Wednesday, August 31, 2011


to Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


I am reprinting this letter I received from Jonathan Pollard.

At the time he had been imprisoned for five years. He has now served over twenty five years in prison for a crime (spying on behalf of an ally) for which the usual sentence is but two years.

I thought it had gotten lost in the course of my many moves, but I recently rediscovered it in a box that had been in storage for many years. It was apparently meant to be published only now...


Marion, IL

Dear BB,

I can't even begin to tell you how deeply touched I was by your kind words of encouragement and solidarity. At this point in time, such sentiments are literally worth their weight in gold to me. I can only hope that when this nightmare is finally over I'll be able to thank you personally for your uncommon decency and compassion.

Although the past 5 years have been a living hell for me, I have nevertheless been able to draw strength from the realization that there are indeed Jews like you, who are simply not prepared to write me off as "expendable." True, the response of the so-called Jewish establishment has been less than sympathetic to our plight.

But as long as there are individuals such as yourself within the local Jewish community I know that I will not be forgotten. And it is that fact, perhaps more than anything else, which confirms our indissoluble unity as a people. So you see, even amidst the tragedy of this affair there is still some solace from which we can take comfort.

For the record, I want to state quite clearly that I love this country very much and would never do anything to jeopardize its security. But I also feel that, as a Jew, I have an additional responsibility to safeguard our ancestral homeland. After all, if Israel were to fall, G*d forbid, none of us would escape the consequences.

Perhaps Leon Uris put it best when he declared that "every generation of Jews since the fall of the Second Temple has been both blessed and cursed with the commission of doing what is necessary in its lifetime for the survival of our people." This is why, when I saw what Caspar Weinberger was trying to do to Israel by withholding all that crucial information from her, I felt compelled to act.

Certainly, I was scared and greatly troubled over the legal implications of my decision. But when it came right down to it, I just felt that I had no other choice but to accept a level of personal risk commensurate with what was at stake. And if the truth be known, I'd rather be rotting in prison than sitting shiva for all the Israelis who could have died because of my cowardice.

Granted, I broke the law and deserve to be punished. But I don't believe that one necessarily has to condone what I did in order to recognize the the patently prejudicial nature of my sentence. After all, this is still a country where the courts are expected to dispense proportional justice, not political vengeance.

Above all else, though, I suppose the aspect of this affair which concerns me the most is that virtually all of the major Jewish organizations in this country failed to appreciate the fact that my case was a window into the government's actual intentions towards Israel. Admittedly, members of the American Jewish establishment should not be condemned out of hand for their "occasional" lack of omniscience. After all, they, too, are only human.

But surely someone from an organization like B'nai B'rith should have been perceptive enough to recognize that the government's deliberate sensationalization of my case was part and parcel of a larger scheme to undermine Israel's reputation as a loyal ally.

Did AIPAC stop and wonder why the Defense and State Departments were so ready to use this affair as a pretext for purging their ranks of pro-Israel sympathizers? Did Hadassah question why Caspar Weinberger was so outraged over the fact that Israel had become "too strong" as a result of the information I provided her?

How can it be, that not even the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs seems to have been troubled by the Justice Department's obvious attempt to create a wider espionage conspiracy involving additional members of the local Jewish community?

Nobody even bothered to ask why vital intelligence which was supposed to have been given to Israel under the terms of a bilateral agreement (Memorandum of Understanding-ed.) with this country had been illegally embargoed!

Simply put, if more people had just taken the time to sit down and think about the obvious warning signals emanating from this affair, instead of burying their heads in the sand, it's at least possible that we could have done something to to reassert the centrality of Israel in America's global strategic lineup. But that would have required the existence of a national leadership which could be concerned with more than the protection of its own narrowly defined collective self interest.

These might sound like harsh words, but somebody has to wake the Jewish community from its slumber before our leadership sells Israel down the river. You know, cowardice is a reprehensible thing, particularly when it's practiced by individuals who can afford to show a little backbone. Then again, perhaps I'm expecting too much from an "Exilarch" which has obviously forgotten that complacency is but the first step along the road to ruin.

Of course, if our self-elected spokesmen want to worry about how my actions might have compromised their status in this country, well, let them worry. As far as I'm concerned, these trembling "Kaiserjuden" are beneath contempt- and that's putting it mildly.

Don't misunderstand me- patriotism is is a fine and noble thing, but not when it's cynically employed as an excuse to justify an American Jew's refusal to to protect the lives of his "foreign" brethren. When this occurs, patriotism loses its civic virtue and becomes, instead, a Golden Calf that the assimilated Jew embraces out of fear and desperation.

Perhaps this would explain, then, why my local detractors condemned me with such unbridled ferocity. You see, to them I represented far more than just a simple "misguided" individual. In a very real sense, these apostles of neurasthemia, as I like to call them, regarded me as a reaffirmation of our traditional concept of Achdus, which they condescendingly reject as being "tribalistic" and a threat to our perceived reliability as loyal American citizens.

In its place they would evidently prefer to see a more "progressive" type of Jewish nationalism which, from what I can determine, would be predicated on both the permanency of our North American community and its near Biblical equivalency to Israel.

Now I realize that given the events of 50 years ago this type of naivete borders on the suicidal. But the siren of assimilation can be quite alluring, I suppose, particularly for those American Jews whose concept of Zionism doesn't extend beyond their pocket book.

The bottom line, is that if Israel is to survive she must be protected not only by a resolute, well equipped army, but also by a dedicated corps of Diaspora Jews who are unafraid to do whatever is necessary to defend our homeland whenever and wherever her vital interests are threatened.

I know what you're probably thinking right now: My L*rd, he's resurrecting the dual loyalty canard once again! Well, so what if I am? We are but dust to the world, dust to be scattered and stepped upon - nothing more. So let our timid spokesmen go off and proclaim their undivided allegiance to whomever they feel compelled to serve. I certainly can't stop them from engaging in such humiliating behavior.

What I can do, though, is continue to speak out on the desperate need for American Jewry to commit itself unreservedly to the defense of Israel and her hard-pressed people. After all, what is the alternative? To look the other way? Well, I simply couldn't have lived with myself if I'd done that.

I've spent virtually my whole adult life studying our people's bloodstained history, and if there's one conclusion I've reached it is that unless we are prepared to ACT on behalf of our endangered brethren, then we will surely lose what little control over our destiny we have managed to salvage from the horrors of Exile.

Granted, my enemies have hysterically repudiated such views as being "subversive." That's alright. I'm well aware of the fact that I ruffled the feathers of certain overly sensitive American Jews by what I did for Israel. But as I see it, a few bruised egos were a small price to pay for the continued safety of 3 million Jews. And if some people want to consider this aberrant thinking, then pity them, not me!

In any event, let me just thank you once again for your principled support. Believe me, it's appreciated more than you could ever imagine.

kol tuv,


Copies of Jonathan Pollard's letter to me are available for verification purposes.
Email me, Rabbi Baruch Melman, at

See the facts re his case at

Monday, August 29, 2011

ELUL ZEMAN: the 40 Day Secret to Better Divine Connection

By Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Our Muslim brothers have Ramadan for 40 days. Our Christian brothers have Lent for 40 days. So what do WE have? Did you know that we also have a special 40 day period which we use to draw closer to Hashem and become better Jews, just as the Muslims use Ramadan to become better Muslims and Christians use Lent to become better Christians? And did you know that they borrowed this idea from us?

Why 40 days? The number 40 in Judaism alludes to deep transformative internalized change. Examples are replete in our tradition. We have the Noah's Ark narrative where it rained for 40 days and 40 nights to cleanse humanity and all living things for a fresh start. We have the 40 years of wandering in the Sinai where the beaten generation of the Exodus who had grown used to slavery could die out so that a new generation committed to living lives of freedom could be born who would have the backbone to liberate and conquer our land. We have 40 days from the time of conception, from ovum to novum, during which its zygotean status is considered as just water, at which point it assumes its legal status as a quasi-life, deserving of the utmost protection until birth. And speaking of water and life, we also have the life giving waters of the mikva, which contains exactly 40 seahs by volume of water. The mikva waters transform from impurity to purity, allow for the holy marital union which leads to new life, and which help a gentile transform to become a new member of the Covenanted People. The mikva is so important in Judaism that Jewish law mandates that a community build a mikva even before it builds a synagogue!

Our 40 day period wherein we undergo the transforming process of becoming better Jews and igniting a renewed Teshuva of Return and Commitment begins on Rosh Chodesh Elul, on the first day of the month of Elul. And it lasts through the first ten days of Tishrei, concluding climactically on Yom Kippur Day itself! The Zodiacal sign for Elul is Virgo. We return to a spiritual state of virginal purity in preparation for the Days of Awe. In Tishrei we experience both a global and personal weighing of our lives and our deeds, weighing on the scales of justice. Hence the zodiacal name of Libra, represented by scales. The word "scales" itself comes from the Hebrew word Shekel, the unit coin by weight of a measure of silver. So too is the Yiddish word to "shuckle," to sway back and forth in both prayer and study, as the scales sway back and forth before resting with their verdict.

Elul is known as the acronym for Ani Ledodi Vedodi Li. "I am my beloved's, and my beloved is mine," from King Solomon's Song of Songs, Shir Hashirim. We renew our love for Hashem in this month, and by extension, our deep love for his Torah and Mitzwoth. We renew our commitment to study more Torah and to undertake observance of some of the mitzwoth we may have perhaps neglected. They say that "the King is in the field" at this time. Hashem descends from His holy abode, as it were, and intimately joins us in the fields. He meets us half way. His yearning for closeness with us meets our yearning for closeness with Him!

Let us use these 40 days given to us by our tradition to renew ourselves in Torah. Let us take this time to renew and to heal the broken relationships in our lives, so fragile and yet so important. Let us start to make amends with those we may have hurt, either advertently or inadvertently. Let us draw closer once more to our loved ones, our children, our fellow workers, our friends and our neighbors, and transform them from being disgruntled to perhaps newly gruntled as once before. Let us begin once more to appreciate all the blessings in our lives. Appreciation is the key to happiness. The word "Jew" comes from Yehuda, which means "I appreciate all that Hashem has done for me." Amen.

© 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)

Friday, August 26, 2011


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Native Americans honor the spirit of the hunted animal by drinking its blood. They recognize the spiritual nature intrinsic to the blood, and seek thereby to identify with its spiritual essence. The Torah, on the other hand, also recognizes the spiritual essence of life being in the blood, but at the same time forbids us from drinking it.

In parshat Re'eh we are explicitly enjoined to not "eat" the blood of the sacrificial offering. Also in this week's Torah portion we learn that we do not eat the blood because the blood is the soul of the animal:

"ki haDam hu haNefesh (Deut 12:23)."
"for the blood is the soul/life."

Native Americans understood this but in its opposite application. They drank the blood of their prey so as to honor its spirit.But we may rightly ask, in this post sacrificial age, what possible moral lessons can we derive from this teaching? Aside from the practicalities associated with the ritual slaughter that is performed for food, even in this day and age, what can we learn from the following verses?

Do not eat its blood, but spill it on the ground likewater."

The only thing you must not eat is the blood, which you must spill on the ground like water."

Whereas vegetarianism may be the Edenic ideal, the concession to allow meat is preconditioned on the awareness of the spiritual lives of animals.

(Deut.12:23:....KI HA-DAM HU HA-NEFESH .....because the blood is (associated with) the spiritual nature."

When he killed his brother Abel, the Torah teaches, "his BLOOD(s) cried out from the GROUND (Genesis 4:10)". Both narratives refer in the same sentence to blood and ground. So this verse may subtley yet pointedly be suggesting that we indeed need to spill the blood on the ground, albeit ceremonially/ritually, to remind ourselves of our own ingrained potential for fratricide.

But why "like WATER?" Water leaves no trace. It evaporates and no clue is left that it ever passed through. Similarly, when we pass through life, we should be careful not to leave behind any stains, moral stains which would besmirch our reputation. Both milk and wine leave stains.

Milk leaves behind a residue when it dries. Wine is especially difficult to clean. It's as if the verse is teaching that sometimes when we make compromises in life, when we make concessions to the ideals which we strive to live by, we should be careful to leave as few stains as possible.

Ideally we should leave no stains at all, but we are not all Tzaddikim (perfect righteous beings). Compromising to get along is good. Compromising on our ideals is not so good, but life is not black and white. It is mostly grey, and for some of us, it is even in technicolor. Here the Torah may be suggesting that while the ideal is not to take a life in order to eat, even if we concede on that point, we must therefore be careful to still recognize the spiritual dimension of all sentient animal beings, especially including man.

And perhaps the act of ritually encountering blood shocks the senses and sensitizes one to life more dearly, ironically deepening one's appreciation for life, even as life is taken, albeit in a small dose. This is akin to the principle of homeopathic medicine, where a near microscopic tincture of the poison is "ritually" administered, in a most diluted ratio, so as to counteract and draw out the poisonous humour itself.

It is as if man has proven himself by nature to have violent tendencies and so we need the ritual encounter on the micro level so as to mitigate our propensity for violence on the macro level. But having said that, for the animal itself, it is always on the macro level, isn't it? Minor surgery is always on other people. When YOU are having surgery it is always major!

Also, in Hebrew the word for water- mayim, is a pallandrome. That is, it reads the same in both directions. It cuts both ways. And in the context of taking a life, it may be suggesting then that if we take FROM "life," then we had better be prepared to put back INTO "life." If we are so ready to take the life of another creature with which we share the planet in order to live, then by the WAY we live we should make our lives worth living.

Like water, we should pass through life without leaving behind any stains. When we hike through beautiful lands we should not leave any litter behind. We should leave it better than we found it! We should silently do our deep thing like the still waters. But water actually does leave something behind. It nourishes and waters all living things- both plants as well as animals. So let us always remember to pass through life like water- leaving behind only the traces of the lives we've touched and the evanescent memories of those for whom we've made a difference.

Shabbat Shalom. Good Shabbos.

© 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)

Friday, August 19, 2011

EQEV: the secret of overcoming evil

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The great Hasidic Master, Reb Tzadoq Hakohen, taught that the first time a word is mentioned in the Torah is the headquarters for that word, and aids us in truly understanding it when used in later contexts and circumstances. This week's parsha is Eqev, which means both a literal heel, as well as the idea of something following quickly in one's footsteps, i.e. at its heels! Used as part of the opening phrase of the parsha it is conveying the idea that blessing and reward follow quickly on the heels as a consequence of loyalty and fealty to the Torah and its mitzwoth. In the time of the giving of the Torah it was crucial to link the two ideas in order to impart the lesson of reward and punishment. However, in our day, there is a greater time lapse interval, in order to maintain the idea of free will (bechirat chofsheet), lest we become mere automatons, mechanically responding to stimuli like mice in a laboratory.

Now the word eqev itself appears in two other narratives. The first time it appears is in the context of the Eden narrative, where as part of the curse and a consequence of the expulsion from the Garden, the serpent is forever to strike at the heel of the woman. And in a later narrative, Ya'aqov is precisely named Ya'aqov, for the fact that he grasped the heel of his brother Esav as he emerged following him from their mother's womb. And in Gen 27:36 Esav uses it as a verb, "saying ya'aqveni zeh pa'amayim... - i.e., he "heeled" me, or went behind my back, two times..- first when he took my birthright, and now when he took my blessing."

The most spiritually refined often have the harshest challenges. Both the refined Eve (formed last) and the refined Jacob (born last) faced challenges from evil personified in their lives. Eve was challenged/tempted by the nachash/snake, while Jacob competed for the blessing and had his life threatened by his brother, Esav. Those who are on a higher spiritual plane, more intimately tied to lives of holiness, are seemingly followed even more closely by the yetzer hara, the evil inclination ever nipping at their heels, looking to trip them up and conquer them.

Eve with hindsight, could finally recognize that the snake was indeed Satan's agent, if not Satan himself. Ha-Satan in Hebrew means "the accuser," pronounced ha sa-tahn, i.e., the one who tempts one to sin as a test of one's spiritual/moral fortitude and then himself becomes the accuser in the heavenly court. He is the kategor, the prosecuting angel of the heavenly court, otherwise known as the accusing angel. Who is our Sanegor, or our defense attorney in the heavenly court? All the mitzwoth we have done, all the holy texts we have mastered, and all the deeds of loving kindness to others that we have performed. Ha-Satahn, the accusing angel, personifies evil, in the sense that he causes people to do the wrong thing while at the same time they believe that they are guiltless, even sublimely worthy (note the religious fervor of the terrorist who believes himself destined to attain heavenly reward for intentionally slaughtering the innocent).

While able to recognize sin, her curse was, that now exiled from the Garden, she would be forever subject to the terror of the snake, the fatal bite at the heel (terrorism) while minding her innocent pursuits! This is perfectly ironic because while in the Garden, the Evil Inclination (yetzer hara) was external to wo/man, tempting us from without, now once outside the Garden it entered our consciousness, tempting us from within. Our challenges and obstacles in life are said to emerge as a consequence of our actions and sins. So while the evil inclination's spiritual manifestation finds its locus internally, it now expresses its physical manifestation externally in the form of suffering.

This idea is precisely the crux of the theological argument between Judaism and Christianity vis a vis the idea of original sin and how we must consequently relate to it in our own lives subsequent to the expulsion. Christian doctrine teaches that man is inherently born into a state of sin as a result of the sin of the eating of the fruit. This state of inherent sin can only be washed away through believing in Jesus, according to their doctrine.

In Judaism we believe that we are not born in a state of sin as a result of the sin in Eden. Rather, we are born with but an inherent potentiality to sin! We always have the power given by free choice and can thus take responsibility for our actions. We are not sinful by fate! We have the power and potential within ourselves to guard against impurity in thought, deed and speech, and thus attain holiness!

Jewish thought employs the Edenic narrative to teach us two radically new ideas, completely at odds with the Christian dogma. One is that the sin was not in their eating of the fruit per se, but rather in that no one took responsibility for his own actions. They each blamed the other. We never say that one is born in a state of sin. How preposterous to think that a newborn baby is anything but the purest of the pure! Rather we learn that we recreate a Gan Eden in our own lives to the extent that we do not evade responsibility for our actions and we face up to their consequences, and exercise self mastery in avoiding evil in order to attain holiness. Conversely, we taste the bitter fruits of the Edenic exile to the extent that we do the opposite.

Christianity teaches that belief in Jesus alone atones for sin, and absolution is then granted and Heaven is then ipso facto guaranteed in the next world, regardless of how one faced the consequences of one's deeds and attempted to repair one's relationships and took responsibility for one's actions. The fasting and afflictions we endure on Yom Kippur for atonement with G*d are of no use, our rabbis of blessed memory teach us, if they lack the twin obligation to make amends with our fellow man and actively seek forgiveness for any wrongs we have committed. These two belief systems are the exact polar opposites of each other, and yet they both stem from completely different interpretations of the same phrases found in the Torah!

Also in the opening verse we see the word chesed (kindness), whereby Hashem's kindness will extend to us as a consequence of our following His Torah. Where do we see the word chesed first mentioned in the Torah? Ironically in the treaty of Beersheva, in parashat VaYerah, in Gen 21:23, where Avimelekh, king of the Philistines entreats Avraham to show him kindness, just as he had shown kindness to Avraham! This is part of our Torah reading on Rosh Hashana. This verse is the very proof that the true original Philistines/Palestinians saw their mission as one of kindness to Avraham, to the extent that they even made a treaty to recognize that fact for all eternity! Contrast that to modern times, where the exact opposite attitude holds sway! This is all the proof one needs to show the falsity of any claims of alleged historic or moral lineage between those who appropriated the name today and those who bore authentic claim to the very same name in Avraham's time!

The ideas of both heel and kindness that we see secretly hidden in the opening line of our parsha both involve Eve, the first woman, whose name, Chava, means "Mother of all Life." Mothers are identified with infinite chesed, kindness, while evil represents its opposite. Goodness follows on the heels of kindness, while evil follows as a consequence of a lack thereof. That is why the opening verse in the parsha employs both the words chesed and eqev, bringing home the point that Torah consciousness is indeed chesed/kindness consciousness.

We forsake the Torah and exchange this chesed consciousness at our own peril. Indeed one can argue that the core idea of chesed has been essential to our perennial survival, passed on primarily through the mothers. It is therefore no coincidence that the evil of terrorism explicitly targets mothers and their children. It is also said that if a Jew is found to be cruel (achzar), then his lineage is to be investigated, as cruelty is diametrically opposed to and completely antithetical to Judaism. The Romans were cruel. We were particularly hated because we were completely the opposite. We were the ultimate "other."

Note that the gematria (numerical value) of the Hebrew letters for snake (NACHASH-358) and (SATAN-359) are nearly identical! How can this "discrepancy of one" be understood for our times? If we connect with the ONE G*D in our lives, making the fulfillment of G*D's will the purpose of ourexistence, then we can attach the alef/one of godliness onto the snake, again making the snake the agent for healing and blessing, instead of a curse. In a sense you are nullifying the Satan's power by aligning against it its exact counterpart spiritual DNA. We can therefore harness the egoistic "evil" inclination for good. Where the ego reigns G*d is edged out. Where G*d reigns the ego is harnessed to perform His will.

This idea is similar to the poisonous snakes narrative in parshat Chukat (Numbers 21). The negative Nechashim/Seraphim became transformed into very positive Seraphim (angels) when hoisted on the banner. Israel looked up at the copper snakes and therefore perforce looked up to heaven for salvation. By becoming a more G*d oriented society we begin to nullify the curse of the expulsion from Eden/Israel.

Understand that the poison snake narrative followed on the "heels"of the people complaining about a lack of bread in the wilderness! The curse of the Exile was man's necessity to earn his bread by his own labors. In Eden bread was provided without labor, in exchange for recognition of G*d's Presence and taking responsibility for one's actions. So too in the wilderness, the manna was provided gratis, provided that Israel develop a concomitant faith in G*d's Power and Promise, even as they learned the Torah they would need in order to guarantee future blessing.

By acknowledging G*d in our lives, by living Divinely-focused lives as manifested by our attachment to Torah and its mandate of purposeful acts of kindness, we can actually transform the curse of the snake and thereby attain an equality and nullification of its powers over us (symbolized by the now numeric equivalence with the Satan).

Let us lastly examine Yaaqov's association with eqev. The very root of the name Yaaqov is eqev. Eqev alludes to the idea of consequences of good or evil, following Torah or disobeying it. Jacob was so named largely on account that his descendants would become the nexus of this spiritual battle between good and evil. Evil personified in the guise of terror and negativity would come to do battle with the forces of good and positivity. Through the dark night he wrestles with the forces of evil, until he overcomes the angel of the darkness as the dawn begins to emerge.

Interestingly, Jacob is blessed with the name of Israel by none other than the wrestling angel himself! This means that those whom we wrestle against, i.e., our enemy, can yet come to bless us, as long as we strenuously assert our will to live and take our rightful place as purveyors of the Light of Torah, living lives that are blessed by acts of compassion and kindness to each other. We become blessed by remaining true to our character. Showing compassion to our enemies, on the other hand, who personify evil through embracing terrorism, is not true compassion. It is idiot compassion because we end up afflicting ourselves even more. Saul lost his kingdom over this very notion!

Many today view our shuffling/hardships, whether personal or national, as a sign of lowliness among the nations, that somehow our afflictions are deserved. Otherwise we would not be afflicted! We follow the path of kindness and yet we appear to suffer for it. But what they fail to see is that our affliction is not in our heel, it is in our thigh! It is not the heel wound from the snake a la Eve; it is the wound from the wrestling angel, a la Jacob, and a precursor to blessing!

The former represents curse. The latter represents blessing, in our wrestling with and overcoming the angel who stood in counterpoint to the goodness which Ya'aqov represented. That is, the hardships we now face will one day be understood as the challenges which result in blessing. One day, both we ourselves, and the whole world, will come to recognize this truth.

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)

Thursday, August 18, 2011

HASHGACHA PRATIS - Divine Providence; a personal story.

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

My grandmother, my mother's mother, Anna Deutsch, nee Sucher, lived with us all through my early childhood and later my teens. She was now 94 and very frail. She was a model of forebearing and patience. No matter what the seeming urgency or problem, others might have been wracked with anxiety, but invariably her response was, "what difference does it make?" In other words, she had perfect Emunah. She accepted everything in life with sweetness and blessing.

She would regale me with tales of growing up in Horodenka, of how she lived on a wealthy manse containing factories, granaries and a mill and would even milk the cows for fun every morning before walking miles to school to attend gymnasium where she learned to recite reams of poetry by Goethe and spoke six languages fluently. She had a wonderful youth as a girl growing up in Galicia, on the slopes of the Carpathian mountains, watching the troops of the Austro-Hungarian Emperor Franz Josef training in full plumage in the valley below. People from all the neighboring villages, of all religions and ethnicities, would bring their grain to the mill. Her father, a Baal Shem Tov chasid, would ride his horse, his peyos flowing in the breeze.

She first came to America to explore the world and visit her older sister, but the poverty and hardship she saw as experienced by the huddled masses was not quite the golden land she had envisioned, and so she returned to Horodenka and the good life and beautiful green fields and verdant valleys she had enjoyed there with her family.

By the age of 18 she got married, but life in Europe was now starting to unravel and so they came to America three years later with the first two of their eventual seven children in tow. She lived with us when I was a child. She basically raised me, taking long walks with me, teaching me Yiddish and old world herbal medicinal cures. She would knit sweaters and blankets on what seemed a daily basis. "Never date a shiksa," she would say to me. "A shiksa will latch on to you and never let you go." In this age of rampant marital separation and divorce, maybe that's a good thing. But I don't think she meant it that way.

When she was but three years old the fully lit chanukah menorah fell off the window sill onto her straw bed while she was asleep. But the bed was not consumed. It did not catch on fire. Her angels were watching over her. That was her hashgacha pratit story. Now this is mine:

Taking time off from school to study Torah in Yerushalayim, I was walking the streets of the Holy City, as was my wont. Suddenly, I heard a voice in my head saying "go home." I instinctively knew it was about my grandmother, aged 94. I made my goodbyes to her some months earlier, not knowing if I would ever see her again.

Now this was a voice from Hashem that seemed to commandeer me. It was firm. I was not permitted to even go back to my apartment. Already carrying my passport on me and wearing a warm coat as it was just before Chanukah, I went directly to Ben Gurion and flew home to Logan, taking the Boston subways and buses until I arrived back in the outer burbs. I arrived back home suddenly, without notice, totally unanticipated. "Please take me to see grandma," I said to my folks. "But she just had another stroke the other day. She can't speak anymore. What's the rush? You just had a long trip. You can see her tomorrow." "I don't care. I need to see her now."

In her room at the home I visited with her. It was true. She could no longer speak. At least not with words. Just with the heart. We did not need words. We spoke the language of the heart. We were together again at last. I sat with her by her bed, her head propped up by pillows. Our eyes spoke to each other, sharing the love we felt for each other. But soon I had to leave, as she grew tired and the nurses ushered me out. I kissed her gently on her forehead. Maybe for the very last time.

And it was the last time. She passed away the next morning in her sleep, a smile on her lips. At the funeral there were many tears. But mine were tears of joy mixed with sadness, for I knew without a doubt that her neshama was soaring high and strong, her mission in this world completed. Her yahrzeit was 21 Kislev, just before Chanukah.

Postscript: Years later my daughter, Tifarah Chana Yasmeen Metukah, was born on 21 Kislev. Holding her newborn body in my arms, our eyes locked together as I kissed her on the head for the very first time. She could not speak yet with words, but our eyes spoke of the deep love we felt for each other, an infinite, eternal love, spanning worlds and continents and centuries.

When she was three, she asked plaintively, "Why doesn't Uncle Moishy ever come to our town." Because we live in a tiny village out in the country far from where all the other Jewish children all live. He only does concerts in towns where there are lots and lots of Jewish families with children.

But next Shabbos Uncle Moishe was our Shabbos guest, eating at our Shabbos table! His car was stranded in the snow storm, he would never make it to where he had planned to be for Shabbat on time, and so he called me, being that I was the local rabbi. Hashgacha Pratis. Divine Providence. Hashem listens to the prayers and yearnings of small children, his angelic cherubs here on Earth.

Post Postscript: Recently I looked up the name Sucher, my grandmother's family's name, from Horodenka, in the Yad Vashem memorial book, and it listed some eight Suchers all shot dead in the forests. The village was wiped out in its entirety by the Nazis, yemach shemam.

© 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)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shabbos is Paradise!

by Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach

Shabbos Is Paradise

Shabbos is back to Paradise. Paradise is a place where everything is good, everything holy everything is beautiful. Paradise is a place where suddenly it's so clear to me the I can fix all my mistakes. And even more so, everything I thought was a mistake. Every street I thought was a wrong street, was the only way to get there.

Shabbos has two faces -- there is the keeping Shabbos holy, the 39 laws of Shabbos, the withdrawing from the world, a non-power kind of life. But then there is the bliss of Shabbos, the inside of Shabbos, which is a gift from Heaven.

The bliss of Shabbos is even deeper than Paradise. It's a secret between me and G-d, between me and the people I love so much. Shabbos is peace because peace is secrets, secrets of the depths, of the deepest depths. Secrets are the deepest of G-d's revelation. A true Shabbos person walks the streets of the world and every human being they see, they seem to have a secret with. But with those they love, it's the secret of all secrets.

Connections Magazine----Reb Shlomo

Friday, August 12, 2011


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

"...the mountain was burning with a fire reaching the heart of heaven..."(Deut. 4:11)"


"When you give your heart to someone, you've touched heaven."

I call heaven and earth as witnesses for you today...." (Deut.4:26)


Aretz and Shamayim, the earth and the heavens, are the witnesses at Sinai. Brought together to give testimony to the theophany- the Divine Revelation, G*d's Revelation of the Divine Light was seen through the fire at the covenantal meeting point, the holy nexus, between Hashem and Israel. The Alef and The Shin, the first letters of each word, aretz and shamayim, (earth and heavens), together spell AISH, meaning fire.

Aretz is the material world, while Shamayim represents the spiritual world. Fire is the middle mix, the connecting medium between the physical and spiritual worlds. The yahrzeit candle speaks to this idea, uniting in consciousness the souls of the departed and the living.

Just as a flame represents the soul of man, fire represents the coming together of heaven and earth. What is the soul's mission on earth but to be the contact point between G*d and the material world, transforming the dross of mundanity to unfold the image of the Divine Creator through acts of kindness and love.

When a Jew is called "a varmer yid," it means that his soul is on fire, a fire whose flames reach up to the heart of heaven to bring down on this ladder of fire an aspect of the Divine Light with which to illuminate the world. G*d blessed our holy fathers that their descendants should be like the stars of the heavens and like the sands of the sea. What this means is not that we would be a numerous nation, because in this week's parsha it says (Deut.7:7):

" are among the smallest of nations....KI ATEM HAM'AT MIKALL HA'AMIM."

Rather our destiny is to unite the upper worlds with the lower strata. We live on two planes of existence at once, with our feet a little bit in heaven and a little bit on earth. How do we reenact this Sinai event in our lives? How do we restore this consciousness of holy fire in our lives?

Shabbos. We bring in the Shabbos with holy fire and we take leave of Shabbos with holy fire. And in between these fires burns the essence of the Divine light, which, like the Ner Tamid, we keep lit constantly all through the week. Now Israel is compared to the bush which was not consumed. Just as G*d spoke to Moses from out of the burning bush, so too He spoke to Israel from out of the fire:

" Then G*d spoke to you from out of the fire....VAYIDABER HASHEM ALEICHEM MITOCH HA'AISH....(Deut. 4:12)."

We must understand that G*d's fire is burning everyday, His Divine Light is constantly renewing itself in creation. The sun's light is always shining- even on a rainy day, if you go above the clouds. We only hear the still small voice above the licking of the flames when we stop to listen.

The ketubah of Israel, the holy marriage contract between G*d and Israel at Sinai, was written in fire which went up to the heart of heaven. So too a husband and wife must see kindled within themselves a holy fire, G*d's Divine essence. And if each sees in the other a heart of heaven, then they together will be bathed in Divine light without being burned by the fire. It is a terrifying fire. It is a terrible fire, a fire which destroyed the Holy Temples of Yerushalayim. The holy cherubs above the Holy Ark locked in holy embrace even as the flames licked all around them.

And when all Israel sees in his fellow Jew a heart of heaven, then the flames which once offered sweet incense in G*d's Holy Abode will be rekindled once again and bathe the world in THE LIGHT THAT IS ALWAYS SHINING.

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 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)

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


By Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

2012 may indeed herald a year of cleansing for humanity as a whole. It may usher in a new era of radical awareness of our common humanity, a new era of recognition of the futility of an ethos of hatred and division, of separation from the heart of our Creator. Perhaps it may take a new world war to achieve this awareness. Or perhaps not. The messianic age, it is said, will be ushered in with kindness and ease, if we are deserving, or the opposite, CV"S, if not.

The Mayan calendar said it. Nostradamus said it. Now, "Judaism," or if you prefer, the Jewish calendar, says it. The triangulation is complete. 2012. The year of the "big cleanse." Are you ready?

Tisha B'Av, the 9th day of the month of Av, is the most sorrowful day on the Jewish calendar, the culmination of three weeks of semi-mourning. A comprehensive list of national Jewish tragedies, from the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem to the expulsion from Spain, among many other expulsions and destructions- all took place on this date.

The Rabbis see it as a day of karma for our sins, a cleansing on account of our collective sins. We spend the day in a type of reflection, of introspection, of lamenting our national tragedies - of learning from our past mistakes in a proactive application of Santayana's telling dictum.

So, back to the Jewish calendar a la Nostradamus and the Mayans....

The Jewish year is written out in letters. This coming Rosh Hashana will usher in the Hebrew year 5772 - Taf Shin Ayin Bet The year 2012, starting in late September, again, will be Taf Shin Ayin Bet. What's that spell? Tisha B'... You can fill in the Av!

The concept of "three is the charm" is reflected in the Jewish concept of "chazaka." Meaning strong, or locked in, it derives from the agrarian/nomadic notion that a triple threaded rope is stronger than a mere single or double threaded one. A sin performed three times is no longer considered a sin - in the eyes of the sinner, as noted by rabbinic psychology. So Nostradamus' or the Mayan's prophecies never really got under my skin, so to speak, until the final prophetic lock-in on the part of the ancient Hebrew calendar!

Before you jump out the window after reading these words, let us reflect on the fact that although it was a day of tragedy, it also often marked a turning point and launched a spiritual rejuvenation. After the Babylonian exile and destruction of the first Temple in 586 BCE, the Jewish people were cleansed, so to speak, of the pervasive sin of idolatry. A new era had begun.

The original ur-template for Tisha B'Av was the proverbial sin of the spies who scouted out the Land of Israel at Moses' behest. Returning with a negative report that they could never hope to conquer the land, and backed by the imprimatur of the congregational masses, a forty year national cleanse was enacted. Only those born in freedom, who had never submitted to the easy predictable comforts of slavery, would be privileged to enter the Land under Joshua's leadership. The older generation had to die out before the new one could fulfill their destiny.

2012 may indeed herald a year of cleansing for humanity as a whole. It may usher in a new era of radical awareness of our common humanity, a new era of recognition of the futility of an ethos of hatred and division, of separation from the heart of our Creator. Perhaps it may take a new world war to achieve this awareness. Or perhaps not. The messianic age, it is said, will be ushered in with kindness and ease, if we are deserving, or the opposite, CV"S, if not.

One antidote to our universal suffering can be found in the antidote to Jewish suffering. Our anti-venom must be shared with the world. Our sages teach that the second Temple fell owing to sinat chinam, causeless hatred, where we could not recognize the chein, or grace, or innate goodness of the other. Chinam is root related to chein. The antidote therefore is ahavat chinam, or causeless love, that we love each other for no reason, other than our shared humanity!

As all Jewry must embrace each other in our shared common heritage, so too all humankind must embrace the notion of our shared commonality and brotherhood. There is no future for a world that tolerates an encroaching dhimmitude and intolerance of the other as envisioned in the manifestation of a Judaeophobic, Christophobic, homophobic, misogynistic, salafistic sharia law worlview, and the subversion of Western liberal democratic ideals. Islamist domination is antithetical to the vision of a united humanity based on tolerance, harmony and pluralism.

The other antidote to our suffering depends on whether we preempt the possibility of a nuclear Iran. Anticipating the revelation of the 12th hidden Mahdi, whose appearance can only be heralded by the advent of a world in chaos, a nuclearized Iran would hardly refrain from attacking Israel either directly, or via their Hamas/Hezbollah proxies. Having stated such an aim, they can hardly be doubted in their desire to implement it, considering the precedent of their fingerprint in the ruins of the Israeli embassy as well as the the AMIA Hebrew Cultural Center in Buenos Aires, among others. While their own destruction would be guaranteed, no one can say that the Iranian leadership would shun the opportunity as being suicidal, for they embrace that as an ideal!

Our messianic ideal is a prophesied vision of a world in a state of peace and harmony, unified in a profound renewed awareness of G*d's presence in the world. This vision clashes with an alternative so-called ideal of domination and submission, intolerance and regression.

History is unravelling at warp speed as we speak. Either way, there will be a cleansing. How it unfolds and manifests is up to us.

Tzom Kal. Easy Fast!

© 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)

Friday, August 5, 2011


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Seven - eleven. Seven is the holy number marking the dawn of creation. Eleven is the number heralding the final redemption, when we will see in each other our deepest connection. The number eleven is the number of brotherly unity, the same brothers who begged Yosef for forgiveness in unity as one heart. The Great Shabbos is coming soon when the heart of all Israel and all the world shall beat as one.

The modern day scourge of terror debuted most strikingly with the murder of the elevenIsraeli Olympic athletes in Munich. And it reached its most recent crescendo with the terror attacks of September the eleventh. The number eleven is thus forever linked to the challenge facing redemption.

Even Yosef found himself challenged by the number eleven in his dreams. He found himself stuffed in a pit and sold into slavery over the number eleven! But not only is the numbereleven telling. Most striking is its special spelling: Ayin, Shin, Taf and Yud- AShTeY(eleven in Hebrew is usually either achad asar or achat esreh, not ashtei asar). How strange. And how compelling.

This conceivably alludes to the territorial challenge which Israel faces today, especially in view of the territorially themed context of the parsha. Mirroring the lexicon of modern Israel's alphabet politics, Ayin stands for Aza (Gaza). Shin stands for Shomron (Samaria). Yud stands for Yehudah (Judaea). Okay. I get it.

But what does the Taf stand for? The letter Taf stands for Tel-Aviv! It represents the entirety of Israel in symbolic puzzle-board fashion. Israel's fate is thus seemingly tied inextricably to the number eleven. But Tel Aviv is a modern 21st century city! All the others go back 3,000 years! The others are our ancient roots. Tel Aviv is our modern latter day fruit, the fruit of our return.

Israel futilely offers piece by piece for the sake of peace yet another part of herself, only to be spurned, mocked and humiliated by her enemies sworn to her destruction. Every act of compromise is viewed as a sign of weakness and strengthens the hands of the radicals.

But why Tel Aviv? Why would the holy Torah in its compulsive yearning for eternal relevance deem it worthy to foreshadow seemingly UNholy Tel Aviv? Fun city. The UNJerusalem. It didn't even yet exist until the 20th century! No matter. The Divine Mind has infinite time horizons.

So why Tel Aviv? Because our enemies tell us that locale makes no difference in their goal to eradicate the Jewish presence from all of the Land of Israel, that there is no difference whether a Jew is living in Gaza or in Tel Aviv or in Judaea or in Samaria. To our enemies it is all the same. We are all settlers in their collective mind's eye.

It's all or nothing! No matter how much or how often we offer land for peace, their answer is always the same. All or nothing. How much we yearn for peace. We cut off our collective arm for peace. It makes no difference whether the Jews are in Tel Aviv or in Jerusalem. "They ALL must go," say their poets and leaders (in Arabic), "and take their dead with them." Not a trace should remain. All or nothing.

LiKhToF means to cut off (in order to carry the pole of fruit on one's shoulder -katef). We withdrew from Katif for the sake of peace. But to carry the pole properly you need a partner to carry the yearning for peace on HIS shoulders too. You can cut the load, but where is the partner to help you carry it? Neither you nor he can carry it alone. Each must grab an end.

What is compromise in the Arab mind but a decadent western import, a sign of weakness, of shame and humiliation. Ashtey Asar. Even Tel Aviv. All or nothing. Us or them, apparently. We have always been willing to seek peace, but whenever push comes to shove, peace is shoved back down the ladder. The more they say no, the deeper our roots spread in the earth. Had the Arab world accepted Israel as a Jewish state at her birth, she would possibly still be but a narrow coastal strip and a patchwork of Galilean dunams. The more they deny Israel the more Israel grows. The more Pharaoh oppressed us the stronger Israel became.

We, the Jewish People, are like the Cherokee Nation, forced from our ancestral home to march on the Trail of Tears. But we are coming back home to Georgia, to the land of our fathers. We have left the reservations. But we are finally coming home, even if they don't want us to return. Oklahoma is not Georgia. Arkansas is not Tennessee. Our tears of sorrow will one day be tears of joy. He who sows in tears will one day reap in joy.

One day, at the dawn of the eschaton, all the nations of the world will come up to the Land of Israel and ascend His holy mountain, holy Mount Zion, and sing His praises. The world which now resists and pillories Israel will one day open up her eyes and embrace her.

But that will not happen until the other meaning of Ashtei becomes manifest in reality. Not merely that the Arab world's goal remains the entire patrimony of Israel, but rather that only the unity of Israel will be the trigger for our final redemption.

Just as sinat chinam - causeless hatred, divided us and exiled us, so too its opposite, ahavat chinam- causeless love, will be the key to our redemption. For only when all our hearts will beat as one and when we see each other and all people as true brothers of the same father in heaven will we be really worthy of salvation.

The secular resident of Tel Aviv and the religious resident of Yerushalayim will see each other as brothers and not as enemies. The heart has two ventricles. The heart of Israel also has two ventricles: the secular ventricle and the religious ventricle. One says I can bring redemption without G*d's help. The other says no matter how hard it seems, if I at least do my share to start the process, I know G*d will finish it for me.

Until we each see each other as brothers, and even see our enemies as children of the same father in Heaven, true redemption will always elude us. But they must also see us as their brothers. It takes two to carry the pole for peace. Short pole. Short peace. The longer the pole the longer the peace.

Seven - eleven. Seven is the holy number marking the dawn of creation. Eleven is the number heralding the final redemption, when we will see in each other our deepest connection. The number eleven is the number of brotherly unity, the same brothers who begged Yosef for forgiveness in unity as one heart. The Great Shabbos is coming soon when the heart of all Israel and all the world shall beat as one. When the towers fell on nine eleven it was in the eleventhhour of the eleventh day. They will only be finally rebuilt in their truest sense when see all humanity as one unified spark of the Divine emanation.

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!

© 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

My photo
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!