Sunday, February 7, 2016

Is Kabbalah for everyone?

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Rabbi Yehuda Lave

Feel Joy In Overcoming Obstacles
A powerful general will prefer difficult military assignments because he wants to show his strength and abilities when he is victorious.
Similarly, if you feel strong love for another person, you will experience joy when you find opportunities to express the full extent of love for that person.
So, too, when you have a strong love for the Almighty, the greater the obstacles in your path when trying to serve Him, the more joy you will experience - because this is an opportunity to show the strength of your commitment.
The next time you face an obstacle, focus on the fact that this enables you to feel greater love for the Almighty. Feel a sense of joy and empowerment that you can express your love by overcoming obstacles.
Love Yehuda Lave

You know it is a tough Neighborhood when even the birds have knives and anckle bracelets!!

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Is Kabbalah for Everyone?

Is there really a ban on Kabbalah before the age of 40?


Last night I got into a discussion with a friend about some classes I was attending. He claimed that one shouldn't learn Kabbalah until he is 40 years old. Is this true? And if yes, how come many rabbis and Jewish educational organizations, including your own site, don't seem to be concerned about this?


Let's first understand what your friend was alluding to.
After devoting four chapters to the mystical concepts of the Creator and His creation ("Maaseh Merkavah" and "Maaseh Bereishit"), Maimonides concludes: "I maintain that it is not proper for a person to stroll in the Pardes (lit. "orchard," referring to esoteric teachings) unless he has filled his belly with bread and meat. 'Bread and meat' refer to the knowledge of what is permitted and what is forbidden, and similar matters concerning other mitzvahs."1 In other words, one should not learn the mystical secrets of Torah until he has first mastered the revealed level of Torah.
In the same vein, Rabbi Shabbetai ha-Kohen (known by the acronym "the Shach"), a 17th-century commentator on the Code of Jewish Law, writes: "There are those who say that one should wait until the age of 40 before learning Kabbalah, for it says in the Mishnah, 'Forty is the age of wisdom.'"2
This is the basis for the notion of limiting the study of Kabbalah to older, accomplished scholars.
However, if we carefully read the words of Maimonides within their context, we will note that: (a) he never said that one should not learn any mysticism—rather, he writes that one should do so in the proper manner; and (b) the esoteric teachings that he warned about aren't necessarily classical Kabbalah.
It should also be noted that much of the "Kabbalah" that is taught today is a distilled form that does not have the same issues as pure Kabbalah.
Allow me to elaborate.

Maimonides and Strolling Through the Pardes

The above quote from Maimonides comes at the end of the fourth chapter of his "Laws of the Torah's Foundations," which is the first section of his 14-volume exposition of Jewish law, the Mishneh Torah.
He opens these laws by stating, "The foundation of all foundations and the pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a Primary Being who brought into being all existence." He then goes on to stress that it is obligatory "to love and fear this glorious and awesome G‑d"3 through contemplating the greatness of G‑d and His awesome creations.
It is only four chapters in, after expounding on many mystical concepts, that Maimonides concludes by saying that one shouldn't "stroll in the Pardes" unless he has already mastered the revealed Torah.
This, of course, raises the question: How could Maimonides begin a work he says is for all people with information that's only for those who have already attained a certain stature? The question is compounded when we consider that Maimonides declares that this knowledge is necessary to fulfill the mitzvahs to know, love and fear G‑d!
It is therefore safe to say that studying these first four chapters does not constitute "strolling in the Pardes," only "glimpsing" it. What's the difference? One who "strolls" through the "orchard" of the Torah learns its secrets in great depth and enjoys its mysteries, but he needs to take precautions before his venture. But one who simply "glimpses" the orchard just grasps the basics of these hidden matters, which Maimonides not only permits, but requires.4 Indeed, he begins his codification of Jewish law with a mystical introduction—the sip of "wine" should precede the meal of "bread and meat"!

Listen to the Experts in Their Field

There is a general rule that just as when you have a medical question you ask the doctor who is an expert in that field, so too when it comes to halachah you follow the experts. We can see an example of this in the disputes between the Talmudic sages Rav and Shmuel. If the dispute concerns what is permitted or prohibited, the halachah follows Rav, while if the dispute concerns monetary issues, the halachah follows Shmuel5—since each was an expert in his respective field.6
Likewise, when you have a question about the deeper, mystical aspects of the Torah, you need to ask the opinion of an "expert" in that field.
So although we discussed Maimonides' warning against "taking a stroll in the Pardes," it should be pointed out that a true scholar of Kabbalah can recognize that Maimonides was not even referring to the Kabbalistic tradition, but to a metaphysical understanding of G‑d and creation.8 In fact, according to most, Maimonides was not familiar with and never learned Kabbalah.9 Even those who say he did learn Kabbalah say that this was only at the very end of his life.10
In light of this, the famed Rabbi Eliyahu of Vilna, known as the Vilna Gaon or Gra, strongly disagrees with both Maimonides and the Shach about their restrictions, positing that they didn't know enough about the subject.11 He therefore holds that not only is it permitted—with no age restrictions—to learn Kabbalah, one has an obligation to do so.12
Also note that some of the most important teachers of Kabbalah, such as the Arizal and Rabbi Moshe Chaim Luzzatto (Ramchal), did not even live to the age of 40!

Learning Kabbalah Today

Rabbi Chaim Vital writes in the name of his teacher the Arizal that although in previous generations the teachings of Kabbalah were kept hidden and were studied only by a select few, today not only are we permitted to learn Kabbalah, but we also have a responsibility to spread and teach it.13
Why is learning the inner aspects of the Torah so important nowadays? The answer is twofold:
a) The rabbis write of the tremendous descent of later generations. We are like a person in a deep slumber or coma, unaware of and unattuned to the holiness of G‑d and His Torah. Additionally, the world at large has descended into a much deeper spiritual darkness. Under such conditions, the only antidote is to unleash the power of the inner light of Torah.14
b) As expounded upon by the Zohar,15 the Arizal,16 the Baal Shem Tov,17 and the Vilna Gaon,18 among many others, learning the inner teachings of the Torah is a crucial preparation for the coming of the Moshiach and the final redemption.

Are There No Precautions?

Although we have discussed why it is permitted to learn the mystical aspects of the Torah, we still need to address why past generations were so wary of learning Kabbalah.
One reason is that there have been instances in Jewish history, even relatively recently, when the misuse of Kabbalah had disastrous consequences for the Jewish people. For example, approximately 350 years ago a misguided Jew named Shabbetai Tzvi proclaimed himself the Messiah, based on misinterpretations of the Kabbalah. By the time he was proven a fraud, he had brought great material and spiritual suffering upon a significant portion of Jewry.
The danger of Kabbalah is in its misinterpretation. The Baal Shem Tov himself cautioned against the layman learning pure Kabbalah without its Chassidic explanation.19 This is where Chassidut comes in. Chassidut, while largely based on Kabbalah, expresses Kabbalah in a distilled and accessible form, which mitigates the possibility of misinterpretation.
The importance of learning Chassidut cannot be understated, as is evident from a vision of the Baal Shem Tov concerning the coming redemption:
On Rosh Hashanah of the year 5507 (1746), I made a [Kabbalistic] oath and elevated my soul. . . . I saw wondrous things in a vision, the likes of which I had never witnessed since the day my mind first began to awaken. . . . I went up from level to level until I entered the Palace of the Messiah. . . . I asked the Messiah, "When will you come, Master?" And he replied, "By this you shall know: it will be a time when your teachings become publicized and revealed to the world, and your wellsprings have overflowed to the outside . . ."20
May it be speedily in our days!
For more on the definition of Kabbalah, click here, here and here.
For more on the importance of learning the deeper aspects of the Torah nowadays, see Teachers of the Hidden Wisdom: Who gave permission to reveal the secrets of millennia?
Mishneh Torah, Hilchot Yesodei ha-Torah 4:13.
2.See Shach, Yoreh De'ah 246:6.
4.See Shulchan Menachem, vol. 4, p. 299; Likkutei Sichot, vol. 26, p. 114.
5.Talmud, Bechorot 49b.
6.See Rosh on Talmud, Bava Kamma 4:4.
7.See Igrot Kodesh, vol. 23, p. 57; Gra on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 246:18.
8.See Maimonides' introduction to Part Three of his Guide for the Perplexed, where he writes that what he explains about Maaseh Merkavah, Maaseh Bereishit and the secrets of the Torah were not received from any teacher, nor did they come to him through prophecy. Rather, these are his own ideas, using his own logic. Therefore, he says, it's possible that they are incorrect, and that they mean something completely different. See also R. Yosef Ergas, Shomer Emunim 1:8–9.
9.See Shaar ha-Gilgulim, Introduction, sec. 36; commentary of Rabbi Shlomo Alkabetz on Song of Songs; Shomer Emunim 1:13.
10.Responsa of Maharam Alashkar 117; Shem ha-Gedolim, s.v. Rambam; Shomer Emunim 1:13; Igrot Kodesh, vol. 22, p. 129.
11.Gra on Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah 246:18.
12.Gra, commentary to Proverbs 2:9; commentary to Heichalot, Pekudei 17:1–2; Even Sheleimah 11:3.
13.Rabbi Chaim Vital's introduction to Shaar Hakdamot.
14.See Kuntres Eitz Chaim, ch. 13, and the letter printed at the end of that work, p. 82.
15.See Zohar 1:117a, 118a, 3:124b (in Raaya Meheimna).
16.See introduction to Shaar Hakdamot.
17.Letter of the Baal Shem Tov to his brother-in-law R. Gershon Kitover, printed at the beginning of Keter Shem Tov.
18.See Even Sheleimah 11:3.
19.For fear that some would not be able to strip the abstract Kabbalistic concepts from their corporeality. See Derech Mitzvotecha, Shoresh Mitzvat ha-Tefillah 2.
20.Letter of the Baal Shem Tov to his brother-in-law R. Gershon Kitover, printed at the beginning of Keter Shem Tov.
A Jewish bookie was at the races playing the ponies and losing his shirt.
He noticed a Priest step out onto the track and blessed the forehead
of one of the horses lining up for the 4th race.
Lo and behold, that horse - a long shot - won the race.
Next race, as the horses lined up, the Priest stepped onto the track.
Sure enough, he blessed one of the horses.
The bookie made a beeline for a betting window and placed a small bet
on the horse. Again, even though it was another long shot,
the horse won the race. He collected his winnings, and anxiously
waited to see which horse the Priest would bless next.
He bet big on it, and it won.
As the races continued the Priest kept blessing horses, and each one
ended up winning.
The bookie was elated. He made a quick dash to the ATM, withdrew all
his savings, and awaited for the Priest's blessing that
would tell him which horse to bet on.
True to his pattern, the Priest stepped onto the track for the last
race and blessed the forehead of an old nag that was 100/1.
This time the priest blessed the eyes, ears, and hooves of the old nag.
The bookie knew he had a winner and bet every cent he owned on the old nag.
He watched dumbfounded as the old nag pulled up and couldn't even
finish the race.
In a state of shock, he went to the track area where the Priest was.
Confronting him, he demanded, 'Father! What happened? All day long
you blessed horses and they all won.
Then in the last race, the horse you blessed never even had a chance.
Now, thanks to you I've lost every cent of my savings!'.
The Priest nodded wisely and with sympathy. "You are not Catholic are
you my son?"
"No, I'm Jewish"
"That's the problem", said the Priest, "you couldn't tell the
difference between a blessing and last rites".
NICE FURNITURE" - in the shape of GUNS!!
This "Furniture Shipment" was supposed to go to the Refugee Camps in GREECE to make their life more bearable and ease their 'hardships'.
52 TONS of Guns and Ammunition in big 40' double Containers followed the migrants to Europe, pretending to be Furniture, butwas intercepted by the Greek Border Securities. 14 Containersof Guns & Ammo
TAKE A LOOK - Still wonder why all those young (Military age) men (without children or wives) are taking on the task of traveling all those miles 'posing' as refugees
'They are coming' (Like they said they would)
If this doesn't convinceEVERYONE that this IMMIGRATION is nothing less than an 'ARMED INVASION' then nothing will.

MDA releases data on the terror wave.

Magen David Adom at scene of Kiryat Gat stabbing, November 21, 2015
Magen David Adom at scene of Kiryat Gat stabbing, November 21, 2015 . (photo credit:MAGEN DAVID ADOM)
Four and-a-half months into the terror wave, Israel's Magen David Adom ambulance service has summarized some of the period's key statistics.

MDA chose the September 13, Rosh Hashana attack, in which the 64-year-old grandfather Alexander Levlovitz was killed, as the starting date of the current round of violence.

Terrorists caused Levlovitz's death in Jerusalem after he lost control of his vehicle on the night of September 13 when its windshield was shattered by a rock thrown from an overpass in the Armon Hanatziv neighborhood while he was driving home with his two daughters.

Since the Levlovitz attacks and until February 1, 30 Israelis have been killed and 301 have been wounded, MDA reported. Twenty seven of the wounded were wounded seriously, eight moderately to seriously, 46 moderately, 11 moderately to lightly, and 209 were lightly wounded.

MDA emergency teams treated victims in 91 rock throwing incidents, 83 stabbing incidents, 22 vehicle ramming attacks, and 15 shootings.

Palestinian media has reported that 167 Palestinians have been killed in the current round of violence, including 34 minors. Israeli security forces have arrested 3,500 Palestinians and 1,420 Palestinians have been injured, according to the Palestinian sources.

A high profile attack at the beginning of the current round of violence was the October 1 shooting of Eitam and Na'ama Henkin near the West Bank Palestinian village of Beit Furik.

The couple, who was shot dead by a Palestinian terrorist while driving home, left behind four young children who survived without injury in the bullet-riddled vehicle.

On October 3, Rabbi Nehemia Lavi, 41, and Aharon Benita, 22, were murdered in a terrorist attack in the Old City of Jerusalem. In the attack, a Palestinian terrorist murdered the two Jewish men in a stabbing spree and wounded a mother and son.

On October 10, two Jewish men were stabbed to death, and three others were seriously wounded, in a gun and knife attack on an Egged bus in the capital's southeastern Armon Hanatziv neighborhood. On the same day an Israeli was killed by wounds suffered in a car ramming and stabbing attack in the capital.

On November 19, a Palestinian terrorist armed with a knife murdered two Israelis and moderately wounded a third during a rampage in a southern Tel Aviv office building.

On January 1, a terrorist who went on a shooting rampage in Tel Aviv killed three Israelis. 

Simpsons Search Engine for Folks Who Want to Be Cool and Jewish

Published: February 4th, 2016

Simpsons Krusty
Photo Credit: Frinkiac FAQ
Frinkiac FAQ is an enjoyable search engine for people who love The Simpsons, and enjoy using Simpson quotes or scene plots to make themselves appear cool and with it—or find a shiduch. Created by Paul Kehrer, Sean Schulte and Allie Young, the search function will offer you a Simpson quote on anything, often a whole bunch of them.
Frinkiac, named after Springfield's mad scientist Professor Frink, was launched on Tuesday. It collects every quote from the first 15 seasons of The Simpsons, and offers them with screenshots from the exact moment they happened.
The search is limited to the show's subtitles, you have to search for things that were actually said on the show and where subsequently indexed in the database. You can't find scenes based on a description of what was happening in them, only what the closed captions said.
Frinkiac cuts every scene into 100 parts, takes the average color of each part, and compares its coloration to the most recently saved image. If they're different enough, you'll get a new screenshot, with minimal redundancy through the hundreds of hours of video being parsed.
Being of the Jewish persuasion, we went with several Jewish key words, which yielded a bunch of scenes. When you pick one image, you get a large screenshot from the episode, the quote, and you then have the option of producing a meme of the scene. A Text area allows you the edit the meme's text, which is so very fun.
Simpsons Sandy Koufax
Frinkiac FAQ
Rabbi Yehuda Lave
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