There is a famous medrash [see bottom*] about Rav Masia Ben Chorosh, a wealthy Talmid Chochom and Baal Chesed who never looked at a woman in his life. The Satan wanted to cause him to fall so he made himself into the most beautiful woman around and tried to get him to look. Rav Masia blinded himself in order to avoid looking. [There is a happy ending - see below:-)].
The medrash says והיה זיו פניו מבהיק כזיו השמש - His face shone like the sun. What is the idea behind that? In what merit did his face shine so brightly?
Adam [pronounced "Odom"] was created with unparalleled beauty which stemmed from his צלם אלקים. The gemara says that compared to Adam, all other men looked like monkeys. The more צלם אלקים we have, the more we shine with beauty.
However, when a person looks at beauty that is not intended for his eyes, he loses his own natural beauty stemming from his צלם. There are tzadikim who can look at a person's face and see if he is a person who guards his eyes. I am guessing that this is because they are able to see their lack of צלם. Rav Masia ben Chorosh never looked at any beauty he wasn't supposed to and thereby preserved his natural beauty.
Let's preserve ours!:-)
[עפ"י ס' ויצא יצחק לשוח עמ' 64 עיי"ש]
*"מעשה היה ברבי מתיא בר חרש, שהיה עשיר, וירא שמים, ובעל מדות טובות, ורודף מצוה וצדקה, ומהנה תלמידי חכמים מנכסיו, והיו יתומים ואלמנות מצוין על שלחנו תמיד, וכל ארחותיו ביושר, וכל ימיו עוסק בתורה כרבי מאיר רבו, והיה זיו פניו מבהיק כזוהר השמש, ואמרו עליו שמימיו לא הסתכל באשת איש ולא באשה אחרת. פעם אחת היה יושב ועוסק בתורה, ועבר השטן וראהו ונתקנא בו, אמר אפשר צדיק בלא חטא בעולם? מיד עלה למרום ועמד לפני הקב"ה ואמר: רבש"ע מתיא בן חרש מהו לפניך? אמר לו צדיק גמור. אמר תן לי רשות ואנסנו. נתן לו רשות. מיד הלך ומצאו יושב ועוסק בתורה, נדמה לו כאשה יפה שלא היה כיופיה... כיון שראה אותה הפך פניו לאחוריו, חזר השטן והלך כנגד פניו, החזיר פניו לצד אחר והשטן כנגד פניו. כיון שראה שמתהפכת לכל הצדדים, אמר בלבו מתיירא אני שמא ישלוט בי יצר הרע. ומה עשה אותו צדיק, קרא לאחד מתלמידיו שהיה משמשו, ואמר לו בני לך והביא לי אש ומסמרים. כיון שהביאם הבעירם באש, ונעץ אותם בעיניו. וכיון שראה השטן כך, נבהל ונרתת והלך מעליו, ועלה למרום, ואמר רבש"ע כך וכך היה המעשה. מיד קרא הקב"ה לרפאל שר של רפואות, ואמר לו לך ורפא עיני מתיא בן חרש, הלך רפאל המלאך ועמד בו, אמר ר' מתיא מי את? אמר לו אני רפאל המלאך שלוחו של הקב"ה ששלחני לרפאות את עיניך. השיבו איני רוצה מה שהיה היה, חזר רפאל לפני הקב"ה ואמר לו כך וכך אמר לי מתיא בן חרש, אמר לו הקב"ה לך אמור לו, מהיום ואילך אל תירא, אני ערב לך בדבר זה שלא ישלוט בך יצה"ר כל ימי חייך, כיון ששמע מפי המלאך קבל רפואתו ונתרפא" (מדרש תנחומא (בובר) פרשת חקת - הוספה סימן א).
You [the Jews] will be a crown of splendor in Hashem's hand, a royal diadem in the palm of your God.
1] What is the difference between עטרת תפארת - crown of splendor, and צניף מלוכה - royal diadem? Fancy words but it really sounds like the same thing. [In fact, the Metzudos says that the pasuk is expressing the same idea twice.]
2] Why does the pasuk first use the four letter name of י-ה-ו-ה and then use the name א-להיך?
3] Why are we first in the HAND [ביד] of Hashem and then we are in his PALM [בכף]?
Like, one pasuk with so many issues [and some we haven't mentioned]!!
The Malbim was [and remains] THE world class expert on explaining subtle differences between similar words and expressions. I don't know how goyim learn Tanach without the Malbim. The answer of course is that they just don't understand. But since this is our book - we HAVE to understand:-). So let us sample his sparkling brilliance.
"והיית עטרת תפארת", יש הבדל בין עטרת תפארת ובין צניף מלוכה, כי העטרת ילבש כל אדם הלובשו לכבוד, וצניף מלוכה מיוחד אל המלכות לבדו. ויש הבדל בין יד ובין כף, כי כף פרטי יותר מן יד, שיד מורה כל היד, וכף מורה רק פס יד שכופפה, ומורה על שתופס הדבר בהשגחה מיוחדת, ויש הבדל בין ה' ובין א-להיך, בשם ה' נקרא מצד ההנהגה הכללית, ובכינוי א-להיך נקרא מצד ההשגחה הפרטיית הנסיית. והנה ה' מנהיג את המציאות בשתי הנהגות.
א) הנהגה טבעית.
ב) הנהגה נסיית השגחיית, אומר הנביא שתי הנהגות האלה ינהיג רק לצרככם ולתועלתכם ולפי מעשיכם, ונגד ההנהגה הטבעית שמנהיג בשם ה' ע"י הטבע תהיה אתה "עטרת תפארת ביד ה'", ונגד ההנהגה הנסיית שמנהיג ע"י שהוא אלהיך בהשגחתו הפרטיית, וע"י הנהגה זו מראה את מלכותו שהוא מושל בחפצו תהיה אתה "צניף מלוכה בכף אלהיך", ועז"א בכף כי זה אינו מיוחד אל היד כולו רק אל הכף הפרטי והשגחתו הפרטיית:
עטרת is worn for one's added honor and dignity while צניף מלוכה is only worn by royalty [question 1].
The difference between יד and כף is that יד denotes the entire hand while כף denotes just the palm and denotes that there is a special amount of supervision over the object [question 3].
The name י-ה-ו-ה denotes His general supervision over the world while אל-הים denotes His special focus [question 2]. That is why the name א-להים can be conjugated to a personal connection such as אל-קי - My G-d, א-להיך - Your G-d etc. So it makes a whole lot of sense that כף which is denoting something more personal should be connected to א-להיך whereas יד which is more general will be related the name י-ה-ו-ה.
Now the pasuk reads beautifully:
והיית עטרת תפארת ביד י-ה-ו-ה - You will be a crown of splendor in the hand of Hashem. Meaning that he will guide you in a general, natural way. ביד and י-ה-ו-ה. Nothing out of the ordinary. Just the natural governance of a ruler.
וצניף מלוכה בכף א-להיך - A royal diadem in the palm of your G-d. Meaning that he will rule over you in a very specific miraculous way. כף and א-להיך.
אזוי לערנט מען א פסוק!!! [Spanish for - THAT is how you learn a pasuk!]
Why does the gemara say that the mitzva of lighting a chanuka candle is נר איש וביתו - a candle for a man and his HOME? Why would a mitzva devolve on a HOME? Mitzvos are for PEOPLE, not for homes??
The Greeks didn't only want to uproot our material infrastructure and comfort. They wanted to corrupt us spiritually as well. Jewish people are singular and unique in their tzniyus. There is our tzniyus in dress, the fact that there are no public displays of physical affection between husband and wife, that we separate from our own spouses for about two weeks every month and can't even directly pass each other the salt, the fact that we don't use birth control because we believe that children are the greatest gift and that sex is not just for pleasure but ideally for eternity, that Jewish men are faithful to their spouses and not only don't touch other women but have zero personal friendships with other woman because people are people and friendships with the opposite gender have their way of developing [V.P. Mike Pence is an exception among goyim and he understands this point and won't have private meals with any woman other than his wife - but not without tremendous criticism from people who JUST DON'T GET IT], that Jewish men are not even allowed to LOOK or even THINK about any woman to whom they are not married etc. etc.
This drove the Greeks crazy. In one place it says that the Greeks made a decree that any Jew with a lock on his door would be stabbed with a sword. They wanted to destroy our family purity and modesty. Then they decreed that a Kallah first has to sleep with the local mayor רח"ל.
Now we understand why the mitzva of lighting Chanuka candles is נר איש וביתו - A candle for each man and his home. The miracle that occured in the time of the Greeks was that Hashem helped us salvage our homes.
הנצחון שנתן ד' ביד עבדיו הכהנים שנתגברו על היונים שבקשו לא רק לעקור את עם ישראל ממעמדם החומרי כ"א [לעקור] את תכונת החיים שישראל מודיעים בעולם, שהם צריכים להיות ע"פ שרשי התורה, שתהי' הטהרה והצניעות המטרה הראשית בחיי המשפחה ואחריהן ימשכו יתר המדות והדיעות הישראליות. זה שנאו עם היונים וראו בזה צר ואויב לתרבותם הם, שהעמידו לנס [את] עליצת החיים והנאותיו הגופניות והדמיוניות, ע"כ היתה שנאת היונים רבה מאד לתורת ישראל. והנה כפי דרך המיצוע הנוהגת באיש הישראלי, אע"פ שאינו מצויין, מ"מ בחיי המשפחה מוכר האור העברי, הטוהר והצניעות, האמן וכל המדות המסתעפות מזה לטובה, ניכרים יפה לשם ולתפארת בכל בית בישראל המתנהג ע"פ דרכי התורה והמצוה, ע"כ חובת מצות (נר) חנוכה נר איש וביתו
[עין שבת פ"ב ז']
That being said, today especially we need חיזוק in matters of tzniyus. For example it is becoming popular for chosson and kallah to embrace under the chuppah. I am ALL FOR HUGGING!! Especially between husband and wife. But why in front of everybody?? In a few minutes they will be alone in the yichud room - let them embrace there. Why does everybody have to watch them??
That is one of many areas that require חיזוק. There are CERTAINLY much bigger problems but I thought I would raise this one.
Human beings mate - but animals also mate, so what is the difference?
This is a critical question because we live in a generation where the lines between human being and animal, male and female, adults and children etc. etc. have been blurred. For example, many, many people admit that if their beloved dog and a person they didn't know was drowning at the same time and they could save only one of them - they would save the dog. Hey - they love their dog and they don't know the guy, so what is the question??
But we know that human beings are inherently-essentially-fundamentally more important and SACRED than any animals [I ask mechilah from any species other than humans who are reading this and are offended. That crack is part of the point - The fact that animals don't have the intellect to read makes them (among many other factors) fundamentally inferior to human beings].
The Torah says ONLY ABOUT HUMANS לא טוב היות האדם לבדו - It is not good for man to be alone. Animals mate, perpetuate their species and move on. There is no great value and importance to them staying together. Only human beings must not only procreate but develop deep lasting relationships. The pasuk doesn't say לא טוב לאדם היות לבדו - It is not good for man to be alone. It says לא טוב היות האדם לבדו - It is not good for man to be alone. For whom is it not good? For EVERYONE. A healthy world requires healthy couples.
We human beings need a mate-spouse-eternal-partner to fulfill our purpose.
I invited Rav Hirsch z"l to share his thoughts and this is what he wrote:
(כד) כל עוד האדם לבדו אין זה טוב, - ואחרי החלוקה שוב אין זה אפשרי, - שהאיש ימלא את ייעודו לבדו; אלא שומה על האשה להיות עזר כנגדו; מי ששרוי בלא אשה הוא אדם לחצאין, ורק בהיותו עם אשתו הוא אדם שלם; ועל כן יעזוב איש את אביו ואמו ודבק באשתו והיו לבשר אחד. לפני החלוקה היה הגוף משועבד לרוח אחת, לרצון אלהי אחד; וגם לכשישובו ויתחברו האיש והאשה, הם יהיו לגוף אחד. אך דבר זה איננו אפשרי, - אלא אם כן יהיו גם ללב אחד, לרוח אחת ולנפש אחת. וגם זה איננו אפשרי, - אלא אם כן ישעבדו את כל כוחותיהם ושאיפותיהם, את כל רצונם והגיגם לרצון עליון אחד. - ומכאן ההבדל העמוק - בין חיי המין של שאר היצורים לבין חיי הנישואין של האדם. גם שאר בעלי החיים חלוקים בין זכר לנקבה. אך שני המינים יצאו מן האדמה בנפרד, אין הם זקוקים זה לזה - למילוי ייעוד חייהם. הם מוצאים זה את זו רק לצורך הזיווג ורק לשיעור הזמן הדרוש לו. לא כן הדבר באדם: האשה היא חלק מן האיש, "עזר כנגדו", האיש הוא חסר ישע ונטול עצמאות, אם אין אשתו עמו. רק שניהם כאחד קרויים "אדם". החיים על כל משמעותם דורשים את חיבורם זה עם זו. רק באדם הוא אומר: "ודבק באשתו". רק האדם זכה לחיי נישואין.
Halacha li-myse? Make a shidduch today and bring simcha and fulfillment into the lives of two people [not to mention their mother's:-)].
Our goal is to be holy both in our actions and our thoughts. This establishes holiness both in nature and in our will to such an extent that it even impacts the sanctity of one's sexual relationship in the most NATURAL [it should be natural - we are human!] pure [it must be PURE because ... we are human and not animals] and holy [ditto previous brackets] way. In this way, we reach the level of Adam before the sin when sexual relations had no dirty or vulgar connotations and was totally pure.
Such an approach ennobles our family ties and sexual relationships to the point of being HOLY OF HOLIES [in Sefer Melachim 11-2 the Kodesh Hakodashim is called the bedroom - חדר המיטות] which is extremely potent and gives long life for generations to come.
ONE SUCH PERSON, who has the middah of "Tzadik" and sanctifies his union, brings TREMENDOUS bracha to his whole generation and to the whole world!
מצד קדושת המעשה וקדושת המחשבה, הפועלת לקבע קדושת הטבע והרצון ביסוד יסודו, עד לקדושת הזיווג בעצמות הטבע הטהור והקדוש, כדוגמת האדם לפני החטא, ולמעלה למעלה גם על ידי השאיפה לקדושת עולמים זו, מתעדן כל הקישור הנפשי, ויחס המשפחה מתקשר בחוטי קודש קדשים, שהם חזקים ואמיצים מאד, וגורם שפע חיים ארוכים לתולדותיו. ומיסוד צדיק כזה מושפע שפע החיים והעדינות, העז והאומץ, וגם ישות החיים בגדולה וגבורת עז על כל החיים, על כל הנלווים אליו, על כל הדור, על כל העולם. אומץ מוסיף אומץ, חיים ממשיכים חיים, כבוד ותפארת מזהיר תפארת והדרת קודש על כל.
עיקר תיקון פגם הברית הוא קידוש הרצון והארתו הברורה, עד שהרצון היותר חזק מצד הטבע הגופני, שיש לו שורש בקדושה חזק מאד, מפני הופעת החיים שבו, שהוא הרצון של נטיית מין, אור הקדושה שופע בו כ"כ, עד שהצד הקדוש שבו הוא הרודה בחיים, וממשיך את פעולתו והופעתו, והצד של חול, וק"ו של הטומאה שבו, הוא בטל לגמרי לצד הקודש. ואז באמת לא יקרב נגע לאהלו, ונעשה צדיק משומר מכל מוקש. וכשהרצון עולה במדרגה עליונה של קודש כזאת, אז הוא מתברר גם מכל מדות רעות ומכל המעשים רעים שבעולם, אפילו מהדברים היותר קלים, שאדם דש בהם בעקביו.
שמונה קבצים - קובץ א שנו
A free translation [hey - this whole blog is free!!:-)] that needs improvement:
The primary rectification of the blemish in one's sexual purity [פגם הברית], is sanctifying the will and luminating it with pure clarity, to the extent that the strongest physical desire, that has a very strong root in holiness, because of the fact that it creates life, is flowing with lights holiness, to the point that the holy aspect is dominant and the non-holy aspect is nullified. Then no spiritual harm will befall the person and he becomes a complete tzaddik guarded from any failings. When the will reaches such a level, it is purified from all bad middos, even from seemingly insignificant sins that people tend to disregard.
Simply stated [if I am reading it right - and stating it simply], the secret of purifying one's sexual urge is to become completely suffused with the notion the the purpose of this urge is to CREATE NEW LIFE AND BRING MORE HOLINESS TO THE WORLD. For the rest of society this urge is meant [according to their errant perspective] to be fulfilled and enjoyed for the sake of enjoyment. We categorically reject any such attitude. The sexual urge is very potent and must be used to elevate oneself spiritually. If one is successful in directing his desires towards more lofty goals, he will thereby purify ALL of his bad middos. The yesod, the foundation, is in his strongest urge and if rectified everything else will follow along. If one fails then oy vi'avoy! There is nothing worse. If one succeeds then there is nothing better.
RABOSSSAAAIIIIIII, there is no better time than NOW to fix the pgam habris. Who can say he is completely pure in this area? I know who!
Just about everybody else needs to make a tikkun. This, says the great Kohen Gadol, Rebbe Tzadok of Lublin [whose yahrztiet is this week, tes elul] is the biggest test before the coming of moshiach.
Pgam Habris bigimatria Internet [if it doesn't work out - it should].
Every pasuk of divrei Torah has the power and vitality of to sanctify a person in that area. Practically speaking this means that when one is being sexually tested he should say psukim related to the aveirah such as ולא תתורו אחרי לבבכם ואחרי עיניכם or לא תקרבו לגלות ערוה.
Rebbe Tzadok Hakohen writes in Tzidkas Hatzadik:
[צח] כל פסוק של ד"ת יש בו כח וחיות של אותו ענין שנאמר בו תדע בתפילין שנא' והי' לאות וגו' ולא נתפרש איזה פרשה מד"ת צריך להיות לאות וההלכה לכתוב אותם הפרשיות שנאמר בהם זה. מסתמא אותה פרשה שנאמר בה פסוק והי' לאות וגו' יש בה אותה ענין כח וסגולה שתהי' לאות. וכיו"ב ידוע הרבה ליודעי השמות ובקבלה מעשיות כי מכל פסוק יוצא שם המועיל לאותו ענין הנז' בפסוק. וכן פסוק שמע ישראל בו כח הקביעות השמיעה בלב ולכך צריך שיאמר גם תיבת שמע ישראל. וזה סוד ג"כ מה ששמעתי ע"פ שפתי צדיק ידעון רצון כי האריז"ל כתב סגולה למי שיצרו מסיתו לאיזה עבירה לדבר בפיו כ"פ פסוק הלאו של העבירה עי"ז ישתנה הרצון. וכן לענין מצוה ודבר טוב:
I saw this article by R' Dr. Zvi Leshem about the Nesivos Shalom [in italics] and since I believe that he is mistaken, I will add my comments at the end:
In recent years, the Slonimer Rebbe, Rabbi Shalom Noach Berezovsky zt”l, and especially his work the Netivot Shalom, has become massively popular in a wide range of contexts within and even outside Orthodoxy. Indeed, not only is Netivot Shalom studied at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, but when a friend of mine served as a neighborhood rabbi in Netanya, he taught it in a weekly habura for secular residents. In fact, a case can be made that Netivot Shalom is increasingly becoming the face of the Hasidic tradition throughout much of the Jewish world today. And it is precisely due to that burgeoning popularity that those of us who feel deeply connected and indebted to Hasidism should ask ourselves a difficult and perhaps painful question: Is Netivot Shalom the sefer that we want to represent us to the rest of Am Yisrael? Or, to put it more bluntly, is the massive popularity of Netivot Shalom really an unmitigated blessing?
Before sharing my reservations, I want it to be clear that I think the work constitutes an important contribution in that it presents Hasidic concepts to the wider public in a clear, straightforward, and accessible manner, something the Piaseczner Rebbe called for some 80 years ago (Mevo Ha-She’arim 54b). A key factor in that is its composition in clear, modern Hebrew. Additionally, in contrast to most Hasidic works, Netivot Shalom elucidates basic Kabbalistic-Hasidic concepts without assuming prior knowledge, obviously adding to its accessibility. In this regard, the first volume, which deals with concepts, is very valuable. The second volume, on the holidays, represents (together with pamphlets on Purim and Hanukkah), some of the Rebbe’s finest work. As one yeshiva head remarked to me, “With this book I can actually teach my students how you are supposed to feel when sitting in the Sukkah.” The five volumes on the weekly Torah portion also have an important feature: the Rebbe often ends a discourse with a section that is “al derech ha-avoda,” spelling out in practical terms how one should apply the theoretical teaching to his or her own divine service. When teaching Humash, I would often close with these sections.
One should note, too, that the Rebbe’s important writings on the Holocaust (Zichron Kedoshim and Ha-haruga Alecha) are significant in their open treatment of the Shoah as a singular event, in contrast with the tendency of many Haredi writers to view it as but one in a series of anti-Semitic persecutions through history. In addition, Netivot Shalom contains beautiful sections regarding the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. The Rebbe’s deep connection to the goings-on in the State of Israel is evident from the posthumously published Ma’amarei Hizuk, which includes sermons that he delivered on occasions such as the Yom Kippur War, the first Intifada, and the Gulf War. His pamphlet Netivei Hinukh also deserves mention, although it is worth noting that, in contradistinction to the Piaseczner’s Hovat Ha-talmidim, which addresses the student directly in a quasi-egalitarian fashion, Netivei Hinukh, while showing some signs of modernity, is still addressed to the educator in a typically hierarchical yeshiva setting.
Yet, none of the above mitigates the fact that Netivot Shalom, while quoting a wealth of sources, also leaves out much of the Hasidic tradition. While the Baal Shem Tov is frequently mentioned, the quotes are generally not referenced, and as one Hasidic rebbe who wished to remain anonymous told me, “There is not really any connection between Netivot Shalom and the Baal Shem Tov.” He added that the various quotes ascribed to the Besht are not based upon actual sources. (We won’t enter here into the complex question of the authenticity of traditions in the name of the Besht.) Thus, the crucial question is, what is the Hasidism that Netivot Shalom is teaching, and is it the authentic Hasidism that we, as Hasidim, wish to see propagated? I am certainly aware of the great variety within the many streams of Hasidism and do not wish to blur the distinctions. However, I believe that a crucial component of the Hasidism of the Besht and other early rebbes is in fact diametrically opposed to certain doctrines propagated in Netivot Shalom.
My main objection to Netivot Shalom is to its highly ascetic view of Hasidism, one which to my mind marks a stark departure from the teachings of the Besht. According to the Piaseczner Rebbe, the main hiddush of the Besht over earlier Kabbalists was that of Avodah Be-gashmiut (service through corporeality), which, in the Piaseczner’s view is applicable to all Jews, even today. I am, of course, well aware that in later generations of Hasidism this path was often watered down or even suppressed (or limited to the Zaddik alone), but it seems to me that Netivot Shalom goes much further, painting asceticism and the shunning of all worldly pleasure as the pinnacle of Hasidic practice. As we shall see, this wasn’t limited to his theoretical writing; he attempted to apply his theory in practice within the Slonimer community.
For example, the Rebbe brings a story of Rabbi Shlomo Karliner, who as a small child was spotted weeping bitterly while holding a roll. Asked why he was crying, he responded that he was very hungry. As for the obvious question of why he didn’t simply eat the roll, he answered emphatically, “I have received the tradition that whatever one desires is forbidden, and therefore I may not eat it!” (Netivot Shalom vol. 1, p. 262). The Slonimer loves this story and presents it as a model to be emulated. He states, “Through this type of behaviour, doing the opposite of what you desire, you ascetically causes your physicality to become submissive.” But classical Hasidism espouses a view that physically pleasurable activities, such as eating, do not necessarily distance one from God, but rather can serve as a powerful vehicle for connecting with His presence in the real world and transforming every act into divine service. The Slonimer’s perspective is more reminiscent of the following anecdote about Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler: “In Kelm, character-training was in the very air you breathed. Rabbi Dessler used to say that the relative with whom he stayed used to serve him day after day for years the same dish of nourishing but tasteless oatmeal; this was to train him to do without tasty food.”
As for the realm of marriage and intimacy, one who studies the Rebbe’s published manual for young men before marriage, Kuntres Be-hokhma Yibaneh Bayit (Jerusalem, 1998), will immediately be struck by the fact that women in general, and the bride specifically, are almost never mentioned, the exception being a few instances of the phrase “A kosher woman does her husband’s bidding.” The impression one gets is that the goal of preparing for marriage has very little to do with learning how to communicate or to get along with one’s wife. Rather, the focus is on how a man must “strengthen” himself before the wedding so that his wife won’t be able to distract him from continuing the life of Torah study that he led as a bachelor. That, however, is only the tip of the iceberg, and once again we find severe exhortations to the groom to avoid any worldly or physical pleasure when married. While sexual intimacy is, naturally, not discussed or even overtly hinted at, it is clear from the context of the book that that is in fact the subject of such statements as “Any physical pleasures, even if kosher and permissible, are the aspect of nargan mafrid aluf, which separates the Jew from God … and the definition of a hasid is one who battles against all matters of the world.”
The Slonimer’s perspective on marital intimacy has been explored by Benjamin Brown, who, after discussing the Rebbe’s focus on kedushah in Netivot Shalom, turns to two unpublished letters that he sent in 1956-7, when he was the head of the Slonimer Yeshiva but not yet the Rebbe. In 1956 he sent “The Wedding Day Letter,” and, in 1957, “The Three Months Letter,” to Hasidim who had already been married for three months. In the latter letter he confronts the young husband with his perilous situation: “Now that you are a married man … once again, you stand alone, engaged in a raging battle that is even fiercer than the previous one. For in that [first battle, i.e., before marriage], it was prohibited, while in this [second battle, i.e., within marriage], it is permitted.”
Paradoxically, as Brown points out, we find here a complete reversal of the normal understanding: marriage does not serve to alleviate sexual tensions and struggles by providing a permissible outlet for them (indeed a mitzvah), but rather creates a worse situation than bachelorhood, since the young man must now struggle against the physical pleasure of permissible sex. The Rebbe goes on to speak (as in his published booklet) in militaristic terms regarding the conquest and subjugation of the evil inclination. He even goes so far as to assert that a husband whose sexual desire drives him to have permissible intimacy with his wife is labeled an adulterer, stating that “[Physical] contact that is not required [for fulfilling the mitzvah of conjugal relations] falls under the prohibition of ‘thou shalt not approach’” (Leviticus 18:6). In his view, “the early Hasidim … struggled more to resist a commandment that pleasures the body than [to resist] a transgression that gives the body no pleasure at all.”
What are the practical ramifications of this attitude? “Some of them would weep copiously every leil tevilah. They would repent for the required sexual act just as one repents for a grave sin, lest their bodies experience physical pleasure.” What effect all of the above had upon the young wives of these men is apparently of little interest. In order to apply the Rebbe’s advice, the young Hasid is urged to not quarrel with his wife lest they make up and have relations! When one has no choice but to fulfill the mitzvah, he should do it “as if compelled by a demon” (Nedarim 20b) and should avoid thinking about his wife during the day. He should even resist being compassionate to his wife when she desires intimacy, but rather “become cruel to himself and to members of his household,” for that is the attitude that will help him persist in prayer and study.
While it is not possible to determine the frequency of relations for all couples, the husband should restrict himself through the construction of “fences” and not speak to his wife during coitus. In general, he should avoid her company in everyday life. Regarding relations on Shabbat, enjoined by the Sages for Torah scholars, Brown informs us: “The only rule has been to refrain from sexual intercourse on Shabbat ... In Slonim it is forbidden, as if the crude physical act of intercourse would defile the spirituality of the holy day. There is even a Slonimer saying that a man who has sexual intercourse on Friday night is not allowed to recite ‘Nishmas’ in the Shabbat Morning Prayer.” Brown even surmises—as did Noga Bing in an August 9, 2017 lecture at the World Congress of Jewish Studies—that the lengthy tischen that the Slonimers have on Friday nights are geared toward keeping men away from home at a “vulnerable” time.
This is all a radical departure from the Baal Shem Tov’s positive view of God’s world and of our physical activities. In quotes both from him and from other early Hasidic masters, a completely different picture emerges than the one painted by the Slonimer, in relation to both eating and sexuality, and it is very often clear that their attitude is inspired by a Kabbalistic worldview. A great many examples can be adduced, but in this framework we will limit ourselves to just a few.
Rabbi Aharon of Zelichov, in his Ohr Ha-ganuz La-tzaddikim, Vayehi s.v. Ve-zehu states: “When a Jew feels pleasure, it gives pleasure to [God] blessed be He.” And in Bo s.v. Et: “When a person eats and feels pleasure, and intends that it be as though he is having pleasure from the Shekhinah, and he uplifts his pleasure to God … then he is maltreating his evil inclination.” Similarly the Besht’s grandson Rabbi Moshe Haim Ephraim of Sudilkov, writes in his Degel Mahaneh Ephraim, Re’eh, s.v. Ve-hu: “In whatever you desire … there [you should] perform a unification, and [you should] understand that there is where the Shekhinah asks that you fulfill her obligation.”
Regarding sexuality, the Besht is quoted in the Toldot Yaakov Yosef (Baal Shem Tov On the Torah, Bereshit 58): “When one has perfect faith in the creator, [he understands that] the trait of Yesod is to have pleasure in divine service, for ‘from my flesh I see God,’ and sex is the ultimate pleasure, for it is the unity of male and female. And from the physical [pleasure], he can comprehend spiritual pleasure, wherein he cleaves to God’s unity, which is the source of all pleasure.” Similarly, Rabbi Yitzhak of Radvil writes in his Ohr Yitzhak (Terumah s.v. Ve-asita): “Everything that exists in the world is an aspect of the holy unification, such as heaven and earth, which are unified via rain. Similarly, regarding the physical human, there is man and woman … ‘from my flesh I see God,’ from my actual flesh. This refers to the woman who is called ‘flesh.’ And this is ‘from my flesh I see God,’ which is the holy unification, for man and woman are an allegory for the upper worlds.”
Our final example is from the words of Rabbi Barukh of Kossov, a student of the Maggid of Mezeritch, in his Amud Ha-avoda 33a: “I once heard from a modest individual that he was pained that according to human nature, sexual intercourse leads to physical pleasure and it would be better if there was no physical pleasure, so that one would be able to perform it only for the sake of the mitzvah ... Based upon his words I explained the words of the Sages that one should sanctify himself at the time of sexual intercourse … that this sanctification is to remove from his thoughts any feeling of physical pleasure and to feel pain that this pleasure is embedded in human nature … Eventually God bestowed upon me compassion, and I merited to understand the truth of the matter of sanctifying oneself during intercourse: the true matter of sanctity is drawn down by the feeling of physical pleasure, and this is a wondrous, deep and awesome secret.”
Returning to the Netivot Shalom, it is worth noting an important historical fact, which is that his appointment as Rebbe was not accepted by all of the Slonimer Hasidim. In fact, a significant minority faction broke away and accepted the authority of Rabbi Avraham of Slonim, who established his court in Bnei Brak, as pointed out by both Brown and Bing. According to Brown, whereas the Netivot Shalom branch is considered more liberal than the Bnei Brak group, “their liberal approach is mostly confined to their attitude to modernity and Zionism, but regarding matters of sanctity the … [Netivot Shalom group] is perhaps even stricter.” Regarding the split, the previously quoted anonymous Rebbe remarked wryly, “Why would Hasidim want to accept a Litvak as their rebbe?”
In an article published last year in The Lehrhaus about Netivot Shalom, Rabbi Tzvi Sinesky admiringly quoted Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein as stating, “The Slonimer Rebbe took mussar and turned it into chassidus.” This, then, is the crux of the matter: Did the Slonimer turn mussar into Hasidut, or did he perhaps turn Hasidut into mussar? It seems to me that the latter is closer to the truth. I would put it this way: Netivot Shalom dresses mussar in Hasidic garb and language. This is the heart of the problem. When I want to learn mussar, I have Mesilat Yesharim and a host of other works from which to choose. However, when I want to learn Hasidut, I want to learn Hasidut, not mussar, since I believe that they represent two fundamentally different worldviews and paths in the service of God.
Ultimately, while Rabbis Adlerstein and Sinesky celebrate the “Slonimer sensation,” I am left questioning whether that is the flavor of Hasidut that we want to present to the world. To my mind, the answer is either no or, at the very least, “not only.” Rather than a “Hasidism” that presents the world as negative and our life as an endless battle against it, I prefer to present the life-affirming Hasidut of the Besht, who believes in a compassionate God who put us in a world that can be beautiful, and Who wants us to be happy and enjoy the permissible pleasures that He has provided for us.
Firstly, whether Nesivos Shalom is chasidus or mussar is not the ultimate question. There are countless people of all stripes who have grown in their belief and practice from the sefarim and that is what matters. I read that in a certain hesder yeshiva there was a chabura for the wives of the avreichim in Nesivos Shalom and they started being more careful about covering their hair. This is despite the fact that he doesn't even address the issue of covering hair. The very study of the sefer elevated the women to want to be more careful about tzniyus. THAT is a something.
Second - There is no opinion among any Rebbe that one should submit to any physical desire. You want a cookie? That is so holy - eat a whole package. Feel like being with you wife for the ninth time this week [and it is only Monday]? Go for it. G-D FORBID!!! ישתקע הדבר ולא יישמע. There is no question that it is universal that there is a value in overcoming desires whether they be in the realm of eating, sexual matters or any other physical pleasures. [In Chabad this is called איתכפיא - overpowering the yetzer, which precedes the avodah of אתכפיא - transforming it to good.] Indeed - as th Slonimer wrote, being married presents a test for all men who have wives who are ready and willing to sexually satisfy their husbands [which every wife should, even though the reality is all to often not so as we have discussed numerous times in the past. And then there are the husbands who don't satisfy their wives. But we diverge....]
Third - "Chasidus" is not monolithic. There are many streams and many different emphases among the different groups. In Ger and Slonim, for example, there is an emphasis on sexual purity and פרישות. If one doesn't like it .... he can leave. Nobody is forcing anyone to be have less sex because his parents are Gerrer or Slonimer Chasidim. He can join a different group. Free country. Or he can stay in his own group and just not tell anyone what he is doing. Nobody will find out. If he is even remotely sophisticated he will understand that different strokes for different folks and the stricter practices of his chasidus aren't for him. I will bet that if a person would tell the Rebbe himself how difficult it is for him and it affects his simchas chaim, the Rebbe would be more permissive.
So if a sefer preaches the virtues of separating from physical pleasures that doesn't make it a non-chasidic sefer.
Fourth - I am sure that the Slonimer ztz"l would agree that when involved in physical pleasures he should elevate the pleasures and enjoy them to the utmost li-shem shomayim. I would bet he writes about this as well. [I am going to check this up. We have a set in shul. It is actually probably the most popular among the chasidishe sefarim in shul - so it is not only among seminary girls and shana alef and shana bet guys that the sefarim are so popular]. Well - the only volume I own is Shmos, so I opened it up and started leafing through it. On page קע"ח he talks about being holy by sanctifying physical pleasures - קדש עצמך במותר לך. We should enjoy this world out of love for Hashem in order to give Hashem pleasure. That sounds Beshtian to me.
Fifth - Dr. Leshem writes "When I want to learn mussar, I have Mesilat Yesharim and a host of other works from which to choose. However, when I want to learn Hasidut, I want to learn Hasidut, not mussar, since I believe that they represent two fundamentally different worldviews and paths in the service of God." Of course there are general differences between chasidic sefarim and mussar sefarim [and the religious practice of mussar-niks and chasidim] but there are also countless parallels. One good place to find these is in the sefarim of Rav Dessler, who expertly weaves together the best of both worlds. For ultimately - the goal was one and the same - to serve Hashem.
Sixth - As for the unnamed Chasidic Rebbe who is quoted - if he has something to say that is true then why is he hiding behind the cloak of anonymity. I think calling the Slonimer a "Litvack" is just [in the context it was said] classic מוציא שם רע and he preferred defaming him without being identified. I must add though that his gemara shiurim are very litvish and wonderful.
BOTTOM LINE - If learning Nesivos Shalom inspires you then learn it - as you should any good sefer. It is magical how he makes so many beautiful ideas accessible to so many different types of people, men and women alike. There is really no other chasidishe sefer to which so many people understand and connect in our generation.
People learning Nesivos Shalom is not only the least of our problems but is not a problem at all. It is GREAT!!! Whatever you connect to is the correct sefer for you.
לכבוד ידיד נפשי הרב חיים אהרן בן גילה לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיו יחד עם כל בני ביתו!!
The Zohar seems to say that the sin of spilling seed is unfixable. No Teshuva. S-C-A-R-Y!!. However, the sefarim teach that there is ONE exception. The ONLY way to fix the sin of spilling seed is ..... to learn Torah as it says "I created a yetzer hara, I created the Torah as a spice". [See Rosh Hashana 18 where it says that even thought the pasuk says that the sins of the house of Eli will not be forgiven - with Torah they are forgiven].
Hold on!! Torah is a "spice" for the yetzer hara??? That implies that the yetzer hara is something positive, like nutritious food, that just needs some added taste.
YES!! The yetzer is in fact called "רע" evil, but after being sweetened by Torah it becomes very good.
After you learn, then you can be with your wife in a holy, special way. ALL of your illicit desires can be transformed. If not for the yetzer hara, we wouldn't get married or do a lot of other things. We NEED the yetzer hara. That is why we have one:-). But we also need Torah to sweeten it!!!
In the language of Rebbe Tzadok:
תיקון למז"ל הוא עסק התורה כמ"ש (קידושין ל:) בראתי יצה"ר בראתי תורה תבלין וא' בסוכה (נב.) הקב"ה קראו רע והיינו בעון דדור המבול דהיינו מז"ל [וא' בקידושין (יג.) דלא נגזר על דגים שבים. היינו ת"ח כמ"ש במק"א ע"פ ורדו בדגת הים] וכמ"ש בזוהר בראשית (נז א) ובר"פ כל היד דנקרא רע זה היצ"ר ברא הקב"ה וכמ"ש ואשר הרעותי ולכן ימצא זה גם בחלום שדבר זה ניכר שאינו מפעולת אדם. ותבלין הוא למתק המאכל היינו להפך הרע לטוב מאוד כמשז"ל (בב"ר פ' ט) זה יצה"ר שע"י ד"ת נמתק. ובזוהר בראשית ונח דלית מסאבא כמוהו. והנה א' פ"ב דברכות (טז.) דד"ת מעלין מטומאה לטהרה. ומ"ש בזוהר (סב א) דאין מועיל תשובה הוא עד"ש (ר"ה יח.) בזבח אין מתכפר אבל מתכפר בתורה ה"נ כן וכמשז"ל שילהי חגיגה ת"ח אין אור של גיהנם שולט. גיהנם ג"כ נקרא רע כמ"ש (ברכות סא.) ע"פ לא ינקה רע והיינו כמ"ש בעירובין (יט.) שהכל יורד לה על עסקי הינם היינו שמירת הברית וז"ש ג"כ בראת גיהנם שג"כ הש"י בראו כמו יצה"ר [וא' שם ג"כ בראת צדיקים צדיק בכל מקום שומר הברית גם הוא מתחלת בריאה כמ"ש באות שלפני זה כי ישנו גם ברשעים ובאומות עכו"ם] וע"ז נאמר גם כי אלך בגיא צלמות לא אירא רע כי אתה עמדי. רע הוא דרגא הנז' ואתה פי' ע"י שבראת. [צדקת הצדיק צ"ז]
לזכות ידיד נפשי הרב חיים אהרן בן גילה שליט"א לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיו!!
Today is the yahrtzeit of Rebbe Tzadok Hakohen. Some Torah from him:
When one is young, fiery, illicit, sexual desires burn within him. Then he does many sins due to the yetzer hara and these are the sins of youth. This occurred in the generation of the Mabul when they committed these sins of youth, as it says after the Mabul כי יצר לב האדם רע מנעוריו - man's heart is evil in his days of youth. A person also has the capacity to adapt for himself his yetzer tov and passion for divrei Torah and that happened at the time of the generation of the desert - דור המדבר, as it says זכרתי לך חסד נעוריך - I remember the chesed of your youth.
The same souls of the דור המבול were the souls of the דור המדבר as the Zohar Hakadosh says that in the time of the Mabul, they were worthy of receiving the Torah. The water was originally supposed to be positive Divine bounty and not a destructive flood. That explains the gemara that finds a hint for Moshe, who recieved the Torah, in the parsha of the Mabul - the word בשגם is the same gematria as משה and it says in the pasuk וַיֹּאמֶר יְ-הוָה לֹא יָדוֹן רוּחִי בָאָדָם לְעֹלָם בְּשַׁגַּם הוּא בָשָׂר וְהָיוּ יָמָיו מֵאָה וְעֶשְׂרִים שָׁנָה - "And Hashem said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be a hundred and twenty years." Moshe was 120 years old when he died! Matan Torah was potentially possible at the time of the דור המבול.
When Moshiach comes we will have fixed this sin. It says in the Zohar Hakadosh that when we see the rainbow, we should await Moshiach. The rainbow is a sign of the covenant after the Mabul that corresponds to the sins of youth. When Moshiach comes, Hashem will shine his face towards us, symbolizing the fact that our youthful sins [of illicit feelings, thoughts, desires and actions] have been forgiven.
The pasuk says ועמך כולם צדיקים. The Mekubalim teach us that a Tzadik is one who guards his Bris. We are a nation composed of Tzadikim. Right now we are not there yet because of so many blemishes of the Bris. But when Moshiach comes - everything will be fixed!!
[צה] בימי הנעורים רתיחת התאוה מתגברת ואז מרבה חטאים מצד היצ"ר ר"ל והם חטאת נעורים וזה הי' בדור המבול כמ"ש שם כי יצר וגו' מנעוריו. וג"כ מסגל טוב הרבה מצד היצ"ט וחשקות לד"ת וזה הי' דור המדבר כמ"ש וזכרתי לך חסד נעוריך והם עצמם אותם הנפשות כמ"ש בזוהר פנחס רט"ז סע"א ע"ש דהיו ראוים לקבל תורה במבול אלו זכו ונשמת משה היתה שם. ודורו של משיח אז יהי' פעם ג' אותו דור בסוד מ"ש תתחדש כנשר נעוריכי ואז יהי' התיקון הגמור שבאות בערבוביא חטאת נעורים וחסד נעורים והטוב יתגבר על הרע ויהפכו לטוב. וז"ש בזוהר נח (עב ב) ובתיקונים (תי' יח) כד תחמי קשתא באנפי נהירין תצפי לרגלי משיח שהקשת הוא אות הברית נגד עונשי חטאת נעורים ובדורו של משיח יהי' זה באנפין נהירין בהארת פנים שהש"י מאיר עיניהם לדעת כי סר עונם בזה ועמך כולם צדיקים וגו' פי' שומרי הברית כנודע:
I am attaching a pdf of my new sefer. I thank the donors who gave the few hundred dollars enabling me to cover printing costs for 50 copies. I hope to print more and raise more money for the future sefarim I have already written, with Hashem's help. Anybody who wants to dedicate to living or late loved ones is invited to contact me. אם אין קמח אין תורה. For the last 23 years since I have been married I have generally found the Torah much easier to come by than the kemach whose lack sometimes has a deletorious effect on the Torah. I thank Hashem that I made it until here [and all those wonderful people who have helped me in times of need - primarily my parents to whom the sefer is dedicated] and have managed to publish a number of works and pray that from TODAY ON, the Yahrtzeit of the Holy Rebbe Tzadok [see further], the kemach will flow and I will be able to learn and teach, both in print and verbally, with no pressure and constant simcha [i.e. more bitachon and more money!:-)]. At this time of my simcha I bless of all my beloved friends that you too should grow in your own learning and Avodas Hashem with no material barriers to your complete, unending joy [i.e. you should be so rich you won't know what to do with all of your money. And healthy to enjoy it].
Today is the yahrtzeit of Rebbe Tzadok Hakohen of Lublin. He was not only a great tzadik and Chasidishe Rebbe but was a Talmid Chochom and Gaon in ways that befuddle the mind and imagination. His voluminous sfarim are overwhelming in their breadth and depth. I can only encourage everyone to try their best to study and learn from his works and I promise that you will feel both temporal and eternal benefits. I dedicate this Torah to my beloved Rebbe Tzadok chavrusa Rav Chaim Aharon Shenkman Shlita and his wonderful sweet family!!
So a little bit of Torah based on his Pri Tzadik - Parshas Ki Teitzei.
The pasuk says in this weeks haftorah:
רני עקרה לא ילדה פצחי וצהלי לא חלה כי רבים בני שוממה מבני בעולה אמר השם
“Sing, barren woman, you who never bore a child; burst into song, shout for joy, you who were never in labor; because more are the children of the desolate woman than of her who has a husband,” says Hashem.
The Medrash explains that we produced more tzadikim at our time of destruction than we did at the time when the Beis Hamikdash was built.
The Arizal says that when we do mitzvos in our times with pure intentions, they are worth so much more than they used to be worth in better times. That is what the pasuk means רני עקרה - Sing Barren woman. Yes, you seem like you are a barren woman who never bore a child. Nevertheless, רבים בני שוממה - more are the children of this seemingly desolate woman than of her who has a husband. Meaning, that the mitzvos and Avodas Hashem of the simple people at these spiritually low times [עקרה] are more precious [רבים בני שוממה] than the mitzvos and Avodah of the great people [מבני בעולה] during brighter periods. Especially in our times - ANYBODY who is able to focus on spirituality in our high tech age is overcoming far more than people had to overcome at any other time in history.
The psukim continue: ברגע קטן עזבתיך וברחמים גדולים אקבצך בשצף קצף הסתרתי פני רגע ממך ובחסד עולם רחמתיך אמר השם
“For a brief moment I abandoned you, but with deep compassion I will bring you back.
In a surge of anger
I hid my face from you for a moment,
but with everlasting kindness
I will have compassion on you,”
says Hashem your Redeemer.
The gemara in Brachos [7a] first says that a רגע is a fraction of a fraction of a second and then says that it is as long as it takes to say the word רגע [in the language of the gemara "רגע כמימריה"]. This is reflected in these psukim.
First it says ברגע קטן עזביך - Hashem abandoned us for a fraction of a fraction of a second ["a brief moment"] where we had a thought of teshuva. Where do we see that there was a thought of teshuva?
The gemara says that when the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed the goyim went into the holy of holies and saw that the two keruvim were embracing. How can this be when the embracing of the keruvim indicates that we are fulfilling the will of Hashem and He is satisfied with us? If the Beis Hamikdash was being destroyed that would indicate that Hashem is ANYTHING but pleased with us. The answer is that at the time of destruction for a fraction of a fraction of a second the Jews had a thought of tehshuva. This is reflected by the embracing keruvim. And that is what Chazal mean when they say that on Tisha B'av, Moshiach was born. Meaning, that this teshuva of the Jews planted the seeds for our ultimate redemption.
Then the pasuk says that "in deep compassion I will bring you back". Hashem had deep compassion and brought us back [temporarily] in the time of Ezra.
Then it says "in a surge of anger I hid my face from you for a moment". Not a "brief moment" [as it said earlier] but "a moment". This is the longer moment [רגע כמימריה] to which the gemara referred. This brought to חסד עולם - everlasting kindness. Meaning, that the kindness was not just temporary [as it was in the time of Ezra] but ETERNAL. Even in our galus Hashem is with us. So this difficult galus has been for 2000 years which is considered a רגע - just a moment of anger. IMAGINE how great the everlasting kindness will be in comparison!!! The holocaust, pogroms, inquisition etc. etc. will be almost nothing compared to the great gifts we have waiting for us.
Not only that but even in our galus, Hashem is with us. He never abandoned us.
From an article about the miracle of Jewish history:
On January 16, 1996, then President of Israel, Ezer Weizmann, gave a speech to both Houses of Parliament of Germany. He gave this speech in Hebrew to the Germans, fifty years after the Holocaust, and in it he beautifully summed up what Jewish history is. He said:
"It was fate that delivered me and my contemporaries into this great era when the Jews returned to re-establish their homeland ...
"I am no longer a wandering Jew who migrates from country to country, from exile to exile. But all Jews in every generation must regard themselves as if they had been there in previous generations, places and events. Therefore, I am still a wandering Jew but not along the far flung paths of the world. Now I migrate through the expanses of time from generation to generation down the paths of memory...
"I was a slave in Egypt. I received the Torah on Mount Sinai. Together with Joshua and Elijah I crossed the Jordan River. I entered Jerusalem with David and was exiled with Zedekiah. And I did not forget it by the rivers of Babylon. When the Lord returned the captives of Zion I dreamed among the builders of its ramparts. I fought the Romans and was banished from Spain. I was bound to the stake in Mainz. I studied Torah in Yemen and lost my family in Kishinev. I was incinerated in Treblinka, rebelled in Warsaw, and emigrated to the Land of Israel, the country from where I have been exiled and where I have been born and from which I come and to which I return.
"I am a wandering Jew who follows in the footsteps of my forebearers. And just as I escort them there and now and then, so do my forebearers accompany me and stand with me here today.
"I am a wandering Jew with the cloak of memory around my shoulders and the staff of hope in my hand. I stand at the great crossroads in time, at the end of the twentieth century. I know whence I come and with hope and apprehension I attempt to find out where I am heading.
"We are all people of memory and prayer. We are people of words and hope. We have neither established empires nor built castles and palaces. We have only placed words on top of each other. We have fashioned ideas. We have built memorials. We have dreamed towers of yearning, of Jerusalem rebuilt, of Jerusalem united, of a peace that will swiftly and speedily establish us in our days. Amen."
The very survival of the Jewish people through recorded time is nothing short of miraculous. The very fact that Jews exist as a nation today stands in testimony to the existence of God who acts in history. By any historical measure, the Jewish people should have disappeared long ago.
The person who summed this up best was David Ben Gurion, the first Prime Minister of the State of Israel. He said: "A Jew who does not believe in miracles is not a realist."
Why did he say that? Because miracles are the only possible explanation for the existence of the Jewish people.
Over 300 years ago King Louis XIV of France asked Blaise Pascal, the great French philosopher, to give him proof of the supernatural. Pascal answered: "Why, the Jews, your Majesty ― the Jews."
An astonishing answer. The best proof of the supernatural that Pascal could think of was: "The Jews."
We don't have to speculate what Pascal meant when he gave this answer, because he took the trouble to spell it out. (See Pensees, para. 620, p. 285.) Pascal said that the fact that the Jewish people survived until the 17th century ― to the time period when he was living ― was nothing short of a supernatural phenomenon.
There simply was no logical explanation for it.
As we have seen from this series, Jewish history simply doesn't comply with the rest of history; it does not make sense.
Many scholar, historian and writers have noticed this and remarked about it.
Mark Twain (aka Samuel Clemens), the great American writer, who was an agnostic and a self-acknowledged skeptic, penned this in 1899 in Harper's Magazine:
"The Egyptian, the Babylonian, and the Persian rose, filled the planet with sound and splendor, then faded to dream-stuff and passed away. The Greek and Roman followed, made a vast noise and they are gone. Other peoples have sprung up, and held their torch high for a time, but it burned out and they sit in twilight now or have vanished. The Jew saw them all, beat them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmities of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert and aggressive mind. All things are mortal, but the Jew. All other forces pass, but he remains. What is the secret of his immortality?"
Leo Nikolaivitch Tolstoy, unlike Twain, was not an agnostic. He was a very religious, Russian Orthodox Christian. He is also a very famous Russian author from the last century, perhaps best known for his War and Peace. He wrote this in 1908:
"The Jew is the emblem of eternity. He who neither slaughter nor torture of thousands of years could destroy, he who neither fire, nor sword, nor Inquisition was able to wipe off the face of the earth. He who was the first to produce the Oracles of God. He who has been for so long the Guardian of Prophecy and has transmitted it to the rest of the world. Such a nation cannot be destroyed. The Jew is as everlasting as Eternity itself.
In 1935 Nikolai Berdyaev, one of the most famous Russian philosophers of the 20th century wrote:
"The Jews have played an all-important role in history. Their destiny is too imbued with the "metaphysical" to be explained either in material or positive historical terms....Its survival is a mysterious and wonderful phenomenon demonstrating that the life of this people is governed by special predetermination, transcending the process of adaptation... The survival of the Jews, their resistance to destruction, their endurance under absolute peculiar conditions and the fateful role played by them in history; all point to the particular and mysterious foundations of their destiny."
Keeping The Faith
There is another reason why the Jewish people survived as a nation through all this time and through all the persecutions that we have barely touched on in this series ― they have clung to their religion.
"More than the Jews have kept the Sabbath, the Sabbath has kept the Jews."
One of the most important lessons of Jewish history is that the more the Jews have been connected to Judaism ― in lifestyle, in education, etc. ― the more likely that their children and grandchildren would have remained Jewish instead of assimilating into oblivion.
Today there are approximately 12-13 million Jews in the world, where there should be 500 million. The reasons why: 1) persecution, and 2) assimilation.
The greatest strength of the Jewish people is also their greatest weakness.
Jews are a "stiff-necked" people. They have stubbornly clung to their beliefs and as a result outlasted all of the ancient empires of history while changing the way the entire world looks at morality and the concept of God. Jewish ideas ― of one God, of a loving God, of a universal vision for humanity ― have been at odds with the philosophies of all these empires, and to hold up that vision has required an unbelievable strength of character.
And yet, what is the greatest weakness of the Jewish people? Their stubborn individuality makes them unbendable. Every Jew thinks he/she is right. The hardest job on earth must be to unify and lead the Jewish people.
Of course, this stubbornness, when focused in the right direction (through Jewish education and Jewish values), has enabled the Jewish people to accomplish great things. When unified, the Jewish people are an unbeatable force in human history. As the Tikuney Zohar (60a) states:
The Torah is like oil in a lamp, and Israel is its wick, causing the light of God to shine forth on all creation.
Jewish history is like a 6,000-piece puzzle. At the beginning you dump the pieces on the table and it makes no sense. But as we assemble piece after piece, a picture emerges. A picture that records the action of God in history. And there's no chance or randomness here. Everything happens for a reason.
By Jewish reckoning we have assembled almost all of these pieces and have only a few hundred left to go. History is moving toward a conclusion, its final destination.
That final destination was described by Prophet Isaiah in these words:
In the days to come, The Mount of the Lord's House shall stand Firm above the mountains; And it shall tower above the hills. And all the nations shall gaze on it with joy, And the many peoples shall go and shall say: "Come, Let us go up to the Mount of the Lord, To the House of the God of Jacob; That He may instruct us in His ways, And that we may walk in His paths." For instruction shall come forth from Zion, The word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Thus He will judge among the many people. And arbitrate for the multitude of nations. And they shall beat their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks. Nations shall not take up Sword against nation; They shall never again know war. (Isaiah 2:2-4; see also Micah 4:1-4).
We should soon experience the entire fulfillment of חסד עולם!!!
לזכות ידיד נפשי הרה"ג ר' הרשל ברקין שליט"א, כהן שדעתו יפה, לברכה והצלחה בכל מעשי ידיו הוא וכל ב"ב
The entire notion of prayer has bothered philosophers from time immemorial. Change G-d's mind? Can't be! Hashem doesn't change [אני ה' לא שיניתי - מלאכי ג-ו]. It's blasphemy to say that Hashem changes. WE change? [I have heard that a thousand times]. We do indeed change if we davened properly but that diminishes the greatness of tefilla. It is just "self-expansion" or "personal growth"? No way. It is much more than that.
So here it is: You change yourself and because of that - all of existence changes the way it relates to you. The more you change - the greater the impact on the cosmic reality.
So we daven, focus on internalizing the messages of tfilla [that Hashem is in charge etc.], connect to Hashem in a deep passionate way - and thereby our prayers are answered. So the person who wasn't worthy before he or she davened is now worthy. A difference in your personal spiritual level changes all of existence. Hashem's mind isn't changing - you are and that is the catalyst to change all of reality.
החושב בתפילה שמשנה את הענין האלהי, ה"ז מחרף ומגדף, והחושב שאינו משנה אלא את עצמו, ה"ז מקטין את ערך התפילה, ועמה יחד את כל הערך של העבודה האלהית. אבל המכוין שהוא פועל לשנות את עצמו לטוב, וע"י היחש שעצמות הוייתו משתנה, משתנה כל הערך של כל ההויה אליו לעילוי ולטוב, כי ההויה כולה מתפעלת מאחד מחלקיה הרוחניים ביחוד, וכל מה שהתוכן הרוחני המביא את החליפות הוא יותר נעלה ויותר כולל, כן השינויים הם יותר עצומים ויותר פועלים בשפעת טובתם. זהו העובד בכוונה הראויה שהנפש מתמלאה ממנה והעולם מתברך.
[קובץ א' תרס"ד]
So - if you are the exact same person after davening as you were before davening.... Well then - make sure to do it better the next time [I am trying to avoid saying "then ya didn't daven"]. And there is value in the attempt of coming to shul and saying the words. But without personal transformation, tefillah isn't worth much. That is why it is called עבודה שבלב. It is an AVODAH - hard intense work. שבלב - that is done in one's heart, on a deep personal level.
On Rosh Hashana we read the parsha of the Akeida. The Ran [דרוש הששי עמ' ק"ו] says that the whole story of the Akeida could not have been possible if not for our faith in life after death:
שאם לא יהיה הגמול והעונש כי אם בעולם הזה, היעלה על הדעת שאברהם אבינו ע"ה יעקוד בנו יחידו מצד איזה ערֵבות מושגת בעולם הזה, למען יאכל אחר כך מעדנים? אבל לְמַה שידע כי ביחס הטוב המושג מאהבת ה' יתברך, אשר הוא החיים הנצחיים, כל הטובות המוּקשוֹת אליו כאפס ותוהו - בז ליצחק, וקל בעיניו הטוב הגדול אשר היה לו בן. הנה אין ספק שאחר המעשה הזה שעשה עמודו של עולם לא יסתפק שום משכיל כי יש לנפש גמול נכבד בעבודתו יתברך, אשר לא ישוער ולא ידומה.
Says the Ran - If all of the reward was in this world, could it be possible that Avraham would sacrifice his son?? He is going to kill his son in order that Hashem give him a nice Ferrari and house in the Hamptons?! Can't be. It must be that there is life after death and since as a reward for the Akeidah, Yitzchak would receive this amazing reward, it was worthwhile. For how can one compare the pathetic reward in this world to what we have in store for us there in the sublime world of the souls? This is a incontrovertible proof for reward in our life after death.
So is that it?? The whole Akeida was in order to get some Olam Haba???
Rav Chasdai Kreskas [אור ה' עמ' של"ד] cites his Rebbi the Ran and then says:
"מפורסם לאברהם אבינו ובניו ותלמידיו כמו שקיבל משם ועבר, ונתאמת אצלו בייעוד בעניין העקדה, כי אחר שהובטחו אברהם ויצחק באומרו כי ביצחק יקרא לך זרע, (ו)אלמלא שהיה אפשר לשלם לו ולהחליף הטוב המדומה בטוב האמיתי, לא היה ענין לה"
Avraham had a tradition from Shem and Ever that there was life after death and this was corroborated by the test of the Akeidah. For after Avraham was promised that a great nation would come from Yitzchak, how could he be commanded to sacrifice him??? If not for the fact that he was destined to receive much greater reward for sacrificing his son, it wouldn't have been possible to receive such a command.
So again - the Akeidah was just about getting Olam Haba???
I saw the following suggestion: Some say that Avraham was ASKED to perform the Akeidah and not commanded [קח נא - please take your son and sacrifice him]. So Hashem said - Be mochel on the reward of having a great nation for the faaaar greater reward of Olam Haba. Otherwise, the Akeidah won't make sense and Hashem's commandments have to make sense. As Rabbi J.D. Bleich writes:"Judaism does not teach that God requires of man a "leap of faith" in the Kierkegaardian sense, i.e. blind faith to the extent of acceptance of the absurd. It teaches, rather, that God's beneficence assures man that his diligence and perseverance will ultimately lead to understanding and intellectual satisfaction".
This is an important principle. Many Christians believe BECAUSE their faith doesn't make sense.
Crucifixus est Dei Filius,
non pudet, quia pudendum est;
et mortuus est Dei Filius, prorsus credibile est, quia ineptum est;
et sepultus resurrexit, certum est, quia impossibile.— (De Carne Christi V, 4)
"The Son of God was crucified: there is no shame, because it is shameful.And the Son of God died: it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And, buried, He rose again: it is certain, because impossible."
They believe BECAUSE it is absurd.
Or in Latin: Credo quia absurdum - I believe because it is absurd.
We aren't far off. We ALSO believe that other religions are absurd. And that is why we DON'T believe in them:-).
We believe in Torah because it makes sense. The Akeidah had to make sense. The Ran and Rav Chasdai say that the only way it made sense is if we believe in life after death.
We learn gemara and it has to make sense. If it doesn't, we keep learning until it does. We ask questions on the Chumash because it has to make sense. TORAH HAS TO MAKE SENSE. [Saying that it is a גזירת הכתוב also makes sense. Hashem doesn't have to explain EVERYTHING to us. It makes sense - just not to us here and now].
The Kuzari says:
"חלילה לאל מהיות דבר התורה סותר עדות דבר הנראה עין בעין או דבר שהוכח במופת שכלי", ובמילים אחרות: "יש הבדל בין אומרנו שהנבואה למעלה מהשכל האנושי, ובין אומרנו שהיא סותרת השכל... אומרנו שהנבואה למעלה מן השכל הרצון בו שיש דברים רבים יוודעו מצד הנבואה ואי אפשר שיוודעו מצד המופת [השכלי], לא שהדברים שיחייבם המופת [השכלי] תכחישם הנבואה.
Prophecy is not AGAINST logic but ABOVE logic. What logic can't perceive - prophecy can. The Torah is true and logical, it just takes time to understand the depth of the logic.
והנה, אף אם כשיאריך הרבה להעמיק בעניינים הנ"ל כשעה ושתים, להיות בנמיכת רוח ולב נשבר, יבא לידי עצבות גדולה - לא יחוש.
ואף שעצבות היא מצד קליפת נוגה ולא מצד הקדושה, כי בצד הקדושה כתיב "עוז וחדוה במקומו", ואין השכינה שורה אלא מתוך שמחה, וכן לדבר הלכה וכו', אלא שאם העצבות היא ממילי דשמיא - היא מבחינת טוב שבנוגה [ולכן כתב האר"י ז"ל, שאפילו דאגת העוונות אינה ראויה כי אם בשעת הוידוי ולא בשעת התפילה ותלמוד תורה, שצריכים להיות בשמחה שמצד הקדושה דווקא]. אף על פי כן, הרי כך היא המדה, לאכפיא לסטרא אחרא במינה ודוגמתה, כמאמר רבותינו ז"ל "מיניה וביה אבא לשדיה ביה נרגא", ופגע בו כיוצא בו.
ועל זה נאמר (משלי יד כג): "בכל עצב יהיה מותר", והיתרון היא השמחה הבאה אחר העצב, כדלקמן.
אך באמת, אין לב נשבר ומרירות הנפש על ריחוקה מאור פני ה' והתלבשותה בסטרא אחרא נקראים בשם "עצבות" כלל בלשון הקודש, כי: עצבות היא שלבו מטומטם כאבן ואין חיות בלבו, אבל מרירות ולב נשבר, אדרבה, הרי יש חיות בלבו להתפעל ולהתמרמר, רק שהיא חיות מבחינת גבורות קדושות, והשמחה מבחינת חסדים, כי הלב כלול משתיהן.
והנה, לעתים צריך לעורר בחינת גבורות הקדושות, כדי להמתיק הדינים, שהם בחינת נפש הבהמית ויצר הרע, כששולט חס ושלום על האדם, כי אין הדינים נמתקין אלא בשרשן, ולכן אמרו רבותינו ז"ל (ברכות ה א): "לעולם ירגיז אדם יצר טוב", והיינו בכל עת שרואה בנפשו שצריך לכך.
אך שעת הכושר, שהיא שעה המיוחדת וראויה לכך לרוב בני אדם, היא בשעה שהוא עצב בלאו הכי ממילי דעלמא, או כך בלי שום סיבה, אזי היא שעת הכושר להפך העצב להיות ממרי דחושבנא הנ"ל ולקיים מאמר רבותינו ז"ל "לעולם ירגיז וכו'" כנזכר לעיל, ובזה ייפטר מהעצבות שממילי דעלמא.
ואחר-כך יבוא לידי שמחה אמיתית, דהיינו שזאת ישיב אל לבו לנחמו בכפליים אחר הדברים והאמת האלה הנ"ל, לאמר ללבו: "אמת הוא כן בלי ספק שאני רחוק מאד מה' בתכלית ומשוקץ ומתועב כו', אך כל זה הוא אני לבדי, הוא הגוף עם נפש החיונית שבו; אבל מכל מקום יש בקרבי חלק ה' ממש, שישנו אפילו בקל שבקלים, שהיא נפש האלהית עם ניצוץ אלקות ממש המלובש בה להחיותה, רק שהיא בבחינת גלות. ואם כן, אדרבה, כל מה שאני בתכלית הריחוק מה' והתיעוב ושיקוץ, הרי נפש האלהית שבי בגלות גדול יותר, והרחמנות עליה גדולה מאד, ולזה אשים כל מגמתי וחפצי להוציאה ולהעלותה מגלות זה להשיבה אל בית אביה כנעוריה קודם שנתלבשה בגופי, שהיתה נכללת באורו יתברך ומיוחדת עמו בתכלית, וגם עתה כן תהא כלולה ומיוחדת בו יתברך כשאשים כל מגמתי בתורה ומצות, להלביש בהן כל עשר בחינותיה כנ"ל, ובפרט במצות תפלה, לצעוק אל ה' בצר לה מגלותה בגופי המשוקץ, להוציאה ממסגר ולדבקה בו יתברך".
וזו היא בחינת "תשובה ומעשים טובים", שהן מעשים טובים שעושה כדי להשיב חלק ה' למקורא ושרשא דכל עלמין.
וזאת תהיה עבודתו כל ימיו בשמחה רבה, היא שמחת הנפש בצאתה מהגוף המתועב ושבה אל בית אביה כנעוריה בשעת התורה והעבודה, וכמאמר רבותינו ז"ל להיות "כל ימיו בתשובה". ואין לך שמחה גדולה כצאת מהגלות והשביה, כמשל בן מלך שהיה בשביה וטוחן בבית האסורים ומנוול באשפה, ויצא לחפשי אל בית אביו המלך, ואף שהגוף עומד בשיקוצו ותיעובו (וכמו שכתוב בזהר דנקרא "משכא דחויא"), כי מהותה ועצמותה של הנפש הבהמית לא נהפך לטוב ליכלל בקדושה, מכל מקום תיקר נפשו בעיניו לשמוח בשמחתה יותר מהגוף הנבזה שלא לערבב ולבלבל שמחת הנפש בעצבון הגוף.
והנה, בחינה זו היא בחינת יציאת מצרים, שנאמר בה (שמות יד ה): "כי ברח העם". דלכאורה הוא תמוה, למה היתה כזאת? וכי אילו אמרו לפרעה לשלחם חפשי לעולם לא היה מוכרח לשלחם?! אלא, מפני שהרע שבנפשות ישראל עדיין היה בתקפו בחלל השמאלי, כי לא פסקה זוהמתם עד מתן תורה, רק מגמתם וחפצם היתה לצאת נפשם האלהית מגלות הסטרא-אחרא היא טומאת מצרים ולדבקה בו יתברך, וכדכתיב (ירמיהו טז יט): "ה' עוזי ומעוזי ומנוסי ביום צרה" וגו', (שמואל ב כב ג): "משגבי ומנוסי" וגו', והוא (תהלים נט יז): "מנוס... לי" וגו'. ולכן, לעתיד, כשיעביר ה' רוח הטומאה מן הארץ, כתיב (ישעיהו נב יב): "ובמנוסה לא תלכון כי הולך לפניכם ה'" וגו'.
ולהיות בחינת תשובה זו ביתר שאת ויתר עז מעומקא דלבא, וגם שמחת הנפש תהיה בתוספת אורה ושמחה כאשר ישיב אל לבו דעת ותבונה לנחמו מעצבונו ויגונו לאמר כנ"ל:"הן אמת כו' אך אני לא עשיתי את עצמי. ולמה עשה ה' כזאת, להוריד חלק מאורו יתברך הממלא וסובב כל עלמין, וכולא קמיה כלא חשיב, והלבישו במשכא דחויא וטפה סרוחה? אין זה כי אם ירידה זו היא צורך עליה, להעלות לה' כל נפש החיונית הבהמית שמקליפת נוגה וכל לבושיה, הן בחינת מחשבה דבור ומעשה שלה, ע"י התלבשותן במעשה דבור ומחשבת התורה [וכמ"ש לקמן ענין העלאה זו באריכות איך שהיא תכלית בריאת העולם]. ואם כן, איפוא, זאת אעשה, וזאת תהיה כל מגמתי כל ימי חלדי לכל בהן חיי רוחי ונפשי, וכמו שנאמר (תהלים כה א): "אליך ה' נפשי אשא", דהיינו לקשר: מחשבתי ודיבורי - במחשבתו ודבורו ית', והן הן גופי הלכות הערוכות לפנינו, וכן מעשה- במעשה המצות.
שלכן נקראת: התורה - (תהלים יט ח): "משיבת נפש", פירוש, למקורה ושרשה. ועל זה נאמר (תהלים יט ט): "פקודי ה' ישרים משמחי לב".
The following 6 ideas are introduced / explained in this chapter:
Joy following the sadness
Chop Em Down
Sadness vs Bitter
Why they Ran
Remember Your Unity
Joy following the sadness
Why one shouldn’t worry about the sadness that will occur from the humbling meditations mentioned before
After a person thinks about these matters for an hour or two one may become quite saddened; although sadness is from the Kelipah (and sadness over sins in the proper times is from the good in Kelipah but Kelipah nonetheless) while holiness is the side of joy like it says “energy and strength in his (G-d’s) place” and G-d’s Shechinah (presence) only rests when one is happy nevertheless the way to break the Kelipah is through “fighting fire with fire” (lit. through it own methods).
Chop Em Down
An example of breaking the Yetzer Hara through itself
As our Sages say, from the wood of a tree comes the ax that chops it down.
How joy follows sadness
This is what it says, “in every sadness there will be a benefit”, referring to the joy that will follow it as we will shortly explain:
Sadness vs Bitter
The real terminology of sadness in Hebrew and its distinction to bitterness
However in the Holy-Tongue (Hebrew) sadness does not really refer to what we are referring to for we are referring to merirus/bitterness where a person is sort of angry over their position (their sins) and desires repentance; sadness (in Hebrew) connotes a person whose feeling is dullness, heaviness, his heart is like stone (lacking emotional agitation).
The joy from bitterness
A person should think that “although what I am saying is true, that I am actually far from G-d and low, despicable etc. however this is my body but within my body is a part of G-d (the G-dly Soul) and it’s truly a great pity on this Soul stuck in such a person (filthy etc.) thus I will put all my effort in rescuing this Soul from its prison and returning it to its source, the living G-d through Torah study and especially in prayer asking Hashem to release it from its prison (as when one cries to G-d one unites his Soul with G-d) and especially in good deeds referring to deeds that will unite my Soul with G-d (like giving charity etc.)”.
And thus can there be a greater joy then when a prince is released from a filthy dungeon where he is forced to mill wheat and returns to the palace in glory, similarly my Soul through the Torah and Mitzvahs that I am doing reconnects to G-d. Now although my body is still as it is (called a serpents skin) being filled with Kelipah which is still the source of the body nevertheless the person needs to elevate the joy of the Souls freedom to the extant that this overpowers their sadness over the bodies despicableness.
Why they Ran
The comparison to the Exodus from Egypt
And this is similar to when the Jewish people ran away from Egypt. Why did they have to run away? If they had told Pharaoh they were leaving at that stage he would have been compelled to let them go. The reason is, they were trying to get their Souls out of the mire and guck of Egyptian immorality and Kelipos which had greatly affected their body and it did not leave them until the giving of the Torah. However when Moshiach comes and G-d will remove the evil within the bodies, it says we will not exit rushingly (for we will not need to escape evil for it will have disappeared).
Remember Your Unity
Always maintaining this high
One should maintain this constant joy within Davening learning and helping others (the joy of the princes return home) and furthermore a person needs not to feel bad for having elevated the Soul, they can feel the joy of the Soul.
How this is the purpose of the world
As we know the purpose of the world is that G-d desired a dwelling place down below thus when I return to G-d, my Soul and through its participation in the speech, the actions, and the thoughts the Nefesh Habihamis (animal Soul and body) are forcibly retuned to G-d as well which is the reason G-d took a part of himself and placed it in my body thus I am fulfilling the purpose of my life.
And this is what it says that the Torah of Hashem is Mshivas Nefesh (returns Souls) for through the Torah and Mitzvahs one returns their Soul (and its mission, meaning the body) to G-d.
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