Emunah Based on the Teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Archive for December, 2009

What brocho does one make on pizza?

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

1. Baked goods made of dough that is filled with sweet ingredients, such as sugar, cocoa, nuts etc’, are usually made for snacking or “pleasurable eating”.  This deems the baked goods as “filled baked-goods” (פת כיסנין) or, literally, “pocket baked goods”.  The brocho of פת כיסנין  is בורא מיני מזונות

The brocho remains ‘mezonos’ even if the dough itself is unsweetened, or if there isn’t an actual separate filling.  The same halacha will apply to a layer of dough that sweets were place upon it and baked together.

2.  If the פת כיסנין was filled with meat, fish, or cheese or anything that makes it obvious that the baked goods were made to satisfy an appetite (עשויים להשביע) i.e. served as meal, the proper brocho isn’t clear.  Some say it should be המוציא –  (Hamotzi) even if you eat just a little bit of it – while others contend it remains ‘mezonos’.

Theמשנה ברורה  (Misnah Berura) paskens that the brocho should be המוציא  unless is it obviously a snack.

Since Pizza is usually eaten as a meal (להשביע) it brocho should then be המוציא

3.  Some pizzas are kneaded with milk of fruit juice instead of water.  This, as mentioned above, should have rendered it as פת כיסנין but this is far from clear.

Theמישנה ברורה  and many halachic authorities pasken that the milk or juice must change the taste in a dominant way (such as the dough of a cake). We all know that in pizza this is not the case at all.

4.  Furthermore, even baked goods that could be rendered פת כיסנין (they are filled or kneaded with sweets), if they were made for substantial eating – or that that is the ordinary way to eat them – such baked goods have the status of complete bread! 

The reason for this is this as follows:

The whole ‘mezonos’ status is a type of “legal clause”.  Originally, all grain-flour baked goods should be המוציא. But since some foods are made to just snack on, their brocho is ‘mezonos’.  However, the minute they are eaten as a meal that clause doesn’t apply any more.

And so, even if we take all the lenient opinions – those that contends that cheese filling renders pizza a פת כיסנין… AND those that contend that kneading the dough in liquids other than water renders it פת כיסנין  – still, if the food is eaten as meal, the brocho is המוציא!

According to this, if one obviously eats the pizza as a snack, the lenient opinions can be relied upon and the brocho can be ‘mezonos’.

5.  It should be clear that even a full-fledged פת כיסנין, such as cake or a Danish, if it is eaten as meal requires washing, המוציא  and ברכת המזון.

Without getting into the full definition of “what is a meal”, the rule of thumb is simple:

If one eats the baked goods instead of the regular meal, or in a quantity of a regular meal, the brocho is in the categorically המוציא.

The Law In Practice:

¨ If you eat a small amount of pizza for pleasure, the brocho can be ‘mezonos’ no matter what the pizza was kneaded with.

¨ If you eat the pizza as a meal (as in “tonight we’re eating pizza”) even in small quantity (one slice for a grown up and half a slice for a child ) the brocho is המוציא.

¨ If the pizza dough was kneaded in milk or fruit juice it is possible to be lenient when eating a small quantity.  But if the dough was kneaded with water, leniency is problematic.

¨ If one eats the amount ofקביעות סעודה  (proper meal amounting to two slices for a grown up and a slice for a child) is has the status of complete bread, requiring a נטילת ידים,,המוציא  and בירכת המזון. (Washing of the hands before the meal, the Brocho of “Hamotzi” and Bircas Hamazon).

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: 

As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any  way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

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“I am Yosef”… (Beraishis 45,3)

It had been a long hour of desperate struggling against the bothersome challenges that made it impossible for him to concentrate on the page of Gemorah before him.

He had opened the sefer  as a last resort to escape the flood of thoughts that threatened to bring the emotions which were welling up inside him to explosion. He could not begin to imagine who it was from the community that could have been behind such a thing. How could someone as admired and valued as himself suddenly become the laughing stock of the entire community?

As the walls of the house began to seem as if they were closing in on him, he decided to go outside hoping that the cool fresh air would alleviate his pain and perhaps he would even be able to find a minyan for Mincha.

For quite some time he staggered through the streets and alleyways, his mind and heart filled with rage at the cruelty of the world around him, at the lack of justice, and also at himself.

Finally his weary feet rested upon the doorstep of a no-name beis medrash on the outskirts of the city.

He stepped inside and  found them in the middle of mincha. He joined in and after the Tefillah they all sat down around a table, opened seforim and began to learn.

The large clock on the wall indicated that there was about a half an hour till Maariv and he decided to stay since he anyway had nothing to return to.

At first the words being spoken were foreign to him, yet they seemed to surround him with a feeling he had never before experienced.

At the end of the half-hour he found himself dumbfounded and yearning to hear more and more of the wellsprings of sweetness that flowed forth from the seforim and the people leaning over them.

When he left, new thoughts filled his mind and his legs seemed to dance their way along the pathways that had before seemed do gloomy. He swiftly realized how unnecessary the kavod (honor) was for him and it suddenly seemed so absurd to think about what the community thought of him.

A world of truth and reality had taken the place of the fleeting world he had been living in and he found much more in it. He had never before been acquainted with the ‘Likutey Moharan’, but that day, he has witnessed how it had flowed forth with such practical advice, encouraging and gladdening. The frustration that had until a few moments before filled his entire being had been replaced by the living ruach (spirit) of The Tzaddik…

Ahhh, how worthwhile was all that suffering, without all that emotional pain it would have never occurred to him that he was missing something; he would ever have imagined that the Tzaddik had something known to teach him. He now knew full well that not only had a treasury of chiyus (liveliness) and simcha (joy) fallen into his hands, but a treasury of Toras chaim (living Torah).

We all know the wondrous parshios of Yosef ha’tzaddik and his holy brothers. The Torah tells us of the manner in which Yosef conducted himself with his brothers and these things present us with serious questions. 

All of Yosef’s actions seem to be nothing but cruelty; he arranges things in order to trap his bothers, bringing suffering not only to them but to his father Yaakov as well. It is also amazing that so many parshios were dedicated to the topic of Yosef, more so than any of the holy Avos. What is so special that makes it necessary to deal so extensively with the story of Yosef?

However, since people are not at all familiar with the concept of the Tzaddik and the whole idea is quite foreign to us, the Torah wishes, through the story of Yosef, to teach us how fundamental the concept of the Tzaddik is and how it is impossible to properly fulfill the Torah and to pass safely through this world without connection to the complete Tzaddikim.

In this way the Torah teaches, for example, that the concept of the Tzaddik is revealed in the heart specifically through suffering and distress, just like the holy brothers did come to perceive Yosef – only in such a way. And when the Gevi’a (goblet) was found by Binyamin then they came to understand that one must be a fitting vessel to receive from the Tzaddik (as is known that the entire concept of Binyamin is ‘the lower Tzaddik’ who constantly strives to receive the light of ‘the upper Tzaddik’. This is why the goblet was found by him, as the word gevi’a has the numerical value of 72 + 13, where 72 is the numerical value of the name of Hashem that represents kindness and 13 is an allusion to the thirteen attributes of mercy, both of which he receives from the Tzaddik). When the brother realized what it is that they must receive from the Tzaddik, then Yosef revealed himself to them and said – ‘I am Yosef!’(Beraishis 45,3).

When one merits revealing the concept of ‘I am Yosef’, then one must begin to search even more for the concept of the Tzaddik, just like one who is in distress and searches desperately for a way to save himself.

And when we search correctly, then we will understand what Tefillah is, what Hisboddedus is, and we will see the difference between our own honor ant that of Hashem. We will also begin to understand the necessity of hischazkus (encouragement) and how to see only the good and to be always joyous. Then we will merit seeing how much chiyus  we receive from the Tzaddik and will be able to search in his holy teachings for what is relevant to us in the ways of Avodas Hashem.

If it were not for all that a person goes through, he would never understand what he is missing and why the closeness to the Tzaddik is so vital and essential. Only these experiences teach us how much chesed (kindness) and rachamim (mercy) Hashem has bestowed upon us by sending us in every generation awesome Tzaddikim to enliven our souls.

Only then do we truly understand how the entire fulfillment of the Torah and the acceptance of our avodah is dependent upon the great and awesome Tzaddik and how without him ‘no man will raise his arm or his leg’ (41,44).

Reb Nosson more than anyone reveals the concept of the Tzaddik that had once been clear but was later forgotten. He teaches how these parshios tell us all about what one who is close to the Tzaddik goes through and that we should receive from the Tzaddik the path to: ‘do not be distressed’(45,5)

During the coming days will fall out the Yartzheit of Reb Nosson (10th of Teives).  He is the one who accepted upon himself the task of revealing and spreading the knowledge of the Tzaddik.

Reb Nosson revealed again this concept, which was known before, and explained its essence and how the power of the Rebbe is something tangible, real, and clear as day.

In his wondrous way he shines light on the ways of the Torah and shows how through the entire lengthy story of Yosef and the brothers, the Torah hints to us about the concept of the Tzaddik and how the way to achieve it is through constant search and request. He also reveals that all the remedies for all types of suffering and pain can be found by the Tzaddik. Even the very awareness of the Tzaddik itself brings joy to our souls and unloads from upon us the burden of sadness and heaviness.

After a person knows of the Tzaddik, it is time to approach the Tzaddik and to request: ‘may your servant speak a word in my masters ears…’(44,18).

For after the Tzaddik reveals himself and a person merits to recognize the Tzaddik and be counted among his followers, then one must approach the Tzaddik himself and search out from him advice and remedy for his ailments – that he should be able to truly change and  correct what needs correction.

The Tzaddik has treasuries of eternal goodness and by him can be found the remedies for the body and the soul alike – all one need to do is begin to search for that which is relevant to him.

This is the common denominator of all the writings of Reb Nosson; he always arouses a person to search for the practical and relevant advice in the words of the Rebbe. For one who is connected to the Tzaddik must search and find by the Tzaddik what will help him practically and bring him to real growth and change. This search must be conducted by each person, through studying the books of the Tzaddik, through conversations with his friends who are searching together for the light of the Tzaddik, and mainly through tefillah, supplications and Hisboddedus.

Every person who has merited coming close to the Tzaddik must ask himself ‘do I truly find the sustenance of the Tzaddik?’ as Yosef said: ‘it is to be a provider, that Hashem sent me ahead of you’ (45’5). For even one who knows of the Tzaddik can miss the point and search out by him solutions to social problems, honor and other secondary things. But when one searches truthfully, he finds true guidance and advice in Avodas Hashem, as he reveals the path to get up form every downfall, to be happy in every situation and how to truly rectify ones middos (character traits).

This is because the Tzaddik is the manifestation of the attributes of mercy – by him can be found the compassion of The Creator, and one who makes and effort in Tefillah and supplications can arouse these awesome levels of mercy upon himself.

On the tenth of Teves the siege began.  On that day the gallus (exile) and concealment began. Yet, on that same day the first rays of the light of the ge’ulah (redemption) began to shine. This is the day of the passing of Reb Nosson who drew down into the world the path of Avodas Hashem in the depths of the gallus.  He revealed to us  the way to search for the light of the Tzaddik and with it to enlighten the darkness of our exile. We fast on this day in order to arouse compassion on us that we should merit to find the advice and guidance to return to Hashem and to nullify the hardships of the gallus.

 You can download the entire Parasha Sheet here: Vayigash 5770

Carrying Belongings on Shabbos where there is no Shabbos Boundary (Eruv) – Part II

Weekly Halacha Series

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

Laws pertaining to Carrying Belongings on Shabbos where there is no Shabbos Boundary (Eruv)

PART II

a. Hooks: A hook that is torn and remains attached on one side, and a “loop” torn on one side – for instance as found on trousers, as used to thread a belt –  should one intend to repair it after Sabbath, it is forbidden to go out with it, as the loop is of importance and is not worthless to the garment.  Although, should one intend for it to remain as is, then one is allowed to go out with, as it is no longer of value and it is unimportant to the garment.

b. Bottons: A regular button, although not currently being used, is permitted to go out with.  An “ornamental” button is permitted to go out with too.  A button that is loose, should it not be possible to button up with, or should one not wish to button up with it, one must not go out with it. However, should the button add beauty to the garment, in in a way that the garment look odd with its absence, then one may be lenient and go out with it.

If the button has already fallen off and only the thread remains, in any event, one may go out with the garment. (And not to remove the thread on Sabbath.  Note: If a button falls off and it is one’s intention to sew it back after Sabbath, it is not considered “muktze” (object forbidden for use on the Sabbath) and it is allowed to be picked up and placed aside for safekeeping. 

With regards to a “spare” button that is attached to the garment, there are those who forbid it as it does not have any use for the garment. And there are those who permit it since it is attached to the garment and as it has no value to the garment.  And there are those who say that this is only permissible should the button be regular and not of importance, which is not in the case of a special button that is not common since it is important and is of value to the garment.

In fact, one who is stringent, and one who is lenient, has whom on which to rely upon.  Although, should the button be placed in the pocket of a garment, then according to all opinions (knowledge) it is forbidden to go out with.

a. Labels: A label showing the type of fabric, laundry instructions, price, tested for “shatnez” (checking for linen /wool) should it be sewn or glued to garment it is permitted to go out with, although, should one wish to remove it after Sabbath, then it is forbidden.

b. Towels:  If one wears it on one’s head or shoulders and it protects one from the wind or cold or sun, it is permissible to go out with, in this manner. Although, if one wears it only in order to carry it, it is appropriate to be stringent, as nowadays, it is no longer carried in this way at all.

Shoes that become dirty with mud

a. If the mud is still damp, and if the sole is made from leather, then one may drag ones shoes, but not vigorously. And also one should not scrape it off with a knife as there is a prohibition to “erase” as the leather is smoothed in this manner.

If the sole is made from rubber, then one may drag the mud even vigorously and one may use any object for this purpose in order to remove the mud, as this is not a prohibition to “erase” as this law does not apply to plastic.

a. If the mud has still not completely come off, then one may pour water over it, but not rub it.  However this is only allowed on the sole itself, which is not the case with the remainder of the shoe as doing this may constitute the prohibition of pouring water and rubbing and this would be the prohibition of “washing”.

b. If the mud has already dried, then it is forbidden in any event to drag the shoes, as this would fall within the prohibition of “grinding or mincing”, but one may remove by water as mentioned above. (And know that likewise there is a possibility of prohibition of grinding or mincing while removing dry dirt from a garment.  And G-d willing there will come a time to clarify this.)

Going out with an object forbidden to go out with: Should one realize that one has gone out with an object forbidden to go out with, one should do as follows:

One should NOT stand still.  Rather, one should continue to walk and let go of the object in a different manner.  In other words, if one was holding the object in one’s hand, one would let go of the object and not place it on the ground. And if placed in one’s pocket, one would turn the pocket inside out in order that the object would fall out, and should leave the object there until Sabbath has exited.

This should be done even if one has stopped walking, although, from the outset, one should not stand. Should the object be of value and one cannot leave it there, there are a few suggestions how to return the object to a guarded place but this is not the place to elaborate.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: 

As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you are unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any  way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

Laws pertaining to Yaaleh V’Yavo, Al Hanissim and Moving the Menorah on Shabbos

By HaRav Shimon Anshin shlit”a

1)  If someone forgets Rosh Chodesh’s “Ya’ale Ve”yavo” on Mincha of Erev Shabbos, and realized it when it was already too late to repeat Mincha – he should not daven two Shmonei Esrei on Ma’ariv. 

The reason is as follows:

If this was to happen on a weekday, there are divided opinions on whether one can daven Shmone Esrei on the following Ma’ariv as a repayment prayer.  Some say that since it is no longer Rosh Chodesh, an additional weekday Shmone Esrei can not repay the lost Rosh Chodesh Mincha.  Other authorities contend that it is possible.  As a result of the dispute, the halacha is that one should daven the extra Ma’ariv Shmone Esrei twice – but aim that his second Shmone Esrei to be considered a voluntary prayer, akin to the korban Nedava that was brought in the Beis Hamikdash.  This solution cannot apply when Shabbos follows a Rosh Chodesh because one cannot daven voluntary prayers on Shabbos. (Mishna Brura, 108, 36)

2) “Al Anissim” during Seuda Shlishis.  One says “Al Hanissim” when reciting Birkas Hamozon – even if the seuda continues into the night.  The Eshel Avrohom (Butchatch, 188) contends that this applies only if an amount of Kazais of bread was eaten while it was still daytime.  But if one started eating after Shkiya (sunset), one shouldn’t say “Al Hanissim” during Birkas Hamozon.  This is why it is very important to eat a Kazais of bread before Shkiya.

3) Moving the Menorah on Shabbos.

A Menorah used for Chanukah is muktze and cannot be moved even if one needs the place its standing on, or even if one needs the body of the Menorah for a permissible use.

Further more, if the Menorah stands on a table of some sort, that table too becomes muktze like the Menorah and is forbidden to move as well.  This is because the table becomes “A base for a forbidden object”.

However, it is permissible to move the Menorah and its base if the following conditions are met:

1) During bein hashmoshos (between sunset and when the stars come out) a permissible object was on the tray or table where the Menorah is standing.  This makes the base “A base for a permitted object”.

Such permitted object would be Challa or wine for the Shabbos seuda.  Some say that this applies to anything needed for the seuda as well.  But anything that isn’t meant to be used for Shabbos cannot be used for this purpose, because we say that the Menorah is more important to him now than an object he cannot use on Shabbos.  Some say that if the Menorah is made of silver, one needs to put jewelry that is more expensive than the Menorah on the base.

If one didn’t put the permissible object before bein hashmoshos, one cannot place it anymore and the Menorah and its base may not be moved during Shabbos.

2) The reason why one wants to move the Menorah must be for a “permissible objective”, such as needing the table to be elsewhere, or needing the place where the table is now, or the table and the Menorah are in a place where they will obstruct passage.  “Non-permissible objectives” would be guarding the Menorah from damage or theft.

Some say that if one fears the Menorah will fall, spilling the oil and breaking the glass cups, it constituted a permissible objective.  However, if simply passing with care can prevent that from happening, the Menorah and the table may not be moved.

3) For the Menorah to be moved, the neros of the Menorah must be out.  If they are not, the halacha depends on the type of neros one uses.

If one uses oil and wick, one may not move the table while they are still burning burning.  Movement may bring more oil to the wick and increase the fire, which constitutes “flame creation” – or drive oil away from the wick, which constitutes “putting a flame out” (moving such candles gently without making this happen is virtually impossible).

But if the neros are wicks floating in oil or solid candles, movement is permissible as long as it is done gently and with great care.

More details about the above issue:

a)  Even though we would regularly not permit moving,  if the mukze object can be shaken off, here we don’t require that condition.  The reason is that the Menorah will likely get damaged if it is shaken off the table – be it to the Menorah itself or spilling the oil or breaking the glass cups.  However, if it is possible to shake the Menorah off without damage, it should be done.

b) Some contend that all the above relates only to Shabbos candles, but the Chanukah Menorah may not be moved no matter what.

c)  However, everything we said about not being able to move relates to moving in the usual manner.  It is permissible to move the Menorah in an unusual manner (ki’leachar yad) by pushing it with the elbow or the foot.  Obviously this can be done only if the neros are out as such pushing will surely affect the flame in a forbidden manner.

TRANSLATOR’S NOTE: 

As this is a translation of the original Hebrew, if you unclear on any of the Laws outlined herein in any  way whatsoever, please consult with a Posek (Halachic Authority).

The Power of a Candle

Everyone in the neighborhood knew Motte’le, he was labeled with many titles, his mother called him ‘the delinquent with no hope’, the children called him ‘the wild one’, even the teacher in cheder defined him ‘a creature the like of which I’ve never seen.’ Without a doubt it could be said that these titles and the many others were suitable to him, it is as if they were created specifically for him. He was the paradigm of “his hand against everyone” (Beraishis 16,12). If one heard the sound of fighting and screaming he could be sure that  Motte’le was at it again. He also had a very good mind, although not too involved in what they taught him in cheder. In the hour that his classmates where involved in sugya (Talmudic topic) Motte’le was hard at work conjuring up ingenious new ways to cause mischief, the likes of which one couldn’t even imagine.  His mother’s Tehillim book was already completely soaked in tears. They had tried everything with him, endless efforts, promises, punishments, what else was there. The best mechanchim (educators) had tried to get through to him, hoping to implant in him some seriousness and responsibility, some sense. Motte’le made them understand very quickly that they where wasting their time, no educational tactics where going to work on him. With time Motte’le became a figure that no one wanted to get too close to. People tried to keep their distance from him as much as possible, their glances of disdain and wonder were the only things that accompanied him.

This is how things continued until that one day when a new figure appeared in the neighborhood, an avreich with a ray of light in his eyes. No one could explain what Motte’le found in that refined young man that made him cling to him like a student to his Rebbe. When Motte’le was in his presence it was as if he had been possessed by something, his eyes that were so dim began to shine, and in place of the arrogance and brazenness an aura of humility enveloped him.  There was no hidden secret to the success of that avreich, no patented or unique ‘method’. He was simply the first person who related to Motte’le as a person. It was from him that he heard for the first time in years, a word of praise, that he felt any pride of holiness, he was the first person that allowed him to feel like he had any true value. And so it was that Motte’le started to make his journey back to the light and began to climb the ladder of meaningful growth.

The question of all questions that bewilders the mind of every person is, how is it possible to change? How is possible to begin to educate ourselves, to change our bad habits and to acquire proper and good middos (character traits)? The answer to this is provided by the Chanukah candles. A little spark of light, the small flicker of a candle, is able to consume and destroy all evil.

Is this really true, does this really apply to each and every person in whatever circumstance he may be, even to one who has fallen tremendously low and has drowned in the darkness of ‘chochmah Yevanis’ (Greek philosophy)? To one who has managed to forget the sweetness of a daf Gemarah (page of Talmud), to one who has lost all connection to Emunah and da’as (holy awareness) and into whose heart have foreign values and outlooks taken root?

Greek philosophy is similar to quicksand; it deceives a person into thinking that it is permissible but when one sets in one foot it sucks in one’s entire being, swallowing the mind and the heart together, hurling on a person heaviness and toil, consuming one’s every limb with the pursuit of money and with bad habits. The chains of the imagination entrap the weak souls, luring them to the depths of fantasy; their blinded eyes leave them groping in the dark, unable to differentiate between good and evil.

That was and still is the ‘the evil kingdom Yaavan (Greece)’- quicksand of evil. The Greeks exerted themselves to destroy and eradicate every trace of Judaism from the world and when there was only one way left to draw Emes (truth) and Rachamim (mercy) into the world, they strengthened themselves to nullify that too. The one remaining point of truth fell into their filthy and impure hands. They managed to implant confusion, doubt and bewilderment everywhere; they made sure that no path of finding true eitzah (guidance) remained.

This is the nature of the long Gallus (exile) in which we still remain – a cloudy and tangible darkness. Do we have a chance to escape such a concealment of Hashem’s presence and to rise up from such a great downfall?

“The Eternal One of Israel does not lie” (Shmuel 15,29). There surely is a way to arise from every downfall, to throw off the burdensome weight of the kingdom of evil. For even in our gallus Hashem has not abandoned us. At the very time that the chochmos chitzoniyos (external wisdoms) began to spread through the world, those same chochmos that strengthen themselves anew in every generation, that fill the chambers of the heart and mind with empty illusions and try to deter us from thoughts of Emunah and da’as; at that very time of such a tremendous downfall and such terrible decrees one after the other to the extent that it seemed as if God forbid the Torah would be forgotten from the Jews, just then was revealed the awesome way in which we too can exit the gallus and engender in ourselves true change for the better.

Within the very depth of the gallus burst forth a spark of light to uplift our souls. The Greeks breached the Walls of the Beis Hamikdash and defiled the Holy of Holies; they defiled the holiness of da’as and prevented all ways of drawing Rachamim (mercy) into the world. Just then when it seemed as if all hope was lost, Hashem, in His great mercy, did wonders and forged for us a completely new path, a wondrous way that draws awesome levels of mercy down to the very place in which we are.  If we only connect ourselves to the holiness of the Tzaddikim – the Chashmona’im, a spark of the light of truth will be drawn down and shone upon us, a spark that can remove and eradicate all the forces of evil and impurity.

When we stand before the Chanukah candles, which shine upon us the light of chein (grace) of Kedusha, at that moment we draw upon ourselves an influx of tremendous mercy which has the power to rectify everything. This is the spark that brings Motte’le closer and draws him the loving-kindness to begin again and reinitiate himself into Kedusha. (In Hebrew the word for initiation is chinuch which comes from the same root as Chanukah). This spark is what ignites our souls afresh with love for Hashem, warms our hearts with the memory of how dear we are to Him and how valued and special we are to Him. This was the entire purpose of the miracle of Chanukah, for in truth the miracle was not necessary since it became permissible to use oil even if it was impure (Chiddushei ha’Pnei Yehoshua Shabbos 21). The miracle took place only to show us how dear we are to Hashem. This was Hashem’s will – to shine upon us a spark of His desire for us – from the very source of truth and from the attributes of mercy – so that we should see with our own eyes what true chein and Kedusha are, so that a ruach chayim (spirit of life) be renewed within us – one that has the power to destroy all illusion and uplift us from the quicksand of Yaavan in which we are sunk until the neck.

This is a power that radiates and arouses the fear of Heaven within our hearts and reveals the glory of Hashem to all, so that every person can see how Hashem’s name is uplifted and made precious by him too. From within this, we will find the gateway to a form of fear of Heaven that should bring us only to joy and liveliness, to reinitiate ourselves and to always remember Hashem  through finding our good points and knowing that the main pleasure in Heaven is generated by us, even when we are truly below.

There always exists an illumination of the light of the Tzaddikim who shine upon us Emunah and da’as. All that we have to do is arouse ourselves to light the Chanukah candles with hischadshus (renewal) and with connection to the Tzaddikim that shine truth into the world, until we too are ignited with its light. For this reason the days of Chanukah always fall out at the time that we read about Yosef Ha’tzaddik, for the concept of the Tzaddik has become hidden and we must search for it like the hidden light of the Chanukah candles that were hidden.

When we too arouse ourselves to recognize the importance and the greatness of the Tzaddikim, we will become incorporated in the aspect of ‘Chashmonayim’.

The recognition of the importance of truth is a powerful point and a beginning that has the strength to change nature, to shine Rachamim to a place which they could never have reached. This is the power of Chanukah, to change the natural order and create for us a way to be healed.

The light of Chanukah is drawn from a very lofty place, from the very root of the attributes of mercy, down to our lowly place to enlighten our path to return to Hashem from every downfall and distance.

Each day we light an additional candle – we take it step by step and become accustomed to initiating ourselves into avodas Hashem at the right pace. And so, slowly, slowly, we will abandon that past, become pure, and in our hearts we will begin to burn a fire of true yearning and desire for holiness. We will learn to wait, to anticipate and yearn for Hashem’s salvation until the point where even if the light is extinguished we will just light it anew. We will learn to always look at the good points and little by little to build up our da’as –  another holy thought, another good deed.

And so we will progress from day to day with yearning and desire until we merit the full illumination of da’as and begin to thank and praise Hashem with all our heart and soul.

 

Dearness & Pride

The many long months of preparation, organization and rehearsals finally came to their end and the excited celebrations and breathtaking ceremonies leading up to the coronation day made their long awaited beginning.

Long before the great day, the glorious festive feasts had been arranged by the tens of thousands of appointees carefully selected for the task. Thousands sat each day at the enormous tables that filled every available spot of the royal city and partook of the festive meals consisting of nothing but the finest delicacies.

The following days brought with them the beginning of the parades with thousands of soldiers marching in unified formation through the streets, the sound of their steps resonating throughout the city and bringing great excitement to the hearts of the masses who cheered enthusiastically as the parade passed by. And then, finally, the great day arrived – the day the people would crown their new king.  All that had taken place until that moment seemed to melt away into the past, the streets shed their previous appearance and seemed to take on a completely new form. Every corner radiated with splendor and glory, every stone polished afresh and every pathway sparkled with majesty. The sounds, the smells and even the breeze seemed to indicate the imminent arrival of some awesome and majestic occurrence.

The eyes of the masses were fixed upon the entrance of the royal palace that stood in the center of the decorated city. There, in just a few moments, will appear the king himself in all his glory. And then, with a silencing hush that swept through the crowd all the voices ceased to be heard and everyone came to a standstill, it was as if everything just froze, even the waving branches of the trees.

At the entrance to the palace appeared the king himself, exalted and adorned in his splendid royal garments, his entire being radiating glory, goodness and strength with a graceful humility emanating from his shinning face. He raised the golden staff in his hands in a majestic motion and from amidst the silence the sound of trumpets burst forth followed by a symphony of instruments as the roaring crowd proclaimed: ‘long live the king!’

Who could begin to imagine that awesome and overpowering feeling that enveloped the soul when the king cast his gaze upon his people, as his eyes rested upon each and every person individually.

At the moment that the king’s merciful gaze rests upon you, you lack nothing, it’s as if all the good in the world is yours and it doesn’t matter to you where you are, whether you’re standing on a lamp post on the corner of some street or on a balcony of the palace itself. And when the king comes down to the people and passes through the crowd lending an ear to each and every person and promises each one individually that he will always be there for him, doesn’t the entire world just melt away into nothingness? …

There is no event that will leave such a deep impression on a person as the coronation day of the king. Anyone who was witness to such a sight would never forget it as long as they live. It is then that a person begins to realize that there IS a king.  He begins to internalize the fact that he is a part of something awesome and wondrous, he begins to find meaning and purpose and he realizes that there is awe so great that it can actually make one forget that he even exists. If he really thinks about it he will realize that what was renewed inside him was a feeling of awe and love that was aroused by the sight of the exceptional unity that accompanied the great event – So many people, with all their different outlooks and lifestyles nullified themselves to each other and united as one in admiration of the king with a burning desire to do his will; it was witnessing this event that created within him these feelings of awe and love he had never before experienced. He also suddenly realized how greatly valuable he is – how there is someone who receives glory and splendor because of him; this gives new meaning to his life – he lives for something so awesomely great. This is what can be caused by such an event, and the whole kingdom is dependent upon it.

Rebbe Nachman teaches in Likutey Moharan 17 that every single thing in the creation reveals the pride that Hashem takes in his people, the Jewish nation. For Hashem takes pride in the Jewish people as a whole and also in each person individually to the extent that even the smallest motion of a Jew invokes Hashem’s pride in him. This is because the entire creation was created and continues to exist only for the pride that Hashem takes in the Jewish people.

This pride is always renewed during the days of Chanukah. In that wondrous and awesome miracle Hashem expressed how dear we are to him and how much pride he takes in His people.

The wicked kingdom of Greece wished to create an equal status for all the people of the world and thus to nullify and completely conceal the pride that Hashem takes in his holy people in general and in specific. They issued decrees against Shabbos, millah (circumcision) and Chodesh (sanctifying the new moon) and tried to make every Jew forget his identity and hide from him the fact that Hashem is exalted and glorified by him. They exerted themselves greatly and defiled all the oil in order that there should be no way to shine the light of the Beis Hamikdash into the world and to see the truth – the entire reason for our existence.

They wanted to make it forgotten that there is someone to serve and someone to honor. This is how they cast Jewish souls down into kefirah (apostasy) and emptiness, clogging their hearts and making them feel as if man’s actions don’t make any difference for better or for worse, as if G-d forbid there was no one interested in our efforts in the performance of mitzvos and in the sanctification of our thoughts.

With this falsehood they conquered almost the entire world and blew a spirit of apostasy into the hearts of the masses. Thousands of souls sank, as a result of this, into the depths of kefirah, bewilderment and emptiness.

The miracles that occurred during Chanukah revealed the dearness of Yisrael (the Jewish people) is Hashem’s eyes. They showed us that Hashem always helps, causing us to open our eyes to see the splendor and glory of the Kingdom of Heaven and enabling us to feel the pride that Hashem takes in us.

The pure oil that was poured from the small remaining jar shines and lights up the darkness of the gallus (exile) revealing the truth to every Jew – that to wherever we have fallen, Hashem is with us watching over us with perfect providence, rejoicing and taking pleasure in every good point within us.

This is the influx of light that shines at the time of the lighting of the candles – an influx of the attributes of mercy which is the light of the great and awesome Tzaddik who reveals the pride that Hashem takes in his people.

At the time that the soul is aroused with the awareness that Hashem takes pride in us, it is the right time to move forward and light the candles again, to begin everyday anew and to understand more and more the concept of this pride. We must also know that even if we have forgotten and fallen from the awareness of this pride it is our duty to continue and not to become discouraged, until we merit to the pure Emunah that will fill our lives with endless simcha and meaning. So we can go from strength to strength until we merit to “our souls have yearned for Hashem” – that we should be filled with a powerful desire and yearning for Hashem that will create within us true awe and fear of Heaven. This will then enable us to constantly cling to the knowledge of Hashem’s love for us.

Despite all the distractions and the fact that our hearts are clogged and cold to the extent that awe and love of Hashem are hidden from us, there is a hidden light that shines on Chanukah that enables even us to experience an inkling of the coronation of the King – to see the pride that Hashem takes in us.  And through this, to receive some notion of love and deveikus to Hashem and thereby experience a taste of true awe of Heaven.

In the Rebbe’s teachings (L.M. 14) we find that on Chanukah one should light a candle of remembrance of the glory of Heaven and awe of Hashem. It is further taught (L.M 54) that the meaning of the lighting of a candle is the lighting of memory and awareness, that we should light up our minds to always remember Hashem. This is what really happens on Chanukah, for the miracles and wonders that we commemorate during the days of Chanukah reveal to us how dear we are to Hashem and the light that shines forth from the Chanukah candles is a tremendous light of Hashem’s pride like that of the day of the coronation of the king.

These candles are in order to remove us from the kefirah and the illusion created of distance of Hashem – that there is no one who takes pride in us, G-d forbid. It is through the power of the awesome miracle, that we return to Emunah and discard all thoughts of the past and focus only on the good that can be done now. With the light of Chanukah, it is surely appropriate to move forward and add a light each night until the light of Chanukah brings us to a tangible and powerful feeling of Hashem’s pride in us just like on the day of the coronation of the king.

When the heart is aroused with true awe of Hashem, then the mind too is kindled and one’s thoughts begin to gain clarity until they come to a clear awareness of Hashem’s existence and the awe and fear of Heaven become tangible, bringing about a true acceptance of the yolk of heaven. And through the thanks and praise to Hashem for all the tremendous kindness and revelation of His love for us, a true love of Hashem can be aroused in our hearts too.

 You can download the entire Parasha Sheet here: Miketz_5770

 

“…Hide for a brief moment … ” Yeshaya 26:20

He found himself lying on the top of a rickety roof dangerously close to the edge, bruised battered and in excruciating pain. As to how he got there he has no idea, all he remembers is the frightening sound of the howling wind that suddenly caught him from behind. He had never imagined that a wind could be so powerful, it passed by in the blink of an eye and simply took him with it, lifting him off the ground as if he were nothing more than a fallen leaf. Yes, he knew that a storm was expected that day …  everyone was talking about it and they told of its awesome magnitude and of the tragedies that such a storm has caused in the past. He heard their words, but in his heart he was swayed to dismiss the ‘exaggerations’. “What could possibly happen…?”, he thought “… it’s only a wind.”

The storm began with some slightly unusual winds, the trees shook and the window shutters rattled. He began to think again about his decision to make the journey; it’s not worth getting a cold. But what occurred just a few moments later was something he could not have imagined in his wildest dreams.

Now, during the many days of his slow recovery, he has some time to think and he begins to understand where he went wrong. He simply was not prepared to forgo his daily schedule.

For years he had made his way along that route at the same time each day. He had walked leisurely in pleasant weather, beneath the clear blue skies along those very same paths and they had always brought him to great places. On that cold and stormy day too, he was determined not to forgo his schedule and humble himself before a mere wind. However, sometimes it is the right decision, he should have stayed closed up at home, even at the expense of his satisfying routine.

There are times when life seems to smile at us, routine goes smoothly without distractions, the body is healthy, the bank account isn’t suffering from overdraft and things at home are peaceful … the good times. Days filled with Torah and nights decorated with hisboddedus and tefillah, we begin mesechtos (tractates of Talmud) and complete them too. Our chavrusa (study partner) seems tailor made from heaven and everything just seems to be in place.

Suddenly … ‘a storm’. It begins with just a few insignificant ‘drops’ that aren’t really worrying – a small financial hassle, a slightly larger expense. Afterwards some other disturbances are added – one’s schedule was a bit shaky, his chavrusa wasn’t so pleased and little by little the disturbances find another place in one’s day, until the ‘out of order’ seems to have acquired a fixed place.

In such a situation our instincts tell us: ‘move forward, don’t let every little wind steer  you off the path. How can you change your route now, after years of routine. One doesn’t trade in a good horse … keep moving!’ We try to move alone and do our best to continue despite the irritation, frustration and anger but very soon the wind turns into a raging storm, and that is a tremendous danger. A storm is no small matter; it can cause damage and destroy all that lies in its path.

This is how it is. The middas ha’din (the attribute of judgment) and the Yetzer hara do not slack-off on their duties.  They aren’t prepared to simply concede and allow a Jew to progress from level to level. They will not allow the world to turn into paradise. They also have real claims and possess sacks full of accusations which they make use of as they proceed.

In truth they possess only one power – ‘great in its time’. At those times that they are given permission to accuse, they do it with all of their strength. They have no continuity and their existence is absolutely temporary, however, this momentary existence is also destructive …

Against a great storm one does not declare war. When it appears, one must simply go into hiding, find shelter, cover one’s head and wait for it to pass.

This battle tactic we learn from Yaakov Avinu.  This is the way he conducted himself when he stood against Eisav, He knew the secret of Eisav and was aware of what his ‘storm wind’ could do. He therefore prepared himself in various ways. Yes, he did prepare and plan a battle strategy, but in addition to all this, he also prepared a gift – a very honorable present for his brother, he even bowed a few times, all in order to find favor in Eisav’s eyes and to cause his wrath to subside. He knew that ‘his wind is great in its time.’

The is also the way the Jewish people have acted throughout the long exile amongst the nations of the world, through much distress, persecutions and decrees. We would have been wiped off the face of the earth long ago if not for the ‘trade of our forefathers’ that remains in our hands, that with every distress we find shelter and protection in tefillah and in yearning for Hashem’s salvation.

Yaakov Avinu teaches each of us how we should conduct ourselves in the times when the attribute of judgment plays up.

One must certainly pray and cry out to Hashem.  To fight is also necessary, to push sleep from one’s eyes and to learn even when it’s not so comfortable. Even when not everything works out it is forbidden to allow our physicality to dictate the course of our lives. However, it is imperative that we not fight too hard. We must be wise and understand that there are impediments – the body is after all formed from physicality and is not all powerful – if we push it too much it will breakdown, G-d forbid.

There is a limit that cannot be crossed with stubbornness alone and it is forbidden to fight head to head in such a fashion. Sometimes we must make use of the ‘gift’ to give the body something too, to allow it to sleep a bit. It also needs to eat and at home it is necessary sometimes to make peace, to talk, to help. There are certain things that must be taken care of – one does not fight a storm.

However this is not enough.  There is a need for practical advice and guidance, for the main expression of the attribute of judgment against a person is a lack of Eitzah (advice). In such a state a person doesn’t know how to advise himself – he sees many different ideas and each one has its arguments and amidst all of this he doesn’t know what the right thing is. The lack of Eitzah is the most dangerous situation of all.

Yaakov Avinu stood up to this test too, he didn’t know what Eisav was intending and which was the correct way to approach him; should he go straight into battle or, perhaps, Eisav would be peaceful – in which case he should approach him peacefully and with love.

So what did he do? “… and he split the people that were with him into two camps”(Beraishis 32,8) so that should one get destroyed, the other would remain.

Reb Nosson (Hilchos Rosh Chodesh 7) explains this in the following way: “when a person sees that it is difficult to achieve the perfect advice, one must conduct himself according to the “split advice” so that at least something will remain and he will not be destroyed completely, G-d forbid. Meaning, when a person sees that the Yetzer Ha’ra is overcoming him and it seems to him that he doesn’t have the strength to stand up against him. As much as he tries to think of advice and tactics he doesn’t seem to find clarity, and because of this his advice is always split.

Then, the main piece of advice for him is to rely on the power of the true Tzaddik, being, that on whatever path he goes he will find Hashem. And in the meantime he should act in accordance with the “split advice.”

How is it possible to ensure the survival of ‘one camp’”? When we engrave in our hearts that no matter what happens, we will never abandon Hashem and we will never ever despair.

Reb Nosson also brings a few examples: “for example when a person wants to learn a lot, to pray, to do much hisboddedus and to be clean from now on of any sin of bad thought, and he sees that it is difficult for him … he should nevertheless strengthen his resolve that: … I will toil with all my strength to snatch a bit of good every day of my life, and if G-d forbid I will not be able to pray properly then I will see to it that I speak afterwards a few words of supplications and requests. If this too is withheld from me, then I will learn a little or a lot, and at least I will strengthen myself with strong yearning for Hashem and I will scream: ‘Master of the world, save me!’”

This is the ancient advice that Yaakov made use of when his advice was split. This piece of advice is suitable for us all and it rests upon the foundation of the clear Emunah that Hashem can be found in every place … and in every place it is possible to serve Him and to please Him … the main thing is to grab whatever we can, not to discouraged by doubt for at least ‘one camp’ will remain.

A bachur decides at the beginning of the zman to learn certain material and to cover a large amount.  He tries a little, pushes himself a little and in the end crumbles. Yaakov Avinu tells us that when the storm comes against us we shouldn’t  be stubborn. We should be wise and change our route. Hashem can be found in every place, so we should try and learn something else – something easier or less deep – and at least this bit of learning will remain. When the wrath subsides we can return healthily to our usual route and proceed rapidly.

If we want to find Hashem he is everywhere, and we don’t have to stubbornly persist along the main road.  We can be smart and avoid accidents. For the storm is great in its time, but in the end it subsides and disappears. Then we can lift our heads and keep moving forward.

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