Maximizing Yom Kippur

Yom Kippur is associated with prayer and liturgy that we may not understand, very long services and, of course, fasting. Unfortunately, most people are unaware of the power, meaning and opportunity of the day. In this podcast we go back to the very first Yom Kippur. What happened on that day and how is it represented in the holiday? Why is Yom Kippur both a day of the sealing of judgement and the day of atonement? What is the meaning behind the fasting? Listen and familiarize yourself with the true essence and opportunity of the day and learn how to maximize it!

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

The Core Theme of Rosh Hashana

Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of the creation of man. It is also the Day of Judgement. What are the various elements and themes of the day and how do they interrelate?

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Ha’azinu – The Song of History

On the final day of his life, Moshe gathers the nation and sketches out the cycles of history both past and future in a poetic, song like way, all the while providing indispensable lessons.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Is Repentance Easy?

“Giving up smoking is the easiest thing in the world. I know because I’ve done it thousands of times.” – Mark Twain

Is it easy to change behavior? Is it easy to repent? In Parshas Nitzavim we see conflicting stances on this matter. In one verse (30:2), repentance is described in a similar way to martyrdom: “And you shall return (repent) to Hashem your God, and you shall hearken to his voice as all that I command you today, you and your sons, with all your hearts and with all your soul.” Reb Chaim Volozhiner notes the overlapping word usage with the verse in Shema, “And you shall love Hashem your God… with all your soul”, which Chazal explain to mean that we must even forfeit our lives for the love of our Creator. By utilizing the same verbiage for repentance, the verse is hinting that changing behavior and adopting a new way of life is akin to the ultimate self-sacrifice. Walking away from ingrained character and behavior demands similar courage, resolve and intestinal fortitude as allowing oneself to die for God. Apparently, repentance is pretty hard. That sentiment is likely shared by those who are intimidated by the myriad components and draconian conditions necessary for complete repentance of Rambam’s “Laws of Repentance” and Rabbeinu Yonah’s “Gates of Repentance.”   

Contrast that with a string of verses (30:11-14) later on in the chapter, describing an inordinately easy mitzvah: “This mitzvah that I command you today – it is not hidden from you, nor is it distant. It is not in the Heavens that you may say, ‘who will ascend to Heaven, and take it for us, and teach it to us, so that we may do it’. Nor is it across the sea that we may say, ‘who will cross the sea for us, and take it for us, and teach it to us, so that we may do it’. Rather, the matter is exceedingly close to you, in your mouth and in your heart to do it.” While the verses themselves do not explicitly identify which mitzvah is being referenced, the great commentaries do. Rashi explains that it refers to the mitzvah of Torah. Ramban disagrees and interprets the verse to be referring to the mitzvah of repentance. How can we understand labeling repentance as being so easy – “In your mouth and in your heart”? Also, how can it simultaneously be exceedingly difficult?

Another point to ponder is the characterization (30:6) of repentance as “circumcision of the heart.” What is intended by this odd classification?  

What is the essence of repentance? There is a misconception that repentance is exclusively sin-centric: To repent you must act in opposition to the sin. My grandfather, Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe זצוקללה”ה, explained that this was precisely the miscalculation of the maapilim (Bamidbar 14:44), the Jews that defiantly attempted to ascend to Israel after the Almighty decreed that the nation will languish in the wilderness for 40 years due to the sin of the Spies, only to be slaughtered by Amalek. Their decision was not without reason. They assessed that the core of the sin of the Spies was resistance to enter the Land of Israel and even proposing to return to Egypt (14:4), and therefore attempting to enter Israel in disregard of the entailed dangers can be the only remedy.  But they were mistaken. Repentance, Teshuva, means to return to the Almighty and to His Will. At that time His Will mandated that they remain in the wilderness for 40 years, and thus accepting that was the correct avenue to repentance. My grandfather would also invoke this notion with regard to the repentance of Rosh Hashana. The days of Rosh Hashana make up the first two of the “Ten Days of Repentance” yet unlike Yom Kippur, there is nary a mention of sin. At its root, repentance is returning to your Creator. On Rosh Hashana that is manifest by us coronating Him as King of the world, and on Yom Kippur the same objective is approached from a different angle by addressing sin.

Given that repentance is about man achieving closeness to his Creator, the process of repentance is bridging the gap between man and the Almighty, between the created and the Creator. Hence, the degree of difficulty in achieving it is contingent upon the distance between the two. In essence, the question of, “Is repentance easy or hard?” is precisely the same question as, “Is man close or distant from the Almighty?” The answer to the latter question hinges upon which of the disparate elements of man is being referenced. The “body” of man, the physicality, the ephemeral – has no commonality with the Almighty. However, our Neshama (Soul) is very similar to its Creator. In one teaching in the Talmud (Brachos 10a), five parallels between the Almighty and the Neshama of man are enumerated; another (Niddah 30b) plainly equates the purity of the two. As such, we indeed have an element of our being that is already extremely close to the Almighty and thus repentance for it is natural and seamless.

With this understanding, the conflicting messages about the difficulty of repentance can be reconciled. It is true that repentance is really difficult. By default we identify as an ephemeral body, and in that state repentance is unachievable. To repent we must shed ourselves clean of that attitude and identity. That is a painful process, akin to martyrdom. However, once we identify as our true and lasting element of self, our Neshama, we are already in close proximity to our Creator, and have achieved repentance. This process is illustrated by the circumcision of the heart. We already have everything that is needed to be close to the Almighty, it is just concealed. All we must do to reach our goal is to peel away the inhibiting factors, and reveal our true self that was all ready to go, lying dormant and awaiting liberation.  

This is a helpful and heartening thought to take with us during the season of repentance. It is very difficult to repent. But it is comforting to know that all we are really doing is clearing out the path for our true self to shine. It may be back-breaking labor to dig out buried treasure, but it’s made easier knowing that the treasure is there, and it is complete, and once it is unearthed it’s yours.

Ep. 39: Rabbi Yisrael Salanter and the Mussar Movement

By the 1840s, ferocious winds of changes were sweeping through the Jewish nation, and leaving wreckage and carnage in the wake of their consuming vortexes. The spiritual standing of the nation was under assault from without and vulnerable from within. Several great, innovative leaders rose up and created movements aimed at rebuffing the threats. In this podcast, we tell the remarkable story of Reb Yisrael Salanter and his Mussar Movement.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

The Novelty Principle

What is the secret to novelty? How can we inject a feeling of newness and freshness into our life, our relationships, and our Torah? In this podcast we combine a series of Talmudic teachings to outline a path to living with newness in every area of our lives.

Please consider making a donation to rebuilding our TORCH Centre that was destroyed during Hurricane Harvey.

  • To see the damage click here.
  • To make a donation click here

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Nitzavim & Vayeilech – Eternal Exhortations

In the last few days of Moshe’s life, he gathers the entire nation, men women and children, and presents to them his final, departing message.

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Ki Savo – Consequences of Closeness

A central theme of Parshas Ki Savo is the idea that we are the Chosen People of God. Why were we chosen, what are we chosen for, and what are the benefits and consequences of being chosen?

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Ep. 38: Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin and the Mother of all Yeshivos

To see pictures of the devastation of the TORCH Centre please visit http://rabbiwolbe.com/harvey/

To make a donation to the rebuilding of the TORCH Centre please visit rebuildtorch.com

Rabbi Chaim of Volozhin was a man of extraordinary character and scholarship, and the most prominent disciple of the Gaon of Vilna, who succeeded him as leader of Lithuanian Jewry in the first two decades of the 19th Century. The yeshiva that he founded – the Volozhin Yeshiva – came to be known as the mother of all yeshivos because it spawned a revolution whose impact reverberates until today..

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Please consider making a donation to help fund our Jewish outreach and educational efforts at https://www.torchweb.org/support.php. Thank you!

Contact:

Website: RabbiWolbe.com;
Twitter: @RabbiWolbe;
Facebook: Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe;
Email: rabbiwolbe@gmail.com.

Please SUBSCRIBE, RATE and REVIEW all my podcasts on iTunes and Android:

Podcasts Links iOS:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Podcast Links Android:

This Jewish Life – In-Depth Analysis into Critical Torah Topics;
The Jewish History Podcast – Telling the Remarkable story of the Jewish People;
The Parsha Podcast – A Weekly Analysis and Exploration of the Parsha;
TORAH 101 – An Intellectual’s Introduction to Torah

Harvey Aftermath

Hurricane Harvey was one of the most powerful storms to hit the USA. Unlike most hurricanes, there was not much a risk of wind causing devastating damage, at least for Houston. Instead, the concern was rain and the resultant flooding. This was due to several factors. For one, the sheer volume of water was staggering: In a typical year Houston sees around 50 inches of rain. This slowly moving storm itself deposited around that much rain in three days. Secondly, Houston is essentially entirely flat, and the ground is less absorbent than most, and therefore the city has developed unique systems for directing and managing heavy rainfall. A network of mini rivers, called bayous, are scattered throughout the city, and direct water towards the Gulf of Mexico. Also, streets and highways have been engineered to act as water basins for times of high rates of rainfall. The idea is to deliver water to the bayous at a manageable rate and thus prevent them from overflowing. This works great provided that there is no massive storms. The hurricane was so intense, and the rainfall rate was so unprecedented, that everything failed. The roads, highways, and bayous all overflowed and flooded anything in their wake. A house’s elevation and its proximity to the nearest bayou determined if it flooded.

Thank God the neighborhood where we live is elevated and fairly far from the bayous and almost no houses were flooded. Some people lost power for a few hours (we did not lose power), the roads were impassable, but there was no significant damage. We had plenty of food and water (we stocked up in advance). In contrast, other neighborhoods that are closer to the Bayous experienced heavy catastrophic flooding. In these places, many feet of water would rush into homes. Some people had to go on the roof to avoid drowning. Sadly, the resplendant TORCH Centre suffered catastrophic damages.

TORCH Centre security cameras capture the rising waters

TORCH Centre security cameras capture the rising waters

The TORCH Centre during happier times

The TORCH Centre Grand Opening December 2016

The TORCH Centre Grand Opening December 2016

Celebrating a bris at the TORCH Centre

Celebrating a bris at the TORCH Centre

Celebrating a double-upsherin of Shlomo Wolbe and Yitzi Wolbe

Celebrating a double-upsherin of Shlomo Wolbe and Yitzi Wolbe

Celebrating a double-upsherin of Shlomo Wolbe and Yitzi Wolbe

Celebrating a double-upsherin of Shlomo Wolbe and Yitzi Wolbe

Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe giving a Torah lecture

Rabbi Aryeh Wolbe giving a Torah lecture

On the day before Harvey struck, I gave a Talmud lecture

On the day before Harvey struck, I gave a Talmud lecture

On Sunday during the height of the storm, Alex Gonik and his friend Hillel waded through the raging waters and videoed the TORCH Centre

 

By now the waters have receded in almost every part of Houston, but the damage remains. Houston as a city, and TORCH with respect to our Centre, face a monumental rebuilding efforts, that will be long and trying, but with the Almighty’s help we will forge ahead and rebuild it better than ever.

First up: Demo

A-1 Team of Volunteers

A-1 Team of Volunteers

 

Gutting the drywall

Gutting the drywall

Just the beginning

Just the beginning

So sad

So sad

Its happening

Its happening

Piling up the furniture in the middle of the room

Piling up the furniture in the middle of the room

Office in disarray

Office in disarray

It all has to come down

It all has to come down

Clearing out the office

Clearing out the office

Get your masks on

Get your masks on

Hello

Hello

Classroom denuded of carpet and walls :(

Classroom denuded of carpet and walls 🙁

Panoramic picture of the TORCH Centre now

Panoramic picture of the TORCH Centre now

The outpouring of love, care, and support from all over the world in the aftermath of the hurricane has been inspiring and heartwarming. It is comforting to know that others are deeply concerned about our well being.

Please help us rebuild by making a donation at rebuildtorch.com
To support the Houston Jewish Federation’s Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund click here

Thank you!