Saturday, December 30, 2006

10th of Teves

In an email from Rabbi Friedman of Chabad by the Sea:
Tevet 10: Sunday, Dec. 31
Fast day, Prayer schedule, no classes

This Sunday, Tevet 10, is observed as a day of fasting, mourning and repentance, in remembrance of the siege of Jerusalem.

It was on this date in the year 3336 from Creation (425 BCE), that the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem. Thirty months later -- on Tammuz 9, 3338 -- the city walls were breached, and on Av 9th of that year, the Holy Temple was destroyed. The Jewish people were exiled to Babylonia for 70 years.

Today, this is one of the five major public fasts we observe. We refrain from food and drink from daybreak to nightfall, and add the Selichot and other special supplements to our prayers. (More recently, Tevet 10 was chosen to also serve as a "general kaddish day" for the victims of the Holocaust, many of whose day of martyrdom is unknown.)

As such:

1) The Sunday morning Minyan will be at Chabad at its regular time of 9:00 AM, only this week the service will include the supplemental prayers and the Torah reading.

2) The regular Parsha study will be held after services at Chabad without the breakfast. It will begin a bit later than usual, as the services are a bit longer.

3) We will have Mincha service at 4:30 PM followed by Maariv service and light break-fast refreshments.

4) The fast (which begins in the early morning) ends at 5:40.

May this be the last fast we observe in exile and may we merit the coming of Moshiach very, very speedily, Amen.

Chabad by the Sea


phone: 831-454-0101
One of my Rabbis here in Jerusalem recounted a very interesting story recently. I don't remember it word for word, but this is the gist: A Chassid recently (read: last week) walked into a Chabad shul and said, "I have proof that Chabad is wrong!" (Obviously this was not a Luvavitcher chassid). He said, "In the Gemarah, there is an argument about whether the 5th of Teves or the 10th of Teves should be the fast day. Since the 5th of Teves also has the attribute of a day of mourning, for Chabad to celebrate on that day proves that they are wrong!"

He was referring to the holiday celebrated in the Chabad community known as Hei Teves, the 5th of Teves, a day of great rejoicing in celebration of a victory of the Chabad movement and its Rebbe in the 1980's. The Rabbi turned to this Chassid, and said, "Ah, but you see, it is known that in the Era of Moshiach, fast days will become days of great celebration! This is a sign that we're surely already in the beginning of the Era of Moshiach!"

May tomorrow be a day of great rejoicing and celebration.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Menorahs Vandalized in South Bay

The Mercury News Reports (hat tip Jewschool):
Two Silicon Valley menorahs were vandalized over Hanukkah, the latest crime coming Thursday night when a rabbi arrived at his Sunnyvale center to find the 5-foot candelabra high dragged away from its place, its candles snuffed and stolen and its steel body bent in half.

A Mountain View menorah placed in front of the city's civic center was also damaged Dec. 15, the first night of the Jewish observance. Late that night a rabbi discovered the menorah's lights had been smashed and the wires yanked out.

Police in Sunnyvale and Mountain View separately confirmed they were investigating the cases. But the departments had not connected the incidents and reported no suspects had been identified.

Full story
What do you guys think? Was it a war on Chanuka?

I've Been Dreaming of a White Shabbos

Arutz Sheva reports:
A light snow has begun to fall in Jerusalem. Although the snow has not yet begun to accumulate, the city has snowplows on standby. Snow has been falling in the North, in Judea and Samaria, and even in the Negev desert, since Wednesday morning. At this time, heavy snow is falling in Bet El and Hevron. The snow is not yet accumulating.

Full story.
The snow has now begun to accumulate, B"H. If we're lucky, it will be a white Shabbos, mamish.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Sanctifying the Nostrils

Let’s continue out series on sanctifying the seven candles of the face, this time looking at sanctifying the nostrils. Rebbe Nachman’s follower Yitzchok Breiter states that one sanctifies the nostrils by taking “a long breath of patience, no mater what.” He derives this from the Rebbe’s advice that sanctifying the nostrils involves having fear of Heaven. Rebbe Nachman himself finds root in this idea from a verse in Isaiah (11:3):”V’haRiCHo ([Moshiach] shall be filled) with the fear of Hashem....” Due to the similarity between v’harRicho and Rei’aCH, the sense of smell, the Rebbe sees the nose as an allusion to fear of Heaven.

But what does fear of Heaven have to do with a long breath of patience? The answer is that one who has fear of Heaven realizes that ultimately all the trials and troubles of life, from the person who cuts you off in traffic to loss of a job or even illness (G-d forbid), stem from the will of Hashem. While we cannot control what happens to us, we can control how we react, and by acting with calm and patience, we in fact emulate Hashem himself. Hashem is described as “erech apayim,” literally “long nostriled,” suggesting how He is slow to anger and patient with us. He shows the kind of face we would expect from a calm person, relaxed and with clear flowing breath, instead of a face scrunched up in anger. By being patient with others, as Hashem is patient with us, we copy this trait, and avoid the faulty and harsh judgments that often accompany a sudden burst of anger. And not only do we gain greater mental clarity from exerting patience, we also gain better physical health, keeping at bay many of the health dangers that follow from stress and anger.

For more on attaining both inner and outer calm, I highly recommend The Trail to Tranquility, by Rabbi Lazer Brody.

Monday, December 25, 2006

50% Off Sale on Books at KehotOnline

Friday, December 22, 2006

Sanctifying the Mouth

In our last installment on the Seven Candles of the Face, we are given two views of how to sanctify the central candle of the face, the mouth. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov stated that we can sanctify the mouth by not speaking falsely, while Reb Yitzchok Breiter, a follower of the Rebbe, stated that we sanctify the mouth by avoiding saying forbidden things and by speaking words of Torah and prayer.

While their advice may seem different, it is actually the same. The Torah, in both its written and oral aspects, is Truth given directly from Hashem. The prayers in the siddur, a large part of them being taken directly from scripture, are also words of Truth. Not only is it a mitzvah to pray and study Torah daily, fulfillment of these mitzvahs actually requires physical articulation of the vocal organs and thus speech, even if it is barely more than a whisper. Furthermore, words of kindness and sympathy to one who is ill or troubled are, just like Torah study and prayer, mitzvahs. As such, these acts of speech serve to bind us closer to Hashem.

Just as True speech can bring us closer to Hashem, False speech can distance us from Hashem. Slander, talebaring, mockery, and gossip are all examples of False speech, even if the words spoken in each of these situations don't contain any false information. Apart from being actually forbidden by Halacha, this kind of speech is destructive and far more than any physical blow, and spreads and corrupts like an illness. Filling our mouths with Truth helps us avoid these pitfalls.

For more on avoiding improper speech, I highly recommend Chfetz Chaim: A Lesson a Day, the Concepts and Laws of Proper Speech arranged for Daily Study, published by Artscroll.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

A Special Shabbat at Chabad by the Sea...and You're Invited!

I would like to invite you to join us for a very special Shabbat at Chabad.
It will not only be Shabbat, but also the last and brightest day of Channukah. And we'll be joined by some very special guests.

Among them:

The services, including a song-filled Hallel service, will be led by rising-star Benny Friedman (pictured here performing at Universal Studios City Walk with neo-Chassidic rocker Yossi Piamenta.) Benny's very young career grows quicker after with performance. This Channukah alone he performed in four cities in Florida and Louisiana.

Then, we will be treated to a special Shabbat- Channukah sermon by renowned teacher and scholar, Rabbi Manis Friedman. Rabbi Friedman's talk is "What Would the Maccabees Fight for Today?" Services will be followed by a Kiddush/Oneg sponsored by Rabbi Yochanan & Bailly Friedman in honor of all the wonderful company.

We hope you can join us!

Wishing you Happy (what's left of) Channukah and a wonderful Shabbat.


Rabbi Yochanan Friedman Chabad by the Sea

Days of Thanks

Rabbi Lazer Brody of the blog Lazer Beams has made a wonderful post about Chanukah and thankfulness. In it, he shares some powerful thoughts by Yaakov Kalati that will make you realize how fortunate you really are, and how much you have to thank Hashem for.
Here is an example:
If you have money in the bank, in your wallet, spare change in a dish
someplace... you are among the top 8% of the world's wealthy.

See the full post here.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Sanctifying the Candles

We continue our Chanukah series on Rabbe Nachman's teaching of the Seven Candles of the Face, this time giving an overview of what sanctifying the candles entails.

Rebbe Nachman himself gives the following overview:
You can sanctify your mouth by not speaking falsely; your nostrils by having fear of Heaven; your ears by by believing in the Tzaddikim; and your eyes by shutting them in the face of evil .
----Likutey Moharan I, 21:2
Reb Yitzchok Breiter (may Hashem avenge his blood), a famous Breslov chassid who died in the Holocaust, explains the issue in the following way:
Sanctify your eyes by not looking at evil; sanctify your ears by listening to the words of the wise; sanctify your nostrils by taking a long breath of patience, no matter what, thus showing love to the person with whom you were about to be angry; and, sanctify your mouth through words of Torah and prayer and refraining from saying anything forbidden.
----Seder HaYom 21
While these two overviews seem to differ with respect to certain points, they are in fact the same. G-d willing I will continue this short series by taking a more detailed look at how one sanctifies the mouth.

For those who are interested, Yitzchok Breiter's Seder HaYom is available on the Azamra Institutes website, translated as "A Day in the Life of a Breslover Chassid".

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Nefesh HaChaim or Chanukah? Special Day & Place!

Nefesh HaChaim continues at a new time and place (Sam's place), tonight, Tuesday, at 7:30pm.

Call 650-796-6752 or e-mail for directions.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Seven Candles of the Face

The great Chassidic master Rebbe Nachman of Breslov teaches:

There is a level of intellect one attains by means of numerous introductory explanations. This knowledge, once your mind has already comprehended and embraced it, is known as Inner Intellect. There is also a greater knowledge, one which is at present beyond your capability to attain, known as Transcendent Intellect. When you are found worthy, this level of intellect comes to you without any introductory explanations, but by means of a G-dly influx. And the only way to become worthy of this G-dly influx is by sanctifying your mouth, nose, ears and eyes -the seven apertures of the head which allow the influx into the mind. These apertures are known as the Seven Candles. They correspond to the seven lights of the Menorah [in the Holy Temple], with the head -the mind- corresponding to the Menorah itself.

----Likutey Moharan I, 21:1-4

With Hashem's help, I will be presenting more on the teaching of the Seven Candles as we continue with the festival of Channukah.

For more on the Seven Candles, see chapter 16 of Crossing the Narrow Bridge by Rabbi Chaim Kramer or listen to "The Seven Lights of Our Face" by Rabbi Jonathan Rietti.

Grand Menorah Lighting in SC

From Rabbi Friedman of Chabad By the Sea:

Here's a quick reminder (and some clarity after the misprints in the paper) about the lighting ceremony at the giant menorah tonight.

We're meeting at 6 PM and will have a lighting ceremony followed by a Channukah party!
The giant Menorah is on the corner of Pacific and Front (across from the clock tower.) The party will be next door at the Vets Hall.

Join us for the lighting and then for the crafts, games and Latkes.

Bring a friend and we'll see you there.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Chanukah Spirit???

Season's Greetings! It's Christmas time again, and in effect, it's also the time when Jews feel the most un-American. But! it's also soon to be Chanukah, a holiday that commemorates the independence and preservation of the Jewish people from the assimilating force of Hellenism. How odd I find it that the two holidays juxtapose one another... On one hand, our gentile neighbors are celebrating universalism and neighborliness while us Jews are celebrating our fierce desire to remain culturally distinct and apart from the social mainstream. People question whether or not Jesus was really born on Christmas; maybe Jews should question whether or not Chanukah really happened on the 25th of Kislev as well because maybe the rabbis decided to commemorate the Maccabees victory over the Greeks and the restoration of the Temple just to contrast the two holidays (this point is made facetiously).

Over the last half-century, I believe there has been a movement to "CHRISTmas-ize" Chanukah as much as possible. We, Jews, like it because we feel less left out of the "Season," and Christians like it because we, Jews, are indirectly included in their spiritual celebration, getting us one step closer to finally accepting Jesus. Ultimately, instead of being the Christmas season, it becomes the "Holiday" season - a season for everyone! - and every man, woman, and child, Jewish or Gentile, starts patterning their lives in the same way, engaged in a search for gifts and holiday preparations. Meanwhile, while Jews are out shopping for Chanukah gifts for their Jewish friends and family, they also buy Christmas gifts, partly out of guilt and partly out of love, for their non-Jewish friends so that they know that they are not forgotten and un-loved on their favorite holiday; it's at this point, however, where the separation between Chanukah and Christmas dissolves and any claim to the contrary is nothing but a delusion. Do you think if Jews did not give gifts on Chanukah that we would go out of our way to get gifts for gentiles on Christmas?'s possible, but definitely to a much smaller degree than what occurs today, I think. And is it just me, or is it a bit annoying, that my non-Jewish friends only know of one Jewish holiday, Chanukah, and only remember to wish me a happy holiday once a year, for Chanukah, one of the least important Jewish holidays of the year? In the end, businesses make a lot of money, and Jews have sold a piece of their soul away for some gifts.

Today's Jewish youth face existential threats to their Jewish identity in every facet of their existence. If you are thinking this is going to start being a lecture on Jewish-only dating, I promise you it is not, but I need to raise the issue of the difficultly of maintaining one's Jewish identity in an overwhelming, non-Jewish society, that in many ways causes us to compromise our distinction on a near daily basis in the context of Chanukah. Because I am "Jew-ish," I have to make a fuss when my friends want to order a pepperoni pizza and then receive the butt-end of their ensuing frustration at my "ridiculous" eating restrictions, and because I am "Jew-ish," I am unable to date anyone I want without lots of baggage and guilt both from my parents and from my romantic interest who feels she is being shut-out, and because I am "Jew-ish," I can't just easily plug into any popular, social ideology that forces me to compromise my Jewish beliefs. "What would Jesus do?" is a question I'll never ask myself seriously, but it is a serious question that the majority of people in America ask themselves multiple times a day. As a Jew, I am always going to be on the outside, and these sacrifices are made all the more difficult by the fact that I am not even sure that I believe in G-d, which leads me to wonder if this struggle is in vain. Nevertheless, as my personal life gets more entrenched within the non-Jewish population, it gets harder to fight back assimilation because being successful socially often means going with the flow.

In this light, the importance of Chanukah increases for me, the typical American Jew. Because the Maccabees fought, ultimately, to preserve our people from the forces of assimilation and a twisted, universal concept of humanity that demanded conformity in the name of oneness. At this time of year, especially, we need to re-affirm and strengthen our distinct identities, not dissolve them. From what I can see, there are many parallels, between the fight of the Maccabees and the struggle of the modern Jew. According to the thinking of the time, Hellenism represented "social evolution," "liberalism," "enlightenment," and the promise of "world peace" by tearing down the differences that divide us. I don't mean to imply that any of those ideals are anathema to Judaism; however, the dark side of Hellenism was that this "new humanity," this new model for human behavior and thinking, was quintessentially Greek and shunned the maintenance of cultural distinction. So too, as I see it, is the new "enlightened liberalism" of our modern day, which, like the Greeks, takes up issue with Judaism's wish to remain distinct, true to its traditions, and apart from the greater world. Moreover, other social vectors are collapsing on this situation. The Christian mentality, of loving your enemy and turning the other cheek brings about unmerited criticism of Israel's military defense of its borders and its population; in addition, Westerners who devalue cultural institutions and envision a world without borders or distinctions inappropriately categorize Israel as an apartheid state and Judaism as a racist religion. Therefore, as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict increasingly plunges the world towards the possibility of a global, nuclear confrontation, it is becoming less easy for many non-Jewish people to tolerate Israel's wish to remain distinct and Jewish.

Size in numbers and regional expanse has always been the pride and glory of other religions while Judaism's main focus, through the millenium, has been on preserving its tiny family. In a dog-eat-dog world, where might often makes right, it's very easy for the "little guy" to get squashed by the "big guy," but miraculously, our people has survived not just assimilating forces but poverty, wars, genocide, forced expultions, and other civil rights abuses as well. Being part of the "Chosen People" definitely comes with a lot of inherent prestige, merited or not; however, for those who incorrectly conclude that not being one of "The Chosen" means that they are further from grace and inherently delinquent in the eyes of G-d, it is easy to direct their enmity towards Jews and Judaism, wishing to see it destroyed in order to preserve their self-importance and personal world-view. In the "iron furnace" of Egypt, our people was created and in the cauldron of adversity, our people survived against incredible odds.

In generations past, it could have been so easy for any Jew to escape their oppressed plight and convert, but they faced every attack to their existence out of a sense of pride, strength, and a deep need to pass on something greater than themselves. Thus, in the end, I cannot stress enough how important it is for Jews to preserve the Jewish integrity of Chanukah because it is on this holiday that we commemorate and honor our daily struggle to preserve our heritage and stand-up for our beliefs against those who are made insecure by those who are different and see our Jewish identity as an obstacle to be overcome. Sure, I understand giving gifts is a great way to spread the joy of Chanukah and fits so well with the holiday's spirit, and if it didn't come around Christmas time, I would be all for it; however, on the one Jewish holiday, where we celebrate, especially, the distinction between Jew and Gentile, I think it is only right that our actions, from a bird's eye view and an inner-eye view as well, don't make that separation too hard to see. As a secular Jew, myself, engaged in a constant struggle with the belief in G-d and my Jewish identity, there is no other Jewish holiday at this point in my life where I find more personal meaning and connection to than Chanukah, so please, this year, it is my suggestion that we give no gifts, put up no Chanukah lights around the edges of our house, and bring no Chanukah bushes into our homes either....Just light a few candles and reflect on the miracle of our survival in a world of complexities and contradictions, and REMEMBER, they tried to kill us, we won, let's eat!!!!

I will be following up this essay on a review of Rabbi Gershon Winkler's book, "Travels with a Rabble-Rousing Renegade Rabbi" and a discussion on what it means to be "Jew-ishhh."
Jewish slug sings Hannukah tune... back in the year of my birth

Shabbat shalom and happy Chanuka!

Shabbat shalom and happy Chanuka, from Jerusalem!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

UCSC's Own Joins the IDF

One of UCSC's own Jewish slugs is about to become a soldier of the State of Israel. Shiranne Radzinski, who has thus far completed her sophomore year at Santa Cruz, has decided to take a few years off to complete her term in the Israeli Defense Forces. She submitted the following to the JewniProj on the eve of her conscription:
I left UCSC at the end of last year and moved to Israel to join the Israeli army, and the time is finally here. Tomorrow morning I will begin my two year service in the IDF. I expected to be a little more nervous, but at this point there's nothing I would rather be doing, so nervousness is out of the question.

Leaving Santa Cruz was hard, but not as hard as it would have been for most other UCSC students, I guess. I'm Israeli, I lived in Israel, my parents were in the army and my older brother paved the way for me when he left UCSB to join the army three years ago. For as long as I can remember, I knew that I would eventually join the army myself.

And this is the real deal I'm talking about. It's not a few months of playing army or volunteering with a group of Americans. I came with a program called Garin Tzabar, but the service is individual. Garin Tzabar is geared towards Israelis like myself who want some help with the army-joining process, but is also welcoming of any person who wants to commit to a full service in the IDF. I am part of the West Coast group, with lots of Californians, a couple Coloradans, a girl from Arizona, a kid from Washington, and even a few Canadians. Most of the group lived in Israel at one point or another. Many people grew up in Hebrew speaking households. Some didn't speak a word of Hebrew before they landed in the country. We all live together on a kibbutz, spend a few months working and then start our army with a home to come back to on the weekends. The key advantage of the program is the home on the kibbutz and the garin family. My garin is a family of high school graduates, college students and college graduates all with the same goal: to serve Israel.

I had no doubt that I wanted to join the army, and some doubts as to whether or not I should join with Garin Tzabar or try to go through the process on my own, but this was a minor issue. The only real dilemma I had was when to leave. Should I go as soon as I turn 18? Should I wait until I finish college and get a degree? My parents and many of my UCSC friends tried to convince me that it would make more sense to wait. Eventually I decided that I would feel more comfortable going in at age 18/19 rather than at 20/21 if I wanted to feel like I was no different from other Israelis. Going back to college after the army shouldn't be so difficult.

Now that I'm in Israel I have no doubt that I made the right choice. Rather than spending too much money on another two years of confusion, uncertainty, and lots of distractions, I've committed myself to doing something that I believe in, maybe even giving myself a little more time to digest the world before trying to throw myself into it. I'm 19, I have time.

Living in Ein Harod Ihud (my kibbutz) with Garin Alon (my garin) has been an amazing and new experience for me. I can't help but feel that I am incredibly lucky to be here. I'm also lucky enough that my parents decided to move back to Israel a little after I did, so I don't have to miss my family as much as everyone else.

My bags are pretty much packed, my uniform is folded and ready, and I'm totally excited. I think it's time for bed.

With love,
Your good ol' UCSC pal,
Bringing Santa Cruz to Tzahal,

You should have great success in your defense of the Jewish People. You'll be in our prayers.

"Rabbi Grinch"

I'm sure by now everyone has heard about the whole balaagan going on with the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. (Just in case, here it is in a nutshell: Rabbi Elazar Bogomilsky, a Chabad shliach in Washington, asked the airport to include a menorah in its holiday display, which at the time consisted solely of Christmas trees. When the airport refused, Rabbi Bogomilsky threatened to sue. Then, strangely, instead of including one Chanuka menorah in the airport, the officials instead took down the trees. Which led to a whole balaagan. Jewschool covered it here.)

Since then, things got pretty bad:
A local rabbi is receiving hate mail and angry phone calls after Seattle airport officials took down its Christmas trees in response to his request to include a giant Menorah in the airport's holiday decorations, his lawyer said on Monday.[...]

Harvey Grad, the rabbi's attorney, said it was never Bogomilsky's intention to have the trees removed and the rabbi was "saddened" by the port's decision to remove all holiday decorations instead of including the Menorah for Hanukkah.[...]

The Chabad of Greater Seattle asked the airport to put the trees back and will not pursue any legal action even if the airport does not include the menorah into this year's holiday decorations.

Full story
Since then, the airport decided to put the trees back.
Christmas trees are going back up at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport.

Pat Davis, president of the Port of Seattle commission, which directs airport operations, said late Monday that maintenance staff would restore the 14 plastic holiday trees, festooned with red ribbons and bows, that were removed over the weekend because of a rabbi's complaint that holiday decor did not include a menorah.
And one of the most telling parts of the article:
Airport managers believed that if they allowed the addition of an 8-foot-tall menorah to the display [...] they would also have to display symbols of other religions and cultures, which was not something airport workers had time for during the busiest travel season of the year, Airport Director Mark Reis said earlier Monday.

Full story
Right, so they had time to take down the trees, make a huge deal out of it, and then put them back up, but they didn't have time to put up one simple menorah.

Notes from Rabbi Gordon's Class

In Rabbi Gordon's class, we have been studying a great work by the acclaimed student of the Vilna Goan, Rabbi Chayim Vilozhin. It is called 'Nefesh Hachayim'.

R. Gordon encouraged me to write up postings from my notes in class so here goes. (This is beginning with a few weeks ago)

Few things in review from previous lessons:
-Hashem is constantly pumping energy into the world
-man is Betzelim Elokim (in the image of G-d; maybe there's a better word in English for image?; see the Rambam for more details-'Moreh Nevuchim')
-man by doing/breaking mitzvos puts forth positive/negative energy into the world
-Eliyahu Kramer (in the name of the Vilna Goan): "G-d wanted it so that Israel could have merit (z'chus) so He gives Israel many Mitzvahs to perform."
-the Hebrew for 'Torah Tziva Lanu Moshe' in gematria is 611. Plus there were 2 Mitzvahs that the whole people of Israel heard at Sinai. This = 613. There are also many other things: the Talmud relates there are 365 negative commandments which corresponds to the 365 days of the solar year and 248 positive commandments which correspond to the number of limbs on the body.
-according to Vilna Goan there are 613 roots and then there are the many mitzvos that stem out of this and this is how a Tzadik (righteous person) can constantly be putting out positive energy into the world in all of his actions.
-talks about how man corresponds to the universe and universe corresponds to man.
-something like man's soul is to his physical body as man is to the universe (so man functions as the soul to his universe)
-the soul is the driving force and the body is the vehicle
-relates how elements of the universe are perfected with faculties of the human body.
-many many more notes (come to the class or check out the previous lessons which will probably be on )

Some ideas from the Shiur on Perek daled:
-talks about how Jews create unprecedented good or harm in the spiritual realms through their actions (most effectively), their speech, and even their thoughts; for instance if a Jew were to have a negative thought in mind like for example the idea to get with a prostitute, he brings much more spiritual damage than when Titus brought a prostitute into the Holy Temple (with the Roman's destruction of the Second Temple)
-in this example it's interesting because the Hebrew word for prostitute has something to do with the symbol of jealousy. Leads the discussion somehow in the direction of asking: "but it states that Hashem Himself is a 'jealous G-d'..."
-So we ask, who here is jealous? G-d is because where He is supposed to be, a prostitute is; what is supposed to be used for His service and a place of holiness is being used for immorality
-the point of this is also that if human beings are passionate creatures, passion needs to be satisfied--so if this must be done in a Kosher way. (Side note: this was pretty heavy stuff for me at the time.)
-discussion of being able to control thoughts which ultimately have profound impact on the world since thought leads to speech leads to action; so R. Gordon mentions R. Nachman of Breslov who says, "if you believe you can destroy, believe you can fix."
-humans in being Betzelem Elokim have the ability to create worlds with their deeds and creative actions. So they can create tons of positive worlds or negative worlds (Has v'shalom)
-many, many more things,

There will be a lesson tonight, come tonight if you're able to, sorry for really short notice. If not, come in the future, the address is posted weekly. All I can say is, it's the real deal, it's really fascinating stuff given in an intellectual forum (though most of the things that are brought down are beyond most people's abilities to comprehend logically like say if it were a Gemara class). You have to come to see for yourself.

Please send me comments; was this too long? too scattered? too obscure? Would it be better if I did more of a summary than giving bullets replicating my actual notes?

Monday, December 11, 2006

Nefesh HaChayim continues!

Just a reminder that our Nefesh HaChayim class continues tonight (Monday night) at at 132 Castillion Terrace, Santa Cruz 9506.

Of course, we'll talk a bit about Chanukah too!

--Rabbi Gordon

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Happy Yud-Tes Kislev

Shavua tov and a good yom-tov to everyone. Tonight starts Yud-Tes Kislev, what is known as the "Rosh HaShana of Chassidus." This day commemorates the imprisonment and subsequent release of the Alte Rebbe, the founder of Chabad Chassidus, author of the Tanya, and a leader of his generation.

For deeper reading on the meaning and story of Yud-Tes Kislev, please see

I have translated a short account about a certain incident that occurred to the Alte Rebbe during his imprisonment (from an abridged sicha by the Lubavitcher Rebbe in Meayi'in Chai). Please enjoy:
During the Alte Rebbe's imprisonment, an officer from the Russian government came to visit him. This officer happened to be extremely well-versed in Tanach (Torah, Prophets, and Writings) and educated in Jewish matters.

One of the questions which this officer presented to the Alte Rebbe was regarding the explanation of the line in Torah, "G-d called out to Adam and He said to him, 'Where are you?'" The officer asked, "Didn't G-d know where Adam was? For what purpose did He ask, "Where are you?"?

The Alte Rebbe first answered him with the explanation offered by Rashi. [namely, that the question "Where are you?" was a way for G-d to open a conversation with Adam without completely scaring him.]

"I am already very well aware of what Rashi says," the officer replied, "but I want to hear the explanation of the Rabbi!"

To this, the Alte Rebbe answered:

"At the time that a person arrives to such and such an age (and here the Alte Rebbe mentioned the exact age of this particular officer), G-d asks him, 'Where are you?' Do you know for what purpose you were created in this world? What you need to do, and what you have accomplished?"

The Rebbe Rayatz explains:

The reply of the Alte Rebbe saved him from klos hanefesh (literally, saved his soul from expiring). The Alte Rebbe was overjoyed because of the merit that had befallen him, to be imprisoned and to give over his soul for the sake of the Torah of Chassidus; this matter caused the Alte Rebbe great delight. He arrived to such an elevated love and clinging to G-d, to the point that he was prepared to cling to G-d completely, to leave life in This World, and to return his soul to its Maker.

At the specific moment that the Alte Rebbe was answering the Russian officer, he thought about the fact that G-d asks each individual: "Where are you? Did you do everything that was required of you? Did you fulfill your obligations in the world?" This question struck the Alte Rebbe and saved him from klos hanefesh. He remained alive, in This World, and continued to be engaged in the subjects for which his soul had descended to the world--the spreading of Chassidus.


Every matter that occurred in the life of the Alte Rebbe creates a lesson for us.

The question, "Where are you?" is asked to every Jew at every time, from the greatest of the great to the smallest of the small. Each individual is asked according to his or her own ability and level.

With the Alte Rebbe, the question "Where are you?" prevented his soul from expiring, and for others, the same question reminds him or her not to listen to the voice of the yetzer harah, but rather to overcome it and to be strengthened in the study of Torah and fulfillment of the Mitzvos.
"A good yom-tov! May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year in the study of Chassidus and in the spiritual lifestyle of Chassidus."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

We'll be Writing History!

Torah completion this Sunday!

This Sunday (Dec. 10th) we will complete the writing of a brand new Torah scroll right here in Santa Cruz! We will be joined by Rabbi Moshe Klein, a fourth generation Sofer (ritual scribe), who will write the last few lines of the Torah.

Here are all the details: What, Where & When

We will gather at the Vets Hall at 1:00 PM for the completion ceremony. (If you will be joining Rabbi Klein in writing a letter, you will be asked to arrive a bit earlier. See below.) Refreshments will be served. The Torah will be completed and then all present will parade the Torah up to Chabad by the Sea. (We're praying for wonderful weather!)

At Chabad we will have a welcoming ceremony for the Torah followed by a light but festive lunch.

Special Kids' Workshop While the Torah is being completed, we will have a special Torah writing workshop for the children! At this workshop the kids will learn how a Torah is written and even get to try their little hands at wiring in the special Torah script with a real quill on real parchment!

Every Jewish child in town should know about this! Help spread the word.

Dedication Opportunities In keeping with tradition, dedication of portions of the Torah is being made available. Those who wish to can sponsor anything from an entire book of the Torah, a Parsha (e.g. your Bar Mitzvah Parsha...) or even a single letter. All who dedicate any part of the Torah will be honored with the joining Rabbi Klein in writing one of the final letters in this special Torah.

Here are the dedication options:
Book - $1,800 Parsha - $540 Aliyah - $360 Verse - $180 Letter - $54

You can make dedications using our online donation form at or by contacting me at the phone number or email address below.

Dedications should be made in advance of the event if possible.

I hope you can join us! Please join us if you can and please help us get the word out by forwarding this email on to your friends.

Thank you and looking forward to seeing you.

Rabbi Yochanan Friedman
phone: 831-454-0101