Friday, January 30, 2015

Min HaShamayim

Art: Vladimir Kush
The manna reminds us that a Jew's food, and his livelihood in general, come directly from G-d, in a manner of "bread from heaven", i.e. even though, at first glance, it appears that a person earns his livelihood through hard work, in truth however the work of his hands is merely a "receptacle" into which G-d places his blessings.

In other words, it is not the hard work in itself that brings a person his daily bread - G-d provides a Jew with food in a manner which is not limited to the rule of nature.  But in order not to disturb the natural order which He created, G-d garbs His gift in natural phenomena, so that it should appear to come from nature alone.

The eternal perpetuation of manna reminds us that, even though we no longer see bread coming from heaven, nevertheless, in truth the bread continues to come from heaven to this day.

Source: Sichas Shabbos Parshas Beshalach 5751, Lubavitcher Rebbe

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

The Story of Devorah HaNeviah

[Shabbos Parshas Beshallach is known as Shabbos Shirah, because of the song which the Jews sang to G-d at the Splitting of the Red Sea on their way out of Egypt. The matching Haftorah is the song sung by Devorah the Prophetess (Shirat Devorah) after the Jews won their battle against Sisera]

Devorah was the only woman who was both a Judge and a Prophet. The only man who accomplished that feat was Shmuel/Samuel who bridged the Period of the Judges and the Prophets.

According to Rashi, there were forty eight male prophets and seven female prophetesses. The seven prophetesses were Sarah (wife of Avraham) Miriam (sister of Moshe and Aharon), Devorah, Chana (mother of Shmuel), Avigail (wife of David) Chuldah and Esther.

Devorah's style is described as "sitting under the date palm of Devorah," meaning that for reasons of "tzniut," or modesty, she did not wish to meet with male litigants in private. Therefore, she "set up court," performing her duties as Magistrate and as Teacher and Transmitter of Torah, in the great out-of-doors.

The Midrash places her in good company when it says of her that "Moshe, David and Devorah sang to Hashem and the Holy Spirit rested upon them." [Mechilta Beshalach 6]

The date of the reign of Devorah was 1130 B.C.E. The People of Israel had been oppressed by Yavin, King of Canaan, and his fearsome general, Sisera, for twenty years. In a prophetic message from Hashem to Devorah, Hashem informs her that the time has come to cast off the yolk of the King of Canaan, and that the task should be performed by Barak ben Avinoam along with a small army of 10,000 men taken mainly from the Tribes of Naftali and Zevulun. Other Tribes were also expected to help, but no specific numbers were required.

Sisera, hearing of this surprising and presumptuous challenge from the People of Israel, determines to destroy their army completely. He assembles a force of nine hundred iron chariots (each the probable equivalent of a modern battle tank) plus, according to Targum Yonatan 5:8, 40,000 Officers, 50,000 swordsmen, 60,000 spear throwers, 70,000 shield carriers, and 80,000 regular soldiers - the total of which by the ordinary rules of war would be expected to totally annihilate the miniscule army of Israel, G-d forbid.

But the battle is a victory for Israel, though Sisera has received aid from all the Kings of Canaan, who likewise wish to destroy Israel. Israel receives miraculous aid from the forces of Nature, caused of course by their Director. The stars approach the battlefield, scalding the army of Sisera, and causing them to seek refuge in the waters of the River of Kishon. But those waters, usually shallow, miraculously rise and drown all the forces of Sisera - that is, all but him.

Sisera, shocked and stunned by the outcome of the battle, staggers in the direction of the Tent of Chever the Kenite, who has a peace treaty with Yavin, the overall King of Canaan. Chever's wife, Yael, emerges from the tent and gestures to him to come into her tent for protection. She plies him with warm milk, and he falls asleep. She seizes a tent peg and a hammer, and drives the peg between his eyebrows, through his head and into the ground, definitely and thoroughly killing him.

When Barak, in hot pursuit of Sisera, arrives, Yael says, "the one you are looking for is in my tent, and he is quite dead."

The People of Israel follow up their victory by applying intensifying pressure on Yavin until they completely break his hold on them and in fact reverse their roles. Peace is obtained for a long period of time, forty years, in the context of those tumultuous times.

"All salvation comes by virtue of women." [The Alter Rebbe]

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Way It Is

The Kotzker Rebbe said: "Aub es geit nit vi es vilt zich, darfmen vilan vi es geit!" - "If it does not go the way you want it to be, then you have to go along with the way it is from Heaven".

[Rabbi Chaim Dalfin as heard from Reb Zelig Levin]

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Rebbe on Autism [video]

If someone is autistic, it doesn't mean that they don't relate to anyone. They might not relate well to people, but to G-d they relate as well as everyone else, and even more. Place a charity box in his room. This will benefit him, and he'll remind his visitors that they must give charity."


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Sparks of Tanya

What is our purpose in life?  Why is life such a struggle?  Why is my inner self so full of contradictions?  How do I deal with my anger, jealousy, anxiety and despair?  Does the universe really exist or is it an ''illusion''?   

The Tanya compacts four millennia of Jewish wisdom to answer the great personal and existential questions of life. It has revolutionalized the way we think about G-d, the human soul, the world, and our place in it.

The Tanya, the foundation of Chabad-Chassidic philosophy, has been termed the Written Torah of Chassidus.  It is endlessly deep and wide and answers all of life's questions.  However, for many, this vast treasure remains inaccessible, because of its Hebrew language or its translation to difficult English.

A new book ''Sparks of Tanya'' by Robert Kremnizer was written to make the Tanya available to the masses, simple to understand and easy to read, if you have ever tried and failed to learn Tanya, here is your opportunity.  I am only half-way through the book, but felt compelled to share it with you all.

Sparks of Tanya is available here or here

Monday, January 5, 2015

Yerida L'tzorich Aliyah - Descent for the Purpose of Ascent

No Pain No Gain
נס - Nes - Miracle

ניסיון - Nisayon - Trial

"All the affairs of the world, whether for the good or for the bad, are trials [nisyonos] for a man"… [Mesillat Yesharim* (Path of the Just) Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto]

When a person is destined to reach a level which is much higher than his present rung, it is necessary for him to undergo a descent first. [The Lubavitcher Rebbe]

Before a person experiences a miracle - נס - , he is given a trial - ניסיון. There is no ascent (aliyah) without a prior descent (yeridah). The lower the descent, the higher the potential ascent.

G-d tries the righteous, for knowing that the righteous will do His will, He desires to make them even more upright, and so He commands them to undertake a test, but He does not try the wicked, who would not obey.

Thus all trials in the Torah are for the good of the one being tried. [Nachmanidies, Commentary on the Torah; Genesis, p. 275; Chavel translation; ]

From here, we learn a number of important points. First, the purpose of a nisayon is not to reveal anything new to G-d, but to increase the spiritual reward of the person by bringing forth his or her latent greatness into actual deeds of righteousness.

Second, a person is only sent a nisayon that he or she has the potential to "pass," provided the person uses his free will properly.

Third (and this is implicit in the first point), the nisayon is intended for the good of the person—to elevate the person spiritually.

Nes can also be translated as "banner": The test is meant to "lift a banner" and reveal to the world, and to the person himself, the potential hidden within a human being.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Signs of the Moshiach

Rabbi Mizrachi supplies evidence of the current day signs of Moshiach.


Thursday, January 1, 2015


Rebbe Nachman once told me "When things are very bad, make yourself into nothing. Uhu as es iz shoin gar schlecht, iz min zich gar m'vatel."

I asked him: "How does one make himself into nothing!"

He replied: "You close your mouth and eyes - and you are like nothing! Me far-macht das moil, uhu die oigen, iz bitul."

We can gain valuable insight from these words.

Sometimes you may feel overwhelmed by the Evil Inclination. You are confused by evil thoughts and very disturbed, finding it impossible to overcome.

You must then make yourself like nothing, you no longer exist, your eyes and mouth are closed. Every thought is banished. Your mind ceases to exist. You have nullified yourself completely before G-d.

Source: Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom by his Disciple Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan zt"l