50 posts categorized "Hashkafa - Jewish outlook"

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: 

UN Resolution 2334: The Height of Hypocrisy vs. the Light of Truth

UN 2334
On the eve of Chanuka, the UN passed the Obama-initiated Resolution 2334 that delegitimizes Israel's ownership of the Western Wall remnant of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem, our patriarch's and matriarch's graves in Maarat Machpela in Hevron, Joseph's gravesite in Shechem, the site of our Holy Tabernacle in Shiloh and all Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel beyond the pre-1967 borders.

Everything Hashem does turns out for the very best. Ever since Resolution 2334 passed, it has not stopped raining in Israel after a long and difficult drought.

Since the dawn of our people's history, we've suffered from two types of enemies - the tyrants from the outside and the self-deprecating segment of our population from within. Chanuka teaches that miraculously, we always overcome both. This time is no exception.

I want to add one thing: how the USA refused to veto a resolution whose preamble states the unacceptability of acquiring territory by force is an insult to the intelligence of any normal human being. In case anyone has forgotten, our Holy Land's borders and the Almighty's granting of it to us are clearly stated in the Torah. Not so is the case of the entire USA. In 1967 (what a coincidence, huh? No, it's Hashem laughing ahead of time), William C. Sturtevant of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC drew a map (below - click on it to see it in enlarged size) showing how the entire USA belongs to the Native American Tribes, who were brutally and mercilessly forced out of their tribal lands. According to 2334, all of today's USA is one big illegal settlement. Oh, and in case you didn't know, the White House is built on land forcibly taken from the Powhatan Native Americans. See Sturtevant's map below and have a continued Happy Chanuka basking in the lights of truth.

  Smithsonian Map Native American tribes USA

Mattatyahu's Courage

Kever Mattatyahu
Image above: the holy gravesite of Mattatyahu son of Yochanan, the High Priest (Cohen HaGadol), father and spiritual leader of the Maccabees

Happy Chanuka!

Mattatyahu Cohen HaGadol, whom we remember every time we say the "Al HaNissim" prayer during Chanuka, is buried in a cave in a forest, about a kilometer north of Highway 443 near Mevo Modiin.

Mattatyahu and his sons fought a double war - not only against the Syrian Greeks, but against the 95% of the Jewish people who had become assimilated Hellenists. But because of his steadfast, unwavering and uncompromising commitment to Hashem, to his emuna, to the Torah and to his homeland, he was able to overcome all obstacles and instill the fire of emuna and total dedication in the hearts of his brave sons and daughter.

Where did he get his strength and courage from?

Nothing gives a person strength like clarification of the truth. A person who knows the truth and who lives according to the truth is as fierce as a lion. He is not willing to live a lie; so, if you take the truth away from him, he'll no longer regard his life as worth living. That's why our ancestors in every generation all the way back to our forefather Abraham were willing to sacrifice their last breath and heartbeat for our faith in Hashem and our Torah.

Mattatyahu and his sons Yehuda, Elazar, Shimon, Yochanan and Yonatan knew the truth. For a servant of Hashem, life is worthless without Torah, emuna, and holiness. The Hellenists fooled themselves while trying to dilute the truth and appease the Syrian Greeks, but the latter wanted to destroy it altogether and to substitute it with a life of pursuing bodily amenities.

Did Hashem send our souls down to this lowly earth just for another piece of steak, another fling with the opposite sex, or another NBA game? Those who waste their lives in the pursuit of material appetites are neither happy nor fulfilled. What's worse, they haven't devoted a single minute to clarifying the truth.

21" biceps won't give you courage. Truth and emuna will.

If the Prime Minister of Israel would clarify the truth, no foreign pressure in the world would sway him a single millimeter. If a teenager would clarify the truth, then he'd say no to the stupid things that his peers are doing. If a woman knew the truth, she wouldn't care if her neighbors called her "nebby" or "yachna" for dressing the way Hashem wants her to dress. If a man would be honest with himself, he'd realize how contemptable it would be to sacrifice one's entire family for a few moments of illicit thrills.

Mattatyahu and his sons were masters at truth clarification. They weren't willing to live for two minutes without the truth. That's where they derived the courage to fight a virtually impossible war. And that's why they won.

While we're basking in the holy light of the Chanuka candles, let's ponder the real meaning of this beautiful festival that commemorates the miracle of the few prevailing over many, the pure prevailing over the impure, and the light prevailing over darkness. Let's remember the dedication and commitment of Mattatyahu and his sons. Let's strengthen ourselves and carry their torch of Torah and truth, no matter what the odds. We can do it. All we need is emuna. Happy Chanuka!

Thoughts for Thanksgiving

Turkey Holiday
Thanksgiving is a special American holiday celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November. It commemorates the first Pilgrim corn harvest in 1621, the year after the Mayflower arrived in North America.

I wonder how many Americans are really familiar with the history of Thanksgiving. In effect, every single American owes thanks to a Native North American by the name of Squanto.
Squanto, a member of the Pawtuxet tribe who had been kidnapped by an English sea captain and sold into slavery before escaping to London, eventually managed to return to his homeland on an exploratory expedition. Squanto greeted the arriving Pilgrims, many of whom were devastated by malnutrition and illness, and taught them - from the goodness of his heart - how to cultivate corn, extract sap from maple trees, catch fish in the rivers and avoid poisonous plants. He also helped the settlers forge an alliance with the Wampanoag, a local tribeled by Chief Metacomet, also known as King Philip, who did much in helping the strangers from England adapt to North American life.
The increasing numbers of Pilgrims responded to the kindness of the Native Americans by forcibly trying to convert them to Christianity. Chief Metacomet bitterly objected to the terrible influence that the new arrivals had on his people, which triggered a bloody war that took the lives of the vast majority of the Wampanoag Indians. Their allies, the Narraganset, were also killed. Those that were not killed in war fled to other tribes. Those who were captured were either exiled or sold into slavery.
Where's the gratitude?
In Judaism, there are two types of commandments - those between man and G-d and those between man and fellow man. The commandments between man and fellow man are very serious, for Hashem will not forgive a human who has done damage to a fellow human until the wrongdoer asks and receives the forgiveness of the victim. Not only that, but as long as a wrongdoer fails to ask forgiveness from the victim, Hashem won't listen to the wrongdoer's prayers, as we learn from the Code of Jewish Law in the laws of Yom Kippur.
Probably the greatest fulfillment of the commandment of loving our  fellow human is to express our gratitude for any favor - big or small - that our fellow human does for us. As much as Judaism honors and cherishes gratitude, it utterly loathes ingratitude.
The lowest form of ingrate is the person who returns an act of kindness with an act of evil. King Solomon says, "He who repays a favor with evil, evil shall never depart from his domain" (Proverbs 17:13).
The evangelistic Pilgrims in 17th Century North America were certainly not the first to return the Wampanoag Indians' kindnesses by killing those who refused to forsake the ways of their ancestors and convert.
Consider these two points that the Torah cites:
Point 1: Lot was Abraham's wayward nephew who preferred a life of lust in Sodom to a life of holiness with his uncle in Hevron. Lot was captured when King Amarphel (Nimrod) and his allies defeated the 5 kings of Sodom. Abraham risked his life to go to war for the sole purpose of freeing his nephew; Hashem gave Abraham success and Lot's life was saved.
Point 2:  But, when Sodom and Amorra were destroyed, Lot was spared by virtue of his uncle.
We see that not once, but twice, Lot was saved in his uncle Abraham's merit.
Yet, how do Lot's offspring, the nations of Ammon and Moav, react to Abraham's offspring? They hire the wicked soothsayer Bilaam to curse the Israelites, hoping that they'll annihilate them in battle.
The Gemara tells that the grandsons of Haman are learning Torah in Bnai Brak. How can that be? Haman tried to wipe us off the map!
Yes, Judaism will accept the offspring of Esau and Amalek as a righteous convert. There are righteous converts in Israel today whose grandparents were officers in Hitler's SS. But, Judaism will not accept the offspring of Ammon and Moav. We don't want any genes of ingratitude mixing into our people.
A Jew's entire being is gratitude. The word for Jew in Hebrew - Yehudi - means one who thanks. From the moment we rise in the morning to the moment we retire at night, we're thanking Hashem. But, we must also remember to appreciate and express our gratitude for the many favors we receive from others, and particularly our parents and our spouse. When a husband and wife are grateful to each other, their marriage is total bliss.
For a Jew, every single day of the year is Thanksgiving.
It's nice to eat turkey, succotash and pumpkin pie once a year. But is the holiday authentic when it's celebrated on the ashes of the native Americans who helped the newcomers survive, only to be repaid by having their blood spilled? Doesn't anyone do any soul-searching? Shouldn't someone ask forgiveness of and recompense the native Americans? How does anyone in the State Department dare criticize the settlements in our holy Land of Israel, built on our Divine-given inheritance from over 3500 years ago? Our sages teach us that people tend to project their own blemishes on others.
Sorry, but my heart goes out to the Indians. Their tribulations are so remindful of ours - persecuted by invading missionaries, exiled from their land, and discriminated in so many ways. Their lot has not been turkey and cranberry sauce, but a trail of tears. Someone ought to apologize to them. Until they do, their spiritual status resembles that of Ammon and Moav. They have long since perished. The Thanksgiving holiday without true and sincere gratitude is nothing but a turkey holiday, pun intended.
This Thanksgiving (once again, every day for a Jew), let's remember to thank Hashem and to thank our fellow human for all the good they do for us. Thank the mailman for delivering the mail; thank your boss for getting your paycheck on time; thank your wife the hundreds of favors she does all day long, and thank your husband for bringing home the bread. Take nothing for granted. Maybe we can't rectify all of society, but we can sure start by rectifying ourselves. Don't be a turkey - say thank you and be sincere about it. And remember, it's good to thank Hashem anytime and anywhere. Enjoy your turkey!
Here's the cherry on the cake: the word in Hebrew for turkey is hodu, which means, "give thanks!"

What Do We Learn from Donald Trump?

What do we learn from President-elect Donald Trump?

King Solomon provides the answer in Ecclesiastes 3:15, check it out; if you don't understand it, I'll explain in today's shiur. But, I'll preface with one important principle: Mr. Trump did not become a billionaire by wasting time and engaging in inconsequential endeavors. Imagine that every second of the day were another $100 bill in our bank account; we'd be making $6000/minute or $360,000 an hour, becoming millionaires in less than three hours. Is our minute as important to us as Mr. Trump's minute is important to him?

Today, we're happy to share with you a hashkafa (Jewish outlook) shiur that I said last week in the Chut Shel Chesed English-speakers' Kollel. Enjoy it:

The Month of Tikkun

Hi! Racheli here. I don't know about you, but I find that this month of Elul is full of tikkunim, or soul corrections. Every day something happens. Yesterday, a tree managed to jump in my way as I was backing into a parking spot. I don't know how it did that. I think it was a suicidal tree. In any case, it broke my rear tail light, and made a nice big dent in the corner of my back bumper. 

Even though my husband wasn't driving, I'm still convinced that it's his fault somehow. The weird thing was that my sensor didn't beep when I was backing up. Usually it beeps to warn me that there's something behind me. But it could be that the tree was off to the side before it decided to jump in my way. The other weird thing is how my car managed to back up onto the sidewalk itself. It's a situation full of mystery.

In any case, my car backed up into a tree. On the sidewalk. Obviously this was a necessary tikkun for something hubby did wrong. You know? I just realized what it was! I now remember having asked him many times to take the baby to school, but he came up with all sorts of lame excuses, like he had to pray and get to work. See? I'm also full of excuses.

I was about to get upset, but as I surveyed the junkmobile, I realized that there were so many dents, scratches, and missing tail light covers, so what was one more dent? Thank God I own the car and I'm not looking to sell it any time soon. At the end of the day, better the car get banged up instead of something worse happening. 

That's how we need to look at everything that goes wrong in life, and especially during the month of Elul. Hashem is doing us great favors by sending us one tikkun after another this month. It means that He wants us to have as much of a clean slate as possible going into Rosh Hashana. If you're experiencing a crazy month of, well, craziness, thank Hashem for it. He obviously loves you very much and is doing everything to insure that you will have a year filled with blessings. Now if a tree happens to jump in front of my car when I'm driving, I'm gonna have to get my eyes checked. Have a great day!