New Parsha Course by Mrs. Shira Smiles

27 10 2009

Parsha for Our Lives 5770

Mrs. Shira Smiles delivers a fascinating weekly shiur on selected topics in the weekly Parsha. Mrs. Smiles begins with a primary sources, usually a (pasuk) verse from the Torah, and delves into its meaning and message through extensive selections from both the Early Commentators of the Middle Ages and the Later Commentators of the Modern Era. Mrs. Smiles adds excerpts from classical works produced by both the Chassidic and Mussar Movements, and ties together all components of the lecture to bring home a new insight into our lives as inspired Torah Jews.

This week’s Parsha, Parshat Lech Lecha is now available. Parshat Lech Lecha: Ultimate Benefit. Mrs. Smiles delves into the deeper understanding of Avraham’s test of Lech Lecha.

NEW CLASS with Rebbetzin Heller: Sefer Yechezkel

25 10 2009

Sefer Yechezkel

Yechezkel the prophet was unique in that he merited exalted visions of Hashem and His Heavenly kingdom, in the distant exile of Babylonia. The inspirational prophesies of Yechezkel carry timeless messages for the Jewish nation in its current state of galut. In the first class in the series, Hashem’s Presence in Exile, Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller introduces the book of Yechezkel, emphasizing Yechezkel’s uniqueness as a navi, prophet, in exile.  The vision that Yechezkel had is a giluy, a revelation, of Hashem’s Presence in Exile.

New Pirkei Avot Course begins this week!

22 10 2009

We are excited to present a NEW course on Pirkei Avot, taught by Rabbi Michael Taubes, for your learning pleasure.  The course will go through all of the six chapters of Pirkei Avot, explaining the background of the various ethical teachings of our Sages,a s well as explicating them and applying them to our daily lives.  This course will be geared to students of all levels and backgrounds.

Rabbi Taubes brings many years of experience as a Rav, educator, and author for Artscroll to this class.  He is able to present his material in an interesting and thorough manner.  We look forward to this new learning opportunity, and hope you will take advantage of it as well!  Click on the image below to watch the first shiur in the Pirkei Avot series:

Legacy of Our Sages:  Introduction to Pirkei Avot

Fall Semester Begins at!

19 10 2009

We hope you enjoyed the past two months of special classes on the topics of Elul, Rosh Hashana, and Sukkot.  Now, take the inspiration of the holidays with you into the entire year, with the new Fall courses offered at

Over the next few weeks, we will be introducing the newest course offerings at  This week, we are proud to present you with a new series on Sefer Yechezkel taught by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller, a new series on Hilchot Shabbat, beginning with the laws of Muktza, taught by Rabbi Shimon Isaacson, and a new Parsha series, Parsha for Our Lives, taught by Mrs. Shira Smiles.

In addition, we have many classes on Parshat Breishit and a new chinuch class by Rebbetzin Heller on creating a meaningful Shabbat experience for our children.’s Practical Judaism Courses Are Reaching Audiences Of All Backgrounds

13 10 2009

Practical Judaism by Rabbi Ari Jacobson

Practical Judaism is geared to people who want to learn the fundamentals of Jewish faith and practice. This course, based on the Kitzur Shulchan Aruch, the Abreviated Code of Jewish Law by Rabbi Shlomo Gantzfried, (ca.1886), focuses on the concrete application of Jewish Law. Some of the topics covered include how to pray, keep kosher, and observe Shabbos. The course does not assume any prior knowledge of Judaism or Torah concepts, and can be enjoyed by both beginners and advanced students.

Students have been enjoying this class since the very beginning. Here is what one student wrote in about the very first class,  The Right Start to Your Day :

‘Rabbi Jacobson’s class No.1, Basic Judaism is very well communicated. Thank you for relaying this important information! I recommend his course most highly!’  -Jule Bevell

Other class topics include:

Washing Hands upon Awakening

Covering One’s Head

Proper Prayer

The Halachot of Shema

Preparing for the Amida

There are already over 20 classes in this series so students can begin learning right away and go at their own pace.

Recognizing Reality: Megillat Kohelet #13 Based on a shiur by Rebbetzin Heller

9 10 2009

In chapter 2 of Megillat Kohelet, King Shlomo writes, “Leschok amarti mehalel u’lesimcha mah zeh oseh“-I said, what good is laughter, it is only frivolity and what does joy achieve? This verse seems strange. Don’t we all want happiness? What King Shlomo meant to say was that joy should not be an end in itself.  Man’s goal should be to live a life filled with meaning, depth, and purpose. Happiness should come as a byproduct. Joy and laughter only gives you a moment where you can escape from yourself. In contrast, living a life that is productive, in which one works towards authentic achievements and real connection will naturally produce inner serenity and eternal joy.

Tzadikim live joyful lives but their happiness is a consequence of their choices. It is not a lifestyle. To put this in simpler terms, imagine getting a sentence from the court-“Eight years of watching Bugs Bunny”. That would be horrific.

One would think when reading Kohelet that the author, King Shlomo, did not want us to be happy, only earnest. This is not true.  He wanted us to be joyous. However he did warn us not to grasp onto tinsel and think it to be gold.  Recognizing reality and working towards lasting goals will in turn lead to true eternal happiness.

The Joy of Succot

7 10 2009

The Joy of Succot
Based on a shiur by Rabbi Beinish Ginsburg

Why did Hashem command us to celebrate Sukkot in Tishrei, during the fall season? In addition why is their a special mitzvah of simcha on this holiday? The Sefer Hachinuch writes that it is the time of chag haasif-the ingathering of the harvest. There is natural joy at finally enjoying the fruits of one’s labor. Therefore Hashem, in an expression of love, gifted us with an easy mitzvah on a “silver platter”.   Our natural joy is elevated to simcha shel mitzvah. Similarly, Rav Nebenzhal adds that there is a Torah mandated mitzvah to eat on erev Yom Kippur.  We will be eating anyway in preparation for the fast. Here too, Hashem lovingly gives us an extra merit to help tip the scales of judgment in our favor.

The Tur offers another explanation. Sukkot in Tishrei, at the beginning of the rainy season, clearly shows the world, that we are moving outside in order to follow Hashem’s command, not to enjoy the pleasant outdoor air.  Rav Karlenstein adds that there is a clear connection between Sukkot and the non-Jews. The Gemara states that the 70 sacrifices on Sukkot corresponded to the 70 nations. In addition, Rabbeinu Bachya in Kad Hakemach says that the measurements of the sukkah -10 tefachim high X 7 tefachim long= 70 nations. Sukkot is about bitachon and about trusting in Hashem who provides for all and governs the world. This concept applies to the gentiles too. The Rambam writes that Hashem’s ultimate plan was for all the nations to recognize Him. This will happen through the Jewish nation. The mitzvah of Sukkah is one of the few mitzvoth d’oraysa that we do in public.  In essence, we are proclaiming to the world that we are fulfilling Hashem’s command and that our trust in Him remains eteral.

Another reason why Sukkot is in Tishrei is because Hashem wanted it to be a culmination of Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. The simcha of Sukkot is supposed to build on and take strength from the kedusha and tahara that we achieved during the days of awe. Sin creates a barrier between us and Hashem. Rav Soloveitchik writes that the illusion that the world functions automatically is a direct result of sin. Without sin we would sense Hashem in every rhythm of life. The boundless joy of Succot is the purification from sin and the ultimate closeness to Hashem that we achieved on Yom Kippur.
Rav Karelenstein explains that we say the psalm, L’dovod Hashem from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Shemini Atzeret. Medrash Rabah writes that each Yom Tov is hinted at in the psalm. Ori is Rosh Hashana, Yishi is Yom Kippur, and Ki yitzpineni b’sukkah is Sukkot. On Sukkot we celebrate Simchat Bais Hashoeva which commerates the water libation ceremony. One of the sources for this practice is the verse in Yeshaya, “Ushavtem mayim b’sasson mimaynei hayeshua. The simcha of the drawing of the water stems from  “maynei hayeshua“, the root word connected to “yishi“-the purification that we reached on Yom Kippur.

In Kabalistic language, the Sukkah is called, “tzila d’hemnusa”-the shadow of Hashem. The Shechina is in our sukkah, hovering above us. There is a unique closeness to Hashem that every Jew can connect to. This is the tremendous simcha of Succot.

May we merit to hold on to the sanctity and simcha achieved during these days throughout the coming year.

In the Shade of Emunah: Chassidic Perspectives on the Holiday of Sukkot

1 10 2009

A brand new class is now available at!

In the Shade of Emunah: Chassidic Perspectives on the Holiday of Sukkot

Taught by Rabbi Hershel Reichman, this class delves into the Chassidic understanding of the holiday of Sukkot. Based on essays from the Shem MiShmuel, this class focuses on the spiritual characteristics of Sukkot and its accompanying mitzvot. The first class in the series is now available:

Sukkot: Service of the Mind and Heart

In this shiur (Torah class) Rabbi Hershel Reichman discusses the Chassidic understanding of the essence of Sukkot. Based on the Shem MiShmuel, Rabbi Reichman delves into explaining how one can best serve G-d with both mind and soul. This Torah class is available online in streaming video and for download in mp3 and ipod video formats at