Here's a glimpse of Chassidic life in Israel, showing the traditional Lag B'Omer eve bonfire led by the Melizer Rebbe shlit'a, this past Saturday night, April 27, 2013. May the fires of Torah always burn bright!
A marriage, just like fine crystal, is built slowly with lots of effort, but it can be shattered into smithereens with one careless word. If you're married, this 2-minute clip might be the most important thing you'll ever see; do your friends a favor and email them the link so they can see it too:
Lag B'omer dancing with the 3 year-olds, who've just received their first haircuts, the traditional "Chalakeh", now proudly (and maybe a little overwhelmed about being the center of attention of several hundred thousand people) sporting their new "payis" and "tztitzis"
Warmest regards from Miron and from Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai. On the day of his departure from the material world, Rabbi Shimon called his disciples to his deathbed and commanded them to commemorate the anniversary of his death with joy and laughter. Mark it as "the day of my joy," he ordered. And so, ever since then, Lag B'omer has been a day of simcha, of happiness. To this day, we honor the directives of the tzaddik and come to Meron to sing, dance, and pray our hearts out. Rebbe Shimon helps our prayers reach the proper address.
The "Challakeh" ceremony is when a Jewish child receives his first haircut at the age of three.
The age of 3 marks a turning point in a toddler's life. Shedding the long locks of babyhood helps little boys look forward to their new "big boy" responsibilities. Gone are the days of bottle, diaper and nestling in Mommy's arms. A 3-year-old boy is ready to receive "payis", his side curls, a "kipa" (skullcap), and "tztitzis", the ritual fringes that every male Jew is commanded to wear. With his new haircut, kipa, payis, and tzitzis, the little fellow of 3 is ready to move up to the world of friends, school and formal Torah education. He will learn blessings, prayers and the Hebrew alphabet. Yes - we begin teaching our little boys to read at the age of 3.
Cutting his hair makes a strong emotional impression on the child. He knows he is entering a new stage of maturity, a fact that helps him live up to his new role and responsibilities.
Numerous families celebrate the "challakeh" at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, in Miron, Israel, and cut the child's hair near the cave where he lived and later died. Others prefer to take the child to a yeshiva or to their own rabbi - preferably a scholar and a pious man, because the "upsherin", or actual 1st haircut, should be done in a holy place and by a righteous person. Oftentimes, before the child gets his final haircut, first the scissors go from hand to hand while family, friends and rabbis take turns snipping. The first cut is at the spot where tefillin will be placed.
In Israel, this custom is closely associated with Lag B'Omer, which this year is today, April 28. It's an incredibly joyous scene as hundreds of 3-year-old boys receive their first haircut at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai. Because this custom is tied into Kabbalistic thought concerning the spirituality of hair, many put off the ceremony until Lag B'Omer. Following their haircuts, the children each get a plastic Aleph-Bet card, with honey smeared on each letter. Parents then encourage their little ones to lick the honey while saying each letter, so that Torah should be "sweet on their tongues."
A hearty mazal-tov to all of us who will be making "Challakehs" for our 3-year olds today - may we have all the sweetness and joy in the world, and see our children and grandchildren growing in health of body and spirit, amen.
Hashem wants us to lean on Him only. Anything else we lean on, in the words of the prophet, is nothing more than a wobbly reed.
What does it mean to trust Hashem completely? It means that we sincerely believe that our salvation from any predicament is in Hashem's hands. It means that we lean on Hashem, and on Him only. So, when we lean on Hashem, we never fall and we're never disgraced.
Here's an example: Suppose that you're a soldier in combat and that your best friend has just been wounded seriously. You have to rush him to a waiting evacuation helicopter otherwise he'll be in grave danger. Your friend can’t walk, so he must rely on you and three of your fellow crewmen to carry him on a stretcher to the chopper. You and your buddies know that if you let him go for even an instant, he'll fall; you therefore grip the stretcher tight, because you're fully aware that his life depends on the four of you.
Hashem is a million times more compassionate than we are. Imagine for a moment that if a person truthfully and innocently leans on Hashem because he or she doesn't have the strength to deal with whatever they have to, do you think for a moment that Hashem will let you go? Never! All we have to do is strengthen our simple and uncomplicated trust in Hashem, and bingo! We're home free, we never fall.
Sometimes difficult things happen in our lives. We have all kinds of questions, "Why me?" "Why do I deserve this?" Emuna tells us that it's all for the best; see for yourself in the following 2-minute clip:
My next-door neighbor is constantly borrowing things - a pint of milk here, a couple eggs there, etc. etc. Sometimes - especially before Shabbos or a holiday - she knocks on my door three times a day. Each time, her request is "minor", but the stuff adds up to tens of dollars every month, because she "forgets" to return what she borrows. My husband is a salaried employee and we're certainly not wealthy, so we feel the loss. I'm careful about telling the truth, so I don't want to say, "sorry, I don't have what you need" when I really have it in my cupboards. I'm building up a lot of inner frustration and animosity toward the neighbor, yet I'm afraid to ruin the peace. Would should I do? Thank you, D.W., Brooklyn
First of all, as a rule of thumb and good practice, always write down what you lend a person, the exact amount or item, and the date...
A gentle reprimand will release the pent-up frustration. When you don't express yourself, as you yourself have seen, you accumulate animosity. The Torah forbids us to harbor hate in our hearts toward another person. The only way to avoid the hate trap is to tell your neighbor - gently but candidly - exactly how you feel.
The next time your neighbor shows up, invite her for a cup of coffee, sit her down, and explain that according to religious law, one who fails to return a loan is called a wicked person. All the crying and chest-beating in synagogue on Yom Kippur can't rectify the crime of one unreturned potato. Also, the Zohar says that a person cannot achieve his or her rightful place in heaven unless they've repayed all outstanding debts. A person must suffer an entire reincarnation for a debt of a few pennies or more, and who says that your next go-round on this earth isn't going to be twenty times worse that this go-round? Also, religious law requires that a loan should be given only upon signing an IOU in front of two witnesses. Why? Many times people conveniently "forget" the money and/or items that they owe others.
Finally, explain to your neighbor that with all good intentions, you and your husband simply can't afford to be a free-aid society to the entire neighborhood. Unless the neighbor repays and returns all her outstanding debts, tell her that you won't be able to continue lending, for her own good.
If the neighbor accepts what you say, you will have done her a phenominal spiritual favor in this world and in the next. If she walks out in a huff, then at least she won't have the chutzpa to continue asking for things. Either way, you're the winner, and you've taken the load off your chest. The important thing is to avoid negative feelings toward another human at all costs.
If you don't want to confront the neighbor, you can always deduct whatever she borrowed from your maaser (tithe) money, but then you must forgive her with a complete heart. Yet, if she goes back to borrowing from you with no intention of returning things, that's probably not a good idea. With blessings always, LB