Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Animal Rights in Judaism

Another excellent video from Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students, Diaspora Yeshiva:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Message from Rabbi Nir Ben Artzi, shlita, Parashat Tazria-Metzora, 27 Nissan 5777 (23.4.17)

The Holy One, blessed be He, King of Kings, the Father of Mercy, looks from Heavens to the whole world and sees that without Him there is no existence. Without the help of the Holy One, blessed be He, the world will not exist! All are in panic, fear and anxiety, confusion and complication, they do not know what the day will bring, but they still think that they can do anything, manufacture missiles, airplanes, fight and threaten each other. They forget that there is a creator to the world, forget that the Almighty can transform the material of Nuclear Explosion to flour!

The missile sent by Kim, the leader of North Korea, which exploded during the launch - The Creator of the Universe blew it up! The missile sent by the Russians a few months ago, the best missile to drop planes, also exploded. This is not a human error, the Creator of the Universe blew up the missiles! The Creator shows to mankind that He determines what will or will not be, then dear Jews, why forget the Holy One, Blessed be He? The technology is progressing and instead of becoming close to Hashem, you are moving away from HIM? Everything is upside down? The Creator can paralyze all the satellites and darken the Earth completely in a thousandth of a second, at the speed of light. People are complacent and forget who created the world, forgetting that everything starts and ends with Him. Every country with nuclear technology and airplanes thinks it is above all worlds.

Please, dear Jews, do not forget that there is a Father in Heaven who protects and preserve the Holy Land and its Jews. The Creator give life and death, makes people rich or poor. Nuclear technology and the threats will not help Kim, the North Korean leader, nor anyone else in the world.

Don’t be afraid says the Creator, there will be no Third World War, there will be no nuclear war and no third intifada - there will be the Messiah that will be reveled in public, the construction of the Third Temple and the resurrection of the dead!

The world must listen attentively: the Holy One, blessed be He, is the one who runs the world, chose the Jews to live in the Land of Israel! Every country, prime minister or president of the world, who wants to disturb the rest of the Jews in the Land of Israel or to take parts of the land of Israel, the Creator of the world will beat them severely.

The most severe winds blow in the world, the most powerful winds that overwhelm everything in addition to earthquakes, fires and floods. The Creator of the Universe is using a lot of power to shake the earth.

Assimilation adds hatred to the people of Israel in the Land of Israel and throughout the world. Jews who live with non-Jews will convert them properly and marry them, if they want to receive a soul from heaven. Do not to say 'we are modern,' modern is rebellion against the Holy One, Blessed be He. Those who do not observe the Commandments are against the Holy One, blessed be He.

The Jews who live outside the land of Israel, the Creator of the world begged you many times already to immigrate to the Land of Israel now, it is urgent! You have the opportunity to come up now with great property, like they left Egypt with great property. Today it's exactly the same. Today you can still leave with great property, but if you do not leave, in a while you will be expelled by anti-Semitism, ISIS, the refugees and the infiltrators; you will be expelled from all over the world. They will take away your houses and property and you will come to Israel without property. You stayed because of the property - your redemption is to come to Israel with nothing, just to live and breathe. Write down what's written here on the wall.

In most of the world, "Eisav hates Jacob." There is hatred and evil toward Jews, no Gentile loves the Jews, so it is worthwhile to immigrate to the Holy Land and not believe them.

Jews understand: the Holy Land of Israel is like the skin of a deer, develops, develops, stretches and its development is hidden from the eye. There is livelihood in the holy Land of Israel, there is food, and there is protection for all the Jews on Earth who will come to live in the Land of Israel. The Land of Israel is the first in the world in economics, military, technology, science and medicine, love, peace, unity and mercy. The Land of Israel is the only one in the world where the Holy One, Blessed is He, is in it!

Russia, Putin shows everyone that he is in the Middle East. He is afraid that the United States will take Syria and then everyone will be subject to the United States. With the US it is money and food, and with Russia it is weapons and ammunition; Putin does not want to move from Syria.

The United States, the Holy One, blessed be He, has chosen Trump only to help the Land of Israel, and Trump wants to make order in the whole world. If Trump takes into account those who disturb the Land of Israel and help the Holy Land of Israel and come to meet it in all respects, he will receive divine help, all his plans for order in the world will succeed and he will be protected and guarded. Blessing and success will be in his hands, and a day will come when he will receive a great privilege from the Creator.

Trump tells the Israeli government to work quietly. He will help quietly; talks are disruptive to the plans. All that is hidden from the eye is successful and has a blessing.

Iraq is dead. Saddam Hussein sent missiles to Israel, which were turned in their way from chemical to flour. He made noise, startled an entire country, frightened millions of people, and nothing happened. The vengeance of the Creator of the world erases Iraq from the face of the earth. Iraq is finished, destroyed and erased.

Syria will continue to be destroyed, destroyed and destroyed, until it has no back, no spine, no brain. There is chaos in Syria, all the planes, missiles and soldiers from all over the world are training in Syria.

North Korea, Kim threatens and is scared to death to make a mistake. If a mistake is made, Korea will be deleted. Korea will be erased by people who hate Kim; he has enemies inside Korea itself and they hold the most dangerous missiles in the world. Their plans are to blow up the missiles inside Korea with all the residents. Therefore Kim is afraid to err. He exhibits threat and strength because he is looking for respect; respect is his life’s ambition.

Turkey nothing will help Erdogan, nothing. ISIS, the terrorists and the rebels in Turkey, want to rebel and revolt against Erdogan.

Egypt, Sisi wants to resign; he does not know what to do. The Egyptian army is collapsing in the Sinai desert. The soldiers of the Egyptian army were in a 'sanitarium;' they had not practiced properly since 1975 and until now; and, they are hungry too. Suddenly, when they have to fight ISIS, the extremist Muslims and Hamas, a lot of them are killed. Sisi entered a serious whirlwind; no country can help him, neither Russia nor the United States. From all directions he is threatened.

Hezbollah and Nasrallah have run out of power, they lack a lot of ammunition and weapons and do not want to deal with Israel. There is a beginning of rebellion in the Hezbollah army, and Nasrallah does not trust them. Why all this? Because Syria is crashing and crashing in front of their faces and has no back, no head, no tail, no legs to hold it. Everything coming from Iran explodes on the way.

Lebanon wants peace and does not care about anything.

Abu Mazen, ninety percent of the money he receives, he transfers it to his private account, his children and his family. Like Hamas, they take money for themselves, the senior leaders and their families, and ten percent they throw to the poor.

France is getting more and more complicated every day; everything that happens is worse than bad, and the main thing is that all is complicated by the elections. The earth is bubbling and will be a big mess in France.

Hamas continues to work in the tunnels, waiting for the right time.

Some of Israel's Arabs are in close contact with Hamas. The reason for this is that Arabs from the Land of Israel marry Arabs from the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and a partnership is formed between them. Their connection creates hatred against the Jews in Israel.

In Hebron there are many other arms factories, if one is discovered, they make three more.

In East Jerusalem, there is the head of the serpent who brainwashes them and sends them to stab innocent Jews with knives, and then they say that they are mentally ill, it is one big lie.

Iran is scared to death of Israel, afraid of the United States and Russia, so it connects with them.

Father in heaven says to the people of Israel: We must thank every situation, good or bad. Pain, sadness, or joy - thank Hashem, who does only good and for our benefit. Not all Jews understand that the Holy One, blessed be He, only wants their good. He wants them all to be in the land of Israel so that He can protect the Jews and the Holy Land, the Land of Israel - the sky opening. The Holy One, blessed be He, does not want the Jews to cry out from their distress. It hurts the Holy One, blessed be He that they do not believe the warnings he gives in Israel and around the world.

The Holy One, blessed be He, says to the Jews: My dear children, the Messiah is present and you have not betrayed me! Continue as your forefathers to observe the Commandments. Do not assimilate. Despite the free choice I gave you to act as Hashem’s loved ones. The Creator took care of the Messiah from the womb of his mother, and taught him the laws of the world. Everyone knows and recognized the Messiah. The soul of the Messiah no one sees; the soul of Messiah is active in Israel and throughout the world, it encompasses the borders of Israel, protects and preserve around the Land of Israel. The Messiah works and acts and belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He, directly. The Holy One, Blessed be He, allows him to act abroad and in Israel, a Messiah who protects, guards and is jealous of every Jew!

Courtesy of "Tair Neri" Website

Monday, April 24, 2017

Aharon’s Silence; Plus Another Possible Message from Hashem

In this week’s parsha, Aharon’s sons Nadav and Avihu die.[1] What was Aharon’s reaction? He could’ve complained. As Gemara[2] says, “A person whose suffering causes him to challenge G-d is not sinful.” No, Aharon did just the opposite! He fell silent.”[3] [4]

What is the value of silence? The Gemara[5] says, “When a person ignores insults, Heaven ignores his or her sins.”[6]

Why is that? One who overcomes his feelings of anger towards someone and acts magnanimously, he is forgiven for all his wrongdoings, since forgiving others at a time when one is angry is elevating,[7] in that it’s an expression of the soul ruling over the body.[8] Rabbi Moshe Cordovero points out that it is far better to achieve atonement for a sin by suffering an insult in silence than to undergo physical punishment which may interfere with one’s ability to perform mitzvos or study Torah.[9]

Here is some food for thought:

A stupid person who is silent is considered to be wise.[10] As the Gemara[11] says, “Silence is lovely for a wise man, all the more so for a fool.” Therefore, “One who guards his mouth and tongue protects himself from trouble.”[12] Avos[13] recommends, “The best medicine[14] that is most beneficial for one’s body,[15] is silence.

The Maharal[16] writes, “The point is that taking into account that a person is a physical being, he gains from silence. Speaking is... a physically based power. Speech is a physical attribute, not a mental one at all. For that reason, speech should be shunned so as not to suffer from an error or mental disintegration. When a person is involved in verbal activity, he is negating his mental resources… One should, therefore [try to] maintain silence and take initiatives with his intellectual features that are not corporeal, as is the power of speech, thus avoiding errors.”

In Tehillim, it says, “Silence is Your [i.e. Hashem’s] praise!”[17] In addition, “Silence is a protective guard for wisdom.”[18] Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says, “All my days I grew up among wise men and I found nothing better for a person than silence.”[19]

We also see that strength of G-d is manifest through His non-reaction to the insult and blaspheming of the wicked.[20] Furthermore, “Those who listen to their shame and do not respond in kind to their insulters,” it is about them that the posuk refers to when it says, ‘and those who love Hashem will shine as bright as the midday sun.’”[21]

The Gemara[22] says that the whole world exists only in the merit of the one who bridles his mouth in a moment of strife.

Want a “segulah” to ignore insults? At the end of shemonah esrei, it says, “My G-d... To those who curse me, let my soul be silent and let my soul be like dust to everyone.”

When saying those words, concentrate on them intently. With Hashem’s help, if someone hurls an insult at you, it will appear to you like a speck of dust on your jacket![23]
[1] See Vayikra 10:1-2.

[2] Bava Basra 16b.

[3] Ibid. 10:3.

[4] Rabbi David Aaron says, “When life gets rough, ask not ‘why’ this is happening to me but ‘what’ this happening is asking of me. In every painful situation choose to find opportunities for growth and humbly reserve judgment of the Master Mind of the universe.”

The Kotzker Rebbe (i.e. Menachem Mendel Morgensztern of Kotzk) once said, “Man has two eyes with which to see his life from two perspectives - one to see the greatness of the Creator; the other to see his own shortcomings.”

[5] Rosh Hashanah 17a.

[6] In addition, the Vilna Gaon (I.e. Rabbi Eliyahu Kremer) says, “For every moment man keeps his mouth closed (and does not respond at all to a provocation) he earns the merit of receiving a holy radiance (whose benefit) is far beyond the comprehension of any angel or being” [see Shemiras HaLoshon – volume 1, Sha’ar HaZechirah, chapter 11 “גם עבור כל עת ששומר” and Iggeres HaGra, “V’ad yom moso…”].

[7] However, NEVER:

· Speak, criticize or ask forgiveness from someone when they’re angry (See Avos 4:18 and Berachos 7a-b).

· Apologize immediately after your hurtful comments. For Avos D’Rebbi Nosson (41) says, “If you done your fellow man a slight wrong, let it be a serious matter in your eyes…”

If you apologize first, without depersonalizing the impact, you are communicating that you are sorry for what you did, but you are not conveying that you did not mean what you said. When you make your apology after your disclaimer, it is generally received in a better light. (Seek Peace and Pursue It by David J. Lieberman, page 116).

· Admonish a scoffer, lest he hate you… but the wise person will love you (See Mishlei 9:8 and 15:12).

[8] See Yuma 23a and Chovos HaLevovos, chapter 7.

[9] Tomer Devorah, chapter 2, ‘השלישית’.

[10] Mishlei 17:28.

[11] Pesachim 99a.

[12] Mishlei 21:23.

[13] 1:17.

[14] See Megillah 18a.

[15] See Maharal on Pirkei Avos by Rabbi Tuvia Basser, page 57.

[16] Commentary on Avos 1:17.

[17] 65:2. If that’s the case, then why do people talk during chazaras hashatz which is completely forbidden?! (see Shulchan Aruch 124:7 and Mishnah Berurah 131:1). As the Shulchan Aruch HaRav (124:10) says, “One who talks while the shatz is mentioning the praises of Hashem demonstrates that he has no desire to join the chazzan in praising Hashem and thereby creates a chillul Hashem! In the words of Shlomo HaMelech, “[There’s] a time to be silent and a time to speak” (Koheles 3:7). As the Gemara explains, “At times one is silent and receives reward for silence. At times one speaks and receives reward for the speech” (Zevachim 115b). Speaking of silent, Rabbi Pesach Krohn points out that the words silent and listen are spelled with the exact same letters. He says that in shul, you have to be silent and listen to what the chazzan is saying. Whether it is Chazaras HaShatz, Berachos, Krias HaTorah (Orach Chayim 146:2 and Mishnah Berurah 5) or what the Rav is saying.

[18] Avos 3:17.

[19] Ibid. 1:17.

[20] See Gittin 55b.

[21] Gittin 36b, Shabbos 88b and Yuma 23a.

[22] Chullin 98a.

[23] As the Gemara (Sukkah 52a) says, “The yetzer hara seeks to overcome person a person every day and if not that HaKodosh Baruch Hu assists him in his struggle, he could not prevail.” However, “When a person exerts himself in Torah (or in any area of avodas Hashem) to the best of his abilities, then Hashem grants him heavenly assistance and he will attain very great levels” (Chovos HaLevavos, Sha’ar Cheshbon HaNefesh 3:21 “והאחד ועשרים”).

This appeared on YouTube.  I believe it to be of great interest.  The accuracy of the report, I don't know, but it is definitely worth watching.  Of course, the biggest thing to me is whether this is another message from Hashem, especially if you replace Planet X with Nibiru:

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Kosher - You Are What You Eat

by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher, Dean of Students, Diaspora Yeshiva

The Torah only allows us to eat animals that have split hooves and also chew the cud. Animals that chew the cud but do not have split hooves or vice versa may not be eaten.

What is the relevance of these physical signs to the issue of eating the animal that has or doesn't have these signs? Are these just CHUKIM (statutes) from Hashem which we must obey without understanding the reason?

The Sefer Kol Bo explains the significance of these Kosher signs. The reason why certain animals chew the cud is because these types of animals feed on vegetation. And it is not in their interest to chew their food properly and slowly in one certain place. This would make them vulnerable to predators that wait to pounce on them and eat them, or to the elements, the blazing sun or driving rain.

Thus, by biting off their food and swallowing it immediately, they are able to eat quickly and run for safety. This is a great benefit for these vulnerable animals. Later on, when these animals come to safer ground or more comfortable surroundings, the food comes back up from their stomachs, they grind it and then digest it properly. Therefore, "chewing the cud" is a safety mechanism for these types of animals against predators and the hostile elements.

And the reason why kosher animals also have spilt hooves and not sharp, strong claws is because their feet serve as accessories for them to stand and walk, unlike predators, which require claws to rip apart their prey. Additionally, their split hooves enable them to flee from predators and afford them good grip even on mountainous terrain. Thus, these animals can run and jump when escaping any threat.

Hashem in His love for His People, requires us to abstain from eating all predatory animals. When food is digested by a person it becomes a part of him, and his nature becomes similar to that of which he ate. Thus, Hashem does not want us to derive our nourishment from animals that have predatory character traits. Hashem does not want us to be affected by the traits of animals that hunt and kill.

Hashem only allows us to eat and absorb into our bodies those animals which survive without killing other animals. These Kosher animals, which are pursued but are not pursuers, inject into us the positive trait of non-aggression.

The Torah teaches that you are what you eat. Thus, in order to ensure that our spiritual sensitivity, which is the trademark of a Jew, remains unblemished, the Torah instructs us to eat only kosher animals.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Subtle Teshuvah

We have talked extensively about doing Teshuvah, repentance, as a necessary way to come closer to Hashem, and reach a higher level of Tikun, fixing/rectifying one’s life for a tremendous eternity. We mentioned that Teshuvah is not just words, but actions. The only way to fix ourselves is to learn about our mistakes, and improve ourselves spiritually. If we are not at a high enough level of keeping Kosher, learn how to improve and make changes; if we are not honoring the Sabbath properly, thinking that what we do is good enough, we learn more and improve. Every improvement brings us closer to Hashem, gives us a much happier life on Earth and sets us up for the tremendous eternity (so tremendous it is beyond human comprehension).

But, there are many other types of improvements that we can make that are not so obvious. There are simple things that we can change in our lives that could make it far better without much effort. The main ingredient is common sense, and the rewards can be infinite (even though we are not doing this for reward, but they are there). Just remember that Hashem judges us for everything; everything simple, everything difficult, every words we say, everything we do. This greatly includes how we interact with others in this world and that leads us to the very subtle type of Teshuvah, very subtle improvements that are easy to correct, and well worth it for our well-being.

First let us learn a very interesting term used in the frum community. Frum means "devout" or "pious," in Yiddish. To be frum means to be committed to the observance of Jewish law, the commandments; often exceeding the bare requirements of Halachah, the collective body of Jewish laws. The term I wish to introduce is marit ayin (or maris ayin, Hebrew: מַרְאִית עַיִן‎‎, "appearance to the eye"), which is a concept in Halachah (Jewish law). It is considered to be an important concept, as it can lead to the prohibition of certain acts, depending on circumstances, that might otherwise be permitted.

There are so many situations that could lead to maris ayin. Jews are very often watched, I should probably say always watched. The world is obsessed with trying to catch Jews in a negative light. Why? Since Jews are “a light unto the nations,” and most people don’t really care for the message, the absolute truth that Hashem wants the Jews to convey, catching a Jew in a compromising situation is satisfying to many non-Jews (and secular Jews). It is in the mind of the Jew-hater as a justification for persecution and stereotyping. If you are following my train of thought, it is a justification in the mind of the heretic to not believe in Hashem or follow His ways.

By giving examples, we can see how this “catching a Jew making a mistake” leads to Jew-hatred. It also is incumbent upon every Jew who is being watched to do the right thing and be an inspiration instead of an excuse.

A Jewish family is traveling on a highway and wishes to stop off at rest stop to use the facilities. There are rest rooms about a block away from the parking area, but there are rest rooms much closer in a non-kosher restaurant. To save steps, the Jewish family uses the closer rest rooms but is caught going into and leaving a non-kosher restaurant. We know that there was nothing incorrect in what they did, but those observing only believe that they caught a Jewish family eating at a non-kosher restaurant. That is maris ayin. It is not what is really happening, but a situation where Jews falsely are perceived as violating the commandments and sinning against Hashem. What good gossip that is.

Let us talk about a completely different situation of Jews hurting other Jews, and possibly putting others into a dangerous situation. I have lived in places that had traffic circles instead of normal cross intersections. They very often are blocked off to let the pedestrians know that for safety purposes they must go around the circle and make all crossings at designated pedestrian walk ways. I very often saw people who wanted to save about 10 seconds in walking and cross illegally through the circle. If you were to ask the person why they are violating a law of safety, they would always tell you, I have no trouble cutting through the circle; I am totally aware of the traffic in the area. But why am I calling this maris ayin? Because the children who do not know how to negotiate the traffic are being shown by adults, it is OK to violate safety laws. It may not be the adults that get hit by a car, but it is often the children, who learned “it is OK to break the law and cut through a circle.” That, or J-walking or many other improper lessons that we teach children put them in danger, just so we can save some steps in walking. In a Jewish neighborhood, it is a violation of Torah to even think about violating a safety law that could hurt others.

One of the biggest killers in this world is the automobile. It is not just maris ayin to show others improper violations of safety laws, but also passing on to our children our bad habits when we teach them how to drive. It is definitely a horror to tell a teenager that it is OK to occasionally speed, or pass improperly, but it is maris ayin to do so on your own when those in the car and everyone looking at you from the street sees your improper way. If one does not drive defensively, one is putting himself of herself in mortal danger. But if one always drives improperly while children and others look on, it is maris ayin and extremely dangerous.

We are being watched and if a Jew does one wrong thing, he has done a Chillul Hashem,‎‎ "a desecration of the Name." Every mistake a person makes in this world could be viewed as a mistake, or just improper training, but a Jew being seen making a mistake is pointed out as a stereotype: “those Jews they always….” I believe that I am pointing out the obvious. But, what all of us must be aware of is how, if we are conscious of these subtle mistakes, we are doing very important Teshuvah.

Let me mention one more area of subtle Teshuvah accomplished by avoiding maris ayin. We are not just being watched by the people around us, we are being watched 24/7 by Hashem and being judged on our performance. If we as an example like to talk during prayer service, yes that is maris ayin for those around us, but it is a definite violation of Hashem’s commandments. What makes it even worse is not just the violation happening at the time, but the teaching to others, such as children that it is OK to talk or do other improper behavior when we are communing with our Creator. Being a people watcher, I have noticed over decades that the children who talk during prayer services are almost always children of parents who talk. They learned their lessons well through maris ayin.

It is such an easy Teshuvah to correct, but it takes some common sense. Pretend that everything you do and say, you are being watched and heard (which you are). Now ask if what you do is according to Torah, or a human bad habit, and whether it might be very dangerous for children to see and learn. If we have Hashem’s approval, we are doing it correctly; if not, we need some subtle Teshuvah.