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28 posts from September 2014

Three Sincere Words

Please forgive me
Yom Kippur is this coming Friday night and Shabbat. People are petrified with fear about Yom Kippur, and I honestly don't know why. All a person needs to know for Yom Kippur - both in his or her relationship with Hashem and in relationships with one's fellow human - are three sincere words: "Please forgive me."

The Gemara says that Yom Kippur is one of the most joyous days in the Jewish calendar, for it's a day when we return with all our hearts to Hashem and He forgives us of all wrongdoing. What could be better?

No matter what we've done wrong, there's never room for despair. King Menashe committed some unspeakably serious crimes: He killed his father-in-law, the holy prophet Isaiah. Not only did he worship idols, but he put an idol in the Holy Temple. If Hashem forgave King Menashe, He'll certainly forgive any one of us. Do yourself a favor and read all about it in The Secret Opening, my feature article in this week's Yom Kippur issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.  

One of my favorite Yom Kippur parables tells about a bunch of smugglers that got caught. The Fake Funeral is a great story for the whole family, to tell during your pre-fast meal this coming Friday afternoon.

Rav Shalom Arush says that Yom Kippur is a thoroughly enjoyable and gratifying day, especially for the tzaddikim. Many of our holy men said that fasting is much easier than eating in holiness. A person can delight in praying from morning until night while getting a vacation from worrying about what to eat and what to drink. Read more in A License to Eat.

Do you remember Academy-Award winning Hollywood Director Paul Mazursky? His very last film was about Breslev and Uman. See Howard Morton's article, When Hollywood met Uman.

Also featured this week:

Racheli Reckles - Dating vs. Dating

Dr. Zev Ballen - Suicide Prevention

Rivka Levy - Anne or Simi?

Rav Nissan Dovid Kivak - The Way Back to Gan Eden

A Gmar Chatima Tova and a wonderful New Year 5775!


Cosmic Voyage: A Journey into the Vastness of Creation

The Beams is happy to take you on a journey of the macrocosm. Now think how Hashem makes the effort to confine Himself within your heart and brain, to make sure they're functioning properly. The author of this presentation probably had no spiritual intentions, but, I find this a mind-boggling aid in contemplating the vastness of Hashem and His lovingkindness. Fad and political correctness can't dispute the truth - Hashem is the King, the Master Creator.

Do you think you know how big Hashem is? He's infinite, beyond anything we can fathom. See for yourself:


Public Prayers with Private Emotions

Public prayers private emotion
The Mishna offers us important advice, especially for Rosh Hashana, when it says (tractate Avos 2:4), "Don't separate yourself from the public." When a person prays as a part of the tzibur, the public community, he or she gets judged together with the entire public. Such a trial is much easier, for it's less exacting on the individual. Therefore, it's advisable to pray in an upright community with upright people, preferably led by a righteous person. For this reason, many people travel great distances to pray with a tzaddik on Rosh Hashana. May all those travelling to pray by Rebbe Nachman's gravesite in Uman, Ukraine have a safe trip.

In Israel, there's no need to worry if you don't belong to a synagogue; there a tens of places where one can pray with a tzaddik, have a place to stay with festive meals, and it won't cost you a cent. Miron is a fantastic place to spend Rosh Hashana. In Ashdod alone, a guest can pick from any number of inspiring places; for yeshivishe davening, you can go to Grodno. For chassidishe davening with a Rebbe, you can go to Pittsburg, Neshchiz, Chernobel, or Melitz (the Belzers and Gerrers all go to Jerusalem, while the Vishnitzers go to Bnai Brak). If you like Sfardi davening, you can pray with the Baba Sali's grandsons, Rebbe Raphael or Rebbe Yekutiel Abu Chatzira (each has his own shul) right here in Ashdod.

If you're in America, and you either don't have the money for High Holiday tickets or you don't know where to go, or maybe you're an embarrassed newcomer to traditional Judaism, there's no need to worry. My very special brothers at Chabad sent me this Rosh Hashana services link, where you can find the shul nearest you that will welcome you with open arms, including a place to eat and a place to stay.

Praying with the public is important, but sometimes it's worthwhile just to close your eyes, bury your face in a scarf or hankie (if you're a woman) or in your tallis (if you're a man), and pour your heart out to Hashem in your very own words. This way, you have the advantage of the public aspects of prayer (public merits, shofar, kaddish, kedusha, etc.) with the emotion and intensity of your deepest meditation. Don't hold the tears back.

An old story attributed to the Baal Shem Tov zatza"l tells of a orphaned country bumpkin who couldn't read the aleph-bet, yet believed in Hashem with simple and pure faith. He came into town to join in the Rosh Hashana services, but didn't know how to pray a word. When others cried out in prayer, he simply looked up at the heavens, and said, "Dear G-d, I can't read or pray, but I know it's a holy day. I don't know what the others are saying, and I don't even know how to express myself. I do know how to imitate a rooster, so I dedicate this call to you...Cockadoodle-doo! Cockadoodle-doo!" As the orphan crowed, the tears streamed down his cheeks, for this was his personal prayer from the inner walls of a pure heart. The Baal Shem Tov said that the orphan's prayers pierced the heavens, and caused all harsh verdicts for the coming year to be rescinded.

Hashem never turns away anyone who comes to Him with a with sincerity. Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Kotsk said that nothing is more whole than a broken heart. May you have a sweet New Year 5775, and may all your prayers be answered for the very best, amen.


Know What You Signed

Why is every person required to write a Sefer Torah for himself? Does that mean that the Torah requires every one of us to learn how to be a Sopher Stam, or ceremonial scribe? You'll find the answer in this week's 6-minute mini-lesson on Nitzavim-Vayelech, our Torah portion for the week. Enjoy, and have a wonderful Shabbat, for this is the last Shabbat of the year 5774:


What's Really Happening in the Middle East

Mount Hermon

Above image, Mount Hermon in the Golan, which borders Syria, as seen from the Northern Galilee

You can't learn anything from the media. Here's what's really happening in the Middle East:

There's big talk in the USA about fighting ISIS, but in effect, they're doing nothing to stop the ISIS butchers. Do you know who's really fighting ISIS? Assad in Syria. Who is keeping Assad afloat? Putin in Russia. As it turns out, the Russians, not the USA, are confronting ISIS. And, by the USA supporting the Syrian rebels, they are now in full support of Al Nusra, the Syrian Al Qaida, which now controls Israel's northern border. The USA has no idea what's flying in the Middle East, and Israel ends up paying the price. The UN peacekeeping force has now left the Golan.

Now we can see how Hashem turns everything around for the good. Now that Al Nusra controls the border with Israel, not even the most liberal leftist in Israel would consider giving up the beautiful Golan, which is well inside the biblical borders of the Land of Israel and an integral part of our holy homeland.