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.

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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SELICHOT LIVE AT CARLEBACH SHUL 2008

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