66 posts categorized "Jewish Customs and Practice"

Rare Glimpse of Chassidic Israel: Celebration of New Torah Scroll

Here is a rare documentary and inside glimpse of life in the Chassidic community of Ashdod, Israel. The Melitzer Rebbe of Ashdod, may Hashem bless him with health and long life, sponsors the gala celebration of the completion of a new Torah scroll and the festive parade from his home to the Melitzer Synagogue, where the new Torah scroll was received with singing, dancing, prayer and a festive meal, in a total holiday atmosphere with the Melitzer Chassidim dressed in their Sabbath and holiday garb. Enjoy it:


What The World Needs Now

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What a spectacular backyard, right? Yesterday we arrived in Chicago to visit David's family. It's so peaceful out here. Great for thinking and reflecting. Which is exactly what I've been doing, besides yelling at the kids to stop fighting. 

It's been quite a whirlwind of emotions since I've been back. What's really interesting is that in just a week, I've met so many different people. 

Well, it's mainly because I'm a young-ish looking woman walking around with 5 little kippah and tzizit-wearing gangstas who are by far the LOUDEST kids in my parents' building. But aside from that, people stare at me because I'm so gorgeous surrounded by so many children. 

I feel like I've almost hit celebrity status. The more daring ones stop themselves from gawking at us long enough to ask me, "Are these all yoursss??" And I'm like, "Fo' shizzle! Would you like my autograph?" 

It takes a minute for their brains to reboot. I can tell by the momentary blank stare they give me. When they return to full consciousness, they give me incredulous looks that seem to be a combination of "you're crazy" and pity. 

In just one week, all kinds of people have been coming up to me, just to tell me that they're Jewish. It's so interesting. I mean, 5 boys in kippahs and tzizit walking around areas of Miami Beach that are not primarily religious is not a common sight. 

Their obvious Jewishness seems to compel some people to come up to me and tell me they're Jewish too. I think that's amazing. It shows me that even though they aren't making their Jewishness obvious (yet,) their spark still burns bright inside. The other morning, another resident in my parents' building came up to me and said, "I am one of the community."

I smiled and politely asked, "Oh, you live in the building?" Luckily, he didn't get the fact that I didn't get what he was saying, and after a few minutes of conversation it finally clicked. 

Another lady I met told me she does absolutely nothing Jewish. She was raised by parents that forced Judaism on her in a way that made her resentful and burnt out. She has disconnected so much from anything Jewish that she even questions the existence of G-d. 

What motivated these people to come up to me and tell me they're Jewish? What feelings did seeing my kids bring out in them?

My feeling is that they came up to me because they needed something, but they didn't necessarily realize what. Could it be they were saying, "I'm Jewish but I don't feel any connection. I know Hashem exists, but I don't know anything about Him. Please help me understand."

I can only speculate why, but the reality is that there are so many precious souls here that are searching for a connection with Hashem. They want more, but they don't necessarily want to be more religious.

That's why emuna is so great. It can bring someone close to G-d who was so far, without compelling them to become religious at the same time. It can also bring a deeper spiritual meaning to a person who has been observant all of his life. 

Without emuna, is it possible to be at peace with one's life and all of the challenges that come along with it? Is it really possible to have a strong spiritual connection to Hashem if a person doesn't have emuna?

So now, after 8+ years of being a fortunate member of the amazing Breslev Israel family, I can finally understand what the one most important thing the world needs is: emuna. 

Now that we're in the nine days of Av, days of mourning the many devastating occurrences that have happened to the Jewish People throughout our history, we should also be mourning the fact that so many people, Jews and non-Jews, don't have a solid connection with Hashem.

It is this solid connection, the emuna that is the foundation of our happiness and survival, that the world needs more than anything.

I genuinely hope that all of our efforts to spread emuna throughout the world will be blessed with success, so we can experience a joyful Redemption and the end of all pain and suffering, Amen!

Wishing you all an easy and meaningful fast!

~Racheli

p.s.- Check out Rav Brody's weekly emuna shiur details below!


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 Special Day for the Parent's Prayer - Today, Erev Rosh Chodesh Sivan

LB Brit Of Nachman Reckles
Today (Monday) is the eve of the new month of Sivan, the most opportune day of the year for us to prayer for our children. Our custom is to say the Shla's Prayer ("Shla" is the acronym for "Shnai Luchot Habrit", a classic guide to the service of Hashem). We must pray for the little lambs to become sturdy rams. Don't miss this golden opportunity. You can pray for your children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And if you don't yet have children, this is an opportune time to ask for children. May Hashem answer all your prayers!


The "Challakeh" ceremony: Significance of a boy's 3rd birthday and first haircut

The "Challakeh" ceremony is when a Jewish child receives his first haircut at the age of three.

The age of 3 marks a turning point in a toddler's life. Shedding the long locks of babyhood helps little boys look forward to their new "big boy" responsibilities. Gone are the days of bottle, diaper and nestling in Mommy's arms. A 3-year-old boy is ready to receive "payis", his side curls, a "kipa" (skullcap), and "tztitzis", the ritual fringes that every male Jew is commanded to wear. With his new haircut, kipa, payis, and tzitzis, the little fellow of 3 is ready to move up to the world of friends, school and formal Torah education. He will learn blessings, prayers and the Hebrew alphabet. Yes - we begin teaching our little boys to read at the age of 3.

Cutting his hair makes a strong emotional impression on the child. He knows he is entering a new stage of maturity, a fact that helps him live up to his new role and responsibilities.

Numerous families celebrate the "challakeh" at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai, in Miron, Israel, and cut the child's hair near the cave where he lived and later died. Others prefer to take the child to a yeshiva or to their own rabbi - preferably a scholar and a pious man, because the "upsherin", or actual 1st haircut, should be done in a holy place and by a righteous person. Oftentimes, before the child gets his final haircut, first the scissors go from hand to hand while family, friends and rabbis take turns snipping. The first cut is at the spot where tefillin will be placed.

In Israel, this custom is closely associated with Lag B'Omer, which this year is today, May 3. It's an incredibly joyous scene as hundreds of 3-year-old boys receive their first haircut at the grave of Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai. Because this custom is tied into Kabbalistic thought concerning the spirituality of hair, many put off the ceremony until Lag B'Omer. Following their haircuts, the children each get a plastic Aleph-Bet card, with honey smeared on each letter. Parents then encourage their little ones to lick the honey while saying each letter, so that Torah should be "sweet on their tongues."

Nachman Challakeh Lag B'Omer

Above image: A Brody grandson in Meron on Lag B'Omer a few years ago, moments before his first haircut. A hearty mazal-tov to all of us who will be making "Challakehs" for our 3-year olds today - may we have all the sweetness and joy in the world, and see our children and grandchildren growing in health of body and spirit, amen.


All For One

Hey everyone, it’s David, Racheli’s lucky husband. I’d like to talk to you about a very special person who, through his untimely and tragic passing, taught me the real meaning of unity. 

Nearly eight years ago when my family and I made aliyah, Rav Brody told me something that I didn’t understand: “When a soldier dies in the States, most people don’t hear about it. If they do, they’re not deeply affected by it. But when a soldier dies in Israel, the entire country mourns his loss.”

I superficially understood his point because my Memorial Day holidays consisted of partying at the beach with friends. Unless someone personally knew a soldier that had perished in battle, no one else felt the solemn occasion of the day.

But here, it’s very different.

Here, most Israelis feel the pain of Memorial Day. Unfortunately I finally understood why, this past week. My dear friend from shul lost his beloved 20-year-old son last Friday night as he was chasing terrorists during a smuggling operation. May Hashem avenge his martyred blood. 

The tank he was driving somehow veered off-course and turned upside down. The explosives it was carrying blew up while he was still inside…

No one should know from such horror.

A group of my buddies from shul went with me to the funeral this past Sunday. To say everyone there was crying would be a sorry understatement. My heart breaks every time I think about my friend having to watch his son’s martyred body being lowered into the ground.

Yesterday my friends and I were catching up, and two of them said something very telling. One mentioned that when he was asked at work why he wasn’t there Sunday, he explained that he was at the funeral of his friend’s son who had just been killed in battle. “Oh, Eliyahu Drori?” the co-worker asked with tears in his eyes.

My other friend recalled a strikingly similar conversation at his workplace.

To me, this revelation says it all.

Although on the surface there is so much tension between Israelis, and they can start fighting with each other at any moment, underneath there is a deep connection that Americans can never understand.

I see it at my gym. When a guy walks in and starts hugging all of his friends with such warmth, even though they’re sweating like crazy, I see the love, the brotherhood they share with each other.

Being a part of the army together, risking your lives at every moment together, going through grueling, nearly impossible trainings and missions together - that creates a bond that is indescribable.

And this bond is not just between soldiers. Every soldier here is like the son and daughter of every parent. Every father and mother cries when they hear of a soldier being killed. They feel the pain of that soldier’s parents in such a deep way.

I understand because that’s the way I feel about my friend.

Eliyahu z”l was a former student of my oldest son’s yeshiva. I was touched by the outpouring of support by the entire staff, as well as students that had never met him. My son Yehuda arranged for his class to hold morning prayers at the shiva home for the duration of the shiva. This morning, some of the faculty spoke about him and fondly remembered him as a special light, a sweet soul that was a much loved addition to their school.

To my dear friends, the Drori family, words cannot express the immense sorrow I feel for you. Even though I had only met Eliyahu a few times at shul, I was touched by his warm smile and friendly demeanor. You were truly fortunate to have him as a son.

May he and all of the righteous martyrs that died for the sake of the Jewish People, or because they were Jewish, shine brightly in that special place in Heaven reserved for the most precious of souls. And may we see the end of pain and suffering, and joyfully greet the Mashiach and all of our loved ones once again, speedily, Amen.

In loving memory of Eliyahu Drori z"l. Don't miss Rav Brody's Memorial Day post below. 

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