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38 posts from January 2018

Tu B'Shvat: Israel's Answer to the World

Jeremiah 31.4

The nations of the world, in protesting our right to the Land of Israel, claim that all the other religions are fine with living in a variety of countries, so why must the Jews have their own land?

Many Jews don't know the answer to this seemingly-probing question. Yet, the answer is surprisingly simple. It also explains why we have a special New Year for trees, when it's a special mitzva to plant trees all over the Land of Israel.

In his very first statement of his classic elaboration on Torah, Rashi explains prophetically that in case the nations of the world will call Israel thieves for occupying Canaanite land, then know full well that Hashem created the world and He parcels it out to whomever He chooses.

King David says that Hashem gave us the land of the Canaanite nations so that we would "guard His laws and observe His commandments" (Psalm 105:45), as the Torah instructs.

When a Jew is honored with an "aliya" to the Torah, he says two blessings - one before the Torah reading and one after the Torah reading. The latter blessing is especially interesting: "Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, for giving us the Torah of truth, and planting posterity within us; blessed are You, Hashem, who gives the Torah."

Our sages called the Torah, the "planting of posterity". Why "planting"? Trees are planted, but why Torah? And, what does this have to do with the Land of Israel?

As Rashi explains, the Land of Israel is not like any other land - it is Hashem's special Holy Land. The Torah explains an entire array of special commandments that must be observed in the Land of Israel, yet need not be observed elsewhere. Many of these commandments deal with with trees and fruit, such as orla[1], trumot[2], maaserot[3], prat and olelut[4], just to name a few.

The Shulchan Aruch, or Code of Jewish Law, forbids a Jew from selling a non-Jew anything that is rooted in the soul of the Land of Israel[5]. In other words, one may sell a non-Jew an entire ton of Israel's finest grapes, but he may not sell even one loan grapevine that is planted in the holy soil of Israel. The Gemara gives two reasons for this prohibition[6]: First, since Hashem gave the Land of Israel to the Jews specifically for the purpose of performing the Torah's commandments, one may not give or sell any portion of the land, no matter how big or small. This in itself is one of the Torah's 365 negative mitzvoth known as Lo Techanem[7]. Second, by selling or giving any portion of land to a non-Jew, one is obstructing the performance of the required mitzvoth that pertain to that portion of land, which constitutes a desecration of the land's holiness.

Planting is so important in the Land of Israel, that if a person has not yet harvested the first fruits of his vineyard, he is exempt from military service[8].

With all the above in mind, what's so significant about planting trees in the Land of Israel? And why is the Torah said to be "implanted" with us?

The Prophet Jeremiah said [10]that the sign of our final redemption will be when you see Jews coming back to the Land of Israel and planting vineyards in Samaria; that's happening right now...

The Torah tells us that he who plants, especially in the hallowed Land of Israel, is he who is connected - he sends forth roots, deep in the ground. The deeper the roots, the stronger the connection. The Torah is also called the "Tree of Life"[9], for those who cling to it. In this respect, the Torah represents our spiritual clinging to Hashem - for the Jewish people are rooted in Hashem, as Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai says in the Zohar - while the trees we plant in the holy Land of Israel signify our physical clinging to Hashem, to His holy land, and to His commandments. So, just as we rightfully celebrate our anniversary of Torah every year on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, we annually celebrate our New Year for trees, every year on the Fifteenth of Shvat. Happy Tu B'Shvat!


[1]    The prohibition of eating fruit from a three-year old tree or younger

[2]    Typically 2% of the yield that is given to a Cohen

[3]    10% of the yield that is given to the Levites; there are two additional types of tithes, for the poor and for the purpose of spending in Jerusalem during the time of festivals in the Holy Temple

[4]    Enabling the poor to glean fallen and lone grapes left over after the grape harvest

[5]    See Yora Deah 141:7

[6]    See Tractate Avoda Zara, 21a

[7]    Numbers 7:2, mitzva number 284 according the the Sefer Chinuch

[8]    Numbers 20:6

[9]    Proverbs 3:18

[10]    Jeremiah 31:4


IMG-20180124-WA0057 (1)

How great is this pic?!

Yehuda looks like he had a great time riding on Rav Brody's shoulders, doesn't he? Rav Brody... not so much.

Just kidding. This picture made me think about the Kentucky Derby, where professional jockeys race along their merry way on some of the fastest and strongest horses in the world. I'm wondering if Yehuda sneaked in a kick to the ribs to get Rav Brody to jump around higher. Seriously. You can't believe how much he was jumping with this boy on his shoulders. Rock solid, baby. 

Not sure who I was referring to there, but whatever. The bar mitzvah was AWESOME, and I truly appreciate all of your well wishes. G-d willing our second son will be a bar mitzvah in two years, so book your plane tickets now!

Or is it three years? 

So all this eating has made me never want to see food again, at least for the next 2 hours. Which brings me to the National Enquirer-style topic of this post.

I am about to reveal to you the BEST way to supercharge your weight loss, NO MATTER WHAT YOU EAT!

Is the all caps thing getting annoying? 

This secret can be summed up in two fancy words: intermittent fasting. 

In other words: stop eating. Or don't eat. Pick any combination you like. 

Now David is on the IF kick, and I gotta tell you I find it so annoying. Because when I started doing it a year ago, he didn't want to hear about it. Because I was doing it.

But once he read more from "experts," well then, he was all too happy to jump on the bandwagon! I am personally insulted. I'm not kidding. Really.

Here are a few awesome benefits of IF:

-Low insulin levels: this helps the body get into fat-burning mode. If your insulin is high, you will store the calories you eat as fat, otherwise known as fat-storing mode. I like to call it hibernation mode, which incidentally is what I'd like to be doing right now.

-Cellular repair: Your body can rest from the constant stress of digestion and focus on fixing itself. It also removes waste material from cells.

-Gene expression: Genes are like a switch. They can be turned on and off, primarily depending on environmental factors, not genetic factors as most people believe. So, if you stop stuffing your face for two minutes, your body can focus on turning on the good genes and fixing the Incredible Hulk mutant evil GMO Monsanto genes. This can help you live longer and reduce disease.

Getting healthy is all nice and all (sorry for the redundancy,) but let's talk about the most important benefit: losing weight.  

IF helps increase the body's breakdown of fat and raises your metabolism, which helps you burn even more calories when you eat. If you do it right, you will supercharge your weight loss and have tons of energy.

I suggest you read up on my favorite website about it, In the meantime, here are a few tips to get you started:

Start out with 16 hours on, 8 hours off. Meaning, 16 hours you can eat, 8 hours you fast. That should be pretty easy considering you can schedule those 8 hours during sleep. 

Then move to 12 on, 12 off. If you feel comfortable with that, do 16 off, 8 on. And finally, you can do a full 24 hour fast once in a while. Some do once a month, others do up to once a week. The crazies do 3, 4, even 7 day fasts. Seriously?! I ain't recommending that! 

Here's the thing: while you're in your eating window, eat until you're satisfied. But! Even though I said you can still lose weight while eating what you want, don't stuff yourself with garbage!

Eat healthy fats, limit the dairy, limit the sugar, and keep the carbs down to below 100 grams a day. Below 50 grams will make your tummy go bye-bye in no time! You can read more specifics on the dietdoctor site. 

During your fast, you can drink black coffee, tea, and please drink plenty of water! If you must, you can add a splash of milk to your coffee. 

IF is excellent for everyone, including people who have plateaued in their weight loss. This will get your fat-burning engine out of neutral and into high gear! I know, that was so cheesy. Sorry.

HOWEVER! There are people who should NOT do IF. Please refer to the website to find out if you're one of those people. I don't want to have to say I told you so, even though I LOVE saying those words. They're probably my favorite words in the whole world, right along with "I was RIGHT!" I guess they're kind of the same thing, huh. 

Try it for two weeks and let me know how you're doing! Send me a pic of you holding someone else's pants or skirt that's like 10 sizes too big to make it look like you lost a bunch of weight. I LOVE those pics! 

Oh, and I just thought of a spiritual benefit to IF. It helps you take control over your desire to eat. It's not easy to willingly not eat, especially when you really want to eat. You'll see that as you do this longer, you will actually have less of a desire to eat, which is a great thing - both spiritually and physically.

Please send all donations to my "Post Bar Mitzvah Urgent Vacation" Fund. I'm talking URGENT!

Have a wonderful, almost food-free day! AND I APOLOGIZE FOR THE ANNOYING ALL CAPS.


The Timeless Tree: The Jew in the Land of Israel

Arbor Legacy
The tree in the above photo tells the story of the Jewish People in the Land of Israel. It's a carob tree growing on the edge of a cliff atop Mount Arbel in the Galilee. It's all alone. Despite the difficult conditions, it is thriving because it is indigenous to this Holy Land. Neither drought nor harsh winds could uproot it and it is hundreds of years old.

This coming Wednesday is Tu B'Shvat, the New Year for trees. Why do the Jews especially in the Land of Israel celebrate a New Year for trees? Throughout the history of our Holy Land of Israel, tree-planting has been the hallmark of settlement as well as the symbol of absolute tranquility, security and peace.

For a deeper insight into the eternal connection between the People of Israel and the Land of Israel, see The Arbor Legacy, my feature article in this week's new issue of Breslev Israel web magazine. 

Also featured this week:

Rav Shalom Arush - Blind Faith

Dr. Zev Ballen - Thoughts About Thinking

Michal Ezra - Modesty 101

Racheli Reckles - My Mistake

Yehudit Channen - Blue Eyes, Blue Movies

Ahuva Margaretten - SWAT Team

Yoni Lavi - Tu B'Shvat - Obsolete?

Jennifer Woodward - When One Door Closes

Blessings for a beautiful week and a happy Tu B'Shvat!

Don't Forget the Lone Soldier

EO Soldier SetThere are hundreds of native English speakers who have courageously left the comforts of their homes in the USA, Canada, UK, Australia and South Africa to make aliya and serve in the IDF. Many of them are on the front lines.

Do you have any idea about the emotional challenges of being  a US soldier stationed on the other end of the earth, in Syria or in Afghanistan?

To protect our soldiers - wherever they are - and to strengthen their moral, Emuna Outreach has put together the "Soldier Set" of emuna books, pamphlets and CDs, at a special low cost subsidized by Emuna Outreach. This is an emotional care package, which without a doubt, will uplift the spirits of our soldiers and help them cope with the difficult physical conditions and emotional challenges that they must deal with, especially if they are in combat units on the front lines. The Soldier Set, which you can order here, enables you to strengthen our soldiers while performing a huge mitzva.

If you don't know any soldiers personally, but you'd like us to distribute Soldier Sets in your name, Donate to Emuna Outreach - every $30 donation enables Emuna Outreach to send a Soldier Set to one soldier. In other words, for $180, Emuna Outreach will distribute six Soldier Sets. 

May the merit of this lofty mitzva protect our nation, our families, and each of us individually, amen!