Friday, October 24, 2014

Is it okay to ask a deceased tzaddik to pray on my behalf?

by Tzvi Freeman

Question:

I was always under the impression that Judaism firmly believed that there are no intermediaries between man and G‑d, and to pray to the deceased is blasphemous and outlawed by the Bible. If so, why is it permissible to ask the Rebbe to intercede on one's behalf at the Ohel?

Answer:

Yes, Jewish customs can be perplexing. Judaism is all about having a direct connection to G-d. An intermediary is a form of idolatry (see "Unidolatry" for more explanation of why this is forbidden.). Yet for as long as there are records, Jews have been in the habit of asking righteous men and women to have a chat with G-d on their behalf.

We see that the Jewish people asked Moses to intercede many times and he accepted their request. If he hadn't, we wouldn't be here--so G-d obviously figured it was okay. The Talmud (Baba Batra 116a) tells us that "If there is someone ill in your house, go to the wise man of the city and ask that he should pray for him." Of course, this person also needs to pray for himself, as his family should as well--and any Jew who knows that another Jew is ill should pray for him. But you need to go to that wise man as well.

The same with visiting graves: On the one hand, as you pointed out, the Torah tells us not to "beseech the dead." It's listed along with all the other "abominations" practiced by the people that lived in Canaan before we came there. And yet, we have an ancient and popular custom to visit the graves of righteous people and pray there.

Just how ancient and popular is this custom? The Torah tells us that Caleb, one of the twelve spies that Moses sent to spy out the Land of Canaan, made a personal detour to Hebron. What was his interest in Hebron? The Talmud (Sotah 34b) tells that he wished to pray at the cave where Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Rebecca, Jacob and Leah are buried. He prayed there for mercy on his soul and he was saved from the fateful decision of the other spies.

The Talmud also states that it is customary to visit a cemetery on a fast day (Taanit 16a). Why? Typical of the Talmud (and anything that involves Jewish people), two opinions are provided: Some say that this is simply to remind those who are fasting of their own mortality--a graveyard can be a magically effective cold-bucket of inspiration when you're feeling smug and self-assured. But others say that this is in order to connect to ask the souls of the righteous who are buried there that they intercede on our behalf. In fact, the Zohar states that if it were not for the intercession of those souls who reside in that afterworld, our world would not endure for a moment.

So why is this not called "beseeching the dead?" And why doesn't asking any tzaddik, living or dead, to intercede on our behalf constitute making an intermediate between ourselves and G‑d?

This very question was raised by a nineteenth century foremost authority on Jewish law, Rabbi Moshe Shik (known as "the Maharam Shik"), a student of the Chatam Sofer.

He explains as follows:

A Jew is not permitted an intermediary. There must be nothing between the Jew and G‑d.
Nevertheless, as previously established, it is permissible for a Jew to ask another Jew to be an intermediary between him and G‑d.

Rabbi Shik explains this apparent anomaly in the name of his teacher, the Chatam Sofer: When one Jew approaches another and tells of the pain he is suffering, the other Jew feels it just as he does. Now they are both in need of prayer. The Jew does not feel he is praying for an "other"--he is praying for himself.

In other words, all Jews can be considered as one body. If the toe is hurting, it needs the head and the heart to help it. So too, if I am in need, I can call upon all other Jews--and especially those who are the head and the heart of our people--to pray for me as well. Because if one Jew is hurting, we are all hurting.

Rabbi Shik then extends this to the deceased, as well. According to the Talmud and the Zohar, those righteous souls who have passed on from this world are still very much in touch with their students and family and care for them and their problems. We petition them to pray on our behalf--and they do and often their prayers are more effective than our own. After all, we often don't fathom the seriousness of these problems from our limited perspective as much as they might from their much more lofty view.

Praying at a gravesite does not mean you are beseeching this dead person to rise from the grave and appear before you. That is the abomination to which the above-cited verse refers. Neither are you, G‑d forbid, praying to the dead—a practice that is most certainly forbidden. But you are able to connect with these souls, since, when it comes to the soul, all of us are truly one.

You are simply expressing your faith that the righteous never really die, truth is never truly lost and even the grave cannot prevent you from connecting to this great teacher and righteous soul. Just as this tzaddik cared and took care of others during his lifetime--not as "others" but as he cared for his own soul--so too now, nothing has changed and he still can feel your pain and pray with you.

The Zohar states this as well, when it tells us that the tzaddik is here with us after his passing even more than before. During his lifetime, the tzaddik was limited within a physical body. Now he has transcended those limitations. But he never transcends his sympathy for the plight of another soul--no matter where that soul may be found. Just as during his lifetime, he ignored the boundaries of "I and you," so now he can ignore the boundaries of life and afterlife.

This is the fundamental reasoning behind beseeching those in the grave to intercede on our behalf. And this, in fact, has been the common practice in Jewish communities around the world.

Source: Chabad.org

Monday, October 20, 2014

The Purpose of Falsehood


by Rabbi Daniel Travis

Two by two the animals came into the Ark to Noach. [Bereishis Noah 7:9]

The concepts in this verse are illustrated by the following allegory:

Sheker (lies/deceit) approached Noach and requested entry into the Ark. Noach refused sheker on the grounds that it did not have a “mate.” When sheker left Noach, it met pachsa (financial loss and destruction) and proposed that they form a partnership, so that together they could gain entry into the Ark. Pachsa agreed, stipulating that any profit which would be earned through sheker would be handed over to pachsa to be destroyed.

There are many questions to be asked about this allegory. Why did our Sages see fit to single out sheker from all the possible negative character traits? Furthermore, why was it necessary for sheker to find a mate? Surely it would have been better to deny sheker entrance to the ark altogether. On the other hand, if sheker belonged in the world, should it not have been allowed to enter the ark without having to fulfill any conditions?

The decree of the flood was sealed on account of the dishonesty of that generation. Sheker was rampant, and there was no way to stop it short of wiping out the entire world. In the process of reconstructing the world, God wanted to make sure that the sins which had caused it's demise would not be repeated. Therefore sheker could not be allowed to perpetuate in its present form. However, it was important that sheker continue to exist in order for the iniquities of the previous generation to be rectified. This could only come about through recognition of the utter futility of any involvement with sheker.

When pachsa joined forces with sheker, causing the loss of all profits earned through sheker, it made it glaringly evident that any association with sheker is totally counterproductive. The lesson that would be learned from the alliance between sheker and pachsa allowed sheker to continue to exist.

After leaving the ark, sheker came to pachsa and requested all of the profits that it had acquired through under-handed methods. Pachsa reminded sheker of their agreement, and sheker was unable to respond. Although under normal circumstances sheker would have denied ever making such a promise, this case was different. Denying the truth would be tantamount to self destruction, for without its partnership with pachsa, sheker would not be allowed to exist.

At the time of the flood sheker joined with pachsa to teach the following generations the futility of trying to acquire wealth dishonestly. Although this type of destruction is certainly a punishment for one’s crooked behavior, there is a flip side to this relationship. Since pachsa “wed” itself to sheker, it can not affect any money earned one hundred percent honestly.

This concept was vividly demonstrated to the Jewish people after their Exodus from Egypt. For forty years they were sustained every day with manna, a miraculous food that descended from the heavens. Each individual was instructed to take an omer each day – not more, not less. If someone tried to “steal” a little bit more than he was allotted, the extra manna would disappear. The futility of taking more than was Divinely allotted was quite clear. Although we are not privileged to see this principle in action in such a striking fashion, it is still in effect even in our times.

Someone once came to Rav Mordechai Schwab and told him that one of his investments had gone sour, causing him a loss of seventy thousand dollars. Rav Schwab asked him if the money had been earned honestly to which the man replied in the affirmative. Rav Shwab assured him that he would recover the money, for wealth acquired honestly does not get lost. Within a few months the investment turned a profit.

Similarly, when Rav Chaim of Volozhin was hosting a meal in his home, one of his guests inadvertently knocked over the table. All the delicate porcelain on the table came crashing to the floor. The guests were all stunned into silence, in anguish over the tremendous loss which they were certain had occurred. Only Rav Chaim remained calm. He explained to his guests that property loss can occur only if the money used to purchase that property had been acquired corruptly. Since he knew that every penny used to buy the dishes that now lay on the floor had been earned honestly, he was sure that none of the porcelain had broken, so there was nothing to worry about. When they picked up the dishes, they found that not a single one was broken or damaged.

From the above incidents we see that the partnership that sheker established with pachsa still remains in force. As such, we can be sure that any funds acquired without a tinge of corruption are not subject to pachsa, and will be spared from damage.

(c) Text Copyright © 2006 by Rabbi Daniel Travis and Torah.org

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Blood Moon Tonight: Plus ''Effects of an Eclipse'' by the Lubavitcher Rebbe

Tonight, first night of Sukkot, there will be a Blood Moon [click link to learn more and where to see it]


The Effects of an Eclipse 
Source: Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe Vol. XV
"The Rebbe's Treasure: Interpretations of Talmudic Stories"

The Talmud [Sukah 29a] states that eclipses are bad signs for the world. The Talmud then elaborates on what can cause an eclipse:

An eclipse of the sun occurs for the following four reasons: For not having eulogized a chief judge (a chief judge is comparable to the sun, for he enlightens and clarifies things for the community - Maharsha); for not having helped a betrothed maiden when she called for help (to save her from ill treatment); for committing adultery and for killing two brothers on the same day.

Because of the following four reasons the moon and the stars eclipsed:

For committing forgery, for false witnesses, for raising sheep and goats in the land of Israel (that is, for letting goats and sheep pasture from other people's fields - Rashi), and for cutting down fruit-bearing trees.

The Shaloh [Noach p.274b] explains that seeing the lunar eclipse implies a bad sign. Hashem would ascertain that the Jews would see it if they were sinning. However, if they were not sinning, Hashem would darken the sky so that the eclipse would not be visible.

This interpretation is not satisfactory, for the Talmud states: "For the following reasons an eclipse occurs and not an eclipse is seen". The very occurrence of an eclipse is a consequence of the aforementioned sins and not the sight of the eclipse. Furthermore, in cloudless locations such as Egypt [see Rashi Vayigash 47:10 and Vaera 7:17] the Jews would always be capable of seeing the eclipse regardless of their behaviour.

The Rebbe's Commentary:
How can we say that something as natural and predictable as an eclipse can have an affect on people's welfare? Furthermore, how can we say that the actions of people can provoke the occurrence of something that takes place as regularly and naturally as an eclipse?

It is a wellknown fact that Torah scholars had a vast knowledge of science in general and astronomy in particular. Astronomy was very important for the Jews in order to establish the calendar and proclaim the new months. Even great non-Jewish individuals would ask the Rabbis scientific questions. Therefore, we cannot say that the Rabbis were uttering nonsense when it came to the subject of the eclipse.

Mazal - or constellation - occurs when the stars are in a certain position. Some days or times are auspicious for a good mazal, others are known to be times in which misfortune could happen, G-d forbid, due to the unfavorable mazal. So at certain moments, the mazalot can have influence on the people. Even the day on which one is born has an influence on his characteristics (Shabbat 126a). Therefore, specific mazalot provide people with good or bad tendencies. (Nevertheless, the Rambam in Hilchot Teshuva 5:4 says that a person is not controlled by his natural tendencies and he has the power to change them)

During the time of an eclipse, the stars are in a position that can have a bad influence on the people. At such a time, the four aforementioned sins are more readily transgressed! For this reason the eclipse is a bad sign for the Jews, because they are more likely to sin than at some other time. As a result, they might be punished. Hence it is not our actions that cause the eclipse, but rather the eclipse that can alter our actions, triggering a heavenly punishment.

Therefore, if Jews are doing Hashem's will, the effects of the eclipse will not concern them. Chazal even say that we should not worry about the influence of stars if we do what Hashem wants. For as long as we do not let the bad mazal alter our actions, we do not deserve any punishment.

Jews are not limited by the boundaries of nature, including the celestial bodies. We have the power to change our mazal by doing good deeds. Our mazal depends on our actions and our prayers.

Ebola - Torah Codes


Ebola - epidemic - danger of death - warning from Heaven - Sodom v''Amor - immorality - 5775 - evil

Friday, October 3, 2014

Remember


If you don't ask forgiveness from a person you have wronged, the whole Yom Kippur davening is pointless. Properly begging forgiveness doesn't mean sending a fax or a message, but personally approaching the person. 

[Rabbi Elazar Abuchatzirah [Baba Elazar] zt"l

Source: Torah Code US

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

5775: The Alter Rebbe's prediction ?


Once, when the Alter Rebbe was the ba'al koreh, he read a verse slightly incorrectly. Instead of reading 1775 he read 5775.  He did so several times and was corrected each time. This was in Parshas Pekudei 38:28, which mentions the sum of 1775 talents collected. ואת האלף ושבע המאות וחמשה ושבעים Instead of reading the "hei" of "ha-elef" (the thousand) with a "patach", he read it with a "tzeirei" (which turns the letter "hei" into 5).

When the 4th time occurred, he walked away and someone else finished the reading. When subsequently asked by the Mitteler Rebbe as to why and what had happened, he responded that at the time he saw a vision that Moshiach would come in 5775. He couldn't read it any other way.

This seems to have been reported by the Mitteler Rebbe even in his Sefer Imrei Bina (some say it was edited and then reinserted). Rabbi Leibel Groner quite a few years ago asked the Rebbe about it and whether he could confirm the story. He did.

He then asked if he could publicize it and the Rebbe said yes. Yet Rabbi Groner never has, until now. His reason for not doing so at the time was because the Rebbe was then coming out with the call of We Want Mashiach Now and that at any moment Mashiach could come.

As such, he felt uncomfortable to publicize this story then. Now, it seems, as we approach 5775, he revealed this conversation he had with the Rebbe and is publicizing it finally.

Monday, September 22, 2014

5775

Wishing all my readers a Shana Tova...... and with great expectations and hopes that we will see Moshiach speedily in our days..... may all your illnesses be healed and all your expectations fulfilled in the coming year!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Secret Codes of Ha'azinu

Seder Hadoros relates that Ramban once confronted his former student, named Avner, and asked him why he had strayed from the path of observant Judaism.  Avner replied that Ramban had once taught that "everything is to be found in the Song of Haázinu" and Avner found the idea so utterly preposterous that it led him to lose faith.

When Ramban stated that he still held by his assertion, Avner challenged him, "If so, where is my name to be found in the song?"

Ramban turned to the wall praying to G-d, and it soon occurred to him that the third letter of each word in verse 26 spelled Avner's name:

 אָמַרְתִּי אַפְאֵיהֶם אַשְׁבִּיתָה מֵאֱנוֹשׁ זִכְרָם

On hearing his, Avner repented and mended his ways.

Even though Avner had strayed far from the path of observance, his name was nevertheless recorded in the Torah with his title, Reb Avner, referring to his status as a fully observant Jew, after he had returned - for this was indeed his true essence.

Based on Sichas Shabbos Parshas Haázinu 5742 Lubavitcher Rebbe