August, 2011 Archives

29
Aug

Elul Hallel I

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

“Moshivi akeret Habayiy, eim habanim semeicha, Halleluyah!” “He transforms the barren wife into a glad mother of children, Halleluyah!” (Psalms 113:9)

Sitting, as in Yeshibah: The first meaning given to this term in our language was that of being seated. Thus, “Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat.” (Samuel I 1:9) But in view of the fact that a sitting individual is in a state of the most perfect stability and steadiness, this term is used figuratively to denote all steady, stable, and changless states. Thus when promising Jerusalem permanence and stability while she is in the highest of ranks, Scripture says, “She will rise and sit in her place.” (Zechariah 14:10) And it also says, “He makes the barren woman to sit in her house,” which means that He makes her firm and steady.

In the latter sense it is said of God, may He be exalted, “You, O Lord, sit for all eternity.” (Lamentations 5:19) “O You Who sits in the heaven.” (Psalms 123:1) “He that sits in heaven.” (Psalms 2:4) That is, the stable One Who undergoes no manner of change, neither a change in His essence – as He has no modes besides His essence – nor a change in His relation to what is other than Himself. (Maimonides, The Guide Of The Perplexed 1:12, Translated by Shlomo Pines)

Elul, the time of Teshuva – also related to Yeshibah – is a time of intense and unchanging love. We use this paragraph of Hallel to celebrate that Teshuva allows us to maintain a sense of permanence to our relationship despite the distance that may have developed since the previous Rosh Hashanah.

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.

Share
26
Aug

Try It; You’ll Like It!

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

A maitre d’ at a well-known kosher restaurant laughs about customers who come in for a ‘famous dish,’ but cooked according to their instructions. He points out that the dish will not be the famed food for which they came if cooked differently. “Are you sure you don’t want to try it as it is? he will ask. “Oh, no! I know the way I like my food cooked,” is always the answer. More than half his customers will not give the restaurant a chance to present their food in the kitchen’s famous and special way.

Anyone will tell you that I am not the easiest person for whom to cook. Besides Celiac disease and some serious allergies, I have always been deeply committed to Adam’s plaint, “Shall I and my donkey eat from the same trough?” and honor our ancient ancestor by religiously limiting my vegetable intake. On top of that, all the years eating Yeshiva food left their mark and I have a severe reaction to any food that looks similar to what they served in Scranton and Philly. (I honored my grandmother z”l when I was in Ner Yisrael by insisting on eating her food and refusing to disrespect her by eating in the Yeshiva dining room.) Let’s simply say that there are people for whom it is easier and more exciting to cook. However, I am willing to try new things, especially if they are Argentine, and even more so if they are desserts. I am ashamed to admit that I have even tried and enjoyed some vegan dishes. (Please don’t mention this to Adam!)

What is it that is so difficult about trying something new? I guess for some people it is fear of the unknown. I know children who prefer the rough and angry parent with whom they are familiar than the new and improved calm version of a changed parent. I meet with couples who are more comfortable with years of arguing and going to marriage therapists and rabbis than they are with the possibility of change. I know husbands who readily admit that their wives are changing in fabulous ways, and are happier than ever, but feel discombobulated by the “new” people their wives have become.

Some of us are bothered by the new because we lack any sense of control over the unfamiliar. I recently met with someone who refuses to hear any type of music with which he is unfamiliar; “I don’t know how it will make me feel!” “I know that my anger is destroying my family but I don’t know if any other approach will work!” “I’m not comfortable using a different approach to prayer; it doesn’t feel like the ‘real thing’ to me.”

“See, I present to you today a blessing and a curse.” (Deuteronomy 11:26) “Today” appears whenever God makes a major statement. First paragraph of Shema; “Today!” Second paragraph; “Today!” Blessings and curses; “Today!” The words of Torah shall always be new to you as if they were just given Today!”

The blessings and curses, the challenge of Free Choice, begins with “Hayom,” “Today!” We learn how to choose only when we are willing to consider the new.

Not every new thing is good. I won’t try to eat a new fish or bread. The new choice must always be considered through the eyes of the blessings and curses. In fact, blessings can come only when we are open to the new.

So, “Try it! You’ll like it!”

Share
26
Aug

Shabbat Mevarchim Rosh Chodesh Elul: Creation

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

“May it be Your Will, God, our Lord, and the Lord of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month upon us for goodness and for blessing. May You give us long life – a life of peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a life of physical health, a life in which there is fear of heaven and fear of sin, a life in which there is no shame nor humiliation, a life of wealth and honor, a life in which we will have love of Torah and fear of heaven, a life in which God fulfills our heartfelt requests for the good. Amen, Selah.”

All was destroyed during the month of Av. Creation began on Elul, and, so it will again. We recite this prayer for the New Month focusing on Creation. “God created the world in order to do good to an other (Derech Hashem 1:2:1).” Creation was an expression of absolute love, the “other” had done nothing to earn it. This is why Elul, the month of Creation is also the month of intense love between God and Israel.

I recite this prayer imaging myself participating in the final Heavenly planning meetings before Creation. I am not praying as one who has already existed and experienced success and failure, but as one who has the opportunity to see the world before Creation, and request in this moment of intense love all that I could possibly need and want. I use this prayer to prepare for all my Elul prayers until the 25th of the month when Creation began. For what shall I ask? What will I need to succeed? How will I define success? What do I hope to achieve?

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.

Share
26
Aug

Psalm 27: Going Places

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Prayer

I took the same steps as every day, but this morning when I stepped into what is Van Cortland Park every other morning, I found myself in the Twilight Zone, I somehow had ended up in Central America. OK, I was exhausted and may have taken one or two wrong turns on my way, but how did I get to Central America?

Large groups were gathered around each playing field and picnic area. Each group was from a different country. I could tell by the flags and tee-shirts: Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, El Salvador and Honduras were all represented. I was in a different world.

Having been to all those countries on business trips, I tried to recall each place. All I could remember was my hotel room and the Gemara – Tractate of the Talmud – that I was studying on each trip. I traveled on business so I went from airport to hotel to office and back to the hotel. The trips were opportunities to learn without distraction.

I guess you could say that I had not visited each of those countries as much as I was able to create my own space in each place.

“One thing I asked of God, that shall I seek: Would that I dwell in the House of God all the days of my life, to behold the sweetness of God and to contemplate in His Sanctuary.” (Psalm 27:4)

We do not only pray for the opportunity to be with God in His Sanctuary in Jerusalem, we also celebrate that we have the ability to create a sense of His Holy Place wherever we are.

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.

Share
26
Aug

Shabbat Mevarchim Rosh Chodesh Elul: Betwixt & Between

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

“May it be Your Will, God, our Lord, and the Lord of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month upon us for goodness and for blessing. May You give us long life – a life of peace, a life of goodness, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a life of physical health, a life in which there is fear of heaven and fear of sin, a life in which there is no shame nor humiliation, a life of wealth and honor, a life in which we will have love of Torah and fear of heaven, a life in which God fulfills our heartfelt requests for the good. Amen, Selah.”

We stand betwixt and between: Moshe was on Sinai for his second set of Forty days, pleading for God’s forgiveness of the sin of the Golden Calf. He will be coming down on the final day of Tammuz, and hopefully, will go up yet again for a third set of forty days to receive the Second Luchot.

We await his report of God’s forgiveness as we prepare for his third trip and develop strategies so that we will not fall again as we did with the Golden Calf.

This prayer of Blessing the New Month of Elul expresses our status waiting for forgiveness and preparing for regained heights.

“May it be Your Will, God, our Lord, and the Lord of our forefathers, that You inaugurate this month upon us for goodness and for blessing.”

We pray for Moshe’s third trip even before we receive his report of his second. We pray assuming that we will not only be forgiven, but will be granted even more as Moshe ascends Sinai for a third time.

We acknowledge God, that He is our Lord.

We call on the merit of our forefathers.

“May You give us long life.”

We ask that the month of Elul reconnect us to the eternal life we experienced before the Golden Calf.

“A life of peace,”

We ask for inner peace undisturbed by the insecurities that led us in the past to sin.

We request the gift of peace in the Children of Israel, safe from the battles between those who wanted to sin and those who did not.

We ask for peace in our marriages, unlike the Golden Calf when husbands and wives split, with the men sinning and the women holding strong.

We ask for peace between God and Israel, without the strains and stains of our past sins.

 

“A life of goodness,”

Grant us the ability to enjoy the good You give us, so that we will not stray.

“A life of blessing,”

Please bring Moshe back for a third time to replace the Shattered Tablets, and bless us with a sign that we have regained our heights.

Please bless us with an Elul that is filled with possibilities to achieve the greatest heights.

“A life of sustenance,”

We acknowledge that we ate Your Manna and drank Your water from the rock even as we were rebelling against You with the Golden Calf. We disconnected from the Source of our sustenance. Please grant us an Elul in which we are constantly attuned to You as the Source of all our sustenance.

“A life of physical health,”

We all experienced complete healing at Revelation. We want Moshe’s third trip, his Elul visit on Sinai, to allow us to experience the same complete healing; physical, emotional and spiritual, that we experienced before.

Please grant us an Elul that will be just as that first Elul when Moshe went to receive the Second Tablets; a month of such intense love that we will be completely healed from all illness and suffering.

Note: Insert a prayer here for people who are ill:

“May this month of Elul restore our connection to Sinai so that ___________ will be completely healed just as we were at Revelation.”

 

 

“A life in which there is fear of heaven and fear of sin,”

We acknowledge that we need Your help to protect us from sin even as You reach out to us with the intense expression of love that allows us to receive the Second Luchot, and forgiveness of all our sins.

Help us protect the power of this month.

Help us protect the love You are expressing to us.

“A life in which there is no shame nor humiliation,”

The Second Tablets we received at the conclusion of Moshe’s Elul trip, relieved us from the humiliation of having fallen so drastically just forty days after Revelation.

Please grant us an Elul that parallels Moshe’s Elul; a month in which You make it clear that we have regained our greatness and no longer need to experience the shame and humiliation of the Golden Calf and other sins.

“A life of wealth and honor,”

We want an opportunity to use our wealth to honor You, rather than to build Golden Calves. We prayed during that first Elul for such an opportunity, which was granted with the Mitzvah to construct the Mishkan. We want such an opportunity to be granted during this coming Elul as well.

“A life in which we will have love of Torah and fear of heaven,”

We fell so soon after Revelation because of our fear overpowering our love of God and His Torah. We want to use Elul to emphasize our deep love for Your Torah, combined with, but not overpowered by, fear.

“A life in which God fulfills our heartfelt requests for the good.”

You gave us all we wanted and more at Revelation, but we turned it all into evil with the Golden Calf. We want an opportunity to live at such a heightened level of blessing so that we can use it only for good.

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.

Share
25
Aug

Re’eih: Broken Rules II

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

I mentioned in Broken Rules I that certain Argentines, who shall remain nameless, also have difficulty with stop signs. This specific Argentine, joining me for my sunrise hike, sped through the streets as if there were no stop signs. (I admit that there were no other cars on the road – for some reason most people were still sleeping.) I generally do not argue with this Argentine (I can hear the host of the Thursday night class laughing). I love my morning hike but I am not in such a rush to begin the three miles trek that I speed all the way there. Oh well! Argentines are different.

This specific nameless Argentine grew up under military rule. Soldiers would stop people on the street, arrest them, torture them for a year or two, and then take them up in an airplane and push them out over the ocean. No one was safe. Your life was over if a soldier looked at you and decided that you would be his victim. The only rules were those of the soldier with whom you were dealing.

People who grow up under such conditions have a different take on rules. Primo Levi wrote a poem Chess II. It begins:

You mean that, halfway through,

With the game all but over, you’d like

To change the rules of play?

Levi was an Italian survivor of Auschwitz. He worked as a chemist before during and after the war. He originally believed that if he followed the German’s rules that he would survive. His problem was that they changed the rules at whim. Rules were not rules. He never recovered. He never recovered an ability to relate to rules. Primo Levi would understand our Argentine friend’s problem with stop signs. In fact, the Torah, in this week’s portion, understands her as well:

“You shall break apart their altars. You shall smash their pillars and their sacred trees you shall burn in the fire. Their carved images, shall you cut down. And you shall obliterate their names from that place. You shall not do this to God, your Lord.” (Deuteronomy 12:3-4)

Is it really necessary to instruct us not to do to God’s name what He instructed us to do to idols? Yes! Once we wage war against idols, we have changed our rules of engagement with the sacred and the holy. We relate differently to the rules of engagement with religion. It is specifically the people who destroy the holy places of the idols who must be reminded “You shall not do this to God, your Lord.”

This is why I am so bothered when people say that it is permissible to speak Lishon Harah – Evil about someone else – about a specific person who is a sinner: We change the way we relate to rules when we break them.

“It is OK to be nasty to that person because he is not a believer.” Just think of the fervently religious Taliban who destroyed the ancient statues of Buddha. Do they have any rules other than the ones they choose?

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.

Share
25
Aug

Re’ei: Crossing The River

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Music of Halacha, Spiritual Growth

“In the “Judgment” of the Book of Changes, whenever one encounters dangerous circumstances the advice is always: “Cross the river.” One can see from this that the real purpose of boats is to deliver people from danger rather than to provide comfort.” Pleasure Boat Studio by Ou-yang Hsiu (1007 – 1072)

We seem to take Hsiu’s advice quite seriously. We refer to our first patriarch, Abraham as “Ivri” – what Hsiu would call a river crosser. In fact, many people referred to us as Ivrim for a long time.

But we do not cross the river to avoid dangerous circumstances. We actually cross towards them: “For you are crossing the Jordan to come and possess the Land that God, your Lord, gives you.” We are certainly river crossers, not to avoid, but to confront.

Our definition of Ivri is not “from the other side” but one who can bridge both sides of the river. Our challenge is to stand on both sides of the river – to bridge the spiritual and physical worlds.

We also differ from Hsiu’s definition of a boat’s purpose: “This world is like the shore and the World to Come like the sea.” (Kohelet Rabbah 1:36) The Midrash compares the World to Come as a journey on the sea. There will be no dangers to escape. The journey will be filled with joy and comfort.

We are Ivrim – River Crossers and Bridges – in order to prepare for the ultimate journey on the sea of the Coming World. No wonder we live by Halacha – Instructions for Journeying!

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.

Share
25
Aug

Rabbi Daniel Lapin: Thought Tools: When a Man Loves a Woman (part 1)

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Relationships

The Foundation Stone wishes a hearty Mazal Tov to Rabbi and Mrs. Lapin on the marriage of Miriam and A.J. May the young couple, guided by their parents’ wisdom and example of magnificent Midot and values, build a home that reflects the greatness of the Lapin legacy.

A few hours ago my wife and I stood beneath a wedding canopy gazing happily at one of our beautiful daughters, Miriam, and the young man she has chosen to accompany through life.  The ancient phrases in the prayer book I clutched appeared a little blurred through my teary eyes.  Actually, recalling the event now is making this computer screen a bit blurry too.

This wedding played my emotions like B.B. King played his famous guitar.  Just as each of his string-bending vibratos I once heard on Beale Street in Memphis sounded unique, so this wedding felt unique.  Which is strange because its format was virtually indistinguishable from 124 other weddings at which I have been privileged to officiate.

Obviously every couple was unique, but each ceremony closely resembled all the others.  At every wedding I followed the same traditional script, exercising no creative originality.  Furthermore, there was little of a personal and individualistic nature with which I could have embellished Miriam’s wedding.  The structure of a traditional Jewish wedding ceremony is tightly proscribed.

It would have been easy had I asked Miriam to prepare some personal prose for her chosen who, in turn, could have recited a few moving lines about his feelings.  That way we could have had a truly memorable ceremony.

But I am only the messenger of a Boss who issued clear directions that leave me little room for spontaneity or creativity.  These instructions specify how we introduce a man and a woman into the holy covenant of marriage.  Chiefly, the man formally accepts upon himself legally binding obligations.

You might consider this unsentimental process to be unduly legalistic; ignoring the rapture and romance of the occasion.  Yet, the ceremony’s structure is precisely what promises stability.  Ancient Jewish wisdom observes that legalities lead to love while love can sometimes end in legalities.

Business partners know that beginning with a firm contract is the surest way to a happy and durable partnership.  Though men and women usually feel the emotional intensity of love and longing, marriage can still benefit from listing all major expectations.  Love is a frighteningly unspecific sensation upon which to build a life.

Obviously love and attraction are a prerequisite for a man and woman considering marriage.  However, what distinguishes the covenant of marriage from the coupling of lust, are precisely the legal commitments.

A few hours ago a young man stood alongside his beautiful bride.  Before official witnesses, he pronounced his commitment to support our daughter.  He undertook to provide for her every need; emotional, financial, and physical.  My daughter then plighted her troth to him in affection and sincerity by allowing him to place his ring upon her finger.

Uttering personal vows alone on the beach in Acapulco or having barefoot ceremonies in a grassy meadow with guitar-playing poets is not sufficient for a Jewish marriage.

A legal ceremony binds together, not only my daughter and her husband, but also binds the two of them to the past, the present, and the future.  Present at the wedding today were both the visible and the invisible generations that carried the couple to this day.  Miriam and AJ looked out at all their family and friends knowing that their bond ties them also to the community.  And gazing into one another’s eyes the two of them knew they are forming a magical and mysterious bond with the future.

My wife and I smiled knowingly at one another.  This ancient legal ceremony precisely echoed our own wedding of a few years ago.  We pray that theirs will bring the knight and his lady the same joy, creativity, spontaneity, and romance that ours brings us.

God lays out His blueprint for marriage in the early verses of the book of Genesis.  Ancient Jewish wisdom reveals insights from the original Hebrew text and I present many of these permanent principles packaged in practical and useful ways in my audio CD set Madam I’m Adam—Decoding the Marriage Secrets of Eden.  It makes a wonderful gift for both the newly-wed and the long-wed eager to enhance their partnerships. We’re offering $10 off online orders this week. Next week we’ll explore the peculiar examples of love in Scripture.







Thought Tools byRabbi Daniel Lapin

www.rabbidaniellapin.com

Share
25
Aug

Is Good Good Enough? by Prof Gerald August

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

This week the Torah tells us to do Htov Vhamativ the good and the straight in the eyes of G-d. Usually we find the word good in apposition to the word bad. Why do we have a modifier here with the word straight? Why isn’t the word good enough?

I think the answer lies in the end of the verse “In the eyes of G-d.” Isn’t that what all good refers to?

So I think the Torah is drawing a distinction between what a person might judge to be good and what an objective outsider might conclude. That is why people have ethical advisers. Because sometimes we will rationalize what the good is even though the situation as seen by the individual is good only for them.

A good example was when a good friend of mine got married. Of course, I was happy for him and danced at his wedding. But, naturally, he was now spending a lot of time with his wife and less time with me. At first I was annoyed, but then I realized that he now had a new best friend, his wife. So even though I had less time with him, it would not be good for me to complain to him since his first allegiance was to his wife. Even though spending time with me would be good for me, is that what he should have expected from me, to complain?

In another situation, I might have to talk it over with a neutral party to check to see if I was being subjective about what was good in a situation and whether I was looking at the whole picture objectively.

We all view things through our own prism, and that can get in the way of us doing what is good and straight. So in our verse in the Torah, the word “straight” is not redundant but an important word that teaches us an important lesson. Good is sometimes not good enough if it is a subjective good.

Share
20
Aug

The Art of Observation: The Sorcerer’s Chameleon

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Spiritual Growth

There must never be found among you anyone who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, anyone who practices divination, an omen reader, a soothsayer, (or) and a sorcerer. (Deuteronomy 18:10)

A single witness may not testify against another person for any trespass or sin that he commits. A matter may be legally established only on the testimony of two or three witnesses. (Deuteronomy 19:15)

The Grand Duchess Olga, sister of the last tsar, described Rasputin as “changeable as a chameleon”. Vera Zhukovskaya recalls: “When you remember that amazing peculiarity of his changing in an instant…sitting there would be a simple, illiterate little peasant, a bit crude, scratching himself, his tongue barely moving and the words slipping clumsily out…when suddenly he would turn into an inspired prophet…and then another bound of the changeling and his white teeth would be crunching with a savage, bestial voluptuousness, and from behind the heavy curtain of his wrinkles something shamelessly predatory would nod, unrestrained, like a young animal…and then just as suddenly instead of an ungirded rowdy, a grizzled Siberian wanderer would be sitting there, someone who for thirty years had been searching the world for God.”

The singer Belling, who saw Rasputin many times, writes of his rotten teeth and foul breath. Zhukovskaya tells us that “his teeth were perfect and complete down to the very last one, and his breath was absolutely fresh.” (The Rasputin File by Edvard Radzinsky)

I enjoy watching a magic show, a skillful use of sleight-of-hand. Unfortunately, chameleons such as Rasputin have often hurt me: people who can present themselves one way and immediately switch to another role. They are the more frightening sorcerers. They cause us to question our sanity and weaken our power of observation.

I imagine that most people have met such chameleons, yet we still do not learn to pay better attention to our power of observation. We are so accustomed to the sorcerers and chameleons that we fail to pay attention to the second verse quoted above: We are willing to accept the testimony of a single witness.

We believe a single witness who shares some juicy gossip with us. We do not question his or her power of observation. We do not even try to use ours when listening before passing judgment on the topic of the gossip. We may not even be sure that the gossiper is not a chameleon himself: People often speak poorly of others to make themselves look good. Isn’t that an essential tool of the chameleon?

Do we practice the sorcerer’s chameleon? Do we portray ourselves one way to some and in an entirely different way to others?

Do our powers of observation suffer when we practice the sorcerer’s chameleon?

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.

Share