Category Archives: Special Days In the Jewish Calendar



         Since our Cazal tells us that when Codesh Av enters we lessen our joy (simcha) and when Codesh Adar enters we increase our simcha, it behooves us to try to find some underlying thread of connectedness between these two antithetically appearing periods of time whose pinnacle of expression are manifest on Tisha b’Av and Purim:

On Tisha b’Av we replace our smiles and laughter on Purim with our tears and heartfelt sighs.  

 On Tisha b’Av we exchange our less than conventional Purim costumes with unadorned garments and no leather shoes.

 On Tisha b’Av we defer from the joyous festive eating and drinking of Purim with our fasting and abstaining from bathing.

  On Tisha b-Av we refrain from sharing ourselves and gifts with others as we do on Purim, while instead sitting lower down in contemplative introspection.


O’Tisha b-Av please reveal to us how through your five restrictions of the day can we bring ourselves five steps closer to the coming of the Mesiach?

(Tisha b’Av speaking to us)

1)    On this, my day of mourning, by taking off your leather shoes you begin to “refit” your souls.             

2)    On this, my day of mourning, by refraining from leisurely walks and other corporeal pleasures, you increase your “strides” towards holiness.  

          3) On this, my day of mourning, by not washing or anointing, you further “cleanse” and “purify” your souls.

           4) On this, my day of mourning, by withdrawing from food and drink, you increase your souls “nourishment”.

            5) On this, my day of mourning, by abstaining from learning, you rejuvenate your commitment to the Torah. 


               O’Tisha b’Av with the birth pangs of the Mesiach waiting at your “doorstep”, may we do our part to open the “doors” of our hearts thus meriting the full glory of your day becoming a joyous Yom Tov.


                                                     La-shana haba bi-Jerusalem




All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


           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 lies its power and strength. Indeed, this day is quite unique in that it is dedicated to relinquishing some of our most basic needs: the learning of Torah, eating and drinking and wearing leather shoes. But it is by focusing our attention on the meaning of the day in the manner proscribed by our sages that we can attain extraordinary results.

The intensity of the feelings of the day, superimposed upon our daily lives gives us a humbling view of our actual position in this world. It is by sitting for hours on or near the ground, in serious contemplation while fasting, that we can catch a glimpse of something about ourselves that we rarely have a chance to see.  And this glimpse can be — if we allow ourselves to take advantage of it –the inspiration for a true transformation. Tishah b’Av like teshuva aids us in reaching a profound depth within our yearning souls.  This yearning for the redemption (geula) for the time when we will find security, respect, peace and prosperity and where we will finally see an end to the  periodic eruptions that have punctuated our long exile – eruptions that  have produced  the seismographic pulsations is what we heart fully pray for all day.  

            The bitter roots of our exile were extended deeply into the soil long before the destruction of our holy Temple — their growth  stimulated through the diminution of Torah learning and by the adoption of foreign lifestyles and cultures.  

What can we do on this day to “uproot” these perennial underlying causes that continue to hinder the rebuilding of our holy Bais HaMikdash?

             On the Ninth of Av, as we accept upon ourselves the physical restrictions our Sages have imposed, we sow seeds of renewed dedication in the soil of altruistic humility that will, with the help of Hashem, bear an abundance of fruitful blessings.

               On  this day of mourning, by not wearing leather shoes on our feet, we begin to “step” unassumingly down from our pedestals of overreaching self-confidence.              

            On this day of mourning, by not using our legs to take leisurely strolls we increase our “strides” towards holiness.  

            On this day of mourning, by not washing and anointing our bodies for pleasure, we enhance our spiritual “purification”.

             On this day of mourning, by not eating and drinking, we take the reins of control away from corporal desires of our hearts and hand them over to the soul to be our guide.

             On this day of mourning, through refraining from using the thoughts of our minds for Torah study we clearly recognize the futility and emptiness of life without it. 

            And this day of mourning, the birth date of our long awaited Redeemer (Mashaich), is the very day that is the beginning of the new dawn which will bring everlasting joy and peace to all mankind.  May we merit the final geula soon in our days.



All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


      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 of bondage in Egypt (Mitzraim), which prepared us for the next level in the service of Hashem. In Mitzrayim we were given the opportunity to extract precious sparks of holiness that only the most challenging of events and epochs could release.  

       Let us try to reveal a redemptive, positive view of this difficult period that we re-visit each year at this time. Perhaps one of the “keys” to releasing ourselves from personal and national bondage lies, ironically, in the name for the period – “Bein Hametzarim”.

               Why is this time called “between the tragedies” and not “the time of tragedies”? The nature of many people, when beset by difficult challenges, is that they tend to become overwhelmed and even imprisoned in their own personal “bars” of anguish and hopelessness. Yet, many of us know those exceptional people who, in seemingly overwhelming circumstances, are able to overcome restrictions focusing not on the bars – of limitation – but on the spaces “between” them – the inner messages that offer new vistas of growth and change which are encoded “within” the challenges.

            Cazal have foretold that one day the inner lights of these days called Bein Hametzarim will be unveiled revealing the crowning gem, our long awaited Moshiach, whose birth  date is the 9th of Av (Yerushalmi, Brachos).

            Sfas Emes tells us that the ten sayings (maamoros) with which the world was created world were later channeled in Mitzraim through the ten plagues (makot) and finally revealed in the form of the Ten Commandments.[1] These ten sayings were the Divine D.N.A. that G-d used to formulate the world.  Had mankind cooperated and obeyed Hashem’s commandments, the world would have achieved perfection; however because of the various sins throughout the generations, a process of purification was deemed necessary including the ten plagues (macot) for the Mitzriyim (at  the same time that the Jewish people were the recipients of blessings) that led eventually to the exodus.        However, since freedom from physical bondage was not the final goal, the benevolent Creator led us to Har Sinai and gave us the Torah whose essence is coded within the ten commandments.  Perhaps we can draw a parallel from this to draw another connection among numbers: the twenty-two letters (oisios) of the Torah, twenty-two days of Bein Hametzarim and to twenty-two of our holiest days. As is well known the entire creation was and continues to exist through the twenty-two holy osios of the Torah. However, due to the ongoing failings of mankind, specifically the Jewish people have designated to be a holy nation charged with rectifying and elevating the whole Creation. We are assigned at times to descend into the darkest, most dangerous realms of time in the calendar year[2]  in order to reveal the inner radiance their intrinsic holiness. It is specifically during the depths of the frigid winter referred to as SHOVAVIM (TAT), during which the Torah reading retells of the bondage of our forefathers, that we can access the spiritual “genetics” necessary to rectify not only that period but all challenging times. This lofty goal is achievable through the dynamic vibrant power contained within the twenty-two readings (aliyot) of the Torah beginning with the story of Moshe our teacher (Rabbinu) and the burning bush (sneh) (the forth alia in Parshas Shemos), ( then seven alias each in Parshas Va’eira and Parshas Bo) and ending with the splitting of the Yam Suf (forth alia of Pashas Beshalach) for a total of twenty-two aliot.

         It is specifically through the Torah, our spiritual catalyst, that even during the most  twenty-two searing intense summer days of Bein Hametzarim will be transformed in the near future into days of joy. Adhering to the Torah’s prescriptions will enable us to make the transition from the grip of stifling bondage to new heights of freedom in days of Divine radiance. Each and every day of the Bein Hametzarim period contains within it the seeds – the inner essence – of twenty-two of our holiest days.  [3]

            May all of us merit to see, feel and experience the blessings encoded within each and every one of these days, thereby transcending the galus of limitation to arrive at the ultimate redemption (geulah).

[1]  S’fas Emes in the name of his grandfather the Chidushei Ha’rim.

[2]  The Bnei Yisaschar brings a Zohar that Yaakov Avinu received the portion (control) of Nisan, Eyar and Sivan while his brother Esau received control of the summer months of  Tamuz, Av ( the months of Bein Hamitzarim)  and Elul. (Ma’amrei Chodesh Tamuz-Av, Ma’amar alef, s’eef vav.) I also heard that Yaakov Avinu also received in addition the portion of the months of Thisre, Chesvon and Kislev whereas Esau received the portion of the strongest winter months of Tevet, Shevat ( the months of  Shovavim -Tat) and Adar. Only later did Yaakov Avinu take Elul and Adar into his realm of holiness.


[3]           Parshas Pinchas, read at this time, contains the mitzvot of theYamim Tovim, indicating that there is a connection between the Yamim Tovim and Bein Hametazarim. Additionally, the twenty two days from Shivah Asar B’Tammuz through the Tisha B’Av parallel the twenty two days from Rosh Hashanah to Shmini Atzeres (which are also twenty-two days) and through this connection the days of Bein Hametzarim are drawn up and sweetened. (Parshas Pinchas – 24 & 25).


All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


          Meron in Eretz Israel is the burial site of the RASHBI author of the ZOHAR the seminal treatise on Kabbalah. It is awe inspiring to see thousands of Jews from every walk of life come to this holy site to reconnect with the very roots of their souls.  

        They come from all over the world and represent the entire spectrum of Jewish consciousness and social and political conventions and practices . Here  we can find the ultra orthodox and the radically secular,the conservative and the liberal, some with long peyot [side locks] while others with pony tails.

        This diverse group comes together in  order that each may connect with the supernal transcendence of this timeless holy place. Some are filled with tears of pain while others are celebrating in joyous ecstasy. Nonetheless, by the time they are ready to depart,  each visitor will  have a definitely discernible
experience – it may express itself as a sense of renewal and inspiration, or it
may present in a more subtle fashion  — but each will receive in accordance with  the power of his or her soul to be recharged.

    How is such a phenomena possible? The answer is not “blowing in the wind”  but hovering within the core of each one of our souls. The holy RASHBI,  as he is fondly and reverently called, merited to find a way to reveal the deepest levels of Kabbalistic tradition in a format that keeps itself hidden
from all but a select few Sages in each generation.

        The sefer that he wrote, the Zohar contains all of the encoded secrets of
theTorah which were later revealed by giants such as the ARizal and his
disciples. This extraordinary sefer  contains the spiritual keys to all of the
hidden worlds and the powers locked within them to re-balance our –
neshomas – thus providing the  truest form of  soul food.


All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia


       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 “driving” and “parking” violations, in the course of our Nations journeys and encampments during the forty years in the (midbar) desert, was to serve as a “sign post” for future “motorists” pointing out “road hazards” in order to help them avoid potential “pitfalls” while “traveling” through life’s (galus) exile. This “driver’s education course” that teaches the “rules of the road” maximizes our safety, in addition to helping us maintain a clean “traffic record”. Passing life’s “driving tests”, especially in interpersonal relationships during these three weeks when the “road conditions” are less than optimal is a great opportunity remove some of the perceived “road blocks” and “pot holes” that can arise in relationships between people.

             It is human nature, especially in relationships with others, to become impatient and frustrated when things don’t “move along” according to our plans and timing. We live in a generation of maps, scales and watches where every inch, ounce and second is measured, therefore we sometimes find ourselves tested by the idiosyncrasies of others which seem to be at variance with our opinions or attitudes. When one is “behind the wheel”, the first rule when there is a potential problem is to put on the “brakes” – “slowing down” enough or “stopping” a moment to ask ourselves if we our “traveling” the best “route” of communication.

        Another cause of excessive “tire wear” is when a relationship with another feels like “riding” on a roller coaster. Since this person – whether friend, relative or stranger – was sent into our lives, it behooves us to ask ourselves whether these emotional “ups and downs” at this “intersection” of our “journey” might be preventable by building “bridges” between us that will smooth out” the “road conditions” and “distance” between us.

           If we appreciate the fact that a road that ascends a very steep hill must, of necessity, have various twists and turns in order to facilitate a safe, gentle journey, then we might also validate the opinions and emotions of others, which may at times differ from our own perspective.

            In order to make our journey safe and enjoyable, we would do well to follow the (derek eretz) etiquette manual that is located in the heart of every driver. Before “traveling” to meet or interact with other people, obtain a “traffic and weather” report of their attitudes and moods. Are any of their “lanes blocked” or is there a “storm” brewing around them?      

         Another invaluable tip is to learn how to “change lanes” in conversations that lead to “dead ends” and if necessary to find “alternative routes” of communication.

           Even in ones very own home, one is constantly being asked to “journey” and then “encamp” at new levels of relationships. How so? Each telephone call or door bell represents a potential “obstacle” placed in our “path” schedule. Interactions with family and friends constitute an ongoing “up hill ascent” that can sometimes make us as if  we can’t reach an agreeable “meeting ground”. If anyone “stalls” or “drives recklessly”, the ensuing “personality crash” may can cause a further “traffic jam” “slowing us down” from reaching the next “plateau” of mutual agreement.

                Let us look at some of the many components that will prove invaluable as a part of our (Chaverim) friendly – helpful “travel guide kit”. The first and foremost advice for “motorists” is to learn how to maneuver the steering wheel, so that in our conversations with others, we may “steer clear” of any “pot holes or barriers” that can might impede the smooth “flow” of “traffic” – ie. communication.  The “rear view mirror” serves as an excellent tool for observing past mistakes in order to avoid wrong turns” in the future. The “brakes” help us to “stop short” of saying or doing anything that “crashes into” another person’s feelings. It is valuable always to have our “booster cables” at hand in order to “boost the mood” of others who may be having a hard time of getting started.

         Also, an extra supply of  “fuel” – ie. an encouraging word – is reenergizing for those who have run out of “gas”. A tire jack can be an excellent tool to help “lift up the mood’ of someone whose life seems without much (ruach) air – ie. “flat”; while a flashlight is always valuable in offering a “ray of hope” at a “dark” moment.  Last but certainly not least, always have a “road map” – an inspiring Torah thought to help point out the best  direction in life.

            By faithfully following these (bain adom bi-chavero) between man and his fellow “rules of the road” we will thereby merit to reach our “destination” safely together at the (Har HaKodesh) holy Temple sight in Jerusalem soon in our days. 


All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia





          Purim is the perfect time to invite guests who
think that Judaism is stodgy and restrictive.  
As we stomp all over Haman’s name during the Megilla reading, and then sit
down to a meal that’s more liquid then solid, I most enjoy watching Purim dismantling
all of their pre-conceived notions.   I don’t tell my guests (who are having too
much fun to worry about it) that even as we do something that seems strange or
unusual, we are making a powerful statement that reverberates through time in
order to bring the ultimate redemption.

            Stomping Out Haman 

             The custom of stomping at the sound of Haman’s
name begins at the feet, so let us take off our shoes and examine the bottom of
our “soles/souls”.  Most of us have a
live and let live relationship with our feet. 
If they do not bother us, we don’t worry about them.  We don’t usually buy special vitamins or
minerals to enhance their functioning and at best we notice them because we
need them as a place to put our shoes. 

Our feet don’t seem to  “kick up” much of a fuss about this attitude
because they are too busy either standing or walking.  Walking is an amazing process, that we take
for granted, which involves the foot’s ability to be rigid and calloused, yet
flexible and mobile:  taking steps begins
with the foot in a rigid state, the heel 
hitting the ground, it then continues 
with the foot unlocking and flexing so the knee can pass over it.  Our weight is then transferred to the ball of
the foot as we propel ourselves over the toes whereupon the foot again becomes
rigid to provide the momentum for the next step.  Although small in comparison to the body, the
foot is able to support its full weight using muscles, tendons sinews and
interestingly twenty six bones. 

The feet are furthest from the head and seem to be
unconnected from all the other organs.  Yet
according to a fairly popular alternative medical practice called reflexology, applying
pressure to designated points on the feet can restore health and well being to
each part of the body for a wide variety of ailments. According to this system,
there are said to be, even more interestingly, 7200 hundred nerve endings in
the feet which connect to zones so that each part of the foot corresponds to
some part or organ of the body.  For
example, the various organs and systems of the body are represented on the sole
of the foot while the big toe corresponds to the head.  The lungs correspond to the ball of the foot
while the waist is a line crossing the instep and the small intestine and
bladder are located towards the heel.  

The feet also seem to be the farthest removed from
that which is holy and pure.  Yet, it
would be very difficult to interact with the world in the fulfillment of many (mitzvoth)
specific good deeds without their assistance.  And it is that interaction with the world that
Purim is so much about as this holiday begins with an awakening from “below”.

Our generation’s place in history lies on that end
of Hashem’s time line that is embedded deeply within a mindset that often
connects itself to self gratification, that is at the bottom end of  the 
fourth of our four  exiles, [1]
yet, we play a “pivotal” role.  Like the
“soles” of the feet, most “souls” today are distant from the achievements of
earlier generations, yet it is our duty to lift ourselves up, “striding” ever
forward bringing the knowledge of Hashem into the here and now – which time is
referred to as the (ikvei) [heels] footsteps of the HaMasiach.  Although this last exile like our heels has
become somewhat calloused it is precisely that quality that gives us the opportunity
to illuminate this epoch in time so that the ultimate redemption can occur.

Interestingly, our feet play a crucial role in
this epic drama. They serve as the liaison between our “souls” and the ground.
By having “our feet on the ground” – ie. in this material world, we are
vulnerable to the nefarious plans of (Haman/Amalak) those who personify evil,
but at the same time this positions give us a solid “foot-hold” in this battle.

Although our physical “soles” are connected to
earthliness, our holy “souls” are unified with the true Source of All.  We therefore literally have the power to “stamp
out” the influence and memory of  Haman  and Amalek with each “step” bringing us closer
to their “de-feat” and the our ultimate redemption.




The Ari Hakadosh
teaches that the purpose of the four exiles was to repair the sin of Adam Ha
Rishon, the first man, with each exile corresponding to the various parts of
the Primordial Man. So the Egyptian and Babylonian exiles repaired the head,
the Persia
and Midai, the chest, the Greek exile was the lower part of the body and
finally the exile of Edom
was the feet.

All articles appearing on this blog are copyrighted by Rabbi Yehoshua Binyamin Falk. All rights reserved. Permission is granted to share/download/copy this information as long as it is accompanied by the copyright. Separately authored/copyrighted materia