The Gemara (tractate Sanhedrin 97b) says that the Nation of Israel (aka the Jewish People) will be redeemed as soon as they make teshuva, in other words, return to Hashem and the ways of His Torah. The Gemara then asks, what happens if the Nation of Israel doesn't make teshuva? Rebbe Yehoshua answers that if Israel doesn't make teshuva, then Hashem places them under the influence of a wicked king whose evil decrees are as severe as Haman's, and then they make teshuva.
We cannot fathom The Almighty's love for us and His infinite mercy. Despite the fact that we haven't made Teshuva from Love, which is what we need to do in order to be redeemed, and despite the fact that our own misdeeds put us under the boot of each generation's wicked kings, Hashem has made an eternal promise to deliver us from their hands. That's the V'hi She'amda prayer that we recite each year in the Haggada.
Let me share with you something additional about Hashem's love for His people: The Heavenly Altar and Throne is known as Upper Jerusalem; it is situated directly above Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is known in the Zohar, Midrash, and Gemara as Lower Jerusalem. Hashem refuses to dwell in Upper Jerusalem until His permanent dwelling on earth - the Holy Temple - will be rebuilt in Lower Jerusalem (see Gemara tractate Taanit 5a, Midrash Tehillim 122, Vilna Gaon's elaboration of Zohar, Safra DeTzniuta, ist Chapter). Many evil world leaders are denying our right to the area of our own Holy Temple. Once again, we have no cause to be angry at them, for as soon as we make real teshuva, they will crumble. But, until we make teshuva, those evil leaders should be forewarned that by disenfranchising Israel from what they call East Jerusalem, they are in effect trying to disenfranchise The Almighty. Cherished brothers and sisters, that won't happen, period.
Hashem has no gratification by forcing us to make teshuva. When we strengthen our emuna and seek Hashem on our own accord, we sanctify His Holy Name. Let's wake up, beloved brothers and sisters. It's either nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles or emuna books and CDs; the choice is ours. Now you can understand why Emuna Outreach is working so hard to spread emuna around the globe - Rav Shalom Arush says that every emuna book or CD neutralizes one ballistic missile. When Moshiach comes, he'll show us all how emuna saved lives; the Gemara says that anyone who saves one life is considered as if he or she saved an entire world.
V'hi She'amda is a Passover song whose words come from the Haggada. It conveys a very timely message for the Jewish people: He who stood by our forefathers stands by us to deliver us from the hands of our enemies in every generation.
One of Jewish music's favorite sons, Yonatan Razael, wrote a beautiful melody for this song, which he sings here with the king of Jewish singers, my very special friend Yaacov Shwekey. You'll get shivers up your spine and tears in your eyes listening to them. We're sure you'll enjoy this musical treat as much as we do. G-d willing, we'll be singing this same melody on the Brody seder table this coming Monday night. Meanwhile, have a wonderful Shabbat HaGadol and Pesach!
When anyone thinks about the type of "upright melodists" that Rebbe Nachman speaks about in Likutei Moharan I:3, one of the first names that comes to mind is Yisrael Dagan, who represents everything beautiful of Breslev - the joy, the dedication, the fervor, the humility and the simplicity. Here is a shot in the spiritual arm: Yisrael is singing Im ata ma'amin, Rebbe Nachman's famous phrase, "If you believe that something can be ruined, then believe that it can be rectified." Don't ever forget that, and you'll always be happy and optimistic.
All the silly talk about splitting Jerusalem is surfacing again, but G-d willing, it won't happen.
Our answer to the politicians is Psalm 137: "If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, may my right hand wither...if I don't ascend to Jerusalem at the head of my joy." Israeli singer Ben Snof has the voice of an angel - let's pass the microphone to him:
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...
I love birds, especially the White Wagtail, known in Hebrew as the Nachlieli. Yesterday, coming back from my personal prayer session near the Lachish River east of Ashdod, a fauntless Nachlieli pranced right in front of me. Whenever I see one of these birds, my heart fills with joy. The Nachlieli I saw some time ago inspired a melody that appears on my Whispering Soul album - here's a taste:
The moving story of Hannah appears in the first and second chapter of Samuel I: Hannah had no children, and she begged Hashem in the holy tabernacle at Shilo that if He gives her a child, she will dedicate this child to the service of Hashem. Hashem heard her prayers, and Samuel was born.
When Samuel was weaned, Hannah brought him to the High Priest Eli in Shilo, where the little Samuel grew up devoting his entire life to serving Hashem. As Hannah presents her son to Eli, she says, "This is the lad I prayed for; Hashem granted me the request that I asked of Him" (Samuel I, 1:27).
In a beautiful age-old Jewish tradition, when we check on our sleeping children at night, and we see them like little angels fast asleep, we repeat the above passage as an expression of gratitude to Hashem, and we continue to pray for their spiritual and physical welfare and development.
Shraga Gold and the Shira Choir sing Rabbi Shlomo Yehuda Rechnitz's lovely rendition of Hannah's moving expression of gratitude in the following beautiful clip, which we hope you enjoy as much as we did. Shabbat Shalom!