27 November 2013

Eight Days of Hanukah


25 Kislev 5774
First Day of Hanukah

In the middle of August (mid-Elul), Moishe'la said the following:

"...I would even predict that by the time Succos is over, by time they put back the Torahs after dancing on Simchas Torah and say Havdolah it will be a different world."

And lo and behold, the world went from being on the brink of WW3 and an imminent attack on Syria to a 'brilliant political stroke' that saved the world and put a final time limit on Israel to make peace with the Palestinians. 

Now, in the middle of November (mid-Kislev), Moishe'la has made another time prediction:

"In the next month we are going to realize how important that statement is for us - "Mi l'Hashem elai!". We're missing only the one to say it."

Is this a hint that we will get "the one to say it," i.e. Mashiach Tzidkeinu, "in the next month"?

Keep watching. Keep praying and keep preparing. It could be sooner than we think!

Remember, the light grows brighter every day and it will be at its strongest on the eighth day; the number above nature - the number of Mashiach! The final day of Hanukah which even has its own name - Zot Hanukah!

...The very fact that Chanukah lasts for eight days, already distinguishes it as an unusual holiday. Other holidays such as Pesach and Sukkot are seven days long. (Shemini Atzeret/Simchat Torah,which falls at the end of Sukkot, is considered by the Talmud to be a holiday unto itself.)
Chanukah, however, is different. It lasts eight days rather than seven. What is the significance of the number eight? Chanukah reaches just beyond the seven-day structure, which signifies the creation of the world. The seven-day week is universally accepted—beginning with Sunday and ending with Saturday—the cycle then repeats itself.
The fact that Chanukah extends beyond these seven days and lasts for eight indicates that Chanukah originates in an extremely high and exalted place. It wasn’t taken from this world at all, but rather from the future perfected world. From there, G-d drew down a type of light to give us a certain momentum—a yearning and hope—to exit from this long exile. This is the essential message of Chanukah, and it is a completely new concept having nothing to do with what transpires during the regular annual cycle. 
Chanukah draws its power from a place far beyond our conception, infusing us with such great hope, despite our inability to see the “light at the end of the tunnel.” This gives us a point of faith from which to draw, infusing us with a spirit of life. The light of Chanukah is a completely different type of light, since its source is higher than the seven days of creation. It is an eternal and everlasting light beyond any familiar concept of light where darkness inevitably follows. This special light, and its hope, is what Chanukah imparts to us, especially on Zot Chanukah, the eighth day of Chanukah which is the culmination of the festival.
According to the Arizal, the eight days of Chanukah correspond to the thirteen Attributes of Mercy. How does this work if Chanukah is only eight days? The first seven days each correspond to the first seven attributes: Keil rachum v’chanun erech apayaim v’rav chesed v’emet. “[1] God, [2] merciful, [3] compassionate, [4] slow [5] to anger, [6] abundant in kindness and [7] truth.”
Zot Chanukah, however, encompasses the remaining six attributes in a single day: notzer chesed la’alafim nosei avon va’pesha vi’chata’a vi’nakeh. “[8] Preserver of kindness [9] for thousands of generations, [10] forgiver of iniquity, [11] [forgiver of] transgression, [12] [forgiver of] sin, and [13] Who cleanses.” It is written that these last six attributes of mercy hold the mazal, the heavenly influence, of Israel. The Gemara states, “Israel has no mazal,” meaning that Israel is not subject to the regular zodiac influences like the rest of the world, but is influenced from a much higher plane, specifically from these six attributes of mercy.
...on the last day of Chanukah, six attributes of mercy are activated simultaneously to govern over us. If only we had the ability to contemplate this properly, or perhaps even the desire to grasp it correctly, it would bring such an influx of light and divine mercy into the world that we would immediately exit from exile into the wide open space of redemption, geula.
...We should never give up or become tired! Instead, we must awaken ourselves more and more.
...Don’t catch yourself saying, “How long have I been praying over and over again for the same thing?!” Whatever happened in the past is over. Begin from this moment with refreshed strength. Say, “HaShem, we have absolutely no complaints against You. Everything is undeserved chesed. You promised redemption. Please bring us the complete redemption!”
With the sheer number of prayers, there can be no doubt that G-d will be left with “no choice,” as it were, except to bring the redemption. He will be “compelled” to redeem us because, the truth is, this is exactly what He desires. He only wants us to show how serious and ready we are for the redemption. Our prayers for redemption should not be from a place of force and demanding the end, but rather with chesed (kindness), rachamim (mercy), and much pleading. G-d will most certainly help us. He won’t leave us much longer in exile. He will hasten the redemption, soon speedily in our days, mamash, Amen.

Oh, and one final thought... Zot Hanukah falls "in the next month" - the second day of Tevet!

Hanukah Sameah everyone,

20 November 2013

Dreaming of Mashiach


18 Kislev 5774

Dreams figure very prominently in this week's parshah - Parshat Vayeishev.  At the beginning, Yosef tells of two dreams which prophesy his future mission and station in life and then at the end, two dreams are told to him which prophesy the outcomes for Pharaoh's baker and cupbearer.  In all instances, it is Yosef who understands the deeper meanings of the dreams and this sets the stage for the most important dream interpretation of his life in next week's Parshat Miketz when he will decipher Pharaoh's dreams about the corn and the cows.

His ability to understand and interpret dreams is what earned Yosef his Egyptian name - Tsafnat Paneach - Revealer of Hidden Things. And this is a hint.  Because the dreams were dreamt in order to deliver a message, but only Yosef understood his dreams and had the G-d given ability to interpret the dreams of others. Had he not, the Egyptians would never have been able to prepare to withstand the long famine which the dreams would warn about.

Dreams are also linked to the ultimate redemption.  There is a well-known pasuk which we say from Tehillim (taken from Rav Kook Torah.org):

"A Song of Ascents. When God brings about the return to Zion, we were like dreamers. Then our mouths will be filled with laughter and our tongues with joyous song." (126:1-2)

This psalm offers an inspiring description of the redemption of the Jewish people and their return to the Land of Israel. The verb tense, however, is confusing. Presumably, this is a vision of the future redemption, when "our mouths will be filled with laughter." Yet the psalmist also speaks of the past — "we were like dreamers." Is this taking place in the past or the future?

Dreams of Redemption

We need to understand the significance of these dreams and their connection to our national redemption.

Several times in history, dreams served as a means to redemption. Joseph became viceroy of Egypt and saved his family from famine through the dreams of Pharaoh. Daniel attained his position of importance through the dreams of Nebuchadnezzar. What is the function of dreams in the world?

Every soul has certain special segulot, hidden talents or qualities that seek to be realized. The more intense the segulah, the greater it will struggle to be fulfilled. One of the ways in which these inner qualities express themselves is through dreams.

The nation of Israel also has special segulot — a unique potential for spiritual greatness. As it says (Ex. 19:5), "You will be a segulah among the nations." When the Jewish people are exiled and downtrodden, this segulah quality seeks ways to be realized. It is this inner drive for national greatness that is the source for our dreams of redemption.

Anticipating the Redemption

After death, the Talmud teaches, the soul is questioned by the heavenly tribunal: "Tzapita layeshua?" "Did you anticipate the redemption?" (Shabbat 31a) The fact that the soul is judged by this trait indicates the great importance of anticipating the redemption. We also find that the Sages spoke of the obligation to pray for our national return to the Land of Israel. Yet the logic of this approach is not obvious. What purpose is there in yearning for that which is beyond our control, dependent either upon the actions of the entire Jewish people, or a divinely-ordained hour?

To understand the significance of our dreams and prayers, it is instructive to recall the Talmudic saying, "Do not disregard any blessing, even that of an ordinary person" (Megillah 15a). Why should we take note of the simple wishes of a neighbor or friend? The Sages, however, are imparting an important lesson: do not underestimate the power of a few encouraging words, for they may awaken and help realize our hidden potential.

The concept is valid for both the individual and the nation. Secreted in the national soul of Israel is a potential for greatness. By mentioning and anticipating this national destiny, we strengthen it and prime it to be realized. The value of looking forward to the redemption lies in its power to help bring it to fruition. This is not a mystical notion, but a plain historical fact. Without a doubt, the unprecedented return of the Jewish people to their homeland after thousands of years of exile could not have occurred without the continual yearnings and prayers over the centuries. The Zionist movement could not have convinced millions of Jews to uproot themselves if not for the people's deep-rooted longings for the Land of Israel. It is our faith and anticipation of redemption that enables the realization of the national segulah of Israel.

Now we can understand why the verse says that "we were like dreamers," in the past tense. This refers to our dreams of redemption during the long years of exile. "God brings about the return to Zion" because, throughout the ages, "we were like dreamers." Our dreams and trust in God's promises of redemption enable our return to the Land. Just as our private dreams are an expression of our inner talents, inspiring us to develop them, so too, our national dreams, even in the darkest hours, facilitate the return to Zion and the future fulfillment of our complete redemption. (adapted from Midbar Shur pp. 226-227 )

We should all be directing our dreams towards the ultimate redemption until the dreams have become our new reality!

Keep dreaming,

15 November 2013

The New World Order


12 Kislev 5774

At a speech before Congress on September 11, 1991, then President George H W Bush famously announced: "It is a big idea, a New World Order...." 

It's the stuff of conspiracy theories and looms large in the background of world politics. It is purportedly what is behind the global push for the elimination of national boundaries with free-trade agreements and security "cooperation" agreements and exercises. According to one major religion, it will be the vehicle that brings the "Antichrist" to power.

I'm here to tell you that there IS a New World Order coming and there is only ONE mind at the top of it's hierarchy.  You already know who it is.  We call him HaKadosh Baruch Hu - the Holy One of Israel, Master and Creator of the entire universe.

Because of the nature of free will and how it is maintained in our present reality, very deep and important truths need to be disguised in order to protect them until they are able to stand on their own feet, so to speak. Long before they are ready to be revealed, they are very vulnerable to distortion and destruction.  But, in order not to prolong the time of revelation, HKB"H gets a head start, so to speak, by masking His true end goals.

Take the return to Zion, for example.  That which we call 'Evil' knew what time it was on the cosmic clock and sought to prevent the attainment of this crucial milestone in human history. 'Evil' decimated world Jewry with a holocaust. In actuality, it brought about the very thing it had wanted to prevent, but was satisfied to see that the Torah world's two-thousand-year-old dream would be corrupted into the modern democratic secular state of "all of its citizens," including those who would murder Jews in their own beds.

But 'Evil' is not the One who Created it.  Its vision is limited to what the Creator allows it to see.  So, it was blissfully unaware of a seed taking root deep in the darkness of that time or that it would one day blossom and bloom in such profusion.  I'm speaking, of course, of the Torah-observant world that renewed itself quietly and steadily in Eretz Yisrael while the secular government was preoccupied with fighting wars and terrorism.

Suddenly, from the corner of its eye, Evil caught a glimpse of the true reality that had been hidden from it until now.  And what happened?  The war immediately shifted to "The Chareidim." The rest of the story is being carried in today's headlines. The conclusion to be drawn here is that the time for the revelation of all truth has arrived at long last. The product of that tiny seed has finally grown to the point at which it is unstoppable.

On a much larger scale, the same thing has been going on outside of Eretz Yisrael. Again, a very deep truth took root which the Creator in His Wisdom desired to disguise and keep hidden until the time of revelation would arrive.  However, revelation must be a gradual thing or its sudden light would blind us.  Before truth can stand naked before our eyes in complete revelation, which by the way is the herald for the complete redemption, human beings must be exposed to its light bit by bit.  At some point, light and dark become equally mixed.  This can be compared to 'erev' - evening.  (So, it is no wonder then that the 'Erev Rav' hold full sway at this time.)

Prophet Zekharya (14.7) said of this time period:
"It will be on that day, the light will not be either very bright or very dim.  It will be a unique day; it will be known as Hashem's day, neither day nor night, but it will happen towards evening time that there will be light." 
In the normal course of events evening would give way to night, but in this case, we are talking about the closing period of free will, so when evening is done, it becomes DAY with the full revelation of the light of God's truth. Prophet Malachi also describes it (3.19-20):
"For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the wicked people and all the evildoers will be like straw; and that coming day will burn them up,.... But a sun of righteousness will shine for you who fear My Name, with healing in its rays, and you will go out and flourish...."
At this time, everyone will see and acknowledge that all of these preparations which we see today for a New World Order with a one world ruler have been for the sake of Mashiach himself and the Kingdom of God on earth.  It will be as if the world had turned completely upside down from what it is now.

Shabbat shalom,

14 November 2013

Mashiach Thinking - Adjusting to a New Reality


11 Kislev 5774

There is going to be a very noticeable and for some a very uncomfortable transition to a new reality when the monarchy is restored to Israel. Some adjustment in thinking will have to take place in a very short time if you have not already begun to do so.

Here are some examples to get you started:

1) The Housing Minister will not be subjected to public censure for announcing a decision to build houses.
Netanyahu Reprimands Ariel for New Construction
...This is...an action that creates an unnecessary confrontation with the international community at a time when we are making an effort to persuade elements in the international community to reach a better deal with Iran.

2) No Jew will seek "permission" from any gentile to serve HKB"H on Har Habayit (or anywhere else for that matter).
Report: Israel Asked Jordan to Permit Tefilos on Har Habayis
...Israeli officials have asked Jordan permission for Jewish tefilos on Hay Habayis. ...the Jordanians denied the Israeli request. ...a Jordanian delegation is expected to arrive in Israel in the coming days to address “Israeli violations of the status quo pertaining to Har Habayis”.

3) Murderers of Jews will no longer be kept alive and well and educated and entertained until such time that they will be freed in some perverted "confidence building measure" with the enemies of Israel. (Efforts will instead be invested in building the confidence of the Jewish people in their monarchy and in HKB"H's justice.)
Op-Ed: The Case for the Death Penalty for Terrorists in Israel
Shock and outrage have resonated through the pro-Israel world after a thinly-veiled threat was directed at Israel by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry last week. As part of the Obama Administration’s ongoing effort to strong-arm Israel into coughing up harmful concessions to the Palestinian Authority, Kerry warned that if the present negotiations fail Israel will face an “intifada”.... 
The core assumption in Secretary Kerry’s remark is that Israel lacks the self-respect and confidence to carry out justice, and shall instead willingly suffer some measure of Palestinian-Arab terrorism. Though Kerry is certainly seeking to prey upon it, this is a weakness of Israel’s own making.
A bill must immediately be filed in the Knesset to institute capital punishment. Such a bill will serve two important purposes. 1) Even the mere prospect of its passage will command respect and deter the possibility of terrorist violence against Israel; and 2) It will launch an important conversation within Israeli government and society about one of the key reasons for the State’s very existence – the protection of Jewish life.
What Secretary Kerry has helped to highlight is that among Israel’s most pressing domestic problems remains the systemic failure of justice and law enforcement in governing the Arab residents living within its jurisdiction. Israel does indeed have the ability to prosecute and punish crime. The prohibition against its actually doing so, however, is an informal but key aspect of the “peace process” that has been translated into judicial, military and police operational culture.
Proponents of anti-Zionist, appeasement policies refer to this restraint as “the price of peace” as if there were something noble about it. The result is that the Arabs have little reason to expect that law will be enforced and crime duly punished.
... the Arab terrorist who commits murder can expect that his release is only a matter of time, dependent simply upon the next prisoner exchange or “goodwill gesture” that will be forced upon Israel.
I don't know about you, but I am more than ready for this.

12 November 2013

What's Taking So Long?


9 Kislev 5774
(Re-posting from Kislev 5770)

I've received some interesting questions via email. I am not at liberty to answer all of them, but I'm happy to answer those which are permitted.

Someone asks: "Why the delay and the evil edicts against us?"

These are two questions. In answer to the first, as is well known, we have not merited redemption in haste, so now we must work our way through the slow and prodding and painful process of redemption in its time. It only seems "delayed" because we want it right now. But "in its time" means that it is set, like an appointment, for an hour and a day and a year. And when that moment arrives, nothing can stop it, not even our unworthiness.

In answer to the second, I take a bit of exception to the use of the word "evil." It connotes something in opposition to "good." However, these decrees are obviously from Hashem and we know that everything that comes from Hashem is for the ultimate good. It's time we grew up spiritually and stopped thinking in terms of evil vs. good and understand, as is known at the highest levels, that all is good---gam zu letovah! (I say this to myself, first and foremost.)

Our beginning and our final destination are set and unchangeable, but the route by which we choose to reach our destination---or our destiny,which is the same thing---is where our free will comes into play. We can choose the quick, easy route or the long, hard way. This idea is most notably illustrated in yetziat Mitzrayim. We were an eleven day journey from the Promised Land, but because of our sins, it took us forty years and countless heartaches.

Rabbi Mendel Kessin explains it this way:

"A mitzvah is not an end in itself, it is a tikun device for fixing creation. If we don't do mitzvoth, there is a second device which accomplishes the same thing. That's teshuva. But if we don't do teshuva, then there is yet a third device that will get the job done and that is yisurim---suffering. Suffering is not for punishment. It is for tikun."

Yeranen Yaakov asks a very deep question on his blog today (7 December 2009): "...is it true that FFBs could not become Mashiah?"

I'd like to offer my response to that question here. In a way, isn't every "FFB" who has a real and dynamic relationship with HaKadosh Baruch Hu, also a "BT." A personal and ongoing relationship with Hashem, which is what He desires most from each of us, is not something one can be born into or which can be passed down. We have to discover it and develop it for ourselves. The great advantage of being "FFB" is that all the raw materials for building this relationship are already provided for you and the foundation has already been laid. The classic "BT" has to go out and find the materials, drag them back home and build his own foundation from scratch before he can begin to build upon it.

Mashiach could very well come from a traditional family with a very strong and positive Jewish identity, but with an emphasis on secular knowledge and menschlikeit, rather than Torah learning and observance of mitzvot. He was/is very attached spiritually and emotionally to Eretz Yisrael, like Moshe Rabeinu before him, Mashiach was likely placed into an environment which would enhance his ability to both reject anti-Torah values and to relate to every Jew.

Missing him and wishing he were here already...


08 November 2013

Which Mashiach?


5 Kislev 5774
(Re-posting from Kislev 5770)

... Judaism originated the concept of Holy War. No other people on the face of the earth had ever gone to war in the Name of Hashem until the Israelites did. In fact, a case might be made for Levi and Shimon’s decimation of Shechem being the first instance of such a war. It wasn’t just that their sister had been violated, but that this was the daughter of Yaakov, the father of the Jewish nation, who represented Hashem in the world.

Our situation will be similar to what occurred when Moshe Rabeinu first returned to Mitzrayim. Things got much worse before they began to get better.

And so it will be when Mashiach arrives. Anyone who thinks that immediately upon his arrival, everything will turn wonderful is in for a rude awakening.

Mashiach will himself be a cause for division. People will either love him or hate him. Under his leadership, all the dire consequences which the Erev Rav warn about will surely come about. Yes, we will be perceived by many as “Taliban” Jews; reverting to a “third-world country.” They will call us “racists, “bigots” and worse. There will be religious coercion since “religious” law is the law of the land and we coerce civil law. It is only in the minds of westerners that religion is a private matter and not a communal one. Tolerance and pluralism and democracy, which are nice words for society- and soul-destroying concepts, will no longer be used to undermine Torah in the Jewish land. False religions will be abolished from the holy land along with their unholy places and their followers, propagators and sympathizers. But anyone who believes that following Torah will lead to practicing Islam does not know the Torah or the G-d of the Torah.

This is all in the beginning, of course, because as the world slowly begins to see how the ways of Torah lead to peace and pleasantness among brothers, the remnant of the nations will praise us and thank us. As it says in Tehillim (97):

“When Hashem will reign, the world will rejoice; numerous islands will be glad. …Humiliated will be all who worship idols, who pride themselves in worthless gods;…. Zion will hear and be glad, and the daughters of Judah will exult, because of your judgments, Hashem.”

Were you expecting something different? Another kind of Mashiach maybe? If what I’ve written disturbs you, then I would suggest that your Judaism needs a check-up. Your pure and unadulterated Torah may be coated with layers of assimilated ideas, even to the point of being unrecognizable.

Everyone must take a good, hard look into his own soul and judge for himself, if he is really ready to receive Mashiach.

Praying that we all get ready quickly ...