Shining A Light
Jan01

Shining A Light

The tenth day of Teves is a public fast commemorating the passing of Ezra the scribe, the siege of the walls of Jerusalen and the translation of the Torah into Greek. It is also the day that Reb Nosson of Breslov passed away. Rebbe Nachman explained that a fast has the power to transform spiritual darkness into light. By fasting, we loosen the hold that the body has over us and allow the soul to shine more brightly. Rebbe Nachman...

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The Light of Gratitude
Dec24

The Light of Gratitude

The final days of Chanukah always fall out during the beginning of the month of Tevet. The last day is known as Zot Chanukah, “this is Chanukah,” since it is the culmination of the many rectifications of this precious holiday. The Oneg Shabbat explains that by the final day of Chanukah we have lit the Chanukah lights for the final time that year. All that remains is for us to thank and praise the Almighty, which fills our entire year...

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Nothing Is By Chance
Dec24

Nothing Is By Chance

It is customary on Chanukah to play dreidel. A dreidel is a kind of top with four sides that has different Hebrew letters inscribed on each side. The four letters are nun, gimel, hei and shin. This is an acronym for “nes gadol hayah sham”—“A great miracle occurred there.” This alludes to the miracle of the menorah in the second Temple. Although the Maccabees clearing through the devastation of the sacked Temple only found one day’s...

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Taste the Joy!
Dec24

Taste the Joy!

Chanukah is such a pleasure—every child’s (and adult’s) dream: you get to eat delicious (and fattening) food, play games for money (or chocolates), there are gifts…what more could you ask for in a holiday? But where is the soul of Chanukah? Childlike, I can enjoy the physical delights of Chanukah, but I also yearn to taste the spiritual delight of this special time. How can I access it? Through prayer. Rav Shmuel Shapira, one of the...

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G-d’s Chanukah Gift To You!
Dec18

G-d’s Chanukah Gift To You!

The Chanukah lights have somewhat unusual rules attached to them. One may not derive personal benefit from them—to read by, for example—but it’s actually a mitzvah to simply gaze at them. Reb Nosson explains that the lamps of Chanukah allude to the powerful light of mitzvot that fills the home of every Jew. With every good deed that we do, we are able to access the most lofty spiritual light and forge an eternal connection to G-d. We...

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Chanukah, Olive Oil & Food
Dec14

Chanukah, Olive Oil & Food

“You shall eat, be satiated, and bless HaShem your Lord for the good Land (i.e. the Holy Land) which He has given you” (Devarim 8:10). Rav Avira stated … the Heavenly angels questioned HaShem regarding a seeming contradiction that appears in the Holy Torah: “On the one hand, You wrote, ‘I am a Lord who will not show favor [in judgment]’ (Devarim 10:17), but on the other hand, You wrote, ‘HaShem will show favor to you’ (Bamidbar...

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Lighting the Night
Dec11

Lighting the Night

Chanukah always begins on the twenty-fifth day of Kislev. We light the menorah to celebrate the triumph of the eternal flame of Torah over the forces of spiritual darkness and materialism. One day’s worth of oil burned for eight days, defying nature, just like the survival of the Jewish people defies reason. As Mark Twain famously pointed out, the Greeks are long gone along with the rest of the great powers of antiquity (except China...

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Another Note In The Melody
Oct23

Another Note In The Melody

A Sacred Time – Tishrei #3 Lamed—which also means to teach and learn—is the letter associated with the month of Tishrei. When we completed the yearly cycle of the reading of the Torah, its final letter was lamed of the word “Yisrael.” When we began it again right afterward, it’s primary letter was beit of the first word “Bereishit.” The two letters form the word lev—the heart. It’s only with a heart that is open to hear G-d’s...

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“Holiday” Rental
Oct07

“Holiday” Rental

A Sacred Time – Tishrei #2 “Visamachta b’chagecha v’hayitah ach sameach”—“And you shall rejoice during your festivals and you shall be only joyous.” The astrological sign associated with the month of Tishrei is a balance scale—the iconic image that expresses the judgment of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, when good and bad are calibrated and the direction of the entire year is determined. The festival of Sukkot then falls out on...

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Balancing Act
Oct02

Balancing Act

A Sacred Time – Tishrei #1 Rebbe Nachman, z”l, explains that the letters of the word for obstacles, meniot, can be rearranged to be read as ne’imut, which means pleasantness. The natural barriers and obstacles of our material existence help to balance us and enable healthy spiritual connection, whose “ways are ways of pleasantness.” Reb Nosson, z”l, uses this concept to explain why there is a mitzvah to eat on the day before Yom...

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Staying Connected
Oct01

Staying Connected

As the sun begins to set, the Torah scrolls are removed from the Holy Ark. They are held close to the heart as the chazan, dressed in white and bedecked with a tallit, begins the famous chant, “Kol Nidrei, v’esarei, u’shevu’ei, vacharamei…” Yom Kippur, the holiest day of the Jewish year, is upon us. We will pray five prayer services and abstain from food, drink, washing or anointing our bodies, wearing leather footwear, and marital...

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Yom Kippur – A Day Of Love
Sep28

Yom Kippur – A Day Of Love

The idea of sin and atonement brings up the question of God’s role in punishing us. We often have the mistaken notion that God waits for us to slip and sin, and then coldly strikes us in an instant spur of retribution. For this reason, Yom Kippur is a dreadful day for many of us and amounts to little more than a mechanical self-defense process. In Likutey Moharan II, 66, Rebbe Nachman explains our being punished as akin to someone...

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Lasting Change
Sep19

Lasting Change

A Sacred Time - Elul #5 Elul is the month of repentance that leads up to Rosh Hashanah, when we crown G-d king of the universe. This coronation really means making it clear to ourselves and declaring publicly that the universe has a Creator and an Orchestrator of absolutely everything that exists. The Maggid of Mezeritch would say that if a person has an audience with the king, he’s going to need time to prepare. If he shows up at the...

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This Year Will Be Different
Sep18

This Year Will Be Different

The summer is quickly fading away. Days are getting shorter, nights are a lot cooler and the leaves have begun their beautiful transformation. Indeed, it’s that time of year again – the “head” of the year is around the corner. On Rosh HaShanah, not only is our annual income predetermined, but our very lives hang in the balance. We say in the stirring prayer U’Netaneh Tokef: “On Rosh Hashanah will be inscribed and on Yom Kippur...

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What Stops You From Really Praying?
Sep18

What Stops You From Really Praying?

Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur are on the horizon, and you know there will be a prayer-marathon: days of intense, emotional, and ultimately uplifting introspection, prayer, and closeness to God. But what if Elul is feeling more like a last-minute scramble than a preparation period? And what if you feel you are “falling behind” and you need to do some psycho-spiritual catch-up? Or what if you just aren’t feeling all that...

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Lost Sheep
Sep12

Lost Sheep

A Sacred Time - Elul #4 Rebbe Nachman, z”l, reveals that every lost opportunity, every missed mitzvah, must be recovered. These missed opportunities for connection with God keep us distant from Him until we find some way to revive them. Elul, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are the main times to seek out what we have neglected throughout the year. The yearning that we feel to bring back those lost potential connections has the power to...

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