Articles

By Rabbi Yaron Reuven

 

Who is your Rabbi? Response

By Rabbi Yaron Reuven

 

For all of those geniuses asking about a smicha of a Rabbi as if they even know what that is, Let's get this answered once and for all. You obviously have never read a page of Gemara so you just ask ignorant questions like you know what you're saying and would know what to do with the answer. I know this is not going to help the wicked people but we'll try anyway.

 

Do you know what the Torah (Gemara, Bava Metzia) says qualifies someone to be a Rabbi even? Let me show you and feel free to verify.

 

The Gemara asks "who is your Rabbi?"

 

Rabbi Meir says anyone that taught you Divrey Chochma (aka Gemara) and not Mishna or written Torah is your Rabbi.

 

Rabbi Yehudah says anyone that taught you most of what you know about Torah is your Rabbi.

 

Rabbi Yosi says anyone that taught you any Torah (a single Mishna ) whatsoever is considered your Rabbi. 

 

Gaon Mukar

 

This is why GIANTS like Rabbi Ovadia Yosef zt'l and Rabbi Elyashiv zt'l and many other giants did not go and get the silly test you're probably referring to, and were still considered Av of Bet Din and Gedoley HaDor. I'm tired of seeing the wicked grasp at straws just to maybe one day find something wrong with the leading Kiruv Rabbi of our generation, Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi. This doesn't mean he doesn't have your silly test, it just means that based on the actual Torah, he doesn't need the test. Based on all of the Torah teaching and baaley Teshuva he brought to this world , his Torah is more than sufficient to meet not one but all three criteria of the TORAH. The question is do you care about the truth of Torah or just nonsense that creates lashon Hara. stop your evil inclination once in your life and do Teshuva.

Sources

 

תלמוד בבלי מסכת בבא מציעא דף לג עמוד א

 

תנו רבנן: רבו שאמרו - רבו שלמדו חכמה, ולא רבו שלמדו מקרא ומשנה, דברי רבי מאיר. רבי יהודה אומר: כל שרוב חכמתו הימנו. רבי יוסי אומר: אפילו לא האיר עיניו אלא במשנה אחת - זה הוא רבו.

 

תלמוד בבלי מסכת חגיגה דף טו עמוד ב

 

אמר רבה בר בר חנה אמר רבי יוחנן: מאי דכתיב +מלאכי ב'+ כי שפתי כהן ישמרו דעת ותורה יבקשו מפיהו כי מלאך ה' צבאות הוא, אם דומה הרב למלאך ה' צבאות - יבקשו תורה מפיהו.

כלי יקר שמות פרק כה

 

(יז) ועשית כפורת. כיסוי מלמעלה, רמז שצריך לכסות סודות התורה שלא לגלותם ברבים כי דברים שכיסה עתיק יומין אל תגלה אותם וכמו שנאמר (משלי יא יג) ונאמן רוח מכסה דבר, וכתיב (שם כה ב) כבוד אלהים הסתר דבר. ושני כרובים בדמות מלאכים שנקראו כרובים ובדמות ילדים קטנים להורות שאם הרב דומה למלאך ה' צבאות והוא נקי מן החטא כתינוק בן שנה אז יבקשו תורה מפיהו, וצריך להיות נקי מאלהים ואדם, כי לצאת ידי שמים היו הכרובים פורשי כנפים למעלה ולצאת ידי הבריות היו פניהם איש אל אחיו המורה גם אל השלום הניתן לאוהבי התורה והיו יחדיו תואמים בשלום ורעות. אל הכפורת יהיו פני הכרובים שכל מגמת פניהם יהיה אל התורה שבארון לא כאותן אשר המה חכמים בעיניהם ודורשים לכבוד עצמם ולא לכבוד התורה

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Women's Modesty Tochacha

 

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A Critical Message to Women and Their Husbands

By Rabbi Yaron Reuven

 

So long as people think that the Torah is up to our generation’s interpretation, than anything goes, and before you know it, the entire Torah is canceled Chas VeShalom (heaven forbid).  The truth that all of us know is that the Torah is not changeable, adaptable, or modernizable.  The same HaShem that created the heaven and earth, and everything in between, also knew about our generation, and therefore, when he wrote the Torah 974 generations before He created the world, He also took us into account.

 

Why is this important to know?  Because anyone who thinks that the modesty laws (or any laws) of the Torah have changed, simply because we don’t like them, or because its become acceptable, and even admired, by the world we live in to dress with exotic clothing, or in tight fitting clothes (men and women) in order to give the world a good idea of what we look like naked, is absolutely sinning and causing others to sin.  The Mishna, Gemara, Zohar and teachings of the sages all say very harsh things (punishment in this world and the eternal world) for such people.  There are clear verses in the written written and Oral Torah discussing modesty, and how critical it is.   What’s the proof?  

 

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 106a) discussed Parashat Balak in the written Torah, and quotes the wicked prophet  Bilaam saying to Balak “The God of Israel HATES Zima (immodest dress and behavior).”  This applies to both Jews and Gentiles, but much severe for Jews.  Regardless of someone’s “level of observance,” why would any rational God fearing person want to even take a 1% chance of being included in HaShem’s “hate list?”

 

Further, in Nefesh Chaya by Rav Pincus, he clarifies the magnitude of this preceding statement as it pertains to the entire Torah.  If anyone takes notice, regardless of the magnitude of the sins that Am Israel made throughout history (Idol Worship at Mt. Sinai, Lashon HaRa by Meraglim, Baseless Hatred, etc.), HaShem ALWAYS WARNED us, or let some time pass—in order to see if we do teshuvah—before punishment was eventually delivered.  Even when the idol worship at Mt. Sinai occurred, HaShem did not deliver punishment immediately.  There is only one sin that HaShem punished Am Israel without  warning, and that’s after the sin of te ZIMA that occurred in Parashat Balak.

 

 

Before all of Am Israel even had the time to actually cohabit with the immodest women of Midian and Moab, HaShem delivered a massive punishment by killing 24,000 Jews in a matter of minutes, without as much as a small warning or even a hesitation, just for “looking and thinking” about these immodest women.   If it weren’t for the zealousness of Pinchas—which led him to kill Zimri ben Salu and Cozbi daughter of Zur, while they were in the middle of cohabiting—HaShem would have destroyed the entire nation, Chas Veshalom.  Read this again to fully understand the magnitude of this sin.  NO warning, No big announcement, Nothing.  Am Israel made a sin, and the punishment was instantaneous and devastating.

 

Now you tell me….does anyone who truly believes in HaShem and His Torah, commit such a sin of immodesty after they know this?  Each of you needs to decide, because each of you has the power to build or destroy our nation and world.  

 

“Were it not for My covenant day and night, I would not have appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth (the laws of nature would cease to exist).”  Jeremiah 33:25

Are We Really Keeping Kosher?

By Rabbi Yaron Reuven

 

Did you ever wonder why some juices, foods and candies not have a Kosher sign? Is it because of the Rabbi's or is it because of the "Hidden" ingredients? Click here to see a list of ingredients we're certain you would not willingly eat if you knew they were in your food.

 

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Being Lonely Is A Choice

By Rabbi Yaron Reuven

 

Baruch HaShem each day is a new battle and each day HaShem fights it for us while giving us the feeling that we are actually the main contributors. The more we think we're contributing, the more alone we end up feeling. The more we connect to HaShem the easier it is for us to see that HaShem is really the one fighting our wars, and the more at peace we become about the chaos around us called life.

 

You must stay strongly connected to HaShem Yitbarach, and get even stronger by getting closer to Him through His one and only Torah. Once you're truly connected to HaShem, you'll never see life from lonely eyes👀 again because you know you're not alone. HaShem is here holding your hand.

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OcheAch TochiAch is the responsibility of each Jew to another

 

by Rabbi Yaron Reuven

 

Let it be known that we are all still suffering from the Chet HaEgel (sin of the golden calf) because although most of Am Israel did not worship the golden calf, we sat there quietly and said nothing while the few sinned against HaShem Yitbarach.

 

For that "political correctness" HaShem nearly wiped out the entire nation and started a NEW BETTER people from Moshe Rabbeinu. The sages say that the sin of political correctness was so bad that until the end of times, the suffering on the entire Jewish nation will come "partly" because of this original sin. This is not just the opinion of the sages, but rather the opinion of HaShem Himself as he said in Sefer Shemot (exodus).

 

So what can we do about it? Well there's a lot to do, but the least we can do to start off is stop worrying about being politically correct and when we see another Jew doing wrong by HaShem we should be figuring out an appropriate and discreet way to rebuke them, in order to bring them back on the righteous path of the Torah, instead of attacking those that fulfill this OcheAch TochiAch because we don't agree with their way or think they could do it differently.

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A Reminder to The Righteous Daughters Of HaShem!!!

by Rabbi Yaron Reuven

 

Here's an example of WOMEN'S MODESTY in previous generations. Jews and Gentiles knew that mankind was meant to wear clothes and act respectfully. It only became a foreign mentality In our own lowly generation. Let's wake up the world and remind ourselves to be modest while making our Creator happy with His Creations.

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Alon HaKodesh

(Text)

ALON HaKODESH 1 (Tisha B'Av Edition)-1.j
ALON HaKODESH 4.png
ALON HaKODESH 4.png

Alon HaKodesh Newsletter (1) Tisha BeAv Edition

 

The Shema

Whether in Israel or the Galut, secular or religious, most Jews have said the Shema Yisrael prayer (Deuteronomy 6:4) countless times during their lives.  The fortunate ones among us who speak to King of kings daily, follow the Torah commandment of saying the Shema no less than twice per day[1].  Here we figuratively cry out to HaShem “Hear O Yisrael, HaShem our God, HaShem is One”, pleading for Him to bring our salvation—whether nationally or individually.  We then follow up with our reasoning of why He should bring our salvation, by expressing our Love of HaShem.  

 

וְאָהַבְתָּ, אֵת ה' אֱלהֶיךָ, בְּכָל לְבָבְךָ וּבְכָל נַפְשְׁךָ, וּבְכָל מְאדֶךָ

VeAhavta Et HaShem ElokeiCha BeChol LeVaVeCha, U’beChol NafSheCha, U’beChol MeOdeCha

 

“And you shall love HaShem your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your resources”   (Deuteronomy 6:5)

So far so good with just one seemingly small issue.  How many of us can honestly say that we really mean what we’re saying?  I’m not referring to Kavana or even anything extraordinary.  Simply, how many of us are actually doing what we say we do?  After all, this is the basis of our case for, at least, our personal salvation.   While none of us may be at the level of the prophet Job’s famous words “Were He to Kill me, I would still yearn for Him (Job 13:15, Sotah 31A), how many of us actually show that we Love HaShem with all of our heart?  What about some of it?   Do we at least love HaShem enough to consider His opinion before our own, or better yet, society’s opinion?  Come to think of it, we’ve been so consumed with the mundane that maybe we forgot to check what HaShem’s opinion actually is.  Before we bought the dress, the car, or even the house, did we consult with HaShem for His will or simply ask Him to fulfill ours?

 

Furthermore, what can we say about our promised love of HaShem with all of our soul?  This is our next promise in the morning Shema, and we haven’t even begun our day.  Are we ready to testify in front of the Beit Din of Shamayim (heavenly court) that we dedicated our lives to fulfilling His will (i.e. His Torah) as if it were our will (Avot 2:4)?  It seems like we’re so busy fulfilling someone else’s will that we just can’t seem to get to His will, even though we promised.    

 

Alas, we still have one remaining hope—our promised financial investment for the honor of HaShem.  Unlike our heart and soul, the exchange of numbers on our digital screens should be quite easy, since it doesn’t require as many behavioral changes.  Yet, how many of us love HaShem with all of our resources?  Of course this excludes the house, car, business, health, and other living necessities.  But after all of that, did we at least make His Torah the largest investment in our financial portfolio? Are our donations even going towards HaShem’s Torah, or do we find ourselves funding the get together parties at the shul so we can tell everyone some endangered butterfly in the jungles of Africa? 

 

Rabbi Efraim Kachlon taught me once that almost every person puts money aside for a retirement that they may never live to see in this temporary world, yet few even consider the house they’re going to live in for eternity.  Our sages say “Give Him from His own, for you and your possessions are His” (Avot 3:8) in order to teach us that although we may “feel” like we’ve donated quite a bit in our lives, we must ask ourselves whether it’s really what we promised or just lip service? 

“…with its lips and mouth they honored Me, but its heart was far from Me” (Isaiah 29:13)

Rabbi Efraim Kachlon taught me once that almost every person puts money aside for a retirement that they may never live to see in this temporary world, yet few even consider the house they’re going to live in for eternity.  Our sages say “Give Him from His own, for you and your possessions are His” (Avot 3:8) in order to teach us that although we may “feel” like we’ve donated quite a bit in our lives, we must ask ourselves whether it’s really what we promised or just lip service? 

“Because the matter is very close to you—in your mouth and in your heart to perform it” (Deuteronomy 30:14)

________________________

[1] A third time is supposed to be said before retiring for the night (i.e. Shema al HaMita)

 

Alon HaKodesh (2) Tu B'Av Edition

Todah Le’HaShem Part I

Perplexing as it may be in our times, attaining spiritual success on Tisha B’Av (9th of Av) means that you’ve cried [real teshuva tears] over the monumental loss of the Holy Beit HaMikdash, almost two thousand years ago.  Even more puzzling is when we learn that Tu B’Av (15th of Av, i.e. less than a week later), is coined as one of the two most joyous days for the nation of Yisrael (Ta’anit 26B).[1]  Though not an official biblical or rabbinical holiday, Tu B’Av is treated as a special day where Tachanun prayer is not recited.  In addition to the half a dozen reasons mentioned in the same Gemara[2], the Sages are also teaching us one of the principal foundations to a successful life—it’s okay to be sad, but not for too long.  

“Mitzvah gedola lihiyot b’simcha tamid”

“It’s a big mitzvah to always be joyous” 

(Likutey Moharan, Torah 24)

We’ve all heard the happiness song based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, yet how many people can testify to heaven that they live this happiness and joy even when they’re life is full of darkness and difficulty?   It seems impossible to join the “happy people” dancing in the circle, when we’re so busy wallowing in our own personal pain and sorrow.  I remember asking myself “what are they so happy about?” more than a few times in the past.  Of course no reasonable person is even remotely interested in the temporary happiness of a shoteh (a drunkard), yet many settle with just that. 

 

Instead of listening to the Sages about having a temporary sadness, many find themselves with a temporary “like-happiness” that’s typically depending on exterior stimuli.  Even this false sense of reality does not have the staying power promised, and only appears sporadically inside their constant state of sadness.  Some fool themselves into thinking that they’re happy by regularly using marijuana, alcohol, pain killers, and other psychedelics. Others choose to manipulate a different hormone (i.e. adrenaline), and jump out of planes, gamble or otherwise put themselves in dangerous situations intentionally.   The list of temporary fixes has no end, and some can even sound reasonable.  Just as Pharaoh kept Am Yisrael too busy to even think straight, the Yetzer HaRa has even more creative tools. 

 

“And Moses spoke accordingly to the Children of Israel; but they did not heed Moses, because of shortness of breath and hard work” (Exodus 6:9)

 

In the end, these adrenaline rushes and/or mind altering drugs only help the unhappy drown out the pain of their “sad reality.”  Aside from the obvious life danger, all addicts admit that even this false reality has its limits.  Are these people acting out of desperation or simply ignorance about attaining happiness?  Most likely it is a combination of both.  

".....וַיָּבֹא֙ אַבְרָהָ֔ם לִסְפֹּ֥ד לְשָׂרָ֖ה וְלִבְכֹתָֽה"

“….and Avraham came to eulogize Sarah and to grieve over her” (Genesis 23:2)

Anyone that allows themselves the privilege of thinking honestly should now begin to ask some question about themselves.  Questions like “can we attain true happiness despite the sadness that is very much a part of life?”   The Torah testifies[1] that Avraham Avinu excelled in minimizing his sadness even when he found out that the love of his life, Sarah Imenu, has passed on?  Can we emulate Avraham Avinu?  The answers to both are YES!  The simple fact that the difficult life experiences of our forefathers are written in the Torah is a testament that we can [and must learn to] emulate them at our own respective levels.   

 

The “how to” is a bit more complicated and requires several steps.  The first two steps that we learned thus far are:

  • Stop, think, and be intellectually honest about your state of happiness, so you can pursue it

  • Minimize your sadness

 

BeEzrat HaShem, in part 2 of this article, we will discuss many more details of the “how to” with the accommodating Torah sources.  In the meantime, we should all take this time to think, reflect and realize that we all live a life that’s full of difficulty;  it’s time to make something good out of it.  This opportunity alone is reason enough to say Todah Le’HaShem (Thank You to HaShem).

________________________

[1] “Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said, “There were no happier days for the nation of Yisrael than 15 of Av and Yom Kippur.” (i.e. the days we can be forgiven for most of our sins)

[2] See (Ta’anit 30B) or (Yalkut Yosef Hilchot Tu B’Av Siman 559 preface) for list of reasons

[1] The letter chaf (כ) in the word for grieve וְלִבְכֹתָֽה is written smaller than norm to suggest Avraham minimized his sadness and kept it private because he knew she went to Gan Eden (Kli Yakar, R’ Hirsch)

Alon HaKodesh (3) Be Honest with Yourself Edition

Todah Le’HaShem Part II

Today’s politically correct world is quick to conclude that talks of Biblical rebuke are negative, yet much of the holy Torah is just that—Mussar (i.e. rebuke).  It may surprise some to learn that in his commentary on the Talmud (Shabbat 32b), Rashi clearly states that the words Mussar and Torah are synonymous.  As Rav Nissim Yagen zt’l once said “even the exciting wedding day between Am Yisrael and HaShem Yitbarach began with the Ten Commandments that forced us to change everything overnight.”  Whether it’s the difficulties experienced by our forefathers, the intricate details of the Torah commandments, or the heavy price we pay for disobeying either of them, the holy Torah is the instructions book to life. 

 

וְהָיָ֣ה עֵ֣קֶב תִּשְׁמְע֗וּן אֵ֤ת הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים֙ הָאֵ֔לֶּה וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֥ם וַעֲשִׂיתֶ֖ם אֹתָ֑ם..." “

“This shall be the reward (Eikev עקב) when you hearken to these ordinances, and you observe and perform them;” (Deuteronomy 7:12)

 

Unlike most of the Torah, Parashat Eikev (i.e. The Reward) opens in an unusually delightful way, whereby Moshe Rabbeinu tells Am Yisrael about the divine promise of extraordinary rewards.  The “fruit of your womb (i.e. children) and fruit of the land (i.e. $u$tenance) are just the starting points of the countless blessings being promised.  Yet, it seems like each year there are more “Breaking News” stories of suicide by the same celebrities that looked really happy and blessed.  Why does the richest and most conveniently living society in history want to stop living so badly?  Although the research shows 72% higher suicide risk for an unemployed person, the suicide risk is also higher in wealthier neighborhoods?[1] Disturbing as they might be, these stories serve as a testament that the material part of the blessing is indeed incomplete.  In short, it’s the not the money!

 

As is the way of the Torah, we turn to our holy Sages for answers.  The same holy Sage, Rashi, uncovers the secret of the blessings, and thereby one of the first secrets to happiness.  A brief analysis of the word Eikev (reward עקב) shows that it also means heel (i.e. the back part of the foot).  Allegorically, just as it is inevitable for the heel to arrive at its destination as a result of every [normal] step forward, the Torah promises that the “reward” (i.e. Eikev) arrives “after” the observance and performance of the commandments.   

 

 ".....כִּי מוֹקֵשׁ הוּא לָךְ"

“…for it is a trap for you” (Deuteronomy 7:16)

 

So what if we received what we thought were the “blessings,” but without the prerequisite steps?  Just four verses ahead we see the word Mokesh (trap  (מוקש inside the very verse that’s warning us about violating the divine instructions.  This self-inflicted, Yetzer Hara induced, spiritual poison is the essence of our free will in this world.  As our sages repeatedly tell us “Everything is in the hands of Heaven, except the fear of Heaven” (Berachot 33b).  

After retelling the details of our divine wedding at Mt. Sinai, Moshe Rabbeinu repeats the Ten Commandments and shocks the nation with what many thought is impossible.  In Parashat Va’Etchanan, God code names the observers and violators of his mitzvoth, His lovers and His haters[1], respectively.  To ensure clarity, God repeated these words later in the Parasha, telling Moshe Rabbeinu about outcome of one who refuses to do Teshuva. 

 

“…And He repays [abundance] to His haters in his lifetime to make him perish; he shall not delay for His hater—in his lifetime He shall repay him.” (Deuteronomy 7:10)

 

In what is arguably the scariest verse in the Torah, we now understand why material success is not always the Eikev (reward), but can sometimes be the Mokesh (trap).  Interestingly the word Mokesh also means landmine in Modern Hebrew (i.e. a deadly bomb hidden underground as a trap).    

 

From here we learn a powerful Mussar lesson about being honest with ourselves in our journey to true happiness.  When it comes to materialism, it’s time we look at the facts and take them to heart.  Enough with basing our happiness on some imaginary bank account that we “need” to have.  Enough with basing our goals on what our neighbors, friends or foes have.  If you don’t waste your energy looking at the other side of the fence, you’ll never care whether its greener grass or not.  As our Sage Ben Zoma said “….Who is the rich one? One who is happy with his lot…” (Pirkei Avot 4:1).  Most of human misery stems losing control of their desires due to jealousy.   If you want to be jealous of something, at least be jealous of those who work hard to become lovers of HaShem.  After all, what purpose does the money have, if it hater doesn’t have the blessing from Heaven (Eikev)?

 

For those of you who want happiness and blessing in both this world and the next, BeEzrat HaShem we will discuss more Torah details in part III of our Todah Le’HaShem series.   In the meantime, we should all take this time to think, reflect and realize that we all live a life that’s full of difficulty;  it’s time to make something good out of it.  This opportunity alone is reason enough to say Todah Le’HaShem (Thank You to HaShem).

   

“It (Torah) is a tree of life to those who grasp it, and its supporters are praiseworthy” (Proverbs 3:18)

 

If you ask the praiseworthy supporters why they grasp it, they’ll simply tell you that it’s their tree of life. 

 

________________________

[1]  See paper Relative Status and Well Being: Evidence from U.S. Suicide Deaths  San Francisco Federal Reserve September  2012

[1] See (Deuteronomy 5:9-10)

 
 

Alon HaKodesh (4) Ayin Tova (Good Eye) Edition

Todah Le’HaShem Part III

“It is better to listen to the rebuke of a wise [Torah] man than for one to listen to the song of fools.” (Ecclesiastes 7:5)    

 "טוֹב לִשְׁמֹעַ גַּעֲרַת חָכָם מֵאִישׁ שֹׁמֵעַ שִׁיר כְּסִילִים" (קהלת 7:5)    

 

Throughout the trials and tribulations of life, a typical person would seek advice from someone they viewed as wiser and more knowledgeable.  It never seems to fail in disappointing us of how limited the advice is when the wisdom we chose is based on secular knowledge.  We often wish we could’ve saved ourselves the time, frustration, embarrassment and possibly the $400/hour psychiatric expertise fee.  Our life’s journey would be smoother if we’d simply known that the best advice these experts can typically offer is “it’ll get better,” “it could be worse” or the exaggerated false empowerment of “you can do it.”   After all, they are using the same manmade manual as their patient, which includes their own unique experiences.  When the wisest man of all time, King Solomon, wrote about wisdom (Chochma) in his three holy books[1] inside the Tanach, he was consistently referring to the divine Torah wisdom.  Unlike manmade advice that is too biased and limited to fit everyone, the divine Torah is a one size fits all that is customized to you.  Instead of sympathy, the Torah offers the empathy we all seek.  But before we can appreciate the necessity of change, we must first understand the root of the current failure to attain happiness by the overwhelming majority of mankind today.

 

A lifetime of psychological brainwashing has led us to say things like “the grass is always greener on the other side,” or “it could be worse;” and let’s not forget our typical response when asked about our wellbeing as “not bad[not bad at all].” Though these statements seem to be harmless figures of speech, they expose the hidden attitude behind our unhappiness.  Rather than saying Baruch HaShem for the good we have, we are conditioned to think about the frustrations we’re dealing with.  In short, we’ve become conditioned to be miserable in our present state, yet hopeful that things will become better in the future.  The problem is that the current system we’re using is being steered by the same Yetzer HaRa that conditioned us to be miserable in the first place.  This makes it impossible for us to succeed in attaining anything beyond sporadic bursts of like-happiness, which are typically dependent on variables beyond our control.  Happiness is not supposed to be like an adrenaline rush, but rather a constant state of being.  Imagine being happy just because! 

 

An even deeper analysis of our choice of words shows that we are constantly measuring our happiness by our perception of others.  Whether it’s the neighbors’ grass being greener, or his overall situation being worse than ours, we’ve acclimated ourselves to size everyone up the minute we see them.  Subconsciously we tell ourselves to feel like their success makes us a failure, while their demise makes our situation more bearable—maybe even a success.  This type of measurement is flawed at best, and though unintentional, it’s nevertheless like the Ayin Ra’ah (evil eye) possessed by the students of the wicked Bilaam.[2]   Making matters worse is that it is in sharp contrast to the clear happiness instructions of our Torah Sages.  

 

As our Sage Ben Zoma said “….Who is the rich one? One who is happy with his share…” (Pirkei Avot 4:1)

"בן זומה אומר:....איזהו עשיר? השמח בחלקו...." (אבות ד,א)

 

When the holy Tanna[3], Shimon Ben Zoma, masterfully summarized one of the Torah steps to happiness in only four words, he emphasized that attaining it has no direct correlation to the success or failure of others.  Whether your neighbors’ grass is greener or not is no longer perceived the same way.  You no longer look over the fence with jealous curiosity.  If you happen to see it, you’re either overjoyed by his success or concerned about his failure.  Unlike the students of Bilaam, the Ayin Tova (good eye)[4] of the students of Avraham Avinu sees the success of others as part of their own happiness.  Your neighbors’ success is now empowering you to see the endless possibilities in HaShem’s infinite world.   These possibilities are available to all in the world of the Omnipotent HaShem.  This newfound empowerment shows that happiness with your share does not dampen your ambition, but rather reorganizes it. 

 

After we’ve become happy for others, what can this Ayin Tova do for us if our own share is truly difficult?  Like a domino effect, our newfound Ayin Tova perspective of the world will also help us reassess our own difficulties.  If we all take a moment to reassess our needs without comparing ourselves to the neighbors, our findings are unbelievable.  In every past case you check, you’d see that HaShem has given you exactly what you needed.  It may not be what you want, but if you’re here reading this, then it’s clear you have what you need. 

 

“Then Yaakov took a vow, saying “if God will be with me, will guard me…; will give me bread to eat and clothes to wear…” (Genesis 28:20)

ויִּדַּ֥ר יַעֲקֹ֖ב נֶ֣דֶר לֵאמֹ֑ר אִם־יִהְיֶ֨ה אֱלֹקים עִמָּדִ֗י וּשְׁמָרַ֙נִי֙ בַּדֶּ֤רֶךְ הַזֶּה֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר אָנֹכִ֣י הוֹלֵ֔ךְ וְנָֽתַן־לִ֥י לֶ֛חֶם לֶאֱכֹ֖ל וּבֶ֥גֶד לִלְבֹּֽשׁ׃

 

The Torah tells us that when Yaakov Avinu left his father Yitzchak’s home, he did not pray for the fame and fortune he ended up attaining later in life.  Rather, Yaakov’s pleadings to HaShem were for the very basic needs of life—food, clothing and shelter.  Yaakov’s understanding of what’s truly worthy of prayer did not weaken his ambition when the opportunity arose.  As it is written “The man (Yaakov) became exceedingly prosperous… (Genesis 30:43).” Despite his success, the heart of Yaakov never changed towards haughtiness.  To the contrary, the verse “I [Yaakov] have been diminished by all the kindness and all the truth that You [HaShem] have done Your servant;” (Genesis 32:11) shows that Yaakov’s success led him to worry.  Since he’s been gifted success beyond what he prayed for, he was afraid that he’d already used up more than his merits warranted.[5]

 

During a time of reflection, Yaakov reminded us that anything that’s above basic necessity is a bonus on top of the bonus we already get from HaShem.  Although his success was decreed by HaShem, Yaakov’s extraordinary response to the blessings was only due to his predisposition of being happy with his share.  Ambitious to grow into the greatest nation on earth, he knew that all he’ll ever need to achieve happiness is exactly what HaShem gave him at the time.   Just as his richness was determined by his happiness with his own circumstances, his success in attaining happiness despite his circumstances is what actually made him rich.   

 

For those of you who want even more happiness and blessing in both this world and the next, BeEzrat HaShem we will discuss more Torah details in part IV of our Todah Le’HaShem series.   In the meantime, we should all take this time to think, reflect and realize that we all live a life that’s full of difficulty;  it’s time to make something good out of it.  This opportunity alone is reason enough to say Todah Le’HaShem (Thank You to HaShem).

   

“It (Torah) is a tree of life to those who grasp it, and its supporters are praiseworthy” (Proverbs 3:18)

 

If you ask the praiseworthy supporters why they grasp it, they’ll simply tell you that it’s their tree of life.

________________________

[1] The books of Proverbs, Ecclesiastes and Song of Songs

[2] (Pirkei Avot 5:22)

[3] Rabbinic Sages that lived during the Mishnaic period at approximately 10-220 CE

[4] See (Pirkei Avot 5:22)

[5] See Ramban (Parashat VaYishlach 32:11)

 

Alon HaKodesh (5) Todah Le'HaShem Edition

Todah Le’HaShem Part IV

“And not like those who cry out like dogs Hav Hav [give us more, give us more]” (Tikunei HaZohar Tikkun 18 Daf 34a)

ולא כאותן דצוחין ככלבין הב הב, כנזכר בשם התקונים (תיקון יח דף לד ע"א)

 

The idea to write a textual map of how to attain true happiness began with a deeper idea that is often taken for granted—saying Todah Le’HaShem[1].  The Tikkunei HaZohar says that one of the distinguishing characteristics of Am Yisrael is that we do not simply ask for more and more, like the unending appetite of a dog.  Rather, a Jew is expected to actually designate times to say Todah Le’HaShem for the countless gifts HaShem has already given us.  Of course there must be many grateful non-Jews around the world, but, as usual, the Jew is expected to be on a different level.  The importance of gratitude for Am Yisrael is so dear, that the Tikkunei HaZohar describes praying only for sustenance as the act of those who forgot the language of the King—instead knowing and following their King, they have adapted the customs and languages of the other nations. 

 

“It is good to thank HaShem and to sing praise to Your Name, O Exalted One.”(Psalm 92:2)

טוֹב לְהֹדוֹת לַיקוָק וּלְזַמֵּר לְשִׁמְךָ עֶלְיוֹן (תהילים צב ב)

 

It requires no mental strain to understand that gratitude is one of the basic necessities of humanity, let alone for us to attain true holiness. But what good is King David referring to about Todah Le’HaShem?[2]  Although thanking anyone for something good is the natural behavior of a person with good middot, the Ramchal reminds us that even the best of us tend to routinely ignore or overlook the simple and obvious.[3]  A person that is not exerting effort to consciously remind themselves of the good in their lives, can easily fall into the trap of only focusing on the difficulties. This is not due to the difficulty of finding good in our lives, but quite the contrary.   The average person reading this has so much good in their lives that they have become numb to it.  We sometimes forget the source of all that’s good (i.e. HaShem) to the point that we expect good to be our status quo.  We expect our eyes to see, ears to hear, hands to feel and even have enough money to afford a delicious lunch.  Our expectations of the basic needs of survival are so high and standardized, that we forget they are good.  By reminding ourselves to say Todah Le’HaShem, we are systematically forcing ourselves to do a conscious review of our good inventory.           

 

Eitzah Tovah (Good Advice)

 

In order to avoid the pain of forgetting important things, most of us live with countless reminders.  Whether set as a reminder to meet someone for business, or as a reminder to get to the airport, the alarm clock is the reminder tool for what we perceive as important.  After a study session with an Avrech from the Chofetz Chaim Kollel a few years ago, we arrived at the brilliant idea of setting a reminder to say Todah Le’HaShem at a set time each day.  Unlike the time you pray to HaShem with requests throughout the day, take a full 5 minutes to simply list the things you are grateful for, without mentioning a single request.  Yes, my phone rings each day at 12:30pm with the text on the screen showing Time to Say Todah Le’HaShem.     

 

“He who offers Todah honors Me; and one who orders [his] way, I will show him the salvation of God.” (Psalm 50:23)

זֹבֵחַ תּוֹדָה יְכַבְּדָנְנִי וְשָׂם דֶּרֶךְ אַרְאֶנּוּ בְּיֵשַׁע אֱלֹקים (תהלים נ כג)

 

This amazing reminder will not only change your day, but your overall perception of life.  Richness and fulfillment is already in your life, and it’s just waiting to be uncovered by a simple, yet brilliant Eitzah that requires some effort. To get your daily motivation boosted further, take a look at the secret King David tells us in Psalm 50—saying Todah Le’HaShem is key to getting all salvation from HaShem Yitbarach.      

 

For those of you who want even more happiness and blessing in both this world and the next, BeEzrat HaShem we will discuss more Torah details in part V of our Todah Le’HaShem series.   In the meantime, we should all take this time to think, reflect and realize that we all live a life that’s full of difficulty;  it’s time to make something good out of it.  This opportunity alone is reason enough to say Todah Le’HaShem (Thank You to HaShem).

   

“It (Torah) is a tree of life to those who grasp it, and its supporters are praiseworthy” (Proverbs 3:18)

 

If you ask the praiseworthy supporters why they grasp it, they’ll simply tell you that it’s their tree of life. 

________________________

[1] Thank You to the God of Yisrael

[2] Psalm 92:2

[3] See Path of The Just – Author’s introduction

 

Alon HaKodesh (6) The Essence of Todah (Gratitude) 

Todah Le’HaShem Part V

“Don’t just tell him to say Todah…tell him to say a Beracha!” Rav Nissim Yagen zt’l

 

Parents traditionally [and rightly so] make a big deal about having their little children say Todah out loud to the unfamiliar relative that just gave them a delicious candy.  Although this is a great start, HaRav Nissim Yagen zt’l cried out that the real lesson should be to teach the child to say a Beracha.[1] While the two seem to teach the same message, a deeper introspection into the teachings of our holy Sages uncovers quite a lesson about gratitude, and thereby taking us further along our happiness journey.

 

“Anyone who’s ungrateful for the kindness of his fellow, will ultimately be ungrateful for the kindness of the Holy One, Blessed Be He” (Midrash Mishnat Eliezer perek 7)

(מדרש משנת רבי אליעזר פרק ז)   כל הכופר בטובתו של חברו לבסוף כופר בטובתו של הקב "ה

 

The Midrash Mishnat Eliezer teaches us that although the Todah [towards our fellow] and Beracha [towards our Creator] complete each other, it’s the Beracha that helps us reflects on the deeper meaning of the gifts we’ve received.  Because saying Todah is so simple and well-intended, it’s become part of everyone’s speech at early childhood.  By the time we’ve reached adulthood, the Todah towards our fellow has become an engraved part of our habits, thereby losing much of the kavana[2] behind it.  A person can get so used to saying it, that receiving a pencil, a hot dinner plate, or a brand new car can literally have the same exact well-intended, yet habitual and superficial Todah. 

 

The Beracha, on the other hand, takes a little more effort and thought process to do than its superficial Todah partner.  This is supposed to lead the person to think a little more about what they just received.  Although it’s also common for us to forget the kavana part of our Beracha, one only needs to simply think about the literal meaning of what they’re saying in order to raise the Beracha to its former status.  

 

“You will eat and you will be satiated, and bless HaShem your God, for the good Land that He gave you.” (Deuteronomy 8:10)

וְאָכַלְתָּ וְשָׂבָעְתָּ וּבֵרַכְתָּ אֶת יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ עַל הָאָרֶץ הַטֹּבָה אֲשֶׁר נָתַן לָךְ. (דברים ח י)

 

Nearly 500 years ago, The Maharal of Prague taught[3] us that the literal commandment to bless HaShem after eating makes the Birkat HaMazon the most important Beracha in the entire Torah.  Birkat HaMazon is so significant, that Gemara (Berachot 35b) judges one who eats without reciting it, as if he had stolen from God Himself.  A careful review of the biblical source of the blessing (i.e. Deut 8:10), can help us get a deeper meaning of what we should be so grateful about.  

First, we ate.  When one considers that nearly 25,000 people die each day (est. 9.1 million people/year)[4] from pure hunger, they should recite Birkat HaMazon as if it is Birkat HaGomel[5].  Second, we were satiated.  The same UN and other institutional studies report that there are nearly 1 billion people that suffer from hunger today.  Just imagine the tears of hunger, and your Kavana already increases.  Lastly, you got to bless HaShem.   This literally means that your life has a purpose.  If not for having a God with an eternal instruction set and purpose for all of His creations, life would simply be purposeless.  How horrible would life be if simply lived to eat and drink before you die; and then bring children along the way to suffer the same purposeless consequences?  By acknowledging, obeying and thanking HaShem you are also committing to your ultimate and eternal purpose. 

 

This means that all that’s missing from our Todah is exactly what’s missing from our Beracha—Kavana.  Just take a moment and think about what you received before saying either one.  Rabbi Efraim Kachlon once taught me “Is the pen someone lent you simply just a pen, or is it a tool that you will now use to write a Chidush, a phone number, or an answer to a test that will change your world forever?”  Of course you can look at it as just a $2 pen, but that would make you as ungrateful as the purposeless ones who live to die.  Our Sages teach us that When Moshe Rabbeinu commanded us to observe the Birkat HaMazon and all the other commandments, he literally said “…you shall observe to perform, so that you may live…”[6] Anytime the word “Live” is mentioned in the Torah, it is referring to eternity, and not to this temporary world.  Divinely we see that the same verse that taught us true gratitude through Birkat HaMazon, is a verse numbered 8:10, which in its original Hebrew is ח י—Life. 

 

For those of you who want even more happiness, blessings and purpose in both this world and the next, BeEzrat HaShem we will discuss more Torah details in our ALON HaKODESH.   In the meantime, we should all take this time to think, reflect and realize that we all live a life that’s full of difficulty;  it’s time to make something good out of it.  This opportunity alone is reason enough to say Todah Le’HaShem (Thank You to HaShem).  A great way to say Todah is with Birkat HaMazon with Kavana!

   

“It (Torah) is a tree of life to those who grasp it, and its supporters are praiseworthy” (Proverbs 3:18)

 

If you ask the praiseworthy supporters why they grasp it, they’ll simply tell you that it’s their tree of life. 

 

________________________

[1] i.e. The correct blessing

[2] Meaning, significance, intention, direction of heart.

[3] Netivot Olam, Unit Ha’Avodah Chapter 18

[4] UN Study 2013 also confirmed by Mercy Corps April 2018

[5] Said today to replace the Korban Todah that was brought to thank HaShem for saving ones life

[6] Parashat Eikev, Deuteronomy (8:1)

Alon HaKodesh (7) Everything is for the Good 

 

Todah Le’HaShem Part VI

A psalm of thanksgiving, call out to HaShem, all the earth.  Serve HaShem with gladness…” (Psalm 100:1-2)

"מִזְמוֹר לְתוֹדָה הָרִיעוּ לַיקוָק כָּל הָאָרֶץ. עִבְדוּ אֶת יְקוָק בְּשִׂמְחָה...." (תהלים ק א-ב)

 

"Baruch HaShem the new company ended up being a scam, charged us 1000 shekels and refuses to refund the money.  This is a special tikkun before the upcoming holiday expenses.  We must sing the Psalm of Mizmor Le’Todah (Psalm 100).”  These were the blissful words I heard from a Ba’al Emunah from Yerushalaim[1] in the early morning hours this week.  Despite it being nearly a month’s salary for him as a full time Avrech[2] in Kollel, he found it perfectly normal to say Todah Le’HaShem for the loss of money he couldn’t afford to lose.   This special Mizmor was written by Moshe Rabbeinu,[3] and thereafter sung by King David and the nation of Yisrael in celebration of surviving life-threatening situations.  Saying it’s merely a “thank you” psalm oversimplifies its magnitude in the life of a Jew.  Indeed, a brief review of the life of Moshe Rabbeinu and King David shows that neither had a peaceful hour in their entire lifetimes.  Yet this psalm is one of the foundations to their ultimate Happiness, which is built upon the ultimate Todah Le’HaShem.  

 

“A person is obligated to bless God for the bad just as he blesses God for the good” (Berachot 54a)

חַיַּב אָדָם לְבָרֵךְ עַל הָרָעָה כְּשֵׁם שֶׁמְּבָרֵךְ עַל הַטּוֹבָה (ברכות דף נד, עמוד א)

 

The biblical obligation to Love HaShem with all of our hearts means that we also need to love all of what He does in our lives.  So much so, that the sages teach us the obligation to actually bless HaShem for what we view as bad.  If that weren’t difficult enough, we actually must have the same kavana on this blessing as we do for the good.  There’s one simple problem; we are very picky about the gifts we want from HaShem, and have no interest in bad ones.  As ludicrous as it sounds, one of the primary causes of depression is that we simply don’t know what we want or what’s even good for us.   Like the incident[4] where a certain man disregarded the advice of the sage Rava, and continued praying for a HaShem’s mercy to make a specific woman available to him.  Rava tried explaining to him (i.e. to us) that it’s perfectly fine to pray for a zivug, but don’t limit HaShem by praying for a specific person.  Who says she’s even the right one for you?  

 

Sadly we consistently forget that HaShem is the manufacturer of all creation, which includes us. This literally means that He knows and will always know what is best for us, much better than we can ever know.  This is also because HaShem’s vision is infinite, whereas ours is limited, to say the least.  But how do we get ourselves to accept the bad as if it were good?

“A person should always be accustomed to say: whatever the Merciful One does, He does for the best” (Berachot 60b)

לעולם יהא אדם רגיל לומר כָּל דְּעָבִיד רַחְמָנָא - לְטַב עָבִיד (ברכות דף ס, עמוד ב)

 

Understanding, believing, and therefore living by the well-known teachings of Rabbi Akiva is the only functional way to achieve this monumental level of gratitude.  If one simply understood that HaShem is the ultimate good because He only gives good, it can serve as the first building block of this equation.  This means that regardless of how it looks at first, it’s the best possible choice out of all of the choices that are available. 

 

Hypothetically, if this were us planning a trip from Florida to New York, we would have a finite amount of choices of how to get there.  We can use a plane, helicopter, boat, car, bike, horse, skateboard, or we can simply walk to name a few.  HaShem, on the other hand, has all of those choices in his arsenal, and an infinite amount of others that are beyond the realm of our comprehension.  While our decision is typically determine by short term comfort and convenience, HaShem’s choices are made based on the “eternal” impact of such decisions.   This means that while we will typically choose the faster route of traveling by plane, HaShem will simply cancel the flight altogether in order for us to avoid a plane He decreed to destroy.   He loves us so much, He protects us from our own bad choices. 

 

 BeEzrat HaShem, in the next part of this series we will discuss many more details of the “how to deal with traumatizing news, as well as how our free choice comes in to play.” As always, we do our best to provide the accommodating Torah sources, so no one ever confuses human opinion with divine facts.  In the meantime, we should all take this time to think, reflect and realize that we all live a life that’s full of difficulty;  it’s time to make something good out of it.  This opportunity alone is reason enough to say Todah Le’HaShem (Thank You to HaShem).

________________________

[1] Someone who has strong faith in HaShem that lives in Jerusalem

[2] Torah Scholar

[3] 1 of 11 psalms written by Moshe Rabbeinu

[4] Moed Katan 18b

Alon HaKokodesh (8) Yom Kippur Edition

 

Secularism - The Most Dangerous Disease

“…if there’s no neshama, then what are the flowers for.  If there is one, then what can the flowers do for it?” Rav Yaakov Galinsky zt’l

 

While small in physical stature, HaRav Yaakov Galinsky was a Torah giant with a fiery neshama bigger than this world.  Known to speak fiery Mussar to warm up the neshamot of his fellows even during the deathly cold of Siberian prison, Rav Galinsky yearned for opportunities to do Zikkuy HaRabim[1] in any corner of the world.  When a wealthy family invited him to speak at the funeral of their father, Rav Galinsky saw it as another opportunity to bring more Torah light to the world, while hopefully raising money for his Yeshiva.  The original plan to mourn and cheer up the family changed once he saw that the glamourous flowers were even more modest than many of the family members—secularism has captured this family too.  “I was asked to come speak on behalf of the family, but I am here to speak on behalf of the dead father” said Rav Galinsky.  “If there’s no neshama, then what are the flowers for?  If there is one [neshama], then what can the flowers do for it?”  These were the shocking words that started a short speech full of hard Mussar that surprised everyone into deafening silence.  Although the Rav did not get a penny of the promised donation to his yeshiva, he was happy to accept another invitation by the now more modest family for the yahrzeit of their father the following year.    

 

Baruch HaShem this Rosh HaShanah was an amazing day for many Jews, but full of emptiness for even more of our brothers and sisters.  If you attended the typical synagogue in America, Europe or elsewhere, then you saw many faces during this holiday that you don't see in shul during the rest of the year.  While many in the Orthodox world have recently focused much of their efforts and resources on building more glamourous synagogues and Jewish centers, very little is being invested into making Jews more Jewish.  It seems like there’s daily Jewish news of more places being opened or expanded, yet no one seems to mind that there’s barely 10% of capacity attending actual Torah lectures in most places.  Ironically many places have surplus funding, but are short on adult students. 

 

Although the heretical Reform and Conservative movements did not do Am Yisrael any favors, the most dangerous disease the Jewish world has ever known remains Secularism.  In a recent short video clip we discussed the scary outcome of the four generational research by PEW Research.  For anyone in the Jewish world that doesn’t think this affects them directly, I am hoping this video will wake you up too.  While the leadership in past generations had success distinguishing themselves from the nations, today’s secularism has succeeded even in infecting the religious Orthodox world as much as the rest.  Aside from those who’ve announced their change of heart, there are many complete off the derech teenagers and adults that still look and act as religious as ever.   Although we can write a book about the details, there’s really only two questions that matter—why are more Jewish people secular, and how do we save them?

 

 

Don’t Know or Don’t Believe

 

The sad reality is that while secularism is much more dangerous than people think, its medicine can have higher success ratios than other diseases, provided the right plan.   Unlike what most religious people think, secular people are not “choosing” to be secular, but rather are being enabled.  To be more specific, there are 2 symptoms found in the overwhelming majority of secular Jews—ignorance and lack of belief (partial atheism). 

 

Ignorance

 

Simply put, most people today know little to nothing meaningful about the Torah and HaShem’s commandments.  At least not enough to change their lives.  They may be geniuses in secular and professional knowledge, but their knowledge of Torah is superficial at best.  The names of a few “characters,” and some other partially truthful lies they saw in a movie, a heretical book, or heard in a conversation is what they base their eternal decisions on.  If you ask a secular Jew what the punishment for violating Shabbat is, they will never know the full details.  They may have heard of the death penalty for Shabbat desecrators, but firmly believe it’s not relevant to today’s world.  This is why you see many of them even driving to the Orthodox shul on Shabbat without a single concern (or rebuke).  In fact, many religious people don’t know this critical information either.  How could they know if it’s not being taught in the majority of the English speaking world?

 

Aside from the fact that learning about punishments is part of implementing the Rambam’s 13 Principals of Faith[2], it’s the only way someone could make a truly knowledgeable decision.   Just like one wouldn’t normally decide to purchase a new car solely based on its shape and color, the discovery of price changes everything.  One may love the shape and color of the car, and be too ignorant to care about the engine, but the price is something everyone can understand.  Your opinion of the car becomes irrelevant once you realize it’s 10 times what you can afford.  Even more so with understanding the price of observing or violating the Torah.  You may or may not like to eat kosher food, and be too ignorant to realize that Shabbat is better than any vacation you can afford.  But if you knew that violating Shabbat intentionally is putting a Jew in the category of an idol worshipping Non-Jew[3] with endless punishments in this world and the next[4], it would make anyone normal reconsider.  If such information doesn’t lead to a change, its either because they are crazy or simply don’t believe it.      

 

Lack of Belief (Partial Atheism)

 

Enough secular propaganda can make anyone crazy enough to [say they] believe that their grandfather is a monkey that’s a decedent of the tape worm, and a distant cousin of the Amoeba parasitic crime family (that may have had a famous doctor in the family).  Humor aside, it is very simple to say you believe in nothing (aka atheism), since its releases your conscience from the obligations connected to the belief in HaShem.  If one is truly looking for the truth, then there is an enormous amount of published work that shows extraordinary scientific proofs of the Torah and its divinity.  No amount of proof can help one who’s looking for excuses to justify their preexisting behavior and atheistic beliefs. 

 

BeEzrat HaShem Inc. has published over 10 videos and high quality short films by Rabbi Efraim Kachlon and I in English, Hebrew, and subtitles in other languages, showing extraordinary scientific proofs of the Written and Oral Torah.  This also compliments the monumental 4 hour film Torah and Science by Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi, as well as the amazing work by Rabbi Zamir Cohen, Professor Haim Shore, and many other experts in the field of Torah and Science. Any intellectually honest person looking for the truth can easily find it with a bit of effort.  Once a person sees the proofs, they will immediately understand that the price of remaining secular is unaffordable. 

 

Yom Kippur is the prime opportunity to fulfill the obligation of “You shall be holy because I am Holy…” (Leviticus 19:2).  The same Parashat Kedoshim[5] shows us the way to sanctify ourselves with a few opportune mitzvoth this Yom Kippur:

“…you shall not stand aside while your fellow’s blood is shed, I am HaShem.”

“You shall not hate your brother in your heart…”

“you shall rebuke your fellow and do not bear sin because of him.”

“you shall love your fellow as yourself”

 

All of us have failed our secular brothers and sisters, standing over their blood by not rebuking them back into the beautiful life of Torah and mitzvoth observance.  By showing them the expensive price of secularism, we are showing them the brotherly love that will save their family’s eternity.   

 

The whole point of the fast and prayers is in order to encourage us to fulfill the biblical mitzvah of doing Teshuva on Yom Kippur[6].  HaRav Nissim Yagen zt’l once said[7] “If a person fasts but does not examine his deeds (i.e. perform Teshuva), then he has not fulfilled his obligation to fast!”  Whether we are the secular ones or know a few of them, Teshuva is required from all of us on this Yom Kippur.  You're going to see new faces in shul that you may not see for another year.  Will you say something to save your brother or sister?  Watch this video and find out some ideas of what you should say.  May HaShem bless all of us with the merit to do a full Teshuva this Yom Kippur.

 

To help us continue building BeEzrat HaShem Inc into the super KIRUV machine that helps JEWS BECOME MORE JEWISH, partner with us by making a generous donation before Yom Kippur.  There are plenty of synagogues and businessmen that build them.  We need to start filling them up with more JEWS BeEzrat HaShem.  DONATE TODAY at www.BeEzratHaShem.org

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[1] Spreading the Torah to the public (e.g. Kiruv)

[2] i.e. how would you know about the significant principal of Reward & Punishment if you don’t know what the punishment is?

[3] Rambam Hilchot Shabbat 30:15  “…a person who violates Shabbat is considered an idolater…”

[4] Reshiet Chochma Masechet Gehinom, Rosh HaShana 17a, Sanhedrin Perek Chelek, Exodus (31:14), Baal Shem Tov comm. Exodus (35:3)

[5] Leviticus (19:16-18)

[6] Mishna Berurah (549:1)

[7] Netivei Ohr pg. 115

Alon HaKodesh (9) The Winning Perspective

 

Eagles Acting Like Chickens

About 60 years ago, HaRav Nissim Yagen zt’l heard this story from one of the mekubalim in Jerusalem that put things into perspective about the Jewish people today. One early morning a man looking to buy a live chicken walked into the farmhouse, and was immediately surprised after seeing the inventory. Can I buy any bird here? he asked the farmer. Sure thing sir, only thing I care about is the weight on the scale so I can give you the right price. Even the big black & white one in the back, the man inquired further. Like I said, repeated the farmer, only thing I care about is the weight on the scale. Okay then, I’ll take the big black & white one and, also, this small white one. You must have a big family to feed, said the farmer, but here you go sir. That’ll be $25 sir. The new owner of the two birds couldn’t believe his eyes as he drove to the mountains with them. Once he got to the top, he picked up the big black & white bird with both hands, took it to the edge of the cliff and whispered in its ear “You’re an eagle, fly”…. and threw it off the edge. Being surrounded by chickens since it was picked up as a lost eaglet, the young eagle thought it was a chicken its whole life. It jumped around just like them in the hen without ever trying to use its wings. Once it was thrown off the edge, it instinctively used its wings and cruised through the sky for the first time in its life. In our ever-so-ambitious to get rich overnight generation, it seems like almost every youngster with an idea believes that they’re going to become a millionaire in the next 6 months. Rarely is there any consideration into the flaws, hurdles, competition, or other facts that typically get in the way of a good dream. The lowly surroundings, terrible environment and upbringing, and lack of education are typically used as a fuel for our ambitious fire to prove everyone wrong. Our confidence is so high, we somehow forget that failure is even an option. Yet, when it comes to serving HaShem (i.e. our purpose of life), that confidence dissipates until it ceases to exist, as we all suddenly become ba’ale mum (deficient and/or deformed). Hearing Mussar about the biblical obligations such as observing Shabbat, being modest(1), watching our eyes(2) and learning Torah daily hits us like a wall at first. It really seems like a demand for an impossibility by the HaShem, may His Name be blessed. We all suddenly become expert psychologists, crying out that in the debate of Nature vs. Nurture(3), it was Nurture that won the battle. We repeat to ourselves and others how we just can’t do it, as if it were a mantra. Whether it’s because we grew up in a secular house, or were surrounded by fakers and irreligious religious Jews our whole life, we’re quick to blame our surroundings for our TeShuva disability.

“For there is no man so wholly righteous on earth that he always does good and never sins” (Kohelet 7:20)

The fact that no one is perfect is not problematic news, as it was written by King Solomon. The problem arises when we accept the sin against HaShem as normal, acceptable behavior and refuse to even consider change. Without much of a battle, the Yetzer Hara convinces us to settle for less than perfect servitude of HaShem yitbarach. How did this happen to us?The truth is that we are a product of Nurture (i.e. our environment), but the argument was not created by psychologists 150 years ago. It was spoken about in detail in our Torah by the RAMBAM(4), the Sages of the Talmud(5), King Solomon(6), Moshe Rabbeinu(7), and HaShem Himself for the last 4000 years. The key difference is that the Torah teaches us that we not only can change and overcome these obstacles, but that it’s a critical part of our purpose in life to do so. Learning Torah and fulfilling mitzvot is what we were created to do, just as the eagle was created to fly. As Moshe Rabbeinu said(9),

 

“...it's in your mouth and your heart to perform it”

 

(i.e. fulfilling the Torah should be instinctual for us, since we were created to perform it). The only thing that’s holding us back from being the Chosen Ones, The Tzadik or Tzadikah that HaShem created is that we’ve been fooled into believing that we’re chickens who can’t do TeShuva. That only other special people can fly high in righteousness, but not us. This is the biggest scam of the Yetzer HaRa. The reality is that we’ve been surrounded by chickens our whole lives, in materialism and in spirituality. But, just like we don’t let them get in our way of flying successfully in materialism, it's time we become as ambitious about flying successfully in righteousness. It's time we started flying higher than ever in our servitude of HaShem, the Source of all success. One way or another HaShem commands our success in serving Him. Let's not wait for Him to force us by throwing us off of a cliff right after whispering in our ear “You’re an Eagle...Fly.”

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1. Men and Women

2. i.e. brit, jealousy, desires, gezel etc.

3. The nature versus nurture debate involves whether human behaviour is determined by a person’s genes (nature) or by their environment (nurture).

4. See Hilchot Deot 6:1

5. See Pesachim 118b

6. See Proverbs 13:20

7. See Deuteronomy 10:20 (Parashat Eikev)

8. See Genesis 12:1 (Parashat Lech Lecha)

9. See Deuteronomy 30:14

Alon HaKodesh (10) Chanukah Edition w/ Official NEW Publication From Rav Ovadia Yosef zt'l

 

It’s Time To Shed Light On The Jewish Business of Chinuch

Baruch HaShem after being partners in everything for nearly 15 years, my Rabbanit and I have shared every thought and experience together.  During the preparations for the miraculous days of Chanukah, we found ourselves sharing our miracles of the past, present and the ones we’ll need from HaShem for the future.  Real Torah chinuch (education) for our children and the rest of HaShem’s children is a constant topic of discussion.  Regardless of what country or Jewish community you go to, there are so many confused adults that used to be children.  Indeed there are so many confused children that will one day become our next generation of adults.  How is it possible that the generation with the most freedom and abundance of free information since Mount Sinai is also the most confused about HaShem?   It all agrees with the prophecies of the End of Days, yet we just can’t get ourselves to accept this reality without a fight to make things better.  Without extraordinary Emunah in a miraculous Divine Intervention it is very easy to become pessimistic about the future.  As David HaMelech said:

“And those who know Your Name will trust in YOU, for YOU have not forsaken those who seek YOU, HaShem.”  (Psalm 9:11)

וְיִבְטְחוּ בְךָ יוֹדְעֵי שְׁמֶךָ כִּי לֹא עָזַבְתָּ דֹרְשֶׁיךָ יקוק (תהלים ט יא)

To move closer towards a solution, we thought that maybe we should try to analyze things like we did in business?  A large part of our 35+ year combined careers in Wall Street investment management involved doing research and analysis on different economies, businesses, markets, and sometimes even people.  From inflated markets, to identifying Ponzi schemes [early], to even uncovering financial engineering (i.e. fraud) by unethical management personnel of major corporations.  These were all tasks that consumed parts of our day to day lives.  We helped many investors save their assets by helping them steer clear from all types of scandals and flawed ideas, which would typically take advantage of the naïve and overly optimistic nature of human psychology.  Although most ideas sound good at first, the real risk is only determined once you identify and explore the red flags.  It’s no secret that every idea, big or small, has red flags.  The only question is how big is the red flag? 

 

Although learning Torah and doing Kiruv began a few years before exiting the Wall Street industry completely, our last 4 years have been fully dedicated to learning and teaching ourselves and others the truth of HaShem and His Torah.  We’ve spent nearly every waking hour trying to reawaken and reeducate ourselves and others about the true purpose of life, as decreed by The Creator.  Without sugar coating the truth or modernizing it with the poison of political correctness, we’ve been miraculously blessed to merit sharing the truth with many people via hundreds of lectures.  Throughout the countless scenarios we’ve encountered, there are two that stand out today—one from a lecture at a Yeshiva in the US last year, and one at a different Jewish School this year.   

 

As part of my opening words to a group of teenage Yeshiva boys in the US, I wanted to gauge where we stood and asked a couple of questions.  First, how many people would want to be like Moshe Rabbeinu? The silence was deafening.  No one wanted to be like the greatest Jew that ever lived, the prophet of all prophets who spoke to HaShem face to face.  To follow up, I asked, how many people would want to be like LeBron James, the famous NBA basketball player.    Sadly, by the time I began describing who he was, nearly all of the Jewish hands were raised with a smile to match their Greek aspirations.  In the second school we asked a different set of questions.  First, how many people believe that we (i.e. humans) came from monkeys?  The question that should have been frowned upon and mocked by the Jewish kids who learned Chumash, sadly received no less than 6 Jewish hands that were raised high and proud to attest to their false belief.  And these were only the ones who were willing to admit that they believed this.  Only HaShem knows how many more were hiding similar false beliefs and doubts about our Torah, despite their Torah education R’L.  As a follow up, we asked how many people believed in HaShem, and were happy to see that all of the hands were raised—including the six that admitted to believing that their ancestors could be in a zoo today.  Such a wide disconnect from Torat Emet (Truth of Torah), to say the least.  Needless to say, we addressed these issues in each of these lectures until everyone started nodding their heads in agreement that maybe they have to reevaluate their beliefs in order to make a change (i.e. TeShuva).  Baruch HaShem!!!

 

It is clear that these are not the only kids with wrong and foolish beliefs and ideology.  In fact, I would dare to say that you can find some in every school, yeshiva or otherwise. The statistics may inevitably deteriorate to include every class if the chinuch continues as it has been.  If this is not a red flag that every Jewish organization, Rabbi, teacher, parent and even common Jew is worrying about, then they are part of the problem.  This is the BIG RED FLAG.  We cannot simply blame the schools, teachers, or even parents.  The truth is that we are all at fault.   We continue failing our Creator and His children by refraining from providing a “complete” Torah chinuch that includes Mussar, kosher & objective science, and a true understanding of the value of Torah.  We’re so focused on competing with the goyim (nations), that we’re slowly becoming spiritually and morally corrupted just like them.  

 

Real chinuch is not just what the Rabbi or teacher teaches, but how the parent implements it at home.  Even if they teach the purest Torah, it’ll likely be to no avail if the parent still lives and promotes a secular lifestyle to their household that focuses on materialism and Greek mentality.  Real chinuch is not just what the parent says, but what they value and appreciate enough to say “wow, that’s amazing!”   If the only excitement in the house is over money, sports, and food then why would any kid want to do Torah homework for the rest of their lives?   Real chinuch is not just what each Jewish organization has on the itinerary to get people to sign up, but what is the real main event is.  It has nothing to do with the size or look of the buildings, but rather what Torah is being taught inside them.  Millions are being donated and spent on taking Jewish kids on trips to Israel, hiking, rafting etc., yet almost no one seems to notice that with each trip, many of the kids are becoming less and less Jewish.  If all of the role models are more excited about the next Thanksgiving basketball or football game than they are about a Rashi commentary regarding the weekly Parasha before Chanukah, then why would any kid aspire to become Moshe Rabbeinu? In fact, why would he even want to remain Jewish, R’L?

 

On the famous Gemara (Shabbat 21B) question “What is Chanukah?”

 

The sages bring multiple insights of what happened as well as the root of the word Chanukah.  In Megillat Taanit and Pesikta Rabbati (2:1) the Sages link the name Chanukah to the Chinuch (= חינוך Rededication) of the Alter at the Beit HaMikdash, after the few Maccabees miraculously won the war.  The RAN gave another Chidush by breaking up the word Chanukah into two parts, with Chanu (חנו)-  referring to Am Yisrael resting after winning the war, while the Kah (-כה)  is referring to the twenty-fifth day of Kislev (i.e. the first day of Chanukah).  

 

To apply the words of the Sages of our living Torah to our circumstances, we thought of a small Chidush that could put things in a clear perspective. Since the word Chinuch ( חינוך) can also mean education, and the letters of Kah  (-כה) can also mean “like HaShem,” and also the acronym for Kol HaChaim  (Entire Life(כל החיים , then we can also learn from here the following: Chanukah is the annual reminder from HaShem that once we give the unrelenting Torah Chinuch of the Maccabees to ourselves and children—which simply means to make the Torah as the number one most important & exciting part of our day to day lives—then we will ultimately be able to rest (חנו)peacefully our Entire Lives in this world and the next, just Like HaShem (Kah (כה desires for us.  

 

How do we go about this?  As mentioned in the newly published 57 year old article by Rav Ovadia Yosef zt’l:  The Vilna Gaon used to say “when I was young, I used to think that I would repair the world with the Kingdom of Heaven.  I got older and I realized that it’s not in my power to do this, therefore I said I’ll repair my city.  As I aged I realized it would be enough if I can simply repair my own household.  And now I realize if only I would have repaired myself.”  If each of us begins repairing ourselves and takes care of our own responsibilities to influence others, then the Tikkun Olam of the Kingdom of Heaven will be achieved once and for all.  May it be His Will that we each take this miraculous holiday of Chanukah to perform the biggest miracle in creation—the right to do TeShuva.    

 

Chag Chanukah SaMeAch 

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1. See Gemara (Sotah 49B)

2. I am no longer sure whether I am supposed to detail who Moshe Rabbeinu is, as much as I probably did not have to explain that LeBron James is in the NBA.

3. Gematria (i.e. numerical) value of the letters כה (kah) is 25

4. See Artscroll Gemara (Shabbat 21B) note 40

5. (i.e. KeHaShem)

6. Alon HaKodesh (10) Chanukah Edition

 

The Real Leader

Alon HaKodesh (11) Tu Bshvat Special 

In addition to symbolizing the beginning of a Jewish New Year, the concept of Rosh HaShanah also indicates the timing of Heavenly judgment on His creation.  With so much judgement being dealt to the world lately, it seems like every day is Rosh HaShanah.  But the Oral Torah unveils that Tu-B’Shevat (i.e. 15th day in the month of Shevat) is the Rosh HaShanah of the trees.  Whether it’s the halachic implications pertaining to the mitzvoth of Orlah, the Tithe, Shemittah or even the opportune time to pray to HaShem for a beautiful and kosher Etrog, it’s clear that there’s much Torah and Mussar one can learn if only he’d have enough mercy in his heart to feed his own soul.  Our Sages teach that one can learn life changing Mussar from every dot in the Torah, let alone from an entire word, such as a tree.  

כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה (דברים כ יט)

“…is man tree of the field…” (Deuteronomy 20:19)

Ki HaAdam Etz HaSadeh

While teaching Am Yisrael the intricate laws of a holy war, Moshe Rabbeinu allegorically questions the nation about whether man has achieved the status of becoming an Etz HaSadeh (tree of the field).  The Oral Torah has Rabbi Yochanan elaborating that this Etz HaSadeh symbolizes a scholar (i.e. expert) who teaches the public.  He rules that if this Etz (i.e. scholar) is providing fruit-bearing lessons, we shall learn from him as if we’re eating the fruit of the tree.   But if it’s really a non-fruit bearing Etz, Rabbi Yochanan continues, then the mitzvah is to cut it down and destroy it (i.e. ignore & reject the scholar).  At first look, it seems unreasonable and demotivating to every scholar and expert that is just starting their career.  It’s rare for someone to yield fruit right from the get-go.  Even the best experts needed time, persistence, and perseverance in order to gain enough popularity that will yield fruit.  Are we really expected to be an overnight success or risk rejection?   Does this mean that we, the students, should only learn from the most popular teachers who were an overnight success?  

 

הֲיֵשׁ בָּהּ עֵץ אִם אַיִן וְהִתְחַזַּקְתֶּם וּלְקַחְתֶּם מִפְּרִי הָאָרֶץ...(במדבר יג כ)

“..does it have a tree in it or not; you shall be strengthened and take from the fruit of land.”  (Numbers 13:20)

To eliminate the typical presumption that bearing fruit means material success or popularity, we must first note that Moshe Rabbeinu also gave the same advice to the Meraglim (the Spies), some 39 years earlier.  Before sending them off on what ended up being a tragic mission, Moshe Rabbeinu instructs the leaders of each Tribe to take advantage of the teachings of the Etz, if they find him.  Rashi explains that the Etz being referred to was none other than the righteous prophet Job—i.e. if he is still alive, go learn from him and you’ll be strengthened because of it.  Why are the most successful leaders among Am Yisrael instructed to find and learn from the Etz (i.e. Job)?  Weren’t the Meraglim already successful and in charge of millions of students?  Better yet, why does Moshe Rabbeinu imply that HaShem expects all of Am Yisrael to become the Etz?                 

 

The truth is that neither Moshe Rabbeinu nor Rabbi Yochanan are validating the experts based on their success or popularity.  In fact it’s often the opposite. These questions make it obvious that the Etz is not necessarily someone who is popular or successful, but rather a real leader worthy of learning from.  Rabbi Yochanan narrows down the difference between the good and bad Etz to a simple formula—does the Etz have proper character (good middot) or not?  As he says: “In the case of a Torah scholar who is of proper character, you shall eat (i.e. study) from him, and not cut him down.  But in the case of a Torah scholar who is not of proper character, you shall destroy him and cut him down (i.e. shun him).” If he has good middot then it’s clear that the Etz (scholar) believes his own teachings, drinks his own cure, and is a living proof of the benefits of eating his own fruit.  If he does not possess a good character, then it means he’s either selling you something he doesn’t really believe in, or he’s a tree with bad fruit that could destroy you.   

 

In the seemingly endless rat-race to become the next Shark Tank entrepreneur in the community (i.e. New Money), Motivational Speaker, Celebrity, or so-called Expert, many are motivated to change the world around them, while forgetting to include themselves in that world.  The desire to better the world seems noble at first, so long as the world doesn’t find out you’re not taking his own medicine.  Do you tell everyone the secret is humility while simultaneously praising yourself with your inner voice? Are you one of those Motivational Speakers that suffers from depression?  Are you a Celebrity Expert who made more money from being a Celebrity than being the Expert you claim to be?  Do you even use your own product, advice or system?        

 

"עֵץ חַיִּים הִיא לַמַּחֲזִיקִים בָּהּ..." (משלי ג יח)

“It is a tree of life for those who cling to it…”  (Proverbs 3:18)

 

There are countless people that HaShem has put in a position of power in order to influence the public to do good and even bring them closer to Him.  Rabbanim, Rabbaniyot, teachers, colleagues, or even friends are constantly trying to influence one another.  Yet, it’s all too common today to see the public influencing the leaders’ behavior even more than he’s able to influence them.  Money, status, comfort, and popularity are just some of the tools the Yetzer Hara uses to fool us daily.  Many times, the noble aspiration to change the world leads you to simply ignore your own self-development and sense of truth.  To keep things going, the newly developed ego that’s developed is appeased with each session that you’re able to project your ideas on others.   It’s even more appeasing when they give you compliments for telling them what they wanted to hear, instead of what they needed to.  The wisest of all men, King Solomon, wrote clear and direct instructions that we’re supposed to cling onto the Tree if we want life (eternity).  He did not limit the advice to just the student, since teacher (Etz) needs to just as much.   Further, this also answers why Moshe Rabbeinu says that all of Am Yisrael shall become an Etz.  Following your own advice, teachings and beliefs is something that everyone can do.   Instead of trying to becoming something everyone else wants you to become, why not try going after the ultimate aspiration in life—becoming Etz HaSadeh.    

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1 Gemara: Rosh HaShanah 2A

2 Biblical prohibition that forbids eating fruit produced by a tree during first 3 years after planting

3 Restarting the calendar for the calculation of the Tithe (Ma’aser) that must be paid, since fruit of one year cannot be used to pay the previous year’s Tithe.

4 End of the Sabbatical year

5 Bnei Yissaschar (quoted by Book of Our Heritage pg. 332)

6 Gemara: Taanit 7A

7 Gemara: Ta’anit 7A

8 Gemara: Sotah 49B Pnei HaDor K’pnei HaKelev

Alon HaKodesh (12) Purim Edition Past Lessons Preparation For MaShiach

Purim Prophecy of MaShiach

“…and these days of Purim should never cease from among the Jews, nor shall their remembrance perish from their descendants.” (Esther 9:28)

Interesting Facts

 

Baruch HaShem, the celebration of Purim has been one of the rabbinical mitzvoth with Mazal.  Year after year, both secular and observant Jews hear the reading of Megillat Esther as part of their Purim celebration.   Almost 2,400 years before the tragic Holocaust led by Hitler y’s, there were countless hidden miracles that saved Am Yisrael from Haman’s Holocaust.  The non-obligatory nature of the holiday has quietly made Purim the subconscious cornerstone of Judaism for many today.  Despite a recent study by PEW Research Center stating that only 10% of American Jews observe the Biblical covenant of Shabbat, rarely does anyone ever reject the fun opportunity to celebrate Purim—a Rabbinical holiday nonetheless.  

 

The clear connection between these two Holocausts was prophetically made in our Oral Torah (i.e. Babylonian Talmud) nearly 2000 years before the evil Nazi Party took control. Needless to say, this is one of the many indisputable “proofs” of the Divine Hand behind our Oral Torah—as well as our Written Torah.  As it is written in the Talmud:

“Germamya of Edom, who if they would but go forth, would destroy the entire world.” (Megillah 6B).

 

Quite literally, the Talmud is teaching us that in the future, this Germamya of Edom would be waiting for permission from Heaven to destroy the entire world, HaShem Yerachem.   The Ya’avetz (Rabbi Yaakov Emden), who was the G’dol HaDor of Germany in the 1700’s, wrote that the Germamya of Edom mentioned in the Talmud is referring to modern Germany. In the same generation, the Vilna Gaon (Rabbi Eliyahu ben Shlomo Zalman) independently arrived at the same conclusion, even though he lived in a different part of the world.  Both of these writings were published 200 years before anyone had a reason to foresee Germany mutating into Amalek. We see that even if one disagrees with the notion that our Sages had Ruach HaKodesh with knowledge of future events, it’s indisputable that they had Divine Inspiration when teaching us about the possibilities.      

What About the Future?                

 

As much as we try to escape reality at times, the Rambam’s 13 Principals of Faith are a constant reminder of our daily responsibility in serving our Creator.  Just like the principle of faith in the Coming of MaShiach represents our beliefs in the foreseeable future, the faith in HaShem’s system of Reward & Punishment represents our understanding of the various possibilities of how the future will come to be.  To narrow down our imagination, our holy Sages also clarified our future here as well. As it is written in the Talmud:  

“If they do not do TeShuva they will not be redeemed [Saved by MaShiach]. Therefore, HaKadosh Baruch Hu will appoint a king over them whose decrees will be as harsh as those of Haman, and the Jewish people will then do TeShuva.”  (Sanhedrin 97B) 

While the Talmud reminds us of the requirement for TeShuva before MaShiach, it also gives us a scary visual from history that we do not want to repeat.  In so many words, it’s either TeShuva from Mussar lectures and videos, or TeShuva from HaShem sending another Haman, Hitler or _________.    As uncomfortable as it may make some people, this too is a tool of HaShem Yitbarach.  Sometimes the shepherd needs to hit the sheep in order to save them.   As David HaMelech said:   

"Your rod and Your staff, they will comfort me (Psalms 23:4).

 

How could this knowledge of the past, and apparently the future help us today?  The wise among us will Choose Life and the Good  by capitalizing on this Purim as a learning opportunity. Focus your learning on how the sages explain why HaShem sent Haman, and use that as a checklist for our own lives.  For added chizuk, read Epoch of the Messiah by HaRav Elchonon Wasserman zt’l and see further validation of these prophecies in the time of the recent Holocaust. But just in case you don’t get a chance to do all of this learning before deciding whether or not to attend a Purim party, remember this:  just because some hosts serve Kosher food, does not make their party Kosher.  Just because the DJ is playing Jewish music, does not make it a Jewish event. The near Holocaust of Haman was only written in Heaven after the Jews failed by attending Achashverosh’s Kosher Style Mixed Dancing Party. HaShem says “You shall be holy because I am Holy…” If the Jew does not separate him/herself from the masses by Kedusha, the HaShem must send Amalek to do Havdalah (separation).  Enjoy your Purim and use it as a time of Kedusha Enlightenment for your TeShuva journey. 

  

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1 See Deuteronomy 30:15

2 See Leviticus 19:2

Alon HaKodesh (13) Pesach Edition עלון הקודש פסח

םתנומאו םלועה תומוא

Alon HaKodesh (14) Lag B’Omer The Secrets of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai 

Struggle—Blessing or Curse

“They would shed their clothes and sit covered in sand up to their necks.  All day long they would study [Torah] together, and when the times for prayer arrived, they would dress, cover themselves and pray….

 

….Eventually Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair, the father-in-law of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, heard that Rabbi Shimon had emerged from hiding and he went out to greet him.  He escorted him to the bathhouse and was massaging his flesh when he saw that there were cracks in [R’ Shimon’s] skin.  Seeing these painful vestiges of years spent in the abrasive sand, [R’ Pinchas] began to cry; and as tears trickled from his eyes, they fell upon the cracks in R’ Shimon’s skin and caused him to cry out in pain.  Thereupon, [R’ Pinchas] said to [R’ Shimon]:  Woe unto me for having seen you like this!   [R’ Shimon] replied to him: on the contrary!  Fortunate are you for having seen me like this, for had you not seen me in such a state (i.e. bearing the marks of physical agony), you would not have found within me such (i.e. the great insight in Torah that I now possess).”  (Shabbat 33B)

Lag B’Omer, literally the thirty third day of the Omer (18th of Iyar), is the anniversary of the passing of the legendary Tanna, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai.  While hundreds of thousands of people go to visit his tombstone in Meron, Israel, few have delved into the depth of his life’s story and his holy Torah writings.  In order to get a glimpse of why he merited getting a holiday celebrating his life, and even more honor than any Sage in history (including his Rav, the holy Tanna Rabbi Akiva), we quoted a small part of his story that’s written in the Gemara, tractate Shabbat.

 

Hearing that Rabbi Shimon belittled the financial self-interest of the Roman Empire, the Roman Caesar put a bounty on his head to have him killed. After fleeing and hiding in a cave for 13 years, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, emerged from the cave and came back home.  Though enlightened with newfound holiness of the Torah they learned (1) day and night in the cave, their bodies bared the scars and wounds of mesirut nefesh (self-sacrifice).  With the wounds still fresh, the encounter above gives us an incite as to how gruesome and painful it must have looked in order to make Rabbi Shimon’s father-in-law, Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair, cry over it.  Surely some of us can relate to the pain of seeing a loved one suffer in pain and agony.  It can sometimes feel worse than having the pain yourself.  I can only imagine the infinite gratitude I will always owe my dear Rabbanit, beloved parents and the rest of our family for suffering with me all these years.    

 

What is the Gemara trying to teach us here by showing us the two distinct perspectives about the suffering?  On one hand, Rabbi Pinchas was a sage himself, and by no means an Am HaAretz (ignoramus) that needed the basic teachings of motivation and optimism to see the light at the end of the tunnel.  

 

Rabbi Shimon, on the other hand, was not looking to become a martyr, yet celebrated the suffering as if it were a fortune.  Even if taken at face value, whereby Rabbi Shimon now possessed much more priceless Torah, how does this make Rabbi Pinchas the fortunate one?Shouldn’t it say that Rabbi Shimon is one that’s fortunate?    

 “Rabbi Chanina said: a person does not stub his toe down below, on earth, unless they have first decreed this upon him from Above” (Chullin 7B)

One look at the Rambam’s 13 Principals of Faith shows the clear difference between our Divine Torah based Judaism versus the manmade religions (Christianity, Islam, Buddhism etc.).  To qualify as righteous Jews, we must first believe these 13 ideological principals completely, which includes the principal of Reward and Punishment.  As the Gemara Chullin quoted above teaches, the Divine precision of Reward and Punishment is the same regarding big and small events; needless to say on each party that’s affected.  As Rav Efraim Kachlon once taught me, “before a person that was sewing was pricked by the small needle, there had to be a Beit Din in Heaven that sat, debated, and inevitably decreed to allow the needle to hurt the person.  So if the small needle needed permission to stick a finger, it’s needless to say that the bigger pains or pleasures in a person’s life also went through the same precise judgment process.”  Heaven decreed that he should injure himself in order to awaken him to do TeShuva for his misdeeds, and thereby receive atonement for them (2).  

““…Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair said: Woe unto me, for having seen you like this!” 

 

With that in mind, we can now understand Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair’s sorrow much more.  Though it is never pleasant to see a loved one in pain, Rabbi Pinchas became visibly upset at the sight of the wounds of Rabbi Shimon because he understood that Heaven did not deliver these wounds [on Rabbi Shimon] without a Beit Din judging him [Rabbi Pinchas], since he will be affected by the pain of his son-in-law too.  Once the righteous Rabbi Pinchas could not think of the sin he committed to deserve this pain, he concluded that his situation is even worse than he thought—since he doesn’t know what he needs to do TeShuva for.        

“…Rabbi Shimon replied to him: on the contrary, Fortunate are you for having seen me like this…”

The same deeper understanding of the Divine precision with some background details can now also clarify Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai’s unusual reply of praise.  Since Rabbi Shimon was one of the five talmidim that Rabbi Akiva rebuilt the Torah world with (after the death of his 24,000 students), he obviously knew his Rebbe’s famous motto of “A person should always be accustomed to say: whatever the Merciful One does, He does for the best. (3) ” This literally means that even what’s perceived as punishment is only decreed from Heaven after it’s concluded by HaShem Himself that it is the best possible option out of an infinite amount of possibilities.  Although HaShem can use an infinite amount of routes to take a person from point A to point B, He only uses the best possible choice each and every time.  No other choice that a human being can think of could possibly be better for the person in the end, when all things are considered.   The only reason we complain to HaShem is because our limited human perspective only sees a one-dimensional present view of things, with a perceived possibility of the future outcome.  The same 13 Principals of Faith also tell us that we are commanded to know and believe that HaShem sees the beginning, middle and end of everything simultaneously (4).  Although the mechanics of this are impossible for a human being to fully comprehend, our holy Torah teaches us different guidelines that HaShem uses in order to give us a perspective that we can understand

 

  …you would not have found within me such (i.e. the great insight in Torah that I now possess)

How could such the scars and deep flesh wounds be for the best?  If they were for naught, then it would only be in the Hands of the Divine to explain.  But Rabbi Shimon uncovered the last piece of the puzzle for us when he connected the wounds to his newfound Torah knowledge.  Since his Rebbe, Rabbi Akiva, also taught [Rabbi Shimon] the words of the holy sage Reish Lakish regarding learning Torah, Rabbi Shimon knew that his injuries helped him and his son fulfill the teachings of the sages—“words of Torah are only retained by one who’s willing to kill himself over the Torah. (5) ” Fulfilling the words of the sages assures the fulfilment of the word of HaShem, and thereby making the talmidim praiseworthy, and the talmid of the talmidim praiseworthy.  As it is said “praiseworthy is the generation in which the greater sages transfer their teachings to influence the next generation of lesser ones, and even more praiseworthy is the generation of lesser sages that accept and follow the teachings of the greater sages. (6(” Therefore praiseworthy is Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai and his son, Rabbi Elazar, for following the teachings of mesirut nefesh for Torah by the sages, and praiseworthy is Rabbi Pinchas ben Yair that witnessed it, and thereby can learn and teach it.  Will you join the list by sharing dvar Torah?

  

________________

1 According to tradition, it was during his time in this cave that Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai composed the Zohar

2 See Meiri on (Chullin 7B)

3 Berachot 60B

4 See Rambam Hilchot Yesodei HaTorah and Shemona Perakim (ending)

5 See (Berachot 63B)

6 See (Rosh HaShana 25B)

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