Dec 23, 2008


December 21st

Mrs. Raizy Guttman

It's almost lighting time and we're so excited! The excitement of Chanukah is already in the air here!
  • Chanukah lasts for 8 days, and we all know that the miracle of Chanukah happened with a tiny pure flask of oil that was found in the Temple. It is interesting that the word for 8 is shmoneh is the same root as shemen which means oil!
  • The question is, why? What's the connection between 8 and oil? Any words that have the same root have a very deep connection. The other word with the same root is shamen - fat. That connection is pretty clear. If you eat oily foods for 8 days... you'll become fat! [chuckle chuckle]
  • But what's the REAL connection? The number 8 is considered above the regular physical world. Thats why the baby has a bris on the 8th day. He goes above nature, he becomes a Jew. 8 symbolizes spirituality.
  • Chanukah's tremendous miracle is about one tiny container of oil that burned for longer than it naturally should.
  • The book of our heritage asks "Why do we make such a big deal about THAT miracle when there was another miracle?" The few Jews who were unequipped beat the Greeks! Why do we always focus on the little flask of oil? Whereas if you think about it, the miracle of the war is actually even greater! And he answers:
    The little flask of oil was more than just a container of oil, it was a container of hope. it was one tiny spark of holiness that was left in the dark spiritual influence of the Greeks. The Greeks tried to destroy the SOUL of the Jewish people. Other people tried to kill us physically. Most of our enemies want to just wipe out the Jews. The Greeks however tried to destroy the soul of the Jew and our spirituality. They told us that we couldnt keep all the commandments that we wanted. They said "You could live! But you must live like us! We want you to keep living...but not like you" A life that is devoid of spirituality and full of the influence and mentality of the physicality of the Greeks. They lived for pleasure, culture, education. When the Jews found one small flask of oil after everything else was destroyed, they felt that there was still hope that there would be continued spirituality. Judaism would live on. When they found that small flask of oil was enough to infuse them with hope that there was still spirituality. Then it burned for 8 days and that gave them hope that they would be able to rebuild all that was lost.
  • We say in Al Hanissim that G-d put the many into the hands of the few. We are delivered into the mentality of the few. The mindset of the Jew is that we don't need alot. That is why the words shemen and shmoneh are the same roots as Neshama - the soul. The fact that it burned for 8 days means that it was one step above the regular course of the world. This is the message of that small drop of oil. They found the soul of the Jewish people. The mentality of the Jew is that we dont need alot of THINGS. A little physicality is good. But we don't need alot.
  • Yavan - Greece - The hebrew word is the Yud, then the Vuv, which is a little bigger line and then a Nun which is the biggest! That itself shows us what their mentality was. Its a concept of more and more and more and more. That was the mentality of the Greeks. Unfortunately that mentality hasnt died.
  • We see it in our exile today. The exile of nowadays encompasses all the other exiles. The first exile was all about them killing us because we're Jews. The second exile was about immorality, temptation and to take out the Judaism from the Jew. The third exile was that "We'll let you live as long as you become just like us!" We feel this so strongly throughout the world. The influence of secular ideas are infiltrated in every aspect of life.
  • I was at the Kotel about a year ago and a mother came with her young son. He didn't really know how to spell. They were from America. She comes up to the wall and explains to her son that this is the Holy wall and you could ask G-d for whatever you want. All these notes in the wall are all requests... and i'll help you write a note if you want. This kid was so excited. He bends down and puts the paper on the chair and writes "G-d. Please make me rich." That was his only request. To make him rich. That is the secular mentality and what they live for.
  • This Exile is already 2000 years long. But just as the other exiles came to an end, this too will come to an end

  • What can we do to bring this exile to an end? That little spark of Judaism that is in every single one of us Jews no matter how far or close we are to Judaism. It is our job to bring out that spark.
  • The oil is compared to the soul because there's a verse in Proverbs 20:27 "The candle of G-d is the soul of Man"
  • Why is our soul compared to the candle of G-d?
  • A beautiful answer is that just as the light of Holiness can never be extinguished, so too the soul of man can also never be extinguished. No matter what we do, no how low we have fallen, his connection to G-d can never be broken
  • How do we know this? From the story of Chanukah
  • Rabbi Moshe Wolfson says: When learning about Chanukah we see that G-d will always be connected to the Jew. According to Jewish law all types of wicks and oil are to be used for Chanukah. On Shabbos we have very high standard, but on chanukah we have no standard at all. Crude oil and course wicks are all acceptable on Chanukah.
  • This teaches us that those souls that can't be lit up by Shabbos CAN be lit up by Chanukah. You can feel a holiness that is totally different on Chanukah than Shabbos. In order to feel the holiness of Shabbos we have to raise ourselves up. But on Chanukah its different. The holiness comes down to us.
  • G-d brings light even to the lowest souls and it is possible for them to repent. G-d is coming down to us on Chanukah. There are so many stories to share about Chanukah and how people have come back through the lights.
  • Another law of Chanukah is that it is preferable to put the menorah in a low place. 35 inches above the floor. And yet there is a Gemara that tells us that the presence of G-d doesnt descend lower than 35 inches. Why would we put the menorah in such a place? in order to prove this point.
  • During Chanukah G-ds presence descends all the way down to the lowest of the low to penetrate even the lowliest souls.
  • Chanukah is also at the coldest and darkest time of the year. In the year that the story of Chanukah took place it was the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year to show that the lights can penetrate the darkest times.
  • We wear our every day clothes. If its a holiday why dont we get all dressed up? In order to show that the great light of G-d comes down to us no matter how mundane we are. It doesnt matter, G-d comes down to us and penetrates are souls regardless.
  • With all these points in mind: The candle of G-d is the soul of man. The light of the schinah is waiting for all Jewish souls to reach up to that light. On Chanukah G-d doesnt wait for us to come up to Him. He comes down to us!
  • We just have to make one small move. We have to hold up our wick and ask G-d to light us up with His light.
  • How do we do this?
  • 1 - we say at the end of Al Hanisim we say "Therefore G-d has set aside these 8 days of Chanukah in order that we should thank and praise Your Holy name" This tells us what were supposed to be doing on Chanukah! Its all about the thanks. Thats how we build our relationship with G-d.
  • 2- You should look at the flames, the small fire and flame is a sign of purity. We are supposed to look at those lights with our eyes.
  • 3 - everyone in the family should thank Hashem for something that they are grateful for.
  • L'hodos - to thank - has the same root as Yehudi - a Jew. The essence of a Jew is to be grateful. L'hodos could mean to thank OR to act as a Jew! The Greek mentality is focusing on the body but we are not like them! We are focusing on our soul. We should wake up in the morning and ask "How am I going to feed my soul today?"
  • Light is a symbol of hope and Torah. Light is a symbol of spirituality. When we talk about G-ds light we say "With the light of Your Face G-d, You have given us a living Torah and lovingkindness" What does the light of Your Face mean? Rabbi Moshe Meir Weiss says it means your smile. Your smile lights up your face. If you want to spread light around, put on a smile!
  • If you're thanking Hashem all Chanukah all you can do is smile!!
  • This is a holiday that we spread onto others.
  • Theres a beautiful story that a very rich man was once driving by and saw a small boy sitting on the floor and crying. He said "Why are you crying?" The boy told him that he had no money and his father told him that he sent him to buy a small bottle of oil and i broke it! How can I return to my father without my oil intact? The rich man says here! Take a 100 dollars and go buy whatever you need!" Later on, the rich man [who was secular] found himself being very moved by this child. The words reverberated in his mind "How can I return to my father without my oil intact?" He took that small piece of glass and decided that they would light Chanukah candles. He went to the store and bought the menorahs and candles and brought them home. He looked at the candles all night thinking and listening to that voice reverberating in his head. Afterwards he decided to become a little more religious. He and his wife took on keeping kosher, and slowly they continued to become very religious. He thought "How can I return to my father in Heaven without my soul intact?"

[And now the Guttman family lights the menorah]

Dec 14, 2008

Blessing of Ingathering Exiles

  • December 14, 2008
  • Mrs. Raizy Guttman
  • Comment on last week's class: this might help to clarify the issue. We were talking about the blessing of Livelihood. There were some really great questions and something hit me that i thought might help to clarify the ideas we were speaking about.
  • If you look at this blessing we say the words "Barech" "Blessing" at least four or five times. If you think about the word for Blessing the root is beis reish and chof. 2, 200 and 20 in numerical value.
  • Each number gives us the message of multiplicity. In all the spheres of numbers we're talking about more than one. The root of what a blessing really is is multiplicity.
  • This is what we're asking for in this blessing. How MUCH we're going to make is decided on Rosh Hashana.
  • That which we have should be a blessing. That which we already have should be blessed.
    We ask G-d to bless our alotted amount to be stretched and go as far as it possibly can.
    This should be our intention when we say this blessing.
  • We are up to the 10th blessing!
  • It is the first blessing in the blessings for the redemption. 10 usually signified completion and perfection.
  • We say "Blow the great big shofar for our freedom!" The Avudraham quotes that the order of the next 7 blessings is the order in which the final redemption will take place. These are the steps in the order in which they will occur.
  • In this blessing we will discuss the first 3 steps of how the moshiach will come.
    We should recite this blessing broken heartedly begging Hashem to redeem us!
  • We start with the words "Sound the great shofar for our freedom!" Where are these from? Isiah 27:13, "And on that day He will blow on the great shofar and the lost ones will come from the land of assyria and the scattered ones in the land of Egypt. and they will all bow down to G-d on the holy mountain in Jerusalem." Which shofar exactly are we reffering to? Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa says that there was no part of the ram from the sacrifice of Isaac went to waste. The left horn of the ram was used at mount sinai when the Jews accepted the Torah. The right horn will be used for when Moshiach comes. It will signify that we are finally free.What are we going to be free from? Oppression and subservience to other nations, all the isms - communism, socialism, zionism etc.
  • More importantly: We will be free from the influences of all outward societies!!
  • Throughout history people have wanted to destroy our soul and this is the deeper meaning of the pasuk from Isiah: The lost souls will come back in the land of assyria. Why doesn't it say FROM the land of assyria? The hebrew word for Assyria is Ashur. Ashur means wealth. We ourselves are the lost ones in the land of wealth.
  • "Its harder to take the exile out of the Jew than to take the Jew out of the Exile".
  • We are inculcated with lust for power, money, the body and these have all had a terribly negative imact on our morals. We are considered lost in a world of contradictions.
    The Jew is always the one who is singled out for suffering and many have gone astray because of the unending suffering of the Jew.
  • The promise of bringing back all the lost and scattered ones means that we will all come home to freedom. We will be free from all the physical and spiritual shackles and we will be free to serve G-d.
  • The mishna in Pirkei avos: There is no free man except for one who is involved in Torah
    Often people think the opposite is true!! Religious Jews have all these restrictions! But me? I'm free and I can do and look at whatever I want! This is the farthest from the truth. But one who is bound by Torah law has a truly liberated soul. The more carefully he follows the commandments of the torah the more he will see how the mitzvos help him to becomea better and happier person. The more he learns the Jewish law that partains to everything the more he can raise himself up above negative thoughts, ideals. etc. A person who is not following Torah is a slave to his passions. He is a slave to his passing whims and is dictated by whatever standards society demands for morality. Which nowadays is practically nill. If a person isn't bound by Torah law he is a slave to whatever is out there. The torah has laws for just about everything!
  • Lisa Aiken says: All our laws of Torah are compared to strings on a violin. If the strings are let loose you cannot play. When they are tightly bound you can play beautiful music!
  • The next words are "Raise up a miracle [banner] to gether our exiles"
  • These words are based on a verse in Isiah 11:12, "And a banner will be raised among the nations and will gather all the scattered in Israel, and all the scattered in Judah will be gathered from the forecorners of the earth".
  • We learn that when Moshiach comes we will know it in two ways: One is through hearing and one is through seeing. The revelation through our eyes will be greater than through our ears. You can't compare hearing about something to seeing it. "Seeing is believing"
    When G-d gave the Torah at Sinai it says "The whole nation SAW the voices and the torches of fire" This doesnt make sense! You can't see voices! Nope, G-d created a one time phenomonea that they should SEE what normally can only be heard! This is a banner of G-ds glory.
  • On the day that Moshiach comes we will see clearly that there is only one G-d.
    Rashi explains in Numbers 21:8 "Since the banner is high up as a sign and for one to see with his eyes, thats why its called a banner. Its for the nations of the worlds to see so that they will send the Jewish people with honor."
  • This brings us to the next words in the blessing: "G-d will gather us together to the four corners of the earth" It would have been enough to say "gather us" but WE say "Gather us together" Rav Avigdor Miller shows us that it says "Gather" To teach us that the most important tool to bring the Moshiach is to be able to be together.
  • Human nature will continue as before when moshiach comes. Rambam tells us that the world will follow its accostumed nature. There wont be persecution and oppresion but the nature of people will still be the same. If we dont train ourselves to get along with everyone now, we wont be able to merit being part of the Moshiach.
  • Rav Simcha Bunim said that he learned a very important lesson from his aleph bais teacher. He writes a Yud on the board and says "Kids, this is a Yid" "When you put two Yidden next to each other, it makes up the name of G-d" the children asked "Does that mean ANY two yuds make up the name of G-d? If one is on top and the other on the bottom, is that still the name of G-d?" He said "No, only when to the two Yidden are together that makes up the name of G-d."
  • There was a woman who was in a very big fight with another woman in the community. Everyone knew that these two women did not get along. One of the womens sons got engaged and she started planning the wedding. She decided that she feels very bad about the whole incident and she's going to invite her to the wedding. She called her up to ask her if she could come to make a public statement that they made peace. She told her, listen, whatever happened, happened. I want everyone to know that we're not fighting anymore. The wedding's on February 13, can you come? The other woman was very touched and she said i would LOVE to come but on that day I can't come, I have an important medical procedure and I can't come. The first woman decided that she would change the date of the wedding. She called up the hall and asked if they could change the date. Her son said it was fine, and the manager of the hall said that they have an available date February 15th. He wrote down in his book that this family booked the hall. On February 13th he forgot to cross out this family had changed their date, so he didn't rebook the hall. The hall had two floors and the manager booked the top floor but not the bottom floor. On February 13th there was a terrible tragedy where in the middle of the wedding the top floor of the hall crashed down into the bottom floor. If there would have been a wedding on the bottom floor that night, for sure there would have been many people killed. Because this woman wanted to make peace she spared the whole family and all her guests all in the merit of peace.
  • If we would only realize the power of our unity we would have surely brought moshiach long ago. Sinas chinam - baseless hatred is what causes this lack of harmony and unity. When we say these words for G-d to gather us together, we have to BE together in order for us to be gathered.
  • How can we practically work on this idea of unity? When Jacob gathered his sons together on his death bed he said "Gather yourselves together and I will tell you that which will call to you at the end of days" Many people think that this means - "that which will happen to you at the end of days" but the word is actually "that which will call". He says I will tell you what your calling will be at the end of days. "Gather yourselves and listen Sons of Jacob" He says - stick together as the sons of Yaakov. And the word listening is an important word.
  • The concept of Listening is one that is so important nowadays. In the world that we live in today everyone is running to psychologists when really we just need someone to listen to us, respect us and validate us. Sometimes you'll see two people having a conversation but its not a dialogue. It's a two way monologue. Ever saw this? Neither are really listening to each other. They're talking to hear themselves speak! One small and practical way to promote peace is by showing someone that you care, making eye contact, putting your hand on their shoulder.
  • LISTEN and SILENT are the same letters! The only way to listen to someone else is to be silent in your mouth and in your mind.
  • Rav Pam used to say that there are three yiddish words that are the three keys to peace:
  • Fargin, Farkook, Fargess
  • Fargin: allow someone else to have something good and to be happy for them even if you feel that it was coming to you! You thought it was yours and to "Fargin" them is to rejoice in their sucess
  • Rabbi Frands story: Two neighbors Reuven and Shimon. Everymorning Reuven would get the paper at his doorstep. The paper would come at 730, and Reuven wouldnt open his door until 745! Shimon would wait until the paper came and quickly run and take the paper and read it. He would fold it up exactly the way it was and put it back down in front of Reuvens door. This was a morning ritual. A couple of days after Shimon was doing this, Reuven realized that someone was reading his paper! Reuven decided to wake up very early and see who was reading his paper? He looks out his window and sees Shimon come and grab the paper. Reuven is SO angry! He waits until Shimon comes back with his paper, and Reuven asks him "Shimon, what are you doing??" "O, I figured you wouldnt mind!" "But its my paper!" "But you don't read it before 745 anyway, so whats the big deal? What do you care?" Reuven says "Its my paper, who gives you the right to touch it?" They ended up having a big fight. Reuven was so angry and Shimon couldn't understand what the problem was. Finally Reuven goes to his Rav to ask him for advice. Shimon was still taking the paper every morning and Reuven was ready to kill him. He tells his Rabbi the whole story, and his Rabbi says to Reuven, "I hear what you're saying, its very distressful situation and I have a great idea for you! You should buy a subscription to the paper for Shimon. How much does it cost already? " Reuven was not too thrilled about this but he listens to his rabbi and he goes and orders a subscription to his neighbor. The next morning two papers come. Shimon is ready to take Reuvens paper and sees a paper by his own door! He thinks who could have ordered this paper? He realizes that Reuven ordered it. Shimon is so appreciative of Reuven that he goes and thanks him effusively. Reuven and Shimon had a great relationship after that.
  • This is the sort of thing that happens all the time. To Fargin is to let someone else have the good thing even if we feel it was at our expense.
  • If you can't fargin at least you could Farkook. It means to look away. To not notice everything. Most things in this world are not worth making issues over.
  • If you can't Farkook, and least Fargess - at least you should forget.
  • The Ben Ish Chai says that the power of forgetfullness is actually a characteristic of the satan. Its usually utilized for the negative. But if you can use it for the GOOD you get 100 times more merit than just a regular mitzvah because you're taking the power of the Satan and transfering it to the positive.
  • Another interesting thought is that the words "From the four corners of the world" The word kanfos - corners - come from the word for wings. This is a reference to the uplifting feeling that the whole world will feel once Moshiach come.
  • We end this blessing "Blessed are you G-d who gathers in the dispersed of His people Israel." When we promote peace and act like Jewish people are supposed to act we will merit the gathering in with everyone to Israel
  • We should be zoche the final redemption speedily in our days!

Dec 10, 2008

Blessing for Prosperity

Mrs. Raizy Guttman

December 7th

We are up to the 6th blessing in the requests section. This is the last one in the section of requests for life today. The next blessings all refer to the world to come!

This is the Blessing of Livelihood.

The words that we say are "Bless us, G-d our G-d, this year" we’re asking G-d to bless us and it is interesting that we mention G-ds name twice! And also, why do we only ask G-d to bless us for this year only?
The answer is in the gemarah in Baitzah [16a] "the entire livelihood of a person is decided between rosh hashana and yom kippur. A righteous person has his livelihood decided on rosh hashana but a regular guy can tip the scales during the ten days of repentance. Since one’s livelihood is decided on Rosh Hashana, we ask for sustenance for just this year.
The success of one’s livelihood has nothing to do with one’s intelligence [Mishlei Proverbs, 9:11]

All livelihood is preordained by G-d! It has nothing to do with your efforts.

What is livelihood actually a result of? It is a result of your preordained destiny for your specific mission in life, and as a result of one’s merits, mainly one’s trust in G-d. When a person recognizes that everything is G-ds will will have a very strong influence on how he approaches his job.

It’s like being in the backseat of a car. There are some people who are backseat driving and even try to pretend like they are driving. But really they have nothing to do with it.

Hashem is in the drivers seat and we’re just coming along for the ride! The more we recognize that G-d is in full control, the more enjoyable the ride will be.

If our efforts are so insignificant why put in effort at all? Why not just pray all day? We know that all the good that G-d has for us is unlocked by just asking for it, so why do we have to put in any effort? If the power of a persons prayer is dependant on how much he completely trusts in G-d for his needs than actually going to work should weaken his prayers. One can "deduce" that the greater effort one puts into his work the less successful he will be!

The Path of the Just [Messilas Yeshorim] says that before Adam sinned there was no need for him to exert himself. But after he sinned, G-d changed the natural course of the world. A person now has to sweat a little to earn his living. Now that Adam sinned by showing a lack of trust in G-d he needs to work very hard to earn his bread.

The real test in livelihood is that one MUST make an effort and as he works and it seems like its his own wisdom, choices and intelligence that are making him rich. The test is to rise above it and recognize that its all actually Hashem.

Hashems hand is hidden in the world especially in terms of livelihood.

The evil inclination became inside of man when Adam sinned. And this started the fight of man kind. The burden of parnassa [livelihood] and all cause and effect in this world is just a veil which covers the source of everything, which is G-d. Our true task is to move aside this veil and recognize G-d.

~We must make an effort but know that its not your effort that provides the livelihood is the purpose of that effort!~

We have to pray to remember that our efforts are not the reason of our success. We ask for this message to be reinforced in us that we are solely in G-ds hands.

How much effort do you have to put in? The more trust you have in G-d the less effort he’ll feel like he has to put in. We have to raise ourselves up slowly to true trust in G-d.
G-d treats us like we treat Him! It says in Tehillim "Hashem Tzilcha" "G-d is your Shadow" If you put out a finger, G-d puts out a finger to you. If you put out a hand, G-d will put out a hand. The more we trust G-d the more He will help us.

We say "G-d is close to all who call on Him, all who call on Him in sincerity". R’ Lopian says that this means even someone who isn’t doing all the things that he should do but he calls out in sincerity? G-d will help him.

When we say "Bless us G-d, our G-d" we mention that He is OUR G-d because that is the most important part of making a living. We need to recognize that it is all dependant on G-d. Therefore we ask Him to please crown our efforts in success in the merit of our heartfelt prayers to Him and only to Him.

"Bless all the different types of crops for the good" We are asking for all different types of livelihood. Any type of business that a person is involved with for making a living, it should be for good. Why do we ask for it to be for good? Because many people make a lot of money and it ends up being their downfall!

The test of wealth is in many ways more difficult than the test of poverty.

And then we say "Send dew and rain for a blessing upon the face of the earth" We only say these words in the winter. We only ask for rain during the winter months. In Israel we start saying this on the seventh day of Cheshvan and in America we say it on December 5th. Why don’t we start saying this right after succos? Because all the people who came up to the temple for Succos need to get home and we didn’t want them to get stuck in the rain! The Rabbis decided therefore to start saying it on the 7th day of Cheshvan.

This is asking that G-d should bless the agricultural produce of the land. That’s why we say the "Face of the earth". This is asking G-d to feed all the hungry people of the world.
No matter how much power a person has he is powerless towards the produce of the land. If things stopped growing we wouldn’t be able to eat.

There are thousands of steps in the process of our food nowadays. Next time you drink a cup of coffee think of all the people who worked hard to produce that milk, sugar coffee beans etc. And thank Hashem for putting all those steps in place.
The next words are "Satiate us with Your goodness" We’re not asking for enough food to be full, but that we should be satisfied with G-ds goodness. We are asking to be satisfied with whatever G-d gives us. We ask to always be happy with whatever we have. This is the key to happiness in life!

Then we say "Bless our years like the good years". So it seems like we’re reminiscing about the ‘good ‘ol days’ . Rav Shwab says that this is referring to the future years when Moshiach will come and all of G-ds blessings will be upon us. Making a living is not supposed to be a curse!
The gemara tells us that earning a livelihood is as difficult as splitting the sea. [Just like finding a match!]. What was so difficult about splitting the sea? The same way G-d makes the sea stay together is the same way that He can split it. So what’s so difficult about it?

The test of splitting the sea was in the belief in the Jewish people! Where in the world was their salvation going to come from?! Where should they go? What should they do? They directed their prayers to G-d and all of a sudden the sea split! Of all things, that was probably the last thing they thought would happen. It was more likely that Pharoah would die or something else. But not that the sea will split!

Livelihood comes from the most unlikely sources. The difficulty in this is having trust in G-d. One never knows from where his livelihood will come from.
Sometimes we look at a situation and think that this is not what we need and then later on we realize it was exactly what we needed! We have no clue how all these things will play out. We just need a little bit of patience.

We end off this blessing with "Blessed are you G-d, who blesses the years" We ask that G-d should bless this year and all future years as well. Although our livelihood is determined on rosh hashana, the gemara gives us a great piece of advice to change our level of income. Repentance, prayer and charity can always change an evil decree.

Do you want to know how to increase your income?
The gemara says that all income is decided for him already. Except for how much you spend on Shabbos and on the Holidays and how much you spend on sending your children for a Jewish education. If one is stingy on this then G-d will give him less. And if he adds to it G-d will add onto his income!!

This is the last blessing of requests. In all of these requests we’re only asking for closeness to G-d.
King David says is Psalms "One thing I ask from You G-d!" [and we know that the 150 psalms are filled with tons of requests, but it all boils down to this one thing] "That I sit in the house of G-d all the days of my life" He is saying that no matter what he’s doing he wants to be close to G-d. And this is the purpose of life
May we all merit to sit always in G-ds house and to always feel the closeness of G-d.

You’ve got questions? She’s got answers!
Q: To what extent is it your free will and to what extent is it G-d?
A: That is the billion dollar question! The whole idea of effort is that OUR job is to do the best we can but at the same time you have to remember that its not because you’re doing the best you can that you are successful. The test of our trust is that we have to put in a lot of work and realize that its all from G-d anyway. There’s cause and effect in this world and G-d does this on purpose so that we can remove the veil and realize that it’s all G-d.

Q: So the purpose of this prayer is to mitigate last years prayer and bring us up to next years Yom Kippur?
A: Exactly.

Q: So any extra effort makes no difference? A: Meaning will working harder at something make your income increase? Nope. G-d decides already how much money you will make throughout the year. Your income is decided. So what are we praying for now? One of the Rabbis says that just like we pray for the rain to fall, it makes a difference where the rain falls. There’s a certain amount of rain that is sealed that will fall. The same thing with income, there’s a certain amount of money that will fall into your world this year. It makes a difference though how you will receive that money. How it will come to you.

Q: Is this prayer asking to change that decree? What are we actually asking G-d here?
A: The only way to add onto this decree is to show honor to G-d through Shabbos, Holidays and children’s Jewish education. These are all declaring that "I want to honor G-d"! In this blessing that we should be satisfied with whatever G-d gives us.

Q: What do the terms Bainoni, Rasha and Tzadik mean?
A: A tzadik is a righteous person, a bainoni is a middle person and a Rasha is an evil person. It is brought down in the gemara that the righteous person is one who has more good deeds than bad deeds, the evil one is one with more bad deeds than good deeds and a middle person has an equal amount. How could it be that most of the world is ‘middle’ people? Basically when we speak about our deeds going on the scales it doesn’t mean that our deeds actually get weighed on the scale…WE get weighed on the scale. Hashem sees how did our deeds effect me as a person? Was I just doing good deeds like a Jewish Robot? Or did it effect me and change me? Did a persons negative deeds take him away from G-d? A person can do one good deed and it will outweigh all the bad deeds! A righteous person is one that is close to G-d, a wicked person is one that is disconnected.

Q: How do you develop trust? How do you trust in G-d to such an extent that you KNOW that no matter how much effort I put in, G-d is still in charge?
A: There’s faith and then there’s trust. They are really to different levels of the same thing. The first level is emunah, faith. The basis of a Jew is believing that there’s a G-d and that He’s in charge. Its an intellectual understanding of G-d. Bitachon – trust is putting into practice the faith. Faith in practice is called trust. It’s about feeling that there’s a G-d and trusting that He’s taking care of you. You have to first start with the intellectual understanding of G-d. Praying is probably the number one way to instill in ourselves a belief. It’s about living with G-d. We say "I believe because I speak about it" from tehillim. King David tells us that if you want to build your belief, talk to G-d. Talk about G-d. And talk out loud so that your ears can hear it as well! The mouth is the organ that connects physicality and spirituality. Spirituality is part of what comes out of mouth. Words are spiritual. You can build and hurt so much through words. We use our lips – a physical organ – to express a spiritual energy – words. We speak about G-d and we speak to G-d and that helps us develop trust and belief in Him.

Dec 3, 2008

Blessing of Healing (Refa'enu-Heal Us) class notes

Refa'enu [Heal us]

This learning should be in a merit for a speedy recovery for:
Fraida b-s yemadi and yehudit b-s chava, R' Yisroel Noach b-n Hindah, Mindel Adina b-s Yenta Yitteh Yehudis, Yaakov b-n Chana and Ann Clothier
For an elevation of the souls of Rabbi and Rebbitzen Holtzberg as well as the other Jews killed in Mubai.[Gavriel Noach b-n Fridah blumah and Freida b-s Yehudis]

  • We're up to the blessing of Healing!
  • "Rifainu Hashem V'nerafei" - "heal us G-d and we will be healed"
  • These words are taken from the prophets. [Jeramiah 17:14]

A. What is this talking about? It's not about physical sickness, its about spiritual illness!

B. We see this in the context because Jeramia is speaking about the heart being very sick... and then continues on with these words from our prayer.

C. We see that this plea is to cure us from a sick heart

  • This is a prayer for a cure for bad character traits and sin!
  • One can be sick in the heart and not even know that they were sick!
  • The scariest part of having a sick heart is not realizing how ill it is.
  • This is why we say "Heal us G-d, and we'll be healed" because only G-d knows if our heart is sick or not.

A. This is the only bracha [blessing] where we mention Hashem [G-d] in the beginning of the prayer, the reason for this is because often we are unaware of our own sickness

  • "Save us, and we will be saved" why don't we mention Hashem's [G-d] name by this phrase? Rav Schwab says that this is a prayer for the illnesses of the heart that we ARE aware of.

A. Often, these emotions, fears, arrogance etc are outgrowths of not being close to G-d.

B. One way to come close to G-d is by praying to Him.

C. It helps us work on our trust in G-d and become close to Him.

D. "Like a baby in his mother's arms, so too am I in G-ds arms" -Dovid Hamelech [King David]

1. If a mother carries a baby in her arm all over the neighborhood, the baby not realize that he traveled all over because as far as he's concerned he's in his mothers arms.

2. So too we should feel secure in Hashem's [G-d] arms that we are always protected by Him.

  • How do we spiritually heal our souls?
  • Hashgacha Pratis Stories... Stories of Divine Inspiration

1. "Hashem [G-d] loves me stories" There are many stories of small miracles that happen every day. Whenever one of these stories occurs, write it down!

2. This notebook full of stories would fill you with feelings of being taken care of by G-d.

3. Sometimes we look at a situation and think "How could this happen?" And we don't realize the good until weeks/months/years later. But there is always a happy ending.

  • Work on your character traits

1. A person should learn a book of character development every day. [For instance, Tomer Devorah]

2. Spiritual growth is like a wagon moving uphill. As long as its moving up it doesn't matter how slow its going. But once that wagon stops it starts to go down! There's no such thing as stagnation!

3. You don't have to take giant steps, you have to take baby steps. If you take giant steps you'll end up tripping over your feet!

4. Lets say you want to work on anger.. what should you do about it?

a. You have to have practical strategies.

b. The evil inclination [yetzer hara] is very smart, he's pretty old and has been around for a long time.

c. you have to be one step ahead of yourself how you're going to fight your evil inclination!

d. There's a great story about R' Yitzchok Nevohrkie. He had a strategy - before he would get angry he would put on a special coat called his "angry coat". There was once a lady who was driving him crazy. He said to his attendant, "Feivel! Go bring me my angry coat!" Feivel brought it, and by the time R' Yitzchok put it on and buttoned all the buttons, he was no longer angry.

e. Often only the initial feeling of anger is difficult to counteract.

f. If you have trouble with anger... do Lamaze! The relaxation, the focal points etc are so important. If you take Lamaz and twist the words, you get Mazal [good fortune]. If you follow these relaxation techniques you can create your own Mazal.

1. We have to learn to relaaax. You have to keep yourself under control. And learn how to breathe!

2.Focal point: focus on one thing. Focus on G-d!!

3. If you focus on G-d during something extremely painful, you'll be able to make it through the difficult time.

g. Don't get discouraged!

  • Don't forget to Daven [pray]! This is so important to be saved from emotional and mental pain and spiritual illness.

  • The next part of the blessing is "We beg a complete cure from all our illnesses"
  • Here we're asking G-d to save us from all of our physical illnesses as well.

a. At the end of the day, only G-d heals!

b. Hashem [G-d] has given permission to the doctors to heal. He has created emissaries who have the power to heal. But it's all coming from G-d in the end.

c. Illnesses CAN be changed through tefillah [prayer]. This is because G-d is not bound by His own laws!

d. If one puts all their faith in the actual doctor, they limit themselves to the laws of nature and the doctor. But one who puts all their faith in G-d, He will personally oversee the healing of that person.

d. Rav Avigdor Miller says that illness is meant for a person to re-evaluate his deeds and misdeeds. It is a message that you should become closer to G-d.

  • How can we ask G-d to heal the sick if we know that everything G-d does is for the good? How can we we ask G-d to take away something that was meant for the good?

a. The illness is for the person's soul searching, when that person starts to daven [pray] he is already doing his soul searching!

  • There are many times that we pour our hearts out and the person is not healed. Where did all those prayers go?!
  • Every prayer accomplishes something! No tear is shed for nothing! It all goes somewhere.
  • Those prayers will effect something at some point. No prayer goes for nothing.
  • You never know how much your prayers have helped a person in a physical or even spiritual sense!
  • Where our logic ends, our belief has to begin.
  • Everything that G-d does is for a reason!
  • Everything is for the good, even if we don't see it with our own eyes.
  • Who knows how much we ourselves are saved from by our great-grandparents' tefillos [prayers]? How many tragedies are we saved from? Who knows?
  • We end off with "For You G-d, King, reliable and merciful Healer.

a. We are showing that G-d is all powerful in His mercy, and with the word King we show that He is all powerful in His justice as well.

  • Hashem [G-d] sent the sickness out of mercy, and in the merit of taking this to heart we can hope for our salvation
  • Sickness can give us an appreciation for health as well.
  • Our body is absolutely incredible! From the power of sight, hearing, touch, the liver, the digestion system.. its mind boggling.
  • Did you know that the stomach lining contains about 35 million glands? all together they secrete 6 pints of hydrochloric acid! This activates an enzyme that starts protein digestion. We can practically eat anything because of this complex and amazing process.
  • The human hand is so complex. it has 27 bones. The huge supply of nerves, thousands of nerve endings concentrated in your hands.
  • The tongue! The bumps on the tongue contain about 9,000 taste buds.
  • The body heals itself all the time. If you rip your stockings, they will always be ripped. But if you rip your skin and you get a cut, your body will heal itself!
  • We end off with "Blessed are you G-d, who heals the sick of His nation, Israel"

a. we thank Hashem [G-d] for the special protection that we ourselves have as His people.

b. All sickness is for us to come close to G-d

May we all be blessed with healing of the soul and the body and merit to serve G-d in good health always, Amen.

You've got questions? She's got answers!

Q. Can you explain about inserting names in this prayer?
A. There is a special place in this prayer to insert names of the ill person. [If you look in the Artscroll, there is an asterisk by that point]

Q. Does putting someone on a list give them a refua [healing] even if they don't believe in G-d, or don't know that you're doing it, etc.?
A. It absolutely has an effect! A prayer is bringing merit to that person. R' Mattisyahu Solomont writes about this. He asks how does a person make a change in G-ds decree? What do all the prayers do? The answer is that by us praying for someone, we are giving that person merit. They are the cause of our prayers and the source of the connection that we produce between us and G-d. And it actually adds to their merit and their spiritual place is changed.

Q. Do we only do this for other Jews? Can we do it for non-Jews as well? What if you don't know a person's Hebrew name?
A. This is of course for anyone. G-d has a special place in His heart for the Jews, but you can pray for everyone. You only have to say "G-d, you know who I'm talking about". You should try and find out what their Hebrew name is.

Q. Does it have the same oomph if you don't know the Hebrew name?
A. I'm not G-d, so I don't know. But I'm sure if you have the right intention and you're praying from the heart, I don't think G-d gets bogged down with the logistics! G-d wants the heart. If the intention is there, it's OK.

Q. So its more a reflection of us who are praying than the person who is being prayed for correct?
A. Yes, its about the one who is praying!
A. [Necha Golda] - There's a great book on prayer, "Praying with Fire" as well as "Understanding Afterlife in this Life"

Q. Why are some of the words in the siddur different than what you're saying?
A. There are two different versions because there are minor changes that happened in different parts of the world and different words were changed from their original text. So people pray according to what their father's prayed. It doesn't really make a difference what you say.

Dec 2, 2008

Blessings of Repentance & Forgiveness

  • Mrs. Raizy Guttman
  • May this learning be in memory of Tzirel Gittel b-s Shaindel Esther
  • This is the blessing of Repentance.
  • It comes right after the blessing for wisdom.
  • This is because true repentance can only come through wisdom. When you are wise enough to recognize and admit that you did wrong, you can do proper tshuva [repentance].
    The whole purpose of learning/wisdom is to bring you closer to G-d. The closer you get, the more you realize how far away you really are.
  • “True wisdom is knowing that you know nothing”
  • Learning for it’s own sake
  • The gemara [Talmud] says that the Bais Hamikdash [Holy Temple] was destroyed because the people were not making the blessing over the Torah. Why is this enough of a reason to destroy the Temple? Because it shows that they lacked a love for Torah.
    They were not learning for Hashem [G-d]. They were learning because that’s what everyone else was doing.
  • We often find ourselves learning now because of “peer pressure” when we should really be learning just to be close to G-d.
  • Hashivenu Avinu L’sorasecha” Bring us back our Father to Your Torah.
  • Rav Avigdor Miller tells us that the wording of “Bring us back” means that we were once there. You can’t return to a place that you haven’t been to yet. This tells us that we each have a place in Torah no matter where we are in life.
  • Avinu/father has the root word of AV. Which relates to Ahava/love. This is because the greatest expression of G-ds love for us as the ultimate Father is to give us His Torah.
  • “Bring us close, our King, to Your service”
  • The service refers to two things:
  • Prayer
  • Service in all the commandments
  • We refer to G-d as our King, which makes us then His servants. It is a special privilege to work in the King’s castle.
  • Vhachzirenu B’tshuva shelaima lifanecha” Return us in full repentance before you”
  • A classic debate in Judaic literature: We say to Hashem [G-d], “Bring us back!” and Hashem [G-d] says to us “If you come back to Me, I’ll bring you back!” So whose going to make the first move?
  • The answer is that WE have to take the first tiny step and we ask Hashem [G-d]to help us in that process. So in reality we are both fulfilling our sides of the ‘deal’.
  • Elazar ben Dodaya
    Was the sort of man who did every sin you could imagine. He did everything wrong. At one point he finally woke up and realized “Whats going to become of me?” So he went around to all different parts of the world begging for help. He asks the sun, moon, stars, oceans etc to be his emissary and they all tell him that they can’t. He finally realizes that repentance is only up to him. At that point he cries out remorse until he dies. A heavenly voice calls out “Rabbi Elazar ben Dodaya has a place in the world to come!”
  • Rabbi Yehuda Hanasi said “There are people who acquire a place in the world to come in one second!”
  • Vshavta Ad Hashem Elokecha” "Return until your G-d, Hashem." Rabbi Blumenkrantz says this means “Return until Hashem becomes your G-d.” We have to do tshuva [repentance] until we build our relationship with G-d.
  • All G-d wants is a little bit of effort!
  • “Big things show ability, small things show quality!” –Rabbi Levine
  • This is the only blessing that ends off with the words “Blessed are you G-d, who desires repentance” This is the only blessing that ends with the wording of desire. That’s because all G-d wants is for us to come back to Him!
  • We should always strive to be “Ba’alei Tshuva” People who are constantly returning to G-d.
  • Steps of true repentance are:
    Step One: Regret.
    Step Two: leave the sin
    Step three: verbal confession
    Step four: taking upon myself to not do the sin again
  • G-d waits for a person to repent.
  • It’s never too late to do tshuva [repentance].
  • G-d sends us small [and big] messages to bring us back to Him.
  • He only desires repentance.

  • Next blessing: Blessing of Forgiveness

    · Without repentance, there is no forgiveness
    · We say “forgive us our Father, for we certainly did sin” “Forgive us our King we have committed acts of rebellion”
    o We ask to be forgiven for different types of sins through different sort of relationships.
    · We ask to be forgiven for sins that we did not realize were so bad. We ask for G-d to overlook these sins like a father overlooks things.
    · We ask for G-d to wipe out our sins that we did on purpose, or through rebellion. We knew they were wrong but did them anyway.
    o Just like a king can give a royal pardon, we ask G-d to Royally pardon us as the King of the world.
    · G-d takes sins and changes them to good deeds!!
    · We have the power to do this as well!
    o As long as our repentance is out of love for G-d.
    o We say “We love You and want to do Your will!”
    · It is a great gift that we have such a power of tshuva [repentance].
    · We say “G-d, you graciously grant the requests that are made of you”
    · G-d increases His forgiveness to the point that He makes the sins into mitzvos [positive commandments]!
    · What a great thing that we can fix up our mistakes and change everything bad that we did into great things and get reward for that!

    You’ve got Questions? She’s got answers!

    Q: When we’re asking for forgiveness, by just asking does that mean we’re forgiven? How do you know you’re forgiven?
    A: If a person does those four steps of tshuva [repentance], then you know you’re forgiven. He can be assured that his tshuva [repentance] is accepted. As an interesting point, this only applies to a sin between man and G-d. Regret, leaving the sin, verbal confession, and accepting not to do the sin in the future. But if a person sins between man and man; then they have to go through those four steps of tshuva [repentance] and ask the person for forgiveness as well.

    Q: How do you ask for forgiveness for things that would bring up old hurts?
    A: The Rabbis say that in such a case you should definitely not mention the thing that wronged the person. You can ask for forgiveness in a vague way, either by Yom Kippur [Day of Atonement], through a letter or even through a messenger.

    Q: What if someone did something that they don’t think is the wrong thing?
    A: That’s very hard because a person can’t do tshuva [repentance] for something that they don’t realize is wrong. First there needs to be regret. There is a mitzvah in the Torah to help a person understand that they are doing something wrong, if you are in the position of being able to educate that person. If you can’t do anything to help a person realize that what they’re doing is wrong, the best thing that you can do for them is to pray for them.

Nov 23, 2008

Blessing of Redemption

11-23-08, Bottom of p. 103 in The Complete Artscroll Siddur, Asking G-d to please see our affliction (r'eh nah). My notes for this class.

Mar 11, 2008

What do YOU love about GEM?

Nina Litvak, Los Angeles, Gem 8, Fall 2009:
Absolutely fantastic and Meaningful trip! Extremely well planned and organized. The speakers were outstanding.
What enjoyed most about the Gem Israel Trip: Kabbalat Shabbat at Kotel - so much joy!
What Gained: I got inspiration, knowledge, and deeper faith in Hashem.

Minette Johnson, Atlanta, GA, Gem 8, Fall 2009:
What enjoyed most about the Gem Israel Trip: Raize's stories and book.
What Gained: Desire to learn and live Torah.

Mariana Grinblat, Toronto, Gem 8, Fall 2009:
What did you enjoy most about the Gem Israel Trip: Teachings
What Gained: New ideas and love of Israel

Tatiana Verkholaz, Chicago, IL, Gem 8, Fall 2009:
What enjoyed most about the Gem Israel Trip: The learning part / speakers.
What Gained: Helped me to identify my goals and my directions in learning. Also, made me feel more comfortable about myself and where I am at in my journey.

Josey Frieberg, Thornhill, Ontario, Gem 8, Fall 2009:
What enjoyed most about the Gem Israel Trip: Just being here! I do a lot of learning at home, but in Israel, it's very special.
What Gained: Knowing I'm not alone in my "journey".

Laura Vallejos, St. Paul, MN, Gem 8, Fall 2009:
What enjoyed most about Gem Israel Trip: The touring and teaching combined making the best use of my time in Israel.
What Gained: The exposure of Torah Knowledgable and gentle women. Thank you.

Diane Goldstein, NY, Gem 6, Fall 2008:
Memories of my dream trip to Jerusalem are always with me. I'm still downloading Raizy's Teletorah onto my ipod, and enjoying the learning when I Commute to work.

Alexia Deschamps, NY, attended Gem 8, Fall 2009:
Thank you so much to the group leaders and all the teachers on the program for giving so much and giving us the strength and inspiration to do something to become closer to Hashem and improve myself.
What enjoyed most about the Gem Israel Trip: Sharing the experience with all the women on the program.
What Gained: Proof that I am on the right path.

Laya Rosenthal, Denver, attended Gem 8, Fall 2009:
I have been taking the tele-torah classes with Raize. I listen [to the class recording] in the Afternoons. Love the class. I have been doing some one on one studying and also take a class since I am back. The trip was really really good for me and I thank all of you so much. We are coming back for a wedding ... so I am going to work on making sure we also have study time.
What enjoyed most about the Gem Israel Trip: The inspirational learning from woman to woman.
What Gained from the trip: The Reimergance into Torah study.

Moreen Pushkin, Los Angeles, attended Gem 8, Fall 2009:

I just wanted to drop you a line and let you know how much I enjoyed the Gem mission. A mere thank you is not enough. The women I met, you as a teacher, the sights, teaching Torah, Halacha, can not say in words how much I Gained ... Hashem has filled my heart with love and the wish to return to Israel. Aish has given me the tools I wanted to start learning. And I have you [ng], Mendel, and the whole group to thank Aish. I will keep in touch.
What enjoyed most about the Gem Israel Trip: I loved every class, all the stretching I did with my own growth and excitement at where I might grow.
What Gained: A Heightened awareness of my own desire to keep learning as a Jewish woman.

Judi Kirk, Woodbury, NY, attended Gem 2, Fall 2005:
We were women with Varying experiences, background and expectations. We ranged in age from 30's to 60's. We ranged from a Sabbath Observant woman to a Bewildered mother of children who had become Sabbath Observers, quite a different path from the one that mother had picked. We each came for different reasons, we thought. But we actually came with one purpose - to Grow.As an adult I began to explore my roots. Along the way I found my Source and have been exploring who I am and why I am living. On Gem, I was able to go to classes with teachers who had the names of authors I'd been reading on for several years. What an incredible opportunity to meet and be taught by Rabbis Zelig Pliskin, Motti Berger and Ken Spiro, RebbetzinTzipporah Heller, Lisa Aiken, Sarah Rigler and others. We had many teachers so brilliant and inspiring that I was filled with joy at being in Israel and Jewish. Our group leader had us in her Old City home for many of the classes. Additionally, other families had us to their homes. Israel is a land of Jewish mothers! We also had the privilege of meeting Aish leaders, Rabbi and Rebbitzen Weinberg, and being inspired right there, in front of the Western Wall! I have recommended the Gem program to many women who have interest in Jewish issues as well as to the wives of men who have found a desire to explore their Judaism. For anyone who loves learning, the opportunity to grow and to study at the center of the world, Jerusalem, is an experience that will be Cherished Eternally. For reluctant parents or children of people returning to Jewish roots, you may get to understand your loved one's journey more.

Nika Klinghoffer, Seattle, Gem TeleTorah phone class:

My mother has been on two trips Gem and I'm very happy she told me about this phone class. I really enjoy Raize's classes - and while it's great to have them written up on this blog (THANK YOU - it's a great tool to refer back to), there's really no substitute for calling in and listening for yourself. Raize not only shares a wealth of Torah wisdom every week, but she also shares her own stories, her unique sense of humor - and, really, her own heart. Her love for Gd, her Emunah, her love for her fellow man, her Sincerity in Striving to live a Jewish life, all come through in every word she says, and she gives me inspiration and a living model of how to think like a true Jew. Thank you, Raize - I hope to meet you one day!

Jo Brabson, Warrenton, VA, attended Gem 1, Spring 2005:

After Discovering on the ability to study with women my own age, the need to go to Israel was strong. I felt the power of the land calling to me and when I arrived I understood the pull of my heart. I was home ... The classes taught to us were on target and everyone eagerly answered questions that generated more questions. The locations, the tours, the Graciousness of the people we visited with made me realize that only in Israel can you learn what being Jewish really is. The women that I met and Studied with are a part of my family now and I Anxiously wait to hear from them. Long distance learning with new friends and old make the time away from Israel easier to bear knowing that Someday .... I'll be going back! It's an opportunity you do not want to miss and you'll be forever grateful that you Participated in this program!

Necha Golda Dubinsky [Gem Program Director], The Old City, Jerusalem
One of the things I like most about Gem TeleTorah learning is staying connected with women who have come on Gem Israel Trips and meeting new women who are excited about growing spiritually.

Paulette Franco, Los Angeles, CA, attended Gem 4, Spring 2007:

You find yourself Fascinated with every small step you take. With every step, something new is revealed about world history, civilization, and is relevant to the world today - both globally and personally.
I was recently in Jerusalem for 11 days [on Gem 4]. I saw learned, and experienced a lot of interesting things, and met many wonderful people. My pics from the trip are now on the internet. To view my album, click on the following link (or copy and paste it into your web browser): Http: / / / Cschnitz / iWeb / Site / Shalom% 20and% 20Welcome.html

Sheila Kochman, Howell, NJ, attended Gem 3, Fall 2006:

The pictures came out great! It brought back so many memories. I am so thankful that I had the opportunity to go on GEM. I think about the learning experiences and the people I met and how I can use it in my everyday life. I feel that I have been Spiritually Uplifted by the GEM program.

Theda Zuckerman, Manhattan, NY, attended Gem 1, 2, 3, 5, 7 and is Gem TeleTorah Facilitator:
The GEM program is an exceptional combination of learning and love; Torah learning, understanding of the challenges we face as Jews, love for Jewish values, love for Jerusalem and love for the Land of Israel. With the guidance of wonderful teachers and shared experiences, we listened, we questioned and we helped one another articulate our beliefs and our doubts. We supported and encouraged each other on our different paths to greater knowledge and connection. The AISH community in Jerusalem is amazing. It is the Embodiment of what living an authentic Torah life truly means. The impression it created on me has given me the inspiration and the courage to try and create the sense of community and humanity that was extended to all of us for the twelve days we Studied, visited and "dwelt" among these truly wonderful people. In short, it was a Spiritual shot in the arm. I look forward to returning.