Previous month:
December 2018
Next month:
February 2019

9 posts from January 2019

V'Afilu B'Hastora: Hashem, Don't Hide Your Countenance

Amidst all the uncertainty, infighting and threats from our enemies around us here recently, we beg Hashem to have mercy on us and bring the spirit of emuna and teshuva to the hearts of all us. Above all, we plead to Hashem not to hide His countenance from us.

In uncanny timeliness, the holy words of Rebbe Nachman are now being sung all over the world by every leading Jewish singer in dozens of variations. This niggun comforts aching souls.

Rebbe Nachman of Breslev says in Likutei Moharan I:56 - "Even in a concealment within a concealment, Hashem is certainly there."

In the moving clip below, our esteemed friend and well-known pillar of Jewish music Yochi Briskman made this beautiful arrangement, featuring lead singer Yisrael Werdyger and the Mezamrim Choir. So you can sing along, here are the original words in transliteration, followed by translation (the first line is Yiddish, and the second two lines are Hebrew):

V'afilu B'Hastora - Even in Concealment

(1) Der Aibishter zogt inz, "Kinderlach, Anochi haster panai bayom hahu", ober di Rebbe zogt

Hashem says to us, "Children, I will conceal Myself on that day", but the Rebbe says

(2) V'afilu b'hastora shebatokh hahastora bevadai gam sham nimtza Hashem Yisborach

Even in a concealment within a concealment, Hashem may He be blessed is certainly there

(3) Gam me'achrei hadevorim hakashim ha'omdim alekha, Ani omed.

And behind the the difficult things that stand before you, I stand.

May we all hear good tidings soon, amen!


Desert Time

Here's another taste of our exquisitely beautiful homeland.

The Negev Desert is a mysteriously beautiful region and one of my favorite places for secluded personal prayer. Thanks to Eyal Bartov, here is a magical taste of the Negev in winter, after the rains have fallen. Enjoy it...


Tu B'Shvat: Israel's Answer to the World

Jeremiah 31.4

Tu B'Shvat this year is Sunday night, Jan. 20 - Monday, Jan. 21, 2019

The nations of the world, in protesting our right to the Land of Israel, claim that all the other religions are fine with living in a variety of countries, so why must the Jews have their own land?

Many Jews don't know the answer to this seemingly-probing question. Yet, the answer is surprisingly simple. It also explains why we have a special New Year for trees, when it's a special mitzva to plant trees all over the Land of Israel.

In his very first statement of his classic elaboration on Torah, Rashi explains prophetically that in case the nations of the world will call Israel thieves for occupying Canaanite land, then know full well that Hashem created the world and He parcels it out to whomever He chooses.

King David says that Hashem gave us the land of the Canaanite nations so that we would "guard His laws and observe His commandments" (Psalm 105:45) on this hallowed land, as the Torah instructs.

When a Jew is honored with an "aliya" to the Torah, he says two blessings - one before the Torah reading and one after the Torah reading. The latter blessing is especially interesting: "Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the universe, for giving us the Torah of truth, and planting posterity within us; blessed are You, Hashem, who gives the Torah."

Our sages called the Torah, the "planting of posterity". Why "planting"? Trees are planted, but why Torah? And, what does this have to do with the Land of Israel?

As Rashi explains, the Land of Israel is not like any other land - it is Hashem's special Holy Land. The Torah explains an entire array of special commandments that must be observed in the Land of Israel, yet need not be observed elsewhere. Many of these commandments deal with with trees and fruit, such as orla[1], trumot[2], maaserot[3], prat and olelut[4], just to name a few.

The Shulchan Aruch, or Code of Jewish Law, forbids a Jew from selling a non-Jew anything that is still rooted in the soul of the Land of Israel[5]. In other words, one may sell a non-Jew an entire ton of Israel's finest grapes, but he may not sell even one lone grapevine that is planted in the holy soil of Israel. The Gemara gives two reasons for this prohibition[6]: First, since Hashem gave the Land of Israel to the Jews specifically for the purpose of performing the Torah's commandments, one may not give or sell any portion of the land, no matter how big or small. This in itself is one of the Torah's 365 negative mitzvoth known as Lo Techanem[7]. Second, by selling or giving any portion of land to a non-Jew, one is obstructing the performance of the required mitzvoth that pertain to that portion of land, which constitutes a desecration of the land's holiness.

Planting is so important in the Land of Israel, that if a person has not yet harvested the first fruits of his vineyard, he is exempt from military service[8].

With all the above in mind, what's so significant about planting trees in the Land of Israel? And why is the Torah said to be "implanted" with us?

The Prophet Jeremiah said [10]that the sign of our final redemption will be when you see Jews coming back to the Land of Israel and planting vineyards in Samaria; that's happening right now, and that's what the BDS Movement and all our other enemies are fighting against...

The Torah tells us that he who plants, especially in the hallowed Land of Israel, is he who is connected - he sends forth roots, deep in the ground. The deeper the roots, the stronger the connection. The Torah is also called the "Tree of Life"[9], for those who cling to it. In this respect, the Torah represents our spiritual clinging to Hashem - for the Jewish people are rooted in Hashem, as Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai says in the Zohar - while the trees we plant in the holy Land of Israel signify our physical clinging to Hashem, to His holy land, and to His commandments. So, just as we rightfully celebrate our anniversary of Torah every year on the sixth day of the Hebrew month of Sivan, we annually celebrate our New Year for trees, every year on the Fifteenth of Shvat. Happy Tu B'Shvat!

Footnotes: 

[1]    The prohibition of eating fruit from a three-year old tree or younger

[2]    Typically 2% of the yield that is given to a Cohen

[3]    10% of the yield that is given to the Levites; there are two additional types of tithes, for the poor and for the purpose of spending in Jerusalem during the time of festivals in the Holy Temple

[4]    Enabling the poor to glean fallen and lone grapes left over after the grape harvest

[5]    See Yora Deah 141:7

[6]    See Tractate Avoda Zara, 21a

[7]    Numbers 7:2, mitzva number 284 according the the Sefer Chinuch

[8]    Numbers 20:6

[9]    Proverbs 3:18

[10]    Jeremiah 31:4


Today! Say "Parshat HaMan" to Insure a Good Income

Parshat Ha'man

Don't forget to say "Parshat HaMan" today: Segula (spiritually-invoking ploy) for a good income - on the Tuesday of the Parshat Beshalach week, our sages tell us that it's an opportune time to recite "Parshat HaMan", the story of the manna, the Heaven-sent bread that sustained the Children of Israel for forty years in the desert. One should read it in Hebrew if possible, twice mikra and once targum. For your convenience, here is a clearly presented Parshat HaMan which you are more than welcome to download. If you read English only, then I've translated it for you, here: Download Parshat HaMan - English. May Hashem send a wonderful income to everyone, amen! 


The Rod and the Staff

Rod and Staff
King David declares to G-d, "Your rod and your staff – they comfort me" (Psalm 23:4). "Staff" is a leaning stick, like the cane that an old man leans on. As such, "staff" symbolizes the comforting presence of G-d, which King David could lean on during all his troubled times. "Rod" symbolizes the punishment stick. King David in effect says to G-d, "Whether You console me and resemble a staff, or whether You torment me and resemble a rod, I am comforted by Your presence." Such a righteous man knows the value of the "rod", which is nothing other than the seemingly bad.

King David, as a three-year old shepherd, killed both a lion and a bear that threatened his flocks. As a twelve year old, he killed the giant Philistine warrior Goliath. David remained undaunted. Only one thought scared him: "Don't cast me away from you, G-d, and don't remove your spirit of holiness from me" (ibid. 51:13). King David's only fear in life was losing the proximity of G-d.

Just as a gold-medal Olympic sprinter cannot be a world champion without supreme effort, King David could not have become G-d's anointed, the head of the messianic dynasty, and role model for subsequent generations to this day, without the many arduous experiences in his life.

When you're able to treat the trying situations of your life as precious gifts designed to enhance your spiritual and emotional growth, then you're well on the way to inner peace.


Thank You, Hashem

There is so much to be thankful for, both on a national level and a personal level. Hashem has been doing awesome miracles for us; if we had the slightest inkling, we'd be dancing all day long. At this moment, He continues to do awesome miracles. I want to share one of the most widely viewed video clips that Emuna Outreach ever made - as of today, it's been viewed over 1.8 Million times! It's the type of clip you can see dozens of times, and never get tired of it. In the same manner, when we never tire of thanking Hashem, we know that our souls are healthy.

Pass this clip on to your friends and relatives, especially if they're still far from Hashem. If it doesn't warm their hearts, then send them for an urgent EKG. Chodesh Tov!