Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Three Keys

Art: "Key" by Nikoletta Bati
"Engrave on it with signet-ring [type] engraving: "Holy to Hashem" פִּתּוּחֵי חֹתָם קֹדֶשׁ לַי־הֹוָ־ה 
[Tetzaveh 28:36]

In Maseches Ta'anis (2a) R' Yochanan states that there are three maftechos, three keys, in Hashem's possession that He never entrusts to others:

*the key to childbirth
*the key to rain
*and the key to resuscitating the dead.

The Gemara derived this from three verses:

*Hashem does not entrust the key to childbirth to a messenger, as the verse states: "G-d remembered Rachel; G-d hearkened to her and He opened (vayiftach) her womb" [Bereishis 30:22]

*Hashem does not entrust the key of rain to a messenger, as the verse states: "Hashem shall open for you His storehouse of goodness, the heavens, to provide rain for your Land in its time" [Devarim 28:12]

*And Hashem does not entrust the key of resuscitating the dead to a messenger, as the verse states: "Then you will know that I am Hashem, when I open your graves" [Yechezkel 37:13]

These three keys, remarked the Vilna Gaon, are alluded to in the verse: "Pituchei chosam kodesh laHashem" - פִּתּוּחֵי חֹתָם קֹדֶשׁ לַי־הֹוָ־ה -

The acronym of the word  חֹתָם [Ches, taf, mem] which means "seal" hints to the following words:

Ches - Chayah [a woman who has recently given birth]
Taf - Techiyas HaMeisim [the resuscitation of the dead]
Mem - Matar [rain]

The verse can therefore be read as follows:  "The keys of [pituchei] childbirth, resuscitation of the dead, and rain - ChoTaM - are designated for Hashem's use only ["kodesh laHashem"].

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ta'anis Esther 5775

Something to think about 

Once there was a King in Shushan, the most powerful ruler in the world, who had a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews. 

Today there is a President in Washington, the most powerful ruler in the world, who has a strong disdain, dislike or perhaps even hatred of Jews. 

Once there was a Persian who wanted to kill all the Jews, but needed the King's authorization to proceed with his plan. 

Today there are Persians who want to kill all the Jews, but need the President's authorization to proceed with their plan. 

The King didn't really care, as long as there was something in it for him - lots of money. 

The President doesn't really care, as long as there is something in it for him - a deal with the Persians.  

The Jewish Queen wanted to tell the King what was really happening, but going in to talk to the King was dangerous. 

The Jewish Prime Minister wants to tell the President and his Congress what is really happening, but going to talk to them is dangerous. 

Some people thought she shouldn't go, it would just anger the King and make things worse. 

Some people think he shouldn't go, it will just anger the President and make things worse. 

She asked the Jews to fast and pray for the success of her mission. They did so, the King accepted her words and the plot to destroy them was thwarted. 

Will we fast and pray for the success of his mission? Will the President and Congress accept his words? Will the plot to destroy us be thwarted? 

We commemorate the fasting prior to the Queen's plea to the King on Taanis Ester. 

The Prime Minister of Israel has been invited to address the United States Congress on March 3. 
This year Taanis Ester begins on March 3.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Meat and Milk: Gevurah and Chesed

With prayers for a Refuah Shelaimah for Shammai ben Sarah.
Please add his name to your tefillos.

"You shall not cook a kid in its mother's milk." [Mishpatim 23:19]

Ramban writes that it is prohibited to eat meat cooked in milk, since it is an act of moral insensitivity.  Rashi points out that not only are we forbidden to eat milk and meat together, but even cooking the mixture is forbidden.  This renders the prohibition of milk and meat unique in that even the preparation of the prohibited mixture is also prohibited by the Torah.

From this we can learn how far we must take care to refrain from being morally insensitive.

According to the Kabbalah, milk and meat may not be mixed as this would cause the negative interaction of opposing spiritual forces.  Meat is a physical manifestation of the Divine power of Gevurah (severity), as suggested by the red color of meat.  Milk has its spiritual roots in the Divine power of Chesed (kindness), indicated by its white color. Being that these two powers have an opposite effect, they must not be mixed.

Bachaye writes that in the Messianic Era, it will become permissible to eat meat that was cooked with milk. This is because, in the spiritual realms, the mixing of Chesed and Gevurah is not counterproductive.  Each Divine power works in harmony with the other, since both powers respect the fact that they emanate from the One God.

In the physical world, this harmony does not persevere, since physical things feel their own existence as paramount, and will not coalesce to a higher purpose.  Therefore, the mixing of meat and milk in the physical world is forbidden for it will result in a "corruption" of the spiritual forces that they embody.

However, in the Messianic Era, we are promised that G-d will be felt tangibly within the physical world.  Therefore, it will become possible to mix Chesed and Gevurah - through cooking milk and meat - even in the physical world.

Source: Based on Likutei Sichos of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Gutnick Chumash

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reincarnation and the Afterlife [video]

Rabbi DovBer Pinson

Can we remember past lives? What happens after we die? A glimpse into the journey of the soul on the other side of life's curtain, including insights into near-death experiences, Heaven and Hell, and the Afterlife journey. 

The Bride's Debt

It once happened in Safed, that a disciple of the Holy Ari had to go on a long journey. Before departing, he came to his teacher for a letter of recommendation. The Ari wrote it for him, then blessed him and said "May G-d be with you, and may you go in peace".

The disciple then asked "Master, can you tell me anything about what will happen when I get there?"

"You will marry a beautiful woman" the Ari replied. "And she is your destined soulmate for this life. But after you have been happily married for only six months, she will suddenly die. And here is the reason: In another incarnation, this woman was a man, and you were also a man then. He was your dearest friend, but he also caused you some legal trouble for six months. Finally, he brought a lawsuit against you in the civil courts, which caused you to lose 600 gold coins, even though you were innocent of his charges.

"Now" continued the Ari, "this friend from another life is once again reincarnated - as the woman you will marry on your journey. His soul has come to make atonement for his sins against you. For the six months of trouble that he caused in that life, you will have six months of happiness in this life. The inheritance you will receive when she dies is to repay you for the 600 gold pieces you lost in the past life. But even though you know this, you should be kind and patient to this woman, and grant her forgiveness for the trouble she caused you in the previous life."

And everything happened exactly as the Holy Ari said it would.

[Shivchei Ha-Ari, 16th century]

Sunday, February 8, 2015

The Time Has Come

R' Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev lifted his pure eyes to Heaven and said: "Master of the World! You have exhorted us in Your Torah, "You shall not cause any pain to any widow or orphan. [Mishpatim 22:21]

We, Your nation Israel, are orphans, as the Navi laments: "We have become [like] orphans, and there is no father." [Eichah 5:3]

"I turn to You today, O Father in Heaven, and I beseech You to have mercy upon Your nation of orphans who are languishing in a bitter exile.  The time has come for You to take us from darkness into light!"

Source: Rabbi Yisrael Bronstein

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

''The End of the World'' 5776

When we speak about ''the end of the world'', we actually mean the end of the concealment.  The Hebrew word ''Olam'' -  ''world'' - stems from the word Olama -  to conceal, or hide.  Because Hashem hides Himself in this world.  When Moshiach will come, the darkness will disappear, and all will be revealed.

Hashem hides Himself in the Creation, to give us the feeling that everything is according to nature.

So the ''end of the world'' does not mean destruction, it means a lifting of the curtain of darkness that conceals Hashem and the Light.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Strange Shofar Sounds in Israel

HT: Yaak

A mysterious sound of the shofar in Ramat Gan.

[Click on the EARTH SOUNDS link below to see more shofar noises around the world]


Sunday, February 1, 2015

Parshat Yitro: The Origin of Yitro's Soul

Chassidut by Rabbi Herschel Reichman

Our Sages say that Yitro had seven names . The Shem MiShmuel takes an in-depth look at the names, Yeter and Yitro. Yeter was Yitro's gentile name, before he converted, and Yitro is the name he chose upon converting. Rashi explains that the name Yeter connotes that he increased the Torah with one parsha, when he advised Moshe to set up a judicial system. The Shem MiShmuel asks two questions. How does Yitro's non-Jewish name Yeter indicate that he added a parsha, when he only advised Moshe after he converted. Additionally, why did Yitro keep his original gentile name Yeter, adding just the letter vav, instead of taking a completely new Jewish name?

The midrash contrasts Esav and Yitro, who were polar opposites, in five ways. The five qualities correspond to the five senses.

1]  Esav's descendants, the Romans, committed adultery [related to the sense of touch], when they conquered Jerusalem, while Yitro gave his daughter to Moshe in marriage.

2]  Esav devoured Israel like bread, representing taste, while Yitro shared a meal of bread with Moshe.

3]   Esav did not fear Hashem. This is related to vision, because when one sees Hashem, one fears Him. Yitro recognized Hashem.

4] Esav gave up the bechora and the privilege of bringing korbanot. This corresponds to smell, as korbanot are referred to as "rei'ach necho'ach" a good fragrance. Yitro brought sacrifices to Hashem.

5] When Amalek, Esav's descendants, heard about the exodus of Egypt, they declared war against the Jews. Yitro, however, came to join them. The midrash actually contrasts them in a sixth way as well. This sixth trait utilizes the collective of all senses together. Esav represented sinat [hatred of] Yisrael while Yitro signified ahavat [ love of] Yisrael.

The gemara says that Esav was wicked from the beginning until the end of his life. We know that Hashem gave man the gift of bechira, free will. Didn't Esav have free choice? Bechira begins with man's unsullied innate personality which can be used for good or evil. Once choices are made, certain characteristics form. These characteristics then become habitual and harder to change.

Kayin was the first murderer mentioned in the Torah. He was given gevura, strength, which he could have used for the good. Instead, he perverted his personality, chose wickedness by violating the three cardinal sins, and is considered the progenitor of all evil.

Although Hashem gives us free choice, he is saddened when we sin. In spite of this, Hashem doesn't abandon man's original potential for good and wants to redeem it. This happens through reincarnation. Kayin died an evil man. One of Yitro's seven names was Keni, the identical letters that spell Kayin. Kayin's soul was reincarnated in Yitro, who inherited his good traits.

Yitro had enormous inner strength. He discovered monotheism, stood up as one man alone against an entire nation, and was shunned and blacklisted by his people. Esav received Kayin's evil middot [character traits]. He too, transgressed the three cardinal sins, was an egoist, and was jealous of his brother Yaakov. Esav was given amazing powers to rectify the evil of Kayin. But he chose not to do so and died an evil man.

Hevel embodied the trait of humbleness to an extreme. He too needed to be reincarnated because he did not live up to his potential. His humility was smothered by the evil of Kayin. Hevel was reincarnated in Moshe who was the humblest of all men. Moshe's anava [humility] did not prevent him from action. It brought him closer to Hashem.

Yitro and Moshe were none other than Kayin and Hevel reincarnated. Yeter means something more. It is the power of extraordinary courage, which brought Yitro to go against the world and join the Jews in the desert. Moshe told Yitro to keep the name Yeter, signifying admirable strength. However, he advised him to add the letter vav, which refers to Hashem, to make it Jewish.

Every one of us has a Kayin and Hevel within us. We struggle with self centeredness and weakness. Our true personality is enslaved to bad passions and habits. However, we can redeem ourselves by tapping in to the powers of Yitro and Moshe. By summoning the courage to do what's right and taking strength from Hashem, we can defeat the evil side within us.