62 posts categorized "Jewish World"

Sewing Up the Hole

Hole in the Sack
There was once a Ukranian peasant who worked all day long in the hot sun harvesting potatoes. At the end of the day, he looked inside his sack and lo and behold, there were only a dozen or so potatoes. Where'd they all go? He looked behind him and saw a trail of potatoes along the entire length of the field where he had been picking. What happened? There was a hole in the sack! Every time he put one potato in the sack, another potato fell out of the hole...

In recent years, I've sometimes felt like that peasant. We travel around the globe devoting our lives to bringing people closer to Hashem, yet loads of kids born into observant families are falling off the derech, the way of Torah Judaism.

In my humble opinion, the "off-the-derech" kids are the number-one problem that the Jewish People face today, not Iran or ISIS...

The kids themselves are not the problem. Having done extensive research into the subject and having spoken to hundreds of such young people, I've come to the conclusion that the problem is rooted in three main causes:

  1. The kids grow up in a home where the parents practice a stringent form of hellfire and brimstone Judaism, devoid of the joy that Judaism really offers.
  2. The kids grow up in a home where the parents honor material and/or secular values more than they honor Torah values.
  3. The kids never learn emuna, not from parents or teachers, so they have no motivation for Torah and mitzvoth, and no support system for life's challenges.

Fortunately, many of these young people are discovering emuna and the joy of their own personal relationship with Hashem by way of the teachings of Rabbi Shalom Arush shlit'a, which Hashem has given me the privilege of spreading in the English-speaking world. It's our goal to sew up the hole.


A Gift for the Rebbe

I have a custom that I received from an old tzaddik: he told me that when you take your 3-year old to cheder (Orthodox Jewish elementary school for boys) on the first day, give the cheder rebbe (boys' elementary school teacher) a monetary gift (like a $50 bill) and ask him to pay special attention to your son. The old tzaddik told me that the gift to the cheder rebbe invokes Divine assistance for your son's Torah learning and it makes the rebbe happy as well, for cheder rebbes never earn the money they really deserve. So, whenever I am honored with the mitzvah of being sandek at a brit, I take responsibility for the child's initial success in Torah and I give the father of the baby an envelope with money inside and tell him to pass it on to the child's rebbe when the child goes to cheder for the first time at age 3.

With the above in mind, several years ago, I had the privilege of being sandek at the brit of David Mark's son in Maale Chever south of Hevron. David wrote me this spine-chilling email earlier this month:Yaakov Litman hyd

...our son who you were sandek for, has grown up and is now in first grade.  It was his rebbe that was killed a few weeks ago along with his son.  It was hard for us as parents to go through that with him, but I saw that children really handle these things better than we do. His rebbe was an amazing person and it was to him in the beginning of the year that we gave the gift you had given us as his sandek that you told me to give to his future cheder rabbi.  Rav Yaakov Litman was a tremendous Tzaddik. I wrote a eulogy for him here.

Rabbi Yaakov Litman Hy"d (photo, above right), a beautiful human and a most wonderful cheder rebbe (elementary school teacher) was brutally murdered by Arab terrorists 6 weeks ago. 


Secular Jew? No Such Thing...

I now understand why Shlomo Artzi - back in my army days - was my favorite singer.

Shlomo, a so-called "secular", happened to meet my good friend Chassidic composer and arranger Muna Rosenbloom in a studio where both of them were recording. Muna was arranging a song with words by Rabbi Nachman of Breslev - "as long as the flame flickers within us (allegory for the soul), we can rectify" - As long as my soul is within me, I give thanks to You, Hashem - modeh ani lifanecha, Hashem!

Shlomo said, "Hey, I know that song from my grandfather," who was a Yiddish-speaking religious Jew. He then grabbed the microphone and sang the melody in such a moving way that no one had dry eyes. All Jews - like Shlomo Artzi - have that spark within them; witha bit of emuna and fanning, the spark becomes a flame that reaches the heavens. Enjoy, and have a great Shabbat!

After you see this moving clip, you'll understand why I always say that there's no such thing as a secular Jew. One can't fake the fervor that Shlomo Artzi sings with - it comes from a pure neshama (soul) that many so-called "religious" people can be jealous of.

By the way, Shlomo Artzi is the son of Holocaust survivors. His is also the great-nephew of Maharam Lublin, Rebbe Meir Shapiro of Lublin, of blessed and saintly memory.

If you have a dry eye after seeing and hearing this clip, please have your pulse and blood pressure checked...


Chumash Celebration, Vizhnitzer Cheder, Ashdod, Israel

As they near the age of five, Chassidic children are already reading fluently. They now begin to learn "Chumash", the Five Books of Moses. Traditionally, they celebrate this occasion by dressing the children up as Torah scrolls and making an important celebration with teachers and families participating, for this is the beginning of their life-long endeavor of learning Torah. Here, we see the Chumash celebration in the Vizhnitzer Cheder of Ashdod, Israel. These children, who grow up without TV and movies, already can recite all the weekly Torah portions from Breishit to Zot Habracha. They also know the Ten Commandments by heart both in Yiddish and in Hebrew, for they are all bilingual. Enjoy this clip, and may you have much joy from your children!


Never Lose Hope!

 Shachar bris-635x357

Above image: Shmuel Shachar, 67 (left) reciting the blessings of his son's entrance into the holy covenant of Abraham, yesterday in Bnei Brak, Israel

The Beams and Breslev Israel send our heartiest Mazal Tov to Shmuel and Sara Chaya Shachar, members of the Nadvorna Chassidic community in Bnei Brak, who were blessed to have their firstborn son enter the covenant of our forefather Abraham yesterday. You might ask, what's so remarkable about another bris in Bnei Brak? Shmuel and Sara Chaya have been married for 46 years - he is 67 and she is 65. Only last week, have their 4+ decades of prayers been answered, having been blessed with their first child, a healthy baby boy, whose name is Shimon Chaim. May Shmuel and Sara Chaya merit to dance in good health at the weddings of their grandchildren...

We learn from the Shachar family's joy that Hashem can do whatever He wants whenever He wants. Never give up and never lose hope - Hashem's mercy knows no bounds.

Hashem is showing us that if 65-year-olds can give birth, then bringing Moshiach is no big deal. Hashem wants our prayers, both for Moshiach and for all of mankind to learn emuna. With emuna, one surely never loses hope.


The Miracles of Hanit

Today is Memorial Day in Israel for our martyred soldiers, of sacred and blessed memory.

Hanit Image at left courtesy of Haaretz.com shows the Israeli Missile boat "Hanit" being tugged into Ashdod port after having been hit by a Hizbulla missile off the Beirut shore on July 14, 2006, during the Second Lebanon War.

17 October, 2006. A young Israeli Naval sergeant boarded the northbound train in Tel Aviv. I was on my way to a present a lecture in the Haifa area and he was returning to his base in the Haifa port. He sat down across from me, looking at me intently while I was learning my Gemara. I looked up at him, smiled, said "Shalom aleichem!"

He sighed deeply, as if relieved, and sheepishly asked, "Can I talk to you, Rav?"

"Of course," I answered, asking him how he knows that I'm a "rav". He said that he heard me eulogize one of his fallen friends during the war. The sailor had a relatively new beard, an almost new knitted kippa on his head, and the beautifully pure innocence in his eyes of a new Ba'al Tshuva. To make a long story short, he was a crewman on board the Israeli Navy ship Hanit (Hebrew for bayonet) when it was hit by a missile of shore in Beirut.

The sailor, who we'll call Moshe, began to relate the dozens of miracles that happened aboard the Hanit the night that it was hit. "It was Friday night. Usually, the crew would eat Friday night dinner in two shifts. But this time, since we were in a war zone, our three religious crewmen went to Lt. Col. A - the skipper - and begged that we all need Hashem's help. The first miracle is that the skipper agreed to leave only 4 sailors on the bridge, and allowed the whole entire crew to pray together; we piled into the chapel, and said a lengthy mincha and Kabbalat Shabbat. I was bored and wanted to eat quickly then catch a few hours sleep, because I had the midnight watch. But, I stayed with the rest of the crew. Then, all of us had a Shabbat meal together - 15 different sailors said Kiddush, each in the custom of his fathers; I'm talking about guys that aren't (weren't) even religious! The meal was drawn out - I had a headache and was dying to sleep. The religious guys started to say the grace after the meal, and BOOOFF! The missile hit, but on the opposite end of the craft. It should have sank the boat, but it hit a crane right above the chopper landing pad. What a miracle! If that's not enough, the helicopter-refueling tank - filled to the gills with chopper fuel - didn't explode despite the fact that the whole end of the boat was burned..."

At least twenty other crewmen aboard the Hanit should have been killed, but they were saved by Shabbat dinner on the other end of the ship. The four on the bridge all lost their lives.

Moshe had beads of sweat on his forehead; tears glistened in his eyes. "The newspapers don't write about the miracles that we all saw. I ran to my bunk on the deck right below the landing pad. It was charcoal; my metal bunk was completely melted down and all my possessions were ashes. If I hadn't been detained in the chapel and in the dining hall for Shabbat meal, I'd have been charcoal too. I haven't stopped thanking Hashem since - I've changed my life..."

Moshe continued with more miracles, including the engine room burnt to a crisp but a pair of tefillin was found unscathed. If that's not enough, amidst the embers of destruction, the sailors found a Book of Psalms - also unscathed - opened to Psalm 124. Read Psalm 124 and your hair will stand up!

The train was nearing my station, so I gave Moshe a blessing and a fatherly embrace, and we parted. The Hanit took a direct hit from a Hizbulla missile, but Moshe has turned the navy's setback into a victory.

*******

Every day, I meet more and more "Moshes". Unlike many of the politicians, the Israeli on the street - especially the soldiers and the reservists - are diamonds looking to be polished, and have started to ask the real questions in life. They're looking for emuna. Were it not for the wars here, they wouldn't have bothered. 

The whole purpose of the wars is to bring us closer to Hashem. Once we get close to Hashem on our own initiative, Hashem won't have to send us wars anymore, amen. I'd much prefer dancing with Moshiach to eulogizing fallen comrades.