Sunday, January 28, 2007

Moment by Moment

Each day in the first blessing to the Shema we say: m’chdash b’chol yom tamid ma’aseh beraysheet, He renews each day, continuously, the work of creation. I have wondered, does this renewal take place every single millisecond, or every second, or some other unit of time, and if it takes place every second, does it take the whole second or just part of it?
Recently I came across the following passage that seemed to answer these questions.

During a discussion of the blessings that are said on rainfall the Yershalmi, Berachos, states:
Schottenstein ed., Talmud Yershalmi, Berachos, 91a:
R, Chanina said: Once every thirty days the deep rises and waters (this tree). And what is the basis for this statement? It is the following verse: I am Hashem, Who guards it; periodically, I will water it,….

The elucidation for this statement says:
Radal to Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer (Ch. 5:29, and Hagahos 4) proposes a brilliant explanation of how this verse demonstrates watering occurs once every thirty days. A verse states (Psalms 90:4) that G-d’s “day” is the equivalent of a thousand human years. Since a day is twelve hours long (see Radal ibid 7:55) this would mean that G-d’s “hour” is the equivalent of 83 1/3 human years (see Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer Ch. 48). The verse states that G-d waters these trees leregaleem, which we have rendered as “periodically,” but which translates more literally as “at each moment.” The term rega, a moment, refers to the smallest unit of time, which in halachah is the chelek, used in the reckoning of new moons and intercalation of years. There are 1080 chalakim in an hour; since G-d’s “hour” lasts 83 1/3 years, G-d’s chelek (which is 1/1080 of His hour) lasts a bit less that 30 days (28.1634 days, to be precise). The verse’s “moment” is measured in G-d’s time; it emerges that the watering takes place approximately once every thirty days.

Based upon this interpretation, it could be understood that although Hashem continuously sustains creation, He renews it (continually being understood as each and every moment) once every thirty days. The question then arises at which point in this period does the renewal take place. I am struck by the closeness of the 28.1634 figure and the 29.5, or so, days that are in the lunar cycle. Perhaps when Hashem stated: This renewal shall be for you the beginning.. (Shemot 12:2, as understood by Rashi) He was indicating that at the time of the monthly renewal of the moon all creation was also being renewed.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Spamming for Moshiach

The following exchange was part of a series of comments from a posting on Dov Bear’s blog:

60 years ago it would have been inconceivable that Moses could have spoken to the entire Jewish people without a miracle. Now it's inconceivable that when the Messiah comes (it should be soon, bimheyra b'yamenu etc etc) (s)he won't send us all the same email at the same time. The way God is, is also the way WE respond to HIM.
SM | 01.18.07 - 6:50 pm

“Now it's inconceivable that when the Messiah comes (it should be soon, bimheyra b'yamenu etc etc) (s)he won't send us all the same email at the same time.”
Dot com or dot org? Or, perhaps even dot edu?
The Back of the Hill |

Lol. I bet he gets his own domain. Doesn't it depend on your affiliation?
Charedim - meschiach@shakenshockle
MO -
Chabad - hamelechhamoshciach@reborn.rebbe
Reform - mistake@turntheclockback.1842
SM | 01.18.07 - 7:08 pm |

Sure it’s funny, but what happens if Moshiach actually does e-mail everyone only to have the message deleted by msn spam blocker? I guess that would be conclusive proof that Bill Gates and Microsoft are, as some suspect, the agents of evil.

photo by Chris Pirazzi

Billgatus of Borg aside, I am of an age that I remember the beginning of manned space flight, and one of the big topics of conversation concerned radio waves and TV signals. We were told these signals just continued traveling out into space forever and if you could travel far enough and fast enough you could catch up with them and listen to programs from 30 years before. So I got to thinking if radio and television signals continued to exist and transmit their messages long after their initial broadcast what about the messages that are out on the web? Do they also have some kind of continued existence out in the ether, perpetually transmitting their messages? Do all the questions, and doubts, fears, and requests, that people write about in their blogs continue beyond the confines of the servers? Does Hashem read blogs?

It was said that we should make our requests to Hashem just as a child does. A child when it wants something, even something that it doesn’t need, will ask over and over again, it won’t take no for an answer, it will cry, and scream, and rage, until it gets what it wants. So should we. We need to make our requests over and over, not giving up. We should continually call out until our requests are fulfilled. We should spam Hashem. And just maybe if every single blogger were to post: “We want Moshiach now”, we could spam Hashem into bring Moshiach, may it be so, in our time, now.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Comments What Comments?????

My sincerest apologies to any of you who may have attempted to leave a comment. It turns out that I had enabled comment moderation but neglected to specify an e-mail to send them to, so all comments disappeared into cyberspace limbo. Once again, I'm very sorry, I was not snubbing any of you, really truly.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

This is the Letter P

I have finally managed to learn the Ukrainian Cyrillic alphabet. My question is why can’t you use the letter P as the letter P. Example a) in the picture above shows the letter P on the left, in most of the western world this letter has the sound “puh”; in Ukrainian it has the sound “ruh”. The symbol to the left that resembles two capital I’s squashed together, that has the sound “puh.” Look at example b). If you thought the letter on the right has the sound “huh” you would be incorrect. That letter has the sound “nuh”; the little gallows pole to the left has the sound “huh”.
Why should this matter to me? After all, a person can learn to speak a foreign language without learning to read it. Except in my case. I have really poor hearing, caused by a combination of repeated ear infections, a family disposition towards hearing loss, and attending too many Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd concerts during my formative years. I can hear sounds, but if I don’t watch a person’s face while they are speaking to me, what they say and what I ear can be two completely different things.
As an example, last Yom Kippur, the rabbi, who is from Israel, and sometimes does not enunciate his English carefully, made the following statement: “On Yom Kippur, we are all like jellybeans!” Now in fairness to myself, I was not the only person who mistook the words “angelic beings,” for jellybeans, but everyone else realized right away what he actually said and I was sitting there for a good fifteen minutes with the following thoughts: “Wow, how are we like jellybeans? Are we all regular jellybeans or are we different flavors? Are we the really exotic jellybeans like Bertie Botts? Man, I hope I’m not one of those disgusting flavors, like mold, or vomit.”
So, for me to understand language tapes and speak the language properly, I have to have read the words first. Otherwise we could all end up as a bowl of candy.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Circle of Light

Last week, while learning, I came across the following passage:

Likutey Moharan I, 19
Everyone can see his own face in the face of the tzaddik as he could in a mirror. As a result, even without rebuke and without reproof, he will feel remorse for his deeds just by having looked into the tzaddik’s face. This is because by looking into his face, a person will see himself as if in a mirror and realizing how he is immersed in darkness, will feel remorse.

Now I was familiar with the tzaddik being able to look at a person’s face, and thereby know the person’s history and what was needed to rectify his soul, and with this the idea that a person might hide his face from the tzaddik because he did not want the tzaddik to view the darkness within him. But, the concept that the person could view his own darkness reflected in the face of the tzaddik was difficult to understand. The next day this was presented to me:

Schottenstein edition, Talmud Yerushalmi, Berachos 84B, elucidation:
A human being gains awareness of the world around him only through the light that reaches his eyes from the outside; thus his knowledge is inherently limited to the present and the visible. G-d, however, has no need of external light, for “the (essence of) light i.e. absolute knowledge resides with Him.”

This seemed to touch on the previous passage. The elucidation is referring to the hiding away of the light from the first day of creation, to be used by the righteous in the world to come. It tells that a person’s vision, when dependent upon worldly light, is limited to the objects of this world, while Hashem “sees” with the light of Daat. It didn’t help me with the idea of the tzaddik as a mirror though.
Later that day, I read the following:

I Samuel 16:7
But Hashem said to Samuel “Do not look to his appearance or his stature, for I have rejected him. For it is not as man sees; man sees only what his eyes behold, but Hashem sees into the heart.”

Once again the idea that worldly vision is imperfect, judgmental, and superficial, while Hashem’s “vision” reveals the inner truth of a person.
The next day’s learning brought me this:

Bahir 187, trans. Aryeh Kaplan
It is thus written, “I will grant him a spirit of the fear of G-d, and he will not judge by the sight of his eyes, he will not admonish according to what his ear hears.” He will incline all the world to the pan of merit. From there counsel emanates, and from there health emanates to the world. It is also written “From there is the Shepherd, the stone of Israel.” This is the place that is called “There.” Regarding this it is written, “(He has rays from His Hand, and His hidden Force is there.”

Bahir 148
…What is “His hidden Force”? This is the light that was stored away and hidden,

Here was the key to my understanding of the original passage. In order to see what is hidden within, a person must have fear of G-d. With fear of G-d a person can merit the hidden light. This recalled an earlier lesson in Likutey Moharan:

Likutey Moharan I, 15
Anyone who wants to experience a taste of the Or HaGanuz (Hidden Light) – i.e., the mysteries of the Torah that will be revealed in the Future – must elevate the aspect of fear to its source. And with what is fear elevated? With the aspect of judgment.

The Torah tells us that when Moshe descended from Har Sinai his faced glowed. The Zohar explains that Moshe attained the level of Tiferet, which is known as, the mirror that shines, his face shone with the Divine Light.
The tzaddik who has elevated fear to its source and has merited to experience the Or HaGanuz, now shines with the hidden light, his face shines like a mirror reflecting light. With the hidden light he can “see” with true vision and view what is in the heart. This true vision can be seen, it shines out, like a mirror, showing the person, who looks in the tzaddik’s face, what is in his own heart.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


First snowfall in this area in the past seven years. A beautiful but chilly hitbodedut this morning.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Like a Moth to a Flame

People have occasionally questioned me as to why I became a follower of Rabbenu, it is a decision that they often cannot understand. A choice that is made more difficult to explain as Breslov seems to be perceived as an unusual fringe group even by other chasidic sects. I have my own reasons for my decision, but when I came across the following quotation, it seemed the clearest explanation of all.
From: Hayom Yom, compiled by Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, for the 13th of Tevet:

Where a lantern is set up, those who desire light gather around - for light attracts, brightness draws.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Gevalt, Never Give Up

After writing the two previous posts, I was feeling a little low. Here I was calling myself a Breslover and on a list of 27 things that every Breslover should be doing I had already completely failed on two of them before I was even a third of the way down the list. Who was I fooling? Oy……OY!!
To distract myself from feeling miserable I decided to go blog sufing. First I went to vist A Simple Jew who led me on to Mystical Paths which I followed to this:

Wow, this was rockin’. Emunah…..Faith…..I was up and dancing, I was singing along, I was re-energized and re-charged. And I recalled something that I had read in Meshivat Nefesh. On page 29, quoting from Likutey Moharan, Rabbenu said:

Use every ploy that you can think of to bring yourself to joy. Depression does tremendous damage. Make every effort to rid yourself of it completely. One way is to search within yourself for the “good points.” Another thing: remember the words of the morning blessing: “You did not make me a heathen.”

Rabbenu is saying that no matter how low you may have sunk or how great your sins, deep down inside there is still a good point from some mitzvah that you may have done, or if nothing else simply because you are still a Jew, and because of this one thing, Hashem still has great love for you, and this is a source of great joy.

Later on page 71, quoting from Likutey Halachot it says:

Always be joyful – even if you are poor and under pressure, even when your service of G-d and your prayers feel ragged. Always be content with your portion. Pay no attention at all to the rest of the world. It may seem to you that other people have an easy living and that their service of G-d, their learning, and their prayers are a thousand levels higher than your own, even though you never see them putting in the same effort and toil that you have to achieve your own low level. Pay no attention to thoughts like this. Be content with your portion and with every good “point” that is in you. Give thanks to G-d that he made you worthy of this. What do you care that your friend is greater and better than you? G-d is good to all.

Going back to A Day in the Life, I looked at step ten. Pray Shacharit, Hey, I do this already, WOO HOOO….maybe I’ve eaten already, and I’m unmikvahed, but I’m still davenning. Baruch Hashem, thank you Rabbenu, and thanks to A.S.J, Reb Nati and Akiva, and Avraham Abutbul and Rav Lazer Brody.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Take Me On Back to the Sea

Step nine- Immerse in the mikvah everyday. I continue my downward slide. We live about 240 miles from the nearest uncontested kosher mikvah, a fact that Mrs. Jude brings to my attention every month. A person could immerse in the ocean, except on rare occasions, I am not that person.
As I explain to the Little Rebbetzin, “The Atlantic Ocean where daddy grew up is the nice ocean, remember when we went swimming in Florida when we went to visit Aunt Faye? The beach here is the bad ocean, you can’t go in the water, its dangerous.”
Don’t let images of Southern California's palm tree lined beaches fool you, the water here comes straight down from Alaska and never gets above fifty degrees even in the middle of summer. Average survival time without a dry suit is about 10 minutes. Then there are the waves, big frothy crashing waves with trees rolling around in the surf....trees....rolling. Wind too, thirty, forty miles per hour, all the time, everyday.
Sure, I know this shouldn’t deter me, don’t we read about the tzaddikim who would go down to the river in winter, shovel away the snow, chop a hole in the ice, and immerse. I tell myself: they were stout eastern European peasants; I am just a skinny city boy from New York. Yes, when I come out of the surf pummeled but intact I am very invigorated, shivering uncontrollably, but feeling very alive, but that doesn’t mean I want to risk my life doing this everyday, especially first thing in the morning.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Davening for Doughnuts

Step eight, in A Day in the Life, is: don’t eat, drink, or talk before you pray. This one I fail at. The don’t talk is next to impossible as the Little Rebbetzin starts out chattering at full concert volume from the second she awakes, while it takes me about a half hour to regain the power of speech after I awake in the morning. This is very unsatisfying to the L.R. since I am not upholding my portion of the conversation. Her solution is to ask questions that require an answer more complex than grunting, to force me into recognizable speech, this is not the big difficulty.
My real difficulty is with the don’t eat part. If I don’t eat every four hours, I will get sweaty, start to tremble, and finally blackout. As if that wasn’t enough, this will also trigger a migraine. A night of sleep is longer than four hours so when I wake up I need to eat immediately. The obvious question to ask is what do I do on Yom Kippur.
Q: What do you do on Yom Kippur?
A: Nu, it’s Yom Kippur, I fast. I eat all the carbs and protein that I can manage to keep down, right up until the last second, then I fill my pockets with aspirin and migraine medications, which I eat like they were candy, all during the day. Because I can’t drink water to wash them down I dissolve them under my tongue until I can swallow them. The year before last I had to take so many I had chemical burns in my mouth afterwards.
With Hashem’s help I don’t pass out and hit my head on the bima.
Q: What about Rosh Hashanah?
A: Good question, every year I go crazy because it’s not a fast day, but we don’t break until about 3:30 PM. I think why not just go another 2 hours and call it good for Yom Kippur too.
Q: Why don’t you do the same thing that you do on Yom Kippur?
A: Stubbornness, because it’s not a fast day, also the pills only allow me to remain barely functional, and it takes me three or four days to recover. And who wants to spend Rosh Hashanah wondering if maybe they could just take a power drill and make a few little holes in their head if it would let the pressure out, but of course you can’t use power tools on Yom Tov so that wouldn’t work, and meanwhile, hopefully my head won’t explode all over the Torah.
Q: So what do you do?
A: Usually suffer, and try to sneak some food. Last year I left the shul about 11:45 had some fruit and bagels, went back and was fine for the rest of the day.
Q: And the point of all this?
A: The point is that if I don’t eat before Shacharit I may or may not pass out in the shul but I will definitely have a migraine for the next three days.

So I make use of the ruling: It is better to eat so that you can daven, then to daven so that you can eat.