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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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Tes Vov Sivan, 5777

Among Animals   

Installment 2 of 5

As mentioned in the first installment, a reference to a two-headed creature can be found in a possuk in Chumash:

The Torah lists the animals that are not kosher in Parshas Shemini, and again in Parshas Re'eih. Why does the Torah list them twice? The Gemara (Chulin 63b) explains that there are a couple of new dinim we learn from Parshas Re'eih. One of them is the din that an animal called a shesuah (mentioned in Re'eih 14:7) may not be eaten.

What is a shesuah?

The Gemara (Nidah 24a, cited in Rashi to Re'eih ibid.) quotes Rav Chanin bar Aba, who identifies the shesuah as a creature with two backs and two spines. This description itself is a matter of dispute between Rav and Shmuel (Nidah ibid., as explained by Rashi): According to Shmuel, a shesuah is a unique species of animal with two backs and spines, while Rav is of the opinion that a shesuah is a two-backed calf (or other type of otherwise kosher animal) born to a regular cow.

[Interestingly, some posit that the two-backed species the Torah is referring to (according to Shmuel) is the peccary, a South American pig-like animal that has a groove along its back, giving it the appearance of two backs (see Malbim to Shemini 11:4).]

Having two backs and two spines does not necessarily equal having two heads. However, the Targum Yonasan ben Uziel translates a shesuah as an "unborn fetus that possesses two heads and two spines," giving us a clear source in Torah to a two-headed creature.

Targum Yonasan explains that the reason such a fetus is forbidden is because it cannot survive. Indeed, although there are recorded instances of animals that were born with two heads, most of them died within a few days. (One such instance, of an unborn two-headed calf discovered in its mother's stomach in London in the year 5630/1870, was recorded by the shochet R. Avraham Zusman in his sefer Vayaas Avraham, p. 118.)

According to one explanation, this was also the form of the egel hazahav: an animal with two backs and two heads, one that appeared like a calf, and the other, like a donkey (R. Chaim Vital in Etz Hadaas Tov, Chukas 19:2).

In the ninth century (during the era of the Geonim), an individual named Eldad HaDani arrived in the city of Kairouan, Tunisia. He claimed he hailed from the tribe of Dan (hence his name, HaDani), who lived together with the tribes of Naftali, Gad, and Asher near the river Sambatyon. He repeated a number of halachos kept in his hometown, each one reputed to have been stated by Yehoshua bin Nun in the name of Moshe Rabbeinu. Some of these halachos are cited (and sometimes refuted) by the Rishonim, with varying approaches as to whether or not his story was credible (see, for example, Ibn Ezra to Shemos 2:22).

One of these halachos reads as follows: "How should an animal or bird with two heads be slaughtered? The right head should be placed above, and the left head below. If the right head was slaughtered incorrectly, it is unfit, but if the left head was slaughtered incorrectly, it is kosher" (Eldad HaDani [Epstein ed.], p. 87).

Assuming this halachah is correct, how can it be reconciled with Targum Yonasan, who states that a two-headed animal may not be eaten? A possible answer is that only an animal with two heads and two spines is forbidden, but an animal with two heads and one spine is permitted.

Now that we have seen what Torah has to say about two-headed animals, let's see what Torah says about two-headed people.

To be continued, bli neder...

Legal issues Tes Vov Sivan, 5777

Why is it that one who gets up in the morning must recite a berachah before [reciting select portions of Torah] but not afterward, while one who receives an aliyah must recite a berachah before and after?

Because with an aliyah, each oleh concludes his mitzvah, and he can therefore make a concluding berachah. But when someone gets up to study, there are no limits to how much he should be studying.

Shibolei Haleket, §5


Rosh Chodesh Sivan, 5777

It is Indispensable!

By the year 1843 word of the disputes between the Chasidim, Misnagdim and Maskilim had reached the Tsar's court. An order was issued that representatives be chosen to appear in Petersburg, where a commission, headed by the minister Count Uvarov would meet to decide which "brand" of Judaism was correct.

Each group selected a representative: The Chasidim of White Russia chose the Tzemach Tzedek; the Polish Chasidim, Reb Israel Halperin of Berdichev; the Misnagdim, chose Rabbi Yitzchak of Volozhin; the Maskilim chose to represent their viewpoint, Bezalel Stern, who was the director of the Jewish school in Odessa. Other Jewish dignitaries had been invited, but declined. Every delegate was permitted to bring an advisor; the Lubavitcher Rebbe brought his son, Reb Yehuda Leib.

When the meeting had convened, Count Uvarov explained that it was not the intention of the Tsar to overturn or annul any Jewish law or custom, merely to elucidate and clarify matters.

The Tzemach Tzedek was accorded due respect by the ministers, and he successfully answered all the questions that were put to him, which devolved mainly on matters of Chassidus and Kabbala.

One of the questions asked of all of the representatives was, "What is the purpose of studying Chassidus and Kabbala?"

Bezalel Stern replied that the study was totally unnecessary. Rabbi Yitzchak of Volozhin made no reply at all. When it came the turn of The Tzemach Tzedek and Reb Yisroel Halperin, they answered that this study is indispensable to all Jews.

On Friday afternoon, Count Uvarov made an announcement: "The question of the study of Kabbala and Chassidus will be decided according to Torah, that is, according to the majority opinion. Since Stern and I hold that it is not necessary and Yitzchak holds his peace, which indicates that he is also against it, and only Schneersohn and Halperin are in favor, I rule that this study be abolished!"

The Tzemach Tzedek stood up and with a bitter cry emanating from his heart declared, "Whatever may happen, the study of Kabbala and Chassidus cannot be abolished!"

Count Uvarov was beside himself with fury. "Arrest him!" he barked at his guards, and they immediately led the Rebbe from the room. Count Uvarov remained, pacing like an enraged tiger, while the other members of the commission looked on in horror.


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