Saturday, October 31, 2009

Tikkun HaKlali (General Remedy)

Tikkun HaKlali is a selection of Ten Psalms that Rabbi Nachman recommened for recital as a general spiritual remedy bringing inner purity and joy as well as many other benefits.

The psalms are: 16, 32, 41, 42, 59, 77, 90, 105, 137 and 150.

They are to be recited in the same order in which they appear in Sefer Tehillim (Book of Psalms).

The Ten Psalms correspond to the Ten Kinds of Song.  These ten melodies are the true remedy.  There is a specific remedy for each sin, but this is the General Remedy. (Sichot Haran #141)

The Tikkun HaKlali video/music is by Erez Yechiel set to an entrancing meditative melody while being sung, in prayer), by the artist and is available at Remarkable Maven website.

There are places so fine and narrow that no remedy has the power to penetrate them except through the Tikkun HaKlali (General Remedy), which injects healing into even the narrowest, finest places.  First it is necessary to apply the General Remedy, and through this all the individual flaws will automatically be rectified.

Rabbi Nachman:

I am very positive in everything I say.  But I am most positive in regard to the great benefit of these Ten Psalms.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Shabbat Shalom - Sabbath Scene from Fiddler on the Roof

Shabbat Shalom!

Parashat Lech Lecha

"To your seed I have given this land..."

Parashat Lech Lecha
Bereishit 12:1 - 17:27

What made Avraham unique? Why was he so beloved by G-d? After all, he wasn't the first tzaddik - righteous man - to walk the earth. Noach was also called tzaddik. Nor was Avraham the first human to be addressed by G-d or entrusted by G-d with a task to perform. Again Noach preceded Avraham on both counts. So what distinguished Avraham, and why was G-d determined to make him "the father of a multitude of nations?" (Genesis 17:4)

Torah introduces us to Avraham avinu, (Abraham our patriarch), at the age of seventy five, exactly half way through his life. It is at this point that G-d first calls to Avraham, "Go forth from your land and from your birthplace and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you." (ibid 12:1) This is, indeed, the first time that G-d spoke directly to Avraham, but it didn't occur in a vacuum. An extensive midrashic literature fills in for us what transpired during Avraham's first seventy five years. As a child he already questioned the bon-ton politically correct assumptions of his day. His father Terach crafted and sold idols for good money. Demand was high, and it was an honest living. But young Avraham questioned the underlining veracity of the idol worship culture in which he was steeped, and one day, when left on his own to tend his father's store, he smashed all the idols. All the idols but one, that is, and when Terach returned, and to his great dismay, discovered the shattered idols, he demanded to know who was responsible. Avraham pointed to the one standing idol, "He did it." "Balderdash!" Terach castigated him, "That's only a lifeless lump of clay!" And so Avraham began his life-long effort of seeking G-d in the world and making His presence known to his fellow man.

And it is this which distinguished Avraham. Avraham sought G-d, long before G-d sought Avraham. Noach was a tzaddik, but Avraham was a man of tzedaka - he actively extended himself toward his fellow man, and expressed his love of the One G-d through his acts of kindness to others. Noach walked with G-d, but Avraham walked before G-d, searching G-d's ways, questioning G-d's justice, testing G-d's promise. Precocious from the get-go, Avraham showed to G-d the "sign of life" that G-d had been waiting twenty generations to see! At last a child of G-d that sought out his Heavenly Father, spending a lifetime emulating G-d's attributes of loving kindness and building a community of fellow seekers.

Little wonder that G-d took such delight in Avraham and saw to it that Avraham and Sara would give birth to a single child, Yitzchak, through whom the future nation of Israel would be built, and showed to Avraham the land of Israel, precious in G-d's eye, to be inherited by Avraham's progeny.

Today, a thousand generations later, Avraham's children have returned to the land. Just as G-d commanded Avraham to walk the length and the breadth of the land, and to thereby inherit it, we, too, must traverse the land of Israel from the north to the south and from the west to the east, and by doing so, take possession of it. But the key to our return is not simply traversing the land in a mechanical fashion, but traversing the land as Avraham did, spreading G-d's light, revealing G-d's way, and sharing G-d's love with our fellow man. For we are the seed of Avraham, and to us G-d has given this land.

-Rabbi Chaim Richman of The Temple Institute

Monday, October 26, 2009

Yarzeit of Rachel Imeinu

11 Cheshvan - Yarzeit of Rachel Imeinu
(falls on Thursday Oct. 29, 2009) 

Born: 2170 (1590 BCE)
Died: 2208 (1557  BCE)

On the eleventh of Cheshvan, while giving birth to her 2nd son,  Binyamin, Rachel, the beloved wife of Ya'akov, died, and was buried on the road to Beit Lechem (Bethlehem).

Our mother Rachel was not buried in the tile cave of Machpelah in Chevron (Hevron) together with the other Matriarchs and Patriarchs of our people. Instead, she was buried on the road toYerushalayim, exactly where she died, while coming back toYerushalayim from the House of Lavan with Yaakov.

Why was Rachel buried on the road in Beit Lechem?

According to our Sages, Ya'akov saw prophetically in the future, that Jewish exiles would pass by on that road and she might seek mercy for them.

When Nebuzaradan exiled the Jews from Yisrael, and they in fact passed her grave, Rachel emerged to weep and to ask for mercy in their behalf: "Thus says HaShem, 'A voice is heard in Ramah (or on high), lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children; she refuses to be comforted over her children, for they are gone.'" (Yirmeyahu 3l:14) And G-d in fact answers: "Thus says HaShem, 'Keep your voice from crying and your eyes from weeping: for your labors will be rewarded,' says HaShem, 'And [your children] shall return from the land of the enemy'" (Rashi Va'yechi, and Midrashim quoted by Radak, Yirmeyahu 31).

The Midrash states that Rachel weeps for the destruction of Yisrael more than any other of the Patriarchs or Matriarchs, because it was Rachel who strived the most to establish the House of Yisrael.  Had Rachel refused to accept the request of her father, Lavan, to have her sister, Leah, become Yaakov's wife instead of her, the House of Yisrael would have received an entirely different form.  Leah would never have married Yaakov, and the handmaids, Bilha and Zilpah, who married Yaakov as a result of Rachel's strong desire to enlarge Yaakov's family, would not have married him either.

Rachel is assured that Jews wil continue to visit her grave, where they will pour out their hearts in prayer and weeping (Yirmeyahu 31:16).  This verse alludes to the remarkable fact that Rachel's tomb has been preserved to this very day, nearly 4,000 years after its construction.

From the time when the People of Yisrael went into their first exile until Yirmeyahu's prophecy of redemption ("And [your children] shall return from the land of the enemy"), the grave of our mother Rachel has always been and will always remain a House of Prayer to Yisrael, for she is a mother to all Yisrael, and always awakens mercy in their behalf.

May the merit of the tzaddeket Rachel Imeinu  protect us all, Amein.

[MeAm Lo'ez, Rabbi Bachya, OU]

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Eternal Jew

The Eternal Jew

Dov Ben Shlomo

I was there when Abraham argued for Sodom
I ached at the lash that bound Isaac to the alter
I struggled with the Angel that Jacob defeated
The Angel, who changed our name to Israel
I screamed as the blows of my brothers fell
And I was sold with Joseph, with his brothers, into slavery
An accident of disposition, position, revelation
Conflict Resolution.

I stood at the foot of Mount Sinai.
I waited with anticipation;
I saw the bush enflame.
Yet, I beheld it's preservation.
I was counted among the emancipated;
As I eagerly embraced the commanding Word.
An accident of chronology, history, legacy
Temporal Morphology.

I am a Jew
A Hopelessly, piously irreverent Jew
Standing in the face of death,
Affirming life.

I rejoiced when David captured Jerusalem
I sang at the building of the Temple
I wept by the rivers of Babylon
While I kept my faith,
my hope, burning.
I saw our return Home
And the rise of the Jewish Commonwealth
An Accident of emotion, connection, passion
Emotive Displacement

I stood helpless as Herod forsook his people
I was in ruins when the Temple fell
I died of hopelessness on the top of Mount Massada
Fearing for the future of my people.
I was banished from my home
Left to wander with each new expulsion
An accident of motility, mobility, futility
Compulsive Intransigence

I am a Jew
A lost, anchored and wandering Jew
Witnessing the slaughter
Bearing the Hope

I was at Buchenwald and Treblinka.
I witnessed the slaughter;
I saw the flames.
Still, I echo the cries of anguish
I am left to mourn their passing;
But, I remain to acclaim their existence.
An accident of geography, vicinity, locality
Empathetic Proximity.

I lived to see my homeland restored
I worked the land from dawn until dusk
I made the desert bloom
And, I stood watch as its existence was threatened
I beheld the miracles of Entebbe, Ethiopia, Russia
"The Temple Mount is in our hands! The Temple Mount is in our hands!"
A people restored to their future.
An accident of perseverance, persistence, resistance
Divine Devotion

I am a Jew
A stubborn, rigidly flexible Jew
Attesting to the brutality of humanity
Maintaining its Divinity.

I Believe
With Perfect Faith
In the Holiness of Humanity...
I Believe With Perfect Faith
In the Coming of the Mashiach ...
Even though he may tarry
I still Believe.


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Haftarah Noach

My love shall not budge from you...
Haftarah Noach

Yeshayahu 54:10  The mountains may move and the hills may collapse, but My love shall not budge from you and My Covenant of shalom shall not fail, says the Merciful One, HaShem.

Even if G-d's oath to Noach were to falter and the foundations of earth were to fail, His oath to the Jewish people will stand for all times and His love for them will transcend Creation.

Even if the forefathers' and matriarchs' merits have come to an end, G-d's love for His people will not cease - their own closeness to G-d will earn them His Covenant of peace.

Your suffering in exile was to bring you back to Him, so that He be called your Holy One.  He is your Master who provides all your needs, both the material and the spiritual - surely He will bring you Redemption!

[MeAm Lo'ez]

Parashat Noach

This is the sign of the covenant...
Parashat Noach

Bereishit 9:9-15  Behold, I am making a covenant with you and with your offspring after you.  And with every living creature that is with you, with the birds, the animals, and all the beasts of the earth with you, all who departed from the ark, including every living creature on earth.  I will keep my covenant with you, that never again will all flesh be cut off by flood waters, never again will flood waters destroy the earth.  Elokim said, This is the sign of the covenant that I pledge between Myself and you, and between every living creature that is with you, for the generations of all time.  I have set my [rain] bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Myself and the earth.  At a time when I bring clouds over the earth, the [rain] bow will be seen in the clouds.  I shall remember My covenant that is between Myself and you, and between every living soul in all flesh, that never again will flood waters destroy all flesh.

G-d promised Noach that He would never again cause a flood.  He now said to Noach, "I have already promised you this.  But now I will give you a sign to put your mind at ease, so you will not be concerned.  I will produce this sign when the Attribute of Justice denounces the world and argues that it should be destroyed once again, because people are wicked.  The world will then begin to be covered with dark clouds, and the skies will turn black.  Then, suddenly, the rainbow will appear.  The attribute of Justice will then remember G-d's oath never again to cause a universal flood, and this Attribute will remain still. (Rashi)

This sign of the rainbow is not one that is visible on a daily basis whenever there are clouds in the sky as the wording of the Torah might suggest.  The rainbow is also not visible on every rainy day.  However, in a generation which is guilty of sins it appears in order to remind people of G-d's commitment.  When a rainbow is seen, it is a sign that people are wicked, and deserve to be wiped out by another flood.

When one sees a rainbow, he should say the following blessing:

Blessed are You, O G-d our L-rd, King of the Universe, Who recalls the covenant, Who is faithful in His promise, and Who keeps His word.

 [MeAm Lo'ez, Rabbi Bachya, Rashi]

Parashat Noach - Noach built an altar to G-d

Noach built an altar to G-d...
Parashat Noach

Bereishit 8:20  Noach built an alter to G-d.  He took of all the clean domestic animals and of all the clean birds, and he sacrificed burnt offerings on the altar.

After Noach had completed the evacuation of the ark, and had arranged all things in their proper places, he began to think: "Why did G-d command me to bring seven of each kosher (clean) creature into the ark?  If it was only to replenish the world, a single pair would be enough. G-d's command indicates that He wishes that I offer some of them as a sacrifice. (Bereishit Rabbah 34).

He also learned this in another way.  At first the kosher animals came just like the others, a single pair.  Then G-d told Noach to bring an additional six pair of each kosher species into the ark.  These he was to bring in personally, with his own hands.  Noach deduced that G-d intended that eh should bring these additional ones as sacrifices.  G-d had therefore commanded him to bring them in with his own hands, that he have a portion in preparing for this important act. (RaMBaN on Bereishit 7:8)  Noach's sacrifice to G-d impacted on all of mankind.  HaShem gave His blessing to mankind after Noach's sacrifice.

Based on these first seven verses of Bereishit 9, is the existence of seven fundamental laws that apply to all humanity. These laws are called "Sheva Mitzvot B'nei Noach" - seven commandments given to the descendants of Noah.

Rabbi Joseph Hertz, in his commentary on the bible, suggests that these laws constitute what might be called "natural religion," because they are essential to the existence of human society.  These seven laws, in effect, constitute the Torah's concept of the minimal laws of civilization and humanity.

These laws are:
1. The establishment of courts of justice
2. The prohibition of blasphemy
3. The prohibition of idolatry
4. The prohibition of incest, adultery and other illicit sexual behavior
5. The prohibition of perception
6. The prohibition of robbery
7. The prohibition of eating flesh cut from a living animal

The seven laws teach that all of humankind must set up courts of justice and establish laws governing civil and commercial life.

Idolatry is prohibited because there must be no more than a single source of ethical truth for humankind. It is not so much the prohibition of worshiping idols, such as the sun, the moon or stones that is the issue, it is the need to recognize one G-d who established inviolate moral principles for all.

Blasphemy does not only mean not cursing G-d. It is any act that might prevent any person from worshiping in a monotheistic manner.

The prohibition of incest and adultery is essential to assure the sanctity of the human family, which is the basis of societal structure.

The prohibition of murder assures the sanctity of human life.

The prohibition of robbery assures the sanctity of property.

Tearing a limb from a living animal and eating it is one of the greatest barbarisms that can be afflicted upon an animal. If it were freely permitted, people would become even more cruel than they might be naturally.

Another remarkable, though uncomfortable, conclusion emanates from the fact that the seven Noachide principles truly represent the minimal acceptable standards for human behavior. Consequently, it is impossible to ignore the conclusion that there is a point where human beings lose their privilege to be considered "human beings" if they fail to abide by at least these seven Noachide principles.

[MeAm Lo'ez, Rabbi Bachya]

Friday, October 16, 2009

Shabbat Shalom! - Seventh Gateway

Shabbat Shalom!

There are seven gates to the soul-- two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and a mouth. The Creator blessed the seventh day of the week and sanctified it.

It is therefore fitting that the mouth-- which is the seventh gateway-- give praise, through song, prayer and Torah learning all through the day.  [Rabbi Moshe Azulai]

Haftarah Bereishit

I, HaShem, have called you in righteousness...
Haftarah Bereishit

Yeshayahu 42:6-7  I, HaShem, have called you in righteousness and will take hold of your hand.  I shall watch over you, having appointed you over the Covenantal people and a light to the nations, to open the eyes of the blind, to release prisoners from jail and dwellers in darkness from the dungeon.

It is HaShem Who has called the Mashiach to his great misson of returning the Jewish people to the Covenant.  To this end, G-d will strengthen him, "hold  his hand," and watch over him from all harm.

But his mission is not just to the Jewish people, but also to all the nations - for them, too, will he serve as a light.  He will enlighten, "open the eyes of," those who previously could not see G-d's truth.

42:10  Sing a new song to HaShem...   Let all nations sing to G-d for His opening their eyes...

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Parashat Bereishit

G-d Saw the Light was Good...
Parashat Bereishit

Bereishit 1:4 G-d saw that the light was good, and G-d divided the light from the darkness.

The light that was created on the first day was extremely brilliant. We can have some idea of it if we imagine a small room filled with intense lights, illuminating it from all sides.

With this primeval light, it was possible to see from one end of the universe to the other. (Bereishit Rabbah; Tosefot, Shabbat 22) One could see not only tangible things, but even ethereal things, which are normally invisible. (Zohar 2; Moed Katan, Chapter 2; Chagigah 12a; Yad Yosef. Also see Zohar Chadash) This light was very fine, filled with glowing mental power. Through it, one could attain knowledge with which he could see to the ends of the world. (Bereishit Rabbah; Zohar Chadash)

Since human beings would be evil, such as those in the generations of the Great Flood, the Tower of Bavel, and the idolatrous contemporaries of Enosh, they were not worthy of enjoying this light. G-d therefore set it aside for the righteous in the Olam Haba. The light that remains in our world is merely a seventh of the light that existed during the days of creation. Some say that this primeval light was 60,075 times as bright as the light of the sun.

- MeAm Lo'ez - Bereishit

Bereishit - In the Beginning

To begin all over again!

What possibilities lie before us! What unforeseen potential awaits us!

We don't simply begin back where we started from one year ago, we begin all the way back at the beginning. The very beginning, the beginning of beginnings: That is, the book of Bereishit, Genesis, which is not merely an account of the beginning, a narration of how it went, but it is the very blueprint for the beginning that G-d Himself, as it were, consulted when He chose to begin the creation. Its letters, their shapes and sounds, and the words and verses that they form, are the very DNA of the world of darkness and light, day and night, rivers and streams and oceans and mountains, livestock and wildlife, fish and fowl, stars and planets, moon and sun, that we live in.

These letters are the stuff of our very souls, and to study, to examine, to ponder, to immerse ourselves in the depths of the Bereishit reality, is not only an immensely satisfying and gratifying endeavor, but it is part and parcel of the fulfillment of our purpose on this earth: to behold G-d's wonders and to praise Him and draw near to Him. [Rabbi Chaim Richman - The Temple Institute -]

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Rising from the Dust of Expulsion

I remember when I first heard about the dream community that would rise out of the dust and ashes of Neve Dekalim, the largest of the 22 Jewish communities destroyed by the Gaza "disengagement" of 2005.

It was in the cramped room occupied by Rachel and Moshe Saperstein on the 6th floor of the Jerusalem Gold Hotel. Along with hundreds of their former neighbors, the Sapersteins spent 10 months attempting to take the first steps in recreating a semblance of a normal life after they were forcibly removed from their home and the meaningful lives they had built in the Gush.

Rachel would sit on her bed in the hotel and tell anyone who would listen about the new community that would be in a place where their presence would make a difference; where ecological concerns would be paramount and all kinds of educational institutions would be developed to help preserve the values and lifestyle that marked Neve Dekalim. There would even be a hotel and spa, she assured me. By the time they finally left the Jerusalem hotel in June 2006 to go to their "temporary" pre-fab homes in Nitzan near Ashkelon, Rachel and her friends had already pinpointed the Lachish area as the place where they would put down their new roots.

Yesterday, the first step of that dream became a reality as hundreds of people joined the former Gush Katif pioneers in the laying of the cornerstone for the new community of Bnei Dekalim in the beautiful eastern Lachish area.

As the electrifying blasts of an over-sized shofar were sounded by Arik Davidov standing atop a Caterpillar earth-mover, the crowd hushed to take in the views over the rolling landscape that extend to the Hebron hills in one direction and down to Gush Katif and the Mediterranean the other way.

In the presence of a couple of Knesset members(Nissim Slomiansky and Tzipi Hotovely)a slew of rabbis and various members of the local regional councils, Minister Ariel Attias, Minister of Building and Construction told the crowd that the Gaza disengagement was a "mistake" and noted that his ministry had invested 170 million NIS in Bnei Dekalim.

Representatives of the neighboring local councils enthusiastically welcomed the development of the new yishuv and its potential to boost the local population of this sparsely populated area within the Green Line.

But it was left to Rachel Saperstein to relate in English a brief history of Lachish. Rachel explains that Lachish is generally regarded as the second most important city in the southern kingdom of Judah. It enters the biblical narrative in the battle accounts of Joshua, Sennacherib and Nebuchadnezzar. In fact, on the winding, scenic two-lane road that leads from the main Beersheva-Kiryat Gat highway to Bnei Dekalim, we pass the archeological site of Tel Lachish that is now surrounded by acres and acres of lush grapevines that belong to the small communities long the road.

Lachish was known as the defense center and fortress that monitored entrance into the Judean Hill Country from the west and southwest. Dating from between 598-589/88 B.C., the Lachish Letters, describing the Babylonian conquest of Judah, illustrate the kind of Hebrew used at the time of Jeremiah.

According to Walking in Their Sandals, "when Nebuchadnezzar established the Babylonian domination of Judah in 588-587 B.C., the southern outpost city of Lachish was one of the last remaining Judean cities to be taken (Jer 34:6,7). The Jews had arranged for relay communication between Lachish and Jerusalem by means of smoke signals at Azekah, fifteen miles from Jerusalem, and Lachish, thirty-five miles distant. Letter 4 of the Lachish Letters reads: "We were watching for the smoke signals of Lachish…because we do not see Azekah." This indicated that Azekah had already fallen to Nebuchadnezzar. Soon after this, Lachish would capitulate."

Rachel Saperstein closed her remarks by noting:
"The Kings of Israel built glorious cities here and Bar Kochba the revolutionary found refuge here..  We, the expelled people of Gush Katif will build in this grand tradition.  What an honor. Come and join us!"
There are already 60 families who will pioneer the new community. Eventually, 500 families will make Bnei Dekalim their home and become the center of the revitalized Lachish region, fulfilling the mitzvah of settling the land.

For Rachel Saperstein and her neighbors it's no longer a dream but the dawning of a new reality.
-Judy Lash Balint, Jerusalem
Jerusalem Diaries II: What's Really Happening in Israel by Judy Lash Balint (Xulon) is available for purchase from or by calling 1-866-909-BOOK (2665)