65 posts categorized "Concepts in Judaism "

Above the stars

Negev Stars
The Negev Desert is one of the best places on earth to look up at the stars (above photo).

Our forefather Abraham was an expert astrologist; he gazed up at the stars from there, and saw that he would never be a father.

Hashem told Abraham that his reading was accurate, but that he must put the astrology aside. By virtue of Abraham's clinging to Hashem, he raised himself to a status where he was above the stars - the zodiacs no longer had an influence on him, and he became a father to great nations.

Astrology is a true discipline, but those who cling to Hashem in faith and in loving obedience to the Torah's commandments are surely above the stars.

Nature, teaches The Ramcha'l in chapter 7 of Derech Hashem, is certainly influenced by the stars, for that is the way of Hashem's creation. But, Hashem gives us the opportunity to transcend nature, and to live above the stars' influence. Therefore, anyone can change fate or a stroke of bad luck by making Teshuva and clinging to Hashem. As such, the Gemara declares (tractate Shabbos 156b), Ayn mazal leYisroel, in other words, the stars have no influence over Israel, the loyal ones who cling to Hashem.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev adds that for those who live above the stars' influence, miracles are natural. The Sombrero Galaxy, courtesy of utahskies.org

Eight Founding Mothers: Jewish DNA

Jewish DNA
Divine wisdom is amazing. In Jewish Law, one is a Jew if the mother is a Jew.

In an amazing research paper, the American Journal of Human Genetics calls our people, a "female-defined ethnicity"; that's enough to silence the chauvinists.

But that's not my main point here: extensive research shows that all the Jewish People are descendents of "eight small, distinct nuclei of women". And, Ashkenazi Jews alone stem from four founding mothers.

Do you realize what that means?

When one Jew seeks to harm another Jew, he or she is targeting a brother or sister. That's most hateful to our Father in Heaven.

The book "Tana D'Bei Eliahu" is a compendium of Elijah the Prophet's teachings that he says in the Name of Hashem. These teachings were handed down from generation to generation until they were compiled in book form. One of them says: "The Holy One said to the People of Israel: 'Beloved children, is anything lacking in this world? Do I ask you for anything? All I ask is that you love each other, and that you respect each other, and you have awe of each other's dignity. There shall not be swindling, affront or any unsightly interaction among you, so that you don't bring any blemish to the world Tana D'Bei Eliahu Raba, Ch. 28).

Our Torah doesn't need scientific confirmation when it tells us that we're Hashem's beloved children, namely, that we're all brothers and sisters. Since that's the case, let's begin loving one another; it could save our lives. Help put an end to intramural hate.

Purim: Hashem's Mercy

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches (Likutei Moharan I:64) that Hashem created the world in order to reveal His mercy, because if He hadn’t created the world, He would have no one to whom He could reveal His mercy.

What do we learn from Rebbe Nachman’s teaching? We come to the conclusion that if Hashem created the world and all the creations therein in order to reveal His mercy – and you and I are His creations – then Hashem created us in order to have mercy on us and to show us His mercy.

With this in mind, we all must tell ourselves:

1) Hashem created me in order to have mercy on me and to show me His mercy;

2) Everything that happens in my life from A to Z is a result of Hashem’s mercy on me.

3) Since everything Hashem does is mercy for me, I have to thank Him for everything that happens in my life.

That's what Purim is all about - Hashem does fantastic miracles and saves our entire nation from annihilation, not because we deserve it, but just to show us His mercy. May Hashem perform unfathomable miracles for us this Purim, which is this coming Wednesday night and Thursday (Thursday night and Friday in Jerusalem) and may we all rejoice on this exalted and holy day!

Guide for the Purim-Perplexed: To make life easy for our readers, especially those who are newcomers to observant Judaism, the Beams has prepared a day-to-day guide for celebrating the joyous holiday of Purim. Click here for to see your day by day and mitzva by mitzva guide, which is easy to read and clear to understand.

Spiritual Hygiene

  Spiritual Hygiene
The Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch) is like an iceberg: The statutes that teach proper conduct in every facet of our lives are only a mere manifestation of deep spiritual causes and effects that transcend time, place, and matter. What you see is only a tiny portion of the spiritual benefits you get.

During the period between Rosh Hashana and Yom kippur - what we call the "Ten Days of Repentance" - we can do wonders in mitigating harsh judgments. This is a propitious time for prayer and self-improvement. All Hashem expects of us is that we're a tiny bit better today than we were yesterday.

If up until now, you weren't careful about washing your hands first thing in the morning, here's a great chance to perform an easy mitzva that could save your life, literally.

Jewish law dictates that you should wash your hands as soon as you wake up in the morning, pouring water three times alternately on each hand from a large cup, a minimum of approx. 150ml on each hand. The apparent reason for the hand washing is that one inadvertantly touches or scratches unclean parts of the body at night, and before saying G-d's name, the hands must be clean. Yet spiritually, the explanation is much deeper, as follows in a nutshell:

When you sleep at night, your soul leaves the body and enters upper spiritual realms. A body without a soul is tantamount to dead, even if the basic life forces continue functioning. When the soul leaves the body, as in the case of a dead person, the body is rendered ritually impure. Evil forces of the "Sitra Achra", or the dark side, easily control a person who is spiritually and ritually impure. That's why many people - especially Chassidim - put a pail with a large plastic or tin cup that holds a liter of water immediately beside their bed, so they can wash their hands even before taking their first step of the day, thus cleansing themselves from ritual impurity at their very first opportunity of the day. Why the hands? Spiritual impurity is especially concentrated in the fingertips, the point where the soul leaves the body.

One who harbors ritual impurity has difficulty believing in G-d or understanding the Torah, since ritual impurity acts as a barrier against Divine Illumination, thus preventing Divine light from reaching the soul. Only Divine light can nourish the soul. Therefore, an undernourished soul is easily vanquished by the animal urges of the body. The minute the body reigns, the person becomes a slave to base inclinations, and that's bad news, both in this world and in the next. You can study Kabbala day and night, but if you don't wash your hands in the morning, you're spiritually in the mud.

If you don't do so already, start washing your hands every morning, and within a week, you'll feel a marked change within yourself - LazerBeam guaranteed.

The Sign of Redemption

IMG_20170915_082019026 (1)

You're probably looking at this picture and wondering what I'm trying to show you.

PEOPLE!! Don't you SEE that gas station sign?? 

To most normal people, this looks like there's a gas station on the side of the road. But you'd be WRONG!

To this not normal person, that gas station sign has great historical symbolism. 

You see, this gas station is not finished. It hasn't been finished since they started building it nearly four years ago. Ffffour years!  

I ask you - is that normal? Even a high rise building can be completed in less than four years! Why is this gas station taking soooo long??

Before I reveal the answer, I'd like to explain my obsession with this gas station. It's no ordinary gas station, my friends. The back road that I'm driving on is a wonderful road that bypasses nearly all of Bet Shemesh from the East side. It cuts your travel time down to less than half versus driving through all of Bet Shemesh itself. I use it every morning to go to the gym and run other important errands, like shopping and... um... shopping. (I just gotta say that David pulled a smart move by taking the credit card with him. And it's a good thing we only have one, because I'm a professional at using credit cards.)

The nearest gas station is in the industrial zone in Bet Shemesh, and it's a pain to get in and out of when it's crowded. Wait! I just realized something so hysterically ironic. Right up the street from the gas station that I use is another gas station, but I never use that one because you need to make very sharp 90 degree turns to get in and out of there, and my big ol' van with the front bumper hangin' low as if it's too cool for school ain't doin' no 90 degree turns. 

That gas station was built in three months. But that's not the ironic part! Just this morning, I was driving by it, and poof! Another gas station just appeared out of thin air! Right next door! Same crowded road, same problem getting in and out. So now we have three gas station within a 10 second walk of each other. Hysterical. Irony.

This gas station that's on the back road is a dream. Not only is it convenient and spacious, it even has a drive-thru car wash!!!! DO YOU UNDERSTAND??!! 



And soon, God willing, Bli Ayin Hara, B'ezrat Hashem, For God's Sake, Goodness Gracious, G-d forbid, I will be able to drive my car up to the gas station in leisure, and then drive it through the car wash!! And the best part is that I won't have to deal with the crazy traffic in that part of town!

So that's all nice, and the wine is starting to kick in, and you're probably fed up of my nonsense by now, so I'll explain what in the world my point is. But first, the wine is calling my name.

Okay, now that that's done, let's get to the point. 

Many people claim that our Final Redemption is around the corner. They say they can feel it. Well I can do better. I can see it, right in front of my face. I can see it in that gas station sign. There is no logical reason, aside from lack of funds, turning over the property, a lawsuit, or all kinds of other legal situations, that this gas station wouldn't be finished by now.

Therefore, since I don't know why it has been taking so long, I came up with a brilliant and slightly crazy theory. If you even think about using my theory in your name, I have patented it, and I will come after you. Be warned.

I fully believe that this gas station will be ready just in time for the arrival of our Mashiach. It's on a road that conveniently leads to Jerusalem in several different directions. It's stalling big time, just like our Redemption. It's way too convenient, and convenience isn't very Israeli. At least, not current Israeli. But it sure is redemption Israeli!

Next thing they'll do is put grocery baggers at every cash register like they do in the States. I'm willing to bet big money that the Mashiach will be here before or slightly after my fantasy becomes a reality. Grocery baggers are a luxury, so enjoy them, ya chutznikim. Look it up. I'm too lazy to explain what that word means.

I hope that this Rosh Hashana brings us our Final Redemption in all its glory, minus the blood and guts. I hope we will all be able to internalize that Hashem loves us and is always doing what's best for us, even if it's taking a really long time and we're fed up of waiting and driving to the edge of town to get some gas. 

Let's do our maximum to be the best people we can be. Let's focus on being there for our families, our children, and our spouses more than anyone else. Let's talk to Hashem as much as we can. 

May you all be blessed with a beautiful year filled with everything good! (Seriously. Does that make sense? Because I can fix it. Really.)

Warmest Wishes for a happy and healthy Rosh Hashana! Shana Tova and G'mar Chatima Tova!



What Does Unity Look Like?

The new month of Elul began a few days ago (actually, I have no idea how long ago,) but I didn't have a chance to post this incredible video until now. It's a video of thousands of men praying at the Kotel for the first night of Selichot. This is an additional prayer service in which we ask Hashem for forgiveness, both for our personal and collective transgressions. It's said between the time of midnight and sunrise.

We also say it in groups, because Hashem loves unity. He loves when we all act like we actually respect each other and work toward a common cause. When we're unified, Hashem is much more inclined to answer our prayers. It's not like He doesn't want to in the first place! It's just that when we all fight and treat each other like garbage, why should Hashem answer our prayers? We're being bad, bad children!

I can totally relate to Hashem, because when my kids aren't killing each other, I'm more likely to take them fun places and spend way too much money to buy them stuff they really don't deserve. 

Sephardim begin saying selichot on the first night of Elul, and Ashkenazim start saying it 10 days before Rosh Hashanah. 

In my opinion, we should all be saying it every night, because we got a whole lot to apologize for! (Except for me, of course! NOT!)