Friday, October 24, 2008

Baal Sheeeevy.

When I first began my return back to Torah Judaism, a friend of mine made an interesting comment and provided some good advice. He said that a lot of "baal teshuvas" get really excited about keeping mitzvos, that as suddenly as they started keeping Shabbos they begin to judge others, criticize and point on faults, and worst of all judge non religious Jews. Its called "Baal Sheevy Syndrome" and it infects thousands of Jews worldwide. Usually, with the help of G-d and also some time learning in Yeshiva or Seminary, they realize their foolishness and begin to truly focus on correcting their own Neshama. Sometimes, though that isn't the case and the syndrome lingers with them for years, even decades.

During Simchas Torah there was a break between Mincha and Maariv and we went to someones house for some food & drink. The food was nice (homemade cakes) and the drink was as well (homemade lemonade). What wasn't nice was the conversation. One thing I cant stand to do is sit around a table and tell "my story" of how I became religious with other frum people. The purpose is nothing more than a contest to show who returned in a more interesting way. Its sometimes good for non religious Jews to hear to inspire them and get them thinking, but even that isn't my method of inspiration. That wasn't the problem its was ensued after.

For the next hour we discussed or should I say, gossiped about and criticized non religious Jews and our interaction with them. What purpose does this serve? Is it bringing Jews back to Torah? Is it elevating our own level of dedication to Hashem? Chabad's who mission is to bring Jews back to Torah, and to learn Chassidus and be Chasidim (Righteous, above the letter of the law, dedicated to Torah), and here I am sitting around a table listening to a bunch of Lubavitchers bash Jews. I guess Ahavas Yisroel only applies to when you are doing Kiruv work, and even then now I question if its genuine. The whole thing was a one up party. Oh Ive been frum for this long, oh I started keeping Chalav Yisroel years ago, Oh this Rabbi ate in my house and he doesn't eat in anyone's house. The best one was "I met the Lubavitcher Rebbe back in the 70's. Oh that was before Dollars." I wondered to myself. is Before Dollars like a time period? Since he is the Messiah I guess AD doesn't stand for Jesus's (the false messiah) death. AD stands for After Dollars. Its a mean spirited joke but it was a product of what I was hearing.

I was trying to figure out how to get up and leave without being rude or making it awkward and I almost got out without saying a word except for thank you to the host for the food. As I was about to leave the question popped "Are you frum since birth?" No... "Oh when did you become religious?" First off, were you paying attention at all? My parents just said they became religious 8 years ago. Am I frum since birth? Yea...I'm married and have a beard, but I'm only 8. OK, OK, give him a break." I told him I became religious about three years ago. His response was "Oh that's not that long ago. Well that was rude. Lets see where I'm at when I'm your age.

I left and went back to shul to continue learning Gemara. I might not be a Talmid Chachum but I figured that not understanding Mesechta Makkos is a better use of time than putting down Jews. When I see and hear my peers (18-30) acting like Baal Sheevy's I kind of just laugh, and remember how many mistakes i made (and continue to make). Its more of me laughing at myself that us Baal Teshuvas in general have so much to work on and yet our Yetzer Hara is so good and getting us to ignore that so we can put down others. When its the 50 and older grown that has been religious for 10-30 years that's when it alarms me.

What would the Lubavitcher Rebbe say about his Chasidim? How the women dress, How the spend their time, What they speak about, How they judge other Jews. Would you go to your Rebbe wearing stiletto high heels, a pencil skirt with a slit in the back and red lipstick? Would you proceed to bad mouth non religious Jews? Why is it ok to do it when you aren't in front of your Rebbe. I thought the point of a Rebbe was to have as a symbol of Emes and Holiness. If you aren't strong enough to ask yourself "Would G-d be happy if I did this, at least you could say "What would my Rebbe think?"

My wife and I need to get out of this darkness because its starting to choke us. Either way, Moshiach is almost here! AMEN!

Lashon Hara Is Now Fast and Easy

(courtesy of

Lashon Hara is now fast and easy with new Verizon DSL. For just $39.99/mo. you can quadruple the amount of people to hear your gossip and destroy and defame Yidden ten times faster. The Internet and Blogging is just anything else in the material world. It can be used for the utmost good as well as the utmost evil. Lately I have seen a pattern of Jewish Blogs posting nothing but negative aspect of Judaism.

I'm not speaking about blogs like Failed Messiah, Xyre or, Circus Tent. These blogs are another category. They had their feelings hurt buy groups they tried so hard to be accepted by and once rejected were unable to cope with the fact that Hashem had other plans for them. Instead they dedicate hours upon hours exposing the most negative, distorting the truth, and praying (well at least they pray for something) for the destruction of the people they are out for.

The Internet has made this much easier as these people would not have even a third of the success they feel they have gained if they led such a campaign in the real world. You know, face to face to the people you slander. No, because that would end in either a pummeled face (G-d forbid) or being out debated, as without open, the knowledge base must shift to brain-only mode. Still these site gets thousands of hits and people keep coming back because people just love to read the kind of negative filth these sites host.

Is it Lashon Hara that i speak about these blogs and the horrible things they say? Some might say yes, but still criticizing a blog, isn't criticizing a person. I don't know the people who write these blogs, and for the most part they try to stay anonymous for fear of retaliation against them. Apparently getting your blog hacked is not as scary as a group of displeased people at your front door.

My focus of this blog is on Blogs that I consider quality blogs writing Lashon Hara. Blogs I support, avidly read, that sometimes go in the wrong direction when they are short on material. There is this concept in the Blogosphere, specifically the Frum one, that it is OK to expose the negative aspects of Haredi Society on the Internet because people deserve to know the truth. There are many problems with this. Firstly Who deserves to know the truth? Haredi people or people that stumble upon a blog and form an opinion that Haredi Society is all negative. Still, the negativity should not be ignored and it should be documented, but it should also be based on fact and not opinion, or not on the word of three or four people.

My issue is when there are blogs that write articles about specific people. This is without question Lashon Hara, and the usual response is that Lashon Hara is just an excuse to keep the truth from being known. Well my question is, who are you to "expose the truth"? You are a Jew with a blog account and nothing more. This goes for me as well, and if my blogs are a reflection of my position on this issue, I can say that if I do write a blog about a person, their idenity is unknown to anyone but me, and possibly them if they read the article.

I have thrown around the idea of posting the blog and its article that spurred this posting, but that will not solve the problem. I enjoy reading the blog and have learned interesting things about Haredi Society and how I functions at least from this blogger's point of view. The article really set me off and I argued back in forth but to no avail did the blogger shift their opinion on the subject.

In short the article is about a few Rabbi's and their method of fundraising. The blogger goes off on them equating them to thievery, fraud, and deception. My problem is what evidence was this hateful blog based on? 100% opinion, yet it is presented as if its well known fact. If you don't agree with how this Rabbi works, then he is not the Rabbi to you. Unless you are his accountant, or the Israeli IRS how do you know what goes on? You asked a couple people (who also happen to dislike this Rabbi as much as you) and this is your evidence.

Lashon hara (or Loshon hora) (Hebrew לשון הרע; "evil tongue") is the prohibition in Jewish Law of telling gossip – negative disparaging but truthful remarks about a person or party who is not present.

However you want to justify an article targeting a specific person, this is the Halacha. You can chose to ignore it, like you can chose to ignore any halacha.

Frum Blogs should be used to make the Internet holy and break the klippot that the Internet has encrusted around its users. Yes, all aspects of Judaism should be documented, but there is plenty of Positive going on, and its a shame that is ignored for the more juicy stories. If that is your goal, then you should work for a goyish mainstream publication like People Magazine.

There will be a separate follow up to this blog but the end result is the same.

If we spent the same amount of type Gossiping and putting Jews down as we did in our Torah study, Moshiach would have come during the time of the 1st Temple.

The Vilna Goan repented one Rosh Hashanah on his time wasted in not learning Torah during the year. He carefully calculated that it was 7 minutes for the whole year!!! If we only spend 7 minutes a day or even a week extra learning Torah, think of our benefit.

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Sukkah and The Ark

From ASimpleJew's Blog...

The Sukkah & The Ark

The Zohar says that the Sukkah is comparable to Noach's ark. Just as Noach's ark protected its occupants from the raging floods, so does the Sukkah protect us from all evil. The Gemara says that only those who had not sinned were admitted into the ark. Perhaps this is why Sukkos falls right after Yom Kippur. Since on Yom Kippur Hashem has forgiven all our sins, we deserve to dwell under the protective shield of the Sukkah.

(Shem MiShmuel)

We are all Angels: Yom HaKippurim

(Courtesy of

A women who was speaking to my mother after Kol Nidre said someone told her that she should be happy today and it really got me thinking. We learn from the Sfas Emes who gave over a maamar on Yom Kippur that this day is the happiest day of the year. Unlike the fast of Tisha B'Av which is fast of sadness and mourning, the fast of Yom Kippur is a fast of joy and celebration. Yom Kippur is know as the Shabbos of Shabbosim, and how could we as Jews that are required to be happy on Shabbos but sad on the Shabbos of All Shabbosim? The Sfas Emes gave a really amazing insight that not only gave me a great appreciation for this amazing day, but made it the most spiritual and fulfilling time in my life. Shabbos is said to be 1/60th of Olam Habah, so its only logical that the Shabbos of Shabbosim would be 1/30th of Olam Habah, and that is exactly what it was.
The Sfas Emes quotes the Gemara in Yoma that discusses the procedure of the Kohen Gadol before Yom Kippur. 7 days he separates from his wife and prepares for the one day. This is how the Sfas Emes connects Yom Kippur to being above nature Le'ma'ala min ha'teva, as 7 is nature, but 7 plus 1 is eight and that is above nature. How do we as Jews reach that level of Le'ma'ala min Ha'teva? The Sfas Emes says Fasting and Teshuva. Fasting because it is above our nature to not consume food and drink, and by doing this we are able to reach the level of angels, who not only do not eat, but do not want to eat. We wear white linen based off of Yehezkal's vision, we don't eat, and it is considered meritorious to stand as much as possible as the angels are incapable of sitting. Baruch Hashem I was blessed to stand the whole time except for the reading of Torah. We also become Korbanos as our bodies feed off of our fat and blood like that of the Korban of Yom Kippur.

How is Teshuvah above nature? The Sfas Emes explains that when we do something (like an averah) it becomes natural to us and very difficult to overcome. By doing proper Teshuvah we are able to raise ourselves above the natural process of everyday life. Hashem gives us the opportunity to obtain a higher level of spirituality on this day. This helps us with both these aspect of Yom Kippur and helps us in appreciating the importance of the day and the joy that these two elements should bring.

I held on to these ideas as I prayed to our creator and It was the most intense experience of my life. Not only did I completely ignore the Yetzar Hara who told my I was "starving", but I could have honestly fasted through the night until the morning. I was totally consumed in what I felt was proper Teshuva and striving for a connection with Hashem. There is something special about my parents shul, as its not a typical Chabad shul, its more like a Lubavitch Shtiebel. The Chazzan was a Rabbi from my community in Long Beach, and his voice is the sounds of a neshama trying to leave through the wind pipe. Im not so into the beautiful voice, I am into the powerful voice that cries when we pray that Hashem should have mercy and not take our lives before our time or when we speaks about the tragedy of the 10 martyrs.

Anu V'Ata was my climax, as that prayer gives me such intense concentration and passion. However the climax of climaxes was Shema x1 Baruch Shem x3 Hashem Hu x7. I lost my voice at Hashem Hu #7 and was shaking all over. We finished off right before the shofar with the Chabad Minhag of "the Victory March". Dancing Jumping Yelling around the Bimah I thought I was at a Breslov Shul for a moment.

I smiles, I cried, my soul was so joyful and I pray that my teshuva was sincere and accepted and that I can work to become a better Yid. Someone asked me last night if I made any resolutions. Jokingly I said, Yea not to make vows.

On a serious note, we should all focus on making our performance of mitzvos less routine and really pay attention to the fact that we are performing these mitzvos and although everyday, they are special and unique everyday. We should pay attention to our blessings over mitzvos and food and really be sincere. When someone does something for us we thank them and remember that. When we "forget" if we said a bracha rishon or achron, it is because we didn't properly thank Hashem for what he has given us.

May this year be the year that we grow and raise our spiritual level so that we can bring Moshiach speedily Amen!!!

Hashgacha Pratis

(Courtesy of

I had 3 art critiques on Yom Kippur, and because of that had to have them done by Tuesday night. I had been working non stop in the art studio putting in 8 hours a day Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. As of Monday night I had come to terms that I wasn't going to finish in time and would just have to deal with the consequences. Tuesday morning I got to minyan and I asked Hashem to please help me to just help me a little today so that I could finish on time. I left for work and experienced more traffic than usual. There was a fire on the side of the freeway, and since this was the first fire in history and no one had ever seen a fire before, everyone had to go extra slow so they could stare at it instead of the road in front of them. As I neared the fire I realized that the building I work in was on the same block. Then I realized the building was right behind ours. I got off the freeway and couldn't get into the area because of a Police barricade. I went around the block but the fire hose was blocking the street. I was going to run over it but I didn't feel like getting arrested. Then I realized what was going on with this whole situation and it blew my mind. Would Hashem burn down a building so I wouldn't go to work and instead go into the studio and finish my art on time? No, he wouldn't do that, but if it was already destined that that building was to burn down and it was destined for me to somehow finish my art, then Yes, Hashem decided to make them coincide. It was found out today that it was arson, most likely committed by rival neighbors over "trash". I got into the studio around 9am and worked almost nonstop till 11pm. I got it all done and Baruch Hashem it turned out amazing. Iy"H Soon I will have a website up with my work and hopefully people will want to purchase it so I can provide for my family. Since I returned from Israel, was inspired by many amazing Jews, and read Rabbi Shalom Arush's book Garden of Emuna, my life has really transformed and my trust in Hashem has increased tenfold. Its Hashems job to work about everything, and its my job to perfect myself, perform mitzvos, and learn Torah. This was just a little reminder showing me that yes Hashem can perform open and obvious miracles for a Jew but that really we need to pay attention to the everyday "small" miracles, that are really the biggest miracles of all.

Stay Tuned for "We are all Angels: Yom HaKippurim"....