Wednesday, October 31, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Do you ever feel a sense of oneness with others, powerfully united in a common cause to advance kindness in the world?

Avraham's partner in kindness, Sarah, had just left the world. She lit the lamps of kindness in their home. As their home was a proto-mishkan, in a sense she was the first Kohen Gadol, the High Priest who lit the lamps each day in the future Holy Temple. As in the story of Chanukah, the lamp must be kept lit. A new Holy Mother must be found to carry on her holy mission.

Yitzchak, through whom the Covenant flowed through his father Avraham, and who himself made his own Covenant with G*d, now needed a holy spouse to actively partner with him in bringing G*d's holy light into the world- literally with light, and figuratively through kindness and compassion.

Our tradition teaches that the importance of finding a worthy spouse, emblematic of the overarching qualities of kindness and compassion, is so great as to allow one to even take leave of Eretz Yisrael if need be. Indeed, Avraham instructs his worthy servant, Eliezer, to do just that. Sent on a holy mission outside the Land, he is sworn to find a worthy bride for Yitzhak, his master's son. She would be a holy bride to fill the vacuum in his soul left by his mother Sarah's passing. She would bring a shining Light of Chesed, of kindness, to restore the light and lustre, indeed the holy joy that they once knew.

But in spite of the greatness of Avraham, and the loyalty of his servant, Eliezer, the beneficiary of these efforts, Yitzhak *himself,* had to desire this. And in fact he does pray, meditating in the field towards evening, determining the aetiological basis for the mincha, or afternoon, prayer. Note the common usage of the word "erev," or evening, in our narrative.

"vayavrech hag'malim michutz la'ir el be'er hamayim Le"ET EREV, le'et tzet hashoavot...

He (Eliezer) let the camels rest on their knees outside the city, beside the well; it was at the time of evening, at the time when women go out to draw water(Gen 24:11).

Let us ask, why is the word ET (time) doubled: the" *time* of evening" and the "*time* of the going out of the water drawers?" If everybody knows that the time of drawing water is in the evening (for social reasons), then why repeat the phrase, "in the evening?" Thatwould verge on the redundant. No word in the Torah is extraneous!

The answer is in verse 63, where Yitzhak goes out to meditate in the field TOWARDS evening, i.e., *before* the evening. According to our narrative Eliezer arrives *at* the evening. As it was his wont to pray *before* the evening, the text would suggest that Yitzhak's deep prayers had a remarkable and direct efficacy. Synchronicity.

Hashem is called the "bochen levavot," the see'er of the depths of our hearts' desires. When hearts are united prayer becomes stronger. Indeed no two hearts were more united than Avraham's and Yitzhak's after the Akeidah. It was "towards evening" when the Akeidah occured (it was clearly not dark yet because Avraham "saw the ram" in the thicket), and thus was the time of Yitzhak's deepest prayers. This was forever to be the time window that was uniquely his own, the most propitious and efficacious for all his future prayers. Mincha was his special time, his window to deep experiential happenings- his own near death experience, and his time of first meeting his future bride. Some would call these one and the same (!), for one is seen as reborn upon marriage, as all one's prior sins are automatically forgiven.

So just as Yitzchak was praying for his soulmate, so too was Eliezer praying that Yitzchak's soulmate should appear. Erev is evening, but it means "mixing." In this case it is the "mixing" of light and darkness. Similarly, Areivut (ERV) means responsibility. The connection is that we- all Israel- are responsible for one another. But this idea of "erev," of the mixing of the light at eventide, the time of praying for one's soulmate, goes even deeper. Eliezer has taken a journey out of Abraham's orbit, from out of a place of pure light to a land (everywhere else) of idolatry, a place of spiritual darkness.

But suddenly here was Rivka (Rebecca) engaged in acts of kindness, of chesed, to both man and "beast" (camels). To all living things. She is a light in the darkness. She is a light mixed in with the darkness- a mixing of the light and the darkness. She *is* erev. And it is at that moment that she takes responsibility for her own kindness, when Eliezer takes responsibility for finding his master's son a soulmate, and when Yitzchak is praying for all of the above. Through prayer, cosmic forces become arrayed to synchronistically aid and abet ennobling aims.

Rivka in her own right represents the aspect of pure chesed, opposite to Isaac's antithetical gevurah, renewing Abraham and Sarah's kindness paradigm. And we should be cognizant of the fact that we, all of us, as her children, are stamped with her seal of kindness. We are known as Rachmanim B'nei Rachmanim- Merciful Ones, Children of Merciful Ones. We are Children of the Light- the Light of Sarah's Tent, but owing to the fervent simultaneous prayers of Yitzchak, Eliezer and Rivka, we are also Children of the Evening-those who take responsibility, both for the repair of our souls- our innerworld, and the repair of the cosmos- our outer world.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 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.

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

Monday, October 29, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

(Editor's note: this essay was written in July 2004, and published on the website, more than a year before the fateful Gaza withdrawal. Unfortunately, the predictions in this essay have largely come to pass, with thousands of Kassam rockets having terrorized southern Israel since the withdrawal, as well as a war with Hezbollah/Iranian proxies in Lebanon, in which northern Israel was set ablaze from thousands of Katyusha rockets launched from Lebanese soil. Concessions to terror ALWAYS leads to more terror, not less. As Moses said to Joshua regarding his complaint about Eldad and Medad prophecizing in the camp, "Would that ALL Israel were prophets.").

Whether preserving a single life or the life of the country as a whole, the fate of Gaza has weighty consequences. If Israel cedes control of the territory, contracting her safety to others as guarantors, she is courting grave danger.

There are two immediate consequences to a withdrawal, one of morale and one military. In truth, the two are intertwined. However a withdrawal may play out in terms of the particulars, it will be perceived ultimately as a victory for terrorism, thus encouraging more terror. Where the locus of terror has focused at present on Gaza, the center of gravity will soon shift to fresh locales. As long as Israel's argument is based on retrenchment to more defensible lines in the face of numerical disadvantage, she will find her borders ever shrinking. From Judea and Samaria, to East Jerusalem and finally much of the Galilee, an emotionally exhausted Israel will continue to sue for peace on any terms, while pursuing a chimera of false hopes. Each withdrawal pours greater fuel on the problem, leading to ever escalating conflagration.

From the north Israel already faces 10,000 missiles on her Lebanese border, resulting from an earlier withdrawal. The prospects are likely that a withdrawal from Gaza will result in an additional 10,000 missiles to her south. The north encompasses Haifa, her industrial center; to the south lies Tel Aviv, her population center and air corridor to the outside world. If Egypt already allows weapons smuggling now, what would change that would prevent smuggling were Egypt to be granted control? The precedent of UN culpability is legendary, from U Thant in 1967 to the present day.

Thus finding herself wedged in from the north and the south, her options of actions and range of movement are limited by palpable fear of attack. Pre-emption was once a viable strategy. Ceding territory and the range of responses it affords, her deterrent capability erodes in step with the reluctance to use it.

Some say that all the land is sacrosanct, forbidden to be ceded. Whatever the merit of that argument, the frequently repeated and oft-stated intentions of our enemies are clear warnings of the folly of hasty action and the risks it entails. The Torah demands of us that we choose life. Often the choices are not easy, balancing competing demands. But as they say, not to choose is also a choice, often one which is not pleasant. "Its ways are ways of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace." If the consequences will lead to more bloodshed and more unpleasantness, it likely is not the path of Torah.

copyright 2004 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Friday, October 26, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The whole world has their Olympics every four years. But in the Jewish world we have our Olympics every year, for each year we strive to stretch ourselves to achieve greater spiritual heights over the previous year. As long as within the dimensions of Torah we strive to strengthen our learning, to increase our giving, and to deepen our yearning, we should know that we are earning Gold Medals in heaven every day! Judaism is calisthenics for the soul.

Now all athletes know that the cooling down is just as important as the warming up! Either to jump into the proverbial fray without first stretching or to stop suddenly after the furious sprint is to invite needless risk to one's health. The warm up is as important as the wind down. And vice versa!

The month of Elul is touted as the the great prelude to Tishrei's cavalcade of festivals. It is the warm up to the marathon of chagim. And likewise, the month of Cheshvan, which follows Tishrei, despite its marked absence of festivals, is the great wind down. It is necessarily important as a time of integration and follow up, coming as it does on the heels of the Days of Awe (Yamim Noraim) and the Season of our Joy (Zeman Simchateinu).

Processing the deep determination for change engendered by this Tishrei-fest requires both the
deep introspection and the necessary solitude so as to integrate it to become the highest manifestation of the self as part of a process of organic unfolding. Cheshvan affords each and every one of us this opportunity for deep integration.

Elul and Cheshvan are each notably marked by an absence of festivals, and yet each mutually share in the pleasure of bracketing the unique month of festivals. While Elul is generally recognized as intrinsic to the pulse and rhythm of the season, Cheshvan's void is more widely wrongly viewed as anticlimactic and gratuitous, whose value lies solely in its refreshing absence of holy tension. But the value of Cheshvan is as authentically linked to Tishrei on the waning end as much as Elul is complementarily linked to Tishrei on the waxing end.

According to the Qabbala, the bitterness of Cheshvan's solitude, whereby it is dubbed MarCheshvan (bitter Cheshvan), will in Messianic days be transformed into true bliss as the herald of the Great Redemption. Then it will be known to all, through an inverting of the letters, as RamCheshvan- Elevated Cheshvan. Even Ma'asu Habonim Hayta LeRosh Pinah - the stone rejected by the builder will yet become the cornerstone of the New and Future Order.

Whatever lessons we learned from Tishrei can only be integrated into the self via the processing month of Cheshvan. It is the month whereby the ephemeral flash of holy insight attaches itself to the mundane and everyday routines of living in order to become realized and grounded. Though spelled differently, aurally speaking, it sounds like the Hebrew word for *thinking* - CH-SH-V. That is, it is the month for deep thinking, for building the neuro-psychic pathways necessary for our Tishrei dreams to become our enduring reality.

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.

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

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

There is a Talmudic expression that salvation can come in the "blink of an eye,""b'heref ayin." That refers to the kind of salvation that is waiting in the wings for the propitious moment. But in our parsha, Va'yera, we learn of another kind of salvation- the salvation that was always right in front of us before our very eyes, but because of depression and sadness we sometimes fail to see it. The truth is, if we are aware of it, every moment in life is full of salvific potential.

Hagar, alone in the wilderness with her son, Ishmael, felt that they were on the verge of death, their water having run out. Their situation looked very bleak. But the angel appears and "opens her eyes," enabling her to see that which was there all along. The veil was lifted and salvation was assured. Nourished by the waters of their new-found well of water, Ishmael's life was spared, and G*d's promise of continuity of his lineage was assured.

It is interesting to contrast the imagery of G*d's "opening of Hagar's eyes (vayifkach Elo*im et eyneha-Gen 21:19)" to facilitate salvation, with that of Avraham's "lifting of his eyes (vayisa Avraham et eynav-Gen 22:13)," in the Akeidah narrative, when he sees the ram to use as a substitute offering for Yitzhak. In his case his action (the binding of Isaac) preceded the miraculous sighting. The redemption was waiting in the wings, so to speak, to reward him for his proper course of action. It wasn't always there, but was "readied" for use were the right moment to come. In her case it was just the reverse! The "sighting" was always there, yet was not perceived.

An image is but a frequency, a valence or expression of light waves. Light which is visible to us as humans is but a minute fraction of the spectrum of "lightwaves," which include infrared light, ultraviolet light, UHF, VHF, and radio "light," among many other forms of vibrating light frequencies. It is said that prophecy is but an ability to perceive these otherwise hidden forms of reality, which although taking place in the future, being images of light, thus similarly travel at the speed of light. Divine light and the "light stored for the end of days"- the "or haganooz,"are but different points on the light spectrum waiting to be revealed to humanity.

It is therefore no mere coincidence that the symbol for the redemption of humanity at the beginning of time is the rainbow, a refraction, or revelation of the variegated colors hidden within the range of "normal," or visible light. The redemption of humanity at the end of time, the eschaton, will similarly be heralded by a profusion of newly revealed light, of light which was formerly hidden.

The mind is a sophisticated filtering mechanism, limiting our perception to the tiniest fraction of the light spectrum. The olam haba (the world to come) promises us a fantastic array of perception along the entire frequency. Indeed the word for brain in Hebrew is mo-ach, which means to erase or wipe away (Moses says to G*d: m'cheni na- erase me - from your book). The brain erases all the non-permitted frequencies. Only prophets or those with a genetic mutation or Divine gift to perceive extra frequencies, people whom we call psychics, are able to perceive a reality across time and space while the average mortal cannot. And we say "time erases the pain." It is not time per se that erases the pain, but rather that the brain allows the passage of time to assuage the pain so that we can function in the world. G*d doesn't forget our pain. And neither does our neshama. It's all stored in there somewhere. But forgiveness has the power to truly erase it and bring a sense of closure and healing.

Ishmael becomes an expert archer. It is all very symbolic. It's all about continuity and covenant. The promise of continuity of Abraham's lineage through Ishmael is symbolized by the "keshet," or rainbow imagery. In Hebrew, the word for both archery BOW and rain BOW is the same. Hagar places Ishmael a bow shot away- "harchek k'mitachavei keshet (Gen 21:16)," so as not to see the death of her son. And then in verse 20 the text informs us that he grew up to be an expert archer, "vayehi roveh kashat." What is the point in our knowing of his archery skills? The point of the doubling of the word "keshet" (KSHT) is to remind us of the first promise of continuity made by G*d to the human race writ large, in the placement of a rainbow in the heavens, as a sign for all time of G*d's promise to humanity to never again bring a flood.

Through Avraham's lineage humanity would once again restore its connection to G*d consciousness. Ishmael, in his sharing of the sign of the covenant - circumcision, with his father, was thus assured a parallel track of blessing and continuity with that of his brother, Yitzhak. As twelve tribes would emanate, by way of Yaakov, from Yitzhak's loins, so too would twelve Arabian tribes emerge from Ishmael (Gen 25:13-15).

Note, too, the proximity and immediacy of TaSHK and KaSHaT in verses 19 and 20- "vatashk et hanaar(she gave the lad to drink)" in conjunction with "vayehi roveh kashat (and he became an expert archer)." What sense can we make of this telling pallandrome? The answer speaks volumes of the nature of salvation itself.Although a promise was made by G*d assuring blessing and progeny to Ishmael (Gen 17:20), active human involvement was yet necessary for the blessing to come to fruition. Hagar needed to "give drink" to the lad.

Crying out (prayer) is the first stage in salvation. The third stage is the salvation itself. But the most necessary stage- the middle stage, is that of active human involvement! The words are hinting, if we read with "opened eyes," that the most crucial component of salvation is the human component. We must always hope for a miracle, but we must do all we can ourselves to facilitate it. If we just take the first step to begin the process, G*d will help us finish it. It wasn't enough for Hagar just to have the "vision" of seeing the well. Without actively "giving drink" through her own intervention no one would have been saved. Her human action was the spark that triggered the salvation.

Between the two scales of human prayer and Divine redemption lies the fulcrum of angelic intervention. Just as Avraham's visitors in the opening of the parsha were angels in human form, whenever *we* help someone who needs us in that moment- whether physically, emotionally or financially, we have then become angels ourselves, bringing merit, redemption and salvation, not only in that one moment, but in the emanating wave-like ripples that echo through time and eternity.

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.

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

Monday, October 15, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Melman

The Jewish People have often been termed "the wandering Jews." It is such a popular expression that a plant was even named in its honor. Abraham the Patriarch, Father of the Jewish People, was the first "wandering Jew," and we've been wandering ever since. What is it about the idea of separating - the essence of the meaning of being holy, of separating from the mundane and material, that makes it so central to the character and mission of the Jewish people? But the reuniting is then all the sweeter, embodied symbolically in the Challah and Kiddush that we bless on the Sabbath.

A common theme reverberating throughout Lech Lecha is that of leaving. Beginning first with G*d directing Avram to leave .... his land,.... his home, .... his birthplace, then proceeding to narrate the journey of Avram and company moving to Egypt to escape the effects of severe famine. Foreshadowing the travails of their descendants in Egypt in future generations, they fulfill the concept of ma'aseh avot siman lebanim- "the deeds of the antecedents are clues for the descendants." What the patriarchs and matriarchs experienced in a familial setting was reenacted later on in a proto-national setting. To wit, the commonality of famine, descent into Egypt, handsomeness of features shared by both Sarai ("yefat mareh at"- Gen 12:11) as well as Yosef ("yefei toar veefei mareh"- Gen 39:6), attempted but failed seduction, captivity, plague and hasty expulsion accompanied by a profusion of gifts and wealth."

"Take and go" (kach ve'lech) are two verbs which are shared in both narratives- kach velech in Gen: 12:19, and k'chu ve'lechu in Ex: 12:32. Interestingly, the experience of captivity in Egypt is embodied in the personage of Sarai, the representative of the future collective assemblage of all Israel. Hence the plural form alluding to the patriarchs takes on a feminine ending- avOT rather than avIM. Therefore AVOT this case is not gender specific, but rather is gender neutral, encompassing both the matriarchs as well as the patriarchs.

Their entourage now laden with wealth and riches, Avram and Lot now find themselves miserable in their crowded quarters. Why should there be constant strife between them when they could easily part company and go their separate ways? Indeed, perhaps Avram felt he was now passing along G*d's sage advice for *him,* now onto his nephew, Lot, as a ritualistic rite of passage to be perhaps incumbent now on all his descendents, whether adopted or biological.
"Maybe you should go away," he says to Lot. "We won't be fighting anymore. It's a big world out there. Plenty of land (Gen 13: 8,9)." Indeed, he found new wealth opportunities and expanded possibilities in the lush and luxuriant land near Sodom.

Next to go was Hagar's appreciation of Sarai, and her respect for her former mistress. Now pregnant with Avram's supposed heir, she lorded it over Sarai, and revealed her barely disguised contempt for her, even though it was at Sarai's insistence that she become pregnant through Avram. Sarai, in an effort to win back and reassert her primacy in the marriage, as well as her sense of well-being and pyschic repose, insists that Hagar now take leave. Hesitant at first, in the end Avram "listened to her voice," a phrase later repeated (vayishma lekol sarai/shma bekola) by G*d as a directive to heed Sarah's intuitive wisdom and judgment. Hagar subsequently returns, the marital union restored, though somewhat a bit fractured because of the dissonance between the clarity of Sarai's judgment and Avram's hesitancy and reluctance.

Note that Sarai insisted on Hagar's departure even before G*d later promises Avraham that she will give birth and bear the heir (Gen17:15,16). In her mind, apparently, without shalom bayit, or peace in the home, to provide a solid and stable environment, any child reared in that home, she intuited, would carry the scar of familial discord and pass it down through eternity. The sacred task of rebuilding mankind's connection with the Divine needed a solid foundation from which to be planted, to be nurtured and nourished, and then to grow and spread out and eventually redeem all humanity.

Indeed, in this quest for perfection, temimut (Gen 17:1), G*d commands Avraham to circumcize his flesh and that of his male descendants for all time as a symbol of that perfection. Ironically, the separation of the foreskin is a symbol of the newfound covenantal union between man and G*d. To become whole, therefore, one must become first a little separated. This is underscored with the Pact Between Halves (Gen15), where it is the splitting, or the separating of the animals, symbolic of the separating of man from his animal instinct, which leads to the promise of blessing and the continuity of his seed.

It is the separation of flesh from that very organ of regeneration and continuity of seed which therefore comes to symbolize that very covenant and the perfection of mankind, in that he is now worthy to walk before G*d. "Walk before Me and be perfect. I will make a covenant between Me and thee, and I will increase your numbers very much (Gen17:1,2)." In fact, later on, we are bidden to circumcize even our hearts to serve G*d. This means, in the deepest sense, ironically, that only through having a broken heart can one have a whole or perfect heart to serve G*d. The pride of arrogance blocks the heart from the Divine light and Divine love. A circumcized heart allows the Divine light to reenter.

But in the final analysis, it is not the initial leaving which brings blessing, but the subsequent return. When Hagar returns she is blessed with the birth of Ishmael who will have many descendants. Moreover, when Avram rescues Lot and returns all the captives and the lost booty to the king of Sodom he is blessed by Malchi-Tzedek, King of Salem, priest to G*d, the Most High. He "brings forth" bread and wine. And as bread and wine are brought forth to sanctify this moment of mankind's first recorded act of altruism, so too we use bread and wine to sanctify the Sabbath, which crowned Creation, G*d's enduring act of altruism for all time.

As Malchi-Tzedek acknowledges Avraham's crowning achievement for mankind's spiritual evolution, so too do we acknowledge that the Sabbath is similarly the greatest tool for humanity's continual evolution. Bread and wine are both the end products of a lengthy cooperative human process, the fruits of labor many rungs above the primitive hunter/gatherer phase of man's development. Avraham's act of conscious altruism is the pinnacle of a new age of moral evolution. And just as Avraham's act was not purely altruistic in that subsequently humanity was to benefit from the future Redeemer who would be born from his loins via Ruth the Moabitess and King David, so too, in celebrating the Sabbath, we not only give praise and bear testimony to G*d's creating the world, but we ourselves reap the specific benefits and blessings which inhere in its observance. As much as Avraham gives to G*d through Malchi-Tzedek, Priest to G*d Most High, a "ma'ASER mikall", a TENTH of all which he captured (Gen14:20), G*d is giving back to Avraham "me'OSHER mikall," from the WEALTH of everything. The subject of the sentence is purposely left ambiguous so as to indicate that the impact of the blessings flow in both directions.

To be become sePARATED, lehiPARED, can bring loneliness and make one feel afraid (PRD), but we learn from our parsha that a loving hand is guiding Avraham's great journey. The Talmud in Masechet Shabbat tells us that each day of the week has a partner- Sunday is paired with Monday, Tuesday with Wednesday, and Thursday with Friday. The Sabbath then asks, "what about me?" I don't want to be lonely! G*d tells the Sabbath that "the Jewish People will be your partner."

Avraham, the father of the Jewish people, is teaching us that the antidote to loneliness, separation and social anomie, is in helping others. Through giving of yourself to others, your own pain disappears. When Avraham ran to greet and feed the visiting angels his own pain from his recent circumcision disappeared! When he freed his nephew Lot from captivity he showed the world the redeeming power of altruism. When we bless our wine and our bread this Sabbath eve, after singing Shalom Aleichem at the table next to our Kiddush wine and Challah loaves, let us remember these gifts of Malchi-Tzedek, and how the initial travail of separation, through altruism, leads ultimately to the sweet reunion- of Avraham and Lot, of the Jewish People and the Land of Israel, and of our souls and G*d.

And as we bid adieu to the departing angels who guided our steps home from the synagogue and blessed our home with Sabbath peace, so too we bless them back. Tzetchem leShalom. Lech Lecha. Not, "maybe you should leave," but rather, "Go in Peace, my beautiful friends, my sweet angels."

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.

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


Shabbos Is Paradise

Shabbos is back to Paradise. Paradise is a place where everything is good, everything holy everything is beautiful. Paradise is a place where suddenly it's so clear to me the I can fix all my mistakes. And even more so, everything I thought was a mistake. Every street I thought was a wrong street, was the only way to get there. Shabbos has two faces -- there is the keeping Shabbos holy, the 39 laws of Shabbos, the withdrawing from the world, a non-power kind of life. But then there is the bliss of Shabbos, the inside of Shabbos, which is a gift from Heaven. The bliss of Shabbos is even deeper than Paradise. It's a secret between me and G-d, between me and the people I love so much. Shabbos is peace because peace is secrets, secrets of the depths, of the deepest depths. Secrets are the deepest of G-d's revelation. A true Shabbos person walks the streets of the world and every human being they see, they seem to have a secret with. But with those they love, it's the secret of all secrets.

Connections Magazine----Reb Shlomo

Friday, October 12, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin HaKohen Melman

Where is humanity going? And how are we getting there? And who is driving?

Adam was placed in the Garden by G*d (Gen 2:8- last week's sedra) whereas Avraham (Avram) was directed by G*d to go to a place where He will show him (Gen 12:1- next week's sedra). Noah was asked to chart a middle ground. Whereas with Adam G*d directly placed him where he wanted him, and whereas with Avraham (Avram), it was Avraham who was the active determining agent in causing his arrival where G*d wanted him, with regard to Noah, G*d played an indirect, yet active role in guiding his destiny. "Lech lecha," G*d's command to Avraham in next week's parsha, then, could be read as G*d telling him to take charge directly of his sojourn.

Each central character in the developing story of mankind represents a greater striving for independence and autonomy on the part of mankind vis a vis its Creator.The text makes pointed reference that Noah was not the captain of his ship, for indeed there was no ship. It was not even a boat. The Hebrew term used for the flotation device is teva -tawf, vet, hey. Teva, literally meaning "box," is a storage receptacle. The English word "tub" quite possibly derives from the Hebrew "teva," as they share the same root letters.

According to its blueprint it was built in a rectangular shape,with squared edges and a flat bottom, not like a boat which is designed with the rounded, curved features more useful for navigation. A boat, by design and practice, more readily belongs in the water. A tub, by contrast, more readily belongs on the earth.

A man-made mikvah must be a tub built into the ground, halakhically. It cannot be a portable spa. The mikvah, like the Torah itself, cannot be made impure through contact with that which is ritually impure. Whether we immerse inert vessels (kelim) or living humans, the grounded tub serves as a vehicle for cleansing and salvation. Noah's ark, then, was built as a receptacle for the salvation of the remnant of all living things, as a mikvah/refuge from the violence (hamas) which consumed all the earth.

The terminology of implicit groundedness by the pointed use of the word teva indicates also G*d's inclination that the ark NOT be used. Rather, it implies that G*d's deepest wishes were for mankind to do teshuvah and to pull back from the brink of destruction. In other words, were the ark to have in its design a bias for floating, it would indicate G*d's predetermination to bring on the flood. Because of its design bias for groundedness on the earth, it indicates G*d's preference for mankind's teshuva and healing. Not being a ship, then, there was no steering mechanism, no rudder, no navigational controls or source of power other than the Divine guidance system. Noah built the box, but G*d steered it.

To counteract the feeling of helplessness that Noah must have felt, a skylight was built into the roof to let him feel connected to Heaven even if he couldn't see it for the rain. Windows are powerful symbols of hope, of tikvah. When suffering in prison, even one window is redemptive. When bored in the classroom, a window offers hope, that there is a deeper truth than that which is often mistaken for education.

It rained for forty days and forty nights, as the wellsprings opened up from below and the heavens opened up from above.
The whole world had now become one mikvah, one giant pool of water, consisting of forty (time) units of rain, paralleling the mikvah's forty (space) units of volume (seah). Thus the world was cleansed and purified, ready to begin anew - a fresh start.

As Adam was ten generations from Noah, who was himself ten generations from Avraham, mankind needs to incorporate the peace blueprint of the Ten Commandments for her survival.
It is perhaps the tenth commandment itself which is the key to survival. Anomolous by dint of its focus on feeling instead of action, this interiorness of being leads the way to salvation.

Personal coveting brings interpersonal grief and suffering. National coveting brings international grief and suffering. For China to covet a Western lifestyle denigrates its hoary Confucian past and brings ecological ruin to the Earth even as it rapes Tibet and lead poisons our children. For Americans to covet a minimum cost economy abets the Walmartization and destruction of our economic landscape, as the worship of minimum cost efficiency drives down any sense of morality in the workplace, outsourcing labor to the cheapest bidder who has no respect for human dignity, a true Babel Tower redux.

The Arab/Islamic world covets the West's achievements and cultural/economic hegemony, even as it mourns its loss of a besotted, corrupt, once glorious caliphate. Slashing and burning and beheading its way to world domination, one continent at a time, the sick man of Europe (decayed caliphate) has now become the sick man of the planet (attempted recaliphation). Caliph may be midrashically, if not philologically, related to the Kabbalistic Hebrew term "kelipah," meaning husk, or blockage of the Divine light. In their imperialistic drive to conquer the world for their intolerant vision of a subjugated humanity, much evil is done in the name of religion. This evil obscures the Light, instead of emanating it, the opposite of true religion's goals.

Mirroring Adam's, Noah's and Abraham's symbolic sojourns, humanity is ever moving to greater independence and greater autonomy, incorporating G*d's will as its own will, but out of choice rather than coercion. Teshuvah exists.Teshuvah literally means to return, to come back from the abyss. Noah's generation chose to ignore it. We must learn not to repeat their error. As Noah looked through the skylight, trusting that all will be good in the end, so too, we must look heavenward and trust in the same.

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

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Date: Wed, 10 Oct 2007 13:58:54 +0800

Yochi Dreazen is a reporter for the Wall Street Journal who has done a few stints in Iraq. He sends periodic notes to his wife (Anat) about life there. Below is his report on Rosh Hashanah in Baghdad. From Yochi in Baghdad...

For obvious reasons, I had absolutely no idea what to expect when I made plans to travel to a military base on the outskirts of Baghdad for Rosh Hashanah. I didn't know if there would be a minyan, if there would be Orthodox prayer services or a shorter Reform variant, or if there would be Kosher food. You can imagine my shock - the best kind of shock, the type that comes from being pleasantly surprised - when I found that Rosh Hashanah at Forward Operating Base Striker included all of those things, and a few more besides.

The services were held in a small meeting room in the base chapel building, with signs outside listing that week's services, which ranged from Spanish-language Pentecostal to Latin Mass Catholic to Muslim jumma prayers. The back of the chapel faces onto a small yard, which is now almost entirely filled up by a newly constructed wooden succah. The succah was built by a non-Jewish amateur carpenter from the Arkansas National Guard, who told me he built it in his spare time and was glad to have been able to help. In fact, the military, from the top level on down, went out of its way to help Jewish soldiers make it to the base for services.

The Army issued a pair of FRAGOs - formal orders - ordering commanders to make arrangements for their Jewish soldiers to travel to the base for the services and giving Jewish soldiers permission to not shower or shave during the holiday (soldiers usually have to shave every day, and can be punished if they forget). Of the 40-odd soldiers who ultimately took part in the Rosh Hashanah services - plus a few civilians, including a self-described "Jewish grandmother from New York" who is in Iraq, incongruously, to help interrogate high-value terrorism suspects - more than half flew in from other bases.

The services were arranged by a jovial chaplain with the wondrous name of Andrew Shulman, who had lived in Israel for a few years - studying at Aish Hatorah, in the Old City - and then gone to work for a synagogue in Massachusetts before volunteering to join the army and come to Iraq as a military chaplain. He is the only Jewish chaplain in Iraq full-time, though others occasionally come in from Kuwait and other bases around the High Holidays.

When I emailed him a few weeks ago to say that I would be coming and would be glad to help lead the prayers or read the Torah, he said I was a lifesaver and that he would be glad to put me to work. He kept his word: I ended up leading the long Mussaf services both days of the holiday, reading both days' Torah portions (out of a Machzor, because there was no actual Torah scroll, but still, and doing both days' Haftorah portions. With the exception of cutting out some of the optional poems in Mussaf, we did the entire Orthodox liturgy, and even found a young tzizzit-wearing soldier from Milwaukee named Rafi Karran who was able to blow the shofar, so we had shofar-blowing, as well.

The people who came to the services were an eclectic bunch. There was a full-bird colonel named Abramowitz, a bunch of young lieutenants with names like Frank and Hode, a command sergeant major (the highest position you can have as an enlisted soldier) named Soriano, and a sergeant with the "Coming to America"-esque name of Kurt Love. Some of the soldiers were converts - Soriano, who gave his name as Ami, was once named Jorge Octavio - and others had a Jewish mother and didn't discover they were Jewish till they were adults. Virtually all knew some Hebrew, though, and were as thrilled as I was to be able to take part in a full, real service.

The most fascinating soldier there, in my opinion, was a female sergeant named McCann, who grew up hunting and skinning animals in Montana and found out that her mom was Jewish right after she enlisted at 19. Before leaving for Iraq, she got herself trained as a shochet, and now buys chickens while out on mission and ritually slaughters the chickens back at the base so she can have some kosher meat. She has gotten so religious that she won't shake hands with male soldiers and instead patiently tells them that she is "shomeret negiah." To top it off, this blond-haired, blue-eyed farm girl is planning to marry an older Israeli soldier as soon as she finishes her tour in Iraq later this year.

No Jewish event, civilian or military, would be complete without food, and Rosh Hashanah in Baghdad was no exception. Rabbi Shulman had had an absolutely astounding amount of food sent in for the holiday, and the group of soldiers did an impressive job of plowing through it. He had kosher wine for kiddush -alcohol is strictly forbidden in the military, so for many soldiers this was the first taste of alcohol they had drunk in more than a year.

For the new fruit of the season there were pomegranates and prickly pears, honey for the apples, gefilte fish (some of which splashed on me, which was as disgusting an experience as I have ever had in my life), hummos and tahini, Israeli olives and pickles, and fresh Zomick's challah and rolls that had been sent in a short time earlier. For the main courses, he would prepare couscous, rice and pasta, and then top the grains with steak, chicken and beef kosher Meals Ready to Eat. For desert, there was fruit, trail mix, and honey cakes that his wife, Lori, had sent from the U.S. Of the many reasons I feel deeply indebted to Rabbi Shulman, the mound of kosher food he managed to obtain for the holiday is near the top of the list.

I have talked a lot about the logistics of the holiday, but I want to take a moment to talk about the feel of the holiday, as well. In more than four years of living in, covering and visiting Iraq, this is the first time I have ever done anything Jewish here. When I lived in Baghdad, I had nothing with me that could identify me as Jewish and had scrubbed my Palm Pilot and laptop of any file that mentioned Israel or anything Jewish. When an Iraqi asked me my religion, I would always lie and say Catholic.

It burned me deeply to have to lie like that; I am proud of being Jewish, and always have been. It was even more painful to lie about my identity while living in a place like Iraq, which had for millennia been the absolute pinnacle of the Diaspora Jewish world, a place that still uses city names - like Ur, in northern Iraq - that are mentioned in the Torah. But there was no choice, until now. This holiday was the first time in all of my years in Iraq that I was able to identify myself as a Jew and live accordingly.

A final thought: The Iraqi Jewish community is down to barely six people, the last remnants of the once-proud, vibrant Iraqi Jewish world (there is a style of architecture in Baghdad that is even now called "Jewish style"). The final few elderly Jews are largely waiting to die, so they can be buried in the land of their ancestors. When they die, the Jewish community of Iraq - once so robust and important that the Talmud itself was written here - will for all intents and purposes cease to exist.

For a few days, though, Hebrew was again heard in Iraq, as Jews sat down to eat, pray and celebrate in a country now populated mainly of Jewish ghosts. For a few days, there was again a Jewish community of Baghdad. I hope that this next year is one of peace, joy, and health for each of you - and for the Jewish soldiers of the U.S. military, with whom I had the distinct honor of sharing Rosh Hashanah in Baghdad.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007



by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The ultimate challenge in life is in giving back, in repaying the Source of Life for the gifts which we have freely received. Paid forward, we have yet to earn them. Through giving back, whether by tzedaka (righteousliving), tefilah (self-judgment) or teshuva (turning to G*d), gemilut chasadim (deeds of loving kindness) or learning Torah, we restore equilibrium both to ourselves and to the world.

Our parsha this week, B'reisheet, deals with the subject of taking. While our emphasis in life should properly belong to giving, it is important to understand some of the deeper meanings of taking. The very first act of "taking" (kicha) in the Torah, is when "G*d TOOK the man and placed him inthe Garden of Eden to work it and to guard it." (Gen 2:15). But then we were flawed and proved unworthy of remaining in our pristine surroundings until we could earn our way back to return with a greater maturity. Man was told to guard the Garden, but in just the next chapter (Gen 3:22):

"And G*d said, man has now become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now he must be prevented from putting forth his hand and also TAKING from the Tree of Life. He can eat it and live forever."

Ironically, man who was to guard the Garden is now himself to be guarded FROM the Garden by the cheruvim, the holy cherubs, at the east of Eden, along with the LAHAT HA-CHEREV HA-MIT'HAPECHET to guard the path of the Tree of Life. This LAHAT HA-CHEREV HA-MIT'HAPECHET is usually translated as "revolving sword blade." I would rather translate it as a "flaming sword which makes everything seem the opposite."

In otherwords, were we to pass through and gain entrance to the Garden, we would finally glimpse the world of truth (olam ha-emet), where everything is how it should be. In our world, the world of falsehood (olam ha-sheqer), the wicked often prosper and the good often suffer. The Sabbath (Shabbat) is that opportunity to transport ourselves back to the Garden, to catch but a fleeting glimpse of the olam ha-emeth. Indeed, the Sabbath is called me'eyn olam haba, "a taste (aspect) of the world to come." On the Sabbath, even the flaming swords of Eden have a day of rest, paralleling the fires of gehennom ("hades") which are said to also abate on this day.

Finally, though not chronologically, we have the TAKING of the man's rib, in the building of woman (Gen 2:21). Now if man is considered to be the crown of creation, then woman, appearing as she does on the proverbial scene after man, is therefore the CROWN of the CROWN of creation. That is, if every creature formed later than any other creature is said to be on a higher level, then how much more so, our tradition teaches, is woman on a higher spiritual level than man. That is why chazal, the sages of blessed memory, taught that the time-designated mitzvoth are especially helpful for men in order for them to attain that spiritual level already held by women. Women by their very nature are sensitive to time, and thus are more sensitive and more aware of the Master of Time- He who was, who is, and who always will be(YKVK).

Men therefore need the time-bound mitzvoth to fill a lacking, to develop a higher awareness of the Creator of Time. If man is considered to have been created Beyn ha-Shemashot, on the proverbial twilight of the sixth day, moments before the first Sabbath, then woman, created last, is truly Beyn ha-Shemashot BEYN ha-Shemashot. She truly understands (Binah) time.

When a woman kindles the two (or more) Sabbath lights, the shabbos licht, she is really on the deepest level recreating the two flaming swords of the cherubs. The woman is the guardian of the holiness of the Sabbath in the Jewish home, like the cherubs assigned to be the Guardians of Eden. The woman takes over for the cherubs on their day of rest.

When a man and a woman marry, there is also an act of kicha, of "taking." But this idea of "taking" should never be misunderstood in its crass sense. Rather, it is an allusion to that original taking with regard to woman that was first mentioned in the Torah. His taking now completes the circle, in that he is now taking that woman who had been first taken from him, from his rib.

The union of a man and a woman harkens back to the first union of Adam and Eve. They are symbolically (re) joined as one flesh, combining the male and female energies to continue humanity and to make a new beginning. The Sheva Brachos, the seven blessings of the wedding ceremony, richly alludesto this promise of new beginnings. As the Holy Temple burned in the flames and came crashing down, cinder by cinder, fiery ember by fiery ember, the cherubs above the holy ark were locked in a loving embrace. Their swords of fire were now transformed into loving embraces, the true meaning of Lahat ha-Cherev ha-Mit'hapechet- the transforming sword of fire, where a CHeReV(sword/combatant) would be transformed into a CHaVeR (com-panion, i.e., sharing both pain and bread -see French "pain"). In our lives today, we see so much pain and so much fire in our relationships. Our challenge is to transform our feelings of deep pain into feelings of empathy for others and into good deeds and acts of kindness. Only when we take responsibility for our pain and for the pain of others and become holy embracers, we shall then find ourselves back in the Garden.
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

Monday, October 1, 2007


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

No more Tal. No more the prayers for dew.
We pray for the good stuff. Rain.
As farmers, we need the rain to ensure plentiful crops.
As herdsmen, we need good pasture to ensure good wool.

For we are always connected to the ryhthm of seeding and harvesting. Gen 8:22 " ...for seedtime and harvest time, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall never cease from the land."

Rain spells the onset of winter, which means the end of summer.
Spring and fall are luxuries. We're just guaranteed the basic version: summer and winter.

According to The Moody Blues, Timothy Leary had already died, and yet I ran into him at a whole earth conference in the early '90's at some NYC hotel, which one it was I don't remember. My friend had a booth where he was demonstrating the Alexander Technique, and besides there would be an aura photography booth, or so I had heard. I had been wanting a picture of my aura for some time.

Anyway, I ran into Leary in the lobby. He had an unmistakable lanky and goofy way about him, his signature trademark. Plus his nametag said "TIM." I asked him, "Are you Leary?" He said, "Yes, I am Leary. "

I asked him if he had ever heard of my Rabbi, Rabbi Carlebach? (As they were both '60's icons of sorts, I figured it wasn't too far afield to wonder if either was aware of the other).

He replied, "HEARD of Rabbi Carlebach? If I had listened to his music BEFORE I had ever taken drugs, I would never have NEEDED drugs!" And then he disappeared down the hall.

So TaL (Timothy Leary) is now gone, forty years since the famous summer of love. And the heralds and pied pipers of that summer are now largely gone themselves, having created new paradigms of consciousness.

For the truth is that G*d consciousness is the highest consciousness. G*d does indeed want us to get high. But G*d's high is the ultimate high. The breath of the holy. We can tap into it and access it through the power of the niggun, the wordless melody, carrying us into the deepest realms of Shabbos, the realm of the infinite.

And now we prepare for geshem, for rain. Geshem cleanses and refreshes, the living waters, the stuff of the mikvah, renewing all in its path; the water of second chances.

© 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

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

What mind is it?

"Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people."
-Eleanor Roosevelt


"If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix..... If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal..........." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"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
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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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!