Naaleh Brings Torah Learning to People Around the World!

28 10 2010

No matter the location, people around the world are getting inspired with all the amazing classes and teachers at Naaleh Torah Online. Two of our students recently wrote it:

‘Thank you so much for your fantastic website. I’m a university student in England and love the range of topics of Shiurim and special speakers. It is a wonderful way to fullfil “yhi beitcha beit vaad lachachamim”! Thank you so much.’

-Anonymous

‘Thank you for this wonderful website. There are no words to express how much inspiration I’ve gained.’

-Sarah S.





Secular Music

27 10 2010
Excerpted from Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller’s Question and Answer series on Naaleh.com

Achieving Balance:  Class #4
Question:

I grew up listening to secular music (rock, among other genres) and I still enjoy it. I can’t stand most of the modern Jewish music available.  Do I need to deprive myself of listening to what I like?

Answer:

I understand what you mean about modern Jewish music, but there’s a lot more out there than you think. I don’t think being frum means depriving yourself. I think we have to be selective. The lives of people involved in secular entertainment are not good lives. It’s not as black and white as you think. Wholesomeness and good-heartedness don’t come from listening to rock. There’s invisible power woven into music that can have both a positive and a deleterious effect on us.

Elevate your musical experience with pure and holy melodies. Listen to real music. I mean the Chassidic melodies of two hundred years ago such as Chabad, Belz, and Breslov. These are classics that are moving and beautiful. Try to get people in yeshiva to record a Simchat Beit Hoshevea or get a cassette of a Simchat Chatan V’kallah. This kind of music is stirring and inspiring and will uplift your soul in a way that secular music never will.





Parshat Vayeira: Two Paths of Serving Hashem

21 10 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur on Chassidut by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Hashem tells Avraham in Parshat Lech Lecha, after the mitzvah of milah, that he will have a child. The Shem MiShmuel asks, why does Hashem deem it necessary to send an angel in this week’s parsha, Parshat Vayeira, to relay the news again? In addition, what is the connection between these two seemingly unrelated revelations – milah and the birth of Yitzchak?

The world rests on two fundamental pillars: chesed (kindness) and din (judgement). Sometimes there is chesed and other times din. The forces of nature that support life are all expressions of Hashem’s chesed. Avraham was the embodiment of chesed. Although the people of S’dom were wicked, he passionately prayed for them. Hashem loved Avraham, Ish Ha’chesed.

However, He gave him the mitzvah of milah. On the surface this commandment looks cruel and painful. Avraham was told to do an act of din. He needed to learn that although the world is grounded on chesed, it also needs din to survive. S’dom had to be destroyed because the world cannot tolerate absolute evil forever. Avraham needed to learn that unbridled love can be devastating. Therefore his prayers failed. On his personal being, he had to undergo milah, a painful mitzvah. This was because Avraham, the epitome of chesed, needed to pick up an element of din in order to become tamim – perfect. Therefore, Hashem told him about the birth of Yitzchak immediately
after milah.

Yitzchak represents din. He is defined by the akeidah – strict judgment and complete adherence to Hashem’s will. He was willing to forfeit his life in a seemingly senseless sacrifice to fulfill Hashem’s command. That is why when Avraham accepted the mitzvah of milah – an element of din, Hashem informed him about the birth of Yitzchak who is also din.

With Yitzchak we see a reversal of din to chesed. Yitzchak’s name comes from the root word, “tzechok” – laughter. Making people happy is an expression of kindness. Hashem wanted Yitzchak to acquire an element of chesed.

We need to maintain a balance of both of these attributes in our lives. Din without chesed can turn into cruelty. Chesed without din can be distorted. Chassidut teaches that this is the connection between right and left, water and fire. Water is chesed, fire is din. Water gives life, fire destroys. Yet the world needs both to exist. Right is chesed, left is din. The right side is stronger than the left. We need more chesed than din.

Avraham was chesed. Sarah was din. The combination of both of their attributes made them into the great couple that they were. Avraham could not reject anyone. Sarah therefore had to tell him to send away Yishmael. However since Sarah was din, she also needed some chesed. Therefore Hashem sent another message about the birth of Yitzchak with the angel in the context of chesed and hachnasas orchim. Avraham prepared the red meat, which signifies din. Sarah prepared the white bread and milk, which symbolizes chesed.

Let us try to imbue our lives with a balance of din and chesed, and with this may we merit to reach the level of Avraham, “V’hit’halech lifanei v’heyei tamim” – to walk before Hashem and reach perfection.





Students Experiencing Growth from Naaleh Classes

20 10 2010

With all the inspiring classes available at Naaleh.com, students are making strides in their learning and growth. Recently one our students wrote it with the following comment:

‘I just wanted to say how much I love Naaleh. The shiurim are amazing and I am learning and growing so much from the site, thank you!’ -Anonymous

This is exactly the purpose of Naaleh and we hope you are taking advantage of all the free classes we have to offer. We hope to hear from you too- so please send in your comments to contact@naaleh.com.

 





Harmonizing Torah and Science

14 10 2010

Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller

Harmonizing Torah and Science

If you are a Torah Jew contemplating a career in the sciences, there are three ideas to keep in mind. Truth is essential reality, not reality plus an agenda or will. A person who is tahor is genuinely human with nothing impure inside of him to impede his soul. This divine aspect is what differentiates us from the animal kingdom. The opposite of tahara is tuma which is defined as a blockage. Sin creates a mechitza, a barrier, which blocks us from accessing holiness.

The Ramak explains that every limb and organ requires veins and arteries to feed it blood. If there is a blockage, the limb or organ will die. Similarly, spiritual blockages cause our spiritual selves to die. Because we place such great value on tahara we try to prevent ourselves and our children from being exposed to an environment where lack of tahara, spiritual integrity, and truth is normal.

You may ask, “Why be so intimidated, why not just stand up for the truth?” The Rambam writes that people are naturally influenced by their environment on two levels. They want to feel accepted in the culture they live in and they want their friends to approve of them. Inevitably, they tend to adapt their beliefs and opinions. Therefore, we are unapologetic about demanding tahara. If you haven’t heard it all before you don’t have a protective armor built up to defend yourself. It’s normal to not quite know what to do with yourself. Do not be ashamed of this. It’s a reflection of your tahara, of not being calloused and damaged.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the Torah warns us, “Do not stray after your eyes and heart.” The heart refers to heresy and the eyes to desire. This tells us that people will naturally stray after their heart and turn to heresy. The difference between a tzaddik and a rasha is that a tzaddik‘s mind controls his heart while a rasha‘s heart controls his mind. People are drawn to heresy to conveniently justify patterns of behavior.

The third thing to consider is authority. Just because the professor has letters after his name does not mean that he has the full and final picture. Science is continually evolving. Something we thought factual today can turn out not to be so tomorrow.  We can see a part of the picture in the present, while more of the picture continuously reveals itself. You have to learn to examine what is true and what is not.

The closer something is to observable physical reality, the more likely it is to be true, rather than something that requires many assumptions along the way. In every possible dating system no one tries to answer one basic question: “How did something come from nothing?” The focus of science is certainly not the mystery of life. It’s easy, especially when there is an agenda, to see absolute reality when there are only question marks. The important thing is to figure out where factuality begins and ends and where supposition takes over. This is tricky because a hypothesis can turn out to be true but many times it is not.

Judaism has never been afraid of science. Science is the picture of reality as we know it. There’s nothing wrong with taking a snapshot. There is something wrong with saying that the snapshot is everything. The same holds true with liberal theories. Identifying a problem doesn’t mean knowing the solution. Judaism isn’t intimidated by questions. It is afraid of the haphazard tendency to create solutions that solve nothing.

If you will be studying the sciences, learn to master the art of “birur“, taking what is holy and good and rejecting what is evil. May Hashem guide our steps and help us maintain our inner purity and sechel hayashar (straight thinking).





Parshat Noach: Lessons of Proper Speech and Helping Others

7 10 2010

Parshat Noach – Wonderful Words
Based on a Naaleh.com shiur by Mrs. Shira Smiles

“V’Noach matza chen b’einei Hashem. Noach found grace in the eyes of Hashem.” What grace did Noach posses? In addition, Hashem could have saved Noach in any number of ways. Why was it necessary for him to build an ark and live among the animals?

The core sin of the Generation of the Floodwas in the area of speech. They did not keep their word. Once the floodgates of dishonesty are opened, it flows down to all areas of life. In Tehilim 45 we read, “The beauty of man is when grace is on the lips.” Hashem made two covenants with the Jewish people: brit halashon – a covenant of the mouth, and brit milah – a covenant to act morally. The two are interconnected. This is the grace that Noach found in Hashem’s eyes. He mastered the art of refined speech.

The Sefat Emet notes that if a person learns silence, he can be careful when he does speak to communicate in a modest way. Indeed we see in this parsha that
although the Torah measures every word, two extra words are used to describe the non kosher animals of the ark. “Umin habeheima asher lo tehora” instead of “temeiah,” to emphasize how far one must go to speak in a sanctified way.

In Breishit, when Hashem created man, the Torah writes, “Vayipach b’apo nishmas chaim.” Targum translates this as, “ruach memalelah” – the power of speech. When a person abuses this power, he casts away the part of him that makes him human. A coarse manner of speech corrupts his divine image. Therefore, we understand why Hashem wanted to destroy the world. His plan was to recreate it with individuals who would appreciate the divine spark within them. When a person misuses his speech he destroys his human essence and becomes almost animalistic. This is why Noach spent the year with animals. It was a constant reminder of what makes a human being elevated and different from animals, namely his power of speech.

Rebbetzin Feldbrand, in Towards Meaningful Prayer, writes that “teiva” can be translated interchangeably to mean word or ark. He was saved by the power of words.

When we wallow in the superficial aspects of this world we are no better than animals. Noach was punished and sentenced to live with animals for a year. This was to teach him that his generation had stayed at the level of animals because he did not reach out to inspire them.

On some level we are all responsible for each other and are enjoined to pray when troubles come. If one does not daven, it shows a lack of appreciation for prayer and insensitivity to the pain of others. This needs cultivation. If you hear bad news, pray. If a friend confides in you, try to help him. If you cannot assist him, at least daven for him. Understand that if Hashem made you aware of this trouble, you have a responsibility to do something.

Why did Hashem show Noach the covenant of the rainbow after the Flood? The Sforno answers that in a sense Hashem is hinting to us that every person has a responsibility as part of Klal Yisrael to pray in a time of need. The rainbow signifies a time of judgment. It is our wakeup call to beseech Hashem to turn it into mercy.

As we begin the new year, let us rededicate ourselves to prayer, proper speech, and helping people in need with fresh vigor and hope for a year of growth and self improvement.