Monday, April 30, 2012

No Defence

"For the people who were in the land before you committed all these abominable acts, and the land thus became defiled" [Acharei Mos 18:27]

The Rema [R' Moshe Isserles] explained this verse by way of a parable: A father purchased an expensive and beautiful garment for his beloved son. The son, however, was not careful with the garment and he soiled it.

If the son had been careful not to sit in a dirty area, he could have defended himself before his father with the claim that the garment was so fine and delicate that it stained easily, and he should therefore not be held accountable.

But since the son sat in an area that was so muddy and full of dirt that even a coarse and inexpensive garment would have been stained, he has absolutely no way of excusing himself.

The same thing applies to the Jewish people, said the Rema. The Jewish nation is Hashem's precious and only son, blessed with souls so fine and delicate that even the slightest sin is capable of leaving a stain. They can therefore claim before Hashem that it is the soul's delicate nature that is responsible for its stain.

But if the Jewish people commit sins that are so severe that they are capable of contaminating even unrefined nations - as the verse states "For the people who were in the land before you committed all these abominable acts, and the land thus became defiled" - then they will have absolutely no way of defending themselves before their Father in Heaven.

Source: Rabbi Y. Bronstein

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Obama at the 2012 White House Correspondents' Dinner [video]

Barack Obama: The American Idol

It's all a Game for him, and the American people laugh along with him, and will no doubt vote for him again, as they have obviously lost the capacity to distinguish between real life and a reality TV show.

The World of Sheker, totally revealed - just a shame that so many can't see it.

Source: Yahoo


Holy Names

If they say, "Come along, and we will give you the Names and incantations which can be practically employed," do not go along with them, my son. Keep your feet from following their path, for those Names and their application are really a trawl for catching souls that will only be led to ruin. [Divine Names Like Holy Keys]

Using Holy Names

The Mishnah in Pirkei Avot [Chapter 1, Mishnah 13] states: “He [Hillel] would say: Whoever does not add shall be gathered, whoever does not learn is worthy of death, and whoever uses the crown shall pass.”

Rabbeinu Ovadia of Bartenura explains the phrase “And whoever uses the crown shall pass” refers to one who uses the crown of Torah, the punishment for which is passing away from this world. He then writes as follows: “Additionally, I have heard that the term “using the crown” refers to one who uses Hashem’s ineffable name, the punishment for which is passing on and being lost from the world, i.e. losing one’s share in the World to Come.” This refers to individuals who have learned from the books of the Mekubalim how to use the holy names of Hashem in order to perform supernatural occurrences; such people have no share in the World to Come.

Maran Harav Shlit”a has mentioned an incident related to this topic recorded in the Sefer Mitzvot Katan [Mitzvah 3] who writes that once Rabbeinu Yehuda HaChassid warned his students not to attend the wedding of a certain friend of theirs, for there were bandits on the way and he was concerned that harm would befall them. These students did not heed his warning, for they were well-versed in the holy names and if any harm would befall them, they would immediately be saved by using these names. This is indeed what happened: Robbers attacked them and tried to murder them and steal all of their belongings at which point they uttered Hashem’s ineffable name and the bandits fell dead.

Upon returning home after being saved, Rabbeinu Yehuda HaChassid chided them: “What have you done?! You have lost your shares in the World to Come! Your only option is to repent fully and return to that particular place where you were attacked and this time, do not utter Hashem’s name and let yourselves be killed.” Indeed, these students did so and were killed. This story is utterly astounding, for it is completely forbidden for one to go to a dangerous place. Not only does it seem that returning to the dangerous place a second time does not serve as atonement for their sin, it seems that they transgressed another prohibition by giving up their lives for this!

The Tashbetz [Rabbeinu Shimon bar Tzemach, one of the great Rishonim] addresses this question in his commentary on Masechet Berachot [5b] and asks that if going to such a place involved actual danger, what kind of repentance is performing another prohibition? He answers that since the main point of repentance is for one to encounter the same situation he was in when he originally sinned and to overcome himself and not sin this time around, they therefore had no other choice but to return to the same place in order to pass the test that they were unable to previously. Maran Harav Shlit”a questions this idea, for in any event, it is still quite difficult to understand how they were permitted to return to that specific place since the Torah states, “And he [man] shall live by them [the commandments of the Torah]” and not die as a result of them, for a man cannot give up his life for something like this!

Nothing stands in the way of full repentance and as long as they could not encounter the same situation again, their repentance process is comprised of only remorse and an acceptance never again to return to this sin; actually encountering the same test will be unnecessary. Maran Shlit”a leaves this question unanswered.

This story is also especially surprising, for even when they returned to the place where the bandits were a second time, it seems that they should have uttered Hashem’s ineffable name once again to save themselves from certain death as nothing stands in the way of a life-threatening situation. Indeed, Maran HaChida records in his diary that once, an Arab met him on a forsaken path and wished to kill him and since he was left with no choice, he preempted him and uttered Hashem’s name and killed him first. Without a doubt, this is because one may use the name of Hashem in a life-threatening situation. Thus, we must seriously delve into the story mentioned by the Sefer Mitzvot Katan in order to understand the basis for the ruling of Rabbeinu Yehuda HaChassid.

In any case, this teaches us the severity of using what is commonly referred to as “Practical Kabbalah,” for even if there are individuals nowadays who may know how to use holy names for medical purposes and the like, one should abstain from consulting such witch-doctors who may appear to be Mekubalim and mystical people. One who cherishes his soul should distance himself from such individuals who present themselves as Mekubalim when the extent of their integrity and righteousness is in serious question [“Babas”]. Even if in truth they do possess some knowledge about holy names, it is reasonable to say that they are causing great damage by using these names, for this is not child’s play that immediately upon reciting a specific holy name the sick person will be healed immediately; we are dealing with a deep and complex issue and whoever has only slight knowledge of this issue will end up causing much more damage that good. This is besides for his great punishment and wickedness for his sin of profaning the name of Hashem in order to raise his own name.

If an individual requires a blessing for a certain salvation, he should seek out true Torah scholars who are the true authorities of Torah whom people respect and whose teachings and paths are logical and understandable, for their prayers will surely be heard by Hashem. Whoever cleaves to them and fears them is tantamount to cleaving to Hashem’s holy presence; praiseworthy is he and his lot.

Source: HalachaYomit
HT: Yaak

Friday, April 27, 2012

Harmless Gossip

Judaism considers gossip a serious transgression. But what is the definition of gossip? Is it only malicious slander that is harmful to another, or can it even be a casual, harmless comment that is negative?

One morning after prayers in the Synagogue of the holy Baal Shem Tov, two men had a disagreement. Out of frustration, one of them threatened to tear his adversary to pieces, and with that the dispute ended. The Baal Shem Tov called together some of his closest disciples, and using a mystical strategy, showed them a spiritual vision that caused the students to scream from fright. They witnessed (on a metaphysical level) the man carrying out his threat and tearing apart his friend.

In Jewish sources, the human being is defined as "the communicator". The mystics explain that communication goes to the very core of our existence and that the words we utter release a powerful force into the universe. Every time we speak, we create a new reality that has a tangible affect on those around us.

Saying something seemingly harmless but negative about someone else creates a flow of negative energy that can inflict damage upon that human being. It is for this reason the Talmud states that evil talk kills three people: the speaker, the listener and the one who is spoken of.

The good news is that the same is true in the reverse. Positive talk has great results. When we verbalize sentiments of optimism, hope and encouragement, we make a tangible difference even before anything happens.

A 14th century sage once wrote: Before you speak, you are the master over your words. After you speak, your words are master over you.

Speech is a powerful gift given to us humans - use it well.

Don't Blame God

Video: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz talks to The Washington Post about free will, and why we should not be blaming God for our mistakes.

Two Birds

Then the kohen shall order, and the person to be cleansed shall take two live, clean birds, a cedar stick, a strip of crimson [wool], and hyssop. [Metzora 14:4]

Rashi explains that since tzara'as comes about because of lashon hara, the person being purified must bring two birds, for birds ''constantly twitter with chirping sounds''.

The Talmud Yerushalmi [Berachos 1:2] cites the words of R' Shimon bar Yochai:  ''If I would have been standing on Har Sinai at the time the Torah was given to the Jewish people, I would have requested before Hashem that He create two mouths for man.  One mouth would be for the purpose of toiling in Torah study, and the second would be for the purpose of allowing him to speak about his ordinary needs.''

Later, R' Shimon bar Yochai changed his mind, and he said:  ''If the world cannot withstand man's slander when he has only one mouth, how much more so would this be the case if he had two mouths.''

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Power of Words

Pharris Art
This shall be the law of the person afflicted with tzara'ath, on the day of his cleansing: he shall be brought to the kohen. [Metzora 14:2]

People have a tendency to make light of the sin of loshon hara, said the Dubno Maggid.  They say to themselves:  ''What are mere words? I am not harming my friend in any way by simply speaking about him.''

The Torah therefore requires that the metzora be brought to the Kohen, in order for him to witness what man's speech is capable of doing.  With one word, the Kohen defines the status of the metzora, making him either pure or impure - such is the power of man's words!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

''No Fear'' Video Goes Viral

Hard hitting video on Iranian threat to U.S. goes viral, is featured on Fox News.

A hard hitting video that focuses on the Iranian threat to the U.S. is a hit on the Internet, garnering over 2.3 million views in less than a week. Created and narrated by Ari Abramowitz and Jeremy Gimpel of, the video's message is that while Iran poses a mortal threat to the U.S. and the West, fear is paralyzing Westerners and preventing them from dealing rationally with the problem.

Read more: Israel National News    [HT: Moriah]


Iran Preparing for ''Last Six Months''

Source says leaders expect attack that will usher in 'messiah' 

Despite the recent declaration by Iran that it does not want a nuclear bomb and statements by regime officials that they are willing to negotiate over the nuclear issue, indications from within Iran signal massive preparation for an all-out war as part of its destiny.

Nine years ago a Revolutionary Guards arm, the Holy Defense, published a book, “The Last Six Months,” in which it describes the conditions needed in the last six months prior to the reappearance of the last Islamic messiah. The book was distributed in the hundreds of thousands to all Guards, Basij and army bases throughout the country.

Islam’s Shiites believe their 12th Imam, Mahdi, will reappear at the end of times and kill all the infidels, raising the flag of Islam in all four corners of the world.

The book admonishes the military forces that they must be prepared to do their duties during those six months and that there will be many signs to help the faithful to understand the transition, which will center on Iran.

The book, which relies on Islamic hadiths by the Prophet Mohammad and his descendants from centuries ago, describes the 9/11 attacks and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq as signs that the time is near. But it also prophesies much more significant signs that would launch the six-month time frame for the reappearance of Mahdi: an attack on Syria and then an attack on Iran. 

Both those events are looking increasingly likely as Syria’s Bashar al-Assad continues to murder his own people and Iran continues its quest for nuclear weapons.

Mahdi will only reappear, Shiites believe, when Israel is destroyed and the U.S. is brought to its knees; two-thirds of the world’s population will die in a nuclear exchange, and with this chaos and havoc engulfing the earth, the “coming” will unfold.

 Continue reading at: WND

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

The Day of Seven Judgments

The days of our lives are seventy years, if with special strength, eighty years; most of them are troubled, and then they are cut.....  [Psalms 90:10]

The day of one's death is one's personal Day of Judgment, when one's deeds, both good and evil, are scrutinized. The Zohar [II, 199b] teaches that it is a day of seven judgments:

1. The actual death

2. Announcement of one's deeds, whether good or evil

3. Placement in the grave

4. The judgment of the grave

5. The decaying of the body

6. Gehennom

7. The interval before the soul is completely purified

The Arizal teaches that these various judgments are not intended as punishments so much as they are meant to cleanse a person from sin. Thus, Gehennom - and reincarnation, when it is imposed - are means by which one's sins are purged. Death, too, is an integral part of this cleansing process.

The accounting system which G-d uses when drawing up our final balance sheet is far beyond the level of man's understanding. In His unfathomable mercy, G-d adds to the credit column all mitigating circumstances - one's upbringing, environment, financial resources and so on. Nevertheless, the judgment is real: we are held fully accountable. The main question that we must answer is : Have I tried hard enough?

Reb Nosson writes that a person's most important advocate for mercy on the day of judgment is the "will factor", the degree to which he or she wanted spirituality. If our will was strong throughout life, even if we were remiss, our credit is greatly increased. This does not imply that a weak effort can suffice. "I just couldn't do it" is not an acceptable excuse. Reb Nosson's "will factor" involves making every possible effort. If our efforts prove unsuccessful, then what are we to do? We must try again and again and again. As Rebbe Nachman used to say: "Gevalt! Never give up!"

Source: from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
adapted by Chaim Kramer

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Metzora: The Power of Speech

Rav Kook on the Torah Portion 

Only in Israel 
What is the root cause for the disease of tzara'at as described in the Torah? The Midrash explains that this skin disease is a punishment for gossip and slander. A person suffering from tzara'at is called a metzora because he is motzee sheim ra — he spreads derogatory reports [Vayikra Rabbah 16:1. See Rambam, Hilchot Tzara'at 16:15, that one fulfills the mitzvah "Be careful regarding tzara'at" [Deut. 24:8-9] by avoiding gossip].

Given that tzara'at is brought about by slander, one would expect that all peoples would be afflicted, since even non-Jews are culpable for personal damages. Yet, Maimonides wrote that tzara'at is not a natural phenomenon, but a unique sign found only among the people of Israel. Why should only the Jewish people suffer from this ailment?

Divine Speech 
There are two levels of speech. There is everyday speech, based on and limited to that which occurs in the physical universe. And there is a higher form of speech, a holy speech that God bestowed to Israel. This elevated speech does not come from the world. On the contrary, the world comes from it. This is the speech by which God created the world. "By the word of God, the heavens were made; and by the breath of His mouth, all of their host" [Psalms 33:6].

God granted us the power of His speech, this speech that preceded the world, when He gave us the Torah, the blueprint of creation. "He looked in the Torah and created the universe" [Zohar Terumah 161b]. The transmission of Divine speech to the Jewish people is hinted in the verse, "I put my speech in your mouth... to plant the heavens and lay the foundations of the earth" [Isaiah 51:16].

Redemption of Speech 
The Kabbalists explained that the Hebrew name for Passover, Pesach, is a combination of the words peh sach — 'the mouth speaks.' The redemption from Egypt, which paved the way for the Torah's revelation at Sinai, also redeemed the faculty of speech. For this reason, Passover is commemorated with an oral mitzvah, the mitzvah to retell the story of the Exodus. And we find that Moses, aware of this aspect of the redemption from Egypt, tried to disqualify himself by protesting, "I am not a man of speech" [Ex. 4:10].

In an essay entitled ' The Redemption of Speech,' Rav Kook wrote: "Sometimes we can sense the connection between our speech and the universe. This is the initial step to redeem speech from its exile."

"As the soul is elevated, we become acutely aware of the tremendous power that lies in our faculty of speech. We recognize clearly the tremendous significance of each utterance; the value of our prayers and blessings, the value of our Torah study, and of all of our discourse. We learn to perceive the overall impact of speech. We sense the change and great stirring of the world that is caused by speech." [Orot HaKodesh vol III, p. 285] 

Two Mouths 
The most striking expression of the difference between these two levels of speech is the remarkable statement of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai: "Had I been present at Mount Sinai, I would have requested that God create us with two mouths. One mouth to speak in words of Torah, and one mouth for all of our mundane needs." [Jerusalem Talmud Berachot 1:2]

We may lack a mouth specially dedicated to Torah and prayer, but we can still deepen our awareness of the extraordinary nature of holy speech. At the start of the morning prayers, we recite a wonderful kavanah: "I hereby prepare my mouth to thank and praise my Creator." With this short declaration, we prepare ourselves to employ our mouth for a totally different form of speech. We prepare ourselves to use the sublime speech that is rooted in the source of Divine wisdom. Since this discourse comes from the elevated speech used to create the universe, our prayers have the ability to influence the world and change its course [Olat Re'iyah vol. I, p. 192].

With this appreciation for the power of holy speech, we may understand why tzara'at only afflicts the Jewish people. Our faculty of speech, based on the Divine speech that transcends the universe, can influence the world for good and for bad. When we misuse this great power, we damage the world and are held responsible. The affliction of tzara'at — and the process of purifying oneself from it — comes to repair this wrong. The verbal communication of other nations, however, comes from within the physical universe. Since it lacks the power of elevated speech, they are not punished for its misuse. [Adapted from Mo'adei HaRe'iyah, pp. 295-296]

Source: Rav Kook Torah

Friday, April 20, 2012

Obama Officially Ineligible !!

US President Barack Obama released a long form version of his birth certificate after extended criticism by those who do not believe he was born in the United States. Now his lawyers have been forced to admit it was a fake! Photo credit: Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

A crushing situation is emerging for, not only Barack Obama, but also for the American people as a landmark statement has been made by the Obama administration that is going to turn the entire 2012 Presidential race and potentially much more on its head.

 Lawyers representing the current sitting President of the United States of America have been forced, under penalty of perjury, to admit that the long-form birth certificate presented by the White House in April of 2011 is a total forgery.

In a NJ ballot access eligibility case spawned by Tea Party activists, attorneys representing Obama had to admit the document presented to the American people by Obama himself is actually knowingly faked and was used to fool the American public into believing a complete fabrication.

Continue reading at The Examiner

The Healing Powers of Rabbi Mendel Marozow

Rabbi Mendel Marozow, a Crown Heights Lubavitcher, speaks to COLlive about his "intuitive powers" used by thousands - including rabbis and mashpiim, and why he kept them secret for years.

By A. Bakaleynik for COLLive

R' Mendel, how did you discover these "intuitive" or "empathic" healing powers? 
For many years, my wife and I had no children. We went to all kinds of doctors, including highly recommended experts on alternative medicine. A homeopath noticed I could sense the effects of the remedies he was suggesting, and asked whether I could sense details about him and his family. With great reluctance, I described what came to mind, and he said I was right on target.

How did you feel about it? 
I was the biggest skeptic! I come from a rational, intellectual background. But I began to see it was true; I really could discern things about people, feel the root of their problems and how they might be helped.

Did you notice this ability before? 
Actually, throughout my life, I seemed to pick up on people's moods or feel their aches and pains, without realizing what it was. I didn't realize it was the states of other people that I was experiencing. I thought it was me.

That must have been strange... 
It was indeed confusing. I understood various situations intuitively, but learned not to talk about it, because others laughed at me: How could a youngster know things that required real life experience? So I learned to keep my mouth shut.

When did you start actually developing this talent, instead of hiding it? 
That homeopath asked for my help in order to get a better reading of some of his clients. Sometimes he asked me to use my energy to "deliver" a remedy to them.

How does this work in practice? 
When I "tune in" to people, I sense things about them. I might see an image, or actual words run through my mind. Sometimes I just "know" something – I have no idea from where. For instance, I may see a place or object, or feel some emotion.

What sort of problems can you help? 
I've helped with all sorts of problems: health, emotional issues, shalom bayis, chinuch, parnassa and business decisions, and many shidduchim issues. Of course, if it's a serious health issue, I tell them to visit a doctor, as well.

When you get a call, how do you approach the issue? 
My approach is two-fold: First, I ask the person to describe his or her problem in brief. Then I "tune in" to see what might be causing it. Even if it's a health issue, sometimes it has a psychological or emotional basis.

Can't you tell automatically what the problem is? 
I could, in theory, but people may have several issues, and it's best when they tell me which one to focus on. Also, using intuition requires mental energy, which I would rather save for addressing the problem itself.

What comes next? 
After identifying the source of a problem, I get a sense of how to fix it.

And how do you fix it? What do you do in actuality? 
It can be any of a few options. It could be as simple as recommending a change in routine or advice that an outsider might think of commonsense. Often I feel something is wrong in the tefilin or mezuzos, so I advise getting them checked by an expert sofer. Or I focus energy on a problem to correct it.

A spiritual technique? 
No. I don't feel that my intuition itself is ruchnius and never did any training or took any courses or studied "healing." Rather it's an ability to "pick up" and understand reality, like radio waves traveling to a cell phone – definitely something physical, not spiritual. Various themes discussed in Chassidus may make this easier to understand, but the actual ability is not necessarily spiritual.

Have you had Halachic concerns? 
I have asked Rabbonim whether I may use this ability and talent. Those of them familiar with the concept told me I'm allowed to use it, especially in order to help people. However, I try to keep away from sensing the future, as that can get complicated from a Halachic point of view.

Do you have reservations about giving advice on what to do about serious matters? 
Naturally, dealing with serious personal issues is a huge responsibility, and I can't honestly accept responsibility for people's life decisions. I can only ask leading questions, give suggestions and encouragement, and hope to point people in a good direction.

For example, a client once traveled overseas, where he checked out certain properties with an eye to investment. He called me – giving the places nicknames, because I don't need addresses – and I told him something bothered me about one property, which seemed to be on the border between neighborhoods. My client returned to check on it in the evening and discovered that, although it was in a good neighborhood, it was close to a bad one, and at night it became a noisy hangout, with music blasting and neighbors complaining the noise disturbed their sleep. When he told me about another place, I felt it to be full of sunshine, with young couples moving in, a neighborhood that was up and coming. He found that too to be true.

But wouldn't anyone with real estate buying experience have noticed all that? 
Indeed, and many of my ideas turn out to be plain common sense. The difference is that for an expert in the field it's common sense, while with me it's pure intuition. Besides, that investor lived far from those places, so he wouldn't have time to check them thoroughly. He might have missed the clues, so he was glad he had asked me.

How many people have approached you for advice? 
Over the 10 years I've been doing this, I've probably had thousands of cases, including thousands involving tefilin and mezuzos. I have helped many, many members of the worldwide Lubavitcher community, as anyone can ascertain by asking around. My clients have included prominent rabbonim from communities around the world and mashpiim. Rabbi Manis Friedman, for example, has referred people to me.

How much time do you spend with clients? 
Usually it's up to the individual. Some need just a few minutes, especially if they get straight to the point and immediately follow my advice, in which case they soon see results. Others need more time, particularly if they don't immediately follow my advice, in which case they'll keep coming back. I also work over the phone, which adds a layer of privacy and helps people feel more at ease. After discussing the problem with them, I may continue thinking about them, sending them "energy" to help with the problem. At the beginning of Likutei Diburim, the Rebbe RaYYaTz explains that thinking about someone can help him.

What is your success rate? 
Boruch Hashem, I have been blessed with abundant success. I've never taken the time to measure it in exact numbers, but great numbers of people feel they have been helped and their problems resolved. The fact that I get many referrals from previous clients is the best testimony.

Can you give examples of your success? 
I have hundreds of stories, some of them really amazing.
A teenager once told me his ankle gave him constant severe pain, for which he needed an operation. From across the table, I focused energy on him for a few minutes, and he told me the pain was getting less and less, until it disappeared. When I met him a year later, he told me the pain had never returned, and he no longer needed any operation.

At a L'chaim [engagement party], I had a farbrengen with some bochurim. One mentioned that he suffered from gout, which caused him constant acute pain in his leg. For a few minutes, I focused energy on him and the pain disappeared. He was skeptical about it and didn't believe he would long remain free of pain. But when I met him again over a year later, he reported that, "strangely enough," the pain had never returned!

A few years ago, a man aged around 60 was limping painfully. He had had a knee-cap replacement, and needed another one on his other knee. I focused energy on his problem several times, at personal meetings and during phone conversations. Since then, his pain has disappeared and he hasn't needed a replacement for his other knee.

Give us an example about tefilin. 
One man often experienced sudden blackouts, causing him to lose consciousness, fall down and get hurt. It wasn't epilepsy, said his doctors, but they didn't know what else it could be. As I spoke to him, an image of tefilin came into my mind, then the kesher of the shel rosh [knot of the head tefilin]. I asked whether he placed the kesher on the correct part of the head. He replied that he did, but added that, six years earlier – which happened to be when his problem started, of course – someone in shul, not a Rov or sofer but just a well-meaning person, had told him to change where he placed it. I advised him to check with an expert. As soon as he changed back to his original placement of the kesher, his blackouts stopped. That was the first time I advised resolving a problem by ensuring correct observance of tefilin or mezuzos.

So it was your mind's image of the kesher that helped resolve his problem? 
Yes. People may not realize that problems with tefilin and mezuzos involve more than just the written text.
For example, the Alter Rebbe (in his Shulchan Aruch and Siddur) points out a common problem: In the lower area of the tefilin shel rosh, glue is used to keep the parts of the bayis together. But often, while the tefilin are being formed and the glue is still wet, it can spread upwards between the four compartments, where it can render the tefilin non-kosher. In my experience, about 70% of tefilin have this problem, and most soferim aren't trained how to check for it and fix it.

Also, the batim of tefilin have to be perfectly square, but many are not, and not all soferim always check for this. Also a small scratch in the black paint of some parts of the retzuos [tefilin straps] can be very serious.

Another problem with tefilin and mezuzos is with the two tagin [short vertical lines attached to a letter] on top of every lamed letter. According to Halacha, the tag on the right should extend slightly higher than the left one. Kabala explains the underlying reason for this: The right tag represents chessed [kindness] and should therefore be higher than the left one, which represents gevura [severity or judgment], in order to ensure that the flow of Divine kindness overwhelms any possible "judgments."

A lot of soferim usually don't look for this problem unless specifically asked to do so, because it's time-consuming. But when it's not fixed, it can have a negative effect on the wearer and his loved ones. In fact, every detail of tefilin can affect not only the wearer but his wife, young sons and unmarried daughters.

Often I advise someone to recheck even several times for problems with tefilin and mezuzos, because, as in any other field, not all soferim are equally thorough.

Can you give an example of a case about shidduchim. 
A certain girl was already beyond the usual age for shidduchim, yet nothing was moving for her. I asked if their home had a balcony. Yes, and their balcony had two sets of doors. I advised bringing a Rov to check whether the mezuzos were placed correctly. He found them to be on the wrong sides of the doors. They were changed, and the girl became engaged within a few months.

Placement of mezuzos can make a huge difference for shidduchim, health and other areas. When an expert is invited into homes to check on mezuza placement, he finds problems in over 90% of homes, in my experience.

What advice would you give people in general? 
People often create their own problems through excessive worry and fear. My intuitive energy approach can help with that, but I also advise people to increase their emuna and bitochon in Hashem. When negativity is removed, healing takes place, parnassa flows, health blossoms, and relationships heal. As the Zohar says, "When someone is happy, it opens up all the Divine sources Above."

Thanks for speaking with us 
It is my pleasure. I can be reached at The Helping Rabbi

A Permanent and Prized Acquisition

The Suffering Servant
by Rabbi Chaim Ingram

[Extracted from his forthcoming book Fragments Of The Hammer: Discoveries in the Weekly Sidra - reprinted with permission]

R. Shimon bar Yochai said: The Holy One Blessed is He gave three gifts to Israel and all of them He gave only through suffering. They are: Torah, the Land of Israel and the World to Come [Berakhot 5a].

On this Shabbat when we read of a personal tragedy unequalled in the Torah, the sudden striking down of Aaron’s sons Nadav and Avihu by divine fire on the day of their [and their father’s] induction as kohanim, it is timely to examine the issue of suffering through the prism of Judaism.

To do this, it may be instructive to contrast the approach of Christianity. Its founder allegedly suffered [and atoned] for the sins of others. This gave rise to the theology of suffering as enobling, hence the highest possible form of service of the D-vine.

The Jewish approach is subtly different. Judaism accepts that sufferings borne in this world may purge a soul of its iniquity in order that it may achieve the bliss of the Afterlife. However this is rationalised only bediavad [post facto]. Jews are not expected to seek out suffering nor even to affirm its beneficial qualities. In a subsequent passage to that cited above [5b] three leading rabbis of the generation, Rabbi Chiya, Rabbi Yochanan and Rabbi Elazar, are all visited by colleagues in their sickness and are asked in turn “Are your sufferings precious to you?” [i.e “are you happy that they will purge you of your sins in order that you will inherit a prize portion in the World to Come?”] Each of them responds with identical words. Lo hen lo sekharan. “I would prefer to have neither the sufferings nor their reward!”

How then should the Jew react to suffering? Aaron demonstrates quintessentially the answer to this most difficult of questions. His silent acquiescence to the D-vine decree against his sons [Lev. 10:3] is only the beginning. Let us reflect upon the true meaning of korban, of the sacrificial service in the Sanctuary and the Temple of which Aharon haKohen was the founding father. 

When a Jew brings an offering he is required to be present when the animal is slaughtered. Why? In order that, with a Jewish heart overflowing with compassion, he agonises over the death of this animal and reflects that it could have been his own life forfeit; and only by the grace of the merciful G-D has he been granted the precious gift of extended life [based on writings of the Ramban].

Imagine! Every time Aaron offered up a korban he would have to reflect that, for reasons unbeknown to him, his own sons were designated as korbanot on the day of their inauguration, that they were not granted extended life. And he would do it silently, acceptingly, without bitterness. Not, G-D forbid, rejoicing in his own suffering as might be a Christian approach. But accepting it lovingly without beginning to comprehend its rationale.

All this may help us better understand a puzzling explanation of a seminal passage in Genesis. In the section known as the b’rit ben ha-besarim, the Covenant between the Parts, Abraham asks G-D “How will I know that I will inherit the Land of Israel?” G-D replies by enacting with Abraham the Covenant and declaring that his descendants “will be aliens in a land not theirs, enslaved to their oppressors for 400 years” after which “they will emerge with great substance” [Gen 15:14].

The Talmud in Nedarim [32a] cites the amoraic sage Shmuel as linking our exile and suffering in Egypt to Abraham’s question “How will I know that I will inherit Erets Yisrael”. This is generally understood as indicating a lack of faith on the part of Abraham resulting in the “punishment” of exile for his descendants. However I would venture to offer a different explanation. 

G-D is offering Abraham [and us] a unique insight into the role of suffering in His world. How will we know that we shall acquire the Land of Israel as an eternal inheritance? Because we will suffer for centuries before inheriting it! And anything earned through suffering – as Torah and the World to Come also are earned – will be a permanent and prized acquisition.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

N. Korea threatens to blow up Seoul over defamation of its leader

SEOUL, April 19 (Yonhap) -- North Korea urged South Korea Thursday to offer an apology over the alleged defamation of Pyongyang's milestone festival, a day after its military threatened to blow up Seoul. The latest harsh rhetoric comes amid tensions following the North's failed rocket launch last week. The U.N. Security Council has condemned the launch and called on member states to find ways to tighten sanctions on the communist country.

 The North Korean government accused South Korea of insulting the North's dignity over the celebrations marking the centennial of the April 15 birth of the country's late founder Kim Il-sung, the grandfather of current leader Kim Jong-un. President Lee Myung-bak said last week the North's rocket launch is estimated to have cost Pyongyang about US$850 million, and the destitute North could have spent the money to buy 2.5 million tons of corn, an amount that is enough to make up for food shortages in the country for six years.

The North's government accused South Korea of fabricating the costs of the centenary anniversary, claiming Seoul's move is aimed at tarnishing the North's image and undermining its internal unity.

North Korea will stage a "sacred war to wipe out the group of traitors unless South Korea immediately apologize for insulting" the anniversary celebrations, the North Korean government said in an English-language dispatch carried by the country's official Korean Central News Agency.

On Wednesday, the North's military also vowed to mercilessly retaliate against South Korea for hurting the dignity of its supreme leadership. Some South Koreans have recently held anti-Pyongyang events in Seoul.

Source and full article at: Yonhapnews

Against All Odds: Carla's Story

In honour of Yom HaShoa [Holocaust Remembrance Day] an inspiring story from 2008.

Carla Schipper

Someone was pounding on the door, and when she peeked out her attic room window, Carla Andriesse realized her worst fears had come true. Gestapo agents were coming for her husband, Andre. "You cannot go to the synagogue," she told him. "I have to go," he said, "because the community counts on me." Several hours later, Andre Andriesse, a cantor for a synagogue in the city of Enschede in Nazi-occupied Holland, was captured by the Gestapo while leading a prayer service for the upcoming holiday, Rosh Hashanah.

He and the other men with him were marched into the street that day, Sept. 14, 1941, a day that burns in his wife's memory. Clutching their 2-year old daughter she watched him being led away."I never saw him again," Carla Schipper, now 91, recalled in an interview Tuesday [in 2008] in her Mandarin home.

She survived World War II, married another Holocaust survivor, Bernie Schipper, and moved to America.

"On Wooden Wheels" written by Stacey Goldring, tells the story of how Schipper hid herself and her children during the war, with the help of strangers."You can learn perseverance from Carla," said Goldring, also of Mandarin. "You can learn endurance and strength." Her story "helps you see the bigger picture, that your problems are not insurmountable. Once you know someone like Carla, you realize your own problems are quite small."'

Born Aug. 13, 1917, in Groningen, Holland, Carla was the only child of Joseph and Johanna Nathans. She trained to become a nurse after high school, and after marrying Andre in 1938 and the birth of their daughter Channa in July 1939, she looked forward to a comfortable life as wife and mother.

Life was good for the Andriesses in Enschede, a big city close to the German border, where they lived in a spacious house next to the synagogue. But the Germans invaded Holland in May 1940. Soldiers were everywhere, food became scarce and some Jews were evicted from their homes. Then in February 1941, soldiers bearing bayonets came to their door, confronted Andre, and demanded to be taken to the synagogue. Suspecting they wanted the Torah, Andre stalled for time, and Carla scurried with the baby up to the icy, snowy roof to hide.

After what seemed hours of dodging searchlights, she heard her husband call softly, "We have to get out of here." The Germans had left suddenly, taking only jewels and their baby's carriage, but the Andriesses feared they'd be back. Some friends took them into their home, and let them live in their attic room, where they stayed until the Gestapo came for Andre.

When the Nazis ordered the synagogue president and members to come to their headquarters so they could relate what happened to all the men they'd rounded up, Carla refused to go."I'm a very religious person. God was with me at that moment," she said.

God's presence was "what I lived by, and still live by," said Carla, who discovered she was pregnant shortly after learning her husband had died in Mauthausen on Oct. 17.

Her mother had died several years earlier, but her father came to see her in April 1942 when her daughter was born. Her father named the baby Jedidjah, meaning "beloved by G-d" in Hebrew. Soon after, he was captured and taken to the concentration camp Auschwitz, where he died.

"They were starting to take women," Carla said. "And I didn't want to be caught." When Carla heard of a Lutheran minister who helped Jews, she went to see him, and he found a family to take little Channa."I had to bring my daughter to a train station and give her to someone I'd never seen in my life," Carla said. "I was not told where she was going. I didn't know if I'd ever see her again."

Several weeks later, a couple from a rural hamlet offered to take Jedidjah and reluctantly let Carla come along to live in their farmhouse in Merle. Carla soon realized they only wanted her baby. She had to stay in a small upstairs room, where for two years she had nothing to do day after day. Subsisting mostly on rye porridge, she became weak and ill, and wasn't permitted to see Jedidjah, because the couple kept her downstairs to raise as their own daughter. "They were afraid of the Nazis, because hiding Jews put them in danger", Carla said. "I was going crazy". Her husband gone, separated from her kids, "I wanted to go to the camps," she said. "I didn't have any reason to be alive anymore."

But the kindness of others gave her the will and strength to survive. When the farm couple left town for several days to attend a wedding, they sent Carla to stay with a nearby sheriff and his wife. To her surprise, she was greeted with open arms, showered with kindness and cookies, and told that if she ever needed their help again, she could count on it. "That sustained me to the end of the war," she said.

After returning to the farm couple, who helped her get a false identification card, they told her she'd have to go, and leave her baby behind. She found shelter in a city in the center of Holland, where she was supposed to work as a maid, but she was so weak and sick she couldn't work for long. A sympathetic doctor helped her get well, people in a soup kitchen fed her and she decided to go back to the sheriff and his wife, so she could be near her baby again. She found a truck going in the direction of Merle, hitched a ride, and was almost captured by the Gestapo at the entrance to a bridge.When they asked for her identification card, she spoke to them in German, which her mother had taught her, and they let her go."That was my great luck," she said.

So was reaching the sheriff's house. After the truck ride, she walked for hours, rang the sheriff's bell, and was greeted by the "highly pregnant" sheriff's wife, who, knowing Carla was a nurse, told her she'd been "sent by G-d." Carla helped deliver the baby and stayed with the couple for several weeks, until it became too dangerous. She then went to hide with a nearby farmer, who had a radio, and learned that the Germans were close to defeat and the war was ending.

But when she went to get her baby back, the couple said they were keeping her. In the chaos of those postwar days, Carla decided to go to Enschede to appeal to the minister who had originally helped her, and sought a way to get there."The Germans had taken all the rubber from bicycle wheels," she said. "Somehow I got a bicycle with wooden wheels."

After the minister convinced the couple to give Jedidjah back, Carla was also reunited with Channa, who'd been cared for by a couple in another town.

After marrying Bernie Schipper, who'd survived the war by hiding in a barn, they had a daughter, Ruth, and then moved to the United States in 1953. In 1957, their son Jonathan was born, with Downs Syndrome. When doctors advised Carla to put Jonathan in an institution, she refused.

Carla, who was widowed in June, still talks to her son, now 51, every week on the phone. He graduated from school, lives in a special home in New York and has a job in a workshop for people with disabilities. Channa and Ruth also live in New York, Jedidjah lives in Israel and Carla has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She travels to schools, libraries and special events to tell her story. She hopes people learn from her story about endurance, persistence, hope and faith. "Her survival is miraculous....She's a very positive person," said friend, Rosalina Platzer. "She's an affirmation of life."

"On Wooden Wheels" by Stacey Goldring is available at AllbookStores

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Sydney: Rain and Flood Chaos

The rain is coming down like I've never seen before....


 Story at:

Obama following same path as Hitler ym"s and Stalin

In a homily delivered Saturday, Bishop Daniel R. Jenky of the Diocese of Peoria, Illinois challenged President Obama's HHS mandate, suggesting that the president was following the same path as Hitler and Stalin.

"Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services, and health care," Jenky said. "In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama – with his radical, pro abortion and extreme secularist agenda, now seems intent on following a similar path." Jenky added. 

 Source and video at: Campaign 2012

Note: I am only quoting this Bishop because unfortunately the rabbis in America are strangely silent about all of this.  When will the Jewish Americans wake up?

US: Strike on N. Korea Possible if Nuclear Test Held

The commander of the U.S. Pacific Command says the U.S. may launch a surgical strike against missile bases and nuclear test sites in North Korea if it conducts a third nuclear test.

Admiral Samuel Locklear explained the U.S.'s position on Tuesday at a meeting with South Korean defense journalists at the South Korea-U.S. Combined Forces Command (CFC) in Seoul.

Locklear said Washington is closely watching the North in relation to the possibility of a third nuclear test, adding the U.S. and South Korea are looking at all options including a surgical strike.

Source: KBS

Geulah b'Rachamim - Rabbi Pinchas Winston [videos]

This material is based upon the Geulah b'Rachamim Seminar Manual, presented in the Carlebach Shul in Ramat Beit Shemesh [Sept. 15, 2011], and was made into a DVD for free distribution.


 Part 2 of the seminar asks and answers the question: Even if we are the end of days, why must we get involved in the redemption process?


 Rabbi Pinchas Winston presents the third part of the Geulah b'Rachamim Seminar, dealing with the question why the Jewish people seem to overstay their welcome in exile. This part looks at the concept of Nitzotzei Kedushah—Holy Sparks—and what they have to do with the Jewish people, exile, and redemption, and ultimately, anti-Semitism.


 The continuation of: What must we do to mitigate the impact of anti-Semitism, but only after a discussion about Holy Sparks.


Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Iranian nuclear scientists were present at failed North Korean missile launch

A dozen Iranian nuclear experts visited North Korea last week to observe its failed rocket launch on Friday, South Korean state news agency Yonhap's Washington correspondent reported on Sunday.

"On March 31, 12 Iranians of the Shahid Hemmat Industrial Group (SHIG) arrived in North Korea. "The Iranians undoubtedly were there to observe the missile launch and receive test data from North Korea," the correspondent quoted a diplomatic source, who wished to remain anonymous, as saying.

More at: Haaretz


''Moshe then said to Aharon: ''Draw near to the altar'' [Shemini 9:7]

Rashi explains that Aharon was embarrassed and afraid to approach the altar.  Moshe therefore said to him ''Why are you embarrassed? This is what you were selected for.''

The Baal Shem Tov elucidated Rashi's words.  Moshe was saying to Aharon: Why are you embarrassed?  It is specifically due to the fact that you possess the character trait of humility and that you feel ashamed before Hashem that you were chosen to be the Kohen - ''This is what you were selected for!"

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Coming Summer: Hot and Tense

A major Israel TV station on Sunday night broadcast a detailed report on how Israel will go about attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities in the event that diplomacy and sanctions fail and Israel decides to carry out a military strike. 

The report, screened on the main evening news of Channel 10, was remarkable both in terms of the access granted to the reporter, who said he had spent weeks with the pilots and other personnel he interviewed, and in the fact that his assessments on a strike were cleared by the military censor. 

No order to strike is likely to be given before the P5+1 talks with Iran resume in May, the reporter, Alon Ben-David, said. “But the coming summer will not only be hot but tense.”

Read more:   Israeli TV report shows air force gearing-up for Iran attack, says moment of truth is near

London Olympics 2012: Terrorist Attack Expected

Conspiracy theories are everywhere regarding the upcoming Olympic Games [July 27 in London], and as you can see in the second video below, 13,500 security personnel will be employed as protection against just about anything. But will it be enough? To add to the drama, the word ZION is encoded in the 2012 Logo [see video @ 7:30]  Don't watch the video if you're already anxious: it is just speculation anyway.


The Thirteenth Gate - How To Pray

I know there are people who read this blog who don't know how to pray. It's one of those mysteries of life that you may be too embarrassed to admit to.

So here's some hints.

First of all, get yourself a prayer book. If you are new to this, as I was when I started seriously praying [about 15 years ago], you may need to watch how other people do it. Go to a synagogue and just find someone who looks like they know what they're doing.... and watch.

I learnt a lot from watching one of the rebetzins here. She even gave me some special tips..... which I didn't have to ask for.

Which prayer book? Typically, people use the one they have grown up with, the one their father/mother used, or the one used by the synagogue of their choice. If your parents didn't pray, you have no shul, and you don't know where to start.... then you can choose your own nusach [specific way of praying]. If you want to use the Arizal's nusach, get yourself a Siddur Tehillat Hashem - that's the one I use, wherever I go that's my way of praying. You can pray in any language, but if you can read Hebrew, I suggest you make the effort to say it in Hebrew. It may be slow going, but there's no rush, and you can do bits and pieces in English if you're impatient. No-one's judging you, this is your prayer and Hashem will hear you in whatever language you choose to do it in.

Men: you need to be putting on tefillin every morning. You need to be praying with a minyan in a shul. If that is not possible, find a rabbi and ask his advice. Women: you can pray whenever you like, no accessories necessary, but early morning is a good time to do it.

Reb Chaim Vital says in the name of the Arizal that there are twelve gates in the Heavens corresponding to the twelve tribes and each tribe has a designated entrance for their prayers. Each gate and their approach are different from the others.

Each of the tribes had their own specific Nusach Hatefillah [specific prayers]. The Holy Arizal established a Nusach that corresponds to all twelve of the tribes. The "Nusach Arizal" are the prayers for those who do not know their tribe.

The Chasam Sofer writes this concept in the name of the Maggid of Mezritz. He explains that in fact, there are thirteen gates in Heaven for our tefillos to pass through. Each gate is for one of the tribes and everyone’s tefillah can pass through the thirteenth gate.
More blog posts on praying can be found at: AbsoluteTruth613

Saturday, April 14, 2012

North Korean rocket fails, crashes into sea

North Korea said its much hyped long-range rocket launch failed on Friday, in a very rare and embarrassing public admission of failure by the hermit state and a blow for its new young leader who faces international outrage over the attempt. 

The isolated North, using the launch to celebrate the 100th birthday of the dead founding president Kim Il-sung and to mark the rise to power of his grandson Kim Jong-un, is now widely expected to press ahead with its third nuclear test to show its military strength. 

"The possibility of an additional long-range rocket launch or a nuclear test, as well as a military provocation to strengthen internal solidarity is very high," a senior South Korean defense ministry official told a parliamentary hearing.

Read more:    Embarrassed by rocket crash, North Korea may try nuclear test

Video: North Korea puts brave face on rocket failure with mass centenary celebrations

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Splitting Your Own Sea

by Rabbi Aron Moss - Nefesh

Question of the Week: Why did the Israelites have to pass through the Red Sea? On my map of the Middle East, the route from Egypt to Israel is directly through the desert. The sea is totally out of the way. G-d led them on a detour, trapping them between the sea and the chasing Egyptians, and then split the sea. Does G-d have no sense of direction? 

Answer: The Israelites passing through the Red Sea was not a geographical necessity, but a spiritual one. At the Red Sea, we were shown the power of the human soul. 

The earth is comprised of oceans and continents, sea and dry land. The difference between the two is that on dry land, all is open and visible. The trees, animals, mountains and people that occupy it are all easily recognisable. The sea on the other hand is a big blue expanse of mystery. Though the sea is teeming with life, when you look at it you can identify nothing, all is hidden beneath the surface. 

So it is with a person. Our personality has two layers: our sea, and our land. What we know of ourselves, our visible strengths, our tested talents and our known abilities, the elements of our character that we are aware of, these comprise the dry land of our personality. But below the surface of our character lies a vast sea of latent talents, inner strengths and untapped abilities that we never knew we had. In the depth of our soul lies a reserve of dormant energy waiting to be discovered. This is our sea, and even we ourselves are unaware of what lies there. How can we access this reservoir of potential? 

How can our sea become dry land? There is only one way. And we know it from the encounter at the Red Sea. 

The Israelites had their back to the wall: Egyptians closing in on one side, a raging sea threatening on the other. They had only two options, despair or faith. Logic and reason demanded that they give in. There was no possible way out of their predicament. But faith demanded that they keep marching to the Promised Land. Sea or no sea, this is the path that G-d has led us, so we have to have faith and march on. And so they did. 

It was at that moment, when hopelessness was countered by faith, that the impossible happened, and the sea opened up to become dry land. The most formidable obstacle dissolved into nothingness, without a struggle, just with faith. The people became empowered exactly when they acknowledged G-d as the only true power. By surrendering themselves to a higher force, they discovered the force within them. They split their own sea. 

The Jewish people are no strangers to times of challenge. At the very birth of our nation, we needed to learn how to face these challenges. So G-d took us on a detour to the sea and opened it up for us. He was telling every Jew for all times: Obstacles are not interruptions to the journey, they are the journey. Keep marching towards the Promised Land. Every challenge along the way will give you deeper insight and renewed power. Just have faith. It will split your sea.

Imminent lift off for North Korea rocket

North Korea's planned rocket launch could happen as early as this morning, defying calls from around the world for the country to abandon the launch.

The rocket launch window opened at 8:00am (AEST), with North Korea saying Monday is the last opportunity to launch the three-stage rocket.

The rocket's flight path will take it south past the Philippines and over central Australia. The United States and its allies have denounced the launch as a disguised ballistic missile test. 

 Source and more:  and

Moshiach's Seudah

Acharon Shel Pesach, the last day of Pesach [this coming Shabbat] has a special connection to the coming of Moshiach and is celebrated accordingly, by partaking of Moshiach's Seudah [the meal of Moshiach..... sometimes known as the Third Seder]

The last day of Pesach  is celebrated by eating a special, festive banquet called Moshiach's seudah, a custom initiated by the Baal Shem Tov. The connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach is explained by the Tzemach Tzedek: "The last day of Pesach is the conclusion of that which began on the first night of Pesach. The first night of Pesach is our festival commemorating our redemption from Egypt by the Holy One, Blessed be He. It was the first redemption, carried out through Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the first redeemer; it was the beginning. The last day of Pesach is our festival commemorating the final redemption, when the Holy One, Blessed be He, will redeem us from the last exile through our righteous Moshiach, who is the final redeemer. The first day of Pesach is Moshe Rabbeinu's festival; the last day of Pesach is Moshiach's festival."

Pesach is the festival which celebrates freedom. The first day celebrates the redemption from the first exile; the last day celebrates the future redemption from the final exile. The two are intimately connected, the beginning and end of one process with G-d in the future redemption showing wonders "as in the days of your exodus from Egypt."

That Moshiach's festival is celebrated specifically on the last day of Pesach is not merely because Moshiach will redeem us from the last exile. Being last has a significance beyond mere numerical order, for that which is last performs a unique function. When the Jews journeyed in the desert after leaving Egypt, they marched in a specific order, divided into four camps. The last to march was the camp of Dan, which is described by Torah as "ma'asaf l'chol hamachanos" - "gatherer of all the camps." Rashi explains this as meaning that "The tribe of Dan...would journey last, and whoever would lose anything, it would be restored to him."

The concept of "gatherer of all the camps" - restoring lost property and making sure that nothing is missing - may be applied to various situations. The Baal Shem Tov, for example, taught that just as the Jews in the desert made forty-two journeys before they reached their final destination, Eretz Yisroel, so there are forty-two journeys in each Jew's individual life. The birth of a person corresponds to the initial journey when the Jews left the land of Egypt, and at each stage of life a Jew is somewhere in the middle of one of the forty-two journeys he must experience before he enters the next world.

Not only a person's entire life, but also every individual service to G-d has various stages or "journeys." In particular, the conclusion of a specific service acts as the "gatherer of all the camps" - to make sure that nothing is missing from that service. Pesach, it was noted earlier, is associated with the concept of redemption, and our service on Pesach is correspondingly directed towards hastening the arrival of the final redemption. But even if service on Pesach was deficient, if opportunities were missed, not all is lost: the last day of Pesach acts as "gatherer of all the camps" for the entire festival. Just as the tribe of Dan restored lost articles to their owners, so the last day of Pesach provides a Jew with the opportunity to rectify omissions in the service of Pesach, and thereby regain what is rightfully his.

Because Pesach is associated with the redemption through Moshiach and the last day of Pesach is the finish to and completion of Pesach, the last day of Pesach accordingly emphasizes the coming of Moshiach.

The notion of "gatherer of all the camps" applies not only to each individual Jew's life and service, but also to Jewry in general. The forty-two journeys between leaving Egypt and entering Eretz Yisroel took place in the desert, the "wilderness of the nations," which is an allusion to the period of exile when Jews sojourn amongst the nations of the earth. The forty-two journeys in the desert served as the means wherewith Jews left the limitations of Egypt.  Thus all the journeys undertaken until the Jews actually entered Eretz Yisroel may be viewed as part of the exodus from Egypt. So too with the journeys in the exile: until Jews merit the final redemption, they are still journeying to reach Eretz Yisroel.  In every generation, Jews are somewhere in the middle of one of those forty-two journeys.

As in the journeys in the desert, there is a "gatherer of all the camps" in the generations-long journey of Jews to the Messianic Era. Our present generation is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach," the last generation of exile. It is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations of Jews.

That this generation of exile is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations is not just because it is the last. Exile is not just punishment for sin.

The mission of Jews is to elevate and refine this corporeal world, to reveal G-dliness and to transform the physical into a dwelling place for G-d. Dispersed throughout the world in exile, Jews have been given the opportunity and the means to carry out this mission in all parts of the world.

This has been the Jews' task throughout their history. "Gatherer of all the camps" in this context means that if any portion of that task is missing, it now can be rectified. Thus the era of "gatherer of all the camps" is the era when the world will have been fully refined and G-dliness revealed: the Era of Moshiach.

It is for this reason that it is our generation which is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach" and "gatherer of all the camps." For the service of Jews throughout the generations has been all but completed, and only the finishing touches - "gatherer of all the camps" - is needed. We stand ready and prepared to greet Moshiach.

Moshiach, of course, could have come in previous generations. The Talmud, for example, relates that at the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, a cow lowed twice. The first time meant that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed; the second time meant that Moshiach was born. In other words, the potential Moshiach was born immediately after the destruction and had the Jews merited it then, he would have been the actual Moshiach.

Although Moshiach could have come in previous generations, the future redemption nevertheless has a greater connection to our generation - just as the idea of Moshiach is emphasized on the last day of Pesach,  although the whole of Pesach is associated with the future redemption. For both are the concept of "gatherer of all the camps" and we accordingly celebrate Moshiach's seudah specifically on the last day of Pesach.

There is still more to the connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. The prophet Yechezkel describes the exodus from Egypt - which took place on the first day of Pesach - as the birth of the Jewish nation.

The last day of Pesach, the eighth day, is therefore the day of the circumcision, which is "the beginning of the entry of the holy soul." Moshiach is the yechidah - the most sublime level of the soul - of the Jewish people. Until the body of Jewry has undergone circumcision it is not whole; its holy soul is missing. Moreover, the Alter Rebbe writes, the highest level of circumcision will take place in the future, when "The L-rd will circumcise your heart."

The Haftorah read on the last day of Pesach is also connected with the Messianic Era. It states: "The wolf will lie down with the lamb...He will raise a banner for the return...the earth will be full of the knowledge of the L-rd." All of these verses refer to the Messianic Era.

Thus the relationship between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. But why do we mark this relationship by eating a meal?

Belief in Moshiach is a cardinal tenet of the Jewish faith, enshrined as one of Rambam's thirteen principles of belief: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach; and although he may tarry, I will wait for him every day that he shall come." But abstract belief is not enough. Our intellectual awareness must be translated into concrete action - by eating of Moshiach's seudah. Moreover, the food from Moshiach's seudah becomes part of our flesh and blood, and our faith in, and yearning for Moshiach permeates not just the soul's faculties but also the physical body.

Moshiach's seudah was initiated by the Baal Shem Tov, and there is good reason why it was by him specifically. In a famous letter to his brother in law, R. Gershon of Kitov, the Baal Shem Tov tells of the time he experienced an elevation of the soul to the highest spheres. When he came to the abode of Moshiach, he asked, "When will the Master come?" to which Moshiach replied, "When your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside." In other words, it is the Baal Shem Tov's teachings - Chassidus - which will bring Moshiach, and it is therefore particularly appropriate that it was the Baal Shem Tov who initiated Moshiach's seudah on the last day of Pesach.

In the time of the Baal Shem Tov, the principal element of the seudah was matzah. The Rebbe Rashab, fifth Rebbe of Chabad, added the custom of drinking four cups of wine. Matzah is poor man's bread, flat and tasteless. Wine, in contrast, not only possesses taste, but induces joy and delight, to the extent that our Sages say, "Shirah [song] is said only over wine."

Chabad Chassidus conveys the concepts of Chassidus, first propounded by the Baal Shem Tov, in an intellectual framework, enabling them to be understood by a person's Chochmah [wisdom], Binah [knowledge], and Da'as [understanding] - ChaBaD. And when a person understands something - in this case the concepts of Chassidus - he enjoys it that much more. Chabad, in other words, introduced "taste" and "delight" into Chassidic doctrines, which until then were accepted primarily on faith alone.

The four cups of wine also allude to the Messianic Age, for which the dissemination of Chassidus - especially Chabad Chassidus - is the preparation. The four cups symbolize: the four expressions of redemption; the four cups of retribution G-d will force the nations of the world to drink; the four cups of comfort G-d will bestow upon the Jews; the four letters of G-d's Name which will be revealed; the four general levels of repentance.

[Source: Sichah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Acharon Shel Pesach, 5742]