Monday, December 22, 2008

REB SHLOMO ON CHANUKAH

Everybody knows that Hanukkah is really the end of Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and Simchas Torah. That means that the High Holidays are all beautiful, but the highest point of them all is on Hanukkah. On Rosh Hashanah, I am in awe before the King of kings. On Yom Kippur, I stand before G-d again and measure myself. Inside I am saying to myself, "I did such and such good deeds and such and such not so good deeds."

But on Hanukkah I stop thinking this way altogether because the deepest question is not how many evil deeds and how many good deeds I have done.The deepest question is "What do I have inside of me?" When the whole story is over, what remains inside of me? How do I feel? Am I closer than I ever was with G-d? Am I in touch with the inside of my soul? Is there any light left in my heart? Where am I?

If after all these questions, I discover that there is still light left inside of me, then I owe it to the world. I must be the one to help bring the Mashiach. I must be the one to open the doors for G-d's Light to shine into the world. However, if after all these questions, I am still left in the dark; If after all these holidays, the world around me is still in the dark, then I must ask myself, "What good was it all?"

On Yom Kippur, G-d forgives us for our mistakes. On Simchas Torah we dance them all off. But that still does not answer the question, "When does G-d fix our hearts? When does G-d take all the hatred and pain from our hearts? When are we healed? When does G-d give us back the holiness of once again being able to see that Light in others and being able to bless them in our own hearts? When do we recognize the light in ourselves and in all of those beautiful people around us?"

The answer my beautiful friends, is on Hanukkah. Hanukkah is the time of the Macabees, descendents of Aaron the High Priest. Aaron's specialty was making peace between people. How can someone make peace between people? Aaron HaCohen had the level of holiness of actually being able to cleanse a person's heart of all hatred and pain.

It was only after that cleansing that they could see the light in others and make peace with the entire world around them. This is a very special blessing he gave to us.Face it. If each time I make a mistake, I feel more bitterness towards others, its only because I feel bitterness towards myself. And with every bit of this bitterness, I become further and further away from my Neshama, and from my own heart.

On Yom Kippur, it may be that G-d fixes my soul. But its on Hanukkah that the Great Light shines into my heart. And so when I stand before a mirror, I see a beautiful person instead of a Shmendrik. So on Hanukkah, my beautiful friends, the lights are burning, even into the darkest hours of the night. And while that light flickers, we are praying, "Master of the World, if it is my mistakes that have kept me in darkness, let this Hanukkah Light shine into all areas of my darkness. Let this Hanukkah Light keep me from ever hating people. Let this Hanukkah Light give me so much holiness that all the darkness of the world can not take away my love for myself and all the beautiful people."

And so I want to bless you and bless myself that this Hanukkah should fix us and its Light should reach the darkest corners of our hearts. And we should all be blessed to realize that when we do kindle a candle, it is G-d's Light we have brought into the world.

You can be the richest man in the world, you can have everything between heaven and earth, you can be in the same room with the one thing you have been looking for, but if there is no light to show you where it is, then you do not have it.Chanukah is the holiday of the inside light, the hidden light, the light which is burning amidst the deepest darkness.

At Chanukah we celebrate the light which gave the Maccabees the strength in the darkest period to believe that they can drive out the Greeks in the Holy Land.You see, my best friends, when we are born, G-d gives us everything, every day G-d gives us everything; only sometimes we turn off the light by our mistakes. Sometines we blow out our own candles, so on Chanukah haShem gives us back the light we need the most.

Chanukah is the holiday when the Talmud says,"Chanukah is a man and his house,"meaning that the whole family has to come together.Because between husband and wife, parents and children, you can stand next to each other for a thousand years and be as far away as two million eternities. Chanukah is the great light when we see each other again; according to the Kabbalistic tradition it is deeper than Yom Kippur. It is the holy of holiest, but not in the temple, in my own house.

We kindle the light by the door to tell the people - the outside people - who have not yet found their own house, who have not yet found their own soul, who have not yet found even their own friend. And we share our light with them.All the hatred in the world is only because people don't see each other. Chanukah is the holiday that we are closest to the Messiah and, gevalt, do we need the world to see us one time! And gevalt, do we need all the Jews one time to see the holiness of being Jewish!

Let it be this year. Amen.

Friday, December 19, 2008

ON FAITH AND THE POWER OF ONE; Chanukah reflections on the Madoff Scandal

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The financial world is reeling from the Madoff scandal. Countless individuals and institutions have been hurt, their finances erased, by the actions of one man, who, over decades, abused the trust of relationships and the bonds of community to feed an insatiable materialistic need to fill an empty spiritual void.

True, he was not the only culprit in the financial scandals which plague us today. And individuals of all backgrounds and creeds had some role to play in the current economic morass. But the sheer scale and grandiosity of his malfeasance serves as a lightning rod for many to cast blame on the Jewish people as a group for our collective national pain.

Where did the $50 billion go? Most of it was paid off as monthly dividends to prior investors, to keep feeding the beast. As there was never a single negative month in payouts, hence the allure despite all common sense, over decades and decades not so much could logically remain left over. So no, there was no "Jewish plot" to send $50 billion to Israel, as many hatemongers claim. How absurd.

In fact, many Jewish charitable and educational programs must now shutter their doors as approximately a billion dollars worth of Jewish communal funds have been obliterated by the selfish actions of a single individual. Funds to send teens to Israel -decimated. Loans and grants to help Jewish students attend Jewish study programs- evaporated. Funds to help train Jewish teachers- erased. Not to mention the other $49 billion swindled from trusting individuals and groups of all backgrounds, both Jewish and non-Jewish. Both Jews and gentiles died in the Black Death, when nearly half of Europe's population was wiped out, and yet the Jews were blamed as a whole, the few marked for slaughter as a scapegoat for the agony of the many.

And yet, it is an inexact analogy, as many Jews indeed were involved in the financial meltdown, even as they jointly suffered in the pain and suffering. Jewish tradition understands human nature as a daily tug of war between two competing impulses- that of good and evil wrestling within the souls of each us. Some of us win hands down while some of us are wicked, but most of us fall somewhere in the vast middle. This is human nature, whatever one's racial or national or religious origin or allegiance.

The Madoff scandal is the direct counterpoint to the saintly martyred rabbi and rebbetzin of Mumbai. Where all eyes were focused on the chesed (kindness) and selflessness of a couple devoted to glorifying the Torah's way of life and extolling the values of Judaism, and thus became through their deaths a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of God's name, the opposite scenario obtains in the case of the Madoff scandal. In one fell swoop he degraded the glory and majesty of the Jewish people, besmirched the legacy of a unique heritage and brought to new lows the faith and belief in God and His Torah which all Jewish people represent in the eyes of the world.

Whether he was religious or not (which he wasn't), whether he was learned or not (which he wasn't), whether he cared or not for the image of his people and God (which he didn't), he abused the trust placed in him to become an eternal monument to the notion of Chilul Hashem, the degradation of God's name. Our greatest teachers and leaders were murdered in the Holocaust. It will take a full three generations to recover the greatness of the learning, the observance and the ethical sensitivity that was lost. Woe is us. We are today, many of us, but empty vessels, Jewish in name only, compared to those who came before us.

Isaiah teaches that the Jewish people are an or la goyim, a "light unto the nations." The eyes of all are upon us and are watching us, whether we want the scrutiny and attendant judgment or not. It is our eternal burden which we carry as living descendants of the people of God's holy living word- the Torah.

There is much darkness in the world. Our task is to bring light and moral clarity to the world, to chase away the darkness, not to add to it. How can we bring people closer to God when we, His firstborn of the world's believers in His unity, all too often repudiate His teachings? While most people are indeed honest, all it takes is one individual to do enormous damage to our sense of trust and faith, to our sense of communal obligation and of our belief in our spiritual calling.

This Chanukah, as the candles are lit, let each of us reflect on the power of the individual to change the world and to make a difference. Chanukah represents the fight for the values of ethical monotheism- that righteousness and justice and a belief in a God who has a unified standard and high expectations and demands ethical conduct, must triumph over a worldview devoted to ego and vainglory. Chanukah indeed represents the ongoing battle against self-interest, self-aggrandizement and the worship of superficial aesthetic beauty over and against that of the deeper calling for a refinement of moral character.

Multiple gods implies multiple standards, or rather no ethical standards at all. Chanukah represents the lonely battle of the Jewish people, over eons of time, to alone carry the torch of ethical monotheism in a world of chaos and moral darkness, epitomized by the cruelty and immorality of first the Syrian Greeks, then the Romans.

But most of all, the story of Chanukah is about a civil war, a war within. It began with the courage of a single individual, Matisyahu, the father of five courageous sons- the Maccabees, and the movement he ignited, to assert the validity of the Torah against a fellow Jew and his ilk who betrayed both tradition and community. Assimilation into the dominant, misplaced values of world culture was as alluring then as it is now. Let us stand together again to fight the war within each of us. Let us stand together as one to repudiate the selfishness and greed which has the power to debase us as even lower than the animals, and thus to affirm in our own day the values of mutual trust and ethical conduct which has the power to raise us up even higher than the angels themselves. One God. One standard. Let us raise them both high

COPYRIGHT 2008 by Rabbi Baruch Melman

Friday, December 5, 2008

VAYEITZEI: Today I Am Crying for the World

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


"Vayisa et kolo vayevk. And he (Jacob) raised his voice and wept."

I have shed many tears this week. What has happened to the world? What has happened to our values? What has happened to the respect for human life? I am feeling great psychic pain. All who care for the value of human life join together with me in mourning.

Whether in Valley Stream, Long Island, New York, or in Mumbai, India. Thanksgiving marks the start of the holiday season. These are times when our focus should properly be on being grateful for our blessings and for connecting with our common humanity in a shared appreciation of our common brotherhood, linked as we are by our common father in heaven.The point of giving a gift is to share our love. Instead, how twisted have we become as a nation that a mob in a state of frenzy for a discount should trample to death a poor, innocent soul who was trying to earn a few extra dollars. The mob mentality says "I am innocent. It was his fault that he was in our way. I have been here for hours. I deserve it. I am blameless.

And the terrorist mob that chose on the very same day to burst through the doors mowing down anyone in their path - especially Americans, British and Jews, like the assault in Walmart, they claim innocence, while themselves murdering the innocent. They takea perverted frenzied glee in evening some imagined score of some collective grievance from the past.

I mourn for our lost humanity when such ideas are even expressed, let alone acted upon and even justified. Did the remnant of the Jewish people who perished in the gas chambers and crematoria of Europe during the dark days of the holocaust bomb every city and railroad station and hotel in every city of every country that murdered their brethren? Did they seek revenge even upon those countries that "merely" refused to grant them asylum, to allow in refugees when they were facing certain death? For the last sixty plus years since the end of the war did the surviving Jewish remnant make the lives of every European a living hell, when by the morality of today's world they ought to have had every right to do so?

The answer of course is no. The Jewish people swallowed their grief and moved forward, building a progressive democracy, creating a prosperous and vibrant culture in the face of many wars of extinction. Israel is the first in line to teach agriculture to Africa, to respond to any tragedy around the world- be it an earthquake or tsunami, whether Muslim or Hindu, white or black. It's been said that if the Muslim/Arab world would lay down their arms there would be no war. If Israel were to lay down her arms there would be no Israel.

Humanity is evolving to the point where we see past racial barriers, religious hatreds and historic grievances. Each and every human being shares a common Divine spark which links us together as a part of a seamless, common humanity. But it seems that the more we advance, forces still exist which seek to pull us back down into the gutter of hatred, bigotry and racism. And the world's oldest bigotry, Jew-hatred, proved its undying character by the singling out of the handful of Jews in a country of more than a billion people for prolonged torture and murder.

The Jewish idea of the end times is one of peace, tolerance and universal brotherhood. All righteous, moral, good people of whatever faith are equally loved by God, whether Jewish or not. But there are other religions in the world that insist that only their own kind merits salvation and that all others are doomed to purgatory, whether of this world or the next.

Radical Islam that threatens the world today believes in peace and love - but seemingly only for their own. Random terror, mayhem and violence against the innocent are justifiedby their faith. This is Islam's image in the world today. Of their own making. It is not pretty.

World peace would be instantaneous were each one of us to recognize our common bond, our shared humanity. The spirit of the holidays would last well beyond December were we to say to our neighbor across the street or across the world, "You are my brother. You are my sister. We are all God's children."

It is tempting to look back and nurse old grievances, old grudges. And even satisfying on some level. But only if we look to the future and practice love in the present, can we avoid the darkness of the past. Only when we get up at 4:00 AM not to grab a bargain but to perform an act of kindness, will true peace be surely at hand.

© 2000-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

TOLDOT- HOLY NAMES; HOLY LAUGHTER; HOLY BLISS

This week's commentary is dedicated to the joyous wedding of Marc Garson and his new kallah, Shelli.


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Our name is our essence, the keenest description of our most innate beingness. In Parashat Toldot we experience the birth and the naming of Ya'akov and Esav, the disparate twins of Yitzhak and Rivka. Ya'akov means supplanter, or heel, the ergonomically accessible point by which to pull another back and pass him by in the process, in the very same instant.

The blessings which accrue to Ya'akov give the Divine imprimatur to the Biblical idea of merit over birth order,of moral primacy over primogeniture. Yitzhak's rising over Ishmael was arguably won by dint of the power struggles between Sarah/wife and Hagar/handmaid-concubine, beyond solely the purity of the merit of the children.

But with the ascendancy of the younger Ya'akov over the older Esav, there is no question that they shared the same set of parents; all control factors accounted for; everything else being equal. The name Ya'akov in its deepest essence alludes to the ikvei mashiach, the footsteps of the annointed one, the future redeemer.

The age of redemption will be characterized by the vainquishing of the stronger by the weaker, of the still small voice of quiet prayer over the gluttonous, raucous, brutish impetuosity of strength and power and might. Hakol kol ya'akov ("the voice is the voice of Jacob") will win in the end over hayadayim y'dei esav ("but the hands are the hands of Esau").

Esav means "done," already made, his spiritual growth already completed by the time he left the womb. The name Esav has the rank odor of fermentation on the brink of spoilage, of the psychological security of amassed comforting false remembrances of the glory of things past asserting domination over the hope, aspirations and promise of the emerging moment of a new day that is dawning.

Yitzhak himself achieves fulfillment, by earning in the end his own name. Avimelech is gazing out his window (Gen 26:8) "and saw, and lo and behold, Yitzhak was "enjoying himself" with his wife Rivka ....vayar vehiney Yitzhak mitzahek eyt Rivka ishto."

Well, finally Yitzhak himself is living his name, whatever it may mean. Does anyone remember "laughter" in the Torah? In Lech Lecha, (Gen 17:17) Avraham laughs when G*d tells him that he and the newly named Sarah will have a son in their old age. Further on, in Vayera, Sarah now laughs (Gen 18:12) when she overhears the angel/man saying, "your wife Sarah will have a son." Later, however, in the same parasha, Sarah sees the son of Hagar "mitzachek-ing" with Yitzhak, which our holy commentaries say possibly allude to sex-play or scornful mockery.

Why was Ishmael's behavior seen as unworthy by the text in light of Sarah's insistence that Hagar and son be expelled on account of it, whereas it is seen as valorized and worthy when performed by Avraham, Sarah, and now, by Yitzhak himself? That is because, like the gift of speech, laughter itself is holy and must never be misused.

In all three of the latter cases, the laughter took place in the presence of the holy. Avraham's laughter took place in the presence of G*d, Sarah's likewise was in the presence of the angels, emissaries of the Divine. Finally Yitzhak's holy laughter took place in the presence of Avimelekh's glimpse into a Divinely granted vision of the future. How's that?

It says (Gen 26:8), Vayehi ki archu lo sham hayamim.... customarily translated as "when he had been there a long time." It could also be read deeply and metaphorically as "when "they" made his days long," alluding to a Divinely granted vision of the eschaton, the end of history, a long day, when all will be in a constant state of Shabbat, a yom she kulo Shabbat, a "day" which is entirely like Shabbat.

At the end of time Yitzhak will be Mitzachek, i.e., we, his descendants, will be in a state of holy bliss brought about by the awareness of being in the Presence of the Divine. On Shabbat we experience a temporary vision of the Yom SheKulo Shabbat, of the bliss which awaits the righteous at the end of days.

And "archu" is prefigurative of the psalmist's "orech yamim asbiayhu va'arayhu beyeshuati...(Tehillim 91) "With long life I will satisfy him, and I will show him my salvation." i.e., "he will witness the salvation I will bring about at the advent of the Messianic age." This, on the deepest level, is the meaning of Avimelech's gaze, connecting Yitzchak to the Divine laughter awaiting each of us in the end of days. Here (Gen 26:8), the "hashkafa" of Avimelekh precedes the ultimate Revelation of the end of days.

Divine laughter, holy laughter, is the celebration of all life on earth, that everything occurs according to G*d's plan, following the teleological timeline to cosmogonic bliss.

But Hagar's son's laughter was mocking laughter, not the laughter of the Divine Presence. He had crossed that fine line and Sarah's holy intuition perceived it. He is called here (parshat Vayera) in the text "ben-Hagar" purposely on account that he had learned the art of mockery from his own mother, who had herself scorned and mocked Sarai when she had conceived while Sarai had not.

The three angels gazed (vayishkefu) at Sodom (Gen:18:16), immediately prior to G*d's revelation of His plans for the city to Avraham. There, "hashkafa" (gazing) immediately precedes revelation. Likewise, Avimelekh's gaze prefigures awareness of the ultimate redemption.

May we all, like Yitzchak, live our true essence, becoming the persons we were destined to be, and in our own worthy way, help bring about the vision of Avimelekh and taste the salvation of that long day, when the great light shall shine forth from Zion, and when all darkness shall be banished.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman
These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

CHAYEI SARAH: SOUL ARISING

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Endings are sometimes beginnings, while descents are sometimes the means to new ascents. Avraham purchased a burial plot for Sarah. He purchased a cave, the Cave of Machpela. The word "couple" in English comes from Machpela. Here the many foundational couples were laid to rest.

The word for cave is m'arah. This week's parsha contains the second mention of a m'arah, while last week's parsha, vayera, contains the first time that the word appears.

In GEN 19:25, when Lot is fleeing from S'dom, there is a word pattern that reminds us of m'arah:

"...v'et kawl yoshvei he'arim...

"(and He overthrew the cities and all the plain,) and all the inhabitants of the cities..."

We see the word he'arim, meaning "the cities." And a few verses later in GEN 19:30, we have the actual word m'arah:

"...vayeshev b' m'arah hu ushtei vnotav

"...and and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters."

So we can understand from the juxtaposition of these two usages that the idea of a cave is a refuge from the the turmoil and chaos of the cities.

Now when one's soul departs from its body and returns to its source, in a sense it is seeking refuge from the destruction of its own city, its past refuge from which it was expelled, unto a higher and and safer place of repose.

While the body is placed in the cave (the traditional form of Jewish burial in ancient times through antiquity), and thus finds refuge from the physical turmoil of this world, so too the soul also finds its own refuge.

We see that the letter mem before a word can have two different functions. It can serve as a prefix, meaning "from", an abbreviation of the word min, meaning "from," as in "he escaped from the cities (to the cave).

It can also serve as part of a verb, as a present tense indicator of the causative form. Therefore, when we read "m'arah," we can understand it as "causing something to rise up or ascend."

The soul departs from its body and ascends heavenword. In fact the word "ascend" can be found as well in the same word for cave: uri (spelled with an ayin not an aleph) means "arise."
M'arah also contains the letter ayin. M'arah can be read now as a place of arising. In other words, this idea deeply touches upon the Pharisaic idea of an afterlife, that our soul ascends to its heavenly source upon the severance of its physical sojourn within its vessel of the body.

So now we see that a cave (m'arah) has a double function: it is both a place where the soul arises when it leaves the body, as well as the place which causes the soul to rise. In other words, only upon the actual burial is the soul permitted to rise up. Hence the reason for the bias in Judaism for same day burial. It is a kindness to the soul permitting it to rejoin its heavenly source all the faster.

Lastly, in Isaiah 60:1-3, we read,

"ARISE and shine! For your light has arrived, and the glory of Hashem has shined upon you. For behold! Darkness shall cover the earth and a dense cloud the kingdoms; but upon you Hashem will shine , and His glory shall be seen upon you. Nations will go by your light, and sovereigns by the brightness of your shining."

The light of the Jewish people that would shine forever was first lit by Sarah imenu (our mother). And as she caused her tent to be a refuge from the chaos of the world and the chaos of pagan thought, so too would her descendants in the future be a source of light for all the nations of the world, to follow in G*d's path.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.
http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

VAYERA: WAITING IN THE WINGS

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 was a healing vision. 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 what about pain? We often 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, our soul. It's all stored in there somewhere.

Perhaps one of the deepest forms of pain is brought about by talebearing and slander, even words which seem true on the surface. But as we learn from the Day of Atonement, repentance and forgiveness have the power to truly erase our pain and feeling of alienation from G*d, and bring a sense of closure and healing.

G*d will wipe away our pain and wipe away our tears. The powerful healing of forgiveness is always there, just waiting in the wings, waiting to reveal itself to us when we respond with love.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

LECH LECHA: COSMIC BLESSINGS LARGE AND LARGER

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

An ETERNAL cosmic blessing is bestowed upon Avraham by G*d:

"I will bless those that bless you, and he that curses you I shall curse. All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you (Gen 12:3)."

This is a blessing and a prophecy as well. Through the hindsight of history we see the efficacy of these words. But this is on the level of macro blessing. This is the stuff of nations. What can we learn about bringing blessings into our own lives?

One hint is in the seemingly extra letter yud in "mevarchecha," as in (I will bless) "those that bless you."The letter yud alludes to Hashem, being the lead letter in the tetragrammaton, the ineffable name, the "shem havaya." The "yud" of Hashem brings us blessing. This means that when we place G*d's desires above our own desires, we open ourselves up as a conduit to receive Hashem's blessings in our lives.That is the first half of the answer.

When we embark on a journey, especially without a known destination in mind,we need all the blessings we can get. When Hashem asks us to go on a journey to the unknown, then every step we take is an act of faith, even more than when we know from the outset where we will be going.

When one lives alone with few distractions one may hear the still small voice more readily. And then to act on it is easier than when a spouse is involved. G*d spoke to Avraham and asked him to get out of town (lech lecha...).

Fine,but what about his wife, Sarah? The answer is in the words (lech lecha) themselves. The numerical value of"lech" is 50, and the value of "lecha" is also 50. While the traditional explanation is that he "took her" on the journey (vayikach) WITH WORDS, it is crucial to understand that unless Sarah was 100% on board with this mission to spread "the word," this ethical monotheism thing was going nowhere.

This was a 50-50 proposition. They were going to spread the message as equals. The letters in the words Lech Lecha are "50 - 50" in numerology. His agreeing to go with his holy wife was a 50/50 proposition. A complete agreement on her part was necessary. Yes. G*d reveals His truth in math and science.

She would teach the women; he would teach the men. It is crucial to understand that Avraham could not just make a token gesture to get her to agree. Rachmana liba ba'ee. G*d wants the heart. Her heart must be in it completely.

Marriage must entail a complete sharing. Even going beyond sharing, i.e., putting our spouse first. In Gen 12:8 it says " ...vayeyt ohalo...and he (Avraham) set up his tent." But the last letter of ohalo is the letter hey, although it is read as if written with a vav (the vowel cholom). Since our Torah is a Divine document, we must ask why this is so. What message is G*d giving us through His holy book?

The midrash in Breishit Rabbah explains that wherever Avraham went, he set up Sarah's tent first. In fact, he put all her needs above his own. So here is the second half. We must learn from Avraham that to be blessed in marriage (read successful), one must put one's spouse's needs above one's own. So when we put these two encoded ideas together: how to relate to G*d (our Heavenly partner) and how to relate to our spouse (our heavenly partner), we have the complete formula.

And to recap, on the yud level, it is to place Hashem's desires BEFORE our own desires, no matter how hard it seems. And sometimes it is hard. And on the hay level, we are to place our spouse's needs BEFORE our own needs, no matter how hard it seems. And sometimes it is hard. And if we put the letters yud and hay together, it spells G*d's name. We will then be walking on our journey through life with G*d. And that is the greatest of all blessings.

Shabbat Shalom! Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Friday, October 31, 2008

NOACH: OF FIRE AND WATER

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Violence and the potential for violence seems endemic to existence. The earth was "cleansed" with water so that evil and violence would be eradicated. And yet, a tincture of violence, a bacillus spore, remained embedded in our makeup. Why is this so? And what is the remedy?

And how is the idea of friendship related to the idea of strife and contention? Friendship is related to the idea of Edenic paradise as strife and contention are related to the idea of exile from that very paradise.

As Noah opened the hatch, the turret so to speak, he looked around and, lo and behold, the waters were visibly receding. "...charvu haMayim me'al ha'aretz....vehinei charvu p'nei ha'adamah...the waters were receding from upon the land....and the earth's land surface was beginning to dry (Gen 8:13)."

It's very interesting that the word for "receding" is "charvu." We had last seen the root CHeReV in last week's parsha, noting that the cherubs guarded the garden using the flaming sword (cherev). This proverbial sword inhabited the zone of in-betweenness, between the Edenic idyll and the realm of exile.

Similarly, the waters became like swords (charvu) themselves, as they inhabited the zone between utter destruction (flood) and mankind's rebirthing. These "swords of water" which are guarding the exile are the inverse of the "swords of fire" which are guarding the garden.

Note that cherev (sword) and chaver (friend) share the same root letters, albeit in different order. Both however, allude to the idea of connection- one good, the other less good. But they each share the idea of in-betweenness, of connectedness.

These two images, one of fire and one of water, allude to the saving power of Torah to alleviate mankind's state of alienation from G*d. The Torah's letters are said to be written in fire, "black fire on white fire." And Torah is also oft referred to as "mayim chayim," as "living waters."

The floodgates of both heaven and earth were open for forty days and nights, alluding to the forty se'ahs (measurement of volume) of the cleansing "living waters" of the mikvah. The Torah, as water, has the power to take us out of exile, just as the Torah, as fire, has the power to restore us to the Garden. Between exile and redemption, between Ararat and Eden, is that zone of in-betweenness.

These "swords of water," as they drained off of the landmass, stood sentry in mute silent testimony to the power of man to master his passions and rule over first his own nature and then nature itself. Man stands in the light of his own judgment/self-judgment to determine the extent of his successful self-mastery, or lack thereof.

Noah himself, after dutifully giving thanks for his survival, plants a vineyard and proceeds to inebriate himself with drink leading to a morally compromised state of affairs. This willful abandonment of the senses in the gratification of our self-destructive impulses is the bane of our collective human existence today, just as it was on a micro scale for Noah. Our societally conditioned hedonistic self-obsession distracts us from the dangers which threaten our very survival, let alone our dignity.

Indeed the threat to humanity still looms large, despite G*d's promise in the Covenant which He made with Noah (GEN 9-11!!!). G*d promised that there will no more be a flood of water to destroy the earth. Whether a nuclear fire will destroy the earth through our action (or inaction) is up to us. Certainly on a smaller scale we were visited with a flood of fire on 9-11 itself!

As in Noah's day, the scourge of a latter day Hamas (violence) still fills the land. Both "the land" - ha'aretz- of Israel and the entire world now is filled with the threat of terror. It threatens to consume us like a primordial floodwater. Or rather, more likely, as a tide of fire.

The way back to the garden is still barred. But by living moral lives guided by restraint, sensitivity and refinement of character as prescribed by the Torah, lives patterned in the Divine image (betzelem elokim), we can possibly see our way through the morass back home.

That tincture of violence inherent in man, remained on purpose, so as to be diluted in the flood waters and so homeopathically become utilized to end that very violence. Sadly enough, that is to say that we must utilize a discreet measure of violence in order to eradicate the violence.

For non-violence and pacifism, sweet as they are, will not end violence. They will only ensure death and defeat. Much to our chagrin, human nature, over aeons of time cannot be changed, only transformed.

The challenge is to ultimately transform our chareivim (swords) into instruments of creating chaveirim (friends). When our enemies realize that we cannot be defeated with the sword, they will have no choice but to become our friends. But this cannot happen without Divine help.

In the rebuilt Temple, when that day comes, the cherubs will one day yet again embrace over the ark as a sign of Divine love. They will then let go of their revolving flaming swords and allow humanity to return home to the Garden. The world of falsehood will then give way to the world of truth.

How can this ultimately be? As the Zohar teaches, "may the waters from below cause a stirring in the waters from above," leading to our ultimate redemption.

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Friday, October 24, 2008

BREISHEET: AND A RIVER FLOWED FROM IT

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Most rivers flow towards the garden, the oasis. But the rivers in Eden flow in just the opposite direction! They flow from it, away from the garden!

And yet, the flow of life, of our lives, is towards the garden. As exiles we long to return to her. Are we like the holy salmon, swimming upstream, against the currents?

Each Sabbath represents a figurative return to the Garden, a taste of the Edenic paradigm, described in Hebrew as "me'eyn olam haba," a taste of the world to come (becoming). Each Sabbath we grab the Torah's handles, the atzei hayyim, branches from the tree of life, and raft like, on the skin ofthe Leviathan, a token of love from the walls of the heavenly sukkah, we ride against the whitewater rapids back to the Garden, cascading up the river which flows out of the Garden (Genesis 2:10):"

V'nahar yotzei me'eden lehashkot et hagan... and a river flows out of Eden to water the Garden."

How ironic. Wouldn't the river be more likely to water the Garden if it flowed INTO the Garden? The deepest answer is that Torah is compared to lifegiving waters. The more one gives Torah over to others the more watering comes back in return. The more one teaches, the more one learns. The more we give of ourselves to others, the more we get back in return.

Bracha, or blessing, comes from the word breicha, meaning calm pool of water. Waves of Torah learning coming and going simultaneously, shakla vetaria, a back and forth, a dance of give and take, do not create chaos. Instead, they cancel each other out, creating a calm pool, a tranquil white noise blotting out the cacaphonies of the noisome world. Torah is that calming pool, ironically derived from the sweat of toil.

Separation is a parting. In fact, lehipared means to part. Same root. But like the parting of the waters, they often find a reconnection. Learning and teaching Torah is a form of separation. We
separate out our knowledge from the storehouse of our accumulated learning and impart it to others.

Teaching Torah represents the dialectical synthesis at the very heart of this separation anxiety whereby we transcend the zero-sum consciousness inherent in all other spheres. Thus the other's gain is not my loss. My loss instead becomes my gain.

When we fulfill the Biblical dictum to teach our children we enable the next generation to build on the accumulated received wisdom, to add to it from their own insight and experience, and thus learn the lessons needed to return humanity to the Garden once more. Not only humanity as a whole benefits from this learning, but each human being becomes more refined as a beneficiary of this separating.

Now we understand the answer to the question of why does the river flow out of the Garden? Because in truth we are each a little Garden, a little Gan Eiden. When we teach Torah to others, the Torah becomes real, the Torah lives once more. Baruch Ata Hashem, Notein HaTorah- Blessed are You, Hashem, Who Gives the Torah. Torah is water. It's flowing like a River out from G*d. Eden is a paradigm modeled on G*d's paradigm.

Sin is the ultimate separator. But sins can be fixed. Humanity's unravelling can yet be respun.The very curses imposed on mankind at exile's dawn are actually the very clues to their self-same fixing, their tikkun.

Man's hegemonic reign over woman was a fundamental curse which led to much spiritual and social malaise. Our generation has witnessed the blossoming in awareness of the fundamental equality of the sexes, of the consciousness that true respect for the differences in the emotional make-up and psychic terra firma between the genders lends itself to a sense of greater spiritual and social harmony.

Genesis 1:27- "G*d thus created man in His image, in the image of G*d He created him, male and female He created them." So male and female entities are thus portrayed as having equal aspects of Divine origin, and yet their separateness is implied in the use of the him/them differential. Only through reversing inequalities and yet respecting differences, as the verse above implies, can mankind earn reentry to the Garden.

Adam assigned blame to Eve for the Fall. Didn't he know he was equally to blame? Man's reign over woman was descriptive, not prescriptive. He blamed her while she blamed the snake. Why didn't she protest that he was to blame for his own sin? By blaming the snake she thus became the man's enabler, allowing them both to claim victim status. And isn't so much of the strife and conflict in the world today about blaming others for our own lackings? We all claim victimhood on some level.

Only when this challenge is overcome can we say that the Messianic Age, whose first dawning we witness with Israel's rebirth, can be said to have finally arrived. As we become conscious of our emergence finally into the Sabbath/seventh millenium, leaving behind the muted light and dimmed awareness of earlier eons, our continued existence is fraught with anxiety.

The modern age has witnessed not a reduction of psychic tension even with all its advances, but rather its obverse. The Sabbath, the gift of Genesis, is Judaism's gift to the world, a welcome
nostrum and a healing balm for mankind's anxious soul. It is a river of light. A river of peace. Flowing from within our hearts out to the world.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me. I was born on the first day chol hamoed Sukkos, which is also the yahrzeit of both Rebbe Nachman and the Vilna Gaon.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Monday, October 13, 2008

THE SECRET OF THE LULAV: short and sweet

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

LU - Lav

Lev is heart

and LU is 36, alluding to the 36 hidden tzaddikim,

w/out whose existence the world would cease to exist.

IOW, We must develop the heart of a hidden tzaddik.

The lulav (and esrog) helps us achieve that.

It is taught that the lulav/palm (itself) alludes to the spine.

The hadasim/myrtle allude to the eyes.

The aravos/willow allude to the lips.

The Tzaddik Nistar (hidden Tzaddik) is the one who has evolved to a state of being where:

He SEES the best in others.

He SPEAKS the best in others.

He has the BACKBONE to STAND UP for what is right.

And all three together are equal in measure to having a GOOD HEART (esrog).

Good Yuntiff!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

VAYELECH:THE GRASS IS ALWAYS GREENER

By Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. This famous expression is so true. We always desire that which is just beyond us, that which we cannot reach, that which lies behind the fence. From the distance, it always looks better than one's own grass, one's own situation.

Every rule has its exception, or else it wouldn't really be a rule, perhaps just a truism. In Parshat Vayelech, Moses urges the people to be strong and have courage (chazak ve amatz), because they will need it to withstand the temptations and blandishments on the other side (of the Jordan). Similar to the soul emerging into the world as a newborn soul carrier, the angel urges the soul to swear to be good and righteous on the other side and to withstand the temptations to be found there. To be righteous, to remain pure and unsullied, requires tremendous strength.

So yes, the grass really is greener on the other side of the Jordan. And likewise, the diversions and the temptations truly abound on the other side of the womb, in this world. This world is greener than the foetal world in its wombic cushion, for the temptations and allures are purposely planted in the garden to tempt us. The evil inclination, the yetzer hara, serves in this world only, as a means to propel the soul to grow by dint of its wrestling. If he grass weren't greener, we'd have no reason to want to leave the warmth and safety of the womb. And, truth be told, it's not a matter of choice.


Green is all around us. The green found in nature, that is. Scientists have even shown that green is the most relaxing of all the colors. God must have planned it that way!

And the idea of being green is also all around us. The idea that we need to radically shift our orientation to nature and to resource allocation and utilization to be in harmony with nature. All actions have consequences. How we use nature also has its consequences.

The Bible in Genesis records the Garden of Eden narrative where mankind through Adam is told "to work it and guard it." Indeed, if we wish the planet to be healthy and to ensure that the earth will continue to be a life-sustaining Eden for us we must continue to take heed and treat the planet and nature with respect, guarding its resources carefully to ensure a healthy environment.

This Rosh Hashanah we just concluded the Sabbatical (Shemittah) year in the Jewish calendar. Every seven years the Bible instructs us to let the land lay fallow so that we can tend to our spiritual needs over our material needs. It is in this year that the farmer recharges his spiritual batteries and devotes his time and energy to learning the Torah and delving deeply into the Bible with the same devotion paid to running the farmstead and attending to its myriad responsibilities.

In this season of repentance we must also ask forgiveness and repent for the many abuses we have heaped upon nature and the natural resources of our beautiful planet. There is enough abundance in nature to serve our needs while we at the same time serve as stewards and guardians of nature.

When humanity sees itself as greater than a mere cog in an economic machine and devotes itself to a higher spiritual purpose beyond a "mere" survival mentality, it then attains a degree of dignity heretofore unknown by the masses in human historical consciousness.

When the Greeks and the Romans encountered the Jewish Sabbath, they accused the Jewish People of a certain chronic laziness, in their refusal to engage in any kind of manual labor every seventh day. Little did they know that this was the key to human dignity even as it honored God in the process.

So too during the seventh Sabbatical "year of release," the Shemittah Year. Giving the land a rest, allowing it to return once every seven years to replenish its nutrients not only enriches the environment but at the same time recharges our spiritual batteries and helps us to recalibrate our moral compasses. As the Torah teaches, "man does not live by bread alone."

And as Isaiah says, "Days are coming. There will be a hunger in the land. But the hunger will not be for bread and the thirst will not be for water, but to hear the Word of God." The year of being green. It's a good thing. For all humankind.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Friday, September 26, 2008

NITZAVIM: DON'T LOOK BACK

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin HaKohen Melman

Nitzavim is always read prior to Rosh Hashana. It is a plaintive plea, nay warning, by Moses to the Jewish People, that they have before them a choice in life, between life and death, before good and evil, and that they should choose life.

The later Moses, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, aka Maimonides, aka the Rambam, teaches that we should see ourselves, and the world, as hanging equidistant on the scales of justice, as being suspended evenly between the twin poles of evil and righteousness. Just one meritorious deed, or mitzvah, on our part, can mean the difference between personal salvation and world redemption, on the one hand, and personal ignominy and a world swept away in chaos, on the other.

Maimonides discusses repentence:

"What constitutes complete repentance? He who is confronted by the identical situation wherein he previously sinned and it lies within his power to commit the sin again, but he nevertheless does not succumb because he wishes to repent, and not because he is too fearful or weak [to repeat the sin]. How so? If he had relations with a woman forbidden to him and he is subsequently alone with her, still in the throes of his passion for her, and his virility is unabated, and [they are] in the same place where they previously sinned; if he abstains and does not sin, this is a true penitent" (Mishneh Torah, "Laws of Teshuva," 2:1).

Of course, to attain such a degree of mastery of one's self requires a certain amount of reflection and intense introspection. It requires us to, in a sense, "look back," at the evil we had committed.
Looking back and reflecting on our past deeds is part and parcel of the process of Teshuvah, and
yet, there is an earlier biblical precedent very much related to our parsha, which seems to suggest just the opposite!

In Genesis, parashat Vayera, Lot and his family are rescued by the archangel Raphael from the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah . They are warned specifically not to look back when fleeing from the evil cities (Gen19:17). In Genesis 19:26, we are informed that Lot's wife did indeed look back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt ("vatehi NETZIV melach"). This hidden reference in the first verse of our parsha to the previous flight from sin is joined by a quite explicit reference to the same story just 13 verses later in Deut19:22, where our fate would be joined to that of the overthrown cities, should we not forsake our evil ways.

This usage of the same word netziv in Genesis as well as in the opening verse of this week's portion ("you are standing here this day") seems to suggest that as they are collectively standing at the portal to the promised land, they are figuratively looking back at all the evil they had confronted and overcome in their journey up to this point. Janus-faced, they are facing imminent
redemption awaiting them in the land even as they are seemingly mired by their dwelling upon the past. The text seems to be suggesting that it will take a renewal of the Covenant for them to finally point themselves forward, and not be immobilized by wallowing in their past.

This also begs the question. Should we therefore not look back at the evil we are trying to leave behind, following the lesson of Lot's wife? That would seem to contradict Maimonides' definition of teshuvah, of avoiding he same deeds while in the same conditions, advice which is seemingly only achieved through a process of self-reflection on one's past misdeeds.

A resolution of this seeming contradiction can perhaps be found in the same Genesis narrative,
where Lot exclaims (Gen 19:19), " ...(and I cannot escape to the mountain), lest evil overtake me and I die.

"...pen tiDBaKani haRa'ah veMati."

The word in the Hebrew for "overtake me" is tiDBaKani, literally meaning "stick to me," as the word DeVeK in Hebrew means "glue."It is related to the term, devekut, which in Hasidic philosophy connotes the idea of clinging, or attaching oneself to G*d. But here the reference alludes to sticking not to G*d, but quite oppositely, to evil itself! Hasidic thought revolutionized Jewish thought by using the very weapons of the forces of evil instead for good. In other words,
the forces of evil cause depression in the soul by causing one to immerse oneself in the mire of one's old ways. Your evil, sordid past clings to you like mental glue, seemingly preventing any chance of escape, of liberation.

By making the effort to consciously cling to G*d we can thus free ourselves from the muck and mire of the evil forces that strive to drag us down into a soul depression. G*d is throwing us a life line. "Cling to me instead," He is saying.

Resolving the seeming contradiction, whether to engage in reflection on one's past as a necessary step to moving forward to Teshuvah, or not to look back, so as to avoid the fate of Lot's wife, entails this use of devekut. Just as G*d created Torah as the antidote to evil, so too we should cling to G*d as our "teflon" lifeline even as evil is trying its utmost to cling to us. But know that with G*d you will always prevail against evil, as long as you hold on and cleave to Him. We cleave to G*d through prayer, through Torah study, and through the conscious performance of mitzvoth.

So the idea is that we should look back, but only just enough to be temporarily and momentarily saddened by the idea that we sinned and went off the right path, so as to effectuate a true Teshuvah. But to allow oneself to be mired in sadness over one's past by dwelling on the past only prevents one from making that connection with G*d that has the power to lift one up from depression. We are told again and again that the path to G*d is only through joy, that sadness only blocks one from attaining that bliss which only comes from knowing and feeling close to G*d.

In just last week's parsha, Ki Tavo, we are warned that our lives will become cursed only because we did not serve G*d with happiness (Deut 29:47).

"...tachat asher lo avadeta et Hashem Elokecha b'SIMCHA."

It seems rather obvious, but sadness leads to sorrow, and sorrow leads to depression, and depression robs a person of the will to live. One becomes one of the walking dead.

As a practical suggestion for moving forward into Teshuvah, let us especially not dwell on others' past mistakes. Although perhaps well-meaning, it is often counter-productive, and causes feelings of depression which make it even harder for that person to break free of his old patterns because he then begins to lose hope. In losing hope, he loses joy, and thus again falls victim to his old ways.

I always used to chafe at the requirement to rise in the morning prayers upon reciting Psalm 100, beginning with the words, Mizmor LeTodah. After all, it is very short, but a paragraph in all, and by the time one has stood up one already has to sit back down again! But as short as it is, it is also the most powerful, and most deserving of respect, for it carries within the secret to life itself: "Ivdu et Hashem b'Simcha!"

"Serve the Lord with Joy/Happiness!"

To paraphrase the sage Hillel, "all the rest is commentary."

Shabbat Shalom!

Good Shabbos!

Shanah Tovah!

A Goot Yor!

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

MY DINNER WITH STEVEN: A DIALOGUE

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Editor's note: I have a friend who, while Jewish, did not grow up in the bosom of the faith. Lately he has come to me with questions about the religion, and I hereby present excerpts from our recent dinner.

Steven: In economics and in other fields, emphasis is often placed on the idea of "systems." In other words, above and beyond what individuals do or don't do, they often seem powerless in the face of these larger forces. So having said that, do you see any merit in Judaism's placing a large responsibility on individual morality?

In Judaism, the path to G*d, the halakha, comes to the door of every individual. Though cloaked in community, the individual alone faces his maker for his accounting. Judaism allows for no human mediators. Every individual is responsible for his moral behavior. There is no passing the buck. Judaism posits that man has free choice. It demands taking a moral stand. If we don't take moral stands - simply, what is right and what is wrong - on the "picayune" realm of the personal day to day, how then do we ingrain a moral bias for taking stands on the larger social issues? In fact, what are the larger social issues, if not the sum total of all the individual issues? As in chaos theory, the proverbial flapping wings of the butterfly has an effect on the weather on the other side of the world. In that sense, we are all butterflies. But besides the individual's call to morality, we also have the individual's obligation to celebrate. On all the Jewish holy days - from the High Holy Days to the pilgrimage festivals to every Sabbath and to every single day, the Jew is commanded to reflect on life, and to celebrate life.
And just as morality to be global must expand to include community, so too, the idea of the celebration of life should expand to include community in order to be truly joyous through sharing with others.

Steven: What do you think about in your quieter moments?

In many a quiet moment I've given pause to ponder and to observe. I've watched with detached fascination the impulsive freneticisms of atomized man. I have felt loss at the self neglect in many who waste their lives - both present and potential. They wander through life aimlessly. There is no point, they think, in an endeavor which to them is ultimately absurd. But let them imagine that it wasn't absurd, that life did have meaning. People could at long last raze their castles of apathy and loneliness. In a vision of a world uniting to mend itself, despair and cynicism could finally find a haven to rest in places other than in men's souls. Imagine people "checking in" at regular intervals to take stock at the state of many things: their private goals, their relationships, their work, the cosmos. And in juxtaposition to their human shortcomings, imagine that they could simultaneously believe in an idea of a reachable condition of perfection. Imagine the resultant earnestness and comradeship that would naturally flow from this process.

Steven: What is your gut feeling about utopian ideologies? I mean, be on the level, okay?

Okay, so you have this utopian image with which man can align himself, an image which holds out a potential for harmony and of bliss for mankind. Frankly, I'm a little tired of talking about "humanity." What appeal can these notions have if they don't address me, a single human being? Nothing bears out this self-deceit more than the sorry spectacle of those humanity lovers who have nothing of value to show in their own lives, in their own spheres of relating.

Steven: How do you come to terms with the existential problem of drudgery?

There is a side to people that begs to transcend day to day repetitious mundanity. The Sabbath Day, imbued with a dimension of Divine holiness, is to some, a mechanism of release. In this I find meaning. But I do not regard my every day existence as a drudgery. In fact, I believe that the accent of the Jewish religion is one that actually emphasizes the day to day. How we function in the here and now - in "realty," is the yardstick by which we measure true religious success.

Steven: Tell me, do you imbue the Sabbath with any specifically metaphorical meaning?

The Sabbath, to me, is an eternal metaphor for human interaction, presenting a paradigm of relating on realms both Divine and human. Let us briefly look at the beginnings of the relationship between Israel and G*d, according to traditional and personal intuitions. First, there was a discovery by Abraham of G*d. Then came a period of reciprocal learning and awareness. G*d came to know the heights of Abraham's devotion, in the near sacrifice of his cherished son, Isaac. In turn, Abraham came to know the limits, and the degrees, of G*d's decrees. Justice and compassion were weighed. Abraham challenged G*d to define and to be faithful to His own standards of morality. Witness the intercession, however fruitless in the end in terms of immediate results, on behalf of Sodom and Gemorrah. Thus having come to know each other as each "operated" in reality, G*d finally initiated the formal bonding of their relationship, through both him and his seed. The naturalness of the developing relationship was reconfirmed at Sinai. How much and for how long could they mutually endure without defining the terms of their fealty, and celebrating the worth of their bond? That event, in Judaism, is eternally contemporaneous to every Jew.

Steven: What is the enduring testimony to that bond?

What is the enduring testimony to that bond? Israel's observance of the Sabbath: the Sabbath of "yetzirah" - of formation - that harkens back to a prepolitical celebration of G*d's unfolding creation. One is reminded, through observance of the Sabbath, that in living, one is called upon to interelate on terms of mutual benefit and growth. We remind ourselves of the command to come out of ourselves, for in unity and community there is strength. But for what purpose is this strength? To what end? We must always hold a vision before us of the perfect ideal world, the vaunted messianic state. The Jewish tradition asks us to always compare this vision to current reality. In this sense man is considered to be a co-partner in creation, in that his task is to finish creation. The Sabbath reminds us of our bond to the covenant which demands of us this task, and it celebrates the creation even though it is still yet incomplete. The Exodus from Egypt is recalled in the idea of the Sabbath of "yetziah"- the "going out" - which is an enduring metaphor for the eternal imperative of liberation - both personal and global.

Steven: What about cosmic thoughts? Cosmology versus cosmogeny.

The individual, so to speak, confronts his cosmic beginnings, and beholds his transformation through concentric realms of being. On one plane of consciousness, he identifies with the polity of Israel contemporaneously standing before the ongoing revelation. On another plane, he transcends history and space, imbibing once more of the protological serenity of Eden, that prefiguration of the messianic world where once again all will be united under the Divine principle. Along these lines run certain mystical strains in the Jewish tradition. Concepts of logos and genus merely tend to obfuscate the obvious.

Steven: I see. And what about G*d, the so-called "deity?"

How can G*d be really relevant to you, you wonder? I believe that if one looked at the world with his or her eyes fully opened, he would glimpse the vast multitude of deities that many worship - even today. If they don't worship "large case" G*d, they worship some other "small case" god. Upon that to which he directs his desires, beyond all proportion or degree thought necessary or appropriate, that is his god. Many worship power, domination, submission to authority, their country or even themselves. They become locked into a vicious and alienating circle from which it is even harder to emerge. Man is measured by that which he values. So it's not a question of choosing to serve G*d, but of choosing which god to serve. All people expend energy serving their particular god. In prayer, a person likewise serves G*d. He arranges his values in order, in their appropriate context. One reasserts control over one's life, and reminds himself in prayer that his choice is ultimately worth his while. Reward in the next world, olam haba - after life? So it is taught. But just as important is the reward of satisfaction in the attainment of self-mastery, in reaping the spiritual benefits of this world inherently earned in the journey of self discovery. Without this struggle and the self-knowledge derived from this struggle, there would possibly be no point to ever being born.

Steven: You mention struggling. Where does suffering figure in all this talk of halacha?

Prayer and halacha - Jewish law, literally "the way," have an additional extrinsic worth, beyond the intrinsic. In embracing the symbolic structures of a particular religious system, which by definition imposes meaning on the problems of existence, man places suffering within a cosmic framework. He can thus define his emotions to suffering in a meaningful way. As a means for dealing with the evils of the world as opposed to facing a chaos, an awesome terror of the unknown, the halacha charts an ethos, marking boundaries so that one can function as anxiety free as possible within the world. Like struggling, suffering leads to growth. A mighty oak tree is only born in the pain of the acorn's disintegration.

Steven: This Judaism. It's so vast. I'm frankly a little intimidated by its scope, vastness and depth. Is it really worth the effort to master?

Standing in direct counterpoint to the modern dogma of false spontaneity, a kind of compulsive reactivity to sensory input, is the principle within Jewish observance of kavanah, or "intention." It posits that the value of an action is markedly enhanced when it is couched in an aura of ready anticipation. Thus an act takes on an organic nature all its own, drawing its first breath in the seed of one's prior intention. While halacha admittedly limits my physical freedom, it more than compensates by widening my scope of perception. Every action is imbued with a more profound and higher significance. My horizons become sensitized to ever deeper levels of concern, and ultimately - to action. It gives a rhythm and continuity to my life, providing a steady anchor in an unstable world. As the Torah teaches (Leviticus 19:18): "Love your neighbor as yourself." And as Rabbi Hillel added, so succinctly: "That which is hateful to you, do not do unto others. All the rest is commentary." There you have it, phrased both in the positive and the negative. All bases covered.

Steven: So apart from me, does a person like you have many friends?

I grant you that my orientation and socialization within the world of Jewish observance was a natural one. What you most ably could identify with, would be my independent discovery and personal interpretation of the age-old system. In the main prayer, the amidah, we say elokeinu v'elokei avoteinu, "our G*d and the G*d of our fathers." We each have the task of not only learning from tradition, but of making personal sense of it all. I can receive what it meant for my fathers before me, but what does it mean to me? That only comes from study of the Torah and reflection. It says knei lecha Rav. "Acquire for yourself a rabbi." Push your comfort zone in order to grow. Little by little. That's the only way. Entering this age old system from an external vantage point, without guidance, would, I am sure, seem like a scary proposition. I might add, however, that with study, your fresh perspective would probably afford you a unique understanding. Should you wish to learn and be open to suggestion, I will share with you what I found to be the best way to enter the tradition: simply do it. Begin from where you are. Performing a mitzvah, a "G*d connector," teaches you more than any amount of study can. The experiential element is central to acquiring knowledge of "the way." I found that slow is best. I would slowly take one mitzvah at a time and make it "mine." Then I would take another, and so on. Coming back to it again would be like a reunion with an old friend. Right now, to answer your question, I have quite a few friends!

copyright 1999 - 2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

SHABBOS IS PARADISE

by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

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, September 19, 2008

KI TAVO: JUDAISM, THE YEASTERN RELIGION

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

B'nai Yisrael
, the Children of Israel, in our parsha, Ki Tavo, and also in other parshayoth, is called an AM SEGULA. This is often translated as "treasured nation." Sometimes even as "chosen nation." To be a treasured nation is admittedly very nice, as is also the status of being a chosen nation, although that carries some heavy baggage when it is interpreted by some as evidence of haughtiness and superiority.

Using these terms on some level does violence to the sense of Israel being a nation that interfaces between the particular and the general, between the national and the universal. We are also said to be a MAMLECHET KOHANIM, or a nation of priests. Indeed, just as the kohein in the Temple traditionally served as the intermediary between Israel and G*d, so too, as a mamlechet kohanim, or a "nation of priests," does the nation of Israel then serve as the intermediary between G*d and the other nations of the world.

This status does not inhere automatically to Israel. Rather it applies only insofar as Israel is cognizant of its role via its consciousness of fealty to the idea of mitzvah, that G*d's blessings pour down over an Israel that is consciously connected to its relationship with the Divine, and that we have the kavannah, or intention, that the performance of a mitzvah reverberates with positive energy not only for ourselves but for the benefit of humanity at large.

Note that in Deut. 26:19, the verse reads,

"ULETITCHA ELYON AL KAWL HAGOYIM...,

to give you height over all the other nations.."

This is not the height of arrogance. Rather, this is the height of service. As Israel is a mamlechet kohanim, a nation of priests, Israel is a kohein, or holy servant, to the other nations on Earth.
This does not mean supremacy! Rather, the Torah is teaching us that in order for Hashem's blessings for Israel to also reach and bring blessing to all the other nations of the world, Israel must position herself high through her allegiance to Torah. Through her becoming spiritually elevated and raised up through living by the ways of the Torah, subsequently the"spillage" from this pouring down of the heavenly blessings will affect everyone.

However, a self-debased Israel would be a proverbial pit, soaking up the blessing all to herself and hoarding it and thereby choking on it. Being in her self-created pit caused by her own sins, the blessings could not then spread out. Israel would then suffocate on her surfeit of blessing, turning the blessing into a curse via her own behavior. Israel's mission is to bring blessing upon all the earth through her lofty role of service to the One G*d.

Israel's self-debasement comes from two sources. The first source stems from a lack of Torah, that in the absence of the knowledge of how to serve G*d through the study of the Torah and living by the mitzvoth found therein we remove ourselves from the source of blessing. The second source stems from not a lack, but oppositely from a surfeit of Torah, where the kavannah, or intention, is not the elevation of humanity via our attachment to Torah, but regrettably, where the kavannah is the supremacy of Israel, "to hell with the whole world, they all want to kill us anyway." The point of Torah is in our sharing of our blessings with the world, that it should be a source of blessing for the world, precisely because of our fealty to Torah.

Why is the Dead Sea dead? Because it only receives. It never gives out life sustaining waters. Thus the salts accumulate to toxic levels. Sea salt gives life, but only in very small quantities.
The Golan, by contrast, is bursting with life and vibrancy year round. Its fresh, living waters sustain and replenish Yam Kineret, the Sea of Galilee, whose waters sustain all Israel. And the Torah emanating from Yerushalayim and Tzfat, and indeed from all the heights of Torah, water and give spiritual nourishment to all Israel and to the world at large.

Rabbeinu (the Rashban, aka Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, aka Reb Shlomo) always taught that "the world so much NEEDS the Jews to be good yidden." In other words, there is NO dichotomy between being a good Jew and being a good human being. Just the opposite! We are better human beings, doing our part for all humanity, by becoming the best Jews possible! So now the folk and the cosmologic senses of the word "segula" align themselves in a neat symmetry.

Israel now has the opportunity, our parsha is telling us, of being a catalyst for blessing for all the nations of the world. Indeed, this is a fulfillment of the Abrahamic blessing that "all the nations will be blessed through you." Israel, in a sense, now becomes the yeast for the whole world. As yeast is the catalyst in baking, so too is Israel that transforming agent of change which has the awesome capability of uplifting all of humanity. Just as yeast is among the least of the ingredients, so too is Israel the least populous of the nations. Just as yeast is less than tasty when eaten as a meal in itself, so too does Israel shine less when consumed solely in a self-absorbed disinterest with the fate of humanity.

Now we understand on the deepest level why we totally eradicate any presence of chametz on Passover, the holiday marking our new status finally as a nation among the other nations of the world. The special zero-tolerance status for yeast on Passover now makes sense. The very energy expended in our total obsession with its eradication is only meant to underline and call attention to the "yeast" status of the Jewish people vis a vis its relationship to humanity. By calling attention to yeast/leaven so explicitly, the Torah wants us to understand on our national birthday (Passover) our special "yeast role" in the universe.

In all other areas of kashruth a miniscule amount of a forbidden substance is"tolerated" if it exists in a certain miniscule percentage in relation to the permitted ingredients (usually a 1/60 ratio). Not so with yeast on Passover. It has the status of "assur bemashehoo," i.e., it is forbidden "in any amount" (shulchan aruch: siman taf mem zayin, se'eef dalet). Israel, in its status as exemplar of liberation from Egyptian oppression, bondage and servitude, becomes on a symbolic level at least, the inspiration for all humanity to aspire to freedom from every type of oppression. Our Exodus is the model for all future exodi. Our salvation is the model for all future salvations, as is likewise our redemption in the land of Israel a precursor and model for ultimate world redemption- if only we and our leaders believe it ourselves and if only the world were to lift its veil of hatred and open its eyes.

By the special status and attention which the Torah pays to actual, real, live yeast in the Exodus narrative and to its accompanying rites of memory and reenactment, so too should we therefore be cognizant of the people of Israel's symbolic and yet very real status as yeast/catalysts in the rising pungent ferment that is humanity. The more we consciously incorporate Judaism into our lives, the sooner we help elevate all humanity, including ourselves, to achieve the end stage of glorious redemption and peace, and thereby fulfill our true destiny as an "am segula," as a Catalyst Nation.

Ignorance of the true meaning of the term segula has resulted in tragedy in both directions: misplaced haughtiness and arrogance on the part of some Jews who in righteous tribal anger circle the proverbial wagons to shut out the outside modern world, and has tragically provided ammunition to antisemites who claim that our so-called claim to a chosen status implies a claim of superiority which somehow justifies a negative response.

When we want something good for someone we often say, "do this as a segula." Or sometimes it is said, "say this prayer at the kotel for forty days to find your soul mate as a segula," or "recite this psalm on behalf of sick person as a segula," or "wear this amulet as a segula." So clearly, at least in the folk mind, a segula has the sense of being a catalyst, of bringing about positive change on some level.

As role models for tzedaka, culture, agriculture, education, science, the arts and humanities, with leadership roles in progressive movements for social justice, equality and better working conditions for all, Israel's light shines brightly. We are a segula indeed. We are not perfect, but we are trying.

As we enter the High Holy Day season officially with Selichot this Saturday night, let us remember that we are not perfect creatures either. We make mistakes, but the point is to learn from them, to grow from them, to become better people because of the mistakes we have made. Thank G*d I make mistakes! That's the only way I know how to grow!

Shabbat Shalom
Good Shabbos

© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

Friday, September 12, 2008

KI TEITZEI: LOVE AND HATE

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

They say that the perfect is the enemy of the good. If you wait for the perfect you'll miss the good. If you pass up the good while waiting for the perfect, you may still be waiting! This is as true in life as it is in dating.

In our parsha, Ki Teitzei, there is the instruction, if you have two wives, where one is loved and the other is hated, that we must honor the birthright of the oldest, the firstborn son, even if he is the offspring of the hated wife. The hated wife is identified first as the senuah, the hated one, spelled sin, nun, vav, alef, hey. But then she is identified not as the senuah, but rather as the seniah! The letter vav is replaced with the letter yud.

What is the significance of this change in spelling? Every word is divine. Every letter is divine. So it must have a meaning. Furthermore, the Torah was given to us to be eternally relevant to every generation. So today when most of Jewry has foresworn polygamy, what lesson can we learn from the change in spelling?

The letter yud represents divinity. It is teaching us that behind everything which we hate there is to be found a Divine lesson for us. Sometimes we hate a person because he reminds us of a defect in our own character. That is a Divine message. Sometimes we hate someone because they are so good that we become jealous of him and look for petty ways to find fault with him to assuage our sense of regret for our own imperfect natures. Or perhaps he is full of joy and we are depressed or sad and hence we are jealous.

A spouse is called an ezer k'negdo, translated often as "helpmeet." Ezer means "helper" and k'negdo means "against." When you are on the correct moral path she is to be a helper. But when you fall off the path she is NOT to be an enabler. Her job is to oppose you and help you get back onto the right path. But then you may hate her for it. But she's just doing her job. The enlightened spouse will recognize this and seek to amend his ways and so be in love again. So in truth the two wives are really one in the end.

And the son who is to receive the birthright, regardless of which wife is his mother, what does he come to teach us? That even good things may come from seemingly bad origins. After all, David, the future king of Israel and progenitor of the Mashiach, is from the fruit of a Moabitess who in turn stems from the incestuous liaison between Lot and his daughters after witnessing the fiery demise of Sodom and Gemorrah. Sometimes a setback is really a setback. But let us have the eyes to try to see the Divine message behind every seeming setback and to turn hate into love wherever we go.

As the Torah teaches (Lev 19:18), Love thy neighbor as thyself. Neighbor and evil are spelled with the exact same letters, reish and ayin. And we are to hate evil. So what this means is that we must love our neighbor as ourself, even as we hate the evil that they do.

And as Hillel summarized the essence of the Torah: that which is hateful to you, do not do unto others. All the rest is commentary.

Shabbat Shalom!


© 1999-2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

These words of Torah are written in the merit of my beloved father, Israel J. Melman, obm, Yisrael Yehoshua ben Harav Ya'aqov Hakohen ben Meir Yisrael Hakohen Melman, z"l

I was raised in the musar tradition of silence and meditative thoughtfulness, as were my father and grandfather before me.

http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

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.

NEVER GIVE UP!

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Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

moshav band live at mexicali blues

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What mind is it?

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


ON FIXING AND HEALING...

"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

Hatiqwa

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Beta Israel - Ethiopian Jews - The Ingathering from Without

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Palestinians of Jewish origin - The Ingathering from Within

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Holy Wedding at Makhpela, Tomb of our Fathers in hevron - Music by Pey Dalid

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Mariane Paradise and The Gan Eden Project sings of the Unity of All Creation from Jerusalem

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A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD

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IVDU ET HASHEM B'SIMCHA- SERVE THE LORD WITH JOY DANCING AND SINGING FROM INSIDE A BOMB SHELTER

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SELICHOT LIVE AT CARLEBACH SHUL 2008

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NAZI RALLIES AND SPEECHES

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JEWISH MEN AND WOMEN GATHER TO CELEBRATE REB SHLOMO'S 14TH YAHRZEIT SINGING AT HIS GRAVE

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MOSHAV BAND - THE ONLY ONE

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Reb Zalman on Jewish Renewal

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Let There Be Peace

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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

the last hoshana rabba with reb shlomo and me playing together the week before he took off in '94

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bob marley - one love 6:13 (6 MINUTES 13 SECONDS) and exodus

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Tisha B'Av 5765 Katif Expulsion

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Children of Sderot - The Daily Terror and Nightmares

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Let Me Sing a New Song

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On Schlomo's magnificent 13th (Bar Mitzvah) yahrzeit in Heaven

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AMAZING INTERVIEW WITH REB SHLOMO top video only

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Larry David wants to Save the Planet

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Havdalah Ceremony on Moshav Meor Modiin in Central Israel

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Alpha blondy from cote d'ivoire sings his love of Jerusalem in Hebrew and French all over the world

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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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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!

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