Friday, July 31, 2020

The Bookbinder in Heaven

Text by Asharon Baltazar

After lying unconscious for days, clammy with cold sweat and hovering between life and death, Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk’s eyes fluttered open. His students, who were gathered around his bed, felt the dread constricting their hearts relax a little. A slow recovery followed, but he eventually regained his full health. Having glimpsed the afterlife, Rabbi Elimelech shared a story of his time in Heaven:

Upon reaching Heaven, Rabbi Elimelech encountered Rabbi Avraham Azulai, author of the kabbalistic work Chesed leAvraham. The two spent many hours strolling through gardens perfumed by sweet flowers, listening to snatches of conversation between the angels. All the while, Rabbi Avraham kept expressing a fervorous admiration for the nascent Chassidic movement, and more than anything, he wanted to show Rabbi Elimelech the rewards that awaited those who adopted its ways. The two set out.

As they climbed a small hill, a magnificent structure rose into view. The thunderous sound of Torah learning boomed from the tall, gleaming windows. It was a grandiose house of study. Rabbi Elimelech approached the exquisite front doors and was pleasantly surprised to recognize a man standing there—the bookbinder from Lizhensk.

“Mordechai,” chuckled Rabbi Elimelech heartily. “What brings you to this yeshivah?”

Mordechai regarded Rabbi Elimelech with a solemn stare. “Rabbi, if someone overheard that, you would’ve been admonished. Here, I’m actually called ‘Reb Mordechai.’”

“I meant no offense,” said Rabbi Elimelech quickly. “Ever since we’ve met, I’ve always known you to be a simple individual. Why indeed have you earned such an honor to learn here?”

Mordechai acknowledged the mistake with a nod.

“Despite my history as a rather simple Jew,” he said, “things changed once I ascended here.” And he began his story . . .

In the moments following my death, I was brought before the Heavenly Court. The proceedings began immediately, and a spotlight was thrown on my past conduct. Rooted to the floor with dread, I watched angels flitting into the room, carrying every good and bad deed I’d ever committed and setting them on the scales positioned in the room’s center. The slightest fluctuation sent my pulse racing.

But evidence of sins continued to emerge and overweigh my good deeds, and the uneasiness gnawing at me worsened. I swayed, vainly trying to steel myself to hear the inevitable.

The Heavenly Court condemned me to Gehinnom. And a thick silence settled like dust. Every pair of eyes was focused on me.

Head bowed and cheeks burning, overwhelmed by a sense of self-disgust, I accepted the verdict. I hastily exited the courtroom, and after a last glimpse at the uneven scales, I began to walk tentatively down a barren road. The air around me shimmered with terrible heat, which increased with every step. The flaming borders of Gehinnom soon loomed into sight.

Before I endured the heat any longer, a pair of anxious-looking angels stopped my advance. Not a word was exchanged. Something urgent must’ve occurred because they simply grabbed my arms and hurried me back to the courtroom. There, a most unexpected development waited for me: a queue of wagons, all overflowing with bulging sacks, were parked outside the court’s entrance. Who had brought these here? The wagons lurched into motion after me as I entered the courtroom.

It was exactly as I had left it: the judges still sat on their benches, and the scales in the room’s center still angled toward the side bearing my years of sin. The same somber silence lingered.

A frenzy of commotion erupted as angels rushed over to the wagons, unloaded the sacks, and began placing them on the scales—on the side of merits. Gradually, the balance began to change, and each tip in the other direction eased something off my troubled heart. Once again, I was too frightened to do anything other than just stand and stare.

Finally, an angel placed a sack that tilted the scales ever so slightly to the side of good. The judges stopped everything and declared a change in my sentence: rather than suffer the fires of Gehinnom, I was now directed toward Gan Eden. An ethereal voice resonated from the very walls of the court: “From now on, you will be known as Reb Mordechai.”

I was free to go.

But I wasn’t going anywhere without answers. And it was rather difficult getting them. Initially, whomever I asked refused to reveal anything, but with persistence I learned what had occurred.

Soon after I had left for Gehinnom, an angel called the Guardian of Pages entered the courtroom to speak with the judges. He sought to absolve me of all charges.

“We don’t reconsider cases after their verdict,” the court told him.

“In regard to criminal offenses, this doesn’t apply,” countered the angel.

There was some nodding of heads from the judges. “Well, let’s see what you have to say.”

“Esteemed judges!” The angel’s voice rang out clearly. “Today, a simple man has passed away, who, as many others like him, didn’t study enough Torah and perhaps even committed a few sins due to his ignorance. Yet, he was honest and cherished the Torah dearly. Without a doubt, I can attest he honored the Torah like no one else. He was a bookbinder by trade. And even if he labored due to selfish reasons, binding books—Torah books— is a righteous trade.

“Countless hours were invested in ensuring the tattered books returned to their owners as new. Nothing was ever left unfinished. He handled their covers with special care and thumbed through the worn pages as gingerly as possible. He never threw out pages, however frayed, even the blank endsheets. When he trimmed away the excess paper and glued the bindings, not a single word was damaged. And anything that remained of his work, he collected in sacks to store in his attic.”

The angel scanned the judges’ faces. “I can show them to you if you want.”

As those words left his mouth, an ethereal voice boomed from every corner: “One who honors the Torah is honored by Heaven in Gan Eden.”

The judges, after a few moments of consultation, agreed to have a look at these sacks, which were brought in from the attic and counted in my presence. This is what altered the verdict in my favor.

I was left with mixed feelings. Obviously, having been spared the fires of Gehinnom, I was ecstatic. Yet, Gan Eden was meant for those who studied Torah their entire lives. That’s what souls do there. I had to sit among scholarly giants—and I would barely understand a word.

My obvious illiteracy attracted the attention and sympathy of a few great souls here in Gan Eden, where I wander from study house to study house, learning to navigate the seas of Torah until I’m able to do so on my own.

Source: Chabad

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Corona: Erasing the World of Lies

According to the non-Jewish calendar, the year is 2020, which is the number 20 twice. The number 20 is equal in gematria to the word keter [crown]. This is the revelation that is taking place now, the keter d’keter, the innermost level of the keter, which is the word keter twice, equal to 20 and 20, which is a hint to the non-Jewish year of 2020. 

Therefore, a state of solitude has come into the world, an impaired kind of being alone, where nobody can come within the space of another person. The private space of a person corresponds to the yechidah level of the soul, and right now nobody is allowed to interfere with another person’s space. It is also causing people to remain secluded in their homes. And as it is known, the nefesh level of the soul is in the liver, the ruach is in the heart, and the neshamah is in the brain, the chaya is on the person's clothing and the yechidah is in the house. Therefore one is to become secluded in the house due now, to the yechidah revelation which is taking place in the world today.

Understand that Hakadosh Baruch Hu has now erased any connection to tumah [impurity], to all of the restaurants, to all of the mingling, all of the vacations and all of the entire world of falsity that has been here for the last couple of years.

The above text is a very small excerpt from Bilvavi-Corona- Q & A from the author of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh.  It's a fascinating read.  HT Myrtle Rising

Tisha B'Av: Tragedy or Consolation

This lecture was given last year, Rabbi Mendel Kessin.

Wednesday, July 29, 2020

Rebbe Nachman on Punishment

A person is sometimes punished even in the performance of a mitzvah. This is because he previously passed up an opportunity to fulfill just such a positive command.

A person sometimes unknowingly passes judgment on himself (by being asked to select a fitting punishment for someone else).

There are times when a person is killed because he failed to speak out on behalf of someone who is unjustly despised.

A person will sometimes be punished for having engaged in some illegal business practice, or because (he has been included in) a harsh decree passed against his neighbours or nation.

The Holy One hastens to exact punishments from an ungrateful person, punishing him at the hands of another ingrate.

A person bitten by a dog has either accepted malicious gossip or spoken it.

Source:  Sefer HaMiddot (The Book of Attributes) - Rabbi Nachman of Breslov
translated by Moshe Mykoff

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

We Have Been Lied To : Covid 19Misinformation

This video came up on my FB feed, I found it very interesting.  American Doctors Address COVID-19 Misinformation at SCOTUS Press Conference

Monday, July 27, 2020

The Harmful Spirits Flee

by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

"And write them on the doorposts of your house and upon your gates" [Va'etchanan 6:9]

The mitzvah of mezuzah is well-known segulah for protecting the home from evil mishaps, destructive spiritual impediments, and harmful spirits.
The sefarim write that the word 'מזזות', mezuzot, can be re-arranged to form two words, 'זז-מות'. Chazal say (Shabbat 32a) that for the sin of not placing a mezuzah on one's doorpost, one's children may die r"l, but one who is careful with mezuzah, 'זז מות', 'death moves away' from his home.

This is the reason, writes the 'Sha'ar Bat Rabim', for writing the Name 'שד-י' on the outside of the mezuzah. 'שד-י' is an acronym for 'שומר דלתות ישראל', 'He guards the doors of Yisrael'. When they see Hashem's Holy Name written on the outside of the mezuzah, all harmful spirits and impediments are subdued and flee from this doorway.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

5 Av Yarzheit Arizal

Arizal Synagogue, Safed - Photo Steven Pinker

The Arizal [1534-1572] - Rabbi Isaac Luria was the most famous Kabbalist in the city of Safed, Israel who became known as the "Arizal" or ARI, an acronym for “The G-dly Rabbi Isaac of Blessed Memory.”

The Arizal passed away at the age of 38, and it was only during the last two years of his life that he met his foremost disciple, Rabbi Chaim Vital. The Arizal himself never wrote any books, however all his words were faithfully recorded by Rabbi Chaim Vital in what is known as Kitvei Ari, the “writings of the Arizal.” The Kitvei Ari is the key to the secrets of the Zohar, and it was the Arizal who formulated the Kabbalah into a comprehensive system. Rabbi Chaim Vital writes in the name of the Arizal that, “It is a Mitzvah to reveal this wisdom.” Until the time of the Arizal, knowledge of Kabbalah was not known outside of the tightly knit circle of the tzaddikim.

More about the Arizal at Ascent of Safed or click on the label "ARIZAL" below to read more of his teachings.

Friday, July 24, 2020

What Lies Behind Unjustified Hatred?

by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto

On Tisha B'Av night we say in the Kinnot, "By our necks we are pursued, because we pursued purposeless hatred, O woe! What has befallen us". The first principle that we must be aware of, says Rabbi Elimelech Biderman, is that we think we are sitting on the ground because of unjustified hatred, and with this, the subject is closed. But this is not the case! We must know that right beneath where we are sitting, something is buried! Something is concealed underneath the unjustified hatred! If we would pay attention to that buried matter, we would not come to unjustified hatred.

Under all "unjustified hatred" is buried "a lack of faith"!

Would we have faith, we would save ourselves hatred, jealousy, argument and lashon hara!

The Vilna Gaon explains the seemingly hard-to-understand expression 'unjustified hatred'. Why indeed do we call it 'unjustified hatred'? The hatred is not unjustified! If my friend drove me crazy, this is called 'unjustified hatred'? Do I really hate him for no reason?

Says the Vilna Gaon, Hashem tells us that this kind of hatred is unjustified. Hashem, as if, is telling me, do you think that he drove you crazy? It is not him, it is I! This person, he is only a messenger! Had he not done to you what he did, I would have sent a different messenger to do exactly the same thing, for everything that happens is predetermined by Me!

If you hate him because you think that it is he who hurt you, this points to a lack of faith in Hashem.

This is the meaning of what we said above, that underneath all 'unjustified hatred' lies 'a lack of faith'.

It is told that someone dreamt that a certain friend was speaking lashon hara about him. These thoughts accompanied him for a long time. One day he met that friend and asked him:

"Why are you saying evil things about me?"

"Far be it from me to do such a thing," the friend answered in astonishment. "I never spoke lashon hara about you. You must have dreamt it."

The next day he again met his friend and once again asked him, "Why are you speaking lashon hara about me?"

Yet his friend once again repeated the same answer, "You are simply dreaming."

When this happened for the third time and his friend tried to explain to him that it was all a figment of his imagination and a dream, he replied, "It may have indeed been a dream, but why are you talking about me?"…

This is exactly how we wander around in This World. If any of us would be asked, "Do you believe in Hashem?" we will no doubt answer, "Of course, certainly. What's the question?" "Do you believe that everything is ordained by Heaven?" "Of course, certainly. Everything is from above!"

Nice words.

But if indeed everything is from above, why are you furious with your neighbor? If you believe with perfect faith that everything is destined by Hashem, why are you quarreling with your friend? Why is your mouth constantly full of complaints against all types of people who did to you, took from you, harmed you?

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Finding a Lost Object

This really works, because I just did it yesterday and this morning I found the thing I had been looking for.

Say this short prayer [to Hashem] - you can say it in Hebrew or in English

אמר רבי בנימין, הכל בחזקת סומין, עד שהקדוש ברוך הוא מאיר את עיניהם. מן הכא, "ויפקח אלוקים את עיניה ותרא באר מים, ותלך ותמלא את החמת". ן אלקא דמאיר ענני, אלקא דמאיר ענני, אלקא דמאיר ענני. ן בזכות הצדקה שאני נודב לכבוד התנא רבי מאיר בעל הנס, זכותו יגן עלינו, אמצא את אבידתי.ן 

To translate: Rabbi Binyamin said: All are in the presumed status of blind people, until The Holy One, Blessed Be He, enlightens their eyes. {Bereishit 21:19}, "And God opened her eyes, and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water, and gave the lad drink." {The concept is that the well was always there, but Hagar did not see it. Only after praying did G-d open her eyes and she saw what was already there.}

Then give a small amount of tzedaka [charity] to the Meir Baal HaNess charity: click here to donate

If you’re facing a specific hardship: 
Say three times: “Eloka D’Meir Aneini” [God of Meir, answer me]
Then donate some charity to the poor of Israel. 

For more information on Rabbi Meir Ba'al HaNess click here

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Causing Others to Suffer has Consequences

Art Gabriele Scholl

''Yaakov was no longer able to see." [Vayechi 48:10]

Chazal tell us various reasons why Yitzchok became blind. but why did Yaakov become blind?

Rav Shlomo Zalman Zelaznik Ztz"l. the Rosh Yeshiva of Eitz Chaim. explained with the principle that if someone suffers on your account, you are punished, even if you have done nothing wrong. In Yaakov's case we find two people whose eyes suffered on account of him. The first was Yitzchok. who Chazal say became blind so that Yaakov would be able to fool him and take the blessings. The second is Leah. whose eyes were swollen because she was destined to marry Eisav. while Rochel was supposed to marry Yaakov.

 "Either of these two occurrences," says Rav Zelaznik, "were enough cause to warrant Yaakov losing his eyesight despite his complete innocence of any wrongdoing. If such is the Midas HaDin when we are completely innocent of any wrongdoing, certainly, if we actually play a part in the suffering of another person, we are in huge trouble."


Monday, July 20, 2020

The Essence of Tisha B'Av

This is a couple of years old, but the message is clear.

Tisha B'Av, what is the mourning all about?  Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Sunday, July 19, 2020

The Privilege of Hearing Criticism

Excerpt from an essay on Parshas Matos by Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson

Rabbi Yitzchak Meir (Reb Itche Meir) Alter of Gur (1799-1866), a small town not far from Warsaw (known today as Gora Kalwaria), was the brother-in-law and foremost student of the intensely brilliant Kotzker Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern (1787-1859). He was known as the “Chidushei HaRim,” after the title of his Talmudic and Chassidic works. Following the passing of his own master, he founded a Chassidic dynasty, becoming (in 1860) the first Rebbe of Ger. He became an influential figure on the landscape of Polish Jewry and a greatly respected spiritual leader. Reb Itche Meir suffered greatly in his life, seeing 12 of his 13 children pass before him.

Since some of his grandchildren had been left as young orphans, he ended up raising his grandson, the young Yehuda Aryeh Leib (1847-1905), who would eventually succeed his grandfather as the second Gerrer Rebbe while still a young man of age 22. The Sefas Emes, as he is known, became one of the most influential spiritual leaders of Polish Jewry. His brilliant five-part Chassidic homilies on the Torah that gave him his name, and his many volumes of commentary on the Talmud, have transformed him into one of the great Talmudic and Chassidic giants of the 19th century.

When he was still just a boy, he would often stay up late in the night studying Torah. At times, he stayed up almost the entire night immersed in Torah study with a learning partner.

And so it happened once, that at one such occasion, the Sefas Emes after staying up all night, fell asleep right before morning prayers and came late to the service. His grandfather, who raised him as his own child, noted the time his grandson had arrived to synagogue. After the prayers, the Gerer Rebbe, the Chidushei Harim, approached his grandson and rebuked him for sleeping in. He explained to him at length how the discipline to awake in the morning is crucial to human development; how allowing oneself to indulge in sleep numbs one’s spiritual growth and inhibits growth; how after sleeping a full night, a Jew ought to jump out of bed in the morning with passion and alacrity, with the joy of knowing that now he can approach G-d in prayer and study; how wasting one’s life in bed is a tragedy.

The Sefas Emes, who was a young boy at the time, kept quiet. He just listened to his grandfather rebuking him without offering the obvious excuse that he was up all night learning Torah. His study partner, who was up with him and knew what had happened, approached the young Yehuda Aryeh Leib and asked, "Why didn't you just tell your grandfather you were up all night studying?”

The young Sefas Emes answered his friend: "To hear criticism from my saintly Zeide is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. There was no way I was going to forfeit that privilege by offering justifications for my behavior!”

Friday, July 17, 2020

Mashiach's Arrival: How Do We Know

Rabbi Shimon Kessin, renowned speaker from NY gave this breathtaking shiur at KSY, Kehillas Shivtei Yeshurun, in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel in 2013.

You will be "blown away" by the depth of insights that Rabbi Kessen shares with us and you will totally change your perspective on what we should pray for on Tisha B'Av. 

Rabbi Kessen teaches that "the Beis HaMikdosh, the resting place of the Shechina (G-D's presence in the world) was NOT destroyed"! "Mashiach's arrival; Is it soon? How do we know?"


Art: Mike Worrall

"A king was informed by his chief minister that there had been blight on the crops that year. They were affected so greatly that anyone eating the grain would become insane. "But" said the minister, "there is no need for us to worry. I have set aside enough grain from last year's harvest for the both of us that will last until the harvest of the following year."

The king shook his head. "No," he said. "I will not allow myself any privileges other than those shared by my subjects.  "We shall eat of the same grain," the king continued, "and we shall both go insane together with the rest of the population. But here is what we shall do. You and I will mark our foreheads with an indelible imprint, so that when we go insane, I will look at you and you will look at me and we will know we are insane."
[Rebbe Nachman of Breslov]