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Guard Your Eyes
Heichal Halimmud



Drop some coins each morning into the Yagdil Torah פושקא located in 770.
Pushka location: Walk down the main aisle toward the doors, it is on your  on the right side at shoulder height.

Chalukas Hashas 5773   Giving has never been easier

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Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5777

Introduction  

Installment 1 of 5

The phenomenon of double-headed organisms, known scientifically as polycephaly, is extremely rare. However, there are a number of documented cases where animals and even humans were born with two heads, and such occurrences exist even today.

Polycephaly is caused by a malformation of twin fetuses in the mother's womb, which results in the two newborns being born fused together. This deformity can result in a variety of forms: sometimes the twins are born as two complete bodies joined together by a piece of cartilage (such twins can easily be surgically separated nowadays), and in more severe cases, the result is a single body with two heads.

Are there any sources in Torah for this phenomenon? Were there any Jewish authors who recorded witnessing such beings? And what halachos apply to these extraordinary creations?

When going through the sources, a surprising makor comes up: Apparently, such a creature is mentioned in a possuk in Chumash!

To be continued, bli neder...

Vital for Survival Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5777

If a student is exiled to a city of refuge, his teacher is exiled along with him. We learn this from the possuk, "[He shall escape to one of these cities, and] he shall live." This possuk teaches us that we should do whatever it takes so that the escapee can live in the city of refuge. Without the study of Torah, the life of those who possess wisdom and search it is equal to death.

Rambam, Hilchos Rotzeiach, 7:1


Tes Zayin Iyar, 5777

Whatever Works

"Why on earth are we in a plastic fish tank on the ocean?!

"This tank isn't registered with the coast guard, its materials don't meet EPA standards, we don't even have a license to drive it amongst many other state and federal regulations that prohibit us from riding in this fish tank on the Atlantic Ocean?!"

"My Son; the reason is that we are presently experiencing Hurricane Sandy which hit us harder than we expected. We had to save our lives with whatever means were available and this had to do."

Torah study may not be ideal when there is a lack of time, money, patience or other regulations besides the regular expectations you have from your life. However, due to the critical nature Torah learning is, it has to happen with the circumstances as they are.


Tes Zayin Iyar, 5777

Extraterrestrial Intelligence

Segment 5 of 5

Science fiction is replete with stories of human contact with intelligent extraterrestrial creatures. Although we have established that Torah accepts the possibility of extraterrestrial life, we have yet to explore whether Torah lends credence to the concept of extraterrestrial intelligence. If some type of life form exists on other planets, does it consist of intelligent creatures with free will who possess the ability to make decisions? Were they given commandments to fulfill, just as we must follow Torah and mitzvos?

The first to mention this question was R. Yehudah ben Barzilai of Barcelona. In his commentary to Sefer Yetzirah, he elaborates on the possibility of the existence of other worlds (see the second installment in this series), and he mentions that "perhaps Hashem did not give a Torah in these worlds." He also remains uncertain whether the creatures inhabiting these worlds possess a yetzer hara and the possibility to sin, or if they are angels, spirits, or similar entities.

(It should be noted that according to R. Yehudah, these other worlds are not planets or stars in the heavens surrounding our world. Rather, they are distinct universes, each world surrounded by seven heavens, just like ours.)

R. Pinchas Eliyahu Horowitz of Vilna (see the fourth installment of this series) also addresses this question. In his opinion, although extraterrestrial creatures may possess intellect, they are not bestowed with free will, and accordingly, they were not given the Torah either. They do not serve Hashem, and Hashem does not derive pleasure from their actions. Just like everything else in the universe, including the loftiest and most spiritual worlds, they were created solely for us, the inhabitants of this physical and mundane world.

R. Pinchas quotes the statement of Chazal in Berachos (32b): "Hashem said to Knesses Yisroel: 'My daughter! I have created twelve mazalos in the heavens. Each mazal is comprised of thirty chayil. Each chayil, in turn, consists of thirty ligyon. Each ligyon includes thirty rahaton; each rahaton-thirty karton, and each karton-thirty gastera. Within each gastera I suspended 3,650,000,000 stars. And the only reason I created all of these heavenly bodies was for you!!'"

"Increase in Torah - Increase in Life" Tes Zayin Iyar, 5777

.. We find ourselves now in the days preceding [Shavuos, the festival of] receiving the Torah, which brings healing to the world as a whole and the Jewish people - the receivers of the Torah - in particular.

In light of that which is known - that in a more particular sense we receive the Torah anew every day, as emphasized by the fact that the phrase "Giver of the Torah" is in present tense - we understand that a Jew must be healthy and whole each and every day. In the words of the Rambam: "Maintaining a healthy and whole body is an integral part of Divine service."

.. Surely I need not motivate you to influence your son to establish set times for the study of the inner portion of Torah (pnimiyus haTorah), which in our generation has been revealed in Toras HaChassidus.

Every increase in Torah and mitzvos, and surely adding to the study of pnimiyus haTorah, which is termed in the Zohar the "soul of Torah," greatly increases G-d's blessings for all of one's personal needs, both for the life of the body as well as for the life of the soul.

All rights reserved to chabad.org. From Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVII, p. 129
Originally adapted by S.B. Wineberg in his book Healthy in Body Mind & Spirit - Vol. 1


Beis Iyar, 5777

Wisdom Behind the Curtain

Throughout the ages, we find great women who have been respected Torah scholars. Although they have been the exception rather than the rule, they attest to the exalted heights women can attain through Torah study.

The renowned Sefardic Torah giant, Rabbi Chayim Yosef David Azulai (known as Chida, 1724-1806) in his bibliographic work Shem Gdolim, has a special listing for "Rabbanit" ("Rebbetzin")!

He quotes the Talmud (Megilla 14a) that the Jewish people had seven prophetesses: Sarah, Miriam, Devora, Chana, Avigayil, Chulda and Esther (Rashi, on Bereishis says that all the Matriarchs were prophetesses).

The Chida mentions the renowned Bruria, daughter of Rabbi Chanina ben Tradyon and wife of Rabbi Meir (both Tannaim -- Sages mentioned in the Mishna). The Talmud says she would review 300 teachings of 300 Torah masters in a single day! She knew so much that she could express her own opinion in questions of Halachic law, disagreeing with respected Tannaim, while others endorsed her opinion.

So authoritative was Bruria considered, that eminent Tannaim would reverently quote how she rebuked them for not adhering properly to the teachings of the Sages.

On occasion she would even rebuke students for poor learning habits, giving as her source her interpretation of a scriptural verse, an interpretation that the Talmud later quoted.

Rashi had three daughters -- and no sons. Besides marrying renowned Torah scholars, they were known to be outstandingly knowledgeable in Torah. Once, Rashi lay sick, with no strength to write a profound and complicated Halachic reply to a query he had received. He therefore asked his daughter Rachel to write it. This may mean that he dictated it to her; even so, it reveals Rashi's confidence in her ability to accurately transcribe the complicated subject matter, for which she must have been a considerable scholar.

MaHaRShal, Rabbi Shlomo Luria (c. 1510-1573), one of the greatest Torah authorities in a generation of great luminaries, writes of an ancestress of his, some seven generations back.

"The Rabbanit Miriam, daughter of the Gaon Rabbi Shlomo Shapiro and sister of Rabbi Peretz of Kostenitz, of a continuous line of Torah scholars tracing its ancestry to Rashi...who had her own Yeshiva, where she would sit with a curtain intervening, while she lectured in Halacha before young men who were outstanding Torah scholars"!

Nor was this phenomenon confined to the Ashkenazi lands where the prevailing non-Jewish mores were more tolerant of women in positions of prominence.


Beis Iyar, 5777

What Do They Look Like?
Segment 4 of 5

Now that we have established that Torah accepts the possibility of extraterrestrial life, let's explore what such life might look like.

Some insights on the appearance of life on other planets can be gleaned from Sefer HaBris, authored by R. Pinchas Eliyahu Horowitz of Vilna (1765-1821)1.

R. Pinchas writes that according to the belief of certain scientists, the stars and planets are quite similar to Earth, featuring mountains, valleys, and oceans, and inhabited by humans, animals, and plants. In particular, he cites the view of the astronomer Johannes Hevelius (1611-1687) in his work Selenographia, who portrays the moon as appearing much the same way as Earth.

R. Pinchas dismisses this notion, and describes the foolishness of this view by way of a mashal: A European merchant once traveled to a distant land. While there, he left a mirror near a mountain adjacent to a vast forest, and forgot to reclaim it. Sometime later, a tribesman discovered the mirror and looked inside. To his great surprise, he saw a forest in the background and a dark-skinned man who looked just like him! He foolishly concluded that the mountain was hollow and contained a large forest within it, inhabited by men similar in appearance to him!

If the inhabitants of these worlds are exactly like us, argues R. Pinchas, why did Hashem create them on separate planets and not on our world? Hashem surely could have created a single world large enough to encompass them all! Since Hashem created numerous stars and planets, we must say they are each unique, and their inhabitants are likewise distinctive and vastly different from those on this planet. Even ocean creatures and land creatures are worlds apart; how much more so life on other planets!

[Interestingly, R. Pinchas also proves this by saying that if life on other planets is similar to life on Earth, the creatures of Mercury, the closest planet to the sun, would die from the intense heat or become blind from the sun's rays, and the creatures of Saturn, the farthest visible planet from the sun, would expire from the extreme cold. It should be noted that modern science has yet to discover life on these planets, although there is speculation that life may exist on one or more of Saturn's many moons.]

"Torah and Continued Good Health" Beis Iyar, 5777

.. We find ourselves now in the days preceding [Shavuos, the festival of] receiving the Torah, which brings healing to the world as a whole and the Jewish people - the receivers of the Torah - in particular.

In light of that which is known - that in a more particular sense we receive the Torah anew every day, as emphasized by the fact that the phrase "Giver of the Torah" is in present tense - we understand that a Jew must be healthy and whole each and every day. In the words of the Rambam: "Maintaining a healthy and whole body is an integral part of Divine service."

.. Surely I need not motivate you to influence your son to establish set times for the study of the inner portion of Torah (pnimiyus haTorah), which in our generation has been revealed in Toras HaChassidus.

Every increase in Torah and mitzvos, and surely adding to the study of pnimiyus haTorah, which is termed in the Zohar the "soul of Torah," greatly increases G-d's blessings for all of one's personal needs, both for the life of the body as well as for the life of the soul.

All rights reserved to chabad.org. From Igros Kodesh, Vol. XVII, p. 129
Originally adapted by S.B. Wineberg in his book Healthy in Body Mind & Spirit - Vol. 1


Yud Alef Nissan, 5777

Don't Forget your Purpose!

In military training, it is to be imagined that they cover many details about your strengths, your weapons strengths, your enemies' strengths fighting strategies and the terrain. It is however also fair to assume that there are several cardinal principles which they keep on emphasizing and repeating; perhaps to remember your purpose and your capabilities.

Anyone who recognizes a masterpiece will see that the Tanya lays out in a fascinating orderly fashion in the first thirteen chapters the prerequisites for the battle of a Beinoni. Helping you recognize who you are and who your enemies are, you and your enemies' strengths, along with the terrain on which the battle is taking place. Only afterwards does it follow with a battle plan along with a contingency plan.

While tangents are a regular in many seforim, there is however a tangent that really needs explanation. 

In chapter 4 the Alter Rebbe explains weaponry and objectives which includes all 613 mitzvos. Any mitzva we do is a levush and through it we connect to Hashem. But then he devotes a full chapter emphasizing the mitzva of Torah study explaining how it is greater than all other mitzvos.

Why the extra emphasis? And why now?

The objective of a Jew is to connect to Hashem in a physical world which conceals that connection.

It is therefore crucial to emphasize his ability and capability to do so. This is through in-clothing his neshama with Torah and mitzvos; they are one with Hashem even as it comes down in the physical world. This is due to Hashem putting his will into the Torah and Mitzvos. Thus, when one fulfills the Mitzvos he surrounds himself by Hashem's will.

Yet Torah study connects him to Hashem in the most significant and essential way. When one studies Torah he not only connects to the will of Hashem, he also internalizes the will of Hashem. This creates a unique and awesome oneness; connecting his actual nefesh elokis to elokus which is its sustenance. It is therefore internalized to the point that it becomes a part of him; allowing him to grasp elokus.

Now its understood why an entire chapter is dedicated to emphasizing Torah study; in the larger scheme of things it takes a central role.


Yud Alef Nissan, 5777

The Rebbe's View

In the last issue, we quoted a number of proofs cited in various sefarim that other worlds exist other than our own. However, all these proofs can be refuted if we say that these worlds are spiritual worlds. Perhaps this is why, when the Rebbe addressed the topic of extraterrestrial life, he did not cite any of these proofs, instead referencing to a Gemara that proves that actual beings dwell somewhere in outer space.

On the Shabbos following the first successful landing of man on the moon, the Rebbe held a special farbrengen to discuss the lessons that can be learned from this historic event. Among other topics, the Rebbe addressed the Torah view on extraterrestrial life.

The Rebbe prefaced his discussion by saying that lichorah there is no reason to discuss this topic, as it has no relevance to Torah and mitzvos. However, since if someone knows what to answer on this topic he may find it easier to influence another Jew to put on tefillin, keep Shabbos, or eat kosher, he will therefore address the issue.

The Rebbe brings a proof from a possuk in Shoftim, in the song of Devorah (Shoftim 5:23). Devorah says: "Cursed is Meroz, says the angel of Hashem; cursed are its inhabitants, for they did not come to the assistance of Hashem [to fight against Sisra's army]." The Gemara (Moed Katan 16a) offers two interpretations for the word Meroz: "Some say it is the name of an important individual, and others say it is the name of a star." (The very stars fought with Sisra-see Shoftim 5:20).

Now, the possuk continues, "cursed are its inhabitants." If Meroz is the name of a star, this means that this star is inhabited!

"Torah - Particularly Chitas - Is the Vessel For Receiving All Divine Blessings Including Health" Yud Alef Nissan, 5777

I received your pidyon nefesh in which you ask that Divine mercy be aroused for you so that you should be in good health. I will read the pidyon nefesh at the holy resting place of my father-in-law, the Rebbe, for the fulfillment of your heart's desire for good in all that you require.

It is known that in order to receive blessings from on High, we must create here below, [i.e., in this physical world,] the proper vessels into which these blessings will flow. Torah is the [most appropriate] vehicle for receiving any and all blessings.

I therefore suggest that you take upon yourself - bli neder - the observance of the three daily lessons [known as Chitas], established by my father-in-law, the Rebbe, an observance that applies to all Anash, our chassidic brotherhood.

They are: the daily portion of Tehillim as divided by the days of the month, recited following the morning prayers; the daily section of the weekly Torah portion - on Sunday, from the beginning of the portion to Sheni, on Monday from Sheni to Shelishi, and so on; and Tanya, as divided by the days of the year.

Observance of the above will surely serve as a fit vehicle to draw down and receive G-d's blessings.

All rights reserved to chabad.org. From Igros Kodesh, Vol. V, p. 51
Originally adapted by S.B. Wineberg in his book Healthy in Body Mind & Spirit - Vol. 1

"Super Food" for Yud Gimmel Nissan - All New Content
Yud Nissan, 5777

The Rebbe encourages us to learn the works of a Rebbe in Nigleh and Chassidus on his Yom Hilula, and to learn (at least one perek) Mishnayos beginning with the letters of his name. Yagdil Torah compiled a publication with Mishnayos and selected pieces of the Tzemach Tzedek's Torah. The publication will be available in local shuls, at our office and on our website.

The publication marking Yud Gimmel Nissan (the Yom Hilula of the Tzemach Tzedek) includes the full Mishnayos and easily accessible learning material and sections in English. It also includes stories of the Tzemach Tzedek.

Click here to download the Yud Gimmel Nissan Publication.

All new content! This publication will bring Beis Nissan to life
Rosh Chodesh Nissan, 5777

The Rebbe encourages us to learn the works of a Rebbe in Nigleh and Chassidus on his Yom Hilula, and to learn (at least one perek) Mishnayos beginning with the letters of his name. Yagdil Torah compiled a publication with Mishnayos and selected pieces of the Rebbe Rashab's Torah. The publication will be available in local shuls, at our office and on our website.

The publication marking Beis Nissan (the Yom Hilula of the Rebbe Rashab) includes the full Mishnayos. Keep an eye out for easily accessible learning material and sections in English. It also includes stories of the Rebbe Rashab.

Click here to download the Beis Nissan Publication.


Chof Vov Adar, 5777

She Surpassed Them All

Rabbi Yehuda Lowe of Prague, known as the Maharal, was born in 1512 and was the descendant of famous scholars. He could trace his lineage back to King David. Recognized as a genius from early childhood, he was engaged at the age of 10 to an equally remarkable woman named Pearl. A scholar in her own right, she was a loyal partner of her husband and epitomized the Jewish ideal of a "woman of valor."

It was customary in those times for matches to be arranged while the couple was still very young, the marriage itself taking place sometimes only years later.

And so, the Maharal, at the age of ten, was engaged to Pearl, the daughter of the wealthy and influential Shmuel Reich. She was only six at the time. According to the marriage agreement, the Maharal continued his studies, illuminating one of the outstanding yeshivot of his day. After the agreed upon years of study expired, he requested permission to continue, since his fiancee was still only fourteen.

Pearl was a girl of exceptional intellectual capacity. At the age of six she was sufficiently mature enough to appreciate the great genius of the Maharal, and she, desirous of being a worthy partner, embarked on an intensive program of study. She learned secretly all the years of their engagement, until, when he returned, the Maharal was delighted and amazed to discover the extent of her accomplishment. He returned with her permission, to his yeshiva studies, but before leaving, he prepared a syllabus for her to follow in his absence.

During the period of the Maharal's absence, financial disaster struck Shmuel Reich, leaving him impoverished. The Maharal received a letter from his future father-in-law explaining the situation and releasing him from his promise to marry Pearl. In his immediate reply, the Maharal, while expressing his sympathy, reiterated his intention to marry Pearl regardless of financial considerations, unless, she was unwilling to wait for him.

More time passed, until the year 1543 arrived, bringing with it a war in Bohemia. The Maharal returned home to his fiancee who was now supporting herself and her parents by running a food store. Pearl, who had been studying Torah during the twenty-two years of their separation, had become an extraordinarily accomplished scholar. She was now twenty-eight years old, and the Maharal thirty-two. Finally, they began their married life. To enable her husband to pursue his studies, Pearl continued to work in her store, learning Torah after her work was done.

The Bohemian war continued unabated until it reached Prague. One day, an armed soldier entered Pearl's store and demanded that she furnish him with a large amount of food which he loaded into his carriage. However, when she asked for payment, he refused, saying he had no money.

Pearl, whose very livelihood was at stake, explained to him that this store was the only source of support for her family, and he was moved by her words.

He gave her a beautiful embroidered garment as a pledge, promising to return in a few days to redeem it. If unable to come, he said, the garment would be hers to keep.


Yud Alef Nissan, 5777

The Rebbe's View

In the last issue, we quoted a number of proofs cited in various sefarim that other worlds exist other than our own. However, all these proofs can be refuted if we say that these worlds are spiritual worlds. Perhaps this is why, when the Rebbe addressed the topic of extraterrestrial life, he did not cite any of these proofs, instead referencing to a Gemara that proves that actual beings dwell somewhere in outer space.

On the Shabbos following the first successful landing of man on the moon, the Rebbe held a special farbrengen to discuss the lessons that can be learned from this historic event. Among other topics, the Rebbe addressed the Torah view on extraterrestrial life.

The Rebbe prefaced his discussion by saying that lichorah there is no reason to discuss this topic, as it has no relevance to Torah and mitzvos. However, since if someone knows what to answer on this topic he may find it easier to influence another Jew to put on tefillin, keep Shabbos, or eat kosher, he will therefore address the issue.

The Rebbe brings a proof from a possuk in Shoftim, in the song of Devorah (Shoftim 5:23). Devorah says: "Cursed is Meroz, says the angel of Hashem; cursed are its inhabitants, for they did not come to the assistance of Hashem [to fight against Sisra's army]." The Gemara (Moed Katan 16a) offers two interpretations for the word Meroz: "Some say it is the name of an important individual, and others say it is the name of a star." (The very stars fought with Sisra-see Shoftim 5:20).

Now, the possuk continues, "cursed are its inhabitants." If Meroz is the name of a star, this means that this star is inhabited!