22 August 2017

Forty Days of Purification

30 Menachem Av 5777
Rosh Chodesh Aleph

As shared by Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi...

Elul – the month preceding Rosh Hashanah – begins a period of intensive introspection, of clarifying life's goals, and of coming closer to God. It is a time for realizing purpose in life – rather than perfunctorily going through the motions of living by amassing money and seeking gratification. It is a time when we step back and look at ourselves critically and honestly, as Jews have from time immemorial, with the intention of improving. The four Hebrew letters of the word Elul (aleph-lamed-vav-lamed) are the first letters of the four words Ani l'dodi v'dodi lee"I am to my Beloved and my Beloved is to me" (Song of Songs 6:3). These words sum up the relationship between God and His people. In other words, the month preceding Rosh Hashanah is a time when God reaches out to us, in an effort to create a more spiritually-inspiring atmosphere, one that stimulates teshuva (repentance – coming closer to Hashem).


Rewind 3,000 years to the Sinai Desert. God has spoken the Ten Commandments, and the Jews have built the Golden Calf. Moses desperately pleads with God to spare the nation. On the first day of Elul, Moses ascends Mount Sinai, and 40 days later – on the seminal Yom Kippur – he returned to the people, with a new, second set of stone tablets in hand. For us as well, the month of Elul begins a 40-day period that culminates in the year's holiest day, Yom Kippur.


Why 40? Forty is a number of cleansing and purification. Noah's Flood rains lasted 40 days, and the mikveh – the ritual purification bath – contains 40 measures of water. Elul is an enormous opportunity. During this time, many people increase their study of Torah and performance of good deeds. And many also do a daily cheshbon – an accounting of spiritual profit and loss.

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Guilt is the pain of the spirit. It starts to act up when you have done something that is harmful to your soul. Instead of prompting bandages, antibiotic and painkillers it is meant to prompt feelings of regret and resolve never to repeat our spiritual failure [teshuvah]. The human being is unique in that we can change and grow. Guilt is the alarm system that tells us we are going in the wrong direction and have to make a behavioral adjustment.


Today when guilt strikes don't let it get you down. Appreciate the gift of G-d that warns you when you are in danger. Confront the problem with a plan to fix it! It's a minute that will save your life - literally!

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Teshuva literally means "return." When we "do teshuva," we examine our ways, identify those areas where we are losing ground, and "return" to our own previous state of spiritual purity. And in the process, we "return" to our connection with the Almighty as well. Every transgression creates a block between us and the Almighty. Making teshuva reconnects us to our Father in Heaven.


The process of teshuva involves the following four steps:


Step 1 - Regret. Realize the extent of the damage and feel sincere regret.

Step 2 - Cessation. Immediately stop the harmful action.
Step 3 - Confession. Articulate the mistake and ask for forgiveness.
Step 4 - Resolution. Make a firm commitment not to repeat it in the future.

The "sins" we do teshuva for on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are the instances we fell short of our full potential self. One word for "sin" in Hebrew is chait, which means "missing the mark." The disparity between our full potential and our present reality fuels our heartfelt teshuva. We have tremendous potential, and when we strive to fix those things which need improvement we are coming closer to fulfilling the incredible potential latent within each and every one of us.

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Confession is one of four crucial steps in the Teshuva process. However, some people fear confession believing that “I’m as rotten as my sins.” The human ego is too wobbly a table to load it up with a couple hundred pounds of wrong-doings. If I admit that I cheated on my exams, then I’m a despicable, dishonest cheat. If I admit that my outbursts of anger traumatize my children/employees/friends, then I’m an out-of-control, savage ogre. My wrong actions are not simply the garments that clothe my essential self; they become my image of who I really am. However, this couldn’t be further from the truth.


The Hebrew word chet does not mean sin at all. Chet appears in the Bible in reference to a slingshot which "missed the target." There is nothing inherently "bad" about that slingshot! Rather, a mistake was made ― due to a lack of focus, concentration or skill.


The same is true with us. When we engage in irresponsible or destructive behavior, we have simply misfired. Every human being has a soul, a pure piece of Godliness that distinguishes us from the animals. When we do something wrong, it is because the soul's "voice" has become temporarily muted by the roar of the physical body. This confusion is what we call the "Yetzer Hara." But our essence remains pure. We only need to make a few adjustments ― and we're back on target!


This is the idea of teshuva. Teshuva literally means "return." When we "do teshuva," we examine our ways, identify those areas where we are losing ground, and "return" to our own previous state of spiritual purity. And in the process, we "return" to our connection with the Almighty as well.

21 August 2017

Mashiach and Today's Solar Eclipse

29 Menachem Av 5777
Yom Kippur Katan

There are seven aliyot in a parshah, one for each day of the week. It is said that one can find hints and clues to the events of the day through reading the aliyah appropriate to that day. But, there are two ways to calculate it - either from Sunday to Shabbat or from the Wednesday preceeding to the Tuesday following Shabbat. Since today, Monday, has already been pointed out as a very important day, it being the occasion of The Great American Eclipse as well as Yom Kippur Katan prior to the new month of Elul, the month of repentance and preparation for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, let's look at the sixth aliyah of Re'eh and the second aliyah of Shoftim.
Sixth Aliyah of Re'eh (Devarim 15:1-18)
1 At the end of seven years you will make a release.2 And this is the manner of the release; to release the hand of every creditor from what he lent his friend; he shall not exact from his friend or his brother, because time of the release for the Lord has arrived.3 From the foreigner you may exact; but what is yours with your brother, your hand shall release.4 However, there will be no needy among you, for the Lord will surely bless you in the land the Lord, your God, is giving you for an inheritance to possess.5 However, if you hearken to the voice of the Lord, your God, to be careful to do all this commandment, which I am commanding you today.6 For the Lord, your God, has blessed you, as He spoke to you, and you will lend to many nations, but you will not borrow; and you will rule over many nations, but they will not rule over you.7 If there will be among you a needy person, from one of your brothers in one of your cities, in your land the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart, and you shall not close your hand from your needy brother.8 Rather, you shall open your hand to him, and you shall lend him sufficient for his needs, which he is lacking.9 Beware, lest there be in your heart an unfaithful thought, saying, "The seventh year, the year of release has approached," and you will begrudge your needy brother and not give him, and he will cry out to the Lord against you, and it will be a sin to you.10 You shall surely give him, and your heart shall not be grieved when you give to him; for because of this thing the Lord, your God, will bless you in all your work and in all your endeavors.11 For there will never cease to be needy within the land. Therefore, I command you, saying, you shall surely open your hand to your brother, to your poor one, and to your needy one in your land.12 If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you for six years, and in the seventh year you shall send him forth free from you.13 And when you send him forth free from you, you shall not send him forth empty-handed.14 You shall surely provide him from your flock, from your threshing floor, and from your vat, you shall give him from what the Lord, your God, has blessed you15 And you shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord, your God, redeemed you; therefore, I am commanding you this thing today.16 And it will be, if he says to you, "I will not leave you," because he loves you and your household, for it is good for him with you,17 Then you shall take an awl and put it through his ear and into the door, and he shall be a servant to you forever; and also to your maidservant you shall do likewise.18 You shall not be troubled when you send him free from you, for twice as much as a hired servant, he has served you six years, and the Lord, your God, will bless you in all that you shall do.
How interesting that slavery has been a major topic of converation in the US over the past week and here, on the day when all eyes are focused on that nation, this aliyah addresses that very issue.
Second Aliyah of Shoftim (Devarim:17:14-20)
14 When you come to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you, and you possess it and live therein, and you say, "I will set a king over myself, like all the nations around me,"15 you shall set a king over you, one whom the Lord, your God, chooses; from among your brothers, you shall set a king over yourself; you shall not appoint a foreigner over yourself, one who is not your brother.16 Only, he may not acquire many horses for himself, so that he will not bring the people back to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, for the Lord said to you, "You shall not return that way any more."17 And he shall not take many wives for himself, and his heart must not turn away, and he shall not acquire much silver and gold for himself.18 And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne, that he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah on a scroll from [that Torah which is] before the Levitic kohanim.19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord, his God, to keep all the words of this Torah and these statutes, to perform them,20 so that his heart will not be haughty over his brothers, and so that he will not turn away from the commandment, either to the right or to the left, in order that he may prolong [his] days in his kingdom, he and his sons, among Israel.
Wow! On the same day that the leading Western power of the gentile nations will experience a total eclipse of the sun by the moon, this aliyah discusses Israel's king! Halevai that the nations as represented by the sun will be eclipsed by Israel represented by the moon and crown her King Mashiach in accordance with G-d's instructions.
Commentary: A King in Israel
Israel as a nation had three commandments once it was established in its Land: (a) to request a king; (b) to eliminate the offspring of Amalek; and (c) to build the Temple (Sanhedrin 20b). Thus, it was not only permitted, but commanded that at some future point the nation should request a king; moreover, the prophecies about Messianic times, wihch represent Israel at its highest level, revolve around a king of the Davidic dynasty.
According to the nations' reckoning, today is Monday or Moon-day which follows after Sun-day. Today will surely be the moon's day as it merits to completely blot out the far larger, far brighter and far more powerful sun. 

If we take nothing else away from this event, let it be known and recalled that the day will surely come when Israel (the moon) will similarly eclipse the nations (the sun). When that day comes we will crown Mashiach our king and the moon will no longer be diminished, but will once again be equal to the sun as it was at the creation of the world.

Happy "Moon"-day!!

20 August 2017

To The 33rd Level And No Further?

28 Menachem Av 5777

Someone has been doing some figuring and has come up with the following interesting results regarding "The Great American Eclipse" to occur tomorrow across the United States:
...It begins in the 33rd state, ends at the 33rd parallel, and occurs on the 233rd day of the year, which is 33 weeks and 2 days into 2017. The eclipse will take 1 hour and 33 minutes to cross the country and occurs 133 days (inclusive) before the end of 2017.
All those 33s brought to mind Reb Dov Bar-Lieb's blog post in which he asserted that Eisav/Edom does not rise above the 33rd level of purity.
...The end for America is that it is dedicated to building Olam HaZeh, and will do whatever it can to prevent Mankind in general and Israel in particular from breaking through the 33rd level of purity. For above the 33rd level, the purpose for serving G-d is for its own sake.
Add to that the claim that Eisav/Edom's god Yeshu was cut off in his 33rd year. 

The fact that all these 33s are there and someone has noticed it and brought it to our attention says that it means something, but precisely what I can't definitively say. However, if I had to guess, I'd guess it means the US has reached some kind of limit where HKB"H is concerned.

And while the White House and the country itself are becoming ever more chaotic, they are relentlessly pursuing Israel - no doubt to their own detriment.

Arab foreign ministers proclaim: No peace without two-state solution
In preparation for the arrival of an American delegation to the Middle East, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority present a unified position: 'There is no peace without the establishment of a Palestinian state within the '67 borders.'
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority met on Saturday evening in Cairo to coordinate positions ahead of the expected arrival of an American delegation to the Middle East as part of the Trump administration's efforts to try to renew peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Trump to Send Delegation to Israel, Palestinian Authority and Arab States in New Peace Push
The delegation, headed by Jared Kushner, is expected to arrive in Israel in the last week of August.
For a nation which knows no limits and which accepts no limits, finding itself in a situation where limits are imposed upon it will be extremely difficult.

17 August 2017

The Jewish Connection to Charlottesville

25 Menachem Av 5777

By now, everyone knows what happened in Charlottesville, Virginia last Shabbat. I'm hearing Jews saying they have no opinion on it because it does not concern them. But, like everything that happens in the world, it does concern us because it is about us whether we realize it or not.

It was the Charlottesville City Council under the leadership of a Jewish mayor who made the decision to remove the statue of Robert E. Lee which was the instigating event for last Saturday's violence. And it was the ACLU, an organization traditionally associated with Jews, which petitioned the court the keep the rally at the location where violence broke out, against the request of city officials to move it to a more defensible venue.

The right-wing Conservatives hate leftist Jews because they are perceived to be promoters of homosexuality, loose morals, communism, socialism, race-mixing, etc. Via Hollywood, the media and the banking system, these Jews are perceived to be undermining the traditional fabric of society and culture and bringing the country to the point of destruction.

The leftist Democrats hate right-wing Jews for their "blind" support of Israel and anyone who takes a public pro-Israel stance which is usually right-wing Conservatives. It is their perception that the tight relationship between the government of Israel and Conservative leaders undermines peacemaking in the world and fuels the agenda of warmongers. They also have a sense, real or imagined, that the very soul of their country is at stake.

Like it or not, this watershed event will no doubt have far-reaching consequences for Jews everywhere. Because what affects one of us, affects all of us. And there is no winning side for Jews in this brewing civil war.

Why did Hitler hate Jews? 


14 August 2017

Israel: Pipeline For American Culture to the ME

22 Menachem Av 5777
NBA HEADS TO THE HOLY LAND TO DEVELOP TALENT, PROMOTE VALUES
JERUSALEM (AP) -- The NBA is heading to the Holy Land this week, bringing together some of the top emerging talent from across Europe as part of the league's push to attract more foreign players and expand its global reach.
...An NBA delegation, led by Commissioner Adam Silver, is in Israel as part of "Basketball Without Borders," a program that hosts training camps for top teenage players throughout the world.
...In an interview, Silver said the program aims to give players who have a legitimate chance of reaching the professional ranks a cultural and athletic experience that would be hard to match.
"It's a realization that in order to develop as an elite player at a relatively young age, you need to begin competing against other elite players. And also you need the benefit of top notch coaching," he said.
...Off the court, the program also promotes cultural awareness.
"Whatever region we're in, we educate the young folks about what's happening socially, politically, economically in the area they are in," Silver said. "It's life skills in addition to basketball. It's about the values of the game, like leadership and discipline and hard work and respect for each other."
Toward that goal, the program will sponsor a series of clinics and workshops for local youngsters that will include Israeli Jews as well as members of the Muslim, Christian and Druze minorities. Palestinian children from the West Bank will also be participating, Silver said. On Sunday, for instance, the program will dedicate a new "learn and play" center at Jerusalem's YMCA.
"We look for regions where we can have a bigger impact than just the game of basketball," Silver said.

..."What we'd like to see is using basketball to build bridges between cultures," he said. "I think it really is true that people, whether on a basketball court, or it's on a soccer pitch, when they compete together they see how much they really do have in common. In this case, it's a shared passion for basketball."
Also, the Israeli government, ever eager to mix Jews and non-Jews (especially among those of marriageable age) in the Holy Land, strikes again.
Dangling cash, Israel pushes universities to woo foreign students
The Council for Higher Education in Israel is seeking to attract international, Jewish and non-Jewish students to its universities to promote diversity and a more fertile exchange of ideas on its campuses.
...The council has allocated some NIS 300 million ($83 million) over six years to boost the number of foreign students in its universities and colleges. The idea is to make local academia more competitive with universities abroad and strengthen Israel’s branding as a country of international academic excellence. This will also help fight boycotts and increase diplomatic, social and economic ties with foreign countries, the council said.
“When you have people from different backgrounds you open yourself up to a variety of cultures and ways of thinking, and that enriches you,” Prof. Yaffa Zilbershats, the chairman of the council, said in an interview. “This openness will enrich those who come from abroad, but also those who are here.”

13 August 2017

The "Post-Truth Era": Prelude to Mashiach

21 Menachem Av 5777

I only heard this phrase for the first time today. Since we know well that truth is the only basis for reality and that every lie must be wrapped around a bit of truth in order to exist due to this fact, it stands to reason that a complete detachment from truth will cause this entire "post-truth" world to collapse and disappear from reality. This is the necessary prelude to the revelation of Mashiach and a world of total truth. 

The stage is set.
Are we living in a post-truth era?
"Post-truth" was the Oxford Dictionaries’ international word of 2016.... It describes a situation “in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief”.
...The Guardian's head of media Jane Martinson will be discussing the new era of post-truth and alternative facts with economist and BBC presenter Evan Davis and journalist and former Spectator editor Matthew d'Ancona, both of whom have recently published their accounts of the post-truth age. (Source)

The Post-Truth Era: Dishonesty and Deception in Contemporary Life

At one time we had truth and lies. Now we have truth, lies, and statements that may not be true but we consider too benign to call false. Euphemisms abound. We’re “economical with the truth,” we “sweeten it,” or tell “the truth improved.” The term deceive gives way to spin. At worst we admit to “misspeaking,” or “exercising poor judgment.” Nor do we want to accuse others of lying. We say they’re in denial. A liar is “ethically challenged,” someone for whom “the truth is temporarily unavailable.”

This is post-truth. In the post-truth era, borders blur between truth and lies, honesty and dishonesty, fiction and nonfiction. Deceiving others becomes a challenge, a game, and ultimately a habit. Research suggests that the average American tells lies on a daily basis. These fibs run the gamut from “I like sushi,” to “I love you.”

As the volume of strangers and acquaintances in our lives rises, so do opportunities to improve on the truth. The result is a widespread sense that much of what we’re told can’t be trusted. From potential mates to prospective employees, we’re no longer sure whom exactly we’re dealing with. Deception has become a routine part of the mating dance. Personnel officers take for granted that the resumes they read are padded. No wonder private investigation is a growth sector of the economy.

What motivates the casual dishonesty that’s become pandemic? Why do so many, even those with no apparent need to do so, feel a need to embellish their personal history? This question arises every time prominent figures are unmasked as fabulists: businesspeople, politicians, journalists, judges, military officers, police chiefs, beauty queens, newspaper reporters, South Carolina’s governor, the head of the United States Olympic Committee, and the manager of the Toronto Blue Jays. Branches are grafted onto their family trees. Unearned degrees show up on their resumes. Purchased medals appear in their display cases. Thousands of non-veterans say they fought in Vietnam. Scores more passed themselves off as Ground Zero rescue workers.

We can only understand the motives of such dissemblers by examining the sea in which they swim. Trends ranging from the postmodern disdain for “truth” to therapeutic non-judgment encourage deception. There is much incentive and little penalty for improving the “narrative” of one’s life. The increasing influence of therapists, entertainers, politicians, academics, and lawyers, with their flexible code of ethics, contribute to the post-truth era. So do ethical relativism, Boomer narcissism, the decline of community, and rise of the Internet.

Post-truthfulness builds a fragile social edifice based on wariness. It erodes the foundation of trust that underlies any healthy civilization. When enough of us peddle fantasy as fact, society loses its grounding in reality. Society would crumble altogether if we assumed others were as likely to dissemble as tell the truth. We are perilously close to that point. (Source)