Friday, December 30, 2005

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A Word of Torah - Parshat Miketz - Dreaming

...the Jewish people are forced to withstand the fluctuation between two contradictory modes of life: love of G-d at the time of prayer, and then total immersion into the physical world during one's business and private affairs the rest of the day. Chassidic teachings compare this situation to a dream, because in a dream two opposite, contradictory phenomena can co-exist simultaneously... (Collected Talks of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, #15, 346)

When the Lord will return the exiles of Tzion, we will have been like dreamers... (Tehillim, Psalms - 126)

Contradiction: A physical world, no apparent room for anything not most mundanely physical, yet it's purely a generation of a spiritual world and intimately bound to it, yet that seems unreal. When the facade is pulled away, we will know what was the dream and what is real.

But today, we are dreamers.

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Audio Post: Important Chanukah Announcement from my Son

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

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Cute Video: Free Your Mind about Israel

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

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A Hanukah Story: Warsaw, 65 years ago

In honor of the festive occasion of Hanukah, a constant reminder that a little light dispels a lot of darkness, I humbly offer my favorite Hanukah story:

Adapted from the Hebrew weekly, Shav'uon Kfar Chabad, a wondrous account sent in by Rabbi Moses Hayyim Greenvald from 11 years ago...

Since the passing of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt"l, may his merit guard over us, Jews all around me -- of every stripe and persuasion -- can't seem to stop talking about the Rebbe. At the synagogue I pray at, at work. It amazes me to see how every Jew seems to have a story about a personal encounter or experience with the Rebbe.

I say it's a mitzvah to tell these stories so that our children and children's children will hear about the Sanctification of G-d's name by means of a tzaddik who walked amongst us and was a faithful shepherd for all the children of the generation. It's widely known that Hasidim place great importance on tales of the righteous, as it is written, "Praise the Lord, Praise the Lord O ye Servants of the Lord" (Psalms). In order to comply with this precept myself, I offer a wondrous account about the Rebbe and my father. Until now this was known only in our family circles. I now find it incumbent upon me, after the Rebbe's passing, to tell the story publicly.

My father, Rabbi Abraham Zvi Greenvald, was born in Lodz, Poland, and was orphaned from his father at the age of 8. His mother was left with seven little orphans, and she worried much about the education of her eldest boy, whom she sent to live with a cousin, the exalted scholar Rabbi Menachem Zemba, may G-d avenge his blood. It was he who raised my father with great self-sacrifice. Understandably, he was concerned about my father's studies and even tutored him personally.

My father was almost 17 years old when there took place in Warsaw "The Great Wedding" -- the nuptials of the daughter of the sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) with Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, who would later become the seventh Rebbe. My father used to tell about this wedding almost as a spiritual exercise -- both regarding the wedding itself, in which participated the cream of Polish Hasidic leaders, and also that my father was able to meet personally with the young bridegroom. This meeting, my father would later realize, would portend much in the future.

A youth of about 17, my father arrived at the wedding together with his relative and teacher, Rabbi Menachem Zemba. On the morning after, Rabbi Zemba told him he was going to visit the bridegroom in the hotel, and if my father wished, he could accompany him. Understandably, my father agreed.

My father could not remember and repeat all that the two spoke about, but he did remember well the end of the conversation, before these two personalities parted ways. The Rebbe turned to my father and said, "In another few days, it will be Hanukkah. Do you know why many small synagogues hold festivals on the fifth day of Chanukah?" My father did not know what to answer, and he recalled that Rabbi Zemba just looked at the Rebbe waiting for an answer. Then the Rebbe, turned to my father and said, "The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies great darkness because this day cannot fall on the Holy Sabbath. And through the Hanukkah candles, the greatest (spiritual) darkness of the world is illuminated. And for this reason, the potential of Hanukkah comes to fruition specifically through the fifth candle, which signifies the darkness. And this is the function of every Jew, in every place -- in Warsaw or London -- to illuminate the darkest place."

As mentioned earlier, my father did not remember what the Rebbe and Rabbi Zemba spoke about during their long conversation. But he said he would never forget that all the tractates of the Babylonian Talmud flew around the room. When they left the hotel, my father recalls, Rabbi Zemba was extremely excited and didn't stop speaking about the meeting to everyone with whom he conversed for several days.

After that meeting, nearly 10 years passed.

My father survived the Holocaust, first in the Ghetto, and afterwards in the Extermination Camps. His first wife and their five little children were slaughtered in front of his eyes. When the war ended, and he was left alive by the grace of G-d, he experienced a mental and physical breakdown. For two years, he moved from displaced persons camp to displaced persons camp, trying to learn if there were relatives -- close or distant -- who survived. In the end, it became clear that all his brothers and sisters -- each one of them -- was liquidated by the oppressor, may its name be blotted out.

In the year 5708 (ca. 1948), he traveled to the United States, to Philadelphia. There lived his uncle, Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald of the Amshinov Hasidim, who he had never met because the uncle immigrated to America before he was born. But the uncle arranged my fathers travel to the U. S. and received him with great love, and did everything to make it easier for him and to comfort him after the portion of awesome suffering he underwent . . . Under pressure from his uncle, with the intervention of the Amshinov Rebbe, my father decided to put his life back together, married a second wife (my mother, of blessed memory).

She was a child of Karkov, daughter of Rabbi Zushya Sinkowitz, may G-d avenge his blood, of the elders of the Alexander Hasidim. Together with his sister, he succeeded in fleeing immediately at the beginning of the war, running from country to country until they set sail for Canada. There, they raised in the house another cousin, the great leader, Mr. Kuppel Shwartz, one of Toronto's leading Jews. Before my parents were wed, Mr. Shwartz took my father to New York for an audience with the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Joseph Isaac (Schneersohn) to obtain his blessing.

My father told me that he trembled to see the change that had overtaken the Previous Rebbe, how age had crept up on him since the Warsaw wedding. (It was very difficult to understand the Rebbe's speech; one of the Hasidic elders who stood in the room explained what the Rebbe was saying). Mr. Shwartz told the Previous Rebbe that my father had been saved, but lost his family in the Holocaust. Then, from the holy eyes of the Previous Rebbe there began to fall streams of pure tears. The Rebbe blessed my father and wished him a long and good life. Before he left, my father told the Rebbe that he had been fortunate to be at the wedding of his son-in-law, the Rebbe, in Warsaw. Then, my father tells, the Previous Rebbe's eyes brightened and he said that since his son-in-law lived here, and he was at the wedding, he should certainly visit him to pay his respects.

Mr. Shwartz and my father left the Rebbe's chambers, and after they were shown where to find the chambers of the Ramash, as he was known then, they knocked and entered, saying they came at the instructions of the Previous Rebbe. My father was elated that the Ramash remembered him immediately. His first question was that my father should tell about last days of Rabbi Zemba because he heard he was killed in the Warsaw Ghetto but did not know any details.

After my father told all he knew, the Ramash said, "since the Rebbe told you to visit me, I am obligated to say to you words of Torah. And since the month of Kislev is close to Hanukkah, it is known the custom of many Hasidim," followers of the Baal Shem Tov, to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah. What is the reason? Since the fifth day can never fall on the Sabbath, if so, then it implies strong (spiritual) darkness. This is the potential of the Hanukkah candle -- to illuminate the greatest darkness. This is the mission of every Jew in every place he may be -- New York or London -- to illuminate the darkest place.

Needless to say, my father was startled as he had all but forgotten the very same thing that the Ramash had told him nearly 20 years earlier. And now, his memory was jarred, and he realized that the Ramash had repeated, almost word-for-word, what he told him then, in the hotel in Warsaw.

After his wedding, my father served as a rabbi and teacher for Congregation Adath Israel in Washington Heights. There we were born, my sister and I. My father remained there some five years, and, with the help of Mr. Shwartz in Canada, moved to Toronto and worked there as a rabbi and teacher in the Haredi congregations there.

Over the course of years, in Toronto, my father became close to the Satmar Hasidim in the city, since he ministered in his rabbinical work to these Hasidim. Though he never sent us to the Satmar schools, he sent us to educational institutions that were spiritually similar. Me and my brother were sent to the well known Nytra Yeshivah. Though my father's outlook was philosophically close to Satmar, he never spoke against the Lubavitcher Rebbe. On the contrary, he always spoke of him in with praise and in especially respectful terms, as did his children.

In the winter of 5729 (ca. 1969), I was married. My father told me that even though I wasn't a Lubavitcher Hasid, he feels the need to go with me to visit the Lubavitcher Rebbe to receive his blessing for my wedding -- just as he had done, even though he had not seen the Rebbe for some 20 years. I agreed with a whole heart.

But then, I learned it's not so simple to visit the Rebbe.

Only after negotiations with the Rebbe's secretary -- and only after my father explained to him that we could not wait several months to reserve a place in the queue for audiences -- did he agreed to place us in line, but only after we promised we would only ask for a benediction and would not detain the Rebbe. My father promised and we left Toronto on the appointed day. I don't remember the exact hour we entered the Rebbe's chambers, but it was closer to morning than night, if not dawn itself.

I saw the Rebbe's face for the first time in person. His face, especially his eyes, made a great impression on me. My father gave the Rebbe the customary epistle on which were inscribed the names of myself, my bride-to-be and my father's request for a benediction. The Rebbe took the epistle from my father's hands. Before he opened it, he looked at my father with a broad smile and said, "Not more than 20 years ago the time had arrived, especially as the Previous Rebbe sent you to me." My father stood, scared and trembling, and couldn't find the energy to open his mouth.

Meanwhile, the sexton banged on the door, but the Rebbe waved his hand as to negate the knocking, like someone who was saying, don't pay attention.

In the midst of all this, the Rebbe opened the epistle, glanced at it, and immediately began to give us his blessing, blessed my father with a long life and good years, and said, roughly, "Just as you rejoiced at my nuptials, may the Lord give you nachas and strength to dance at your grandchild's wedding." Tears poured from my father's eyes, and I was also elated. My father had been physically broken from all he had endured in the camps, and this benediction of the Rebbe's was especially dear.

Before we left, my father got together the strength to ask the Rebbe that since he had promised the secretary we would enter solely to request a blessing, and he has a pressing question, would the Rebbe permit him to ask it. The Rebbe smiled and laughed, and said (roughly): "Since the Rebbe the father-in-law sent you to me, I am obligated to answer all questions. And as before, we heard loud banging on the door, and the Rebbe signaled we should ignore it.

My father turned to the Rebbe and said that for different reasons, we had lived among the Satmar Hasidim and their fellow travellers for many years. There, we frequently hear complaints about the views of Lubavitch. "Even though I do not accept all the gossip that I hear, they have nonetheless succeeded in raising within me a great doubt about the Lubavitch view in connection with working together with the "wicked people." The verses are well known, such as "And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate." "How is it that Lubavitch can openly work together with those who battle against G-d and his Torah?"

My father told the Rebbe that he requests forgiveness for the question, and did not mean to offend. Quite to the contrary, he really wants to understand the Rebbe's view so he can answer others as well as himself. The Rebbe then turned to my father with a question. "What would your neighbors do if a neighbor's daughter began to keep bad company? Would they attempt to return her to the way of Torah and the Commandments, or would they say, 'And those that thou hatest the Lord shall hate and it is forbidden to involve oneself with the wicked; therefore, we should distance ourselves from her and not bring her closer?'"

The Rebbe did not even wait for an answer, and promptly added: "This zealous one would answer that with a daughter, the injunction of 'From thy flesh do not conceal thyself would apply.'" And then the Rebbe's eyes became serious, and he knocked on the table, and said: "By the Al-mighty, every Jew is as precious as an only child. With the Rebbe, the father-in-law, every Jew was 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'"

Then the Rebbe looked at me, and at my father with a constant gaze, and said: "One concludes with a blessing. As it is known, it is customary among Hasidim to celebrate the fifth day of Hanukkah with festivities. What is the reason? Since the fifth day cannot ever fall on the Sabbath, this signifies that it is the height of darkness. With the light of the Hanukkah candle, it is possible to illuminate the darkest thing. This is the mission of each Jew, to illuminate even the darkest places. It does not matter where he lives -- Toronto or London. Every Jew is veritably a part of G-d above, the only child of the Holy One, Blessed be He. And when one lights his soul with the candle of holiness, even the distant Jew is stirred in the darkest place."

My father was startled in the most shocking way. He didn't even hear the last words of the Rebbe's blessing, nor how we left the Rebbes chambers. All the way back to Toronto he was silent. Only two words: "wonder of wonders. Wonder of wonders."

Since then, about 10 years passed.

In the year 5739 (ca. 1979), my youngest brother was married in the city of London. The whole family, my father, my mother, my sister, my brother-in-law, and I flew to the wedding in an airplane. On the way to London, I saw my father was preoccupied. Something was bothering him. I asked him what was wrong and he didn't want to say. Only after I asked several times, he told me. "A few minutes after I left the house in Toronto, the neighbor -- one of the dignitaries of our congregation -- came to see me, rivers of tears pouring from his eyes. He said he would tell me a story that he would not otherwise tell to anybody willingly, but that maybe I could help.

It turned out that the daughter of this community leader wavered very much in her ritual observance. In the beginning, the parents didn't really know about it, because she hid it from them. But two weeks earlier, the great catastrophe became known to them: she eloped with a Gentile to London. Since then, the atmosphere at home was one of crying and mourning, the 9th of Av.

All the efforts of relatives in London came to naught. Therefore, he asked my father, since he was travelling to London, maybe he would look into the matter, and G-d would be merciful. Maybe he could find the daughter and prevent her from descending into the depths of iniquity? My father was a close friend of this neighbor, and was affected greatly by the story. I also took it to heart and thought about what I could do in London.

The nuptials were held at a good and auspicious hour. On the first night of the Seven Benedictions, my father turned to the bride's father and told him the story about the neighbor's daughter. Perhaps he had some advice, who, where? Maybe he could look into the matter and do something? The bride's father, as soon as he heard the story, said to my father that he had no understanding of such matters, but did have a friend who was a Lubavitcher Hasid, who the Lubavitcher Rebbe had always charged with all types of errands. The man's name was Rabbi Abraham Isaac Glick, and if there's somebody who can help, it is this man, who had already managed to save from the streets of Europe many confused souls.

That night, the bride's father telephoned Rabbi Glick, told him the story and explained how pressing the matter was. Rabbi Glick asked for the telephone number of the girl's parents in Toronto -- perhaps they knew some details that would help, like addresses, telephone numbers. Perhaps they would give him some clue where to start searching. Rabbi Glick promised to do what he could.

I don't know where Rabbi Glick searched, where he went, nor with whom he consulted. But one night, about 10 days later -- my father and my mother decided to stay in London until after Hanukkah -- Rabbi Glick called the bride's father and told him to come immediately. "I have a very good surprise," he said.

The bride's father and my father hurried to Rabbi Glick's house. As they entered, they saw a girl sitting, crying. At the entrance of the salon, a Hanukkah candelabrum was lit. Suddenly, as my father looked at the menorah, he saw five candles lit, and he almost fainted and fell to the ground. He remembered the strange sentence the Rebbe had told him some 50 years earlier, then 30 years earlier and then 10.

"The fifth Hanukkah candle signifies the power of the Hanukkah menorah, and the mission of every Jew is to illuminate even" the darkest place -- Warsaw or London, New York or London, or Toronto or London . . ."

"What will that zealous one do when his daughter wavers ...with the Holy One, Blessed be He, every Jew is an only child ... With the Previous Rebbe, every Jew is 'From thy flesh, do not conceal thyself.'" There's no need to mention that the girl completely repented and became on observant Jew. There's also no need to mention that the zealous one shut his mouth and ceased speaking against Lubavitch.

When my father returned to Canada, he made every effort to obtain an audience with the Rebbe. He felt a need, a spiritual duty after what had happened, to see the Rebbe. But in those years, it had become very difficult to obtain a private audience. But the following month of Tishrei, the year 5740 (ca. 1980), my father succeeded seeing the Rebbe on the night that a group of holiday visitors had a group audience. My father said that from all the emotions that were coursing through him, he could not utter anything during the audience. When he tried to tell the story, he would break into tears. The Rebbe heard just a few sentences, turned to my father and said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

Every time my father would tell this story, he would say that the real wonder was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. Even more than his vision of events to come from 50 years beforehand, was his heavenly humility of, that he said, "The father-in-law has a very distant vision."

The chain of wonders has not stopped. On 14 Kislev 5748 (ca. 1989), exactly when the Seven Benedictions for my firstborn child ended, on the day which represented the passage of 60 years from the Rebbe's wedding in Warsaw, my father passed away -- all just as the Rebbe had blessed my father, that he should rejoice at the wedding of his grandchild.

We should be happy that this man, Holy to G-d dwelt amongst us. Since it is known that "The righteous are greater in their death than in their lives," certainly the Rebbe will cause a flow of blessings, salvation and comfort from On High, to each and all, until we merit to the promise of the verse, "And a Redeemer shall come unto Zion," in accord with the holy will of the Rebbe, soon and in our time. Amen.

-- Rabbi Moshe Hayyim Greenvald

The copy that I received 10 years ago was originally provided by Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Kazen, a"h (who has passed away), the original founder of Chabad Online (www.chabad.org), one of the primary web sites for the Chabad Lubavich Hassidim. At the time I received this, an online web site was a new thing (for those who know 'net history, it originally came with a Gopher address), and a religious web site was a wonderous thing. It came with the stipulation that the site be advertised, which I have done here, and donation info provided. To donate to Chabad Online, click here.

It also came with the stipulation that this acknowledgement be included, though I can no longer guarantee the contact information (email, phone or fax) is accurate:

Translation provided courtesy of:

FRIENDS OF LUBAVITCH OF FLORIDA, (Est. 1960)
Rabbi Abraham Korf, Lubavitch Regional Director-Florida
e-mail: rabbi@bcfreenet.seflin.lib.fl.us
voice: (305) 673-5664; fax: (305) 673-0269


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What was lost...

...for nothing.

Video, here.
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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

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Juxtaposition

As I was walking to work this morning after hearing from a friend who saw Munich (Spielburg's movie recounting the Israeli response to the murder of their Olympic team in 1972) I passed a USAToday newspaper box and spotted this major headline:

"Olympic Security Tightens"

Which led me to think: "Well, that's about 33 years too late".

I'll leave out the cynical thought about why now.

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Incredible Photo: Yam HaMelach (The Dead Sea)

This incredible image comes from NASA. The left side is Israel, eastern Jerusalem, and heading south to Hevron (Hebron). Along the left coast of the sea is Ein Gedi (oasis and resort) and Masada (the last stronghold of ancient Israel that fell to the Romans because the Jews refused to kill their enslaved countrymen who were building seige ramps for the Romans).

The right side is Jordan. Click the link below for a very large close up view.



Close Up View, High Speed Connection Only
(When the photo downloads, make sure to click the Expand button to see it full size.)

NASA Info Page on this Area

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Monday, December 26, 2005

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Confusion about Faith

There seems to be some confusion over the issue of emunah (faith). It's been suggested that avoda (divine service, but here meaning Torah learning and mitzvot) is the appropriate path (or at least the primary path), and faith is a side effect.

Is the mere learning of Torah and practicing the miztvot is sufficient to change the world and to merit Olam Haba (the next world)? Why do we learn? Why do we do? Is it not to prove our faith! Is it not nothing more that a phyisical expression of our belief? The basic premise to our action is to beleive, for if we didn't believe we certainly would not perform, for why would a man or woman do something for nothing?

Avoda without Emuna is like being a golem (a robot).

Previously I quoted the Baal HaTanya, author of the Shulchan Aruch HaRav and a major halachic gaon of our recent past, as well as being a major chassidic leader and author of the famous Tanya, who said in the generation prior to Moshiach the primary service is prayer.

Rava: "The purpose of learning is repentance and good deeds" (Talmud Brachos 17a)

Rav Huna: "He who occupies himself only with studying Torah acts as if he has no God" (Talmud Avoda Zarah 17b)

So what is repentence and what is good deeds if not but prayer?

And, why pray if you don't believe?

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Video: More Chassidic Gatherings

Video's of Rebbe's (grand rabbi's of chassidic movements) with their chassidim (chassidic movement members) are quite unusual. I previously posted a link to a video of the Tzanzer Rebbe and his chassidim (here).

Today's links are to video's of the Rebbe of Bobov (the grand rabbi of the Bobov chassidic movement) with his chassidim in Brooklyn, New York.

Rebbe and Chassidim after Yom Kippur - Click here.

Rebbe and Chassidim during Succos Intermediate Days - Click here.

They're really something special.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

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The First Missle of Hanukah

firstmissle

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Happy Hanukah!

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The Essence, the Reason for Our Existence

...While I was very distressed by your letter in which you cry bitterly over the "great floods" which constantly inundate you (may God have mercy on you from now on), there was one thing which really made me happy. I saw that, with God's help, your heart is strong in its great desire and yearning for God and His Torah. This is extremely valuable. May you continue to yearn and to long intensely for Him all your life, because God values these holy yearnings and desires them very much.

Know and remember this well, my son: Man came into the world only to believe in God. This is the reason for his creation and the entire world and everything in it which depend on Man. This is expressed in the verse (Psalms 33:4), "All of His works are by faith." A person must constantly renew his belief in God and his yearning for Him. We have inherited our belief from our ancestors and the essence of our belief is relying on them and walking in their ways. Nonetheless, belief in God must spring forth anew in a person each day, it must go into his heart and soul and expand his awareness each day anew, as it is written: "these words which I command you today will be upon your heart." The Sages comment: "View them as new every day, and do not let them be like an old edict which no one considers important" (Rashi, Deuteronomy 6:6). It is no coincidence that this statement is made in the paragraph containing "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God, the Lord is One," because it is our belief in One God which is the foundation of the entire Torah, and it is precisely this holy belief which must be reborn each day.

From a letter from Rabbi Noson of Breslov, the foremost disciple and scribe of the rebbe of Breslov chassidus, Rabbi Nachman m'Breslov, zt"l. (Picked up today from Breslov.Org.)

It just happened (as if things just happen) that today I was distressed and wondering what's the reason for my existence. And pitom (boom), this message awaited me when I stopped by the Breslov.Org website. Thank you Hashem, kind words from a loving father.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

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My Opinion of Israeli Politics

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Prayer is the focus.

"In the early generations of the Sages of the Mishna and Gemora... Torah study was constant and their primary service...

...in the time just preceding the coming of Moshiach, Torah study is not constant because of the difficulties of our times.

The primary service in the period just preceding the coming of Moshiach is prayer as Rabbi Chayim Vital (zt"l) writes in Etz Chayim and Pri Etz Chayim...

It is literally a Torah mandate to those who (can perform) contemplation and meditation, each to his ability, (to meditate during prayer) ... in Psukai d'zimra and the two pre-Shema blessings." - Tanya, Kuntres Acharon, #8.

Here the Baal HaTanya tells us that prayer is, in this time, a more important focus than Torah learning, and further we are literally required to not only pray, but meditate on the greatness of G-d and by doing so, generate love and fear of G-d in our daily prayer.

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Israeli Democracy Facade Crumbles

In a surprise to some, but not to those who reach this blog, Israeli democracy is showing it's true colors:

Though Israel is officially a democracy, Ariel Sharon appears to be in the unique position of being able to determine, all by himself, a full third of the upcoming Knesset. The article explains that because Sharon's new party doesn't have committee's and so forth yet, he'll just have to take the hard task of appointing all it's positions himself. Bummer, must be tough. Article here.

To exclude Feiglin, Netanyahu added a clause saying that the proposal exempts people who the Likud's central elections committee decided did not commit a crime involving moral turpitude. The committee ruled three years ago that there was no moral turpitude in Feiglin's 1997 conviction for seditious acts, publications and unlawful assembly during his protest of the Oslo Accords. So getting 20% of the party vote, third highest in the party, isn't worthy of a party seat. Run that white boy out of town, he don't be our type! Article here.

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A programming note.

For those who subscribe to this blog by email, you got a 1/2 post yesterday that still wasn't fleshed out. The final will be out in a few days.

(There's a little bug in the subscription service in that will pick up a draft copy. I know how to avoid this, but I didn't do it yesterday.)
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Thursday, December 22, 2005

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Prophecy? Heavenly Insight?

A Navi, a prophet, predicts the future and those predictions are recorded. If any are inaccurate, the prophet is invalid, the prophecies are discarded.

Ruach HaKodesh is a kind of heavenly insight. It's some unique saintly people who get some insights in to heavenly plans and opportunities to react to them (such as trying to avert a harsh decree.) Is successful influencing and negating of such a decree (or other people doing so) invalidate the insight? No, rather the opposite from the heavenly scheme of things. From the earthly perspective it would appear otherwise.

The young child who's information was formerly being posted to ErevMoshiach (now offline) has some updates. But, he's not presenting himself as a Navi, a prophet. That sets it in a bit of context...

...G-d willing what they are saying will become reality on 25 Kislev (which corresponds to this coming Sunday after sundown, which is also the 1st night of Chanukah, the lighting of the first Chanukah light):

* Shooting stars on each night of Chanukah. Moshiach is in the star(s).

* The non-Jews will think the star is a rock that is going to crush them, but the Jews will tell them that it is Moshiach.


Hmmm. (Note this is an excerpt from a larger insight, but the most apparent.)

Yeranen Yaakov lists another interesting sign of geulah (redemption) times, here.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

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Did you hear about what the Rebbetzin did???

For any of you who've been checking out the Radical Rabbi blog, did you hear what he wrote about his wife, the Rebbetzin, and what she did??? Wow...

We have a tradition attributed to the Baal Shem Tov: When one hears an uncomplimentary report about another Jew, even if he does not know the individual referred to, he should be very deeply pained.

For one of these two is certainly in the wrong: If what they are saying about the individual is true, then he is defective; and if it is not true, then the talebearer is in an unhealthy situation.


(From HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, the entry for the 12th of Kislev.)

And lets not forget, the one who's listening to it is also at fault and in an unhealthy situation as well.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

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Striving to be Intermediate

For it is exceedingly near to you, in your mouth and in your heart, to do -- Devarim 30:14

The Baal HaTanya, the great and holy grand Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi, wrote a complete book on this one passage...

explaining clearly how it is exceedingly near, in a long and short way, with the aid of the Holy One, Blessed be He.

He did not write a book for saints but for the common person. Very few have the ingrained abilities to reach 'sainthood'. Yet, if the Ribono Shel Olam (the Master of the Universe) has said that "it's near to do", then everyone can do it.

This doesn't make it easy, but it does mean we can all reach a level of complete service to G-d. We can all strive to be, not a saint, but the best and most G-dly us that is possible in this world.

We will not be judged on whether we achieved greatness, but we will be judged on whether we achieved the maximum "us", as instructed by G-d through the Torah and mitzvot.

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Kabbalah on the Personal Side

Theoretical Kabbalah discusses how the world operates. Like science describes from atoms to planets, kabbalah describes spiritual interactions from the large to the small.

The large deals with concepts such as tzimtzum, how an infinite omnipresent being 'contracts' or reduces his presence in an area to make a space for a finite world. These are interesting concepts that can help us understand how close yet far we are from the divine.

But I've received some questions about the more personal interacting kabbalah concepts...

Mazel - commonly translated as luck, sometimes thought of as ones destiny.

Segulah - commonly thought of as an item or thing to do to change one's blessings or luck.

Tikun - commonly thought of as a repentence prayer or action.

G-d willing, and assuming there's interest (comment button is below :-), over the next couple of days together with R. Nati, I'll delve in to these further.

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Monday, December 19, 2005

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What's a Thugocracy?

Michael Totten's got quite an article on a first person meeting with the Hezbollah (that's the Iranian financed militia in Lebanon that's out to destroy Israel and America).

How do you deal rationally with a thugocracy? Answer: You don't.

Check it out here.
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Sunday, December 18, 2005

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A Great and Holy Man, Select Photos of Rabbi Kahaneman

The Ponevitcher Rav, the gadol Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, zt"l, was one of the leaders of Lithuanian Torah Jewry prior to World War II. The Ponevitch yeshiva was located in Ponevez, Lithuania and was destroyed, along with almost the full student body and teaching staff, by the Nazi's (may their name be erased). The Rav together with 4 students were the sole survivors of the Holocaust.

The Rav is famous for relocating to Israel after the war and rebuilding the yeshiva at a time when everyone thought Torah Jewry was done for. He built a yeshiva for 500 on a hill in the middle of sand dunes when everyone told him he'd be lucky to get 50 torah students from the whole world.

Today the Ponevitch yeshiva sits in the middle of Bnei Brak, Israel, the city having grown up around it, and has over 5,000 students. In honor of the Rav, one of the main streets in Bnei Brak is named after him. In greater honor, thousands of torah students learn on the foundation he built, which is today the 3rd largest yeshiva in the world.

The particular style of learning / sub-sect is not my path, but none can speak but of the greatness and dedication of this holy man, who saw the ultimate destruction and was one of the few who rebuilt the Torah world. (More on him here.)

Why am I mentioning him then? I have some rare and unique photos of this holy man that I wish to share.

RavYosefKahaneman1
Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, zt"l
The Rav of Ponevez


RavYosefKahaneman2
Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, zt"l (middle)
1954, Marrying a Surviving Student


RavYosefKahaneman3
Rabbi Yosef Kahaneman, zt"l (right side)
1954, Congradulating a Surviving Student
on his marriage.
On a side note, the rabbi in the middle is Rabbi Naftali Carlebach, a"h, the father of the famous Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, a"h

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Friday, December 16, 2005

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Video: The Reflection of Good, Evil Stands Up and Says Hello

For there to be free choice in the world, good must have it's reflection in evil. It can't appear weaker or doomed for failure, it appears to be on par with the good.

We keep hearing more about the possibility imminent geulah (redemption) and Moshiach (righteous redeemer). Now we hear from and about the possibility of imminent destruction and the wicked destroyer...

(English, 9 minutes, British News Report)
Video: Iranian President Declaring Goal of Destruction of Israel and the Jews, Imminent Return of Islamic Prophet, and divine intervention during his speech.

Listen to what this man has to say! He's out to destroy Israel and the Jew's. He's out to bring the world under Islamic domination. He believes heavenly light surrounds him when he speaks and subdues the leaders of the world before him. He's doing everything within his power to acquire and/or develop nuclear weapons and long range missiles. He's instructing his people to prepare for the return of his ancient prophet. He's 100% serious.

The Simon Wiesenthal Center (an international Jewish human rights & Holocaust organization) is running an online petition to the U.N. General Assembly to respond to this man's evil statements, click here. Personally I think the U.N. has absolutely no capability to do anything, even if they wanted to, and regarding Jews I don't think they want to. But, it can't hurt to try (though that may be arguable).

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It's a Geulah Roundup...

Yeranen Yaakov has a translation of a detailed Geulah (redemption) update from a major Jewish end-of-days hebrew site with extensive source links...(excerpt)

The accepted opinion (and it's brought in the name of kabbalists, and also in the name of Rav Kaduri) is that we are now in the era of 7 years of the third (see the Midrash) and last (according to one of the calculations, it will last 7 years) war of Gog Umagog, which has already begun....

According to the prophecies and predictions that are received every now and then, war with Iran is unstoppable in the year that Mashiah will be revealed, but generally, they speak of a war of the U.S. with Iran (with the U.S. capturing Iran), and not a war of Israel...

The Malbim said in his commentary on the Book of Yehezkel that in the final stage of the War of Gog Umagog, the nations that will come to fight against Israel and Jerusalem will be...

Read the whole thing!

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

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Geulah Buzz! Redemption Time?

Geulah buzz! Is the Redemption, the end of the final Jewish exile, the return of G-d's Holy Presence in this world, imminent??? Or, G-d forbid, is this being over hyped, too much focus, looking for too many microscopic hints in a sea of events?

Last year I spent a lot of time on this, posted a lot of links to seemingly prophetic statements from mekubalim (saintly and righteous kabbalists) and chassidic rebbaim (saintly, righteous and scholarly grand rabbi leaders of chassidic movements). But, generally speaking, in the obviously physical sense, most of those statements didn't come true. And a prophet who's statements didn't come true loses his status as a potential prophet.

I'm a little hesitant to get in to it again, I think there's a bit of a cycle of hype which is unhealthy. As Pirke Avos (Ethics of Our Fathers) says, "Repent one day before you die", but of course since no one knows when this is, one should repent and improve one's divine service every day! Is this any different with the Geulah (redemption) and Moshiach (righteous redeemer)? G-d willing, he'll come today! And if not, tomorrow! And of course, we're responsible to do everything we can every day to be worthy today, and even more tomorrow.

Regardless, here's a few updates on the subject that are worth noting, in context of the above:

Lazer Beams notes here and here that water seepage from the Temple Mount is getting more serious. This is discussed as a major sign of the impending geulah (redemption).

Erev Moshiach was a strange Jewish prophecy site. It's now offline, but by email this note came out: "the child says everything is 'on schedule' for Chanukah, and that after the shooting star the "actions" would begin. When asked how long they would last and he said "three years, like I said before, but it won't seem that long".

His father asked if he would have to work during the actions, and he said 'no, the war will be the most important thing.'"


What should one do to prepare for this momentous occasion? Some recommend immediately moving to Israel (according to some this is a suggestion from Rav Kaduri, the righteous and saintly elder kabbalist), some recommend immediate teshuvah (repentence and returning to G-d). If you can turn your life upside down in a day, these are good suggestions. If not (if you're human like most of us), I recommend making tomorrow just a little tiny bit better than today. Give a little extra charity (just a dollar more), or add 5 minutes of prayer, or do 1 kind deed, starting tomorrow. And then next week you can add just a little bit more again (on top of this week's addition). This is the sustainable path, and G-d forbid if the ultimate time doesn't immediately begin, you will have made yourself and the world a little bit better place and brought yourself a little bit closer to G-d, in a fashion that you can continue to do and continue to improve upon.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

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Puny?

From HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, taken from the entry for the 8th of Kislev...

Man should ponder thoughtfully how great are the kindnesses of the Creator: Such a puny insignificant being, Man, can bring great delight to the "Greatest of all great"' of Whom it is written, "There is no delving into His greatness."

Man ought therefore always be inspired, and perform his Avoda (divine service, prayer and mitzvot) with an eager heart and spirit.

This is one of those statements that just wow you. How far we are from Hashem, how small and unimportant. Yet, all of creation is here so we can fulfill His will, bringing us close. No other creature can do this.

But, it's so hidden, so easy to get buried in the mundane, to miss the opportunity.


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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

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Coincidence, Random, Blessing? Nah.

(Israel National News) After years of producing bug-free lettuce and other vegetables for Jewish farmers, the sands of Gaza have reverted to their old ways. PA farmers report failure in keeping the bugs away.

It's coincidence, it's skill, they just didn't know what they were doing while the Jews did, the places must have been damaged...

the PA - with international help - has managed to activate three-fourths...the PA workers complain that their wages from their compatriots and brethren are significantly lower now than what they received from the Israelis.

Hmm, same sites, same workers...

The Jews who first arrived in Gaza some 30 years ago were repeatedly told by the Arabs who welcomed them that the land was "cursed" and that they would never succeed agriculturally...

"It is difficult for me to believe that this obviously blessed area is the very same area that our Moslem neighbors called the ‘cursed land’ of El G’erara. They have told me that nobody lived in this area from the time that the last Jews left because there was not enough rain, and nothing could grow properly. They were happy when the Jews returned because the rain started again, and the land began to produce."


Blessings? Nah, must be technique, yeah that's it, technique...

Israel's Defense Ministry sources told Huberman that the Palestinian Authority farmers were unable to develop the techniques necessary for bug-free produce.

Some of the original Israeli greenhouses were damaged or destroyed by Arabs immediately after Israel withdrew, but the PA was able to rebuild them. As of now, the only crop the Arabs are raising successfully is strawberry.


G-d does not stand up and wave hello. That would destroy freedom of choice. But sometimes circumstances are such that G-d's presence in the world can be seen, and instead to avoid it you have to spend significant time and effort to explain it away. Can it be explained away, of course, otherwise you wouldn't have a choice.

And it will be, if you will diligently obey My commandments which I enjoin upon you this day...I will give you rain for your land at the proper time...and you will gather in your grain, your wine and your oil. And I will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be sated.

Farmers in Gush Katif were considered among Israel's most successful; their total annual exports totaled $100 million, or 15% of Israel's agricultural exports. Of Israel's exports abroad, Gush Katif exported to Europe 95% of the bug-free lettuce and greens, 70% of the organic vegetables, 60% of the cherry tomatoes, and 60% of the geraniums. Israel's largest plant nursery was in the Gush Katif community of Atzmonah. Other Katif produce included spices, green, red and yellow peppers, celery and more.

(Full article here.)

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Monday, December 12, 2005

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Video: Chassidic Gathering

This is quite a nice and unusual video. It's a video of the Grand Rabbi of Tzanz chassidus with his chassidim in New York (most are in Israel) on the Jewish holiday of Purim (a time of celebration).

Video: Click here.

Full credit: Mentalblog.Com, this article.

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It's Deja Vu all over again.

For some reason a number of Jewish bloggers are suddenly getting nostalgic.

Maybe it's because the 2005 JIB Awards (Jewish and Israel Blogs) have started, check them out here. Last time they came around this blog was too new to be noticed, this time it's already been nominated (thank you) in 1 category.

Maybe it's because Haveil Havalim, the Jewish blog carnival, just had it's first year anniversary. Check it out here. I've hosted it in the past and will have to do so again in the future.

The Muqata says
this past year was the roaring 60's of the Jewish blogosphere. I don't know about that, but it's been interesting.

No nostalgia here, just posting along.

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Sunday, December 11, 2005

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When the Arabs call you on your #$%*, you know it's bad.

Israel National News reports that today, Israeli Defense Minister Mofaz quites the Likud party to join Ariel Sharon's new Kadima party...

Defense Minister Sha'ul Mofaz announced unabashedly this morning that he was abandoning not only his race to lead the Likud, but also the Likud itself - and is joining Sharon's Kadima party.

Likud MK Ayoub Kara said, "Mofaz is abandoning the Likud the same way he abandoned his soldiers at the battle of Joseph's Tomb. The mask has been removed from Mofaz's face, and he has been revealed as just another two-bit politician who is concerned only about himself."

Mofaz was IDF Chief of Staff in October 2000 when, at the beginning of the Oslo War, Arabs in the Shechem region attacked IDF soldiers guarding Joseph's Tomb. The soldier Madhat Yusuf was critically wounded, but the Israeli decision-makers preferred not to use force to rescue him, but rather trusted the PA's promises - and he bled to death.


What can you say when a non-Jewish representative of the Likud party calls an Israeli Jew on his own BS? Anything for power, not to loose your seat, the blood of the soldiers not withstanding.

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What's an Exile?

A commentor wrote (hey, we love comments!) in response to R. Nati's post:

I don't really get it. With the Jewish state of Israel, how can Jews be in exile? Are you saying that those who do not return are in exile because of their own desire for luxuries? It's an interesting thought. Is the idea that Hashem will cause something to happen which will ignite a return to the promised land?

(Remember, this is a kabbalistic web site, so some of this answer is oriented towards that.)

We learn that G-d desires to manifest a presence in this world. In the story of Genesis and the Garden of Eden, we see that G-d was 'physically' there, he spoke to Adom, there was a manifest presence of G-dliness. We refer to this presence of G-d as the Shechina (which describes G-d with a certain relationship to this world and certain attributes, it's a particular 'aspect' of G-d).

But, as the inhabitants broke the rules, G-d could not continue this presence without moving to an aspect of severe judgment and destroying the world. Therefore, this presence was withdrawn. G-d went in to exile from the physical world, entering a minimum presence mode.

We learn that Avraham Avenu (Abraham our father) began the process of drawing this presence back in to the world. Step by step (10 steps) until the time of Moshe Rabaynu (Moses our teacher), the righteous brought back the presence, until the Shechina manifest in the Mishkan (the portable Temple or Sanctuary build in the time of Moses).

The portable sanctuary was converted into the permanent Jewish Temple which stood on the mountain in Jerusalem, the Temple Mount, Har HaBayit (which was prepared by King David and constructed by King Solomon). The divine presence took up permanent residence. Until...

A level of national sin forced it to depart, step by step. Subsequently, the nation was conquered, finally leading to the destruction of the Holy Temple. The Jewish people refer to this as the first exile.

The Jewish people in exile received permission to return to their land and rebuild their temple. Only a minority of the exiles chose to follow their leader and do this. The great and Holy Temple was rebuilt. The miracles of the Temple returned, but the divine presence did not fully return. Until...

A level of national intercene hatred pushed it farther away. Subsequently, the nation was conquered, finally leading to the destruction of the 2nd Holy Temple. The Jewish people refer to this as the second exile, which continues until today.

The prophecies (written during the time of the portable sanctuary or the first Temple) refer to the destruction of the first and second Temples, the ultimate returning to Israel, rebuilding of the 3rd holy Temple, and the complete return of the divine presence, the Shechina, to this world.

The Jewish people began returning seriously to Israel in the mid-1800's, but the land had a very limited ability to support a population, so a real opportunity was not there. In the early 1900's, Jewish presence grew, but the land was pulled in to World War I (with the forests being stripped to provide wood to the Ottoman Empire). It fell and came under control of the British, who severely limited Jewish immigration to keep the Arab population happy.

During World War II, the British kept Jewish immigration to Israel locked down while Jews were slaughtered during the Holocaust (as did most countries in the world, with the notable exception of Mexico [yes Moshe Meir, this is from your comment :-)]. After Israeli independence (1948) some remaining Holocaust survivors came to Israel as well as a portion of Jews living in Arab lands. In the 50's (if I have my history correct), the Arab nations started preventing Jews from leaving, until the 6-day war , after which almost all the Arab nations expelled almost all their Jews.

During this same time, Russian Jews were also locked in, prevented from leaving. This continued until the late 1980's.

About the only Jew's that were able to freely immigrate to Israel were American and British Jews (most other Western European Jew's were dead).

Today, most Jew's are free to immigrate to Israel (though Indian Jew's are currently having problems, as are the remaining Jew's in Iran who are instantly imprisoned for even speaking of Israel).

However, the Temple Mount, the site of the holy Temple, is still in Arab hands. The politics of this are interesting, weird and disturbing, but essentially the Israeli government was terrified of upsetting 1 billion world Muslims, so after retaking Jerusalem in 1964 they returned the holy site to the Muslims since they (the Muslims) had built a series of mosque's there hundreds of years ago.

So today the Temple is not rebuilt, the divine presence remains in exile, and the Jewish people have no access to the most holy Jewish spot in the world.

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More Pictures from the Temple Mount

A friend send me a link to more pictures from the Temple Mount, the holiest of locations in Jerusalem and the world. Remember, though this is in the middle of Jerusalem, Jew's are given very limited access and are absolutely not allowed to pray at the site.

Pictures here. (Note I don't know any of these attendee's.)

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Friday, December 09, 2005

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Thoughts on the Parsha

Vayaitzay - Yaakov's (Jacob's) Ladder

The Midrash says:

"on that night, Hashem revealed Himself to Yaakov" in a prophectic dream, it's purpose was to strenghten Yaakov (who was being persecuted and pursued by Esav, and was now on his way to beit lavan (a known swindler) assuring him of Hashem's assitance throughout all future events.

Yaakov had a vision of a ladder that extended from the earth to the heavens. He visualized an angel climbing it whom he recognized to be the Sar (protective angel). (Our sages say that each of the seventy nations have their own protective angel, a nation's downfall is preceeded by the downfall of it's Sar).

The first angel was the Sar of Babylon (present day Iraq). The angel ascened seventy rungs and then fell. Yaakov understood then that his descenants would be in exile 70 years in Babylon. Next was the Sar of Persia (present day Iran), this sar climbed 52 rungs the fell. As did the Sar of Greece, 120 rungs and fell. All of these exiles came and went. He understood the order and length of each of these exiles.

Finally Yaakov was shown the Sar of Edom (Rome and all the Western nations which by nature are an extention of it and cultural inheritors, which is considered our present Jewish exile). He started to climb and continued higher and higher till his apparently endless ascent went into the very heavens. Yaakov did not see the angel fall and was griped in fear.

He asked Hashem? "Will the fourth exile be unending?"

"NO"! Hashem thundered!

(and as gentle as a father said) "Even if the angel climbs as high as the stars, I myself will bring him down when the time comes!"

See the prophecy in Ovadiah 1:4, and previously written about here on this blog by Akiva, here.

The Midrash continues: Yaakov overheard the angels of the nations speaking amongst themselves saying, "This Yaakov will in the future dominate and subdue all the kingdoms, come let us kill him now!" But Hashem appeared Himself and stood over him to protect Him.

Israel has no Sar, Hashem Himself protects us.

I do not know when this exile will end, but Hashem promised our father Yaakov that it would end in it's time, so it is for us as well in this 4th exile. Hashem said that He would end it in it's time and until that time comes He is our protection as He promised our father Yaakov that would protect him.

"Then Yaakov fell on his face and made a vow, saying "Hashem if you will be with me on my way and guard me from speaking lashon hora (evil speech), from imorality, from bloodshed and murder, so that I return to my fathers house, spritiually and physically perfect, I shall offer Todah (thanksgiving) and Olah offerings to you, if you will provide me with bread to eat and clothes to wear I vow a tenth of all that I earn."

Yaakov's only request was for the necessities of life, but not for luxuries (since they are determental to Avodas Hashem, G-dlys service). These are what hold us in the present exile.

May Hashem, G-D of our father Yaakov deliver us intact from this Golus (exile).

AMEN - Yehi Ratzon, may it be His will. Shabbat Shalom

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The Ladder of Prayer

From the book HaYom Yom, from Day to Day, from the entry for the 5th of Kiselv...

"A ladder was standing on the ground." (Bereishit 28:12, Yaakov's dream)

Prayer is the ladder that connects souls and G-dhood. And although it stands "...on the ground," the start of Davening being no more than acknowledgement, yet "it's top reaches the Heavens" - a state of total Bitul, self-nullification.

How far can prayer reach, especially prayer with intent and honesty!

Thanks to R. Nati for picking up blogging over the last week as I've been loaded with work and a problematic Internet connection. Moments of trouble are the time for a company to shine, Comcast (my Internet provider) unfortunately did the opposite.


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Kabbalistic Time Keeping

I was asked this interesting question...

In Jewish time keeping, do you count a day while in the midst of it. I guess an example would clarify. Let’s say we’re counting the days that have passed from Monday at 7am until Thursday at 7am. Would 3 days have passed and we would consider ourselves in the fourth day? The reason I’m asking this is because Psalm 90:4 says that a thousand years are like 1 day to God. So, if the temple was destroyed in 70AD, and we are now at 2005 AD, then using this logic we would be in the third day, right? Or would we be in the third day after 2070 AD?

Judaism counts the days from evening to evening, as in the book of Berisheis "it was evening and morning, the first day..."

Monday 7am to Thursday 7am is, as we count, Monday morning to Monday evening 1st day, Monday evening to Tuesday evening 2nd day, Tuesday evening to Wednesday evening 3rd day, Wednesday evening to Thursday morning in the 4th day.

As far as the second part of the question, we are in the end of the 6th day approaching Shabbat. (In Kabbalistic divine time keeping, and as stated in Psalms 90 that the question refers to) Every 1,000 years is a day. We are now in the Jewish year 5766, 234 years till Shabbat.

There are two opinions as to how to count. The first is we count 24 hours in a day in which every hour in heavenly time is 41.66 earthly years. The second opinion is to count only the daylight hours (12) in which we get 83.33 earthly years to the heavenly hour.

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Gevurah or Chesed

A Simple Jew asked a great question...

the Torah tells us that on an earlier occasion (Bereishis 25:28) that Yitzchak loved Esav "because his game was in his [Yitzchak's] mouth". - thus seemingly implying that Yitzchak ate the meat Esav slaughtered.

Since we know that Yitzchak Avinu was a man of great spiritual sensitivity, how could he eat meat slaughtered by someone like Esav?


I answered: Because of his love for his first born son, he allowed himself to be taken in by Esav, who was the great pretender. Similarly and in an identical example, we see that Yitzchok was going to give the brachot to Esav, and it was only the binah of Rochel that protected against this.

Yitchok, being focused on Gevurah, he nullified his attribute of stern judgement in favor of Chesed when it came to Esav, being a father. He closed his eyes to many things to avoid having to move to din, especially considering this was his area of focus.

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Mitzvah and Action

To perform a mitzvah that cannot be delegated to another one forgoes Torah study, even the study of maaseh merkavah (the sublime Kabbalistic mysteries of the celestial Chariot), and beyond question one forgoes prayer... (Tanya Kuntres Acharon 4)

As I posted in some previous entries, the purpose of life in this world and creation itself, to attach to the infinite. While study is critical (and it's clearly explained that Torah study is equivelent to all mitzvot), the mitzvot attach the physical to the Infinite. It's not an opportunity to be missed!

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Thursday, December 08, 2005

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Crying and Smiling

There was a chassid named Reb Peretz, who was a pious and committed Jew. When he prayed he would cry from one eye and smile from the other. His friends asked him, "How is this possible?" He replied, "The joy comes from meditating on G-d's greatness, and the tears come from contemplating my own deficiencies as a mortal being."

Hapiness doesn't always mean smiling and laughing. To be truly happy includes crying from time to time. (Rabbi Chaim Dalfin, Your Better Self)

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Wednesday, December 07, 2005

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Repairing the Struggle of Good and Evil

In today's parsah (torah reading), the fourth aliyah, in the the last perek (verse 24), we find the begining of the tikun (repair) for the eternal struggle between Yaakov and Esav, (between good and evil).

We have the birth of Yosef Haztadik (Joseph the Righteous, aka mashiach ben yosef) (who is from the sephirah of yesod of teferit). We note that the eyin harah (evil eye) has no effect on him, as such the desire for the material has no power over him. Conversely, Esav is the prince of this material world (who's primary weapon is the enticement of the eye).

Rashi (major Jewish commentator) states "that the adversay of Easv had been born"...

(Ovadiah 1:18) "then the house of Yaakov will be a fire, and the house of Yosef a flame, and the house of Easv, will be staw"...

Rashi "And a Fire without a Flame has no power at distance". I derive from that, Edom comes from afar. It appears from the text that the downfall of Esav will be through the element of fire.

(Ovadiah 1:18) "they (Yaakov and Yosef) will alight and consume them". "There will be no surviviors from the house of Esav, for Hashem has spoken."

Most commentaries say that "the house of Yaakov and the house of Yosef are synonymous terms for the Israelite nation."

Malbim says the verse refers to the war of Gog and MaGog; "house of Yosef refers to Mashiach ben Yosef, or to the Ten (lost) Tribes."

Rabbi Chelbo asked Rabbi Shmuel ben Nachmani? "Why did Yaakov only ask to leave after the birth of Yosef. It is written "after Rochel had given birth to Yosef, Yaakov asked Lavan, 'Let me leave'". Reb Shmuel Nachmani answered, "because Yaakov perceived that only Yosef's decendents will be capable of defeating Esav's decendents", as is evident in the verse (Ovadiah 1:18) "The House of Esav is straw." Metzudot says this means "non substantial and consumed quickly".

Others say this means that the nations who will assemble to attack Israel in the war of Gog uMagog will end up destroying one another, just like one piece of burning straw ignites the next (commentary from the Malbim).

For "G-d has spoken". Rashi says "Edom shall be demolished but Israel shall be triumphant". "Out of Yaakov shall come an absolute ruler who will obliterate them."

Are we seeing the beginning of the end? And note, clearly from the prophecies the nations involved are leading world powers. If we wait every day for Moshiach and truly consider it possible that he may come any time, any day, any year, can we there for pretend that it can't be (insert Western nation here) because they're ok to the Jew's today?

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Neitz - Sunrise

Sunrise
Sunrise over the Hills of the Shomron,
Overlooking Shiloh, West Bank, Israel,
Sunday, Dec. 4

Click here for sunrise photo set.

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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

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Edom?

north_america_ref02
"to the border" - Ovadiah 1:7

Edom was surrounded on 3 sides by uninhabited wastelands. Only on the north did it share a common border with another nation. -- Daat Mikra, commentary on the prophet Ovadiah.



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We heard a report from G-d

"We heard a report from G-d, a messenger was sent to the nations, get up, lets wage war against her."

In the first verse of the navi (prophet) Ovadiah, the Malbim comments: this verse refers to the war of Gog uMagog, between the decendents of Yishmael and Edom.

So what are the decendents of Yishmael and Edom fighting over? They're fighting over the bracha, the blessings of Avraham (Abraham) and Yizchok (Issac) that were given to Yaakov (Jacob).

The nations will send messangers to each other to organize an attack.

Ibn Ezra comments: "So many nations will desire to wage war against her that will seem as if they have sent messangers and coordinated."

Malbim continues: The war will begin by Edom capturing the land of Israel from "the Arab nation", then ruling it. The other Arab nations of the region will avenge their brother's defeat by waging war against Edom.

There's 2 ways to look at this. Either this is getting ready to happen and an Arab nation is preparing to attack Israel (Iran anyone?) or this happened already (Ottoman empire, Israel taken by the British, and post independence supported by the American's, all of which represent the xian West which is Edom.)

Hmmm. More to come.

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Monday, December 05, 2005

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Info on Netanya

As I'm checking the news this morning, I note with horror and anger that once again a homicide bomber has attacked the mall in Netanya, Israel. Anyone who thinks there is anything remotely rational about this or about a possible solution to it is sadly out of touch with the insane reality.

On a previous attack at the same spot, I wrote this post with has background and pictures of Netanya. Who's there, who's getting attacked and killed.

I've lived in Netanya and shopped at that mall. In the last few attacks their security has been sufficiently good that no bomber has penetrated the mall itself, they tend to get the crowd either at the door going through security or at nearby high traffic street corners (and unfortunately usually the heroic security guards that stopped them from getting in). At this time I haven't any details in this case.

G-d should avenge the fallen blood of the innocent. You don't often hear me respond that way, but that's a Jewish response too.

Aug-23 016
Outside the shuk, open market, in Netanya, not the location of the attack but about a 1/2 mile away.


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Sunday, December 04, 2005

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Simplicity

(from writings of the 6th grand rabbi of Lubavitch chassidus, Rebbe Yosef Yitzchok Schneerson, zt"l)...

One of the spiritual diseases of our generation is the habitual neglect of simplicity, and the preference for so-called enlightenment and superficial brilliance...

The real truth is that true revival lies in the fulfillment of the practical precepts...

There's no spirituality shortcut in connecting to G-d. You can't open a magic book and scan the letters, you can't buy your way in, you can't get it through a magic candle or by drinking a magic bottle of water. You have to simply do the things that G-d said he wants, every day, more and more.

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Frustration and the Ridiculous

Life is sometimes frustrating, this is normal. After all, however much we might desire otherwise, the world doesn't revolve around our needs...

My internet connection is down, or rather it's working very intermittently (mostly not). This is annoying as I've come to rely on the internet for a significant portion of the normal information and things I do. It's going to snow, how much, check Accuweather.com. Can we afford that birthday gift for our child, check the bank balance, online. And of course, gotta blog gotta blog gotta blog (no, I'm not addicted, I can give it up anytime, really).

So I call my internet provider, Comcast. First, voice prompt prison. Press 1 for English, 2 for Spanish (announced in English, how's that help?)...

"May I help you sir?"

"Yes, my internet connection is working intermittently."

"How's your cable TV reception sir?"

"Umm, I don't have a TV, so I can't tell."

"What? (long pause) Ooook. Did you recycle, reset, jump up and down, and stand on your head till you're blue in the face?"

"Yep, did all that."

"Ok. Well, we'll have to send someone out to check your line. Seems like your neighborhood is booked with problems until next Wednesday, how about Wednesday?"

"Hmm, perhaps a bunch of problems in the same neighborhood indicate a common problem you might want to look in to?"

"Is there another time you would prefer?"

Ugggh. Good thing I didn't switch over to internet phone service.

I had to replace my wife's cell phone this past week. My children flipped the flip phone once too often, flipping it into two pieces. Now I could have done this online (if my freakin internet connection was working!), and online is nice at comparing features and getting phone reviews (which I did, told me a few models to avoid), what you can't do is get a feel for size and useability. So off to the Verizon store I trekked.

My wife set a few simple requirements, new but very practical. One, pull out antenna is undesirable because the children tend to bend it. Two, speakerphone is very desirable because full hands and/or busy car often make it hard to answer and get hands free equipment in place. Now Verizon has this nice contract feature of giving you a phone credit every 2 years. So I arrived and presented my problem (flip phone now existing in 2 pieces), and my new requirements.

First they show me the cheapest phone in the place that meets my requirements. Well, the net cost to me in this case is $0, so why aren't you showing me the best my credit can get? (Don't answer that.) Eventually I find a nice one with loads of features that does what my wife needs (and a bunch of things I'd love to have too :-). Get the phone, off I go. Open it up at home, it came with no belt clip. Now, this is really odd, every phone I've gotten always came with a carrying case / clip. So I call them up, nope, not included but we can sell you one for only $17.95. Are you kidding, $17.95 for a plastic clip? Now I know where they're making their profit (I've since found it online for $5).

So my wife opens the phone manual, after all this thing has more features than her car. Here's the first 3 pages, urgent phone warnings we all should know... (these are all real, though edited for brevity)

#1 Never cook your phone in the microwave oven, it will explode.

#2 Do not bite battery or nail it to the wall, this may cause a fire.

#3 Do not eat phone parts, you might choke to death.

#4 If you put the phone on the airbag and the airbag goes off, it's gonna hurt.

#5 Don't charge the phone in the bathroom or mikvah, wet battery is bad.

#6 Do not clean phone with gasoline, turpintine, or alchohol, fire could result.

#7 Smashing phone may harm internal circuit boards.

#8 Do not twist, pull, cut or melt the power cord. You could get a shock.

#9 Holding plugged-in phone while you are soaking wet is a bad idea. You could get a shock.

#10 You can only make an emergency call with the phone if it is turned on.

#11 You can only make an emergency call with the phone if you are in a place that gets cell phone service.


This would be funnier if it wasn't for real.

So, life is frustrating, Thank G-d! A new challenge to overcome every day.

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Friday, December 02, 2005

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The Reward

From HaYom Yom, from day to day, for the 8th of Cheshvan 8...

Mitzva is an idiom of Tzavta - "joining," "attachment."

Whoever performs a Mitzva becomes joined to the Essence of G-d - may He be blessed - Who issues that particular command.

This is the meaning of "The reward of a Mitzva is the Mitzva (itself)": His becoming attached to the Essence of the En Sof (the infinte one) Who ordained the command, is itself his reward.

THIS is the essence of Kabbalah, this is Jewish heaven. Becoming attached to the infinite, or rather attached to the Infinite. And how do you build this connection? Mitzvot, the commandments of G-d.

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