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10 posts from July 2018

Misplaced Pride

Lost Ship
One of the proudest Jews I ever met was Menachem Begin, our Prime Minister from 1977 to 1983. Life was different in Israel then. I would frequently and freely visit friends in Gaza City, Jazi and Ibrahim, whose family owned an ice-cream factory. My Druze friend Suleiman from Daliat el Carmel and I would often go hiking together. My bosom buddy was Naif from the Arab village of Tira, east of Kfar Saba. In my reserve unit, a very close comrade and one of the best medics in our unit was Ronnie, who was gay; nobody made a big deal about it and he didn't flaunt it. As long as you did your duty the best way possible, nobody cared. Ronnie, by the way, got along great with our battalion rabbi, Captain Yoni from Bnei Brak, who was all love and brotherhood without trying to push any agenda on anyone. He was there if you needed him.

How different things have become. Menachem Begin was a proud Jew but his pride was not at the expense of any minorities. In fact, because he didn't feel like a 2nd-rate human, and because of his lack of a Jewish-inferiority complex, Begin was courageous enough to engineer a peace treaty with Egypt that has lasted to and through this day. Menachem Begin was the one who uplifted Sephardi Jews from their second-rate status under the elitist secular Ashkenazi left.

In biblical Hebrew, an "uplifted heart" means arrogance, the negative type of pride. The Torah warns, "Lest your heart be uplifted, and you forget Hashem" (Deuteronomy 8:14). In other words, as soon as a person is arrogant in any way, he or she forgets Hashem. As such the Gemara says in the Name of Hashem (Tractate Arachin 16b), "The person with the uplifted heart and I cannot dwell in the same universe." Wherever there's arrogance, Hashem is not there...

Is all pride arrogance? Of course, not. When the Tanach describes King Yehoshafat, who strengthened himself in emuna, scorned the ways of his errant father King Asa and returned to the ways of his fifth-generation great grandfather King David, it says, "And he uplifted his heart in the ways of Hashem" (Chronicles II, 17:6). In Judaism, "kosher pride" is the pride we have in observing Hashem's commandments. All other pride, as the Gemara and Midrash say, is like stealing the King's robe, for all pride belongs to Hashem.

Now we can understand how without the values of Torah, the Government of Israel and its institutions have become a lost ship with lost pride. How so? Rather than taking pride in serving Hashem, the government is taking pride in going against Hashem. The IDF has lost its mind and lost its way, as subservient to the government. Why are religious combat soldiers, whose emuna is their strongest weapon, forced to listen to transgender lectures? Then, the IDF wonders why it's losing deterrence, and that incendiary balloons are now reaching Beer Sheva. They don't get it. IDF values have so eroded that service personnel have been freely uploading top secrets to social media. In my day, our post cards were censored. Where's internal security in the IDF? The same place that modesty is - out the window. In this day of warped values and mixed gender units that the Torah also warns against (see Deuteronomy 23:15), there's no discipline and no loyalty. The Divine Presence cannot be in such a place; I say this with extreme pain - it's my country and it's the army I gave almost three decades of service to...

Last week, we had a gala Sefer Torah inauguration parade through the streets of our neighborhood (See post below). No one would dream of flaunting our lifestyle by having the parade down at Ashdod's bikini beach. 

So a person chooses a gay or transgender lifestyle, that's his or her business, just like it is if he eats BLT sandwiches. Do what you want behind closed doors. Ultimately, whether people want to believe it or not, we are all totally accountable for everything we do. But why flaunt a lifestyle that the Torah calls an abomination through the streets of Jerusalem? Why must our children be exposed to this public debauchery debacle? No wonder it's called the Pride Parade, because it is only possible because the organizers and the government that allows it have forgotten Hashem.

Another sad indication of the government's spiritual amnesia is the needless Nationality Law. We don't don't need the Government's definition of the Land of Israel - the Torah does that already, and we don't need the Government's help. The silly law has angered and alienated minorities and gives the secular courts the power to define and overrule Torah. Once again, this is case of sorely misplaced pride that both threatens to further uproot Torah and destroy relations with our Druze and Arab citizens.

In case I haven't made myself crystal clear, I vehemently protest the Pride Parade planned for this coming Thursday in our holy city of Jerusalem. And, I vehemently protest any erosion of minority rights in Israel.

Without the Torah, which keeps our country anchored an on course, the government becomes shipwrecked, not washed up on an island, but in the middle of an arid wilderness. Please Hashem, we need Moshiach now! 

Rare Glimpse of Chassidic Israel: Celebration of New Torah Scroll

Here is a rare documentary and inside glimpse of life in the Chassidic community of Ashdod, Israel. The Melitzer Rebbe of Ashdod, may Hashem bless him with health and long life, sponsors the gala celebration of the completion of a new Torah scroll and the festive parade from his home to the Melitzer Synagogue, where the new Torah scroll was received with singing, dancing, prayer and a festive meal, in a total holiday atmosphere with the Melitzer Chassidim dressed in their Sabbath and holiday garb. Enjoy it:

Tu B'Av: Happy Love Day!

Tu B'AvToday is the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Av - "Tu B'Av" - known affectionately in Israel as "Love Day". The Gemara in Tractate Taanit tells us that this is one of the two very best days in the Hebrew calendar, an opportune time for seeking and finding a soul-mate. Here're the events that happened on this wonderful day:

  1. The 40-year long plague that resulted from the Sin of the Spies terminated.
  2. The tribes of Israel were allowed to intermarry, whereas previously one was required to take a spouse from his/her own tribe.
  3. Pilgrimage from all over the Land of Israel to Jerusalem was renewed, whereas previously, anyone outside Judea couldn't reach the Holy Temple.
  4. This became a festive occasion when all the wood needed for the coming year's sacrifices on the altar in the Holy Temple was completely gathered, despite huge obstacles.
  5. The myriad of Jews who had been killed defending Beitar during Bar Kochba's revolt were finally brought to burial. This was a double miracle, since the bodies - despite their being strewn in the hot sun for an extended period - did not decompose. 
  6. This is the day when Hashem in His infinite love and mercy put me under the chuppa (wedding canopy) with the very best woman on earth - my wonderful wife Yehudit, may Hashem bless her with abundance of spiritual and material riches, including long and happy days, amen.

Rav Shalom Arush mentioned in his lecture last night in Holon that "Tu B'Av" has always been a propitious and traditional day for matchmaking. Our sages codified an ancient tradition where all Jewish girls – rich and poor, beautiful and homely - go out dressed in borrowed white dresses and dance in the vineyards (see Tractate Taanit 10b). This was our sages' equal-opportunity mentality, to teach young men to look for upright character rather than a girl's makeup and fancy clothes. If you're married, we wish you much joy and wonderful shidduchim for your children. If you're not yet married, we pray that you find your soul-mate in the nearest future, amen!

People who have searching for their soul-mates have had great success after donating to Emuna Outreach. The reason is simple: by you helping others to connect with Hashem, Hashem helps you (or your child, or whomever you're praying for) connect with your bashert, your intended soul-mate. With that in mind, Donate to Emuna Outreach, and we'll be praying to hear good news from you in the nearest future.

Meanwhile, blessings for a lovely Shabbat! If you're going away for Shabbat, safe travels and please drive alertly, with two eyes on the road and two hands on the steering wheel. Hashem loves you, and we do too!

Rebbe Klonimus Kalman Shapira - The Aish Kodesh Rebbe of Piaseczno

Aish Kodesh Rebbe
Rebbe Klonimus Kalman Shapira (1889-1943), of saintly and martyred memory, aka the "Aish Kodesh" Rebbe of Piaseczno, Poland, is one of my all-time heroes. The beacon of light and strength in the Warsaw ghetto, he was ultimately shot to death by the Nazis in the Trawniki concentration camp in 1943, may Hashem avenge his sacred martyred blood.

The Aish Kodesh rebbe was born in the Mashevitzki county of Poland. My maternal great-great-grandfather,  whom I'm named after, was Rabbi Eliezer Mashevitzki, whose last name came from the area that he came from. I don't know if this has anything to do with the Aish Kodesh Rebbe, zatza'l, whom I always felt a special connection to, until my cherished friend Eli Levin sent me an exquisite painting of the Aish Kodesh Rebbe by Shani Levin-Weinberger (above, partial view). This floored me: look at the Chassid sitting next to the Rebbe; look familiar?

In any event, here's a special tribute to the Rebbe, which I'm sure you'll find as moving as I did:

The Shechina Cries for Israel on Tisha B'Av

Rabbi Avraham Levi was a holy kabbalist and a student of the Ariza'l, who would wake everyone nightly in Tzfat for Midnight Lamentations (Tikkun Chatzot) - he was so holy that on Tisha B'Av, he merited seeing an image of a women dressed in black on the Kotel - the Shechina - begging for the end of exile and the restoration of the holy Temple. That's what you see in the adjacent below - in the spirit of Tisha B'Av, see today's lesson, a meaningful one, in the post directly below this. Have an easy fast, and may we all see the Geula soon, with our own eyes, amen!

The Kotel, Emuna, and Geula


Above image: The Kotel and Temple Mount at twilight

The Divine Presence never leaves the Kotel HaMaaravi, the Western Wall remnant of the holiest place in our history - the Bet HaMikdash. If one needs any kind of salvation, the Divine Presence is available 24/7 - you don't need an appointment. In the holy Land of Israel, especially in Jerusalem, and most of all at the Wall, one feels Hashem's presence.

Our Talmudic sages therefore make a seemingly stiff statement when they say (Ketubot 110b): "Anyone who lives in Israel resembles a person who has a G-d; anyone who lives outside of Israel resembles a person who has no G-d." Rebbe Nachman of Breslev elaborates on this concept, and teaches (Likutei Moharan 7:1) that emuna, prayer and miracles are dependant on Eretz Yisroel. In other words, outside of Israel, one cannot attain the level of emuna and prayer that one can attain in Israel.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev also teaches (ibid.) that the "Geula", the redemption of our people, is dependent on emuna, the pure and complete faith in Hashem. Conversely, lack of faith prolongs the exile and diaspora.

In the same vain, Rebbe Klonimus Kalman, author of "Ma'or VeShemesh" and prime disciple of the Noam Elimelech, writes (Ma'or VeShemesh, parshas Behar) that the material abundance outside of Israel blocks the light of spirituality, and is therefore counterproductive to emuna, whereas in Israel, the brighter lights of spirituality are at the expense of a lower level of materialism.

In light of the above, living in the Land of Israel is conducive to developing higher levels of emuna and spirituality.

According to the above teachings, anyone who strengthens his or her faith, comes to Israel, or does both is making a direct contribution to hastening the Geula, the full redemption of our people Israel, and the rebuilding our our Holy Temple in a united Jerusalem, soon and in our days, amen.

But what if your personal circumstance requires you to remain for the time being abroad? Don't feel guilty - Hashem put you in the situation where you must care for an elderly parent, or you have joint custody with your ex and you can't leave your children, or you haven't been able to find employment in Israel. Hashem doesn't expect you to do what you currently cannot. But, there's plenty you can do outside of Israel to hasten the Geula. We mentioned above that Rebbe Nachman attributes the prolonged exile and Diaspora to the lack of emuna. So, by spreading emuna - wherever you are, be it New York, LA, Miami, Toronto, Melbourne, Hong Kong or Maui - you hasten the Geula.

There's no excuse for not spreading emuna. If you personally don't want to, or can't teach emuna and spread emuna materials, you can partner with Emuna Outreach - we'll do the leg work. All you have to do is to Donate to Emuna Outreach and you'll be a full partner is hastening the Geula. May we hear good news soon, amen!

Moses's Rock, Miriam's Well, the 3 Weeks and the Recent Earthquakes

Epicenter Earthquakes July 2018

Miriam's Well July 9 2018
For years, veteran Galilee fisherman have known that there's a small area northeast of Tiberias that you avoid; it's dangerous and it has very strong undercurrents.

For years, experts have been baffled how so many experienced swimmers have drowned in the Kinneret, the Sea of Galilee, which by Swiss or American standards, would be no more than a medium-to-small-size docile lake whose waves at their choppiest barely reach a foot tall.

Since the 4th of July a week ago, there have been over a dozen earthquakes in Israel. Nine felt earthquakes, those 3.0 on the Richter scale and higher, have been smack in the middle of the Kinneret, all revolving around the earthquake epicenter (see above graphics), which is the exact place of the great Syrian-African Rift that separates between Asia and Africa. This is also a potential center of volcanic activity, as bear witness all the volcanic rock that surrounds Kinneret. In fact, the old houses in Tiberias, Capernaum and all around the Sea of Galilee are built of that familiar black volcanic rock.

All week long, I've been asking myself what the message Hashem is conveying by way of the earthquakes. This has been in my prayers as well.

This morning, after Shacharit prayers, I had a strange urge to run home and open up a Chumash. I did, and my Book of Numbers opened up to Chapter 20, that tells about Moses hitting the rock to elicit water in the desert instead of talking to the rock. The holy Ramban (Nachmanides) says that this rock was Miriam's Well that accompanied the Jewish People for forty years in the desert. Rashi, in his elaboration of the Gemara in Pesachim 54a agrees with the Ramban and says that the rock Moses hit was Miriam's well. Comes along the Yerushalmi Gemara, tractate Ketubot 67a, and tells us that after the Jewish People came into the Land of Israel, Hashem deposited and concealed Miriam's well in Kinneret, off the coast of Tiberias. This fact was later substantiated by the holy Ariza'l and his prime disciple Rabbi Chaim Vital.

So you see, Moses didn't have to hit the rock. The rock, inasmuch as it was Miriam's well, was ready to flow forth with sufficient water to quench the thirst of an entire nation, if he would only have spoken to it as Hashem requested. 

Hold it - this is getting much more exciting. The same rock that provided water for all the Jewish People for forty years in the desert became the rock that Moses was punished for. If you look at Rashi's commentary on Numbers Ch. 21, verses 15-16, you'll see that the same benevolent rock not only triggered an earthquake that led to the death of the Amorites who hid in the mountain crevices waiting to ambush the Jewish People on their way to Israel. Not only did the rock trigger the tremor, but its water later washed up the remains of the Amorites to show the Jews the miracle that Hashem did for them.

We see an amazing principle fact here: the rock, which is also Miriam's well, can be a source of life or a source of destruction.

It can be a source of abundance, of healing waters, or the epicenter of destructive earthquakes. 

What does all this have to do with the Three Weeks? The Yerushalmi Gemara in Berachot 64a says that Elijah the Prophet told Rabbi Nehorai that when Hashem gazes down at earth and sees all the plush stadiums and theaters, yet His Holy Temple is still destroyed, His roar causes earthquakes. That same Gemara lists two other causes of earthquakes - failure to give sufficient charity and homosexuality. The Babylonian Talmud in Berachot 59a gives a slightly different reason, but also connected to the Three Weeks: when Hashem sees that His children are still dispersed among the nations, He sheds two tears in the sea and this causes earthquakes.

No wonder we read the Torah portion of Chukat, which talks about Miriam's well and Moses with the rock, a week before the 17th of Tammuz and the start of the Three Weeks. No wonder the string of earthquakes, which has the whole north of Israel losing sleep at night, began with the Three Weeks.

Meanwhile, the south of Israel is still burning. Rather than making emuna and teshuva a national priority, our Nero-like leaders, rather than taking the earthquakes and the chance of a "big one" on the way as experts are warning, they're worried about sending an Israeli spacecraft to the moon. I truly wish I were joking, but I'm not.

Would you rather wait for Ezekiel's prophecy to manifest itself? "For in My jealousy and in the fire of My wrath have I spoken: Surely in that day there shall be a great earthquake in the land of Israel" (Ezekiel 38:19).

I can only imagine the boo-hoo and bellyaching that this post will elicit, but that's too bad. People argue with Emuna News because it bursts the bubble of their comfort zone, while Torah, emuna and teshuva take a second place (or no place at all) to chatrooms and social media. But, you're not arguing with me, incredulous brothers and skeptical sisters: I've listed all my sources above. All I did here was to connect the dots. Go argue with our sages - Elijah the Prophet, Ezekiel the Prophet, Rebbe Yochanan, Rava, Rav Ashi, Rabina, Rashi, the Ramban and the Ariza'l, and that's not all...

Guess what will happen when Moshiach will come and reveal the exact place of Miriam's well: people with an incurable and terminal diseases will immerse themselves in its waters (one source says a mere sprinkle will suffice) and emerge with perfect health. Even the Code of Jewish Law (Shulchan Aruch, Rama, Orach Chaim 299:10) mentions the healing powers of Miriam's well.

So what do we prefer, the lust and folly of this world together with earthquakes, or emuna and teshuva with the abundance of Miriam's well? Hashem is showing us that the choice is ours; He of course commands us and wants us to make the right choice (see Deuteronomy 30:19).