Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Teaching from Rebbe Nachman of Breslov on the day of his yahrzeit - 18 Tishrei

Do not be hurried. You may find many kinds of devotion in the sacred
literature and ask, "When will I be able to fulfill even one of these
devotions? How can I ever hope to keep them all?" Do not let this
frustrate you. Go slowly, step by step. Do not rush and try to grasp
everything at once. If you are overhasty and try to grasp everything
at once, you become totally confused. When a house burns down,
people often rescue the most worthless items. You can do the same
in your confusion.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)


Click here for more of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's teachings.

Sukkos: Questions & Answers

What is the meaning of this sukkah we sit in?

Why don’t we just eat dinner in the dining room?

What is the connection between Yom Kippur and Sukkos? -- Five
days earlier we were fasting and davening in shul all day long.

What does a sukkah have to do with repentance?

How is this holiday a logical extension of Rosh Hashanah and
Yom Kippur?

The Torah commands us to dwell in the sukkah for the seven days
of the Sukkos holiday to remember the temporary dwellings our
ancestors lived in for 40 years in the desert.

However, there is a deeper meaning as well...

Immediately after Yom Kippur we are commanded to involve
ourselves with the mitzvos of Sukkos. The sukkah, being a
temporary dwelling, reminds us that our time here on earth is also
temporary. The holiday of Sukkos follows Rosh Hashanah and Yom
Kippur so we will not forget his fact and remind us of all the
resolutions we made only a few days before.

At the same time, Sukkos is known as Zman Simcha’senu (a time of
our happiness). The sukkah is constructed in such a fashion that it
surrounds us. This recalls the Clouds of Glory that surrounded and
protected our ancestors in the desert. It reminds us that just as G-d
protected our ancestors thousands of years ago, He continues to
protect us today and everyday.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

A dilemma for an undecided voter

George Bush supports the uprooting and expulsion of Jews from Gaza.

John Kerry supports the uprooting and expulsion of Jews from Gaza.

How can I vote for either candidate?

Isn't a vote for Bush or Kerry a vote against my brothers and sisters in Gaza?

Quote of the Day - 13 Tishrei

All of Jewish philosophy is but an attempt to fit inside the human
mind that which is contained within the heart of a simple Jew.

(Rabbi Tzvi Freeman)

Monday, September 27, 2004

Motivation for the days following Yom Kippur

If a person says:
“I will” - that is bad;
“I want to” - that too is not good.
“I’m already doing it” - that is truly good.

(Kotzker Rebbe)


Yearning is of value only if you put it into action as a driving force for
reaching higher levels. Otherwise, it will tend to create within
you a subtle despair. Without your being aware of it, you will be
feeling, “I have been yearning for so many years and I have
accomplished nothing. I must have no further potential.” In the end,
you will stop yearning.

(Piaceszna Rebbe)

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Two Yom Kippur Thoughts...

After the first time we said Al Chet, my rabbi remarked:

"If you didn't feel that these apply to you,
be sure to say them twice."


My wife also had a unique insight into Yom Kippur.
She said that when you break it down, you are
eating a big meal before the fast and a big meal after
the fast. In reality you are only not eating for two
meals. So why do people find it so hard? Have
Americans got to the point where they will not
tolerate any bit of inconvenience or discomfort?

Friday, September 24, 2004

Mesiras Nefesh

A Mission To Salvage Holy Message
Wheaton Rabbi Scours World for Torahs Buried,
Hidden During Holocaust

By Katherine Shaver
Friday, September 24, 2004; Page B05

Menachem Youlus, a Wheaton rabbi, and two other
men had been digging for about two hours on a farm
in Ukraine when, five feet into the earth, they found
the sea of bones.

The remains of 263 men, women and children were
still shrouded in clothing that bore the Star of David,
which Jews were forced to wear during the Holocaust.
Youlus also discovered what looked to be German
army body bags.

Inside, he found two cherished items, badly
deteriorated but Holocaust survivors just the same:
They were Torahs, sacred handwritten scrolls that
contain the five Books of Moses.

Discovered four years ago, the scrolls were two of
more than 400 Torahs that Youlus and a team of
scribes have unearthed from a dark past. Youlus
has spent the last 19 years scouring Eastern
Europe for them, then working with fellow scribes
to restore the scrolls and find them new homes.
"Many of the Torahs come from communities that
were completely destroyed in the Holocaust," said
Youlus, 43, as he prepared earlier this week for Yom
Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement -- a time of
confession and repentance, observed by fasting
and nearly unbroken prayer -- which begins at

"No one is left from these towns," he said. "The
only thing that survived is these Torahs."
Some lost Torahs have come his way without any
digging. In Ukraine, he bought one from a former
Nazi sergeant who said he confiscated it from a man
entering Auschwitz. He discovered another being
sold in pieces to artists who were using the sacred
parchment as canvas. Some he smuggled out of
then-Communist countries, two panels at a time,
in the lining of luggage.

"He's an intrepid Jewish 007," said Rabbi Moshe D.
Shualy, ritual director for Chizuk Amuno, a Baltimore
synagogue that has two of Youlus's rescued Torahs.
"You wouldn't look at him twice," said Shualy,
whose parents were Holocaust survivors. "But he
puts himself in such impossible situations to find,
retrieve and resurrect these scrolls."

If Youlus can't track down a Torah's owners or their
descendants, he said, he buys it from whoever has
come to possess it. Then, back at his family's
store, the Jewish Bookstore of Greater Washington
on Georgia Avenue, he and a team of scribes, try to
repair 60 years worth of damage from mildew, heat,
dirt, bugs and rodents. On many Torahs, Youlus said,
he also finds bayonet marks and cigarette burns from
Nazi desecration.

After using an infrared camera attached to a scanner
that shows cracked letters and other details the
naked eye can miss, Youlus and his team painstakingly
re-ink each one by hand with a goose or turkey quill.
Each Torah contains about 302,000 Hebrew letters.
Some words must be written with one drop of ink.
It requires hours of concentration.

"You have to think about only one thing: that you're
writing for the sake of God," Youlus said. "It's not to
get a high or because you're better than the next

Seven scribes restore the scrolls in a warehouse near
Baltimore. Youlus does his work with his brother-in-law,
Rabbi Ayson Englander, at the bookstore. Cardboard
boxes containing 40 to 50 Torahs, some new, are
stacked to its 20-foot ceiling. It takes between seven
weeks and six months to repair a Torah. Youlus
estimates they are able to restore about 85 percent of

When he's done, Youlus finds them new homes in
synagogues, schools and Jewish community centers
across the country.

"He's one of the world's great people," said Rick
Zitelman, a Rockville investment and merchant
banker. Zitelman and his wife, Cindy, helped buy one
of Youlus's Torahs for Sixth and I Historic Synagogue
on the edge of the District's Chinatown.

Youlus -- who has a Web site devoted to his mission, -- estimates that as many as
2,400 scrolls survived the Holocaust. He believes so
strongly in saving them that, he said, he has gone into
debt $170,000 to finance his work.

"He doesn't see it as a sacrifice," Zitelman said of
Youlus using his money. "He just sees it as his life's

Perhaps nothing captures the intrigue and often
profound sadness of Torah rescue as Youlus's
gruesome discovery in Kamenits-Poldosk, a small
town in Ukraine.

Youlus went there in spring 2000 to meet with an
antiques dealer who had a Torah. That deal fell
through, but while sitting outside the store drinking a
soda, he said, a farmer approached him, offering to
sell him a map. The farmer said his father had told him
to offer the map to someone wearing a yarmulke.

Youlus said he bought the map for $1,500.
"My driver thought I was pretty nutty, but I had a gut
feeling," Youlus said.

The hand-drawn map, marked with an "X" surrounded
by a large circle, led to an overgrown area of the
man's farm. Youlus said the farmer made him pay
$1,500 more to buy the plot of land before he could
dig on it.

In two hours, Youlus said, he, his driver and the
farmer came across the bones. He eventually hired
a company with a backhoe and unearthed the mass
grave with the hidden Torahs.

"That was a little more than I bargained for," Youlus

Elderly people in the town recalled four Jewish men
being forced to bury the massacred bodies, Youlus
said. Those men likely saved the Torahs from a
nearby synagogue by wrapping them in the body
bags and sneaking them into the grave.

Youlus said he spent several more weeks helping
to rebury the remains in separate plots. He also
found five more pre-Holocaust Torahs in nearby
towns, hidden in basements or kept by non-Jews.
He credits his zeal for Torah rescue to a "deal" he
struck with God 21 years ago. He was a 22-year-old
accountant in New York when his father and his
sister's boyfriend were struck by a car while crossing
a road near their Montgomery County synagogue.
Youlus said doctors told him to begin making burial
arrangements. If God would save their lives, he
prayed, he would devote a year to studying the

He didn't know then, he said, that he would end up
devoting the rest of his life to saving it.

Erev Yom Kippur

This year may we able to to appreciate the true essence and preciousness of Yom Kippur.

May we have the strength to succeed in keeping our resolutions for the new year.

Gmar Chasima Tovah!

"When a person brings a candle into a dark place, the darkness disappears completely and is no longer visible. The same is true when a person repents. Even though he was previously in a place of darkness, when it is illuminated with the light of Torah, the darkness disappears completely." (Degel Machaneh Ephraim)

Thursday, September 23, 2004

The main goal of a Jew is to serve G-d with simplicity and without any sophistication.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)