a classmate of the two Avtzon cousins, recalled how a teacher at the Lubavitch high school they attended avoided confusion by asking both girls to choose their favorite shape. Then each could sign off on her test paper in a different way, one with a star and one with a heart.

Every Mushkie has a story about her name being called out and a group of Mushkies turning around. Mushkee Efune said that when she was at Beth Rivkah school, in Brooklyn, older girls would call down “Mushkie” from the school’s fourth-floor windows and watch as scores of little faces in the playground turned upward.

“The older I got, the less I turned around,” said Efune, 22. “I ignored every ‘Mushkee!’ unless it was specifically for me.”

Today, like Efune, many of those little girls are starting families of their own.

Leah Gansberg, a Crown Heights matchmaker, said almost one-third of the 200 women on her list of eligible brides are Chaya Mushkas.

“The joke is, if I don’t remember the name I say, ‘Oh, it’s probably Chaya Mushka’ — and I am usually right,” said Gansberg, who has an 18-year-old daughter and three nieces called Chaya Mushka.

Even so, Gansberg added, Chaya Mushka is not as popular for girls as the name Menachem Mendel is for boys. That name became increasingly popular after the rebbe died in 1994. “In my son’s class, I would say about 90% [of the boys] are called Mendy,” Gansberg said.

There are no figures for the number of Chaya Mushkas worldwide. But the name appears to have been similarly popular overseas, at least according to Mushka Afrah, from Milan, Italy, and Mookie Cohen, of Sydney, Australia, both of whom now live in Crown Heights.

Statistics from New York State’s Department of Health, which does not record middle names, show that the popularity of the name “Chaya” surged shortly after the rebbetzin died, from about 100 girls annually during the mid-1980s to 150 girls annually during the early 1990s. It peaked in 2005 and 2006, with almost 200 girls named “Chaya” in each year.

According to Jewish tradition, two girls in the same immediate family cannot share the same name. And Crown Heights residents say neighborhood schools have only a fraction of the Chaya Mushkas today that they experienced during the 1990s. So it’s possible many of the Chayas listed on the health department’s statistics have different names, such as Chaya Rivka or Chaya Sara.

Sheina Margolis, a preschool teacher at Beth Rivkah, said of the 15 girls in her class, only two are called Chaya Mushka. But the name is the most popular among the school’s 20 or so teaching and administrative staff, almost half of whom are named Chaya Mushka.

“My daughter’s teacher is Mushkie,” Margolis said. “Next door to her is a Chayale and a Mushkie. The secretary in the office is Chaya Mushka.”

Even the school building has links to Rebbetzin Schneerson.

One month after she died, Beth Rivkah broke ground on a new 125,000-square-foot campus at 470 Lefferts Avenue, in Brooklyn. According to the school’s website, 470 is the numeric equivalent of the rebbetzin’s name. The facility is called Campus Chomesh, an acronym of the Hebrew initials Chaya Mushka Schneerson.

For most Lubavitch girls, Rebbetzin Schneerson epitomized the perfect wife: quiet, kind, selfless, modest, humble, generous, private. So private in fact that, as any Mushkie will tell you, there are very few photographs of her — a startling fact given the mountain of photos and videos of her husband.
Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka

The most ubiquitous photograph is a black-and-white image taken at a wedding in New York, in 1949. Mrs. Schneerson, wearing a floral hat perched atop a pretty face, is captured looking across a table. She has an aquiline nose, a thin upper lip and an elegantly curved jawline. Her expression is serious, as though she is listening attentively.

Every Lubavitch girl has a story about “the rebbetzin.”

There was the time a guest at the Schneerson home knocked over a drink, and to avoid embarrassing her, she knocked over her own drink, too. Or the time her driver passed a family being evicted, so Schneerson asked him to pull over. She immediately wrote a check for the rent they owed. Then there was the time she was asked by a child where her own children were, and she replied: “The Hasidim are my children.”

Perhaps her greatest act, in many young women’s eyes, was marrying Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who went on to become the seventh and last Lubavitcher rebbe.

Chaya Mushka was the daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher rebbe. If not for her marriage to Menachem Mendel Schneerson, he may never have become the rebbe. And if Chaya Mushka had not allowed him to devote almost all of his time to the Lubavitch movement, he may not have been able to create one of the fastest-growing movements in Judaism today.

“She was someone so special and she gave us the rebbe, who was the greatest leader since Moshe Rabbeinu [Moses],” Duchman said.

“It’s very special to me and to everyone who’s part of Chabad.”


Lately I've been pretty unsettled by a few things on the internet, and the reason I am unsettled is because on the one hand Torah is taught here, and I feel some kind of responsibility to keep things real.  But on the other hand, this is a Geula blog, and therefore I link to some blogs predicting doom and disaster for all of us, as that's all part of the Chevlei Moshiach.  

But ..... I personally do not believe that all Jews need to make Aliyah.... I was taught that when Moshiach comes, the entire world will be Israel. Reading the never-ending horror predictions for all of us in the diaspora is not very uplifting, and yet we've heard it all before many times.  

So I've uploaded a Poll asking whether I should continue to link to blogs predicting disaster for the Jews in the diaspora - with statements such as: "In the diaspora, protection over the Jews has ceased!" -  I need to know what you all think.  If you have any further comments to make on all of this, please leave them here.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Dreams of the Future

There is a type of grace ["Chein"] that enables a person to see the future a dreams. If someone has this grace, he can ask for a vision and perceive the future in a dream.

The Talmud teaches us "Just as grain cannot exist without chaff, so dreams cannot exist without nonsense."

Dreams contain predictions of the future, but they are intertwined with much worthless chaff.

There is also the clear dream of the prophet, regarding which it is written [Num. 12:6] "I will speak to him in a dream."  This is the dream of the person who has grace.

Such a person can also predict the future through the dreams of another. When he hears the other's dream, the worthless chaff falls away and only the clear vision falls upon his ears. Yosef had such grace. He is called "A fruitful son by the fountain". Rashi explains that his fruitfulness was that of grace. He therefore had accurate dreams and was able to interpret and make use of them. They are also included in the Torah.

The Torah also teaches us that Yosef had a unique ability in interpreting dreams.

Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom - by Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov

Friday, December 16, 2011

Have We Betrayed G-d? Has G-d Betrayed Us?

A Yud Tes Kislev and Chanukah Drama

By: Rabbi YY Jacobson

Today, the 19th of the Hebrew month of Kislev, we commemorate the “Rosh Hashanah” for Chassidism. The day when Rabbi Schnuer Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), the founder of Chabad, known as the Alter Rebbe, was liberated from prison, is the day when we celebrate the gift of Chassidism.

What is the essence of Chassidism? And how can it make our lives more meaningful today?

It can be captured through a narrative in this week’s portion (1),where we read about the unconventional union that transpired between Judah, the son of Jacob, and his daughter-in-law Tamar, who disguised herself as a harlot.

The Judah-Tamar Drama
It is a fascinating story: Judah has three sons, Er, Onan and Shalah. His oldest son, Er, married a woman named Tamar, but died prematurely, without children. His bereft father, Judah, suggested to his second son, Onan: "Consort with your brother's wife and enter into levirate marriage with her, and establish offspring for your brother."

Here, we are introduced, for the first time, to the concept of levirate marriages, discussed later in the book of Deuteronomy:"When brothers live together, and one of them dies childless, the wife of the deceased man shall not marry outside to a strange man; her brother-in-law shall come to her, and take her to himself as a wife, and perform levirate marriage. The first-born son whom she bears will then perpetuate the name of the dead brother, so that his name will not be obliterated from Israel."

One of the great biblical commentators, Nachmanides, writes that this mitzvah embodies "one of the great mysteries of the Torah" and that even before the Torah was given, people knew of the spiritual benefits of a levirate marriage. The biblical commentators explain that the child born of the union between the brother of the dead man and his former wife -- both of whom are intimately connected with the deceased man -- is considered the spiritual son of the deceased. Moreover, the Kabbalists suggest that the first-born child of the levirate marriage is a reincarnation of the soul of its other's first husband, bringing the deceased man, as it were, back to life.

So Judah suggested to his second son Onan to marry his brother's widow and perpetuate the legacy of the deceased brother.

Now, Judah's second son also died prematurely without having any children. Judah refused to allow her to marry his third son, Shalah. Which put her in an impossible situation: she could not go out and marry anyone else, because she was bound to Shalah, but her father in law would not allow her to marry Shalah.

Now, during those early times prior to the giving of Torah, Nachmanides explains other relatives, in addition to brothers, used to carry out this obligation of levirate marriages. Thus, following the death of both of Tamar's husbands, she went and lured her former-father-in-law, Judah, into a relationship with her which impregnated her. As a guarantee that he would pay her for the relationship, Judah gave Tamar his seal, cord (2) and staff. "Some three months passed," the Torah relates (3), "and Judah was told, 'your daughter-in-law Tamar has committed harlotry, and moreover, she has become pregnant by harlotry.'" "Take her out and have her burned," said Judah.

"When she was being taken out, she sent word to her father-in-law, saying, 'I am pregnant by the man who is the owner of these articles. Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, this cord and this staff?' "Judah immediately recognized them, and he said, 'She is right; it is from me [that she has conceived]. She did it because I did not give her to my son Shelah.'"

A Spiritual Story
It is axiomatic among all of the Jewish biblical commentators that the stories in the Torah are not just tales relating ancient Jewish history. They also reflect spiritual timeless experiences that take place continually within the human soul. In his commentary on the book of Genesis, Nachmanides wrote: "The Torah discusses the physical reality, but it alludes to the world of the spirit (4)."

What follows, therefore, in this week's essay, is a classical Chassidic interpretation on the episode of Judah and Tamar, treating the story as symbolic of the inner spiritual life of the Jew.

Betrayal and Its Consequences
In the writings of the kabbalah, the name Judah, or Yehudah, containing within it the four letters of the name of Hashem, symbolizes G-d. Tamar, on the other hand, is the Hebrew name for a palm tree, and represents the Jewish people and their bond with G-d (5).

Why? The Talmud explains (6), that "just as the palm tree has but one 'heart,' so too do the Jewish people have only a single heart, devoted completely to their Father in heaven."

(The heart of the date palm is its sap. Unlike the saps of other trees, like the alive or almond tree, the sap of the palm is found only in its trunk, but not in its branches or leaves.  This is the meaning behind the Talmudic statement that the palm tree possesses only a single "heart" (7)).

The intimate union between Tamar and Judah - the Jew and G-d - occurs during the sacred days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During those days, G-d, or Judah, exposes Himself to His people, evoking within them a yearning to transcend their ego and self-centered cravings and to become one with G-d.

But then, some time passes, and the spiritual inspiration of the High Holy days wears off. Judah is informed that "Tamar, your Kallah (8), has committed harlotry, and moreover, she has become pregnant by harlotry." The news arrives to G-d that His bride has betrayed Him, substituting him with another partner.

Is this not the story of so many of us? At one point during our lives we are inspired to transcend our selfish identity and connect to the deeper Divine rhythm of life. Yet, the cunning lore of numerous other gods captivates our imaginations and ambitions and dulls our vision. We substituted the G-d of truth and transcendence with the ego-god, the power-god, the money-god, the temptation-god, the addiction-god, the manipulation-god and the god of self-indulgence.

What is even sadder for Judah is the news that "Tamar" is so estranged that she became pregnant by harlotry. This symbolizes the stage in life when the Jew rejects the G-d of his forefathers permanently and decides to build his future with superficial sources of gratification.

"Take her out and have her burned," says Judah. The purpose of the Jew is to serve as the spiritual compass of human civilization, to bear witness to the truth of the One G-d, the moral conscious of the world. When the Jew loses sight of the raison d'être of his existence, when he believes that his salvation lies in the fact that he "was invited to the White House," or that he was praised in an editorial of The New York Times, his existence is useless.

The Truth Emerges
Rabbi Isaac Luryah wrote that "the judgment that began on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is completed some three months later, during the days of Chanukah." That's why it is at this period of time - three months after the intimate union between Judah and Tamar - that Judah (the metaphor for G-d) is "informed" regarding the spiritual status of Tamar (the Jewish people) and the verdict is issued that Tamar has no future.

"When Tamar was being taken out, she sent word to Judah, saying, 'I am pregnant by the man who is the owner of these articles. Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, cord and staff?'"

During that fateful time, when the "prosecuting angels" have almost been successful in demonstrating to G-d that the Jewish people are a failed experiment, at that very moment, the Jew sends word to G-d, saying, "I am pregnant by the man who is the owner of these articles!" The information you received that I abandoned you, is a blatant lie! If I have gone astray here and there, it is merely a superficial, temporary phase. Gaze into the deeper layers of my identity and you will discover that I belong to You, that my intimacy is shared only with You, G-d. "I am pregnant from Judah and not from anybody else!" the Jew declares.

"Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, cord and staff?" For during the festival of Chanukah - when the judgment of Rosh Hashanah is finalized -- the Jew kindles each night a wick, or a cord, soaked in oil, commemorating the event of the Jews discovering a sealed single cruse of oil after the Greeks had plundered the holy Temple in Jerusalem (9).

The Jew further points to the staff in his arm (10). In order to preserve his faith, he was forced time and time again - for 2000 years - to take the wandering staff in his arm, abandon his home, wealth and security, and seek out new territory where he could continue to live as a Jew.

"Identify, I beg you, these objects. Who is the owner of this seal, cord and staff?" the Jew asks G-d. "It is to this man that I am pregnant!" Our loyalty and commitment remain eternally to the owner of the "seal" and "cord" of the Chanukah flames; our deepest intimacy is reserved to the owner of the "staff" of Jewish wandering.

Who Is the Traitor?
"Judah immediately recognized the articles, and he said, "She is right; it is from me that she conceived. She did it because I did not give her to my son Shelah."

When G-d observes the burning flames of the Chanukah menorah, He immediately recognizes that indeed, His people have never left Him. True, the Jew does fall prey at times to the dominating external forces of a materialistic and immoral world, yet this enslavement is skin deep. Probe the layers of his or her soul and you will discover an infinite wellspring of spirituality and love.

"If the Jew has, in fact, gone astray here and there, it is my fault," G-d says, not his. "Because I did not give Tamar to my son Shelah."Shelah is the Biblical term used to describe Moshiach (11),the leader who will usher in the final redemption. G-d says that for two millennia I have kept the Jewish nation in a dark and horrific exile where they have been subjected to horrendous pain and savage suffering. Blood, tears and death have been their tragic fate for twenty centuries, as they prayed, each day and every moment, for world redemption. But redemption has not come.

How can I expect that a Jew never commit a sin? How can I expect that a Jew never try to cast his luck with the materialistic world about him that seems so appealing, when I held back for so long the light of Moshiach?

"It is I, G-d, who is guilty of treason," G-d says. Not the Jew. Tamar is an innocent, beautiful palm-tree, which still has only one heart to its Father in heaven.

This, then, is what Chassidism taught: A Jew is a child of G-d. A Jew is a prince. A Jew is the holiest of the holy. A Jew is truly one with G-d. And even when you look at yourself in the mirror and you feel disloyal, the truth is that your ultimate loyalty remains to G-d, to truth, to holiness, to purity.

To post a comment on this article, or to view the footnotes, please click here

Why Bother?

R' Yechiel Meir Lifshitz of Gostynin once rebuked a store owner for exploiting the poor and unfortunate people that resided in his town. Instead of showing them mercy, he cruelly charged exorbitant prices for his goods.

R' Lifshitz said to him: "What you are doing is hinted to in a verse. The Torah states: "What gain [betza] will there be if we kill our brother?" [Vayeishev 37:26].

"The acronym of the word "betza" is boker [morning], tzaharayim [afternoon] and erev [evening] - the three periods of the day when a Jew is required to pray to Hashem.

"Now tell me" concluded R' Lifshitz, "mah betza" - why bother [praying three times a day] - "if we kill our brother" - if at the same time we are busy cruelly exploiting our poor and needy brethren."

Source: Rabbi Y. Bronstein

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Rebbe Nachman said that repentance helps for all sins.

True repentance involves never repeating the sin.

"You must return to the same place where you sinned, and put yourself in the same situation, and let the temptation stand before your eyes. When you can do this, and not repeat the sin, then you have broken the evil urge and have truly repented."

And he forgot

''Yet the chief wine butler did not remember Yosef, and he forgot him'' [Vayeishev 40:23]

This verse seems redundant, noted the Maharam of Amshinov.  Why must it state that ''he forgot'' since it already informed us that ''the chief wine butler did not remember Yosef''?

The Rebbe answered: As soon as Yosef uttered his request to the chief wine butler he realized that he had sinned, as he had trusted in a human being instead of Hashem.  He therefore prayed to Hashem that the butler would forget his request entirely! And, indeed, ''he forgot him''.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Yud Tes Kislev: The Rosh Hashanah of Chassidus

The Alter Rebbe - Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi author of The Tanya
The 18th of Kislev [today] marks the completion of the annual cycle of daily readings from the Tanya. The 19th and 20th of Kislev are the "Rosh HaShanah of Chassidus".

On Yud-Tes Kislev we re-commence the annual cycle of daily readings in Tanya, as divided by the Rebbe Rayatz.

It is the anniversary of the release of the Alter Rebbe - Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi [Hebrew: שניאור זלמן מליאדי], the first Rebbe of Chabad, who was informed upon by misnagdim in Russia and arrested on trumped-up charges of supporting the Ottoman Empire.

His informers pointed to the fact that he would urge his followers to send money to the Land of Israel as "evidence" of his alleged insurrectionist aspirations [in fact, the money was sent to support poor Jews]. At the time, the Land of Israel was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which was at war with Russia.

Rabbi Shneur Zalman was charged with treason, and released in the secular year 1798 on the Jewish date of Tuesday, 19 Kislev.

The 53 days of Rabbi Shneur Zalman's imprisonment are said to correspond to the 53 chapters of the first section of the Tanya.

19 Kislev is also considered to mark the day upon which Rabbi Shneur Zalman was conceived, for he was born exactly nine months later, on 18 Elul. [Shemu'os Vesippurim, Refoel Kahn, vol. 1, p. 39]

Rebbetzin Menuchah Rachel born [1798]

On the very day that Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was liberated from prison, a granddaughter was born to him -- the daugher of his son Rabbi Dovber and his wife Rebbetzin Sheina. The girl was named Menuchah Rachel -- "Menuchah", meaning "tranquility" [Rachel was the name of a daughter of Rabbi Schneur Zalman who died in her youth].

In 1845, Rebbetzin Menuchah Rachel realized her lifelong desire to live in the Holy Land when she and her husband, Rabbi Yaakov Culi Slonim [d. 1857], led a contingent of Chassidim who settled in Hebron. Famed for her wisdom, piety and erudition, she served as the matriarch of the Chassidic community in Hebron until her passing in her 90th year in 1888.
The 19th of Kislev is also the yahrzeit of R. DovBer, the Maggid of Mezritch, who [as successor to the Baal Shem Tov] was the mentor of the second generation of the chassidic movement - from 5521 [1761] until his passing on the third day of the week of Parshas Vayeishev, Yud-Tes Kislev, 5533 [1772]. His resting place is in Anipoli.

Rabbi Dov Ber was born in Volhynia in 1710, according to the Jewish Encyclopedia, though other sources say his year of birth is unknown. Little is known about him before he became a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov. A Hasidic legend states that, when he was five years old, his family home burst into flames. On hearing his mother weeping, he asked: "Mother, do we have to be so unhappy because we have lost a house?" She replied that she was mourning the family tree, which was destroyed, and had begun with Rabbi Yohanan, the sandal-maker and master in the Talmud. The boy replied: "And what does that matter! I shall get you a new family tree which begins with me!"

How aptly those words described the role he was later to play; for the boy was destined to become the successor to the Baal Shem Tov.

Source: Chabad