Jewish Thought

Curing the Age-Old Plague

At this time of the year during the Counting of the Omer, Rebbe Akiva's 24,000 students died because they didn't properly respect one another. We still mourn them, almost 2,000 later, because we haven't yet corrected their sin. We're all still guilty of intramural hate. Do you know why? We haven't yet learned the lesson of the Four Sons on Seder night. Let me explain, with an amazing story from fifty years ago, about my father, of blessed memory...

Fruit of the Soul

In this special lesson for the month of Shvat, we learn about the four types of fruit that our sages speak about. They are:

1) Fruit of the field and tree - vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds

2) Fruit of the womb - our children

3) Fruit of our labors - the result of our career, trade, professional and job efforts

4) Fruit of the soul - one's emuna, prayer and Torah.

All the above four types have one very significant common denominator...

The Self-Healing Prayer

I was lecturing at an IAF base, and my host - the assistant base commander - showed me where the bathroom was. When I came out, I washed my hands three times consecutively with a cup and said slowly and with intent the Asher Yatzar blessing that one says after visiting the toilet. My host looked at me wide-eyed, as if I'd suddenly sprouted peacock feathers. "Rabbi," he gasped, "you guys even make a blessing after relieving yourselves?"

We sure do! It's the best and cheapest health insurance policy anywhere. Hear this:

Asher Yatzar

Blessed are You, HaShem, Our God, King of the universe, Who created the human with wisdom and created within him many openings and many cavities, exposed and known before Your Throne of Glory, that if one of them were to be ruptured or one one of them were to be blocked it would be impossible to survive and to stand before You for even one hour. Blessed are You, HaShem, The physician of all flesh who acts wondrously.

Baruch atah Adonoi, Elohainu, melech ha'olam, Asher yatzar et ha'adam b'chochmah, u'vara vo n'kavim n'kavim, chalulim chalulim, galui v'yadua lifnai chisei chvodecha, she'im yipatei'ach echad maihem o yisataim echad maihem, ee efshar l'hitkayeim v'la'amod l'fanecha afilu sha'ah achat. Baruch atah Adonoi, rofeh chol basar u'mafli la'asot.

The Practical Halachas of Visiting the Toilet

No, this is not a joke. Proper deportment in the bathroom is an integral part of holiness. Besides, Jewish Law covers every single aspect of daily life.

As a service to our readers, here are the laws concerning visiting the toilet in a nutshell, based on Chapter Four of The Abridged Code of Jewish Law (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch):

  1. One must relieve oneself as soon as one feels the need, without delay.
  2. One must be modest in the toilet, and not relieve oneself in front of other people unless there is a partition.
  3. One must be careful not to overly strain, for it could create problems in the colon.
  4. One must not think about Torah or Torah-related subjects in the toilet; instead, think about mundane matters such as business or commerce.
  5. One must cleanse oneself thoroughly after visiting the toilet, for it is forbidden to pray if one’s body isn’t completely clean of excrement traces.
  6. Every time after visiting the toilet, even after urinating one drop, one must wash one’s hands thoroughly and then say the “Asher Yatzar” blessing.

May Hashem grant you and yours wonderful health always, amen.

Higher than Angels

Some people look at themselves in a negative light and think that they're unworthy of serving the Almighty, maybe because they've been in such low places and done such kinky things that they think Hashem doesn't want anything to do with them at all. Or, maybe they were born into an observant family and at some point fell off the path, and they think that the Almighty is angry at them; they fear that their Father in Heaven will reject them. Both groups are utterly wrong, as Rabbi Lazer explains in today's podcast with one of his original parables. You'll love 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."

The Right Way to Pray

Despite all the righteous men in our history, we learn the proper and best way to pray from Hannah, the mother of the Prophet Samuel. Hannah's type of prayer overrides nature - that's how powerful it is. We all can tap into the same source of abundance. 

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."

Chanukah Message from the Melitzer Rebbe shlit'a

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."

Deep Roots

Shavua Tov! Today's Emuna Beam comes from the ancient Sycamore grove in the dunes of the northern Negev Desert south of Ashdod. What's the secret of these trees and their ability to thrive in such an arid climate with winds and shifting sands? These trees are an amazing living parable about the Jewish People, as we see here:

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."

The Sweetest Fruit

King Solomon talks about what's sweet in two different places, but he seems to contradict himself. In Proverbs 9:17, he says that stolen waters are sweet.

Yet, he turns around in Ecclesiastes 5:11, and says that the sleep of an honest laborer is sweet.

So if you want to taste sweetness in your life, what do you do? Do you steal or do you perform honest labor?

First of all, let me assure you that King Solomon, the wisest of all men who ever walked the earth, didn't at all contradict himself. We simply must take a closer look at each of his sayings to see that they complement one another rather than contradicting each other. How?

The Gemara in Bava Kama 119a tells us that stealing a mere penny from someone is tantamount to murder. Therefore, the sweetness of stolen goods that King Solomon was talking about is really chocolate-covered poison, because anyone who steals is going to get the book thrown at him, not only in the next world but eventually in this world too.

Guess what else our sages categorize as stealing: they say that partaking of anything in this world without making a blessing is just like stealing from the Almighty. Many people don't like hearing this – they protest and say, "Hey what are you talking about? I didn't steal that food – I paid for it at the supermarket." OK, maybe you're not stealing from the supermarket, but it's still stealing from the Almighty. The supermarket didn't send the rain clouds that watered the wheat field that enabled the wheat to grow that eventually became the flour or the loaf of bread that you bought at the supermarket. Maybe you paid the bakery but you didn't pay the Almighty.

The same goes for medicine and medical care. Sure, you paid the doctor, the pharmacist or the medical insurance, but they don't make your heart, lungs and eyes function properly – the Almighty does that and He deserves our thanks.

With this in mind, we can understand what King Solomon said in Ecclesiastes, that the sleep of an honest laborer is sweet.

You see, the blessings we make come under the category of prayer. Our sages say that prayer is "labor of the heart." So, when you pray for whatever you receive in life, the object of your prayer is the sweetest thing on earth. We therefore arrive at an amazing conclusion which should be an absolute obligation in our daily lives: whatever we pray for becomes the sweetest fruit on earth, yet if we receive something we didn't pray for, it simply won't have a blessing and its apparent sweetness will soon turn bitter. Take for example the guy that wins the Irish lottery: before he had the $20 million, he had a good night's sleep. But once he won the lottery, his doorbell doesn't stop ringing with long lost relatives and friends – our lottery winner has no more peace and quiet. Why? He didn't pray for what he got.

Don't take anything in life for granted. Pray for all your needs and in the meanwhile, thank Hashem for everything you have.

Before anything you do, pray. Say a short prayer before you get in the car so that you'll arrive safely at your destination. Pray for a minute or two before you make your sales pitch to the prospective buyer. Pray when you put the Shabbat dinner in the oven, that it should come out tasting wonderful. When it does, and when you make that fat commission, you'll know that it was Hashem helping you – that is ever so sweet, like a ripe watermelon on a hot August day.

The wonderful thing about the sweetness of prayer is that it neither spikes your blood sugar nor is it fattening. Prayer is the sweetest fruit on earth. You know why? When you pray for something, you won't become smug or arrogant when you get it. Oftentimes, if Hashem knows that we'll become arrogant if He gives us what we want, He simply won't give it. But, the more you pray and the more you depend on God for what you need, the more readily you'll see your prayers answered, and that is ever so sweet. Try, cherished brothers and sisters, you'll love it. G-d bless always!

If you prefer listening to reading, hear the broadcast of "The Sweetest Fruit":