Monday, September 29, 2008

Posting Live From the Uman Drive - Part 5 - Arrival in Uman

Start at Part 1

We arrived at the kever of Rebbi Nosson at around 2:30am (Friday morning). Rebbi Nosson is buried on top a small bluff overlooking the town of Bardichiv. Surprisingly Bardichiv looked like a very developed town. We ascended a long and winding stair case with our tehillim in hand and tefillos swirling in our minds. We were slightly surprised when we entered the tzion to find two slumbering chassidim fast asleep on the floor. Knowing this was the last kever we would be visiting on this whirlwind tour before we get to Uman, I started to reflect on the experience of the last 3 days. I was immediately struck with the realization that it took me 40 years to unplug from the madness and really do something to prepare myself for Rosh Hashana. I got on a plane at 5:00pm Tuesday evening with a short lay over in Amsterdam with enough time to say Slichos and Daven Schacharis with Kavanah. When we arrived in Kiev it took over 1 hour until we finally managed to clear customs despite the primitive ridiculous system that is used in this backward country. We then boarded a van with all our luggage. We were a group of 7 and kulam biyachad one mission to pour out our neshomas by the heiliga kevorim of some of the greatest Tzaddikim that walked in this world. This was our chance to daven for ourselves, our loved ones, chaverim, and all of klal yisroel. It was 3 days that we did not see a bed, sit at a table with a normal meal, or change our clothes. Despite all that it seemed we were lacking, my life was infused with an overwhelming experience to really connect with the Rebono shel olam through these holy kevorim she'll tzaddikim and only focus on the most minimal aspects of gashmius possible. There is no way possible to accomplish a real proper preparation for Rosh Hashana when one is in his or her usual daled ammos. Even if you are not looking for distractions, they seem to find you. B'h Hashem knew that I really wanted this year to elevate my tefillos in a way that I never could before.


Several hours later we arrived in Uman at circa 5:00 am. I truly know now that our faithful driver Leon is a good goy. He dropped us off and told us to walk around 2000feet past security and he drove around to the top of a hill with our luggage so we would not have to shlep our bags through the broken streets of Uman. This man drove us for the last 48 hours with only 1-3 hours of sleep depending on the stop we made. Despite this he had the decency to look out for our comfort and well being by accommodating us in every way possible.

Needless to say after dropping of our bags, we quickly dropped off our bags and ran to the Tzion. The tzion was pumping with sounds and cry's of words of tehillim. My chaverim quickly whisked me off to see the Kloize which looks like an airplane hanger with seating for several thousand people. We said slechos and then ran right back to base camp the "Ritz Carton" to daven Schacharis. Yes that is correct no typo "Carton" true Breslov chassidim that are always besimcha also have a cute sense of humor including a heisa Mikveh with a rubber duck and dead fish floating in the mayim metahrim. I still was not ready to sleep I had to walk the streets of Uman to try and take in this mokom. It is an amazing feeling to walk and only see Jews everywhere. Jews of all different sizes and shapes from different places around the world all here to daven. I bought a new pair of tzizis lekovod Shabbos, a new white yarmuka lekovod Yom Tov and finally a new sefer which I have been looking for quite some time Sefer Hamidos one of the 3 seforim written by Rebbi Nachman. After walking around for several hours I finally returned to my room to get a few hours of much needed sleep. I awoke 2 hours before Shabbos to make my final preparations for Shabbos. Shower, Mikveh, and a visit to the Tzion to say Tikkun klali, and give 1 dollar(my form of a prutah) to ensure that Hashem will fulfill the promise of this Tzaddik to pull me out if needed from gehenom by my peyous. I promised Hashem before I was born that I would be a Tzaddik and not a Rasha, I can assure you I plan to keep this promise but I'll take all the help I can get.

Needless to say the Skolya Rebba was right Wow is this a mokom of tiffilah. Despite the fact that the niggunim at Aish Kodesh far exceed the niggunim here on Friday night, I can't recall such a powerful davening to usher in Shabbos with my neshoma yesayra. In fact despite the lack of the long niggen after licol dodi the tiffilah filled me in a way I have never been filled before.

We eat our meals outdoors prepared by Rabbi Chaim Kramers sons. The Shabbos meals were inspiring filled with inspirational stories from the people that are staying here with us.

It's time for melave malkah so I will continue soon.

Inspired with tiffilah more then ever before.


-Dixie Yid

(Pictures of the streets of Uman taken half an hour ago courtesy of my holy chevrusa)

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Be an Eved Hashem Where, When and As You Are

Before Rosh Hashana, we read Parshas Nitzavim. Rebbe Nachman MeBreslev in Likutei Moharan 1:44 (quoted in the Likutei Halachos Chumash) teaches that at the beginning of the Parsha, Moshe gathers the entire Jewish people together on the last day of his life. Rebbe Nachman teaches that this is because when the whole Jewish people gather together to the true Tzadik, the aspect of Moshe Rabeinu, they plug into a higher level of understanding, a higher consciousness. This, he says, is also the avodah of Rosh Hashanah, which is why it is a big inyan in Breslev to go to Rebbe Nachman, even today, in Uman to his kever for Rosh Hashanah.

He says that through the additional understanding that one gains through his connection to the Tzadik, he will have the ability, throughout the rest of the year to know how to serve Hashem from within his own circumstances, in the place where he is, at the time when he lives, and with all of the difficulties, challenges, foreign thoughts, etc. that he personally has.

The avodah of a Jew is not to think that if only I lived in some other era, or some other place, or with some other family, or with some other set of kochos hanefesh, then I could really be an Eved Hashem. Our avodah is to be Ovdei Hashem where, when and as we are. Shoin. That's it.

This does not negate the fact that if one is in an less than ideal situation, that he should not take steps to change that situation for the future if it is the Ratzon Hashem for him to do so. But for the present, while he is still in that situation, he must know that he can and must be a true Eved Hashem while he is still in that situation. You must ask yourself what the Ratzon Hashem is for me right now, at this moment, given the circumstances and kochos hanefesh that I have right now.

And Rebbe Nachman is teaching us that through connecting to a true tzadik, especially on Rosh Hashana (as hinted by Parshas Nitzavim's placement right before Rosh Hashana), we can gain the insight to know how to do this in all of our particular circumstances.

May this Rosh Hashana be an illumination to our eyes and imbue us with the wisdom to know how to be ovdei Hashem in our own particular circumstances!

-Dixie Yid

(Video is of a gathering in Uman near Rosh Hashana, singing one of the most awesome niggunim, "Hakadosh Baruch Hu, Anachnu Ohavim Otchah!" "Hashem We love you!")

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Rav Moshe Wolfson at YU for Pre-Rosh Hashanah Sichas Mussar

YU Torah has posted a shiur given by Rav Moshe Wolfson as guest speaker at YU's weekly Sichas Mussar on 9/15/08. Moshiach is on his way!

CLICK HERE to listen online or download the shiur.

HT to Rabbi Reuven Boshnack for pointing out this gevaldiger shiur to me.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of flikr)

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Rabbi Boshnack on Rosh Hashanah - From Thu. Night Mishmar

Our good friend Rabbi Reuven Boshnack, the Brooklyn Colleger Rebbe, has been mezakeh us with another shiur that he gave at Mishmar with the Talmidim and Talmidos from this past Thursday evening, September 27th, 2008, getting them ready for Rosh Hashanah.
CLICK HERE to download or listen to the shiur!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of R' Boshnack [on the right] with Chaim Dovid courtesy of R' Boshnack)

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Sunday, September 28, 2008

Haftarah of Parshas Nitzavim - Beautiful Shiur by R' Reuven Boshnack

Check out THIS SHIUR given by R' Reuven Boshnack on the Haftarah to Parshas Nitzavim. Very beautiful! Left click to listen right away or right click & select "Save Target As" to download.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture of "the heavens" referred to in Devarim 30:12, " in the Parsha,"לֹא בַשָּׁמַיִם, הִוא," )

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New Rosh Hashanah Art by Dan Weinstein

Special Art for Rosh Hashanah courtesy of Dan Weinstein
See more here!

-Dixie Yid

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin's New Book on Marriage - Excerpt

A Simple Jew has posted an excerpt of Rav Shlomo Slatkin's new book on marriage, "Jewish Marriage: Improving Your Marriage One Jewish Holiday at a Time."

I consider Rabbi Slatkin a good friend. He has a great Chevrah in Baltimore that are working on being True Ovdei Hashem, servants of Hashem. They try not to just "go with the flow" of life. Instead, his chevrah is one that really strives to take a pro-active role in making a real Isarusa D'l'sata, an awakening from below, to get closer to Hashem.

So I definitely recommend checking out this great selection from the book, since it relates to this Shabbos, the Shabbos before Rosh Hashanah.

-Dixie Yid

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MALCHUYOS: HASHEM IS OUR KING - Guest Posty by R' Chaim Morgenstern

By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern
(Reprinted from the booklet with permission from the author)

The Shacharis davening of Rosh Hashana is ushered in with the chazan singing “Hamelech” – the king. In fact, the most often-mentioned word in the Rosh Hashana davening is “melech” and the central theme of the Rosh Hashana davening is “malchuyos” – proclaiming and recognizing Hashem's total sovereignty over the entire universe. Additionally, Rabbeinu Saadia Gaon writes that the shofar blowing symbolizes the coronation of Hashem over the world (just like trumpets are sounded when crowning a new king). It is for this reason that the Gra was extremely joyous during the shofar blowing, explaining that just as a nation is joyous when they coronate a king, so too, we must be joyous because we are coronating Hashem over the universe (Rav Chaim Volozhin, Kesser Rosh #204).

However, if we were to give this concept of malchuyos a second thought, we may discover that we are very distant from perceiving its profound meaning and implications.
Rav E. Dessler writes that even though we inwardly believe that Hashem controls the entire world, nevertheless we fall short of feeling this belief in our day-to-day lives. This is because we are accustomed to use the terms "nature” and “miracle.” Many people think that “nature” is all that transpires naturally once Hashem put the earth into motion, while a miracle is an occurrence that is outside the laws of nature. However, this is an error. In reality everything is a miracle, and it's only because we are so used to it happening that we term it "nature." For example, we accept the fact that techiyas hameisim – resurrection of the dead – is a miracle. However, a seed that decomposes and starts growing is no less a miracle, nonetheless we term it "nature.” Yet it is only the will of Hashem that makes a seed grow no less than bringing a dead person back to life. Science knows how things function, but not why. The “why” of a growing seed, force of gravity, and thousands of other "natural" occurrences and phenomenon are the ratzon Hashem, the will of the Creator. Therefore, concludes Rav Dessler, there is no difference between a miracle and nature except that we are so used to the term “nature” (and associate it to “natural”) that we cease to see all the miracles necessary for nature to function (Michtav M’Eliyahu Vol. 1, pp 177-8).

One of the reasons why it is difficult to envision and fully comprehend the concept of Hashem’s supremacy over the world is simply because there are no kings today to set an example of a supreme ruler. By observing the absolute authority of a king and how his nation is totally subservient to him, one is able to set an example for himself of how to properly honor, revere and serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu (Sefer Hayashar of Rabbeinu Tam, Shaar Ha’rishon).
Rav Shlomo Wolbe adds that this is one explanation of " מלכותא דארעא כעין מלכותא דרקיע " – an earthly kingdom is similar to a heavenly one. Observing the reverence and honor given to a melech basar v'dam – an earthly king – is just a slight glimpse of what must be accorded to Hashem. Before 250 years ago, kings were absolute rulers. Their word was final – if they decided to execute someone, it was carried out without any delay. However, they began to misuse their authority and became ruthless despots. The French Revolution ushered in a new era in history by introducing the concept of democracy, which soon spread to most of the world. The absolute power of the king was now replaced with a president or prime minister elected by the populace, whose authority was now controlled by another governing body (parliament or congress). Rav Wolbe writes that this drastic change was not coincidental. It was a heavenly decree resulting from our own misdeeds of being lax in emunah – belief in Hashem. The purpose of an absolute monarch is to give us an actual picture of human subservience to a living king, who can serve as a role model of how to honor, revere and serve Hakadosh Baruch Hu. Once people started losing their emuna in Hashem, there was no purpose in having kings in the world and Hashem abolished this system (Alei Shur, Vol. 2 pp 425-7).

Since we lack a model of a supreme ruler, we must seek other methods to conceptualize the malchuyos theme of Rosh Hashana in order to feel that Hashem is in absolute control of all that transpires in the universe.

We can start by studying Hashem's dominance over the physical world. Let’s pick up a rock and observe it. The smallest component of this small stone is an atom. If the tip of a pinhead contains 25 million atoms, then the amount of atoms in a stone held in one's hand is immeasurable. (Even 25 million is an amount that's hard to perceive. Can you imagine this amount of matches before your eyes?) Each atom consists of electrons, protons and neutrons that are held together by an invisible force. When this force is removed, the atom explodes releasing atomic energy. Releasing this force in a particle the size of an egg can provide enough energy to power a steamship across the Atlantic Ocean, and releasing the energy contained in an apartment building can destroy an entire city. While the scientists cannot identify this force, we call it “Hashem’s will.” It is His will that exerts an infinite force, which holds the entire universe together.

Understanding this force explains another concept found in Chazal regarding the asara harugei malchus – the ten Torah sages who were murdered by the Romans. After Rabbi Akiva was killed, the malachim complained to Hashem, “זו תורה וזו שכרה?” – Is this the reward for his devoted Torah study? A Heavenly Voice then proclaimed that this is the decree of Hashem that must be accepted, and if the malachim will continue to complain, Hashem will transform the world to tohu vavohu – its pre-existing state of void and vacuum, meaning that He will destroy the world. How would Hashem accomplish this? We can simply say that since the entire universe exists only because of Hashem’s will, removing His will causes all matter to cease existing. However, based on the fact that the physical world exists because of Hashem’s desire to exert a force that holds all matter together, we can try to explain this concept on a more tangible level. If Hashem would remove His invisible force that is holding the entire creation together, it would result in a complete breakdown of all the atoms and total destruction of the world by converting all the earth's mass to energy. Thus, our entire existence is dependent on a continuous force exerted by Hashem's will.

We can further demonstrate Hashem's constant control of the universe by examining the wonders of creation (a method also used for proving Hashem's existence). As an example, let us examine the cells of our body as described in a science magazine: “Looking at an individual cell, you will be even more impressed. A single cell cannot be seen without a microscope, yet what goes on within a cell is astounding. The wisdom of a single cell is said to exceed all the accumulated knowledge of the human race to date. Even the smallest cell in your body is about one billion times the size of its smallest component! The cell is the site of more chemical reactions than all the chemical factories in the world combined. There are thousands of components in a cell: chromosomes, genes, DNA, organelles, mitochondria, enzymes, hormones, amino acids, and thousands of various chemicals and compounds too numerous to mention. And no one on this earth can explain what makes an individual cell operate. All the thousands of different functions can be categorized, but the force behind these functions is beyond our comprehension. In other words, the innate intelligence of the body is infinitely more sophisticated than our thinking minds. And to think there are over seventy-five trillion (75,000,000,000,000) of these astounding cells working with pinpoint perfection for some sixty, seventy, eighty years, or more.

The human brain has 30 billion neurons or nerve cells, with five to ten times that number of cellular connections. These neurons are not attached to each other, and connect by transmitting signals via a string (axon) at a speed of 225 mph. After passing the signal, it takes each string two-thousandths of a second to chemically recharge itself. Even asleep, the brain handles traffic that would swamp the entire world’s telecommunication systems combined.

Inside each cell is a nucleus that contains chromosomes that contain genes. Inside genes is the stuff of life – DNA. DNA is what determines what color your eyes are, what fragrance a flower will have, or the iridescence of a bird's feathers. If you took the entire DNA from all the genes of all your seventy-five trillion cells, it would fit into a box the size of an ice cube. Yet if this entire DNA were unwound and joined together, the string would stretch from the earth to the sun and back more than four hundred times! That's almost eighty billion miles!

One human cell in the laboratory, free from all bodily influences, will divide some fifty times before dying. If all our cells divided that often, we would reach a weight of more than eighty trillion tons! Only with such staggering thoughts as these is it possible to grasp some idea of the infinite intelligence necessary to coordinate the activities of such an astronomical number of cooperating cells. When we view the vastness of the human body's faculties and processes, we must stand in awe of the enormous intelligence displayed."

The scientists, who deny the existence of a Creator, attribute this to some mysterious intelligence. They believe that, chas veshalom, just as it took millions of years for human beings to evolve from the amoeba cell, with "patience" to wait a few more million years we are bound to find the solutions to all the mysteries of the universe. However, we have all the answers. This "mysterious intelligence" is Hakadosh Baruch Hu, who controls all of nature with His infinite wisdom.

Rav Yitzchok Hutner aptly captures the concept of Hashem’s presence in the world stating, “The secular philosophers painstakingly strive to find Hashem’s presence in the world. However we cannot find a place in the universe that doesn’t manifest Hashem’s presence” (Quoted in Alei Shur Vol. 2, p.596. This is also why one of the names of Hashem is “Hamakom” – the place, inferring that his place is everywhere, as the pasuk states, “מלא כל הארץ כבודו” – The whole world is filled with His glory - Yeshayahu 6:3). Understanding these concepts provides an insight into the meaning of the words in our daily tefilla: “המחדש בטובו בכל יום תמיד מעשה בראשית ” – In his goodness, He continuously renews the work of creation. Since every second of our existence requires a renewal of Hashem’s will to function, each moment is like a “new creation” (See commentary of Aitz Yosef in the Siddur Otzar Hatefillos ad loc.).

Another insight into the concept of malchuyos can be attained by examining Hashem's knowledge of all that transpires in the universe. Imagine writing a comprehensive autobiography about yourself that would contain every vital statistic about all that transpired every second of your lifetime. It would include all your thoughts, feelings, desires and all medical data about your body – blood pressure, heartbeat rate, brainwaves and complete blood analysis from the time you were born. Since each year has over 31 million seconds, if we were to program one hundred pieces of information, we would be storing over 3 billion bits of data for only one person per year. When multiplying this by 70 years, and again by the entire population of the world, we reach astronomical figures. No computer system could ever handle such data. Now imagine that we are standing by the Kosel Hama’aravi on a crowded chol hamoed day, as thousands of Jews are streaming in and out. Try programming each individual's past, present and future history and thoughts for one year – another 3 billion bits per person. In addition to this, let us attempt to accumulate data about all the animals, birds, insects, fish, trees, flowers, vegetation, weather, ocean currents and temperatures. It is impossible for a human mind to even imagine the massive amount of data involved.

We haven't even touched on any facts about the inorganic world, such as the gas content of the atmosphere, the amount of and content of every building on earth, including the origin of each component; nor have we included the vast spiritual realm of the heavens, malachim and the world-to-come. The list is endless.

If we stop to think, we'll realize that recording all the data about the entire world is impossible. But there is one "Being" that is able to comprehend all the data of the entire world – humans, animals, vegetation, plus encyclopedic knowledge of all the inorganic matter of the universe – Hakadosh Baruch Hu. His infinite knowledge is beyond any human comprehension as we say daily in Ashrei, “גדול ה' ומהולל מאוד, ולגדולתו אין חקר ” – His greatness is unfathomable. Thus, another concept of malchuyos is that Hashem has absolute knowledge of the past, present and future of every component, being and organism in the universe.

To briefly summarize, Hakadosh Baruch Hu exerts an invisible force that keeps the complete physical world in existence, in addition to actually controlling its every movement. Hashem also has a complete and comprehensive knowledge of every conceivable fact and data of the entire universe since creation.

Rav Yitzchok Hutner explains that although we proclaim the oneness of Hashem in our Shema twice daily, Rosh Hashana is designated as a day in which we coronate Hashem over the world.

Bearing in mind the above thoughts can help us grasp the profundity of the concept of malchuyos and give us a glimpse of how Hashem is Melech Malchai Hamelachim – the king of kings.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of esklepios)

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Thursday, September 25, 2008

Posting Live on the Uman Drive - Part 4 - R' Levi Yitzchak

Part 1 here
We departed only moments ago from the Tzion of Rav Lavi Yitzchak of Bardichiev. I've had the good fortune of learning many of the Tzaddiks torahs with several of my chavrusahs including Chaim Freud and Benyomin Wolf. Reb Lavi Yitzchak ben Sara sahsa. Just saying that holy name is a segulah in an of itself. The heilga bardichiva was known to have such a lichtiga neshoma with such fire that he would jump right to the top of a table while screaming out loud "heliga tateh un himmel rebono she'll olam."

We drove through a beautiful old cemetery. This is like no other cemetery you've seen before. The matzevahs were all different sizes and shapes as my chavrusah Chaim said it looked like a beautiful haunted cemetery. We in fact passed areas that were filled with beautiful yellow and orange flowers. As we circled through the cemetery our van came to a complete stop in front of the tzion. Baruch Hashem there were other cars and vans filled with yidden all going to see the tzaddik. As we got off the van we could here the sounds of a violin playing beautiful chassidishe nigunim. As we entered the tzion we saw and heard the tiffilos of other yidden. We all began to say tehillim about 15 minutes in one of the yidden said ok all yidden kulam biyachad and we all said shema together. Then he said in hebrew of course that when you are near the tzaddik you have to be bisimcha so we all broke out in song and dance simcha gedolah leos bisimcha...... We tanced a rikud for at least 15 minutes I opted to continue to say tehillim infused by the sound of happy yidden singing, clapping and dancing. Kulam biyachad. Aye to be by so many holy places in one day what a zechus. May we all merit do dance together with all the tzaddikim and all yidden from all times un beias hamoshiach...... on to Breslov as the van presses on into the night on to visit the tzion of Rebbi Nosson the talmud muvhak of Rebbi Nachman. We hope to arrive local time 2:30 am.

Always be bisimcha. When a neshomah knows that it is in the presence of hashem it remains bisimcha always. Shivti bevais hashem kol yemei chayai.

Go to Part 5, arrival in Uman

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Rabbi Tal Zwecker)

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Posting Live on the Uman Drive - Part 3 - The Baal Shem Tov

Part 1 here

Its hard to believe in fact I am waiting to wake up from this dream. As we entered the village of Mesbitche you could tell something about this place was different. The road was made of inlaid broken stone and we could see the holy site in the distance. A million thoughts flew through my mind all at once. The ones that stood out were "the Baal Shem tov walked on this street and looked at this place just about 300 years ago" and of course "am I really here is it possible" the father of chassidus. The holy rebba that taught us and brought the idea into the world that not only is there elokus in everything but that everything is elokus even the shell. Every jew has to love one another simply because we are all one. When you look at another yid you are looking at a piece of you. We entered the bais medrash and the first thing we did was fill our stomachs with the most helig vegetable soup from the chader ochel. Next we made our way to fill our neshomas with our renewed koach haguf with the teffilos of mincha. Now we were ready to try and enter into the holy mokom of the Baal shem tov Hakodosh zechus yagen alenu! B'h there were yidden everywhere this is the first time we had seen other yidden since we started this Journey. By the way we are all convinced that our driver is an alter einekel of Alexi the faithful driver of the Baal shem hakadosh. For all of you that are not familiar with the Driver Alexi I heard that he had the zechus to drive the Baal Shem tov because he saved the life of one yiddishe neshoma. We just got pulled over by one of the crooked police and he said Baruch Barushna and he left us alone. I don't know who Barushna is but he must be a good guy. You could actually feel the uniqueness of this mokom although if I made any attempt to put it in word it would and could not justify the moment. Someone told me I am a tzaddik simply because I gave out some candles to some people that did not have any. If it were only that simple however to use the loshon of tzaddik in front of this tzaddik perhaps there is yet hope.

I can tell you that everyone reading this email that your names were uttered in front of these tzaddikim by myself or the holy chevrah that I am traveling with. In fact I don't know where this email will end up but I can assure you that we prayed for all of klal yisroel. Its amazing I just realized that when we pray for ourselves we are also praying for all of klal yisroel because we are all kulnu biyachad. Buried right next to the Baal Shem tov is the Apter Rav, Rav Baruchel Mimezbitche, Rav Nachman Mehuridansk, and the Deygal Machaneh Efraim. WOW it can't be possible that every tiffilla did not pierce through shamayim. The holy kedoshim were mevatel their entire lives for all of klal yisroel and in truth that koach is still present in this world. We concluded our visit with davening Maariv with a minyan in the Bais Medrash.

You know when someone asks me now "how are you" I can really say I am a different person than I was 2 days ago. It is not possible to walk amongst the Greatest Tzaddikim and daven next to them and actually think for a moment that you are not a changed person. As my neshoma begins to break through the many layers and husks of phisicality and to reveal itself as it tries harder and harder then ever before to connect with Hakodosh Baruch Hu I begin to feel I am breaking through preparing myself for Rosh Hashana. On that note 40 years have passed by and I have never made better preparations for Rosh Hashana than I have the last few days. All I have always felt is the pain and guilt that I could have done so much more. Well today I can and off to the holy lebidik tzaddik Reb Levi Yitzchak of Bardichiv we go. Faster and faster our faithful driver Leon presses into the night off to our next opportunity of kirvas elokim through one of the greatest tzaddikim that walked in this world. To be continued....................

Yesh Boreh olam umanhig as hakol!

Part 4 here

(Picture of My Holy Chevrusa by the Baal Shem Tov's Kever courtesy of Reb Chaim!)

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Help Needed to Save a Life

I was alerted to this by Mike Cohen from GalelianWord. You can check out his site for updates on the situation. To help out, CLICK HERE for the information, posted by Jameel at Muqata.

-Dixie Yid

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Posting Live on the Uman Drive - Part 2 - The Magid & R' Zusha

Part 1 here

B"h we just concluded our most recent stop in Anapoli at the Tzion of the Maggid of Mezrich ztk'l and Reb Zusha ztk'l. Wow what a hartzig visit we had. We drove up a dirt road along the Bug river. We came across a hill where we could see a small building in the distance alone on the top of a hill. There were wild Turkeys and chickens abound. They escorted us with their loud clucking as if they were cheering us on that the yiddin have arrived to see their Rebbas. Or perhaps they were trying to wake us up from our deep slumber in our holy wagon with our choshuv driver Leon. He woke us by exclaiming aloud "we are here Baruch Hashem by reb Zusha how long do you want to stay" 20 min 30 min we said. He said "you are by Reb zusha at least 1 hour" Baruch hashem he sent us such a faithful goy to remind us how to conduct ourselves by tzaddikim. We said tehillim, davened for our loved ones, shared maasim of the Tzaddikim and sang a niggun from Rosh Hashana davening led by Reb Greenberger "uvichen tzaddikim yira viyismichi viyisharim yaloze vachasidim birinu birinu yagilu.". And also the richous will see and they will be glad and the upright ones will rejoice in simcha and the devout ones will exault in glad song". We sang "kulom biyachad" all as one for at least 20 minutes. One of the maysim told over about the Maggid of Mezrich was that he had a stroke and lost the complete use of his left side of his body. His talmud muvak the Baal Hatanya gave the pshat that the Maggid fought with the yetzer horah with his left hand which represents gevurah and gave up his use of the left side of his body to give koach to all the future generations to over power the yetzer horah. We all have the koach to overpower the yetzer horah this story resinated within us as we stood by the kever of this mighty and awesome tzaddik. As we walked out of the Tzion we saw once again that we were standing in a destroyed cemetery. We saw broken head stones everywhere. Its a strange site to see a mokom as holy as this surrounded by some chickens and some poor villagers living in primitive quarters surrounding a mokem that has a bechinah of eretz yisroel. The children of the village had cups of water waiting for us for 1 dollar a cup. My contribution was 3 dollars. 1 for washing after the beis hakvorim, asher yatzar, and al nitilas yaddayim. Sound like lunch time. On to Mezbich to visit the Tzion of the Baal shem tov hakodosh and the Apter Rov.......... .......................

And if you are wondering, you can feel the kiddushah of every holy makom we have visited. Especially just as the door to our van closes and makes its way to our next holy mokom.

Inspired, Living Inspired, and ready to Inspire others

Click here for Part 3

(Picture of the kever of the Magid of Mezrich courtesy of Zechus Avos Yogen Aleinu)

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Posting Live From the Uman Drive - Part 1 - Volednick

Received from my holy Chevrusa on the path to Uman:

For those of you just joining us We just left the town of Volednick. When we arrived is was alos hashachar. We managed to keep Leon up at the steering wheel by chanting the niggun of Uman uman rosh hashanah Uman Uman rosh hashana. Truth be known the loudest voice of all was that of our faithful driver. Who keeps reminding us that it is not him to thank but hashem for everything.

We said slechos and davened. The shames turned up the heat for us in the Tyson. The temperature was probably 40 degrees outside. Within 10 minutes the room was warm and filled with powerful slechos teffilos and tehillim of the heliga chevrah we are traveling with. One of the chevrah told us of a segulah to leave a coin on the matzevah while you daven and when you are done to take the coin with you and carry it with you so that the holy Tzaddik of valednic Reb Yisroel Dov Ber is always with you. Our faithful driver Leon got an opportunity to catch up on some much needed sleep. We charged up our cell phones mp3 players and batteries. We filled our stomachs with tea and oatmeal but most important. We charged up our neshomas with tifillos and supplications to hashem for ourselves and our loved ones.
Everyone in the room yearned for a kesher to the tzaddik to carry their tefillos to hashem.

The best way I can describe the village of Valednik is that it looked like life 100 years ago. People traveled by horse and buggy taxi, on foot or on bicycles. Thw streets were packed clay and gravel. Most of the shopping for necessities was conducted by trading potatoes or onions for clothing rice or other necessities. The holmes are built of log and mortar construction and sheet metal roofs. It is hard to believe that a place like this still exsists. There are small fires along the road so people can warm up and cook their food there are white geese, ducks, cows, and horses roaming the streets as well. There are even more primative homes built of twigs and straw. People walking in the streets carrying heavy loads on the backs. We are now out of the village completely and on our way to Anapoli to visit the Rebbi Reb Zusha of Anapoli. One of his chassidim once made the mistake of exclaiming at the table that he loved pepper Reb Zusha answered "You love pepper and I love the Reboneh She'll Olam" he was known to faint from fear of yiras hashem. It is another grey day in the Ukrain but our hearts and thoughts are filled with colorful visions of the upcomming holy day of Rosh hashana. Our driver is on the phone with a yid that needs his services to UMAN exclaiming oy vey baruch hashem I can't take you bit give the phone to a driver and with hashems help I will arrage a ride for you To be continued..............

Part 2 here UPDATE: See the first comment for several previous updates from the kever of the Baal Hatanya & other updates that preceeded this one.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of R. Lazer Brody)

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Bilvavi Author From Monsey Shiur - Video & English Summary

Rav Doniel Coren, a Talmid Chacham in Monsey, brought Rav Itamar Shwartz to Monsey on Thursday night September 11th, 2008 to speak at Rabbi Rudinksy's Shul. That shiur is available via video HERE and on mp3, along with all of the other shiurim from the U.S. trip HERE. He has been kind enough to briefly summerize the shiur below:

The pasuk says “תקעו בחודש שופר בכסא ליום חגינו כי חק לישראל הוא משפט לאלוקי יעקב” blow the shofar at the time of covering for our day of holiday.” Chazal ask which holiday has a covered up month. And they answer: the holiday of Rosh Hashana (since the moon is barely visible unlike other holidays which take place in the middle of the month)

The idea of covering up tells us a very important step as we approach the coming new year תשס"ט – if something is being covered up it means its still here. When a person enters the new year he needs to know that much of the success depends on the preparation he made in the end of the previous year. this is the main purpose of the month of Elul.

When one builds a building and finishes the first floor he then proceeds to build another floor the roof of the lower level is covered up but its there it’s the base of the next level.

Chazal say "תכלה שנה וקלולתיך תחל שנה וברכותיה." We want the curses of the previous year to end and the blessing to begin – this happens only if you end the year properly so the next year can begin on the right foot.

So what is Elul about?

We know the acronym אני לדודי ודודי לי im to my beloved and my beloved is to me – what does this mean?

How does this differ from what chazal say דרשו ה' בהמצאו קראהו בהיותו קרוב. This refers to the ten days of repentance. What doesElul have to offer that the ten days don’t?

The answer is the avoda ofElul is to understand that we are building our new year on the previous one.

What do we need to build in these days?

Ani ledodi vedodi li means as much as I feel and am aware of Hashem that is how much he will reveal himself to me –

Let's explain the process.

Ani ledodi – what is an uncle its a person who loves us generally but does not appear all the time – sometimes he shows up by a shiva and tragedies and sometimes he shows up for a wedding and a simcha

First step is to feel that Hashem is with you sometimes. This takes work.

You get up in the morning and thank God and become aware of all the gifts he gives us every moment.

Mode ani it's good to be alive – 12 second rule.

Don’t wait for tzaros to feel Hashem – its true god is with us in calamties – when a person is sick he feels god however many times a person is so troubled with the tragedy he misses out on the opportunity even then – really it’s a wake up call as we all see when people have a tragedy like getting sick etc they many times wake up buy god doesn’t want you to wait for that

Feel G-d with all the good you want have to feel him through the bad.

This is step one.

The idea of Elul being days of Ratzon is the idea that this month opens up the inner desire to want to feel G-d.

Then if a person works on this he receives a present vedodi li – G-d now reveals Himself to him much more often – you can be walking in the street and feel G-d.

As I write this I think to myself – until a person experiences this feeling, this might sound like fluffy words that just float in the air – But the truth is many people have had the moment which people call “it” where for a second they are mezmerized by a beautiful view or the setting of the sun or watching a very strong wind.

What is that feeling? It’s the trancendal. You feel like you're transcending the physical world. Our purpose is to feel all the time.

If you want to know if your Elul preparation is going well, check to see if you feel G-d not only when there is a tzara or a direct cause but just walking with him and feeling his presence

The ten days are ten days when you can feel God all the time – It's Gan Eden.

If your hachana of Elul goes right, you come to Rosh Hashana and you can say Avinu our father – our Father is always watching us

To be successful you need to decide what is our purpose in life why am I asking for life.

What type of life do we want?

When we say זכרנו לחיים מלך חפץ בחיים what are we saying – we saying give us life that you desire

What type of life does G-d want us to have?

ואתם הדבקים בה' אלוקיכם חיים כולכם היום

Only if your clinging to G-d are you really alive.

We ask for life that is eternally lasting not to be walking around sleep walking in a daze and actually be dead.

A person who is alive lives with what Dovid Hamelech said ואני קרבת אלוקים לי טוב the only good thing that is good for me is closeness to God

We ask for life that our neshama wants not our body

We should be zocheh to know what life is about and wants to have it very clear then learn how to get there.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Me and Tuvia)

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Video For Rosh Hashanah

Check out this video entitled "Who Shall Live." I'm not totally sure who produced it but a number have people, including R' Boruch Leff, Rabbi Michael Green & Reb Yerachmiel have sent it to me suggesting that I post it. You can also go to their website to watch it HERE . Also, you can click here to leave your comments about it for the creators of the video.

-Dixie Yid

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Rosh Hashana Shiur at YU - Audio Online!

I wanted to post this shiur as soon as possible as a help for people as Rosh Hashana and the Yomim Neoraim in general approach. This is a shiur given by my rebbe, Rav Moshe Weinberger, at Yeshiva University in the main Beis Medresh two days ago, on Monday, September 22, 2008. You can CLICK HERE to either listen to the shiur online at YU's Torah Online website or you can download the shiur there as well. It's entited, "The Three Relationships we Have With Hashem - as a Father, King and Spouse."

While you're there, you can also listen to other shiurim by Rav Weinberger, including "Making Everything You Do a Mitzvah" and "Zechus of Our Matriarch."

Big big big thank you to J. Weinberg for pointing me to this link!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Madreigos - link includes another shiur by Rav Weinberger as well!)

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Slichos at the Carlebach Shul with Yehuda Green - Video!

This video is of Slichos at the Carlebach Shul with Yehuda Green. I got his album recently and am really enjoying it! HT to Gruntig.

-Dixie Yid

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R. Boruch Leff's Book "Forever His Students" Availible at Subsidized Rate

Author, Rabbi Boruch Leff, a weekly writer at Yated Ne'eman and Aish HaTorah, has a book entitled "Forever His Students," which brings down many teachings from his Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Weinberg, zt"l.

A major sponsor through Aish Hatorah has made it possible to get this book for only $10.00 (instead of the usual $22 or so). So chap arein and get a copy HERE.

You might remember Rabbi Leff's articles on Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh which I'd posted here and here. Well worth reading as well!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Targum)

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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Inner Unity in the Machlokes Btw Ramban & Rambam Re "Dinim"

We've talked before about Toraso Shel Moshiach, and how one can discern the unity behind the various machlokes'n (disputes) between major Jewish authorities throughout history.

Tuesday night, September 9th, 2008, I was talking to Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim on the way back from Ma'ariv during his speaking trip to the U.S. We were talking about the fact that I was in law school we were talking about being Jewish in a non-Jewish court system and I brought up the opinion of the Ramban (on Breishis 34:12) that non-Jews must keep all of the civil laws that the Jewish people have to keep under their mitzvah of "Dinim" (which is one of the 7 Mitzvos for Bnei Noach). This is in contradistinction to the Rambam's opinion that under "Dinim" gentiles only have to enforce the Sheva Mitzvos Bnei Noach.

The next morning on the way to Baltimore, I told him that I was curious whether or not he had a mehalech (method) of learning any inner unity between the opinions of the Rambam and the Ramban with regard to whether or not Bnei Noach's civil laws are simply an incorporation of the laws of the Jewish people. He asked me if I was asking this because I had my own mehalech or because I wanted to hear if he had one. I told him that I didn't have a mehalech, but that after learning many of the Torahs in Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Al HaTorah, I had a feeling that he would have a mehalech in learning what the inner unity in this machlokes is.

Without hesitation, he began to explain his pshat in this machlokes to me. He pointed out that there is a question; "How is it shiach (possible) for the Ramban to hold that gentiles have any shaychus (relationship) at all to the Torah's civil laws for the Jewish people, when they come from such a completely different reality than the Jewish people come from?"

He began to answer this by pointing out that in Yemos Hamoshiach, it is stated in the Rambam that on a certain level, the nations of the world will become Avadim to the Jewish people. Which Torah laws does an Eved Kena'ani have to keep? All of the negative Mitzvos and all of the positive mitzvos aside from time-bound commandments. So even though he is still not Jewish, he will keep almost all of the laws of the Jewish people, including the civil laws.

And it is this reality that Bnei Noach actually do have a relationship to the Jewish Civil laws because they will apply to them in the times of Moshiach that makes it possible for them to have any shaychus at all to those laws. And it is this reality that makes it possible for the Ramban to hold that our civil laws are applied to them within their mitzvah of "Dinim."

Amazing insight, eh? I asked him if this is written in any of the seforim and he said he didn't know. (!) Not sure if that's true, but it was certainly an amazing thing to see that he doesn't only unify dispirate aspects of Yiddishkeit in certain areas that he's pre-selected, but even in a machlokes that I just brought out at him from left field, he still had a mehalech at the ready. Ashreinu sheyesh lanu Madrich kazeh!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of jurylaw)

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Rosh Hashanah- The "Tefillah Achas" of the Jewish Neshama- Purely for HASHEM

I am happy to present this latest shiur by Reb Yerachmiel from the Baltimore Community Kollel's Tefillah Chaburah.

In this audio shiur given by Reb Yerachmiel at the Baltimore Community Kollel, Reb Yerachmiel taught a maamar from the Slomina Rebbe Shlita (Sefer "Darchei Noam" year 2002) which analyzes what the Medrash Tehillim calls the uniquely-Yomim-Noraim-oriented "Tefillah Achas" of the Jewish Neshama, and explains why and how this "Singular and Unique Prayer" is the key to the eved/Melech relationship, and triggers the son/Father relationship as well as the relationship of "Yedidim".

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

-Dixie Yid

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Monday, September 22, 2008

More Shiurim Now Available From Bilvavi Author's U.S. Trip

FYI, more shiurim have been added to the posting with downloads for the audio of several more shiurim now available. Also, several of the shiurim have been translated into English by an anonymous but very holy Yid. Several of those translations are now available in that post as well.

So click on over.

-Dixie Yid

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Rav Avraham Schorr Video Shiur on Responding to the Financial Crisis

There is a video shiur that is now available online with Rav Avraham Schorr, in which he gives us major insights into how to respond to the recent financial crisis with major investment banks like Lehman Brothers, AIG and Meryll Lynch. It is a great message for Rosh Hashanah. CLICK HERE TO WATCH.

It is a message that very much recalls how he taught us to approach the tragedy at the Merkaz Harav Kook yeshiva, which I'd briefly posted here. Thanks also go to the anonymous commenter who alerted me to this shiur. Yasher koach!

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of Yeshiva World News)

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Raising Children the Bilvavi Way- Ideas From the Author

I was zocheh to drive Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim, to his speaking engagements in Baltimore, Carteret and Ohr Someach Monsey during his recent trip to the U.S. At one point in the car, I asked him how he teaches his children how to get closer to Hashem and incorporate tefillah into every aspect of life, as he teaches us to do in his seforim.

He gave me a couple of examples of things that he does in order to slowly demonstrate to his children how Hashem should be made a part of everything one does. One example that he told me is that he is home in the afternoons several days per week when his children are still up. One thing he does with his children during that time is to sit with just one child at a time on the Mirpeset, porch, spending some quiet time together. As things naturally come up in the conversation between them, he slips in observations or questions that unobtrusively teach that one turns to Hashem for any given aspects of life.

At one point, he was talking with one of his daughters and he asked her if she remembers to say "Thank You" to Hashem for making her Jewish and giving her the mitzvos. She said that she doesn't. So he asked her if she wanted him to remind her about this from time to time. If she said yes, then he would. If she said no, then he wouldn't. She responded that she did.

As another example, he was recently talking to his son after Maariv on the first day of school for the year. He asked his son whether he davened to Hashem that he be matzliach (successful) in school this year. He answered that he had not. So Rav Shwartz told him that during his Maariv, he did shed a tear in davening that he would be successful in school. This way, even though other Rebbeim may not be teaching this way of life in school, his son is learning by example that this is the normal way of being.

The common denominator in his approach is that one should not force these ideas on his children heavy-handedly. He didn't go ahead and remind his daughter to say "Thank You" to Hashem without being asked to do so. The main thing is to work thoughts about the purpose of life and about incorporating davening into every part of life naturally and easy-goingly with one's children, so they will learn that these things are not even things that need to be "taught" per se, but that they will see that they are a natural and organic part of living as a Jew.

-Dixie Yid

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Rav Soloveichik's "Al Hateshuva" - Taught by Rabbi Reuven Boshnack

I am happy to announce the 2nd shiur in the series of shiurim given at Brooklyn College in preperation for Yomin Neoraim by Rabbi Reuven Boshnack. The series is called "Meshorerei Hateshuva," "the Poets of Teshuva," and is on some of the teachings related to teshuva by Rav Yoshe Ber Soliveichik and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook. In this second shiur, Rabbi Boshnack takes us through Rav Soliveichik's famous work "Al HaTeshuva," but with a Boshnack twist on the rocks.

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-Dixie Yid

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Friday, September 19, 2008

Selichos and Rosh Hashanah: The Yud-Gimmel Middos Ha'Rachamim and The Power to Renew

By popular request, I am pleased to present a shiur special for Slichos by Reb Yerachmiel from the Baltimore Community Kollel's Tefillah Chaburah.

This shiur from Reb Yerachmiel was given just days before Rosh Hashanah 2006, in which he discusses the inyan of saying "Selichos" as well as the Yud-Gimmel Middos Ha'Rachamim (the Thirteen Attributes of Divine Mercy) which is Selichos' theme. In addition, Reb Yerachmiel once again utilized the sacred writings of Rav Shimshon Pincus zt"l to give us guidance and encouragement as we approach the Y'May Ha'Din, and to help connect us to our precious HASHEM in these valuable days of "Yedidus".

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

-Dixie Yid

(Video is of Aish Kodesh in Woodmere's slichos from last year)

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Communication - Key to a Happy Marriage - Part 4 Out of 4

Communication– Key to a Happy Marriage
Part four
By Rabbi Chaim Morgenstern

Another example of how men’s and women’s dominance influence conversation is when they returning from a weekend vacation. The wife will focus on the emotional aspect of vacation, such as the serenity, beautiful scenery, how enjoyable it was to finally be alone for Shabbos and away from it all, while the husband will pleasure himself with talking about the new car he rented with the latest gadgets or action–related topics. For a couple to share and enjoy conversing together, they must learn how to discuss topics, stories and experiences on their spouse’s wavelength.
Included in the category of how to talk is learning how to properly express yourself so that your spouse understands you. At times, a husband or wife will request or reply to each other in an unclear or cryptic message with the expectations that their spouse has ruach hakodesh – divine inspiration – to understand their coded messages.
For example, the wife would like to purchase a new housecoat, shaitel or shoes. She approaches her husband and says, "Avi, there's a shaitel sale at Chani's wig store." "Go gezunterheit and enjoy yourself," may be his reply; or if she says that her housecoat is getting shabby or her shoes are starting to wear out, he could reply, "My suit and shoes are also wearing out." In either instance he's not getting the hint, and the wife gets frustrated because she thinks that her husband fully understands her and is just inconsiderate of her needs.
Another example is if the husband would like to go to his parents for dinner or Shabbos, and he's not sure if his wife will agree. If he hints by saying, "Rochel, you know, I haven't seen my parents in a while and miss them." His wife's reply might be," You know something? I also haven't seen my parents for quite some time and I miss them too! But that's part of married life – it's not as easy to get out whenever we want." The husband feels hurt because his wife is not sensitive enough to his feelings, when in reality his wife innocently thought that he was merely expressing his feelings, which she was sharing with him. (However, in certain instances understanding must be used. For example, when a wife feels the need to buy clothing or something for the home and she isn't sure if they can afford it, she should tactfully ask her husband if they could presently afford an extra expense before her request.)

Even though couples must strive to express themselves properly, nevertheless, until they learn to do so, husband and wife must learn how to interpret their spouse's hidden messages.

It is also incumbent upon husband and wife to learn each other's sensitivity level. A husband cannot talk to his wife in the same manner that he talks to his chavrusa, and a wife must likewise be careful how she talks to her husband. A couple’s life is so intertwined that any negative remark, even if hinted, can cause friction and ill feelings towards their spouse. Therefore couples must avoid using expressions like: "What's wrong with you, don't you know how simple it is to..," "What a stupid mistake," "Stop talking nonsense," or (sarcastically), "You did a great job on...” Besides disrupting shalom bayis, hurting their spouse’s feeling is a prohibition of onaas d’varim.

4) How to Listen
The last area of proper communication is listening to your spouse while he/she is speaking. But it's not just listening; it's listening in a manner that your spouse feels that you are listening to him/her. For example, a husband or wife is engrossed in their own affairs while their spouse would like to discuss something with them. Even if they are listening to every spoken word and can repeat verbatim what the other said, nevertheless one doesn't feel that he/she is being heard. Therefore, to give this feeling of being listened to, it is of utmost importance to give eye contact– look at your spouse when he/she is talking to you. It is known that when Rebbetzin Feinstein would speak to her husband, Rav Moshe, he would close his sefer and look at her.

In addition, it is also helpful to nod your head every so often and verbally express your interest in what your spouse is saying by remarking, "Yes, I hear," or "uh huh," and commenting every so often on what is being said. The satisfaction of the speaker depends on how much he feels that his/her spouse is listening.

If a husband feels that his wife is conversing more with others than with himself, (or vice versa) the reason could be that his wife feels that others are more attentive to her and show a greater interest in what she is saying than her husband.


There is much more to learn in the area of communication than appears in these articles. However, chazal say, "Ten le’chacham ve’yechkam od" – teach the wise man and he will become even wiser. When one is determined to reach a goal, he does not have to be guided the entire way. His determination will merit him siyata dishmaya – help from Above – and he will find the right path to reach that goal.

A couple who are determined to develop their communication skills with each other, will set aside the required time to learn these skills, and will strive to achieve the four objectives mentioned above. They will then be on the proper path for a happier and enriched married life and will realize that proper communication is the key to a happy marriage.

(A complete treatment of family communication is discussed in my shiurim: “Communication – Key to a Happy Marriage”, “Understanding Your Spouse’s different Nature” (separate men’s & women’s version) and ”The Art of Communication” – available in, CD tape & MP3 format.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

"What's Your Role in Teshuva" - Audio Shiur from "the Poets of Teshuva" Series

I am happy to present the first of three shiurim given by Rabbi Reuven Boshnack in his three-part series of shiurim given at Brooklyn College entitled, "Meshorerei Hateshuva," "the Poets of Teshuva" on the writings of Rav Yosheh Ber Soleveichik and Rav Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook. This first lecture is called "What's Your Role in Teshuva?"

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-Dixie Yid

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Bilvavi Author - Question & Answer Chaburah - Baltimore - Video

Here is a four minute video clip from the Shomrei Emunah Chaburah with Rav Shwartz in Baltimore, MD, taken on September 10, 2008. It features a question and answer format, including some questions by our very own Reb Yerachmiel. You can download the full audio of the whole shiur (& the other shiurim from the 2008 speaking tour) HERE.

-Dixie Yid

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Tuesday, September 16, 2008

My Meeting with Rav Schwartz by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

My Meeting with Rav Schwartz
Rabbi Yaakov Feldman (Author of Mapping Out Bilvavi)
You can hear the Shiurim from Rav Shwartz's U.S. 2008 trip HERE

We’ll call it “The Bilvavi Effect”. It’s what happens when you learn a Kabbalah work of Rav Schwartz (the author of the Bilvavi series): you suddenly find yourself going deeper and deeper inward, and moving in slow wonder through a level of your being you’d never been in before. I discovered where it comes from when I met with Rav Schwartz during his recent trip to America. But I’m getting ahead of myself; let’s see what it took to learn that.

“I’ll be meeting with a Rav from Jerusalem Thursday night” I’d said at the dinner table. My two marriage-age daughters turned around wide-eyed. They were hoping for a bracha (a blessing) for a good husband from a sage and they were sure that that’s where I was heading. But, no; one doesn’t meet with Rav Schwartz for such a bracha, though he’d certainly offer one. He also isn’t the sort of Rav one meets with to ask for a bracha for success, for children, for health or the like, though he’d certainly sense your need and say a tefillah (a prayer) on your behalf.

No, one goes to Rav Schwartz to learn how to draw closer to The Ribbono Shel Olam (G-d Almighty). And I was granted a chance to do that.

But you don’t just ask straight-out, “How do I get closer to The Ribbono Shel Olam, Rav Schwartz?” You also don’t ask it in English, since the Rav only speaks Hebrew. So, you have to phrase a conversation in your mind which may very well prove to be one of the most important dialogues in your life. And you have to find the right Hebrew words for it that would express what your soul needs to ask … and that would avoid your coming across like some poor dolt who can’t find his or her way around a dictionary, which is certainly a challenge. For even if you’re fortunate enough to be able to read Hebrew fluently, that doesn’t mean you’re able to speak it with any level of sophistication.

So, I dwelt on my question for a week. I worked on the wording, the bottom-line and details, and I also tried to explain to the Rav why I so admired his many, many works. I realized that there’d be things I’d need to say about how I’d gotten to the point that I am now, both in my studies and in my work on myself. I quickly became frustrated and decided to “call-in sick” and scrap my plans for a meeting.

But one doesn’t do that when it comes to an individual like Rav Schwartz, who lives thousands of miles away and is one of our age’s greatest spiritual teacher. So I struggled to gather my thoughts.

Then it occurred to me: I’d need to speak about IT -- my greatest spiritual challenge, the one bugaboo that has been holding me back for decades now. “Ribbono Shel Olam!” I called out, “would Rav Schwartz be able to rectify this, my thickest, ugliest, most chaotic and turgid challenge to closeness to You?”

I met with the Rav in the basement of a shul three-quarters of an hour before he was due to address us all. The room was large and all but empty, except for a long table, a couple of bottles of seltzer and cups, and the Rav.

I sat down before him and bared my soul in my poor Hebrew, and he listened intently. We needn’t go into the details; suffice it to say that my having realized that I would have to talk about IT and would have to express it clearly and fairly quickly, and the fact that I was able to reveal it to one such as he, was of infinite help.

Oh -- as to “The Bilvavi Effect”, it’s rooted in this. I caught sight of the Rav moments before he was to speak. He’d just been among a couple of people and pulled himself away to gather his thoughts. But rather than just dwell on what points he wanted to make, I noticed that he closed his ears and eyes, kind of scrunched-up his entire being to a ball, and concentrated deeply on what needed to be said. It was a sight to behold. It was as if he was somehow or another disappearing, for all intents and purposes, and entering into a very quiet place in his being. He then stretched himself out, and walked up to the spot he was to address us from and began.

And it occurred to me that that’s what I had done to some degree when I needed to get my thoughts together to address the Rav, and what I find myself doing when I delve deeply into the Rav’s Kabbalah seforim. “The Bilvavi Effect” comes down to entering the core of one’s being, step by step, losing all contact with your surroundings, and communing with your inner being.

May G-d Almighty grant us all the ability to set aside the time to do that regularly, and to draw close to Him in the process. And may Rav Schwartz continue to guide us in that for many, many good years to come!

Rabbi Yaakov Feldman’s translation of Rambam’s “The Eight Chapters” will soon be published by Targum Press. He offers two weekly email classes for entitled Spiritual Excellence and Ramchal.

(Picture taken at Yeshiva of Carteret Wednesday, Sept. 10th, 2008 courtesy of Me)

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Rosh Hashanah- Coronating the King, Escaping the Abyss and Strengthening Our Tefillah

Reb Yerachmiel has come through with his latest Chaburah from the Baltimore Community Kollel Tefillah Chaburah from this past Sunday.

This past Sunday Reb Yerachmiel and the Baltimore Community Kollel Chaburah studied a maamar from Rav Shimshon Pincus zt"l, in which Rav Pincus discusses his own, and suggests what our, "battlecry" for Rosh Hashanah should be: Coronating the King and Escaping the Abyss. In addition, in preparation for same, Reb Yerachmiel honed-in on select words and sections of our daily Krias Shema and Shemoneh Esrei to invigorate our tefillos so that we might begin the avodah of Rosh Hashanah even today!

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

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of greetingcarduniverse)

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Monday, September 15, 2008

Bilvavi Shiurim from U.S. Tour Now Available Online!

At 11:30 last night, b'ezras Hashem, Rav Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim returned to Eretz Yisroel. It was a mind bending experience for many of us in many different ways, but b'ezras Hashem, everything should be ultimately toward the purpose of brining more Yidden closer to Avihem Shebashamayim, their Father in Heaven.

IY"H, over the next few days I hope to put up a couple more shiurim (Englewood from yesterday morning at Rabbi Zev Reichman's Shul & the Boro Park shiur). Also, I hope to slowly start putting up some feelings, thoughts and observations on the trip. Additionally, several of the shiurim were recorded on video and I hope to post those as well, especially the shiur at Rabbi Rudinsky's Shul on Sept. 11th, 2008 & the historic spur-of-the-moment shiur givin at Madreigos in Lawrence, NY, where the Rav bore his heart and told over the story of his own personal journey to the Ribbono Shel Olam.

Boca Raton Synagogue - Sunday night, September 7, 2008 - In this discussion, the Rav explains the need to find your true inner ratzon (will), in order to live your life according to what you really want. Although we know that the inner ratzon is to become close to Hashem, if we do not become conscious of it, we will not grow much through the many positive actions that we do. This idea was very new to several of the attendants, and you will hear how the Rav deals with their questions and challenges concerning this idea.

Boca Raton Girl's High School - Monday morning, September 8, 2008 - English Translation: Do We Want All of Judaism? - Many of us go through life without really thinking about why we are here and why we act as we do. This thought-provoking class urges us to take time daily to decide what we really want in life and adjust our lives accordingly. In the context of this discussion, you will learn why Rosh HaShanah is a joyous day that we should really anticipate.

Manhattan Ramat Orah - Monday night, September 8, 2008 - Topic: Living in Manhattan - English Translation- This very powerful speech compares our society to the dor hamabul (Generation of the Flood). Mistakes in attitude and behavior have been compounding for generations, and very few people realize how low we have sunk from the way life was meant to be. We need to rethink our whole way of life and make major changes if we really want to be proper Jews.

Madgregos Kollel Far Rockaway - Tuesday morning, September 9, 2008 - Topic: the Rav's personal journey to avodas Hashem - Includes simultaneous English Translation by Rabbi Reuven Boshnack - A MUST LISTEN! - We all know and believe that Torah and mitzvos are what life is all about, but do we really feel that these are what make our lives meaningful? Listen to the Rav's personal account of how he searched and grappled with these issues, and how he came to feel these truths in his own heart. He promises that we can get the same results as he did. Presented with English translation.

MTA - YU's High School - 10th Grade Shiur

MTA - YU's High School - 12th Grade Shiur

Ner Yisrael - Baltimore - Wednesday afternoon, September 10, 2008- Ner Yisroel- A yeshiva student is not only someone who learns Torah a good part of the day; he has a special bond with Hashem through his constant involvement in Torah. This involvement is not only a matter of spending a lot of time learning, but a process of developing the mind through intensive thought about Torah, even when not in front of a sefer. This shiur explains how any yeshiva student can achieve this state, regardless of special abilities.

Yeshiva in Carteret, New Jersey - Wednesday morning, September 10, 2008 - A yeshiva student must understand that Torah study demands a lifetime commitment. Otherwise, even while he is learning, he does not respect the fact that Torah is life, and that everything else is only as substantial as an image on a movie screen. Although in earlier generations, there were some talmidei chachamim who took off time from learning for other endeavors, nowadays, it is much more difficult to maintain proper yiras shamayim and a real connectiion to Torah if one mingles with the secular world.

Baltimore Bilvavi Chabura - at Shomrei Emunah - Wednesday, September 10, 2008 - Bilvavi Chaburah in Baltimore- Learn about the dual nature of Rosh HaShanah: a time to cry and a time when we must not cry, a time when we rise to the heavens and a time when we descend to the depths. Discover how Tisha B'Av prepares us for Rosh HaShanah and how our relationship to Hashem on Rosh HaShanah is very different from that of Yom Kippur. This shiur not only explains these issues, but also gives guidance for dealing with the inevitable ups and downs in our spiritual lives.

Ohr Somayach Monsey - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - Topic: Practical Steps for the post-Baal Teshuva stage

Ohr Yisrael Monsey - Thursday, September 11, 2008 - This brief class contains a treasury of guidance for the newly observant Jew seeking to fully adjust to a Torah lifestyle. The primacy of studying and keeping halachah is explained, including the outlook we should have on its importance. There is also a discussion of the need to study Torah in depth, with suggestions for enabling this study to fashion a new way of thinking that will truly make one an "insider" in Judaism.
English Translation: Rav Rudinsky's Synagogue Monsey - Thursday, September 11, 2008
Rabbi Rudinsky's Shul: Monsey - Thursday, 9/1/08 - Chazal (based on Tehillim) refer to Rosh HaShanah as keseh, the time of covering. This can be explained to mean that the new year must be built on top of a basis from the previous year, so that it covers the previous year and rises above it. In Elul, we must fashion this basis through at least intermittent periods of sensing Hashem's Presence, and then, in the Aseres Yemei Teshuvah, we can achieve this sense constantly.

Shor Yashuv Far Rockaway - Motzoi Shabbos, September 13th, 2008 at Yeshiva Shor Yoshuv in Lawrence, NY

Far Rockaway Melava Malka - Melaveh Malka by Danny and Yaffa Moskowitz, Motzoi Shabbos September 13, 2008 - Topic: Explaining the inyan of telling over stories of Tzadikim on Motzoi Shabbos

Englewood - Sunday morning September 14, 2008 at Rabbi Zev Reichman's Shul - Simultaneous trasnalation by Rabbi Reichman

Boro Park - At Blumenfrucht family - Sunday evening, September 14, 2008 - English Translation: Do We Want Closeness With Hashem? - We know we are judged on Rosh HaShanah, but what is the difference between the judgment of the two days? In this class, the Rav explains that each day has its own kind of judgment, and that we should strive to be among those few who are judged on the first day. In the context of this discussion, we learn how our own hearts can serve the function of the Bais HaMikdash -- a resting place for the Divine Presence.

-Dixie Yid

(Picture courtesy of horizonresearchfoundation)

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