Archive | September, 2014

Shana tova u’metuka! (Sweet new year!)

23 Sep

It’s hard to believe, but true – the year is coming to an end and a new year about to enter.  All the energy of 5774 dissipates, and with the blast of the shofar, a whole new vitality enters the universe.  Here’s what a famous rabbi, R’ Nosson Nata Shapira (author of Megaleh Amukot, sixteenth century Poland) says.  “The nation that hears the shofar will go from one spiritual high to the next.  When coronating a new king, the Jews used to announce, Yechi hamelech – “The King lives!”  (from Melachim 1:1).  Mortal kings below exist in parallel and corresponding to God’s reign above, so when we coronate God as our King on Rosh Hashana, and mention Him in our prayers (“the holy King,” as well as “the King of judgment”), we also blow on the shofar and announce that God is our King.  That’s why it says (Psalms 81), “because it is a law for the Jews, and a judgment for the God of Jacob” – just as it is a law for the Jews, it is an injunction regarding the God of Israel.  We wish to inform the world that His reign is honest and real, which is why we say, “Happy is the nation…”  It is the shofar blast that informs the world that we follow His dictates, and that His is the real and true reign and government…”

So, there you have it folks…if you want to know more, go to and look it up.  And if you want to delve more into Jewish prayer and meditation, try  Want to know more in general?  Check out and

It’s not about what, it’s about how…

15 Sep

Back in 1989, when I was the director of the local Chabad house in the old city of Jerusalem, a “Chabad Squad” from Miami came to visit.  The Chabad House hosted a Shabbat lunch for the group and I persuaded Rabbi Adin Steinzaltz to come and speak with them.  I still recall his words – “What do we have in common, what is the connection between you and I”?  R’ Steinzaltz is famous for speaking his mind, and the crowd loved it.  These days, we have our own Chabad House – Jerusalem Connection – but I remain a member of the Tzemach Tzedek Shul where R’ Steinzaltz prays.  Yesterday was Shabbat Chai Ellul, and once more as in years past, there was a “Chabad squad” visiting from Miami.  I had my own Shabbat group to speak with, but I stayed long enough to hear R’ Steinzaltz address the visitors.  This time his words were different: “There are no real differences between Jews.  Whether Litvaks, Chasidim or anyone else, we’re all the same.  So, we should sit down on Chai Ellul and say lechaim and sing Hava Nagila.”  Different words from the same sage, but with the same positive effect on the crowd.  Lesson?  It matters less what you say than how you say it…If you want to know how we say it, go to and you’ll get a nice word of Torah on the weekly portion.  If you want something deeper and more systematic, try, and pick up something on prayer and meditation.  And if you want to know more about Chabad and Jerusalem, try  Finally, there’s a great e-magazine of Chasidic Judaica out there – – so you see there’s something for everyone!

King in the Field

8 Sep

For a couple of weeks now, we’ve been hearing about the month of Elul – “I am for my beloved and He for me,” and the “King is in the field.” I’ve been struggling with this message and what it means. I want to feel the difference between this month and every other month. It’s easy to relate to Rosh Hashana, to the “Day of judgment.” Rosh Hashana is the day that He decides existential questions regarding our very existence. But what am I supposed to do with “the King is in the field?” That’s almost like inviting me not to be serious, to take it easy, cause after all, the King is in the field, and I have to do is walk up to Him and ask forgiveness, right? Here’s what I think, though it’s not complete, yet…Kaballah says there are thirteen “attributes of mercy” shining this month. They are always there, but this month they are more emphasized. So, if the mercy is out there, it must mean that we need some mercy, right? It must mean that we’re not so great, that we’ve messed up somewhere along the line, and that’s why He all of a sudden made this mercy available. I’m starting to get that. Well, Chai Ellul, the 18th of the month is coming up this Shabbat, and that’s the birthday of the Baal Shem Tov as well as the Baal HaTanya, so maybe by then I’ll get the rest of this figured out. For now, though, have a look at our weekly words of Torah, at For something deeper on the subject of prayer and meditation, look at, and for something local, have a look at And if you like your Torah on several subjects in digest form, try