Thursday, July 29, 2010

Can't Wait to Overlook the Beit Hamikdash from Atop the New Ferris Wheel


Which will be built first?

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

With Shofarot and Vuvuzelas, a "Curse" in Yaffo

I'm not wise enough to understand the actions taken today when a group of Kabbalists went to Yaffo and "cursed" those involved in removing ancient graves in the area. I have Emunat Hachamim that the actions taken were necessary, but I have not been able to reach that level of understanding.

Perhaps, in my limited understanding, I can offer that the Haredi websites were exaggerating when they called it a קללה - "a curse".

Here is the poster issued prior to the event, from Ladaat. Notice that the words are more of a "Tefilla and Tikkun" - not a curse.


Here is Rav Batzri leading the event, from Kikar Shabbat.
The other type of Shofar looks like a vuvuzela to me, but maybe I've never seen that type of shofar. There are better pictures of them at the Kikar Shabbat site.

Also from Kikar Shabbat, the main prayer involved in the "curse".


The prayer was taken from Rav Hayim Palachi's רפואה וחיים. Notice, in the original, it only mentions גוים (non-Jews who desecrate Jewish graves) - not the word put in brackets - זדים (transgressors - i.e., even Jews who do the same). I wonder if R' Hayim Palachi would approve of this prayer being used against Jews. Apparently, these Kabbalists say that he would.

As a possible explanation, we can say that it is unclear that "אותה יד תקצץ" is really a curse, as we see the gemara in Niddah 13b asks whether the Mishna's use of תקצץ is a curse or a Din. The gemara doesn't seem to be conclusive, but the מלאכת שלמה says that the gemara concludes that it is a curse. However, Tosafot on the gemara(ד"ה דינא תנן) says that in the case of another gemara (in Shabbat 108b), where a similar expression is used, it does not mean a curse. Rather, it means that it would have been better for his hand to be cut off before doing that act.


Incidentally, it seems that a lot more modern-day requests were added to this prayer, including prayers that women shouldn't abort their babies if they don't like their ultrasounds, that Yeshiva boys shouldn't be drafted, that girls shouldn't be drafted, that secular students should transfer to religious schools, and to kick the "Reformim" out of Israel.

Whether this was a curse or not, it seems that no punches were pulled, in the spiritual sense.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

New Song for Gilad Shalit

And while we're on the Jewish music theme, here's a new song about Gilad Shalit by Amram Adar called "Shalit", expressing how we are all responsible for his safe return.

The Matisyahu Effect

Via CrossCurrents, I found a story from The Atlantic where a Matisyahu song made the Jewish music critic cry.

Not only that, but after having said that he has never visited Israel in the article, in the comments there, he got various invitations to be shown around Israel.

Matisyahu's music is very powerful in our day and age. This is likely not the only instance where it has been used as a bridge connecting the secular to religiosity. That a religious Jew is respected in the non-Jewish culture is a rarity that can have tremedous effects. We hope it continues to only be used for good.

And on that note, my kids are obsessed with "One Day" and cannot stop singing it. Being that it is a Mashiah-themed song, here it is.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Rav Shmueli: Learning Zohar Can Cancel Decrees

In his latest Shiur (between the 23:30 and 30:30 marks), Rav Shmueli says that Am Yisrael has so many Tzarot - from within and from without - both physical and spiritual.
There is only one way to annul the decrees against us.
We start our Torah portion והיה עקב תשמעון - if you want והיה (the letters of Hashem's name that signifies mercy) in עקב (meaning עקבתא דמשיחא - the footsteps of Mashiah, which is the period we're in now), you need תשמעון (which can be read as a Notrikon of "תורת שמעון", meaning the Torah of Ribbi Shimon Bar Yohai, i.e. the Zohar Hakadosh).

This can be stated in conjunction with the oft-repeated quote of Rav Shmueli from the Zohar which I mentioned previously and he repeats again in this shiur:
ובגין דעתידין ישראל למטעם מאילנא דחיי דאיהו האי ספר הזהר יפקון ביה מן גלותא ברחמי

He further noted that the Hafetz Hayim told his non-married students to learn the Zohar on the Torah portion of that week each week. This seems to prove that you don't need to be married or 40 years old to learn Zohar. Rav Shmueli says that learning Zohar is not learning Kabbala. Zohar is "Avi Avot Hakabbala" (the grandfather of Kabbala), he says.

May the Zechut of learning the Zohar bring the Ge'ula ever closer.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

What Was Buried with Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ZT"L

Commenter Sfaradi points out an interesting Ynet article that says that a certain document was buried along with Rav Mordechai Eliyahu ZT"L. This document was the proof and Pesak Din, according to the Rav and a number of other Kabbalists, that we deserve to be redeemed now. This Pesak Din was made many years earlier than the Rav's passing. The document was buried together with him in order for him to use this verdict and present it before the Heavenly Court to persuade HKB"H to redeem us now.

May we be redeemed now with mercy.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Pesikta Zutrata on Va'et'hanan

Pesikta Zutrata:
בצר לך ומצאונך - אין ישראל נגאלין אלא מתוך צרה.
באחרית היםים - יעקב אומר באחרית הימים ואחריו משה
ואחריו כל חנביאים למען תת תקוה ותוחלת לישראל לחכות
ולקוות עת הגאולה

בצר לך ומצאונך In your distress, and [these things] will find you - Israel will only be redeemed straight out of distress.
באחרית היםים In the end of days - Ya'akov says "in the end of days" and after him, Moshe and after him, all the prophets - in order to give hope and longing to Israel to wait and hope for the time of the Ge'ula.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Thought Tish'a Be'av Started with the Meraglim? Think Again

Rav Avrohom Schorr has an amazing 50-minute Shiur on Tish'a Be'av that blew me away.

Also contains the connection between Kedushat Haberit with the Ge'ula.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Tish'a Be'av, 5770

This Tish'a Be'av is the 1,942nd year since the Hurban - the destruction of the Beit Hamikdash. The number 1942 is only divisible by 971 and 2, as 971 is a prime number.

Hashem told Avraham:
וְאֶת-בְּרִיתִי, אָקִים אֶת-יִצְחָק, אֲשֶׁר תֵּלֵד לְךָ שָׂרָה לַמּוֹעֵד הַזֶּה, בַּשָּׁנָה הָאַחֶרֶת.

The words "בשנה האחרת" have the gematria of 971. This tells us that a Mo'ed is 971 years.

The Book of Daniel gives us a time of לְמוֹעֵד מוֹעֲדִים וָחֵצִי, which tells us to multiply 971 x 3.5, which gives us 3398.5. We are currently in the year 5770. 5770 - 3398.5 = 2371.5. 2371 is around the year of the birth of Moshe Rabbeinu, give or take a few years. It is also around the time of הבה נתחכמה לו - when Pharaoh showed us the first recorded case of anti-semitism towards the Jewish people as a nation. Notice that the words that follow לְמוֹעֵד מוֹעֲדִים וָחֵצִי in the Book of Daniel are "וּכְכַלּוֹת נַפֵּץ יַד-עַם-קֹדֶשׁ" - "and when they have made an end of breaking in pieces the power of the holy people". This is saying that from the time when anti-semitism began until it ends will be לְמוֹעֵד מוֹעֲדִים וָחֵצִי.

We need to split up the 4 parts of these 3398.5 years. First, comes the full Mo'ed, then the half Mo'ed, followed by the first half of "Mo'adim", and finally the second half of "Mo'adim".

1) The full Mo'ed starts at הבה נתחכמה לו, and ends with the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash. Although the beginning and end of this period were terrible for the Jewish people, a good chunk of the middle of this period was very good.

2) The half Mo'ed starts at Galut Bavel and ends with the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash. Just like the full Mo'ed, the beginning and end of this period were terrible, whereas the middle showed some signs of promise, including the Hashmonaic Kingdom.

3) The Mo'adim were vastly different. There was never a time of national stability - never a time that we had the Beit Hamikdash. The first half of "Mo'adim" went from the destruction of the second Beit Hamikdash until the end of the Ge'onic period. With the death of Rav Hai Gaon in 4798, the period of Halachic uniformity had been lost. At this point, the Galut intensified.

4) The period of the Rishonim started the second half of "Mo'adim". The halacha was split into camps based on geographic and philosophic differences. We started with a Rashkebeha"g, but he didn't wield as much halachic power as the Ge'onim of the past. At times, Torah flourished, but we were far from united as a people. Today, we have the land of Israel, which should have theoretically united our nation, but alas, we are still far from united.

Nevertheless, we are at the end of the "Mo'adim" period. How can we be at the end of this period, which signifies the Keitz, and still be a divided nation?

The answer might be that despite our divisions, we do see small glimpses of unity. It almost always comes after tragedy. We saw it for the most part in the prayers against the Disengagement. We saw it after the Merkaz Harav massacre. We saw it for the funeral of Rav Mordechai Eliyahu.

The Chicago Jewish community, and especially the Skokie, IL community has been going through a particularly rough 3 weeks and 9 days period. All kinds of tragedies occurred to young and old, lo aleinu.

My minhag is to read Ha'azinu on Tish'a Be'av in place of Az Yashir. The following verse comes to mind after such tragedies. Devarim 32:25:
מִחוּץ, תְּשַׁכֶּל-חֶרֶב, וּמֵחֲדָרִים, אֵימָה; גַּם-בָּחוּר, גַּם-בְּתוּלָה--יוֹנֵק, עִם-אִישׁ שֵׂיבָה
Without shall the sword bereave, and in the chambers terror; slaying both young man and virgin, the suckling with the man of gray hairs.

In wake of this, the community has come together, unified, to help the bereaved families and friends with psychological counseling and other help.

The gemara in Sanhedrin (98a) says that if you see Tzarot coming like a river, wait for Mashiah. Perhaps, the explanation is that the Tzarot cause the community to be united, and that acts as a Tikkun for our Sin'at Hinam.

We have much reason to cry this Tish'a Be'av. Nevertheless, we do see signs of hope. We hope for the end of our Galut. We hope for the reconstruction of our third and final Beit Hamikdash. We hope that the Mo'adim period is finally over.

May this Tish'a Be'av be turned Miyagon LeSimha. Amen.

Note: the above regarding "Mo'adim" is speculative. This theory may be totally incorrect.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Rav Amar: Unity via a Torah Perspective

2 articles about Rav Amar appeared in today's headlines:

VIN: Jerusalem - Rav Shlomo Amar: The Biggest Danger Klal Yisrael Faces Is Ourselves, Not Terrorism

A7: Chief Sephardic Rabbi: Bolt Coalition if Conversion Law Fails

He shows us that we need to be united, but being united doesn't mean to compromise on Torah values. These must stay intact while we show our love to one another.

Mishpacha: We Don’t Want Mashiach Now

Here.

Another call for Ahdut. We can always use those.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Mezuzah-Reader Rav Moshe Ben-Tov ZT"L

ברוך דיין האמת



Ladaat.net reports that Rav Ben-Tov passed away on Friday.

There had been prayers recited for him on Thursday where more than 1000 people attended.

He was a Kabbalist to whom many people took their Mezuzot for him to read. He would then tell you everything about you. I remember hearing stories about him since I was a young boy.

תנצב"ה

1.07150860718626732094842504906e+301

YWN's Parsha Potpourri:

Hashem Elokei avoseichem yosef Aleichem kachem elef pe’amim (1:11)

In the middle of his rebuke, Moshe blesses the Jewish people that Hashem should increase their numbers 1000-fold. As significant an increase as that represents, the Jews at that time numbered between 2 and 3 million, such that a 1000-fold increase would bring their numbers to a total of 2-3 billion. While this would make the Jews the most populous nation in the world, it still can’t be considered a fulfillment (see Rashi here) of Hashem’s blessing to Avrohom Avinu (Bereishis 13:16) that He will make Avrohom’s descendants so numerous that they can’t even be counted.

However, Rav Akiva Eiger notes that this interpretation is based on a flawed understanding of Moshe’s carefully chosen words. A close reading of his blessing reveals that he didn’t bless them that Hashem should multiply their current numbers by 1000, as that would have been written in a slightly different manner – Hashem Elokei avoseichem yosef aleichem elef p’amim ka’chem – which would indeed mean that Hashem should increase 1000-fold your current population. Rather, Moshe carefully and subtly switched the words to read Hashem Elokei avoseichem yosef aleichem ka’chem elef p’amim – which means that Hashem should increase your population at present by that amount (i.e. double the number of Jews) and then continue to do so another 999 times. In other words, Hashem should multiply the current population by 21000, which would result in the total number of Jews being a number which contains more than 300 digits, which is indeed quite an amazing fulfillment of Hashem’s blessing to Avrohom.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Rav Chaim Kanievsky: We're Really at the End

A בחדרי חרדים report, translated by Rafi:
One of the visitors of Rav Kanievsky on Wednesday was a person who heads a large chessed organization.

The fellow was listing many of the tragic cases he has had to deal with recently, and asked for brachos for the sick people...

During the conversation, the fellow asked Rav Kanievsky why there are so much tzurres nowadays. He says for many years he has been involved in this chessed organization, and he doesn't remember a period of time ever that was so full of tzurres.


Also in the story is that the questioner told over that Rav Shteinman Shlit"a said once while visiting an Aveil that "there used to be a town orphan, but now, there are many orphans in each classroom. It's a terrifying situation."

Rav Kanievsky said that it is known that in the generation of Mashiach Hashem will clean out the generation of its sins, and leave us "clean" in order to greet mashiach. How does he clean us out? Via tzurres. And that is the reason.

Somebody present asked "Rebbe, but until when?"

Rav Kanievsky closed his eyes and said, "Believe me, we are near the end. Really near the end."


The Hebrew is: "תאמינו לי אנחנו כבר בסוף. ממש ממש בסוף".

4 Keil Maleis in a Row

4 Keil Maleis in a Row.

It was the first time ever experiencing such a thing, and I hope to never experience anything like it ever again.

I went to the funeral of Moshe Menora A"H and his three granddaughters Rivka Menora A"H, Racheli Menora A"H, and Sara Klein A"H. They were killed in a plane crash on Tuesday. His grandson, Yossi Menora להלחט"ו, who was miraculously ejected from the plane, was upgraded from critical condition to serious condition. Please continue to pray for Netanel Yosef ben Simcha Sima.

Giving one of the Hespedim was Rav Moshe Chodosh, Shlit"a from Yeshivat Hevron, the son of Rav Meir Chodosh Zt"l.

I did not know the family. I went to the funeral because I believe that this was a tragedy for all of Kelal Yisrael. The jam-packed, standing-room-only crowd attested to this. No one knows Hashem's reasons for tragedies such as this one. All I know is that our Galut along with the Galut of the Shechina has seen enough. It is time to end it. 4 more reasons to say על אלה אני בוכיה.


 

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcchicago.com/video.



VIN has a nice article about the Chesed Shel Emes organization collecting what needs to be collected for burial. Also see the video below.



בלע המות לנצח ומחה ה' דמעה מעל כל פנים

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Tragedy of the First of Av


A religious Jewish group went to one version of Aharon Hakohen's burial spot on his Yahrtzeit undercover in Jordan, according to Ladaat.net, where more pictures are shown. Others dispute this being his burial spot.



The first of Av is Aharon Hakohen's Yahrtzeit. After his death, the king of Arad fought against the Jewish people. What was the sin that caused this?

The Ya'arot Devash explains that the Jewish people sinned by not praying for Aharon Hakohen not to die before he died and only waiting until after he died to cry about his death.

The Yerushalmi quotes an opinion that says that the first Beit Hamikdash was really destroyed on the first of Av. However, the Ya'arot Devash asks from Esther Rabba 7:11 how Tamuz and Av could not accept any more major tragedies and couldn't accept Haman's lottery to fall upon them. Similarly, we should say that the first of Av had this terrible tragedy of Aharon's death and it should not accept another tragedy on the same day.

He explains that if the Jewish people didn't consider Aharon's death a tragedy before his death, then the date of Rosh Hodesh Av can be used for another tragedy years later - for the destruction of the first Beit Hamikdash. (Hat tip YUTorah)

We see from here that crying after the tragedy didn't prevent that day from being used again. It's only the prayers of protest to Hashem in advance that would have.

Check out this scary Lazer Beams post. Let us pray to be saved from all troubles which should not come.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Yad Hashem in Tombstone Recovery

The New York Times has an incredible story of how Hashem directs events to bring about a positive outcome - even if it takes 100 years.
A "Well done!" goes to Mr. Lankenau, who was the vehicle through which this came about.

Hat tip: VIN

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Tehillim 102:12 Could Refer to Rosh Hodesh Av 5770

Tehillim 102:12:
יָמַי, כְּצֵל נָטוּי; וַאֲנִי, כָּעֵשֶׂב אִיבָשׁ.

My days are like a lengthening shadow; and I am withered like grass.

Eim Habanim Semeichah:

Furthermore, I challenge the Mabit's assertion that since exile is a verdict accompanied by an oath, we must wait until in its time. Behold, we are now standing in the 703rd year of the sixth millennium (5703 [1943]), and we have certainly reached the stage of in its time. This is not only true according to our mentor, the Ari z"l, who holds that the period of in its time began in the year 5335 [1575], and according to the Or HaChayim HaKadosh and the Chatam Sofer who maintain that the time of Mashiach begain in the year 5500 [1740]. Rather, according to all opinions, now that two thirds of the sixth millennium have already passed, the stage of in its time has undoubtedly arrived.

The Maharsha explains David's statement My days are like an evening shadow (Tehillim 102:12)
This refers to the shadows of evening. David was intimating that the time of redemption had arrived, as it says, And it shall come to pass that at evening time, there will be light (Zecharyah 14:7). That is to say, [redemption will occur] when the Jews have reached the depths of degradation, as it says, When He sees that their power is gone, and none is saved or assisted (Devarim 32:36).
Now, the Maharsha was forced to interpret evening as a degradation because he lived in the first third of the sixth millennium. But we, who live at the end of the second third, can interpret evening according to its simple meaning, for it is already actually evening.

A hymn recited in the morning prayer of the second day of Rosh Hashana states that after two thirds of the day there will be a fulfillment of the verse And it shall come to pass that at evening time, there will be light (Zecharyah 14:7). This indeed corresponds to our times, for we have already reached two-thirds of the day. Furthermore, Tosafot and the Ritva explain that evening implies the time prior to sunset, not nighttime.


The Eim Habanim Semeichah wants to say that 5666 is already called "evening". Perhaps we can say that it's really not "evening" until Minha Gedola. First of all, the word is נטוי - the Mechon Mamre people translate as "lengthening" - not "evening". However, "evening" is an interpretive translation, as it refers to when the sun is נוטה - bending toward the West. When does this occur? At Minha Gedola. See Rashi Shabbat 9b s.v. מנחה גדולה.

According to my calculation, Minha Gedola of the sixth millennium starts on Rosh Hodesh Av, 5770, which is coming up very soon.

I created an Excel spreadsheet that explains this. I'm aware that there are those who say I'm a year off and put this milestone at 5771, so I'm open to all comments about this.

Update: The comments have convinced me that I am off by a year since the counting started in 5001 - not 5000. I modified the spreadsheet accordingly, but kept the original count on sheet 2.

Friday, July 02, 2010

In Defense of Repentant Jewish White Collar Criminals

Before anyone goes berserk from the title of this post, I want to state unequivocally that all crime, including white-collar crime, is wrong - period.

However, the Torah has a concept of Teshuva - repentance - that is so powerful that if done properly, can even turn sins into merits.

Please read the following Tanna Devei Eliyahu and let me know what you think:
ובכל יום ויום מדת הדין מתגברת ועומדת לפני הקב״ה ואומרת לפניו רבש״ע כתבת בתורתך (ויקרא יט) ולא תשבעו בשמי לשקר וגו', וישראל משכימים לשוקים ונשבעים לשקר וחומדין את נכסי חבריהם ואת נשי חבריהם ומספרים לש״ה על רעיהן שמא יש לפניך משוא פנים אבל הקב״ה מדבר טוב על ישראל ואומר אל מדה״ד ישראל משכימים לבתי כנסיות ולבתי מדרשות ומביאין את התינוקות לבית רבן ומוהלין את בניהם את בשר ערלתן. ולא עוד אלא שבראתי להם את התשובה שהיא שקולה כנגד כל הקרבנות שבתורה והאיך אתה אומר שיש לפני משוא פנים.


See a nice peirush to this Tanna Devei Eliyahu here.

This Tanna Devei Eliyahu tells us that Hashem wants to defend the Jewish people even when we act wrongly for 2 reasons:
1) We have so many other great Mitzvot that we do that help us out
2) We have the concept of Teshuva, which is very powerful

When a Jewish man acts wrongly, we should teach our children that it is wrong, but is vilifying him on blogs the right way to go? It's not Hashem's way, and therefore not והלכת בדרכיו - walking in His paths. This is especially true when he is an otherwise good individual and especially when he is repentant.

Of note is the Derasha on כפלח הרמון רקתך - that even the empty ones of the Jewish people are full of Mitzvot like a pomegranate.

This should not be used to defend bad behavior or crimes. It should be used the next time you open your mouth or keyboard prosecuting against those within your nation.