Thursday, June 25, 2009


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Korach was a man ahead of his time. Rather than labeling him as the wrong man at the right time, let us say he was the right man at the wrong time. NOW is his time.

Korach asked Moses who put him over all the people to rule over them? For his insolance against a righteous humble man such as Moses, who was the epitome of the reluctant leader, he suffered a very strange punishment. But rather than seeing it merely as a punishment, we can view his fate as similar to a living time capsule - a time capsule of brazen effrontery and fearless confrontation.

Time capsules are meant to be dug up and retrieved in the future. Moreover, the Torah teaches that Korach went down ALIVE (hayyim) into the pit (NUM 16:33). At the time of Mashiach he would once again be retrieved. His rebellion against Moses was just his rehearsal. Now is his time. The cameras are rolling as the capsule is opened. The genie of freedom is released.

The fearless students and young people in Iran are confronting the mullah machine. The spirit of freedom lives in them. They are shedding their blood, secular martyrs against the repressive totalitarian clerical regime. As if channeling the spirit of Korach they proclaim to the mullahs: who made you lord over us? Who appointed you to rule over us? If our votes don't count then your very legitimacy does not count!

Stabbed, hacked, choked and shot. Rivers of blood. Is the world listening? Does the world care?

They are tossed over bridges. They themselves are the bridges! They are the Gesher -the bridge. They are the Regesh - the feeling and emotion. They are the Shraga - the flame of hope.

Korach is kerach - ice. But the world is heating up now. The ice is melting. The thaw is setting in.

Korach is returning. Rising from his pit. Rising with a vengeance, for now his time at last has come. His holy hutzpah standing up for justice. Standing up for freedom, the inherent right of all people.

It is not climate change we should worry about. Better our hearts should grow warmer. Better we should feel their pain. The world's morality is frozen. They stand by and watch the slaughter.
And say nothing. And do nothing. Nothing at all. Never again all over again. And again. They shed their blood. Do we even shed a tear?

Persia set us free. Persia sent us home. Persia helped rebuild the Holy Temple. The Holy Temple today cannot be rebuilt until there is freedom and justice for all people. From the heart of the repressive beast the people rose up. For who knows the evil of the beast better than they?

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2009 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.

Friday, June 19, 2009


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Exile can be a state of mind. But it can also be very real. The Nation of Israel was on track to be united with the Land of Israel, when the sin of the spies caused a deep rupture, thus delaying the reunion until the passing of the generation that was accustomed to a negative slave mindset. Thus the exile of the mind led to an exile of the body. Our thoughts determine who we are to become, what our destiny will be.

The Torah identifies two agents of the exile. One agent leading us to sin was the organ of vision, viz. the eyes. Whereas in Eden man saw himself as larger than G*d, and thus his eyes caused him to disobey, leading to the first exile, the exile from Eden, this new exile similarly was caused by the eyes. This time the sin was that man saw himself as being too small, just the opposite of Eden.

"..We were IN OUR EYES like tiny grasshoppers, that's all that we were IN THEIR EYES(vanhi v'eyneynu kachagavim v'chen hayinu b'eyneyhem - NUM 13:33).

The use of eyes attributed to both the Canaanites and Israel is possibly indicative that this smallness of vision was a universal pathology. The fixing or corrective for the sin of Eden was not that man should think of himself as being small, G*d forbid, but rather that he should see his own greatness and become a partner with G*d to fix the world. Obeying G*d is essentially forming a partnership with the Divine.

The corrective for the sin of the eyes are the phylacteries which are worn during morning prayers. As they are placed as "frontlets between the eyes," they have the power to lift us up to a higher vision of ourselves. ayin is the Hebrew word for eye, but it also means wellspring, as in maayan. Thus what we focus on becomes the source of our inspiration for achieving our own greatness. We should be blessed to focus only on the positive.

The other agent of the exile is the organ of action, the arm. Moses in his anger and rage disobeyed G*d and struck the rock to bring forth water. Now he himself, the leader of Israel, would in turn be denied entrance to the Land of Israel. His anger and rage, made manifest in his actions, led to his personal exile. We can apply this to our own lives. How often does anger exile us from our friends and loved ones?

The corrective for the sin of anger and angry action are the phylacteries which are worn during morning prayers. As they are tied as a sign upon the hand, they have the power to lift us up so that we engage in behaviors which sanctify the world and which bring humanity closer to its Divine Source. There is anger, but there is also the acting out of the anger. They are not the same, not identical. G*d became angry at times with Israel, but Moshe was able to assuage that anger. The tefillin on the arm in a sense symbolize that binding, that sense of restraint, that can save us from irrevocable action we may later regret. The yad is the hand, but it also symbolizes the ten spies who spoke negatively about the Land. By gazing at the yad we can recall and fix through our speech that which had impacted us so negatively. We can say dai, enough, by just switching the letters, and be conscious of how our words can impact others.

At the end of our parsha, Shelach (NUM 13:38), we have the mitzvah of wearing fringes on our garments:...veasu lahem tzitzit al kanfei bigdeyhem ledorotam...have them make tassels on the corners of their garments for all their generations."

This is already a sign of our healing. The reference to future generations speaks to Israel's eternal mission. Tzitz, the singular, is the diadem of gold that the High Priest wore on his forehead (LEV 8:9). Tzitzit is the plural, and yet, it lacks the letter yud which indicates the plural form. It is spelled Tzadi, Yud, Tzadi, Tav. The missing letter Yud (numerical value of 10) reminds us of the ten spies who caused Israel to sin. More importantly, it reminds us that just as the kohen gadol, the high priest, had the words Kodesh laShem, Holy to G*d, engraved on his Tzitz, his golden diadem, so too is *all* of Israel, as represented by the Yud, the community of ten, enjoined to strive to be Holy before G*d, for all their generations.Phylacteries are essentially that, a spiritual prophylactic to prevent and ward off the potential for spiritual exile which inheres within each of us, both as individuals and as a nation.

The Tefillin Shel Rosh, the head tefillin which rest above and between the eyes, serves as the symbolic spiritual prophylactic for the nation- in the realm of thought and vision, while the Tefillin Shel Yad, the arm tefillin, serve as a spiritual prophylactic for their actions in the realm of deed.The Tzitzit, the fringed garment, points to a unity between the people and its spiritual leadership, in that one day all of Israel will come to take on its destined priestly role to serve G*d and to serve the nations, bringing them closer to recognizing the One G*d. The Tzitzit are a fixing for the sin of the spies.

"Ve lo taturu acharei levavchem ve'acharei eyneychem..." -"and so that you not go on a tourist vacation without responsibility following after your heart and your eyes..."

Being that this passage follows the narrative of the spies and actually uses the same word root (laTuR), it is clear that the tallit is therefore a fixing for the sin of our forefathers when their eyes and their hearts led them astray. Levavchem (your hearts) is in the plural. Just as we have two eyes we also have two hearts.

Thus we have the potential for either an ayin tova ( a good, generous eye/disposition) or an ayin ra'ah ( a bad, stingy eye/disposition). Likewise we can have a lev tov ( a good heart - i.e., judging others favorably, or a lev ra (a bad heart - i.e., judging others poorly, without giving them the benefit of the doubt). A lev tov, it is written in Pirkei Avot, encompasses all the other good traits.

The tallit envelops us, ensconces us, serving as a reminder of G*d's own generous eye and expansive heart. The thread of blue in the tallit reminds of heaven. It gives us hope. The Kabbalah teaches that Tikva, or hope, is connected to the word yiKaVu, as in yikavu hamayim, from Genesis. There is an opening created, a channel, allowing the light to pour in. As Leonard Cohen, the poet/singer has said, "there is a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in."
Hashem made the first holy crack to let in the holy rays of light.

This supernal ray connects us to creation, and in wearing the tallit we connect with the primordial hope instilled within the cosmos at the dawn of creation. Our morning prayers, when we don all the three- the Tallit and the two Batei Tefillin, the two phylacteries, are to bring us closer to the realization of the dream- to end our collective soul exile and thus restore Eden's vision of harmony in our lives. May it come quickly and soon in our day.

Shabbat ShalomGood Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2009 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.

Saturday, June 13, 2009


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin HaKohen Melman

The Torah tells us in this week's parsha, B'ha'alos'cha, that Moshe was"anav mikall adam," meaning that he was"the humblest of all men."

What does that really mean? Now you must understand that this was in the context of Miriam's famous slander episode. How did he react to her behavior? Did he submit meekly to her accusations? Did he pretend he didn't know about it? Is ignoring the pain to one's self that is inflicted by others truly the Torah's example for humility which we should embrace? What is true humility according to the Torah? How did Moses exemplify this quality? It is not found in turning the other cheek. The answer is hidden in the word itself.

Anav, meaning "humble," is spelled with the same lettersrelated to the word "answer," or "reply." We might well then ask, what was Moses answering? And to what was he replying? Miriam speaks against him regarding the"Kushite woman." This is what his response was based on. And with regard to Miriam's plight, when he saw that she became afflicted with "leprosy" as a punishment for her words, words said against him, he responded with a short prayer:EL NA REFA NA LA."Please G*d, heal her now."

Now Moses was aware of whathad happened. He knew that she, his own sister, had somehow slandered him. Aren't we often the most upset with the ones we love, with the ones we are closest to? If a stranger says something not so nice we often shrug it off. But if a family member says the same thing we tend to take it so much more personally.

"Of all people, THEY should understand me. They're family."

How many families are fractured and split and torn apart over "just words" said in haste or in anger? Now what was Moses' reaction? Did he rebuke his sister? Did he distance himself from her, never to speak to her again? Was he contrite and submissive? The answer is a resounding NO.

Instead of reacting negatively, he said a prayer on her behalf. He was the anav, the one who responds. It is for this reason that Hashem called him the humblest man. He was not called humble because he was modest or self-denigrating or meek. The Torah is telling us that he was called "humble" by G*d because in his pain he reached out to her, to the one who was causing him (in this case) psychic pain.

Instead of turning AWAY from her, and merely defusing the situation by walking away, or retaliating in kind, whichwould be the most "natural" response, he counterintuitively turned TOWARDS her and offered a healing prayer for her speedy recovery. Moses, Moshe Rabbeinu, is teaching us a lesson. The answer to insult is not further insult, leading to escalating tension. The answer to insult is not retribution. Nor is it grovelling or self-denigration.

The answer to insult is hidden in the very word for "humble,"- ANAV. The answer to insult is to answer with love. If someone insults us, clearly they have some sort of illness, not to see that we are made in G*d's image. Therefore they need a healing. They need a blessing. And they need it fast. May all the fractured families all over the world find a speedy healing. And may Clal Yisrael, the greater Family of Israel, and indeed all the world entire find its own healing immediately, and so bring redemption soon. Amen.

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 2000 - 2009 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

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, June 5, 2009


By Rabbi Baruch Binyamin HaKohen Melman

In this week's parsha, Naso, we have two seemingly unconnected ideas. One, the priestly blessing, is the age-old formula for the kohanim to bestow blessings upon the people. The other is the trial by ordeal of the "sota," the accused adulteress. We will see that they are not so far apart, that everything in Torah deeply connects in an organic, integrated whole.

Children, in order to become healthy adults, need Attention, Love, and Limits. If they don't receive healthy attention, they will seek out unhealthy attention. If we don't praise them for all the good things that they do, they will surely seek out attention for all the bad things that they are certainly capable of doing.

We must give them love. We must give our children unconditional love, a love that is not tied to anything except to their being who they are. They must know that even if they fail at something, we will always be there for them, cheering them on just for trying.

And lastly, we must set limits. Children crave knowing boundaries. Deep anxiety will set in for the child for whom no limits are expressed. The child will constantly push the envelope ever harder and with greater intensity searching for limits which never seem to be indicated.

The same thing with a marriage. We must not ignore our spouse. We must pay them due attention and be attentive to the nuances of their psychic lives. We must love them unconditionally. In Pirkei Avoth we are told that a love which depends on something will fade away when that something disappears- whether it is looks or money or status. But a love which depends on internal, spiritual qualities will endure, for these are qualities which are linked to the Eternal One.

Lastly, we must set limits in a marriage. A marriage without limits will grow so expansively that it will lose its center. Marriage partners should limit their speech- only offering praise, encouragement, and constructive criticism. To be an ezer kenegdo, a "helpmeet," each spouse should carefully praise when praise is called for (ezer) and gently correct (kenegdo) when criticism is needed. They should limit their touch, so as to never grow bored with each other. They should limit their gaze, being careful not to place themselves in situations of temptation. And they should limit their expectations. No one is perfect, and to expect perfection is surely a recipe for unhappiness.

We read about the sota in this week's sedrah. The woman, accused by her husband of infidelity, drinks a potion, whose effects then reveal, it is said, the state of fidelity or lack thereof. Having thus cleared her name and status, the couple are psychologically freed to move on with the marriage. The male's pent up jealous rage is now assuaged, allowing the couple to leave behind crippling suspicions and insinuations.

The sota is indeed a victim. She is a victim of a marriage where partners did not give their A.L.L..Perhaps she did not get the Attention she deserved. Perhaps she did not get the Love that she deserved. And because her spouse did not set Limits upon himself, perhaps she herself was accused of the same projected guilt with which he was consumed.

To reiterate, this ceremony was a merciful ceremony. If she was actually guilty, she would know, and in all likelihood refuse to perform the ritual, fearing the dire consequences. But being innocent, she could thus finally clear her name and her reputation and the couple could then move on. It would end once and for all the endless, merciless accusations destroying an already problematic relationship. If the crazy jealousy he feels can be transformed into a healthy love, by making a fresh start, then the sense of redemption they will feel as a couple will be infinite.

The Shabbos table offers that taste of the infinite. When the husband praises his wife, showering her with poetry of appreciation in the words of the "eishes chayil," he is making a vessel with which to express the deepest love he has for his wife. In our busy lives which we lead, it is often so hard to find those moments of deepest sharing with with which to show our appreciation. Life gets in the way. Without those vessels of sharing, those feelings get bottled up until they burst out in a consumption of manic rage and jealousy. His possible guilt for being a poor husband is then projected onto her as being a lousy wife. A true shabbos is the antidote to all of that.

And when we bless our children with the three-fold priestly blessing at the start of our Shabbos meal, we are doing the same thing. We are giving them Attention. We are stating our Love for them, and we are Limiting their unruliness by telling them how UNlimited is our love for them.

And these are G*d's blessings for us: to know that He is attentive to us by watching over us, that He loves us by shining His countenance upon us, and that there are limits to the hardships of life because in the end He will grant us His blessing of peace. And what about the husband who showers praise and blessings upon his wife and children? Who blesses him? No need, for in thus becoming a blessing to others, his life itself becomes a blessing.

Good Shabbos. Shabbat Shalom.

© 2000 - 2011 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 Melman, z"l and in memory of my beloved mother, Esther Melman, obm, Esther bat Baruch z"l.

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

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!