Thursday, April 24, 2014

The Inverted Tree

If the entire universe is an expression of God, He Who is One, then there must be some way to comprehend how a world that embodies finiteness and boundaries can stem from, or represent, the Single God.

Chassidus resolves this conundrum with the concept of "Levels of Derivation". The best way I know to describe this concept is by imagining an upside-down tree, where its root, which points upward, represents our abstract of God, and therefrom descends the tree-trunk, which gives off branches along the way. The higher the branch, the loftier its creative source. Each branch along the trunk can become the source for created elements.

For example, take the case of "miracles". These can be generalized into two categories, those that override Nature and those that cooperate with Nature.

Those miracles that occurred in Egypt, starting with water turning into blood, and, finally, the splitting of the Reed Sea, derived from one level of Godliness.

The other sort of miracle, those that enclothe themselves within Nature, keeping intact the framework of Nature, have another source. The miracles of Purim and Chanuka exemplify this category.

In fact, according to the Rebbe, the latter miracles derive from a level higher than the source of those miracles that break the rules of Nature.

There is yet a third level of miracles, those that derive from the highest source; These miracles the person cannot recognize them for what they are. Such a miracle only God Himself is privy too.

The better Nature conceals the miracle, the loftier its source.

If we reflect upon Nature we can recognize its lofty state. First we note, as it says in Genesis (8:22), "it takes no respite"; It is eternal and constant. Even though the world now exists nearly 6,000 years, we note that Nature suffers no decrement or weakness. For this entire time the stars and planets remained steadfast, as did the breeding capacity of species. It is obvious an infinite power controls Nature.

Although the Nature of creatures themselves is finite and suffers decrement, this is due to the limitation of the life-force embedded in creatures. But Nature that runs the universe continuously without diminution, that which does not get embedded, reflects the infinite power of God.

The advantage of a miracle that breaks Nature's barriers is that God is immediately recognized for His powers - even without any contemplation. The disadvantage of this miracle shows itself because the world apparently appears to be unable to contain the infinite.

But the steady and constant feature that characterizes Nature - though to appreciate this requires contemplation, shows that God runs the world in a way where the world can be controlled without wrecking its basic framework. In the resting state of Nature the world can appear to meld the infinite together with the finite.
(An idea taken from the Rebbe's Ma'amar (Sefer Hama'amarim, Melukat vol. 4, pp.123-134), although not yet well enough understood by me. Please forgive me, though, for scribbling my premature thoughts.)

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Whys of the Wise

The Haggadah refers to "the 4 sons" about whom Torah speaks to. The wise son's mention is followed by mention of the wicked son.

Why this juxtaposition? Why aren't the 4 sons ordered from good to bad, so that better sons appear before the worst of them (such as the "simple one" or the "one that can't ask")?

Placing the wicked son next to the wise one comes to teach us, by way of hint, the great value there is in performing Torah's commandments in a simple, humble and unpretentious manner, in performing them without questioning. After all, Torah enjoins us, "Be faithfully simple with Your G-d" (Deut.18:13).

Even though the wise son asks questions - to dig deeper all the time to reach a more profound level of understanding, from which no harm can come, nevertheless, occasionally, like a double-edged knife that can turn on you, a multitude of questions can demonstrate the lack of a simple attitude, a lack of submission to the yoke of Torah. Questioning can on occasion become a slippery slope to slide off the good path, a means to justify wickedness, G-d forbid.

This juxtaposition, therefore, comes to suggest a warning. As the Previous Rebbe once overheard from elder chassidim, "The asking of WHY can sometimes arise from an impure instinct!" There can be a fine line between the whys of the wise and the whys of the Rasha.

Monday, April 07, 2014

The Secret of the Sacrifice

Used to be, back when we had the Holy Temple, we had a unique way to relate to God.

If we survived a trip through the dangerous desert, and in happiness wanted to express our thanks to Hashem, we visited the Holy Temple and offered a sacrifice.

If we mismanaged our priorities and transgressed, and in sadness wanted to ask pardon for our sin, we visited the Holy Temple and offered a sacrifice.

If we just felt good and wanted to volunteer appreciation to God, we visited the Holy Temple and offered a sacrifice.

Every form of communication we could have with God came by way of a singular form of interaction - sacrificing an animal. The animal could be a calf, sheep or goat, or a dove.

The question to ask, of course, is - what's behind this ceremony? Why this avenue to express the relationship a Jew has with God?

Couldn't they come up with a better form of expression? A guy wants to give thanks to God for saving him during a trek through the desert, so he goes to Jerusalem, pays 100 shekels for a calf, has it burned on the altar, until nothing is left; This is the way to communicate to God? Would it not be better to thank God in a synagogue, then take the 100 shekels and contribute it? He could buy the synagogue a new curtain, or give a poor man some charity or to a school to pay their teachers, etc.

Why burn an animal, from which nothing is left?

And what about the sinner who wants a pardon? Would it not be better to fast, beg forgiveness, than to offer an animal sacrifice?

What sense is there in this; What connection does an animal sacrifice have with what he does?

In fact, this question bothered most of our great sages? What's with this cult of sacrifices?

Another question: Regarding sacrifices, God is said to "smell the great smell", or to "have it as His bread", etc. Any ear that hears such talk can only wonder at the crudeness or heresy of such anthropomorphic talk. Does God need food, or can He enjoy a smell? The Rambam says, "He has no body, nor any resemblance to one" - so what gives? Let alone that burning an animal smells horrible!

When Noah emerged from the Ark and found the world completely desolate, he offered thanks to God with a sacrifice. The entire flood and world devastation, which eliminated all evil from the face of the earth, did not satisfy God's anger, so to speak. Only when "He smelled the good odor of Noah's sacrifice" was God appeased and then promised "that no more will a flood destroy the earth, because man is bad to start with anyhow."

When Korach and his cohorts were swallowed by the earth, for their uprising against Moses, Jews gathered to complain against Moses and Aaron. Moses sensed God's anger and quickly ordered Aaron to bring a burnt offering. By the time Aaron got around to it, 14,000 Jews lost their lives. When God sensed the burnt offering, "the plague ceased!" A burnt herbal offering is also a sort of sacrifice.

Similarly, when King David realized he caused a plague among the Jewish people by counting them, his sacrifice stopped the plague - albeit after tens of thousands died meanwhile.

So again, what's behind a sacrificial expression that subdues His anger, that stops a plague? Not prayer, or anything else - only a sacrifice can allay God's anger against us. What's the secret behind the sacrifice?

There must be a good chassidic answer. I thought I had it, but, in fact, I know it not!

Tuesday, April 01, 2014

The Behavioral Catalyst for the Era of Redemption

Great minds forged the Jewish genealogy and psychology. Abraham and Sarah started it; Isaac and Rivkah reinforced it. The entire family of Jacob embodied it and secured the mold for themselves.

This family then descended to Egypt where their character was tested. But they maintained their distinctiveness among the heathens. Even 210 years of slavery could not divert their focus from God. All matters were constantly attuned to G-d; Any other perspective they deemed bizarre. With this singular, tenacious, divine perspective on life the Jewish nation nurtured its self-actualization.

(Until today, in fact, very few people worldwide, besides the Jews, are consumed with - or can even relate to - the pure concept of "One G-d and nothing else". Whereas for the modern Jew, he has a prodigious library where every book attests to his ancient, unique faith.)

The Jewish forefathers performed all Torah commandments, like wearing Tzitzis, for example, only they did so as an exercise of the mind rather than actually wearing fringes.

In the year 2448 God's plan for the world was about to enter the final phase of development. It came by way of a pivotal phenomenon that would impose new requirements upon a nation that earned this spectacular reward because of their devoted meditative absorption. God needed a nation upon which to lavish His revelation by the time the world's Sabbatical millennium would be reached. The Jews redeemed from Egypt now merited this new, brilliant horizon for which to pave the way to reach that final goal.

Just as the phenomenon of Mount Sinai required generations of preparation, so too the final and ultimate redemption would require preparation. Except that now the means by which to prepare involved a fundamental change. Until Mount Sinai the emphasis needed to be on the spiritual or psychological component of a Jew's deeds; The actual operative deed mattered little. After Mount Sinai, however, the emphasis shifted to the behavioral component itself, relegating the spiritual component secondary.

Mount Sinai's event engendered a switch in requirements. From then on, Jews were charged with a new responsibility in order to fulfil G-d's original cosmic agenda. Until the Mount Sinai phenomenon intentionality was paramount; From then on - action was paramount. After the advent of Torah, obeisance to the DEED displaced intentionality as the chief ingredient. The task from now on spoke louder than premeditation. The commandments of Torah demanded a task-oriented disposition rather than a philosophical one.

For example, on Passover, if a Jew has all the right intentions regarding Matzah, but fails to eat it, he draws down nothing! He receives no credit for his devout inspiration! On the other hand, he who has no intentions at all, but eats the Matzah, succeeds in drawing down the incremental change required to transform the world into its redemptive outcome.

So, whereas the first, formative 7 generations of Jews were saddled with a mental mission of orientation, forthcoming generations were charged with a new mission - one of mechanical activity, going through motions. The phenomenon of Mount Sinai introduced the novel aspect where intentionality could help, but no longer was key!

One by one, each mitzvah (commandment) accumulates to draw the exalted redemptive light that will, once critical mass is reached, overwhelm the Jewish people and the world with incredible goodness, wisdom and rapture, when flesh will see divine revelation.

Moses and his generation constituted the last of Jewish forerunners who molded the Jewish people out of a spiritual mindset that drove them. From Joshua's generation and henceforth, the deed itself became the imperative.

Ancient Egypt ranked as the mightiest empire in the world at the time. No other army was as formidable. Egypt possessed the world's original horses and bred them. These drove their armored chariots. A horse was royal property. No horse could be taken beyond Egypt's impermeable borders without royal consent at the highest levels. But G-d, with a "strong arm", redeemed the Jewish people and made them His Nation.

The Jews then experienced redemption - but not a Final Redemption! They also experienced the incredible light of G-d on the 7th Passover day (when they emerged from the Reed Sea), and then again on the 50th day of their travel toward Mount Sinai - when they received the Ten Commandments. Thereafter, the incredible light (for lack of a better word) was shuttered. This magnificent radiance waits to be revealed in the 2nd and final redemption, that will occur (in our days) more than 3 millennia later. This second redemption will even outshine that of the Mount Sinai revelation.

Curiously enough, to contribute to receive that light, takes nothing more than simple, rote behavior, as per the commandments of the written and oral Torah. Our deeds - more than the intentions we put behind them - stack up as the important tokens that will trigger the exposure of the Final and Ultimate Era of Redemption. It takes doers to draw that utopia closer, and not intricate, erudite, profound wisdom seekers. For example, before Mount Sinai, Jacob's clan did not need to don tefillin but rather had to earnestly subjugate their hearts and minds to the divine presence. Whereas post-Mount Sinai, Jews must wrap themselves according to Mount Sinai's Oral Tradition's dictates.

This is a chassidic secret of the phrase "We will accept and [then] we will understand" (Ex.24:7). Understanding will eventually follow and serve as the ultimate reward for the simple act of doing. Muscle movements, as it were, will yield mindful insight, and soon the full-blown Redemption!

Monday, March 31, 2014

"Miss Israel" & the Rebbe

Beauty pageant queen of Israel in 1991, Miri Goldfarb, asks the Rebbe for a blessing. The Rebbe then suggests how a woman can truly be praiseworthy, quoting King Solomon (Proverbs 31:30).


Sunday, March 23, 2014


The one concept Chassidus teaches that intrigued me most, which I had to struggle with most, back when I was turning religious, was the concept of "self-nullification" (ביטול).

Basically that means you must nullify your personal considerations in favor of what G-d would want you to do instead; That you prevent your ego, your pride, or your professed wisdom from interference with G-d's wishes. You first need to override your selfish desires before you can absorb properly the dictates of Hashem.

We can illustrated this concept as follows. If you have a glass that contains a small amount of dirty water, and you want a drink of water, you would first need to empty out the dirty water before you pour clean water into the glass, otherwise all the water becomes dirty.

Similarly, in order to appreciate and eventually understand the benefits of keeping G-d's commandments, you must first empty yourself of your own presumptions and professed wisdom, which will only interfere with the divine knowledge you wish to finally acquire.

Just as the seed placed into the earth cannot develop and blossom into the tree it is meant to become unless - at first - it undergoes a decomposition! The planted seed must first start to rot before it can grow into a big, beautiful fruit tree!

Similarly, the Jew who won't set aside his ego cannot ever get a good perspective of chassidus or divinity and all that these entail. To learn Torah and chassidus with commitment, or to become observant, cannot be accomplished without first negating all prior presumptions you had regarding the subject. On the other hand, if you allow the psychological space required for this study, then you're suited to dive in.

Another way to regard "self-nullification" is "a descent for the sake of an even greater ascent" (ירידה לצורך עלייה). It's analogous to an Olympic high-jumper who wants to achieve a high jump; He must first take a few steps backward, so he can launch forward and achieve greater heights.

(Like in organic chemistry, where you need first arouse a higher, more volatile, energy state, the transition state, in order for an exothermic reaction to settle at a more stable energy state.)

Is this concept not inherent in the saga of the Jewish people's existence? Which people knows better than Jews that they first require the deep descent into the Diaspora (exile) before their ultimate elevation to be acquired in the Era of Final Redemption (soon to be revealed)?

Only with humility can a Jew become righteous and sagacious.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Hippo Compassion

See how a hippopotamus saved a small antelope from certain death. After being bitten by a huge crocodile, the antelope is seen being dragged slowly under water.

The antelope is exhausted. Lucky for him, in his moment of need, hippopotami came to his rescue, the largest of which stomps the crocodile, chasing it away. This nice big hippo then nudges the antelope out of harm's way. The others protect the periphery from intrusion.

(2 min.)

Monday, March 10, 2014

What "Converted" this Reform Rabbi?

A successful commercial once had as its main line, "Try it, you'll like it!"

This is the precise formula by which to understand Judaism. This formula launched, and therefore characterizes, the Jewish nation. The Jews, emancipated from Egyptian diaspora in 2448, became a nation by defining their existence based on this principle. When asked whether they could commit to G-d's demands, Jews exclaimed (Ex.24:7),
"We will do and we will understand!" "נעשה ונשמע"
The Jews determined steadfastly, first of all, to accept G-d's Torah blindly! They will unquestioningly take it upon themselves to do as it prescribes. Then, and only then, will they also seek to understand. This conditional statement demonstrated their full trust in G-d.

One might argue that the discovery of a hidden benefit can first be investigated before committing oneself to certain conduct. Maybe one can first try to understand Torah, and then, based on a new understanding, commit to it.

Not with Judaism! The life of an observant Jew cannot be appreciated or understood WITHOUT relevant activities to serve as pre-requisites. Behavioral "input" of Mitzvot offers the mind a new dimension by which to appreciate and comprehend Jewish tradition. The key is doing first, and then grasping its value. Not the other way around. There are some things that you can never like unless you first try them!

Need proof of this Jewish phenomenon? Look about you and see how orthodoxy and "ultra" orthodoxy thrives among Jews. What these Jews believe in outsiders may well consider patently absurd - like Jews wearing strings on a 4-cornered cloth, praying with boxes on their arm and forehead, fasting 24 hours twice a year, believing a Messiah will "redeem" them, always covering their heads with caps, eliminating all form of work one day a week, considering some foods or combination of foods forbidden, and many other "weird" behaviors and beliefs.

Yet, many such "lunatics" abound. Even among people who are generally considered by the world to be rather smart!

How could such absurdity prevail when it makes more common sense to throw off all shackles, to abandon what appears to be ancient practices and blend in with "modern" society!

The answer is simple. Torah truth can be appreciated only when actualized in practice!

This reform rabbi's story is a case in point (LINK). Hear him explain his "conversion" to orthodoxy and you will note he cannot really pinpoint what actually changed him or what had been missing in earlier years. I'm pretty certain he himself hasn't yet discovered that what really changed him was his "Let me try it" attitude. And then, of course, after he tried it, he liked it, in characteristic, authentic Jewish fashion.

Thursday, March 06, 2014

The Truth about the Present Jewish Disaster

The following article appeared in an early edition of a magazine (June 1941, p.142) published by the Previous Rebbe during 1941-1945 entitled 
‪‬הקריאה והקדושה


The truth must finally be told, openly and without fear, however unpleasant the task!

The leaders of American Jewry, of all groups, are themselves astray, and they are leading their followers astray by uttering false prophecies!

Since last Tishrei, eight months ago, we have been rousing American Jewry to become aware that we are living in the last days before the Redemption. In various ways, earnestly and temperately, we have summoned our fellow Jews to return to our 13 holy Credos, indicating that we are near the end of the diaspora, that we are living through the era of pre-messianic travail, and that certain steps are necessary in order that the Jews in America should be saved from the same catastrophic fate as has overtaken the millions of Jews in Europe.

Every rabbi whose address we could obtain has received this monthly journal regardless of whether he paid for it. Thousands of Jews who attend at synagogues have received free copies. Our cry has been: We Jews are not like all the nations! We have special troubles, and our own special hope! We have our own Prophets of yore to guide us, and no need of the new, modern type who contradict themselves anew each day.

We have shown that it is impossible to say with the mouth "I believe that all the words of the Prophets are true" while at the same resting all Jewish hope on the scale of the coming world-peace, ignoring our Prophets and their promises concerning the coming of the Messiah.

We have advised American Jews to do their duty as loyal citizens, but not to forget the first Credo, that G-d rules the world, that He is the cause of all the events through which the final redemption of the Jewish people is being prepared. We have shown that no matter what the outcome of the present war, the Jewish Messiah is about to arrive - he is already standing within reach of us!

All this is published, black on white, in the eight issues of this journal. It is undeniable. But our spiritual leaders of all kinds have ignored our call. They have preached only the hope of the victory of the democracies, exactly as the non-Jewish world does, having no other hope. As a result, the American Jewish masses, from the frankly irreligious to the pious habitués of the synagogues, think of Jewish deliverance as depending solely on the defeat of Hitler. They have heard not a word from the Jewish spiritual leaders concerning the good news that the Messiah is about to appear. What they have heard, in fact, completely deprecates the genuinely Jewish hope of the coming of the Messiah, concerning which we have been writing!

Unhappily, the universal enemy refuses to do us the kindness to be defeated. He spreads the shadow of death over more countries and more millions of Jews. He lurks ready now even to destroy, Heaven forfend, the Jewish settlement in Palestine. Yet even now, great as the danger is that Britain may be defeated and America also attacked, our spiritual leaders cautiously avoid building our Jewish hope on the coming of the Messiah and the final deliverance!

At the recent convention of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis it was at last conceded that all hope of salvation through the course of world events was extinguished. A call was issued to fast, and recite Psalms, and pray to G-d that He should nullify the evil edicts, save Palestine, and speedily send the righteous Redeemer. But this call, as old as the diaspora, neither proclaims anything new nor can it accomplish any good in the bare state of its issuance; on the contrary, it may effect an injury to our cause!

American Jews, fed daily on a diet of wordly prospects, ignorant of the real cause of the world catastrophe, seeing only that the Jewish people is drowning in its own blood while G-d does not come to their aid, have lost all faith in G-d, in our Prophets, in the rabbis, and in the measures they propose to invoke: Divine help by penitence and prayer. The rabbis speak the same words as the world press, which is so abysmally ignorant that it has thus far been unable to foresee a single truth in the developments of the war. Why, then, should the Jews fast and pray at the call of the same rabbis who are blundering along without knowing the correct explanation of the Jewish disaster?

Without a proclamation by the rabbis that we are living on the eve of the era of redemption their call had to remain a voice crying in the wilderness. And that is what happened. American Jewry did not fast on the appointed day, they did not crowd the synagogues, they did not recite special Psalms. It was done in each synagogue only by the half-score elderly habitués who constitute the steady minyan, and who recite Psalms every day anyhow!

Soon there may be more bad news of the course of the war, and the same Jews who ignored the call of the rabbis will use it to deprecate the whole affair. They will not say that instead of fasting on the appointed day they ate trefah food as usual, and that far from reciting special Psalms they did not even once recite the Shema, nor donned tfillin, nor even thought of the daily prayers. They will say: "There you have the rabbis with their impractical measures -- they made a fast, with a day of Psalm-saying, and it has as much effect as cupping a corpse!"

When it came to answering the rabbinic call, nobody had even heard about it; but when it comes to casting up blame, hardly anybody will fail to remember it!

Imagine what might have happened if the several hundred rabbis at their convention had issued a manifesto announcing the approach of the final deliverance and proclaiming that the present Jewish sufferings are pre-messianic travail. How the various classes of Jews might have been roused! How they would have discussed it in homes, shops, offices! How it would have been publicized by the entire press so that every person would know about it!

The synagogue would have been crowded. Thousands of Jews, even the non-observant, would have fasted and joined in the recitation of Psalms. The call would have been appropriate -- and likewise the Divine response.

The rabbis in convention did not issue the announcement of the impending redemption because they do not know as yet that we are on the verge of this great event! Otherwise they would surely have proclaimed it! Did they not publicly weep because of the universal travail? If they saw in all this suffering the pre-messianic travail they would surely have revealed to the despairing Jewish masses this only consolation!

Therefore the Jewish masses say: "G-d is high up in heaven; the promised deliverance is far off; so we must look for salvation from other sources." Meanwhile they send the Torah back to Sinai ....

On the same day as it carried the rabbinic call to fast and recite Psalms the press published the news that 31 Jews recently were converted to Catholicism in New York. We know from other sources that thousands of Jews have gone over to Christian Science. For the Christian missionaries know how to use the present situation to build up the advent of their own Messiah. It remains for Jewish children to learn from them the "answer" to the question why the Jews are suffering so much. The pious Christian answer is that it is due to failure to accept the Christian Messiah who is about to appear!

Our Jewish spiritual leaders are preoccupied with partisan politics. Each one is busy building his castles on the exile-soil which, meanwhile, is being dug away from underneath their very feet! Our spiritual leaders are practical men who cannot be bothered with the "dream" of deliverance through the coming of the Messiah.

Jewish young people are forced to seek and find a messiah among the Christians, for in their own homes they never hear their parents speak a word about Messiah! Jewish parents must seek and find a Messiah in the newspapers; and they see one in Churchill and other non-Jewish statesmen, for they hear a word about it from the rabbis!

We know now, unhappily, that as late as at the beginning of the month of Iyar, 5701, a convention of hundreds of rabbis was afraid to mention to American Jewry our eight-months-old announcement that we Jews are nearing the final redemption!

We also know now, unhappily, that the American rabbinate, ignoring our call to prepare for the swiftly oncoming redemption, give consent-by-silence to the belief of the Jewish masses that our salvation depends on non-Jewish savior a -- a false, misleading, and dangerous assumption. It is contrary to all that out Prophets and Sages taught. Only fraudulent messianic movements are forbidden -- but not belief in imminent redemption, which we maintain because it is the purest truth. We say it daily in our prayers: "And even though the Messiah delays to come, we expect his arrival every day!" Unfortunately American Jews have no room in their hearts for this Credo because their spiritual leaders tell them about salvation and relief through other means than the Jewish Messiah. Their spiritual leaders preach new credos to them: "I believe in Churchill; I believe in democracy; and I believe in the coming of the world-peace!"

According to the spiritual leaders of American Jewry we are nowhere near the final redemption, for they themselves do not mention the subject to the people, and our call has remained ignored as a dream which holds no interest for such practical leaders as they are!

According to our proclamation we are indeed near to the final redemption; and according to our warning it is rather the practicality of all the practical people which is the product of vain dreams and ineptitude!

According to our call and warning much more is now necessary than to pray to G-d to nullify the evil decrees and send us the righteous redeemer. It is time, indeed, for sincere penitence, for a new and earnest, voluntary and joyous, acceptance of the Torah. For the Messiah is coming soon, even though he is not expected. But the thunders and lightnings preceding his arrival, necessary in order to cause American Jewry to say again "We will do and heed," are a much more dangerous affair than our spiritual leaders imagine. To pray to G-d to recall the evil edicts is now insufficient. These are not ordinary evils intended to punish sinners; they are to force them to repent! The pre-messianic travails can be avoided only through a new, speedy, voluntary re-acceptance of the Torah, together with a new and speedy return to the sacred old Credos!

We have assumed and we accept the full responsibility for our pronouncement. In a very brief time, G-d willing, American Jewry will be convinced that only our call and warning are true and timely. But it may be too late for many who still let themselves be misled by false prophecies!

We announce and we warn that the time is very short, and that the single greatest Jewish trouble is the complete indifference of American Jewry to the true hope of deliverance, and it's total unpreparedness for the swiftly approaching final redemption which out generation is destined to experience!

The truth about the Jewish disaster is that which our Prophets and Sages told us in advance: the pre-messianic travail at the approach of the final redemption!

If the American Jews will refuse to rouse themselves bedtimes from their lethargy, refuse to recognize the truth, and persist in consoling themselves with the patent nostrums of false prophecies of salvation through the coming world-peace, we can only regret the great price they will have to pay for being revived from their torpor by violence. To those, however, who wish to have their eyes open, and who do not wish to have their hearts shut fast against the truth, we bring the good and joyous news that the present world darkness is the ninth plague; but one more after this -- the plague of the first-born -- and then the bright final redemption will come. All these dark powers which now seek to seize the world's birthright and to rule over all mankind by brute force will be wiped off G-d's world; the Jewish people will then by means of great miracles and wonders be freed from its exile status; and the prophecy will be fulfilled: "He will annihilate death forever; and Almighty G-d will wipe the tears off all faces, and He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; thus hath G-d spoken!" (Isaiah 25:8)

No new disasters should now dismay Jewish hearts! No new upsurge of anti-Semitic waves and evil decrees should cause the Jewish people to despair! Let Jews from now on greet each other with the joyous greeting, "To the nearing redemption!" No matter how bad things may become at the last hour, let every Jewish man and woman remember that the Jewish people is not breathing its last but that the world is in labor giving birth to twins: A new Jewish nation and a new Jewish land!

Concerning our times the Prophet tells us: "A tumult comes out of every city, it sounds from every temple; it is the sound of G-d, avenging Himself upon His enemies: With a fore-pain for the woman in childbirth, with an earlier onset of pains to her that is about to give birth to a male child. But who has heard such a thing, who has ever seen such as these, that a whole land should be racked in one day? that a whole nation should be born at one time? -- This will be heard after Zion shall have labored and brought forth her children!" (Isaiah 66:6-8)

The Redeemer of Zion and Jerusalem, the Almighty, is about to come and deliver His land and cause the rebirth of His people. The labor-pains have begun, but they shall not endure for long!

This and no other is the truth about the present Jewish disaster!

To the nearing redemption!

Monday, February 24, 2014

Bridge Problem - Rebbe Story

I recall many years ago hearing this story in 770 from someone who spoke to many of us at a Shabbos farbrengen. Because the Rebbe served as an electrical engineer in the U. S. Navy during WWII, and happened to know much about bridges, he once was approached for advice by people who had trouble with the structural design of their bridge. This particular bridge had some of its cables continually loosen up because of directional wind gusts. No matter how many times they would tighten the cables, eventually the wind's forces would loosen their grip.

The Rebbe handled the matter quite simply. He told them to reverse-thread the cables. This way, the wind, if anything, tightened them.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Jewish Singles Event

A good friend of mine, a single man, a businessman from a neighboring state, came to Crown Heights for a visit. They were having a "Shabbaton" for American singles in this community over the weekend.

Because my little daughter had a "coloring class" in the same building as the Shabbaton, I ended up observing the comings and goings of these singles, as I waited to pick her up when she was done with her class.

While waiting I moseyed about the Shabbaton crowd that happened to share the same floor where I waited. There were 3 desks for Shadchanim, and about 30 people were waiting in 3 lines to get a turn to sit and talk to a Shadchan. Others milled about the room eating hor d'oeuvres. Mostly women spoke to women and men to men. The women outnumbered men 4 to 1 in my estimate. Very few man-to-woman conversations occurred.

Because I, personally, married quite late in life, and had attended thousands of "single events", it brought back memories, especially those that occurred in my late twenties, into my thirties and into my forties.

The one sure feeling I used to feel in this atmosphere was a profoundly sad one. I remember each such event took a painful toll on me. There I was wanting to get married, as everyone else, I supposed, and yet such occasions suppressed spontaneity and truthfulness, in the quest to meet the "right one". It was difficult navigating among the contenders and the competitors, like paddling upstream by yourself.

There was a "dressing up" issue; A "polite yet concise" issue if you were speaking to the "wrong" one; An "awkward" issue if communication required dancing or some other excuse; And a host of other issues. And even if you did find an appealing prospect, the effort to speak of personal matters, at the risk of spilling your guts "for nothing", also took an emotional toll. This is the "draining" issue.

Another issue to contend with is "sizing up" someone - in one look - which can work both ways! Like, for example, seeing a heavy-set lady in her 50's dress like an imprudent teenager. Or, a man in his eighties. Or, a lady with a ton of make-up. A black lady was present too, likely Jewish I suppose. Or, the wrong "stream of Judaism". Or, an extremely kind gesture or smile to someone else.

Sometimes the approach of someone you had already "sized-up" brings about an awkward conversation where the minds duel verbally to initiate a polite u-turn.

As I observed, I thanked God I was happily married and well beyond this "scene" already. I felt pain for each of these singles and secretly wished them all well. This crowd averaged about 50 in age!

I also thanked God my children will be looking for spouses as soon as they turn 18 or 20, or so, because of the chassidic culture we adhere to. God forbid these good kids should have to waste precious years, like I did, before the commitment to Hashem's call to marry is made. This is the "commitment" issue. This entails a degree of surrender to God's wish - in that trust in Him will make the partnership work - by committing to leave some room for compromise, as well as, to making God the 3rd partner of this marriage.

If only I could do something to help Jewish singles find each other. The internet may well have added a new vista for their search, although the "issues" I spoke of still remain no matter what the medium. Still, I believe a good shadchan program may well help this needy crowd of good people. By "well-programmed" I mean, where pictures and videos do not at first interfere with questionnaires, to settle the spiritual angle of the coupling before the physical challenge needs to be confronted, so internet-initiated matchmaking can be effective.

After all, God connects man and woman no matter if it's a shadchan, a relative, or a "program" that makes the introduction. The internet, therefore, is a bonus method of finding your "bashert".

That this medium too can present problems of its own can be eliminated, in my estimate, if the "shadchan application" ("shadchan app) is a good one, ie., well-programmed.

My friend who came for the Shabbaton actually found someone he took interest in. They were to meet after some break, but she never showed.

I encouraged him to seek her out again, by locating her phone number from organizers, because she too, he said, expressed interest, and because something else may well have taken her off course unexpectedly.

I invite your comments. If you can suggest a good "program" or "event itinerary in an application", like a storyboard of screens, please comment. Maybe with enough positive input, a new avenue for these good people can become available. It's no good to be alone!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Happiness from Self-Sacrifice

One night Abraham dreamed of a prophetic mission. When he left early next morning with his son and companions to offer God a sacrifice, they did not pack sandwiches. They took the necessary effects and rushed off.

Along the way they hardly spoke. Isaac had a question for his father, but it could wait. They trekked more than two days. Dread rippled through the blood of father and son for they committed the order of the day to God.

These were strong men. They mostly fasted more than 2 days as they advanced Northeast, headed towards what one day will be Jerusalem.

On the 3rd day, Abraham and Isaac saw "the cloud". It hovered over a hill, the hill later to be the place of the "Beit Hamikdash".

Father and son immediately recognized this cloud as their personal sign - because the companions were blind to this apparition.

Abraham told the companions to stay put and wait there with the donkey. Father and son proceeded to their venue.

Now Isaac broke his silence. Until now his question could wait lest in the presence of non-familial company it raise discomfort for his father or extraneous babble. But now Isaac asked, "Abba, where's the lamb to be sacrificed?"

Abraham's answer satisfied Isaac, who was willing in self-sacrifice to die for the cause, if need be.

Now they walked onward in total calm, both happily committed, both together happy to be at one - with God.

Hebrew has ten synonyms for "happy":
ששון ,שמחה, גילה, רינה, דיצה, צהלה, עליזה, חדוה, תפארת, עליצה
but, as the Malbim emphasizes, each synonym carries a different nuance for its meaning. For example, there is a happiness that derives from an immediate, unexpected source, like finding a treasure. Another one refers to a happiness expressed by singing. Whereas חדוה refers to a happiness derived from an otherwise sad event (I do NOT remember my source).

The words in the Akeida's chapter read, "וילכו שניהם יחדו", "and they went along together". The word יחדו shares the same letters with the Hebrew word חדוה, which, I suppose, is one way our sages determined the emotions of our forefathers during this episode.

Apropos, speaking of שמחה, someone once pointed out to me that the inner two letters of this word comprise the Hebrew word for "brain" (מח), whereas the outer letters make the word "lamb" (שה). We know that the Moses of the Generation is referred to as a "Faithful Shepherd". Said my friend, were we to relegate our brains according to the wishes of our Shepherd, we'd experience true happiness.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Ladies and Gentlemen ... Eitan Katz!

A soothing Farbrengen in Yerushalayim.
(under 10 minutes)

White-Coated Drug-Pushers

If you believe fluoride is good for teeth, you have no idea how powerful a poison fluoride really is. (Just look at the handling procedures when it arrives at a laboratory, or somewhere.) If you know it's poisonous and still believe it's good for your teeth, then you have no good research to back up your belief; And the only thing you rely on are people who tell you so in white coats. You take them for their word.

Today's promoters of this poison are the very same lot who told you no more than three decades ago that cigarettes can do you no harm. The same promoters in the same white coats. They are the same ones who sold pregnant women pills (Thalidamide) for "morning sickness"; Or those who pushed free samples upon menopausal women of the "diet pill" Ambrin; These are the same who today persuade to sell you on Ritelin to calm your children down. The same ones who now want to push lifelong "treatment" of hyperactivity in children give this children's "disorder" (they can't come out and say it's a "disease", or even an "illness", can they?) a diagnosis that bears a professional-sounding name, the better to dumb down the public.

And of course if you're depressed, you should take an "anti-depressant" (as in "pro-zombie") drug, like Paxil, which now they find can promote breast cancer.

This same abuse of human intelligence, and particularly human health, occurs, although to a lesser extent, in Israel too. After all, the desire to mimic the United States still has plenty of adherents.

Anyhow, if you continue to believe this fluoride scam, you are quite ignorant, at best, probably just naive of the deep-rooted drug-pushing culture that pervades the money-making medical/pharmaceutical industry, or a fool, at worst! Or  you can't be bothered, or you just don't think a little bit of fluoride every day can hurt you. I hope you're right.

Make at least a small stand against this abuse of knowledge and help break this mafia-controlled pharmaceutical, vertical industry, which starts with the university curriculum, and ends with selling drugs at the pharmacy and "treating" hospital patients. (It's difficult because they have representatives fronting for them as "concerned politicians" in the highest governmental positions, let alone all along the entire income landscape.) Find a toothpaste devoid of harmful products - and, given the market saturation with fluoride-ridden stuff, that's not so easy. Even some brands that used to be fluoride-free buckled to make a buck. The one I found is really fine (Nature's Gate), and I hope they hang on with their wonderful product.  The extra amount you'll then pay for toothpaste chalk up to an extra ounce of prevention.

(I wrote about this danger before, here, here and here.)
(Overview of medical perspective - here, "The Zebra and the Horse".)

Monday, February 17, 2014

Marry Jewish - For an Ultimate Victory

Some people breathe air, others breathe hate. Jew-haters particularly are your best haters. After all, they can hate Jews without even ever having met one. They have all the right reasons, piled one atop the other, which they convey to their friends, layer by layer.

Their friends too have their own assortment of reasons to hate; None of which, of course, is true. The important thing is to stir up a heated conversation, one of urgency, to stoke the flames of hate against the Jews.

The best way to deal with this hatred, be it that of the Amalekite, the Yishmaeli or that of Esav, is to follow Torah's prescription - and that is to ignore the hate by learning Torah or partaking in some other holy endeavor.

Two holocausts swept through the Eurasian continent during and around WWII. Europe suffered from Nazism while to the East they reeled from Stalinism. Both holocausts destroyed many millions of Jewish lives, among others.

During this horrific period, out of the belching inferno that threatened to obliterate the Jewish identity,  came forth the cry of the Previous Rebbe to anticipate the Era of Redemption, for this catastrophe signaled the birth pangs of Moshiach. The Previous Rebbe summoned all Jewish people to "return to God" so Moshiach can redeem them.

The best weapon we have to deal with hate is to pursue Torah, the glue of the Jewish people. The Jews and Torah and God are really One. Torah practice preserves this unity.

Another sure way to prevent attempts to undo the special Jewish bond with their Creator is to marry Jewish, and to scorn intermarriage.

The Reform movement will be the first to protest, but these protests will follow the Reformists into self-extinction, for a Reformist, or an intermarrier, cuts off his genetic Jewish signature, certainly by 2 or 3 generations (see here). Should he persist to retire from Torah, this fringe Jew becomes lost to his Jewish people.

He who cuts off kinship with the Jewish nation continues to sustain - in a silent way - the former agenda of Hitler and Stalin. It is simply not "politically correct" to acknowledge this truth, or impolite to mention it, so it often goes unspoken. Nevertheless, the assimilationist in effect serves as the useful idiot of Jew-haters.

This picture I came across, of a Jewish lady, a holocaust survivor, with her grandchild, shows how the glue can heal long-open wounds that tore at Judaism, a process that will end, pretty soon, in a wonderful panacea for the Jewish people after their long struggle in exile, soon to be recognized as the Era of Redemption.

They tried to stop this grandmother early, but failed. It was she who celebrated victory. Yearning for her own people's freedom was her best knockout blow against former foes who wanted so much to deprive her of this beautiful little soul.