Friday, January 20, 2012

VAEIRA: THAT SMELL

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


The Kotel was a pleasure to visit and immerse myself in prayer. No one would interrupt my
daavening and deep meditation by tapping me on the shoulder in the middle of prayer with requests for tzedaka. Tzedaka saves from death, but so does prayer, so each has their place.
The Kotel is not a fancy building. It is just stone. Ancient stone. Stones below and stones above.
Stones everywhere. Stone is eternal. Hashem is eternal.

Many synagogues today find themselves in trouble when they place monetary or materialistic values over spiritual ones. When education and learning take a lower priority, apathy and malaise are the bitter fruit. It is a pointless, empty enterprise. Their long term assurance is not guaranteed. The synagogue is a meeting place of prayer and study. This is its core central function.

A remarkable textual allusion in the parsha offers a rich homiletic support to this idea. As the plague of frogs is halted, their rotting frog corpses were gathered in "gigantic heaps, fouling the air with their vile stench."

(Ex 8:10) "vayitzberu otam chamarim chamarim vativash ha'aretz."

Notice that the word for heaps, "chamarim," in the Hebrew is spelled minus the letter yud, the usual plural indicator. The duplication of the word chamarim serves to call our attention to a deeper understanding of the word, in the sense of "CHoMeR," or materialism. Most tellingly is the verb "vayitzberu." Its root is TZiBuR, meaning a congregation, i.e., a "gathering." In a sense, then, the Torah is warning synagogues about misplaced priorities. And the doubling of the missing yuds, so striking in their absence, spells a name often referring to G*d.

How often G*d Himself is missing from synagogues. There is no room left for Him for He is crowded out by the massive ego heaps and materialism run amok. So what this is really teaching us, is that when the spiritual is missing, from out of a heightened and disproportionate focus on the material, a foul temper then rules the day.

The purpose of the synagogue is similar to the purpose of the Land of Israel: to be a vessel for the spiritual development of its inhabitants. Ego is to people what materialism is to values. Both have their place, but neither should predominate. Physicality, the physical structure, is but to serve spiritual ends. The body is the vessel for the soul's manifestation and expression.

Indeed, even America, in its mandate to espouse the freedom and safety of its people, was envisioned by its early Puritan founders to be a New Israel, seeking freedom of worship to escape the spiritual bondage of the Church of England. America was their Promised Land, England was their Egypt, while the oceanic voyage was their Exodus, their crossing of the Great Sea. Freedom was but to serve spiritual ends.

It behooves us today to take this lesson to heart. Let us ponder its meaning, drawing from the message of our timeless Torah. As long as we make G*d the center of our lives, seeking to understand the proper path of our life's true work, we shall be spiritually free. When we see each other as fellow reflections of the Divine, as true brothers and sisters to one another, we will always be able to count on each other for support. For without that common bond, we are all merely but frogs on a heap.

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.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

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

SHEMOT: LOVE AND SURRENDER

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


There are two kinds of surrendering. There is the surrendering out of love and there is the surrendering out of fear. This mirrors the two ways to serve G*d - out of love or out of fear/awe. There is the surrender to totalitarianism (political or religious) which stems from fear and compulsion. Then there is the surrender to our children which is born of a compulsion not out of fear, but out of love. The surrender to totalitarianism is the ultimate of oppression- serving the finite. But the surrendering to love is a taste of the infinite.

The Torah chronicles man's struggle with freedom of the individual versus the crushing grip of totalitarian dictatorships. It is a proponent of mankind's freedom and liberty against the tyranny of systems of oppression.

Again and again we see the urges of governments to dominate (using the standard MIStranslation):

"Come, let us deal wisely with it (am yisrael)..." (EX 1:10) "HAVA nitchachma lo..." (Egypt)"

... Come, let us make bricks and burn them in fire..." (GEN 11:3) "...HAVA nilb'nah l'vainim ve'nisrefa le'sereifa..." (Babel)"

...Come, let us build us a city..." (Gen 1:4) "...HAVA nivneh lanu ir..." (Babel)

A basic familiarity with Hebrew roots will dispel any notion that HAVA means "come." The word HAVA in Hebrew unfortunately is not spelled Hey Vet Alef, whereit could be properly translated as "come." Instead, it is spelled Hey Vet Hey, which is derived from HAV, meaning "to give."

This is the basis for the word "aHAVah," meaning "love." Mature love means a "giving" kind of love, as opposed to a "taking" kind of love.

HAV is also related to LaHAV, or flame, in the sense that HAVU means render (on the altar) as in (Psalm29):

"HAVU LaShem b'nei eilim, HAVU LaShem kavod va'oz. HAVU LaShem kevod shemo, ..."

A flame is the active agent of the korban, the sacrificial offering. Meaning to draw near (KaRoV), like a flame it reaches up to its source. It's meaning could be understood as either RENDER (as in "give", or "burn up"), or as SURRENDER (as in "give it up"). So in Genesis and in Exodus we "have" the idea of HAVA preceding a notion of a reordering of the social order. This is accomplished through the people giving up their individual rights in the name of some totalitarian ideal.

With this new understanding, we see the Pharaoh now saying: " Hava - Surrender to my will. Let us deal wisely with it (Israel)." Or the leader of Babel now saying: " Hava -Surrender to my will. Let us build a city..."

In the Genesis Babel narrative this urge is to unify the people of the world, to mitigate against the natural tendency of nature and people towards a state of entropy. It is to prevent their spreading out. Their greatest fear was thus realized as a self-fulfilling prophecy. It can be read as a narrative explaining the diffuse state of human habitation against a background of a once greater concentration. Or it can be understood as an examination of the wrestling within man of the warring urges doing battle within as to whether to forego personal responsibility and take refuge in the psychology of the masses (totalitarian temptation) or to accept personal responsibility and the accompanying fear (freedom impulse). Or both.

In the Exodus narrative of our parsha Shemot, it is to unify the Egyptian nation/state and to consolidate Pharaoh's power in the event of a rebellious fifth column. Their greatest fear came to pass as well. The problem with each of those societies was that "the people" were being asked to give up their rights for ignoble ends. Whether for the self-glorification of man or for the self-preservation of Pharaoh, the god/king, in both cases their respective projects were doomed to failure because G*d was not the centerpiece of their devotions and drives.

Shifra and Puah, the two midwives who defied Pharaoh's decree (EX 1:17), earned G*d's favor by standing up to injustice. G*d is served through the struggle for justice. Their act of civil disobedience set into motion the cascade of events leading to the birth of baby Moses and the redemption of Israel, marking the Jewish mission essentially as one of a vision of social justice.

Each of these totalitarian enterprises were based on the vain hopes of construction projects which would bear mute testimony to the false greatness of their respective societies. Each entailed vast construction projects based on mortar and bricks (chomer and levainim). Chomer represents materialism, the vain strivings of an empty heart.

Leveinim, bricks, are a cognate composite of lev (heart) and banim (children). A true and lasting legacy is a spiritual legacy, where the values and feelings of one's heart are passed down to one's children for all eternity. This is a true tower. Not a tower of bricks and mortar, but a tower of transmitting a spiritual moral legacy through the values which one passes on to one's children.

Ironically, chomer, or crass materialism, is a stumbling block for the transmission of lasting spiritual values. The tower of Babel was doomed for its crass materialism and warped sense of values. It is taught in the midrash that when workers fell to their deaths there were no tears. Only shattered fallen bricks warranted tears. To what extent are our values those of Babel?What we need are new spiritual towers of chesed (kindness) in place of the corrupt physical towers of Egypt and Babel. Israel's towers are spiritual towers. The towers of the Torah's teachings are the values of kindness, love and compassion.

This tower has no place for surrendering freedoms as an act of obeisance to a new Pharaoh, "who knew not Joseph."Rather, it is built on an absence of coercion and a simple love of one's neighbor. Whether we become unified as Israel or dispersed as in Babel depends on making kindness and justice, Shifra and Puah's eternal legacy, the underpinnings of our new social order.

True freedom is attained through surrendering our egos and our drives in order to serve G*d, to making G*d, our Creator, the true centerpiece of our hopes and dreams. Not to serve G*d through conquering and dominating others, as taught by deeply misguided religious fanatics, but by conquering one's self, one's own drives and desires. This surrendering to G*d means experiencing the deepest liberation, whereas surrendering to religio-political authoritarian rule means to conversely experience the deepest oppression.

As man is created in G*d's image, so too will our tower of chesed (kindness) be reflected in the supernal realm and cause a true salvation to give succor and uplift to humanity. And on that day will David's words be realized by his messianic descendant, (SHmuel Bet 22:51) Migdol yeshuot malko ve'oseh chesed l'meshicho, leDavid ulizaro ad olam..." A tower of salvation is He to His king; and showing mercy to His annointed, to David and to his seed, forevermore."

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.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

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

Friday, January 6, 2012

VAYECHI; LAST OF THE PATRIARCHS

by Rabbi Baruch Binyamin Hakohen Melman


Our parsha, Vayechi, deals with the life and end-times of Jacob. His passing evokes thought on what it means to put one's affairs in order, to have one's body returned to the Land of Israel for burial, the nature of dying itself, and the connection between this world and the world to come. As Jacob initially embarks on his first exile, crossing the borders of the Holy Land to find sanctuary among his uncle Laban, he has a dream in a place which he calls Beit El, the House of G*d, formerly known as Luz.

Jacob, upon his passing, becomes the first Hebrew to seek repatriation of his body to the Holy Land for burial. When, in the End of Days, according to tradition, the body rebuilds itself and tunnels underthe earth to Eretz Yisrael where it becomes newly resouled, the foundation bone (of the neck) which serves as the latticework for this rebuilding is also called the "luz." What is the connection?

At Beit El, Jacob encounters the dimension of the infinite realm, a revelation of a heavenly ladder (sulam), a kind of latticework upon which angels ascend and descend. This ladder represents all the spiritual levels. As he about to start a family he need be cognizant of how much his children's spiritual growth would depend on his own instruction. We see that crossing the Jordan becomes a metaphor for death itself, a transformative passageway between the foundation experience (Luz/Canaan) of his life growing up, and the full blossoming of his manhood as a mature adult (Beit El, G*d's Holy Abode, Olam HaBa).

The seeds of deception which he planted in his earlier life (his name Yaakov/Jacob means "trickster," or "heel") came to fruition to teach him his life's lessons and meaning in his later life. By the end of his third stage, his life in Egypt of this week's parsha, he finally witnessed the rectification of his earlier mistakes in the peace and harmony of his children and grandchildren.

Now in Egypt, his second exile, he blesses his children for the last time, and takes stock of their spiritual growth and progress. He knows that he himself, as the Last of the Patriarchs, must be buried in Machpela Cave, in Hebron. His body, the last to be placed in the holy tomb, is the final missing piece necessary to complete its spiritual function. Only then, with his body, the missing piece now in place, can this spiritual rejuvenation process finally be triggered.

Why was it so urgent for Jacob to be buried whole in the cave, rather than to just have his future remains brought out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus, as would be the case with Joseph? Ironically, the holy couples that were buried there were buried whole, and yet their function spiritually was to serve symbolically as a collective bare luz bone, upon whose foundation all Israel in the future would attach themselves.

As the Last Patriarch, Jacob was blessed with a keen vision to glimpse what will be in the End of Days (Acharit HaYamim- Gen 49:1). This vision was an echo of the Vision of the Ladder. His last act before his final blessing was to instate his grandchildren, Ephraim and Menashe as co-equal in status to his own children to merit becoming tribal heads. What made them worthy of their co-equal status was their fraternal harmony. Jacob could cross his arms and bless the one instead of the other and none would bat an eyelash.

Contrast the bitter enmity and struggle between Jacob and Esau. Now, at last, it seemed that the children of Israel had learned the secret of their future success. The old paradigm shattered, the new model of fraternal unity and harmony could now become manifest.

We must be so very conscious at every moment to teach our children the value of loving each other. And not just biological brothers, but all Jews should see themselves as brothers, and ultimately all humanity as well. We are all brothers with one heavenly father.

The whole painful saga of Jacob and his brother, and of Joseph and his brothers was to learn the value of empathy and brotherly love. Only with that painful lesson learned could Israel emerge from its pupa-like "family" stage and become a mature nation with a vision of brotherhood and peace to share with the world.

Jacob confesses to Pharaoh that his years were bitter ones, and few, compared to his father and grandfather. But that bitterness was really the toxic bile of fraternal strife and enmity being released. All the years, nay, generations of brotherly conflict, going back to Cain and Abel of the first generation, had been so very toxic that humanity could not grow and move forward without Jacob's release of the negativity of the bitter bile of multi-generational toxic sludge.

Just as the ladder, the sulam, in Jacob's dream was a vertical lattice work of the angelic realm, the bodies arranged horizontally in the Cave of Machpela would serve as the lattice work foundation of the human/earthly realm. The dream took place in Luz. The cave would come to be the workshop where the dreams of Jacob/Israel would become reality.

The foundation couples of the Jewish nation, like the foundation bone (the luz), would come to serve as the attachment point for the rebuilding of not necessarily a physical body per se, but rather of a vision for a rebuilt Israel living in harmony as a role model for world harmony and peace. This is Israel's mission. Indeed, this is Israel's dream.

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.


http://seferchabibi.blogspot.com/2007/07/yahrzeit-of-my-father-27-tammuz.html
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9506EEDC1630F93BA35754C0A9649C8B63

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/nytimes/obituary.aspx?n=esther-melman&pid=143745543

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

NEVER GIVE UP!

Loading...

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

Reb Shlomo with Reb Zusha ben Avraham Zimmerman

moshav band live at mexicali blues

Loading...

What mind is it?

"Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people."
-Eleanor Roosevelt


ON FIXING AND HEALING...

"If you believe that you can damage, then believe that you can fix..... If you believe that you can harm, then believe that you can heal..........." Rebbe Nachman of Breslov

Hatiqwa

Loading...

Beta Israel - Ethiopian Jews - The Ingathering from Without

Loading...

Palestinians of Jewish origin - The Ingathering from Within

Loading...

Holy Wedding at Makhpela, Tomb of our Fathers in hevron - Music by Pey Dalid

Loading...

Mariane Paradise and The Gan Eden Project sings of the Unity of All Creation from Jerusalem

Loading...

A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP HEAL THE WORLD

Loading...

IVDU ET HASHEM B'SIMCHA- SERVE THE LORD WITH JOY DANCING AND SINGING FROM INSIDE A BOMB SHELTER

Loading...

SELICHOT LIVE AT CARLEBACH SHUL 2008

Loading...

NAZI RALLIES AND SPEECHES

Loading...

JEWISH MEN AND WOMEN GATHER TO CELEBRATE REB SHLOMO'S 14TH YAHRZEIT SINGING AT HIS GRAVE

Loading...

MOSHAV BAND - THE ONLY ONE

Loading...

Reb Zalman on Jewish Renewal

Loading...

Let There Be Peace

Loading...
"No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care."

- anonymous
"Perhaps the greatest force in the entire universe is compounded interest."

- Albert Einstein

the last hoshana rabba with reb shlomo and me playing together the week before he took off in '94

Loading...

bob marley - one love 6:13 (6 MINUTES 13 SECONDS) and exodus

Loading...

Tisha B'Av 5765 Katif Expulsion

Loading...

Children of Sderot - The Daily Terror and Nightmares

Loading...

Let Me Sing a New Song

Loading...

On Schlomo's magnificent 13th (Bar Mitzvah) yahrzeit in Heaven

Loading...

AMAZING INTERVIEW WITH REB SHLOMO top video only

Loading...

Larry David wants to Save the Planet

Loading...

Havdalah Ceremony on Moshav Meor Modiin in Central Israel

Loading...

Alpha blondy from cote d'ivoire sings his love of Jerusalem in Hebrew and French all over the world

Loading...
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!