Sanctify yourself through the permissible... Yevamos 20a

Divrei Torah to provide Chizuk in the struggle to balance spiritual and physical needs.

L'Iluei Nishmas Mirkah Bas Yosef

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Fighting our own internal Pharoah.

Just like Pharaoh ruled over the Jews in Egyp, our Yetzer Hara rules over us.  Just like  Hashem had to bring dramatic plagues to free the Jews from Pharaoh, we have a struggle with our Yetzer Hara.   By studying the lessons of Mitzrayim we can learn lessons for fighting our own internal Pharoah.  Just like it took stuggle after struggle, for the Jews to be freed. we have to be prepared to fight many battles.  Just like the Jews thought that they were free, and then Pharaoh came after them, we have to be prepared for our Yetzer Hara to come chasing after us just when we think that we have escaped.  Just like Pharaoh wanted the adults to leave and the children to stay behind, our Yetzer Hara tries to separate our children from us.

from a Shiur on Naaleh:
Parshat Va'eira: Existential Exodus Experience
Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Added: December 29, 2010

The lesson of the ten plagues.

Hashem did not send the Makos to punish the Egyptians, he sent them to educate them and us.  To teach that Hashem runs the world. The Makos reinforced the power and existence of Hashem for all of the world to see. When we see negative things happening in the world, we have to remember that it is coming from Hashem to teach us and not as a punishment. This is also the reason that there are so many mitzvot to remember Yitziat Mitzrayim, to connect us back to our source, to remember that everything in the world is coming from Hashem.

from the Shiur on Naaleh:    Parshat Va'eira: Existential Exodus Experience

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Added: December 29, 2010

Good Shabbos Everyone -Parshas Vaera 5771

Sometimes in life we see Jews who are not behaving according to the Torah. What should we do? Should we correct them and risk offending them? Or, should we be silent, in order to keep the peace? This week we will discuss our obligation to correct others when we see them acting in violation of the Torah.

The Sages teach us a general rule: "just as it is a mitzvah to say something which will be accepted by the hearer, so too is it a mitzvah not to say something which will not be accepted by the hearer." (Yavomos 65b) Because, if we know that the listener of the rebuke will not accept the rebuke, we will in effect cause that person to violate the Torah knowingly, which is a much graver level of Torah violation than violating the Torah unknowingly.

However, it must be stressed that according the Rama on Shulchan Aruch (608:2), when the mitzvah involved is a mitzvah clearly stated in the Torah, such as Shabbos, one must rebuke the Shabbos violator even if the violator will not listen to the rebuke.

We read about this concept in the weekly Torah portion Vaera. Hashem commands Moshe Rabeinu (our teacher) to implore Pharaoh to release the Bnai Yisroel from Mitzraim (Egypt). Moshe refuses to accept Hashem's assignment to go to Pharaoh. Moshe says to Hashem "…the Bnai Yisroel did not listen to me, why should Pharaoh listen to me, for my lips are stopped up." (Shemos 6:12)

Perhaps, Moshe was alluding to the issue we discussed above: "just as it is a mitzvah to say something which will be accepted by the hearer, so too is it a mitzvah not to say something which will not be accepted by the hearer." The following story illustrates this concept.

Reb Yisroel of Vizhnitz was in the habit of strolling with his gabbai - attendant for half an hour every evening. On one such occasion they reached the house of a certain wealthy bank manager who was a maskil, a follower of the "Enlightenment" movement - in a word, he was a man who definitely was not a chassid of the Rebbe.

Reb Yisroel knocked on the door, and when a servant opened it, entered the house. The gabbai did not begin to understand the reason for this unexpected visit but, without asking a word, followed the rebbe inside. The host received his distinguished guest with all the marks of respect and politeness dictated by such an occasion; the rebbe for his part took the seat that was offered him, and sat for quite some time without saying a word.

Considering that it would be rude to ask the rebbe directly about the purpose of his visit, the host whispered his question to the gabbai, but the gabbai did not answer the host. At length the rebbe offered him his farewells, and rose to leave.

As a mark of respect, the host accompanied him in silence all the way to his home, but at the last minute, when he was about to leave, his understandable curiosity got the better of him, and he turned to the tzaddik: "Rebbe, pardon my question, but it would hardly have been proper for me to ask when we were in my home, so I am taking the liberty of asking now: why did you honor me with a visit?"

"I went to your house in order to fulfill a mitzvah," answered the rebbe, "and thank G-d I was able to fulfill it."

"Which mitzvah?" asked the bank manager.

The rebbe explained: "Our Sages teach that 'Just as it is a mitzvah to say that which will be heard, so is it a mitzvah not to say that which will not be listened to.' Now if I remain in my house and you remain in yours, I cannot fulfill the mitzvah of refraining from telling you 'that which will not be listened to.' In order to fulfill the mitzvah properly, one obviously has to go to the house of the man who will not listen, and there refrain from speaking to him. And that is exactly what I did."

"Perhaps, rebbe," said the bank manager, "you would be so good as to tell me what this thing is? Who knows, perhaps I will listen?" "I am afraid not," said the rebbe. "I am certain that you will not." And the longer the rebbe refused, the greater grew the curiosity of the other to know his secret, and he continued to press him to reveal "that which would not be listened to."

"Very well," said the rebbe at length. "A certain penniless widow owes your bank quite a sum for the mortgage of her house. Within a few days your bank is going to dispose of her house by public sale, and she will be out on the street. I had wanted to ask you to overlook her debt, but didn't - because of that mitzvah of 'not saying.'"

"But how is such a thing possible?" asked the bank manager in amazement. "Surely you realize that the debt is not owed to me personally, but to the bank, and I am only its manager, not its proprietor, and the debt runs into several hundreds, and if so…"

The rebbe interrupted him: "It is exactly as I said all along - that you would not want to hear." With that he ended the conversation and entered his house. The bank manager also went home - but the rebbe's words found their way into his heart and gave him no rest, until he paid up the widow's debt out of his own pocket. (From, A Treasury of Chassidic Tales on the Torah, R. Zevin, p.189) Good Shabbos Everyone

from a regular email that I get every week. For more go to http://www.notspeeding.com/gs/

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Remembering that Everything is from Hashem.

Everyone has something in their life that causes them pain. Fighting this pain and resentment is an important battle that we all have to face.  This insight from Al-Anon is very helpful.  As we all know, we have to realize that every thing that happens to us in this world is decreed from above.

Resentment will do nothing except tear us apart inside. No one ever found serenity through hatred. No one ever truly recovered from the effects of alcoholism by harboring anger or fear, or by holding on to grudges. Hostility keeps us tied to the abuses of the past. Even if the alcoholic is long gone from our lives or has refrained from drinking for many years, we, too, need to learn to detach. We need to step back from the memories of alcoholic behavior that continue to haunt us. We begin to detach when we identify the disease of
alcoholism as the cause of the behavior and recognize that our ongoing struggle with unpleasant memories is an effect of that disease. We, too, must find within us compassion for the alcoholic who suffered from this terrible illness.

From How Al-Anon Works for Families and Friends of Alcoholics, page 86,

copyright 1995 by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.

Consistency is part of spiritual growth.

I have been posting some excepts from Al-Anon literature lately because I find them so insightful and some of my friends have asked me to share them.

One of the most beneficial things I have learned from my Al-Anon experience is to be consistent in my thoughts, words, and actions. In my alcoholic home, I learned to mask uncomfortable situations with words and actions I thought would promote harmony. I have since learned that agreeing with others simply to keep peace causes me to be resentful. As difficult as it may be, today I won't automatically concur with the thoughts and opinions of others. If I have a different point of view, I express it, then let go of the other's reaction. I practice "Live and Let Live" and "Let Go and Let God."

From Hope for Today, page 363, copyright 2002, by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.
There are many Jewish sources that talk about the importance of consistency, this link list some.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shovavim is a time for us to redeem ourselves spiritually through genuine repentance.

Rav Matisyahu Salamon quotes the Shlah Hakodesh that the parshiyot of Shovavim, which talk about exile and redemption, are a time for us to redeem ourselves spiritually through genuine repentance. These weeks
are an auspicious time to work on yirat shamayim. Fear of heaven is the primary key to avodat Hashem. Constant awareness of Hashem’s presence and accountability for our actions are two significant ways of acquiring Torah and mitzvot. The Orchot Tzaddikim writes that everything depends on yirat shamayim.

Chazal compare yirat shamayim to a house. A house creates walls and boundaries. Yirat shamayim does the same. It controls forbidden speech and unbridled passion.

The Ishbitzer Rebbe explains that the ease we feel in our own homes come from a feeling of safety and security. Yirat shamayim should also give us a feeling of peace, knowing that we are in Hashem’s presence.

How do we reach this goal? The Imrei Emet says that those who pay attention to their actions and refrain from displeasing Hashem, will acquire yirat shamayim. We acquire fear of Hashem by living our lives
alertly and practicing zehirut, awareness and care for our deeds and actions.

Parshat Vaeira – Awe of the Abode

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles

Monday, December 27, 2010

The importance of giving.

It is brought down that a poor man is like someone who is dead.  Is this because of the uncertainty and the trials of being poor?  No, a poor man is like a dead man because he can not give, which means that he can not express his higher nature.

from a Shiur on Naaleh:  Rachel & Leah

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: In the Merit of Righteous Women

If we want to grow spiritually we have to give to others.  In OA we say, if you want to keep what you have you have to give it away.

Minding our own business.

Who is the strong person... the one who conquers his inclination.    Pirke Avot

Any time I am telling someone else what they should do, telling them what they are doing wrong,

or otherwise sticking my nose where it does not belong, I subtract not only from their recovery efforts, but my own.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Jihad Bells-"Oh what fun with a knife or gun a Christian guy to slay"--- all to true from Latma the people who made "We con the world"


Cynicism is when we want to take something big and make it small.

from a Shiur on Naaleh:  Sarah

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: In the Merit of Righteous Women

Added: March 13, 2008

The benifit of Tzaar Gidual Banim.

Chava was cursed that she would have "suffering" or anxiety when having and raising children. This suffering, Tzaar Gidul Banim, is actually a blessing. Since we do not know what the future holds for our children we are brought to a higher level of care and davening for them. It is actually a benifit that we face Tzaar Gidual Banim.
from a Shiur on Naaleh:
Womanly Influence

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: In the Merit of Righteous Women

Blame can keep us from Teshuvah.

When Adam and Chava did the first sin, Hashem called out to them asking what they did. They should have admitted that they did something wrong, but instead they blamed someone else. This kept them from doing proper Teshuvah. Whenever we do something wrong, we should look for our own part in the problem and not look for who we can blame.

Mother of Mankind

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: In the Merit of Righteous Women

The after effects of sin.

Hashem did not punish Chava right after her sin.  In general Hashem does not punish us immediately after we sin because Hashem does not want a world of robots.  Actually, we are punished right away, because our neshamah is effected in such a way that we are more likely to sin again soon.

from a Shiur on Naaleh: Mother of Mankind

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: In the Merit of Righteous Women

Dial in info to listen to Bilvavi Miskan Evneh this afternoon.

Due to the weather we are arranging a call in number for people to listen to the Rav speaking. Dial   1-712-432-8773  when it says to dial a conference ID you dial 613613#,

Ratzon Hashem

Acceptance means putting aside the wish that our situation could be

 different from what it is.

 From * Discovering Choices * Page number 169__

 Copyright 2008, by Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc., Limited use by

 express written permission of Al-Anon Family Group Headquarters, Inc.

Whatever situation we are in now is what Hashem thinks is best for us and we have to weather the storm and grow from it.

Something worthwhile to do during the snowstorm.

I was trying to brush up on my Hebrew in anticipation of the Shiurim by Bilvavi Miskan Evneh, so I watched this video by Rabbi Amnon Yitzchack, Food for Thought.  It is really worth watching, and it has sub-titles.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Real Wisdom

Real Wisdom is not the ability to solve problems.  Rather it is the awareness of how to avoid them as much a possible in the first place.

from : Getting to Know Your Soul" by Bilvavi Miskan Evneh

One of my favorite sayings from OA is "if you fail to plan, you plan to fail."  This carries it to a whole new stage.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Come Learn with Bilvavi Miskan Evneh.

Reminder: This Sunday Rav Schwartz- Bilvavi Miskan Evneh will be speaking in an all day Seminar:
This is a link to his site,  There are Shiurim and Seforim on Line to learn from.
Join the Rav, Shlit"a

on Sunday Dec. 26th in Flatbush, Brooklyn

Congregation Sheves Achim

The Flatbush Minyan 1517 Ave. H

for a One Day Intensive Seminar

for three different drashas: 12 PM, 1.15 PM, 2.30 PM

I am posting something from his site below there is so much more to gain from going to his site. http://bilvavi.net/
(This class was delivered in a Beit Midrash called "Od Yosef Chai [Yosef is still alive]," and so, the talk is centered on this section in the Torah.)

How is it that the Torah writes Yehudah's words to the viceroy of Egypt (Bereshit 44:20) that Yosef was dead? In fact, it was untrue, so it should not be written in the Torah. The answer is that in depth, there was a kind of death. Yosef's whole essence was kavod (honor). When he was born, Rachel named him Yosef, because "Hashem gathered in (asaf) my shame." The opposite of shame is honor, so Yosef's essence was honor. Likewise, he was the conduit for the Torah of Yaakov, and by revealing that Torah, he caused Yaakov's honor to be manifest. When he was sold as a slave, his personal honor and that of his father were no more, and thus, his essence disappeared, so he was as if dead. When he became viceroy in Egypt, he was again in a position of honor, and then, indeed, "Yosef is still alive."

As long as Yosef was alive, the kavod of Yaakov was manifest. After he died, the kavod disappeared, and the enslavement of Israel began. As long as we had kavod, there could be no galut (exile). The removal of kavod is identical with galut. Geulah (redemption), though, is more than just a return of kavod, and Yosef also symbolizes the higher level of gathering in and transcending the concept of honor.

To illustrate, to shame a person is tantamount to murder, because the soul is equated with honor (Tehillim 30:13). But if a person's essence is really only honor, a disgraced person should die, because his soul, his kavod, disappears. Rather, a person is more than his kavod. The inner essence is even deeper than kavod. Kavod is deep, but it is not the deepest essence of a person. Kavod only relates to others, but does not exist at all when one is alone.

When a person lives only with kavod, he is only focused on the relationship with others. Yet one must focus on his own essence. We don't only mean that one should not do things for the sake of honor. Kavod means to be focused on the outside, and the inner life requires one not to focus on outside entities.

The gemara states that rebbi did not look outside of his four amot (cubits). The depth of this is that he did not look beyond his own place, his own existence. Looking outward means that one leaves his own personal world. Each person is unique, with his own world. When a person envies another, even another person's positive qualities, he is looking outside of his own world if he only wants the qualities because he sees them elsewhere.

The proper way is to attain a level because of a personal awareness of the value of the level. You might see people acting a certain way, or read about it in a book. But you should attain your own recognition. The gemara states that if not that the Torah were given, we would have learned alacrity from the ant. But where does the Torah teach us the quality of alacrity? The answer is that we now have an inner light with which to learn such values naturally.

The Rambam (De'ot 6:1) writes that one must live in the desert. You can live with other people and yet be as in a desert. One can live on his own, without copying anyone else. The true life is when you build your own way of life with your own personal understanding.

This is the depth of "Yosef is still alive" even now. When he died, in other words, when his level of honor disappears, the kavod is gone, but this new level is higher than kavod. On this level, one lives based on his own awareness.

The influences in this world are very strong. The values are all wrong and our thinking can become distorted. The proper way is to discover the truth on your own. Then you will receive your own life from your own neshamah. Then you will merit being like Adam before the sin. He had no one to emulate other than Hashem.

The Geulah will come when we don't copy others, but live from our own discovered truth.

Fill in the following information to join us

For info call: 516.668.6397

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The importance of our choices.

My reading this week has been about realizing that Hashem is running the world, seems obvious, but it is not easy to really internalize. I read something that suggested that once we learn to make intelligent food choices on a consistent basis, we can apply the concept of careful decision making to every choice we make in our lives, focusing on doing Hashem's will. In essence, taking the self control that we have learned from OA and applying it throughout our spiritual life. Now that I have over a year of abstinence, eating food to fuel my body and not my desires, I can see where the focus of my work has to be.

For more thoughts on choices follow this link:


Monday, December 20, 2010

Using the gift of Tefilah.

During the time of Shovavim is a time for us to work on our speech. We have a tremendous power to influence our lives through Tefilah, but if we speak improperly it is like giving the King a precious diamond and wrapping it in a dirty diaper.

from the Shiur on Naaleh:
Parshat Shemot: Fabulous Flame
Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Parsha Topics 5769

Sunday, December 19, 2010

No matter what flame tries to destroy the Jew he will continue to survive.

Why did Hashem appear to Moshe Rabenu in a flame that did not consume the bush.  To teach us that no matter what flame tries to destroy the Jew he will continue to survive.  We have to have faith in our ability to continue.

Every Jew has to ask "why did the Jews continue despite all of the hardships through the years".  Even if a Jew is totally cut off from everything, he still has a responsibility to recognize the miracle of the on going existence of the Jews.

from a Shiur on Naaleh
Parshat Shemot: Fabulous Flame
Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles Class: Parsha Topics 5769

This reminded me of the following quote:
Mark Twain and The Jews

”...If statistics are right, the Jews constitute but one percent of the human race. It suggests a nebulous dim puff of stardust lost in the blaze of the Milky way. properly, the Jew ought hardly to be heard of, but he is heard of, has always been heard of. He is as prominent on the planet as any other people, and his commercial importance is extravagantly out of proportion to the smallness of his bulk. His contributions to the world’s list of great names in literature, science, art, music, finance, medicine, and abstruse learning are also away out of proportion to the weakness of his numbers. He has made a marvelous fight in this world, in all the ages; and had done it with his hands tied behind him. He could be vain of himself, and be excused for it.

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 the Roman followed; and made a vast noise, and they are gone; other people 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?”

- Mark Twain

(“Concerning The Jews,” Harper’s Magazine, 1899

A spiritual kind of hunger.

... A spiritual kind of hunger, the more we feed it, the hungrier we feel.  Because we have been conditioned to respond to lack by feeding it, which works in the physical dimension, we intuitively extrapolate this "solution" to the inner void.  We believe that the way to deal with all desires is to give in to them, to give them what they demand, and then they'll be satisfied and stop bothering us.

However, the opposite is true.  The more that you give in to certain desires, the more desire you feel.  The more that you feed the fire, the bigger the fire rages.

From Battle Plans by Rebbetzin Heller and Sara Yoheved Rigler  page 72

Who is strong- the person who controls himself.

I was so moved when I read this that I had to share it:
All of my life I have heard the saying, "You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink." I have even said it myself countless times. But it was not until Al-Anon that I genuinely UNDERSTOOD it. That horse may be showing signs of dehydration. It may be so weak that it can barely walk. I love the horse and don't want to watch it die. It hasn't had water in days and I just "know" that it will be better if it would just drink some. But out of love, healthy love, I am dropping the reigns; if the horse is thirsty, it will drink.

If it’s not, what makes me think that--shoving its face in the water, prying open its mouth and choking it with the cup I force down its throat--- is being helpful? It will likely only vomit back my efforts.

As I put down the reigns, I will pick up my skirt, tuck it under my legs and kneel at the spring of recovery to drink from it myself. I will go back to that spring every day, sometimes several times a day. Perhaps my "horse" will notice how healthy I am becoming and will want to try it for himself. Perhaps not. Regardless, I refuse to die of dehydration myself.

Check out these new recipes on our recipe exchange!

Crustless Fruit Tart
Black Bean Soup

Lo Mein

Why is the "Hand of Hashem" all but imprerceptible?

Why does the Divine Providence present itself in this manner, blending miracles in the natural process, making the "Hand of Hashem" all but imperceptible? ... The answer to this question is to be found in the necessity to enable man to enjoy freedom of choice.  If man wishes he can discern the "Hand of God" in the innermost recesses of the most natural event and on the other hand he can disregard it int the most blatant of circumstances.

from the Sefer "Reb Chaim's Discourses"
The shmussen of the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz ztl page 105

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Bilvavi Miskan Evneh in New York Dec. 26

Rav Itamar Shwartz will be in Flatbush, Far Rockaway, and Woodmere this coming Sunday and Monday, Dec. 26th & 27th. See below for the Schedule:

Sunday, Dec. 26th

Flatbush - Cong. Sheves Achim - 1517 Ave. H (corner E. 16th, across from Q train - But on this particular Sunday, the Q does not stop there in either direction. One would have to get off at either Ave J or Newkirk, and walk about three blocks)

Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh and Da Es Atzmecha seforim, will be giving a one day intensive seminar on Avodas Hashem in the winter Shovavim time. The shiurim will be at 12 PM, 1:15 PM, 2:30 PM.

There is a $20 suggested donation for admission and sponsorships are encouraged. Admission includes all three shiurim and a free mp3 CD of the Rav's drashos. Donations are tax deductable and all proceeds will go to enable the publication of more seforim in Hebrew and English.

English and Hebrew seforim and mp3 CDs will be on sale at the drashos at a discount.

It is preferred if you register in advance. Please CLICK HERE to register. The Rav is available to meet with people privately to discuss inyanim in Avodas Hashem after the Flatbush seminar by appointment only. Please contact Benyomin Wolf at 212-715-9417, 516-668-6397, or benbenabe@aol.com.

Monday, Dec. 27th

Far Rockaway, NY - White Shul library - 728 Empire Ave

8:45-9:15 AM

The shiur is after the 7:30 minyan and before the 9:30 minyan

The shiur will take place in the White Shul's library and will be a va'ad on inyanei Shovavim.

5:30-6:15 PM

Agudath Israel of Long Island -

Far Rockaway, NY - 1121 Sage St.

Shiur on inyanei Shovavim

Woodmere, NY

8 PM - Monday night, December 27th at 8:00 PM.

Rav Itamar Shwartz, the author of the Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh

and Da Es Atzmecha seforim will be speaking in the Shul

The shiur is open to men and women.

The Rav speaks in an easy-to-understand Hebrew, and the topic of the shiur will

be Shovavim. We are looking for sponsorships for the shiur, which will be used to enable the publication of more of the Rav's seforim in both English

and Hebrew.

Please contact Benyomin Wolf at 212-715-9417, 516-668-6397, or benbenabe@aol.com to sponsor the shiur. Donations are tax deductable.

English and Hebrew seforim, as well as mp3 CDs will be available for sale at the shiur.

The Tenth of Tevet

One day commemorates a variety of Jewish tragedies.

by Rabbi Berel Wein    http://www.aish.com/h/10t/48960111.html
The Tenth of Tevet is one of the four fast days that commemorate dark times in Jewish history. The others are Tisha B'Av (the day of the destruction of both Temples in Jerusalem), the 17th of Tammuz (the day of the breaching of the defensive wall of Jerusalem by Titus and the Roman legions in 70 CE), and the third of Tishrei (the day that marks the assassination of the Babylonian-appointed Jewish governor of Judah, Gedaliah ben Achikam. He was actually killed on Rosh Hashana but the fast day was advanced to the day after Rosh Hashana because of the holiday).

The Tenth of Tevet is viewed as such a severe and important fast day that it is observed even if it falls on a Friday.The Tenth of Tevet marks the onset of the siege of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar, the King of Babylonia, and the beginning of the battle that ultimately destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple of Solomon, and sent the Jews into the 70-year Babylonian Exile. The date of the Tenth of Tevet is recorded for us by the prophet Yechezkel, who himself was already in Babylonia as part of the first group of Jews exiled there by Nebuchadnezzar, 11 years earlier than the actual destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem itself.

The Tenth of Tevet is viewed as such a severe and important fast day that it is observed even if it falls on a Friday (erev Shabbat), while our other fast days are so arranged by calendar adjustments as to never fall on a Friday, so as not to interfere with Shabbat preparations.


However, there are other commemorative days that fall immediately before the Tenth of Tevet and their memory has been silently incorporated in the fast day of the Tenth of Tevet as well. On the eighth of Tevet, King Ptolemy of Egypt forced 70 Jewish scholars to gather and translate the Hebrew Bible into Greek. Even though the Talmud relates to us that this project was blessed with a miracle -- the 70 scholars were all placed in separate cubicles and yet they all came up with the same translation -- the general view of the rabbis of the time towards this project was decidedly negative. The Talmud records that when this translation became public "darkness descended on the world."

The 'koshering' of the Greek language by its use in translating the Hebrew Bible had wide ramifications in Jewish society.This translation -- the Septuagint -- eventually became the basis for the Old Testament section of the Christian bible a few centuries later. The Greek translation of the Bible also further aided the advance of the agenda of the Hellenist Jews to bring Greek culture into Jewish life, and to attempt to reform Judaism in the image of Greek values and lifestyle. The "koshering" of the Greek language by its use in translating the Hebrew Bible had wide ramifications in Jewish society and undermined some of the efforts of the rabbis in combating the allure of Greece in Israel of then.


The ninth day of Tevet is held to be the day of the death of Ezra the Scribe. This great Jew is comparable even to Moses in the eyes of the Talmud. "If the Torah had not been granted through Moses, it could have been granted to Israel through Ezra." Ezra led the return of the Jews to Jerusalem from their Babylonian exile. It was under his direction and inspiration, together with the help of the court Jew, Nechemiah, that the Second Temple was built, albeit originally in a much more modest scale and style than the grandeur of Solomon's Temple.

Ezra also renewed the covenant of Moses between Israel and God, staunched the flow of intermarriage that afflicted the Jews returning to Jerusalem, strengthened public and private Sabbath observance, and created the necessary schools and intellectual tools for the furtherance of the knowledge and development of the Oral Law of Sinai within the Jewish people.

A man of incorruptible character, great compassion, deep vision and erudition and inspirational charisma, Ezra the Scribe is responsible for the survival of Judaism and the Jews till this very day. It is no wonder therefore that Jews marked the day of his death as a sad day on the Jewish calendar. Since fasting on the eighth, ninth and 10th days of Tevet consecutively would be unreasonable, the events of the eighth and ninth were subsumed into the fast day of the Tenth of Tevet.


The rabbinic policy has been to attach other sad commemorations onto the established fast days, so as not to fill the calendar with so many days of sad remembrances. Thus the memorial for the destruction of the Jewish communities of Worms, Speyers and Mainz by the Crusaders in 1096 is marked on the fast day of Tisha B'Av, even though that destruction actually took place in other months.

This policy of minimizing the number of days of commemoration of sad events became accepted practice throughout the Jewish world until the Holocaust. However, the enormity of the tragedy of the Holocaust subsumed everything that preceded it in the story of the Jewish people in the Diaspora. Hence, it is understandable why the Knesset would look to designate a specific day alone for Holocaust remembrance. Nevertheless, the rabbinic policy of minimizing days of tragic remembrances played a role in assigning the Holocaust remembrance to the Tenth of Tevet for a large section of the Israeli population.

May we only commemorate days of goodness in our future.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Trap of Consumerism from Reb. Heller on Naaleh

You have to choose what you are going to be pursuing,  everyone has to pursue something, this is the inner drive of man.  The pasuk says that "a man is created to toil". your choice is not if you are going to want, your choice is to choose something of value.

from the Shiur on Naaleh: The Trap of Consumerism

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Yechezkel II
 This shiur is really worth watching.

People do not make choices based on pleasure.

 The thing that makes a person choose one thing over another is his awareness of something empty that he wants to fill.  Some people are only able to feel strongly about material lacks, since they perceive that what they are lacking is material pleasure.  .Other people realize that their real lack is spiritual. 

from the Shiur on Naaleh: The Trap of Consumerism

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Yechezkel II
Added: December 13, 2010

The Bracha of Self Knowledge

The Bracha of Yakov to his children is the Bracha of Self Knowledge.  One of the greatest tragedies that can happen is to live our lives without using our potential.  At the end of our lives, it will matter more if we lived up to our potential, then how much we accomplished.  If we do not know what we are capable of , we will not know how much we can do.  It is important to do a real Chesbon Hanefesh and speak to people that we respect who know us to gain an understanding of our true potential.

from a Shiur by Shira Smiles on Parshat Vayechie

Monday, December 13, 2010

Sometimes we are like a salomander that needs to shed his skin in order to grow

.  Sometimes when we are suffering the most it is to clear the way for real growth.  Yakov complained to his sons, "why did you tell the man I had another son"  Yakov thought that this was a horrible thing that was happening that Benyomin had to go down to Egypt, he did not realize that it was the beginging of the redemption.

from the Shiur on Naaleh: Suffering
Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Bitachon: Meaning of Trust

Working on Gratitude.

Gratitude takes us to a higher place of connection to Hashem then anything else.

from a shiur on Naaleh: Suffering

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Bitachon: Meaning of Trust

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The intrinsic value of Eretz Yisrael.

In bentching we refer to Eretz Yisrael as a land that is "Rachava" wide or expansive   To say that Eretz Yisrael is holy, or special, we can understand, but how can we describe it as expansive?  The answer is that something that is intrinsically very valuable is precious even if we only have a small amount.  A diamond the size of an orange would be extremely valuable, but an orange is not that valuable.  Eretz Yisrael is so special that even a tiny amount would be very special.  The amount that we do have is considered expansive, based on it's value.

from a Shiur about Chanukah by Rabbi Wachsman

Hidden Sugar in Cottage Cheese- an alert from a reader

Just that you know and be alert!

I purchased a new, cheaper brand of cottage cheese yesterday. My son and I tasted it this morning and it tasted 'different' than 'regular' cottage cheese. My son checked the ingredient list, which I did not think of doing before purchasing and sure enough this cheese has more 'additives' than 'whole ingredients'. Amongst this mishmash of ingredients were maltodextrin and cultured destrose! Brand name: 'Ateres'. Needless to say that container is now in my trash can!

I never thought I have to check cottage cheese, from now on I'll check everything, even bottled water!

New recipes in our OA Recipe Exchange

Home made pastrami

Garlic za'tar chicken and sweet potatoes:

Italian Eggplant "Bread"

OA "Latkes"

Grilled Salmon
Abstinent Cheesecake - this replaces a breakfast meal

follow the link on the right of the page- click on the recipe card or go to:


The end does not justify the means.

A person should not determine his course of action solely for the purpose of the accomplishment. A person is obligated to do that which is demanded of him, and it is for Hashem to bring results. It is incumbent upon man to act, not to accomplish.

Yosef's brothers justified their cruelty to him by their belief that he was a vainglorious dreamer. This was the cause of their ability to justify their actions. We have to be sure that every action we take is correct, regardless of the anticipated result.

from the Sefer "Reb Chaim's Discourses" The shmussen of the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz ztl page 99

Woe to Us on the Day of Rebuke

The Midrash tells us that Yosef's brothers were overwhelmed by his rebuke, yet the Pasuk says that all that he said was, "Ani Yosef- I am Yosef".  Where is the rebuke that the Midrash refers to? 

This teaches us that rebuke is not verbal castigation that we have come to see it as, rather it is making a person aware of the the fact that he has erred.  When a person realizes that he has lived his life with a totally mistaken perspective, then rebuke has accomplished its purpose.

from the Sefer "Reb Chaim's Discourses" THe shmussen of the Mirrer Rosh Yeshiva Rabbi Chaim Shmulevitz ztl  page 98

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The cleansing power of the Chanukah lights.

When we look at the Chanukah candles it cleans our eyes from the impure things that we looked at.

from a Shiur by Rabbi Ephriam Wachsman about Chanukah

Rabbi Wachsman on Chanukah

In the Al Hanisim we talk about the few conquering the many. in our time when the Yetzer Hara is so strong, even a small good deed is as important as a great dead that the Tanaim did in their time.  Klal Yisrael is in a time of spiritual difficulty.  This is a time when we can give Hashem tremendous Nachas Ruach from small actions.  Hashem is close to anyone who wants to be close to him.  A small amount of light lights up the darkness.  Chanukah is a time of darkness when our small acts of light can cause tremendous good.

from a Shiur on Chanukah by Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Rising above our suffering.

We have all heard stories of gedolim who were able to withstand tremendous suffering without being effected by it.  Great Rabonim who where able to go through surgery without anesthesia because they were so involved in their Torah learning.  The question was asked if this means that they will have to undergo other suffering to gain a kaporah.  The answer given was that the nisyonos that we have to go through are from Hashem but the suffering that they cause is in our own hands. 

We have the ability to rise above our suffering and to focus on the positives in our lives.

from a teacher who wihes to remain ananymous.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Chanukah is a time of greater Kedusha.

Many Chasidic sources discuss the fact that Chanukah is the final day of judgement for the new year.  Since we learn that our judgement is sealed on Hoshanah Rabah, why do we say that we have this extended period of judgement.

When a person was sentenced to a death penalty by a Beis Din, but he ran away and went to another town, if witnesses went to the local Beis Din and said that he was Chayev Mesa  (deserving of the death penalty)from another Beis Din, they did have to retry him.  If the man escaped and ran to Eretz Yisrael he was entitled to a new trial becasue with the greater kedusha of Eretz Yisrael he might be found incocent.

Chanukah is a time of greater Kedusha.  We have a spark of the kedusha from the Beis Hamikdash in our homes, and therefore we may be entitled to a better judgement.

heard from Reb Yakov Pascal

The internal spark of Kedusha .

The Hashmonim had ignited their internal spark of Kedusha to such an extent that when they lit the menorah and it burned for 8 days it was a physical reflection of their internal reality.

from a Shiur by Rebbetzin Heller about the Deeper Meaning of Chanukah on Aish.com

When we change our internal self it changes the external world.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

WikiLeaks: A Chanukah Miracle

I am copying Rabbi Lazer Brody's Post here because it is so important!
One might think that Wikileaks is an international conspiracy network staffed by an army of the world's top intellegence agents and information analysts, with sleepers in every country and moles deeply penetrated in every government. That's not all; WikiLeaks has exposed and outsmarted many leading intelligence agencies and governments, to the dismay and embarassment of many a two-faced politician who says one thing in public and something totally different in private.

This very moment - while we're spinning our dreydels and singing Chanuka songs with our children and grandchildren - governments are frantic about plugging the leak that has splattered their secrets on computer screens around the world.

But no - there is no massive clandestine army agents, analysts, sleepers and moles. All of WikiLeaks is founder Julian Assange and a few volunteers.

Who is 39 year-old Julian Assange? The local media here calls him a former computer hacker. According to our very reliable hi-tech sources here in Israel, Assange masterfully developed a tiny bit of code that he succeeded to plant in US State Department (among other) emails and network systems which enabled him to be privy to tons of diplomatic mail.

Time out, sports fans: Assange and Wikileaks are basically no more than a bunch of talented and innovating hackers that are trying to gain legitimacy by being whistle blowers. But with all their talent, they are nothing but a stick in Hashem's hands. Remember the first of the 13 tenets of our faith: "I believe with a full and complete belief that Hashem is Creator and Director of all the creations, and He alone did, does, and will do every doing." So, it's not Assange and WikiLeaks that exposed the world's dirty laundry, it's Hashem.

Who would ever believe that one man and his tiny staff could reveal the world's most intimate and embarrassing secrets? This is certainly a Chanukah miracle of mega proportions.

Israel and the Jews have been bashed even more seriously in international forums than usual lately. Despite the fact that we have much to clean up in our spiritual act, Hashem - by way of His little stick called WikiLeaks - has smacked those who besmirch us on the nose. What a wonderful Chanuka present. Here are a few examples of Hashem's magnificent loving-kindness:

1. Hashem has exposed the arch antisemite Erdogan, Turkey's PM who has done everything to destroy Turkey's relations with Israel, by showing that he is a corrupt maniac with eight bank accounts loaded with private funds in Switzerland.

2. By way of WikiLeaks, Hashem is revealing the true face of the Turks, showing that they support Al Qaida. Hashem is telling Turkey that if it continues to mess with the Jews, they'll pay the same price that all the other Jew-haters of history eventually paid, from Haman to Sadaam.

3. The world tried to sell Achmadinejad and Iran's nuclear threat as Israel's problem, as if no one else was interested in neutralizing Iran. Hashem via WikiLeaks has shown that Saudi Arabia and Jordan have been begging the USA to act forcefully against Iran, much more than Israel even.

4. The entire world - except for a few fellow tyrants - can't stand Achmedinejad. Thanks to Hashem via WikiLeaks, the truth is revealed, namely, that Achmedinejad and Iran are not just Israel's problem.

5. Hashem via WikiLeaks has revealed the Arab duplicity in regards to the Gaza War (Operation Cast Lead) two years ago. Israel informed both Egypt and the PLO that they were going to attack Gaza. So much for the alligator tears of Mubarrak and Abu Mazzan...

6. Hashem via WikiLeaks has released compelling evidence to vindicate Jonathan Pollard for many of the serious charges that he was falsely accused of. Contrary to Jew-hater Casper Weinberger's testimony, Aldrich Ames was the CIA traitor that revealed the names of every U.S. spy in the Soviet Union, and not Jonathan Pollard, who deserved only 2-3 years behind bars, not 26, with the count not over yet...

I could go on and on, but it seems that Israel is the only country that has emerged not only unscathed, but rewarded as a result of WikiLeaks. Thanks to Hashem, 500 years of Israeli diplomatic and image-building efforts couldn't do what WikiLeaks has done for us.

Politics of course don't interest us, because our Torah and Teshuva decide the course of world events and not the politicians. But, lets look at the spiritual lessons of WikiLeaks:

A. If one man can reveal the most intimate, carefully guarded conversations and communiques, imagine what the Heavenly Court can do.

B. Hashem - via WikiLeaks - is reminding us that every single thought, utterance and action is recorded; we'll each have to reckon for everything we did in this world, better or worse.

C. To paraphrase the Mishna, don't ever say behind closed doors what you wouldn't say on the first page of the New York Times.

D. Now that we know that everything we do is transparent, it's time for teshuva.

E. We have nothing to fear from our enemies - Hashem fights our battles, even when all the odds are against us and everything seems lost. When you fear One, you fear no one.

Happy Chanukah!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Who is your Ezer Knegdo?

The Baal Shem Tov said that the phrase "ezer knegdo" does not only apply to your spouse.  Any person in your life that bothers you, whether it is a child or a coworker or just a random person on the street, was put there by Hashem to help you to grow in the right direction and reach your Tikun.

Heard in a Shiur by Perl Abromovitz

Escaping the Prison of Thoughts

The Maharal says that the voice of the Yetzer Hara sound like our best friend and it says, "I have so little and I want so much".  We have to redirect our thoughts towards spirit not physical things to escape the prison of our own thoughts.

from a Shiur on Aish Audio:
Shelanu: Escaping the Prison of Thoughts # HT 678

by Heller, Rebbitzen Tziporah

The Ladder of Wealth

Jacob dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set earthward, and its top reached Heavenward. [Gen 28:12]

Jacob dreamed, and behold, a ladder was set earthward, and its top reached Heavenward. [Gen 28:12]A wooden ladder with ten identical rungs was leaning against the side of a house. The top rung looked down on the rungs below it - especially the lowest one.

"As you can see" boasted the top rung, "the owner of the house has set me above you because of my superiority."

A passer-by overheard and quickly turned the ladder upside-down. Now the former top rung could boast no longer. The new top rung, too, refrained from boasting - for fear that the same fate might befall it.

The ladder is a metaphor for money. In Hebrew the two words (ladder) סולם and (money) ממון are numerically equal.

Don't let wealth make you arrogant. Remember that the ladder of wealth can be turned upside down in a minute.

The ladder is "set earthward" - it looks to people as if their efforts at business or professions bring them wealth. But in reality, "its top reaches Heavenward" - it is G-d who decides whether a person will make money or lose it.

Source: from the writings of the Ben Ish Chai  from Shirat Devorah

Gratitude brings us to Teshuvah

The more that we thank Hashem and see the greatness of his presence, the more that we live on Hashems terms and not our own. When we face the true reality of the world and accept it as it is, we gain the ability to grow. Gratitude brings us to Teshuvah more then anything else. The more we see all of the good things that Hashem does for us the more that we will want to return to Hashem.

from a Shiur by Rebbetzin Heller about the Deeper Meaning of Chanukah on Aish.com

What is more important?

It is a mitzvah to take care of your health.

It is a minhag to eat fattening food in large quantities.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Chanukah is special time for our Tefilos.

When we light the Chanukah candles and say the Bracha, "L Hodos u L'Hallel" our thanks and praises create an Eit Ratzon, a time when we are especially close to Hashem.  We should use this time to ask Hashem for special requests.

from the Shiur on Naaleh: Chanukah: Inner and Outer Connection

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles

Sunday, November 28, 2010

The light of Chanukah is the light of appreciation.

Chanukah is a time of giving thanks. Part of giving thanks is keeping quiet.  If we really appreciate everything that Hashem gives us, we will understand that every thing that happens to us is for our good. Our ability to know how to use our mouth, and not  to complain and speak improperly creates Kedusha.  The power of silence is that it is a tool for building inner knowledge.  There are no words to express the deepest ideas. By controlling our mouths we are opening ourselves up to inner knowledge. When we think that we can express anything we want, we are acting as though we have the ability to express anything and we lose our ability to use silence to understand deeper depths. 

On Chanukah we can use silence as a tool for gaining spiritual insights. When we light the candles we are lighting a spark in our own soul.  We can use this spiritual spark to see how much we have received from Hashem.  The light of Chanukan is the light of clarity of being able to see all of the gifts that Hashem has given us. 

Chanukah: Inner and Outer Connection

Teacher: Mrs. Shira Smiles

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Harbeh Shluchim L’Makom.

 If you are not getting what you think you deserve from a person , Hashem can find a different person to give it to you, and if Hashem doesn’t think that you should have it then it is better that you shouldn’t have it. Get rid of the illness called Resentment.

from: Depend Solely on G-d

Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Bitachon: Meaning of Trust on Naaleh

Friday, November 26, 2010

Make Hashem your best friend.

Everyone has times in their lives when they are alone.  These are the times to work on making Hashem our best friend.  They times are for a purpose, they are times of growth, times of connection to Hashem.  We develop our relationship with Hashem by doing Mitzvot with passion.
from: Depend Solely on G-d
Teacher: Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller Class: Bitachon: Meaning of Trust on Naaleh

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Philosophy of Food

Rabbi Tzadok HaKohen of Lublin writes that the primal desire of man is to eat of the forbidden. Adam and Eve succumbed to that desire, and as a result it has remained predominant in the human psyche since that eventful day.
Philosophy of Food  by Rabbi Binyomin Forst   on aish.com

The only difference between hope and despair is a good night's sleep.

One of my daughters brought this saying home from school and at times it is a lifesaver.  Yesterday was a very hard day.  I was in a bad mood.  I was afraid that I would do something that I would regret (pick up).  So I went to bed early.  It is much easier to face some problems after a good night's sleep.
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