Thursday, July 31, 2008

Spending Shabbos with the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Author - Guest Post

As I posted a couple of weeks ago, there was a Shabbaton near Meron with the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim, Rav Itamar Shwartz, shlita. A friend of Dixie Yid, the heiligeh Reb Tuvia, was at the Shabbaton with him family and has been kind enough to write the following summary of his experience that Shabbos:

Shabbos with the Rav and talmidim sponsored by Mercaz Shorashim in Ohr haGanuz (near Meron).

It was a mixed crowd- about 100 men, women and children. Streimels, knitted kippas, black kippas, Ashkenazim, sefardi, frum, not frum, the Rav's parents. There was a big mechitza for the seudas and the drashas. The director of the Shorashim Center (where the Rav gives drashas on Thursday evening) is a Belzer Chossid. He had the zechus of sponsoring the Shabbos in conjunction with Mrs.Weber, head of the Bilvavi non-profit organization of Israel.

It was the yahrzeit of the Ohr haChaim haKadosh on erev Shabbos. The Rav gave a drasha explaining the minhag of chassidim to learn Ohr Chayim Friday night and to learn a Torah from the Baal Shem Tov motzoei Shabbos. Minhag Yisrael is Torah. The Ohr haChaim is m'ramez the ruach and the Bescht is m'ramez the nefesh. The connection between the nefesh and ruach. The connection between the body and soul.

How we can merit in ourselves to see the light of the Moschiach.

The seuda was long and we benched after midnight. Afterwards the Rav went out into the fields with

talmidim and talmidot. The Rav asked a question: "with all of the advice and different forms of avodah being suggested in the seforim of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh- how can one practically put them into effect? " For 10 minutes of solitude everyone contemplated in the hills of the Galil near Meron. Everyone thought of an answer. The Rav did not give “an answer.”

Davening at 8 AM (so early!). After the seudah the Rav spoke on men and women covering their hair according pinimius haTorah. First the Rav reviewed the halacha for men and women. Borer on Shabbos is not the same as borer during the week. The follicles of hair that fall upwards and downwards are close to the brain and should be covered. Very deep.

Before Mincha the Rav gave a drasha on the parsha- Pinchas, Eliahu, Rebbi Akiva, Moschiach. Gilgulim and tikkunim.

What stayed with me was what the Rav said before mincha: The body is really the light of the neshama in the lowest world." In Da-Es the Rav clarifies the dichotomy between thinking: Am I a body with a neshama in it? OR am I a neshama clothed in a goof? Here the Rav said something else: the body is actually the light of the neshama in the lowest world- there is no dichotomy!

Lets hope that during the upcoming tour of the Rav to the States we can ask the Rav to explain the drasha on the ohr haChaim and the Baal Shem Tov, and on men and women covering hair. Let’s hope.


(Picture of Meron countryside courtesy of bridges of peace)

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"Teka B'Shofar & Tzipisa L'Yeshua: Living, Davening and "Seeing" the Ultimate Geula

Apropos to the time of the year, here is Reb Yerachmiel's shiur from this past Sunday from the Baltimore Community Kollel.

During these Bain Ha'Miztarim, we increase our focus on the words we daven three times a day: "Teka B'Shofar Gadol Lechayrusainu" and ask Hashem to "Sound that Great Shofar" from the heavens to announce Moshiach's arrival. This Shofar, most of us learned about at the youngest of ages.

It is the following request, however, "V'Sah Neis Lekabeitz Galuyosaynu", in which we ask Hashem to "Raise a Banner to Gather our Exiled Ones", which remains elusive even to the most experienced and educated. What exactly is this mysterious "Banner" and what might it mean to us?

In his latest shiur at the Baltimore Community Kollel, Reb Yerachmiel teaches us, through the penetrating and tear-filled eyes of Rav Shimshon Pincus zt"l, how we can, and must, begin to "see", and inspire others to "see", this Banner even today: by living, davening and experiencing a true yearning for Moshiach Tzidkainu; by living lives immersed in the battle cry of "Ki Le'Shuascha Kivinu Kol Hayom"; "For Your Salvation, Hashem, We Long All Day Long".

CLICK HERE to either listen to the shiur now by "left clicking" or "right click" and select "Save Target As."

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of

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Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Role of Minhagim for Me in Avodas Hashem - Q&A at ASJ

A Simple Jew has posted a Q&A session over at ASJ, wondering whether I have considered adopting the minhagim of the Chassidus'n that derive from Chernobyl, due to my interest in the Meor Einayim of Chernobyl. Click on Over! His question is copy/pasted below:

A Simple Jew asks:

Aside from regularly learning his sefer, to what degree do you feel drawn to follow the derech of the Me'or Einayim? Have you ever contemplated attaching yourself to one of the Chernobyl dynasties, adopting Chernobyl minhagim, or even attempting to follow some of the Hanhagos Yesharos that are recorded and appended to the back of Rebbe Menachem Nachum of Chernobyl's sefer?

Dixie Yid Answers...

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of my former law school Dean, Rav Aaron Twerski, from the Chernobyl dynasty, courtesy of

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Rav Moshe Weinberger at Derech Hamelech - The Three Weeks

My friend David Levy has been kind enough to share with me this link to the audio of Rav Moshe Weinberger's drasha last week at Yeshivas Derech Hamelech in Yerushalayim. This is a yeshiva that he endorsed even before it was opened and was consulted by the great Rav who started the yeshiva, Rav Baruch Gartner all throughout the process of the yeshiva's formation. In this Drasha, Rav Weinberger teaches us what our avodah should be during this time of the Three Weeks. I spoke to a friend who was at the shiur and found it to be awesome.

You can listen to or download the mp3 of the shiur HERE.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Derech Hamelech)

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Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Ideas on Making Yiddishkeit the Most Exciting Thing in Your Life

"Duvid" has wrote me a couple of e-mails in response to my post the other day about the quote from Rav Freifeld that "If the only way we can sell our children on Torah is by forbidding everything else, then we are bankrupt." He gave me permission to publish them because I think his ideas are worth sharing! Here you go:

First of all we should understand that it's impossible to make yiddishkeit more exciting than rock concerts. Ze kneged ze asa Elokim, implies that the sitra achara can be just as powerful (or seem so) as the kdusha. But it also implies that we CAN make yiddishkeit AS exciting and a rock concert!

Second, it's important to understand that the solution already exists, we just have to look in the right place to find it.

Now, we really have to define what we mean by excitement. When people go to concerts or soccer games they don't look for intellectual or emotional excitement. They look for the type of excitements that GETS INTO THEIR BLOOD AND BONES! If we can truly provide that in yiddishkeit, then we've almost won the game.

So first of all, this type if excitement does exist in yiddishkeit. If anyone want's to FEEL yiddishkeit IN HIS VERY BONES he's better go to Meron on Lag Baomer or to Uman on Rosh Hashana, and I think it is important to have these experiences from time to time, even though obviously yiddishkeit is not about "experiences", and even when experiencing these things one should not look for the experience but rather concentrate on one's avoda. However, the experience of feeling kdusha in one's very flesh is indeed very important, and should, and even must be felt to some extent every time one davens or does any davar sheb'kdusha. Like David Hamelech sais many times "bsari - my very flesh...". I think only then one will not pay any attention to a rock concert...

Now, we gotta discuss things that have crept into normative yiddishkeit that actually work against this concept. May be some other time...

That's as far as excitement. Of course, there're more things that contribute to people leaving yidishkeit unfortunately.

Our yiddishkeit should start shifting from being exclusively intellectual / mussar oriented to being EXPERIENTIAL. There's an undercurrent attitude in yiddishkeit now that sais experiences is not what yiddishkeit is about, they're sort of like a b'dieved thing... Or that one is not ready for these experiences untill he'd finished all of Shas... (I've witnessed in one yeshiva, after an unusially labedik dancing at kabalas Shabbos, the rosh yeshiva gave his dvar Torah in which he implied that one should not really do these things unless one learns Gemora 17 hours a day...) I think it's important to realize that experience is an integral part of yiddishkeit, and one has to properly cultivate those experiences, as well as properly prepare for them (and that's something that mechanchim should davka be thinking about, how to guide kids to experience spirituality in a proper way).

I have to say that this shift would require of us to drop some litvishe tendencies in favour of adopting chassidish ones (i don't know if you want to post that). (DY: :-D)

And most importantly, we have to remember what we're up against. If it's rock concerts, then the holy experiences we have have to match them! That's why I mentioned davka Meron and Uman...

There's more I could write, but let me just tell you of an experience (not the type i was writing about, just something i observed) that i had rescently, that's connected to your post:

Two Shabboses ago we visited my wife's cousin, they live in Bat Ayin, a yishuv south of Yerushalaim on the way to Chevron. It's a "Chabakuk" kind of place (you know, Chabakuk stands for Chabad, Breslov, Carlebach, and R' Kuk :-) ) with all different "spiritual" types. On Shabbos morning I went to the Breslov minyan. So after davening they danced a bit, and then put tables together, made kiddush, and sat down for what's called "sichat chaverim" (that's actually a part of their avoda, not stam)... Boy, was that something I enjoyed seeing! First of all, they start with a joke. B'davka. As they sat down they said "yesh l'mishehu b'dicha?" So they came up with some old joke that went something like "whats in common between a Breslover and a Subaru? - that they're always doing tikunim..." Then they read a bit from the sipurei maasiyos, and then they started this free flowing, funny, friendly conversation (there were about 15 - 20 of them), all revolving about holy topics, avodas hashem, how to overcome obsticles, how to be "tamim", etc. What impressed me about it was that it just seemed so natural! As if that's really what they want to talk about and nothing else! And they were funny too. And when some of them started arguing and it got beyond a certain point they all started singing... Teanagers and kids were sitting at the sides and listening in, enjoying every minute. I honestly can't imagine one of those kids thinking of yiddishkeit as boring... And after they finished, they put on their shtreimels (those of them that wear shtreimels - they're all dressed differently), and went home with their M16s hanging over their golden Yerushalmi bekeshers... Loooove that.


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Monday, July 28, 2008

L'Ilui Nishmas Sam Seidner, a Tzadik Who Has Left the World


GINAT RISYA - Women's Bais Medrash

Tuesdays, Noon - 1:15pm - In Sherith Israel's Library

In memory of Sam (Shimon) Seidner

This past Thursday, July 27th, Tammuz 21 on the Hebrew calendar, a beautiful soul left this world.

Many of you remember Sam when he was the administrator of our Shul: a fresh pot of coffee always brewing, something baking in the oven and Sam constantly humming a "niggun"(a melody considered to be the language of the soul). Sam would greet you: "Hello Boob-ba-la." He'd shove a cup of coffee into your hand, pull out a chair for you and slide a plate of cake in your direction. He'd talk-to-you, sing-to-you, laugh-with-you, advice-you, cry-with-you, teach-you and inspire-you.

Sam was the heart of the Shul. He was the kind of guy who would pull a wad of bills, out of his pocket, and force it into your hands, even while his own family was experiencing financial difficulties.

And Sam would invite you over &over again to Shabbos dinner. He and his wife, Valerie created an unparalleled Shabbos atmosphere, infusing heavenly aromas, delicious foods, schnapps and "zemirot" (Shabbos songs) with lively,Torah discussion. Many families who came to Sam's and Valerie's Shabbos dinners became "Shomar Shabbos" themselves.

About fourteen years ago, Sam and Valerie made aliyah ultimately settling with their seven children and four grandchildren in Tekoa, Israel, continuing their countless acts of goodness and kindness. Valerie currently facilitates the Tekoa GINAT RISYA Midrasha.

GINAT RISYA World Wide will now include the following added section (underlined) in their opening remarks as Rebbetzin Posner was the mentor and close friend to Sam:

"This learning is dedicated in honor of Risya bat Shlomo Aharon -- ah-le-ha hashalom -- of blessed memory, and may her soul continue to fulfill the Rebbe's shlichus, the privilege of preparing the world for Moshiach. And also in the memory of Rebbetzin Posner's student, Shimon Beryl ben Yaakov."

By Margot Nash

Dixie Yid: P.S. As I was becoming religious I spent almost every Shabbos in the Seidner's home. Sam, Valerie and their wonderful family were a part of my life until, with a mixture of happiness and sadness, they made aliyah from Nashville, TN to pursue their dreams. They made a big impact on my life. Even though they have undergone so many types of misforture and suffering, they always maintained their Emunah and Bitachon in Hashem. I feel horrible for them in this terrible time and I cannot believe that we've lost Sam at such a young age. I daven that Hashem send nechama to Valerie, the children and the grandchildren.

(Picture of a playground in Tekoa, courtesy of Jewish Agency)

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The Practical and the Mystical - Guest Post by Alice Jonsson

I am often struck by how practical Judaism can be. Coming from an agnostic, secular background I thought of religion in general as being mystical and fantastical, not at all practical. In fact it seemed to me that religions, and I know I’m generalizing greatly, want us to go beyond a practical solution to a moral solution- and those seemed universes apart to me. And of course so many people get bogged down in stories that may seem impossibly fantastical, like spies and giants, plagues, and arks. Or concepts about the nature of God that are just too hard to wrap one’s brain around. There are so many people who don’t understand that the Torah isn’t just mystical and fantastical feeling stories. It also helps you to get along with your mother-in-law, to succeed at work, to break bad habits, to protect friendships, and to find a more meaningful way to view mundane activities like cleaning out the gutters on your house. The tangible successes that come from applying a practical principle to everyday life make the Torah real for me.

Keep in mind, I don’t pretend to be a Torah scholar. I also realize that there are mystical ramifications for very down to earth actions, so it’s quite complicated. This is a short list of some of the practical lessons that have really helped me.

1.There’s a time and a place for self criticism: One of the ideas that I came across in Rabbi Brody’s and Rabbi Arush’s books is that you should not walk around being critical of yourself all day. The time for that is in your hour of personal prayer. You meet with your creator and part of what you spend that time doing is assessing the decisions you made, for better or worse. But you should not clobber yourself all day, like some self-flagellating martyr who, instead of beating up on his flesh, as they do in some religions, is beating up on his soul. This puts you in a disconnected space and apparently puts you into the negative spiritual spiral. This makes a ton of sense to me. Furthermore, it seems clear to me that a person who is pessimistic about himself is more likely to see the whole world in those terms, which is clearly not productive.

2. Out of sight, out of mind: If you are trying to tame a temptation, don’t expose yourself to that temptation until you are really capable of staring it in the face and shouting an emphatic ‘no’. I can’t have Breyer’s mint chocolate chip ice cream in the freezer without eating it. Period. I’m not there yet. So why have it around? This is incredibly practical advice.

Related to this, of course, is how we interact with members of the opposite sex. I have come to see the logic in the sexes keeping a little distance, or even a lot depending on the situation. One clear benefit of this is that it protects a marriage. This is just one of those let’s-be-real situations that I can now see as practical.

3. Men are from Mars: Very generally speaking, the notion that men and women have different roles and strengths relating to those roles has helped in many practical ways. I am a feminist, dyed in the wool, yet I am comfortable with this notion, again very generally speaking. I realize that some people on both sides of the aisle don’t think it’s really possible to be a feminist and into Orthodox Judaism, but I contend it’s not a problem. Let’s save that discussion for another day and get back to the basic premise here. While there are some men who are better at traditionally feminine tasks and vice versa, I do think we are very different creatures in many ways. I think it’s quite practical to see the world this way.

From my perspective, this in no way legitimizes oppressing one gender or the other and should never ever be used in a negative way. But having a son has shown me not only how much we have in common as sexes, but also how boys just come out differently, generally speaking. As a child I did not want to wrestle people, for example. And I did not think it was funny to be spit on. He does. If you were to approach him and stick your tongue out and blow, he would embrace you like a long lost sibling. After he spit on you. He’s two, FYI.

4. Sparing someone’s feelings can be a great thing: The notion that telling the hundred percent truth in every single situation may not be the most moral thing to do. ‘Truth’ is not the highest value in a situation where someone has served you some really awful minestrone soup that they slaved over all day. You will eat that soup as if it’s the best soup ever and you will be grateful and make that person feel your loving gratitude. Very practical. Which directly relates to...

5. Conversely if they need to hear something, and they are open to it, you must tell them: I can’t tell you how many times I have been way too honest with someone when they were not ready to hear it. So rude and fruitless! On the other hand, there are moments where you must get over the fear and be honest. And I suppose this also means we need to be the kind of person who makes others feel they can be honest with us without crushing us beyond the point of repair.

6. We aren’t the mistakes we make: Which makes accepting criticism easier. It’s not an indictment of your total self. It’s a moment to reflect on an action that can be changed. This is a liberating and, again, very practical idea. It helps to be easier on yourself if you are the guilt ridden sort. It also takes the burden off of strained relationships. That person you have a hard time with isn’t the mistakes they have made, just like you aren’t. To me it means we should deal with the action that offended us and not commit a character assassination on the person. Which should be balanced with...

7. In being kind to the cruel you are, or will eventually be, cruel to the kind: To me, this means that we must impose order and apply the rules/laws fairly, even when it’s frightening or tough to do so. When we take the easy way out by not standing up to injustice, we put others in a vulnerable position. In other words, we feed the cruelty and become part of the problem. This strikes me as enormously practical advice. Tough, yet practical. It’s a nip-it-in-the-bud thing. I see parents making this mistake often, myself included, because it’s just so darn tiring to discipline, not to mention confusing. But as an educator of ten years I can tell you that parents who don’t get a grip on the discipline are creating a lot of pain and work for others, including the child.

At this point I’m thinking of the lyrics to a song by Coldplay, “If I could write a song a hundred miles long...” This list could go on and on. I’m really interested in finding out what others see as practical Torah concepts. Do tell!

P.S. An interesting addendum, right after I wrote this I had a Torah lesson wherein the rabbi discussed how hard it is for Americans to let go of dualistic thinking. Clearly this is the case for me to some degree. However, I have to wonder if it is only natural for someone just beginning down the road to relate more, to be inspired more, by the more clear action/reaction experiences. I’ve wondered if this is part of Hashem meeting us where we are as individuals. Maybe some people will be more reassured by seeing the successes that follow the application of very practical, seemingly earthy, as I would call it, advice. Maybe this is a stepping stone towards seeing the truth of more difficult to grasp concepts such as Moshiach or understanding how the Exodus could have occurred. Conversely, perhaps a different person would be inspired by the more mystical and grand stories of the early days of the Jewish people than by the more mundane daily advice that I find reassuring. I see it as clear evidence that the Torah describes reality, that it’s the blueprint.

-Alice Jonsson

(Picture courtesy of Matt Dowling)

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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Graphic Display of Most Common Words on Dixie Yid

Here are the words in Dixie Yid, with the most common words being larger, courtesy of Wordle. Saw this at Call Me Chavivah, a growing giores. Click on the picture to enlarge. :-)

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, July 25, 2008

Remembering the Churban Beis HaMikdash - Part 2 - Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Remembering the Churban Beis HaMikdash

Torah Insights for Enabling Us to Feel the Loss and Yearn for the Rebuilding
of the Beis HaMikdash


Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Reprinted from the booklet with permission by the author.

Introduction Part two – continued

Rav Yaakov Emden writes, “If we would only be guilty for this one sin of not sufficiently mourning the churban, it would be enough of a reason for lengthening our galus. Especially on the sorrowful day of Tisha B’av, how many of us mourn and sigh from the depths of our hearts over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and the desolation of our land? How many tears are shed over these tragedies? Not to mention the rest of the year, when the churban is neither remembered nor spoken about. It doesn’t even enter our minds, and we feel as if it were a mere coincidence!” (Siddur Bais Yaakov, Laws of Tisha B’Av, 6:7). If these words were written over 200 years ago, what is left to say about the situation today?
Why is this indifference causing the lengthy galus? Perhaps because mourning over the churban shows an appreciation of the enormity of our loss, demonstrating a yearning for the final redemption. The degree of our yearning is proportionate to how much we actually feel the mourning. It shows Hashem that we have not severed our spiritual ties with Him, even after 2,000 years in galus living among the gentiles. Hashem says, “If My children desire a closeness with Me, then they are truly deserving that My Divine Presence rest among them and are worthy of having the Beis Hamikdash rebuilt.” If, however, we fail to properly mourn the churban, in effect we are actually saying, “We don’t consider the presence of the Beis Hamikdash and the Shechina of great importance, and are content with our present situation.” Then, chalila, Hashem says (mida keneged mida), “If My Children do not appreciate the importance of My Divine Presence in their midst, then they are still undeserving of having the Beis Hamikdash among them.” (In fact, Rav Chaim Volozhin writes that if we would feel the tzar haShechina – the pain and grief that Hashem feels because we no longer have the Beis Hamikdash – we would already merit the redemption (Quoted in Siddur HaGra, preface to Tefillas Rosh Hashana).

The requirement of remembering and feeling the churban applies even during our times of rejoicing, thus we have the halachos of placing ashes on a chasan’s head before the chuppa, breaking a vessel at a tanayim and chuppa, and restrictions on a bride’s headpiece (Shulchan Aruch O.C. 561:2-4). Rav Yaakov Emden attributes unsuccessful marriages to the laxity of observing these halachos (op. cit. #7).

Rav Shlomo Brevda tells a story that vividly exemplifies this feeling. There once was a wretched widow who never had a truly happy day in her life. Finally, the time comes to marry off her only daughter. All her friends and family come to the wedding to share in her first simcha. While they are all standing under the chuppa awaiting this momentous and joyous event, one person is crying uncontrollably – the bride’s mother.

“Why are you so upset?” asks her daughter. “This should be one of the most joyful days of your life.”

The mother replies, “My dear, I am extremely happy, as this is the first real nachas I’ve had in my life. However, I just remembered that Daddy is not here with us. We are alone without him, and this thought overrides my happiness. This is why I am crying.”

Rav Brevda comments that at every simcha we make in our lifetime, we have to remind ourselves that our Father is no longer with us. The Shechina has left us and will have no resting place until the Beis Hamikdash is rebuilt.

One of the reasons for our difficulty and indifference to feeling the churban can be explained by the following story. A Western tourist who was visiting Communist Russia was falsely accused of spying and sent indefinitely to Siberia. For many years he languishes, awakening each morning at 5 a.m. to eat stale bread and cold soup, then slaving at a work camp the entire day. He constantly yearns for the luxuries of his life back home. Eventually, he marries and has a child, who grows up with the same routine – awaken at 5, work all day, eat stale bread and soup. But this child will likely miss nothing, since he has never seen the Western world and is unaware of another lifestyle. Only his father, who remembers the good old days, is suffering. So, too, is our situation. Like the child who grew up in Siberia, we grew up in a world without a Beis Hamikdash. We can’t perceive what it means to feel Hashem’s Presence in the world, unlike the Jews who lived during the churban and understood and felt what this meant (cf Mishnas Rebbi Aharon ibid.).
Today we are so far removed from the Beis Hamikdash that, in effect, we are “still in Siberia.” Nevertheless, it is our duty to take practical steps that can retrieve this distant concept and make it a reality so that we can properly relate to and mourn the churban.

The parts of this and the following artcile will focus on three major concepts mentioned in the kinos:

1. The destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and galus Hashechina – the exile of God’s presence
2. The persecutions, afflictions and carnage of the Jewish nation during the churban
3. Anticipating Moshiach’s arrival.


Since the long galus of almost 2,000 years seems to make these topics a thing of the past, simply reading about them is insufficient to arouse our emotions. Therefore, the most effective method that can be used to conceptualize these ideas and generate our feelings (regesh) toward them is to use our imagination. (Indeed, the Rambam writes that man was created to function through his imagination. Moreh Nevuchim, quoted in Yalkut Lekach Tov, Yomim Nora’im, Vol. 1, pg. 104.) The Chasam Sofer suggests that we should imagine being present at the destruction and witnessing the atrocities that took place then, just as we imagine the exodus from Egypt during the Pesach seder. (Drashos Chasam Sofer, Drush Lezayin Av, pp. 83-4)


To understand the true meaning of the churban Beis Hamikdash and galus Hashechina, we should ask ourselves two questions:

1. How would our daily lives be different if Hashem’s Presence were on earth again?
2. What would the world be like if we could have a direct and close relationship with the Almighty whenever we needed it?

If we had the proper answers to these questions, our desire for rebuilding the Beis HaMikdash would be real, deep and heartfelt. However, many people reply, “restoration of the avodas hakorbanos (sacrificial services to atone for our sins), a life of peace and tranquility in Eretz Yisrael for the entire Jewish nation and the recognition of Hashem as the Supreme Ruler of the world by all of mankind.” Although these are valid reasons to desire the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash, nevertheless they only represent the “body,” the outer surface, and not the “neshama,” the inner and more profound meaning and purpose, of the Beis Hamikdash. It is beyond the scope of this booklet to mention all the benefits we derived during the time the Beis Hamikdash existed. However, these few are enough to give us a glimpse of how our nation lived during that time.

How would our lives be affected if the Beis Hamikdash would be standing today? The Chinuch (Mitzva #95) writes that “The Beis Hamikdash was the epitome of holiness and purity in this world, which was created to attain self-perfection. This holiness and purity permeated all those entering it, purifying their thoughts, directing their hearts toward avodas Hashem and giving them the ability to cling to the Divine intelligence.” As a result of this connection, our ability to acquire wisdom was greatly increased and enabled Jews to reach the potential for which they were striving. In addition, Tosafos (Bava Basra 21a, s.v. Ki) writes that witnessing the kedusha and the avoda in the Beis Hamikdash inspired a person to have yiras shamayim and learn Torah. This is a possible explanation why Jerusalem was the center of Jewish scholarship.

The re-occurring miracles prevalent in the Beis Hamikdosh (some happening daily) were a source of tremendous spiritual inspiration for our nation (cf Pirkei Avos, ch. 5; Avos D’Rav Nasan, ch. 35.) Rashi explains that when the Jewish nation entered the Beis HaMikdashduring a yom tov (aliyas ha'regel), it was so crowded that the people had to press on each other in order to fit. But when they prostrated themselves in prayer, two miracles occurred: not only was there room for them to prostrate, but when they did, ample space of four amos (approximately 6-8 feet) was provided for each person (Yoma 21a).

Anyone who experienced such a dual miracle even once would certainly be inspired for a lifetime – but this occurred throughout the year! In addition, on a daily basis, a part of the Beis Hamikdash floor literally devoured certain parts of the bird offerings, ashes from the mizbayach (altar) and certain earthenware vessels that became unfit for use. Imagine, anyone could enter at any time and witness these miracles!

The korbanos also served as means for attaining spiritual perfection and closeness to Hashem. The variety of korbanos that each individual offered completely cleansed his soul from any blemish of an aveira (Commentary of the Gra, Shir Hashirim 1:16).

There were many other sources of inspiration during the time of the Beis Hamikdash. To name a few, the Jews enjoyed the fruitfulness of a special blessing on the earth’s produce, our tefillos were answered more readily32 and, during the first Beis Hamikdash, we experienced a special tranquility from the gentile nations. (Sotah 48a; Brachos 32b, as explained by the Steipler Rav in Chayei Olam, part 1 ch.28;Rabbeinu Yonah, commentary to Brachos, 7b s.v. kol [p. 4a in the Rif])

We can imagine the peace of mind that the Jewish nation experienced during this time. We had complete atonement form their aveiros, we didn’t worry about earning a livelihood or being subjected to hostility from the gentiles, and our tefillos were always answered. It is no wonder that the people of this era attained such tremendous spiritual perfection!

Prophecy was also widespread during the era of the first Beis Hamikdash. Chazal write that there were 1,200,000 prophets amongst us – approximately 3,000 each year!(Megillah 14a). To receive prophecy, one had to be exceedingly wise, knowledgeable of Torah, perfect in midos and in complete control of his thoughts and yetzer hara (Rambam, Hilchos Yesodei HaTorah, 7:1). Imagine the impact on our daily lives amid so many tzadikim, who were constantly communicating with Hashem on such a high level. Each person had his own “personal” navi who was always available to give proper guidance to solve his problems and gain perfection. Even if a person were ill, he would go to his navi instead of a doctor. The navi would tell him what sin he had committed and how he could rectify the situation. Can you imagine being confident that the advice you were receiving was directly from Hashem? Can you imagine being understood at the deepest level of your soul and being told what your tikun ha’neshama is? With this intensive amount of spirituality that the Beis Hamikdash brought into the world, each individual had a much greater opportunity to come closer to Hashem and reach the aims of his existence on earth.

It was during that epoch that the Jewish nation reached the highest levels that humans could attain. Rav Shlomo Wolbe said that the Beis HaMikdash was the only place that Hashem’s glory was clearly revealed. A person would enter the Bais Hamikdosh laden with transgression, and depart completely cleansed, feeling spiritually uplifted, and with a sense of holiness. Hashem’s presence was almost tangible.

The destruction brought an end to the Divine presence on this earth, all revealed miracles, special blessings, tranquility of Eretz Yisrael and prophecy, creating a tremendous spiritual void in the world and in our lives. And since the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash, we have been unable to fulfill more than half of the Taryag Mitzvos (cf Sefer Mitzvos Hakatzer of the Chofetz Chaim). The current spiritual level of the Jewish nation is the lowest in our history and is not improving. The vast majority of Jews are non-observant, and in fact many of them know nothing about Judaism except that they are Jewish. Intermarriage is rampant, and we are constantly battling secular Jews to preserve the drop of kedusha that still remains in our nation. (Indeed, some term this period a spiritual Holocaust.) The Gra compares our galus to a body without a soul; the longer it remains in the grave, the more it decays (End of Safra Detzniyusa).

The only single force that can stop us from further spiraling downward is the coming of Moshiach and the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. This is what we should be eagerly anticipating.

(Picture courtesy of Haftatara Man)

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Thursday, July 24, 2008

Ga'aguim L'Geulah: Longing for Moshiach - Audio Shiur

Here is a shiur that Reb Yerachmiel gave last year during the Three Weeks. In it, he also brings a teaching from the Darchei Noam, the present Slonimer Rebbe, shlita.

Presenting an intense audio shiur given by Reb Yerachmiel last year during the Bain Ha'Mitzarim, entitled: Ga'aguim L'Geulah: Longing for Moshiach.
In this shiur, Reb Yerachmiel helps us to better morn in the present, by describing Am Yisroel's losses of the past and dreams for the future.

CLICK HERE by either left clicking to listen to the shiur right away or right clicking and selecting "Save Target As" to download the shiur. Enjoy!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of the Kosel 1898 courtesy of

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Guest Artistic Post - By Dan Weinstein - What Moves My Art...

Last Thursday, July 17th marked the opening night of the "Surfboards & Psalms" my Solo Exhibition at the J.Klaynberg Gallery located in Chelsea, New York City at 121 West 19th Street.

A Hip Interpetation of Centuries-Old Judaic Themes

The universe I have depicted on canvas is composed of a
stunning cocktail of intense colors and dynamic images.

My work has been inspired by such disparate elements as
Tehillim (Psalms) & Kohelet (Ecclesiastes), Tsfat and South Beach,
Chassidism & Dr. Suess, Baruch Nachshon, Picasso, Bob Marley,
The Big Lebowski, Shlomo Carlebach & Alice in Chains.

My art pulsates with the most pleasant contradictions.
It is whimsical and fanciful yet poignant. It is traditional - conveying
unchanging centuries old judaic themes, yet entirely modern and
reflective of a dizzyingly fast paced technological age.
These lyrical contradictions collide to create a vibrant, electrifying
universe where intense beauty, harmony and spirituality reign.

To view the entire collection or to contact the artist:

UPDATE: "Coincidentally," Dan's wife has given birth this morning to a brand new baby girl. Mazel tov to Dan and the Mrs. on the new maidaleh! May you both have much Yiddisheh nachas from her ad meah v'esrim shana!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dixie Yid's Post is Making the Rounds - First AishDas, Now Matzav

Thanks to my friends at Revach for pointing this out to me, but apparantly Matzav's lead "story" is my post from a few days ago about the quote from Rav Shlomo Freifeld, "If the only way that we can get our children to love Torah is by forbidding everything else, then we are bankrupt."

Matzav: Opinion: 'If the Only Way We Can Sell Our Children Torah is by Forbidding Everything Else, Then We Are Bankrupt'

IY"H, the thoughts expressed there should be zocheh to be mezakeh es harabim.

-Dixie Yid

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Great Quote from Rav Kook on Secular Zionism

Our Friend Yosef Hakohen e-mailed me the following quote from Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook about secular Zionism. Awesome:

Dixie Yid,

I noticed that you have a nice story about Rav Kook, and I therefore thought that you might be personally interested in the attached quote from Rav Kook. It appears in a letter I sent out today titled, "The Chareidi Critique of Secular Zionism" - a letter which also discusses why the Chofetz Chaim and other gedolim founded Agudath Israel.

Kol Tuv,

Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook was a leading Torah sage who moved to the Land of Israel in 1904, and I hope to discuss aspects of his approach to the modern Zionist movement in future letters. There were Zionist leaders who viewed the Chareidim as being in the “wilderness”; however, Rabbi Kook offered a defense of the Chareidim. In an essay which discusses the modern Zionist movement (Igrot R’iah 871), Rabbi Kook writes that this movement “will never be a stronghold for the whole nation, because it intrinsically fails to grasp the holy eternal light of the nation’s soul, the spirit of the true God in its midst; thus, it will do well in the external area of building up the nation, but will never be able to deal with its inner side.” Rabbi Kook adds: “That inner building stands ready for other workers of an entirely different type. These will develop, from all places, out of the ‘wilderness’ of the Chareidim, those who faithfully and truthfully opposed Zionism because of their pure zealousness regarding the spirit of Hashem, His people, and the foundation of its existence.”

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Azamara - What's the Nekudah Tovah to be Found In One's Self?

Here's another translation of a short section from a chapter in the upcoming sefer of the young Talmid Chacham, Rabbi Ronen Shaharabany. You can download the Word file of the whole chapter HERE by "left clicking" and selecting "Save Target As."
[Rebbe Nachman] writes in Likutei Moharan (Torah 282) that one must judge every man favorably, i.e. to find a merit and a good point in every person, even in one who is totally evil. One must search and find some little bit of good, and in that little bit of good, he is not wicked. And through finding this little bit of good and judging him favorably, one truly lifts him up to the side of merit and cause him to be chozer b'teshuva.

One can explain that this good point in every Jew referrs to his Bris Milah. This is according to Chazal in Menachos 43b, which says, "בשעה שנכנס דוד לבית המרחץ וראה עצמו עומד ערום, אמר: אוי לי שאעמוד ערום בלא מצוה. וכיון שנזכר במילה שבבשרו נתיישבה דעתו, לאחר שיצא, אמר עליה שירה, שנאמר: "למנצח על השמינית מזמור לדוד" (תהלים יב, א), על מילה שניתנה בשמיני." "When Dovid Hamelech entered the bathhouse and saw that he was standing naked, he said 'Woe is me that I will stand naked, without mitzvos!' Once he remembered the Milah on his flesh, his mind was calmed. After he left, he sang a song of praise, as it is said in Tehillim 12, "For the conductor on the sheminith, a song of David.' regarding Bris Milah, which is given on the eighth day."

The Chassidic masters have explained (The Toldos Yaakov Yosef and brought in the name of the Baal Shem Tov), that the intent that through seeing himself naked, he realized that this is how he would be standing in the world to come, naked, without the garments of the Mitzvos, and that he would not be carrying anything in his hands. He suspected of himself that due to his many sins, he did not fulfill the Mitzvos of Hashem. Rather, he [felt that they, the mitzvos] were mixed with foreign thoughts and ulterior motives that were not for the sake of Heaven. That is why he says "Woe is me that I will stand..." i.e. in the world to come, "naked, without mitzvos," meaning that [my Mitzvos] are not complete. But once he remembers the Bris Milah in that was engraved on his flesh when he was only a baby, when he had no ulterior motives or foreign thoughts that were not for the sake of Heaven, this calmed him because then he knew that he had at least one Mitzvah which was done perfectly.

After he left [the bathhouse], he sang "For the Conductor on the Eighth" about his Bris Milah, because it was given on the eighth day after he was born, specifically when he was such a young child because this was a pure and clean Mitzva, free of any ulterior motive. This would not have been the case if we would fulfill the Mitzvah of Milah when the child is already older. Then it would be possible that there would be mixed into the mitzvah some ulterior motive that is not for the sake of heaven, e.g. to show others his righteousness, that he is sacrificing for Hashem, or the like.

כתב בספר ליקוטי מוהר"ן (תורה רפב) שצריכים לדון את כל אדם לכף זכות, היינו למצוא זכות ונקודה טובה בכל אדם, אפילו מי שהוא רשע גמור. וצריך לחפש ולמצוא בו איזה מעט טוב, שבאותה המעט אינו רשע. ועל ידי זה שמוצא בו מעט טוב ודן אותו לכף זכות, מעלה אותו באמת לכף זכות, ויוכל להשיבו בתשובה.

ויש לבאר, שהנקודה הטובה שבכל איש יהודי היא הברית מילה שלו, וזה על פי דברי חז"ל במסכת מנחות (דף מג ע"ב): בשעה שנכנס דוד לבית המרחץ וראה עצמו עומד ערום, אמר: אוי לי שאעמוד ערום בלא מצוה. וכיון שנזכר במילה שבבשרו נתיישבה דעתו, לאחר שיצא, אמר עליה שירה, שנאמר: "למנצח על השמינית מזמור לדוד" (תהלים יב, א), על מילה שניתנה בשמיני עכ"ל.

וביארו בעלי החסידות (תולדות יעקב יוסף, וכן הובא בשם הבעל שם טוב) שהכוונה שעל ידי שראה את עצמו ערום עלה במחשבתו כי כן יעמוד בעולם הבא ערום בלא לבושי מצוות, ולא ישא בידו מאומה, כי לרוב ענוותנותו חשד את עצמו שלא קיים המצוות לה', רק היה מעורב בהם איזה מחשבה זרה ופנייה שלא לשם שמים. וזה שאמר "אוי לי שאעמוד", ר"ל לעתיד בעולם הבא, "ערום בלא מצוות", רוצה לומר שאינם בשלמות. אך כיון שנזכר במילה שבבשרו שנימול בקטנותו, ואז לא היה לו שום פניה או מחשבה זרה שלא לשם שמים, בזה נתיישבה דעתו שיש לו על כל פנים מצוה אחת שהיא בשלמות, ולאחר שיצא אמר עליה שירה שנאמר "למנצח על השמינית מזמור לדוד", על מילה שניתנה בשמיני ליום הולדתו, דוקא בגיל קטן כזה, שעל ידי כן מצות מילה טהורה ונקיה מכל פנייה שלא לשם שמים, מה שאין כן אם היו מקיימים מצות מילה כשהילד כבר גדול, אז היה אפשר שיהיה מעורב בו איזה פנייה שלא לשם שמים, כגון להראות לבריות צדקתו שמוסר את נפשו להשי"ת וכדומה ע"ש.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of Dixie Kid and his Mohel, Rabbi Pesach Krohn, courtesy of David Berger)

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Bilvavi - Only a Couple of Spots Still Open for Sep./Elul Visit

(Click to enlarge)

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Rav Kook & Rav Areye Levin - Great Story at Modern Uberdox

Neil Harris of Modern Uberdox: Story About Rav Kook and Rav Areye Levin

Beautiful story about seeing the song in every detail of creation...

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Hershel Tzig)

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Bringing Knowledge of "The Purpose" Into Every Mitzvah - Bilvavi

The following is a suggested, example tefillah, which I have translated from the 5th chelek of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, #s 8 and 9:

There are so many mitzvos, but Chazal have revealed to us that there are three pillars upon which the world stands; Torah, Avodah and Gemilus Chasadim. Behold, Master of the World, learning Torah is cleaving to you as it was written and expanded upon in the sefer "Nefesh HaChaim." Avodah... since we do not have Korbanos today, in their place the way to get closer to you is through Tefillah. What is Tefillah? It is speaking with You Hashem! And isn't Tefillah, then, a way of getting close to You? Gemilus Chasadim is cleaving to Your ways. All of your ways are kindness, and the whole purpose of the creation of Your world is to give goodness to those who You created. Master of the World, through these three pillars I am able to get close to You. But I must remember all of the time that that these three pillars are the way to get closer to you, and not, G-d forbid, to learn Torah and forget you, Daven and forget you and do chesed and forget you. Because if I, G-d forbid, learn Torah, Daven and do chesed behold I will have forgotten the whole purpose of Torah, TEfillah, and doing chesed, the whole purpose of life. Therefore, Master of the World, I want to remember every time I am involved with one of these three pillars, the reason why I am doing them and what their purpose is.

Master of the World, behold I accept upon myself, Bli Neder, to remember whenever I begin to learn Your holy Torah, not to begin to learn suddenly. Rather, I will first speak to you every time and say 'Master of the World, behold I am going to learn Your holy Torah. Why am I going to learn it? Because I want to be close to You, and I want to get close to You through learning Torah let me merit to attain this! And so too while I am learning, behodl I want to remember every time why I am learning. ThereforeI want to remember this about once every half hour. (Over time, this gap should shrink to just a few minutes and thememory will be triggered automatically.) The matter should be living in me, that everything that I learn should be in order to get closer to You, and I will not give up hope if I forget this. I will try, bli neder to remember this every time. And I beg You, Hashem, that you should help me, and cause me to remember this all of the time until the matter is extremely fixed in my heart...

(Certainly, one needs to clarrify to himself why, indeed he is going and not to say words that his heart does not feel at all. But rather to clarify in his heart what, in truth he wants. And even if this is even part of what his heart wants, he should still say these words with full confidence, that he feels this in his heart and that his desire is that his main feelings should be such and such, etc. But the main thingis that he should speak the truth. "דֹּבֵר שְׁקָרִים לֹא-יִכּוֹן, לְנֶגֶד עֵינָי." "One who speaks falsehood will not dwell before Me." (Tehillim 101:7).

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of bbc)

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Monday, July 21, 2008

What Comes First? Sin or Theological Change?

At the end of Parshas Balak, Bamidbar 25:1-2, the pasuk says "וַיָּחֶל הָעָם, לִזְנוֹת אֶל-בְּנוֹת מוֹאָב. ב וַתִּקְרֶאןָ לָעָם, לְזִבְחֵי אֱלֹהֵיהֶן וַיֹּאכַל הָעָם, וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲווּ לֵאלֹהֵיהֶן." "Yisroel settled in Shittim and the people [of Yisroel] began acting promiscuously with the daughters of Moav. They [girls of Moav] invited the people [of Yisroel] to their idolatrous sacrifices; and the people ate and prostrated themselves before their gods." (translation courtesy of Here's my question. Why does the Torah say that the Jewish people first had illicit relations with the Moavi girls and only later worshiped their idols? If they believed in Hashem, how could they sin with those women? Shouldn't it have said that they worshiped the idols first, which would have given them the theological permission slip to sin with the daughters of Moav afterwards?

It's probably not a chidush, a novel idea, to say that it almost always works in the oposite order of what my question would suggest. We don't sin because of an intellectual or theological conviction that what we want to do is alright. We just sin because we are weak and give into our ta'avos, desires. The theological changes, intellectual realizations and religious rationalizations only come along later as our way of making ourselves feel less guilty for what we have done. Therefore, the pasuk says that they first indulged their Yetzer Haras, their evil inclination, and then only afterwards worshiped the idols as a way of rationalizing their actions to alleviate the sense of cognative dissonance.

After an aveira, we have two choices. Either change our definition of what an aveira is so as to redefine what we've done as a non-sin, or preferably a mitzva. Or we can choose the harder path of recognizing that what we did is wrong and work to correct it for the future. Sometimes, it may seem too difficult to change at the present time. And this is when it is especially tempting to redraw the lines to allow ourselves to believe that what we have done and want to continue doing is permitted or obligatory even. However, it is at a time like that when it's better to say to one's self:

"I know that this is wrong and I admit it. I am sorry for it, but right now I don't feel that I have the stregth to overcome this right now. B'Ezras Hashem, with G-d's help, I will get to changing this in the future. In the mean time, I will change the more managable things in my life first. But I will not rationalize my sins and convince myself that they are permitted. This would take away all hope of tikun, of repair from my life so I will remain honest with myself about what's really right and what's really wrong. Hashem, please help me continue acknowledging what's truly right and live up to that standard one day..."

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Rembrandt)

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Sunday, July 20, 2008

R' Yaakov Feit: Seeing Light Beyond the Darkness: The Legacy of Rebbe Akiva- Audio Shiur

Rabbi Yaakov Feit: Seeing Light Beyond the Darkness: The Legacy of Rebbe Akiva

(Thanks to the commenter on this post)

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of jupiterimages)

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17 of Tamuz & Eliyahu Hanavi - Guest Post by Yosef ben Shlomo Hakohen

Sunday, (July 20th) is the 17th day of the Jewish month of Tamuz. This special day – a fast day – begins a three-week period of sober reflection which focuses on the loss of our Holy Temple and the suffering of our exile. During these three weeks, we also reflect on the causes of the destruction of the Temple and the exile. This period concludes with Tisha B’Av – the Fast of the Ninth of Av, which begins this year on Saturday night, August 9th. On Tisha B'Av, both the First Temple and the Second Temple were destroyed. The First Temple was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the Second Temple was destroyed in a later era by the Romans.

It is important to maintain our hope for redemption as we approach this sober period, as our reflection on the causes of the destruction of the Temple and the exile is to inspire us to engage in a process of spiritual renewal which can hasten the arrival of the Messiah and the birth of the messianic age of redemption. In this spirit, I am sharing with you the attached recording of an old folk song of our people about the comforting messenger of our final redemption: Elijah, the Prophet. According to our tradition, Elijah is the forerunner of the Messiah. A source for this tradition is found in the concluding prophecy of Malachi, the last of the Prophets until the birth of the messianic age, when prophecy will be renewed. This concluding prophecy of Malachi conveys a Divine message to our people around the beginning of our exile. It is a call to remain loyal to the path of the Torah so that we can hasten the birth of the messianic age when the Redeeming One will send us Elijah, the Prophet, the forerunner of the Messiah. As the following words of this Divine message indicate, Elijah will arrive before the great and awesome day of Divine judgment and redemption:

“Remember the Torah of Moses, my servant, which I commanded him at Horeb for all of Israel – its statutes and social laws. Behold, I will send you Elijah the Prophet before the coming of the great and awesome day of Hashem.” (Malachi 3:23)

How can we begin to remember the Torah? Rabbi Akiva, a noted sage of the Talmud, cites the verse, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18), and he states that this verse expresses the essential principle of the Torah (Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). This essential principle of the Torah reveals that the goal of the Torah path is to enable us to be “other” directed.

We can therefore begin to remember the Torah by remembering the essential principle of the Torah. According to our tradition, Elijah, the Prophet, stressed this idea, and the following example is found in “Tanna D'vei Eliyahu” – an ancient midrashic work which contains teachings from Elijah, the Prophet, which were revealed to Rabbi Anan:

“The Holy One, Blessed is He, said to Israel: My beloved children! Is there anything I lack that I should have to ask of you? All I ask of you is that you love one another, honor one another, and respect one another. In this way, no sin, robbery, or based deed will be found among you, so that you will remain undefiled forever. Thus, it is written (Micah 6:8): ‘He has told you, O human being, what is good! What does Hashem require of you but to do justice, love loving-kindness, and to walk humbly with your God.’ ” (Tanna Dvei Eliyahu 28)

It is especially relevant to remember the above teaching of Elijah during the period when we reflect on the loss of our Temple, as the Talmud teaches that the Second Temple was destroyed because of unwarranted hatred (Yuma 9b).

There is a custom to sing the words of this song about Elijah on Saturday night, as we hope that through the merit of our having observed Shabbos, Elijah will arrive and announce the coming of the Messiah (ArtScroll Siddur). Some people also have a custom to sing the words of this song when we begin the second half of the Passover Seder and briefly open the door of our home. The second half of the Seder is dedicated to the future redemption (commentary of the Vilna Gaon); thus, we begin this part of the Seder by expressing our desire to welcome Elijah, the Prophet – the forerunner of the future redemption.

Within our Sacred Scriptures, Elijah is referred to as, “Elijah the Tishbi, a resident of Gilad” (1 Kings 17:1). The commentator, Radak, explains that Elijah was originally from the city of Toshav, and he later lived in Gilad. This is why the song refers to him as both, “Elijah the Tishbi, and Elijah the Giladi.”

The words of this song are the opening stanza of a hymn about Elijah which is found in the Saturday night section of the Siddur, our classical Prayer Book. (In the Art Scroll Siddur, it appears with an English translation on pages 626-629.)

The following is a transliteration of the Hebrew words of this song with the English translation:

Eliyahu HaNavi, Eliyahu HaTishbi, Eliyahu HaGiladi, bimhayra yavo aleinu im Moshiach ben David.

Elijah the Prophet, Elijah the Tishbi, Elijah the Giladi – May he quickly come to us with Messiah, son of David.

I will conclude this letter with the following traditional blessing which appears towards the end of Birchas HaMazon – the Grace After Meals:

“The Compassionate One! May He send us Elijah, the Prophet – he is remembered for good – to bring to us good news of salvation and consolation.”

Have a Good and Sweet Shabbos,

Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

P.S. The song that I sing on this recording is not accompanied by musical instruments.

(Picture courtesy of Flikr Pictures)

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Mizmor L'David - By Yitchock Fuchs - Acoustic Guitar - Video

Thanks to A Simple Jew for pointing out Life of Rubin's post on this video by Yitzchok Fuchs.

-Dixie Yid

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Remembering the Churban Beis Hamikdash - Part 1 - Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Remembering the Churban Beis HaMikdash

Torah Insights for Enabling Us to Feel the Loss and Yearn for the Rebuilding
of the Beis HaMikdash


Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Reprinted from the booklet with permission by the author.



כל דור שאין בית המקדש נבנה בימיו מעלין עליו כאילו החריבו.
מאי טעמא ? לפי שלא עשו תשובה.

“A generation that does not merit the building of the Beis HaMikdash is reckoned as if the generation destroyed it. Why? Because the people did not do teshuva.” (Yerushalmi Yoma, 1:1 (5a); Yalkut Shimoni Tehillim #137)

Chazal are telling us that each generation is obligated to try to merit the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash – not by any physical means – but by doing teshuva. Just as the aveiros of our forefathers caused the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, so too, if we don’t do teshuva, it is considered as if we destroyed the Beis HaMikdash. (In fact, had it been in existence, it would have been destroyed in our generation). This is because the same aveiros that caused its destruction still prevail (Sifsei Chaim, Rav Chaim Friedlander, Moadim, vol. 3, p. 276).

The Chofetz Chaim ( Shmiras HaLashon, pt. 2, ch. 7; Preface to Chofetz Chaim) writes that Chazal are referring to these specific aveiros: sinas chinom, lashon hara, rechilus and machlokes, adding that each of these aveiros causes the other. Because of sinas chinom, we speak lashon hara and make machlokes; conversely, lashon hara and machlokes cause the transgression of the other in addition to sinas chinom. We can also include the aveiros of hurting another’s feelings (ona’as devarim), embarrassing a fellow Jew (halbanas panim), taking revenge or bearing a grudge (nekama or netira), which can also cause or be a result of the above aveiros. Since there is no shortage of mussar sefarim that expound on these aveiros (the most famous and perhaps most widely used is the Chafetz Chaim and Shmiras HaLashon), these articles will not deal with these subjects.

Despite this daunting list of aveiros, there is another factor that is causing our lengthy galus – not properly mourning over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash.

Chazal tell us, “Kol Hamisabel al Yerushalayim zocheh v’roeh besimchasa, ve’she’aino misabel al Yerushalayim, aino roeh besimchasa” – whoever mourns for Jerusalem (in her exile) merits to share in the rejoicing of her redemption, and one who doesn’t mourn over Jerusalem will not see its rejoicing, i.e., the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash. (Ta’anis 30b; Shulchan Aruch O.C. 554:25.The Ritva [Ta’anis ad. loc.] comments that if one mourned properly and nevertheless died before the Beis HaMikdash was rebuilt, he will arise during the coming of Moshiach and witness its rebuilding.)

Rav Chaim Volozhin and the Chasam Sofer remarked that throughout the course of history, many nations have experienced physical destruction and the loss of national independence, yet none continues to mourn their loss as the Jewish people do. These other nations have accepted the irrevocable nature of their misfortunes and the fact that there is no hope that their former empires will ever be restored to their former greatness. Their once glorious kingdoms have forever vanished from the hearts and minds of their people.

In sharp contrast, even though the actual destruction of the Beis HaMikdash took place some 2,000 years ago, the enormity of the catastrophe is as real today as it was when these tragedies befell us. Our deep pain and anguish are constantly felt and do not diminish with the passage of time. Chazal reassure us that the powerful kingdom of Hashem will once again be restored and resume its former majesty and grandeur. This is one of the reasons why the mournful day of Tisha B’av is referred to as a moed, a festival.

The chronicles of history record that Napoleon Bonaparte passed a shul on Tisha B’av and heard the sounds of bitter weeping from the congregants. Upon inquiry, he was told that the Jews were bewailing the loss of their land. Astonished and deeply impressed, he declared, “A nation that still sheds tears over their long-lost country will never die; such a nation may be certain that they will eventually regain their land” (The Future Festival, Rabbi Chaim Press, pp. 9-11).
Together with mourning over the destruction is the obligation to anticipate the final redemption and the coming of Moshiach. In olam haba, the world to come, we will be asked, “Tzipisa lishua?” – did you eagerly await Moshiach’s arrival? (Shabbos 31a).The Arizal writes that by saying, “Ki lishuas’cha kivinu kol hayom” –we hope for Your deliverance– in our daily tefillos, we will be able to reply in the affirmative (commentary of Eitz Yosef in Siddur Otzar Ha’tefillos, p. 71; cf Sha’arei Teshuva O.C.118, who writes that it’s also a segula for protection against misfortune).
However, these words must be heartfelt, as the following story illustrates. The Beis Halevi, Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik, was approached by a delegation from Brisk who wished to appoint him as the Rav of their city. Although they had already prepared the ksav rabbanus (rabbinical appointment scroll), he refused this prestigious offer, explaining that upon leaving his position in Slutzk, he had decided to leave the rabbanus (rabbinate).

One of the delegates exclaimed, “Rebbi, how could you refuse us when 25,000 Jews are awaiting you?”

These words jolted the Beis Halevi, who immediately requested his hat and coat and started making preparations for the journey, replying, “I cannot refuse this enormous kehilla that is expecting me!”

Remarking on this story, the Chafetz Chaim, who was present at the meeting, sighed, “Rav Yosef Dov decided so quickly because he couldn’t bear the fact that so many Yidden were awaiting him. How much more so would Moshiach certainly not leave us waiting, but would grab his cloak and come immediately, if he knew that Klal Yisroel was awaiting his arrival! The problem is that we are not wholeheartedly anticipating him. We say, ‘Ki mechakim anachnu loch,’ we are awaiting You, but it is only lip service. We are really not awaiting Him.” He then started to weep ( Yalkut Lekach Tov, Shemos, p. 258. The Chafetz Chaim also mentions this thought in Nidchei Yisrael, Sha’ar Ha’acharon ch. 2).

Similarly, Rav Aharon Kotler writes that our mourning over the destruction of the Beis HaMikdashand Yerushalayim must be with tzar haleiv – heartfelt pain (Mishnas Rebbi Aharon, vol. 3 p. 47).

If we do some introspection, we will discover a big void in this area of our feelings, and that we are fulfilling our obligation as “mitzvos anashim melumada” – by rote (cf commentary of Me’iri, Ta’anis, ibid.). Chitzoniyus, which the Gra explains as doing mitzvos without feeling, is in fact one of the characteristics of our present galus (Quoted in Sifsei Chaim, ibid, p. 283).
The goal of these articles is to help arouse our emotions and instill deeper feelings of what the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash has done and is doing to our nation, to help us merit a speedy redemption.


The Shulchan Aruch (O.C. 1:3) writes: “It is appropriate for a yireh shamayim to be distressed and troubled over the churban Beis Hamikdash.” Remembering the churban is not restricted to Tisha B’Av or the Three Weeks. Throughout the year, we observe many laws and customs to ensure that the memory of the churban does not fade in our minds with the passage of time. Examples include reciting “Al naharos Bavel” before benching, Tikun Chatzos, leaving an unpainted square in our homes on the wall opposite the entrance, restrictions on listening to live music, and tearing one’s garment upon seeing the Kosel Hama’aravi and the place of the Beis Hamikdash (Mishna Brura ad. loc. #9, 11, Shulchan Aruch O.C. 560:1,3; 561).

In our tefillos we bewail its destruction and constantly beg Hashem for its speedy rebuilding in our time.

Additional laws and customs regarding the conduct of mourning were added during the three-week period commencing with the fast of Shiva Asar B’Tamuz and are intensified as we approach Tisha B’Av. The most severe restrictions and conduct apply on Tisha B’Av itself, when we observe all the laws of mourning.

Despite our observance of these laws, the crucial question that we should ask ourselves is, “Are we actually feeling the churban, or are we just observing it?” The Telzer Rav, Rav Yosef Leib Bloch, writes (Shiurei Da’as 4:1) that the entire world, including the spiritual, is composed of a body and soul. Regarding mitzvos, we can say that the body is represented by the simple action of the mitzva (maaseh hamitzva) similar to the visible human body, while the soul corresponds to the emotional feeling accompanying it (kavana). For example, the feeling of simcha when taking a lulav and esrog on Sukkos or the feeling of awe and trepidation on the Day of Judgment during the shofar blowing or on Yom Kippur.

Unfortunately, b’avonoseinu horabim, we lack the soul of the mitzva of mourning over the churban Beis Hamikdash. The Chofetz Chaim, citing the Rambam and Chayai Adam, makes a similar point regarding the fast (Mishna Brura 549:1). The purpose of a fast day, he writes, is to remember the tragedies that occurred on that day. This should arouse us to do teshuva by reminding us of our and our forefathers’ aveiros, which were similar to ours and caused the terrible events that befell our people. We should not assume that by abstaining from food and drink alone while engaging in idle talk and pleasure trips that we fulfill the requirement and purpose of a fast day. The true purpose of a fast day must be evident in the improvement of our deeds.

When Rav Shach heard that people complain about their discomfort caused by the restrictions of washing one’s body during the Nine Days, he remarked, “Never has an avel (mourner) been heard to complain about this discomfort.” Rav Shach is telling us how distant we are from feeling the churban Beis Hamikdash as a personal tragedy.

(Picture courtesy of Temple Institute)

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Eliyahu Hanavi - Moshav Band - Music Video

-Dixie Yid

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Thursday, July 17, 2008

Refa'einu - 9th/Final Shiur - How to Stay Healthy - Audio Shiur

Here is this past Sunday's edition of Reb Yerachmiel's shiur at the Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah.

This week Reb Yerachmiel concluded his ninth and final shiur on Berchas "Refa'ainu" in Shemoneh Esrei at the Baltimore Community Kollel. Unlike the previous shiurim, this week's shiur dealt not with Hashem's healing of the sick, but rather offered practical, Torahdik aiztos for how the healthy can, be'ezras Hashem, stay that way!!!

CLICK HERE and either left click and listen now or right click and select "Save Target As" to download.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Aussie Echo)

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If the Only Way We Can Sell Our children Torah is by Forbidding Everything Else, Then We are Bankrupt

Over Shabbos, I saw a quote from Rav Shlomo Freifeld in Rabbi Yisroel Besser's book, "Reb Shlomo," which captured so much that my rebbe has been teaching us as well. He said (paraphrasing) "If the only way we can sell our children Torah is by forbidding everything else, then we are bankrupt."

I read this to mean basically the following: While it would be foolish not to forbid clearly damaging things to our children like TV, movies and unfiltered internet, when our isurim get more and more dakusdik by overextending them to see potential dangers in almost anything in life, it begins to totally miss the point.

We cannot blame Lipa Schmeltzer (esp. starting at minute marker 11:00), gold-decorated women's shoes, or text messaging to explain why our children sometimes go off the derech. Before these things, along with TV, the internet and Lipa Shmeltzer concerts existed, kids went off the derech because of the haskala or Enlightenment, Reform, or any number of other movements throughout the years. Whereas before, different ideological and intellectual movements may have been attractive, now it's cheap entertainment that threatens by appearing more exciting than Torah. There is always going to be something that will be the kli to draw Jews away from Torah and mitzvos.

However, if we allow ourselves to get caught up in these problems which are merely the conduit through which our children sometimes go off, we are deluding ourselves as to the real problem. If the Yiddishkeit that we live and that we teach our children is not the most vibrant, joyful, exciting and meaningful thing for us in our lives, then almost any vanity of this world will seem more attractive by comparison. It is cruel and unusual punishment to our own and our children's neshamos if we try to correct the presence of text messaging in our midst but we don't correct the kind of messaging that is going on between ourselves and our Father in Heaven! As long as we ignore the internal problem within our own neshamos and our own homes, there will always be some temptation that will "take the children away from Yiddishkeit."

Rav Freifeld said that if we can only get our children to like Torah by fobidding everything else, we are bankrupt. What does it mean to be bankrupt. It means you have nothing! You're empty handed. If our Torah and Mitzvos are empty, then of course we cannot compete with anything of this world. It is a tragedy to blame outside forces when they are just the conduit through which our internal, spiritual problems express themselves. Let's not miss the point. Instead of focusing on outside threats, we must work on filling our spiritual bank accounts so that we can emerge from bankruptsy and live the kind of ruchnius-dikeh life that will make any of these ancillary external distractions pale in comparison to the beauty, happiness, fulfillment and joy in our own Yiddishkeit.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Shor Yoshuv)

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Yonatan Razal - "Sach Hakol" - Music Video

This is a music video that goes with Yonatan Razal's title song for his album, Sach Hakol.

-Dixie Yid

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Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Video of Interview with Rebbetzin Bathsheva Kanievsky

Nava at Dreaming of Moshiach has posted about a video of an interview with Rebbetzin Batsheva Kanievsky, the wife of Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlita. She is asked several questions about the coming of Moshiach, a few of which Nava translates. You can see the video HERE or by clicking the picture above. HT also to my friend Zev for pointing out Nava's post to me.

-Dixie Yid

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Shuls Should be As Beautiful On the Inside as They are Outside

Over Shabbos, Parshas Balak, I saw two teachings that I wanted to share.

One was a small part of a piece from the Toldos Yaakov Yosef by Rav Yaakov Yosef of Polnoye in Parshas Balak, 4th column in the first piece on the Parsha. After explaining how "Yaakov" is often used to refer to the "hamon am," the general Jewish population, and how "Yisroel" is used to refer to the Talmidei Chachaim, the Torah scholars, he explains the pasuk "מַה-טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ, יַעֲקֹב; מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל" in Bamidbar 24:6 by way of a drush. He says that "מַה-טֹּבוּ אֹהָלֶיךָ, יַעֲקֹב" refers to the beautiful Shuls and Batei Midrash that will be built by the general Jewish population. He explains that these Shuls and Batei Midrash should only be built on the condition that "מִשְׁכְּנֹתֶיךָ, יִשְׂרָאֵל," that they are a made as a dwelling place for the Talmidei Chachamim to learn Torah. The wealthy people of the nation should strengthen the hands of those who learn Torah in the Beis Medrash so that the these buildings will be just as beautiful inside, b'pnimius, as they are outside.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of seforim center)

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Shuli Rand from Ushpizin's First Album Online - Interview

Shuli Rand, of Ushpizin fame, has come out with his own album which I have seen a couple of very good reviews about. It is called "Nekudah Tova," "Good Point," and can already be ordered online. (You can listen to clips of the songs at that link.) Yasher koach to YK's Jewish Music Forum for introducing me to this information and for preliminarily reviewing the album. If anyone out there has this album, I'd be interested in hearing about it.

I don't know much about Shuli Rand besides the fact that he was a big secular movie actor in Israel after going off the derech at age 18. After a successful career, he was Chozer B'Teshuva and became a Breslover Chosid. Below is an interesting interview with him on secualr Israeli television where he explains, among other thing, how he came up with the idea for the album cover, pictured above.


-Dixie Yid

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