Friday, September 25, 2009

PARSHA - Haazinu. Alter Rebbe Ahavat Yisroel - Yom Kippur

Parshat Ha'azinu begins with the words,
"Listen, O heavens, for I will speak! Let the earth hear the words of my mouth!"

The Midrash explains that Moshe was "close to the heaven," so he told them to "listen" - a term which suggests a closeness between speaker and listener. But since he was "distant from the earth," he told it to "hear", from afar.

Since every Jew has a spark of Moshe within his soul, it enables us to attain, to some small extent, the spiritual greatness of Moshe.
Thus, to some degree, we too can appreciate that - spiritual matters are more important than physical things - to be "close to the heavens and distant from the earth."

* * * * * * * * * * * *

In the midst of the Yom Kippur services, the Rebbe, Rabbi Shneur Zalman, the Alter Rebbe, interrupted his prayers and made his way to the nearby forest. There, he collected dry wood and branches. He carried them to a small house. He knocked on the door and then entered. Once inside, the Rebbe kindled a fire from the wood he had brought. He prepared a soup and he fed it, spoon by spoon, to the woman in the house who had just given birth.

We must take into account the magnitude and intensity of the Rebbe's Yom Kippur prayers which were on behalf of all the Jewish people. Yet, he saw that caring for a new mother was more precious before G-d than his exalted prayers.

A Jew's compassion and caring is driven by the fact that this Mitzva is an integral part of his/her relationship with G-d.

As the Alter Rebbe says, "Love of G-d and love of the Jewish people are equally engraved in every Jew's soul. However, loving of the Jewish people is superior, for you love whom your beloved loves."

Candle lighting time for LA is 6:28
Candle lighting time for Sunday, ushering in Yom Kippur is 6:25pm.
The fast ending Monday evening at 7:28pm

Shabbat Shalom!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Calling out from the depths of our soul

Yom Kippur, one of our holiest days, completes the "Ten Days of Repentance" which began on Rosh Hashanah. The verse that the Rabbis use to describe these days is "Search for G-d while He can be found, call upon Him when he is near" They explain that G-d is close to every Jew during these days. This knowledge and innate feeling helps each person make a greater effort to come even closer to G-d. During each of the Ten Days, this energy grows until it reaches its height on Yom Kippur,

Psalm #130,(that we add in our prayers this week begins with the words) "A song of ascents, out of the depths have I called you, G-d. My Master, listen to my voice, may Your ears hear my calls for grace". The simple meaning of the verse is that a person calls out to G-d from the depth of his pain and difficulties. The inner dimension of the verse requires from us something more: "Out of the depths" refers to a level of consciousness attainable by every Jew, that through our concentration and effort, we call to G-d from our innermost place, the depths of our soul.

The Baal Shem Tov said that each person gets a stream of blessings from heaven; a person's negative actions can cause those blessings to be reduced or blocked. When a person prays from the depth of his soul, digging deep, opening himself up, something changes in the person himself (!), altering him entirely. The Heavenly Court can then remove those blockages.

Let's not let the Ten Days of Repentance pass without taking full advantage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Yom Kippur at the Cantonists' Shul

The Cantonists were Jews who, by decree of Czar Nicholas I, had been snatched from their families when they were young children for a 25-year term of "service" in the Czar's army, where every cruel means had been employed to force them to abandon Judaism. The few that did survive were so emotionally and psychologically destroyed that they were never really able to live normal lives, and so they lived together in little villages.

One Yom Kippur Reb Mordechai, a follower of the third Chabad Rebbe, happened to lead the Prayers in a Cantonist's Shul.

They requested though of Reb Mordechai that one of the Cantonists themselves will lead Ne'ilah, the closing prayer of the holy day.

Reb Mordechai was in awe; he had never experienced such a minyan; comprised of Jews each of whom had been through such hardships, and only for the sake of G-d.

His soul flowed into the prayers, never had he sung so beautifully. Finally, it was time for Ne'ilah, the closing prayer.

Reb Mordechai stepped back, and one of the Cantonists then stood up and took his place at the podium. Before he began to lead the prayers, he started unbuttoning his shirt.

Reb Mordechai was about to protest: You can't take your shirt off in the synagogue!

But as the opened shirt revealed hundreds of scars; years upon years of deep scars.... each one because this man refused to forsake the G-d of Israel, Reb Mordechai gasped and tears ran from his eyes.

The Cantonist then raised his hands to G-d and said in a loud voice.

"G-d...Send us Moshiach! Redeem the Jewish people now!

"I'm not asking for the sake of our families, because we don't have families.

"I'm not asking for the sake of our futures, because we have no futures.

"I'm not asking for the sake of our livelihoods or our comfort, because we don't have any of those things either.

"We're just asking: Assey l'maan shemecha -- G-d! Do it for Your sake!"

He then closed his shirt and the prayers began.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Aseret Yemei Teshuva - Teshuva/Tefilla/Tzedak

The ten-day period beginning with Rosh HaShanah and climaxing on Yom Kippur is referred to as “The Ten Days of Teshuvah”.

We express the hope that on Rosh Hashanah G-d blessed us with a “good and sweet year” to come.

But there is no limit to goodness and blessing. Thus, during the Ten Days of Teshuvah we have the opportunity through our service, to cause G-d to grant us yet greater benefits from His “full and expansive hand.”

We say in our prayers, “Teshuva - repentance/ returning , Tefillah - prayer ,and Tzedaka -charity” avert evil and bring the good.

Teshuvah is a return to the self. While repentance involves dismissing the past and starting anew, teshuvah means going back to one’s roots in G-d and exposing them as one’s true character, making it the dominant influ­ence in our lives.

Tefillah - prayer - means, to attach oneself. In tefillah we seek to attach ourself to G-d. For while there may be those who do not lack anything and thus have nothing to request of G-d, there is no-one who does not need to attach himself to the source of all life.

Tzedakah means justice. The implication is that the donor gives because it is his duty. We have a duty to act towards others as we ask G-d to act towards us. And as we ask G-d for His blessings though He owes us nothing , so we are bound in justice to give to those who ask us, even though we owe them nothing.

These three;

Teshuva - Returning to one's innermost self.

Tefilla - attaching oneself to G-d.

Tzedaka - distributing one's possessions with justice

leads to a year “written and sealed” for good. A year of sweetness and plenty!