It's no coincidence that the Coronavirus and its restrictions hit us at the exact time when we're supposed to be preparing full-speed for Passover. What's the message that Hashem is conveying to us and what does one have to do with the other? Enjoy today's podcast - blessings for your good health and a lovely Shabbat:
King Solomon, the wisest of all men that ever walked the face of the earth, said in the first chapter of Ecclesiastes that there's nothing new under the sun. We see this with our own eyes how the battle between the liberal Jewish establishment's political correctness and the seemingly antiquated Torah sages that took place in Mordechai's time back in ancient Persia is still taking place right now in the USA and in Israel.
Today's podcast combines emuna news with our annual Purim lesson. Feel free to the say this over at your Purim table. Happy Purim!
Emuna Beams is privileged to host the Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a, one of the Jewish world's most highly regarded scholars and the epitome of upright character and holiness, a great grandson of the Baal Shem Tov and son-after-son of the holy and legendary Rebbe Michel'e of Zlatchov. The Melitzer offers some encouraging thoughts for spiritual strengthening, especially during Chanukah. Enjoy, and have a lovely Shabbat Chanukah and Rosh Chodesh!
Click here for your free mp4 download of this podcast; you are entitled to listen to it on your own device and to pass it on to others as well, courtesy of "Emuna Beams."
Today's podcast has a double message, one for parents and one for children, including young adults and married children. Love is not about things, but about togetherness. In parenting, there is never enough love. A child doesn't become spoiled from an excess of love, but from a sense of entitlement, when he or she thinks that they are entitled to whatever they want. We learn what good parenting really is from our Father in Heaven...
Click here for your free mp3 download of this podcast; you are entitled to listen to it on your own device and to pass it on to others as well, courtesy of "Emuna Beams."
True, olive oil and cheese are traditional foods on Chanukah. Somehow, that filtered down to become a nightmarish unhealthy mixture of cheap oil, white flour and white sugar, filled with hauntingly high-sugar content jelly to make a fried donut that in Israel is called a sufganiya, literally, a "soaked ball of dough", appropriately called so because it's soaked with oil, sugar and empty carbs. Add to the fact that at many Chanukah celebrations, these donuts get washed down with banana liqueur. What a formula for high blood pressure, indigestion and weight gain! For sure, the Maccabees didn't touch these health hazards.
True, we eat cheese and olive oil on Chanukah in remembrance of the salty cheese that the brave sister of Yehuda Maccabee, Yehudit, fed the Greek King before she beheaded him. We eat foods with olive oil to commemorate the miracle of the tiny pure vial of oil burning for eight days when it only sufficed for one. But, there are many healthier ways to enjoy cheese and olive oil. Start with a Mediterranean Salad (photo, above), super healthy, easily digestible and very appropriate for Chanukah. Mix fresh veggies with olives, salt and pepper, olive oil and cubes of your favorite cheese. Add the herbs of your choice for extra taste. You'll have a healthy and enjoyable Chanukah meal, where you won't gain an ounce the whole eight days of this lovely holiday. We want your Chanukah to be just as healthy as it is happy.
Happy Chanukah! Today's Emuna Beam comes from the tranquil winter-evening shore of the Mediterranean in the south of Israel.
There are two ways to wake a slumbering person: either you make a loud noise or you turn on bright lights. On Rosh Hashanah, Hashem awakens his spiritually-sleeping children with a blast of the Shofar, but on Chanukah, He turns on the brightest of lights. You'll learn today how your home can have the holiness of the Holy Temple. Enjoy:
Click here for your free mp4 download of this podcast; you are entitled to listen to it on your own device and to pass it on to others as well, courtesy of "Emuna Beams."
If the Baal Shem Tov osb"m were with us, he'd get them to speak to each other. He worked so hard for Jewish unity, so that every Jew should love every other Jew. What's more, with Simchat Torah coming up, when we all rejoice in our spiritual heritage that we all have a part of, it's easy to create unity, especially when we dance together.
Lack of Jewish unity is dangerous, to say the least. It breaks my heart when people fail to get along with one another.
The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a told me the following beautiful story, passed down from father to son from his great great grandfather Rebbe Meir'l of Promiszlan; Keep it in mind before allowing yourself the "luxury" of feuding with a fellow Jew:
Rebbe Meir'l of Promiszlan and Rebbe Yitzchok of Strettin were engaged in a long, drawn-out feud. Knowing that dissension serves no purpose, Rebbe Meir'l approached Rebbe Yitzchok and attempted to make peace. The latter only turned his face to the wall. "Please, Strettinner Rebbe, allow me to tell you a tale," said Rebbe Meir'l, and told him the following story:
During the time of the Spanish Inquisition, a Marrano* suspected of secretly being Jewish became deathly ill. The Inquisitors called the local priest, and told him to go see if the dying man would make last confession, proving that he's a Catholic, or else otherwise be burned at the stake as a Jew. The Priest and the Henchman entered the sick man's room, and the sick man turned his face to the wall, refusing to reject his true faith in Hashem during his last minutes on earth.
The Inquisitors said, "Ahah, he's a secret Jew!" The priest said no, he's embarrassed to confess in front of others. Everyone must leave the room!
Only the dying man and the Priest remained in the room. The priest, a Marranno himself, whispered in the man's ear, "You can say Shma Yisrael now, and express your belief in Hashem before you die. You no longer need to turn your back on me, because we both serve the same G-d." With his dying breath, the Marrano utterred, "Hear O Israel, the Lord our G-d, the Lord is one!"
"So you see, Strettinner Rebbe," said Rebbe Meir'l, "You no longer have to turn your back on me, because we serve the same G-d!" The feud ended on the spot.
Will someone please tell Bibi and Gantz that we all serve the same G-d? Blessings for a lovely Shabbat, Hoshanna Raba and Simchat Torah, LB
*Marranos - the Spanish Jews who posed as Catholics on the outside, and secretly continued to practice their Judaism behind closed doors
Here's a Chassidic story for your Succoth table all about personal courage and humility, which teaches us never to sell anyone short...
The marauding Cossacks were on a rampage. The pogroms of 1768 decimated Ukrainian Jewry. Some cities lost half their Jewish population; otheres, like Uman, were totally wiped out.
If you're traveling north from Breslev to Berditchev, you'll hit the Kalinovka crossroads. Take a left there and travel westward for another ten kilometers and you'll hit the town of Yanov. This is the shtetyl where my father's family comes from.
Many Jewish folk tales stem from the shtetlach, the Jewish hamlets of Eastern Europe. Some are true, some are exaggerated and some are the figments of imaginative minds, but all have a deep Torah-and-folk flavor and they usually carry poignant messages. I want to share one such tale that stems from Yanov, which you can share with your family and friends at your Succoth table. Let me tell you about "Kalman Katzav", Kalman the butcher from Yanov.
Most of the boys in Yanov went to cheder – Torah-oriented elementary school - until their Bar Mitzva. Then, they'd either apprentice themselves to a tradesman, go into commerce or get some other type of job. Within a year after their Bar Mitzva, most of them would be married as well. The lucky blessed with sharp minds and wealthy parents would go to study in the yeshivas of Poland, Hungary and Lithuania. Yet, the Ukrainian Jews were known for their simplicity and righteousness. No wonder that the origins of so many tsaddikim, like the Baal Shem Tov, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev and Rebbe Nachman of Breslev are in the Ukraine.
Kalman Katzav became an orphan at a young age. He didn't have the luxury of finishing seven grades of cheder before his Bar Mitzva. After the second grade, he had to go to work. Apprenticed to a butcher, Kalman had to lift chunks of beef carcasses that were bigger than he was. While his body developed into a massive mound of muscle with forearms that looked like sledgehammers, his mind wasn't so fortunate. He knew the aleph-bet, but could barely read anything other than the simplest of words. Yet, he knew his prayers and a few passages of Psalms by heart, and said both daily and with dedication.
Kalman's social skills were further hampered by his speech – he stuttered. He was also deaf in one ear. Mischievous muddy-nosed urchins would often jeer him. They weren't afraid of Kalman's fist of retribution, because he wouldn't lift a finger against any of Hashem's creatures, much less a Jewish lad, no matter how insolent. Thoughtless adults would also vent their frustrations by taking advantage of Kalman, making fun of him too. Kalman never answered nor protested; he'd only smile, sharpen his knife and go back to the piece of meat that was on his butcher block. After Kalman died, one of the tsaddikim said that Kalman's butcher block was the next holiest thing to the altar in the Holy Temple, for the simple butcher always undercharged people to make sure that he wouldn't have a single copper kopeck (penny) that didn't belong to him. As it was, he barely eked out a living.
On late afternoon, a balagoola, a wagon master, came riding into town whipping his two horses and pushing them as fast as he could. Not even stopping on Yanov's main cobblestone street, he yelled, "The Cossacks are coming, the Cossacks are coming!" The town went into a frenzy. Some hid in cellars and some fled to the nearby woods. Kalman was so engrossed in his work that he didn't even here what was going on.
The Cossacks entered town on horseback, their sabers waving in the air and thirsting for Jewish blood. Everything on the main street was shuttered and bolted except for Kalman's butcher shop. Kalman looked up from his butcher block and he saw some menacing Cossacks in the doorway. "Jhid," they sneered in Russian, "the day of your funeral has arrived."
Kalman didn't answer. He grabbed a meat cleaver in his right hand and a bone-splitting ax in his left. Eight Cossacks stormed the shop – no more could fit inside. Kalman subdued six of them before the seventh managed to stab him in the belly. Kalman pulled the saber out of his gut and killed the Cossack with it. Another bunch of Cossacks stormed the butcher shop, trampling the corpses of their comrades. Kalman was losing both his blood and his strength. After he sent ten of the Jew-haters into the special purgatory that's reserved for them, he breathed his last breath and died a heroic martyr's death.
With ten dead and another six badly wounded, the Cossacks licked their wounds, gathered their casualties and left town. For the time being, the Jewish population of Yanov was spared. No one ever again made fun of Kalman Katzav, the holy martyr.
Lucky that the keyboard on my laptop can withstand a few tears, because I can't keep a dry eye when I tell the end of the story.
Tradition says that when one of the hidden tzaddikim eulogized Kalman, who was murdered in the days between Yom Kippur and Succoth, he said: "The Gemara in tractate Menachot tells us that Hashem performs all the mitzvoth. We also know that there is nothing of material content in the Upper Worlds. We must therefore ask, what is Hashem's lulav on Succoth? What are the four species that He takes in hand when the angels sing Hallel? The etrog (citron) is the holy neshama of the Baal Shem Tov; The lulav (palm fronds) is the holy neshama of Rebbe Itzikel Dorovitcher; the hadassim (myrtle) are the holy neshama of Rebbe Nachman of Horodenka; and the aravas (willows) are the holy martyred neshama of Kalman Katzav!"
In case anyone wants to know what Kalman Katzav's holy neshama (soul) is doing bound up with three of the greatest tzaddikim the world ever knew, it's the same as the four species. The etrog, lulav, and triple-leafed myrtle are very expensive. The willows cost virtually nothing and can often be found by a creek or river and gathered for free. Yet, without the willows, a thousand-dollar set of etrog, lulav and hadassim are worthless. Even though the aravas are inexpensive, they too must be strictly in adherence to Halachic requirements. The aravas represent the simple Jew; Kalman Katzav – with his impeccable character, his silent suffering of insults and his courage sanctification of Hashem's Name - made him the finest of the simple Jew. He therefore, according to Ukrainian Jewish folklore, was Hashem's choice for His own four species on Succoth.
Local tradition says that when you walk along the banks of the Bugg River in the Ukraine during Succoth, and you hear the autumn wind blowing through the willows, it sounds like someone is whispering, "Kalman, Kalman"…
Blessings for a continued joyous Succoth holiday and a wonderful New Year!
Holiday to Shabbat to holiday, with heavy meals and tons of snacking on the way. Don't forget that a minute on the lips is a year on the hips, if you're not careful. That's why this post is so vital before the upcoming week of Succoth:
This post, if you follow it, will aid your health and save you from needless holiday weight-gain.
Parenthetically, I don't believe in dieting of any kind - a person who learns how to live and maintain a healthy lifestyle doesn't need to diet...
Most diets are unhealthy fads that lead to short-term, unhealthy weight loss and long-term frustration, metabolic and/or nutritional imbalance, ailments of all kinds and weight gain. The extremes go from Paleo/Primal on one end that tells you to eat all the meat and fat you want but stay away from carbs, to total vegan on the other end that tells you that an egg, sardine or chicken breast will kill. Neither extreme approach is in accordance with Torah and the Rambam's timeless advice on nutrition. But, let's save that discussion for another time. Meanwhile, the best advice is what I call "Ivri", eating just the way our forefathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob did. That means eating foods as close to the way Hashem created them, with no interference from food manufacturers and genetic modifiers. With that said, let's talk about Succoth...
In Judaism, Succoth is the annual "joy harvest", where we gather happiness for an entire year. The problem is that with multiple daily festive meals, visiting friends and relatives in their Succas and partying all week long, most people gather pounds in addition to the joy. And, the excess weight eats away at the joy…
Today's "Strength and Serenity" advice might save you from adding two inches to your waistline this Succot. None of us want to go the route of gaining needless weight, so let's do a little holiday-eve preparation with this food for thought:
The perennial post-holiday problem of many Jewish people is the added calories, pounds, flab, and cholesterol of a week of eating and rejoicing in the Succah. As Brodyhealth.com is committed to the health of body, mind, and soul, we've composed a few guidelines to combat the expanding Succoth waistline.
Beware of empty calories: empty calories come from nutrient-scant foods, especially manufactured products, fast food and junk food. Stick to what I call nutrient-dense foods, where you get the most nutrients from each calorie consumed. Here, the winners are fresh vegetables, fresh foods and naturally dried (not roasted or salted) seeds and nuts. Nutrient-scant foods (cakes, pastries, sweets, soft drinks and liquor) are outright dangerous to the body.
Beware of the cakes: Many people want to make a blessing on the Succa every time they enter it. But, one really shouldn't make a blessing unless he eats something. For that reason, many folks eat cake ("mezonos", at a minimum amount of a little over and ounce) so they can say the "Leshev B'Succa" blessing, the blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 2 ounces of cake 3 times a day, that adds another 840 calories to his daily intake. The Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a says that one should make a "Leshev B'Succa" blessing only when eating a proper meal that includes washing your hands and breaking bread. So, don't eat cake for the purpose of making a blessing to sit in the Succa. If a person eats 3 average-sized portions of cake a day for the 9 (outside of Israel, 8 in Israel) days of the Succoth/Simchat Torah holiday, he'll gain more than two pounds. We suggest eating sliced fresh carrots or sliced green apples instead of the cake.
Beware of the liquor: Many people make a "Lechayim" every time they visit the Succa of a friend and relative. In Israel, quite a few people that barely touch alcoholic beverages all year long keep them on hand to serve guests, and end up toasting glass-per-glass with the guest. A one-ounce shot of vodka or 86-proof Whiskey is 70 calories, while an ounce of a 72-proof liqueur such as Kahlua or Banana Liqueur is a hefty 117 calories. 3 "Lechayims" a day is enough to pick up another half pound during the week of the holiday. Adding that to the cakes (see above), you've already gained 2.5 pounds during Succoth. Putting the weight on is so much easier than taking it off.
Beware of sweet beverages: Succoth is a time when parents allow the Pepsi and the Coke to flow freely all week long. Now hear this - an 8-ounce glass of Coke Classic is a whopping 97 calories, just as caloric as the equivalent amount of beer or of a slice and a half of bread. A person that drinks 6 glasses of cola a day will gain almost a pound on Succoth, plus wreck his/her teeth and gall bladder in the process. We suggest that you reach for the mineral water, sparkling water, or herb tea instead, for they have zero caloric value.
Beware of snacks: People like to munch in the Succa. We all know that you can't eat one Frito or potato chip - therefore, those plastic bags empty fast. One ounce of fritos, potato chips, or our Bamba and Bisli add another 160 calories to your calorie-galore score. If a person drinks two glasses of cola and consumes two ounces of snack foods a day, he'll gain over a pound during Succoth. Again, fresh carrot and cucumber sticks are a virtually non-caloric and healthy replacement for the junky snack foods. And, if you want something sweet, try Madjool dates or dark chocolate that's 85% cocoa or more, but limit yourself to 2 dates or 2 chocolate squares a day.
So, with the cakes, the l'chayims, the cokes and the snacks alone - without the heavy meals that include kugel and fat meats, you've already gained close to 5 pounds. And, if you drink diet beverages and use artificial sweeteners, you might not gain the weight but you'll be likely to suffer from headaches and anxiety.
True, tradition is important; that is, as long as it doesn't ruin your health. At the Brody homestead, whole-grained rice, buckwheat groats and quinoa have replaced fried farfel and oil-dripping kugel. We don't fry, but broil and bake. We eat loads of veggies and fresh fruit, and drink local mineral water. Fish and lean poultry have replaced the lamb and veal, and we eat beef sparingly. Dessert is homemade applesauce, fresh cantaloupe cubes, a square of 85% (minimum) chocolate or an almond-stuffed fresh date. Our bread is home-baked and whole-grain, preferably spelt with minimal or no yeast. We want to control what enters our bodies; the manufacturers care about making money, not about our health. That's why we don't buy their products. Our bodies weren't designed to digest the myriad of chemical additives and preservatives that they force-feed us. By the way, we do male a l'chaim over a glass of a fine Land-of-Israel dry red wine, which is rich in rich in many antioxidants that contribute to cardiovascular health and other perks for the body, including fighting inflammation and blood clotting, as well as reducing the risk of heart disease and cancer.
The Rambam gives an important reminder - don't eat until you're full. The stomach resembles a washing machine - if you overload it, it can't do the laundry. By the same token, an overloaded stomach can't digest, resulting in indigestion, another common Succoth ailment.
A great way to combat the the expanding Succoth waistline is to walk for an hour a day. Better yet, while you're walking, talk to Hashem in personal prayer. That way, your body gets its exercise and your soul gets its nourishment, that is none other than connecting with Hashem. What could be better? BrodyHealth.com wishes you a happy and healthy Succoth with no indigestion and no expanding waistline, amen. If you need further advice, feel free to contact us.