Elul – Spatial Bend Brings Heavens Closer

Heavens touches earth this month, beginning today.  Think of a tall father bending over his small son and thereby allowing the son to reach his hand easily, letting his son see into his face.  There is a spatial bend whereby spiritual becomes a bit closer, a bit more attainable, where G-d makes Himself a bit nearer to us.

This time of love between us and G-d has been etched into existence by the fact that G-d forgave our sin of the Golden Calf and allowed our nation to recapture that which we had lost by giving us a second set of Luchos (tablets).  Today, Rosh Chodesh Elul, is the anniversary when Moshe ascended on high again to begin anew the process of getting us the Torah from on high.

A sad story: young girls coerced into relationships they did n0t want and then told they were prostitutes and pressured into that line of work.  One such girl is a mere fourteen years old, throwing up her hands in despair, telling her mentor that whatever she will do from now on won’t count anymore as “I’m a prostitute, anyway.”  Painted into a corner psychologically first by the predator and then by an unsupportive/judgmental family and community.  And I texted the mentor to tell that young girl thus:  “Rachav Hazonah married Yehoshua and merited to have many Nevi’im be her descendants, including Yirmiyahu Hanavi.”  Texted back the mentor, “Cool”.   It is way more than cool, my friends, it is downright awesome to have a reset button that ensures mistakes and sins don’t stay a stain upon us.

No past precludes any of us from being royalty.  No smallness of stature blocks our relationship with G-d in this month.  For G-d Himself bends down to us.  And if we but lift up our hands to Him, we get lifted up toward the waiting spiritual heights.


and for those who want a musical interlude:  Shuli Rand does his soul-searching Ayecka — a cry out to G-d — and the answer to that cry is this month – -G-d would answer Shuli, don’t ask where I am, I’m right here – -where are you?  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7oo2JskBPgA

Gutten Chodesh, everyone.

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Elul – a time for repentance

Elul – the last month before judgment.  Next month comes Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, when each member of mankind is judged for past year’s actions and decrees are written for the upcoming new year.  Elul is the acronym for “Anee L’dodee V’dodee Lee” [“I am for my Beloved’s and my Beloved is for me”].  Elul is a time of closer connection w/ G-d.

Concept of Jewish Calendar:  Ma’agal Hashana – the wheel of the year.  Based on past events, time has significance.  We don’t merely commemorate past events in Judaism (as does secular society in things like July Fourth).  Rather, Jews know that certain times have certain powers.  Elul in history was right after the Golden Calf incident and after Moshe had set things right by punishing the instigators.  When the Jews had messed up big time, Moshe broke the set of Luchos [tablets with Ten Commandments] to have the destruction be transferred from the people to an inanimate object.  G-d wanted to wipe out our entire nation and only leave Moshe alive.  Moshe begged Hashem to forgive the Jews.  Hashem agreed – and Moshe goes back up to Heavens for another forty days.  He leaves Rosh Chodesh Elul [first day of the month of Elul] and returns Yom Kippur.  So, in history, this time was a time of G-d giving us a second chance and forgiving us despite our horrible mistake.  Therefore, in every generation, this time of the year is a time to get a second chance from Hashem, to move past any mistakes we make.

If you get called into traffic court for speeding and you have a whole list of outstanding other parking tickets you didn’t yet pay, it would be smart to pay off all the tickets before standing in front of the judge.  It would give more of a chance for the judge to be lenient if you took care of everything else.  That is why we would be stupid not to use Elul to try to clear up our mistakes- -we know we have a judgment day in a month – before seeing the Judge and getting judged it is easier to take care of past mistakes.

Teshuva [repentance] –  how do you do it?  Teshuva means to return – return to the state of innocence your soul was in before you did the wrong deeds.  According to the Rambam there are four steps to the repentance process:  leave the sin, regret the sin, admit (must speak) the sin, and take upon yourself not to do it again.

For sins between man and man, there are additional steps – you must right the wrong (if you stole, you must give back money, etc) and you must ask the person for forgiveness.  G-d will not forgive, if the person you harmed does not forgive.

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All Good That G-d Gives



Heaps of delicious ingredients could go to utter waste

If a little bit of salt doesn’t coax out amazing taste

A big bucket of white paint can be still whiter when

A little bit of black is added to that paint can

Scents of blossoms and other aromas so delicate

Smell sweeter yet with a drop of whale vomit

Many are the blessings we once thought was a curse

Who then is to judge what is bad in our universe?

Based upon a lecture by Rabbi S. Green of www.bircas.org


There is a verse that says “mee’pee Elyon Loh Saytzay Ha’raos” from the mouth of the Almighty does not come forth the bad.  There is no such thing as saying anything G-d does is bad.  In fact, we are told that we must make a blessing on the bad, just as we do on the good, for all is really, in essence good, though we might not see it with our limited vision.

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Age Old Questioning and Kvetching, “why do the good suffer?” and other attempts to try to understand a nonunderstandable G-d

“The Rock’s (Almighty) works are perfect, all His ways are just…there is no injustice…”

The statement that “life isn’t fair” isn’t a Jewish concept.  Hashem is perfect.  Therefore, anything He does is perfect.  We might not understand it, but that doesn’t mean it is unfair – it just means we see too little in life to understand the big picture.  Moshe Rabeinu at one point asked to “see Hashem”, meaning he wanted to understand G-d’s reasoning.  G-d explained to Moshe that no one can see Hashem, but Moshe gets a glimpse of G-d’s “back”.  What does this mean and what does Moshe see?  Moshe is shown a scene, a sort of movie at a private screening just for Moshe.  Here are the scenes Moshe saw:

A man is traveling in the woods and a highwayman comes along and kills him, then steals his wallet full of money.  The scene closes.  Then Moshe is shown another scene.  He sees two men, one an elderly tramp and another younger man.  They get into an argument, and the younger man kills the tramp.  A wallet falls out of the tramp’s pocket but the murderer doesn’t notice.  He is too panicked, trying to hide the body.  He finally hides the dead man and runs away from the area.  Moshe then sees a little boy come along and find the tramp’s wallet, which is stuffed with money, and the boy happily runs home with the money.  The scene ends.

Moshe is puzzled.  What is the meaning of this, he asks G-d.  Hashem explains that the tramp was the highwayman.  The wallet of money the little boy found was the original money stolen.  And the little boy was the son of the first murdered man, which means that the money rightfully belonged to him.  That is what is meant to see the “back” of Hashem – that looking back at history, sometimes we see glimpses of how Hashem rights the wrongs and passes judgment.  As Hillel said, “you were drowned because you drowned others and he who drowned you will be drowned.”

Our view is imperfect and that is why we think life is unfair.  G-d and His ways are perfect.  To the craziest tiniest degree.  Another example to help us undertand it.  Yirmiyahu was a prophet who had to tell the Jews that Hashem would exile and punish them, if they didn’t do Teshuva [repent].  He was not a very popular fellow, because the wayward folks wanted to continue doing immoral deeds.  So, at one point, some folks took Yirmiyahu and threw him into a pit full of slimy mud where he was slowly drowning.  Hashem had someone throw down a rope to him and he crawled out, hand over hand.  Now, if you ever did rope climbing, you would know that pulling yourself up on a rope is painful to the hands which become blistered and bleeding.  Yirmiyahu was mystified and he asked, “G-d, if you were saving me already, why not with a ladder, which would have been way more convenient for me.”  To which G-d replied, “Yirmiyahu, with what did your great-grandmother save the lives of the spies?  With a rope.  A rope for a rope is how I saved you.”  Yirmiyahu’s great-grandmother was Rachav HaZonah, and yes, she had saved the lives of the Jewish spies by lowering them from her roof with a rope.  G-d rewards and punishes with the tiniest details in place.  No one gets more than he deserves or less than he deserves in life.

“A G-d of faith without injustice…”  Rashi says that this means “rewards good people in the world to come and bad people in this world.”  Why is that justice — that the really good people’s reward is saved up for the next world, and the really bad people, any good they do is paid for in this world?  The reasoning is this way:  the wicked are usually horrible, but occasionally, for a brief moment, they do something good.  Therefore, their reward comes in this world, which is a temporary world (think about it, how long do we live, maybe seventy or eighty years so even if we are rich all our lives, it is less than one hundred years of pleasure).  A righteous person is usually good with some occasional brief moments of messing up.  Therefore, such a person gets punishment in this world (some toothache or frustration in life which is a short life anyway) and all his reward is saved up for the next world which has no end –the reward is forever.

Blind men cannot see a whole vista of a scene.  Human beings cannot see the full picture that blends generations, decades and past and future into one big tapestry of which we only see minute parts.  Therefore, humans have no way of thinking they are seeing the whole picture,and with that lack, have no way of judging fairness and justice.

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Parshas Eikev — Haftorah from Yeshayahu — quick tidbits


 [some quick morsels from the weekly portion…]

 ‘And if you will “heel” keep the commandments’.  So begins the weekly Torah Portion this week.  Rashi explains that the word heel was placed into this sentence to tell us we must keep ALL the Mitzvos, even those which many might think are “unimportant” and those which others tend to trample upon with disdaining heels – even those we should be keeping.

Chapter 8:  Verse 3:  “Not on bread alone does man live…rather on the utterances from G-d’s mouth does man live.”  We need to remember this – science, medicine, food – none of that is what gives us the life force – it is G-d willing us to be alive which keeps our souls within our human bodies.  With the advance of modern science and medicine, folks often think they control their health and destiny.  Not so.  Souls come into this world and are taken from it by the word of G-d.

Moshe explains to the Jews at this point some of the miracles which had taken place in the desert.  Verse 4:  their clothing did not need laundering and grew with them during those years.  The Jews got so accustomed to their miraculous existence, they forgot it was a miracle.  Many times in our own lives, just because something happens again and again, we forget it is a miracle.  Sun comes up each day, that’s a miracle for you, but we are so used to it happening we forget how miraculous “mother nature” is.

The next thing we have in the Parsha is the mitzvah of Birchas Hamazon, grace after meals.  The verse says, “you shall eat, you shall be sated, and you shall bless Hashem…”  Grace after Meals is incumbent upon both men and women.

  HAFTORAH – Yeshayahu [Isaiah 49]

 49:14 – “And Zion said, G-d has abandoned me and my Lord has forgotten me.”

It’s been a long exile, hasn’t it?  There are moments of desperation, those dark days of the Inquisition, those horror years of the Holocaust, the unimaginable endless tragic history.  Did G-d forget us and give up on us?

49:15 – [G-d responds]”Does a woman forget her suckling, the son of her womb, even if such would forget but I won’t forget you.”16-“Behold on my palms I have engraved you, your walls are before Me always.”

Put your palm up now.  You see it clearly, don’t you.  That is how close G-d sees us at all times.  He hasn’t forgotten us, not for one moment.

And because G-d hasn’t forgotten us, He will eventually hasten our redemption, cutting short the pain facing us from every angle.

The next few verses have multiple meanings.  I am going to follow the path of describing the verse 17 “those who ruin you and those who destroy you, from you they emerge”  as a comment that our worst enemies are from within our own nation, at times.  The twisted souls who want to entice others into their vile sins.  Those who are bitter and become anti-religious, like that dude in California who wanted to ban circumcision.  We sometimes produce some bad apples.  In our generation, we mass produce them.  We have thousands of kids heading out to meaningless existences.  Parents weep, schools are shamed, our community devastated and you wonder where will it all end.

Yet, with all that, the next verses describe how even these wicked ones could make it back in the final count.  Verse 20:  “It will be said in your ears, the lost children [will say] it is too narrow this place, move toward me and I’ll dwell.”  Those kids we thought we lost to the street, those we thought we lost to twisted cultures and isms, those who had the most fight in them, they, too, will come streaming back, saying, “hey, make space for me at your Shabbos table, make place for me in your synagogues, let me back in.”

So cry for the Geulah, my friends, pray for that day when G-d reverts things back to ideal and brings home our lost children.  Let the small Mitzvos, the ones that oft get trampled on by the masses who don’t value it, be dear to us.  And let those Ekev, trampled upon Mitvos, pave the road to return our children to the “Ikvos” the footsteps of their illustrious ancestors.

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The Owl Gives a Hoot About Us — Perek Shira

[continuing in Perek Shira, the Song of the Universe, we come to the Ritzeefee, an owl, and find out what they give a hoot about.]

When the world is asleep, you can hear the Shechina weep

From behind the Western wall

From forests dark and deep when there isn’t any peep

Comes forth an echoing call

The cry goes out, where are my children found?

And from the woods comes hoo-hoo a wailing sound


When hope seems far away, and you can’t imagine another day

Stuck in pain and all seems wrong

Listen well to what G-d does say, hardships are not here to stay

And soon dawn will come along

Listen well to the echo-song of the Retzeefee

Mirroring G-d’s “Nachamoo Nachamoo Amee”


The exile seems so long, and our pain just feels so wrong

How much more can we endure

But a whisper of a song, tells us hold on and be strong

For soon we’ll be secure

Our people will yet have a salvation

“Be comforted, be comforted, my nation”


And a beautiful song on this theme is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l-j5F0ckv9s

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Parshas Eschanan (Shema) and Haftorah of Nachamu (and stars)

This week’s Parsha is Eschanan and has the Shema, the declaration a Jew says from birth to death, morning, afternoon and evening.  We declare we know that G-d is infinite and ONE and that all His ways of manifesting in the world is all part of His Infinity.

The word Shema is an acronym for Shacharis, Mincha and Arvis, the three times a day when we pray.  It is also an acronym for three words in this week’s Haftorah:  Se’ooh Marom Ay’naychem – Lift on High Your Eyes.  And backwards it tells us why we lift our eyes, why we stop three times a day for introspection and that is to accept on us Ohl Malchus Shamayim, the yoke of rule of Heaven.  It is our call to action, our mission statement, the entire focus of our lives.  To declare, to acknowledge, to broadcast the concept of G-dliness in the world.

So let us go examine the Haftorah now.  We begin with the comfort of Shabbos Nachamu, where the Haftorah begins with the double reassurance of comfort, Nachamu-nachamu.

Comforted that we will be redeemed, secure that we will be helped, what is left for us to do – what are the challenges left for us?

The end of the Haftorah instructs us to “Lift on high your eyes and see Who created these, He who takes out by number the army [of stars] to each a name He calls…”

Each Jew is compared to a star.  Whether you see its twinkle or not, whether closer to earth or more remote, each star is a brilliant glow and fire.  Each one has a name and number.  Each one is beloved.  We get our Jewish name upon birth and we get called a name when we die.  If we merit, those names match up – the name of our potential that was heralded at birth and the name that we earned through our actions.

We are told, look to Who created all these stars, those in the Heavens and those here one earth, all creations of the Almighty.

You are a star, valuable, beloved and precious.  Declare your life mission with a resounded Shema.  Keep your focus, my beloved friends, and have a comforting, meaningful Shabbos that will stretch into the Shabbos of no-end.

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