Thursday, April 28, 2016

Should We Look at Rainbows?

Photo: Stefanos Politis
HT: Yaak

by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

This topic is one of the most controversial aspects of rainbows in halacha.

To what extent are we permitted to look at a rainbow?

The Gemorah [Chagigah 16a] tells us that one who is mistakel [gazes] at a rainbow, it is worthy that he had not come into the world, for he cares not about the honor of his Creator, and that his eyes will become dimmed.

Rav Dovid Avudraham was asked the question as to how one can recite a blessing on a rainbow when we should not look at it. He responds, quoting the Rosh, that it is permitted to look at it, but not gaze at it in depth – that is for a prolonged period of time. The Orchos Chaim (Brachos 56) cites the same Rosh, and this seems to be the basis for the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch not to gaze at it for a long period of time.

What’s the reason for not looking at it at length? The Tosfos R”id explains that the prohibition is symbolic. Just as it is well nigh impossible to differentiate where each of the colors begin and end in a rainbow, we are enjoined to not contemplate the nature of Hashem and the prohibition of looking deeply at the rainbow reminds us of this.

The Zohar [Parshas Shlach 66b] states that one who looks at a rainbow is likened to one who looks at the Shechina.

Much more on this at: The Yeshiva World

The Tikunei Zohar [Tikun 18 page 36b] states that there are klipot that surround the rainbow of a tempestuous wind and a large cloud. These cause the true deeper colors of the rainbow to be obscured, and if these were actually seen – then Moshiach would arrive immediately. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Is There an Anti-Christ/ Anti-Moshiach in Judaism?

The Antichrist is described in a handful of passages in the New Testament as a future messianic pretender who will deceive mankind, battle God, and bring the world to the brink of destruction. Responding to a caller, Rabbi Tovia Singer answers the question: Who is the Antichrist in Judaism?


Seudah Moshiach

Acharon Shel Pesach, the last day of Pesach 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]

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Pesach Moon

First night Pesach, the moon was incredible. It was a cloudy night and as the clouds went past the moon they lit up in a giant halo of blue, orange and yellow. 

I had a feeling there was going to be an amazing moon so I lined up a non-Jewish friend to take photos .... but they do not do it justice. A better photo can be found here at Flickr - I truly have never seen anything like it - I wish I had a video to show you but these photos are all I have, or have found on the internet. Seems like no-one else noticed the light show except the people at my Seder and my friend [and the lone photographer at Flickr]. Click on the Flickr photo to enlarge it.  The colours in the photos really do not reflect the reality of the sight - there are no words !

Friday, April 22, 2016

For You

Chag Sameach to all readers, thank you for coming here. The blog will not be updated until after Yomtov [Sunday night]. Wishing you all a kosher and happy Pesach.    Shabbat Shalom!

Are You Ready?

Rabbi Alon Anava with all the proofs that Moshiach is so close. At 43 mins he talks about ''the star'' [Nibiru].

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Kabbalah of the Three Matzot

by Rav DovBer Pinson

The Three Matzos: Their Outer and Inner Meanings
What is the simple halachic reason that we use three Matzos when leading a Seder? It is so we will have two whole, unbroken matzos over which to bless ha-motzi—as we do at every Shabbos and Yom Tov meal—as well as one matzah to break during the Seder.

The two loaves of Shabbos and Yom Tov commemorate the two whole portions of manna that miraculously appeared every Friday, allowing us to dedicate the day of Shabbos to being with Hashem, rather than to gathering the day’s food. The third matzah of the Seder is broken, symbolizing Lechem Oni, or the ‘bread of poverty’. [Devarim, 16:3] A poor person must ration his food, so he breaks his loaf and hides a portion to eat later.

The Rif [Tenth Century], and the Gra [Eighteenth Century] used only two matzos for the Seder. They held the opinion that we need only one whole unbroken matzah, and one matzah to break. The prevailing opinion today is to use three matzos, two whole matzos and one broken matzah.

Remez, the Hinted Reason for Three Matzos
The three matzos hint at the minimum three matzos that were offered in Temple times as a todah, a ‘thanksgiving offering’. This offering was made when a person was saved from danger or released from prison. On Pesach, we give thanks for the Exodus from Egypt, which was like being freed from prison. [Mordechai]

The three matzos also remind us of when Avraham/Abraham is visited by the angels and he calls to Sarah, “Hurry! Three measures of the finest flour! Knead it, and make ugos [round breads].”[Bereishis 18:6] The Midrash says this meal takes place on Pesach, and the ugos are matzos, made in a hurry so they do not become Chametz .

D’rash, the Expanded Reason for Three Matzos
The three matzos represent the three patriarchs—Avraham, Yitzchak/ Isaac and Yaakov/ Jacob.[Rokeach] They also represent the three categories of Jews—Cohein, Levi, and Yisrael. [Arizal]

When we are preparing for the Seder, we stack the matzos in this order: first the matzah representing Yisrael on the bottom, then Levi above it, and finally the Cohein on top. In this order, their acronym is YeiLeCh, meaning ‘going’ or journeying. The Seder is a process, a journey towards liberation. [The Rebbe Rayatz]

Sod, the Mystical Reason for Three Matzos
Our sages tell us, that, “A child does not know how to call ‘Father’ or ‘Mother’ until he tastes grain.” [Sanhedrein, 70b] This implies that the consumption of wheat is associated with our intellectual development. The Arizal, R. Yitzchak Luria, says that the three matzos symbolize the three forms of intellect: Chochma or ‘wisdom’, Binah or ‘understanding’, and Da’as or ‘awareness’.

The matzah on the bottom of the stack is the one that is combined with Maror [bitter herbs] to make Hillel’s sandwich. This matzah specifically embodies Da’as, a Sefirah that brings together opposites. Hillel’s sandwich brings together the intellect [matzah] and emotions [maror], or brings together redemption [matzah] and slavery [maror].

The middle matzah is broken into two pieces. This is an expression of Binah, whose function is breaking ideas down into fine details. The left brain. The larger of the two pieces is broken into five smaller pieces before it is hidden away as the afikoman. These five pieces represent the five levels of Gevurah, constriction, another ‘left-column’ sefirah, which is just below Binah on the Tree of Life.

The letter Hei
In terms of the sefiros, Binah is represented in the letter Hei, the fifth letter, and a letter that is comprised of two parts, [a right vertical line connected to a horizontal line above, and a left suspended line to the left] thus the middle Matzah is broken into two, and then further into five.

The top matzah is consumed together with the remaining piece of the middle matzah, in fulfillment of the mitzvah of ‘eating matzah’. Fulfilling a mitzvah is a manifestation of Chochmah, a higher intuition or faith in what is above and beyond us. Being that the top Matzah is connected with the letter Yud, a simple one point, the matzah is not broken.

In general, the numerical value of the word matzah is 135, which is the same as the combined values of the Divine names AV [72] and SaG [63]. Av is associated with the sefirah of Chochmah, and SaG is associated with the sefirah of Binah.

Three and Four
Now we have an understanding of why we use three matzos. Another question arises: why should there be three matzos when the main numerical theme of the Hagadah is ‘four’? What is the inner reason for three matzos but four cups of wine, and how can this inspire our Seder?

Our sages tell us [Shabbos, 104a] that the letters Gimmel and Dalet mean Gomel Dalim. The letter Gimel [in Hebrew, the number three] means gomel - ‘giver’ - and the letter Dalet [the number four] means dalim - ‘poor people’, i.e. recipients of the ‘giver’. Thus the relationship between three and four is one of giving and receiving.

This relationship can be understood through the following analogy. One person, ‘the giver’, is considering how to communicate a subtle spiritual insight to another person, ‘the receiver’. Before communication occurs, the insight has three metaphorical dimensions within the mind of the giver: omek or ‘depth’, orech or ‘length’, and rochev or ‘breadth’. ‘Depth’ refers to the giver’s understanding of deeper meaning of the insight. ‘Length’ refers to the giver’s ability to articulate the insight, taking it out of abstraction and giving it an understandable form. ‘Broadening’ means the giver’s ability to develop practical implications of the insight.

The receiver is ‘poor’ in terms of these three dimensions. However, when the giver finally communicates the insight, a fourth dimension is added to the three: relationship with the receiver. Thus, when ‘three’ is received, it becomes ‘four’. The giver’s insight now expands vertically and horizontally within the vessel of the receiver’s mind, and there is a unity between giver and receiver.

Our Redemption
In terms of our Exodus from Egypt, Hashem is the ‘giver’ and we, the redeemed ones, are the ‘receivers’. Eventually we reach a unity with Hashem, but first a relationship must be developed. In the beginning, as slaves, we are dependent, immature, and unable to receive. During the journey of redemption, we become ready to have a genuine relationship with our Redeemer.

We drink four cups of wine to represent the four expressions the Torah uses in reference to the Exodus: “I will take you out,” “I will save you,” “I will redeem you,” and “I will take you to Me.” The first three expressions are like the three dimensions of insight within the giver, and they imply ‘poverty’ on the part of the receiver, for there is not yet an active receptivity or relationship. The fourth term, “…take you to Me” implies a genuine relationship, a unity between the giver and the receiver. This is when communication finally occurs.

In the expression “I will take you to Me,” the term ‘take’, l’kicha, alludes to the ‘taking’ of a marriage partner.[Kidushin, 2a]  Hashem takes us to Himself in marriage when we reach Mount Sinai.  Prior to this, we are still eating the bread of poverty, working on our freedom, and opening ourselves. Under the Divine wedding canopy, we sip the wine of Hashem’s Torah, and we receive the full depth, length and breadth of His insight. In Hashem’s embrace, we transcend intellect, and we are fully redeemed.

In Summary
The three matzos, as the ‘bread of poverty’, are flat and relatively tasteless—representing the receiver in an empty, passive, open state. Therefore, the first three expressions of redemption, in which the receiver is passive, correspond to the three matzos. They also correspond to the three levels of intellect, Chochma, Binah and Da’as, before they are touched and ignited by Divine love.

Wine, in contrast to matzah, is full of taste, color and passion, representing the receiver engaged in a loving relationship. The four cups of wine thus represent the fourth expression of redemption, when we, the receivers, are mature enough to enter into intimate communication with Hashem. When our three intellectual sefiros are then ignited, we transcend intellect. We unite ‘three’ and ‘four’. This is the end goal of our redemption, and these are the energies we activate at the Seder, as we eat the three matzos and drink the four cups of wine.

With blessings for a redemptive Pesach
Rav DovBer Pinson

Source: THE IYYUN HAGGADAH - A Haggadah Companion

In this beautifully written companion to Passover and the Haggadah, Rav DovBer Pinson guides us through the major themes of Passover and the Seder night.

What is the big deal of Chametz vs. Matzah?
What are we trying to achieve through conducting a Seder?
What are the 15 steps of the Seder towards freedom?
What's with all that stuff on the Seder Plate, what do they represent?
The Four Cups of Wine and the Four Stages of Freedom
And most importantly, how is this all related to freedom?

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Moshiach the Leper?

by Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson 

The Story of the Four Lepers In Our Own Lives 

The seventh chapter of Kings II (it is read as the Haftorah of the portions of Tazria-Metzora, related to the theme of those two portions), tells a fascinating story, about the “four lepers.”

The story takes place during the First Temple era, when the Syrian Army swept down on the Northern Kingdom of Israel and laid siege to the city of Samaria (Shomron). (Siege was the ultimate strategy in ancient warfare, comparable to a present day naval blockade. If an invading force could not penetrate the city walls, the enemy would encamp around the walls of the city, cutting off all supplies, especially food and water, and wait until the inhabitants were starved and forced to surrender.)

The city of Samaria was under siege by the Syrian army. The hunger was devastating. “A donkey’s head was being sold for food for eighty pieces of silver, and a cup of dove’s dung was a meal sold for five pieces of silver.” [Kings II 6:25]

The famine was so horrendous, people were resorting to cannibalism. One day the king of Israel, Jehoram (Yehoram), was walking along the inner walls of the city when a woman called to him, saying: "Your majesty, please help me." The king answered, "What is the matter?" The woman said, "My neighbor came to me, and said, 'Come, let us eat your [dead] son today, and then tomorrow we will eat my [dead] son.' So we cooked my son, and ate him. But then the next day when I said to her, 'Now let us eat your [dead] son.' But she refused, and has hidden her son from me [in order to have him for herself].”[1]

Jehoram, the king, was a fickle man. He blamed the great Jewish prophet of the time, Elisha (the disciple of Elijah the prophet), for his troubles, and had issued an edict of death against him. Jehoram even followed his soldier to Elisha’s quarters, to observe the arrest and execution. But instead of killing him, the king was confronted with a prophecy from Elisha declaring that G-d would provide deliverance for Israel the very next day.

"Then Elisha said, ‘Hear the word of the Lord. Thus says the Lord: ‘Tomorrow about this time a seah (a particular weight measure) of fine flour shall be sold for a shekel (a small currency), and two seahs of barley for a shekel, at the gate of Samaria.’’

"So an officer on whose hand the king leaned answered the man of G-d and said, ‘Look, even if the Lord would make windows in heaven [for rain to come down], could this thing be?’ And Elisha said, ‘In fact, you shall see it with your eyes, but you shall not eat of it.’" [2 Kings 7:1-2].

The Four Lepers

It is at this point where the narrative shifts from what’s happening inside the city walls to a scene outside the city walls—and this is where the haftorah of Tazria-Metzora begins—where four lepers are both starving and quarantined, because they are lepers and all lepers were quarantined outside of the city.

"Now there were four leprous men at the entrance of the gate; and they said to one another, ‘Why are we sitting here until we die? If we say, ‘We will enter the city,’ the famine is in the city, and we shall die there. And if we sit here, we die also. Now therefore, come, let us surrender to the army of the Syrians. If they keep us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall only die.’" [2 Kings 7:3-4]

They had at that point three options: 1) They could march back to the city that quarantined them in the first place, and try to get in. But what would be the point? There wasn’t any food inside the city. 2) They could march forward where the Syrian Army was encamped. The Syrians had plenty of food. But if the lepers did that, they might be killed on sight, because they were both lepers and from the enemy. 3) They could just sit there outside the walls of the city, and die from starvation without complication.

It was out of this deep distress that they said to each other: "Why just sit here until we die?"

The four lepers chose to get up and march directly to the camp of the Syrian army. In the evening hours, they marched toward the Syrian camp.

The Escape

It was then that something extraordinary occurred.

The Syrian troops imagined that they heard the noise of chariots, the sound of pounding of hundreds of horses' hooves. They were convinced they could hear the clashing of thousands of swords, the vanguard of an enemy army on the offensive. The Syrian army panicked and abandoned their camp, leaving their tents, armor, horses, and chariots, and all their food behind. In their perception, the Jews hired the Egyptian and Hittite armies to attack them. They fled for their lives.

[This miracle reminds us of what occurred on our own watch in June 1967 during the Six Day War. When it became clear that the Arabs were going to lose, and lose miserably, President Nasser of Egypt and King Hussein of Jordan concocted a story about the Americans and British entering the war on Israel's side. The demoralized Egyptians soldiers left mountains of shoes in the desert so as to run faster. They couldn't outrun Israeli tanks and so many were captured that the Israelis did not have where to place them].

A Loaded Camp

“And the lepers came to the edge of the camp, and they entered one tent, and they ate and they drank, and they carried off silver and gold and garments and they hid them; then they returned and entered another tent, and they carried items from there also and went and hid them.” (Kings II 7:8)

But then they experience a change of heart: “And they said to each other, ‘We are not acting properly. Today is a day of good news, and we are being quiet about it. If we wait till morning light, then we will have sinned. Now therefore, let us go and tell what we have learned at the King’s household.” [7:9]

The Good News

The lepers notified the guard at the gate of the city about the news. The gatekeeper had a hard time convincing the king that the Syrians had actually left and were not planning an ambush, but after sending some of his soldiers first, news came back to the monarch that indeed the Syrians had left behind all their belongings and enormous quantities of food.

There was a mad rush. The people ran out of the city to fetch the food of the Syrians. The prophecy of Elisha was fulfilled: A seah of wheat flower and two seah of barely were sold for a minimal shekel.

The king's right hand man, who had mocked Elisha the day before when the prophet foretold a miraculous deliverance, was assigned to patrol the gates and was trampled to death by the people who were rushing out to buy food at low prices. Elisha’s words to him, “you will see it but not eat it,” came to fruition. "Now the king had appointed the officer on whose hand he leaned to take charge of the gate. But the people trampled him in the gate, and he died, just as the man of G-d had said.” [2 Kings 7:17-18]

Do Something

Like all biblical stories, this one too contains many insights and lessons. Let’s focus on three.

Sometimes we feel stuck in life. We find ourselves between a rock and a hard ball. All options seem bleak. The worst thing to do in such a situation is to remain in one place. You must stand up and move. You must make a change; do something. Anything. But move forward. Even though you think you are subjecting yourself to further disaster, just making that move can transform your reality and you may discover an unexpected result that can alter your entire situation.

Sometimes you feel stuck in your business, in your marriage, in your personal psychological condition, or in any other paralyzing situation in life. The worst thing you can do is remain in one place and wait to wither away. Move! Reach out and speak to another person. Change your schedule. Start doing something new and different in your life. Open yourself up to new types of projects, peoples and experiences. Shock your system. Start biking; go to the gym; join a class, a group, become part of a project. Open yourself up to someone and share that which shames you most. Start learning Torah. Whatever you choose—but ensure it is something new and different. When we change our familiar patterns we open new pathways in our brains, and we generate new energy around us—and that can create opportunities unimaginable before.

Fear Not Opposition

There is another vital message here. Often we are afraid to initiate new projects, to undertake new ventures, to ask someone for assistance, since we are scared of what the response might be. If we march ahead, we might experience rejection, and that never feels good. If you are by nature soft and sensitive, getting a “no,” feels devastating. Some people never live out their dreams because they are too afraid of the feedback.

The lepers imagined that an entire Syrian army would be waiting for them to attack. Yet when they moved ahead, they realized there was nobody there.

When you are doing the right thing, when you are doing G-d’s work, do not worry that much about the perception of others and how they will respond. You march ahead and you might discover that there is no opposition.

A wise man (Reb Gershon of Zhlabin) once said to me: What is the difference between a 20-year old, a 40-year old and a 60-year old? The 20-year old is self-conscious about his place in the world. He is concerned to make a good impression, to be perceived as an awesome young man. He is very sensitive to how people view him. The 40-year old declares: “I do not care what people think of me. I could not care less how others look at me. I must be true to myself. You like me—good! You don’t like me, that’s fine too.” The 60-year old realizes that no one was ever looking at him.

Redemption from the Lepers

Finally, there is another profound message in this narrative.

The disease of leprosy was the quintessential malady of ancient times. Lepers were the outcasts of society. They were quarantined, isolated, and rejected. They lived alone in the outskirts of the city, separate from the rest of civilization. Yet the Book of Leviticus dedicates two complete portions to them—to their symptoms, their fate, their healing process and their return to society. Why?

The answer is in the story of the four lepers. We each have a leper within—that dimension of ourselves which makes us feel isolated, ugly and unworthy. The extraordinary message of this story is that sometimes the news about salvation comes from the four lepers outside the city. If we ignore the lepers around us, we deprive ourselves of our own redemption. And if we ignore the leper within ourselves, we deny ourselves our own liberation.

It is precisely the aspects of your personality which you are most ashamed of that may provide you with the most penetrating insights into your life and mission, if you only have the courage to expose it and dig deep into it. If you work with those parts of yourself, if you stare them in the eyes, if you acknowledge them with full honesty and vulnerability, if you share them with others you trust, you may discover how they constitute a spring board for your own moral, emotional and spiritual growth. The “leper” within you might set you free.

Moshiach the Leper

Which may be one way of explaining the perplexing Talmudic statement: “What is the name of Moshiach? The leper!”[2] Why would the Messiah be gives this title?

Because that which shames you most may hold the key to your redemption, if you will only muster the courage to embrace it and see it in its most pristine and pure state. What you have been running away from most, what you have tried to quarantine, what you are so deeply ashamed of, carries your deepest light. You need only trace it back to its authentic nature and origin, and then you will discover how this very “leper” is your Moshiach, your prophet and messenger of psychological and spiritual emancipation.

That is why the name given to Moshiach is the “metzorah,” the “leper.” How will Moshiach heal such an insane world (a “meshugene velt?”) He will show that the healing energy was always there. We were just misreading the map—the map of ourselves and of others.

The late Jewish philanthropist Irving Stone spent a lifetime studying greatness, writing novelized biographies of such men as Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Sigmund Freud, and others. Stone was once asked if he had found a thread that runs through the lives of all these exceptional people. He said, "I write about people who sometime in their life have a vision or dream of something that should be accomplished and they go to work. They are beaten over the head, knocked down, vilified, and for years they get nowhere. But every time they're knocked down, they stand up. You cannot destroy these people. And at the end of their lives they've accomplished some modest part of what they set out to do."[3]


[1] This is the interpretation of Rashi 6:29. Others explain it differently (see Radak and Ralbag).

[2] Sanhedrin 98b

[3] This essay is partially based on Likkutei Sichos vol. 22 Tazria-Metzorah. Vol. 37 Metzora. Sefer Hasichos 5751 Tzaria-Metzorah.


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

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

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lashon Harah: Lifting Yourself Up by Bringing Others Down

by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
Art Norman Rockwell

The maggid who revealed himself to the Beit Yossef said to him, “He who speaks Lashon Harah about others, his merits are removed and given to the person he has spoken about. This is the entire truth, and if people realized it they would rejoice in discovering that Lashon Harah was spoken about them. They would rejoice as if given a gift of gold and silver.” 

We need to understand the meaning of this punishment. How is it fair that the merits of the person who speaks Lashon Harah are given to the one about whom he speaks? With regards to no other sin do we find that other merits are lost as a result. What is the reason for this special punishment regarding the sin of Lashon Harah?

Rabbi Dessler Zatzal explained that what draws a person into speaking Lashon Harah is his erroneous way of evaluating himself, namely by comparing himself to others, not by evaluating his own worth. When a person finds himself among others, he evaluates his gestures, words, and clothing by questioning how others will react to them. He wonders how he will appear to others, and whether they will approve. Thinking in this way diminishes a person, whether consciously or unconsciously.

Such dependence on the views of others originates from an erroneous belief. In fact we tend to think that a virtue is considered as such only when others recognize it, to the point that a person who is scorned seems abhorrent. Because of this erroneous viewpoint, a person is liable to take pleasure in compliments that he is showered with, all while knowing deep down that he does not possess the virtues for which he is being complimented. Evaluating oneself in this way is wrong!

It is from here that a taste for speaking Lashon Harah develops. By recounting that others have done wrong, the speaker highlights his own superiority, since a person will not point out shortcomings in others if he himself possesses them. When this person speaks Lashon Harah, it is as if he were saying: “So-and-so has this shortcoming, but I don’t have it at all.” One who speaks Lashon Harah wants to raise himself up and highlight his own importance, not by his own virtues, but by lowering others. Even if he doesn’t explicitly say so, he still thinks it, even if unconsciously. He is seeking honor for himself at the expense of shaming others.

Since the goal of such a person is to build himself up by destroying others – to raise himself upon the ruins of others – he will be punished measure for measure, meaning that others will be elevated at his expense! His merits will therefore be transferred to the one about whom he spoke Lashon Harah, and the liabilities of that person will belong to him. Thus he will be redeemed from his sins by being punished measure for measure. What he wanted to do to others will be done to him.

– Siftei Chaim

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Psychics, Telepathy, Kabbalah and Judaism

What is Practical Kabbalah?

by Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh

There are two basic types of Kabbalah:

Kabbalah iyunit, "contemplative Kabbalah," seeks to explain the nature of God and the nature of existence via intellectual and meditative techniques.

Kabbalah ma'asit, "practical Kabbalah," seeks to alter the nature of existence and change the course of events via ritualistic techniques. Sometimes practical Kabbalah involves summoning spiritual forces, such as angels, and commanding them or causing them to swear to perform a certain act or function in reality.

Four hundred years ago, the Arizal taught that in our generations we should not be involved with, or attempt to use the methods of practical Kabbalah. As the Holy Temple is not standing, and we do not possess the ashes of the Red Heifer, we are unable to purify our bodies. The practice of practical Kabbalah by a person with an impure body is very detrimental and perversive. Thus the Arizal totally forbade the pursuit of this realm of Kabbalah.

What About People Who Claim to have Spiritual or Healing Powers?

by Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh

In general, if the "healer" is not a true tzaddik ["righteous one"], such as a Rebbe, the healing is always a mixture of good and evil. It is certainly possible for a person's soul to possess psychic powers. However, with the exception of a very few true tzaddikim, psychic powers are a mixture of light and darkness, at best. Often, they are completely negative. When good and bad or truth and falsehood are mixed together, the final result is usually negative. Thus if there is a mixture of good and evil, it is better to stay clear of these practices.

There were great tzaddikim, such as the Rebbes of Kamarno, that possessed psychic powers. They related that when they arrived at a certain maturity of understanding, through being involved in the truth of the Torah and Kabbalah, they understood that these psychic powers were detrimental to their own progress in the true service of God. Even though these powers were purely good, they asked God to remove them as they felt that these powers were not helping them or the world in the true service of God. They desired to serve God purely through the study and teaching of the Torah and the performance of mitzvot.

Spiritual Powers of the Non-Righteous

Although we have stated that telepathy is actually a Divine power of the righteous, we sometimes find that “normal” people profess to have similar spiritual powers. It should be clear that ninety-nine percent of these so-called “healers” and spiritual diviners etc. are nothing more than charlatans. This is true whether they deceive the public consciously or whether they themselves truly believe that they possess such powers. The whole of the book of Tanya is intended to save people from self-deception. However, there is still a minimal percentage of people who truly are capable of such divination even without having purified themselves in holiness.

The powers these people possess do not come from garbing the higher powers of the soul with the garment of thought, rather they have holes in their garments, a type of nakedness through which the light from the upper powers of the soul are manifest.

Before the primordial sin, Adam and Eve were both naked and were not embarrassed of their nakedness, however the rectification after the sin was that they must wear garments. Our sages teach us that the word levush, “clothing,” is a permutation of lo bosh, “unembarrassed,” meaning negation of the negative embarrassment that resulted from the sin.

Garments are of utmost importance, so much so that the word tikkun, “rectification,” is a synonym for levush. Through their prayers, the tzaddikim raise and purify their garments, especially the garment of thought. The pure and refined garments then rise to clothe the inner powers of the soul, which gives the tzaddik the power to act spiritual actions that normal people are unable to carry out. However, there are people whose natural garments are not refined, rather they have “holes” in their garments. They are born with a defect, just as a person may be born lacking a certain limb, God forbid. There are some limbs that are more crucial than others and a person is able to survive without that limb, contrarily, he may even develop sharper senses in another limb to overcome his disability. There are those who are born with the ability to solve dreams, for instance, with holes in the garments such that the inner light is revealed, giving him the power to act. However these are the unrectified lights of chaos and do not result from the person’s having purified his garments, therefore there is always a certain extent of self-conceit in such people.

Read the entire article on Kabbalah and Telepathy at this link: TorahScience

Paranormal Powers

The following is a reply by Harav Yitzchak Ginsburgh to someone who has paranormal powers:

The most important principle to remember when considering paranormal phenomena is the one anchored in the injunction: “Be simple [tamim] with GOD your God.” This injunction appears within the context of a constellation of prohibitions pertaining to witchcraft and sorcery. Since these practices were widespread among the pagan peoples who occupied the land of Canaan at the time of Israel’s conquest, they presented one of the first obstacles to rectified service of God. The Divine antidote to these insidious influences is identified in the verse as the attribute of temimut, simplicity or integrity.

That said, the next thing to understand is that the Torah’s abhorrence of occult practice does not imply that a person with unusual sensitivities to spiritual experiences, like yourself, need ignore, suppress, or devalue them. They certainly possess a place, even a prominent one, when incorporated within a Torah-oriented way of life .

It is indicated in various Jewish teachings, that all living beings are endowed with a spiritual consciousness. In particular, we find in the mystical collection of verses called Perek Shirah, the Chapter of Song, that every creature is gifted with a unique song of praise to God .

Although it may not appear this way to most people, it is only by virtue of a person’s choice that the spiritual side of his or her being remains hidden from awareness. At every moment we decide whether it is the external aspect of creation with which we wish to identify—its (apparently) autonomous material character—or whether it is its deep spiritual dimension that we wish to penetrate.

One of the most basic teachings of the Ba’al Shem Tov, the eighteenth century founder of the Chassidic movement, asserts that as we move through life, we are constantly being addressed by God through both our normal and paranormal senses . Every experience in life has some providential significance of which, unfortunately, we cannot always be certain without the benefit of direct prophecy. Although this would appear to leave us in a paradoxical situation, experiencing a constant flow of Divine communication which we are not always able to decipher, Kabbalah teaches us that we can always benefit from these signals by adopting a dual strategy: the innocent path of simplicity together with the focused approach of rational analysis .

These two somewhat antithetical approaches to paranormal experiences work together as follows:

Whenever subliminal vibrations emanating from the created realm amplify themselves into our consciousness, we must try as hard as possible to accept the vibes with equanimity without becoming overly obsessed or concerned with the experience. In true simplicity we should remember that all experiences ultimately emanate from God and thus are equally “normal.” The danger lies in entertaining the possibility that such an experience emanates from some source other than God.

Having accepted the experience with all simplicity, we can then try to analyze the symbols that appear in the experience with the rational tools that are available to us and to attempt to relate the experience to recognized Torah principles.

The very association in your mind with sorcery etc. can totally pollute that which may otherwise be a potentially enriching spiritual experience, for the essence of the occult is denial of God’s absolute unity and His mastery over creation . Thus practically speaking, the permissability of opening yourself up to the sensations you describe depends upon the degree to which you can rid yourself of such associations.

To some extent, the simple indulgence of the ego in such an experience can be just as threatening as the introduction of occult associations. You should never consciously intend to bring on such an experience for the sake of the gratification it provides you or the feeling of power it gives you. Doing so is a guarantee to either losing your sensitivity altogether or to summoning all kinds of false experiences which are liable to affect a destructive impact upon yourself and upon others .

So don’t attempt to seek out paranormal stimulation. When it presents itself, take it lightly, and try not to exaggerate its significance. In short, be simple with God and you will find joy in having creation sing to you even when the words of the song are unclear.

At the same time, realize that man’s Divine gift of rational analysis is intended to help human beings digest experience so that the moral good inherent therein can be gleaned and the evil discarded. The process of rational analysis, clarifying reality through the prism of our consciousness, is called birur, and it occupies a central place in the Kabbalistic scheme of redemption. The Torah is our representation of the Divine standards meant to be applied in the pursuit of such clarity. Through the process of birur we gradually strip away the layers of illusion that envelope reality and lay bare the Divine essence inherent in all things.

Hence it is incumbent upon you to try to “clarify” your intuitive experience as best you can, using the language and thought patterns of the Torah as a guide.

The teachings of the Torah encompass law (mitzvot and halachah) as well as prayer, ethics, Kabbalah, Chassidut etc. The phenomena that you experience lend themselves in particular to the language and teachings of Kabbalah. Chassidic teachings, which enclothe Kabbalah in an accessible, conceptual form, can surely help you place your experiences into a proper Jewish perspective. Even familiarizing yourself with stories about the great Chassidic masters (especially the Ba’al Shem Tov) will demonstrate to you how relevant and prevalent experiences such as those you describe were to Jews who lived less than three hundred years ago. The stories and parables told by the great Chassidic Master Rabbi Nachman of Breslav are another rich resource for you to explore in pursuing an alternative spiritual language with which to analyze your experience.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

The Blood Red Nile River

HT: Chaim David

The European Space Agency's latest image of the Nile River is quite startling as it shows the Nile River as blood red.

Whilst the explanation for this is that ESA's recently launched Sentinel-3A satellite views areas of vegetation in infrared from the satellite's radiometer, we know that nothing is really coincidental.

And of course Hashem turned the Nile River into blood during the ten plagues, and this is what it would have looked like !

Source: KTLA

Daily Teshuva

Photo: Gordon McBryde

In the merit of Esther Rivka bat Moshe - on her second yarzheit may her neshama have an Aliya.

Text by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita

 “Hashem spoke to Moshe and to Aharon, saying: If a person will have on the skin of his flesh a s’eit, or a sapachat, or a baheret, and it will become a tzaraat affliction on the skin of his flesh; he shall be brought to Aharon the Kohen, or to one of his sons the Kohanim” [Vayikra 13:1-2]

A person is inflicted with tzaraat for speaking lashon hara [Arachin 15b]. The Torah relates [Bamidbar 12:1-10] how Miriam the Prophetess, the sister of Moshe Rabbeinu, was inflicted with tzaraat for speaking lashon hara about Moshe, discussing his separation from his wife, Tzipporah. Miriam did not intend to disparage her brother; nonetheless, she was punished. How much more so will a person be punished for speaking degradingly about his fellow with premeditated intentions.

The tzaraat does not immediately appear on the body of a person. First the disease afflicts the walls of his home. If the person does not awaken to do teshuvah from this ominous sign, then the disease begins to spread to his household appliances. If he still does not correct his ways, then it spreads to his clothing. Thereafter, the disease appears on his skin and flesh [Rambam, Tumat Tzaraat 16:10]. From this progression, we observe the infinite compassion of Hashem. Hashem does not hurry to punish His children. He first awakens them to teshuvah through external factors. However, if people do not pay attention to the signs that Hashem is sending them from Heaven, the tzaraat gets closer and closer. From this subject we see how Hashem is Slow to Anger, and Abundant in Kindness. He does not strike the sinner immediately, but instead, seeks to grant him the opportunity to reflect on his deeds and do teshuvah to atone for his sins.

The Rav of Ponovezh, zt”l, says that from the disease of tzaraat, one can learn an important lesson. In the beginning, only small signs of the disease appear on the walls of his house. However, if the person does not do teshuvah, he will ultimately be excommunicated and be forced to remain outside of the Camp for a long period of time until he repents completely. From this one can conclude that when a person does not make an accounting of his deeds, he will begin to deteriorate. There are times when a person transgresses in a trivial matter. However, because he does not immediately do teshuvah, he can easily become accustomed to transgressing and thus descend to the depths of corruption.

Therefore, a person should examine his deeds regularly and immediately do teshuvah for the sins he committed each day. In this way, the sins will not become strongly rooted within him, making it very difficult for him to do teshuvah.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

A Segula for a Baby

The meaning of ''segula'' is a deed, object, or utterance that acts as a charm effecting spiritual or material benefits.  Do not think it is related to magic, it is a holy spiritual act and should be treated that way.

Now I'm going to tell you about a segula for a baby.
Photo: K. Rockman

I have known several people for whom this has had an almost immediate result!

It is the act of being ''kvatters'' at a bris - [kvatters are usually a husband-and-wife team]

The kvatters are a designated female and male who serve as messengers to bring the baby from the mother’s arms to the side of the room where the circumcision will be performed.

Many give this honor to a childless couple. It is considered a blessing for the childless couple, that in the merit of being the parents’ messengers, they will be blessed with a child of their own.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that the connection of the body with G-d is cemented during the circumcision, and etched upon the body forever.  The ritual circumcision is considered greater than any other commandment, because it directly connects the physical body with G-dliness, in a revealed and eternal manner.  The messengers [kvatters] assist and escort the infant in this connection of the physical body with G-dliness.

Sources and references can be found here:  Chabad

Act of Kindness

From a FB post by Rabbi S. Feldman:

Today I was very proud to witness and record The Real Israel in action. Travelling on a highway in Jerusalem with bumper to bumper traffic this afternoon, an elderly Arab driver with a flat tyre needed help. An IDF truck pulls over in front of him to help change his tyre. I asked him permission to publicise this and he very happily agreed. In the real Israel (not the one the media wants you to think exists), the Israeli army is a deeply compassionate army that does not discriminate between people in need and as we see here this is embedded in their training; to pull over in the scorching heat on their own volition to provide help to an Arab they do not know. — in Jerusalem, Israel.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

How Do We Know Moshiach Is Coming Soon

From the recent lecture in Ramat Bet Shemesh Gimel, Rabbi Alon Anava speaks - a two part video. 

How do we really know Mashiach is coming soon? We've being hearing that Mashiach is coming for the last 2000 years, why should He come now?? Watch this video to see the sources from the Zohar and more reveal the time has come and Mashiach is coming VERY SOON!!

Friday, April 1, 2016


Art: Kjherstin
Even though Moshe received the Torah from its Heavenly source and transmitted it to the people below, Aharon actually caused the Divine Presence to come down to earth.

Similarly, in these final moments of exile, it is the approach of Aharon - bringing the Jewish people closer to observing the Torah [Avos 1:12] - which will bring the Divine Presence back to earth once again.  For, in this respect, the approach of Aharon is even greater than that of Moshe [Torah study].

Source: Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Shemini 5732 Lubavitcher Rebbe