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Showing posts from September, 2020


      Much has been said about whether a person should eat or drink before davening in the morning. Among the considerations is the classic “Do you eat to daven or daven to eat,” or in other words, are you taking a little nourishment before davening so that you have the energy and are not distracted, and can daven with greater concentration, or are you just rushing through your davening—hungry or not—so that you can eat as soon as possible? The opinion that spoke to me (and this is just me) was that black coffee is pretty much accepted by most, which for me is a great thing, because I have loved black coffee for many, many years.   This morning, as I enjoyed that first (actually second) cup of coffee and was beginning to focus on my davening, I recalled the lessons from Rabbi Weinberg on the bracha of Shehakol Nihyeh Bi’dvaro (see REVERSE RIPPLE) and Borei Pri Ha’eitz (see ORANGE CONCENTRATE).   We learned of the exponentially expanding pieces that set the stage prior to e


    “Who creates the fruit of the trees.” Seems pretty basic and straightforward. Hashem created the world; Hashem placed fruit-bearing trees in it. We tend the trees, the trees yield fruit ,and we harvest and eat the fruit.   It can be pretty easy to limit one’s focus to that alone when making brachot over fruit (or anything else we eat) for that matter. And after years of eating foods, it wouldn’t   be hard for it to become absolutely rote.   Rabbi Weinberg נ׳׳י taught me how to make a bracha based on the approach of his father, Rav Yaakov Weinberg זצ׳׳ל . The idea is to first know how to eat — pretty much an exercise in mindfulness—and by example, specifically, how to eat an orange.   The intent is to fully appreciate every aspect of the orange before making a bracha and taking that first bite—the color; its symmetrical, beautiful shape; the unique smooth or slightly bumpy texture. Then you’re ready to maybe dig your thumb in at the top and begin to peel it. Perh


  One of the most frequently recited brachot that, in some ways, seems to get a bad rap, is the bracha recited over many “less-specific” foods, Shehakol Nihyeh Bi’dvaro (by Whose word all comes to be). Perhaps it is seen by some as less important than others, given it’s not at the level of bread or wine; nor is it one of the seven species, or fruits or vegetables that seem to get their own brachot . It’s kind of the Kol Bo of brachot , a catch-all for everything without its own bracha , or worse yet, the bracha many make when they have no idea which bracha to recite.   Yet.   Water.   We can’t live without it. We can’t grow the grains we use to bake bread, the grapes for wine, or the plants and vegetables that all have their own brachot . Perhaps Shehakol Nihyeh Bi’dvaro is actually one of the most important brachot , which brings to mind a discussion with Rabbi Weinberg נ׳׳י .   At the beginning of our weekly chabura, we learned what I would call the “reverse

Loving Healing

  Tehilim 147   As I was davening the Pesukei D’Zimra (morning blessings of praise) this morning and reached the five closing psalms of Sefer Tehilim (Psalms), I was struck by these two phrases (with gratitude to Sefaria for the translation): הָ֭רֹפֵא לִשְׁב֣וּרֵי לֵ֑ב וּ֝מְחַבֵּ֗שׁ לְעַצְּבוֹתָֽם : He heals their broken hearts, and binds up their wounds. (147:3)   Or as I understand the targum as articulated by the Siddur Yesod Malchut: ה׳ מרפא לאלה השבורים בלבם, ומרפא את צערתם : Hashem heals those who are broken in their hearts and heals their anguish.   מוֹנֶ֣ה מִ֭סְפָּר לַכּוֹכָבִ֑ים לְ֝כֻלָּ֗ם שֵׁמ֥וֹת יִקְרָֽא He reckoned the number of the stars; to each He gave its name. (147:4) Again, wi th a little bit of help from my friend, the Yesod Malchut targum: יודע למנות את מספר הכוכבים, ולכל אחד בשם מיוחד יקרא : He knows to count the number of the stars, and He has given each one by a special, individual name , which , as Rabbi Weinberg נ׳׳י has taught,

One Second, I am getting an invitation!

  שׁ֚וּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֖ד יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ כִּ֥י כָשַׁ֖לְתָּ בַּעֲוֺנֶֽךָ  (Hoseah,14:2- Haftara of Shabbos Shuva) Return, O Israel, to the [Hashem] your God, For you have fallen, stumbled because of your sin. Why are you doing Teshuvah ? Do I need a Navie to tell me to do Teshuvah because I sinned? What does the word עַ֖ד mean in the verse? עַ֖ד means to come toward.  Therefore, שׁ֚וּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל Return, O Israel, is an invitation to reach toward Hashem, and not because you sinned but because you are down, so therefore the Navie says ,"just start the process".  If you are only doing Teshuvah because we are down it is still okay and that is this Nevuah, prophecy.  That is why many people use this intention of coming toward Hashem, שׁ֚וּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל עַ֖ד יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֑יךָ when taking the three steps up in Shmone Esray , the Amidah prayer. First step: I am getting an invitation..שׁ֚וּבָה יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל, Return O Israel.  Hashem is reaching His hand   anthropomorphica

Power and Balance- Morning Blessings

אוזר ישראל בגבורה , Who Girds Israel with Strength Our greatest power we have is our ability to choose.  Real choice contains a battle. In other words without a conflict it is no choice at all . Therefore choice requires strength.  When we make the choice for good, our very nature changes and we elevate ourselves and the world. When that happens we are given the name Israel. To me, it is the time to remind ourselves of the power Hashem has given us to earn the name Israel.  I thank You HaShem for giving us the ultimate empowerment tool! עוטר ישראל בתפארה, Who Crowns Israel with Splendor Since there is conflict in a battle, we are by definition confronting a limitation, either a limited perception, or vision, or thought processes, difficult situations,  ourselves ultimately etc.. when we fight it out until we find our higher desires, our real "Ratzon" and choose accordingly; we are then using the very limitation, or a situation that seemed harsh, or difficult and changing its

A Seed

Es Tzemach Dovid- The Alter Rebbie, Rabbi Schnuer Zalman of Liadi, in his work called the Likkutei Torah says that a seed has absolutely no taste. It's inedible. Even though it's inedible, and has no taste or anything. However, when something grows from the seed, it's filled with the most marvelous things, and tastes. He understands the words of the  verse  וּכְגַנָּ֖ה זֵרוּעֶ֣יהָ תַצְמִ֑יחַ, And a garden makes the seed shoot up;  means that there are times one does Mitzvot or times one learns Torah, and times one prays, and it just seems dry to a person. The person feels almost as if he or she is not getting anything out of it. The person feels as if he is not growing, so on and so forth. But this verse is a promise that those who believe and are committed, it will be  וּכְגַנָּ֖ה זֵרוּעֶ֣יהָ תַצְמִ֑יחַ.  Meaning,  that every effort they put into their Avodas Hashem , their service of Hashem, is like a seed that eventually will grow into a beautiful and tasty treat. Conc

Battle without Fear

  The Shofar Helps Us Battle without Fear               Elul forces us to think ahead to the coming year, and we may fear what lies ahead, visualizing a constant battle. However, “we are prohibited from panicking and retreating during battle” ( Mishneh Torah : Hilchot Melachim Umilchamot ). The Torah demands that we go beyond courage to attain fearlessness. The blasts of the Elul shofar are a call to engage in battle without fear. By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

Making Requests of God

  Making Requests of God               Before Rosh Hashanah, a person should ask God to help him experience an infinite prayer on Rosh Hashanah, so that when he requests, “Remember us for life,” he will have an expansive awareness of what life is.             And he should also ask God to help him attain the fear of heaven. In particular, he should ask for the fear of heaven described by the Baal Shem Tov, in which a person’s relationship with God is so powerful that he is constantly concerned not to do anything that would damage that relationship. By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg, n''y

Our Sincere Prayers Help Us Hear

  Our Sincere Prayers Help Us Hear the Message of the Shofar               “And he said to me, ‘Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all of the words that I speak to you’” ( Ezekiel 3:10). “Once you have heard what I say to you, take it to heart so that you will not forget” (Radak).             The best way to prepare to hear the shofar and take its message to heart is to listen carefully to the words of prayer during Elul, discerning its messages, and applying them in our lives. By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

God’s Friendship for Us

  The Shofar Expresses God’s Friendship for Us               One of the sounds of the shofar is terua , which may be translated as “friendship.” In keeping with this meaning, a verse states, “The friendship [ terua ] of the King is with [the nation of Israel]” ( Numbers 23:21).             When we blow the shofar during Elul, we experience God’s friendship. The shofar represents God calling out to us. It is the way in which He declares, “I love you.”             My rebbe, [?], once said: Imagine two scenarios. In one, as you pass by a window, you hear someone call out, “Help!” In the other, as you pass by a window, you hear a scream.             The second scenario will move you more, because a scream is primal. It expresses a person’s essence. In speech, the listener has to care about what the speaker is saying, but that is not necessary in the case of a scream.             During Elul, the shofar is God’s voice calling out to us. It is His outcry: “I am pained because yo

Dealing with What Is Broken

  The Shofar Represents Our Dealing with What Is Broken               Sins are called “breaking” (Radak on Psalms 17). Every time a person sins, he breaks something ( Akeidas Yitzchak : Chapter 67, Parshat Shoftim ). In particular, he breaks his relationship with God.             Elul is the time for us to repair or replace the things in our lives that have broken away from God. That is why, during Elul, God gave Moses the second set of Tablets to replace the broken first set . And, the Shelah says, that is why there are a great number of laws discussing whether or not a person can use a shofar that is in some way broken. During Elul, we must deal with the matters in our lives that are broken. By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg, n''y

Positive Expectations

  We Blow the Shofar with Positive Expectations               At the time of the splitting of the Red Sea, Miriam “took her drum in her hand, and all the women went forth after her with drums and circle dances” ( Exodus 15:20).             How was it that the women had musical instruments? Rashi explains that, when they saw God’s miracles in Egypt, they expected Him to perform yet more miracles after the Exodus. Therefore, they brought musical instruments along with which to accompany themselves when they would sing His praises in thanksgiving.             The word for “circle dance,” mecholah , is related to the word for “forgiveness,” mechilah . Those who see life through the eyes of positive expectation will be forgiven their misdeeds. As a result, they will be privileged to dance in the world-to-come. Thus, “In the days to come, the Holy One, blessed be He, will arrange a circle dance for the righteous” ( Ta’anit 31a).             Elul is a month of positive expectation

Become Beautiful

  The Shofar Helps Us Become Beautiful               The Hebrew word for “beautiful,” shafra , is related to “shofar.” When Moses ascended Mt. Sinai during Elul, the Jews in the desert blew the shofar to remind themselves that in order to receive the Second Tablets of the Covenant they would have to beautify themselves before God.             The shofar inspires us to think, speak and act in ways that make us more beautiful to God. By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg, n''y

Long-Lasting Impression

  The Shofar Leaves a Long-Lasting Impression               A verse states, “My people did not hear My voice, and Israel did not desire Me” ( Psalms 81:12). Because the Jews of the Exodus and the following generations did not properly desire God, they did not hear His voice in a way that left a lasting impression. And so immediately afterwards in the wilderness they refused to obey Him, and later on, in the days of the judges and during the reign of the kings, they neglected Him (Radak).             The way we hear the shofar of Elul and Rosh Hashanah is determined by the level of our desire to connect to God. If we desire to be completely attached to the Creator, we will receive a message from the shofar blowing that will make a lasting impression on us. By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg, n''y

The Shofar Helps Us Attain Simple Faith

  The Shofar Helps Us Attain Simple Faith               In the verse, “God, your Lord, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring” ( Deuteronomy 30:6), the acronym of the Hebrew phrase for “your heart and the heart of your offspring” is “Elul.”               The Holy One, blessed is He, searches for the truly righteous person who has achieved greatness through the application of his formidable intellect. God then takes a second look to see whether this person is able to let go of the intellect that successfully took him so far and use only his heart to search for God.             Binah L’Itim : Lecture 12               God uses the shofar of Elul to circumcise our hearts, to cut away everything but the simple faith with which we search for Him. By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg, n''y

The Shofar Removes the Barriers between Us and God

  The Shofar Removes the Barriers between Us and God               “God, Lord of Hosts, how long will You smoke [with anger] at the prayers of Your nation?” ( Psalms 80:5). When God is angered, “smoke rises from His nostrils” ( Psalms 18:9) to form a barrier that bars the path of our prayers as they struggle upward (Alshich).             Every morning before shofar blowing during Elul, visualize this smoke blocking your prayers, hovering over you, in the same way that smoke hovered over the burning ruins of Jerusalem and the Temple. Then, as you hear the shofar blast, imagine it blowing away all of the smoke and clearing the way for your prayers to soar.             As you listen to the shofar, implore God, “Please allow the shofar blast and the feelings that it arouses in my heart to clear away all barriers between my prayers and You.” By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg, n''y

We Listen to the Words of Our Prayers

   Blessing of Teshuva             “Son of man, listen carefully and take to heart all the words I speak to you” ( Ezekiel 3:10). Radak paraphrases this verse as: “Once you have heard what I say to you, take it to heart so that you will not forget it.” Hearing a message is only the first step. A person must then take it to heart.             During Elul, while reciting the blessing of teshuvah in the Shemoneh Esrei , focus on the most intense teshuvah moments of your life.  By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg

God's Coronation

  We Prepare for God’s Coronation when We Recite the Shema               The Shema is our ultimate song of praise of God as King. The Chafetz Chaim states that when a person recites the Shema , he should have in mind: “You are the King, and You have asked me to recite these words; it is my privilege to obey the King’s command” ( Nidchei Yisrael ). This is especially important during this month. By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg, n''y

Great is your trust in us!

  Unfortunately, we take life for granted and have expectations.  We feel that it’s our RIGHT to be healthy, our RIGHT to live to an old age, our RIGHT to get married, our RIGHT to have a good marriage, our RIGHT to have children, who are good, easy-going, and healthy, etc....  and we get SO upset, and disappointed, if we don’t get any of those things.  We feel like we were robbed! Which would imply that it was coming to us and then taken away!  However, it’s not.  We have to appreciate everything that we are and were given and remember that they are ALL gifts!  They were given to us to use properly for their respective purposes!  They were ENTRUSTED to us!  As we say in Modeh Ani: “Rabah Emunasechah! Great is your trust in us!” Hashem trusts US. Let’s not let him down. By: Akiva Klein  

Keep Your Hands Up!

  Keep Your Hands Up! I had the privilege of assisting in a surgery a few weeks ago. We had to wash our hands from our fingertips down to our elbows. The rule was you keeps your elbows above your waist the entire duration of the procedure. If you put your hands down, you descrub, go back into the washing room, lather, rinse, and repeat. And my God was it hard to keep my hands up, I so badly wanted to relax for a second; I was actively resisting the urge to put my hands down. It got me thinking about al netilat yadayim. Hashem gave us the mitzvah of elevating our hands, of keeping our hands up. No matter where Am Yisroel has been no matter what circumstance we have traversed we had to keep our hands up, to elevate the world with our hands and make it better than it was yesterday as my Rebbe taught me (may he live and be well). And so often I just want to put my hands down (so to speak) for a second and often times I do without realizing the potential I just blew off into the wind. But


  A Kavana for Vilamalshinim (Can be used anywhere one would daven for Israel) As a gift given to me, I began to see the light generated by each person who makes Aliyah as a powerful protection against enemies of Israel. Combined, all this light can shield Israel from harm. When making Aliyah, people are often giving up many things they love and are used to. People are asked to adjust to different lifestyle, different culture, different school systems, and different health systems. (And more).  May the merit of Aliyah form a protective shield against all enemies of Israel. By: Raizel Devorah

Constant Renewal

  הַמְחַדֵּשׁ בְּטוּבו בְּכָל יום תָּמִיד מַעֲשה בְרֵאשִׁית   When I look up at the clouds my mind tries to make sense of their shape. Sometimes I see a face and then the face turns into an object, and then to something else; it’s constant change. When I look at a pasuk, my mind tries to make sense of it, the meaning changes over time for me because I am a different person now than I was before, even a second ago. When my mind attunes itself to the meaning of a mitzvah/Torah, it is connecting to הַמְחַדֵּשׁ בְּטוּבו בְּכָל יום תָּמִיד מַעֲשה בְרֵאשִׁית because the way it sees something is renewed. And while the insight that comes to mind is beautiful, the feeling that God is renewing His creation through this insight is quite exhilarating as well. May we be blessed to experience the novelty of Torah ideas as a function of God’s renewing His creation through us! By:  Mordakhay Kholdarov

You can bring Rain!

    Learn Torah with me,  says Hashem, the way you love a woman. That's the way!  And you can do anything you want!  You can pray for anything you want!  You can ask for anything.  You can bring rain , you can bring Parnassa (Sustenance) , you can bring healing as per the Tanei D'vei Eliyahu Rabba (18:2).* By: Rabbi Simcha Weinberg, n''y * וכיון שלומד את התורה And since this person described learns Torah with the same love you have for a spouse. הרי זה מביא טובה לעולם ויכול הוא לבקש רחמים ולהתפלל לפני הקב"ה This kind of love brings good to the world and he is able to seek compassion, and mercy in his prayers before Hakadosh Baruch Hu (The Holy One Blessed be He)!  ויפקפק את הרקיע  And he can cause the Heavens to open up.  ויביא מטר לעולם And bring forth Parnassa (sustenance) to the world.   Tanei D'vei Eliyahu Rabba (18:2)

The Power of twenty-four

Ultimately, there are 24 gates for the Amidah Prayer;  and the Migaleh Amukos  speaks about it when talking about this verse: וְשַׂמְתִּ֤י כַּֽדְכֹד֙ שִׁמְשֹׁתַ֔יִךְ וּשְׁעָרַ֖יִךְ לְאַבְנֵ֣י אֶקְדָּ֑ח וְכָל־גְּבוּלֵ֖ךְ לְאַבְנֵי־חֵֽפֶץ (Isaiah 54:12) I will make your battlements of rubies, Your gates of precious stones, The whole encircling wall of gems. כַּֽדְכֹד֙ as the numerical value of twenty-four  twice.  “Learn how to use the twenty-four, find ways to go on the journey of the twenty-four, especially if you're in a situation of “Aniya Soara” … when you are feeling like, “I'm in a storm of suffering”. The way I do it -- and it's not authoritative -- is that I take one step; and I picture myself about to enter the palace. I have to have the courage to push open that first gate. And I understand that this means there's responsibility that comes with stepping through the open gate, which is the responsibility to face my Creator, to face myself, to face my inadequaci

The Articulater

Suppose that I could map out all the different issues I have to face. Additionally, I understand that because Yerushalayim itself, and the Bais Hamikdosh specifically, and the Avoda in the Bais Hamikdosh, actually gives me a way to manage everything in front of me. But, don’t suppose because this is the truth! Therefore, if I use the Shmone Esray properly I can figure out a Messila L'elokaynu , a defined path through all the issues I'm dealing with, until I can articulate it well -- which would be The Journey… our journey. This is the Nechama that can come from every time I daven Shmone Esray. The way I articulate in how I express myself is so important in the same way that it is so important when listening to someone to carefully hear how they are phrasing and describing something… until you really understand and therefore can guide them on a path to be able to deal with whatever it is they are feeling. That's what Yerushalayim does. And, that's what the Shmone Esray i

Birchat Hatorah- Laasok B'divrei Torah

  בָּרוּךְ אַתָּה ה ' אֱלהֵינוּ מֶלֶךְ הָעולָם אֲשֶׁר קִדְּשָׁנוּ בְּמִצְותָיו וְצִוָּנוּ לַעֲסוק בְּדִבְרֵי תורָה   The flaming swords in Gan Eden did not allow Adam HaRishon to access the Etz Hachaim (Gen 3:24) because he was mevatel the Etz HaChaim (The Tree of Life). The Tree of Knowledge was a doubletree, containing within it the Tree of Life. Adam only paid attention to its exterior and because he was unable to focus on the internal aspect (The Etz HaChaim) of the doubletree, he lost access to it completely. Similarly, any time a person keeps a mitzvah or studies Torah and is stuck on their exterior, he is mevatel the Etz HaChaim of that Torah or of that mitzvah; he/she is disconnecting that Torah idea/mitzvah from its spirit/life force. And he/she experiences the feeling of the flaming swords cutting off the eternal connection afforded to them by the Torah/mitzvah, God forbid. לַעֲסוק בְּדִבְרֵי תורָה empowers us to reach into our learning, into our mitzvot