108 posts categorized "Jewish holidays"

The Gift of Trees

Happy Tu B'Shvat 2
Today is Tu B'Shvat, the New Year for trees.

Why do Jews celebrate the New Year for trees? Trees are exemplary in many ways. If your roots aren't deep like a cedar's, then you easily wither. When you're flexible like a date palm, you can survive strong winds, the rough times in life. Trees only do good - they give shade, fruit, prevent soil erosion, and shelter animals and birds. The Zohar tells how Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai and his son Rebbe Elazar lived off a carob tree for thirteen years while hiding from the Romans and immersed in Torah up in the mountains of the Galilee. Trees provided our ancestors with shade, shelter, and a good hideout, and fed them as well. We humans should imitate trees.

I love trees. As a farmer, I planted thousands of trees in the foothills of the Shomron ridge and in the Golan, Negev, and Sharon Valley as well.

Now, dearest brothers and sisters, I have presents in advance for each of you in honor of Tu B'Shvat:

For women: The best face cream in the world - take a ripe avocado, peel the skin and take out the pit, mash it in a dish and add a squeeze of lemon juice (natural only, no substitutes). You now have the best facial treatment in the world. Let it sit for half an hour while you're reading your favorite book or listening to a relaxing CD, and wash it off. Your face will now be young, radiant, and replenished with an abundance of vitamin B6, which retards aging and keeps your skin soft and smooth.

For men: Need a super charge of energy before an important meeting, on the tennis court, or at the office? No time to eat? Put down the junk food! Take a dried date, open it up, remove the pit, and check it for worms. Insert a whole toasted almond, and close it like a sandwich. You now have a tasty snack with readily available high quality carbohydrates and protein to supercharge your system.

For Kids: The Brody's have a dynamite natural non-chocolate chocolate spread: Take a cup (180 cc) of organic whole-seed tehina (sesame paste), add a heaping tablespoon of organic carob powder and four tablespoons of honey. Mix all the ingredients together. You get a fantastic spread that's both super-healthy and tasty. Instead of other sweets, use this spread on bread like you would peanut butter or chocolate spread.


Tu B'Shvat: Sunday Night & Monday, Jan. 24-25, 2016

Almond flowers
Above image: Almond blossoms in the Land of Israel - the sign that Tu B'Shvat is arriving.

Tu B'Shvat this year is Jan. 24-25, Sunday night and Monday. This is the New Year of the Trees. Many ask why Jews need a New Year for trees? Here are a few answers:

Few nations are so environmentally aware as the Jewish People; Tu B'Shvat, for example, is a day when we focus on beautifying the earth we live on. Especially here in Israel, Tu B'Shvat is a day of planting trees all across the countryside. Consider planting a tree (or two, or three, or more) in your backyard. What's more, many people plant a fruit tree every time they are blessed with a new child, for trees in Jewish tradition are symbolic of fertility, children and abundance. that's truly a beautiful custom. See more in Save the Trees, one of our feature articles in this week's Tu B'Shvat issue of Breslev Israel magazine.

It's no secret that that the nations of the world protest our right to the Land of Israel. But what does give us the right to every bit of our holy land? Tu B'Shvat is the answer, as we explain in Planting and Posterity. By the way, there's a big connection between Tu B'Shvat and the Shovevim weeks.

One of the first things a person is supposed to do when he comes to the Land of Israel is to plant fruit trees. In this manner, the settlers of the Land of Israel are truly partners with the Almighty in creation. How? The Torah calls the Holy Land "a land of milk and honey" more than a dozen times. Rashi explains that the honey that Torah refers to is the honey that flows forth from the luscious dates and figs, two of the seven special species of the Land of Israel that the Torah praises. Therefore, those who plant date palms and fig trees help the Land of Israel manifest its potential from creation, for they are the fortunate emissaries who enhance the flow of honey in the Holy Land. Read all about in in Trees, Israel and Geula.

Here's a big treat for Tu B'Shvat: Did you know that Israel's trees also give milk as well as honey? Try this delicious recipe, which is super healthy for children, athletes, expecting and nursing mothers or virtually everyone, which you'll find in Tree Milk and Honey.

This week's Torah portion is Yitro, where we'll read about the Ten Commandments. From all the myriad of wonders, miracles and acts of loving-kindness that Hashem does for us, the Torah juxtaposes “I am Hashem your God” with the exodus from “the land of Egypt and the house of bondage.” “I am Hashem your God” is the first of the Ten Commandments, the commandment of emuna - to believe in Hashem, the One true God. Hashem Himself is telling us that emuna is the precursor and prerequisite of exodus and geula, as we'll learn in Emuna and Geula.

Also featured this week:

Rav Shalom Arush: Be Positive

Dr. Zev Ballen: Effective Soul-Healing

Racheli Reckles: Private Eyes

David Perlow: Saving a Life

Jenn Safra: The Mysterious Honk

Dovber Halevi: The Greatest Growth Coach

Happy Tu B'Shvat and blessings for a wonderful new week!

Chanuka Hallel with Rav Shalom Arush

Weekday Chanuka prayers at the Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva in Jerusalem are 3 hours long; Hallel itself takes an entire hour and a half. It's a joyous prayer with musical accompaniment and dancing, where we thank and praise Hashem profusely. Here's what Hallel looks like (this past Thursday morning) with Chut Shel Chessed's Rosh Yeshiva and my beloved rabbi and teacher Rav Shalom Arush shlit'a. Happy Chanuka!

The Blacksmith of Grodno

Blacksmith of Grodno
Shabbat Chanukah reminds me of my great grandfather, who died some 26 years before I was born.

My maternal great grandfather, Reb Yankev ("The Blacksmith") Podrub from Grodno, Belarus (formerly Poland) was a legendary figure in the annals of Stolin-Karlin Chassidus. He arms were like twisted steel, but his disposition was extremely gentle. Although he was a blacksmith. he was also a Talmudic scholar. He worked so that his little brother, Arie Leib, could attend rabbinical yeshiva. Ultimately, Arie Leib became the head rabbi of Meretch in Lithuania and one of the prime students of Rav Chaim Ozer Grudzinski, osb"m.

The renowned "Yanuka" of Stolin, the famous Rebbe Yisroel Perlov ob'm who had over 20,000 Chassidim, would stay in Reb Yankev's house every Shabbat Chanuka when he'd visit his chassidim in Grodno. Even more, The Stoliner Rebbe - who loved horses - insisted that only Reb Yankev shoe his horses. From what the old Stoliner Chassidim told me, the Rebbe loved my great-grandfather's pure and simple emuna and the innocence in which he served Hashem. Reb Yankev would be so excited that the Rebbe was a guest in his home that he'd dance all night long. Rav Binyomin Adler, who was head of the Kashruth Department in the Jerusalem Rabbinate, heard from his uncle - who was also a guest in my great grandfather's home when the Rebbe was there, that Reb Yankev danced all night long in the living room, singing, "Shabbat! Chanukah! Rosh Chodesh! Rebbe!" and making such a commotion that no one could sleep.

What was so special about Reb Yankev? He never spoke small talk. Even at work, he'd mumble tehillim and mishnayot. Also, his trust in Hashem was phenominal - he'd only work long enough to earn that same day's bread with one extra kopeck; he saved the extra kopecks in a jar all year long, and then at the end of the year, he'd use the money to travel to his Rebbe in Stolin for Rosh Hashanna. As such, my great grandfather lived his connection with the tzaddik all year long.

The minute Reb Yankev finished his day's work, he'd fly up the stairs to the Stoliner shtiebel, conveniently located on the second floor over the smithy, and open up a Gemara. Grodno lore holds him as one of the hidden tzaddikim of the area, may his blessed memory be cherished always.

***There's a poignant epilog to the above story: when I received my rabbinical ordination in 1992 from Rav Yitzchak Kulitz of blessed memory, former head Rabbi of Jerusalem, he told me that my great-uncle Arie Leib, Reb Yankev's younger brother, was the rabbi who ordained his father. In fact, when Rabbi Arie Leib passed away, Rav Kulitz's father took his place as the head rabbi of Meretch in Lithuania. It was my great grandfather who enabled his little brother Arie Leib to learn in Yeshiva. Now, Rav Kulitz was ordaining me - a lovely cycle was completed.

I heard the above stories and many more from my grandmother Kailie of blessed memory, from Rav Yitzchak Kulitz of blessed memory, former head Rabbi of Jerusalem, who as a little boy saw my great grandfather, and from Rav Benyamin Adler shlit'a of Jerusalem, whose uncle knew my great grandfather well, and from the elderly Stolin-Karlin chassidim of Jerusalem.

I know that alte zaidie (Yiddish for great grandfather) has nachas (gratification) that his great granchildren are continuing on in the way of Torah and Chassidus. You know what that means? The Greeks and the Hellenists lost, and so did Hitler and western assimilation. With simple emuna, we shall continue to overcome, with G-d's help. Have a wonderful Shabbat Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh!

Jihad and an Isolated Israel

Yael Negev Ibex
The U.S. State Department, the White House and the European Union have been doing their utmost this past year to isolate Israel; we owe them our sincere our gratitude for their unrelenting efforts, for an isolated Israel is great news.

Why does the President of the United States and the State Department repeatedly deny the presence of Jihadi forces in America? Simply because they support Jihad. Obama's best friend Erdogan is the world's #1 consumer of ISIS oil; the revenue Turkey pays ISIS keeps the Jihad alive. As far as the White House and the State Department are concerned, Turkey is a valuable ally while Israel is expendable. There's therefore no way to trust the current USA administration.

If anyone in Israel entertained the thought of leaving a hostile Obama-Kerry administration and turning to Putin, Hashem put a veto on that. While fighting ISIS, Putin is solidly aligned with Iran and Hezbulla, Israel's sworn enemies.

The seemingly confusing world situation (but crystal clear according to emuna) is that the USA is backing the Sunni Moslems while Russia is behind the Shiite Moslems. Both Sunnis and Shiites are bent on destroying Israel. The result is that we're totally isolated. "Thank You, Hashem, for isolating us; everything that happens in the world is Your doing, and it's all for the best!"

Moses blessed the People of Israel before he died, "And Israel shall dwell in security isolated." This is one of the best blessings of Torah, if only we'd heed it...

In the south of Israel in the Negev Desert, lives an amazing creature, the Yael - the Ibex, or Israeli mountain goat (see photo, above). You won't find a more sure-footed animal in creation. It's breathtaking to see the Yael walk along steep and narrow mountain ledges, where the slightest slip means plunging down hundreds of meters to the canyon below. But the fact that the Yael lives in such rugged and treacherous terrain is also his protection. He dwells alone, where no predator or enemy can reach him.

When we the people of Israel dwell on a spiritual high of unshakable emuna, no predator or enemy can reach us either. Perhaps one of the reasons that the Shofar is made from the horn of a Yael is to teach us to be like him. When we put all our trust in Hashem, we too are surefooted and never fall.

The important news is that Chanuka reminds us to rid ourselves of any and all foreign influence and dependence. Thank goodness, we lead lives of Torah and emuna, and we don't lead two-faced and immoral governments.

Any person with emuna should be delighted that the administration in Washington, DC has blatantly betrayed Israel. Any occasion in our history when Israel depended on a foreign power led to submission and tragedy. It's about time we did what Hashem wants us to do and not what foreign governments want us to do. For example, the cowardly building freeze in Israel during the last six years as a capitulation to the White House did not bring peace; it only created a shortage of at least 20,000 housing units and drove apartment prices here through the roof. The 3,000 units that the Israeli Government is currently planning are certainly welcome, but still a drop in the bucket.

Don't be afraid as the nations of the world isolate us - Hashem is doing this for our very best and as preparation for the imminent redemption of our people - the Geula. You'd like to be part of the Geula, wouldn't you? Or do you prefer to continue hiding your kippa in your pocket and wearing a baseball hat or a beret so that your hostile neighbors won't know that you're Jewish?

Live like a Yael, with no fear of anyone but Hashem. Vayishkon Yisrael betach badad - "And Israel shall dwell in security isolated." Happy Chanuka from the Land of Emuna.

Psalm 100: Song of Thanks

Tonight (Sunday, Dec. 6, 2015) is the first night of Chanuka. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches us that Chanukah is a special time to express our gratitude to Hashem. With that in mind, let's take 60 seconds to say Psalm 100 together, here, in a most special place where I love to go for my solitary personal prayer sessions, on Israel's golden beach not far from my home in the south side of Ashdod: