Shalom Rabbi Rachamim,
Re: a land flowing with milk and honey.' …
That is a bad translation? While everybody seems to know what milk is, honey causes a problem. I am pretty sure it is not bee-honey, even though approximately 100% of Americans think "bee-honey" when the word honey is used. I think it means fig or date honey -- the puffy-sweet fluid from a date. And even though the Rabbis allow us to eat bee-honey, under the concept that it is really the nectar from the flower (plus some insect stuff -- me), the sweet sticky liquid of which the Torah speaks is that from the fruit and not from the insect.
Shalom, Laiib ben Shmuel hakohane Agreed and I should have mentioned this.
Good and Bad news. Ben Tzion Michael ben Chaya Tziporah is recovering basically if you have too many people on your prayer list you can stop but I am going to keep praying for him until after the holidays when the new heavenly ruling is in. Moshe Rafael ben Basha who had a massive stroke last week did not make it.
Gary sent me this just a short time before posting:
Parsha Nitzavim – Vayelech
29:9 Ye are standing this day all of you before the LORD your God: your heads, your tribes, your elders, and your officers, even all the men of Israel,
This appears to be the last Drasha of Moshe Rabbaynu before he departs this earth. It will mark the last time that Am Yisrael is united outside of Eretz Yisrael and the Shechina is resting upon them. Each and every Ben Yisrael feels Chessed, Gevurah, Tiferes, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchus HASHEM. This glory will be removed from Chutz L’aretz and moved into the Mishkan and Beis HaMikdash only in Eretz Yisrael. For close to two thousand years now we have not had the GLORY of HASHEM present on our holidays only a few sparks here and there. (If Rabbi Glixman was alive, he would break into tears upon hearing this and cry in Hebrew – Unto when HASHEM unto when will you turn away from Am Yisrael when we need you so much.) In my closing statement this week I talk about the Chessed that HASHEM has done for me. I want everybody to imagine a day of Chessed within Chessed, Gevurah, Tiferes, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchus and Gevurah with Chessed, Gevurah, Tiferes, Netzach, Hod, Yesod and Malchus, and the other combinations as one listened to Moshe Rabbaynu on his departing statements and blessings to the tribes. What a great and powerful thing it was for Am Yisrael to have that even before entering the land. Afterwards, Yechezkel will see the DIVINE CHARIOT for the last time by the Euphrates River as both he and HASHEM leave Eretz Yisrael. For 1943 years according to our tradition we have not seen or felt the wonders and glory in Yerushalayim. It has become harder and harder as the time and memory fades to put Yerushalayim above our chief joy – woe unto the generation when the Temple was destroyed and woe unto us that we are so far removed that we cannot fathom the glory and Kedushah that was.
10 your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in the midst of thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water;
The families were there from the highest skilled workers to the simple looked down upon servants or menial jobs like hewers of wood and water drawers
11 that thou should enter into the covenant of the LORD thy God--and into His oath--which the LORD thy God makes with thee this day; 12 that He may establish thee this day unto Himself for a people, and that He may be unto thee a God, as He spoke unto thee, and as He swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob. 13 Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; 14 but with him that stands here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day-
He is your G-D and therefore you should heed him.
During the last few years, I have dissected and bisected these two and a half chapters of Torah and rather try to dig and dig again, I figured that there were others that I could use to produce an anthology for the shortest double Parsha.
Prophecy of the Jews' Return to Judaism, and Moses' Final Day
"Excuse me sir, can you help me?" asked the girl as she stood at the entrance of the synagogue of Dublin. "I'd like to go to Israel to work on a Kibbutz. Do you have any information about programs for youth?"
Mr. Mandel, the caretaker of the synagogue, was taken aback. Standing in front of him in jeans and a backpack was an American Jewish girl who obviously had no idea this evening would be the Passover Seder!
Karen, from Long Island, was studying on the one-year overseas program at Shannon University. (There are no Jews in the town of Shannon, Ireland.) After reading the book "Exodus," she became inspired and decided to go to Israel. While lying in a sleeping bag on the floor of a friend's house in Dublin, she spotted the book, "Sights to See in Dublin." Under "synagogues" were three entries.
Karen boarded a bus at random and asked the driver if he passed any of these places. One synagogue was on his route. As the bus neared its destination, the Irish Catholic driver stopped the bus and took Karen by the hand to show her the way so she would not get lost.
Mr. Mandel explained to her that since this evening is Passover, he would bring her to the Cohen family for the Seder. This family was planning to make Aliyah soon, and had all the information that Karen would need.
Karen quickly went out and bought a nice dress, and as she entered the Cohen's home she was immediately drafted to peel potatoes. The Seder was the most special one Karen ever saw, full of singing and joyful children and stimulating intellectual discussion. However, the following morning Karen announced that she would have to return to Shannon.
The Cohen children cried out, "But tonight is the second Seder!" Karen readily agreed to stay. Afterwards, she was informed that "tomorrow night is Shabbos, and after that begins the last days of Passover!" After spending the entire week with the Cohen family, Karen was adopted as a member of the family and returned every Shabbat until the end of the year when the Cohen family made Aliyah.
Karen followed and ended up in a religious Kibbutz, where she met a Yeshiva student from England. They are now married and spreading Torah to others.
"I want my son Jason to be Jewish!” proclaimed David. "Rabbi! Please put him in the Mikvah and make him a Jew!"
David grew up in a typical American Jewish home in a small town and intermarried with a non-Jewish girl. They had a son, and were divorced, leaving David with custody of 3-year-old Jason.
David was now living with another non-Jewish woman (also divorced and in custody of two children). They were both too scared to commit themselves to marriage. The rabbi, aware of David's situation, was in no hurry to convert the boy. On the other hand, he could not outright refuse the request. "Why don't you teach Jason what it means to be a Jew and show him the inside of a synagogue?" the rabbi suggested to David.
From that week on, David and Jason were regular Friday night worshipers. The hour-long service bounced with singing and spirit, a contrast to the synagogue that David remembered growing up - which was more of an entertainment production featuring cantorial operatics and organ playing that reminded David of a church.
Then came the winter - Early Shabbat at 4 p.m. - plus snow and bad weather - often resulted in lack of synagogue attendance. David still attended, but often had to wait for the rest of the "Minyan." During this time he would read Jewish books in the synagogue library and really got interested in Judaism. He brought books home to his girlfriend and they would read them and discuss them for hours.
David started asking many questions and became close with the rabbi's family. The end of the story is that David became religious. Sherry converted along with all three children, and the rabbi married them. They now belong to a strong Jewish community and are very happy.
These stories are two small examples of the prophecy in Parshas Nitzavim of a phenomenon we witness every day. The Torah predicts that there will be a "Baal Teshuva Movement" (Jews returning to their faith): "You will return to God and listen to Him ... with all your heart and soul" (Deut. 30:2). This movement was undreamed of a few decades ago, and has now spread throughout the world wherever Jews live.
PARSHAT NITZAVIM: THE COVENANT
On the day of Moses' death, he gathered all the people to enter a formal covenant with God. The fact that the Creator of the Universe enters a treaty with humans (sign on the dotted line!) is mind-boggling in and of itself. The conditions of the treaty were spelled out in last week's Parsha, and it is binding even on later unborn generations (as well as future converts).
WARNING AGAINST IDOLATRY
Moses says: You will enter the land and observe their idols. The wood and stone ones are under every tree and valley; the gold and silver ones are under lock and bolt. (They can't even protect themselves!) When Lavan chased after Jacob and accused him of stealing his god, the children chided him, "Grandpa, why not get yourself a god that you can't steal?"
PREDICTIONS THAT MATERIALIZED
Modern Israel is also an agricultural marvel - situated at the center of the historic Fertile Crescent. During the two thousand years of Israel's exile from its Land, numerous empires have conquered the Land and countless wars were fought for its possession. And yet, astonishingly, no conqueror ever succeeded in permanently settling the Land or causing the deserts to blossom. Only when the Jewish people returned did this happen.
The Torah predicts:
"A future generation will see the plague and sickness directed against the land - nothing planted and nothing growing, not even any grass. They will ask: what caused this awesome anger? And they will answer: because they abandoned the covenant of God who took them out of the land of Egypt. And they worshiped other gods." (Deut. 29:21-25 paraphrased)
Mark Twain wrote of his visit to the Land of Israel in 1867:
"A desolate land whose soil, though rich, produces only thorn bush and thistle - a silent mourning expanse. There exists a state of neglect that even the imagination is incapable of granting it the possibility of beauty of life and productivity. We arrived in peace to Mount Tabor; we did not see a soul during the entire journey. Everywhere we went there was no tree or shrub. Even the olive tree and sabra, those faithful friends of barren lands, were almost completely missing from the land. The Land of Israel dwells in sackcloth and ashes..." (The Innocents Abroad, 1867)
Our Parsha says:
"The hidden matters are for God to deal with. However, the revealed matters are for us and our descendants forever, to fulfill all the words of this Torah." (Deut. 29:28)
Although we are not responsible for what others may be thinking, we do share somewhat in any misdeeds they commit, because the Jewish people now accepted upon themselves communal responsibility for every individual. (If we have the ability to intervene.)
The end of this verse contradicts the misconception that the Torah was at some later time, modified and made easier. The responsibility to fulfill all the words of this Torah are upon us and our descendants forever!
THE BAAL TESHUVA MOVEMENT AND THE RETURN TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL
Our Parsha brings the prophecy:
"You will return to God and listen to Him with all your heart and soul. And God will return your exiles and gather you from all the nations He has scattered you. Even if you will be scattered to the ends of the heavens (a colony on the moon! - Klauzenberger Rebbe) God will take you from there and bring you to the land that your ancestors inherited, and you shall inherit it." (Deut. 30:1-5 paraphrased)
This prophecy has been fulfilled in our own generation. Never before in Jewish history have so many Jews come back to Torah observance.
Many have doubted whether this prophesy would ever be fulfilled. About 400 years ago, Pope Innocent IV claimed that the Jewish people would be punished for not accepting Christianity. He said they would be dispersed around the world (as they already were at the time of his "prophecy") and would never return to Israel!
In 1948, papal scholars claimed that he had been referring to Jerusalem, but since 1967 the Catholic Church has had a difficult theological problem.
IN YOUR MOUTHS AND YOUR HEARTS
"Because this Mitzvah is not far away from you, not in Heaven or on the other side of the ocean. The matter is very close to you, in your mouths and hearts to fulfill it." (Deut. 30:11)
According to Rashi, the Mitzvah that this verse is referring to is Torah study. The lazy person claims that "the Torah is far away, beyond my reach." In truth, it is all in your mouth and heart (the angel teaches every baby in the womb all wisdom, which they later forget - Midrash) and then you must fulfill them!
According to Nachmanides, this verse refers back to the Mitzvah of Teshuva (return) that was mentioned previously. When one finds oneself far from God, there are three easy steps to return:
(1) Confession (before God alone).
(2) Regret for past mistakes. (e.g. "If I had known the severity of the consequences, I would never have committed those acts!")
(3) Acceptance to fulfill all the above, and never to repeat this mistake again.
In his list of Mitzvot, Maimonides only counts "confession" as a Mitzvah. But without regret or acceptance there is no meaning in confession alone. ("Please forgive me, Mr. Jack, I'm not sorry and will repeat the performance tomorrow!") This is hinted at in the above verse: "In your mouths (confession) in your hearts (regret) to fulfill it (acceptance)."
NOT IN HEAVEN
"Torah is not in Heaven." If someone claims they went to Heaven and received a "New and Improved Torah," don't believe him. It is not there anymore! God gave the Jewish people custody of the Torah and it's been handed down to all the generations. (Rabbi S.R. Hirsch)
"And Moses went" (Deut. 31:1)
Question: Where did he go?
Answer: The tent of Moses was outside the camp of the Israelites. When Moses desired to gather the people, he would have the trumpets blown (see Numbers 10:7). On this day, his last day on earth, it would not be fitting to display the trappings of royalty, so Moses walked into the camp to address the people.
Others explain that Moses purposely displayed his physical stamina by energetically walking in front of the people. Showing that he was physically fit at the age of 120, his next words, "I am unable to go out and come in," refer to Torah. When the gates of Torah were closed, Moses had no desire to live.
The great Rabbi Boruch Ber Lebowitz of Kaminetz (in Lithuania) heard someone proclaim, "Without Torah we cannot live!" The rabbi reportedly exclaimed, "And even if we could - who would want to?!"
WHOSE FAULT IS IT?
"God said to Moses: When you die, this nation will follow strange gods of the land. They will abandon Me and violate the covenant we have made. I will then be angry with them, and hide My face from them - and they will be consumed by the enemy.
"Beset by evils and troubles (as a result of their deeds), they will say: 'It is because God is no longer with me that these evils things have found me.' And I will hide My face from them for all the evil that they have done.
"And now, write down this song (referring to the poem of Hazinu, also hinting to the Mitzvah of writing a Torah scroll), and teach it to the people. This song will be a witness. When I bring them into the land that I promised to their ancestors, flowing with milk and honey, they will eat and be satisfied and live in luxury. They will then turn to other gods and anger Me and break My covenant. When they are beset by evils and troubles, this poem will testify because it will never be forgotten by your descendants." (Deut. 31:16-21)
An analogy will help us understand these verses: A widower with 10 children decided to remarry, and the stepmother had the task of raising the children. One day the stepmother and the children came to the rabbi to mediate their differences.
"She doesn't feed us!" claimed the children.
"True!" replied the stepmother, "but they refuse to obey me."
"True!" replied the children, "but she doesn't feed us!"
Who is at fault? The children don't obey because she doesn't feed them. She doesn't feed them because they don't obey.
The rabbi requested to meet with the neighbors who remembered the biological mother. She definitely fed them. If they were good children then, it proves that the stepmother is at fault. If however, they did not obey the real mother either, that proves the children are at fault.
This is the analogy of the Jewish people. We find ourselves in exile, and God turns His face away (we don't feel His presence). The result is that we deteriorate into non-Torah lives and pay the price in suffering. The people claim that assimilation is caused by the harsh exile: "Because God is not in my midst have these problems found me" (Deut. 31:17).
God replies that the exile is a result of the people turning away: "And I will hide My face from them for all the evil that they have done" (Deut. 31:18).
How is it determined who is at fault? God is warning us in advance: You are about to enter the Holy Land (the motherland, so to speak), where you will have everything good (flowing with milk and honey), and you will still forsake My covenant and worship idols! This will testify that you are at fault and may not use "exile" as an excuse. On the contrary, when the Jewish people turn back to Torah, the exile will end. (Kehilat Yitzchak)
The Parsha ends with Moses' disclaimer:
"I recognize your rebelliousness and stubbornness. Even when I am alive among you today, you rebel against God, certainly after my death! Gather the elders and I will testify heaven and earth. Because I know that after my death, the people will go off the path I have led them, and will anger God." (Deut. 31:27-29)
Rabbi S.R. Hirsch comments (paraphrased): "Nothing could prove the Divine origin of the mission of Moses as much as these verses. If the 'Law of Moses' were indeed only laws written by Moses, the world could show no greater fool than Moses! What greater folly than to give laws which are so completely opposed to the ideas and inclinations of the people for whom they are meant. Even the lawgiver himself is fully aware that for centuries to come the people will not have accepted the Law, nor the Law accept the people.
"And for the final achievement of the intended aim, to appoint no other guarantors than 'heaven and earth,' and no other means than the Book of the Law and its teachings - which in spite of all will not be lost to their children and children's children!
"And if now, we look back at these past thousands of years of this people and this 'Book of Moses,' and consider how finally and just in times of the worst sufferings, this people has attached itself so deeply to this Torah, that for its sake it has endured unparalleled world-historic martyrdom, and this Torah has become the 'eagle wings' on which God's rule has carried the Jewish people above all its trials in the midst of a world which offered it only enmity and scorn, misunderstanding and bitterness, into fresh powers of spirit and life. It has become the source of Life and Truth out of which the nations drink. It is the Tree of Life, its seeds carried by its scattered children to all mankind...
"What thinking person, when he reads the final avowal of Moses - and then allows his mind to pass over the history of this people and this book - can refrain from acknowledging that this Torah is not the work of Moses, but the Law of God Whose messenger you were, so the Jewish people and the Torah are and remain the directing finger of God to mankind." http://www.aish.com/print/?contentID=48954681§ion=/tp/i/ky
- 15 for ye know how we dwelt in the land of Egypt; and how we came through the midst of the nations through which ye passed; 16 and ye have seen their detestable things, and their idols, wood and stone, silver and gold, which were with them—
Unfortunately with mass media we too have seen detestable things of all societies from the immodesty and immorality of one to the murder and plunder of another. On face value this is the gods and idols of others. From man-made religions today that murders their members and Infidels to other off-shoots of Judaism that cause Crusades and Inquisition to murder Jews in order that they should bow down before a statue of a crucified Jew whom the Romans murdered.
17 lest there should be among you man, or woman, or family, or tribe, whose heart turns away this day from the LORD our God, to go to serve the gods of those nations; lest there should be among you a root that bears gall and wormwood; 18 and it come to pass, when he hears the words of this curse, that he bless himself in his heart, saying: 'I shall have peace, though I walk in the stubbornness of my heart--that the watered be swept away with the dry'; 19 the LORD will not be willing to pardon him, but then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy shall be kindled against that man, and all the curse that is written in this book shall lie upon him, and the LORD shall blot out his name from under heaven; 20 and the LORD shall separate him unto evil out of all the tribes of Israel, according to all the curses of the covenant that is written in this book of the law. 21 And the generation to come, your children that shall rise up after you, and the foreigner that shall come from a far land, shall say, when they see the plagues of that land, and the sicknesses wherewith the LORD hath made it sick; 22 and that the whole land thereof is brimstone, and salt, and a burning, that it is not sown, nor bears, nor any grass grows therein, like the overthrow of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in His anger, and in His wrath; 23 even all the nations shall say 'Wherefore hath the LORD done thus unto this land?
For more of a description read Samuel Clemens’ visit to Eretz Yisrael and his description of a barren land because of the wrath.
What means the heat of this great anger?' 24 then men shall say: 'Because they forsook the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, which He made with them when He brought them forth out of the land of Egypt; 25 and went and served other gods, and worshipped them, gods that they knew not, and that He had not allotted unto them; 26 therefore the anger of the LORD was kindled against this land, to bring upon it all the curse that is written in this book; 27 and the LORD rooted them out of their land in anger, and in wrath, and in great indignation, and cast them into another land, as it is this day'.-- 28 The secret things belong unto the LORD our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.
Oops this does not below to a great Arab Nation and Palestinians or what-do-you-call-it but to Am Yisrael for NETZACH NETZACHIM!
Chapter 30 mentions a people scatter all over the earth from the Jews in the Congo to the Bnei Menashe in the Himalayas to the Apache, Cherokee and other tribes in the Americas and they shall return. Even Marannos and converted Jews shall return from the places where the Inquisition sent them and our people will be One and Our G-D will be One.
30:1 And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt bethink thyself among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 and shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and hearken to His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart, and with all thy soul; 3 that then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the peoples, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. 4 If any of thine that are dispersed be in the uttermost parts of heaven, from thence will the LORD thy God gather thee, and from thence will He fetch thee. 5 And the LORD thy God will bring thee into the land which thy fathers possessed, and thou shalt possess it; and He will do thee good, and multiply thee above thy fathers. … 19 I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the blessing and the curse; therefore choose life, that thou may live, thou and thy seed; 20 to love the LORD thy God, to hearken to His voice, and to cleave unto Him; for that is thy life, and the length of thy days; that thou may dwell in the land which the LORD swore unto thy fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them.
31:1 And Moses went and spoke these words unto all Israel. 2 And he said unto them: 'I am a hundred and twenty years old this day; I can no more go out and come in; and the LORD hath said unto me: Thou shalt not go over this Jordan. 3 The LORD thy God, He will go over before thee; He will destroy these nations from before thee, and thou shalt dispossess them; and Joshua, he shall go over before thee, as the LORD hath spoken. 4 And the LORD will do unto them as He did to Sihon and to Og, the kings of the Amorites, and unto their land; whom He destroyed. 5 And the LORD will deliver them up before you, and ye shall do unto them according unto all the commandment which I have commanded you. 6 Be strong and of good courage, fear not, nor be affrighted at them; for the LORD thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.' 7 And Moses called unto Joshua, and said unto him in the sight of all Israel: 'Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt go with this people into the land which the LORD hath sworn unto their fathers to give them; and thou shalt cause them to inherit it.
18 And I will surely hide My face in that day for all the evil which they shall have wrought, in that they are turned unto other gods.
Rabbi Zev Leff Shlita wrote: Maimonides says that this admission of guilt and regret is still not a full confession, and therefore God continues to hide His face. But the hiding is different: no longer is it a hiding of God's mercy, allowing evil to befall them, but rather a hiding of the ultimate redemption. That change in God's relationship contains a hint to their ultimate redemption when their repentance is complete.
To better understand this, we must first understand the function of verbal confession in the Teshuva process. Sefer HaChinuch (Mitzvah 364) offers two explanations of the benefit of verbal confession. First, verbalizing one's repentance creates the feeling of conversing with a second party, which, in turn, sensitizes a person to the reality of God's presence, God's awareness of his every deed, and the need to render an account before God. The greater a person's awareness that his sin was one in God's presence, with His full knowledge, the greater His shame and regret.
Secondly, verbal expression intensifies the process and leaves a more lasting effect.
In addition to regret over the past, Teshuva also requires a commitment not to repeat the sin again. That commitment must be so decisive, resolute, and firm that God Himself can testify that at the moment of confession, the sinner does not contemplate ever committing that sin again. Just as a vow to do (or not to do) something in the future requires verbal expression, so, too, does the commitment not to repeat past sins.
Sefer Yerey'im specifies another dimension to verbal confession - supplication for atonement. There must be a clear recognition of the seriousness of the damage caused by the sin, both in terms of the damage to one's soul and one's relationship to God, and in terms of the effect on the world by closing the conduits of blessing. For this, one must entreat God to forgive, heal and repair the damage. Just as prayer and supplication must be verbalized to establish a feeling of communication, so, too must one's entreaty for atonement.
...' 22 So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it the children of Israel. 23 And he gave Joshua the son of Nun a charge, and said: 'Be strong and of good courage; for thou shalt bring the children of Israel into the land which I swore unto them; and I will be with thee.'
Halacha from Danny Schoemann
Since the Mitzvah of Sukkah is to move out of the house and into the Sukkah for the duration of Sukkoth, one should really sleep in the Sukkah.
... People who are meticulous about their Mitzvah observance will not even take a nap outside the Sukkah. Their entire family moves into the Sukkah; husband, wife and children.
There are numerous reasons why not to sleep in a Sukkah. However, if the Sukkah is not fit for sleeping (eg it's too dangerous) then the Sukkah is not Kosher even for eating in. The slightest precipitation renders the Sukkah unfit for sleeping and one should then sleep indoors. Once one lies down inside one is exempt from returning to the Sukkah the entire night, even if the Sukkah subsequently dries. Women are exempt from the Mitzvah of Sukkah, as it's a time-bound Mitzvah.
Source: Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 135:8, 9, 10
Other reasons this year because Sukkos is very late in Northern Latitudes, it might be too cold to sleep in the Sukkah – although this does not bother many. Mosquitos and other pests such as scorpions might infiltrate the Sukkah.
Go to http://halachafortoday.com/ArchivesHalachosofRightiesandLefties.aspx for a full overview of all Halachos related to lefties.
Regarding the Lulav and Esrog, this is what he writes:
According to the Mechaber (Rav Yosef Cairo, author of the Shulchan Aruch) a left handed person follows the same procedure and holds the Lulav in the right hand and the Esrog in the left hand, as since the Lulav has in it three Mitzvos (ie 3 of the 4 species) and the Esrog is only one Mitzvah, the item with more Mitzvos is held in the more highly regarded hand. Most Sephardic Jews follow this ruling. (Shulchan Aruch Siman 651:3 and Mishna Berura S"K 18)
However, the Rama (ibid.) rules that left handed people should switch the order and hold the Lulav in their strong hand (left) and the Esrog in their weaker hand (right). Most Ashkenazic Jews follow this ruling.
An ambidextrous person should take the Lulav in his right hand and the Esrog in the left hand. (ibid.)
If the Lulav was held in the wrong hand, the obligation has been satisfied (Rama ibid.)
However, if it was taken in the wrong hands it is best to be stringent and take the Lulav and Esrog again in the correct hands without reciting a new Bracha. (Mishna Berura S"K 19)
Many left handed people are stringent after taking the Lulav in their left and the Esrog in their right (or vice versa) to repeat the process the other way around (without a new Bracha) to satisfy the rulings of both the Shulchan Aruch and the Rama. (See Kaf HaChaim 651:38. See also Orchos Rabbeinu Vol. 2 page 288 that the Steipler Zatzal, who was a lefty and an Ashkenazi, followed the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch regarding this Halacha and not the Rama)
Go to http://halachafortoday.com/ArchivesHalachosofRightiesandLefties.aspx
for a full overview of all Halachos related to lefties, including what lefties do in the following cases:
- The groom uses his right hand to hold the ring and to place it onto the right index finger of the bride
- When putting on shoes in the morning, one first puts on the right shoe, but first ties the left one
- When putting on an article of clothing, one should start with covering the right side
- The right hand should be washed first
- Holding the Tzitzis in one's left hands, near the heart, during the recitation of Krias Shema
- Tefillin which are bound to the left arm
- Covering one's eyes with the right hand when saying the first Pasuk of Shema
- After completing Shemona Esrey, bowing to the right, then to the left
- Handing over and holding or carrying a Sefer Torah with one's right hand
- A "Kos Shel Bracha" - the cup of wine should be held in one's right hand
- At the Seder, there is a Mitzvah to eat while leaning on one's left
- Tearing Kriah for mourners
- The Shofar should be placed on the right side of one's mouth
- Viddui; pounding one's heart with the right hand
- When setting up and holding the Arba Minim, the three Hadasim (myrtle) should be tied onto the right side
All the Halachos at http://halachafortoday.com/ArchivesHalachosofRightiesandLefties.aspx are based on a Sefer titled "Ish Iter- The left handed person" by HaRav Chaim Kanyefski Shlita
THIS YEAR ROSH HASHANAH FALLS AT SUNDOWN ON WEDNESDAY AND LASTS TWO DAYS. THUS SHABBOS STARTS FROM THE SECOND DAY OF YOM TOV AND WE HAVE THREE DAYS TOGETHER. OUTSIDE OF ISRAEL THIS WILL ALSO APPLY TO SUKKOS AND SIMCHAS TORAH. WE NEED TO MAKE AN ERUV TAVSHILLIN AS DESCRIBED IN THE PAST. THIS IS A REMINDER. Basically one takes a roll or Matza and a can of tuna or sardines and/or a hardboiled egg put it aside for the third meal of Shabbos and make the blessing as written in the Siddur “who has commanded us concerning the Eruv” and then say the words in Aramaic which one translates into Hebrew or your Native Tongue for understanding regarding giving us and everybody in the city the ability to cook from Yom Tov to Shabbos. For the Halachos of the Rambam on this go to: http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/936040/jewish/Chapter-Six.htm
The Rabbis and many in the Congregation do not like talking in the Schul at anytime. Sometimes one hears a Mazel Tov after somebody gets an Aliyah and asks his neighbor about what but usually one should be quiet. From the start of Mussaf on Rosh Hashanah until the last blowing of the Shofar Sets, one must not interrupt by talking and even children should be cautioned to be quiet. In Orthodox Synagogues where even young children are encouraged to make the Schul their home away from home and often play outside while the parents play they should be cautioned by the parent. A child old enough to read the Siddur should be cautioned about this Halacha but it is very hard at that age to sit still for a few hours. An older child closer to Bar Mitzvah has more expectations from the Parents.
Some Customs and thoughts for Rosh Hashanah and even of mature love
When we arrive home at night, make Kiddush and wash for bread something out of the ordinary occurs. Essentially there are three holidays where we change our customs. The first is Pessach when we make a Seder and eat only Matzos. The second is Sukkos when we leave the house (except on rainy days) to eat in the Sukkah. And the Third is Rosh Hashanah when we have good signs or Segulos for a good year.
Many people eat bread dipped in honey. After the initial bite they say (Yehe Ratzon meal-phanecha) May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that we have a sweet year.
The first sign is that we take dates (Tamarim) We make a Bore Pri HaEtz. May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers (sheh yetamu sonaynu) that our detractors will become stupid aka neutralized.
The second sign is taking (Rubiya) increase/multiply black-eyed peas in some places carrots. We make a Bore Pri HaAdamah. May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that (sheh yerabu zechuyosaynu) will multiply our merits.
We then take (Car-tee) Leek. May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that (sheh yetcartu sonaynu) will cut off our detractors.
We then take (sill-ca) beet leaves in case they are unobtainable beets will do. May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that (sheh yestalku oveyanu) our enemies shall disperse.
We then take (Kara) which is a mini-gourd or light green squash. May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that (sheh yekara gezar dinaynu veyikro lephanaka zechuyosaynu) our judgement be ripped up and that our merits be read before YOU.
The next Segula is to take an apple and dip it in honey. ) May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that (sheh yeheyeh lanu shana mutuka ke davash) we should have a sweet year like honey (is sweet).
At this point we take the pomegranate and say - May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that (sheh nerabear zechuyosaynu ke rimon) will multiply our merits like the seeds of the pomegranate.
Some take the head of a fish others just fish: May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that (sheh yeheyeh le Rosh v’lo lezanav) That we should be a head and not a tail in our deals. (some take the head of a sheep – I take tongues) So the alternate group skips this now for later. Also said is: ) May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that (sheh netrapa v’nit raba) we should be fruitful and multiply.
The custom that I started is beside being a head - ) May it be your will HASHEM ELOKAYNU of our fathers that (sheh yeheye shana sheh Shmiras HaLashon) will be a year of guarding ones tongue.
On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur will be sealed how many will pass from the earth and how many will be created; who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire, who by sword, who by beast, who by famine, who by thirst, who by storm, who by plague, who by strangulation, and who by stoning. Who will rest and who will wander, who will live in harmony and who will be harried, who will enjoy tranquility and who will suffer, who will be impoverished and who will be enriched, who will be degraded and who will be exalted.
How awesome is this day and the meantime we are like the story told by Rabbi Chaim Soleveichik well over a century ago and told to me by Rabbi Boyer. Who does not fear and tremble on this day. A bunch of people wanted to flee the Czar paid a border runner in contraband money to help them flee the Imperial Realm of the Czar. They were nervous most of the way and as they approached the border started shivering in fear. Even the driver had the adrenaline go through his veins. Who was calm during the whole trip? – The horses pulling the carriage. While the whole earth is being judged the non-Jews are going about their business with or without sinning as usual. The Jews are trembling even though we are not alone to be judged on this day of awe.
We have seen earthquakes where there were none recorded in the last four hundred years and a Tsunami that caused a nuclear disaster and killed and destroyed many things in its path. We have seen flooding, extra-ordinary tornadoes, over of a month of record high temperatures and a terrible drought in Texas. We have seen miracles and wonders and tragedies and now we are being judged for what is ahead in the coming years. Who does not tremble as we approach the border between life and death.
A Rabbi is not a Catholic Priest, whom one goes to make a confession, to but a guide, advisor and perhaps like a good friend. This week in my last ethics writing before Rosh Hashanah, the month of Elul leaves an opening for all to repent without a confession to a Rabbi but before HASHEM Yisborach. It is time for people to return unto the L-RD G-D and to avoid the evil ways.
As much as I am involved in trying to be healthy and personal weight loss, I do not believe that the government of the United States should be in the business of regulating restaurant food and diet. One should repent by himself and as we do in Elul and Tishrei regulate our own behavior. I do not need any other food police but my own will power for otherwise one will eat the contraband fries, hamburgers and ice cream cake.
The preacher with a bad idea – famed Evangelist Pat Roberson called on spouses of Alzheimer patients to get a divorce. In Jewish Halacha it might not be possible for a man to divorce a wife in that shape but might be able to get a Heter of 100 Rabbis to take on a second wife. A woman on the other hand could not get a divorce from a mental incompetent person. When my mother was suffering, I saw a Shoah victim visit his wife daily from the morning to the evening and just hold her hand and he was quite normal. Professor Chaim of the Technion went quickly downhill and yet his wife visited him daily and so did the wife of Morris. Anybody wanting a divorce did not have an ounce of love and respect in the first place for the person. Folks realize your obligations and accept the tests from HASHEM. I guess if I ever felt that I was going downhill, I would get together a Beis Din to give my wife a divorce on condition and I am almost certain that she would not accept it.
The Sages taught that there is no Guarantor or Guardian for Sexual Mischief. I sit in my office and read about what is going on in the world. A few Charedi Men got together and petitioned the Yerushalayim City Council to make a playground in their neighborhood. It sounded nice enough – respected men aged 45 to 53 in their community. However, the playground became a trap for their sexual orgies on helpless children. The police put a stop to this disgusting degradation of the HOLY NAME OF HASHEM aka Chillul HASHEM. Women are not exempt from this a 44 year old Hockey Mom in the USA was arrested for having relations with two boys from her son’s team. HASHEM knows what we do in private. If one must, then repent and resolve to do things kosher from now on.
Lastly I would be negligent if I would only read the Eben HaEzer about the laws of choosing the right spouse, marriage, Ketuba and divorce laws without looking into ways to make and keep Shalom Beis as we all change over the years. When young Sam met Mary at the ages of 9 and 10 respectively they had different values and ideas and ways of sharing and caring than they did when Sam passed away close to 70 from a heart failure but not because of love. They grew with each other left their home in Canada and moved with their 5 children to Israel. This is not their story but a similar story of a couple with children who moved.
You’ve seen the pictures and watched the news. Rivers overflowing, homes bashed down, basements flooded and a lifetime of memories washed away. People have inquired about natural disaster insurance and ‘what about next time?’
I started thinking about it. We work tirelessly building our homes. Marriages and relationships take great effort. We put in our best years. We sacrifice. We look away at slights. We open our hearts. We love more than we ever thought possible. There are times that we are fatigued but still, we keep at it.
And then one day there is a hurricane. Somehow a strange wind starts to blow. Doors slam. Painful words are exchanged. We don’t recognize the person sitting beside us. After the storm a painful silence overtakes us.
Can this home be saved?
Is there a way we can invest in love insurance before disaster strikes?
Andrew and Melanie made a beautiful couple. They were the perfect newlyweds, starry-eyed with their whole life ahead of them. Andrew attended a prestigious law school and Melanie worked as a beloved kindergarten teacher. A few years passed. They were part of a warm community, had two children and made their urban apartment into a home.
Andrew was deluged with great job offers. He was an outstanding student in school and obviously on his way to climbing the ladder of success. It was at this point that Andrew and Melanie asked to meet with me. They had attended a few classes where we had spoken about the sanctity of marriage and relationships. They said that they had some ‘issues’ – a code word for everything and nothing.
We met at a local café. We took a corner table for privacy and I asked them to tell their story.
Andrew began to speak. I could see that he would one day become a great lawyer. He explained that he was given a job offer in a beautiful country overseas. The pay was incredible. A grand apartment was part of the package. The law firm was well known and offered great prestige and connections. He wanted very much to take the offer and go.
“But I’m scared,” Melanie interjected. “I love our life here. The kids are happy. We live in a vibrant Jewish community. We have a good life together. Why should we jeopardize all this for the unknown?”
I could see the frustration on Andrew’s face. He wanted to move on. He wanted to take a chance and explore the possibilities. He wanted to taste success. Andrew was annoyed as he went through his thought process again and again.
The gulf between this couple began to expand in front of my eyes. I saw its vast width extend greater as the conversation grew more intense. Melanie wiped her tears with the corner of her napkin. Andrew was not moved.
After much time, we came up with this compromise. Andrew and Melanie would move but it would be a temporary move. Melanie promised to give it her best shot but if after one year Melanie was unhappy, her wishes would have to be respected. They would return home.
Melanie asked to speak. “My greatest fear is losing the sense of family that we have here. I’ve worked so hard on our Friday nights. Our children love when friends come over and join us for Shabbat dinner. Andrew is connected to spirituality when we come to class and study with other couples. What happens when we move and maybe lose all this?”
I asked Andrew to make a promise. No matter how successful he’d become, no matter how long his hours, or how thrilling his office life would seem, he must give us his word that he would never take his family for granted. He would be there every week at the head of his Shabbat table, sharing time with his wife and children. During the week he and Melanie would carve out some alone time so that they would not lose touch. He would join the local rabbi in Torah study and remain connected with his soul.
The couple left holding hands. There was a feeling of hope that vibrated between them.
When the day came for Andrew and Melanie to leave, they called to say goodbye. I wished them well and reminded Andrew of his promise. He chuckled and agreed once again to make sure that he would keep his family and marriage as his greatest priority.
Melanie has kept in touch sporadically. She is working on getting acclimated and putting great effort into bringing a happy feeling into their home despite her reluctance with the move. The kids are gradually adjusting and Andrew is enjoying his new job. Hours are long but he is trying to keep his promise. He has come home for Shabbat dinner and joined a local study group. Though it has not always been smooth sailing, Andrew and Melissa have invested in their love and the dividends are beginning to pay off.
This new year, commit to taking the time and energy to invest in love insurance.
It does not only have to be an overseas move that threatens to divide us. Many challenges can bring chaos into our relationships. What can we do to invest in ‘love insurance’ before calamity strikes?
Beginning this moment, you can make choices that will protect your family and bring a sense of peace into your home.
- Nurture Friendship with your Spouse
It is not enough to discuss the kids, the bills, and what to do about the leak in the basement. This will not make our love flourish. Marriage needs nurturing. We must keep the spark alive. We need to nourish the friendship that helps us grow to love and trust each other. We need to speak about our hopes and dreams, share our thoughts, laugh together, and sooth each other’s hurts. Not a day should go by that we do not give to our spouse as we would to a best friend; even giving a kind word or smile. We need to take the time out from our busy schedules to listen and be sure that we are not simply coexisting. And FYI, time carved out to communicate does not mean texting each other throughout the day.
- Be Loyal
Too often we mock the weaknesses that we see in our loved one. We joke at their expense in public, sarcastically ridicule their mistakes, and knock them in front of the kids. When spouses put each other down, the respect and trust that we have slowly erodes. We don’t think about the effects of our rolling eyes and sharp little comments. But the sting remains, and the damage lasts longer than we could’ve imagined. We can accomplish so much more by recognizing positive traits than seeking out the negative.
- Establish Meaningful Traditions
Time together anchors us. Whether it is Friday night dinners or treasured repeat vacation spots; these are the moments that connect us. Familiar rituals bond us and give us cherished memories. Taking time out to spend with your spouse relays the message that ‘you are important to me’ and ‘I love spending my life with you’. You are showing that you are committed to this relationship. For some husbands and wives, it is a weekly walk or bike ride. For others, it is a favorite ice cream jaunt where they can easily enjoy each other’s company. The most important point is that you find what works for you and never become too busy or preoccupied for the one you love.
We can make a difference and shield ourselves from hurt through the love that we create. This new year, commit to taking the time and energy to invest in love insurance.
Mirror Mirror on the Wall by Rav Yerachmiel Tilles followed by Crossword Puzzle
Once in his travels, Rabbi Shneur Zalman stopped in a certain city. While he was there, a house caught on fire. The Rebbe asked to be taken to the neighborhood where the fire was. When he arrived at the scene, a group of Russian soldiers from the local garrison where trying in vain to extinguish it. The Rebbe stood in front of the blazing home and leaned on his cane. He remained utterly still for a few moments. Suddenly the fire died down.
The exhausted soldiers could barely believe the evidence of their eyes. They ran to report the astonishing turn of events to their commanding officer. He listened calmly, them sent a delegation of soldiers to ask the Rebbe to come to see him. When the Rebbe arrived, the officer asked him, “Are you by chance the son or grandson of the Jewish holy man known as the Baal Shem Tov?”
The Rebbe told him that he is not actually a blood relative, but he considers himself his spiritual grandson because he was a disciple of the main disciple and successor of the Baal Shem Tov. “If so,” remarked the officer, “I am no longer amazed at what you did today. Come, sit down, and I will tell you a story about my deceased father and the Baal Shem Tov.
“My father carried the rank of general. Once he came with his troops to the village of Mezibuz shortly before your holiday of Passover. My father then was deeply troubled because many weeks had passed since he had not received a letter or any message at all from his wife. Brooding, with his imagination running wild, he confided his distress to a few local residents whom he was friendly with. They immediately suggested that perhaps he should seek the advice of the holy Jew who lived in their town, who was a wonder maker and revealer of secrets.
“My father sent a soldier to the Baal Shem Tov to request an appointment. Much to his surprise, the Baal Shem Tov refused to see the soldier. He sent another soldier, but still the Baal Shem Tov refused. Well, my father was annoyed, but he knew about you Jews and your holidays. He sent another delegation, this time with the threat that if he does not grant the general an interview, he would billet his troops in the Jewish community, causing loads of bread and other chametz food to be brought into the home of every Jew in the village during the days of preparing for Passover!
“The threat worked. The Baal Shem Tov sent back a message inviting the general, my father, to his home. He went there right away, bringing with him one of his subordinates.
“Upon entering the front room, they right away saw through the open doorway that the Baal Shem Tov was sitting in the second room, totally absorbed in the book in front of him (which my father subsequently found out was called Zohar). However, before he could enter or even knock on the door, my father’s attention was caught by a large mirror on the wall in the front room.
“He went over to it, having decided to comb his hair before going in to greet the Rabbi. He glanced at the mirror, and to his astonishment, instead of himself he saw in it scenery that resembled the outskirts of his home town. Upon closer examination, he saw the paved road that led right to his own house. Totally startled, he shouted to his staff officer to come quickly and see.
“The two of them stared. Suddenly they could see inside the house, where the general’s wife was sitting at a table, writing a letter to her husband! They were even able to see the letter clearly enough to read it. In it, she had apologized for the long break in communication, and that it was due to her pregnancy and delivery of a baby boy. Both mother and son were doing well.
“My father was overwhelmed by the vision in the mirror. He thanked the Baal Shem Tov profusely. A while after, he received a letter in the mail from his wife, identical to what he had seen in the mirror. At that point, my father wrote down the whole story in detail in his personal diary.
“I,” concluded the commanding officer to the Rabbi Shneur Zalman, “am the son whose birth was referred to in that letter! Also, the journal in which my father recorded this event is in my possession. If you will stay a bit longer, I will be happy to show it to you.”
And he did.
[Source: Freely adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from the rendition in A Treasury of Chassidic Tales (Artscroll).]
Rabbi Yisrael, the Baal Shem Tov [“master of the good Name”], a unique and seminal figure in Jewish history, revealed the Chassidic movement and his own identity as an exceptionally holy person, on his 36th birthday, 18 Elul 1734. He passed away on the festival of Shavuot in 1760. He wrote no books, although many claim to contain his teachings. One available in English is the excellent annotated translation of Tzava’at Harivash, published by Kehos.
Rabbi Shnuer Zalman [18 Elul 1745-24 Tevet 1812], one of the main disciples of the Maggid of Mezritch, is the founder of the Chabad-Chassidic movement. He is the author of Shulchan Aruch HaRav and Tanya as well as many other major works in both Jewish law and the mystical teachings.
One Friday, the famed Chassidic master the “Seer” of Lublin was traveling with some of his disciples when they arrived at a crossroads. The wagon driver asked which way to turn. Surprisingly, the Seer didn’t seem to know what to answer. Shrugging, he said, “Loosen the reins. Let the horses go in whichever direction they will.”
After a while, they arrived at a town. After several enquiries, they soon realized that not only was this not the place they were seeking, they weren’t even on the right road. “It’s late. We’ll stay here for Shabbat,” the Seer announced. Then he added, “But don’t reveal my identity to anyone or tell them that I am a Rebbe.”
His followers were shocked. They had no money because the Seer never allowed any to be kept overnight. However much he had in his possession would be distributed to poor people before nightfall. If his identity were to be kept secret, how would they be able to provide for themselves for Shabbat? When they asked him, he replied,
“We’ll do like all Jewish travelers. We’ll go to [Ascent or] the local Schul tonight, and people will invite us when they see we have no place to go.”
And so they did. They prayed at the back of the Schul, and afterwards, all of the Rebbe’s students and attendants were invited individually to different homes. The Seer, however, was left in the Schul. He always took a long time for the Shabbat Evening prayers and this week was no exception. By the time he finished, everyone was gone.
In fact, there was just one other person in the Schul, an old man of at least eighty years. He saw that the stranger was sitting and reciting “Tikunei Shabbat” (selected passages usually recited during the course of the meal on Friday night).
“Where are you going for your Shabbat meal?” he asked the Seer.
“I don’t know.”
“Why don’t you eat at the inn where you are staying?” questioned the elderly man, concerned. “If it is a problem of money, after Shabbat I’ll collect some money to pay your bill.”
“I saw they didn’t light Shabbat candles, so I presume that I cannot trust the kashrut of the food they serve there.”
“I’m sorry,” murmured the older man, “but at my house my wife and I will have only bread and wine.”
“I’m neither a glutton nor a guzzler.” “Come along then,” said the apprehensive host. The Seer followed meekly.
After Kiddush and HaMotzei, while they were sitting calmly at the table, the elderly man asked him where he was from. Upon hearing his answer, he next asked him if he knew the Rebbe of Lublin. “I am always with him,” was the Seer’s response.
“That’s wonderful,” said his host. “Please tell me something about him.”
“Why do you want to know about him?” queried the Seer.
“Because,” said the man, “I was his teacher in Cheder (classroom) when he was young boy, and he was not noticeably exceptional in his studies. Now I hear that he is a great rabbi and does miracles.”
“Did you notice anything unusual about him when he was a child?” the Seer asked.
“Only one thing,” the retired teacher replied. “Each morning, when it would be his turn to read from the siddur, I could never find him. He vanished! Later, when he would re-appear, I would punish him for his unauthorized absence. One day, I decided, ‘Enough already! I ought to find out where he disappears to.’ I watched him closely out of the corner of my eye. When he exited the room I slipped out after him, keeping a good distance between us so he wouldn’t sense my presence. He went into the forest. I followed. I peered through the trees and there he was, sitting next to a hive, being stung, and crying out, ‘Shema Yisrael Ad-ny Elokaynu Ad-ny Ehud!’
After that, I never punished him again.
Now, after all these years, I would like very much to be able to see him in his glory, but I don’t know how it can be. I’m very poor and I’ve become weak in my old age, so it is impossible for me to make the journey to Lublin. Nevertheless, my desire is so strong, I fast one day a week that I should have the merit to see him with my own eyes.”
Finally, the Seer understood why events had been directed to bring him to this particular town. Looking fondly at his host, he acknowledged gently, “I am he, the Rebbe of Lublin.”
The old man fainted instantly. His wife and special guest were able to revive him only after great difficulty.
That Saturday night the Seer and his entourage departed the town and continued their journey. The elderly man escorted them briefly and then returned home. They stopped at the Seer’s request at a not-too- distant village, in order to enjoy the Melaveh Malka repast of Saturday night. After the meal, the Seer said, “Now let us return to that town to attend my childhood teacher’s funeral and to deliver an appropriate eulogy.”
[Source: Translated and adapted by Yerachmiel Tilles from Shemu Vitachi Nafshechem #266.] AXIOM – THERE ARE NO ACCIDENTS – EVERYTHING HAPPENS FROM HASHEM. We many not think it that way like the man who was delayed on getting to the twin towers and his office in a high floor on 9/11/01 because of Selichos or the man who wanted to fly out to CA on the early flight from Boston to return home that evening so that he would have more time with his family instead of the flight that crashed into the first tower.
Rabbi Eleazar ben Dordaya: A Story of Teshuva
One of the cornerstones of Judaism is the possibility of Teshuva - return. Man is endowed with a divine spark which is manifest in his free choice: He can utilize his free choice to emulate God, to seek God. Alternatively man can choose to follow his baser side, and sin. At times, a conscious choice is made, while at times man is pulled as if by a magnet. His animal instincts control him, and he does not utilize his capacity to choose; rather, he chooses not to choose. The result is debasement, impurity and sin. When this happens man can wallow in sin and impurity, sinking to lower and lower levels, or man can choose to break the shackles of ignominy and seek God. At such times, man may identify a different magnet pulling him toward God and away from his own inconsistencies and spiritual pain. This process is known as Teshuva.
But is Teshuva always obtainable? Is it an inalienable right? Can we always return? Or can the abyss become so deep that there is no return? This question is discussed in the Talmud:
Scripture says, "None that go unto her return neither do they attain the paths of life." (Mishlei 2:19) But if they do not return, how can they attain [the paths of life]? ? What it means is that even if they do turn away from it they will not attain the paths of life. Does it mean then that those who repent from idolatry die? [Avoda Zara 17a]
The Talmud teaches that not all sins can be erased. The spiritual scar can be too deep to be removed by mere regret; the penitent will perish his penance notwithstanding. Why repent, then, if death will follow? Rashi grapples with this unavoidable question, and offers a new vantage point: In such a case, death is not necessarily a punishment, but a result of the struggle between good and evil waged within the penitent. The struggle to destroy the powerful evil inclination, which had enjoyed so many victories with this individual, will prove overwhelming for the spiritual resources this person has accrued, and the person will perish.
While death may be seen as the result of the return, death itself can bring about atonement(1) and the penitent can be assured a place in the world to come. In fact, a number of sources regard death as a necessary aspect of atonement in some cases.
R. Matthia b. Heresh asked R. Eleazar b. Azariah in Rome: Have you heard about the four kinds of sins, concerning which R. Ishmael has lectured? He answered: They are three, and with each is repentance connected - If one transgressed a positive commandment and repented, then he is forgiven, before he has moved from his place; as it is said: "Return, O backsliding children." (Yermiyahu 3:14). If he has transgressed a prohibition and repented, then repentance suspends [the punishment] and the Day of Atonement procures atonement, as it is said: "For on this day shall atonement be made for you ... from all your sins." (Vayikra 16:30) If he has committed [a sin to be punished with] extirpation or death through the Bet Din, and repented, then repentance and the Day of Atonement suspend [the punishment thereon], and suffering finishes the atonement, as it is said: "Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with strokes" (Tehillim 89:43). But if he has been guilty of the profanation of the Name, then penitence has no power to suspend punishment, nor the Day of Atonement to procure atonement, nor suffering to finish it, but all of them together suspend the punishment and only death finishes it, as it is said: "And the Lord of hosts revealed Himself in my ears; surely this iniquity shall not be expiated by you till ye die." (Yoma 86a)
Sin and the accompanying pleasure, cause damage to the soul. Some type of atonement is needed to recreate the delicate balance between body and soul. Different types of sin require different types of atonement. The worst type of sin - the desecration of God's name - requires death as atonement.
The Talmud continues and recounts the story of a woman who apparently was guilty of idolatry among the host of sins she had committed:
Was there not that woman who came before R. Hisda confessing to him that the lightest sin that she committed was that her younger son was fathered of her older son? Whereupon R. Hisda said: Get busy in preparing her shrouds - but she did not die. Now, since she refers to her [immoral] act as the lightest sin, it may be assumed that she had also adopted idolatry [and yet she did not die]! - That one did not properly repent, that is why she did not die. (Avoda Zara 17a)
The thesis of the Talmud remains intact; returning from idolatry causes death (as atonement). In this case the Talmud insists that while she was guilty of idolatry, her return was not complete, nor sincere. Hence no death needed to immediately follow in order to guarantee atonement, for no atonement was forthcoming due to the lack of regret. The Talmud retells another version of the same story:
Some have this version: [Is it only] from idolatry that one dies if one repents, but not from other sins. Was there not that woman who came before R. Hisda who said, 'Prepare her shrouds' and she died? - Since she said [of her guilt] that it is one of the lightest, it may be assumed that she was guilty of idolatry also.
This woman did die; the Talmud's thesis is upheld once again - return from idolatry causes death. The Talmud then explores whether idolatry is the only offense with this result and tells us an incredible tale:
And does not one die on renouncing sins other [than idolatry]? Surely it has been taught: It was said of R. Eleazar b. Dordaya that he did not leave out any harlot in the world without coming to her. Once, he heard that there was a certain prostitute in one of the towns by the sea who accepted a purse of coins for her hire. He took a purse of coins and crossed seven rivers for her sake. As he was with her, she blew forth breath and said: 'As this blown breath will not return to its place, so will Eleazar b. Dordaya never be received in repentance.' He thereupon went, sat between two hills and mountains and exclaimed: 'O, ye hills and mountains, plead for mercy for me!' They replied: 'How shall we pray for thee? We stand in need of it ourselves, for it is said, "For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed!" So he exclaimed: 'Heaven and earth, plead for mercy for me!' They, too, replied: How shall we pray for thee? We stand in need of it ourselves, for it is said, "For the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment." He then exclaimed: 'Sun and moon, plead for mercy for me!' But they also replied: 'How shall we pray for thee? We stand in need of it ourselves, for it is said, "Then the moon shall be confounded and the sun ashamed." He exclaimed: Ye stars and constellations plead ye for mercy for me!' Said they: 'How shall we pray for thee? We stand in need of it ourselves, for it is said, "And all the hosts of heaven shall molder away." Said he: The matter then depends upon me alone! He placed his head between his knees, he wept aloud until his soul departed. Then a bat-kol was heard proclaiming: 'Rabbi Eleazar b. Dordaya is destined for the life of the world to come!'(2) Now, here was a case of a sin [other than idolatry] and yet he did die! - In that case, too, since he was so much addicted to immorality it is as [if he had been guilty of] idolatry. Rabbi [on hearing of it] wept and said: One may acquire eternal life after many years, another in one hour! Rabbi also said: Not only are penitents accepted, they are even called 'Rabbi'! [Avoda Zara 17a]
We are told of a habitual sinner who, remarkably, is introduced as "Rabbi", although his behavior is not consistent with this appellation. Careful reading of the passage indicates that he is referred to as "Rabbi" posthumously, and only in retrospect. In life this man was indeed a sinner: he did not teach, nor even study.(3) His only concern was fulfilling his own sordid desires. Only in death does he become a Rabbi.(4)
Even with the issue of ordination cleared, the story remains difficult. What is the meaning of the bizarre behavior of the prostitute, and why does she say what she says? Why does he take her words so seriously? What is the meaning of his conversation with the mountains and hills, the sun and moon and stars? Why does he merit to be called Rabbi? And finally, why does he die?
Whether his dialogue with hills and mountains is real or imagined,(5) it provides a fascinating description of what Teshuva is not. The rejection of his impassioned plea leaves us with the understanding that the answer to man's prayers does not lie in the forces of nature: When it comes to repentance or return, nature cannot help man. The image is stark: Here is a man who succumbed to his own base nature. His desires dictated the type of man he would be, and the forces of nature cannot lead him to spiritual healing.
The message is essential to our understanding the dynamics of Teshuva: Teshuva is not made of worldly stuff. The secret of Teshuva does not lie within the cosmos. Teshuva is metaphysical. It was created before the physical world.(6) Teshuva is a return to God; as God transcends time space and matter, man who forges a relationship with God can transcend his past. This concept can be described utilizing a mathematical formula: Infinite plus finite remains infinite.(7) Reality is God. Only this infinite reality existed before the creation of our physical, limited world. The only aspect of our existence that is "real" is that which is in relationship with this infinite reality - God. Finite man who has a relationship with the infinite God can thus move beyond the physical boundaries of time and space to transcend the mistakes of his past. What is real is the present relationship with God.
Eleazar approaches nature but his efforts are rejected. As far as nature is concerned, man today may stop doing what he did yesterday; rehabilitation is possible, but Teshuva, metaphysical cleansing and healing, is not.
Let us now return to an earlier part of the story. At the point of rapture, air escapes from the woman, and she looks at her client Eleazar and says, "As this air will not return to its place, so will Eleazar b. Dordaya never be received in repentance." Her behavior and words confound us. Does she discuss the spiritual status of all her clients? Is such a service included in her price? The word used in the text is heficha; Rashi explains that a wind (or spirit - Hebrew word is Ruach) blew forth. The first time a derivative of heficha is used in the Torah is when man is given his soul.
Apparently what this woman is saying is that his soul had become impossibly soiled.(8) Her motivation is obscure: Perhaps, being accustomed to having total control of her body and suddenly, unexpectedly, losing that control, enables her to recognize that Eleazar is lost in a similar way.(9) This shocks Eleazar: He always thought of himself as redeemable; he probably didn't think he was all that bad. He probably told himself that he was a decent fellow who just likes to party a bit, never noticing the extent to which he had deteriorated spiritually. He thought of himself as a basically decent person who would always be able to mend his ways. Suddenly, this woman's cynical laugh tells him that he is hopeless. He is devastated by the mere thought and decides, then and there, to seek change.
He seeks a way back but is told that he is hopelessly degenerate, suffering from malignant deterioration. This may be the meaning of his name 'Ben Durdaya' - the son of hitdardarut, the one who deteriorated further and further until all seemed lost.(10)
His first name, though, is Eleazar, which means 'God can help'. No matter how far any sinner deteriorates he remains Eleazar, God can always help. When he walks away from the prostitute, separating himself from his sin, he seeks purity, not mere rehabilitation. He wants his soul to be pure again, as pure as it was the day he was born. He turns to nature in an attempt to turn back the clock, but is told that such a request is impossible. Nature can neither control nor impact the past.
When he makes his plea to nature, Eleazar repeatedly beseeches: "Ask for mercy for me", the Hebrew word being rachamim. The root of this word is ReCheM, which can also be rendered 'womb': rachmanut is the type of mercy a mother has for her child - it is almost unlimited. But when we recall that this is a man who has slept with countless women we realize that the term rachamim also describes the area and nature of his sin. He wants to go back to the moment of birth, to start all over again. He wants purity.
This explains his next action: "He placed his head between his knees, he wept aloud until his soul departed." Eleazar assumes a "fetal" position and then cries until his soul departs. He symbolically reverses the process of birth and life in an effort to achieve the purity possessed by a soul when it is brand new. Though nature shunned him he knew that he possessed within himself the ability to find peace and serenity. He says "The matter then depends upon me alone". (11) The "me" is Eleazar, the individual whom God can help despite the deterioration, the individual who has a divine soul, no matter how soiled it has become, no matter how degenerate, who always has the capacity for Teshuva.
This is why he is called "Rabbi": He teaches us a valuable lesson, that Teshuva is always possible even if death is the result. He does not let the naysayers sway him from a path of holiness, and he does not let his years of corruption prevent his pursuit of holiness. He does not allow his past to destroy his future, and in one glorious moment, he finally understands why he was born and seeks God with all his heart and all his soul - even to the point of losing his life.(12)
While his gesture is grand and his resolve admirable, why did he need to die? The Talmud says that his corruption was so all-consuming, his indulgence so addictive, that it was as if he was an idolater. He worshipped(13) his own lust with all his heart and all his soul and all his possessions. He was willing to cross seven(14) rivers; he took all the money that was required, for his soul was consumed by his addiction. In order to be healed he needed to use the same forces: he now needed to serve God with all his heart all his soul and all his possessions. Perhaps this intense reversal is what led to his death. Perhaps his death was actually a kindness(15) on the part of God; for such a corrupt man to have reached a spiritual high is quite impressive, but how would this man conduct himself on a day-to-day basis? With his addiction subdued or under control, what would his life have been? Would he have been able to sustain this religious high with any consistency? Or was death an escape? Perhaps the only way he would gain a share in the world to come was by leaving the world at the time of his pinnacle, the moment he cried and achieved purity.
Our conclusion must be that Teshuva is always possible, though at times the effects of sin are so profound that they cannot be elevated. Death alone brings atonement. The uplifting message of the story, indeed the message and teaching of Rabbi Eleazar ben Durdaya, is that Teshuva is always accessible, purity always possible, a share in the world to come always available, even for the worst of sinners.(16)
The Lubavitcher Rebbe speaks out on Elul http://www.chabad.org/therebbe/livingtorah/player_cdo/aid/1600166/jewish/I-am-my-Beloveds-My-Beloved-is-Mine.htm
Rabbis have come out against the phenomena of ‘Taliban’ women: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4122805,00.html
Former Chief Rabbi Speaks out loud and clear for the Day of Judgement: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4123681,00.html
When Conversion became stricter because of the Reform: http://www.jewishideas.org/min-hamuvhar/conversion-judaism-halakha-hashkafa-and-histori
I am strict but shame on these people who did this: A young man who wished to convert was told by the Beis Din that he would have to move into the Orthodox neighborhood of town and pay $5000 to cover the cost of tutors. When he explained that he came from a poor family, and he could not afford the rents in the Orthodox neighborhood nor the $5000 fee, he was told that the Beis Din could not help him. He went to another Beis Din in that city, but was given the same terms. He then enrolled in a conversion program with a Conservative rabbi. The "raised standards" have turned this young man-and so many more like him-away from Orthodoxy altogether.
From Edward - A Jewish Hero refuses to remove Jews from their homes at the cost of jail for himself: http://jewishmiracles.insightonthenews.net/?p=95
From Ben Avraham – anti-Semitism is hidden here and there but it is truly everywhere: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/article/20110916/NEWS/110916009/?odyssey=nav%7Chead
When a mad fanatic Muslim woman is behind a mad man you get this: http://www.debka.com/article/21316/
From Alan - Peace loving truthful Muslim:
Why do things take so long in Judaism from repentance to conversion one must learn from the bamboo plant. http://www.aish.com/h/hh/video/57973927.html
Lashon Hara alert as you know Lashon Hara can be true: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mark-a-barondess/the-digital-murder-of-you_b_954852.html?ncid=wsc-huffpost-cards-image
This past week, I did certain Mitzvos that I dislike having to do – comfort mourners (why couldn’t the Moshiach come and eliminate death) and visit the sick (why couldn’t the Moshiach come and eliminate all illness)? Repent O’ Yisrael so that the Moshiach will come immediately!
We may be headed for an unwanted war with two allies against Turkey: http://www.debka.com/article/21311/
US Politics on Israel: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/147956
From Dennis who is in charge in Libya: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XRMlVI5SJGE&feature=share
The Social Unrest in Israel and who is behind it besides the Leftist Leif: http://www.wnd.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=344985
Former Ambassador Dore Gold in Ed-Op: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=493
If this makes Iran happy woe to us - http://www.jpost.com/MiddleEast/Article.aspx?id=238423
Turkey and NATO: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4123953,00.html
2.5 minute film explaining peace with neighbors: http://unitedwithisrael.org/friend-request-denied/
This is what happens when a fanatic Muslim woman marries a madman. http://www.debka.com/article/21316/
And Rabin/Peres gave the Arabs guns: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/148142
The Obama administration recently opened a backdoor channel to Tehran, trusting that Iran would be more approachable for cooperation on knotty Middle East issues after missing its footing in the Arab uprisings. Iran's controversial nuclear program was not broached. The coming DEBKA-Net-Weekly out Friday brings this initiative to light along with its rejection by Iran's hardline Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Baruch Matir Assurim: http://www.foxnews.com/world/2011/09/21/lawyer-for-2-us-hikers-says-bail-deal-approved/
A disturbing video about your hotel safe gone viral: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vW7M84khZy8&feature=channel_video_title
From Lynette Rabbi Detained Protesting the UN: http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/148122#.Tno7j3N936g
I was planning to get thin enough to slip into Levi's jeans but now I must boycott them for advertising Arab Terrorist Protests in a positive light: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/09/21/glenn-beck-boycotts-levis_n_973707.html?icid=maing-grid10%7Chtmlws-main-bb%7Cdl4%7Csec1_lnk3%7C97793
Oslo Accords was a mistake: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4125645,00.html
An answer to truthers: WHY THE COLLAPSE OF THE WORLD TRADE CENTER BUILDINGS?
by Emanuel A. Winston, Middle East Analyst & Commentator
The question of why the building collapsed as it did was asked along with the suggestion that there were maliciously pre-planted bomb charges. There may be another reason, as follows:
When the aircraft plunged into the two World Trade Centers’ Twin Towers, they were loaded with aviation fuel. This fuel would have been so hot as to destroy the temper of the steel girders (despite being coated with fire retardants) which supported floor(s) above.
How do I know this with certainty?
I once owned a bridge crane building with massive steel girders, some 6 foot wide. The building burned and the girders twisted like licorice and the building collapsed.
The World Trade Centers’ Twin Towers were hit at their mid-sections. With a cement floor and a cement ceiling, the area would become virtually a smelting furnace, burning at several thousand degrees Fahrenheit.
The steel supports, carrying all the floors above, once having lost their temper (strength), would have buckled, allowing the pan-caking down of the floors. The cement posts with steel cores would have also hydrolyzed (crumbled).
Some of the supports would also have been sheared off by the kinetic energy and mass of the huge commercial airliners penetrating the buildings.
We had a wedding hall collapse like this in Israel as floor fell upon the floor below collapsing each one. RP
After writing for prayers this week for the infant injured by stones – one should be prepared and on the alert if visiting the Kotel and to avoid if possible all of the eastern area of Yerushalayim that is not under Jewish Control: Emergency Message – Jerusalem, September 21, 2011
The United States Consulate General in Jerusalem is prohibiting official mission personnel from visiting the Old City of Jerusalem this Friday, September 23, 2011. This prohibition is due to the potential for demonstrations and large gatherings inside the Old City that day.
The U.S. Consulate General reminds U.S. citizens that even peaceful marches and demonstrations can turn violent with little or no warning. U.S. citizens should monitor the security situation when planning their activities near areas where such marches and demonstrations may occur. U.S. citizens are urged to avoid areas of traditional conflict during this time.
Before Rosh Hashanah not only repent but thank G-D for the good. Thank G-D my Hemoglobin and Ferritin rose because the doctor was worried about an unpleasant disease. One should count his blessing and it is permissible to ask for more but as both David HaMelech and Yacov Avinu stressed, I have become smaller because of all the Chessed that you did for me.
Sadly it appears as the year ends that the Moshiach will not come in 5771 but we have a chance to bring about redemption in 5772 through Repentance, Prayer and Charity. A healthy, peaceful, tranquil, happy, blessed, wonderful, blessed, fruitful, joyous, prosperous, successful, beautiful and Torah filled New Year to each of my readers on an individual basis as I have been blessed with many friends and readers of the www.rabbipauli.blogspot.com
Have a wonderful Shabbos and holiday,
Rachamim Pauli and family