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23 posts from July 2017

The Face of A Dog

Face of the Generation
Years ago when I was a farmer, I had a Labrador Retriever, the best of the best. He was gentle with my children, who were small at the time, but fierce with intruders. He understood my body language and he'd react accurately on the cue of a mere gesture. In fact, whenever he ran in front of my tractor as was his habit, and we'd reach a crossroads, he'd look over his shoulder to see where I wanted him to go. This experience helped me understand the meaning of the Gemara in Tractate Sotah 49b where it describes the generation of Moshiach. Among other things, all which are materializing before our very eyes, the Gemara says, "The face of the generation is like the face of a dog." Don't be upset, dog lovers, this is not a disparagement of our canine companions. It simply means that before Moshiach comes, there won't be leaders who lead. Like my Labrador Retriever, they'll look over their shoulders and go where they think people want them to go. This is an amazingly accurate description of Israel's and most of the world's leaders today.

One cannot understand current events in Israel today without understanding the above-cited Gemara passage. It shows how the travesty of injustice in the Elor Azariya case and the capitulation of the Israeli Government in the Temple Mount security fiasco are similar symptoms of the same disease, what we can term"Dog-Faced Leadership". How?

Elor Azariya couldn't possibly have received a fair trial when tons of inadmissible and prejudicial material had been published all over the media before the trial began. The military judges all knew that if they ruled contrary to the way the wind blows in the offices of the Minister of Defense, the Commander in Chief and their own commanders, their futures would be doomed. Even in the appeal that was overturned yesterday, Defense Counsel Sheftel tore apart the prosecution showing dozens of inconsistencies in their case. He also showed a film of the terrorist on the Temple Mount who played dead and got up shooting, which the tribunal deemed "inadmissible." As such, Elor Azariya was tried in a populist, politically correct liberal-press-pleasing military court that looked over its shoulder rather than looking in the book of true justice. Like Jimmy the Greek says in Las Vegas, "the game was thrown." If Elijah the Prophet would have testified in Lior's behalf, it wouldn't have helped.

That's not all. At first, the Israeli Prime Minister was adamant that the metal detectors would remain on the Temple Mount after the murder of two Israeli policemen by Muslim terrorists there. But, as soon as he looked over his shoulder, he saw the frowns on Washington's face and capitulated. For a few words of praise from the White House, the Israeli Government compromised the security of Jerusalem and made Israel a laughing stock in the Arab World, destroying any remaining semblance of deterrence or credibility.

All the above makes me happy. Why?

The Gemara in Tractate Makkot 24b tells how after the destruction of our Holy Temple, which we commemorate tonight and tomorrow on Tisha B'Av, the great sages Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Elazar ben Azaria and Rabbi Joshua saw a fox emerge from the Holy of Holies. They rent their garments and cried. Yet, Rebbe Akiva, who accompanied them, laughed. They asked him why he was laughing. He answered, "This is Uriah's prophecy, that Zion shall be plowed into a field - it has been fulfilled. Now I know that Zachariah's prophecy - that Zion will be rebuilt - will be fulfilled also."

By the same token, the Gemara says that in the generation that Moshiach comes, the face of the generation's leaders will be like the face of a dog. If this is happening, then Moshiach must be ever so close. Blessings for an easy fast.

The Caring Teacher and an End to Exile

Smiles build futures
Tisha B'Av, the fast day when we commemorate the worst calamities of our history, begins on sundown, Monday July 31, 2017 and ends at nightfall on Tuesday, August 1, 2017.

The Gemara teaches us that the Second Holy Temple, which we've been lamenting over for nearly 2,000 years, was destroyed because of the baseless hate and dissension among us. Do you realize what that means?

Anyone who contributes to the love and unity among us is actually building the Holy Temple with his or her own hands.

Teaching is not an easy profession. The first criterion for a good teacher, says the Vizhnitzer Rebbe shlit'a, is that he or she love every one of their students unconditionally. Such a teacher not only builds souls (where too many uncaring and unqualified teachers destroy them, Heaven forbid), but hastens the Geula, the full redemption of our people, for he or she uproots the core cause of exile. Imagine the rewards above that await such a teacher - they're mind-boggling.

Rather than kicking the dead horse of depressing lamentations that people are tired of hearing anyway, I chose to tell you the story of a fantastic teacher who saved a young boy's dignity and his entire future. This story exemplifies the type of teachers - and human beings - that we all should strive to be:

In the middle of the wedding reception, the groom – an exceptional Torah scholar who landed the beautiful daughter of a prestigious family – asked for the microphone. "I'd like to say a few words; indeed, I am obligated to express my gratitude. First of all, I must thank Hashem for the privilege of taking such an indescribably splendid wife from such a lovely family. Secondly, I must thank the one person here tonight who made this joyous occasion possible…"

All the guests looked around. Who was the groom talking about – his parents? The matchmaker? Maybe he was referring to his Rosh Yeshiva, with whom he had become especially close during the past three years. No, he wasn't referring to any of these people.

"I must share my story with you, for it's a story of how one act of loving-kindness from a teacher who cares can determine a pupil's entire future."

Obviously emotional, the blushing groom cleared his throat and began to unravel his tale:

Continue reading The Missing Watch, my feature article in this week's latest issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.

To further understand the meaning of Tisha B'Av and its relevance in current events and in our own lives, see my emuna-news op-ed, The Heart of Judaism.

Also featured this week:

Rabbi Shalom Arush - Time with my Beloved Father

Dr. Zev Ballen - Prayers and Dry Beds

Racheli Reckles - When Emuna Needs a Boost

Yehudit Channen - Hold Back and Hold On 

Dr. Rivka Levron - The Gift of Forgiveness

Lori Steiner - The Missing Snood

Aimee Cohen - Make Me a Match

Enjoy, and bright Beams blessings for a peaceful new week.

We almost forgot! There are still a few places (that are quickly disappearing) to join us in Uman for Rosh Hashana, 5778, for a New Year's experience that you'll never forget:

InnUman 5778.1

The Writing on Washington's Wall

The twelfth of our Thirteen Tenets of Faith obligates us to believe that the Geula (full redemption of our people) and Moshiach (Messiah) will come at any moment. In light of the preconditions set forth in the Talmud, this is imminent.

Our sages predicted the showdown that would trigger the end of days as we know them and usher us into a new period where the world becomes filled with spiritual awareness and today's emuna will be tomorrow's no-brainer. All our sages say that there will be a global conflict between the USA and its allies and between Iran and its allies. Yet, there is an argument who will win, as we see in Tractate Yoma 10a: whereas Rebbe Yochanan says that Iran will win, Rav says that the USA will win. Both bring earlier sources, even prophecies, to support their arguments. Who is right? We cannot know, for that would be like getting between two speeding locomotives about to collide - certainly not a place where you'd want to be. Yet we do know one thing: this conflict, unless the world changes dramatically, is getting closer every day yet people are in deep spiritual slumber and don't see it.

Washington, busy with all types of ridiculous scandals involving ridiculous people who say ridiculous things, doesn't seem to see the writing on its wall. Like frogs in a puddle, they're not focused on what America should be concerned with. Sure, President Trump with the bipartisan help of Congress is signing "new sanctions" against Iran, Russia and North Korea, but anyone who examines those sanctions closely knows that they're simply old, unenforced sanctions recycled and repackaged with not much clout, certainly not enough to deter Iran and North Korea from their designs to bury whom the Ayatollas refer to as the "Great Satan" (the "little Satan" is Israel).

Look at the writing on Washington's wall: right before Shabbat on Friday, July 29th, North Korea successfully fired an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that is theoretically capable of hitting major US cities, from Korea as far west as Chicago (see image above, from North Korean TV). The day before, on Thursday, Iran successfully launched its own most advanced satellite-carrying rocket into space, the Simorgh (see image below). Meanwhile, Putin in Russia returned Trump's sanctions jab with an uppercut and has ordered America to cut the number of diplomatic staff it has in Russia. Without messing around, Putin has seized a dacha compound and warehouse used by US officials in retaliation for new sanctions against Moscow.

Will Washington wake up to see the writing of fire on the wall of the White House? I doubt it. In all fairness, Washington's allies - London, Paris and Berlin - don't see the writing on their own walls, for right now, they are much more vulnerable than Washington.

The showdown between East and West will culminate, according to our sages, in the international siege on Jerusalem. That's a scary scenario that is detailed in the prophets. Is there anything we can do about it?

There sure is.

Before he died, the secret Kabbalist leader and tzaddik Rabbi Yehuda Zev Leibowitz told his chosen student, my teacher Rabbi Shalom Arush - implored him is the better word - to totally immerse himself in spreading emuna in the world. If all of mankind strengthens its connection to G-d on their own accord, then the doomsday decrees from Above will be rendered superfluous. Rabbi Arush of course committed to do so.

As Rabbi Arush's student and emissary, I too am committed to this goal. We want to hasten the day when all of living flesh call's Hashem's Name in earnest. This is a call for faith that has nothing to do with organized religion. Emuna is the sanity that's needed to save an insane world.

So what does the writing on Washington's wall say, written in fire? It's the same writing that's written on the Western Wall remnant of our Holy Temple in Jerusalem that anyone with spiritual eyes can see. It's the Almighty's handwriting and it says, "Come back [to Me] My mischievous sons" (Jeremiah 3:14). Who can ignore such a call? 

Iran missile 28.7.17

Cold as a Carp

The Three Weeks? The Nine Days? Tisha B'Av? For the average dude, they're a pain; rabbis tell him that he can't drink wine, eat a steak, play golf, go to the beach or get a haircut. OK, he'll remodel his home. His rabbi tells him he can't do that either. Most people see the fast of Tisha B'Av as a dread - the day seems endless and depressing. Why? Does it have to be that way? Today's lesson will prepare us for a much more meaningful Tisha B'Av. Enjoy and have a wonderful new week and may we all hear good news from each other, amen!

When Jewish Blood Spills

Jewish Blood
Yesterday, Shmuel Salomon arose from his seven-day shiva mourning period to enter his 8-day old son, Ari Yosef, into the brit, the holy covenant of Abraham. This is the exact mainifestation of Ecclesiastes 3:4, "A time for eulogizing and a time for dancing." Often, especially in our lives here in the Land of Emuna, joy is juxtaposed with sorrow, both in the extreme.

Shmuel Salomon was sitting shiva for his martyred father, brother and sister who were brutally murdered last Shabbat evening at their Shabbat table. Not only were they murdered on Shabbat but murdered in the midst of performing several lofty mitzvoth - observing the Shabbat, celebrating the Shabbat, and celebrating the arrival of Shmuel's newborn son. I've had many people ask me probing questions this week, such as, "How could Hashem take away such righteous people?" Dozens of eulogies praised how each martyred member of the Salomon family was so special. Chaya, 46, was chosen as the most outstanding teacher in Lod. Elad, 36, was sweeter than honey, the type of person that seemed to lack any inclination for evil or cruelty. The father Yosef, 70, was a tzaddik who loved Hashem, His Torah, his fellow human and his holy homeland. And, as one email asked, "How could Hashem take these righteous souls in such a horrid manner?"

With emuna, we don't circumvent difficult questions. Here's my answer, and like everything else, it's the product of what I've learned from the "Minister of Emuna", my esteemed and holy teacher, Rabbi Shalom Arush shlit'a:

Each individual is here in the physical world on a mission. His life in this world is temporary; it begins and ends according to the task he must perform. When a person dies, even if the cause of death is seemingly apparent, it is the result of Divine decree – exacting to the tiniest detail. One person comes to earth for a seventy year tour of duty while another person is on a twenty year mission. A soul can sometimes fulfill its correction on earth in a mere five years within the body of a child. The considerations and Divine calculations are endless and mind-boggling, where everything is taken into consideration - past lives, credits, debts and many more.

Some souls come down to earth for a very specific soul correction; as soon as they complete it, there is no longer reason for them to remain here so they hurry back to their rightful place in Gan Eden ("Garden of Eden", the World to Come). Usually, after these souls die, those who knew them say how much those souls were so special and righteous who never did anything wrong. So, don't be surprised when you see martyrs who were the best imaginable people of the highest caliber. The reason they left this earth when they did was simply because they accomplished the mission that Hashem sent the here to perform.

The very fact that these righteous, often young people who didn't seem to have an evil inclination die before their time is apparently up is a giveaway that shows that they came here for a very special purpose. The holy Ariza"l (the father of Kabbala whose yahrtzeit is today, the 5th of Av) says that the evil inclination puts the most difficult obstacles in the way of the very mission that a person must perform on this earth. When a person has many different evil inclinations, it's an indication that he or she has much to correct in this world. But, those special people, especially the young ones who never did anything wrong, came here for a narrow specific purpose. They complete it and they depart.

What we do know is that Hashem does everything for the best. When logic kicks out, emuna - complete faith - kicks in. Have a lovely Shabbat and a wonderful weekend. May we all hear good tidings from each other, amen!

Don't forget to see our mini-lesson on this week's Torah portion in the post directly below. 

Emuna News Op-Ed: The Ostrich Syndrome

Ostrich Israel Govt
If you live in a tough neighborhood, you can't appease. The bullies only understand bloodied noses; this is a sad but historical truth that countries paid an ever-so-high price in learning. We live in one of the toughest neighborhoods on earth. Yet our government, which acts like an ostrich that puts it head in the ground rather than deal with something problematic, is paying a huge long-term price to buy some short-term allusion of peace and quiet.

This morning, the Israeli Government has completed its capitulation and removed all security devices from the Temple Mount, even the ones that were there before the recent Temple Mount crisis.

An Israel joke says, "The idiot kid that flunked the third grade for the third time would be humorous if it weren't my kid." By the same token, the Israeli Government would be laughable if it weren't the government of my beloved country. 

Israel unilaterally dismantled Gush Katif in 2005, and received Hamastan instead with thousands of rockets having rained on the South of Israel ever since and a Gaza armed to the hilt today, which is a serious front to contend with.

During the recent rounds of conflict with Hamas in Gaza, Israel refused to fight to win, resulting in the spread and strengthening of the Hamas terrorist threat, now greater than ever.

Israel unilaterally pulled out of South Lebanon in 2000, leaving a void that propelled Hezbulla to power and brought Iran to our borders. Today, over 100,000 Iran-Hezbulla missiles are pointing at all points in Israel, north to south.

And in today's fresh news, Jerusalem's Grand Mufti has victoriously resumed Muslim prayer on the Temple Mount following Israel's miserable capitualtion. The PA and Hamas are rejoicing, celebrating their huge victory. So is Nasrallah and Hezbulla in Lebanon, who now smell the blood of weakness. Not only that, but some 10,000 residents of the Israel-Arab village of Umm al-Fahm in Wadi Ara took part in the funerals of their three homegrown terrorists who carried out the Temple Mount shooting attack earlier this month, with attendees greeting the bodies with shouts of joy and fireworks while praising the young men as "martyrs" and "heroes." The fact that the government let such a funeral take place is a further  sign of weakness that's bound to encourage more terror within our midst, Heaven forbid.

Jordan, a weakling of a kingdom that can't exist for five minutes on its own, also smells the ugly ostrich weakness and is now talking tough to Israel.

All the above in happening within the infamous Nine Days that precede Tisha B'Av, the ninth day of the Hebrew month of Av that commemorates the destruction of our First and Second Holy Temples.

The same ostrich syndrome that ignores security threats and our future also ignores Divine will. When it's convenient, the Government quotes Torah to prove our right to the Land of Israel. But when it's populistically inconvenient, they allow wholesale public trampling of Torah laws, even sponsor it.

The painful lesson is that someone who is kind to the cruel ends up being cruel to the kind. The government, in caving in to terrorism and in doing the bidding of Amman and Washington, DC is exposing its own citizens to more and more terrorist violence, Heaven forbid.

So what's the message? Twofold: One, we have no one to lean on but Hashem. Salvation is from Him, not from anyone else and certainly not from an ostrich-like government. And Two, if you don't have Hashem on your side, you might talk like a tough guy, but your the weakest kid on the block.