Monday, 29 September 2008


Tonight is Rosh HaShanah 5769!
The initials of the Hebrew letters spell out...
תהא שנת סימן טוב
"May This Year be a Good Sign!"

You may well look around you wondering at all the different Jews all serving the Creator of the world crowning Him as King.

We also await for a king of flesh and blood to appear and take us out of our current exile... But... it seems, we're too taken in by the latest designer clothing especially the styles of hats available!

Who could this Moshiach be? What does he look like?
What type of clothes is he wearing?

What type of head covering does he wear?

We all know the answer to this already!

And maybe that's why he just hasn't revealed himself yet!

Instead, as we sit this Rosh HaShanah praying to G-d,
we could take a moment and shift gears.

As we look around at each other - and especially at the real possibility of the Moshiach revealing himself immediately, let us remove our differences and our imaginations at what should actually be, and instead, let G-d run the world, bring Moshiach, and take us out of this doubled and re-doubled darkness we are ALL currently in.

This poem is a favourite amongst many. Hope you enjoy.


'Twas the night of the Geulah, -- And in every single Shtiebel
Sounds of Torah could be heard -- Coming from every kind of Yeedel.
This one in English, -- Some in Hebrew, some in Yiddish.
Some saying P'shat -- And some saying a Chiddish.
And up in Shamayim--The Aibishter decreed:
“The time has come -- For My children to be freed.
“Rouse the Moshiach -- From his heavenly berth.
Have him get in his chariot, -- And head down to earth!”

The Moshiach got dressed -- And with a heart full of glee,
Went down to earth and entered -- the first Shtiebel he did see.
“I am the Moshiach! -- Hashem has heard your plea!
“Your Geulah has come! -- It's time to go free!”
They all stopped their learning; -- This was quite a surprise.
And they looked at him carefully, -- With piercing sharp eyes
“He's not the Moshiach!” -- Said one with a grin,
“Just look at his hat, -- At the pinches and brim!”
“That's right!” cried another -- With a grimace and frown,
“Whoever heard of Moshiach, -- With a brim that's turned down?”
“Well,” thought Moshiach, -- “If this is the rule,
“I'll turn my brim up -- Before I go to the next shul.”
So he walked right on over -- To the next shul in town.
Sure to be accepted, -- Since his brim was no longer down.
“I'm, the Moshiach!” he cried, -- As he began to enter
But the Jews wanted to know first -- If he was Left, Right or Center
“Your clothes are so black!” -- They cried out in fright.
“You can't be Moshiach--You're much too far right!”
“If you want to be Moshiach, -- You must be properly outfitted.”
So they replaced his black hat -- With a Kippah that was knitted.

Wearing his new Kippah, -- Moshiach went out and said:
“No difference to me -- What I wear on my head.”
So he went to the next shul, -- For his mission was dear.
But he was getting frustrated -- With the Yidden down here.
“I'm the Moshiach!” he cried, -- And they all stopped to stare,
And a complete eerie stillness -- Filled up the air.
“You're the Moshiach?! -- Just imagine that!
“Whoever heard of Moshiach -- Without a black hat?”
"But I do have a hat!" -- The Moshiach then said.
So he pulled it right out -- And plunked it down on his head.
Then the shul started laughing, -- And one said “Where's your kop?
“You can't be Moshiach -- With a brim that's turned up!”
“If you want to be Moshiach -- And be accepted in this town,
“Put some pinches in your hat -- And turn that brim down!”

Moshiach walked out and said: -- “I guess my time hasn't come.
“I'll just return -- To where I came from.”
So he went to his chariot, -- But as he began to enter,
All sorts of Jews appeared -- From the Left, Right, and Center.
“Please wait - do not leave. -- It's all their fault!” they said,
And they pointed to each other -- And to what was on each other's head.

Moshiach just looked sad -- And said, “You don't understand.”
And then started up his chariot -- To get out of this land.
“Yes, it's very wonderful -- That you all learn Torah,
“But you seem to have forgotten -- A crucial part of our Mesorah.”
“What does he mean?” – “What's he talking about?”
And they all looked bewildered, -- And they all began to shout.

Moshiach looked back and answered, -- “The first place to start,
“Is to shut up your mouths -- And open your hearts.
“To each of you, certain Yidden -- Seem too Frum or too Frei,
“But all Yidden are beloved -- in the Aibishter's eye.”
And on his way up he shouted: -- “If you want me to come,
Try working a little harder -- On some Ahavat Chinam!”

Thursday, 25 September 2008

Yahrtzeit - 26 Elul - Rabbi Chaim Pinto - Kabbalist

Rabbi Chaim Pinto
Yahrtzeit 26 Elul

Born: Mogador, Morocco, ?
Died: Mogador, Morocco, 1845

Chief rabbi of the Jewish community of Mogador. Kabbalist.
A man of wonders and miracles during his lifetime, and for those who visit his grave site.

The Magic Wine Cup

In the days before Passover, a stranger was seen wandering through the streets of Mogador in the land of Morocco. Even though he was dressed in rags, he did not look like a beggar, and from the fringes on the garment he was wearing it was clear that he was a Jew.
Some of Rabbi Chaim Pinto's students wondered about this man when they saw him in the city market. And when they returned to the Yeshivah, they told the rabbi about him. Rabbi Pinto had them describe the man in great detail. Then he asked them if the man had looked happy or sad. They told the rabbi that he had looked terribly sad. Indeed, just looking at his face made them sad as well.
Now, Passover is a time to remember the poor, and it was Rabbi Pinto's custom to invite the poor Jews of the city to his Seder. So on the eve of Passover he sent his students into the city to bring back all the poor Jews they could find. He told them to search especially for the stranger they had told him about and to be sure that he came back with them.
So the rabbi's students searched every corner of the city for the poor, who were delighted to learn that they would have a place to celebrate the first night of Passover. But when the students finally found the stranger, he was sitting alone under a barren tree, and he refused to accompany them to the rabbi's Seder. "For you it is the holiday of Passover," he said, "but for me it is a time of mourning." The students did their best to persuade him, but in the end they returned empty-handed.
Now, when they told Rabbi Pinto that the man had refused their invitation, the rabbi said, "If you can't convince him to come here, whisper this word in his ear" and he whispered it to each of his students. So the students returned to the stranger, still sitting under the tree, and they tried once more to invite him to join the rabbi's Seder. Again he refused, but this time one of the students whispered the rabbi's word into the man's ear. And as soon as he heard it, the man's eyes opened wide. He stood up and agreed to accompany them at once.
When that Jew arrived at the rabbi's house, he was greeted warmly by Rabbi Pinto. The man returned the rabbi's greetings, and then he asked, "How is it, Rabbi, that you knew the name of the ship that brought about my misfortune?"
"Join our Seder," Rabbi Pinto replied, "and you will understand how it became known to me. For now, please make yourself at home. I will have a bath prepared for you, and my students will give you fresh clothing."
The man thanked the rabbi, but he was still curious about how he had known his secret.
That night, when everyone was seated at the sSder, Rabbi Pinto introduced the guest and asked him to tell the others his story. This he did. "I was born in the city of Marrakesh," he said, "and I travelled to Spain and worked there until I had become quite wealthy. After several years, I began to miss my native land of Morocco, and thought about returning there to raise a family. With all that I had saved, I bought precious jewels.
"There was a widow whom I befriended. When she learned I was planning to return to Morocco, where her daughter lives, she asked me to bring her daughter her rightful inheritance, jewels that had belonged to her father. I agreed to do so, and I carried everything in a wooden case. But when a storm sank the ship in which I was travelling, the case was lost at sea. Somehow I managed to grab a plank and reached the shores of this city a few weeks ago. I know that I am fortunate to be alive, but after all these years, I have nothing. Even so, that is not what grieves me the most. Above all, I am heartbroken that I cannot fulfill my mission for the widow."
Now, when all those seated at the Seder heard this story, their hearts went out to the poor man who had suffered such a misfortune. Among them, there was one beautiful young woman who had tears flowing down her face. And when the man saw her grief, he, too, broke down and wept.
Rabbi Pinto said, "Do not grieve as we celebrate the Seder, but watch closely." He pointed to the Kiddush cup, which was filled with wine, and pronounced a spell over it. That spell called forth Rahab, the Angel of the Sea.
Just then everyone at the table heard a deep voice say, "Yes, Rabbi Pinto, what is your command?" They trembled with fear, for they could not see where the voice was coming from. Then the rabbi said, "I call upon you, Rahab, Prince of the Sea, for help in finding what has been lost." Suddenly, to everyone's amazement, the Kiddush cup began to grow larger and larger, and the wine in it was transformed into the waves of the sea. One after another the waves rose and fell and eventually they cast up a small wooden case, which floated on the surface. The guest could hardly contain himself. "Master, that is my case!" he cried.
"Take it out!" said Rabbi Pinto. So the man reached into the enormous cup, took out the wooden case and set it on the table. At that instant the cup returned to its original size, and the waters in it became wine once more.
As everyone watched in awe, the man opened the case and saw that nothing was missing. He shed tears of joy. Then Rabbi Pinto said to him, "Now, let me introduce you to the widow's daughter to whom you were delivering the jewels." At that, the young woman who had wept at hearing the man's tale stood up with a radiant smile and the man almost fainted with surprise. When he had regained his composure, he picked up the wooden case and placed it in her hands, much to the delight of everyone present. Then Rabbi Pinto smiled and said, "Know that nothing happens by accident. All is foretold by the Holy One, blessed be He, as is your meeting here today, for now I can tell you that I heard a heavenly voice announce that you two are destined to wed."
So it was that everyone celebrated that Seder with great happiness, and not long after, the couple was wed. From then on, every Passover, when they filled the Kiddush cup, they told the story of Rabbi Pinto and the magic wine cup that had changed their lives.
May the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Chaim Pinto protect us all, Amen.
For more information and stories about the Pinto dynasty, see: The Pinto Dynasty

SPECIAL OFFER! Davening for YOU - at Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai in Meiron - THIS ROSH HASHANAH + MORE!!!

We are offering 2
For those interested in taking part:

1. Many of the great Rabbis in Israel go to a variety of places to pray for the needs of Jews. Lists of names together with requests for these people are read. This practice is said to bring salvations for many and is an accepted charitable organisation.
Because of the high cost to be put onto the list, we have decided to offer you the opportunity of being placed on the list together with others at the special of only $18 per person.
TO DO: Donate (in increments of $18 "LIFE" or any amount above 18). Mention the names of people to pray for and their needs, including all or either of: Success in Torah, Parnassah in abundance, Fitting marriage partner, Children, Refuah & Salvation, Length of Days, Success in all matters.
Names should be submitted AS SOON AS POSSIBLE i.e. BEFORE THIS SHABBOS to be on this list before Rosh HaShanah.

2. Would you like your prayers to be said at the grave of REBBI SHIMON BAR YOCHAI this Rosh Hashanah? We are working on being there! Due to the expenses of accommodation and travel, we would like to act as your Shlichim and through joint effort, make this trip possible TOGETHER. Because of our relative proximity - we can make this a possibility for all!
Minimum donations of $18 per name is asked for (again) and as above whatever needs are requested. If sufficient donations are not received before Rosh HaShanah, the names will still be said on our next trip there. Donations can be DIRECTLY ON THIS SITE - as above!

Please let us know if the names to be submitted should be recited in Meiron / by the Rabbis in point 1 or both (two donations necessary.)
We require just 10 people to take part to make this happen!
Let's work together,
unite and bring our Tefillos to the right destination
for success for us all!
Kesiva VeChasima Tova - LeShanah Tova U'Mesuka!
Rabbi Eliyahu Shear

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Yahrtzeit - 25 Elul - Rebbi Elazar ben Rebbi Shimon bar Yochai

The Tanna Rabbi Elazar ben Rabbi Shimon
Born: Eretz Yisrael
Died: Eretz Yisrael, 2nd century

Fifth generation Tanna, son of the great Tanna Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and a colleague of Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi.
Rabbi Elazar is mentioned in the Mishnah three times (Beitza 4:5; Temurah 4:4; Nega'im 12:2), but several anonymous Mishnayot have been ascribed to him (Chulin 30a, Bechorot 51b). He is frequently mentioned in Beraitot, Tosefta (especially those of Zevachim and Menachot), Babylonian Talmud, Jerusalem Talmud, and few Aggadic teachings. He engaged in debates and discussions with Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi (Bava Metziah 84b), R' Yose, R' Meir, R' Yehudah (Sotta 34a; Rosh HaShana 4b).
Rabbi Elazar and his father Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai escaped from the Romans by hiding in a cave for 13 years. He participated with his father in the authorship of the Zohar, and a considerable number of teachings are ascribed to him.
R' Elazar was very strong and heavy, and he had a large appetite (Pesikta d' Rabbi Kahana 90:2; 91:2)
R' Elazar accepted under compulsion a position in the Roman administration as an official responsible for the apprehension of thieves. This aroused the opposition of the sages, including Rabbi Yehudah ben Karcha, his teacher, who reprimanded him by saying, "Vinegar, the son of wine! How long will you continue to hand over the people of our God to be killed?" R' Elazar responded, "I am pruning the thorns from the vineyard." R' Yehoshua ben Karcha returned, "Let the master of the vineyard come to prune His thorns" (Bava Metzia 83b).
He was once worried that he turned somebody over to the government unjustly, so he prayed that he should be inflicted with suffering. Every evening he called for afflictions, "Come unto me , my brothers and friends," and in the morning he sent them away so that he would be able to study Torah. He became so afflicted that every morning they removed 60 basins of blood from him. His wife prepared 60 kinds of "pap" (meals made of figs) every day to heal him. When his wife discovered that he was requesting the suffering, she was annoyed that he caused her so much trouble and expense, for all the money that she received from her father she spent on his illness. She left him and went to her father's house. In the meantime, a storm had arisen at sea and a boat coming from R' Elazar's town was in danger of sinking. The sailors began praying, and they finally cried out in desperation. "Save us, O God, for the sake of R' Elazar ben R' Shimon..." The storm subsided, and when the sailors reached land they visited R' Elazar and presented him with 60 slaves, each bearing 60 purses of money. They also prepared 60 kinds of pap, which he ate and was healed. One day his wife sent her daughter to see how R' Elazar was faring. R' Elazar told his daughter to "go and tell your mother that I am richer than her parents," whereupon his wife returned to him. When he recovered and went to the Beit Midrash, they brought before him 60 specimens of blood, and he purified them all and declared all of them clean. The other sages wondered whether it was possible that there was no doubt about a single one of the specimens. R' Elazar responded, "If it is not as I said, then let there be at least one female among them." All the children born were males, and they were named "Elazar" after him.
Before he died he told his wife: "I know that the sages are angry with me [for turning over many of their relatives] and they may not attend my funeral. You shall leave me in the attic and do not be afraid of me." She followed his wishes and kept him in the attic for 18 to 20 years after his death. She would ascend to the attic every day to examine his hair and would not find anything. When one day a hair fell out, blood was visible. She once found a worm in his ear and was upset, until he appeared to her that night in a dream and told her, "It is nothing to be upset about for this is a punishment for my having allowed a young scholar to be insulted in my presence..." After his death, whenever two people came to his house for a lawsuit, they would stand at the door and state their cases. A voice would then issue from the attic: "You, ploni, are just/unjust with your claims." A neighbor once said to R' Elazar's wife during a quarrel: "Let her be like her husband, who was not worthy of burial!" When the sages heard of this they said that it was an insult to the deceased and he must be buried. According to others, R' Shimon Bar Yochai, R' Elazar's father, appeared to the sages in a dream and said, "There is a young pigeon among you and you and you are neglecting to bring it to me." When the sages went to bury him, the people of Achbarin refused to give them the body, because as long as his body was in the attic no wild beast had ever come to the city. On Erev Yom Kippur, when the townspeople were busy, the sages hired some men from the neighboring village of Biri to remove R' Elazar's body. The sages brought him to his father's cave in Meron to be buried.
R' Elazar was married to the daughter of Rabbi Shimon ben Yose ben Lekunya. He had a daughter and a son. His son Yose almost turned to a life of crime. Rabbi Yehudah HaNassi, however, placed him under the care of Rabbi Shimon ben Yose ben Lekunya, and the boy eventually became a student of R' Yehudah HaNassi. After R' Elazar died, R' Yehudah HaNassi wanted to marry his widow. She refused, saying, "May a vessel that was used by a holy one be used by an ordinary one?" Rebbi responded, "Allowing that he was greater than I in Torah, but was he superior to me in good deeds?" She answered, "I do not know if he was greater than you in Torah, but in deeds I do know, for he accepted suffering on himself" (Bava Metziah 84b)
For more stories about Rabbi Elazar please read : Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai
May the merit of the tzaddik Rabbi Elazar protect us all, Amen.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Yahrtzeit - 24 Elul - Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan - The Chafetz Chaim

Rabbi Yisrael Meir HaKohen Kagan - The Chafetz Chaim

Born: Zhetel, Lithuania, 1839
Died: Radin, Lithuania, 1933

Halachist, Torah leader of his generation. Affectionately known as the Chafetz Chaim, the title of one of his books.

As a 9-year-old boy, he entered the great Yeshivah in Vilna, where he soon gained a reputation as a genius. He grew not only in wisdom but also in piety. As he matured into manhood, his unselfish devotion to others and uncompromising honesty set an example for his generation and all generations that were to follow. After marrying at 17 years of age, he continued his Torah studies, in spite of extreme poverty, spending every waking moment engrossed in the holy books. The Chafetz Chaim who refused to accept a post as rabbi, opened a general store. His wife, insisting that he continue his Torah studies, managed the store. The Chafetz Chaim supervised the absolute accuracy of the weights and measures, the quality of the merchandise, and the fairness of the prices, to make certain that no one was deceived or overcharged in any way.

In 1869 he founded the Yeshivah of Radin, which attracted students from all over Europe. His book Chafetz Chaim, made a profound impact on Torah-observant Jewry. It is a compilation of the laws concerning lashon hara-spreading gossip and slander, a grave offence that is often ignored. The title Chafetz Chaim is based on the verse, "Who is the man who desires life, who loves many days that he may see good? Guard your tongue from evil and your lips from speaking deceit" (Psalm 34:13) (chafetz chaim tanslates as "desires life"). Thanks to the Chafetz Chaim's writings, a growing awareness has emerged of the harmful effects and the seriousness of lashon hara.

A major achievement was his work Mishnah Berurah, a comprehensive commentary on the Orach Chaim section of the Shulchan Aruch, which deals with the general laws of daily conduct, such as prayers, tefillin, blessings, Shabbat, and Festivals. Mishnah Berurah explains these laws and their application in present-day situations. It consists of 6 volumes and took 25 years to complete. Since its publication, Mishnah Berurah has enjoyed extraordinary popularity. It is a part of virtually every Jewish home library, its pages consulted daily by scholars, students, and laymen alike.

The emigration to America made him fearful for the well-being of Judaism in places where Jewish settlements were not well organized. He recognized the trials of the new immigrants and to fill their needs he wrote Nidchei Yisrael, (Dispersed of Israel), replete with detailed laws specifically related to the new life of the émigrés and heartfelt words of inspiration and encouragement to strengthen them in overcoming obstacles and preserving their Judaism. And his caring eye observed the young conscripts forced to live far from any semblance of Jewish life and desperately in need of special guidance. For them he composed Machne Yisrael, (The Camp of Israel).

His book Machaneh Yisrael offers advice to Jewish soldiers on how to observe Jewish traditions in the army, as well as special prayers to be said before going into battle.

The Chofetz Chaim was a true leader of his people, caring for their needs, bearing the burden of each one of them.

May the merit of the tzaddik The Chafetz Chaim protect us all, Amen.

Zohar - Parshat Vayera - For Rosh HaShanah - The Sweetness of the Shofar


Matok Midvash pp. 607-609


The world is judged in mercy

Come and see – in this way did the Holy One Blessed be He give advice to be saved from the accusing Satan on the day of Rosh Hashanah and the day of Yom HaKippurim, that [it is then that] the attribute of judgment rules in the world - since the Holy One Blessed be He sits on the Throne of Judgment to judge the world. Then he – the Satan stands to accuse with the permissible power that is given to it. And Israel need to awaken through Teshuva [repentance] on Rosh HaShana by means of the blowing of the Shofar, and they need to awaken the supernal voice of Z”A by means of bringing out the sound of the Shofar which includes fire, water and wind. Fire is the warm air that comes through the power and strength of the breath of the person to bring out the sound through the Shofar. Water is the moist air that comes out with the sound. And the wind is the essence of the air of the mouth that the person blows through his mouth through the Shofar. And they – these three powers – become one by means of uniting in the inside of the body of the Shofar, and one needs to broadcast this sound through the Shofar outwards. And this sound rises upwards until the place of the Malchut that there is to be found the Throne of Judgment. And it strikes it and awakens it to lift it upwards into Binah through the awakening of the sound of the Shofar below. Since this sound reaches from below, then the voice of Jacob which is ChaGaT [Chesed, Gevurah , Tiferet] of Z”A is rectified and sweetened above, and the Holy One Blessed be He [Daf 114b] which is Binah awakens mercy upon Israel. That behold, just like Israel awaken below one sound that includes fire, wind and water that exists together through the Shofar, likewise there is awoken from above the supernal Shofar which is Binah. And this sound which is Z”A which consists of fire, water and wind, which is the secret of ChaGaT, is rectified and sweetened. For just as the sound of the Shofar goes out from below, opposite this the sound of the Shofar of Binah above, and the world is rectified and sweetened and mercy is found. And this prosecutor is confused, for it thought to rule in judgment and to prosecute in the world, and it sees that mercies have been aroused. And then it becomes confused and its strength is weakened, and it is no longer able to do a thing. And the Holy One Blessed be He judges the world in mercy. For if you say that complete judgment is administered on Rosh Hashanah, it cannot be so, and don’t think like this, but rather the mercies of Binah are joined with the judgments of Malchut, and sweeten it and the world is judged in mercy.


Bold print: Original Zohar

Ordinary text: Matok Midvash

[Square brackets]: Rabbi Eliyahu Shear

(Round brackets): Either the source being quoted e.g. Proverbs etc., or alternatively used to quote the kabbalistic language as discussed in Matok Midvash. The Matok Midvash formats the Nigleh side of things in an ordinary print, and the Nistar terminology in Rashi script. I’ve therefore put the Rashi script – the Nistar terminology in round brackets.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

Yahrtzeit - 21 Elul - Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshitz

Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshitz (ben Natan Neta)
Born: Cracow, Poland, 1690
Died: Poland, 1764
Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshitz was a decendent from the family or Rabbi Natan Neta Shapirah- The Megale Amukot. An exceptional Talmudist, Halachist and Kabbalist, Rabbi Eybeschitz held positions as Dayan of Prague, and later rose to the position of Rabbi of the "Three Communities," Altona, Hamburg and Wandsbek.

He had contacts with Christian leaders of the period, debating religious and philosophical topics with them. His position was challenged on a number of occasions following allegations that he was a secret follower of the Shabbateanism, an outlawed movement centered around the false messiah Shabtai Zvi, despite Rabbi Eybeshitz supporting the excommunication of all Shabbatean followers. The controversy over whether Rabbi Eybeshitz was a Shabbatean spread to all major Jewish communities, and attacks by opponents lasted until his death.

Thirty of his works in the area of Halacha (Jewish law) have been published. In addition, several of his works on homiletics, teaching methodology, and Kabbalah are currently in print.

It is interesting to note that only one of his works was published in his lifetime. The posthumous printing of so many of his works is testimony to his influence on his contemporaries through his oral teachings and his personality.
Rabbi Yehonatan as a Child
The genius of Rabbi Eybeshitz was evident from his childhood. Aside from his immense knowledge of Torah, which he acquired at a very young age, he was also very clever and possessed a razor-sharp mind. One day he was walking to his cheder(school) in the early morning hours. As he walked, a teen-aged non-Jewish boy, seeing a Jew who would make a wonderful victim, leaped upon him and began beating him. Little Yehonatan began to cry at first, but then his clever mind asserted itself and he thought: "This is Esav, the wicked robber, and I will use my wits to overcome him." "Stop,stop," cried Yehonatan, "and I will give you the money that I have." When the bully heard this he allowed the little boy to get up from the ground. Reaching his pocket, Yehonatan took out two small coins and gave them to the bully. "Here," he said. "Today is a Jewish holiday. On this day any Jew who is beaten up by a non-Jew must give him all that he has in his pockets." The bully looked in astonishment at the little boy. "What idiots you Jews are," he exclaimed. "Who but you people would have such a crazy custom?" Taking his money, he walked away thinking "What a pitty that I hit such a small boy who only had a couple of small coins in his pocket. I had better find a wealthy Jew to beat. I will never have an opportunity like this for a long time." Suddenly he gasped in delight: "There is my victim! He should be good for a lot of money!" Passing by, was the Jewish communal leader of the city of Finsthov. He was the wealthiest man in town. Without further ado, the bully crossed over and leaped upon the man, beating him unmercifully. A crowd quickly gathered, among them a policeman who seized the bully, gave him a swift blow on the head and dragged him off to jail. the poor bully did not know what was happening. Why was he in jail? What had he done? He was only helping Jews celebrate their holiday. "All right," said the policeman, "why did you hit the head of the Jewish community?" "It wasn't my fault, I only did it because there is a Jewish holiday today when all Jews give money to anyone who hits them.". The policeman looked at the bully in astonishment. "Who told you this?"....
Still another time...
the wisdom of the little Yehonatan saved the Jews of Finsthov from their enemies. It happened that in town there was a Jew who owned a store that sold spices. His next door neighbor, a butcher, was an anti-Semite of long standing. Between both stores was a very thin wall made up of cheap boards. One day, after a very good business day, the Jew sat down to count the day's earnings. As he laid out all the coins of silver and copper on the table, he did not know that a pair of eyes were watching his every move. Looking through the cracks in the thin partition was the butcher. He watched and took note of each coin and then saw where the Jew put the money. The next morning he went to the police and told them that he had a large sum of money which he kept in the store and which had been stolen. He described the coins and then said: "I am sure my Jewish neighbor stole them." The police went to the Jewish store and sure enough, found the money. Nothing the Jew said could have save him. The proof and signs given by the butcher appeared to be clear and unmistakable evidence that the money was really his. Not only did the Jew face a severe prison term but the anti-Semites of the town now used the incident to agitate and fan the flames of hatred against all the Jews of the city. All the Jews gathered to discuss the terrible problem and find way to prove the innocence of the Jew. Little Yehonatan sat in his father's home - the father was the rabbi of the city, listening to the discussion. Then he asked permission to whisper something to his father: "Father, I know how you can prove that the Jew is innocent. If the money really belongs to the butcher, surely it will be covered with grease since he received it from his customers while he was selling them fatty meat. Let them take the coins and put them in water. If the fat floats to the surface, the Jew is guilty but if there is no fat it is a sign that it is really his and he is innocent." They did this and the truth came out. Yehonatan had saved the Jew from jail and the Jews of his town from persecution.
May the merit of the tzaddik Yehonatan Eybeshitz protect us all, Amen.

Tuesday, 16 September 2008

Hayom Yom - 16 Elul - Saving 'One' Soul


“The Alter Rebbe explained the statement ‘Whoever saves the soul (life) of a single person of Israel, it is as if he saved an entire world’: One must see a Jew as he “is found” in the first thought of Adam Kadmon [the highest level of holiness, which is the source of the unity of Jewish souls.] And there “is found” every single soul together with all the generations of its offspring until the coming of the Moshiach, the righteous Redeemer. And when one does a favour to a Jew, one does a favour to all these souls until the end of all generations.”


Sometimes we find ourselves caught up in a web of confusion when it comes to our duties in this world. Each of us wonders what is required of us. Each of us wonders which parts of Torah we should learn next. How much have we learnt and mastered? Have we “grown” enough in our Torah learning? Can we read and understand Rashi correctly? What of Tosefos? Are we fluent in the Rishonim and Acharonim (the earlier and later commentators)? Can we Pasken in Halacha yet (derive the law)? Have I learnt more than my fellow – especially considering the time I’ve already spent in full time Torah learning?

Our thoughts can simply overwhelm us as we try to understand our purpose in this world and the supposed achievement we are required to accomplish. Chassidut – as it so often does – turns the tables. Just when we figure we have worked it all out and that life is all about making huge strides in Torah learning and growth (which is also to be admired!) – the Alter Rebbe teaches us the true reality of the life of a Jew. While we may think it’s all about mastering the entire oral law – off by heart (no less), the Alter Rebbe focuses on an area which must touch each of us in every single way – every single day (and every single moment.)

With only one word to describe Chassidut – the total realisation of life and purpose comes into focus and view. Achdut (Unity!) All of existence is unified because G-d (so to speak) is completely unified with everything. There is nothing else besides Him.

In particular, when G-d created the world, and began to form the series of worlds that lead into this material world (known as the material world of Asiya – as opposed to the higher spiritual world of Asiya), He began with the highest of all worlds known as Adam Kadmon – or Primordial Man. Another 4 main worlds followed – Atzilut, Beriya, Yetzira and Asiya (being the lowest.) To know the secrets contained in Adam Kadmon would be to say that one has achieved “touching” G-d so to speak – touching Him in sight, hearing, smell, taste – and even touch. Hidden inside this world is to be found all of creation as it exists at all times and in every place. The fullness of “man” is to be found here.

In particular, hidden inside this world, there is to be found the absolute unity of the Jewish people. Every single Jewish soul – linked with every other soul. Were we to have the merit to be able to glimpse with our physical eyes at the unity of Jewish souls contained therein, we may imagine seeing a spiritual body – something like our physical body – only that it is spiritual. Every soul – completely linked to every other soul – with absolutely nothing separating them. And hidden inside this world, we would see how each soul links to the other, to its ancestors (as in this world) and its descendants (as manifested in reality in this world.)

Our duty in this world is to see this in reality and actuality as well – no less! Our duty is to realise that without this complete unity – we are nothing better than separate blades of grass apparently growing in their own way with their own lifestyles and happenings. Unlike (apparently separate) blades of grass, we are completely unified.

This means that when we do a favour to another Jew, we are not just helping that person, we are also helping every single other link in the chain of connection connecting this soul with its ancestors – and all the more so – its descendants. Our favour does not just touch the life of this person, it will touch the life of every other descendant that issues from him.

Our smile may seem to only illicit the smile of another. Yet, because of this kindness, the effect may well result in this person meeting a marriage partner, marrying and having 20 children – all of whom learn the value of giving (even a smile.)

Our one dollar note of charity may seem to be just a green piece of paper being able to achieve not much more than the value of the paper itself… but perhaps it is this dollar bill that will be used to purchase the winning lottery ticket that this poor person will purchase (as it is all they have!) – and so because of this, not only one life is changed, but many generations thereafter.

Favours have no limits. A kindness can be done to all, and the variety of kindnesses that can be done is only limited by infinity without constraints itself!

We can of course think about all the terrific learning we will be doing soon – completing the oral law to outsmart our friends and showing how learned we have become. Or we can focus on a purpose rooted in the highest levels of G-dliness, concealed in the world of Primordial Man. We can see each other as G-dly links of a chain, intertwined, intermeshed, interlocked, interwoven and intermixed with each other, all a part of the same unity of G-dliness. We can see each other as being our very own selves. We can realise that saving the life of another (through a smile, a dollar, or a much needed kindness) does not just save that person, it saves every single other soul that will issue from him during his lifetime. In return, and because we are so interconnected, we can know one thing for sure – we are also saving ourselves and the entire world – because we are all in actual fact one body.

The Baal Shem Tov could not have made our purpose in life clearer when he said, “Sometimes, a soul comes down into this world for 70 or 80 years just to do a material favour to another Jew, and how much more a spiritual favour.”

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Awaken - Your Lover is Calling You


We are taught that in the month of Elul, G-d rekindles His relationship with us – and likewise, we rekindle our relationship with Him. In Song of Songs (6:3), King Solomon states, “I am for my beloved and my beloved is for me.” Our sages points out that the initial letters of this verse, “אני לדודי ודודי לי” spell out the word Elul – אלול – to teach us that it is especially in the month of Elul when love rules supreme.

As we approach the upcoming festivals in which we rekindle our love for G-d, we spend an entire month engaged in understanding what true love is all about.

Chassidut teaches that there are two ways concerning the relationship between G-d and the Jewish people – an awakening from below or an awakening from above. Throughout the year each of us experiences these fluctuations at various different times. Sometimes it is we who wake ourselves up to serve G-d, and He returns to us – awakening us further. At other times we may not feel as enthusiastic. G-d Himself then wakes us, so that we should awaken and realise that He continues to love us and that we should now reciprocate.

King Solomon says that the month of Elul is all about waking ourselves first, and then G-d will awaken to bestow us with His love. I am for my beloved – and then – my beloved is for me. It is up to us to make this relationship work. This is the service required of us in the month of Elul.

Chassidut explains that in the supernal worlds above there is felt a revelation of the Kingship of G-d above and automatically there falls upon us the fear of the King, whereas below the revelation works by a person accepting upon himself the yoke of the kingdom of G-d.

The Baal Shem Tov explains the concept of the Bat Kol – a voice which calls out from heaven at all times. Many Tzaddikim are known to hear this voice calling and informing them what needs to be done. But the truth is that this voice calls to each one of us – all the time. What good does it do if none of us can actually hear it – unless of course we would all be Tzaddikim? The Baal Shem Tov explains that the soul above hears these voices and through this it draws down the awakening to man below. Even though a person does not hear the voice directly, he does do so through a concept taught that “Even though he does not see, his Mazel (spiritual root source) sees.” And through this a great fear falls upon one.

Our duty then is to do the barest minimum – to open our hearts to the degree of the point of a pinhead, and G-d will continue the conversation, awakening us to immediately be aware that He is constantly with us. It is then up to us to continue the conversation, making our relationship even stronger with G-d – and through this to allow G-d to once again continue even stronger – with the “conversation” at hand.

I am for my beloved. I express my love, yearning to be united. And my beloved is for me. She calls to me letting me know of her love… But love is a two way relationship. Her voice calls out in the month of Elul, sweetly… silently… gently… but the soul is touched and she is stirred to awaken to unite with her lover. Are we listening well enough? Are we letting ourselves be prepared to listen? We are giving our love to her. Are we now prepared to let ourselves engage in a real lasting relationship? As we progress through this month, let us consider these thoughts. Let us listen to the voice cooing from above, waking us out of our slumber, as she calls out, preparing us for the “Day of Judgment” where we wish for only the best for all – in a revealed, manifest and visible goodness.

Let us see life through the eyes of the Baal Shem Tov, and let us hear the voice which is calling from on High.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Zohar - Parshat Ki Teitzei - Marriage, and a Year of Freedom

[The Parsha as in Deuteronomy 24:5 speaks about a man marrying. When he takes a wife, he receives certain privileges. One of these is that he is not obligated to go into the army. He must be free so that he can gladden his wife for the period of one year. Not only is this harmonious and beneficial for the couple in the lower physical world, but it also causes great happiness above. The year period is parallel to the entire year period of G-d’s running the world via His ‘chariot’. Our actions below, when fulfilled in accordance with the Torah not only bring goodness to us below, but also awaken goodness and delight above – thereby bringing even more blessing to this world.]

When a man will take a new wife, he shall not go to the army etc. and he shall gladden his wife who he has taken [Deuteronomy 24:5]. This Mitzvah is that the groom should make his wife happy for one year, as it is written – he shall be free for his home for one year. And these twelve months are hers i.e. the ‘lower’ bride merits through them what is hers from her root which is the ‘upper’ bride which is the Shechinah [the Indwelling Divine Presence,] because the upper bride which is the Shechinah is called Shanah’ [lit: Year]. And a bride is only so called for [the first] twelve months, as it is written, “He made the ‘sea’”, [part of the building of the Temple made by King Solomon was a ‘sea’ – a copper tank filled with water and used by the Kohanim for ritual immersion] (Kings 1 – 7:25) “It stood upon twelve oxen,” which are the 12 angels Michael, Gavriel, Uriel, Rafael, and with each one there are another 2 angels. And they serve the Shechinah and lift her up and she rides upon them. And since the repair of the supernal bride is only through these 12 angels, therefore the groom needs to gladden her – the lower bride and to adorn her house so that she should rejoice in it. And it explains, to her and to her repairs, to make her happy and her ‘repairs’ which are her garments and her jewellery that she rejoices through them. Similar to [what happens in the worlds] above, because these 12 angels serve the Shechinah for 12 months of the year. And therefore it is written about Jacob, (Genesis 28:11) “And he took from the stones of the place.” And it explains, the stones of the place were 12, parallel to the 12 angels of the Shechinah which is called Makom – “place.” And someone who gladdens the supernal bride, also gladdens her youths, which are these 12 angels. [Daf 278a]: And she had 12 youths, and all of them are the secret of the year, since these 12 angels serve during the 12 months of the year. And therefore the groom needs to gladden his wife for one year. The word “one” is added here to teach that the year from day to day should be 354 days [354 being the numerical value of the Hebrew word for year i.e. “שנה” – While the Solar year consists of 365 days, the Lunar year consists of 354 days, the exact same amount as the numerical value of the word “שנה”] – 12 complete months for the reason above.

And behold we explained, this happiness is not his – the groom’s – but rather it is hers – the bride’s. As it is written ‘He shall gladden his wife.’ And the word “ושמח” [and he shall gladden] is a causative verb i.e. that he should gladden her [so that she should rejoice.] And since it is not written “וישמח” – and he shall be happy – since the word “וישמח” is a dynamic verb i.e. he rejoices with her and then she is considered secondary to him. But rather ‘And he shall gladden’ is explained as the groom gladdens the bride.

Similar to this is the bride ‘above’ which is Malchutthe bride has no happiness except when Z”A, her husband gladdens her body in the secret of Yichud [unification], and her ‘repairs’ in the secret of the garments and jewellery. And who gladdens them – Malchut and her youths? Tzaddik which is Yesod, that through him, her body and face are repaired. And upon this it says, he shall be free for his home i.e. the Yesod is called “Naki” [he shall be free/clean] as it is written [Exodus 23:7] ‘Naki and Tzaddik, do not kill.’ And he bestows upon her clean seed which is sorted from all dross.

And in contrast to this below, the groom will be Naki [clean/free] not to have to toil in worldly matters i.e. with something that will take him away from gladding her, but rather he will occupy himself in Torah in order that he will have the desire to gladden her, and he will be free of every pressure i.e. he will be free – exempt – from all types of taxes, property taxes and head-taxes, free – that he won’t have to go out to the army to fight a war in order to find happiness above and below, and to awaken happiness above i.e. through the happiness of the bride below he will intend to cause happiness to the bride above. Happy are those in this world, and happy are those in the world to come. (Ramak, Ramaz and commentaries.)

From here is the source of the custom of Israel to give food to a newly married couple for at least one year. This, in order that it will not make it necessary [for the groom] to be busy with worldy affairs, and the husband will be free to study Torah.


Bold print: Original Zohar

Ordinary text: Matok Midvash

[Square brackets]: ELIYAHU ben PINCHAS

(Round brackets): Either the source being quoted e.g. Proverbs etc., or alternatively used to quote the kabbalistic language as discussed in Matok Midvash. The Matok Midvash formats the Nigleh side of things in an ordinary print, and the Nistar terminology in Rashi script. I’ve therefore put the Rashi script – the Nistar terminology in round brackets.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

Not Just a Leap of Faith - Living With Faith!


In the letter below written by the Alter Rebbe and published in Tanya – Iggeret HaKodesh 11, the Alter Rebbe addresses one of the most important themes of life we encounter each and every day – why do bad things happen to us?!

The Alter Rebbe explains that in fact – as the Midrash says – there is no such thing as bad. In fact, since everything stems directly from G-d Almighty Himself – who is the essence of good, everything that reaches us in this world is really actual good. The big question on everybody’s mind of course is how it can be that these things are good?

There are varying degrees of what we term bad. For some, it is being unable to find a marriage partner. For others it may be not being blessed with children. For others it may be a lack of financial resources to live a life of happiness (to what they would consider happy.) To others there may be physical challenges – and yet to others there may be spiritual tests. The heart knows the pain of the soul and each person knows well what affects him the most, what troubles him and makes him believe that his life is simply not yet filled with happiness.

What then is the solution to actually seeing the good that is supposed to be all around us? The Alter Rebbe beautifully explains how the essential element needed to attain the right vision is to see life through the “spectacles of faith”. To the degree that we are able to integrate in reality what it means to have faith in G-d – to this degree we will be able to actually see goodness.

It’s really a simple recipe – according to the Alter Rebbe:

Ingredients to add for a life of revealed goodness:

1. Faith

Stir well and open your eyes to seeing that everything happening is actual good. Cook “faith” your entire life and life will always be ready for being dished up with happiness and goodness.

Those who see life continually in a dismal light – says the Alter Rebbe – show themselves to be from the Eirev Rav. These people, who left Egypt together with the Jews, were responsible for creating the Golden Calf. For them, life was all about “them.” Everything had to be just as they wished it to be. Such a belief removes one from G-d. Since G-d fills all creation and is everything, it must be that the current situation is what G-d wants. When the “Eirev Rav” step in however to demand life in accordance with their gods, they deny that G-d is actually in control. They believe they are in control. They may say things such as it is my money and my doing that makes my life what it is. When life is not going well for them, they cry bitterly unable to understand the reason for their failure.

Those who are not part of the Eirev Rav well know that life is about G-d and not themselves. The service required of us is to work on seeing that we are not in control of our lives (at all!) and that in fact, G-d is running the show completely. Our duty is to do what is required of us in serving G-d. This, through the Mitzvot – eating Kosher, observing the Sabbath day, observing the laws of Family Purity, learning Torah, wearing Tefillin and Tzizit (for men) etc. Our duty is to do what we must. Thereafter G-d does what He must (for reasons known to Him.) Once the cycle is moving, we need to add our ingredient – faith – to the main recipe. At this point in time, we need to look around, realise that G-d is in charge and in complete control and let life run its course. For some reason, this is what G-d wants.

In fact, the moment we realise this, our entire life becomes a life filled with happiness and goodness. Once we realise that we are where we are supposed to be – even if we do not yet understand it – we are much more readily able to deal with life – knowing clearly that Someone else is actually in charge.

No bad descends from above. It is all good. Therefore, it is now up to us to change the prescription on our lenses, and to look at life with a clear view. Then… even the apparent bad will be seen as actual good. Not only that – it will actually be good!

If you’re looking to work on faith, I highly recommend “Duties of the Heart”. Inside this work is an entire lengthy chapter dealing with faith – what it is and how to attain it. It is an accepted work to learn in order to grow in this area of life.

If you would like to purchase it, you can do so immediately at Rav Eliyahu’s Torah store – right over HERE.

To view the entire store - go directly to RAV ELIYAHU'S COMPLETE TORAH TREASURES STORE.


“To enlighten you with understanding” (Daniel 9:22). For this is not the path for the light of G-d to dwell in one – to be desiring a life of the flesh, of children and sustenance. Because concerning this, our Sages of blessed memory have said, (Ethics of our Fathers 2:4) “Nullify your will [before His will so that He will nullify the will of others before your will.]” This means that one’s will should be nullified in totality and he should have no will at all in matters of this world, all of them included in children, life and sustenance – as our Sages of blessed memory have said – (Ethics of our Fathers 4:22) “Against your will you live.”

And the explanation of this matter is [that this can only be explained as] truthful faith in the Creator of the world. This means that the creation – ‘something from nothing’ – which is called “The beginning of Wisdom.” And this is His wisdom which is inconceivable to any creature, this creation [bringing existence into being ex nihilo] is at every time and moment that creations exist – ‘something from nothing’ from the wisdom of G-d may He be blessed, who gives life to everything.

And when a person contemplates to the depth of his understanding and he forms in his mind the bringing of existence ex nihilo at every single moment – how can it arise in his mind that he is suffering, or has any afflictions concerning children, life or sustenance or other afflictions in the world? Behold the “nothingness” which is the wisdom of G-d may He be blessed, this is the source of life, goodness and pleasure, and it is the bliss which transcends the world to come. It is only that it is not apprehensible, therefore it appears to him that he is suffering or afflicted.

But in truth no bad descends from above (Bereishit Rabba 51:3) and everything is good, though it is not apprehended because of its immense and abundant goodness.

And this is the main thing of faith – that it was for this that man was created – to believe that there is no place void of Him (Tikkunei Zohar, Tikkun 57) and “In the light of the Kings countenance there is life.” And therefore strength and delight are in His place since He is only good all day long. And therefore the beginning of everything is that a person should be happy and rejoice at every moment and should truly live by his faith in G-d who gives life and does good for him at each moment.

And a person who is sad [depressed] and he mourns, shows in himself that he is undergoing some hardship and suffering, and that he is lacking some good. And this is like someone who denies G-d, G-d forbid. And therefore the Sages of Truth [the Kabbalists] distanced themselves very much from the trait of sadness.

But one who believes – he is not afraid of any afflictions in the world, and of any matters of the world, “yes” and “no” [good and bad] are equal by him with a truthful equality. And to one whom these are not equal shows to himself that he is of the Eirev Rav [the multitude who left Egypt together with the Jews and who were responsible for creating the Golden Calf.] That they do everything for themselves, and he loves himself to be able to take himself out from under the hand of G-d and to live a life of the gentiles because of his love of himself.

And therefore he desires a fleshy life of children and sustenance, because this is good for him – and it would be better for him not to have been born. Because the main reason for the creation of a man in this world is for the sake of testing him with these tests, to know what is in his heart – if he will turn his heart towards other gods which are the desires of the body – which come about through the Sitra Achra [the other side – the evil forces.] And desire these. Or whether his desire and his will is to live a truthful life which stems from the living G-d.

And he should believe that in truth he lives it [the true life], and all his needs and all his matters stem in truth in all their particulars – not from the Sitra Achra, for “By G-d are the steps of man made firm” (Psalms 37:23), and “While there is no word [on my tongue You, G-d, know it all!] “

And if so, then everything is good to the highest extent. It is only that it is not apprehended. And when one believes this truly, everything becomes good – and also in a revealed manner. That through this faith that one believes that what manifestly seem evil – all of its life force is from the Supernal Good which is the wisdom of G-d may he be blessed which is not apprehensible, and it is the delight which transcends the world to come.

Behold, through this faith, the imagined evil is truly absorbed and sublimated into the Supernal hidden Goodness. [Through this the good actually becomes revealed.]

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

The Call of the Shofar - Our Call to the King. A Reminder to Him of Who the Prince Is



The Rebbe in the video below, shares two stories told by the Rebbe MaHaRaSH. These stories were told by the Baal Shem Tov and Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (the lover of Israel.)

Each day of Elul we blow the Shofar after the morning prayers. On Rosh HaShanah - the new year - itself, it is a Mitzvah to blow 100 sounds. But what is the Shofar all about? What does it represent?

Hidden inside it's sound is the cry of a Jew wishing to return to his Father. But hidden inside even this cry is the call that awakens the Father to realise exactly who his son the prince really is. There is an awakening from below to above as the Jew cries to his Father. There must also be an awakening from above to below, as, through the sound of the Shofar, judgments become nullified when G-d is reminded of the main time that the Shofar was blown - on Mount Sinai when the Jewish people accepted the Torah. They were the only nation to accept it. They were the only nation prepared to follow the commandments contained therein.

The Shofar represents a cry. It also represents our strength.

Monday, 1 September 2008

HaYom Yom - 1 Elul - Rosh Chodesh Elul - Yom Kippur - 3 Extra Chapters of Tehillim



“When the Tzemach Tzeddek was 9 years old, the Alter Rebbe said to him: I received from my teacher [the Maggid of Mezritch] who received from his teacher [the Baal Shem Tov] in the name of his known teacher [i.e. Achiya HaShiloni] that from the second day of Rosh Chodesh Elul until Yom Kippur, one should say every single day during the day 3 chapters of Tehillim. And on Yom Kippur 36 chapters of Tehillim: 9 before Kol Nidrei, 9 before going to sleep, 9 after Mussaf, 9 after Neilah. And someone who didn’t begin on the second day of Rosh Chodesh should begin on the day that he is currently on and the remainder he should catch up.”


One of the things focused upon in this blog concerns the idea of “living with the times”, a very important teaching regarding how we are to live each day. There is so much Torah to learn and so much to do, that we often don’t know where to begin and what to do when.

Not only is this concept an important one, but it is an essential one. There are many people who make light of various Torah commandments (or even learning) feeling that one can do with them as one wishes when one wishes. Torah is not something that one does as one wishes to, when one likes to do what one wants. Rather it is about doing what must be done when it needs to be done.

Ask yourself the following questions. Think of the answers before reading on:

Is it a Mitzvah to fast?
Is it a Mitzvah to eat?
Is it a Mitzvah to eat Matzah?
It is a Mitzvah to shake the Lulav and Esrog?
Is it a Mitzvah to be happy?
Is it a Mitzvah to blow the Shofar?
Is it a Mitzvah to read the Torah?
Is it a Mitzvah to divorce? (There is a full tractate discussing this Mitzvah!)
Is it a Mitzvah to go to Mikvah (for man or woman)?
Is it a Mitzvah for a man to wear Tefillin?
Is it a Mitzvah to have Mezuzot on all our doorposts?
Is it a sin to eat pork?

The above are merely samples. Did you find yourself answering yes to all – perhaps being a little agitated with the divorce question?!

Let’s look at each in turn:

Did you know that fasting on certain days of the year is a very serious sin?!

Did you know that even though eating for one’s health is a huge Mitzvah, if done on Yom Kippur the punishment is Kares (spiritual excision?!) Eating in this case is probably one of the biggest sins in the entire Torah!

Did you know that while eating Matzah on Pesach is a Mitzvah, eating it on Yom Kippur carries the same punishment as above? In fact eating Matzah on Erev Pesach is forbidden as well – and that can be just minutes before nightfall!

And while having a Seder on Pesach itself may be a great Mitzvah, having the Seder (eating the Matzah and drinking the wine etc.) on any other day of the year may not only be a pure waste of time – for everybody involved, but may bring about the saying of certain blessings in vain!

Did you know that shaking a Lulav and Esrog on Sukkot performs mysteries in the world most of us can never even see with our eyes – although blessing results, whereas shaking these fruits and twigs on any other day of the year may be the cause of another person wishing to “lock us up?!”

Did you know that dancing around in happiness on Tisha Be’Av may well be a sin?!

Did you know that blowing a Shofar on Rosh HaShanah is a Mitzvah, but doing so any other day of the year is not much better than blowing a trumpet?!

Did you know that learning Torah on Tisha Be’Av and on the day before Tisha Be’Av is actually forbidden?!

Did you know that while the Torah commands the Mitzvah of divorce and even has an entire tractate about it, getting divorced is certainly something the Torah is actually against?! Yet… if the partners of a marriage are truly unable to work things out, it can be far better for the couple to divorce?!

Did you know that a single woman should preferably not go to a Mikvah, and that even a man who goes every single day may not go on Tisha Be’Av or Yom Kippur?

Did you know that wearing Tefillin during the day may accomplish wonderful things, whereas wearing them at night is forbidden?!

Did you know that having Kosher Mezuzot on all doors is so important that we repeat this Mitzvah at least twice a day when we read the Shema… yet, it is forbidden to put a Mezuzah on the doorpost of one’s toilet!

Did you know that while eating pork is certainly prohibited… if one’s life is in such danger that one could die without food, and the only food available is a slice of bacon… one could eat it? This is a Mitzvah in order that we can continue to live so that we can continue to do further Mitzvot!

While the Torah is filled with Mitzvahs, each must be done in it’s time! When Mitzvot are done in the correct time, blessing results. When done in the wrong time, not only may blessing not result, but more than this, one may well find oneself committing the worst of all possible sins!

Since the theme of doing everything in its time is a fitting one, it is also fitting that we spend our time involved in Torah learning – learning those things most relevant to the time we find ourselves in.

If so, being that we are now in the period of time of repentance – Teshuva – from the beginning of the month of Elul until Yom Kippur – the Day of Atonement, it is most fitting to add in something most relevant to this time period as well.

The Tzemach Tzeddek, quoting the Alter Rebbe, quoting the Maggid, quoting the Baal Shem Tov, quoting his teacher (the teacher of Elijah the prophet!) tells us that during this period we must increase in our Tehillim. And while the custom is to complete the book of Tehillim (Psalms) each month according to the days of the month, during these next 40 days, we are to say just 3 extra Tehillim each day. On Yom Kippur we must recite the remainder as outlined in this teaching.

By the way… did you know that there is even a time for Tehillim to be said? Tehillim are said during the day – not at night (except for those occasions when they are being said specifically for a person in need at that point in time. They (like any other part of the written Torah) are not to be read if one is simply saying them for the sake of reading them in a general manner. Night is a time of judgment, and Psalms elicit mercy. It is not appropriate to mix these two. Night ends officially at the midnight time as defined in Halachah (and not 12:00am every night.) From this point onwards, until nightfall, it is a Mitzvah to say Tehillim any time. Ideally, in fact, saying Tehillim as close as possible to the beginning of the midnight time is the best time!

“Everything has its season, and there is a time for everything under the heaven.” (Ecclesiasties 3:1) – The words of the wisest of all men – King Solomon.



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