Thursday, December 9, 2010


Storytelling a piece by
“This past Shabbos was Shabbos Mevarchim (the Shabbos before a new month begins and therefore a new moon cycle).  Each month...”
Wait, wait, wait.  Stop the presses.
How can I write a story with universal appeal when I begin with words that almost no one can understand?  Having been living a religious jewish way of life for several years I cannot simply tell a story the way I would as when I am speaking to another religious jew who is accustomed to hearing these words.
Just the background of a story can be burdensome to a reader who is not familiar with the culture.  Take this for example:
I was with Fischel this past Shabbos at a Sholem Zochur of a friend he knows from California.  This week happened to be Shabbos Mevorchim, Teves.  Every Shabbos Mevorchim the yeshiva we study at has the full time and part time students all get together for a friday night meal. This coincided with third night of Chanukah this year.
I simply wanted to tell a short story of what happened when we went to a house for a 
friday night party.  But every few words of my telling of the story are words that would likely cause an ordinary reader to say, “Huh? What’s that?”
Okay, so Fischel is a name, Shabbos is the day of rest, a yeshiva is a school for jewish learning and Chanukah is that holiday where candles are lit.
But please tell me what a Sholem Zochur on Shabbos Mevorchim, Teves is?  That is just too far out there to wrap my mind around.  I may even have to resort to Google for that.
To a religious jew these words would make perfect sense providing the transliteration is recognizable.  These words are hebrew words that may look different when using the english letters.  It’s not so easy to transliterate the gutteral “ch” sound.  You just have to know that the “ch” is the one that sounds like you are clearing your throat.  English doesn’t have such a sound.  Most non-jews say Hanukah and don’t bother with the gutteral “ch” sound.   The true pronunciation is more like Ch-kh-kh-kh-anukah.
There’s just too much to define in order to describe what a Sholem Zochkhkhur on Shabbos Mevorchkhkhim is while at the same time keeping the reader interested in the main point of the story.
Before telling a story of the time me and Fischel went to the friday night party for the newborn baby boy I needed to first take a side track and define all of these new terms.  It makes for a tough story - especially in this world of soundbite storytelling.  If you miss a single beat the audience is ready to change the channel on you... [bell goes off- bing] “thank you for playing, next contestant please” [exit stage left].
In order to tell my story it really wasn’t necessary to know what a Sholem Zochur is (it literally means “hello, boy” - it is a celebration for a newly born jewish baby boy on the first friday night after he is born).  Nor was it necessary to know what Shabbos Mevorchim is (it is the shabbos just before the new month begins when the new month is blessed by the congregation in shul.)
Nor was it necessary to know that Teves is the name of the new month being blessed.
So, every sentence is a fight to keep the story moving.  The next word may be the last word before the reader gives up.  “And that’s all the time we have, thank you for playing.” - never getting to the main point of the story.
When we stopped by this Sholem Zochur, the family asked Fischel to recount a story that they remember him telling them once in California.
I heard him saying, “Oh, that’s a long story.  I don’t think I can tell that over here.”
“Yes you can,” hollers one of the brothers.
“Let’s here it,” shouts another brother.  “Tell us the story.  We want to hear it.”
Fischel knew that it wasn’t the time to tell the story.  But his protests fell on deaf ears.  And, he finally agreed to tell it.
Sure enough, it fell flat.  It became a burden for people to stop what they were doing to listen to Fischel tell this story.  I can’t remember the basic idea of the story let alone any of the details.  I think it had something to do with preparing someone’s tax return.  I just remember watching Fischel go through the motions of telling a story that they requested while no one cared to hear him tell it this time.  (Good thing they didn’t know about the Moped story or else they would have insisted on him telling that one too.)
The next day Fischel and I were invited to another friend’s house for a shabbos day meal.  At one point in the meal I was asked by the host what I thought about Chabad.  This was supposed to be answered in a word or two, I think.  There wasn’t much time to dally.  I thought of a short story to tell that might capture what I was feeling at the time.  I thought of a whole chunk of a story that wouldn’t be too long.  But as I began I could sense the tension.  “Is this going to be a long story?” the host asked.
“No.  It’s not very long at all,” I continued telling the story.  I can’t remember what I said because no one was interested in more than a five second answer.  I just wanted to get to the end of the story.  I stated when the story was over so that they could go back to whatever they were more interested in talking about.
After we left the house, Fischel commented on how funny the turn of events was.  I was asked to answer a very loaded question that shouldn’t be answered in a single word.
“First they ask you a question that you could write a thousand page novel about and still not get to any definitive conclusion.  Then they cut you off after the first sentence.  Your whole answer may have taken all of about 40 seconds.  And, their complaints about how long winded you were took up more time than your whole answer.”
I didn’t think about it that way until Fischel pointed out the exact timing from an accountant’s perspective.  40 seconds.  That’s all it was.  I try not to take up too much time when I write or speak.  But in their minds it was too long.
I could probably write a whole short story about this but this is all the time I have to write about this.  And, I perhaps this is all the time you have to read about this.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Dreidel Device


Almost everyone knows that on Chanuka, we play with the special toy called the Dreidel. But where is the source for this custom, and why do we still do it till today?
The secret is that when the evil Greek King Antiachos decreed Torah study forbidden, we played the dreidel in order to cover-up the fact that we were really learning Torah... Check out the dreidel wizard:

How-to the Dreidel:

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Secret of Chabad


The secret of Chabad chassidus, and the Torah in general, is the power of Daat:

כי אף מי שהוא חכם ונבון בגדולת אין סוף ברוך הוא, הנה אם לא יקשר דעתו ויתקע מחשבתו בחוזק ובהתמדה

For even one who is wise (by utilizing his faculty of Chochmah) and understanding (by exercising his faculty of Binah) in the greatness of the blessed Ein Sof, yet, unless he applies his Daat and fixes his thought firmly and diligently on his understanding of G-d’s greatness,

לא יוליד בנפשו יראה ואהבה אמיתית, כי אם דמיונות שוא

he will not produce in his soul true fear and love, but only vain fancies.

He will only imagine that he fears G-d and loves Him. True fear and love are attained only by way of Daat.

ועל כן הדעת הוא קיום המדות וחיותן

Thus, Daat provides the substance and vitality of the middot (and is therefore termed a “mother” of the middot, another parent side by side with Chochmah and Binah).

והוא כולל חסד וגבורה, פירוש: אהבה וענפיה ויראה וענפיה

It comprises Chesed and Gevurah; that is to say, love with those other middot that are its offshoots, and fear with its offshoots.

These emotive attribute are the catalyst for keeping the whole Torah and it's mitzvas. This is why we only heard the first two of the ten commandments. This also the only true way to G-dly experiences and enlightenment. This is why we are commanded to recite the Shema Israel at least 3 times daily, and to pray three times a day, while including all of our in-between day to day activities in this energy of cleaving to Hashem. The sages say, halevai (wish you could) ve'hitpalel kol hayom (pray the whole day). The word for praying comes from the word meaning to unite and cleave (consciously, not just in deed but with feeling) ...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Does the fact that other nations are helping Israel mean that Moshiach is here?

Nation & World | Nearby nations help Israel battle raging forest fire | Seattle Times Newspaper

Does the fact that other countries are coming to help the Jewish people with the forest fire mean that the Moshiach is here? Have nations realized that we need to help each other in order to have a peaceful world? Has Esov been refined and is willing to help his brother Yaavov? Well we cannot say that Moshiach is here in full revelation but we can see that whatever the motives of the non-Jewish nations are in coming to help the Jewish people put out the forest fires in Carmel, they are coming to help and we do thank them for their help.

The Laws Concerning Moshiach
Chapters 11 & 12 of Hilchos Melachim from the Mishneh Torah of the Rambam


1. One should not entertain the notion that in the Era of Moshiach any element of the natural order will be nullified, or that there will be any innovation in the work of creation. Rather, the world will continue according to its pattern.

Although Yeshayahu [Yeshayahu 11:6] states, "The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard will lie down with the young goat," these [words] are an allegory and a riddle. They mean that Israel will dwell securely together with the wicked gentiles who are likened to wolves and leopards, as in the verse [Yirmeyahu 5:6], "A wolf of the deserts despoils them, a leopard watches over their cities." [In this era, all nations] will return to the true faith and no longer plunder or destroy. Instead, at peace with Israel, they will eat that which is permitted, as it is written [Yeshayahu 11:7], "The lion shall eat straw like the ox."

Similarly, other prophecies of this nature concerning Moshiach are analogies. In the Era of the King Moshiach, everyone will realize what was implied by these metaphors and allusions.

2. Our Sages taught: [Berachos 34b] "There will be no difference between the current age and the Era of Moshiach except [our emancipation from] subjugation to the [gentile] kingdoms."

The simple meaning of the words of the prophets appears to imply that the war of Gog and Magog [Yechezkal ch. 38] will take place at the beginning of the Messianic age. Before the war of Gog and Magog, a prophet will arise to rectify Israel's conduct and prepare their hearts [for the Redemption], as it is written: [Malachi 3:23] "Behold, I am sending you Eliyah(u) [6] [before the advent of the great and awesome Day of G-d]."

He will not come [in order] to declare the pure, impure, nor to declare the impure, pure; nor [will he come in order] to disqualify the lineage of those presumed to be of flawless descent, nor to validate lineage which is presumed to be blemished. Rather, [he will come in order] to establish peace in the world; as [the above prophecy] continues [Malachi 3:24], "He will bring back the hearts of the fathers to the children."

Some of the Sages say that Eliyahu will appear [immediately] before the coming of Moshiach.

All these and similar matters cannot be [clearly] known by man until they occur, for they are undefined in the words of the prophets. Even the Sages have no established tradition regarding these matters, beyond what is implied by the verses; hence there is a divergence of opinion among them.

In any case, neither the sequence of these events nor their precise details are among the fundamental principles of the faith. One should not occupy himself at length with the aggadot and midrashim that deal with these and similar matters, nor should he deem them of prime importance, for they bring one to neither the awe nor the love [of G-d].

Similarly, one should not try to calculate the appointed time [for the coming of Moshiach]. Our Sages declared: [Sanhedrin 97b] "May the spirits of those who attempt to calculate the final time [of Mashiach's coming] expire!" Rather, one should await [his coming] and believe in the general conception of the matter, as we have explained.

5. In that Era there will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance and all the delights will be as freely available as dust. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d. The Jews will therefore be great sages and know the hidden matters, and will attain an understanding of their Creator to the [full] extent of human potential; as it is written [Yeshayahu 11:9], "For the world will be filled with the knowledge of G-d as the waters cover the ocean bed."

Friday, December 3, 2010

Tanya -- Likutei Amarim, end of Chapter 1 -- the four evil characteristics of man.

שהן שתי נפשות

These are two nefashot — two souls and life-forces.

נפש אחת מצד הקליפה וסטרא אחרא

One soul originates in the kelipah and sitra achra.

והיא המתלבשת בדם האדם להחיות הגוף

It is this nefesh that is clothed in the blood of a human being, giving life to the body;

וכדכתיב: כי נפש הבשר בדם היא

as it is written, “For the nefesh of the flesh (i.e., the nefesh that sustains physical and corporeal life) is in the blood.”

וממנה באות כל המדות רעות מארבעה יסודות רעים שבה

From [this nefesh] stem all the evil characteristics, deriving from the four evil elements within it.

דהיינו: כעס וגאוה מיסוד האש שנגבה למעלה

Namely: anger and pride [emanate] from the element of Fire which rises upwards;

Once ignited by anger and pride, a man (like fire) soars aloft. Pride is the state of considering oneself superior to others. Anger too is an offshoot of pride. Would a person not be proud, he would not be angered when someone defied his will.

ותאות התענוגים מיסוד המים, כי המים מצמיחים כל מיני תענוג

the appetite for pleasures [emanates] from the element of Water, for water promotes the growth of all kinds of pleasure-giving things.

The ability of water to make pleasurable things grow indicates that concealed within it is the element of pleasure. Thus, the appetite for pleasure derives from the element of Water.

והוללות וליצנות והתפארות ודברים בטלים מיסוד הרוח

frivolity and scoffing, boasting and idle talk [emanate] from the element of Air; like air, they lack substance;

ועצלות ועצבות מיסוד העפר

and sloth and melancholy [emanate] from the element of Earth.

Earth is characterized by heaviness. A man encumbered by sloth and melancholy likewise senses a heaviness of the limbs.

וגם מדות טובות שבטבע כל ישראל בתולדותם, כמו רחמנות וגמילות חסדים, באות ממנה

From this soul stem also the good traits inherent in every Jew’s character, such as compassion and benevolence.

As the fires in Yerez Israel rage and most of us feel helpless to help, it is sad that the happy fires of Chanukah have been outdone in the news by the fires in Carmel. The only thing that many of us can try to do is to put out the raging fires of the etzer hara and the nefesh habahamis (animal soul) which rages inside of us and tells us to follow our base desires. Hashem should help us to put out the physical fires in Eretz Yisroel and bring on the geula shlema.

a Good Shabbos.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Wikileaks exposes truth about Obama Israel and the World -- video cartoon.

I believe this came from Omri Ceren

Congrats on God-World's 200th post!!!

Happy Chanukah everybody!!!

Matisyahu's Chanukas Song is a big Shame.

Matisyahu has made a big splash in the news with his new Chanukah single. I tried watching it but was shocked to see a half-dressed woman and him dressed up in a santa suit.
I understand the appeal to secular Jews and non-Jews, but the fact is, this kind of action takes the message of Chanuka and drags in down to the lowest of levels. The miracle of Chanukah is that the oil remained pure. The Torah was not lowered to worldly standards. The Godly wisdom remained Godly and holy, and was not brought down into the mud. The Greeks are יון in hebrew. the yud is chochma, the vov is hamshacha downward into the world and the final nun is that they took G-dly chochma and made it impure.
To make a video like this is to make fun of frum Jews, unfortunately, and I think it was a big mistake on the part of Matisyahu and Co.

This Chanukah, let's illuminate the world with the light of Torah and Mitvohs.
Chanukah starts tonight! May Moshiach come when we light the first candle tonight!

you can read about the video here: