Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Easiest Time to Come Close to Hashem

The Magid of Meziritch (Avodas Yisroel, Masei, Avos Chapter 2 &4) says that the period of "Bein Hamitzarim", or the 3 weeks, is one of the most opportune times to get close to Hashem. This is alluded to in a seemingly negative posuk right at the beginning of Eicha (1, 3):כָּל רֹדְפֶיהָ הִשִּׂיגוּהָ בֵּין הַמְּצָרִים – "all her pursuers overtook her within the straits". This can also teach the following: כָּל רדֶפ י ־ ה, "whoever chases after "Yud Kei" – Hashem", הִשִּׂיגוּהָ, "reaches Him", in the period of בֵּין הַמְּצָרִים.

his is analogous to a king, who it is hard to come close while he is in his palace. However, when the king goes out of the palace, everyone comes to see him. All the people call out to him and he hears everyone. Lehavdil, when the Divine Presence is in exile, so to speak, during the 3 weeks of mourning for the Beis Hamikdash, everyone has the ability to come close and call out to the King of the world. Then when it comes to the days of Elul and Tishrei, and the King is back in the palace, one already has a relationship with Him. This is the unbelievable positive lesson learnt out from the very beginning of Megilas Eicha.

Many think of this time period as just restrictions on music and other activities, but the Magid of Mezeritch is teaching us that it is so much more than that. It is such a special time to come closer to Hashem. One way would be to say Tikun Chatzos at least once in a while to show we are at least a little concerned about the loss of the King. Why wait till Elul or Aseres Yemei Teshuva to do tershuva, when we have an opportunity right now to get a head start on things in a time when we can get closer to Hashem then later on. Whether it's learning more Torah, improving davening, doing more chesed or any other Avodas Hashem, this is a special opportunity that should be taken advantage of by all. May we merit truly coming close to the King of kings and seeing the rebuilding of His palace speedily in our days.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Making Yiddishkeit Exciting & The Road to Uman

A Simple Jew: The Road to Uman (This is a little older, but hadn't had a chance to link. This topic is mentioned in the first link.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tikun Chatzos

The Shulchan Aruch in the beginning of Orach Chaim (1, 3) says that one should mourn over the "Churban", the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. The Mishna Berura says in the name of the mekubalim that this is referring to rising at "Chatzos", midnight, to recite Tikun Chatzos. Yesod Veshoresh Ha'Avodah (2:5-6) among others speaks at length about the importance of reciting Tikun Chatzos. Reb Nachman of Breslov says that the main devotion of a Jew is to get up at Chatzos (Sichos Haran 301) and that this "sweetens" harsh judgments (Likutei Mohoran 149). 


Tikun Rachel and Tikun Leah

Tikun Chatzos consists of two parts; Tikun Rachel and Tikun Leah. Tikun Rachel's main theme is mourning over the Churban. It consists of Viduy, Tehilim 137 and 79, the last chapter of Eicha, select verses from Nach and 5 Kinos (the Sephardi Siddurim do not have the Kinnos). Tikun Leah consists mainly of chapters of Tehilim praising and yearning for Hashem. The chapters of Tehilim are 24, 42, 43, 20, 67, 111, 51, 126. There are also a few additional verses and a short prayer to return the Beis Hamikdash (as said in Yom Tov Mussaf). Some siddurim include a Kinah from Rav Chaim HaKohen of Aram Soba. After, the custom is to learn the first chapter of Mishnayos Tamid, which is printed at the end of Tikun Chatzos.


There are various customs pertaining to when the different parts are said. (I will list the way I am familiar with.) On days when "Tachnun" is not recited,   Tikun Rachel and Tehilim 20 and 51 from Tikun Leah aren't said. Other times both are recited. On Tish B'Av night, only Tikun Rachel is said.


There are many customs associated with Tikun Chatzos, such sitting on the floor in the doorway, taking off the shoes and putting ashes on the head, in the place of the Tefilin. Although these are hallowed customs done as signs of mourning, they are not actual requirements. The most important part is the recital.  



Some say the time of chatzos at night is 12 hours after the chatzos of day. Rav Nachman (and the Magen Avrohom based on Zohar) insists that it is always 6 hours after nightfall and lasts for 2 hours or until daybreak, if that comes first. (Regular hours not adjusted hours. If night fall is 6:00PM, chatzos is 12:00AM; If nightfall is 9:00PM, chatzos is 3:00AM.) If necessary, it may be recited anytime up till daybreak.


If one woke up to say Tikun Chatzos he needs to recite many of the morning blessings. There are different customs and may depend on whether or not one will go back to sleep. Speak to a qualified Rabbi who will advise you in this matter.


Bein Hamitzarim – "The Three Weeks"

The Arizal says that after midday during "three weeks" one should mourn over the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash. (Baer Hetiv 551:40; Mishna Berura 551:103; Kaf Hachaim 551:121; Yesod Veshoresh Ha'Avodah 9:11) The Kaf Hachaim says this is accomplished by saying the Tikun Rachel section of Tikun Chatzos, which is the general custom. This custom of reciting Tikun Chatzos by day during "the three weeks" is kept by many communities. In the Yeshiva of the Chasam Sofer they would say it together "bitzibur". There are places in Eretz Yisroel and the Diaspora where this is done today. Many who do not recite it the rest of the year do so during the three weeks.


Tikun Chatzos for All

The Noda BeYehuda, in his days, lamented the fact that Tikun Chatzos had fallen out of favor in his times. He said that first thing for scholars and average people to do is to shed tears over the Churban. He says that reciting Tikun Chatzos destroys the klipos of the wicked people that cause the lengthening of the golus. People think that this is only for the tzadikim and mekubalim, but it is incumbent on all of Klal Yisroel to mourn over the churban, each on their own level. As Reb Nachman says, "the main devotion of a Jew is Tikun Chatzos." (Sichos Haran 301). The Shelah Hakodosh says that "one who regularly gets up for Tikun Chatzos is a Tzadik".


Tikun Chatzos used to be found at the beginning of almost every siddur; that was how a Jew started his day. Although you won't find it in the typical "Nusach Sfard" siddur of today, it can be found in most "Chassidishe siddurim". It is also in the "Rav Yaakov Emden" siddur, the Siddur HaGra (there are many versions; the ones I've seen have it.) and the Sephardi siddurim (albeit without the kinos, as per their custom). There is a great version available with full Hebrew text, English translation and several fascinating chapters discussing Tikun Chatzos, titled The Sweetest Hour. (I highly recommend this. I often use this.)


Some say that women do not recite Tikun Chatzos, but others say that a G-d fearing woman may do so.


If one is not accustomed to saying Tikun Chatzos, it may seem like a big undertaking. Many great Rabbonim have suggested that one who can't recite it all, should take one or two chapters of Tehilim from each part and say it. If you're up to it, you can recite another chapter or kinah. The main thing is to think about the destruction of the Beis Hamikdash and how it's been so many years that Hashem does not have His House, so to speak.  If one can't do it every night then it can be done whenever one is able to. Better a little than nothing. But how can we go without increasing, at least slightly, our mourning and yearning for the Beis Hamikdash.


I know many, including myself, can't really feel the loss of the Beis Hamikdash. The solution is to ask Hashem to help us feel the loss and the desire for the rebuilding of the Beis Hamikdash. Surely, that is a prayer that will find favor in the Eyes of Hashem. Remember, by saying Tikun Chatzos we are mourning over the Churban, and the Gemara (Taanis 30b) says: כל המתאבל על ירושלים זוכה ורואה בשמחתה "Whoever mourns for Yerushalaim, will merit and see it (rebuilt) in its happiness". May we see it happen speedily in our days. Amen!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Klausenberger Rebbe

The Klausenberger Rebbe's Visits to Kivrei Tzadikim

Segula to Battle Hirhurim

To prevent illicit thoughts of promiscuity, one should say the first verse of "Shema Yisroel" and "Baruch Shem Kavod Malchuso Le'olam Vaed". If one constantly has these forbidden thoughts and can't seem to get them off his mind then while reciting the above verses he needs to shed tears. Reb Nachman says that this is what was done when the Jewish people were being enticed to have forbidden relation with the Midianite women. It says that they were "crying at the opening of the Tent of Meeting". Targum Yonasan explains that they were reading the Shema at this time. (See Likutei Mohoran 36 for more.)

Lessons of Hisbodedus from Balak

(Hisbodedus in Uman Erev Rosh Hashona)

There is something to learn out of every word of Torah, even if there is no mention of a specific mitzvah. This can be seen in Parshas Balak, as Rabbi Nasan Maimon teaches, quoting Sefer Oneg Shabbos from Reb Ephraim'l Krakofsky of Pshadvorz, which contains teachings based on Reb Nachman of Breslov. The entire shiur, which also contains teaching from Likutei Mohoran on Balak, can be listened or downloaded here.

From Parshas Bo and on, almost every parsha contains mitzvos. One of the few that don't contain any mitzvos is Parshas Balak. Even though there are no formal mitzvos, there is still much to learn out from it. The parsha gives allusions to "hisbodedus" (personal informal prayer to Hashem), which is supposed to be done ב׳ינו ל׳בין ק׳ונו. The first letters of these words spell בלק. In the parsha it says הֶן עָם לְבָדָד יִשְׁכֹּן (it is a people that dwell alone) (23, 9). The word לְבָדָד alludes to hisbodedus, being alone praying to Hashem. The word בדד also contains the first letters of בכל דרכיך דעהו "in all your ways, know Him" (Mishlei 3, 6). The word יִשְׁכֹּן has the numerical value of השעה, "the hour", which is the amount of time Reb Nachman says one should dedicate to hisbodedus.

When Bilam went to try to curse the Jewish people it says וַיֵּלֶךְ שֶׁפִי - "he went alone" (23, 3). This means that he tried to use this special connection of hisbodedus to connect to Hashem to accomplish what he wanted. He reasoned that man has free choice to do good or evil and therefore this would work for him to do evil. However, this was not the case, since his desire was to destroy the entire Jewish nation.

What we can see from this small piece is that there are lessons to be learnt out of every part of the Torah that teach us how to serve Hashem better.

Rabbi Sears on Breslov Chassidus

See these guest postings from Rabbi Dovid Sears at A Simple Jew:

Monday, July 7, 2008

The Master of Prayer

See Rav Shalom Arush's three part series on "The Master of Prayer". Part1   Part2   Part3 

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chukas Links

Reb Nachman Horedenker's yartzeit is this Shabbos. Here is a post about him from last year, Longing For Eretz Yisroel.

4 Tammuz will be the yartzeit of the Baal Haflah. Here is a Dvar Torah from him on Parshas Chukas, Don't Arouse the Midas HaDin.