Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Abusive Parents

Abusive Parents: A Video from Rabbi Simon Jacobson This video is an eye-opener for adults healing from childhood abuse.


Monday, December 29, 2014

Tikkun for an Evil Eye

Art: Linda Boucher

"He who possesses a beneficient eye shall be blessed." [Proverbs 22:9]

There is a “beneficient eye” and an “evil eye”. Both terms have been used for several millennia and are found in the Talmud as indicators of the measure of a man.

Abraham was the paradigm of one who possesses a “beneficient eye”. He always looked for good in others, and felt neither jealousy of, nor hatred for, his fellow man. Bilaam, on the other hand, epitomized the possessor of an “evil eye” – one who always looks for fault or is jealous of another’s possessions or status.

The Talmud, when referring to the evil eye, credits it with almost mystical powers. Looking at another’s possessions with jealousy in your eyes can cause evil to befall that person. For this reason Talmudic law forbids us to build our homes too close to that of our neighbours. Privacy is very important, lest we look upon our neighbours’ possessions with a covetous eye. Neighbours should maintain a reasonable distance between one another, or, at the very least, homes should be built with a separation and a space between them.

Having an “evil eye” is usually understood as looking at another person with the intent that evil should befall him. It also includes coveting another’s possessions, being annoyed at his success (as if his success somehow impinges on our ability to succeed in life), pettiness and so on.

Rebbe Nachman teaches that an evil eye leads to an increased breathing rate. Somehow, jealousy and rage at another’s success causes one to draw breath at an accelerated pace.The Talmud therefore teaches “The cup of benediction at the conclusion of a meal should be given to one with a good eye. It is thus written (Proverbs 22:9) “He who possesses a beneficient eye shall be blessed.” Do not only read “shall be blessed” but shall bless….”

Conversely, one should beware of people with stingy and jealous eyes, as King Solomon cautions (Proverbs 23:6) “Do not break bread with [one who possesses] an evil eye”.

It is not merely a matter of superstition. As much as a good eye blesses, an evil eye takes. The source of the power of the evil eye is greed. When one looks upon another's possessions with greed, and the other is in any way guilty of mis-using his money, or is otherwise unworthy of the wealth he possesses, he might lose his possessions, G-d forbid. Clearly the way we look upon another's possessions can arouse Divine judgment against him. In the same vein, when we view the possessions of others generously, we can with a mere look of our eyes, bring blessing upon them.

When we realise that the eyes are the "windows to the mind" the significance of "evil eye" increases.

Rebbe Nachman taught: Memory depends upon the eyes, as in (Exodus 13:9) "[the tefillin shall be as] a remembrance between your eyes". In order to guard one's memory, one must first guard oneself from an evil eye - from evil thoughts about others, from jealousy, and from all forms of negativity. The evil eye can cause harm not only to the one being focused upon, but also to the one who is focusing, to an even greater degree. Conversely, maintaining an evil eye goes hand in hand with forgetfulness."

Yet we needn't live in constant fear of the evil eye, of others who may wish us harm. Rebbe Nachman teaches that if we feel incapable of guarding ourselves against an evil eye, then we should flee from it. However, if we can come to understand the essence of the evil eye, our actions can be far more effective: we can rectify it.

For example, a person might have an evil eye against another's position in life. This evil eye stems from the fallen attribute of Malkhut (kingship) which, when blemished, leads to low self-esteem and the need to put others down in order to get ahead. To correct one's own fallen Malkhut, one should strive to elevate G-d's Malkhut - by learning Torah or by otherwise disseminating G-d's Name in the world. In this way, one demonstrates one's allegiance to G-d, rather than to one's own need for self-aggrandizement. This serves to rectify the evil eye of the fallen Malkhut at its root.

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

When you invite jealousy, you're inviting negative energy from someone else. For this insensitivity or transgression on your part, you may incur a Divine consequence of losing some of your blessing. [If you give a child a toy and he hits his little brother with it, you might take the toy away. He's not using it the way you intended.]

Another spiritual rule that the kabbalists describe, explains the evil eye like this:

When someone stares at your blessing and thinks, "Why should so-and-so have that brand new Hummer? He's not so righteous. Why is God rewarding him?", it's like a complaint to Heaven, and an accusation that gets registered. The heavenly court then examines you and your blessing to determine if you in fact deserve it. If you don't, your blessing may be damaged or lost.

Of course, the accuser doesn't get off scott free, either, because then the heavenly court decides to investigate the accuser. "Who is this that comes to judge My child?" God asks.

So it's always a bad idea to give someone else an evil eye. And it's a bad idea to expose yourself to it, too.

Friday, December 26, 2014

I Am Joseph - The Light Born from Life's Challenges

In disguise
There were two beggars sitting side by side on a street in Mexico City. One was dressed like a Christian with a cross in front of him; the other one was a Chassidic Jew with a black coat and a long beard.

Many people walked by, looked at both beggars, and then put money into the hat of the one sitting behind the cross.

After hours of this pattern, a priest approached the Jewish Chassidic beggar and said: "Don't you understand? This is a Catholic country. People aren't going to give you money if you sit there like a real Jew, especially when you're sitting beside a beggar who has a cross. In fact, they would probably give to him just out of spite."

The Chassidic beggar listened to the priest and, turning to the other beggar dressed as a Christian, said: "Moshe... look who's trying to teach us marketing."

A brother’s identity disclosed
The story of Joseph revealing himself to his brothers after decades of bitter separation is, no doubt, one of the most dramatic in the entire Torah. Twenty-two years earlier, when Joseph was seventeen years old, his brothers despising their younger kin, kidnapped him, threw him into a pit, and then sold him as a slave to Egyptian merchants. In Egypt he spent twelve years in prison, from where he rose to become viceroy of the country that was the superpower at the time. Now, more then two decades later, the moment was finally ripe for reconciliation.

"Joseph could not hold in his emotions," the Torah relates in this week's portion (1). “He dismissed all of his Egyptian assistants from his chamber, thus, no one else was present with Joseph when he revealed himself to his brothers. He began to weep with such loud sobs that the Egyptians outside could hear him. And Joseph said to his brothers: 'I am Joseph! Is my father still alive?' His brothers were so horrified that they could not respond.

“Joseph said to his brothers, ‘please come close to me’. When they approached him, he said, ‘I am Joseph your brother – it is me whom you sold into Egypt.

“’Now, be not distressed, nor reproach yourself for having sold me here, for it was to be a provider that G-d sent me ahead of you …G-d has sent me ahead of you to ensure your survival in the land and to sustain you for a momentous deliverance.”

Analyzing the encounter
Emotions are not mathematical equations that could or should be subjected to academic scrutiny and analysis (besides, perhaps, in your shrink’s office). Emotions, the texture through which we experience life in all of its majesty and tragedy, profess independent “rules” and a singular language, quite distinct of the calculated and structured ones of science.

Notwithstanding this, we still feel compelled to tune-into the particular phraseology employed by the Torah in describing this powerfully charged encounter when Joseph reveals his identity to his brothers.

Four observations immediately come to mind (2).

1) After Joseph exposes his identity to his brothers, he asks them to come close to him. Despite the fact that they were alone with him in a private room, Joseph wants them to approach even closer. At this moment we are expecting Joseph to share with his brothers an intimate secret. But that does not seem to come.

2) After they approach him, Joseph says, “I am Joseph your brother – it is me whom you sold into Egypt.” But he has already told them a moment earlier that he was Joseph!

3) Why did Joseph feel compelled to inform them that they sold him to Egyptians, as though they were unaware of what they had done to their little brother some two decades earlier? Why could he not immediately begin his explanation as to why they need not reproach themselves for selling him?

4) The first time Joseph discloses himself he does not define himself as their brother; yet when he repeats himself again he does mention the sense of brotherhood, “I am Joseph your brother.” Why the difference?

The unrecognized soul
The longest unbroken narrative in the entire Torah is from Genesis 37 to 50, and there can be no doubt that its hero is Joseph. The story begins and ends with him. We see him as a child, orphaned by his mother and beloved by his father; as an adolescent dreamer, resented by his brothers; as a slave, then a prisoner, in Egypt; then as the second most powerful figure in the greatest empire of the ancient world. At every stage, the narrative revolves around him and his impact on others. He dominates the last third of the book Genesis, casting his shadow on everybody else. Throughout the entire Bible, there is nobody we come to know as intimately as Joseph. The Torah seems to be infatuated with Joseph and his journeys and struggles more than with any other figure, perhaps even more than with the two pillars of the Jewish faith, Abraham and Moses. What is the mystique behind Joseph? Who is Joseph?

Joseph’s life embodies the entire drama and paradox of human existence. Joseph on the outside was not the Joseph on the inside; his outer behavior never did justice to his authentic inner grace. Already as a young teen, his brothers could not appreciate the depth and nobility of his character. The Midrash (3) understands The Torah’s description of Joseph at the age of seventeen as a “young boy” to indicate that he devoted much time to fixing his hair, grooming his eyes, and walking at the edge of his legs. Joseph appeared to most people around him as spoiled and pompous.

Then, when Joseph rose to become the vizier of Egypt, he donned the persona of a charismatic statesman, a handsome, charming and powerful young leader, a skilled diplomat and a savvy politician with great ambition. It was not easy to realize that beneath these qualities lay a soul on fire with moral passion, a kindred spirit for whom the monotheistic legacy of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob remained the epicenter of his life; a heart overwhelmed with love toward G-d.

Joseph’s singular condition – embodying the paradox of the human condition -- is poignantly expressed in one biblical verse (4): "Joseph recognized his brothers but they did recognize him." Joseph easily identified the holiness within his brothers. After all, they lived most of their lives isolated as spiritual shepherds involved in prayer, meditation and study. Yet these very brothers lacked the ability to discern the moral richness etched in the depth of Joseph's heart. Even when Joseph was living with them in Israel, they saw him as an outsider, as a danger to the integrity of the family of Israel. Certainly, when they encountered him in the form of an Egyptian leader, they failed to observe beyond the mask of a savvy politician the heart of a Tzaddik, the soul of a Rebbe.

The fire in the coal
This dual identity that characterized Joseph's life played itself out in a most powerful way, when his master's wife attempted to seduce him into intimate relations. On the outside, she thought, it would not be very difficult to entice a young abandoned slave into sacrificing his moral integrity for the sake of attention, romance and fun. But, when push came to shove, when Joseph was presented with the test of tests, he displayed heroic courage as he resisted and fled her home. As a result of that act, he ended up in prison for 12 years.

The Midrash (5) compares Joseph to the fresh wellspring of water hidden in the depth of the earth, eclipsed by layers of debris, grit and gravel. In a converse metaphor making the identical point, the Kabbalah sees Joseph as the blaze hidden within the coal. On the outside, the coal seems black, dark and cold; but when you expose yourself to its true texture, you sense the heat, the fire and the passion. You get burnt.

And then came the moment when Joseph removed his mask. The Zohar, the basic Kabbalistic commentary on the Bible, presents a penetrating visualization of what transpired at the moment when Joseph exposed himself to his brothers.

When Joseph declared, “I am Joseph,” says the Zohar (6), the brothers observed the divine light radiating from his countenance; they witnessed the majestic glow emanating from his heart. Joseph’s words “I am Joseph” were not merely a revelation of who he was, but also of what he was. For the first time in their lives, Joseph allowed his brothers to see what he really was. “I am Joseph!” must also be understood in the sense of “Look at me, and you will discover who Joseph is.”

When Joseph cried out “I am Joseph,” says the Midrash, “his face became ablaze like a fiery furnace.” The burning flame concealed for thirty-nine years within the coal, emerged in its full dazzling splendor. For the first time in their entire lives, Joseph’s brothers saw the raw and naked Joseph; they came in contact with the greatest holiness in the world emerging from the face of an Egyptian vizier…

“His brothers were so horrified that they could not respond,” relates the Torah. What perturbed the brothers was not so much a sense of fear or personal guilt. What horrified them more than anything else was the sense of loss they felt for themselves and the entire world as a result of his sale into Egypt.

“If after spending 22 years in a morally depraved society,” they thought to themselves, “one year as a slave, twelve years as a prisoner, nine years as a politician -- Joseph still retained such profound holiness and passion, how much holier might he have been if he spent these 22 years in the bosom of his saintly father Jacob?!”

“What a loss to history our actions brought about!” the brothers tormented themselves. “If Joseph could have spent all these years in the transcended oasis, in the sacred environment, in the spiritual island of the Patriarch Jacob – how the world might have been enriched with such an atomic glow of holiness in its midst!”

Contrasting Joseph’s present condition to what might have been his potential, left the brothers with an irreplaceable loss by what they sensed was a missed opportunity of historic proportions.

The error
At this moment, “Joseph said to his brothers, ‘Please come close to me’.” Joseph wanted them to approach even closer and gaze deeper into the divine light coming forth from his countenance.

“When they approached him,” relates the Torah, “He said, ‘I am Joseph your brother – it is me whom you sold into Egypt.” Joseph was not merely repeating what he had told them earlier (“I am Joseph”), nor was he informing them of a fact they were well aware of (“It is me whom you sold into Egypt”), rather, he was responding to their sense of irrevocable loss.

The words “I am Joseph your brother – it is me whom you sold into Egypt” in the original Hebrew can also be translated as “I am Joseph your brother – because you sold me into Egypt.” What Joseph was stating was the powerfully moving message that the only reason he reached such tremendous spiritual heights is because he spent the last 22 years in Egypt, not in Jacob’s sacred environment.(7)

The great catalyst
The awesome glow that emanated from his presence, Joseph suggested, was not there despite his two decades in lowly Egyptian society, far removed from his father’s celestial paradise; it came precisely as a result of his entanglement with a life alien to the innocent and straightforward path of his brothers. The incredible trials, tribulations and adversity he faced in the spiritual jungle are precisely what unleashed the atomic glow the brothers were presently taking in.

Had Joseph spent the two decades voyaging with his father down the paved road of psychological and spiritual transparency and lucidity, he would have certainly reached great intellectual and emotional heights. But it was only through his confrontation with a glaring abyss that gave Joseph that singular majesty, passion and power that defied even the rich imagination of his brothers.

That is why Joseph asked his brothers to come closer to him, so that they can behold from closer up his unique light and appreciate that this was a light that could only emerge from the depth of darkness, from the pit of Egyptian promiscuity.

[This is also the reason for Joseph mentioning, the second time around, the element of brotherhood. For Joseph was attempting not only to tell them who he was, but to share the reality of their kinship, the fact that he, like them, was deeply connected to his spiritual roots].

If only…
Just as the brothers, many of us, too, live our lives thinking “If only…” If only my circumstances would have been different; if only I was born into a different type of family; if only I would have a better personality… The eternal lesson of Joseph is that the individual journey of your life, in all of its ups and downs, is what will ultimately allow you to discover your unique place in this world as a servant of G-d.

The Forest
"The sea was much better," the traveler complained. "Whenever I got tired it at least had its currents to push me forward on my journey but you," he looked at the vast desert surrounding him, "you are of no help."

He went down on his knees, dead tired. When his breaths restored back to normalcy, a while later, he heard the desert's voice.

"I agree. I am of no help like the sea and thus I often depress people. But do you really think people will remember you for crossing the sea? Never! For the sea doesn't allow you to leave any mark. I, on the contrary, do. Thus, if you cross me, I swear, you will in turn immortalize yourself with the imprints you leave over me!"

The traveler got the essence and got up to walk on. "It's always about the imprints," his heart echoed.(8)
1) Genesis 45:1-7.
2) The following observations are discussed by many of the biblical commentators, who offer various explanations (See Midrash Rabah, Rashi, Ramban, Klei Yakar Or Hachaim).
3) Midrash Rabah Bereishis 84:7. Quoted in Rashi to Genesis 37:2.
4) Genesis 42:8.
5) Midrash Rabah ibid. 93:3.
6) Zohar vol. 1 p. 93b.
7) The Sefas Emes movingly interprets the Hebrew phrase used by Joseph “asher mechartem,” that it is similar to the term “asher shebarta,” meaning “yasher koach shesebarta,” thank you for breaking the tablets, and thank you for selling me to Egypt.
8) This essay is based on Chassidic writings: See Sefas Emes Parshas Vayigash. See further Sefer Halikkutim under the entry of Yosef; Sefer Letorah U’Lemoadim (by Rabbi Shlomo Yosef Zevin) Parshas Vayigash (p. 60-61); Likkutei Sichos vol. 25 pp. 255-257.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

It's All Good

When things go wrong.... there is usually a reason why.... do some soul-searching and try to work out why this particular thing happened and what Hashem is trying to tell you.

And they said to one another, "Indeed, we are guilty for our brother, that we witnessed the distress of his soul when he begged us, and we did not listen. That is why this trouble has come upon us." [Miketz 42:21]

The brothers realized immediately that when misfortune befalls a person, he must search his deeds to find a negative word or action that may have brought on such a punishment.  Then he should do teshuvah.

The brothers' teshuvah was remarkable in that:

1) They were able to feel remorseful about a bad deed they performed some twenty years earlier.

2) The fact that they could not find a more recent sin to explain their current misfortune shows that in the past twenty years they did not sin at all.

3) Their teshuvah was immediately effective in reducing the punishment: Yosef had promised to imprison one of the brothers, but after the brothers did teshuvah, Shimon was released [see Rashi to v.24].  Similarly, Yosef's harsh attitude towards them changed, for they were given food and their money was returned. And eventually, as a result of their teshuvah, Yaakov and their entire family were saved from hunger.

Source: Based on Sicha of the fifth day of Chanukah: Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Trust Only in Hashem

"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 him" once 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".
Rashi explains that Heaven punished Yosef and made him remain in prison an additional two years because he placed his trust in the chief wine butler.

The Alter of Novarodok's (R' Yosef Yozel Horowitz) level of bitachon was legendary.

One night, the Alter was sitting alone in his house in the woods learning Torah by candlelight. He continued learning until his very last candle burned out.

The Alter was now left sitting in complete darkness and it saddened him that he would have to stop learning for lack of a candle. But then the Alter decided that he must strengthen his faith in Hashem and trust that He would provide him with all that he needed - including a candle.

The Alter quickly got up and opened the door of his home. At that very moment, a man stepped out of the forest, handed him a candle, and disappeared.

For twenty-five years, the Alter saved the candle as a remembrance of that miracle and to show his students that Hashem takes special care of those who sincerely trust Him.

But then a fire broke out in Novarodok.  The Alter's home was among the many homes that were destroyed in the fire.  The fire consumed everything that was in the house, including the wondrous candle.

"You should know" said the Alter to his students, "that Heaven made us lose the candle in order to teach us that we must trust in Hashem even when we have no proof that He will help us".

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Profound Near-Death Experience of a Nazi Concentration Camp Survivor

“And suddenly I was ejected from my body and I wasn’t angry anymore,” she said. A blaze of light appeared and she felt an energy pervading everything, including herself. “I was completely that energy,” she said. “It was love, it was wisdom, it was dynamism.”

She received all the answers to her questions at once. “I was so happy, so incredibly happy.” 

“In my life I always had a lack of energy because my body suffered so much damage in the concentration camp,” she said. But here she felt wonderful and whole again. “I wasn’t dead, but I wasn’t in my body.” - 

Read more : click here

Sunday, November 23, 2014

''Murdered Jews Atone for Generation, Messiah Must Come'''

Rabbi Yitzhak Mordechai Hacohen Rubin, rabbi of the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue in Jerusalem that was brutally attacked on Tuesday, went to visit hareidi leaders on Thursday to ask their participation in a eulogy for the four Jews murdered in the attack, in which a Druze police officer was also murdered.
Rav Kanievsky

Rabbi Rubin visited Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, one of the foremost rabbinical authorities in the hareidi world, and described the horrific attack.

The two Arab terrorists "came in with axes, with guns, they cut off heads...someone who was there from (United) Hatzalah told me they cut off the head completely, cut off hands, simply horrors," related the rabbi, noting the wounded included those missing arms, ears, suffering brain damage and lost eyes.

"I heard the story," replied Rabbi Kanievsky. "The Mashiach (Messiah) has to come."

The hareidi leader explained that "there needs to be an atonement" for the generation so as to merit the coming of the Mashiach, an atonement he argued the victims of the terror attack partially made.
In hearing how the congregants "shake like fish" in shock following the horrific attack, Rabbi Kanievsky stated "G-d will help. Those who shake (with fear) make repentance."

click here for more

Also see:  Why Tzadikim Atone for Us All

Prepare Yourselves for Moshiach

Video from Rabbi M. Glazerson


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Asher Yatzar

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, 
Who fashioned man with wisdom, 
and created within him many openings and many cavities. 
It is obvious and known before Your throne of glory,
that if but one of them were to be ruptured, 
or but one of them were to be blocked, 
it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You. 
Blessed are You, God, Who heals all flesh and acts wondrously.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Keeping Good Company

[Written by Rabbi Yisroel Bronstein]

"The children struggled inside her" [Toldos 25:22]

Why is it, asked the Chasam Sofer R' Moshe Sofer, that when Rivkah passed the beis midrash, Yaakov attempted to escape from her womb? After all, Chazal teach us that during the time a child is in its mother's womb, an angel comes and teaches it the entire Torah. Did Yaakov think that he would actually be able to lean more in the beis midrash than he would from the angel?

The answer, said the Chasam Sofer, is that though Yaakov was learning the entire Torah from the mouth of an angel, he was forced to do so in the presence of Esav. Yaakov preferred to learn Torah in a beis midrash, free from the company of his wicked brother, than to be taught the entire Torah directly from the mouth of a holy angel !

From the words of the Chasam Sofer we are able to learn, remarked the Chofetz Chaim, just how important it is to stay far away from people who may have a negative influence on us.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

11 Cheshvan - Yarzheit Rochel Imeinu

Jewish Mother's Day The 11th of Cheshvan 
by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

One of the most important days in the month of Cheshvan is the 11th, which commemorates the day of passing of our matriarch Rachel. Rachel was Jacob's most beloved wife and was the principal of his household and thus the principal of the entire house of Israel. From the first day of the year, the 1st day of Tishrei, the 11th day of Cheshvan is the 41st day. 41 is the numerical value of the Hebrew word "eim," which means "mother," thus the 11th of Cheshvan is truly the Jewish Mother's Day.

"Rachel cries for her children, she will not be comforted…"

Rachel constantly mourns over the exile of her children, the Jewish people, and the Almighty comforts her with the words: "Withhold your voice from crying and your eyes from tearing, for there is a reward for your actions… and the children will return to their border." Literally, "return to their border" refers to the return of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel. But, more deeply, it refers to the return of our people to our natural spiritual environs: Judaism and our ancestral Jewish nature. These are the borders that truly circumscribe the uniqueness of our people. Amazingly, numerically, the value of the Hebrew word for "border" (g'vul / גבול) is exactly the same as the value of the word for "mother" (eim / אם); both equal 41.

In Hebrew, Cheshvan is written with the four letters: חשון. The borders (the first and last letters) of Cheshvan are chet - ח and nun - ן, which together spell the word chein - חן, meaning "beauty." The word chein - חן, "beauty" equals 58. The 58th day of the year is the 28th day of Cheshvan.

Rachel is described as the most beautiful woman in the Torah. The numerical value of the two middle letters, shin and vov, שו, is equal to isha -אשה , meaning "woman." Thus, the name of the month itself hints at the special and unique grace endowed to women.

King Solomon says that external beauty by itself is deceitful. If external beauty is all that a woman seeks then the name of the month becomes Marcheshvan, which means Bitter-Cheshvan. It is of such a woman King Solomon says: "And I find the woman to be more bitter than death." But, of true beauty, the beauty of a Jewish woman that emanates from within, he says: "The woman of beauty shall support honor." This true beauty is given to us, the Jewish people, by G‑d through the Torah, for "there is no truth but Torah" and "there is no honor but Torah."

It was Rachel, who was first endowed with this real beauty. Rachel is described as the most beautiful woman in the Torah, "She had a beautiful face and a beautiful figure." Thus, Rachel was the embodiment of the verse: "A woman who fears G‑d, she shall be praised," praised both for her grace and true beauty.

The beauty of the Jewish woman is not just a passive agent of spirituality. The sages teach that the offspring of Esau and his grandson Amalek can be defeated only by the children of Rachel.

Who embodies the spirit of Amalek in our day and age? In Hebrew, the words "Amalek" (עמלק) and "doubt" (safek / ספק) have the same numerical value. Thus, the spirit of Amalek that continues to plague each and every Jew is doubt; doubt in our faith, doubt in our Torah, and doubt in ourselves and the moral justification of our path.

But, sometimes the spirit of Amalek becomes bolder and captures a Jew (whether he be a private individual or a political figure) to the point of driving him or her to unconscious or even conscious self-hatred. This can result in a Jew's cooperation with the enemies of our people.

Finally there are the direct spiritual offspring of Amalek: those enemies who threaten the lives of Jews and our return to the Land of Israel.

The sages say that beauty is a woman's weapon. With everything that we have said about Rachel, her role as our matriarch, as the progenitor of Jewish nature, and of her beauty, it should now be clear that our weapon for defeating Amalek is the special beauty and grace of the Jewish mother. Joseph the tzaddik (righteous one) inherited his mother Rachel's beauty and he too is described as having a beautiful face and a beautiful figure. That is why the prophet says about him that "the house of Jacob will be fire and the house of Joseph its flame and the house of Esau straw, and together they will ignite him and consume him; and there will be no remnant for the house of Esau."

True Jewish beauty and grace destroy the enemy indirectly but, beauty is no regular weapon. True grace and beauty work by attracting the sparks of holiness that are bound within the enemy. These sparks are G‑d's will that the enemy still exist. Yet, when they are redeemed by their attraction to true beauty, they escape the enemy's grasp, leaving him void of any Divine source and causing his demise. True Jewish beauty and grace destroy the enemy indirectly by leaving him void of any beauty or grace himself, making him irrelevant and powerless.

The battle against Amalek in our generation must be conducted primarily with our ability to communicate to all around us the true nature of Jewish beauty and grace. It is to this beauty of Jewish nature and character that we return during the month of Cheshvan by reconnecting with our matriarch Rachel, with our own Jewish nature, and with ourselves.

Yiddishe Mama

Rachel lost her own spiritual luxury - the privilege of being buried in the Cave of Machpeilah - in order to help her children. This represents the unparalleled quality of the "Jewish mother" who is always willing to sacifice her own needs, spiritual or physical, for the sake of helping her children.

And this is the inner reason why Jewish identity follows the maternal and not the paternal route. For even though the father possesses a greater degree of spirituality - since he has the privilege of observing more mitzvos than a woman - the quality of a Jewish mother is nevertheless greater, that she is willing to forego much of that spirituality in order to enable her to raise a family with tender loving care. And since this quality is even more quintessentially Jewish than the spirituality of the man, it is the mother that actually makes her children Jewish.

Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Parshas Vayechi: Gutnick Chumash
Mama Rochel understood that tending to a broken heart comes above even Kavod Hashem....

When Rochel, out of frustration, complained to Yaakov about not having children, Yaakov got angry with her. The mefarshim say, based on a medrash, that Yaakov was punished for getting angry at Rochel and telling her that she needs to daven to Hashem and not complain to him.

Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro points out that Yaakov was defending Kavod Shamayim (the honor of Heaven) and was correct that Rochel's complaints were unjustified. His mistake was that he addressed the words that she spoke and not the pain in her heart. Had he pierced the veil of her soul, he would have known that because of her anguish, the words escaped her mouth and she was not accountable for them. He should have been slower to defend Kavod Shamayim and faster to understand human suffering.

This he explains was the greatness of Rochel. After the destruction of the first Temple, when Bnei Yisroel went into Galus, all the Avos and Imahos came before Hashem with all their great zechusim but were turned away empty handed. All the heroism of the Akeida, Yaakov's Torah, and lives of pure mesiras nefesh to build Klal Yisroel, did not impress Hashem in that dark moment of history.

The only one who merited Hashem's attention was Rochel Imeinu. What was her great act that warranted this special treatment? That she gave the simanim to her sister and helped fool Yaakov. With this bravery, in her mind, she was sabotaging the history of the Jewish nation since she understood that it was her and Yaakov that were destined to build the nation. Nevertheless she chose to cast aside her own destiny and Hashem's grand plan in order to save her sister from a single embarrassing moment.

Only Rochel, who had such a deep understanding of another person's pain and how it carries more weight than the entire Jewish experience, can be Hashem's emissary to bring his children's pain before Him. Only tears from Mama Rochel can bring the Geula.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Praying for Another

When one looks deeply and intently at someone else, that person will turn around and return the look, because the penetrating gaze awakens the core of the soul. You have made a "connection". A spiritual connection.

Thought has the same effect. Bringing someone to mind has the effect of arousing that person's innermost powers. Bringing someone to mind when praying is beneficial to both parties: to the one doing the praying, and the one being prayed for. "We pray for Rachamim, for Compassion. The Gemara says, "Even if the sword is on your neck, don't refrain from Rachamim. " This is usually interpreted, "Don't stop praying, asking G-d for compassion."

Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach zt"l wrote: Reb Berish Aushpitziner interpreted it differently, "What do you do at the last minute if the sword is on your neck? At that moment the only thing you can do is have compassion on somebody else. Then you open gates in Heaven for compassion, and it can come to you too. HAVE Rachamim, don't ask for it."

Rachamim is on the level of prophecy. If I have compassion on somebody who is in bad shape, then I have a vision of how that person could be. I compare what he is to what he could be and I say, "Oy Vey, I have to help you to get there." This is very important for peace, because sometimes we don't want to make peace with someone because we lost the vision of how that person could be. The highest peace between people is when they know how each other could be, and how they will be.

A person has to live in two worlds. We have to live in a world where there is evil and we are fighting it, and we have to live in a world where there is no evil, like after Moshiach has come. The highest combination of these two worlds is Rachamim. That means I see you the way you are, but I also know how you could be on the Moshiach level.

When someone has pain, and I feel that pain, that means I love the person. If someone hurts himself and has a little bit of pain, deep down it brings back all the pain he ever went through. If you are connected to him on the level of Rachamim then you feel with him all the pain he ever felt, in this lifetime and in other lifetimes. If you feel that pain, you have to make peace with the other person, and you also know how to do it. "

To pray for someone else, visualize that person, have them in mind as you pray. The compassion that you are asking Heaven to show them, will also be shown to you. If you Daven for someone else, that which you Daven for will be given to you first.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Is it okay to ask a deceased tzaddik to pray on my behalf?

by Tzvi Freeman


I was always under the impression that Judaism firmly believed that there are no intermediaries between man and G‑d, and to pray to the deceased is blasphemous and outlawed by the Bible. If so, why is it permissible to ask the Rebbe to intercede on one's behalf at the Ohel?


Yes, Jewish customs can be perplexing. Judaism is all about having a direct connection to G-d. An intermediary is a form of idolatry (see "Unidolatry" for more explanation of why this is forbidden.). Yet for as long as there are records, Jews have been in the habit of asking righteous men and women to have a chat with G-d on their behalf.

We see that the Jewish people asked Moses to intercede many times and he accepted their request. If he hadn't, we wouldn't be here--so G-d obviously figured it was okay. The Talmud (Baba Batra 116a) tells us that "If there is someone ill in your house, go to the wise man of the city and ask that he should pray for him." Of course, this person also needs to pray for himself, as his family should as well--and any Jew who knows that another Jew is ill should pray for him. But you need to go to that wise man as well.

The same with visiting graves: On the one hand, as you pointed out, the Torah tells us not to "beseech the dead." It's listed along with all the other "abominations" practiced by the people that lived in Canaan before we came there. And yet, we have an ancient and popular custom to visit the graves of righteous people and pray there.

Just how ancient and popular is this custom? The Torah tells us that Caleb, one of the twelve spies that Moses sent to spy out the Land of Canaan, made a personal detour to Hebron. What was his interest in Hebron? The Talmud (Sotah 34b) tells that he wished to pray at the cave where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are buried. He prayed there for mercy on his soul and he was saved from the fateful decision of the other spies.

The Talmud also states that it is customary to visit a cemetery on a fast day (Taanit 16a). Why? Typical of the Talmud (and anything that involves Jewish people), two opinions are provided: Some say that this is simply to remind those who are fasting of their own mortality--a graveyard can be a magically effective cold-bucket of inspiration when you're feeling smug and self-assured. But others say that this is in order to connect to ask the souls of the righteous who are buried there that they intercede on our behalf. In fact, the Zohar states that if it were not for the intercession of those souls who reside in that afterworld, our world would not endure for a moment.

So why is this not called "beseeching the dead?" And why doesn't asking any tzaddik, living or dead, to intercede on our behalf constitute making an intermediate between ourselves and G‑d?

This very question was raised by a nineteenth century foremost authority on Jewish law, Rabbi Moshe Shik (known as "the Maharam Shik"), a student of the Chatam Sofer.

He explains as follows:

A Jew is not permitted an intermediary. There must be nothing between the Jew and G‑d.
Nevertheless, as previously established, it is permissible for a Jew to ask another Jew to be an intermediary between him and G‑d.

Rabbi Shik explains this apparent anomaly in the name of his teacher, the Chatam Sofer: When one Jew approaches another and tells of the pain he is suffering, the other Jew feels it just as he does. Now they are both in need of prayer. The Jew does not feel he is praying for an "other"--he is praying for himself.

In other words, all Jews can be considered as one body. If the toe is hurting, it needs the head and the heart to help it. So too, if I am in need, I can call upon all other Jews--and especially those who are the head and the heart of our people--to pray for me as well. Because if one Jew is hurting, we are all hurting.

Rabbi Shik then extends this to the deceased, as well. According to the Talmud and the Zohar, those righteous souls who have passed on from this world are still very much in touch with their students and family and care for them and their problems. We petition them to pray on our behalf--and they do and often their prayers are more effective than our own. After all, we often don't fathom the seriousness of these problems from our limited perspective as much as they might from their much more lofty view.

Praying at a gravesite does not mean you are beseeching this dead person to rise from the grave and appear before you. That is the abomination to which the above-cited verse refers. Neither are you, G‑d forbid, praying to the dead—a practice that is most certainly forbidden. But you are able to connect with these souls, since, when it comes to the soul, all of us are truly one.

You are simply expressing your faith that the righteous never really die, truth is never truly lost and even the grave cannot prevent you from connecting to this great teacher and righteous soul. Just as this tzaddik cared and took care of others during his lifetime--not as "others" but as he cared for his own soul--so too now, nothing has changed and he still can feel your pain and pray with you.

The Zohar states this as well, when it tells us that the tzaddik is here with us after his passing even more than before. During his lifetime, the tzaddik was limited within a physical body. Now he has transcended those limitations. But he never transcends his sympathy for the plight of another soul--no matter where that soul may be found. Just as during his lifetime, he ignored the boundaries of "I and you," so now he can ignore the boundaries of life and afterlife.

This is the fundamental reasoning behind beseeching those in the grave to intercede on our behalf. And this, in fact, has been the common practice in Jewish communities around the world.


Monday, October 20, 2014

The Purpose of Falsehood

by Rabbi Daniel Travis

Two by two the animals came into the Ark to Noach. [Bereishis Noah 7:9]

The concepts in this verse are illustrated by the following allegory:

Sheker (lies/deceit) approached Noach and requested entry into the Ark. Noach refused sheker on the grounds that it did not have a “mate.” When sheker left Noach, it met pachsa (financial loss and destruction) and proposed that they form a partnership, so that together they could gain entry into the Ark. Pachsa agreed, stipulating that any profit which would be earned through sheker would be handed over to pachsa to be destroyed.

There are many questions to be asked about this allegory. Why did our Sages see fit to single out sheker from all the possible negative character traits? Furthermore, why was it necessary for sheker to find a mate? Surely it would have been better to deny sheker entrance to the ark altogether. On the other hand, if sheker belonged in the world, should it not have been allowed to enter the ark without having to fulfill any conditions?

The decree of the flood was sealed on account of the dishonesty of that generation. Sheker was rampant, and there was no way to stop it short of wiping out the entire world. In the process of reconstructing the world, God wanted to make sure that the sins which had caused it's demise would not be repeated. Therefore sheker could not be allowed to perpetuate in its present form. However, it was important that sheker continue to exist in order for the iniquities of the previous generation to be rectified. This could only come about through recognition of the utter futility of any involvement with sheker.

When pachsa joined forces with sheker, causing the loss of all profits earned through sheker, it made it glaringly evident that any association with sheker is totally counterproductive. The lesson that would be learned from the alliance between sheker and pachsa allowed sheker to continue to exist.

After leaving the ark, sheker came to pachsa and requested all of the profits that it had acquired through under-handed methods. Pachsa reminded sheker of their agreement, and sheker was unable to respond. Although under normal circumstances sheker would have denied ever making such a promise, this case was different. Denying the truth would be tantamount to self destruction, for without its partnership with pachsa, sheker would not be allowed to exist.

At the time of the flood sheker joined with pachsa to teach the following generations the futility of trying to acquire wealth dishonestly. Although this type of destruction is certainly a punishment for one’s crooked behavior, there is a flip side to this relationship. Since pachsa “wed” itself to sheker, it can not affect any money earned one hundred percent honestly.

This concept was vividly demonstrated to the Jewish people after their Exodus from Egypt. For forty years they were sustained every day with manna, a miraculous food that descended from the heavens. Each individual was instructed to take an omer each day – not more, not less. If someone tried to “steal” a little bit more than he was allotted, the extra manna would disappear. The futility of taking more than was Divinely allotted was quite clear. Although we are not privileged to see this principle in action in such a striking fashion, it is still in effect even in our times.

Someone once came to Rav Mordechai Schwab and told him that one of his investments had gone sour, causing him a loss of seventy thousand dollars. Rav Schwab asked him if the money had been earned honestly to which the man replied in the affirmative. Rav Shwab assured him that he would recover the money, for wealth acquired honestly does not get lost. Within a few months the investment turned a profit.

Similarly, when Rav Chaim of Volozhin was hosting a meal in his home, one of his guests inadvertently knocked over the table. All the delicate porcelain on the table came crashing to the floor. The guests were all stunned into silence, in anguish over the tremendous loss which they were certain had occurred. Only Rav Chaim remained calm. He explained to his guests that property loss can occur only if the money used to purchase that property had been acquired corruptly. Since he knew that every penny used to buy the dishes that now lay on the floor had been earned honestly, he was sure that none of the porcelain had broken, so there was nothing to worry about. When they picked up the dishes, they found that not a single one was broken or damaged.

From the above incidents we see that the partnership that sheker established with pachsa still remains in force. As such, we can be sure that any funds acquired without a tinge of corruption are not subject to pachsa, and will be spared from damage.

(c) Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blood Moon Tonight: Plus ''Effects of an Eclipse'' by the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tonight, first night of Sukkot, there will be a Blood Moon [click link to learn more and where to see it]

The Effects of an Eclipse 
Source: Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Vol. XV
"The Rebbe's Treasure: Interpretations of Talmudic Stories"

The Talmud [Sukah 29a] states that eclipses are bad signs for the world. The Talmud then elaborates on what can cause an eclipse:

An eclipse of the sun occurs for the following four reasons: For not having eulogized a chief judge (a chief judge is comparable to the sun, for he enlightens and clarifies things for the community - Maharsha); for not having helped a betrothed maiden when she called for help (to save her from ill treatment); for committing adultery and for killing two brothers on the same day.

Because of the following four reasons the moon and the stars eclipsed:

For committing forgery, for false witnesses, for raising sheep and goats in the land of Israel (that is, for letting goats and sheep pasture from other people's fields - Rashi), and for cutting down fruit-bearing trees.

The Shaloh [Noach p.274b] explains that seeing the lunar eclipse implies a bad sign. Hashem would ascertain that the Jews would see it if they were sinning. However, if they were not sinning, Hashem would darken the sky so that the eclipse would not be visible.

This interpretation is not satisfactory, for the Talmud states: "For the following reasons an eclipse occurs and not an eclipse is seen". The very occurrence of an eclipse is a consequence of the aforementioned sins and not the sight of the eclipse. Furthermore, in cloudless locations such as Egypt [see Rashi Vayigash 47:10 and Vaera 7:17] the Jews would always be capable of seeing the eclipse regardless of their behaviour.

The Rebbe's Commentary:
How can we say that something as natural and predictable as an eclipse can have an affect on people's welfare? Furthermore, how can we say that the actions of people can provoke the occurrence of something that takes place as regularly and naturally as an eclipse?

It is a wellknown fact that Torah scholars had a vast knowledge of science in general and astronomy in particular. Astronomy was very important for the Jews in order to establish the calendar and proclaim the new months. Even great non-Jewish individuals would ask the Rabbis scientific questions. Therefore, we cannot say that the Rabbis were uttering nonsense when it came to the subject of the eclipse.

Mazal - or constellation - occurs when the stars are in a certain position. Some days or times are auspicious for a good mazal, others are known to be times in which misfortune could happen, G-d forbid, due to the unfavorable mazal. So at certain moments, the mazalot can have influence on the people. Even the day on which one is born has an influence on his characteristics (Shabbat 126a). Therefore, specific mazalot provide people with good or bad tendencies. (Nevertheless, the Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva 5:4 says that a person is not controlled by his natural tendencies and he has the power to change them)

During the time of an eclipse, the stars are in a position that can have a bad influence on the people. At such a time, the four aforementioned sins are more readily transgressed! For this reason the eclipse is a bad sign for the Jews, because they are more likely to sin than at some other time. As a result, they might be punished. Hence it is not our actions that cause the eclipse, but rather the eclipse that can alter our actions, triggering a heavenly punishment.

Therefore, if Jews are doing Hashem's will, the effects of the eclipse will not concern them. Chazal even say that we should not worry about the influence of stars if we do what Hashem wants. For as long as we do not let the bad mazal alter our actions, we do not deserve any punishment.

Jews are not limited by the boundaries of nature, including the celestial bodies. We have the power to change our mazal by doing good deeds. Our mazal depends on our actions and our prayers.

Ebola - Torah Codes

Ebola - epidemic - danger of death - warning from Heaven - Sodom v''Amor - immorality - 5775 - evil

Friday, October 3, 2014


If you don't ask forgiveness from a person you have wronged, the whole Yom Kippur davening is pointless. Properly begging forgiveness doesn't mean sending a fax or a message, but personally approaching the person. 

[Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzirah [Baba Elazar] zt"l

Source: Torah Code US

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

5775: The Alter Rebbe's prediction ?

Once, when the Alter Rebbe was the ba'al koreh, he read a verse slightly incorrectly. Instead of reading 1775 he read 5775.  He did so several times and was corrected each time. This was in Parshas Pekudei 38:28, which mentions the sum of 1775 talents collected. ואת האלף ושבע המאות וחמשה ושבעים Instead of reading the "hei" of "ha-elef" (the thousand) with a "patach", he read it with a "tzeirei" (which turns the letter "hei" into 5).

When the 4th time occurred, he walked away and someone else finished the reading. When subsequently asked by the Mitteler Rebbe as to why and what had happened, he responded that at the time he saw a vision that Moshiach would come in 5775. He couldn't read it any other way.

This seems to have been reported by the Mitteler Rebbe even in his Sefer Imrei Bina (some say it was edited and then reinserted). Rabbi Leibel Groner quite a few years ago asked the Rebbe about it and whether he could confirm the story. He did.

He then asked if he could publicize it and the Rebbe said yes. Yet Rabbi Groner never has, until now. His reason for not doing so at the time was because the Rebbe was then coming out with the call of We Want Mashiach Now and that at any moment Mashiach could come.

As such, he felt uncomfortable to publicize this story then. Now, it seems, as we approach 5775, he revealed this conversation he had with the Rebbe and is publicizing it finally.

Monday, September 22, 2014


Wishing all my readers a Shana Tova...... and with great expectations and hopes that we will see Moshiach speedily in our days..... may all your illnesses be healed and all your expectations fulfilled in the coming year!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

24 Elul - Yarzheit Chafetz Chaim

1838-1933 [5598-5693]

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on the Chafetz Chaim click here

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Hope for Geula [Redemption] 5775

In a few days it will be Rosh Hashanah 5775: what does the new year hold for us?  Moshiach?? Another amazing posting from Yaak : click here to read

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Rope of Moshiach

Rav Refael Dovid Auerbach [the brother of Rav Shlomo Zalman] related that over 90 years ago his father, Rav Chaim Leib Auerbach, once approached one of the caretakers who used to light the stove in a shul in the Old City of Yerushalayim. Although the caretaker was over 95 years old, he awoke early each day to light the stove and heat the shul before davening. The caretaker mentioned that his father used to travel to see Rebbe Elimelech of Lizhensk. Rav Chaim Leib asked the caretaker if he could relate anything his father had told him about the Tzaddik. The elderly man told him ten stories about the author of Noam Elimelech. Later Rav Chaim Leib told all of them over, but Rav Rafael could remember only three of them.

It was Rebbe Elimelech's custom, the caretaker related, to teach two types of Torah at shalosh seudos, the third Shabbos meal: one on the weekly parshah and the other about the days of Moshiach. Rav Rafael recalled the concepts that Rebbe Elimelech taught about the days of Moshiach, as told to his father by the old caretaker of the shul in the Old City.

In the times of Moshiach, the chareidim will be trampled and so badly mistreated that had this been so in the times of the Baal Shem Tov, no-one could have withstood it due to their fragile souls. However, in the times of Moshiach the hearts of the people will be so tough that they will be able to endure the trampling and degradation that will be common in those days.

In the times of Moshiach, there will be great foolishness, and the line between good and evil will blur. Rebbe Elimelech brought the analogy of sifting flour with a sieve. At first all the grains of the flour - the fine and the coarse - are shaken together, battered against the sides of the sieve. In the midst of the shaking, the fine flour passes through the sieve's holes and falls to the bottom, again receiving a blow when it lands.

When the course leftovers see the fine clean flour, they become arrogant and say "See how lowly you are? You have fallen to the bottom and received an additional beating while I, the coarse waste, have been left above and not received any beating."

The coarse grains do not realize how short-lived is their triumph, because in just a short while the sieve will be overturned and the coarse grains will end up in the trash for good.

In the generation of Moshiach, Hashem will, so to speak, stretch a long rope from one end of the world to the other, and all of Klal Yisrael will take hold and grasp the rope. Hashem will take one end of the rope, and violently shake it until they will all be in the air. Not everyone will be able to withstand this shaking and many will fall to the ground. The foolish ones will say "If Hashem is shaking us so hard, surely He wants us to loosen our grasp" and they will fall to the ground. Only the wise ones will hold on tight with all their strength and might. This is "chevlo shel Moshiach" - literally "the rope of Moshiach" - usually translated as "the labor pains of Moshiach".

Source: "Mipeninei Noam Elimelech" translated by Tal Moshe Zwecker

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Angel of Forgetfulness

It happened once in the time of the Rebbe Reb Elimelech that the government had a case against a certain Jew. The courts ruled, found him guilty, and he was sentenced to death by hanging. As was the custom, the courts granted him one last request, and he asked that they notify his sons of the verdict.

The sons were notified, and they immediately set out to see their father. On the way they stopped in Lizhensk to see Rebbe Elimelech and ask his advice and guidance. When they related the whole story to the Rebbe, he answered, in his holy manner, that they had nothing to fear - their father would not be hanged.

They left Lizhensk comforted, reassured by the words of the holy Tzaddik, believing that his promise would come true. However, when they arrived they saw that nothing had changed. On the designated day, their father was brought forth to be hanged and no-one said a word to save him.

According to the law, before a sentence was carried out, they would read the charges and the verdict that had been pronounced. But when the officials went to retrieve the necessary documents, they could not find any of the papers relating to the judgment and could not proceed with the execution. They hastened back to the courthouse, but they found not a trace of the ruling nor even a memory of the case. The judges themselves were no longer able to recall the case, nor were they able to remember who the witnesses were or what testimony had been given. Everything was totally forgotten. After a lengthy delay and numerous searches, they reluctantly released the prisoner since they could bring no charge against him.

On the trip back home, the sons, this time with their father, stopped once more in Lizhensk to see Rebbe Elimelech. The Rebbe told them: "I had no other alternative except to make use of the angel of forgetfulness to cause them to forget the whole matter completely."

[Ohel Elimelech 283]

Source: Mipeninei Noam Elimelech compiled by Tal Moshe Zwecker

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Soul and the Afterlife - Where do we go from here?

A fascinating shiur from Rabbi Manis Friedman on the cycle of a soul: what happens to the soul after we die, and how a soul is born into this world. Highly recommended! Lots of information for newcomers/beginners..... you'll love this one!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Steven Joel Sotloff hy''d -Torah Codes

The beheaded US journalist Steven Sotloff fasted on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, and prayed in the direction of Jerusalem while he was held captive by the Islamic State militants, says a fellow hostage.

Rabbi Glazerson finds his name encoded in the Torah.


Monday, September 1, 2014

The Most Difficult War of All

"When you go out to war against your enemies" [Ki Teitzei 21:10]

"The most difficult war of all" remarked the Chofetz Chaim, "is man's war against his yetzer hara."

In his youth, R' Yaakov Yisrael Kanievsky [the Steipler Gaon] was conscripted into the Russian army.
It was not easy serving in the Russian army. He was surrounded by numerous anti-Semites and he often had to stand guard in sub zero temperatures. 

Despite the difficult circumstances, the Steipler used great cunning and devised various strategies that enabled him to observe the Sabbath.

It was so cold outdoors that whoever was on guard duty was given a special, thick coat to wear during his shift. But there was only one such coat, so the soldiers took turns wearing it.

One Shabbos eve, when the Steipler came to do his guard duty, the soldier who was wearing the coat took it off and, instead of handing it to the Steipler, hung it on a tree.

The Steipler now stood trembling in the freezing cold, and he was unsure as to what he should do. It was already Shabbos, and removing an item from a tree on the Sabbath is forbidden. On the other hand, without his coat he would freeze.

Five minutes, he thought. Let me see if I can bear not wearing the coat for just five minutes. If, after five minutes, I feel as if I simply cannot stand the cold, then I will retrieve the coat; after all, this is a life-threatening predicament.

Five minutes passed, as the Steipler stood shivering in the bitter cold. Another five minutes, he thought. I'll wait five more minutes and then I'll get the coat.

Another five minutes passed, then another, and yet another, until the night had passed and the guard on the next shift came to relieve him.

The Steipler had not moved from his place the entire night, nor had he transgressed any of the holy day's sanctified commandments.

The war against one's yetzer hara is a most difficult one. The way to emerge victorious is by devising clever strategies. Yet one should not attempt to overcome his yetzer hara all at once, for that will prove to be too difficult. Rather, he should progress gradually, taking a step-by-step approach, as the verse states: "Thoughts conceived in counsel will be firm; wage war with strategies" [Mishlei 20:18]

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein