17 posts categorized "Personal Holiness"

A Fence of Roses

Fence of Roses

The Gemara tells the following story (Ketubot 66b): Rebbe Yochanan ben Zakai was riding on a donkey a short time after the Romans destroyed the Second Temple and vanquished Jerusalem. On the outskirts of the city, he saw a young woman gathering grains of undigested barley from amongst the droppings of Arab-owned cattle. As soon as she noticed him, she sprung to her feet, covered her hair and pleaded, "Rebbe, give me something to sustain myself." He asked her who she was. She answered that she was Nakdamon Ben Gurion's daughter, who before the destruction of the Holy Temple, was the richest man in Jerusalem.

Our sages comment on the above episode and say, "How fortunate you are, O Israel! When you do Hashem's will, you are above the angels; no nation can prevail over you. But when you don't do Hashem's  will, you are not only subservient to the most contemptible of nations and even below their cattle, but you are even below the droppings of their cattle."

No, there's not much middle ground for a Jew - it's either good or evil. A tzaddik who maintains a standard of impeccable personal holiness is higher than an angel; he gives off the spiritual fragrance of Gan Eden. But a lowlife who breaches every clause of personal holiness stinks worse than the dung of an animal.

King Solomon in Song of Songs (7:3) describes the Jewish People who fulfill Hashem's will as a "fence of roses". Why a fence of roses? Why the juxtaposition of the beauty and the thorns? What's the praise here?

The Jewish Laws of modesty for women and personal holiness for men seem to many people like thorns in the side. They are! Their purpose is to keep people from toying with the roses, which symbolize the beauty of the Jewish woman. All unauthorized personnel must keep their distance. Anyone who doesn't look at what is not rightfully his by way of holy marital bond will certainly not touch what is not rightfully his. That's the fence of roses. 

Assad Again Uses Chemical Weapons Against Syrian Rebels

Chemical Attack Douma City  Syria
Firas Abdulla is a freelance photographer who took the above image; he lives in the still rebel-held stronghold of Douma City in Eastern Ghouta Province. Firas eye witnessed the recent chemical attack - chlorene gas - that the arch-villain Assad is using against his own people. Here's a Tweet from Firas:

Just survived with my family after a ground-to-ground missile was dropped by the terrorist army near my house on our neighborhood in in . 10 ground-to-ground missiles were dropped so far. 6 airstrikes & tens of mortars. We Safe Untill Other Notify...

Believe it - it's real. See more detailed evidence here.

What does this mean to us here in Israel? Despite what the world will tell you, we deeply care about the Syrian People and are doing everything we can to help them. Every day, IDF physicians are witnessing the horrors that Assad is committing against Syrian citizens. If that's the case, imagine what he'd do against Israel, if he only could.

Assad has a sinister dream that North Korea is actively helping him to fulfill: He wants to stage a massive chem attack on Israel's major cities and North Korea is helping him. North Korea is desperate for funds and is selling what it knows about building weapons of mass destruction in order to make a buck. Not only are they teaching Assad how to fry humanity's skin and lungs with gasses, but as Israeli Intel knows, they're actively trying to build a new atomic reactor in Quseir, Syria.

Israel now faces an acute triple threat in the north, from Iran, Hezbollah and Assad. Tension with Gaza in the south is as tight as a bowstring too.

So what do we do? And why are all these threats during the last of the Shovevim weeks, the weeks that are so specially conducive to enhancing personal holiness? The Torah says, For the L-rd thy G-d walks in the midst of your camp, to rescue you, and to subdue your enemies for you; therefore, your camp shall be holy; that He see no unseemly thing in you and turn away from you (Deuteronomy 23:15). This means that men's holy deportment and women's modesty guarantee the best defense of Israel - Divine defense. A man's improper conduct or a woman's immodesty chases away the Divine Presence, and is therefore the biggest threat against Israel, worse that Iran, Hezbollah and Assad combined. It's our task to draw the Divine Presence closer to us, not chase it away.

Is Your Sheitel (Wig) Kosher?

Several years ago, it was discovered that many wigs that observant Jewish women were wearing contained natural hair from India, where many women are idolaters. Jewish Law strongly prohibits using or deriving benefit from anything connected to idolatry. It caused a tremendous scandal, and here in Israel, all wig-wearing observant women moved over to hats and scarfs until the wigs reappeared with "rabbinical kosher certificates", that the hair was either European (which is very expensive) or synthetic (which many women call "donkey tails" and is considered unfashionable).

Fast forward a decade. We just received a comprehensive, strongly documented report on the state of kashruth in wigs from Rebbetzen Ahava Margaretten which you can download at this link: Download Indian Hair Report.

For those who are skimming this article and won't download the whole report, here is a shocking excerpt that one cannot ignore:

Interview with a shaitel macher (wig-maker) with 18 years experience:

“I would like people to know... that myself first hand can attest to the utter misrepresentation we are handed with our shaitels. I have been a shaitel macher for almost 18 years. I have learned from some of the industry's leading members how to identify hair, physically hand tie hair into a wig, how to construct a wig from scratch, as well as cutting, coloring, and washing techniques only know to the top artist. Approximately 8 years ago I began the difficult process of starting my own line of wigs. Making contacts and having representatives in China is not an easy process. I learned quickly that there are no morals in business in China. Hair which was hand selected here from brokers coming straight from Ukraine would be sent to China only to return blended and processed with other hair which I did not send or request.

The factories always offered tags for my wigs which stated "100% European hair" even if we had just negotiated using Brazilian, Mongolian, or Uzbekistan hair. They also always offered the "kashrus" label with the blessings from "the rabbi" which of course they told me didn't exist. At that point I realized that there was no way that I could create a product which I really believed in or stood by. I myself who was dealing directly with the factories would never really know if the hair which I sometimes cut from a woman here in the states would actually return unadulterated or blended with something else. The fact that the factories clearly had no scruples regarding misrepresentation to my customers meant that they would most likely swindle me too. I decided to forgo manufacturing my own line and the money that would come with it.

It's important for women to know that factories will insert any tag necessary to make a sale. Many shaitel machers have no clue that they are being duped. They are told it's European hair and that it has a hashgacha, but the reality is far from such. They simply don't know.”

-Quoted directly word for word on June 11th, 2017. Shaitel macher chose to remain anonymous in this report.

Who wants to play Russian Roulette with Halacha and even take the slightest chance with such a serious d'Oraita transgression as benefitting from idolatry, issur hana'a me'avoda zara. I want to clarify that although Rav Arush's and my wife and daughters cover their hair with tichelach (scarfs), I never interfere in the debate between the pro-sheitel and the pro-tichel factions, especially since many righteous spiritual leaders such as the Rebbes of Gur, Chabad, Vishnitz and Belz allow their female followers to wear wigs, as well as most of the Lithuanian and Yeshivish world. Yet, when it comes to such a serious breach that could be a tremendous stumbling block for the public, we here at the Beams found the urgent need to sound the alarms and flash the warning yellow lights. Please be very careful.

One thing is for sure - if you wear a wig, consider the advantages of moving over to synthetic. And, if you do make the commendable move from wigs to scarfs, we'll be happy to direct you our own Rebbetzen Racheli Reckles or to Rebbetzen Rivka Malka Perlman who'll be happy to show you how to look gorgeous in a scarf. Blessings for a lovely Shabbat!

Freedom: Life After the Web

Let my people go
Dear Rabbi Brody,

I'm 19, and torn between two worlds. On one hand, I want to be a Baal Tshuva - I love Lazer Beams, but I get inspired and then end up surfing over to one of my favorite porno sites, and then (...severely edited - LB) ... I end my day going to sleep super depressed and disappointed in myself. Why can't I just be courageous enough to start putting on tefillin and keeping Shabbos? Rabbi Brody, can you help me out? Can you explain to me what's happening to me? I'd be forever grateful. Thank you, Steven from California

Dear Steven,

Every soul requires a heavy dose of love. Jewish souls especially require a refined, ultra-high spiritual octane form of love that Kabbala terms Chessed d'Kedusha, or lovingkindness from the realm of holiness. This love is achieved by dedication in performing a mitzva, by prayer with Kavanna (focused intent), by Torah learning, and by doing charitable deeds for one's fellow human. Also, this love is attained through a gratifying marital union.

The laws of the spiritual realm are similar to those of the material realm. Just as there is no void in matter, there is no void in spirituality. When a person fails to provide his or her soul with Chessed d'Kedusha, then the sphere of Chessed d'Sitra Achra, or Impure (unholy) lovingkindness, fills the void. Promiscuity and pornography are prime sources of Chessed d'Sitra Achra, all dangerous and addicitive, the type of chocolate-covered poison that destroys one's soul, Heaven forbid.

Simply speaking, Steve, we need to help you replace the detrimental elements that have pervaded your soul with the beneficial. Here's a gameplan that I'd recommend for you:

1) Torah - in LA, there are plenty of Torah lessons. Start attending them. In fact, you can catch me here this weekend. Also, begin learning as much of Rebbe Nachman's books as possible - they're an amazing balm for an aching soul.

2) Immerse yourself in a mikva as much as possible.

3) Say psalms 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, and 150 every day - this is called the "Tikkun HaKlali", a general all-purpose spiritual medication for a soul that's been infected by Chessed d'Sitra Achra.

4) Talk to Hashem every day in your own words, and ask Him to help you.

5) Steve, build a life without the web - there is life after the web!

Steve, most of all, don't be down on yourself. Don't listen to the hellfire and brimstone preachers that send people to purgatory and give you a guilty conscience. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says that if you believe you can make a mess of things, then believe that you can correct. Consider coming to Israel for a year or two for Yeshiva, and if that's not possible, think about a local Yeshiva for Baalei Tshuva. I'd like to see you make some solid spiritual gain, and then meet a wonderful young lady and start a family within the next two years or so.

If you would realize the satisfaction that Hashem has from your fight for Kedusha (holiness), you'd be jumping for joy all day long. This is your true freedom, Steve. With Hashem's help, you're going to go a long way. Hoping to see you, Lazer Brody

2 Forward, 1 Back

Those who climb
Dear Rav Lazer,

I have a master's in engineering from the Technion in Haifa. I spent three years in active duty as an IDF paratrooper. I've had Hizbulla missiles land in my back yard. I've managed to compete for the last 18 years in the dog-eat-dog world of Israeli hi-tech. After having become a Baal Teshuva (newly observant Jew - LB) 2 years ago, I started being a shomer brit (guardian of the covenant, maintainer of personal holiness - LB) six months ago and it's the toughest battle I ever had. After 28 crystal-clear days and feeling great about myself, I blew it. What's wrong with me? Am I back to zero? Menachem from Northern Israel

Dear Menachem,

I guarantee you that Hashem has phenomenal gratification from what you're doing. The biggest tzaddikim have setbacks. True spiritual growth is two steps forward and one step back; don't be disappointed when you fall, because today's fall is higher than yesterday's success. In your corner with a big hug, LB 

Love, Not Lust

Love and Lust
Dear Rabbi Brody,

I was one of the participants in the conference-call shiur you gave our group who are working on trying to break free from sex addictions. I can't thank you enough. For a long time, I was really down on myself and the more depressed I'd get, the worse I'd mess up. You were so positive, encouraging and non-judgmental. I feel like you threw me a rope to help pull me out of the muck. You should know that you helped a lot of us, because the head of our group said that this was a record-breaking shiur with hundreds of people listening in. Thanks so much and may you blessed with continued strength to keep doing what you do. From the heart, Srool the Tool

Dear Srool,

I deeply appreciate your email, but the credit goes to my teacher Rav Shalom Arush, Breslev Israel an Emunah Outreach, for everything I do is under their auspices. You guys are heroes - keep up your good work, and you'll bring Moshiach, for sure. With blessings always, LB

Listen to the above 52-minute shiur, "Love, not Lust"

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