Friday, September 28, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

In our parsha, Ha'azinu, as for every parsha, we need to ask: what is the question and what is the answer? 

In this parsha, where Moshe looks back and reflects on the life and mission of Israel, we similarly must reflect, and ask of ourselves- "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 my 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 sense of 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 mitzwoth 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.

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 which I 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."


A most hopeful note indeed.


© 2000 - 2012 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, September 25, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

When the Torah calls the holiest day of the year Yom HaKippurim, on a deeper level it saying that the day is actually Yom K'Purim, meaning "a day like Purim." And if Yom Kippur is likened to Purim, then on some level one could actually say that Purim is even deeper, in that it is the root holiday after which Yom Kippur is modelled.

Yes, Purim is historically post-Biblical, while Yom Kippur, being Biblical in origin came earlier, but in matters of Divine Truth there is no past or future. It's all happening in the eternal moment. Time is but a function of our human dimension. It lacks relevance from the perspective of the other worlds. Time slows down as we approach the speed of light. And at the speed of G*d there is no past present or future, just as G*d lives simultaneously in the past, present and future. You can be reincarnated into the past just as easily as you can be reincarnated into the future. As we stand before the Aron Kodesh, with our whole future before us, so too is our whole past stretched before us on the heavenly surround sound wide screen projection video.

On Purim we celebrate the vanquishing of evil. Haman is always in pursuit of Mordechai. Mordechai, always one step ahead, escapes his clutches. Esther represents that part of us which takes the leap of faith. Like Esther, we put ourselves on the line, throwing ourselves at the mercy of the king for our very lives. With every fiber of her being and every ounce of energy she summoned her holy chutzpah to plead for her deliverance. Haman, representing evil incarnate, must nevertheless pay homage to Mordechai, who triumphantly leads him through the streets of Shushan.

So too, on Yom Kippur, we realize that while we despair at the sins we may have committed, in the end they may ultimately be harnessed in the service of the good. In the end, the crimson thread turns to white as the High Priest proclaims our atonement. In the place where a Baal Teshuvah stands, holding in his hands a tattered, well-worn valise of sins, no Tzaddik can stand. Still, we are wont to give in to despair because as we aspire in holiness and piety the evil inclination is never far behind.

We often become discouraged in our spiritual strivings because the higher we ascend in our spiritual progress, like Mordechai's ascent in the court of the king, so too do the forces of negativity seem to increase their vigor, and like Haman, nearly succeed in dragging us down into the abyss. The secular world claims the religious sin because of hypocricy, perhaps to justify its antinomian predilections. But the truth is that the greater the Tzaddik, the greater the evil inclination, as its sole desire is to distract and weaken and eventually annul the tzaddik's soul desire. Our mission is to overcome and not surrender.

And yet we revel on this day in the sure knowledge that in the end the evil decree will be anulled, the evil inclination will be vainquished, and like Esther we will soon be dining at the feast of the Great King. On Yom Kippur, the King of Kings holds out His golden sceptre to each of us, thereby anulling the evil decree. That is why Yom Kippur is the most joyous of all holidays. Solemn, perhaps, but certainly joyous. May Hashem's messengers on horseback race to the far ends of the kingdom proclaiming that each and every one of us are sealed in the Book of Life.

Gemar Chatimah Tovah!

© 2000 - 2012 by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

P.S. The tzaddik in the above is one who valiantly wrestles with his yetzer hara, as opposed to a complete, true Tzaddik, a Tzaddik Gamur, who is in the rarified ranks of those who have completely dominated and subjugated their evil inclination. Among them are the lamedvavniks, 36 in all, clothed in secrecy, whose existence is said to sustain the world. They are the pillars of the world, known for their kind and unassuming natures.

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, September 21, 2012


By Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. This famous expression is so true. We always desire that which is just beyond us, that which we cannot reach, that which lies behind the fence. From the distance, it always looks better than one's own grass, one's own situation.

Every rule has its exception, or else it wouldn't really be a rule, perhaps just a truism. In Parshat Vayelech, Moses urges the people to be strong and have courage (chazak ve amatz), because they will need it to withstand the temptations and blandishments on the other side (of the Jordan). Similar to the soul emerging into the world as a newborn soul carrier, the angel urges the soul to swear to be good and righteous on the other side and to withstand the temptations to be found there. To be righteous, to remain pure and unsullied, requires tremendous strength.

So yes, the grass really is greener on the other side of the Jordan. And likewise, the diversions and the temptations truly abound on the other side of the womb, in this world. This world is greener than the foetal world in its wombic cushion, for the temptations and allures are purposely planted in the garden to tempt us. The evil inclination, the yetzer hara, serves in this world only, as a means to propel the soul to grow by dint of its wrestling. If the grass weren't greener, we'd have no reason to want to leave the warmth and safety of the womb. And, truth be told, it's not a matter of choice.

Green is all around us. The green found in nature, that is. Scientists have even shown that green is the most relaxing of all the colors. God must have planned it that way!

And the idea of being green is also all around us. The idea that we need to radically shift our orientation to nature and to resource allocation and utilization to be in harmony with nature. All actions have consequences. How we use nature also has its consequences.

The Bible in Genesis records the Garden of Eden narrative where mankind through Adam is told "to work it and guard it." Indeed, if we wish the planet to be healthy and to ensure that the earth will continue to be a life-sustaining Eden for us we must continue to take heed and treat the planet and nature with respect, guarding its resources carefully to ensure a healthy environment.

Every seven years the Bible instructs us to let the land lay fallow so that we can tend to our spiritual needs over our material needs. It is in this year that the farmer recharges his spiritual batteries and devotes his time and energy to learning the Torah and delving deeply into the Bible with the same devotion paid to running the farmstead and attending to its myriad responsibilities.

In this season of repentance we must also ask forgiveness and repent for the many abuses we have heaped upon nature and the natural resources of our beautiful planet. There is enough abundance in nature to serve our needs while we at the same time serve as stewards and guardians of nature.

When humanity sees itself as greater than a mere cog in an economic machine and devotes itself to a higher spiritual purpose beyond a "mere" survival mentality, it then attains a degree of dignity heretofore unknown by the masses in human historical consciousness.

When the Greeks and the Romans encountered the Jewish Sabbath, they accused the Jewish People of a certain chronic laziness, in their refusal to engage in any kind of manual labor every seventh day. Little did they know that this was the key to human dignity even as it honored G*d in the process.

So too during the seventh Sabbatical "year of release," the Shemittah Year. Giving the land a rest, allowing it to return once every seven years to replenish its nutrients not only enriches the environment but at the same time recharges our spiritual batteries and helps us to recalibrate our moral compasses. As the Torah teaches, "man does not live by bread alone."

And as Isaiah says, "Days are coming. There will be a hunger in the land. But the hunger will not be for bread and the thirst will not be for water, but to hear the Word of God." 

Green is also the color associated with envy. The Torah teaches that one should never be envious of another person, except in one, exclusive area - the knowledge of Torah. 

In that sense, may we all become green in our love for Torah and righteousness. And may we not fall and succumb to the false "grass is greener" material allures and blandishments of things of foolishness and vanity. Being green. It's a good thing. For all humankind.

Shabbat Shalom and Shana Tova!

© 2000 - 2012 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.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

The word "shana" in Hebrew means many things. It is most commonly translated as year, but it also has many deeper related meanings. Shana also means "teach,"and the word "mishna," the oral teachings, comes from the same root. Shana also means "change" or "transformation." In Hebrew, "leshanot" is the infinitive form of the word meaning "to change." So when we teach we are exchanging ideas, both student and teacher changing in the process.

The word for teeth, "sheenayim," also derives from the same root. Our teeth begin the transformation process, begin the changing of inanimate food into the very energy which animates us. That which was once matter of a certain provenance from outside of ourselves, some "other," now becomes a part of our very essence.

The word for tongue, "lashon,"also hints at this idea. Not only does the tongue aid the teeth in the digestive process, whose taste buds help avoid the fetid, the putrid and the rancid, but so too does the tongue form words, helping to change ethereal thoughts into the realm of action- into words, which are the genesis of action. And in Hebrew, the word "shoneh" means "different," apart from the norm by dint of change. Rosh Hashana, then, is often given short shrift by being viewed solely as meaning the "head of the year."

Passover, falling in the month of Nisan, is explicitly enumerated in the Torah as being more properly known as the head of the year, calling her "the first month." Tishrei, the month of Rosh Hashana, is literally called "the seventh month." So what should it then be called? How do we tie all these meanings of shana together to form a coherent, organic whole?

Rosh Hashana should be called "the beginning of changing." Just as nature begins to change with the changing of the leaves and the change in the seasons, and school begins and new TV shows begin, so too should we learn to let go and to embrace a new beginning. Tishrei is the seventh month. Shabbat is the seventh day.

Shabbat, the seventh day, where we change into our heavenly spiritual garments, is mirrored in the seventh month, the month of spiritual transformation. All year long we are learning life's lessons. Each year we try to grow, becoming different and better people than we were the year before. We strive to accept change in life, in others and in ourselves. Only through forgiving ourselves and others can we take the first step in making these changes. Only through a renewed sense of responsibility to the covenantal idea, to the idea of mitzvah, can this change occur.

This responsibility to facilitate this process of change is the essence of the Torah's eternal challenge. But true change is very frightening. As they say, everyone wants progress, but no one wants to change. So the Creator Above understands this and helps us to change, giving us a forty day period from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur to help us to psychologically navigate the transformation. We cannot do it in one day.

The shofar we blow each morning during the month of Elul in this season of changing, itself epitomizes change. From originally being the instrument of animal warfare, of strife and contention, it will one day become the instrument through which we announce the Messianic Age, heralding the dawn of a new age of peace, love and brotherhood.

Shana Tova, the New Year greeting, does not only mean Happy New Year. On the deepest level it means, "Change for the Good." May we all change for the good, and choose life. Amen.

Shanah Tovah!
A Goot Yor!

© 2000 - 2012 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, September 14, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin HaKohen Melman

Nitzavim is always read prior to Rosh Hashana. It is a plaintive plea, nay warning, by Moses to the Jewish People, that they have before them a choice in life, between life and death, before good and evil, and that they should choose life.

The later Moses, Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon, aka Moses Maimonides, aka the Rambam, teaches that we should see ourselves, and the world, as hanging equidistant on the scales of justice, as being suspended evenly between the twin poles of evil and righteousness. Just one meritorious deed, or mitzvah, on our part, can mean the difference between personal salvation and world redemption, on the one hand, and personal ignominy and a world swept away in chaos, on the other.

Maimonides discusses repentence:
"What constitutes complete repentance? He who is confronted by the identical situation wherein he previously sinned and it lies within his power to commit the sin again, but he nevertheless does not succumb because he wishes to repent, and not because he is too fearful or weak [to repeat the sin]. How so? If he had relations with a woman forbidden to him and he is subsequently alone with her, still in the throes of his passion for her, and his virility is unabated, and [they are] in the same place where they previously sinned; if he abstains and does not sin, this is a true penitent" (Mishneh Torah, "Laws of Teshuva," 2:1).

Of course, to attain such a degree of mastery of one's self requires a certain amount of reflection and intense introspection. It requires us to, in a sense, "look back," at the evil we had committed.
Looking back and reflecting on our past deeds is part and parcel of the process of Teshuvah, and
yet, there is an earlier biblical precedent very much related to our parsha, which seems to suggest just the opposite!

In Genesis, parashat Vayera, Lot and his family are rescued by the archangel Raphael from the imminent destruction of Sodom and Gemorrah . They are warned specifically not to look back when fleeing from the evil cities (Gen19:17). In Genesis 19:26, we are informed that Lot's wife did indeed look back, and she was turned into a pillar of salt ("vatehi NETZIV melach"). This hidden reference in the first verse of our parsha to the previous flight from sin is joined by a quite explicit reference to the same story just 13 verses later in Deut19:22, where our fate would be joined to that of the overthrown cities, should we not forsake our evil ways.

This usage of the same word netziv in Genesis as well as in the opening verse of this week's portion ("you are standing here this day") seems to suggest that as they are collectively standing at the portal to the promised land, they are figuratively looking back at all the evil they had confronted and overcome in their journey up to this point. Janus-faced, they are facing imminent redemption awaiting them in the land even as they are seemingly mired by their dwelling upon the past. The text seems to be suggesting that it will take a renewal of the Covenant for them to finally point themselves forward, and not be immobilized by wallowing in their past.

This also begs the question. Should we therefore not look back at the evil we are trying to leave behind, following the lesson of Lot's wife? That would seem to contradict Maimonides' definition of teshuvah, of avoiding the same deeds while in the same conditions, advice which is seemingly only achieved through a process of self-reflection on one's past misdeeds.

A resolution of this seeming contradiction can perhaps be found in the same Genesis narrative,
where Lot exclaims (Gen 19:19),

" ...(and I cannot escape to the mountain), lest evil overtake me and I die.

"...pen tiDBaKani haRa'ah veMati."

The word in the Hebrew for "overtake me" is tiDBaKani, literally meaning "stick to me," as the word DeVeK in Hebrew means "glue." It is related to the term, devekut, which in Hasidic philosophy connotes the idea of clinging, or attaching oneself to G*d. But here the reference alludes to sticking not to G*d, but quite oppositely, to evil itself! Hasidic thought revolutionized Jewish thought by using the very weapons of the forces of evil instead for good. In other words, the forces of evil cause depression in the soul by causing one to immerse oneself in the mire of one's old ways. Your evil, sordid past clings to you like mental glue, seemingly preventing any chance of escape, of liberation.

By making the effort to consciously cling to G*d we can thus free ourselves from the muck and mire of the evil forces that strive to drag us down into a soul depression. G*d is throwing us a life line. "Cling to me instead," He is saying.

Resolving the seeming contradiction, whether to engage in reflection on one's past as a necessary step to moving forward to Teshuvah, or not to look back, so as to avoid the fate of Lot's wife, entails this use of devekut. Just as G*d created Torah as the antidote to evil, so too we should cling to G*d as our "teflon" (tefillin!) lifeline even as evil is trying its utmost to cling to us. But know that with G*d you will always prevail against evil, as long as you hold on and cleave to Him. We cleave to G*d through prayer, through Torah study, and through the conscious performance of mitzvoth.

So the idea is that we should look back, but only just enough to be temporarily and momentarily saddened by the idea that we sinned and went off the right path, so as to effectuate a true Teshuvah. But to allow oneself to be mired in sadness over one's past by dwelling on the past only prevents one from making that connection with G*d that has the power to lift one up from depression. We are told again and again that the path to G*d is only through joy, that sadness only blocks one from attaining that bliss which only comes from knowing and feeling close to G*d.

In just last week's parsha, Ki Tavo, we are warned that our lives will become cursed only because we did not serve G*d with happiness (Deut 29:47).

"...tachat asher lo avadeta et Hashem Elokecha b'SIMCHA."

It seems rather obvious, but sadness leads to sorrow, and sorrow leads to depression, and depression robs a person of the will to live. One becomes one of the walking dead.
As a practical suggestion for moving forward into Teshuvah, let us especially not dwell on others' past mistakes. Although perhaps well-meaning, it is often counter-productive, and causes feelings of depression which make it even harder for that person to break free of his old patterns because he then begins to lose hope. In losing hope, he loses joy, and thus again falls victim to his old ways.

I always used to chafe at the requirement to rise in the morning prayers upon reciting Psalm 100, beginning with the words, Mizmor LeTodah. After all, it is very short, but a paragraph in all, and by the time one has stood up one already has to sit back down again! But as short as it is, it is also the most powerful, and most deserving of respect, for it carries within the secret to life itself: 

"Ivdu et Hashem b'Simcha!"
"Serve the Lord with Joy/Happiness!"

To paraphrase the sage Hillel, "all the rest is commentary."

Shabbat Shalom!
Good Shabbos!
Shanah Tovah!
A Goot Yor!

© 2000 - 2012 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 or fresh perspective).

Friday, September 7, 2012


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 amamlechet kohanim, a kingdom of priests, Israel is a kohein, or holy servant, to the other nations on Earth. It is this idea of service - to Hashem and to all humanity, which gives us our special vitality and energy.

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.
Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2012 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 31, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Behind everything which we hate there is to be found a Divine lesson for us. Sometimes we hate a person because he reminds us of a defect in our own character. That is a Divine message. Sometimes we hate someone because they are so good that we become jealous of him and look for petty ways to find fault with him to assuage our sense of regret for our own imperfect natures. Or perhaps he is full of joy and we are depressed or sad and hence we are jealous.

They say that the perfect is the enemy of the good. If you wait for the perfect you'll miss the good. And thus may end up hating the perfect in our passing up of the good.

In our parsha, Ki Teitzei, there is the instruction, if you have two wives, where one is loved and the other is hated, that we must honor the birthright of the oldest, the firstborn son, even if he is the offspring of the hated wife. The hated wife is identified first as the senuah, the hated one, spelled sin, nun, vav, alef, hey. But then she is later identified not as the senuah, but rather as the seniah! Sin, nun, yud, alef, hey. The letter vav is replaced with the letter yud!

What is the significance of this change in spelling? Every word is divine. Every letter is divine. So it must have a meaning. Furthermore, the Torah was given to us to be eternally relevant to every generation. So today when most of Jewry has foresworn polygamy, what lesson can we learn from the change in spelling?

The letter yud represents divinity. Yud is the first holy letter of Hashem's name, represented by the tetragrammaton, YKVK, the ineffable four letter Holy name. It is so holy that we do not even pronounce the actual name. Rather we refer to Him as Hashem, meaning "the name."

It is teaching us that behind everything which we hate there is to be found a Divine lesson for us. Sometimes we hate a person because he reminds us of a defect in our own character. That is a Divine message. Sometimes we hate someone because they are so good that we become jealous of him and look for petty ways to find fault with him to assuage our sense of regret for our own imperfect natures. Or perhaps he is full of joy and we are depressed or sad and hence we are jealous of his joyous demeanor.

A spouse is called an ezer k'negdo, translated often as "helpmeet." Ezer means "helper" and k'negdo means "against." When you are on the correct moral path she is to be a helper. But when you fall off the path she is NOT to be an enabler. Her job is to oppose you and help you get back onto the right path. But then you may hate her for it. But she's just doing her job. The enlightened spouse will recognize this and seek to amend his ways and so be in the circle of love and respect again. So in truth the two wives are really one in the end.

And the son who is to receive the birthright, regardless of which wife is his mother, what does he come to teach us? That even good things may come from seemingly bad origins. After all, David, the future king of Israel and progenitor of the Mashiach, is from the fruit of a Moabitess who in turn stems from the incestuous liaison between Lot and his daughters after witnessing the fiery demise of Sodom and Gemorrah. Sometimes a setback is really a setback. But let us have the eyes to try to see the Divine message behind every seeming setback and to turn hate into love wherever we go.

As the Torah teaches (Lev 19:18), Love thy neighbor as thyself -Ve'ahavta le'reyacha kamocha... Neighbor and evil are spelled with the exact same letters, reish and ayin. And we are to hate evil. So what this means is that we must love our neighbor as we love ourselves, despite the evil we may do.

Do we not still love ourselves, even when we know we are imperfect and thus can do better? So too, we should extend that same sense of compassion to our neighbors whom we know to be imperfect. We can show our love for the good they do and try to correct them when we see they can do better. In that sense, we are like the two wives, in that we are really one and the same in our duty to help our neighbor become better. For us today, the two wives are really one and the same wife! Our supporter when we strive to do good, and our opponent when we strive to follow evil.

Evil comes to teach us and test us, and ultimately, to correct us. Spelled backwards it is ayin and reish, pronounced er, meaning awaken. When we love the good (wife) and hate the evil (wife), and yet appreciate that the challenge of evil is really for our own soul's growth, then we will have awakened to a higher order of consciousness.

Isaiah (45:7) teaches that Hashem even created evil: yotzer ohr uVoreh choshech, oseh shalom uVoreh et haRa...: " (He) forms light and creates darkness/makes peace and creates evil..."

In other words, G*d created both darkness and evil. Even darkness and evil are His creation. It is part and parcel of our world which He created.

And as everything in creation has a purpose, even darkness and evil serve a purpose in this world. They come to arouse us and motivate us to do better and rise above the lethargic moral entropy that normally guides us, as a response to evil, or even just to avoid it. We combat darkness and evil by lighting a candle and bringing light by doing a mitzvah, performing an act of kindness to another.

And as Hillel summarized the essence of the Torah: that which is hateful to you, do not do unto others. All the rest is commentary. Now go and study.

Shabbat Shalom.
Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2012 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 24, 2012


by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

Jewish DNA reflects a yearning to simultaneously ascend two figurative mountains: the universal call to serve humanity on the one hand, and the particular call to serve the Jewish people on the other hand, whereby we preserve our culture, religion and heritage and get to be alone with our G*d.

Ultimately, through fulfilling both yearnings we then come to serve G*d in the deepest way. Serving humanity, and serving G*d's priestly nation of Israel - G*d's servants for humanity, is the ultimate path to serving G*d Himself. After all, Kohein means servant. Lekhahein is the infinite form meaning "to serve," and what is a truly lived life but one which was a life of devotion and service.

These two inclinations are paired together - the Sinai inclination and the Yerushalayim inclination; the universal urge and the national urge. In truth, we should serve G*d with both urges. 

The call of Sinai in the wilderness, that zone of undifferentiated universality, where Israel received its charge to bring the Torah, the light of the world, to the nations of the world competes in our hearts with the yearning to be alone with G*d, apart from the other nations, on His holy mountain in the city of David.

But really they don't contradict each other at all. Really the two are actually one very deep yearning- that we will one day play host to all the nations of the world who will then come up to Yerushalayim, to G*d's Holy Mountain to testify to G*d's Oneness. Yeshayahu states: ISAIAH 56:7,: Ki beisi beis tefiloh, yekare es kawl he'amim. "For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples."

In this prophetic utterance the universal vision becomes the national hope, and the national vision becomes the universal hope.

And in the previous verse (Deut. 20:7) it states, "is there any man among you who has betrothed a woman and not married her? Let him go home so that he will not die in war and have another man marry her."

In the deepest sense this is an allusion to the nation of Israel who is betrothed to Hashem. Each and every year Israel renews the marriage vows of Sinai on the Festival of Shavuoth. Therefore Israel is always to seek the peaceful path, for Israel is constantly in a state of betrothal to Hashem, always bringing the softness of the heart to the hearth of the home. We seek peace always, fighting only in self defense when our enemy wants war. Because we are in a state of constant betrothal to Hashem we always seek peace and tend to fight only as a last resort in our own self defense when threatened.

We were betrothed to Hashem at Sinai, in the universal zone. But we preserve the message of Hashem's  revelation of Himself in the world via the vitality of our national rebirth in the Land of Israel, the zone of Zion.

The two mountains of Judaism are Zion and Sinai. With two hearts, our world/universal heart and our national/Jewish heart we are to serve G*d. Human values are Jewish values and Jewish values are human values. But in truth they are really the same heart, for as we say in the first paragraph of the shema, "...bechawl levavcha" - "(you are to LOVE Hashem) with all your hearts (plural)" - not only with your/our good inclination and your/our evil inclination, but also with your/our love/lev of Zion and your/our love/lev of Sinai.

Shabbat Shalom.
Good Shabbos.

© 2000 - 2012 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 17, 2012


By Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman

All humanity are brothers and sisters, with the same heavenly father who created us all in His image.
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? For thousands of years we have used this forty day period which begins in Elul and culminates on Yom Kippur as a time of inner healing and an opportunity to repair and fix all our broken relationships, beginning with our Divine relationship, the root of our soul.

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 - 2012 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 10, 2012


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.

But 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 withinOur 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. Judaism sees it much differently.

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. This is the secret of attaining holiness. We have always had that power.

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. Of course Christianity also teaches goodness. The point is in how each system sees the process of atonement.

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 our existence, 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).

Lastly, let us 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 blessingOne day, both we ourselves, and the whole world, will come to recognize this truth.

Shabbat Shalom

© 2000 - 2012 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 3, 2012

Vaetchanan/shabbat nachamu: THE HEART OF HEAVEN

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 - 2012 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, July 27, 2012


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 eleven Israeli 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 number eleven telling. Most striking is its special spelling: Ayin, Shin, Taf and Yud- AShTeY(eleven in Hebrew is usually either echad asar or achat esreh, not ashtei asar). How strange. And how compelling.

This conceivably is a metaphorical time capsule, alluding 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 over 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. When we protest the IOC's spurning of our just request to remember the 11 slain athletes at Munich, we are showing our love for our brothers, thus fixing the sin of Yosef's brothers.

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 eleventh hour 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 - 2012 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!