40 posts categorized "Jewish history and tradition"

Tu B'Av: 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.

Rav Shalom Arush mentioned in his lecture last night in Holon that "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. If you're married, we wish you much joy and wonderful shidduchim for your children. If you're not yet married, we pray that you find your soul-mate in the nearest future, amen!

People who have searching for their soul-mates have had great success after donating to Emuna Outreach. The reason is simple: by you helping others to connect with Hashem, Hashem helps you (or your child, or whomever you're praying for) connect with your bashert, your intended soul-mate. With that in mind, Donate to Emuna Outreach, and we'll be praying to hear good news from you in the nearest future.

Meanwhile, blessings for a lovely Shabbat! If you're going away for Shabbat, safe travels and please drive alertly, with two eyes on the road and two hands on the steering wheel. Hashem loves you, and we do too!

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 "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.

We Will Live On


Today is Holocaust Memorial Day in Israel. We remember the 6,000,000 Jews, 10,000,000 Soviets, and millions of Serbs, Gypsies, and other unfortunate people that were wickedly tortured and murdered by the evil Nazis ym"s. I hope they get their extermination camp torture treatment in hell. Forever. 

I was trying to pick out a picture for this post, and after going through hundreds of absolutely horrifying pictures of men, women, and children having been reduced to bones with a thin layer of skin on top, piles of dead bodies flung like garbage one on top of the other, a pile of legs that were severed at the hip for G-d knows what sick reason, a row of children laying blindfolded on their backs as the EVIL, HORRIBLE, SUBHUMAN Nazis tortured them in ways beyond our worst nightmares, I just couldn't bring myself to post any of it. 

All I can think about now is that picture of those poor innocent children, lying naked and blindfolded, screaming and crying in pain and terror as they're surrounded by soulless beings of death who are the epitome of cruel sick perversion. G-d knows what was being done to them. 

Every time I think about it my heart breaks all over again. I am flooded with pain and "WHY, HASHEM?!?!" even though I know I'm supposed to have emuna that the Holocaust had to happen, because Hashem let it happen.

The above picture is of my father and his father after they arrived in Israel. I believe my father was around 15 when this picture was taken. My father, Moshe, is a Holocaust survivor. He was just eight years old when his father, Zvi z"l, took him on the run from the Germans. My father's mother, Chana Fruma z"l, and his two little sisters, Sarah z"l, and Mindele z"l, were taken to Treblinka extermination camp. 

As I lit four candles and thought about the superhuman strength and unwillingness to give up that my grandfather had, I realized deeply that if it weren't for his ultimate sacrifice, I wouldn't be here. My kids wouldn't be here. And David would be married to someone not nearly as gorgeous.

My grandfather Zvi lives on in me. He lives on in my father, who had to endure nearly three years hiding in wheat fields in Poland while on the run from the Germans and Poles. Three years of being homeless, no food, freezing Polish winters, rain, wild animals, and the constant terror of being discovered and killed. 

I don't know how the survivors were able to physically and mentally get through such gehinnom. 

In honor of today, please read my article describing my father's life in the fields. Even though we are only one or two generations removed from the survivors, we are at risk of losing our sensitivity to what has happened. Just look at what's going on in Syria. So many innocent people, young children and babies, are being murdered in vicious ways as you read this. But the world doesn't step in.

Take a moment to think about the survivors you know and the sacrifices they've made. 

We are here because of them. 

And even though many of them are no longer with us, they are still alive inside of us. 

Just look at these two little monkeys.


My children, me, my siblings, and all future generations that come from us are alive because Zvi Hershl Rubinstein z"l did everything he could to make sure my father stayed alive.  

May his soul and the souls of every single martyr enjoy eternal Divine bliss in that special place in Heaven reserved for those who died sanctifying Hashem's name. 

And may we see the end of pain and suffering in our time, and with tremendous joy, greet our Mashiach and witness the rebuilding of our Holy Temple, Amen! 


The Mitzva of the Half Shekel

Holy Temple Jerusalem
During the time of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, every year during the month of Adar, each adult male from age 20 up would give a half shekel. This was for the purpose of buying sacrificial animals for the Holy Temple for the coming year. That way, every single household in Israel had a share in the holy sacrifices, the avoda of the Holy Temple. The Torah specifically commands that the rich man shall not give more and the poor man shall not give less. This mitzva, called the machtzit hashekel, the mitzva of giving the half shekel, obligated everyone. In the list of the 613 Torah mitzvoth, this is positive mitzva #105 according to the Sefer HaChinuch.

Like the other mitzvoth that are dependent on the Holy Temple, we cannot fulfill this obligation properly until the full redemption of our people when we rebuild the Holy Temple. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that exile and Diaspora are prolonged and the Redemption is delayed because of the lack of emuna in the world.

We show Hashem how we yearn for His mitzvoth and for the Holy Temple by giving charity during the week of Purim to commemorate our giving of the Half Shekel.
Everyone can participate in the mitzva of giving the half shekel. There's something special here too: when a person donates the Half Shekel donation to spread emuna, he or she not only fulfills in commemorating this wonderful mitzva but also hastens the Geula - the full Redemption of our people - and therefore expedites the rebuilding of our Holy Temple. Donate to Emuna Outreach and help Rabbi Arush spread emuna around the globe.