Monday, June 28, 2010

Living Life With Eyes Of Achdus - Part I

I have a family member who I haven't seen in quite some time. Unfortunately, this is a boy who is traveling some rocky roads in recent years. Formerly in Yeshivah, he has fallen into some pretty dark alleyways.. I haven't seen him in over 2 years, given that we live on opposite sides of the globe. I've heard about the paths that he's been taking and have davened for him many times, but it wasn't until this past week that I saw him again. This was a boy who was the sweetest of the sweet, dressed in black and white a few years back, with tremendous potential, who now looks like he's been living on the street since birth. Tattoos, chains, pants down to his knees. As much as I wanted to show this boy my love, seeing him like this was so shocking that I couldn't cover it up. I couldn't give him the hug that he truly deserved. It broke my heart, and I haven't been able to stop thinking about my own inability to get past his appearance. Oy, H" Yisbarach, how appearances are so hard to get past.

As I thought more and more about it, I thought back to how this boy looked only a few short years ago. The before picture looked like any other Yeshiva boy. And now the after picture, well, is a whole different story. But I keep asking myself - what has really changed? If this boy would have dressed himself in a "Yeshivishe" levush the other day in advance of our meeting, my hug would have been on a whole different level. My feelings would have been entirely different. This realization hurts. I should have been able to give this boy my entire attention and love without his appearance creating a barrier between us. But I couldn’t. Before I saw him, I tried to mechazek myself with eitzos that I could give him, Torah’s that I can give over to him. But instead, I was blown over by his appearance.

After our meeting, I thought about the chelek Elokah that is within him, despite his appearance, and despite his actions. I thought about the potential within him. I thought about who he was, and who he could become. And then I reminded myself about Rebbe Nachman’s Lesson “Azamra” in Likutey Moharan I : 282.
In that Torah, the Rebbe teaches about the pasuk in Tehillim Psalm 146:2 - Azamra l'Elokai be-odee!
"I will sing to my God as long as I live!". I reviewed the Torah, and realized it is the medicine that I needed to reach out to those like this boy. Listen to what Rebbe Nachman says:

“Find the good in others...

KNOW that you must judge all people favorably. This applies even to the worst of people. You must search until you find some little bit of good in them. In that good place inside them, they are not bad! If you can just find this little bit of good and judge them favorably, you really can elevate them and swing the scales of judgment in their favor. This way you can bring them back to God.

This teaching is contained in the words of King David in the Psalms: "And in just a little bit (ve-OD me-at) there's no sinner; when you think about his place, he won't be there" (Psalm 37:10). King David is teaching us to judge everyone favorably. Even if you consider someone to be totally bad, you must still search until you find some little bit of good in him. There in the place of this tiny bit of good, that person is not bad! This is the meaning of the words, "And in just a little bit there's no sinner..." In other words you must seek out the little bit of good that is still in him. For in that place he is not a sinner. Maybe he's a bad person. Even so, is it really possible that he is totally devoid of even the slightest modicum of good? How could it be that all his life he never once did anything good? By finding one tiny good point in which he is not bad and thereby judging him favorably, you really do raise him from being guilty to having merit. This will bring him back to God. "In just a little bit there's no sinner!"

By finding this little bit of good in the bad person, this place inside him where he is not wicked, through this "...when you think about his place, he won't be there." When you examine his "place" and level, "he won't be there" in his original place. For by finding some little bit of good in him and judging him favorably, you genuinely raise him from guilt to merit. And "when you think about his place, he won't be there". Understand this well.”

To be continued…

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Time for Unity - Reprinted from Lazer Beams

B"H, with Blessings from Rabbi Lazer Brody, please take a look at his recent piece on achdus - H" should bentsch his children in the merit of our attempts to join together!

Time for Unity

(Reprinted with permission from Lazer Beams -

This post is a personal answer to the dozens of emails that have asked me for further clarification about how we view the Emmanuel affair.

I thank Hashem for my beloved rabbi and spiritual guide, Rav Shalom Arush, may Hashem bless him always. I also thank Hashem for enabling me to be a part of Breslev Israel, Rav Shalom's outreach arm headed by my brother-in-spirit Yosef Nechama, and the Chut Shel Chesed Yeshiva, which Rav Shalom personally heads.

In our Yeshiva, Ashkenazim learn alongside Sephardim. You can find white Jews learning with black Jews. There's no dress code as to the color kippa you wear, but as far as people go, we are religiously and zealously color-blind. The fastest way to get kicked out of our Yeshiva is to say something derogatory about another group or spiritual leader in Judaism, even those who radically oppose Breslev or Rav Shalom. Rav Shalom does not tolerate hatred and discrimination. But, the Yeshiva has very high standards as to personal conduct, academic demands and adherence to religious law that all must uphold.

I am a strong believer in Jewish integration, for I believe that it's the key to ending the intramural hatred that corrodes our people from the inside. My beloved partner in life is a Sephardi; not only is she a dream wife and mother, but she's a brilliant Rebbetzen that's just as home in every shelf of the Jewish-thought library as she is in the kitchen. Since my origins are Ashkenazic, our home is the best of all worlds.

Yes, Jews have the right to continue in the ways of their fathers. Let those who want to have their own schools - teaching in Yiddish, Ladino, English or whatever they please - do so. Let there be equal funding for every child of every taxpayer.

Personally, I believe that the insulation of the closed-door schools leads to selfishness, false pride of superiority, and hatred. The advantages of Ahavat Yisrael and unity in an integrated atmosphere greatly outweigh the any advantages of an elitist Yiddish education. Speaking lashon hara in Yiddish certainly doesn't make it kosher. Personal holiness, excellence of learning, and a high level of religious ethics and morality are what really counts.

If a school doesn't accept your child because of your ethnic background, be happy - Hashem is doing the best for you. Who wants to learn in a place where they're not wanted?

I hope that more and more Torah institutions learn to take the Chut-Shel-Chesed approach. With Lebanese and Iranian boats on the way to our beaches, and the area as tense as a bowstring, who can afford the luxury of intramural hatred and separatism?

The 15th of Av, amongst other things, is a joyous day in the Jewish calendar because it was then that the twelve tribes of Israel were allowed to marry each other. So why revert back to separatism? We have the three dangerous weeks between 17 Tammuz and Tisha B'Av - beginning next Tuesday, June 29 - to traverse before we reach the 15th of Av. We can't afford any more Emmanuel fiascos; I urge the plaintiff to get the case out of civil court and solve it through mandatory Halachic arbitration in the very best rabbinical court. Where there's segregation, discrimination, separatism, and intramural hate, everybody loses.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Power To Spread Achdus!

You know, I started this blog last year, and after a short while, thought to myself, who can I really reach this way? What kind of a difference can I make by blogging. Perhaps I should just focus on my own avodah, and leave the "reaching out to others" thing to the kiruv professionals. And so I stopped. But the need to spread the word kept nagging at me. As we see in the "velt", in order to reach others, one needs to advertise. I can't take out billboard advertisements to spread the word of achdus, however great that would be. But H" Yisbarach assists when we have a ratzon to spread kedushah in the world. As I sat and watched the world turn upside down in terms of reason, I felt that I just couldn't sit back and watch anymore. I had to do something. And so, I decided to try to spread the message of achdus this way. I started re-blogging yesterday, and have received so much positive encouragement from readers, that I realize once again the siyata d'shmaya that H" gives us when we try to spread His light in the world.

My friends, if each of us did something small like this - an email, a voice mail, a smile, a quick word of chizuk on a bus or train, can you imagine how it would spread. We all see the devastating effects that division causes, and how the media jumps on it. We're bombarded by news from the media of the differences between us. Let's press reset. Like Rebbe Nachman from Breslov teaches, we can all start over, any time, any day, even many times in one day. Let's start over. Let's throw away the differences, and latch onto the shoresh in each other. The G-dliness hiding within each of us.

I have an amazing niece that decided a few months ago that she wanted to make a difference in the world, but couldn't decide how to do it. She wanted to spread the word of Emunah, B"H. She decided to send to a few friends a daily SMS text message with an inspirational Emunah thought. Word spread, and she now has a large list of holy yidden that subscribe to her daily texts. How simple, and pure - an Emunah text. And H" has given her siyata d'shmaya to spread the word. Imagine if we all did something like this. If this spread in our little worlds, in our circles.

Please, each of us can make a difference in our little circles. H" will give us all the strength to change the darkness into light. Just light a candle and you can dispel so much darkness in the world.

H" Ya'azor - all of our efforts should bring about rachamim peshutim, and chasadim megulim from H" Yisbarach onto Am Yisroel, and bring the ultimate redemption, with the coming of Moshiach Tzidkeinu, Bimheira V'yameinu, B'Shalom!

Let's All Get Together - HaRav Amnon Yitzchak - Achdus Inspiration!

This is a fantastic video - HaRav Amnon Yitzchak being mechazek the Oilam in achdus. Yasher Koach, his holy work should spread and inspire others to achdus!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Basic Training - Achdus 101

Over and over the headlines are screaming to us - ikvasa d'meshicha. When a rowboat full of pirates floating on lies headed towards our homeland can gather international support in a matter of minutes, it's pretty clear that the nations are uniting the way the nevi'im have told us.

My friends, the time is now. The Ribbono Shel Olam has taught us the way to protect ourselves. We must unite. The sefarim hakedoshim over the last few parshios have made clear the danger of machlokes. I was learning this morning in Likutei Moharan how a Jew needs to grab onto the Kisei HaKavod in order to stand strong against the turbulence in this world. We do this by uniting with the Jewish people. Jewish Unity. We say every morning before putting on Tallis and Tefillin, "L'Shem Yichud ... B'Shem Kol Yisrael" - "In the Name of All Israel!"

We need now to make all of our thoughts, speech and actions be "In the Name of All Israel!" Let's stop looking for faults in others and instead focus on the Chelek Elokah that is within them. We are all H"s children. Each from different shevatim, from different places, with different talents, different ideas. We need to focus on improving ourselves, in lieu of being makpid on others. A symphony orchestra contains many instruments, many notes, many sounds, and all combine to create beautiful music.

We are H"s children, in the midst of playing out the notes that comprise the most amazing song ever written - the symphony orchestra of creation. As for me, I don't care what Reuven is wearing. I don't care what kind of kippah Shimon has on. I don't care if Levi looks up to his Rebbe, or whether Yehuda thinks that his Rosh Yeshiva has the true mehalech. Each of us is a note being played in this fabulous symphony, and each one is vital to the orchestra.

We're all H"s children. H" wants us to be one. To Unite.

My friends - the time has come to truly unite. Let's put aside our differences, and see the goodness lying inside each of us.