Sunday, September 23, 2018

Happy Sukkot 5779


“For a seven day period you shall live in booths. Every resident among the Israelites shall live in booths, in order that your [ensuing] generations should know that I had the children of Israel live in booths when I took them out of the land of Egypt. I am the Lord, your God.”

Vayikra (Leviticus) 23: 42-43

Garden of Eden Sukkah by Yoram Raanan, captures the essence of the the Jewish festival of Sukkot. Raanan writes on the Chabad site: “The experience of dwelling in a sukkah is about moving out of the material comforts of our homes, to be exposed to nature and to live in the ‘shadow of faith’. In this intriguing Garden of Eden Sukkah, a flowing light radiates under a starry sky in an enchanting primeval forest. The ushpizin, the festival’s mystical guests who visit the sukkah each night, are depicted in the shadow of blue, reflecting how they empower us to connect to seven different dimensions of our soul each night.” Sukkot (סֻכּוֹת‬; “Booths”) is a weeklong festival that begins after sundown tonight (15 Tishrei) and lasts till September 30th (21 Tishrei) or October 1st (22 Tishrei) outside Eretz Israel). Outside Israel, the eighth day of Sukkot coincides with Shemini Atzeret. It is a joyous holiday that leads to Simchat Torah. For more on Sukkot, go [here].
Courtesy: Chabad-Lubavitch and Yoram Raanan

Ushpizin: ‘We Need a Miracle’ (2004)

Ushpizin (2004): “We Need a Miracle” from a scene in the Israeli film, Ushpizin directed by Gidi Dar and written by and starring Shuli Rand and his wife Michal Bat Sheva Rand, which looks at the meaning of Sukkot, particularly as to the power of faith when material circumstances make it more difficult to believe. Yet, one still wants to believe. In Judaism this requires both emunah (אמונה; faith) and bitachon (בטחון; trust ), essentially not only having knowledge of but also retaining trust in Hashem. In His goodness, mercy and justice, or as one article, by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller and Sara Yoheved Rigler, in, puts it (“Trusting God;” November 18, 2000), “believing that there is an end to the story, and that if we could know the end we would have no doubts now.” Bitachon means not surrendering to such doubts, but to see a plan, a grand plan if you will, and to move forward to fulfill it. As for the film’s title, Ushpizin ( אושפיזין; “guests“) is an Aramaic word for guests, but just not any guests. They refer to the seven supernal guests, holy guests, “the founding fathers” of the Jewish people, who come to visit us in the sukkah: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, Aaron, Joseph, and David. See this film if you already haven’t done so already. Or see it again. You will surely find it an inspiring delight. Chag Sukkot Sameach.
Via: Youtube

Friday, September 21, 2018

The Rebbe: The Jewish People Are Unlike The Nations (1977)

The Jewish People & The Torah

ו  אֲנִי יְהוָה קְרָאתִיךָ בְצֶדֶק, וְאַחְזֵק בְּיָדֶךָ; וְאֶצָּרְךָ, וְאֶתֶּנְךָ לִבְרִית עָם--לְאוֹר גּוֹיִם.6 I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and have taken hold of thy hand, and kept thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations;
ז  לִפְקֹחַ, עֵינַיִם עִוְרוֹת; לְהוֹצִיא מִמַּסְגֵּר אַסִּיר, מִבֵּית כֶּלֶא יֹשְׁבֵי חֹשֶׁךְ.7 To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison-house.
ח  אֲנִי יְהוָה, הוּא שְׁמִי; וּכְבוֹדִי לְאַחֵר לֹא-אֶתֵּן, וּתְהִלָּתִי לַפְּסִילִים.8 I am the LORD, that is My name; and My glory will I not give to another, neither My praise to graven images.

The Rebbe’s Approach to Outreach  is an excerpt from a talk that Menachem Mendel Schneerson, the Seventh Lubavitcher Rebbe, gave on 12 Tammuz 5737 (June 28, 1977). The Chabad-Lubavitch site notes one of the reasons for this talk: a spirited defense of Orthodox Judaism and its rabbinical traditions that come out of the Torah: “There is a school of thought that in order to bring close ‘alienated’ Jews we must go to them with an abridged and reformed version of Torah. But others have tried this approach before them. Although we’ve already seen where the compromises lead–that they not only do not bring close those who are far from their heritage, but they actually drive away those who are close–the evil inclination is again raising a tumult that this is the way to save Jewish youth. So they try new experiments, on living Jewish souls and living Jewish bodies! The problem stems from the philosophy that the Jewish people are like all other nations—they must emulate gentile values and lifestyles, instead of themselves being a light unto these nations.”
Via: Youtube & Jewish Media

Monday, September 17, 2018

The Power of Teshuvah: Rabbi Alon Anava


Rabbi Alon Anava: The Power of Teshuvah, which applies to every Jew and even more so during these Ten Days of Teshuvah before Yom Kippur. Rabbi Alon Anava has his  own personal story on teshuvah, or return, specifically on return to  life after death. Such was the case for a Jewish atheist named Alon, growing up in a secular Israeli home and who was very anti-religious. The 28-year-old Alon Anava became religious through what is called a Near Death Experience (NDE) while riding in the back seat of a New York City taxi on the evening before Pesakh 2001: after sunset on Friday April 6, 2001 (or 14 Nisan 5761). For more details, go [here].
Via: Youtube

Gemar Chatima Tovah ("a good and final sealing": גמר חתימה טובה) and an easy fast to all.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Thinking About Teshuvah


“There is no sin that cannot be mended and remedied by teshuvah. Teshuvah removes a burdensome past and opens the door to a new future. It means renewal, rebirth. The ba'al teshuvah becomes a different, new, person. It is much more than correction, more than rectification. Teshuvah elevates to a status even higher than the one prior to all sin. Even the perfectly righteous are surpassed by the ba'al teshuvah.”

Rabbi Dr. J. Immanuel Schochet [1935–2013],
The Dynamics of Teshuvah;”
 To Touch the Divine (1999);
as posted on

In a few days will be Yom Kippur (יוֹם כִּיפּוּר‬; Day of Atonement) and also called “Sabbath of absolute rest” (Leviticus 16:31), the culmination of the Ten Days of Repentance. It is a holy day. During this period of rest, Jews throughout the world are free to think about the merits of teshuvah (תשובה; return). The article, by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet, which I quote above,  is worth reading in its entirety. 

I also like what Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene, writes (“Yom Kippur: Of Angels & Men;” October 7, 2005) on the subject of return for
The literal translation of the word teshuvah, repentance is “returning to oneself”. Where a person has deviated from the pathway of life by not observing the Torah laws, to achieve forgiveness, it is imperative that he “returns back on track”. This means identifying himself with his soul and not associated himself with his body.
In other words, the return is to Torah Judaism, not always an easy task, and often not an appealing one for many Jews in the world, who know not where the soul is or where it can be found. The body we all can both see and feel; the soul, on the other hand, is not tangible, and yet it is very much a part of us. Thus, I sense that it is important that each Jew ought to move in such a direction, step by step, if he is to find some meaning and a sense of peace in life. If he is to rediscover his true self.

The same rabbi ends this brief article with the following piece of good advice: 
The way to national and personal forgiveness is to confess and repent by declaring complete detachment from one’s past failures, when the external kernel and layers of sin are discarded. This is Yom Kippur’s atonement, when the true nature of every Jew, his pristine spiritual soul, is of paramount importance.
This is an encouraging thought, one that helps to better one’s mental heath and move us away from discouragement and despair. Past failures do not and should not weigh us down, and equally important should not define who we are. Each Jew can return to himself or herself, the way he or she is meant to be. Each mitzvah is an accomplishment for the soul, helping us to ascend higher. This is very freeing, and a thought that can lead to peace of mind; and more so if one could put this into daily practice and live like this.

The rabbis say not only that we should but also that we can.