Tuesday, September 25, 2007

SUKKOT - THE MIRACLE OF BIRTH!

THE MIRACLE OF BIRTH

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Gazing lovingly down at their newborn, the new parents have arranged the nursery, the crib, and all the accoutrements thereof. So too, Hashem is gazing lovingly down at Israel through the roof of the supernal sukkah. As much as for the comfort and reassurance that *we* need to be able to look up at the stars to see through the schach which constitutes the roof, *Hashem* needs to look down and gaze lovingly at us, his children. The four walls are like the protective walls of the crib, and all the decorations are like baubles and hanging toys for the infant. Just as we are newly born on Sukkoth, having passed through the Yom Kippur mini-dying and resouling chamber, the people of Israel now are passed from the loving care of Moshe Rabbeinu to the waiting hands of Yehoshua. On Yom Kippur we were resouled, purified. But now having been cleansed, we await the ensoulment into a new body, as it were, as we become collectively reborn on Sukkot. The Ushpizin, the Exalted Guests, come to visit, bringing gifts for the newborn babe.

In the Talmud, Massechet Niddah, 30B, it is said that an angel teaches us the entire Torah in the womb (which we then forget at birth), and that we are not born until we swear to always live a righteous life. In all of parshat Ha'azinu, Moshe is enjoining the people to swear to be righteous and loyal to Hashem. Moshe Rabbeinu is likened to that very malach, that self-same angel, but on the macro level, vis a vis the nation of Israel."

No other prophet has arisen in Israel who knew G*d face to face(Deut.34:10)." And in Numbers 12:8 it states: "with him (Moses) I speakface to face..." And in Exodus 33:11 it states, " G*d would speak to Moses face to face (panim el panim), just as a person speaks to a close friend." Now this must mean that in a sense he was akin to an angel, being that he was without food or water on Mount Sinai for forty days and nights, and that"no man may see my face and live - lo tuchal lirot et panai ki lo yirani ha'adam vachai (ibid 20)."

And of course, like the angel in the womb, it was Moses who taught the entire Torah to the people of Israel in the course of their sojourn in the wilderness (only to have them forget it all upon their birth when crossing the River Jordan!). The Judges and the Prophets and the Levites had the task of re-educating the people throughout all their years of adulterous idolatry, thereby inducing a national deja-vu experience. So too, after we are born, we are instructed to relearn all the Torah which we had once known and had been privy to while ensconced in the womb.

Now this analogy of the wombic transition is also supported by the idea of the umbilic mannah life support in the wilderness. This food source was daily - gratis and unceasing up until the entrance of the people into the Land. They were protected on all sides by the ananei hakavod, the clouds of glory, from above and below and all around, a sort of amneotic sac! The flow and outpouring of blessing (shefa) in the wilderness, like in the womb, was total, unconditional and unceasing.

However, upon entry into the land, the birthing of Israel into the world, the flow of blessing was conditional on their total loyalty to the monotheistic ethical imperative. On Sukkoth we have the idea of the "or hamekif," or the light which is all-encompassing. The walls which surround us in the holy sukkah represent G*d's unconditional love and light. It is also said in the Talmud (ibid) "vener daluk al rosho- and a lamp is lit (for the unborn child) above his head." This alludes to the heightened sense of spiritual awareness that the fetus experiences prior to birth.

So the reason we do not say tachanun fromYom Kippur through Sukkoth, or that in some circles the minhag is to continue saying l'eilah U'l'eilah throughout Sukkoth, may be because of this literal connection, that Sukkoth is a celebration and the concluding stage of the rebirthing of Israel. The sukkah then is both the crib of Israel following its birth, as well as a reenactment of the amneotic sac prior to birth. Whichever one it is for each of us depends on whether we did a complete teshuvah process by Yom Kippur.

Like the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, the subjective reality of the observation process effects the objective conditions of the reality being observed. If our teshuvah process was complete by Yom Kippur, then the sukkah represents for us the crib following birth. And if we still need more time to finish our teshuvah, then the sukkah represents the amneotic sac prior to birth. Since we have theTalmudic principle of "basar rov," that is, we follow the majority in cases of safek, or doubt, for clal yisrael as a whole we assume that we completed the teshuvah process "on time" by Yom Kippur. Hence we view, for the majority at least, Sukkoth as our birth (or re-birth), with the eighth day, Shemini Atzeret, being then the bris, corresponding to Simchat Torah in the Land of Israel.

On Rosh Hashana we say HaYom Harat Olam. Harat actually alludes more to pregnancy than to the idea of actual birth, being that herayon means pregnancy and both share the same root.
Sukkot, fast approaching, represents Utmost Joy - the joy of the birthing of the nation of Israel into the world in accordance with the angelic teachings in the womb, carrying the knowledge and the hidden light from within the womb, via the Torah, into the world at large. Simchat Beit haShoeva, the water drawing festival celebrated during Sukkot, inaugurating the rainy season, can then be alternately understood as the breaking of the heavenly waters.

And it follows then, that if Tishrei is the month of birth, of the creation of the world and humanity as the Crown of Creation, then Cheshvan is the month of post-partum depression, the sadness we allow ourselves to feel when the dream of potential inherent in all births starkly confronts the exingencies of the everyday drudgery necessary to fulfilling those dreams. May we and all Israel eternally feel the protective walls of the sukkah which envelops us wholly in holy light, and may the exalted ushpizin guests shower us with the light and enlightenment of the Presence of the Shechinah in our midst. And now, having been born, in the immortal words of Tchernikhovsky, we rightly ask ourselves, "what is to be done?"

Simply to live holy and pure lives, shining the Torah's supernal light in all directions, alighting off the lulav's multiwaved fronds, each cosmic wave throwing more and ever intensely brighter light, giving hope to every darkened corner of an ever dimming world.

Good Shabbos! Good Yuntiff!

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, zichrono livracha.

Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective).

Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas. Contact me privately at niggun@aol.com

Thursday, September 20, 2007

YOM HA KI PURIM

A Yom Kippur Thought

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

When the Torah calls the holiest day of the year Yom HaKippurim, on a deeper level it saying that the day is actually Yom K'Purim, meaning "a day like Purim." And if Yom Kippur is likened to Purim, then on some level one could actually say that Purim is even deeper, in that it is the root holiday after which Yom Kippur is modelled.

Yes, Purim is historically post-Biblical, while Yom Kippur, being Biblical in origin came earlier, but in matters of Divine Truth there is no past or future. It's all happening in the eternal moment. Time is but a function of our human dimension. It lacks relevance from the perspective of the other worlds. Time slows down as we approach the speed of light. And at the speed of G*d there is no past present or future, just as G*d lives simultaneously in the past, present and future. You can be reincarnated into the past just as easily as you can be reincarnated into the future. As we stand before the Aron Kodesh, with our whole future before us, so too is our whole past stretched before us on the heavenly surround sound wide screen projection video.

On Purim we celebrate the vanquishing of evil. Haman is always in pursuit of Mordechai. Mordechai, always one step ahead, escapes his clutches. Esther represents that part of us which takes the leap of faith. Like Esther, we put ourselves on the line, throwing ourselves at the mercy of the king for our very lives. With every fiber of her being and every ounce of energy she summoned her holy chutzpah to plead for her deliverance. Haman, representing evil incarnate, must nevertheless pay homage to Mordechai, who triumphantly leads him through the streets of Shushan.

So too, on Yom Kippur, we realize that while we despair at the sins we may have committed, in the end they may ultimately be harnessed in the service of the good. In the end, the crimson thread turns to white as the High Priest proclaims our atonement. In the place where a Baal Teshuvah stands, holding in his hands a tattered, well-worn valise of sins, no Tzaddik can stand. Still, we are wont to give in to despair because as we aspire in holiness and piety the evil inclination is never far behind.

We often become discouraged in our spiritual strivings because the higher we ascend in our spiritual progress, like Mordechai's ascent in the court of the king, so too do the forces of negativity seem to increase their vigor, and like Haman, nearly succeed in dragging us down into the abyss. The secular world claims the religious sin because of hypocricy, perhaps to justify its antinomian predilections. But the truth is that the greater the Tzaddik, the greater the evil inclination, as its sole desire is to distract and weaken and eventually annul the tzaddik's soul desire. Our mission is to overcome and not surrender.

And yet we revel on this day in the sure knowledge that in the end the evil decree will be anulled, the evil inclination will be vainquished, and like Esther we will soon be dining at the feast of the Great King. On Yom Kippur, the King of Kings holds out His golden sceptre to each of us, thereby anulling the evil decree. That is why Yom Kippur is the most joyous of all holidays. Solemn, perhaps, but certainly joyous. May Hashem's messengers on horseback race to the far ends of the kingdom proclaiming that each and every one of us are sealed in the Book of Life.

Gemar Chatimah Tovah!

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

P.S. The tzaddik in the above is one who valiantly wrestles with his yetzer hara, as opposed to a complete, true Tzaddik, a Tzaddik Gamur, who is in the rarified ranks of those who have completely dominated and subjugated their evil inclination. Among them are the lamedvavniks, 36 in all, clothed in secrecy, whose existence is said to sustain the world. They are the elite shock troops of the Future World, known for their kind and unassuming natures.

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, zichrono livracha.

Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective).
Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas. Contact me privately at niggun@aol.com

Sunday, September 16, 2007

LETTER FROM JONATHAN POLLARD

Friends,

I am reprinting this letter I received from Jonathan Pollard.

At the time he had been imprisoned for five years. He has now served over twenty five years in prison for a crime (spying on behalf of an ally) for which the usual sentence is but two years.

I thought it had gotten lost in the course of my many moves, but I recently rediscovered it in a box that had been in storage for many years. It was apparently meant to be published only now...

BS"D

Marion, IL

Dear BB,

I can't even begin to tell you how deeply touched I was by your kind words of encouragement and solidarity. At this point in time, such sentiments are literally worth their weight in gold to me. I can only hope that when this nightmare is finally over I'll be able to thank you personally for your uncommon decency and compassion.

Although the past 5 years have been a living hell for me, I have nevertheless been able to draw strength from the realization that there are indeed Jews like you, who are simply not prepared to write me off as "expendable." True, the response of the so-called Jewish establishment has been less than sympathetic to our plight.

But as long as there are individuals such as yourself within the local Jewish community I know that I will not be forgotten. And it is that fact, perhaps more than anything else, which confirms our indissoluble unity as a people. So you see, even amidst the tragedy of this affair there is still some solace from which we can take comfort.

For the record, I want to state quite clearly that I love this country very much and would never do anything to jeopardize its security. But I also feel that, as a Jew, I have an additional responsibility to safeguard our ancestral homeland. After all, if Israel were to fall, G*d forbid, none of us would escape the consequences.

Perhaps Leon Uris put it best when he declared that "every generation of Jews since the fall of the Second Temple has been both blessed and cursed with the commission of doing what is necessary in its lifetime for the survival of our people." This is why, when I saw what Caspar Weinberger was trying to do to Israel by withholding all that crucial information from her, I felt compelled to act.

Certainly, I was scared and greatly troubled over the legal implications of my decision. But when it came right down to it, I just felt that I had no other choice but to accept a level of personal risk commensurate with what was at stake. And if the truth be known, I'd rather be rotting in prison than sitting shiva for all the Israelis who could have died because of my cowardice.

Granted, I broke the law and deserve to be punished. But I don't believe that one necessarily has to condone what I did in order to recognize the the patently prejudicial nature of my sentence. After all, this is still a country where the courts are expected to dispense proportional justice, not political vengeance.

Above all else, though, I suppose the aspect of this affair which concerns me the most is that virtually all of the major Jewish organizations in this country failed to appreciate the fact that my case was a window into the government's actual intentions towards Israel. Admittedly, members of the American Jewish establishment should not be condemned out of hand for their "occasional" lack of omniscience. After all, they, too, are only human. But surely someone from an organization like B'nai B'rith should have been perceptive enough to recognize that the government's deliberate sensationalization of my case was part and parcel of a larger scheme to undermine Israel's reputation as a loyal ally.

Did AIPAC stop and wonder why the Defense and State Departments were so ready to use this affair as a pretext for purging their ranks of pro-Israel sympathizers? Did Hadassah question why Caspar Weinberger was so outraged over the fact that Israel had become "too strong" as a result of the information I provided her? How can it be, that not even the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs seems to have been troubled by the Justice Department's obvious attempt to create a wider espionage conspiracy involving additional members of the local Jewish community?

Nobody even bothered to ask why vital intelligence which was supposed to have been given to Israel under the terms of a bilateral agreement (Memorandum of Understanding-ed.) with this country had been illegally embargoed! Simply put, if more people had just taken the time to sit down and think about the obvious warning signals emanating from this affair, instead of burying their heads in the sand, it's at least possible that we could have done something to to reassert the centrality of Israel in America's global strategic lineup. But that would have required the existence of a national leadership which could be concerned with more than the protection of its own narrowly defined collective self interest.

These might sound like harsh words, but somebody has to wake the Jewish community from its slumber before our leadership sells Israel down the river. You know, cowardice is a reprehensible thing, particularly when it's practiced by individuals who can afford to show a little backbone. Then again, perhaps I'm expecting too much from an "Exilarch" which has obviously forgotten that complacency is but the first step along the road to ruin.

Of course, if our self-elected spokesmen want to worry about how my actions might have compromised their status in this country, well, let them worry. As far as I'm concerned, these trembling "Kaiserjuden" are beneath contempt- and that's putting it mildly. Don't misunderstand me- patriotism is is a fine and noble thing, but not when it's cynically employed as an excuse to justify an American Jew's refusal to to protect the lives of his "foreign" brethren. When this occurs, patriotism loses its civic virtue and becomes, instead, a Golden Calf that the assimilated Jew embraces out of fear and desperation.

Perhaps this would explain, then, why my local detractors condemned me with such unbridled ferocity. You see, to them I represented far more than just a simple "misguided" individual. In a very real sense, these apostles of neurasthemia, as I like to call them, regarded me as a reaffirmation of our traditional concept of Achdus, which they condescendingly reject as being "tribalistic" and a threat to our perceived reliability as loyal American citizens.

In its place they would evidently prefer to see a more "progressive" type of Jewish nationalism which, from what I can determine, would be predicated on both the permanency of our North American community and its near Biblical equivalency to Israel. Now I realize that given the events of 50 years ago this type of naivete borders on the suicidal. But the siren of assimilation can be quite alluring, I suppose, particularly for those American Jews whose concept of Zionism doesn't extend beyond their pocket book.

The bottom line, is that if Israel is to survive she must be protected not only by a resolute, well equipped army, but also by a dedicated corps of Diaspora Jews who are unafraid to do whatever is necessary to defend our homeland whenever and wherever her vital interests are threatened. I know what you're probably thinking right now: My L*rd, he's resurrecting the dual loyalty canard once again! Well, so what if I am? We are but dust to the world, dust to be scattered and stepped upon - nothing more. So let our timid spokesmen go off and proclaim their undivided allegiance to whomever they feel compelled to serve. I certainly can't stop them from engaging in such humiliating behavior.

What I can do, though, is continue to speak out on the desperate need for American Jewry to commit itself unreservedly to the defense of Israel and her hard-pressed people. After all, what is the alternative? To look the other way? Well, I simply couldn't have lived with myself if I'd done that. I've spent virtually my whole adult life studying our people's bloodstained history, and if there's one conclusion I've reached it is that unless we are prepared to ACT on behalf of our endangered brethren, then we will surely lose what little control over our destiny we have managed to salvage from the horrors of Exile.

Granted, my enemies have hysterically repudiated such views as being "subversive." That's alright. I'm well aware of the fact that I ruffled the feathers of certain overly sensitive American Jews by what I did for Israel. But as I see it, a few bruised egos were a small price to pay for the continued safety of 3 million Jews. And if some people want to consider this aberrant thinking, then pity them, not me!

In any event, let me just thank you once again for your principled support. Believe me, it's appreciated more than you could ever imagine.

kol tuv,

Yonatan





Copies of Jonathan Pollard's letter to me are available for verification purposes.
Email me, Rabbi Baruch Melman, at bmelman1@yahoo.com

See the facts re his case at http://www.jonathanpollard.org/facts.htm

Friends,

It is crucial to call and write to the White House immediately and consistently every day to create enough pressure from the grass roots level to make this an issue that won't just go away.

This is the Dreyfus Case of our generation. We must act now. Perhaps your one call will make the difference that will tip the scales of justice in Jonathan's favor.

Here is the number for the White House: 202-456-1414

Please call every day between 10 AM and 4 PM.

Who knows? Maybe YOUR call will be the one that tips the scales and sets him free!

The highest form of a mitzvah is one that is performed secretly.

For those who wish to secretly and anonymously fulfill the mitzvah of rescuing Jonathan Pollard from a life sentence in solitary confinement after he's paid his dues for breaking the law and admitted he broke the law and deserved to serve time, but whereas others who havebeen found guilty of spying on behalf of an ally on average only served a two year sentence, Jonathan has already served twenty five years in a tiny cell, cut off from virtually all human contact, and is very ill from diabetes. In return for pleading guilty he was promised a lenient sentence. Also, the charges against him were never fully disclosed to his defense attorney.

He is merely asking for proportional justice.

To help free him is a pure act of compassion and kindness.

The mitzvah of Pidyon Shvuyim, Redeeming the Captive, is one of the holiest mitzvahs one could ever do.

James Woolsey, former director of the CIA has said, "My view is that 20 years is enough...I think the close relationship between the US and Israel as fellow
democracies is also a consideration, and at this point I think he's served long enough."

Please call the White House every day between 10 AM and 4 PM. The number is 202-456-1414. Or the direct line: 202-456-1111. Say that "the president should commute Jonathan Pollard's life sentence to time served and that twenty years in prison long enough and that he should be free considering that others who have committed the similar offense of spying for an ally have on average only served two year prison sentences. I would like to see proportional justice. Thank you."

If you do this, helping him get his life back, I swear to you you will be written in the Book of Life.
-Rabbi Melman

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

HAAZINU- SHABBAT SHUVAH - ANSWER YOUR SOUL

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The maftir reading which we read on Yom Kippur, taken from Parshat Pinchas, Numbers 29:7, says "u'be'asur lachodesh hash'viee hazeh mikra kodesh yih'yeh lachem VI'INITEM et nafshoteychem kawl melacha lo ta'asu." To wit: "the tenth day of this seventh month shall be a sacred holy day to you and: TYPICAL TRANSLATION: you shall afflict your souls and not do any manner of work."

Talmud Yoma (77a) dissects its meaning and comes to include all the prohibited behaviors of the day, noting that it especially means to fast. Hence we use the term TAANIT for connoting a fast day, such as Taanit Esther, which shares the same root. But perhaps an an alternative translation can offer a new insight: you shall ANSWER your souls! The infinitive verb form of the word LA'ANOT means "to answer." Note that the verb form is written in the PIEL construct-VI'INITEM- which would serve to accentuate and emphasize its impact. REALLY ANSWER YOUR SOUL.

In Parshat Sh'mot, Exodus 1:12, we have the same verb- "vecha'asher y'ANU oto, ken yirbeh v'chen yifrotz... But the more they (the Egyptians) oppressed them, the more they (Israel) proliferated and spread."

So here it makes sense from the plain, peshat, meaning that it means "oppress," or "afflict." Now this is very deep. Usually when we answer someone we indeed end up afflicting them in some way. We often have some underlying need to dump on someone who genuinely needs help. As we have been dumped on all our lives by others, we sometimes have the urge to pass on the negativity of our own experiences onto others. Inquiry is seen as weakness, a seeming invitation for further oppression. Dialogue as weakness. Peculiar, yet the reigning motif of political conflict, especially in the MidEast.

In Exodus, the Israelites had just enjoyed generations of basking in the Egyptian goodwill stemming from Joseph's economic intervention which saved the country from utter ruin. Now they suddenly found themselves as slaves (ibid:8-11). Suddenly they were on the wrong side. Indeed overnight their whole world was turned upside down! They asked,"why?" and so "they answered them (read: oppressed them)..."

What was the negativity of Egypt that the new king felt needed to be passed on? A reverse Stockholm syndrome! Ruling a nation of serfs who had sold all their lands and possessions to a prior Pharaoh for their very survival, he absorbed and identified with their pain. When one places suffering within a context of meaning it can be dealt with and tolerated. Many generations having lapsed, the new generation of Egypt lost the context for their suffering; their hardship became too much to bear. Meanwhile a prosperous Israel thrived among them in neighboring Goshen. The disparity aroused jealousy, another source of great psychic pain. Israel felt betrayed by the king and the society they had placed all their hopes in, indeed had staked their future upon. In whom should our trust really be placed?

Now in our parsha, Ha'azinu, we ask: what is the question and what is the answer? What pain has been inflicted on me, and how do I refrain from consciously or unconsciously passing it on to others? In this season of deepest reflection and self-accounting (cheshbon hanefesh), as we stand figuratively before the King of Kings, we ask, "why are we here? What is the ultimate purpose of our lives? What is the point of my life? What is the point of being Jewish?"

Not "why are we the eternal people," for that is a given, being that it is a Divine oath, but "what are we to do with this eternality?" Will we be IN the garden or OUT of the garden? In the Torah blessing we intone: "vechayey olam nata betochenu- and eternal life you hath planted in our midst." Will we seek shelter amidst the branches under the protective shade of the TREE of LIFE, which is Torah? Or will we we spurn this gift- the Torah, whose mitzvoth and teachings are literally the keys to our soul's eternal life?

"Ha'azinu hashamayim- Give ear O Heavens...

vetishma ha'aretz- and Hear O Earth..."

Heaven and Earth were the first born in Creation, partnering with G*d in the Creation of all that was to follow. Being the first of Creation they represent all that is potential. Humankind, being the last of Creation, represents the fulfillment of that potential. The Torah, the Sinaitic Revelation, takes us one step further and asks us to go BEYOND our potential.

And finally, the Messianic Age represents the fulfillment of that "going beyond." The Pagan Idea represented the eternal cyclicity of life. The Judaic Revolution realigned human consciousness to synchronize with the DNA blueprint, substituting the two dimensional pagan circle theory which has no sense of progression, with the three dimensional Hebraic spiral theory - G*d, Torah and Israel, which combines cyclicity with growth.

Forty represents transformation. The forty day period from Elul through Yom Kippur represents in miniature mankind's sojourn from Creation through Revelation and on to the Ultimate Redemption. The trumpets we blow on Rosh Hashanah symbolize the same trumpets we heard at Sinai, while the release from the obsessive burden of all bodily cares on Yom Kippur offers us a glimpse into the state of perfection of the Future World, when the soul and the body finally act in harmony instead of at cross purposes, when peace and justice is achieved for all. As such it is our day of greatest joy and celebration.

Shabbat Shuvah is the breather, the shabbat resting point, from which we symbolically catch our collective breath before we ascend to the peak of the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the Shabbat Shabbaton, which is Yom Kippur. The timeliness and concurrence of Haazinu with the Sabbath of Return- Shabbat Shuvah, is uncanny. We so often despair of our journey and grow weary of the effort just when the end is almost in sight. It's always darkest just before the dawn!

When we lose the connection to Sinai, we lose the compass pointing us to our ultimate destination. We are bidden by Moses for ALL generations to contemplate how and why we became prosperous in our land.

"Pay close attention to all the words through whichI warn you this day, so that you will be able to instruct your CHILDREN to keep all the words of this Torah carefully."

When Israel seeks to throw off the yoke of the Torah she is bending and distorting the spiral paradigm.

"Answer your souls' deepest yearnings- v'initem et nafshoteychem," and return to Hashem.

If we make the Torah central to our lives we are indeed answering our soul's deepest desire, and INITEM is then translated as "answering our soul." But if we lose our center and allow centripetal forces to spin us around and bear down on us, thus losing the Torah as the guiding central moral force in our lives, then INITEM becomes translated as "afflict your souls."

But as our haftarah reassures us in the end (2 Samuel 22: 49-51), King David declares, "He brings me out from my enemies. You lift me above my adversaries; you deliver me from the violent man (literally "Hamas!"). Therefore I will give thanks to You, O G*d, among the nations, and sing praises to your name. He is a Tower of Salvation to His king; and shows mercy to His annointed, to David and his descendants forever."

MIGDOL YESHUOTH MALKO VE'OSEH CHESED LIMSHICHO LEDAVID U'LI'ZAROAD OLAM.

A most hopeful note indeed.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos. Shana Tovah. Ketivah vechatimah tovah.

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, zichrono livracha.

Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective).

Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.Contact me privately at niggun@aol.com

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

ROSH HASHANA - CHANGE YOUR HEAD

by Rabbi Baruch Melman

The word "shana" in Hebrew means many things. It is most commonly translated as year, but it also has many deeper related meanings. Shana also means "teach,"and the word "mishna," the oral teachings, comes from the same root. Shana also means "change" or "transformation." In Hebrew, "leshanot" is the infinitive form of the word meaning "to change." The word for teeth, "sheenayim," also derives from the same root. Our teeth begin the transformation process, begin the changing of inanimate food into the very energy which animates us. That which was once matter of a certain provenance from outside of ourselves, some "other," now becomes a part of our very essence.

The word for tongue, "lashon,"also hints at this idea. Not only does the tongue aid the teeth in the digestive process, whose taste buds help avoid the fetid, the putrid and the rancid, but so too does the tongue form words, helping to change ethereal thoughts into the realm of action- into words, which are the genesis of action. And in Hebrew, the word "shoneh" means "different," apart from the norm by dint of change. Rosh Hashana, then, is often given short shrift by being viewed solely as meaning the "head of the year."

Passover, falling in the month of Nisan, is explicitly enumerated in the Torah as being more properly known as the head of the year, calling her "the first month." Tishrei, the month of Rosh Hashana, is literally called "the seventh month." So what should it then be called? How do we tie all these meanings of shana together to form a coherent, organic whole?

Rosh Hashana should be called "the beginning of changing." Just as nature begins to change with the changing of the leaves and the change in the seasons, and school begins and new TV shows begin, so too should we learn to let go and to embrace a new beginning. Tishrei is the seventh month. Shabbat is the seventh day.

Shabbat, the seventh day, where we change into our heavenly spiritual garments, is mirrored in the seventh month, the month of spiritual transformation. All year long we are learning life's lessons. Each year we try to grow, becoming different and better people than we were the year before. We strive to accept change in life, in others and in ourselves. Only through forgiving ourselves and others can we take the first step in making these changes. Only through a renewed sense of responsibility to the covenantal idea, to the idea of mitzvah, can this change occur.

This responsibility to facilitate this process of change is the essence of the Torah's eternal challenge. But true change is very frightening. As they say, everyone wants progress, but no one wants to change. So the Creator Above understands this and helps us to change, giving us a forty day period from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur to help us to psychologically navigate the transformation. We cannot do it in one day.

The shofar we blow each morning during the month of Elul in this season of changing, itself epitomizes change. From originally being the instrument of animal warfare, of strife and contention, it will one day become the instrument through which we announce the Messianic Age, heralding the dawn of a new age of peace,love and brotherhood.

Shana Tova, the New Year greeting, does not only mean Happy New Year. On the deepest level it means, "Change for the Good." May we all change for the good, and choose life. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, zichrono livracha.

Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective).

Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.Contact me privately at niggun@aol.com

Friday, September 7, 2007

The Power to Heal

I found this story at www.neohasid.org

This is a story from Maggid Yitzhak Buxbaum. You can order his new book, The Light and Fire of the Baal Shem Tov, on his website, http://www.jewishspirit.com/. You can also read more stories on his website, including one more about Rabbi Mordechai Shapiro of Neshkiz, the hero of this story, in Reb Yitzhak's online journal.

Reb Yitzhak writes: This story teaches us how we are supposed to pray for someone suffering or seriously ill — until we actually squeeze our soul out of our body, because we cannot bear to be in this world if they suffer so much! We may not reach this exalted level in our praying, but this tale provides a shining model of what to strive for.

The Power to Heal

Rebbe Mordechai of Neshkiz was at a big wedding in Slavita, Russia, which many great rebbes and rabbis attended. At that time, early in his career, the Rebbe of Neshkiz had become famous as a miracle worker, but many of the other Torah leaders did not yet know him. After the wedding, when the Neshkizer had already left, some of the Torah leaders who remained discussed among themselves how the Rebbe of Neshkiz had become such a great miracle worker. And they began to consider that perhaps his power was not from the side of holiness. So they decided to send two delegates to Neshkiz to ask him about it. If he would not tell them, then certainly he was not from the side of holiness, and they would do everything possible to oppose him. So they sent two rabbis to him to ask him why he was able to perform such great miracles.

The Rebbe greeted these two rabbis, who bluntly asked him their question. In reply, he went over and got a Kabbalistic siddur, and opened it to the page with the prayer Ana BeKhoach. He then pointed out to them the Kabbalistic secrets found in every verse and phrase of the prayer. He said, "If one wants God, blessed be, to help with livelihood, one meditates on this divine Name in this part of the prayer; if one wants another kind of help, one meditates on this other Name." And he continued to show them that all the divine Names that effected salvation in every possible situation are found in Ana BeKhoach. "But the truth is," he said, "I've never used any of these Names. Let me tell you how I came to have the power to do all these miracles."

"When I was a young man I once went out for a walk to be alone and to take a rest from my divine service [of Torah study and prayer]. While on the street, immersed in my thoughts, I heard the rumble of carriage wheels; I looked up and saw an open carriage slowly pass by, and in it lay a man who was terribly sick, with sores covering his body from the soles of his feet to the top of his head; and he was groaning in pain. I immediately began to weep for him. And I prayed for God, blessed be He, to send healing and cure him!

"I wept and prayed so much that my soul actually left my body. When I came to the Upper World, the angels began to yell at me, 'What are you doing here? Your time to pass away hasn't come yet!' And they ordered me to return to this world. I told them, 'If there can be someone in that world who is so sick and suffers so much, I don't want to be there any more! I can't bear it!' They passed what I said on to the heavenly court and the court sent back a promise to me that because I really felt the man's pain, anyone on whom I had pity would immediately be healed. That's where I got the power to perform all these miracles of healing."

When the two emissaries took this information back to the tzaddikim and Torah leaders who had sent them, they then sent out messages to all the cities where Jews lived to tell them that all the sick people should immediately go to Neshkiz and the Rebbe there would heal them.

And that was what happened. Sick people from all over went to Neshkiz and were healed, and so many of those who were crippled or bed-ridden threw away their crutches or the wooden pallets they had been carried there on, that they were used to heat up the baths.

NITZAVIM VAYELECH - MOVIN' TO THE CENTER (but feelin' lonely just the same)

by Rabbi Baruch Melman

The ger, the convert to Judaism, follows in the footsteps of Avraham Avinu, the Patriarch Abraham, and of Sarah Imenu, the Matriarch Sarah, who were themselves gerim. They chose a new path for themselves, following the deepest yearning of their heart for the ultimate truth that there is One G*d who demands righteousness and ethical behavior. The ger is precious to us as a people, and yet the ger may feel a sense of loneliness, as he/she chose this path for themselves.

Our tradition teaches that all the souls of Israel, past, present and future, stood as one at Mount Sinai, together with the souls of all future gerim, those who would accept the Torah, the Covenant between G*d and Israel. The ger is so holy. And as being holy means being set aside and special in the best sense, being holy and pure as the Sabbath is holy and pure, less sensitive and less refined souls may view the apartness as a possible negative, and so the Torah adjures us 36 times not to oppress the ger in any way. It would be like oppressing Avraham and Sarah, their parents.

The ger, the convert, is fundamentally alone. Unmoored from the past, yet not feeling fully hinged to the present, he eternally seeks validation that he has, in fact, arrived. The aloneness is his burden, and yet it is his fundamental strength. Recreating Abraham's singular journey, who himself was a ger, he finds solace in the sojourn, that the voyage is, in a certain sense, his ultimate calling.

Nitzavim/Vayelech- "standing, yet going," replicates so delicately the narrowing arc of Israel's destiny, from the edge of history to that of its vibrant center. Ironically, KI GERIM HAYITEM B'ERETZ MITZRAYIM,"because you were strangers in the land of Egypt," employs the plural form for stranger (gerim) when referring to Israel, yet when the Torah refers to the actual GER among Israel, it prefers the use of the singular. Maybe it is because each holy ger comes alone in his quest, following the deep yearning of his soul. In a sense he revels in that aloneness as the precursor of his search, for the search only begins with the confrontation with his essential aloneness. It is that very sense of aloneness which in the end gives comfort. As G*d is essentially alone, and yet yearns to be rejoined by the righteous of Israel and the world, so too does the ger share with G*d in that existential aloneness.

In the very opening lines of our parsha (Deut. 29:9,10), every group mentioned takes a plural ending-save the proselyte. But in parshat Yitro, in the very verses uttered at the Sabbath day Kiddush (Ex. 20:8-10), every referenced group takes the singular ending- along with the proselyte. Moreover, in Nitzavim, the proselyte is positioned in the center of the camp of Israel (vegercha asher b'KEREV MACHANECHA),

"and your proselyte who is in the midst of your camp,"

whereas, in Yitro, the ger is figuratively positioned at the edge of the camp, literally at the gates seeking admission (gercha asher B'SHAARECHA)

" your proselyte who is at your gates."

Maybe this reflects perspective. As in quantum physics, perspective itself effects reality, even effecting the affective, i.e., the realm of feelings. When one is standing on the edge, just another point along the circumference, then all whom you know is standing right next to you- immediately to your right, and immediately to your left. But when one is standing in the center,everyone else seems plural in the sense that one now takes in the greater whole from the central vantage point. The periphery, once veiled owing to one's having had been a part of that very periphery, now becomes enlarged in its seeming fullness by virtue of one's new perspective.

How true that the ger amongst us once stood alone at the gates, beckoning admission. And how true that those very gerim are now the vibrant center of our Jewish lives, whose vibrant enthusiasm so infectiously stimulate. As Israel is the central truth seeker and shaker in world history, so too is the ger the energy center and truth seeking core within Israel.

Israel, similarly, remains the vibrant center in world consciousness, stands alone, and similarly craves acceptance by those of the world tribunal so reticent to grant it. In the opening verse of our parsha (verse 9) the word "Israel" stands alone in the singular. So too does the word "ger" in the immediate verse following. Alone amongst the plurality, Israel and the ger share a fate forever intertwined, as stood Abraham, exemplar exemplorum.

Israel, having just left Egyptian bondage, in its precovenantal state, was still yet seemingly just another nation, standing at the gates of world history, but readying to stand center-stage. Israel, qua Israel, emerging from its own ger status as history's UR-stranger, had yet to receive the covenant through which to be then thrust to centerpoint. And in walking through those gates, the ger takes center stage, for the momentum keeps him going.

Israel, through her taking on the Covenant, symbolized by the Sabbath, and reaffirmed in the Kiddush, likewise becomes the new center- history's hub, even as that very hub urges a transcendence of history. The existential loneliness of Israel is the existential loneliness of the ger. The two remain as one, as one with the One G*d of Israel, the One G*d of the ger.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2007 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in honor of the memory of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Yaakov Hakohen Melman, z"l.

Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua
(a chidush, from the word chadash, means a new, original or fresh perspective).

Dedications are available.

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.Contact me privately at niggun@aol.com

NEVER GIVE UP!

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"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

- anonymous
"Perhaps the greatest force in the entire universe is compounded interest."

- Albert Einstein

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When I was young I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people.- Abraham Joshua Heschel
The whole world is a very narrow bridge. And the most important thing is to not be afraid.
-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"The greatest thing in the world is to do somebody else a favor." - Aish Kodesh
"As you want G*d to give you a chance, give everyone else a chance to also begin again." - Shlomo Carlebach

About Me

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United States
I played violin with Reb Shlomo and studied under him for over nine years at hundreds of concerts and learnings. Shlomo wanted to give me smicha before he passed. Deepest influences: My father,obm, who was a great scientist and human being, and my grandfather, obm, who was a great Torah scholar who was a musmach of the Mir Yeshiva and taught in Slobodka in Russia before WW1, and was also personal friends with the Chafetz Chaim and came to America in 1914. He knew the Talmud by heart! You could stick a pin in a word and he could tell you what word was on the other side! And my mother, Esther bat Baruch, z"l, who was a scholar of classical Hebrew and Tanach and who gave me a love for the language. And her mother, Anna (Sucher) Deutsch, who was born in Horodenka, spoke six languages, and shared her aged wisdom and eternal sweetness with me. I studied at Brandeis, Hebrew College, Pardes as well as seven years at The Metivta/ITJ earning my Advanced Semicha (yoreh yoreh)under Rav Halivni. What's truly amazing is that Shlomo and Rav Halivni each received semicha from Rav Hutner! But my deepest influences of them all are my sweetest sweetest girls who have taught me the most!