Thursday, March 26, 2015

Jewish Warriors and Pesah (and Breslov!)

Avraham avinu, the ish hesed, man of mercy, was a fierce warrior who destroyed armies of kings. Ya`aqov avinu helped all his sons destroy entire cities of Kena`an after two of his sons destroyed the whole city of Shekhem. See the ancient midrash Sefer HaYashar parashat WaYishlah for in depth details of these battles.

Before benei Yisrael were enslaved in Misrayim, they aided the Misri army in defeating invaders and then they beat the Misrim after they had turned on them after the battle. They were only enslaved after this event because Pharaoh feared their prowess. All of the tribes besides for Lewi were duped into thinking their building up defenses would protect them from future invaders and they submitted to this labor, much like how many modern Jews think it is proper to spend their days working at jobs rather than focusing primarily on Torah and working secondarily.

Moshe Rabenu physically struck the Misri taskmaster, killing him in a single blow. By the way, the opinion that he used a Divine Name does not conflict with the fact he struck him physically, which will be explained later in this post.

Even after the slavery ended and we left Misrayim, our forefathers fought and beat Par`o's army before the splitting of Yam Suf, and only went through Yam Suf after Par`o came back with more troops. We weren't this little helpless people, unable to defend ourselves and fight against our oppressors like many would have you believe. The essential part of our oppression in Misrayim was our willingness to conform to a foreign society, much like many Jews still do today, unfortunately. Not so unbelievable when you see it happening right before your eyes here and now.

All the facts I mention above are contained in detail in Sefer HaYashar, which is a book mentioned in Nakh about twice if I recall correctly.

We have a problem today. It is one of a pacifistic religious idea, comparable to a modern Christian point of view. At this point in time, we obviously do not go out attacking anyone as an individuals or proclaiming some holy war - but we can and should defend ourselves against attack. And we ought to know how! As it is stated in Gemara, when one comes to kill you, get up to kill him first. How many Jews need to be helplessly stabbed, even butchered in synagogues, for us to get the message?

Our forefathers were all warriors, surpassing the military prowess of any of the goyim. They fought using circular strikes often assuming the forms of the Hebrew letters, and often learned many styles from animals, especially those which are symbols of some of the tribes, such as the snake of Dan, wolf of Binyamin, lion of Judah, bull of Ephraim, etc. This system is much different and much more in depth than any "martial art" among the nations. This system was maintained by a select Jewish community in Yemen called Habbanim who had lived in the area of the Tanakhic city Hassermawath (Hadhramaut in Arabic) from even Bayith Rishon until recently. According to Rabbi Yosef Maghori-Kohen:

"The Habbanis were mighty heroes. I heard a lot from elders in my youth about the Habbanis, about their wars, how they would fight ‘according to names’. What does it mean ‘according to names’? –the letters: They would make the shape of the [Hebrew] letters with their hands, and by this they would be victorious. Also the Shar`abim–from the city of Shar`ab–were strong, but not to the same degree as the Habbanis. Once in Yemen there was a wild tribe of murderous Arab warriors that conquered town after town, slaughtering whomever they found. Thus they moved forward from settlement to settlement: killing, destroying–may their names by blotted out–until they approached a city of Jews, 13,000 Jews roughly. Everyone felt hopeless-even the Arabs among them put up their hands, searching for a place to escape. Suddenly ten [Jewish] Habbanis arrived and waged war with them–ten against a thousand–and vanquished all of them. Not even one of those warriors was left alive, and not one of the ten fell."

This account is on par with the accounts in Tanakh and Sefer HaYashar of the physical and spiritual prowess it takes for one man to prevail over hundreds and even thousands. Need we be reminded of the Makabim, also? It is physical combined with spiritual, for one must be disciplined in tiqun habrith in order to be an effective warrior and safe on the battlefield. Instead of separating the spiritual from the physical like many try to do in our galuth-ized Judaism, they are actually intertwined!

What does this have to do with Breslov? A lot! Breslov is about geula. Geula is about "hadesh yamenu kaqedem" - becoming as we once used to be. Breslov is not just a sect of Hasiduth or appropriate for only certain kinds of Jews. Breslov is the vehicle and the direction to returning to ourselves to the Land of Israel and the lifestyle and mentality of our holy forefathers, removing all galuth-mentality from us. It is very possible Rebbe Nahman killed 10 goyim in Istanbul which he named as different nations in a seeming Gog uMagog pre-enactment, if you will. In a more original and older usage, the word "lesaheq", which is what Rebbe Nahman is said to have done here, means also to fight or spar, wage war, as can be seen in Tanakh and definitely in other sources. It seems that Rebbe Nahman did do such a thing, since immediately afterward he ran to hide by a Rav whom he had been avoiding up until then. Also, today's Habbani teacher of Israel's ancient warrior system happens to be a Breslover from a family of Breslovers and was one of the original talmidim of the Ba`al HaPeteq.

In closing, consider the words of Rambam whose halakhic work Rebbe Nahman said would be the standard around the time of Mashiah: “Our fathers transgressed and disappeared because, as we explained, they strayed after false ideas, attributing to them purposeful objectives, while neglecting the art of martial defense and government. No wonder the prophets called them ignorant and fools.” - from Rambam’s 'Letter To The Jews Of Marseilles’.

Have a blessed, happy, and kosher Pesah!

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Who Wears the Pants?

There is a group of people who consider themselves Breslovers, yet they teach something quite contrary to what our Torah tells us, and naturally, also what Rabenu Nahman taught.

In a marital relationship, the man and his wife have two different roles. Each are totally necessary for a properly functioning family. A woman is to be a help for her husband, as the HaShem states in Bereshith 2:18: "...לֹא טוֹב הֱיוֹת הָאָדָם לְבַדּוֹ אֶעֱשֶׂה לּוֹ עֵזֶר כְּנֶגְדּוֹ", "It isn't good for man to be alone, I will make him a helper like unto him." What a woman is not supposed to be, is the leader of the relationship. This HaShem designated to the man, as HaShem states in Bereshith 3:16: "וְהוּא יִמְשָׁל בָּךְ", "and he shall rule over you".

However, this group claims that a man should never correct his wife. They claim the woman is superior spiritually and that the man must follow the woman's every word and certainly not correct any of her mistakes. One of the Rabbis of this group stated that even if his wife put salt instead of sugar in his coffee, he should sit there and sip it and tell her it's great. Seriously? It's forbidden to say, "oh, honey, I'm sorry, but you accidentally put salt instead of sugar in my coffee," and maybe laugh about it with her a make a new cup? Let's get real... 

Consider Yesha`yah 3:12, and tell me if they are making the same mistake the prophet chastised Israel over: "עַמִּי נֹגְשָׂיו מְעוֹלֵל וְנָשִׁים מָשְׁלוּ בוֹ", "My people: their rulers are mockers, and women rule over them."

So, what did Rebbe Nahman really have to say about this?

First, he stated what our Sages stated that a woman's level of da`ath (knowledge, intellect) is less. On the plus side, he stated women often have a pure and unwavering emuna, which is immensely important. What else?

There is a reoccurring idea throughout Liqutei Halakhoth Even Ha`Ezer which deals with the laws between a man and woman, procreation, marriage, divorce, yibum and halitza, etc. This reoccurring idea is the necessity for a man to lead and correct the woman, to cause her to become complete, to give her the wisdom to fill her lack. This is the role of a Jewish man with his wife!

Take for example, the following statement from Liqutei Halakhoth: שלמות העצה" "היא מסטרא דדכורא, כי עקר בחינת חלוקת העצה היא מסטרא דנוקבא, בחינת עצת נשים, "The completion of advice comes from the masculine side, for the real division of advice comes from the feminine side, which is the aspect of the 'advice of women'." This means that the man must correct, lead, repair, send light, wisdom, Godliness, into the mindset of the woman. How can he do this is she is acting like she is the boss and he is going along with it?

The masculine side, throughout Qabala, corresponds to the sun, the side of mercy, the expansive side. Wisdom and advice is likened to semen, as semen partially composed of drops from the brain. The feminine side is likened to the moon, the side of judgment, the restrictive side. She is made to receive the light from the sun, the expansive gives into the restrictive, the judgment is sweetened with mercy. The 'semen' is to be received from the man, i.e. that the woman receives wisdom, guidance, advice from the man.

I honestly do not know how this group, who has written many well known books which have their misconception taught throughout, comes to this conclusion or claims what they say complies with Tanakh (as we have seen, it doesn't) or Haza"l, Qabala, or Breslov (as we have seen, it doesn't). I have no idea why anyone who follows their view doesn't realize how wrong it is!

Women are important, essential, needed, valued, only to be loved by their husbands - but a man who allows her to become the leader of the relationship and who does not lead her and guide her with wisdom is not a man, nor is he truly loving her as he might think he is. He is in fact doing the opposite, and she also does not realize what she is doing!

May all of these problems become fixed and resolved among all Israel and along with raising children properly, the family unit will be fixed, functioning properly, having a tremendous effect on the correction of all the souls born into our families, and bringing Mashiah much closer.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Child Discipline

Disciplining children is very uncommon among hasidei Breslov, and in fact, it is uncommon across most of Israeli society. The reason for the problem in the Breslov world is because of a story of an incident where Rebbe Natan struck his son after his son could not tolerate an extremely gross Shabbat guest. It is important to note that Rebbe Natan himself never wrote about this story, nor did he claim Rebbe Nahman told him never to discipline children. Before I get to that story, first let me preface everything with our foundation, Tanakh, specifically the wisdom of Shlomo HaMelekh in Mishlei.

Mishlei 13:24

חוֹשֵֹךְ שִׁבְטוֹ שׂוֹנֵא בְנוֹ וְאֹהֲבוֹ שִׁחֲרוֹ מוּסָר:
One who holds back his rod hates his son, and one who loves him disciplines him early.

Mishlei 23:13-14

אַל תִּמְנַע מִנַּעַר מוּסָר כִּי תַכֶּנּוּ בַשֵּׁבֶט לֹא יָמוּת: אַתָּה בַּשֵּׁבֶט תַּכֶּנּוּ וְנַפְשׁוֹ מִשְּׁאוֹל תַּצִּיל:
Don't withhold discipline from a youth, for if you strike him with a rod he will not die. You strike him with a rod and you save his soul from the grave.

Mishlei 29:15, 17

שֵׁבֶט וְתוֹכַחַת יִתֵּן חָכְמָה וְנַעַר מְשֻׁלָּח מֵבִישׁ אִמּוֹ: יַסֵּר בִּנְךָ וִינִיחֶךָ וְיִתֵּן מַעֲדַנִּים לְנַפְשֶׁךָ:
A rod and reproof give wisdom, but a youth let free shames his mother. Chastise your son and he will give you rest, and he will give pleasures to your soul.

Do you think Rebbe Nahman contradicted the plain and emphatic wisdom of Shlomo HaMelekh? I don't think so. I am all for following the Sadiq blindly, because I believe in his greatness which is beyond what he revealed. However, this is not a case of having to choose between what Tanakh says and what the Sadiq says, because I do not believe they contradict. I do not believe Rebbe Nahman's words about the issue meant that one should never discipline his children.

Take a quick listen to what the great American Breslov Rabbi, Tzvi Aryeh Rosenfeld ob"m had to say about the issue, also touching on these verses in Mishlei, and hear his explanation about what Rebbe Nahman meant by his words to Reb Natan:

I think this is an extremely fundamental and important point. In fact, I think it has a lot to do with bringing Mashiah, since by disciplining children and causing them to grow up into people who have a bit of yir'at kavod, you are fixing their souls. If you let them do what they please without strict discipline shaping their character, they will grow up into irresponsible, immature, spiritually inadequate adults.