Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Descent for the Purpose of Ascent


There is a principle in Chassidic thought that ''the higher something is, the lower it falls''.

Descent for the purpose of ascent: in Hebrew this is known as Yerida l'tzorich aliyah

Descent can be understood in two ways: [1] as the descent of the neshama into the body, and [2] the descent in the life of a person through circumstances.


No Pain No Gain

נס - Nes - Miracle

ניסיון - Nisayon - Trial

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


*Learn Mesillat Yesharim at Sefaria

Returning to Dust

The Talmud [Shabbat 152b] relates the following discussion regarding the body's return to dust after leaving this world:

"There were grave-diggers who dug in the earth belonging to Rav Nachman and were rebuked by Rav Achai bar Yashia (whose grave the diggers disturbed). They came and said to Rav Nachman: "We were rebuked by a dead man".

Rav Nachman went there and asked him: "Who are you, master?"

He responded: "I am Achai bar Yashia".

"Has not Rav Mari said that "In the future, the bodies of the righteous will return unto dust?" said Rabbi Nachman (and why therefore is your body preserved?).

"Who is Mari? I know him not" said the dead one.

Rav Nachman replied "But it is said that when the dust will return to the earth as it was..."

The dead one responded "He who read with you Kohelet did not, however, read with you Mishlei, where it is written "But jealousy is the rottenness of the bones" which means that only he who has jealousy in his heart, his bones shall rot after death."

Then Rav Nachman tried to feel the dead body's substance and he found it to be real. Rav Nachman then said to him: "Let the master arise and go to his home." The dead one responded saying "You show that you have not even read the Prophets, for it is written "And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I open your graves and when I cause you to come out of your graves, O my people."

"But" said Rav Nachman, "it is written "For dust you are, and unto dust shall you return".

Then Rav Achai explained to him, saying "This is meant for one moment before the final resurrection of the dead (that all dead, including tzadikim, will return to dust).

The Rif says that since the last verse mentioned was told to Adam Harishon, it applies to everybody, whether they are tzadikim or not, for everyone is a descendent of Adam. The Maharsha explains that the return of every body to dust is necessary, so every body will be recreated from nothing at the time of resurrection, comparable to the original creation of man.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Commentary: Why is it so important to return to dust and to be recreated at the time of resurrection?

Creation, and the soul's descent into the body, were both intended for the purpose of elevating the body and the vital soul, and through them the entire world. Moreover, this objective is reached primarily through the mitzvot involving action, inasmuch as these mitzvot are performed by the body. The body hosts and serves the neshama. The soul, being so spiritual, needs the body to perform mitzvot in a physical form. [See Tanya Ch 37]

When the neshama leaves the body, the dead person cannot do anymore mitzvot since all the mitzvot are associated with something material. Hence, in Heaven the souls can study Torah in a spiritual form but cannot perform any of its commandments [Berachot 17a]. The body then serves no more purpose so it disintegrates.

A similar idea can be understood from the analogy found in Rashi [Devarim 10:7] between the breaking of the tablets (of the Ten Commandments) and the death of tzaddikim. The Ten commandments were engraved in stone by Hashem. When Moshe came down from Mt Sinai and saw the golden calf that the Jews had made, the letters flew away [see Pesachim 87b] and the stones became too heavy for Moshe to carry. Consequently, they fell from his hands and broke. The letters are comparable to the soul and the stone to the body which hosts it. When the letters flew away, the stones served no more purpose, hence they shattered.

The life of a tzaddik is not a physical one but rather a spiritual one [Tanya Igeret Hakkodesh Ch 27]. His body is as holy as his neshama. He elevates and sanctifies his body and all the physical world around him. Even after his neshama leaves this earth, his body remains holy, so it remains intact. [Eliyahu Hanavi elevated his body to the point that it was comparable to the sanctity of his soul. Therefore, he was not buried but he ascended to the sky. The gematria of Eliyahu is 52, equal to the value of the Hebrew word "beheima" which means animal. He sanctified the animalistic part of his being (ie his body) to transform it into Eliyahu - G-dliness]

Why then is it necessary for Tzaddikim to return to dust even for a moment before resurrection?

The Admur Hazaken explains this through a parable [Torah Ohr]. In order to pick up a house, it must be lifted from the bottom. If the house is picked up from the top, only the top will be lifted and the bottom part will remain below.

Every creature is composed of four basic elements, namely fire, water, air and dust [see Tanya end of Ch 1]. By returning to dust, the tzadik elevates the lost sparks of holiness found in the lowest of these elements, completing the elevation of all parts of his being. [The Baal Shem Tov said that he could have ascended to heaven like Eliyahu HaNavi did, but he wanted to return to dust so he could elevate the other basic components of his being]

Nevertheless, there is a way to avoid the need to return to dust, even for a moment. We say in our prayers [Liturgy, end of the Shemonei Esrei prayer] "My soul should be as (humble as) dust for all". By annulling ourselves with humility towards others, we are fulfilling the verse of "and you shall return to dust" in a spiritual manner. Then when Moshiach comes during our lifetime, we will be able to live an eternal life without a moment of interruption.

Source: Written by the students of Seminary Bais Menachem Montreal, Canada and based on the Sichos of 20 Av 5735 Ch. 3 Acharei-Kedoshim 5724 Ch. and Maamar Ze Yitnu 5748

Monday, April 29, 2019

Rabbi Goldstein Speaks from his Hospital Bed


The Rabbi at the centre of the San Diego shooting speaks from his hospital bed

Sunday, April 28, 2019

San Diego


Obviously everyone has heard about the shooting at the Chabad synagogue in San Diego.  I just want to say that I heard an audio about what really happened.... the gunman shot a woman Lori Gilbert Kaye HY''D and then shot at Rabbi Yisroel Goldstein, who was operated on to save the fingers of one hand, and a young child Noya Dahan was hit with shrapnel.  The gunman then ran out of ammunition.

After all of this, believe it or not, the congregation carried on with their Seudah Moshiach.

In the merit of this incredible act of faith Moshiach should come immediately !

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

What Can We Expect When Moshiach Comes


Rabbi Alon Anava, uploaded last week


Monday, April 15, 2019

The Greatness of our Generation


An older Rabbi Kessin shiur recently uploaded to You Tube. [thank you Neshama]

As soon as a new shiur is uploaded, I will publish.


Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Potentially Great



וְאִם דַּל הוּא "And if he is poor" [Metzora 14:21]


Written by Rabbi Yisroel Bronstein

The offerings of a wealthy man and that of a poor man, remarked the Chofetz Chaim, are not equal.  A wealthy man brings an offering in accord with his wealth, while a poor man brings an offering that is within his means.

The Mishnah in Maseches Nega'im states that a wealthy metzora who brings a poor man's offering does not fulfill his obligation with that offering.

The same thing applies, said the Chofetz Chaim, to a Jew's spirituality.  A person must put forth the utmost effort when it comes to serving Hashem, and he must utilize the potential that Hashem has granted him.  For example, Hashem demands much more from a talmid chacham than from someone who is ignorant in Torah learning.  Each individual must harness his own potential and level to its maximum.

There are times when you pray or study Torah and you think to yourself:  "I may not be totally focused during my prayers and learning, but compared to my friend, I am far superior."

This is a grave error.  The friend may fall into the category of a spiritually "poor man" - perhaps he never learned how to pray properly; perhaps he has worries that gnaw at his peace of mind; or perhaps the friend does not possess the same intellectual capabilities that you do.

Your friend's deeds may appear inferior to your own, but Hashem, Who knows and understands the hearts of every man, sees that your friend is praying and studying Torah to the best of his ability, thereby satisfying that which is required of him.  It may very well be that it is you who are the inferior one!

Reb Zusha was on his death bed, and tears were streaming down his face. "Why are you crying?" asked his disciples. "If God asks me why I wasn't like Moses or Maimonides," answered Reb Zusha, "I'll say, I wasn't blessed with that kind of leadership ability and wisdom.

"But I'm afraid of another question" continued Reb Zusha, "what if God asks: Reb Zusha, why weren't you like Reb Zusha? Why didn't you find your inner being and realize your inner potential? Why didn't you find yourself? That is why I am crying."

Monday, April 8, 2019

Thursday, April 4, 2019

A Whiter Shade of Pale


"If he has turned completely white, he remains pure" [Tazria 13:13]

R' Yochanan in Maseches Sanhedrin [98a] taught: "Mashiach, the son of David, will only come to a generation that is either entirely meritorious or entirely guilty".

This statement is difficult to understand, noted the Chasam Sofer (R' Moshe Sofer).  For while it is easily understood why a generation that is entirely meritorious would be worthy of receiving Mashiach, on what basis would a thoroughly guilty generation receive him?

We find a similar difficulty in the verse: "If he has turned completely white, he remains pure".  If a small affliction is considered impure, why is it considered pure when it covers the metzora's entire body?

We can answer both questions with one answer. Skin afflictions come upon an individual in order to inspire him to repent for his misdeeds.  Now, if his entire body has turned white, he will definitely be humbled to repent completely and sincerely. There is therefore no need to declare him impure.

The same applies to a generation that is completely guilty.  The way to awaken a generation that is full of sin is not with reproach but by sending them Mashiach ben David.  Then they will return to Hashem in complete repentance.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein
The Talmud states: "The son of David [Moshiach] will only come when every government becomes heretical".

Rabah said: "Where do we see [an allusion to] this in Scripture?  From the verse: "he has turned completely white, he is ritually pure." [Sanhedrin 97a]

Rashi explains: "Just like when the affliction has spread throughout the entire skin the person is ritually pure, so too when all the governments have become heretical, the redemption will come."

This sign of redemption could be seen as either:

a) A negative sign, that people have become so corrupt that G-d is forced, so to speak, to save the world and bring redemption.

b) A positive sign, that the world has become so refined that it is clear to everybody that any regime or government which is not based on Torah is heretical and corrupt.

This parallels the two views expressed above:

a) If the corruption of governments is a negative sign, it follows that G-d is "forced" to bring the redemption, so to speak, despite the world.  This corresponds to the view that the law ("he has turned completely white, he is ritually pure") is a super-rational decree of scripture, which is followed despite the fact that it is illogical.

b) But if the corruption of governments is a positive sign, it follows that G-d is bringing the redemption because the world has become good. This corresponds to the view that the law is logical.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Blue

Almond Blossom - Vincent Van Gogh


The tassel is blue
the blue is the colour of the sea
the sea is the colour of the sky
and the sky is the colour of the Throne of Glory

[Source: The Talmud on the blue thread of the tassels on the corners of the tzitzit]

Tonight, 27 Adar II, is my mother's fifth yarzheit.  Her favourite colour was aquamarine, the same blue as described above, and spoken about by commenters in The Heavenly Voice.  May her neshama have an Aliyah: Esther Rivka bat Moshe.


Monday, April 1, 2019

Send Me An Angel




An Angel is a messenger - "malach" in Hebrew. An Angel has no free will, they are intermediaries between G-d and the world.... so there is no point "praying" to an angel as advised by some "spiritual" sites. We pray to G-d and only G-d.

There are good and bad angels. The Satan is the worst of all.

Angels can come to earth when sent on a mission. As angels are only made of the elements of air and fire, it is very difficult for an angel to come to earth, they have to concentrate very hard, to focus themselves here. That is why they vanish suddenly when their mission is complete.

Sometimes only one person will see the angel..... sometimes many will see it. You will not realise it is an angel, it may have taken the form of a human in order to carry out its task. Often people are given tests by angels, appearing as beggars, asking for money or help.

The angels such as those who spoke to Abraham and Jacob were purely spiritual forces which appeared in human form.

Before a baby is born, an angel teaches the baby Torah in the womb:

The Talmud says :

A candle is lit on his head and he is able to see from one end of the world until the other end .... There isn't a better period for a person than these days [in the womb] ... They [the angels] teach him all of Torah ... and as he enters the world, an angel hits him on his mouth and he forgets it [to be recalled later throughout the course of his life through learning]. [Niddah 30b]

For every mitzvah (or good deed) a person does, an angel is created. This angel defends you in the Heavenly Court. And when we sin, or tell lies, or harm others.... we create for ourselves a prosecuting angel.

According to Maimonides, the degree of Divine Providence you experience is directly proportional to your attachment to God, and therefore the commandments which create that attachment are the true "guardian angels" of a person.

Rebbe Meir says: "If a person does one commandment, he is given one angel to guard over him; if he does many commandments, he is given many angels."

The angels that accompany us, watching over us, are our own, the ones we have created with each commandment we do. We might imagine that when we leave this world we'll be accompanied by millions of angels, but our Sages teach us otherwise. We are told that the quality of the angel depends on the quality of our mitzvah. It's a long way to the World to Come, and sometimes a person can arrive there with only one angel because all the others fell by the wayside, too weak to complete the journey. In order to create a powerful angel, we have to do each commandment "like fire," in Hebrew, K'AiSh, K = Kavanah (intent), A = Ahavah (love), and S = Simchah (joy), with deep intent, love, and joy.

Everything is by Divine Providence. If a leaf is turned over by a breeze, it is only because this has been specifically ordained by G-d to serve a particular function within the purpose of creation. [Ba'al Shem Tov]

The Talmud teaches that in many matters G-d controls the world through intermediaries (angels). In fact, the Talmud states that there are only three keys that G-d didn’t give over to intermediaries. They are: the Key of Rain (parnosa/sustenance), the Key of Childbirth, and the Key of Techias HaMaisim (the Revival of the Dead).