05 December 2018

Chanukah – 8 Days a Week! + WATCH: Is Yehudit the Esther of Chanukah?

27 Kislev 5779  | כ"ז כסלו ה"תשע"ט
4th Candle of Hanukkah | נר רביעית חנוכה

Chanukah – 8 Days a Week! | by R' Ephraim Sprecher | first published here

The Beatles had a number 1 hit song called 8 Days a Week. Were they singing about Chanukah?

2,182 years ago the Greeks had outlawed Torah observance among the Jewish People in Israel. They made it a capital punishment to observe the three Mitzvot of Shabbat, Milah and Nidah, which happens to be an acronym of SHEMEN (oil) (שמן). Parshat Vayeishev always falls out around Chanukah time. Thus the Sefer HaPardes points out that there are 112 verses in Parshat Vayeishev, 104 of which begin with the letter VAV, which is a conjunction. These 8 independent verses, represent the 8 days leading up to Brit Milah and the 8 days of Chanukah.

What is the connection between Parshat Vayeishev and Chanukah? All of the incidences in Vayeishev are one large continuum connected by the VAV conjunctions. Everything is cause and effect. But the life of a Jew, symbolized by the 8 days of Brit Milah, is not affected by this continuum. There are no VAV’s or conjunctions in the verses that represent Israel, because there is no ordinary cause and effect when it comes to the Jewish People.

The life of a Jew is above and beyond the control of nature. The Jewish people are identified with the number 8, which symbolizes the supernatural, 7 being the symbol of nature as in the 7 days of the week, and 8 symbolizing the supernatural.

The 8 days of Chanukah which fall around Parshat Vayeishev, also fit neatly into this pattern. The 8 days symbolize and signify the supernatural, which is a perfect description for the Miracle of Chanukah.

Why is Chanukah 8 days? The Talmud tells us that there was enough oil to light the Menorah for 1 day, but miraculously the 1 day supply of oil burned for 8 days. So the miracle of the oil was ONLY 7 days. Why do we have an 8-day festival for a 7-day miracle? It can’t be to give us an extra day to eat donuts and latkas!

The answer is that the 8 days of Chanukah, like the eight days of Brit Milah, symbolize that Israel will exist eternally above and beyond the laws of nature. As John Lennon sang in his number 1 hit song, without the Beatles, “WE ALL SHINE ON!” This is Israel’s eternal destiny!
I was sick during the first few days of Hanukkah, so didn't post until now! Sorry about that. This post deserved the whole week! -CDG

16 November 2018

Let us be grateful for the miracles HaShem has wrought!

8 Heshvan 5779
Erev Shabbat Vayetze'

Four hundred and seventy (470) rockets were fired into Israel in just over 24 hours this last round — a record — and only one person was killed! Amazing! Only HQB"H!!!

I commented on another blog:

 Let's appeal to HQB"H through tehillim for mercy on our nation! And then let us thank Him after it's all over, and give Him the credit He deserves.

 And so, I'm following up now. We all need to take some time to be thankful for the good as well as seeing the bad.

Hanukkah is nigh and we need to prepare! Study what you can about Hanukkah חנוכה now, my brothers and sisters!


DISCLAIMER: Some of the items in the links about Hanukkah are not exactly in its spirit. For instance, I'd never heard "Light One Candle" before today, even though I liked Peter, Paul and Mary when I was young (yes, I am in 'that age' range!). It resembles "Kumbaya" more than it does the story of the Maccabees, who would never recognize themselves in it.

Also, the videos have women singing, just in case you might want to avoid that. If you have better suggestions, please comment!

Lastly for today, we need to be extra vigilant since our government apparently has chosen dishonor and humiliation over victory and deterrence. Next post (be"H - I'm not sure when it will be), I'll present the best reason to make aliyah. I don't think you will have heard it quite this way before.

UPDATE 2018/12/05: still preparing that post...meanwhile, it's Hanukkah.

The video below has no women singing; it's R' Ephraim Sprecher explaining why revival of the dead is essential to Judaism.

Shabbat shalom umevorah!

12 November 2018

If you can't fight, pray tehillim!

the light of 5 Kislev 5779

Tehilim Yahad is a website people from all over the world can gather to pray tehilim (psalms) together for whatever purpose is given. Here is the specific page to pray for the success and protection for Am Yisrael and the security forces, in case you want to pray with us here in Israel (it's in Hebrew, but you can change the language to any of the major languages, including English). UPDATE: instructions are in the comments below.

I grouped sets of Tehilim here for different aspects of war, especially for the Jewish soldiers who are physically involved, doing the great mitzvah of defending the Jewish country (regardless of how one individually feels about it).

Tizku l' mitzvoth! May haShem save us and all Israel, all over the world in your merit, joined with ours.

 And below is some motivation to pray! More links can be added in the comments below.

200 Hamas rockets strike Israel

Some of the story behind what's happening here - BBC - read with caution. As usual they blame us, whether openly or subtly. It's the badly-played opera again.

Arutz 7- IDF given green light in GazaIDF strikes Gaza terror targets

Rocket attacks are up to 400 - R' Lazer Brody

Something else we can bring to HQB"H: While Hamas engages us in war, "Under the guise of 'agricultural assistance,' the Palestinian Authority is taking over Area C, with the help of massive European financial support and in violation of the law." Read and/or download this Regavim PDF for more. Regavim holds our government accountable for enforcing laws regarding our land. But now we are besieged on both sides.

Here we go... of course we must pray for the complete redemption!!!

UPDATE 14/11/2018: Last night R' Lazer summed up what I'd like to call Lessons Learned After the Ceasefire (it's really called Iron Dome, Ceasefire: There's no one but Hashem):

Despite everything, Hashem still did tremendous miracles. 450 missiles fell, there was all kinds of chaos and property damage, yet only one person was killed - not even an Israeli - but a worker from the PA village of Halhoul illegally sleeping over in Ashkelon. There were no Jewish Israeli fatalities!

Hashem is giving us another chance to learn emuna and do teshuva. Once we do, we're home free. But, if people simply use the respite to go back to their sidewalk cafes, then the next round of hostilities will be even worse. What's more, if Iron Dome's success against Gaza was a mere 27% (flunking Fall Semester midterms against Gaza, 2018), what will it be against Hizbollah, whose firepower is twenty times that of Gaza?
"Rabbi Rambo" should know.

Disclaimer: I'm not a Breslever myself, and don't plan to become one. They don't own emuna and teshuva; they just promote these Jewish concepts with everything they have!

09 November 2018

Yakov’s Weird Wedding! + WATCH: Parashath Tol'doth

1 Kislev 5779
Rosh Hodesh Bet
Hodesh Tov uMevorah!

by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher
first published here

The father of the first Jewish family, Yakov, was the victim of a last minute switch on his wedding night. His father-in-law, Lavan, substituted Leah, the older of his two daughters, for Rachel, the one whom Yakov loved and worked for. Yakov discovered the deception only after he had consummated the marriage with Leah. Yakov, choosing to accept his Mazal (fate), remained with Leah and later also married Rachel, the bride of his choice.

Why did the first Jewish wedding have to take place through deceit and deception?

Why did the first Jewish family have to come into existence in such an enigmatic and strange manner?

Leah represents Yakov's Mazal (fate). She is the woman whom Yakov was destined to marry. Rachel represents choice. She is the woman whom Yakov loved and chose to marry. Why does the Torah have to record this strange story of Yakov’s wedding deception? The narrative portions of the Torah contain much more than simple stories.

The entire Torah is G-d's Personal, Authorized living manual for today's world. Every word in the Torah is G-d’s GPS (G-d's Personal System) for life.

There is a profound message being taught here. When one gets married, although he thinks that he is marrying a Rachel, the one that he chose, there are bound to be unforeseen surprises.

One may discover, after the wedding night, that he has also married a Leah, who represents the unanticipated nature of one's spouse. This unforeseen nature, however, is exactly what one needs in a spouse. As the Rolling Stones number one song goes, "You can't always get what you want, but get what you need". Married life is full of surprises.

That is why the groom veils his bride. Because through this veil, he is stating in effect, I will love, cherish and respect not only the 'you' which is revealed to me, but also those aspects of your personality that are hidden from me. As I am bonding with you in marriage, I am creating a space within me for the totality of your entire being, including what remains veiled.

Under the Chuppah the groom says to the bride, "You are sanctified to me with this ring …" What he means is that I can't attain my full potential of sanctity without you. However, the bride remains silent. Why does she not verbally acknowledge her groom's words and his gift?

The Baal Shem Tov explains that under the Chuppah the bride has reached such an exalted and unprecedented level of Kedushah that the world is not ready yet to hear her holy speech.

When the Moshiach comes, then the world will have reached its spiritual zenith, and only then the bride will speak under the Chuppah. It will be as the Prophet Yirmiyahu says, "There will be heard in the cities of Yehudah and in the streets of Yerushalayim, the sound of joy and the sound of gladness, the voice of the groom and the voice of the BRIDE!" 


Current Events in Parashath Tol'doth 5779

04 November 2018

Prayer: A Daily Conversation With G-d

the light of 27 Heshvan 5779

by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher

The Talmud (Berachot 26b) says, "Tefilot Avot Tiknum" – "Prayer was established by the Avot". The Talmud then uses the following verse (Bereshit 19:27) to prove how Avraham established Prayer: "And Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before G-d".

The connection here is in the word "AMAD" – "Stood" and its association with the Amida Prayer. Strangely though, the Torah relates, just one chapter later (Bereshis 20:17), "Vayitpalel Avraham el Ha'Elohim" – "And Avraham prayed to G-d". The word "VAYITPALEL" is directly related to "TEFILA" - "Prayer".

When proving that Avraham established Prayer, why didn't the Talmud use this verse? Furthermore, in the case of Avraham's Tefilah, G-d answered his prayer and miraculously healed Avimelech, the King of the Plishtim, and his entire household. Why isn't this clear, explicit and successful Prayer our foundational model?

The Talmud's first proof text for Prayer offers us a powerful lesson. Let's take a deeper look at our original proof text: "And Avraham got up early in the morning to the place where he had stood before G-d". What's so special about this place? This place was of deep significance to Avraham. It was the place where Avraham stood, argued, bargained, and confronted G-d before the destruction of Sodom and A'mora.

This is the place where Avraham, alone, face to face with the Master and Creator of the Universe, mustered all his incredible courage to demand (Bereshis 18:23), "Hashofet kol haaretz lo yaaseh mishpat?" – "Shall the Judge of the entire earth not do justice?" "Choliloh Lecho l'hamit tzaddik im rasha?" "How dare You kill the righteous together with the wicked?"

By using this verse as a foundation for Jewish Prayer, the Talmud teaches us that the place of Jewish Prayer is not centered on miracles or good fortune. Rather, Prayer is the place where we confront G-d for what seems to us to be unfair and unjust. Prayer is the place where we struggle and argue with G-d Who loves righteousness and justice, but allows suffering, pain, and death of innocent children.

Prayer's place is where we, like Avraham, stand and see the distance between the world as it is and the world as it could be. This is where our Prayer begins. This is where hope begins, and where redemption begins. We have a lot of work to do. Let's get started by having a daily conversation with G-d and telling Him our troubles. It's the best therapy there is, and the best part is, it's free!

Through Prayer, we become G-d's partners to demonstrate how to handle life's difficult tests. We show our family and friends how to have Emunah and Bitachon (Faith and Trust in G-d), despite our pain and suffering.

Emunah – Faith means to believe that whatever happens to us, good or even tragedies, it ALL comes from G-d. Bitachon - Trust, is a higher level than Emunah alone, for even in the tragic events in life, I trust G-d that somehow these happenings are also part of G-d's Plan for the Ultimate Good.

One of the things we pray for daily at this time of year is RAIN!

28 October 2018

Will Jews be attacked in America?

19 Heshvan 5779

...can it?

UPDATE: Sam ben Nazira u'Moshe (סאם בן נזירה ומשה) passed on yesterday morning, 20 Heshvan, according to my cousin, who is his daughter, who was with him at the time. His 94th Hebrew birthday was the 24th of October (Heshvan 15); his secular birthday would have been the 2nd of November. Thank you for your prayers.


Will Jews soon be attacked in the United States of America en masse, all over the country, Kristallnacht style and worse? I do not know the answer to this question, and I hope it will never happen, or have to happen. However, I read a very sobering and disturbing op-ed written by a former field mental health officer in the IDF during the haggim about how progressive-leaning American Jews have cut themselves off from the rest of the Jewish People by keeping company with their own worst enemies, whom they think are their best friends. I highly recommend it because I believe a person like this has a well-informed opinion - and at least one doesn't have to take this as news, whether true or false.

I suspect the problem is much wider. I so hate to be the bearer of bad news...and thus I'm sorry that I waited so long to post!

It might be wise to take advantage of the ability to take notice of events in advance. In fact, it may be starting now, with the shooting inside a Pittsburgh, PA "traditional, progressive and egalitarian" synagogue in Squirrel Hill (as I understand it, the Jewish neighborhood there), where eleven were killed on Shabbat Vayera.

While researching for this article, I found out that Kristallnacht itself occured davka on Shabbat Vayera! Not from a rabbi, mind you. From an Arutz 7 comment on this article (also linked at the end).

Don't laugh. It might just be time to take this question seriously. You have the right to refuse to read this article and links, and even to refuse to look at this issue as though it may never happen to you and yours. But, if you choose that route, don't ask why you weren't warned. Plenty of us have tried over the years. You've needed to be listening and watching.

We've all heard of the saying, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer", but in this context it has another meaning...if only because some Jews don't know enemy from friend. Even when so-called friends reveal themselves as enemies.

The op-ed: The end of the Jewish World as we know it, by Ron Jager

His words (translated to English on INN) include the following:

This historical connection between Jews has come to an abrupt end. It can no longer be ignored or denied. American Jews from the Democratic, progressive side of the political map have not only transformed themselves into a vanguard dedicated to publicly criticize Israel, but act as if Israel is a flawed democracy unworthy of their support.

This monumental shake-up and self-inflicted division of the Jewish world has been building up in recent years changing the very foundation of the Jewish World that we have been accustomed to for the past 150 years. Not since the period of European enlightenment leading to the establishment of the Reform movement and secular Judaism, and not even during the darkest days of the Holocaust, has the Jewish world undergone such a widespread and fundamental rethinking of what it means to be Jewish...We see it everywhere today; led by self-hating Jews, appearing on mainstream and social media adopting an anti-Israel narrative that not only rejects Israel’s basic national right of self-defense but simultaneously demands that Israel forfeit her right to exist as the nation-state of the Jewish people.

It bothers me when I see statements that assert as fact that the whole Jewish world has undergone a change when only one part of it has, and an increasingly shrinking one at that. In this context, the part that has rethought what it means to be Jewish, now known as "progressive," generally comprises Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews and the non-Jews who accompany them. I am perturbed by the aggrandizement of their importance these words imply because, in fact, these "progressives" do not define what Judaism is, how it is lived, and especially where it is lived. Even the left wing agrees with this - did you see where Ron Jager wrote about how suspicious our government already is of people who hold "progressive" views?

But it seems that one branch -- the High Court of (in)Justice -- disagrees and hamstrings the rest of the government in the process. Here is an article from CBS News (!) on our detention of a young former president of a chapter of Student for Justice in Palestine (I'm not going there; you can find it if you want) who wants to study at Hebrew University. More updates on her, here (Google search).

Those among the more observant of what the Torah teaches, the support the Prophets and Writings give to the Torah, and how one lives the Torah as directed by the writings of the Sages, known as Talmud, also need to pay attention. They largely (with at least two exceptions that I'm aware of - not that I'm any authority on this; may they increase anyway!) reject the practical application in the Land of Israel as mentioned in the Sh'ma and exempt themselves from responsibility to contribute to the development of a properly functioning Israeli society because at present Israel is not as they wish it to be. I believe they also need to take the warning I offer here.

For your information, as the Jewish population in Israel has been growing, that of the Jews in the rest of the world has been doing the opposite largely through assimilation, via intermarriage and the resulting deprivation of future generations of their heritage - or even the lack of future generations, considering that the larger progressive community promotes the zero-population-growth agenda — especially for Jews.

If you are one of them, you need to pay special attention. Do not be fooled by our apparent propensity to give in to the political correctness fad of the moment; it has lessened with time, and it will continue to do so with G-d's help. Do you really think that anyone has the right to tell the Jews to stop propagating and not to have our own place in the world, after what has happened to us over the last couple of millennia?

In my mind, Mr. Jager (I don't know his last rank or religious position, so I apologize for the relevant omissions here) writes like a secular counterpart to R' Lazer Brody, also formerly in the IDF. I'm going by a theory I've long held, that — whether known or unknown by the parties involved — when religious and secular Jewish colleagues agree on something, or they discuss the same matter, major events are about to happen.

Rav Brody has been concerned about the Jews in the USA for a very long time. He received words from the late R' Yehuda Zev Leibowitz, zz"l before he passed in 2010 concerning the matter under discussion here. R' Brody gave Howard Morton permission in 2015 to reveal what that was, and he himself revealed more in June 2018.

The thing I'm most concerned about at this point — no, scared out of my wits about, since it seems imminent — is the possibility, suggested by the op-ed by Mr. Jager, that the terrible event R' Leibowitz predicted might occur after Israel has cut ties with the so-called progressive Jews. Which won't be long now, if things keep going the way they have until now. Maybe by the time the November mid-term election results are in, no matter who wins?

As for the non-progressive Jews (who are mostly religious, but include some non-religious as well), you are reminded that even the righteous among the population weren't passed over for the fate of the rest during the Holocaust; so why would it be different now? One false move by President Trump could change everything. You could well be treated as one with your non-religious brethren. Unity, one way or the other.

If you are witnessing the separation of Jews from other Americans for whatever reason (besides self-motivation) in other parts of the country, you may be too late to plan your escape. In this case you may be one of the ones who may be arriving in Israel in their pajamas and carrying only a toothbrush. That also depends on whether Israel will let you in.

I do not speak for the Israeli government. I do not know their innermost thoughts or what drives them (but I have a pretty good idea that a lot depends on the orientation of the POTUS and his relationship with the ruling party). I suspect that at some point our government, whether that of Mashiah or under our present system, will have a stronger backbone than in the past because it will be necessary in order to survive. Therefore, I advise: Don't count on being admitted here in your hour of trouble if you have been foolish enough to have favored Israel's dissolution as a nation without considering the consequences.

Now would be a good time to rethink your position and "walk it back" as much as need be. As publicly as you have opposed Israel's policies and actions regarding those who have actively waged war against us for the past 100 years or so, be for them. Be on our side, as your parents were, and even more so. Have empathy for your brothers and sisters over here, won't you?

And, concentrate your efforts on thinking about where you'd like to be when you die, while it's still not too late, and try to be there. This can be done even while the "inevitable" seems far away in time.

While you're thinking, you might want to read, "It happened in America" by R' Tzvi Fishman.

Over to you...

11 October 2018

Doing a Mitzvah at the Zoo + VIDEO on Parashath Noach

Light of 3 Heshvan 5779

by Rabbi Ephraim Sprecher

When I study Parshat Noach, I try to imagine all of the exotic creatures that G-d created. Therefore, some of my students and I visited the wonderful and exotic Ramat Gan Safari Zoo. Can one do a Mitzvah at the zoo? A visit to the zoo is a chance to experience the wonders of G-d's creation and acknowledge that opportunity with the appropriate blessing.
The Mishnah in Avot 2 states, "Let all of your deeds be for the sake of G-d." Every act, however mundane and secular, can and should be elevated to the service of G-d. When we encounter special, exciting and fascinating sights, our Sages determined to recite a blessing upon seeing them, thereby connecting them to their Divine creation.
Thus, the Talmud in Brachot 58b states that one who sees particularly beautiful or strong animals, or especially beautiful trees, or an exceptionally good looking person recites the blessing, "Boruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Shekacha Lo BÓlamo" (Blessed are You, Our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has such beautiful creations in His universe).
By reciting this blessing, a great Tikkun (rectification) is made, for people are amazed and marvel at exceptionally beautiful and large creatures. It is extremely important to connect these feelings of awe and amazement to their source and give praise to the Creator Who has such beautiful creations in His universe.
A visitor to the zoo should recite the blessing "Shekacha Lo BÓlamo" over the first beautiful creature he sees and have intention to exempt and include all the other beautiful animals with this blessing. The Talmud in Brachot 58b rules that a person who sees a monkey or an elephant recites the blessing, "Boruch Ata Hashem Elokeinu Melech HaOlam Meshaneh Habriyot" (Blessed are you, Our G-d, King of the Universe, who makes strange and unusual creatures).
The Meiri explains that our Sages determined to recite this blessing specifically on monkeys and elephants, because they more than any other creature arouse particular astonishment, for although they are animals, they possess a certain resemblance and intelligence, similar to humans.
When we were at the Safari Zoo, we saw a chimpanzee hugging and kissing her baby just like a human mother would. We also saw the huge and marvelous gorillas roaming in their natural habitat. One of the gorillas looked at me and I was astonished when this huge gorilla began clapping its hands and beating its chest!
These blessings praising G-d for His wonderful creations are recited once in thirty days.
The last Mishnah in Avot states, "Whatever G-d created in the universe, He created only for His Glory." 
Everything in creation, even a gorilla who claps his hands, is a tool to enhance G-d's Glory. We just have to open our eyes and appreciate G-d's incredible, wondrous, and beautiful creations.
 Parashath Noah