Thursday, December 26, 2013

Rabbi Maimon in Cedarhurst


Received by e-mail

B'ezras Hashem, we will be having a Melaveh Malka this Motza'ei Shabbos (Dec. 28 / 25 Teves) at 7:45 PM with Rav Nasan Maimon.

Location: בית המדרש החיים והשלום / HaChaim v'haShalom
530 Central Avenue, Cedarhurst (next to Citibank).  

Rav Maimon directs the Breslov World Center and is a disciple and son-in-law of Rabbi Zvi Aryeh Rosenfeld, zal, pioneer of Breslov outreach in America.

Bring your musical instruments and spread the word! 

Bentching @ 10 PM.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Rav Kenig in New York


Rav Elazar Mordechai Kenig, shlit"a, leader of the Breslov community in Tsfat, Israel, will be visiting the US for the next two weeks. As in the past, he is staying with the Klein family at 19 Briarwood Place, Monsey, NY. To make an appointment, please call Rabbi Dovid Zeitlin, 718-288-1951

The Rav will probably speak at Shalashudes in the shul in the Klein home, as well as during the Melavaeh Malkah meal. However, please call Rabbi Zeitlin to confirm if you plan to attend.

Have a good Shabbos!

Moses’s First Vision

(C) Dovid Sears

Moses’s First Vision
By Dovid Sears


Moses exemplified the person who feels that he or she doesn’t belong in this world. Thus, he named his firstborn son “Gershom,” explaining “Because I was a stranger (Hebrew: ger) in a strange land” (Exodus 2:22). Moses was an adopted child from a persecuted foreign nation, raised in the house of Pharaoh, who had become the arch-enemy of his people. At the same time, he was rejected by his fellow Israelites, the contentious Dathan and Aviram at the top of the list. In any case, he was unable to live together with his family and nation, both before and after killing the Egyptian taskmaster whom he saw whipping a Hebrew slave to the brink of death. So he fled until he came upon the house of Jethro, the renegade High Priest of Egypt gone into hiding in Midian. Initially, Moses was rejected by his future father-in-law, too. Thrown into a pit, he was secretly sustained for seven years by Jethro’s daughter, Zipporah. Ultimately, he married his compassionate benefactor, and spent what, in the normal course of events, would have been the rest of his life as a shepherd in the desert. Thus, Moses’s perpetual outsider status struck a chord with the collective exile of Israel.

While tending Jethro’s sheep, Moses reached the age of which the Mishnah states, “At eighty, one attains strength.” At eighty, even one who formerly had been deceived by the illusion of this world sees life as a “fleeting shadow” (Psalms 144:4). All of this seems to have been a prerequisite for Moses’s first prophetic vision.

The vehicle that God chose to summon Moses was the “burning bush that is not consumed” (Exodus 3:2). Seeing the conflagration in the distance, Moses called it “this great sight.” What was so great about it? What did God wish to communicate through this symbol?

The Torah states that God is revealed through fire, as the verse states, “He is a consuming fire” (Deuteronomy 4:24). This accounts for one aspect of Moses’s vision. The desert bush itself is a symbol of humility. As the Talmudic Sages taught, “Wherever you find the greatness of the Holy One, blessed be He, there you find His humility.” True greatness is revealed through humility. Therefore, the vision of the burning bush teaches that God reveals Himself only to one who is humble, like Moses.

This interpretation is instructive for us. But why did Moses need to witness this? Didn’t the very fact that he was granted this vision show that he had already attained this level? We must try to consider the meaning of the desert vision from Moses’s point of view.

The fire of the burning bush represents the impermanence of this world. However, the fact that the bush was not consumed suggests that there is something indestructible and enduring within the transitory and ephemeral. Thus, the vision is a symbol of the very paradox of reality: that impermanence and immutability, time and eternity, are one.

At the same time, this may be understood as a vision of Moses himself, a mirror of enlightened being: within the historical “self,” represented by fire, resides the Divine, represented by the unconsumed bush. As the kabbalist Rabbi Shabsai Sheftel Horowitz of Prague (1565-1619) states: “The soul is a portion of God Above.” Thus, it endures forever.

This vision is the gist of the Redemption: the realization of the Divine Oneness that surpasses all change and decay, in which dualism and conflict dissolve, peace reigns, and “death is swallowed up forever” (Isaiah 25:8). Thus the fire of the burning bush may be compared to the tekhelet – the blue thread in the ritual fringes that Jewish men are biblically required to wear on their four-cornered garments. Chassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810) relates the word tekhelet to takhlit, meaning the ultimate goal of creation. Of this, the Zohar (“Book of Splendor”) states that the spiritual power of the blue thread “consumes and destroys.” It is the aspect of holiness that destroys all evil, while giving life to the righteous.

A final question: Why was Moses shown this vision immediately prior to the Exodus? As the Redeemer of Israel, his task was to transmit this perception to the rest of the people. As Moses declared during the incident of Eldad and Medad, “Would that all of God’s people were prophets, if God would but place His spirit upon them!” (Numbers 11:29)

This depended on Moses in particular, because “Moses is Israel, and Israel is Moses.” All souls are incorporated within the collective souls of the righteous, such as Moses, bound to one another in unity.

This unity, too, is represented by fire. Rabbi Nachman of Breslov observes, “The soul is like a candle, as it is written, ‘The soul of man is the candle of God’ (Proverbs 20:27). When many souls converge, this produces light, which in turn produces joy. This is the paradigm of ‘the light of the righteous brings joy’ (Proverbs 13:9).”

Light shines when the inner unity of all separate minds and all being becomes manifest. This is one aspect of the Redemption. And joy is an aspect of the Redemption, as it is written: “For you shall go forth in joy” (Isaiah 55:12)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Honest Money


A Talk from Reb Levi Yitschak Bender z”l
Talk 62
Translated by Rabbi Perets Auerbach

Care in Monetary Laws:
Not to Touch a Penny of Another

In Uman there was a certain wealthy woman who feared Hashem. In the past she was involved in business transactions with Reb Moshe Breslover.[1] Due to this, he owed her a nice sum of money.

This woman looked for a chance to meet Reb Moshe, in order to remind him about the money. She heard that he always prayed as the shaliach tsibbur [cantor] for Minchah on the day before Rosh HaShanah. So she decided that this would be a good time to remind him of the debt.

On the day before Rosh HaShanah, as the day grew late, she waited for Reb Moshe at the door to the Breslover Kloyz. When he arrived, she called to him only one word: “Nu?!

Meaning – where is the money?

Some of the supporters of the congregation who understood what was going on inquired about the details of the debt. They promised to return the money to her immediately after Rosh HaShanah. She calmed down.

*

Let us come and think: Reb Moshe Breslover—do we have any idea who Reb Moshe Breslover was? He was a tsaddik, a Torah scholar, someone who grasped Divinity, one of the “lions” of the disciples of Reb Noson. But despite all this, when he owed her money, that righeous woman who feared Hashem approached him directly, without shame, on the very day before Rosh HaShanah and demanded what was coming to her: “Nu, nu…”

He was the shaliach tsibbur of the Kloyz, a tsaddik, someone who served Hashem, and a Torah scholar. But what about the money he owed?

*

By the way, once a great sum of money was stolen from Reb Moshe Breslover. What could be done to restore the money? He sat down to learn Likutey Halakhos on the laws of theft and stealing. And the money was immediately returned to him in a wondrous way.

Be Careful Not to Have Debts

The Rebbe warned us very much not to have debts—not to borrow money. The practice to live through borrowing is a terrible illness, physically and spiritually. So much so that debts are counted among the things that prevent teshuvah. As the Rebbe writes in Sefer HaMidos, Teshuvah 46: “One who wants to repent should be careful not to have debts.”

AnaSH (our circle of Breslover Chassidim) would say a nice interpretation: The Mishnah states, “Repent one day before your death”[2] – meaning that one should repent today, lest he die tomorrow.[3] If so, how can one go and borrow money from people? Who knows what may happen to him, chas vi-shalom? Therefore, debts obstruct teshuvah.[4]

R. Levy Yitschak would say, “My whole life, I never took any credit in a store – even from one day to the next.”[5]

When a person abstains from borrowing, only then can he be careful that someone else’s kapik [penny] is holy in his eyes.

Is It Clean Without Any Stain?

There are things that must be spoken about: even though a person might be a tsaddik and a scholar, holy and pure, one of the “masters of spiritual account”—it is also imperative to make a thorough investigation from time to time: is one’s money absolutely his? Is one totally clean of any stain of touching someone else’s money? Are there no questions about your money? Is there not mixed with your finances something that belongs to someone else?

And if it becomes clear to a person that he has to return something—he must return it on the spot! Do not hold onto money that is not yours, even for a short time. Before strife breaks out, avoid any negotiation and conflict, even if you think you are right. Return the money and prevent problems!

And if doubts are stirred up within you—to whom does certain money belong?—be stringent. Give back more, until all doubt leaves your heart.

Pure Air – Through Pure Money!

The Rebbe says that through charity the air becomes clean and pure.[6]

Every talk of the Rebbe, each statement, is a gift of healing granted to us by the Rebbe, an amazing remedy to heal spiritual ailments. The lessons of the Rebbe are a spirtual “drugstore.” When one learns some lesson or talk, it is necessary to look into it deeply, to descend to the depths of the matter in order to know specifically what is incumbent upon us to do. For the remedy to work and do good for those who use it,  it is necessary to be exacting with the words of the Rebbe, at least like people who are exacting about medicine.

Therefore, let us come and hear what the Rebbe says.

The Rebbe says that through charity the air is made clean and pure. Meaning, if we want that among us, the people of the Tsaddik should rest in clear, pure air, without a storm wind breaking out—how can this be accomplished? Through the charity that one gives to his friend.

It is imperative to strive that calm, clean air should rest upon our friends. From this it is possible to learn that that initially it is incumbent upon us to be on guard and careful with all types of care from touching someone else’s money illegally. Not to touch it—that’s that! And also one must examine oneself deeply over everything concerning others—small and large, whatever it may be. Make sure you are acting properly, whether in monetary matters, whether in general offences, “stinging and stabbing.” Be careful not to make a “nothing” into something. Take stock of the day’s occurrences in these matters too.

It rests upon us to know that relations between people are not insignificant. This is not at all something trivial. It is something foundational, from the basics of being Jewish. And nothing helps for this, not rolling in the snow, and not fasts and mortifications.

When there is a monetary question, it needs to be resolved according to Torah law. There is no other solution.

Behold, we need to hear what is spoken and what is learned. When the air is not calm and clear, the topic is not heard.

This is simple and clear. When there is no perfection and cleanness of hands in finances, calm clear air is not produced. Automatically, one does not hear the words that the tsaddik speaks to us – to each one of us…

Someone Else’s Money – Something that the Soul Depends Upon!

It is necessary to be extremely careful in monetary laws!

Reb Moshe Breslover was a scholar and a tsaddik. When he owed money, that woman knew that he was pure and holy. She wanted him to fix this. She called, “Nu – what about the money?”

The topic is something that the soul depends upon—someone else’s money! It has no tikkun and solution except to return it.

May Hashem help that we be complete in this fundamental matter.

The Complication and Solution in Merit of Standing Tests

There is a well-known story of Reb Shimon, a disciple of the Rebbe, that the Rebbe once lent him money. He got caught in a bad deal and was left owing money to the Rebbe.

One day the Rebbe spoke about him and said: “Er hut dezervd men zol im farshikin (He deserves to be banished).”

Things happened—it was from Hashem, that due to the business he had done, he traveled far away and wandered deep into the vastness of the great Russia. There range countless areas spanning thousands of kilometers where there is no remembrance of any Jew and Judaism. So in the way of nature, he already had no possibility of returning to his place and his city. Three full years he wandered in the colossal region of Russia.

Now, Reb Shimon was the first disciple of the Rebbe. He was a tremendous holy and pure soul. He wandered in a strange, distant land, but he strayed there in order to be tested. Since he was also outwardly handsome to behold, a certain gentile woman from the ruling class tried to seduce him to sin. Reb Shimon – the holy Rebbe Shimon!

Seeing into what difficult circumstances he had fallen, knowing that it would be hard to get away from her, he stood up and with great power, grabbed his lip and ripped it deeply. Much blood immediately broke out and poured onto his beard and his garments,

She could not stand before the great mesirus nefesh of Reb Shimon. Seeing this, she left him alone.

*

At that very time, when Reb Shimon withstood the great test with mesirus nefesh, the Rebbe sat with his Chassidim. He spoke up and said, “S’iz shoin af im a rachmanus. Medarf im aros nemin fun dort (It is a pity on him! We have to immediately take him out of there)!”

Immediately after this, everything turned around, and Reb Shimon left the place of his banishment and returned to the Rebbe.

*

Reb Shimon was holy and pure on such a lofty level that the Rebbe testified about him that his name hinted to his nature: Shin-Mem-Ayin-Vav-Nun (Shimon) may be rearranged as Ayin-Vav-Nun-Mem-Shin, which spell avon mash (“void of sin”).[7] We see from here that even Reb Shimon had to go through a difficult tikkun related to monetary matters. He got caught in a problem and ended up wandering in exile for three years, until by merit of the test that he withstood, he merited to return to the Rebbe.[8]

*

May Hashem Yisbarach help that we hear and listen to the voice of the Rebbe in everything he says. And that we fulfill all of his advice. And that we do not turn from his words to the right or left—including the severe directive to take care in monetary matters!





[1] Reb Moshe was one of the leading disciples of Reb Noson
[2] Avos 2:10
[3] Avos d’R Nasan 15:4
[4] Siach Sarfei Kodesh 4:65
[5] Ibid 6:475
[6] Likutey Moharan I, 17:5
[7] Sichos HaRan 44
[8] The story does not in the least imply that Reb Shimon actually did anything wrong. Rather, the Rebbe saw that he had some tikkun in going through exile and tests, and used the matter between them as a way of bringing this about for his ultimate good. But the fact that the whole matter was staged through a monetary issue does come to demonstrate how careful one has to be in these things.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Hilulah of Reb Noson in Boro Park

Received via e-mail:

There will iy"h be a seudah honoring the 
Hilulah of Reb Noson zatzal
This Thursday Night

The Breslov Shtiebel
7:30 PM
5504 16th Ave

Those who want to be mishtatef to help out and donate part of the cost of the Seudah
please reply to this email 


Or click on the Donate link
(You can use a credit card as well -- you do not have to have a PayPal account)

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or call either
R' Mayer Wasilski 718-974-7495
R' Yitchok Alter Fish 917-577-0668
R' Shlome Yitzchok Lichter 718-496-2810

Monday, December 9, 2013

Honesty as a Mystical Experience

(Painting by Rembrandt)

Honesty as a Mystical Experience

Likutey Moharan I, 93
Dovid Sears
(with the help of the BRI English Likutey Moharan)

In a previous posting, Giving and Spiritual Transformation, we discussed part of Rebbe Nachman’s teaching in Likutey Moharan, Torah 13, as follows (Likutey Moharan in bold and our comments in timid):

The “Levites’ Song” corresponds to the paradigm of doing business with emunah (faith): one rejoices in his portion and does not run after riches. For melody is equivalent to doing business [Hebrew: masa u-matan, literally, “picking up and giving”]. As it is written, “Pick up a tune, and give [i.e., beat] the hand-drum” (Psalms 81:3).

The Hebrew words for “pick up” and “give” are related to masa u-matan, the “give and take” of business. Obsessed with reaping large profits, a person may approach business as a fierce battle; or on the contrary, he or she may approach it as merely a way of making a vessel for God’s blessings. One who chooses the latter course will primarily rely upon God, not upon clever strategies in which material ends too often justify unethical means. This is masa u-matan bi-emunah, doing business in a way that reflects faith in God. The “Levites’ song,” which in context of this lesson expresses the balance of the opposite energies of joy and stringency, Chesed and Gevurah, is present there, in the give and take of honest exchange.

“Joy” [of the Levites’ song] corresponds to one who is happy with his lot (Avos 4:1).

This alludes to the “music of life”: one lives in harmony with the Divine will, accepting good and bad with equanimity, and withdraws from trying to manipulate the world through various strategies. This music is joyous because it is free of the fear and insecurity that lie at the root of ego. Moreover, by relying upon God, one cleaves to Him; and it is written, “Might and gladness are in His Place” (I Chronicles 16:27). Then, Rebbe Nachman teaches, Divine Providence is complete. Effortlessly, one is strong; effortlessly, one is joyous.

***

The connection the Rebbe draws between the sublime music of the Levites in the Holy Temple (which represents the essence of holy song), and the extremely mundane activity of doing business seems to be quite a leap. But we can understand this better in light of another teaching from the Rebbe about masa u-matan bi-emunah, conducting one’s business affairs honestly: Likutey Moharan I, 93.

Whoever does business with emunah fulfills the positive mitzvah of “you shall love G-d” (Deuteronomy 6:5). This mitzvah is the root of all positive mitzvos; as it is written in the Tikkuney Zohar on the verse [describing Isaac’s instructions to his son Esau], “Then prepare a tasty dish for me, the way I love it” (Genesis 27:4)—from the positive mitzvos.”

In his commentary on this lesson in the BRI English edition of Likutey Moharan (Vol. IX), Rabbi Chaim Kramer observes that the Tikkuney Zohar reads Isaac’s instructions as if they had been uttered by G-d, expressing Divine preference for the positive mitzvos: “Then prepare a tasty dish for Me”—from the holy sparks [contained in the physical world]—“the way I love it—by performing the positive mitzvos, which are the aspect of love and kindness, and not as I detest—through the prohibitive mitzvos, which are the aspect of fear (Tikkuney Zohar, Tikkun 21, 52a, according to Matok Midvash, ad loc.).

And how does one perform the mitzvah of “you shall love G-d?” As the Gemara states on the verse “you shall love”—that the Name of Heaven should become beloved through you (Yoma 86a). How? When a person has read [the Written Torah] and studied [the Oral Torah] and attended Torah scholars, and he deals with people pleasantly, and he conducts his business with emunah—what do people say? “Fortunate is the one who taught him Torah”(ibid.). Thus, Heaven’s Name becomes beloved through him, and he fulfills the positive mitzvah of “you shall love,” which is the root of all the mitzvos.

With this, Rebbe Nachman stresses that facilitating love of God in others is the root of all the positive commandments of the Torah, and this is the way G-d wishes that we show our love for Him. Thus, love of God is not only a subjective experience, attained through contemplation, but also entails action, bringing others “into the loop.” This teaches us the central importance of kiddush Hashem, honoring God’s Name by following the Torah in the fullest possible manner, and not a chillul Hashem, descrating God’s Name by failing to live up to the Torah’s ideals.

The Rebbe goes on to state that this has a mystical dimension, as well:

Moreover, by doing business faithfully one reaches a level that transcends time. As the Gemara concludes (ad loc.): “Concerning him [i.e., the individual who brings others to love G-d] Scripture says, ‘Israel, in you I take pride’ (Isaiah 49:3).

That is, by doing business honestly, a person becomes worthy of God’s taking pride in him and calling him “Israel.” Now he is living up to his name and his Divine mission.  

The Rebbe explains why such honesty in business elevates the person “above time”:

Israel exists “in [the Divine] thought,” as in the teaching of our Sages (Bereishis Rabbah 1:5): “Israel arose in [G-d’s primordial] thought.”

Kabbalistically, the level of G-d’s primordial “thought” is associated with the sefirah of Chokhmah (Wisdom), which is the first of the ten sefiros, and corresponds to the first letter “yod” in the four-letter Divine Name Yod-Heh-Vav-Heh (YHVH).

This alludes to G-d’s designation of the Jewish people as “My firstborn, Israel” (Exodus 4:22). According to the Arizal, the letters of the name “Israel (Hebrew: Yisrael”) may be rearranged to spell “li-rosh,” meaning “the first is Mine.” In this lesson, this is indicated by “Israel arose in thought” (see Sefer HaLikkutim, Acharey Mos, 16).

Therefore, every Jew is essentially bound up with the Divine thought, which is his point of origin. And one can realize that spiritual potential primarily through facilitating love of G-d in the world, which as the Rebbe stated above, is the root of all the positive commandments of the Torah.

And thought transcends time.

This alludes to expanded consciousness (Rav Nachman Goldstein of Tcherin, Tefilos vi-Tachanunim I, 4), which is associated with the sefirah of Chokhmah and nondual awareness (see Likutey Moharan I, 234).

Reb Noson adds in conclusion:


By conducting one’s business activities faithfully one can pray with a clear mind. For prayer too transcends time, in that it is “something that stands at the heights of the universe” (Berakhos 6b). By attaining “love” one can attain expanded consciousness, so that one may pray with a clear mind.  

Jewcology: Eat Less Meat


Received via Jewcology.com:

Eat Less Meat

Action: Replace one six-ounce portion of beef with a plant-based meal each week. 

While red meat is widely known as a cholesterol and high blood pressure culprit, it also has an effect on the health of our planet. The production of meat is much more costly in terms of energy than the production of plant foods.  

Replacing one serving of beef with a plant-based food significantly cuts associated greenhouse gas emissions, due to the combination of the reduction in required input energy from fossil fuels to grow plants vs. livestock and the fact that cattle, unlike vegetables, produce methane gas as a consequence of enteric fermentation, a greenhouse gas over 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

Eating lower on the food chain means lower energy costs for food production. Beans or nuts make protein- rich alternatives to meat, as do quinoa, tempeh, and many kinds of vegetables, such as kale, broccoli or spinach.

*Thanks to the Jewish Vegetarians of North America for helping us think through this action.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

New Sefer by Reb Nachman Burstein

Otzar Nachmeini

We are happy to announce that "Otzar Nachmeini," a collection of talks by Rabbi Nachman Burstein, one of the outstanding and beloved Breslov teachers of Yerushalyim, has been published. 

Rabbi Moshe Rosen of "Everything Breslov" states: "True to it's name this sefer is a treasure chest of  conversations with the elders of this past generation, revealing many interesting and unknown facts and relating many amusing and amazing stories of bygone times that have not been published elsewhere. It is the type of sefer that once you take into your hands, you won't be able to put down." It may be purchased online from Everything Breslov.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Why The Greeks Don’t Eat Latkes!


Received by e-mail:

Why The Greeks Don’t Eat Latkes!
 
Wednesday night is Zos Chanukah, a day which Rebbe Nachman of Breslov explains is the joyous culmination of our avodah on Yom Kippur.

In honor of Zos Chanukah, please join us in a special woman’s shiur with Chaya Rivka Zwolinski of BreslovWoman.org, based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
 
We’ll be exploring the difference between the Greek and Jewish worldview, the roots of the struggle between them as revealed by Rebbe Nachman and Reb Nosson, and how this affects us today.
 
Place: The Home of Breslov artist and author of the "Naturally Breslov" cookbook, Mrs. Atara Grenadir
721 East 7th Street, (corner of 18th Avenue), Apt. 2 (2nd Floor), Brooklyn, NY
 
Date: "Zos Chanukah" Wednesday, December 4th
 
Time: 8:15 PM