Monday, December 31, 2012

Within Reach

"She sent her maidservant and she took it" [Shemot 2:5]

Chazal inform us that the basket carrying Moshe was too far for Pharoah's daughter to reach from where she was standing. Still, she stretched out her hand (amasah) in the direction of the basket and Hashem miraculously lengthened her arm for her.

R' Meir Shapiro, the rosh yeshivah of Yeshivas Chachmei Lublin, called for an emergency meeting of the leaders of Lublin to discuss a certain person whose life was in danger.  R' Shapiro demanded of them to do something to save his life.

"This matter that you speak of" responded one of the leaders, "is beyond our capabilities.  We regrettably do not believe that we can carry it out."

"In this week's parsha" replied R' Shapiro, "the Torah states: "And she sent her maidservant".  Chazal teach us that the arm of Pharoah's daughter was miraculously lengthened in order for her to take hold of Moshe's basket.

"I wonder" continued R' Shapiro, "why did Pharoah's daughter even attempt to retrieve the basket in the first place?  After all, if it is obvious to an individual that something is not within his reach, does he waste his energy trying to obtain it?"

"We see from here" concluded R' Shapiro, "that when a person is expected to accomplish something, he should not deliberate whether or not he is capable of succeeding - he must try! Let him first make an effort, and then Heaven will assist him."

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

How to Avoid an Evil Eye

"Ben Poras Yosef, Ben Poras Alei Ayin" [Vayechi 49:22]. Rashi says that this means that Yosef will multiply and be beyond the reach of Ayin Hara [the evil eye]. As a reward for not taking his master's wife, no one will be able, through jealously, to inflict any harm on what belongs to him.

The Shulchan Gavo'a brings from Rav Eliyahu Dessler that no matter how rich a person is, no one is ever jealous of a totally selfless person whose whole life is about giving. An element of jealousy stems from the intended or even unintended flaunting of oneself before others.

Yaakov gave Ephraim and Menashe a bracha "V'Yidgu LaRov" - they should multiply like fish. There are two attributes of fish that Yaakov had in mind. Fish are not seen from the dry land. Moreover the fish live a life totally separated from the inhabitants of the land. They don't compete with them in any way. That is why the Ayin Hara does not affect them.

If a person lives a life of Yosef, where he doesn't want what doesn't belong to him, and he lives and enjoys his material assets out of the public eye, he too will not suffer from any unwanted evil eyes.

Source: Rav Eliyahu Dessler

Friday, December 21, 2012

Jews in the West Bank?

by Rabbi Aron Moss

Question of the Week:

As a believing Christian, I made a recent pilgrimage to the Holy Land. I was profoundly disturbed by the Jewish state and its criminal occupation of the West Bank. The international community has condemned this time and time again. How can you justify usurping land that belongs to others?

You are entitled to your opinion on the matter. But I hope you are consistent in your beliefs. Being that you oppose a Jewish presence on the West Bank, I assume you will not be participating in any Xmas celebrations during the coming days. According to your view, there is no reason to be merry on December 25.

The Christian holidays celebrate an event that you have named a criminal act - the birth of a Jewish baby to a Jewish family in the West Bank town of Bethlehem. Your views should not allow you to have any part in this cheer, for if you did you would be giving retroactive approval to a Jewish settlement on the West Bank that dates back more than two thousand years.

Perhaps you will be joined by the UN and other humanitarian organizations around the world condemning any celebrations that are connected with this controversial birth, as such events would be recognizing the rights of a Jewish family to live on what you see as occupied territory.

However I must warn you, by espousing this view and not celebrating, you will be vastly outnumbered. The international community, by celebrating Xmas, expresses support for the fact that the West Bank has always been the home of the Jewish people.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Mayans and the Jewish Midrash

The biblical Enoch was the son of Yered who was the great great grandson of Seth, a son of Adam. Enoch lived 365 years, from 622 to 987 on the Jewish calendar. The beginning of the long count Mayan calendar is taken to be in August of the year 3114 BCE, [-3113]. This corresponds to the year 647 on the Jewish calendar. After the Rosh HaShanah holiday in the year 3114 BCE, the year on the Jewish calendar would be 646. From these dates, we can infer that the beginning of the Mayan calendar occurs during the life of Enoch.

According to the Midrash in Seder Hadorot, [Vol 1, p. 89], Enoch served God and despised the wicked people of his generation. He separated from them and hid himself away. One day when he was praying, an angel of God spoke to him telling him to go out from his house and teach the people about the ways of God and the correct ways to live. 

In the book Sefer Hayashar, we read about Enoch:

He gathered people around him and taught them about God. Word was sent around everywhere announcing that whoever wanted to know the ways of God and the good life should come to Enoch for instruction. Hungry for the truth, people eagerly gathered around him and he taught them the wisdom of God. Thus the people served God all the lifetime of Enoch. Rulers, princes, and judges, all came to hear him. He was loved and respected so much that three hundred rulers proclaimed him king over them. With gentle persuasion he was able to establish peaceful relations between all these rulers. He reigned for two hundred and forty-three years guiding all people in the ways of God.

Seder Hadorot tells that Enoch was the first one to write a book on astronomy. In the pseudepigraph Book of Enoch, a compilation of books detailing the experiences, the prophecies, and teachings of Enoch, there is a book entitled The courses of the Heavenly Luminaries. This is chapters 72 through 82 of the Book of Enoch, and they are devoted to describing the changing times for the rising and the setting of the sun through the solar year, the waxing and waning of the moon through the lunar month and year.

The ancient Greeks identified Enoch with Hermes Trismegistus. The Greeks wrote that Enoch taught the sons of men the art of building cities, the knowledge of the Zodiac, and the course of the Planets. We also find Enoch's association with astronomy and arithmetic in Sefer Yuhasin. In the Book of Jubilees, Enoch was the inventor of the art of writing. This is also so according to Masonic lore. The correlation of these accomplishments of Enoch and the meaning of the term Maya in different cultures is immediately apparent and surely not a coincidence.

The Midrash explains how Enoch obtained his knowledge. In The Zohar, Rabbi Aba said, A book was sent down to Adam through which he discerned and comprehended the supernal wisdom. [This is the book of The Generations Of Adam.] This book later came into the hands of the sons of Elohim, the sages of their generation, who were priviledged to learn from it and to glean the supernal wisdom. They grasped it and comprehended it. This book was brought down by the guardian of the secrets who is the angel Raziel and was given to Adam in the Garden of Eden. Three guardian angels went before him and guarded the book so that the external forces would not have access to it.

When Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, he still held on to the book. Yet as he stepped out, the book flew away from him. He prayed and cried out to his Master, and the book was returned to him again so that this wisdom would not be forgotten and the people would endeavor to attain knowledge of their Master.

We have been told that Enoch had a book, which originated from the same place as that of the Generations of Adam. And this book contains the inner secrets of wisdom.

Continue reading at: Real Bible Codes

Suffering, Passing Tests, and Miracles

Rav Isaac Sher - The Beauty of Suffering and the Torment of Gehinom

Chazal tell us the a lifetime of suffering in this world is less painful than even a moment in Gehinom. How can we compare suffering in a physical world to the suffering in a spiritual world, it is not a real comparison. Are we really comparing degrees of heat?

Rav Isaac Sher explains that there is a big difference between suffering in this world and suffering in the next world. Gehinom he says merely cleanses you of your aveiros [sins]. Once you are clean however, you are the same person you were before, only without the stains of your misdeeds. You are on the same low level.

Not so with suffering in this world. Through our suffering we grow and can reach new heights. We contemplate our pain and open new vistas of understanding of Hashem and our purpose in the world. Each step of our purification brings us closer to Hashem in ways we would have been unable to without the pain.

Maybe this resolves our question. While suffering in the next world is a punishment for our sins, suffering in this world is an opportunity for advancement. Therefore all the pain in this world which is steeped with opportunity cannot be compared to even a single moment of the hopeless of Gehinom.

Rav Chaim Zaitchek - The Nes of Passing a Nisayon [The miracle of passing a trial]

What defines a miracle? Everything in this world is controlled by Hashem. There is no difference between Hashem's ability to make plants grow or split the sea. What differentiates the two? The answer is that Hashem created a natural order in the world to allow people to believe that Hashem does not exist. An event that breaks the rules is called a miracle. It is Hashem showing us a glimpse of His total control. Nature is called Teva from the word Tava or drowning. The everyday miracles that Hashem performs in nature and to us individually are drowned beneath the surface, and out of our field of view unless we use our mind to perceive them. The word for a miracle is Nes. Nes means a flagpole. It is an event that stands out in plain view for all to see, unless one chooses to look the other way.

On a similar note the world was created to challenged us to choose good. The word for these challenges is Nisayon. Nisayon has the word Nes in it. What is the connection? The answer says Rav Chaim Zaitchek, is that we all are born with great potential for good. Our challenge is to dig deep down and use these abilities. We are tested as a means to bring this potential out into the world. A Nisayon is an opportunity to show ourselves, Hashem, and the universe the good buried within us. By passing a Nisayon we have created a Nes!

Source: Revach

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ani Yosef

"I am Yosef!" [Vayigash 45:3]

The Chofetz Chaim offered the following explanation of this verse: 

When the brothers had initially arrived in Egypt, they were treated harshly by Yosef, who accused them of being spies.  The brothers were startled by what was happening to them, and they asked one another: "Why is this happening to us?  Who among us is guilty of a sin that would have brought this upon us?"

On the brothers' second trip to Egypt, they once again asked one another: "What is this that Hashem has done to us?"

However, continued the Chofetz Chaim, when the brothers heard but two words: "Ani Yosef" - I am Yosef - all of their questions were answered.  Suddenly, everything was clear - all of their misfortune had occurred as a result of having sold Yosef.

Today, as well, concluded the Chofetz Chaim, there are many people who question the way that Hashem runs His world.  "Why do the righteous suffer?" they ask.  "Why can the wicked prosper?"

However, at the End of Days, when the entire world hears Hashem utter but two words: "Ani Hashem" - I am Hashem - all of the questions will vanish.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Obama Codes

Way back in 2008, Joel Gallis a"h and Dr Robert Wolf presented an article outlining the events that would occur via Obama during the ''End of Days''. [See Obama and the Evil at the End of Days]

Today, R'Dov bar Leib has shown us some more on this subject, with the coded name of Obama appearing in the Torah where it discusses the Kings of Edom:  וְאֵלֶּה הַמְּלָכִים אֲשֶׁר מָלְכוּ בְּאֶרֶץ אֱדוֹם  .... ''And these are the kings who reigned in the land of Edom''...  [Vayishlach 36:31]
The red letters, re-arranged, spell אובאמה - Obama.

You can read Dov bar Leib's post here: The Last King of Edom

Re-post: Mayan Calender, December 21 and Judaism

Extracts from The Mayan Culture and Judaism by Rabbi M. Glazerson and Professor R. Haralick

click here
Reprinted with permission. I have extracted only a small portion of the information in the book.....I strongly recommend you purchase it  to fully understand all the concepts.

The Mayan calendar counts time until the year 2012, after which we encounter a situation of no more time from their point of view; a time when there will be complete knowledge.  We will have the power to heal, to create and to change everything.

According to Mayan astronomy, our galaxy orbits the Pleiades every 26,000 years*.   In 2012 there will be a completion of the cycle.... and there will be a new dawn for mankind.  In space there will be a situation in which the planets are directly aligned [an occurrence which happens once every 26,000 years], including the earth, the sun, the Milky Way, the Pleiades, Sirius and others. This will happen at exactly 11am on December 21, 2012,  and at 11:11 there will be a stream of new light of pure awareness that will shine without interference from the planets.

*It is important to point out that even though the calculations of the number of years in the Mayan tradition comes to numbers higher than the maximum 6,000 years of Jewish tradition, there is no inherent contradiction to the Torah of Israel. As the Ramban says in his commentary on the Torah [Genesis, 2], the world is supposed to continue for 6,000 years that mirror the six days of creation.  This refers to the physical world created within the system of time.... according to the teachings of relativity in science, the passage of time exists only in the physical world.... the greater the central mass the slower time moves, when the universe began to expand, the meter of time increased its rate. [Similar to the concept mentioned here] 

The Gemara in Nedarim [8:2] states:
Reish Lakish states: ''In the World to Come, there will be no Gehinnom [hell]. Rather, Hashem will remove the sun from its sheath, and the righteous will be healed by it, while the wicked will be punished by it, as it says [Malachi 3:19] ''A sun will come which will burn like a furnace; all the wicked and all the evildoers will be like straw, and the sun will incinerate them... But a sun of kindness will shine for those who fear Me, with healing in its rays.''

The Abarbanel explains this verse:
''The sun performs opposite actions and, depending on the circumstances, it will burn or heal. It whitens laundry and browns the ski, it melts wax and freezes salt, and therefore, whereas the evildoers who are empty and dry like straw will be burnt, the righteous ones who are damp and moist, will be healed.''

 וְעֵת-צָרָה הִיא לְיַעֲקֹב, וּמִמֶּנָּה יִוָּשֵׁעַ
''...and it is a time of trouble unto Jacob, but out of it shall he be saved'' 

It is interesting to note that the gematria of the words ''and a time of trouble'' is 772, which equals the value of the words ''time of clarity''.  This reinforces the idea that at that time it will be a time of tzara [trouble] for the wicked, and it will conversely be a time of tzohar [clarity] for the righteous.

According to the Mayan calendar, the year 1992 is the first year of the last phase [period 20] of the final stage [13th stage] of the great cycle. It is striking to note that the year 1992 was the year תשׁנ''ב  -
5752 years from the creation of the world, which was the beginning of the time after midday Friday, [on the cosmic clock] when the special Shabbat atmosphere began to descend on the world [according to the holy Arizal]. The Mayans refer to these 20 years as the purification of the earth.  During this period, the earth will become completely purified, including the hearts of the people. Evil will be uprooted and goodness will prevail.  The cycle will culminate on the 21st of December 2012, effectively ending the characteristics of civilization as we know it.  After this, humanity will advance into a new type of civilization.

Rav Kushilevsky comments that when discussing the year 2012, one must take into consideration the wellknown fact that the Vilna Gaon considers the birth pangs of Moshiach to be of 70 years' duration.  In the same vein, there are 70 words in Psalms chapter 20 which include ''May Hashem answer you on the day of trouble''.  In the year 5702, the Holocaust began in full force and, as the Aish Kodesh wrote:  ''The terrible tragedies and horrible, unnatural deaths that the cruel Nazi beasts inflicted upon the House of Israel in the year 5702, in my scope of knowledge of the words of the sages and the Book of Chronicles, there has never before been such suffering...''

From this we infer that the year 5702 began the birth pangs of Moshaich. If we add another 70 years from 5702 in order to get to the date of the actual ''birth'', we get the year 5772 - 2012.

In this time of the ''footsteps of Moshiach'' the aspect of the mixed multitudes [Erev Rav] will be strengthened and the leaders of Israel will emerge from the Erev Rav, as it says in the holy Zohar in various places. This has proven itself true when, in recent years, the government of the State of Israel has consisted of parties and ministers who are committed to fighting against the Torah values of Israel. The Rabbis in the Talmudic tractate, Sanhedrin [98:1] discussed this: ''the kings will turn into heretics'', and as it is said in the commentary, this is also referring to the kingdom of Israel.

The sages tell us in the Talmud that this state of affairs will bring Israel to recognize that ''We have no one to lean on except our Father in Heaven'', as is evident in our days when Israel is having such difficulty fighting off our enemies. This will result in the complete return [teshuvah] of the Jewish nation to their heritage, which is the foundation of the final Redemption, ''Because Israel will only be redeemed if they return''. [Sanhedrin 97: 2]

Please note: the date of December 21, 2012 is thought to be significant by many people and religions.  But Redemption can come at any time, and we hope for Moshiach every day.  The information contained in this blog post is not a prophecy or a prediction, merely a distribution of knowledge that is currently available to us.  Things can change in the blink of an eye. [More to come on this topic, stay tuned]

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Letter from Rav Chaim Kanievsky On Current Matzav

Translation by a commenter: original can be found at

Letter from the Rav Gaon Gadol R’ Chaim Kanievsky Shlit”a
8th of Kislev 5753 [Nov. 22nd]

Tumultuous Time for Ya’akov
Eretz Yisrael needs mercy from Hashem due to the seriousness of the current situation. Mercy’s also required for our brethren in the United States to deal with the aftermath of the serious storm. Hashem is sending us a message…”the voice of Hashem breaks the cedars” [Ps. 29]

What is it that Hashem wants from us now? What do we need to improve in?
Hashem is telling us to do Teshuva. The beginning of the judgement of man are the words of Torah. We need to strengthen ourselves in the area of Torah learning.
Bnei Torah need to learn with tremendous dedication.
Ba’alei Batim need to make a serious point of setting time to learn daily.

The reward of Torah is very great, The Torah will save us and give us the success we need.
The merit of Torah will benefit us spiritually, materially and give us success in both the World to Come and this world.

May the Redeemer come to Zion soon, amen.

HT: Creed of Noah

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sydney Australia: Blood Red Ocean

Several popular Sydney beaches, including the iconic Bondi, have been closed after patches of red algae were spotted in the water. 

Patches of the red algae, a natural phenomenon that can be exacerbated by certain weather conditions, have been sighted between Bondi Beach and Maroubra Beach this morning. 

Both Bondi Beach and Clovelly Beach are closed while authorities conduct tests in the water. 

Gordon's Bay was also closed due to the algal bloom, with Beachwatch posting a photograph on Twitter showing water the colour of tomato juice. 

Read more: and Herald Sun

Friday, November 23, 2012

Tikkun HaKlali

A beauiful video of the Tikkun HaKlali [Complete Rectification] - Psalms sung in Hebrew. Thank you Stella for forwarding the link.


Watcher Angels

By Rabbi Ariel bar Tzadok

This week's Torah portion is called Vayetzei [Genesis 28:10-32:3]

In this week's Torah portion we read about the building of the family of Jacob. Because of the recent episode where Jacob tricked his brother Esau out of his patriarchal blessing, Jacob is forced to leave his family and to seek a wife from his wife's brother Laban.

In travel, Jacob settles down for the night and has a fantastic dream. He not only sees God, who makes promises to Jacob, he also sees angels ascending and descending on what Jacob describes as a ladder going up to Heaven. Although dream language is archetypal in nature and is thus never literal, nevertheless Jacob saw a spiritual reality which is most revelatory. While many thinkers wish to interpret angels as being only symbolic representations, Jacob's dream reveals that indeed, these are actual entities, and apparently they have regular purpose for being here on Earth.

Continue reading at Kosher Torah

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Red Alert to Klall Yisroel in the name of HaRav Moshe Sternbuch, shilita

The Jewish people are witnessing miracles in Israel. The missiles fired at us have the power to level buildings, yet miracles are taking place and we were spared from mass destruction. Even the most secular newspapers report that there is no way to explain these events according to natural law.

While the word "miracle" has been liberally splashed around by the media, neither the secular nor the religious press grasped the vital message of the hour. The situation arouses an urgent and critical obligation for each Jew to ask himself: "Why is Hashem performing these miracles for us? How should I be conducting myself in these extraordinary times?

If we do not deal with these questions immediately, this current security crisis could – Chas Veshalom – escalate into the most dangerous period in Jewish history. Hashem performs miracles for the Jewish people so that we will become more aware of His Presence in our lives. In recent days, He has made perfectly clear that He alone wields power in the world and that no missile can harm so much as a hair on the head of a Jew without His consent. Every rocket has an address that He predetermines, though the terrorists may believe that they can aim at a particular target.

Miracles are Hashem's alarm bells, "a red alert" that we must wake up and become truly conscious of Hashem's hashgachah in our daily lives. If we ignore these messages and conclude that miracles are just a natural part of living in Israel, the tables w could – Chas Veshalom – quickly turn.

We could – Chas Veshalom – in fact be handed over to natural law, and the missiles inexplicably could – Chas Veshalom – begin to hit their targets with greater frequency. And that means that the lives of our fellow Jews – our brothers and sisters living in Israel – could – Chas Veshalom – be in mortal danger.

We must learn this lesson from the story of the meraglim (spies). When they returned from Eretz Yisrael they claimed this land was a place where miracles were apparent on a daily basis, and therefore an extremely high spiritual level would be demanded of those who dwelled there. There was no way that Klal Yisrael as a nation could maintain such a level, and therefore the spies, who were all Gedolei Yisrael, ruled that the people should not enter the land.

The opinion of the meraglim was brought before the Sanhedrin, and they concurred with their ruling. It may seem, on the surface, that their reasoning was sound, and logic dictated that it was unwise to enter Eretz Yisrael. Yet we see from the grave punishment incurred by that generation that they could not have been further from the truth. What was the mistake in their reasoning?

The answer is simple. If Hashem told us to enter Eretz Yisrael, He obviously knew that we would ascend to the spiritual level necessary for a nation that sees miracles on a daily basis. For this reason, the claim of the meraglim was heresy, and we suffer from its bitter consequences to this very day.

In more recent times, Rav Yechiel Yaakov Weinberg once told Rav Sternbuch about a meeting of secular non-Jewish and Jewish professors to discuss the authorship of the Torah. Their conclusion was that while the Torah was far too complex to be man-made, they were not ready to attribute it to a Divine source that they knew nothing about. Like the meraglim, they perceived the significance of the Divine influence, but refused to follow through by accepting the full import of this conclusion.

During the current military operation, we are facing the very same challenge. Hashem is sending us a message that we must make real changes in our lives and raise our level of consciousness of His Presence, to the point where we are worthy of such supernatural treatment. If we rise to the occasion and raise our level of emunah as a result of these miracles, then we will pass the nisayon (test), and it is very likely that Moshiach will arrive shortly.

Chazal offer us practical advice in this area, and write that reciting a hundred brachos every day and saying Amen yehei Shmei Rabba has the power to annul decrees. Reciting Tehillim is important, but we need to make sure that our tefilah is also said with the proper kavanah. Everyone should take upon themselves to do something small to raise their level of emunah.

We must consider ourselves warned by the lessons of our history: If Hashem shows us miracles and we do not respond by strengthening our emunah, His mercy could – Chas Veshalom – turn to fury and we are handed over to the forces of natural law. We dare not speak about what this could could – Chas Veshalom– lead to, but we all understand the ruthless nature and implacable hatred of the enemy we face.

Now is the time, while Hasehm continues to shower His miracles upon us, to recognize His hand in our lives on a national and individual level, to turn to Him in tefilah and teshuvah, and eagerly watch the redemption unfold before our eyes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Gate of Trust - Shaar Ha'Bitachon

from Chovos Halevavos - Duties of the Heart
by Rabeinu Bahya ibn Paquda
translated by Rabbi Yosef Sebag © 2012

Level: Intermediate
permission granted to redistribute this in any format for non profit Jewish purposes

Translator's Foreword
Introduction - benefits of trust
Chapter 1 - What is trust
Chapter 2 - The criteria for trusting someone
Chapter 3 - The factors which would obligate one to trust in G-d, and the obligation to engage in a livelihood.
Chapter 4 - When trust applies and when it does not
Chapter 5 - The difference between one who trusts in G-d in earning a livelihood and one who does not.
Chapter 6 - Obligation to refute those who promote delaying the service of G-d until reaching sufficient material prosperity.
Chapter 7 - Things that damage one's trust in G-d, and a summary of the matter of trust.

Click here for full document: Daf Yomi Review

The War and More

Rabbi Yossi Mizrahi presents a new video: The War and More
HT: Joe

Monday, November 19, 2012

The Shmira Project - For Soldiers and Residents in Danger

This grassroots program pairs individual Jews worldwide with an Israeli soldier or resident in danger. By you doing acts of kindness, prayer and learning Torah in their name it adds to the spiritual merit of that soldier. It’s simple, it’s one on one and it’s powerful.

In times of crisis Jews come together. As seen when over 100,000 people joined the first project of this kind during Project Cast Lead.

Israeli soldiers and recently also civilians are in the line of fire. The army trains them to think in terms of their unit, first and foremost. In the same way, we have to think in terms of our unit as well: the Jewish People. The only way we can overcome our enemies is if we band together.

This is a person to person match that everyone can do.

The families of the soldiers would enjoy the reassurance that Jews around the world are spiritually supporting their children. All participants are helping to bring about unity, connectedness and the spiritual growth of the Jewish People.

Everyone wins.

Join The Shmira Project. It’s personal. It’s important. It’s one name at a time.

It’s guard duty for the rest of us.

This new project is inspired by Rav Simcha Kook and the Bostoner Rebbe, zt”l and supported by many other Great Rabbis in 2009. It's been led by parents of a lone soldier. Let’s join together, now take a name and make a difference.

If you want to participate or sign up a soldier, click here

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Massive Superstorm : Just the beginning

Australia: A damaging storm has turned "day into night'' in Brisbane, as lightning and winds brought down powerlines and left more than 6000 homes and businesses without electricity. Meanwhile, another severe thunderstorm warning has been issued for other parts of the state. Story:

Friday, November 16, 2012

Killed on Mumbai Anniversary

The victims of Thursday's attack in Kiryat Malachi were identified as Ahron Smadga, Yitzchak Amsalam, and 25-year-old Mira Scharf (nee Cohen), who was pregnant.

By COLlive Staff

The victims

 Three Lubavitchers have been killed in a grad rocket attack on a Chabad neighborhood of Kiryat Malachi, Israel Thursday morning.

The victims were identified as Ahron Smadga, 50, Yitzchak Amsalam, 27, and Mira Scharf (nee Cohen), 25, who was 7 months pregnant.

Scharf's husband Shmuel was critically injured, as were their 3 children.

The Scharfs were active in the Jewish community in New Delhi, India.

Her funeral will take place Thursday at 8 pm from Shamgar Funeral Home in Jerusalem.

Today, Rosh Chodesh Kislev is the yahrtzeit of Mumbai Shluchim Rabbi Gabi and Rivky Holtzberg obm, murdered in a terrorist attack in 2008.

50-year-old Ahron Smadga leaves behind 3 children, a set of twins and a 2 year old baby, which were born after 14 years of marriage.

His funeral will take place Thursday at 8 pm from Nachlas Har Chabad.

Six others were injured in the attack, including two infants, one of them eight months old. An additional victim, a four year old boy, was taken to Tel Hashomer hospital in central Israel for treatment. along with his father. The boy was in serious condition, and the father in moderate condition.

Altogether, seven people were injured in the Kiryat Malachi attack. Six others were treated for shock in the attack.

Please say tehillim for: Shmuel ben Chaya Sarah Yehudis, Yosef Yitzchak ben Mira Rut, Chana bas Mira Rut, Geulah bas Mira Rut.

The victims were killed and injured when a Grad rocket hit an apartment building in Kiryat Malachi. The dead were among a large group that had taken refuge in an old building that suffered a direct hit from a Grad rocket.

When Yishmael Falls in the End of Days

The Baal HaTurim states: when Yishmael falls in the End of Days, Moshiach ben David will sprout/flourish, as he is offspring of Isaac [Avinu].  See World War Gog: In Real Time

Links to: the final verses of last week's parsha [Chayei Sarah], and the first verses of this week's parsha [Toldot] which talks about the fall of Yishmael.

Below is Rabbi Glazerson's Torah Codes on The Fall of Ishmael, and Moshiach.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pillar of Cloud

And the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of cloud to cause it to lead them on the way and at night in a pillar of fire to give them light, [they thus could] travel day and night. [Shemot 13:21]

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The Limits of Tolerance

A recent news story about the wealthiest rabbis in Israel raises questions of when rabbinic behavior becomes unacceptable. Even the most tolerant of people recognize that at some point they must object to deviant, borderline criminal, behavior. However you define your red line, there is some person or group who lies beyond it, past the threshold of unacceptability. Engaging in that tricky business of rejection is a necessary part of tolerating those within the bounds. If every group is acceptable, even cults and criminals, then inclusion is meaningless.

A little over ten years ago, R. Shlomo Aviner published a collection of his letters against a cult rabbinic figure in the book Bein Or Le-Choshekh: Bein Chakhamim Amitiyim Le-Admorim Mezuyafim. Without naming anyone (in the book), R. Aviner reproduces his attempts to convince adherents that the charismatic leader of a specific religious group is a fraud. Watching R. Aviner walk this tightrope of opposition is a profound lesson in the limits of tolerance.

Special Powers
The specific leader claimed paranormal powers, the ability to see into people’s lives, tell the future and communicate with the dead, which he attributed to prophecy and messianic claims. I would have objected that he is merely tricking people but this would probably have proven unsuccessful. R. Aviner, instead, accepted that he performs these amazing feats. However, he argued, it is all irrelevant because it proves nothing.

Paranormal powers are documented among many different people, including those non-religious and non-Jewish. Police investigators sometimes even consult with such seers. This man’s abilities only demonstrate a rare gift, not prophetic power. R. Aviner quotes two incidents of apparent prophets, one from Vilna and the other Kovna, about which R. Chaim Volozhiner testified that the Vilna Gaon denounced as non-prophetic activities (introduction to Sifra De-Tzeni’usa; Keser Rosh, Ma’amarim 6-8). Similarly, a student of R. Tzvi Yehudah Kook was amazed by someone who could tell him intimate details of his private matters. R. Kook dismissed the entire matter.

Continue reading at Hirhurim

HT: Josh

Friday, November 9, 2012

New Storm Hitting Sandy-Battered NYC, NJ, CT

A nor'easter is hitting New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, with snow, rain and heavy winds. The storm is knocking out power to thousands, including some who just had it restored.

 See Article: Winter Storm Athena on the East Coast

 Message from Moishela Parts 1-3 click here
 Part 4 here

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Fire and Brimstone: What Does It All Mean?

The continuation of my article for the Jewish Press on the power of prayer was ready to go but then tragedy hit. A tragedy of a magnitude that none of us could have envisioned. Not even in our wildest imagination. New York the capital of the world -the invincible citadel is shaken to its core and before our very eyes buildings tumble - our highways are flooded - our bridges and tunnels are closed down - filthy disease carrying sewage enter our homes - and they sink in water - our cars float away - people lose their homes - and worse their very lives. We who prided ourselves with the most advanced state of the art technology stood humbled - our lights dimmed - we were left in darkness - our electricity betrayed us. We watched helplessly as our beautiful neighborhoods turn into war zones. What do we do? How are we to understand this?

Those of you who have read my books or heard me speak can testify that whenever suffering befalls us I search our holy books to find illumination and guidance. I turn to my most loyal friend, my friend who has always been at my side who has given me comfort and strength, my friend who never betrayed me, my sefer Tehillim, my Book of Psalms. "Hashem gave us the Torah and we gave Him the Book of Psalms" - the Psalms which were written by King David - the man who experienced every pain - every suffering that can befall mankind - each word that David wrote was drenched with his tears and his words speak for all eternity - for all mankind. 

The devastation occurred on Monday, October 29th - the 13th day of the month of Cheshvan. The Psalm designated for the 13th day of the month is Psalm 69. I opened to it and the words jumped out "Save us oh G-d for the waters have reached onto my soul". And there is more. This Psalm does not leave us in the cold - it also provides our remedy - our answer. "Va-ani, s'filosi l'cho Hashem'' - but as for me, my prayer is to You Hashem". Yes we must turn in heartfelt prayer to our Heavenly Father and beseech His Mercy - His Salvation. 

I look at the "Parasha" and once again the opening passage speaks - our father Abraham whose kind hospitality had no bounds - opens his home to strangers. That which our forefathers experienced - that which shaped their lives has become part of our DNA - lives forever in our yiddisha neshamas. I think of all the many people who were left homeless and then I think of those who lost power and were left in cold darkness. I know of a woman standing in her home - waist deep in water with fish swimming all around her while she was desperately searching for photographs of her father and mother who are no longer here. Who can comprehend the pain - the suffering? And then let us think of all the wonderful people who opened their homes like our father Abraham. I know for I am one of those who had to evacuate and I too have benefited from that hospitality and as I am writing this column I continue to benefit from that chessed. And there is more, much more.

Maimonides - Rambam taught that when suffering is visited upon us we are commanded to cry out and awaken our people with the sound of the "shofar". He taught that everyone must be alerted. Everyone must examine his or her life and ask, what is my life all about? How would I rate if I were given a "neshama check" up? What does my Judaism, my Torah, really mean to me? Maimonides wrote that if we regard the tragedies that befall us as simply "the way of the world - natural happenings" we would be guilty of "achzarius - cruelty". At first glance it is difficult to understand why Maimonides would chose the term "cruelty" to describe those who claim to be rational 21st century citizens and see trials and tribulations "as the way of the world". They may be unthinking, apathetic, and foolish, blind obtuse or just cynical agnostics but to accuse them of cruelty is rather farfetched.

The answer is simple - if we regard our pain and suffering as "mere coincidence" and feel no motivation to examine our lives, abandon our old ways and change - then indeed, such an attitude is "cruel" for it invites additional misfortunate upon ourselves and others. It would be the height of cruelty to dismiss that which we just experienced and all that preceded it for several years now as mere happenstance. "Daas Torah" - our great Torah luminaries of past generations including the Chofetz Chaim, Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman, and others told us that we are entering the final stages of history - a period of time called "Ikvsa Di Meshiach - Footsteps of the Messiach". So I ask you, can we remain silent? Would doing so not be an act of "cruelty"?
Ours is a generation that has been challenged again and again. We have had so many wakeup calls - some terrifying - and some more subtle but no matter what we have remained indifferent to them all. I will not go back to the time of the Holocaust although by every right I should for if that didn't shake us up what would? Sadly, nowaday's very few people can even identify with that monstrous period. It has long been buried in history.

So let us try to commence with 9/11 - but I'm afraid even that story has become tired. The flames of the twin towers are no longer vivid in our minds and the fellowship - the kindness - that ensued in its wake is all but gone. So let us just focus on more recent events.

During the summer of 2002 a terrible tragedy occurred in a bungalow colony in the Catskill Mountains. A mother had just bathed her infant baby and put her in her carriage for a nap. Suddenly out of nowhere a wild bear appeared, snatched the baby and made off with her. The baby was never again seen. This shocking story did appear in newspapers and was reported in the media but seldom did I meet people who were actually aware of it. Nor did I encounter too many of those who were aware of the Talmudic teaching that the generation that will witness a wild beast snatching a baby from its cradle should sound the shofar to awaken the nation. But alas the shofar was not sounded and we were not awakened. With the years our slumber has become deeper. There were no alarm clocks capable of awakening us - I should probably qualify this - there is one ring that does make us jump and that's the ring of financial crisis. But no sooner does that alarm stop ringing then we return to our old ways and continue to sleep.

During the past few years the number of catastrophes has multiplied to such an extent that we have all but become immune to them. Natural disasters -tsunamis, hurricanes, volcanoes, earth quakes, nuclear spill outs, uncontrollable fires, unknown diseases, barbaric savage acts of terror have become all too common and we no longer notice them. Could this be a wakeup call warning us? Somehow it never even occurred to us to ask that question.

Time and time again I have written, spoken and cited the teaching of our Sages - "K'ymei Tzescho....the manner in which you departed from Egypt so shall it be at the end of days". How did we depart from Egypt? What was that which broke the chains of bondage and opened the iron gates? Every child knows the answer and so do we: the 10 plagues. Have we witnessed the 10 plagues in our generation? Of course not you'll protest. But then think again, and think again..!!!!! What was the first plague in Egypt? Blood....the Nile River that the Egyptians worshiped - the Nile River where Jewish children's lives were snuffed out - became blood. Again you might ask; what on earth does that have to do with us? "Think". The Nile was the god of Egypt. Once again you might protest - we are not pagans - we worship the real G-d. But, do we really? Has it ever occurred to any of us that we are the generation that worships with passion and fervor the god of money? And in worshiping it we are prepared to sacrifice everything - even our families - our children. The plagues of Egypt continued to plague us and they came in many shapes and forms. Pestilence....bed bugs in New York. Do you remember that? Yes bed bugs in the finest places - elegant hotels - exclusive shops and mind you it wasn't only in New York. The bed bugs crawled everywhere. And then there were the dead birds falling from the sky by the hundreds of thousands -the dead fish and sardines washing up on the shore by the hundreds of thousands? One of my students asked me - "how about the wild beast that invaded the streets of ancient Egypt we haven't seen that". Really, I said, "you don't remember Ohio when one morning people looked out of their windows to see if it was sunny or raining and low and behold they saw lions- tigers - wolfs - and bears. Can that be? Were they hallucinating? Did they lose it? But as always, for this too there was a rational explanation. Some animals had escaped from their cages. There was nothing to worry about we assured ourselves - it's one of those crazy things that can happen.. And then there was the earthquake in New York City. To be sure it was an unusual phenomenon. I recall people's reaction - laughing..where were you when it happened - did you feel it? And so the earthquake became just another "fun" experience.

And now SANDY arrived in all her fury - mocking us - mocking our technology - mocking our invincibility - mocking our arrogance. This time we are silenced - this time we stand humbly - we tremble and we cry. How did this happen? How could this be? Things like this can only occur in primitive places - places that are far away from civilization - away from the hubs of the United States but it happened and we cannot escape it - this time we couldn't find an explanation because this time it was our house. This time it was our community. This time it was we who were drowning. This time was different. This time we cannot escape it. or will we stubbornly pursue our old ways and remain deaf, dumb and blind? It's all in our hands. Hashem is calling.

I was listening to the news. The anchor was interviewing one of the most prominent meteorologists and asked, "Is SANDY different from all other natural catastrophes? Is there any parallel to her? "No, this is totally different", he responded. "This calamity had many shades and shapes and they fell upon us at the very same time as one - floods, fires, snow, winds, and rain - all converged upon us. Yes, this time it was different. But the question we must ask - will we be different? Will we get it? Or, will we continue with our sick obsessions, worshiping the "god of Money" and succumb to the enticements of our degenerate society?

Do you remember the story of Elijah the prophet and Jezebel -that satanic evil queen who seduced our people into worshiping pagan gods? Elijah rose like a lion and went to battle to save our people and bring them back to Hashem. And G-d responded and sent a great miracle for all to see and hear. The people actually witnessed the Hand of The Almighty and proclaimed in unison - "Hashem Hu Ho Elokim - G-d He is G-d"! Elijah rejoiced. The people understood. But Jezebel gleefully said, "Wait until tomorrow"! And tragically she was correct. Tomorrow came and it was all forgotten. And the question we must now ask ourselves is -will we forget - will we go back to business as usual? Or - will we remember Tehillim - Psalm 69; "the waters have risen to our souls" and now from our souls our prayers must reach to the Heavens Above.

"V'ani, s'filosi l'cho Hashem" - but as for me, my prayer is for You Hashem...

With Brochos - Blessing from the depths of my soul
Esther Jungries

Friday, November 2, 2012

Letter from Lakewood

Received via email from a reader:

Dear Brothers and Sisters of Lakewood

With much of Lakewood still without power for days, I humbly feel that Hashem is trying to send us a message that "we" are putting out the light of the beauty of Lakewood, the largest town in the US of Torah learning. The light of the Kedusha the light of thousands of Torah learners right here in our town of Lakewood is being distinguished by us with our actions.

We have more Yeshivas and Mesiftas than in any other town or city in America BY"H so we have more responsibility to keep Hashem happy with our way of life.

It's time for all of us to make a Cheshbon Hanefesh and see what could be corrected to bring back the light of the Schinah to Lakewood the town of Torah and Chessed.

If we don't take this storm seriously who knows what other difficult message Hashem might have to send us in order to wake up and do Teshuva?

Take a moment and think...are we living a spiritual life at least similar to our great grand parents, the way they lived when they arrived in America some 70 years ago? or are we indulged in our clothing, i.e. shoes, jewelry, belt, coat, & mink coats, handbags, boots, shopping, hunting for bargains, living in restaurants, redoing our kitchens every so often, always planning our next vacations, now Leshem Mitzvah we are busy planning our winter vacation, and of course don't forget Motzai Shabbos hot Pizza & fries, eating it in the pizza shops in mixed company, we have turned into a major planning board not leaving enough time to see and plan our lives as "how to serve Hashem better”.

Lets be honest it's almost impossible to walk the streets and keep our eyes clean, and yes, I am referring to neighborhoods of Bnai Torah and Chasidim, not in Harlem, Miami Beach or Las Vegas.

This "FrankenStorm" has been felt by many of us we are all suffering because of it in one way or another, but..... The million dollar question is: are we waking up to Hashems cry?

Now let’s be strong and say to Hashem: OK we are ready to change our ways of life, our materialism lifestyle that we have lived up to now will change!!! We’ll start getting ourselves ready for the coming of Moshiach by living a true Torah life. BTW When Moshiach arrives there will be nothing left of all our Gasmius, so get a head start...and get rid of it now lets be more careful with all of the Halocos and Mitzovos of our special sweet Torah.

p.s.  I would like to ask everyone to take this Frankenstorm warning from Hashem very seriously.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Who Are You Voting For?

If you're an American, I'd be really interested to hear who you will be voting for and why.  Please leave a comment and let us know....

Friday, October 12, 2012

Malchus Beis David - The Reign of Moshiach ben David Explained

Yishai Beckow's third book of audio recordings is called Malchus Beis David. It attempts to examine three issues:

 - what does the Written and Oral Torah tell us about the structures of Malchus Beis David, and what can we learn from this about how Moshiach Ben David's government will operate in Israel?

 - how is it possible to extrapolate from these levels of government and Torah sources on the government of Chutz La'Aretz, the area outside of Israel, under the renewed kingship of the House of David?

 -While Moshiach will be an absolute monarch, does this mean democracy is gone in Ge'ulah? What checks and balances are there in this time, and how does this whole operate to involve the average person in their world in this time? 

To download and listen, click here

Sunday, September 30, 2012

The Fallen Sukkah of David

by Rabbi Gedaliah Aharon Kenig zt''l - founder of Nachal Novea community in Tsfat and foremost Breslev leader of the previous generation.

Integrating the mind through perfect faith

The sukkah is associated with King David.  It is thus called the ''Sukkah of David''.  It could have been called by another name, like the ''Sukkah of Israel'' or the ''Sukkah of Moses'', yet our sages connect sukkah to David haMelech.

The fourth evening of the holiday of Sukkot marks the yahrzeit of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, who is referred to as the nachal novea mekor chochma - ''the flowing river, source of wisdom'' [Proverbs 18:4].  He proclaimed an astounding concept to the world:  ''There is no such thing as despair!''  Nothing in the world is beyond hope.

How can such a claim be made when everything points in the opposite direction? Everyone experiences situations textured with despair to the point that it appears the entire world has ended.  Everything seems black, with no glimmer of light.  The despair these situations engender is called the ''Fallen Sukkah of David.''

Yet Rebbe Nachman asserts: ''There is no such thing as despair!''  Although it is impossible to avoid difficult situations, the mind possesses a special power that can prevent one from falling completely during hard times.  On Sukkot we pray:  ''May the Compassionate One raise for us the ''Fallen Sukkah of David''.  Conceptually, the Sukkah of David represents a spiritually cleansed mind connected to a higher spiritual level, a place beyond our own intellectual perception of the world.

Integrating the Mind
According to the kabbalah, the sukkah represents the levels of perception beyond the conscious mind called makifim or ''external intellect''.  In contrast, pnimim or ''internal intellect''' is the knowledge we have successfully acquired.  These two levels are dynamically related: when the higher intellect enters our mind enabling us to understand it, the new insight becomes encompassed within our internal intellect.

Makifim are those levels of understanding that transcend intellectual grasp. They surround and hover above the conscious mind, radiating understanding into the internal intellect.  It is this upper level of intellect surrounding the mind that is called sukkah.  This is similar to a physical sukkah, which completely surrounds us.  During the holiday of Sukkot, we are required to enter the sukkah with our entire body, which includes the head, our intellect. Without the entire body entering the sukkah, the mitzvah of sukkah remains unfulfilled.

''David merited the crown of malchut - kingship'' [Kohelet Rabbah 7:2]
The physical universe and everything that occurs within it, is part of the lower level of the World of Action, and connected to the kabbalistic sefira of malchut.  Malchut itself possesses a type of ''intellect'' expressed as the animating intelligence contained by everything in the world.  This intelligence corresponds to King David and the lower internal intellect mentioned earlier.  The crown of King David, however, symbolizes the higher surrounding intellect, corresponding to the concept of sukkah.

When we don't understand why things are a certain way in the world, the power of faith should be exercised. Faith draws down the highest light into any situation. If you believe that there is a G-d Above Who governs the world, you won't dismiss something as meaningless just because you don't understand it. On the contrary, despire your current inability to understand, you will know everything is functioning according to a Higher Plan which is just and fair.  This faith will then illuminate your entire reality. In every situation, you now connect the upper surrounding intellect, called sukkah, to the lower internalized intellect, corresponding to your current perception of how the physical world operates.  When you believe that whatever happens is governed from Above, it is clear that it is good.

''When I dwell in darkness, G-d will be a light for me'' [Micha 7:8]
Even if I am sitting in darkness and don't understand what is happening, if I nonetheless believe that everything is just and fair because it is supervised by G-d, then this faith is a light for me.  Despite the darkness, it does not even occur to me to despair, since the same governing Power that brought me here to this situation or state of mind will do everything for my good and ultimately take me out of this darkness.

Through this expression of lower intellect, you will now attain the higher intellect, called sukkah.  The merging of these two intellects is called the ''Sukkah of David'', which occurs when your perception of the way the world operates [Malchut David] is joined with the upper surrounding intellect [sukkah].  The opposite occurs when the two are separated, a division caused by thinking everything is under the jurisdiction of nature and human agency.  ''David'' is separated from sukkah - our perception of this world is separated from the upper intellect, faith in Divine governance of the world. This state is called ''The Fallen Sukkah of David''.

Thus, when Rebbe Nachman says ''There is no such thing in the world as despair'', he is drawing down the highest light into the human heart to give us the ability to understand that regardless of the difficulties we experience, there is a higher Power in charge of every detail in the world.  The process of attaining this level of understanding is called ''raising the fallen sukkah of David''.  Sukkat David is the rectified state of mind where the upper and lower intellect are united.

Turning Darkness into Light
G-d created us in order to know Him.  How is it possible for a limited physical human being to know G-d, Who is Infinite?  It is only possible to know G-d through facing the difficult challenges in life, and strengthening ourselves to get through them.

During times when it is extremely difficult to find G-d, one may fall, since it seems that G-d doesn't exist. The difficulty of the search itself brings one to a state of nothingness. By strengthening oneself during these moments, the very obstacles which prevented perception of G-d can be transformed into a vessel for Divine light.

Sometimes we undergo bitter situations where our understanding disappears completely. Even though we want to believe in G-d, we live inside a dark cloud. However much we search, we cannot find Him. This is a very dangerous situation, because we are unable to see G-d in spite of a sincere desire to find Him. What can we do?

Rebbe Nachman has advice for this dilemma as well.  Cry out ''G-d! Where are You? I don't see you but I believe You are here! Where are you?''  These cries will eventually enable you to return to your proper place, because the question of ''Where are You?'' indicates a belief in the existence of the thing for which you are searching.  You believe G-d is present, but you just don't know where.  The repeated cries of ''Where are You?'' from the depths of the heart are answered with: ''Here! Deeply inside, where You have always been.''

''The whole world is filled with His Glory''
One begins to sense G-d's direct supervision over every detail. Anything that seemed unjust or unfair is now understood as being orchestrated in a wondrous way for the good. Only by passing through darkness and obstacles can we draw closer to G-d, which is a fulfilment of the Divine will.

Sometimes during difficult times we say ''Oy! This is too much! I've had enough obstacles and darkness! I'm finished!''  This way of thinking is erroneous, since we were not created to remain on a single level.  On the contrary, we were created to continually ascend from level to level.  Difficult situations are necessary in order to progress and come closer to G-d.  The message of Rebbe Nachman is that it shouldn't even occur to a person to despair and think ''I can't go on''.  Strengthen yourself over and over again, and eventually you will make it through.

There is always a limit to difficulties because G-d doesn't leave us in difficult straits forever.  The only purpose of obstacles is to create a vessel to receive light. Material obstacles and the vessels they can create have measure and definition. However, G-d's light is unlimited.  We need only to strengthen ourselves and not give up. Sometimes one becomes so weak in the last moment and loses everything. This is a shame, since at that very moment a vessel is being completed to receive a higher light. At the end, the darkness can become so overwhelming that we think we are lost and give up completely, G-d forbid.

Constantly strengthening oneself is the secret to our existence.  There is no book in the world that can tell the entire awesome story of what the Jewish people have undergone since inception. Yet, despite everything, we continue to exist. This is only because of our patience, trust and will to strengthen ourselves anew each time, despite constant suffering.  We will continue to develop, and with the help of G-d, we will exist until the end, when the purpose for which we were created will be fulfilled. To know the unlimited light of the Infinite One.

Vessels to receive light are formed through obstacles. By overcoming the obstacles, the obstacles themselves are transformed into vessels of pleasantness.  Rebbe Nachman calls this pleasantness ''supernal delight'' which can now flow into completed vessels.  The delight that the upper intellect can experience is more pleasant than anything in this world. This is the meaning of ''May the Compassionate One raise for us the Fallen Sukkah of David.''

Rebbe Nachman is proclaiming to the entire world a message that everyone must hear.  There is no such thing as despair! There is no situation beyond hope! The Jewish people have always found themselves in difficult situations, and today is no different. Instead of losing hope, we must strengthen ourselves with perfected faith, especially during the days of Sukkot, when we bring our entire physical being into the sukkah.  We will then be worthy of being illuminated with a new light, which will reestablish the ''Fallen Sukkah of David forever''.  Amen.

Translated and adapted from a shiur given in Tsfat.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gmar Chatimah Tova

Gmar Chatimah Tova - Literally: A good final sealing.  Idiomatically: May you be inscribed [in the Book of Life] for Good.

"Gmar" comes from the root word that means to finish. Although it's not biblical, it appears quite a bit in the Talmud [Avot 2:16 Yevamot 12:6]. Chatimah is also talmudic and can mean a signature or a sealing [Pessachim 104]. 

The word "chotemet" or stamp [the ink kind, not the postal kind] is a derivative of "chatimah." Of course "tova" means good. 

The days of repentance are divided into two parts: The first the inscribing begins on Rosh Hashana and finishes Yom Kippur when the final "sealing" [chatima] of our fate takes place. Many sages give us a second chance - an extra 12 days until a really final sealing on Hoshana Rabba [the 7th day of Sukkot]. That is why many people finish their correspondence during this time of year by writing or saying Ktivah V'chatima Tova - "may you be inscribed and sealed for a good year." 

On or right before Yom Kippur, people modify that and wish "Gmar Chatima Tova." Technically you can say it means 'may your finished sealing be good' - which would be fine if you are redoing your apartment, but for the rest of us may you all have a healthy peaceful and fulfilling year.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Geulah Process

I'm listening to some extremely interesting audios - Everything is a Message from G-d - by Yishai Beckow, and if you have the time, I highly recommend visiting his blog and tuning in.

I recently had an email discussion with Yishai, on the topic of Moshiach and the various dates that are often predicted on different websites.  I think the current '''date'' for everything changing is Hoshanah Rabah, according to some bloggers.   We've heard so many different dates, and they all turn out to be non-events - at least insofar as the appearance of Moshiach is concerned - and subsequently we may find ourselves becoming fed up with the process and losing all hope, when we believe the hype surrounding a particular day in the near future, and nothing happens !

So I asked Yishai if I could blog his response to my question regarding all these dates and waiting for the sudden appearance of Moshiach.  This is what he wrote [reprinted with permission]:

Re: Ge'ulah - it is a process, not a single event. There are many steps and stages we need to go through. It won't happen instantly, and is still happening. Don't expect to see one night a certain world and the next morning a different one. We need to go through everything. Soon enough, I think you will see that this process actually started a long time ago. Probably with the burning of Yosef's kever, which was either 2000 or 2001. 

But it is so complex and so many things need to happen, we don't see the forest for the trees. The final stage will quite literally be overnight. And our davening etc right now IS working. It just takes a lot of work and momentum to overcome the inertia of Galus, and puts a strain on those of us who tend to over-work, and who are very focused on this issue. But by the time we will have been through so many different things, we will know what is happening. Right now, it is only the opening rounds, so to speak. 

So it IS happening. Just not on the time frame you or I might wish. That said, it's a big world, with lots of people. H' has to work out the best way for every person put together, which makes it not something any one person's calendar dictates. Don't give up, and don't stop davening. If you are interested in a discussion of the process, R' Tatz' Messianic Era discs are excellent. 

There is a comment from the Baal Shem Tov on the times preceding Ge'ulah: he says it will be as thought H' ties a big rope around the world and is shaking it vigorously. Those of us whose emunah is not strong enough will fall off. We need to hold onto the rope for dear life. That is how I already feel, and I suspect you do too. Don't let go. No matter how crazy life is or gets, the reality is that things are not out of control. We are all here now for a reason, and none of us are expendable. Nor are we expected to enjoy the painful parts. If we can hold on, we can also hold others on, and do much good. 

I think in the end, H' will show us that by helping others we are helping ourselves, and that the reason for the bleak outlook is to enhance the merit of having remained loyal. And remember "if I didn't fall down, I couldn't get up." It happens to all of us -.....We get back at it slowly. Mitzvah gereret mitzvah - one mitzvah leads to another. Start somewhere, and you'll see it comes back together.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Honey's Message

by Rabbi Aron Moss

Honey is a miraculous substance. It can do the impossible. Just try this experiment with your family at the Rosh Hashana table:

Dunk a slice of apple into a bowl of honey
Lift the apple out of the honey
Hold the apple over the bowl and allow a shaft of honey to drip back down into the bowl
While it is oozing downwards, quickly lift the apple until the shaft breaks.
Watch carefully. The honey on the apple starts to fall a little, and then climbs back upwards towards the apple, defying the laws of gravity
Say "Wow!"

The upward climbing honey gives us a moving message for the new year. Even if you have fallen, you can always climb back up. Even if you have become disconnected, you can reconnect. You may have become estranged from your people and from your G-d. You may have lost your way in life and fallen to a very low place. But you can always pick yourself back up. No force in the world can stop a Jew coming home.

The honey may fall downwards, but at a certain point it turns around. In fact, it is the falling down that causes the bouncing up. The further you have strayed from Judaism, the more rebound energy you have built up for your return.

A Jewish soul wants to be Jewish. Materialistic distractions can only hold us back for so long. Our inner pull towards G-d is stronger than the pull of gravity towards the earth. Honey always bounces back. So can we.

Also see: Healing Powers of Apples and Honey

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Fusing of Art and Spirit

By Rhona Lewis

The hallway leading to Jacqui Taub’s apartment in Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel, is wallpapered with whirls of deep purple and cream. The walls of her apartment are covered with her paintings: a sea ebbs in hues of purple, mauve and lilac; a young girl meanders through a garden of pastel flowers; two men and a little boy lean against the Western Wall. The oil paintings are a blend of gentle, consistent forward motion.

As Jacqui puts aside her walking stick and eases herself into her chair, I witness the physical pain that she has to contend with from multiple hip replacements and spinal surgery. Yet her vivacious eyes twinkle with an energy that belies her sixty-five years. Her rich Australian accent fills the room as she takes me back to her childhood in Sydney, through her marriage and subsequent divorce, her discovery of her talent for poetry, art, and ceramics, and finally on to her remarriage and life today. As reflected in her paintings, her journey has been one of consistent onward motion.

As reflected in her paintings, her journey has been one of consistent onward motionJacqui’s parents divorced when she was only three years old. “One of my most powerful memories is a nightmare that recurred for years: I’d always see my mother in a red dress, walking down the staircase of our boarding school. I was at the other end, waiting for her. But before she reached the end, she just disappeared, and I would wake up terrified.”

While her parents initially maintained cordial relations, their friendship came to a halt when her father remarried eight years later. “My stepmother was wonderful, but I still longed for my biological mother,” Jacqui says, recalling this tumultuous period. When she was sixteen, she left school to attend secretarial college.

Partly as a result of her traumatic childhood, she married her childhood best friend at the young age of eighteen. “We were good people who had no idea how to make a marriage work. Young and without any counseling, we were never able to just sit down and discuss issues,” Jacqui says. For the next twenty years she pushed through her marriage, working as a legal secretary and raising her four children with the security that she had lacked as a child. Then the inevitable happened, and the couple divorced. “But my ex-husband and I still worked as a team to raise the children,” says Jacqui. “We’d have regular meetings in his offices to discuss their progress. I think that we succeeded because we both took responsibility for the breakup of our marriage.”

Eventually, after two of Jacqui’s children moved to Israel, she too immigrated, and soon found herself in an absorption center in Raanana in central Israel, attempting to adapt to a new country and a new language. To add to the unbelievable stress, existential questions also began to bother her: “I was fifty-four years old, with absolutely no idea what my life’s purpose was about,” she says. “I wondered if we were here just to live and then die, and this led to my questioning the existence of G‑d.” What kept her going at this terrible low?

A Life of Art
“Quite simply, I had to earn a living,” Jacqui says. “Even though I knew my father would always be there for me, and I wouldn’t starve, I just wasn’t prepared to give up.” With these words she reveals her true mettle: the ability to forge forward against the odds. This strong belief in herself as an artist pushed her forward to market herself in a foreign environment.

Jacqui had first ventured into the field of art through writing. In her thirties, she had published a few children’s books of what she calls “nonsense poetry,” and a series of children’s books that were published and distributed nationally in Australia; a London publisher included some of the poems in an anthology. She also wrote and illustrated Judaica nonsense poems for children, which are waiting to be published. One delightful poem describes a little boy watching a pair of his tzitzit fly up and away, only to land on the shoulders of another little boy who isn’t wearing tzitzit.

Jacqui had first ventured into the field of art through writingBut she discovered her real calling in art just before she came to Israel: the world of ceramics. Apparently out of nowhere, she had a vision of a ceramic figurine of a man wearing a tallit and a kippah. “I had no idea why or where the idea came from, but I knew I wanted to make it,” she says. “I bought some clay and tools, and even though I didn’t know how to work the clay, I kept on experimenting. Sometimes the pieces would fall off, and sometimes the figurine would explode in the kiln. Finally, after three months of hard work, I managed to make the little man I had dreamt about. He had no ears, because I didn’t know how to make them!”

Jacqui’s perseverance paid off, and so began the G’sundheit Collectables. G’sundheit means “good health” in Yiddish, and is used to wish the blessing of good health upon someone. While Jacqui didn’t realize it at the time, she was in fact in desperate need of a blessing for good health—both of her hips and her spine were deteriorating.

At the absorption center in Ranana, in an attempt to support herself, Jacqui began once again to work on her G’sundheit Collectables. She spent the mornings working on her clay figurines, and the afternoons in Tel Aviv working as a secretary. She had to start from scratch, because every single one of the figurines that she had so carefully packed in cushions and pillows before leaving Sydney had arrived shattered. Luckily, she could fall back on her indomitable spirit! To fire the figurines, she had to drag them in plastic drawers across a field to her friend Marianne Davidow’s kiln. “About six weeks after I arrived in Israel, I set off for Jerusalem with my G’sundheit Collectables loaded in my old overnight bag on wheels. I dragged myself up Ben Yehuda Street and down to the Cardo in the Old City, my bag bouncing merrily along the cobblestones and my back aching horribly.” Although she didn’t know it at the time, the pain in her back was an ominous signal that surgery was imminent. “I sold everything,” says Jacqui, smiling, as she relives the pleasure of her first sales.

Even though Jacqui was managing to earn a living, she was still desperately searching for life’s purpose" Jacqui’s G’sundheit Collectables ceramic figurines display all the spiritual yearnings and humor of their creator. Whether it’s the grandmother holding freshly baked challot, the cantor with his prayer shawl or the tennis player with his shtreimel, every unique miniature will make you smile as you notice the details she captures. Jacqui quips, “I’d have an all-out battle in my studio if I sent them out not properly ‘dressed’!”

A Life of Spirit
Even though Jacqui was managing to earn a living, she was still desperately searching for life’s purpose. As a child, she had always been aware that G‑d was around, but she had never felt that He was intimately involved in her life. This changed during these difficult months. “During this time, I used to say little prayers like ‘G‑d, you know I don’t even know where You are. But please hang in there with me, because You know I want to find You.’ I wanted G‑d to be included in my day-to-day activities, but I had no idea how to do this.”

The answer came in the guise of a shiny green book. “One day I went into a Jewish bookstore. I was looking for something, anything, to help me get past this confused state. I put my hand on a shiny green book all about prayer. This book was to change my life and my way of thinking. It was all about the amidah, a prayer of nineteen blessings that we recite silently. There was an introduction that explained the way we should approach prayer, and a translation of the Hebrew words into English. Suddenly the amidah was no longer ‘that prayer during which you didn’t talk.’ Here was a chance to talk to G‑d.” As Jacqui learnt about the power of prayer, she was able to include G‑d in her day-to-day life.

Fusing Art and Spirit
Perhaps one of Jacqui’s biggest challenges was waking up to the fact that her artistic talents are gifts from G‑d and not a direct result of her own singlehanded endeavors. “I finally understood to whom I owe gratitude,” Jacqui says. “By seeing my talents as a gift, I was able to take my ego out of other parts of my life too, and I changed.

“As I changed, my relationship with my children improved, and I became more involved in their lives. I also married a wonderful man, who has become the mainstay in my life.” From her studio in her apartment overlooking the hills of Israel, she now always remembers to ask for her Creator’s help before and during her work on a G’sundheit. “Finally, I’m at a point where I feel that G‑d is involved in my day-to-day life. I even talk to Him when I need to find a spot to park the car. I just say, ‘G‑d, You know I can’t walk far. Please, could You find me a spot?”

“I get up each day with a real and valid purpose” Jacqui may have learnt only recently to fuse art and spirit, but she sees now how G‑d laid the groundwork as far back as her first miniature—the little man with a tallit and kippah, but no ears. Torah law instructs us to avoid making a full “graven image” of a person, but since all of Jacqui’s miniatures lack ears, there is an opinion that she never actually made the type of image that is forbidden. [Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De’ah 141:7, as understood by Chochmat Adam 85:4]

Jacqui’s desire to develop the spirit and humor that encompass Judaism inspired her to develop new ideas—the Hareidim G’sundheits. So if you see a miniature of a rabbi in a shtreimel, with a long black coat and his tzitzit hanging out, playing golf, tennis or cycling, you can be sure that you’re looking at one of Jacqui’s creations.

Living Beyond the Pain
When the back pain that Jacqui had first noticed as she dragged her bag of G’sundheits through Jerusalem worsened, she went to the doctor and was diagnosed with avascular necrosis (AVN) in her right hip. Since the bone tissue wasn’t receiving blood, the tissue was dying and the bone was collapsing. In 2001, Jacqui underwent her first total hip replacement. However, the procedure wasn’t entirely successful: her hip actually dislocated four times. Each dislocation meant undergoing full anesthesia to relocate the hip. Eventually, the hip was revised in England.

Nine years later, Jacqui underwent hip replacement surgery a second time: this time, her left side was operated on. As if that wasn’t enough, a year later, due to very severe spinal stenosis, Jacqui’s spine collapsed and she had to undergo spinal fusion. Prior to the surgery—although she had to spend three weeks in bed—as one would expect of her, Jacqui pushed onwards, and actually did manage to attend one meal at her grandson’s bar mitzvah. Today, Jacqui lives with pain, and she has elevated cobalt levels from the metal-on-metal prosthesis of her Birmingham hip, which will need constant monitoring.

Jacqui can no longer walk around selling her ceramics and oil paintings, because she is mostly housebound. As she is unwilling to give up on her creativity, she has she has found a way to keep working without actually running a business, which she no longer has the energy or financial means to do. A significant portion of the income from her ceramics is donated to charity. In addition, she has begun to make ceramic jewelry and teach clay modeling to children. “G‑d gave me a gift, and I don’t want it to go only towards my own happiness and self-fulfillment. Now I feel as though I am giving back something. Best of all, I get up each day with a real and valid purpose, and I’m so busy that I have no time to think of the pain.”

But Jacqui is the first to admit that it isn’t always easy. “There are times when I burst into tears because of the pain that stops me from creating anything worthwhile,” she admits. “Then I try to thank G‑d for my blessings, in particular for my husband, who encourages me endlessly by constantly reminding me that G‑d doesn’t give us what we cannot cope with, and pray for the strength to continue with my creative work.”

Coming full circle, Jacqui combines a life of art with a life of spirit, and of course she finds the impetus to surge forward.