Monday, May 29, 2017

Friday, May 26, 2017

Eliyahu's Gift: Forgiveness

The Presence of Eliyahu Ha'navi at a Brit Mila by Rabbi Eli Mansour

Tradition teaches that Eliyahu Ha'navi is present – in one form or another – at every Brit Mila, and for this reason a chair must be designated for him. One should expressly designate the chair by saying, "Zeh Kisei Shel Eliyahu Ha'navi Zachur Latov" - ["This is the chair of Eliyahu Ha'navi"]

Why does Eliyahu attend every Brit? The Gemara tells that Eliyahu, who lived during the reign of the idolatrous king Achav when many Jews abandoned the Torah, came to God and complained that Bnei Yisrael were not observing the Mitzva of circumcision. God reprimanded Eliyahu, saying that He does not need a prophet to prosecute against His people, to accuse them of disloyalty. The prophet's job is to pray on their behalf and show them compassion even if they sin. God therefore decreed upon Eliyahu that for all time he must attend every circumcision ritual performed by Bnei Yisrael, and then return to God and report that the Jewish people faithfully observe this Mitzva.

It is further told that Eliyahu then told God that he would be unable to tolerate attending a Brit Mila if the child's father is a sinner. After all, Eliyahu was a zealot, who could not tolerate any sin or infringement upon the Almighty's honor. [The Sages teach that Eliyahu was Pinchas, who, as we know from the Torah, was a zealot when it came to God's honor.]  God replied that He will forgive all the father's sins. Eliyahu then noted that the Mohel, or perhaps one of the guests, might have a sinful record, and God again responded that He will forgive the sins committed by the Mohel and all the attendees. [See Taamei HaMinhagim]

For this reason, attending a Brit Mila is considered an effective means of achieving atonement. It should be noted that according to the Bnei Yissaschar [work by the Chassidic sage Rabbi Tzvi Elimelech of Dinov, 1783-1841], attending a Brit earns one atonement only if he stands near Eliyahu's seat. Given Eliyahu's zealotry, those near him at the Brit Mila require atonement lest he react angrily to their sins. One should therefore endeavor to stand near Eliyahu's chair at a Brit Mila.

Additionally, some Rabbis write that one earns atonement at a Brit Mila only if he performs Teshuva. Attending a Brit does not obviate the need for repentance, but rather allows a person to repent and earn atonement more easily. It is therefore appropriate when attending a Brit Mila to contemplate sincere thoughts of remorse and repentance.

Eliyahu Hanavi appears at a baby naming for a girl just as he appears at a bris [Rabbi Sholom of Belz]. This is hinted in the verse [Bereishis 2:19] vchol asher yikro lo haadam - the acrostic forming the word Eliyahu. [Divrei Naftali Berishis ibid]. in the name of the Yismach Moshe, it is reported that he also attends a pidyon haben, as alluded to in the words which follow the injunction of pidyon haben [Bo 13:2] "lee hu". These words can be rearranged to read Eliyahu [ibid].

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The 50th Gate

The Kabbalah speaks of "50 gates of spiritual understanding", 49 of which can be achieved by a person as a result of his own initiative.  The final 50th gate is then granted by G-d from Above.

When Avraham had circumcised himself, he had reached the greatest degree of spiritual perfection that he could possibly achieve as a human being - the 49th gate - and he became "sick" yearning for the 50th gate.  This is alluded to by the fact that choleh חולה [the Hebrew term for "sick person"] has the numerical value [gematria] of 49.  Then "God appeared to him", revealing to him the 50th gate of spiritual understanding, which cured his spiritual sickness.

And, being that his physical sickness was a reflection of his spiritual dissatisfaction, the Divine revelation healed him physically too.

Based on Sichat Shabbos Parshas Vayeira 5750 - Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Why Learning Torah Is So Great - The Pnimiyus of Torah

Rabbi Mendel Kessin - Ramchal's Yahrtzeit 5777/2017

Don't know where to start with all the wonders of this shiur..... you really need to just listen to it. Some incredibly fascinating insights into angels and white magic [!] aka practical kabbalah.  Rabbi Kessin has a unique way of explaining everything and you need to hear this one.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Souls and Names

Art by Sharon Tomlinson

The Talmud [Berachot 7b] teaches that a Hebrew name has an influence on its bearer. Therefore, it is extremely important to name children after individuals with positive character traits who led fortunate lives and helped bring goodness to the world.

The Arizal writes that the nature and behavior of a person, whether good or bad, can be discovered by analyzing his or her name. For example, a child named Yehudah could possibly be destined for leadership, for Yehudah, the fourth son of Jacob, symbolized monarchy and most Jewish kings descended from the tribe of Yehudah.

It is said that parents are actually blessed with prophesy when naming their newborn babies.

According to the Arizal, even the numerical value of the Hebrew letters in one's name can be indicative of an individual's character. For example the gematria of the name Elisheva is equivalent to the numerical value of the Hebrew words yemei simcha, meaning "days of happiness," perhaps portending a joyous life for a baby girl named Elisheva.

It is precisely because the fortunes and misfortunes of mankind are concealed in the secrets of the letters, vowels and meanings of Hebrew names that a seriously ill person is given an additional name like Chaim, meaning "life," or Rafael, meaning "God heals," in order to influence his destiny. We hope and pray that the new name will herald a new mazel, or fortune, for the stricken individual.

Rabbi Elimelech of Lyzhansk, writes in his classic work on Torah "Noam Elimelech" [Bamidbar] that there is a profound connection between the soul of an infant and the soul of the person for whom he or she is named.

When a child is named after the deceased, the latter's soul is elevated to a higher realm in heaven and a spiritual affinity is created between the soul of the departed and the soul of the newborn child. That deep spiritual bond between these two souls can have a profound impact on the child.

Zocher HaBris 24:4, who also quotes Noam Elimelech on Bamidbar: “If they give him the name of a tzaddik who has already lived in this world, this will cause him also to become a tzaddik, because it has aroused the soul of the departed tzaddik in the Supernal World.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Good Advice

“In material things, look to those who have less than you and thank G-d for His kindness to you. In spiritual matters, look at those above you and ask G-d to give you the wisdom to learn from them.” 

 - Hayom Yom

Friday, May 19, 2017

A Sign from The Angel Micha'el ...?

This is a photo of the final resting place of the car that ploughed through pedestrians at Times Square NY earlier today.  As you can see it is underneath a sign that says 1515 Broadway.  There was some speculation on a conspiracy site that this sign weirdly suggested ''ISIS" - but a quick search on the internet for the gematria of 1515 came up with the following:

From Rabbi Ginsburgh:

1515 = 15 x מיכאל  [Micha’el]. We have previously noted that Micha’el [מיכאל ], whose numerical value is equal to 101, is considered the angelic minister of the Jewish people, Israel. The numerical value of Israel- ישראל is 541. Amazingly, the 101st prime number is 541!

Let us examine the names of the angels in context of their mission: Micha’el came to give Sarah the news of Isaac’s upcoming birth; Gavri’el came to destroy Sodom; and, Repha’el came to heal Abraham. Taking the sum of the angels’ names with the objects of their mission, we get that:

מיכאל שרה ┴ גבריאל סדם ┴ רפאל אברהם = 1515 = שרה שרה שרה

Now, the numerical value of Sarah [שרה] is 505, which is 5 times the numerical value of Micha’el [מיכאל]:

שרה = 5 · מיכאל , or 5 · 101

Therefore, it follows that 1515 = 15 · מיכאל , or 15 times Micha’el.

Click here to see Rabbi Ginsburgh's original article, with a lot more info.

And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince who standeth for the children of thy people; and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time; and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book. Daniel 12:1 

Also see Revered Rabbi's Deathbed Message Invokes Angel Michael Bringing End of Days

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Prophetic Letters

Diagram above shows how the Sefer Yetzirah relates the relationships of the Seven Double Letters to the Seven Days of Creation, the seven visible Planets and their corresponding physical/spiritual gates, and the relationships of the Twelve Simple Letters to the Constellations and corresponding Hebrew Months and vital organs. [L. Kude]

The following text is by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

Five Double Letters
Of the 22 letters in the Hebrew alphabet, five are called 'double letters,' as they take on a different form when appearing at the end of a word. The five letters are Mem, Nun, Tzadi, Pay, and Chaf. When placed together as one word, they spell M-N-Tz-P-Ch.

According to Talmudic tradition [Shabbat 104a], the dual form of these letters goes back to the prophets. The abbreviation M-N-Tz-P-Ch can be read as Min Tzophim — 'from the prophets.'

From the Prophets
This claim — that the special form of these letters originated with the prophets — needs clarification. The Torah of Moses is complete and whole in itself. Even a prophet is not allowed to add or invent a new mitzvah. The Torah explicitly states:

"These are the decrees, laws and codes that God set between Himself and Israel at Mount Sinai, through the hand of Moses" [Lev. 26:46]

The phrase ' These are the decrees' indicates that only the decrees that Moses set down in the Torah are in fact between God and Israel. How could the prophets change the Torah by adding new shapes of letters?

The Talmud explains that the prophets did not actually introduce anything new. There always existed two ways to write these five letters. With the passage of time, however, it was forgotten which shape belongs at the end of the word, and which at the beginning and middle. The prophets did not devise the two forms; they merely recovered the lost knowledge of which letterform belongs at the end of the word.

Why Two Forms?
Still, we need to understand: why do these letters have dual forms? What is the significance of their relative position in the word? And why were the prophets (and not the sages or the grammarians) the ones who restored this knowledge?

Letters are more than just elements of speech. They are the building blocks of creation. The Sages taught, "The universe was created with ten utterances" [Avot 5:1]. Each letter in the alphabet represents a fundamental force in the world.

Rav Kook explained that the 'final forms' — the shape that these letters take at the end of words — are the holiest. The final forms most accurately portray the sublime essence of each letter, fully expressing its ultimate purpose. To better understand this statement, we must analyze the morphological differences between the two forms of these letters.

With four of the letters — Nun, Tzadi, Pay, Chaf — the regular form is smaller and more cramped. The 'leg' of the letter is constrained and bent upwards. The form appearing at the end of the word, on the other hand, allows the 'leg' to stretch and extend itself fully. It is the final form that truly expresses the full content and power of these letters.

The two shapes of the letter Mem are distinguished in a different fashion. The regular Mem has a small opening at the bottom. It is called the Mem Petuchah, the Open Mem. It is open and revealed to all.

The final Mem is closed off on all sides. It is called the Mem Setumah, the Sealed Mem. Or perhaps — the Esoteric Mem. This form of Mem is more sublime than the regular Open Mem. Thus, the holiest written object, the stone tablets engraved with the Ten Commandments, contained only Sealed Mems, with the center part of the Mem hanging miraculously in place. The final Mem is closed off and concealed. It guards its inner secret, which due to its profound holiness may not be revealed to all.

Why is the more elevated form used at the end of the word? A hidden light appears at the ultimate vision of every noble matter. The hidden light of the M-N-Tz-P-Ch letters belongs to the end. The beginning and middle appearances of these letters are open and revealed. Their light steadily increases, until it brings us to the final, sublime conclusion.

The prophets are called tzofim, visionaries, as they were blessed with prophetic vision. Their greatness was that they could perceive the final outcome while still living in a flawed present. Understandably, it was these tzofim who sensed that the more elevated letterforms belong at the end.

Source: Rav Kook Torah

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Confusion Before Moshiach

For those who are not aware, there were a few rabbis who recently visited the pope, amid much controversy from within the Jewish community.  At least one of these rabbis then issued a written apology for certain things which were made public, and which he thought were private.  Without getting into the nitty gritty, I thought this was very interesting....

Seen on FB: HT Avrohom Alter

From the Sefer Plaos Yisroel. One time The Riziner Rebbe became very inspired and said  "In the period heralding the Moshiach there will be an exceedingly great thirst for spirituality. So much so that some Jews [in their confusion Ed.] will travel to the pope in Rome to receive his guidance. This will cause a great storming in Heaven, which will result in the fall of many world leaders and kings.… AND THEN WILL COME MOSHIACH OUR RIGHTEOUS!!

Guarding The Eyes

Art: "Forgotten Sunglasses" by Vladimir Kush

Written by Yosef Peretz, Mirrer Yeshiva Kollel, Jerusalem

The Talmud (beginning of Tractate Berachos) compares a person's soul to G-d himself; just like G-d sees but is not seen, so too the soul of a person sees but is not seen and just like G-d fills the entire world, so too the soul of a person fills his entire body, etc.. What does this mean and from where does the soul "see"? The Kabbalah answers that the soul of a person "sees" through his eyes.

If you look into someone's eyes, you're not just looking at a biological camera. You are accessing the deepest recesses of the person.

"The candle of G-d is the soul of man".

"A mitzva is a candle and Torah is light".

The Talmud teaches, "sin extinguishes a mitzva but sin doesn't extinguish Torah".

The Zohar explains: sin extinguishes a mitzva and mitzva is a candle. So sin extinguishes a candle. But which candle? The candle of G-d - which is the soul of man. So, when a person sins, he extinguishes his own soul. He then walks through life in darkness (until he repents). Conversely a righteous person who has reached a high level of purity, has eyes that literally glow with a tangible spiritual light. I know from experience that looking into the eyes of such a person can have a life-long effect.

Having said that, a person should be very careful what he exposes his eyes to. Whatever you expose your eyes to, know that you are exposing your deepest essence - your soul. If you look at the wrong things, you literally extinguish some of the spiritual light in your eyes. Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler taught (Michtav m'Eliyahu) that if a person does not sense holiness inside himself, it's a sign that his soul has left him.

This is why, according to the Talmud, it is forbidden to look at the face of a wicked person. When you look at his (or her) face, your soul absorbs some of the ruach (spiritual energy) of this person. Your soul which is beyond the physical, senses all the deeds and all the twisted drives and views of this person through his eyes and you become a little bit like him.

This is why children inherit the character traits of their parents. By constantly looking into their eyes, they absorb all of their parents' deepest spiritual traits.

The Torah forbids accepting a convert from the nations of Moab and Amon for all generations. Why? Because these nations demonstrated a lack of hakaras hatov (gratitude) to the Jewish nation when they were about to enter Israel. But why are their descendants excluded for all time to convert? Rabbi Eliyahu Lopian z''l explains (beginning of Lev Eliyahu) since their parents did not have proper gratitude, they will transmit this evil trait to their offspring and their offspring to their offsprings, and so forth forever and ever. By constantly looking into their parents' eyes, the children will inherit completely all of their spiritual traits.

Conversely, looking in the eyes of a Tzaddik (righteous person) elevates you. A person who has reached a high spiritual level has eyes that shine forth with a spiritual light. This is why it is so important to learn Torah from a great Rebbi and not just from books. The Talmud says, if your Rebbi does not look like an Angel of G-d, do not learn Torah from him. Only if you sense "Sinai" in this person should you learn Torah from him. Such a person will transmit to you the non-verbal, "internal" part of the Torah and the proper character traits which can only be transmitted through eye contact. No amount of learning in books can help you here.

I heard from Rabbi Simcha Wasserman zt''l that "when you review your lesson, picture your Rebbi's face while he was giving over the lesson. This way, you will review not only the verbal part of the lesson but also the non-verbal messages in the lesson".

The Steipler wrote (beginning of Kareina D'Igarta) every interaction with a person leaves a spiritual mark on you. The Chafetz Chaim said, the first time he saw a Jew willfully transgressing the Shabbat, he cried for an hour. The second time it lasted only 20 minutes. Why the change? He had exposed his eyes and therefore his soul, and was now no longer on the same level of purity as before.

One who is constantly surrounded by people with no faith is in great danger of becoming like them. This is not because of sharing their ideas. No! During every interaction, your soul absorbs some of the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of the person. If you don't strengthen yourself continuously, you will slowly become more and more like him. This is why it is so important to live in an area with a strong Jewish community. The Rambam wrote, if you can't find a community of righteous people to live in, you should move to the desert.

On a deeper level, everything you come across contains the "ruach" (spiritual essence) of it's source. I heard from Rabbi Shmuel Nussbaum of Gateshead (who is now a Rosh Kollel in Israel) that every book you read, contains part of the soul of the author. If you read the book of a tzadik, you are not only receiving the information he wrote. The soul of the tzadik also has a hashpa (a spiritual influence) on you.

Conversely, when you read the news from CNN or some novel, you should know that you are not just reading innocent information. You are putting your mind into the mind of the author, absorbing the spiritual energy and the drives and mentality of this person and you will tend to become like him (or her). Watch out! They didn't tell you that in the fine print!

Rav Kook zt''l

The same is with the holy Torah. When a person learns, his soul is absorbing the spiritual energy of the Almighty himself! (Although in this case, the Almighty provided two conditions in order for the Torah to transmit the spiritual light (see Derech Hashem Vol.4:Ch.2). The first is proper Yira (reverence) and tikun hamaase at all times - striving to fulfill what you are learning. Without that, learning Torah is like reading a science book.)

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter says a person can learn the laws of an ox that gores a cow, and it will help him in controlling his mouth from saying lashon hara (slander). Why? The light in the Torah, elevates his soul and gives him the spiritual strength needed to fight off the evil inclination to slander.

Think before you look as it says by Avraham in the Akeida - "And Avraham lifted his eyes". Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm zt''l says that from here, we learn that even lifting your eyes should be a calculated and weighed decision. Watch your eyes. Be careful what you read and what you look at. Try to attach yourself to a righteous person and you will become like him. Look at the picture above and in the eyes of the holy Tzadik - Rav Kook zt''l and you will taste greatness.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Rabbi Kessin: The Secret of Lag B'Omer

The most recent shiur


Source: Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

Yaakov Avinu was the first to say “Amen, yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – Amen, May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.”

Chazal say [Pesachim 56a], that when Yaakov Avinu felt that his days were numbered, he gathered his sons and attempted to reveal to them the End of days, as it is said: “Gather and I will tell you what will happen to you at the End of Days.” Since Hashem did not want him to reveal it, the Shechinah withdrew from him.

Yaakov Avinu was shaken and feared: Perhaps, Heaven forbid, one of my sons are not worthy, as happened to Avraham, who had Yishmael, and like his father Yitzchak, who had Eisav. Thus, his sons, the holy Tribes, declared: “Hear, O Israel: The L-rd is our G-d; the L-rd is one.” “Just as there is only One in your heart, so too is there only One in our hearts.”

At that moment, Yaakov Avinu said: “Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.”

This also appears in the Yerushalmi with a slight change: After the declaration of the Tribes, Yaakov Avinu said: “Yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – May His great Name be blessed forever and ever.”

Then, what did Yaakov Avinu actually say; “Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity,” or “Yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – May His great Name be blessed forever and ever?”

A closer look at the two verses reveals that both have the same meaning:

“Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity” means “Yehai Shmay Rabbah mevorach l’olam ilelomai olmaya – May His great Name be blessed forever and ever” in Aramaic. Then, during Kaddish, why do we not recite the verse in Hebrew, but rather in Aramaic?

The Midrash [Devarim Rabbah 2:35] states that when Moshe Rabbeinu ascended to heaven to receive the Torah, he heard the angels say, “Baruch Shem kevod Malchuto l’olam va’ed – Blessed is the Name of His glorious kingdom for all eternity.” Moshe took those wonderful words of praise and revealed them to Bnei Yisrael. But, in order not to arouse the jealousy of the angels, they are recited in Aramaic, and when we say them in Hebrew following the declaration of “Shema,” they are said in a whisper.

Rav Assi likens this with a parable to a man who stole diamonds from the king’s palace. When he gave them to his wife, he warned her not to display them in public, but wear them only inside her home.

The analogy: Once, and only once a year, on the most holy day of Yom Kippur, when Am Yisrael are like the angels, they say this verse out loud.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Sunday, May 7, 2017

Judaism and Abusive Marriages - Reality Check

What do you do if you're an orthodox Jewish woman and you're in an abusive marriage?  You go to your rabbi and he tells you that you must do everything you can to save your marriage, and Hashem ''never gives you more than you can handle'' etc etc - so do you stay in the marriage and continue to be abused, thinking that this is Hashem's Will ?

Rabbi Yossi Jacobson has all the answers in this audio.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Adults vs Children

Re-blogging because it's been this kind of a week.
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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Judging Others Favorably

It is written, “With righteousness shall you judge your fellow” [Acharei/ Kedoshim 19:15]

The Sages interpret this to mean, “Judge your fellow favorably” [Shevuot 30b]. How can we apparently lie to ourselves by judging people favorably in every case, when in certain cases we can see them doing the very opposite of something favorable? What is the meaning of this mitzvah in that case? The Sages have said, “Any man who is insolent will in the end stumble into sin” [Taanith 7b]. This means that shame serves as a barrier and an obstacle to sin. Once a person had breached the barriers of modesty and shame, there is nothing to prevent him from sinning, as it is written: “It is a good sign if a man is shamefaced. … No man who experiences shame will easily sin” [Nedarim 20a]. 

The same applies to a person’s influence on others. The first one who sins completely breaches the barriers of shame. The one who follows him does not require as much insolence to sin, and the third person needs even less, once these barriers have been broken down. This is why the sin of desecrating Hashem’s Name is so grave. A person who openly sins diminishes the intensity of the fear and shame that are engraved in man with regards to committing a sin, thereby prompting others to sin as well.

We can now understand how the advice given to us by the Sages, to judge others favorably, is designed to help us. It is meant to ensure that the barriers of shame are not breached within our own hearts, for once we are certain that everyone is righteous, how could we dare to be the first ones to sin? However if a person tries to find fault with everyone, he will be more likely to sin at a time of weakness.

Source – Rabbi Yehoshua Leib Diskin via Rabbi David Pinto

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Second Error of President Donald Trump: Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Finally Rabbi Kessin returns to our screens.  Can't wait to hear this one.

If you haven't seen the previous lecture ''The First Error of Donald Trump'' - click here to view

Worlds, Souls, and Divinity

Every interaction we have with another person can be experienced on four different levels.  Rav DovBer Pinson explains.