Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Prohibition Against Gossip

1. The prohibition against telling many people L"H

It is forbidden to speak Lashon Hara against one another, even if the information is true, and even if told to only one person - all the more so is it forbidden to speak L"H before a group of listeners. The greater the number of listeners that one gathers to hear his L"H, the greater his sin, for the subject is further disgraced by the heightened publicity against him. Also, the speaker causes more people to sin by putting them in the position to listen to L"H.

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Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Sacrifices of God

"The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart,
O God, Thou will not despise" (Psalms 51:19).
"A broken spirit" connotes a lowly and humble spirit, and "a broken heart" relates to the breaking of physical desire; for the heart is the repository of desire, as it is said,

"Thou has given him his heart's desire" (ibid. 21:3).

The fact that the statement, "A broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise" is found in the psalm of repentance teaches us that the penitent is rendered acceptable to God through the breaking of physical desire, and that this last-mentioned element is a principle of repentance. Is is further stated in relation to repentance.

"...... to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the
contrite ones" (Isaiah 57:15).

source: XXXIII. First Gate / "The Gates of Repentance" Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona
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Friday, August 5, 2011

Petition for One Sabbath, Together

A grassroots group calling itself Emet 9 is calling for the Jewish people to unite by keeping at least one Sabbath day together. The group hopes that doing so will bring a better future for all Jews, and for the world.

Emet 9 has started a petition aimed at encouraging Sabbath observance on one day in particular – September 10, 2011, shortly before the upcoming High Holidays of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

“By coming together as one people as we did at Mt. Sinai we can only hope to annul any Heavenly decrees that may befall us in the upcoming months,” the group explained. “We do have the power to redirect the destiny of Israel and the Jewish world.”

The petition notes, “You have nothing to lose and only to gain by observing this mitzvah one time.” Organizers include links to a guide on how to keep the Sabbath, and to Sabbath times in various areas.

ONEG SHABBOS! So Happy to Be a Jew!

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Thursday, August 4, 2011

What Happened on the Ninth of Av?

The 9th of Av, Tisha b'Av, commemorates a list of catastrophes so severe it's clearly a day specially cursed by G d.

Picture this: The year is 1313 BCE. The Israelites are in the desert, recently having experienced the miraculous Exodus, and are now poised to enter the Promised Land. But first they dispatch a reconnaissance mission to assist in formulating a prudent battle strategy. The spies return on the eighth day of Av and report that the land is unconquerable. That night, the 9th of Av, the people cry. They insist that they'd rather go back to Egypt than be slaughtered by the Canaanites. G‑d is highly displeased by this public demonstration of distrust in His power, and consequently that generation of Israelites never enters the Holy Land. Only their children have that privilege, after wandering in the desert for another 38 years.

The First Temple was also destroyed on the 9th of Av (423 BCE). Five centuries later (in 69 CE), as the Romans drew closer to the Second Temple, ready to torch it, the Jews were shocked to realize that their Second Temple was destroyed the same day as the first.

SO MUCH MORE HAPPENED - and this is why we mourn these 9 days. We also mourn our present and last exile that we will be in.

read more here

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Wednesday, August 3, 2011

"Where is the Agreement?"

Rabbi Yehoshua Ben-Meir related the following story:

During the Yom Kippur War, I served as an army chaplain in an IDF division in the Golan Heights. It was a terrible war. The battles and the conditions were extraordinarily difficult. Every day we witnessed death before our eyes.

We had been taught in the Mercaz HaRav yeshivah that the redemption is a process, one that grows and advances, progressing from strength to strength. But in this war there was a feeling of retreat. The blow was terrible, the pain was searing. In those trying times, I felt a tremendous need to examine and clarify my beliefs. I needed to understand how this bitter war fit in the process of Israel's redemption.

After two months of fighting at the front, with no showers, in extremely harsh conditions, I received a short leave.

I went straight to Jerusalem. The hour was late, two o'clock in the morning. But I felt an urgent need to speak with the rosh yeshivah, Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook. I decided that I would first go to his house. Hesitantly, I knocked on the door of his apartment on Ovadiah Street. The rabbi peeked through the peephole. He immediately opened the door and said, "Give me the document."

Apparently the rabbi was expecting some document from the army. I was so grimy and dirty, I figured he didn't recognize me.

"Rabbi, it's me, Yehoshua Ben-Meir."

"Yes, yes," Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah responded. "Bring the document."

I had no idea what the rabbi was talking about. He took my hand, led me into his room, and sat me down on a chair. Again he insisted, "Show me the paper."

"Rabbi, it's me, Yehoshua Ben-Meir from the yeshiva."

"Yes, I know. The document. Bring me the document."

I was completely baffled. I still figured that the rabbi did not recognize me because of all the grease and dirt.

"'Rabbi, what document are you talking about?"

"You have an agreement with God how the redemption is supposed to take place. And God changed the agreement. So show me the document. Let us examine what is written there, and we will decide."

I heard the rabbi's words, and then - for the first time since the war broke out - I burst out in tears. Tears that released the pain and tension that had accumulated within me, from the horrible events that I had witnessed.

I was amazed how quickly the rabbi had understood me. In those few seconds, from when he saw me through the peephole until I entered the room, he had identified my problem and known the solution.

'Did We Not Learn?'

The rabbi sat with me for a long time, maybe two hours. He took down books from the shelves. Before starting to study, he said, "Perhaps you have not learned this. And if you have, perhaps you did not review it. And if you reviewed, perhaps you forgot. Did we not learn..."

The first book he opened was the commentary of thirteenth-century scholar Rabbeinu Bechaye. After God sent Moses to Egypt to redeem the people, matters only got worse. Moses complained to God, "Why have You made it worse for Your people?" (Ex. 5:22)

On this verse, Rabbeinu Bechaye noted that this situation is not unique to the redemption from Egypt. The future redemption will also be accompanied by many difficulties, by times of darkness that will conceal the light of redemption.

The rabbi opened the Maharal and the Kuzari and the Midrash, reviewing with me various sources. After two hours of study, I came out strengthened. I was armed with the spiritual strength to continue.

Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah had the genius to sense the needs of each student. He could plumb the depths of one's soul and provide the response one needed...

[From Mashmiya Yeshu'ah ('Harbinger of Redemption'), on the life of Rabbi Tzvi Yehudah Kook (1891-1982), the son of Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, pp. 357-358]

Comments and inquiries may be sent to: - Rav A.I. Kook on the Weekly Parasha

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Monday, August 1, 2011

The Gates of Repentance

"Good and upright is the Lord; therefore doth He instruct sinners in the way" (Psalms 25:8). Even if they have offended and rebelled exceedingly, and been utterly faithless, He has not closed the doors of repentance to then, as it is said, "Turn ye unto Him against whom ye have deeply rebelled, O children of Israel" (Isaiah 31:6), and, "Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backslidings" (Jeremiah 2:22).

The Torah in many instances exhorts us in relation to repentance. It is shown that penance is accepted even when the sinner repents because of his many troubles, much more so when his repentance proceeds from the fear and love of God, as it is said, "In thy distress, when all these things are come upon thee, in the end of days, thou wilt return to the Lord thy God and hearken to His voice" (Deuteronomy 4:30). And it is clear from the Torah that God assists the penitent when they are limited by their nature, and implants in them a spirit of purity whereby they may attain to the level of loving Him, as it is said, "And thou shalt return unto the Lord thy God, and hearken to His voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thy heart and with all thy soul" (ibid. 30:2); and in the same connection it is said, "And the Lord thy God will circumcise thy heart, and the heart of thy seed..."(ibid. 6) to attain to the love of God. The Prophets and The Writings are replete with references to repentance, so that all of the principles of repentance are contained withing them, as will be explained.

Rabbeinu Yonah of Gerona

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The 9 days have begun. Let us look inside to see where we can better ourselves - where we need to do teshuva, where we need to do more good deeds, where we need to guard our mouth from speaking loshon hora and guard our eyes from the unmodesty that surrounds us.


The Talmud (Berachos 3b) tells us: “A harp was hanging over King David’s bed. At midnight a north wind came and blew upon it and it played. King David arose immediately and studied Torah until the break of dawn…” Which verse teaches us this?

“Awake, my soul, awake, lyre and harp; I will awaken the dawn (Tehillim 57:9).”

The Maharsha points out that the word awake appears three times in this verse
corresponding to the three types of spiritual awakening. They are:

1. A person arouses himself.
2. A person uses another entity to arouse himself.
3. A person arouses another person (or entity).

King David aroused himself to study Torah from dusk till midnight — “Awake, my soul.” At midnight, the harp awakened him to rise as a lion — “Awake, lyre and harp.” Then King David awakened the morning — “I will awaken the dawn.”

King David’s vibrant study of Torah throughout the night was powered by all three
types of arousal — each one strengthening the next. We understand from this passage
that before a person can serve Hashem, he must be spiritually awake.

The month of Elul precedes the holy days of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. This month was designated by our Sages as a time for preparation to awaken and arouse ourselves for the upcoming Days of Awe. How can this be accomplished?

Rav Yisrael Salanter, the founder of the Mussar movement, teaches us that Mussar study is the primary and most effective way to open our hearts towards teshuvah (repentance) on Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur.

Stepping Stones to Repentance: A Thirty-Day Program was designed to guide you step by step through the preparation necessary to merit the abundant blessings of the Holy Days. Although it was designed especially for the month of Elul, one may begin Stepping Stones to Repentance at any time. Set aside a specific time each day to learn a daily segment of the program. Read each segment aloud, with feeling, and take time to absorb the profound concepts.

May Hashem bless you in your commitment to complete Stepping Stones to Repentance. May it awaken your heart, particularly during the designated Ten Days of Repentance, and may the collective repentance of klal Yisrael arouse mercy in Heaven that we may merit the final redemption and the rebuilding of the Beis HaMikdash (the Temple) soon and within our days!

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