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Sell your Chometz online

March 25, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info

Delegation of Power to Sell Chometz

I the undersigned, fully empower and permit Rabbi Yosef Landa to act in my place and stead, and on my behalf to sell all chametz possessed by me, knowingly or unknowingly as defined by the Torah and Rabbinic Law (e.g. chametz, possible chametz, and all kind of chametz mixtures).
Also chametz that tends to harden and adhere to surfaces of pans, pots, or cooking utensils, the utensils themselves, as well as pet food that contain chametz and mixtures thereof.
Rabbi Yosef Landa is also empowered to lease all places wherein the chametz may be found, particularly at the address/es listed below, and elsewhere.
Rabbi Yosef Landa has full right to appoint any agent or substitute in his stead and said substitute shall have full right to sell and lease as provided herein.
Rabbi Yosef Landa also has the full power and right to act as he deems fit and proper in accordance with all the details of the Bill of Sale used in the transaction to sell all my chametz, chametz mixtures, etc., as provided herein. This power is in conformity with all Torah, Rabbinic and Civil laws.

Got (Shmura) Matzah?

March 11, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info

If you will be needing Shmura (hand baked Israeli) Matza or just plain old quility matza for the passover holiday, please contact us at info@brooklynyid.com or 347.787.0864 for prices and deliver/pick up Got (Shmura) Matzah?

Timeless Passover Story. Barrels on a Riverbank

March 11, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

Note: One of the central figures in the history of Chassidism was the famed “Seer of Lublin,” Rabbi Yaakov YitzchokHorowitz (1745-1815), who presided over the spread of Chassidism in Poland and Galicia; many of the great Chassidic masters of the time were his disciples. This story, however, is not about the “Seer” but about his maternal grandfather, Rabbi Kopel of Likova; in fact, it happened many years before the Seer’s birth.

Reb Kopel earned a living by purchasing barrels of vodka and beer from the local distillers and selling his wares to the taverns in and around his native village of Likova. It was not an easy life, with the heavy taxes exerted by the government and the hostile environment facing a Jew in 18th-century Europe. Yet his faith and optimism never faltered.

Each year, on the morning before Passover, Reb Kopel would sell hischametz to one of his gentile neighbors. Chametz is “leaven” — a category that must famously includes bread but also all food or drink made with fermented grain. The Torah commands the Jew that absolutely “no leaven shall be found in your possession” for the duration of the Passover festival, in commemoration of the leaven-free Exodus from Egypt. In the weeks before the festival, the Jewish home is emptied and scrubbed clean ofchametz; on the night before Passover, a solemn candle-lit search is conducted for every last breadcrumb hiding between the floorboards. By the next morning, all remaining household chametz is eaten, burned or otherwise disposed of.

What about someone like Reb Kopel who deals in leavened foods and has a warehouse full of chametz? For such cases (and for anyone who haschametz they don’t want to dispose of) the rabbis instituted the practice ofselling one’s chametz to a non-Jew. Reb Kopel’s neighbors were familiar with the annual ritual. The Jewish liquor dealer would draw up a legally-binding contract with one of them, in which he sells all the contents of his warehouse for a sum equal to their true value. Only a small part of the sum actually changed hands; the balance was written up as an I.O.U. from the purchaser to the seller. After Passover, Reb Kopel would be back, this time to buy back the chametz and return the I.O.U. The purchaser got a tip for his trouble — usually in the form of a generous sampling of the merchandise that had been legally his for eight days and a few hours.

One year, someone in Likova came up with a novel idea: what if they all refused to buy the Jew’s vodka? In that case he would have to get rid of it. Why suffice with a bottle or two when they could have it all?

When Reb Kopel knocked on a neighbor’s door on the morning of Passover eve, Ivan politely declined to conduct the familiar transaction. Puzzled, he tried another cottage further down the road. It did not take long for him to realize the trap that his gentile neighbors had laid for him. The deadline for getting rid of chametz — an hour before midday — was quickly approaching. There was no time to travel to the next village to find a non-Jewish purchaser.

Reb Kopel did not hesitate for a minute. Quickly he emptied the wooden shack behind his house that served as his warehouse. Loading his barrels of chametz on his wagon, he headed down to the river. As his neighbors watched gleefully from a distance, he set them on the river bank. In a loud voice he announced: “I hereby renounce any claim I have on this property! I proclaim these barrels ownerless, free for the talking for all!” He then rode back home to prepare for the festival.

That night, Reb Kopel sat down to the Seder with a joyous heart. When he recited from his Haggadah, “Why do we eat this unleavened bread? Because the dough of our fathers did not have time to become leavened before G-d revealed Himself to them and redeemed them,” he savored the taste of each word in his mouth. All his capital had been invested in those barrels of vodka and beer; indeed, much of it had been bought on credit. He was now penniless, and the future held only the prospect of many years of crushing debt. But his heart was as light and bright as a songbird. He had not a drop of chametz in his possession! For once in his life, he had been given the opportunity to truly demonstrate his love and loyalty to G-d. He had removed all leaven from his possession, as G-d had commanded him. Of course, he had fulfilled many mitzvot in his lifetime, but never at such a cost — none as precious — as this one!

The eight days of Passover passed for Reb Kopel in a state of ecstatic joy. Then the festival was over, and it was time to return to the real world. With thoughtful steps he headed to his warehouse to look through his papers and try to devise some plan to start his business anew. Clustered in the doorway he found a group of extremely disappointed gentiles.

“Hey, Kopel!” one of them called, “I though you were supposed to get ridof your vodka. What’s the point of announcing that it’s ‘free for the taking for all’ if you put those watchdogs there to guard it!”

They all began speaking at once, so it took a while for Kopel to learn the details. For the entire duration of the festival, night and day round the clock, the barrels and casks on the riverbank were ringed by a pack of ferocious dogs who allowed no one to approach. Reb Kopel rode to the riverbank. There the barrels stood, untouched.

But he made no move to load them on his wagon. “If I take them back,” he said to himself, “how will I ever know that I had indeed fully and sincerely relinquished my ownership over them before Passover? How could I ever be sure that I had truly fulfilled the mitzvah of removingchametz from my possession? No! I won’t give up my mitzvah, or even allow the slightest shadow of a doubt to fall over it!”

One by one, he rolled the barrels down the riverbank until they stood at the very brink of the water. He pulled out the stops in their spigots and waited until every last drop of vodka and beer had merged with the river. Only then did he head back home.

Sefirat HaOmer Counting of the Omer Between the holidays of Passover and Shavuot, the Omer is counted each evening, signifying our preparation for the receiving of the Torah on the holiday of Shavuot.

March 11, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info


“When you take this people out of Egypt,” said G-d to Moses when He revealed Himself to him in a burning bush at the foot of Mount Sinai, “you shall serve G-d on this mountain.”

It took seven weeks to reach the mountain. The people of Israel departed Egypt on the 15th of Nissan (the first day of Passover); on the 6th of Sivan, celebrated ever since as the festival of Shavuot, they assembled at the foot of Mount Sinai and received the Torah from G-d.

The Kabbalists explain that the 49 days that connect Passover with Shavuot correspond to the forty-nine drives and traits of the human heart. Each day saw the refinement of one of these sefirot, bringing the people of Israel one step closer to their election as G-d’s chosen people and their receiving of His communication to humanity.

Each year, we retrace this inner journey with our “Counting of the Omer.” Beginning on the second night of Passover, we count the days and weeks: “Today is one day to the Omer”; “Today is two days to the Omer”; “Today is seven days, which are one week to the Omer”; and so on, till “Today is forty-nine days, which are seven weeks to the Omer.” Shavuot, the “Festival of Weeks” is the product of this count, driven by the miracles and revelations of the Exodus but achieved by a methodical, 49-step process of self-refinement within the human soul.

Passover’s Inner Joy

March 11, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

Passover’s Inner Joy

by Yosef. Y. Jacobson. www.algemeiner.com

This coming Passover night, countless Jewish children will present four millennia-old questions around millions of Seder-tables across the globe.

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” The children will ask. “On all other nights, we are not required to dip even once, but on this night we dip twice.” Second: “On all other nights we eat chametz (leaven) or matzah, but on this night, we eat only matzah.”

Question number three: “On all other nights, we eat any type of vegetables, but on this night, we eat maror (bitter herbs).” And finally: “On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining, but on this night, we all recline(1).”

Yet how many of us will become better human beings people as a result of listening to the “Mah Nishtanah” streaming from the mouths of our beloved children? If the four questions are merely a simple children’s text, why did hundreds of generations of Jews write many myriads of pages of commentary on these four questions?

The Kabbalah indeed explains that these four questions encapsulate a yearlong four-step program toward personal liberation (2). During the recital of the “Mah Nishtanah,” this energy of liberation vibrates through the cosmos, allowing each human being the opportunity to achieve personal freedom in his or her life.

What follows, therefore, is a brief explanation of the “four questions” from a mystical point of view.

The big question

“Why is this night different from all other nights?” Just what is it about this night that makes it so unique? What is it that we do during this night that allows us to free ourselves from addiction, fear, doubt, loneliness and fragmentation?

Step one: Willingness to change

“On all other nights, we are not required to dip even once. On this night we
dip twice.”

On other nights we may feel that we don’t need a dip; we may accept our flaws and shortcomings as part of who we are, unwilling to put in any effort toward self-improvement (3). We may be telling ourselves, “This is who I am and I will not change.”

The first step toward emotional liberation requires the recognition that “I need to dip twice.” First, I need to cleanse my body — my physical habits and behavior. Second, I need to purge and wash my spirit — my mental and psychological attitudes and patterns (4).

Step two: Suspension of the ego

“On all other nights we eat chametz (leaven) or matzah. On this night we eat
only matzah.”

Chametz (leaven), made of dough that has risen, reflects an inflated ego, while matzah, made from dough that has not risen, represents humbleness and suspension of the self, becoming a conduit for the higher light of the Divine (5).

On other nights, we vacillate between chametz and matzah, between our tenacious attachment to our egos vs. our moments of self-transcendence. We invite G-d into our lives, but only to a certain point (4). This dichotomy between the chametz and matzah in our lives causes us to remain trapped by our narrow self-image and hinders our ability for true growth and transformation.

On the night of Passover, we eat only matzah. We attempt to let go of our egos completely, allowing G-d to fill the entire space of our consciousness.

Step three: Sensitivity to one’s soul

“On all other nights, we eat any type of vegetables. On this night, we eat
maror (bitter herbs).”

Following the first two steps of “dipping” and “matzah” — the willingness to change and the suspension of one’s ego — we reach the third step, one designated to help us maintain a lifestyle of inner liberation.

How does one create a daily schedule for oneself that is free from the numerous unhealthy urges and weaknesses inherent in one’s character? By paying attention to the bitter tears — the “maror” — of one’s soul (6).

Each of us possesses both an animal consciousness and a Divine soul. Our animal consciousness is the source of our bodily sensations, physical urges and earthly cravings. But in addition to the animal life-force we also possess a Divine soul, a spark of infinity, a ray of G-d, a diamond that descended from heaven. This soul yearns to transcend the ego and melt away in the truth of G-d (7).

Imagine how horrified you would be if you observed somebody taking the arm of an infant and placing it on a burning stove. Yet the mystics describe each time we utter a lie, each time we humiliate another human being, each time we sin as precisely that: taking the innocent spirituality of our soul and putting it through abuse and torture (8).

On other nights, we do not necessarily pay heed to the tragic fate of our souls being violated by coarse and immoral behavior. On this night of Passover, however, we eat maror (bitter herbs); we open our hearts to the bitter cries of the soul (9).

This discipline of constantly recalling the sanctity of the soul within you, and its painful experiences in a lowly and dishonest environment, allows you to preserve your spiritual integrity in your daily life.

Step four: Reorientation of one’s pleasures

“On all other nights, we eat either sitting or reclining. On this night, we all recline.”

In order to achieve true inner liberation, one most cultivate the fourth and most difficult step, namely, the reorientation of one’s pleasures in life.

On other nights, the delight we glean from honest relationships and from a genuine life style is only a “sitting” type of enjoyment, meaning that it’s not all-pervading and not all-consuming. The satisfaction we gain from our inner spirituality is dulled by the fact that we are still indulging the animal within us and are still seeking to discover gratification in shallow and deprived places. This fragmentation, though extremely tempting, ultimately tears us apart and robs us from the opportunity to live a truly fulfilled and deep life.

On the night of Passover, we recline. We allow our entire identity to dissolve in the ecstasy of an honest life (4). We give up our need to search for satisfaction in alien places as we welcome the joy of our inner Divine souls into every fiber of our being.

Passover Lecture, Monday, March 15 8pm. Reliving the Exodus: Exploring the Modern Day Relevance of an Ancient Event.

March 11, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Reliving the Exodus: Exploring the Modern Day Relevance of an Ancient Event

As part of our ongoing adult education program we invite you to join us for a special Passover class led by Rabbi Ari Kirschenbaum titled: Reliving the Exodus. Exploring the Modern Day Relevance of an Ancient Event.  

Every year the Passover Seder beckons us to once again “travel” the road out of Egypt. On this night we are called on, not only to remember, but to relive the Exodus in body and soul.
As we re-create the story in ritual and song, we are transported back to the age of the Pharaohs, retracing our ancestors’ steps, in the land of the Nile over 3300 years ago.

But what is the point of our Passover play-acting? How can a tale from the dawn of our ancient history shed light on our complex lives – in this modern day and age? Join us as we explore in depth, the answers to these questions.

Wishing you a happy, healthy and Kosher Passover.

Rabbi Ari Kirschenbaum

Monday Evening
March 15, 8:00pm
Cong. Kol Israel of Prospect Heights
603 St Johns Pl.

No fee. Open to all. Light refreshments served. Sponsors welcome.

Subway 2/3/4/5/ to Franklin Ave.
For more information call 347.787.0864

We saved a seat just for you ~ Passover Seder Reservations

March 11, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

seder-table-inviteWe saved a seat just for you!

For passover Seder evening reservations and placement, please contact us at info@brooklynyid.com or 347.787.0864

Wishing you a happy and healthy, kosher passover.

Rabbi Ari Kirschenbaum

Passover: Your complete holiday survival kit & Website

March 11, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Click on image to launch Passover site.

All The King’ Soldiers. Parsha essay for Torah Reading: Ki Tisa (Exodus 30:11 – 34:35)

March 5, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

Our Parshah recounts the famous story of the Golden Calf. One of the highpoints (or low points) of that account is the fact that the Tablets containing the Ten Commandments, which Moses had received directly from G-d, had a very short life. Immediately upon returning from Sinai, Moses saw the Jewish people worshipping the Golden Calf and he shattered the Tablets.

We know that G-d had subsequently given Moses a second set of the tablets, but what ever happened to the broken Tablets?

The Talmud discusses their whereabouts and states that they are kept together with the second set of whole Tablets in the Ark. (And according to Maimonides, the Ark is still around today hidden in a subterranean chamber beneath the Temple mount.)

Of what import is the knowledge that the shattered Tablets are housed together with the whole Tablets?

The Talmud addresses this matter by stating, “Be careful to honor a scholar who forgot his learning because of infirmity, because the whole Tablets and the shattered Tablets are both in the Ark.” In other words, since we honor the broken Tablets by putting them in the Ark, though they apparently have no use now since they can’t be read, so too must we respect a scholar who might not have his knowledge with him now in his old age, since he used to have his learning.

This statement appears in the Talmud together with two other teachings of apparently totally unrelated themes that the Sage Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi imparted to his sons:

“Complete the parsha together with the congregation reading the Hebrew text twice and the Targum (Aramaic translation) once.

“And be careful with the veridim (jugular vein or carotid arteries). [Make sure to sever them while slaughtering a chicken so the blood will drain.]”

“And be careful to honor a scholar who forgot his learning because of infirmity, because the whole Tablets and the shattered Tablets are both in the Ark.”

These three teachings appear to be totally disjointed.

Let us try to understand the significance of these teachings and their connection to one another.

We read the weekly Torah portion (known as the parsha or sidra) with its translation on a weekly basis because, as Jews, we must “live with the times.” This means we must allow the timely teachings of the Torah to inform our lives on a weekly basis. Although all of the Torah is relevant to us every day of our lives, there is a need to focus on the weekly parsha for its guidance during the specific week the congregation reads it.

But, it is not enough to read the parsha once. One must read it twice. One way of explaining this is based on the fact that we tend to read things through the prism of our own minds and hearts. We sometimes color what we read by the preconceived notions we have and thereby distort the true import of the Torah. By doing so, we deny ourselves the benefit of reading the Torah portion for direction in our lives. Instead of hearing what G-d’s message to us is, we may hear how the Torah confirms what we think the message ought to be. The Sages therefore admonished us to read it again to instructed us that although the first time we read it the way it appears to us, the second time we must read it from the perspective of the Author of the Torah.

After reading it twice to ensure that we do not distort or color the message, we must then read the translation. This requirement addresses the opposite concern that necessitated reading the Torah portion twice. Whereas reading it twice was intended to preserve the integrity of the message, reading the translation is intended to make the teachings of the Torah resonate with each and every one of us in our state of mind and being.

Now that we see the words of Torah in its pure and unadulterated Divine form we might discover that the Torah teachings are too lofty and distant from the realities of our lives. We cannot glean any practical and relevant insights that can impact our lives because we are inhabitants of a universe that is “light years” away from the Torah’s source. Particularly in the times of exile, we will feel the existence of a serious dichotomy between our world and the world of Torah.

It is therefore crucial that we have a mechanism to take the pure teachings of the Torah and translate them into the realities of our physical existence. This is what the Aramaic translation (known as Targum Onkelus) as well as Rashi and other classical Jewish commentaries provide for. While they remain faithful to the original, they have the capacity to bring the message into our universe and consciousness.

Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi was instructing his children to maintain this delicate balance; to maintain the integrity of Torah even as it could be made relevant to those who are “in the real world.”

This teaching is followed by a second one that admonishes the shochet to make sure that the veins or arteries that contain large volumes of forbidden blood be drained after the bird is slaughtered.

To understand this process on a spiritual level, we must preface how the entire process of shechitah (ritual slaughter of animals and birds) is more than just killing these creatures for their consumption. It is about elevating the world in which we reside.

While Torah—especially through its official translation, Onkelus —is G-d given energy that flows downward to us and enters into our consciousness to make us more spiritual and Divine, the human being has to then take the world around him or her and elevate it. If Torah is bringing G-dly knowledge down into our experiences, the Mitzvot we do involve taking the physical world and our experiences and bringing them to closer to G-d. This we do, among others Mitzvot, by the process of shechitah. The word shechitah—while referring technically to the act of kosher slaughter—actually derives from a root that means to pull or draw, as in moving something to a higher place.

So Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi tells his sons that in the process of elevating the physical world and making it more spiritual one must drain the blood from it. Figuratively speaking, this means we should divest ourselves of the life and passion we invest into our physical and material pursuits. We cannot rise upward if we are tied down.

And at this point, Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi imparts the third and final message to his sons:

Even if you live your life in accordance with these principles—of effectively translating the untainted and lofty teachings of Torah into our daily lives, and successfully elevating our physical existence by divesting ourselves of passion in the pursuit of materialism—we may nevertheless experience periods in which our Tablets become shattered.

Frequently, we can reach a high and then fall down thinking that we are no longer in the game. And even if we don’t degenerate into shameful behavior akin to worshipping the golden calf, we nevertheless feel that much of our energy has been spent; we become a shadow of who we were, and now we feel we are left with nothing or very little.

This leads to the depressing thought: What good is it that we’ve achieved such progress when it all reverts to nothing? And while it is undeniably true that a person can always turn a new leaf; it is precisely the thought of having to start anew that is so daunting and demoralizing. If only we could recapture our original youthful achievements; if only we can put the shattered Tablets back together and make them whole again.

The answer to this unsettling thought is that even if our Tablets our broken, they do not lose any of their holiness.

Similarly, when we lose some of our spiritual attainments and the energy that we invested in our early achievements in life, they did not go to waste. This is so because the Divine writ has been etched into our souls by G-d Himself. Nothing can destroy that which is an integral part of us just as no one or nothing—even the shattering of the Tablets—could diminish their holiness.

As we stand on the threshold of the Era of Redemption we discover that these three challenges assume even greater significance:

Challenge number one is to balance the reading of the Torah with its translation. Since we are still in exile—and before the dawn of Redemption we are told the darkness can be greater- we must double our efforts at seeing the Torah from G-d’s perspective. And indeed, because we are on the cusp of the Messianic Age we are provided with even greater potential to see the Torah from G-d’s perspective. Simultaneously, we have the challenge of having to translate the Torah and apply it to the dark exile conditions that exist in these times.

Challenge number two is to drain the passion from the “other side.” Because we are so close to the age concerning which it is written there will be no more impurity and evil, the forces of evil can be far greater and more potent than ever before. It behooves us now to learn how to drain the “blood” (read: passion) for all that is incompatible with Torah.

Challenge number three is to realize that as broken as we may think we are because of the painful protracted exile we have endured, we have never lost our inherent holiness. On the contrary, every Mitzvah we have done, notwithstanding the pressures of society, have etched into our souls and bodies G-dly energy and light that can never be erased.

In the Messianic Age, all of us—those of us whose Tablets were never shattered because they lived in the days of old when the Holy Temple stood and spirituality was rampant, as well as the righteous people of all times, together with the majority of us who have had set backs and whose Tablets have been shattered to one extent or another, will be united together with our righteous Moshiach.