64 posts categorized "Jewish World"

Powerlifting for the Mind

KB and Gemara
Power-lifting? That's lifting heavy weights, what trainers call "resistance training". What could possibly be power-lifting for the mind?

Pick up a Gemara. Nothing in the world will build your brain muscle like a Gemara. And it's the toughest form of resistance training too - wait till you see the resistance that you get from the Yetzer Hara (evil inclination) the minute you decide to pick up a Gemara.

I invite you to visit an old age home in the ultra-Orthodox areas of Jerusalem and Bnei Brak. Don't be alarmed when you walk into the Bet Midrash (study hall, which every Charedi old age home has), and you'll find two spry nonagenarians animatedly waving their hands in the air, banging on the table and yelling at each other while arguing a point in Talmudic logic and debate. There's no one here with Alzheimer's - these old gents have been doing resistance training for their brains all their lives. Maybe many of their body functions are limited, but they suffer no atrophy of the mind. Their brains work hard.

The Koreans have always been pioneers in fitness. It's no surprise that the Talmud (Mishna and Gemara) has become a smash bestseller in Korea. The Koreans too want to strengthen their brains... 

How is it that Alzheimer's is so rare in the Torah world? While 11% of the general population in the USA over age 65, and 32% of the population over the age of 85 suffers from Alzheimer's and other forms of dementia, the estimated numbers are less than a tenth of that among Torah scholars. Take for example Rabbi Leib Steinman shlit'a, one of this generation's greatest spiritual leaders - he's past 100 and his mind is still razor sharp. So were the minds of Rabbi Vosner and Rabbi Elyashiv, of sacred and blessed memories, who left us in recent years, both well over 100 years old.

What is it about the Gemara that strengthens the mind so much? First of all, it's Divine nutrition for the brain as opposed to the passive junk-food that most people feed their brains today. Second, understanding the Gemara requires conscious, sustained mental effort - it does for the brain what an HIIT (high intensity interval training) workout does for the body. Even when a person gets up from his Gemara session, his mind is still contempleting what he learned, just like the afterburn effect of a good workout. Third, learning with a chavruta (learning partner) forces the Gemara learner to be alert, attentive and mentally sharp. There's no boredom here. In fact, chavruta-style learning is fantastic for those who are kinesthetic or audial learners, because of the back-and-forth give-and-take style of learning where it's OK to fly out of your chair, learn standing up or any way else you like.

Bottom line - for a strong mind, nothing beats a Gemara.

The Battle for Eilat - Emuna vs. Gambling

King David said, "It is a time to act for Hashem, they have voided Your Torah" (Psalm 119:126). Recently, I expressed my desire to steer clear of politics and current events and devote the Beams to body, mind and soul health, which we can never have enough of. The Israeli government, particularly the Prime Minister and the Tourist Minister, are forcing me to break my word. I can't sit back and ignore the continued plans to defile our holy homeland and corrupt our citizens.

Let me explain: Prime Minister Netanyahu and Tourist Minister Levin want to turn the Red-Sea resort of Eilat, Israel (photo, above) into a gambling town. This is a double declaration of war on the emuna-hungry population of Eilat. Spiritually-healthy children can't grow up in a place like that.

If that's not enough, we give loads of counseling to addicted gamblers; first hand, I've seen how gambling wrecks marriages, homes and innocent children. Gambling addiction is ugly and painful, one of the worst types of addiction that causes tremendous peripheral damage. The Government, in its lust to imitate the worst aspects of the West, will be destroying more of its own citizens and another Israeli city will sucked into a spiritual cesspool. As it is, the Government prides itself into turning Tel Aviv into the gay-tourism capital of the world, may Hashem have mercy.

The Government has been systematically trampling Torah in multiple ways; on a spiritual level, their actions are what create the stern judgments Above that manifest themselves in rampant terrorism, road accidents and disease down here...

The only way to fight the spiritual contamination of our beloved homeland that's spreading like a government-sanctioned cancer is to spread emuna and more emuna. But we need your help. If you are capable of doing it first hand, then by all means, go for it! If not, give us the backing and we'll continue the fight to spread emuna and to bring our people - and the whole world - back to Hashem. Donate to Emuna Outreach - Rav Shalom says that there is no charity that reaches the shoelaces of spreading emuna. 

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!