Archive for Emunah/ Belief in G-D

Parshat Lech Lecha

First portion
* Avraham would probably be labeled by many as a pioneer; he was the first man to utilize his great gifts to the fullest and able to capitalize on his potential and bring them to fruition. Through passing the ten tests, he not only elevated the status of man, he also energized the world. He and his wife Sarah did what Noach and all the prominent people before them could not do – spread the word of G-d to the entire civilization and live up to the heights man was projected to live up to. Avraham fueled the attribute of kindness. Everyone is born with certain spiritual energies in which man has to step up to the plate. However, if these energies are not used as designed, it is taken away and transformed to somebody else. A person is provided with certain energies to combat the trials and tests of life to elevate him and by doing so, elevates the world as a whole. However, if he fails to take advantage of the opportunity then the energies transfers to someone else who will be given similar opportunities to elevate himself and the world. Adam, Noach, and others lost the powers while Avraham fueled the KOACH. Avraham had the chutzpah to say NO WAY!! to paganism; he had the audacity to stand up to what he believed in; risking his life for the sake of G-d.
* The Kli Yakar, one of the commentaries on the Chumash, has difficulty with the title of this week’s Parsha, Lech-lecha; literally it means “go to you” which doesn’t make sense. The scripture should be, either, “go” or “leave”. He explains, it actually does mean what it sounds like. “Go to you” is referring to one shall go to himself; he should explore his inner-self, the essence of man. Where shall he do that? The Parsha describes later, by the MAKOM – place. Which place? The place, G-d refers to, is Har Hamoria. This is the place where the Temple Mount stands today. The Kli Yakar informs us this is where the souls are manufactured, the nucleus of mankind is structured. Yaacov had his dream on this spot. The Kodesh Hakadoshim, the most important part of the temple, rested on that spot. Besides offering Avraham’s children riches, G-d offered Avraham clarity, a chance to be more spiritually close to G-d. The kedusha – holiness of the land of Israel, especially in certain parts of Jerusalem, is very apparent.
* Rashi says the third test, G-d made the it more difficult for Avraham by stating, “Leave your land, your place of birth and your father’s house”. By stating these points, it will invoke a feeling of familiarity, so dear, it would make it harder to depart. However, the question is asked, Avraham was ridiculed rather cruelly for not having children by his fellow neighbors and for his belief in a non-visible G-d. Unless Avraham is one of those people who likes getting abused and stepped on, not many do, he would jump at the opportunity to leave. So why did G-d state it like that? Even if one is in an undesirable environment, if it’s his home and his mother’s tongue, one would find it difficult to leave. It’s not an easy feeling going to an unknown destination.
* As soon as Avraham arrived in Canaan, the place where G-d had chosen, famine broke out. This was Avraham’s fourth test. G-d wanted to see if he would complain; he didn’t.
* Because of the famine, they were forced to go down to Egypt.

Second Portion
* This was a tremendous test for both, Sarah, as well as Avraham. Sarah’s morality and loyalty is tested. The frustrating and frightening incident where she is taken away by a king happened twice; once, here, by Pharaoh and another time by Avimelech, the king of the Pelishtim. She could have rationalized; “Maybe I should succumb to Pharaoh’s advances. After all, if I don’t, I am not only putting my life in danger but also the life of my husband.” Sarah could have stooped even further in human character and rationalized, “I can be the Queen. Do you know what Kavod – honor that is.” “Avraham will be fine; I can support him financially, after all, I’m the Queen.” Sarah prayed with intensity so Pharaoh will release her untouched. Both she and Avraham were protected by G-d, and reunited. The test of loyalty, though, happened a second time. The time with King Avimelech was a harder test. Pharaoh and the Egyptians were a barbaric society. However Avimelech and the Pelishtim were more of a high cultural, sophisticated and fashionable people. It seemed it would be more tempting. Moreover, the fact that it happened twice might frustrate her into thinking, “Maybe G-d is sending me a message; I missed an opportunity the first time with Pharaoh. Fool! Let’s try this again. Let’s not mess this up a second time.” On both occasions, Sarah rejected the king’s advances and was returned to Avraham unscathed. G-d then rewarded Sarah in the next Parsha with a son from Avraham. G-d said, “You were tempted with the reproductive organ; I will reward you through the reproductive organ.”

Third Portion 
* The controversial question Rav Eliyahu Dessler asks, was Avraham’s decision to separate himself from his nephew Lot – correct? After all, Avraham was Mr. Outreach. Why didn’t he continue to influence his own nephew? As long as Lot was with Avraham, G-d didn’t fully communicate with our forefather. Furthermore it was only after Lot left Avraham, did Sarah have a child. It seems like Lot brought down Avraham spiritually. It’s not so clear-cut whether to have someone we know under our care and direction. Perhaps they might not let us grow in life.

Fourth Portion
* To save his nephew Lot, Avraham goes to great extent, in the war of 4 kings vs. 5 kings. The question is, why? Didn’t we learn previously that Avraham deemed Lot as unworthy. Furthermore, the kings knew Avraham will make every attempt to rescue his nephew. What’s so special about Lot? In next week’s Parsha, the angels specifically go to Sedom to save Lot before destroying the city. Why is Lot getting the VIP treatment? The reason is, the descendant of Lot is Ruth, and from her dynasty, David will be born. From David, the Moshiach will come.

Fifth Portion
* Avraham rejected any personal gains from the war even though he was entitled. This was to show his devotion to G-d and to show the nations of the world, it was G-d’s hand, not mine, that determined victory.

Sixth Portion
* Sarah suggested to her husband Avraham that he should take her maid servant, Hagar, for a wife; “Maybe then G-d will have mercy on me and give me children”.
* Hagar gives birth to Yishmael.

Seventh Portion
* One of Avraham’s ten trials was the commandment of circumcision.
* G-d instructed Avraham, “Your name will be changed from Avram to Avraham. I am adding a HEY to your name. Your wife’s name will also change from Sarai to Sarah by exchanging the YUD to a HEY. This change was significant because now Avraham and Sarah have been transformed to a higher level.
* When G-d removed the letter YUD from Sarah’s name, it flew up to G-d’s throne to complain. G-d comforted it, “In the past, you were the last letter of a woman’s name. In the future, I will put you at the head of a man’s name”. This will happen when Moshe will rename his student Hoshea to Yehoshua.

The Importance of Nissan 1


As we know, the inauguration of the MISHKAN-Tabernacle was on the first of Nissan, however it was completed on the 25th of Kislev. That’s a good number of months (three and a half) before Nissan. Why was the inauguration delayed so long? If the Tabernacle was so important, why didn’t they open it up for business immediately?


To answer this, we must understand that the concept of the Mishkan is giving of yourself for G-d. The one person who personified that the most was none other than our forefather, Yitzchak. He agreed and allowed his father to tie him up so that he shall be sacrificed to G-d. This was the greatest moment, in terms of belief in G-d, in Jewish history. That day was Yitzchak’s birthday. That day was the 1st day of Nissan. This the reason we waited. The day represents 100% belief in G-d. On that day, the Jews sacrificed the sacred animals that the Egyptians deemed to be their god. Doing so infuriated the Egyptians. However, G-d said “don’t be afraid, believe in Me”. “I said no danger will come upon you as long as you do what I say”. The Israelites did as G-d said. This is a day of tremendous reliance and belief in G-d. This is the reason Nissan is called the months of all months.

Got to Have Faith Especially in the Big Apple



          Here is a story which made an impression on me and it is a perfect intro to the holiday of Pesach. A few days ago, I was on 47th street in the jewelry district, where I used to work, and I met a friend of mine, Robert. Robert related an incident that happened to him, maybe fifteen years ago. He was working and, as many of us sometimes experience, one day had to come up with $5000 to pay some bills.
          Robert left his office early to go downtown where he had a number of clients who owed him money, which he hoped to collect.  As he  walked to 48th St. and 6th avenue to take the train, he was stopped by a man who needed some help.
           Us New Yorkers are experts in reading people- we know who to stop for or who to ignore. This person, though not a bum, would definitely be considered one with major psychological issues. Sounds familiar right, everyone knows a few of those.
          Showing Robert an envelope full of coins, he told Robert in a slow weird voice “I found this in the street here and I tried to call the number and name found on the envelope and return it several times, but every time I ask for Dr. Kennedy, they hang up. Hey! all I want to do is be a good human being and return it. You look like an honest guy, can help me?”
          It was very obvious what had happened. Dr. Kennedy thought it was some weirdo calling, so he hung up.
          The man then asked Robert if he can call and try to get through to Dr. Kennedy. Robert said to himself “there is no harm in that” and proceeded to call.
          Robert did indeed get through to Dr. Kennedy who asked for Robert to describe some of the rare coins which were in the envelope. They were very expensive and Kennedy said that he was about to place an ad in the New York Times’ lost and found.
          Dr. Kennedy said “I am busy with patients, please tell the man to take a cab to the upper west side where I work, and to top it off, I’ll give him a $700 reward for the return of the coins.
          Robert, still on the phone with the Dr., relayed the message to the man, who said  “I’m not going, I’m too scared”. Kennedy then said to Robert “ok, then why don’t you come with him and I’ll give you half the reward”. Still the man was reluctant to go and maintained “I’m not going with you, I’m scared”.
          There was a long pause. Finally, Kennedy gave a suggestion to Robert – “why don’t you give $150 to the man and come here yourself and I’ll give you the reward”.
          He thought about it and rationalized, “it would seem that everybody gains, and not only that, I’m on a time clock to come up with the $5000, this would be a perfect start in the process of reaching my goal of the day.
          He gave the man $180- chai. The weird man looked to the left and then to the right, and he was gone.
          When Robert reached Kennedy’s building on the West side, he asked the doorman “can I take the short cut to the side office entrance which Kennedy described to get to his office?” The doorman laughed. He said “you’re the 5th person this month to come looking for Dr. Kennedy. There is no Dr. Kennedy. It’s all a scam”.
          Robert told me “I had been had, they tricked me. At first I laughed and said ‘wow what a performance’, then, though,  I got a little upset. I said ‘why did G-d do this to me? He knows I have to raise $5000. I not only lost $180, I also lost precious time’”. “I then started to think with my head and not with my emotions, Robert continued, and I shrugged it off as “this is what G-d wants, it is what it is.”
          Robert got an appraisal for the coins, they were worth one dollar!
Ten years after the incident, Robert was chauffeuring a famous mukubal (a Kaballist) who was going from community to community. He had plenty of time with the Mekubal and discussed various issues. He also mentioned this little incident. Later, while they were still in the car, it was quite and the Rabbi was thinking. Then the Rabbi said, “if you ever see that weird man again, give him another $180″.
          It seemed that the Rabbi was implying that if he would have taken the route downtown at that moment, he would have had devastating results. The “unfortunate” and not lucrative diversion saved him from hardship. Was the Rabbi trying to make him feel better by suggesting the alternative? It didn’t seem like it . Perhaps the Mekubal knows something we don’t know. We can all be skeptical about a kabalist. Still, one has to believe that everything is from G-d. And this is true no matter who tells it to you.
          G-d said to slaughter and eat the animals that the Egyptians called God. The Holy One said “nothing will happen to you”. Klal Yisroel did it anyways, even though it made no sense. This is belief.
          G-d said to jump into the waters when the Egyptians were chasing after the Jews. Nachshon jumped in because he believed. The waters split. Did it make sense? NO. That is belief.
          One has to have faith. Many unexplained occurrences can happen throughout the course of the day. New York is a colorful place with a lot of interesting characters. One has to believe that everything is from G-d!!

Badge of Honor


The following are excerpts from lectures given by Rabbis Berel Wein Shlit”a.

          Washing machines and dryers have a life span of about 20 to 30 years. We rented our basement to this women on condition that the washer and dryer would be off limits. A number of years ago, we came back earlier then expected after spending the holiday of Pesach by my mother in Forest hills. Much to our dismay, we discovered smoke coming out of the door leading to the basement…
          I rushed downstairs to find the tenant not only using but abusing the dryer!! It was overloaded and making a terrible noise. She was startled to see me, to say the least. Always overestimate your vacation time! The element of surprise allows one to discover many things. We had mentioned to her that we will be back at this and this date and that she should keep an eye on things. SHE WAS CAUGHT WITH HER HAND IN THE COOKIE JAR!! I gave her a look and couldn’t help but to think to myself “my oh my, you sure know how to arrange things, look, you set it up so carefully, still your disgrace has been discovered. You can’t hide!”
          So we called this nice Orthodox repairman by the name of Aryeh Satt, as the dryer conked out a week later. As he fixed it, I couldn’t help but to inquire about his life. I asked him about his unusual last name. “Satt” doesn’t resemble the classic Jewish names, Schwartz, Babayov, Hakimi etc. He explained that actually he is very proud of his name and proceeded to tell me about “Satt”. The name comes from a very interesting part of Jewish history.
          One of the most glorious periods of our history and the time we enjoyed prosperity and religious freedom was during the Golden Age of Spain. However, life is such that good things don’t last forever. The honeymoon ended on a very bitter note.
          Spain changed from a moderately Muslim to a highly religious Christian country. The optimal country for Jews to live in in the Diaspora is a non religious one. Once they get fanatical and move towards extremism- Jews will be persecuted. And so it was, trouble was brewing. The Church was obsessed with the idea that every Jew must convert. Many did convert, especially the affluent Jews. During the course of the Spanish Inquisition, more than 23 major Synagogues were burnt to the ground. Over 100,000 Jews died during this period and many were executed. In the late 1400s,  Ferdinand and Isabella, the king and queen of Spain, gave an ultimatum to the Jews: either convert to Christianity or face immediate expulsion. If neither is chosen, death will be the consequence.
          Tisha B’Av of the year 1492 was the expulsion date set for the Jews. The mood, as one could imagine, was a very sad one. The Rabbis allowed music to be played in order to lift their spirits. It’s very hard to leave the place one calls home. Christopher Columbus wrote in his log that he had a difficult time departing from the port because so many Jews were boarding ships that day.
          There were 250,000 people who left, while 250,000 remained since they didn’t want to leave their possessions. Those Jews reasoned that they would practice Judaism in private. These people all converted, however, they secretly practiced Judaism. These Jews were called Morronos. However, Isabella was smart and appointed Inquisitors to spearhead the Spanish Inquisition with the goal of preventing Morronos from practicing Judaism.
          Most of the 250,000 Jews were lost. They chose to stay in Spain and paid a dear price for it.
          Years later, many Jewish communities had little sympathy for and did not want to associate with the Morronos. The attitude toward them was “you mixed with the Gentiles, we are the pure Jews”.
          This gentlemen’s last name, “SATT” is an abbreviation in Hebrew of the letters SAMACH and TET which stands for Sefaradi Tahor- a pure Sefardic Jew. We didn’t mix, we didn’t assimilate.
          However, it seems like it was more then that. It wasn’t just a title; it was a badge of honor.
          We gave up our money, left our place of birth, abandoned our affluence, comfort and home for Judaism. It became Jewish pride. It’s in our genes to preserve our heritage, our future. It was a big sacrifice, but we did it; we persevered. Some of the Morronos can say “look, we survived, religion intact”. However, it was a tremendous gamble to take.
          The first test of our forefather Abraham was LECH-LECHA- go out of this land, your homeland. If you do not, you will get assimilated. It’s in our genes to get up and go when need be.
          In this week’s parsha we discuss a concept similar to Shabbat; Shmitta. Just like on Shabbat we do not work for one of the seven days of the week, here too, one does not use the land on the seventh year. Yes, that’s right, the whole year!!.  WHAT, NO WORK?  HOW DO WE PROVIDE FOR OUR FAMILY?! Still, this is what is stated in the Torah and we follow, even though it defies logic. This is what trusting G-d is all about. Although it’s difficult, one has to leave his business, his source of income.
Aryeh Satt and his ancestors have the right attitude. They look at belief, trusting and fulfilling G-d’s commandments as a badge of honor.
          In our history, we were forced to wear yellow stars and special hats. We took those degrading orders and bore them proudly. Perhaps, we should even embrace some of G-d’s positive commandments and treat them like opportunities, not requirements.
          We have to remember that the Torah, the Mitzvos etc… they’re our “badge of honor”.

The Prototype of Judaism


Avraham was the pioneer of combining faith and truth. It was an unprecedented first for mankind. Rabbi Akiva Tats mentions that it’s a fundamental concept in the writings of the mystics. It can be best brought out in this parable.

A girl once traveled a long way from home and got lost in the dessert. She walked a long way and became very thirsty. To her relief, she discovered a well in the distance. When she finally reached the well, she discovered a rope inside. She descended down by holding on to the rope and drank. However when she wanted to climb up, she discovered she was unable to do so. She cried bitterly and called for help. Just then, a young man was passing by in the distance and heard cries coming from the well.

He called out “Who is this down there? Are you a demon or a human being? The girl called up from the well relating to him what had happened to her. Then she pleaded with the voice, “Please pull me out!”

“I will help you on one condition. Agree to marry me!”

The girl agreed and he pulled her out of the well. They spoke to each other and both consented to marry each other. The boy promised that he would come to her parents as soon as possible and officially marry her.

“Who are our witnesses that we are betrothed?” asked the girl. Just then a weasel passed by. So the young man said, “let the weasel and the well be our witnesses that we will be faithful to each other.”

They parted; the boy to his home and the girl to hers. She stayed at home and waited for her fiancé to come and fulfill his promise but time passed and he never appeared. Her parents suggested other matches to her but she refused. No matter which matches were proposed, she adamantly refused. Until people just gave up hope that she’ll never get married.

And what happened to the boy?

After he returned home, he was very busy and forgot about that episode in the desert. He married a girl in his hometown. His wife bore him a son. When the baby was three months old, a tragedy occurred. The infant was bitten by a weasel and died. Another little boy was born to them but one day while he was playing by the well, he accidentally fell into it and died. Grief-stricken, the wife said to the husband, “Had the children died a normal death, I would have accepted the heavenly decree without questioning. But since the events were so extraordinary, we must seek a reason for this strange punishment and search ourselves for some previous guilt.”

Now, the long forgotten scene in the dessert came back into the husband’s memory. Is it possible I’m being punished for not keeping my word? The wife insisted that he find out what happened to that girl. “It was your obligation to be faithful to her.”

The man traveled to the town where, long ago, the girl told him she lived and inquired what had become of her. Who did she marry?

“There is one old maid by the name you mentioned, but she is not in her right mind. There is no use of talking to her about getting married. If a suitor comes, she begins to act in a strange manner.”

The man immediately goes to the girl’s house and explains to the father the story that had transpired long ago. “It’s my fault; I have freed myself from my wife to be true to my word and I shall marry your daughter. When he walked into her room and began to speak, she screamed like she had done with the previous suitors. Then he said two words, “The weasel and the well”. The girl fainted and when she recovered, she had gained her former composure. They were married and had children.

The young man represents EMET/ truth, while the lost girl represents EMUNAH. When the girl was helplessly in the pit, that’s EMUNAH without EMET – no direction; would inevitably fall into a pit, just plain old blind faith.

“Who are you” EMET needs clarification, however has no staying power. He forgets about her. EMET has no loyalty unless Emunah’s there. EMUNAH’s route is NE’EMAN – loyalty, it will always be there no matter what. The girl had other suitors; however, she was loyal. Judaism needs the Gemara learning, the logic; the EMET however needs the EMUNAH – the loyalty to continue.

Together EMET and EMUNAH form a true love and a proper marriage.

Avraham was the first to possess both qualities KEL MELECH NE’EMAN and propelled him to be the prototype for generations. This is what we should strive for. These are the tools needed to be a true soldier of G-d.

Around the Shabbat Table – Parshat Bereishit

By Rabbi Gedalia Fogel



Hi! This is Rebbe speaking:

We have just experienced the most holy and important days of the year. We had a chance to repent, ask for forgiveness and pray for a year of health and prosperity. But we must remember to hold on to all this throughout the year. Each and every day we must try to keep the commitments that we have undertaken and we must not despair when we fail for we can and should try again. All the blessings will stay with us if we believe that Hashem has forgiven us and we are starting with a clean slate.

Many people go to a Rabbi for a blessing. It seems that some of those blessings do not bear fruit. But a great Rabbi once said, “All those blessings are legitimate and have the power to come true, but some lose them on their way out, at the door, others the next day and some a week later. We must really believe that Hashem will and can perform those blessings, in order for them to be fulfilled. If those who received the blessings would truly believe, then their blessing would be fulfilled.

This week’s parsha, Parshat Bereishit, speaks about the wondrous creation. Hashem created the world in six days and on the seventh day, Shabbat, he rested. So too, we work all week, but on Shabbat we rest.

In the time of the Rambam, Reb Moshe ben Maimon, (Maimonides) there were a group of people that did not believe that there was a creator. They assumed that the world just happened by chance. The holy Rambam wanted to teach these people a lesson. He hired a professional artist. He had him paint a room. Then he invited these people to come see this artwork, but he did not tell them about the artist.

They entered the room and glanced at the wall they were facing and were amazed. It looked like a forest with all sorts of wild animals. It looked so real they reached for their bow and arrow to shoot at the animals. They then noticed the wall to their right, a glorious scene of water with all wondrous fish and underwater plants. It was breathtaking. They took a look at the ceiling and could not believe that they were indoors. It depicted a clear blue sky with fluffy white clouds scattered throughout. Beautiful birds of all sizes and a large eagle were there too. Wow!

Who created all these beautiful paintings? It was then that they noticed a small table in the center of the room. On it was a paper, an inkwell, a feather, brush, and paints. The paper had a beautiful scene of glorious mountains, some with water running down its sides. Truly astounding! They looked around for the Rambam to ask him who the master of these magnificent paintings was. But the Rambam had stepped out of the room and allowed them to ponder this thought for a while.

The third wall was a scene of a stunning garden, plush green grass with flowers of every color adorning it. They even bent down to smell the scent of the flowers since they looked so real. The final wall was a field of wheat and an orchard with flourishing tall fruit trees.

Who created all this? At that moment the Rambam returned. “Who painted this room, created a truly magnificent, real setting? The Rambam responded, “Don’t you see the feather, ink, brush and paints? Why, they created these scenes by themselves. It just happened by chance.” “Of course that can’t happen.” They retorted. “There must be someone that used these tools to paint this room.”

“You’re right. There was an artist that made these paintings, which only look real but in essence it is not. But come on men, if this room could not manifest itself do you really believe that a world so intricate with so many wondrous creations can be created by itself?!” The point was clear and each man left the room a believer.

The word בראשית is written with a big ב. The dot in the ב is like the letter י. This is to show that the entire world was created for כלל ישראל, for the Jews. It is our job to use what Hashem has created to do His will.


What have we learned today?


What are some ways that we can keep the spirit of the days of Tishrei, from Rosh Hashana through Simchat Torah, with us throughout the year?

We can try to think of one thing that uplifted us throughout these days. Was it the time that you heard the Shofar that you were inspired? Was it the dancing with the Torah? Was it when you shook your lulav and etrog? Or was it when you stood and prayed on Yom Kippur? If you pinpoint the time that you felt uplifted, you can reminisce this feeling throughout the year as a reminder of repentance and belief that Hashem forgives and we can change.


How can we strengthen our Emunah, belief in Hashem?

If we just look around us and notice all the things that Hashem has created we will strengthen our belief. When you go to the zoo, look at all the amazing animals and you will be reminded that Hashem is the creator. On a bright clear day, glance up at the glorious blue sky and remember that Hashem created this outstanding world. When taking a walk take notice of how many different shades and shapes of leaves there are and how many different types of flowers.

Keep your eyes open and you will surely notice that there is a masterful creator that created this amazing world.