Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 16

16. If anyone should degrade you rejoice! G-d has sent someone that downgrades your misdeeds and ugly actions. Anybody should be greater in your eyes than yourself.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Clevelander Rebbe Ra'anana Channuka

Clevelander Rebbe of Ra'anana lights the Channuka candles

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Bostoner / Ramat Bet Shemesh RBSA Channuka

Rebbe blesses the Channuka lights

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Bostoner on Names

What's in a name? Alot according to Chazal.

The Bostoner Rebbe shlit"a of RBSA was speaking during kiddush about names. The Rebbe said that we give Jewish names to create a Jewish identity for our children. Even names that have non-Jewish origins once they were adopted by the Jewish people and became "Jewish" names serve the same purpose.

This is why the Midrash teaches us that the Jews while in exile in Egypt known as Galus Mitzrayim where redeemed in the merit of the fact that they did not change their names, the style of clothing and their language.

These 3 factors are of prime importance because they create an "identity" in this case a Jewish one. The Egyptian exile is the only exile we faced before Matan Torah, before we recieved the Torah at Mt Sinai. Throughout each other exile we survived with our holy Torah protecting and guiding us. Egypt was different we had no yet recieved the Torah how did we survive that exile?

Jewish identity; created by a distinction of dressing differently, speaking differently and being called by different names.

Whats in a name? identity.

The Bostoner on Earthquakes

The earthquake here in eretz yisroel was felt sometime after midnight. In the morning one chossid jokingly said it was Hashem rocking us in bed like a mother rocking her child in a cradle.
During Shalosh Seudos the Rebbe shlit"a said that after feeling the earthquake in the middle of the night he was pondering the meaning of trembling and awe and fear of G-d what we call in lashon hakodesh, Yiras Shamayim with retes, ziya and ra'ada.
The Rebbe gave a mashal using the parable of a tuning fork, where once hit the fork resonates a tone. One tine of the fork is hit however the companion tine shkes as well. Scientifically this is due to sound waves which are oberservable phenomonen in water. If I throw a pebble into water the water waves ripple and I can see the movement. This is tru in air as well but our eyes cannot observe it.
The Rebbe explained that what is true in the physical world holds true spiritually as well. If my neighbor quakes and shakes the message is that I must be shaking and trembling as well. Sometimes Hashem's message is that we have to unite and feel eachother's pain and fear. Perhaps this is one of the lessons of yiras shamayim.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 15

15. Depict in your mind that someone is constantly standing over you and watching your every deed all day. He will not remove his gaze from your actions forever. Even you do something ugly how shamed and embarrassed you will be before this man who sees you! You would be so ashamed you would want to hide in a mouse hole. So much more so is the case when Hashem Yisborach is standing over you, watching and sees all your deeds and actions every moment. It is impossible to hide as it is written in Orach Chaim, “If he shall hide himself will I not see him? Says Hashem.”

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Emergency Appeal for USA Political & Diplomatic Intervention

For nearly 2 centuries, thousands of Jews from the USA, Israel and all corners of the globe, have made incredible physical and financial sacrifices to visit and pray at the burial site of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, located in the city of Uman, Ukraine. Since the fall of Communism and the Ukraine's move towards democracy, this site has experienced an exponential increase in visitors. Last year, over 75,000 Jews visited Uman, making it the site of the largest Jewish Pilgrimage anywhere in the world outside of Israel. How painfully ironic it is, that now, after all of the positive steps the Ukraine has taken toward increased Westernization (and the tremendous surge in the popularity of Rabbi Nachman Z"L and his teachings), there looms a sinister plot that threatens to eradicate this holy Jewish historical site which provides a touchstone for Jews the world over, and a clear economic boon to the local economy of Uman and the entire Cherkasse region of the Ukraine.

Despite a three-year legal battle in the Ukrainian courts, a local politician with overt ties to the Mafia is poised to destroy this economically viable historical and religious attraction, causing untold pain for Jews around the world and a terrible public image fiasco for the entire Ukrainian people. We continue to fight, but are seriously concerned that without direct US political/diplomatic intervention, justice will not prevail. How did this situation come about?

In 1997, Breslov World Center, Inc., a US registered 501c3 Charitable Organization (BWC) was the entity responsible for the logistics of accommodating the expected pilgrimage of approximately ten thousand people who were coming to Uman to pray on Rosh Hashanah . Breslov World Center (known in the Ukraine as "The International Charity Foundation in the Name of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, or just "The Fund") took upon themselves the daunting task of erecting a permanent multi-use building that would serve as a synagogue, dining hall and emergency medical center for the pilgrims and local population. The project proceeded slowly despite various governmental and zoning obstacles until 2002. In order to move the project along, it was decided to enlist the help of local sources in order to bring the project to completion.
In October of 2002, on the basis of his supposed familiarity with local authorities, regulations, builders and building codes, the services of one Igor Livshitz – a citizen of both the Ukraine and Israel – were retained. At the time that Livshitz entered the scene, the synagogue and mikveh (ritual baths) were already housed in a three-story "temporary" structure, serving over five thousand people. In order to obtain rapid approval of the architectural plans and required permits from the local government, Livshitz demanded that he be given a comprehensive power of attorney to act on The Fund's behalf in handling the many tasks involved. On April, 4, 2003 this power of attorney was signed and given to Livshitz and he ostensibly went to work for us.
In hindsight, giving a Power of Attorney to Livshitz was a tragic mistake, the consequences of which continue to plague us for close to three years.

Evidence of how Mr. Livshitz betrayed this mistakenly bestowed trust is apparent from the following criminal acts: At Igor Livshitz's insistence, on the same date as he received his power of attorney, The Fund was pressured to also give a power of attorney to Stanislav Petrovich Mazarak who is the general manager of the Chance Construction Company to speed the process of obtaining important local governmental permits. Unknown to us at the time, Chance Construction Company was really owned by Ukrainian Parliament member Peter Kuzmenko. Using the POA, these 2 individuals signed a construction contract with Chance [Kuzmenko] for all construction work pertaining to the building of the synagogue. This clear conflict of interest becomes more glaring when you consider the following: The Fund was not notified that any contracts had been signed until a full ten months after the fact.

In addition the absurdity of the contract itself is evidenced by four glaring points:
  • 50% penalty for breach of contract (i.e. $2,500,000)
  • No plans were drawn for the construction and none submitted to us for approval.
  • Asking $5,000,000 for a job without drawn plans, and that according to experts, should cost no more than half that amount
  • Levying extravagant fines for delay of payment, in the sum of 0.9% per day (i.e. $135,000 per month).

Despite having been promised by Chance [Kuzmenko] to receive completed architectural plans within 8 weeks, it was only after a further 8 months that The Fund received 50% of the plans. In June 2004, The Fund received notification from the City of Uman that the necessary building permits had been issued. Shortly afterwards The Fund received "a bill" for $500,000 from the Chance Construction Company, as a first payment towards our "contract". When we asked to see this 'contract', we were sent a copy of a document titled "Contract 7".

This contract was signed by Messrs. Livshitz and Mazarak, dated September 2003! Ten months after the contract was signed, we were first made aware of its existence! Clearly, Mr. Livshitz used the Power of Attorney against the interests of its grantor for the purpose of his own financial gains and to wrest control of the site from The Fund and put it in the hands of Mr. Kuzmenco who never intended to build it in the first place!!!

Not coincidentally, Kuzmenco has used his governmental standing as a member of Parliament to further his financial interests as the actual owner of Chance. Both he and Mr, Livshitz are acting like the local "Mafia" and are ceaselessly trying to "shake us down". Now, the Fund is being sued by Chance Construction Company [Kuzmenko] for the amount of $2,500,000 plus additional fines.

Despite several attempts to settle this absurd matter over a table and many appeals via Ukraine legal channels, we have been unable to resolve this issue. As a result, we've been forced to spend enormous sums of money litigating with Mr. Kuzmenko in various courts to forestall foreclosure and seizure of the property by Mr. Kuzmenko.

Through his broad political influence in the Cherkasse region Mr. Kuzmenko has actually appointed many of the judges, and they are beholden to him. We have depleted our funds on legal fees and there is no end in sight!!

Could you imagine any modern, civilized country using its legal apparatus to foreclose on and seize an internationally-recognized historical and holy site? This flagrant disregard for the sanctity of so revered and recognized a holy site is unheard of in today's enlightened age. We appeal to all rational and compassionate people not to let this gross injustice come to pass. We believe that strong US political pressure, in the form of letters and phone calls to the Ukrainian government from Senators, Congressman and other senior officials in the US administration would go a long way towards helping us. It would make the Ukrainian Government aware of this potentially horrific embarrassment to the Ukrainian people and to the abuse of power by one of its parliamentary members. We implore you to use whatever means you have at your disposal to help us right this terrible wrong.

Please contact Rabbi Nasan Maimon at:, or phone +972-54-4862935.

This is your chance to do something for Rebbe Nachman; the Rebbe will certainly intercede upstairs in your behalf.


Our good friend Dixie Yid has important updates and info how to contact your representatives in Congress here .

Alice Jonsson composed a superb form letter - copy it and paste it on to an email to President Bush, to your senator, or to your congressman.

A special thanks and blessing to everyone that has come to the flag on this issue.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

To Be A Rebbe - Power of a story

A group of chassidim once came to R. Yisrael of Ruzhin, complaining of a drought that was jeopardizing their crops and their livestock. R. Yisrael led them through shaded paths in the nearby forest until he came upon a particular tree. He motioned to the chassidim to sit and said:

“When there was a drought in the time of the Baal Shem Tov, he would bring his chassidim to this tree, sing a melody, share a teaching, and rain would come.

“A generation later, when there was a drought, my grandfather the Maggid of Mezritch would also bring his followers to this tree. He would tell them this story of the Baal Shem Tov and say, ‘Although I no longer remember the teaching, this is the melody the Baal Shem would sing.’ And after he sang the melody, rain came down.

“As for me,” R. Yisrael concluded, “I know neither the melody nor the teaching. But I do know the story. May relating the story bring rain.”

Reb Yisrael and his chassidim had barely emerged from the forest before the first thunderbursts were heard.


Tuesday, October 30, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 14

14. Speak softly with others. If people praise you go quickly and grieve. Why do they praise me for naught? If they only knew me and understood my lowliness and silliness, if they knew my many misdeeds and sins. How can I stand and lift my head before G-d? Who knows and sees the truth about my deeds. He sees every moment but even so he has mercy on me.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 13

13. Pray to Hashem that He will help you fully repent before you die. Include yourself among other penitents that they should help you also return to Hashem and truly repent. Pray that your sins shall be forgiven among the sins of the Jewish people.

Noam Elimelech News

Baruch Hashem with gratitude to the almighty I have recieved the first sample of 18 pages from Targum / Feldheim and I am well pleased with the great job the editor is doing. We expect the first draft of the sefer to be ready in December imy"H.

For samples of the un-edited version:

Monday, October 8, 2007

Rabbi Lawrence Kelemen

I just listened to this unbelievable story of hashgacha pratis:

We Are Never Alone: The Unbelievable Story of a Child's Birth
(Listen) (download) (Low Bandwidth)
(Listen) (download) (High Bandwidth

These two free audio shiurim are also great:

A Rational Approach to the Divine Origin of the Torah
(Listen) (download) (Low Bandwidth)
(Listen) (download) (High Bandwidth)

Rational Approach to the Divinity of the Oral Tradition
(Listen) (download) (Low Bandwidth)
(Listen) (download) (High Bandwidth)

Audio Shiur on Rav Kook's "Meshorer HaTeshuva"
I want to share with you a great shiur given by Rabbi Reuven Boshnack on Rav Kook zt"l's famous poem, Meshorer HaTeshuva. Rabbi Boshnack may be known to some of my readers by his blogs, Izbitz and כדאי To See Inside, as well as through his book and weekly e-mails explaining the Sefas Emes, called The Sfas Emes Project.

He is also the new Jewish Learning Initiative rabbi at Brooklyn College.In this shiur, Rabbi Boshnack introduces the depth of the concept of Teshuva, which Rav Kook takes to a whole new level. He does this through Rav Kook's famous poem, Meshorer HaTeshuva.

What is Chassidus? Part 12

12. Do not be overbearing on your household. Do not be overly critical of anything at home. If you have criticisms on men or events remember the sins of your youth and say to yourself that these sins have caused you to be critical. Similarly at all times remind yourself of your sins and you will be humbled and subjugate the evil inclination.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh

Rav Itamar Shwartz, Shlita, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh seforim, is at the completion of a speaking tour in the eastern United States. He gave 14 shiurim at Litvishe Yeshivos, Sephardi Yeshivos, Chassidishe Kollels, Modern Orthodox institutions, and everything in between. All 14 shiurim are available for download and some are available in streaming audio. Please enjoy the Torah and may it be the impetus for us to work on being mekarev ourselves to Hashem.

Here's the link:

Sunday, August 26, 2007

New Torah & Chassidus Center - Wellsprings

(Painting by Baruch Nachshon)

I am excited to say that I am in the process of creating a new center for Torah & Chassidus in the mercaz, the middle of Yerushalayim. We are looking at something in the center of town and formulating the necessary plans.

The future Maayanot / Wellsprings center will house daily men's & women's shiurim and classes in Torah, Chassidus of all kinds, Jewish music, meditation, a reading corner for children, a small beis medrash and hopefully a book shop offering coffee and cake for visitors.

What we really need are sponsors, the costs per month are only a few hundred dollars.
Please contact us to help fulfill this dream: a center for Torah & Chassidus in Yerushalayim.

All donations are U.S. 501c(3) or Canada tax deductable

What is Chassidus? Part 11

11. Make sure that all your clothes, your pants and robe are clean and free of any stains, dirt and bodily emissions.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

230 Years Since Chassidic Aliyah Push by Ezra HaLevi

Sunday marks 230 years since the first Chassidic Aliyah (immigration to Israel), when three leading rabbis and their students arrived in Israel on Elul 5, 5537 (1777).

The group of settlers was led by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk, Rabbi Avraham of Kalisk and Rabbi Yisrael of Polotsk. The men, though leaders of Chassidism in Russia, rallied 300 of their students to make the perilous journey to the Land of Israel.

All were disciples of Rabbi Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch. They were also joined by Chabad founder Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, but he was instructed by Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Vitebsk to remain in Moholiev, on the Dneistre River, as they passed though the city, in order to remain behind to serve as the leader of the Chassidic community in White Russia and Lithuania.
The group faced many perils on the way to the Holy Land. One of the boats they used sank, and with it 30 Jewish passengers died. They eventually reached the Land of Israel on the fifth of Elul.

They established a Jewish community in Tzfat, but were harassed and attacked by the Ottoman Turks and Arabs, and were forced to resettle in Tiberias (T'veria).

Rabbi Schneur Zalman retained close contact with the settlers and arranged for much-needed funds to be sent to them. They faced extreme difficulties as the students lacked trade skills and knowledge of the basics of state-building, but Rabbi Menachem Mendel refused to give up.

(From INN Arutz 7 )

Thursday, August 16, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 10

Hanhagos HaAdam continued...

10. Make sure to properly relieve and clean yourself before prayer and meals. When you feel the need to go relieve yourself, do so immediately and do not hesitate or you will transgress the prohibition of “disgusting your souls.”

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 9

Hanhagos HaAdam of the Rebbe Reb Melech (Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk) continued...

9. Guard yourself from any speech before praying in the morning because such speech nullifies and ruins the power of concentration and devotion during prayer.

What is Chassidus? Part 8

Hanhagos Ha'Adam from the Rebbe Reb Melech continued...

8. Guard yourself from hating any man except the truly wicked that are clearly known to have no merits whatsoever. Such people whose actions can be favorably judged are to be loved like your own body and soul. Fulfill with them the verse “love your neighbor as yourself.”

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Tu B'Av - 15 of Month of Av

The Talmud in Taanis 26b says that: "there are no greater Yom Tov holidays for the Jewish people like Tu B'Av and Yom Kippur", what makes Tu B'Av such a Yom Tov!?

Listen to my new MP3 clip for more on my playlist on the bottom right sidebar.

Gut Yom Tov & Chag Sameach

Thursday, July 26, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 7

Hanhagos HaAdam of the Rebbe Reb Melech (Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk) continued...

7. Guard yourself from transgressions and evil thoughts in every way possible.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 6

Hanhagos HaAdam from The Noam Elimelech of Lyzhansk

6. You should purify and refine your body and soul with learning as previously stated. Learn the Talmud, and Tosfos, also learn and study all the homiletic Aggadah teachings found in Gemara. These teachings are a special remedy to cleanse the soul.

Friday, July 20, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 5 - Yohrzeit Hillula of the Holy Arizal Hay Menachem Av

Hanhagos HaAdam of the Rebbe Reb Melech (Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk) continued...

5. Sometimes learn with great awe a few of the holy writings of the Arizal. This must be done with awe reverence and fear of Hashem. In the previous generations they had holy and lofty souls and would guard themselves from the time of their youth. They were ready and properly prepared to study the Kabalistic wisdom.

However in our lowly generation with our base physical lusts and desires you must cleanse and purify your soul from all sins. Once you see that the evil inclination is no longer inciting you and trying to cause you to sin and lust after the silly vanities of this world as he once was, you can study these holy writings more often. Hashem should merit us to refine and purify our holy thoughts with truth and complete sincerity. He will open for us the gates of wisdom in understanding the holy writings of the Arizal.

Those who are clothed in the lusts and desires of this physical world and in the vanities of time who study such texts may however, suffer detrimental consequences heaven forbid.

(See Maor veShemesh to parshas emor “The cult of Shabbtai Tzvi (the false messiah) may their name be blotted out that lived in those past days became heretics as a result of this lack, they studied Kabbalah while their bodies were in an impure state.”)

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

What is Chassidus? Part 4

Hanhagos HaAdam of the Rebbe Reb Melech (Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk) continued...

4. Learn and Study on a daily basis the works of mussar and character refinement such as Reshis Chaochmah, the Shelah and Chovos HaLevovos.

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Breslov Shabbaton RBSA

The Breslov Shul of RBS A is happy to announce that it is hosting a Shabbaton this Shabbes, Parshas, with many different Breslov Rabbanim,authors, personalities, leaders and guests attending. The community is invited and welcome to attend any or all of the tefilos,shiurim, and Seuda Shlishis.

All activities will be taking place in LevHaTorah, Nachal Luz corner of Nachal Refaim (Under Pnei Shmuel).There is a schedule of events below as well as a brief decription of some ofthe attending Rabbanim.We look forward to seeing you all there.

May we all have a meaningful Shabbes Chazon.Breslov Shabbaton Parshas Devarim – Shabbes Chazon - at Lev HaTorah

Friday Night 7:10 : Mincha (at candle lighting time)
7:40: Breslov Kabbalas Shabbes led by Rav Efraim Kenig
Divrei Torah by Rav Nachman Burshtein

Shabbes Morning:
7:30 AM Shiur: Rav Ozer Bergman in English, - The Power of Personal Prayerin coming close to HaShem.

8:00 Shacharis Kiddusha Raba Sipurei Maasios Shiur given in Hebrew by Rav Nachman BursteinShiur for women simultaneously by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum in Hebrew /English

4:30 Avos U Banim

5:00 Shiur for Women by Mrs. Shoshie Nissenbaum – Shabbes Chazon as a preparation for Tisha B’Av (This shiur will be this week’s regular weekly ladies Shabbes Shiur)

5:30 Shiur for men by Rav Nasan Maimon - (English) Shabbos Chazon – The meaning behind it

5:30 Shiur for men- Rav Nachman Burshtein (Hebrew) Selected Teachings of Rebbe Nachman z”l

6:30 Mincha

7:00 Seuda Shlishis

7:30 Divrei Torah - Rav Chaim Kramer (English) - Finding the hope throughthe mourning

7:30 Divrei Torah -Rav Efraim Kenig (Hebrew) – Rebbe Nachman on the 3 weeks, as a prelude to Geula

7:30 Shiur for Women- Mrs.Shoshi Nissenbaum The special role of Women in Chasidut Breslov

8:30 Maariv Motzai Shabbes Rav Nachman Burstein: The eldest son of Rav Moshe Burstein,

Rav Nachman is awalking encyclopedia on Rebbe Nachman, his teachings, and on Breslov history. His expertise on traditional Breslov melodies is unparalelled, andhe led the Rosh HaShana tefillos at the Breslov gathering in Meron (pre-Uman) for over two decades.

Rav Efraim Kenig: Son of Rav Gedalya Kenig, Rav Efraim is one of the leaders of the Breslov community in Tzfas, as well as one of the heads of NachalNovea institutions in Tzfas. Rav Efraim is also the Baal Musaf in Uman forthe main minyan at the Breslov Rosh HaShana gathering.Rav

Chaim Kramer: A student of Breslov Chasidus for over 40 years and ason-in-law of Rav Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld Z"l, Rav Kramer is the director ofthe Breslov Research Institute, which has been translating and disseminating Rebbe Nachman's works for over 25 years. He has authored many original workson Breslov teachings, including "Crossing the Narrow Bridge", "Through Fireand Water (Biography on Reb Noson of Breslov)", "Moshiach", "Anatomy of theSoul", and more.

Rav Nasan Maimon: Director of the Breslov World Center and a son-in-law of Rav Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, Rav Maimon has been teaching classes in Breslovfor several decades. He currently teleconferences a weekly shiur in Likutei Halachos to students of Breslov Chasidus around the globe.

Rav Ozer Bergman: A writer, editor, teacher and educator, Rav Bergman is a member of the Breslov Research Insititute Staff. He has worked on the translation into English of many volumes of Likutei MoHaRan, and hasrecently authored a work on Hisbodedus (Private Personal Prayer) titled:"Where Earth and Heaven Kiss".

Rav Meir Alkavetz: 18th Generation direct descendant of Rav Shlomo AlkavetzZ"l,author of the Lecha Dodi prayer, Rav Meir gives many weekly shiurim inBreslov in Hebrew and English.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Degel & Koznitzer Maggid on the 3 Weeks and Masei

The Holy Koznitzer Maggid's teachings based on his Rebbe The Grosser Maggid of R' Dov Ber of Mezritch and the Degel Machne Efraim's teachings from his grandfather the Holy Baal Shem Tov on the 3 weeks Bein HaMeitzarim and Parshas Matos - Masei

Free Streaming Audio MP3 Class & Download available here

Story about the Holy Baal Shem Tov


Sunday, July 8, 2007

Whereever I may Roam

"My Grandfather the Holy Baal Shem Tov Z"LL taught that we must each travel through our own 42 stations in life, just as the Jews sojourned and encamped 42 times in the desert. Each one of us begins at birth when we leave the constriction of the womb called mitzraim and until we enter the holy land above of the next world."

Degel Machne Efraim Parshas Masei

Monday, July 2, 2007

The Ohr haChaim haKadosh

The Holy Baal Shem Tov said that the Ohr haChaim had the soul portion of King David known as Ruach Dovid of Aztilus - and that he heard Torah from Hashem himself each night. He was from those of the Heavenly Chariot of the Merkava and had revelation of souls and true Divine Inspiration - Ruach haKodesh. The Baal Shem Tov himself was the Nefesh Dovid of Aztilus and he wished them to connect together all three aspects portions of the soul Nefesh, Ruach & Neshama & to bring down the Neshama Chaya and the final redemption. - Rabbi Yitzhok Issac of Komarna - Nesiv Mitzvosecha

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Parshas Balak Tzadik MiMenu - Clevelander Rebbe Shlit"a Part II

What was Bila'am thinking? He knew that the Jewish people the nation of Israel were beloved by Hashem, how did he think his curses would be successful?

In order to attempt cursing Klal Yisroel, Bilaam askes Balak to help him offer sacrifices. Rashi explains each time Bilaam offers them that our Avos, Avraham Yitzhak and Yaakov already offered similar sacrifices and that the Jews need not learn this from Bila'am.

The Clevelander Rebbe explained that Bila'am had in mind that by offering sacrifices, the Jews would see his deeds and learn from him.

The Talmud in Brachos teaches that Rasha Bolea Tzadik MiMenu. There are certain times when a wicked person can literally "swallow up" a Tzadik, a more righteous individual. However the word Mimenu "from him" usually read as more righteous than he, is superfluous, since obviously any pious Tzadik is more righteous than a wicked Rasha!

The Rebbe explained that MiMenu can be read as because of him, meaning that if a Tzadik is a Tzadik because of the Rasha, meaning that the Tzadik learned from a wicked person how to be righteous, then the wicked person has the ability to swallow such a Rasha.

If a Tzadik would observe a wicked man and "learn" good from his actions by either acting differentky or actually learning something positive then the wicked person has power of the Tzadik that at an opputrtune time he could swallow him and harm him.

This was Bila'am's intent. The Jews should see his sacrifices and learn from him. They would then be bechinas Tzadik MiMenu, a righteous person who has learned from a wicked one. Then Bila'am would have power over them and his curses would work!

Rashi however points out that this was not the case, the Jews learned from their righteous forebears Avraham, Yitzhak and Yaakov rather than from the wicked Bila'am.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007


June 2007
* * *
by Rabbi H.N. Ehrmann
* * *

The first years of the 19th century were, for the whole of Europe and especially for the French who bordered Western Germany, a very tumultuous time... Gangs of robbers were organized who professed a belief in a sort of Kangaroo Court to eliminate unpopular officials, to plunder rich estates, and, by so doing, equalize the various classes. Because of this, the robbers became popular with the poor and they achieved a certain power and influence which could not have been possible before. The robbers could undertake the most daring raids and retreat into their hiding places without fear of being betrayed by peasant or craftsman. Gangs of robbers avenged every harshness or injustice committed against the people. The people brought their cases against their oppressors not to the powerless courts of justice but rather to the robbers who acted promptly by plundering their belongings and distributing them to the poor, and then burned the houses and barns of the accused... It was impossible for Sander Goldsticker to return to [his hometown] without passing through terrain which was known to be unsafe because of the presence of [the gangster] Schinderhannes and his bandits. The robbers especially had an eye for the merchants journeying to and from the Fairs. It goes without saying that especially Jewish travelers had reason to be apprehensive. For this reason, Aron Schotten had advised his friend Sander not to shy away from the little detour through [the town of] Michelstadt. He was sure that the [holy man known as the] Baal Shem could give him something which would help him to pass unharmed through all dangers... Next morning, before saying good-bye, Goldsticker told the Rabbi of his problem. For one moment, the Rabbi looked at Goldsticker's worried face with his clever, mild eyes and then said, with a soothing smile, "You may start your journey cheerfully; no harm from the Schinderhannes will befall any Jew." "Pardon me, Master and Teacher," replied Goldsticker. "I am not sure whether I understood the Rabbi. The Schinderhannes doesn't harm any Jew? Didn't the Rabbi hear of the robbings, pillagings, and even murders committed even on Jews by the Schinderhannes?"... The Rabbi stroked his long beard with his left hand, while with his right hand he made a few drumming noises on the table. Obviously struggling with his own thoughts, the Rabbi suddenly said with decisive firmness, "Reb Sander, I say it again, the Schinderhannes will not molest you at all. But there are many other robbers and waylayers of all kinds who could bother you on the road. For these, you have to be on your guard even more. In order that these others don't hurt you, I recommend that you change your itinerary and accept the one I am telling you now. "You shall not avoid the Schinderhannes at all. On the contrary, you shall search for him. Tell anyone who should ambush you that you are on the way to the Schinderhannes with a special mission. If anyone should dare to harm you, the Schinderhannes will seek bloody revenge. Every robber will respect this threat and will lead you personally to the hiding place of the robber chief, wherever he might reside at the moment. Understand?"... "Request a private talk with the robber chief. Never address him as anything but 'Chief.' When you are alone, tell him that you bring a special greeting from the man who once gave him rice in the big forest between Babenhausen and Seligenstadt. Remind him of the promise he gave the man at that time. Also, explain to him that I know that he has broken this promise several times. That is all you have to do. If you follow my instructions, no robber will harm you on the trip and, with God's help, you will reach your family safely. Now I have to leave, as now is the time which belongs to my students." * * *With the good rabbi's blessing, Schotten and Goldsticker took their departure. Each was occupied with his own thoughts, and they walked silently side by side for several minutes. Schotten broke the silence first. "I shall take the next post to Frankfurt where I shall arrive before night. What are you planning to do? Are you going to follow the Rabbi's advice?""There is nothing left for me to do," replied Goldsticker. "I would reproach myself forever if I wouldn't do it and if the slightest mishap occurred on the road. But I must admit, I regret having asked the Rabbi. Have you ever heard of such a thing? I, who should be glad if the robbers would leave me alone, should now look them up yet! If someone were to hear the Rabbi talking in this manner, he might suspect the Rabbi was in cahoots with them; but this is really unbelievable!"... "Certainly, I admit that it is as puzzling to me as it is to you. But what does it matter? Would you have qualms about your pharmacist filling your doctor's Latin prescription and your taking it in order to regain your health? Don't you have the same confidence in your Rabbi as you have in your doctor? Though mysterious to you, this is clear and obvious to the Rabbi. I am positive that on your trip you will find the solution to the riddle. I have only one request of you and that is to let me know what happens." With this and the promise to fulfill the Rabbi's request, the two friends bade their farewell. Goldsticker continued his trip to Koblenz in the same carriage... Suddenly, about an hour before reaching his destination, the carriage was stopped by an armed robber. "In the name of our Chief Johannes, I declare all the possessions of the Jew confiscated to become the property of the Chief. If you agree to this, I'll leave you the horses and carriage and you and your coachman may continue on your way. At the slightest resistance, I'll kill both of you. We are reluctant to shed blood any you must think likewise..." "I am traveling through the woods because I have a message for Chief Johannes which I have to give to him personally. You would be a big help if you would lead me to your master. To fulfill my obligation by seeing him is, at the moment, more important to me than all the gold and silver I carry with me. If you really come with your master's consent, then he shall dispose of all my valuables as he sees fit." The robbers looked at each other in surprise. The calmness and matter-of-factness with which their prisoner suddenly changed into their superior impressed them greatly. But they did not give in readily."Anybody could make these statements," one of them began, "and could pose as the Chief's confidant. Do you think we are so dumb as to give away the Chief's abode? Maybe you are just a low-down spy who wants to find out the master's hiding place and then betray him. You think we are not as smart as you, you Jew? If you really are looking for our Chief, you must know where to find him and then you wouldn't need our guidance. Now, what is your name? Where do you come from and where are you going? No, the deal is off!" The robber gave his cohort a sign to take the boxes and the luggage out of the carriage. Goldsticker stepped between the carriage and the robbers, and he said to them, "You serve your master badly. If you had been smart, you would have killed me and the coach man on the spot. You cooked your own goose! Sooner or later, I shall find your Chief anyhow and will be able to tell him what scoundrels he has working for him. How can you babble such nonsense? I, a spy?... Nobody had ever talked to the robbers this way. They were bewildered and didn't know what to do. They stepped aside and went into a huddle for a few minutes. When they had finished their discussion, their spokesman stepped in front of Goldsticker and said, "We don't know how to negotiate with you! We don't know who you are, your name, or where you live!" These words were spoken in a much different tone, however. This indicated to Goldsticker that he was the master of the situation."Don't talk such nonsense," he replied. "It doesn't hurt our conversation that you don't know me. I don't know you either and still I deal with you. What's more, I don't have the slightest desire to make your acquaintance. What I have seen so far, doesn't make me very anxious to know much more about you. But if you think differently and you do want more information about me, you shall get it from your Chief, not from me. If he wishes to satisfy your curiosity, I have nothing against it. But don't detain me unnecessarily; lead me instantly to the Chief. "There is room for two of you in my carriage and the third one can sit with the coachman on the box. Take a swallow from the canteen of whiskey and then we will start." The whiskey squelched the last doubts they had, and in few moments the strange party went on its way... They traveled almost five hours, crisscrossed thick forests and finally reached a clearing in the woods where he noticed a large campfire. About twenty robbers with black painted faces were sitting around the campfire. Here the carriage stopped. The robbers left the carriage and exchanged a few words with some of the fellows encamped around the fire. Then one of them returned with the information that the Chief was spending the night in a cave a half hour from there. The road to the cave was inaccessible; so they would go there by foot and Goldsticker was to leave his horse and carriage by the encampment... When they arrived at the entrance to the Chief's cave, Goldsticker stopped for a moment and said half aloud to himself in Hebrew, "Our scholars say that one should make a vow in times of danger. If You, Heavenly Father, will rescue me and my possessions from this moment of danger, I shall donate half of it to the poor and to charitable institutions..." With these words, the robber retreated, and Goldsticker stepped before the Schinderhannes who, judging by his red face and inflamed eyes, must have had quite a bit to drink. The messages which he normally received were, as a rule, notifications concerning estates or farmhouses to be burned down. Often he was warned of planned raids against him, organizes by public officials. The Schinderhannes may have expected something similar. After an appraising look at Goldsticker, he said with well-played indifference and calmness, "From whom do you have a message?" "From the man," replied Goldsticker, "who gave the Chief rice to eat between Seligenstadt and Babenhausen." Hearing this, the Chief jumped up suddenly..."The gentleman who sent me," said Goldsticker, "wishes to remind the Chief, through me, of the promise made to spare the Jews. He has heard that this promise has been broken over and over again." These few words made an impression on the robber which defied all expectations. For a few moments he stood silently with downcast eyes, like a scolded school boy. Then he looked pleadingly at Goldsticker and said, "Where does the man live? What is his name? And, what is his profession?" Goldsticker was taken aback at this. It was obviously not the fact of his being an emissary of the Baal Shem which lent such great weight to his mission. If the Baal Shem had cause not to identify himself to the Chief, then he, Goldsticker, had reason to exercise the same caution. "Therefore," he replied curtly, "I am not at liberty to answer those questions." "Not at liberty?" repeated the Schinderhannes, threateningly. "If I herewith order you to tell me, would you still refuse to answer?""Even then I would not answer, until I got permission from the only person who could give it to me," replied Goldsticker, fearlessly. "Good for you!" cried the robber. "You are a brave and fearless man. Did he tell you the story of the rice?""No, I don't know anything about it. I don't know more than I have told the Chief already." "It was nice of your master not to tell you the story. But I shall tell it to you so that you will know why I respect your master so greatly -- whether or not I know who he is..."* * *"My gang was busy with a job in Aschaffenburg; so I stationed myself at a crossroad in the forest between Seligenstadt and Babenhausen. Having to work on my own, I ambushed the passersby from behind a thick tree. After lying in ambush for about half an hour, a carriage came... "I knocked the coachman from his seat to the ground and proceeded to tie him with ropes, hoping that the two men inside -- one young and the other old -- would be easy prey later. I didn't anticipate any resistance from the two men inside. "While I was occupied with tying the coachman, the young man calmly left the carriage, grabbed me from behind, and threw me down with such great force that I ended up on my face on the ground. I groaned in rage and tried with all my might to at least turn my face upwards, but in vain. The young fellow had his knee in my back and pressed it against me with such force that I felt as if I were pinned in a vise. I cursed, swore, stormed, and worked with all my might to throw off the vicious attacker, but it was to no avail... "My opponent, in the meantime, without any visible effort, produced from his pocket a knife which he used to cut the ropes and then bound both of my hands behind my back. He carried me by the neck, suspended in air, about ten paces toward a huge tree against which my rifle was leaning. He asked for another rope from the carriage and with it tied me to the tree in such a manner that I couldn't move a limb. "He returned to the carriage and talked to the old man in the Jewish-German language, which I understand as well as my own dialect because of its similarity to the dialect of the Dukedom of Nassau. The conversation was about whether I should get my brains bashed in or whether to hand me over to the police. At that moment I wouldn't have given a pfenning for my life. I also overheard that they were on the way to Count Dahlberg with 400 guilders to ransom two arrested but innocent Jews. "When I heard this, I realized for the first time my own baseness compared to these two honorable men. They had exposed themselves to a dangerous trip in order to free innocent prisoners, and monster that I was, I had planned to rob them of this money! This thought worried me more at this moment than my endangered life. I called to them, 'If I had any inkling of what good people I would find here in the woods and for what purpose you carried that money, on my honor, I would not have stopped you, although I don't have a pfenning in my pocket and I haven't eaten a thing today.' "The men must have noticed a tone of sincerity and honesty in my words. The giant approached me and said with a warmness and kindness in his voice which I'll never forget, 'What, you haven't eaten today? You may eat with us now when we prepare our lunch. In the meantime, we have to decide what we are going to do with you.' "I realized then and there that such goodhearted people who intended to feed a robber who had just attacked them in the woods, would not be able to kill him, although I may have well deserved such a fate."They took a box from the wagon which contained pots and pans and various other eating utensils. The coachman collected thin fire wood and used steel and tinder to kindle leaves and dry branches into a fire to warm the already cooked food. After this, the giant brought before me a plate filled with rice, and, since my arms were still tied, spoon-fed me as one would a little baby... "[He told me:] 'We have decided to let you go free, but under some conditions. First, you must promise us that, presuming you want to stick to the robber trade, just as you have never killed anyone in the past, you will never kill anyone in the future. Second, never attack or rob a Jew but faithfully assist him in every way through every type of nuisance and persecution... If the most horrible fate were awaiting you, you should end this robber life... Come with us and join humankind again as an honest man!' "'Join humankind?' I retorted. 'I hate them because they expelled me, and it is on them that I want to take revenge as long as I have warm blood in my veins. Sooner or later they will catch me -- it can't be too long. Of your humankind, whom you rate so highly, I could sing a song. They cheat, deceive, defraud, and betray each other so well that they don't take a back seat to any robber of rank. Only the fear of the gallows prevents them from being a robber as I am. "'But, I promise you that I will not harm Jews anymore, and I realize the magnitude of my promise. The Jews achieve a certain affluence by being frugal, sober, and industrious; but because of their religion and their appearance, they have always been the whipping boy and scapegoat of the ignorant masses. Because of this situation, an outlaw could harm the Jews and go unpunished. But here is my hand now. This will not happen anymore in my territory. Also, my men will be notified that this is my decree, and woe to them if any one of them should act contrary to my order.' "At this point, the young man took my hand in his, holding it a few seconds, and said to me forever unforgettable words while fixing his kind and clever eyes on mine, 'My friend, I accept your promise. However, there is one last thing. Our dear Lord keeps a complicated ledger and will surely ask you to account for your many misdeeds on the day of judgment. But He certainly will reward you for every good deed you have fulfilled and bring you into the world to come. Every kindness and mercy you show my oppressed brothers and sisters will be counted, and for these may God bestow on you His blessings! But keep to your promise because God's curse will befall you if you break it. Remember this well!'" Here ended the Chief's narrative. Goldsticker had listened to the words of the robber without interrupting. Now he could not contain himself any longer, and he admonished, "It was reported to your benefactor that you did break your promise, Chief! That is why he sent me to you to remind you again. I don't like to have any part in the curse which a man of the magnitude of your benefactor predicted if you made light of your handshake..." "Enough said, my friend," interrupted the Chief. "You are right, of course, and I will remember in the future. I haven't thought about all of this. Tell this to the gentleman who sent you and ask him not to think badly of me. I shall know to honor his confidence in the future and how to show myself worthy of him. On this, he can rely for all times." Rising, the robber gave a sign that he wished the audience to be terminated. He shook hands with his guest and thanked him for taking the time to seek the hideout to deliver the message. He ordered six mounted robbers to accompany Goldsticker and to protect him on his way home.
Excerpted with permission from "THE BAAL SHEM OF MICHELSTADT."

Published by Feldheim Publishers -

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Parshas Balak Tzadik MiMenu - Clevelander Rebbe Shlit"a

My Rebbe the Clevelander Rebbe Shlit"a of Ra'anana taught:

There is a story about the Belzer Rebbe Zt"L. He lived next to a gentile smith. Ever morning before dawn the gentile would begin working in the smithy, the noise awoke the Rebbetzin who in turn woke the Rebbe of Belz for his morning devotions. One morning the Rebbe said to himself " its not right that the gentile should awake earlier for mundane work than I for the Divine service." The next day the Rebbe awoke earlier than the gentile smith. The day after that the gentile passed away from this world.

The Chassidim took note and asked the Rebbe for the signficance of his neighbor's passing. "This gentile was my alarm clock. His whole purpose in this life was to wake me early for the morning prayers when I awoke on my own he served no purpose in this world and Hashem therefore took him."

To be continued...

Monday, June 25, 2007

Learning New things vs. Chazara

(Bostoner Rebbe Shlit"a of RBSA)

I have heard it often said in the name of the Gaon of Vilna that a kinyan or acquisition of knowledge in one single volume of Talmud or Mesechta is more important than a large breadth of knowledge we call Bekiyus. This implies that Chazara or review is of paramount importance.

I have seen in the name of Rav Arele Roth Z"TL the founder of Shomer Emunim and whose son-in-law was to found the Toldos Aharon Chassidic movements that he for example would commend constant review of Brachos, calling it the Olam HaBa Mesechta, a tractae through which one can merit the coming world.

I heard the following Mashal or parable from a Bostoner Chassid in the name of the Bostoner Rebbe of Bet Shemesh Shlit"a:

There were once two gold prospectors who came to dig for gold. They dug on opposite sides of the mountain.

One was very quick and he was telling the others to dig here and , while the cries of joy and delight could be heard from over the mountain.

The other was very exacting and careful. He cautiously measured and studied the terrain and made careful calculations as to where to dig. All this took some time during which the constant shouts of joy at success were heard from over the mountain, disheartening the men. The prospector finally decided on the correct spot and gave the order to drill and dig.

This continued for some time over the course in which the continuous successes over the mountain were heard while the men on this side kept drilling and digging without any measure of success. Nonetheless the prospector was adamant "Keep drilling", was the order.

Finally after much effort, hard work and exertion when they final hit the "motherload" they discovered that they were much richer and had uncovered a much greater treasure than their fellow men over the mountain with their small constant successes.

The parable is: While Bekiyus study here and there is immediately rewarding, you keep up interest, you learn a good vort here and a nice pshetel there. While constant review of one Mesechta can seem arduious hard and tiring. However if you keep at it eventually you will strike the motherload.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Link from Dixie Yid

More Lubavitch stories...

There is a couple I know personally who were childless and non-observant, they went to the Dollars day on line for a Bracha.

The Rebbe blessed them and then unusually he handed them 3 dollars. They had triplets! They have the photo hanging up in their living room. They are frum, observant chassidim today.


My wife met the woman who told her this story at my Rebbe's home. She had a near death experience where she was diagnosed as dead yet she came back to life. As time passed she had recurring visions of how her soul, was in judgement in the heavenly court. As the neshama stood before the Beis Din shel Ma'alah, the judgement was harsh, the court felt that since she wasnt religously observant her soul should remain above rather than her continuing to lead a sinful life. One advocate angel interceded on her behalf and "promised" th court that he would be her guarantor.

Some time later she entered the home of a friend and in shock almost fainted. Where did you get that picture she exclaimed pointing to the wall. Thats the Lubavitcher Rebbe her friend explained. Thats the angel who was my guarantor! She said. Today she is a frum Lubavitcher. Marrried with children B"H.


There is a well known story how a man met the Rebbe before his leadership and every time they met over the years he told him cryptically how great miracles can happen on the 7th night of Channuka. When this man chanced to be in England many years later he was searching for his friend's daughter who on the verge of marrying a non-Jew was assimilated and lost. He called the local Chabad Rabbi described the daughter and to his astonishment was told how there was a girl there matching that very description. When he arrived she had broken down and decided to return, when he looked up he saw the 7th Channuka candle burning on the Menora.

Zechuso Yagen Aleynu Amen

Gimmel Tammuz 3rd of Tammuz Lubavitcher Rebbe's Yorzeit

The Rebbe was born on Nissan 11, 5662 (April 18, 1902), in Nikolaev, Russia. When Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak died in 1950, Rabbi Menachem reluctantly - a year later - assumed the leadership of the Lubavitch movement, headquartered at the famous 770 Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn, New York.The Rebbe suffered a stroke in 1992, leaving him partially paralyzed and unable to speak, and on Tammuz 3, 5754 (June 12, 1994), he passed away.

Many stories have been told about the Rebbe. A small sampling from Arutz 7 news:

*** A young girl in an observant Jewish family began to experiment and become involved with other religions. Her wealthy father consulted an emissary of the Rebbe, and in response to their plea, the Rebbe advised the man to check the kashrut of this mezuzot (Torah passages written precisely on a parchment and placed on doorposts in accordance with Biblical law). After checking his many mezuzot, and doing so yet again several weeks later, no improvement was noted. Finally, one day, the father and the emissary were strolling on the father's seven-acre property when the rabbi noticed a small, nearly-forgotten hut at the edge of a field. After recalling that even this hut was adorned with a mezuzah that had been placed there many years before, the two removed and checked it - only to find that the word "One," referring to G-d in the cardinal Shma Yisrael prayer, had been slightly rubbed out and now read "Other." They immediately replaced the mezuzah with a kosher one, and the following morning the daughter woke up crying, saying, “Daddy, I’m sorry. I don’t know what happened to me. I don’t know what got into me. But I want to return. I want to come home to Judaism.” (Rabbi Aaron L. Raskin)

*** In 1959, the Rebbe prophetically wrote to then-Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion as follows: "...It was once fashionable in certain circles to suggest that Jewish religion and religious observances were necessary for those living in the Diaspora as a shield against assimilation - but that for those who can find another 'antidote' in place of religion, particularly for those living in the Land of Israel among Jews, where the atmosphere, language, etc. (apparently) serve as ample assurances of national preservation, the Jewish religion was superfluous... But the [recent] trend of developments in the Land of Israel has increasingly emphasized the opposite view - that religion is needed even more for the Jews in the Land of Israel. One of the basic reasons for this is that it is precisely in the Land of Israel that there exists the danger that a new generation will grow up, a new type bearing the name of Israel but completely divorced from our people's past and its eternal and essential values - and even hostile to it in its world outlook, its culture, and content of its daily life..." (Letters from the Rebbe, Vol. 1, New York, 1998)

**** Prof. Herman Branover of Ben Gurion University of the Negev and head of the Center for Magneto-Hydrodynamic Studies, met up with Chabad emissaries in Russia, became observant, and made Aliyah to Israel in 1972. He recounts: "During a lecture tour in the U.S. in 1973, I was on my way to the University of Pennsylvania when I was able to have a private visit with the Rebbe. He took interest in my plans, and commented, 'While you're in Philadelphia, don't forget to introduce yourself to a local professor who is interested in your field of study.' I was very surprised, as I knew the American professors involved in magneto-hydrodynamics and I knew none who lived in Philadelphia... After a long search, I finally met up with Prof. Hsuan Yeh, and we enjoyed a sophisticated discussion with a person who was clearly knowledgeable in the field. He then told me that six weeks from then, a Magneto-Hydrodynamics Energy Convention would be held at Stanford University in California, and that though the program was already finalized, he would insist that my name be added to the list of lecturers. When I expressed puzzlement as to how he could manage that, he smiled and said, 'You see, I am on the program committee.'

"Though I appreciated the professor's offer, I graciously declined, explaining that my wife and I were anxious to return home to Israel. I returned to New York, and before leaving for Israel, I wrote the Rebbe about my encounter with Professor Yeh. Once again, the Rebbe made an unexpected statement. He advised me to reschedule my plans and to accept the invitation, as the convention presented an important opportunity. Taken by surprise but acquainted enough with the Rebbe to value his advice, I called Professor Yeh, who was happy to arrange for me to deliver a lecture.
"The significance of my participation at the convention became clear very rapidly. I met two representatives of the Office of Naval Research in Virginia who had read about my work, and who were prepared to finance further research. They added, 'We understand that you want to establish your laboratory in Israel, and we are willing to provide you with funds for your work there.' As a result, I set up a laboratory in Be'er Sheva, which has gained worldwide recognition for its magneto-hydrodynamics research. My contract with the Office of Naval Research has been renewed six times since that original grant. I could not have imagined at that point how valuable and far-reaching the Rebbe's advice had been... This year, 1993, marks twenty years since the Stanford convention. My project has just been awarded a $15 million grant by the United States government to further research and development of this energy technology."

**** Yisachar Weiss, a wealthy businessman from the West Coast of the U.S., relates: "In 1976, a group of Belgian diamond dealers offered me a million-dollar investment that appeared to be a golden opportunity. But, to their astonishment, I reminded them that I make no investments without the Rebbe's blessing. In my next meeting with the Rebbe, I explained to him the offer. 'Don't invest,' he told me. 'A military coup is going to happen in Liberia.' I was very surprised, since Liberia was known as the 'Switzerland of Africa.' But the Rebbe was firm, saying, 'The political situation there is not stable. Don't make any long-term investments there. Only an immediate-return deal should be entertained.' ... A short time later, I invested $50,000 in a deal in which I instructed my broker to buy Liberian diamonds very quickly and to quickly leave the country... But soon afterwards, the coup that the Rebbe had foreseen broke out, and I was able to recover only part of my money. But of course I was comforted that I had not been enticed to invest a million dollars..."

The Bostoner on Fish & Ba'al Teshuva

(Bostoner Rebbe Shlit"a of RBSA)

I was also zoche and merited to hear the Bostoner Rebbe Shlit"a explain the Midrash Aggadata that Sefer Bamidbar is divided into three chumashim, because VeYehi Bnso HaAron is its own Chumash, which is preceded and followed bwo Nun Hafucha - a flipped upside down letter Nun.

What is a Nun Hafucha? Asked the Rebbe. The Bostoner answered that in Aramiac Nun also means fish. Fish usually swim together in groups as a school, a Nun hafucha is a fish that swims against the currents and against the tides.

Swimming in a scholl teaches us the importance of unity and the power of community.

The Ba'al Teshuva is a fish who swims against the tide. The whole world he has known and grown up in swims together and he must be the one to do the about face and swim against the groups. This requires strength and resilience. He is a Nun hafucha.


I really enjoyed this edition and I wanted to share it with you:

June 2007

The new vice president looked around at his brand-new office with the same look a new mother bestows on her newborn baby. He scrutinized each detail with a mixture of love and anxiety: the paneled walls, the parquet floors, the Anderson windows with their 22nd-story view, the genuine copies of Impressionistic art. This is what he had dreamed of during his slow climb up the corporate ladder.

As he sat down on the soft leather of the executive chair, he thought to himself, "This is me."

Suddenly he heard a knock on his oak door. Not the right kind of knock. Not reflecting the kind of awe and trepidation the knocker should feel for the executive occupant of this office. As he said, "Come in," he picked up his state-of-the-art telephone. He nodded perfunctorily to the fortyish man dressed in noncorporate attire standing at the door and, looking out at his view, spoke into the phone with quiet authority. "I appreciate the trust that you have demonstrated in buying Magnum. As vice president of sales, I am authorized, of course, to speak for the entire Magnum board. No, it's not necessary to speak to Mr. Norton. I will see him at golf later. Have a good day," he concluded the conversation.

Looking up at his visitor with that tinge of impatience, reserved for the important-and-too-busy, he asked, "What can I do for you?"The visitor's eyes twinkled with scarcely concealed amusement. "I'm here to install the telephone," he replied.

* * *

Self-discovery is the key to facing all of life's challenges, because until we recognize who we are, we cannot possibly know how to properly respond to the challenges life presents.According to the Torah view, each human being is essentially a soul -- that is, an eternal, spiritual entity created in the image of God. The soul descends to this physical plane in order to actualize its potentials through the process of facing and overcoming challenges. The first step in this process is self-definition. The new vice-president in the above story looked at his executive office and felt "this is me." Not "these are the surroundings which I prefer," but rather "I am defined by these status symbols."

To the extent that one's self-definition is external, one's life goals will be external, and only external challenges will be recognized and engaged. The most common result of such external definition is some version of the pathetic vice president, who had achieved his external goals but still had such a woeful sense of his true inner worth that he had to impress everyone who knocked on his door. An eternal soul cannot be satisfied by temporary accomplishments. That is why the lives of even the most successful icons of contemporary society often end with bitterness, disappointment, and a sense of futility.

Although their external accomplishments were real and impressive, decades later who really cares who recorded the bestselling hit of 1939 or who was the Most Valuable Player of 1951? On the other hand, public figures who distinguished themselves through inner feats, such as extraordinary giving or concern for others, usually end their days with a sense of accomplishment and contentment.

* * *

How does this process take place? Where does Torah in its broadest and most universal sense fit into the picture?All souls come to this world to ascend spiritually, not just to climb the corporate ladder or to achieve any other form of material success. Of course, external goals are also important and are usually an integral part of one's life's mission, but whether one defines oneself in terms of developing inner traits (such as kindness) or in terms of external accomplishments (such as making a million dollars) will make all the difference in how one approaches every aspect of life. Begin with an honest assessment of your character traits. Do you need to work on becoming more generous, more truthful, more patient, more self-assertive, or more forgiving?

Although we could all stand to improve in all of the above areas and twenty others besides, each of us has a unique profile. Even a couple decades on this planet should make it obvious to you which traits you most need to focus on. Because it is God's will for each of us that we grow spiritually in a particular area, He provides us with repeated tests in that area. So if you find that homeless beggars are always accosting you (though they seem to leave your best friend alone), you might question if you have an issue with generosity. If every day provides a stream of anger provoking incidents, you might question if you need to work on developing patience. Once you admit to yourself where your character flaws lie, you will begin to perceive challenges where you had previously seen only bothersome events.

A friend told me that as an overweight teenager she hated walking up the zillion steps to the Philadelphia Art Museum. When she finally decided to go on a diet, she realized that they were the world's best place for step aerobics.

* * *

After confronting our own identity, the second step in facing challenge is to recognize which events and situations are sent as challenges to us. Most of us fail our challenges because we do not recognize them. They are camouflaged by the veil of the mundane. We think of challenges as the stuff theatrical dramas are made of: parents faced with an autistic child, a journalist having to choose between truth and a Pulitzer Prize, a teenager deciding to give up drugs. In truth, every one of us, every day, is faced with challenges which will determine whether we make ourselves into spiritual heroes or failures. In fact, by the time the grandiose, dramatic choices face us, our response will already be determined by the aggregate of our seemingly trivial, daily choices. That is why gentiles who risked their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust invariably answer the question of why they did it with a plain-as-the-nose-on-your-face response. The great choice was not made the night they opened the door to their neighbor's trembling children. It was made throughout the course of their whole lives, every time they chose to put themselves out for the benefit of a stranger.

A person who never bothered to stand up and give up her seat in a waiting room to an elderly person will simply not become the quiet hero who can stand up to the Third Reich. Another reason that challenges often go unrecognized is that we do not realize that there is no such thing as an objective challenge. All challenges are totally subjective and individual. This accounts for the disproportion between objective reality and human beings' responses to events. One person may see her six-year-old child accidentally spill a glass of water on the kitchen floor and fly into a tempestuous rage. Another (albeit rare) person might miss a plane because of an inept cab driver and respond by grimacing and asking when the next plane leaves. For the latter paragon of equanimity, missing the plane was not even a test. For the former, the spilled water, which would take less time to clean up than to calm down from the rage, was a major challenge.

Each character trait can be viewed as a continuum, from the highest perfection to the lowest. The point of challenge for every human being is the point on that continuum where possibility and inner struggle meet.For example, imagine the continuum of altruism, where murder (not giving someone the space to live) is the lowest point and Rabbi Aryeh Levine, the well-known "tzaddik of Jerusalem," is the highest point. The choice box, or the area on the continuum where genuine choice is possible, for any one person is relatively small. I venture to say that none of you reading this book has ever seriously entertained the possibility of killing another driver on the freeway because he cut you off. Given who you are and how you were raised, murder is not in your choice box. At the other end of the spectrum, probably none of you reading this book has seriously considered rising every morning before dawn and spending the rest of your day helping prisoners, lepers, and anyone who needs anything that you can give, without salary. Since neither of those options are in your choice box, they are not your challenges. You do not deserve to pat yourself on the back for all the people you didn't murder today, nor should you feel guilty for not devoting your life to charity work. Where there is no possibility of accomplishment, there is no challenge.

* * *

For challenge to be real, it also has to be difficult. Where there is no inner struggle, there is no challenge, and therefore no growth.So, although we tend to acclaim donations to charity according to their objective size, the real measure of people's tests in generosity must take into account how much they have and how difficult it is for them to part with it. Thus, for a billionaire to donate $500,000 to the Cancer Society may be no test of generosity for him at all. On the other hand, a person who is worried about how she will pay her electric bill pulling the last $20 bill out of her wallet and giving it to someone collecting for the poor may be achieving a tremendous spiritual victory...

For a deeper sense of this crucial point, imagine someone, let's call him Ted, who has been laid off his job as a computer programmer. The bank has threatened to foreclose on Ted's house. Ted's best friend Bob feels terrible about Ted's predicament. It occurs to Bob that he could take the money he had been saving for a vacation in Hawaii and give it to Ted to cover his delinquent mortgage payments. Because Bob had been looking forward to this vacation all year, it is a difficult choice for him. Therefore, it constitutes a genuine challenge. His choosing to give the money to Ted would be a heroic response to his challenge. Ted may have a dozen other friends who never even considered paying his mortgage payments for him, either because they are not as close to him, or because they don't have the money, or because they are nowhere near that level of altruism. For these individuals, Ted's mortgage problems present no challenge. Conversely, Ted may have wealthy parents for whom it is also not a challenge; of course they will bail their son out without blinking an eye. Bob's inner struggle is what defines the test. Therefore, if you are unclear about which of your daily experiences are challenges, be alert to what is difficult for you. If you balk whenever anyone asks to borrow any of your possessions, you may have a generosity problem which bears working on. If you would rather swallow the loss than return a faulty purchase to the store and have to face the person behind the customer service desk, you might look at your lack of self-assertion. If it is hard for you to accept gifts and favors, that may be your precise area of test. Not only does difficulty define the test, but your areas of test highlight which character traits you should be working on in this lifetime.

Excerpted with permission from "LET'S FACE IT!" -- the 8 essential challenges of living. Published by Targum Press, Inc. -- .

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Tammuz the month of the Ba'al Teshuva

(Bostoner Rebbe Shlit"a of RBSA)

I was zoche to merit hearing the Bostoner Rebbe Shlit"a of Bet Shemesh yesterday say Torah in honor of Shabbos Rosh Chodesh Tammuz during Shalosh Seudos.

The Rebbe said that the tziruf the letter combination of Tammuz is Hashem's 4 letter name Hava"ya is backwards. Hay then Vav, then Hay then Yud. This exact backwards combination beginning with Hay is perfect as the month for a Ba'al Teshuva. The Rebbe explained that the Midrash teaches why does Hay have two openings the large one on the bottom is where thw wicked fall through to Gehinom but its open on the side allowing a penitent returnee - a Ba'al Teshuva to come in through there.

Thus Tammuz begins with Hay, then leads up to the Divine name this is the path of the Ba'al Teshuva who begins at the end searching for the right way to reach Kedusha.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Free Streaming MP3 Jewish Audio Files - Chassidus & Meditation

Due to an overwhemingly positive response I have had, to some of the MP3 Jewish Audio Classes, I am adding several selections as free streaming audio:

To purchase a download see below at bottom of blog & right of blog

MP3 Audio Classes on Jewish Meditation
  • Jewish Meditation MP3 #10 Outpouring of the Soul - Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
  • Jewish Meditation MP3 #14 Jewish Meditation A practical Guide - Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan / Visualizations by Rav Eckstein Tnay HaNefesh LeHasgas HaChassidus (Visions of a Compassionate World)

MP3 Audio Classes on Chassidus

What is Chassidus? Part 3

Hanhagos HaAdam of the Rebbe Reb Melech (Rabbi Elimelech of Lizensk) continued...

3. Always remember the day of your death and your mortality, when you study the Gemara Talmud and other holy works do not interrupt your learning as taught by our sages that your life will be cut short. Pray to Hashem Yisborach to learn LiShema for its sake.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Donations Needed

From my friend Yanky Markowitz:

Dear Friends,

I have a close personal friend who is in serious trouble.
He has been suffering for several months with kidney failure.
Unfortunately he has now lost both kidneys and is in dire need of a transplant ASAP.

My friend is young in his thirties, he has three young children and his wife is beʼshaah tova expecting their next child.

My friend is an outstanding Talmid Chocham and Rosh Yeshiva who is moser nefesh to help troubled teens.

I am reaching out to you for help. Your donation is extremely important.
Please help my friend be zocheh to be a father and husband for his family, to be there for the birth of his newest child, to be there for his wife and kids, and to be there for the troubled teens that he helps.

Please open your hearts (and your pockets) to save this precious neshama.

You can send your check by mail to:

1572-39th ST.
Brooklyn, N.Y. 11218

Or you can deposit directly to: CHASE BANK
ACCT# 151045700865
ROUTING# 021000021
The account holderʼs information is same as above.

I assure you that every penny you send is going directly to TZEDAKA.

If you need more information donʼt hesitate to contact: Yanky Markowitz
786-472-1743 or 02-992-3530

OR to verify any information by calling: 1) Rʼ Chayim Glanz: 917-771-5335
2) Rʼ Dovid Weissman: 347-524-8553

And of course please daven for: AVRAHOM TZVI BEN SHAINDEL LEEBAH.

The Power of Prayer - for our soldiers

There is a well-known "Segula" that when a woman is expecting a child, her husband opens the Aron HaKodesh for Keriat HaTorah as a sign that she should have an easier time in delivering her baby.

(TZ this segula is found in the Tefila Yeshara Siddur and the Sulitzer Shlit"a used to tell me that it also applies to a woman who is having difficulty conceiving since the request is to open the womb so to speak)

I would like to extend this idea, to assist in securing the freedom of our captured Israeli soldiers. As you are aware, there are currently three soldiers (Gilad Shalit, Ehud Goldwasser and Eldad Regev) who are being held by various terror organizations.

Please daven (pray) for the kidnapped soldiers:
* Ehud ben Malka
* Eldad ben Tova
* Gilad ben Aviva

The duration of their captivity is approaching one year.

On Shabbat Parashat Korach (which will be on June 16, 2007), I would like to suggest that upon opening the Aronei Kodesh around the world on that Shabbat morning, an announcement be made to have in mind the speedy release of these captives! The reason for that particular Shabbat is that Korach is the paradigm of divisiveness among Jews and we can attempt to correct that by uniting in a common cause AND at the same time unite to concentrate on the freedom of our fellow Jews.

Please suggest to your Congregations/Batei Kenesset/Shuls, etc. allover to make this small but important effort to remember our soldiers and pray for their release at the opening of the Aron Kodesh on the morning of Shabbat June 16, 2007! Please help by passing this email around to as many people as you areable to.

There are also soldiers who are missing in Action who need to be returned to their families and Am Yisroel, and who need our prayers:

  • Guy Chever
  • Ron Arad
  • Zachary Baumel
  • Yehuda Katz
  • Tzvi Feldman

Tizkoo L'Mitzvot!
Rabbi Zev M Shandalov
Congregation KJBS
Chicago, IL 60659 USA