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5 posts from November 2006

Igor becomes Yigal: A very special day for Jewish Outreach

Today's post is one moving episode of the ongoing drama of Jewish Outreach. It's my privilege to focus on an organization that not many people are aware of - "Briti", which means, "my circumcision". Briti, headed by expert Mohel Rav Ran Nachmani, may Hashem bless him, a Breslever chossid and a cherished friend, does an average of two circumcisions a day, mostly of new immigrant adults that made aliya to Israel from the former USSR.

Yesterday, I was honored with being the "sandek" of 29-year old Igor from Minsk in Belarus. Igor's parents, members of the communist party, had no interest in rocking the oppressive boat by having their newborn son circumcised back in 1977. Once Yigal moved from Minsk to Ashdod, he had plenty of help finding his Jewish roots. Courageously, Yigal decided to dedicate himself to being a full-fledged Jew and to enter the holy covenant of Abraham. "Briti" organization took care of the rest; the circumcision all take place in the surgical room of Misgav Ladach Hospital in Jerusalem, and was handled by an attending surgeon together with the mohel, for a bris of an adult is much more intricate than the bris of an 8-day old baby. Briti covered all the expenses.

After the surgery, we performed a kiddush ceremony where Igor received the Hebrew name of Yigal. Immediately afterward, Yigal had his Bar Mitzva, putting on tefillin for the first time. I must say that this is the first time in my life that I performed a Bar Mitzva right after a bris - it was moving, and Yigal's dedication was phenominal - circumcision at 29 is no picnic, but he's a trooper.

A "Sandek" (godfather) of  a bris gets to meet Eliahu the Prophet face to face. I know of many cases of people that needed salvation - such as the blessing of fertility or a soulmate - who received their heart's wish after being the sandek.

Would you like to be sandek of a bris? Do you know of an adult Jew that needs a bris? Or maybe you'd like to contribute to a super-worthy organization. Contact my friends at Briti, either Rav Ran Nachmani at 972-52-5632233 or S. Nir at 972-54-5352765. They'll be thrilled to hear from you.

Here're a few pictures from yesterday's bris in Jerusalem:

Pre_mitzva_consultation

Mohel Rav Ran Nachmani and Lazer before the bris

Operation

From left: Lazer the Sandek, Yigal, Dr. Weiner the attending surgeon, and Rav Ran Nachmani the mohel

Sandek

The Sandek and Baal Bris

From_bris_to_bar_mitzva

From Bris to Bar Mitzva

Unique photos, aren't they? The enemies of Israel are always at work, but so are Hashem's Outreach Special Forces; we're gonna win, G-d willing. Be sure to join the winning side.


Introducing Joshua

The following is an Letter from an extraordinary young man, Joshua Harris, age 18, from Manchester in the UK. With his mother's kind permission, I haven't concealed his identity like I normally do in such posts, for Joshua has the capability of inspiring other autistics and giving hope to their families.

Joshua's life is not easy. He suffers excruciating physical and emotional pain. Digesting food for Joshua is like having sabers pierce his intestines. It's amazing how he endures; apparently, his burning desire to learn Torah is what keeps him going. He also has a lion's share of daily humiliation from thoughtless people. The Chazon Ish of blessed and saintly memory used to stand up on his feet before people like Joshua, for he said that they are reincarnates of tzaddikim that have come to this world for the benefit of others at the expense of their own suffering. Here's what Josh writes:

Dear Rabbi Brody:

Typing can really liberate those who cannot talk.

I am Joshua and I am autistic. I am getting ready for the rest of my life.

I was introduced to facilitated communication three years ago whilst a residential student in a special needs school, having been assessed by them as functioning at the level of a two year old. It causes me pain that people have low evaluations and expectations of me. Life has not shown me much respect yet. People doubt me and my writing. It is important for people to believe in me. The people teach you that acceptance is worth pain. I think the reason I want hand support is it really holds the emotions steady.

My ambition is to be the first autistic Rabbi. To study to be a Rabbi I will need to learn in a Yeshiva. I want the teachers at Yeshiva to include me like everyone else. I need to have a Jewish education like a normal guy. You need to be Jewish to facilitate Jewish studies well. The people that work with me (my personal assistants) are all from the same community, my community. I really want to be in control. I want and need good, well thinking people to support me to do ordinary things in an extraordinary way.

Thank you for taking the time to read this, Rabbi Brody, for believing in me, and for giving me a forum in front of thousands of people. This is very dear to me.

Joshua Harris

Here's my answer to Joshua:

Dear Joshua,

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that we must judge others fairly. The average person is blinded by external appearance, especially since society and the media put such an emphasis on bodily appeal. Spiritually, you are light-years ahead of most people, so it's you that should be feeling sorry for them. Before I forget, I want to tell you that since I spoke to your parents on the phone, I've been devoting a special portion of my personal prayer in begging Hashem that your physical pains should be eased. Nevertheless, it could very well be that as a tzaddik, your suffering is serving as a spiritually-protective umbrella for the entire Jewish people. If people knew who you really were and what your contribution truly is to the Jewish people, they'd be bowing down to you and kissing your hand in the streets. But, since they lack spiritual awareness, please forgive them of the humiliation they cause you; pity them, since they simply don't know better.

Ben_golden_and_lazer_brody Autist Ben Golden (left) learning Rebbe Nachman's teachings with Lazer

If life hasn't shown you much respect, you're in good company. This topsy-turvy world has little respect for Torah and those who learn it. The suffering makes your dedication to Torah all the more valuable. I believe in you and in your potential, Joshua, for I've had the privilege of meeting other autistics, such as Ben Golden in Jerusalem, that are capable of literally leading this generation.

Your goal to become a rabbi is fantastic. The more we all learn about facilitated communicaton, the more we'll be able to help you. You have my friendship and support always - I firmly believe, with Hashem's loving grace, that you'll succeed in all phases of Torah.

Remember, Joshua, you're not a candidate for parliamentary election so you don't need to win a popularity contest. It's enough to have a few loyal friends that understand and believe in you. Be happy also for your wonderful parents - they're the greatest. Feel free to write whenever you like. With blessings and warmest friendship, Lazer Brody


Emuna Revolution in the Deep South

Alabama_1

The Alabama State flag, with a few Lazer fingerprints

Something strange and exciting is brewing in the State of Alabama. Last summer, I started receiving more and more mail from Alabama. As far as the USA goes, Alabama is our #5 reader state after New York, California, Florida, and New Jersey. Almost every week, I get letters from new BT's and Bnei Noach. Candie's Story from last week brought more reader responses than any other post in the last month, most of which are from Alabama. At this rate, Alabama will soon be known as "The Emuna State". The following letters are so very characteristic of the spiritual thirst that directly precedes Moshiach; see for yourself:

Helene from Montgomery writes:

Dear Rabbi Brody,

Thank you for posting this letter from 'Candie' in Alabama.  I am in central Alabama (Montgomery) and my husband and I were called to the Torah by HaShem as well, and we are slowly meeting more and more gentiles in Alabama (and online in other states Praise His Name) who are hearing the same divine Call.

I can't praise Him enough for calling us out of our pagan idolatry.  He is teaching us His Torah and shattering the scales erected by generations of coming up in the Protestant churches on the USA.  Like Candie, when I walked in my first Torah environment among G-d's people -- I KNEW I was 'HOME' and I heard the same words she heard in her head -- "these are My people, welcome Home". 

And YES -- You can be sure that Moshiach is fast on the way. Let it be in our days!

Thank you so much for your website and all of the resources you make available -- and thank you for welcoming in the non-Jew, for being a light to the gentiles.

With praise and gratitude to HaShem, God of Israel,

Helene in Alabama

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches that the further a way a person was, the greater his or her spiritual awakening sanctifies Hashem's name. If you think that Candie and Helen are happenstance, check out what JT has to say:

JT from Dadeville writes:

Dear Rabbi Lazer,

I've have a degree in education from the University of Alabama, but rather than teaching, I run a fishing rig out on the Tallapoosa river. It gives me time to think. My dad is a Southern Baptist minister, and he's always wanted me to continue in his footsteps. The whole deal never sat right with me. In other words, my soul has been ripe for change for quite a while, but I never found answers to basic questions, until...

I took a family from Montgomery on a fishing outing last July. The father and son were fishing, and the mother was just sunbathing on deck and totally absorbed in what she was reading. I saw her laugh, then a minute later she was crying. Jeez, I said to myself, she must be reading some powerful book. I asked her what it was. She said, "Go ahead, have a look for yourself," grabbed her rod and reel and joined her husband and son. A few minutes later she was screaming with joy because she caught a 3-pound smallmouth bass, but I was already hypnotized (maybe mesmerized is the better word) by your book, The Trail to Tranquility.

To fast forward three months later, I'm already a full-fledged Ben Noach that owes a world of debt to the Creator, blessed is His name, and to His true messengers, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev and his present-day disciples, like my favorite rabbi Lazer Brody. If I could tempt you with a few hours of serene personal prayer out here on the river, I'd sure like for you to come to Alabama to see and hear you in person. Meanwhile, I live on your CDs. With esteem and appreciation, JT

Let's pass the microphone over to a representative of Alabama's Baalei Tshuva, Josh M. from Birmingham, son of a Scottish father and Jewish mother:

Rav Brody, Shalom!

Its been a while since the last time I wrote you. I just read your post about the impurade, and thought that with all going on and with all the mail you get with questions, concerns and worries, I felt like sharing with you how Hashem has truly blessed me and my family this past couple of months. I was laid off 6 months ago from a large corporation (that will remain nameless). everyone asks me, how are you making it? Even in job interviews they ask me, and I tell them that Hashem provides my every need. What they don't know is how true that is. For example, on Yom Kippur, as I was spending some time in hisbodedus, I asked Hashem to provide the necessary funds so I could buy what I needed for a sukkah. I thought "$200 tops - that's it Hashem, that's what I need to complete the mitzvah."

The next morning there's a knock at the door and its one of my wife's friends and before I can say anything she hands me two one-hundred dollar bills and says, "We forgot to pay you for the consulting work you did for our business so this is for you". Later my wife talked to her on the phone, and she said that the night before neither one of them could sleep, and after discussing the dreams (she dreamt about me, and he dreamt about his boss with the same name), they decided Hashem must be telling them something and realized they never paid me. So I got to purchase my needed supplies for the sukkah, and it was the best Sukkos ever, ushpizin almost every night, plenty of food and wine, and no rain the entire week, a miracle for Alabama, B"H!

Recently , Hashem blessed us again, we had bills and a mortgage due, yet Hashem provided the money for this as well. Last week I went to the front door to go outside to talk on the phone and I open the door and there is an envelope between the screen door and front door. What's neat is that my dog barks if someone is in the street yet not a whimper from her. In the envelope, which was addressed to me, was over $2000.00. I didn't know what to do, it's hard to accept gifts of such size because I feel that I somehow fail Hashem and don't deserve such things, but then I remember what I have heard from your cds and realize that's the Yetzer, and that Hashem gives good gifts to his children. I have been dealing with struggles in my emuna, especially when a job interview doesn't end up going the way I expect it to, its hard to find work when they want you to work Shabbos, cut your beard off,  no wearing of tsitsis or kippa so as to not offend others. Yet so many things have been happening where I can see that Hashem took me out of the work force for a while to help me de-assimilate quicker and in the meantime he provides me and my family's daily needs.I don't want to take up to much of your time but I especially wanted you to know that your cds have meant the world to me and have greatly helped in strengthening my emuna and understanding the importance of personal prayer, I can't say enough what a difference it makes. I have so many other examples to numerous to name that have happened but these were the ones I wanted to convey to you. I hope this brought a smile to your face. Thanks for your weekly chassidic pearls, they are quickly becoming a Shabbos tradition in my home. If I don't hear back from you in time, Good Shabbos!

just another BT in Alabama,

Josh

You can believe that Josh's letter put a smile on my fice, from ear to ear. Just another BT? No way, Josh! You're one of Hashem's favorite sons; it looks like Hashem has been hiding a lot of his favorite children in Alabama lately. With Moshiach close by, they're raising their beautiful heads like tulips in April.


Candie's Story

You can be sure that Moshiach is fast on the way. How do I know? If 30 years ago, someone would have told you that the State of Alabama would be chock full of spiritually thirsty BTs and Bnei Noach in search of emuna, would you have believed them?

Candie Davis is an amazing human being. See for yourself:

Dear Rabbi Brody,

Your Outreach Project is a blessing far greater than words can express.  It is difficult for me to write like this, I'm the type that sits quietly in the background listening and learning.  So please don't feel obligated to respond or write back.  What you are doing is so important and I don't want to distract you from it for even a moment.

I have been searching all my life (I'll be 55 in a few weeks) to learn about Hashem. Being a stubborn person has finally paid off! Let me give you a quick background.  We have something in common, I too, am originally from the D.C. suburbs.  Born and raised in Fairfax, Va.  I came from what they would term now-a-days as a dysfunctional family.  As a child, my entire religious education was provided by Cecil B. DeMille and other film makers. (Remember how channel 7 and channel 20 used to show movies like Jacob and Joseph late at night during the Passover season?)  I can remember back as far as 8 or 9 years old, alone in my bedroom, crying out to Hashem for help.

So one morning my mother told me to get dressed, she said she was going to send me to church.  I'll never forget it.  We pull up in front of this big huge building, strangers everywhere and I'm told to get out of the car and just go in and somebody will show me where to go. I shut the car door and was standing there all alone and scared.  Thinking that I was going to learn about Moses, David, etc., I summoned the courage to walk inside.  Once inside I never heard anything about Moses or David.  And Hashem was not there.

So fast forward to 1983.  Friends told me that the reason I didn't find Hashem in the church as a child is because it was the wrong church.  Trying to be open minded I said ok and for the next year and a half visited different type of churches.  The things they were teaching there really irritated something inside me.  It was like listening to someone scratch their fingernails on a blackboard. I wanted so much to learn about Hashem but I could not accept the things they were teaching.  Then I had a dream that had a huge impact on me.  I dreamed that the church had outhouses inside of it (the kind like you see at construction sites or campgrounds) and something told me unclean!  I never stepped foot inside again.

About that time some Jewish friends invited us to Torah study.  I jumped on that offer!  I know you like John Denver music, remember that one song he sang about "going home to a place he'd never been before"?  Well, that is how I felt.  No fingernails on blackboards there!  It was wonderful and that first visit something very unusual happened to me that had never happened before and has never happened since.  I hope you don't think I am crazy, but this was very real.  Everybody was singing (in Hebrew) and suddenly I heard a thought that did not come from my head.  I heard it so clear. I heard this: "These are my people".  My hair stood on ends and tears filled my eyes.

That next year was one of the most enjoyable years of my life.  My whole family enjoyed it.  We were invited to festivities and my children loved learning about Purim and Hanukkah.  We learn the Shema and what it meant.  That time period went by too fast.  Then one day our friends moved to Israel.

Fast forward again to 1995.  The doctors said I had about 2 weeks to live. Sometime earlier I had been the main course meal for a bunch of poisonous brown recluse spiders.  To make matters worse, a doctor made a mistake in a prescription medication causing the poison to be distributed throughout my body including my central nervous system.  The pain was unimaginable.  We lost every material thing, including house, cars, furniture, had to auction off everything to raise cash.  We packed the dog, my sewing machine, Ray's tools and moved to Alabama where the cost of living is very inexpensive.  Ray could no longer work full time because I needed constant care.

I was not afraid to die.  The pain was so bad and I just wanted it to stop.  No doctor, not even the one who pronounced the death sentence would help.  They didn't want to get involved.  Ray was frantic. Although I was weak and in and out of consciousness, I could hear Ray on the phone calling family.  They would not even pray with him.  After all, we had rejected the church and they didn't want to have anything to do with us.  Things looked very grim.

And then early one morning the phone rang...it was David, calling from Israel (the Jewish friend who had the Torah study years before).  The fact that he had even heard about our predicament was a miracle in itself.  Roy held the phone up to my ear and I heard David praying in Hebrew.  The pain began to subside and the recovery began.  Death passed over.  I spent the year next regaining my strength and learning how to live with the after effects that still linger from the poisoning.

Since then and until recently, I have been wondering why.  Wondering why was my life spared and why did I end up in west central Alabama where it is a spiritual desert.  Still on my life long quest to learn about Hashem I couldn't understand why I was put here or how I was ever going to learn about Torah in a place that is populated by southern baptists...

...And then the light came, shining through.  To quote the words from Matisyahu's song Youth:

"storm the halls of vanity
focus your energy
into a lazer beam
streaming shattered light
unites to pierce between the seams"

It all began last November, when out of desperation to find my granddaughter some decent music to listen to, I went to Yahoo music to search.  I was about to give up searching and was getting ready to shut down the Yahoo music thing when suddenly a song was played (the music was randomly played, I didn't even know the song existed).  A young man was singing these lyrics:

"You're all that I have and you're all that I need
Each and every day I pray to get to know you please
I want to be close to you, yes I'm so hungry
You're like water for my soul when it gets thirsty"

I said to myself, "He's singing about Hashem!  This young man knows Him!"  I jumped out of the chair and limped to the back door (according to the doctor's they say I am disabled and need knee replacement surgery - but that's not true - they must not know about Simchat Torah!) and called for Roy to come inside quick, he needs to hear something.  The song was King Without A Crown by Matisyahu.  I was on that lead like a detective.  I needed to find out more information.  An internet search led me to the JDub.org music message board. There I learned a lot and for the first time I heard about the Artscroll books.  This past summer, during the war, several people were quoting you.  And that is how I found the "Lazer Beams" website!

I said all of that to say that finally, after all these years and tribulations, finally with the help of your teachings on your website, your cd's and books and my Artscroll Stone Editions of the Chumash and Tanach, I am getting the answers to questions I have had all my life.  And at long last, I am learning about Hashem!!!!

I have had a major attititude adjustment, especially my attitude towards all the not too pleasant things that have happened in the past.  Now I thank Hashem for everything.  Learning how Hashem is in control of everything is such a comfort and a huge relief.  Ray and I also thank Hashem for Rabbi Lazer Brody and the Outreach Project.  You are reaching people who are stuck way behind the enemy lines!!!  The light is shining so bright and it's not stopping at only Jewish outreach, it is shining so bright that even gentiles searching to learn about Hashem are being drawn to it. (I read you posts about the native Americans.  I have native American ancestry on both my father and mothers side...hummmmmmm, could it be?)  Hashem's compassion and mercy are amazing!  Every day is exciting now because I know that with each day, I will learn more.

And about my so-called disability and need for a knee transplant....well, I said no to that.  I had a torn cartilage removed from my knee back in the '70's.  Over the years there's a lot of calcium deposits and the bones try to grow together.  The build up of all that in the knee actually results in the leg becoming slightly longer than the other leg which is normal.  Although the doctors have the technology for lazer surgery and can easily remove years of build up and can turn the calendar back on the joints (I know this for certain because the vet did lazer surgery on my dog in the '80's) they refuse to do that because there is more profit in selling knee replacement surgery.

Do I care what the doctors say? No.  I resolved to hobble around on a cane if that's Hashem's will.  See, I told you, we're talking major attitude adjustment on my part!  Well not too long ago I had been catching up on work at my home office.  I had a lot to do because I take off and spend time with my grandchildren when they come to visit.  I must have been working on the computer for about 14 hours straight.  During all those hours of work I'm listening to my favorite songs of Yosef Karduner.  I never get tired of his music, so listening to Road Marks for 14 hours straight is no big deal for me.  Actually, it helps me do my work.

Anyway, I got up from the computer and dreaded standing after sitting for so long knowing how stiff my knee was going to be.  I stood up and something felt weird. I took a step and stopped.  Something was definitely different.  I took another step. There was no pain, my knee was bending!!!!!  I thought, "Whoa, what's going on here????"  I put both feet flat on the floor and stood up straight.  Both legs were the same length, as if the clock has been turned back 10 years!!!  Alone in my office I raised my hands and starting thanking Hashem and then I started dancing and jumping and singing like some kind of kid.  Knowing I did need to get rest I came back down to earth and slept for awhile.

When I woke up and jumped out of the bed, without a cane, the joy and happiness started all over again.  But of course, I am a "why" person.  I wasn't wondering why the blessing because I know Hashem is so merciful, I was wondering why now, at this time.  I booted up the computer and went straight to Lazer Beams and there was my answer!!!!!  This is what I saw that day on your website: "Shabbat - Simchat Torah: Barometer of Joy".  Is that amazing or what???? Before that, I had never even heard of Simchat Torah.  I knew about Succoth but hadn't heard of Simchat Torah.  Wow, what a lesson!

Signing off from behind the enemy lines in Alabama where Hashem is in command, Candie Davis

*******

Usually I edit letters quite heavily; you have my promise that I didn't touch Candie's letter - I only changed her name to protect her privacy. Nevertheless, Candie's emuna is burning so bright that all the folks in Alabama probably can guess who she and her terrific husband Ray really are. The greatest part about Outreach is the privilege of meeting people like them.

The age-old art of Abir, the ancient Hebrew Combat Art that has been passed down from our forefathers via a select few to this very generation, is an "endangered species". Read all about, G-d willing, it in tomorrow's Lazer Beams.