Friday, April 18, 2008


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Dedicated in memory of my father, Israel J. Melman, ob"m, on his birthday, April 18.

Am Yisrael, the People of Israel, is 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. On Passover, the Jewish people go on a holy mission to eradicate all the chametz, any food which has risen, particularly through the agency of se'or, yeast.

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

Now we undertand 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 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.

And that is why at the seder itself, after all the cleaning and preparation has been made, that we break the middle matzah. Because we are the intermediaries between heaven and humanity. We are the priestly intermediaries sharing G*d's light with the world, even as it resists the light.

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. Be Jewish. It's a segula for world redemption!

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.
© 2000 - 2008 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

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

Dedications are available.

Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua.


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Dedicated to my father, obm, on his birthday, April 18.

Are the goals of Judaism limited to its elites, or is there a true democratic impulse at work, seeking to permeate all societal strata?

Kedoshim Tihiyu. You (plural) shall be holy. The plural sense of the verb indicates that holiness, while taught and exemplified by the kohanic priestly class, is an ideal which must spread out and permeate the collective Israel polity.

Holiness is the raison d'etre of Israel's entire being. Thus we see that the central animating idea of Israel's consciousness is not the sole select property of an elitist oligarchical class. Rather, all Israel is enjoined to embody the defining characteristics of the nation's ideal. Indeed, Israel's rise and fall is contingent on the degree of the very success of this notion.

In this sense the command to embrace holiness in both the communal sense as well as the personal sense anticipates the democratic ideal of the empowerment of the individual. By contrast, undemocratic regimes, be they organizations or national governments, rely on classist models of exclusion to buttress their rule. Indeed we find that dictatorships surround themselves with yes men who serve with sycophantic excess at the expense of the true needs of the people, who are treated largely as a giant feedbag with which to satiate the enormous egotistical needs of the ruler.

The rulers must by necessity lie to the people over and over again to justify their abuse of power. But the people usually see through the lies and upon the passing of the the dictator express their glee by eviscerating all iconic reminders of their oppression. Dictators may control the graves, mass or otherwise, but they don't control the hearts of the people.

On the other hand we see that true leaders who serve the people above their own interests are appreciated all the more only after their passing. It has been remarked that the parsha headings "Acharei Mot (after death)/ Kedoshim(holy ones)" bespeak a deep truth, that true leaders, while perhaps villified for speaking the truth, are only finally appreciated properly after they are gone.

Moses's ordeals as leader of Israel typify this notion. Moses spoke only the truth- whether adjuring Pharaoh for his stubborn obduracy or the people of Israel for their stubborn sinfullness. His decisions and leadership were constantly second-guessed, belittled and criticized, his motives perpetually suspect and doubted by a nation genetically given to free expression.

But he submerged his own ego in the service of Hashem, whose very seal is truth. Accordingly, Hashem felt his pain. His pain became Hashem's pain. Thus his deep pain was assuaged in the healing balm of Hashem's love.

Many people truly are not fully alive because their ego does not resonate with Hashem's will. They fear death as a final end. In their obsession with death, to the degree of their obsession, they prevent themselves from truly living.

Living lives that reflect holiness is the unifying interface between ourselves and Hashem. Our souls are then properly tended, given the proper nutrition with which to take root in the Garden of Eden. Although his exact grave is a mystery, Moses is linked eternally with life for he embraced and taught holiness.

All who link their lives to the Torah's teachings and embrace holiness in their daily lives are granted eternal life. Holiness, as expressed in one's piety, one's morality, one's business ethics, is within the purview and reach of each individual in society. Those who live by the Torah's holiness codes and aspire to do better in the face of setbacks, are thus given the keys to eternity. It is accessable by all. It is a truly empowering notion. This is no lie.This is truth.

Shabbat Shalom

© 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.

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

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

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at
(niggun means wordless spiritual melody, the highest kind there is).

Friday, April 11, 2008


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Metzorah, this week's parsha, discusses the cleansing process of the leper, as well as the purification processes for bodily secretions of a reproductive nature, both male and female. It must be made clear that this is not referencing a physical uncleanness. Rather, it is solely discussing a spiritual form of impurity.

In fact, the English word for conTAMination derives from the Hebrew word for spiritual impurity, which is TUMAH. And "pure" itself derives from the Hebrew word Parah. One could only become pure by being sprinkled with the ashes of the Parah Adumah, the red heifer.

Nor is this evidence of any misogynist bent in the Torah itself. Quite the opposite! Both males and females are deemed spiritually impure by dint of the secretions of their respective male and female fluids.

What is the connection between two strange, seemingly disparate topics, viz. the juxtaposition between the narrative of ritual impurity for the secretion/emission of male and/or female fluids and general impurity resulting from general psoriatic skin ailments?

It is generally understood that Miriam developed "leprosy" from her lashon hara (evil speech) against her brother Moses. The Torah itself makes that connection. Hence we can extrapolate from the particular to the general that there is a connection between "leprosy," possibly psoriasis (related to the word tzoraas), and the improper use of the Divine gift of speech. And what she said wasn't so much "evil" as it was widely understood to be "merely" involving herself in his personal sphere, intruding, as it were, on the private zone of relations between man and woman.

Lashon hara has the capacity to destroy people's reputations and careers and even lives. It may not be the actual death blow per se, but it certainly has the power to create the conditions in potential form. In western society entire industries are devoted exclusively to the spread of slander, gossip and talebearing. In fact, the more salacious, the more lucrative.

So too, male and female emissions and secretions have within them the potential for human life. Conversely, since their emissions carry within them the sense of loss of potential life, in a sense their emission bears with it the sense of potential death.

While clearly, since the advent of modern science, no one believes in the idea of a homonculus, i.e., the idea of a fully formed miniature human residing in male seed, nevertheless, to some degree it represents symbolically a potential for life, similar to the woman's unfertilized eggs which are lost through her monthly cycle.

Hence the connection: both ideas speak of the idea of potential death. One is the potential death of reputations, lives and careers. The other is the potential life that was lost, the life that never came to be. They intersect with the idea of nidah. This usually refers to woman in her menstrual state, to be off-limits to her husband, but the very first case of a person said to be (in a state of) nidah in the Torah was a man!

The first nidah in the Torah concerned KAYIN, when because he took a life he was to wait outside the figurative camp of humanity, literally "off-limits," by becoming a perpetual wanderer, a displaced person. He was to be a fugitive and a waNDerer (na veNaD ba'aretz (Gen 4:12). Being NaD, he was the first to be in a state of nidah. He cut off the potential of another's life by killing.

He cut down the flowering seed potential of a human life, still in its youth. Therefore his compensatory karmic healing was that his seed/life could never be allowed to take root. He was forced to wander in perpetuity. While we may not kill others in a physical sense, our words have the power to destroy lives, families, even communities.

Let this connection be a reminder that our words are like actions- that we can destroy worlds, or create them, depending on how we use our gifts.

© 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.

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

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at
(niggun means wordless spiritual melody, the highest kind there is).

Friday, April 4, 2008


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

It's often about control. And losing control. We fear that which we cannot control. We often become afraid and insecure in life when people or events arise which act beyond our ken, beyond our ability to alter their path and plan.

A primal fear is a sense of loss of bodily control. Whether our bodies undergo the changes of adolescence or the signs of aging or disease, they are morphing in unsettling ways, whether welcome or not. Many live in a state of fear and terror of the unknown.

And in this new Age of Terror, while its victims are few in number relative to the totality of humanity, the crippling effects of its surprise nature and instantaneous universal awareness stirs within us those primal fears of loss of control.

Bodily secretions stir the most ancient and profound of fears. The revolutionary power of the Torah is to turn the pagan notion of this secretionary fear into one of Covenantal hope. Birth blood, menstrual blood, and seminal emissions- all nature-induced potent symbols of progeny, culminate in the man-made Covenantal blood of circumcision.

The seven healing recovery days are symbolic units of nature. On the eighth day, the day which is beyond nature, man resumes where G*d left off, partnering with the Divine in Covenantal union. Our fears turn into hopes. Our hopes turn into fears. One bleeds into the other.

Our parsha this week, Tazria, of Leviticus, has a fascinating parallel to parshat Lech-Lecha of Genesis. Each parsha contains references in close narrative proximity to the ideas of (male) seed, (female) menstruation, brit mila (covenant), and inheritance of the Land. G*d promises Abraham that his seed shall inherit the Land of Canaan.

G*d says to Abraham (Gen 17:8), "To you and your offspring I will give the land where you are now living as a foreigner. The whole land of Canaan shall be (your) eternal heritage, and I will be a G*d to them."

Note that the verse specifically uses the terms "the land where you are now living as a foreigner (eretz miGuRecha)" and "the land of Canaan."

The promise of future inheritance of the land revolves around the notion of being a foreigner to the ways of the Canaanite. And the Biblical associations to Canaanite ways are clearly negative. Moloch worship, child immolation in particular, is seen through the Biblical lens as bearing the onus of a particularly negative ilk.

While the foreigner has special status, meriting an umbrella of protective care, because "you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt," one must be ultimately a true foreigner to all that is truly immoral- whether in the sexual or the ethical realms, in order to merit that protective umbrella in the Land.

Nothing is more heinous to the Biblical sensibility than the abuse of seed, particularly that of living seed, i.e., LIVING children. Amalek, in particular, bears an opprobrium all his own. He and his (spiritual) descendants are seen as particularly worthy of moral contempt for their pointed targeting of defenseless women, children and the elderly in the rear lines of the Israelites (Deut 25:17). And Pharaoh consigned all the male children to a watery grave. Those who target the innocent are truly foreign to G*d's spirit of loving compassion.

But as the Psalmist says (Psalm 126)"...those who sow in tears will reap in glad song..." No tears are more fiercely shed than those of a mother weeping for her child,or those of a child for her mother. The First Temple was destroyed for the cries of the mistreated widows and the orphans. Their tears cry out to the heavens. Theirs are the tears of those who plant in sorrow.

The salt of their tears, unlike other salt, will forever make the soil bloom, the earth to bear witness. And the blood of the infants whose heads were dashed against the rocks by the destroyers of the Second Temple in their bloodlust, will forever bond the people with the land of their ancestors, the land of their fathers, where we will be foreigners no more. A ger, a foreigner, is a resident alien. But whether we are to be eternal residents or but temporary aliens depends on us.

To our lasting shame, many of our leaders are steeped in immorality, both ethical and sexual, whether in Israel or America, while Israel's crime syndicates and governmental authorities conspire to make Israel a world center of sex slavery. The tears of these women who are lured to Israel by promises of jobs and are subsequently imprisoned in brothels are a stain upon the soul of the nation of Israel. The governmental authorities and the police are paid off with baksheesh to look the other way, nicely supplementing their salaries. We are perhaps too busy with the distractions of terror and of daily living, and of our gadgets and our toys, to cry out and demand an end to this injustice. It is simply off the media's "radar screen." But not G*d's radar screen. This is not our way.

Tazria comes from the root ZeRA, meaning seed. Whether the State of Israel is to live up to its billing as reisheet tz'michat geualateini, the first flowering of our ultimate redemption, depends on the quality of its seed and the quality of its soil. Where are the rabbis? Where is the spiritual leadership?

For shame! Instead of a traumatic witch hunt waged against gerim (converts) and the rabbis who nurture them, a proper moral stance of Israel's Rabbinate would be to uproot the sex trade in the country. But they are too busy outlawing concerts of mixed gender attendance, even with separate seating, for fear of potential sexual outbreak, and holding themselves up to both ridicule and contempt in the eyes of the public, all the while turning a blind eye to the very real national sexual scandal in their midst. The Talmudic principal of shtikah kehodaya damei, silence is aquiescence/agreement, sadly applies. Don't imprison women in their homes. Free the
women who are truly imprisoned.

We ask our enemies to uproot terror from their midst, yet in spite of the Passover injunction that we be free and celebrate that freedom, we fail to uproot the daily terror and sadness of these women.

In Kabbalah, the sephirah aligning with the procreative region is referred to as Yesod, meaning "foundation." This is a universal principle. Both for individuals as well as for nations. When the sexual sphere is askew, the entire organism is askew. The imbalance in the foundation tilts the entire system. A crack in the foundation threatens the entire structure.

Whether we are to be an or lagoyim, a Light unto the Nations and a Kiddush Hashem (a sanctification of G*d's name), or an impious twisted caricature of a once great nation and a Chilul Hashem (a desecration of G*d's name), foreign and unrecognizable to the great sages who lived much closer to Sinai, is up to us.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 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.

Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

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

My band, Niggun, is available for all simchas.
Contact me privately at
(niggun means wordless spiritual melody, the highest kind there is)

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

What mind is it?

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


"If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix..... If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal..........." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

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

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

About Me

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