Monday, December 21, 2020

The Jupiter Saturn Conjunction of December 21st

I wonder if this conjunction is heralding a new era, a Messianic Era.... we can only hope and pray that it is.

The “great conjunction” of Jupiter/Tzedek and Saturn/Shabbatai, which has been in the news lately, has special meaning in Jewish astrological thought. This cosmic convergence, in which Jupiter and Saturn appear almost on top of each other in the night sky, has long been a focus of Jewish messianic speculation.  

The conjunction takes place in the zodiac sign of Aquarius/D’li on Dec. 21, 2020 (6th of Tevet, 5781), the day of the winter solstice, for the first time since the year 1405. This is significant because of the special relationship of both the planet Saturn and the constellation Aquarius to the Jewish people, and the belief that this event heralds the advent of political and social change — perhaps the emergence of a new dynasty, nation or a great prophet. There is no more important celestial event in our lifetimes, part of the inexorable movement toward an Aquarian Age. 

But is it good for the Jews?

Continue reading at JWeekly

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Confronting the Truth

Parshas VaYigash: Rav Moshe Shternbuch -

The Medrash says that when Judgement day comes, we will not be able to stand up to the "Tochacha" - the rebuke from Hashem. We learn this from the Shvatim who couldn't bear the embarrassment of learning that Yosef was alive. 

Rav Moshe Shternbuch says that we see from here that the most painful rebuke is not a good screaming at, but rather being forced to confront the truth. Yosef did not scream or threaten, rather he softly told them that he is their brother whom they tried to destroy. 

Upon seeing how wrong they were, they experienced the worst embarrassment of their lives.

Similarly says Rav Shterbuch in the name of the Baal Shem Tov HaKadosh,the pasuk in Tehilim says, "Kel Nekamos Hashem". At the end of time Hashem will avenge those who have sinned against him. How? 

The pasuk continues "Kel Nekamos Hofia". Hashem's revenge is simply to appear! 

After all of history when Hashem finally reveals Himself openly to the entire world, everyone will be be mortally embarrassed when they grasp the lowliness for each and every one of their sins.

Source: Revach

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Zot Chanukah

The final night of Chanukah [this year Thursday night] is known as Zot Chanukah, the night when all 8 candles are lit.  Maximum amount of light and maximum amount of blessings.

It is an extra special time for us:  It is a day that can bring children to the childless, is able to bring parnassa [income] and also known as the day of the signing and carrying out of judgment for the rest of the year. [Bnei Yissachar]

The Purim of the Curtains

Art Vladimir Kush

I had never heard of this 'Purim' until I looked up the date of January 6 on the Chabad calendar. [see Comments on this post] - January 6 is when Congress settles the Election

Here is the story of the Purim of the Curtains.

By Gershon Kranzler 

You probably think I am joking, and the relationship between Purim and curtains goes no further than a Purim joke. Well, you are wrong. There was really a Purim of the Curtains, originally called “Purim Vorhang,” and like the first Purim of Shushan and the other local Purims celebrated in different countries, it commemorates the miraculous salvation of a Jewish community from the hands of their enemies.

Purim of the Curtains used to be celebrated in the middle of the winter, on the twenty-second of Tevet, two months before our regular Purim. Its story happened more than 300 years ago in the once-famous large Jewish ghetto of Prague, in Bohemia (now in the Czech Republic). As far as we know, this is how it originated:

Rudolph of Wenceslav, the governor of Bohemia, was one of those who resented the rise of Jewish fortunes during the reign of Ferdinand II. He considered it a personal affront when a man like the wealthy Jacob Schmieles of the Prague ghetto was knighted and bore the noble title of Bassevi von Treuenberg. But there was little he could do to the Jews of Prague, who in those days counted more than 1,000 people, many of them rich and influential merchants and bankers. For the memory and influence of Chief Rabbi Judah Loew, famous as the Maharal, was still felt among Jews and non-Jews. Thus, despite all efforts, the governor was not able to provoke any riots or pogroms of major proportion. But one day, in the winter of 5383 (1623), providence really seemed to play into his hands.

Among the treasures of his palace were heavy gold brocade curtains, artfully woven by a famous medieval master weaver from Brussels. They were considered invaluable, and the governor was responsible to the crown for them. All through the spring, summer and fall, till the middle of winter, they were stored away so that the sun and dust would not harm their precious texture. December came, and Chamberlain Hradek, next to Rudolph of Wenceslav the mightiest man in all of Bohemia, gave orders to have all the velvet and brocade curtains and the Persian carpet taken out of storage to prepare the palace for the festival season. Everything proceeded in proper order, for each piece of the precious ornaments and furnishings had been carefully recorded and systematically stored away. At the bottom of the list were the famous gold brocade curtains of the state room. As usual, they had been placed in the huge iron chest in the cellar that held the most valuable articles of the palace.

The important day came when Hradek himself went down into the cellar to make sure that the servants treated the precious materials carefully. The heavy iron lid of the chest was opened, and the yellow glow of the candles showed—could it be possible?—nothing but the bare brown wood of the cedar-lined iron chest. Everyone present gasped, and a cry of horror passed from the cellar through the hundreds of halls and rooms of the palace, up to the battlements of the watchtower. Soon the governor himself heard the shocking news of the missing gold curtains. He ordered an immediate investigation. No one was permitted to leave or to enter the palace. Raging like a furious lion, Rudolph of Wenceslav questioned every one of the employees, from the chamberlain down to the lowest cleaning woman—but to no avail. They all staunchly denied any knowledge of, or connection with, the theft of the precious curtains.

“If they are not back here by tonight,” roared the governor at the frightened servants who were gathered in his office, “I’ll have all of you thrown into prison.” There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that he really meant it.

After a few minutes of heavy silence—interrupted only by the furious pacing of the governor from one corner of the huge office to the other, and the violent rapping of his riding crop against his boots—the chamberlain suggested that the governor order all of the city’s pawnshops and warehouses searched by his soldiers. “If your honor permits, I’d suggest keeping a special eye on the stores and shops of the Jewish dealers. They have a liking for stolen merchandise,” Hradek added maliciously.

Rudolph of Wenceslav was highly pleased with the advice of his chamberlain, and shortly afterwards, troops of his soldiers combed every store and shop of Prague that might possibly hide the golden curtains. They sealed off the ghetto, and, without telling anyone of the object of their search, they turned every house inside out, in futile search and vengeful destruction.

One troop of soldiers came also to the large house and store of Enoch Altschul, who was one of the patrician leaders of the Prague ghetto, and a scholar as well as a wealthy merchant. Without care or consideration the rough soldiers searched every closet, chest and drawer, and threw their contents all over the floor in wild disorder. Unable to find what they were looking for, they put a pistol to the breast of Enoch Altschul and threatened to shoot him if he did not reveal where he had hidden his most precious merchandise. Rather than risk his life, Enoch Altschul opened the secret vault in the back of his store. Among other precious goods stored in the plain wooden closet behind the wall covering, soldiers came upon a pile of heavy, glittering materials. With a hoarse cry of fury and satisfaction, the soldiers pounced upon the old merchant, beat him and shackled him with heavy iron chains.

The story of the theft and of the search spread like wildfire, and brought out every citizen into the streets of Prague. At the point of their sabers, the soldiers led Enoch Altschul through the silent and shocked crowds of the ghetto, and then through the wildly shouting crowds outside the ghetto. One glance at the open chest with the brocade curtains told the story; and before his guilt had been proven, Enoch Altschul was given the vilest treatment ever accorded any common thief or criminal in public. As the procession left the ghetto, the guards immediately closed the chest, for there was no telling what the wild mob would do.

Governor Rudolph of Wenceslav was still furiously pacing the floor of his office when the soldiers brought in Enoch Altschul. The sight of the recovered curtains soothed his anger, yet he was even more pleased by the sight of the patriarchal Jew led before him in heavy chains. At once he realized that here was the opportunity for which he had been waiting ever since he had been appointed to the governorship, to humiliate the Jewish merchants and courtiers, and to do some looting among the treasure of the ghetto for his own and his people’s pockets. Outwardly, Rudolph of Wenceslav kept up his rage as he shouted all kinds of vile insults at Enoch Altschul.

The old Jew faced him quietly. His inner dignity served only to increase the governor’s rage. But neither by insults nor by vicious slaps with the riding crop was Rudolph of Wenceslav able to make the old Jew betray how he had come into possession of the precious golden curtains from the governor’s palace.

“I gave my word of honor to a most noble member of your court. Unless he himself grants me permission, I am not able to explain the presence of these curtains in my house,” Enoch replied firmly.

“You thief! You have no honor, nor does your word hold any value. You are only trying to save your hide. But never mind! We shall see whether the whip can’t make you talk.”

Torture and flogging were not able to break the will of Enoch Altschul. Towards evening he was again brought, lying on a stretcher, before the governor. “Are you now ready to tell me who gave you the curtains?” the governor shouted at the limp figure. Too weak to answer, the old merchant merely shook his head feebly.

“You have time till tomorrow morning. If you don’t talk by nine o’clock, not only will you and your family hang from the highest tree that can be found in all of Prague, but my people will be given permission to storm the ghetto.”

For the first time since being seized, Enoch Altschul lost his calm. No longer was he staking only his own life on his word of honor. The horrible meaning of the governor’s threat was obvious, and it shook his determination.

All through the night he tossed back and forth on his hard bed in the dark cell of the palace dungeon, his tortured body racked by pain. His was a terrible responsibility. Desperately, Enoch Altschul implored G‑d for help and guidance. Was it more important to keep his oath to the man who had brought him the ill-fated curtains, despite the fact that he had now pretended not to notice him when he saw him carried before the governor? Or was the fate of the community too vital to be risked by his, Enoch’s, code of personal honor? Towards morning he fell into a restless sleep. Suddenly, the cell seemed illuminated. The image of his beloved teacher and friend, the sainted Rabbi Judah Loew, appeared before him and assured him that everything would turn out well in the end. Although he awoke immediately afterwards, Enoch Altschul felt deeply strengthened and encouraged by this dream. All the time until the guards came to take him before the governor, he kept on praying to G‑d for His help. As he soon was to find out, though, he had not been the only one who had been unable to sleep that night, and to whom his master had also appeared in a dream.

Rudolph of Wenceslav was impatiently rapping his riding crop on the top of his desk when Enoch was carried into the state room before the fully assembled court. Despite the tortures of the previous day, the old Jew looked calm and collected. Without a word, the governor signaled to have Enoch carried to the large plaza crowded with hundreds of heavily armed soldiers. About them milled a large crowd of wildly shouting people, all seemingly waiting for something to happen.

“At a signal from this window, they will break into every house of the ghetto,” announced Rudolph of Wenceslav. Yet before Enoch had a chance to speak, Hradek, the haughty chamberlain, threw himself between the governor and the Jewish merchant. His face as white as snow, he called excitedly to the astonished Rudolph:

“Mercy, your honor, mercy, I am the guilty one! Punish me, not this noble old man who thinks he is protecting your own personal honor!”

The governor and the entire court were shocked by the confession of the chamberlain. Incredulously they listened to his tale:

“Several months ago I was in urgent need of 25,000 ducats, which I had lost in a night of heavy gambling. I could not think of any other way to pay this debt than by taking the precious gold brocade curtains from the palace chest and pawning them to the venerable Enoch Altschul, who has helped me in many a tight spot. In order to protect myself, I wrote a note in your name, signed and sealed with your seal. In it, I had you ask for the money, and promised kind treatment for the Jews of Prague if no one found out about this transaction. At the same time, the note threatened that if Enoch betrayed the secret to any person in the world, the entire ghetto would be severely punished. Not satisfied with the note, I had Enoch swear personally by his G‑d and his honor to guard the secret as his life, for the sake of your reputation and political career.

“When you questioned us,” continued Hradek, “I advised you to have all Jewish stores and homes searched, because I knew your soldiers would recover the brocade curtains. I knew that you would not play long with the Jewish merchant in whose possession they were found, and that I could count on Enoch not to break his word of honor under any circumstances. Thus, both you and I would be helped. I almost succeeded. But during this past night I had a terrifying vision. After hours of trying vainly to quiet my guilty conscience, I fell asleep. In my dream, the famous leader of the ghetto whom they called the Chief Rabbi Loew, who died several years ago, appeared to me. He was accompanied by that terrifying monster of clay, the Golem, feared by all the citizens of Prague. No one who dared to accuse an innocent Jew of a crime ever lived to escape the Golem’s crushing fingers. The voice of the old rabbi said quietly: “You had better tell the truth tomorrow!”

“Shaken by fever and fear, I could hardly wait for the dawn of the morning, and for the hour when you had the Jew brought before you, to confess my guilt in public.”

As he spoke, the chamberlain’s hands were constantly fumbling with the collar of his coat at his throat, as if to free himself from someone’s clutches. After he had finished the tale of his shameful deceit, he fainted and slid to the ground before the governor and the members of the gathered court, terror written all over his lifeless face and figure.

Enoch Altschul was at once freed from his chains, and the soldiers dispersed the waiting mob, instead of leading it to attack the ghetto as had been their original purpose.

In commemoration of this miraculous turn of events, Enoch Altschul asked his people to celebrate “Purim of the Curtains” every twenty-second day of Tevet, the date when this incident took place. For more than one hundred years the Altschul family, and with them the entire Jewish community of Prague, observed this celebration faithfully, and commemorated their salvation from the accusation of stealing the famous gold brocade curtains from the palace of the governor of Bohemia.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

Wrong Place, Wrong Time?


by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

Q: There is a statement of the Sages in Gemara Chulin that nobody bangs his finger unless it was so decreed by Heaven. Yet, there is another concept of the Sages that if a decree, God forbid, was issued against a group, if someone happens to be present who was not deserving of the decree, he may be drawn along even though he wasn’t deserving. I am wondering how to understand this concept in light of major disasters. Is it possible that there could be people who don’t make it, who find themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time? 

A: God’s Divine Providence is absolute over every person. However, there are different levels of this Divine Providence. The level of the person who bangs his finger is the revealed level of Divine Providence. If a person does some soul-searching after this type of incident, he can relatively easily understand why it happened and rectify the situation. On the other hand, there is also concealed Divine Providence, which is the situation referred to by the sages in the case of the group. This is for the rectification of the souls of all those involved, although those involved may not understand why this happened to them.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Why the Evil around us now is not such a bad thing

 A short Chanukah video from Rabbi Mendel Simons  and his wife Rebbetzin Rachey Simons of YJP Los Angeles [Young Jewish Professionals]


Friday, December 11, 2020

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

Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Kabbalah of the Chanukah Candles

Candles are placed in the menorah from right to left, with the number of candles corresponding to which night of Chanukah it is. There is also one additional candle, which is usually elevated, called the “shamash,” or service candle. The shamash is lit first, and is then used to light the other candles, from left to right.

In other words, the candles are positioned from the right side of the menorah but we light from left to right. [Code of Jewish Law, Orach Chaim, 676:5]

The blessings should be said after lighting the Shamash candle and before the lighting of the rest of the candles:

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments, and has commanded us to kindle the Chanukah light.

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has wrought miracles for our forefathers, in those days at this season.

Note: some siddurim state the words as "Le'hadlik ner SHEL Chanukah", however this is incorrect - As noted by the Hid"a [Rav Haim Yosef David Azulai, 1724-1807], there is profound meaning and significance in this sequence of words, as the first letters of these words - "Lamed," "Nun" and "Het" - are the same letters that begin the three words "Noser Hesed La'alafim" ["He preserves kindness for thousands of generations"]. Therefore, even though some Siddurim print the text of the Beracha as "Le'hadlik Ner Shel Hanukah" one must ensure to recite the proper text - "Le'hadlik Ner Hanukah" [Rabbi Eli Mansour]

This prayer is said on the first night only:

Blessed are You, Lord our God, King of the universe, Who has kept us alive, sustained us, and brought us to this season.

The candles should be in an even row, no curves, no height variations. They should be well-spaced so their flames do not appear merged (and if candles, that they do not melt each other). No use should be made of the lights shed by the Chanukah candles, such as reading by their light. For the Friday eve of Chanukah, the lights must be kindled before sunset and before the Shabbat candles are lit. Additional oil (or larger candles) should be provided to ensure that they can burn until half an hour after nightfall.

In the Talmud, the relationship between the menorah and the mezuzah is established: "The Chanukah menorah should be outside of the door on the left side and the mezuzah should be on the right side in order that we should be surrounded by G-d's commandments."

If for some reason there is no mezuzah on the doorpost, the menorah should be placed on the right side. If lighting next to a window, the menorah should be placed on the right side of the window, however there is no point lighting at a window if your windows are so high up that no-one will see the candles.

Although today we place the Chanukah menorah indoors, in the time of the Talmud and today, in Israel, the menorah is placed outside the door.

The menorah is compared to the mezuzah. Both are on the outside. Both are near the door. Yet something deeper is alluded to when the Talmud compares the menorah to the mezuzah.

There are several differences between the two items: the mezuzah is on the outside, but it functions for the inside of the house to protect the inhabitants. The menorah is on the outside with its message for the outside world to proclaim to all the miracle of Chanukah.

In the language of the mystics of the Kabbala, the left and right have deep significance. The left is attributed to gevurah, the concept of strength. The right is associated with chesed, the act of giving. The mezuzah is on the right; it is G-d's protection of our houses so that no evil may enter. That is the chesed, the kindness - that He stands on the outside and guards our house.

The Chanukah menorah is on the left symbolizing Hashem's strength (gevurah) and control of the world and the great miracles He performed for us.

These days we do not put the menorah outside generally for practical reasons or perhaps we are afraid of the people in the street. So we light the candles inside and illuminate the house. G-d's strength and ability to do miracles and wonders are still around. However, we need the menorah inside to tell us that message. It no longer stands outside of our houses relating to the person who is in the dark, that the message of Chanukah is for him. The menorah is now inside the house, and its message is now for us.

The light of the menorah reassures us not to fear the darkness. It is a reminder that the darkest hours come before the dawn, and at a time when we had no friends, G-d helped us overcome our numerous enemies.

Wednesday, December 9, 2020

Biblical prophecy of the end of days battle and the destruction of evil by G-d

 Rabbi Alon Anava, new shiur

The Trump Obsession

This was sent to me by Yosef... 

I couldn't find it on Torah Anytime so I uploaded it from my phone.  

Even though I still think Trump will be victorious after all the balagan, this video is worth a listen, to get things into perspective.  [video is only 4 mins]

Rabbi Yehoshua Zitron on the Trump obsession.


Monday, December 7, 2020

Deciphering the Dream

Art Jacek Yerka

''In three days Pharoah will remove your head'' [Vayeishev 40:19]

The dreams of the chief baker and the chief wine butler, noted the Dubno Maggid, were very similar. Why, then, did Yosef interpret the dream of the chief wine butler favorably - that Pharoah would soon reinstate him to his post - but that of the chief baker unfavorably - that he was about to meet his end?

The answer, explained the Maggid, can be understood with a parable: An artist painted a magnificent portrait of a man balancing a basket full of bread on his head. Two men came to admire the painting. While they stood there, a bird landed atop it and began to peck away at the bread, which it thought was genuine.

''Such a marvellous artist!'' said one man to the other. ''This bird actually believes that the bread is real!''

''No'' responded the other, ''he is not much of an artist at all. For while the bread may be quite realistic, the man carrying it is not, for if it was, the bird would be afraid to approach the painting.''

We are now able to understand concluded the Dubno Maggid, why Yosef interpreted the dream of the chief baker unfavorably. When the chief baker related his dream to Yosef, he said ''And the birds were eating them from the basket above my head.'' Yosef understood that if the birds were unafraid to approach him, it was an indication that he was soon to be executed by Pharoah and was already considered a ''dead man''. For had he been ''alive''', the birds would have refrained from eating the food on his head!

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Who is the Satan? What is his mission?

Who is the Satan? What is his mission?

What is the antidote?

Who are we? What is our mission?

Why did Yaakov call the place ''Pniel'' - the Face of God ?

Rabbi Aaron Dovid Poston has all the answers.

Thursday, December 3, 2020

"The Kingdom of Heaven Forever"

Rabbi Netanel ben Yeshaya was one of the great Rabbis of  Yemenite Jewry, he lived approximately 600 years ago.  In his commentary on the Torah ''From the Light of Darkness'', he wrote as follows:

"As is well known, as stated in the dream of Daniel, the fourth Kingdom is the Kingdom of Edom, and it ends in the year 5780.  Then, it seems, that the rule of the nine months will begin, as stated in the Gemara. 

And then afterwards, it will be the time of Redemption and the Kingdom of Heaven forever."

Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

The Year of Wonders

I wanted to listen to this before I put it on the blog, and i'm only halfway through it, but already he is telling us that 5781 will be the year we see amazing things, which confirms the Lubavitcher Rebbe's prophecy from 30 years ago that this will be a year of wonders.

Rabbi Alon Anava ''Do you believe the lies?''

This is a very uplifting video.