Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Stories From the Zohar - By Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

Here is the next part in a series of articles on stories from the Zohar by Rabbi Yaakov Feldman. You can find the first article HERE.
The Book of Radiance: Tales from the ZoharBy Rabbi Yaakov Feldman

2. Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochei

We’d already introduced R’ Shimon Bar Yochei, so let’s explore the sort of person he was and how important others considered him to be. For one thing, we’re taught that he was gifted with Ruach HaKodesh (Breishit Rabbah 79), but so were others of his ilk. How did he stand apart from the rest?

Perhaps one of the most significant things to know about R’ Shimon Bar Yochei’s spiritual stature is the fact that he was a student of the great R’ Akiva for 13 years (Vayikra Rabbah 26). Recall that R’ Akiva was the only individual we know of to have entered the Pardes (The Mystical Garden) "in peace”, i.e., well aware of what he was doing; and to have left it “in peace” as well, i.e., alive and well-grounded (Chaggiga 14b). That itself speaks volumes about the quality and strength of the tradition that R’ Shimon was privy to.

In fact, we’re told by other greats of his generation that R’ Shimon Bar Yochei was so holy that “whoever would look upon him could see the entire world (and experience) the delight of the upper and lower worlds”. And we’re informed that thanks to his revelations he came to be regarded as “the light of the world and equal in worth to the entire world”, that he could “light up the world with (his) Torah (revelations), and could ignite many lights” (Zohar 1, 155 b-156 a). So he was clearly in a class of his own. But do we have any other insights into this great sage?

Here’s an account that says something of the makeup of his heart. We’re taught that “a certain man and woman who’d been married for 10 years and still hadn’t had any children appeared before R’ Shimon for a divorce”. R’ Shimon couldn’t help but notice that the two still loved each other despite their impasse, and yet he knew that what they were asking for was perfectly halachically acceptable. So R’ Shimon came up with a ruse of sorts.

He offered them the following proposal: “Since your wedding was marked by a feast, let’s mark your divorce with a feast, too”, he said. So a lavish meal was set up. At a certain point husband and wife gazed at each other in the special light that shines at weddings alone, and they changed their minds. Thrilled by their decision, R’ Shimon prayed for them to have a child, and G-d finally granted them one within the year (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:4).

Let’s conclude by honing in on a few special moments near and at the end of R’ Shimon’s life as depicted in the Zohar that underscore his greatness.

R’ Shimon became deathly ill at a certain point and was visited by his anxious disciples. “How can someone (like you, R’ Shimon,) who upholds the world be near to death?” one cried out. They heard him say something, but they soon “realized that R’ Shimon wasn’t there” in fact. They’d heard his voice out of nowhere and were dumb-struck. All of a sudden, “the aroma of many fine spices wafted by them”, and R’ Shimon began to speak again right before their eyes, as if nothing had happened.

“Did you notice anything else?” (other than his having disappeared) he asked them. They had to admit that they hadn’t. “That’s because you aren’t worthy of seeing the face of The Ancient of Days!” he said. He went on to report that he’d been “sent for from Above” when he’d been missing, and had been “shown the place that the righteous occupy in The World to Come” and that he’d been addressed by Adam and hundreds of other souls. But he was told to return to earth because the time wasn’t right (Zohar Chadash 18-19).

The time did come for him to die though, later on. All his greatest disciples had gathered about him. R’ Shimon opened his eyes, “saw what he saw”, as the Zohar puts it -- whatever or whomever he saw we can only imagine -- when “fire suddenly enveloped the house”. And at a certain point R’ Shimon said the following.

“This is an auspicious moment and I want to enter The World to Come without shame. For, there are certain holy things I want to reveal this day … that I hadn’t revealed until now -- so that it won’t be said that I left this world without completing my task here”.

He went on to discuss a number of esoteric things when he suddenly turned around and saw something. He tried to draw the attention of the others there to certain souls who where then in the room “each of whom was reflecting light from the shining countenance of the Holy Ancient One, The Most Mysterious of Mysterious”, but his disciples just couldn’t see them (Zohar 3, 287b-288a).

There came a time though when a great fire and light shone throughout the house until it suddenly stopped short. It became clear that “the holy light, the Holy of Holies”, R’ Shimon, had died just then “lying on his right side, covered over by his cloak, with a smile on his face”. A certain unearthly “perfume filled the air”.

Arrangements were quickly made for R’ Shimon’s funeral. His bier was brought outside when it “arose in the air (on its own) with a flame in front of it, and a voice was heard to say, ‘Come and assemble for the Hillulah (Feast) of R’ Shimon!’”. R’ Shimon’s body was then brought to the cave he was to be buried in, and another voice called out, “’Here is the man who made the earth tremble, who shook kingdoms’ (Isaiah 57:2)….. How Blessed is his portion above and below!” (Zohar 3, 296b).

And how blessed is our portion too, who have so many teachings of R’ Shimon’s to draw upon and learn from!

© 2010 Rabbi Yaakov Feldman
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Monday, September 27, 2010

Rebb. Yehudis Golshevsky Shiur for Sukkos

Sorry for not posting any of these shiurim in a while. Things have been very busy the last month or two. Here is a shiur for women on Breslov Chassidus by Rebbetzin Yehudis Golshevsky on Sukkos and lifting up the fallen Sukkah of Dovid and spending a week in the "shadow of emunah." 1.5 hours. The shiur is based on Likutei Moharan II:5 and Likutei Halachos Sukkah #5.

CLICK HERE to listen to the shiur or right click and select "Save Target As" to download the shiur.

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Please donate to my son's cheder by going to minivanraffle.org to buy a raffle ticket. The drawing for a new minivan, car, or $20,000 cash will be IY"H Chanukah time. $100 for 1 ticket. $360 for 5. Where the form says "Referred by," please write "Dixie Yid." Tizku l'mitzvos!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Video, Music, Picture, & Text Log of Uman Rosh Hashana 5771

See the video above which is made up of video and pictures from my Uman trip. I made it as a kind of video journal for myself of the trip and for those of you who may enjoy it.

For all of those who e-mailed me or left comments with names and things to daven for, B"H, was was zoche to daven for virtually everyone at all of the kevarim both on the way to Uman and in Uman. IY"H, all of our tefilos will be answered in the affirmative!

Below is a basic itinerary of the trip so I'll hopefully be able to remember it! Below are some of the better pictures, most of which are also included in the video as well.

The whole trip was somewhat overwhelming. It was good but it will take some time to process. I was zoche to meet Reb Micha Golshevsky in person Baruch Hashem during the trip as well!


  • Sunday 9/05/10 - 4:30 PM - Left for a two-legged journey to Kiev

  • Monday 9/06/10 - 2:30 PM - Landed in Kiev

  • Monday 9/06/10 - 5 PM - Left on Bus with 15 of the chevra to daven at Kivrei Tzadikim on the way to Uman

  • Monday 9/06/10 - 8 PM - Arrived in Volednick to daven by the kever of Rav Yisroel Dov Ber ben Yosef of Volednick

  • Tuesday 9/07/10 - 4 AM - Arrived in Anapoli to daven by the Kevarim of Reb Zusha and the Magid of Mezrich - The Ohel there is in the middle of a completely razed cemetary. Unbelievable.

  • Tuesday 9/07/10 - 7:30 AM - Arrived in Mezibuz to say slichos, daven, and daven by the kever of the Baal Shem Tov

  • Tuesday 9/07/10 - 1:30 - Arrived in Berditchev to daven by the kever of Reb Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev

  • Tuesday 9/07/10 - 8 PM - Arrived in Uman
  • Tuesday 9/08/10 - 11:30 AM - Erev Rosh Hashana - I said the Tikun Klali and gave at least a pruta to tzedaka at Rebbe Nachman's kever in reliance on the Tzadik's vow.

  • Wednesday 9/09/10 - 8:30 PM - 2nd night of Rosh Hashana - I davened for the amud at a Ma'ariv minyan on the street outside the Kloyz (the main Shul seating about 5000 people) and then after the seuda, was able to say the entire Tikun Klali while touching Rebbe Nachman's tziyun.

  • Motzoi Shabbos/Rosh Hashana 9/11/10 - 11:30 PM - I left for the Kiev airport to head back on my 3 legged trip to the states!

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

From Uman to Manhattan - Going from the Sefer to the City

Sorry for not being more active recently. As my readers know, I am soon joining the world of "Biglaw". You also know that I am leaving for Uman today.

B"H I have received many many names from Jews (and even a Ben Noach) all over the world in the comments of my previous post and by e-mail. IY"H, BL"N, I will have you all in mind when I say the Tikun Klali and give tzedaka by Rebbe Nachman's tziyon, and by the other kivrei Tzadikim as well. I will not be able to take any more names as I will be pretty much incommunicado till I get back next Sunday.

I just received word last last week that I will be starting my new job the day after I return from Uman. This is much earlier than I was expecting. It's amazing how things work out together like that. IY"H this Rosh Hashana process should prepare me for the battle ahead.

Over Shabbos, I saw a Toldos Yaakov Yosef on Parshas Vayelech which which referred to something he said in Parshas Shoftim. He spoke so so clearly about this change that I'm about to embark on. While the job is a huge bracha, it is also contains overwhelming challenges. And this piece, which I have captioned on the right side of this post, offers amazing guidance and something for me to think about as I leave my current "learning vacation" and embark on my commute to, and work-life in, New York City.

He speaks on the pasuk in Parshas Shoftim, Devarim 20:2, which says, "And it will be that when you come close to the war, the Kohain will approach and speak to the nation." (captioned on the right)

I'll adapt the paragraph from the Toldos on that pasuk (captioned) into English: "The Torah says 'And it will be that when you come close...' The Sifri and Rashi (which brings the Sifri) explain that 'come close' refers to when the Jewish people come close to going out from the border ("s'far") of our enemies. This refers to when a person comes close to going out from the sefer [The word for border, s'far, has the same shoresh as the word for Torah book, sefer], and into the city to do business. Immediately, it is a war with the yetzer hara which tries to seduce a person into הסתכלות נשים, speaking gossip, cynicism, and the like. Therefore, one may not trust in the fact that he has been involved in learning Torah until now by [erroneously] thinking that the yetzer hara will not bother him. Instead, [the verse continues] 'the Kohain will approach and speak to the nation.'"

Anyone who goes to work has many challenges if he wants to try and keep his mind in kedusha. It's tough even for a person who has learned much better and longer than I have. In my case, I will even have to walk through (or near) Times Square every day from the train to my office. Sometimes avoiding הסתכלות נשים and the rest of it is so hard that it is easy to think it it is just better to give up. The task is fearsome and the tendency is just to want to stop fighting it and become misgashem like the surrounding, superficial world.

With this Toldos in mind, I went to look at how the psukim continue (also captioned above after the text of the Toldos). What is the chizuk that the Kohain gives the person who's leaving his sefer to go off on the Long Island Rail Road and walk through Manhattan? What does such a person need to keep in mind during that process?

The psukim (Devarim 20:3-4) continue with the Kohain's message: "And he says to them, 'Hear Israel: You are approaching today to make war on your enemy [the yetzer hara]. Don't become weak-hearted. Don't be afraid, don't panic, and don't be terrified of them because Hashem your G-d is going in front of you to fight for you with your enemies to save you."

As the Gemara in Kiddushin 30b says, if Hashem would not help us, we would not be able to beat our yetzer hara on our own ("ואלמלא הקב"ה עוזרו אין יכול לו")!

This is such amazing chizuk. I made the psukim, the Rashi, and the text of the Toldos itself, into a card. (Click the image to enlarge and print if you wish.) IY"H, when I get back from Uman I want to laminate it so I can read it before I get on the train every day, at least at the beginning, to remind myself to always ask Hashem to help me fight the big battle for me.
IY"H, we should all be zoche to renew our battle against the yetzer hara throughout the day every day, and we should be zoche to win in that battle and win on the Yom Hadin this week.

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