67 posts categorized "Hashkafa - Jewish outlook"

Sunday: The Three Weeks Begin Today

Holy Temple Jerusalem
Since the 17th of Tammuz was yesterday on Shabbat, and we don't fast on Shabbat, today - Sunday the 18th of Tammuz -marks the beginning of the “Three Weeks” (Bein HaMetzarim), a period of mourning marking the destruction of both the First Temple and the Second Temple in Jerusalem. During the “Three Weeks”, it is customary to spend extra time studying Torah and in personal prayer, to give extra charity and not to hold joyous celebrations, such as weddings, or wear new clothes. We also don't listen to or play musical instruments during this period.

The first Holy Temple was destroyed because of idolatry and the 70 shemitta (Sabbatical year) cycles that were not observed, both heinous transgressions in Judaism. The punishment - 70 years of exile.

The second Holy Temple was destroyed because of baseless intramural hate, seemingly a much lesser transgression than idolatry and desecration of Sabbatical years. Yet, 2000 years have gone by and we're still in exile. When will we ever learn? Hashem despises arrogance because it leads to hate; when one person or group thinks that they're better than anyone else, that's sufficient arrogance to perpetuate the exile. The result? Another Three Weeks of lamentations.

Hashem doesn't need the lamentations of those who allow themselves the luxury of condemning, hating, snobbing and/or boycotting other Jews. Thank G-d my beloved rabbi and teacher Rav Shalom Arush is a beacon of unconditional love and demands the same of his students.

Loving another Jew doesn't mean that you necessarily agree with his practices or philosophy in life. Loving the other person is a simple commandment of Torah that Hashem unconditionally requires of all of us, to respect all others and to treat them in the same manner that we would like to be treated.

Just remember - our sages in Tikkun Chatzot (Midnight Lamentations) say that every generation who fails to rebuild the Holy Temple is as if it were the generation that destroyed it. Categorically, intramural hatred is not only perpetuating the exile, but is causing Hashem to use drastic measures to wake us up and to prod us to act like brothers toward each other. Let's start being stringent about our unconditional love for each other, so that the notorious Three Weeks will turn into Three Weeks of joy and redemption, amen!


The Lubavitcher Rebbe, Abortion and Moshiach

RebbeThis post is in loving memory of the Lubavitcher Rebbe of blessed and saintly memory, whose 24th yahrtzeit is tomorrow
on Shabbat, 3 Tammuz. The Rebbe was instrumental in bringing me close to observant Judaism way back in the beginning of my search, in the early 1980's. I even had the privilege of spending Shabbat with him, exactly 31 years ago, on Shabbat Korach, 5747 (1987). I owe him an eternal debt

The Rebbe loved life, loved everyone, and loved every mitzva of the Torah. With this in mind, he was vehemently against abortion.

There's a well-known story of a childless young couple who came to the Rebbe for a blessing. Several months later, the woman became pregnant. When she was in the advanced stages of pregnancy, a fire broke out in her home. The woman, who was alone at home, inhaled smoke and fainted from the lack of oxygen. The rescue squad and firefighters carried her out of the burning house in a state of clinical death. The doctors resuscitated her for hours before she was out of danger. Then the haed physician decided that the woman's unborn child had to be aborted, because it was certainly lifeless, and even if it does live, it won't be more than a vegetable after such prolonged deprivation of oxygen. The doctor asked the husband to sign a release form but the husband refused. He sent an urgent telegram to the Rebbe, saying what the doctors wanted to do.

The Rebbe replied as follows: "Do not agree to an abortion; get a second opin­ion." The couple followed his advice, but the second doctor was equally adamant and admonished the husband for not agreeing to the abortion. "Forget about the baby; do you want to lose your wife too? The abortion must be performed im­mediately."

The husband sent another urgent telegram; the Rebbe's answer remained the same: "No abortion under any circumstances. With Hashem's help, everything will be fine." Eventually, the mother gave birth to a healthy baby girl, and later to another healthy child.

Wow, that's the Rebbe...

Why was the Rebbe so against abortion? The Gemara emphatically tells us that abortion delays the coming of Moshiach. Here's how:

The Talmud in tractate Yevamos (pg. 63b) says, "[Moshiach] Ben David won't arrive until all the souls are depleted from the body."

Rashi, our 11th Century sage from Ashkenaz (Germany-France) and the most important Talmudic commentator of all times, explains this very cryptic passage. "Body," says Rashi, "is the name of a partition that separates the Shechina (Divine presence) from the angels, which serves as the warehouse for all the souls that were created during the six days of creation, and that are destined to be given to bodies that will subsequently be created."

The above Talmudic passage teaches us that all the souls must assume bodily forms on earth before Moshiach can come. Even though unborn babies all possess divine souls (neshoma, since the unborn learn the entire Torah - oral, written, and esoteric - from an angel while in the mother's womb), the entire spiritual/soul complex that includes nefesh, ruach, and neshoma [basic vitality, spirit, and divine soul] all come together in the body momentarily before the baby is born (for further reference see Talmud in tractate Nida, pg. 30b; Tanya, first chapter; Eleph Hamagen, commentary on Mateh Efraim, intro. to laws of Rosh Hashonna; Sha'ar Hagilgulim, Seder knisas haneshoma). So, when for some reason the baby is not born, then the soul cannot leave "Body" (or 'Guf' in the original Hebrew), the heavenly warehouse for unborn souls. Until Guf is empty, Moshiach is delayed in arriving.

In light of the above Talmudic teachings, any person who performs, supports, assists, or encourages abortions is delaying the arrival of Moshiach with his or her own two hands.

I often wondered why the Talmud is so severe in its condemnation of doctors, when it says (tractate Kiddushin 82a), "the best of doctors are destined to Gehennom (purgatory)." When considering that in Israel alone, doctors perform over 20,000 abortions a year, then it's easy to understand why Moshiach is not yet being allowed to reveal himself. No, one does not receive a prize for contributing to the delay of Moshiach. Our sages in their infinite wisdom could see far into the future; that's why they said what they did about doctors.

So, if you'd like to lend a helping hand in bringing Moshiach as fast as possible, do what you can to fight against abortion in every way possible. I pray for your health, but if you ever need a doctor, I strongly suggest that you choose a physician who's opposed to abortion. A good physician recognizes the sanctity of human life.


Like a Rock in Turbulent Waters: The Nahal Tzafit Tragedy

Wadi Flood 26.4.18
Israel this morning is in shock. In one fell swoop of raging flood waters, 10 young people lost their lives yesterday. They were 18 year-olds from the "Bnei Tzion" premilitary academy in Tel Aviv, killed after being swept away in torrential floods (above image) yesterday afternoon during a hike in Nahal Tzafit, a river wadi in the Arava region east of the Dead Sea that's dry most of the year. 

To put things into proportion, and to understand the magnitude of this tragedy, ten fatalities is a number equivalent to the average fatalities of two whole years of rocket attacks from Gaza!

This is a message from Hashem that no one can ignore. What does it mean? 

You can walk in a wadi - a dry riverbed - on a clear day with a blue sky enjoying the desert's breathtaking beauty. Meanwhile, six miles away up in the mountains, strange unseasonal clouds gather and dump their furious downpour. In the space of ten minutes, an inch of rain falls (25mm), half the annual precipitation in the desert. All of a sudden, the waters - fast, mighty and overpowering, become a raging flood with the power to wash a semi-trailer away as if it were a Playmobile toy. The young people who lost their lives yesterday were hit with such a flash flood. They didn't have a chance of survival.

What's Hashem's message here? What does it mean when ten people get washed away like "A rock in turbulent waters" (Nehemia 9:11)? One Israeli meteorologist said that the flood waters in Nahal Tzafit were so powerful that they were washing 3-ton boulders away.

Thinking about this, I finally understood what King David prayed for all the time in a passage that is part of the Tikkun Klali:  "For this, let every devout person pray to You at a time when misfortune befalls, that the flooding, mighty waters not overtake him" (Psalm 32:6). Wow - today's news from the Heavenly newsroom, or not?

What does it mean? 

Nahal Tzafit - one of the meaning of tzafit in Hebrew is, "Did you observe?" Did you open your eyes? Did you search for the meaning?

Try this:

You're going along with your life, hunky dory. You're fine - you go to synagogue, you eat kosher and you give charity. But all of a sudden, a flood of social pressure overtakes you. People tell you that you have to be on a Whatsapp group or on Facebook. You gotta make the Instagram scene. Before you know it, you (and your children) are washed away by the anti-emuna flood of gossip and evil speech. The woman is no longer baking challas and the men is no longer opening a Gemara. Their noses are in their smartphones. Their kids, with their own smartphones, lock themselves in the bathroom or bedroom and are texting on Shabbat.

Yes, this flood of epikorsis - social media heresy - is  washing away the unsuspecting Jewish People. I know that many readers will have a fit about this, but sorry, but you know it's true.

For the last five days already, the Israel Meteorological Service has been warning on hourly radio broadcasts to stay away from Negev river wadis because of the chance of flooding. And the flooding came...

For the last five years, every one of our spiritual leaders - Sephardi, Lithuanian and Chassidic - have been warning of the dangers of the social media flood of heresy, telling people to stay away. And that flooding came raging too.

Is anyone listening?

If King David - King of Israel and Hashem's anointed - had the need to beg Hashem to protect him from "the flooding, mighty waters", which our sages interpret as the major sins of lashon hara, heresy, debauchery and bloodshed, what can we say? Can we nonchalantly stroll down the dry river beds of seemingly innocent social media, then get hit with a flood of lashon hara, heresy, debauchery and bloodshed, all of which washes everything away in its path?

The social media flood is a greater threat than Hamas and Hezbolla, but few people will take this to heart. For the one person who will, and decides to return to the spiritual high ground of prayer, Torah learning and challah baking, then this post was worth it. May are efforts in spiritual strengthening bring gratitude to the cherished souls who were washed away in yesterday's flood, amen! Shabbat Shalom, and may we hear good tidings,


Our Duty and Our Country Israel

Camouflage
Happy 70th Birthday, State of Israel!

The young man in the picture above won't be going on a cookout tonight. He won't be partying. He's preparing for a dangerous mission, scary too. He's the platoon commander of a crack infantry unit that will be laying in ambush on the other side of one of our borders, where the intel suspects/expects an imminent terrorist infiltration. He'll be awake for 8 hours and he doesn't dare doze, even for a second. How does he do it? You might say duty and dedication, but his family lives only a few short miles from the border. He's protecting them.

I have a question for the young, able-bodied men wearing suits and hats, who are hanging around sidewalks and malls, or picknicking today at the beach or the park: what are you doing to protect your family and your people? Why aren't you in Yeshiva today at your duty post learning Torah? You received your exemption from the army so that you could learn Torah, so why are you not manning your important spiritual battle station?

Hashem gave us the gift of our own state. Sure, it's not yet what we dream of: we'd love to have the return of the Davidic Dynasty, the Holy Temple and total Torah law. But meanwhile, we still have the best place on earth and we must protect it from our enemies day and night. The young men in the olive green are doing their job; what about the young men in the black?

I rarely lose my temper but I admit - desecration of Hashem's Name makes my blood boil. Yesterday, on Memorial Day when we mourn our fallen soldiers - many of whom were friends, neighbors, relatives and close comrades who we can never ever forget - a siren calling for a moment of silence wailed all over the country. Cars stop on the highway, people get out and stand at attention in the respect of the memory of the fallen. Sure, this is not exactly a Jewish custom but it has become the national custom and we must honor it. At any rate, last night, when the siren wailed and everyone stopped, my wife was standing at attention at a bus stop. She looks like a Chassidic grandmother (and she is) but she's also a former IDF sergeant who served in the tank corps in the Yom Kippur War in 1973. She saw two young men in black hats and suits continue walking down the street nonchalantly; she motioned at them to stop but they ignored her. I'm glad that I wasn't with her because I'm afraid that I might have done something that I'd regret...

I ask these senseless young men: Why didn't you stop? Why didn't you show respect for those, in whose sacrifice and dedication you sleep soundly in your beds at night? And, if you didn't want to show respect, why didn't you remain in Yeshiva glued to your Gemara like you should be? What are you doing on the street?

The basis of both emuna and common decency is gratitude. Judaism is gratitude. Torah is gratitude. And don't tell me indignantly that the State of Israel tries to uproot Torah Judaism. If I had never come to Israel and served in the army - both of which I thank Hashem for daily - I would have never made teshuva. I would never have appreciated my G-d, my people, our Torah and our country. Thank You, Hashem, and thank you Israel and Happy 70th Birthday! May you be healthy and happy till Moshiach comes!

Meanwhile, we all must do our duty. If one chooses to learn Torah, fine; but, he should learn with the same dedication that those Golani and Givati boys will be exhibiting tonight on patrol. May Hashem protect them.


V'hi She'amda: The Eternal Promise

There's a major difference between Hashem and political leaders: He keeps His promises whereas they don't. Seder night is proof...

Political leaders should really be in the furniture business, because all they care about is the chair they sit on. Ideology? Truth? You will find neither in politics, whether you look at the right, center or left. With that in mind, maybe now, our people around the globe will finally learn that there's no one to trust but Hashem. We certainly can't trust those who change their opinions as frequently as they change their socks and prefer political expediency to justice and truth. So, my Pesach-eve message to my cherished brothers and sisters, especially here in Israel, is that it's time that we all come back to Hashem in complete teshuva, asking His forgiveness for any trust we put in human beings, in Israel or abroad.

The Gemara (tractate Sanhedrin 97b) says that the Nation of Israel (aka the Jewish People) will be redeemed as soon as they make teshuva, in other words, return to Hashem and the ways of His Torah. The Gemara then asks, what happens if the Nation of Israel doesn't make teshuva? Rebbe Yehoshua answers that if Israel doesn't make teshuva, then Hashem places them under the influence of a wicked king whose evil decrees are as severe as Haman's, and then they make teshuva.

We cannot fathom The Almighty's love for us and His infinite mercy. Despite the fact that we haven't made Teshuva from Love, which is what we need to do in order to be redeemed, and despite the fact that our own misdeeds put us under the boot of each generation's wicked kings, Hashem has made an eternal promise to deliver us from their hands. That's the V'hi She'amda prayer that we recite each year in the Haggada.

Let me share with you something additional about Hashem's love for His people: The Heavenly Altar and Throne is known as Upper Jerusalem; it is situated directly above Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is known in the Zohar, Midrash, and Gemara as Lower Jerusalem. Hashem refuses to dwell in Upper Jerusalem until His permanent dwelling on earth - the Holy Temple - will be rebuilt in Lower Jerusalem (see Gemara tractate Taanit 5a, Midrash Tehillim 122, Vilna Gaon's elaboration of Zohar, Safra DeTzniuta, ist Chapter). Many evil world leaders are denying our right to the area of our own Holy Temple. Once again, we have no cause to be angry at them, for as soon as we make real teshuva, they will crumble. But, until we make teshuva, those evil leaders should be forewarned that by disenfranchising Israel from what they call East Jerusalem, they are in effect trying to disenfranchise The Almighty. Cherished brothers and sisters, that won't happen, period.

Hashem has no gratification by forcing us to make teshuva. When we strengthen our emuna and seek Hashem on our own accord, we sanctify His Holy Name. Let's wake up, beloved brothers and sisters. It's either nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles or emuna books and CDs; the choice is ours. Now you can understand why Emuna Outreach is working so hard to spread emuna around the globe - Rav Shalom Arush says that every emuna book or CD neutralizes one ballistic missile. When Moshiach comes, he'll show us all how emuna saved lives; the Gemara says that anyone who saves one life is considered as if he or she saved an entire world.

V'hi She'amda is a Passover song whose words come from the Haggada. It conveys a very timely message for the Jewish people: He who stood by our forefathers stands by us to deliver us from the hands of our enemies in every generation.

One of Jewish music's favorite sons, my dear friend Yonatan Razel, wrote a beautiful melody for this song, which he sings here with the king of Jewish singers, my very special friend Yaacov Shwekey. You'll get shivers up your spine and tears in your eyes listening to them. We're sure you'll enjoy this musical treat as much as we do. Enjoy it and have a wonderful Shabbat, Seder night and Passover holiday!


Government-sanctioned Debauchery

Don't Rock the Boat
Political correctness and/or financial interests are preventing many of our elected representatives and spiritual leaders from opening their mouths. With ISIS on our borders and a renewal of missile fire in the South and mounting tensions in the north, someone must protest the Israeli-government sanctioned public debauchery in our holy homeland.

The Tel Aviv Municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Tourism have been playing with fire in recent years, flaunting Tel Aviv as one of the world's best gay tourist spots. Every year, thousands take the streets in a public display of debauchery, fully sanctioned by the Municipality and the Government. In fact, this past year, two ministers from Bibi's "Likud" ruling coalition party, Culture and Sports Minister Miri Regev and Communications Minister Ofer Akunis, proudly participated. I can't link to the articles in the media that write about it, because the photos are disgusting.

I don't believe that the religious members of the coalition will say a word, for they won't want to rock the boat now that they're back in power with their heads in the dinner plate in a narrow coalition. Yet, either the Israeli Government should strongly wash its hands of any support of public debauchery, or Aguda and Shas should bolt the government. Such a government doesn't deserve another day in power.

More of us must make our voices heard. I fear what is likely to happen if no one protests the continued public debauchery here in our holy homeland. Let us be on record, once more, that this is a much greater danger than Iranian or North Korean  nukes. In fact, such public debauchery, on a spiritual level, fuels the engines of our enemies, for as our sages say in the "Ethics of the Fathers", every transgression creates an accusing angel. Mass public transgressions, sanctioned by the government, create doomsday spiritual forces. We must be courageous enough to stand up and protest.