Joseph says, "And now..." - he comes to the sudden realization that everything Hashem did - all the trials and tribulations he endured - were all for the very best. Here's this week's mini-lesson on the Torah portion, Vayigash. Shabbat Shalom!
Earlier this week, Yosef - the youngest son of my beloved rabbi and spiritual guide RavShalom Arush shlit'a - became a Bar Mitzva. Below is a clip of Rav Shalom and Yosef from the beautiful reception two nights ago. Have a wonderful Shabbat and weekend!
We here at the Beams and at Emuna Outreach disdain hatred, especially the type of hatred that waves the flag of zealotry and religious fanaticism. We condemn any acts of harassing another human - physically or emotionally - especially in the name of Torah. True Torah is a tree of life, and all its paths are peace. We therefore endorse the following article by Rabbi Yakov Horowitz:
Time for the 99% to Be Heard
By Rabbi Yakov Horowitz
The ongoing violence in Beit Shemesh by hooligans has taken an even uglier turn recently as it is being directed against school-age children and their parents. It is now receiving front-page international coverage due to the involvement of Israeli elected officials at the highest levels.
As the colossal Chilul Hashem and distortion of genuine Torah values is escalating, it is incumbent on decent Jews worldwide to do our part to distance ourselves from this behavior and loudly proclaim that this is not the way of our Torah. It is of paramount importance that we do so not only before the media and the world at large, but also that we explain this to our impressionable children in the starkest of terms. Our work with children and teens over the years has clearly indicated that "Hate Does not Have an Off Button" – meaning that the toxic message of intolerance is one that has long-term harmful effects.
Many people in our community insist, “Everyone understands that these are a small bunch of radicals who do not have the support of any rabbinic leaders.” But that is simply not the message resonating around the world nowadays.
The 1% is getting all the media attention due to the passiveness of the 99%.
Several years ago, readers of this website conducted our own peaceful “hafgana” (protest) when the demonstrations in Eretz Yisroel were spinning out of control, by writing respectful emails to the editors of The Jerusalem Post and Ha’aretz condemning the violence in the clearest terms.
By all accounts, it was very successful as each of the papers received more than 100 emails from Jews worldwide. The Jerusalem Post designated a letters-to-the-editor section, where they printed many of the responses and actually wrote a column noting that there was a grass-roots movement by charedi Jews worldwide condemning the violent behavior.
We respectfully ask that you do the same at this critical time – with the eyes of the world focused on Beit Shemesh. Kindly take a few moments to cut and paste this message or write something along these lines and email them to
“As a Torah Jew, I am deeply distressed by the harassment and violence in Beit Shemesh – all of which is diametrically opposed to the teachings of our Holy Torah. Lest our silence be misconstrued as passive acceptance of this behavior, we condemn it in the strongest terms, as do the vast, overwhelming, majority of Torah Jews worldwide.”
We ask that you show public support for this effort by posting your name and the city where you live as a comment on the bottom of this thread so that members of our community and the media at large can see that this is a broad-based effort.
Thank you very much for your time and may this effort be helpful in restoring k’vod shamayim.
The legacy of Hanukkah – faith, patriotism, defiance of extreme odds and tenacity in the battle of liberty against tyranny – has underlined the American spirit since the early pilgrims, enhancing the unique foundation of the U.S.-Israel covenant: shared values.
For instance, the statue of Judah the Maccabee, the hero of the Jewish rebellion against the Syrian-Seleucid Empire, is displayed at the West Point Military Academy, the most prestigious U.S. military academy, founded in 1802. The statue of Judah the Maccabee, known for his principle-driven leadership and daring battle tactics, is displayed along with the statues of Joshua, David, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Hector, King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon – “the Nine Worthies.”
George Washington became acquainted with the spirit of the Maccabees, upon settling, in December (Hanukkah) 1777, at his new headquarters at Valley Forge, Penn., with ill-equipped, weary troops. Faced with a superpower, George III of Britain, Washington concluded that only a dramatic change could avoid a defeat. According to the diary entries of Louisa Hart, Washington told the Harts about a Jewish solider at Valley Forge who lit a Hanukkah candle and explained its significance. Washington’s reaction was: "Perhaps we are not as lost as our enemies would have us believe. I rejoice in the Maccabees' success, though it is long past ... It pleases me to think that miracles still happen." Six months later, on June 19, 1778, the Continental Army implemented the battle tactics of Judah the Maccabee, leaving Valley Forge in pursuit of the British, who were moving toward New York. Although the war would linger for five more years, Washington won a decisive victory.
Benjamin Franklin, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson were inspired by the Maccabees, proposing "Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God" as the American official seal. Just like the Founding Fathers, the Maccabees were a tiny minority of “rebels” - condemned by the "loyalist/pragmatist" Jewish establishment - rebelling against an oppressive superpower. They prevailed thanks to their conviction-driven determination. They knew that swimming against the stream gets one closer to the source. The Maccabees were a role model for Paul Revere, who was referred to as "a modern day Maccabee" and the organizers of the Boston Tea Party, who realized that there were no free lunches for freedom-seeking nations.
"In God We Trust" was inspired, also, by the Maccabees’ battle cry, which adopted Moses’ battle cry against the builders of the Golden Calf. A literal translation of the battle cry is “Whoever trusts God; join me!” The Maccabees' sacrifice and lack of political correctness also inspired Patrick Henry's "Give me liberty or give me death!"
In 2011, Hanukkah is still a living experience in the U.S. For example, the residents of Billings, Mont. celebrate Hanukkah in solidarity with the Jewish community of 40 families, and in protest of the 1993 vandals who broke the windows of Jewish homes that displayed Hanukkah menorahs. In response, more than 10,000 of the city’s residents put makeshift menorahs in their own windows. They persist, annually, in this ritual.
Hanukkah and the Maccabees have become an integral part of the American way of life, culturally and politically. Americans respect the legacy of the Maccabees, who fought the Syrian-Seleucid super-power, mostly, in the mountains of Judea and Samaria, in the Judean Desert and in Jerusalem. Judah the Maccabee’s own Valley Forge was at Beit El; his capital was Jerusalem; he scored dramatic victories in Beit Horon (over Seron), Hadashah (over Nicanor), Beit Zur (over Lysias) and Ma’aleh Levona (over Apolonius); he was defeated at Elazar and killed at Ba’al Hatzor – all are located beyond the “1967 Lines.”
The descendants of the Maccabees are not "occupiers" in the cradle of their own history. Hanukkah is not a holiday of "occupation," but a holiday of deliverance. Hanukkah is a holiday which highlights the moral high ground of Jews in their ancestral homeland.
Shimon the Maccabee - who succeeded Judah and Yonatan the Maccabees – articulated the Jewish territorial case when responding to an ultimatum by Antiochus, who demanded an end to the Jewish “occupation” of Jerusalem, Jaffa, Gaza, Gezer and Ekron: "We have not occupied a foreign land; we have not ruled a foreign land; we have liberated the land of our forefathers from foreign occupation," Shimon said.
Pressuring the Jewish state to withdraw from the mountain ridges of Judea and Samaria defies the American story. Either you are with George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and other defenders of liberty, or you provide – inadvertently – a tailwind to the forces of tyranny.
Six months ago I wrote you about my husband's spiritual slide, that he shaved his beard and stopped putting on tefillin in the morning. We exchanged a few emails and you told me that I was being too zealous and too "frum", always nitpicking at small details rather than stressing joy and emuna. I must be honest that you really upset me, an my heart (really my Yetzer Hara, but I didn't know it at the time) told me that you're just some NaNach-BT-Breslever parading as a rabbi and spiritual guide. But, when my husband opened up divorce proceeding in the Beis Din, I got a wake-up call from above that I had better listen to you. Other rabbis here were telling me to get a divorce. They said that my husband would ruin our three boys spiritually, and that I'd be better on my own. You said the opposite. Despite the way I insulted you, you answered with patience that I should stop criticizing him and stop yelling, and that I should pray for him at least an hour a day. I did, while doing my best to control my temper and to be attractive at home. Better to be a meshiggina Breslever than an arrogant single parent. (I can't believe how arrogant I was in thinking all the negative about you - please mochel me).
The patience paid off. After Succos, my husband cancelled the divorce file. This has been the best Chanuka ever. Like it says in "Women's Wisdom," I give him nothing but positivity. It has paid off big time. He is doing all sorts of things to earn more love and respect, which he is thriving on. Not only is he back to davening with a minyan, but he now has a Gemara chavrusa between mincha and maariv every day. He is spending much more time with our boys too.
I don't know how many families Rabbi Arush and you have saved, but ours is one of them. I just want all your readers to know that Yiddishkeit with joy - and not zealotry - is the way to go. Forever gateful, Miriam from Queens (who by the way attended and loved your shiur last week in Kew Gardens)
I don't remember that you insulted me but of course I forgive you anyway. Thanks so very much for your letter. Happy Chanuka and Chodesh Tov, with blessings for another simcha in the family this year, LB
What people call a “family celebration” or simcha is a lot less joyful when the bride, groom, Bar Mitzva boy or Bat Mitzva girl are the children of divorced parents. At a Bar Mitzva I attended recently, which involved the son of divorced parents, there was an atmosphere of tension and awkwardness. On the men's side, the Bar Mitzva boy's natural father and grandfather sat at the head table, while the stepfather and his friends sat a side table; it was embarrassing to see how they chattered while the natural grandfather spoke words of Torah and blessed his grandson.
On the women's side, things were even more awkward. The boy's natural mother sat at the head table, while the father's second wife sat at a side table with her friends. The atmosphere was like two columns of opposing armies facing one another right before they charge and attack.
The happy occasions of married couples are often nightmares for divorced couple – who invites who, who pays what, and a dozen other reasons to argue and disagree.
What about the children that suffer the tragedy of not being able to grow up with two parents under the same roof? Divorce devastates children emotionally more than almost anything else.
With all the above in mind, think about what a monumental mitzva one performs by making peace between a sparring husband and wife or by getting a separated couple back together. That's why letters like the following are priceless for me...
The Gemara (tractate Gittin 56b) teaches a sad but true sociopolitical rule of thumb: "He who torments the Jews becomes a leader." This includes other Jews. Israel's contemporary politics and media are loaded with empty souls crying out for recognition who have nothing to offer other than their loathing of those who are steadfastly loyal to Hashem and His commandments. Usually, Israeli elections are characterized by fierce competition between politicians as to who will make the most trouble for the Haredim. Yet, these present-day Hellenists always take a steep fall. But, in the meanwhile, we suffer...
I came home to Israel amidst a media battle against the so-called segregation of women on buses. Nothing could be a greater misrepresentation of the truth.
The public transportation in Israel is excellent. Every thirty minutes, there's a low-cost Egged bus that will take you from Ashdod to Jerusalem, the 438 and 448 lines. Yet, once on the hour, there a 450 "mehadrin" bus that goes directly from the Haredi neighborhoods in Ashdod to the Haredi neighborhoods of Jerusalem. On this bus, men and women sit separately - voluntarily - to preserve personal holiness.
Recently, previously unknown female journalists have been trying to make headlines by boarding the mehadrin bus, causing provocations, and then snapping pictures and writing articles of so-called discrimination against women. That's ever so unfortunate. Why?
Traditionally, everytime Jewish intramural Haredi-baiting rears its ugly head, Hashem sends a real enemy so that the bored can be truly occupied.
It's so ironic that the particular rabble-rousing journalist sought to stir up trouble on the Ashdod bus. Ashdod is the one city in Israel where the religious and secular populations coexist in harmony. In Ashdod, there's no zealotry or rock-throwing.
Nobody forces anyone to ride the Haredi buses. And, if you think that women are discriminated against in Judaism, read The Garden of Peace.
Hashem gives free choice. Don't let anyone try and convince you otherwise.