Here's an original Lazer allegory for your weekend table. Discuss it with the family, and if you wish, feel free to share your interpretations with us...
I was hiking in the back woods of Appalachia. All of a sudden, I met a mountain man in a goatskin jacket and a rabbit-fur hat, wielding a double-barreled shotgun.
"Where ya think yur headin', stranger?" he challenged in a menacing tone.
He didn't scare me, and I simply smiled back at him. "I'm heading up the trail to the top o' the mountain. I'm going to visit The King. You're welcome to join me. By the way, I'm no stranger - I'm your brother."
"The heck you are," he replied, waving his shotgun in my face. "Maybe I'll just pull the trigger and blast you outa my space."
"Be my guest," I told him, undaunted by his silly charades. "You'll simply shorten my trek to The King's palace." I rolled up my sleeve, and showed him that I had scars on the same exact place that he did, and repeated, "I'm no stranger - I'm your brother."
Tears welled up in his eyes. The tears washed away the dark clouds that obscured his retnae. Now, his eyes began shining like the sun. "Prove it that you're my brother!"
"No problem," I said. I removed my sunglasses, and my eyes illuminated the entire dark woods, with an array of lights like Aurora Borealis. "You see," I explained, you and I are both sons of the King. Only the King's children are born with such powers of illumination. Our power diminishes when we leave the palace; but, whenever we cry in yearning for the King, we regain some of our power, as you have now. As soon as we return to the palace, our eyes will illuminate stronger than ever."
I then explained to the mountain man, that when I was a baby, robbers kidnapped me from the palace. I grew up in the woods, suffered hardships and injury, and eventually fought my way back to the palace. Interesting, but the eyes of a returning prince shine brighter than the eyes of a prince that never left the palace. In turn, the returning princes are decorated with medals of valor, and become officers in the King's Honor Guard.
We understand that leprosy and related afflictions to the body are the result of such transgressions as slander. What is the cause of leprosy in the fabric of one's clothing? Enjoy this week's 12-minute mini-lesson on the Torah portion Tazria-Metzora, and have a wonderful Shabbat!
My father's family comes from the town of Yanov, which is half way between Breslev and Berditchev in the central Ukraine.
There are two mass graves in Yanov. The first, pictured directly below, is where 2500 Jews from the Carpathian area were loaded on cattle cars and shipped north. The Nazis decided to spare the fuel that the continued journey to the concentration camps would require, and pulled the Jews off the train at this crossroads, made them dig a tremendous pit where the memorial is behind the white wall in the background, and machine gunned them.
Mass Grave #1 - Yanov junction, 2500 Jews
The second mass grave (photo below), in Yanov township amidst the old Jewish cemetary, holds the 1000 Jews of Yanov that were killed in a house-to-house extermination by SS stormtroops. They were then thrown in a mass pit. Among these Jews are my father's aunts, uncles, and cousins. Today, I'm involved in caring for this site. If I don't, then the Ukranians will turn it into a potato field.
Why do we count the Omer? If we are looking forward to Shavuot so much, why not count how many days left rather than how many days have transpired since Pesach?
Today's shiur, entitled "Days of Building," will take this evening (Wednesday), G-d willing, at 7:00 PM local time at our Chut Shel Chessed Yeshiva, 13 Shmuel Hanavi Street, Jerusalem, in the main sanctuary. You can see today's lesson here - the broadcast, as well as our lessons posted from now on - are Mac and iPod compatible. If you tune in too early to the live broadcast link, you'll be sent to the main page of the Breslev Israel website, so try to tune in on time
As always, the live shiur is open to the public - both men and women are welcome - so if you're anywhere near Jerusalem, come on by! If you are not able to view today's broadcast live, then G-d willing, you'll be able to see the video tape of it on this coming Sunday's Lazer Beams.
During the Omer, we must make a special effort to love, and at least respect, our fellow human. We curtail music and rejoicing during this time of the year because of Rabbi Akiva's 24,000 students who died in a plague. Yes, they were lofty Torah scholars, but they didn't properly respect one another. We must rectify this...
The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a told me the following story about his great grandfather, Rebbe Meir'l of Promiszlan. Keep it in mind before allowing yourself the "luxury" of feuding with a fellow Jew:
Serving the same G-d
Rebbe Meir'l of Promiszlan and Rebbe Yitzchok of Strettin were engaged in a long, drawn-out feud. Knowing that dissension serves no purpose, Rebbe Meir'l approached Rebbe Yitzchok and attempted to make peace. The latter only turned his face to the wall. "Please, Strettinner Rebbe, allow me to tell you a tale," said Rebbe Meir'l, and told him the following story:
During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, a Marrano* suspected of secretly being Jewish became deathly ill. The Inquisitors called the local priest, and told him to go see if the dying man would make last confession, proving that he's a Catholic, or else otherwise be burned at the stake as a Jew. The Priest and the Henchman entered the sick man's room, and the sick man turned his face to the wall, refusing to reject his true faith in Hashem during his last minutes on earth.
The Inquisitors said, "Ahah, he's a secret Jew!" The priest said no, he's embarrassed to confess in front of others. Everyone must leave the room!
Only the dying man and the Priest remained in the room. The priest, a Marranno himself, whispered in the man's ear, "You can say Shma Yisrael now, and express your belief in Hashem before you die. You no longer need to turn your back on me, because we both serve the same G-d." With his dying breath, the Marrano utterred, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is one!"
"So you see, Strettinner Rebbe," said Rebbe Meir'l, "You no longer have to turn your back on me, because we serve the same G-d!" The feud ended on the spot.
*Marranos - the Spanish Jews who posed as Catholics on the outside, and secretly continued to practice their Judaism behind closed doors
Rebbe Nachman teaches that the reason people are far from Hashem is because the lack self-composure. In other words, they never pause to ponder where their lives are going and what they're doing in the world. He urges people to stop and think: what is the purpose of lust and bodily appetites and all the amenities of this world? Once one asks himself such a question, he stands the chance of finding the truth.
A hedonistic society is a society that is far from truth. It takes a hedonistic society to acquiesce to outright tyranny. "Let me enjoy my round of golf, my all-you-can-eat steak dinner, my box seat to the playoffs or my mahjong game. Don't confuse me with the facts - I don't want to hear..." The hedonistic society doesn't let truth get in the way of indulgence; that's why Washington, DC bends to Cuba and Iran yet bashes Israel. Hedonism, though, leads to decay - decay first in national values and then in national preparedness. Ultimately, the hedonistic society is destroyed - a hard, cold undisputable historical fact. Not even that concerns the hedonist, because he cares solely about his immediate gratification with no regard for the future.
The emuna battle here in Israel is to remove our people from the clutches of hedonistic influence and return them to their roots as Torah-observant Jews with the awe of Heaven shining from their faces. We live meaningful lives for we live with the light of truth, that same truth the Creator revealed to two million of our people on top of Mount Sinai on the 6th of Sivan, almost 3327 years ago. In that respect, no matter who is elected here or whatever government comes to power, we focus on Hashem and His Torah, doing our best to do His will. If we don't, we too are liable of falling into the trap of hedonism, Heaven forbid.
In light of the above, we commend the courage of Admiral Bill Gortney, Commander of North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) who revealed that North Korea has mastered the ability to miniaturize its nuclear bombs so they can be fitted onto their latest mobile KN-08 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), which are capable of reaching the continental United States.
The hedonists conveniently forget to tell their people that North Korea is Iran's ally. North Korea has helped Iran build nuclear weapons (yes, hedonists - they already have it), while Iran has helped North Korea develop intercontinental ballistic missiles. Both are a threat to New York City, Los Angeles and all points in between.
It therefore takes a super-hedonist and a narcissist as well to appease a tyrannical enemies bent on destroying the hedonist himself.
I pray that America wakes up before it's too late. The clock is ticking. For those of you who are asking, Israel is still the safest place on earth for a Jew. Come home to the Land of Emuna.
One of the important lessons I learned as a horticulture student is also an important lesson in emuna and in life in general: "If you look past the thorns, you'll find a rose." Many of our seemingly difficult and trying situations in life are none other than gifts from Hashem. With eyes of emuna, we always look for the concealed blessing. Hashem, as the loving Father that He is, always sends us blessings even in what seems to be the opposite of a blessing. The Singer family learned this lesson, big time. Read all about it in The Hidden Blessing, my elaboration on this week's Torah portion Tazria-Metzora, which you'll find in the latest issue of Breslev Israel web magazine.
Once a year, during the Hebrew month of Nissan, we have the special mitzva of making a blessing over (at least two) blossoming fruit trees. According to Kabbala, this blessing is deeply significant, and helps correct the soul that is reincarnated within the tree. That soul is forever beholding to the person that makes the blessing, for he or she has done a great favor in helping that soul attain its tikkun, or correction.
You have only seven more days (until Sunday, April 19, 2015) to fulfill this wonderful mitzva. All you need are two blossoming fruit trees within reasonable distance of one another (i.e. that you can see both at the time of making the blessing).
For your convenience, here is the blessing,
In English: Blessed are You, Hashem our God, King of the Universe, who let nothing lack in His universe and created within it good creatures and good trees in order to give pleasure to human beings.
In Transliteration: Baruch ata Adonoi, Eloheinu Melech ha-olam, she-lo chisar be-olamo klum v-vara vo beriyyot tovot ve-ilanot tovim lehanot bahem bnai Adam.
In Hebrew: ברוך אתה ה' אלהינו מלך העולם שלא חסר בעולמו כלום וברא בו בריות טובות ואילנות טובים להנות בהם בני אדם
May your summer be as fragrant as a citrus blossom! Now is the time for wonderful new beginnings. Every blessing, LB