Friday, September 25, 2009

HAAZINU; SHABBAT SHUVAH- ANSWER YOUR SOUL

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The Messianic Age represents the fulfillment of that "going beyond." The Pagan Idea represented the eternal cyclicity of life. The Judaic Revolution realigned human consciousness to synchronize with the DNA blueprint, substituting the two dimensional pagan circle theory which has no sense of progression, with the three dimensional Hebraic spiral theory - G*d, Torah and Israel, which combines cyclicity with growth.

The maftir reading which we read on Yom Kippur, taken from Parshat Pinchas, Numbers 29:7, says "u'be'asur lachodesh hash'viee hazeh mikra kodesh yih'yeh lachem VI'INITEM et nafshoteychem kawl melacha lo ta'asu." To wit: "the tenth day of this seventh month shall be a sacred holy day to you and: TYPICAL TRANSLATION: you shall afflict your souls and not do any manner of work."

Talmud Yoma (77a) dissects its meaning and comes to include all the prohibited behaviors of the day, noting that it especially means to fast. Hence we use the term TAANIT for connoting a fast day, such as Taanit Esther, which shares the same root. But perhaps an an alternative translation can offer a new insight: you shall ANSWER your souls! The infinitive verb form of the word LA'ANOT means "to answer." Note that the verb form is written in the PIEL construct-VI'INITEM- which would serve to accentuate and emphasize its impact. REALLY ANSWER YOUR SOUL.

In Parshat Sh'mot, Exodus 1:12, we have the same verb- "vecha'asher y'ANU oto, ken yirbeh v'chen yifrotz... But the more they (the Egyptians) oppressed them, the more they (Israel) proliferated and spread."

So here it makes sense from the plain, peshat, meaning that it means "oppress," or "afflict." Now this is very deep. Usually when we answer someone we indeed end up afflicting them in some way. We often have some underlying need to dump on someone who genuinely needs help. As we have been dumped on all our lives by others, we sometimes have the urge to pass on the negativity of our own experiences onto others. Inquiry is seen as weakness, a seeming invitation for further oppression. Dialogue as weakness. Peculiar, yet the reigning motif of political conflict, especially in the MidEast.

In Exodus, the Israelites had just enjoyed generations of basking in the Egyptian goodwill stemming from Joseph's economic intervention which saved the country from utter ruin. Now they suddenly found themselves as slaves (ibid:8-11). Suddenly they were on the wrong side. Indeed overnight their whole world was turned upside down! They asked,"why?" and so "they answered them (read: oppressed them)..."What was the negativity of Egypt that the new king felt needed to be passed on? A reverse Stockholm syndrome! Ruling a nation of serfs who had sold all their lands and possessions to a prior Pharaoh for their very survival, he absorbed and identified with their pain. When one places suffering within a context of meaning it can be dealt with and tolerated. Many generations having lapsed, the new generation of Egypt lost the context for their suffering; their hardship became too much to bear. Meanwhile a prosperous Israel thrived among them in neighboring Goshen. The disparity aroused jealousy, another source of great psychic pain. Israel felt betrayed by the king and the society they had placed all their hopes in, indeed had staked their future upon. In whom should our trust really be placed?

Now in our parsha, Ha'azinu, we ask: what is the question and what is the answer? What pain has been inflicted on me, and how do I refrain from consciously or unconsciously passing it on to others? In this season of deepest reflection and self-accounting (cheshbon hanefesh), as we stand figuratively before the King of Kings, we ask, "why are we here? What is the ultimate purpose of our lives? What is the point of my life? What is the point of being Jewish?"

Not "why are we the eternal people," for that is a given, being that it is a Divine oath, but "what are we to do with this eternality?" Will we be IN the garden or OUT of the garden? In the Torah blessing we intone: "vechayey olam nata betochenu- and eternal life you hath planted in our midst." Will we seek shelter amidst the branches under the protective shade of the TREE of LIFE, which is Torah? Or will we we spurn this gift- the Torah, whose mitzvoth and teachings are literally the keys to our soul's eternal life?"

Ha'azinu hashamayim- Give ear O Heavens...vetishma ha'aretz- and Hear O Earth..."Heaven and Earth were the first born in Creation, partnering with G*d in the Creation of all that was to follow. Being the first of Creation they represent all that is potential. Humankind, being the last of Creation, represents the fulfillment of that potential. The Torah, the Sinaitic Revelation, takes us one step further and asks us to go BEYOND our potential.

And finally, the Messianic Age represents the fulfillment of that "going beyond." The Pagan Idea represented the eternal cyclicity of life. The Judaic Revolution realigned human consciousness to synchronize with the DNA blueprint, substituting the two dimensional pagan circle theory which has no sense of progression, with the three dimensional Hebraic spiral theory - G*d, Torah and Israel, which combines cyclicity with growth.

Forty represents transformation. The forty day period from Elul through Yom Kippur represents in miniature mankind's sojourn from Creation through Revelation and on to the Ultimate Redemption. The trumpets we blow on Rosh Hashanah symbolize the same trumpets we heard at Sinai, while the release from the obsessive burden of all bodily cares on Yom Kippur offers us a glimpse into the state of perfection of the Future World, when the soul and the body finally act in harmony instead of at cross purposes, when peace and justice is achieved for all. As such it is our day of greatest joy and celebration.

Shabbat Shuvah is the breather, the shabbat resting point, from which we symbolically catch our collective breath before we ascend to the peak of the Sabbath of Sabbaths, the Shabbat Shabbaton, which is Yom Kippur. The timeliness and concurrence of Haazinu with the Sabbath of Return- Shabbat Shuvah, is uncanny. We so often despair of our journey and grow weary of the effort just when the end is almost in sight. It's always darkest just before the dawn!

When we lose the connection to Sinai, we lose the compass pointing us to our ultimate destination. We are bidden by Moses for ALL generations to contemplate how and why we became prosperous in our land."Pay close attention to all the words through whichI warn you this day, so that you will be able to instruct your CHILDREN to keep all the words of this Torah carefully."

When Israel seeks to throw off the yoke of the Torah she is bending and distorting the spiral paradigm."Answer your souls' deepest yearnings- v'initem et nafshoteychem," and return to Hashem.If we make the Torah central to our lives we are indeed answering our soul's deepest desire, and INITEM is then translated as "answering our soul." But if we lose our center and allow centripetal forces to spin us around and bear down on us, thus losing the Torah as the guiding central moral force in our lives, then INITEM becomes translated as "afflict your souls."

But as our haftarah reassures us in the end (2 Samuel 22: 49-51), King David declares, "He brings me out from my enemies. You lift me above my adversaries; you deliver me from the violent man (literally "Hamas!"). Therefore I will give thanks to You, O G*d, among the nations, and sing praises to your name...

...He is a Tower of Salvation to His king; and shows mercy to His annointed, to David and his descendants forever."

MIGDOL YESHUOTH MALKO VE'OSEH CHESED LIMSHICHO LEDAVID U'LI'ZAROAD OLAM.

A most hopeful note indeed.Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos. Shana Tovah. Ketivah vechatimah tovah.

© 2000 - 2009 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, zichrono livracha.

Sefer Chabibi stands for CHidushei Baruch Binyamin ben Yisrael Yehoshua

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

Friday, September 11, 2009

NITZAVIM VAYELECH: CONTEMPLATION AND ACTION

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Nitzavim means "are standing." Who is standing? The Jewish people in Deuteronomy at Moses' farewell to arms? Who else might be standing?

Rosh Hashana is a traditional time of visiting the matzevah, the burial place of our loved ones. A matzevah is literally the memorial stone, the headstone that contains our essential data. We are to pause before it, we, the survivors, and contemplate the life of the one whose resting spot is marked by the stone.

We are, all of us, survivors on this anniversary of 9-11 from eight years ago. Eight is like the Bris, held on the eighth day, beyond nature, which is symbolized by cycles of seven. Eight is beyond this world. They say all our nerves are replaced after seven years. Now we have new nerves with which to feel the pain of 9-11.

But do we? Do we still feel the pain of that day? When did it already become history? History is when we no longer feel the pain. Yes, some of us still do. For some of us the pain and trauma is as real as yesterday. But for many of us, I suspect not as much.

The towers that fell on that day were the matzevahs themselves, placed there in advance of their own falling! It's like the man who knows, who has the strongest premonition that he is going to die, and makes sure he says kaddish for himself, as he knows no one is living who will be saying kaddish for him! In fact I read a story about such a man who himself perished on 9-11.

The towers were their OWN matzevahs, paying it forward, in a sense. We are to contemplate by them, but they are not there for the contemplation. So it is their absence we are contemplating,
not their presence. Like a loved one who lived among us in our world, but is no more of our world, we feel their absence keenly. And as Rosh Hashana approaches, and with it, the sounds of the Unetaneh Tokef prayer hauntingly remind us of our own mortality with its words: Who shall live and who shall die? Who by fire? Who by earthquake? Who by violence? Indeed.

So as a nation, have we forgotten the pain of that day? Have we lost sight of what we stand for as a nation and as a civilization? Have we lost our moral bearings? Are we still in a war, eight years later, in Afghanistan? Are we still fighting the war over there? Or are we just going through the motions?

As a nation, what happened to the sense of unity and common purpose which we all felt on that cloudless day in September eight years ago? How much have we become divided since then?

As individuals, who among us was not touched by the recordings and the stories of husbands and wives making that last phone call home, as the flames drew nearer, and heard the screams as the fires consumed them? How we shook our heads in recognition of the sadness when that last phone call went to an answering machine instead of to a live person. For the deceased it was sad.
For the survivors they could replay and replay their final words over and over again every day, wishing they had been there by the phone to answer the call.

As individuals, who was not touched by the fact that if you didn't kiss your spouse and hold her tight when you left for work in the morning, it might be the last chance ever!

But how long did that last? How soon after, did we all fall back into the routines we take for granted? How soon after do we find ourselves, "just going through the motions?"

But the name of the second half of our double parsha is vayelech - he went. There is a time for contemplation. But now it's time to get moving. Now it's time to act. Now it's time to remember the closeness and unity we all felt on that day- as a nation, as a family, as a human race even, and act once again to recreate that feeling. No, we should not pray for a disaster to happen to recreate that feeling, G*d forbid. Rather, the challenge is to recreate that feeling out of love for our fellow man, not out of fear in the wake of a disaster.

On Rosh Hashana we are reminded that there are two ways to serve G*d: Out of love and out of fear. Most serve G*d out of fear- fear of punishment, fear of what the neighbors might think. But the highest level is to serve G*d out of love! When we do that it is said that all our previous sins are then turned into merits. If we do teshuvah from a place of fear, then our sins are merely cancelled. But if we do teshuvah out of love, then all our past sins are actually turned into merits!

Last week my car door hit a stranger's car door in the parking lot and scratched it accidentally. Because I am a member of a club called Judaism which teaches that we have to live lives of integrity and act ethically in the street and in the marketplace, I resisted my urge to ignore the infraction and I wrote a note, leaving my name and number. I soon got a call, and then the estimate. $365. 94. One dollar for each day of the year. The benefits of doing the right thing were many. It taught someone that there are those who try to do the right thing. The next time they are in that situation they might also consider doing the right thing. No longer can they say, "well...everybody else does it."

It taught a non-Jew that despite the headlines, there are Jews who try to do the right thing. I said to him on the phone, when he expressed amazement that anyone would leave a note in this day and age, "I truly didn't want to leave that note. I truly wanted to walk away. But the Torah made me do it!" You see, it's perfectly human and normal to wrestle with the challenge of acting morally. If it wasn't a challenge, then what would be the point? There would be no pleasure in the thought that you overcame the temptation to shirk responsibility to do the right thing. The name Israel that was given to Jacob after wrestling with the angel means, "Wrestles with G*d." We do not submit to G*d, as in Islam. We wrestle with G*d! We challenge G*d, as did Abraham when G*d said he would destroy the evil cities of Sodom and Gemorrah, if there might be righteous people among them!

To do the right thing is to perform a Kiddush Hashem, a sanctification of the name of G*d. To give in and surrender to the comfortable conformity of moral lethargy is its opposite- a chilul Hashem, a desecration of the name of G*d. And by doing it out of my love for G*d and His Torah, I reversed the sins committed on those 365 days of the year! Each sin committed on that day has now been turned into a merit! And I only knew it when the estimate came in the mail and it said $365. One dollar for every day of the year!

The challenge is to love G*d in a world of sadness and tragedy and evil. The challenge is to love people in a world of crooks, cheats and con artists. Despite the evil, despite the dishonesty, despite the cowardice and moral failures of others, let us take this moment to stand tall and proclaim that we will love G*d and bring Him into our lives all the more, in a world that needs Him even more. I will bring G*d back into my life, because I have a void that can simply not be filled by anything other than G*d and goodness. And I will love my neighbor as myself, simply because G*d asks me to. And in a world such as ours, it's better to have a good neighbor than a bad one! Because goodness is ultimately it's own reward. Because it's the right thing to do.

Shabbat Shalom!

© 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.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 4, 2009

KI TAVO: On Being an Am Segula

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

What does it mean to be called the Chosen Nation? Actually, the term used in Ki Tavo is
Am Segula, often translated as "treasured nation." But whether understood as chosen or as treasured, it seems to be frequently misunderstood.

It does not imply supremacy or arrogance. Rather, it embraces the idea 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.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.

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.

Israel is the yeast/catalyst 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.

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.

As we immerse in our own Teshuvah, to bring about positive change, let us remember that we are not perfect creatures either. We all 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!

© 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.

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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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!