Thursday, January 28, 2010

If You Don't Point at Yourself, the Demons Can't See You.

My friend once asked me, "Hey Big Benny-ya-min, what do all the spiritual realms like briah and atzilus really mean? What are they? Whats going on up there?" My answer is as follows: There is a great general principle in chassidus, which details the difference between our physical world and the more heavenly realms. Down here, in our world, the existence of the universe is readily apparent and obvious, while the existence of G-dliness is not so obvious. By contrast, in the 'heavenly realms,' the existence of G-dliness is obvious, while the existence of our world is not so obvious. [Now, that is not to say that we cannot observe G-dliness at work in our world, it is just not so obvious, and requires some careful contemplation to arrive at the conclusion that G-dliness exists. Similarly, the angels and demons, who reside in the heavenly realms, may have to struggle to see that you and I exist.]
Keeping this general principle in mind, we can understand many different Jewish commandments and customs. For one, it is known that when teaching how to ritually slaughter an animal, you should never use your self as an example. In other words, you should not say, 'Cut from here to here,' and point to your own neck. I asked my Rabbi why you shouldn't do that, and he said because the 'Shaydeem,' or demons, won't see you and bring harm. You see, the 'Demons,' or destructive forces, find it difficult to perceive our existence in much the same fashion that we have difficulty perceiving their heavenly realms. Typically, the demons can't see us, but when we point at ourselves we give away our position and then they can see us.
Why does pointing at oneself make us visible to the demons? In the spiritual realms where G-dliness is readily apparent to all, no one would ever 'point at himself.' Being so close to G-d makes one very humble. Furthermore, since nothing truly exists besides G-d, all of the angels feel very strongly that they don't have a separate identity to themselves. They feel the way a tiny candle feels when it is brought near by, and unites with, a large torch. The flame is there, but it is buttle b'metzious. In other words, the angels and demons would never point at themselves because they don't really feel that they themselves actually exist as entities independent from G-d. The act of pointing at oneself implies not only that you exist, but that you exist as a different and independent entity unto yourself. Therefore, only someone from our physical realm, where G-dliness is concealed, would ever point at himself and thereby claim that he exists, and thus the angels or demons can see you. And this, perhaps, explains why one should never use your own body as an example when you teach someone where to cut a neck for ritual slaughter... because you would be pointing at yourself!
Pointing at yourself is important in another way. But first, a slight preface: Jews don't believe in evil, right? Well, the sages never said 'there is no evil, period.' If you pay close attention, the phrase they use a lot is that 'no bad or evil descends from above. [Ein Rah Yored M'l'maylah] The bad in our world did not come from above; rather, we messed up and brought it upon ourselves. How did we bring it upon ourselves? The Alter Rebbe, in chapter 11 of Iggeres HaKodesh in Tanya, says that anyone who is sad or down shows on himself that he has bad and lacks of any good. In the origional, he is, 'mareh b'atzmoh sheyesh ra.'
In other words, the whole concept of 'pointing to yourself' is an attribute to be abhorred. This practice is the source for our feeling bad. The more we exist as separate entities, as big egos, the more pain we feel, because we become so focused on ourselves and we loose our connection to G-d, the true source of our life and livelyhood. But the more we worry less about ourselves, and worry more for our fellow Jews and for the Shechinah which is in exile with us, the less we feel ourselves and the more we feel true connection to our Higher Power.
This brings to mind some chassidic stories I recall. A chossid went to a Rebbe, and said, "How do I learn to deal with all the troubles in my life?" The Rebbe told him to go see a certain great Jew who was extremely poor, and was sick very often. When the chossid met this special Jew, he said, 'Special Jew, my Rebbe sent me here so you could teach me to rejoice in my sufferings. How do you do it?' To this, the special Jew replied, 'I don't know why the Rebbe sent you here. I haven't suffered a day in my life."
The other story that comes to mind goes a little something like this:
A great disciple of a chassidic master was knocking on his masters door. The master seemed to be a little late answering the door, so the disciple knocked and repeated, 'Its me! Its me!" Later on, at a special dinner, this disciple was accused of stealing some nice silver dining ware. In fact, some of the guests held him down and threatened to lash him with a belt. To this, the disciple responded, 'It wasn't me! It wasn't me!' They found out, in the end, that the disciple did not, in fact, steal the silverware. Later, the Chassidic Master informed his disciple that his initial claims of 'Its me its me,' created a spiritual blemish that had to be rectified by screaming, 'its not me! its not me!.
Ok ok, one more story and then I go to bed :). A great man once merited to see where the souls go to after they leave their physical bodies. The man saw the souls in heaven and the souls in purgatory. [Jews do not believe in hell, so he didn't get to see those ones]. In heaven, all the souls were seated at a table upon which was a great feast. But the utensils the souls were using were so long that they could not feed themselves. Yet the souls were fat and happy, nonetheless.
In purgatory, it looked exactly the same: souls sitting around a great banquet with forks to eat with that were too long to feed oneself with. Here, the souls were famished and starving. The great man said to his guide, 'Why are the souls here starving, while the souls in heaven are so well fed? After all, everything is the same both in purgatory and heaven, in that the utensils are so long that no one can feed himself!' His guide responded, "Yes, it is true, a soul in either realm cannot feed himself, but in heaven, we have learned to feed one another." BOOYAH

Monday, January 25, 2010

Yud Shevat

Yud Alef Shevat the Rebbe took on the position of Rebbe officially in 1951. The Rebbe came late to the farbrengen to 770 which was very unusual. He had spent the time with his mother Rebbetzin Chana. The Rebbe said a few sichos until a chosid stood up on a table and demanded that the Rebbe say a maimar. So the Rebbe calmed him and started with The Friedeker Rebbe's maimer that he had prepared for yud Shevat.. Basi Legani .. And then the Rebbe started Basi Legani Ahosi Kala.. After the first ois they sang negunim and the chosid Rabbi Nemtzov stood up and said a loud shechianu to which all answered a loud amen.

We are the seventh generation. Therefore it has fallen into our hands to bring down God's presence into the physical world. All sevenths are beloved by Hashem not because of their great service or greatness but simply because they are the seventh from the first. And so it is with us the seventh generation of Chabad Rebbeim. May the Rebbe lead us out of Golus now.

-- Sent from my Palm Prē

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Oprah Winfrey Book Club for Jews!

As is well known, Oprah Winfrey has a book club, in which she showcases a new book that she likes every so often. In fact, with an endorsement by Oprah Winfrey, an author may be catapulted from obscurity to stardom faster than you can say, 'Oh my gosh did you see Oprah yesterday?!' Being an accomplished Kabbalist myself, it is my desire to 'elevate' the sparks trapped in Oprah's book club. So I decided to start my OWN book club, specifically tailored to Jews and the imminent arrival of the King Moshiach. Brace yourself, world: here comes Benny's Bodacious Book Club!
The first book to be showcased in Benny's Bodacious Book Club is a book about a startling trend in warfare in recent history. As is well known, one of the key signs heralding the coming of the King Moshiach, a.k.a. the Jewish Messiah, is the end of war. "And he, [the king Moshiach,] will judge many nations... [and as a result] They shall beat their swords in to plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift sword against nation; neither shall they learn war anymore." That was from Isaiah, the prophet [not your alcoholic roommate at Yeshivah University.] Furthermore, the Rambam codifies this matter as law. But war is still around, right?
Perhaps not, says John Mueller, author of 'The Remnants of War,' our first book in Benny's Bodacious Book Club. In this book, Mueller, a political scientist, advances the theory that war has been in steady decline in recent history, and trends show that it may be at an end. Indeed, major war between developed nations has not been witnessed since World War II.
In his words, "The most notable and striking statistic in the history of warfare is zero: the number of wars conducted between developed states since the end of World War II. This is a massive shattering of historical precedent for these once-war-like countries; indeed, they have now been at peace with each other for the longest stretch of time in their history. "Given the scale and frequency of war during the preceding centuries in Europe," notes Luard, "This is a change of spectacular proportions; perhaps the single most striking discontinuity that the history of warfare has anywhere provided." " ( Page 81, emphasis is mine.)
Indeed, it seems one need only open his eyes and see that the world is a lot safer than it used to be. The only wars left, Mueller contends, are wars predicated by small bands of criminals which could easily be policed by disciplined armies of America and the like. Mueller takes us on an exciting ride through history, showing how the popular conception of war has changed over the ages. Interestingly, war was once considered to be a desirable, purifying, and fun enterprise, that is, until the anti-war movement and the horrors of Wolrd Wars I and II.
In my humble opinion, this would support the theory that World War II and related events constitute the ‘birthpangs of Moshiach,’ the terrible events that will take place shortly before the Moshiach arrives. And with war on the decline, look out for King Moshiach to put it permanently to rest. So go ahead and buy one of John Mueller’s ‘The Remnants of War’ to put in the bathroom, because Benny’s Bodacious Book Club said so! That way, the next time someone asks you to convince them that Moshiach is already here, you'll have something better to say than, 'Because Rabbi so and so said so.'

Sunday, January 10, 2010

The 24th of Teves the Alter Rebbe's yartzheit.

The twenty fourth of Teves is the Alter Rebbes yortzeit. The Alter Rebbe's father was a chosid of the Baal Shem Tov but the Baal Shem Tov told his father not to tell him that he is a chosid. He wanted that the Alter Rebbe should come to chassidism on his own. Also the Baal Shem Tov did not want that the Alter Rebbe Should see the Baal Shem Tov. He wanted that the Alter Rebbe should be mekushar to the Maagid of Mezritch.
The Alter Rebbe was married already and he followed the path of avoda as taught by the Shaloh but at a certain point he felt that he was not satisfied with his service of G-d. At that time there were known to be two great centers of Torah, the Vilna Gaon in Vilna and the Maagid in Mezritch. It was also known that if you want to learn how to learn (nigla) you go to Vilna and if you want to learn how to serve the Aibishter you should go to Mezritch. The Alter Rebbe said that to learn he knows how to but to serve G-d he could improve on so he set out for Mezritch. He stayed there for a short time and he liked it but did not see anything there which should compel him to stay so he decided that he will go back. He was getting his horse and carriage ready to go. When he was there in Mezritch the Maagid gave his son Avraham the Malach to learn with Alter Rebbe. So now the Malach said to the Alter Rebbe "when you whip your horses you should whip them until they know that they are horses" and another version is "you should whip your horses until they cease to be horses". When the Alter Rebbe heard this he said that there is something very deep behind this and that he must go back and learn what it is.
The horses represent the body of the person or his animal soul and one must not let his animal soul take control of what the person must do or think but the body has to be made known that it is only a "horse" and to obey it's owner. This way the body can accomplish very great things but only when it knows who it's master is. The second higher level of service is when the body and animal soul itself are transformed and become G-dly themselves and desire nothing else but G-d.
So the Alter Rebbe made a u turn and went back to Mezritch and became the greatest disciple of the Maagid.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Hundreds Protest Global Warming - This is just too funny

Hundreds Protest Global Warming - This is just too funny! A good friend sent this to me and when I saw it, it made me smile.
Posted by Picasa

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Father Avraham Makes Up a Minyan

    An amazing story:

    The city of Hevron, many years ago, did not always have ten Jewish adults, but for the Jewish Sabbath and for the holidays they always managed a minyan.

    One, on the day before Yom Kippur, a count was made, and it was discovered that some people had left for Jerusalem that day, and there were only 9 adults for the holiday. For the first time in history, there would be no minyan in the synagogue on Yom Kippur.

    They waited until the last minute, hoping that perhaps a nearby Jewish farmer would show up, but no one came.  Many Jews preferred to spend the day in Jerusalem which was only a few hours away.  It offered them an opportunity to spend part of the day praying a the Kosel Maarovi, (the wailing wall).  The remaining nine people were very upset at not having a minyan, and many actually cried.

    Just as the sun was about to set, which meant that the holy day was about to start, they noticed a person approaching from a distance.  He was old, with a long silver-white beard.  They all rushed to meet the new arrival, quickly took him to the nearest residence, and serviced him a hurried meal.  However he did not eat the meal, claiming that he had already eaten the seudah hamafsekes, (the last meal that one partakes of before the start of the holy day).  The old man thanked them and blessed them.  With joy in their hearts, they started for the nearby synagogue.  They spent all that evening and the next day praying to the L-rd and thanking Him for providing them with a tenth for the minyan.

    When they finished the services for the next evening, each man was anxious to have the guest in his home for the evening meal.  They seldom had guests and wanted to observe the great mitzvah of hachnasas orchim.  They had no alternative but to cast lots to determine who would be the lucky one to have the guest at his house.  This was soon done, and the lucky person to win the mitzvah was the cantor who was known to be a great tzaddik.

    The cantor rushed home with the guest following him.  As they reached the door, the cantor stepped aside to give the important guest the honor of entering the house first.  To his great astonishment he discovered that the guest, who was walking behind him just a minute before, was not there.  The whole congregation started to look for the guest.  They searched the yard and the street, but it seemed that he had disappeared.  They were all dismayed that the guest had left without partaking of their food.  That night the old man appeared for the cantor in a dream and revealed to him that he was father Avraham who was laid to rest in the me'aras hamachpela, the double cave located nearby.  He had come to complete the minyan for Yom Kippur.

    The congregation was very happy, blessed G-d for the great miracle, and thanked Him for His kindness to them.


From: Torah thoughts Book Three, by Leo Gartenberg published in 1966.