Thursday, December 27, 2018

Sufficient Aggravation

Rabbi Nota of Chelm had a chassid who was very well-to-do, who said to him "I am very wealthy and I lack for nothing. But recently there is a little voice within me, that tells me that all is not well. It is as if I have a premonition that my fortunes are about to take a turn. It is one thing if a person is born into a life of poverty, and accepts poverty as a way of life. Not so with me. If I lose my fortune, the change will be disastrous, and I doubt that I will be able to adjust to it."

"What kind of changes have you made in your home recently?" Rabbi Nota asked.

Assuming that the Rabbi was inquiring about laxity of Torah observance, the chassid said "G-d forbid, Rabbi. Everything is as it was. Shabbos is totally Shabbos, my kosher standards are as rigid as ever, and I faithfully study the Torah daily."

"That's not what I am after" the Rabbi said. "What physical changes have you recently made in your household?"

The chassid thought for a moment, then said "Yes, I did make a change, but it is hardly significant. I had a set of expensive crystal glassware, but I would get upset when a crystal goblet fell or was chipped. I therefore set it aside, and bought silver goblets which are more resistant to damage."

"There you have your answer" Rabbi Nota said. "Every person is destined to experience a small amount of adversity. You were fulfilling your quota of unpleasantness when a piece of crystal was damaged. When you eliminated that source of unpleasantness, you invited adversity from other sources. Put away the silver goblets and use the crystal again. You will then have sufficient aggravation from the crystal being chipped so that you will not need any other."

And so we have an explanation for the custom in Jewish homes that when a glass or dish breaks, we exclaim "Mazel tov!" If we were destined to experience some loss, we satisfied this decree by the loss of the glass or dish, and now we could go on to be happy.

Source: Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Sunday, December 23, 2018


Trump's brilliant move : read it here

I'm hoping Rabbi Kessin will have a new shiur up as I'm sure he'll have plenty to say right now.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Re-count

Rabbi Glazerson brings some very interesting information in this video....concerning the month of Teves 5778 - which we know was last year - however, we count the years differently depending on the matter in hand.  When we count the years for Moshiach's arrival, we count from Adam -  after all, the word Adam is an acronym for Adam/David/Moshiach.  So perhaps when we were all disappointed that Moshiach didn't arrive in 5778...... according to the ''counting from Adam'' we are still in 5778.

Everything's in the Torah

Tonight marks 11 years since my sister and her husband were killed instantly in a freak car accident on 11 Teves.  The parsha at the time was Vayechi, the same parsha we read this week.

Their names were Zev Yosef a"h and Rachel a"h.  All of those names can actually be found in parshat Vayechi.

Yosef - Vayechi 48:1

Rachel - Vayechi 48:7

Zev - Vayechi 49:27

What does it mean?  I have no idea.... but it's pretty cool.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

In Pursuit of Truth

Art Mike Worrall

"Tzedek, Tzedek shall you pursue, that you may live and inherit the earth." [Deut 16:20]

"Pursuit" in Scripture is usually in order to destroy, as in "Five of you shall pursue a hundred" [Lev. 26:8].  Why, then, are we told to pursue tzedek - truth - as if it were an evil that we wish to eradicate?

There are times when we must keep away from the truth.

G-d asked Abraham: "Why did Sarah laugh, saying "Will I really give birth, when I have become old?" [Genesis 18:13]. Actually, Sarah had said that Abraham was old [Gen 18:12].  G-d changed the report for the sake of harmony between the two.

Why did G-d mention age at all?

To teach us to use falsehood when necessary for peace.  Being overly "righteous" about it is forbidden.

There are times when truth destroys and falsehood builds.

This is demonstrated by the very word שׁקר - "falsehood". Two of its letters stand on a single base, making them unstable.  Why, though, is the first letter - - sometimes formed with a stable base?  To show that we should not always discard falsehood. On occasion it is necessary.

Returning to our verse: "Tzedek, tzedek shall you pursue, so that you may live and inherit the earth".  The first tzedek means "charity" or "kindness".  The second means "truth". (Tzedek bears both meanings in Biblical Hebrew).  Our verse hints that truth is to bring charity and kindness in its wake.  Sometimes, charity and kindness require you to "pursue" and banish truth.  When?  "So that you may live" - when life is at stake.

If a critically ill person asks you how he looks, don't reply: "You look as if your condition is deteriorating."  That might hasten his death.  Lie and say: "You look as if you are on your way to recovery."  His joy at hearing this may help him recover.

You may also have to banish truth to bring peace.

Let's say Reuven sent a messenger to pick something up from Shimon, whose response was to curse Reuven.  Afterward, Reuven asks his messenger "What did Shimon say?"  To prevent a feud, Shimon must refrain from telling him the truth.

Pursue truth "and inherit the earth" - banish truth to bring peace, which preserves the earth.

Source: Od Yosef Hai, Derushim Shoftim - Ben Ish Chai

Monday, December 3, 2018

Kabbalah of the Dreidel

The Dreidel Players: Elena Flevora
There are four letters on the dreydel. נ - Nun, ג - Gimel, ה - Hay, and שׁ - Shin - These letters stand for "Nes Gadol Haya Sham" - "A great miracle happened there".
[In Eretz Yisrael it is a פ - Peh instead of the Shin: A great miracle happened here.]

The four letters stand for:

a) the four parts of man - Nefesh [soul], Guf [body], Seichel [intellect], HaKol [all the rest].

b) the four foundations of the world - fire, water, wind and earth

c) the four nations that put us in exile - Egypt, Persia, Greece and Rome.  The four letters on the dreydel have the gematria of Moshiach [358].  This is also the gematria of Hashem is King etc. Chanukah is the season when the possibility exists for the light of Mashiach to burst forth. Then, man and the world will be restored to harmonious relationship and the last and most bitter exile of Rome will draw to a to a close, and we will see the fulfillment of the verse that Hashem will be King forever. [Bnei Yissaschar]

Chanukah and Purim have much in common. They are two holidays which will enjoy an exalted status when Mashiach comes. They were celebrations which were decreed by the Rabbis to commemorate events that took place in their time. Since the faith of the Jewish people were instrumental in bringing these holidays about, the Holidays of the Torah will pale in comparison to them, like a flashlight shining on a sunny day.

Both days have their special instrument. Purim the gregger, Chanukah the dreydel. Their use is indicative of the nature of the holiday.

Purim's gregger we hold from below to symbolize that the great Teshuva on the Jews provided an initiative from below which caused the divine initiative to bring about the miracle.

On Chanukah we use a dreydel which we hold from above to symbolize that the principle initiative for the miracle came from above, and our actions brought it to fruition.

Source: Nishmas

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Rabbi Kessin on the Tamar Yonah Show

Tamar speaks to Rabbi Kessin about current events, including Hamas attacks, Hezbollah Missile threat, Iranian Nuclear threat, Bibi’s failing government, the Migrant-Caravan pushing into the US southern border and more.

Click here to listen.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Trust Only in Hashem

"Yet the chief wine butler did not remember Yosef, and he forgot him" [Vayeishev 40:23]

This verse seems redundant, noted the Maharam of Amshinov. Why must it state that "he forgot him" once it already informed us that "the chief wine butler did not remember Yosef".

The Rebbe answered: As soon as Yosef uttered his request to the chief wine butler he realized that he had sinned, as he had trusted in a human being instead of Hashem.  He therefore prayed to Hashem that the butler would forget his request entirely! And, indeed, "he forgot him".
Rashi explains that Heaven punished Yosef and made him remain in prison an additional two years because he placed his trust in the chief wine butler.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

A Message for Eisav

by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"And he said, "If Esau comes to one camp and strikes it down, the remaining camp will escape."
 וַיֹּ֕אמֶר אִם־יָב֥וֹא עֵשָׂ֛ו אֶל־הַמַּֽחֲנֶ֥ה הָאַחַ֖ת וְהִכָּ֑הוּ וְהָיָ֛ה הַמַּֽחֲנֶ֥ה הַנִּשְׁאָ֖ר לִפְלֵיטָֽה  [Vayishlach 32:9]

Take a look at the word in the Torah "והכהו" - ''strikes it down''.   Whether we read it forwards or backwards, it is the same word.

There is a great message here, as is found in the Sefer Da'at Chachamim. Every blow, every wound that the gentiles inflict on Am Yisroel, will eventually rebound and hit them back in the face.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Mamash Angels

We've been told that the way to avoid the chevlei Moshiach [birthpangs of Moshiach] is by learning Torah and doing good deeds. The other advantage of both these things is that when you do them, you create [good] angels for yourself, as Yaakov does in this week's Parsha.

"And Yaakov sent angels ahead of him to Eisav" [Vayishlach 32:4]

Rashi comments: "And Yaakov sent angels -  literally [mamash] angels".

R'Meir of Premishlan explained Rashi's words with the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos [4:13] : "He who fulfills one mitzvah gains one advocate for himself". When an individual performs a mitzvah, he creates an angel that speaks favorably on his behalf in Heaven.

The verse tells us that Yaakov sent angels as messengers to Eisav. Which angels did Yaakov send? Those angels that had been created through the mitzvos that he had performed.

This is what Rashi is alluding to when he says: "mamash angels".  For "mamash" is the acronym of the words "malachim me'mitzvos sheásah" ["angels from the mitzvos he performed"].

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Friday, November 16, 2018

The Path You Choose

Photo: Source unknown

Every action we do creates an angel. A good action creates a defending angel, a bad one creates a prosecuting angel.

One lie will lead to many more lies, creating more and more prosecuting angels.

Every day contains the potential for the creation of good angels who will defend and assist you in times of need.

Chazal teach that the path you choose to follow is the path along which you will be lead. Good deeds will lead to more good deeds.... while lies and deception bring about a continuing cycle of lying to cover up the previous lies.  

There is a way to break the cycle, and that is to about-turn, and retrace your steps. This is teshuvah - returning to the right path. This path ensures a continual helping hand from Above.

Any obstacles encountered whilst retracing your steps are called "tikunim" - corrections. Each one is a test, tailored to suit your needs. Passing each test is achieving a tikkun in that area, or with a particular person.

Sometimes tests come all at once, and sometimes they are few and far between. Each person will be given exactly what they require at exactly the right time.

Tikunim can also relate to actions done in past lives. You may have owed someone an apology from another lifetime. You have met up now, in order to achieve a rectification.

As long as you are on the right path, the obstacles will be easily taken care of. The key is to have trust [bitachon] in Hashem and never give up or be side-tracked. But even if this does happen, you can again retrace your steps and return. Teshuvah is never out of anyone's reach.

A life without bitachon leads to worry and anxiety:

ביטחון - bitachon - trust

דאגה - deagah - worry or anxiety

דאגה contains the first 5 letters of the alef-beis, minus the letter "beis" - which stands for "bitachon" showing us that a life without trust in Hashem will result in worry and anxiety.

באר - baer - is the Hebrew word for "well"
בור - bore - is the Hebrew word for "bore/pit"

Whilst they sound the same, and have similar meanings, there is a major difference between the two.

A Baer is a living well, a well containing water that is "alive".
A Bore is a hole, containing dead stagnant water or worse.
The difference between the two words in Hebrew is the Aleph in the centre of the word באר.

The Aleph represents Hashem [Adon Olam]. If you have Hashem in the middle of your life, you will access the well of the living waters. If you remove Hashem from the centre of your life, it becomes a bottomless pit.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Rachel and Leah

This week's Parsha Vayeitze is the Parsha of the week I was born.

Is there any personal significance to the Parsha of the week you were born? Find out here.

Vision of Rachel and Leah: Dante Gabriel Rossetti
Lavan had two daughters, the older was was called Leah, and the younger one was called Rachel.
[Vayeitze 29:16]

Rachel represents the approach of tzadikim whose lives are totally holy; and Leah represents the approach of ba'alei teshuvah (penitents) who elevate the secular world to holiness.

Thus, Rachel was naturally attractive: "Rachel had beautiful features and a beautiful complexion" like the tzaddik whose character is flawless; whereas Leah cried profusely, alluding to the process of teshuvah. She was also naturally outgoing, a talent which helps a person to bring the outside world to the realm of holiness.

"Yaakov was an honest person, dwelling in tents" [Toldos 25:27]-  i.e. he busied himself only with matters of holiness - the approach of tzaddikim.  Therefore, people said that Yaakov was destined for Rachel, since their characters matched.  Eisav, on the other hand, was an outgoing "man of the field". Therefore people said that he would be a good match for Leah, for only the talented, outgoing Leah would have the ability to make Eisav do teshuvah.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe: Gutnick Chumash

Monday, November 12, 2018

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Jews, Wake Up!

A Massacre in Pittsburgh: When Jacob Must Don the Cloak of Eisav

By: Rabbi YY Jacobson

Dedicated by Daniel Brenkler, in loving memory of all the Jews killed in Pittsburgh, Shabbos,  To read this article at the source, click here.

Horror and Grief

Our hearts bleed. How is it that in 2018 we are seeing images of Jews gunned down in their house of worship?

On Shabbas morning, October 27th, 2018, the Jewish day of rest, a middle-aged man burst into a Pittsburgh synagogue. What followed was the deadliest antisemitic attack in American history. Eleven men and women, who had come only to celebrate and pray, were gunned down, their blood pooling around their scattered prayer books. A heroic team of local police officers charged the Shul under heavy fire. Though many sustained severe injuries, the massacre was finally brought to an end and the gunman captured.

Taking the Blessings

The twin brothers Jacob and Esau [Yaakov and Eisav] occupy the leitmotif [theme] of this week’s Torah portion, Toldos.

Rebecca [Rivkah] loves Jacob [Yaakov], the child dwelling in the tents; while Isaac [Yitzchak] loved Esau [Eisav], the “skilled hunter, the man of the field.” As the story progresses, Isaac grows old and his eyes become dim. He expresses his desire to bless his beloved son Esau before he dies. While Esau goes off to hunt for his father's favorite food, Rebecca summons her son Jacob and instructs him to go take his father’s blessings. She dresses Jacob in Esau's clothes, covers his arms and neck with goatskins to simulate the feel of his hairier brother, prepares a similar dish, and sends Jacob to his father with the food. The Torah quotes her saying:[1]

And now my son, listen to my voice, to what I am commanding you.

Go now to the flock, and take for me from there two choice kids, and I will make them tasty foods for your father, as he likes.

So Jacob drew near to Isaac his father, and he felt him, and he said, "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau."

Jacob receives his father's blessings for "the dew of the heaven and the fat of the land" and mastery over his brother. Once Esau returns with the food, it is too late. Jacob has already obtained the blessings.

The Mysteries

This is a deeply complex narrative, or to paraphrase Winston Churchill who said of Russia, "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma."

Here are five of the most thundering questions. How did Isaac and Rebecca allow themselves to grow so far apart in their perception of their children, to the point that Isaac favored Esau, and Rebecca insisted that Jacob receive the blessings? Why would she deceive her husband rather than speak to him? Why did Jacob employ cunning and stealth to deceive an unsuspecting brother? When Isaac discovers the trick, he seems shocked and bewildered. Why did he never chastise his wife or son?

Finally, when Jacob entered Isaac’s chamber, and his father felt him, Isaac declared: "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau." Clearly, Isaac identified this man as having Jacob’s voice. So why did he give him the blessings? Why did he not investigate who is the person standing before him?

Dozens of interpretations have been offered. Today I wish to present one perspective—it is an extraordinary insight presented by the late Rabbi Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (1903-1993).[2]

The Ashes of Isaac

Isaac was the first person to be born a Jew. At the most defining moment of his life, he lay on the altar, bound up, about to be sacrificed. He was moments away from death. Only in the eleventh hour did the angel command Abraham: “Do not lay your hand on the lad.”

It was, at that moment when he lay on the altar, that Isaac understood the magnitude of sacrifice that Jewish existence would require.[3] He knew that to be a Jew would be far from a simple feat. His people will endure fire and water. “Fire will not burn us; water will not drown us,” goes a famous Russian Chassidic song. But fire and water it is! Jewish survival ought never to be taken for granted. “In each generation they rise up against us to annihilate us,” we say in the Passover Haggadah, “and G-d saves us from their hands.”

The Mission

That may be one reason Isaac, the man who understood sacrifice, had a special affinity for Esau: “And Isaac loved Esau because [his] game was in his mouth,” the Torah states.[4] “Esau was a man who understood hunting, a man of the field, whereas Jacob was an innocent man, dwelling in tents,” the Torah tells us.[5] Isaac understood that for the Jew to survive he will need not only to “dwell in the tents” of study and scholarship,[6] not only to reside in the citadels of the spirit, in the mansions of moral contemplation and ethical explorations, but also learn how to hunt in the field, how to take a weapon in his hand and battle with viscous aggressors in the killings fields of a harsh terrain. In the worlds of the Talmud: “He who comes to kill you, kill him first.”[7]

But it’s not only about security. The mission of the Jew is to transform the physical and material world into a divine abode. To achieve this, he must enter into the real world and impact it. He must enter the open fields of society and live proudly as a Jew: His ambition coupled with integrity, courage coupled with sanctity, physical might permeated with spiritual vision. He must integrate heaven and earth.

A Perfect Partnership

In Isaac’s mind, a partnership between the twins Esau and Jacob will guarantee an eternal people. Jacob will grant the people its soul, spirit, conscience, and moral GPS; but Esau will guarantee it survival in a material and harsh world and will become the facilitator of Jacob’s spiritual wisdom in our physical world.[8]

The tragedy, of course, was that Esau did not see himself as a partner of Jacob. His material prowess, his hunting skills, his field-manoeuvers have become divorced from his spiritual, soulful core. His body was severed from his soul. “And Esau came from the field, and he was exhausted.” Esau was ambitious and skilful, but spent. He craved to conquer the entire “field,” to own the world, but he remained internally worn out, emotionally exhausted, detached from his own metaphysical roots. His internal universe was chaotic, distraught, and frenzied. Isaac yearned that Esau’s enormous strength be harnessed to facilitate the spiritual goals of his brother Jacob. He wants to bless, empower and sublimate Esau.

Rebecca’s Vision

It is Rebecca, the Jewish mother, who understands the calling of the moment—and the calling of history. “Now my son, listen to my voice, to what I am commanding you. Go now to the flock, and take for me from there two choice kids, and I will make them tasty foods for your father, as he likes.” My dear Jacob! It is time to leave your tents of study and go out to the field (where the goats are.[9]) It is time for you to learn how to garb yourself in Esau’s cloaks and gear—you can’t always remain sheltered in your sweet cocoon of spirituality. Sure, your tents of study and prayer will remain your eternal compass; they will guide your direction in the field and navigate your movements in the outside world, but you must not run from lifting up Esau’s sword to protect your children, you must not be afraid to stand up to your fierce enemies with unwavering resolve; you must never apologize for your right to exist and flourish in G-d’s world and in your homeland, and you must never allow your hyper sense of morality and ethics to turn you into the punching bag of the United Nations and the European and American Intelligentsia. You can’t allow your enemy to axe you with knives, gun you down with rifles, and you are always on the defensive. It is time for you to go on the offensive and let your enemy be frightened for his life.

My dear Jacob! You are a good, sweet boy. You despise violence, loathe conflict, and believe that everyone wants peace; that negotiations and compromises will bring out the best in your former enemies. That is what makes you so wonderful and noble. You never give up on the dream of peace. But Jacob, your father is right. You will remain a sacrificial ram, unless you stand up for yourself in the battlefield of ideas and in the battlefields of life.

We are the people of the book, not of the sword. Yet, there are moments in history, says Rebecca, when we will have no choice. David will need to stand up to a Goliath; in the Persia of old, during the edicts of Haman, Jews will need to engage in moral violence to fight off their blood thirsty foes. In the days of Chanukah, the Jews will once again need to take up arms to save their people and faith. Time and time again, Jews will need to learn how to fight back. In June of 1967, and numerous times before and after, Israel will need to wage war to save a beleaguered people from the enemy’s quest for our annihilation.

Do you want dead Jews who are seen as ethical, or living Jews whom the UN condemns as shylocks? Do you want Jews strewn in rivers of blood with the world condemning the atrocities against them, or do you want powerful, healthy and vibrant Jews who strike fear into the hearts of monstrous killers who have no qualms to butcher innocent humans whose only crime is that they woke in the morning and went to synagogue to pray to the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?

My dear Jacob—said his mother—one day, Esau will become your partner. One day, the Moshiach will come—and may it be speedily in our days—and you will return to your tents of spiritual ecstasy, as the “spirit of impurity will be removed from the world,” and the entire “earth will be filled with Divine consciousness as the waters covers the sea.” There will be a time when, in the words of Isaiah (2:4), “He [G-d] shall judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples, and they shall beat their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift the sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

But till that glorious day, my dear Jacob, you can’t allow Esau to own the marketplace of military power, technology, science, medicine, wealth, influence, and physical strength. You are not Esau, you are not a man of war and violence; you are a prince of G-d, a man of wisdom, integrity and faith. But you must dress like Esau, you must don his gear. For your enemy is brutal, ruthless, and bloodthirsty. He is promised 72 pies of pizza for becoming a “shahid,” a martyr, and as long as you duck, the international community somehow empathizes with his murderous plans. The world respects Jews who respect themselves; the world admires Jews who are not afraid of doing everything it takes to stop immoral violence and bloodshed.

What is more, says Rebecca. Your duty as a Jew is to create a fragment of heaven on earth, to sanctify physical life, and to sublimate all aspects of the material world. Jacob, in the absence of a brother to assist you, you must learn to achieve this feat.

A Radiant Field

To his credit, Jacob obeys. He may not understand why. But he knows that mother knows best. He learns to enter the field. He learns to don the clothes of Esau. And when he enters the chambers of his father, something remarkable happens.

And he [Isaac] said, "Serve [it] to me that I may eat of the game of my son, so that my soul will bless you." And he served him, and he ate, and he brought him wine, and he drank.

And his father Isaac said to him, "Please come closer and kiss me, my son."

And he came closer, and he kissed him, and he smelled the fragrance of his garments, and he blessed him, and he said, "Behold, the fragrance of my son is like the fragrance of a field, which the Lord has blessed!

Isaac tells his son that his fragrance is one of a field blessed by G-d. Esau was a man of the field. Jacob was not. But when Jacob was forced to enter the field—to enter into the material, physical and earthy reality where Esau lives and succeeds; when Jacob is forced to learn how to use a rifle and drive a jeep; when Jacob is compelled to battle a war for survival; when Jacob is compelled to live and function in a secular world—it has “the fragrance of a field, which the Lord has blessed!” It is not a field which causes exhaustion and loneliness; it is a field that mirrors the radiance of the Divine. Jacob’s field is filled with sanctity, harmony, and spiritual depth. Jacob is capable of introducing holiness into Esau’s cloaks and vocation. The field must not remain a place of vulgarity and bruteness; it can become a garden of G-d. Jacob can hold his book in one hand, and his plow in the other; his book in one hand and his sword in the other—realizing that the material too belongs to the oneness of the Divine. As Moses tells his people:[10] “For the Lord, your G-d, goes along in the midst of your camp, to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you. Therefore, your camp shall be holy…”

An Integrated Jacob

Isaac, at lasts, acknowledges the possibility of Jacob fulfilling his mission for eternity, even while Esau is not yet ready to serve as a partner. “So Jacob drew near to Isaac his father, and he felt him, and he said, "The voice is the voice of Jacob, but the hands are the hands of Esau." At this moment, Isaac experienced that wondrous synthesis in his child. His voice is the voice of Jacob—a voice of Torah, of wisdom, of spiritual truth, of justice, compassion, ethics, sacred nobility, and moral values. It is the “Yiddishe Shtime,” the voice of Yiddishkeit. “But the hands are the hands of Esau”—this same boy is capable of standing up to a cruel enemy with unapologetic resolve, unwavering moral clarity, unrestrained determination, and undeterred strength to preserve its life. His mind, heart and soul will be defined by Torah; but when the moment calls for it, he will know to go out and change the world.[11]

Indeed, the opening of Isaac’s blessings to Jacob is: “And may the Lord give you of the dew of the heavens and [of] the fatness of the earth and an abundance of grain and wine.” He blesses him not only with the heavenly dew but also with the fatness of the earth. He empowers him not only to be holy in heaven, but also to bring holiness to the earth. Not to shy away from his power to conquer the earth and bring G-d into the earth.[12]

Wake Up!

The relevance to our times is clear. The Jewish people are facing numerous enemies who want us dead. Who would believe that on the terrain of this great country, eleven Jews would be gunned down on a beautiful Sabbath morning in synagogue?!

The voice of Jacob remains our greatest power—the voice of Torah study, the voice of prayer, the voice of celebrating Mitzvos and Judaism. This is why we are here today, 3300 years after our inception and 3300 years after almost every Empire tried to get rid of us.

But let us at this moment not forget our moral duty with the “hands of Esau.” We must protect ourselves. Every synagogue, every school, every Jewish center, and every Jewish community must guarantee the highest level of physical security. Not minimal security, but the maximum level of safety.

Heaven forbid, if another Jew hater tries to do something similar, we do not want to scratch our heads and ask ourselves why we didn’t learn from the Pittsburgh bloodbath.

This is not a time for fear, but for resolve, courage, determination, and absolute clarity about our duty at this moment to ourselves, our children, and our communities.

This is true in the US, in the entire world, and of course in Israel. While we do not look for wars, we are a nation which loves peace, searches for peace, and respects and loves all people, if someone attacks us, we ought to respond with all our might. “One who is merciful to the cruel becomes cruel to those who deserve mercy,” say our sages.[13]

Meir Uziel, an Israeli comedian (and grandson of former Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ben Tzion Uziel), once quipped: In the competition for Ms. Ethical among the 200 nations of the world, we always come in last place, since we are the only ones who show up!

Lessons from the Holocaust

The late Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin once wrote:

“I believe the lessons of the Holocaust are these. First, if an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. Don’t doubt him for a moment. Don’t make light of it. Do all in your power to deny him the means of carrying out his satanic intent. [Note: one month later, Begin dispatched Israel’s Air Force to destroy the Iraqi nuclear facility at Osirak.]

“Second, when a Jew anywhere in the world is threatened or under attack, do all in your power to come to his aid. Never pause to wonder what the world will think or say. The world will never pity slaughtered Jews. The world may not necessarily like the fighting Jew, but the world will have to take account of him.

“Third, a Jew must learn to defend himself. He must forever be prepared for whenever threat looms.

“Fourth, Jewish dignity and honor must be protected in all circumstances. The seeds of Jewish destruction lie in passively enabling the enemy to humiliate us. Only when the enemy succeeds in turning the spirit of the Jew into dust and ashes in life, can he turn the Jew into dust and ashes in death. During the Holocaust it was after the enemy had humiliated the Jews, trampled them underfoot, divided them, deceived them, afflicted them, drove brother against brother, only then could he lead them, almost without resistance, to the gates of Auschwitz. Therefore, at all times and whatever the cost, safeguard the dignity and honor of the Jewish people.

“Fifth, stand united in the face of the enemy. We Jews love life, for life is holy. But there are things in life more precious than life itself. There are times when one must risk life for the sake of rescuing the lives of others. And when the few risk their own lives for the sake of the many, then they, too, stand the chance of saving themselves…”

Begin missed one point. For Israel to retain its deterrence power, it must be convinced of its moral right, of its spiritual mission in this world, of its destiny as G-d’s people. Only when the voice if the voice of Jacob, will his hands be able to deliver the punch it needs to. Without it, Jacob become apologetic, weak, frail and perceived as someone who can be defeated with enough pressure, lies, and terror.

Today Jacob must increase his voice and must don the gloves of Esau to eliminate through absolute strength and deterrence every vestige of terror in its midst.

May G-d bless the people of Pittsburgh, may G-d comfort the mourning in Pittsburgh; may G-d give us the resolve we need to stop ducking and start demonstrating authentic strength. And may G-d bring redemption to our people, our land, and our world, now, Amen!

To comment on this essay at Rabbi Jacobsons' Yeshiva site, please click here.

[1] Genesis 27:8-18:

[2] The Rav shared this at a convention of the Mizrachi movement, in Atlantic City, in 1961.You can read the original insight here: Go to pp. 12-14. I included some other ideas to clarify some details.

[3] The end of Vayikra [26:42] reads: “V’Zocharti es brisi Yaakov, v’af es brisi Yitzchok, v’af s brisi Avraham ezkor. I will remember My covenant with Yaakov; also my covenant with Yitzchak, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember.” The term Zechirah, the word for Remembering is mentioned in connection with Yaakov, and it is mentioned again with Abraham, but it is not mentioned with Yitzchak. Why? The great Biblical commentator, Rashi, offers the midrashic insight (Rashi to Lev. 26: 2).: “Why does Hashem use the term ‘Remembering’ for Abraham and Yaakov but not when he speaks of Yitzchak? Because in the case of Yitzchak, ‘Remembering’ is not necessary. The ashes of Yitzchak always appear before Me, gathered up and placed on the Altar!” Yitzchak remains the symbol of Jewish sacrifice, the readiness of the Jewish people to dedicate their lives as an offering for G-d. Yitzchak’s symbolic ashes stand before my eyes every single day, says G-d. The sages define Yitzchak as an “olah temimah”—a wholesome offering, whose sanctity required he never leave the borders of the Holy Land.

[4] Genesis 25:28

[5] Ibid. 25:27

[6] See Rashi to Genesis 25:27

[7] Sanhedrin 72a

[8] See at length the commentary of Netziv to the story.

[9] Esau is represented by the goat, “saeir,” while Jacob by the sheep, “hakvasim hifrid Yaakov.” (Or HaTorah Vayishlach vol. 1).

[10] Deut. 23:15

[11] Of course, when the community has enough manpower to fight the enemy on the battlefield, it is an awesome merit for the army and the community to allow Jews to be dedicated completely to Torah study—the lifeline of our people. But if more manpower is needed, it is a grand mitzvah for every single capable Jew to don arms and go fight. And concerning war, the Torah states, “your camp shall be holy,” as your rifle is part and parcel of your spiritual holiness.

[12] What is fascinating is that Jacob beloved’s son Joseph, will dream up, years later, a storm. "And Joseph dreamed a dream and told his brothers… 'Listen now to this dream, which I have dreamed: Behold we were binding sheaves in the middle of the field, when, behold! -- my sheaf arose and also remained standing; then behold! -- your sheaves gathered around and bowed down to my sheaf.' "So his brothers said to him, 'Will you reign over us? Will you dominate us?'. And he again dreamed another dream, and he related it to his brothers, and he said: 'Behold! I have dreamed another dream, and behold, the sun, the moon and eleven stars were prostrating themselves to me'… His brothers envied him, but his father awaited the matter."

Joseph's double dreams take him from the plane of agriculture to the realm of the celestial. First, he dreams of himself—and his brothers—embodied as sheaves of a field where their sheaves bow to his. Yet as his dreams progress, he views himself and his family as heavenly lights: the son, the moon and the stars. Joseph defines here two roles for himself and his family: He will be the great economist, leading a nation to a prosperous agricultural future, sustaining the land with earthly food. But simultaneously he sees himself guiding the sun, moon and starts—granting vision, light, and direction to the planet.

The two are not contradictory in his world—as Jacob was given both the dew of heaven and the fat of the earth. The voice must be the voice of Jacob, and the hands must employ the skills of Esau.

[13] Tanchuma, Parashat Metzora 1. Yalkut Shimoni Shmuel 1 #121.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Kislev: Month of Miracles

How to receive your own miracle in Kislev: a very short video from Rabbi Anava

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Why We Suffer

If you don't already understand why the righteous suffer, this shiur will explain it to you.

Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Thoughts on the Migrant Caravan

Rabbi Mendel Kessin - new shiur
Includes his thoughts on Iran sanctions which began November 4, Pittsburgh shootings and of course the migrant caravan.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Gentiles and Geula

Last week Rabbi Anava spoke about the Gentiles' role in the coming of Moshiach

Further clarification is given in this video, from the 55.50 min mark

and in this one: ''Will only the Righteous survive the Geula?"

Thursday, October 25, 2018

Rabbi Kessin on Kashoggi

Guests of Honour

"They (pretended) to eat"  [Vayeira 18:8]

The Torah states that the angels ate the food which Avraham served them, on which Rashi comments: "they pretended to eat".

It appears, therefore, that Avraham did not perform a mitzvah by feeding his guests, for ultimately they were angels who did not need to eat.  Thus: a) Avraham interrupted his audience with the Divine Presence unnecessarily, and b) How can we learn the principle that "welcoming guests is greater than welcoming the Divine Presence" [Shabbos 127a] from an incident where there were no real guests present?

Generally speaking, with acts of kindness, the primary focus is on the results of the mitzvah, i.e. the benefits given to the guests - food and drink etc.

The unique quality of the mitzvah of welcoming guests is that the primary focus is not on the benefits received by the guests, but rather on the good will demonstrated by the host.  In this light, it turns out that Avraham did fulfill the mitzvah of welcoming guests, in the most exemplary manner.

Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Gutnick Chumash

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The Journey of the Soul

Teachings from the Zohar - Parshat Lech Lecha

Parts 1, 2 and 3

Rabbi Alon Anava

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Noach vs Avraham

''Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations; Noach walked with G-d.'' [Noach 6:9]

Later, the Torah tells us that Hashem told Avraham Avinu ''Walk before Me and be perfect'' [17:1], but here the Torah says that Noach ''walked with G-d''.  What was the difference between Noach and Avraham?

The Midrash Rabbah answers this question with a parable:  A father was once walking down the road with his two sons.  The father turned to the younger son and said ''Give me your hand and we'll walk together.''  But to the older son, he said ''Go ahead, you can walk before me.''

''Father'', asked the older son, ''why won't you hold my hand as well?''

''My son'' answered the father, ''your brother is still young and I'm afraid that he might stumble or fall.  You, however, are older and I'm not worried about your walking.''

The difference between Noach and Avraham was like the difference between the two sons in the parable.  Though Noach was a tzaddik, he nonetheless needed protection to make sure he would not stumble in his beliefs.  The verse therefore describes his relationship with G-d as ''Noach walked with G-d'', since Hashem stood by him at all times, to make sure his faith would not falter.

Avraham's faith, however, was much stronger, so Hashem told him ''Walk before Me - I'm sure you will not stumble.''

Rashi expressed this idea in one sentence: ''Noach needed support, but Avraham drew his strength from himself and walked in his righteousness on his own.''

Source and written by Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Sunday, October 7, 2018

The Purpose of Falsehood

Text by Rabbi Daniel Travis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Morid HaGeshem

Clouds gather on the Sturt Highway, between Narrandera and Hay, preparing for a rare rain storm. (ABC News: Mary Lloyd)

Mashiv Haruach Umorid Hageshem
"He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall"

Before the start of the silent Musaf Amidah on Shmini Atzeret, the beadle bangs on a table and announces to the congregation that they will begin reciting "Mashiv Haruach Umorid Hageshem". [Source]

And a few days later.... thank G-d, the rain has finally begun to fall in drought affected areas of Australia.  

Up to a month's worth of rain in a few days... the heaviest rainfall in years.  

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What is HoShanah Raba?

Willow tree - ''Aravah''

The seventh day of Sukkot is called Hoshana Rabbah, and is considered the final day of the divine “judgment” in which the fate of the new year is determined. It is the day when the verdict that was issued on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur is finalized.

The Midrash tells us that G‑d told Abraham: “If atonement is not granted to your children on Rosh Hashanah, I will grant it on Yom Kippur; if they do not attain atonement on Yom Kippur, it will be given on Hoshana Rabbah.”

Isaiah says, “They seek Me day [after] day.” The Talmud explains that these two “days” refer to the day when the shofar is sounded [Rosh Hashanah] and the day when we take the willow [Hoshana Rabbah]—the day when the heavenly judgment begins, and the day when it concludes.

In addition, on Sukkot we are judged regarding how much rain will fall in the upcoming year. Thus, on Hoshana Rabbah, the final day of Sukkot, this judgment is finalized. Considering how much our wellbeing and economy depend on bountiful rainfall, it is clear how important this day is.

Read more :  click here

Rain and Dew

The sporadic nature of rainfall represents the Divine attribute of Justice, which responds to us according to what we deserve. The mystical reason that rain is more plentiful at certain times is that the world goes through periods of being more and less deserving.

Dew represents the Divine attributes of Kindness and Generosity, giving with no consideration of worthiness. From G‑d’s perspective the worthy and the unworthy are equally valued. Thus, He gives at all times to all people, deserving or not. [Rabbi Lazer Gurkow]

Sunday, September 23, 2018


Please excuse my absence but I've been busy with the arrival of a new baby.... my daughter's ....who was named in shul yesterday:  "Esther" [after my mother a''h].    Sorry no photos on the blog, she's too precious.  

And because I really do live my life by ''expecting nothing and appreciating everything'', when something truly amazing happens, such as a new baby, I am absolutely overjoyed and thankful.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Tzedaka for Ari

It is customary to give tzedaka before Yom Kippur to serve as protection against harsh decrees.

Heartbreak and Heroism Shatter the Night as Thousands attend Funeral of Ari Fuld

Please consider giving to help the family of Ari Fuld HY"D who was killed in a terror attack - click here to donate.

Wishing everyone an easy fast.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Fooling Yourself

People mistakenly think they can hide those parts of their personality they don't want the world to see, and reveal only the parts they are willing to let others know about.

But the truth is that even the deepest parts of a personality stand out on the tip of your nose for everyone to see - everyone except yourself.

A person thinks he knows himself, but even that he doesn't know. Similarly, a person thinks he knows how his voice sounds, but when he hears himself on a tape he sounds strange. He can't believe it's really him while others recognize his voice right away. This is also true of our drives and motivations: we deceive ourselves as to what we really think, while to an outsider it is obvious.

Rabbi Mendel Kaplan "Reb Mendel and his Wisdom" by Yisroel Greenwald

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Shana Tova

Wishing everyone a Shana Tova and may we all be written in the Book of Life for all revealed goodness for the coming year. 

Monday, September 3, 2018

The Messianic Light


Source: Rabbi Mendel Kessin, an excerpt from his soon-to-published book

There's a midrash that relates that the Torah of Moses, which is everything that Jews have now, will seem as vacuous as air when compared to the Ohr Mashiach, the Messianic Light that will come into the physical world. 

Furthermore, the midrash adds that the Torah of Mashiach will be vaporous compared to the Torah of the World-to-Come. Can you believe this? It's astounding what G-d has in store for klal Yisrael and for those others who are deserving of the Messianic Light’s teachings. 

In truth, we really have no concrete idea as to what will happen in the World-to-Come because we cannot comprehend what it means to be alive in that dimension. Were G-d to show you what it means to be alive in that world, it would completely destroy your free will. 

It's an exhilarating experience of truth and, if you know the truth, you don’t choose anymore. In our world, however, you are compelled to act in the way that is commensurate with the truth you perceive.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

The Future Redemption

Parshat Nitzavim:

The future redemption: Moses warns of the exile and desolation of the Land that will result if Israel abandons G‑d’s laws, but then he prophesies that in the end, “You will return to the L‑rd your G‑d . . . If your outcasts shall be at the ends of the heavens, from there will the L‑rd your G‑d gather you . . . and bring you into the Land which your fathers have possessed.” 

The Talmud Talmud [Sanhedrin 97a–98a] mentions various signs to identify the generation in which Moshiach will arrive.

In that generation:
  • Torah scholarship will be diminished. 
  • There will be many troubles and difficult decrees. 
  • The younger generation will not respect their elders. 
  • There will be inflation in food prices. 
  • The government will turn towards heresy (denying the Torah). 
  • People will despair of the Redemption. 
  • People will have no money left in their pockets (i.e., savings). 
  • The Jewish people will not have supporters. 
  • The generation will be either entirely righteous or entirely wicked. 
  • There will be no fish available for purchase, even for sick people. 
  • There will be no arrogant people left amongst the Jews. 
  • There will be no judges or enforcers left amongst the Jewish people.

Source: Chabad