Monday, October 16, 2017

Note to Readers




Due to life changes and other commitments, this blog will only be randomly up-dated.

The Blog Roll will continue to update as other bloggers post new items, but I will not be blogging as regularly as before.


In the meantime, Rabbi Glazerson has a Torah Code showing Nibiru 5778


Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Tasty Fruit Trees


Photo: Even Liu



by Rabbi Chanan Morrison

The account in the Torah describing Creation and the beginnings of mankind is not particularly encouraging. We read of Adam’s sin, the murder of Abel, the origins of idol worship, the corrupt generation of the Flood, and so on.

The Kabbalists used the term shevirat ha-keilim, breaking of the vessels, to describe the many difficulties that occurred in the process of creating the world. With this phrase, they wished to convey the idea that the limited physical realm was incapable of accepting all of the spiritual content that it needed to contain. Like a balloon pumped with too much air, it simply burst.

The Midrash [Breishit Rabbah 5:9] relates that these failings were not only with the human inhabitants of the universe, but also with the heavenly bodies (a power struggle between the sun and the moon) and even with earth itself. The “vessels broke” on many different levels.

What was the “rebellion of the earth”?

God commanded the earth to give forth “fruit trees producing fruit” [Gen. 1:11]. The earth, however, only produced “trees producing fruit” [Gen. 1:12]. God’s intention, the Midrash explains, was that the trees would be literally fruit trees - i.e., the taste of the fruit would be in the tree itself. Were one to lick the bark of an apple tree, for example, it would taste like apple.

What does this mean? Why should the trees taste like their own fruit?

Appreciating the Path

Rav Kook explained that the Midrash is describing a fundamental flaw of nature. One of the basic failings of our limited world is that we are unable to appreciate the means - the path we take towards a particular goal - as much as we value the goal itself. We set for ourselves many goals, both short-term and long-term; and we are usually excited, even inspired, by the vision of accomplishing our final objectives. But how much exhilaration do we feel in our laborious, day-to-day efforts to attain these goals?

A number of factors - the world’s material character, life’s transient nature, and the weariness of spirituality when confined to a physical framework - contribute to the current state of affairs, so that we can only sense true fulfillment after attaining the ultimate goal.

God’s intention, however, was that the soul would be able to feel some of the inspiration experienced when contemplating a sublime goal also during the process of achieving that end. This is the inner meaning of the Midrash: the means (the fruit tree) should also contain some of the taste, some of the sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that we feel in the final goal (the fruit).

In the future, the flaws of Creation will be corrected, including the sin of the earth. The world’s physical nature will no longer obstruct the resplendent light of the ideal while it is being accomplished through suitable means. Then we will be able to enjoy genuine awareness of the ultimate purpose that resides within all preparatory activity.

Source: Gold from the Land of Israel - Adapted from Orot HaTeshuvah 6:7

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Yahrzeit: Rebbe Nachman of Breslov: 18 Tishrei


Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's histalkus [ascent from the body] took place in Uman, a Ukrainian town in Kiev oblast, on the 18th of Tishrei, which is the second day of Chol HaMo'ed Succos, 5571 [Oct. 16, 1810]. According to his express wish, Rebbe Nachman was buried in the old Jewish cemetery, together with more than 20,000 martyrs of the Haidamack massacres of 5528 [1768]. His surviving family members included his second wife, who built over his grave the original Ohel [a wooden structure to accommodate those who wished to pray nearby]; his daughters Adel, Sarah, Miriam, and Chaya; and several grandchildren. According to one tradition, the Rebbe's father, Rabbi Simcha, survived him, as well. 

It is customary for Breslover Chasidim to gather together on "Chai Tishrei" in order to commemorate the Rebbe's Yahrzeit. As is commonly the case in the Breslov community, there are no special minhagim [customs] associated with this event, other than lighting a Yahrzeit candle, giving Tzedakah [charity] in Rebbe Nachman's memory, and engaging in the study of Rebbe Nachman's writings.

To read and learn Rebbe Nachman's teachings, click on the REBBE NACHMAN label below this post.

That Moon ....



The moon on Friday night was absolutely incredible, did anyone else see such a huge moon?

Here's a photo of what we saw in Sydney [obviously not taken by me] - it was the biggest looking moon I've seen for a very long time. 

I hope you're enjoying Succot, I'll be back after the Chag iy""H.

Photo: Bondi Harvest - Moon rising over Bondi

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Tikkun of David

David rectified the soul of Adam through the Torah of Moshe

by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto


  “Torah tziva lanu Moshe morashah kehillat Yakov – The Torah that Moses commanded us is a legacy for the congregation of Jacob” [Devarim 33:4]

The entire Torah is attributed to Moshe Rabbeinu, as it is stated [Malachi 3:22] “Zichru Torat Moshe avdi – Keep in remembrance the teaching of Moses.” Chazal Add that the parashah of “Vezot Haberachah” is specifically named after Moshe Rabbeinu, a”h, because of the pasuk written in it, “Torah tziva lanu Moshe – The Torah that Moshe commanded us.”

Parashat “Vezot Haberachah,” which is named after Moshe, is read on Simchat Torah, right after Hoshana Rabba, which is attributed to King David.

What is the connection between King David and Moshe Rabbeinu that the festival attributed to King David is followed by the reading of the parashah attributed to Moshe?

We may explain that King David loved the holy Torah immensely, as it is stated in Tehillim [119:97] “How I love Your Torah! All day it is my conversation,” and Moshe Rabbeinu symbolizes the Torah, since he risked his life in order to bring it down from heaven and give it to Bnei Yisrael.

One who delves into the matter will notice that the initials of David and Moshe have the same gematria as “Adam,” (together with the kollel – adding one for the name itself). As we know, Adam HaRishon granted King David 70 years of his 1000 year life-span, after seeing that David was destined to die on the day he was born. Since he took pity on the lofty neshamah, he decided to grant it 70 of his years. It thus follows that King David, who completed Adam’s years, thereby corrected the soul of Adam, who had sinned in the Tree of Knowledge.

How did David succeed in correcting the soul of Adam? By learning the Torah, which is attributed to Moshe Rabbeinu.

We find, therefore, that Moshe Rabbeinu also had a part in correcting the soul of Adam, since without the Torah, which is called by his name, King David would not have been able to correct the sin of the Tree of Knowledge. This, then, is the connection between King David and Moshe Rabbeinu, and in the merit of both of them, the soul of Adam HaRishon received its tikkun and was cured.

It is truly amazing! The seventh day of Sukkot [Hoshana Rabba] is attributed to King David, and on the following day of Simchat Torah, we finish reading the Torah, discussing the death of Moshe Rabbeinu. Then we immediately begin reading Bereishit, in which we read about the creation of the world and about Adam HaRishon. Thus, we see a clear connection between King David, Adam and Moshe.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The Difference Between Children and Adults



I've blogged this before, but it's very timely and also one of my favourites.  Send it to someone who needs to hear it before Yom Kippur.



Lekach: Segula for Parnossa



Lekach is a sweet cake, traditionally made with honey.  It is customary to ask for and receive "lekach" from someone [usually one's mentor or parent] on the day before Yom Kippur.   One of the reasons given for this custom is that if it had been decreed, G‑d forbid, that during the year we should need to resort to a handout from others, the decree should be satisfied with this asking for food.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe used to hand out Lekach each year on erev Yom Kippur, or for those who did not receive it then, on Hoshannah Rabbah.

To read more about the reasons for this custom, click here.

Below is my recipe for a Rosh Hashanah chocolate honey cake, which is incredibly easy to make, you just place all the ingredients in a bowl, mix, and bake.

These quantities make a very large cake, or two smaller cakes.  Note: this is a very large cake, you may want to halve the ingredients and make two loaf cakes instead.

One Bowl Chocolate Honey Cake

500g honey
3 eggs
One and a half cups sugar [I use raw caster sugar]
3/4 cup oil [I use lite olive oil]
1 teaspoon vanilla essence            
3 cups self-raising flour*
One and a half cups water
3 tablespoons of cocoa powder

Place all ingredients into electric mixing bowl, beat until well combined. The mixture appears to be too liquid, but don't worry, that is how it's meant to be.  Pour into large foil tray [or two smaller cake tins] and bake for approx 75 mins [large size] or 55 mins [smaller cakes] at 350°F - 180°C.  Cooking times may vary depending on your oven.

*If you are using general purpose flour, you will need to add a teaspoon each of baking powder and bicarb soda.  I prefer the convenience of self-raising flour.

Also see The Healing Powers of Apples and Honey

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Hurricanes, Quakes and now the Volcanoes


Catastrophe has struck the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' with flights carrying extra fuel in case of a major volcanic eruption, more than 75,000 people fleeing a Balinese region and the possibility of the evacuation of an entire island in Vanuatu 


Mass evacuations and states of emergency declared in Bali Indonesia and in Vanuatu [a small island near Australia]

Seems like all the popular vacation spots are being wiped out.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

5778 is Upon Us



This is perhaps one of the most incredible things I've read on the internet.   I'm not even sure if the website is regarded as ''kosher'' - but the information contained is actually mind-blowing.

Here is an extract:


Text by Jeffrey [Ezra] Meiliken

The year 5778 is finally upon us and the entire world has been witnessing the changes over the past year with the ominous signs recognizable to all.

For 5778 years the Earth has been circling the Sun at 66,600 miles per hour, or 107,000 kilometers per hour if you use that system.

Most people will recognize 666 as an apocalyptic sign but be that as it may, it is also a deep Kabbalistic concept and the numerical value of 2/3.

Rav Ashlag of blessed memory used that principle to determine the year of 5778 as the time of the geula (final redemption), and the Arizal hinted at its use to determine a specific date within the year 5778.

Equally significant is that the sum of the integers from 1 to 107 is also 5778 and that there are 107,000 letters in the Torah preceding the 10 Commandments, which were given in the 70th Chapter in the Torah, but that has already been written.

Since the beginning of consciousness, the biblical birth of Adam, the Earth has been hurtling through space at 66,600 miles per hour, and when it traveled exactly 1,666,666,666,666 miles, King David was born. 35 years later, at the midpoint in David’s 70-year lifespan, in the year 2889 HC, we reached exactly the midpoint to the year 5778. Let that sink in for a moment, and connect to the journey that began with Adam, paused with David, and brought us to this fateful point in time. The ancient kabbalists told us that ADAM (אדם) stands for Adam-David-Moshiach(א–ד–ם).

Continue reading: click here

for a critique on this article  see Mashiach is Coming in 5778 - or is He?

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

Friday, September 8, 2017

Massive Quake Hits Mexico


A magnitude 8 earthquake off the coast of Mexico has sparked tsunami fears for much of Central America.

The shockwaves were felt in Mexico City, with buildings having lost power and people running into the darkened streets in their nighwear shortly before midnight local time.

Early reports suggest the city was shaken for as long as four minutes.

The major earthquake was recorded off the coast of Chiapas, southern Mexico, at a depth of 33km about 3pm AEST.


Tsunami alerts have been issued for the west coast of Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Honduras and Ecuador.

Source: News

Torah Codes for Irma


Rabbi Glazerson is sometimes difficult to understand, but here he is showing the following words encoded in the Torah, clearly showing the reason why we have the hurricanes, as well as the remedy.

  • The hurricane
  • Irma
  • Yam Karriba [Caribbean Sea]
  • Elul
  • 5777
  • Teshuva
  • You are doing evil in the eyes of G-d and making Him angry 
  • When you have troubles and all these things will befall you then it will be the End of Days - return to your G-d.
  • Keep the commandments which I command you today....
  • .....Geula.
  • ben Yishai [son of Jesse] 

Irma's Destruction as it heads for Florida





Story: The Guardian

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Hurricane Irma Prophecy in the Torah


Rabbi Yaron Reuven

Note for non-Jews: when Rabbi Reuven speaks about "Jews'' it is understood by me to also include righteous non-Jews, Noahides et al., just bear that in mind if you watch this.


America



A picture paints a thousand words.

Photo Jayson Krause

The Gate of Tears



by Rabbi David Pinto Shlita 

It is written, “Because you did not serve Hashem your G-d amid joy and goodness of heart” [Ki Tavo 28:47].

Rabbi Yossi said, “It is written: ‘Serve Hashem with joy, come before Him with joyous song’ [Tehillim 100:2], for in His service there is no room for sadness. It may be asked: What if a man is deep in sorrow and tribulation, and has no heart to rejoice, and yet his trouble forces him to seek compassion from the Heavenly King? Should he refrain from praying on account of his sorrow? What can he do? He cannot help being heavy-hearted!

The answer is, ‘All gates have been closed since the destruction of the Temple, but the gate of tears has not been closed’ – and tears are an expression of sadness and sorrow. The celestial beings appointed over the gate of tears break down all the iron locks and bars, and let these tears pass through. The prayers of the afflicted penetrate and reach the holy King…. Thus the prayers of the afflicted person do not return to him empty, and the Holy One takes pity on him. Blessed is the man who in his prayers sheds tears before the Holy One.”

– Zohar II:165ab

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Purification requires Agitation and Confusion


I feel that the world is at a peak right now, in these two weeks before Rosh Hashanah.  It reminds me of these words by Rebbe Nachman below.... the world is on the cusp of Moshiach iy''H.... we are being agitated and purified.... and all the scum is rising to the top, ready to be skimmed off to make way for the pure.




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


When one begins to attach to a great tzadik and truly serve G-d, he is often filled with great confusion and evil thoughts.

The evil was always there, but only now it is surfacing.

A pot of water may seem perfectly clear. But when it is placed on a fire and begins to boil, all its impurities are brought to the surface. One must stand by and constantly remove these impurities.

The original purity is merely an illusion. With a little heat the impurity surfaces. But when these impurities are removed, the water is truly pure and clear.

The same is true of a person. Before he begins serving G-d, good and evil are completely mixed together within him. The impurities are so closely united with the good that they cannot be recognized.

But then this person comes close to a true Tzadik and begins to burn with great feeling toward G-d. He is touched with the heat of purification, and all the evil and impurities come to the surface. Here again one must stand by and constantly remove the dirt and impurities as they appear. In the end the person is truly pure and clear.

Purification requires this period of agitation and confusion.

In the beginning a person is totally immersed in the material. He then begins to come close to G-d.

It would seem possible to remove this dirt and impurity at once. But his mind is completely intermingled with this mire. Were it to be removed immediately, his mind would be drawn out with it.

Therefore, one must be purified little by little, in gradual stages.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Rosh HaShanah is Not What You Think



Rabbi Mendel Kessin: new shiur
A very interesting lecture about tikkunim - listen to this and you will have a good understanding of how it all works.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

The Rivers Have Raised Their Voice


As you can see in the video below, it's not just Houston being flooded.

To learn more about the flooding before Moshiach, see Geula Update Ki Teitzei 



Friday, September 1, 2017

Better to Give



Jews customarily increase their giving of tzedakah and performance of good deeds and mitzvot... from Rosh HaShanah through Yom Kippur, more so than during the rest of the year...  

and in this vein I am publishing this short post from Baruch Landa on behalf of Sulam Israel - please visit the site and consider a small [or large] donation for their worthwhile endeavours in helping children with disabilities in Israel.



Charity for the Disabled on the Rise


One of the sectors experiencing a ‘growth spurt’ in donations is ‘Disabled Charities’ – people, and children specifically, with disabilities such as organizations like Sulam Israel, who provide various child development programs to disabled children. This includes children with Autism and Down Syndrome, both of which have been on the rise on an annual basis. Organizations like these serve hundreds of students daily, with hundreds of staff members and dozens of branches.

Before organizations like these existed, the integration rate (into society) for these disabled children was in the single digits. However, by donating to disabled charities like Sulam, we can increase the integration rate to over 30%!

Let’s help give children with disabilities the gift of a future.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

An Elevated Impression



"You shall make a guard-rail for your roof" [Ki Teitze 22:8]

A roof, being the highest part of any structure, alludes to the ego, which gives a person an elevated impression of himself.

Thus, in order to prevent a person from "falling off his roof" by allowing his feelings of swollen self-esteem to degenerate into selfishness, we are warned to "make a guard-rail for your roof" - to carefully control and temper the ego with "guard-rails".

Source: Likutei Sichos, Lubavitcher Rebbe

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

The Authenticity of the Oral Law


The Torah has two parts: The "Torah Shebichtav" [Written Law], which is composed of the twenty-four books of the Tanach, and the "Torah Sheba'al Peh" [Oral Law].

Originally the Oral Law was not transcribed. Instead it was transmitted from father to son and from teacher to disciple [thus the name "Oral" Law].

In this short video, Rabbi Tovia Singer is challenged by an audience member to prove that the Oral Law is authentic.



Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Before Redemption, A Great Roaring of Water


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, August 28, 2017

Rav Berland's Aura Returns


The Rav Berland site is not updating on the Blog Roll, so you've probably missed out on some recent news, such as this one:

The security team that was assigned by the Israeli court to accompany Rav Eliezer Berland, shlita 24/7 have no idea what’s going on: They’re using the most hi-tech cameras and equipment possible, yet they keep getting ‘white outs’ only around the Rav, which are preventing them from seeing his face. 

When they told us about the problem, we explained that this is nothing new, and showed them the video taken of the aura around Rav Berland during his L’ag B’Omer shiur, and also told them about Attorney Ephraim Dimri’s stories of how the Israeli Prison Service’s cameras kept ‘losing’ the Rav in prison, and couldn’t find him anywhere. 

The security guys agreed to give us a couple of stills from one of their latest video which clearly shows the aura around Rav Berland, shlita, and we’re working on getting a video clip up, too. But in the meantime, the Rav’s aura has returned.  

To watch the video, click here for the original post.

Also see:  Having a Good Eye Will Bring the Geula

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Prayer for Rain

Photo Kaycee Kennedy


"You shall have complete and accurate stone weights"
[Ki Teitzei 25:15]

Throughout the generations, gedolei Yisrael scrupulously kept the mitzvah of maintaining accurate weights and measures.

In a certain city, the sages decreed that a fast day be held on account of the lack of rain. The entire city fasted as the sages had ordained, but rain still did not fall.

That night, the Rav of the city had a dream. In it, he was told that if a particular storeowner would lead the community in a prayer for rain then rain would, indeed, fall.

The next day, the Rav gathered the entire community to pray together for rain. To everyone's surprise, he asked the storeowner to lead the services.

The storeowner declined, claiming that he was but a simple man and unfit to lead the prayers. The Rav, however, did not relent, and he explained that it was specifically the storeowner who could come to their aid and no-one else.

The storeowner left the shul and returned holding a pair of scales that he used to weigh his merchandise.

He approached the bimah and cried out "Master of the Universe! The two pans of these scales parallel the two heis of Your Great Name! The bar parallels the vav, and the handle parallels the yud.

"Master of the Universe! If I have used these scales dishonestly and thereby desecrated Your Holy Name, I hereby accept upon myself whatever punishment I deserve! But if I have acted in an upright manner, then I pray that You send us rain of blessing!"

As soon as the storeowner finished his words, the sky filled with clouds, and it began to rain.

Source: Rabbi Yisroel Bronstein

Thursday, August 24, 2017

3 Elul - Yahrzeit Rav Kook


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

"Which big books?" asked the teacher.

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

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

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

"To Israel, to Eretz Yisrael..."

*************************************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*******************************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

*********************************

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

*********************************

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More on Rav Kook at Rav Kook Torah

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Steps of Man


Art Lowell Herrero

Ilui Nishmas Malka Tcharna bas Yitchak Izac

A person who believes in Divine Providence knows that ''the steps of a man are made firm by G-d''. [Tehillim 37:23]

A person goes to a particular place because his soul must refine and perfect something there.  

For hundreds of years, or even from the very beginning of creation, the object that must be refined or rectified waits for that soul to come and do that task.

Similarly, this soul itself, from the moment of its emanation and creation, awaits the time that it will descend [to the physical world] to refine and perfect that which has been assigned to it.

Source: HaYom Yom - Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Every Day of the Year, You Are Your Own Judge



Unknown Artist


by Rav Ephraim Kenig shlit'a

He [Rabbi Akiva] used to say "Everything is given on pledge and a net is spread out over all the living. The shop is open, the merchant extends credit, the ledger is open and the hand records therein. All who wish to borrow may come and borrow. But the collectors make their regular daily rounds, and take payment from a person with or without their knowledge...." [Pirkei Avot 3:20]

A person usually goes about their daily life thinking that whatever they do is basically okay.  Even if this is not the case, they figure if no one knows, then it's not the end of the world; they'll just fix it afterwards.  They may even realize that G-d knows about their indiscretions, but since the person considers them to be only temporary, everything will somehow straighten out in the end.  These are the type of thoughts that Rabbi Akiva is addressing in his statement in Pirkei Avot.  He reminds us that whatever we take from this world must be left behind when we leave; nothing can be taken with us when we die.

Paying Back What You Eat
One way to understand this is found in the book ''Chesed L'Avraham'' written by the grandfather of the Chida, Rabbi Chaim David Azulai a"h.  He writes that when a person dies, the chevra kadisha comes to attend to the body before the levaya [funeral].  They cover the body in the place where it was when the soul departed, and everyone returns home.  The deceased remains alone with himself. When the body is put into the grave, if the person enjoyed a lot from this world, the first thing that happens is that the worms come to demand their portion.  In other words, they must now return whatever they took from this world, whatever they ate simply to fill their stomach.  Yet if they ate only in holiness and purity, i.e. only kosher food and only in quantities necessary to sustain a healthy and strong body to serve G-d, then there is nothing to take back.  This is one understanding of  "they take payment''.

With or Without His Knowledge
Since there are specific times during the year conducive to repentance and forgiveness, a person may think that everything automatically works out.  For example, there is the month of Elul - the Hebrew month set aside for teshuvah, intensive introspection and repentance - which is followed by Rosh Hashanah and the atonement of Yom Kippur.  But the reality is that G-d is not obligated to wait until these specific times and can send messengers to collect what is due at any point.  Sometimes, one may even be aware of their situation and upon a little soul searching, may even realize they might need to go through something unpleasant.  But usually, this level of self-awareness is rare and one has no realization that anything is amiss or in need of change.  But G-d operates in His ways. It is here the idea "with or without his knowledge" comes into play.

You Are Your Own Judge
Rebbe Nachman transmits the following idea in the name of the holy Baal Shem Tov.  Before any decree is issued in the world, G-d forbid, the entire world is assembled to give their agreement.  In this instance, the 'entire world' encompasses the inanimate, plant, animal, and human levels.  They are all notified and asked if there is any opposition to the decree.  This even includes the person who has the negative decree hanging over them.  When everyone reaches agreement, the judgment is passed.

Who in the world would agree to a negative decree against oneself?  Obviously, if you were to ask the person directly, they would defend themselves and oppose the judgment.  For this reason, a similar situation is presented to them, and their opinion is asked without realizing it has anything to do with their own case.  Someone will ask them: "What do you think about what so-and-so did?"  They respond. "Whoo whoo, they deserve this or that..."   In heaven they say: "Is that right?" You just passed judgment on yourself..."  The case is closed and the person doesn't comprehend what just transpired.  According to Rebbe Nachman, this is an example of "taking payment with or without his knowledge".

The whole concept of how a person is asked each time about their own judgment is profoundly deep.  Each word of every story we hear has lofty and exalted significance.   For example, we may hear a story about two people involved in an argument that has nothing to do with us.  In the rare case it does, we need to be even more careful.  But most of the time, it is simply a seemingly random story where everyone takes the liberty of jumping into the fray, taking a stand on who is right or wrong, and who deserves what.  The very words a person utters are then taken and applied to his own case and he will be compelled to bring his own words to fruition.  This is why Rebbe Nachman advises us to be very careful about what we say.  Don't let an inadvertent word slip out in the wrong way or pass judgment on another's behavior.  If you do, you are agreeing to your own verdict, since no judgment can materialize without your agreement.


Controlling Your Thoughts
King David says Zamoti bal yalavar pi - "My thoughts dare not pass through my mouth." [Psalms 17:3]  There are two important ways to understand this verse.  Firstly, the word zamoti is related to the Hebrew word for "muzzle" - z'mam.  King David alludes to this as if to say "G-d! Since I don't weigh my words seriously enough, put a muzzle on my mouth to prevent me from saying anything irresponsible or improper."

The second explanation of how to understand this verse concerns controlling our thoughts.  Sometimes a person blurts out an empty phrase, without even knowing why they said it.  But the reality is that there are custodial forces appointed over a person from heaven; sometimes they are good and sometimes not. They seize upon these same words and turn them around on the one who uttered them.  These ramifications ought to give each of us serious pause for thought.

It is not necessary to express every thought that comes to mind.  Thus King David refers here to the need for an even deeper level of restraint.  He would like G-d to place a muzzle on his mouth to stop him from verbalizing anything that enters his head.  Since according to Rebbe Nachman, it is through these very words that they "take the payment from a person with or without his knowledge".

We witness how people suffer from a bundle of woes that they carry, whether external problems or personal health issues G-d forbid. Yet the reality is that they agreed and signed off on everything.  Without their agreement, these difficulties could not have materialized.  One may say "I never agreed to such a thing!"  The recording is then played back for them and they are asked "You don't remember what you said in such and such year when someone told you a certain story? Was it any of your business to comment? You gave your commentary anyway and here are the consequences."  G-d should guard us.

This spiritual dynamic accompanies us every single day, hour by hour.  It is written "Whoever sits in the refuge of the Most High.." [Psalms 91].  The Talmud calls this particular chapter of Psalms "a song against evil forces" since it is recited by those who want to be saved from misfortune and accidents.

For instance, when mourners attend a funeral they recite these verses since they possess tremendous protective power against negative spiritual forces seeking to harm a person.  It is further written: "His angels he will charge for you, to protect you on all your paths."  This refers to the fact that there are angels who constantly accompany a person to safeguard him from harm.  According to our sages, these protective angels are more accurately called the yetzer tov and the yetzer hara - the good inclination and the evil inclination.  In contrast to what most people think, they are both responsible for protecting a person from disaster, since the fundamental role of the yetzer hara is to serve a person.  However, if one comes too close and is drawn after him, the yetzer hara is no longer obligated to fulfill his protective duty.  One then becomes enslaved to him, and the yetzer hara does whatever he wants with the person.


Forces Created From Our Own Actions
Along with the yetzer tov and yetzer hara, come all sorts of other forces, G-d forbid, which are created when a person stumbles, for example, in eating non-kosher food or is involved with any kind of negative thoughts, speech, or actions.  In this case, damaging forces are created in the world that are bound to the person who created them.  These forces are called mezekei alma - "destroyers of the world".  Their whole purpose is to cause damage and they don't even realize this is their role.

To illustrate, it is like a child who plays with matches because he thinks it is fun.  An adult comes along and admonishes him, but when he sees that the child doesn't understand, he takes the matches away by force.  This is because the adult understands very well that the child is doing something dangerous.  The child though, doesn't comprehend this fact.  He screams and cries "Why did you take them away from me?"  Likewise, these "destroyers of the world" don't even understand they are destructive. Their actions are not intentional, but since they were created from damage, this is their fundamental essence.

It is these forces that accompany us wherever we go. They catch our every word in an attempt to interpret it according to their crooked way of thinking, because after all, they are a creation based on crookedness and damage.  Since they are an undesirable creation, everything about them is undesirable. They even have the ability to compel a person to undergo judgments from the upper worlds. They facilitate a person's undoing to such an extent that life is endangered, and the individual has no idea what is actually going on.

We don't know.  We don't actually see these forces or perceive them with our senses, but what do we know? We know that there are tzaddikim on the highest of spiritual levels, who know about these matters with such clarity that they simply advise us to have compassion on ourselves and acknowledge we don't know what goes on around us on a spiritual plane.  For this reason, they caution us to guard ourselves from undesirable speech, thoughts, or deeds since they bring detrimental consequences.

One may take note of the many criminals at large in the world, who say and do terrible things, but seem to have it good without any suffering.  So where do these ideas fit in?  The answer is that something much worse is actually going on for them.  The criminal doesn't pay for his actions in this world. It simply waits for him in the next world, where everything comes back to him in a much more penetrating way.  This is what the Talmud refers to when it states "Afflictions atone for a person".  Whatever difficulties one goes through in this world serve as a huge atonement for him.  It is preferable and worthwhile to undergo it here, since in the next world, one contends with not only afflictions, but humiliation along with much more unpleasantness.

The only advice is to say to oneself "Stop".  Just as we need to be careful about what we put into our mouth, i.e. kosher and healthy food, likewise we must be careful about what comes out of it by guarding our speech.  The same caution applies to our actions. We should do nothing that the Torah, or our sages, forbid.  Similarly with thought; we shouldn't think that just because our thoughts are only between us and G-d they can be easily fixed.  It doesn't exactly work like this, since many holy books describe the power of thought as greater than the power of deed.  It is possible to do teshuvah or repair an action, but it is much more difficult to do the same with a thought.  You can nullify or gain control over an action, but once you think it, a thought is out of our control and possession.

Thus Rebbe Nachman's advice to everyone is to weigh our deeds in a way that will be truly positive in this world and the next, and to live good and thoughtful lives, with proper consideration for our every thought, word, and action.  Since there will be no-one to pass a bad judgment, every negative decree will be opposed.

Remember that you are never asked directly about your own situation, rather only about someone else's story.  Thus don't rush to pass judgment either verbally or even in your thoughts as to who is right or wrong.  Unless it concerns you directly and practically, just leave it without comment. You will feel profoundly satisfied, and it will be so very beneficial not only to you but to the entire Jewish people.

May G-d enlighten us with higher levels of self-awareness to improve our lives, as well as the entire world, every day and every moment.

Rabbi Ephraim Kenig shlit'a, is CEO and Rosh Yeshiva of the Nachal Novea Mekor Chochma institutions as well as the head administrator at Talmud Torah Magen Avot, in the Old City of Tsfat.