Select Section Jewish Culture & Yiddish: 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection videos and feeds in each section

Big Think Interview With Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks


A conversation with the Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom.

How to Use a Siddur


How to use a siddur. WebYeshiva is the world’s first online Yeshiva and Midrasha.To learn more about WebYeshiva please visit our website at can also sign-up for a free 14-Day trial to WebYeshiva at….

Rare Jewish Prayer Book Predates Oldest Known Torah Scroll


Scholars are calling a rare Hebrew text dating back to the 9th century the earliest known Jewish prayer book, predating the world’s oldest Torah scroll.

The 50-page book is 4.3 inches tall and about 4 inches wide and is written in an archaic form of Hebrew, on pages of aged parchment. The text includes 100 Jewish blessings and discusses topics such as the apocalyptic tale of the End Times and the Passover Seder.

Carbon testing dates the prayer book to the year 840, which is 300 to 400 years before the oldest known Torah scroll from the 12th and 13th centuries.

“This find is historical evidence supporting the very fulcrum of Jewish religious life,” said Jerry Pattengale, executive director of the Green Scholars Initiative, the group that announced the find. “This Hebrew prayer book helps fill the gap between the Dead Sea Scrolls and other discoveries of Jewish texts from the ninth and tenth centuries.

Ki Eshmerah Shabbat: A Family Siddur כי אשמרה שבת: סידור למשפחה ליום השבת


It is with great excitement and pleasure that we present Ki Eshmerah Shabbat: A Family Siddur, published by the Park Avenue Synagogue Music Center in June, 2013. This prayer book is designed especially for young children and their parents. We hope that as they use it, children will learn to enjoy prayer and will feel at home during synagogue services. This siddur sets a foundation for the understanding of liturgy, Hebrew and Jewish music, as well as matbea ha-t’filah, the structure of the prayer service.

The music that accompanies this prayer book is appropriate and appealing to young children and at the same time perpetuates the sophisticated musical heritage of our congregation. The selections include contemporary compositions commissioned recently by our Music Center as well as old, familiar melodies. Singing the prayers will help children find meaning in the prayer texts and make them comfortable with the full range of Jewish music.

Azi Schwartz @ rehearsal with RIAS Kammerchor in Berlin


On November 8, 2013 – in preparation for the concert the next day, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Kristallnacht.
B’rich Shmei (Yossele Rosenblatt)/Arr: Raymond Goldstein
Conductor: Ud Joffe

Chaim Dovid – Yamamai – HASC 17


This video clip is from the HASC – A Time For Music 17 (XVII) – The Jerusualem Experience.

The full video can be bought at Judaica stores around the world or from our website at:…

Please respect the owners copyright and of course Halacha. Uploading music and videos which are under copyright causes financial harm and inhibits the ability of the producers to continue you to bring your more of the same.

You can also download a totally free Jewish music show at

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NCFJE Release Time 2010

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QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Why Is the Prayer for Rain Based on the Civil Calendar?
Why Is the Prayer for Rain Based on the Civil Calendar?
Tevet 2, 5774 · December 5, 2013
The connection between Dec. 5 or 6 and Vetein Tal Umatar Livrachah


My siddur tells me to start saying the prayer for rain in the Amidah on the night preceding December 5 or 6. Why does it use a secular date rather than a Jewish one?


Good question! As a rule of thumb, Jewish holidays and customs always follow the Jewish calendar, which is linked to the phases of the moon. One exception to this rule is the special prayer requesting rain, which Jews in the Diaspora begin saying on the night preceding December 5 (or 6).

To understand why, let’s take a look at the history and significance of this small but important prayer.

Praying for Rain

Jews have been praying for rain for millennia. In the ancient land of Israel, rain was a life-and-death concern. A good rainy season meant a good harvest and ample drinking water, while a drought could be fatal to livestock and cripple the economy.

So when the Men of the Great Assembly set out to codify the prayers, they made sure to add a prayer for rain to the daily Amidah (silent prayer).

In fact, rain appears twice in the Amidah.

It is first mentioned in the second blessing, as one of a string of natural and supernatural wonders that G‑d performs. Not least among them is that “He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall.”

Here we are praising G‑d, who brings rain, but we are not actually asking for rain. It is only later, in the blessing requesting a bountiful year, that we ask G‑d to “bestow dew and rain for blessing upon the face of the earth . . .”

In both instances, the rain-related phrase is said only during the winter (Israel’s rainy season). However, the two prayers follow slightly different schedules. We begin to say “He causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall” on Shemini Atzeret. But, as you point out, we start saying the second prayer, the actual request for rain, only at the beginning of December.

Why the differing start dates? It’s an interesting story . . .

In Israel

The Jews of ancient Israel made three pilgrimages to Jerusalem each year, for the holidays of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot. Now, the official rainy season begins on Shemini Atzeret,1 when the Jews were about to start their journey back home after the festival of Sukkot. As much as they wanted the rain, they chose to delay their supplications in the interests of a safer and easier trip.

That is how the practice of delaying the prayer for rain began. In Israel, the prayer was begun only 15 days after Shemini Atzeret (the 7th of Cheshvan), allowing enough time for even the Jews living near the Euphrates to return home.2 This custom is followed by Jews living in Israel until today.

Outside of Israel, however, a more complicated calculation became necessary.

In the Diaspora

For much of our history, the primary Jewish community in the Diaspora was in Babylonia (modern-day Iraq), where the climate is much hotter than Israel’s, and the autumn rains do not begin until much later. Therefore, the sages instituted that Jews living in the Diaspora should start praying for rain only 60 days after the start of the halachic autumn, which is known as tekufat Tishrei.3 (This should not be confused with the autumn equinox, which is usually September 22 or 23.) I will explain soon when exactly that is.

Nowadays very few Jews live in Babylonia, and the Jews of North America need rain at a different time than the Jews of Singapore. Nevertheless, we all start asking for rain on the day established for the Jews in Babylonia, regardless of when rains are actually needed in our respective locales.4

The Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, explains that even Jews living in the Southern Hemisphere, where the seasons are reversed, should follow the schedule established for the Jews of Babylonia, because we pray for the needs of the Jewish people as a whole, most of whom reside in the Northern Hemisphere.5

Obviously, this does not preclude us from praying for rain at other times. An individual or community that needs rain at a different time may add a personal prayer into the sixteenth blessing of the Amidah, “Shomei’a Tefillah,” where we add our unique requests.6

Now Some Math

We now know that the custom of Jews in the Diaspora is to start praying for rain 60 days after the onset of tekufat Tishrei. But when exactly is that?

In the third century, the Talmudic sage Shmuel calculated the length of the solar year as 365 days and 6 hours. Since the year is subdivided into four seasons, ortekufot in Hebrew, it follows that each tekufah is 91 days and 7½ hours (365.25 ÷ 4 = 91.3125).7

This calculation happens to correspond with the Julian calendar, which was widely used from the year 45 BCE until the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in 1582 CE.

Based on this, tekufat Tishrei always began on September 24 on the Julian calendar,8 and 60 days into tekufat Tishrei was November 22.9

Calendar Issues

It eventually became clear that the solar year is actually 11 minutes and 14 seconds shorter than previously calculated, and that the calendar was slowly but surely drifting ahead. In the year 1582, the spring (vernal) equinox—which had been on March 25 at the introduction of the Julian calendar—actually occurred on March 11. This was about 10 days earlier than March 21, which is the day that had been “fixed” as the vernal equinox in the year 325.

To remedy this, Gregory XIII made two changes:

He shifted the calendar back by removing 10 days in October, making October 5 of the year 1582 into October 15. This restored the spring equinox to March 21.

To ensure that the calendar would not shift again, Gregory implemented that every 128 years (or, more roughly, three times every 400 years), one day would be removed from the calendar. (This is because the discrepancy of 11 minutes and 14 seconds accumulates into a whole extra day every 128 years.)

The extra day normally appended to the month of February every four years (causing a leap year)10 would not be added to all centaury years, except for those years which are multiples of 400. (Thus, it was not added in the years 1700, 1800 and 1900. However, it was added to the years 1600 and 2000.)

If you’re still following me, it should be clear that the old calendars (Jewish and Julian) drift away from the new (Gregorian) calendar at a rate of three days every 400 years.

It’s important to note that the Jewish sages were well aware that this calculation was not completely accurate. In fact, for most purposes the Jewish calendar follows the more accurate calculations of Rabbi Adda bar Ahavah, who gives the length of the solar year as 365 days, 5 hours, 55 minutes and 25.4 seconds. However, the sages of the Talmud chose to calculate the length of a solar year as 365.25 days for the prayer for rain and for Birchat Hachamah (the blessing of the sun), because it made the calcuations much simpler for the average person to perform.11

What to Do?

We know that the prayer for rain should be said 60 days after the beginning of halachic autumn. Since this date is based on the calculation of Shmuel (and the Julian calendar), and not the Gregorian calendar, we now have to translate this date into our Gregorian calendars.

Here’s our final calculation: As mentioned earlier, in the Julian calendar, the sixtieth day after the tekufah is November 22. Now, keeping in mind that the Gregorian calendar chopped off 10 days from the Julian calendar, we have to add them back. Thus, the sixtieth day would be—in the year 1582—on December 2.

Additionally, every centurial year (except for the years divisible by 400) the Gregorian calendar loses one day not dropped from the older calendar. Thus, from the year 1700 and onward, the sixtieth day of the tekufah moved one day every 100 years. In 1700 it was on December 3, in 1800 it moved to December 4, and in 1900 to December 5. However, since the year 2000 is divisible by 400, and the Gregorian calendar did not drop the leap day, the day that is considered the sixtieth day of the tekufah did not move, and remains December 5 until the year 2100, in which it will move to December 6.

The reason that we begin saying the prayer on December 6 in the year before a (civil) leap year is that although the Gregorian calendar adds a day to the month of February every four years for a leap year, the extra day has essentially really been accumulated at the start of the winter season. Therefore, every Decemberpreceding a leap year, the sixtieth day is adjusted to December 6.

Also bear in mind that since the halachic day starts on the preceding night, we start reciting the prayer for rain during the Maariv Amidah on the night precedingthe dates given above.

So, after all that, what you really need to know is that until the year 2100, in a regular year we start saying the prayer for rain on the night of December 4, and in the year before a (civil) leap year, on the night of December 5.12

As we begin to recite the prayers for rain this winter, let us have in mind that we are joining Jews all over the world—especially those in our Holy Land, where every drop of water is precious—united in our request for bounty and blessing for all of humanity.

1. The Talmud (Taanit 1:1) explains that in truth, even this mention of rain should have theoretically started earlier, at the beginning of the festival of Sukkot. However, it was deemed inappropriate to mention rain during Sukkot, when we are obligated to eat in the sukkah.
2. Ibid. 1:3.
3. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 117:1.
4. Shulchan Aruch ibid.; Shulchan Aruch ha-Rav 117:2; Responsa of Rabbi Asher bar Yechiel (Rosh) 4:10. See also Shaarei Halachah u-Minhag, vol. 1, pp. 159–163 for an extensive list of halachic authorities who discuss this.
5. See Torat Menachem 5742, vol. 4, p. 2119, and Torat Menachem 5743, vol. 1, p. 387.
6. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 117:2.
7. See Talmud, Eruvin 56a.
8. Currently October 7 on the Gregorian calendar.
9. See, for example, Beit Yosef to Orach Chaim 117, where Rabbi Yosef Caro, who lived before the introduction of the Gregorian calendar, gives November 22 as the day we start praying for rain.
10. The leap year is in both calendars to compensate for the fact that a solar year is approximately 365.25 days; thus, every four years there is an extra day.
11. For more on the accuracy of the calculations, and the reasons why they chose inexact ones, see But the Sun Is in the Wrong Place!
12. Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 117:1.
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There is a wickedly funny and enormously sad piece of satire making the rounds about a “Lithuanian” charedi father attempting to explain to his inquisitive child the story of the Hasmoneans and their triumph over the Greeks. On the one hand the Hasmoneans were staunch “Lithuanian “charedim who learned all day, while on the other hand they apparently had weapons, organized an army that they themselves led in actual warfare against the Greeks. They also engaged in commerce and agriculture, albeit always wearing only white shirts. And, apparently, they wanted to establish an independent Jewish state in the Land of Israel. The child realizes the enormous disconnect between the…

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Faith and Fate Special

5 Episode DVD Special

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December 14 The Zionist Movement

December 21 Coming of the Great War

January 4        The Third Aliyah

February 1      American Jewry Between the Wars

Bet Knesset Hanassi
24 Ussishkin Street, near Keren Kayemet Street, Jerusalem
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Rabbi Nosson Scherman,

General Editor of Artscroll/Mesorah Publications


Rabbi Berel Wein

Come listen in as Rabbi Scherman and Rabbi Wein discuss topics relating to their lives, our people and our homeland


Bet Knesset Hanassi

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Professor Yisrael Aumann

Rabbi Berel Wein

Come listen in as Professor Aumann and Rabbi Wein discuss topics relating to their lives, our people and our homeland

Bet Knesset Hanassi

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Select Section Events, Jewish Life : 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection in each section

דני סנדרסון – הופעה אקוסטית מלאה

Danny Sanderson


מתוך ערב אקוסטי בערוץ 24

כפיר בן ליש – שירה וגיטרה
קרן מלכה – שירה
יותם בן חורין – שירה ובס אקוסטי
תמר אייזנמן – שירה וגיטרה
שאול עשת – קלידים
שי וצר – תופים

במאי ועורך – עדי בנימינוב

אריק איינשטיין – עטור מצחך


הגירסה המקורית (מ-1977, לא זו מ-1988). אריק איינשטיין, יהודית רביץ וקורין אלאל מבצעים את השיר הישראלי הטוב ביותר בכל הזמנים – “עטור מצחך זהב שחור”.

השיר יצא במקור במסגרת התקליט “ארץ ישראל הישנה והטובה – חלק ג'” שראה אור בשנת 1977.
גם ביצוע מצולם זה נערך בסביבות שנה זו (השיר שנשמע על רקע הוידאו הוא ההקלטה מהתקליט המקורי, ולא הקלטה שבוצעה ביחד עם צילום הוידאו).

קיימת גירסה נוספת של השיר בביצוע אריק איינשטיין, משנת 1988, שיצאה

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Danny Sanderson in L.A., celebrating 40 years of Israeli pop musicThe Jewish Journal of Greater L.A.

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Wilderness Torah Takes Judaism Back to Nature – Tablet Magazine shiryaakov

“In order to support the leadership of Wilderness Torah,” he said, “I need a deeper understanding of the Jewish tradition.” In the meantime, he will be at this 
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Torah Readings for Saturday, December 7, 2013 Vayigashmelamed&mavin

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100 Women Gather at Women of the Wall Services, Without ProtestsJewish Daily Forward

Western Wall regulations prohibit Women of the Wall from bringing a Torahscroll into the women’s section; to protest the prohibition, members of the group took 
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Chanukah: Uncompromising Non-Warm Non-Fuzzy Defense of TorahArutz Sheva

‘Tis the season of confrontation: Yosef squares off with his brothers, Yehudah and the Maccabees square off with the Greek oppressors and the Hellenizers from 
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Hundreds of Hareidi Israelis Protest For Release of Draft-DodgerArutz Sheva

“G-d will put in the hearts of our [Israeli] bretheren that those who studyTorah form  cause them to cancel the decree and encourage moreTorah learning,” he 
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One example of the theme of responsibility can be found in a verse in this week’s Torah portion, Vayigash (Genesis 44:18-47:27), as explicated by Rashi.
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Encountering Torah’s intriguing and mysterious character, SerachSt. Louis Jewish Light

Of all of the people found in Tanakh, the one whom I have always wanted to meet is a rather elusive character. We don’t know much about her from the Torah 
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Instead, the Torah records that meeting as having to do with something quite mundane. Age. Yet that trite discussion had severe ramifications for our forefather 
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The big revealJewish News of Greater Phoenix

This question of our inner thoughts is the main theme for this week’s Torahportion, Vayigash. The portion continues the complex and often sinister story of 
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Select Section Shiurim Hayom Yom, Today’s Day ,Today’s Mitzvah : 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection videos and feeds in each section


The spirituality of Olam Hazeh and the physicality of Olam Haba – Rav Yerucham excerpt


The Almighty performs all the mitzvahs. So how are we to understand a physical mitzvah like tefillin or shatnez? In this excerpt from Miracle of Personal Growth, Rabbi Kelemen explains. For more information, please visit or contact


“TODAY’S DAY”: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Tevet 2, 5774 · 12/05/2013
“Today’s Day”
Thursday Tevet 2, Seventh Day of Chanuka 5703
Torah lessons: Chumash: Mikeitz, Chamishi with Rashi.
Tehillim: 10-17.
Tanya: Therefore has the Torah (p. 15)…and its commandments (p. 17).

The campaign of the Greeks was aimed to “make them forget Your Torah and violate the decrees of Your will” (Sidur p. 59); as the Midrash (Bereishit Raba 16) puts it, (the Greeks demanded) “Write…that you have no share in the G-d of Israel.” It was a war against G-d. “Let them study Torah,” the Greeks implied. “Let them practice the justice-mitzvot and the ‘testimonial’ observances. But they must not mention that the Torah is G-d’s Torah and the mitzvot are the decrees of His will. Torah and mitzvot must be severed from G-dliness.”

Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe; Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan   More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author
Compiled and arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 5703 (1943) from the talks and letters of the sixth Chabad Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory.

DAILY MITZVAH (Maimonides): Thursday, December 5, 2013
Today’s Mitzvah
Tevet 2, 5774 · December 5, 2013
A daily digest of Maimonides’ classic work “Sefer Hamitzvot”

Positive Commandment 246
Laws of Claims

“In every case of trespass…in which one can say: ‘This is it'”—Exodus 22:8.

We are commanded to adjudicate monetary cases between litigants [according to the laws outlined in the Torah].

Full text of this Mitzvah »

Listen Online | MP3 DownloadWant even more? These mitzvot are discussed at length in today’s three-chapter Maimonides study regimen.

Select Section Tanya Shiurim: 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection videos and feeds in each section

Defining Individuality

Rabbi Akiva Tatz delves into the spiritual definition of individuality

Connecting Moments Trailer


Connecting Moments: Elevate your High Holiday Experience

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We open the High Holidays with Selihot (prayers of penitence) and in the span of two and a half weeks we will have gone through the Yamim Noraim (the Days of Awe). How much of the Yamim Noraim will go through us? Will they be just another High Holidays or will we allow them to become a truly intense, creative, new and spontaneous spiritual adventure? Will we be uninhibited enough, authentic enough, daring enough to let an avalanche of emotions, feelings, memories, longings, prayers and insights flow in and out of our souls?

To that end, Connecting Moments is a collaboration with some of the world’s top Rabbis and teachers, who, in text and on film, share the secrets to transforming the High Holiday experience. We hope this book will help make the High Holiday time more meaningful to you — to help give you the courage to repeat what must be repeated and change what must be changed. Read on to create your own memorable High Holiday experience. L’Shana Tova.
Tevet 2, 5774 · December 5, 2013
Today’s Tanya Lesson
Likutei Amarim, middle of Chapter 4

ולכן נמשלה התורה למים: מה מים יורדים ממקום גבוה למקום נמוך

Therefore has the Torah been compared to water,1 for just as water descends from a higher level to a lower level,

The water which reaches the lower level is the same water that left its source within the higher level; unlike light, for example, which also travels from its source, but in whose case it is not the source (the luminous body) itself that is transmitted, but only a ray of it; and unlike intellect which can also be communicated from one person to another, but in whose case, too, it is not the source (the teacher’s mind) itself that transmits itself to the lower level (the student’s mind), but only the idea, a product of the source.

כך התורה ירדה ממקום כבודה

Just as we find in the analogy of water, so has Torah descended from its place of glory, i.e., the lofty spiritual plane which is its source.

שהיא רצונו וחכמתו יתברך, ואורייתא וקודשא בריך הוא כולא חד, ולית מחשבה תפיסא ביה כלל

In its original state it is G-d’s Will and wisdom, and “Torah is one and the same with G-d,” Whom no thought can apprehend at all — on that plane, Torah is incomprehensible to man, as is G-d Himself.

ומשם נסעה וירדה בסתר המדריגות ממדרגה למדרגה בהשתלשלות העולמות

From there the Torah has journeyed in a descent through hidden stages, stage after stage, in the Hishtalshelut of the Worlds (i.e., the chain-like order of interconnected spiritual “Worlds”, explained more fully in ch. 2; Torah descended through all these levels —)

עד שנתלבשה בדברים גשמיים ועניני עולם הזה, שהן רוב מצות התורה ככולן והלכותיהן

until it clothed itself in material matters and things of this corporeal world, which comprise nearly all the Torah’s commandments and their laws.

Nearly all the mitzvot involve material objects: tzitzit are made of wool, tefillin of leather, and so on. Even the “spiritual” mitzvot involve material objects in their halachot— the laws governing their practical application. For example, the mitzvah of loving one’s fellow, although essentially a “spiritual” mitzvah, as it consists of an emotion — love, demands that one aid his fellow-Jew materially, financially, etc.; these being concrete, material expressions of a “spiritual” mitzvah.

ובצרופי אותיות גשמיות בדיו על הספר, עשרים וארבעה ספרים שבתורה נביאים וכתובים

Thus, the Torah clothed itself in the material objects with which the mitzvot are performed and also in the physical letter combinations written with ink in a book, namely the twenty-four books of Torah, Nevi‘im, and Ketuvim.

(As mentioned above, the letters and words contain the holiness of G-d’s Will and wisdom.)

כדי שתהא כל מחשבה תפיסא בהן, ואפילו בחינת דבור ומעשה שלמטה ממדרגת מחשבה תפיסא בהן ומתלבשת בהן

Torah underwent this great descent so that every human thought be able to grasp them, and so that even speech and action, which are on a level lower than thought, be able to grasp them (— G-d’s Will and wisdom) and clothe themselves in them — by performing the commandments in speech and action.

ומאחר שהתורה ומצותיה מלבישים כל עשר בחינות הנפש וכל תרי״ג אבריה מראשה ועד רגלה

Now, since Torah and its commandments clothe all ten faculties of the soul, and all of the soul’s 613 “organs”, from head to foot, i.e, from its highest level — its “head” — to its lowest level,

הרי כולה צרורה בצרור החיים את הוי׳ ממש, ואור הוי׳ ממש מקיפה ומלבישה מראשה ועד רגלה

it the soul is truly completely bound up with G-d in the2 “bond of life,” and the very light of G-d envelops and clothes it from head to foot.

כמו שכתוב: צורי אחסה בו, וכתיב: כצנה רצון תעטרנו

So it is written:3 “G-d is my Rock, in whom I take refuge” (and naturally, only that which surrounds a person can protect him); and it is further written,4“As with a shield G-d’s Will surrounds him,”

שהוא רצונו וחכמתו יתברך, המלובשים בתורתו ומצותיה

meaning His Will and wisdom that are clothed in Torah and its commandments.

We see, at any rate, that although G-d’s wisdom and Will are beyond man’s reach, they are made accessible to him because the Torah is clothed in physical terms, and its commandments are vested in physical objects.

1. Bava Kama 17a.
2. I Shmuel 25:29.
3. Tehillim 18:3.
4. Ibid. 5:13.
The Tanya of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi, elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Published and copyright by Kehot Publication Society, all rights reserved.

Select Section CHASSIDIC DIMENSION, Words of Wisdom Shiurim: 24JEWISH ALERTS large selection videos and feeds in each section

Video blog #9 Lech Lecha 5773 Abraham’s first steps

Harav Ginsburgh

Torat Shraga Poland Trip 2012


Thank you Rabbi Olshin for an amazing experience! And thank you General Lebovitz for coming with for Round 2 to Poland, rain or shine!
Let us take in the lessons of the Holocaust and implement them into our lives, so that the 6 million who perished will have accomplished more than they could have ever dreamed.

The first song is V’hi She’amda by Yakov Shwekey, and the second song is When you believe by the Maccabeats.

Tzama Nafshi Ukraine Trip 2011

Thank you Tzama Nafshi for an experience of a lifetime! This trip really changed the way I approach Judaism. I feel pure, and connected in a real way, not just because I was taught so, and not even because it logically makes sense. This trip instilled an existential awareness and connection to Hashem that goes beyond logic, a metaphysical experience only achievable by removing the pressures of concrete understanding and entering into the world of Chassidus.
May we be Zocheh to maintain the fire we lit when we entered the dimension of the supernatural, and may we forever ignite others.

CHASSIDIC DIMENSION: “To Learn from Yosef’s Conduct with his Brothers” (Vayigash)
Tevet 2, 5774 · December 5, 2013

“To Learn from Yosef’s Conduct with his Brothers”

In the Torah portion of Vayigash, we are informed1 that during the time of famine, “Yosef sustained his father and brothers.” In light of the above, our Sages interpret the verse:2 “Who leads the flock of Yosef,” to mean3 that all the people of Israel are known by the name Yosef, for it was he who sustained them during the time of famine.

The Midrash notes4 that “You Who leads the flock of Yosef” is a plea as well as a statement; we ask G-d to conduct Himself toward the Jewish people as Yosef conducted himself toward his father and brothers.

The Midrash phrases the plea thus: “Yosef assembled food during the years of plenty for the years of famine; so too, gather for us from this world for the World to Come. Just as Yosef sustained them all according to their deeds… so too, sustain us according to our deeds. … Just as Yosef acted kindly towards his brothers, even though they acted unkindly towards him; so too, treat us kindly although we have treated You unkindly.”

There are a number of things that must be understood about the above Midrash :

1) If Yosef had not protected the food from spoilage during the years of plenty, it would have rotted. How can this apply to the good deeds performed by the Jewish people in this world — how can good deeds possibly “spoil”?

2) Yosef acted kindly towards his brothers, even though they dealt with him in an unkind manner. In other words, he did not act toward them in accordance with their deeds. How then can it be said, “sustain us according to our deeds” as Yosef did? Moreover, for G-d to simply treat us according to our deeds would require no special kindness, so no special plea is necessary.

G-d Himself5 delights in every Jew’s performance of mitzvos.6 Because each of us is truly one with G-d7 — for which reason every Jew is capable of performing even thosemitzvos that defy his comprehension with vitality and delight — he is recompensed for this performance by sharing in G-d’s infinite delight.

The above Midrash can be understood accordingly: The Jewish people (called Yosef) plead with G-d that, just as Yosef ensured there would be grain during the famine years, so too may they merit to share G-d’s infinite delight in the World to Come, even though their performance of mitzvos was in a finite manner.

But the Attribute of Justice may rule that the profound unity of the Jewish people with the Divine — a unity that entitles them to share in G-d’s delight — comes about as a result of their obeying even the supra-rational commandments with vitality and delight. When a Jew lacks such enthusiasm, he is unworthy of sharing G-d’s delight.

Herein lies the explanation for the second appeal, “Just as Yosef sustained them all according to their deeds… so too, sustain us according to our deeds.” Yosef said to his brothers: “although your intent was to deal badly with me… G-d made it come out for the good,”8 and therefore “I will provide for your needs and your children’s needs.”9Yosef thus reacted to the ultimate outcome of their deed, rather than to his brothers’ intent.

So too, the Jewish people ask G-d to look upon their actions rather than the intent with which these actions are performed. And we know that “even the sinners in Israel are as filled with good deeds as a pomegranate is packed with seeds.”10 All Jews thus deserve to share in G-d’s delight in the World to Come.

Nevertheless, the Attribute of Justice may still argue: All this is fine and good regarding their good deeds, but what about their transgressions? Although “repentance out of love” can transform misdeeds into merits,11 the intent with which these misdeeds were performed was surely in opposition to the Divine will.

The Midrash therefore concludes with the plea that, just as Yosef sustained his brothers because their actions were ultimately for the good, so too should G-d act kindly towards us although we sin, sharing with us His delight in the performance ofmitzvos , for misdeeds ultimately lead to the heightened spiritual service of which only the penitent are capable.12

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. V, pp. 239-249

Yosef’s Gift to the Jewish People

The verse states:13 “These are the descendants of Ya’akov — Yosef.” This indicates that Yosef was the continuation of Ya’akov,14 in keeping with the saying of our Sages:15 “All that transpired with this one [Ya’akov] transpired with this one [Yosef].”

Yosef differed from his brothers in that only he underwent the trials and tribulations of exile. In this sense, he was similar to his father Ya’akov, who was the only Patriarch subjected to exile — during his 20 years in the house of Lavan.

Although these 20 years were exceedingly difficult, Ya’akov remained steadfast in his faith. For this is the particular accomplishment of Ya’akov — who represents the Attribute of Truth16 — that in all situations and circumstances, he did not change his ways, remaining steadfast in his faith and observance, even while in Lavan’s home.

Still and all, a difference did exist between Ya’akov and Yosef with regard to the nature of their exiles, and that’s why it is the particular strength of Yosef that enables the Jewish people to endure the difficulties of exile.

Even while Ya’akov was in exile with Lavan, he was not immersed in worldly affairs. His servitude consisted of having to care for Lavan’s flocks — a type of labor that enables one to remain far removed from worldly concerns and concentrate on matters of the spirit. This was because Ya’akov was at a level of ultimate sanctity and holiness, completely immune to the darkness of exile.

Herein lay the difference between Ya’akov — and the Patriarchs in general — and the 12 tribes. The tribes, of necessity, had to remove themselves from worldly matters so that the world would not impinge upon their spiritual service — had they not done so, the mundane world would have hindered their service.

The Patriarchs, however, were intrinsically removed from worldly matters, living as they did in total holiness and sanctity. Their shepherding was merely a natural outgrowth of their innate sense of removal from the mundane.

So too with Ya’akov. Even as he found himself in Lavan’s house, he remained separate and thus above any true sense of exile. Consequently, like his forbears, he was a shepherd.

The quality that allowed Ya’akov, even while he was in exile, to remain removed from and loftier than that state, also finds expression in the fact that, when he is forced to do battle with Esav’s angel17 — when he must vanquish his opposition — he overwhelms him totally, so that the angel declares: “Your name will no longer be Ya’akov, but Yisrael [a term of mastery], for you have striven with men and with angels and have been successful.”18

Herein lies the special quality of Yosef, who indeed descended into exile, and was truly under the dominion first of Potiphar and then of Pharaoh. But even under such circumstances, he remained completely united with G-d.

Thus, the strength that all Jews have to withstand exile — for, to all Jews, exile means being under foreign dominion — comes primarily from Yosef, who, as we read in the portion of Vayigash , sustained his brothers — i.e. he granted them his qualities — during the “time of hunger.”

This quality was subsequently transmitted to every Jew in all generations.

Because it is Yosef’s resilience that sustains us during even the darkest times, all Jews are called Yosef.19 And similar to our namesake, the darkness and gloom of exile does not prevent us from being totally united with G-d, and we remain completely steady in our Judaism and observance of Torah and mitzvos.

Ultimately, this exalted behavior not only nullifies exile, but transforms it into a state of redemption — an eternal redemption that can never be subject to further exile, with the speedy coming of our righteous Moshiach.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXV, pp. 254-257

1. Bereishis 47:12.
2. Tehillim 80:2.
3. See Rashi, Radak and Metzudas David, loc. cit.
4. Yalkut Shimoni ibid.
5. See Toras Shalom p. 190ff.
6. Sifri , Pinchas 28:5.
7. See Zohar, Vol. III, p. 73a; ibid. 93b; Likkutei Torah , Shir HaShirim, 34d and 39a.
8. Bereishis 50:20.
9. Ibid. verse 21.
10. Eruvin 19a; conclusion of Chagigah.
11. Yoma 86b.
12. See Zohar, Vol. I, p. 129b.
13. Beginning of Torah portion Vayeishev.
14. See Biurei HaZohar of the Mitteler Rebbe 29d ff., Biurei HaZohar of the Tzemach Tzedek p. 168ff.; Or HaTorah, Vayechi 385b ff.
15. Bereishis Rabbah 84:6.
16. Zohar, Vol. I, p. 139a, 161a; Tanya conclusion of ch. 13; Likkutei Torah , Matos83c ff., Vaes’chanan 5b.
17. Bereishis 32:25 and commentaries of our Sages on this verse.
18. Ibid., verse 29.
19. See commentaries of Rashi , Metzudas David and Radak on Tehillim 80:2.
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

FOR FRIDAY NIGHT: Two Kinds of Power (Vayigash)
Tevet 2, 5774 · December 5, 2013
Two Kinds of Power

Power and powerlessness are important themes in society today. They are issues in family dynamics, as in international politics. They are issues in the stance of any man or woman facing the world.

This week’s Torah reading opens with a dramatic confrontation. The twelve sons of Jacob are all on stage, together with a few extras – interpreters and other officials. Eleven of the brothers face the Egyptian viceroy, whom we know is actually their long-lost brother Joseph. Joseph is claiming his younger brother Benjamin, and seems determined to keep him under his own care in Egypt. He wants the other ten brothers to go back to their elderly father Jacob in the Land of Canaan without Benjamin. Jacob, without a doubt, will be utterly heart-broken. Benjamin is his youngest son and, seemingly, the only surviving offspring of his beloved departed wife, Rachel. Actually her other son, Joseph, is still alive, but noone knows this.

The brothers are all filled with consternation, but they are powerless.

Joseph, who went under an Egyptian name, Tzofnat Pane’ach, has been put in command of the Egyptian economy by Pharaoh. You could hardly imagine a more powerful position for a member of Jacob’s family. After all, the future Jewish people were at this stage just an extended family group: the children and grandchildren of Jacob. For a member of this lonely family to rise to be viceroy in Egypt was absolutely remarkable.

Joseph represents one kind of power.

At this point Judah steps forward. Judah had promised his father that he will take responsibility for his youngest brother Benjamin, and only on that basis had been permitted by his father Jacob to take the boy to the aggressive Egyptian viceroy, who insisted on seeing him.

Judah pleads that Benjamin should be allowed to go back home. He himself will stay as a slave of Joseph. At first sight this might seem a pathetic, powerless pleading. The cringing Jew, Judah, facing the Egyptian ruler. Yet Judah is insistent. The Sages tell us Judah was ready to face any odds. He would not accept the idea that Benjamin would remain in Egypt, and would fight to the death in order to bring him home.

This is another and higher kind of power. It is actually greater than that of Joseph. Joseph had a limited political power, due to having been put in his position by Pharaoh. By contrast Judah came with the force of right, based on the Torah, beyond any other form of authority.

Hence Judah was able to confront Joseph, and was ready to face Pharaoh himself if need be. In a sense, his stance was beyond nature, like David facing Goliath. Yet he knew, with certainty, that G-d was on his side. This gave him a strength which won through in the end, with a dramatic capitulation, when Joseph revealed his identity, and the anxious tension turned to tears of joy. We see that the highest power was not Joseph but Judah, who therefore was the ancestor of King David and, ultimately, of the Messiah.

This story of more than three millennia ago tells us something about ourselves. About what constitutes real power, for a Jew facing a shifting reality. About how we should focus ourselves in the ups and downs of our personal lives, and in the conflicts facing the Jewish people in the world.1

1. Based freely on the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s Sefer HaSichot 5752, p. 214.
By Tali Loewenthal    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Dr. Tali Loewenthal is Lecturer in Jewish Spirituality at University College London, director of the Chabad Research Unit, and author of Communicating the Infinite: The Emergence of the Habad School.


GARDEN OF TORAH: Inspiring Change (Vayigash)
Tevet 2, 5774 · December 5, 2013
Inspiring Change
Vayigash; Genesis 44:18-47:27

Adapted from
Sefer HaSichos 5750, p. 212ff;
Sefer HaSichos 5751, p. 206ff

Making a Potential Kinetic

In his Siddur, the Alter Rebbe writes:1

It is proper to say before prayer: I hereby accept upon myself the positive commandment,2 “Love your fellowman as yourself.”

Showing love for one’s fellowman prepares a person to intensify his relationship with G-d. For a genuine commitment to all of mankind requires true selflessness,3 and this is the approach which should characterize our relationship with G-d. But why is a verbal declaration required? Why isn’t the emphasis placed on contemplating the concept, rather than making a statement?

It can be explained that on an essential level, oneness exists among our entire people: “They are all complementary, and share one Father. Because of this common root in the One G-d, all Israel are called ‘brothers’ in the full sense of the word.”

All too often, however, that oneness is not manifest in a person’s relations with his fellowmen. By actually making a statement, a person has activated this potential, bringing it into expression within our material world.4

The importance of this statement exceeds by far its few measured words. The objective is that one deed lead to another, in a self-reinforcing cycle that will motivate a person to express love for his fellowmen and stir his fellowmen to reciprocate in kind. Making a statement of purpose opens a channel to our inner feelings of love,5 with the intent that these feelings will become manifest in activity on behalf of others.

Bonding Power

A similar paradigm applies to this week’s Torah reading. Vayigash means: “And he approached;” Yehudah approached Yosef.6 But Yehudah’s approach was intended to establish more than physical closeness. Rashi explains7 that Yehudah told Yosef: “May my words enter your ears,” i.e., he desired to initiate communication.

Yehudah’s deed had tremendous repercussions.8 As the narrative continues, “Yosef could no longer restrain himself.”9 After years of separation, the brothers embraced, kissed each other, and spoke freely.10 Yaakov’s sons returned to him with the message that Yosef was alive and Yaakov descended to Egypt to join him, establishing oneness and unity between all Jews.

From the Inside Out

The spiral touched off by Yehudah’s approach to Yosef had larger ramifications.11 TheZohar12 understands their union as symbolizing the approach of the physical world to the spiritual world.

To explain: In essence, the world at large is at one with G-d. This is the meaning of the phrase “G-d is one” in the Shema13 not merely that there is one G-d, but that all existence is at one with Him.14 Nevertheless, the oneness that pervades creation is not openly revealed. On the contrary, the world appears to exist as a collection of discrete entities.

Expressing the inner oneness that exists between people serves as a catalyst to achieve oneness in the world at large, allowing the material world to serve as a medium for the expression of spiritual truth. This was reflected in the conduct of Yaakov and his sons in Egypt. Although settling in Egypt involved a descent into exile, and Egypt was a morally depraved land,15 Yaakov and his sons established a model of spiritually oriented existence there.16 Pharaoh granted them the finest portion of the land,17 promising “the best of Egypt will be yours.”18

Yaakov and his sons made maximum use of this opportunity. Indeed, our Rabbis explain19 that these were Yaakov’s best years. Throughout his life, he endeavored to express spiritual values within the day-to-day realities of ordinary living. In Egypt, he was given the ability to bring this ideal to fruition.

Uncovering Identity

The relevance of the above concepts is not confined to periods when G-dliness is openly apparent. Quite the contrary, the narrative begins in the ultimate of concealment. Yehudah did not know he was speaking to Yosef. He thought he was addressing the Egyptian viceroy, and he had to plead for Binyamin’s freedom after the youth had been discovered in a compromising situation. Despite the weakness of his position, Yehudah advanced in the direction of oneness,20 and his approach led to the revelation that the Egyptian ruler was Yosef.

Similarly, although today Jews may need the assistance of non-Jewish authorities for their security, they must realize that there is a subtle, inner dynamic at work. It is not an Egyptian who charts our destiny; “The hearts of kings and officers are in the hands of G-d.”21 He and not the non-Jewish powers controls the fate of our people as a whole, and of each individual in particular.

Our conduct and choice of priorities should be structured accordingly. There is no need to accept the standards of the world at large. By emulating Yehudah’s example and striving toward oneness within our present situation, we can initiate a sequence that will lead to the open expression of our world’s G-dly nature.

Egypt is not the End of the Journey

During his journey to Egypt, Yaakov had a vision in which G-d reassured him:22 “Do not fear to descend to Egypt,” and promised “I will descend to Egypt with you and I will surely have you ascend.” Although Yaakov realized what he could achieve in Egypt, he was reluctant to descend there. For prosperity in exile even prosperity that is used to create a model of spiritually oriented existence is not the goal of a Jew’s life.

A Jew’s true life is in Eretz Yisrael and more particularly, Eretz Yisrael as it will exist in the Era of the Redemption. This is the promise Yaakov received from G-d that his descendants would be redeemed from Egypt and live in Eretz Yisrael together withMashiach.23

Why then did Yaakov descend to Egypt? Because he appreciated that the Redemption must be brought about by the Divine service of man. The establishment of a spiritually oriented society amidst material prosperity provides man with a foretaste of the Redemption, and prepares the world for the time when redemption will become manifest. Yaakov’s life in Egypt was dedicated to this purpose.

The theme of redemption is underscored by the Haftorah, which speaks about the ultimate union24 of Yosef and Yehudah:25 “I will take the children of Israel from among the nations… and bring them to their own land. I will make them one nation in the land…. No longer will they be two nations, no longer divided into two kingdoms.” And it promises:26 “And My servant David will be their prince forever,” for it is in the Era of the Redemption that the selfless striving for unity will receive the prominence it deserves.

1. Siddur Tehillat HaShem, p. 12. This practice has its source in the teachings of theAriZal (Shaar HaKavanos). Nevertheless, attention is drawn to the Alter Rebbe’s inclusion of it in his Siddur because this indicates its universal relevance.
2. Leviticus 19:18.
3. See Tanya, ch. 32.
4. See Sanhedrin 65a, which states that speech is considered a deed. Separation comes as a result of people’s bodies. As such, deeds which relate more closely than thoughts to the material plane are necessary to erase it.
5. This is relevant every day, for every day we should strive to open up new vistas in love and care for our fellowmen.
6. Genesis 44:18.
7. Rashi’s commentary to the above verse.
8. This concept explains why Vayigash is the name of this Torah reading. For the establishment of unity within Yaakov’s family and within the world at large is the theme which characterizes all the events mentioned in the Torah reading.
9. Genesis 45:1.
10. Ibid.: 15.
11. In this light, we can understand the famous adage of the Alter Rebbe (Igros Kodesh of the Previous Rebbe, Vol. III, p. 413ff): A chassidic farbrengen can generate greater blessings than the Angel Michael.
12. Vol. I, p. 205b.
13. Deuteronomy 4:4.
14. See Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chayim 61:6 and commentaries.
15. See Rashi’s commentary to Leviticus 18:3.
16. The primacy of spiritual values in Yaakov’s life in Egypt is reflected in his “sending Yehudah to show the way” (Genesis 46:28), “to open a yeshivah” (Rashi).
17. Genesis 47:11 and commentaries.
18. Genesis 45:20.
19. Baal HaTurim, commenting on the beginning of Parshas Vayechi. See HaYom Yom, entry for the 18th of Teves.
20. Also significant is the inner meaning of the phrase Vayigash eilav Yehudah, that “Yehudah” every individual Jew “approaches him,” draws close to G-d through prayer. See Sefer HaMaamarim 5629, p. 13. It is the relationship with G-d, established through prayer, that brings success to all one’s activities.
21. Midrash Mishlei, commenting on Proverbs 21:1.
22. Genesis 46:3-4.
23. Note Torah Or (beginning of Parshas Shmos), which interprets the repetition in G-d’s promise אעלך גם עלה as reflecting two states of ascent: a) the redemption from Egypt, and b) the ultimate Redemption to be led by Mashiach.
24. There is also a connection between the theme of Redemption and the concept of unity emphasized by Vayigash. For the destruction of the Second Temple came about because of unwarranted hatred (Yoma 9b, Gittin 55b). Removing the cause, hatred, will make the effect, exile, disappear.
25. Ezekiel 37:21-22.
26. Ibid.: 25.
By Eli Touger    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

ONCE UPON A CHASID: Inseparable Souls (Vayigash)
Tevet 2, 5774 · December 5, 2013
Inseparable Souls

His soul is bound with his soul (44:30)

In 1798, Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was imprisoned by the czarist government on charges fabricated against him and the chasssidic movement.

When he was brought before his interrogators, the first question they asked him was: “Are you of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov’s people?” Rabbi Schneur Zalman later related that he knew that if answered “no” he would be immediately released; nevertheless, he refused to disassociate himself from the Baal Shem Tov.

His 52 days of imprisonment in the Peter-Paul fortress in Petersburg were the most agonizing days of his life. He was forced to explain the basic tenets of Judaism and chassidism to the coarse Cossack minds of his questioners. He wept when he was asked “What is a Jew?”, “What is G-d?”, “What is the relationship of a Jew to G-d? Of G-d to a Jew?” – to hear these questions issuing from their vulgar mouths tore his heart to shreds.

One question in particular caused him great pain. It was Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s custom to interject the expression “af” in his prayers, as did the Baal Shem Tov. His enemies misconstrued this to mean that he was beseeching the Almighty to pour His wrath (‘af’ in Hebrew) upon the czar and his government. To explain to the Russian officials the Baal Shem Tov’s customs and his lofty reflections during prayer was torture to Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s soul.

Here too, Rabbi Schneur Zalman could have satisfied their queries with all sorts of answers. But his connection with the Baal Shem Tov, whom he called his ‘grandfather in spirit’, was so dear to him, that he refused to disclaim it in even the slightest detail, even if only for appearances sake.

By Yanki Tauber    More articles…  |   RSS Listing of Newest Articles by this Author

Yanki Tauber is content editor of