Yehuda Lave is an author, journalist, psychologist, rabbi, spiritual teacher and coach, with degrees in business, psychology and Jewish Law. He works with people from all walks of life and helps them in their search for greater happiness, meaning, business advice on saving money, and spiritual engagement
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A few riddles to wake you up this morning
Question: Where do you go in through one hole and come out through two holes at the same time?
Answer: By putting on your trousers
Peter's smart phone fell into a big mug of coffee but didn't get wet. How was this possible?
Answer: It was coffee powder.
What is dirty after washing?
A: Your bath water.
Question: What hard rock group has four dudes but neither of them plays a guitar?
Answer: Mount Rushmore
Q: A man on a flat soccer field kicked a soccer ball 40 feet away. The ball came back immediately at the same speed. No one else and no object have been involved. The ball didn't touch anything on its way. How did the man do that?
A: He kicked the ball up in the air.
Q: The more you take from me, the greater I become. What am I? - A: A hole.
Riddle: I move at a tremendous speed, as fast as a car, and yet I'm always at the same place. What am I? - Answer: A ventilator.
Limits are necessary with Spirituality and Life
With Spirituality and Life limits are necessary. The Torah which is our guidepost to how to live life, always gives us examples of what happens when we ignore boundaries (gavol in Hebrew) and limits.
In 19:12, Moshe is told to caution the People lest they ascend Mt. Sinai and breach the set boundaries. The punishment: "… whoever touches the mountain shall surely die."
Some verses later (19:20), HaShem again commands Moshe to descend from the mountain and warn the People: … "lest they break [their formation to go nearer] to the Lord, and many of them will fall."
Moshe himself in the next pasuk (19:21) questions the need for an additional warning, but Gd seemingly ignores his question and proceeds to direct Moshe to forewarn the People again (19:24). How can this double alert be understood?
The written Torah can not be understood without the Oral Torah explanations. Our greatest commentator, Rashi summarizes varies sources in his terse explanations.
Rashi (19:24), quoting the Mechilta, explains that "… we spur on a person to follow instructions by warning him prior to the act and spur him on again at the time of the act." In Rashi's view, when the violation of a given behavior carries with it severe consequences, additional warnings are warranted.
Rav Soloveitchik expands upon this Midrash by utilizing its answer to advance a fundamental motif in the Torah. "Apparently, G-d did not want the People to refrain from ascending the mountain because a physical barrier blocked them." This is more the mark of a slave whose character is such that only physical force can stop him from breaching the borders.
Not so the Jew. "For Jews, there are neither fences nor partitions. We don't eat bread on Passover, because there is someone physically stopping us. We don't eat because we take the prohibition on ourselves.
The prohibition and the warning are enough to prevent a Jew from transgression and wrongdoing. G-d had to emphasize to Moses that the whole Torah is contained in the words, אל' יהרסו, let them not break through' – do not break down any abstract boundaries or partitions…
The most amazing thing about the Exodus, far greater than the signs and wonders, [was] the transformation of a nation of slaves who lived in a boundless state, … who did not understand the meaning of laws and strictures, [into a nation who would obey] laws when no taskmaster threatened.
Indeed, the religious Jew observes Shabbos, keeps the laws of Kashrus, behaves ethically not primarily because he fears physical punishment. Rather, the sacred and sublime word of HaShem is enough to embolden and impel a Jew to abstain from these and other violations. Hence the warning - the verbal interdiction - required repetition.
A very different approach is suggested by the great rabbinic sage of the last century, HaRav Yaakov Kaminetsky, zt"l. In his opinion (Emes L'Yaakov, Shemos 19:24), the double warning was necessary because of the very real fear that the people would be prepared to jump the boundary and suffer the consequences in order to approach and experience palpable intimacy with the Almighty. What truly could be greater than to bask in the Presence of G-d, a spiritual reward reserved only for the righteous in the World to Come! The two sons of Aaron learned this lesson when they were killed for trying to come too close to G-d at the inauguration of the Mishkon (temple) in the desert.
The message here is equally indispensable. The desire to come close to G-d is absolutely intoxicating. The thirst and craving are so powerful that even the greatest of our Sages succumbed to this spiritual longing only to suffer terribly.
The story of the four Tannaim is well known. Rabbi Akiva was the sole survivor of the group because while he did enter the mysterious Pardes, he knew when to stop and not proceed further. (Yerushalmi Chagigah 2:1)
This intense longing to almost merge with Divinity is no doubt rooted in man's unquenchable desire to know it all, to know all there is.
In short, to be like G-d. And while emulating G-d is praiseworthy (Shabbos 133b), imagining that one can aspire to be Gd is downright dangerous and a clear threat to anyone and everyone. All too often, a man may not even realize the sheer futility of this spiritual fusion - the human and the divine being mutually exclusive.
A man may even give pious lip service to G-d and sincerely worship Him, but if he behaves as if he is the supreme font of all wisdom, he will have recklessly overreached, broken through the boundaries, and eventually will have brought about his own ignominious end. Only when man recognizes that there are limits, limits by virtue of his finite, mortal existence – only then will he understand the ethos of humility and in so doing, open himself up to Divine wisdom which prohibits and permits, which guides and instructs, and which inspires and sanctifies!
At the foot of Sinai, when the People were about to experience this extraordinary spiritual event of actually hearing the voice of G-d when upon hearing the first two Commandments, their souls temporarily left them – at that very moment, they remembered the warning about not approaching too close.
And they then understood that in the heeding of those very boundaries would lie the secret of their mission and purpose as Gd's Chosen People. Paradoxically, less is more, and limits actually allow for the gushing forth and blossoming of man's great potential as a singular being created in the image of his Maker.
Dammed if you do, dammed if you don't. by Hana Levi Julian
Water Authority Mulls Best Time to Open Degania Dam
Israel's Water Authority met Wednesday to set a series a critical water level points at which to give the order to open the Degania Dam which sits between Lake Kinneret — also known as the Sea of Galilee — and the northernmost point of the Jordan River.
The decision is facing Israeli environmental authorities in the remaining months of the winter season, between February to April. This is the time when the final possible chance that rain might fall comes to an end, just as Jews around the world conclude recitation of the blessing for winter rains in the daily services, and begin instead the blessing for morning dew.
The Degania Dam is to be opened only if the level of the lake reaches the upper red line — meaning the lake has reached full capacity.
On Tuesday morning, the level of the lake stood at 210.01 meters below sea level. The upper red line is 208.8 meters below sea level, and the lower red line is 213.0 meters below sea level.
At present, the water level is just 1.22 meters before the point at which the lake will reach full capacity.
Opening the dam would prevent the possible flooding of the communities located near the lake, and would replenish the waters of the Jordan River and onward south to the Dead Sea.
However, there is also a concern that should there be too much water moving too swiftly, it may cause damage to infrastructure and agricultural areas downstream of the Jordan River, in the Yarmouk River and more.
At the meeting, the parameters were defined according to which the dam would be opened, such as a set date in the season, the release of the water from the lake, and the probability the water might fail to overflow the upper red line.
One of the biggest concerns in the danger of waiting too long, because the rise in the level of water may move faster than the speed at which the water can be released from the lake via the Degania Dam.
"It is essential to prevent flooding in communities near the lake, while preserving the Kinneret as an unparalleled resource for all of us," said Water Authority director Giora Shaham.
"We have to be careful to draw about a million cubic meters of water from the lake each day, and pipe it to the national water carrier," he added.
Why Young Europeans Can't Understand Israeli Citizens By Yishai Fleisher
As world leaders gathered in Jerusalem last month to remember Auschwitz and commemorate 75 years since its liberation, I was sitting in my office in Hebron with two Germans.
These two young men, aspiring journalists, had already published in some of Germany's most prestigious newspapers, and were enjoying a semester at Hebrew University in Jerusalem. They had come to Hebron to see the Arab-Israeli conflict for themselves—and today was my day to lay out the case for the Jewish "settlers."
We talked about the issues of the day, including the Auschwitz commemoration and the speech by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Jerusalem. Then, I laid out the history of Jewish Hebron, and talked about the surprisingly good relations between the city's Jewish community and some of its Arab clans.
However, one question kept coming up, repeated in various forms: Why are you really here? Why is Hebron important to you? Why would you live in a dangerous neighborhood where you are not wanted?
I told them that Hebron is key to Jewish identity because the city contains the first property purchase of the Jewish people in the land of Israel. I told them about the special significance of the Tomb of the Patriarchs, the founders of Jewish peoplehood, and about the uninterrupted Jewish presence in Hebron since ancient times. I went through the classic answers. Yet it became clear that my German guests were genuinely not grasping what I was saying.
In my experience, this incomprehension of Jewish yearning for the land of Israel is a recurring phenomenon with young Europeans—the standard answers about Zionism simply do not compute for them. One can chalk it up to classic anti-Semitism, but that explanation does not satisfy; these young men did not grow up with the Jew-baiting memes of old Europe.
So, I decided to change tack and deal with the real issue head-on, namely that the young Europeans and myself seemed to be speaking two different languages. I began by explaining that there are three pillars upholding the rationale for Israel: biblical history, nationalism and the memory of the Holocaust.
The Bible is dead
To understand Israel you need to have a clue about Scripture.
The Bible can be seen as a religious text, a historical text, or both, but however you see it, the Bible describes a deep and natural connection between Jews and the land of Israel.
In the mind of a biblically-aware person, the word "Hebron" conjures up the story of Abraham's purchase, of Jacob's burial, of King David's first capital and more.
For people like Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, though he was not religiously observant, the Bible, a book which tells of Jewish life in the land of Israel and multiple accounts of exile and return, was the foundational document of Zionism.
But for many Europeans, the Bible is meaningless.
They don't know it at all, and certainly don't believe in its veracity as either a historical document or religious text. In the mind of my young German journalist friends, quoting the Bible is like reading from a Middle Ages book of magical spells. At a minimum, they see it as irrelevant, at most as utterly regressive.
Today's Europe is post-religion, and the dramatic decline in church attendance in Europe is well documented. Anything that smacks of God-talk is suspect, and tales of the Hand of God protecting the Hebrews is anything but convincing.
In 1917, the British Lord Arthur Balfour, author of the famous Balfour Declaration, was a devout believer and a Bible-lover. His efforts were deeply informed by the consciousness of the Bible. But in today's Europe the Bible is dead, and with it a huge pillar of the pro-Israel rationale.
Nationalism is dead
The second pillar of the Jewish state is nationalism.
Israel is a nationalist endeavor—an ethnic people living on ancestral land, speaking an ancient language and doing business with a proprietary currency and particular calendar. Modern Israel's rebirth was linked with the post-World War I anti-imperial movement of "self-determination," in which ethnic peoples fought for the right to organize as independent states in their homelands.
While Europe was a bastion of nationalism 100 years ago, that ideology has been replaced by today's borderless, one-currency pan-European construct. A fixation on national history is seen as a hindrance to homogenization of the Continent.
The very word "nationalism" immediately conjures up associations with National Socialism, that is, Nazism.
So for young Europeans, when you say Israel has rights because of nationalism, they hear that Israel denies rights because of fascism.
Moreover, related to nationalism is the concept of family.
Family is really micro-nationalism, and to understand Israel you have to understand the importance of family in the Jewish mind. Raising a family is a deep-seated value in the Jewish state, shared by all, from the secular to the ultra-Orthodox.
But Europe is notoriously post-family, post-children, and noticeably, post-replacement numbers.
To talk to young Europeans about the Jewish state as the defender of the family, the tribe, or the nation is only to bring up regressive, as opposed to progressive, associations. With the death of the idea of nationalism in Europe, yet another pillar of the pro-Israel rationale has faded.
The Holocaust is dead
The third pillar of Israel's existence is the Holocaust, or more accurately, Jewish oppression in exile throughout the ages, which culminated in the Holocaust.
To understand Israel is to remember that the Jewish state was born in the shadow of "The Six Million" and with the consciousness of "Never Again"—and therein lies Israel's deep-seated need for a strong army and its ethos of self-defense.
Yet young Europeans were born into a reality of Israel as a strong country—even a military power—and certainly not a victim.
Additionally, they have been taught, at one level or another, that Israel is a foreign colonialist aggressor against the weak, indigenous Palestinians. For them, Israel is not a small Jewish commonwealth in the midst of a huge hostile Arab world, but rather Israel is the proverbial brutish Goliath. Therefore, anchoring Israeli rights in self-defense, for example the need to control the highland of Judea due to strategic considerations, tends to fall on deaf European ears.
And what of the European Holocaust itself—which happened not so long ago? Do young Europeans see it as a rationale for Israel? Hardly. They wish it would just go away—and indeed, who would want to carry around that blame?
Moreover, there is an intricate psychological mechanism by which the European feeling of guilt over the Holocaust transforms into a desire to recast Israel as an oppressor. As if to say: See, the Jews themselves are victimizers and the moment they have the power they act like Nazis. The Jews are no better than us, and we are no worse than them.
With Israel's strength comes the death of Holocaust as a rationale for Israel—and yet a third pillar of the rationale for Israel is undone.
A core values conflict
Without necessarily trying to broadcast it, the Jewish state is a biblical throwback and an ethnic-nationalist state and therefore stands for Bible and God, nationalism and family, self-determination and self-defense. Even the majority of the Israeli left espouses most of these core values.
Europe, on the other hand, is post-God, post-nationalism, post-family and post-Holocaust—and is therefore understandably at odds with the very concept of Israel.
Moreover, Europe is not just Europe—it is a mindset that can be found across the ocean in places like The New York Times, and on many American college campuses. For them the Bible is no rationale at all, nationalism is repugnant and Israel is the aggressor, not the victim.
The enemies of Israel seek to exploit and enhance this Euro-mindset by creating an atmosphere where the pillars of Israel are further undermined. According to their teachings, Israel cannot base its claims on an ancient book, Israeli nationalism is nothing but repressive colonialism, and claims of the Holocaust are grossly exaggerated—recognizable rhetoric to young Europeans.
Is dialogue possible?
Many Israelis and Israel proponents have identified some of these landmines and have tried to create language to bridge the gaps.
Therefore the Jewish state's image has gone through "nation-branding" cycles where Israel has been recast as the Start-Up Nation, gay capital of the Middle East and bikini-clad night-life destination. But these do little to mask Israel's biblical and nationalistic character, and neither do they succeed in undoing the damage caused by the exploiters of the post-God, post-national Euro-mindset.
Sadly, the intellectual gaps between today's Europe and Israel are unbridgeable—and there is not much to do about it.
However, as the adage goes, a conservative is just a liberal who has been mugged. While Europe's winds are to the left today, they are liable to swing back to the right in the future. Such is the case with the U.K.'s Brexit for example, or the resurgent nationalism of Eastern Europe.
Unlike Europe's current whim, Israel's nationalism, biblical heritage and yearning for self-defense are age-old truths that will eventually overcome the intellectual vicissitudes of today.
That is what I told my young German journalist guests.
Did they like hearing it? Not exactly. But at least they got a straight answer and were no longer dumbfounded as to why they can't understand why Jews fight to live in Judea.
REINCARNATION by Rabbi Ephriam Sprecher
And these are the JUDGEMENTS you shall place before them." (Shemot 21:1) Parshat Mishpatim begins with a litany of human suffering, misery, afflictions, poverty and slavery. Why does life contain so much tragedy?
The Zohar states that the answer to this profound question lies with our verse "And these (human tragedies), are G‑d's JUDGEMENTS for a person's misdeeds that he committed in a previous lifetime." Thus the Zohar is linking G‑d's Justice and Judgement to the Doctrine of Reincarnation.
The Ramban brings a proof text for Reincarnation from the book of Iyov. "Wow, all these wonders G-d does, two or three times with a person, to bring back his soul from the grave, to light up his life with the living light." (Iyov 33:29-30).
Why is there Reincarnation? Life works the way that education works, which is about moving up from level to level as one matures and becomes more intelligent. The educational process that we go through in life is meant to enhance a person's ability to function in the world and to help people make the most of their lives. Life is about our need to become responsible and compassionate members of society.
As a person grows up, his spiritual capabilities also increase and mature but not automatically. The more one puts into an education the more one derives from it. Similarly the more one puts into spiritual growth, the more one grows spiritually, and the more spiritually empowered one becomes. This process of spiritual growth enables one to enjoy and delight in G-d's presence for Eternity in the Afterlife.
Kabbalah teaches that though we all have one, unique, special soul, each soul actually comprises five parts, each of which has a specific name – Nefesh, Ruach, Neshamah, Chaya, and Yechidah. Nefesh is the person's life force. Ruach is the person's spirit. Neshamah is G‑d's breath of life. Chaya is the living soul, and Yechidah is the unique special soul of each person.
These five soul parts represent the path to spiritual completion and perfection. Because each level up provides increasingly greater access to higher levels of spiritual capacity and eternal closeness to G‑d.
At birth every individual has all five levels of soul. We have to if we are going to continuously receive G-d's light to keep us functioning, since the five levels of soul connect us to the light of G-d which nourishes our souls and keeps our bodies alive. To be missing a level of soul would be to break the connection between a person and G‑d, the Source of Life.
The Torah gives a person access to higher levels of spiritual understanding and to the perfection of the soul. The problem is that the Evil Inclination can interfere with our ability to Climb the Soul Ladder from Nefesh to Ruach to Neshamah, etc., so much so that time can run out on our lifetime before we have completed our mission.
People often remain stuck on the lowest soul levels for decades, or even entire lifetimes. G‑d can't afford to give up on any soul, as Iyov 31:2 states, "CHELEK ALO'AK MIMA'AL" (We are a portion of G‑d from above.)
Thus the necessity for Reincarnation. We return to complete and perfect what we started in other lifetimes even if we aren't aware of who we were or where we were. The Hebrew word for Reincarnation is GILGUL which means recycling.
The word GILGUL in Hebrew, Gimmel Lamed Gimmel Vav Lamed, has the same numerical value of 72 (GEMATRIA) as the word CHESED, Chet Samech Dalet, (LOVINGKINDNESS). What is remarkable about this is that 72 is also the number of one of G‑d's Mystical Names, Shem Ayin Bet = 72. When this type of numerical connection occurs, it implies a profound conceptual relationship. GILGUL is the ultimate CHESED of G‑d, in that a soul is given another chance for the refinement of its past and the spiritual growth and advancement of its future.
To succeed in Eternity, a soul returns to this physical world again and again to do its TIKKUN and to fulfill its spiritual mission. This is true because G‑d is in the soul repair business.