T”U B’shvat- Rosh Hashanah of the trees

"For man is like the tree of the field" (Devarim 20:19) 

The Talmud says that there are 4 heads of the year; According to Beit Shamai, “The first of Nissan is the Rosh Hashnah for kings and Holidays, the first of Elul is Rosh Hashanah for tithing of animals, the first of Tishrei is the Rosh Hashanah of the lunar calendar year and the first of Shevat is the Rosh Hashanah for the trees. According to Beit Hillel the Rosh Hashanah for the trees is on the 15th of Shevat” (Tractate Rosh Hashanah 2a). What is the inner significance of the 15th day of Shevat? We celebrate the 15t of Shevat by eating 7 species of fruit (which 5 are fruits) that the land of Israel was blessed with: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranate, olives and dates. Why specifically these fruit? The verse says “for man is like the tree of the field” (Deuteronomy 21,19). What is the comparison of the tree to man?

 

Tree and Man

The special character of trees, specially fruit trees...

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Hashgacha Protis- Divine Synchronicity

chassidut Jan 14, 2019

A Ripple of Grass in the Wind Means Something to G‑d

One day in the summer of 5656 (1896), I was strolling with my father in a field in the country resort of Bolivke, near Lubavitch. The crops were almost ripe; the grain and the grass rippled in a gentle breeze.

“Behold G‑dliness,” my father declared. “Every movement of each single ear of grain and blade of grass was included in the Primeval Thought of Adam Kadmon, He who watches and gazes until the end of all the generations. Divine providence causes this thought to be realized for the sake of a specific G‑dly intent.”

As we walked on, we found ourselves in a forest. [I continued, proceeding] deep in contemplation of what I had just been told concerning Divine providence, overwhelmed by the gentleness and earnestness of my father’s explanation.

As people often do, I plucked a leaf from a tree that I passed by without taking particular notice and held it for a while in my hand. As I...

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Kabbalah Of Yichudim- Divine Meditations

kabbalah prayer Jan 10, 2019

Yichud means unification and comes from the root word יחד unified or one. A Yichud is a type of a kavana- special Kabbalistic intention.

Man's role consists in the restoration of the original harmony that was destroyed with the breaking of the Vessels; the unification of the name of G-d.

In other words, according to Kabbalah, our role is to achieve the “Tikun Olam”, rectifying the world through the spiritual intention of binding the spiritual and the physical realities as one.

The Arizal says that our role is to restore the connection between the two facets of G-d the Yud+Hey/ Vav +Hey, the intellectual and emotional parts of G-d’s names thereby uniting the above nature and nature realms.

This reuniting process are known as Yechidim, "Unifications".  A great many yechidim were taught. All involve the meditative contemplation of the letters of the various names of G-d.

Israel, Torah and G‑d are bound together in a complete unity, as the Zohar states...

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Raising Up Malchut- What Prayer Is About

kabbalah Jan 06, 2019

Have you ever wondered what does prayer really mean? 

The word to pray in Hebrew means L’hitpalel. The question is asked is that it should say L’falel to pray. L’hitpalel literally translates as to become prayed (with a Y) which doesn't really make sense.

In Kabbalistic texts it is explained that the Sefirah of Malchut- Kingship is the seat of prayer. Therefor, the Sefirah it’s self prays.

Our prayers are reverberating the Sefirah of Malchut. In Kabbalistic prayer, similar to meditation, the physical is transcended and the soul is free to express it’ self.

This is the inner reason of the words in Psalms which we say before beginning the Amidah silent prayer “Hashem open up my lips and let me sing your praise”.

To understand prayer, we must first understand the centrality of the Sefirah of Malchut. In fact the entire book of the Tikunei Zohar, written by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and consists of the teachings of Elijah speaks about the...

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Guard Your Health - Keep Your Soul Alive

optimal living Jan 02, 2019

During the period when Maimonides served as the royal physician to the Sultan of Egypt, the Sultan never became ill. One day the Sultan asked Maimonides, possibly in jest, “How do I know that you are an expert physician, since during the period that you have been here, I have never been ill, and you have not had the opportunity to test your skills?” Maimonides replied, “In truth, the great and faithful physician is the Holy One, Blessed be He, as it is written, ‘I, the Lord, am your healer.’ And this Great and Faithful Physician was able to promise His people that because He is their Physician, He will be able to protect them from all the illnesses that were inflicted on Egypt.” Maimonides concluded, “Therefore, we learn that the ability of a physician to prevent illness is a greater proof of his skill than his ability to cure someone who is already ill.”

 

The Torah does not place the entire responsibility for maintaining good...

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Are We There Yet? - Predicting The End Of Times

chassidut Dec 30, 2018

In the 1950s, a Harvard-trained researcher based out of Johns Hopkins named Curt Richter ran some fascinating experiments.

He wanted to see how long rats could swim in two different conditions.

In the first condition, he simply let them swim as long as they could before giving up and drowning. They lasted 15 minutes.

Then, in the other condition, right before they were about to reach their maximum threshold of 15 minutes, he picked them up and dried them off and let them rest briefly before putting them back in.

Guess how long they were able to swim after that quick reprieve.

Only a few more minutes? Another 15 minutes? Maybe 30 minutes?

Try 60 (!!!) HOURS!!!

After being saved those little rats swam for an absolutely astonishing 240 times longer.

15 minutes vs. 60 hours. That’s crazy.

Why? How is that possible?

Richter said it was because of one very simple thing: HOPE.

The rats that had been saved had “seen” a better future. They “knew” there was a...

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The Jewish Perspective on Health & Exercise

optimal living Dec 26, 2018

Guard Your Health- The Importance Of Exercise

 

Harvard MD psychiatrist John Ratey puts it brilliantly in his great book Spark—which is all about the science of how exercise changes our brain.

He tells us that exercising “is like taking a little bit of Prozac and a little bit of Ritalin because, like the drugs, exercise elevates these neurotransmitters.” The bottom line: “exercise balances neurotransmitters — along with the rest of the neurochemicals in the brain.”

A bunch of research has shown that exercising is as effective as Zoloft in reducing depression. You can bring people who are experiencing depression into a lab and randomly assign them to a few different groups. One group takes an anti-depressant pill, another group exercises and another does both.

Then, the researchers track their levels of depression after a few months.

Guess what?

The exercise group consistently outperforms the other groups. Unfortunately, exercise doesn’t...

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G-d Desires The Heart- The Ba'al Shem Tov On Prayer

chassidut Dec 26, 2018

One of the main tenants of Chassidic philosophy is that “G-d desires the heart”. While the mind is the seat of the intellect and logic, it is nevertheless fallible to self absorption and ego.

The Mishnah says that “the world stands upon 3 pillars: Torah, Teffilah and charitable deeds”. The Kabbalists says that the Mishnah’s assessment of “the world stands- exists” refers to the totality of the world’s existence. If mankind is viewed in terms of collective time, it stands that the earlier generations fixed the aspect of learning Torah on the supreme level of allowing the world to “stand”. The latter generations are meant to fix the 2 remaining pillars of Teffilah and charitable deeds.

In some Kabbalistic writings it is brought out that the job of the really latter generations- us, is to fix prayer, while in others it is to fix charitable deeds.

In light with the Chassidic approach to prayer both approaches are true, since...

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The Arizal on overeating- Parshat Shemot

arizal kabbalah parsha Dec 25, 2018

 “These are the names of the Children of Israel. with Jacob each man and his household, coming (descending) into Egypt”

 A New King

The new King who “did not know Joseph” is the Yeter Hara - the negative inclination, called an old foolish king. This king has no knowledge of G-d (called Joseph), “and he told his nation”- the powers of negativity. “The nation of Israel is becoming great and mightier than us”, the Yeter tov- positive inclination is becoming mightier than us.

Pharaoh had to do something- quick!

The Israelites are summoned to build cities of storage for Pharaoh. Pharaoh has the letters of העורף- the nape. Unlike the face, the nape is desensitized and the inner (holier) motivation is unseen.  The pyramids -“let us build cities of storage, Pitom and Rameses”- let us subjugate the body within the powers of negativity.

Negative eating

Pitom- “the mouth of the abyss” has the letters פה...

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Staying Afloat In A Turbulent World- Lessons Of Joseph & Judah

chassidut kabbalah parsha Dec 23, 2018

"The people of the book", is a pretty accurate description of the Jewish people, wouldn't you say?

More than merely study, learning is intertwined with the very fabric of Jewish survival. Learning Torah has always been the secret of not just spiritual survival, but had the protective qualities to safeguard the individual and the community from the turbulent waves of the world, giving wisdom, inspiration and hope to a people who has defied history. 

We have had many leaders throughout the ages, but the leadership of Joseph and Judah lay the foundations of "the people of the book" as they start their long rode in Egypt and all subsequent exiles. 

 

Joseph & Judah diametrically different. 

Joseph was exceptional. He started off as an a child prodigy we may say. According to Kabbalah, Joseph represents the Sefirah of Yesod. Yesod is called Tzadik- the righteous one and was endowed with the abilities to remain mentally focused and morally righteous...

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