Friday, February 25, 2011

What My Son is Thinking About in the Middle of the Night

This past Sunday my son told his rebbe in cheder that it was his sixth birthday. His rebbe then taught him that it's a special zechus for someone to get a bracha from someone who's having his birthday that day, so he asked my son for a bracha! Then all of the other rebbeim in that section of the cheder also got brachos from my son shortly afterwards.

Please note that my oldest daughter is becoming a bas mitzvah very soon and her gettogether at her school is on Sunday.

Fast-forward to yesterday (Thursday) morning. I was getting ready to leave for Shul in the morning well before anyone else in the house had gotten up and my son had relocated to our bedroom. As I'm getting various things from the room ready in the dark, my son, still half asleep, suddenly sits up and says, "Daddy, when you pick me up at carpool on Sunday, we need to bring the Rebbe with us to the house so [my sister] can give him a bracha on her Bas mitzvah!" He then promptly went back to sleep.

I heard in the name of one of the Chabad rebbeim that you can really tell what is internalized within a person by waking him up in the middle of the night and asking him a question. Whatever he answers before he has a chance to think about what he *should* answer reflects what and who he truly is.

I love this cheder!

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Matisyahu and Learning Breslov Chassidus

See the interview here starting at minute marker 4:30 of this interview with Matisyahu from 2008. He describes how he had been recently using the Chassidus of Rebbe Nachman to inform how he expressed himself at his work.

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No Hero Like a Hopeless Man - The Yetzer Hara of Erev Shabbos

Quick summary of Rav Moshe Weinberger's Shabbos shiur this morning:

Why is there such a big yetzer hara for fighting, stress and machlokes in families right before Shabbos? "Ein gibor k'misyaeish."

The biggest hero is the one with no hope left. Meaning: If someone's in a battle and they feel they have no hope for survival, they'll tap into hidden kochos to simply cause as much damage to the other side and go out with a bang. On Shabbos, the time for the yetzer hara for that week will be gone. "Kulan shvikin u'shvisin." When that is about to happen, the yetzer tries to create as much stress and machlokes about naarishkeit as possible in order to destroy whatever it can destroy before *it* is wiped out on Shabbos.

Similarly, this time before bias Hamoshiach, before "v'sa'avir memsheles zadon min ha'aretz," the sitra achra seems stronger than ever because it's on its way out when the yom shekulo Shabbos l'chayei olamim begins.

This is why the sitra achra makes tuma more accessible than ever before even b'chadrei chadarim of Jewish homes through computers, Blackberries, iPads, iPhones, and Droids. It's also why the koach of Yishmael seems to be taking over the world. Pretty soon the "memsheles zadon" will be removed from the world so they are trying take as much as they can with them by blowing up as much of the world as they can before being blown into nonexistace themselves.

It's a big chizuk to know that our big nisyonos are the expression of the last gasps of the sitra achra, rather than a sign that the other side is so strong. It's the final act of strength of the dying "gibor hamisyaeish."

May we merit to bring the yediah, the oneness of Hashem, and the ein ode milvado of Shabbos into the six days of the week and may we merit the speedy end to the nisyonos of this world and entry into the world of "v'chol ha'aretz deiah es Hashem" speedy-quick!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Warden, the Jester, and the Lawyer - Chizuk from Slabodka

My friend Marc Rossen shared this great piece with my after a conversation we had on the train the other day. It's very important chizuk for those of us in the trenches of the business world. It also sounds like chassidus. Enjoy.

Insights from the Alter of Slobodka
Transcribed by Rav Nachum Meir Karelitz
Chut Hashani Hilchos Shabbas Page 31

People think that service of God (being religious) is limited to specific ritual deeds, at specific times and in specific places like mitzvoth, Torah or times for prayer. When a person finds himself outside of these boundaries he feels himself empty and distant from serving God and good deeds. This creates a situation that when people go to work and involve themselves in the ways of the world their hearts are filled with despair and their minds are disconnected from learning Torah and Divine service. They say: "since our lives are entangled in ephemeral business concerns and trivial pursuits even if we find a few moments in the day for Torah and service what have I accomplished… I am lost, certainly I am lost."

However, pinch yourself (wake up), since God's essence and glory fill the whole world and since there is no place empty of His glory all the deeds of man, in all places he exists, in all the times he experiences are connected to God's glory. If reality is connected and supported by God and all expressions come from God's decrees how is it possible that there is a place or time in which we can't serve God?

In truth we find this vision in the Talmud Taanis 22a:
R. Beroka Hoza'ah used to frequent the market at Be Lapat where Elijah often appeared to him. Once he asked [Elijah], is there anyone in this market who is "a ben olam haba"? He replied, No. Meanwhile Elijah caught sight of a man wearing black shoes and who had no thread of blue on the corners of his garment and Elijah exclaimed, This man is a "ben olam haba" has a share in the world to come. R. Beroka ran after him and asked him, What is your occupation? And the man replied: Go away and come back tomorrow. Next day he asked him again, What is your occupation? And he replied: I am a warden and I keep the men and women separate and I place my bed between them so that they may not come to sin; when I see a Jewish girl upon whom the non Jews cast their eyes I risk my life and save her. Once there was amongst us a betrothed girl upon whom the non Jews cast their eyes. I therefore took lees of [red] wine and put them in her skirt and I told them that she was unclean. [R. Beroka further] asked the man, Why have you no fringes and why do you wear black shoes? He replied: That the non Jews amongst whom I move may not know that I am a Jew, so that when a harsh decree is made [against Jews] I inform the rabbis and they pray [to God] and the decree is annulled. He further asked him, When I asked you, What is your occupation, why did you say to me, Go away now and come back tomorrow? He answered, They had just issued a harsh decree and I said I would first go and acquaint the rabbis of it so that they might pray to God.

When[they were conversing] two [men] passed by and [Elijah] remarked, These two are also "binai olam haba.". R. Beroka then approached and asked them, What is your occupation? They replied, We are jesters, when we see men depressed we cheer them up; furthermore when we see two people quarrelling we strive to make peace between them.
Please come let's understand this Talmudic insight. Who in the world should feel more distant and empty from serving God than these people? A warden of prisoners -- he must feel he's as distant from religious society as if he was sold as a slave to an idol worshiper. Or jesters who fill their lives with jokes and deeds of little import. Nevertheless these jesters with their levity and the warden achieved the worthy title of "men of the world to come". Their professions were service to God and fulfilled His desires. In truth if there exists a profession in the world since it was created with God's will it must be used as a tool to accomplish God's will. These people were worthy to perform their professions with proper intention and as expressions fitting to a path of completion to acquire their spiritual world. If people don't uplift themselves to be involved in their professions with a shelamus and understanding that for these professions the world was created they can lose their merit that these professions are crucial to the world and transform their professions into missions of little import since they are not being done with the goal of fulfilling God's will…

These insights are not only relevant to professions but even more so to the essence of the life of each person and his mission to live as a human being. Only when people live in harmony with God's will and their actions and deeds are appropriate to their spiritual potential and abilities are they called "humans" and only then are their lives true lives…. In truth one moment of true living as a human being makes it worthwhile for him to have been created. "More beautiful is a moment of repentance and good deeds than the entire world to come" (Avos)…

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Why Does Onkolus Translate "god" As "dachalan"?

It's interesting that the four letter name of G-d and the name with the shoresh alef, lamed, hei both used as Hashem's name in Hebrew and that Onkolus's Aramaic translation uses those same words/shorashim in
his translation.

However when the Torah uses the same shoresh, alef, lamed, hei to describe a false god, "eileh elohecha Yisroel, Onkolus doesn't stick with the Torah's secular usage of alef, lamed, hei. Instead, he uses the word "dachalan," which can be translated as "fear causer."

I'm not sure why he doesn't use the secular usage of alef, lamed, hei like the torah does to describe a "god."

Any ideas?

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Greatness of Teshuva and the After-Effects of Sin

One reason for my paucity of postings recently over the past number of months are the paltry presence of pauses in the perpetual amount of work I have to do.

When I am able eke out a thought about something I would like to share, I just don't have the time to write and provide sources the way I would like to. I think that a post has a lot less "value added" when it expresses what could be described as a mere "boich svorah."

Nonetheless, this blog is dead if I don't even share what little I have to share from time to time so here's one thing I was thinking about at the end of last week on parshas Ki Sisa:

A couple of things popped out at my as requiring an explanation. One is that Moshe comes down from Har Sinai after 40 days of communion with G-d without food or water shining with light after his second time on Har Sinai, but not after the first time when he received the whole Torah. Why only the second time? It would seem that the revelation of the whole Torah would be a bigger experience than achieving forgiveness for the sin of the egel hazahav.

The second thing that bothered me a bit was Moshe's mask and moving outside the Jewish people's encampment. While we hear about Moshe judging the people and people coming to him before this, there was, I think, a lessened ability for Moshe to relate to the people after Moshe's face began shining with light and people could only being able to talk to him if he wore a mask. It's kind of hard to become close to a person who's speaking to you from behind a mask (an observation which is true for both literal and figurative masks). Also, Moshe no longer even lived among the Jewish people because he went outside the camp and the only time a person could see or speak to Moshe was if he was a "mevakesh Hashem" and went outside the camp to Moshe's tent, the "tent of meeting."

It occurred to me that as great as the hisgalus Hashem must have been for Moshe to receive the Torah, and as high in shamayim as Moshe must have gone to bring the Torah down to the earth, this did not create the beams of light for Moshe, and it did not create a big separation between him and the Jewish people.

But attaining mechila, forgiveness, for the Jewish people, did accomplish that. This perhaps means that Moshe had to ascend even higher than the Torah during his second sojourn on Har Sinai to achieve forgiveness for the Jews for the cheit ha'eigel. It shows that Teshuva comes from an even deeper place than Torah. But that mechila came with a price for the Jewish people though. It created a separation between the Jews and Hashem (because He told them he would no longer lead them in the desert, but that an angel would instead) and it created a separation between themselves and Moshe (who then could only talk to them through a mask and who had to move out of the encampment of the Jewish people).

Teshuva is the highest thing in the world but it comes with a price. Even after teshuva does its miraculous work, the aveira still leaves its mark and creates a separation that cannot quite be bridged. Better not to create the separation to begin with...

P.S. This point is presumably only true for regular teshuva, teshuva meyirah, as opposed to the much more difficult level of teshuva me'ahava. cf. Yuma 86b, "אמר ריש לקיש גדולה תשובה שזדונות נעשות לו כשגגות שנאמר (הושע יד) שובה ישראל עד ה' אלהיך כי כשלת בעונך הא עון מזיד הוא וקא קרי ליה מכשול איני והאמר ריש לקיש גדולה תשובה שזדונות נעשות לו כזכיות שנאמר (יחזקאל לג) ובשוב רשע מרשעתו ועשה משפט וצדקה עליהם <חיה> [הוא] יחיה לא קשיא כאן מאהבה כאן מיראה."

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"The Essence of Emunah" by Rav Gamliel Rabinovitch in English

Although I know this is belated, I wanted to let (those of you who don't already know about it) know about a new English translation of Rav Gamliel Rabinovitch's sefer Tiv Ha'emunah, which came out in the fall. It's called The Essence of Emunah: A collection of thoughts, insights and essays from the writings and teachings of [Rav] Gamliel Rabbinovitch. It was translated by Reb Dovid Vatch.

An adam gadol I know personally told me that he feels that it is one of the best seforim out there in either English or Hebrew on the subject of Emunah, both mitzad the content and because of who wrote it (Reb Gamliel) who truly lives every word of what is written in the sefer.

I hope to read it at some point as well but I wanted to let the chevra know about it.

Kol tuv!

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Friday, February 18, 2011

The comforts of home in the hospital

I was asked by a friend to post the following request for help based on her own experience having to bring her son to the hospital:
This Thursday night I experienced a miracle. I had to take my son to the emergency room in the middle of the night. I was completely resigned to spending the night on a chair sitting by his bed (and that was if I was lucky, I have had nights in the emergency room with no chair-when it was really crowded). I sat down on the chair and told myself that I should be grateful that I had the chair, but the strain of dealing with a sick child was really overwhelming. Baruch Hashem things were stabelized and I was able to fall asleep. Suddenly, a nurse woke me up to say that they had an extra bed, would I like to lie down. I felt like I had been given a hug from Hashem. How many times have we gone to bed and totally ignored how yummy and delioucious it is to lie down on a bed.

The next time that you lie down on a bed, in a house with healthy children thank Hashem for how lucky you are. If you would like to help someone in the hospital who needs a little of the comforts of home please buy some raffles tickets from Chesed 24/7 who built and maintain Chesed Rooms all over the greater New York area in more then a dozen hospitals.

Right now you can enter their Chinese Auction for free to win an ipod touch just by going to THIS LINK.
If you can, please bid on more items to help that organization, or you can just enter for the ipod and it won't cost you anything. Any help will be appreciated. The auction will be over a week from Tuesday, on March 1st.

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