Friday, June 29, 2007

Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - Higher Consciousness

A Simple Jew asks:

Rabbi Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin taught that whenever you think of Hashem, He is thinking of you. Hashem thinks of you in proportion to the amount of consciousness with which you think of him.

Additionally, in the name of his grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, the Degel Machaneh Ephraim explained that the pasuk in Tehillim 32:2 אַשְׁרֵי אָדָם--לֹא יַחְשֹׁב יְהוָה לוֹ עָו‍ֹן - Praiseworthy is the man to whom Hashem ascribes no sin... means that a person must be in constant state of deveykus in his thoughts to Hashem and at the very instant a person falls from this state of consciousness and does not think about Hashem it is considered as a sin.

How can people on our lowly level ever aspire to maintain such a state of consciousness when sometimes we can't even attain this level during davening?

Dixie Yid answers:

You are, I'm sure, familiar with the famous joke. One man walks up to another and says, "Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?" And the second man says, "Practice, practice, practice!" The only way for weak-minded and simple people like us to achieve awareness of Hashem is to, with guidance from a rebbe/Daas Torah, practice practice practice at inculcating ourselves with knowledge and awareness of Hashem's presence and involvement in the world in general and my life in particular all of the time. One method of practicing that, that I have been studying for about 2 years now is the method synthesized by the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim.

I will try to give a highly truncated outline of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh author's program that regular people can follow (albeit with long term and daily commitments) in order to reach a level of consciousness of Hashem all of the time. There is a pre-step (developing the desire to connect with Hashem) and then three steps relating to consciousness of Hashem 1) Existence of Hashem, 2) Closeness of Hashem and 3) Hashgacha Pratis Mamash. There are also two main tools to attaining consciousness of these realities. 1) 1 hour of hisbonenus per day and 2) a few second of hisbonenus interspersed every few minutes throughout the day. First, I'll summarize the pre-step and the three steps. Then I will go over the two tools used to attain these 3 (4) goals.

Pre Step: In order to attain any level of consciousness of Hashem's reality, one must truly desire to attain such knowledge. Merely knowing that it is right and sometimes wanting it is inadequate. If one tries to take steps toward attaining consciousness of levels 1-3 while skipping the step of developing the cheishek to be daveik to Hashem, the other steps will end in failure, because one just won't have the desire to do the heavy lifting involved in the other steps without having enough ratzon to begin with. The pre-step involves thoughts and meditations revolved around developing, within one's self, the feeling that there is nothing at all that can possibly be better for me or bring me any happiness or goodness other than cleaving to Hashem. (V'ani, kirvas Hashem li tov!) After months (or years) of working on this, one is truly able to begin working on step 1.

Step 1 (Hashem's Existence): Although this seems simple and we all believe and know it, we are not conscious of this obvious fact the vast majority of the time. Step 1 involves thinking about the fact that Hashem exists. He is real and that he is the source of all created things in the universe. Without constant awareness of Hashem's existence, it is meaningless to talk about His immediate presence or Hashgacha Pratis.

Step 2 (Hashem's immediate presence): By doing meditations and tefilos gearing toward inculcating one's self with the palpable awareness that Hashem is right beside me all of the time, we attain step 2. If I know that Hashem is with me all of the time, I have a constant feeling of menuchas hanefesh on one hand, and fear and awe on the other hand. It prevents aveira. Without this step, one can feel that Hashem is only soveiv kal almin, that He's "out there" somewhere, a big CEO in the sky, directing the world, but not necessarily concerned with me in every single detail, which is the yesod of Step 3.

Step 3 (Hashgacha Pratis): Only when I am constantly aware of Hashem's existence and personal presence at all times can I begin to be conscious of the fact that every single tiny detail of my life is run by Hashem. And memeila, automatically arising out of that consciousness, I know that I can have no hope in any other source other than constantly davening to Hashem. I must be aware at all times that every particular item of food (out of the thousands I could have had) was chosen for me, every person who crosses my path, and how much the more so "big details" like who my spouse is, are all chosen by Hashem for me personally all of the time.

Method 1 (One hour of Hisbonenus per day): It's a big amount, but he says that without this big investment in G-d consciousness, any other steps will not be strong enough to get the person to these difficult levels of consciousness. Example: During this hour, one might go through a list of things in his mind, and derive out of each one how it ultimately is created by Hashem. "The tree in my front yard: Where did it come from? The seed of another tree. And where did that tree come from? A seed before it. Etc. Etc. till the very first tree. And who created that tree? It was made by the "Hand" of Hashem." And one can go on like that with every object in his life during an hour's meditation.

Method 2 (Brief periodic meditation throughout the day): He says that without the reinforcement of the idea one is working on during the hour throughout the day, the work of that hour will eventually be lost to a great extent, before beginning the hour again the next day. Therefore, he says that during spare seconds throughout the day while working, shopping, cleaning, cooking, playing, whatever... One must take breaks for 2-3 seconds to reinforce the idea from the morning hisbonenus. For instance, if I'm working on Hashgacha Pratis, and I'm buying groceries later that day, as I pick up one of the apples I plan to buy, I say to myself, "Hashem chose this apple to be the one to draw my attention, and he is the shadchan who matched up me and this apple at this moment because our unification was what He had in mind for me to fulfill my tachlis in life at this time." Such a thought takes only a couple of seconds, but if it is done every 15 minutes or so throughout the day applying the ideas one works on during his 1 hour of hisbonenus, then it is very powerful.

In the Bilvavi seforim, he makes it very clear that this is not a quick or an easy method, but one that takes many years to fully take effect within the person. He also says that nothing he says is new or his own idea. Everything is rooted in the seforim hakedoshim and this is the reason that he cites almost no sources throughout the Bilvavi seforim. He says that since nothing that he teaches is a chidush, the sources would make the seforim an academic or intellectual exercise. They are not meant as a source for more study or ma'areh mekomos. Rather, they are meant to teach a derech hachaim that will totally transform one's life, if practiced.

The steps I outlined are only a partial outline of what he teaches in these seforim. For the full program, if you are interested, you can find the Bilvavi seforim in Hebrew at and Volume 1 in English here.

Regardless of the method we use to be constantly aware of Hashem's presence with us and his Hashgacha Pratis (Bilvavi, Tenai Hanefesh, Hisbonenus, Hisbodedus, etc.), may we all merit to fulfill the pasuk "V'chol ha'aretz da'ah es Hashem k'mayim l'yam machasim," that knowledge of Hashem will cover the earth just as the water covers the sea.

"From All People" - Advice Applicable To Our Avodas Hashem

"You cannot believe in anything in the world, if you admit even once that perhaps your opponents are right, and not you. There is but one truth in the world, and it is all yours. If you are not sure of it, stay at home; but if you are sure, don't look back"

(Vladimir Jabotinsky)

"Don't let other people tell you what your questions should be. Don't let other people's questions become your questions."

(Elie Wiesel)

Erev Shabbos Links

The Next Step: Holocaust memorial South Beach Fl. Set 1

Gematria finder: Here

Zchus Avos Yogen Aleinu: Reb Elchonon Wasserman - Chosen to be Korbonos

Mystical Paths: Intimidation Follow Up


Illusion has many faces. At each level it appears as precisely that insurmountable obstacle one hoped never to encounter. For each person it appears as just that intractable issue one wished never to address. Sometimes illusion takes the form of distractions of the mind; at other times it takes the form of agitation of the heart. At all times it mirrors the fiery, ever-turning sword of G-d placed at the entryway to Eden to guard the path to the Tree of Life.

(Rabbi Moshe Mykoff)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

"At First, It Bothered Me"

Dixie Yid: Light of the Torah, Deveikus, and Gerim


(Picture by Karl Heinz Bittner)

Excerpt from the Baal Shem Tov Times - Parshat Balak:

"And Balaam raised his eyes, and saw Israel dwelling at peace by tribes, and the spirit of G-d came upon him." (Bamidbar 24:2)

He saw that their doors were not opposite one another, and he said, "It is fitting to bless them."

Sometimes, two scholars who are debating one another cannot admit to the truth. Each one seeks to disprove his friend's words. Even though he knows that the other is right, his intention in arguing merely to harass, G-d forbid. Yet, the main intention in a debate should be to admit to the truth, and to fulfill what our Sages have said: "If two people sit together and share words of Torah, the Divine Presence dwells among them."

Now, the mouth is called a "door," for speech goes out from it. This is the meaning of: "Their doors were not opposite one another." They did not intend to oppose or provoke each other in their debates, but to admit to the truth. And so he said, "It is fitting to bless them."

Dudayim BaSadeh, Likutey Amorim, p. 29d

More Of The World Through The Eyes Of Space Cadet

Pictures copyright of Space Cadet (2007)

Sadagora - Then & Now

Kever of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin in the 1980's
Sadagora, Ukraine
(Picture courtesy Graves of Tzaddikim in Russia)

The kever in 2007 [via Mentalblog]
(Picture by Efrem Lukatsky)

The Degel Machaneh Ephraim On Sefer Tehillim

Tehillim 101
(Sefer Tehillim - 1846, Zhitomir)

Dovid HaMelech composed the five books that comprise Sefer Tehillim to parallel the five books of the Chumash. On each occasion when he experienced suffering in his life, he composed a kapitel Tehillim that encapsulated this suffering. Dovid HaMelech also composed the words of Sefer Tehillim in a way that connected each letter to the letters of the corresponding parsha in the Torah, thereby revealing their inner light.

The Reader In Me Related To This Quote


"I confess that sometimes I am a demanding or lazy reader. Often unless a book speaks to me and delights me from the very first sentences, I put it aside. I often feel, however foolishly, that there is just too much to read to have to work my way through reading something dense and obscure."

Away From The Public Eye

One should act modestly in perfecting his good deeds, for that is the avodas Hashem that is most desirable and acceptable before Him.

(Orchos Chaim L'HaRosh)

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

"An Imminent Reality"

(Picture by Eunice Clarke)

As I write these words, the daughter of Tzippora bas Rivka is by her mother's side. Summoned on quick notice by her father, she was informed that there is little time left. The rigorous treatments to fight her mother's cancer have failed. In a perpetual state of nausea, doctor's have informed her that her cancer is so widespread that they cannot treat it any further.

For over six months, Tzippora bas Rivka, the mother of a friend of my wife, has been going from doctor to doctor and from treatment to treatment. I, in turn, have been davening for her each and every day; davening that the cancer leave her body; davening that she will live to see the birth of a first grandchild; davening that she not leave her husband's side; davening that she have a refuah shleima.

Now, It appears that she may only have days or weeks left.

This is only how it appears, however. An imminent reality can always be reversed by prayer.

Question & Answer With Chabakuk Elisha - Circular Logic

(Picture courtesy of

A Simple Jew asks:

When trying to prove the existence of G-d to a skeptic, I am essentially trying to prove the existence of something that is invisible and attributing to it an omniscient quality "How can you be so sure of all of this?" asks the skeptic when I try to offer any proofs.

The skeptic repeatedly claims that my proofs are based on circular logic. I offer up the Kuzari's proof and the skeptic once again states that the claim that there was a revelation at Sinai in front of the entire Jewish people is also based upon the text and thus circular.

I then boil my belief system down to its essence and five simple points.

1) I am not the smartest person in the world.

2) Something deep in my neshoma tells me that there is more to life than restaurants, sports, and movies.

3) Something deep in my neshoma feels a connection to Sudilkov and the seforim and traditions of my ancestors.

4) If these seforim (Chumash, Gemara, Shulchan Aruch, etc.) tell me that a certain path is the right, I trust that it is.

So, what you have here is an irrational or super-rational belief system. If someone were to show a tangible manifestation of 2 or 3, how could I? Pirkei Avos 2:19 instructs me to know how to answer this skeptic. Other than these four points, how could I answer him?

Chabakuk Elisha answers:

The Mitteler Rebbe was once asked how to prove G-d is real to a skeptic.

He answered:

We cannot think of things that don't exist at all - our mind simply has no reference for them. Everything that we can dream up is merely taking things that exist and modifying them - therefore, if we can think of G-d, he must exist. There are no other completely radical and new non-existent entities...

But I'm no philosopher, so I'll try to address your question more directly. One thing we need to do is put everything in context – and we should certainly not ignore the intellect, G-d forbid (we have it for a reason after all). So, while questions will always exist, we can rationally deal with them to a fairly reasonable degree. And while I haven't read it yet, there is a book by a Rabbi Keleman that address just the question that you raise: "Permission to Believe". It has been highly recommended to me on a number of occasions, and is on my list of books to read, but I haven't gotten to it yet. For now I'll just give you my own thinking here:

First of all, we need to deal with these questions. I believe that the skeptic is not 'some other guy,' rather, we are talking about the skeptical part of the psyche that each of us has, and therefore, it is important to always seek to "know what to answer [our] skeptic." To be sure, there are many (perhaps too many to count) issues that arise, that can seem (or be made to seem) to be in conflict with religion and faith – the very traditions and faith for which our ancestors sacrificed their lives for and maintained with great mesirus nefesh. We should always try to resolve these issues, and look for answers; it is our duty to ourselves, our forefathers, and our way of life.

But this question reminds me of Rashi's comments on "kachatzos halayla," where Moshe tells Pharoh that the plague will begin "around midnight" – and IIRC, Rashi says that this was so that the skeptics of the generation shouldn't be able to say that it wasn't exactly at midnight.

I often notice that the skeptic focuses on various details but (purposefully?) ignores the bigger picture – for example, if Moshe said the plague would begin at midnight, they may ignore the fact that the plague took place, and instead, they try to point out that in their opinion Moshe was off by 25 seconds on the timing, and therefore his G-d has been disproven. Is there anything more ridiculous? Yet, if we pay attention, we often do this on various levels in our lives – and the more skeptical we are, the more we do it.

A chossid of the Tzemach Tzeddek once told his Rebbe that he was overwrought by his struggles with faith. The Tzemach Tzeddek responded, "So? What's the big deal?"

The Chossid became animated and exclaimed, 'Rebbe! Sfeikes in Emunah (doubts about faith)! And the Rebbe smiled, saying, "You see? From your animated state you can see that the doubts are not real doubts. That is to say, there are things that we know to be true – we feel it in our bones – and while we can rationally come up with an intellectual obstacle course, deep down I know that G-d exists, just as I know that every book has an author and every sculpture has an artists.

We know that the mind is capable of building any kind of theory we let it, and we know how many theories and philosophies – religious, secular, logical, illogical or partially-logical – exist and have existed. We also know that, intellectually, there are no unimpeachable "self-evident truths" (even if the Declaration of Independence says there are), since we can argue any of those "truths." Yet, there isn't enough time in our lives, nor do we have accesses to all the facts, to compile the information and tools necessary to truly resolve all these issues beyond a shadow of a doubt; and this is by design. G-d always leaves room for the skeptic, or else, what would be the point? But more than that, in fact, everyone lives this way – even the secularist or the skeptic – we all maintain certain beliefs that cannot be truly proven, yet we accept them in order to function in our daily lives, in our society, and in order to have basic "ground rules" to play by. Similarly it is legitimate to do so in matters of faith.

So, yes – it remains possible that the fairly unbroken chain of mesorah is in fact a creation of some guys in bar on the lower east side of Jerusalem a couple thousand years ago, and yes, it is possible that it somehow caught on later and was accepted as true, it remains far, far, more likely that it actually happened. As THE religion that has survived the test of time, and has fathered other pretty old and major religions, how likely is it really that it's all a big fraud? How circular is the logic really?

An anecdote:

As a young man I had a conversation with a Baal Teshuva from the mid-west that had a big impact on me at the time. I asked him why he decided to become frum, and he answered:

I was successful and happy. I was working as a buyer for a large company, and although I had a pretty limited background, I always new I was Jewish – so one day I decided to see what Judaism was really all about, and I went to the local Rabbi to find out more. I spent time attending shul and learning more about Yiddishkeit, and ultimately realized that I had to decide what I wanted to do. So, like all significant decisions I make, I sat down and made out a list of pros and cons:

CONS for accepting Yiddishkeit:

Probable conflict and damage in relationships with friends and family.
Less entertainment outlets
Less freedom to do whatever I like
Less food available
More expensive lifestyle
Missing out on various types of possible enjoyment
How do I really know if any of this is true?

PROS for Yiddishkeit:

Becoming part of a vibrant community of generally like minded folks on a similar path
Stronger connection to my roots and history
More likely to raise moral & ethical children
Additional meaning to my life
A shot at going to Heaven
Cool clothes and customs
What if it IS true?!

So, when I got to that last line there, I scratched them all out and rewrote the list:

Con: What if it's not true.
Pro : What if it is.

Then I looked at the paper and thought about each, and in about 60 seconds I said: "That's it, I'm becoming frum."

Links For Wednesday

Mentalblog: From Chernovitzi to Vizhnytza

MoChassid: A Comment Worth Posting

Tel Aviv Daily Photo: Nature "G.I. Jew" remembered [also here]

ActualMe: What ActualMe profile are you?

In Your Eyes

Let all men seem greater than you in your eyes.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

More Lego Blocks In The Castle - Only 481 Perakim Left To Go

I completed Eiruvin this morning and plan to begin learning Beitzah tomorrow. To date, I have completed 44 perakim of Mishnayos.

(Picture courtesy of

Our Children Become The Messengers

(Picture courtesy of Sandu Mendrea)

As a father has compassion on his children, so does Hashem have compassion on those who fear Him. (Tehillim 103:13).

This pasuk of Tehillim came to my mind after my two oldest children threw a huge temper tantrum on Sunday morning. Once the dust settled, I sat down in my chair and relished a bit of the silence and tried to calm myself. The silence was broken within seconds and along with the outburst came a demand to go to Krispy Kreme for donuts.

What??! A donut as a reward for misbehaving?? Now, THAT is chutzpa!

K'rachem av al banim…

Reflecting on this pasuk brought to mind my own hypocrisy. Do I claim to be free of chutzpa in how I behave with my Father in Heaven? Aren't their myriads of examples of how my actions are not in accordance with His wishes, and yet I still go to Him with a wish list the reaches down to the ground? Who am I trying to fool by pretending that I always behave perfectly?

I recalled a story in which a man came to the Rambam to tell him that he had trouble saying Al Cheit during Yom Kippur and was absolutely convinced that he had not committed all the aveiros listed. The Rambam reproached this man and told him that if he had true understanding of his actions he would know that he had committed each and every one of these aveiros in some way or another during the course of the year.

Pirkei Avos 3:10 states, "One who is pleasing to his fellow men, is pleasing to G-d. But one who is not pleasing to his fellow men, is not pleasing to G-d." This means that the manner in which others relate to us is a good barometer to know where we stand in our relationship to Hashem. If we truly believe that everything comes from Hashem, then we must also understand that sometimes our children may become the messengers to tell us that our relationship with our Father is lacking and is in need of correction.

I made a mental note of this message and later took the kids out for donut at Krispy Kreme. Once again, fatherhood taught me a lesson about avodas Hashem.

Drawing Down - The Knot Of the Tefillin

(Picture courtesy of

Received via e-mail from Rabbi Dovid Sears:

A Vort related by Leibel Estrin in Honor of the Bris of Aron Raphael ben Nechama Rivka (Estrin) Hershkowitz

Daily we say in davening right after Borchu, the blessing: "Yotzer ohr u'vorei choshekh, oseh shalom u'voreh es ha-kol."

It is customary to touch the tefillin shel yad at "yotzer ohr," and the tefillin shel rosh at "u'vorei choshekh" -- perhaps to indicate that the One Above creates worlds that are both revealed ("ohr," light) and hidden ("choshekh," darkness).

Perhaps we should also touch the knot of the tefilin when we say "oseh shalom," since the knot of the tefillin connects the tefillin shel rosh (corresponding to the hidden world) to "u'vorei es ha-kol" - the straps that go below the organ (yesod) to the knees (netzach and hod).

According to Breslov Chassidus, the knot of the tefillin is called "Moshiach," possibly for the reason above: that it and Moshiach connect and draw down what is above us.

Maybe this explains why when Moshe wanted to see Hashem, he was shown the knot of tefillin: he was shown Moshiach, who will soon reveal and draw down the one Above into this world.

(We might go further and say that these four expressions represent the four letters of Hashem's name and the four worlds of A-B-Y-A: Emanation, Creation, Formation, and Action. Moshiach is the vav, which is used to both join and draw down; as we say "Elokei Avrohom, Elokei Yitzchak, V'Elokei Yaakov..." -- the letter vav being associated with Yaakov, and serving as the channel between upper and lower realms.)

Tuesday Links

(Picture by Enrico Penolazzi)

The Muqata: Where do you call "home"? [guest posting by Scraps]

Mystical Paths: Virtual Life

Rabbi Yakov Horowitz: Quality Time (Part II)

Beyond Teshuva: Are We Too Obsessed With Integration?

Crown Chabad Graduate Soldier killed in Iraq

Emuna & Work

Although you have emuna, do your work diligently. For if you don't work conscientiously, all the emuna in the world won't help you.

(Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Rimanov)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Question & Answer With Bob Miller - Second Person vs. Third Person

(Picture courtesy of

A Simple Jew asks:

To what extent do you think that the troubles we have maintaining kavana davening originate in the fact that many of the tefillos in our siddur are written in a manner in which they refer to Hashem in the third-person? Since davening is avoda she'b'lev (a duty of the heart) and quite simply connecting to Hashem by speaking to him, it is only natural that we may feel a certain closeness and relate more to those tefillos in which we address Hashem as "You", since it is clear that we were speaking directly to Him. Perhaps this is what Rebbe Nachman of Breslov referred to in Sichos HaRan #75 in which he taught that, "perfect prayer is the plain meaning of such words as Baruch Atah Hashem. "

Bob Miller answers:

It seems that the davening has two main components, (1) speaking to HaShem, and (2) reflecting on HaShem's deeds and the state of our relationship with HaShem. It's possible to think of (1) as fitting the direct conversation of the "You" mode, and (2) as fitting the meditation or introspection of the "He" mode.

Since each is important and essential, I can't see how not to want to do both.

The danger in (2) is that, when we do it, we're more likely to follow our streams of consciousness clear off the siddur page and into daydreams or other extraneous thoughts, unless we make a strong effort to keep our minds in gear. I'm personally challenged by this!

I think you and readers of your blog could find Torah sources, including Chassidic sources, discussing both aspects of davening.

The phenomenon of cellphones ringing during public davening points to a lack of appreciation that davening is part of our "quality time" with HaShem. Even when the phone does not go off, the person who intentionally leaves it on is signaling his partial, rather than total, commitment during this time. I doubt that someone meeting with a President or Prime Minister would make this error. And we know they don't deliver but HaShem does!

Monday Links

Yehuda Glantz: Nafshi

The Muqata: Gilad Shalit's Voice from Captivity

Zchus Avos Yogen Aleinu:The Klausenberger Rebbe's Visits to Kivrei Tzadikim

Be'er Mayim Chaim: Learning New things vs. Chazara Mass Jewish burial site

Mystical Paths: Intimidation

A Sefer Torah For Rebbe Nachman Of Breslov

Received via mail from Beis Medrash D'Chassidei Breslov:

We would like to share with you some exciting news. Our Shul has undertaken the project of writing a beautiful new Sefer Torah, dedicated to the memory of our holy Rebbe, Reb Nachman zt"l, and his holy Talmid, Reb Nosson zt"l. This idea of a beautiful new Sefer Torah in the name of our Rebbe and his Talmid, is causing great excitement in our Shul and community. We write to you about this news in order to give everyone a chance to participate in this great mitzvah, by being a partner with us in the Rebbe's sefer. We urge each and everyone to take advantage of this historic opportunity by sponsoring a parsha, amud, or silver crown, as listed below.

May Hashem reward you and your family with much health, happiness and success for your participation. We look forward to sharing with you the simcha of completing the new Sefer Torah together, and welcoming it into our Shul.

Letter - $36
Word - $54
Pasuk - $108
Amud - $250
Parsha $1,000
Torah Mantel - $1,000
Silver Crown - $5,000

Tax deductible checks payable to Congregation Breslov can be sent to:

Vaad Sefer Torah
5501 15th Avenue, Suite 2-D
Brooklyn, NY 11219

What Would The Berditchever Have Done?

Excerpt from Hamodia [June 20, 2007]:

Harav Shmuel Avrech tells of a positive innovation that he instituted in the city - a recitation of Tashlich at the municipal cultural center, next to the water reservoir, by all the frum Yidden. "We put up announcements in all the shuls, and at the appointed time, we all march together to the center. People join us from all the shuls on the way, until our group numbers a few thousand. Unfortunately, right across from the cultural center, there are stores that are open for business, as well as treif restaurants and cafes."

In the courtyard of the cultural center, in view of the water reservoir and across from the open restaurants and cafes, the congregation, dressed in white kittels and wrapped in talleisim, begins to recite Tashlich with great emotion.

"I take a large, twisted Yemenite shofar so as to be mezakeh hundreds of unfortunates, tinokos she-nishbu, with the mitzvah of tekiyas shofar. No one remains aloof. They all come out of the restaurants, stand up from their seats next to their bar, fold up their newspapers, call over their dogs to join us.

"It is incredible to see the depth of Jewish ignorance in the so-called enlightened city. After the tekiyos, the polite listeners give me a round of applause, shouting 'bravo', as if they were at a concert."

"Last year, one generous person insisted on giving me a generous tip to express his appreciation for my 'performance'. I smiled but tried to explain that I was prohibited from touching money on Yom Tov. The man became offended and begged me to accept his gesture. All the way back to the shul I kept thinking to myself, 'What would the Berditchever have done under similar circumstances?'"

Preserving The Identity Of The Rainbow People

(Picture courtesy of

Received via e-mail from Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen of Chazon:

Preserving the Identity of the Rainbow People:

In the previous letter, we discussed how converts from all the families of the earth help us to become a rainbow people. In this letter, we will discuss another aspect of our rainbow nature which can give us a deeper understanding of our cosmic role:

Dear Friends,

I have met Jewish individuals who considered themselves to be "universal" and who were embarrassed to admit that there was anything unique about our people and our tradition. They did not fully realize that to be "universal" is to recognize and appreciate the diversity within humankind, for each people, including our own, has something unique to give to human civilization. Most of my Jewish friends have this more sophisticated universal awareness, and they view humankind as a "rainbow of peoples"; moreover, they view the Jewish people as one of the "colors" of the rainbow.

When I explored the universal vision of the Torah, however, I discovered a deeper awareness of the role of our people, as my study revealed that we are a "rainbow people" which represents the seventy primary peoples of the earth. The Book of Genesis (chapter 10) records the seventy descendants of Noah who founded the seventy peoples that are the roots of the diverse national groups and cultures which we have today.

According to our tradition, the number "seventy" represents the diversity within the Divine creation, and the seventy primary nations that emerged from Noah are one manifestation of this diversity. The People of Israel, however, are not counted among the seventy nations that were already in existence before our people were born. Instead of being one of seventy, we were given the universal role of serving as a rainbow nation that would include the seventy diverse traits within the Divine creation. A source for this idea can be found in the following teaching from the Midrash:

The Holy One, Blessed be He, has seventy names; Israel has seventy names; the Torah has seventy names; Jerusalem has seventy names (Numbers Rabbah 14:12).

We are the rainbow nation with seventy names who are to serve the Holy One with seventy names through fulfilling the Torah with seventy names; moreover, our spiritual center - Jerusalem – has seventy names. Our mission is therefore a unifying one, as the great classic of Jewish mysticism, the Zohar, states:

"Just as He is One, so is Israel one. Just as His Name is One, but detailed in seventy, so is Israel one, but detailed in seventy" (Zohar, Exodus 16b)

We are one nation, but detailed in seventy. It is therefore relevant to mention that our collective journey began with our "seventy" ancestors who descended into Egypt, as it is written, "All the souls of Jacob’s household who came into Egypt were seventy" (Genesis 46:27). It is also written: "All the persons who emerged from Jacob’s loins were seventy souls" (Exodus 1:5).

As we discussed in this series, our collective journey represents the human journey. In this spirit, our tradition teaches that the God of history formed seventy distinct nations that correspond to our seventy ancestors who descended into Egypt. A reference to this teaching can be found in the following instructions that Moses gave to our nation before we entered the Promised Land:

"Remember the days of old, understand the years of the generations. Ask your father, and he will recount it to you, your elders and they will tell you. When the Supreme One gave the nations their portion, when He separated the children of Adam, He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the Children of Israel." (Deuteronomy 32:7,8).

"He set the boundaries of the peoples according to the number of the Children of Israel" – The seventy peoples, characterized by seventy languages, correspond to the seventy souls of the Children of Israel who went down to Israel. (Rashi, Targum Yonasan)

Rashi also explains that the "father" and elders" mentioned in the above verse are metaphors for our prophets and sages. These spiritual leaders are to remind us that the seventy primary peoples of the earth correspond to the seventy root members of Klal Yisrael – the Community of Israel. Why is it so important for us to remember this connection? I found a fascinating answer in the teachings of Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein, a noted Chassidic sage of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was the Rebbe of Sochaczev, and he was known by the name of his great work, Shem MiShmuel. Within this work, he writes: "The correspondence between the seventy souls of Yisrael and the seventy nations of the world is very important in Jewish thought" (Shem MiShmuel). And he adds the following mystical insights:

1. "The idea here is that each primary world nation corresponded to one root member of Klal Yisrael. If that member of the klal correctly and fully maximized his spiritual potential, he had the ability to rectify his corresponding nation."

2. "As history wore on, these seventy nations became a multitude of peoples across the globe, and in correspondence with this, Klal Yisrael grew from seventy members to an entire people. The details of the relationship between the members of Klal Yisrael and the other nations became much more complex. The soul of each member of Klal Yisrael was now linked to dozens or hundreds of non-Jewish nations. Thus the act of every Jew affects not only himself and his nation, but, in no small part, the spiritual welfare of many people and nations throughout the world…This is an awesome responsibility, one which we should remember whenever possible."

Rabbi David Feinstein, a noted contemporary sage, offers another, related reason as to why the seventy nations correspond to the seventy root members of Klal Yisrael: The Creator implanted the seventy diverse characteristics of the seventy nations within Klal Yisrael, for we are to serve as a model for the seventy nations by demonstrating that each of these characteristics can be used for holy purposes. We accomplish this goal through living the Torah, as the seventy aspects of the Torah parallel the seventy nations and their cultures. We have the responsibility to become a universal model, explains Rabbi Feinstein, because "God wants all nations to rise to their greatest spiritual potential." (Art Scroll commentary and notes to Genesis 10:1)

When we inspire all nations to rise to their greatest spiritual potential through the power of our own example, we will merit the complete fulfillment of the following Divine promise concerning our rainbow nation: "Through it, all the nations of the earth will be blessed." (Genesis 18:18)

If, however, we reject our unique spiritual mission and attempt to assimilate among the nations, we can no longer become a collective source of blessing for all the nations of the earth. This realization can help us to understand why the Prophet Ezekiel conveyed the following Divine message to those Jews in the Babylonian exile who expressed a desire to assimilate among the nations:

"What enters your thoughts – it shall not be! What you say: Let us be like the nations, like the families of the lands" (Ezekiel 20:32)

For the sake of all the nations, our nation must choose to live – physically and spiritually!

Related Teachings and Comments:

1. We are to be a source of blessing for the seventy primary nations of the world. The Torah alludes to this idea in its description of one of the encampments of our ancestors on their journey to Mount Sinai:

"And they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy date-palms; they encamped there by the water." (Exodus 15:27)

The noted sage and biblical commentator, Rabbenu Bachya, cites an explanation of this verse which is found in an ancient work of Jewish mysticism known as Sefer HaBahir. According to this interpretation, the twelve springs represent the twelve tribes of Israel and the seventy date-palms represent the seventy primary nations of the world which are listed in the Book of Genesis (chapter 10). Just as the twelve springs nourish the seventy date-palms, so too, the twelve tribes of Israel are destined to nourish the seventy nations of the world.

2. One of the ways in which we sanctify the seventy aspects of creation is through the seventy Torah sages on the Supreme Court of Israel (Numbers 11:16). According to the Midrash, these seventy sages correspond to the seventy nations of the world (Targum Yonasan to Genesis 28:3).

3. The Shem MiShmuel by Rabbi Shmuel Bornstein consists of eight volumes of homiletical studies on the weekly Torah portion and on the Festivals. One volume is dedicated to explaining the Passover Haggadah. Targum Press published the following recommended English edition which contains excerpts from these studies, and the teaching that we cited is from this edition:

SHEM MISHMUEL – Selections on the weekly parashah and festivals, rendered into English by Rabbi Zvi Belovski, and published by Targum. The book is also distributed by Feldheim.

Chassidim Davening Nusach Askenaz

Chassidus is not associated with any nusach. One can be a chassid and pray in Nusach Ashkenaz.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)

Sunday, June 24, 2007

The Sudilkover Rebbe, Shlit"a

"What Happened To Yocheved?"

(Picture courtesy of Fayga M.)

On Shabbos a person at shul asked me if I knew what happened to Yocheved, the mother of Moshe Rabbeinu. While I didn't recall any information about this in the Chumash or in any midrashim, I did recall the picture above that Fayga M. sent me back in November.

When I looked in HaM'komos HaKedoshim, I discovered that the Shel"a HaKadosh wrote a letter to his son indicating that Yocheved had indeed entered Eretz Yisroel and was buried in Tiveria.

Interestingly, Tzippora, the wife of Moshe Rabbeinu, is also buried in this same location but HaM'komos HaKedoshim does not have any additional details about her or how she finally was brought to rest here.

Black & White Picture Of The Week - Winter Shadow

"An Incredible Feeling"

Modern Uberdox: What sits on my bookshelf

Chassidic Tefillin Minhagim

Friday, June 22, 2007

Halachic Measurements - The Conversation Continues

(Picture courtesy of

A Simple Jew:

Whose shiurim should I hold by, Rav No'eh or the Chazon Ish?

Sudilkover Rebbe:

In the old days, most of Klal Yisroel basically held like the Rav Avraham Chaim No'eh shiur -- and in a few places even smaller shiurim. For example, Rebbe Nachman of Breslov's kiddush cup holds the correct shiur of Rav Chaim No'eh.

But my answer would be to follow both shiurim. In the case where Rav No'eh is more stringent, follow him -- and in the case where the Chazon Ish is more stringent, follow him. In our generation, it's much easier to take the bigger shiur, as easy as pie – just a little more wine or matzah! But in regards to Halacha, the shiurim of Rav Chaim No'eh can be an even bigger chumra as they relate to an eiruv, eating on Yom Kippur, etc…

In conclusion:

As a general rule, I would obviously tell most people to hold by both shiurim especially in a Deoraise. However, for a specific and individual question, it depends on the issue.

Chabakuk Elisha:

As a chossid, I follow the shiurim of Rav No'eh. In fact, I find the tendency for people to adopt a "bigger is better" attitude a little troubling - could you please explain your position a little more, and how you see the differences between the measurements of Rav No'eh and the Chazon Ish?

Sudilkover Rebbe:

It is known that the accepted measurements in Yerushalayim were always smaller than those of Rav No'eh. His measurements were accepted there over those of the Chazon Ish simply because his were the smaller of the two. Furthermore, it is obvious that the Chazon Ish's measurements are indeed not his own, rather they are based on the Noda BeYehuda and other previous sages.


The Kiddush cup of Rebbe Avrohom Yaakov of Sadigur, the son of Rebbe Yisroel of Ruzhin, comfortably holds the Chazon Ish's prescribed shiur. So, I don't understand your statement that you subscribe strictly to the measurements of R' No'eh.

Chabakuk Elisha:

I wasn't aware that the Sadigurer's kos was the Chazon Ish shiur, but even so, I don't know if that proves that he held that was the shiur "lehalacha." Maybe he just wanted a bigger kos for his own reasons? Do we know if the shiur of the kos was even his choice? Maybe the craftsman who made the kos made it large on his own initiative?

Finally, I understand that the shiur is the shitas Noda BeYehuda, but we are chassidim of the Baal Shem Tov, so the Nodah BeYehudah's shiur is not ours...

Sudilkover Rebbe:

It is known that the Ruzhiner cup was exact and designed with great yichudim and it has been in continuous use by his descendents until this day.

The Nodah BeYehudah was a halachist that cannot be taken lightly. Although he criticized chassidim in the well known statement "Chassidim yekoshlu bam"' [regarding the custom of saying l'shem yichud], I have already remarked to you that that was in reference to the chassidim of the Shela"h who lived in Prague and not in reference to the chassidim of the Baal Shem Tov. Interestingly, in Vizhnitz today, they have the custom to say the L'shem Yichud silently because of this. In Belz they do this as well on the yahrzeit of the Noda BeYehuda (the same yahrzeit as the Degel Machaneh Ephraim).

We need to keep in mind that the measurements of R' Chaim No'eh – as I responded to A Simple Jew – can also be a chumra.

In the dynasties of Spinka and Ziditchov (long before the time of the Chazon Ish) they were known to use very large shiurim for all the mitzvos of the Seder night, and their kiddush cups were quite large as well. From the writing of their talmidim it is clear that they were makpid to use the largest shiur.

My grandfather, the Baal Shem Tov, brought to the world a path of particularness in halacha. One without nervousness, but with a love for mitzvos – and most certainly careful adherence of them!!! And not to look for in our generation of abundance, ways to seek the easiest way out.

PS – Most certainly those who follow R' No'eh have solid ground to stand on without a doubt; especially those who follow his psak in all cases –lechumra & lekula – for if not, they lose more then they gain….

Chabakuk Elisha:

Regarding the Ruzhiner cup: I understand, but it doesn't necessarily mean that he held that is the shiur "lehalacha."

As to the Noda BeYehuda: I understand what you're saying, but nevertheless, the Nodah BeYehuda isn't generally posek acharon in (almost?) anything, and certainly not for chassidim.

Regarding cases where it turns out that R' Chaim No'eh is machmir, you are absolutely correct.

As to derech haBaal Shem Tov and not seeking ways to do the minimum, I agree completely!

Sudilkover Rebbe:

Thank you, and yasher koach for accepting my words.

Without a doubt, anyone that follows Rav No'eh as his custom has no need to change his derech.

There is a known story with R' Avrohom of Chechenov:

A child once urinated in shul and they poured a revi'is of water on it (I don't know if it was a revi'is according to the Chazon Ish or Rav No'eh), while someone ran over with a bucket full of water to pour on it. R' Avrohom turned and yelled at the bucket bearer, "Apikores! If Chazal tell us that a revi'is is sufficient don't be overly-frum!"

My response and position that I gave to A Simple Jew was specifically for those who as of yet have no specific minhag, and as I said to A Simple Jew for a specific and individual question, it depends on the issue.

Seforim On My "To Buy" List - What's On Your List?

Be'er Mayim Chaim HaMefuar

Bas Ayin al HaTorah

Chesed Le'Avraham / Mashmea Shalom

Crossing The Williamsburg Bridge: Memories Of An American Youngster Growing Up With Chassidic Survivors Of The Holocaust

Eternally yours (Vol. 4)

Likutei Torah HaShalem

Magen Avraham al HaTorah U'Moadim

Menachem Tzion / Yalkut Menachem

Ohr Yekarot - Meorei HaChassidut (vol. 2)

Ohr Yekarot - Meorei HaChassidut (vol. 3)

Ohr Yekarot - Meorei HaChassidut (vol. 4)

Pninei HaChassidus - Chanukah

The Bridge of Life

The Torah Discourses of Reb Menachem Mendel of Rimanov

Torah Gems

After Work

A father should always come home prepared to give and not get.

(Rabbi Shalom Arush)

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chodesh Tamuz

Peninei HaChassidus L'Yemei Elul v'Rosh Hashana citing the sefer Ohel Yissachar u'Livroz teaches that it is a minhag among Chassidim to begin to arouse themselves in teshuva and to make preparations for Rosh Hashanah immediately beginning in the month of Tamuz

A Talmid has a posting today with more about significance of Tamuz here.

Carried Across The Ocean

Along with tefillin and brick-laying tools, Yaakov Yosef, my father-in-law's father, left Vitebsk in the early 1900's immigrated to the United States. During a recent Sunday visit to his home, my father-in-law asked me to take a look at his father's tefillin to determine whether they were Chassidic or Litvish (Ashkenaz) tefillin.

I have long suspected some type of Lubavitch connection with my father-in-law's ancestors since my father-in-law has a soft spot in his heart for Chabad and also because it is well known that Vitebsk was once a stronghold of Lubavitcher chassidim. This is noted in the "Encylopedia of Hasidism" which states, "Vitebsk was dominated by the hasidim of Lubavitch."

Examining the shel rosh, I immediately noticed that the leftmost branch of the shin on the shel rosh did not enter the middle of the bottom of the head as is typical of Ashkenaz tefillin. I sent the picture of the shel rosh to the sofer of my tefillin to inquire further and he replied, "Definitely Chabad tefillin. The shin is not regular Ari, but Admor Hazaken."

The shin on the Vitebsk tefillin

Shin according to Ashkenaz minhag

This piece of information was a bit puzzling since the tefillin from Vitebsk also had a square kesher for the shel rosh. Yalkut Bar Mitzvah noted that the Chabad minhag for the kesher of the shel rosh is that it "must appear to one who stands behind the wearer like the shape of a printed daled." Once again, I asked the sofer how he would explain a square kesher from Vitebsk. He responded, "Simple explanation - the batim macher was Chabad, and someone else tied the knots that didn't know the minhag (the square is easier to tie)."

In order to get another opinion, I asked Shneur Zalman about them and he responded,

"Before the end of World War II there were no exact uniform standards in Chabad or in other groups (for example Brisk as a minhag did not exist). In Chabad the new rebbe promulgated the minhagim publicly in 1951 as he had no seed. In Europe, there were all sort of Chabad minhagim and variations of them. Most Chabad people in Europe intermarried with Misnagdim and so things became complex . So to sum it up, it very likely that the tefillin from Vitebsk had aspects of Chabad customs to them as well as some aspects that did not conform."

When I asked my father-in-law if his father had instructed him on how to put on the tefillin, he answered that indeed he had. He told me that the hand winding that he was shown was not the winding according to the Chabad minhag, but rather a standard Chassidic winding minhag.

Standard Chassidic minhag

Winding according to minhag Chabad

Given the Chabad tefilin, possible Chabad kesher, and non-Chabad hand winding would you think there are some Lubavitchers hiding up somewhere in my father-in-law's family tree?

Inscription on the matzeva of Yaakov Yosef z"l

Bad Minhagim

Do not follow bad practices in mundane matters. For example, do not spend money extravagantly to keep up with your neighbors. Stay within your means; do not be concerned with other's opinions.

(Pele Yoetz)

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

“We Could Probably Discuss It For A Lifetime”

(Picture courtesy of

Chabakuk Elisha commenting on The Epitome Of Selflessness? :

This is a loaded topic and there are many sides to it… we could probably discuss it for a lifetime.

A couple things:

Regarding Moshe Rabbeinu – it was assumed by none other than Moshe’s sister Miriam that Moshe was wrong for separating from his wife. As it turned out, she was incorrect and Moshe was an exception – but that doesn’t mean that others should follow the exception, rather, that perhaps the lesson is just the opposite: We should follow the rule. Most probably, it is only in very extreme and unusual cases that anyone should follow Moshe’s example here.

The Gemora tells a story (I can’t remember where off hand) of a great sage that would learn in Beis Medrash all year without coming home or seeing his wife. He would come home one day a year (I don’t remember what day it was – maybe someone else does?) and he would go back to learn the following day. It so happened that one year, he was so involved in his studies that he forgot to go home.

His wife waited all year for that day. She dressed in her best clothing. She prepared food and organized the house. All day she waited by the door. When night came, he realized that he had missed his day to go home, and unfortunately it was too late – he would go next year.

His wife sighed as the sun set. She saw that it wasn’t going to happen this year – and we can imagine how sad she must have felt. Without question, she supported the lifestyle that they lived, but she was certainly sad that she wouldn’t see her husband that year. Sadly though, his neglect of this responsibility wasn’t taken lightly in Heaven, and he passed away as a result.

So we see that there is a balance here: on the one hand, he spent all his time away anyhow – which we could view as pretty neglectful in the first place – yet, since his wife supported this, and indeed wanted him to spend his time there, it actually wasn’t. Nevertheless, that one day a year was significant – she didn’t want to be neglected on that day, and as a result he was considered too careless.

It is quite important that people put their families first – and how that is done differs in each situation – their needs are no less important, indeed they are more important, than any other worthy cause.

But we do clearly see a common phenomenon: many of the greatest people who had a real impact had no children. In modern times we can look at Sarah Schenirer, the Beis Yisroel of Ger, R’ Aharon of Belz , the Satmar Rov or the Lubavitcher Rebbe, to name a few, and notice that all of them were childless, and they were leading figures shaping the face of Yiddishkeit. I know that there were leaders that did have children as well, and I haven’t got the statistics, but I recall a great man once remarked that truly great people cannot be great if they have children – and I suspect that the numbers will bear that out. I would bet that people who had a significant impact were predominantly childless or bad parents (just ask Einstein’s kids).

Shadows, Reflections, And Gutterscapes: The Insidious Takeover Of Observable Reality By The Ghost Of Abstract Expressionism

Pictures copyright of Space Cadet (2007)

Question & Answer With Dixie Yid - The Epitome Of Selflessness?

(Picture courtesy of Dark Sun)

A Simple Jew asks:

There once was a man who was the epitome of selflessness. The needs of others were paramount in his eyes and his tremendous acts of kindness remain legendary to this day. As inspiring as he was, there was one tragic aspect to his personality. Perhaps he considered his wife and children as part of himself, however for reasons that we will never know, his selflessness did not extend to them. He was always caring for others and was not able to provide the attention that his wife expected. In the end, his selfless nature cost him his marriage.

This man was certainly on a level miles above me. As I have reflected on this man's life, I am reminded of a teaching I once saw from Rabbi Chaim Vital:

"When a person faces his judgment in Olam Haba, he is not evaluated according to how much he helped other people. He may be a tremendous activist, may be constantly running from one affair to another, may be constantly involved in one project or another, but his worth is measured according to how he behaved with his wife and children. The way a person acts with his family reflects who he really is."

As with all great men, had this man devoted himself solely to his family he would not have been able to leave behind the world with all the precious gifts that he left behind. However, based on this teaching from Rabbi Chaim Vital, in your opinion should this man have followed a different path and devoted himself to his family instead?

Dixie Yid answers:

He certainly should have! I am in no position to disagree with Rav Chaim Vital regardless, but it certainly seems that he went overboard. There's a difficult tension for those people who want to work for Klal Yisroel; between that work and their personal obligations, and not everyone makes the right choice. At a certain point, the children, and especially the wife, begin asking and begging the person to take some time for them, since they never see him. At some point, it becomes a compulsion and the husband/father cannot accommodate them.

I think the answer to your question is best expressed by MoChassid's rebbe, Rabbi Moshe Weinberger, as quoted in a now-deleted posting on Foster parenting, "My rabbi said something I will never forget: "Just because you signed up to be tzaddikim (righteous people) doesn't mean your kids did. You can't turn them into 'karbanos' (sacrifices) because you want to do chasadim (good deeds)."

Curbing one's kiruv/chesed/Klal work in order to avoid damaging his children and his marriage is not only an issue of fulfilling one's obligations to his family. It is also an issue of fairness. It's just not fair to make one's wife and children suffer and sacrifice for a cause they never bought into (or at least not to an extreme degree).

Part of this mistake is due to a lack of perspective and Emunah. One feels, "If I don't do X, Y, and Z, they will not get done." As Mordechai said in Megilas Esther (4:14), "כִּי אִם-הַחֲרֵשׁ תַּחֲרִישִׁי, בָּעֵת הַזֹּאת--רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר." "If you remain silent at this time, salvation and rescue will be established for the Jewish people from another place." Taking a slightly different message from this truth, if a person remains silent and abstains from saving the world because he must do so for his own family, he must know that there is still a Master of the World. Hashem will take care of his people. It is the obligation of each person to do what Hashem wants him to do. It is not his obligation to do every chessed and save every soul that he can. "רֶוַח וְהַצָּלָה יַעֲמוֹד לַיְּהוּדִים מִמָּקוֹם אַחֵר."

The truth of this approach can be seen from the story of Moshe, Tzipporah and the snake. I heard a vort many years ago by Rabbi Benjamin Blech on the psukim in Shmos 4:24-25: " וַיְהִי בַדֶּרֶךְ, בַּמָּלוֹן; וַיִּפְגְּשֵׁהוּ יְהוָה, וַיְבַקֵּשׁ הֲמִיתוֹ. כה וַתִּקַּח צִפֹּרָה צֹר, וַתִּכְרֹת אֶת-עָרְלַת בְּנָהּ, וַתַּגַּע, לְרַגְלָיו; וַתֹּאמֶר, כִּי חֲתַן-דָּמִים אַתָּה לִי." Moshe was on the way from Midyan to Mitzraim to save the Jewish people. He was in such a hurry to do so, that he did not give his son a bris mila (since traveling would have been prohibited afterwards, for health reasons). Hashem wanted to teach Moshe Rabbeinu that it is not right to sacrifice the basic needs of his family, even for something as great as (literally) saving the Jewish people. Therefore, he sent a snake to kill him. In this situation, it was his wife Tzipporah, who knew what to do and circumcised their son herself, thus saving Moshe Rabbeinu's life.

There is a Community Kollel and kiruv organization nationwide moderated e-support group for the wives of these Klal workers. It is very difficult for them. Many chose the challenge and accepted the sacrifice, though they still needed the support to help get through the difficult times. A few others felt that they didn't really have a choice in the lifestyle and resented it. They all need and use the support group to get through it.

At the end of the day, whether it's work for the Shul, Chessed, Kiruv or, kal va'chomer, a secular job, one must learn the ability to say "No, I'm sorry I can't do it.," sometimes. Without the ability to do this, despite the difficulty, a person puts his marriage and his children in danger. If one "makes" several Baalei Teshuva, but his own children go off the derech, it is a net loss, and it is not the ratzon Hashem.

May Hashem strengthen us to sacrifice and give to Him and His people, without sacrificing our families!

Wednesday Links

Life in Israel:
a Halitza story

Avakesh: How to choose a Mentor

1835 Sudilkov ~ Arvey Nachal - Hassidic Book

Dixie Yid: Rav Tzvi Mayer Zilberberg last night


I learned from my master, the Baal Shem Tov, that the main idea of Torah and davening is that one should attach himself to the innermost essence in each letter that he learns or davens. This essence is the light of the Ein Sof. When one does this, he is learning Torah lishma.

(Rebbe Yaakov Yosef of Polonoye)

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Sudilkov In Lubavitch On Gimmel Tammuz

(Picture courtesy of

Excerpt translated from :

4:00 AM - Before morning, the Sudilkover Rebbe of Ramat Beit Shemesh visited the tzion. Afterward, he entered the COL broadcast booth and gave them an exclusive interview, discussing the Rebbe's Torah, the meetings with the Rebbe he merited to have, and the idea that the tzaddik is here on this world after his passing - more than when he was alive in a physical body.

Hat Tip: Circus Tent

Five Fingers

(Picture courtesy of

In order to reinforce the concept of being sameach b'chelko (being happy with one's lot), I devised a bedtime ritual for my two older children before they say Shema. I sit on the edge of their beds and each night we play a game where we recount at least five things that we are grateful for. As an example, my oldest daughter might say, "Thank you Hashem for the ice cream sandwiches we had for dessert" or "Thank you Hashem that I got to play with my friends today."

While sometimes we may come up with more than five things, I explained to my daughter that we must come up with at least five things to thank Hashem for to correspond with the five fingers on our right hand. Once we have a thank you for each finger we can then place this hand over our eyes and say Shema before going to sleep.

I also explained to her that at times that she was sad or frustrated about something, all she needed to do was look down at the fingers on her hand. They would be a reminder that not all is lost and that she always has at least five things for which she can thank Hashem.

Reciting The Bedtime Shema

Excerpt from The Power of Everyday Mitzvot:

The Ari zal states that by reciting the Bedtime Shema before we go to sleep, we have the power to nullify and kill "1125 destroyers," or harmful spiritual forces. Everyone wants to be protected from any sort of mishap, and our holy books clearly tell us how to prevent such things. However, because of our ingrained "commonsense" way of thinking, sometimes we become our own worst enemy. We worry about what practical measures to take in order to be protected from accidents, while overlooking the mitzvot that are vital to our well being.

The education we provide our children must stress the importance of the Bedtime Shema. To recite the entire Shema takes only a few minutes, but we must view this practice seriously, recognizing its power and strength. The Bedtime Shema not only guards us, but it protects the entire world. The Ari zal wants to strengthen our appreciation of what we are doing when we recite the Shema. Imagine what it would mean for the level of good in the world, if every Jew would eliminate 1125 destructive spiritual forces each night through saying the Bedtime Shema!

Rebbe Nachman elaborates on an additional point about the Shema. When a person says the first two verses: "Shema Yisrael…" and "Baruch Shem…" he separates his soul from any admixture of unholiness. In their source, the souls of the Jewish people are "carved out from beneath the Heavenly Throne." There, they enjoy indescribable delight. Thus, it is no simple matter for the soul to agree to descend into this world and become entangled in impurity.

Excerpt from The Path of the Baal Shem Tov:

The Baal Shem Tov taught that before sleep one should recite the words, "Havadai sh'mo, kein tehilaso - His name is Certainty; such is His praise, " from the Mussaf prayer service of Rosh Hashana. This will destroy all forces of unholiness that might seek to harm one during sleep.