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A Story From Zeyde:

Let me tell you a story.

And so we are told that: One day Rabbi Akiva approached Rabbi Tarfon. Now, Rabbi Tarfon was from a very wealthy family, and he, himself, was a very wealthy man who owned many businesses and properties and gave much tzedakah. So, Rabbi Akiva asked Rabbi Tarfon if he would consider investing in the purchase of a city.

Rabbi Tarfon knew that Rabbi Akiva was a very honest and virtuous man who always had heaven in his thoughts. Rabbi Tarfon thought to himself that, if Rabbi Akiva was asking him to make an investment, this must surely be an investment for the sake of heaven. So Rabbi Tarfon said yes and immediately gave Rabbi Akiva four thousand golden coins and gave it no further thought.

Rabbi Akiva took the investment money and used the coins to support the poor students of the beit hamidrash, the house of study. Making sure that the poor students had money to pay for their schooling, buy food and clothing, and have a place to sleep.

Now, there are some who would think “Rabbi Akiva deceived Rabbi Tarfon! Rabbi Akiva stole the money! (Heaven Forbid!) Even if it was used for tzedakah, it was stolen money!”

But, before we jump to such a conclusion, let us see what happened.

Sometime later Rabbi Tarfon met Rabbi Akiva walking along the road. Rabbi Tarfon remembered the investment and asked Rabbi Akiva “Last year, you came to me and asked if I would like to invest in the purchase of a city. How is the investment doing? Could I see where you invested the money for me?” 

Rabbi Akiva smiled and said “Of course I will show you your investment!” and he took Rabbi Tarfon to the beit hamidrash, a study hall, where children were learning Torah, made possible through Rabbi Tarfon's investment. Rabbi Tarfon and Rabbi Akiva stood at the door listening as the children were reading and reciting Tehilim. When the children came to the posuk that one should spread his money to the poor, and the reward will remain forever, Rabbi Akiva stretched out his hand toward the children and said, “This is the city that I purchased for you.” 

Rabbi Tarfon stood there for a moment looking, then with a smile, he kissed Rabbi Akiva on his head and exclaimed to Rabbi Akiva, “You are my master in wisdom.”, and he gave to Rabbi Akiva more money for charitable investments.

So, my question to you is “Will you invest in the purchase of a city?”

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The Story of “The Turkey Prince” Explained

The Prince Who Thought He Was a Turkey
A story of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (zt”l)

There was once a prince who took ill and decided he was a turkey. Stripping off his clothes, he crouched naked under the royal table, refusing to eat anything but crumbs which had fallen to the ground. The king was greatly upset. Many doctors were called to the palace to examine the prince but none could offer a cure.

One day a wise man came to the king and said, “Let me live in your home that I might befriend your son. Be patient and I will make him well again.” Immediately the sage approached the royal table, stripped off his clothes and sat down naked next to the prince.

“Who are you and what are you?” demanded the king’s son.

“I am your friend, a turkey like yourself,” the wise man replied. “I thought you might be lonely and decided to come and live with you for a while.”

Some weeks passed. The “turkeys” grew accustomed to each other and soon became good friends. They ate crumbs, drank from tin plates and discussed the advantages of being domesticated birds rather than men.

One night, when the royal family was having dinner, the wise man signaled to the king, whose servants brought two silk robes and cautiously placed them under the table. The sage quickly donned one of the robes and before the king’s son could utter a word proudly announced, “There are some dumb turkeys who are so insecure that they believe putting on a silk robe might endanger their identity.” The prince thought for a moment, nodded his head and began to clothe himself.

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Lag B’Omer 5778

(photo credit: Yaakov Naumi/Flash90)

Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chiam – 15 Iyyar 5778

 This Thursday we will celebrate Lag B’Omer. This is a day that we suspend the strictures that are observed during the counting of the Omer, which started on the second day of Pesach. We will sing and dance, people will get married, boys of three will get their first haircut, many of us will also get out hair cut, and many will have cookouts and bonfires.

It is my desire that every Jew, everywhere will have much joy as they celebrate the day.

 And speaking of “every Jew, everywhere” ….

Lag B’Omer has many aspects to the day; however, I would like to focus on just a small portion of the aspects. Let me preface this with a bit of history:

The Talmud tells us that Rabbi Akiva had 12,000 pairs of students that died during the counting of the Omer because they did not treat each other with respect. Among the students was a Shimon bar Yochai, who was among, and some say the only, survivor of the plague. We are also told that Shimon bar Yochai survived the plague because of his great love of all Yisrael and his refusal to engage in lashon hara against any of them. Because of this, Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai was blessed to receive the mystical teachings that are generally known as Kabbalah.

Today, there is so much strife, dissension and discord among our people. This group doesn’t like that group. This group says the others are not “Real Jews”. This group says the others are lairs, oppressors, fanatics, fools, and just about every single disparaging remark and label one could utter about another. It seems that we learned nothing from the plague that ravaged the students of Rabbi Akiva!

Every Jew is holy. Regardless of how far from the path they have strayed, they remain a holy spark that is precious to HaShem. How can we find it in our heart to cast away what HaShem finds dear?

As we get ready to celebrate Lag B’Omer, let us keep in mind the lesson of the students of Rabbi Akiva, and also remember what the advice of Eliezer, the father Baal Shem Tov. At the time of Eliezer ‘s death, he imparted to the young Yisrael the following:

“Fear no one but G‑d. Love every Jew with all your heart and soul, no matter who he is.”

In closing, I would like to point you to a short, but very wonderful, shiur by Rav Yakov Shepherd.

Have a wonderful and meaningful Lag B’Omer filled with family, friends and much joy! And Love every Jew!

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From Slavery to Freedom – The Ritual of Passover Cleaning.

Moshe leading the Children of Yisrael out of Mitzraim

Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chiam – 11 Nissan 5778

 I got up this morning and realized that … I am getting old! Two weeks of Pesach cleaning has left he tired and every muscle aching.

 As I dragged my body out of bed I think “First things first.”, dress, tallit, tefillin and shacharit, and then (maybe) I can face another day of lifting, pushing, pulling, washing and rearranging; right after coffee that is. And still, the Pesach dinner still has to be planned and prepared! OY, I can’t even think about that right now, it will have to wait.

While I am getting ready, taking out my siddur, tallit and tefillin, I am thinking about the cleaning and bewailing my situation, ok, kvetching about it! As I am checking my tzitziyot the phrase from the Haggadah pops into my head “… from slavery to freedom.” I put on the tallit and wrap the tefillin and as I am trying to concentrate on the prayers, it keeps buzzing around in my head “… from slavery to freedom.” OK, this is just getting annoying! I have prayers to do, a client meeting to conduct and then I have to get back to the drudgery of cleaning …. Ugh!

As I am reading the Akaida it suddenly it suddenly hits me! “… from slavery to freedom!”

For years I have made a point of telling people that they have to infuse the Pesach Seder with meaning, so that we can somehow experience what our ancestors experienced. Make the Seder come alive by telling the story of the Exodus, not to just drone on through the Haggadah.

So, back to cleaning. Why do we do it to ourselves every single year? All the mishegas of cleaning. We tear the whole house apart in order to clean out all the chametz, plan the meal, do the shopping, prepare the meal. We work ourselves like …….. SLAVES!

All these years I have been telling people to experience the Exodus when we have been doing it all along! We work ourselves to near exhaustion doing something we would not do if we didn’t have to, just like our ancestors:

 “Therefore they did set over them taskmasters to afflict them with their burdens. And they built for Pharaoh store-cities, Pithom and Raamses.” (Shemot 1:11)

 Weeks of cleaning, planning the seder, cooking the festive meal, working ourselves to the brink of collapse, and then, we finally get to sit with family and friends and enjoy the Pesach Seder. We have literally gone “… from slavery to freedom!”

After 62 years on earth, I finally get it (never too late and never too old!). Pesach cleaning has now taken on a whole new meaning. I still don’t like it, but I now get it! How amazing is HaShem!

 Thou shalt eat no leavened bread with it; seven days shalt thou eat unleavened bread therewith, even the bread of affliction; for in haste didst thou come forth out of the land of Egypt; that thou mayest remember the day when thou camest forth out of the land of Egypt all the days of thy life.” (Devarim 16:3)

 And how better to remember then by experiencing, in some small measure, what our ancestors lived through by purging our homes.

 “ And there shall be no leaven seen with thee in all they borders seven days;…”

 Now, if you will excuse me, I have to get back to cleaning (Ugh!).

To you and your family, Chag Pesach Kasher Vesame’ach !

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Chag Pesach Sameach!

We hope you all have a Pesach that is full of joy, wonder and meaning!

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Rebbe Nachman of Breslov’s Advice on Pesach Cleaning

First off, I have to give a “Hat Tip” to HaRav Gutman Locks for his post that inspired me to write this piece.

Pesach will soon be upon us; and, as usual, it will arrive quicker that we expected.

 Each year we go through the exercise of cleaning for Pesach. Each year it seems like an overwhelming and endless task (maybe not for you, at least for me it does!). Cleaning all the rooms, making sure every corner is clean, everything is dusted, everything has been scrubbed within an inch of its life, everything that needs to be kashered is done, and finally, everything is put away. But, somehow, every year, it all gets done by the last few hours before Pesach (Again, at least this is my experience.).

When it is done, our muscles are sore, we are exhausted and short tempered. Remember your mother? “Hey! get that food out of here, I just finished cleaning!” “Don’t put that there, put it away!” “I don’t intent to clean this over again because you are eating chametz in your room!” And, of course, my favorite, when mom would find something unexpected, like a cereal bowl found under a bed that had milk which now resembles something akin to cottage cheese, “What? You were born in a barn!” Ahh, the memories of being a kid during Pesach cleaning!

Through all of the mishegas, we find that we have somehow diminishing the joy of Pesach.

So, today I am looking at the house and trying to prepare my mind to start Pesach cleaning; and hoping for some extra ambition and energy to appear out of nowhere to get it all done. Immediately my mide goes to the Big Picture. WOW! I have ten rooms to clean. That’s 1904 square feet of floor space; 17,136 square feet of interior space that has to be vacuumed, washed, dusted, scrubbed and/or kashered! Sure, there is a lot of empty space included in that number, but ….. Are you kidding me? 17, 136 square feet! I am going to need an army and a bulldozer to get this done! The only thing I am grateful for is that I don’t live in a two-story house!

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Chag Purim Sameach 5778!

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The Semoneh Esrei Project

By: Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chaim

Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chaim and Richard D. Ruttenberg announce the just released Shemoneh Esrei Project. Nineteen original compositions by Richard D. Ruttenberg and mastered by Joe Berger of JoeZilla Studios. Available at:

Based on the original concept and descriptions of Rabbi Aryel Nachman ben Chaim, Richard D. Ruttenberg has masterfully looked into the heart of each of the benedictions of the Shemoneh Esrei, and composed a unique piece of music that brings out the depth, emotion and passion of each benediction.

The album is not intended to accompany the prayers when they are actually being recited during the prayer service, it is intended to be used to enhance the study of the benedictions to gain a deeper understanding of the benedictions.

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Chassidic Uniform?????

Satmar Chassidim (Credit: Reuters)

I have been told, as have many of you, that; because I don’t wear a white shirt and black pants, black coat and black hat when I am out and about, I cannot possible be a Chassid. OK, I must have missed the memo that said Chassidshe had a uniform and dress code! If you have a copy of the memo, please send it to me!

Back in the early days, black dye was very hard to make and very expensive. Most Chassidim back then wore dark greens, browns and blues. Black was reserved for Shabbat and special occasions. This concept of wearing a white shirt and black pants, black hat with a black coat is a relatively recent phenomenon. It was Chassidim emulating the dress of their Rebbes in order to be an impetuous toward attaining a higher level (not that that is at all a bad thing). However; a lot of Jews work in professions where dressing that way would be inappropriate and expensive (farmers, mechanics, plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc.).

I choose to wear blue, brown or green during the six mundane days of the week and save my white shirts and black pants for Shabbat, when I am teaching and on special occasions. Heck, even the hat I wear during the week is either my brown or green hat. Why? Because, if I wore the white shirt, black pants, black hat and black coat during the six mundane days, what makes wearing them special when they are worn on Shabbat?

No, there is no Chassidic uniform or dress code other than to dress modestly.

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Back From Vacation

Well, we are back from vacation and it is time to get prepared for the High Holy Days. We will be posting the schedule soon, so keep coming back. In the mean time, here is a picture of the Tawas Lake at sundown.

Tawas Lake

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