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12 posts from September 2015

Tough Opposition on the Field

Spiritual Growth
Dear Rabbi Lazer,

I'm writing this to you for two reasons: first, you don't know me and I feel really embarassed talking about this to a rabbi that knows me; and second, since you too are a Baal Teshuva, I'm hoping you can understand a fellow BT that was born in the spiritual gutters far away from Torah. I became observant about five years ago, when I finished my masters degree. As a university student and a popular dude at that, I guess you can say that I did about everything and enjoyed it too. I won't go into the reasons that I made teshuva, but I became very disgusted with my lusty lifestyle. I began to learn Torah and was drawn especially to the teachings of the Zohar. I did an about face and made serious efforts in developing my personal holiness. With daily mikva, daily teshuva, and total immersion Torah, I became a new person. Two years ago, I was introduced to a young lady who after three dates became my fiance. We are blissfully married, in no small thanks to The Garden of Peace, which I live by.

So what's my problem? I thought I had deleted my naughty x-rated past from my brain. On Yom Kippur, the Yetzer gave me a triple whammy. During Kol Nidre, a really raunchy image flashed before my eyes which I won't describe, but it was something from the lowest part of my past. The same thing happened during Mussaf, and the same thing happened again in Neila. During the three highest points in the Yom Kippur prayers, I was watching myself in x-rated movies from my own past, the exact opposite of holiness. Why did Hashem shtup me with these terrible thoughts? What could I possibly have done wrong to be pushed away like this? I had such aspirations of clinging to Hashem with real devotion in this year's prayers, and I blew it. I feel devistated and dejected, as if I've been totally defeated. What can I do? Please help me. Thanks so very much, David from California

Dear David,

The Yetzer - the Evil Inclination - wants you to think that you're a loser. The exact opposite is true - this Yom Kippur, you have attained a lofty and admirable soul correction. You're the winner, my man; here's how:

Back in your university days, you thoroughly enjoyed doing the lewd things that so embarassingly popped into your head during this past Yom Kippur. Yet now, the forbidden acts that you once enjoyed are now a source of shame. Your shame during Yom Kippur is not only a sign of humility and holiness, but a soul correction for the past. Having done teshuva out of love (hear our CD on the subject), your past transgressions now become valuable merits to your credit. What's more, when you did those wrong things, you didn't know they were wrong. You can be proud of yourself, for Hashem is proud of the unbelievable growth that you've made in five short years. Don't ever forget that spiritual growth and serving Hashem are like football - you can't gain an inch without facing tough opposition; that's why the rewards are so great. Keep plugging away, slowly but surely, for you'll be a big winner. Remember also that as a BT, you're now playing in a championship league. Be happy, David - you're doing great. With blessings for joyous Chol Hamoed and a wonderful year, LB

Beams Bulletin: Rocket Attacks on Ashdod

Israel, 22:50 - The holiday atmosphere here was rudely interrupted with the Red Alert sirens chasing everyone to the bomb shelters. The Iron Dome missile defense system battery stationed near here thwarted the two missile attacks. We were taken by surprise for in recent weeks, things have been calm in the south of Israel. If anything, there's tension in the north with Russia now openly operating in Syria, helping Assad and his allies Iran and Hizbulla, a situation that could easily turn into a confrontation with Israel.

Right now, I'm reassuming my battle station - right here in the Brody succa. Moadim l'simcha - happy holiday!

Happy YomTov Succoth!

Succoth in Ashdod
Image above: Lazer's neighborhood in one of the Chassidic sections of Ashdod on the morning before Succoth

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev has some very special things to say about Succoth and its related mitzvoth, for on Succoth, a person merits Divine abundance of all kinds. For example, by way of the mitzvah of the Succah, a person merits a pure heart, which enables him to outpour his speech to Hashem, to the extent where he merits new utterings that are on a level of a spirit of holiness. Read more here, in Rebbe Nachman on Succoth, in this week's festive issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.

Rav Shalom Arush writes that since the "Clouds of Glory", the Divine Presence envelops a person's Succa, sitting in the Succa is most conducive for prayer, especially personal prayer. Read all about it in A House of Prayer.

No Succoth table is complete with a story for the family and guests. Here's a good one from Babylon (pre-Iraq) that took place some 150 years ago: Baghdad was suffering from a terrible drought. The Sultan told the Jews that if they didn't bring rain in three days, it would mean exile or death. Here's the story, about The Tomato Vendor of Baghdad.

Succoth is a manufacturer’s required exit from the comfort zone that teaches us to focus on the spiritual and eternal, and not on the material and finite. The Annual Telegram will explain.

This week, we learn the final Torah portion of the year, V'Zot Habracha. If a person borrows $100 from a friend, then he must repay him exactly $100, not a cent more or a cent less. In other words, a material favor such as a loan must be repaid in the exact amount to the person who did that favor for us. In contrast, a spiritual favor is different, for it cannot be estimated in monetary value; therefore, one can never know if he is returning the favor adequately. So what do you do? See the answer in Pass it On.

Also featured this week:

Rabbi Shalom Arush - Choosing the Right Wife

Dr. Zev Ballen - Dramatic Change

Racheli Reckles -  Spiritual Roto Rooter

David Perlow - The Scoreboard Theory

Dovber Halevi - What the World Fears Most

Bright Beams blessings for the best Succoth holiday you ever had!

Beware of the Glitter

Golden Yoke

We're all feverishly preparing for Yom Kippur. Sins between man and fellow man are especially dangerous because Yom Kippur doesn't atone for them until a person asks forgiveness from whoever he or she harmed, whether intentionally or unintentionally.

Hashem's justice is the epitome of truth and fairness; the things we do for or against other people create spiritual forces that come right back at us. This amazing story, which I heard from Rabbi Nissim Yagen of saintly and blessed memory, brings this point home in a spine-chilling manner. Don't miss The 24-Karat Noose, one of my feature articles in this week's Yom Kippur issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.

In like manner, It's amazing how our words – for better or for worse, rebound right back at us. We get a heaping taste of the verbal delicacies that we serve others. Read all about it in Rebounding Ridicule.

Also featured this week:

Rabbi Shalom Arush - The Barefoot Beggar

Rebbetzen Chana Bracha Siegelbaum - Yonah, the Fleeing Prophet

Dr. Zev Ballen - The Chameleon Husband

Racheli Reckles - The Right to Choose

David Perlow - Yom Kippur Light for Kids

Chaya Ovadia - The Divine Reminder

Would you like a capable spiritual-defense attorney to plead in your behalf on Yom Kippur? Donate to Emuna Outreach and you'll have the prodigious mitzvah of spreading emuna as a guardian angel on Yom Kippur.

Bright Beams Blessings for a wonderful week!

Love Day

The Talmud makes an apparently surprising statement when it says (tractate Taanit, 26b), "There were never such wonderful days for Israel as the 15th of Av (Tu B'Av) and Yom Kippur." The 15th of Av is nicknamed "Love Day" in Israel, for it's the day when matches were traditionally made, as described in the above-cited Gemora. Several questions arise: First, what does Yom Kippur have to do with "Love Day"? Second, many people dread the fast and the ax of judgment hovering over their necks on Yom Kippur, so why would it be described as one of the two most wonderful days for Israel?

Our Talmudic sages reveal their divinely-instilled wisdom by juxtaposing Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur is also a "love day", when Hashem demonstrates his limitless love for His chosen people. For the mere price of a 25-hour fast and saying we're sorry, Hashem forgives us of all of our wrongdoings against Him. Important - Yom Kippur does not atone for the sins of man against fellow man!!

Imagine that your national government declared a retroactive annual moratorium on all tax violations and unpaid debts once a year, as long as you appear in federal court, apologize in public, and fast for the day. What a deal! A wild dream? In Judaism, it's a reality. When we fast, beg Hashem's forgiveness, and promise to try our best this coming year, Hashem wipes our debt slates clean! A wonderful day, or not?

Gmar Chatima Tova and a wonderful Shabbat Shuva!

The Simple Jew

Simple Jew
Rebbe Nachman once remarked that in the generation before Moshiach comes, a simple Jew will be a nuance like the Baal Shem Tov. Was this also a Torah prophecy? You'll find out in The Simple Jew, my elaboration on this week's Torah portion Netzavim, which you'll find on our pre-Rosh Hashana issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.

So many women ask me why must their husbands leave them alone with the children on Rosh Hashana to go to Uman? Their answer is here, with Estie's Dream.

Also featured this week:

Rabbi Shalom Arush - Opening of Darkness

Dr. Zev Ballen - Trying To Be G-d

Racheli Reckles - Seasonal Fruit

Jennifer Woodward - Test of Infertility

Dovber Halevi - Jellyfish Sting

Natalie Kovan - Unity

Important before Rosh Hashanah! Rav Shalom Arush will personally perform a pidyon nefesh for those families who Donate to Emuna Outreach a minimum of $180. Not only will you go into Rosh Hashana with the merit of being Rav Shalom's partner in spreading emuna, but you'll have a fantastic spiritual advocate on the awesome Day of Judgment. What's more, your donation is USA tax-deductible.

Bright Beams blessings for a beautiful week!