April, 2010 Archives

19
Apr

A Walk In The Garden

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Music of Halacha, Spiritual Growth

I wish that I could have walked behind Elijah and Elisha as they headed to where Elijah would rise up to heaven in a storm. I can’t even imagine what the two giants, Rebbi and student, were discussing as they walked.

I wish I could have walked alongside Moses as he led the Children of Israel through the desert. I want to listen in to his conversations with the people around him as they crowded around him soaking in every word of the greatest prophet.

I wish that I could have walked with Abram as he traveled through the land of Canaan for the first time, discovering the land where his descendants would create their future. I wish that I could have walked with him after God said, “Walk with me and be pure.” What did he say to the people around him? What did he feel?

Of all the walks I dream of joining, none approaches the power of God walking with Adam through the Garden in Eden, introducing each tree to Adam. Did He explain how each tree, fruit, and flower expressed a different aspect of His Unity? I want to walk with them and listen, ask, challenge, and simply soak in the experience of walking with God.

I always understood Halacha as walking and growing. Halacha pushes us forward to grow and constantly move and progress as a human being. I learned on a walk this past Shabbat that Halacha is our way of joining God and Adam as they walked through the Garden.

My very dear friend, Dr. Larry Biel, invited me to join him on a Spiritual walk around some lakes in Minneapolis. He sort of warned me that it was a long walk, but since I walk more than three miles each day, I wasn’t intimidated. He left out the insignificant detail of the walk being more than six miles.

We began the walk with another man, and were soon joined by another two, and then picked up more people as we headed toward the lake. I was looking forward to a nice quiet walk. My new friends had something else in mind.

They began asking questions about everything in Judaism. We discussed the Holocaust, Jewish education, Halacha, prayer, Shabbat, love and, I can’t remember how many more topics. The questions continued for hours. The distance didn’t matter. I was flying.

I could tell you about these extraordinary human beings by sharing how some of them walk more than five miles back and forth to synagogue every Shabbat. I could tell you that these are people who have struggled against terrible odds and thrived with grace, beauty and joy. Their stories would not begin to explain what makes these human beings so spectacular.

I was walking with people who passionately love their Judaism. They are all serious thinkers who are determined to find the truth and beauty of Torah and service of God. They do not take anything for granted. They do not simply accept information. They challenge, probe, ask and argue until they have clarity.

I felt as if I was walking in a scene from the Talmud with people debating important ideas at the highest intellectual levels.

They wanted to know why I had to find a rest room and would not relieve myself in the bushes. They wanted to know why I couldn’t use the lake. They didn’t just want to know the law; they wanted to understand the lessons of the laws and how they could apply those lessons to their lives. They understood that every single Halacha has a life-changing lesson. They wanted to debate the conflict between the laws of Shabbat and the law that prohibits us from waiting to relieve ourselves. (Not an easy debate when you are desperate!)

We began talking at 4pm. We arrived in the synagogue at 7:15. I thought we had walked for an hour. I was wrong. We walked above and beyond time. We walked together with God and Adam in the Garden. We took the true walk of Halacha. They are not the most knowledgeable Jews, nor the most observant, but I have no doubt that it was for such people that God walked with Adam through the Garden. It was for such people that He gave us the gift of Halacha.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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16
Apr

Have Your Shoes Shined & Be Inspired

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations

There was something different about the man shining shoes in the airport terminal. He carried himself with dignity, and he did not just sit and wait for people to come to him, he walked around the gates inviting people to come to his stand and have their shoes shined. I could not resist, and not only do my shoes now shine, my face was shining as I walked away from this man.

Less than a year ago, he was sitting in one of the executive offices of a major corporation, earning a large salary. He lost his job when his company downsized, and he immediately began to look for work. He refused to complain about his misfortune and was determined to do any kind of work to support his family rather than sit at home “above” the indignity of shining shoes.

“There is more dignity in this than in sitting and waiting for a better job.”

He even uses his new job to network with travelers, collecting their business cards and handing out his resume. The man shining my shoes had more dignity than so many of the people I regularly meet.

He spoke only of the good in his life, his son who is a Navy Seal, his daughter who is an accountant, and his twin granddaughters. He spoke with such joy about his blessings that I realized that here was a man who is what he is and is not defined by what he does for a living.

My shoes have never looked so good. He saw my face and said, “I was in the navy for years. I wanted your shoes to shine the way ours did to pass inspection.” He actually wanted me to walk with shoes that had more dignity.

I stood behind a large sign and listened to him speak to his next customers. This man who has such inherent dignity spoke to everyone in such a manner that he shared his sense of dignity with them.

I don’t know your name, sir, but thank you for an important reminder of where we can all find our dignity; inside ourselves. It won’t come from anywhere else.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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16
Apr

Friends & Teachers

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations, Relationships

I am sitting on a plane on my way to visit a very good friend, one of those rare people who qualify as a good friend. We call each other and we email, but I actually need to spend time with him. I met him a little more than a year ago, and within the first half hour I knew that I had a new friend for life. He doesn’t hesitate to argue with me, point out when he believes I am making a mistake, or to receive the same from me. He too was a close student of my father’s zt”l, and ybcl”c, my Rebbi, Rabbi Zweig. The world is a better place for me because he is my friend. This particular friend is a master teacher of any Torah topic, but he is the world’s best teacher of how to be a Boteiach.

Yesterday I learned that a friend from thirty years ago, passed away. I was his Rebbi, and he was my boss when I worked for 3H Electronics in Sunnyvale, CA in 1983. We constantly fought (admittedly, usually my fault), learned, laughed, and shared Torah thoughts. We could go 5 years without speaking to each other and then call and email every day for months. He called me a few days ago while undergoing dialysis to share a Torah thought he heard from Chacham Mordechai Eliyahu. His children saw my number on his cell phone and realized that, although he had stopped speaking to anybody but family a few months ago, he continued to speak with me. I cannot recall a single conversation with him since 1983 that did not have some words of Torah. Even when we were having a heated argument, he would pause, chuckle and say, “Rabbi Simcha, this reminds me of something I once heard…”

Our relationship was so irregular that I couldn’t understand why I was so devastated by his death. I had to go to a house of mourning where an acquaintance is sitting Shiva, the 7 Days of Mourning, and then run to teach a class and then another and then yet another, until 2AM. I did not have an opportunity to think about my friend until now as I am sitting on the plane. I realized that Halfon too, was a master teacher.

Here are two of his favorite stories, both offered to me in the perfect moment for each:

Three white men were captured by a tribe of Indians. The first is brought to the chief of the tribe who says, “You have a choice; death or Roo Roo.” The white man had no idea what Roo Roo was, but at least it wasn’t death. So, he chose Roo Roo.

All the members of the tribe began cheering when they heard his choice. They took him, spread him out on the ground and began beating him for hours and hours until he barely had any life remaining. But, he lived.

The chief made the same offer to the second white man, “Death or Roo Roo?” The man thought about it and realized that although the first had suffered terrible things, he was still alive. “I choose Roo Roo.” The tribe cheers. They spread him out on the ground, and he suffered a multi hour Roo Roo, but he still was alive.

The chief looked at the third man and before he could offer any choice, the man said, “I choose death!” The crowed booed.

The chief said, “OK. Death, But first… a little Roo Roo!”

“Rabbi Simcha,” Halfon said, “Just remember, no matter what will happen, people will want to get in a little Roo Roo. Don’t think you can avoid it!”

Halfon’s father and uncle were wealthy merchants in Cairo. Every Friday morning, widows with children, Jews, Muslims and Christians. would line up outside the Hamaoui offices to receive their milk money. All their names wre in a ledger with a record of how many children each woman had. She would sign othe date and receive her money. Halfons’ father and his uncle would take turns handing out the money.

One Friday, Halfon’s uncle was confromnted by a woman who insisted that she had not collected her money the week before. Mr Hamaoui checked the book and showed her that she signed the book on the previous Friday.

“Liar! Thief! You forged my signature so you could keep my money!”

“Why would I do that? This is all my money that I am sharing with you.”

The woman began shrieking in a loud voice and she was soon joined by all the women in line.

Halfon’s father ran out to see what was going on. Realized what was happenoing, took the accuser into his office, apologized for his brother’s bahavior and even gave her extra money.

Halfon’s uncle was furious. “Do you realize that now everyone in the marketplace believes her and not me?”

Halfon’s father responded, “If someone acts in such a desperate way it is because they are desperate. Who knows what she is going through?”

“Rabbi Simcha,” said Halfon after hearing my tale of woe about someone who stole a fortune of money from me, “desperate people do desperate things.”

I could go on for pages with Halfon’s stories and advice. He is a living presence in my life and always will be. Goodbye, my friend.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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13
Apr

I Am A Thanker!

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Prayer, Reflections & Observations

I woke up this morning thinking of Willa Cather and then remembered what my father zt”l would have said:

“The sun was like a great visiting presence that stimulated and took its due from all animal energy. When it flung wide its cloak and stepped down over the edge of the fields at evening, it left behind a spent and exhausted world.” – Willa Cather

I know exactly what she was describing! Oh! I remember how as a child I would wake up and see the sun already shining, and couldn’t wait to spend the day outside playing soccer and swimming, riding my bike and drinking soda pop. The view outside my window filled me with energy that burned through me the entire day, until I would come back upstairs only when it was dark, spent and exhausted.

The problem was that the important things had to wait until I went to Yeshiva with my father to pray. Inevitably, the best mornings were on Mondays and Thursdays when prayers take an extra 15 minutes or so. Even worse; I had to learn with my father for 30 precious minutes that could have been so much better used playing with my friends Benno Tutor and Morry Zelkovich.

My father did not need his probing intelligence to figure out that I was fidgeting. What would happen if the kids had already chosen their teams before I arrived? (Not that anyone ever chose me to be on their team! You will be shocked to learn that I was not a very good ball player.)

“I’ll let you run home right now if you can answer one question,” he offered. I was already suspicious; one question? “OK.”

“I assume that the first thing you said this morning when you woke up was “Modeh Ani. What do the words mean?”

Wow! Such an easy question. “I thank You,” I answered and started to get up to run home and play.

“Nope! It means “I am a Thanker! Did you thank God for such a wonderful morning? Saying ‘Thank You,’ does not make you a Thanker. You have to be a Thanker. Your coming to pray before playing and your learning for a few minutes means that you didn’t simply say ‘Thank You.’ You acted as a Thanker. Now you can go.”

It has been a long time since I woke up with such energy and joy. I’m still working on being a Thanker.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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9
Apr

Contemplations

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations, Spiritual Growth

“Two men, both depressed, are conversing under Brunelleschi’s newly constructed dome. One of them lists a number of traditional remedies for low spirits, wine, music, the company of women, and exercise. But, to these he adds a new remedy; the contemplation of giant hoists of the kind Brunelleschi had devised to raise his creation. “ On The Tranquility of The Soul

The man finds more joy in contemplating Brunelleschi’s brilliant hoists than in what was the largest and most magnificent dome in the world. He found more in the genius of the work rather than the result. Would he have found the same joy in contemplating the Mishkan? It was less magnificent than Brunelleschi’s Dome, but he did not seem intrigued by the magnificence of the dome.

He contemplated the brilliance necessary to construct the dome. The genius of the Mishkan was hidden, for it was spiritual brilliance that infused the building and its vessels. There were no giant hoists or mechanical marvels functioning on perfectly placed cogged wheels.

No, I imagine that people did not spend hours contemplating the structure of the Mishkan. I picture them far more intrigued by God’s fire burning on the Altar, and the cloud that hovered above the Mishkan.

They were not contemplating genius, but their relationship with God with its sense of infinite possibility.

When I lifted my Tefillin this morning, I contemplated their outside. The inside is enclosed, but I know what is there. My Tefillin afford me the same opportunity to savor my relationship with God.

I kept this in mind as I prepared my wife’s Shabbat candles. They are beautiful, but their power is not in their beauty, but in the relationships they reflect; our relationship to each other, and our relationship with God. It is in that that I find the Tranquility of My Soul.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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8
Apr

Eating

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Music of Halacha, Portion of the Week, Spiritual Growth

“These are the creatures that you may eat from among all the animals that are upon the earth.” (Leviticus 11:2) These words echo the first commandment given to Adam in the Garden. Although most will say that the first Mitzvah was to prohibit Adam from eating of the Tree of Knowledge, in fact, the first was actually to eat! “Of every tree in the Garden you may freely eat,” (Genesis 2:16) is more accurately translated, as “you must eat!”

God wanted Adam to eat from every tree in the Garden. He wanted Adam to taste the incalculable assortments of fruit. God wanted Adam to experience the countless expressions of love in creation.

“God will judge us for everything we could have tasted and did not; “Why did you not take advantage of all that I created for you?” (Jerusalem Talmud, Kiddushin)

“Eat,” God says, sounding like the stereotypical Jewish mother. “Experience and enjoy all that I created for you.”

We become so wrapped up in the laws of what we may not eat that we forget that the first Mitzvah was and is, to eat and enjoy God’s creation.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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8
Apr

The Magic of Halacha

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Music of Halacha, Portion of the Week, Reflections & Observations

Rabbi Katz zt”l was my rebbi in the laws and practice of Shechita – Ritual Slaughtering. He was a magnificent human being in many ways. He always spoke gently. He never spoke negatively of anyone or anything. He spent every moment possible studying Talmud. He felt and acted as if he was sitting in the Telshe Yeshiva Beit Midrash each time he sat before an open Gemara, a volume of the Talmud. I learned a lesson from him about Halacha, Jewish Law, on the day I first actually slaughtered an animal. I had not been able to eat meat since I began spending my days in Shamrock Meats in Los Angeles. Rav Katz repeatedly spoke of compassion for each animal before and during Shechita. He even cared about the care and dignity we gave the animal after Shechita. On the day I first actually shechted, he invited me to eat dinner at his home. Rebbitzen Katz served steak, and I was so shaken by my experiences that day that I didn’t want to eat. “Did you shecht or did you kill?” he asked. “I can understand that if you killed those animals that you would not want to eat. Shechting however, is a Mitzvah, and if done properly was a holy act. Halacha transformed the act of killing the animal into an act of making it holy. If that is what you did, you will not have a problem eating.” I ate. Rav Katz reminded me that Halacha is not a series of prescribed acts. It is a way to transform everyday actions into something holy. It had never been as clear to me as it was at that moment. Author Info: Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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7
Apr

The Powerful and The Steady

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Reflections & Observations, Spiritual Growth

Tens of trees in Fieldston were ripped from the ground in those recent winds. There are giant trees lying on the street with huge chunks of the street piled around them. All the people taking Pesach walks stopped to observe the damage to the neighborhood. “We are so vulnerable to nature,” was the typical comment.

While everyone else was looking at the destroyed trees, I chose to examine the flowers that grew in a pile of rocks, and a healthy root that had, over the years, snaked through the sidewalk and stretched its tentacles for twenty feet. I looked closer and realized that there were more life forms growing on the exposed sections of the roots.

While everyone else saw the power of nature in the felled giant trees, I saw its power in the flower that could not be stopped by a pile of stones, and by a root that could push up an entire chunk of sidewalk.

We were focused on two forms of power; the extraordinary power of almost hurricane winds, and the simple, steady power of the life of the trees and flowers around us.

Pip finished his business and it was time to move on to his next favorite spot, which is just in front of a stone house with magnificent trees that are in full bloom. The trees are gorgeous. They transform the house into a painting. Even I as enjoyed their beauty; I was saddened when I reflected on how short a life span the flowers have. In two weeks all the pink, purple and red will disappear and those trees will become big beautiful green trees. The magnolias will disappear. The cherry blossoms will fall. I want those people to plant a series of trees that will flower over the spring and summer months. They will need a larger front yard, and, it seems to me, a better gardener.

My wife was wondering why I focused on the temporary, and not the long-term, beauty, and yet, I had earlier chosen to focus on the long-term and not the extraordinary power of nature. “Both, the unusual and the long-term are important, powerful and magnificent. Don’t focus on only one or the other!”

It seems that the Sages of the Anshei Knesset HaGedolah took Debbie’s approach: “Be deliberate in judgment, and nurture many students to become independent.” The Chassid Ya’avetz explains that the Sages were reminding us that we constantly fluctuate between potential and action.

“Deliberate in judgment,” is a reminder of the need to be steady and consistent. “Nurture many students to be independent,” is a reminder to nurture the bursts of creative energy and potential.

We have to nurture the bursts of creativity and develop consistency in action. We need the power of the hurricane winds, and the steady strength of the growing roots to lift large segments of a sidewalk. We need the surge of the magnolias and cherry blossoms and we need the plainer consistency of the tree after the flowers have fallen.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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4
Apr

Surprise!

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Reflections & Observations, Spiritual Growth

Because there was nothing in the cosmic order, no unsolved puzzle, no tailor-made niche, that necessitated the muon’s existence, the Nobel Prize-winning particle physicist Isidor Isaac Rabi greeted the discovery of the muon with a less than enthusiastic “Who ordered that?” Nevertheless, there it was.

Brian R. Greene – The Elegant Universe

I don’t know about you, but had I been an Egyptian chasing after the Children of Israel, having trapped them between my army and the sea only to watch the sea split just in time. I would not have chased them inside the water. I would have been too surprised.

I’m not sure that even as one of the Children of Israel that I would not have been too surprised to enter the split sea.

One major surprise was not enough. There are hundreds of Midrashim that describe one surprise after another for the Children of Israel as they crossed the sea. Thirsty? Surprise! A water fountain supplying Dr Brown’s black cherry soda appeared. Hungry? Surprise! Hershey bars, Chalav Yisrael, of course, appeared. Worried about your new shoes? Surprise! The sea floor was not only completely dry, it was a magnificent mosaic.

The mosaic was probably less necessary than the Muon, which failed to surprise Dr Rabi, but there it was. The Sages describe the splitting of the sea as one surprise after another.

We were at the beginning of our relationship with God, and He wanted to teach us that this relationship will never grow old. It will always be filled with exciting surprises…

That is, if we hold on to our ability to be surprised, unlike Dr Rabi’s underwhelming reaction to the muon’s existence.

What happened to those surprised people? The surprise did not stop the Egyptians in their tracks. They were too focused on killing their former slaves to react even for a second. The surprises did not stop the former slaves from forgetting all the miracles the minute they saw all the Egyptian gold and silver washing ashore. They were so focused on their new found wealth that they lost their ability to rejoice in all the surprises.

Each time I read the text of the Torah I receive a surprise; a new insight, a question I had never noticed, a word that opens secret treasures. I will celebrate the gift of “Surprise!” these final days of Pesach, and pray that God will continue to surprise me every day.

Author Info:

Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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2
Apr

With A Pen In Hand – Or – Why I Keep My “Service of God” Notebooks

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer, Reflections & Observations

“With a pen in hand I have successfully stormed bulwarks from which others armed with sword and excommunication have been repulsed.” G.C. Lichtenberg (1780)

Solomon’s Temple did not survive the Babylonians. His pen survived the Babylonians, the Persians, Greeks, Romans, Crusades, pogroms, Germans, and everyone else who attempted to destroy his wisdom. We spend lifetimes attempting to discern all the wisdom that poured from his pen, searching for direction and insight. Solomon’s pen still lives.

Solomon’s Temple did not survive more than 410 years, but the words he wrote describing the connection with God we all experienced on the day of the Temple’s dedication, are as alive today as they were more than three thousand years ago.

I pray and experience a powerful sense of connection. I am blessed with insights. I take those experiences and insights and use my mighty pen to record the moment. Those written notes pulsate with passion. They are not only alive even many years after being written, they inspire more insights and plant the seeds for even greater experiences. They are a song that stimulates more songs. They are a song of songs.

Author Info:
Learn & discover the Divine prophecies with Rabbi Simcha Weinberg from the holy Torah, Jewish Law, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Prophecies. The Foundation Stone™ is the ultimate resource for Jews, Judaism, Jewish Education, Jewish Spirituality & the holy Torah.

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