Monday, 30 June 2008

Rambam - Gifts to the Poor - Chapter 10 Law 3






Dedicated Le'Iluy Nishmas

Chaim ben Yitzchak HaKohen

“Anybody who hides his eyes away from Tzeddakah – behold, he is called “Bliyaal – בליעל" – (wicked), just like idol worshippers are called בליעל (wicked).

“And with regards to idol worshippers it says (Deutronomy 13:14) ‘Lawless (wicked) men have emerged…’ And with regards to those that hide their eyes from Tzeddakah, it says, (Deuteronomy 15:9) ‘Guard yourself lest there be any בליעל (wickedness) within your heart.’ And he is called a wicked person, as it says, (Proverbs 12:10) ‘And the mercy of the wicked is cruel.’ And he is called a sinner, as it says, (Deuteronomy 15:9) ‘And he will call to G-d on account of you, and it will be a sin upon you.’

“And the Holy One Blessed be He is close to the cry of the poor, as it says, ‘The cry of the poor You will hear.’ (See Job 34:28).

“Therefore one needs to be careful to their cry, since a covenant is signed for them, as it says, (Exodus 22:36) ‘And it will be when he cries out to Me, I will listen, for I am gracious.”


The Rambam is continuing “his” line of thought and logic as it pertains to the laws of giving charity. He began with the importance of the Mitzvah of charity and how it can in fact hasten and bring the redemption! He continued by telling us that nobody will become poor through this Mitzvah. And he now continues by adding the theme of those who even after this, decide not to give.

Here, the Rambam points out, that not only is he holding back the redemption (not hearing law 1), and neither does he lack the problem of whether he’ll be poor or not (law 2). Rather, if a person hides his eyes away from someone asking, he should know that he is called “Bliyaal.”

While the traditional translation of this word is “Wicked” or “Lawless”, the actual Hebrew word is made up of two separate words i.e. Bli, meaning “Without” and “Ol”, meaning “Yoke”. In other words he is as if he lacks a yoke! What does this mean?!

The Torah teaches us that the greatest thing we can do is to make ourselves to G-d, like oxen are to the yoke. Whichever direction the yoke points the ox, so it goes. The Torah is the ultimate yoke! In fact, when one recites the reading of the Shema twice a day, we are said to be “Accepting upon ourselves the yoke of the kingdom of heaven!” Perhaps it may seem like we are restraining ourselves, becoming robots, or worse yet – slaves (in the traditional sense of the word,) to G-d. It may seem like after all is said and done, we’re becoming zombies to G-d’s will. Where then is our freedom of choice?!

And yet, our sages teach us that this is what Torah and Mitzvos are all about, to accept upon ourselves this yoke of heaven. Our sages go so far as to tell us that our forefathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were all “chariots” to G-d. Just like a chariot is completely subservient to the owner that rides it, so too did our forefathers do everything in accordance with G-d's will!

It seems that they obviously had no idea about the real world. Perhaps they were such simple people that they could not think anything for themselves – as many of us are able to do in our modern world today! Yes, they were simple people. If only they would have known about the real world, they would have become real men! Men who would think for themselves – probably rebelling against many of G-d’s wishes – but at least being people with their own brains.

In our modern world, we may tend to think this way. But as we live in an upside world, where those on top are actually on the bottom, and those on the bottom are actually on top, our forefathers, with their apparent lack of free will, were completely absorbed in total G-dliness!

Isn’t it a wonder to see how most people today are filled with major difficulties in life, from depression and sadness to simply lacking some sort of fulfilment in life. And yet we all seem to think that with our own freedom of choice, huge brains, and knowledge of the modernity of the world, that in fact we are far greater than those that preceded us?! How many of us see the world of observant Jews as people without the ability to think for themselves?! Things are changing, one needs to fit in with society. Those laws were for the old school so many thousands of years ago. Today, we can think for ourselves – we’ve progressed!

Although this be apparently true, there are yet those – even famous Hollywood stars – who seem to feel that they too are lacking something in their lives, and seem to feel – for whatever reason, that the Torah provides them their food and sustenance – through the popular teachings of Kabbalah. Indeed, they too are searching for something… They too seem to have a hunger in their stomachs – and souls – for something more. There’s an emptiness eating them up! After all this modernity, perhaps the “traditional” way of life was actually the more fulfilling?!

All the freedom of choice in the world is nothing in comparison to the ecstasy felt when one cleaves to G-d in complete Devekus (cleaving!) Our forefathers knew this, and in fact, as we are taught, it wasn’t just at those times that they kept the Sabbath day, or ate kosher. Rather at every moment in their lives – every single step they took, they did so with a yoke around their necks! Did they consider this a punishment?

Is it a punishment to be the servant of the King of all Kings? On the contrary, much like a servant of the king is privileged to be in the palace of the king at all times, often dining with the king himself, so too, our forefathers who cleaved to G-d – every single second of the day, merited to experience complete ecstasy within G-dliness at all times! They hardly needed to think for themselves – as we might think. Rather it was their very giving up the ability to think for themselves that brought them into direct contact with G-d.

As Rebbe Nachman says, “Where philosophy ends, Kabbalah begins”. All the philosophising in the world will not bring one even one step closer to experiencing Divine Ecstasy! A state of complete rapture that the soul loses such control over herself that she wants nothing else than to be subsumed into G-dliness, to give herself over and back to where she came from. When one studies Kabbalah and Chassidut, one begins to get a taste of this… and if one studies further, one can be absorbed even closer into G-d… and if one applies oneself even further, one might even totally expire in Divine Ecstasy! The Torah calls this “Kelot HaNefesh”. Many of our Tzaddikim have spoken of this when they said that one must be careful in one’s relationship with G-d. One must be “Running and Returning”. As the Sefer Yetzira states, “If your heart runs, return to the Place”. When one begins to feel the experience of divinity one has to turn oneself around and come back to reality! Just as the angels continually run and return to and from G-d, so too do we experience this, and should be careful not to venture too far into the unknown.

Where then is the unknown? It can be when one has completely given up one’s own free will. When one becomes so totally immersed in Torah and Mitzvos that one wants nothing more than to simply expire in G-dliness! Perhaps it’s simply when one accepts the yoke of the heavenly kingdom upon onself! Isn’t that strange? When one gives up oneself, one becomes G-dlier… one experiences life as it should be. To this degree, one may even give up one’s own life – just to be absorbed back into total G-dliness. And yet, the average person may feel that they have no free will, that they cannot think for themselves. Of course, it takes someone who’s prepared to move just one step away from philosophy – and a step towards the inner secrets of Torah, to realise and appreciate just what it means to have G-d’s yoke upon oneself.

Therefore the Rambam is correct when he says that one who hides his eyes from giving Tzeddakah is Bliyaal. He lacks a yoke. He neither appreciates G-dliness, nor his fellow man. He believes that with his own freedom of choice, that he, being in charge, can choose what to do with his wealth! How unfortunate this person is to lack the connection to G-d – a connection that would bring him to realise that as he hands over the coin to charity – to help another (nothing less!) he actually connects with divinity. He becomes more G-dly. More spiritual (with such a mundane physical act!) And his reward… the possibility to expire in G-dliness itself!

The idol worshippers may rightly be called “Bliyaal” for they have nothing to go by. Each one has his own way of “serving his god.” Perhaps his “god” may well be himself! After all, when one lacks an objective yoke (i.e. the Torah) one can rationalise anything! And each of us will be correct, for nobody can contradict another’s opinion of what is right. If his “god” tells him so, then it certainly must be true! But Torah – this yoke – is objective. It is divine and true. It allows one to cleave to truth, and to be attached to what life is really all about. Of course, if one feels that the better life is without this “burdensome” yoke, then one may certainly choose the other route. It is a route filled with sadness and deep depression, for it applies to each one individual and to every one god in the world. And while there are *many* other gods in the world, there is only One real G-d!

This individual does not only associate himself with being an idol worshipper, but he is actually given the title “Wicked one!” As the Torah teaches, the mercies of the wicked are cruel. When one is wicked, even when one acts in mercy, it will be cruel. As the Torah teaches, those who are cruel when they should be kind, will be kind when they should be cruel!

Isn’t it a wonder how the world will do all they can to stop the slaughtering of animals in a kosher manner – due to it’s “cruelty”, yet they will butcher live human beings in the name of religion? Or perhaps they’ll rip apart sharks in the sea just in order to be able to have “shark fin” on the menu?! There must be a host of similar examples. But the truth is still the same. Those who lack a yoke – THE yoke, will end up becoming cruel – even with their mercies! And so – as happens many times, they will give of their wealth to those who will use it against them.

How often have we seen the money we have earned and given to those we felt needed it – being used for purposed to kill and harm others?! The Jewish people are falling apart for lack of food… for lack of a place to learn Torah… for lack of being able to start a family and raise Jewish children, and money will be given to the non-Jewish world, who have their own BILLIONAIRES who can aid them (but don’t!) And so, the rest of the world turn against the Jewish people with the very energy given to them through the wealth given to them so that they could feed themselves!

The Rambam will list the order of priorities in giving, later in this chapter. And indeed there is one. For those who feel that saving the whales may accomplish more than feeding a Jewish soul… they may wish to consider just what a Jewish soul actually is. Yes, we certainly need whales in the world, and G-d’s mercy is upon ALL his creatures… Yet, when our wealth is finite, surely we should be cautious to the order of preference in giving to those who we may actually be closer to first. Of course, if there is anything left over, then it can be certain that the whales may definitely be deserving and next in line!

Who knows, perhaps when we have set our priorities right, maybe G-d in his infinite mercy, will attend to the whales on His own!

One who turns his eyes away from those who really need is not only lacking a yoke. He is not only a wicked person (as the Rambam points out.) He is also a sinner. In other words, it is an actual sin to turn one’s eyes away from one who is in need.

One should surely be careful with all of this, for G-d has sealed a covenant with those who cry to Him. One not blessed with wealth is at the mercy of those who have. He prays to G-d, but because G-d has set the world up in a way of give and take, it is His actual desire that the wealthy give to the poor. As mentioned before, G-d could certainly shower gold coins into a person’s own private bedroom at midnight… but instead He chooses to let the world run through the kind acts of those who have already been given the gift of wealth – from none other than G-d Himself! Not because of any specific reason, but rather simply because G-d would like this individual to take part in making the world right… and better. He has been given a privilege to fill the world with G-d’s very own kindness!

And so the poor man has no recourse, except to cry – literally! And each night before he goes to bed, he soaks his pillow with tears. “Why can I not own a home of my own G-d!!!”, “Why can I not afford to send my children to a proper private school G-d!!!”, “Why can I not have a new wardrobe of clothing even once in five years G-d!!!”, “Why can I not even put food on my table G-d!!!”, “Why G-d… why?!” He wishes to contact every wealthy person alive, but for the embarrassment and insult he receives from many “fat cats” and “bosses”, he chooses to burst out his pain each night, filling his pillow, drenching it with hot wet tears!”

And G-d listens… And while it may seem that things still run the same way, they change. The tears of the poor person are received in a very special place above, into a special chamber, one opened only rarely – into a dangerous looking room. Those who have entered it have seen the water… the seas and waves angrily crashing backwards and forwards… and they were forced to slam the door shut, lest it be that they would drown. In this room lie the hot tears of those crying out in pain – especially for just their basic needs. “If only someone would listen G-d!!!”

But the covenant is set up, and the world runs it’s course! And those who are on top, may well find themselves on the bottom, and those on the bottom, may well find themselves on top, for the wheel of fortune is continually in motion! And it is true that ultimately we *are* in an upside world. And those on the bottom are really on top, and those on the top, are really on the bottom.

Our duty is to hear the crying. Even that crying that takes place when we don’t see it. We don’t need to see it, for our duty is to hear it. And just like a businessman looks for opportunities to make wealth, and does not wait for all business to come to him, so too does each one of us have to actively seek out those in need in order to help them. This is our business. And when we do so, we can rest assured that the Owner of the store is certainly watching, and He will make our businesses flourish!

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Zohar - Parshat Chukat - Moshe Buries Aharon... Death by Kiss


MATOK MIDVASH (Page 342-343)

DAF 183a

Moshe Buries Aharon

[This weeks Parsha speaks of the death of Aharon the Kohein, brother of Moshe and Miriam. Aharon died on the first day of Av in the fortieth year of the Israelites journeying in the desert. He was 123 years old. Moses was commanded by G-d to ascend Mount Hor together with Aharon’s son, Elazar. There, upon the mountain, Moses was to remove the garments of Aharon, as he would prepare him for burial, and hand these garments over to the one who would fill the place of Aharon i.e. Elazar his son. The entire episode is shrouded in mystery. If Moses had to distance himself so far away from the Israelites at the time of the burial, why were the Israelites privileged to see Aharon in his state of death? Why did G-d command Moses specifically to remove Aharon’s garments? Why did Aharon merit such a death – death by a kiss, where Moses consoles Aharon up until the time of death to follow through with the procedures involved? The Zohar explains all these themes giving hidden glimpses to this beautiful and emotionally consuming event.]

And Moses did just as G-d commanded. And they went up to Mount Hor in front of the eyes of the entire nation, and it asks, “Why in the sight of the entire nation?” Why was it necessary for the entire nation to see? And it answers, “But rather since Aharon was the beloved of the entire nation more so than all of them i.e. the rest of the nation, because he loved peace and pursued peace between man and his fellow man and between husband and wife, and that they shouldn’t say that he was hidden [buried] and gathered to his people by Moses, but rather that all Israel should see that he did everything just as he was commanded by the mouth of the Holy One Blessed be He. And behold, and Moses drew Aharon with words of consolation, that he said to him, “Happy are you that you are meriting to leave [this world] in such an exalted manner as this,” [he would be dying through the divine kiss of G-d Himself] until they went up to the mountain. And all of Israel saw at the time that Moses removed the garments of Aharon and dressed them upon Elazar [his son.]

And it asks, “What is the reason that it was necessary for Moses to remove the garments of Aharon and not that Aharon removed them himself?” And it answers, “But it is rather since Moses placed the garments on Aharon at the time that Aharon arose to the priesthood.” This is what is written, “And Moses placed the garments on Aharon.” And it is written, (Vayikra 8:7) And he placed upon him the Ketonet [Tunic], and he girded him with the Avnet [girdle/sash], and he dressed him with the Me’il [robe] and he placed upon him the Ephod and girded him with the Cheshev HaEphod [belt of the Ephod] and adorned him with it,” and therefore now Moses removed and stripped off the garments that he had given him, and the Holy One Blessed be He removed from him what He had given him, i.e. his soul. And both of them removed everything from Aharon. And Moses removed what was external, and the Holy One Blessed be He removed what was internal, and not until Moses had removed and stripped off the garments of Aharon, did the Holy One Blessed be He remove and did not take from him his soul. Happy is the portion of Moses, that the Holy One Blessed be He suspended the death of Aharon upon the removal of his garments [by Moses].

And it said, “Happy is the portion of the righteous, that the Holy One Blessed be He desires their honor”, and therefore, the Holy One Blessed be He prepared for Aharon a bed and a candle of gold that He lit, and He took from what was his and his reward, i.e. from the reward of the Menorah [candle] that he [Aharon] lit twice each day. And afterwards, He closed the mouth of the cave, and they – Moses and Elazar descended from the mountain. (From here, there is a proof to the opinion of the Rambam – Hilchot Temidin 3:12, that the lighting of the Menorah was twice each day.)

Rabbi Yehuda said, “The mouth of the cave was open, and all of Israel saw Aharon dead, and the candle of the Menorah was alight in front of him,” and further, “His bed went out from cave and entered, in order that all of Israel would see that Aharon had died, and the bed was similar to the supernal bed that he would unify each day, and one cloud stood above the bed, in the merit of the cloud of incense that he would burn every day, and then all of Israel would know that Aharon had died. And further, they saw that the Clouds of Glory left the Jewish people – that they were in the merit of Aharon. This is what is written, “And the entire nation saw that Aharon had died.” And all of the House of Israel cried for Aharon for thirty days. And already this has been explained by our Rabbis (Rosh Hashanah 3a), and therefore all the House of Israel wept for Aharon – men, women and children, as it says, “And all the House of Israel wept for Aharon for thirty days,” for he was the beloved of all of them, as Rashi explains, since Aharon pursued peace and imposed love between those who argued and between man and wife.


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.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Mitzvah Mezuzah - "Write them on the Doorposts of your House and your Gates"


(With Entertaining Video Clip at end of Article)

Dedicated Le'Iluy Nishmas

Esther Bas Nachum Dov Ber ז"ל

One of the 613 commandments of the Torah is the Mitzvah of Mezuzah. So important is this Mitzvah that it is included in the reading of the Shema - the most basic declaration of a Jew’s faith - and admittance to the unity of G-d. Being that we read the Shema at least twice each day - morning and evening - it is obviously a sign that this Mitzvah is a key to much of our life.

Yet, many of us read these words of prayer each day and often neglect to understand just what we're saying. While many men grab hold of their Tallises kissing them with love, one may wonder if this love is expressed through the other Mitzvos included in the Shema. Or, are we perhaps fooling ourselves as we close our eyes in great Devekus (cleaving to G-d) without actually being aware of what we're saying? Are these words the essence of it all – or is there something we actually need to do with them?!

”Going through the motions” - as they say. Perhaps this is what it's all about. Making certain every word of the Shema is said correctly with absolute and perfect enunciation of each letter! And when it comes to speaking of the Tefillin - we kiss them concentrating on our love for them. And so too with Tzitzit. When reciting about the Mitzvah of Mezuzah - mentioned in two of the three paragraphs we read – perhaps we should get up and at the very least - kiss a Mezuzah on one of the doors closest to us! Maybe this is what it’s really all about? And if not this, then at least we should have great intention in concentrating on this beautiful Mitzvah - hoping we can fulfill it and fall in love with it too!

Yet, there is a sad truth for all of us - finding ourselves in a world of deception. External behaviour - while highly commendable for its outward display of excitement - does not help in actually fulfilling the Mitzvot at all. On the contrary, we fall into the trap of serving G-d with our lips and forgetting to actually do what needs to be done! Are we substituting the real Mitzvah of the Mezuzah parchment for the artistic covering instead – thinking we’re doing the right thing?! The Mishna in Pirkei Avot states, "Action is the main thing!"

Our thoughts and words, prayers and hopes and everything related to letters is really only the foundation for what we really need to do. TO DO!

On our side, this is only one side of the deception dilemma, substituting a cover for the inner content itself… There is a far bigger problem we are facing today. This is that we are not able to attend to every Mitzvah as we actually want to do. There’s often much more to doing a Mitzvah than we are able to do on our own.

In our world, each of us contributes to in some way - and each of us relies upon the other. We hope and pray that each person will do the right thing, so that when it comes to our fulfilling a Mitzvah, for example - Tefillin and Mezuzos - we trust those writing them so that when we ourselves wish to fulfil these Mitzvot, we are able to do so knowing that the scribe did his part correctly! Of course, he'd have to learn thousands of laws! And he'd have to be most careful to fulfil them with fear of G-d! Imagine receiving a perfectly written pair of Tefillin, never to find out that the scribe had never written the text in order as he should have – something that would invalidate the Tefillin completely?! Of course, we'd be none the wiser to ever know this. Each time we would have our Tefillin checked, the scribe would tell us that they were Kosher... and we'd never know they weren't!



It may seem hard to believe, but even if one finds oneself in a place like Israel itself - one can end up being deceived by many people when it comes to Torah matters. As a result, we can end up honestly trying to fulfil Mitzvot - and sometimes never actually fulfilling them at all.

One of the biggest problems one might find (although there are far more than this!) is with the Mitzvah of the Mezuzah. While we are all focussing on this Mitzvah at least twice a day - and seeing these "Door Decorations" each day as we walk in and out of the rooms we pass through, it is a sad reality, that the *majority* of Mezuzot written today are simply not kosher!

This means that many people are living in homes without the right "equipment"! While they think they're living a kosher Torah life, they are actually doing nothing more than... decorating their doors!




A Mezuzah is a hand written script written by a qualified scribe - filled with fear of heaven - which includes two paragraphs from the Torah. The first paragraph deals with the important concepts of G-d's unity and our need to love Him. It also speaks of the commandment to place Mezuzot on one's doorposts. The second paragraph speaks about the various rewards and punishments for obeying or disobeying the commandments of the Torah. It also includes the Mitzvah of Mezuzah.

Photocopies from a holy book will just not do! Neither will writing these paragraphs on a beautiful gold piece of paper - no matter its value! And while everybody may be able to see the differences in the latest fonts one can download on one's computer today, a Mezuzah must be written by hand with the exact same script - perfectly – every single time on the exact same animal-skin parchment.

And while in the world of italics, linking letters and designing the text with all sorts of loops can be delightful to look at - the Mezuzah may have no such things! Each letter must be perfectly spaced on its own. Once the name of G-d is written (in absolute purity of course!) - it may not be erased. So even if the scribe feels he'd like it to look just a little better, he may not touch those letters any longer. Of course, just erasing things wherever the scribe likes and touching things up - is not quite part of the "game" either! In fact, the rules for the appearance of the entire Mezuzah are quite complicated indeed!

And if even one of them is not fulfilled - it may be that the next Mezuzah you buy - or the one you already have - will be PASSUL - not kosher! No matter how beautiful it looks to you.

Don't imagine that because a Mezuzah is being purchased from a religious looking person that it's kosher either, even if you are told it is a checked Mezuzah. In fact, every single Mezuzah should be checked at the time of purchasing it, by a reliable scribe who is registered with Mishmeret STAM! One should take it IMMEDIATELY to another scribe who can check it and validate its kashrut standard!

But there's much more to Mezuzahs. Not only must the script be written correctly, but in addition, the Mezuzah must be placed in the correct position on the doorway, and on the correct side of the door. If not done, this too will invalidate the kosher status of the Mezuzah - and fulfilling the Mitzvah correctly.

There is much to learn, and this blog could well go on forever. Instead, below you will find a beautiful and entertaining 15 minute film / slideshow showing the importance of the Mitzvah - and just how awry things can become when not done correctly. In addition, there are three beautiful links for you to direct your browser to in order to learn more about this precious Mitzvah. On these sites, you'll learn exactly what a Mezuzah is. You'll learn about the problems that the world is currently experiencing with the overwhelming surge of unfitting Mezuzahs. And you'll learn about the famous Mishmeret Stam organisation. An organisation set to putting a standard on kosher Tefillin, Mezuzahs and Sifrei Torah. There's also a site devoted to MIRACLE STORIES - of people who have experienced much difficulty - only to have their Tefillin or Mezuzahs checked - and found to be PASSUL - not kosher. One sees amazingly that the very difficulty encountered, was hinted to in the Mezuzah itself!

Did you know there are even rabbis who can read everything about your life through a Mezuzah?! The "Mysterious Mezuzah" is not a Mitzvah to take lightly. Rather, it is one that may take weeks and months of work before coming right. There is much work to be done. If you have *any* doubt regarding the status of your Mezuzahs or Tefillin, get them checked immediately! If you're not sure what to do and need help, contact a *competent* rabbi who can help and take you seriously! Check that every room in your house that requires one has one, and that it is positioned in the correct position.

This can all only add in bringing blessing into each of our lives!

The Lubavitcher Rebbe would very often tell people experiencing difficulties - to check their Mezuzot and their Tefillin. Those who did so to find things wrong, would correct what needed to be done, which would set things back in place, bringing blessing where necessary. Once our lives are in balance with the Torah’s commandments, blessings flow naturally – exactly the theme of the second paragraph of the Shema!

Then there were others who even after checking their Mezuzot, would find them to be in perfect condition, thinking that perhaps the Rebbe may have made a mistake. Yet the Rebbe continued to tell them to check their Mezuzot. Perhaps he knew something more about the scribe who wrote them. Perhaps it was here where the problem lay. Perhaps just one letter was written out of order... and yet, we'd never be the wiser to see this…

To view an entertaining 15 minute clip teaching all about the Mezuzah – click here:

The link will automatically launch your Real Audio Viewer (if you have one) and begin. Unfortunately it cannot be embedded into the blog at this point in time. - Learn the ins and outs of Mezuzah basics. - Learn more about Mezuzot and Tefillin - Learn about this world organisation that’s setting things right! - Read a selection of miracle stories with pictures!

Tuesday, 24 June 2008

Rambam - Laws of Gifts to the Poor - Chapter 10 - Law 2


Dedicated for an Illuy Neshama to:
Nathan Gershon ben Nathan ז"ל


"It will never be that a person will become poor through giving Tzeddakah (charity - see Law 1 in this series,) and no bad thing or damage will come about because of the Tzeddakah. As it says, 'And the outcome of the act of Tzeddakah will be Shalom (peace.)' (Isaiah 32:17)

"Anyone who has mercy (on others), they (G-d) will have mercy upon him. As it says, 'And He will give mercy to you, and He will have mercy upon you and He will multiply you.' (Deuteronomy 13:18)

"And anyone who is cruel and does not have mercy, there is to suspect his ancestory, for cruelty is only to be found with idolators. As it says, 'They are cruel and they will not show mercy.' (Jeremiah 50:42)

"And all of Israel and those who accompany them are like brothers. As it says, 'You are children to the L-rd your G-d.' (Deuteronomy 14:1)

"And if a brother will not have mercy upon a brother, who will have mercy upon him?! And to whom will the poor of Israel lift up their eyes to?! To the idolators who hate them and pursue after them?! Indeed their eyes are directed only towards their brothers."


While we are constantly worrying what will become of us for giving up something that we feel belongs to us, the Rambam points out the folly in this. Charity - kindness - does not result in a loss. On the contrary. As our Rabbis have taught, the money one spends for Shabbos and Yom Tov is all on G-d's account and will certainly come back to one! There are those who say that this applies to all commandments of the Torah, and the money which one spends in serving G-d is truly on HIS account!

It's true, it may seem like we're giving up some of our own money. But we know all to well that sometimes, once in a while, we walk into the clothing shop when there's a special on, and we get 30% off on that beautiful garment we'd love to have. While just yesterday we were unable to afford it, today, it's one special!

And then of course there are those days where everything is going perfectly... until the sirens blaring behind us wake us in realising we may be travelling beyond the speed limit. And we could be in for a fine... Then again, sometimes the fine just doesn't go through!

Then there are those times where the plumbing just doesn't work and the service fee for the plumber can take us off guard! And then, there are those days where we purchased some magazine with coupons in it - and we're in for much savings off items we really need. And then there are those days where for some odd reason money - which had no basis for coming to one - simply found it's way to one's very doorstep!

Such is life!

Of course, G-d never actually writes us a cheque with His signature on it - assuring us that He's paying us back for all our efforts in kindness. Besides, how many of us would want to cash such a cheque - it has G-d's very own signature on it after all. It could be worth a small fortune, if we'd just find some wealthy person out there who'd like to frame it! But the truth is, the cheques are indeed signed. While actual physical people sign them, they only work - whether coming through to a person or whether the bank cashes them - because G-d makes it happen!

So while we're living our lives apparently seeing the reality of how things really are, G-d is monitoring just how kind we are with others, and through His "individual divine providence" - Hashagacha Pratit, He begins an amazing orchestration of events that brings us to certain places on certain days - meeting certain people at certain times. And all of this has a huge bearing on just what happens with our money that day - and forever more.

It may seem like our salaries are fixed - or even if we work alone, it may seem like we're always just pushing the mark to make it through the month - but in either of these cases, there is no such thing as a fixed amount. In fact, we are not only judged once a year on Rosh HaShanah, but each and every day throughout the year - and in fact each moment. One kind deed can suddenly turn the wheel of fortune around for us bringing us to the opposite side. There are no rules to the "Mitzvah Game!" There are no revealed rewards or points offered for each thing that we do. But it is certain that our kind deeds do in fact change things for us. And certainly by bringing further kindness in the world, one can rest assured that no harm will befall one.

And if it may seem that some harm did indeed befall one, and one wonders just how such things could come about when we've listened so hard to the Rambam in understanding about no harm befalling us for doing good, perhaps we should rethink it out again. Perhaps, in fact, we were saved from something far worse occurring. Perhaps, G-d, in His kindness, actually orchestrated an event of "hardship" to actually bring further goodness to one.

Imagine the story of the poor man who for years battled through his day to day work just to make ends meet. Nobody offered him a real job and he simply lacked any sort of good fortune. And then, suddenly with no money in his bank account and not much to look forward to in life, he fell, breaking both his legs. Imagine the pain such an individual would go through. Imagine his anger at the event! He is rushed to hospital, to find himself in a bed directly opposite a multi-millionaire tycoon! And they begin talking about life. The wealthy man is impressed with the sincerity of the poor man, and before long has offered him a job working for him - offering him the luxuries of wealth, decent working conditions, and a friendly working environment. As things turned out, the tycoon has a beautiful daughter who is of marriageable age - and it just seems like the perfect Shidduch... Months later, the wheel of fortune turn, and this poor fellow begins to see only revealed good in his life.

What would he say now of his fall? Yet many times this is exactly what happens with each of us. Sometimes we see the revealed good, and other times, it is hidden - but it does exist (somewhere!) If we're only patient enough to look for it - or to examine ourselves and objectively see where we stand with things, we might actually see the good in everything. Strange but true!

But not only does the Rambam state that no harm will come to a person from giving Tzeddakah, but more so, G-d will actually give a person even more! Mercy has a strange way of working. When we give of it just a little below - G-d awakens much more above. And although we may not always see it, it is certainly happening - right before our eyes. One may well remember a time that one went through a "Stop" sign without not only being noticed, but not encountering another car. Yet we often fail to notice the "small" miracles... But they happen.

The Rambam points out though - that for a Jew - the natural thing is to act kindly - to give Tzeddakah when it's always needed. To think that a Jew can think anything less than this, would be to seriously have to consider if in fact he is a Jew!

A Jew undertands though that he has only another Jew to turn to. While we rely completely on G-d for everything, when it comes to practical efforts, we keep together and work together. We behave in ways that clearly shows that when we are in need of help - there is another Jew who will be there to help us.

But perhaps, instead of always saying - I hope one day that another Jew will help me, why not turn it around and hope to be that very Jew himself! There's no need to have to wait for Elijah the Prophet to appear before one helping one out in everything one needs. One can rather take the initiative and the role to be Elijah the Prophet himself, helping others when they most need it!

May our acts of kindness and love for our fellow man unite us all so that we may be deserving of the final redemption with the revelation of Moshiach and may we be redeemed immediately!

Sunday, 22 June 2008

Zohar - Parshas Korach - Do Everything for the Shechina - Now!




Do Everything for the Shechina – Now – While You Can in This World!

(Rabbi Elazar was standing in front of Rabbi Shimon his father. He said to him, he asked him, behold “It is written (Kohelet 9:9), ‘See life with the woman whom you love, all the fleeting days of your life.’” What is the intention of the verse? For apparently it appears that he is advising a person to live a life of pleasure with his wife. He – Rabbi Shimon his father – said to him, “Come and see, for as it is written, ‘See life with the woman you love,’ this is a secret!” This verse is a secret that a person needs to include life – this means the Mochin [the mentalities, Chochma, Bina, Daat] of Z”A in this place – the Malchut which is called ‘woman’. This without that does not go, this means Z”A without Malchut won’t do anything, since all the work of Z”A is through the means of Malchut. And a person is required to include the attribute of day with night, this means that one needs to include Z”A with Malchut, and the attribute of night with day, this means Malchut with Z”A. And this is the secret of what is written “See life” – see to draw down life from Z”A with the woman whom you love to Malchut which is called ‘woman’, and through this to unify them. What is the reason? And he asks, what is the reason one needs to unify them, and he answers, “Since the Malchut is a portion of life, this means – that life of Z”A does not dwell except upon this – Malchut. And if a person wants to hold onto Z”A, it is impossible for him unless he holds onto Malchut.)

[The Zohar now goes no to illustrate with some examples how we can practically apply the teaching above. Our efforts in the world need to be centred on drawing spiritual energy and holiness into the “physically gross” and material world. By taking the male aspect of flow – Z”A, and channelling it correctly, with the correct intentions and behaviour into this world – Malchut – we are able to make a unification between the “male” and “female” aspects of G-d, causing tremendous joy above. The Zohar will now quote another teaching of King Solomon and show the connection between the teaching above of King Solomon’s together with this one below.]

And as it is written “And in your toil which you exert under the sun,” – what type of “toil” is spoken about? Like he – King Solomon – said in another place (Mishlei 3:6), “In all your ways know Him, and He will straighten your paths.” This means that even in worldly [general] matters a person should intend towards the supernal union. For example if a person builds a house, he should say ‘A house hints to the Shechina [the Indwelling Divine Presence], and I am building the house to adorn the Shechina. And when I – a person – will dwell inside it, it will be hinting as if the Supernal Man – which is the Holy One Blessed be He (the secret of Z”A) is dwelling together with the Shechina.’ And for another example, if one will purchase new garments for ones wife, he should say that those adorning garments will be for the Shechina. And similar examples. [It is worthwhile to read Tomer Devorah by the Ramak, Chapter 9 “Malchut” where Rabbi Moshe Cordovero discusses these very ideas of doing everything for the sake of the Shechina – for the sake of Malchut.]

The explanation of the verse which is brought below “Everything that your hand finds to do” to accumulate Mitzvot and good deeds, “Do!” while you are living in this world, since, “There is no doing,” of Mitzvot in Sheol [lit: the grave, hell], for the dead are already free from performing Mitzvot, “And accounting,” and there is no longer the time to make an accounting with one’s soul, “Knowledge and wisdom,” and likewise this is not the time to complete knowledge and wisdom that was imposed upon one to study in this world. Therefore see to it that while in this world, to do what is in the strength of your hand to do, in order to complete and perfect your obligation/debt in this world.

Rabbi Elazar said to him – to his father Rabbi Shimon, “It is written afterwards,” after this verse it says (Kohelet 9:10), “Everything that you find in the strength of your hand to do – do! For there is no doing and accounting, knowledge and wisdom in Sheol where you are going.” And behold, “This verse needs to be contemplated, what is written, “Everything that you find in the strength of your hand to do – do! And did Solomon who had supernal wisdom more than any person in the world say this? For it appears from this that a person is able to do all the desires of his heart and he won’t be punished on his bad actions. Has the strap been loosened?” He – Rabbi Shimon – said to him – his son, behold it is known that “All the words of King Solomon were said according to secret wisdom.”

Come and see what is written, “Everything that you find in the strength of your hand to do – do!” This is that a person is required to do, to include the left in the right, since all the deeds of the lower world are from the left side which is Gevurah (Severity). Therefore one needs to include Chesed (Kindness) of the right. And this is by means of having intention in all one’s actions for the sake of heaven and for the unification of the Holy One Blessed be He and His Shechina. And everything that he does in physical matters, he should be careful that they should not be to the left side, but rather that they be included in the right i.e. the spiritual, and this is what is written, “Everything that you find your hand,” this is the left which is called ‘hand’. “To do with your strength,” this is the right which is called “strength,” since the main strength of a person is in his right. Like it is written (Shemot 15:6), “Your right hand – G-d – is glorified with strength,” (and the secret of this thing is that the root of strength is in Bina, and it bestows to Chesed.)

And since a person will be careful that all his actions will be to the right side, i.e. that all his physical actions will be included within spiritual matters, and he will include the left in the right, then the Holy One Blessed be He dwells inside him in this world, and will help him in his work, and after his death, He will gather him to Himself in the world to come.

And let a person not say, that at the time that I come to that supernal world, then I will request mercy from the King Blessed is He, and I will return [repent] in front of Him. But rather, about this King Solomon said, “For there is no deed and account and knowledge and wisdom,” after a person leaves from this world. It is impossible for a person to then study knowledge and wisdom and to do good deeds once he has left this world. Rather, if a person wants the Holy King to illuminate the supernal world for him and to give him a portion in the world to come, he should put in the effort in this world to include his actions in the right, and all his actions should be for the sake of the Holy One Blessed be He, i.e. to unify the Malchut with Z”A. For after he leaves this world and he is judged in harsh judgment in the judgment of Gehinnom regarding his sins, there is no advice and wisdom and understanding there to save him from judgment.


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.

Friday, 20 June 2008

Shir LaMa'alot - Psalm 121 - Yosef Karduner

One of the most beautiful melodies to this Psalm of King David.

Composed by Rabbi Yosef Karduner.

For more information about Rabbi Karduner -
his story and how he came to compose this beautiful music,

Tehillim (Psalms) 121

A Song to the ascents.
I raise my eyes to the mountains - from where will my help come?
My help is from Hashem, the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to falter; your Guardian will not rest.
Behold, the Guardian of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps.
Hashem is your Guardian; Hashem is your protective Shade at your right hand.
By day the sun will not harm you, nor the moon by night.
Hashem will guard you from all bad, He will guard your soul.
Hashem will guard your going out and your coming in, from now and forever.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Redemption NOW - Through Charity

Laws of Gifts to the Poor


"We are obligated to be careful with the commandment of charity more so than with all the positive commandments. For charity is a sign of the righteous person - of the children of Abraham our father. As it says, 'For I have (known) loved him because he commands his children... to do righteousness (Tzedakkah, charity.)' And the throne of Israel will not be established, and the religion of truth will not stand except through Tzeddakah. As it says, 'Establish yourself through Tzeddakah.' And the Jewish people will not be redeemed except through Tzeddakah - as it says, 'Zion will be redeemed through justice and those who return to her through Tzedakkah.'"

What is Charity - Tzeddakah?

Many think of themselves as helping others when they give of their hard earned money to those less fortunate than they are - or perhaps to those who may not work as hard as they do. Is charity truly only one-sided?! Is it possible that more than one benefits when charity is given?! Can giving actually be done with a smile? Is the receiver any less important because he receives?!

The (general) world perceives charity as something to be pitied. Those who walk around without are to be pitied, and those who have often drop a few coins into a charity box in the hope of walking off with a sticker to place on their shirts - showing all and sundry that they have recently donated something to this worthy cause.

Others look for higher goals - where stickers are not enough, and obtaining plaques on synagogues - with their names engraved upon them are the fashion. And then there are yet others who feel that having their names splashed across entire buildings are the hallmark of what charity is really all about. Is it all about caring for the other, or is there an ulterior motive involved? Do we so easily want to give when we don't really know what's in it for ourselves?! Do we feel as comfortable giving to a beggar dressed in rags as we do to a large organisation with a million dollar building?! Are we even prepared to give those who may "bother" us every so often - and more? Aren't we in charge of our money and haven't we earned and deserved every cent we have?! Perhaps if only those "beggars" would get a job, the world would be a far better place!

While giving and expecting some sort of reward, acclaim and appreciation is not in any way wrong - and in fact in many cases is praised - as it encourages others to give, we need to understand the Hebrew language clearly before deciding just what real charity is all about.

The Hebrew word for kindness - the apparent act that we are doing when we give charity, is in fact Chesed. Tzeddakah, however, comes from the word Tzeddek - something that is right! Charity may be a concept that we have been brought up with. But REAL Tzeddakah is doing the right thing! We give because this is what is demanded from us - by the Giver of all! There does not have to necessarily be any reward attached.

G-d has created His world in a unique manner. While He certainly could have provided for everybody with his every need - as we will experience in the times of the revelation of Moshiach and onwards - He chose to create his world with a give-and-take system - so that it would be able to exist through MERCY. In fact, not just through mercy - but to simply exist altogether!

There are some who have - because it is G-d's wish that they give - to emulate G-d Himself. And there are those who lack - because it is also G-d's wish that the world operate in accordance with mercy. G-d could easily turn the tables. There is no logical reason why one person should have and another lack - no matter how hard they work or how smart they are. These factors too - are blessings from G-d!

The Tzemach Tzeddek - the third Rebbe of Chabad points this out in a discourse. He speaks of the truth of G-d's creation. G-d wanted a world where giving would occur. But in order for giving to happen, there needs to be a recipient. Without a recipient, nobody would be able to give!

Imagine a world filled with people who all had sufficient for their every need and desire... There would end up being absolutely no communication between anybody at all - what with everybody having their needs fulfilled already! Instead G-d set up a system for interaction, where all would have to turn to somebody some time in their lives. There must be givers and there must be receivers. In fact, without someone to receive, one can never become a giver! And isn't this what we all wish to be?!

When the Rebbe spoke of these matters he also began to cry... Yes, it's fine that there must be givers and receivers, but the poor man asks - why can I not be the one who HAS?!

Being a child of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob means that one is blessed with 3 inborn qualities. If one examines oneself and finds one of these qualities lacking, one should surely reflect on the quality of one's soul. The children of Abraham are merciful, shy and doers of kindness!

These qualities express clearly what a Jewish soul is truly all about. It is a soul that wishes to do kindness - naturally! There is no need for force or compulsion. There is no need to feel one is pitifully helping another less fortunate. Rather, the Jew is totally consumed and concerned with doing acts of kindness, having mercy on another, and feeling a little embarassed - perhaps that he has been blessed with more than another.

G-d has loved Avraham. He loves him - because he (Avraham) commands his children to do acts of kindness and give charity. In fact, as the Rambam points out through quoting from the prophet Isaiah - it is only through our acts of charity - righteousness - of doing what is the RIGHT thing to do that ultimately the final redemption will occur.

May we examine the commandment of charity from another angle and see that more than the giver gives to the receiver, that in fact it is the receiver who gives to the giver. For the receiver provides the giver with a reason or oportunity to give, and this is often more difficult to do than the obvious, external giving. This change of focus should give us the strength to feel an automatic sense of shyness (at G-d's gift towards ourselves), mercy towards others who may not have what we do, and set us up to act kindly to all, and may this indeed hasten the redemption and that we be taken out of exile IMMEDIATELY!


We will continue in the weeks to come
with the theme of charity
as discussed by the Rambam.

We will be discussing the commandment in all it's particulars
including the various levels of giving.

There are so many ways to give.
If you're interested in finding someone
to give something specific to

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Next Tehillim Group!

Our Tehillim Group
Takes Place
Every Shabbos Day
No Matter Where You Are!


CONTACT: Shoshanah:


We want to create a complete unity with Jews all around the world in saying these holy words, with the hope and prayer, that through the recital of the words of psalms, composed by King David, that our prayers will be heard.


We will be saying Tehillim for anybody in distress or need of anything. This may include you / family / friends. Categories of needs may include Refuah (Healing), Shidduch (Marriage Partner), Parnassah (Wealth, job etc.), Hatzlacha (Success) - including success in Torah study, Yiras Shamayim (Fear of Heaven), etc.


If you would like to add names to the list of people to daven (pray) for, please send through the Hebrew names together with the name of the mother and what the request is for (as above.)

Names can be sent to:

Please CAPITALIZE all first letters of names, and prepare your list in an easily readable format. As there may be hundreds of names, it makes it that much easier to compile into one complete list formatted neatly.

SAMPLE: "Avraham ben Ploni Almoni - Refuah"

All names will be read out before the Tehillim are recited. In this way everyone will have in mind to pray for all those on the list.

For every name you submit, please be prepared to say at least one Tehillim yourself on the same day as we are saying the Tehillim together.

This way everybody realizes the importance of everybody else, rather than simply submitting a list of one hundred people (or more!) and relying upon someone else to pray for you. Unfortunately those saying the Tehillim may not be Rebbes, and as this is a free project, we rely upon everyone wishing to submit names to take part in the project as much as we do.

This is a project which includes all of us! The list of names will be sent to everybody participating. Every Jew is important, and it is absolutely necessary that every person saying Tehillim read off the names on the entire list.


Please send through your names by the LATEST the Wednesday preceding the Shabbos of the Tehillim so that we can make sure the list is properly and neatly compiled and sent out in a timely fashion.

For more information about the Tehillim group and for articles and Torah for women go directly to the women's section at:



The power of answering AMEN is tremendous, having a variety of blessings attached to it. It is said that the answering of "AMEN" to another person's Brocha - blessing - creates an angel. An angel that defends one and aids one when in need.

See the book "The Power of One Word" for more information.

Since we are praying for so many people in need, we also want to do something additional to strengthen the power of the holy words of Psalms. To make them even more concrete by doing something physical, by bringing down the spiritual goodness into something in the physical world.

We are therefore following the group recital of Tehillim with a Brocha party - a blessing party. A variety of foods is available allowing all to make all the blessings available, including a blessing on grape juice, cake, a fruit, a vegetable, as well as crisps or chocolate.

Those women attending the Brocha party in person are all invited to take part in the selection of foods that will be available.

The catch? You will need to recite your blessing aloud for all the other women to answer to. In this way, there will be many "AMEN's" being said over each Brocha. Since each women will make 5 Brocha's, already there will be 5 additional angels created in the merit of all those in need of prayer. The more women that join us, the more AMEN's will be said, thus creating HUNDREDS of angels to act in the defense of all those people on our lists.


Taken from


Once there was a cloth merchant who lived in Medzhibuz, the hometown of the holy Baal Shem Tov. The merchant wanted to sell his wares in the city of Whitefield, but was afraid to go because a band of robbers was known to attack travelers on the road to that city. His wife told him: "The Baal Shem Tov travels that road. Why don't you give his driver Alexei some money with a bottle of whiskey and he'll tell you which day the Baal Shem Tov will make his next trip. You can travel along with him and you will not have to fear." Although the merchant wasn't a follower of the Baal Shem Tov, he took his wife's advice.

And so it happened. The next time the Baal Shem Tov planned a trip to Whitefield, Alexei told the merchant on which day they would leave. The merchant loaded his wagon and left at the same time as the Baal Shem Tov. When the two wagons arrived at the forest where the robbers were supposed to hide, the Baal Shem Tov ordered Alexei to stop and allow the horses to graze. The merchant became very frightened. The Baal Shem Tov positioned the wagons opposite each other and sat down between them. He opened the Book of the Zohar, the primary text of Kabbala study, and started to read with intense concentration.

Suddenly the robbers appeared, but when they got close to the wagons, they were seized with trembling and quickly fled. When they stopped running, the robbers said to each other: "What's wrong with us? Let's go and rob them." But when they approached the wagons again, the robbers were again seized by trembling and ran away. Later, when the Baal Shem Tov and the merchant continued on their journey, the robbers were afraid to go after them. "This is not a simple matter," they remarked.

When the merchant saw what happened, he hugged and kissed the Baal Shem Tov and said: "Now Rabbi, I know your greatness.

The Baal Shem Tov replied: "Well you might think that you know, but you still do not know."


Over a 100 years later, in 1856, Rebbe Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch (known as the Tzemach Tzedek) sent his son (and eventual successor) Rabbi Shmuel to St. Petersburg on matters of communal concern.

The night before Rabbi Shmuel left, his father said to him: "In 1843, when I was summoned to the rabbinical conference in St. Petersburg, I went to pray at my mother's grave in Liozna. She told me that due to her self-sacrifice for her father and for Chassidism [see Story #154 -y.t.] she was granted entry to the heavenly palace of the Baal Shem Tov. She asked the Baal Shem Tov to pray for me, and to provide something to help me withstand the enemies of Chassidism.

"The Baal Shem Tov answered her: 'Your son knows by heart the books Chumash ("Five Books of Moses"), Tehillim (Psalms), and Tanya (a primary Chasidic text). We learn from the Torah that the sons of the Patriarch Jacob were not harmed by the Canaanites, because "the dread (chitas in Hebrew) of G-d was upon the cities around them" (Gen. 35:5). The three consonants of the word chitas are the first letters of the Hebrew names of the three books: Chumash, Tehillim, Tanya. One who is thoroughly acquainted with every letter in them is granted the spiritual strength to shatter any obstacles that could prevent the revelation of holiness.'

"Therefore," the Rebbe instructed his son Rabbi Shmuel, "wherever you may be, whether in government buildings or with government ministers, recite a chapter each from Chumash, Tehillim, and Tanya."

Many years later, when Rabbi Shmuel recounted this experience to his son (and eventual successor), Rabbi Shalom Ber, he added: "It was a wonderful prescription. With the first three chapters of the Chumash, three psalms from the Book of Tehillim, and three chapters of Tanya, all the plans of our opponents collapsed, and Torah-true Judaism triumphed."


So now, we follow the Baal Shem Tov's heavenly advice and study Chitas -- a section of Chumash, Tehillim and Tanya -- every day. Shavuot is an especially propitious time to renew or initiate this practice. The Torah (Chumash) was given on Shavuot; King David (composer of Tehillim/Psalms) and the Baal Shem Tov (whose teachings are in Tanya) passed away on Shavuot.

[Edited by Yrachmiel Tilles from the adaption of his friend Howard M. Cohn ( appearing on, based on Shivchei Ha-Besht, Story No. 123.]

Biographical note:
Rabbi Yisrael, the Baal Shem Tov ["master of the good Name"], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed the Chassidic movement and his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 1734. He passed away on the festival of Shavuot in 1760. He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava'at Harivash, published by Kehos. For an ongoing online translation of Sefer Baal Shem Tov, go to the above-mentioned


Sunday, 15 June 2008

Learn the Entire RAMBAM in Just One Year!

BEGINS 13 SIVAN 5768 - 16 JUNE 2008!!!

One of the aims of this blog is to set out realistic attainable goals in being able to work through learning the main works of Torah.

Many of these works seem insurmountable. Yet with diligence and effort, one can manage to work through many of these main works of Torah in good time.

Some may think learning all these works may be unattainable even through their entire lives, but when one follows the advice of our Sages, one can readily see that many times, one can work through major works in just one year.

All it takes is steady learning each day.
Sometimes just two chapters a day. Sometimes three. But with a realistic goal in sight, one can indeed manage these schedules and succeed in learning huge amounts of Torah, building up a storehouse of knowledge of the fullness and richness of the entire Torah.

While working through just one page of Talmud a day will allow one to work through the entire ShaS (the entire oral Torah,) in about seven and a half years - there is another way of gaining the essential laws from Shas by working through another major classic.

The Rambam - the Yad HaChazaka - the Mishneh Torah: the Magnum Opus written by Maimonides (1135-1204) includes 1000 chapters of Jewish law summarizing the full gamut of laws as brought in the Oral Law of Torah - the Talmud.


In the year 5742 (1982), The Lubavitcher Rebbe began a new campaign asking all Jews to unite in their learning of the Rambam each day in order to complete the learning of all the laws of the Torah together. He allowed for three schedules:
  1. Those wishing to complete the cycle of learning Rambam in one year could do so by learning 3 chapters a day.
  2. If one is unable to do this, one can learn one chapter a day and complete the cycle over 3 years.
  3. And if one is still unable to cope with this schedule, one can learn the relevant chapters from the Rambam's more concise code of law - the Sefer HaMitzvos. This is recommended especially for women and those people starting out in learning the basic laws of the Torah in an easily digestable form.
The Rambam, in his introduction to his work, speaks openly about the difficulties of even his generation (1000 years ago) understanding the Talmud properly. He thereby gives the student of his work the opportunity to get a full grasp of the laws contained in the Talmud without the need for having to learn the entire Talmud.

This is no excuse for not learning Talmud - and one must put in effort to learning all parts of Torah.

The Talmud is the absolute root of the entire Oral Law. One can never exempt oneself from learning it because it appears difficult.

Nevertheless when we wish to progress in actual law, the Rambam is by far the greatest main root source for understanding what the Law of the Torah is all about. Indeed, it is the absolute royal road to understanding all aspects of Torah Law (including the Shulchan Aruch and onwards.)

On the other side, one who learns Talmud while referencing back to the Rambam gains an even greater appreciation of just how great the Rambam was in setting up his work as he had done.

Someone with a solid foundation of Rambam literally carries the basic keys to opening up all of Jewish Law. Nevertheless, one who learns Rambam, by no means becomes an Halachic authority of any kind - as in many cases we do not follow the Rambam. But he certainly has the advantage of being aware of all aspects of Jewish law as they are dealt with in the root Oral Law itself - the Talmud.

The Rambam includes laws that are applicable in our times, as well as those laws applicable only at the times that the Temple is standing. And being that life changes and the Torah needs to be understood for the particular generation living at that time (i.e. as is dealt with by the Halachic authorities of the generation) - many things that the Rambam speaks about need to be questioned and applied and re-learned so that we can understand his words better for our times. All these matters need to be spoken of in much greater detail and cannot be dealt with adequately in a short column such as this.

The above points in no way allow for not learning Talmud - nor for following the ways of conservative and reform Judaism or any other practice of Judaism foreign to traditional Orthodox values as taught by the leading sages of the generation. Rambam is not the final authority in Jewish law, yet he definitely contains the roots for truly progressing in one's own learning.

The beauty of learning Rambam includes:
  1. One can complete learning the entire Oral Law in ONE YEAR and become an expert in the entire Torah!!!
  2. It contains the root to all Jewish Law - it is the royal road to Jewish law!
  3. The language is clear and easy to follow.
  4. The laws are straight forward without the need to debate the issues (at root level.)
  5. One can unite with tens of thousands of Jews around the world in learning the same piece of Torah each day
For more information:

See the study schedule for this year:

For further interest read about "Unity through Rambam"

To become more involved with audio Shiurim and more, see:


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"And I saw to compile... all the laws in a clear language and in a short manner so that the Oral Torah in it's entirety is organised in the mouths of all.

"Without questioning and resolving... the point of it is in order that no person will need any other work... but rather this compilation is a compendium to the entire Oral Torah with enactments and customs and decrees that were made from the days of Moses our teacher up until the compilation of the Gemara, and just like the Geonim explained to us in all their compilations that they compiled after the Gemara.

"Therefore I have called the name of this compilation "Mishneh Torah" (Second Torah) - since a person reads the Written Torah first and afterwards he reads this and he knows from it the ENTIRE ORAL TORAH!!! AND HE DOESN'T NEED TO READ ANY OTHER BOOK BETWEEN THEM!!!"



"A person should learn Jewish law (Halacha) every day from the book "Yad HaChazaka" according to an order."; "In the evening after the evening prayers (Maariv) he should learn the holy RAMBAM, for I received from my holy techer (i.e. the Baal Shem Tov) that it is a Segula (a charm and treasure) for obtaining fear of heaven and to destroy the external evil forces (Chitzonim)!!!"

--- The Maggid of Mezritch. Rabbi Dov Ber (? - 1772)

"A person needs to complete 613 Mitzvos in action, in speech and in thought. And therefore one should learn "The Great Hand" of the RAMBAM... that in it is the explanation for the 613 Mitzvos."

--- Sefer Ohr Tzaddikim by Rabbi Meir Poppers of the students of the Ari

"I added that every day they should learn... a few laws from the RAMBAM. and Maharash ben HaRashbatz wrote in his responsa Simon 52 that if one learns two laws of RAMBAM, he fulfills "Learning Halachos each day" and it is assured that he has a place in the world to come!!!"

--- The Chida - Rabbi Chaim Dovid Azulai

"Be careful and enthusiastic in the study of RAMBAM"

--- Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Kotsk

"At the Seer of Lublin they would delay in davening Mincha each day - and also on Shabbos... and before Mincha the holy Rabbi of Lublin would enter his room and studied one law of the RAMBAM - and so was his holy way"

--- Rabbi Yaakov Yitzchak Horwitz (the Seer of Lublin)

"I heard from the mouth of the Chassid Rabbi Yitzchak Landau that Rabbi Aharon of Belz was strict in not letting one day pass without learning a few laws in RAMBAM, and this study was considered by him in the category of a 'statute that one does not transgress'"

--- Concerning Rabbi Aharon of Belz



"I bless all those who join in the study of RAMBAM, and at their head the holy honorable ADMOR of Lubavitch, may Hashem lengthen his days and years with pleasantness and make the Torah great and glorious - Amen, so may it be His will... And upon them should come the blessing of good in the spiritual and material, Amen, so may it be His will."

--- Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri - head of the Kabbalists in the Holy Land (? - 2006)

"In the study of RAMBAM there is a great thing like the learning of ShaS. Firstly that the entire community of Israel will learn all the Mitzvos, and in addition to this, there is the great and wonderous matter that the community of Israel will learn together one thing, because the united responsibility that all Israel are mutually responsible for each other and intertwined with each other... And it is definitely worthwhile to join and to learn, and afterwards they'll feel the pleasantness and the sweetness of RAMBAM"

--- The Pnei Menachem - Rebbe of Ger (said at the concluding ceremony of the learning of Rambam)

"The essential thing of fulfilling the covenant with our Father in heaven is by studying Torah in depth, in order to learn and teach, to guard and to do and to fulfill. Certainly it is impossible to guard and to do if not through the decisions of our Rabbis - the Rishonim through whose mouths we live. To study the final rulings of the RAMBAM, great intensive study of Shas - this is a great essential in the fulfillment of the Mitzvos "You shall go in My statutes - you should toil in Torah", to make the Torah great and glorify it. WELL DONE TO THE ADMOR OF LUBAVTICH THAT HE MERITED AND HAS CAUSED THE MULTITUDE TO MERIT THE COMMANDMENTS OF STUDYING TORAH FOR IT'S OWN SAKE - WHICH IS WEIGHTED OUT AGAINST EVERYTHING!"

--- Rabbi Moshe Feinstein (Halachic Rabbinical authority of our generation)

"From the time that the ADMOR of Lubavitch instituted the daily learning of Rambam, my grandfather the Gaon began to learn a lesson in Rambam every day in a fixed manner."

--- A grandchild of Rabbi Moshe Feinstein


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