Inspiration

Mud and Potatoes

Today's podcast is not only enjoyable and inspiring, but it gets quite a bit done in 6 minutes, as follows:

1. Takes the confusion out of our task in Elul;

2. Provides simple but effective preparation for Rosh Hashanah;

3. Guarantees good health and adequate income.

Who can refuse such a deal? Not only does it not cost you a cent, but you may download this mp3 and share it with as many people as you like, courtesy of Emuna Beams and our wonderful supporters who, with Hashem's loving help, make this happen.


Hashem Says, "I'll Be There"

Time for a smile:

Upset about lockdown, Coronavirus and everything you have to do until Pesach? You don't know where the money or strength to cope with this will come from? Hashem has a message from Motown, by way of lead singer Levi Stubbs and the Four Tops - here it is:

Lyrics by Dozier Lamont Herbert, Holland Brian, emuna adaptation by Rabbi Lazer Brody

Performance, The Four Tops, 1966 (see below, it's a classic)

Now if you feel that you can't go on (can't go on)
Because all of your hope is gone (all your hope is gone)
And your life is filled with much confusion (much confusion)
Until happiness is just an illusion (happiness is just an illusion)
And your world around is crumbling down, beloved child

(Reach out) Come on child reach on out for Me
(Reach out) Reach out for Me
Hah, I'll be there with a love that will shelter you
I'll be there with a love that will see you through

When you feel lost and about to give up (to give up)
'Cause your best just ain't good enough (just ain't good enough)
And your feel the world has grown cold (has grown cold)
And your drifting out all on your own (drifting out on your own)
And you need a hand to hold, child

(Reach out) Come on child, reach out for Me
(Reach out) Reach out for Me
Hah, I'll be there to love and comfort you
And I'll be there to cherish and care for you

(I'll be there to always see you through)
(I'll be there to love and comfort you)

I can tell the way you hang your head (hang your head)
You're not happy now, now you're afraid (you're afraid)
And through your tears you look around (look around)
But there's no peace of mind to be found (no peace of mind to be found)
I know what your thinking
You're a loner, alone and on your own, but child

(Reach out) Come on child reach out for Me
Reach out, just look over your shoulder
I'll be there to give you all the love you need
And I'll be there you can always depend on Me
I'll be there


3 Simple Steps to Success

For many of us, our goals seem like dreams that are impossible to reach. We want them to materialize, but we think they never will. If you think you can't, today you'll learn 3 time-tested tips of how you can and will succeed in whatever you want to accomplish - spiritual, material or both. Listen to this:

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."


Hashem Loves You

Did you ever stop and ponder Hashem's magnificent creation of Planet Earth, with all its wonders like the Northern Lights, the Grand Canyon, Niagara Falls and much more? That vast Planet Earth of ours is only a miniscule part of the solar system, and only one-millionth the size of the sun. Yet, our entire solar system is like a grain of sand within the Milky Way Galaxy, which in turn is like a fleck of dust within the vast super-galaxies that extend beyond our imagination. Now stop and think: Hashem momentarily turns aside from His entire vast universe to create a rain drop, make a flower blossom and help a newborn chick hatch out of the egg. Imagine what He does to perfectly direct every tiny facet of our lives in mind-boggling Divine Providence. Why? Because He loves you so very much, more than you can ever imagine. See this:

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."


Willow in the Wind

Bugg Willow
Above image: willow tree by the Bugg River in central Ukraine

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!


The Precious Minute

Precious Time 31.8.19
Lives have changed in split seconds. Hundredths of seconds have separated between gold medalists and those who finished 4th and didn't even win a bronze. One heartbeat separates between life and death...

If seconds are so vital, then what can we say about the priceless irreplaceable commodity known as a minute? What's the value of a moment in life, or a life itself? Too many people take their own lives for granted...

Do you think crossing the street or arriving safely at your destination is a foregone conclusion? Not at all. In the USA during the year of 2017, 6,000 pedestrians and over 40,000 motorists and automobile passengers lost their lives in accidents.

In Israel during the same year, 84 pedestrians were killed crossing Israel's streets and another 362 travelers were killed on Israel's roads. To put these figures into proper perspective, we must first remember that each is a sacred, irreplaceable soul. Second, we must realize that these 446 fatalities were over twenty times greater than the number of fatalities that resulted from terrorist attacks against Israelis during the same year of 2017.

One minute – or even less – can save your life. Anyone who has ever been involved in a traffic accident (or in a war) knows that I'm far from exaggerating. Here's how:

Before you cross the street, even if you're at a crosswalk with a green light and you have every right of way, say a short prayer that won't take more than a few seconds: "Father in Heaven, help me get safely to the other side of the street." As we saw in the above-cited statistics, no one can take safely crossing the street for granted.

Before you put your keys in the ignition, take advantage of one precious minute that could save your life. In your own words say, "Beloved Father in Heaven, help me arrive safely at my destination. Guard me from all peril on the roads and guard my vehicle from any damage." You can't imagine how effective, time and money saving such a brief prayer can be.

Whatever you do in life, remember the power of a few moments of prayer.

If you're an athlete, before you go out on the playing field or the competition arena, ask the Creator to help you perform at your very best. You've been training so hard, for weeks and months; that one minute of personal prayer could make the difference between victory and defeat.

Business people know that clinching deals often defies logic. When you expected to make money, you lost money, and vice versa. Before you enter a negotiation, begin a transaction or start a new day of work, ask the Creator to grant you success.

If you're a teacher, ask the Almighty to put the right words in your mouth so that you'll be able to give over the subject matter to your students in the most engaging, clear and comprehensible manner. Pray for your students' success as well and wait and see how you soon become teacher of the year…

If you're a homemaker or a husband who helps with the cooking, ask the Almighty to help the food, cake, challah or whatever you're cooking or baking to come out successfully.

At this point, many people ask, "Do these mini-prayers really help?"

They sure do. We don't come uninvited to other people's homes. By the same token, the Creator doesn't come uninvited into our lives. If we think we're capable of doing anything on our own, He lets us. Then, the results aren't always favorable. On the other hand, when we seek His assistance, He smiles down and says, "Beloved son or daughter, since you are seeking My help, I'm right here with you." This is a signed check from King David, who said, "Hashem is close to all who call Him – to all who call Him in sincerity" (Psalm 145:18).

With the Almighty close to you, you'll not only cross the street safely but you'll enjoy every other blessing in life, all for the tiny price of the precious moment of personal prayer.

May you enjoy an abundance of Divine blessings for everything good always!

With deepest friendship, Lazer Brody