Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Teshuvah: Returning to God

 New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Torah from Shamayim

Photo: Debra and Dave Vanderlaan

Listen, heavens...and I shall speak  [Ha'azinu: Devarim 32:1]

This can be explained based on a statement found in the holy Zohar "When the righteous Moshiach will come, speedily in our days, Moshe Rabbeinu will come along with him and teach the Jewish people Torah. He will reveal to them the secrets and explanations of the Torah."

Moshe said to the people "Listen, heavens" - calling the people "the heavens" because those who study Torah are called "shamayim" - heavens. Moshe commanded them that when they reveal novel original ideas on the Torah, they should do so in a manner of "listening". They should hear those ideas from above, for when they learn, the holy light shines upon them from above, and then they open their mouths to speak and say over the idea they receive.

Through their Torah learning, they can hasten the redemption, as Moshe implies with the words "I shall speak". When you learn Torah by being open to receiving ideas from above, then, says Moshe, you will be able to hear the secrets of Torah from me as in earlier days. You will be the direct cause of Moshe speaking with you in the future by learning in the manner described and thus hastening the redemption, may it be speedily in our days, Amen.

Source:  Mipeninei Noam Elimelech  Translated by Tal Moshe Zwecker

Monday, September 13, 2021

Yom Kippur Thoughts

When we ask forgiveness from Hashem we need to remember that Hashem cannot forgive us for something we have done to someone else.  That is why you need to ask and/or receive forgiveness before Yom Kippur for anything we may have done that caused someone else to suffer.

If I have caused any distress over anything written on this blog I apologise and ask your forgiveness.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Measure for Measure


Whoever shames his friend in public to the point of making him turn pale is as if he sheds blood...for we see that the red drains out of his face and is replaced by white.  [Ben Ish Chai]

A pious man was once insulted in the synagogue.  When he came home, he sent the insulter a basket of grapes as a gift, with the following message: "You have presented me today with a basketful of your mitzvot.  I, too, present you with a laden basket".

Why, if Reuven insults and embarrasses Shimon, do Reuven's mitzvot go to Shimon and Shimon's sins go to Reuven?

Red represents sins, and white represents mitzvot, as in: "Though your sins be as scarlet, they will become white as snow" [Isaiah 1:18].  When Reuven shames Shimon, he replaces the red in Shimon's face with white.  Measure for measure, the red of Shimon's sins will replace the white of mitzvot in Reuven's soul.

Source: from the writings of the Ben Ish Chai

The First Stage of Geulah

 New shiur by Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Thursday, September 9, 2021

Major Characteristics of the Negative Redemption

 New shiur, given 22 August 2021, by Rabbi Shimon Kessin

Monday, September 6, 2021

5782 The Year of Moshiach iy"H

 In one of his recent shiurim, Rabbi Mendel Kessin also mentioned this concept.  Im yirtze Hashem.....

Thursday, September 2, 2021



Text by Rabbi Benjy Simons

A young man named George received a parrot as a gift. The parrot had a bad attitude and an even worse vocabulary. Every word out of the bird's' mouth was rude, obnoxious and laced with profanity. George tried and tried to change the bird's attitude by consistently saying only polite words, playing soft music and anything else he could think of to 'clean up' the bird's vocabulary. Finally, George was fed up and he yelled at the parrot. The parrot yelled back. George shook the parrot and the parrot got angrier and even more rude. George, in desperation, threw up his hand, grabbed the bird and put him in the freezer. For a few minutes the parrot squawked and kicked and screamed...then suddenly there was total quiet. Not a peep was heard for over a minute. 

Fearing that he'd hurt the parrot, George quickly opened the door to the freezer. The parrot calmly stepped out onto George's outstretched arms and said "I believe I may have offended you with my rude language and actions. I'm sincerely remorseful for my inappropriate transgressions and I fully intend to do everything I can to correct my rude and unforgivable behaviour. George was stunned at the change in the bird's attitude. As he was about to ask the parrot what had made such a dramatic change in his behaviour, the bird spoke-up, very softly, "May I ask what the turkey did?" 

As we approach the end of the Jewish year it seems quite apt that this Parsha contains the concept of Teshuva (Ramban, Baal HaTurim and Rabbeinu Yonah to Devarim 30:11) as we take a stocktake of our actions from the previous year and work to become better individuals. Unlike in other religions, Judaism finds greatness in people who despite making mistakes are constantly working on correcting them and thus we look to correct our misdeeds and resolve to not return to such behaviour. This is also reinforced by the Elul acrostic of אֶת לְבָבְךָ וְאֶת לְבַב (Devarim 30:6) which is connected to repentance (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:1), as Elul is the time to be refining oneself and working to improve oneself for the coming year. 

The Rambam (Laws of Teshuva 1:1, 2:2) codifies that repentance involves confession before Hashem together with remorse of past misdeeds and resolutions for the future. Obviously, one must be sincere when mentioning one’s misdeeds, which involves recognising that the action was wrong, that one is entirely responsible and thus in theory deserving of punishment (Rabbeinu Bachya). To verbalise one’s misdeeds without a resolve to abandon such behaviour is akin to immersing in a Mikveh while holding a rodent (the source of impurity) (Rambam ibid. 2:1). 

Incidentally there is no blessing on the Mitzvah of Teshuva and Rabbi Aharon Lewin suggested this is because we may do it incorrectly and thus it may not be accepted (i.e., a blessing in vain). Yet at the same time we are told that repentance and resolve can be done in a moment (see Kiddushin 49b) if one comes before Hashem with sincerity and regret. 

Perhaps therefore Yom Kippur is called the day of Atonement, for it is a contraction of the word ‘at one moment’ which is all it takes to turn one’s life around.

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Wednesday, September 1, 2021

How We'll All Know Moshiach Is Here

New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin, which is actually Part 2 of last week's shiur which you can find here.

Many think the Times of Israel or J'lem Post will inform them that Mashiach has been spotted on Mt. of Olives on a white donkey. In truth, your heart will be circumcised, that organ that relates to the ruach portion of your neshama. When that happens, you will access olam Yetzira and you, within your own soul, will KNOW he is here. He will BE KNOWN. Yetzira will have come down and have integrated into the physical world. [thank you Rahel for the summary]

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Chai Elul

"Chai Elul" -- the 18th day of the Hebrew month of Elul -- is a most significant date on the Chassidic calendar. The founder of Chassidism, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, was born on this date, in 1698. It is also the day, 36 years later, on which the Baal Shem Tov began to publicly disseminate his teachings, after many years as a member of the society of "hidden tzaddikim" during which he lived disguised as a simple innkeeper and clay-digger, his greatness known only to a very small circle of fellow mystics and disciples.

The following is a true story of the Baal Shem Tov.

It was revealed to the Baal Shem Tov that if the two great lights of the world were to meet, they together could bring Moshiach and the Final Redemption. From that time, the Baal Shem Tov desired greatly to go to Eretz Yisrael to meet the great Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh [Rabbi Chaim ben Atar].

In the year 5503, the Baal Shem Tov set out to travel to Eretz Yisrael to fulfill his long held desire to be in the Holy Land and to meet the great Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh. By Pesach, he arrived in Istanbul. There he prayed at the gravesite of Rav Naftali, a tzaddik who had attempted the same trip at an earlier time, but had only managed to reach this far.

That night, Rav Naftali appeared to the Baal Shem Tov in a dream. “Reb Yisrael, it has been decreed in Heaven that you are not destined to dwell in Eretz Yisrael. If you are stubborn and attempt to continue your journey, you will die here as I did. Return home.” The Baal Shem Tov accepted the decree and embarked upon a ship and headed homeward.

His ship was captured by pirates, who let him off at the port of Kilya, from where he continued his journey to Medzibush. Three months later, during the Seudah Shishlit meal on the Shabbat of Parshat Pinchas, immediately after washing his hands and eating a bite of challah, the Baal Shem Tov said with a sigh, “The Western Light has been extinguished.”

At the Melave Malkah (meal following the departure of the Shabbat Queen) on that Motzoei Shabbat, the chassidim gathered their courage and asked, “Rebbe, what did you mean when you said that ‘The Western Light has been extinguished?’” The Baal Shem Tov replied, “The Ohr HaChayim HaKadosh has died. He was known in Heavenly realms as the Western Light.” “How does the Rebbe know that?” one chassid boldly asked.

The Baal Shem Tov answered, “There is a particular kavanna (intention) for the recitation of the blessing for washing hands which I have always wanted to know. However, this kavanna was hidden from me since only one person in each generation can know it, and the Ohr HaChayim had preceded me. This afternoon, as I washed my hands for Seudah Shishlit, I suddenly became aware of a new kavanna. I immediately understood that the Ohr HaChayim had passed from this world and now I become the guardian of that kavanna.”

Another time, the Baal Shem Tov told his Chassidim of another incident related to the Ohr HaChayim. On the Shabbat that the great Ohr HaChayim departed from this world, his friend in Tiberias, Reb Chayim Abulafia, mysteriously fainted, and remained unconscious for half an hour. When he finally was revived, he announced to his students "Today the Ohr HaChayim left this world. I accompanied him until the Gates of Gan Eden." “What Reb Chayim of Tiberias did not know,” the Baal Shem Tov told his chassidim, “was that the Ohr HaChayim’s saintly neshamah [soul] remained in Gan Eden only for the duration of Shabbat. The next day it descended once more to this world.

The souls of tzaddikim,” he explained, “receive greater satisfaction from being in this physical world than by being in Gan Eden. Here the soul can serve the Almighty on the lowest physical plane, through performing mitzvot and good deeds which brings far greater benefit to this world, and is far more pleasurable to the soul than being in Gan Eden. When Moshiach arrives, and Godliness will be seen and felt by even the most common man, we will yearn for the days previous when we were able to serve the Almighty on the lowest level of the physical.”

The death of the Ohr HaChayim occurred just two days before Reb Leib Sorahs’ Bar Mitzvah. It was years later however, that the chassidim understood that it was the Ohr HaChayim’s soul that he received at the time of his Bar Mitzvah, from the Rebbe Reb Dov Ber [The Mezritcher Maggid]. And so it was.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Mystical Process of the Redemption

New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

The Last Era of This World - How to Survive Through Gog uMagog

 Another new shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin, given 16 August 2021

The Evaluation of Your Tikkun Standing

 New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Blame it on the Tree


When Rav Moshe Cordovero [the Ramak] was niftar [deceased] in Tzfat, he was the leading kabbalist of his generation, and he had many students. He authored many seforim [books] on Kabalah including the classic Mussar Sefer Tomer Devorah.

Before his passing, his talmidim asked him who they will learn with after he passes on. He said the person who sees a pillar of fire above my Aron, he is the one who will lead you. That person turned out to be a little known recent immigrant from Mitzrayim named Rav Yitzchak Luria, better know as the Arizal. 

After realizing that the Arizal saw the pillar, the people asked him to say a hesped [eulogy] on the niftar.  The Arizal said that the pasuk says [Ki Teitzei 21:22], ''וְכִי יִהְיֶה בְאִישׁ חֵטְא מִשְׁפַּט מָוֶת וְהוּמָת וְתָלִיתָ אֹתוֹ עַל עֵץ" And if a man commits a sin worthy of death, he is put to death, and you should hang him on a tree." 

The Arizal explained that the word ''Ish'' means a tzadik. The word "Chait" means lacking. In other words if there is a tzadik whose actions do not warrant him to die because he has no aveirot [sins], yet he dies anyway - וְתָלִיתָ אֹתוֹ עַל עֵץ - blame it on the tree. His death was only because Adam and Chava ate from the Eitz HaDaas [Tree of Knowledge]. For if not, this tzadik would have lived forever.

Monday, August 16, 2021

The Climate of the Messianic Era

Obviously we are all living in a time of great upheaval, all over the world.  Most people do not understand what is really going on, but thankfully we have Rabbi Mendel Kessin who explains it to us.  

Last week he uploaded a shiur entitled ''The Climate of Yemos HaMashiach'' which you may have listened to.

That shiur is now available as a transcript and you can find it here at Rabbi Kessin's new site TorahThinking.org 

Sunday, August 15, 2021

The Unconscious Mitzvah

Art Gerhard Nesvadba

''....when you forget a bundle in the field...'' [Ki Teitzei 24:19]

Why should a person be blessed for performing a mitzvah if he unwittingly - and even unwillingly - drops money on the floor, which is later found by a poor person? [see Rashi v.19]

Chassidic thought explains that every Jew, regardless of his status and station, is essentially willing to do all that he is commanded to do by our Torah.  The fact that he might sometimes be influenced to do otherwise is because  his conscious state can be affected by external pressures that induce states of mind and even behaviour which is contrary to his essential nature [Rambam, Laws of Divorce 2:20]

Therefore, if he performs a mitzvah which was not consciously intended, it is nevertheless an act that is consistent with his inner, subconscious desire.  In fact, what has actually occurred here is that his subconscious mind has been able to influence his actions directly, without passing through the conscious state.

So, if a person drops money which is later found by a poor person, he has done an action which is commensurate with his true, inner desire to serve G-d, and therefore he is blessed because of it.

Based on Sefer Hama'amarim Mehukat vol 5 p 50 Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, August 10, 2021

3 Elul - Yarzheit Rav Kook

It was the first of Elul, 5695 [1935], when Rabbi David Cohen [known as ‘the Rav HaNazir’] arrived at the guest house where Rav Kook was staying in Kiryat Moshe.

Exactly twenty years had passed since their first transformative encounter in Switzerland. This time he held in his hands a special document to show his dying master.

For twelve years, the Rav HaNazir had labored to organize Rav Kook’s writings into a systematic, comprehensive work. As his revered master lay on his death bed, he showed him the beginning fruits of his labor - the title page of the first volume of Orot HaKodesh. Rav Kook rejoiced; and he shed tears.

On the day of his death, Rav Kook motioned to his son, Rav Tzvi Yehudah, to come close. “Please pay off any outstanding debts. I do not want to owe anyone, not even the smallest amount.” He then made a second request: “Please prepare my writings for publication. But take care that the only title given to me is ‘rabbi.'”

With great effort, Rav Kook turned his face towards the scholars in the room. When it became clear that his soul would soon depart, the people cried out, “Shema Yisrael!” Rav Kook whispered after them, “Shema Yisrael,” breathing his final breath with the word echad - one. “The Eternal is one.”

The Rav HaNazir wrote:
“When the Rav passed away, We heard a heavenly voice. The voice called out, “Haim, ad olam!” ‘Life, forever!’ Even after completing life in this world, the soul continues, and it grows even stronger, with blessing, in eternal life.”

[Stories from the Land of Israel. Adapted from Malachim Kivnei Adam, p. 420; preface to Orot HaKodesh, pp. 24, 30.]

Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen Kook was born on the 16th Elul 5625 (September 1864). On the day of his bris, he received a kippah as a gift. From that day on, his parents always kept a kippah on his head. Even while he was sleeping, Avraham Yitzchak's parents did not take the kippah off his head so that he should not be bareheaded - not even for a minute. The little boy would not fall asleep without his kippah. When he turned over and it fell off, he immediately woke up.

Avraham Yitzchak was four years old when he was brought to the cheder (school) in his home town of Geriva, to learn to read. The teacher offered him a siddur and turned to the page with the alef-bet. The child stubbornly refused to learn.

"Why won't you study?" asked the teacher.

"I want to learn from the big books" replied Avraham Yitzchak shyly.

"Which big books?" asked the teacher.

Avraham Yitzchak did not know how to answer. Instead he ran home and brought back a Shulchan Aruch, the Code of Jewish Law, and another large heavy book. The teacher smiled and said to the child: "If you want to be able to learn from the big books, you must first study from the small books." Avraham Yitzchak understood and began to read the alef-bet from the siddur.

In the same cheder, there was a class of older children who were studying Torah. Every Friday, these children were tested on the material they learned all week. One Friday, an interesting thing happened. One of the older children did not know the answer. There was silence. Sudddenly, the voice of a small boy from the youngest reading table was heard. It was the answer, spoken clearly and correctly. Avraham Yitzchak had been listening to the lessons of the older children and had understood them.

Little Avraham Yitzchak invented an unusual game to play with his friends in cheder. He arranged the children in rows. Each child had a knapsack on his back, as if they were getting ready for a long journey. Avraham Yitzchak was their guide. The small soldiers asked: "Where are we going?"

"To Israel, to Eretz Yisrael..."


After many years of diligent study, Rav Kook was appointed as the rabbi of Zoimel, one of the small villages in Lithuania. After serving as rabbi of the town of Zoimel, Rav Kook was appointed the rabbi of a large city, Boisk. In Boisk, the Rav could sit and learn Torah for many hours each day. There was a time when he would learn 50 or 60 pages of Talmud in one day.

Many years passed before the Rav went to live in Eretz Yisrael. When the possibility of becoming the Rav of Jaffa arose, he refused all other appealing offers which came from European Yeshivot which asked him to be their Rosh Yeshivah or from great cities abroad, whose congregants wanted him to be their rabbi.

In addition, the congregation of Boisk refused to allow their rabbi to leave, until the Jews of Jaffa wrote to them explaining that the mitzvah of yishuv Eretz Yisrael, settling the land of Israel, takes precedence over everything else.

On Friday 28th Iyar 5664 (10 May 1904) Rav Kook went to live in Eretz Yisrael. He was received at the port of Jaffa with great honours and began his term as Rabbi of Jaffa. At that time, Israel was under Turkish rule and Jewish settlements were first being established. Jaffa was one of the main centers of Jewish settlement.

Hundreds of people from Jerusalem, Rishon LeZion, Rehovot and Petach Tikvah came to welcome the Rav and to form their own impressions of this unique figure, and his wife the Rabbanit Raiza Rivka.

The first World War broke out. The Rav had gone to Europe on shlichut, as an emissary for Eretz Yisrael, and could not return to his home in Jaffa because of the war. He stayed in London and served as a rabbi of the city. But he was constantly worried about the fate of his community in Jaffa and the hardships facing Jews in Israel which was then in a state of siege and famine.

After the war ended, the Rav returned to Eretz Yisrael. The Jews of Jaffa wanted him to continue as their rabbi. At the same time, the community of Jerusalem asked him to become their rabbi. The Rav debated this dilemma for quite some time. He knew that a small part of the Jewish community of Jerusalem did not want him as Rabbi. He did not want to be the cause of fights and arguments in the Holy City. On the 3rd Elul 5679 (29 August 1919), the Rav came to Jerusalem and only after a while did he bend to the will of the community, and become the rabbi of Jerusalem.

Here he established the centre of the world-renowned Yeshiva Merkaz HaRav, the "Centre of the Rav". Later, along with Rav Yaakov Meir Charlop, he instituted the Chief Rabbinate of Eretz Yisrael, with both rabbis acting as Chief Rabbi. All his time and effort was dedicated to the Rabbinate, the affairs of the community, and to the learning of Torah.


The author, Tikvah Sarig, tells the following story about Rav Kook:

On the first Yom Kippur eve, after my father passed away, I was not yet five years old. Every morning since his death, my mother would wake me before dawn and wipe the sleep from my eyes with the same words: "Get up, my daughter, my neshama, my soul, to pray for the memory of your righteous father, the tzaddik".

What a tzaddik was, I did not know, but I imagined he looked like this: a kippah on his head, his beard long, his eyes warm and good, the palms of his hands soft, and his voice, melodic. Just like my father who was taken from me.

It was erev Yom Kippur. After the pre-fast meal, my mother took me to the house of Rav Kook. The sun was about to set. We marched quickly to the Rav's house. The streets were filled with worshippers, clad in white, hurrying to the synagogue to hear Kol Nidre, the opening Yom Kippur prayer.

Opening the door, we were welcomed by the fragrance and warmth of burning candles. Rebbetzin Kook and her daughter opened their arms to us and began to cry. My mother patted my head.

"Soon you will go into the Rav's study to receive his blessing" said the Rebbetzin.

With her words, my fear grew. I sighed loudly. Just then, the great door opened and from within, a righteous man, a tzaddik, came out. He was all dressed in white, his gartel was embroidered with gold. On his head he wore a white kippah; his beard was long. His eyes, warm and good, were looking at me with pity and kindness.

"Aba! Daddy!" I cried and clung closely to my mother, hiding my face in her dress, my limbs trembling. I heard my mother's voice through my tears: "Go my child. Receive a blessing from the honoured Rav!"

She led me a few steps towards him. The Rav took my small hands into his warm, soft ones.

"Do not cry, my child" he said, placing his hands on my head. "Do not be afraid of me. I was a friend of your father. Come here and I will bless you on this holy day."

The Rav's hands were soft and warm - just like my father's. His voice was melodic - just like my father's. I felt as if a river of kindness and warmth washed all over me - from my head to my toes - just like when I used to sit on my father's lap.


Rav Kook was so righteous that he always forgave his enemies and even loved and blessed them.


In his last days, the Rav became very sick. He suffered in terrible pain. It was difficult for him to learn, and it was difficult for him to hide his anguish from his students and relatives.

On the morning of the 3rd Elul, his condition became worse. Even though speaking was very hard for him, he strained himself and demanded of his family and students not to add any titles to his name on the cover pages of his books, not to eulogize him, telling them (do not call me) "Rabbeinu, our Rabbi, and not the "Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael" - "Simply HaRav - the Rav".

A large crowd stood outside the house, where the Rav lay on his deathbed. He raised his eyes to the window in his room. Everyone in Eretz Yisrael knew that a great leader, a teacher, a man of wisdom, was about to leave the land he loved so much.

The Rav grew weaker by the hour. His family, relatives, and a number of his students gathered around his bedside. In his last hours, the Rav's face was turned towards the wall. His students knew that it was written in the Talmud: "If a man passes away with his face towards the wall - it is a bad sign, and if his face is turned toward the people, it is a good sign". With his remaining strength, the Rav struggled and turned himself to face the people. At the last moment, all those who were standing around the Rav broke out saying "Shema Yisrael".

At sunset, on the third day of Elul 5695 (Sept 1st, 1935) the Rav passed away. The news flashed through the Jewish nation with the speed of lightning. The backbone of the Jewish nation was broken. The Rav of the generation was gone, the Rav of the era, the Rav of Eretz Yisrael at the time of her rebirth.

Exactly 16 years (3rd Elul) after Rav Kook ascended to Jerusalem, he ascended to Heaven.

Source: Reprinted from "Stories from the Life of Rav Kook" edited and translated by Masha Fridman

More on Rav Kook at Rav Kook Torah

Shoftim: Lessons in Behaviour


by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita

Caution with what goes in and out

I once arrived late to a wedding; the host graciously asked a waiter to bring me the fish course that had already been served to the other guests. 

While waiting for it to arrive, I wanted to use the time to drink a l'chaim with the chatan. I was seated at the head table with several other Rabbanim, and the Rav sitting next to me pointed out that the wine I had chosen did not have a standard hechsher. Since the Rav who gave the hechsher was seated at our table, I immediately realized that if I did not drink his wine, I would be causing him great embarrassment. I decided it was okay to rely on his hechsher since I knew him as a G-d fearing Jew. I poured a cup of wine, recited the appropriate blessing and drank the entire cup. 

The Rav who had certified the wine noticed my act and smiled with satisfaction. I understood that I had acted correctly, for until now the guests had glanced at the hechsher and then pushed the wine away, causing him great heartache. 

Several moments later the host approached. Pale-faced, he told me there was reason to suspect the fish was not kosher! Baruch Hashem I had been saved from eating this dish… 

I thought to myself that those Rabbanim who did not consider carefully and realize that their stringency regarding the wine would result in embarrassing someone sitting at their table, were the ones who unwittingly sinned by eating forbidden fish. Conversely I, who was concerned about this and refrained from shaming another Jew, was protected by Hashem not to ingest something impure. For if someone is careful not to transgress, Hashem protects him that he not sin even unintentionally. 

Reassuring One who has been Degraded 

 It is permissible to speak derogatorily about someone who insulted another person, so as to console the one involved. One can lessen his pain by explaining that the one who insulted him is lacking wisdom or manners, or that his words are untrue and people do not take him seriously. 

It is important to assist the one who was slighted to understand the nature of the offender, so he can learn how to deal with him while preventing future occurrences of this sort.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Justice, Charity and Illegal Earnings

"Justice, justice shall you seek, that you may live..." [Shoftim 16:20]

The evil inclination may put the following thought into your head: "He who hates gifts shall live" [Proverbs 15:27]. How can I give a gift to the poor if it means taking his life away?"

The Torah teaches: "You shall surely give to him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him, because for this thing Hashem your G-d will bless you in all your work and in all that you put your hand to" [Deut 15:10] - and through G-d's blessing, you will get back more than you gave.

As our Sages taught "More than the rich do for the poor, the poor do for the rich" [Vayikra Rabbah 34:10]. The money you give the poor is therefore not called a gift.

What if the rich man received his money illegally?   In this case, G-d will not reward him for giving, since G-d  "hates robbery [even] in an offering" (Isaiah 61:8). When the rich man gives to the poor and receives nothing in return, there is a problem of "He who hates gifts shall live".

The verse therefore warns the poor man "Justice, justice shall you seek, that you may live..."

You shall seek and accept charity that comes from just and honest money. Then you shall be counted among those who hate gifts, and you shall live.

Aderet Eliyahu, Shoftim - from the writings of the Ben Ish Hai

Sunday, August 8, 2021

The Climate of Yemos HaMoshiach

 A shiur given 8/4/21 by Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Friday, August 6, 2021

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Nothing Happens By Chance

A young man once approached the Chazon Ish, Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz ztzl, to ask a pedagogical question. This young rabbi was about to assume the position of mashgiach ruchani (spiritual mentor) in a boys' Yeshivah high school. He wanted to know what moral points he should try to stress to the boys during his lectures. Which ethical principles should he emphasize?

The Chazon Ish replied that the mashgiach should focus on one point and one point alone: hashgacha pratis (Divine Providence). "If the boys come away from your lectures with one lesson, it must be that the world is not hefker (abandoned, in no-one's charge), that there is a Creator and nothing happens by chance! If you manage to teach this to your students, you will have achieved a great success. If you plant within them a deep appreciation for hashgacha pratis, their lives will be changed forever."

The Hebrew phrase, hashgachah pratis, is generally translated as "Divine Providence" but literally, it means "individualized supervision" from Hashem. It refers to the fundamental Jewish belief in the constant guiding hand of Heaven, which controls all Creation - from the orbits of the planets to the flight pattern of a mosquito.

As the Midrash [Midrash Rabbah, Bereshis 10:7] explains: "Rabbi Simon said: There is not even one blade of grass that does not have its own mazal in Heaven that taps it and says "Grow!" And the Talmud states that every living creature "from the massive ox to the tiny flea, is directly sustained by the support decreed for it in Heaven" [Avodah Zarah 3b].

Hashgachah pratis means that Hashem notices, cares, and pays attention to all creatures. If this is true for plants and animals, it is even more so for human beings. Although events in our lives may be masked as "natural", hashgachah pratis means that everything that happens to us is Hashem's Will. As Rabbi Chanina declared: "A person does not prick his finger below (on earth) unless it is decreed for him above (in Heaven), as it is stated [Tehillim 37:23] "A man's footsteps are established by Hashem" [Chullin 6b]

Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler explains how even seemingly natural events are really acts of Heaven. He points out that with minimal effort we can all recognize the miracles of daily life:

Even someone on the lowest (spiritual) level, someone to whom it appears that all events are 'natural', if he will simply desire to think into the matter honestly, he will see that everything happens with direct guidance - that Hashem guides all 'natural' events.

In order to understand how all natural events are really miracles, consider the following metaphor. A man is standing behind a curtain and is peeking into a room through a tiny hole. He sees a pen writing but he does not see the man who is writing with the pen. (Nevertheless, he knows that a man must be there, guiding the pen to write). In a similar vein, the one whose eyes are closed and sees only 'natural' events does not understand that Hashem is at work. All 'natural' events are being directed by Hashem. Just as the pen does not write by itself, so too, events in this world do not happen by themselves.

Rambam cites belief in hashgachah pratis as the first of his Thirteen Principles of Faith which constitute the basis of Judaism. These principles are listed in many siddurim at the end of Shacharis, the morning service, and they are recited by many at the conclusion of their prayers:

I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, creates and guides all creatures, and that He alone caused, causes, and will cause everything that happens.

Why did Maimonides and the Chazon Ish place such a primary emphasis on hashgachah pratis? Why is this principle so important?

Perhaps we can understand this with the insight offered by Rashi. In his commentary on the Torah verse which commands us to remember how Amalek attacked the Jews after the Exodus from Mitzrayim [Devarim 25:17]. The Torah further commands us to destroy the very memory of Amalek.

Why is this enemy of the Jews singled out for total annihilation? Wheren't there other nations who also attacked the Jews? What was so terrible about Amalek?

The Torah commands us to remember Amalek and "what happened to you on the way". Rashi emphasizes that the Hebrew word "happened" is similar to the word "happenstance". In other words, Rashi lists as the first of his three interpretations of this phrase, that Amalek's wickedness was rooted in their attitude of happenstance - as if the Exodus had occurred, and did not result from Providence; as if the Jews were freed from slavery because of geopolitical forces and not Divine Intervention; and as if the Red Sea "coincidentally" split just when the Jews needed to go through, and was not a miraculous event.

According to Rashi's commentary, we can now understand why Amalek was singled out for total destruction. The attitude that events in this world are happenstance or coincidence is diametrically opposed to all that Judaism stands for. It is an attitude which contradicts everything that Jews believe. It is an attitude which the Torah declares cannot co-exist with the Jewish people's fulfillment of their mission in this world.

Throughout the history of the Jewish people, the greatest idological threats have come from the "isms" which espoused philosophies antithetical to the principle of hashgachah pratis. On the other hand, in ghettos and concentration camps, the greatest inspiration that kept Jews alive both physically and spiritually was the unshakeable belief in hashgachah pratis.

Especially now, as we hear Moshiach's approaching footsteps, let us re-affirm our belief in hashgacha pratis as we witness its impact on our daily lives.

Source: Dr. Meir Wikler "Einei Hashem" [Feldheim Publ]

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

On the Heels of Moshiach

Thank you to Tomer Devorah for uploading this video, which I liked so much I decided to put it here as well.  

The subject Rabbi Yaakov Hillel is talking about is something I learned very early in my journey ... why our lowly generation will bring Moshiach.   

Our generation is the lowest one of all.  The earlier generations came from the higher parts of Adam HaRishon, but our souls, in this last generation, come from the heels of Adam HaRishon.  

It's a 30 minute shiur, and Rabbi Hillel is someone you can relate to, his kindness and honesty shine through.

National TV: Messiah is Coming


Sunday, August 1, 2021

Re'eh: An Inner Secret


by Rabbi Alon Hazi


See I set before you today a blessing.....[Re'eh 11:26]
ראה אנכי נותן לפניכם היום ברכה 

Why is the word  "lifnechem" used rather than the word "lachem" - [to you] - which would seem to be the more obvious word choice in Hebrew? 

The inner secret:  The word “lifnechem” means in front of you but also means “to your inside “ 

The word ‘anochi’ appears when the Torah was given, in the Ten Commandments: “I am HaShem your G-d′′ When He says “I am” He uses the word anochi rather than “ani.” 

The word chosen here is parallel that use. The word lifnechem means in Hebrew “in front of you” but also “to your inside.” So it actually comes to say that HaShem was giving the Torah from the inside of Himself to the inside of bnei Yisrael. 

When it says “face to face”   -  The face, pnimi, refers to the penimuyit, the inner dimension. 

Today:  HaYom - means to say that the blessings will come like daylight, in a revealed and renewed way. Like each day is new, like it never came before. 

Blessing: The origin of the word bracha used is found in ‘lehavrich’ which is a word for bending a grape vine down arched to the ground and burying it which causes the grape vine to grow stronger. First it was on top but now it is brought low in order to strengthen the flow of abundance. 

How we bring down the bracha is by studying the Torah and keeping the commandments. 

Have a blessed week, ′′And He will give you rest from all your enemies all around, and you will dwell securely.” 

Wednesday, July 28, 2021


Written by Yehuda Katz

וְהָיָה | עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה 
And it will be, because [eikev] you will heed these ordinances...
[Eikev 7:12]

Rashi comments that when the Torah uses the word "Eikev" [Hebrew], it teaches us that this is referring to the Mitzvoth that man usually neglects. Eikev in Hebrew can also mean the heel of feet, meaning the commandments that a person might "step" on because he considers them to be minor.

We find in Genesis 25:26 that Yaakov was named his name because he held onto Esav's heel when he emerged from his mother's womb. Yaakov comes from the Hebrew root "eikev" meaning heel. 

A question can be asked, What's the connection between "Yaakov's" name and "Eikev" found in our verse?   I would like to propose the following original answer as follows, Bezrat Hashem: When Yaakov held on to Esav's heel, he was telling the world that the very things Esav tramples on are in fact "held" in high esteem by Yaakov. These are the very attributes that Yaakov considers important, namely modesty, humility, honesty, etc. Yaakov knew their value, and held on to them. Esav on the other hand "stepped" on them with his heel.....

This is precisely where Yaakov has the greatest power over Esav and the manner in which he conducts his life. Israel will always be able to defeat Esav as long as they are capable of upholding the attributes Esav tramples on. 

In Kabbalistic thought Esav represents the evil inclination. We are all constantly seeking out methods to conquer that which ails us spiritually, yet here lies the key to our victory. Let us all grasp the very attributes that the Evil inclination abhors, and hold them in high esteem as our forefather Yaakov had done at the time of his birth. Let us all be more humble, modest and gracious to our fellow man.

Sunday, July 25, 2021

The Trait of Arrogance

וְלֹא תָבִיא תוֹעֵבָה אֶל בֵּיתֶךָ 
Nor should you bring an abomination into your house [Eikev 7:26]

The verse teaches us, noted R' Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev, just how despicable the trait of arrogance truly is.  It is so abhorred that one is forbidden to even allow a haughty individual to enter his home.

We learn this from a verse in Mishlei: ''Every haughty heart is the abomination of Hashem'' [Mishlei 16:5]

We see, therefore, that a haughty individual is referred to as an ''abomination'', about which our verse explicitly states:  "And you must not bring an abomination into your home''.

Source: Rabbi Y. Bronstein

Friday, July 23, 2021

Shabbat Nachamu: The Definition of Real Nechama

 New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Tu b'Av: Hidden Secrets on the Coming of Moshiach

The 15th Av [also known as Tu b'Av] will be this coming Shabbat.  On Rabbi Anava's website, he has these three videos which he suggests we should watch in preparation for the day.

The Secrets of the Coming of Moshiach

The Mystical Explanation of Tu b'Av

The Hidden Secret of Tu b'Av

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

The Lower We Fall.... The HIgher We Will Rise

The world is experiencing a huge DESCENT and we are collectively experiencing many trials.  

The lower we fall, the higher we will rise.

"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.

Monday, July 19, 2021

Gender Identity Confusion

What is really going on with Gender Identity, same sex marriage, and rampant gender confusion?  

In the video below, Rabbi Yitzchak Breitowitz has some answers as to why our generation is so confused about gender, and gives us some Halachic insights. I highly recommend this shiur, it's not too long either.

I remember learning or reading somewhere.... perhaps it was in Sha'ar HaGilgulim... that if a male soul reincarnates into a female body, that female cannot give birth to a male child, only female children.  I hope I've remembered that correctly, if  I've got it wrong, please let me know. [Rabbi Breitowitz mentions this aspect of souls born into opposite gender bodies towards the end of the shiur]

Rivkah Lambert Adler has also written a blog post on this subject, which you can read by clicking here.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

A History of the Olympic Games and The Lubavitcher Rebbe's Warning

The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled to begin on Friday 23 July - Sunday 8 August, and are already marred by a case of an athlete with Covid in Olympic city, and despite Tokyo reporting their highest number of Covid cases in six months.

Compiled and written by Rabbi Elozor Reitchik

The Olympic Games began over 2700 years ago and was a religious event in honor of one of the many Greek gods.

The original Olympic Games took place in Olympia, where temples for idolatry were situated. The modern-day Olympics, which resumed in the year 1896, are directly connected to the ancient games since they begin with the lighting of the Olympic Torch. The Torch is ignited by the sun's rays in the temple on Olympia, and from there it makes its way to the country where the Games are held.

Even the fact that the Games take place every four years, as well as the Olympic symbol of five interlocking rings, are connected to idol worship. The five intertwined circles represent Venus, which traces a perfect pentacle across the sky every 8 years. To the ancient Greeks, Venus became the symbol of perfection and beauty, qualities prized in athletes' bodies. As a tribute to Venus, the Greeks used "her" 8-year cycle to organize their Olympic Games. The 4-year schedule follows Venus' half cycle.

Sourced in Idolatry

When the Olympic Games took place in Munich, Germany in 1972, the Lubavitcher Rebbe referred to it in a sicha on Shabbos parshas Vayeishev, Shabbos Chanuka, 5733, and said that this was an inyan of avoda zara [idol worship].  [Note: 11 Israeli athletes were massacred at the 1972 Games in Munich]

Free translation follows: 

The entire concept of the Olympic Games is connected with idol worship. These games began with the Greeks, who had a custom of going to a certain place and running there, jumping on stones and bones, dancing, fighting, and killing, etc. The modern version is the Olympic Games, but the source is idol worship. 

In those days, the Greeks attained very high levels of wisdom, even the wisdom of mathematics and astronomy. After reaching very high levels of wisdom, they began to think -- what about faith? 

There was a mountain near the city, and it wasn't a high mountain, but a mountain that goats and sheep, cows and oxen, and people too, could climb. This mountain wasn't in some forsaken place in the mountains of darkness, but right near the city. So the wise men of Greece declared that their two idols were there, that one had hit the other and killed him, and they did all sorts of evil things there. Including every possible bad trait, and even those you can only think of, and they said that these idols were their gods, and were omnipotent -- the name of this mountain was Olympia. 

Then they decided that once every few years they would gather there, and each one would take his cat, etc., with him, and one would strike another, and jump, and celebrate a holiday there. 

All this was in the time of the Greeks. In recent years, this became the Olympic Games, which take place every four years. Therefore, the Olympic Games that take place in our generation are sourced in idol worship. 

The Olympic Torch

On Chanuka 5732, a few months before the start of the Olympic Games in Munich, the Olympic Torch was carried through Eretz Yisrael on its way to Munich. The Rebbe spoke sharply about this and in a talk delivered on Shabbos parshas Chayei Sarah he said: 

This was the custom of the Greeks 2000 years ago. Nothing remains of the Greeks themselves, aside from their books, and among the things written in their books, is the custom to take a torch and to run with it from place to place. Now they want to take this Greek custom and celebrate Chanuka with it! 

The whole point of Chanuka is the Jews' victory over the Greeks, and as we see and all know, nothing remains of the Greeks aside from their language and their books. Now they want to dig up an ancient custom from the cemetery -- not from the "beis ha'chayim" ["place of the living," a Jewish euphonism for a graveyard] but from the "beis ha'kevaros" ["place of graves"] -- and resurrect this Greek custom, the opposite of the whole point of Chanuka! 

In 5748 (1988), before the bar mitzva of Eliyahu Schusterman, his father, Rabbi Gershon Schusterman of Los Angeles prepared a speech in which he derived Jewish lessons to be learned from the Olympic fire which burned on Mt. Olympia in Greece, from which the Olympic torch was lit to open the Olympic Games. 

When he sent in the speech to the Rebbe, the Rebbe crossed it all out and wrote: "as was publicized, the beginning of all this was actual idol worship."  The Lubavitcher Rebbe completely negated any Chabad activity in connection with the Olympic Games, since they are sourced in idol worship. And the Games today are connected and associated with the symbols of Greek idol worship.

Friday, July 16, 2021

The Vision of Isaiah

A commentary on the Haftarah for Shabbat Chazon 

by Yitzi Hurwitz 

On the Shabbat before Tisha B’Av, called Shabbat Chazon, we read the haftorah that begins with the words: “Chazon Yeshayahu” [vision of Isaiah].

The haftorah ends: “Zion will be redeemed with justice, and its captives, with tzedakah.”

The question is: Who or what is Zion? And who are the captives?

Some simply translate Zion to refer to Jerusalem, and the captives are the Jewish people. Others understand Zion to be the Jewish people. But if so, then who are the captives?

The answer is that Zion refers to Jews who study Torah and do the mitzvahs, and the captives are Jews who are not involved in Torah and mitzvahs. They are called captives because they have surrendered their will to their bodies and their “animal souls.” So-called Zion Jews are redeemed with justice because they earned it. However, the captive Jews are redeemed with tzedakah because they otherwise can’t be redeemed.

We are told that in the end, all Jews will repent and immediately be redeemed. This is an act of kindness, of tzedakah.

As Jews, we know that our bodies can be subjected to exile. Our G‑dly souls, however, cannot.

Even when the soul is sent down to influence the body and the physical world since it is an actual part of G‑d, it is not affected by the dark concealment it experiences. On the contrary, the darkness and the exile cause the soul to bring out hidden strength that had been lying dormant, strengthening its connection with G‑d.

The body, on the other hand, is subject to the harsh conditions and darkness of the exile. G‑d put us in this great darkness so we can transform the darkness into light.

While the soul is strengthened because of the darkness, it doesn’t directly affect the darkness. However, the body, through fulfilling G‑d’s will in the exile, changes the darkness into light. This light is greater than the light of the soul. It is Hashem’s will, His very essence, which is the greatest light possible.

This brings us to yet a third explanation of our verse. Zion refers to our bodies, and v’shaveha [which we had translated as “captives,” but can also mean “returnees”] refers to our souls.

The soul is not subject to the exile. Being in the body, which is in exile, is merely a matter of being in the wrong place. It doesn’t need redemption; all it needs is to return.

The body will be redeemed with justice because it suffered in exile and did the work, and so it rightfully earned its redemption.

The neshamah, which did not suffer in exile, returns as a kindness, a tzedakah. It did influence the body, and so it comes along and receives the greatest revelation through the body: the body’s reward for its physical work in the dark exile, the revelation of G‑d’s essence.

Now we can understand the first words of the haftorah: “Chazon Yeshayahu.” Chazon means the vision, and the name Yeshayahu comes from the word yeshuah, which means “redemption.” Our haftorah is telling us that specifically during times of darkness, which the Three Weeks and Tisha B’Av symbolize, is where you can accomplish the vision of the redemption.

We will experience this great revelation with the coming of Moshiach. May He come soon. 

Source: Chabad

Thursday, July 15, 2021

The Churban of America

 New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin

One Small Step.... One Giant Leap

Art - The Garden of Melancholia: Mike Worrall

from the writings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, translated by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan

There was once a tzaddik who became very depressed and melancholy. This depression caused the tzaddik great difficulty, and it became worse and worse. He fell into lassitude and heaviness, where it was literally impossible for him to move.

He wanted to make himself happy and uplift himself, but it was impossible for him to do anything. Whenever he found something that would make him happy, the Evil One would find sadness in it. Therefore it was impossible for him to do anything to make himself happy, since in everything he found sadness.

He pondered G-d's kindness that "He did not make me a heathen" and realized that this could be a source of great joy, without any sadness.

{The main thing is to make a small beginning. G-d said "Open for Me like the eye of a needle, and I will open for you like the gates of the Temple" [Shir HaShirim Rabbah 5:3]. Thus, no matter how low a person is, if he makes even a single motion to serve G-d, it is something very great on high, and it can bring him back completely. [Likutey Halakhoth, Tefillin 5:43]  The main thing is to make the first move. If one begins even a little bit, one can go very high}

When a person tries to find joy in something that he himself did, it is possible to find sadness in every joy. No matter what he does, he can find shortcomings, and he will not be able to uplift himself and be happy. But in the fact that "He did not make me a heathen" there is no sadness. This is from G-d, G-d made him the way He did, and had pity on him, not making him a heathen. Since this was G-d's deed, there are no shortcomings in it, and hence there is no defect in this rejoicing. No matter what, there is an unimaginable difference between him and an idolator.

The tzaddik began to make himself happy with this. He rejoiced and uplifted himself little by little, continuing more and more, until he came to such a level of joy that he was on the same level of joy that Moses experienced when he went on high to receive the Torah. Through this uplifting and joy, he was able to fly many miles into the supernal universes.

He saw himself, and he was very far from the place where he had been originally. This bothered him very much. He felt that when he descended, he would be very far away from his original place. When it was discovered that he had disappeared, people would consider it a great wonder. The tzaddik did not want such publicity since he always wanted to "walk modestly with G-d". [Micah 6:8]

The joy came to an end, since joy has a limit. Therefore, joy begins automatically and ends automatically. When joy begins to end, it ends little by little. The tzaddik therefore descended little by little, coming down from the place to which he had flown during his time of joy. He eventually returned to the place from which he had ascended. He was very surprised, since he was in exactly the same place where he had been at first.

He realized that he had returned to the exact same place where he had been at first. Looking at himself, he realized that he had not moved at all, or if he had moved, it had been at most by a hairsbreadth. The hair on the head is the gate to the intellect. In Hebrew, the word sa'ar (hair) and sha'ar (gate) are the same. Therefore, if a person improves himself by a hairsbreadth, it can bring him back completely. Similarly, if a person strays from G-d by a hairsbreadth, it can do much damage [Likutey Halakhoth, Choshen Mishpat, Nezikin 4:3]

He had moved so little, that no one other than G-d could measure it. The tzaddik was very surprised at this. Here he had flown so far, through so many universes, and at the same time, he had not moved at all. This showed him how precious in G-d's eyes is even the slightest motion.

When a person moves himself even a hairsbreadth in this world, it can be considered more than thousands of miles, and even thousands of universes. This can be understood when we realize that the physical world is no more than the central point in the midst of the spheres. This is known to masters of astronomy. Compared to the supernal universes, the entire physical universe is no more than a dot.

When lines extend from a single point...
When lines extend from a central point, the closer they are to the point, the closer they are to one another. The further they extend from the point, the further such lines get from each other. Therefore, when the lines are very far from the point, they are also very far from each other. This is true, even though near the central point, they are extremely close to each other.

If one imagined lines drawn from the earth to the upper spheres (the orbits of the planets around the earth: a relativistic geocentric view of the universe) one would see that even if one moved a hairsbreadth, the movement would be reflected as a motion of thousands of miles in the upper spheres. It would be in the same ratio as the spheres are higher than the earth. The spheres must be very huge, since there are stars without number, and each star is at least as large as our planet.

This is all the more certainly true when one considers the supernal universe, compared to which, even the highest astronomical spheres are like nothing. Therefore, the distance between these extending lines in the supernal world is without measure. A movement of less than a hairsbreadth, so small that only G-d can estimate it, can consist of a passage through thousands of universes and thousands of miles in the supernal worlds. How much more so is this true when one travels a mile or more to serve G-d.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

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.

The Writing on the Wall

I can't prove this one way or the other.... but according to Rabbi Yitzhak Bezri Shlita the name of Hashem appears on a wall near Sha'ar HaRachamim [The Gate of Mercy: In Jewish tradition, this is where the Messiah will enter the Old City, coming from the Mt of Olives. The gate is blocked since the 16th century].   Before Moshiach comes there will appear the first three letters of Hashem's name - the Yud, the Hei and the Vav.  When Moshiach comes, the last letter will be seen.  Looking closely at the photo below we see the beginning of the second Hei starting to appear.  [message received via WhatsApp and also published on Sod1820.co.il]

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

A Stain on the Soul

Art by Schnette

Source: "Not Just Stories" by Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski MD zt"l

It goes without saying that spirituality and dishonesty are mutually exclusive. Anyone who is in wrongful possession of the property of others cannot begin to be spiritual.

A person may engage in unfair business practices and rationalize that this is the way business is transacted. It is also possible that a person may inadvertently take advantage of others, and this too is sinful.

In Safed there was a tzaddik, a kabbalist, Rabbi Avraham Galanti, who once came to the Arizal with a request that he reprimand him and help him correct his misdeeds. The Ari refused, saying that he was hardly one who could give mussar to so great a tzaddik, but Rabbi Avraham persisted in his demands. The Ari then studied his face and said "I see that you have a slight defect and that you are in wrongful possession of others' property."

Rabbi Avraham was shocked and promptly went home to don sackcloth and accept a fast, with intense soul-searching as to where he might have been dishonest, but to no avail.

Rabbi Avraham operated a textile factory. He called together all his workers and asked "Am I in arrears to any of you? Have I inadvertently withheld wages from anyone?" The workers responded "Rabbi, whatever you give us is enough. The Divine blessing is in your money, and whatever we receive always goes far enough to cover our needs."

Rabbi Avraham said "Then that is the problem. I may have shortchanged you on your wages, but you have never complained. That is why the Ari found me sinful. Henceforth you must be specific and make certain you receive every cent that is due to you."

"But I must make restitution for the past" he continued. Rabbi Avraham then placed money on the table and said "Let anyone come and take as much as they feel is due to him. Then I wish you to say "Whatever Avraham Galanti still owes me, I forgive him with all my heart!"

Except for one woman who took a few coins, no-one touched the money on the table, and all recited the forgiveness formula as requested.

Rabbi Avraham later returned to the Ari who said "The stain has now been cleansed. It was the small amount of money due to that woman that had left its mark on your neshama."

Monday, July 12, 2021

When Rebuking

Art: Beth Stephens

''These are the words Moses spoke...." [Devarim 1:1]

When rebuking the Jewish people here, Moshe did not mention, or even allude to their sins.  Rather, in order to maintain their dignity, he merely mentioned the places where they had sinned [see Rashi].  

This teaches us how careful one should be not to cause distress to another person.  

If, on occasion, it proves necessary to rebuke another - even for serious sins, such as the ones which Moshe indicated here - one should nevertheless do so subtly and gently, while at the same time drawing the person close with warmth and love.

Lubavitcher Rebbe: Sichas Shabbos Parshas Devarim 5725