The first entry of evil into humanity was through this act of unholy eating.  Until that fateful moment evil existed outside themselves embodied as the serpent.  When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil they brought an intermingling of good and evil into themselves, into the very substance of their being.

Whenever we eat without proper kavanna we repeat this original sin.  The primary fixing of human civilization is to learn to eat in holiness.  Adam and Eve contained the souls of all humanity, of all the people who would ever live.
We were all present as a part of their consciousness and participated in their decision to eat.  Consequently we also suffered the damaging effects of their sin.

All neuroses, personality imbalances, and existential disatisfactions, teaches Torah, have their root in this sin of unholy eating.  Its impurity lives inside each of us as a fact of the human condition.  Every person has an eating disorder, for “eating” is a much broader activity than simply taking food into one’s mouth.

Eating, as an archetype, is the experience of lack and the taking inside oneself of something from outside to fill that lack.  Something that was not you, becomes a piece of you.  Literal eating, material acquisition, sexuality, honor-seeking, addiction to power,  praise, drugs, or even attention are all forms of eating.  They start with an experience of lack, and in an effort to assuage that lack one pulls something from the outside in.

The act of eating itself is neutral.  It has no intrinsic holiness, but neither is it shameful or destructive.  Creation does move forward simply by traveling up its food chain, but the truth of G-d as one and good and omnipresent is not automatically revealed.  The holy expression of “eating” has two criteria:

     1.  The “food” must be kosher.  Literal food must not mix meat and milk, nor be of an animal type forbidden by Torah; sexuality must not be adulterous, money must not be acquired by theft, etc.  In a more general sense, kosher also means healthy.  The Torah forbids us from doing anything that damages our bodies.  This includes eating amounts of types of food that are literally kosher but nevertheless unhealthy.

     2. One’s intentions must be pure and selfless.  One must consciously undertake to serve G-d and bring pleasure to his or her Creator with one’s newly acquired resource, be it food or possessions, etc.

Every person struggles with some form of eating disorder.  Our taking from the world is never perfectly conscious and selfless.  This was the first sin and it remains the root of all impurities in the personality.  Our literal eating is always a microcosm of the way we take from the world.  Every imbalance of psyche has some corresponding (and casual) expression in the way we ingest food.  Neuroses and psychoses are only symptoms of our unholy eating which is always the first cause.
(Eating as Tikun, Susan Schneider)




Wednesday evening is Rosh Chodesh Kislev. Here is a wonderful video from Rabbi Alon Anava on Rosh Chodesh, Women and Tehillim.

May Hashem accept the prayers of Am Yisrael this Rosh Chodesh and send us Mashiach and the Geulah Shleimah!




Wednesday evening begins the two days of Rosh Chodesh for the month of Kislev.  The day before Rosh Chodesh is Yom Kippur Katan.  What is Yom Kippur Katan and how can we make the most of it?

The day before each Rosh Chodesh (beginning of the month) is referred to as 'Yom Kippur Katan," the "Little Yom Kippur." R' Gedalya Schorr, in explaining why this is the case, first discusses the purpose of Yom Kippur. Yom Kippur, simply stated, is a day for one to take an accounting of what he or she has accomplished or failed to do. It is time for people to inspire themselves, to arouse within their heart and soul a desire to accomplish more, to strive for greatness.
There are two approaches that can be taken when it comes to self-motivation. One approach is to focus on that which we are lacking. "Why can't I control my anger, why can't I control my evil inclination, etc.?" By accenting our faults, we realize how far we have fallen, and how great the need is to get back on the right track. Another approach is to focus on our aspirations and goals. Our Sages wrote that everyone is required to ask themselves "When will my deeds reach the (level of the) deeds of my forefathers?" A person must realize that he has it within himself to achieve greatness, and that greatness is indeed within reach. Read More

Rosh Chodesh reminds us of what man could and should have been.  It is a time of atonement because its message of renewal summons Israel to renew itself, to return to its roots and shed the blandishments of the material world.  Because of this, the nation’s spiritual leaders ordained that the day before Rosh Chodesh should be a day of repentance and atonement – a miniature Yom Kippur.  In earlier times, when Jews were closer to God, one Yom Kippur a year was enough, perhaps, but as the years went by and the exile chipped away at our spiritual awareness, the genius of our religious leaders asserted itself and they prefaced the monthly day of renewal with a day of reflection, prayer, and repentance.  This is Yom Kippur Katan, a day when we can help bring the moon back to its original state by becoming worthy of Redemption and God’s Presence. (Rabbi Nosson Scherman, The Arstscroll Yom Kippur Katan Service)

Tehilla Diamond writes about participating in her first Yom Kippur Katan service in Bnei Brak in a blog post entitled  Yom Kippur Katan, No Small Endeavor

For a more in depth look at Yom Kippur Katan.



We all know that we need to do Teshuva but what exactly is teshuva? How do we do it and how do we know when we have done it?  Rabbi Alon Anava answers these questions in this rather long, but fascinating and extremely important shiur.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

May all Am Yisrael do complete teshuva and merit the Mashiach and the geulah, speedily in our days!


Parshat Chayei Sarah

Camel Commotion: Parshat Chayei Sarah
Based on a Naaleh.com class by Mrs, Shira Smiles

The Torah relates the initial meeting of Yitzchak and Rivka in inverse parallel structure. Rivka was coming from her father's home in Charan. Yitzchak was coming from Be'er Lachai Roee. Both were on the road. Neither was in a defined place. The Torah states that Yitzchak went out towards evening to talk to God in the field. He raised his eyes and noticed camels coming. Rivka also raised her eyes, beheld Yitzchak, and fell from her camel. She asked Eliezer, "Who is this man walking in the field towards us?"  Eliezer answered, "He is my master." She then took the veil and covered herself. The commentators explain these verses as the preparations our ancestors made for finding their match and for beginning to forge the life of a Jewish family.

Yitzchak was forty years old. He knew he was ready for marriage.Vayovenu Bamikrah interprets his journey as his personal effort in the quest for a wife. He knew he could not marry a girl from Canaan and that he was prohibited from leaving the holy land. These two elements made it impossible for him to search for a bride. Even though Avraham had sent Eliezer back to the old country to find a match, there was no guarantee of success. So Yitzchak was involving himself in the mitzvah of making matches in the hopes that he too would merit his own mate. He went to Be'er Lachai Roee to bring Hagar, who had done teshuva, back to Avraham.

Yitzchak established the Mincha afternoon prayer. It is in the afternoon, says Rav Reiss, when we are heavily enmeshed in the concerns of daily work that we may easily forget that everything is dependent on the will of Hashem. Certainly, finding an appropriate spouse is subject to His will. But there is a much deeper mystical connection. Rav Avigdor Parness in Lev Tahor takes us back to the time of creation again. He references each hour of the sixth day and how Hashem created Adam and Chava. By the ninth hour, they were already complete and were commanded not to eat from the eitz hadaat. In the tenth hour, Chava and Adam transgressed that one commandment and ate of the fruit. That hour when the Creator went out into the field symbolically searching for Adam and asking him rhetorically "Ayekah, where are you," was the same hour of the day that Yitzchak went out into the field to reconnect with his Maker and rectify the sin of Adam. But to do so completely, he also needed his ezer kenegdo to represent Chava.

Rav Moshe Bick notes that when Yitzchak davened Mincha, he not only davened for his ezer kenegdo (helpmate), but for all of Klal Yisroel. He saw all of Jewish history before his eyes till the time of Moshiach. He knew that one of the signs that Moshiach is thatchutzpah (impudence) will increase. He also knew that it would be a time fraught with death and destruction. Yitzchak  used his self -nullification in prayer to counter this arrogance and try to prevent the massive destruction. When he saw the gemalim, the camels, he saw it as a sign of redemption, for it echoes Hashem's promise that although his descendants will go down to Egypt, "Gam aloh aaleh, I will also bring them up again." 

Chessed will also play a critical role in ushering in the redemption. When Yitzchak saw Rivka on the gemalim, especially after Eliezer related how Rivka gave him and all the camels enough water to drink, he knew that Hashem had sent him his destined mate to complete his mission. When Rivka saw Yitzchak approaching, she was overwhelmed by the aura surrounding him, and she either fell off her camel in awe or slid off in respect. Perhaps, as Meor Vashemesh suggests, she fell figuratively. She must have known she was on a higher spiritual level than her father and brothers. But now she was witnessing true greatness. She reassessed her own worth and her stature fell in her own eyes. But she decided to grow and do teshuvah, and so she took her veil and covered herself in modesty and determination.

The Belzer Rebbe explains that Rivka understood that her contribution to the household would be the attribute of chesed, kindness. But the aura of Yitzchak's gevurah was so strong, that Rivka worried it would overwhelm her chessed and she would not be an appropriate helpmate. To this Eliezer answered, "He is my master," he has grown up in the home of my master Avraham whose defining characteristic was also chessed and he carries some of this within himself as well. As Rabbi Dovid Cohen points out, Eliezer reassured Rivka that they would balance each other out. In the same vein, we too must strive to achieve equilibrium between the attributes of chessed and gevurah within us.

Although Yitzchak and Rivka were extremely different, they shared a common goal. Their differences served to complement each other and teach us how we can be inspired to grow and use each of our middot to build the world Hashem meant us to build.   



Let us examine the situation that prevailed then, when the world began.  At the time of Creation, Man and Woman were in a position unique in human history.  They were given an opportunity that was never again to be available.  Had they allowed Hashem to rule them, they could have crowned Him sovereign ruler of the world for all eternity.  But they chose otherwise.

Why?  What was the alternative which they sought?  In some way, the first man and woman were asserting their “independence.”  But this independence, to which so many of us aspire, is of course, nothing but an illusion which becomes transparent when closely examined.  “Free” of God’s mastery, we submit instead to enslavement by values internal—ego, passions, and desires—and external—unattainable financial and social goals and the like.  Indeed, we may even subjugate ourselves  to political "leaders" whose credentials to rule us are often dubious.

In the end, our submission to the control of external factors has brought us to the state of multifaceted dependence in which we find ourselves today.

Mashiach—the ultimate messianic king—is the leader who will release us from this enslavement.  After thousands of years during which man has been experimenting with every possible way of avoiding God, Mashiach will raise and liberate the consciousness of man.  He will end our search, and bring us under the yoke of God’s dominion. 
(More Precious than Pearls, by Rebbetzin Tziporah Heller)



The word Teshuvah is usually translated as repentance. In fact, there is a well known prayer recited on the High Holy Days that Teshuvah, Tefillah, andTzedakah, translated as “Repentance,” “Prayer,” and “Charity” can avert the evil decree.

This translation is not entirely accurate. Teshuvah is better translated as “return” and signifies a return to the original state.

Classically, Teshuvah is comprised of three ingredients: regret of misdeed, decision to change, and verbal expression of one’s sins. Technically, whenever one sins, one is mandated to do Teshuvah. However, the Ten Days ofTeshuvah between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are specifically designated for Teshuvah, when the gates of prayer and repentance are more open than at any other time during the cyclical Jewish year.

Kabbalistically, Teshuvah takes on more of a cosmic dynamic.

The word Teshuvah in Hebrew may be read “tashuv hey,” literally “returning the letter Hey.” The last letter Hey of the Tetragrammeton refers to Malchut.Malchut is synonymous with Shechinah, which is how G-d manifests Himself as a sovereign within the creation.