Monday, 23 November 2009

The Unique Role of Women in Hastening the Redemption

Are you serious about desiring redemption – The Redemption? Do you really yearn for it, or is it just something to make for a good conversation?

How about attending a full one day event with six inspirational speakers – well known authors too?

A day devoted to real Jewish unity. Tehillim will be read, and dancing will be had!

It's taking place in the holiest city of the world – Jerusalem in just a couple of weeks time. You're invited! But seats are limited – so you best book yours TODAY!

You'll be treated to terrific food too – catered under the BaDaTZ Eida HaChareidit – so you won't go hungry!

You'll get to interact with like-minded women who are also yearning for real redemption and are prepared to put in the effort to find out more, learn and contribute.

There will be great prizes up for grabs in a number of raffles!!!

A day filled with learning about good things. A day devoted to encouraging and inspiring everyone to increase in acts of goodness and kindness.

It's there for you to take part… Are you ready for Redemption and are you ready to take part?

Find our more at "Chessed Ve'Emet", and book your seat NOW! Booking is absolutely essential.

Sponsorships available. Sponsor a speaker or two or any aspect of the event. Or make a donation of a substantial item to be raffled to raise money for this and further Mitzvah projects by "Chessed Ve'Emet."

This is just the first such full day event. We are set on making this a once-a-month Rosh Chodesh event – there to inspire you, encourage you, and give you even further guidance on doing even more good in the world.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Stopping to Give to Another Because of a Bad Report about Them

Giving charity to help another Jew is perhaps one of the greatest Mitzvot available. It helps to put another person on their feet. It helps to keep them alive. It helps to make them be filled with positive self-esteem (when given in the correct way.) It makes the recipient feel that though they have not been able to "support themselves," someone has come through for them to keep them going, until better times (which certainly lie ahead.)

One of our greatest tests we have, is in knowing who to give to. We often tend to weigh up who we feel is the better person, the better organization. Then, when something comes our way to "prove" that the recipient is no longer a good cause to give to… we give up on them. It's only too easy to have our regular charities that we give to, and then give up on them due to hearing a "true" bad report.

The Chofetz Chaim in a note to his work – chapter 6:11, has this to say:

"And from the law discussed, let us talk about one small particular issue that many people stumble upon. For example, there are people in the city that are known to be poor and one has to give them charity. And now it happens that somebody spreads a bad rumour about them (i.e. speaks malicious evil slander.) They say that actually those poor people asking aren't poor at all, but rather they make themselves out to be poor in order to deceive people. Through their bad rumours they prevent many other people from giving of their regular amounts to these poor people at a later stage – amounts they were accustomed to give them from before hearing the rumours.

According to the Torah, this is a most grave sin because it enters into the category of listening and receiving evil slander. If one would go by the Torah law itself that one may not listen to evil slander – except for the sake of being suspicious about a certain report – one would never exempt oneself from this poor person now, because the poor person would still be established under his original status as being considered a poor person – all the while that one cannot prove with certainty that the opposite is the case – and the people of the city are obligated to sustain him.

Greater than this our Sages have said (Bava Batra 9a) "If someone comes and says 'Support me', we do not investigate after him (i.e. we believe his need for charity.)" All the more so with our case, that this person was already established as being considered poor. Can one do away with the establishment and the obligation of the people of the city to abstain from supporting him any longer – just because of someone who has slandered him?

One may only be suspicious of the report and to investigate into the matter well (to confirm if indeed it is true.) Certainly, all the while that it is not proven true, one cannot exempt oneself from the law of obligation of charity.

About this and similar things, our Sages have said concerning the verse "Do not steal from the poor man, because he is poor" (Proverbs 22:22) refers to a person who is accustomed to giving charity to a certain poor person, and then he stops and he doesn't give him any longer. Such a person is called someone who steals from the poor."

How often have we found ourselves in the position of giving to others regularly? Time may have passed by with a variety of reports coming through from various "authorities" about the true character and financial position of the recipient, proving well that he is simply no longer deserving of the charity one used to give them. If indeed, one finds himself in such a position, and realizes that it is due to the evil slander that one has stopped giving the other, then it may do one well to consider the words of the Chofetz Chaim.

One who actually believes the forbidden malicious evil slander of another to be encouraged to now stop giving another in need, is no better than a thief. Not only does he steal from those that have; he literally steals from the poor (often because he is poor!)

The power of the tongue does certainly bring life and death to others. Next time we have the opportunity to hear the vicious slander told to us about our "friends", we may well consider the strength of the tongue. No knife is a match for the tongue, no sword and no gun. The tongue is far more powerful than all of these. It works far faster, and it brings total destruction in its wake. While those with wealth are affected by the power of the tongue, those lacking the basic means to live can literally give up hope in life itself through the "uprightness" of individuals who simply must tell the "truth."

Friday, 6 November 2009

Not Well? Who to Ask to Pray for You...

Parshat Vayera

Living in a generation filled with abundant "mystics" all over the globe, one wonders why there are still so many people who get sick. With the abundant "blessings" of "psychics", "miracle workers" and "kabbalists", there is always someone out there able to rectify the situation (even without the help of doctors!)

Most of us know only too well, that when something is not right with us physically, other than a visit to the doctor, we'll turn to someone in the family who is religious. Perhaps he knows of a great righteous rabbi who will be able to magically recite some words which will heal him. Forgetting that it is G-d who is in control, the sick patient will turn to any amount of "mystical healers" available to solve their problems, often paying large amounts of money to the "healer" for the great favour he may be doing for us.

Naturally, the greatest healer of all is G-d Himself. The best medicine is nothing less than Torah. Who can estimate the value of eating kosher, the value of observing the Shabbat day, the value of wearing Tefillin and Tzitzit (for a man) and the value of observing the laws of family purity (for a married couple)? We tend to neglect the real medicines, shopping around for a variety of cures external to the Torah itself, while at the same time – turning to the "great mystics" to pray for us to make for a great healing.

The obvious contradiction glaring the sick patient in the face often concerns the situation of not observing Torah law correctly while turning to the "kabbalist" or the like to intercede on our behalf. He surely knows how best to placate G-d Almighty on our behalf, and with his choice of working formulae, the sick patient can go back once again to violating the Sabbath day, eating non-Kosher food, neglecting even the most basic commandments, such as Tefillin and Mezuzot and more. Then of course, every now and again checking in with the "G-d of Vengeance" just to make sure that some mystic has calmed Him down. Neglecting the point of this G-d having commanded a variety of Mitzvot – commandments – for our own benefit while wondering why we often find ourselves in situations of ill-health – and then asking the same G-d to heal us does make for an interesting conversation!

How many of us can truly testify though to the magical healing abilities of our local Internet psychic and healer? The one we've paid hundreds of dollars to, to heal us from the pains of the present with good news for the future?! They're making a huge success with the good news that everything will be okay due to their own intervention. These of course are the finest of individuals in the world – the crème-de-le-crème who want nothing more than your own well being. Were it not for the fact that they – like everyone – need wealth to live on, you can rest assured they would give unselfishly of their time - using their G-d given "gifts" – to comfort and help those in need.

What then is the best path for one who is not well? Should they visit "psychics" to hope for the good news they'll usually report? Should they ask their best friend's cousin's father's uncle who is religious, to pray for them? What exactly should they do?

In Parshat Vayera – Genesis 21 (21:17) we learn about Yishmael, the son of Hagar – maidservant of Abraham our Father. Sarah had literally thrown out Hagar together with her son Yishmael from the home due to his behaviour and reputation of ill repute – having found himself involved in a variety of sins including murder, idolatry and immorality.

Hagar found the exile hard, though her son became extremely ill. As they made their way back to her home – the home of Pharaoh himself, Yishamel almost died. Hagar – being of the descendants of Ham (from the story of Noah) had very little mercy on her son, choosing to place him under a tree some place, as she went to cry over her misfortune, opposite him. Here she would simply wait hopelessly for his death, rather than pray for him, hold him, or talk to him giving him hope.

It was Yishmael, however who turned his eyes heavenward with a prayer. He, the sick patient, opened his mouth to G-d asking for healing. Through his prayer, he was saved, ultimately to become fully healthy once again, and become the father of the Arab nations. From here, says Rashi, we learn that the prayer of a sick person themselves is greater than the prayer of others and it is the prayer most likely to be answered first!

While we tend to learn from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we often forget that we can learn from everyone. It is Yishmael who teaches us that the greatest and strongest prayer for a sick person to be healed, comes not from others, from "wonder workers" and "miracle rabbis", the strongest prayer comes from the person themselves.

The very name Yishmael – meaning "G-d will hear" – teaches us this very idea. It is G-d that listens to us – very rarely others. When we find ourselves lost without hope and have nowhere to turn, not knowing what to do, our biggest Friend in the world is G-d Himself, the Creator of the universe who will always be there to hear our difficulties and answer our prayers.

Certainly we can turn to authentic Tzaddikim – righteous people – for help. But we should never feel for one moment that when we are faced with a difficult situation – one of illness or the like – that without these miracle makers we cannot get by. We should realize that on the contrary, it is our very own mouths that will serve us to be our strongest weapon in saving us. The prayers recited by our own mouths will be the surest way to bring blessing upon ourselves. We use them to reach out to G-d, to acknowledge that we believe in Him, and that we have a personal connection with Him.

We fulfill the commandments of the Torah, and we pray. In this way, we fulfill G-d's will and then turn back to Him, asking Him to bless us, to keep us alive, so that we can ultimately continue to serve Him each and every day of our lives.

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Talking about Lashon Hara... The Daughters of Lot...


Parshat Vayera

The Torah portion Vayera includes within it the famous story about the nephew of Abraham – Lot, and his two daughters. Due to a variety of merits, both on the part of Abraham and on the part of Lot himself (having followed in certain of the footsteps of Abraham), when it came time for G-d to destroy the city of Sodom – a city filled with absolute immorality and perversions, Lot's life was saved together with his two daughters.

The Torah teaches that the angels took Lot and his daughters to a place of safety. They were lead to a cave, while behind them Sodom was overturned. With fire and sulfur, the city literally went up in flames, leaving behind it an eerie feeling of complete death and silence. Lot's wife was not saved, as she chose to look on to see the destruction of Sodom – though she was by no means righteous enough (as was Abraham) to witness the downfall of the wicked of Sodom.

Having fled to the cave, Lot's daughters took a look around at the world and saw there was nothing left of it (apparently!) It was just two women and a man. Everything else had been destroyed. With this in mind – and finding a bottle of wine nearby (placed there by nobody else but G-d Himself!) they inebriated Lot – their father, in order to get him to have sexual intercourse with them, thereby populating the world again. Lot certainly did not need the extra wine to convince him of the desire to engage in relations with his daughters, though it was certainly an external means of sharing with us that were it not for the wine, he may not have done anything.

Our story now begins…

It's the twentieth century, and the great Posek (legal authority on Jewish law) – Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, is called by a very sick patient lying on his deathbed in hospital. Rav Moshe sits beside the patient – sickly looking with a rare disease, his tongue hanging out of his mouth. Barely able to talk, the patient asks everyone to leave the room save for the Rav. He tells Rav Moshe that he has a story to tell him – regarding his own personal sickness.

For some strange reason, the man was suddenly stricken with a disease that none of the doctors could diagnose. It seemed that all of a sudden, one day, his tongue had simply rolled itself outside of it's usual position, lying as it did then – outside of his mouth. But the previous night, the "mortally-wounded" man had dreamed a dream. In it, the daughters of Lot appeared to him. They were not happy at all. They reprimanded the man concerning his behaviour he had displayed for a very lengthy time. The man had often spoken badly of the daughters of Lot – "What type of women they must have been to have committed such a sin!" He had berated them, spoken Lashon Hara about them, and criticized everything about these apparent prostitutes who could find nothing better to do than to commit incest with their father after the "world" had just been destroyed for such very acts!

But the daughters explained to the man that in fact, this was not the case. In truth, their "debased" act was nothing less than for the sake of heaven. These were no ordinary people. These daughters of Lot were righteous. They had remembered about the days of the flood, when the entire world had been destroyed. They had feared it had happen again. But not knowing what had become of the rest of the world, they felt that this time, there was nobody else to continue the procreation of the world. In fact, the world was initially created by "incestuous" relationships from the beginning. Cain had certainly been intimate with his own sisters, and so too many others, all in order to begin the process of procreation in the world. Not incestuous, but necessary for the world to exist. So too the daughters of Lot had wanted – completely – for the sake of heaven, that the world should continue to exist.

Their relationship with their father that night, was for no other reason than to bring life into the world. The daughters explained to the "man with the hanging tongue" that he had spoken badly about them, criticizing them when it was not called for – or even barely permitted! For this, he had been punished with this rare disease of the tongue. The man then asked them, if indeed this was all so, was there any need to publicly share in the naming of the children that had been born to them, that this was through the relationship between them and their father? Both Moav (from my father) and Ben-Ami (son of my nation) point directly to the fact that they were born through the incestuous relationship between father and daughter (though Ben-Ami was a far more subtle name.)

The daughters explained that this too that had done completely "Lishma" – for the sake of heaven. They explained… one day a man will be born into the world. But he will come through an adulterous relationship. Not wishing to reveal the truth of the matter, his mother will claim him to be born from her – a virgin! In order not to make the world stumble with our own children, we have seen to it to name the children in exact accordance with the act that was committed, so that all should know that these children were born through an ordinary relationship. Nobody in the world can ever be born through a virgin. If anybody says such a thing, they are simply lying to cover up a forbidden relationship! The daughters thereafter left the man to sleep the remainder of the evening in "peace."

It was not very long after he told the story to Rav Moshe, that the man turned over in his bed… and died.

Have we really got the "right end of the stick?" Do we really know the full story? We see things with our eyes every day concerning others' lives. We see them often committing the most horrendous things possible. Yet, do we know what is really happening? The Chofetz Chaim – Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan (1839-1933) wrote an entire work named "Chofetz Chaim" (by which name he was called for the remainder of his life) detailing the complete range of sources throughout the Torah, the intricate laws of guarding one's tongue, guarding one's speech. "Who is the man who desires life (chaftez chaim), who loves days to see good? Guard your tongue from evil, and your lips from speaking deceit" (Psalms 34:13-14)

When we are not sure regarding something we may see happening in another's life, we should take great care to reflect on the story of Lot and his "incestuous" daughters. We should realize that what we see with our eyes of flesh, is very often not quite the full story at all. Speaking about it to others, may well get us into serious trouble! Indeed, in days gone by, those speaking this evil slander would find themselves inflicted with a disease known as leprosy. Not quite the kind of today, but the features would highlight to the Kohein of the day that something was not in order. It may be that the slandered would have to spend "time out" by himself until his leprosy would leave him. Only then could he return to the main camp of the Jewish people. Meanwhile, just as he could find no better things to speak about to others than other people's lives (and their terrible deeds!) – so too measure for measure, he would now find himself alone… being able to talk to nobody about anything.

As many great people have said – if you don't have something nice to say, then don't say anything at all. (And even when you do have something nice to say, be well aware of the laws of Lashon Hara before sharing your thoughts!)

Average people speak about day to day things… Great people speak about ideas! But small people… speak about other people.

To those still wondering about the benefit of the "incestuous" relationship between father and daughters, they may wish to contemplate that it was ultimately through this relationship that the redeemer of the world – Moshiach – is to come. It was ultimately through Moav that Ruth – the righteous convert would be born. And through Ruth – her great-grandson, King David, and through King David… the redeemer of the world.

Those truly wishing to improve their speech – to perhaps realize their own faults – and the better points of others – would do well to spend 5-10 minutes each day learning just 2 laws of the Chofetz Chaim's work. A Hebrew edition is available with dates for each day of the year. An English work can also be purchased here. Alternatively contact Rav Eliyahu and set up a daily learning session with him discussing these fascinating laws.

NOTE: Though Lot's daughters behaved as they did completely for the sake of heaven, this does not in any way teach us that should we have our own accountings regarding incest, that the act done is thereby permitted – as clearly discussed in the laws of forbidden relations – Leviticus 18:6-20


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