Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Baal Hasulam Foresaw the Holocaust

Rav Yehuda Leib Ashlag, The Baal Hasulam
The great and holy Tzaddik and Mekubal, Rabbi Yehuda Leib Ashlag of blessed memory foresaw the coming of World War II 20 years in advance. He was then only in his 30's, and he began an effort to alert all the leading Rabbis and Roshei Yeshivot in Poland of the impending decree. He warned them that there was a very severe decree already signed in the Heavens against the Jewish people, and that a huge portion of the Jewish people were going to be erased from the world, G-d forbid. He told them that just like the Ramchal (Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto zt"l) had averted terrible decrees in his time by setting up all day long Zohar learning, so too the same had to be done in order to avert this terrible decree that was on the horizon.
He called for every Rav and Rosh Yeshiva in Poland to begin telling their congregations to start learning the Holy Zohar, however, they did not pay attention to his words. As we know, soon after this World War II began, and 6-7 million Jews were eventually killed.
As the war was being fought, there was a fear that it would spread to the Holy Land and that the evil Hitler, may his name be erased, would also succeed in anihilating all the Jews living there. Rav Ashlag was then busily involved in translating the Zohar into Lashon Hakodesh (Hebrew) so that every Jew would be able to learn and understand it. He believed firmly in the promise of Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai, that with this book of the Zohar, we will be redeemed from our exile. He said that on the same day that the first volume was printed (of his translation and commentary to the Zohar known as 'The Sulam'), that wicked man had a big downfall and the war was on it's way to being over. This prevented him from succeeding in reaching the Holy Land.
Dear Rabbis and Roshei Yeshivot, we are now calling out to you!
We are begging you to arouse yourselves and your communities to begin learning the Holy Zohar. You are the leaders of Am Yisrael, and the responsibility of the nation rests upon you.

We have started a new plan to try and complete 1000 siyumim of the Holy Zohar every single Rosh Chodesh (The first one to be held on Rosh Chodesh Adar, G-d willing). Anyone who would like to register and take part in this effort should email to sign up. We have now printed the entire Zohar in 70 pocket sized volumes, so that 70 people can each take one of the volumes and with only about 4 minutes of reading a day, complete along with thousands of others, the entire Zohar Hakadosh. It is well known, that when a sefer is broken up into smaller parts and learned in a group (such as is done with Tehillim, Mishna, and Shas) each member actually receives the reward as if he had learned the entire thing. Here in this instance, since we have a goal to reach 1000 siyumim, each member will receive the reward of 70,000 siyumim of the Zohar (since each siyum will require 70 participants). With a few short minutes a day, one can gain unfathomable reward and with G-d's help, we will succeed in preventing all the terrible decrees, wars, and other tragedies that are looming on the Jewish people. May we merit the fulfillment of the promise of Rebbe Shimon, that with my sefer, the Holy Zohar, we will be redeemed from this exile with mercy.
Note: The Admor, Rav Shalom Yehuda Gross and Rav Benayahu Shmueli have both said that the Zohar can and should be read by men, women and children. To get one of the 70 volumes mailed out to you, please send your name, adress, and phone number to each booklet costs $5 or if you would like to get the entire 70 volume set for yourself or to start your own chain of 70 people, it will cost $120 (plus shipping). Email me for more details on how to send in your payment. This edition comes with a Lashon Hakodesh (Hebrew) translation running alongside the Aramaic, and one can also read the Zohar only in the Lashon Hakodesh if they prefer.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Concept of Modesty

Modesty or tzniut is a very misunderstood concept in Judaism. It is not something that is necessarily defined by the clothes you wear, nor does it apply only to a woman, as we will soon explain G-d willing. When I looked up the actual word tzanua I found it to mean; decent, humble, modest and meek. I was thinking about it for some time, and it became clear to me that the whole concept of modesty only applies when you put G-d in the picture. That is, one has to be decent, humble, modest and meek in front of their Creator. Hashem then opened my eyes to find in Rebbe Nachman's writings something which I believe will help us tie all the above together for a much better understanding of the concept of modesty. Following is a translation of Sichot HaRan #136:
Rebbe Natan writes: I heard a further discussion on the lesson appearing in Likkutei Moharan 172 on the verse, "The whole world is filled with His glory (Isaiah 6:3)," from one of my companions.
The main thing is to nullify every one of your negative personality traits. You must strive to do so until you have totally obliterated your ego, rendering it into absolute nothingness before G-d. Begin with one trait and annihilate it completely. Then work on your other traits, one at a time, until they are totally nonexistent. As you annihilate all the negative parts of your own personality, G-d's glory will begin to shine through you and be revealed. It is written in Ezekiel 43:2, "And the Earth was alight with His glory." G-d's glory is like light.
The larger an object, the greater it's shadow. A thin rod casts a very small shadow, while a more substantial object casts a larger shadow. A great building will cast an even larger shadow. As more light is obstructed, a greater shadow is cast. The same is true of G-d's glory. The material obstructs the spiritual and casts a shadow. The denser the object, the deeper a shadow it will cast.
When you are bound to a negative emotion or desire, it obstructs G-d's glory and casts a shadow. G-d's light is then hidden from you. But as you nullify these emotions and desires, you also remove this shadow. And as the shadow departs, the light of G-d's glory is revealed.
When a person is worthy of annihilating the shadow completely and making it into absolute nothingness, then G-d's glory is revealed to all the earth. There is no obstructing shadow, and the light can shine through in all of its' glory.
It is written, "The whole earth is filled with His glory." 'Filled' is melo, which can also be read milo - from nothing. "From nothing is all the earth His glory." When there is nothing – nothing casting a shadow and obstructing His light – then His glory is revealed in all the earth.
Now I think we can get back to our explanation of modesty. The real idea of being modest in front of Hashem lies in making yourself bitul nullified in front of Hashem. Then we can fulfil our mission and the true purpose of creation which is to reveal G-d to the whole world.
With that being said, let us now apply this new understanding to clothing and how we dress. If we are wearing our clothes in order to reveal, accentuate, draw attention to and display our bodies, than we are doing the exact opposite of what is necessary to allow G-d's glory to shine through us. Instead of revealing Hashem through our dress, in this case we are using our clothing to in fact cast a bigger shadow which actually blocks out Hashem's light.
It should also be clear to us now, that this concept applies equally to men and women. It is not anymore a question of how long or short your skirt is, how tight and stretchy it is, or how long and flowing that wig you are wearing is for women, and similarly for men, how tight and fitted your suit is, how pointy and shiny your shoes are, etc. Now we can look at modesty with a whole different approach; and that is, am I putting on my clothing to draw attention to myself, which takes away the attention from Hashem, or am I using my clothing to cover and conceal my body which will allow Hashem's glory to fully shine through me. This should be the real question we ask ourselves every morning when we stand in front of the mirror and get dressed.
May we all merit being a fitting vessel to allow G-d's light to shine through us, and may we be worthy of seeing the fulfilment of the prophecy that the whole world will be filled with G-d's glory, Amen.

Why is Hashem doing this to me?

You have to squeeze an olive to release it's fine oil
Last week's parasha ended with Moshe asking Paroh to release the Jews. Not only did Paroh refuse, but he even increased the workload and burden of the Jewish slaves. The Jews then complained to Moshe and Aharon about their increased burden, so Moshe turned to Hashem and asked, "Why have You worsened the situation of this people?"
This week's parasha opens up with the verses, "Elokim spoke to Moshe and said to him, I am Hashem. I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as E-l Sha-ddai, but My Name of Hashem, I did not make known to them."
Rashi explains that this opening verse is a continuation of the previous parasha when Moshe asked, "Why have You worsened the situation of this people?" And Hashem's answer to that question was, "Elokim (The Name that represents G-d's aspect of judgement) spoke to Moshe and said to him, I am Hashem (The Name that represents G-d's aspect of mercy)."
Therefore, all the questions and doubts we have about Hashem, are brought about because of a concealment of the emett (truth). For from the emett is drawn out the ways of Hashem, and these ways are beyond our understanding and comprehension. Like the example of the righteous person who suffers and the wicked person who prospers.  All this (the fact that Hashem's ways are hidden from and beyond our understanding) is done for the sake of our having free choice.
This is what is meant by, "Elokim spoke," the aspect of strict judgement, "And He said to him (Moshe), I am Hashem," the aspect of mercy. That is, Hashem was making it known to Moshe that Hashem is Elokim, judgement is really mercy; both are really one. The aspect of mercy and the aspect of judgement are both one in the most truthful way, it is just that we do not have the ability to fully understand this, for the essence of Hashem's ways are beyond our understanding, just like His existence itself is beyond our understanding.
And this is what is meant by, "I appeared to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov as E-l Sha-ddai, and My Name Hashem, I did not make known to them." This is because the main revelation of G-dliness in the world came through the Avot (Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov) and it would be impossible to reveal it all in one solid dose. Truth has to be revealed level by level in this world in order to maintain an aspect of free choice. The ultimate truth of Hashem's Oneness, that Hashem (mercy) and Elokim (judgement) is one, will only be fully revealed with the coming of the Moshiach.
(Likkutei Halachot on the parasha)
Now that we have just learned this, let us try to live with this level of emuna (faith), even in situations that go beyond and against our own understanding. The homework for this week is that no matter what happens to us, we must not react with anger, worry or frustration. Rather, we should stop ourselves, take a deep breath of patience and say, "I know this is from You Hashem, and I therefore know that this is for my good – even though I do not understand it." At this point we can even go so far as to thank Hashem for the good that we know he is currently doing for us. This attitude will allow us to merit seeing things for the true good that they really are. As Rebbe Natan teaches us, "If we would all listen to the words of the true Tzaddikim and follow this path, to have constant emunah in Hashem that all is for the good, and we would give praise and thanks to Hashem for both the good and the apparent not good, as it is written, 'To Hashem I will praise, to Elokim I will praise,' then certainly we would nullify all the troubles and all the exiles completely and we would already be experiencing the full redemption!"
May Hashem bless us all to go in the ways of emuna, praise and thanksgiving, and may we all soon experience the full and final redemption of our people, Amen.

The Importance of the Mikvah

The Baba Sali - Rav Yisrael Abihatzera zt"l
This story was told by Rav Yosef Mugravi shlit"a, who was very close to Rav Elazar Abuhatzera zt"l.
Once when I was waiting to enter into the room and speak with Rav Elazar Abuhatzera zt"l, I began speaking with a yeshiva student who was waiting in the line ahead of me to speak with the Rav. As we were talking, he told me of the reason he had come. He had a question to ask the Rav regarding the mikvah. His situation was as follows, each morning he awoke an hour before prayers and he had two options in front of him, either to sit and learn Gemara before prayers, or to go to the mikvah in which case he would have to forgo the extra Gemara learning each morning. He then asked me what I thought the Rav would answer him, so I said that certainly it would seem to me that the Rav would tell you to learn Torah since we know that there is nothing greater than learning Torah. I then asked him to please come back and tell me what the Rav indeed answered him on his way out.
On his way out he came to me and said that the Rav told him, "Certainly going to the mikvah is preferable." I was a bit in shock by this answer and when my turn came around, I asked the Rav about this matter, to explain to me why indeed going to the mikvah was preferable than the extra learning? So Rebbe Elazar explained to me as follows,
 Once when I was a young boy in Morocco, my grandmother came to me in the morning and said to me, "Elazar, a long time has passed since morning prayers, and your grandfather (the Baba Sali) who left the house at midnight has still not returned, please go to the shul and see where he is." I immediately ran to the shul to find that he was not there nor had anyone seen him that morning for prayers. I then ran in the direction of the river where my grandfather used to dip every midnight before he spent the rest of the night in learning. To my shock, I saw my grandfather lying on the ground by the edge of the river nearly completely passed out. Of course I immediately assisted him and then I asked him what had happened? He told me that at hatzot (midnight) when he came to dip, he was swept away by the current nearly to the depth of the river which was mostly frozen over at that time. Then after great effort and exertion, he was finally able to save himself. However, he fell over from exhaustion on the bank of the river until that moment when I had arrived. I then asked him in amazement, "But Grandfather, was it really worth it to risk your life to dip in the river and as a result you missed out on a whole night of learning as well as prayers at the netz hachama (sunrise)?" My grandfather then gave me an answer which became deeply engraved in me. He said, "It would be preferable for me to die for the mikvah, than to learn and to pray without the mikvah."
(Of course it should be clear that one should not risk their life in order to go to the mikvah, this was only fitting for someone as holy as the Baba Sali. In any event, we can take the mussar from this story of the great importance of going to the mikvah each morning which purifies a person and lifts his learning and praying to a much greater level.)  
Immersing in the mikvah is the cure for all troubles. The mikvah has the power to purify us from every kind of sin and impurity. The spiritual power of the mikvah is rooted in the most exalted levels of wisdom and love (Likkutei Etzot, Mikvah #1).
Immersing in a mikvah helps to make it easier to earn a living and receive the flow of blessing. Strife and anger are dissipated and in their place comes peace, love, deep wisdom, healing, length of days, and the power to arouse people to return to G-d (ibid. #2)

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Raising a healthy and wholesome child

We are now going to learn an insight on the expression, "to sit and do nothing is preferable." A parent who realizes that they are in a situation where they cannot educate their child without harming the child (i.e. shouting, verbally abusing, hitting, etc.), should take the role of sitting back and doing nothing. Because chinuch which comes without love and feeling is like poison to the child's soul; and it is not child education. Being quiet and hiding from your child's inappropriate actions will do a lot less harm, even no harm at all most of the time, than will giving your child improper and harsh reprimand. The latter will certainly weaken and damage the child's soul and inner life force.
In fact, if a parent occasionally decides not to intervene and reprove the child at the time of his misdeed, this will imbue the child with a great feeling of value and worth for the parent who was able to overlook the bad action for the sake of the child's honour. Then the child will himself awaken from his bad actions without you having to even say one word. Now even if this does not happen, you will still gain because of the fact that you did not take a hit at the child's soul. This will allow your child to remain with his happiness in life and self confidence, and most of the time, a happy and self confident child will grow up to learn good behaviours and attributes.
A person who is spiritually healthy, in most cases will follow the good path in life. However, one who is spiritually ill will need miracles in order to heal his soul from the damage done to him by improper parenting and educating. The main goal therefore is to raise a happy and spiritually healthy child. This can only be done with lots of love, understanding and warmth. This is what will give your child the best chances for success in life.
(Translated from "Chinuch Be'ahava," Rav Arush's new book on raising children)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fake it 'till you make it!

"…And Yosef was in Mitzrayim (Shemot 1:5)."
Yosef's preceding of B'nei Yisrael down to Mitzrayim, was Hashem preparing the cure before the blow. Yosef descended to Mitzrayim as a slave which is an aspect of bitterness and sadness, which is an aspect of slavery. He then withstood his test and strengthened himself even there (in Mitzrayim) with happiness, as the verse says, "And Yosef was a man of success." The Midrash tells us that this means that he was constantly singing and dancing.
For in the bitterness of the exile when the bitterness strengthens itself very much, this is the primary advice, to do silly and fun things (like singing and dancing) in order to cheer up your soul during the bitterness. Just like it is written with regards to King David that he changed his appearance (behavior) before Avimelech, for at that time he was in great danger and in a great exile, so in order to save himself he began to act crazy and he let his spit drip down on his beard, etc. Therefore our main existence in Mitzrayim and our eventual departure from there was all because of "Yosef who was in Mitzrayim," therefore, Hashem sent Yosef Hatzadik down there first.
(Likkutei Halachot on the Parasha)
This was not only the secret of Yosef Hatzadik and David Hamelech, it is also our weapon in order to enable ourselves to cope during the tough times. Rebbe Nachman teaches that clapping hands and dancing has the ability to literally mitigate any harsh decrees that might be upon us or Am Yisrael (see Likkutei Moharan, lesson 10). The real truth is that there is nothing bad ever happening, and that everything is really for the good. We, because of our limited physical sight cannot see things in this broader perspective, which is why we can experience something as bad. Through the practice of clapping and dancing as well as thanking Hashem for the apparent bad situation we are in, we allow ourselves to go above the level of our own limited understanding and we open up the possibility of letting in Hashem's miraculous salvations. You see, once we can be happy and thank Hashem, then we have passed the test of faith which was the very reason why Hashem concealed himself and the good in the first place. May we all be blessed with being able to see the true good in everything, but until then, we have the Rebbe's classic advice of, "Fake it 'till you make it!"
(Picture taken from

Monday, January 9, 2012

Why aren't you eating the cheese?

Once Rebbe Nachman went on a long wagon journey with his two closest students of whom he testified were the only two who had any real understanding of him at all, Rebbe Natan and Rebbe Naftali. As it was a long journey, they had to stop at someone's home to rest for a while. When they arrived at a certain house, the host was so honoured to have them that he prepared for them a very special cheese meal. Rebbe Natan blessed and began to eat, but he soon noticed that he was the only one of the three eating. To question the Rebbe was not an option or thought for Rebbe Natan; he did however turn to Rebbe Naftali and say, "Nu, why aren't you eating the cheese?" Rebbe Naftali explained that he too (like Rebbe Nachman) was suffering from tuberculosis, and it was known that dairy food irritated the condition and brought on severe and painful coughing (In fact Rebbe Naftali's tuberculosis was at a much more advanced stage than Rebbe Nachman's at the time). He concluded by saying, "If you tell me to eat the cheese, I will not listen, but if the Rebbe were to tell me to eat the cheese, then I would listen."
All the while, Rebbe Nachman was sitting and quietly listening. The Rebbe then spoke up and said, "Rebbe Naftali, eat the cheese." Rebbe Naftali, having perfect faith in his Rebbe immediately blessed and ate his fill of cheese. Only a few short minutes later, he began a very severe stretch of coughing. At this point, Rebbe Nachman spoke up again and said, "This cough is a whole different type of cough." After that, the coughing began to subside and eventually stopped. Then Rebbe Nachman concluded and said, "Until now, I thought that Rebbe Naftali was going to leave this world before me, but now I know that he will survive me." Rebbe Naftali in fact went on to live to the ripe old age of 85 years old... all because he ate the cheese!

Monday, January 2, 2012

A Woman's Prayers

No matter what problems you may have, do not turn to bachyanut with questions and complaints against Hashem. For example, "Hashem, why are you doing this to me... This is not fair... Why must I suffer... etc." Rather, you should use your power of prayer to strengthen your emuna and bring about positive changes and miracles in your life.
Instead of complaining, try saying, "Thank You Hashem." Even if you don't feel it, the words will eventually penetrate into your heart. Then begin asking Hashem to have mercy on you, to have mercy on your children. Tell Him how much you want to build a Jewish home with lots of Torah and Tefilla in the home. Ask Hashem to have mercy on your husband and to help him be zoche to learn Torah, pray with kavana and guard his eyes. Ask Hashem to have mercy and send blessings to his work so that he can make a living and support his family and so that you can be worthy of giving large amounts of money to charity and having many guests in your home. Ask for help to be able to give your kids a healthy spiritual and physical upbringing. That they should be zoche to find good friends, learn good middot, and eat good and nourishing food, etc.
This is the way Hashem wants us to pray to Him, these are the words that will find grace in His eyes. Like Chana who went to the Mishkan at Shilo and just opened up her heart and prayed to Hashem until she finally merited having a son who became one of our greatest prophets, Shmuel Hanavi. (Interesting to note that the name Chana comes from the word chen – grace)
Rav Arush explains; what does it mean that women took nine measures of speech (and only one measure was given to men)? It means that women have a tremendous power of prayer, they can sit and pray and say Tehillim all day long, from morning until night. In fact this is really what our grandmothers and great grandmothers used to do. They would always be reading Tehillim and talking and praying to G-d about everything all day long. They didn't care about anything else in life, because they knew that the secret to all the blessings and successes of their family was in their prayers. It's also good to go to kivrei Tzaddikim if possible and also to light many candles in the house that in the merit of the Tzaddikim, your prayers should be heard.
Precious mother and wife, you should know that you possess the greatest power that exists in the world. As it says in Tehillim, "Hashem is close to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth" Have you ever called upon Hashem in truth and not found Him to be there?
Rebbe Natan whose yartzeit is this week, 10th of Tevet, said that he merited getting close to Rebbe Nachman only because of the tefillot of his mother. Every day during her pregnancy, his mother would go and cry and pray at the grave of the Baal Shem Tov, begging Hashem and pleading with Him that her child would grow up to be a Tzaddik. Then, even after he was born, she would take him in a basket, put him on the kever and continue to cry and pray for him.
This is the power of a Jewish woman's prayers, may we all merit much nachat from our family and be zoche to see all of our tefillot answered, amen.

Don't Get Shot!

Have you ever played the game called "Don't get Shot?"

Here's how it works. Before going out into the street, say a small prayer asking Hashem to help you guard your eyes, so that you should not see any improper images that will filthy up and destroy your mind and heart. Then once you step outside, the game begins. You are walking through heavily guarded enemy territory where there are soldiers and snipers out to get you at every corner. You have to accomplish your mission of... (here you can insert whatever it is you need to do, go to yeshiva, go shopping, drop off the kids, etc.). Now the rules are, if you don't see the enemy, then the enemy cannot see you. But if you do look up and see the enemy, then you get shot. If it's a quick look then it is just a flesh wound, but if it is a long look with desire, you just got shot and it's game over.

Bonus level: Perfume is really poison gas that the enemy puts out to trap you. If you quickly exhale it out and cover your nose you will probably live, but if you inhale it and enjoy the smell... that's right, you just got shot!

The best part of this game is that it is just like any other game; as soon as it ends, you can just start over. Do not despair, just hit the reset button, say your prayer, restate your mission, and you are back in the game. The score is kept by how long you can go without getting shot.

I once read a story that the Baba Meir zt"l said to his attendant, that he has not seen a woman in over 40 years; he was 47 years old when he said this. I challenge anyone to try to beat that score.

Rav Yitzchak Kaduri zt"l

Rav Kaduri meeting the Lubavicher Rebbe in New York

Rav Yitzchak Kaduri zt"l was given a blessing at his bar mitzvah by the Ben Ish Chai that he would merit wearing the same coat he had on at his bar mitzvah a hundred years later. It is famously known that he in fact lived to 113 years old and he would still wear the same coat that he had on at his bar mitzvah... 100 years later. See the power of the words spoken by Tzaddikim.
It is known that Rav Kaduri was a tremendous Torah scholar both in the revealed Torah and also in the Kabbalah. In addition, he was able to read very small printed text from sefarim even in his old age. When he was asked how he merited all of these blessings, he answered, "It is all in the merit of guarding my eyes. When I would go out into the street, I would not pick my eyes up from looking down to the bottom of my coat."