November, 2010 Archives

28
Nov

The Music of Halacha: Chanukah: Law & Custom

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Music of Halacha

The majesty and music of Halacha is evident in every detail of the Chanukah laws. The laws designed by the sages afford us insight into their understanding of the Chanukah battles, victories and miracles. We should begin by clarifying what is law and what is custom.

“Our sages taught that the basic Mitzvah of Chanukah is one candle for each household. Those who want to beautify the law light one candle for each person. Those who want to add even more beauty: The House of Shammai taught that he should light eight candles, decreasing each night of the holiday until he lights only one candle on the eighth night. The House of Hillel taught he should light one candle the first night, adding one candle each night, until he lights eight candles on the final night of Chanukah.” (Shabbat 22b) The Mitzvah of the Chanukah menorah is fulfilled with a single candle and any additional candles are simply to count the days.

We mark the miracle with the Menorah in the Temple with our menorah and yet, rather than light seven candles, as they did in the Temple, we light only one. The sages went to great lengths to create parallels between the Chanukah menorah and that of the Temple. (Ran, Shabbat, Chapter 2) Yet, we do not make any attempt to recreate the Menorah with the number of candles. We are remembering a solitary candle, not a single jar of oil, but a single candle, perhaps a particular candle.

There was a distinct candle on the Temple menorah. The “Ner Ma’aravi”, or the westernmost candle was different from the other six candles of the menorah. The Torah refers to this candle as “Ner Tamid”, or the “Eternal Light”. The Kohanim would relight only this candle in the morning if it went out after burning all night. The other six candles only had to burn through the night. The Ner Tamid was constant. The other six were not. The Chanukah candle is to remember this specific candle.

The Temple candles were understood not only as a symbol of God’s light, but also as an actual source of light in the world. The light of the six candles was considered the source of prophecy. Prophecy was present in the world as long as the light of the six candles burned bright. Samuel could receive his first prophecy only as long as the light of the menorah was still burning.

There was another source of light on the menorah, the Ner Tamid. This light was more constant and more permanent than the other light. This light was the light that is granted to the wise. It is the source of perception and insight. It is illumination that goes far beyond any wisdom. It is the ability to see the essence of the world, the light of clarity that was present only at the beginning of Creation. This light is constant. It did not disappear with the destruction of the Temple and the loss of the menorah. (Zohar, volume 2, 6b)

The Chanukah candle recreates the light of wisdom, not the light of prophecy, so we light only the one, our celebration of the Eternal Light of the Temple menorah.

The Chanukah laws teach us that we celebrate the gift of wisdom on Chanukah. It is not enough to light the candle; our festival must be a celebration of the wisdom we have been granted in the Torah. The candles point us in the direction of wisdom and the light we can discover and apply from within the wisdom of the Torah.

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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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28
Nov

What is The Reason? Chinuch & Chanukah

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, What is the Reason?

In 1984 you dedicated a small cemetery near Saratoga Springs and you seriously considered slaughtering a rooster for what you called the “Chanukat Beit Hakevarot.” I thought you were a little crazy, but since I’ve been reading your website I suspect that you had a good reason. What was it? Why did you decide to not do the thing with the rooster? DO

I was “dead” serious: The Ma’avaor Yabok (Sefat Emet, Chapter 11) teaches in the name of Rabbi Yehudah HaChasid that one should bury a rooster, “Gever,” in an empty grave to weaken and hide the power of “Din,” judgment that derives from the Angel Gavriel. The Pachad Yitzchak (Erech Bet HaKevarot) mentions that many have the custom of slaughtering a rooster without a blessing and burying it next to the first person buried in a new cemetery.

I decided to not do it because of the Chatam Sofer (Y”D 138) and the Pitchei Teshuvah (Y”D 179) who are critical of those who slaughter a rooster before entering a new home for the first time – Chanukat HaBayit –  to ward off Sheidim, or, Demons. They rule that it is absolutely forbidden as such actions and beliefs are, “Darchei Emori,” “The Ways of the Emorites.”

You once visited my home on Chanukah and insisted that I use new wicks each night. My Rav said there is no such law. Did you have a source? You also mentioned a correlation between the Menorah and the Cloud of Glory & Pillar of Fire that guided us through the desert. Sorry, but I don’t remember how they relate. AP

The Eliyahu Rabbah quotes the Tanya Rabbati and the Kol Bo also says that one should use new wicks each night of Chanukah since the miracle was renewed each day of Chanukah and because they used new wicks each day in the Beit Hamikdash.

No need to be sorry about forgetting the connection: The Machzor Vitri (715) writes that we light as long as people are walking home from the marketplace since the verse describing the Cloud says, “The cloud did not leave the people during the day.”

Did you once teach us in your Jewish History class in YULA that there was also a miracle with the Mizbei’ach in the Chanukah story? JS

The Chidah (Midbar Kadmut, page 61) teaches that when the Chashmonaim rebuilt the Altar, they could not find “Holy” fire, and it rose up by itself from the stones of the Altar. He says that there is a hint in the fact that the gematria of Menorah and “Aish,” or fire, is the same.

One of your students told me that you said that there is no Mitzvah of Chinuch after a child reaches Bar or Bat Mitzvah. That’s nuts! Anonymous

The Tziyunim LaTorah (12) agrees with you that there is still a Mitzvah of Chinuch after Bar or Bat Mitzvah. I don’t think he would agree with your calling my words, “Nuts!”  My sources are Rashi,the Ran, and the Meiri on Succah, who all rule that after Bar Mitzvah it is not Chinuch, but Tochacha – Rebuke. (As explained by the Debritziner on Chinuch Banim)

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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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28
Nov

Chanukah Hallel: Paragraph One Part Three: A Song of Teshuvah

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

The words of this psalm are to be considered in light of the verse, “I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance neginati in the night; I commune with my own heart.” (Psalm 77:6-7) What is meant by, “I call to remembrance neginati”? Rabbi Aibu and Rabbi Yehudah bar Shimon differed. Rabbi Aibu took it to mean that the congregation of Israel said to the Holy One, Blessed is He, “I call to remembrance the breaking of my enemies’ power,” neginati meaning, ‘the breaking,’ as indicated in the verse, “God, the Most High has delivered (miggen) your enemies into your hands.” (Genesis 14:20) And so the congregation of Israel says, “Because I call to remembrance the breaking of my enemies’ power in the night, therefore I commune with my own heart.” (Midrash Tehillim 113.1)

The Mahari Cohen (Son-in-law of the Maharal of Prague) reads Rabbi Aibu as, “I call to remembrance how I was handed over into my enemies’ power.” The proof-text from Genesis is from the Covenant of the Pieces, in which Israel was “handed over’ into multiple exiles with a promise of redemption. The internal conversation described by Rabbi Aibu is one of Teshuvah: “I converse with myself and reflect on why God placed me under the power of my enemies.”

A true Servant of God, the singer of this Psalm, will attempt to understand why God sent us into exile; what can we improve? How can we change?

This is a joyous song. Rabbi Aibu believes that an internal conversation of Teshuvah – repairing our relationship with God – will be a joyous song. Teshuvah is sung with the expectation that we can repair our relationship with God, and that He will repair His relationship with us. It is a song of the infinite possibilities empowered by Teshuvah. It is a celebration of how even we, Servants of God, are always afforded the possibility of improving our relationship with our Master. The same possibilities symbolized by the increasing candles of each night of Chanukah.

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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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28
Nov

Chanukah Hallel: Paragraph One Part Two: Becoming A Servant of God

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

The words of this psalm are to be considered in light of the verse, “I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance neginati in the night; I commune with my own heart.” (Psalm 77:6-7) What is meant by, “I call to remembrance neginati”? Rabbi Aibu and Rabbi Yehudah bar Shimon differed. Rabbi Aibu took it to mean that the congregation of Israel said to the Holy One, Blessed is He, “I call to remembrance the breaking of my enemies’ power,” neginati meaning, ‘the breaking,’ as indicated in the verse, “God, the Most High has delivered (miggen) your enemies into your hands.” (Genesis 14:20) And so the congregation of Israel says, “Because I call to remembrance the breaking of my enemies’ power in the night, therefore I commune with my own heart.” (Midrash Tehillim 113.1)

II. I suspect that in the case of Chanukah, it is not the Hallel, but the Menorah that is the internal conversation. This paragraph can be read as our declaration that we have begun an internal conversation because we witnessed the breaking of the Syrian-Greek’s power.

We are singing that we have reached a stage in which we look inward after a powerful experience to determine how we can change and grow because of the experience. This is one of the most important ingredients in becoming a Servant of God.

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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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28
Nov

The Burden of a Decision Part Two

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

One man has turned your safe world upside down. (See “The Burden of a Decision”) You were comfortable adjusting to Greek rule, and allowing those modern Hellenists to do what they wanted as long as you could live in peace. Matityahu has forced the issue to the fore, and you now have to decide.

Some of your fellow refugees are so angry with the Chashmonaim that they can’t even consider his reasons. The tension in the hills is flammable, and you fear the spark of confrontation. Two Jews with spears and swords appear from the darkness; representatives of the Chashmonaim. They are looking for volunteers. The spark you feared is ignited. Voices are raised in anger against their “reckless” decision. The two strapping fellows calmly allow everyone to speak, and then they change the nature of the conversation by presenting a Twitter message from Matityahu: A simple quote from the bible, “Who is for God shall join me!” Everyone remembers Moshe’s challenge to the Leviim after the Golden Calf. Everyone understands that the Chashmonaim, Kohanim, are from the Tribe of Levi. Matityahu has changed the conversation by focusing on God: “This is a fight for God!”

You look up at the T-shirts worn by both soldiers: Maccabbi: “Mi Kamocha Ba’eilim Hashem,” “Who among the powers is like You, God.” This is a religious battle for the future of the Jewish people as Jews. Some are inspired. Some are intimidated. Some are silently fuming against the religious fanatics, but all allow the young men to speak. One man asks the question on everyone’s mind: Did Matityahu receive a sign from God? How do we know this is what God wants? All silently ponder the important question.

The setting, high in the dark hills, a fire burning, people desperate for information, guidance and leadership, is perfect for a story, and the older soldier complies. He opens his bible and reads the following story:

Then the angel of God came and sat under the oak that was in Ophrah, which belonged to Joash the Abiezrite as his son Gideon was beating out wheat in the wine press in order to save it from the Midianites.

The angel of God appeared to him and said to him, “God is with you, O valiant warrior.”

Then Gideon said to him, “O my lord, if God is with us, why then has all this happened to us? And where are all His miracles which our fathers told us about, saying, ‘Did not God bring us up from Egypt?’ But now God has abandoned us and given us into the hand of Midian.”

The angel looked at him and said, “Go in this your strength and deliver Israel from the hand of Midian. Have I not sent you?”

He said to Him, “O Lord, how shall I deliver Israel? Behold, my family is the least in Manasseh, and I am the youngest in my father’s house.”

But God said to him, “Surely I will be with you, and you shall defeat Midian as one man.”

So Gideon said to Him, “If now I have found favor in Your sight, then show me a sign that it is You who speak with me.

“Please do not depart from here, until I come back to You, and bring out my offering and lay it before You.” And He said, “I will remain until you return.”

Then Gideon went in and prepared a young goat and unleavened bread from an ephah of flour; he put the meat in a basket and the broth in a pot, and brought them out to him under the oak and presented them.

The angel of God said to him, “Take the meat and the unleavened bread and lay them on this rock, and pour out the broth.” And he did so.

Then the angel of God put out the end of the staff that was in his hand and touched the meat and the unleavened bread; and fire sprang up from the rock and consumed the meat and the unleavened bread. Then the angel of God vanished from his sight.

When Gideon saw that he was the angel of God, he said, “Alas, O God, the Lord! For now I have seen the angel of the God face to face.”

God said to him, “Peace to you, do not fear; you shall not die.”

Then Gideon built an altar there to God and named it The Lord is Peace. To this day it is still in Ophrah of the Abiezrites.

Now on the same night God said to him, “Take your father’s bull and a second bull seven years old, and pull down the altar of Baal which belongs to your father, and cut down the Asherah that is beside it; and build an altar to God, your Lord on the top of this stronghold in an orderly manner, and take a second bull and offer a burnt offering with the wood of the Asherah which you shall cut down.”

Then Gideon took ten men of his servants and did as God had spoken to him; and because he was too afraid of his father’s household and the men of the city to do it by day, he did it by night.

 

When the men of the city arose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was torn down, and the Asherah which was beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar which had been built. They said to one another, “Who did this thing?” And when they searched about and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash did this thing.”

Then the men of the city said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has torn down the altar of Baal, and indeed, he has cut down the Asherah which was beside it.”

But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal, or will you deliver him? Whoever will plead for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because someone has torn down his altar.”

Therefore on that day he named him Jerubbaal, that is to say, “Let Baal contend against him,” because he had torn down his altar.

Then all the Midianites and the Amalekites and the sons of the east assembled themselves; and they crossed over and camped in the valley of Jezreel.

So the Spirit of God came upon Gideon; and he blew a trumpet, and the Abiezrites were called together to follow him.

He sent messengers throughout Manasseh, and they also were called together to follow him; and he sent messengers to Asher, Zebulun, and Naphtali, and they came up to meet them.

Then Gideon said to the Lord, “If You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken, behold, I will put a fleece of wool on the threshing floor. If there is dew on the fleece only, and it is dry on all the ground, then I will know that You will deliver Israel through me, as You have spoken.”

And it was so. When he arose early the next morning and squeezed the fleece, he drained the dew from the fleece, a bowl full of water.

The young soldier finished reading. People were considering the similarities and differences in the story. Gideon was instructed by an angel to provoke the Midianites, but his requests for signs seemed to be a weakness.

The other young man spoke softly, almost a whisper, “Purim.” You all understood exactly what he meant.

To Be Continued…

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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28
Nov

Chanukah Hallel: Paragraph One: An Internal Conversation

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

The words of this psalm are to be considered in light of the verse, “I have considered the days of old, the years of ancient times. I call to remembrance neginati in the night; I commune with my own heart.” (Psalm 77:6-7) What is meant by, “I call to remembrance neginati”? Rabbi Aibu and Rabbi Yehudah bar Shimon differed. Rabbi Aibu took it to mean that the congregation of Israel said to the Holy One, Blessed is He, “I call to remembrance the breaking of my enemies’ power,” neginati meaning, ‘the breaking,’ as indicated in the verse, “God, the Most High has delivered (miggen) your enemies into your hands.” (Genesis 14:20) And so the congregation of Israel says, “Because I call to remembrance the breaking of my enemies’ power in the night, therefore I commune with my own heart.” (Midrash Tehillim 113.1)

I. One way to understand this Midrash is that Rabbi Aibu reads this first paragraph of Hallel as “communing with myself,” triggered by remembering God breaking our enemies’ power. What would the Congregation of Israel say to itself as it recalled the breaking of its enemies?

Would Israel reflect on the why did God break the Egyptians’ power, or, in our case, the power of the Syrian-Greeks? There would be a significant difference between the breaking of the Egyptians, to which Israel was a passive observer, and the breaking of the Syrian-Greeks, in which we were active participants.

Perhaps their internal conversation focused on whether they were deserving of the miracle. They may have wondered on what they could learn from their victory. The conversation may have centered on, “What’s next?”

The first step toward applying Rabbi Aibu’s teaching to our Chanukah Hallel is to prepare for this paragraph by wondering what our internal conversation would have been had we lived at the time of the Chashmonaim’s great victory.

We can use our response to miracles we have witnessed or from which we have benefited to guide us in imagining that internal conversation. We can then use this paragraph to express that internal conversation.

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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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28
Nov

The Burden of a Decision

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai had himself smuggled out of the besieged Jerusalem so he could meet and negotiate with Vespasian. The Roman general was impressed with the rabbi’s wisdom and opened the discussion for negotiation. Rabbi Yochanan had to make a decision. He could request that Vespasian save the Beit Hamikdash; but it would be a huge demand fraught with risk of outright rejection and the potential for future conflict over who would run the Temple. On the other hand, he could ask for something more reasonable, ignore the “Permanent Status” issue of the Temple Mount, and negotiate for what he determined would be necessary to maintain the Jewish people accepting that the Holy Temple would soon be destroyed. He decided, to the chagrin of many of his colleagues current and future, on the latter. Who was he to make such a momentous decision? As great as he was, he was known as the “least” of Hillel’s students. He was not “officially” the most qualified to assume the responsibility, but he did, and focused on preparing Israel to live without the Beit Hamikdash. I wonder what the Chashmonaim, specifically Matityahu, would have decided. When Matityahu chose to strike a Hellenistic Jew who was making an offering to a Greek idol, and to fight the Greek soldiers supervising the ceremony, he decided to start a war against a huge military machine. His decision was not only for him, but for the entire country. Was it his decision to make? In hindsight, and from the Jewish perspective of Chanukah, Matityahu is a hero. He made the right decision. We don’t question his decision. We don’t question whether he had the right to make such a momentous decision, one that would affect the entire country. Let’s imagine that we live in his time. We are not Hellenists, but we haven’t been so bothered by them that we are willing to take a public stand. We know that they are supported by the Greeks, and we take the usual Jewish approach, “This too shall pass.” We are sitting at home watching the BNN, The Biblical News Network, and we watch a special report: “Jews Declare War Against Antiochus.” We listen to an excited and breathless report of Matityahu’s bold and risky action. We watch as our television screen fills with pictures of the Greek army preparing to march. “There goes our vacation!” We know that we are in for a long period of instability, violence, food shortages, and suffering. We join huge crowds at the bank withdrawing their cash and at the supermarket stocking up on supplies. We hear some people raging against the “insane and arrogant Kohen, who had no right to place us all at risk.” “My new business is beginning to take off and this guy has ruined everything!” We can also hear some scattered voices of support, “It’s about time that someone took a stand!” (Probably one of those Chareidim – those crazy orthodox who think they know best!) Where do we stand? Matityahu forced us to decide. There will be no more sitting at home watching the news and insisting that, “This is what needs to be done!” We will either join Matityahu’s army, bringing our sons into battle as well, or hand a Greek flag in front of our house and try to live in peace. There is no more Switzerland approach allowed. No neutrality. It will be one or the other: Chashmonaim or Greeks – Hellenists. Traffic is backed up as people flee the city for the mountains. You hide with your family and supplies in a cave high up in the hills. It will take a day or two for the Greek army to send reinforcements, so you’re comfortable sitting in front of a large fire as people discuss what they should do. To be continued… 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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27
Nov

Charm School

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Portion of the Week

One of the essays that made Jamaica Kincaid famous was “Charm” about the Ophelia DeVore School of Charm for young black women. “At some point, all this will become extinct. As black people integrate, they won’t want to do the special little things that they needed to do in an earlier time to get them across.” Ms. Devore was certainly correct, and her school is now extinct.

Still, there are a few people who can use her charm school. I am thinking about one person in particular: Joseph!

Joseph was a newly freed slave, an ex-con, who did such an excellent job interpreting Pharaoh’s dreams that he was appointed to be the second in command over all of Egypt.

People were willing to forget the slave and prisoner parts of his past, but not his being a former carnivore. He needed to rise to the occasion and learn proper court etiquette and practice. Joseph needed his own Miss DeVore School of Charm.

Perhaps this is the meaning of the Midrash that describes an angel spending an entire night with Joseph to teach him 70 languages. The angel had to teach Joseph how to act as royalty. He had to learn diplomacy, political theory, business management, urban planning, and a dab or two of Machiavellian theory. That’s a lot to learn in one night. The former shepherd boy also had to learn how to dress, walk, even how to eat.

It was too much even for an angel to teach in a single night. “Until one of the letters of God’s name was added to the now Yehosef.”

Joseph was limited as long as he was focused on himself – his success, even an angel couldn’t help him. However, when he was conscious of God’s hand controlling his life, he lived without limitation. Let’s say he was just like a small jar of oil that could burn for 8 days!

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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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26
Nov
25
Nov

Two Way Vision

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Judaism has always looked both backward and forward; we look to the past in order to learn how to direct ourselves toward the future. There are those who look to the past in an effort to recreate what once was, and they feel that is the only way to look forward.

We do not have to look much further than this week’s portion to determine that Jacob looked backward, he returned to the land where his father had sojourned, but focused on the future. In fact, even when he did not want to look too far into the future, God made sure that circumstances would force him to adjust his sights. Joseph was sold, the future was prepared and Jacob was guarding that future even when he had no idea what would happen.

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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