Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Obama and the Evil at the End of Days


This article was first published in 2008.  Since then, I have published it several times.....  a chilling scenario of where we are right NOW!


IDENTIFYING THE EVIL AT THE END OF DAYS - by Joel Gallis a"h and Dr. Robert Wolf

Yaakov [Jacob] called for his sons and said, האספו , gather and assemble yourselves. That is, unify and become a single nation with לב אחד , one heart, and I’ll tell you about your descendants' redemption at the end of days. When you have a לב אחד , [gematria of 45], then you will have a גאולה, a redemption, [gematria of 45] at the end of days. But there was no unity among the brothers. There still were bad feelings and finger pointing among them. They did Tshuvah with respect to their brother Yosef, but with respect to each other, they were separate tribes. And so, Yaakov could not reveal to them what would befall their descendants at the end of days. He thought that perhaps one of his sons had sinned. He then searched the names of each of his 12 sons to see if the letters ח or ט, the main letters of the word for sin, were present in any of his son’s names. He was relieved when he realized that these letters were absent from their names. He then thought that perhaps their lack of achdus was worse than he imagined. If so, their merit to learn about the future final redemption was lost. Yaakov then searched their names again to see if the letters ק and ץ from the word קץ [end] were present in any of their names. Once again these letters were absent from all 12 names.

Yaakov then realized the extent of their disunity and began to give them various brochos. Although he was not allowed to tell about events affecting the Jewish People thousands of years in the future, Yaakov had already hinted at the identity of the evil that would befall their descendants at the time of the end. He also hinted that the lack of unity that they possessed would continue until the final days. For the gematria of האספו is 152, and that is the same as the phrase עד היום הזה [until this day]. For until this very day, there still has not been achdus, or unity, among the Jewish People.

However, there was one brief period of time of a לב אחד , at Mount Sinai when the Jewish People received the Torah. This unity lasted until Moshe’s death, and because of it, Moshe was able to tell the Jewish People before he died what will occur to their descendants at the end of days. He said that the Jewish People would stray from the path of Torah, and that if they angered Hashem through the work of their hands, במעשה ידיכם  then evil would befall them, וקראת , at the end of days. The only other time this word וקראת is used in the 5 Books of Moses, is when Hagar was told that she would have a son, and she should call him וקראת , by the name Yishmael. This word, וקראת , which normally is connected to proclaiming and voicing something, is surprisingly used here to tell us that when evil befalls the Jewish People, it was proclaimed in heaven and does not happen by chance. So just what is the connection between Yishmael and the end of days? The connection is that the descendants of Yishmael are the evil that will befall the Jewish People at that time. We will anger G-d through the work of our hands, במעשה ידיכם [a gematria of 501], and the evil of the ישמעאלים [also a gematria of 501] will befall us.

So what could we have possibly done with our hands that would anger Hashem? With our very own hands, we finance and work to put the wrong people in power over us. This action results in our downfall. By putting into power leaders in Israel who don’t believe in G-d, we help bring about a spiritual collapse. And by electing dangerous leaders in America and other countries, we assist in bringing our physical and moral downfall. We vote for these people, we put them in power, and we raise money for them. This inappropriate work of our hands will bring evil upon us in the form of Yishmael.

For not only is 501 the value of במעשה ידיכם [the work of our hands], and our punishment, the ישמעאלים , but it is also connected to the next President of the United States that we are helping put in power through Jewish efforts. For 501 is also the gematria of ראש - representing the new head, or leader of America.

So who will be the new ראש of America? Our readers probably will be shocked to learn that 501 is also the gematria of ברק חוסיין אובאמה - Barack Hussein Obama. Hashem watches as countless Jews, especially in Hollywood, California, rush to send their money to Obama’s campaign chest. And so, with our own hands we are in the process of taking a descendant from Yishmael and placing him as our Rosh in the White House, just 7 years after 9/11. He is indeed the evil that will befall us at the end of days, the evil that Moses spoke to our ancestors about. But there are those who argue that Obama is youthful and energized in his appearance and his ideas. Why shouldn’t we believe him when he says the magic words that he is a friend of Israel? How do we really know he’s dangerous to us? Not only is his name the same gematria as Yishmaelim, evidencing that he is a Muslim although he denies it, but it also has a further connection to a wave of impending evil against the Jews and the rest of the world. At our Passover seders we spill a drop of wine when we mention each of the 10 plagues, and also when we mention the abbreviation of those plagues by saying דצך עדש באחב . Well this abbreviation of the 10 plagues also has a gematria of 501, the same as Barack Hussein Obama and the Yishmaelim.

Obama and radical Muslims will bring as much havoc, destruction, and confusion to the world as all the 10 plagues together brought to Egypt. It’s interesting how Rabbi Yehudah, who made the acrostic or abbreviation of the plagues, took the first Hebrew letter of each plague. However, with respect to the last plague, מכת בכרות , the killing of the first born, he took the bais [the first letter of the 2nd word of the plague], rather than the mem [the first letter of the first word]. Perhaps he knew that in the future, during the end of days, there would be an Obama. Perhaps his message is a warning to us that has been encoded in the Haggadah for nearly 2 thousand years until today.

The foreign minister of Hamas has recently endorsed Obama for president. The Los Angeles Times devoted a lengthy front-page story headlined, “Allies of Palestinians see a friend in Barack Obama.” Ali Abunimah, a resident of Obama’s district, claims that Obama said several years ago when running for the Senate, that he was sorry he couldn’t talk more about the Palestinian cause since his primary campaign had constrained what he could say. Daniel 7 [25] deals with the last king of the 4th beast of exile who will humble 3 other kings. Rav Saadia Gaon stated that the 3 kings or leaders who will be humbled, are from Israel, Greece [representing Europe], and Yishmael [representing the Arab nations]. This haughty, arrogant king will speak words against G-d and the Jewish People, and he will try to change the times and the law. How interesting is it that this very word, change, is the key word used by Obama in his campaign?

The coded, end of days message that Yaakov gave over to his sons was not deciphered by them. But our generation, the generation alive at the end of days, can understand the clues and break the code. In Yaakov’s statement there are four words אשר יקרא אתכם באחרית [that will befall you in the end]. The word אשר that describes the identity of the evil has a gematria of 501 the same as Barack Hussein Obama. And if you look at the word באחרית , in the end, the first 3 letters contain the initials of Obama. The bais is for ברק Barack, the aleph is for אובאמה Obama, and the ches is for חוסיין Hussein. May Hashem protect us from this evil and bring Mashiach speedily in our days.




In the verses below, starting from the א of the first נשיא [President], every 7 letters spell out the name Obama in Hebrew:

א ויהי דבר-יהוה, אלי לאמר. ב בן-אדם, שים פניך אל-גוג ארץ המגוג--נשיא, ראש משך ותבל; והנבא, עליו. ג ואמרת, כה אמר אדני יהוה: הנני אליך, גוג--נשיא, ראש משך ותבל. ד ושובבתיך, ונתתי חחים בלחייך; והוצאתי אותך ואת-כל-חילך סוסים ופרשים, לבשי מכלול כלם--קהל רב צנה ומגן, תפשי חרבות כלם.
[Translation] And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying
Son of man, set thy face toward Gog, of the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him,
and say: Thus saith the Lord God: Behold, I am against thee, O Gog, chief prince of Meshech and Tubal;
and I will turn thee about, and put hooks into thy jaws, and I will bring thee forth, and all thine army, horses and horsemen, all of them clothed most gorgeously, a great company with buckler and shield, all of them handling swords:

Monday, July 28, 2014

Nothing Happens by Chance


A young man once approached the Chazon Ish, Rabbi Avraham Yeshaya Karelitz ztzl, to ask a pedagogical question. This young rabbi was about to assume the position of mashgiach ruchani (spiritual mentor) in a boys' Yeshivah high school. He wanted to know what moral points he should try to stress to the boys during his lectures. Which ethical principles should he emphasize?

The Chazon Ish replied that the mashgiach should focus on one point and one point alone: hashgacha pratis (Divine Providence). "If the boys come away from your lectures with one lesson, it must be that the world is not hefker (abandoned, in no-one's charge), that there is a Creator and nothing happens by chance! If you manage to teach this to your students, you will have achieved a great success. If you plant within them a deep appreciation for hashgacha pratis, their lives will be changed forever."

The Hebrew phrase, hashgachah pratis, is generally translated as "Divine Providence" but literally, it means "individualized supervision" from Hashem. It refers to the fundamental Jewish belief in the constant guiding hand of Heaven, which controls all Creation - from the orbits of the planets to the flight pattern of a mosquito.

As the Midrash [Midrash Rabbah, Bereshis 10:7] explains: "Rabbi Simon said: There is not even one blade of grass that does not have its own mazal in Heaven that taps it and says "Grow!" And the Talmud states that every living creature "from the massive ox to the tiny flea, is directly sustained by the support decreed for it in Heaven" [Avodah Zarah 3b].

Hashgachah pratis means that Hashem notices, cares, and pays attention to all creatures. If this is true for plants and animals, it is even more so for human beings. Although events in our lives may be masked as "natural", hashgachah pratis means that everything that happens to us is Hashem's Will. As Rabbi Chanina declared: "A person does not prick his finger below (on earth) unless it is decreed for him above (in Heaven), as it is stated [Tehillim 37:23] "A man's footsteps are established by Hashem" [Chullin 6b]

Rabbi Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler explains how even seemingly natural events are really acts of Heaven. He points out that with minimal effort we can all recognize the miracles of daily life:

Even someone on the lowest (spiritual) level, someone to whom it appears that all events are 'natural', if he will simply desire to think into the matter honestly, he will see that everything happens with direct guidance - that Hashem guides all 'natural' events.

In order to understand how all natural events are really miracles, consider the following metaphor. A man is standing behind a curtain and is peeking into a room through a tiny hole. He sees a pen writing but he does not see the man who is writing with the pen. (Nevertheless, he knows that a man must be there, guiding the pen to write). In a similar vein, the one whose eyes are closed and sees only 'natural' events does not understand that Hashem is at work. All 'natural' events are being directed by Hashem. Just as the pen does not write by itself, so too, events in this world do not happen by themselves.

Rambam cites belief in hashgachah pratis as the first of his Thirteen Principles of Faith which constitute the basis of Judaism. These principles are listed in many siddurim at the end of Shacharis, the morning service, and they are recited by many at the conclusion of their prayers:

I believe with perfect faith that the Creator, blessed be His Name, creates and guides all creatures, and that He alone caused, causes, and will cause everything that happens.

Why did Maimonides and the Chazon Ish place such a primary emphasis on hashgachah pratis? Why is this principle so important?

Perhaps we can understand this with the insight offered by Rashi. In his commentary on the Torah verse which commands us to remember how Amalek attacked the Jews after the Exodus from Mitzrayim [Devarim 25:17]. The Torah further commands us to destroy the very memory of Amalek.

Why is this enemy of the Jews singled out for total annihilation? Wheren't there other nations who also attacked the Jews? What was so terrible about Amalek?

The Torah commands us to remember Amalek and "what happened to you on the way". Rashi emphasizes that the Hebrew word "happened" is similar to the word "happenstance". In other words, Rashi lists as the first of his three interpretations of this phrase, that Amalek's wickedness was rooted in their attitude of happenstance - as if the Exodus had occurred, and did not result from Providence; as if the Jews were freed from slavery because of geopolitical forces and not Divine Intervention; and as if the Red Sea "coincidentally" split just when the Jews needed to go through, and was not a miraculous event.

According to Rashi's commentary, we can now understand why Amalek was singled out for total destruction. The attitude that events in this world are happenstance or coincidence is diametrically opposed to all that Judaism stands for. It is an attitude which contradicts everything that Jews believe. It is an attitude which the Torah declares cannot co-exist with the Jewish people's fulfillment of their mission in this world.

Throughout the history of the Jewish people, the greatest idological threats have come from the "isms" which espoused philosophies antithetical to the principle of hashgachah pratis. On the other hand, in ghettos and concentration camps, the greatest inspiration that kept Jews alive both physically and spiritually was the unshakeable belief in hashgachah pratis.

Especially now, as we hear Moshiach's approaching footsteps, let us re-affirm our belief in hashgacha pratis as we witness its impact on our daily lives.

Source: Dr. Meir Wikler "Einei Hashem" [Feldheim Publ]

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Temporary World


We are sent down to this world for a short period of time.  This world is temporary, it is just the entry hall to the World of Truth, Olam HaBa.  All our personal journeys are individually designed to ensure we find our way to the ultimate destination.  The tougher the journey, the greater the reward will be at the end.

"They journeyed from Kivros-hata'avah and camped in Chatzeros" [Masei 33:17]

From this verse, remarked R' Yitzchak of Vorka, we learn that for an individual to break the yetzer hara within him, he must constantly recall the fact that this world is but a temporary one intended to be utilized in preparation for the World to Come.

This is hinted in the verse: "They left Kivros-hata'avah" - how will one be able to bury [likvor] his lust [ta'avah] and subdue his yetzer hara?  By remembering that this world is no more than "Chatzeros", a yard [chatzer] in front of a house, a hallway leading to a palace."

A person who ingrains this thought in his heart, said the Rebbe, will triumph in his war against the yetzer hara.

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Listen to Your Body

The Talking Donkey by Rabbi Simon Jacobson

A mysterious event in this week’s Torah portion reveals a phenomenon new to modern psychology—that we must listen to our body’s voice, which carries messages, memories and potent power.

One of the strangest episodes in history takes place in this week’s Torah portion. The gentile prophet Balaam is commissioned by Moabite King Balak to curse the Jewish people. Balak felt threatened by the Jews. He wanted to defeat them in battle and drive them away.

Initially G-d does not allow Balaam to go. But after Balak’s emissaries beseech him G-d permits him to go, saying “But only do exactly as I instruct you.”

Balaam got up in the morning, saddled his female donkey and went on his way. G-d plants His angel in the road to oppose him.

When the donkey saw G-d’s angel standing in the road with a drawn sword in his hand, the donkey went aside from the road into the field. Balaam beat the donkey to get it back on the road. G-d’s angel then stood in a narrow path through the vineyard, where there was a fence on either side.

When the donkey saw G-d’s angel, it edged over to the side, crushing Balaam’s foot against the wall. [Balaam] beat it even more. G-d’s angel continued ahead, and he stood in a narrow place, where there was no room to turn right or left. When the donkey saw G-d’s angel, it lay down [refusing to budge] for Balaam. Balaam lost his temper and beat the donkey with a stick.

G-d then opened the donkey’s mouth and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you that you beat me these three times?” “You have embarrassed me [or: been playing games with me],” shouted Balaam at the donkey. “If I had a sword in my hand just now, I would have killed you!”

The donkey replied to Balaam, “Am I not your [faithful] donkey, upon which you have been riding from back when until this day. Have I ever been unmindful to you?” “No,” replied Balaam. G-d then opened Balaam’s eyes and he perceived the angel standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand. [Balaam] kneeled and prostrated himself on his face.

G-d’s angel said to him, “Why did you beat your donkey these three times? I have come out to oppose you, because your errand is obnoxious to me. When the donkey saw me, it turned aside these three times. If it had not turned aside before me, as it did now, I would have killed you and spared [the donkey].”

Balaam said to G-d’s angel: “I have sinned! I did not know that you were standing on the road before me. If you consider it wrong [for me to go], I will return home.” G-d’s angel said to Balaam, “Go with the men. But do not say anything other than the exact words that I declare to you.

The narrative continues with G-d compelling Balaam to bless the Jews instead of cursing them, to the chagrin of Balak and his cronies.

This story with the talking donkey is puzzling from beginning to end. If G-d didn’t want Balaam to go to Balak, why didn’t he just stop him from going? If for whatever reason G-d wanted to block his way with an angel, why did he hide the fact from Balaam and allowed the donkey to see the angel – after all Balaam not the donkey was the prophet?!

A Torah axiom states that G-d does not perform miracles in vain. Why then was this miracle of miracles necessary, to have the donkey see the angel, resist moving on, until the donkey ends up speaking?! This miracle would have been totally unnecessary if Balaam had seen the angel himself. Why the need to open the donkey’s mouth?!

The plot thickens: the Mishne states [in the Ethics of our Fathers] that the “donkey’s mouth” was one of the ten unique things created at dusk on the sixth day of creation! In other words, G-d planted this episode from the beginning of time by creating the “donkey’s mouth” for the day when the donkey would speak to Balaam!

Why is the “donkey’s mouth” so significant?

Briefly:

Torah speaks in the language of man. Beneath the literal meaning in the Torah narrative lay layers upon layers of deeper dimensions. Within the “body” of the story lies it’s soul – profound spiritual and psychological insights that illuminate the nature of our psyches and provide direction how to deal with the challenges of life. Every character in Torah, every episode of its narrative, parallels a facet of our personalities.

The story of Balaam and his donkey is the story of our own lives, with a multitude of lessons.

The Hebrew word for donkey is “chamor.” [A female donkey (jennet) is called “osson.” “Pered” is the Hebrew name for a mule (or a hinny), a hybrid borne of a horse and a donkey. But the general name for donkey, male or female, is “chamor”].

The Baal Shem Tov explains that “chamor” also means matter. In Exodus the verse states: “When you see the donkey of your enemy being overburdened by its burdens, don’t ignore it. It’s incumbent upon you to help relieve its burden.” Interprets the Baal Shem Tov: You observe “chamor” – your physical body and the coarse materialism of life – and you see that it is your enemy, opposing all things spiritual, and feeling overburdened by the sublime responsibilities of the soul. You may then consider ignoring the body so that it does not distract you from fulfilling your calling. You may even want to punish your body through asceticism and self-affliction.

Says the Torah: No! You are responsible to support, refine and elevate the “chamor,” even if it is ostensibly your enemy.

Balaam the prophet represents the paradox of a spiritual man locked in a decadent lifestyle. Each of us has two dimensions: A sacred side and a profane one. A person may be deeply spiritual, yet also profoundly corrupt. Indeed, the Talmud says “the greater the person, the greater his evil inclination.”

An extraordinarily gifted person always has equally powerful unique challenges. Left without discipline these gifts can be abused. And when they are, it is very difficult to get through to the person. Because the smarter he is, the better are his excuses and his ability to cover his tracks. He can mask his subjectivity with brilliant smokescreens.

At it’s extreme, you have Balaam: A prophet willing and delighted to use his Divine power to curse an entire nation.

Spiritual corruption or distortion is worse than other forms of corruption, because it uses a very positive force for negative ends. In other instances of corruption, you can always hope that a person’s conscience and spirit can be aroused. But once the spirit has been corrupted, and the soul has been taken hostage by destructive forces, what recourse is left?

The same holds true for any abuse perpetrated by a person who is supposed to love you: A parent, a sibling, a spouse. With strangers we have our guard up. If a stranger is abusive, s/he cannot hurt you that much because you don’t necessarily expect much from a stranger. But abuse coming from a loved one hurts us in the deepest place: the place of love. A parent, for instance, is supposed to love you, and as a child you are vulnerable before your parent. Thus, when the parent is abusive, it touches the very core of our beings: our souls. The worst abuse is the one that scars our most vulnerable places. Nothing is worse then love itself – and the source of love – being (ab)used in a cruel way.

So what is the antidote to this epitome of distortion? If the gifted person, or the one who is supposed to be providing love, has become corrupt to the point that he cannot even listen, how then do you get through to him?

The dilemma is also from the perspective of the abusee (the survivor): Once someone has been hurt in a deep part of his spirit, he doesn’t allow anyone in. So how can he be reached?

Yet, G-d in His infinite wisdom precedes the cure before the illness. Even when the soul may be unable to hear the message, the body has its own voice that speaks to us.

In modern psychology there is a phenomenon, which we shall call “psychological hypothermia.” When a child suffers severe abuse from a loved one (especially if its ongoing), the child will go “out of body” to separate himself from the experience. One of the reasons for this is presumably because the child cannot tolerate the possibility of a loved one hurting him. He therefore disassociates from the experience, as if it didn’t happen to him.

Hypothermia is “a decrease in the core body temperature to a level at which normal muscular and cerebral functions are impaired.” When a child, for instance, falls into ice-cold water, and his temperature drops to dangerous levels, the child will go into a state of shock, which shuts down the primary life functions to the point that the child may appear dead, in order to preserve the bare minimum energy for the vital organs. In other words, in order to survive the conscious faculties have to temporarily stop functioning.

The same is true psychologically. For survival purpose, sometimes we have to detach from an experience, to the point that we may be unaware of it in our conscious minds.

Yet – and this is the big yet – even as our conscious spirits may be unaware of the experience, our bodies remember them. Every experience in our lives is etched into the memory of our bodies. That is why we talk about experiencing “knots” and “tightness” in our bodies. Psychological feelings do not remain in the mental domain; they seep into the body, causing all sorts of physical reactions (“knots in the stomach” is one mild example). Anxiety oozes toxins into your body. Strong traumatic experiences tie up your body in knots.

In severe cases, the personality shift that happens at the time of abuse remains long after the experience. A child may grow into an adult that has actually shifted his personality, and is living, in some ways, like another person, often having “out of body” experiences. So severe was the initial abuse.

But, even when the soul, for whatever reason, is unable to consciously acknowledge an experience, the body has stored it away, for the day when it will be safe to emerge.

And therein lies the true power of therapy and growth: To help an individual find safety and security, so that he or she can then work on “untying the knots,” and allowing himself to access the soul that he had to hide away so long ago.

By no means is this a simple process. It can even be torturous at times. Yet, in a strange way this phenomenon is a testimony to one of the greatest resiliencies of the human being: G-d allows a child to survive even the worst experiences, and then gives him the strength to reconnect with himself when the times is right and the situation safe.

Even when the soul is not conscious of the memory, because the abuse came from a soul connection – a loving person – the body is endowed with a wisdom that does remember. And it holds the secret till the day when the soul will be able to hear the message.

This is the inside story of Balaam and his donkey. G-d could not get through to Balaam on a fundamental level. He saw that Balaam was intent on going to Balak and helping him implement his malevolent plan. But even when the soul cannot be reached, the body can. So it is the “chamor” – the body – that sees the “angel,” and it is the body that cries out to the person prodding him to open his eyes.

What is most fascinating about this concept is that usually we associate awareness with the soul. Yet, Jewish mysticism teaches that the body too was created by G-d. It therefore contains unique Divine energy of its own. Indeed, the body carries enormous power stemming from the Essence of G-d, which in some ways is superior even to the energy of the soul!

But often when our bodies speak to us, beckoning us to act, we may ignore the voice. Or worse: We may “beat” the body, as Balaam beat his donkey, because it is becoming a nuisance and distracting us from our misguided plans.

So, we have many voices available to us. In healthy situations, and in many instances, it is the voice of our souls that we should be heeding. Yet, at times our bodies carry important messages for us.

The question is: Are we listening?

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Rabbi Kanievsky: Prayers for Murdered Teens Weren't in Vain

Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, considered one of the foremost rabbinical authority in the hareidi yeshiva world, said Monday night that despite the fact that kidnapped Israeli teens Eyal Yifrah HY''D* (19), Naftali Frenkel HY''D (16), and Gilad Sha'ar HY''D (16) were found murdered, the hundreds of thousands of prayers that had been recited over the past several weeks for their return were not uttered in vain. In their deaths, he said, they brought many Jews closer to G-d.  [* HYD: Hashem Yikom Damam: May Hashem Avenge Their Blood]

“They had a great merit to spiritually strengthen thousands of Jews,” the rabbi said. “It is a great merit for their souls.”

While full details of the circumstances of the deaths of the three teens have yet to be released, analysts said that it was probable that they had been murdered soon after the kidnapping 18 days ago. The bodies of the youths were taken to the Israel Forensic Center in Tel Aviv in order to enable officials to learn about the circumstances of their deaths, and when they were murdered.

Parents of the three kidnapped teens had met with the rabbi days after they went missing, with one of the mothers arriving at his house on Friday, just one day after their abduction.

Source: Israel National News


What Happens to Unanswered Prayers?
by Rabbi Eli Mansour

The Torah tells in the opening verses of Parashat Vaethanan that Moshe pleaded with God to allow him to cross the Jordan River with B'nei Yisrael and enter the Land of Israel. However, despite Moshe's impassioned pleas, God denied him permission to enter the land, and commanded him not to continue praying for this matter.

The Sages tell us that Moshe uttered no fewer than 515 prayers in requesting permission to enter the Land of Israel. This number is alluded to in the Parasha's opening word -  ואתחנן  ("I pleaded") - which has the numerical value of 515 (6+1+400+8+50+50=515).

The obvious question arises, if God knew that He would not grant Moshe's request, and that He would ultimately instruct Moshe to discontinue his prayers, why did He wait for Moshe to complete 515 prayers? Why did He not interrupt Moshe immediately as he began praying, and thus spare him the time and effort he invested in reciting the additional 514 prayers?

The Rabbis teach us that there is no such thing as a wasted or unanswered prayer. If a person prays for something and his request is not granted, he must not conclude that his prayer was recited in vain. God stores all our prayers in a "prayer bank" of sorts from where they are "withdrawn" at some later point, perhaps for somebody else, and perhaps only generations later. If a person prays for an ill patient Avraham Ben Sara, and the patient unfortunately does not survive his illness, those prayers will perhaps be effective in bringing a cure to another Avraham Ben Sara somewhere else in the world.

During the years of the Communist movement, the children of many righteous Jews and Torah scholars abandoned Judaism and joined the atheistic Communists. Their parents recited untold numbers of prayers and shed rivers of tears asking that their children should return to their heritage and traditions. Their prayers were not immediately answered, but many children and grandchildren of these Jewish Communists have returned to Jewish observance. The grandparents' prayers were not recited in vain; they were not meaningless. They were stored and preserved in the heavenly "prayer bank" and ultimately succeeded in bringing scores of Jews back to Torah and Mitzvot.

For this reason, perhaps, God did not interrupt Moshe's prayers despite the fact that the decree was irreversible. He anticipated that in future generations, Benei Yisrael would face crisis and hardship and would lack sufficient merit to earn salvation. Moshe's 515 prayers were necessary to save the Jewish people when they would otherwise be unworthy of being saved. Who knows if our existence today is owed to the merit of Moshe's 515 prayers!

Never should a person despair from praying. Even if one's requests are not immediately granted, they will nevertheless have a meaningful impact and effect on somebody at some point in time. Every heartfelt prayer and every chapter of Tehillim is significant and beneficial - regardless of whether we can immediately discern its impact.

Monday, June 30, 2014

For the Sake of Heaven

 
"How goodly are your tents, O Jacob, your dwelling places, O Israel!" [Balak 24:5]

Rashi writes that Bilam was inspired by the Jewish tents "because he saw that the entrances were not opposite each other".

The arrangement of tents alludes to scholars convening together to discuss matters of Torah, each one offering his own interpretations.  Then, if their "entrances" - meaning their mouths - are "opposite each other" i.e. their intention is to show that their own ideas are superior than those of the others, then woe to them and their souls!  

But if their intentions are for the sake of Heaven, then they are certainly deserving that the Divine presence should rest with them.

Based on Ohr Torah of the Mezritcher Maggid

Monday, June 23, 2014

Appreciation

by Rabbi Eli Mansour

“The nation settled in Kadesh; Miriam died there and was buried there. The nation had no water…” [Chukat 20:1-2]

Why did Beneh Yisrael suddenly run out of water when Miriam died?

Rashi explains that as Beneh Yisrael traveled through the desert, a miraculous, mobile well accompanied them to ensure that they would have a constant, adequate water supply. This well was provided in the merit of Miriam, an exceptionally righteous woman and prophetess, and once she died, the well was taken away, leaving the people without water.

The question, however, remains, why didn’t the well remain even after Miriam’s death? Was her great merit insufficient to continue providing the nation with water even after she passed on?

The Keli Yakar [Rav Shelomo Efrayim Luntschitz of Prague, 1550-1619] offers a remarkable explanation. He notes that when the Torah reports the death of Miriam, it simply states that she died and was buried. No mention is made of eulogies or mourning, in contrast to the Torah’s accounts of the deaths of Aharon and Moshe, where it is explicitly mentioned that the nation wept for the loss of their leader. It seems, the Keli Yakar observes, that the people were not moved by Miriam’s death, and did not properly eulogize or mourn for her. They failed to appreciate the fact that their constant water supply was directly and solely due to her. God therefore took away the well so that the people would appreciate what an exceptionally righteous person they lost. As they did not properly appreciate the miracle of the well and Miriam’s greatness which provided it, it had to be taken away.

The Keli Yakar’s insight teaches us the importance of appreciating everything we have while we have it. If we take everything we have for granted, then God is compelled to take it away, Heaven forbid, so we can appreciate just how valuable it is.

Unfortunately, we take so many things for granted in our lives. People do not generally appreciate their vision until, God forbid, they or someone they know suffers vision loss. We do not appreciate our health until, God forbid, we or someone we know takes ill. We do not appreciate our children until we meet a childless couple.

Each morning, we are required to recite a series of Berachot thanking Hashem for things that may appear simple and trivial. First and foremost, we recite “Elokai Neshama” to thank God for restoring our soul, for enabling us to wake up in the morning. We recite the Beracha of “Poke’ah Ivrim” to thank Him for our eyesight, “Malbish Arumim” to thank Him for our clothing, “Zokef Kefufim” to thank Him for allowing us to stand up straight, and “She’asa Li Kol Sorki” to thank Him for our shoes. We receive all these gifts, and so many more, each and every day, and our Sages who composed the liturgy wanted to ensure that we thank God for each one of them.

These blessings, like most of our blessings, are not fully appreciated until they are taken away from us. I once saw somebody I know running out of a burning building in a bathrobe; he was at the gym when a fire erupted, and he had no time to put on his clothes. This is when I appreciated the Beracha of “Malbish Arumim.” When we hear of somebody who wrenched his back during the night, we appreciate the Beracha of “Zokef Kefufim.” The Beracha of “She’asa Li Kol Sorki” came into focus for me after a bizarre experience I had once when I traveled to Mexico City to deliver a lecture in a large synagogue there. The hotel in which I stayed offered a free shoeshine service, whereby guests leave their shoes outside their room at night and then have it returned shined early the next morning. So, I left my shoes outside the room, and when I opened my door the next morning to go to the synagogue for Shaharit and my lecture…they were not there. I went down to the lobby to meet the people who had come to take me to the synagogue, and they saw me there without any shoes. This is when I appreciated the Beracha of “She’asa Li Kol Sorki,” that even the shoes on our feet should never be taken for granted.

Rav Avigdor Miller [1908-2001] would occasionally put his head in a sink full of water for several moments, until he needed to come out of the water for air. He explained that he wanted to feel grateful for the air we breathe at every moment of our lives. In order to truly feel appreciative, he deprived himself of air for several moments, during which time he was able to appreciate how precious the air is.

Part of the reason why it’s so difficult for us to appreciate our blessings in life is because we’re so busy complaining about our “problems.” These “problems” are things like traffic jams, a flat tire, a head cold, a misbehaving child, or a broken piece of furniture. When our emotional energy is expended on worrying about these “problems,” we are not able to feel happy and grateful for our blessings – that we have a spouse, children, a roof over our heads, a source of livelihood, friends, clothing to wear, and so on.

One Rabbi recommended that we each compile a list of ten blessings in our life and keep this piece of paper with us when we pray the daily Amida. When we reach the Modim section, in which we thank God “for Your wonders and favors that are given at all times,” we should look at the list so we can be grateful for the particular blessings in our lives. This will help us experience true gratitude, and appreciate what we have while we have it, so that the Almighty will continue showering us with these blessings and not, Heaven forbid, take them away from us.