Weekly Cycle

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Chassidic Concepts: Acquiring a Master Quotes from the Rebbe's Sicha on Purim 5747 (1987)


The Rebbe writes about the qualification of a Rav (close to Moshe Rabbeinu's Yahrzeit):

This is one of the reasons for the recent stress on the Mishnah’s statement, ‘Make for yourself a Rav.’ Since the Rav is neutral and uninvolved, he will certainly be able to give sound advice.

Even with this advice, however, a person might complain that he’s unsure whether or not he chose a proper Rav. Here again, the Torah provides guidance, in a verse which also speaks of the pre-Messianic era (Malachi, 2:7), ‘...seek Torah from his mouth, because he is an angel of G‑d.’ The Talmud explains, ‘If he resembles an angel of G‑d, then ‘seek Torah from his mouth,’ and if he does not, then don’t.’

But how can one tell if the Rav resembles an angel of G‑d; one never even saw an angel of G‑d! Here again, the Torah provides guidance, in the works of the Rambam, where he describes the lives of angels: ‘there is no eating or drinking...no jealousy, hatred or enmity.’

Therefore, in order to tell whether or not someone is fit to be a Rav, one must see if he fits this description. Is his spiritual life governed without influence of physical factors (corresponding to ‘no eating or drinking’)? Is he free of jealousy, hatred, etc.?

Of course, as always the Evil Inclination comes along with another objection — and one ‘according to the Torah’ (since it likes to conceal its true motives in the holy garb of a ‘silk kapote’). ‘Isn’t one of the signs of a true talmid chacham,’ claims the Evil Inclination, ‘that he is ‘vengeful like a serpent’?’ According to this reasoning, peaceful behavior would not be a correct way of identifying a qualified ‘Rav’!

Fortunately, the Torah also answers this clearly. When is it proper for a talmid chacham to behave in this way? Only when someone has shamed him publicly, and a general insult to the Torah is involved. However, should he be insulted in private, the Torah requires the exact opposite response. In the words of the Rambam, the way of talmidei chachamim is to ‘listen to insult without answering back; and furthermore to forgive the person who uttered the insult.’

Aside from these signs of a Rav, there is an obvious prerequisite: that the person has the signs indicative of a Jew in general. As the Talmud says, ‘This nation has three signs: they are merciful, bashful, and kind.’ Since these are called ‘signs,’ it is impossible that a person practice them only in private. To be considered a sign, the person must actually behave in these ways.

It should be reiterated that this process of choosing a proper Rav is associated with the necessity of having everything ‘clarified, refined, and purified’ — both regarding choosing the Rav and regarding his guidance in clarifying ambiguous cases.


Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Chassidic Concepts based on Rebbe's Maamar for Shabat Parashat Yitro, Mevarchim Adar I 5732


Chassidic Concepts based on Rebbe's Maamar for Shabat Parashat Yitro, Mevarchim Adar I 5732

Two Kavim: Chesed and Gevurah

Torah is Machriah both of them.

Leviathan and Shor HaBor, Tzadik and Beinoni: Explaining Chassidic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

In the Rebbe's first Ma'amar for the Torah Portion of Shelach, delivered on the Shabat blessing the month of Tammuz, 5711, the Rebbe delves into why the Torah states that the decision to send the spies was dependent on Moshe's initiative, and what exactly would have been Moshe's rationale for sending spies given that he knew that the entrance and conquest of the Land of Israel would be miraculous in nature.

The Rebbe explains that the entrance into the Land of Israel first and foremost represented the beginning of the practical mitzvot. The Rebbe then explains what it is written in Likutei Torah (from the Alter Rebbe) that there are two kinds of Tzadikim (righteous individuals): those in the category of Leviatan and those in the category of Shor HaBor.

Leviatan comes from the word, Levayah (accompaniment), and represents connection, and it represents the Tzadikim that are involved primarily in spiritual "unifications" (Yehudim) The Leviathan is a fish, from the sea, which represents the hidden spiritual realm. An example of this kind of Tzadik would be Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai during his 13 years inside a cave with his son Elazar. There, Rabbi Shimon and his son performed the mitzvot in a spiritual way only. The Arizal was also a Leviathan type of Tzadik, as was the Baal Shem Tov as well.

Shor HaBor represents Tzadikim that are involved primarily with the practical, physical mitzvot. Shor means an ox, and there is a saying that "Rav Tvuot beKoach haShor," great produce comes with the strength of the ox. There is a special advantage to souls called "beasts of the land," as we see in the Heavenly Chariot (which had images of animals, such as the ox), and how the loftier one's spiritual source, the deeper into physicality it falls. Man is dependent on the food he eats because in truth the food comes from a higher spiritual source than himself.

Even Tzadikim in the Leviatan category have to perform the Divine service of physical mitzvot, unless there is a decree from above, as was the case with Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai.

In the desert, the Jews' spiritual services was that of Leviatan Tzadikim, spiritual in nature. As they were now about to enter the service that involved physicality as well, they needed special assistance from Above, to receive additional strength. That was in fact the main purpose of Moshe sending out the spies, in order to additional strength from Above, in order to be involved in the service of Shor HaBor Tzadikim as well.

This specifically had to come from Moshe, who was complete nullified to Hashem, and could sense the higher level of involvement in the physical world. That is why, our sages explain, Moshe longed so much to enter the Land of Israel: to be able to perform the physical mitzvot connected to the Land itself.

The spies, although "kosher" individuals, did not have this same level of nullification. They did not sense the holiness of this service, and instead claimed that "the Land devoured its inhabitants" - it made them physical like the Land itself. Two of the spies, however, Caleb and Joshua, understood that it was in fact possible to elevate the physicality of the Land. These two spies were only able to come to this conclusion because they themselves were nullified to Moshe.

The Rebbe also compares mission of the spies that Moshe sent, compared to those sent by Joshua. Moshe's spies explored the entire Land and the 7 Canaanite nations that lived there. This is compared to the Divine service of the Tzadik, to fix the 7 Middot (also called Sefirot) in their essence. The mission of the spies of Joshua, however, are connected to the Beinoni (intermediary) only scouted Jericho, which comes from the word for Reiach, smell, and represents the rectification of only the outer garments of the soul: its thought, speech, and deed.

[The Tanya teaches that there are two kinds of service: that of the Tzadik (completely righteous) and that of the Beinoni (intermediary). The heart of the Tzadik is a like a Land that has been completely conquered. There is no Other, and therefore there is no struggle. The heart of the Beinoni is like a single Land with two competing governments, only one of which is preoccupied with Jewish causes. Neither should the Beinoni delude himself and think he is a Tzadik, nor should the fact that he is a Beinoni make him sad in any way, for it is exactly in this struggle that G-d finds the greatest joy. The Beinoni should also not ignore the Other, or even fail to help him in his time of need. On the contrary, he should raise the Other, and bring him along in the service of God. The Land of Israel today is like the heart of a Beinoni.]

Sunday, December 23, 2012

"The Kabbalah of Time" Co-Author Featured in the Miami Herald


Aventura author presents book on Jewish pioneers’ struggles in Brazil

Email Ann Helen Wainer at JewishBrazilianConnection@gmail.com


Aventura author Ann Helen Wainer gave a history lesson on the relationship between Jews and Brazilians as she presented her new book at the North Miami Beach Public Library last week.
In her book, Jewish and Brazilian Connections to New York, India and Ecology, she refers to her Brazilian homeland, which is where the first Jewish pioneers to New York came from.
With the history of persecution in Europe, Jews found refuge in Recife, Brazil, which was occupied by the Dutch. Government leaders allowed Jews to freely practice their religion.
But, after the Dutch lost their place in Brazil to the Portuguese, Jewish people no longer were tolerated and they began immigrating in 1654 to New York – known at the time as New Amsterdam.
Wainer, who is Jewish and originally from Brazil, has written several books and talks freely about the struggle of Jewish settlers.
“It is necessary to take a step back and understand the adversities that these pioneer Jews faced,” she said. “Before their arrival in New Amsterdam, they faced material losses, jumping from ship to ship, imprisonment and much more. They were ill-prepared for the prejudice and intolerance they found.”
Wainer, an attorney in Brazil who moved to the United States in 1999, is separated by only one generation in her family from the surviving Jews of the Holocaust. She highlights this in a previous book, “Family Portrait.”
Rabbi Daniel Kahane, a co-author on another of her books – “The Kabbalah of Time” – talked about the strong history and Jewish culture represented in Wainer’s writing.
“It shows just how deeply ingrained the struggle for fairness and equality is in Jewish religion, culture and tradition,” said Kahane, an attorney who volunteers as a teacher at Aventura Chabad. “Fixing the world, changing it and making it a better place – what is known in Hebrew as ‘Tikkun Olam’ – is an essential aspect of being a Jew.”
Wainer, who currently teaches at Florida Atlantic University about the Jewish connection with the Brazilian Cinematheque, talked at her book signing about the success that Jewish people have had in the United States and the importance of remembering the struggle it took to get there.
Her son, David Wainer, 28, reiterated that point.
“Jews have it good in this country. They represent a well-off minority group, and the book highlights that,” said the younger Wainer, a Boston University graduate who is a business reporter currently based in Israel. “It wasn’t always like that,” he said. “There were pioneers [who] had to fight for their survival and the basic ability to be who they want to be. It provides the proper context for the Jewish community in the U.S.”
Wainer closed out her lecture by telling the crowd the process she went through and the support she received while writing her book.
“I believe when you have a purpose like this, the universe has a way of conspiring in your favor,” she said. “It made me feel very connected to this country and Brazil, and it helped me understand more about where my two hearts are.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/12/16/3822422/aventura-author-presents-book.html#storylink=cpy

Monday, December 17, 2012

Chomer and Tzurah, Ohr Yashar and Ohr Chozer: Explaining Chassidic/Kabbalistic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

In the Rebbe's first Ma'amar for Shavuot, the Rebbe explains the significance of concept that the Torah was created 2000 years before Creation and that it was (and will be) G-d's joy (Sha'ashuah). Within the Ma'amar, the Rebbe explains in passing the concepts of Chomer and Tzurah and Ohr Yashar and Ohr Chozer.

The Rebbe explains that everything in the world is created with material (Chomer) and [spiritual] form (Tzurah). The material aspect of created things is made from the word of G-d, while their form come from the will and desire of G-d. The Torah is connected to the creation of both aspects.

The Rebbe also explains that there are two ways in which G-dliness is drawn down to the world: a light that comes straight down (Ohr Yashar) and a light that is reflected (Ohr Chozer). The same is true for Torah study, and is connected to the two kinds of Talmuds that exist. When one studies something and immediately understands it, that's related to the Ohr Yashar and that the Talmud Yerushalmi (the Jerusalem Talmud). If someone studies something and does not immediately understand it, having many questions on the subject, that's related to the Talmud Bavli (the Babylonian Talmud).

Studying in the way of Ohr Chozer, the Babylonian Talmud, brings one to levels that are higher beyond measure than studying through the way of Ohr Yashar. Yet, we see that that are the Talmud Yerushalmi also has advantages that are beyond measure, as we see from Rabbi Zeirah, who fasted 100 fasts in order to forget the Babylonian Talmud in order to study the Jerusalem Talmud. Both ways are important.

There are two levels of study through Ohr Chozer. First, is study with effort in order to understand what one is study. Second, higher still, is study with effort to understand what actions are needed and a desire to understand the essence of G-d, accompanied by awe and fear of not fully complying with the Divine will.

Torah study through the ways described above, particularly through the second, higher level of Ohr Chozer, brings pleasure (Ta'anug) and joy (Sha'ashua), for us and for G-d Himself.     

Thursday, December 13, 2012

How This World Brings the Soul to a Greater Love and Fear of G-d - Explaining Chassidic Concepts Based on the Discourses of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

In his first Ma'amar for the Torah portion of Ekev, related on Shabat Mevarchim Elul, 5711, the Rebbe explains the verse from the Zohar which states that "three 'knots' are tied together: Israel with the Torah, and the Torah with Hashem, one with each other, all together, level upon level, hidden and revealed.

The language used, tied, knotted (Hitkashrut), implies three separate entities. Would it not be better to speak in terms of Dveikut, which implies complete oneness? The Rebbe explains that the reality of the matter is that once the soul comes down to this world it is no longer completely one with Hashem as it was in the upper worlds.

However, there are advantages to the soul coming down to this world. The Rebbe illustrates this by bringing a verse from the Song of Songs, "Shechorah Ani veNa'avah, Benot Yerushalayim," I am darkened yet I am beautiful, daughters of Jerusalem." Yerushalayim refers to the level of Yirah Shalem, fear of Hashem that is whole, complete. This can only be achieved in the higher worlds. The soul in this lowly world is speaking to those in the higher world, stating that it has been darkened, it no longer has the same closeness and fear, yet it is beautiful, in the sense that in this world the soul can climb even higher. Once the soul is separated from Hashem and placed in a body, it feels that it is distant from G-d, and that it lives in a dry land without water, and that it could even sin, bringing it even further from G-d. This creates within it a thirst and a love for G-d that is higher than before.

The Rebbe also explains that even regarding fear, even though it is impossible that the quantity of the fear be greater in this lowly world, where one does not fully grasp G-dliness, nevertheless the quality of the fear can become greater. Fear of G-d comes from the idea of Bittul, nullification. There are two level of nullification. The first is when the individual believes that the worlds are nothing compared to Hashem, Kula Kamei Kelo Chashiv, and the second is when one realizes that there is nothing but Him, Ein Od Milevadoh. When the soul is in the upper worlds, it is at the first level - it absorbs G-dliness, but to an extent still sees itself as a separate entity. In this world, once the soul realizes that everything that masks and hides Hashem's oneness is a lie, this brings to an even greater nullification than before.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Spiritual Ascent and Heavenly Descent: Explaining Basic Chassidic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

With G-d's help, here is another short excerpt explaining Chassidic/Kabbalistic concepts, based on the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

In one of his first Ma'amarim, the Rebbe explores why the Torah portion of Bechukotai uses the words, "Vehitalachti BeTochachem," "I shall walk within you." Vehitalachti is a reflexive form of the verb "to walk." A simpler way of writing, "I shall walk" would be, "Vehalachti."

The Rebbe explains that Vehitalachti refers to two kinds of connections to G-d: ascent and descent. The Rebbe uses the metaphor of a mountain, and the differences between one that needs to climb up the mountain versus one that descends.

To ascend a mountain, the Rebbe explains, one needs to know the paths and ways, to have the proper clothing, and to be particularly strong. When it comes to going up the "mountain of G-d," the paths and ways are the Torah and mitzvot. One must learn Torah properly, with the proper intention (Lishmah), and not for any alterior motive. First and foremost, one must have fear of Heaven. When it comes to mitzvot, it is also not enough just to perform the act, but one must make sure to perform it in a way that actually accomplishes what was intended (also Lishmah). The Rebbe gives an example that one can be performing the mitzvah of honoring one's parents while actually embarrassing them. Furthermore, the Rebbe explains that knowing the "ways" up the mountain refers to knowledge of G-dliness, which will automatically bring to love and fear of G-d. In the process, one must elevate not only the G-dly soul, but the animal soul as well. The proper "clothing" refers to the "letters" of one's thought, speech, and deed. These requirements apply to going up to Heaven, going up from the Lower Garden of Eden to the Higher Garden of Eden, and the infinite levels that the Garden of Eden in fact contains.

Going down the mountain, on the other hand, does not have any of these requirements. All that is needed is to be able to be "Metzamtzem," to be able to make oneself smaller. Here to there are different ways in which Hashem descends to us. Using the metaphor of a king, one can only get closer to the king in accordance to one's position. Some people make it only to the entrance way, some to the inner hallway, and some to the king's room itself. However there are times when the king himself reveals himself to all his subjects in his royal garments. These revelations are so strong that all are nullified to his power. This is comparable to the Redemption from Egypt and the Giving of the Torah. At other times, he visits his subjects with ordinary day-to-day garments. The relationship with the King when he is wearing ordinary clothing is actually greater and more personal than when He is in his royal garments. This is comparable to the mitzvot, which are G-d Himself enclothed in the physical world. 

Both the ascent and the descent have advantages. Although the ascent is limited to one's potential and service, the connection is more fully internalized (Pnimi). The revelation that comes from descent is unchanged from its source above, but is only absorbed in a more "surrounding" way (Sovev) and is not fully internalized. 

[Both kinds of connection are important, and both are reflected in the year itself. May we merit to be able to relate to G-d in both ways, and reach the full meaning of the verse, "Vehitalachti BeTochachem," "I shall walk within you."

Sunday, December 9, 2012

(Updated) Sacrifices, Prayer, and Creating a Dwelling Place for G-d in the Lowly Realms: Explaining Chassidic/Kabbalistic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

In the Rebbe's first Ma'amar as rebbe for the Torah Portion of Pinchas, for Shabat Mevarchim Menachem Av (the Shabat that blesses the Jewish month of Av), 5711, the Rebbe delves deeply into the meaning behind the Temple sacrifices and how they relate to prayer.

The Rebbe first points to an apparent contradiction: the Torah makes clear that sacrifices are the key aspect of Divine service, yet the Torah also states that listening to/obeying Hashem is more important than sacrifices. The Rebbe also states that we must better understand the nature of sacrifices themselves. As our sages ask, "If a person sinned, what sin did the animal commit?" 

The explanation of the latter question is that atonement comes when a person meditates on the fact that everything that is now happening to the animal was meant to be happening to him. This is also the concept of prayer being done in the place of sacrifices. 

The Alter Rebbe explains in Likutei Torah that the Olah sacrifices (the burnt elevation offering) involved the sacrificing of flesh, sinews, and bones. Bones are connected to the brain, while the flesh is connected to blood and to the heart. Prayer replaces sacrifices in the sense that concentrating on the nullification of the worlds before G-d is connected to the service of the mind, while arousing the emotional attributes (middot) linked to love and fear is connected to the service of the heart. The Rebbe then states that to some extent there is an advantage of prayer over sacrifices, but sacrifices are just "as if" what happens to the animal happens to the person, while through prayer affects the person's soul directly.

Still, we see that sacrifices are higher than prayer, in that we ask that our prayers be accepted [as sacrifices] and that the Temple be speedily rebuilt and that we may bring actual sacrifices soon. The reason sacrifices are higher is because the holy spark found in the animal comes from a higher source. As we've mentioned before, the lower something is found in Creation, the higher its spiritual source. 

The Rebbe then asks, that if this is the case, then the sacrifices brought in the First and Second Temple should be higher than those brought in the Third Temple, when "the spirit of unholiness will have been removed from the land." At the same time, on a purely spiritual level, prayer should remain higher than Third Temple sacrifices as well. Yet, we see that the Third Temple sacrifices are in fact the highest in all respects. This also requires further explanation.

To understand all of this, it is important to begin by explaining that the purpose of the Creation of all the worlds was that Hashem desired a home in the lowest realms. (Midrash Tanchuma) A home means a place, just like it is for people, when a person's complete essence and substance can be found. The essence of the Ein Sof was to be found there, like our sages' explanation [expounded in the last Ma'amar of the Previous Rebbe] of the verse in the Song of Songs, Bati LeGani, "I've come to My Garden." Gani should be read Gnuni, My wedding canopy. Hashem's essence could be found in this lowly world.

The main service that makes for a dwelling for Hashem in this world is that of sacrifices. In the Garden of Eden, Adam is told to work it and to keep it. The same terminology for "to keep" (LeShamrah) is used regarding sacrifices, "Tishmeru Lehakriv." Sacrifices remove the masks and hiddeness of Hashem, to the extent that G-dliness becomes completely revealed. The animal sacrifices would be consumed by a Heavenly fire. The sacrifices would reach to the "Razah d'Ein Sof," the secret of "the Infinite," higher even to how Hashem is usually referred to in Kabbalah, Ohr Ein Sof (the "Light of the Infinite").

Sacrifices in in Gan Eden also had a higher aspect than those of the times of the Temple, because in Gan Eden there was no evil in the world. The sacrifice's soul purpose was to bring Hashem in the world, and not for the purposes of elevating the fallen sparks after Adam and Eve at from the Tree of Knowledge, which introduced evil into the world and forced them out of the Gan Eden.

Nevertheless, spiritual service after the giving of the Torah contained a higher aspect than the one in Gan Eden. Before the giving of the Torah, the higher worlds and this world were completely separate. The physical could not become spiritual. Once the Torah was given, this barrier disappeared. The giving of the Torah was the bringing down of Hashem's essence, within the Torah itself.

We now see how the sacrifices of the Third Temple will be the ideal. They will have the advantage of the times of the Garden of Eden when there was no evil in the world and their entire purpose was to bring Hashem closer, while at the same time being able to fully bring down Hashem's essence because the barrier that separated the higher worlds from this one was removed at the time of the giving of the Torah.

Monday, November 26, 2012

The Sefirot and the Counting of the Omer (Explaining Chassidic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe)

With G-d's help, we continue our efforts to explain Chassidic/Kabbalistic concepts, based on the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson.

In his first Ma'amar on Lag Ba'Omer (18th of Iyar, 5711), the Rebbe explains how the Counting of the Omer is connected to purifying and rectifying the animal soul, and that there are two elements: the rectification (Beirur)of a person's mind (Mochin) and the rectification of a person's attributes (Middot). In turn, the Rebbe explains that these two rectifications are connected to the bringing of the Omer offering and the counting itself.

The Omer offering is brought from barley (animal food), and the Talmud teaches that a baby does gain the intellectual capacity to speak until he's tasted cereal, which indicates that the Omer offering is connect to the intellect, the Mochin of the animal soul.

After the rectification of the intellect comes the rectification of the [emotional] attributes, both on a daily basis and on a weekly basis. There is a "general" rectification on the level of Makif (surrounding, not penetrating) and a "specific" one that goes into the detail of each of the seven emotional attributes and is properly internalized. The idea of the step-by-step, slow, deeper and detailed rectification is expressed in working on the subdivisions of the emotional attributes, until one's thoughts, speech, and deeds are as they should be. This is the idea of taking each day to work on a subdivision, Chesed shebeChesed, Hod shebeHod, etc. 

The Rebbe also explains what certain subdivisions represent. For example Chesed shebeChesed symbolizes that out of the love one has for Hashem, he loves also what Hashem loves. When one sees someone studying Torah and fulfilling mitzvot with fear of Heaven, that inspires love for that person. Chesed shebeChesed also inspires a person to fulfill the Torah and mitzvot him/herself with great alacrity.

Gevurah shebeChesed means that love for Hashem causes a person to hate those that are against Him. Tiferet shebeChesed is related to love for the beauty and sweetness of the Torah and mitzvot. Netzach shebeChesed is the determination (out of love) to study Torah and fulfill mitzvot against any obstacles, and Hod shebeChesed is related to the idea of fighting with any outside forces that are trying to prevent him from his goal. Yesod shebeChesed is related to a deep soul connection [foundation] to Torah and mitzvot, and Malchut shebeChesed is bringing oneself [and all the above] to a state where all his thoughts, speech, and deeds are solely connected to Torah and mitzvot.

The Rebbe further explains that all the good qualities above have a negative counterpart. The subdivisions of Chesed for example, can be rooted in the love for physicality that takes him away from G-dliness. A person may, G-d forbid, take all the of the above (the love, the hate, the beauty, determination, etc.) and apply it to the physical.

The Rebbe points out that Hod is also connected to the idea of acknowledgment. Hod shebeHod, which is the Sefirah for Lag Ba'Omer, represents a level of acknowledgment that is intrinsic to this characteristic, unrelated to reason or even to the higher emotions. It is the lowest level of holiness - even if one bows during Modim (the prayer of thanks/acknowledgment) without even knowing why, there is still hope for such a person, and he/she is still connected to holiness.

The task of Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai was to connect the highest levels of holiness to the lowest ones, and that is why his highest revelations, which he revealed on the very day of his passing, were on the day of Hod shebeHod.

[Now that Chanukah and, L'Havdil, Thanksgiving (celebrated together for the first and probably only time in history) are upon us, may we all connect to the idea of Hod, giving thanks, and renew our hope and expectation of the day when the holiness of each and every person will be revealed.

The following are the additions we make on Chanukah to the prayer of Modim mentioned above, part of the Amidah:

On Chanukah and Purim, the following is added.
And [we thank You] for the miracles, for the redemption, for the mighty deeds, for the saving acts, and for the wonders which You have wrought for our ancestors in those days, at this time ---
On Chanukah continue here: 

In the days of Matityahu, the son of Yochanan the High Priest, the Hasmonean and his sons, when the wicked Hellenic government rose up against Your people Israel to make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will. But You, in Your abounding mercies, stood by them in the time of their distress. You waged their battles, defended their rights and avenged the wrong done to them. You delivered the mighty into the hands of the weak, the many into the hands of the few, the impure into the hands of the pure, the wicked into the hands of the righteous, and the wanton sinners into the hands of those who occupy themselves with Your Torah. You made a great and holy name for Yourself in Your world, and effected a great deliverance and redemption for Your people to this very day. Then Your children entered the shrine of Your House, cleansed Your Temple, purified Your Sanctuary, kindled lights in Your holy courtyards, and instituted these eight days of Chanukah to give thanks and praise to Your great Name.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Yitkafia and Yit'apcha: Explaining Chassidic Concepts Based on the Writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe

This coming Friday is the Yud Tes (19th of) Kislev, which is known in Chabad circles as the "Rosh Hashanah of Chassidut. It marks the liberation of the first Lubavitcher Rebbe, known as the Alter Rebbe, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi. The sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe stated that Yud (the 10th of )Kislev marks the birth of a chassid, while Yud Tes Kislev marks his brit-milah (circumcision, the removal of the outer barrier).

In honor of this day, we will, G-d willing, attempt to explain Chassidic/Kabbalistic concepts, based on the writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, which trace their back to the Alter Rebbe himself.

The first concept to be explained here are the concepts of Yitkafia and Yit'apcha. In one of his first Maamarim, the Rebbe explains that our Divine service in this world, known as Avodat HaBeirurim (sifting through and elevating the holy sparks of this world) consists of taking what is undesired and associated with the [cosmic] left (the side of impurity) and uplifting them and integrating them into the [cosmic] right (the side of holiness). He further states that this is service of Torah study itself, clarifying what is allowed and what is forbidden and elevating it to the "right."

The Rebbe then states that when it comes to this Divine service, there are two major approaches, Yitkafia Sitra Achra (holding back the evil inclination), and Yit'apcha Chashucha LeNehora (transforming darkness into light). Both have advantages and disadvantages when compared to the other.

The service of  Yitkafia involves the good inclination "dressing" itself into the evil inclination, and overpowering and overwhelming it, until it itself becomes subservient and nullified to the good. Yitkafia is the Divine service of the Beinoni (the "intermediate") and is applicable to every individual. It is compared to an actual war, a struggle exemplified by Jacob's (the good inclination) wresting with Esau's angel (the evil inclination). Vay'avek ish imo – “And a man (angel) wrestled with him.” (Genesis 32:25)

The advantage of Yitkafia is that that the evil must fully acknowledge the good. Its disadvantage is that the evil never really goes away. Like the concept of nullification in Jewish law, sometimes nullification takes place when you have 60 times more of the kosher substance than the non-kosher one, sometimes you have 1000, and sometimes even 10,000. No matter the difference, the non-kosher substance never disappears completely, it is still there to some extent. 

Another disadvantage of Yitkafia is that the interaction between the good and the evil cannot help but slightly weaken the good, just like wen you pour sweet drinkable water over bitter water, the entire body of water now becomes drinkable, but is not as sweet as the original sweet water.

Yit'apcha Chashucha LeNehora involves a revelation of Divine light that automatically transforms the evil inclination into good. Its advantage is that it leaves no trace of the evil. The disadvantage is that the evil does not acknowledge the good inclination - it becomes transformed automatically, in the face of the new light that is revealed. 

The Rebbe compares the difference between Yitkafia and Yit'apcha to the two different ways a litigant can emerge victorious in a court room. One way to defeat the prosecution is by the defense offering arguments that successfully counter those offered by the opposing party. This would be equivalent to Yitkafia, where there is a struggle, a back and forth between the two sides. Another way the defendant can win is if the King himself appears in the courtroom. The revelation of the countenance of the King [and his decision as a matter of equity to side with the defendant] makes both sides work for the defense. This would be the equivalent of  Yit'apcha.

When it comes to our Divine service, we can fight the evil inclination by reading chassidic works that others related to morals and ethics that help us "know the enemy" and properly fight the evil inclination through Yitkafia. [It is worth noting that Yitkafia applies even in the realm of what is permitted, yet susceptible toabuse. One must know when it may be necessary to hold back even when doing something completely "kosher"]. Yit'apcha usually involves a revelation from above, Divine assistance in the form of a Rebbe's encouragement, for example. 

There is an even higher level of Yit'apcha. This level is above understanding and feeling, which comes from the very essence of the person, from his/her innermost desire to abandon all evil in order to be close to Hashem.  A person may not even know what is harmful spiritually and may not know what is G-dly either, but something inside him/her nevertheless pushes the person away from evil and to come closer to G-d. 

[In the coming days of Yud Tes Kislev and Chanukah, may we all connect to this essence, to that pure flask of oil that each one of us carries inside, stamped with the seal of the High Priest, the Kohen Gadol

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Creative Writing: Poetry

Procurando Meu Canto

Achei minha voz

Conheci os amigos
Relembrei meus avós.

Procurando meu canto

Senti minha dor
Lavei minha alma
Expirei meu calor.

Procurando meu canto

Construi minhas casas
Reatei as raizes
Soltei minhas asas.

Procurando meu canto

Cantei pra Você
Encontrei, finalmente,
Minha razão de viver.

Bedtime Shemah
I have died
So many times
That when I go
It won't be new
My eyes will close
My mouth ajar
I'll say the words
I know are true:
There is no doubt
There is no I
There's only Truth
There's only You
Then, wrapped in white
I'll wait and see 
The Heavens' first
Light shades of blue
I'll give my thanks
And wash my hands
Shake off the dust
And start anew.

I am the Place

In which you sit
Life, vest,
Oxygen, mask.

I am the belt
Holding you tight
Buckling and

I am the seat
That makes you float
If you hug me
Against your chest.

I am the One
Who comforts you,
Pilot now signaling

It is safe to stand.

Jacob, Israel

I try so hard
In every way
To get Your smile
And get Your say

Perhaps one day
After all that trying
After all that living
After all that dying

My seeds will grow
To become trees
And testify
About that child

And then that man
Who tried so hard
And finally got

What he couldn't see.

Yom Yerushalayim

Chega o dia que cansa
Ser manso, pacato
Sensato palhaço
Chega a hora que explode
A força enforcada
Feroz e selvagem
Com garras, coragem
Jumento tornado
Tigre de fogo e carvão
Reconquista por fim
O próprio coração
Cidade da paz
E temor.


Completely nothing

He couldn't move
His mind a daze
His world confused

Not knowing
If he was coming
Or he was going.

Out of fuel
For quite some time
His body failing
As were his rhymes

He'd sing
His final song
And then he'd go.

Then he remembered
An ancient shepherd
Who worked for love
For seven years, then seven more

They went by slow
But even so
They were like days.

He too felt dead
For quite some time
And yet he knew, he surely knew
That like the dew

He'd be revived.

PS: : "Love is as strong as death" (Song of Songs 8:16)

It Comes as No Surprise

That outside the
Land of giants
Everything again
Feels so small.

If after 9 months
It took me
Almost a decade
To settle,

Is it really a shock
That I'd return
With my head again
In those clouds?

No longer breathing
Its air, bathing
In Its water,

No longer standing
On Its earth, warm
From Its fire.

It's all
To be expected,
Yet painful
All the same.

PS: Israel has four main holy cities:Jerusalem (fire), Hebron (earth), Tiberias (water) and Tsfat (air)

In the Holy Land

The angels I've seen

Have no chubby cheeks,
Fluffy feathers or wings.

They have just direction

To give and care deeply,
Few words, hardly any expression.

Alive at Week's End

Not because
I earn or

But because
I yearn,

Weak finished,
I learn to

Return, and

Some Times

No matter how right
And successful
The operation,

How strong the bond
And bright the light
After the darkness,

The wound remains
And the heart still
Beats a bit broken.

I Don't Have All the Answers

I don't have all the answers
Not even the questions.

All I have is the will
To learn and to change.

And that's all I need.

Allah huAkhbar
G-d is Great
He is All and
People peep
Like mice at bar
And make Him

The Left Leg

Was never meant
To be the head.

I hold my own
But seek balance
In my right twin.

I flex and bend
So not to brake.

Protect my toes,
My heal and soul
With my thick skin.

Come and see

Come and hear,
Smell and touch,
Taste and fear,
Love so much.

Come and sing.

Come and heal,
Smile and try,
Dance and feel,
Laugh and cry.

Whatever you do,
Make sure to come.
Uman Uman Rosh Hashana...

In the Morning

In the morning
I wrap myself
With explosives
Close to my heart,
Arms, and head.

I search for
The biggest crowd
Of Jewish men,
Covering my face
With a cloak.

I anxiously wait
To sacrifice
Body and Soul,
Lighting a Fire
For Life, and not death.

Surrounded by Distant Family

Sitting in a gymnasium,
Praying for their release
I could not help but think that
We are all kidnapped children.
(Literally, Tinokot sheNishbe'u)

Yet, we too are not alone.
We are One, and we have each other.
We've been united and must remain so,
For that is the ultimate goal, the only way out,
The source of our redemption.

Return us to You,
And we will return, together.
Bring back your boys.

After a Long Day

I opened up my computer and
A pop-up window appeared.
It had a heart and read in pink:
"Does Skype power your passion?"

They do not know that Mine is
Vast and total.

If only there was a Skype for it,
Something to keep me connected.
If only I could see and still
Listen, talk, and live...

Then perhaps I would not feel
The emptiness.

The crater that remains from the blast
That formed me into a vessel,
Rendering other food tasteless and
The air outside of it impure.

Here, there is no way to fill
The void, I know.

There are but moments of brightness,
The promise of reward, and
The gratification in knowing that
I do not want or need it.

The only true reward is to serve
The One I love.

Everything else is just a
Flashing light on a screen
On which I must click,
and hit "OK."

The Heart of the Matter

When the soul first enters the body,
 It asks: "Why do I need all this opposition?
I already had a place to live,
So why do I have to conquer this one?"

With time, it realizes that to be truly whole
And holy requires both body and soul,
East and West, the Jerusalem above
And the Jerusalem below.

Some points

At some points,
I worried about
Sounding smart.
At some others,
Sounding funny.
Buy these days,
All I care about
Is sounding true,
Like my Self.

From my posts

Some people
May think
I'm crazy.

Of course,
I am.
Isn't everyone
Who is in love?


There's a lady
Who for years
I would see

On the street
Taking walks
Dragging half
Of her body.

She's here now
And I cannot
Believe my eyes.

Her back straight,
No longer angled
Forty-five degrees,

She is running.

Tag Me In Your Prayers

Tag me 
In your 

Like what's


To More
Than just

And you
Will come
Face to

With the
Fact that
I am

And our
Life is
In a

Of the
Kind One
Has to


Some Times

No matter how right
And successful
The operation,

How strong the bond
And bright the light
After the darkness,

The wound remains
And the heart still
Beats a bit broken.

Just Paths

The truth is that
There's no quick fix
Just simply paths
Of the Tzadik.

No lasting signs,
Bright finish lines,
Cures from coffee,
Much less from wine.

There's no plateau,
Or staying still,
You either grow
Or you will wilt.

Just step by step,
That's all there is.
A few more up
Until you slip.

Then comes the trick,
To just restart,
Get up and go
Until you find

That brick by brick,
Through sweat and tears
A few mistakes 
And many fears

You've built a home.


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