October, 2011 Archives

10
Oct

Laughing In My Succah

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Spiritual Growth

Taking my children when they were young on a trip. Finding the perfect gift for my wife. My grandfather’s face when I received my first s’micha – Rabbinic Ordination. Receiving a call from my Rebbi, HaRav Yochanan Zweig, telling me that my father called him to tell him how excited my father was with a lecture I gave. The faces of my wife and children when they saw me walk again.

All of the memories listed are of making someone else happy, and all are counted among my highest moments of joy.

I spoke with someone just before Yom Kippur who literally transformed herself into a new person. She did not change her actions as much as she changed her inner essence. She became a greater human being. It was easy to imagine that she is someone who made God very happy that He created her.

The Zohar teaches that such will be the joy in the World to Come: Rabbi Yehuda said: At that time, in the World to Come, the Holy One, Blessed is He, will make His world happy and will be happy with His creations, as it says, “God will be happy with the things He made,” (Psalms 104:31) And then there will be laughter in the world, unlike now, as the verse says, “Then, our mouths will be filled with laughter.”(Psalms 126:2) This is why Sarah said; “God has made laughter for me.” (Genesis 21:6), for then the world will sing a Song to God, for it is a time of laughter. Rabbi Abba said, ‘The day on which God will rejoice with his handiwork will be unlike any other day since the beginning of creation, and the righteous who remain in Jerusalem will never turn to dust.’ (Zohar, Volume 1, 114a-b)

Such is the joy of Succot – Z’man Simchateinu – The Time of Our Happiness: We are happy with the confidence that we had a successful Yom Kippur. We are even happier that we were able to make God happy with us. We grew. We changed. We were absolutely clear that deep down we want a relationship with our Creator.

Our time in the Succah is a taste of the World to Come, when we will laugh with God over the infinite possibilities of life.

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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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10
Oct

Neighborhoods in the Sky: Succot

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Relationships

My wife and I turned onto 26th street, between 6th and 7th, the New York City area known as ‘The Plant District’, and strange things began to happen. Storeowners ran outside and began to pull their security gates down, closing their stores. Others were rushing to cover all the plants on the sidewalk with sheets and blankets. People were staring at us with hatred and fear. We could hear strangers whispering, “Killer!”

My wife’s reputation precedes her. People know what happens to plants in our home. The situation was ironic because we were looking for some artificial trees that could survive Debbie’s care. I don’t understand how these people, who live in a different borough, know something that took me twelve years to learn about my wife. This is New York City, not an enclosed neighborhood. We are becoming paranoid as we wonder whether everyone in Fieldston, or perhaps even all of Riverdale knows my wife’s secret identity as “The Killer” of plants. How does everyone in the plant district know our dark secret? (I readily admit that one of the main reasons for writing this blog is to preempt any blackmail attempts!)

Some friends tried to ease our paranoia by pointing out that the Plant District is a very specific neighborhood and its inhabitants are expected to identify and deal with all threats to houseplants in the city. They seem to be correct: six years ago, all of Riverdale knew that we were moving to another part of area. Then everyone knew when we bought a new car. People even knew when we had a rescued Beardie in our home for a few days. The Riverdale neighborhood specializes in certain types of information necessary for the locals, and is not interested in other information. They do not know about Debbie and plants.

So, I wondered, how does a Succah district/community work? Would all the Succah dwellers in Riverdale qualify as a unique district or neighborhood?

The Plant Killer and I decided to experiment. Whenever we overheard singing from a ‘neighborhood’ succah we attempted to join. The Succah directly behind us was not impressed, nor were the Succot to the north and south. It may have been my voice: I had bronchitis and sounded more like our dog, Pip, than festival singing. But it wasn’t that: We felt that we were singing with the Geiss family in Geneva, the Stepanskys in Tzefat, the Biels and Perels in St. Louis, the Fishers in Boca Raton, the Jaffes in LA, and the Goldbergers in Minneapolis. We were definitely part of a neighborhood; a neighborhood in the sky. We connected across times zones and oceans and shared our Succot joy with people, who like us, were searching for a very special Succah neighborhood.

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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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10
Oct

Disguises

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Spiritual Growth

Iphicrates, a famous Athenian general, once fitted out his own fleet in the enemy’s manner, and sailed to a people he viewed with suspicion. When they welcomed him effusively and enthusiastically, he sacked their town, now that he had unmasked their treason. (Frontinus, Stratagems 4.7.23)

I decided to copy Iphicrates and use my Succah as a disguise. I am not your typical Jewish man; I can build a solid structure. (OK, I cheated and used a prefabricated structure.) I even bought some WD-40 and duct tape, although I have no idea what to do with them. I considered picking up a table-saw at Home Depot, but was too intimidated.

Tomorrow night I will pretend to be an outdoors kind of guy, tough enough to move outside when everyone else is moving in. No one will now that I am Jewish and I will be able to discover what “they’ think of us.

The Holocaust survivors who were the parents and grandparents of most of my friends growing up always spoke of them and us. “Them” meant Germans, Poles, Ukrainians, Hungarians, and pretty much everyone who wasn’t Jewish. There are few survivors still alive, but the “they”s and “them”s are still part of my vocabulary.

Who are “they”? The answer depends on whom you ask. “They” could be the soft-spined ‘statesmen’ who sat in the UN and, with the New York Times, ignored Bibi’s powerful speech. I don’t need a disguise to learn what they think of us.

“They” could be the J Street lobbyists intent on battling AIPAC and Israel, but I wouldn’t need a disguise to figure out what they think of me.

“They” could be the CEO, of a company for which I worked, a former congressman, who would spew his hateful bile towards frum Jews whenever drunk, which was quite often. No disguise necessary there.

“They” could be Jews who are embarrassed when we build our Succot and walk on the streets with our Lulavim and Etrogim, but “they” are usually not an enemy and no Iphicrates strategy is required.

The “they” is we. “They” are the people who observe the same laws and customs, but without passion and joy. “They” pray three times a day, every day. “They” thrill to Torah study, but often forget that God speaks to them through His Torah. “They” forget that we must sanctify God’s Name when we walk on the streets, when we interact with all the other “they”s of the world, when we do business with “them”; everything we do and say.

The Succah is not our Iphicratesian disguise to find our enemy; it is our opportunity to uncover the disguises we wear the rest of the year when we imagine that we live in our own little world enclosed by the walls of our homes and synagogues. The Succah, derived from the same root as “Yiskah” – to see – provides the clarity of vision to evaluate whether our Service of God is a masquerade or if it is real. Are we hiding in the safety of Torah or are we empowered by Torah and Avodah – Service – to engage the world with joy and confidence.

So, hand me the biggest table-saw you can find, and I will cut away the masks, costumes and camouflage, and you will see with me the beauty and promise of all the things we do within our walls and without.

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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10
Oct

A Willow is Not an Aravah

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in 613 Concepts, Holidays, What is the Reason?

A rose may be a rose, but a willow is not an Aravah:

It is Succot for me whenever I drive on a road through trees. No matter the time of year, I am on the lookout for kosher Aravot – Willows – for my Lulav and Hoshanot.

There are magnificent Aravot in Dobb’s Ferry, but they aren’t kosher. The leaves’ edges are serrated, and since “Her (Torah’s) ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peaceful,” (Proverbs 3:17) sharp points, unpleasant and not peaceful, disqualify them.

Hastings on the Hudson has some “peaceful” leaves, but not the perfect combination of red and green branches.

Weeping Willows point down; they don’t reach up. The Z’man Simchateinu – the Time of Our Happiness – also precludes any weeping.

I’ve stopped on roads in New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, to the chagrin of my wife and the Highway Patrol officers who suspect that someone who stops on a highway to examine willow leaves is DWI.

There are willows that grow near stagnant water. There are willows with round leaves. There are willows with white branches. There are even willows with leaves in the shape of triangles.

Willows are everywhere. The perfect Aravah is harder to find. I once trekked through the forests between Santa Clara and Santa Cruz for hours on a failed search for the perfect Aravah.

So, I go to Riverdale Judaica to buy my Aravot. The hours of searching make the two kosher Aravot so much more precious. They are treasured. There are willows everywhere, but these willows are not willows; they are Aravot.

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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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10
Oct

A Different Definition of Noble

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

On the right-hand side of the Periodic Table is a set of elements known as the noble gases. “Noble” is an archaic, funny-sounding word, less chemistry than ethics or philosophy. And indeed, the term “noble gases” goes back to ancient Greece. There, in “The Symposium,” Plato claimed that every being longs to find its complement, its missing half. Abstract and unchanging things, he wrote, are intrinsically more noble than things that grub around and interact with gross matter. All objects are shadows of one imperfect type. All trees, for instance, are imperfect copies of an ideal tree, whose perfect “tree-ness” they aspire to. The same with fish and “fish-ness,” or even cups and “cup-ness.”

Most would say that Adam before the Sin, was the “ideal,” perfect human being. Yet, even Adam, was looking for his complement; “But as for man, he did not find a helper corresponding to him.” (Genesis 2:20) Our ideal human being is not “Noble,” according to Plato. The Wisest of all Men taught: “For there is no man so wholly righteous on earth that he always does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) We have a different definition of Noble:

We leave the, shall we say Noble, heights of Yom Kippur for the imperfect structure known as a Succah. The roof certainly does not define “roof-ness,” the walls are not ideal walls that represent “wall-ness.” And yet, that is where we, who achieved our highest Nobility on Yom Kippur head as we strive to rise even higher!

Our definition of Noble is an ideal: An imperfect human being who acknowledges his imperfections and constantly elevates himself by improving in those areas. Our imperfect structures, flimsy if assembled by me, are Holy Places, Noble, if you would, a place where we can find and connect with the Divine Presence.

Succot takes us even higher than Yom Kippur, because it teaches us that our Nobility is found in our imperfect state.

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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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10
Oct

What Makes You So Happy?

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays

There are moments when I am so frustrated and upset that I cannot find the words to express my rage. English lacks the musical potency to insult with the same impact as Yiddish, but there are times when even Yiddish fails. (May your bones be broken as often as the Ten Commandments!” is too complicated for someone to understand that he has been insulted.) My wife’s Spanish saves the day: “Sos un idiota, un imbécil y un infeliz!” Ah! I feel so much better. Why is ‘idiota” more expressive than ‘idiot’? How does ‘imbecil’ work so much better than ‘imbecile’? I don’t know, but I can assure you that they really work.

It’s the final insult that carries the day: ‘y un infeliz!’ “You are unhappy!” It doesn’t sound so insulting in English, but in Spanish it is the ultimate insult.

If someone told me when I was a child that I was unhappy, I would have been insulted. Kids are expected, and expect themselves, to be happy. I am ashamed to say that there were periods of my adult life when I would have accepted the appellation of ‘Infeliz” as a sign of my seriousness and maturity. In fact, I regularly meet people who are happy being unhappy. They assume, as did I, that unhappiness indicates the perspective of years. Some believe that suffering brings us closer to God. I say to them: “Sos un infeliz!”

Succot is Z’man Simchateinu – The Time of Our Happiness. There is a Mitzvah to be happy. We step away from all the surface things that make us happy and search for our inner joy: the happiness that comes from being ourselves, appreciating our potential, and celebrating the possibilities of life. When we step outside our homes into the Succah we reject the label of ‘Infeliz’ and redefine ourselves as, well, forgive me, Simcha.

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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10
Oct

The Security of The Succah

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Spiritual Growth

The twelve-hour drive from Toronto for our annual Succot visit with my grandparents left me bruised, battered, and drained by all the fights my sister began with me. (I, of course, never started a fight.) We arrived in 1968, post riots Baltimore. Although I did not see burned out cars on my grandparents’ block, things were obviously different. There were no children playing on the street. There were bars on the windows of all the homes.

My first direct experience with the new realities was when I wanted to cross the gravel path that separated my grandparents’ backyard from the Yeshiva grounds. My grandmother warned that it wasn’t safe to walk alone. I was determined to show that I was not scared and I ran out of the house.

A group of teenagers stopped me on the path, but, thank God, just at that moment my giant cousin Sheftel, (now Rav Sheftel Neuberger, the Menahel of Yeshivas Ner Yisroel) was walking toward us and the kids ran. I made it to the Yeshiva.

Unfortunately, I had to eventually return to the house. I waited for my grandfather so I could walk home with him, although I wondered what my, in my mind, ancient, and nearly blind, grandfather could possibly do to protect me. There was nothing to fear. The neighborhood kids were in awe of the great Rabbi and wouldn’t dare come near us.

The man, who had always been a super-hero of Torah and righteousness, now became as great as Superman in my mind. So, despite the new dangers, I didn’t hesitate to sleep in the Succah; my grandfather’s presence would protect me.

Perhaps my grandmother was slightly upset that I had ignored her warnings about the path. She didn’t want her husband to sleep in the Succah because he had a cold. I guess even super-heroes must obey their wives. I would have to sleep alone in the Succah.

Don’t believe the comic books: Super powers are not automatically passed down to the next generation. I knew that, as I was not a Tzaddik – please see “Why I’m Not A Tzaddik” for the explanation – and would not be safe without my grandfather at my side.

My sister, the one determined that I would never be a Tzaddik, commented in her sweetest voice (which was not very sweet at all, if you ask me): “So you feel safer with Zaidy than you do with Hashem. I told you that you would never be a Tzaddik.” I had to sleep in the Succah, placing all my trust in God. I was hoping that my dear, beloved grandmother, who was so concerned for my safety, would prohibit me from sleeping alone, and that I, the future Tzaddik, would have to obey as I (almost) always did. No way! She looked at me with a strange smile and offered to gather the blankets and pillows I needed for my big Mitzvah.

It was a wonderful experience. I walked into the Succah and felt completely safe. I actually felt safer in the Succah than I did in the house! Perhaps there really was hope that I could become a Tzaddik. I slept like a baby, caught a cold, and was forced to sleep inside the rest of Succot.

I still feel safe in my succah. My home in Saratoga Springs bordered on the training track for the harness horses, a very unsafe place. The racetrack workers intimidated even the local police. No matter, because I felt perfectly safe in my Succah, although I did wake up with ice in my beard. My Succah on West End Ave. in New York City was behind my building. It was pre-Guliani and unsafe, and many people considered me crazy for sleeping outside, but, again, I felt perfectly safe and secure.

The roof is incompletely covered with S’chach, there are open spaces through which we can see the stars. The Succah provides both light and shade. It reflects the fluctuations in our relationship with God. There are times we “see” God’s Presence with clarity, and there are times when we experience God as hidden. We can sense God’s protection some of the time, and at others we feel more vulnerable. People often feel that a relationship that fluctuates is unstable and insecure. Yet, for me, the place I feel most safe is in the Succah, the very place that reflects the highs and lows in my relationship with God. After Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, I know that despite the times when I experience God as hidden, that I will once again find the light. Yes, there are times when I feel vulnerable, but I know that the protection will return. It is a relationship with ups and downs as every relationship. It is a relationship in which I can feel secure. Perhaps that is why there is no place where I feel as safe as when I am in my Succah.

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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10
Oct

Succot: The Perspective of Choice

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Spiritual Growth

Poem 1742

The distance that the dead have gone

Does not at first appear –

Their coming back seems possible

For many an ardent year.

And then, that we have followed them,

We more than half suspect,

So intimate have we become

With their dear retrospect.

Emily Dickinson

Gathering, as in Chag Ha’Assif, describes how we would collect and store our bundles of crops. There was a sense of security in having a full barn. There was the joy of seeing the tangible fruits of months of physical labor, hope, faith, and prayers.

The security and joy of a full silo are absent in our spiritual lives. It is next to impossible to calculate the results of our prayers, Mitzvot, and Torah study.

No wonder ‘gathering’ also refers to death, the only point at which we can measure our life’s work. It is then we receive gift of retrospect.

Here we are, the leaves are falling, summer is fading, (at least, above the equator,) and we celebrate in Z’man Simchateinu- the Time of Our Happiness, – Simachot also being a euphemism for death – finding joy in forethought, not retrospect.

Unlike Emily Dickinson, I feel closer to the long dead Abraham, Moses, King David, Rashi and the Ramchal not in the intimacy of retrospect but in looking forward to life.

The double entendres of ‘Asifa’ & ‘Simcha’ are a challenge: Do we seek clarity in retrospect or forethought?

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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10
Oct

A Special Kind of Beauty

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Spiritual Growth

Debbie and I were walking around Central Park when we heard magnificent singing. We followed the sound until we found a family singing a song from the Sound of Music. Their voices were angelic. It was the Boyd Family, and what a beautiful family it is! (You can email Mr. Boyd to purchase his CDs.)

Mr. Boyd, dressed in everyday clothes, projects a sense of rare dignity. I found myself speaking to him with care and respect simply because of who he is. I can’t accurately describe the experience, other than to say that this total stranger has such grace, inner beauty, dignity and goodness, that one can only speak to him as one would to a king.

His children reflected his beautiful qualities. They too were dressed in street clothes. They were typical teenagers in appearance, but far more in posture and bearing. The beauty of their joyful singing was surpassed by the grace of their essence.They sang one of Mr. Boyd’s compositions and had the entire audience enthralled and clapping along with feeling. They lifted all of us, New Yorkers and tourists, people from all over the world, Buddhists, Christians, Jews and Moslems.

How often does one have an opportunity to see a family united in such joy and love? How often do we see a family that inspires us on so many levels? Such beauty is rare.

I wondered why God wanted me to experience this just before Succot. “Beauty” stuck in my mind. We are charged to observe God’s commandments with beauty; a beautiful Succah, a beautiful Lulav, and, most of all, a beautiful Etrog. The Boyd family taught me that the beauty is not just in the object of the commandment, but must be part of the person while observing God’s commandments.

Thank you, Mr. Boyd. Thank you Boyd Family. You taught me to be a beautiful person while shaking my beautiful Lulav. You reminded me to project that rare quality of inner beauty while holding my Etrog.

If only….

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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6
Oct

Mistakes: H’evinu

by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays, Prayer

“Noah removed the covering of the Ark, and looked, and behold! The surface of the ground had tried (to see Genesis 8:13).” It is also possible to read the final phrase of the verse as, “the surface of the ground had been destroyed.”

What did Noah see when he first looked outside of the Ark after the waters of the Flood had tried? Did he he see a pristine perfect world, with everything fresh and alive? Or, did he see a beautiful world that was made possible only by the destruction of all that had existed before?

“The Lord spoke to Noah, saying. “Go forth from the Ark; you and your wife, your sons, and your sons’ wives with you. Every living being that is with you of all flesh, of birds, of animals, and moving things that move on the earth, ordered them out with you, and let them team on the earth and be fruitful and multiply on the earth (Verses 15–17).”

God understands that Noah is torn between the beautiful future laid out before him and the past that was so devastatingly destroyed. God instructs him to go forth and build and be fruitful and multiply on the earth. God wants Noah to be focused on building the future.

Noah rises to the occasion: “then no I built an altar to God and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.”

God responds to Noah’s actions: “God smelled the pleasing aroma, and God said in His heart: “I will not continue to curse again the ground because of man.” “All the days of the earth, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall not cease.”

More blessing follows: “the Lord blessed Noah and his sons, and He said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the land. The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, in everything that moves on earth and in all the fish of the sea; in your hand they are given.”

Everything is moving forward as it should. This is a time of great blessing; that is, until Noah takes a slight detour:

“Noah, the men of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself with in his tent. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside.”

One moment, Noah is the man of the future. The next moment he is the man of the earth, drunk and naked. Noah took a detour from his greatness and his mission. This detour is H’evinu.

The detour was made. Noah had to choose whether to return to what he was ordered to remain off his path: “no awoke from his wanting and realized what his small son had done to him. And he said, “Cursed is Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.” And he said, “Blessed is God, the Lord of Shem; and let Canaan be a slave to them. May the Lord extend Japheth, but he will dwell in the tents of Shem; May Canaan be a slave to them.”

Noah awoke and rejected his detour and returned to his role as the builder of the future. He laid out the course of human history.

Many of us have our great and grand moments. We find ourselves on a productive path. We have a vision. We live as builders of the future. But then, all too often, we too take a detour and lose sight of our vision. H’evinu describes those people who, when they find that they have detoured from a healthy path, lose sight of their original vision and remain lost in their turn off their road to greatness.

Noah teaches us how to repair H’evinu: by taking a firm stand, making a loud declaration that we are determined to return to our original path of greatness.

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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