Friday, December 25, 2009

Esav as Moshiach ben Yosef

R' Daniel Krentzman has once again put together a wonderful kuntres on the topic of Moshiach ben Yosef, this time in regards to Esav's potential as Moshiach ben Yosef. The topic was discussed here, but R' Krentzman has outdone himself, and really takes this topic to another level.

Click here to read it.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Vayigash - The secret of tears

What is the significance of Yosef's crying? Why is crying done on the 'neck?' Why do Binyamin and Yosef cry about the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and Mishkan? Why does crying denote sincerity? Why did Yakov say Shema while Yosef cried? Why do the righteous cry when the Yetzer Hara is destroyed in the times of Moshiach?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yosef's credentials

Rav Chaim Friedlander asks some incisive questions in regards to the story of Yosef's rise to power, that I believe are very instructive as to what we can expect from a true king of the Jewish people.

He points out that it is remarkable that Yosef was raised to the unbelievable height of power as Egypt's second in command in such a short span of time. He had just come out of jail to attempt an explanation for Paroh's dream, and within moments of giving him a satisfactory answer, he was made the leader of the land. How did Paroh have the confidence in Yosef to give him this position so quickly? Was Yosef the only intelligent person that was around? Giving a good 'pshat' in a dream seems a highly unlikely impetus for such a high-ranking position to be obtained. How do we understand this?

As the story continues, there is continued reason to be amazed. It is clear that the people of Egypt were completely ready (at Pharaoh's command) to do whatever Yosef requested of them. In the end, they willingly chose to be slaves to satisfy Yosef's demands. What was the reason for Yosef's mesmerizing power of the people?

Rav Friedlander notes that if one were to try to figure out how to take control of a group of people so that they would be completely subservient to their ruler, there is only one way to do so where the people serve willingly. This can be accomplished only if the ruler exhibits completely and honestly that he has no concern for himself, and that he is totally dedicated to the needs of his people.

As Yosef entered Paroh's court, the first thing Paroh said was, "I have heard you can hear a dream and interpret it."

Yosef could easily have responded and said, "Yes it is true."

Instead, he took no credit, but rather gave it to Someone else - Hashem. By continuously doing so, he showed that he was not looking for self-aggrandizement, but was truly a servant-leader. Everything Yosef did saw success, because Yosef was never looking for his own benefit, rather for the benefit of others.

In fact, at the end of the story, we find that Paroh specifically tells Yosef to send gifts to his father. Why was it necessary? The meforshim explain that Yosef was so careful never to touch anything that was not his, that if Paroh had not commanded him, he would not have sent anything to his father!

If we want to know what Moshiach will look like, we need look no further than Yosef himself, who was the quintessential Moshiach ben Yosef. His motivation was purely to act as a facilitator for others' benefit, to bring Hashem's goodness to the world and specifically to the Jewish people. Moshiach will have no thought of himself, and will only look to benefit others. He will have a tremendous חן, all will make themselves subservient to him, because they will know that he truly is subservient to them.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Miketz - Clothing, the bris, food and speech

There are four themes that run through the entire story of Yosef, from beginning to end. They are the concepts of clothing, the covenant, food and speech. We explore the different places each of these themes appear in the story, and what the deeper significance of each theme is.

To listen to this eye-opening Parsha pocast, please click here.

Are we really so bad?

On the previous post, an important point was raised in the comments:

curious in chi said...
This was very well written. But I do have a question that I actually have had for awhile. Of course our generation is not entirely righteous, things are bad. But, can you really say that we are entirely wicked?? I see so much chessed being done, and so many people are returning to Torah observance. Even more so, what is the point of doing good if being "empty" will bring moshiach? But what is the point of striving to be righteous if so much of the generation is wicked? Its almost like the truly righteous people are stalling the coming of moshiach? That just cant be.

This is a very important question, and I am glad you raised this point. When our Chazal speak about a generation that is completely righteous or a generation that is completely evil, I think it is clear that it is impossible to have either extreme completely. Essentially, what happens when the generation looks as our generation does, the value of the mitzvos that one performs is increased dramatically. The fact that the world at large looks askance at religion, and specifically Jews and Judaism, and that much of the world has been seized by an atheistic approach to life, means that the challenge is very great for us to perform the mitzvos of Hashem. To believe, despite the rampant secularism, and to focus on coming close to Hashem and living a spiritual life, in contrast to most of the world, is a tremendously difficult feat. This very chessed that you speak of, and this very teshuva that you speak of, is all the more powerful because of the lowness of the generation we live in. The righteousness of the tzaddikim is all the more greater because of the contrast between their deeds and the deeds of the world. The greatness of using our time wisely is all the more powerful because of all those who allow their days to be occupied with emptiness.

I have mentioned this before, but I think it is important to hear this more than once, that one time, the Ari z'l told R' Chaim Vital that he (R' Chaim) is on the level of an amora (a sage of the gemara). R' Chaim could not understand how it could be that he was on such a high level. The Ari z'l explained that because the generation (at that time!) was so low, and R' Chaim was so great, despite it, his actions were on a much more exalted plane.

Of course, we can't even touch the dirt under the feet of the level of R' Chaim Vital, but I think it is obvious that the generation we live in also can't compare to those times. This gives incredible power to every good act that we do.

I hope this answers your question satisfactorily.

Ari Goldwag

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

דור שכולו חייב

Our Chachamim say that Moshiach will come either in a generation that is completely righteous, or a generation that is completely the opposite. As things look today, I think it is quite clear that we are not living in a completely righteous generation. If not for this statement of our sages, one would be hard-pressed to imagine how such a low generation could receive Moshiach, and enter into a completely spiritual dimension. On the surface, it would seem that the better option is that the world should be completely righteous, and Moshiach should enter into such a generation. The current situation, on the surface, would seem to be a poor second choice. Recently, I realized that this is not so. In truth, as you will see, the best way Moshiach can come is in a generation such as ours, a דור שכולו חייב.

I recently received a great treasure. When I was in the states for the Aseres Yemei Teshuva, I saw a good friend of mine from Yeshiva, and he told me he was about to get a set of DVDs containing many shiurim from my Rosh Yeshiva, Rabbi Yechiel Perr. I asked if somehow I could get a copy of the shiurim. About a week and a half ago, the package came in the mail, containing four DVDs of shiurim covering over fifteen years of tapes that were transferred onto mp3. Of course, trying to sift through such a vast amount of material is impossible, but I immediately began listening to the most recent Mussar Vaadim that were there, which were from 5768.

My Rosh Yeshiva has the most wonderful style, where he reads a few lines from a piece in the sefer he is teaching (usually Madreigas Ha'adam). He then proceeds to expand on the ideas, painting a picture through his personal life stories and other anecdotes that bring across his point. It brought me back to my time in Yeshiva when I would get to hear the Mussar Vaadim every day.

Over the past few days, I have been back and forth to Yerushalayim, to play music there for three different yeshivas' Chanukah parties. The most wonderful thing about it is the opportunity to listen to the Rosh Yeshiva on the way to and from Jerusalem. My Rosh Yeshiva is the type of person who says it like it is, unafraid to tell serious stories that bring across his point, unafraid to make his strong Torah opinion known. His message of Mussar, striving for greatness, releasing oneself from the trap of the Yetzer Hara, hits right on target.

Something that struck me, that I would like to share, is that he spoke about the contrast between the way the Jewish people received the Torah at Sinai, and how they reaccepted upon themselves the Torah after the story of Purim. The Jewish people at Sinai were in a state of unbelievable inspiration. They experienced an intense revelation of Hashem and of the spiritual worlds. While it was true that they said נעשה ונשמע, accepting the Torah with no preconditions, our Chazal speak of the fact that Hashem forced them to receive the Torah (כפה עליהם הר כגיגית). The Alter of Novardhok explains that since they were on such a spiritual high, and the reality of Hashem was so clear to them, their acceptance of the Torah was, in fact, forced upon them. They did not have free will in accepting it, because there was no serious alternative. It was like a person who experiences a high on Yom Kippur, and promises himself he will take on a certain stringency. Once he comes down from his spiritual high, it is difficult to live up to the promise he has made.

The Jewish people in the times of Esther, on the other hand, were on a spiritual low. They had begun to assimilate, and they even partook of the party of Achashverosh, which represented Hashem's rejection of the Jewish people as his chosen nation, Heaven forbid. They had reached this great abyss, but they were brought to a great level of Teshuva, where they ended up accepting the Torah on themselves, rededicating themselves to their relationship with Hashem. Because this came out of a very low spiritual state, it was a relationship that they now forged through their own free will. This type of relationship is one that has much more staying power. It is akin to the alcoholic who has descended to the greatest depths on his alcoholism, and has realized that he must climb out of the pit he has dug for himself. He knows that he can never touch the alcohol again. Because he has fallen so low, he knows that he must never go anywhere near the wasteland he had created out of his life.

We don't need to look too far back in history to see how powerful this idea is. Just look at the war that we fought less than a year ago in Gaza. As the soldiers were about to enter into the boobytrapped city where the Hamas hoodlums laid to ambush them, they knew they had no chance without turning to Hashem. There was a tremendous spirit of unity here, where people across the spectrum knew that our brothers were there fighting, and that missiles were raining down on Jewish cities, and that we as a people were under attack. The non-religious soldiers were putting on Tefillin before going to the front lines, protecting themselves with tzitzis and Tehillim. Soldiers were paired with Yeshiva boys who would have them in mind during their learning, so the Torah should protect them and give them success. It was the pressure of the difficult situation that planted the seeds for a great salvation. There was a palpable sense of togetherness, and we turned to Hashem, because there was nowhere else to turn.

The first type of relationship, which is one that is based on a high, is extremely difficult to sustain. The second type of relationship, where one has climbed out of the depths, is one that has the potential to last forever.

This, I believe, is why Moshiach will come in our generation, a generation that is completely חייב. The spiritual low that we experience is one that will form the basis for the greatest relationship that is possible, the open revelation of Hashem. The contrast will be staggering, but I think that it will be born out of the growing awareness of the emptiness that our lives have become. If we look around the world, or even introspectively into our own lives, we will realize that our existence has become filled with a pursuit of emptiness. Empty money, empty houses, empty cars, empty computers, empty relationships, empty Torah. The list goes on and on, because our lives are completely empty. Most of the things we do are just to kill time. The contrast between what we do now and what we will do then will be so stark - it will be the ultimate joke. But I believe we all will laugh, because Hashem will give us a tremendous opportunity, just like the chance that was given to the Jews in the story of Purim. We will be faced with a king whose decrees will be worse than the decrees of Haman. We will be at a low that parallels the low we reached then, and we will climb out of the depths back into the waiting arms of Hashem. Only a דור שכולו חייב can truly reach the highest and deepest relationship that Hashem has in store for us in the times of Moshiach.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Vayeshev - Dreams and Chanukah

What is the deeper significance to the theme of dreams that runs throughout the story of Yosef? What is the concept of dreams in general? Why is Chanukah the only holiday that begins at the end of the month? Why is Chanukah the only holiday that extends into a second month? What is the connection between the story of Yosef and the story of Chanukah?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sheves Chaverim performance

Sheves Chaverim will be performing this evening in the Menorat Hamaor shul on Nachal Maor in Ramat Bet Shemesh Alef. The performance will begin around 8:30 PM. The boys performing will be Yair Frohlich, Moshe Dov Goldwag, Shlomo Lipman, Baruch Sheff, and Zev Sheff. They will be singing songs from their new album. The album will also be available for purchase.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Kosel - site of Unity, site of disparity

Last Shabbos, Parshas Vayetzei, I had the privilege to be in Yerushalayim for Shabbos. When I come to Yerushalayim, I am always drawn to the Kosel. If I am there to sing a wedding, I try to make it to the Kosel before I have to be at the hall. It's always amusing walking down to the Wall, because I am wearing a suit, and the tzedakah collectors usually assume that I am a chosson.

Naturally, staying in the Ramat Eshkol area, it was a no-brainer to make the forty minute trek on Shabbos morning to daven at the Kosel. When I got there, a Chassidishe boy noticed my arrival and led me to a minyan that was just beginning. It is hard to go to the Kosel and not find someone you know. The Jewish world is really a small world. At the minyan was a prominent member of my parents' bungalow colony, who also happens to be the gabbai of the bungalow's shul, so he asked me if I would lead the davening of Shachris. I acquiesced.

From the start I was uncomfortable at the amud. When one is trying to sing in an open area, surrounded by the not-so-quiet hum of many people davening all around, it is difficult. Besides for this, my voice was feeling weak, and I struggled to be heard. But the one thing that struck me was that I realized that there was a minyan to my right, as well as a minyan directly behind me, that were both in the same exact place in the davening! Each one had a separate ba'al tefillah, and a separate bimah, despite the fact that all three minyanim were davening the same nusach!

Ordinarily, this would not have bothered me too much, because I would have convinced myself that I was in some way part of all three minyanim. But as the one leading one of the minyanim, it was hard for me not to notice the separation that I, myself, was creating between these three groups. It was uncomfortable, to say the least.

It brought home to me an idea that I have thought about on a number of occasions. I have noticed that the Kosel is a place that is like a 'minyan factory' - minyanim are constantly beginning and ending. You can find a minyan there at any time. This seems like a wonderful thing, but the truth is that it shows that we have trouble getting ourselves together, to just daven together, as one. There are no set times for the davening, and no sense of unity. Wouldn't it make more sense to have set times, so that more people can daven together - ברב עם הדרת מלך? And of all places, shouldn't we have some unity at the site of the Beis Hamikdash, which is the central point of all of our prayers throughout the world?

The answer is, that it is absolutely true that the Kosel, and more accurately, the Har Habayis, is the point of unity of the Jewish people. We all focus our tefillos to this most Holy place. It is the place that was the central spiritual meeting point of the entire Jewish people as long as the Beis Hamikdash stood. But the deep truth is that despite the fact that we have returned to Eretz Yisrael, and the ingathering of the exiles has begun, we are still in Galus. The exile that we find ourselves in is most apparent at the place that represents our unity. It is not a coincidence that the Kosel is a 'minyan factory.' It is a stark reminder of the fact that despite the fact that we have begun to come back together, begun to coalesce as a nation, we are still in exile, we are still disparate. Because that is truly the definition of Galus, it is a state of separation and distance. As long as the Shechina does not dwell on that mountain, and it is instead inhabited by an עם הדומה לחמור, we remain separate from spirituality, and we remain separate from each other. As the light of Moshiach grows stronger and greater, the Jewish nation will slowly begin to sense the true nature of our unity with each other, of our oneness as a nation. This will be a reflection of the unity we will begin to sense with Hashem, and the greater desire we will have for spirituality, as we begin to identify more and more with our spiritual selves, as our very minds, which are in a state of disparity between our emotional and intellectual selves, become more and more unified as well.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Chanukah videos

Torah Live is proud to present nine short, inspirational videos on Chanuka, with Rabbi Dovid Orlofsky as guest speaker, that are guaranteed to make your chanuka more meaningful!
Select from our basic / advanced track and get viewing at
Please leave feedback in the new comment section at the bottom of the screen.
Schools and communities are welcome to screen these movies in public for free by sending the name of their school/community, as well as the number of people in the audience, to
To dedicate one of these videos, or any other of our upcoming Torah Live productions, write to
Wishing you a happy chanuka!

More on Dina and Yosef

R' Daniel Krentzman just sent me a wonderful piece that he wrote on his understanding of the Dina - Yosef connection. You can see it at the following link.

Click here.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Beginnings of Geulah

I'm now going through the sefer Kol Hator, from which I recently posted R' Chaim Friedlander's introduction. As I see concepts of interest, I will bl'n try to post them here.

It says as follows, in פרק א אות ב:

According to our teacher, the Gr"a, all that is involved with kibbutz galios (ingathering of exiles), building of Jerusalem, and bringing about more inhabitance of the land of Israel as a prerequisite to the return of the Shechina (Divine Presence); this work itself, as well as all of its details are included in the goal and purpose of the Moshiach that starts the process - the first Moshiach. This is Moshiach ben Yosef, who is the supernatural power that helps every action that is done through an Awakening from below, through natural means, because Moshiach ben Yosef is from the land, and Moshiach ben Dovid is from the spiritual realm, corresponding to the aspect of Rochel and Leah, as is known in the עקבתא דמשיחא (the footsteps of Moshiach) and the קץ המגולה (the revealed end). Moshiach ben Yosef is also further split into two aspects. The first is the aspect of Yosef the son of Rochel, who is of the land, while the second is the aspect of Yosef the son of Yakov, who is of the spiritual realms.

He continues in אות ג:

According to our teacher, the Gr"a, if they have not merited, the beginnings of the redemption will occur through an awakening from below, as it did in the days of Koresh (Cyrus) in the second Temple period, which will come from the left side, which means the attribute of justice. The verse in Shir Hashirim which says "שמאלו תחת לראשי" - His left hand is under my head - refers to Moshiach ben Yosef [and the idea we just mentioned that the redemption begins from the left side, through judgment], and it will be with the permission of the nations. Afterwards, the redemption will come to completion from the right side, which is the attribute of חסד, kindness, and also through the line of רחמים, mercy [which is the center], as the verse says "וברחמים גדולים אקבצך" - and with great mercy will I gather you.

According to our teacher, the Gr"a, the ingathering of exiles that occurs at the first stage of Geulah comes in a manner of captivity, and subsequent redemption from that captivity, as the verse says "ופדויי ה' ישובון ובאו ציון ברינה" - the captives of Hashem will return and come to Tzion with joy. [Note that Tzion is the same gematria as Yosef - ag.] This is all accomplished by Moshiach ben Yosef - the redemption from physical and spiritual enslavement. ישובון - they will return - is plural, implying a dual redemption. This refers to the two returnings: one to Tzion [which is the physical], and one 'returning' of Teshuva [which is the spiritual]. This is the secret of the verse "ששון ושמחה ישיגו" - Joy and gladness will be reached. [The word ששון has the word שש at its root, which can also be read as the number six, with shin's instead of sin's. This is reference to the job of Moshiach ben Yosef, who is the concept of the Tzaddik, who corresponds to the Yesod, which is the sixth aspect of the concept of ז"א. It seems that the ששון is reached through Moshiach ben Yosef, while the שמחה is reached through Moshiach ben Dovid, as is mentioned in the notes here, quoting from elsewhere in the Gr'a's works. Here, however, he is explaining that Moshiach ben Yosef accomplishes both of these aspects - one physical and one spiritual. This would correspond to the statement earlier that Moshiach ben Yosef has two aspects, one of the spiritual realms and one of the physical realms. - ag]

The general concept here, according to our teacher the Gr"a is that all things that are to come about in the completion of the redemption begin at the first stages of redemption "קימעא קימעא" - slowly, slowly, in the 999 steps of Moshiach, the steps of the sheep.

Vayishlach - Dina and Yosef (revisited)

Why was Yakov expected to know that Dina could have brought Esav to do Teshuva? Why would she succeed where Rivka and Yitzchak had failed? What is the meaning of the mysterious connection between Dina and Yosef? Why is Yosef connected to the city of Shechem?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

You can also find a .doc file of this podcast on my website on the Parsha page.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Why Jerusalem?

I was shocked by Tomer Devorah's post about the EU's planned announcement that Jerusalem should officially be the capital of a 'Palestinian' state. It is on one hand extremely upsetting, and on the other hand extremely exciting, as we watch the drama unfold right in front of our eyes.

We all know that the Neviim spoke of a war that would be led by Gog and Magog and would center around Jerusalem. This would be the final war where Moshiach would vanquish the forces of evil. We need to stop and ask ourselves, Why Jerusalem? What is it about Yerushalayim that makes it the center of this epic battle? Why do the Arabs want Jerusalem so much, and how is it conceivable that they have their mosque sitting on our Holiest place, the Har Habayis?

We know, as per the Gemara in Kiddushin in עשרה יוחסין that Israel is the highest land in the world, and Jerusalem is the highest point in the world. This is meant in a spiritual sense, and the concept is also said in a slightly different way, that Jerusalem is the meeting point between this physical world and the spiritual world. Har Habayis was the place of the Akeida, the field that Yitzchak would daven in, the place of Yakov's dream. This all represents the singular primacy and focal point that Yerushalayim is.

But it is much deeper than this.

We start to see the beginnings of a hint from a statement of Chazal. They say that during the time that the Jewish people are not inhabiting the land of Israel, there is another nation that has the merit to be the 'tenants' while we are gone. That nation is the people of Yishmael. What did Yishmael do to deserve this honor? He had the merit of the bris, which he performed at the age of thirteen. The obvious question arises - why is this the merit that gives Yishmael the right live here? Yishmael, the son of Avraham, was also trained in chessed and hospitality toward guests (as Rashi notes in the story of Avraham and the angels). Why is it specifically the mitzvah of Milah that earns Yishmael this honor?

The answer here has to do with the deeper meaning behind the bris. The circumcision represents the removal of the barrier between the physical and spiritual worlds that was brought about by the sin of Adam Harishon. Before Adam sinned, he did not have a foreskin. After the sin, the foreskin grew, representing the barrier he had created between the male and female forces of creation. The male forces are the spiritual forces, the forces that give, and the female forces are the physical forces, the forces that receive. Avraham, whose job would be the tikkun of the sin of Adam, was commanded in the mitzvah of Bris, removing that barrier. Yishmael, his son, also performed that mitzvah at the age of thirteen.

For this reason, those who are שומרי הברית - who keep this covenant of the circumcision, recognizing the holiness of the connection between male and female - they are the ones who have the land of Israel. As the long as the Jews were doing their job, we were able to retain the land of Israel. As soon as we were thrown out, specifically the people of Yishmael, who keep the bris, merited to be the 'tenants' of the land. This is because Israel represents the highest point in the world - the connection between the male/spiritual elements of creation and the female/physical elements of the world. (This is not to say, heaven forbid, that women are less spiritual than men. In fact, the opposite is true. This just means that the male concept, which is infinite potential, best represents the spiritual, while the female concept, which is about limiting and building, best represents the physical.)

Thus, each of the points in the land of Israel that represent a higher level of connection are still currently occupied by the Yishmaelim. Take, for example, Chevron. The cave of Machpela (as we discussed in the Parsha Podcast from R' Chaim Friedlander) is a point of connection between the physical realm and the spiritual realm when the soul departs the body. Shechem, which is home to Yosef Hatzadik's body, also represents this connection, as we will see soon. Most outstandingly, Yerushalayim, which is the highest spiritual point in Eretz Yisrael, and specifically the Har Habayis, are occupied by the Yishmaelim. They would claim that they are the spiritual heir to this place, and that they are commited to the concept of the bris - the commitment to keep the spiritual and physical worlds bound together.

It is as if we are watching the spiritual show that is going on in Shamayim, right here in front of our eyes, only in a physical version of it. Imagine that the angel of Yishmael is standing before Hashem, claiming that Yishmael does a much better job of keeping the covenant. Yishmael deserves to have all of these places that represent this connection that the people of Yisrael are not deserving of. Esav's angel (the ס"מ himself!) steps into the fray and supports the claim of the angel of Yishmael. "Certainly Yishmael deserves to have Har Habayis. They have kept the covenant! I will make sure that Yisrael loses any claim to it. Only Yishmael can have Har Habayis."

Now, we know that when the ס"מ gets up to speak, Hashem always lets him have a chance to show that he is right. But the amazing thing is that Hashem always uses the ס"מ himself to accomplish the redemption He is bringing about.

We could wonder, Who is the angel of the Jewish people, and why is He quiet? The answer is that Hashem is the 'angel' of the Jewish people. He is quiet, because He knows the truth. The truth is that only the Jewish people have kept the covenant all of this time. The people of Edom (the Christians) claim, to this day, that they have replaced us. The people of Yishmael (the Muslims) claim that they have replaced us. Yet, we were promised so long ago that Hashem would never forsake us, and that He would return us to our Holy Land of Eretz Yisrael one day, and bring a tremendous war and a great salvation to His chosen nation. We have witnessed the fulfillment of the promise that we would return. We soon will witness the fulfillment of the promise of miracles and salvation.

It will come through Moshiach ben Yosef. Do you know why? Because all of these claims about Israel and Jerusalem, in a deeper and more spiritual realm, center around the קדושת הברית, the keeping of the Holiness of the covenant. This means that the Jewish people are enjoined to use their sexual energy only in a holy, spiritual, and uplifted way. This is the mitzvah of being careful not to be מוציא זרע לבטלה for a man, and the mitzvah of tznius - modesty - for a woman. These keep our claim on Israel strong, because this land, and specifically the city of Jerusalem, is the connecting point between the spiritual and physical realms. Moshiach ben Yosef is about the keeping of the covenant. He is about struggling with temptation, and ultimately triumphing over his desires for the physical, raising them up to the spiritual (as we see from Yosef himself). Every Jew who fights in this battle, and does not give up despite his many falls, is giving power to Moshiach ben Yosef, and to the Jewish people, to reclaim our spiritual homeland. This is the deeper meaning of the passuk "שבע יפול צדיק וקם" - seven times does the righteous one fall and arise. Moshiach ben Yosef is the צדיק יסוד עולם - the righteous one who holds up the world. He falls seven times, and constantly rises. We, the Jewish people, are the Moshiach ben Yosef of Mankind. Israel is the Moshiach ben Yosef of the world. We may rise and fall many times, but ultimately, together, we connect Heaven and Earth, the spiritual and the physical.

The place of Shechem is the place of Moshiach ben Yosef. It is also the first place that Avraham visited when he came to the land of Israel for the first time. It is the first point of connection. It is the place where Yakov stopped on his way back to Eretz Yisrael. It is the place where Dina was unfortunately violated, again a point of connection, seemingly for bad. Nevertheless, this connection (as we mentioned in a previous post) would result in a child who would marry Yosef himself. It is not a coincidence that this very place was a piece of the process (pun intended) that was brought to us by the Erev Rav to try and destroy Israel and the Jewish people's claim to it. The Erev Rav, like Edom, only wishes to remove the Jewish people from the covenant. They could be described as the foreskin of the Jewish people. They wish to instead support the Ishmaelite claim of spiritual superiority.

I think it is clear that Yerushalayim is the point of connection that the people of Yishmael try to usurp from us, with the aid of the people of Edom and the Erev Rav. The more we see this happening, the more we can be assured that soon Moshiach ben Yosef, who represents the Jewish fidelity to the covenant, will stand up to defeat the forces of Evil with his spiritual power. He will defeat the people of Edom and the Erev Rav, and bring about the removal of the people of Yishmael, and the reinstatement of the Jewish people as the true bridge between Hashem and the world, in our land of Israel, which is the physical manifestation of that very bridge. He will thus pave the way for the advent of the final tikkun of Moshiach ben Dovid, בב"א.

Sheves Chaverim

You can now listen to a preview and purchase a hard copy or a download of my new album, Sheves Chaverim.

Here's the link:

The album contains twelve songs, including two English songs. The vocals were done by six wonderful child soloists: Moshe Bell (of Sheves Achim), Yair Frohlich, Moshe Dov Goldwag (my son), Shlomo Lipman, Baruch Sheff, and Zev Sheff (twins!).

Friday, November 27, 2009

Vayetzei - Moshiach ben Yosef and כיבוד אב ואם

Why did Yakov need to lay the foundations for the Jewish people in the house of Lavan? Why does he seem to get punished for not honoring his parents during these twenty two years by Yosef not being to honor him for a corresponding amount of time? What is the significance of the fact that Esav excelled at this very mitzvah of honoring his parents? What is the significance of this point of time in Yakov's life? Why does Yosef also have to enter into the evil of Egypt, which seems to parallel Yakov's stay with Lavan?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

You can also download a .doc file on my website on the parsha page.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Moshiach's crown and Yakov's path

In a previous post, we discussed the Gemara in Sotah that talks about Yosef and his brothers going up to Eretz Yisroel to bury Yakov Avinu. The gemara describes how the children of Yishmael, Esav, and Keturah all come out to battle the children of Yakov. When they saw Yosef's crown which he had placed on the casket of Yakov, they immediately took off their own crowns, and also hung them from Yakov's casket. We explained that the crown represents the Torah of Moshiach, the transcendental aspect that Moshiach brings down into the world. The children of Yishmael, Esav, and Keturah come with their own ideologies, their own versions of spirituality, but in the end take off their crowns and acknowledge that Yosef's crown is the highest.

One of the questions I left unanswered was, What is the significance of Yakov's casket? Why is it specifically on his casket that all these crowns were hung?

As I was reading a piece from R' Chaim Friedlander on this week's parsha, the words of our Chazal came into clear focus.

In speaking of the story of the rocks that gathered under Yakov Avinu's head, Rav Friedlander searches for a deeper understanding of the hidden depths of meaning contained within it. What are Chazal coming to teach us when they said that the rocks wanted Yakov to rest his head on them? Why specifically the head of Yakov? What is it coming to teach us when it says that all the rocks were formed into a single rock?

Rav Friedlander explains that the concept that Chazal are trying to bring out is that Yakov Avinu's main role in the world was one of יחוד - bringing about unity. What this really means is that Yakov was able to find opportunities to serve Hashem in every circumstance he found himself. The entire world was at his disposal for his avodas Hashem. Thus, all the world was unified in this concept.

The rocks wanted to be placed under his head because they would then be used by the tzaddik in his service of Hashem (as he brings from the Ramchal). They joined into one rock, representing the fact that ultimately everthing is joined in unity in this concept of serving Hashem.

He brings the story that when Yakov was on his deathbed, he was about to reveal the קץ, when his Ruach Hakodesh left him suddenly. He looked up and questioned his sons if there was someone who was not on the level to receive this information. They responded and said שמע ישראל ה' אלוקינו ה' אחד - Hear us, Yisroel, Hashem our Elokim, Hashem is One. He was questioning if they were completely dedicated in every aspect of their lives to their service of Hashem. Their response was that they indeed were.

End quote of Rav Friedlander.

We see some very interesting things here. First point - Why is it that this whole story happens right when Yakov is about to reveal the keitz? Why does he specifically question their complete dedication to avodas Hashem when he can't reveal it?

It seems clear that Chazal are hinting to the fact that the entire purpose of the keitz - the times of Moshiach - is to completely involve ourselves in the service of Hashem. Not only that, but it will be clear that every single thing in creation is for that purpose. Thus, when Yakov was unable to reveal the keitz, he naturally assumed that perhaps one of his children was not completely dedicated to the concept of the times of Moshiach, and this was preventing him from giving over that information. To this they responded that indeed they were in tune with that concept.

What comes out of this is that the core concept that describes Yakov is the concept of the keitz itself and the times of Moshiach - the unity of all in the service of Hashem. Now we understand why Yosef's crown was hung upon Yakov's casket. Yakov's casket represents the perfection that he achieved when his life was complete, a perfection of the concept of unity. Yosef, who represents Moshiach ben Yosef, is the one who users in the age of this perfect understanding of the unity of creation in the service of Hashem. This is his crown - his spiritual path - which is hung upon the casket of Yakov. As long as the nations of the world retain their crowns upon their heads - retain their own spiritual paths - there is a lack of unity in the service of Hashem. When they remove their crowns in deference to Moshiach ben Yosef and place them upon the casket of Yakov, they show that ultimately there is only one way to serve Hashem, and that is by recognizing that every single thing in creation is in existence solely for this purpose.

Monday, November 23, 2009

R' Chaim Friedlander's introduction to Kol Hator

The following is my translation of R' Chaim Friedlander's introduction to the book "Kol Hator." R' Chaim Friedlander was the Mashgiach in Ponevizh yeshiva in B'nei Brak, and was the publisher of many seforim, including many of the seforim of the Ramchal. R' Friedlander also had a number of volumes of his own published posthumously by his children, and they are seeped with the Torah of the Ramchal, the Maharal, and his rebbe, R' Elya Lopian.

Kol Hator, as you will soon see, is the book that describes the Geulah process in depth, and also focuses on the concept of Moshiach ben Yosef, which we have discussed many times here at length. It is important to understand the root of these teachings, and the quality of their validity, based on those who were the bearers of the traditions themselves. Keep in mind that this introduction was written a number of years ago by R' Friedlander, who passed away in the mid-eighties. It is extremely interesting, and contains much biographical information that is probably not available anywhere else. It specifically speaks about the early history of the current Jewish settlement of Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, which dates back to the early eighteen hundreds.


The book "Kol Hator" was originally released by Harav Shlomo Zalman Rivlin z'l twenty years ago in Jerusalem. The specific date is hard to figure out because the book was released in stages over a number of years for lack of funds. From the original version, it seems that only a few lone pieces remained in the possession of Rav Rivlin's son as well as a few of his relatives. All of these are missing pieces at the end, because of the lack of funding and inability to complete their publication. The introduction of the original publisher was not included in the first printing. I found it in manuscript form in the hands of Mr. Shmuel Rivlin. I extend my gratitude to him, as well as the other sons of the publisher who gave us permission to include it in the new edition. In this introduction, no mention is made of the biography of its author, the Gaon Rebbi Hillel, son of Rebbi Binyomin of Shklov. Perhaps this was done because the book "Chazon Tzion" was specifically written about the life and times of the Rivlin family, and the Aliyah of the students of the Gr"a to the land of Israel. In any event, it would be a great lack in this exalted book if one will read it without knowing the greatness of its author. Therefore we decided to fill in this lack, and we have put together a short synopsis based on the material found in the book "Chazon Tzion," which will give us an idea of his lifetime and the path he chose, lit by the light of his Torah.

The Gaon R' Hillel of Shklov, author of the book "Kol Hator," was born in the year 5518 (1758). His father, the Gaon Rebbi Binyomin Rivlin was a cousin of our teacher the Gr"a, and one of his primary students. Rebbi Binyomin was a spiritual individual and extremely active in causes for Torah and chessed. He donated his money to establish a great Yeshiva in Shklov, whose learning was patterned after the approach of the Gr"a, with the Gr"a's approbation. Through Rebbe Binyomin's influence, many of his wealthy friends moved themselves and their businesses to Shklov. His intent was to form a group of people to support the great center of Torah that he had established. During his lifetime the city merited to be called "Yavneh Dreizen" and Rebbi Binyomin was referred to as the "builder of the city Shlov and its wise ones."

It is told that when Rebbi Binyomin was fifty two years old, he became extremely wealthy. At that time, he had a dream in which he saw a wonderful vision of Yerushalayim. Still strongly affected by this dream, he traveled to see his teacher the Gr"a, and told him the dream and about his great wealth. The Gr"a explained to him that the dream conveyed a mission from heaven that was given to him, and also to his son R' Hillel. It was incumbent upon them to go up and live in Eretz Yisroel, and to begin broad-ranging activities to awaken the hearts of the Jewish people to return to Tzion. Rebbi Binyomin was very inspired by the Gr"a's interpretation, which explained the dream as well as his wealth being for one purpose. When he returned to Shklov, he immediately began to work towards materializing his mission. We still have one of his sermons preserved from that time period, in which he speaks about the idea of the ingathering of the exiles, based on the verse in Yirmyah 31, "הנני מביא אותם מארץ צפון" - I am bringing them from a Northern land. According to Rebbi Binyomin, this verse teaches that from a Northern land - from Russia which is to the extreme North of Jerusalem, and more specifically from the city of Shklov - the inspiration will begin to return to Tzion and to rebuild Jerusalem. Through Rebbi Binyomin's efforts, a movement began in Shklov to return to Tzion, a movement that the Gr"a called "Chazon Tzion." Shklov merited that most of the first Olim to Eretz Yisroel came from it, and that it became an example in the eyes of the Jews dispersed in exile. Rebbi Binyomin himself left Shklov in 5572 (1812) headed for Eretz Yisroel, however, he did not reach his desired destination, as he passed away en route.

The author of the book "Kol Hator," Rebbi Hillel, son of Rebbi Binyomin, also merited to be counted amongst the main students of our teacher the Gr"a. He studied under the Gr"a for seventeen years. In the year 5543 (1783), when the Gr"a saw that it was not Hashem's intent for he himself to enter into Eretz Yisroel, he decided to give this heavenly mission into the hands of his student, Rebbi Hillel. This mission included activism toward the goal of the ingathering of exiles and inhabiting Eretz Yisroel. Thus, Rebbi Hillel was the person chosen by the Gr"a to be placed at the helm of the great "Chazon Tzion" movement. The Gr"a also taught him all the secrets of the beginnings of the Redemption process, and all the specific actions that would be necessary on the part of the Jewish people to bring about the complete redemption process. This Torah of the beginning of the Geulah that Rebbi Hillel received from the mouth of the Gr"a is one that is both broad and deep. This Torah was collated by Rebbi Hillel into a great and deep book, and the essence of that book is the book "Kol Hator" which we have in front of us.

Our teacher the Gr"a passed on to the next world in the year 5558 (1798). He died, but his Torah, the Torah of the beginnings of the Redemption, remained alive and well amongst his students. This Torah is what gave them the audacity to place themselves, at the very onset, squarely into the face of all the difficulties that awaited them on the long journey, and into the many dangers that might ambush them when they came to settle in what was then a completely desolate country. In the year 5569 (1808), the first wagons left Russia, headed for Eretz Yisroel. Eleven months of difficult journeying later, the first wagon reached Tzfat on the fifth of Elul, 5569 (1809). Fourteen of the students of the Gr"a stood at the forefront of the first wagons. In Cheshvan of the year 5572 (1811), seven of the Gr"a's students, headed by Rebbi Hillel, came to set up residence in Jerusalem. When they arrived, they only found twenty Sefardic Jews, and nine Ashkenazic Jews. As soon as they arrived in Jerusalem, Rebbi Hillel and his friends set about the task of setting up the vital institutions that would form the basis of the Jewish settlement. They established institutions of Torah and chessed, improved on the standards of medicine, and set up a group that was responsible for protection. It was called the "Gavradia," and without it, the settlement would not have lasted for even one moment. A supernatural sacrifice was required of Rebbi Hillel and his friends in handling the settlement under the adverse conditions of that period. Plagues, attackers, false accusations, lack of food and water, and difficulty of communication with the outside world were only the beginning of the issues these original settlers faced. If not for their unbelievable belief in their heavenly mission that was solely dependent on them, and the light of the Torah of the beginning of the redemption process that they had received from the mouth of the Gr"a, they would not have continued to subsist under their grueling conditions. When word of the success of Rebbi Hillel and some of the Olim to settle in Jerusalem made its way back to Russia, it was an inspiration to the Jews of Russia, and many decided to go up to Jerusalem.

Rebbi Moshe, the son of Rebbi Hillel, became known as an excellent orator when he was just fifteen years old. One time, his father brought him to Vilna to display his talents for the Gr"a. The Gaon praised the young Moshe and told him, "You should know that you should use this God-given talent in order to inspire people to return to Tzion. As our sages say about the verse 'ציון היא דורש אין לה' - it is Tzion, no one speaks of her - from the fact that the prophet laments that none speak of her, this implies that we must indeed do so." He also added a hint, that the gematria of the words "דורש ציון" is the same as "משה בן הלל בן בנימין." The words of the Gr"a left a deep impression on his young heart. With a fiery spirit, he followed the request of the Gr"a, and spent much time speaking about the desire for Tzion, to the point where he became known as "Rebbi Moshe the Doresh Tzion."

The grandson of Rebbi Moshe the "Doresh Tzion" was Rebbi Yosef, who was nicknamed Rebbi Yosha Rivlin. Until his days, the activities in Jerusalem centered around settlement inside the walls, and improving the quality of life there. Rebbi Yosef was the first to begin building outside of the walls of Jerusalem. With a bold spirit, Rebbi Yosef girded himself to fulfill the command of the prophecy, "widen the place of your tents etc." in the spirit of our teacher the Gr"a. The first thirteen communities outside the walls of Jerusalem were all built by Rebbi Yosef. He was involved in this commandment with great sacrifice. The first house he built was the foundation house of the 'Nachlas Shiva' community. in the month of Tammuz, 5629 (1869), this historic house was completed. In those days, the entire surrounding area of the old city of Jerusalem was completely desolate and barren, and the gates of the city were closed at nightfall. For two years and eight months, Rebbi Yosef lived alone in this house, paying no heed to the desolation that surrounded him. His intent was to inspire those who lived inside the old city walls to spread out and settle the surrounding area, to fulfill the desire of the Gr"a and his students to rebuild Jerusalem and widen its borders. Thus, in the year 5632 (1872), Rebbi Yosef's efforts bore fruit, and in that year forty five houses were built next to his home, and over fifty families moved in. This was Rebbi Yosef's way throughout his life. Every community he built, he was the 'Nachshon' who lived there first, until the community was established and others followed after him. Besides for the thirteen communities he established, which are an eternal testament to his memory, he also left behind many poems and essays. All his poems are based on the torah of the קץ המגולה - the revealed end that is included in the book "Kol Hator" whose main ideas are included both in his poems as well as his essays, many of which were published in the different pamphlets that came out in his time, like "Hamagid," "Hatzefirah" and "Halevanon."

Rebbi Yosef's son, Harav Rebbi Shlomo Zalman Rivlin, was the original publisher of the book "Kol Hator," as we mentioned, and we owe him a great debt of gratitude for making sure that the wonderful Torah of the revealed קץ, of our teacher the Gr"a, was not lost.


If you are interested in reading an authentic English translation of the book Kol Hator, Click here. The translation was done by Rav Yechiel Bar Lev, who was a student of R' Chaim Friedlander. He has approbations from Rav Ovadiah Yosef, Rav Chaim Kanievsky, The Badatz Eidah Chareidis, Rav Avraham Shapiro, Rav Mordechai Eliyahu, and Rav Mordechai Gross, which you can see on his website

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Toldos - Esav and Moshiach ben Yosef

What is the significance of Esav's name? Why was he so involved in the physical world? Was he intrinsically evil? Why did Yakov deem it so important to buy his firstborn rights? Why did he need to steal the blessings? How could Yakov lie and claim he was Esav? Why did he Yakov these blessings that were all physical if he was so spiritual?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Yonah as Moshiach ben Yosef

I invite you to read another wonderful piece by R' Daniel Krentzman on the topic of Moshiach ben Yosef. This essay explores the role of Yonah Hanavi as Moshiach ben Yosef.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Important message

Last week, there was a horribly tragic story where R' Shmuel Borger's son Motty, who had just gotten married, died two days after his wedding. R' Shmuel Borger is someone who has been involved in chizzuk for Klal Yisrael for many years, and specifically recently with the production of the Tisha B'av chizzuk videos on behalf of Chofetz Chaim heritage foundation. In the middle of Shiva, this amazing person recorded a small request from us. Please listen and take the inspiration, putting it into action, then pass it on.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Fall of Yishmael

At the end of this week's parsha, the Torah goes through the lineage of Yishmael, and ends off (in perek כה passuk יח) by saying "על פני כל אחיו נפל" - which literally translates as 'He fell on the face of all of his brothers.'

The Ba'al Haturim points out the significance of the fact that this verse directly precedes the following verse, which says, "ואלה תולדות יצחק" - which translates as 'these are the offspring of Yitzchak.'

He explains that this teaches us that in the end of days, when Yishmael falls, Moshiach ben Dovid, the offspring of Yitzchak, will then sprout.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Chayei Sarah - Lifting the physical

Why does the Torah place Yitzchak's name before Yishmael? Why does it specifically teach us that he repented in the context of Avraham's burial? What is the significance of the cave of Machpela? Why did Avraham and Yakov find it necessary to spend exorbitant amounts to procure this burial spot?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Moshiach ben Yosef and Amalek

For the past few weeks, even though I have been out of the blogging mode of Moshiach ben Yosef, I have not been completely inactive. I started to tell my son a very long night time story. We call it the Torah story. I started from the beginning with Adam Harishon and spoke through a lot of the Moshiach podcasts. I also told him a lot of the material from Rav Shimon Kessin's tapes on Pesach and Yetzias mitzrayim which, by the way, are amazing.

Some interesting thoughts that we discussed tonight were as follows.

We were speaking about how Sha'ul Hamelech was to be the precursor to Dovid Hemelech. This meant that Sha'ul was an aspect of Moshiach ben Yosef to Dovid as Moshiach ben Dovid. It is very interesting that in a number of the stories where we see someone playing the role of Moshiach ben Yosef, that character many times teeters on the edge of destruction. In some cases, as is the case of Sha'ul, he falls in. This was also the case with Yeravam ben Nevat.

As we were talking I realized that this is because of the fact that Moshiach ben Yosef's job is to release the sparks from the side of Evil. The only way to release these sparks, however, is to actually enter into the Evil itself. We see a great example of this with the Jewish people entering into Egypt in order to free the sparks that were trapped there. It could only be done correctly while in the physical proximity of the Evil that was holding the sparks. Thus, in Moshiach ben Yosef's case, he must enter into the forces of darkness, and release the light. The danger is that he will fall into the darkness.

My son asked me why Sha'ul then did not dress up as an Egyptian. At first I didn't understand what he meant. Then, I realized that he was asking that if the sparks were trapped in Egypt, why didn't Shaul, who was Moshiach ben Yosef, descend to Egypt in order to release the sparks from there.

I explained to him (based on Rav Kessin's shiurim) that after the Jews left Mitzrayim, as they were about to enter into the Yam Suf, Moshe turns to the Jewish people and tells them they will never see Egypt or the Egyptians again. This in essence means that the sparks of kedusha would never be trapped in Egypt again. Instead, they would be placed in another nation, from which the Jewish people would need to release them. The nation of Amalek.

Thus, one of the essential jobs of Moshiach ben Yosef will be to utterly destroy Amalek. This explains why Sha'ul was entrusted with the job to destroy Amalek. Since he was Moshiach ben Yosef, it naturally follows. This also explains why Sha'ul lost his kingship when he failed in that task. This was his essential task as the precursor to Dovid, who was to be Moshiach ben Dovid. When he failed, his whole purpose was lost, and the opportunity for the coupling of Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid was lost at that point.

It is interesting that once he fails in his task, Sha'ul begins to run after Dovid to kill him. He perceives that Dovid is trying to steal his throne. The irony is that he destroyed his own throne, and that his throne and his significance would not have been usurped by Dovid at all had he not failed in his job.

It is also interesting to note that Dovid had a very strong relationship with Yonasan, Sha'ul's son, and even married Sha'ul's daughter Michal. Clearly Dovid and Sha'ul were meant to have a deep bond. Nevertheless, Sha'ul's failure in his task destroyed the very bond that was to be created. When the goal of unity is lost, the opposite occurs - a desire for destruction. Sadly, Sha'ul was bent on Dovid's destruction, but in the end it was this very quest that caused his own demise. When Shaul saw that the Kohanim of the city of Nov had helped Dovid, he killed them all. As a result of this, it was decreed that Sha'ul and his sons would be killed in battle.

In a nutshell, when Moshiach ben Yosef fails, he falls into the abyss. This abyss is actually the very concept of Amalek itself. Amalek's essence is self destruction to prevent unity. The prime example of this is when the Jewish people leave Egypt on the way to receive the Torah of Moshiach, and they are intercepted by a suicidal nation of Amalek, who are willing to take on Hashem Himself - with no chance of survival - just to prevent the unity of the Jewish people with Hashem. It was this very act that caused them to be the new container for the forces of evil after Egypt. Sha'ul fell into this very concept.

We see a parallel to this at the very root of the conception of Amalek. The grandfather of Amalek was Esav. Esav, as we have mentioned, was meant to be Moshiach ben Yosef. His very failure meant a few of the things we have spoken about in regards to Shaul. First, Esav became bent on the destruction of Yakov, who was Moshiach ben Dovid. Secondly, the result was the ultimate disconnection - Yakov was forced to flee from Esav, just as Dovid was forced to flee from Sha'ul. Sha'ul's story ended in death for himself and his family. Esav's story ended with the birth of Amalek, who would end up representing the force of Evil, separation, and death in the world.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Avraham and Moshiach

I got the following email from Daniel

In the second aliyah.

"Vayakam sde Efron"
"It had an ascension in that it left the possession of a commoner for the possession of a king."

And the thought came to me:
"Sde Efron ascended when Avraham avinu, a melech, acquired it. So too the entire world will ascend b'yadei melech haMoshiach, bb"a."

anything to add?


To which I responded:

At first I did not. Then, after davening mariv, I thought of this פירוש הדברים.

Why is it that when the property enters the tzaddik's domain it ascends? It is because the tzaddik uses all of his possessions in service of Hashem. The greatest elevation of the world is when it is put into use for the purpose of a mitzvah. Now that the land entered into Avraham's domain, it would be used for one of the greatest mitzvahs - חסד של אמת. This was its ascension.

Similarly, when Moshiach comes, the world will have the most unbelievable ascension, because his entire purpose will be to show us how everything in creation - every last molecule and atom - can be used in the service of Hashem. We will see the incredible unity that is brought about through our service of Hashem and how all can be raised in this most worthy of goals.


Monday, November 9, 2009

Sheves Chaverim sampler

So, you may have noticed that I have been somewhat absent over the last few weeks. Baruch Hashem, I have been working hard to complete the new music album that I have produced, entitled Sheves Chaverim. It is an album that continues where Sheves Achim left off. (Look out for Sheves Achim volume 2 in the future!) The album features six child vocalists - Moshe Bell, Yair Frohlich, Moshe Dov Goldwag, Shlomo Lipman, Zev and Baruch Sheff. It contains twelve songs, two in English. It is the culmination of a production that stretched for over a year. I composed 11 out of the 12 songs, with the twelfth song being a classic Shlomo Carlebach song. It is my hope that you will find inspiration in the music, and that it will bring you to heightened levels of closeness to Hashem. Be'H, the album should be in stores before Chanukah.

If you click on the link, it should play in your browser. If you right click (or apple click on a mac), you will have the option to download the sampler.

Please share the link!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Vayera - Binding of Yitzchak

How is Avraham able to accept the challenge of sacrificing Yitzchak with such equanimity? Why does he challenge Hashem in regards to Sodom, but not in regards to the sacrifice of Yitzchak? What is the significance of the ram whose horns were caught in the thicket? Why was there now a blessing for the children of Avraham as well?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Lech Lecha - Divine humor

Why is Yitzchak's birth surrounded by so much laughter? Why is the letter 'hei' added to both Avraham and Sarah's names before the conception of Yitzchak? Why is the circumcision a prerequisite for this supernatural birth? Why is it so important that the Jewish people begin in this supernatural and unusual way?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

This week's parsha podcast is also available in text form (for a limited time) on my website on the Parsha page.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Noach - The tzadik's role

Why do the numbers six and seven seem to occur many times in the story of Noach? What is the dual nature of the tzadik's role in the world? What is the connection between Noach and Yosef?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

This week's parsha podcast is also available in text form (for a limited time) on my website on the Parsha page.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We are part of one whole

I found your blog while doing some legwork on Jews in Austin (where my mother was from) and found objectionable the thought that Israeli Jews actually would believe they are living out atonements for the sins of all the Jews in the world. Albeit I might be living in the diaspora of the USA, I would not trade my life for being any closer to the Supreme of the universe by living in Israel.

Best regards,
Joe Rosenberg


Thanks for your thoughtful words. If I would come across an article that seemed to say that Jews anywhere are atoning for Jews elsewhere, I would also look it askance. The concept of vicarious atonement is not a Jewish one. Judaism teaches that all Jews are responsible for each other - meaning that we are one people who have a purpose in the world to be leaders. We also are obligated to try to make use of our unique God-given talents and compensate for any weakness that may exist elsewhere, serving Hashem to the best of our abilities, no matter where we are in the world. Our job is not to 'atone' for others, but rather to try to do our best as part of a wonderful whole called the Jewish people.

I am sorry if you had gotten any different impression from what I wrote.

Ari Goldwag

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Bereshis - subduing the ego

What is the deeper understanding of the seduction of the snake? How does one use his free will to emulate Hashem? What is the fundamental nature of Hashem's free will, and how does He choose? How does this apply to our everyday lives?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

This week's parsha podcast is also available in text form (for a limited time) on my website on the Parsha page.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Shmini Atzeres - V'zos Habracha

What is the significance of the fact that Simchas Torah is always on Shmini Atzeres? Why is it that V'zos Habracha is the only Parsha that does not need to be read on a Shabbos? Why is the Torah specifically completed on this day? What is the significance of what Hashem showed Moshe right before his demise?

Find out in this special edition of the Parsha Podcast.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Succos, willows and water

What is the significance of the water libation ceremony? Why was it accompanied by the joyous water drawing festival? What is the significance of the Willow ceremony that was done in the Temple? What is the significance of the fact that the willow does not have a taste and smell? Why is the willow referred to as a 'river willow?' What does all this have to do with Succos?

Find out in this special edition of the Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Moshiach's horn, Moshiach's crown

Recently, while learning the sefer Nefesh Hachaim, I discovered a Gemara that he quotes in Avodah Zarah that has very interesting implications. The Gemara there says that when Adam saw the sun go down on the first Friday night, he thought that it was because of his sin, and that the sun would not rise again. He and Chava cried all night, and when they saw the sun come up in the morning, they realized that it was the way of the world for the sun to set and to rise. Adam then brought a sacrifice of an ox whose horns preceeded its feet.

The commentaries explain what is meant by an "ox whose horns preceeded its feet." Ordinarily, an ox's feet preceed its horns - an ox is born without horns, and they only grow later. This ox, however, was the original ox that Hashem had created. When Hashem created the original animals, even though they were brand new creatures, they were not created as babies of that species, but rather fully grown. Thus, as the ox 'grew' out of the ground, its head came up first, including its fully developed horns. Only afterwards did its feet develop. Thus, its horns preceeded its feet.

The Nefesh Hachaim understands that Adam brought this offering in atonement for his sin. He explains that the significance of the fact that the horns preceeded its feet is that the horns represent that which is elevated above the head - namely the transcendent levels of the soul. The feet represent the lowest levels of the soul. Thus, Adam was drawing down the light of Teshuva from the very highest levels to the very lowest.

What is very interesting here is that, as we have said, Moshiach ben Yosef is represented by this very animal - the ox. He is also the one that is involved in the rectification of Adam's sin, and the way he does this is by accessing the highest levels of the soul, namely the yechida. Thus it could be that this gemara is alluding to Moshiach ben Yosef himself.

(Something else to think about is the Ram that Avraham avinu brought in place of Yitzchak at the akeida. It also had this characterisitic, because it also was created during the first six days of creation, thus its horns preceeded its feet. This sacrifice had a different function than Adam's, but we nevertheless see the parallel. It is also important to note that those very horns were the ones by which the Ram was caught. Additionally, those horns were the two shofaros, one of which was blown at har Sinai, the other of which will be blown at the advent of Moshiach.)

There is another Gemara I came across recently that also seems to hint to the concept of Moshiach ben Yosef. The Gemara is in Sotah (I think it is דף י"ג) and it is speaking about Yosef and his brothers bringing Yaakov's casket up to Israel for burial. As they do so, the children of Yishmael, Esav and Keturah all come out to make war with them. However, when they see Yosef's crown hanging on the casket, they stop, and their princes place their crowns, numbering thirty six, upon the casket as well.

There is clearly a lot going on in this Maamar Chazal, but I would just like to focus on one aspect of it. First, what is meant by Yosef's crown - what does it refer to? Secondly, what about this crown causes the chidren of Yishmael, Esav, and Keturah to give up their own crowns?

It could be said that this Gemara is alluding to the war of Gog Umagog, in which the chidren of Yishmael (the Arabs), Esav (the West), and Keturah (the East!) come together to do battle against the Jewish people. Leading the Jews is Moshiach ben Yosef, and his power of protection comes from his 'crown.' Connecting this to the previous thought of the Nefesh Hachaim, the crown (כתר) represents the highest level of the soul, which only Moshiach ben Yosef can access. This transcendental level represents the Torah of Moshiach, as well as the concept of Teshuva, both of which are integral parts of Moshiach ben Yosef's job.

When the children of Yishmael, Esav, and Keturah see the crown of Yosef - that is, the power of his Torah and Teshuva - they remove their own crowns - their own versions of the spiritual reality - and submit themselves to Moshiach ben Yosef. Thus, all will admit to the truth of the Torah.

What is extremely interesting about this theory is that it clearly echoes something that I have heard from a number of sources, among them Rebbe Nachman. That is, that the final war of Gog Umagog is not a physical war, but rather a spiritual war. This would seem to be exactly what is going on in this Gemara in Sotah.

Friday, September 25, 2009

More on Yosef and Rosh Hashana

Yesterday I was reviewing the Gemara in Rosh Hashana that speaks about when Moshiach will come, either in Tishrei or Nissan. I had forgotten that the Gemara there says something very significant that I never understood. The Beraisa lists off a number of things that occurred on Rosh Hashana and Pesach. One of the events enumerated is that on Rosh Hashana Yosef was released from jail. I never got the connection. Why was Yosef released on Rosh Hashana, and what is the significance of it?

Based on the thoughts I shared in the previous post on Rosh Hashana, however, I think it is beautiful. As we saw, Rosh Hashana is the day of Adam's sin, and therefore the day of the ultimate rectification of that sin - the job which is attributed to Moshiach ben Yosef.

To add a little more depth to this, I would like to share something I heard from Rav Kessin. He talks about Yosef as being the trailblazer who led the Jewish people into the exile of Egypt. The ultimate purpose for the Jewish descent to Egypt was to release the sparks that were contained in Egypt, bringing them back to the side of Good. This was accomplished either by staying strong to the Torah, by doing Teshuva, or by undergoing difficulties (yisurin). Yosef was the first to go down, and thus he began that process and underwent tremendous challenges to his convictions, as well as difficult physical conditions. Ultimately Yosef triumphed and succeeded in his job, completely releasing all of the sparks that he was meant to release. This ultimately led to Yosef becoming the ruler over Egypt. The fact that he was placed in this position over all of Egypt represented the fact that he had released all the sparks, and thereby placed them (and their former hosts) entirely beneath his dominion.

Amazingly, when did he complete this task, ensuring his rise to rulership? On Rosh Hashana! The sparks were completely removed and he was released to advise Pharoah, who would in turn appoint him - on that very day - to his position. Thus we see, yet again, that Rosh Hashana is a powerful day for the rise of Moshiach ben Yosef, a day that holds the potential for his ascension.

This brought into focus something I read in Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan's Handbook of Jewish thought, in which he speaks about the concept of Moshiach ben Yosef. There he explains that the two different ways the Torah describes Moshiach (one miraculous, one more natural) can be said to be speaking of the two different Moshiachs. Moshiach ben Yosef comes in more of a natural way, involving less miracles, whereas Moshiach ben Dovid is the king at the advent of a more miraculous period, and thus his advent involves more supernatural events.

I also realized that the argument in the Gemara as to when Moshiach comes - in Tishrei or Nissan - may actually not be an argument, as we will soon see.

Tosfos points out that the argument as to when the world was created also need not be a contradiction. The world could have been created in potential in Tishrei, while it was brought to actualization in Nissan. This actually explains the phrasing of what we say on Rosh Hashana "היום הרת עולם" - today the world was conceived. Rosh Hashana (in Tishrei) is conception, Nissan is actualization of potential. (It is significant that Rochel conceived with Yosef on Rosh Hashana as well.)

Moshiach ben Yosef represents the concept of potential - he completes the tikkun hakilkul, removing the effects of Adam Harishon's sin, and sets the stage for the ultimate tikkun, which is accomplished by Moshiach ben Dovid. Thus, Moshiach ben Yosef's job is accomplished in Tishrei - Rosh Hashana. Moshiach ben Dovid, on the other hand, will theoretically accomplish his job in Nissan - the time of actualized potential.

Thus, the one who says redemption will come in Tishrei is speaking of Moshiach ben Yosef, who represents the first stage of Geulah. The one who says redemption will come in Nissan is spekaing of Moshiach ben Dovid, who will complete the Geulah and the tikkun of נהמא דכיסופא.

This also helps us understand one more enigma. We find that the haftara we read during Succos has to do with the war of Gog and Magog. The reason for this is that there is a tradition that this war will take place during Succos. The question is, Why will the war of Gog and Magog take place at this time?

Based on what we've said, it would seem that Tishrei is the time of the height of Moshiach ben Yosef's power, and being that he is the one who will fight this war and ultimately vanquish the forces of Evil - among them Edom and the Erev Rav - the time for this war is in Tishrei.

Yom Kippur - day of transcendence

What is the secret of Yom Kippur? How is it connected to receiving the Torah and doing Teshuva? How does Teshuva work? Why don't we eat on Yom Kippur? What is the connection between Yom Kippur and Moshe Rabbenu's stay on Har Sinai?

Find out in this special edition of the Parsha Podcast.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Haazinu - Connecting Heaven and Earth

How Does Moshe call the Heavens and Earth to be his witnesses? Can inanimate objects bear witness? How is this testimony linked to the Jewish people's acceptance of the Torah? How is this theme a prelude to Yom Kippur?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Excellent arba minim video

Did you ever wonder exactly what you need to look for when you are buying your Lulav and Esrog? What are the conditions that make it valid and invalid? A wonderful organization called Torah Live has put together an excellent video - short and to the point - that will take the mystery out of the process.

You can see it by clicking on the following link:

You'll need Flash to watch the video. Click here to get it:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Apples, Rosh Hashana, and tikkun hakilkul

This past Friday night, as we sat down to our Rosh Hashana meal, I was struck with a question that never crossed my mind before. We had said Hamotzi already, and had begun the seder of simanim, and we of course started first with the most obvious siman - dipping our apples in honey. We all know that this is to symbolize that we wish Hashem will grant us a sweet new year. The question is, however, why apples? There are plenty of other sweet fruits, so why did the custom develop to use the apple?

As I pondered this, the first thought that came to mind was that since Rosh Hashana is the day that Adam Harishon ate from the forbidden tree, perhaps we eat the apple to remember that eating. This notion, of course, was quickly discarded, as it is quite clear that the forbidden fruit was anything but an apple. In any event, it would be strange to commemorate the sin by imitating the evil deed!

I looked in the Artscroll Rosh Hashana machzor, and it provided an explanation that actually made the whole picture much more puzzling. It brought down that when Yakov avinu came in to Yitzchak to steal Esav's brachos, his father remarked that he smelled like the 'smell of the field.' Our sages interpret this to mean that he smelled like an apple orchard. For this reason, we specifically use an apple to dip in honey on Rosh Hashana night to symbolize our desire for a sweet new year.

The question is, What does Yakov getting the brachos have to do with Rosh Hashana?

This question occupied my thoughts on the twenty-or-so minute walk to shul Rosh Hashana morning. My mind was whirring and the cogs were turning, and some interesting connections made for some good food for thought.

I realized that the moment that Yakov was stealing the brachos from Esav was an extremely pivotal point in the story of Moshiach ben Yosef. Esav was the one who should have taken on the mantle of Moshiach ben Yosef's job, which was the tikkun hakilkul - the rectification of the damage caused by the sin of Adam Harishon. This was why Esav had more of a leaning toward being involved in the outside world. This was the world he would need to infuse with spirituality and remove the darkness from therein. The brachos that Esav would have received would have aided him in fulfilling this role, which actually was a precursor to the role of Yakov as Moshiach ben Dovid. This was also why Esav was born first, because just as Moshiach ben Yosef must complete his job prior to Moshiach ben Dovid's arrival, so Esav should have done his job first in order to set the stage for Yakov's role. This would have been the explanation of the prophecy told to Rivka 'ורב יעבוד צעיר' - the older will serve the younger.

Instead, however, Esav failed at his task and was too involved in the very physicality he was meant to purify. Thus, he forfeited the role of Moshiach ben Yosef, which Yakov purchased from him for a bowl of lentils. When it came time to receive the blessings that were inherent to Moshiach ben Yosef's job, it was absolutely imperative that Yakov get these blessings, as he had now taken on the dual role of Moshiach ben Yosef and Moshiach ben Dovid at the same time. (This role would later be split between his children Yehuda and Yosef.) Thus Yakov had to create the subterfuge of professing to be Esav, but the truth was that he was Esav in the sense that he had taken over Esav's role as Moshiach ben Yosef.

At this moment, Yakov walks in to Yitzchak to receive the blessings, and he is wearing Esav's special garment. This garment was no ordinary garment - it had been inherited from Nimrod, who in turn had gotten it from none other than Adam Harishon himself. It was no coincidence that Esav had Adam's clothes - Esav's job was to rectify the sin of Adam that had created the necessity for these clothes! Now Yakov had replaced Esav in that role, and therefore it would be Yakov who would put on the clothes of Adam Harishon. It was these clothes that brought in with Yakov the smell of the field of apples that Yitzchak smelled.

When we take a deeper look at what is going on throughout Rosh Hashana, we realize that hiding beneath the surface is a day that is very much connected to the concept of Moshiach ben Yosef. The entire davening centers around the Messianic age, and the day itself commemorates the birth of Adam harishon. But the day of his birth was also the day he sinned and was ejected from Gan Eden. Rosh Hashana was the very day that Adam harishon introduced the kilkul into the world that Moshiach ben Yosef would be enjoined to extricate. Thus, it is no coincidence that our davening centers around that time when indeed the whole world will be purified from Adam's sin.

If one thinks deeper into the matter, Rosh Hashana actually had the potential to be the day that would have brought the full rectification. If Adam had not eaten until sundown, Shabbos would have ushered in the dawn of Olam Haba - the complete rectification of mankind. Thus, just as we mentioned in regards to the 17th of Tammuz and Tisha b'Av, the day of downfall actually still contains the seed for the future rectification as well. This potential was not lost.

With this in mind, the theme of Moshiach ben Yosef as the one who would rectify Adam's sin is essentially the theme of Rosh Hashana itself. It is therefore no wonder that we take the apple to dip in honey. This apple reminds us of the moment in history when Yakov took over the job of Moshiach ben Yosef. By eating the sweet apple, it reminds us that Rosh Hashana is the day that holds the potential for the ultimate rectification of Adam's sin, and when Moshiach ben Yosef's job is completed, we certainly will have a sweet new year.

This also sheds light on an opinion in the Gemara which always seemed strange to me. The Gemara in Rosh Hashana (10B-11A) discusses when our future redemption will take place. According to one opinion, it will be in Nissan, just as the Geulah from Mitzrayim was in Nissan. According to another opinion, it will take place in Tishrei. To me, the first opinion always rang true, as Nissan is a time for redemption. (I'm also biased because my birthday is in Nissan.) Now, however, the Tishrei option actually seems to make more sense to me, as this was the month of the sin of Adam harishon, and the potential for its rectification.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Gog and Magog kuntres

Here is a download of a very nice piece by R' Daniel Krentzman on the topic of the war of Gog and Magog:

Monday, September 14, 2009

Rosh Hashana - Day of Unity

How do we understand the central themes of Rosh Hashana? What is the concept of Kingship? What is the concept of the Shofar? Why are we judged on this day? What does it mean that the world was created on this day? What was the great tragedy that occurred on Rosh Hashana?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Yosef and Shechem II

Listening to Mordechai ben David's song "את אחי אנכי מבקש" I was struck with the following thought, which is an extension of the previous discussion of Yosef and Shechem.

Yosef asked Gavriel where his brothers had gone, and where they were shepherding. First, it is significant that he was speaking to Gavriel, because we find that the side of Gevurah (the left side, represented by Gavriel) comes into play immediately before redemption. Thus, this question was clearly marking a step toward redemption, and specifically in Yosef's role as Moshiach ben Yosef. If not for Gavriel, Yosef would not have found his brothers, and the process would not have begun.

Gavriel guides Yosef at Shechem, sending him to Dotan where he finds them, and they plot to kill him. Thus, besides for Shechem representing the place where Yaakov sacrificed to keep Yosef as Moshiach ben Yosef, it would also be the place where Yosef would begin his function of Moshiach ben Yosef - the tzaddik who would suffer in order to create a balance. If you listen to the fifth Moshiach podcast, you will see how Yosef fits this concept.

Yosef ends up suffering significantly more, but also ends up with a greater share in Klal Yisrael - two tribes. His greater challenge means that he will end up with more, but also means that he must go through more to attain that greater level.

It is interesting that both Yosef and Esav exhibited characteristics that showed they were naturally more involved in the physical world. Esav would end up falling into the trap and losing his extra portion and then even any portion in Klal Yisrael. Yosef would utilize his extra physicality (e.g. his good looks), and raise it up by withstanding his travails so that he would indeed earn his double portion in the Jewish people, and seemingly in the World to Come as well.

One last thing, is that Rav Kessin says that Moshiach ben Yosef goes through stages, progressing from the letter סמך to the letter שין (sin) to the letter שין (shin). The סמך represents the first level סכל - literally, the fool. At this stage, Moshiach ben Yosef is not aware of his mission, nor of how to accomplish it. The passuk in Yeshaya 53, in reference to Moshiach ben Yosef, says "הנה ישכיל עבדי" - my servant shall become wise. This is the middle stage where Moshiach progresses from the level of סכל to שכל - from fool to wisdom. This is the level of the letter שין (sin). Here he understands how to rectify his personal trials. Finally, he reaches the level of the שין (shin). Here he moves from the left (represented by the שין with the dot on the left) to the right (represented by the שין with the dot on the right), and moves toward teaching Klal Yisrael how to achieve their rectification as well.

I believe that this whole concept is actually hinted to in the name of the city Shechem. If you take the gematria of the word שכם, you get 360, or שס. Thus, it represents a place where there is a progression involving these letters, סמך and שין, leading to the rectification necessary for the advent of Moshiach ben Yosef.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nitzavim-Vayelech - Teshuva and Torah

What is the deeper connection between Torah and Teshuva? Why is it found in "the mouth"? How does one go about about repentance?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Suffering of Jews and Moshiach

Here is the fifth edition of the Understanding Moshiach Podcast.

The true Jewish understanding of Isaiah 53 - the suffering of the Jewish people and Moshiach. We learn the essential concept of hanhagas hayichud - Hashem dealing with the world in a way that guarantees that His good will be given, by altering the terms of rectifying the problem of receiving the Light by earning it. We also see the interplay between yichud and mishpat - how they work hand in hand. We learn the concept of the Jewish people as the chosen nation, as well as the role of the Jewish people and Moshiach's suffering to guarantee the world reaches its state of rectification.

In my humble opinion, this is a must listen!

Running time is about 35 minutes. (You won't be bored.)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Power of a niggun

This is from a kumzitz I did in Morningside Acres bungalow colony on August 15, 2009. The niggun was composed by R' Shlomo Carlebach.

Ki Savo - Removing the husks

Why does the Torah focus almost exclusively on the curses? Why do we seem to find more positivity in the prophets words that speak of Moshiach? Why do we find much more positivity in the deeper sources and the Oral Torah? What does this have to do with the light of Moshiach?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Elul and Moshiach

Just a brief thought, following up on a previous post.

I believe that Elul is a tremendously significant month for the Geulah process. We see it as we look over recent history, from the beginning of World War II (17th of Elul), to the World Trade Center bombing (23 Elul). Most recently, a significant moment in the Global Financial crisis was on September 15th, 2008, which corresponded to the 15th of Elul. That was the day that Lehman Brothers filed for chapter 11. Wikipedia notes that "the filing marked the largest bankruptcy in U.S. history." It also says there that "the Dow Jones closed down just over 500 points on September 15, 2008, which was at the time the largest drop in a single day since the days following the attacks on September 11, 2001."

The fact that the last event took place on the fifteenth of the month is especially significant, as the fifteenth of the month always marks the full moon, which represents the forces of spirituality at their point of ascension. This means that the Jewish people as a whole are spiritually strong, as they are successfully completing their mission. When we do as we are supposed to, the sparks of Kedusha are released from the side of evil, and returned to the side of good.

Elul is the month when the Jewish people are doing teshuva, and there is a tremendous rededication to follow in the path of the Torah. The Yeshivos fill up across the globe, with a fire for Torah that is unparalleled throughout the year. Even in the United States, where many are still on summer vacation for the beginning of Elul, by mid-Elul there has been a return to the Torah schedule. This is clearly marked by the events mentioned being in the second half of Elul. As the Jewish people enters the second half of Elul, the spiritual forces gain ascendancy, removing the power from the side of evil, and thereby, from Esav and the Western world and all its idolatries.

With this in mind, the 15th of Elul this years falls out this Friday, September 4th, and Elul continues until Erev Rosh Hashana, which falls out on Friday, September 18th.

When I was in the United States recently, I was in Philadelphia, and I had the opportunity to daven in the Philadelphia Yeshiva and speak to its Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky. I asked him about the seventy year period that Rav Elya Svei spoke of in the name of Reb Elchanan Wasserman. He told me that Rav Elya had heard it directly from Rav Wasserman's mouth. Rav Kaminetsky told me, as his eyes crinkled into a smile, that he is also waiting. He also added that the seventy years corresponds to the seventy words in the chapter of Tehillim "למנצח... יענך ה' ביום צרה" which I was not aware of.

If we calculate seventy years from the beginning of World War II, we find ourselves on this coming Sunday, September 6th.

As I always say, I do not like to predict anything, because one looks foolish when nothing happens. But, these may be interesting dates to look out for, so keep your eyes and ears open.

May we merit a speedy and painless redemption, Amen.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Ki Seitzei - Tasting the tree

Why does the Torah give the field worker the right to eat the fruits as he works? What is the meaning of the statement of our sages that the taste of the tree and the fruits were originally the same? What does it mean that it will return to that state when Moshiach comes?

Find out in this week's Parsha Podcast.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

6000 year calendar & Moshiach's Torah

Here is the fourth episode of the 'Understanding Moshiach' podcast.

This is the description from Itunes:

We start with a vital understanding of the Six Thousand year calendar our sages speak about, and how the years 4000-6000 are the period of Moshiach. We also explore the concept of Rebbe Akiva as Moshiach ben Yosef. Also discussed is the Torah of Moshiach ben Yosef, and his job of bringing us to a true connection with our fellow man, devoid of jealousy and competition, filled with the love that is a prerequisite for our relationship with Hashem.

V'zakeini L'gadel

Last night, we celebrated the wedding of my Brother-in-law Yonoson Sanford in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My son Moshe Dov and I sang this beautiful song, composed by Baruch Levine.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Washington, DC is Rome?

Someone shared this with me, and I thought it to be quite interesting. Here is the link to the actual wikipedia article.

Rome, Maryland, was the original name of a community within Prince George's County, Maryland, which would eventually become Washington, District of Columbia. Specifically, Rome was the original community name of Capitol Hill, upon which the United States Capitol Building sits.

In 1663, the property that would become the Capitol's site was inscribed in the Maryland property records as “Rome,” its owner a man named Francis Pope. The southern boundary of this property was shaped by a river named for the river that runs through Rome, Italy, the Tiber.

The community was part of the ten mile square tract of land which would become the American capital Washington, D.C., and its owner, Daniel Carroll, transferred the community to the federal government after the amendment to the United States Constitution sanctioning the building of the new United States capital city was ratified.

Daniel Carroll was the chairman of a three-man commission appointed by President George Washington to find a suitable location for the capital city. A signer of the Declaration of Independence, Daniel Carroll was a Roman Catholic educated by Jesuits in Maryland and France. His brother John Carroll became the first Catholic bishop in America, presiding over the See of Baltimore, which included Washington, D.C. John Carroll also founded Georgetown University.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Why are Jews in America?

Over the last two weeks, and for another week or so, I am visiting the United States for a family Simcha. I have not really had much of a chance until now to write any serious posts, but my thoughts have been rolling as always with ideas that beg expression. So, here I begin.

Before we left Israel for this visit to the US, my son, who is six years old, said that he does not want to go to America. When questioned as to why, he explained that his rebbe told him that one who lives in Eretz Yisrael is constantly getting mitzvos, and therefore, he does not want to go to a place where he is missing that.

On a different occasion, my son asked me, with incredulity, Why would anyone want to live in America?

I thought I would share some of the thoughts I shared with him.

This question really goes deeper, and the question really becomes, Why are Jews outside of Israel at all? What is the purpose of Jews being dispersed all over the world? How does this help accomplish Hashem's materplan? How do Jews in America, Europe, Asia, Africa, etc. help bring Moshiach?

The answer is that in order for Moshiach to come it is essential that Jews be in these countries! What? Essential? Don't we all need to be back in Israel?

Rav Kessin explains, based on the Ramchal, that the reason the Jew enters another nation is in order to draw out the sparks of holiness that are entrapped in that nation. There are two entities that vie for the sparks - the Jewish people and the Satan. If the Jewish people sin, the sparks are given to the Satan, and he in turn gives them to the nations of the world. Then the job of the Jewish people is to release those sparks of holiness and bring them back to the side of Good. This can only be accomoplished in three ways. One, is by keeping mitzvos despite being embedded in the host nation. The second way of releasing the sparks is by doing teshuva for the aveiros. The third way is through yisurin, difficulties.

When all the sparks have been completely redeemed, we reach the days of Moshiach.

This is precisely what occurred in Egypt. The job of the Jewish people was to stay strong in their mitzvah observance. As they lost their Jewish identity, they began to be enslaved and experience hardships. The greatest hardships came at the very end as the geulah fast approached. But who was exempt from the slavery? The Leviim who kept on learning the Torah! They were able to remove the sparks that way, while their brethren unfortunately had to remove the sparks through hardships.

Thus, the purpose of the Jewish people being spread throughout the world is to redeem the sparks that are entrapped in these far-flung places.

As the sparks are redeemed, the Jewish people can return more and more to Israel. It is extremely interesting that there is a tremendous amount of Aliyah (courtesy of Nefesh b'Nefesh) from the US, Britain, etc. This would seem to indicate that Esav is getting sucked out of the sparks, allowing for the sparks to be returned to the Jewish people, and allowing them to be rejoined with their Holy Land.

So what do the Jews in Israel do then? The answer is that they are pulling the sparks out of the Erev Rav, which is the last place the sparks will reside. As the sparks are sucked out of Esav, they end up trapped in the Erev Rav.

Both of these jobs are necessary and essential in order to bring Moshiach.

It is interesting to think about which job is greater. On one hand, removing the sparks from Edom is the first stage, one we have been 'working on' for close to 2000 years, or more. On the other hand, pulling out the sparks from the Erev Rav is the final stage before Geulah. Each of these entails difficulty and challenge.

Something interesting that bothered me was that we know that one of Moshiach ben Yosef's jobs is to destroy Edom - to completely remove the sparks from the Western world and return them to the Jewish people. It seems on the surface, however, that the Arabs are doing this job. They are slowly taking over the Western world as they have more and more children.

I was thinking that the fact that they are able to do this is actually a clear sign that we, the Jewish people, are successfully completing our job of removing the sparks from Esav. As long as Esav has the sparks, he is dominant and powerful, and Yishmael can not take over. As we suck out the power from Esav, however, Yishmael can easily come in and take over, because Esav is powerless to stop them.

The bottom line of it all is that no matter where we are, we have an important job to do in order to bring Moshiach closer. My instinct is that the greater feat is to be in Eretz Yisrael, finishing off the job, but this does not take away from the importance of those outside of Israel who are helping as well.

Our job is accomplished as we dedicate ourselves to Torah, striving to come close to Hashem and be in sync with who we really are. As we do that, we give new strength to the Jewish people. Our job is to do teshuva and repent the sins we have done, thereby further bringing back the sparks to our people. And finally, if Hashem must bring us difficulties, we can accept them with love, knowing that ultimately He is giving us the opportunity to take part in the Moshiach process, hastening the day that all will be able to intimately experience Hashem's closeness.

One final thought I had is that Elul is a tremendous time for releasing the sparks from Esav. This is the month that we rededicate ourselves to our Avodas Hashem, really being strong in learning, studying mussar, and thinking about Teshuva. I think it was not a coincidence that it was in Elul last year that the Economic downturn began. As we draw the sparks out, all the false ideals of Esav come crashing down. This is the greatest sign that we are indeed succeeding in our efforts to bring the downfall of spiritual blindness, and raising the banner of Moshiach.