Wednesday nights - Rav Benzion's Tanya shiur..........Please continue to daven for the good health of the Rebbe (Yechiel Michel ben Devorah Leah) and Rebbetzin (Feiga bas Sarah).

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Video: The Rebbe speaking at Yeshivas Nefesh Dovid for the Deaf

This is from back in February 2009 but for those who have not seen it, enjoy and be inspired!

Yearnings Materialized

I stumbled upon an old post from A Simple Jew where he posted two quotes, one from the Rebbe of Kotzk, zy"a, and another from the Piasetzner Rebbe, zy"a. I found them both to be very connected to what the Rebbe, shlit"a, said on Shabbos about our speech effecting our commitments to change.

Yahrtzeit: Rebbe Yitzchak Yoel of Kantikuziva (Tamuz 24)

Yesterday (Tamuz 24) was the yahrtzeit of Rebbe Yitzchak Yoel Rabinowitz of Kantikuziva, the Rebbe Reb Leibele's father-in-law. Born on Shvat 16, 5600 (1840) to Rebbe Gadalya Aahron, the son of Reb Yitzchak Yoel, the son of Rebbe Gadalya of Linitz, the author of Tshuos Chein and a talmid of the Baal Shem Hakadosh. His maternal grandfather was Reb Shmuel Avrohom Abba, son of Reb Moshe of Slavita, the son of the famed Rebbe Pinchas of Koritz.

Stop Trying

Last Shabbos the Rebbe, shlit"a, spoke about the importance of our speech and the effect our words can have on the tenacity of our commitments.
Parshas Matos begins with a very clear example of the severity of our speech. A spoken vow is Biblically binding and one must make good on his commitments.
We all know that the world was created with speech. G-d spoke the world into existence with the Ten Utterances (עשרה מאמרים), "Let there be light" etc., and because the very fabric of our universe is made up of Hashem's speech, our words have the ability to build and destroy as well.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Yahrtzeit: Rebbe Eluzer Twersky of Faltichan (Tamuz 21)

Click to enlarge.
This past Shabbos (Tamuz 21) was the yahrtzeit of the Faltichaner Rebbe, Rav Eluzer Twersky.

Rebbe Yitzchak of Skver (one of the Chernobyler Magid's eight sons) had a son named Reb Dovid who had a son named Reb Shlomo. This Reb Shlomo married the daughter of Rebbe Aryeh Leibish Rokeach of Magrov, a son of Reb Sheya'leh Belzer. Rav Eluzer of Faltitchan was the son of Reb Shlomo. Hence, he was a direct descendant (ben achar ben) from Skver, and living until his chassunah with his uncle, Rebbe Yissachar Dov Belzer, he became heavily influenced by Belz.

Reb Eluzer had a daughter named Sarah who eventually married Rav Avrohom Stein. The names are familiar because Rav Avrohom and Rebbetzin Sarah Stein were our Rebbetzin's parents.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The King in Exile

כל רודפיה השיגוה בין המצרים - איכה א, ג
"All her pursuers overtook her in narrow straights" (Eicha 1:3).

The Rebbe Reb Dov Ber, the Mezritcher Magid, zy"a, said:

The Three Weeks (Bein Hametzarim) are especially opportune for spiritual attainments and drawing nearer to the Shechina Hakedosha, more-so than during the rest of the year.
Similar to a king who while in exile is approachable to all, and upon his return to the palace he will surely remember to fulfill the pleas of his loyal subjects. Surely the most appropriate and auspicious prayer during this time would be that the King should be reinstated in His rightful place.

Minhagim: Waking Up in the Morning

Every day there is a chabura who learns Shulchan Aruch HaRav for a hour before mincha (everyone is welcome, by the way). We are holding in Siman Vav which deals with the laws of the berachos of Al Netilas Yadayim, Asher Yatzar and Elokai Neshamah. Yesterday, the Rebbe came a few minutes early to mincha and sat down next to us. Upon hearing what we were learning, he mentioned the tradition from the Rebbe Reb Zisha not to put one's feet on the floor in the morning before washing negel vasser. He explained that the pasuk in Tehilim says, "התיצב על דרך לא טוב רע לא ימאס", "He set himself on a path that was not good, he will not be disgusted by evil." Reb Zisha said that one who stands up while still tamei in the morning is giving room for the yetzer hara to have a hold on himself, and during the day he will find it more difficult to "be disgusted by evil" and make the right choices. The Rebbe's tone of voice left no doubt that we are all strongly encouraged to follow this custom.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Medrash: 17th of Tamuz 5771

Today's Medrash Shiur was about the five things that are recorded as having occurred on the 17th of Tamuz. Interestingly, the Sin of the Golden Calf is not listed even though it too took place on the same day. The Rebbe expounded on the numerous levels of unity (achdus), and set forth the appropriate level of unity that is characteristic of Yidden. The Rebbe also said over how these ideas translate into practical service in Torah learning, davening and ahavas Yisroel.

What's My Purpose?

Today the Rebbe also spoke about finding one's tachlis (purpose) in life. There are primarily three clues given in the seforim hakedoshim: things one is good at, those things one finds most challenging, and the things one enjoys doing most. There are also many challenges we face when trying to look at our gifts and nisyonos objectively. In this shiur, the Rebbe speaks about the role of the tzadik in helping one find his life's mission. Although, the Rebbe said, we may not have people of the same magnitude as in previous generations, there is still something that we have which may be even stronger.

DOWNLOAD (Running time: 14 min., Size: 3.17 MB)

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The Chess Game Called Life

This morning the Rebbe spoke about man's ability to choose his own course of action freely, and how that ability does not interfere with Hashem's control over the outcome of history. The Rebbe mentioned that every place a person finds himself is as a result of his own choices, but that place is just as fitting to find Hashem as was the place he was at before. It may be different, he may be different because of the choices he made, but Hashem immediately offers him new custom-tailored opportunities to continue on the path that will ultimately bring him to where he needs to be. See also Drops of Rain, entitled Knowing That We Do Not Know (Parshas Sh'lach).

12 minutes, 2.8 MB

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Monday, July 18, 2011

Shemini: Vayidom - And He Spoke?

Yesterday after davening, the Rebbe, shlit"a, spoke briefly about Aharon's supposed silence upon the death of Nadav and Avihu.

The pasuk says, "vayidom Aharaon" which is generally translated as "and Aharon was silent". Is silence really the best response?

Another issue is that the word shtikah demonstrates silence much better than "vayidom". Also, Chazal tell us that as a reward for Aharon's reaction to the dreadful news he was rewarded by Hashem speaking the next parsha expressly to him. Where is the measure-for-measure? By Aharon's silence he is rewarded with speaking?  The Rebbe answers these questions in this short clip.
2 minutes, <1 MB

Finding Meaning in Fasting (audio)

Today after Shachris the Rebbe responded to a question regarding how to make sure that a person is not the same at the end of Shivasar B'Tamuz or Tisha B'Av as he was the day before. In other words, how does one find meaning in fasting when that is the whole avodah of the day (as opposed to Yom Kippur, for example)?

One thing the Rebbe said at a different time (hence it is not in the recording) is that one who wants to "get in touch" with the loss and what it means to be in galus, he can imagine everything he wants to get out of ruchniyus and where he wants to be in a relationship with Hashem, in addition to how good the world could be if everything were right and in its proper place, so to speak. Multiply that by as much as your mind can handle. Then imagine having it all and having it all ripped away. If we felt like that on these fast days, who would be able to stomach anything at all? Towards the end of this three-and-a-half minute recording, the Rebbe talks about the "positive" aspect, as opposed to the aforementioned method, both of which are important.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Video: The Rebbe with the Rachmistrivker Rebbe 5768

One of the highlights of the 5768 trip to Eretz Yisroel was the bris of the Rebbe's great-great-nephew with HaRav Yaakov Meir Shechter, shlit"a, and the Rachmistrivker Rebbe, shlit"a, in attendance. Here is a short clip of the Rebbe and the Rachmistrivker speaking between themselves. You can't hear what they are saying but I thought it was worthwhile just to see these two erlicher yidden together.

Video: The Rebbe's Avinu Malkeinu and Havdala in Yerushalayim 5768

In the winter of 5768, the Rebbe, shlit"a, visited Eretz Yisroel. During the two weeks he was there, the chevra arranged a trip up north to many of the kivrei tzadikim, a trip to Kever Rochel, among others. On both Shabbosim the chevra davened together and the Rebbe led a large tish on Friday Night and by Shalosh Seudos as well. Here are three clips, starting with the oilam singing the Rebbe's Avinu Malkeinu on Motzei Shabbos right before Havdala.

Three Weeks (audio)

From the popular tape series Experience the Essence of Yom Tov, here is a shiur for the upcoming Three Weeks.

Click here to see the full three Essence of Yom Tov tape series, along with many more shiurim and music albums available from the shul website.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Drops of Rain: Pinchas 5771

Here is Drops of Rain for Parshas Pinchas. It is a reworked version of Passion Must Be Yours from earlier in the week. The Rebbe actually read the whole thing and gave it his very enthusiastic approval.

Enjoy and have a gevaldigeh Shabbos!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Seder Hayom (5): Why Thought?

Recently in the Seder Hayom series, we explored the first thoughts that are desirable for one to think at the beginning of the day, according to the seforim of Hornosteipel. See here where the Baal Shem Hakadosh explains that Thought is the ultimate source; Speech is a branch of Thought and Action is a branch of Speech. Previous posts are available by clicking the links beneath this post. Here a few additional possible insights as to why in Emek Tefila and Pele Yoetz it is Thought that steals the show.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Seder Hayom (4): First Thoughts (continued)

Related to the Seder Hayom series, I discovered a source in Keser Shem Tov (a collection of the teachings from the Baal Shem Hakadosh and the Mezritcher Magid) that speaks about the concept of being mekadesh the three garments of the soul.

The Passion Must Be Yours

Today after Shachris the Rebbe spoke about zealousness and in what context and under what conditions zealousness is praiseworthy. Zeal is a passionate response to the indignation one feels when confronted with something that he just can't let happen. The Rebbe mentioned that if one sees someone doing something wrong and they come to Beis Din and ask what they should do, the court must not give a p'sak or advice but tell the person that he is on his own. Zealousness must be passionate; it must be self-generated. It cannot come about under the direction of others. You have to take care of business because in your gut you know that you absolutely cannot stand to watch this offense take place.

This resonates very much with something the Rebbe told me a few years ago. "You have to be a little extreme if you want to get anything done in this world." That's it, that is what the Rebbe told me. Now, I know good and well that extremism and zeal are two distinct concepts. However, to be zealous about something in today's world is often viewed as extreme. To truly care about something passionately, in a deep and committed way, and to take action based on that caring, to care more about your principles than the commonly accepted status quo, and to ignore what others may think or say about your leaping away from mediocrity and indifference is how I understand the extremism that the Rebbe was referring to.

The Rebbe's brother, HaRav Shloime of Denver, ztz"l, once said, "The place of a decision is the loneliest place in the world." Any decision must ultimately be made by the individual, and all the more so something that requires personally invested passion and fervor.

Anytime a person's resolve is tested, his commitment is strained and he is faced with the decision to give in to his habits and desires or to move himself out of the way this one more time, it is really no different than Pinchas witnessing Zimri's insolent act. If we were to see the heinous, gruesome abuse of a good friend's daughter our blood would boil, our hair would stand on end and we would spring into action, responding violently, passionately and with no reservations, disregarding personal concerns of any magnitude. Were we to view the abuse of our neshomas in a similar light, we would react the same way. How can we stand by and watch while we steal from ourselves, murder ourselves, worship ourselves? So any decision we have to make, hundreds per day, can be approached with the zealousness of Pinchas. In order to do that properly, to harness the passion, however, we must conclude on our own what the appropriate course of action should be. If our teachers give us all the answers, they are in essence disallowing us from finding that place within us that defines who we are.

Finding that passionate responsiveness, both in the avodah of our personal sphere and in the world outside of ourselves, must be self-generated. We can have guides and teachers to help us decode our lives and experiences but at the end of the day, when we need to know if we should push a little more, if we should take the leap, if we should stick by our guns and not give up an inch of the field, we need to look within and listen to Hashem's gift to mankind, the soft, still voice of our intuition.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Drops of Rain: Balak 5771

Here it is! Drops of Rain for Parshas Balak entitled, When G-d Isn't Looking He Loves Us Most. Enjoy everybody and have a wonderful Shabbos!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Medrash: Balak 5771

Behold, the Medrash Shiur from Wednesday night. Every altercation with evil is a moment which defines us as who we are. Hence, our struggles and temptations are not out to mess us up rather to help us become what we are meant to be.

50 minutes, 11.8 MB PLAY DOWNLOAD

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Interview with the Rebbe (Yiddish)

To hear an interview (in Yiddish) with the Rebbe shlit"a on Kol Mevaser, call 212-444-1100 and follow the prompts. (Wait for the ads to stop and then press "3", then press "1", then press "486#".)

Thanks to Tzuriel Kastel for the "heads-up" on this one.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Davening With Mouth and Heart (audio)

Today the Rebbe spoke about some very important fundamentals in regards to davening, including the kind of integrity we are beholden to during davening. In Pele Yoetz we find the concept of פיו ולבו שוין (piv v'libo shavin), that one's mouth and heart are in the same place. In addition, Reb Mottele and the Maor Einayim say that in their highest expression, words of Torah and tefilah must be spoken בלתי לה' לבדו (bilti lashem l'vado), only for the sake of Hashem's service, without any ulterior motives. In truth, for piv v'libo to really be shavin, there must be no agenda other than serving Hashem (bilti lashem l'vado). So, even when one is focusing on what he is saying, and his mouth and heart are indeed in the same place, if he has personal or vested interest in his davening, then he still lacks that integrity.
The question was then posed regarding all of the personal requests that are made in the davening and how that fits with not having ulterior motives. Various other ideas were touched upon.
11 minutes, 2.77 MB PLAY DOWNLOAD

Jewish Kingship (audio)

Yesterday (Monday) after the davening, the Rebbe spoke about the role of kingship in Judaism, and how a Jewish king must live in order to serve as the appropriate conduit between Klal Yisroel and Hashem.

When a king is completely "self-negated" to Hashem and "his heart is not raised above his brothers," then loving the king serves as a tool to find love of Hashem.

But if the king is in it for personal reasons, then practically speaking it is very difficult not to fall into worship of the worldly king as opposed to the King of the World.

(Running time: 7 1/2 min)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

A Worm is Not a Person

This past week (Sivan 30 5771) the Rebbe spoke at Shalosh Seudos.

In the process to taharah, a cedar branch, a hyssop and a crimson thread are thrown in to the fire. Chazal say that the cedar, among the tallest and strongest of trees, represents arrogance and conceit. The hyssop, a lowly weed, and the crimson thread representative of a worm, are examples of humility and lowliness.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Out of the Darkness

Here is the d'var Torah that I worked on for this week's edition of Drops of Rain. I decided that it wasn't of the same quality as usual and it ends without much chizuk so I feel that it can't be billed under that title. So, here it is as is and maybe next year I'll work on it some more. Have a good Shabbos!

In Parshas Emor, Hashem instructs Moshe Rabeinu regarding tumas meis for kohanim, and who the kohanim may and may not become ritually defiled for. The Medrash  relates that, upon learning of this new level of impurity, Moshe Rabeinu asks Hashem what steps must be taken to become tahor again. Instead of responding, Hashem is silent, ignoring Moshe, whereupon Moshe Rabeinu becomes so terrified that his face turned colors.

Its not until Parshas Chukas that Hashem says, “Remember when you asked me about tumas meis and I left you in the dark? Here is the answer.” Then the Torah proceeds to speak about the parah adumah and to alleviate tumas meis.

The obvious question is, if Hashem had an answer, why didn’t he give it to Moshe right away? What was the objective of making him wait?

One of the things we must understand is that even though there is a concept of teshuvah, that a person can come back even after they have betrayed Hashem’s trust and offended the sanctity of their soul, but that teshuvah must be generated from a place of feeling and authenticity. If the various technical requirements for teshuvah are met but the person doesn’t feel changed, there is something inherently wrong with the process.

In a general sense, the whole idea of coming in contact with death can be viewed as a metaphor for our own experience in the service of Hashem. When a person deadens his soul by doing something he shouldn’t, whether by commission or omission, neglect or desire, he has ostensibly distanced himself from his Creator.

When somebody has figuratively touched death, which in Divine service represents the opposite of a connection with G-d, the first thing he does is say, “I made a mistake. Now what do I do? Give me the formula to get out of this.”

The problem is that sometimes it can’t work like that. We are used to treating Hashem like a computer. If we give eighteen dollars to tzedaka, toivel twenty-six times and accept a new resolution in our middos or performance of mitzvos, we expect to automatically receive the desired result.

Now, sometimes you only need a minor readjustment. Also, they are enumerated in the holy texts as part of teshuvah process, but only after the relationship is restored.

The real formula is that one doesn’t hear anything, there is no answer. The only way in which he can completely restore his integrity is by really feeling, experiencing the distance and isolation, the terror of being separated from Hashem. One must feel what it means to be detached. It is only out of that experience that a person is urged to call out to Hashem with the requisite longing and an authentic remorsefulness that can allow the connection to be made again. It can’t take place mechanically. It must come forth from a deep place of recognition that whatever he did may have been exciting or comfortable but where he finds himself now is too painful, and he comes to the clear realization that it was a huge mistake.

But when you’ve done something representative of having touched death, when you’ve distanced yourself from the source of life, the answer doesn’t come quickly. The answer only comes out of realizing you’re alone and recognizing that you’ve severed a connection to the Ribono Shel Olam. It’s the longing that comes out of the separation which repairs. From there is the restoration of taharah.