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Parshat Tzav- Shabbat Hagadol

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Parshat Tzav- Shabbat Hagadol

going out of egypt and seder table

Dear friends “ad 120 b’simcha”

Shalom Uvracha mi'Yerushalayim!

We dedicate our learning today for all who need quick refuah, parnassah- successful livelihood and ‘Yiddishe nachas’. May Hashem answer all our prayers l’tovah! May we all come closer to Hashem b’ahavah ub’simcha. Amen.

We humbly ask everyone- please continue to daaven for the unity of Am Yisrael and Eretz Yisrael. (and those suffering from the Corona Virus)

We pray that this month of Nissan - be a month of joy and unity and great miracles for all of Israel and may we be blessed with the ultimate redemption, bimheira b'yameinu. In these insane times, May we all return to the holy sanity of the Torah Amen.

Love and blessings to you all from Yerushalayim

Have a wonderful Shabbos and a very joyous Nissan

b'ahavah ubivracha


Be Great and Make Hashem Great on this Great Shabbos!

B"H over the years we keep on learning more and more new insights into Pesach and the Haggadah. At the Seder we share these insights. It's all beautiful, but let us not forget the essence. It's very nice to learn another teaching and another one, but if it doesn't make a difference in my life, the Pharaoh is still blocking the narrows between the mind and the heart.

The essence of the Seder is to experience your liberation and the liberation of your people from slavery to freedom. Everything we do at the Seder- the telling of the story, the eating and drinking, the singing and dancing, the asking questions and going deeper and deeper- everything is a mitzvah, everything is about sincerely connecting and bonding with Hashem and your people, and yes, with all of Hashem's creation. The Divine Revelation of the holy Shechina at the Seder has to make a difference in our lives. Torah and Tefillah - Prayer have to make a difference in our lives.

On Shabbos Hagadol we disarm the powers of all those we are enslaved by. We are ready to confront our realities and proclaim that Hashem is great, Shabbos is great and we are great. And we are obliged to be great- no matter how long it will take, nor how difficult the struggle may be.

It is a very great mitzvah to study Torah, and we must not forget the teaching of Rebbe Shimon son of Rabban Gamliel (Avot 1:17):

שִׁמְעוֹן בְּנוֹ אוֹמֵר.... וְלֹא הַמִּדְרָשׁ הוּא הָעִקָּר, אֶלָּא הַמַּעֲשֶׂה Shimon, his son, says, ".... And the exposition [of Torah] is not what is essential, but the action...."

Each individual possesses something in which he/she is the greatest. On Shabbos Hagadol, dream your great dreams, think about the beautiful person Hashem had in mind when He sent your neshama into this world, when He faced you and empowered you to achieve your highest self. Look at all the powers and energies that are blocking you and realize that they are nothing more than man made idols that are utterly powerless in the light of the holy Shechina. By being truly great and with sincere humility you are making Hashem great.

Parshat Tzav teaches us the essence of sacrifice, the essence of offering a קרבן – ‘korban’. To bring a ‘korban’ to bring yourself close to Hashem is an especially holy and delicate service, you can ruin the ‘korban’ with just an improper thought. Bringing a korban is more than just doing a physical act of sacrifice. The offering is holy because you are offering yourself to Hashem. We offer our ‘selves’ back to Hashem by accepting the ‘Yoke of the Kingdom of Heaven’. An improper thought in this case means that there is something of my ‘self’ that I am not sacrificing- giving up to him. This is so important to know- I need to sacre-fice, make holy, I have to offer my ‘self’- my attachments to “my flesh and blood” to come close to Hashem. In worldly words they say, “no pain, no gain’. Klipot, spiritual light blocking shells, are like skin, and it hurts to rip them off.

To make Hashem great in this world, we have to be great [and this is not a contradiction to humility]. You have to be willing to grow out of your skin, out of your worldly klippa attachments.

Lubavitcher Rebbe

Today is the 11th of Nissan- it is the birthday of the last Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rebbe Menachem Mendel zt"l. We continue to give this day special attention and are thankful that the Rebbe’s neshamah came into our world and did so much for all of us.

The Tanya teaches that, ‘Tzadikkim are greater after their death, than they were when alive.’ When their souls are no longer encumbered by their bodies they reach more people in time and space, and inspire us ever more deeply to serve Hashem. Very little did i know then, how great the Rebbe was when he was alive; very little do i know now how great he continues to be. I was truly blessed to be near him at least on a few occasions. May he continue to inspire all of us and bring us both physical and spiritual blessings. Thank you, Hashem, for sending us this holy tzaddik. Happy birthday, Rebbe.

This is a somewhat strange story that i am about to tell you. It came to mind this morning.

A couple of days before the Rebbe's 70th birthday, 45 years ago, back in [1972] Montreal, some friends invited me and strongly urged me to come with them to NY for the Rebbe's 70th birthday. B"H my wife who was already in her 9th month with our first child, agreed and we left for NY late the following night. A number of us shared the driving. Around 4am Professor Teitelbaum took over the driving and we arrived in NY around 5:30 in the morning. It was early on a cold morning, there weren't many people on the street and we were tired. Soon we came to a red light and we stopped.

‘I Eat Your Flesh’; ‘I Drink Your Blood’! These were the first words we were greeted with, staring at us right across the street, flashing in our faces in big letters on the electric marquee above the entrance to the movie theater. Were a little shocked and we laughed nervously. How ironic? Here we are arriving for a holy convocation with the Rebbe, and immediately we are confronted by these not for under 18s, X-rated movies. What thoughts would these titles arouse in our minds? What was the test and why were we being tested? I don’t know what anyone else was thinking, but one thought that did run through my mind was that if I wasn’t on my way to the Rebbe…. in other circumstances… I might have seriously considered buying a ticket, who knows? The light turned green and we turned the corner.

This 45-year-old memory came to mind this morning, while learning Rav Steinsaltz’s commentary on Parshat Tzav and sacrifices. I wondered why?

We learn in Vayikra that the blood of the ‘korban’ is sprinkled on the altar, and flesh of the ‘korban’ is ‘eaten’ by the fire on the altar. There is actually a holy side to these movie titles. [Holy words can easily be misused.]

Forty-five years later, am I ready to offer my flesh and blood to Hashem? The Alter Rebbe explains that giving tzedakkah is like offering your flesh and blood onto the altar. For with this money you have bought food which would have turned into flesh and blood, and instead you gave it to tzedakkah- you are offering your flesh and blood.

And 45 years later, i realize how little i was aware of the great extent of the Rebbe offering his flesh and blood to Hashem, to His Torah and to Am Yisrael.

Reb Shlomo would tell everyone “you’re the greatest”. As hard as it may be to believe, it is true! There is one thing and in that thing you are the greatest! Both the Rebbe and Reb Shlomo zt"l sacre-ficed their lives for Hashem. What do I have to sacrifice? What am I ready to sacre-fice? Am I ready? Are we ready? Yes, we are! It’s Shabbat Hagadol.

Have a great Shabbos Hagadol and be great!

B’ahavah ubivracha


Parshat Tzav-Shabbos HaGadol: Teachings from Previous Years

▪ Parshat Tzav: Korbanot

▪ Shabbos HaGadol and Holy Chutzpah

▪ To Be Free

▪ וְהוֹצֵאתִי וְהִצַּלְתִּי וְגָאַלְתִּי וְלָקַחְתִּי: The Four Stages of Redemption

▪ And You Will Know That It Is I Hashem Your G-D

▪ Towards THE 5th and ULTIMATE STAGE

Parshat Tzav: Korbanot

Mishkan in the midst

Lately I have had the good fortune to learn many new and wonderful things from Rav Steisaltz's sefer 'Chayei Olam'- talks on the weekly parsha. I hope that it will soon be available in English as well. [much of what I am writing today is based on what I learned (and hopefully understood correctly) in his sefer this week.]

Sefer Vayikra is also known as ספר הקדושה 'the Book of Holiness'- all that we learn in Vayikra, [and surely not only the parts dealing with the sacrifices and the mitzvot 'between man and G-d'] is to be seen from the perspective of learning what is expected of us as a holy nation – עם קדוש. It is so important to remember who we are and what we are here to do as a 'holy nation'. In his sefer Chovat Hatalmidim the Piaseczner Rebbe encourages and beseeches his students to remember who they are; to remember their holy royalty. Even if you or I might not think of ourselves as being holy, we do belong to 'am Yisrael' and we are chosen and charged to be holy and to live a life of holiness.

B"H I am sure that we all are grateful for the many good deeds that we get to do. Though we are not yet able to actually bring קרבנות sacrifices to Hashem in the Beit Hamikdash – may it be restored quickly in our days, it is important that we study these parshiot as there is much practical relevance to them in our daily lives. To sacrifice, is literally to 'make holy' [sacre=holy, fice=do]. Learning about the various sacrifices we find that each one has very specific laws and conditions and are accepted and considered as pleasant to Hashem, only when all the conditions are fulfilled. In other words to properly bring a קרבן to Hashem I must do it on His terms. To be sure there are many mitzvot, many good deeds that do not have such restrictions, however when it comes to sacrifices, as much as I must put my voluntary good-will and intentions into them, in order for them to ba accepted by Hashem, I must do it exactly as He prescribes in the Torah.

Among the many sacrificial laws we find two rules that require special attention: 7:18 And if any of the flesh of the sacrifice of his peace-offerings be at all eaten on the third day, it shall not be accepted, neither shall it be imputed unto him that offers it; it shall be פיגול an abhorred thing, and the soul that eats of it shall bear his iniquity.

Among the sacrifices there are some that were totally consumed by the fire on the Altar, and there are others that parts of which could be eaten by the Kohanim and [in some cases] by the Israelites. However there is a time limit within which the sacrifice may/must be eaten, and there are also limitations as to where the holy sacrifice may be eaten.

The rule of 'pigul' is that if during the performance of the sacrifice services one has the improper intent to eat the 'korban' either past its set time limit or outside its proper place, the sacrifice is considered פיגול – and is rejected by Hashem! The improper thought alone ruins the sacrifice, even if in actuality this does not take place. This is very striking because in all other situations having a bad thought alone is not considered as if you 'did it' but here the thought alone ruins the sacrifice!

Consider the deep implications and lessons of this rule vis a vis our relationships with our loved ones, with our friends. Bringing a sacrifice to Hashem is not a casual matter. It's one thing to be casually friendly, but it is quite another when you care about being close, about coming closer together- then our thoughts take on a whole other level of relevance- the thoughts are as important and even possibly more important than the action. We need to be close with Hashem, we need to be close with one another. Being polite and even being kind are both very important and worthy on their own. But it is our good intentions that make huge difference- improper intentions do not allow us to be close.

May we all be mindful of our intentions and may we be blessed to do many many good things with the best of intentions. May this Pesach be the last one in exile; may our souls no longer be in exile. May we be blessed to really be close with one another and with Hashem, b'ahavah!!! May we be very careful with our thoughts and intentions- may they be the best! Amen!

Shabbos HaGadol and Holy Chutzpah

Copy of Exodus Book by R Brodt

Back in Egypt land, before we left on the night of Pessach, Hashem gave us a very special mitzvah, the mitzvah of Korban Pessach, which we were to sacrifice and eat at our last meal in Mitzrayim. Three days before the actual offering of the sacrifice, on the 10th of Nissan, we were supposed to go and get us a young lamb and bring it home for safeguarding so that it would not have any blemishes, [which would disqualify it as a sacrifice].

That year, the 10th of Nissan, according to our tradition, came on Shabbat; and hence the Shabbat before Pessach came to be Shabbat Hagadol-- the Great Shabbat. We celebrate the fact that it was Shabbat on that 10th of Nissan, is more important than the actual date, because the miracle of the Exodus, the holy energy for leaving Mitzrayim, began to flow down to the B'nai Yisrael on the Shabbos before the actual exodus.

In order to access this miracle we ourselves had to do something which required a great deal of faith and courage. It is well known that the lamb was one of the many gods, which the Egyptians worshipped. Imagine a little 'yiddele', who all his life was a slave to the Egyptians, now had to confront his masters. Here he is walking home with a little sheep on his shoulders, and an Egyptian stops him on the street and says to him "what are you doing with that lamb"? And this little yid, had to tell him, " I'm bringing this lamb home because in three days from now we are going to eat it as a Pessach sacrifice." He had to find all his courage and gather all his faith and publicly proclaim, that he was now going to kill the god of his oppressing slavemaster, for there was truly only one G-d, the G-d of Israel.

The miracle was a twofold one. The slave found his faith and courage, and the oppressor was overcome with fear and did not try to stop the Jew from killing his god. And thus, the Shabbos before Pessach became known as Shabbat Hagadol.

It is a widespread custom that on Shabbos afternoon, of this Great Shabbos, we read part of the Haggadah; from "Avadim ha-yinu" until "lechapeyr al kol avonoteinu", and prepare ourselves consciously for our upcoming liberation celebration. It is also customary and very important to further study and review the laws of Pessach.

Another very interesting explanation of Shabbat Hagadol is offered by the Piasetzner Rebbe, the Rebbe of the Warsaw ghetto, may his memory be a blessing for us all. In a teaching found in his sefer, Eish Kodesh -- Holy Fire, (p.88) which was written in the Warsaw ghetto, the Rebbe explains that when a Jew accepts upon himself the yoke of Hashem's kingdom, no matter how difficult a situation he may find himself in, then he is making Hashem's name great! On this holy Shabbos, by proclaiming our faith in Hashem and His ultimate redemption and the coming of Mashiach, even today...despite everything we have lived through and are living through presently.... we are making Hashem's name great.

To do this requires 'holy chutzpah'. We need holy chutzpah to say, Hashem we really believe in You, we really believe that Mashiach will come.... we really believe in a better tomorrow... when the lamb and the lion will dwell in peace....we really want to be close to each other.... we really want to be close to Hashem....we really still believe in love..... we really still want to be in love with each other and with Hashem...."holy chutzpah" !

To Be Free

Alter Rebbe

The night of the 14th of Nissan is a great night. Reb Shlomo zt"l taught that on this night Hashem is shining a great light upon us, a light to enlighten our eyes to find our leaven and to rid ourselves of our chameytz.

In a Shabbos Hagadol drasha, Rav Adin Steinsaltz n"y, the Rav of the Tzemach Tzeddek shul in the Old City spoke about freedom. The essence of the Pessach Holiday is freedom – to be free of our personal leaven in all its manifestations. To be truly free is to truly want the ultimate redemption now! And as for those who are not yet on the level of truly desiring this, wanting to desire it, is also a level of liberation. And even wanting to want to want real freedom and the ultimate redemption, is also considered to be real participation in bringing about our true freedom and the great redemption.

Bedikkat Chameytz, searching for the leaven, is to search for all those things, those 'light blockers', subtle and not so subtle, and to rid ourselves of them. The Frierdoger Lubavitcher Rebbe, Reb Yosef Yitzchok zt"l related that when the Alter Rebbe came home from his first visit to the Maggid of Mezrich zy"a, it was on the 13th of Nissan in the year 5524 [240 years ago]. He unrelentingly concentrated on all the 'kavanot' intentions of 'bedikkat chameytz' that he had received in Mezrich, all day long. All day long he was preoccupied with meditating on actualizing each of these kavanot in his search for leaven, so much so that he did not eat all day long [ he did not 'fast' – for it is forbidden to fast during the month of Nissan – he just did not eat]. It took the Alter Rebbe the entire night to complete his search for leaven! At that time the Alter Rebbe had only one room!

וְהוֹצֵאתִי וְהִצַּלְתִּי וְגָאַלְתִּי וְלָקַחְתִּי: The Four Stages of Redemption

Copy of Exodus Book by R Brodt

Click this picture to order R Sholom Brodt's book on Amazon.com

The Four Words [And Stages] Of Redemption:

Hashem (literally 'the Name', which is the traditional way of referring to G-d), tells Moshe Rabbeinu to go to Mitzrayim to tell the children of Israel:

"Therefore say to the children of Israel, I Am Hashem,

"v'hotzayti" and I will take you out from the sufferings of Mitzrayim,

"v'hitzalti" and I will save you from their work,

"v'ga-alti" and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments,

"v'’lokachti" and I will take you unto Me to [be my] nation, and I will be unto you G-d, and you will know that it is I Hashem your G-d who is taking you out from under the sufferings of Mitzrayim.

"v'hayvayti" I will bring you to the land, concerning [which] I raised my hand, to give her to Avraham, to Yitzhak and to Yaakov, I will give her unto you as an inheritance, I Am Hashem (Sh'mot 6: 6-8).

The four words; "v'hotzayti", "v'hitzalti", "v'ga-alti", and "v'lokachti" are the famous 'arba leshonot ge'ulah'... the four words/terms of redemption. Corresponding to these four words/stages of redemption we drink the four cups of wine at the Pessach 'seder' as we celebrate our redemption. We need to understand why Hashem told Moshe to speak to B'nai Yisrael about their redemption in this particular manner. Would it not have been enough to simply send a message of redemption from slavery?

Every word of Torah is so precious; Hashem wants us to know every detail. By carefully studying and understanding these words, we will learn the processes of redemption, how we can be actively involved in our personal redemption and how we can help to redeemed others from their MiTZRa-yIM, from their "MeiTZaRIM" (narrows).

Allow me to present a parable to accompany the interpretation of the text. A person comes to the doctor with a very infected and swollen thumb. He is in excruciating and unbearable pain, so much so that he cannot function.

The first thing that the healer must do is to alleviate and eliminate the pain. Hence, "v'hotzayti" - I will take you out from the 'sufferings' of Mitzrayim. However this is just the beginning of the healing, for only the symptoms have been taken care of thus far.

The second thing that the doctor must do is to determine the cause of the pain, and treat it appropriately. He must clean up and get rid of the infection. Hence, "v'hitzalti" - I will save you from their work and enslavement. Not only will you no longer suffer from unbearably hard labor, you will also be saved from having to do anymore work for the slave masters. The ones who caused your suffering will no longer be able to force work upon you.

The third thing that the healer must do is to discover why the patient got ill in the first place, what made him susceptible, why was he not able to resist the illness? How must this person be strengthened? What decisions must be made, what are the changes that must be implemented so that there should not be a reoccurrence of the problem? Hence, "v'ga-alti" - I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. This stage requires a lot of strength! Making great life changes, getting out of old patterns requires a lot of strength!

At this stage, we actually left MiTZRa-yIM / MeiTZaRIM (narrows). At this point the patient is no longer in the environment in which he became ill. However there is still the danger that the patient may return to his old ways. We can now say that this person is no longer sick, but we cannot yet say that he is healthy.

Being healthy is more than just not being sick. Just like living in peace is more than just not being at war. And so, the fourth level "v'lokachti" - and I will take you unto Me to [be My] nation, and I will be unto you G-d, and you will know that it is I Hashem your G-d who is taking you out from under the sufferings of Mitzrayim.

At this stage, we enter into a new and eternal relationship with Hashem Yisborach. Our old lifestyle, from which our enslavement came about, is replaced in a significant way. We are no longer the slaves of Pharaoh; we are now the free and willing servants of G-d. Hashem gives us His living Torah, and through our learning and practice of the mitzvot, life is meaningful and we can live it fully. We are no longer enslaved to our Pharaohs who attempt to kill us as we are being born, who block us in the narrows. We are free to live a healthy life, healthy in body and soul. Evil can be overcome. Evil, no longer has the power to hold us back from living life with Hashem, with each other, with ourselves, with love, with meaning and with joy. The narrows between mind and heart are open; mind and heart work together and we are fully present in all we do and believe.

And You Will Know That It Is I Hashem Your G-D

har sinai