Friday, August 31, 2007

Guest Posting From Chabakuk Elisha - Leadership

(Picture courtesy of mit.edu)

Recently there was a conversation on this blog where the topic of contemporary frum leadership came up. It's a sticky issue, and we are warned by Chazal in multiple places to use extreme caution before disregarding or disobeying our leaders. In our history we've had many examples of chachomim, Tzadikim, with ruach hakodesh, and we know that Hashem guides true chachomim with Siyata Dishmaya for the sake of Klal Yisroel. We are told that the chachomim of every generation are like Moshe and Aharon in their generation; and in Parshas Shoftim we are told to listen to the chachomim even if we think they're wrong:

"According to the teaching that they teach you and the judgment that they will tell you, so shall you do; you shall not deviate from the word that they will say to you, right or left." (Devarim 17:9-11).

Rashi comments on the words "right or left:

"Even if they say that your right is left and your left is right; how much more so if they tell you that your right is right and your left is left."

This became a rallying cry for the old Aguda in Europe with the catchphrase, "Daas Torah."

But, the question is, how do we apply that? Does that mean that we must go like sheep no matter what, even if we find some things that the rabbonim say extremely troubling? What about the times when the guidance has been poor, or our leaders were shown to have been wrong? What about when rabbonim become enablers for terrible actions (as has been pointed out so often in the blogosphere)? What about if rabbonim don't seem to understand the plight of many Jews? What about the passing campaigns that come and go with all kinds of signatures that just seem so silly and never get to the big issues, or are later exposed as based on faulty information? What about the political maneuvers and pettiness that goes on? What about when the chachomim erode their credibility and people have begun to tune them out and laugh at the latest pronouncements? Does G-d really put us all on notice that we must follow the chachomim in all cases no matter what?

Rabbi Hershel Schechter tells the story that while Herman Wouk taught in YU, he had said that his masterpiece "The Caine Mutiny" was based on that Rashi in Shoftim: That no matter what happens, we are required to respect the chain of command and follow our leadership. To which, Rav Schechter said, they had to inform him that this is not pshat in Rashi.

The simple pshat and the simple meaning of this Rashi and Chazal's warnings doesn't mean that we're required to check our brain at the door whenever rabbonim speak – because it really depends. It depends on the rov, and it depends on the situation, and it depends on the subject matter. When Rashi and Chazal tell us not to deviate from the psak, they are talking about halachic matters. If rabbonim say something in the realm of issur v'heter, if the rov says something is blood, or if something kosher, or if something is assur on Shabbos, we must be sure not to deviate from the psak. If we come to beis din with an argument and the rov rules in favor of a certain party, then that's the psak – we must not deviate. Things that fall under the expertise of the rabbonim we are, without a doubt, obligated to follow. This is the structure of Yiddishkeit, and it has always been so; so, even if I were to disagree in those cases, I remain obligated to follow the psak of the experts who tell me that I'm wrong.

And while we are taught that everything is contained in Torah, most rabbonim in our time have very limited knowledge in many fields; a rov isn't trained to be a scientist, historian, social worker, philosopher, art critic, musician, linguist, engineer, financial planner, doctor or technical expert. And while he may be a good guy, even a smart guy, his field of expertise is Shas and Poskim, and those are the areas that he carries the most weight. Should the rov also be a high level doctor, we would be likely to hold his medical opinions in high regard – but not because he's a rov or a gadol, but because he's a medical expert.

We hope that rabbonim consult with experts before they pasken about the halachic merits of a specific matter (and we assume that they do), therefore, in matters of cold halacha, we must defer to the rabbonim and gedolim inasmuch as this is clearly their territory, but when we are talking about issues that are outside their expertise, outside the psak halacha of issur v'heter, it's another story.

Of course, we must maintain respect for them, and take care not to be flippant about rabbinic proclomations, but if Rabbonim say something or act in a way that is nonsensical or if they have lost touch with the realties and the "amcha" Jew or they don't recognize or (aren't fully aware of) certain realities, if they are playing politics or covering up heinous acts, that's not the case Rashi is talking about. That's not the simple meaning of "Daas Torah." In fact, the contemporary concept of "Daas Torah" was a political slogan that the Aguda used for elections and politics in the Polish government, and its current application is no more than the misapplied concept of a Chassidic Rebbe into the common thinking for even non-chassidic Jews.

A Chossid / Rebbe relationship is another matter entirely, and that's not what we're talking about here. Chassidim follow their Rebbe no matter what and no matter when; that's Chassidus, and it is legitimate, but it's also an entirely different matter. Outside of a Chassidic Rebbe and his Chossid, there are many examples where things are far from simple, and we need a good, honest, caring confidant to speak to – and only such a person is able to help us grow and find happiness and success in those matters.

We have two obligations: Aseh lecha rav, v'kaneh lecha chaver (Make for yourself a rov, and acquire for yourself a friend). Every Jew needs a rov, he needs to recognize rabbinical authority for halachic matters, but in areas where the rov is not as up to speed, on matters where the rov may be lacking, there you need a good friend.

Erev Shabbos Links

(Picture by Arabella Soccorsi)

Psycho Toddler: My Great-Grandfather's Grave

Mystical Paths: Sometimes You Hit The Wall

Lazer Beams: We Warmly Welcome The Worry Worm!

Dixie Yid: All Bilvavi Shiurim From United States Visit Available

Fundraiser For Breslov Yeshiva


Received via e-mail from Rabbi Avraham Bloomenstiel:

We are doing the regular fundraiser this year for the Breslov Yeshiva in Mea Shearim.

Donations of $120 and more will receive a three DVD set of the complete shiurim of Rabbi Nasan Maimon on Likutey Moharan in English. This is over 1000 hours of Shiurim in Breslov going straight through Likutey Moharan.

Donations can be Mailed to :

Rabbi Avraham Chaim Bloomenstiel
6205 Hopeton Ave.
Baltimore, Maryland 21215

Please make Checks Payable to : Breslov

Or you can give online at

http://www.virtualyeshiva.com/

Go to their Donate page and specify the donation for Breslov. Remember to include your name and contact information. Also, after making a donation one should send an email to the webmaster letting him know the amount of the donation.

Parshas HaShavua B'Blog

(Picture by Paul Bell)

"Just An Illusion"

Unique

Every Jew must know and think that he is unique in the world, and there was never anyone exactly like him; had there been someone just like him, there would have been no need for him. Indeed, every single person is someone new in the world and it is his duty to improve all his ways, until all of Israel have attained perfection.

(Beis Aharon)

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Courageous Hitbodedut - Part III


Excerpt from Where Earth and Heaven Kiss: A Guide To Rebbe Nachman's Path Of Meditation by Rabbi Ozer Bergman:

The Aftereffects

The peace you gain as a result of courageous hitbodedut won't go unnoticed. Others will feel it as well, without your having to say a word to them. Your courage to become stronger can have an amazing effect on other people.

As a result of one courageous hitbodedut that a friend of mind had, he called an old acquaintance of his to say, "I thought of the fight we had and how we stopped collaborating. I want you to know that I was going through some rough times. It wasn't your fault." His acquaintance had watched several of his other friendships go sour in a brief span of time, and was despondent. It meant the world to him to hear someone tell him that it wasn't his fault. My friend told me, "The hitbodedut that got me to make that phone call was worth a million bucks."

Some people justify not having courageous hitbodedut by saying, "I'll just move on," or "It's enough that I know about it." "It might upset her" is another way to avoid facing a session of courageous hitbodedut. Rebbe Nachman teaches that doing hitbodedut only in your head isn't enough. It's in the speaking that the transformation occurs.

Your courage also might be contagious. Imagine how fearless other might become once they've seen your example. Your courage can ripple out and change the world. People have told me, "You know, after you called me, I started to think. So I picked up the phone and called..."

The Risks

However, there are no guarantees that the immediate results will be exactly what you pray for. Even when the ultimate outcome is positive, it may be accompanied by a calamitous price, perhaps one worse than you feared. If that happens, remember that the true outcome is your Partner's doing. You had been squeezing the calamity into a box in order to avoid it. Now it's time to trust God and let Him run the universe as He will. As Rabbi Akiva said, "Everything the Merciful One does is for the best" (Berakhot 60b).

Perhaps this is a good time to say that having courageous hitbodedut can lead to bankruptcy, prison, death or even worse. The spiritual warrior realizes this, puts truth and love above all, and accepts the outcome with grace. You're fully responsible for any actions you take as a result of reading this book. In fact, that's kind of the point! (If acting on your courageous hitbodedut could have legal or medical consequences, I recommend consulting a lawyer, doctor or other appropriate professional first so you know what you are getting into.)

There are things that should not be said to other people, even if they should be said to God. If and when you decide to clear the air, take care to minimize others' hurt feelings. You have a responsibility to speak with compassion and to speak responsibly. Take responsibility for what you have done. Avoid blaming.

No matter how compassionately or gently you share the truth, the other person may feel pain. That may be unpleasant or gut wrenching, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Maybe that's meant to be. If you speak honestly and not vindictively, it usually does more good than harm. It's important to note that, "It might upset him/her" ranks high on the all-time list of excuses for wimping out.

--

© Copyright 2007 Breslov Research Institute

Part II - Here

"Irrigating Their Daled Amos" - Continuing A Discussion

(Picture courtesy of needlefastevergreens.com)

Mixing Different Traditions and the Light of Moshiach

Just Started Reading This

Higher

You toil in mitzvot in the lowest world, but your Torah study elevates them to a higher world. The purer the intention and thought with which you learn, the higher your mitzvot will be elevated.

(Ben Ish Chai)

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

And Overtake You

(Picture courtesy of archives.gov.on.ca)

Degel Machaneh Ephaim, Parshas Ki Savo:

And these blessings will come upon you and overtake you… (Devarim 28:2)

What is the significance of the redundant phrase, "these blessings will come upon you and overtake you"? Wouldn't it have been more appropriate to say, "you will reach and attain these blessings"? People are shortsighted. They fail to discern what is beneficial to them, and often they will run away from true blessings. That is what David Hamelech had in mind when he said, "May only goodness and kindness pursue me." (Tehillim 23:6). He meant to say, "Many times I don't pursue goodness and kindness. In my folly I even try to elude them because I fail to recognize them for what they are. Therefore I pray that goodness and kindness may pursue me and overtake me." This too is implied in the above-mentioned verse, "…these blessings will come upon you and overtake you…" Even if in your ignorance you try to avoid these blessings, they will run after you and reach you.

Courageous Hitbodedut - Part II


Excerpt from Where Earth and Heaven Kiss: A Guide To Rebbe Nachman's Path Of Meditation by Rabbi Ozer Bergman:

Why Dig Up The Past?

Shouldn't it be buried? Isn't the past just the past? The answer to that depends on your feeling about digging it up again. If you have absolutely no negative reaction when you sit down and think about what happened - assuming that you've already honestly appraised what you did and its outcome - then you may not need to readdress it in hitbodedut. On the other hand, if you;re immediately plagued by feelings of guilt, anger, sadness or love - any unexpressed emotion - then give it some time in hitbodedut.

Your sessions of courageous hitbodedut will show you were your barriers are, where you're most frightened.

It certainly easier to stay in a cocoon. Yet if you are serious about making progress, sooner rather than later you'll have to beat your wings against the wall of your cocoon in order to explore new realms of your joyous flowing self, to live unafraid, to be you.

Skeletons In Your Closet

Courageous hitbodedut is the best way to rid yourself of another pariah: the skeleton in your closet. Everyone has at least one. A "skeleton in the closet" is anything you did in the past that you feel was wrong, that gnaws at you, or that you would like the world to never know about. You can continue walking chained to your skeleton, weighed down by your heavy fears. Or you can choose to be courageous, to come clean and decide that living an honest Jewishness is the most important thing in your life. If you are genuinely willing to risk everything you hold dear to tell the truth, your growth and peace will be unsurpassed.

Let's start with some easy examples: What do you regret, but you have never apologized for? What are you still feeling guilty about? Who are you avoiding because you feel uncomfortable about some past interaction? What are you afraid that people will discover about you?

Think about it. Is there anything about you or what you have done that you want to hide from? Pause now for five minutes and make an inventory. If it's not Shabbat or a Jewish holiday, put it in writing. It's worth it.

Then there are the more difficult examples: Have you ever stolen something valuable? Have you had an affair that is still secret? Are you terrified that others will find out you're not the wonderful person they think you are? Did you ever exploit anyone? What lies have you told that you pray will never be exposed? You know what you have been carrying around; add it to the list.

No matter how small or how big, you can be free of it. If you find the matter too big to clean up right now, or if the fear has to great a hold on you, it can be handled a couple of ways. It can all be over five minutes from now - albeit with shallow breath and sweaty hands - or it can be a process.

When you clear something up, it always works out in the long run. The more fearful you are, the greater the potential for growth. If the consequences are not to your liking, then there's a chance for even more growth. So get on with it. Identify a skeleton. Start with a small one to build your muscles, if you like. Or start with a big one and work down. Make your lists (the ones mentioned above) - and start talking.

--

© Copyright 2007 Breslov Research Institute

Part I - Here

Part III - continued tomorrow [here]

Wednesday Links

(Picture courtesy of HNN.co.il)

Zchus Avos Yogen Aleinu: Tikunei Zohar

Beyond Teshuva: Do As I Do

Always

The knowledge of the purpose and goal of life is not just a fact that one hears about, writes down, and then puts away in storage, cleaning it from dust only when Pesach comes. This knowledge must be sensed, lived, and breathed, so that one is totally in harmony with it.

(Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Courageous Hitbodedut - Part I


Excerpt from Where Earth and Heaven Kiss: A Guide To Rebbe Nachman's Path Of Meditation by Rabbi Ozer Bergman:

Courageous Hitbodedut

Courageous hitbodedut is the most important thing you can do for your spiritual growth. It can free you from your demons and improve your relationship with others.

Your relationship with God is greatly affected by your relationship with your fellow human beings (Avot 2:1, 3:13). Use courageous hitbodedut to improve your relationship with others - and with Him.

What is courageous hitbodedut? It's the hitbodedut you don't want to have. In fact, your best hitbodedut is probably the one you haven't even thought of having.

Think for a minute. What's the hardest hitbodedut you can imagine having? What's holding you back from having it? When you think you know the answer, keep reading.

The kind of hitbodedut we're talking about is the one that can transform your relationship with God - or with another person, perhaps even with yourself. It may fee you from bad habits and bad traits. It will certainly clear the air.

Would you like some examples of what it take guts to say? I thought you'd never ask!

- "I've hated you for leaving me."

- "I stole $2,000 from you twenty years ago."

- "I don't have a license to practice, and would like to become legitimate."

- "We've never said, 'I love you' in this family. I love you."

- "Will you marry me?"

- "I'm not enjoying our love life."

- "I had an affair five years ago."

- "I really gave you a hard time at school, and I'm sorry I hurt you."

- "God, I'd like to feel You acknowledge me for all the hard work I do."

- "I am angry at how You treat Your children."

To know if you're ready for some courageous hitbodedut, here are a few clues to look for: How is your relationship with God? Your partner? Family? Co-workers?

If your relationship(s) is less than wonderful, chances are you're holding back something - something that, once expressed, could allow your self-awareness and Jewishness to grow.

Here are other clues that you need some courageous hitbodedut: You're angry at or avoiding someone. You're ashamed of something you did or scared that people will find out about it. You're worried about the consequences of such a hitbodedut session or feel uncomfortable thinking about it. Another important clue is that the trigger for such a session of hitbodedut happened a long time ago, but still resurfaces in your mind every now and then, maybe as you are reading this.

The best clue is that you don't want to have hitbodedut about that! This is a sure sign that you're avoiding something. In a nutshell, you probably haven't had the courageous hitbodedut yet because you're afraid of the outcome you imagine will result: loss, discomfort or change.

--

© Copyright 2007 Breslov Research Institute

Part II - continued tomorrow [here]

"I Really Didn't Want To"

(Illustration courtesy of rspb.org.uk)

Giving Mussar - Hard or Not?

Return To The Cornfield

(Picture courtesy of itsevansville.com)

A Bas Noach's Road to Hashem

A More Direct Approach To Joy

There are two ways to eliminate worry. One is to refuse to entertain such thoughts, just as we should reject depressing thoughts. Then, by avoiding worry and sadness, we can experience joy from doing mitzvos. There is, however, a more positive method, and one that is ultimately more effective, since it eliminates the very source of our worries. The best method is to strengthen our emuna in Hashem and our belief in Hashgacha Pratis. This is also a more direct approach to joy, since faith itself is a source of joy and vitality.

(Rabbi Yaakov Meir Shechter)

Monday, August 27, 2007

The Photography Of A Simple Jew's Father - Part II


Guest Posting From A Talmid - Tehillim


One whose soul longs to attach itself to Hashem, with praises, should attach himself to Sefer Tehilim. Our Rabbis Z’L have already said that Dovid Hamelech prayed that his songs should be recited in Batei Kenisios and Batei Midroshos… Blessed is the man that says Tehilim with shira, zimra, simcha and kavonas halev, not like those in our generation, who recite it hurriedly, without kavana or understanding, and err in the reading… Better a little with kavana than a lot without kavana. One should say, daily without fail, Tehilim divided according to the days of the month. (Shlah)

One who regularly recites Tehilim eliminates all types of misfortunes and terrible tragedies from himself, his household, his family and his whole generation, and brings upon them every form of shefa, good blessings and successes. And there is nothing to shield against Mazikim, like the recital of Kaddish after Tehilim. (Pele Yoetz)

The Redak says that Dovid HaMelech davened for every need that Klal Yisroel will require until Moshiach comes, including that the sick be healed, the healthy shouldn’t get sick, that livelihood should be blessed and to nullify all harsh decrees etc. And when Moshiach comes and there will be no more harsh decrees, there will be no need to say Tehilim anymore, as it says in Tehilim (72, 20) כָּלּוּ תְפִלּוֹת דָּוִד בֶּן-יִשָׁי, the prayers of Dovid, son of Yishai, are finished. (Meor Veshemesh, Mispatim)

The word תהלים is from the loshon of the words (Iyov 41, 10) תָּהֶל אוֹר, “flash forth light”, because in תהלים there is only a great light; there is no power for “din” to be mekatreg, there is pure rachamim and it “sweetens” everything. Therefore, the Songs of Dovid our King are called תהלים, through which it’s possible to work wonders, and there is found no Satan and no bad mishap. (Noam Elimelech, Likutei Shoshana)

The Tzemach Tzedek says that Tehilim breaks all the barriers and ascends before the Adon Olamim, and works wonders with chesed and rachamim. (Kovetz Michtavim)

One who recites Tehilim every day is assured that he is a “Ben Olam Habah”. (Tehila L’Dovid)

Through Tehilim, the final redemption is brought closer. (Pardes Menachem, Shir Hashirim)

Baba Sali would say that every Jew is required to complete Sefer Tehilim at least once a month, and that there is special significance and power in the words of Dovid HaMelech and they can work wonders. (Baba Sali, by Rav Eliyahu Alfasi)

As if Dovid HaMelech Himself is reciting the Words

David HaMelech wrote Tehilim with Ruach Hakodesh. (Likutei Mohoran 156) When one recites Tehilim, it is as great as if Dovid HaMelech, himself, is saying it. The Ruach HaKodesh is still in the words of Tehilim. When you recite Tehilim, your own breath arouses the Holy Breath in these words. Therefore, when you recite Tehilim, it is as if Dovid Hamelech himself is reciting it. (Sicos HaRan 98) In the Yehi Rotzon before Tehilim, we ask that our recital of Tehilim should be as if Dovid HaMelech himself is reciting it.

Tehilim Includes the Whole Torah

Dovid HaMelach put together Tehilim in five books, corresponding to the five books of the Torah. We find that the whole Torah is included and hidden in Tehilim. When Dovid HaMelech would suffer, he would look in the letters and words of that tzarah in the Torah and compose a chapter of Tehilim, which was revealed to him through the light of the Torah. And each chapter of Tehilim certainly corresponds to a chapter in the Torah. (Degel Machane Ephraim, Chaye Sarah)

The Yehi Rotzon, after reciting Tehilim, mentions this concept. It says the first book corresponding to Bereishis, the second corresponding to Shemos and so on.

Getting Rid of Mikatrigim

The author of Shaarei Orah writes that the main minhag of reciting Tehilim is order to chase away the mekatrigim before tefila, so that our prayers can go up without any kitrug. (Levush)

Don’t let the daily set time of reciting Tehilim be light in your eyes, because Tehilim cuts up the klipos so they shouldn’t be mekatreg before davening. And through reciting Tehilim, come many salvations to the world. (Yesod Yosef)

Yiras Hashem

The study of Tehilim brings one to Yiras Hashem. (Maharsha)

Teshuva

One who wants merit doing teshuva, should regularly recite Tehilim, because reciting Tehilim is mesugal for teshuva. That is why we see people very involved in reciting Tehilim in Elul and Aseres Yemei Teshuva. There are many obstacles to teshuva. Many people don’t even feel a need to do teshuvah, and they can die without ever doing teshuva, chas v’Shalom. Some want to do teshuva, but don’t know how to go about this, as there are 50 gates to teshuvah, and they don’t know which one to use. Others may find the proper gate of teshuva but find it locked. Through saying Tehilim one can get through all these obstacles. He will desire to do teshuva, will find the proper gate to use and open it if it’s closed. This is alluded to in the first posuk of Shemos וְאֵלֶּ׳ה שְׁמוֹ׳ת בְּנֵ׳י יִשְׂרָאֵ׳ל הַבָּאִי׳ם מִצְרָיְמָ׳ה אֵ׳ת יַעֲקֹ׳ב אִי׳שׁ וּבֵית׳וֹ בָּאוּ The last letters spell תהילים תשובה and the names of the 12 tribes have 49 letters, representing the 49 gates of teshuva. (See inside why not the 50th gate) (Likutei Mohoran II, 73 - I highly recommend seeing this inside.)

Golus Mitzraim includes in it every other golus and Mitzraim is also the loshon of “tzar”. Through Torah and teshuvah we can be redeemed from golus. Now, everyone is capable of doing teshuvah, however, if it is hard for one who is not a talmid chochom to learn Torah. Therefore, Hashem assured Dovid Hamelech that Sefer Tehilim will be considered like learning Negaim and Oholos (which are very difficult subjects). This, that one can do teshuva through Tehilim, is alluded to in the last letters of each word of the first posuk of Shemos, which spell ״ ותשובה ״ תהלים: וְאֵלֶּ׳ה שְׁמוֹ׳ת בְּנ׳ֵי יִשְׂרָאֵ׳ל הַבָּאִי׳ם מִצְרָיְמָ׳ה אֵ׳ת יַעֲק׳ב אִי׳שׁ וּבֵית׳וֹ בָּא׳ו. (Igra D’Kala, Shemos)

When Klal Yisroel recites Tehilim with a broken heart, Hakodosh Boruch Hu forgives all their sins. (Mayim Rabbim)

Ziknei Torah

The Mishna in Kinnim (3:6) says: “Ziknei Am Ha’aretz, as long as they get older, their minds get more confused…but Ziknei Torah are not like that, instead, as long as they get older, their minds become more settled…”

This means that if one is smart and well versed in Shas and Poskim, but he is attached to earthly desires, that is Ziknei Am Ha’aretz, and on this it says there minds get more confused. However, if one is only capable of reciting Tehilim, with truth and sincerity, (he doesn’t have the capabilities to learn more, but is not attached to earthly desires), that is called Ziknei Torah and as they get older their minds get more settled. (Shearis Yisroel, Shaar Hiskasrus 7:2)

Finding Oneself in Tehilim

The main part of reciting Tehilim is to say it on oneself – each person should find himself in each chapter of Tehilim. All the wars that Dovid Hamelech begged Hashem to save him from – we should have in mind our war with the yetzer harah and his army. (Likutei Mohoran 101,125)

Everyone should find themselves inside the words of Tehilim. That’s why it says at the end of Ashrei: וִיבָרֵךְ כָּל-בָּשָׂר, שֵׁם קָדְשׁוֹ--לְעוֹלָם וָעֶד - all flesh will bless You, in any situation we may be in. (Yismach Yisroel, Ekev)

Unless one is very fluent with the translation of the words of Tehilim, I highly recommend the Artscroll Interlinear Tehilim. This is a great way to “find oneself” in Tehilim, and paying attention to the meaning of the words is a whole new and fulfilling experience

Pidyon

If one learns Tehilim with kavana it’s a pidyon, redemption, from all types of disasters and tragedies. Perhaps, that’s why Dovid composed 150 chapters equal to the gematria of פדיון. Through the studying of Tehilim with kavan one can redeem himself from all types of misfortunes. (Magen V’shemesh, quoting Emek Hamelech)

Fulfilling the Whole Torah

The first letters of תּ׳ֻכּוּ לְ׳רַגְלֶךָ י׳ִשָּׂא מִ׳דַּבְּרֹתֶיךָ spell תילם and the next words areתּוֹרָה צִוָּה-לָנוּ מֹשֶׁה מוֹרָשָׁה קְהִלַּת יַעֲקֹב alluding that if one recites Tehilim everyday, it’s as if he fulfilled the whole entire Torah. (Rabbeinu Ephraim, V’zos Habracha) (Note: There are different ways that Tehilim is spelled.)

Meriting being תחת כסא הכבוד

The last letters of וְהִגַּדְתֶּם לְאָבִי אֶ׳ת-כָּ׳ל-כְּבוֹד׳ִי בְּמִצְרַיִ׳ם (Vayigash 45, 13) spell תלים alluding that whoever recites Tehilim daily will merit being תחת כסא הכבוד (Rabbeinu Ephraim, Vayigash)

Segula for Rainfall

Reciting Tehilim is a segula for rainfall; תהלם stands for ל׳מטר ה׳שמים ת׳שתה מ׳ים (Sefer Hamidos, Segula)

Meriting to go to Yerushalayim

One who regularly recites Tehilim will merit going up to Eretz Yisroel and Yerushalayim, which is the city of David HaMelech. (Tehila L’Dovid)

The Whole Sefer Tehilim without Interuption

For any need one might have, one should recite the whole Sefer Tehilim, from beginning to end, without any interruption. Reb Pinchas Koritzer says that one shouldn’t even say the Yehi Rotzon that is often said between the five books of Tehilim. (Pele Yoetz, Igra D’Pirka, Imrei Pinchas)

The Rebbe, Reb Zusia of Anipoli says that this is alluded to by the posuk in Tehilim (106, 2), מִי-יְמַלֵּל גְּבוּרוֹת יְהוָה יַשְׁמִיעַ כָּל-תְּהִלָּתוֹ. The word יְמַלֵּל is used to mean rubbing in order to pull off, as in Beitzah 12b. The posuk can now be read as: “Who pulls off the gevuros, the harsh judgements, of Hashem? He who makes all His praise heard”. (By reciting the whole Sefer Tehilim)

Reb Moshe of Savran says that “without interruption” doesn’t just mean speaking out, but even distracting oneself so that his heart and mouth are not in sync.

Parnasa

It is a segula for parnasa to recite any three chapters of Tehilim, specifically, after davening. (Reb Avrohom Moshe of Raspasha-Pshadvars)

Weapon against the Yetzer Hora

Reciting Sefer Tehilim three times in one day is like sword and spear against the yetzer hara. (Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov)

Like a Fast from Shabbos to Shabbos

There is a kabbala from the Rebbe, Reb Elimelech of Lizensk, that one who recites Sefer Tehilim three times in one day is considered as if he fasted from Shabbos to Shabbos.

Early Morning Tehilim

The last letters of צִיצִ׳ת עַ׳ל-כַּנְפֵ׳י בִגְדֵיהֶ׳ם spell תלים, because it is a choice mitzvah, to wrap oneself in tzitzis, early, and learn Tehilim. (Rabbein Ephraim, Vayishlach)

Tikun HaKlali

(I cannot do this subject justice here, but a post on Tehilim would not be complete without some mention of Tikun HaKlali.)

For mikra layla, one should say 10 chapters of Tehilim on the day this happens, because the recital of Tehilim has the power to release the emission from the klipa that took it, because תהלים is the gematria of לילי׳ת with the 5 letters of her name. She is the one that controls the wasted seed. One should have in mind that תהלים is the gematria of 485, which is equal to the two names, א־ל אלקים, spelled out - אלף למד אלף למד הי יוד מם. Through these two names, the wasted drops are released from the klipas. The specific ten chapters to be said are: 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137, 150. (After an emission, preferably one should immerse in the mikva first. If not he should say it anyway.) After one says the Tikun HaKlali, he shouldn’t fear anymore, because the sin has certainly been rectified through this, and through this tikun of this sin Moshiach will come to gather the exiles. (Likutei Mohoran 205, II 92)

Reb Nachman said that of all his Torah he is sure but of this one he is even more certain. (Sichos HaRan 141)

Reb Nachman promised in front of two witnesses that after his passing, whoever will come to his grave, give tzedaka for his neshama and recite Tikun HaKlali, he will pull him out of Gehinom by his peyos, but from now on he has to accept upon himself not to go back to his former ways, chas v’Shalom. (Chaye Mohoran 41)

Elul

It is brought down many places to finish the whole Sefer Tehilim at least 2 times before Rosh Hashana, since the gematria of כפר, forgive, is 300, and there are 150 chapters of Tehilim, and to finish it a third time before Yom Kippur.

There is a minhag that the Baal HaTanya received from the Magid of Mezritch, who received it from the Baal Shem Tov, who received it from his teacher, that from 1 Elul one should say 3 chapters of Tehilim everyday (1 Elul-chapters 1-3, 2 Elul chapters 4-6, etc.) On Yom Kippur one should say 115-123 before Kol Nidrei, 124-132 before going to sleep, 133-141 after Mussaf and 142-150 after Neilah. (Tehilim Tehilah L’Dovid)

Chapter 119

There are eight pesukim for each letter in Chapter 119. There is a minhag to recite the letters making up the name of a person when praying at a grave. You would take the name of the deceased and read each section of Chapter 119 corresponding to the letters of the name than the letters for בן/בת, then the father’s name and then the letters of נשמה after the name.

For a sick person the same thing is done except the mothers name is used and after the name the words קרע שטן are added (instead of נשמה).

Sholom Bayis

A segula for sholom bayis is to spell out the words שלום הבית with chapter 119, everyday. (Segulas Yisroel)

Keeping Out of Gehinom

In Tehilim 25 each posuk starts with a different letter of the aleph beis, except the letters בו׳ק, which are the gematria of גיהנום. Therefore reciting chapter 25 every day is a segula not to go to Gehinom. (Found in many editions of Tehilim)

Woman in Labor

Arizal says that Chapter 20 is good to say for mercy on a woman in labor. It has 9 pesukim corresponding to 9 months of labor and 70 words corresponding to the 70 pains of childbirth. (Divrei Torah 3:30) The Chida says that one should say it 12 times and then say a special Yehi Rotzon. (Avodas HaKodesh)

Chapter 100 is a segula for a woman in difficult labor. The first letters of the opening words, מ׳ִזְמוֹר לְ׳תוֹדָה, מ״ל, are equal to 70, referring to the 70 screams of a woman before giving birth. There are also 43 words referring to the klipa of גם, which also equals 43, from the posuk (Malachim1 3:25) וְזֹאת אֹמֶרֶת גַּם-לִי גַם-לָךְ לֹא יִהְיֶה-גְּזֹרוּ. (Likutei Mohoran II 2, end)

Sweeten Harsh Judgments

Chapters 39 and 77 sweeten harsh judgments. (Sefer Hamidos, Hamtokas Din 37, 42)

Teshuvah

Chapter 51 is established on teshuva. (Noam Eliezer)

Harsh Decrees

For harsh decrees, that the nations decree on Yisroel, recite chapter 62. (Sefer Hamidos, Hamtokas Din, 53)

Haters

To get rid of haters recite chapter 71. (Refuah V’Chaim)

For Barren Woman

A segula for a barren woman to bear children is to recite chapter 102. (Likutei Mamorim)

Shidduch

In Asara Mamoros it says that reciting Chapter 121 at the end of all the tefilos, before stepping back, is a segula to find a good shidduch. (Igra D'Pirka 63) The source for saying Tehilim 121 is a Medrash that says Yaakov Avinu said this, praying to find his match. The first posuk says "From where will my helper (meaning wife) come?" And the next posuk says "My help will come from Hashem".

One who is looking for a shidduch should say the following chapters of Tehilim: 32, 38, 70, 71, 124. (Segulas Yisroel)

Rescue from Enemies

Take salt in your hand and recite chapter 125 seven times. Then, throw the salt in front of your enemies or between them, and you’ll be saved. (Refuos V’Segulos from Levushei Srad)

Sleep

The 15 chapters of Shir Hamalos (120-134) are a segula to eliminate sleep. (Sefer Hamidos, Sheina 3)

Chapters 1-4 recited before going to sleep, are a segula to prevent mikra layla. (Shlah)

Victory

For victory recite chapter 12. (Sefer Hamidos, Meriva 37)

Chapter 67

Many seforim bring down segulas attributed to reciting chapter 67 in the form of a menorah. Some have it printed on parchment.

For Release of Prisoners

Many times in recent years Rabbonim have asked that Chapter 142 be recited for the release of prisoners, since this is what Dovid HaMelech said when he was trapped in the cave.

Corresponding to Age

The Baal HaTanya received from his Rebbe, who received from the Baal Shem Tov, who received from his teacher a minhag that one should recite the chapter of Tehilim corresponding to one’s next Birthday. So, for example, if a boy turns 13, he would recite Chapter 14 everyday, and on every Rosh Chodesh, study that chapter with Rashi. (Tehilim Tehilah L’Dovid)

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A Talmid's blog Zchus Avos Yogen Aleinu can be seen here.

Being Machmir On Trivialities

(Picture courtesy of hugpup.com)

People who are overly rigid on insignificant issues usually roll over and give in when faced with significant issues.

Before

Teshuva is one of seven things created before the world came into existence.

(Talmud - Pesachim 54a)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Black & White Picture Of The Week - Mixer Attachment

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh


Thanks to my good friend Dixie Yid, I purchased the English translation of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. My neshoma lit right up on Shabbos morning when I opened it up for the first time.

When a parent, spouse, or close friend puts their hand on your back, you experience a deep feeling of comfort or encouragement. This is the precise feeling that I experienced when learning this sefer; as if the Ribbono shel Olam was putting His hand on my back and encouraging me to come closer to Him.

This sefer certainly does not need my haskama, but nevertheless I highly recommend it to everyone. I guarantee that this sefer will ignite a fire in your heart.

A New Center The Middle Of Yerushalayim

(Painting by Baruch Nachshon)

New Torah & Chassidus Center - Wellsprings

Friday, August 24, 2007

Guest Posting By Rabbi Ozer Bergman - Simcha

(Painting by Pieter Bruegel )

Reb Moshe ben Yehuda, a Breslover from Uman who moved to Teverya (aka Tiberias) Eretz Yisrael in the 1870s, writes in one his letters:

Just as the Rebbe (Nachman zal) told us to practice hitbodedut daily, he also told us to be b’simcha.

Approximately 99.99% of the world, when they hear that famous Breslov motto, “Mitzvah gedolah l’hiyot b’simcha tamid” (usually misconstrued as “It’s a great mitzvah to always be happy”) either paste a smile on their face, grumble about the impossibility of such a thing, or smile (smirk?) at the quaintness of such a seemingly simpleminded notion.

In addition to his great level of tzidkut (saintliness), Rebbe Nachman was a genius not only in Torah (i.e., that he could learn a sugya [Talmudic topic] with the best of them), and not only in understanding the human psyche (that the happier we are the better we perform in any given endeavor), but in knowing how to fix the world and those of us who inhabit it. So “mitzvah gedolah l’hiyot b’simcha tamid” (which we may yet translate before this posting is finished) is critical to fixing not only our individual neshamot, but the entire blessed mess of this pain-ridden universe. (When it hurts you, tattele-shein/mammale-shein,* it hurts the Shekhinah and the Ribono shel Olam too.)

Likutey Moharan II, Lessons #23 and 24 are lessons in which Rebbe Nachman focuses squarely on the avodah of simcha. (Lesson #24 is actually the source of “Mitzvah gedolah l’hiyot b’simcha tamid.”) Now, whether you noticed it or not, in the previous (non-parenthesized) sentence, I stuck in the word avodah, which means two related things, “work” and “religious devotion/practice.” Broadly speaking, there are two types of simcha (happiness, joy, cheer, optimism). One is for kids, a childish sort of simcha: When Mommy or Daddy, or Bubby or Zeidy, gives you a lollipop, or a trip to Israel or the credit card. It's the type of simcha most people are looking for and pray for: If only I had...or he hadn’t.... God, I’ll be so happy if I have this job, if I can learn daf yomi, if I can be in Uman for Rosh HaShanah. (These are all good things, some of them are also noble. One should pray for them if he feels the need for them. But...) The common denominator of all these is that we are dependent on someone for our simcha. It is a gift, and lacking that gift we aren't happy.

That’s not the kind of simcha Rebbe Nachman is talking about. It’s not “mitzvah gedolah” simcha.

The pasted-on “Life is perfect, and nothing hurts, nothing bothers me” smile is also a symptom of false-simcha. It’s not the kind of simcha Rebbe Nachman is talking about. It’s not “mitzvah gedolah” simcha.

So what is? I’m glad you asked. “Mitzvah gedolah” simcha is simcha you earn. It is simcha you work to make. It is mature simcha.

I don’t know if it’s also Rebbe Nachman’s genius, but it is certainly his concern that is on display when he tells us (in the above mentioned lessons and Likutey Moharan II, Lesson #119 and Sichot HaRan #308.) that the world is full of pain, suffering and frustration—and it won’t go away unless you make it go away. Whatever the reason(s), stuff happens in life, big stuff and little stuff. Deal with it, Rebbe Nachman says. Face up to your challenges, look your pain squarely in the eye. Grab it and make it do something it doesn’t want to do—make it a reason for simcha, make it a vehicle for kedushah (holiness, sanctity).

How are you going to do that? That's the avodah, the hard work part, the “religious devotion” and dedication part. It starts with tefilah (prayer), it starts with acknowledging the pain and frustration, and it starts with the courage to step up and deal with your problems in order to make God happy.

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*Literally, “handsome little daddy” and “pretty little mommy.” Yiddish terms of endearment for a young boy and a young girl, respectively.

© Copyright 2007 Breslov Research Institute

Admin Note

I will be attending a week-long conference for work next week so I will be away from the computer for much of this time. In my absence, I still plan to have regular postings each day.

Parshas HaShavua B'Blog

(Picture by Simone Mirandi)

Chalitza & Tefillin

Yevamos

Erev Shabbos Links


Zchus Avos Yogen Aleinu: Reb Pinchos of Koritz

ThereIsOne.com: From the Old City: A Practical Torah Commentary

Heichal HaNegina: Respecting our Sages and Their Teachings

Without Simcha

The Torah does not specify the aveiros for which the Jewish people will be punished. The only one which it mentions specifically is, "Because you did not serve Hashem your G-d with simcha."

(Rebbe Simcha Bunim of Pshischa)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Kiryat Breslev Videos

Sponsorship Opportunity - Breslov Pirkey Avos

With Hashem‘s help, the Breslov Research Institute is on the verge of publishing a commentary on Pirkey Avot, based on Rebbe Nachman zal‘s teachings. It is being compiled by the well-known author, translator and teacher Rabbi Dovid Sears, who has written A Vision of Eden, The Tree That Stands Beyond Space, The Path of the Baal Shem Tov, and many other works.

In order to complete this project, we are in need of $10,000. At this juncture, it is still possible to make a dedication in honor of someone dear to you.

Please take advantage of this opportunity to benefit the Jewish people by sharing with them the wisdom of our Sages and the insights of Rebbe Nachman. Thank you.

For more information, please send an e-mail to info-at-breslov.org with the word "Pirkey" in the subject line.

Embellishing A Story About The Degel Machaneh Ephraim?


Rabbi Tal Zwecker recently brought to my attention that Yair Weinstock's book "Tales for the Soul - Volume 5" includes a curious story about the Degel Machaneh Ephraim. The first page of Yair Weinstock's story "En Route to the Chupah" claims that the Baal Shem Tov attended the Degel's wedding, that the wedding was held in Sudilkov, and that the Toldos Yaakov Yosef acted as the mesader kiddushin.

While I was initially amazed at all these details, I quickly consulted my research about the Degel's life and decided that Weinstock's details were simply embellishments in the same vein as Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach's story "Moishele the Ganev II".

The Baal Shem Tov passed away in 1760 when the Degel was 12 years old. The 1763 census of Polish Jewry notes that the Degel, then 15 years-old, was married and living with his wife Yetel in Mezhibuz. And, it was not until 1780, when the Degel was 32 years-old, when he moved to Sudilkov.

While it was certainly possible that the Toldos Yaakov Yosef acted as the mesader kiddushin at the Degel's wedding, this is appears to be an unsubstantiated claim since I have never come across such information in all the sources and stories I have seen about the Degel's life.

I would curious to contact Yair Weinstock to find out more about the source of his information for his story "En Route to the Chupah". According to my information, Sudilkov most famous wedding occurred when the Meor Einayim traveled to the shtetl to attend the wedding of his grandson to Degel's granddaughter.

Continuing The Discussion - Hisbodedus vs. Hisbonenus

A field in Sudilkov

After reviewing our discussion on "Reasons For Not Jumping Straight Into Hisbodedus":

Rabbi Lazer Brody commented,

"Rabbenu Nachman told us to do 60 minutes of hisbodedus a day. The highest level is bitul, when I nullify my own sechel and subjugate myself to the tzaddik, and do what he tells me. That's what hiskashrus is all about."

Rabbi Ozer Bergman commented,

"Rebbe Nachman teaches (Likutey Moharan I, 29) that dibbur without daas isn't dibbur. Just to say words without thinking about what one is saying (the way most people daven?) is no way to have hisbodedus or even a conversation with a fellow human being!

In hisbodedus, some words need to be thought about before one can decide whether or not he really means them ("Is that what I want?" "Can I really promise this to Hashem?" "Do I truly feel this way?")

Some words are true, but need "fire." One has to "get himself into the zone" to speak them with earnest, honest passion.

Some words are so true they come straight from the gut -- thinking only gets in the way."


Rabbi Dovid Sears commented:

"I once asked Rav Kenig of Tzefat about the role of contemplation in hisbodedus, and he referred me to Torah 10 in the second part of Likkutei Moharan. This lesson discusses "yishuv ha-daas," gained through contemplation of the meaning of life and the futility of pursuing mundane desires. It also stresses the importance of simchah, in the sense of cultivating a positive frame of mind. Rav Kenig said that all this is part of hisbodedus, too."

More On Uplifting Sparks In Music

(Picture courtesy of Yood.org)

Received via e-mail from Moshe F.:

Hey ASJ. I've been following all your recent discussions on both Jewish music and hisbodedus, and here's something that could contribute to both of them.

The Arutz 7 TV had an interview with YOOD, a Chassidic rock band. In the interview, the band talk about uplifting sparks in music, tohu and tikkun, and I think the song played during the interview (set my soul free) is an excellent example of hisbodedus! If you find it worth while to talk about, I think it could broaden everyone's horizons about these two important subjects.

Here's the link. (The interview starts on 5th minute and goes to minute 12.)

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh Visit To America

Click on the image above for the full schedule

UPDATE: Shiur in Woodmere postponed

Learning Alone

Those who study Torah alone will lose their ability to understand even פשט, the Torah's plan meaning. The letters of פשט will realign and form טפש, "fool" - and they will become foolish.

(Ben Ish Chai)

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

"Reasons For Not Jumping Straight Into Hisbodedus"

(Picture courtesy of nih.org)

Dixie Yid commenting on An Indirect Route? Hisbonenus vs. Hisbodedus:

Okay ASJ, as I promised you, I wanted to translate for you a few passages from Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh, chelek beis ch. 14 D"H "3 Levels: Machshava, Dibur and Ma'aseh", on his reasons for not jumping straight into Hisbodedus, but rather to first build up Machshava, a.k.a. Hisbonenus. I started the translation and then remembered that "My friend Yaakov" had already done the job at Bilvavi.net so I'm quoting here the most relevant passages in translation. Here goes:

Every level and every world must be properly built! If there is no solid process of thought before one comes to speak, a person falls too quickly from the world of thought to the world of speech. His thought is too weak, and thus, the speech based on it is not solid, and the entire structure is only like a castle built in the air.

What is the proper kind of thought? First of all, one must know that there is a Creator. He starts thinking about it. He doesn't say anything, but in his thought, he thinks, "Who created the world? There must be a Creator, etc." He contemplates this (each person according to the time needed), until the intellect clearly recognizes that there is a Creator.

In the second stage, he takes this point, and speaks about it to himself: "This is what I thought, and it became clear to me that there is a Creator, because if not, where did the moon come from? From where are the stars? From where are people?" and so on. Only in the third stage does he approach Hashem and speak to Him.

In other words, there must be three well-established phases. The first phase is real contemplation, spending a long time contemplating well about the matter. The second phase is that after the contemplation, one begins to speak to himself: "The world has a Master, He controls the palace, and I see His Divine Providence." The third phase is where he speaks to Hashem and says, "Master of the world, I have clarified for myself that there is a Creator, that You exist, that you control the palace, that every detail happens through You," and so on.

If one jumps immediately to the third phase, we can anticipate a total collapse! Even if one only skips over the first phase, the phase of thought, and jumps right away to the second phase, that of speech, it will still be difficult for his efforts to have any lasting value.

Question & Answer With Shifra Shomron - Remembering Neve Dekalim


A Simple Jew asks:

In your book "Grains of Sand" The Fall of Neve Dekalim", you wrote,

"The tragic events regarding Gush Katif burned in me, forcing me to take pen in hand and spill the burning lava of my thoughts and emotions onto white paper."

Now with two years behind you since the time you and your family were expelled from your home in Neve Dekalim, have your opinions about the State of Israel lost any of their intensity? Do you feel that is hard to remain living in a country that betrayed you?

Shifra Shomron answers:

Two years since Disengagement have not lessened my feelings regarding the State of Israel. Perhaps, I should first state that Disengagement itself did not change my feelings towards the State - though perhaps it sharpened them. I do not feel that my country betrayed me - since I never had any trust in its leaders.

Indeed, looking back in our history, we can see that little has changed in the ensuing 60 years of statehood. David Ben-Gurion refused to conquer all of biblical Israel in 1948 though he admittedly had the capacity to do so. He then gave away the Sinai and Gaza in 1956. Levi Eshkol refused to annex the re-conquered lands in 1967. Golda Meir publicly announced that she could forgive the Arabs for attacking us but she could not forgive them for teaching us to kill. In other words, she preferred sacrificing Jews rather than defending them. Menachem Begin was the first Jewish Prime Minister to forcibly remove Jews from their homes in Israel, as he destroyed the Jewish communities in the Sinai region and gave the Sinai to the Egyptians. And the more recent Prime Ministers have done nothing to make us trust them. So why should I feel betrayed? Have I ever been given reason to expect alternative behavior from Israel's leaders?

However, my identity with the State of Israel is not because of the leaders but rather in spite of them! As a daughter of the Jewish nation, this is my land. This is my heritage. And I love my country and my people - and do my best to make this a better place by participating in national elections, writing articles, publishing my historic novel "Grains Of Sand: The Fall Of Neve Dekalim", and studying to become a high-school English and Bible teacher. Yes, it is difficult to live in Israel - but God gave this land to the Jewish nation, and this is where I belong.

A Painting As A Comment

Shoshannah Brombacher commenting on Fighting In The Grave:

Shalom! Dixie Yid wrote about a Shimon the Miser, I told him I heard a similar story about Yossele the Miser, and by coincidence made a drawing about that just a few day ago

Video - Rabbi Levi Yitzhak Bender

Rush To Read It

Every true descendant of Avraham certainly wishes to be a good Jew. The only think lacking is knowledge of Torah. Every person realizes that if a wealthy man or great scholar wrote him a letter saying that he should do something, he would certainly try very hard to fulfill it as soon as possible. If the letter was written in a foreign language, he would even pay to have it translated so as to know what to do. This should be all the more case of the Torah. Now that there is a book like this, prepared and waiting, clearly explaining every detail, everyone should rush to read it.

(Rabbi Yaakov Culi)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Black & White Poland


Question & Answer With Chaim Of Life-Of-Rubin - American Pop Culture


A Simple Jew asks:


In a sicha from Rosh Chodesh Elul 5714 / 1954, the Lubavitcher Rebbe said,

"Certainly we need to control reading material coming into our home and what we hear on the radio. But the most potent influence even upon adults, certainly upon much more impressionable children and teenagers, are the visual media: television, movies, for these grab our total attention. "

While the Lubavitcher Rebbe certainly promoted the use of television to spread Torah teachings, from the above teaching it appears that the Lubavitcher Rebbe did not promote a person - and certainly not a chassid - watching whatever television program he or she desired. As a chassid who lives in the heart of Crown Heights, do you ever feel pressure from your community to curtail your exposure to American pop culture?

Chaim answers:

The Rebbe wanted us to use new technology to help spread Torah and encourage people to do more Mitzvos. The problem was/is that there are too many people who are themselves influenced by pop culture. It's not easy for a person to be exposed to popular culture and not become attracted to it.

The challenge that the Rebbe presented to us is therefore that much greater. Not only was he asking us to use these tools, but to somehow make ourselves stronger by facing our taivahs and still attempting to avoid them.

Before a person does anything they need to know themselves. It's important that if you are not strong in your own Hashkafic convictions you don't immerse yourself in something that will tempt you. The reward from using something like TV to spread Torah is huge. One person can go into the street, but he can only speak to one person at a time. Even if a person has a public shiur he still can't effect more then a couple hundred at best.

When a person goes on television he can reach millions of people in the same time it would take a person an entire lifetimes.

Just as a person has to know his or her own limits and how strong they are spiritually. People also have to be able to know how to use anything the right way or the wrong way. It's not just TV or the Internet. Anything can be used the wrong way or the right way. Take Tzniuis for instance. Today's fashions allow for a women to dress traditionally Tznius but not within the spirit of Tznius. Women can have their elbows and knees and hair covered but wear whatever new tight fitting top or slinky skirt that Gap or Express is debuting with the new Fall Fashions.

You can see that anything can be done in a good way or a bad way. Here is another example. Men who go out to Shiruim till very late at night. Learning Torah is a very important thing. But Shalom Bayis and being a part of your home family is also very important. If you are out early in the morning for Shachris and then go to work all day, then maybe coming home for dinner for 30 minutes. Then going back out to a Shiur for 2 hours is not the best idea.

You have to know how much of a good thing is too much. Maybe only go out one night, or two nights. Make sure that your home for a significant period of time before you run back out. Do homework with your children. Learn with them. Make sure your wife doesn't need you for anything. Being at home is sometimes more important. I've seen too many times these situations where the wives are overworked and angry because their husband is never around.

We're all so upset about the "at risk" problem. Have we ever once stopped to think that maybe if fathers spent more time learning with their own children it would be better? Yes, we send our kids to school for a reason but the time you spend connecting with your children will make a major difference as the grow up. If all they remember is a father who was home for 30 minutes for dinner (if even that) then they will need to bond and look to outside sources for that connection.

That's really taking this on a tangent, but I felt like it was an important point to address. Getting back to the main discussion here. Just like a person can take a seemingly good thing and use it wrong. We can also take a seemingly bad thing and use it for good. The trick is just being honest with yourself and knowing if you can make the distinction. In a way it's great because it allows us another chance to better ourselves. If a person can use TV or the Internet to channel it only for good and not be tempted or influenced by its negative effects. How much stronger will we be?

A person will never know how strong he us until he has gone into battle. This rule applies to being spiritually strong as well. I think The Rebbe had tremendous confidence in us and truly believed that we could use something like TV without becoming a couch potato. So when I see either myself or people around me losing that battle and being influenced by "pop culture" I just try to remind myself that so much good has been done through new technology. We just have to be strong ourselves and try to avoid the pressure you speak of.

Weary

A person can be faint and weary because of different afflictions and fasts he imposes on himself, and nevertheless not fear Hashem.

(Chozeh of Lublin)

Monday, August 20, 2007

Question & Answer With Rabbi Nasan Maimon - V'Sartem


A Simple Jew asks:

In Degel Machaneh Ephraim, Parshas Kedoshim, the Degel teaches in the name of his grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, that immediately when a person turns away from his state of deveykus and his consciousness of Hashem it is considered as if he is serving other gods.

What advice does Rebbe Nachman of Breslov provide to the simple Jew on how to attain and constantly retain such consciousness?

Rabbi Nasan Maimon responds:

The Baal Shem Tov put great emphasis on "Bechol Derochecha Da’ai’hu, In all your ways know (be conscious of) Hashem."

Rabbi Nachman of Breslov put his greatest emphasis on Hisbodedus, personal, private communication with Hashem in your own words and language on a daily basis at a fixed time and place. This applies to all Jews on every level.

I once saw in a sefer (I believe it was written by the Chida Zal) that a person who has "hisbodedus" regularly will always be conscious of Hashem.

This can be seen in that the first letters of "Bechol Derochecha Da’ai’hu" spell the word "Badad" which is the root of the word "hisbodedus".

A Hachnosas Sefer Torah In Tsfat






(Pictures by Jack Klein)