Since everything that exists in the physical world has a spiritual counterpart, let us try to see if there is any correlation between the three security mechanisms that are made for physical protection for our homes and three other spiritual “security systems” that we “install” that not only protect us but also greatly enhance our lives.
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Let us explore a harmonizing correlation between the joyous holidays of Chanukah and Purim How so?
The main tribute of the leader in the Chanukah story, Mattisyahu ben Yochanan, is that he was the Kohan Gadol. The main accolade of the leader in the Purim story, Mordacai HaTzadik, is that he was the Gadol Ha-Dor. How do these two important roles complement one another in avodas Hashem?
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There are two popular holidays in the Jewish calendar that can be celebrated even as we perform our ordinary weekday activities. Even though they have no special Yom Tov or Shabbos requirements they do much more than just commemorate events in history. Chanukah with its lighting of the menorah with, ideally, olive oil and Purim, in which wine is the drink of choice, have ...<< MORE >>
Chanukah, unlike the Yomim Tovim, seemingly requires very little of us; we are not asked to refrain from most of our daily tasks. We achieve this zeman’s spiritual goal by lighting the menorah on each of the eight nights of Chanukah, at the appointed time, and in so doing we declare the ability of the compassionate Creator to rekindle our (neshamos) souls even as we experience the depths of galus.
What is ...
After Yaakov and his family crossed the Yabok River, Yaakov returned to retrieve pachim ketanim — small flasks. There, the Sar of Esau confronted him; what followed was the definitive battle for supremacy between the forces of good and evil. This battle continued to rage throughout the night until finally, Yaakov emerged victorious at which point he was informed of what his new name would become.
The stage was set for this momentous battle by Yaakov’s interest in recovering some ...<< MORE >>
What would you answer if someone sincerely asked you: “What is the need of all the myriads of Jewish laws and customs, after all aren’t they just traditional rituals of our forefathers without much significance for us now in the 20th century?” Let us use the following paradigm to try to explain how so called “rituals” like (Kiddush) the blessing of wine on the Shabbath and holidays, the washing of the hands and saying the blessing over the (challot) ...<< MORE >>
Upon awakening from sleep, we resume our life’s journey. From the moment that the holy Jewish soul is returned to the body, a fresh opportunity is presented to actualize our lifelong process of growth. How do we achieve this lofty goal?
Chazal explain that sleep is the period of time when our soul (the neshama) ascends to the supernal realms. The vacuum left behind causes a temporary influx of what we call – tum’ah – ...<< MORE >>
“Hashem said to Abram, who was then living in Ur of the Chaldees, a cosmopolitan city of idol worshippers: “Go away from the land, from your relatives and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” So Abram left Ur and settled in Eretz Canaan where he ...<< MORE >>
Over the past several decades the roles of both men and women in contemporary society have shifted dramatically leaving both genders in the midst of an identity crisis that simply did not exist in earlier generations. So many people today unfortunately caught up in this generational “tug of war”, are finding it more and more difficult to understand and appreciate their purpose and position in this world.
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We are all familiar with Hashem’s oath to Avraham Avinu after the Akeidas Yitzchak - or are we? “The angel of Hashem called to Avraham a second time from heaven. And he said, ‘By myself I swear – the word of Hashem – that because you have done this thing, and have not withheld your son, your only one, that I shall surely bless you and greatly increase your offering like the stars of the heavens and like the ...<< MORE >>
Did you ever ask yourself what is the deeper significance, on a personal level, of this week’s cryptic Torah portion in Parshas Lech Lecha (14: 1 – 24) that relates the story of the four powerful Kings, whose armies after conquering the armies of the five kings, took Lot, the nephew of Avraham, as one of their captives?
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Have you ever stopped to think about just how much in our lives depends upon (teivos) words? Although in theory, we could manage the basic tasks of survival ...
We live in two realms simultaneously – the physical world that we can see, hear and touch and the spiritual world of the neshama which is connected to Hashem and is accessible through thoughtful contemplation. The Succah is the extraordinary instrumentality that allows us to make a smooth transition from the see – hear - smell touch world of the physical to the place of our neshama-consciousness. In the Succah, we can actually experience the transformation; Whether we have carefully observed and absorbed this process ...<< MORE >>
From Caterpillar to Butterfly
Just as we can observe dramatic changes within the creation, such as the transition of the relatively graceless dawdling caterpillar into a gracefully ...<< MORE >>
From Caterpillar to Butterfly
Just as we can observe dramatic changes within the creation, such as the transition of an unassuming dawdling caterpillar into a gracefully airborne butterfly, so also we at times observe quite dramatic changes in the course of our lives.
The sukkah is a, so to speak, spiritual cocoon that can help us remove any “roofs” of perceptual limitation and replace them with the supernal lattice covering --s’chach --which allows ...<< MORE >>
Modern technology has brought many advantages with it, especially when it comes to making our material life more convenient and efficient. Telecommunications is certainly no exception, and since everything that exists in the physical world has a spiritual counterpart, it is worthwhile trying to understand what we can learn from the now commonplace telephone and its wireless counterpart - the cell phone from a fresh Torah perspective. ...<< MORE >>
We Jews are ancient, expert travelers in time. We are given special times, from our holy Torah and wise Sages, in which we can help mend, renovate and elevate the entire creation. The whole month of Elul along with the first twenty two days of the month of Tishrei are a case in point. ...<< MORE >>
Of the normal fears that people have, one of the most insidious is the fear of failure. ‘What if I don’t succeed? What if I will be perceived by others and my myself as a failure?” How do we ask ourselves these questions. They come up in major life decisions all the time – for example:” Which profession should I enter? Where should I live? ...
"It shall be that when you cross over the Jordan, you shall erect these stones, of which I command you today, on Mount Ebal, and you should coat them with plaster. There you shall build an alter for Hashem, your G-d, an alter of stones; you shall not raise iron upon them. Of whole stones shall you build the alter of Hashem, your G-d, and you shall bring upon it elevation-offerings to Hashem, your G-d. You ...<< MORE >>
Have you ever asked yourself how it is possible to achieve a perfect scorecard in one’s lifetime? After all isn’t there an expression that says we learn through our mistakes? Also, it is written that “a tzaddik fall seven times …” It might be worthwhile for us to revisit the passuk) in Bereishis that set the standard for this seemingly impossible goal. “When Avram was ninety-nine years old, Hashem appeared to him and said, ‘I am the Almghty G-d; walk before Me and be perfect.’” - Genesis (Bereishis) 17:1. ...<< MORE >>
It is written in the Torah that “When you come into the Land… set a king over you; only he shall not have too many horses for himself, so he will not return the people to Egypt in order to increase horses, for Hashem has said to you, you shall no longer return on this road again. And he shall ...
I was once riding on public transportation when a young person, sporting a ponytail and dressed in jeans and a t-shirt peered over my shoulder at the book (sefer) I was reading. It was a copy of Mesilas Yesharim with an English translation. I imagined that he would not give it a second glance, but to my surprise, his eyes lit up, he smiled broadly and asked me, “Is this the new one that’s just out. I ...
The 15th day of the month of Av (Tu b’Ab) is one of those special days on our Jewish calendar that can almost be missed if we don’t pay close attention because, unlike other holy days, it does not require us to leave our weekday activities and immerse ourselves in special mitzvoth. Yet it contains a treasure trove of spiritual wealth that is available for us to mine. We enter the treasury through a portal called “awareness.”... << MORE >>
Is it coincidental that just at the same period of time the recently formed Israeli government is beginning to implement very devastating financial cutbacks, that would especially effect the larger Orthodox Jewish families and religious institutions, that the entire body of twenty eight nations of the European Union have just drafted new very restrictive financial guidelines, that if implemented would be devastating for Israeli banks, businesses and the overall ...<< MORE >>
Tishah B’Av is one of those rare days in the Jewish calendar that seamlessly interfaces with the ordinary weekday. On Tishah B’Av we are not clothed in our regal Shabbos or Yom Tov clothing nor do we partake in any festive meals and therein lays its power and strength. Indeed, this day is quite unique in that it is dedicated to relinquishing some of our most basic ...<< MORE >>
Let us begin by using a 21st Century (moshal) example of travel that “journeys” into the “highways” of our hearts and “byways” of our minds in order to enhance our relationships with others. Possibly one of the (Torah’s) Five Books of Moses intentions for recording for all posterity each of the “moving” and “parking” violations, in the course of our Nations journeys and ...<< MORE >>
Bein Hametzarim - “between the tragedies.” Caught in the vise between - the 17th of Tamuz and the 9th of Av - days in which our Temple (Bais Hamigdash) was destroyed as well as many other calamities befell us – it is difficult to perceive any redeeming aspect of this tragic period. However, we have long understood the spiritual value that lies within adversity. For example our Rabbis (Cazal) inform us of the benefits we derived from our period ...<< MORE >>
Reb Shaya came to our door one evening and asked if he could tell us a story. He knew that we “collect” incidents that reveal the amazing intricacies of Hashem’s hashgachah pratis and we are especially inspired by examples of outstanding emunah and bitachon.
When we heard Reb Shaya’s account of what he lived through and witnessed during the Holocaust, we wanted to ensure that this amazing tale of mesirus nefesh does ...<< MORE >>
GIVE UP ... AND GET MOVING
When G-d (Hashem) wants us to change, first He gives us an opportunity to do so on our own by providing specially directed means and methods and special days throughout the year in which we can examine our deeds, choose to make ...<< MORE >>
Our teachers (Rabbanim) teach us that the duration of our lives can be counted in words not just years. When we have used our quota of words, we leave this world. Of course, words of Torah and words used in the performance of mitzvos are not included in this count. It could well be that for those who have dedicated their lives to some productive endeavor, it is the completion of ...
“There we saw the Nephilim, the sons of the giant
from among the Nephilim; and it came to pass that in our eyes
[we were] like grasshoppers, and so we were in their eyes.” Bamidbar, 13:33
The military reconnaissance of the Land presaged a battle that appeared hopeless as it would pit the weak and small against the strong and mighty. The spies – meraglim - in answering the questions posed ...<< MORE >>
The eternal Torah, whose every word or even letter is replete with deep meaning and profound impact in our lives, transmits to us elaborately (spanning over one hundred passukim in Parshas Bamidbar, Nasso, Behaaloscha [and then further in Parshas Korach] (perek 1 passukim 47 – 54; perek 3 : 5-51; perek 4: 1-49, perek 8: 5-26 and 18-21-32) the designation, separation, elevation of the tribe of Leviim. “The Levities according to their father’s ...<< MORE >>
As we approach the time of the giving of our Torah, let us reflect that each and every Jew is said to be connected to an os – a letter – in the Sefer Torah, with both our inner perception and the outer reality in which we live being spun from its spiritual fabric. Since this week we are reading about the giving of the Torah let us try to broaden our understanding what possible additional insight can be culled from the halacas that ...<< MORE >>
The Midrash teaches us that the other nations were offered the Torah however each of them rejected it because they found some of the commandment to difficult to comply with. [For Ishmael it was the prescription against stealing, for Eisav it was the commandment not to murder]… However when it was our turn we in unison proclaimed: “We will do and then we will hear” – “Naasey vi-nismah”.
Since it wouldn’t be fair for all the nations to have commandments that they found very challenging and we, the Jewish ...<< MORE >>
This world is filled with treasure hunters—people looking for riches in all of its forms --wealth, power, position and glory. They search high and low for clues and directional signposts to show them the way. A recent article reported on the activities of one of the most successful hedge fund managers in the world whose fund returns a whopping 36% a year (net before fees). To accomplish this he uses a vast array of sophisticated computing equipment reputed to ...<< MORE >>
The Pesach seder with its unusual foods and customs is not the only holy time that summons the question, “Ma Nishtana” –Why are we doing things differently?. On Shavuos we can also very legitimately ask the same question: “Why is this Yom Tov different? On other Yomim Tovim , we honor the holidays with flesic meals; on this Yom Tov we also have a dairy meal. Why? The relationship between the Creator and the ... << MORE >>
OPPORTUNE TIMES OF DEVELOPMENT
The holy Torah, our guide book through life, gives us not only direction but the fuel/energy to strive towards our goals and aspirations, yet we find almost a complete parsha ( Behar 25: 1 – 55) dedicated to commanding us on each seventh (Shemita) and the fiftieth (Yovel) years to cease from many halachic forms of “effort”. These lengthy periods of cessation from certain halachically defined activities, for ...<< MORE >>
As we soon approach the awesome day of Lag Bi-Omer, in which as many of five hundred thousand people will come from all over the world to be together in Moron with the Tana Rabbi Shimon Bar Yocai, there is to ask: what is the underlying unifying drawing power of this day and this Sage? To embellish this question, let us realize that logically speaking, Rabbi Shimon attraction should be mainly only those few individuals who delve into his sacred ...<< MORE >>
How often have we spent time and energy trying to help others seemingly without positive results? When this happens, we find it difficult to understand just how we could have dedicated so much time to such a fruitless ...
Have you ever contemplated or wondered the deeper meaning of the very cryptic Torah portion, which extends for nearly two whole parshas, that describes in detail the spiritual cleansing and atonement process for the metzora? This mystical procedure involves taking some of the blood, from the korbon that is offered, and placing it on the right ear, the thumb of the right hand and the big toe on the right ...<< MORE >>
Lashon Hakodesh is a holy tongue with profound meaning. There is a deep connection between words that share the same letters even if, on the surface, the words may appear to be entirely dissimilar. For example, let us examine the words, oneg and nega. Oneg represents a form of spiritual perfection that is expressed as pleasure. Interestingly enough it is spelled with same three letters as the word nega – the ...<< MORE >>
Even when change involves something longed for - ...
It’s the night (lay’l) of Pesach with all the family and guests joined together around the Seder table. After Kiddush on wine the head of the household (Bal HaBais)divides the middle matzah, wraps up the larger piece for the end of the meal (Afikomin) and puts it snugly behind his pillow. Later in the evening (seder) someone points to the place of the afikoman and whispers to the ...<< MORE >>
The rain washed down the windshield in torrents undeterred by the wipers. The driver wiped his bleary eyes and the world swam. Only a few more miles, he thought and I will be able to deliver the medicine from the pharmacy and go home. He glanced at the directions scribbled on a wrinkled paper. Here’s the turn. There’s the ...
It’s just a just time before takeoff, friends have dropped off packages of gifts for their loved ones. We wondered how we were going to fit them all into our bulging suitcases. Before we knew it the car service driver was beeping. We quickly stuffed our cases closed and hoped ...<< MORE >>
In a few impacting verses (pesukim) in the beginning of the Book of Exodus (Sefer Shemos) , the Torah sets in motion the political and emotional forces that were to keep the children of Israel in bondage for the next two hundred and ten years. These same forces have operated as a snare throughout history and are present today, only the stage setting has been specially designed ...<< MORE >>
The inspiring ideas of this beautiful Torah thought in Shemos Ki Sisa (34: 29-35), where Moshe Rabbinu received the Divine radiance is found in the drashas of the Casam Sofar brought from the Yalkut Reuvani and additional kidushim by one of the Rosh Hayashivot before the 2nd World War. In-order to give us a greater appreciation of the preciousness of the thought for the general reader, I have expanded and elaborated on them ...<< MORE >>
On your way to (Pesach) Passover, don’t pass over Purim. Ah Purim, how we all appreciate you even though you tantalize us, mystify us and laugh with us as we struggle to understand you. Like Yom Kippur, you help us to reach a destination called forgiveness but what a difference in the trip. You allow ...<< MORE >>
PURIM MOOD ENHANCING PRESCRIPTION
DOSAGE: Twenty four hour spiritual “infusion” that keeps us elevated for the whole year.
SUPERNAL “INGREDIENTS” : The four essential sacred “compounds” are Mikra Megillah, Shelach Manos, Matanos Le-Evonim and Seudas Purim along with either just enough ...<< MORE >>
The following is an abridged version of some of the meaningful ideas of Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch that is wriiten in his “Collective Writings – pub. For the Rabbi Dr. Joseph Foundation by Feldheim’s publishers
Haman who was a descendant from Amalak said to King Achashveirosh: ”There is a nation scattered and isolated among the nations, in all the provinces of ...<< MORE >>