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Best-selling author, speaker, and spiritual guide, Rabbi Lazer Brody came to Israel from the USA in 1970 after graduating from the University of Maryland’s College of Agriculture. He is a veteran of an elite IDF Unit, having served for nearly thirty years in the regular army and in the IDF reserves. Rabbi Brody pens the award-winning Lazer Beams weblog, is the editor of Breslev Israel web magazine, and the author of The Trail to Tranquility. His English translation of Rabbi Shalom Arush's international bestseller The Garden of Emuna has sold over a million copies. Rabbi Brody is also a musical composer; his Calming Waters is a collection of his original relaxing instrumental melodies and Judean Dream is an album of "Land-of-Israel" music recorded together with Guy Tzvi Mintz and Yosef Karduner. Rabbi Brody spends considerable time traveling around the world spreading the light of emuna.
There's a way around all the budget cuts and austerity measures. You can be a millionaire, and truly happy, in less than two minutes! Here's how:
Lag B’Omer falls this year on Saturday night and Sunday, April 27-28, 2013
The two most significant events of Lag B’omer are the cessation of the plague that killed 24,000 of Rabbi Akiva’s students and the yahrtzeit of Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai. We find an amazing connection between these two seemingly unrelated events.
Rabbi Akiva’s 24,000 students
The Gemara (tractate Yevamot 62b) relates that Rabbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of students, all whom them died in a few short weeks between Pesach and Shavuot because they didn’t properly respect each other.
Why were these gentle Torah scholars punished so harshly? Don’t think for a moment that they verbally abused one another, or that they were guilty of humiliating or slandering one another. Heaven forbid! Rebbe Akiva’s 24,000 students were simply smug toward one another. They didn’t adequately listen to what their fellow student had to say. Each thought that he knew better or was a tiny bit better than his fellow, thinking that his tribe, his clan, his bloodline and his family were a little bit better or more prestigious than that of his study partner.
As soon as one person thinks he’s better than someone else, his heart and mind turn off to that other person. One says to himself, “What can I possibly learn from him? I’m better than he is!” Such an attitude not only stifles Torah growth but personal growth as well. It uproots the entire time-tested system of learning Torah with a chevruta (study partner) and in groups. Rebbe Nachman of Breslev explains (Likutei Moharan I:34), that every individual has a special talent and strength that no one else has. Therefore, when we learn with others, we receive their special illumination from the way the Torah reflects on their souls. This makes us ever so richer. Rebbe Akiva’s students were therefore punished for not taking advantage of each other to climb higher in the true service of Hashem.
No one can be the best in everything. When I look around at my neighbors, I see one young man who’s has a brilliant analytical mind for in-depth Gemara study. The man that lives in the adjacent apartment looks like a simple merchant, for he has a vegetable store, but he knows Shulchan Aruch by heart and is a walking encyclopedia of Jewish law. One floor down is the neighborhood’s Doctor Feelgood who makes everyone laugh and never lets anyone feel sad. His neighbor is a quiet, unassuming paramedic who served in Unit 669, the IAF's special pilot-rescue unit. He is so giving and humble, answering calls in the middle of the night to anyone in the neighborhood who seeks assistance. Every one is a diamond. Those irresponsible politicians and journalists who label fellow Jews as "parasites", G-d forbid, have no idea who and what they are taking about. Apparently, they haven't yet learned what killed Rebbe Akiva's 24,000 students and what destroyed the Second Temple - the same root cause of disrespect and intramural hate.
Rebbe Shimon Bar Yochai
Lag B'Omer, the 33rd day in the counting of the Omer, falls on 18th day of Iyar, the yahrtzeit (anniversary of the death) of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai, one of our foremost Mishnaic sages. The Zohar tells us that on the day Rabbi Shimon passed away, a great light of endless joy filled the day, because of the previously hidden Torah wisdom that he revealed to his students. This secret wisdom was written down and recorded in the holy Zohar. The Zohar, the compendium of Jewish esoteric thought that is presented to us via Rebbe Shimon’s inner-dimensional elaborations on Torah, happiness, is a phenomenal reason to rejoice. So much so that the day of Rebbe Shimon’s passing, the sun did not set until Rabbi Shimon had revealed all that he was permitted to. As soon as he was done, the sun set, and his soul returned to its Creator.
The happiness of back then has become a Jewish tradition. Each year, hundreds of thousands of overjoyed Jews make the Lag B’Omer pilgrimage to Rebbe Shimon’s holy gravesite in Miron in the Upper Galilee. There is dancing, singing, and bonfires. Little boys of three get their first haircuts, kippa, and sidecurls (photo, left). Awesome amounts of food and drink are offered to everyone everywhere.
As it turns out, Lag B’Omer in Miron achieves the tikkun, the exact spiritual correction of the blemish caused by the fact that Rebbe Akiva’s 24,000 students didn’t properly respect one another. We still need that tikkun, because of all the irresponsible politicians and media who purvey hate and ugly stereotypes about entire segments of our population in a manner that the worst anti-Semite would be proud of. Don't envy the hate mongers, for their end is always a bitter one. Join those who seek love, mutual respect and unity among the Jewish People. That's what Lag B'Omer is all about.
In Miron, close to half a million people are trying to touch or at least obtain a glimpse of Rebbe Shimon’s holy gravesite. The pressure of the crowds is tremendous. Yet no one pushes and no one has an angry word. Everyone offers you food and drink. Satmer Chassidim from Mea Shearim dance with soldiers wearing knitted kippas on their heads. Ashkenazim and Sefardim, Chassidim and Lithuanian, national religious and even non-religious are forced together in very close quarters. Love, brotherhood, and a wonderful feeling of happiness and friendship prevail.
The tiny Land of Israel has a long list of aches and troubles, from within and from without. Yet, the unity of Lag B’Omer soothes the national pain. That in itself is reason to celebrate.
(We invite you to visit Rabbi Lazer Brody’s award-winning daily web journal, “Lazer Beams”)
The Gemara (tractate Sanhedrin 97b) says that the Nation of Israel (aka the Jewish People) will be redeemed as soon as they make teshuva, in other words, return to Hashem and the ways of His Torah. The Gemara then asks, what happens if the Nation of Israel doesn't make teshuva? Rebbe Yehoshua answers that if Israel doesn't make teshuva, then Hashem places them under the influence of a wicked king whose evil decrees are as severe as Haman's, and then they make teshuva.
We cannot fathom The Almighty's love for us and His infinite mercy. Despite the fact that we haven't made Teshuva from Love, which is what we need to do in order to be redeemed, and despite the fact that our own misdeeds put us under the boot of each generation's wicked kings, Hashem has made an eternal promise to deliver us from their hands. That's the V'hi She'amda prayer that we recite each year in the Haggada.
Let me share with you something additional about Hashem's love for His people: The Heavenly Altar and Throne is known as Upper Jerusalem; it is situated directly above Mount Moriah, the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which is known in the Zohar, Midrash, and Gemara as Lower Jerusalem. Hashem refuses to dwell in Upper Jerusalem until His permanent dwelling on earth - the Holy Temple - will be rebuilt in Lower Jerusalem (see Gemara tractate Taanit 5a, Midrash Tehillim 122, Vilna Gaon's elaboration of Zohar, Safra DeTzniuta, 1st Chapter). Many evil world leaders are denying our right to the area of our own Holy Temple. Once again, we have no cause to be angry at them, for as soon as we make real teshuva, they will crumble. But, until we make teshuva, those evil leaders should be forewarned that by disenfranchising Israel from what they call East Jerusalem, they are in effect trying to disenfranchise The Almighty. Cherished brothers and sisters, that won't happen, period.
Hashem has no gratification by forcing us to make teshuva. When we strengthen our emuna and seek Hashem on our own accord, we sanctify His Holy Name. Let's wake up, beloved brothers and sisters. It's either nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles or emuna books and CDs; the choice is ours.
V'hi She'amda is a Passover song whose words come from the Haggada. It conveys a very timely message for the Jewish people: He who stood by our forefathers stands by us to deliver us from the hands of our enemies in every generation.
One of Jewish music's favorite sons, Yonatan Razael, wrote a beautiful melody for this song, which he sings here with the king of Jewish singers, my very special friend Yaacov Shwekey. You'll get shivers up your spine and tears in your eyes listening to them. We're sure you'll enjoy this musical treat as much as we do. G-d willing, we'll be singing this same melody on the Brody seder table this coming Monday night. Meanwhile, have a wonderful Shabbat HaGadol and Pesach!
Here's a tale about a farm with several different types of fowl - all kosher - who had difficulty getting along with one another. Any similarity between the birds in this tale and recent elections here in Israel is purely intentional. Enjoy it, and feel free to comment with your own interpretations, elaborations, etc.
"And He (Hashem) gave them (the Jewish people) the lands of nations (the Canaanites, Philistines)...for them to safeguard His statutes and observe His teachings" (Psalm 105:44-45).
In the above passage, King David - Hashem's anointed - tells us exactly why Hashem gave us the Land of Israel: not to be a nation like any other nation, but to be His chosen people who learn Torah and observe its commandments with no compromise.
Personal holiness is the foundation of Judaism, the element that brings us close to The Almighty and separates us from every other nation. The Torah warns, "For Hashem, your G-d, walks in the midst of your camp to rescue you and to deliver your enemies before you; so your camp shall be holy, so that He will not see a shameful thing among you and turn away from you" (Deuteronomy 23:15). Our national security depends on personal holiness. Our future in Israel depends on our commitment to Torah; these are not my words, but the words of King David, cited above.
Unfortunately, the IDF nowadays doesn't seem to care about Hashem's commandments in general and personal holiness in particular.
Last week, a religious soldier was jailed for refusing to shave his beard. He went through IDF protocol, and "signed on for a beard" in the base chaplain's office. But the haughty base commander didn't like the idea of a bearded airman, a helicopter mechanic. He threw the young man in jail.
Last year, several top officer candidates were booted out of officer-training course for refusing to listen to female soldiers sing at an assembly.
Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, one of the founders of the Nachal Haredi, recently protested the IDF's breaching of promises to Haredi soldiers, among other things, forced mingling with women.
I know that this post will fall on deaf ears. But I cannot be silent on this. We face severe security challenges on all our borders. Hashem only knows if Hezbulla has aleady attained chemical weapons. Al Qaida now parades along the Golan borders. Egypt is worse than a Jihadi wild-west show. And any day now, Iran will have its A-bomb.
Our felafel-republic politicians want to convince the inane masses that all our economic and security problems are from the "Haredi draft-dodging". They all know that nothing is further from the truth, but hating the Haredis works effectively at the ballot box. Nevertheless, by uprooting Torah scholars and drafting them into an army that doesn't want them (unless they assimilate into secular society), they are uprooting our very right to the Land of Israel.
The IDF's trampling of Haredi/religious soldiers' basic beliefs is also a trampling of Torah, which unfortunately is another trampling of our very right to this land.
If the IDF really cares about inducting Haredi soldiers, and if it really cares about our national security, it should start adhering to what King David said in Psalm 105.
Anti-religious bias, or any other type of bias for that matter, has no place in the army. Forcing soldiers to go against Torah is a crime, and commanders who do so are the ones who should be sitting in jail.
Until the IDF cleans up its act, and firmly anchors the rights of religious soldiers, then all the talk of "equal sharing of the burden" is meaningless. Military service is a wonderful privilege, only if it enhances one's allegiance to Torah rather than undermining it.