49 posts categorized "Hashkafa - Jewish outlook"

Antisemitism, USA: The Emuna Factor

Bomb Threat USA 2017 JCC
As soon as I got off the plane at the start of my recent trip to the USA, I received a call from a family very close to me in Chicago. They told me about a chain of antisemitic crimes in their neighborhood, one very close to their home. They were visibly and understandably concerned, especially for the welfare of their children.

For Breslev Israel and yours truly, St. Louis is one of our favorite cities and a bright star of emuna on America's Midwest map. Just this week, the historic "Chesed Shel Emet" Jewish cemetery there was terribly vandalized. Meanwhile, Jewish Community Centers in a dozen different US cities have received some sixty bomb threats recently.

It certainly seems that a tidal wave of antisemitism is in our faces lately. The question is, is this a new epidemic of Jew-hating on the rise, or simply old business?

It depends who you ask.

A Jerusalem Post editorial calls this a shocking rise. The Washington Post and the Forward both say that nothing is new and that there's no need for alarm. Who is right? Who do we believe?

We don't believe any of the above sources, for they all ignore the emuna factor. 

What do I mean by the emuna factor? The emuna factor is the only key to understanding the events around us, whether on a personal scale or on a national or international scale. The emuna factor tells us three key spiritual facts that underlie every event or occurrence in the universe; they are:

  1. Everything comes from the Almighty - the Rambam says in the 1st of the 13 Principles of Faith that, "He alone did, does and will do every deed."
  2. Everything the Almighty does is all for the best - there is no exception to this rule, whether or not we understand (See both The Garden of Emuna and The Trail to Tranquility for elaborate explanations of this point).
  3. Everything the Almighty does is all for an explicit purpose - no occurrence in the universe is random, happenstance or fate; it's all the result of precision Divine Providence down to the tiniest detail.

Now, let's apply the emuna factor to the current wave of antisemitism in the USA. We see that everything is coming from the Creator; He is using the free choice of the Jew-haters as an alarm clock to make American Jews stop and think that Jews can only trust in Him and not in their host country, despite their house with the swimming pool and tennis court in Great Neck or their posh 42nd floor condo overlooking the Atlantic in Miami Beach. Intrinsically, a Jew is no more safe in Monsey or Lakewood than he is living in Sderot or Gush Etzion. Hashem is reminding American Jewry that they need Him, not the ADL or any other activist organization.

The good news is that this wake-up call has been devoid of any bodily injury, Heaven forbid. The Almighty simply wants to arouse American Jews from their spiritual slumber. Glatt-kosher delis and pastry shops aren't what He's looking for. Hashem wants all of us to strengthen emuna. When we wake up in time, He won't need to send any louder wake-up calls.

Consequently, whether antisemitism in the USA is on the rise or whether it's old business is a moot question. The real question - the one that the future of the Jewish People depends on - is whether the Jews of America - and the Jews of Israel - will cast their eyes to the Almighty for salvation and not put their trust in all types of organizations and political leaders who really could care less about anything than their own padded seats. For that reason, as long as anyone worries about strengthening him/herself in emuna, he or she has nothing else to worry about, especially antisemitism, which is no more than a stick in the Almighty's all-powerful hands.

My esteemed and beloved teacher Rabbi Shalom Arush told me emphatically to make he following promise in his name: anyone who helps us spread emuna will be guaranteed Divine protection against any calamity, including antisemitism in the USA. If you'd like to help us to spread emuna to your city, drop us a line at staff@breslev.co.il. The light of emuna will readily disperse the darkness of evil.


Heaven Help Me!

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I'm beginning to notice a new trend. After Shabbat, my stomach is on full display, sticking out like nobody's business. All week, I'm pretty good about not eating chewy, fluffy, soft, heavenly challah and desserts that explode with chocolate. But on Shabbat, something happens to me and I just. Can't. Resist. I'm at the challah's mercy, and no amount of inner war with myself is able to keep me from devouring these goodies.

Even cleaning up after the Shabbat meals is so difficult for me! I see half-eaten pieces of dessert strewn across the table, and even the saliva that one of my kids or guests left on them is not gross enough to keep me from wanting to eat them. At that point, I realize I'm in great danger, so I start to pray: "Hashem! Please help me to guard my eyes and not desire the dark, rich, moist chocolate cake! Hashem, have mercy on my wretched soul! What match am I against my Evil Inclination, who would like nothing more than to see me succumb to my desires and stuff my face with chocolate cake until I can't breathe?? Heaven help me!" 

As I shove the germ-infested pieces of chocolate cookies into my mouth in bitter defeat, I try to rationalize that there's always tomorrow, and I can start over again. That's great and all, but it doesn't help me fit into my workout clothes for the next three days. By the end of the week, I'm back to square one and ready to start my once-a-week war with my Yetzer. It's pure torture, I tell you! 

Why didn't Hashem answer my desperate call for help? After all, I did pray a very genuine and meaningful personal prayer from the depths of my tortured soul. Where was Hashem when I needed Him?

Ah, but of course! Rav Shalom Arush has the answer to my question! You see, it's not enough to pray once in a while to overcome your base desires, especially when you know you are a slave to them. You can't go from acting Like a Wild Donkey to behaving like a civilized human who is not controlled by every physical whim, just by praying a bit here and there. Nonsense! So how much time and effort should one invest if he's serious about overcoming his personal lusts? Well, you're gonna have to read the article, silly! As a matter of fact, maybe I should, too. I've got to finally approach Shabbat armed and ready for battle. 

As all of these feelings of imaginary hunger welled up inside of me as a result of reminiscing about my Shabbat sweets, I decided to channel all of that potential energy into eating a half a cold basil pesto chicken. Literally, I just ate half a chicken. With one hand. Because I didn't want to get the other hand dirty while typing. Subconsciously, I didn't want to fully give in to the chicken, so eating with one hand was a way of kind of resisting the fact that I was eating. Half a chicken. Also, I wanted to believe that there are half the calories since I only ate with one hand. 

Speaking of halves (it's not "halfs," right?) Rav Lazer Brody writes about the mitzvah of giving half a shekel on Rosh Chodesh Adar, which is just around the corner! Yesh! I'm already shopping around for Purim costumes for myself. And the kids. But before we get that far, Rav Brody explains to us the spiritual meaning behind the concept of giving half a shekel, by using the make-you-weak-in-the-knees example of The Duet.  Seriously, I think he could have made a fortune writing romance novels. What do I mean? You'll have to read the article to know what I'm talking about! 

You know, the concept of half applies to marriage, too. A man is considered half a man before he's married. Like I tell David all the time, "You're only half a man without me, because I'm the other half." Speaking of romantic marriages, you don't want to miss my story about the most romantic honeymoon ever in the history of honeymoons. I'm talking about my honeymoon, in fact, and I'm being completely sarcastic. Actually, our honeymoon was the first time my husband saw the Iraqi Eyes come out. That sounds exotic and all, but it's really quite scary. Believe me, you've got to read this one! And I'm not saying that just because I wrote it. Promise!

Okay, this next article is one that I can totally not relate to, because Dr. Zev Ballen, our amazing Emuna Therapist, talks about a person's selfish streak. Believe me, hubby has a streak big enough for the both of us. Does that mean I have half a streak? I guess. Anyhow, Dr. Ballen explains that there is a way to overcome The Selfish Streak, and it's not as difficult as you might think! Well, his way isn't as difficult as my way. My way can be summed up in one word: marriage. I'm going to forward this article to David asap. 

OMG I can't believe that this concept of half is popping up again. But this time, it's not in a good way. Rebbetzin Yehudit Channen, our other incredible Emuna Therapist, describes the excruciatingly painful time in her life when her sister, Rivka, suddenly became a paraplegic at age 45. Overnight, she went from being an active, vivacious woman to being stuck in a wheelchair without having any feeling from the waist down. How does one spiritually recover and even grow from such an impossible situation? You'll have to read Yehudit's life-changing insights in Lean on Me. 

After reading Jennifer Woodward's latest article, I'm so relieved that I'm not the only stubborn one around here. Okay, she doesn't live here, in Israel; she lives in the Pacific Northwest, which is almost like Israel, except for the 8 feet snow that can fall in 36 hours. She learned the hard way that doing things the hard way isn't always the best way, and finally came to the conclusion that there is a weird connection between Ice Spikes and emuna. Go figure. What are ice spikes? Great question! Read the article.

As I'm wondering how to cancel out all that chicken I just ate, Lori Steiner comes along and tells me how to Neutralize It!  So maybe she wasn't referring to the chicken, as how can she write about me eating something like two weeks before I eat it, right? But seriously, she gives us awesome tips that will help us turn around any negative situation. Thanks, Lori! Now can you work on the same concept with food? But without actually having to not eat the food? What does that even mean?

I'm so tired I can't see straight. Hinda Lieberman also couldn't see straight, but not because she was tired. It's because her glasses were broken. As exciting as that sounds, the really amazing thing is how she figured out a misunderstanding that had gone on for six months, during which she assumed the other guy was wrong. How did she finally manage to remember what really happened six months before? I can't even remember what happened yesterday! It was during her Personal Prayer session, of course! We can all learn from her example that personal prayer helps with everything - even unsettled accounts! 

Wishing you a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious week! Of course I didn't actually write that word!

~Racheli


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:

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And this:

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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 

 


A Lesson from Amona

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Today was a very sad day in Israel. In the tiny Shomron (Samaria) village of Amona, 40 families were forcibly expelled from their homes. Back in 2014, the Israeli Supreme Court voted to not only expel these families because the land on which they built their homes - with government grants, no less - was later claimed to have been built on private Arab land. 

The worst part? Actually, there are two. First: the Supreme Court refused to provide the families with alternative housing. It's not bad enough that they're demolishing their homes, but they're leaving them homeless, too. Second: it was a Jewish "human rights" group, Yesh Din (there is judgment,) that instigated this fiasco, claiming that the homes were built on private Arab land. It's one thing if an Arab "human rights" group wants to bring up such a claim. But a Jewish group fighting for the rights of people who hate us? 

Why aren't they fighting for the human rights of these 40 families who now have nowhere to live? What about the children's rights to grow up without suffering the trauma of losing their home and being made homeless in the freezing winter? Yesh Din, where are their human rights? 

After seething at this injustice the entire day, I realized something.

Since I have to believe that Hashem is doing everything for the best, I trust that this indeed is for the best. Okay. That's nice and vague an all, but why do I need to stand by and watch these people suffer? And then I thought, why do we need to go through any suffering at all? When things are so painful, why can't Hashem just speed things up a bit and/or make them go away altogether?

But then I realized that Hashem is trying to teach us an extremely important lesson: 

We have to be patient with the bad things, just as we are patient with the good things. 

You see, Hashem can't run this universe on a double standard. He can't separate cause and effect only when the effect is negative. He can't take away our free will only if we're going to make decisions that will hurt us later. He can't speed up the process only when it's painful for us. 

When good things happen, like when we're on vacation, we wish it could last forever. Be honest - we'd have no problem living on a cruise ship for the rest of our lives. At least, I wouldn't. But when something bad happens, we want it to go away as fast as possible. Sure, it's human nature, but I believe Hashem made us like this to teach us to have equal-opportunity patience, as opposed to selective patience. 

Now I understand what it means when Hashem is referred to as "long-suffering." He suffers along with us in our tough situations, but for our own spiritual growth and soul correction, He can't take these painful times away from us, because in the end, we will see how they really were for our ultimate good. 

So we need to learn from this example and be "long-suffering" as well. As much as we would like to not have to go through difficult times, we need to do our best to accept that this is what Hashem wants, and to try to emulate His patience to the best of our ability. 

As for this leftist group, Yesh Din, I have one thing to say to them: "יש דין ויש דיין." There is judgement, and there is a Judge. And one day, He's gonna give y'all a Heavenly smackdown that's gonna send you straight to Planet X, where you belong. 

~Racheli

Rabbi Lazer adds:

Well said, Racheli. The Gemara says that Hashem lets evil people do evil things, but ultimately, they will pay the price. Our Arab neighbors say kol calb bijh yomo - every dog will have its day. That is a message to anyone who has a hand a uprooting a Jew from his home in the Land of Israel.

There's another lesson here. Folks in Israel rejoiced when the so-called "right" was elected. But with all the politicians and their talk, the bottom line is a program than any extreme-left government would be proud of. What does that mean?

Hashem is shouting at us: Menachem Begin the far-rightist gave Sinai to the Egyptians. Ariel Sharon the far-rightist gave Gush Katif and a chunk of Northern Samaria to the PA. Now Bibi and Bennett (Yes, Bennett, a member of Bibi's government) are uprooting Jews from their home in Amona. Hashem is showing all of us a painful lesson that's recurrent all through Jewish history - we can trust no one but Him.

The only way we can strengthen our hold on all of our sacred homeland is to fulfill King David's advice as he states in the last passage of Psalm 105 - Hashem gave us this land for the sole purpose of observing the Torah ands its mitzvoth here. Hashem wants us to strengthen our dedication to Torah and especially Sabbath observance. Hashem wants an end to government-sanctioned policies and laws that negate Torah. There is no one or nothing but Hashem, and if we want to build our country on His holy land, we need His help.


Looking Up at the Same Night Sky

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By now, you know that we here at the Beams are not politically correct. We advocate emuna correctness. What does that mean? It's my life's mission: spreading the knowledge of and belief in the One true God to all of humanity, with no regard to race, color or nationality. We pray for this three times a day, every day, all year long in the Aleinu prayer that concludes the daily services, when we yearn for the day when, "All of living flesh shall call Your Name." Rabbi Shalom Arush's and my greatest joy in life is when another human being calls out to God.

In light of the above, I congratulate US President Donald Trump for his courageous, cogent and candid inauguration speech. Surely, this will go down in history as a turning point for the USA and for the whole world as well. Mr. Trump, in a great act of faith, crowned the Almighty instead of crowning himself like his narcissistic predecessor used to do so often. He invoked the Name of God four times. In his fifth reference to our Heavenly Father, Mr. Trump said "Almighty Creator." By doing so, he created a vessel of abundance for himself and his family, his administration and all of America. We applaud you, Mr. President!

Here are President Trump's references to God from his speech (in the order he said them):

Reference #1: The Bible tells us how good and pleasant it is when God's people live together in unity...

Reference #2: And most importantly, we will be protected by God...

Reference #3: And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the wind-swept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they will their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same Almighty Creator...

References #4 and #5: God bless you. And God bless America!

Why is the left panicking?

Had the leftists in America won the election, you wouldn't see a single right-winger demonstrating on the streets. Yet, there is no connection between the left and democracy, whether in America or in Israel. Leftists are in the streets because they can't stand when they don't get their own way. How do we know that they are far away from Hashem? Just listen to their constant whining, complaining and distortion of the truth. People close to Hashem neither whine and complain nor distort the truth. See how the leftist mobsters rob the public to further their own hateful agenda and to pad their own pockets. Just moments before he left office, Barack Hussein Obama ripped off $221 million from US citizens - overriding a congressional holding order - and gave it to the Palestinian Authority! $221 million dollars of American money is now on its way to the Fatah terrorists. Would America want this? Did America vote for this? No way!

On a spiritual plane, the leftists do fulfill a task: they are the opposition force to the crowning of Hashem on earth, the Geula (full redemption of our people) and the coming of Moshiach. In the days of Moses, the left was spearheaded by Dothan and Aviram. In this generation, it's the corrupt, greedy global left with such financial and political leaders as Soros and Clinton. Their downfall, in Hashem's infinite mercy, has opened the door once more to the true freedom of speech, where my esteemed and honorable friend Chief Justice Roy Moore of Alabama would no longer be suspended for fighting against abomination in public and for putting the Ten Commandments on his state courthouse. Schoolchildren will once more be allowed to say The Pledge of Allegiance and pray for "One nation under God." The left is panicking because hopefully, emuna will now be spread far and wide.

Hopefully, soon, all of living flesh will call Hashem's Name.

Hopefully, soon, all the children of the world will be looking up at the same sky and calling out in praise and thanksgiving to the One Almighty Creator.

Hopefully, soon, every human on earth will realize his or her inalienable right to establish their own personal relationship with the Creator and to speak to Him whenever they choose.

Thank you, Mr. Trump, for exemplifying what a world leader should be. May Hashem give you the strength and fortitude to continue in this path. With utmost respect and heartfelt blessings,

Rabbi Lazer Brody, Ashdod, Israel


Beams Weekend Magazine: News, Entertainment and Torah

Beams Weekend Vayichi 5777
Welcome to the special issue of Beams Weekend Magazine, a new idea that we'd like to do more of in the future. This week, we have three departments: news and outlook, entertainment and Torah. We hope you enjoy it and would love to hear your feedback.

News and Outlook: Throw the Terrorists in the Trash

According to the "Chafetz Chaim" - the laws governing the wholesomeness of the spoken and the written word, any person who spreads hate and hearsay, purveying gossip and social venom in the world, has no place in the world to come. Therefore, be extra careful about what you say, read and write. Stay away from the gossips, for spiritually, they're like terrorists.

The holy Tanna Rebbe Shimon ben Shatach was the Av Beit Din, the Chief Justice of all of Israel. He saw a person with a drawn sword chasing another person. He ran after the two until he reached an alley-way. The victim was already on the ground, fluttering and about to die. Blood dripped from the assailant's sword. Rebbe Shimon told the assailant, "You evil person, who killed this man, you or me? What can I do, for I cannot bring you to trial, for the Torah demands two witnesses" (Talmud, Sanhedrin 37b). Rebbe Shimon ben Shatach could not try the murderer, but that doesn't mean he went free. When a court down here can't try a person, the Heavenly Court tries the person and justice is much more severe. It wasn't long before the killer suffered an excruciating death after being bitten by a poisonous snake.
 
If Rebbe Shimon ben Shatach couldn't convict a person despite the overwhelming evidence, then why do we allow ourselves to repeat hearsay, gossip and things that haven't been proven in a court of law or a Bet Din? That's dangerous.

Virtually nothing in the newspapers today has been proven in a halachically-legitimate court of law with two halachically- Newspaper cannedacceptable witnesses. There's no way that the Chafetz Chaim would allow reading any of today's newspapers, whether printed or electronic.
 
Newspapers and journalists judge people and print hearsay all the time. They too are required to observe the Chafetz Chaim. Any person who spreads hate and hearsay, purveying gossip and social venom in the world, has no place in the world to come. Therefore, be extra careful about what you say and write. Stay away from the gossips, for spiritually, they're like terrorists. It's easy to dispose of the printed-paper terrorists - just throw them in the trashcan where they belong. Better yet, don't read them in the first place. Why?

Don't you cherish your time? Why squander it on lies and half-truths? What's more, with the politicians' manipulation of the media, every rag has its agenda and you can't believe a thing. 

This weekend, why not try reading something meaningful. Talk about the lessons of this week's Torah portion rather than what Bibi and Noni (why don't they refer to themselves as Benjamin and Arnon?) are saying about each other or what the CNN (Certified Nonsense News) is writing. 

Like other terrorists, newspapers are dangerous to your body too! Unpleasant stories trigger cascades of a steroid hormone by the name of cortisol, aka the "stress hormone". This deregulates your immune system and inhibits the release of growth hormones. In other words, your body finds itself in a state of chronic stress. High cortisol levels  impair digestion as well as cell, hair and bone health. They also cause nervousness, susceptibility to infections and render weight-loss virtually impossible!

Only the evil inclination would tell you to indulge in something so harmful to both body and soul. Don't listen to it; dispose of it in the nearest waste bin together with the newspapers. 

Entertainment: Dudi Knopfler Sings "The Priestly Blessing"

Our very dear friend Dudi Knopfler, one of the rising stars of Jewish music today, has come out with a lovely rendition of the Birkat Cohanim, the Priestly Blessing, which is customarily said to greet the bride and groom as they arrive under the chuppa in Sephardic weddings. We're delighted to feature it, and may these beautiful words and exquisite melody invoke Divine blessings on you and yours. 

Torah: The Left-handed Blessing

Have you ever heard of a "left-handed" compliment? There's a left-handed blessing, too. In this week's Torah portion, Vayichi, our forefather Jacob teaches us exactly what it is, how to use it and the extent of its power. Enjoy, and have a lovely Shabbat!


The Tenth of Teveth and Beyond

This coming Sunday is a fast day, the Tenth of Teveth.

The Tenth of Teveth is a day of mourning, repentance and fasting, where we refrain from eating and drinking from daybreak to nightfall. What is its significance for posterity? Why do we go from a high of Chanuka to a low of the Tenth of Teveth? Today's shiur from the Chut Shel Chesed English-language Kollel in Jerusalem will give us a lot more insight and help us have a meaningful fast. It will also show the Torah's view of political correctness; we hope you find it enlightening: