As we move further into the month of Teves  and find ourselves engulfed by the dark cold winter, it seems difficult to hold onto the imprint (reshima) of the glow of the inspiring lights of  Chanukah.  Nonetheless, we must not allow ourselves to succumb to the illusion that the world has fallen prey to the physical and spiritual forces of darkness.  After all, Teves is a month in the holy Jewish calendar even as are the months of Nissan and Tishre.   Teves and in fact all of the winter months are   also imbued with sanctity and filled with treasures for us to discover.  But how can we find anything without light?  In a seemingly paradoxical manner, the answer lies hidden within that very darkness.

               Historically, these days were blemished by a spiritual darkness caused by events that weakened respect for the Torah in the eyes and hearts of the nations. The Greeks forced our Sages  to translate the Torah into their language.  This translation was only of the written part of the Torah (she’bichtav) and was in accordance with the deliberate alterations purposefully incorporated by the seventy Sages who simultaneously translated it.  It could not and was not intended to convey the depth and breath of Torah which is elucidated by the oral part of the Torah (sh-b’al peh). 

 Why should this be an occasion for spiritual blemish?  We know that we are not permitted to reveal the secrets of Torah to pagans and in fact G-d (Hashem) created a miracle (nes) allowing the Sages who were kept apart  as they made their translations to simultaneously provide the same alterations of the words of Torah so as to preserve and protect the Torah from misinterpretation.  Yes, on the one hand, the translation of the Sages accomplished its purpose and the Torah was protected, however, on the other hand, the Torah in translation lost the aspect of reverence and awe that attached to it when it was read and interpreted in the holy tongue by G-d fearing Jews and respectful non-Jews who had made a commitment to come within the congregation (k’lal) of Yisrael. 

In the eyes of the non-Jews the Torah in translation lost its Divine  majesty and became ordinary. The Torah became available to the masses and perhaps even more disastrously to the  bible critics who labored long and hard to eradicate our Torah’s Divine sanctity. 

Non-Jews were not the only people who were affected.  Tragically,   some Jews were affected as well.   The ideology that motivated this translation  has continued to affect the spiritually vulnerable within the Jewish Nation throughout the generations and to this day.   Sadly, we can observe the many unlearned Jews who know the Torah only at its most superficial level, if at all, and who cannot fathom its depths and its import.

                In demanding a translation of the Torah, the Greeks intended for it to weaken our holy tradition. Through forcing us to display the words of the Torah without its commentaries and rules of derivation,  they  attempted to transform it into a one dimensional mindset as hinted to through the letters (osios) within the name of Yavan:  yud-vov-nun. All three of these letters are externally made up of  a unidirectional line implying that their beauty and essence only exists on the surface. The truth is that as descendants of Yaphet, one of the sons of Noach, they were ideally meant to enhance, not detract from the Torah, by dwelling within the tents of Shem. The name Yaphet comes from the root of yofe – meaning  beauty.   We can see that Yavan  inherited  this trait because the letters of Yavan when reversed spell out the word nun-vov-yud – noi–which means attractive. Had they fulfilled their role properly they would have used their G-d given talents to enhance the Torah by dwelling within our tents.  This has not as of yet happened.  Instead they attempted to capture our Torah bringing it into their tents of Hellenism.

                However, fortunately, even the plans of the evil minded are also under the control and only instrumentalities of the Creator ( Hashem Yisbarach). They are sometimes sent our way, if we caused through our inactions or wrong actions to be tested, (us) in order to give us the opportunity to change and grow. The Greek empire (Yavan): yud-vov-nun attempted to lower the yud through the vov down to the depths of the nun, whereas our role is to raise up and reveal the beauty within those hidden lights of holiness found in the Torah as seen through the letters spelling noi: nun-vov-yud.

                      Indeed, the miracle (nes) imbedded in the uniformity of the Torah’s simultaneous translations is a word that has three meanings: It means miracle; it also means a test (nision) and finally it means banner.  The nes of this translation becomes a test for us – a test of our own beliefs and of our own ability to help ourselves and our less learned brothers by revealing the great spiritual treasures lying hidden beneath the surface  of our holy Torah.  Because the challenge is so great and the need for illumination is so palpable – when  we make this effort all important and use our strengths to this end then  when we are victorious  we will have the privilege of being able to raise our Torah to new and even greater levels of appreciation in this world.

 Perhaps the greatest lesson we can learn from this  long exile (galus) is that we cannot be content with the levels we have currently reached in Torah.  Even many of us who learn our holy Torah written and oral with its holy commentaries every day cannot yet say to ourselves, “Ah but we have plumbed the depths of her potential.”  We should take these days that are both physically and spiritually dark and bring illumination into them.  We should take our spiritual scuba gear and dive deep into the sea of  Torah.  By going far beneath the surface – meaning by learning each subject with great profundity and sincerity we will then merit just like the deep sea diver to uncover valuable treasures from the depths of our efforts. This will help to restore the  honor of Torah  in the eyes of the world. May we together merit to achieve this admirable goal of transforming this darkness into light as we usher in the advent of our long awaited final redemption (geula).


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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 concealed within these days of joy and celebration, like olive oil that is extracted from olives and wine that exudes from grapes, heretofore untapped hidden powers that can aid us to help to rectify and elevate the entire creation.

              How is this achieved and why is it necessary? When Adam and Chava ate the forbidden fruit, violating the specific commandment of the Creator, the yetzer hara became internalized causing an admixture within all mankind of tov and rah. Since four of their five senses – of touch (feeling), sight, hearing and taste – acted as accomplices to the primordial sin, we need to now use those very same senses, in the performance of mitzvos and acts and chesed, to rectify this cosmic error which continues to reverberate throughout the generations.

               Partially because of a lack of enough sensitivity and an increase in senseless enmity (sinas kinom), that was a major cause of the destruction of the Bais HaMikdash, our Sages wisely gave us specific additional mitzvos that focus on strengthening our sense of awareness thereby reawakening our sensitivity in our relationship others. How can this best be achieved?

               We can learn how to rekindle the proper feelings between each other, through the teachings of the holiday of Chanukah which call for bending over and lowering ourselves, as the naros are ideally below ten tefakim, so as to be able for the flame of the helper candle, known as the shomus, to touch the Chanukah neros until that are lit up. So too in our relationship with people sometimes it is necessary to bend over in order to share our soul’s “flame” help kindle – ie. inspire – our brethren. The “message” hidden within the Chanukah lights is so enlightening that it even has the ability to remove the surrounding darkness for those who are still out in the shuk  – ie. – the marketplace of spiritual obscurity, thereby inspiring them to be included in the mitzvah when they joyously proclaim: (Sheasa nesim la-avosanu ba-yamim ha-haim bizman ha-zeh.  that Hashem made miracles for our forefathers in this time.

 After Chanukah rekindles our feelings for others and gives us clearer insight on how to be best be of help to them, Purim in its own unique way teaches us not only how to be good listeners, while hearing the reading of the Megilla, but to also learn how to hear – ie. understand – the true needs of others so as to best share our blessings with them. How is this achieved? We accomplish this through the other three mitzvos of the day which are sending gifts – of food that need no preparation – to friends, giving charity generously and opening the “doors” of our homes and hearts for a tasty  meal and flavorable  experience.

    Sending  readymade foods to friends perhaps on a deeper level sends a message to all our acquaintances that just as this food needs no preparation, we are always ready and  prepared to accept you just as you are.

                May we, through these mitzvos, once again regain the proper level of love and respect between all of us, thereby meriting the final Bais HaMigdash soon in our days.






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              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 the theological “technology” that enables  a relatively small flame that burns only  for a brief period of time to light up the “spiritual darkness” that envelops the world?

  It is well documented that light and sound can have a profound effect upon the human psyche, affecting health and mood.  Alternative medical practitioners, utilizing these principles, have developed light-wave and sound-wave therapies which are growing in popularity. It is claimed that these therapies allow the body and psyche to “re-balance and realign” themselves.

To us, as Jews this should come as no surprise as we have been blessed  with the holy Torah that has guided us with the inner secret wisdom of spiritual rectification at its source– at the level of soul. Thus we begin our year on Rosh Hashanah with a unique (mitzvah) commandment in that through listening to the sounds of the shofar we become spiritually retuned in harmony with the Creator’s  “blueprint”, in plan and purpose, for our neshamas.  This supernal “sound wave therapy” helps to guide us in our spiritual journey throughout the New Year.

Due to the harshness of the long galus, Chazal have added to our “prescriptions” of spiritual antidotes, a subtle but highly effective “lazer light wave therapy.” The precisely directed (neiros) lights of Chanukah possess the inner illuminating power to dispel even the most obscurant darkness. 

         Now let us examine more closely the flames of  Chanukah and their profound symbolism.  Chanukah represents a bonding of the spiritual with the physical, as seen through the menorah holding the oil and the wick as the flame hovers above. What is the significance of the flame always ascending upward above the wick, the oil and the menorah? This is a physical expression of a spiritual truth that reveals the relationship between the neshama and the (guf) body.  Even as the flame hovers over the wick and the oil unlocking their energy bringing  forth a radiant light into this world, so too the neshamah infuses the body with lofty goals that reveal spiritual treasures previously hidden within the creation. Without the fuel, the wick and the menorah – the flame would not exist but without the flame – the fuel, wick and menorah would remain inert elements.

         To what does this compare?  When Moshe Rabbanu ascended to Heaven to receive the Torah, the angels protested saying that the Torah should remain  in Heaven.   Moshe responded that the mitzvoth of the Torah could only be fulfilled in this world by human beings that were given (bechira) freedom of choice.         This means that down here on earth there are certain “spiritually conducive atmospheric conditions” that don’t exist in the heavens.

                 Through this mitzvah of kindling the light of  Chanukah beginning from 25th of Kislev, (which is alluded to by the 25th word of the Torah being – ohr – light) we our privileged to tap into the “light from Above” – the (Ohr ha-Ganuz) hidden light. This supernal beneficence at this auspicious time brings with it insight, clarity and purification.

               Oh yes, before we conclude, let us also not forget to enjoy and appreciate the latkes or other fried foods that will be served on Chanukah. This custom celebrates the role of the flask of pure oil found in the restored Bais Hamikdash. Shemen zayis symbolizes wisdom. Perhaps by eating these foods fried in shemen zayis on Chanukah we are simultaneously proclaiming, as well as benefiting from the plentiful flow of Divine wisdom that is available at this auspicious time.

                   (Shemen zayis is the desirable component of one of the praised seven fruits of Eretz Israel (shivas ha-minim). It is obtained by squeezing the olives with intense pressure. A well know (moshal) example compares the potential within each Jew to the untapped value with the olive, in that our best achievements are often produced when we are under pressure to meet a challenge.)                      May our eight day dosage of ner Chanukah’s “supernal illumination” revitalize us, helping to dispel the “darkness” of (galus) the exile and ushering in  the long awaited final (Geulah) redemption, shining in radiant splendor, 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



         Avraham, at nineteen years of age, received a draft notice informing him of his candidacy for military service. Since he didn’t relish the idea of becoming a foot soldier in the Vietnamese jungles, Avraham immediately enlisted in the Naval Reserve which obligated him to serve two years of active duty followed by four more years of monthly reserve meetings.         

           After a short basic training, Avraham was flown to his new duty station, the USS Reeves, a guided missile destroyer, stationed in Japan, that housed to four hundred plus sailors. After leaving port, heading towards their duty station off the coast of North Vietnam, the ship was engulfed in a raging typhoon which caused it and its hapless crew bob up and down like a cork, listing and rocking among the surging thirty foot waves. When the storm reached its peak, the Captain reassured all those on board that the ship was virtually unsinkable because it had a stabilizer mechanism.

        After surviving the storm, Avraham, who was raised as a Reform Jew, would often go to the back deck late in the evening and gaze up into the star-filled sky. He was not only awed by its beauty and the sheer magnitude, but more importantly he began to ask himself many penetrating questions such as: What is the purpose of this awesome creation and what is mankind’s role in relationship to it? Since he had until now never received any meaningful answers to these kind of questions, he decided to pursue this spiritual quest upon his discharge from the Navy. 

           After Avraham had completed one full year in military service, the USS Reeves returned to the United States. By now the unpopular Vietnam war was challenging  Congress  to find new exit strategies, which included huge cutbacks in military spending.  The Navy, in response offered early military discharges to reservists who had served overseas for at least one year and were now back in the United States. Avraham qualified and within a few days walked down the gangplank for the last time, honorable discharge in hand, happily thinking his was forever free from all Naval obligations and as well as typhoons .

         Shortly thereafter Avraham began to fulfill his promise to search for the true purpose in life by putting his back pack and travelling to the Far East. There he attended classes in health and nutrition given by a gifted, highly well educated teacher who was very familiar with diverse cultures and traditions. Astoundingly, in more than one class he expressed his profound respect and admiration for the Divine wisdom of the Torah and its sages. These words stunned Avraham who was relatively uneducated about his own tradition.

            Alone one day on a mountaintop, Avraham having already realized that the Far Eastern culture was not to be his destiny, he turned humbly to G-d asking for help and direction. Almost instantly Avraham began humming a Jewish melody that he hadn’t thought of for many years, along with contemplating the words of praise he had just heard about his Jewish heritage. With tears in his eyes and a yearning heart, Avraham now understood the need to journey to Eretz Yisrael and eventually into one of its first Baal Teshuvah Yeshivas to learn more about his Jewish roots.

                The Gemora tells us: “All beginnings are difficult” and so it was for Avraham as he “set sail” in the “sea” of Torah he encountered a number of “powerful storms” of doubt and “volatile winds” of indecision that pounded fiercely on his small “craft” which was built out of fragile desires to reach the “shores” of truth. A number of times when his Jewish identity seemed ready to “capsize”, Avraham strengthened his resolve by reminding himself of the Captain’s words that “the ship would always re-stabilize”. Fortunately those “storms” subsided and Avraham merited to marry and begin raising a wonderful family whose “voyage” through life has for the last three and one half decades been exclusively in the “waterways” of the Torah.

            May all our Jewish brethren merit to safely reach their souls true “port” of destination 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


        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 would be his new name.

           The stage was set for this momentous
battle by Yaakov’s interest in recovering some small flasks. What could the
Torah be hinting to when it informs us that the pachim were small? What
relevance does their size have to the lessons in this episode?

             Although many people assume that
“bigger is better”, sometimes we find that very low-key events or small items
actually are the “key” to accessing new horizons of achievement and success.

             A key is a relatively small and
inexpensive item, but it serves to open important doors. Without one’s keys a
person could find oneself without entry into ones own home, car or office.

                Like keys that open physical
doors, the words of holy Torah open mental and spiritual portals, therefore let
us try to “key-in” on the meaning of the name uttered by the Sar of Esau when
he announced: “No longer will it be said that your name is Ya’akov, but YiSRAL,
for you have striven with the Divine and with man and have overcome.”
(Vayishlach 32:29). 

      The Creator entrusted the “key”
to insights and wisdom embodied in our holy Torah to Avraham Avinu. This
tradition (“key”) was handed down to his son Yitzchok, who later gave it to his
son Yaakov. Apparently at that time since the Bnei Yaakov were beginning their
transition from a single family into a nation of millions, it was deemed the
appropriate time for the Creator in His infinite wisdom to, so to speak, design
within the developing Bnei Israel a tamperproof supernal combination lock for
the Torah that only the Jewish people could access.

              What is this mystical combination
code that binds us with our unbroken tradition all the way back to the Avos? We
know that a person’s name reveals his or her spiritual essence, purpose and
potential. Therefore it behooves us to unlock one of the deeper meanings within
the name given by the Creator to the entire Jewish nation as well as this same
name given for our holy land. The Ari Z’l  reveals in a few short words one of the mystical
secrets of our national name by informing us that the five (osios) letters of
the name Y’SRAL are the acronym – roshei teivos – of the names of our three Avos
and four Imahos: The Yud of  Yitzchak
and Yaakov is coded within the Yud of Y’SRAL; the S of Sarah
within the Shin; the R of Rivka and Rachael within the Raish,
the A of Avraham within the Alef and the L of Leah within
the Lamed. Imbedded with our Nation’s name and the name of our land is
the spiritual genetic combination of all our Avos and Imahos! The name Y’sral,
the “key” – combination code – to our existence is an example of a single word
in the Torah that contains worlds of meaning and value. 

         May we, the Bnei Y’sral, soon merit the final
geula allowing all of us to once again live peacefully in our promised land –
Eretz Israel.

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


                      HOW A GOOD WORD CAN CHANGE ONES DIRECTION IN LIFE                                                                          B.S.D


         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 task.  If you have ever had this experience or are, even now, ready to give up because you don’t think you are accomplishing anything, read on and perhaps you will change your mind.

             This true story happened in the sixties, when coming of age in this Country took the form of rebellion against the status quo.  For some, this meant trading all of the trappings of materialism– expensive clothes, luxury cars and a college education– for a backpack and a one way ticket to the East where they hoped to find direction in their search for a ‘spiritual’ path.   Many of those young people were unfortunately assimilated Jews who knew little or nothing about Torah and its  answer to these questions, but nonetheless, with Hashem’s kindness some B.H. managed to find their way to Eretz Yisrael where they ultimately came to learn about and live a life imbued with the ideals of Torah. This story is about one of these young men who we know and will call Yehuda.

Yehuda was learning in a Ba’al Teshuva-Yeshiva-Kollel. One day, he noticed a new young man arrive that reminded himself how he looked five years earlier, with his long hair, torn jeans and back pack.  Yehuda at the first opportunity introduced himself to this obviously introspective young man, whose name was Joey. Since their personalities were of like nature, Yehuda made extra efforts to help Joey any way he could including learning with him.

               Each time they learned or were together, Yehuda tried to introduce him to Yiddishkeit through its eternal laws and through its beautiful ethical teachings trying to inspire Joey to appreciate his Jewish heritage, but he unfortunately seemed to have more interest about making his way to India and kept plying Yehuda with questions about his own stay there five years earlier.

 One evening, a few weeks later, at about nine o’clock there was a knock at the door of Yehuda’s apartment. It was Joey asking if they could talk privately. After inviting him in and offering some light refreshments, Joey divulged to Yehuda that he had decided to leave the Yeshiva and world of Torah with his eyes directed towards India. Joey was clearly sitting with Yehuda in order to try to pry some names and addresses of people that he had met while in the Far East.

  Yehuda, on the other hand, used the opportunity to launch a ‘last ditch’ effort upon Joey’s decision by trying to inspire him in keeping his connection with our precious Jewish heritage through the path of the Torah. However, about midnight, Yehuda, starting to feel very tired and a little discouraged, felt like ending the conversation as he had obligations the next morning at the Kollel and the two of them seemed to have reached a ‘grid lock’ between their different ideologies.  However, Yehuda rekindled the conversation with some challenging questions about the deeper purpose of life and the role of  the Jewish people. Still after all Yehuda’s efforts, Joey did finally say good night at about two thirty in the morning thanking Yehuda for his time, and explaining that his decision was still firm that he intended to leave the Yeshiva tomorrow and start his journey to the far East stopping only to visit a relative in England for a few days.

               Indeed, the next day, Joey was gone, Yehuda was tired and a little let down from what appeared to have been a fruitless effort.

                It is now six years later: Yehuda and his family were visiting friends in their large Succah in Jerusalem. During the festive meal (seuda) a man of about thirty years of age dressed fully as an Orthodox Jew approached him.  Smiling, the young man asked, “Do you recognize me?” “The voice is familiar,” Yehuda slowly replied, trying to place this person who now had a full beard. Then this young man’s smile became very broad and warm with his dark brown eyes glowing as he began to speak:  “Six years ago I was a new student at  Yeshiva______________.   I was having a hard time and a very special person spent half the night talking to me.”  Now, Yehuda was truly incredulous as he began to remember. The young man continued: “I kept my plans and left the Yeshiva that night, however while on the plane to England, the first leg of my journey, something you said that night started to bother me. I tried to ignore it but could not get it out of my mind. I decided that the only way it would let me be is if I could clarify the issue.  When we landed in England, I decided to look for a Yeshiva and put the question to one of the Rabannim.  As soon as I got my answer, I would be on my way.  I made my way to Yeshiva______ and approached one of the Rabbis. After introducing myself  I asked him the perplexing question that you had asked me about what it truly means to be born Jewish in a world with over six billion people?”

 “The Rav undoubtedly saw where I was heading and how important a question it was to me.  He sat me down and spoke as a loving father would speak to a son. The conversation continued until I felt comfortable explaining my plans. The Rav invited me to stay for Shabbos and somehow I found myself accepting his invitation.  This meant  postponing my flight to India for a few days but the Rav’s warmth and intelligent answers rekindled a new inspiration within me to spend a few more days rethinking my future. By the end of  the holy Shabbos I was recommitted to try again to stay and learn in a Yeshiva. This wonderful Rav offered to arrange for me cavursos throughout the day and I was able B.H. to advance very nicely in my learning and general Yiddishkite. It is now six years later and  I am, B.H., still learning full time but now in the Yeshiva’s  kollel as I merited to marry and have already a few lovely little children.”

With soft tones and a voice that resonated from deep within his heart, Yosef  then told Yehuda, “I want to take this opportunity  to thank you for befriending me and for not giving up on me even when I seemed so hopelessly lost. The question you ask me about my Jewishness, I had already heard from others before but apparently there needed to be another ‘ingredient’ in the ‘recipe’  allowing me to ‘sit up and take notice’  of its importance.  That additional invaluable spice was your misiras nefesh – giving up your time, effort and energy to help reach out to a fellow Yid. Well, Joseph continued: “Through that selfless effort of yours well into the middle of the night, I not only was later able to find out why I am Jewish but was shown by you how a Jew  should act..”

P.S. : Oh yes, that ticket to India was never used and  fortunately will never be used.     

 May all the Jewish people merit to find their way back home even if we never know how we have helped them!



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


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 – spiritual impurity. Upon awakening this tum’ah recedes to our
hands with our sages giving us the knowledge of how to remove it by
re-sanctifying our hands.

    But even before we do that, t he
first thing we do in the morning is say “modeh ani”, proclaiming our
humble gratitude to our Creator for showing His confidence in us by restoring
our soul to our body, giving us another day of life in which to fulfill Torah
and mitzvoth. We surely appreciate that the renewal of our life each day is a
gift — a fresh opportunity to actualize our lifelong process of spiritual
growth.  How do we achieve this lofty
goal in a practical way? And how, we might ask,  are we  permitted 
to say “modeh ani,” before we have purified our hands?

             In order to try to answer these
questions, we will look a bit more deeply into the spiritual connection between
our hands and our voices.

The Malbim
explains that the hands represent the earthly power and might that lie within
the domain of  Eisav; but the voice,
which emanates from the realm of the soul lies within the domain of Yaakov.

 When Yaakov approached Yitzchok for his
brachos, Yitzchok touched him and felt the “hands of Eisav” but heard the “voice
of Yaakov”, and thus made the immortal declaration:  “…hakol 
kol Yaakov —- ve hayadayim yedai  Eisav.” (Toldos 27:  22)

more deeply into these words, we come to learn that, according to the Malbim, Hashem
desired that Yaakov be given both spiritual and material gifts and
blessings.   However, material blessings would come to Yaakov
not by means of natural cause and effect, but only through hashgacha, through
his voice – his Torah and tefillah. If however, G-d forbid, his Torah learning and
tefillah were to be  diminished then the
flow of material blessings would also decrease. 

now we are ready to address our earlier question – how is it that we are
permitted to utter the “Modeh ani…” even before we wash our hands?   First we should recognize that the impurity
that rests on our hands when we wake up is reflected in interesting ways.
Accordingly to one neurologist, the first parts of the body to, so to speak,
wake up after sleep are the hands. Conceptually, we can understand this as
follows: Our Sages have taught us that the first inclination that “wakes” up
within us is the yetzer hara and only later in life does the yetzer hatov
“awaken” thereby becoming proactive. Thus Eisav, the embodiment of the  yetzer hora, proceeded Yaakov and was born
first, the Midrash teaches in order to absorb any extant impurities, so that
Yaakov Aveinu could be born free of blemishes. Another moshal which can clarify
this issue is that many fruits initially are surrounded by an inedible klipah
which actually protects the valuable fruit until it fully develops. 

precious soul, which has now been graciously returned to us, needs be the
director of all our deeds. Therefore, first thing upon awakening, we proclaim are
the “modeh ani…” to acknowledge that it is our neshoma for which we thank
Hashem. The neshoma is embodied in the voice – the kol, kol Ya’kov, a Divine
gift. And since the praise is of a purely spiritual content, it lies beyond the
realm of any negative influence of impurity. Therefore, we are able to express this
praise  even before washing  our hands. However, for other praises,
blessings and tefillos that are connected with our physical endowments and
pleasures, we need  first annul any
remaining impurity and re-sanctify ourselves through netillas yadayim.

          Interestingly, the nusach of netillas
yadayim, the first blessing of the day, provides a profound insight:  “Blessed ( or: The Source of all) are You,
Hashem, our G-d King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments,
and has commanded us on the washing –“netillas yadayim” – of the hands. Notably,
the Sages did not choose for this blessing the word “rechitza” meaning “washing”
but “netilla” meaning “taking”, as 
in the bracha of  the lulov  where we say “al netillas lulav,” on the
taking of the lulov, Perhaps a deeper reason for the selection of this – nusach
 is  that just as the mitzvah of lulov is
accomplished through the  act of “taking
hold” of  the lulov, so also do we
achieve spiritual success with the use of our hands – our ma’aseh yadayim –  by  “taking
hold of “ , i.e., controlling and directing  our actions toward the fulfillment of the will
of  Hashem.  May we soon merit to raise our voices and
hands together in a unison greeting the Moshiach and the final redemption 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




            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.  Today unfortunately many are confounded by
this role confusion and are finding it more and more difficult to understand
and appreciate their purpose and position in this world.   There
is a solution.

Three gifts were given  to Rivka when she became engaged to our
forefather Yitzchak,  She received a
golden ring called a nezem, and two arm bracelets (Genesis, 24:22.),
therefore there is to endeavor to deepen our understanding of the profound
symbolism that lies within these gifts.    Since our Torah is an eternal document for
all times and all places, these pieces of jewelry are as much a gift for the
Jewish woman of today, as they were for Rivka Imainu in that they are capable
of offering insights that can help to rejuvenate and revitalize each women’s
connection with her proper role even in the midst of  our spiritually troubled and discordant

In  Parsha
Chayei Sarah which tells the story of the engagement of our forefather Yitzchak
and Rivka, we are given an approach toward the solution of this dilemma.  It came to pass that our forefather Avraham Aveinu
sent his servant  Eliezer to Avraham’s
relatives seeking a wife for Yitzchak.   Hashem 
guided  Eliezer and  gave him the opportunity to observe Rivka’s
extraordinary character (midos)  and good
deeds (ma’asim tovim) through her altruistic acts of chesed. It was her very
selfless act of kindness that allowed  Eliezer to understand that he had found that
unique neshama who would be the appropriate bride for Yitzchak. In anticipation
of this eventuality, Avraham had sent special gifts for the bride- to -be and
her family to consummate the engagement.  

The words and actions of  righteous Jewish woman emanate from the neshama,
the soul which is rooted in a very pristine place deep within.   Is it then any wonder that the gift for
Rivka was a – nezem – a ring which was used in the place which is the gateway
for the entry of the soul – the place where the Creator breathed the soul of  life into Adam  (Bereishes 2:7).

Our Holy Torah, through this parsha, takes this
opportunity to realign material and spiritual values thereby closing the gap
between them, teaching each women the secret of seamlessly blending within
herself a life of holiness that incorporates softness and strength, kindness
and discipline, generosity and restraint. It is not the radiant heat of the sun,
but the cool white light of the moon which in its gentle sincere manner changes
the course of tides and of man.  It is authority
that is most effectively expressed in the absence of overt power – by innuendo
rather than by direct statement.  For all
its subtlety don’t think for a moment that it lacks purpose, direction or
strength.  It is the antibiotic
camouflaged in the spoonful of ice cream. 
It is  pure empathetic compassion,
objectified, tempered by practicality, seasoned by good judgment and used for
the purpose of  nurturing and healing those
 souls given over to her care.

 This ring has
within it a further message that connects the past with the present in that it had
the weight of a beka–  a half –shekel–
and that too is significant.   Each Jew
was required to give a half shekel gift,  a one time gift for the building of the  Mishkan as well as a yearly donation of this
amount to be used for the communal sacrifices. (Ki Sisa: 30:13; Shekalim, 1:1;
Megillah 29b).

The gift of the half shekel was one that every Jew
was required to contribute toward the building of the Mishkan, the Tabernacle.  It  was
dedicated to the adonim — the silver sockets that held the boards which formed
the walls of the Mishkan.   These sockets
are the foundation of the walls of Mishkan, where we made our home with
Hashem, even as the woman  is the foundation
of the home she establishes with her husband.     

also gave Rivka two arm bracelets weighing ten golden shekels.  The two arm bracelets represent the two
tablets of the law; and their weight of ten shekels symbolizes the Ten
Commandments. (Chaya Sara, 24:22, Rashi). 
The ring and the golden bracelets are both, being circular, suggestive
of  the fact each woman is able to
complete the connection of the Torah with this world through becoming a conduit
using her unique energy that is provided by her holy soul and binding it with
the performance of good deeds and acts of 
kindness. Through these works of chesed 
every woman is able to greatly rectify this world as a emissary of
Hashem through her home and hearth thereby allowing a holy dwelling place for
the Divine Presence (the Shekina).


© Rabbi Yehoshua
Binyamin Falk 2007


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

Stars of the Heavens or the Sand of the Seashore

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 sand on the seashore and your offspring shall
inherit the gate of its enemy. And all the nations of the earth shall bless
themselves by your offspring, because you have listened to My voice.’” (Vayeria
– 22:15-17), What is the nature of this promise? After all, if we are likened
to the lofty, exalted multitude of stars, what is being added by the words that
compare us to the minuscule sand on the seashore?

   To add to this quandary, the Midrash Or
HaAfelah informs us that this pasuk teaches us the inevitable consequence of
our momentous choices:  When the Jewish
nation complies with the Creator’s will, we will resemble the stars of the
heavens, whom no nation can dominate, however when the Nation is defiant, then
it will resemble the sand of the seashore that is trampled by every oppressive
foot. The Medrash suggests that this promise to Avraham is not exclusively a
blessing, for it also contains an admonition. Since we are told that this
promise is Avraham’s reward for the Akeidah: – “. . .  because you have listened to My voice”, how
can we properly understand this Midrash?

       Perhaps we can find a solution to the implication
of this Midrash, in the pasukim, by considering two well known but seemingly paradoxical
paths in the service of Hashem that are actually complementary to each other.  One path is to serve Hashem, like the stars
of the heavens, by seeing the gadlus haBorei — the majesty of the Infinite
Creator, while the other path is achieved through seeing oneself, like the sand
of the sea, through

 the lens of shiflus atzmo – our
relative minuteness. Through learning Torah we can come to see the gadlus haBorei
in every facet within the creation, whereas our tefillos are designed to aid us
in reaching a place of equanimity through humbly recognizing our total
dependence on the benevolence of the Creator. Just as the waves of the sea
wash over the sand constantly purifying it, so do the “waves” of our nusach in
tefillah flow through us constantly purifying and realigning our “attitudinal
coastlines” according to the will of Hashem.

              Furthermore, perhaps we
can surmise that even though being compared to the sand of the seashore
contains an admonition, there is also imbedded within it a blessing for just
like sand when trampled upon maintains its unique resilience and unity, so how
much more so is the grandeur of our holy Jewish nation has demonstrated time
and time again its resiliency in weathering throughout our shifting historical
galus the political, theological and social “storms” that that, have tried to
erode away our idealism and solidarity
”. Fortunately the blessing given to
Avraham Avinu and his descendants to be like the sand of the sea assures us
that even though some of the nation has drifted away from the service of our
benevolent Creator, soon refreshing “tides of holiness”, captained by Malcus
David, will float everyone back to his or her place within the nation so as to
be in position to usher in the final geula and rebuilding of our holy Temple. We
see expressed in the Min Hameitzar of Hallel as it is said: – “You pushed me
hard that I might fall but Hashem assisted me” and then the Hallel continues
with the inspiring expression: “The stone despised by the builders has become
the cornerstone.”

            Another wondrous moshal that can be culled
from our being compared to the sand of the seashore; just as grain of sand
that becomes imbedded within a oyster can be miraculously become the catalyst
for the formation of a precious pearl, how much more so can we, the Jewish
nation, that has been swallowed up within the troughs of galus, use this challenging
opportunity to reveal the “pearls” of our potential

             May we also soon merit
the words at the conclusion of the blessing promised to Avraham Avinu: “And all
the nations of the earth shall bless themselves by your offspring, because you
have listened to My voice.”


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