Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Noam Elimelech for Yom Kippur

gemar chasima tova!

Noam Elimelech for Yom Kippur –

The Gemarra teaches that Sins between man and his fellow man are not atoned and absolved by Yom Kippur (Yoma 85b)

The reason for this is that so long as he has not appeased his friend and fellow there remains a prosecuting accusation against him on High which prevents his atonement until he appeases his friend and acquires his forgiveness. For as long as his friend has objections against him there remains a prosecuting accusation against him on High, and once his friend forgives him that accusation passes and is no longer there. *

(Noam Elimelech parshas Behaaloscha sv Vezehu VeAtah Yisroel Mah Hashem Elokecha Shoel Meimach)

Confession Viduy – In our Forefathers Merit We Become Beynonim

When we confess and recite Viduy we recite the formula: We and our forefathers have sinned, and we should explain the reason behind why we mention the sin of our forefathers when we confess?

Even if a person has sinned he should never make himself out to be wicked before the prosecuting accuser. Rather he should take partial blame for his wickedness, and partial credit for his righteousness. This is why we place some of the blame on our forefathers saying that if we have sinned it is partly their fault for not having sanctified us with complete holiness. This too is one of the reasons why we have sinned.

Our forefathers meanwhile, are already [safely protected] in Gan Eden where no prosecution or accusations can harm them, therefore we rely upon them and place some blame for our sins on them in order to not give the accuser any opening to blame us for our own wickedness. Then through the confession of our sins we make ourselves into average people (who are balanced neither wicked nor righteous). . . This is what the verse means "he [Yaakov] split the people up [literally halved them]," he taught the people to confess [which causes us to split up their sins and merits half and half so that they would be in equal measure] and to transform themselves into beynonim – average people.

(Noam Elimelech Parshas VaYishlach sv vezehu vayehi li shor vechamor)

Mincha Maftir Yonah:

Why did Yona flee from Hashem? To try and prevent accusations against Klal Yisroel

The Gemarra teaches: Why are Bnei Yisroel compared to a Yonah? Just as a Yonah bird never exchanges its mate for another, neither do Bnei Yisroel ever exchanges their G-d.

This means that they are forever attached to Hashem as is proper for a person to constantly always be attached cleaving to the Creator. . .

A righteous tzadik who is attached to the Creator in dveykus is called Yonah, because he is attached to Hashem like a Yona as we explained above.

We will explain the meaning of the verse "And Yona fled to Tarshish from before Hashem."

He was truly attached to Hashem and this is why he is named a Yona for he truly was one.

Now it is difficult to understand then, how can we possibly understand that Yona fled from Hashem, Whose glory fills the entire world; and the heavens and heavens' heavens cannot contain Him?!

Rather Yona's intention was to commit a sin for the sake of Hashem, known as an aveirah lishma. His intent was for the sake of Heaven, it was difficult for him to prophecy before the people of Ninveh, since if they would repent from their sins and transgressions then heaven forbid, there might be a Heavenly accusation leveled against Bnei Yisroel as the Gemarra tells uis that the nations might repent immediately. Therefore he tried to separate himself and to take to the seas and interrupt his dveykus and attachment to Hashem, all this, so long as he could prevent such a prophecy [and its consequences].

(Noam Elimelech Parshas Shelach sv O Yomar VaYishlach Osam Moshe LaTur es Eretz Canaan)

Yona and the Ship – the Soul and the Body

The Tanna teaches that one who sells a ship sells its mast as well.

The body is compared to a ship.

The Holy Zohar teaches regarding the prophet Yonah that when Yonah descended into the depths or bowels of the ship that this symbolizes the descent of the soul into the body.

Similarly the body in this world is like a ship sailing the stormy troubled seas, a person is cast into the stormy waters of life in this world where he must struggle to stay afloat, man must always ponder and contemplate that he is always navigating the great ocean of life and his quest is to stay afloat among the raging storms and tempest waters that life's trials toss at him.

Therefore the Tanna taught us that one who sells the ship has sold its mast, if a ship is like the body one who sells the ship proves that he does not care for the physical needs of his body at all. Therefore if he sells the mast, meaning that he no longer needs to act like a mast, like a guiding tower at the top of a mountain, this is because once he has proved that he does not care for the physical needs of this world, he attaches in dveykus to the Shechinah and he is no longer like a mast on the mountaintop.

Noam Elimelech (Parshas VaYec hi sv Shimon VeLevi Achim)

Sunday, September 23, 2012

YomKippur with the Berditchever

Serving in White Vestments

To explain why during the other days of the year the Kohen Gadol served in gold and colored vestments and on Yom Kippur when he entered inside [the holy of holies] he served specifically in white vestments.

It is written (Tehillim 33:6) "By the word of Hashem heavens and earth were made," the Almighty created the worlds by His utterances and speech. All the worlds are filled with His life force and vitality and exist because of that life force and vitality. And if, heaven forbid, there would be a lack [of His life force] for even one moment it would be totally impossible for any of the worlds to exist so we find that all of the worlds exist through His life force.1

The shefa which the Creator sends down over all the worlds before it reaches the worlds it is without any shape or form or color. As the shefa spreads through the world then it becomes formed and colored. For example as the shefa spreads through the world of the fiery angels known as the seraphim then it takes on the form of the world of the seraphim and so it does with all the worlds wherever it spreads out it takes on that form of that world, so that for inanimate objects, plants and living animals then the shefa takes on the form and hue of the inanimate, the plants and the animals.

This is known as General and Specific. When the shefa has not yet spread out it is called general and when it has spread out over all the worlds, then it is called Specific. When the shefa has spread out over all the worlds then it has taken on the form and hue to match the world it is in and where it has spread out to, if it is shefa in the world of the seraphim then it takes on the form of that world of seraphim and it can no longer spread out past the world of seraphim. And this is true for all of the worlds. This is hinted at by the statement in (Eruvin 28a) "A General statement followed by a Specific one, the general can only contain what is in the specifics." This occurs when there is an awakening from above, however when there is an awakening from below to send forth shefa then the opposite is true. An awakening from below is always only Specific however the shefa which the Creator sends to the world is General and inclusive, including and incorporating everything and anything and this is what the aforementioned Gemarra (ibid) means, "A Specific statement followed by a General one, the general adds on to the specific."

This will explain that the Kohen Gadol on Yom Kippur draws down shefa to all of the worlds and this shefa when it is still being drawn down and has not yet entered the worlds, we explained that this shefa is completely colorless [and without form]. This hints at the reason that the Kohen Gadol specifically wears white vestments, which alludes to the drawing down of shefa which on Yom Kippur has no color at all. On the other days of the year his service was only to keep the shefa in the world as we explained that when the shefa in the worlds then that shefa has form and hue and that is why the rest of the year the Kohen Gadol wore gold and colored vestments.


  1. See Tanya Shaar haYichud VaHaEmunah Chap 1

Story: Like The Avodah of the Kohen Gadol or an Angel?

The Tzanz Klausenberger Rebbe related:

"This story is what I was told by Rav Tevli of Dukla who heard it from his father-in-law Yosef Moshe, who heard from Rav Yitzchak Ettinger who heard from the mouth of the Gaon author of the author of the Yeshuos Yaakov himself. He related that when he (the Yeshuos Yaakov) was but a young avrech he lived in Yaroslav (which was a city of misnagdim or opponents of chassidus) and this is what he told:

"Once on Erev Yom Kippur the holy author of the Kedushas Levi the Rav of Berditchev arrived in town. Before Kol Nidrei he entered the shul crawling on his hands and feet in such awe and self negation before Hashem! He himself approached the amud, and from the lectern he began to recite Kol Nidrei with such awe and reverence. And at the time none of us assembled knew his identity and no one there had any idea who this guest was, nonetheless we let him continue leading the prayers before the congregation because he had the sweetest voice and we could tell by the tone and feeling that his prayers stirred that this was a person of great stature.

After the evening services concluded, he continued reciting the liturgy known as Shir HaYichud before the ark and afterwards he began the recitation of the entire sefer Tehillim out loud in voice that carried. He stayed this way on his feet the entire time all night long!

In the morning when the congregation began entering shul, we found him standing there just as before and he simply continued with Adon Olam, and led the prayers for Shacharis, he himself read from the Torah and continued to lead the services for Mussaf!"

"I," said the Yeshous Yaakov, "began to doubt whether this being was a human or angel from heaven! His voice and his unceasing never ending outpouring of strength and emotion were angelic. Yet when the congregation recited their responses and he stood silent I thought he must be human.

However when we reached the Neilah services and he began to roar out his prayers like a lion, the entire congregation was filled with remorse and all gathered did teshuva and repented. All of us present were sure that only a supernal angel from heaven could have such powers!

After the Maariv prayers concluded and Yom Kippur had ended, I decided to follow him and see were he was staying. I wanted to see if he would conclude his fast and eat as human beings do! Or was he an angel that needed not to eat nor sleep?

I watched as someone recited the havdalah service to which he listened to and immediately he began to ask those present, "please bring me something to enliven me and fill my hungry soul!"

Immediately they brought him some cake, cookies and fruit to eat, understanding that anyone would be hungry after such an intense day. "No, no," he explained declining the food offered, "this is not what I had in mind please bring a volume of meseches Sukkah from the Talmud."

They brought him the requested volume and he took the Gemarra and entered his room saying he needed to rest a bit. I followed him to see what rest meant and I peeked into his room and saw him sitting enraptured learning and studying Meseches Sukkah aflame in dveykus.

I myself could not hold up, I was tired and I fell asleep. When I awoke it was morning. Again I approached and saw how the holy Berditchever was still busy learning and close to finishing the entire tractate!"

'This,' interrupted the Tzanz Klausenberger, 'was the Kedushas Levi, about whom his son Rav Meir writes in the introduction to volume one of his sefer Keser Torah - "It is known to the entire world that my father had thousands of students whose hearts my father set aflame teaching them Gemarra, Rashi and Tosfos as well as the poskim and codes of law. Their hearts were excited to serve Hashem when they heard Torah from him guiding them on the straight path to serve Hashem."'

The Tzanz Klausenbeger concluded, "Even though he was busy serving and worshipping Hashem with such an avodah that would make even angels and fiery seraphs jealous, nonetheless he could not rest knowing that he did not study enough Torah on the day of YomKippur. Only after studying and completing the entire tractate of Meseches Sukkah was his mind appeased. What can we say about ourselves?"

(Shefa Chaim #22 parashas VaYelech p8-9 [p424-425])

YomKippur: A Theft in Heaven a Berditchever Tale

From the upcoming MeOros Kedushas Levi on Moadim
YomKippur Story: A Theft in Heaven

Two thieves were once brought to be judged before the Heavenly Court. The first one was a young man named Nachume'l the thief. All year long he hid deep in the forest robbing all passerby, young and old alike stealing from the rich and the travelling merchants. Only on the Erev Yom Kippur he would go to town and there he would begin to distribute all the money he had stolen to the poor and the indigent. Then he would enter the Beis Midrash and the entire day of Yom Kippur. For the entire day he stood immersed in prayer and supplication from the depths of his hearty and soul; with such fervor and sweetness that the very stones beneath his feet almost melted with joy. The day after Yom Kippur he would distribute what remained of his loot among the poor to cover their upcoming Yom Tov expenses and then once again he would vanish into the recesses of the dark woods where he would continue his disdainful practice of robbery and thievery.
The second thief brought to trial was named Yaakov Yoel, and he was an older Jew with a shining countenance sporting a fine long white beard. A merchant and businessman now retired in his old age he had turned over his business to his sons while he himself sat in the house of study learning Torah day and night. He sat in the Beis Midrash every day and almost never did he step foot outside it except once a year. When the day of the trade fair arrived in town and his sons hands were so busy that they could not do so they asked their father to please come into the store and man the register while they tended to the many details that took up their time. And it goes without question that no one harbored even a suspicion nor even a shadow of a doubt against such a pious Jew! Nonetheless when no one was looking and when all watchful eyes were turned away Yaakov Yoel would simply reach his hand into the register and pluck coin after coin out and drop them into his pocket! With this stolen cash he would purchase brandy and other spirits along with cakes and cookies that he would later set before the Chassidim in shul. After the daily davening, he mamash chalished – he simply famished for a shot of strong  liquor and a tasty morsel to savor in the company of his fellow Chassidim or any other group pf Jews.
First the Heavenly Court listened to Yaakov Yoel's plea, the old man began to argue on his own behalf explaining that "After all all I took was from own children, I took what I took from my very own store, from my own business that was once under my charge, I simply handed it over to them and further. . ."
However the Accuser Satan himself representing the case for the prosecution delayed no further and pounced upon the hapless Jew with a sneer dripping with venom and malice, "Nu So what then about the red handkerchief?!"
And now Yaakov Yoel hung his head in shame because Satan, the Accuser had indeed brought up a shameful memory! Almost every Rosh Chodesh, and every other occasion such as Mondays and Thursdays Yaakov Yoel would make his rounds after the morning prayers holding a red handkerchief. He would walk back and forth asking for a donation for a "very important matter and a pressing need!" Now it goes without saying that no one had even the merest suspicion against Yaakov Yoel with the long white beard!
And so he would collect copper coins, jingling gleefully in his red handerkerchief into which once in a while even a silver coin might be thrown to join the others while Yaakov Yoel smiled into the corner of his beard saying to himself, "Isn't a Le'Chaim toasted by Chassidim an important matter after all?!" And now he stood there before the Heavenly Court accused of his crimes and misdeeds, dumbfounded and unable to utter even a single word in his own defense.
Next the court turned its attention to Nachume"l the thief and he spoke simply saying: "Master of the World what can I say? All of my actions are revealed before You. All year long I rob and steal and not one word of holiness passes my lips. On Erev Yom Kippur I distribute my money to the poor and afterwards all Yom Kippur long I engage in prayer and supplication my mouth lips do not close for Your sake and the sake of Your holy name! I have nothing more to say. Master of the World, do with me as You wish?!"
On the spot, Satan the Accuser opened his wicked mouth to prosecute before the Heavenly Court and he began to indict: "These are no simple thieves! Yaakov Yoel has grown his beard and peyos, has used his learning and his prayers as a way to people's pockets! And Nachume"l keeps one Kosher Yom Kippur day the entire year in order to return afterwards to his thieving ways robbing others wholeheartedly and passionately! Simple thievery isn't even good enough for them! Their thievery rides on false piety and false faith. They use holiness like a key to open foreign door. There acts are nothing short of a desecration of Your hallowed Name! Not even the wicked would have the heart to do as they do…"
Nonetheless the advocate for the defense, the goodly angel Michael was not disheartened. Rather than give up hope, he began to advocate and defend the sinners for their crimes.
"I would like to know," he began, "just what did these two Jews do with the stolen money? Has anyone ever seen Yaakov Yoel sitting and eating a sumptuous meal? Has Yaakov Yoel ever lay himself down on soft comfortable cushions instead of the hard wood benches of the Beis Midrash? And with those few coins he gathered to buy le'chaim liquor, did he drink it alone or rather in the company of fellow Chassidim, where a tale of the righteous or words of Torah were shared and the hearts and souls of our brethren are warmed to serve You Hashem? His sons and fellow worshippers in the Beis Midrash, would they not have derived great pleasure and satisfaction from the good use their few coins were put to had they been told the truth?"
"And what did Nachum did with his money? Did he buy estates and property? Did he leave a fat inheritance behind him? He was but a young man, yet did Nachum spend his money on how own pleasures and delights? Rather every Erev Yom Kippur he gave out his money to the poor while he poured out his entire heart in prayer! Now if those poor souls who were robbed would know the good their money was being used for would they not have complained about the mistreatment of these souls?!"
"Nachum and Yaakov Yoel have somehow transformed robbery and thievery into an act of kindness. They found a way to draw out holiness from the depths of impurity and darkness itself! Not many tzadikim could have even succeeded in doing such a thing!"
Before passing judgment, having heard both sides of the argument, the Heavenly Court ordered Nachume"l and Yaakov Yoel to each in turn place their good deeds and weigh them against their demerits and misdeeds on the Heavenly Scales of Justice. And here is where the terrible incident occurred!
Nachum stood up and on the black side of the scale he placed all the years of his life, year after year. His eyes dimmed because there was not a year that was filled with misdeeds of robbery and theft and each act was as heavy as iron. The only counterweight he had to balance this out were the scant few days of Yom Kippur. These he placed on the other, white side of the scale and he began to breathe more easily as the scale began to tip towards the positive side. Each day of Yom Kippur was just one day but its weight was great for each day was soaked with tears and each teardrop heavier than iron. And as he placed the last day of Yom Kippur of his life on the scale he saw that – unbelievably his scale was still tipped towards guilty! For the difference of a hair's breadth his soul felt like it would expire!
Yaakov Yoel also approached and trembling and sweating with trepidation he placed all the days of his manning the register during the fair alongside with his infamous red handkerchiefs on the black side of the scale. Each day of each fair and each handkerchief bore down the weight of the scale tipping the balance against him more and more. They were heavy laden the copper and silver coins, each coin heavy as lead. However once he began to place his learning, his prayers and his good deeds and acts of piety on the white side of the scale, their counterweight balanced out and began to tip the scales in his favor. Especially heavy were his inspirational songs and dances which he did on holidays, festivals and joyous occasions. He almost breathed a sigh of relief – almost, except that just like what happened to Nachume'l, the same thing happened to Yaakov Yoel as well! The indicator pointed to guilty, and as his nervous eyes watched the pointer, it trembled ever so slightly almost moving to the side of merit, yet no, it remained a hairs breadth away. What a heart ache!
They stood there each man next to his fellow despondently until Nachum'l turned to Yaakov Yoel with a wink. Unable to contain themselves and hold back they simply stretched out their right hands with a sideways glance to make sure no one was watching while they simply lightened the load a bit and removed just a bit from the black side of the scale! Obviously they didn't realize that whoever steals from the scales of heavenly justice only increases his own guilt!
Just as their hands grazed the scale the entire scales and balance toppled over causing such a din, that the loud disturbance shook and rattled the entire heavens! A great commotion took place, this was the first robbery ever done in heaven! And now Satan leaped with glee to point his accusing finger at the two trembling forms and his accusations were dark as a raven:
"See for Yourself, Master of the World, Your own attributes of Mercy which You extend to these pathetic creatures are all for naught. They dare to rob the very Heaven itself and even in such close proximity to Your Heavenly throne of glory!?" The dark black sin rose up higher and higher ascending its way to the heights of Heaven, as all the souls left their heavenly chambers, and all the angles left their abodes and heavenly palaces in commotion. Even the goodly angel, Michael the defender and advocate had for once been silenced. He grew weak and he prostrated himself before the Heavenly Court begging for mercy and asked:
"All the seven heavens are crying out! Is there no angel or advocate who can plead on behalf of these two Jews? Please call forth Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, for surely he alone has the power and the strength to find some merit to defend these two Jews!"
Seeing this Nachum'l and Yaakov Yoel stood together in despair desperately clutching one another in fear weeping and crying copiously.
Now all of this took place on Yom Kippur and at that very moment the Berditchever Rav stood before the amud, leading the congregation in Mussaf in his Beis Midrash in Berditchev. Even before Mussaf began, he could feel that there was a great disturbance going on in Heaven, and that horrific judgments had been forecast, like black storm clouds spread out across the heavens. He was at the words of Mussaf, "Man's origin is dust . . ." and just then he was summoned as a defense attorney before the Heavenly Court itself. When the Berditchever Rav saw these two poor Jews huddled there crying in despair he outsretched his two arms heavenward and called out brokenheartedly: "Helige Derbarmdige Tatte! Holy Merciful Father!"
As soon as these words were uttered a great wave of pure refined love and compassion was awakened and silence spread itself across the Heavens. The only sound heard on High, was the weeping of the two thieves who felt they were lost. The Berditchever felt his heart contract in pain and he raised his face heavenwards and opened his lips with words of prayer. He sang the prayers as was his holy custom with heartache and sweetness:
"Man's origin is dust," . . .son of Adam, such a lowly creature who is created from the very dust of the earth itself; "And his end is dust," . . .he returns at the end back to the dust itself, "With his soul he obtains his bread," . . .sometimes he has no choice but to sin to feed himself, and if that is not enough "He is compared to fragile shard of clay pottery" if he sins he is cast like broken potsherds!
"Heilige Derbarmdige Tatte! – Holy Merciful Father! First You hide from our eyes both Gan Eden and Your Presence the Shechinah, and You placed it in the next world. Then You placed the evil inclination into man which inflames the passions and desires in our hearts in this world. Is it any wonder that we are burned by this raging fire which You Yorself placed within us?! Let the heavens tremble and quake! For what is heaven itself compared to the tears of these broken hearted souls?!"
Once again the Berditchever raised his hands heavenward and his voice rose in a plea for mercy. With great love and a broken heart he said:
"Heilige Derbarmdige Tatte! – Holy Merciful Father!"
"Heilige Derbarmdige Tatte! – Holy Merciful Father!"
All the gates of mercy swung open immediately and Yaakov Yoel and Nachum'l were uplifted by Divine mercy. Seeing that it was an Es Ratzon – an auspicious moment of grace Rav levi Yitzchak seized the opportunity to plead on behalf of the entire world!
"How long shall the world be battered by pain and suffering?! All the calculated dates and projected times have passed! May the Holy and Merciful One send us the righteous redeemer, the Moshiach who shall redeem us and end the sins and sufferings of our world!"
Seeking to interrupt the Berditchever's pleas, Satan called out red with rage:
"Is it not enough that the Berditchever is trying to bring thieves into Gan Eden?! He now has the audacity on the heels of their thievery and robbery of Heaven itself, to attempt to bring about the redemption and bring Moshiach to this world?!"
Even before the Berditchever Rav had a chance to open his mouth and attempt to answer the proceedings of the Heavenly Court were interrupted by a disturbance coming from the Beis Midrash down below. The source of the tumult was a weak older Jew who could no longer hold out. The Yom Kippur fast had taken its toll on his weak constitution and he began to faint. All those around him were trying to revive to no avail.
The Berditchever immediately interrupted his prayers before the amud, and he approached the aged Jew. He hugged and caressed him, caringly he whispered to him until the man regained his strength and opened his eyes.

Meanwhile . . .the Divine moment of grace, the Es Ratzon passed. . .And who knows, perhaps had there been no tumult down there in the Beis Midrash, perhaps, just maybe the Berditchever Rav would have succeeded? Who knows?
Kol Tuv,
R' Tal Moshe Zwecker
Director Machon Be'er Mayim Chaim
Chassidic Classics in the English Language
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