My beloved father, Yaacov ben Yitzchak of blessed memory, left this earth on the 15th of Adar Aleph, 5760, fifteen years ago. Pop's yahrtzeit - this anniversary of his death - is tonight and Friday. This post is dedicated to him.
Pop was born in Winnipeg, Canada in 1921. His father came from the Ukraine, a shtetyl called Yanov, half way between Breslev and Berditchev. Like a lot of immigrants, my grandfather left observant Judaism behind in the Old Country, so my father was born into a secular home. Yet, he spoke perfect Yiddish and was the warmest Jewish heart you'd ever want to meet. He gave loads of his money to charity; he supported widows and poor Torah scholars. He loved everything Jewish, from traditional food to music. He had no problem polishing off a bottle of vodka with a plate of herring and black bread. He had the voice of a cantor, and when he'd sing, the neighbors would ask what radio station we're listening to.
Pop was the only Jewish combat pilot from Western Canada in the RCAF in WWII. He had a double enemy - the Nazis and the antisemitic Canadian peers who more than once tried to sabotage him.
He wasn't religious, but my Pop had a love for Israel, for his fellow Jews, for widows and orphans, and for Hashem. He had more emuna than most. His famous expression was, "Wait to worry." He never ever complained about pain or discomfort, and profusely thanked Hashem for every new day. Pop's legacy includes three generations of Torah-observant Jews in Israel and more on the way, G-d willing...
I miss you so much, Pop. I miss your hug and your strength. Please forgive me for not doing enough to honor you properly.
Here are two treats in Pop's loving memory: The first is one of his favorite Yiddish melodies, Oyfen Pripitchik, played by violinist Boris Savchuk. The second is a beautiful Dvar Torah written by my youngest brother - also a Baal Teshuva - ZZ (Zeev Zalman). Enjoy both and have a great Shabbat!
Zev Zalman's Dvar Torah in Loving Memory of our Father, may he rest in peace:
On the 15th of Adar 5775, it will be 15 years since my Papa was Niftar (passed away) Alav HaShalom (May The Peace Be Upon Him). May this D'var Torah elevate his Neshama (soul)!
This weeks Parsha, Ki Tisa, has so many memorable moments, I will focus on one that I can apply to my life and embodies a part of who my Papa, Yakov Ben Yitzchak, Zechrono L'Vracha (May His Memory Be For Blessing) was. He was a Baal Chesed (someone who epitomizes loving kindness) and was always very generous in giving Tzedaka for Israel's well being!
It says at the beginning of the Parsha ,"Vayidaber Hashem el Moshe laymor, Ki Tisa et rosh Bnai Yisrael lifkudayhem V'NATNOO eesh kofer nafsho laHashem bifkod otam v'lo yihiyeh vahem negef bifkod otam" ("Hashem spoke to Moses saying, when you take a head count of the Children of Israel according to their numbers, THEY SHALL GIVE, every man shall, an atonement for his soul to Hashem when counting them, so that there will not be among them a plague when counting them.") Hashem says you cannot count a Jew in a normal fashion, you must collect a Machatzit Hashekel (Half Shekel) which will be used for the building and upkeep of the Mishkan (The Tabernacle) and these Shekalim will be counted. Rich and poor alike, the same amount is to be collected, symbolizing everyone has an equal share to the Mishkan and the Torah. What is so amazing is the language that is used. The Baal Turim (Author of "The Turim" or "The Tur" -Rabbi Yakov ben Asher), Zechrona L'Vracha,) points out that the word, "V'NATNOO" (they shall give) is a palindrome. It is read the same forwards as backwards, symbolizing that whatever you give, you will get back. This was referring to the Tzadaka, but let's take it a step further. Giving is a means to really connect with Hashem! When we are selfless with our Spouses, our Children, our Parents, and our Communities, it gives Hashem much nachas from his Children. Why was the amount a half shekel and not a whole? To show that when we do things on our own we are not complete, and most times neither are our tasks, but when we come together, showing unity and a communal purpose , we can accomplish anything! When we daven alone, we are scrutinized, all of our faults are magnified, but when we come together with one voice of Tefillah, the communal good is focused on by Hashem. This Kehilah (congregation), Minchas Yitzchak, is a beautiful model of this.
We have people from many different places in life, different professions, different incomes, different religious minhagim (customs), but we come together and in unified song and Tefillah, we reach the upper portals where I believe our Tefillah is accepted due to our communal good! By the way a "Tzibur" (community or congregation), consists of 3 letters ; Tzadi, Beit, and Raysh. Tzadi stands for a Tzadik, (a righteous one) Beit stands for Benoneem, (people in the middle, neither righteous nor wicked) and Raysh stands for Rashayim, (wicked ones). Thank Hashem no one at Minchas Yitzchak falls into this last category, even so, all are part of the Machatzit Hashekel!
A beautiful vort (word, thought) brought down from Rabbi Moshe Chaim Levinson, Zechrona L'Vracha, talks about the Half Shekel. The word that is used for half is "Machatzit" which consists of 5 letters ; Mem, Chet, Tzadi, Yud, Taf. The Ztadi in the middle of the word represents the Tzadik, the two letters surrounding the Tzadi on each side are Chet and Yud, which spell, "Chai" (life) the two letters farthest away on each side are Mem and Taf, which spell, "Met" (dead). When we connect to and surround The Tzadik we are spiritually alive. When we distance ourselves from The Tzadik we lose our spiritual life!
Let us always be connected to The Tzadik and always remember how much we need our Spouses, Children, Parents, Families, and Community in order for us to be whole, and may we take part in giving Half Shekalim with the building of the Third Bais Hamikdash and the coming of Mashiach, speedily in our days, Amen.
In getting ready for Purim, I'm going to teach you a new phrase in Hebrew - chiyuch echad, one smile. Rav Shalom Arush uses a slight alteration and says to everyone, tain chiyuch, give a smile.
Who says that Yeshiva guys aren't cool? Who says that they can't sing and dance? I want to introduce you to Otsar Shalmoni, a very special yeshiva guy from Beit Shemesh, originally from Brooklyn. Here is his exciting new clip, produced by our dear friend Avi Hollander, entitled Chiyuch Echad - you already know what that means! Enjoy...
Moshiach must certainly be close by. Lately, I've been receiving letters about young children with high levels of spiritual receptivity. Here is one of them:
Dear Rabbi Lazer,
Is it true that a three-year old can be highly receptive on a spiritual level? We had a maid that used to listen motivational CDs with subliminal messages and my son of 3 Immanuel (Hebrew for 'Hashem is with us' -LB) told me that he listened from that maid "ugly and scary messages" and we fired her. As a result of her CDs, he was having nightmares. I bought Calming Waters and let my son listen to the peaceful flute and nice sounds; my son insists that your CD is full of beautiful messages. The Gemara says that Hashem hides secrets and prophecies with toddlers and infants. I don't mean to pry, but is my son really receptive to subtle spiritual messages? Does your CD really have spiritual messages? Thanks so much, DR from LA
Yes, your son is very receptive, indicative of his very holy and pure soul. Make sure you give him the best Torah education imaginable. And yes, all my flute music has messages, since the melodies came to me during personal prayer, when I was speaking to Hashem at many special places all over the Land of Israel countryside. They reflect a yearning for Hashem and a desire get close to Him. That's why the melodies are so soothing to the soul. May you have much joy from all your children. Blessings always, LB
You're invited to join me on a virtual tour of Israel's countryside, with my flute in the background, right here:
Not many people would believe that one of Israel's leading symphony conductors and music composers is a Kollel student. Fewer people would believe that a Kollel student won Israel's most prestigious music prize for Song of the Year 2014. It's true. Yonatan Razel is not only one of the Jewish world's foremost and versatile musicians and composers, as well as one of Israel's finest classical music conductors, he is totally immersed in Torah in the mornings and early afternoons at Rabbi Yitzchak Berkowitz's Jerusalem Kollel. More than anything, he is the nicest most humble human being you'd ever want to meet. This week's issue of Breslev Israel web magazine is pleased to introduce you to Yonatan Razel.
Brothers Yonatan and Aaron Raz'el are not only wonderful composers and musicians, they are the finest human beings you'll ever want to meet. In the clip you're about to see, they are helping some special needs young men to fulfill the dream or recording music in the studio. Together, the Raz'el brothers and the young men from "Alei Siach" sing "Ibdu" - serve Hashem with joy! I'm sure that you'll find this clip as inspiring as I did:
With all the difficult news from around the world, and all the hardships of our people - particularly in France - it's time for good news. The secular media is now reporting - and it's official - that Israel's tremendously popular singer Kobi Peretz has decided to become a Torah-observant Jew.
Kobi met my esteemed and beloved teacher Rav Shalom Arush, may Hashem bless him, and was so enraptured with him, that his whole life changed. Rav Shalom saved Kobi from divorce. Rav Shalom taught Kobi how to speak to Hashem in personal prayer, and Kobi even accompanied Rav Shalom on an "Emuna Outreach" mission of giving out books and CDs to IDF soldiers. Israel's Channel 2 released a documentary of Kobi's teshuva and his encounter with Rav Shalom Arush, which we're delighted to present here. Even though it's in Hebrew, you'll undoubtedly understand what's happening - this film speaks to the heart, as does Kobi's singing. This is all a small part of what Rav Shalom and Emuna Outreach are doing in Israel alone:
You can partner with Rav Shalom in spreading emuna around the world; click on the "Donate" button on the upper left-hand toolbar of this site. May Hashem grant you every blessing!