Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Years

And how should one celebrate a Christian New Year? On New Year’s Day, Pope Gregory XIII decreed that all Roman Jews, under pain of death, must listen attentively to the compulsory Catholic conversion sermon given in Roman synagogues after Friday night services.  On Year Years Day 1578 Gregory signed into law a tax forcing Jews to pay for the support of a "House of Conversion" to convert Jews to Christianity.  On New Year’s 1581 Gregory ordered his troops to confiscate all sacred literature from the Roman Jewish community. This included copies of the Talmud, Jewish law books and Torah scrolls. Thousands of Jews were murdered in the campaign. New Year’s sounds more like a day of mourning as it is this year than a day of celebration.

The 10th of Teves

The 10th of Teves

This year, January 1st coincides with the Tenth of Tevet, a day of fasting, mourning and introspection.

On the 10th day of the Jewish month of Tevet, in the year 3336 from Creation, the armies of the Babylonian emperor Nebuchadnezzar laid siege to Jerusalem.

Thirty months later—on 9 Tammuz 3338—the city walls were breached, and on 9 Av of that year the Holy Temple was destroyed. This morning in Synagogue,

The Shulchan Aruch and the Tur suggest that if possible, a person should really fast three days, the 8th, 9th and 10th of Tevet.

This fast is so strict that when it falls on Friday, while every other fast is pushed off, we must fast on Friday.

Some even suggest that if the Tenth of Tevet fell on Shabbat (it’s not possible using our current calendar) we would be required to fast on Shabbat.

Green Speech #17

Green Speech #17

Furthermore the root and very source that Loshon Hara causes an exile to the Jewish people, chases away the divine presence and prevents us from serving Hashem in our Temple and keeps us from living in Israel is the famous "sin of the spies"

This was the Torah's episode that before the Jewish people were about to enter (dwell) Israel for the 1st time after escaping Egypt and receiving the Torah, they sent a reconnaissance mission to spy out the land of Israel.

In truth, they didn't need to. Hashem had already assured them that he was taking care of them and that was the land that they should be. The spies got scared on their mission to Israel and came back with a scathing report that scared the Jewish people from wanting to move ahead and dwell in Israel. The night of the report, instead of preparing to go into Israel, they sat and cried.

That night of "crying" for no reason became Tish B Av-the national mourning day of the Jewish people. And the resulting punishment was that the Jewish people would now dwell in the desert for 40 years instead of dwelling in Israel. 

Here you see that Loshon Hara prevents us dwelling with Hashem in Israel and our Temple built.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Green Speech #16

Green Speech #16

Not only is our current exile caused by Loshon Hara but the 1st exile of the Jewish people too. Once roots are established they can be the source of many good things and many bad things. Loshon Hara for us causes exile.

The Chofetz Chaim states: “The main reason for the Jews’ suffering in Egypt was loshon hara. The Torah teaches us that Yosef spoke loshon hora about his brothers; therefore Heaven decreed that he would be sold into slavery.” Loshon Hara brought the Jewish nation down to Egypt.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Green Speech #14

Green Speech #14

Most people are involved with conversation much of the day.
It is much more convenient and comfortable not to have to think
about every word that comes out of your mouth. For many people
it appears unrealistic to spend the time and effort to know the laws
of “Green” Speech” (Loshon Hara) 

Eventually guarding one’s words and speech became a Mitzvah only for
the very pious. Many people have become accustomed to speaking without
measuring their words and have accepted as normal that it is okay to speak
derogatory, damaging and hurtful words and speech about another.

The  laws of Loshon Hara are on the same level of other Torah laws such
as eating pork, not observing the Shabbat etc but now they are considered
to be nothing more than an optional stringency that only few were concerned with.

Now the Chofetz Chaim was written a book named “Chofetz Chaim” that contains
all the laws of Loshon Hara. And what was generally inaccessible, the laws of Loshon hora
have now been collected and organized.

With this in mind, we will now go through the laws of Loshon Hara.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Last Day of Chanukah

The Holy Last Day of Chanukah
Based upon Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach ztz'l - Last Day of Chanukah

What does it mean when people say “I’m at the end, I’m finished. I
just don’t have strength anymore?”

Chanukah is a holiday that came about when it looked like we as the Jewish people were at our end. Over matched,Out-numbered 

But sometimes, something happens at the end. When we are out of options sometimes we grasp at what is highest good, we grasp for what would be the highest light.

For us Jews, there is no such thing as the end. On Chanukah, we
celebrate that even if a Jew reaches the lowest point possible, he can still take one holy little match and make the greatest light in the world.

The Gemara asks: What was the greatest thing that Moshe Rabbeinu did? After he saw us sinning at the sin of the Golden Calf, he broke the tablets that Hashem gave us.

Moshe taught us that after you break the tablets - you don't quit - you don't give up - you start all over again. Moshe fought for us and the Jewish people eventually received another set of tablets- all was noyt lost.

If Moshe hadn't taught it to us, we would never have the strength to have the ability to pick ourselves up time and time again and start again. .

What happened after they killed the Six Million? What did we do?
We started all over again. We went to the Holy Land.

The holiness of the Jewish People is not only their beginning, the
holiness is that we know what to do at the end.

When we come to the end, we are so strong! In the winter, in the cold exile, we are at the bottom. The world is mamesh reaching the bottom too. There is more darkness than the rest of the year, but the
end is so holy.

On Chanukah, in the middle of the darkness of the winter, G-d lights
up the world.

Green Speech #13

Green Speech #13

Your imagination is quite clever – At some point you might learn enough, become aware enough of - of what Loshon hara is and how not okay it is.

You slowly become very aware of the words that come out of
your mouth. You begin to see how much of what you say is Loshon Hara.

Unfortunately , sometimes, Instead of being excited that you are growing in your awareness and limiting your Loshon Hara, you become frustrated by the effort involved in the constant vigilance, over each word that comes out of your mouth one must have in order to gain mastery over your words.

Then, sometimes, frustration leads to inner rebellion. Eventually your imagination might kick in and sabotage you by saying “what’s the use”
if you want to keep all the rules of Loshon Hara, it's either better not to say anything or just forget it it is too hard I wind up speaking too much Loshon Hara anyway.

Like everything in Torah and Mitzvos - Every time you do 1 thing it is precious on its own. It's never all or nothing when it comes to picking up a peice of gold out from a gold mine. You don't say if I can't fill my sack forget about it. You'll take whatever gold stone you can pick up. Over time 1 gold stone at a time you become a rich person.

So too, every time you don't speak a word of Loshon Hara it is like picking up a gold stone.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Green Speech #12

Green Speech #12

We learned yesterday, that a person feels justified, vindicated when saying something derogatory, damaging, hurtful about another because they will think that it’s okay because it is true.

We also learned that in truth that is prohibited by Jewish law. The problem is that is normal and likely that people will repeat anything that comes into their purview especially when they think it is true.

Another common rationalization is that often you will find “reason” to consider the subject of your Loshon Hara as deserving of it. You don’t really like the person so much, you find fault with them,
you are bothered by them and it becomes so easy to speak badly about them.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Green Speech #11

Green Speech #11

How was it possible that this Torah prohibition of Loshon hara (derogatory, damaging, hurtful speech and gossip) became to be disregarded by so many people?”

The Chofetz Chaim writes that the average person is simply unaware that the prohibition of Loshon Hara applies to information that is true.

A person can or will say something about another but isn’t in the slightest concerned about their speech of how it might negatively affect someone’s view of another simply because in their mind they are merely saying something true. 

Saying something that is derogatory, negative, damaging, painful or gossip about another even if it is true is considered Loshon Hara and prohibited by the Torah.

We will later learn situations when it will be appropriate to express yourself in that way

Friday, December 19, 2014

Women More What Than Man?

‘The Holy One, blessed is He, gave more understanding to a woman than to a man.’ (Niddah 45b) This is an interesting one. Happy to hear alternative explanations. Here’s what I know, though. I have been blessed to marry twice and each time my wife has been a great deal wiser than me!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Green Speech #10

Green Speech # 10 -

“Whoever speaks Loshon hora raises sins (not our learning of Torah and our davening -prayer) to the Heavens,” should be taken literally says the Chofetz Chaim (Arachin 15b),

Loshon Hara corrupts our faculty of Speech and prevents our Torah and tefillah (prayer) from ascending Heavenward.

The Chofetz Chaim envisions the sacred words that pour forth from a mouth corrupted by Loshon hora.

He sees them heading upward toward our “Heavenly bank accounts,” but never quite getting there. We believe we have accomplished something spiritually, but that’s not what happened.

The Chofetz Chaim says, “All the words of Torah and tefillah are hanging somewhere between heaven and earth, suspended in the air.”

He concludes: if our Torah and tefillah are not being credited to us, then, “From where will we acquire the necessary merit to bring Mashiach and the Final Redemption?”

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Green Speech #9

Green Speech #9

“Whoever speaks Loshon hora raises sins to the Heavens,” should be taken literally says the Chofetz Chaim (Arachin 15b),

When we speak negatively of our fellow Jews, this causes the sins of our people to be noted in Heaven, where they are brought before the Heavenly Throne for judgment.

We think we’re merely chatting, when in reality, we’re delivering the day’s caseload to the heavenly prosecutor.

We initiate judgement upon ourselves and others through our Loshon Hara - WOW!


‘Whoever is steeped in lust, old age leaps upon him.’ (Shabbos 152a)
What could this mean? Your thoughts are welcomed!

I'm not yet sure what the commentaries say but I did have a thought about it. We live in a world of "real" consequences.

The consequences of eating too much chocolate is a stomach so full of chocolate that you feel sick. The consequences of a life filled with chasing lust, is a premature expending of life’s energies and hence an early onset of old age.  

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Green Speech #8

Green Speech #8

How could one sin such as Loshon Hara (Jewish Unity) be so destructive; enough to the cause the destruction of the Second Temple’s and the factor which up to this day has prevented us from being redeemed through Moshiach’s arrival?

To understand the severity of Loshon hora and its ramifications, one must first understand the judicial system in Heaven through which the world and the Jewish People are judged.

The Chofetz Chaim explains that the Heavenly judicial process is initiated by words which we speak in this world. Our Loshon Hara words and conversations (derogatory, damaging, negative, gossip, painful) are the key which opens the door for heavenly prosecution of our sins.

As Zohar states (Parashas Shelach), this sin (Loshon Hara)  “brings plague, sword and murder to this world. Woe to those who awaken this evil force, who do not guard their tongues and pay no heed to this!

They do not realize that the ways of Heaven are reflective of the ways on this world, both for good and for bad. [Through evil talk,] the heavenly prosecutor is aroused to voice accusation against the entire world.”

Words are Worse - Can't Take them Back

Words are Worse - Can't Take them Back

‘The wrong you do by means of words is worse than monetary wrongs.’ (Bava Metzia 58b)

Steal or swindle someone’s money and they can always get it back. They might not, but the potential is there.

Talk badly of them to others and the damage that you cause can be permanent.   

Monday, December 15, 2014

Green Speech #7

Green Speech #7

Lastly, unfortunately Chofetz Chaim offers the best proof which is also the most explicit -

The Midrash (Devarim Rabbah 6, 14) states, “Hashem says, ‘In this world, because there is loshon hora among you, I withdrew My Presence from among you.

’” Like a letter directly from Hashem – clear and unambiguous.

The message of this statement is incredible. The Jewish Temple has not been rebuilt and God’s Divine presence not in our midst and not restored to us because of the forbidden speech which we utter.

Developing Humility #3

Developing Humility
‘If a person considers 3 things, he will never transgress:

#3 is that one day there will be an accounting before the King of Kings.’ (Avos 3:1)

Personally, I find this uplifting. What I do matters. The King of Kings is interested in me doing well and will hold me accountable for doing so.

If that doesn’t motivate a person towards meaningful accomplishment, I don’t know what will!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Devloping Humility

Developing Humility

‘If a person considers 3 things, he will never transgress:
#2 is that he is going to a place of dirt, worms, maggots.’ (Avos 3:1)

Another reminder to be humble. Even the greatest, wisest and most
influential human being is powerless in the face of a maggot once he
is dead.

So no need to take yourself too seriously whilst you are alive either!
Life is so much less stressful that way.

Green Speech #6

Green Speech #6

We have been showing how the Chofetz Chaim learns that not only does Loshon Hara cause the exile of God’s presence and the destruction of our temple but it is our Loshon Hara and a lack of Jewish Unity today and not that of the generation of 2,000 years ago that is still causing our exile and pushing away God's presence. .

We curse ourselves and make ourselves undeserving of redemption as it says “Cursed is he who attacks his friend secretly” (Devarim 27:24).

As Rashi  explains, this is a  reference to loshon hora. A person who speaks loshon hora is cursed. The Talmud (Arachin 15b) goes further, comparing loshon hora to a denial of G-d.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Developing Humility

Developing Humility

‘If a person considers 3 things, he will never transgress:
#1 is that he came from a putrid drop’ (Avos 3:1)

No matter how great we become, our beginning was not glamorous;
A putrid drop of semen meeting a tiny egg. It’s a sobering thought for
the human ego to consider its origin.

And the humility aroused will keep us on the straight and narrow.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Green Speech #4

Green Speech #4

The Chofetz Chaim brings many sources to support the point that
Loshon Hara (Derogatory, negative, hurtful and damaging Speech)
is the cause of the Jewish people’s exile

In Parashas Shemos, the Torah relates the suffering of the Jews in Egypt. The Torah states that Moshe, who had grown up in Pharaoh’s palace, went out amongst his people to share their pain and suffering.

In his wanderings amongst the Jews, he encountered the notorious pair, Dasan and Aviram.

They made it known to Moshe that they had told the Egyptian authorities on him that they had seen Moshe kill an Egyptian who was attacking a Jew. Now that the Loshon Hara had been said, the Egyptian authorities no longer saw Moshe as family but an enemy who had to be killed.

Moshe’s Response in the Torah is  “Now the matter is known” (Shemos 2:15). The Midrash interprets this to mean, “Now I understand why the Jewish people are in this terrible exile. It is because they speak loshon hora.”

Rabbi Michael Stern (c)414-573-9668

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Punishment of a Liar:

even when he tells the truth, nobody believes him.’
(Sanhedrin 89b)

This is a great example of how ‘reward and punishment’
works in Judaism.

It’s consequences, not random punishment. You continually
lie and, as a result, not one believes you when you tell the truth.

It is a direct outcome of your choices. As per my last daily –
a person is led along the path he chooses to take.

Rabbi Michael Stern (c)414-573-9668

Monday, December 8, 2014

Choose Wisely

A person is led along the path he chooses to take.’ (Maakos 10b)
God does not choose a path in life for us. (Albeit he gives us a host
of circumstances)

He gives us freewill and allows us to choose our
own path and then leads us in the direction of those choices – for better or for worse. (He’ll allow us to go down a poor path, if that’s what we choose) When it is for worse, we have no one to look to but ourselves.

Choose wisely my friends

Rabbi Michael Stern (c)414-573-9668

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Conjugal Relations

The last on the list of the 8 things which are harmful in excess
and beneficial in moderation: ’ (Avos D'Rabbi Noson, 37: 5)

# 8. Conjugal relations

I’ve mentioned this one before. Sex, in moderation, is a significant part of a meaningful relationship between consenting adults.

When it gets out of control, however, it becomes lust for lust’s sake; using a body to satisfy your own passions, with no attention paid to the person inside

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

#5 Harmful in Excess-Good Moderation

There are 8 things which are harmful in excess and
beneficial in moderation: 5. Travel’ (Avos D'Rabbi Noson, 37:

#5  It’s great to travel (other 4 were; sleep, wine, money, work)
so much to see; so much to learn;
so many new business opportunities. But too much travel can
become exhausting and disorienting.

It’s time away from family and the stability of home.
Not only does it affect you, it affects your spouse and children.
So the Rabbis tell us to moderate. By all means travel, but maintain a balance.