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15 posts from December 2010

Survival

I took the following picture during hitbodedut last week in a local citrus grove; it shows you how bad the drought is here. But, every cloud has its silver leaning. Some tenacious little seed succeeded in sucking a few drops of precious moisture from the ground and germinated into this handsome grass plant. G-d willing, with emuna, we'll emerge from the world's spiritual drought and soon hear people from the four corners of the spiritually-parched earth emerging to call Hashem's name. I'm optimistic - just like the plant pictured below:

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Ki Va Moed: The Appointed Time has Come

There's tons of bad news going around - I don't want to repeat the doomsday prophecies, but these are tricky times.

Here's the good news - the closer we get to Moshiach and redemption, the more you'll see people from all backgrounds calling Hashem's name.

Nothing makes me happier than hearing about another person who has started calling Hashem's name in earnest. When you call Hashem, He not only answers, but He takes you where you need to go.

King David says to Hashem (Psalms 102:14), "You shall arise and comfort Zion for it's time to pardon her, for the appointed time has come."

Ki Va Moed means "the appointed time has come." When all the people of the world call begin to call Hashem's name, then you know that Moshiach right around the corner. When you see the Ray Chew's Boys' Ensemble from Harlem singing it in the original Hebrew, then you had better purchase your plane tickets to the Holy Land right away. Emuna Outreach salutes the Chabad Telethon for this magnificent sanctification of Hashem's name. Ray Chew has a powerful and beautiful voice, full of soul; he sure knows how to bring the best out of boys too; I hope you enjoy it as much as we do:


With a Little Help from Big Tzaddikim

The Beams Baby Boom continues this week, with a hot story right off the presses.

I owe a lot to Nachum Kligman from Bet Shemesh. When no one knew me, he was the first to video-tape my lectures and put them on the web.

Yesterday afternoon, Nachum called me; his voice was trembling: "Rav, Michal (Nachum's wife) is in Shaarei Tzedek hospital. She's two weeks overdue. The doctors are having a major disagreement - Michal's doctor says induce and go for a natural birth, and the Department Head says no way - prepare her for a C-section!" The Department Head favored the C-section on the grounds that the baby wasn't anywhere near birth position, "so there's nothing to discuss about naturl birth", he maintained, especially since Michal had already had a c-section in one of her previous childbirths.

Michal's nerves were more than frayed; she had taken on and off the inducing list abour four times, as if she were a pingpong ball. Needless to say, she was beside herself. She was losing her composure fast; she just wanted things over with, the quicker the better. Nachum didn't know if she could hold on...

I looked at my watch - it was time for hitbodedut, my daily personal prayer session. I asked Nachum if he could convince the doctors to delay any decision for two hours - nothing more. Everyone agreed, but they gave me 2 hours; if nothing happens, Michal goes into surgery...

Monday - yesterday - was 20 Teveth, 5771. I was on my way to the field to pour my heart out for Michal...

I started to pray in personal prayer and felt cold as a fish. I was having an unsuccessful day and had accomplished 10% of what I usually do. All day long, my prayers were about on the level of a turkey-gobble and my Torah learning was out to lunch. I felt as if I was holding on the spiritual level of an ameba.

33 Then, a flash went through my mind - "So what if you're an ameba? Today is not only the Rambam's yahrtzeit (image, left), it's the Abir Yaacov's (Rebbe Yaacov Abu Chatzera, the Baba Sali's grandfather, image below, left) yahrtzeit! I was right by a clump of palm trees east of town, and tears started pouring down my face. To paraphrase the old Beatles' song, I was trying a little help from my friends the great tzaddikim. I pleaded for Michal by virtue of the Rambam's yahrtzeit, by virtue of the Abir Yaacov's yahrtzeit, and by virtue of the holy Baba Sali, all of saintly and blessed memory.

I could feel my heart opening up, but it wasn't enough. Then boom! Another flash! Nachum came to Uman this past Rosh Hashana. He didn't want to go, but a pregnant Michal pushed him out the door and took care of five other children on her own so that her husband could spend Rosh Hashana by the holy gravesite of Rebbe Nachman in Uman. Then I yelled, "Rabbenu Nachman! You have to personally plead this one at the 34 Heavenly Throne! Michal bat Sarah needs you now..."

Having mentioned the four tzaddikim - the Rambam, Abir Yaakov, Baba Sali, and Rebbe Nachman - my soul could now express itself to Hashem. Before I knew it, 2 hours had passed.

Just as the two hour deadline hit, my cellphone rang, with Nachum Kligman on the line; this time his voice was trembling with excitement: "...th-they don't know how...the baby has turned around and is descending...it's going to be a natural birth... we're seeing a miracle...I'll keep you posted."

Fifty minutes later, it was Nachum again: "Mazal tov, it's a 7lb, 7oz baby boy! Both mother and baby are doing fine!"

Thank you, Hashem - you're the greatest.

Right away, I lit candles for the four tzaddikim - the Rambam, Abir Yaakov, Baba Sali, and Rebbe Nachman.

You see, by virtue of the tzaddikim, Hashem will answer your prayers, even if you're an ameba.

Mazal Tov to our cherished friends the Kligmans, from all of us here at the Beams. May you merit to have your new son enter the holy covenant of Abraham on time, amen!


Courageous Mothers

The theme of this week's Torah portion - Shmot - is about the courageous mothers who gave birth to their children despite Pharaoh's horribly cruel edict to drown every Jewish male that would be born.

In the spirit of Shabbat Shmot and in continuation of yesterday's post about childbirth, I want to share with you a miraculous email that I received today from Leah in Jerusalem:

Dear Rabbi,

I was very moved by today's posting on the Beams by a woman tormented by her traumatic births and trying to warn others. Her wish for women to return to the days of the Jewesses in Egypt reminds me of my own miracle birth. 

Before I did teshuva, a process that started with Garden of Emuna, I though that I was up to "here" with children (4) and was not going to have any more. Hence, I embarked on what was supposed to be contraception for the next umpteen years until menopuase (gasp!). Little did I know that Rabbi Nachman, hitbodedut, and Rabbi Arush's teachings on birth control would change my life forever....

I decided to forgo contraception with my newfound Emuna and gave birth to our "teshuva" child in a manner which was truly miraculous and which left our family and friends stunned. 

The contractions came on Yom Kippur, and whilst my husband popped out around the corner to bring a friend to babysit, I suddenly had to push, and, on the phone to Magen David Adom, gave birth to Nachman alone in about 5 minutes on the couch, surrounded by all our holy books. I was holding him in my arms, cooing, when my husband rushed in, speechless. Two minutes later the ambulance arrived and the rest is history.

People asked me if I was scared, how did I know what to do, how could I just push, how did I know if the baby was fine, why didn't I wait for the ambulance ...... the fact is that it happened exactly as G-d created it to happen. It was a peaceful, beautiful and wondrous event. I myself remembered the teaching about the Jewesses in Egypt and mentioned it to my husband after the birth. 

I believe that Hashem gave me that experience because I put my trust in Him to have Nachman in the first place. 

And now for the finale: My husband wanted to ask Rabbi Arush to be the sandak but didn't know how to go about it. Two days before the brit he was in hitbodedut in the forest in Jerusalem, and pleaded with Hashem to show him who the sandak should be. As he looked up, he was amazed to see Rabbi Arush walking in front of him, apparently having finished his own hitbodedut in the same forest! My husband immediately rushed over to him and told him of this remarkable divine providence and incredibly, Rabbi Arush agreed to be our son's sandak. The brit was performed in the Chut Shel Chessed succa, on, of all dates, the eve of the yarzheit of Rabbi Nachman.

Could there be a more incredible cycle of events? The Rabbi who anonymously inspired the birth of our son, ended up being his sandak. 

We learned firsthand that the keys of childbirth are truly in G-d's hands alone.

Many Blessings, Leah from Jerusalem

Have you heard our CD "Children are Joy"? Have a wonderful Shabbat and weekend.


Emuna and Childbirth

I thank Rabbi Lazer for giving me the soapbox today - I have an important message for mothers-to-be.

I was fortunate to hear Rabbi Lazer in Lakewood recently. I want to thank him for having the courage to go out there and yell it to the rooftops about emunah and how Hashem is the true coordinator of all events. I admire that sincerely because I lack the courage to yell to my fellow sisters about the emunah that we are all lacking especially during childbirth. Modern medicine and westernization has taken childbirth - an intimate, private, modest physiological function that once occurred in the home - and has corrupted it into a medical commercialized profit-making industry.

You see,I had my children via c-section. Hashem taught me firsthand what happens to a person when they put their sole trust in Human flesh and not in the Master of the Universe who created something perfect, the whole chilbirth process. Hashem has removed the dirty spectacles from my eyes and has shown me through default via my tribulation of bearing my 2 children through the most unnatural form, surgery. I was healthy and my pregnancy was healthy and yet despite that I ended up with 2 hospital-caused c-sections. In modern medicine, the doctor decides based on his own schedule when and how the baby will come out. When the doctor arrives they right away break the water and whip out the pitocin to get the show on the road to get that uterus pumping. When you start to tamper with mother nature then ultimatly you can break things. But I was conditioned to believe that without their help woman and babies would be dying on the street...

Unfortunalty, I have learned the hard way and I mean hard. I wouldnt wish a c-section on a dog. It has taken me years to work through my anger and despair and try to see the doctor as just a stick in the hand of Hashem. Through reading the Garden of Emuna, I have come to some sort of peace with my traumatic births. I am thankful to Hashem for opening up my eyes that I need to trust Him and only Him. He created natural childbirth and we don't need to run to doctors to have a healthy baby and pregnancy.

I see the truth so clearly that I cry for other woman who are blinded and are running to doctors to get sonograms and all the other stupidity they offer. Obstetrics is just another business in our lowly world - its not Emunah. I pray every day that Hashem should lift the veil that blocks the eyes of women and I hope that they will also merit to find the Emunah that Hashem has shown me. May we merit to be like the holy woman in Egypt who  had no where to turn but to hashem. The Or Hachaim says they gave a two week later due date to their midwives. They had to do this because they could not trust them. Pharoh instituted a hospital protocol that would kill all the male infants. That left them with no other choice but to have faith in Hashem and have unassisted births with just Hashem as their medical provider. I pray every day that Hashem will bring birth back into the homes because any effort I make is a losing battle.

Thank you for listening. RF, a mother from Lakewood


Today's Lunar Eclipse

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Above image courtesy of Wikipedia

Astronomy Israel reports that observers in North America, Central America, and Hawaii will be treated to a total lunar eclipse tonight - the night of the winter solstice, December 20 - December 21. Unfortunately, the eclipse will not be visible here in Israel. Totality begins at 2:41AM EST (which is 9:41 AM, midmorning here in Israel) and ends at 3:53AM EST on December 21, so observers on the West Coast will be able to see it at a much more reasonable hour. Partial phases of the eclipse begin about 2 hours before and after totality.

Lunar eclipses are mentioned in the Gemara, tractate Succa 29a. They are not considered to be a good omen; the Gemara says that if the eclipse appears in the West (which this one does), then"the sword" - in other words, wars and violence, will appear in the West, especially if the moon will be blood red as expected today.

Emuna uplifts us above the stars. When we cling to Hashem above, we don't have to worry about what's happening in the world below. But, only a fool can ignore the fact that the earth is a powderkeg right now, both politically and geophysically. The blood-red lunar eclipse is yet another reminder to mend our ways and return to Hashem. Let's not procrastinate.


Past Life, Present Gift

Yehudit Levy sent me a phenomenal email, which with her kind permission, I'm happy to share with you:

Dear Rabbi,

In one of your shiurim you said that we should never have any regrets, because Hashem gives us our "past lives" to use in our Avodat Hashem when we are lucky enough to return to Him. I was profoundly touched by this. Last week, I was given the wonderful gift of insight into how my history can help me today:

I was a talented pianist, and from a young age had to practise a lot. My mother, a prodigy herself, was very strict about the practising and I had to do two hours a day by the age of about 12, one hour in the morning, one hour at night. If I didn't practise in the morning, I had to do it all at night. SO I used to discipline myself to wake up at 5 (the whole house was still sleeping, no taskmaster at hand) so I could eat a leisurely breakfast and not hurry, and then practise from 6-7 and then leave for school. To be honest, much as I loved the piano, I hated this ritual but didn't dare abandon it. Now that I'm a mother, I often tell my husband how amazing it was that I did that, since I can see that it is pretty abnormal for a child to be so self-disciplined!!! And I attribute it to my absolute respect and (healthy) fear of my parents, and wish to give them nachas, not to disappoint them: another trait that is missing from most children today, mine included.

SO, the other day I was lamenting the fact that since my two babies were born in the last year, I have just not been able to get back into regular hitbodedut. I think you can see where this is heading... suddenly Hashem sent into my head the image of me practising piano as a child in a dark silent house: and then your words reverberated; and I knew with absolute certainty that the only reason I went through that trial was to come back to Hashem and say:

Hashem, if as a child I could drag myself out of bed every morning for years out of respect for my parents, then surely I can and must do the same for You! 

As an aside, even though I always thought my mother was sleeping, somehow she always heard me playing and would tell me in the afternoon how beautiful it was: maybe I can wishfully think that Hashem is thinking the same thing.... "Lo Yanum ve Lo Yishan"....

Thank you so much. One sentence healed me more than years of therapy ever could! Many blessings, Yehudit Levy