Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Forgetfulness and its Connection to Moshiach


by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh

In his commentary on Sefer Hapelee’ah, Rabbi Shimshon of Ostropoli continues that there is an evil angel designated over forgetfulness. If he meets you, he causes you to forget everything you know. The name of this angel is Reev, which literally means “dispute” (רִיב). Recall (remember!) that the mitzvah of Purim is to remember; to remember what Amalek did to us and to not forget. 

Why is forgetfulness so prevalent today? Because the angel Reev is making us forget what we should remember. In other words, every time we get into an argument or a dispute, we are “meeting” the angel Reev and the result is that we forget things. Rabbi Shimshon does not write this, but the first conclusion that we can draw is that arguing is not worthwhile because the person who starts a dispute is destined to forget. Politics is all about dispute and therefore it is no wonder that politicians cannot remember any of the promises they made. 

There is another synonym in Hebrew for “dispute”: matzah (מַצָּה). According to some grammarians, the matzah that we eat on Passover is actually the same word as this word that means “dispute.” Rabbi Shimshon Rephael Hirsch (another Shimshon!) writes that the process that causes dough to leaven is called matzah, because it is as if the water and the flour are fighting, and from their fight, energy is created that causes the dough to rise. The matzah that we eat on Pesach is the opposing force to the Biblical term for “dispute” (מַצָּה וּמְרִיבָה). Eating matzah on Pesach is our first antidote against being argumentative and a remedy for our forgetfulness. 

Can a sage forget? 

The Talmud brings a truly wondrous story about one of the greatest Mishnaic sages, Rabbi Elazar ben Arach. According to Abba Shaul, Rabbi Elazar ben Arach was the greatest of Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakai’s disciples. So great, that, “If all the sages of Israel were on one side of a scale, even with Eliezer Ben Horkanus on their side, and Elazar Ben Arach was on the other side, he would outweigh them all.”[1]  

The Talmud relates[2] that Rabbi Elazar Ben Arach went to rest at a healing resort. This resort had special, fine wine and unique, healing bathing waters—even better than the Dead Sea waters. Rabbi Elazar Ben Arach became immersed in those two pleasures. The sages say that the Ten Tribes were exiled because they sank into the pleasures of this world, the peak of which were that fine wine and bathing waters. They are not in agreement as to whether they will ever return.[3]  

The same thing happened to the great tzaddik, Rabbi Elazar Ben Arach, who went to that same healing site and sank into the pleasures of the finest wine and the healing waters. Over time, he forgot all that he had learned. When he returned to the sages, they honored him with reading from the Torah. The Torah portion of that week was Parashat Hachodesh—the special reading for the Shabbat before Rosh Chodesh Nissan. Instead of reading, “This month is for you…” (הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם), Rabbi Elazar mistakenly read: “Was their heart deaf?” (הַחֵרֵשׁ הָיָה לִבָּם). 

Rabbi Shimshon explains that this entire story is connected to numbers. According to Sefer Hapelee’ah, the angel designated over forgetting, Reev, has 605 soldiers. When Rabbi Elazar Ben Arach forgot and mistakenly read, “Was their heart deaf?” the words he confused were הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם. The letters he replaced them with were, הַחֵרֵשׁ הָיָה לִבָּם, and they spell רִיב, the name of the angel of forgetfulness, who caused Rabbi Elazar Ben Arach to forget everything he had learned! The greatest sage of Israel went up to read the Torah, and instead of saying, “This month is for you…” (הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם), he read: “Was their heart deaf?” (הַחֵרֵשׁ הָיָה לִבָּם), whose value is exactly 605—the 605 soldiers of Reev, according to Sefer Hapelee’ah. 

Remedy for Reev 

How else can we rectify Reev? Rearranging the letters of Reev (רִיב), we get Rebbe (רַבִּי)! Instead of engaging in dispute, we should be engaging with our Rebbe. Some people do have a rebbe, which causes them to argue with everyone else. This is not a genuine connection to a rebbe. We must connect with a rebbe who teaches us not to fight with anyone. The Rebbe the Rashab (the fifth Rebbe of Chabad) related that the Alter Rebbe of Chabad had chassidim who negated other chassidim and tzaddikim. Due to that, they did not manage to truly embrace the teachings of Chassidut and its lifestyle. The angel Reev made them forget the Chassidut and inner service of God that they had learned—just like Rabbi Elazar Ben Arach. Those who did not have disputes with others were able to embrace the teachings of Chassidut.  

In the previous chapter of this article, we mentioned that the word meaning “according to the law” (כַּדָּת)—an important word in the Scroll of Esther—is written on the Mashiach’s forehead. The numerical value of this word, כַּדָּת, equals twice the value of Reev (רִיב). Amazingly, the numerical value of the phrase from the Torah that Rabbi Elazar Ben Arach read incorrectly, “This month is for you…” (הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם), is exactly the same as the numerical value of this word, “according to the law” (כַּדָּת)! We mentioned that this is also the value of “Mashiach Ben David” (מָשִׁיחַ בֶּן דָּוִד)! 

In the phrase, “This month is for you…” (הַחֹדֶשׁ הַזֶּה לָכֶם), the word for “month” (הַחֹדֶשׁ) can also be pronounced, with a change of vowels, as “new” (הֶחָדָשׁ). Mashiach Ben David is the energy of renewal and innovation; innovations in Torah, innovations in reality, and renewal of love for one another. Everything must be renewed—in a way that is all according to the law. This is the energy and power of Mashiach Ben David, the power that is inscribed on his forehead.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Before Redemption, A Great Roaring of Water

Looking at the east coast of Australia right now.....it reminded me of this blog post about a great roaring of water.

Last year it was fire, this year it's water.  The great floods of 2021, which you can read about here

I'm not in a flood zone, but I feel the pain of those who are.


[originally published at Yiddishkeit.org by R. Yaakov Nathan]

The prophectic words of the Previous Lubavitcher Rebbe, from the newsletter HaKria V’HaKedusha [Tammuz, 5704/1944]
Translation from Shmais.com

Psalm 93
The Lord is King; He has garbed Himself with grandeur;
the Lord has robed Himself, He has girded Himself with strength;
He has also established the world firmly that it shall not falter.
Your throne stands firm from of old; You have existed forever.
The rivers have raised, O Lord, the rivers have raised their voice; the rivers raise their raging waves.
More than the sound of many waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea, is the Lord mighty on High.
Your testimonies are most trustworthy; Your House will be resplendent in holiness, O Lord, forever.

This chapter of Tehillim was composed by the G-dly poet regarding Yemos Ha’Moshiach (the Messianic days). He hints briefly at the events which will take place before the geula (redemption). The central theme of the chapter is that the Jews living at that time will understand by means of these events, that the galus (exile) is over and geula (redemption) has begun.

Hashem will be king by wearing greatness! We generally think the world is run by nature and we forget entirely that there is a G-d who rules over nature. It’s only when an unnatural occurrence takes place such as a flood, earthquake, and other terrible upheavals–that we remember that there’s a ruler of the world who rules over nature; Then all will say that G-d is king! He put nature aside and showed his absolute sovereignty over nature.

The poet goes on to speak about the time when Hashem will be revealed in clothes of gevura (judgement) and the world will recognize and acknowledge that He is king. He explains that this will happen during Yemos Ha’Moshiach before the geula because "Hashem wore the gevura" which he girded Himself with in the past. Gevura refers to Torah, and Hashem girded Himself with its strength at the time of the giving of the Torah to the Jewish people at Sinai. At that time there were such strong thunder and lightning that the nations of the world thought the world was coming to an end. Bilaam explained to them that Hashem is giving might to His people–that Hashem was giving his strong Torah to His people, and it has the power to build worlds or destroy them.

Regarding this the poet says that in Yemos Ha’Moshiach, when Hashem will be king by wearing gevura, he won’t do this by wearing a new garment of gevura which is designated for a new purpose. It will be the old garment of Mattan Torah (the giving of the Torah), of Hashem's giving might to His people. Hashem will rise to fortify the Torah in the world, and just as when it was given the first time it ws accompanied with proof that He is the ruler over nature, so too the second time. The process of kabbolas ha’Torah (receiving the Torah) will include displays of gevura whose purpose is that the entire world accepts the Torah. But, continues the poet, He has also established the world firmly that it shall not falter.: many will err and think that Hashem is destroying the world. That’s why the poet writes that the world will remain fortified and it will not falter. It will only be the Jewish people and the Torah which will be elevated once again: Hashem is giving might to His people!

Your throne stands firm from of old; You have existed forever: already before the creation of the world when Hashem was alone You have existed forever – You prepared Your throne of Your kingdom. The purpose of the creation is in order to strengthen Torah and the Jewish people; the Torah –  as the Sages say: "for the sake of Torah which is called 'first,' the world was created". Already back then it was established that Hashem would come enclothed in gevura in order to fortify a place for Torah. This time it won’t be in order to destroy the world, but in order to fortify the Torah, and to bring about the realization of the promise "and Hashem will be king over all the world" through this – that the world will gain knowledge of Torah (and accept it) through the Jewish people.

The rivers have raised, O Lord, the rivers have raised their voice; the rivers raise their raging waves: the literal meaning of the verse is that the rivers will lift up Hashem; the rivers will raise their voice, the rivers will make a lot of noise! This means that the roaring and raging of the rivers will elevate Hashem. The only meaning in this is that Hashem will be uplifted by His making the oceans roar before the geula. Through this noise everybody will understand that Hashem is elevated.

The practical conclusion is that the roaring rivers will bring great changes to the world; for example: they will drown an entire nation or at least a great portion, and this natural disaster will cause a revolution in man’s perspective. They will see this as a G-dly punishment. It’s also possible that this natural disaster will change the world political map by a chain of events which will begin with that nation that drowns.

In summary: before the geula there will be a great roaring of water which will shake the world with its intensity, to the point that the world will return to elevate Hashem. That’s how we can understand the verse–that the waters will elevate Hashem by means of their noise and rage.

More than the sound of many waters, than the mighty breakers of the sea, is the Lord mighty on High: the sound of the many waters will cause the powerful ones to break, and then Hashem will be the powerful One. This means that as a result of the crashing waters, the mighty ones of the earth will be wiped out. World empires will collapse in the face of the water’s strength and then people will acknowledge and agree that Hashem is the only mighty One in heaven.

Your testimonies are most trustworthy; Your House will be resplendent in holiness, O Lord, forever: The ones who relate your testimony are very loyal; holiness suits Your house; G-d–will be forever! The G-dly poet concludes the chapter with a description of the world after all of humanity will acknowledge Hashem’s kingdom. The world will say that the prophecies about Hashem and the geula of the Jewish people were absolutely true. This means that at the time of the complete geula it will be obvious–Jews will return to Eretz Yisrael and the Beis Hamikdash (Holy Temple) will be rebuilt, and all the nations of the world will be drawn there in order to learn G-d’s ways from up close.

The nations will also say–Your House will be resplendent in holiness–holiness suits the Beis Hamikdash; i.e. holiness will return and rest in the Beis Hamikdash as in the past, and the nations will acknowledge this. You have to say that this is the intention of the poet because these promises were not fulfilled yet. Nobody can say "Your testimonies are most trustworthy", that all the prophecies have come true. And nobody can say "Your House will be resplendent in holiness" without it being actually so.

The nations will ask Hashem to continue to have His Presence rest in the Beis Hamikdash forever. This indicates the perfection of the geula of the Jewish people–that the nations won’t bother them at all, to the point that the nations themselves will ask Hashem to continue to have His Presence rest in the Beis Hamikdash.

The poet, as is his way, is brief but that leaves us with little in quantity but a lot in quality. This psalm contains everything about geula, including the eve of geula and the "end of days." The central motif of the chapter are the roaring waters which will demonstrate Hashem’s might and transform humanity entirely in a spiritual way. These roaring waters will be the sign of the beginning of the complete geula. Following it, the glory of Hashem, the Torah and the Jewish people will be elevated in the world until true peace will reign and all the prophecies will be realized in their entirety.

We can only wait for those great stormy waters which will force the nations to admit that Hashem is king–all will have to concede that this is not a natural disaster but an act of G-d.

Note: In the "HaKri’a V’hakedusha" of Tammuz 5704 (1944) which was edited under the Previous Rebbe’s supervision, this article appears under the name G. Zarchi about chapter 93 in Tehillim, based on Midrash and words of the Sages.

Friday, March 12, 2021

A Flawless Mitzvah

"Every generous person shall bring it" [Vayakhel 35:5]

A benefactor donated a large plot of land for R' Meir Shapiro's yeshivah, Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin.  At the ceremony for the laying of the cornerstone of the building, the benefactor was accorded great honor and seated at the head table reserved for the distinguished guests.

Sitting next to the man was R' Yisrael of Chortkov, who turned to him and said "I do not envy you over this mitzvah because it will lead to great honor.  I do envy you, however, for the mitzvah that you performed secretly, the one that lead to this one [see Avot 4:2].  For that must have been a flawless mitzvah if it was capable of leading to a mitzvah as great as this one."

Source: Rabbi Y. Bronstein

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

Moshiach's Current Struggle

Three new lectures by Rabbi Mendel Kessin have been uploaded, here they are: 

Moshiach's Current Struggle - given 2/8/21

The 8 Phases of Geula - given 1/8/21

The Erev Rav and the Satan's Fight for Survival - given 2/1/21

Thursday, March 4, 2021

The Rebbe of Rebbes - Yarzheit 21 Adar

"Today, in our bitter exile, there are people who receive ruach hakodesh more easily than in the time of the prophets." [Noam Elimelech]

Rabbi Elimelech of Lizhensk was the student of Dov Ber of Mezerich, the brother of Meshulam Zushia of Anipoli. He was born in 1717, and died on 21 Adar in 1786  [ this year - Friday 4 March]

During the lifetime of Dov Ber of Mezerich he traveled widely with his brother all over Poland to spread Hassidism. After Dov Ber's death, Rebbe Elimelech settled in Lizhensk and attained great fame, thanks to his lofty life. During his lifetime, Lizhensk was turned into a center of Polish-Galician Hassidism. There, many famous Tzadikim and Hassidic activists of Galicia were educated and obtained their inspiration during the 18th century.

Rebbe Elimelech is the author of “Noam Elimelech” [Lvov 1798], a book of commentaries on the Pentateuch. In that book, the role of a Tzadik is set out and explained, and the doctrine of Hassidism is explained in greater detail. This book was subject to an intense investigation by the opponents of Hassidism. Many of his expositions are published in his work “Darche Tzedek”, and other works.

The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a, a direct descendant of the "Noam Elimelech", stated that Rebbe Yisroel of Ruzhin said that 500 years before Rebbe Elimelech was born, the world received abundance in his merit. Now, after his death, even more so!

It is said that Rabbi Elimelech promised anyone who would visit his grave that they would not leave this world without teshuva.

Kever of Rabbi Elimelech in Lizensk, Poland [Photo: יהונתן וואקסמאן]

Ohel of Rebbe Elimelech, Lizensk Poland [Photo: יהונתן וואקסמאן]

After Rebbe Elimelech passed away, Rebbe Reb Zisha of Hanipoli was approached by his brother’s students to be their new leader. Rabbi Zisha declined and explained his reason with a parable. “The possuk in Bereshis 2:10 states “And a river went forth from Eden to water the garden and from there it split into four paths.”

The Torah is eternal and alludes to all events above and below for all generations. Eden alludes to our holy master the Baal Shem Tov. The river was his student the holy Mezitcher Maggid. The garden refers to my brother the Rebbe Elimelech.

This then is the meaning: a river flows from Eden to water the garden, the Torah flows as water from the Baal Shem Tov by way of the Mezritcher Maggid to the Rebbe Elimelech. From there it separates into four paths: they are :

1.The Holy Rebbe the Chozeh or Seer of Lublin;
2.The Holy Rebbe Avodas Yisrael the Koznitzer Maggid;
3. The Holy Rebbe Mendel Rimanover; and
4.The Holy Ohev Yisrael the Apta Rav.

Stories of Noam Elimelech

The Light of The Rebbe’s Prayer Sash
related by the Rabbi of Madin, grandson of the Ropshitzer
Rebbe Elimelech had a custom that after the afternoon Mincha service he would converse with his close followers. He would then proceed to a special private room to pray the evening Maariv service alone in seclusion, purity and sanctity.

Rabbi Naftali Ropshitzer, a student of the Rebbe always yearned to also be in that room. He constantly wished to see the deeds of his Rebbe and how he prayed at that time. Once he stole into the room unnoticed and hid beneath the bed. The holy Rebbe entered and closed the door behind him. He took his “gartel,” the traditional sash or belt used by Hassidim for prayer and preceded to fasten it about himself.

The first time he wound the sash about his waist the whole house was filled with an awesome unbelievable light. The second time he tied the gartel winding it around, the light grew in intensity until the Ropshitzer could no longer endure it. He grew weak and found himself fainting. He called out in a loud voice.

Rebbe Elimelech heard the cries of distress coming from his student and recognized their source. “Naftali my son are you here?” the Rebbe asked. “Fortunately, you did not remain here for the third and final time I wound the gartel. If you had remained your soul would have surely left your body from the intensity of the great light. Therefore leave now.”

An unusual guest for Tea
related in the name of The Shinover Rebbe

The author of the Hasidic work Maor va’Shemesh was a student of the Rebbe Elimelech. Once he asked the Rebbe Elimelech to be allowed to serve him, thereby learning directly from his Rebbe. Rebbe Elimelech conceded and asked him for a cup of tea. After preparing the tea, the student entered the room to give it to the Rebbe. Inside he saw the awesome figure of an old man sitting beside Rebbe Elimelech. He was overcome by fear, trembling and shaking so much so that he dropped the cup spilling the tea on the floor and ran out.

Later Rebbe Elimelech saw his student and asked him why he hadn’t given him the tea he requested. He answered that he had brought it but when he saw the figure of the old man he was so frightened he spilled the tea. The Rebbe then said to him in Yiddish “Oy vey iz das kind voos ken nisht kiken dem taten in poonim arayn: Woe is to the child who cannot look his own father in the face.” That old man you saw was none other than our forefather Avraham peace be upon him!

More information can be found at : JewishGen

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Holiness Flew Away


by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita

"He shattered them at the foot of the mountain" [Ki Tisa 32:19]

Rabbi Avraham Chizkuni in his sefer 'Shtei Yadot', explains how Moshe could break the Luchot, even though one is forbidden to break vessels out of anger. He quotes the Maharsha in his commentary on Masechet Shabbat (105b), who says that there is no prohibition to tear something insignificant and not substantial. 

The Yerushalmi in Masechet Shekalim brings that when Am Yisrael made the Golden Calf, the letters flew from the Luchot. It follows then that when Moshe broke the Luchot they were already considered as 'insignificant' and not a substantial object, so there was no prohibition of shattering them in his anger.

Monday, March 1, 2021

Not Accountable

Someone close to someone close to me committed suicide last week.  I was searching on the internet for something sensible to say to one of the relatives, and to be honest, I couldn't find much there that felt right.

Until I read this:

Jewish law forbids the taking of one’s own life. It is considered a grave sin. And yet, in most cases of suicide, the law assumes a suicide victim to have been severely ill, to the point that he or she cannot be held accountable. The understanding is that if these people were healthy, if they were cognizant of the gravity of what taking their lives would mean, they would never have willingly chosen to carry out the horrific act. In cases of impaired mental health, a suicide victim is exactly that. A victim. A victim of a terrible, horrible, devastating illness that needs to be addressed head-on, without embarrassment or reprisals or stigma.  Source

That is why a ''suicide'' is always given the benefit of the doubt and permitted to be buried in a Jewish cemetary, and not on the outskirts of the cemetery.  We do not know the state of mind of the suicide, even if we may think we do.  We always say that the person was ''out of their mind''.

I think this is a very comforting thing to think, whether or not it is true, that is something we will never know.  But most of the time, it probably is true.