Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Identifying a False Witness


"And they shall judge the people with righteous judgment" [Shoftim 16:18]

A group of wicked individuals in the city of Vilna libeled one of the city's distinguished citizens. To ruin the man's reputation, they even hired false witnesses to substantiate their claim.

When word of the scandal reached the Vilna Gaon, he immediately suspected that the witnesses were hired to slander the man. He therefore requested to personally examine the "witnesses".

The witnesses appeared before the Gaon and related their testimony. The Gaon kept his eyes closed throughout their testimony and waited for them to finish. When they concluded, the Gaon rose to his feet and declared "They are false witnesses!"

The imposters, terrified by the Gaon's declaration, quickly admitted their guilt and revealed that they had been hired to deliver a false testimony.

The judges of the Beth Din were amazed. "How did Rebbeinu know that they were false witnesses?" they asked the Gaon.

"The answer lies in a Mishnah in Maseches Sanhedrin [5:4]" he replied.

"The Mishnah states that the judges first listen to the testimony of one witness. When the witness has concluded, the judges invite the second witness to testify. The Mishnah then states "If the words were found to correspond" then they are believed.

What does "if the words were found to correspond" mean? Either the testimonies match up or they do not; what need is there for the judges to figure out if the testimonies correspond?

"The reason" explained the Gaon, "is as follows: Every individual has his own style and approach when it comes to relating that which he has seen. Therefore, when judges hear two testimonies that differ slightly from one another, if they can find a way to reconcile them, the testimonies will be accepted by the Beth Din. For although the two witnesses expressed themselves in different manners, the two testimonies are one and the same. In fact, it is a sign that the witnesses are honest.

"However, when these witnesses testified before me" concluded the Gaon, "there were no discrepancies between their testimonies. If two people recount the same story, using the exact same words, it is a clear indication that they are false witnesses!"

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Monday, August 29, 2022

3 Elul - Yarzheit Rav Kook


"Before the world of truth can come, the world of lies must disappear" - Rabbi Avraham Yitzchak HaCohen 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

Overcoming Obstacles



Elul - L'Dovid Hashem Ori - When You Carry Valuable Merchandise

The Ohr HaMeir says that in life there are certain people who have it easy. Everything goes smooth for them and no obstacles stand in their way. They think that they have reached perfection, they are on top of the world. On the other hand some people cannot catch a break. Every time they make a move something goes wrong. Are they traveling on the wrong road?

The Ohr HaMeir explains with a Mashal. If someone is traveling on the road carrying a sack of wheat husks, his trip is easy. He can travel wherever he wants, for as long as he wants, feeling secure and knowing no one will rob him of his goods. However, if he is carrying a satchel of precious stones he sweats every step, knowing that he is a hunted man.

Dovid HaMelech says in L'Dovid Hashem Ori [Tehilim 27:3] "Im Takum Alai Milchama B'Zos Ani Botei'ach" - if the enemy is constantly attacking me, in this I find confidence. Why? If my path in life was devoid of any value I would not encounter constant resistance from the Yetzer Hara. The fact that there is an obstacle in my path at every turn is a sign that I, my actions, goals, and ambitions are very valuable. So valuable that the Yetzer Hara is throwing all his resources at me to stop from accomplishing my dreams.

As we start Elul and head quickly towards Rosh Hashana and a new year, contemplate the past year. Did you have it easy? Did you get anything worthwhile accomplished? The Ohr HaMeir would venture to guess that the answer to the first question is not the answer to the second!

Source: Revach L'Neshama

Saturday, August 27, 2022

Our Relationship with the Growth of Evil and the Mar-A-Lago Raid

[Posted Motzei Shabbat]

Rabbi Mendel Kessin, new shiur


Friday, August 26, 2022

The Birth of Ultra-Orthodox Judaism

 Rabbi Efraim Palvanov - a 3 minute video.


Individual Tests



''...for the Lord, your God, is testing you...'' [Re'eh 13:4]

One of the basic teachings of the Torah is that God does not expect of a human being anything which is beyond the human capacity to carry out.  This is quite understandable, for even a human being, who is very far from absolute perfection, would not expect of a tool that he has fashioned any more than he has put into it.

Certainly God, the Creator of man, knows man's capacities.  From this, it immediately follows that when a person faces any kind of a test of faith, it is certain that he has been given the capacity to overcome it.  And the more difficult the test, the greater are the individual's capacities.

The reason that an individual is tested is not because God wants to know how he will acquit himself, but in order that this person be afforded the opportunity to realize his potential, even that which is unknown to him.

And when one's potential capacities are released and activated, they become part and parcel of his or her arsenal, to be used for personal as well as communal benefit.

Source: Excerpt from a letter of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Wednesday, August 24, 2022

One Mezuzah Can Save an Entire City

Text by Rabbi Berach Steinfeld

The Torah in Devarim 13:17 tells us that in the event there is a whole city that serves avoda zora [idol worship], all its belongings will be gathered in the middle of the city and get totally burned. 

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 71a tells us that Reb Eliezer says that if a city that served avoda zora has even just one house with a mezuzah in it, the city will be saved. This will not render the city an Ir Hanidachas. 

We see from here how great is the mitzvah of mezuzah. 

Advanced readers click here for more on this [see page 5]

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

His Needs, Which He Is Lacking




It is written, “You shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking” [Re'eh 15:8]

Rashi points out: “Even a horse to ride on and a servant to run before him.” 

In his book Ayelet HaShachar, the gaon Rabbi Aharon Leib Steinman Shlita notes that this passage deals with honor, not financial need.

This means that the mitzvah also consists of demonstrating honor to someone if honor is what he lacks.

A person once paid a visit to the home of the Chazon Ish. Upon leaving, the Chazon Ish accompanied him all the way outside, despite the fact that the person in question did not merit such honor. The Chazon Ish explained that it was precisely honor that he was lacking.

Source: Rabbi David Pinto

Thursday, August 18, 2022

The Myth of Moses Mendelssohn

 

Rabbi Efraim Palvanov

Was Moses Mendelssohn really out to destroy traditional Judaism? Did he launch Reform Judaism? Find out who Mendelssohn really was and why he became such a notorious figure in the Orthodox Jewish world. Also discussed is a brief explanation of the three major Kabbalistic movements that arose in the 18th century.


Monday, August 15, 2022

The Difference Beween a Rich Man and a Poor Man

Art: Vladimir Kush

"And you say in your heart: "My strength and the power of my hand amassed this wealth for me" [Eikev 8:17]

A wealthy wood merchant approached R' Chaim of Volozhin and told him that he was in danger of losing his entire fortune.

"Why is your fortune at risk?" asked R'Chaim.

The merchant related his story. "I sent a large ship carrying wood to Prussia" he explained. "The Prussian authorities, however, are not allowing my merchandise into their country. They have warned me that should the ship not turn around, they will sink the ship and all of my precious cargo along with it!"

"Do not worry!" responded R' Chaim. "You will see, Hashem's salvation comes in the blink of an eye!"

That same day, the price of wood increased significantly and, to the merchant's good fortune, the Prussian authorities also allowed his ship to enter their country.

The overjoyed merchant ran over to R' Chaim. "Rebbe" he said, "today I have witnessed the hand of Divine Providence! I now realize that the government's unwillingness to allow my ship to enter their country was all for the best. For had it been permitted to enter any earlier, I would have received a lower price for my wood. Hashem saw to it, however, than my ship would not enter Prussia any earlier so that I would reap far greater profits!"

"You now see the difference between a rich man and a poor man" sighed R' Chaim. "A poor man sees Hashem's guiding Hand each and every day. But a rich man, who is certain that his wealth stems from his own abilities and strengths, only notices Hashem's Providence once every few years."

Source: Rabbi Y. Bronstein

Friday, August 12, 2022

Tu b'Av

L'illui nishmat Mordechai ben Menachem a"h


The Jewish mini-holiday of Tu B’Av

The 15th of Av is undoubtedly a most mysterious day. A search of the Shulchan Aruch [Code of Jewish Law] reveals no observances or customs for this date, except for the instruction that the tachanun [confession of sins] and similar portions should be omitted from the daily prayers [as is the case with all festive dates], and that one should increase one’s study of Torah, since the nights are begining to grow longer, and “the night was created for study.” And the Talmud tells us that many years ago the “daughters of Jerusalem would go dance in the vineyards” on the 15th of Av, and “whoever did not have a wife would go there” to find himself a bride.

And the Talmud considers this the greatest festival of the year, with Yom Kippur (!) a close second!

Indeed, the 15th of Av cannot but be a mystery. As the “full moon” of the tragic month of Av, it is the festival of the future redemption, and thus a day whose essence, by definition, is unknowable to our unredeemed selves.

Yet the unknowable is also ours to seek and explore.

Source and more  click here

Thursday, August 11, 2022

Predictions for New Year 5783 - תשפ״ג

Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin

This coming year 5783 is a year of hakhel, when the Temple stood, the year after shmita the king would gather every man women and child and read the Torah before them. What is the connection to this year 5783?  Furthermore 5783 is a year of abundant wealth, unity and redemption. Watch and learn how all of this is embedded in the Hebrew letters of Pei and Gimel. 


Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Shabbat Nachamu: How Hashem Will Console Us

 New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin


Monday, August 8, 2022

In Sickness and In Health



"Watch yourselves very carefully...." [Va'Etchanan 4:15]

So much of physical health depends on spiritual health. If in olden days emphasis was placed on "mens sana in corpore sano" [a sound mind in a healthy body], in our days it is a matter of general conviction that even a small defect spiritually, causes a grievous defect physically; and the healthier the spirit and the greater its preponderance over the physical body - the greater its ability to correct or overcome physical shortcomings; so much so, that in many cases even physical treatments, prescriptions and drugs are considerably more effective if they are accompanied by the patient's strong will and determination to cooperate.

Note that Rambam stresses how "having a totally healthy body is among the paths of (serving) God", a point emphasized further by the Mezritcher Maggid.

Since physical health depends on spiritual health, if a person becomes ill, G-d forbid, he should search his past deeds to try to identify what shortcoming may have caused the illness. However, this approach should be taken only regarding one's own lack of physical health. When one sees that another person is sick, one should not think that this was caused by a spiritual shortcoming, since we are told "Do not judge your fellow until you have stood in his place" [Avos 2:4, see Tanya Ch 30]. One's first reaction to a sick person should be, to the contrary, that his sickness may well have been caused by spiritual health, as he may have weakened his body through fasting, in the process of doing teshuvah [see the Alter Rebbe's Shulchan Aruch].

The statement of the Zohar that "the weakness of the body is the strength of the soul" does not mean to say that a weakening of the body itself brings about spiritual growth. Rather, the intent of the Zohar is that the desire for physicality, for its own sake, is counter-productive to a person's spiritual growth.

Source: Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe


As a youth, R' Yechezkel Abramsky was sent to Siberia. The cold was unbearable, and temperatures dropped to as low as 40 degrees below zero.

Wearing only light clothing, young Yechezkel stood in line along with the other Jews who had been exiled to that forsaken part of the world. They were all trembling from the cold.

"Listen Jews!" shouted the commanding officer. "Every morning you are to remove your shoes and run barefoot in the snow for the duration of an hour. Anyone who dares violate this order will be severly punished!"

R' Abramsky, who was a weak and frail youth, was frightened by this cruel order. Back at his warm home, his loving mother had always tended to him, dressing him in warm clothing and scarves, but now he would have to run barefoot in the snow!

He lifted his eyes to Heaven and pleaded with Hashem: "Master of the World" he said, "you have exhorted us in Your holy Torah to "watch yourselves very carefully". In truth, man is usually able to take care of his health by wearing warm clothing, but here in this Siberian labor camp, we are unable to do so. We therefore cannot be held responsible for our health. I therefore beg of You, Master of the World, watch over and us and protect us!"

Amazingly, throughout his entire stay in Siberia, R' Abramsky did not get sick even once.

Sunday, August 7, 2022

Friday, August 5, 2022

Trauma is Emotional Murder

Rabbi Y. Y. Jacobson, a 5 minute video that everyone should watch. Those who already understand will appreciate his explanation to those who do not yet really understand the meaning of "trauma".



Thursday, August 4, 2022

How Does G-d Assure Everyone A Place in The World To Come?

New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin


Major Tikkun for Moshiach

 

The author wishes to remain anonymous - it's such a long blog post that I had to make it a whole page.  Please click here to read.  Time sensitive information.

Blessing Your Medication

 

HT: Rivkah Lambert Adler



Tuesday, August 2, 2022

The Worst Tisha B'Av in Recent Times

 New shiur from Rabbi Mendel Kessin


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.