Tuesday, 23 December 2014

The Mysterious Number 9 (Video)

Monday, 22 December 2014

Never Forget What Your One Act of Kindness Can Do For Another (Video - Social Experiment)

There really are no words good enough to describe the powerful message of this video.

"Never look down on somebody, unless you are helping them up". We must treat everybody with respect. Everybody deserves their chance at life.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Farbrengen 19 Kisleiv 5742: The Lubavitcher Rebbe Farbrengens on The "New Year" of Chassidism

Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.

Monday, 8 December 2014

The Beautiful Teeth and The Shark Carcass (Video Included)

A story is told concerning Rabbi Akiva who was once walking with his students. They came across the carcass of a donkey. The donkey had a bad smell - and the students' response was to immediately comment concerning the vile odour emanating from the animal. Rabbi Akiva replied, "But look at how white it's teeth are!"

We live in a world where almost all things have the property of being able to be seen in a good light or a negative one. We can see the good in something we are looking at, or its opposite. The video included below is a fascinating example of the different types of people there are in our world.

Take the shark for instance... It is a predator - an animal that eats other animals and any other meat it finds inside the ocean - for its own sustenance. Who could think well of the shark? Let us not forget the teachings of that Midrash that speak of the Jewish people as they left Egypt. While they crossed the sea to encounter their own freedom, the Egyptians were drowning. Here the Midrash teaches us, the Jewish people began to sing in praise to Hashem for having saved them. But Hashem was not happy. He has created a world and a variety of creatures in it - for His glory. How can one sing and rejoice when G-d's creatures are dying?! For this reason - when it comes to the festival of Pesach, we do not recite the entire Hallel, save for the first day (or two in the diaspora). We may not sing completely when others are suffering. It's a powerful lesson.

It tells us that even when there's a "carcass" - never forget that it may also carry beautiful teeth. It may have done good. It may be good itself. It may still have done even more good - had it continued to live. Hashem has a purpose for all of His creations - though we cannot always understand why. It is also redundant to have to say that it is unnecessary to praise the evil around us. We are not required to gloat over evil. However when something has a Pareve status to it, we must be able to acknowledge and praise it as being a creation of G-d. It may not be killed and murdered or destroyed just because we feel it has some bad element to it. We may not behave cruelly with something just because we cannot feel (sic) it as being a living creation with it's own feelings of life.

In the video we see the difference between the kinds of people there are in the world and we are reminded of the story of Rabbi Akiva and his students. While many people hunt shark for their fins (for soup) and for their meat - going so far as to cruelly kill these creatures, yet others see a mother in front of them with the potential for continuing its own species. It is a life after all. It is a part of G-d's wondrous creation! Is it correct to save the lives of a creature that consumes as the shark does?!

What is clear is that G-d has created this species. It is His desire that it be here and fulfill a particular task in the world. We certainly recall one enormous fish that saved the life of a great prophet - Jonah. Our duty is to look after the world and all its creatures in the best way we can. There will always be bad odours. But when it comes to ourselves, will we choose to smell the odour, or view something beautiful that may once have existed, or perhaps exists even now? Will we choose to destroy because "we are in charge," or will we choose to see good and do good wherever we are and in whatever we do?

Wednesday, 19 November 2014

Hareidim Honour Druze Policeman Zidan Saif. Who are the Druze (Video)?

Today, Zidan Saif HY"D, the first policeman on the scene of the Har Nof Synagogue Massacre was buried. Hareidim took part in the funeral giving due honour and respect to a man who protected - in this event alone - an untold number of Jews. For more information about the funeral and details concerning the Psak that HaRav Ovadia Yosef gave concerning giving due honour to such a person, see the article on The Jewish Press.

Who are the Druze?

This beautiful video gives us an insight into this group of people living in the Holy Land:

The 4 Kedoshim of The Har Nof Synagogue Massacre and The Righteous Policeman and A Prayer for a Refuah Sheleima for Those Wounded

The 4 Kedoshim HY"D

For more about these Kedoshim

Articles about the Kedoshim

(I will try to update as I see them)

Died of gunshot wound to the head.
Click link and here for more info.
First Officer on the scene - to protect the Jewish people.
Nobody knows how many lives he saved...

Please Daven for Those Injured 
in the Har Nof Synagogue Massacre

Please Hashem - please have mercy upon and grant a Refuah Shleima to:

Shmuel Yerucham ben Baila
Avraham Shmuel ben Shaina
Eitan ben Sara

amongst all of Klal Yisrael

May we all be able to bless each other, to forgive each other,
to give more to each other,
to stop the baseless hatred and replace it with a baseless love.
May we learn not to hurt each other, not to insult each other,
not to embarrass each other.
May we learn to be honest in business with each
and to value the other's money as much as we value our own.
May we learn to understand the other
from wherever he may come from in life.
May we all learn to see the good of our fellow Jew.
May we learn what true Jewish unity is.
May we be prepared to put in the effort to be united
and may this hasten the Geula - the redemption -
and that we be taken out of this painful Galut (exile) immediately.

Thursday, 6 November 2014

The Story of Jerusalem's Holy Temple (Video)

A wonderful video sharing the story behind the Temple of Jerusalem (the Beit HaMikdash.) Enjoy! So much to think about. So much to pray for. May we blessed with the redemption immediately already!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Learning Mishnah For a Soul Project (Slideshow)

Chessed Ve'Emet's "Learning Mishnah For a Soul" Project is all about a partnership between the one who learns, the one for whom the Mishnayout are learnt, and the one who chooses to partner with Chessed Ve'Emet to do the learning for a beloved family member of friend who has passed on.

Watch this slideshow to find out more about this wonderful project that you can take a big part in. You'll get to learn some ideas about what the Mishnah is, what the learning achieves - and how it assists a soul that has passed on.

Enjoy! Mostly, don't forget to join the project by simply clicking this link: "Learning Mishnah for a Soul", and being in touch with us here.

Friday, 31 October 2014

Lech Lecha - Go To (For) Yourself - And The Not So Smart Smartphone (Powerful Video Included)

There's a famous teaching of the Baal Shem Tov that I often think about. He teaches that everything a person sees or hears is meant for a reason. The Alter Rebbe - the first Rebbe of Chabad also has a famous teaching. He says that one should live with the times. Living with the times means to connect one's life (and the life of the world in general) with the Parsha of the week. Encountering a particular video today and wondering what it had to do with the Parsha at the same time is by no means an easy task. Thinking it over though I realised a powerful message which I share today.

One should surely keep up with the times - because there really is no way to run away from them. Take a look around and compare the world of the "mighty" Internet and mobile technology of today, and Rome of two thousand years ago, and there is enough to realise, that one simply cannot attempt to live one's life as if one existed in that Roman period. 

At the same time, never forget the message of this week's Parsha. G-d tells Abraham - "Go to yourself", or even possibly, "Go FOR yourself." It all depends how one translates the word "Le". Either way the message is clear. Stand strong in following the path that is meant for you as a Jew. If not Jewish - the message can even indicate an importance in connecting with your soul along the path G-d indicates for you - to follow the 7 Mitzvot Bnei Noach. Connect with the real you - the soul as it exists in its essential form. Live with the times - yes. But don't forget not to get carried away with them - because in fact, one should be in a constant state of connecting with one's inner soul which surely goes back thousands of years into the essence of G-d Himself.

When I connect with my soul, I hold myself back from the whirlwind of the movement of the physical world because I focus on what is important for me as a soul. When I live with the times, I make sure I am a part of that whirlwind. My body wants a big part of the whirlwind of physical matter. Being a part of that whirlwind can be dangerous - and so when one feels that perhaps one is overstepping the normal nature of the soul - hold back...

The path of Torah is beautiful. While life moves on at speed, the Torah path allows one to keep moving in a far calmer manner. One knows to rest on Shabbat. One knows to eat only Kosher. One holds back from constant physical touch with one's wife by fulfilling the laws of Family Purity. There are always stops. Some people think it's too restrictive. But much like driving a car, and knowing that the "Stop" sign is there to keep you safe from danger, these restrictions calm the body and soul, allowing both to be healthy - and happy. When one begins to drive one's "car" (the body) in the slower lane of that apparent restrictive life - as one learns more Torah each day, practices more acts of kindness, and simply flows with the gentle breeze of life that Torah brings, one knows that one is living in as safe a lane as is possible. There is a beauty to such a lifestyle and a calmness that only one devoted to such a lifestyle can understand.

Nobody is ever exempt from life's activities and the bills that must be paid - but the Torah way of life puts life into perspective. It makes it meaningful and it allows one to live according to a set of laws which keeps one safe from the many dangers that exist outside.

In our fast paced world of technology (you know... "living with the times" and all that...) many refuse to ever learn the dangers of texting and reading their messages on their "smart"phones. It will never help - no matter how many times one asks others to respect the lives of others (at the very least!) and to be aware of the dangers involved in using their phone while driving. Liz Marks also thought she had it under control. Addicted to her smartphone she took the path of least resistance. A path that indicated something to the effect - that since everyone else does it - she could too. It could never happen to me - were surely words she had thought of - as so many others have too.

Her story (in the video below) is beyond tragic. The message brought by it is clear. Life is far too precious to get swept into the fast lane of keeping up with technology, keeping up with the social world, keeping up with the Joneses. Live with the times indeed. Just don't forget, even when the modern world is calling a phone "Smart", it does not mean it really is...

Go to yourself. Go for yourself. Keep in touch with who you really are as a person. You are great just being who you are. You never need to feel the need for everything else that everyone else has - or the need for keeping up with the lifestyle everyone else does - just because they do it. G-d tells Abraham that going to oneself is really a message of going for oneself. When one relates to who one is and pursues his path of growth, he really does himself a favour for himself. He keeps himself outside of additional dangers that can be avoided - and becomes a calmer person who can love life - even when it seems like there are restrictions. Mostly - those restrictions are not there to actually "Stop" you. They are there to warn you of oncoming traffic. Your pause - though seemingly a time-waster and frustrating - may one day be the very reason you are alive - and you may never even realise what should have happened - because it didn't!

"Celebrate" the Shabbat day. Enjoy its calmness. Enjoy the warmth it provides body and soul - even if it's freezing outside! Go to who you are - and pick up a book of the Torah and spend some time reading it - without the need to check your phone every few minutes. This is who you are.

If nothing else has any impact in this message - never text and drive nor use your cellphone in any way that is against the law - against your life (even if you think you can get away with it.) There may not be an officer to stop you, but there are other things that can...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Are You Keeping Shabbat THIS Week (Parshat Noach 5775)?

There is still time to prepare to observe the Shabbat this week - uniting with all Jews around the world. See The Shabbos Project for more information on how to observe THIS Shabbat, and every Shabbat afterwards!

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Doing Everything in its Correct Time - a Lesson from Sukkot

City Of Sukkas In Jerusalem
By Effi B. (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Torah teaches that "Zerizim makdimim le'mitzvos" - "The swift perform Mitzvot with alacrity". The moment a Mitzvah presents itself, one should do everything one can to fulfill the Mitzvah. Just as we must be quick to fulfill a Mitzvah that presents itself, we should also be careful to honor the Mitzvah for what it is, when it actually happens! For this reason, many have the custom of disassembling their Sukkot immediately after the festival. Such individuals indicate through this, that the Sukkah contains a holiness of the kind that we should really have it up only for the festival itself. By having it up longer, it is as if we say over that the truth is we can just leave it that way for as long as we wish. Those who value its intrinsic holiness make sure the Sukkah is ready for the festival - but also take it down immediately afterwards to show how much they have valued it - but for the festival itself only!

On the other side of this coin lie those who have not worn Tefillin for the entire festival of Sukkot, in accordance with the opinion that says that Chol HaMoed is really Moed and we don't wear Tefillin on a Moed (festival.) Those who delight in Mitzvot performance wake up early on the day after Sukkot in anticipation of putting on their Tefillin at the earliest possible time - to get back into the holiness of the lights of the Tefillin! Such individuals are really the two sides of the same coin as those who dismantle their Sukkot immediately after the festival.

Sukkot is that time when we begin asking for rain from G-d. Indeed, in the ideal world, G-d will answer very shortly thereafter. Our prayers are taken seriously. The festival is over and we are in urgent need of rain. That being the case, we simply open our mouths, ask G-d for the blessed rain, and the rain comes down!

If we are to get to grips with the way in which prayers and nature work, we should also do well to heed the advice of those who are swift in performing Mitzvot to prepare enthusiastically in advance - and to move on immediately afterwards into the Mitzvah that awaits us next. Mitzvah gorreret Mitzvah - one Mitzvah draws in another.

In Israel, the blessed rains have already come down, bringing new nourishment to all of creation. Yet there were some who still had not taken down their Sukkot. As a result, the rains begin to make their way into the metal of those metal Sukkot and the wood of those Sukkot made of wood. This causes those substances to wear out faster and require new purchases sooner than expected.

Let us take this beautiful lesson to heart. G-d is indeed ready to answer our prayers as we pray. Things must follow a correct process of blessing in the times that blessings should come. Our duty - now - should be to do everything in its correct time! Just as the sun rises and finds itself in the position it should be at each moment of the time, drifting across to the other side of the sky - and the moon and the night performing their duties in their own times, so too should we be careful to honour each moment of time in its most fitting period.

When its time to build (the Sukkah) we build. When it is time to dismantle - we dismantle. When it is time to put the Tefllin aside, we do so (if we follow that custom), and when it is time to put them on again - we do so immediately with enthusiasm. As we relate to the correct cycle of G-d's planned events in creation, so too will He bless us with abundance in those times as He so decrees as being just that right time (which is really always now!)

Everything has its time. This is the best path to blessing.

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis

Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis and his Wife

Rabbi Zelig Reuven Bengis (1864 - 7 Sivan 1953) was one of the outstanding scholars from the previous generation. By the age of 17, he had already mastered the entire Talmud to such a degree that he was able to recite it forwards and backwards (literally.) He was born in the city of Shnipshik close to Vilna in Lita and arrived to learn in the famous Yeshiva of Volozhin at the age of 17. He received his Semicha from Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Berlin - known better as the Netziv - Rosh Yeshiva of Volozhin. He also received his Semicha from Rabbi Elchanan Spektor and Rabbi Shlomo HaKohen (The Cheshek Shlomo). In 1894 (at the age of just 30) he was appointed as the Rav and Av Beit Din in Bodoki in Palach Hurdana and remained there until 1912. 

In 1938 he made Aliyah and worked as Rosh Yeshiva of Ohel Moshe. After the death of Rabbi Yosef Tzvi Dushensky in 1949, he became the head of the Eida HaCharedit and remained in this capacity until his death in 1953 - having lived 89 years. He is buried on Har Hamenuchot in Jerusalem. Some of his famous students include Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv and Rabbi Yisrael Grossman.

Once, it came to the attention of Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik from Brisk that there was a Bachur (young student) named Zelig Reuven Bengis who could recite the entire ShaS (the Talmud) both forwards and backwards. He could not believe that such a young man was capable of this and asked to meet with him to test him. When Rabbi Soloveitchik met him and asked him whether the news was true, Rabbi Bengis answered that it would be better to test him. Rabbi Soloveitchik tested him by asking him to recite a particular piece of Gemara off by heart - only, this time, from the end of the Gemara backwards to its beginning! Indeed, he found the "rumour" to be 100% true - at which point in time he acknowledged the rumour, never having to test the young Bachur again!

Once, when he was just a young student in Yeshiva, a wealthy man approached the Yeshiva with the news that he would donate an entire carton of wine (12 bottles) to the Yeshiva if the student Zelig Reuven Bengis could pass his test. In those days, such an offer was well sought after and to receive such a prize was a true gift! The Bachur approached, and the wealthy man began his test. He asked the young man to recite a certain Mishna in one section of the Talmud off by heart. Then he was to recite another Mishna from a different place - also off by heart. However, there was a catch! He would have to intertwine the two Mishnayot by reciting the first word of the first Mishna and then the first word of the second Mishna. Then he would have to recite the second word of the second Mishna with the second word of the second Mishna and so on. Indeed, Rav Bengis did not fail the test, winning the much sought out wine for the Yeshiva!

Once, when he was already acting in the capacity as Rav, a young man learning in Kollel approach Rav Bengis to talk with him in learning. He was over impressed with himself and filled with great pride that he was able to discuss the issues with the great Rabbi. When Rav Bengis saw his arrogance, he gently put him in his place. Rav Bengis asked the young man to select any book from the bookshelf that he would like to learn. Then he was to recite just a few words from anywhere on the page and that he would continue. Rav Bengis then began tor recite word for word the remaining words on the page, continuing with a lengthy discussion discussing the points. He then asked the young man to select another book and do the same - and continued this way with a third and fourth book. By the end of the day, the young man had learnt a fortune of Torah and seen the real greatness of a true Torah giant. At this point, Rav Bengis gently berated the Avreich. He explained to him that in truth man is just worms (Rima Ve'Toleah) and there was no need for such a being to be filled with pride - since after all, he will one day leave this world in any case and this is how he will end up!

The Netziv very much wanted to "show off" his student at one point in time but never seemed to have the chance. One day, the Russian authorities approach the Netziv reprimanding him for having set up a Yeshiva which did not teach the secular values of the government - to such a degree that the men in Yeshiva did not even know the Russian language! The Netziv critisized them heavily stating that not only were the students knowledgeable in the Russian language, but they did in fact listen to all the instructions told to them by the government. He even had such a student who would recite everything over word for word and even backwards - so attentive was he! The official decided to test the Netziv by giving over a lecture and then asking the students questions. When the lecture was over, the Netziv asked Rav Zelig Reuven Bengis to tell them what they had said. Rav Bengis relayed over word for word every single thing the authority had said - and then said it over yet again from the end to the beginning in reverse order! The authorities, upset at having been defeated replied that one could prove nothing from the uniqueness of such a person!

Rabbi Shurin in his book Sefer Keshet Giburin 1:40 tells over that he remembers visiting Rav Bengis in Jerusalem in 1939 - when he was then the head of the Edia HaChareidit. Even at the age of 80, he attached no special importance to himself or his role. He lived in a two and a half room apartment - very modest with simple and old furniture. His house was open for visitors all the time. He had no servants, Gabbaim or Shamashim to assist him - attending to everything on his own. There were never special times to see him, and he would receive everyone whenever they came through!

It was said that the Rav completed the entire Talmud 101 times in his life. He would be making a Siyum (celebratory meal) for the completion of the Talmud every so often. But on one occasion, he celebrated a Siyum just a couple of months after the previous Siyum. This made no sense. Some 60 days to complete 2711 double sided pages?! When asked how he managed it - he replied that this Siyum was a most special one! He explained that he had been asked on many occasions to fulfill some sort of rabbinical role for others - whether being the Mesader Kiddushin for a marriage, or invited to other celebratory meals etc. He realised soon enough that much time was wasted as he would stand around waiting for things to get going! He decided quickly to begin a new cycle of learning Talmud just for those particular occasions. "Now," he said, "this celebratory Siyum is due to completing the entire Shas just in those 5 minute waiting periods every time!"

His talk was always filled with Torah. Once, when Rav Shurin was young, he wanted to test the Rav - as is the custom of certain Bachurim who wish to find out exactly where their teachers are "holding". He asked the Rav if he agreed to be tested to which he acquiesced. He explained how he should be tested. "Take any Gemara you wish," he said, "flip through the bottom of the pages." he said, "take a look at the very bottom of the page and read out just three or four words from the smallest print. Take the Gemara, the Rashi, the Tosefot or anything and read just three or four words, and I will tell you which Gemara you are reading from and the page you are on." Rav Shurin did as the Rav asked and every time he received the correct answer - exactly! Masechet - such and such. Page such and such. In this could be seen his pure simplicity and his desire to show and teach his students the love of Torah and how it should be studied.

Thursday, 22 May 2014

Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri

Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfandri 1820 - 22 Iyar 1930 – known as the Saba Kadisha (the Holy Grandfather – because of his length of years – almost 110!) was born in Instanbul, scion to a line of outstanding Rabbis. In his youth he corresponded with Rabbi Akiva Eiger and his son-in-law, Rabbi Moshe Sofer – The Chatam Sofer. He was known for his sharpness. His way in Halacha was to intertwine the words of the Rishonim with the final decision leaning on the opinions of the masters of Kabbalah from the schools of the Arizal and the Rashash.

A few years after he married he began to take care of a number of young orphans in his own home! He was a Rosh Yeshiva in Kushta, but refused to accept a salary any higher than what the Avreichim who were learning there were getting. He became the Chacham Bashi of Damascus – a post he maintained for 20 years until after the First World War.

In 1908 the Sages of Tzefat asked him to become the Rabbi of the city and to bring peace into the community which was then in need of someone to assist them. He arrived in Tzefat in1917 (aged 97!) and from that moment onwards decided he would never leave the boundaries of the Land of Israel. Later he went to live in Jerusalem, living in the street which today is known by his name i.e. Rechov Alfandri. During these last years, his home was open only for a select group of Torah students.

Even though he merited very old age, his body remained strong until his last years when he was very ill. He was able to stand by himself and his eye sight remained perfect until his very last days – even though he had used them to read handwritten texts and the smallest of print of masses of Torah works.

On the evening of 22 Iyar 1930 after reciting the Tikun Chatzos prayers (special prayers recited by righteous individuals at midnight every night,) he wrote his last response (Teshuva) – one of the longest he ever wrote. In the morning after dawn, he put on his Tefillin, read the Shema and immediately upon finishing it even before starting the main Amidah prayer he died in his chair adorned with his Tallis and Tefillin – at the age of almost 110.

His Halachic rulings on the four sections of the Shulchan Aruch were printed after he died in the work known as Shailot and Teshuvot of Maharsha (Moreinu Harav Shlomo Eliezer) Alfandri known also as "HaSaba Kadisha". 

One famous story told about him concerns an evening when he went out to make the blessing on the new moon. At the end of the blessing, he looked up and began clapping his hands in consternation. He shouted out, "I see that a large scale war will soon break out!" This happened in April 1914 shortly before World War One broke out!

Monday, 19 May 2014

Rabbi Ezra Attia - Rosh Yeshiva Porat Yosef - Yahrtzeit 19 Iyar

Rabbi Ezra Attia (1887 - 19 Iyar 1970) was one of the greatest Torah giants, and teachers of contemporary times. He was not just a Posek, but extremely well versed in all the hidden mystical Torah (Kabbalah.) He was the Rosh Yeshiva of the famous Porat Yosef Yeshiva teaching hundreds of the Sefardi Talmidei Chachamim of today – and certainly tens of the greatest of Sefardi leaders in world Jewry today. He was well known for being the teacher of Chacham Ovadia Yosef (died 2013), previous Chief Sefardi Rabbi of Israel and no doubt the greatest of the Sefardi Poskim of recent times! He also taught Chief Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, the elder Kabbalist Rabbi Yitzchak Kaduri (died at over 100-110 years of age in 2006), Rabbi Yehuda Tzadka, Rabbi Ben-Tzion Abba Shaul, and many other well known Tzaddikim, Torah giants, Poskim and Mekubalim.

His parents were having a difficult time in having children, and so they went to the grave of Ezra HaSofer to daven for Divine help. His mother had mentioned that should they be blessed with a son, she would call him Ezra after Ezra HaSofer and would devote his entire life to Torah. The blessing came about, and indeed Rabbi Ezra Attia achieved the highest of Torah levels.

His family was extremely poor, and he would eat only one pita a day – if he was lucky. He told his pupils that when things were good, he would share a pita with his mother. On rare occasions he would even divide an egg in half! His father-in-law was the great Rabbi Avraham Sallam the Kabbalist.

He studied Torah under Rabbi Chaim Shaul Dweck – the well known Kabbalist responsible for the Sadeh commentary on the Eitz Chaim of the Arizal. His other teacher was Rabbi Shlomo Eliezer Alfrandi (who Yahrzeit falls out in just a few days!) another of the greatest kabblists of recent times – who died at the age of almost 111 in 1930!

Perhaps one of his most famous stories concerns his pupil Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. One day (Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was still a Bachur in his teens) when it became apparent that Rabbi Yosef was not attending Shiurim, Rabbi Attiya looked into things and found out that he had taken a job helping his father in his grocery store. He was forced to work due to the extreme poverty in which they lived. When Rabbi Attiya tried to convince his father of the importance of Torah study, the father did not listen, saying that the money needed was more important. The next day, Rabbi Attiya himself appeared at the grocery store all dressed up in a work apron. When asked about it, he told Rabbi Yosef's father that he had told Rabbi Yosef to continue his learning as he had already found someone else to take his job at the store for no pay! The worker – was none other than Rabbi Attiya himself! When the father saw just how much Torah study meant to the both of them, he left Rabbi Yosef to continue study. Today, we can see just how much that decision has affected the entire Jewish world!

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

What Would You Do?: Assist a Woman to Buy Groceries (Video Included)

She stands in line, ready to make a purchase. She has a family to feed - a baby in need of baby food, diapers and - well, everything a baby needs! She doesn't have the money for it all (let alone to imagine how she will pay her rent and taxes!) What would you do? Would you help?

This beautiful video shows a group of very special people who, when put to the test showed their true colours! Indeed, when one sees someone struggling financially - no matter what - if one is able to assist, the Torah teaches we should go all out for them. Of course, if one can't assist, a man in this video shows us another set of true colours - feeling empathetic rather than shouting out insults is also something special. Both take doing. So next time you're solicited for funds from someone who seems to look quite healthy - but going through hard times, consider this video. 

Remember, there is a Creator over all things who is ultimately putting each one of us through this test - every single day, even when we think we're not being watched. One day, however, the Creator will reveal Himself. Out comes the cameras and one is suddenly aware of the test that one had gone through. There's a "Crew" watching us in every situation just wanting and waiting to see the best sides of ourselves - constantly. Are you showing yours? If you can - help. If you can't - feel the other's pain as if it were your own. It may once have been your own too, that's why it should encourage you to give now - if you can! It's important to feel. And if you've never "been there", pay it forwards to others today - so that you may always be blessed. Life is a wheel that goes around.

Monday, 12 May 2014

The Best Ways of Ever Giving Charity: Two Awesome Videos

Everyone knows that giving charity is one of life's major tests. It's not always easy to give even when we have the best of intentions. But there are always times we do want to give. We want to make the difference in another's life - especially when we know just how much they need help. Everybody needs help - at some point in time. It's always good - as they say - to pay it forwards.

I had seen the video below a few weeks ago and it caught my attention. The Rambam lists 8 levels of charity. The highest when we help someone get a job, employ him (and pay him WELL,) support his activities, give him a loan, refer others to him etc. etc. The list continues with aspects concerning the giver and recipient and which of the parties is aware that the other is involved in the transaction. The lowest level is giving even when one does so begrudgingly.

Here's a quick story of someone who wanted to give to others without embarrassing them:

A wealthy man once wanted to make sure that the poor of his town were taken care of. He did not want to embarrass them with his gifts. What did he do? He had a company ship over a quantity of bricks to his home and instructed them to place the bricks on his front lawn. He then called up the first needy man and told him he had a problem! He was in need of the bricks - but in his backyard! He would pay him $200 if he could move the bricks there so that he could continue with some work. What a pleasure - thought the poor man. Just a couple of hours later, it was all done - and he was $200 richer!

The wealthy man then called another of the poor in town. He explained to him that some bricks had been delivered and placed in the backyard. He needed them on the front lawn. He would pay him well - $200 if he could help. The poor man was only too happy! In just a couple of hours the bricks were on the front lawn - and this poor man - like the other, was already $200 richer!

And so the wealthy man continued - assisting in this same way - for all the poor in town.

Giving is something we can all do to help another. We can do it even without embarrassing them! There's always a way to make it happen!

In our video, a man does the same thing - making one in-need "wealthy" without causing any embarrassment! (Surely he would have found out later - but this is not the point. At the time it was happening, the man in need had no idea what was planned.) We should watch and learn - that giving in ways that do not cause embarrassment to the other are indeed ranked in the highest of levels of charity.

It was the follow up to this story that blew me away the most! You'll have to watch it to believe it. Those who saw the act of kindness, were so encouraged, so taken in by the good deed, that they also wanted a part. They also wanted to help this homeless man. They did so by donating generously! So much money came in that they were able to purchase a home for the homeless man (see the deal in the video) and assist him with some very fine furnishings! This is indeed an aspect of the highest level of charity.

Chessed Ve'Emet is also involved in assisting those who lack, to be able to own their own home items, including furniture, appliances and other necessities - all brand new! Our dream is to be able to assist those lacking to be able - very much like this man - to own their very own homes. Any time one is involved in showing others the importance of giving to the highest extent possible creates a great Kiddush Hashem - a sanctification of the Name of G-d. Likewise we can well imagine what discouraging others from performing such acts of kindness can do, let alone showing up the true lack of value they have for another. We really do need to watch videos like this and see that even amongst the nations of the world, there are those who value the honour of another and wish for their very best - nothing less than the best! Imagine how much more beautiful this world would be, if instead of always thinking that the other could get by on the street, we would think of how to assist them to live in dignity and honour!

For those wanting to learn more of our activities, see our main page: Bayit Chadash - Wedding Project - assisting orphans to marry in dignity.

This video is extremely powerful! May we learn to perform acts of kindness in similar ways and give wherever we can to those in need.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Study Torah - Perform Mitzvot

Our Parsha this week - Parshat Bechukotai starts off no holds barred! The Torah - life - is all about the study of Torah and the fulfillment of Mitzvot. It is these things that bring blessing into our lives - in so many ways.

The Parsha (Leviticus 26:3) begins, "If you will follow My laws, and observe My commandments and perform them...". Rashi points out that if the Torah were to simply have stated 'following My laws," one would have to come to have thought that this refers to fulfilling the Mitzvot only. Now since the verse also indicates 'observing My commandments," - surely this part is teaching us to fulfill the Mitzvot. If so, why the need for the first part of the verse? What differentiates the following of the laws to the observing of the commandments and performing them? Since every word is there for a reason - there must surely be a difference between the two.

Rashi points out that the first part of the verse indicates that we are commanded to toil in Torah. After all - if we don't toil - we will not know what to do! What Mitzvot can we ever perform, if we never know what the Mitzvot are really all about?!

Therefore, Rashi points out - toil in the Torah so that you will be able to practise the Mitzvot in reality. He then brings another proof from the book of Deuteronomy (5:1): "And you shall learn them (i.e. the commandments,) and guard them to do them." Here again - the important point that before one can actually do - one must spend time learning.

We live in times where knowledge seems to be everywhere we look. Due to this, we often think we already know everything. There are many of us who keep fully Kosher, observe the Shabbat day, fulfill the laws of Family Purity, give charity, never speak any gossip about others and a host of other vital Mitzvot we fulfill every single day. With all this - we wonder why the world still seems to be so topsy-turvy. Are we not already observing the Divine Will? Is this not enough?

One verse is all that is needed to tell us there is more involved. Learning the laws of Shabbat can take years. Two out of the six volumes of the Mishnah Berurah written by Rabbi Yisrael Meir Kagan - the Chafetz Chaim - are devoted exclusively to the laws of Shabbat. Chapters 242-407 of the Shulchan Aruch's first section of Orach Chaim, that's 165 chapters out of 697 are devoted to the laws that every Jew must be fluent in - in order to observe the Shabbat day. Chapters 408-417, another 10 chapters are devoted to the laws of Eiruvei Techumin. This is a huge portion of the first section of the basic standard code of Jewish law. We need to ask ourselves, do we keep the Shabbat day because of a Shiur we attended - or because we have studied these laws in depth?

If this is so for the laws of Shabbat, we need to ask ourselves if we have studied the laws of Kashrut sufficiently too. Are we making mistakes? Do we keep the laws because we think we are keeping them - or because we really are keeping them correctly? What can we say about the laws of speaking Lashon Hara? Have we actually studied the laws from the original text - the Chafetz Chaim? So too we can ask ourselves these questions with regards to all the laws of the Torah. Have we actually sat down and studied what needs to be done?

Our mission - according to this week's Parsha - is to get heavily involved in Torah study. We must devote sufficient time each day to labour and toil over the Torah so that we actually know what must be done. When we do this and then practise these Mitzvot, the real blessings of life will flow, in ways we simply cannot imagine!

Friday, 9 May 2014

Support Your Fellow - First!

This week's Parsha - Parshat Behar contains an important lesson for life. It's all about money. It's all about being Jewish. It's all about understanding the unity of the Jewish people. It's really about caring - where caring counts the most - first! 

The verse (Leviticus 25:14) states, "When you make a sale to your fellow or make a purchase from the hand of your fellow, do not aggrieve one another." Every word means something. It's written there for a reason. No word in the Chumash is extraneous. The choice of the wording is selective because though another could be used just as easily - it is this word that makes all the difference for this particular point.

Rashi points us in the right direction - the need to focus ourselves not just on the choice of words - but on how we interact with each other. Naturally (as Rashi says) the verse is coming to teach us that we should not aggrieve each other when involved in business transactions. Honesty is just such an obvious point when it comes to working on ourselves and behaving correctly - making a society healthy. Who could think otherwise? Who could honestly think he/she has the right to destroy another's livelihood - and life - when it comes to a business transaction? But still, the verse informs us of the necessity. Honour your friend's money as much as you honour your own. Value his money as much as you value your own. Appreciate his right to having the good things in life - as much as you demand it of yourself. Our verse tells us all this.

Rashi asks - from where do we know that when you sell something, you should sell it to a Jew who is (actually) your fellow? We know it from this verse which says that when you make a sale i.e. when you are about to make a sale, sell to your fellow. Rashi asks likewise - and from where do we know that when you come to make a purchase, purchase from a Jew who is your fellow? For this, the verse teaches, "from the hand of your fellow." (i.e a Jew.)

The verse points out to us that when it comes to business - if you are Jewish - your first choice of customer should be the person who is "your fellow." When you come to make a purchase - support "your fellow" first as well. This is an important rule in a world filled with an infinite amount of business opportunities available from so many billions of people. We always have the choice of whom to interact with first. It can be a person on the other side of the world who we do not even know - nor have any relationship with. Likewise - we could just as easily find a fellow Jew who lives right next door(!) (who may legitimately be in need of work / income etc. or likewise in need of the service that you offer.) 

This is one of the core responsibilities of being Jewish. It's about connecting with each other first. Assisting each other first. In as fast a paced world as ours where everyone is grabbing their own opportunities wherever they can - with so many of our fellow Jews not being able to get by - it is imperative that we take these words to heart - and do everything we can to offer our services to them first - and likewise to make our purchases with them first. Let no Jew be lacking anything - ever.

As the verse continues - but don't forget - even when you do curb your desires of supporting the rest of the world - and attune yourself to the importance of your very own nation, and now offer your services to your fellow Jew - or even when you make a purchase from him - do not aggrieve him. Do not cheat him (just because you feel you have done your share now in supporting him in some way.) Now that you have come to support him - being totally honest is no less of a responsibility than attending to his support.

Lessons for life. Honesty in business. Helping another Jew to cope with life when the world may seem to be against him. Be a part of it!

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Help the Donkey - Before it's too Late!

This week's Parsha - Parshat Behar, contains a selection of exceptionally powerful principles on the topic of kindness, charity and honesty (even if the verses seem to be somewhat mixed within a variety of other important Torah areas.)

The verse teaches (Leviticus 25:35), "If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him... so that he can live with you." This is perhaps one of the most powerful verses in the Torah discussing the Mitzvah of Tzedakah - charity. But what does this have to do with helping a donkey?

Rashi teaches us a vital lesson, as he states regarding this verse: The verse does not use the expression, 'and you shall stand him up" but rather, 'you shall strengthen him.' This is because the verse is teaching us regarding the situation of a person who has not fallen yet. He is still standing (so to speak). But the verse comes to warn one - don't let him descend further and fall completely, because if that happens, it will be most difficult to stand him up again! Rather - the verse teaches - strengthen him now - from the moment he stretches out his hand (the literal translation of the verse) before he falls. This is like a person who is about to fall and his hand stretches out (as if he is hoping to catch something to steady himself and save himself from falling.)

Rashi explains: What is this compared to? To a donkey with a load on it which is now becoming unsteady and about to fall onto the ground. If the load is still upon the donkey, a person can hold onto it and steady it and stand it back to its place. However, if it has already fallen onto the ground, then even five men will be unable to stand it up again! So too here, support the poor person and strengthen him in order to prevent him from falling.

The message is clear. The giving of charity is something done best the moment the poor person asks. All too often we make our own accounts in our heads that a person looks okay - they surely are not in need (even though they are asking.) We give them ideas for new projects that will "surely" make them wealthy. We already know them so well that it simply can't be that the truth is as they say - that they have no money and that they are unable to continue living the way they are any longer. Others choose not to believe that the other is actually desperate and in great need of money - to live.

We make up things that they will be able to make it through. We even think to ourselves - that if we ever will see them fall completely that then we will help them. All sorts of accounts in our own heads - just as long as we don't have to come through to help them. Whether it's their need for food, clothing or shelter or other necessary things in life, we imagine to ourselves how the other will surely manage. And if not... then we will take care of them. But for now - we're exempt. They will turn out just fine!

Our verse teaches us different. The time to help is when the hand of the poor person is stretched out. His stretching out his hand to us, is his way of telling us that he is about to fall - just like a person who is literally about to fall and sticks out his hand ready to grasp anything that will steady him again.

The verse warns -- but if you wait and think that there will be another time that you can help - when you see the other (in your eyes) as really needing, at that time, it may already be too late. The donkey will have fallen with it's load. And whereas the help given just moments before would have steadied the person again, giving him hope to continue, now, not even five men will be able to do the job of assisting this person back onto their feet again. The humiliation they will now have to go through... The fact that they had to sell their most sentimental items (just to get by - and will never be able to get back again)... The total embarrassment they will have to experience as the entire community now begin their talking about the latest poor fellow who they must help - Nebach! The shame. Nothing will ever help to regain the person who once was - who he was before the fall.

We must think of the donkey every time a poor person asks for help - of any kind. It will be a tragedy for us all if it falls. It may even be impossible to ever lift them up again - even with a group of the strongest of men!

The Rambam teaches that the highest level of charity is to prevent a person from becoming poor by offering a loan or employment (honest - where the employee is paid so that he can live with the income he receives!) investing in his business or any other assistance that will avoid the poverty he finds himself in. Let us never forget that powerful teaching from the Rambam - because it is through acts of kindness - of genuine caring and concern for the other, doing everything we can to help them to live - just like us - that will hasten to repair the world, bringing true happiness to all. 

May it always be that that person - who once lacked - live with us - with all the necessities and luxuries we desire and expect for ourselves.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

The Lubavitcher Rebbe - Sicha 28 Nissan 5751 - Video Clip with English Subtitles

The following video clip is of the Lubavitcher Rebbe speaking about bringing Moshiach (with English subtitles.) Following that video I have posted another video clip regarding the Rebbe's answer about what needs to be done to bring Moshiach.

The Rebbe is clear! There is an obligation upon us - every single one of us - to do what we must to bring Moshiach. The focus and message of bringing in the light of Tohu through the vessels of Tikkun is clear: We must be balanced, focused and move ahead with structured power to do everything that we can - everything the Torah demands of us. If it's becoming stronger in Kashrut, Shabbos or following the laws of Family Purity. Further to this - increasing in Tzedakah stands out in the forefront!

The Rebbe asks for just ten people - and then goes so far as mentioning just one, two or three (though I do not understand why he asks for more when he starts with asking for less i.e.  just one(!) person devoted to this task) who will devote themselves to this project - an urgent one.

The second video - just a few months after the first one (and a few months before his major stroke,) once again brings the Rebbe's focus on to what is most important - acts of goodness and kindness. An increase is what is needed. As in the first video - there must be a drastic increase in the giving of Tzedakah. Our generation has never needed it more than now - with more and more Jewish people struggling to live on a daily basis, being insulted because they cannot own their own homes (and forced to move often due to landlords constant increases in rentals and desires,) buy new clothes, or even provide healthy food on a daily basis(!) - while many others live by celebrating two to three overseas holidays each year, purchasing holiday homes, owning at least two of the very best of cars, and engaging in a variety of other additional "pamperings" of life. There must be an increase in the giving of Tzedakah - acts of kindness filled with empathy and caring to those who lack. Our generation is starving for a balance in income levels - and a huge need for all people to be able to live and serve Hashem with true gladness with every good thing.

Are you ready to implement the Rebbe's words? I would personally be happy to hear from those watching this to share with me their own feelings of what you think the Rebbe is demanding. Only positive comments focusing and clarifying what the Rebbe is demanding so urgently for us to do, will be read. Negative comments and anything slanderous are of no interest to the author of this blog.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Living Testimony (of the Holocaust) by Rabbi Michael Mandel (Father of Rabbi David Bar-Hayim)

After the introductory video by Rabbi David Bar Hayim (head of Machon Shilo), the first in a series of 16 videos of Rabbi Michael Mandel (his father) sharing his experiences before and during the holocaust, is presented. The entire series can be found here.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Counting the Omer: Bringing Bounty to All the Worlds (Video Clip of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

We are commanded to count the Omer starting from the second night of Pesach and ending our final count on the night before Shavuot. For more details and insights about this Mitzvah, including a daily email reminder so you won't forget which day it is, see "Sefirat HaOmer - Counting of the Omer." For a one page chart with boxes you can tick each day when you count (except for Shabbos), see the Torah Tots Omer Calendar.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe teaches us about one of the very special things about this Mitzvah - whether an accomplished Torah scholar or just a young boy or girl, our reciting of the blessing together with counting these days brings bounty to all the worlds created by the Creator of the Universe.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Rabbi Marvin Tokayer - Rabbi in Japan - Encounters With the Lubavitcher Rebbe - Video Clip

Rabbi Marvin Tokayer's life story is not the regular kind. Rabbi of Japan and many surrounding areas for many years. Author of 20 books... in Japanese!

A meeting with the Lubavitcher Rebbe brought him on a path of life he could never have imagined. The video is absolutely fascinating! Enjoy!

Visit Jewish.TV for more Jewish videos.

** Image taken from Rabbi Tokayer's website: www.rabbitokayer.com

Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Love your Fellow as (You Love) Yourself - Video Clip Included!

Parshat Kedoshim - a Parsha dealing with what it really means to be holy - what it really takes to be holy, includes within it one of the core principles of Judaism. After teaching, "Do not hate your brother in your heart. You shall surely rebuke your neighbour and do not bear a sin on account of him," Leviticus 19:18 teaches, "You shall not take revenge and you shall not bear a grudge against the members of your people - and you shall love your fellow as yourself - I am G-d." 

The range of Mussar (/mystical) books available today is overwhelming - from the well known works such as Mesillat Yesharim (Path of the Just by Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzato,) to Shaarei Kedusha (Gates of Holiness by Rabbi Chaim Vital Chapters 1-2. Chapters 3 and 4 dealing with Divine Inspiration) to Reishit Chochma (The Beginning of Wisdom by Rabbi Eliyahu De Vidas,) there exist every angle of what needs to be done to improve oneself - to become truly holy. Yet Parshat Kedoshim includes it all! 

Rabbi Akiva said that loving another as oneself is a great rule in the Torah. Hillel taught the entire Torah to a convert as he stood on one foot, "What is hateful to yourself, do not do to another," he said. Rules for greatness. Rules for life. How does one do it? Is there a practical example we can learn from?! The Tanya - the Chassidic work discussing the core teachings of Chabad Chassidut, written by Rabbi Schenur Zalman of Liady, teaches in Chapter 32 (Lev - Heart) that one of the most important things is to see the other as a soul. The important thing is not to focus on the other as a body. This is distracting as it causes one to fall for the illusion of the externalities of everything - a veneer that usually masks the true beauty hidden underneath.

When it comes to real love for another, you'll know you have it, when everything of the other is as important to you as your own "everything" is important to you - whether it's money, happiness - or even the other's very own life. That's what real love is. This most beautiful story - told over by the late Rosh Yeshiva of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Noach Weinberg - is a winner all around. Keep it nearby whenever you feel you need a refresher on what this beautiful Mitzvah of loving another is really all about.

Courtesy of Aish.com


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