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.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Effects of a Solar Eclipse



HT Avrohom Alter


Rabbi Avigdor Miller on solar eclipses: 

The gemara says that a solar eclipse is a sign of ill fortune for the gentiles. [A lunar eclipse is a sign of ill fortune for Jews]

So this gentleman asks, rightly, how can it be a sign of ill fortune if it happens according to mathematical precision? And the answer is as follows. 

Any change in the fortunes of the world is foreseen by Hashem. Nothing happens by itself. Hashem ordains when some good fortune should happen to the world, or chalila when some misfortune should happen, and He makes it turn out on certain auspicious dates. 

When He plans a misfortune for the umos haolam [nations of the world], He makes it happen at the time of a solar eclipse. 

A solar eclipse is to let you know that this is planned by Hashem and it’s not an accident. Let’s say at the time of a solar eclipse something happens in a far off country like Tibet where there are no Jews. You shouldn’t say that one thing has nothing to do with the other. The reason that it happened then was to bring your attention to it and make you aware that Hashem is in charge of the world. He made it turn out at the time of the solar eclipse... 

Therefore, it’s not that the solar eclipse is made to happen at a time of some misfortune to the gentiles, the misfortune to the gentiles is made to happen at the time of the solar eclipse. Why? In order to label it, to let us know that it’s the yad [hand of] Hashem. – 

Abraham and Lot [#046]

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Blessings in Disguise


Art Mike Worrall

"See! I am giving to you today a blessing and a curse" [Re'eh 11:26]

Hashem did not want the soul to eat "bread of shame" [i.e. sustenance given gratuitously, without having been earned by the recipient]; He therefore made it possible for man to serve Him in a meaningful way with toil of body and soul. Through our endeavors in avodah [service of G-d] we are Divinely enabled to earn all manner of goodness.

The difficulties, trials, and tests of life are themselves the means by which we are to attain our ultimate objective - that the soul achieve the lofty spiritual level it once possessed before it descended into the body: "The soul that you have given me is pure."  The purpose of life is for the soul to regain that level of original "purity" and even transcend it - for one hour of teshuvah [repentance] and good deeds in this world is worth more than all the lifetime of the spiritual World to Come [Olam HaBa].

So you see that life's trials, tragedies, and difficulties actually bring us closer to our goal, our raison d'etre; they are part of the Divine system of toil and endeavour enabling us, finite mortals, to reach the highest levels of rewards and goodness - which can only be earned by meaningful "labor" and effort.  It follows that one must not allow the difficulties of life's trials [or even one's failure from time to time] to overcome the double joy of being G-d's children and of having received His promise "Your people are all righteous".

Source: Excerpt from a letter written by the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Hashem Will Bless You






Text by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita

It is written, “Because of this thing, Hashem your G-d will bless you” [Re'eh 15:10].

The term hazeh (“this”) has a numerical value of 17.

The Sages say, “He who gives a small coin to a poor man obtains six blessings, and he who speaks comforting words to him obtains eleven blessings” [Bava Batra 9b]. 

Hence the verse states, “Because of hazeh [this] thing, Hashem your G-d will bless you.”

Source – Kol Eliyahu

Friday, August 11, 2017

Eikev


Written by Yehuda Katz

וְהָיָה | עֵקֶב תִּשְׁמְעוּן אֵת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים הָאֵלֶּה 
And it will be, because [eikev] you will heed these ordinances...
[Eikev 7:12]

Rashi comments that when the Torah uses the word "Eikev" [Hebrew], it teaches us that this is referring to the Mitzvoth that man usually neglects. Eikev in Hebrew can also mean the heel of feet, meaning the commandments that a person might "step" on because he considers them to be minor.

We find in Genesis 25:26 that Yaakov was named his name because he held onto Esav's heel when he emerged from his mother's womb. Yaakov comes from the Hebrew root "eikev" meaning heel. 

A question can be asked, What's the connection between "Yaakov's" name and "Eikev" found in our verse?   I would like to propose the following original answer as follows, Bezrat Hashem: When Yaakov held on to Esav's heel, he was telling the world that the very things Esav tramples on are in fact "held" in high esteem by Yaakov. These are the very attributes that Yaakov considers important, namely modesty, humility, honesty, etc. Yaakov knew their value, and held on to them. Esav on the other hand "stepped" on them with his heel.....

This is precisely where Yaakov has the greatest power over Esav and the manner in which he conducts his life. Israel will always be able to defeat Esav as long as they are capable of upholding the attributes Esav tramples on. 

In Kabbalistic thought Esav represents the evil inclination. We are all constantly seeking out methods to conquer that which ails us spiritually, yet here lies the key to our victory. Let us all grasp the very attributes that the Evil inclination abhors, and hold them in high esteem as our forefather Yaakov had done at the time of his birth. Let us all be more humble, modest and gracious to our fellow man.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

How To Survive The End Of Days PLUS Korea video


Rabbi Yehoshua Zitron Mashiach Part 9 : Survival Kit- How To Survive The End Of Days: The Most Important Shiur I Gave On Mashiach




And  here is the famous video of Rabbi Levi Saadia Nachmani zt''l, speaking in 1994 [about a month before he passed away], warning us about Korea's nukes.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

15 Av - Rabbi Nachum Ish Gam Zu




Nachum of Gimzo, a teacher of Rabbi Akiva, was a Tanna of the 2nd generation [1st century]. In the Talmud he is called "ish gam zu" [the man of "gam zu"], and this name is explained as referring to Nachum's motto. It is said that on every occasion, no matter how unpleasant the circumstance, he exclaimed "Gam zu le-ṭovah" [This, too, will be for the best].

Due to the miraculous events which continually punctuated the life of Nachum Ish Gamzu, he was nominated to present the Emperor with a gift. This journey to Rome posed many hazards, and the man who would undertake it would need to be accustomed to miracles which would be necessary on this dangerous mission. At one of the inns where he stayed, the innkeeper decided to investigate the contents of the Rabbi Ish Gam Zu's box, and when he discovered the jewels and precious stones inside, he stole them and replaced the contents with earth from his garden.

So Rabbi Ish Gam Zu arrived at the Emperor's palace with a box of earth. When the Emperor found the box to contain nothing but earth, he had Nachum Ish Gamzu thrown into jail. Nachum accepted this with his usual 'Gam Zu le'Tovah' - and a miracle occurred, in the form of a visit from Eliyahu ha'Navi, who suggested to the Emperor that this might be special earth from Avraham the father of the Jews, who, during the battle against the four kings, threw earth at them which turned into swords (and straw which turned into arrows).

The Emperor tried it out on an enemy whom he had hitherto found invincible. When the Emperor was victorious, he set Nachum Ish Gamzu free, filled the box with jewels and precious stones and sent him home with great honor. When the innkeeper realized what had happened - he demolished his house and brought the dust to the Emperor as a gift (thinking that all the earth on their property was special 'miracle earth'). But of course, nothing happened with the earth that they brought, and the Emperor had them killed for mocking him.

Everything that happens in life is for the best, even if we don't perceive it that way until much later. Later we can look back and realise that it really was "gam zu l'tova".

Friday, August 4, 2017

The Secret to a Smoother Life



This is an excellent shiur from Rabbi Alon Anava: if you are having problems in your life, he has some expert advice for you, from the Torah, on how to fix things.