Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Shana Tova 5778




Wishing everyone a Shana Tova and hopefully with no unwelcome guests like Maria....  I'll be back after the Chag but right now I have a lot of cooking to do.   Chag Sameach !




Monday, September 18, 2017

Unetaneh Tokef


This video is entitled ''Unetaneh Tokef'' which means Let us Cede Power

''As the Days of Awe draw nearer, here's something to focus us during our prayers as we look back on the past year and pray for the next. ''

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Pomegranates, Apples and Honey




Adapted from articles by Rabbi Eli Mansour
Source: Chabad

There is a custom to refrain from bitter, sour or tart foods on Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize our hopes for a sweet, pleasant year. The Talmud declares that symbolic acts have significance. Therefore, one should not belittle the customs regarding the foods eaten on Rosh Hashanah as symbols of our prayers for the new year.

There is a common practice to eat a pomegranate on Rosh Hashanah, as its abundant seeds symbolize our hopes that we will come before G‑d with abundant merits. Interestingly, the Ben Ish Chai [Rav Yosef Chaim of Baghdad, 1833-1909] writes that on Rosh Hashanah one should eat specifically a sweet pomegranate, and he emphasizes this point several times. Of course, the pomegranates we have today generally have a bitter, pungent taste. It appears that in Baghdad, where the Ben Ish Chai lived, they had sweet pomegranates. In any event, in light of the custom to refrain from bitter foods on Rosh Hashanah, it would seem proper to dip the pomegranate in sugar to at least diminish its pungency.

It is also interesting to note that the custom of the Ben Ish Chai on Rosh Hashanah was to dip an apple in sugar, and not in honey. Perhaps this custom was based on Kabbalistic teaching. Regardless, everyone should follow his family's custom in this regard. [Same goes for bread -- my family keeps a bowl of sugar on the table until Shemini Atzeret, which the kids just love!]

It should be noted that the symbolic significance of the apple on Rosh Hashanah extends beyond the simple fact that it is a sweet food. In fact, the Arizal [Rav Yitzchak Luria of Safed, 1534-1572] remarked that there is profound Kabbalistic significance underlying the eating of apples on the nights of Rosh Hashanah. The Zohar refers to Paradise as the "Chakal Tapuchin Kadishin/orchard of holy apples." 

The apples eaten on Rosh Hashanah thus symbolize not only sweetness, but also Paradise, which is certainly an auspicious sign with which to begin the New Year. Furthermore, the apple has a pleasing appearance, a pleasing fragrance and a pleasing taste. It is pleasing and enjoyable in every which way, symbolic of our hopes that the New Year will bring joy and success in all areas of life.

Furthermore, the Ben Ish Chai explained the significance of this custom on the basis of Kabbalistic teaching. During the period from Nissan until Tishrei, we are under the influence of the sefira ("emanation") of malchut, which is the lowest sefira and receives its strength from the higher sefirot. Once Tishrei sets in, we move into the sefira of tiferet, the higher sefira that gives to the lower sefirot. The sefira of tiferet is the sefira of Jacob, who represents Torah and who transmitted the power of Torah to subsequent generations. Tiferet is also associated with the attribute of "Emet" (truth), and on Rosh Hashanah we stand in judgment, which is based upon God's attribute of absolute truth. The apple, the Ben Ish Chai writes, is associated with the sefira of tiferet, and we therefore eat it on Rosh Hashanah, which marks the point of transition from the sefira of malchut to the sefira of tiferet.

Of course, the vast majority of us are not versed in Kabbala, and thus do not truly understand these concepts. Nevertheless, they demonstrate the depth and profundity of these customs that we observe on Rosh Hashanah. Besides the plays on words, such as "Yitamu Son'enu" ("Finish off those that hate us") for the "Tamar" (date), and "Yikartu Son'enu" ("Uproot those that hate us") for the "Karti" (leek), there are much deeper concepts underlying these customs, and we should therefore observe them in accordance with time-honored tradition.

If a person cannot eat one or several of the symbolic foods, either because he does not enjoy the taste or because of an allergy, then he should either look or point at the food while he recites the corresponding "Yehi Ratzon" prayer. He certainly is not required to partake of the food if he does not like it or is allergic to it, but he should nevertheless recite the prayer associated with the food, and this, too, will have a significant effect.

Thus, it is proper to refrain from bitter and sour foods on Rosh Hashanah. Pomegranates should preferably be dipped in some sugar before they are eaten on Rosh Hashanah, because they otherwise taste pungent. Some have the custom to dip the apple in sugar, instead of honey, and each person should follow his family's tradition. The customs regarding the special foods on Rosh Hashanah are based upon profound Kabbalistic concepts and thus should not be belittled or neglected.

Also see  Healing Powers of Apples and Honey

Complete Guide to Rosh Hashanah

Friday, September 15, 2017

24 Elul - Yahrzeit Chafetz Chaim

1838-1933 [5598-5693]

Rabbi Israel Meir HaCohen Kagan is commonly known as the "Chafetz Chaim," the name of his famous work on guarding one's tongue.

Born in Zhetel, Poland on February 6, 1838 [11 Shvat 5598], he was taught until age 10 by his parents and then moved to Vilna to further his Jewish studies. Refusing the pulpit rabbinate, the Chafetz Chaim settled in Radin Poland and subsisted on a small grocery store which his wife managed and he did the "bookkeeping"-watching every penny to make sure that no one was cheated. He spent his days learning Torah and disseminating his knowledge to the common people.

As his reputation grew, students from all over Europe flocked to him and by 1869 his house became known as the Radin Yeshiva. In addition to his Yeshiva, the Chafetz Chaim was very active in Jewish causes. He traveled extensively (even in his 90's) to encourage the observance of Mitzvos amongst Jews. One of the founders of Agudas Yisrael, the religious Jewish organization of Europe and later the world, the Chafetz Chaim was very involved in Jewish affairs and helped many yeshivos survive the financial problems of the interwar period.

Exemplifying the verses in Psalms 34:13-14, "Who is the man who desires life...? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit," the Chafetz Chaim passed away in 1933 at the ripe age of 95.

The Chafetz Chaim's greatest legacy is the 21 sefarim [holy books] which he published. His first work, Sefer Chafetz Chaim [1873], is the first attempt to organize and clarify the laws regarding evil talk and gossip. He later wrote other works, including Shmirat HaLashon, which emphasized the importance of guarding one's tongue by quoting our Sages. The Mishnah Brurah [1894-1907], his commentary on the Daily Laws of a Jew [his first series in the Shulchan Aruch], is found in many Jewish homes and is accepted universally to decide Halacha.

Firmly believing that he was living right before the time of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Holy Temple, the Chafetz Chaim wrote a work that stressed the learning of laws concerning sacrifices, the Holy Temple, and related topics. He also published seforim to strengthen certain aspects of Jewish life including kashrus, family purity, and Torah study.

More on the Chafetz Chaim click here

Thursday, September 14, 2017

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.

Monday, September 11, 2017

How Will We Know Moshiach Arrived ?



Rabbi Alon Anava


Deciphering Irma




The Ariza'l lists the four elements of creation as:

fire  
אש

air
רוח

water
מים

earth
אדמה

The kabbalists explain that when man becomes corrupt, the elements of the earth follow suit. This is Hashem's way of showing man that he must change his ways. The first Hebrew initials of the four elements are aleph, resh, mem and aleph - guess what they spell - "Irma". Who else is speaking if not Hashem? Will the so-called intellectuals still say "random" and "nature"? The Gemara says there is no pity for the spiritually ignorant.

See full post at Lazer Beams