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37 posts from December 2016

Mattatyahu's Courage

Kever Mattatyahu
Image above: the holy gravesite of Mattatyahu son of Yochanan, the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol), father and spiritual leader of the Maccabees

Happy Chanuka!

Mattatyahu Cohen HaGadol, whom we remember every time we say the "Al HaNissim" prayer during Chanuka, is buried in a cave in a forest, about a kilometer north of Highway 443 near Mevo Modiin.

Mattatyahu and his sons fought a double war - not only against the Syrian Greeks, but against the 95% of the Jewish people who had become assimilated Hellenists. But because of his steadfast, unwavering and uncompromising commitment to Hashem, to his emuna, to the Torah and to his homeland, he was able to overcome all obstacles and instill the fire of emuna and total dedication in the hearts of his brave sons and daughter.

Where did he get his strength and courage from?

Nothing gives a person strength like clarification of the truth. A person who knows the truth and who lives according to the truth is as fierce as a lion. He is not willing to live a lie; so, if you take the truth away from him, he'll no longer regard his life as worth living. That's why our ancestors in every generation all the way back to our forefather Abraham were willing to sacrifice their last breath and heartbeat for our faith in Hashem and our Torah.

Mattatyahu and his sons Yehuda, Elazar, Shimon, Yochanan and Yonatan knew the truth. For a servant of Hashem, life is worthless without Torah, emuna, and holiness. The Hellenists fooled themselves while trying to dilute the truth and appease the Syrian Greeks, but the latter wanted to destroy it altogether and to substitute it with a life of pursuing bodily amenities.

Did Hashem send our souls down to this lowly earth just for another piece of steak, another fling with the opposite sex, or another NBA game? Those who waste their lives in the pursuit of material appetites are neither happy nor fulfilled. What's worse, they haven't devoted a single minute to clarifying the truth.

21" biceps won't give you courage. Truth and emuna will.

If the Prime Minister of Israel would clarify the truth, no foreign pressure in the world would sway him a single millimeter. If a teenager would clarify the truth, then he'd say no to the stupid things that his peers are doing. If a woman knew the truth, she wouldn't care if her neighbors called her "nebby" or "yachna" for dressing the way Hashem wants her to dress. If a man would be honest with himself, he'd realize how contemptable it would be to sacrifice one's entire family for a few moments of illicit thrills.

Mattatyahu and his sons were masters at truth clarification. They weren't willing to live for two minutes without the truth. That's where they derived the courage to fight a virtually impossible war. And that's why they won.

While we're basking in the holy light of the Chanuka candles, let's ponder the real meaning of this beautiful festival that commemorates the miracle of the few prevailing over many, the pure prevailing over the impure, and the light prevailing over darkness. Let's remember the dedication and commitment of Mattatyahu and his sons. Let's strengthen ourselves and carry their torch of Torah and truth, no matter what the odds. We can do it. All we need is emuna. Happy Chanuka!

Miracle Twins!

Happy Chanukah, everyone! My insides are going crazy from this wicked stomach bug I'm still suffering with. On the other hand, it could be the 10 pounds of rancid canola oil that happened to be in my fluffy jelly donuts. I'm suspecting that it's not really the canola oil, since my husband and one of my kids also had it. But, who knows. Maybe GMO oil is so modified, that they've made it contagious. I wouldn't be surprised. Until my insides stop moaning and groaning in pain, I'm gonna keep eating whatever I want without any guilt, because it's going to go right through me. No calories, yo! See? There's something good to be found in every bad situation.

Speaking of crazy insides, Susan and Jimmy have their own saga to tell. During her sixth pregnancy, Susan went for a routine ultrasound, and the shocking news she got from the OB nearly caused her to have a breakdown. Thank Goodness, Jimmy was able to activate his emuna superpowers and calm her down. What happens next is truly superhuman, and can only be done by people who are strong in their emuna. Jimmy, you deserve the Husband of the Year Award. Rav Shalom Arush shares their incredible story in The Miracle Twins. 

Seeing the good in our difficult situations can be nearly impossible for us at times. Okay, let's be honest. I don't know about you, but seeing the good in any situation that is less than 99% to my liking is nearly impossible for me. Do you feel the same way? Please? Rav Lazer Brody explains that, in reality, having spiritual awareness isn't as difficult and abstract as we think it is. In fact, it's as simple as 1, 2, 3! Once we fortify ourselves with the realization that Help's on the Way, we can keep our calm and know with certainty that the current tribulation will only benefit us in the end. Don't miss this one!

While most of us are not walking tzaddikim (except me, of course,) many of us might believe that we are. Whether we're returning to the path of Torah observance, or have always been observant, sometimes we tend to think that the heavenly judgments we get are undeserved. In other words, we think we don't deserve what we're going through. Admit it. You know you do it. Honesty's a five-letter word, isn't it. Anyhow, sometimes it's The Little Things we do that create a whole 'lot of big judgments. What little things am I referring to? Well, you'll have to read the article if you want to know the answer. Duh. 

Our incredible new Emuna Therapist, Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen, gives us an inside scoop on her recent adventures working at the Kotel. Her interesting, bewildering, and sometimes downright insulting encounters with women while offering them a shawl to cover up their goods taught her a vital life lesson, which is actually one of Rebbe Nachman's most famous teachings. Check it out in Gotcha Covered! And don't forget - Rebbetzin Channen is now accepting appointments! Contact to set one up.

Lori Steiner wonders why most of us are afflicted with guilt and worry, especially if we know that Judaism stresses being happy. Is it possible to skip around all day like happy-go-lucky college kids who don't need to get a job and don't have their parents' $30,000 a year debt to occupy their self-obsessed, Holllywood-crazed brains? Find out Lori's answer to her (and my) question in Why Worry? 

Jennifer Woodward comes to terms with the amazing miracle of her Heartbeats after her shocking discovery. 

Shai Mor explains that Hashem wants more from His children than just fancy shuls and external Jewish appearances in The Two Princesses

What makes the eight day of Chanukah so special? And what does it have to do with our everyday lives? Pinney Wolman shares his amazing insights in Zot Chanukah

And here's a link to all sorts of cool Chankuah articles, so you can actually enjoy more than just oily food on this fun holiday! 

Have a great week, and Chanukah Sameach!




Israel's Chanuka Message to the World: We're not Budging

We're not budging
It's ever so appropriate that the UN and the current regime in Washington show their true colors by denying our ancient rights to Jerusalem, Shilo and Hevron. Nothing's new under the sun, as King Solomon teaches us in Ecclesiastes. I won't answer them - Shimon Maccabee the son of Mattatyahu Cohen Hagadol Chashmonai and brother of Yehuda  Maccabee gave a most appropriate answer some 22oo years ago:

“We have not taken foreign territory or any alien property, but have occupied our ancestral heritage, for some time unjustly wrested from us by our enemies; now that we have a favorable opportunity, we are merely recovering our ancestral heritage” (Maccabees 1, 15:33-34).

We weathered the Egyptians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Spanish Inquisition, the Nazis and the Communists. We're still here and they've all disappeared. It seems that the oppressors of today want to join them. They'll never learn. Meanwhile, we're not budging.

It's Your House

People in the era of iPhones, iPads and iPods have such an "I" way of thinking that they view their spouse as the opposition, someone who isn't letting the "I" do what he or she wants to. Today's emuna lesson connects between the importance of shalom bayit - marital peace - and Chanuka. Enjoy it and have a happy Chanuka and a wonderful new week!

Maccabee - What's in a Name?

KB and Gemara
Happy Chanuka!

There are three known sources for name "Maccabee":

  1. Acronym of Hebrew phrase "Mi Kamocha B'elim A'donoi" (Exodus 15:11) - Who is like You among the gods, Hashem?
  2. Acronym of Mattathias's name "Mattatyahu Cohen ben Yochanan".
  3. The ancient Greek word for "mighty" or "hammer". 

In any event, the word "Maccabee" was embroidered on their flags as they went into battle. With that in mind, I choose above option #1 as the most plausible source of the term "Maccabee", although above option #2 could have become their family name. The Maccabees themselves certainly wouldn't have used a Greek term to nickname themselves, so I don't think that above option #3 is likely.

Mattathias the High Priest (Cohen Gadol) and his five sons Yehuda, Shimon, Yonatan, Yochanan and Elazar were all holy men and Torah scholars of the highest order. What's more, they had unshakable emuna. Sure, they were history's greatest fighters, but only their emuna enabled them to withstand such insurmountable odds. Eventually, Yehuda and Elazar were killed in battle, while Shimon, Yonatan and Yochanan were assassinated in politically motivated plots. What is history teaching us? While the might of the Maccabees didn't prevent their untimely deaths, the light of the Maccabees lives on to this day. What do we learn from this?

The kettlebells are great, but they're not enough. You need the Gemara too. May the light of Chanuka illuminate your home, amen!

DANGER! Donuts Ahead


I have a big problem. You can clearly see that there's a donut missing next to the one that's hemmorhaging jelly. Couldn't I at least have waited until I got home to eat it? NO WAY! Actually, I have two problems: first, I can't manage to go food shopping less than five times a week. Every day, something runs out. I don't know how it happens, because I buy so much food! I'm beginning to suspect that there's an eating monster in the house as I suspiciously look over my shoulder with one eyebrow raised. Which leads into the second problem: I pass at least two or three bakeries every time I go food shopping. They're everywhere, because Israel doesn't have a Starbucks to put on every corner. One day, G-d willing...

The eating monster follows me around town, and puts me under a hypnotic spell when I pass the bakery. How am I supposed to resist the smell of fresh baked donuts with 10 pounds of powdered sugar on top? So I bought three, because it was more cost-efficient that way. I'm trying to save money, here. I'm thinking about letting my five kids split the other two, but that wouldn't be very fair, would it? So to save myself the aggravation of fighting and screaming, I think I'm going to eat them before the kids get home. I don't have much time, so I'd better act fast.

So Chanukah is here! Yippee! Eight days of a fried food fest. Does anyone know if you can bake latkes (potato cakes)? Let me know. What does Chanukah mean to me? It means eight days of war. The Chashmonaim may have fought the Greeks to the bloody death, but that doesn't mean that my personal war with the donuts is any less life-threatening. 

I have to strengthen myself against those despicable donuts and resist their temptations. Being that it's likely not going to happen, I will use my backup tactic and avoid bakeries at all costs until the following week. That's not really going to happen, either.

As I write this, I'm already sighing in defeat as I see my stomach puffing up like a fluffy, soft, chewy, sweet, doughy, sugary, heavenly donut. AAAARRRGGGGHHH!!!!

The following eight days of donut wars are but a small part of the daily wars that we have every day. That was redundant, no? Every day, we fight a bloody war to the death with our own personal monster, the Evil Inclination. He tries his best to eliminate us by getting us to behave in ways that are, let's just say, not in our best interests.

But we can use this amazing spiritual energy of the next eight days to fight him and win! Chanukah is a time of tremendous spiritual strengthening, and it contains the energy of miracles. By lighting the chanukiah, we can access this energy and put it in our spiritual bank accounts, for when we really need a miracle. 

So as I stuff my face with jelly and non-jelly-filled donuts for the next eight days, or until the bakery stops making them, I have one thing to say to my Evil Inclination: DIE, YOU WICKED MONSTER! If that doesn't work, I'm planning to kill him by stuffing his face with donuts until he gets sick and dies. 

Wishing all of our dear friends a big Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach!

p.s.- Don't forget to scroll down to catch Rav Brody's parsha shiur!