Friday, 28 November 2008

The Torah Response to Terrorism

The world is faced with terror all around it – now so, perhaps – more than ever. How should we react? What is the Torah response to terrorism?! How should we fight it and how should we react in order to be successful, to expel from this world every vestige of the opposite of good? Should we mourn? Do we fight with physical weapons? 

In the video below, The Lubavitcher Rebbe discusses the correct response to take, when those trying to destroy us (Rachmana Litzlan) have already attempted their own plans.

The response is a clear one. Continue to grow! Continue to do good. Do even more good! The good done achieves wonders in this world and achieves wonders in the worlds above, awakening the souls of our own ancestors to daven for us – even where they are – so that further blessing be brought into this world.

At times of crises, we must become even stronger doing more and more. Further acts of goodness and kindness, in the hope and prayer that these will be the final steps necessary to elicit an awakening from above to set this world ready for the revelation of Moshiach, the ultimate redemption and a time when there is only goodness and kindness in a continual and revealed manner.

To these purposes, in addition to the many programs we have running, we have also added a new program. This program is to help those women who are unable to pay the amounts required when visiting a Mikvah each month. 

Every Jewish woman who is married is required by Jewish law to immerse herself in a Mikvah each month (under normal conditions.) These Mikvahs costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to build, and because of this and the constant need to see to it that they are always kosher, necessitates those people running them to charge women who make use of them. The amounts, while negligible in comparison to the actual cost of the Mikvah, are still expensive for many women. Some may even choose not to immerse (Rachmana Litzlan) due to the high costs involved.

Due to this, we have set up a fund whereby money received will be donated to various Mikvah institutions to allow these women to immerse for FREE! To find out more about this new project, visit: The Mikvah Project


On the 28th of Nissan, 5750 (April 23, 1990) the Rebbe was notified that P.L.O. terrorists were threatening to attack various targets throughout the world. The following is the Rebbe's response, freely translated:

"I was notified that the P.L.O. has given instructions to all its branches worldwide to strike at targets throughout the world, G-d forbid.

"It is therefore necessary to invoke and emphasize the blessings from G-d to all Jews in all places, in all their needs. Primarily the most needed blessing is the miracle of the complete and perfect Redemption through Moshiach (whom we await every day that his coming not be delayed even as much as the blink of an eye). These blessings should be emphasized with complete trust and confidence, as well as with joy and gladness of heart.

"We should especially fulfill the directive of the Chabad Rebbes, 'Think good and it will be good.'

"This means that thinking positively causes the course of events to actually turn out good.

"This information should be utilized not to scare anyone, G-d forbid, but rather in the positive sense, to enhance the service of the Jewish people in the study of Torah and the observance of mitzvot.

"On the verse (Gen. 27:22), 'The voice is the voice of Jacob,' our Sages tell us that the power of the Jewish people is with 'our mouth.' Through our heartfelt prayers and Torah learning we can eliminate the plans of 'the hands of Esau,' the terrible schemes of our enemies.

"Thus there should be additional activities in Torah study and prayer and in mitzvot in general.

"Special emphasis should be placed on studying Torah diligently. For our Sages explain the verse, 'If you will follow my statutes' to mean that if you will labor in Torah... 'I will grant peace in the land. You will sleep without fear.'

"Through Torah study we eliminate all negative things and they are even transformed to good.

"Also, additional prayers should be said. Keeping with the spirit of 'thinking positive' it would be advisable to recite daily an extra three chapters of Psalms. One of these three chapters should be the final chapter of Psalms (ch. 150) which concludes with the verse, 'Let every being that has a soul praise G-d.' This means that every man, woman and child praises and gives thanks to G-d for His benevolence, and for the blessings and good fortune that He bestows upon us and will continue to bestow upon us.

"It would also be appropriate to add in the giving of charity.

"Although 'fasting' is out of place (especially in the context of 'thinking positive') this does not contradict the giving of charity to redeem a fast.

"It would be appropriate to give charity in the amount of two meals, and even better in the amount of three meals. This charity should preferably go to support people who learn Torah or institutions involved in disseminating Torah.

"Certainly these directives will be publicized in all Jewish communities, to all Jews, men, women and children.

"Emphasis must be placed however, to be very cautious not to scare anyone, G-d forbid. Rather, the purpose is to inspire everyone to enhance his/her Torah study and mitzvah observance, with true bitachon, complete trust and confidence in G-d, with joy and a glad heart.

"The main thing is that the resolutions regarding the above should hasten and quicken the concept of 'think good and it will be good' in actuality starting from the ultimate good -- the complete and perfect Redemption through Moshiach."

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Yahrtzeit - 28 MarCheshvan - Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona - A Lesson in Repentance

Rabbi Yonah (ben Avraham) of Gerona
Born: Gerona, Spain, 1180
Died: Toledo, Spain, 1263

Popularly known as Rabbeinu Yonah. Ethicist, author of Shaarei Teshuvah.

A disciple of Rabbi Shlomo of Montpelier, Rabbi Yonah was one of the most active participants in the controversy instigated by his teacher over Rambam's philosophical works. The story is a fascinating one, and is related to on Tisha Be’Av each year. Imagine the scene for a moment, the Rambam – the great codifier of Jewish law (1135-1204) had written two innovative works: 1. The Guide to the Perplexed – a work describing the philosophical difficulties of life, and 2. a comprehensive legal work including laws applicable to his times (and ours) as well as to the times when the Beit HaMikdash existed. Unfortunately, the Rambam had not included sources as to where he quotes his Halachah as having come from. This too raised much controversy as nobody could believe someone would claim to be an authority in Torah law without at the very least including comprehensive sources for his legal decisions.

Because of this Rabbeinu Yonah together with the “leading Rabbis” of his time severely condemned the Rambam and his teachings! One has only to study the basic life story of the Rambam to become well aware that the Rambam was not only the leading rabbi of his times – the Nasi of his generation – but was an authoritative doctor to the Sultan. His ways of medicine included a unique touch of preventing disease, rather than treating it once it happens – something the doctors of today would not advocate – after all, this would detract from the opportunity to make further wealth. 

This tremendous hatred towards the Rambam actually lead to the rabbis burning his “Guide for the Perplexed” and his code of Jewish law! One can barely imagine walking into a Yeshiva of today only to find that there is a “Rambam” missing on the shelves! If that would not be sufficient, could one imagine the tremendous shame of approaching the “Rosh Yeshiva” and showing one’s disdain towards the Ramban’s teachings?! Yet the leading rabbis of his generation did this very thing!

The irony as we see in each generation is the controversy – even today – of the “leading Rabbis” against – very often the true leading Rabbinical leader of the generation. And when the Nasi has “left the world” – everyone begins to cry at the severe loss. Suddenly the generation realise their loss. It was no different in the times of the Ramchal (1707-1747). He too was a giant in Kabbalah having written tens of books. But because of his young age and his interest in Kabbalah, he was condemned for his teachings and sent away from his home town. Today, there is no question at the greatness of the Ramchal, and it is rare not to find within the study halls of the Lithuanian Yeshivas, students immersed in his “Paths of the Just” and other important works. In fact, those truly interested in studying Kabbalah properly, will seek out the Ramchal in order to understand many concepts clearly. Yet, in his day, he was looked down and frowned upon, criticised, and even sent away from his own home town – lest he become another Shabtzai Tzvi – another false Messiah!

To continue the frightening story concerning the burning of the Rambam’s books…

When 24 wagon loads of Talmud were burned by the Church at the same spot in Paris where Rambam's Moreh Nevuchim had been burned some nine years earlier, Rabbeinu Yonah regretted his previous actions against Rambam's works. The Divine sign was clear. Heaven was declaring it’s complete disapproval at the generations “leaders” – as they had decided of their own volition to destroy true Torah teachings. The fact that the Talmud had been burned at the very spot where they had burned the Rambam’s teachings pointed to the high regard which Heaven regarded the Rambam’s own teachings! 

As related by his devoted disciple, R' Hillel of Verona, Rabbeinu Yonah declared publicly that he had been wrong, and vowed to travel to Teveria to Rambam's tomb, where he would beg the forgiveness of the deceased before a minyan of ten people. 

Rabbeinu Yonah began his journey, but was detained for three years in Barcelona where he lectured, always quoting Rambam's Halachic decisions and Talmudic interpretations with great reverence. After three years, he again set out to fulfil his vow, but was detained in Toledo, where the community implored him to stay for a while and give them Talmudic instructions. He died there suddenly, never completing his journey to Eretz Yisrael. He was mourned by all of Spanish Jewry, and Ramban - whose mother was a sister to Rabbeinu Yonah's father, and whose son R' Shlomo was married to Rabbeinu Yonah's daughter - composed a eulogy in his honour.

Rabbeinu Yonah is most famous for his classic ethical work, Shaarei Teshuvah ["Gates of Repentance"], a famous classic of Mussar litrature. It is said that he composed this work because of the very situation that had happened with the Rambam. It was his way of dealing with doing Teshuva for his own wrong, and to encourage others to also acknowledge their own mistakes. The author offers a system for self-improvement derived from biblical and talmudic sources. It forms the basis of all later works on Mussar ethics. He also wrote a number of Halachic commentaries on Tractate Avot, and Sefer Hayir'ah.

Most prominent among his students was Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet, the RASHBA.

Light a candle for Rabbeinu Yona on his Yahrtzeit

May we all merit in the merit of Rabbeinu Yona, to see the true teachings of Torah, believing the greatness – especially – of the leader of the generation.

May the merit of the Tzaddik Rabbi Yonah of Gerona protect us all, Amen.

Friday, 21 November 2008

Yahrtzeit 24 MarCheshvan - Rav Avraham Azulai (Kabbalist) - Secrets about Eretz Yisrael and the Caves of Machpela

Rabbi Avraham Azulai
(Secrets about the Land of Israel & the Holy Caves of Machpela)
Born: Fez, Morocco, 1570
Died: Hevron, Eretz Yisrael, 1643(/4?)
Rabbi Avraham Azulai was born in the same year that Rabbi Moshe Cordovero (Kabbalist in Tzefat) died. Rabbi Avraham Azulai, a master Kabbalist of both the Ari and Cordovero systems of Kabbalah, wrote an extraordinary book entitled Chesed L'Avraham. This text is one of the all time compendium of Kabbalistic teachings. Rabbi Azulai arranged a text of almost encyclopaedic proportion and covers many topics other Kabbalists never discuss. He is also one of the few Kabbalists that have put into writing many teachings that were only passed down orally.

On his way from Morocco to Israel, R' Avraham Azulai's boat was sunk while being anchored in Greece, by a fierce storm. Most of his holy manuscripts at that time were in the boat and were not recovered. R' Azulai was very thankful to God for not being on the boat at the time. From that time and on, his signature resembled the shape of a boat.

He wrote a commentary on the Zohar called Ohr HaChama (Light of the Sun). In his book Ohr HaLevana (Light of the Moon), he wrote corrections (Hagahot) regarding the Zohar text. One of his books Ohr HaGanuz, a commentary on profound passages from the Zohar was lost. Knaff Renanim was a book he wrote, summarizing the Kavanot (mystical intentions) of the prayers according to the Ari. In Ma'ase Choshev, he summarizes the Kavanot of the Mitzvot according to the Ari. He also wrote a commentary on the Tanach: Baalei Brit Avraham. His books Perush Yakar Al Shisha Sidrei Mishna andPerush Yakar Al HaLevush are his commentaries on the Mishna and Halacha.

One of the most important achievements of R' Azulai was excavating R' Chaim Vital's manuscripts (later known as Etz Chaim) from his tomb in Damascus (Syria). Together with another Kabbalist of the time
Rabbi Yaacov Tzemach, Rabbi Avraham Azulai dealt with Yichudim (special Kabbalistic meditations) and She'alot Chalom (dream requests) until permission was granted to them by R' Chaim Vital to dig at his grave. (Some say this story is not correct and that the manuscripts were obtained from elsewhere and not by means of Yichudim and excavating R’ Chaim Vital’s manuscripts.)

Rabbi Avraham's great grandson was the famous Tzaddik, Rabbi Yosef Chaim David Azulai (HaChidah).

One of the most well known stories about Rav Avraham tells about the Sultan of his day losing his sword in the Cave of Machpela – where the Forefathers and Foremothers (except for Rachel) are buried together with Adam and Eve.

For more about the Caves of Machpela see: and to hear more about this fascinating story with video see: Click on “The Secret of Maarat HaMachpela” to hear this amazing story. Do click on the other links as well, to learn more about this holy and special place .
Rabbi Avraham's Departure "The Sultan's Sword and the Cave of Machpelah"
The Sultan of the Ottoman Empire made a journey from his seat of government in far off Turkey to places of importance in his domains. He made his way to the Cave of the Machpelah in Hevron. Adorned in the traditional ruling garb, the Sultan's gold sword, studded with diamonds and precious stones hung at his side. The Sultan wondered from room to room, finally entering the huge hall named after the Patriarch Yitzchak.
The centre of attraction in the Yitzchak Hall is a small circular hole in the floor, near the wall shared by the smaller Avraham Hall. The hole is perhaps the most sacred spot in the entire illustrious structure above the burial caves of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, for it leads down into the caves themselves. Pilgrims from all over the world journey for weeks and months, only to have the opportunity to stand by this small dark circular opening, leading into the cave, which according to tradition, was excavated by Adam, the first man. The Sultan leaned over the revered aperture, peering down into it. As he bent over, his precious sword fell from his side, down into the cavity in the ground. The Sultan called the officer of the guard and ordered him to lower a soldier through the hole into the caves below, to retrieve his sword. Quick to respond to the Sultan's order, the officer selected a soldier nearby. Another soldier wrapped a rope around his waist and lowered the soldier into the underground cavern.
No sooner had they done so when, without warning, piercing screams penetrated from inside the hole below. Quickly they pulled up the soldier but he was dead. The Sultan ordered that another soldier be lowered into the caves. So it was, and his fate was precisely as was his predecessor. The Sultan continued to send soldiers into the caves until it became apparent that all who enter the caves do not exit alive. The Sultan turned to his hosts and exclaimed, "Who will return to me my sword?" The Arabs, looking at one another, answered without hesitating. "Why not send down a Jew? If he dies, none of us would care, and if not, you will have your precious saber back".
So the Jews were ordered, on pain of death, to supply a volunteer to be lowered into the caves to return the Sultan's sword to him. The Jews of Hevron had heard what happened to the Sultan's soldiers. How could they send one of their own to his death? They prayed and fasted, hoping to avert the decree. Realizing that they had no choice, they looked one to the other. Who would dare to enter the sacred Caves of the Patriarchs? The elderly Rabbi of the community, Rabbi Avraham Azulai, solved the dilemma. "I will enter the Holy Caves. Have no fear". And so it was. After praying and pleading before G-d, R' Azulai immersed himself in the Mikvah and dressed in white garments, the traditional dress of the dead. He set forth to the Cave of the Machpelah. With a rope tied around his waist, R' Avraham was lowered into the cave.
When his feet hit the ground, Rav Azulai looked around him and found a man standing by his side. Who are you? asked Rav Azulai. "I am Eliezer the servant of Avraham Avinu", the man replied. "How did you get here?" Eliezer asked. Rav Azulai told him the whole story. "Wait here until I ask the Holy Fathers, if you can come inside". The Fathers agreed, and Rav Azulai fainted upon seeing them. They gave something to smell, and he regained his consciousness. Finally he said to them, "Why should I leave here and go back above. I am elderly, and here I have found my Forefathers. I desire only to stay here with you." The Patriarchs insisted, "You must return the sword to the Sultan. If not, the entire Jewish community of Hevron is liable to be wiped out. But have no fear. In another seven days you will return here, to be with us."
So the saintly Rabbi returned to the Yitzchak Hall, above the cave of the Patriarchs, and with him, the Sultan's sword. The Sultan was pleased. Upon seeing their beloved Rabbi return alive, the Jews of Hevron declared the day a holiday. Rav Azulai spent the next week with his students, teaching them all he knew, all the esoteric teachings of Torah. Day and night he learned with them, instructing them, imparting to them all that he knew. Seven days after being lowered into the Cave of the Machpelah, Rabbi Avraham Azulai died peacefully. He was brought to rest in the ancient Jewish cemetery in Hevron, overlooking the final resting place of his beloved Forefathers.
Secret of The Mikveh
You should know that the amount of [undrawn water necessary for] a Mikvah [to be kosher] is [a volume equal to the displacement of] 5,760 eggs. The secret regarding this is that, at the end of the five thousandth, seven-hundred and sixtieth year from the creation, the verse, “I G-d will remove the impure spirit from the land ...” (Zechariah 13:2) will become fulfilled, as well as the verse, “I will give peace in the land, and you will lie down, and no one will make you tremble; and I will remove the evil beasts from the land ...” (Vayikra 26:6); that is, the forces of spiritual impurity, as is mentioned in the Zohar. The mystery of the matter is that there are three periods of resurrection of the dead in the future at three different times. The first resurrection will be of the dead of Eretz Yisrael; the second resurrection of the dead will be of Chutz L’Aretz (outside the Land of Israel), and the third resurrection will be that of the seventy nations and the entire world; it will be a time of great judgment. The third resurrection will be at the END of the 5,760th year from creation (the solar year of 2000). (Maayan 2, Nahar 59, B’Sod HaMikvah, Chesed L’Avraham)
Maayan 3, Nahar 9, Cheseh L’Avraham
To explain the difference between Divine Providence upon the Jewish people when they dwell in the land of Israel and when they do not.
The matter is this, when Israel is in possession of their land, this [itself] becomes the defence of every single Jew. For the essence of the Shechina's holiness is below with the Jewish people, as it is written (in Deut. 23:15), "for HaShem your G-d walks within the midst of your camp." The reason for this is that the air of the Land of Israel is the holy domain of the Shechina. Surrounding the borders of Israel, lie the Kelipot (the unclean husks). They (the Kelipot) surround the Holy Land and actually protect it so that the outside forces of evil should not enter in. They surround the land like a stretched out tent so that no stranger shall violate the boundaries. The walls and boundaries of this spiritual tent spreads out over the entire air space of the land of Israel reaching up to the opening to the spiritual Palace of Livnat Sapir (i.e., the passageway between the physical and spiritual dimensions), which is always open. We thus find that in the atmosphere of the Land of Israel resides the gateway to Heaven wherein which the angels of G-d ascend and descend, from the spiritual palaces to the atmosphere and from the atmosphere to the Land of Israel. The Shechina is also below (i.e., descends from Heaven) to watch over her children. She descends and hovers over them all day long with a spiritual divider (Masach) separating them. This spiritual divider (Masach) is the secret of the [Kelipot, which are referred to in Ezekiel's vision as the] storm wind, thick cloud and flashing fire. This is the secret of the atmosphere that is outside the land of Israel.
However, one Kelipah (husk) is not unclean which safeguards everything so that the unclean [forces] will not be able to derive benefit from the holy Light. It is recorded in Ezekiel 1:4, "and a Nogah (brilliance) surrounded it". It [the Nogah] protected them (the children of Israel) on all sides, as has been explained.

Everything outside of the [holy] land [is under the dominion of] the storm wind, thick cloud and flashing fire. These are the "outside" (i.e., the dark) forces, the atmosphere of the lands of the "outside" nations.
This is the secret [why] the Shechina guards over Israel all by Herself, [but] only in the land of Israel. This is not the case outside the land, Heaven help us. When the Kelipot seek to dominate the land of Israel, to destroy it, then does the Shechina depart from the land and ascends above to the [spiritual] palaces and, then afterwards the entry to the palace is sealed and closed. Then is permission given to breach the walls of Jerusalem, which are the "Kelipah Nogah" (the brilliant husk) which separates [the good from the evil]. Then the nations who contaminate [everything] enter, who send forth their hands upon the children of Israel and destroys all the physical chariots and exiles them. The Shechina runs after her children to see what is to be with them outside of [their] land . . . For being that her children are cast away, it is impossible for Her to let go of them. Therefore, [does the Shechina] dwell in the lowest of chariots . . .
[And now] Her spark [of holiness that enlivens souls] and Her Divine guidance are cloaked within the angelic prince who is in charge of the land to which Israel has been exiled. For the ten [holy letters of God's Name] become enclosed within the ten unclean Kelipot, in order to reverse them [somewhat], so that they will not be completely evil to Israel and not contaminate Her children. This can be compared to the [radiance] of the sun. Only a small element of its light reaches the earth. This is (symbolically speaking) how it is with the Shechina. Her essence is in Heaven and only a small element of Her light goes outside the land of Israel along with the [children of] Israel, as it is written in Ezekiel 1:1, "I am among the exiles." It is not Her essence God forbid, but only the sparks of Her light, thus "did the Heavens open and I saw visions of G-d" (Ez. 1:1) . . .
Maayan 3, Nahar 12, Chesed L’Avraham
Explaining the difference between those Jewish souls that dwell in the land of Israel and those who dwell outside of the Holy Land.
Know then that the Jewish (Neshamot) souls that dwell in the Land of Israel come forth from the ten Sefirot of [the realm of] Yetzirah. [Thus, these souls] are called the "House of Israel". They are also called "children". For when a Jewish person dwells outside the Holy Land then [all he/she] has is a (Nefesh) soul from the [level of] the Ofanim (angels). When one merits to enter the Land of Israel there comes upon him/her a new (Nefesh level) soul from Yetzirah and cloaks itself within his older (Nefesh) soul.
The first night that one sleeps in the Land of Israel both souls leave [the body] and ascend above [to visit the Heavenly realms during the allotted sleep time]. Upon returning only the new soul returns. Therefore, such a person is not fit to receive any punishments [for any sins committed outside of the Holy Land], for this, the new soul [which now inhabits the body] is not the one who sinned. Thus, our blessed Rabbis have taught (Ketubot 111A) that such a one (i.e., one that lives in the holy Land) is forgiven all his sins. [Thus] every Jewish person who lives in the Land of Israel is called a Tzaddik (righteous person), even if to all appearances one is not such. For if the person was not a Tzaddik the Land [itself] would vomit out such a person, as it is written, "And the land shall vomit out those who dwell upon her" (Lev. 18:25). Being that the Land does not vomit out such a person, we must accept that he/she is a Tzaddik (righteous person) even if the person is considered a Rasha (criminal person).

Also, know that for one to live in the Land of Israel and then go to live outside the land is considered a sin. In addition, this sin causes the angelic prince [of whatever land one goes to] to have dominance over him/her. The one who takes upon him/herself to live all their days in the Land of Israel and not to leave to go outside the land is considered to have proclaimed the unity of the Holy One, blessed be He, all of one's days.
In addition, know that the Land of Israel only atones for those sins that were performed by accident (without knowledge or intent). Yet, those sins performed intentionally (where one knows that what is being done is in violation of Torah law), these are not forgiven other than by personal sufferings. For those [in the Holy Land] who perform intentional sins in a spirit of arrogance, these have no forgiveness other than through repentance and the study of Torah.
Maayan 3, Nahar 13, Chesed L’Avraham
Explaining the secret of Jerusalem and the other holy places in the Land of Israel.

Know that the minor numerical value of [the word] Jerusalem is nineteen (19). Also, the minor numerical value of [the word] Malchut (kingdom) is nineteen.
[The city of] Shechem, is the secret of Yosef, who corresponds to the Sefirah Yesod. This is why Shechem was given to Yosef [and his descendants] for his attribute is Yesod. The minor numerical value of [the name of the city] Tveria is nineteen. The Sefirah Hod, along with the number of its three letters, plus one for the word also equals the minor numerical value nineteen (19). The apparent meaning of the name Tveria is "the center of the land", (ref. Megilah 6A), for the land hints to [the Sefirah] Malchut, and Tveria refers to [the Sefirah] Hod. Also, [if the word Tveria is broken into two we find] the minor numerical value of Tver is thirteen (13), because it receives power from the thirteen (13) supernal attributes [of mercy]. Tzfat refers to [the Sefirah] Netzach, whose minor numerical value is twenty-two (22, adding the value of one for the word itself). Now, the minor numerical value of [the word] Tzfat is equal [to the numerical value] of [the holy Name] Ekyeh (EKYH).

This is a reference to [the fact] that those who dwell there [in Tzfat] are dealt with [by G-d] with the thirteen attributes [of mercy] which come forth from [the Sefirah] Keter. [The Name] Ekyeh corresponds to Keter, therefore Tzfat is one of the cities of refuge to safeguard souls. Tzfat's [minor numerical value] is 21. Adding [the value of] one [to include the word itself] is 22. This corresponds to the 22 letters in the Torah. This is a hint that Tzfat is ready and prepared to be [that place] where the deep secrets of the Torah are perceived. For there is no better and more pure air in all Israel like there is in Tzfat. The numerical value [of the word] Netzah (the sefirah) is [148, which is also the numerical value of the word] "Kemach" (flour). This then is the secret behind the words of the Sages, "if there is no flour, there is no Torah." (Avot 3:17).

Meron corresponds to [the sefirah Tiferet]. Now the Aramaic translation of the word "sheep" is "Meroni". This is a similar term [to the word] "Maran" (L-rd), as in "L-rd of Heaven", which is an appellation to Tiferet. This is also the meaning of the verse in Ezekiel 34:31, [G-d says to Israel], "you are my sheep, the sheep that I shepherd, mankind you are." Now, "Maran", which is the attribute of Tiferet, in minor numerical value is equal to [the minor numerical value of the word] "Emet" (truth) which is 9. Add the value of three, one for each of the letters and an additional one for the value of the word itself and we have 13, a reference to the 13 attributes of mercy, as explained above.
It is already well known that the cave of Machpelah in Hebron, which is the burial site of the Patriarchs, is the entranceway to the subterranean Garden of Eden. [This is hinted to in the Biblical account of Avraham's purchase of the cave (Gen. 23:16), when he paid an amount of money that was] "o'vair l'so'chehr" (negotiable currency). These words are numerically equal to the phrase, "orach l'gan" (the path to the Garden). It is also the numerical value of the word "chatzer" (courtyard), to suggest that the cave is to the Garden of Eden as a courtyard is to a home. [The words] "o'vair l'so'chehr" (negotiable currency) have the numerical value of 570, to hint to us that everyone who lives in Hebron is certain that when he/she dies and is buried, their soul will merit to enter directly into the subterranean Garden of Eden without delay, without any trouble or difficulty.
Now the word, "teka" (to insert) is referred to twice in the Torah. The first time is Gen. 31:25, "and Yaacov had pitched (teka) his tent on the mount." The second [continues the verse], "and Lavan along with his brethren, pitched his tent on the mount of Gil'ad". [This verse] "Yaacov had pitched (teka) his tent" refers to his wife. "On the mount" refers to the cave of Machpelah, which are two mountains one on top of another and the two caves are under the lower mountain and there are two caves in the upper mountain. The word "teka" is numerically equal to the phrase "o'vair l'so'chehr", meaning that the cave of Machpelah is the pathway to the Garden of Eden. With regards to this did our father Yaacov, upon him be peace, pray to blessed G-d with all his heart that he should merit to be buried with them in the cave of Machpelah, he and his wife together. For thus has it been ordained since the six days of creation.

"And Lavan along with his brethren, pitched his tent." The meaning of this is that Lavan intended, through the powers of black magic, to tear out Yaakov from [the world] so that he would not be buried in the cave of Machpelah. [Lavan] wanted to kill [Yaakov],"along with his brethren," who are Esau and Yishmael. For they would then take the burial site [for themselves], and control the passageway through the cave to the Garden of Eden. For Yishmael and his sons and the children of Keturah already knew that they had a portion in our father Avraham, upon him be peace. Esau and his minions had their portion in our father Yitzchak, upon him be peace.
If, G-d forbid, our father Yaakov, upon him be peace, would not be buried in the cave of Machpelah, then absolutely no Jew would be able to go through that passage into the Garden of Eden. [The path would be blocked by the] idolatrous nations who cling to Yishmael and Esau, who would enter therein and control the passageway due to their connections to Avraham and Yitzchak who are already buried there in Machpelah cave.
This is what our Sages of blessed memory were referring to in the Passover Hagadah when they said that Lavan attempted to uproot everything, as it is written in Deut. 26:5, "an Aramean nomad was our father." For this same [reason] when [the dark angel] Sam..l fought with Jacob that he "touched (teka) the hollow of his thigh" (Gen. 32:26). Now, Sam..l's intent was to blemish Yaakov so that he would not be buried in the cave along side of Avraham and Yitzchak. Instead [he wanted that] Esau and his wife should be buried there.
[Thank G-d] this did not happen, for [our] blessed G-d immediately healed [Yaakov] as our holy Sages have said (ref. Shab. 33b), that Yaakov came complete [i.e. returned to his father Yitzchak]; complete meaning, complete in his body (i.e., not blemished). Blessed G-d in His grace and abundant mercy thwarted Sam..l's [evil] intentions and placed Yaakov in a place of faith, the cave to which we are referring. Now his descendants can travel the path to the Garden of Eden.
Tzfat also has the numerical value of 570 (same as 'teka'). This is to hint that those who dwell in Tzfat have a [special] benefit more than any other city in the Land of Israel. Because [Tzfat] is of such a high elevation and the air there is more pure and refined than any other city in the land of Israel, therefore, one who dies there and is buried there his soul will immediately travel [directly] to the Machpelah cave in order to travel from there to the subterranean Garden of Eden. There is no reason to expand on this more.
Maayan 3, Nahar 13, Chesed L’Avraham
Explaining the blemish that occurs to one who leaves the land of Israel to outside the land.
Know that the one who leaves the land of Israel to outside the land, on the condition to return quickly, so much so that he leaves behind his wife and children in Israel, this type of person will not lose his Yetziratic soul. However, his is cloaked in another Nefesh [level soul] from [the] Asiyatic [realm]. Therefore, such a person is required to observe [Jewish] holidays outside the land in the same way as he would inside the land; [all this] because his intent is [clearly] to return.
All this [reception of the lower Asiyatic soul] is for his own good. For if he were not cloaked in an Asiyatic soul, the Kelipot (forces of darkness) would come to cling to his Yetziratic soul and immediately it would become unclean [because of them]. Therefore, what did God, the Merciful and Compassionate do? He cloaks the Yetziratic soul in an Asiyatic soul so that the Kelipot (forces of darkness) will not defile it. In addition, all Kelipot attach themselves [to us] according [to the level of uncleanness] of each individual place.
Now, all this [which I have just said] refers [only] to the one whom is born in the land of Israel. However, one who is born outside the land and comes to live in the land permanently, immediately when he comes close to the ladder, the Kelipot are removed from him and he enters into the [holy] Land only with the Asiyatic soul. Then the Yetziratic soul enters within his Asiyatic soul, like a knife in a sheath. When such a person later returns to live outside of the land of Israel, his new soul from Yetzirah remains in Israel and only the old Asiyatic soul goes with him to become enwrapped within the Kelipot (dark forces).
Know that one who comes to the land of Israel for only a temporary period, immediately when such a one approaches the ladder, his Kelipot are removed and all that enters into the land of Israel is his Asiyatic soul. However, such a one does not receive a Yetziratic soul, because he does not intend to remain in the land of Israel in any permanent fashion. Therefore, such a person must observe [the Jewish] holidays as they do outside the land.
Maayan 3, Nahar 13, Chesed L’Avraham
The secret of the one who lives in the land of Israel, during the coming of the Mashiach.
Know, that it is an accepted tradition in our hands, that on the day that the King Mashiach will come with the ingathering of the exiles to the Land of Israel, there will be found in the Land 7000 of the children of Israel. On this same day, the dead of the Land of Israel shall be restored to life. On that same day also, the walls of Jerusalem shall be removed, and rebuilt from precious stones and pearls. Then, at the time, the dead of the Land of Israel shall be restored to life, they shall be new spiritual creations. Also, the 7000 who shall be left alive at that time, they too shall be new creations, all of them with spiritual bodies, similar to the body of Adam prior to his sin, and the body of Chanoch, Moshe Rabeinu and Eliyahu [HaNavi]. They shall all float in the air, soaring like eagles. This shall be seen by all the people ingathered from the exile.
When these, their brothers, are made a new creation, soaring through the air, going to dwell in the (lower) Gan Eden to learn Torah from the Mouth of the Holy One, Blessed be He, then all together the children of the ingathered exiles, with worry in their hearts and anguish in their souls cry out to King Mashiach. They ask, we also are the nation of the Children of Israel, like them. Why have they merited to be spiritual beings in body and soul, and not us? Why are we less? The Mashiach shall answer them saying, "The character of the Holy One, Blessed be He is already known and famous; He gives to each one 'measure for measure'. These also dwelled outside of the Land, and after great effort they succeeded to come to the Land of Israel, in order to merit a purified soul. They cared not for their physical or material well being. They came by sea and by land, and were not dissuaded by the dangers of the sea or of being robbed along their journey. They suffered under cruel regimes, all for the sake of the essence of their spirit and soul. Therefore, have they become complete spiritual beings, measure for measure.
However all of you, who had the ability to come to the Land of Israel, as they did, were discouraged over concern for your finances. You were worried about your physical safety and your money. These, you made to be the principle things in your lives, and not your spirit and soul. Therefore have you remained physical beings"

The Torah and the land of Israel share a single connection (i.e., are from the same source). Similarly, the Jewish people, without a doubt, share a single connection with the Holy Land, because of the [holy] connection of their souls.(Maayan 3, Nahar 7, Chesed L’Avraham) 

Light a candle for the Tzaddik Rabbi Avraham Azulai (and pray to G-d asking Him to answer your requests in the great merit of this Tzaddik and that we all merit to be in the Land of Israel immediately together with the King Moshiach and that we all merit to experience the redemption together on the highest of levels possible.)

May the merit of the Tzaddik Rabbi Avraham Azulai protect us all, Amen.

If you’re inspired by the stories told about the Caves of Machpela, why not purchase a stunning fridge magnet showing the Caves with a beautiful verse from the Torah: 

These magnets can be purchased as full sized posters as well. Be in touch to find out more – or have one custom designed for you.

If there are any terms in the above article you do not understand properly, why not set up a private Torah lesson together with Rav Eliyahu to discuss all these teachings. Contact Rav Eliyahu at and arrange a Shiur together on Skype – now!

Friday, 14 November 2008

Yahrtzeit 16 MarCheshvan - Rav Amram Chasidah (The Pious) - A Lesson in Humility




(And a Lesson in Humility)


Died: 300 Babylon

Rav Amram is one of the Amoraim (teachers mentioned in the Talmud.) He was a second generation Amora. He is famous for being extra stringent upon himself – something looked down upon by many even in his generation.

So stringent was he that he maintained that women should wear Tzitzit and had them attached to all the aprons of the women in his household (Sukka 11a).

Rashi says that the servants of the Reisha Degaluta (the leading Rabbi of each generation of the exile from the time the first Temple was destroyed,) mistreated him because he imposed stringencies upon them. He became sick from them, and Yalta, the daughter of the Reisha Degaluta and wife of Rav Nachman, cured him (Gittin 67b).

The Talmud (Kiddushin 81a) tells a fascinating story of Rav Amram. One which we would all do well to internalise in order to understand the wiles of the evil inclination – and to know that many of our own challenges were experienced by even the greatest of the rabbis in previous generations.

It happened that some captive redeemed women were brought to the house of Rav Amram Chasida in Nahardea. It seems that he had been instrumental in their release, and therefore the women were brought to his house. They were placed in the second story of his house and the ladder was taken away. As one of the women passed by the hatch that was used as a passageway between the upper and lower stories of the house, a light shone into the house through the hatch. The light illuminated one of the women – and her face was so beautiful that it itself provided even more “light”. Rav Amram was so taken in by the beauty of this woman that he took a ladder that even ten people could not lift and lifted it by himself, placed it under the hatch, and began to ascend! When he reached the middle of the ladder he steadied himself on it and began to scream, “There is a fire in the house of Amram!” (He realised well what would happen and that people would come running to find him climbing the ladder to commit a prohibited act, thereby embarrassing himself right then and there!)

The Rabbis came running and saw that there was not in fact any fire at all. They shouted at him, “You have put us to shame!” He replied to them, “Better that you be shamed in the house of Amram in this world, and not be ashamed of him in the World to Come.” At this point in time the Talmud says something quite amazing! Rav Amram commanded the evil inclination to leave him and it left him in the form of a fiery column! Rav Amram said to it, “Observe, you are fire, and I am flesh – yet I am stronger than you.”

What can we learn from a 1700 year old story?!

It is known that throughout the generations the levels of holiness actually declines. It may seem to many of those devoted to Torah today, that they have already perfected most areas of Torah fulfilling it with the highest levels of piety! But even a Rav Amram – a leader, a giant and a lion of Torah who lived 1700 years ago can also stumble. (This is at least in accordance with the simple meaning of the text. There is obviously much more hidden underneath this superficial veneer of the event that occurred to him!)

If these tests could occur to such giants, we should well realise just how truly far from the path of Torah we are. Such stories should therefore also give us the encouragement to realise that even such things can happen to us today (no matter how great we think we have become!) We should realise that the battles we face are very real ones. We do have the power to overcome them though if we are able to truly work on ourselves. Sometimes, however it means being a Rav Amram to overcome them! Sometimes it also means simply being humble enough to acknowledge our “humanness” – a shared balance between animal (the body) and G-d (the soul.)

It is no wonder that the focus of the magnum opus of the Alter Rebbe – the Tanya – is all about the battle between the animal soul of man and the G-dly soul which is his essence.

Many areas of the world are flooded today with “extremely pious people”. All would do well to know that dressing the part, acting the part, speaking the part or even thinking the part, do not take away from the reality of a person having within himself an animal soul as well. A very real one that does its utmost to make a man (or woman) succumb to the basest of desires in moments. As the Talmud teaches “No man comes to sin unless a spirit of folly enters him” (Sota 3a). In a sudden moment when we least expect it, these negative forces enter one imposing their own powers compelling one to obey their wishes – even when in the most logical of moments we would “laugh” at even thinking of doing the things we sometimes do.

Thank G-d – our true Torah teachers and Tzaddikim teach us the real path, to know where we stand in reality and to balance ourselves accordingly at all times – to use the lights of Tohu (the most powerful lights to achieve anything) – with the vessels of Tikkun (vessels that shape the light making it only reach out to where it should without becoming lost in it’s own erratic and destructive behaviour!)

It takes the humility of a Rav Amram to make us aware of the need to see life in reality, to know its tests and to fight them with every possible force we have – and to ultimately win the battle!

Ever wondered about the real power of the animal soul, the Yetzer HaRa– or felt that maybe it’s simply easily overcome through wearing the right outer garments?! Get yourself a copy of the Tanya to see just how this “clever little fellow” is able to trick us – and how we can work on winning the battle against it. If you’d like to learn it together, be in touch with Rav Eliyahu – and set up a one-on-one or group session – over the Internet using Skype, or in person.

For an easy read, get yourself a copy of “Under the Table” by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum.

This beautiful book tells the story of the Turkey Prince – one of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov’s most famous stories. He tells of a prince who one day went mad. He took off all his garments, and sat under the table of the king – naked – while behaving like a turkey! (One can well imagine him making the same noises that a turkey makes!) He ate the scraps of food that would be thrown from the table, refusing to sit up, put on his garments and eat like everyone else – at the table of the king! The king was saddened by the behaviour of his son and longed for a cure. Nobody could seem to help, until a wise man told the king that he could heal the prince. He too sat under the table together with the turkey-prince. The story is a fascinating one as it continues with the “healer” helping the turkey-prince to find himself again. He may well seem to be a turkey – but he’s very much so also a prince! And even a turkey can be the son of the king (and so much more!) even if he still thinks he’s a turkey!

The turkey-prince may well reflect the battle between the two souls. The tests are real. What we need to do is to battle through them, doing our best (and even better!) each day to overcome these awesome challenges. We should realise though – that even the greatest giants of Torah have experienced such similar challenges – they on their levels – and we on ours. Let us not deceive ourselves into thinking that we have overcome the greatest challenges and tests of life – just because we look the part. Rather, let us confront our own challenges as best as we can, to overcome the fires in our own houses.

For more information about “Under the Table” or to purchase directly, see Rabbi Greenbaum’s site AZAMRA or click HERE! to go directly to the book.



May the merit of Rav Amram Chasida protect us all, especially from the trickery of the Yetzer HaRa, and may we all merit – as did Rav Amram to be able to simply command our Yetzer Hara to leave – and it do so immediately – and with the removal of the side of unholiness, may we merit the final redemption immediately!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Yahrtzeit 12 Marcheshvan - Rabbi Zeev Wolf Kitzes (Student of the Baal Shem Tov)


Born:  ?

Died:   Medzibosh, South Poland, 1788
Rabbi Ze'ev Wolf was a student of the Baal Shem Tov. He was the Baal Tokeah, the one who blows the Shofar, at the Beit Midrash of the Baal Shem Tov.
In a book called Me'ah Shearim, it is mentioned that Rabbi Ze'ev Wolf Kitzes was very strict about not eating meat that was kosherized with him not being present, even if his rabbi the Baal Shem Tov was present. 
The Master Key...
"Rosh Hashana will soon be upon us," said the Baal Shem Tov to his disciple, R' Ze'ev Wolf, "and I want you to prepare the 'Kavanot' - the significant thoughts that one must concentrate upon - for the blowing of the shofar."
R' Ze'ev studied the various meanings and hidden connotations that lay in the arrangement of the shofar sounds, writing these all down for reference on Rosh Hashana. He placed his list in a coat pocket and considered himself prepared. But this form of preparation did not satisfy the Baal Shem Tov so he caused the list to disappear.
When R' Ze'ev approached the platform to perform his duties on Rosh Hashana he suddenly discovered his loss. His mind was now a blank as to which thoughts he must concentrate upon and his heart was broken within him. Breaking into bitter sobs, he was forced to perform his task unprepared.
After the services the Baal Shem Tov called him over and said:  "In the king's palace there are many doors and portals, each one with a key of its own. There is, however, one tool which can open all of them, that is an axe. The Kavanot, the proper concentrations, are the keys which open the gates of heaven, each gate having its own particular Kavana. But a broken heart is a tool which can penetrate all the gates and palaces of heaven."      (Sipurim Amitiyim)

The Spying Chassid
The Baal Shem Tov and his personal Sofer (scribe), Rabbi Tzvi, thought they were alone in the forest. They had come to this lonely place so that the Baal Shem Tov could show Rabbi Tzvi a heavenly pair of Tefilin, the like of which he wanted the Sofer to copy. But such an experience required many preparations, both spiritual and physical.
"We must first immerse ourselves in a Mikveh," Rabbi Tzvi thought to himself, "but where will we find a pool in this thick forest?" The Baal Shem Tov was undaunted by the lack. He could create one himself.  Suddenly he summoned all his strength and cried out, "Mikve Yisrael Hashem Moshia b'eit tzara," and a pool of water of water appeared before their eyes. The Baal Shem Tov was about to enter when suddenly he stopped and looked around.
"We are not alone here. I sense another mortal in this vicinity."  The two men combed the area and found Rabbi Ze'ev Kitziss hidden behind a thick tree.
"What are you doing here? Our actions are none of your business!" the Baal Shem Tov rebuked him. R' Ze'ev slipped away and nothing is known of what happened there in the forest after he left.  (Pe'er LaYesharim)

The Non-Miraculous Earthquake
Had the matter been in the king's hands, he would never have allowed his favorite minister to be sentenced to death. But since it was the church who accused him of practicing Judaism in secret, the Spanish king had no jurisdiction over the matter. He was able, however, to postpone the minister's death for another year to allow the accused to conclude all the transactions and responsibilities which had been under his care. The king knew he could not hope for another year's extension so when it was over he asked for another month. The king could hope for nothing more short of a miracle from heaven.
The day of the auto-da-fe dawned. A huge square in the center of the city had been chosen as the site for the long awaited event. Hundreds of people crowded to witness the spectacle which was considered high entertainment by the common masses and nobility alike. When all was ready, the minister was led forward to the stake. But just as he was being tied to the funeral pyre, an earthquake threw everyone into a panicked helter skelter for refuge. In the grand melee, the minister managed to escape, aided by the quick action of the king, who had his servants transport him across the border.
A philosopher by inclination, the minister was intrigued by the phenomenon which had saved his life. Had it been a coincidence or could one claim it as a miracle? Did this earthquake fit into the natural scheme of events or had it come unexpectedly at the precise moment of execution, rendering it an act of G-d? While exploring the various theological possibilities, he came to the decision that if it was pure coincidence, he would continue to practice Judaism in secret, but if it came to light that the earthquake had no natural explanation, he publicly announce his conversion to Judaism.
His theological explorations led him to correspond with many Jewish scholars living throughout Germany, to none of which did he reveal, however, that he was the beneficiary of the miracle. None of the answers he received supplied the clear cut answer he was seeking. When this minister learned of a saintly scholar known as the Baal Shem Tov, he hoped to get a satisfactory decision from him.
The minister himself went to present his question to the Baal Shem Tov. When he reached the Rebbe's court, he asked the first Jew he met, where the Baal Shem Tov's study was. The Chassid Rabbi Ze'ev Kitzis, pointed out the way and the minister continued in that direction.
"Welcome to you, most honored minister from Spain," the Baal Shem Tov greeted the stranger as soon as he appeared in the doorway. The man stepped back in surprise and fear. No one knew, as yet, that he was the escaped victim of the Church's clutches.
"As for your question," the Baal Shem Tov continued before the man got his breath back, "go and ask that man in the courtyard. He will answer it for you."  The minister turned back in the direction he had come, meeting Rabbi Zev Kitzis near the gate. He outlined his problem to the disciple.
"Even if that particular earthquake had been ordained from the first day of Creation for a specific time and place, the very fact of your execution taking place then and there would signify an open miracle."
This was the answer the minister was seeking. He took this as a sign to convert publicly and forever after maintained a strong tie with the Baal Shem Tov.            (Shmuot Vesipurim)
The Foiled Cherem
By the time Rabbi Ze'ev Wolf reached the inn near Brod, he already knew why the Baal Shem Tov had sent him to that city. The Baal Shem Tov had not revealed the purpose of his trip but R' Wolf learned that it had something to do with the Cherem (excommunication) that the townspeople of Brod intended to place upon the Baal Shem Tov and his followers, having judged him and found him wanting. The Baal Shem Tov did not follow the code of Jewish Law, they argued; his ways were very strange and new and often contradicted their own customs. He was, in effect, a dangerous threat to Judaism.
The scholars of Brod knew that without the consent of the rabbi of Lvov they could do nothing. Brod was a city under the jurisdiction of the "Four Countries" union and therefore, under the guidance of the rabbi of Lvov. They decided therefore to invite the rabbi to their city and get him to cooperate with their plan.
The rabbi of Lvov agreed to come. As circumstances had it, he chose to stay at the inn near Brod on the very night that R' Wolf was stopping over for the night. R' Wolf decided to remain incognito and assumed the role of a poor beggar. He huddled up unassumingly by the stove to await the development of events. Throughout his journey, the rabbi of Lvov had enjoyed much publicity and honor. When he arrived at the inn, a festive meal had been prepared for him with many of Brod's notables. It was late by the time they had finished. Meanwhile R' Wolf arose from his corner by the stove to say the Tikun Chatzot (the midnight lament for the destruction of the Temple) . As was his custom, he prayed fervently, shedding copious tears. The guest was impressed and when R' Wolf had finished, engaged him in conversation. The poor man's manner, his knowledge and character impressed the rabbi even further.
"Where are you headed?" the rabbi wanted to know.  "For Brod," was the reply.
On the following day the two men went their separate ways to Brod. The rabbi of Lvov went directly to the meal tendered in his honor. At first he was honored with the customary speeches of welcome. During the main part, the crucial topic was presented to him, written out and organized in a report enumerating the reasons they felt why the Baal Shem Tov should be placed under cherem.
"One must not approach the concept of cherem lightly," the rabbi said in shock. "For a cherem one needs to include a large group of wise Torah scholars." He then went on to tell of the scholarly beggar he had met the night before.
"This man must be in Brod by now. I want you to search for him and bring him here. I would like his opinion on the matter at hand."
After finding him, R' Wolf was brought before the rabbi of Lvov. The sheaf of papers was placed before him and he was asked to express his opinion.
"What?!" Reb Wolf exclaimed in horror and pain. "You wish to put my beloved rebbe and master into cherem? What a crime! What an injustice! You claim that he does not keep the code of Jewish Law? He does not depart from it by one iota!" R' Wolf launched into a full justification of the Baal Shem Tov, rebutting every point that his rebbe had been accused of. When he stopped to catch his breath, the rabbi of Lvov turned to his audience.
"If the Baal Shem Tov has such devoted and worthy followers as this man, we cannot lift a finger against him."
The proposed cherem was abandoned and the two guests returned to their homes, the rabbi to Lvov and Reb Wolf to Mezibuz, glad to have accomplished his mission in Brod.             (Emmunat Tzadikim)     
May the merit of the tzaddik  Rabbi Ze'ev Wolf Kitzes  protect us all, Amen.    


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