Saturday, November 21, 2009

PARSHA - Toldos

In this week's Parsha, Toldot, we read about the famous twins in history, Jacob and Esau. As any child can tell you, Jacob was the "good" one and Esau was the "bad" one, and the two brothers never got along with each other.

But the Torah is not a history book; Torah means "teaching," it contains eternal lessons that are always relevant and have a direct impact on our daily lives.

Jacob and Esau represent two ways of looking at the world, two different life styles that man is forced to choose between. Esau's attitude was "carpe diem" - seize the day, with no thought for tomorrow. Jacob, by contrast, lived a more elevated existence, recognizing life's spiritual dimension.

According to Chasidic philosophy, every Jew is made up of two souls: an animal soul and a G-dly soul. Like Jacob and Esau, they too never get along, and are in constant conflict.

The animal soul is interested only in the physical; like an animal that walks on four legs, its head is focused downward rather than up at the sky. The only thing that matters is the here and now. The G-dly soul, however, looks upward. Why am I here? What's the real purpose of my life?

As we learn from this week's Torah reading, the true birthright belongs to Jacob, and our function as Jews is to elevate the world by imbuing it with G-dliness. The battle will always be there, but it's a battle we can win by choosing wisely.

Candle lighting time for L.A. is 4:29 pm

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Importance of 'Amen'

The Hebrew word "amen" means truthfulness, credence or belief. When we hear another reciting a blessing we respond with "amen"; thus affirming that we believe that which has just been said.

Tears fell from the angel, the officer of the Inner Chamber as he showed Rabbi Yishmael, the High Priest, what is in store for the Jews, the holy nation.

"He took me by the hand", relates Rabbi Yishmael, "and brought me into a chamber within chambers; a hidden place within hidden places, where many records were stored. He showed me written documents. In them were written all forms of troubles.

I asked him, "For whom are these troubles?"

He replied, "They are for Israel."

"And will they be able to withstand them?"

And he said, "Come tomorrow and I will show you troubles even beyond these."

So the next day he brought me within those chambers hidden within hidden chambers, and he showed me troubles even beyond those I had seen before. And I said to him, "My glorious one! Has Israel sinned so?"

And he replied to me, "Know that every day new decrees are formed against them, each day harsher than the day before. But the people of Israel gather in their synagogues and places of study and they respond, 'Amen! Yehay shmay rabba...'. And when they do this, then we do not permit these decrees to leave the inner chambers and to take effect."

Sunday, November 15, 2009

STORY - Reb Zushe...

Reb Zusha had gone to visit his rebbe, the holy tzadik Reb Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezritch. Before departing for home Reb Zusha mentioned to The Maggid that he needed to marry off his daughter. His rebbe immediately gave him a sum of three hundred rubles.

Reb Zusha was greatly relieved. For now his wife and daughter would be at ease.

On his trip home Reb Zusha passed through a Jewish village where he heard the sound of bitter weeping coming from a poor widow. The poor woman was about to marry off her daughter and on the way to the chupa lost her entire dowry, three hundred rubles! The wedding was now called off because the groom and his family refused to go on without the dowry.

Reb Zusha walked up to her and said, "I think I have found your money!. Can you tell me wht it looked like?"

"Why yes," she replied. "The money was in a packet of two fifties, and ten twenties, and was tied with a red string."

"Yes, that's exactly what I found!" replied Reb Zusha. "I will go to my inn and bring your money back."

Reb Zusha ran to the inn and changed his money for the denominations the widow had described and tied it with a red string. Meanwhile with great excitement the preparations for the wedding continued. As Reb Zusha presented the widow with the money, he said, "I am keeping one twenty ruble note as my reward"

"What!" screamed the widow. "How can you rob a poor widow of twenty rubles!

"This money is mine as a reward for my troubles!" said Reb Zusha.

After much yelling and screaming from everyone around, the case was brought to the local Rabbi. The Rabbi ruled: "Reb Zusha must give the widow back the twenty rubles."

But still, Reb Zusha refused to give up the money. One young man then quickly extracted the bill from Reb Zusha's pocket and they threw him out of the village.

Months later the village rabbi happened to encounter The Maggid of Mezritch and related to him this incident with his disciple, Reb Zusha.

The Maggid turned to the rabbi, "You must go to Reb Zusha and beg forgiveness. That money did not belong to the widow. I myself gave it to Reb Zusha to marry off his own child! He demanded twenty rubles because he wanted to avoid honor at any cost. He wanted this great mitzva to be completely pure."