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8 posts from July 2009

Ad Ana Bechiya - How long will we cry?

My very dear friend Ari Goldwag - Torah scholar, brilliant musician and composer, and former lead singer of the Miami Boys' Choir - is the author of today's guest post about Jerusalem. Not only that, but he has composed a beautiful song - voice only - which you are allowed to listen to on Tisha B'Av, as you'll hear in the film clip following Ari's superb essay.

It was very disturbing for me to hear that the United States government has demanded a halt to construction in Jerusalem. This is our city, torn from us so long ago, the city we have hoped for and dreamed of for centuries. This city has been the center of our prayers, and we ask three times a day that it be rebuilt. There isn't a Jewish wedding that does not remind themselves of this city, even at the time of their greatest joy. Yet we are told that we may not live in our city, and must give it to a group of bloodthirsty animals whose soul desire is our destruction or at best our recognition of their Arab supremacy.

And what of sensitivity? The leader of the United States is very aware of Arab sensitivities and makes sure to pander to whatever they wish to hear. Where is the awareness of Jewish sensitivity? Is it appropriate to make such harsh demands during our nation's period of mourning for Jerusalem's destruction? Could they not wait until a later date?

The truth is that these questions only bothered me at first glance. The deeper question is, Why does Hashem allow this to happen? We know, of course, that לב מלכים ביד השם - the hearts of kings are in the hand of Hashem. Why has Hashem chosen to open the mouth of the prideful United States president at this time? What is the underlying message for us?

I believe that the answer is to be found in the Gemara that teaches us why the Sages instituted many different enactments to remind us of what was done in the Hamikdash (e.g. taking the Lulav for all seven days of Succos, as it was done in the Beis Hamikdash, as opposed to only one day, as is required from the for other places). The Gemara brings the passuk in Yirmiyah פרק ל which states - כי נדחה קראו לך ציון היא דורש אין לה - You, Tzion, were referred to as one who is pushed away, none seek you. The Gemara says that from the fact that the verse laments that none seek Tzion (Yerushalyim), this implies that we must do things to encourage people to seek and remember Tzion.

When the United States pressures Israel to stop settlement growth, including Jerusalem, what is our natural response? It is righteous indignation. Who are they to tell us what to do?! This is our land, and this is our Jerusalem. We will live here and we will build here!

This is exactly what Hashem wants, and this is exactly when Hashem wants it. We are now in the nine days and we are entering greater and greater levels of mourning over our loss of Jerusalem. Yet, like the passuk says, 'none seek you.' We are all lost when it comes to feeling a true sense of loss. But if we have no sense of loss, how can we get Jerusalem back? If we do not seek her, how will we have the merit to keep her?

In order to merit a true Geulah, we must want this Geulah. Nevertheless, Hashem is constantly doing whatever it will take tomake us want it! Once we want it, he will bring it, but it starts with Him. This is what I believe is the understanding of the two phrases we have - השיבנו השם אליך ונשובה - return us to You Hashem, and we will return; and שובה אלי ואשובה אליכם - [Hashem says,] return to Me, and I will return to you. First Hashem inspires us to want to return, then we return, and He returns to us.

It is amazing to witness how everything in the world is but a tool in Hashem's hands, which he uses only for our benefit.

Years ago I composed a song whose words come out of the kinnos of Tisha B'av. They are עד אנה בכיה בציון ומספד בירושלים תרחם ציון ותבנה חומות ירושלים - How long will there be crying in Tzion and eulogy in Jerusalem? Have mercy on Tzion and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

When I have had difficulty getting emotional on Tisha B'av, I will inevitably turn to these words and this song, and the tears come. I hope it will inspire you too. The song is A capella - there are no instruments, just voices.

Pentakika: The Story of a Simple Jew

Don't be impressed with the people that show a glittering facade of money and status. Likewise, don't ever underestimate the value of a seemingly lowly individual such as the street cleaner or the custodian. One of the lessons of this particular week of Tisha B'Av is the urgent need to uproot hatred and disdain from our midst. That's why it's important to hear the 9-minute story of Pentakika from the Yerushalmi Gemara:

Cherokee Nation and Emuna CDs

My esteemed friend "Sitting Owl" is one of the distinguished elders of the Cherokee Nation in Tennessee. Recently, Emuna Outreach sent him some of our emuna CDs. Here's his reaction:

Dear Rabbi Wolf Brother,

NO words can explain the Blessings I received from listening very carefully to the CD's you sent me...we will be using these in our counselling to our Cherokee People. Wado equa (Many thanks), Sitting Owl

Rabbi Shalom Arush and I are pleased to announce the release of our latest CD, "Stop Crying." This CD is a master key for unlocking all the gates of whatever salvation you need.

Think a minute...

9575 Does a champion athlete complain because of a difficult workout? No - he knows that his exertion in training will make him a champion. Instead, he's extremely grateful to his coach. Even though the coach puts on a tough exterior, the champion athlete isn't fooled - he knows that the coach cares about him...

Do you think that Hashem is any less compassionate than the champion's coach? By no means! Hashem is more loving and caring than the most affectionate parent. That's why the root of our troubles is ingratitude, failing to thank Hashem for everything He does for us.

This eye-opening CD is a master key that unlocks blessings for you. It could even save your life...

You can order "Stop Crying" online from our Emuna Beams Book & CD store. Have a great week!

Children of Hevron

Several years ago, during a visit to the Washington, DC area, I personally witnessed how a pair of series killers traumatized nearly two million people in the DC metropolitan area. People were literally paralyzed, and many refused to step out of their houses.

In sharp contrast, the Jews of Hevron are surrounded by scores of frenzied, terrorist series killers. Yet, they seem to fear nothing other than The Almighty. During a recent visit to Hevron, I visited a local cheder (religious boys' elementary school), curious to find out how the little guys - Israel's unsung heroes - are holding up under the pressure of their environment.


I was amazed to find calm, happy, well-adjusted, and highly-motivated children. They all knew their studies by heart, and were more than willing to tell me about this week's Torah portion, recite their mishnayos, or elaborate on Hevron's history.


What makes these little kids so stable, living in the eye of a hurricane? The answer is simple: uncompromising Torah education, simple and steadfast faith, and parents who are living examples of dedication to G-d, the Jewish people, and the Land of Israel.

Hashem is sending a stiff warning, Mister Obama (Psalm 105:16): "Don't touch My anointed, and don't harm My prophets!" If you do, a lot more than your teleprompter will smash all around you. 


מי כעמך ישראל

Napolean in the Mikva

12362 My beloved teacher Rabbi Shalom Arush, may Hashem bless him always, told me the following joke:

Napolean, during his conquest of the East, arrived in the Land of Israel. He asked his intelligence officer the best way to glean information about the locals. “If you want to know what’s going on inside the Jewish community,” said the intel officer, “go to the men’s mikva; you can hear all the news there.” Napolean heeded this very sound piece of advice – an outstanding morsel of intelligence in itself – dressed up like a Jew and went to the men’s mikva the following morning. He overheard the following conversation between two Jews there:

“What’s the good news, Avraham?”

“Everybody’s saying that Napolean is somewhere in the mikva!”

* * *

A society’s humor truly reflects that society’s image. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev teaches in his famous tale “The Modest King” that we learn about the people of a given nation by listening to their humor. In that light, there’s more than a grain of truth in the Napolean joke. Even though on should refrain from talking in the mikva – undress, immerse, dress, and leave as quickly and as modestly as possible – every mikva has its notorious parliamentarians.

I was dressing one morning in the mikva when I overheard the following conversation between two married Talmudic students:

Continue reading News in the Mikva in this week's Breslev Israel web magazine.

What's easier - being rich or poor? See Fast Money by Rabbi Shalom Arush.

This week's Torah portion is Matot/Massaei with a special message for women entitled The Need to Protect. Also from this week's portion, Rebbe Natan of Breslev discusses Vows and The Power of Speech.

Pray Away is about a young woman's journey from London Yuppie to Emuna-energized Israeli.

The Melitzer Rebbetzen talks about gratitude in Appreciating the Basics.

Breslev Israel is proud to host celebrated children's author Bracha Goetz this week on Breslev Kids, with her rendition of a Maharam parable, The Three-foot Spoons.

Oded Mizrachi is one of Israel's best true-story tellers. Light at the End of the Cave is a hair-raiser.

Do not Murder is part 4 of our series on the Seven Noahide Commandments

Here's wishing you a wonderful week from Breslev Israel and the Beams.