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7 posts from September 2010

The Annual Telegram

Imagine that your employer calls you into his office and sits you down for a heart to heart talk. He has a special challenge for you, and he’s confident that you can succeed. But, you’ll be leaving your permanent home for an indefinite amount of time. You agree.

Your employer makes an overseas call and arranges everything you’ll be needing – living quarters, means of transportation, and your every need down to the smallest, most minute detail.

Your employer then tells you that he will be monitoring your every move. You may not feel it, but by virtue of instant messaging, Skype, and all types of new technology, he’ll be virtually with you at all times.

He warns you that your task won’t be easy. But, as a consolation, you’ll be receiving quite a few amenities to make your job more pleasant. Yet, he also warns you not to concentrate on the amenities but to focus on meeting your challenge and completing your mission in the very best possible way. If you’re smart, you’ll heed your employer’s words, for he more than anyone else wants you to succeed.

Three different flights and twenty hours in the air get you to your destination. Sure, you feel awfully lonely. But then again, your employer arranged a beautiful penthouse on the 42nd floor with a breathtaking view of the city and the surrounding ocean. You have a wet bar stocked with all the finest, from 40-year aged-in-an-oak cast authentic Highland-Scotch whiskey to Chateau-de-Rothschild Cabernet, 35 years old. You have a walk-in closet with a complete wardrobe. The fridge and cupboards are stuffed with your favorite foods.

Once a year, you get a telegram (yes, such things still exist) from your employer. He reminds you to focus on your mission, and that the penthouse and all the amenities are temporary. You are always amazed how difficult that is to remember, so you really appreciate the boss’s annual telegram.

* * * * *

Succoth - which begins this week on Wednesday night - is the annual telegram we receive from our beloved Father in Heaven. Hashem is reminding us that life in this world is like a fixed-term rented apartment with a non-renewable lease. When your time's up, you pack your bags and out you go...

Continue reading The Annual Telegram on this week's issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.

This coming Saturday night and Sunday, 18 Tishrei, 5771, is the 200th anniversary of Rebbe Nachman's departure from the physical world. My cherished friend Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum tells us about The Life of Rebbe Nachman.

Hoshana Raba is the 7th day of Succoth. This week, we learn the last Torah portion of the year, Zot Habracha.

My beloved Rabbi and spiritual guide Rav Shalom Arush writes about the 4 aspects of self-composure in A Fortified Wall.

Rivka Levy takes a look at gratitude in Abi Gezunt.

Natalie Kovan learns to bake Challahs in A Jew in Training.

Breslev Kids can enjoy Rebbe Nachman's Story of Trust.

The Seventh Gate is Part 34 of Warriors of Transcendence.

For the scholarly, Rabbi Mordechai Kornfeld writes about The Magnitude of Torah.

You're more than welcome to visit our new VOD page.

Are you feeling down about yourself? You must hear our new CD, This is My Doing; it's sweeter than sugar, and will pick you up like nothing else can. You'll find all of our emuna Cds here. They're perfect for listening in the Succa during the intermediate days of the holiday.

Breslev Israel, Emuna Outreach, and the Beams wish you a fantastic week and a joyous Succoth holiday.


A Dream Place for Spiritual Growth

I frequently receive inquiries from female Baalei Tshuva or prospective Baalei Teshuva, mostly from 18-35, looking for the right place to strengthen their Judaism and their spiritual growth. Many also seek the light of Rebbe Nachman of Breslev's teachings. Others request all the above with the pastoral surroundings of the Eretz Yisroel countryside. I never believed such a place existed, until I found out about Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin.

In the picturesque region of the Judean Hills rests the peaceful Jewish settlement Bat Ayin, Daughter of the Eye. The town, consisting of approximately 130 families, is populated with rabbis and Torah scholars, movement therapists, meditation instructors, artists, musicians, nutritionists and holistic healers. This unique, warm, and friendly community provides many opportunities for spiritual growth.

Nestled into the community is Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin, an innovative women’s seminary with a unique learning environment. Started in 1996 by Rebbetzin Chana Bracha Siegelbaum, B’erot, meaning Wellsprings, is designed as a micro-community within Bat Ayin where women of all ages, religious backgrounds and nationalities engage in intense Torah learning as part of an integrated, participatory approach to Torah living.

In addition to classes in Jewish texts and Chassidut, B’erot integrates a Torah life with classes in visual arts and music, meditative movement, Jewish meditation, health and nutrition, herbology and agricultural workshops. The school houses an organic garden cultivating the special fruits of the Israel: figs, pomegranates, dates, olives and grapes, in addition to a variety of other trees, vegetables, flowers and herbs.

Students at Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin are seeking more than the traditional text-based chevruta/shiur format. Expressing gained knowledge through art, drama, dance and music serves to enhance understanding of texts in a personal, experiential manner. Working the Land of Israel and enjoying the fruits (and vegetables!) of the labor with a focus on healthy living allows for a tangible connection with the ways of the Jewish Mothers.

Midreshet B’erot students represent a broad spectrum of religious backgrounds. Women from Torah-observant homes are seeking more creative ways of expressing their spirituality. Those with less religious backgrounds who, as adults, have returned to Judaism are searching for deep meaning and personal connection to Judaism, as well as to build their textual skills. Conversion candidates who have chosen to take on the Torah way of life learn desire a serious conversion program that will prepare them for their role as Jewish women, wives and mothers.

Lani says, “What I found from spending time at B’erot, and from learning with Rebbetzin Chana Bracha, is that really Bat Ayin is a community of extremely gifted, spiritual, strong-willed, Torah-committed and even Torah-passionate people... I also began to see the attraction of the environment--peace and beauty surrounded by hills that instantly reminded me of the fact that I was living in Israel, on the same land settled by the original generations - what more could a Jew want?"

Debbie adds, “Learning at Bat Ayin is an entirely unique learning experience...The classes give one the chance to delve into the sources, to develop one’s own personal understanding and to ask many questions in the process.  It is magical to be high up in the Judean mountains with beautiful women, Jewish learning, music making, vegetable planting and the list goes on, all enveloped in a great peacefulness.”

If you're looking a young lady in search of reJewvenation, we suggest that you give Midreshet B’erot Bat Ayin a try.

Midreshet B'erot Bat Ayin just might be the perfect place for your spiritual growth. Write Rebbetzin Siegelbaum, and tell her that Lazer sent you.


Baby's Stomach Pains

Dear Rabbi Lazer,

My first baby is only three months old, and he's been suffering from stomach pains that keep him yelling and screaming much of the time. Yesterday, I went to the pediatrician, and he gave me a prescription and told me not to breastfeed any more. I read so much about the importance of nursing, and I hate to give it up. My nextdoor neighbor is a regular reader of yours, and suggested that I ask you before putting my baby on the bottle. Is there some urgent advice you can give me? I'm eagerly awaiting your answer. Thanks very much, Karen from NYC

Dear Karen,

You're correct about the importance of breastfeeding. The value it has on your baby's healthy emotional development is inestimable. Here are a list of things - well known to our sages all the way back to Moses - that cause a baby to have gas and sharp stomach pains from mothers milk: Squash, garlic, onions, liver, and hearts (animal or poultry). Hot peppers, highly-spiced foods, and fried foods are also notorious in raising the acidic content of mother's milk, and wreaking havoc on the baby's digestive system. Avoid these foods and the stomach pains should vanish, G-d willing. Hold off on the bottle and the doctor's prescription for 72 hours; as soon as you correct your diet, the baby's stomach pains will most likely disappear in a day.

If you've been eating liver for iron, then start eating beets instead. For your mother's milk to be plentiful, sweet, and digestible, eat lots of almonds, whole-grained rice, and melted cheese (natural, not processed).

One additional important point: Substances - especially tobacco, marijuana, alcohol, and narcotics destroy the quality of mother's milk and have a sorely detrimental effect on the child.

May you have all the joy in the world from your baby, and may he grow to strength of body and strength of spirit. Blessings always, LB


Reflections from Uman

Many people still write me asking why I don't stay in Israel for Rosh Hashana rather than traveling to Uman in the Ukraine. Their arguments are logical and well-based, such as the Zohar that states that all prayers ascend from Eretz Yisrael. Nevertheless, my reason is simple - emunat chachamim - I believe in my rebbe, Rebbe Nachman of Breslev, and he left explicit instructions for us to do our utmost to be in Uman for Rosh Hashana.

Folks write about Uman as a chassidic version of the Mardis Gras and so forth, stressing the festive atmosphere and the dancing in the streets. In my humble opinion, those are secondary and tertiary details. Uman is all about prayer, for Rebbe Nachman is the master of prayer.

The way to spot a true follower of Rebbe Nachman is by the way he prays. In the kloiz, the main minyan of Uman, you have 8500 people all praying word by word, slowly, as if each word was a delicious delicacy on their lips. Some are laughing and others have tears streaming down their faces, but all are intensely into the prayer. They've spent a mint of money getting there, suffer a long list of trials and tribulations including subhuman treatment by the infamously antisemitic Ukrainians, leaving wives and families behind. For partying? By no means. When the chazan in Uman calls out HaMelech during shacharit, and 8500 people applaud Hashem and His coronation, you feel like your soul is leaving your body. Seeing all 28-30000 Uman-goers swaying together by the river on Tashlich makes you feel the same way.

Some years, I spend time before or after Rosh Hashana traveling around to other tzadikim's graves in the Ukraine. This year, I plan to spend every available minute close to Rebbe Nachman gravesite; it's a holy place where Hashem especially listens to prayers. I have plenty to pray for and plenty of people to pray for. Already, several of them have told me about big miracles they've seen since the last time they asked me to mention their names on the holy gravesite in Uman. G-d willing, I hope to publish a few of these stories in the near future. Whenever I do, the clowns, the spammers, and the agnostics have a fit, but that's nothing new. They're allergic to anything that has anything to do with emuna.

Uman is all about emuna. Emuna is all about prayer, that you believe there's an Almighty that you can pray to and that listens to those prayers.

The Beams wishes you and yours a Ktiva V'Chatima Tova for a wonderful New Year and meaningful prayers. G-d bless.


The Best Insurance

Let's take a closer look at the blessings we recite every morning:

Boruch.....Po-kay-ach Iv-rim, "Blessed are You… Who gives sight to the blind," is not only thanks for our eyesight, but thanks to Hashem that He enables us to see the light of day.

Boruch.....Ma-tir Ah-su-rim, "Blessed are You… Who releases the incarcerated," is not only thanks to Hashem that we're not in jail or in captivity, but that we're free to come and go as we please.

Boruch… Zokaif Kefufim, "Blessed are You… Who straightens the bent," is not only thanks that we're not cripples or hunchbacks, but that we're not confined in a place where we don't have the room to stand up straight.

We'd be saying these - and all our other blessings - with a lot more intent if we appreciated the fact that we're not one of the miners in Chile, entrapped now for nearly 4 weeks.

Showing Hashem that we don't take for granted what we have is the best insurance for not losing what we have.

Failing to thank Hashem daily for the oxygen we breath is crass ingratitude. Ingrates are never happy, but grateful people always are.

Our daily blessings are designed to keep us unspoiled, grateful, and therefore happy.

While we thank Hashem for our freedom to walk around as we please, we shouldn't forget the less fortunate, like Jonathan Pollard, Gilead Shalit, and those Chilean miners, may they all see daylight as free men soon, amen.