125 posts categorized "Jewish holidays"

Days of Gratitude

No part of the Torah, including all Jewish festivals and holidays, will ever become discontinued or nullified, for the Torah is eternal. If so, why did our Sages promise that the Chanukah will never be abolished?

You're are cordially invited to join us in the Chut Shel Chesed English-language Kollel to see and hear my Chanuka message to our students there, where I answer the above question and more. Enjoy - Shabbat Shalom and Happy Chanuka!

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!

Maccabee - What's in a Name?

KB and Gemara
Happy Chanuka!

There are three known sources for name "Maccabee":

  1. Acronym of Hebrew phrase "Mi Kamocha B'elim A'donoi" (Exodus 15:11) - Who is like You among the gods, Hashem?
  2. Acronym of Mattathias's name "Mattatyahu Cohen ben Yochanan".
  3. The ancient Greek word for "mighty" or "hammer". 

In any event, the word "Maccabee" was embroidered on their flags as they went into battle. With that in mind, I choose above option #1 as the most plausible source of the term "Maccabee", although above option #2 could have become their family name. The Maccabees themselves certainly wouldn't have used a Greek term to nickname themselves, so I don't think that above option #3 is likely.

Mattathias the High Priest (Cohen Gadol) and his five sons Yehuda, Shimon, Yonatan, Yochanan and Elazar were all holy men and Torah scholars of the highest order. What's more, they had unshakable emuna. Sure, they were history's greatest fighters, but only their emuna enabled them to withstand such insurmountable odds. Eventually, Yehuda and Elazar were killed in battle, while Shimon, Yonatan and Yochanan were assassinated in politically motivated plots. What is history teaching us? While the might of the Maccabees didn't prevent their untimely deaths, the light of the Maccabees lives on to this day. What do we learn from this?

The kettlebells are great, but they're not enough. You need the Gemara too. May the light of Chanuka illuminate your home, amen!

DANGER! Donuts Ahead


I have a big problem. You can clearly see that there's a donut missing next to the one that's hemmorhaging jelly. Couldn't I at least have waited until I got home to eat it? NO WAY! Actually, I have two problems: first, I can't manage to go food shopping less than five times a week. Every day, something runs out. I don't know how it happens, because I buy so much food! I'm beginning to suspect that there's an eating monster in the house as I suspiciously look over my shoulder with one eyebrow raised. Which leads into the second problem: I pass at least two or three bakeries every time I go food shopping. They're everywhere, because Israel doesn't have a Starbucks to put on every corner. One day, G-d willing...

The eating monster follows me around town, and puts me under a hypnotic spell when I pass the bakery. How am I supposed to resist the smell of fresh baked donuts with 10 pounds of powdered sugar on top? So I bought three, because it was more cost-efficient that way. I'm trying to save money, here. I'm thinking about letting my five kids split the other two, but that wouldn't be very fair, would it? So to save myself the aggravation of fighting and screaming, I think I'm going to eat them before the kids get home. I don't have much time, so I'd better act fast.

So Chanukah is here! Yippee! Eight days of a fried food fest. Does anyone know if you can bake latkes (potato cakes)? Let me know. What does Chanukah mean to me? It means eight days of war. The Chashmonaim may have fought the Greeks to the bloody death, but that doesn't mean that my personal war with the donuts is any less life-threatening. 

I have to strengthen myself against those despicable donuts and resist their temptations. Being that it's likely not going to happen, I will use my backup tactic and avoid bakeries at all costs until the following week. That's not really going to happen, either.

As I write this, I'm already sighing in defeat as I see my stomach puffing up like a fluffy, soft, chewy, sweet, doughy, sugary, heavenly donut. AAAARRRGGGGHHH!!!!

The following eight days of donut wars are but a small part of the daily wars that we have every day. That was redundant, no? Every day, we fight a bloody war to the death with our own personal monster, the Evil Inclination. He tries his best to eliminate us by getting us to behave in ways that are, let's just say, not in our best interests.

But we can use this amazing spiritual energy of the next eight days to fight him and win! Chanukah is a time of tremendous spiritual strengthening, and it contains the energy of miracles. By lighting the chanukiah, we can access this energy and put it in our spiritual bank accounts, for when we really need a miracle. 

So as I stuff my face with jelly and non-jelly-filled donuts for the next eight days, or until the bakery stops making them, I have one thing to say to my Evil Inclination: DIE, YOU WICKED MONSTER! If that doesn't work, I'm planning to kill him by stuffing his face with donuts until he gets sick and dies. 

Wishing all of our dear friends a big Shabbat Shalom and Chanukah Sameach!

p.s.- Don't forget to scroll down to catch Rav Brody's parsha shiur!


My Fire Will Burn




Hey, all! It's Racheli, and my stomach is about to burst. I spent most of my Sukkot cooking in the kitchen, because where else would I cook? In addition, most laundry was off limits, so I had some free time. It's not like I have a life or anything. The truth is, I didn't leave Bet Shemesh because I'm terrified of getting stuck in traffic with five kids in the car. Someone suggested that I take them to the zoo, but I was like, why would I do that? I live at the zoo. 

If you still have some brain space left that's not occupied with the most insane Presidential race in history, then you're probably wondering why I posted a picture of half my stove top. It's because I'm bored. And tired. 

So here are the real reasons. First, I was too lazy to clean the other half. Second, on Shabbat, we had my husband's second cousin twice removed and her family over. What in the world does that mean?! What is a second cousin twice removed? Is that the same thing as a third cousin? Is it easier than saying, "My mother's cousin's daughter's from her mother's side?

We were talking about her new neighbor, who happens to be Breslev, and my husband asked her jokingly if she had a big "B" on her forehead, to which I responded, "No, she has the fire symbol in diamonds on her forehead."

This fire symbol is actually made up of part of Rebbe Nachman's famous phrase, "My fire will burn until the Mashiach." After saying that to him, it occurred to me that Rebbe Nachman and I have something in common. I realized that my fire will also burn until the Mashiach, because of all these holidays that I keep having to cook for. I hope the Mashiach comes soon, because I'm really tired of cooking. 

How much can one woman cook? And shop? And suffer through two endless weeks of kids at home? Hmmm, it seems that I am a bit irritated. I went food shopping yet again right after Shabbat so I can spend the rest of today - you guessed it - cooking! What fun. 

This has been a loooong month for all of us. And it's been even longer for all of you that don't live in Israel. The two day holiday thing is crazy hard! I gotta give you guys a lot of credit. 

But the most credit and admiration goes to all you fine ladies out there. Without your hard work and major lack of sleep, most of us might be enjoying our holiday dinners with a can of tuna or a salami sandwich. Give yourselves a pat on the back. Better yet, treat yourselves to a massage. 

All of you who have celebrated this intense month of holidays should know - your fire burns bright, too. Your souls are lit up from all of the spiritual energy that you've been connecting to, and this will carry you through an exciting year filled with every blessing you need. Very soon, G-d willing, we will greet our Mashiach together with great joy and lots of dancing! 

Speaking of dancing, wishing you all a wonderful and joyous Simchat Torah!

Give Her a Break

Succoth is a wonderful time to score points for marital bliss. Tell your wife to take a break from the never-ending Chol Hamoed kitchen chores and surprise her with your culinary arts. Every man should be competent in the kitchen; a wife doesn't enjoy feeling like a slave and she always appreciates the help. Even more, spoil her by making something that she doesn't usually prepare, like sushi - she'll be delighted! That's exactly what I did yesterday, as you can see here: LB Sushi2 LB Sushi