64 posts categorized "Concepts in Judaism "

Happy Love Day!

Tu B'AvToday is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av - "Tu B'Av" - known affectionately in Israel as "Love Day". The Gemara in Tractate Taanit tells us that this is one of the two very best days in the Hebrew calendar, an opportune time for seeking and finding a soul-mate. Here're the events that happened on this wonderful day:

  1. The 40-year long plague that resulted from the Sin of the Spies terminated.
  2. The tribes of Israel were allowed to intermarry, whereas previously one was required to take a spouse from his/her own tribe.
  3. Pilgrimage from all over the Land of Israel to Jerusalem was renewed, whereas previously, anyone outside Judea couldn't reach the Holy Temple.
  4. This became a festive occasion when all the wood needed for the coming year's sacrifices on the altar in the Holy Temple was completely gathered, despite huge obstacles.
  5. The myriad of Jews who had been killed defending Beitar during Bar Kochba's revolt were finally brought to burial. This was a double miracle, since the bodies - despite their being strewn in the hot sun for an extended period - did not decompose. 
  6. This is the day when Hashem in His infinite love and mercy put me under the chuppa (wedding canopy) with the very best woman on earth - my wonderful wife Yehudit, may Hashem bless her with abundance of spiritual and material riches, including long and happy days, amen.

"Tu B'Av" has always been a propitious and traditional day for matchmaking. Our sages codified an ancient tradition where all Jewish girls – rich and poor, beautiful and homely - go out dressed in borrowed white dresses and dance in the vineyards (see Tractate Taanit 10b). This was our sages' equal-opportunity mentality, to teach young men to look for upright character rather than a girl's makeup and fancy clothes.

No sage in history ever did so much to help every young lass to feel good about herself as the holy Tannaic sage Rebbe Yishmael ben Elisha. He showed each girl how she is special, accenting the intrinsic beauty of each girl. When he died as one of the Ten Martyrs tortured by the Romans, the women of the Land of Israel mourned him bitterly.

My feature article today on the new issue of Breslev Israel web magazine is devoted to "Love Day", with a special tribute to Rebbe Yishmael - don't miss They're All Beautiful.

Also featured this week:

Rabbi Shalom Arush - Separate Scales

Dr. Zev Ballen - The Very Best Treatment

Racheli Reckles - What Suitcase?

Yehudit Channen - Together Forever

David Perlow - Trust the Teacher

Jennifer Woodward - Failing Forward

Lori Steiner - Keep Trying

Blessings for a lovely new week! Please drive safely, especially on vacation. Hashem loves you, and we do too!


Can't We All Just Get Along? (And Eat, Already??)

Photo from Racheli (13)

Just look at this disgusting picture. Okay, so it's not really disgusting. I'm just trying to convince myself that it is because it's the most carb-infested sandwich I ever saw. David had me make him baked ziti, which was already torture enough. Then, he decided that there weren't enough carbs in baked ziti, so he put it in a fresh baguette that he had me buy him. Then, he topped it off with Sriracha rooster sauce.

Disgusting. 

Enough about him. He can talk about himself as much as he wants on his own blog. So let's move on to me. I'm so mad at myself. Yesterday, I ate like a bear about to go into hibernation. The truth is, I do that every day. But yesterday, I ate things that I wouldn't normally go near, like those delicious rugelach that I have a perpetual love/hate relationship with. The problem is that I can't eat just one. I ate six (or was it seven?), each time getting more upset with myself, but at the same time rationalizing that I wouldn't be eating for 25 hours. Today I'm still a little bit mad at myself, because why can't I just have a little self-control?

But I'll put these thoughts on the back burner (he, he) and focus on the significance of today. Yes, we're mourning over the destruction of our two Holy Temples, and the many horrific and terrible things that have happened to the Jewish People over its very sad and persecuted history. And yes, we're all wondering when Mashiach will make his grand announcement and help bring the world back to love, peace, and unity.

We're all wondering why so many good people have to suffer in this world, why the best people get taken away from us, leaving orphans and a broken home. We're wondering why the world leaders are a bunch of self-centered, power hungry, evil idiots, and why Hashem lets them be in power. We wonder why some children are born to abusive parents, and others are born with debilitating health problems. 

We can't know the answer to these questions until the Mashiach comes and explains everything to us. But in the meantime, let's wonder something else. Let's wonder why we all fight so much. Let's wonder why we find it so hard to put aside our egos and try to see the other person's perspective. Let's wonder why we think that only our way is the right way. Let's wonder why we still discriminate against others because they're different from us.

Yes, we are all very different, with very different ideas of right and wrong, how to live, how to behave, what to believe in. Hashem knows that. He doesn't expect us to be the same. He expects us to recognize our differences and learn to work with each other, using those differences to bring us closer to our goals. He certainly doesn't expect us to use our differences to hate, judge, and be intolerant of one another. 

So why are we spending yet another year without our Holy Temple and our Mashiach? 

Let's answer that question with another question.

Why can't we all just get along? 

We don't have to love each other, and we don't even have to like each other. But let's work on treating each other with simple human decency, and respect that the other guy has a right to his opinion and ideas. Hashem doesn't expect perfection; He just expects us to behave like humans.

I hope that this will be our last year of our collective suffering, and with Hashem's mercy, we will celebrate the following year with our Mashiach in a world where we all respect each other and don't have to fast any more! 

To kick off the celebrations, I could think of no better way than drinking wine posting these delicious muffins that I made two nights ago. They're perfect! 

And.... I have a RECIPE!! See? The Mashiach is just around the corner!

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Racheli's Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Oil-Free Pumpkin Walnut Muffins: 

  • 3 cups finely ground almond flour
  • 1/2 cup honey, agave, or Splenda (yikes!) 
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. fine Himalayan or sea salt
  • 1 T. of homemade or store-bought pumpkin pie spice  
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin puree
  • handful of craisins (optional)

Mix the dry ingredients first, and make sure there's no lumps. Then, add the wet ingredients, mix, then add the chopped walnuts. After scooping the mix into the muffin tins, top the muffins with more chopped walnuts. Then try not to eat the whole bunch at once!

Let's hope the Mashiach gets here this year, because I've had it with fasting! 

~Racheli


When Jewish Blood Spills

Jewish Blood
Yesterday, Shmuel Salomon arose from his seven-day shiva mourning period to enter his 8-day old son, Ari Yosef, into the brit, the holy covenant of Abraham. This is the exact mainifestation of Ecclesiastes 3:4, "A time for eulogizing and a time for dancing." Often, especially in our lives here in the Land of Emuna, joy is juxtaposed with sorrow, both in the extreme.

Shmuel Salomon was sitting shiva for his martyred father, brother and sister who were brutally murdered last Shabbat evening at their Shabbat table. Not only were they murdered on Shabbat but murdered in the midst of performing several lofty mitzvoth - observing the Shabbat, celebrating the Shabbat, and celebrating the arrival of Shmuel's newborn son. I've had many people ask me probing questions this week, such as, "How could Hashem take away such righteous people?" Dozens of eulogies praised how each martyred member of the Salomon family was so special. Chaya, 46, was chosen as the most outstanding teacher in Lod. Elad, 36, was sweeter than honey, the type of person that seemed to lack any inclination for evil or cruelty. The father Yosef, 70, was a tzaddik who loved Hashem, His Torah, his fellow human and his holy homeland. And, as one email asked, "How could Hashem take these righteous souls in such a horrid manner?"

With emuna, we don't circumvent difficult questions. Here's my answer, and like everything else, it's the product of what I've learned from the "Minister of Emuna", my esteemed and holy teacher, Rabbi Shalom Arush shlit'a:

Each individual is here in the physical world on a mission. His life in this world is temporary; it begins and ends according to the task he must perform. When a person dies, even if the cause of death is seemingly apparent, it is the result of Divine decree – exacting to the tiniest detail. One person comes to earth for a seventy year tour of duty while another person is on a twenty year mission. A soul can sometimes fulfill its correction on earth in a mere five years within the body of a child. The considerations and Divine calculations are endless and mind-boggling, where everything is taken into consideration - past lives, credits, debts and many more.

Some souls come down to earth for a very specific soul correction; as soon as they complete it, there is no longer reason for them to remain here so they hurry back to their rightful place in Gan Eden ("Garden of Eden", the World to Come). Usually, after these souls die, those who knew them say how much those souls were so special and righteous who never did anything wrong. So, don't be surprised when you see martyrs who were the best imaginable people of the highest caliber. The reason they left this earth when they did was simply because they accomplished the mission that Hashem sent the here to perform.

The very fact that these righteous, often young people who didn't seem to have an evil inclination die before their time is apparently up is a giveaway that shows that they came here for a very special purpose. The holy Ariza"l (the father of Kabbala whose yahrtzeit is today, the 5th of Av) says that the evil inclination puts the most difficult obstacles in the way of the very mission that a person must perform on this earth. When a person has many different evil inclinations, it's an indication that he or she has much to correct in this world. But, those special people, especially the young ones who never did anything wrong, came here for a narrow specific purpose. They complete it and they depart.

What we do know is that Hashem does everything for the best. When logic kicks out, emuna - complete faith - kicks in. Have a lovely Shabbat and a wonderful weekend. May we all hear good tidings from each other, amen!

Don't forget to see our mini-lesson on this week's Torah portion in the post directly below. 


The Path You Choose

Path
King Solomon, the wisest of all men who ever walked the face of the earth, said: "A person's foolishness takes him askew, and then his heart fumes at Hashem" (Proverbs 19:3). In other words, people choose courses of action that the Torah strongly discourages or even forbids; then, when their lives go haywire, they blame Hashem.

Hashem doesn't force a person to be righteous or otherwise. Indeed, one will discover that the path of righteousness is much more difficult and obstacle-laden than the path to the opposite. Nobody will stop you from going to a movie or a night club, but you'll get big-time resistance every time you open a Gemara. Accordingly, our sages tell us that there are paths that are rocky at first and smooth at the end (the paths of righteousness) and there are paths that are smooth at first and rocky at the end (the paths of cheap thrills).

Hashem leads a person down the path of his/her own choice, for He clearly sees what every person's heart desires. May we all make good choices always, amen! Blessings for a wonderful Shabbat!


Spiritually Preparing for Passover

Pesach Commando

We hope everybody is making preparations for Passover with big smiles on their faces. The house will surely be clean, but don't forget the soul. Passover is coming fast and we must prepare ourselves for true liberation - freedom of the soul.

The minute one loses one's personal sense of worth and a positive self image, he or she becomes a slave.

Lack of self-respect, self-deprecation, and ignorance of one's own marvelous qualities and heritage are tickets to the slave train. Shame or embarrassment about one's ethnic or religious background is tantamount to carrying around an iron shackle with a 50-lb. ball and chain.

These feelings of inferiority are an invitation to let society dictate how you should live your life. People who feel inferior are weak; it's easy to exploit a person with no backbone. Controlled and exploited people are the most miserable creatures on the face of the earth.

For a Jew, one of the most important Passover preparation - after getting rid of the chometz - is learning who we are and why we're celebrating. Modern society often discourages us from learning about our wonderful background, our G-d, and what emuna - the full and simple faith in Him - can do for us in every level of life, be it emotional, intellectual, spiritual, and even physical.

Emuna helps you feel good about yourself.  As soon as you begin feeling good about yourself, you become free. Every human has an inherent right to freedom; that's the universal message of the Passover holiday. Happy Passover preparations!


The Godfather's Lineage

Godfather
In a scene from the classic film "The Godfather" (see above image), Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) says to his son Michael (Al Pacino), "Revenge is a dish best served cold." He then explains to his son the "fine art" of assassination: put your enemy to sleep; make him feel like you are his best friend. Once he drops his defenses, get close to him. Do not roar like a lion; do not make a battle cry like a tiger. Just smile. When he opens his arms to embrace you, put a knife in his heart, and be cool about it.

Don Vito the Godfather's advice was not new. If Don Vito had traced his lineage, he would have found that he was a direct descendant of Amalek, who was the grandson of Esau. Esau's soul was rooted in the pit of evil, the primordial snake, the nachash. Their strategy of eliminating their enemy goes back 5,777 years, as far back as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Don Vito didn't invent his mode of assassination, which he passed on to his son Michael. He received it from his father, who received it in an unbroken chain of dark-side tradition all the way back to Sicily, Rome, Amalek and Esau.

If you think that the above is stimulating, then you won't want to miss today's emuna shiur and broadcast entitled "Chocolate-Covered Poison". It will take place, G-d willing, in the ground-floor main sanctuary of the Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva on 13 Shmuel Hanavi Street in Jerusalem at 7PM Israel time (12 noon EST); the shiur is open to the public - both men and women are invited. You can see today's lesson here - the broadcast, as well as our lessons posted from now on - are Mac and iPod compatible. If you tune in too early to the live broadcast link, you'll be sent to the main page of the Breslev Israel website, so try to tune in on time.  If you are not able to view today's broadcast live, then G-d willing, you'll be able to see the video tape of it later this coming week on Lazer Beams. 


The Countdown Begins

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Yesh! That's Hebrew for "Yes!" Tomorrow, David will be home! I don't know why I'm so excited, because it just means more laundry, more mess, more cooking, more dishes, OMG I just realized I went through the same feelings last time he came back from his trip. Does that mean I have conflicting feelings about my husband? I'd better speak with Rebbetzin Channen, our Emuna Therapist, about this.

Today, he had 25 minutes to run into a store and buy a "few" things, since predictably he went over the weight limit. I told him not to order so much stuff, but he didn't listen! Okay, you know I'm being completely sarcastic, right? In my defense, it's hard to remember what I ordered, and to figure out if it's all gonna fit in one suitcase. Since he had another 50 pounds of space, he did a power shopping run at one of the discount stores, 'cause that's how we roll. 

I wanted a new pair of slippers, so he starts sending me pictures of slippers. Then, I started to wonder where I can make myself a T-shirt that says: "My husband traveled the world with Rav Arush and all I got were these lousy slippers." Wait. That wouldn't make sense. I can't talk about slippers on my T-shirt. Can I put a caption like that on my new slippers? You see what happens to my brain when it's overtired? It don't think straight.

Check this out:

IMG-20170214-WA0040

And this:

IMG-20170214-WA0038

That is so not cool. Why is he sending me pictures of these things? More importantly, why don't we have them in Israel? Isn't it so weird that there are more and better kosher options outside of Israel than in Israel? It's the Yetzer, man! The Yetzer, I tell you!

I'd better get some rest so I can be ready to tackle the  extra 100 pounds of dirty laundry I'm going to have to do this week.

Yipee. 

My thinking is cloudy, and I'm trying to figure out an emuna angle to all this. Yesh! Here it is. It's been a long almost-two weeks. Thank G-d things were normal with the kids. By normal, I mean the usual amount of screaming, fighting, crying, and refusing to brush teeth and get into and out of bed. But throughout the times when my husband travels, it's comforting to know that one day the trip will be over, and life will go back to its regular routine, G-d willing.

Many of us suffer through very long periods of extremely challenging and difficult times. These days, no one has it easy. But with emuna, we can help relieve a lot of the negative feelings we have about going through such trying experiences. One day, the tough times will pass, and Hashem will show us how much we have accomplished and how much we have grown and learned, especially from the challenges.

Let's make an effort to really internalize this message, because the alternative isn't that great, right? In life, we basically have two choices: to suffer by believing that everything is random and without a purpose, or to believe that everything is orchestrated by God for reasons we can't possibly understand. Isn't the second one so much better?

I'd love to hear your stories of how you have grown through difficult times and have seen in the end that what you went through was the best thing for you. You can write in a comment, or email me at racheli@breslev.co.il

Have a wonderful day!

~Racheli