Thursday, April 28, 2016

Should We Look at Rainbows?

Photo: Stefanos Politis
HT: Yaak

by Rabbi Yair Hoffman

This topic is one of the most controversial aspects of rainbows in halacha.

To what extent are we permitted to look at a rainbow?

The Gemorah [Chagigah 16a] tells us that one who is mistakel [gazes] at a rainbow, it is worthy that he had not come into the world, for he cares not about the honor of his Creator, and that his eyes will become dimmed.

Rav Dovid Avudraham was asked the question as to how one can recite a blessing on a rainbow when we should not look at it. He responds, quoting the Rosh, that it is permitted to look at it, but not gaze at it in depth – that is for a prolonged period of time. The Orchos Chaim (Brachos 56) cites the same Rosh, and this seems to be the basis for the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch not to gaze at it for a long period of time.

What’s the reason for not looking at it at length? The Tosfos R”id explains that the prohibition is symbolic. Just as it is well nigh impossible to differentiate where each of the colors begin and end in a rainbow, we are enjoined to not contemplate the nature of Hashem and the prohibition of looking deeply at the rainbow reminds us of this.

The Zohar [Parshas Shlach 66b] states that one who looks at a rainbow is likened to one who looks at the Shechina.

Much more on this at: The Yeshiva World

The Tikunei Zohar [Tikun 18 page 36b] states that there are klipot that surround the rainbow of a tempestuous wind and a large cloud. These cause the true deeper colors of the rainbow to be obscured, and if these were actually seen – then Moshiach would arrive immediately. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Is There an Anti-Christ/ Anti-Moshiach in Judaism?

The Antichrist is described in a handful of passages in the New Testament as a future messianic pretender who will deceive mankind, battle God, and bring the world to the brink of destruction. Responding to a caller, Rabbi Tovia Singer answers the question: Who is the Antichrist in Judaism?


Seudah Moshiach

Acharon Shel Pesach, the last day of Pesach has a special connection to the coming of Moshiach and is celebrated accordingly, by partaking of Moshiach's Seudah [the meal of Moshiach..... sometimes known as the Third Seder]

The last day of Pesach  is celebrated by eating a special, festive banquet called Moshiach's seudah, a custom initiated by the Baal Shem Tov. The connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach is explained by the Tzemach Tzedek: "The last day of Pesach is the conclusion of that which began on the first night of Pesach. The first night of Pesach is our festival commemorating our redemption from Egypt by the Holy One, Blessed be He. It was the first redemption, carried out through Moshe Rabbeinu, who was the first redeemer; it was the beginning. The last day of Pesach is our festival commemorating the final redemption, when the Holy One, Blessed be He, will redeem us from the last exile through our righteous Moshiach, who is the final redeemer. The first day of Pesach is Moshe Rabbeinu's festival; the last day of Pesach is Moshiach's festival."

Pesach is the festival which celebrates freedom. The first day celebrates the redemption from the first exile; the last day celebrates the future redemption from the final exile. The two are intimately connected, the beginning and end of one process with G-d in the future redemption showing wonders "as in the days of your exodus from Egypt."

That Moshiach's festival is celebrated specifically on the last day of Pesach is not merely because Moshiach will redeem us from the last exile. Being last has a significance beyond mere numerical order, for that which is last performs a unique function. When the Jews journeyed in the desert after leaving Egypt, they marched in a specific order, divided into four camps. The last to march was the camp of Dan, which is described by Torah as "ma'asaf l'chol hamachanos" - "gatherer of all the camps." Rashi explains this as meaning that "The tribe of Dan...would journey last, and whoever would lose anything, it would be restored to him."

The concept of "gatherer of all the camps" - restoring lost property and making sure that nothing is missing - may be applied to various situations. The Baal Shem Tov, for example, taught that just as the Jews in the desert made forty-two journeys before they reached their final destination, Eretz Yisroel, so there are forty-two journeys in each Jew's individual life. The birth of a person corresponds to the initial journey when the Jews left the land of Egypt, and at each stage of life a Jew is somewhere in the middle of one of the forty-two journeys he must experience before he enters the next world.

Not only a person's entire life, but also every individual service to G-d has various stages or "journeys." In particular, the conclusion of a specific service acts as the "gatherer of all the camps" - to make sure that nothing is missing from that service. Pesach, it was noted earlier, is associated with the concept of redemption, and our service on Pesach is correspondingly directed towards hastening the arrival of the final redemption. But even if service on Pesach was deficient, if opportunities were missed, not all is lost: the last day of Pesach acts as "gatherer of all the camps" for the entire festival. Just as the tribe of Dan restored lost articles to their owners, so the last day of Pesach provides a Jew with the opportunity to rectify omissions in the service of Pesach, and thereby regain what is rightfully his.

Because Pesach is associated with the redemption through Moshiach and the last day of Pesach is the finish to and completion of Pesach, the last day of Pesach accordingly emphasizes the coming of Moshiach.

The notion of "gatherer of all the camps" applies not only to each individual Jew's life and service, but also to Jewry in general. The forty-two journeys between leaving Egypt and entering Eretz Yisroel took place in the desert, the "wilderness of the nations," which is an allusion to the period of exile when Jews sojourn amongst the nations of the earth. The forty-two journeys in the desert served as the means wherewith Jews left the limitations of Egypt.  Thus all the journeys undertaken until the Jews actually entered Eretz Yisroel may be viewed as part of the exodus from Egypt. So too with the journeys in the exile: until Jews merit the final redemption, they are still journeying to reach Eretz Yisroel.  In every generation, Jews are somewhere in the middle of one of those forty-two journeys.

As in the journeys in the desert, there is a "gatherer of all the camps" in the generations-long journey of Jews to the Messianic Era. Our present generation is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach," the last generation of exile. It is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations of Jews.

That this generation of exile is the "gatherer of all the camps" of all generations is not just because it is the last. Exile is not just punishment for sin.

The mission of Jews is to elevate and refine this corporeal world, to reveal G-dliness and to transform the physical into a dwelling place for G-d. Dispersed throughout the world in exile, Jews have been given the opportunity and the means to carry out this mission in all parts of the world.

This has been the Jews' task throughout their history. "Gatherer of all the camps" in this context means that if any portion of that task is missing, it now can be rectified. Thus the era of "gatherer of all the camps" is the era when the world will have been fully refined and G-dliness revealed: the Era of Moshiach.

It is for this reason that it is our generation which is that of "the footsteps of Moshiach" and "gatherer of all the camps." For the service of Jews throughout the generations has been all but completed, and only the finishing touches - "gatherer of all the camps" - is needed. We stand ready and prepared to greet Moshiach.

Moshiach, of course, could have come in previous generations. The Talmud, for example, relates that at the destruction of the Beis HaMikdash, a cow lowed twice. The first time meant that the Beis HaMikdash was destroyed; the second time meant that Moshiach was born. In other words, the potential Moshiach was born immediately after the destruction and had the Jews merited it then, he would have been the actual Moshiach.

Although Moshiach could have come in previous generations, the future redemption nevertheless has a greater connection to our generation - just as the idea of Moshiach is emphasized on the last day of Pesach,  although the whole of Pesach is associated with the future redemption. For both are the concept of "gatherer of all the camps" and we accordingly celebrate Moshiach's seudah specifically on the last day of Pesach.

There is still more to the connection between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. The prophet Yechezkel describes the exodus from Egypt - which took place on the first day of Pesach - as the birth of the Jewish nation.

The last day of Pesach, the eighth day, is therefore the day of the circumcision, which is "the beginning of the entry of the holy soul." Moshiach is the yechidah - the most sublime level of the soul - of the Jewish people. Until the body of Jewry has undergone circumcision it is not whole; its holy soul is missing. Moreover, the Alter Rebbe writes, the highest level of circumcision will take place in the future, when "The L-rd will circumcise your heart."

The Haftorah read on the last day of Pesach is also connected with the Messianic Era. It states: "The wolf will lie down with the lamb...He will raise a banner for the return...the earth will be full of the knowledge of the L-rd." All of these verses refer to the Messianic Era.

Thus the relationship between the last day of Pesach and Moshiach. But why do we mark this relationship by eating a meal?

Belief in Moshiach is a cardinal tenet of the Jewish faith, enshrined as one of Rambam's thirteen principles of belief: "I believe with perfect faith in the coming of Moshiach; and although he may tarry, I will wait for him every day that he shall come." But abstract belief is not enough. Our intellectual awareness must be translated into concrete action - by eating of Moshiach's seudah. Moreover, the food from Moshiach's seudah becomes part of our flesh and blood, and our faith in, and yearning for Moshiach permeates not just the soul's faculties but also the physical body.

Moshiach's seudah was initiated by the Baal Shem Tov, and there is good reason why it was by him specifically. In a famous letter to his brother in law, R. Gershon of Kitov, the Baal Shem Tov tells of the time he experienced an elevation of the soul to the highest spheres. When he came to the abode of Moshiach, he asked, "When will the Master come?" to which Moshiach replied, "When your wellsprings shall spread forth to the outside." In other words, it is the Baal Shem Tov's teachings - Chassidus - which will bring Moshiach, and it is therefore particularly appropriate that it was the Baal Shem Tov who initiated Moshiach's seudah on the last day of Pesach.

In the time of the Baal Shem Tov, the principal element of the seudah was matzah. The Rebbe Rashab, fifth Rebbe of Chabad, added the custom of drinking four cups of wine. Matzah is poor man's bread, flat and tasteless. Wine, in contrast, not only possesses taste, but induces joy and delight, to the extent that our Sages say, "Shirah (song) is said only over wine."

Chabad Chassidus conveys the concepts of Chassidus, first propounded by the Baal Shem Tov, in an intellectual framework, enabling them to be understood by a person's Chochmah (wisdom), Binah (knowledge), and Da'as (understanding) - ChaBaD. And when a person understands something - in this case the concepts of Chassidus - he enjoys it that much more. Chabad, in other words, introduced "taste" and "delight" into Chassidic doctrines, which until then were accepted primarily on faith alone.

The four cups of wine also allude to the Messianic Age, for which the dissemination of Chassidus - especially Chabad Chassidus - is the preparation. The four cups symbolize: the four expressions of redemption; the four cups of retribution G-d will force the nations of the world to drink; the four cups of comfort G-d will bestow upon the Jews; the four letters of G-d's Name which will be revealed; the four general levels of repentance.

[Source: Sichah of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Acharon Shel Pesach, 5742]

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Sky Watch #11

Note: This blog does not endorse any Xtian references that may be voiced in this video. Thanks go to Steve Olson for all his hard work in allowing us all to see the unfolding events at this unique time in the history of the world, and at all times we acknowledge that these wonders are orchestrated by Hashem. Have no fear, Moshiach is near !

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Pesach Moon

First night Pesach, the moon was incredible. It was a cloudy night and as the clouds went past the moon they lit up in a giant halo of blue, orange and yellow. 

I had a feeling there was going to be an amazing moon so I lined up a non-Jewish friend to take photos .... but they do not do it justice. A better photo can be found here at Flickr - I truly have never seen anything like it - I wish I had a video to show you but these photos are all I have, or have found on the internet. Seems like no-one else noticed the light show except the people at my Seder and my friend [and the lone photographer at Flickr]. Click on the Flickr photo to enlarge it.  The colours in the photos really do not reflect the reality of the sight - there are no words !

Friday, April 22, 2016

For You

Chag Sameach to all readers, thank you for coming here. The blog will not be updated until after Yomtov [Sunday night]. Wishing you all a kosher and happy Pesach.    Shabbat Shalom!

Are You Ready?

Rabbi Alon Anava with all the proofs that Moshiach is so close. At 43 mins he talks about ''the star'' [Nibiru].

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Splitting Your Own Sea

by Rabbi Aron Moss - Nefesh

Question of the Week: Why did the Israelites have to pass through the Red Sea? On my map of the Middle East, the route from Egypt to Israel is directly through the desert. The sea is totally out of the way. G-d led them on a detour, trapping them between the sea and the chasing Egyptians, and then split the sea. Does G-d have no sense of direction? 

Answer: The Israelites passing through the Red Sea was not a geographical necessity, but a spiritual one. At the Red Sea, we were shown the power of the human soul. 

The earth is comprised of oceans and continents, sea and dry land. The difference between the two is that on dry land, all is open and visible. The trees, animals, mountains and people that occupy it are all easily recognisable. The sea on the other hand is a big blue expanse of mystery. Though the sea is teeming with life, when you look at it you can identify nothing, all is hidden beneath the surface. 

So it is with a person. Our personality has two layers: our sea, and our land. What we know of ourselves, our visible strengths, our tested talents and our known abilities, the elements of our character that we are aware of, these comprise the dry land of our personality. But below the surface of our character lies a vast sea of latent talents, inner strengths and untapped abilities that we never knew we had. In the depth of our soul lies a reserve of dormant energy waiting to be discovered. This is our sea, and even we ourselves are unaware of what lies there. How can we access this reservoir of potential? 

How can our sea become dry land? There is only one way. And we know it from the encounter at the Red Sea. 

The Israelites had their back to the wall: Egyptians closing in on one side, a raging sea threatening on the other. They had only two options, despair or faith. Logic and reason demanded that they give in. There was no possible way out of their predicament. But faith demanded that they keep marching to the Promised Land. Sea or no sea, this is the path that G-d has led us, so we have to have faith and march on. And so they did. 

It was at that moment, when hopelessness was countered by faith, that the impossible happened, and the sea opened up to become dry land. The most formidable obstacle dissolved into nothingness, without a struggle, just with faith. The people became empowered exactly when they acknowledged G-d as the only true power. By surrendering themselves to a higher force, they discovered the force within them. They split their own sea. 

The Jewish people are no strangers to times of challenge. At the very birth of our nation, we needed to learn how to face these challenges. So G-d took us on a detour to the sea and opened it up for us. He was telling every Jew for all times: Obstacles are not interruptions to the journey, they are the journey. Keep marching towards the Promised Land. Every challenge along the way will give you deeper insight and renewed power. Just have faith. It will split your sea.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Kabbalah of the Three Matzot

by Rav DovBer Pinson

The Three Matzos: Their Outer and Inner Meanings
What is the simple halachic reason that we use three Matzos when leading a Seder? It is so we will have two whole, unbroken matzos over which to bless ha-motzi—as we do at every Shabbos and Yom Tov meal—as well as one matzah to break during the Seder.

The two loaves of Shabbos and Yom Tov commemorate the two whole portions of manna that miraculously appeared every Friday, allowing us to dedicate the day of Shabbos to being with Hashem, rather than to gathering the day’s food. The third matzah of the Seder is broken, symbolizing Lechem Oni, or the ‘bread of poverty’. [Devarim, 16:3] A poor person must ration his food, so he breaks his loaf and hides a portion to eat later.

The Rif [Tenth Century], and the Gra [Eighteenth Century] used only two matzos for the Seder. They held the opinion that we need only one whole unbroken matzah, and one matzah to break. The prevailing opinion today is to use three matzos, two whole matzos and one broken matzah.

Remez, the Hinted Reason for Three Matzos
The three matzos hint at the minimum three matzos that were offered in Temple times as a todah, a ‘thanksgiving offering’. This offering was made when a person was saved from danger or released from prison. On Pesach, we give thanks for the Exodus from Egypt, which was like being freed from prison. [Mordechai]

The three matzos also remind us of when Avraham/Abraham is visited by the angels and he calls to Sarah, “Hurry! Three measures of the finest flour! Knead it, and make ugos [round breads].”[Bereishis 18:6] The Midrash says this meal takes place on Pesach, and the ugos are matzos, made in a hurry so they do not become Chametz .

D’rash, the Expanded Reason for Three Matzos
The three matzos represent the three patriarchs—Avraham, Yitzchak/ Isaac and Yaakov/ Jacob.[Rokeach] They also represent the three categories of Jews—Cohein, Levi, and Yisrael. [Arizal]

When we are preparing for the Seder, we stack the matzos in this order: first the matzah representing Yisrael on the bottom, then Levi above it, and finally the Cohein on top. In this order, their acronym is YeiLeCh, meaning ‘going’ or journeying. The Seder is a process, a journey towards liberation. [The Rebbe Rayatz]

Sod, the Mystical Reason for Three Matzos
Our sages tell us, that, “A child does not know how to call ‘Father’ or ‘Mother’ until he tastes grain.” [Sanhedrein, 70b] This implies that the consumption of wheat is associated with our intellectual development. The Arizal, R. Yitzchak Luria, says that the three matzos symbolize the three forms of intellect: Chochma or ‘wisdom’, Binah or ‘understanding’, and Da’as or ‘awareness’.

The matzah on the bottom of the stack is the one that is combined with Maror [bitter herbs] to make Hillel’s sandwich. This matzah specifically embodies Da’as, a Sefirah that brings together opposites. Hillel’s sandwich brings together the intellect [matzah] and emotions [maror], or brings together redemption [matzah] and slavery [maror].

The middle matzah is broken into two pieces. This is an expression of Binah, whose function is breaking ideas down into fine details. The left brain. The larger of the two pieces is broken into five smaller pieces before it is hidden away as the afikoman. These five pieces represent the five levels of Gevurah, constriction, another ‘left-column’ sefirah, which is just below Binah on the Tree of Life.

The letter Hei
In terms of the sefiros, Binah is represented in the letter Hei, the fifth letter, and a letter that is comprised of two parts, [a right vertical line connected to a horizontal line above, and a left suspended line to the left] thus the middle Matzah is broken into two, and then further into five.

The top matzah is consumed together with the remaining piece of the middle matzah, in fulfillment of the mitzvah of ‘eating matzah’. Fulfilling a mitzvah is a manifestation of Chochmah, a higher intuition or faith in what is above and beyond us. Being that the top Matzah is connected with the letter Yud, a simple one point, the matzah is not broken.

In general, the numerical value of the word matzah is 135, which is the same as the combined values of the Divine names AV [72] and SaG [63]. Av is associated with the sefirah of Chochmah, and SaG is associated with the sefirah of Binah.

Three and Four
Now we have an understanding of why we use three matzos. Another question arises: why should there be three matzos when the main numerical theme of the Hagadah is ‘four’? What is the inner reason for three matzos but four cups of wine, and how can this inspire our Seder?

Our sages tell us [Shabbos, 104a] that the letters Gimmel and Dalet mean Gomel Dalim. The letter Gimel [in Hebrew, the number three] means gomel - ‘giver’ - and the letter Dalet [the number four] means dalim - ‘poor people’, i.e. recipients of the ‘giver’. Thus the relationship between three and four is one of giving and receiving.

This relationship can be understood through the following analogy. One person, ‘the giver’, is considering how to communicate a subtle spiritual insight to another person, ‘the receiver’. Before communication occurs, the insight has three metaphorical dimensions within the mind of the giver: omek or ‘depth’, orech or ‘length’, and rochev or ‘breadth’. ‘Depth’ refers to the giver’s understanding of deeper meaning of the insight. ‘Length’ refers to the giver’s ability to articulate the insight, taking it out of abstraction and giving it an understandable form. ‘Broadening’ means the giver’s ability to develop practical implications of the insight.

The receiver is ‘poor’ in terms of these three dimensions. However, when the giver finally communicates the insight, a fourth dimension is added to the three: relationship with the receiver. Thus, when ‘three’ is received, it becomes ‘four’. The giver’s insight now expands vertically and horizontally within the vessel of the receiver’s mind, and there is a unity between giver and receiver.

Our Redemption
In terms of our Exodus from Egypt, Hashem is the ‘giver’ and we, the redeemed ones, are the ‘receivers’. Eventually we reach a unity with Hashem, but first a relationship must be developed. In the beginning, as slaves, we are dependent, immature, and unable to receive. During the journey of redemption, we become ready to have a genuine relationship with our Redeemer.

We drink four cups of wine to represent the four expressions the Torah uses in reference to the Exodus: “I will take you out,” “I will save you,” “I will redeem you,” and “I will take you to Me.” The first three expressions are like the three dimensions of insight within the giver, and they imply ‘poverty’ on the part of the receiver, for there is not yet an active receptivity or relationship. The fourth term, “…take you to Me” implies a genuine relationship, a unity between the giver and the receiver. This is when communication finally occurs.

In the expression “I will take you to Me,” the term ‘take’, l’kicha, alludes to the ‘taking’ of a marriage partner.[Kidushin, 2a]  Hashem takes us to Himself in marriage when we reach Mount Sinai.  Prior to this, we are still eating the bread of poverty, working on our freedom, and opening ourselves. Under the Divine wedding canopy, we sip the wine of Hashem’s Torah, and we receive the full depth, length and breadth of His insight. In Hashem’s embrace, we transcend intellect, and we are fully redeemed.

In Summary
The three matzos, as the ‘bread of poverty’, are flat and relatively tasteless—representing the receiver in an empty, passive, open state. Therefore, the first three expressions of redemption, in which the receiver is passive, correspond to the three matzos. They also correspond to the three levels of intellect, Chochma, Binah and Da’as, before they are touched and ignited by Divine love.

Wine, in contrast to matzah, is full of taste, color and passion, representing the receiver engaged in a loving relationship. The four cups of wine thus represent the fourth expression of redemption, when we, the receivers, are mature enough to enter into intimate communication with Hashem. When our three intellectual sefiros are then ignited, we transcend intellect. We unite ‘three’ and ‘four’. This is the end goal of our redemption, and these are the energies we activate at the Seder, as we eat the three matzos and drink the four cups of wine.

With blessings for a redemptive Pesach
Rav DovBer Pinson

Source: THE IYYUN HAGGADAH - A Haggadah Companion

In this beautifully written companion to Passover and the Haggadah, Rav DovBer Pinson guides us through the major themes of Passover and the Seder night.

What is the big deal of Chametz vs. Matzah?
What are we trying to achieve through conducting a Seder?
What are the 15 steps of the Seder towards freedom?
What's with all that stuff on the Seder Plate, what do they represent?
The Four Cups of Wine and the Four Stages of Freedom
And most importantly, how is this all related to freedom?