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Weekly Talmud class for women & Men

November 27, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info, Upcoming Events

Join us for our weekly Talmud class with Rabbi Ari Kirschenbaum held every Wednesday at 8:00pm at Cong. Kol Israel of Prospect Heights 603 St Johns Pl. We ask all attending to please be prompt.

This class is intended to be accessible to people of all learning levels. Translations for texts will be available. While the theme is continual, you may attend any given week or if you missed a week. We will offer a short review of the previous session at the beginning of every class.

Class is every Wednesday evening, 8:00-9:30pm Location: Cong Kol Israel of Prospect Heights 603 St Johns Pl.

Please also feel free to share this information with anyone else you know who might be interested. Thank you.

more info: 347.787.0864 or info@brooklynyid.com

Gemara Skill Building class at Kol Israel

November 27, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info

Gemara Skill Building class at Cong. Kol Israel 603 st johns pl. (for men only). Tuesday evenings 8-9:30 Refreshments served.
Join this lively exciting program – for all levels.  In a Beit Midrash setting, “learn how to learn” and improve existing skills in an atmosphere infused with a sincere, honest approach and love of learning.  The class consists of a brief introduction to the week’s topic, chevrusa (partners ) learning one-on-one, a re-group for a facilitated discourse on what was learned. and a wrap-up.  We are learning Bava Kama, chapter three known as “Perek HaMeniach”
The curriculum and educational model is under the leadership of Rabbi Dovid Neiburg (see biography below).

Rabbi Dovid Neiburg

Rabbi Dovid Neiburg is a talented scholar and educator, skilled at transmitting to his students the necessary tools required for autonomous and successful Torah learning. His penetrating insights into Jewish texts reveal the spiritual, emotional, and psychological dimensions of Torah and Jewish tradition in a personal and accessible way. Having a strong background in the sciences and environmental issues, his teachings are filled with rich natural images and analogies, beautifully bringing to life the teachings of Judaism. Rabbi Neiburg is also owner and president of Energy Spectrum, Inc. a Brooklyn based energy consulting firm.

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November 27, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info

New Kosher meat restaurant debuts in brownstone Brooklyn

November 26, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info


497 Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn, NY, 11217
(between 3rd ave and Nevins)

From the Kosher Blog
As a long-time resident of Brooklyn, I’ve had the opportunity to see Kosher restaurants come and go. Some, like Kosher Delight or Jerusalem II Pizza have been around for decades. Kosher branches of Subway were a flash in the pan. There are the high-end places, like T Fusion Steakhouse and family-friendly eateries, like Carlos & Gabby’s. We have sushi-joints, Israeli grill-joints and a growing crop of schnitzel-joints. Across all those choices, there is much good food and a certain amount of commonality. What’s missing from the wide array of Kosher eateries in Brooklyn is excitement. That’s where Pardes comes in. Click here to continue and for pictures

497 Atlantic Avenue Brooklyn, NY, 11217 (between 3rd ave and Nevins) 718.797.3880 SAMPLE MENUFrom the Kosher Blog As a long-time resident of Brooklyn, I’ve had the opportunity to see Kosher restaurants come and go. Some, like Kosher Delight or Jerusalem II Pizza have been around for decades. Kosher branches of Subway were a flash in the pan. There are the high-end places, like T Fusion Steakhouse and family-friendly eateries, like Carlos & Gabby’s. We have sushi-joints, Israeli grill-joints and a growing crop of schnitzel-joints. Across all those choices, there is much good food and a certain amount of commonality. What’s missing from the wide array of Kosher eateries in Brooklyn is excitement. That’s where Pardes comes in. Click here to continue and for pictures

Visit our Chanukah Mega site

November 25, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under General Info

How to Deal With Temptation And Addiction

November 25, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

When Explaining Yourself Can Become Your Greatest Enemy

by: Rabbi YY Jacobson

The Poison
You may have heard this old “horrible” joke:
A man goes to see his rabbi. “Rabbi, something terrible is happening and I have to talk to you about it.”
“What’s wrong?” the rabbi asks.
“My wife is poisoning me,” came the reply.
The rabbi, very surprised by this, asks, “How can that be?”
The man then pleads, “I’m telling you. I’m certain she’s poisoning me, what should I do?”
“Tell you what,” the rabbi says. Let me talk to her, I’ll see what I can find out and I’ll let you know.”
The next day the rabbi calls the man and says, “Well, I spoke to your wife on the phone yesterday for over three hours. You want my advice?”
The man anxiously answers, “Yes.”
“Take the poison,” says the rabbi.
Biblical Music
The Bible is well known as a book of words. Less known is the fact that it is a book of tunes. Each word of the Torah contains a musical note with which it is read and sung in synagogues whenever the Pentateuch is read publicly.
This is, parenthetically, what makes the reading of the Torah a challenging task. Since these notes are not transcribed in the Torah itself — they were transmitted orally from generation to generation — the person reading the Torah must memorize the appropriate note for each word.
These musical notes, passed down from Moses through the generations, are extremely meticulous and significant. They often expose us to a word’s or a sentence’s depth that we would have never appreciated from the word or sentence themselves.
One of the rarest and most unusual musical notes in the Bible is known in Hebrew as the “shalsheles.” No other written musical note of the Bible is rendered in a repetitive style except the shalsheles, which stubbornly repeats itself three times. The graphic notation of this note, too, looks like a streak of lightning, a “zigzag movement,” a mark that goes repeatedly backward and forward.
This unique musical note appears no more than four times in all of the Torah, three times in Genesis and once in Leviticus (1). One of them is in this week’s portion, Vayeishev, at a moment of high moral and psychological drama.
The Refusal
Here is the story:
Joseph is an extremely handsome teen-ager and his father Jacob’s favorite child. He is sold into slavery by his brothers, who loathe him. Displayed on the Egyptian market, he is bought by a prominent Egyptian citizen, Potiphar, who ultimately chooses the slave to become the head of his household. There, Joseph attracts the lustful imagination of his master’s wife. She desperately tries to engage him in a relationship, yet he steadfastly refuses her.
Here is the Bible’s description (2):
“Joseph was well-built and handsome in his appearance. After a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me.’ But he refused. He said: ‘With me in charge, my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against G-d?’”
Over the verb “but he refused,” tradition has placed a shalsheles, the thrice-repeated musical note.
What is the significance of this rare note on this particular verb?
There is one more intriguing detail in this narrative, concerning the way the Bible reports Joseph’s response to the woman’s proposition. When his master’s wife asks him to lie with her, we would expect Joseph to first explain to her why he cannot accept her offer, and then conclude by saying “no.” Yet the Bible tells us that the first thing Joseph did was refuse her. Only afterward does he justify his refusal. Why?
The Struggle
Joseph’s refusal, we must remember, was not devoid of ambivalence and struggle. On the one hand, his entire moral sense said: No. It would be a betrayal of everything his family stood for — its ethic of sexual propriety and its strong sense of identity as children of the covenant. It would also be, as Joseph himself explained to the woman, a betrayal of her husband and a sin to G-d.
And yet the temptation, tradition tells us (3), was intense. We could understand why. Joseph is an 18-year-old slave in a foreign country. He does not even own his body; his master exercised full control over his life, as was the fate of all ancient slaves. Joseph has not a single friend or relative in the world. His mother died when he was 9 years old, and his father thought he was dead. His siblings were the ones who sold him into slavery, robbing him of his youth and liberty. One could only imagine the profound sense of loneliness that pervaded the heart of this gifted and handsome teen-ager.
A person in such isolation is not only overtaken by extremely powerful temptations to alleviate his solitariness and distress, but very likely may feel that a single action of his makes little difference in the ultimate scheme of things.
After all, what was at stake if Joseph succumbed to this woman’s demands? Nobody was ever likely to find out what had occurred between the two. Joseph would not need to return home in the evening to face a dedicated spouse or a spiritual father, nor would he have to go back to a family or a community of moral standing. His family’s reputation would not be besmirched as a result of this act. He would remain alone after the event, just as he was alone before it. So what’s the big deal to engage in a snapshot relationship?
In addition, we must take into consideration the power possessed by this Egyptian noblewoman who was inciting Joseph. She was in the position of being able to turn Joseph’s life into a paradise or a living hell. In fact, she did just that, having him incarcerated for life in prison in an Egyptian dungeon on the false charges that he attempted to violate her. (At the end, he was freed after 12 years.)
The Talmud (4) describes the techniques the woman used in order to persuade Joseph. “Each and every day,” the Talmud says, “the wife of Potiphar would attempt to seduce him with words. Cloth she wore for him in the morning she would not wear for him in the evening. Cloth she wore for him in the evening she would not wear for him in the morning. She said to him, ‘Surrender yourself to me.’ He answered her ‘No.’ She threatened him, ‘I shall confine you in prison…I shall subdue your proud stature…I will blind your eyes,’” but Joseph refused her. She then gave him a huge sum of money, but he did not budge.
Joseph’s rejection required tremendous fortitude. The Talmud (5) gives a graphic description of his inner torment:
“The image of his father appeared to him in the window and said, ‘Joseph, your brothers’ names are destined to be inscribed on the stones of the [high priest's] apron, and you will be among them. Do you want your name to be erased? Do you want to be called an adulterer?’”
A Thundering No
How, then, did Joseph overcome this enormous temptation?
The answer is captured in the three biblical words and in their “shalsheles” musical note: “But he refused.”
Aware of the profound danger that he might fall prey to immoral behavior, the first thing Joseph did was present the woman with a thundering “no.” As the thrice repetitive “shalsheles” note suggests, Joseph, in unwavering determination, declared three times: “No! No! No!” Forget about it, I will not do this! No buts, ifs or maybes. Only afterward, did Joseph allow himself the indulgence of the rational argument against adultery.
When it comes to temptation or addiction, you can’t be rational and polite. You must be determined, ruthless and single-minded. You must monotonously and stubbornly repeat the same “no” over and over again. Never allow room for nuance, negotiation or ambivalence. The moment you begin explaining and justifying your behavior, you are likely to lose the battle. Only after an absolute and non-negotiable “no” can you proceed with the intellectual argument behind your decision.
The Push
There is an insightful expression in the Kabbalah about the way a person should deal with immoral and destructive fantasies, thoughts and impulses. “You must push them away with both of your hands,” says Rabbi Schnuer Zalman of Liadi in his Tanya (6).
What does it mean to push away a thought with two hands?
At times, you can push away a negative thought with one hand only. By fighting and arguing with the impulse, you give it validation. In effect, while pushing it away with one hand, you are inviting it to return with your second hand.
Pushing an impulse away with two hands means that you simply and silently dismiss it from your brain. Without argument, fanfare or drama, you just make it very clear that it is unwelcome in your life and you must move on to alternative thoughts and actions. You do not validate it in any way, not even by arguing against it. You simply do not attribute any power or significance to it. That is what we call pushing it away with both hands. Sooner or later, it will cease trying to come back.
In this story of Joseph, then, we are given a timeless lesson of how to deal with our own ugly lusts and inclinations. Your demons are smarter than you think they are; do not try to strike deals with them. Just say: No! No! No! They will accuse you of being ignorant and stupid. So what? You will come out with a happy marriage and a meaningful life. (7)
1) Genesis 19:16; 24:12; 39:8; Leviticus 8:23.
2) Genesis 39:6-9.
3) In the continuation of the narrative the Bible states (Genesis 39:11-12): “There was an opportune day when he entered the house to do his work and none of the household staff was inside. She grabbed him by his cloak and pleaded ‘lie with me.’ He ran away from her, leaving his cloak in her hand, and he fled outside.”
What is the meaning of the phrase that Joseph “entered the house do to his work and none of the household staff was inside?” What type of work did Joseph come to do? The Midrash suggests that the “work” Joseph came to do was to yield to the advances of his master’s wife. After all of her unceasing pleas, Joseph finally succumbed. Only at the last moment did he abstain (Bereishis Rabah 87:7. Tanchumah 8-9. Zohar Vayechi 222a. See also Soteh 36b, quoted in Rashi to Genesis ibid).
4) Yuma 36a.
5) Soteh 36b.
6) Tanya chapter 12.
7) This essay on based on Divrei Yechezkel by the great Chassidic master Rabbi Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam, known as “the Shinever Rav,” as well as Tanya chapters 27-28.
My gratitude to Shmuel Levin, a writer and editor in Pittsburgh, for his editorial assistance.

19 Kislev The “New Year” of Chassidism

November 25, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

The 19th day of the Hebrew month of Kislev is celebrated as the “Rosh Hashanah of Chassidism.” It was on this date, in the year 1798, that the founder ofChabad Chassidism, RabbiSchneur Zalman of Liadi(1745–1812), was freed from his imprisonment in czarist Russia. More than a personal liberation, this was a watershed event in the history of Chassidism, heralding a new era in the revelation of the “inner soul” of Torah.

The public dissemination of the teachings of Chassidism had in fact begun two generations earlier. The founder of the chassidic movement, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698–1760), revealed to his disciples gleanings from the mystical soul of Torah which had previously been the sole province of select kabbalists in each generation. This work was continued by the Baal Shem Tov’s disciple, Rabbi DovBer, the “Maggid of Mezeritch”—who is also deeply connected with the date of “19 Kislev”: on this day in 1772, 26 years before Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s release from prison, the Maggidreturned his soul to his Maker. Before his passing, he said to his disciple, Rabbi Schneur Zalman: “This day is our yom tov (festival).”

Rabbi Schneur Zalman went much farther than his predecessors, bringing these teachings to broader segments of the Jewish population of Eastern Europe. More significantly, Rabbi Schneur Zalman founded the “Chabad” approach—a philosophy and system of study, meditation, and character refinement that made these abstract concepts rationally comprehensible and practically applicable in daily life.

In its formative years, the chassidic movement was the object of strong, and often venomous, opposition from establishment rabbis and laymen. Even within the chassidic community, a number of Rabbi Schneur Zalman’s contemporaries and colleagues felt that he had “gone too far” in tangibilizing and popularizing the hitherto hidden soul of Torah.

In the fall of 1798, Rabbi Schneur Zalman was arrested on charges that his teachings and activities threatened the imperial authority of the czar, and was imprisoned in an island fortress in the Neva River in Petersburg. In his interrogations, he was compelled to present to the czar’s ministers the basic tenets of Judaism and explain various points of chassidic philosophy and practice. After 53 days, he was exonerated of all charges and released.

Rabbi Schneur Zalman saw these events as a reflection of what was transpiring Above. He regarded his arrest as but the earthly echo of a Heavenly indictment against his revelation of the most intimate secrets of the Torah. And he saw his release as signifying his vindication in the Heavenly court. Following his liberation on 19 Kislev, he redoubled his efforts, disseminating his teachings on a far broader scale, and with more detailed and “down-to-earth” explanations, than before.

The nineteenth of Kislev therefore marks the “birth” of Chassidism: the point at which it was allowed to emerge from the womb of “mysticism” into the light of day, to grow and develop as an integral part of Torah and Jewish life.

For more on Rabbi Schneur Zalman, his teachings, and the events of 19 Kislev, see the following articles and stories:


November 25, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Featured Essays

By Tzvi freeman
There are many myths aboutChabad. Like the one that Chabad invented Jewish outreach. Don’t believe a word of it. Chabad never did outreach. The term is antithetical to everything that Chabad and the Rebbe stand for.

Take the case of the rabbi who wrote to the Rebbe boasting that he was involved in outreach. He used the Hebrew term, kiruv rechokim, which translates as “bringing close those who are distant.” The poor rabbi must have really regretted that letter. The Rebbe wrote back, indignantly:

You call them “distant”?! What gives you the right to say that you are close and they are far? You must approach each one of them as though you are the King’s servant sent with a message to His most precious child!

Others who spoke with the Rebbe on the subject have similarly groped and fallen. One Chabad supporter told the Rebbe about a shabbaton he had sponsored for over forty couples who “had no Jewish background.”

“No what?” the Rebbe responded, as though in shock.

“No Jewish background,” was the hesitant response.

“Tell them that they have a background! Their background is that they are children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob!” the Rebbe replied.

So I don’t believe that the Rebbe preached outreach, and Chabad, from what I’ve seen, doesn’t practice it. Sure, the word gets used, but there are days I think we should ban it. We don’t need any more distinctions between Jews. We certainly don’t need to divide ourselves between those who are on the inside and those who are on the outside. In Chabad, there is one Jewish people, all of us in the same inside of the same boat.

So what do we practice? What is a Chabad House? What is the MitzvahCampaign? What are all these beards and black hats, sheitls and long skirts doing in the most bizarre places, if not outreach?

Quite simply, we are patching up the boat.

In the Rebbe’s words:

A Jew may say to you, “Why can’t you leave me alone? Why can’t you just go and do your thing and let me do mine? What does it bother you if I drill this little hole in my little boat?”

You must answer him, “There is only one boat and we are all in it together.”

That is and always was the theme behind the mitzvah campaign. Again, in the Rebbe’s words:

The soul of the mitzvah campaign is Ahavat Yisrael — Love of the Jewish People. And the meaning of that love is that we are all one.

That’s why there was never a campaign that was only meant for “them out there.” Every campaign encompassed and embraced the entire Jewish people. When there was a tefillin campaign, not only did we run out on the streets to roll up sleeves and apply the “Jewish blood pressure test” — we took our own tefillin to a scribe to be checked, as well. When the Rebbe initiated the mezuzah campaign, he made sure to discover a cranny of his own office that could use a new mezuzah, as well. When he started a campaign to have a charity box in every Jewish home, he started personally handing out dimes and dollars to children and grownups to give charity.

So if a Chabad House is not an outreach center, what is it?

Chabad is an idea. An idea that is valid no matter where you are and who you think you are. It wasn’t invented yesterday and it’s not going away tomorrow. It is the idea that every person has to use his own mind to awaken his heart and connect with his G-dly soul. A Chabad House is a place that facilitates that. For anybody who wants to make that connection.

So why are we “out there”? Why do we make such a big deal of traveling to the furthest reaches of the world, as long as another Jew might be found there? Aren’t there enough Jews to take care of in Brooklyn andJerusalem?

Because this is the mandate given us in our time, to “spread the wellsprings to the outside.” As the Rebbe pointed out, not that the water from the wellsprings should spread to the outside. That would be outreach. The wellsprings themselves should be outside. The “outside” should become wellsprings. Every single one of us, without distinction.

There’s a Jew somewhere in the world who imagines he’s “out there.” He doesn’t find in himself — if he ever stops to look for it — any connection left with his people. Maybe he’s far away on the globe, maybe further in ways of life, ways of thinking.

We come to him and tell him, “Really, you are on the inside. Really, you never left. The fact that you find yourself so ‘out there’ — you were guided to this place, this mindset, so that even here you would find the Torah and even here you will delight in its living water. Until you yourself will become a wellspring to this part of the world.”

In Chabad, every reach reaches deeper within.

Chanukah Bowling Bash 2010! Sunday, Dec 5th 1:30pm-4:00pm

November 25, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Chabad Prospect Heights & Fort Greene Presents it Annual Chanukah Event

Chanukah Bowling Bash 2010!

Sunday, December 5th
From 1:30 – 4:00pm @ Melody Lanes
Located @ 461 37th St Corner 5th Ave.
Subway: D/N/R to 36th St – 4th Ave.

Enjoy Bowling, Donuts, Giant Lego Menorah Lighting, Super raffle, Hot Latkes & Prizes for all!
Limited space, RSVP suggested.
$10 Cover $360 Sponsor.

An event for all ages and the whole family.
For more info please call 347.787.0864 or email info@brooklynYid.com
We hope to see you there, should be a blast! Best wishes for a happy, healthy and illuminating Chanukah!

Annual Community Wide Public Menorah Display Project

November 25, 2010 by RabbiAri  
Filed under Upcoming Events

Make sure you visit our Beautiful neighborhood Menorah displays with their unique glowing candles throughout Prospect Heights & Fort Greene and share in the pride!

  • Underhill Children’s Playground (Underhill/Park Pl.)
  • Atlantic Terminal Mall (Atlantic/Flatbush Ave)
  • Soda Bar (Vanderbilt/St. Marks)
  • Washington Commons (Washington/Prospect Pl.)
  • Franklin Park Bar & Lounge (St Johns/Franklin Ave)
  • Cong. Kol Israel of Prospect Heights. 603 St John’s Pl.