Beit Midrash

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84 Lessons
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    Observing Mitzvot

    Heaven Help Us

    Less than half of American Jews believe there is a heaven or a hell; not all that surprising, since that half also does not believe in a higher power or spiritual force of any kind. So I thought a few words were in order about Jewish tradition’s view of heaven.

    Rabbi Stewart Weiss | Tevet 12 5782
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    39 min
    Ein Aya

    Responsibility for Teshuva Within Our Family: "Does Father Know Best?"

    Ein Aya Shabbat 2, 292

    Teshuva is usually seen from my personal point of view, but Rav Kook deals with the very common problem of taking responsibility to rebuke our children and even our wives/husbands, to purify the spiritual atmosphere of our homes. This issue is seldom dealt with, and the class deals with many practical suggestions and solutions how to politely rebuke without having it be counterproductive.

    Rabbi Ari Shvat | Tishrei 9 5782
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    Nitzavim

    Teshuva Is the Answer

    This last Sedra of the year, Nitzavim, seems perfect as a precursor to Rosh Hashana. The sedra reiterates the bond & covenant we have with the Eternal.

    Rabbi Stewart Weiss | Elul 25 5781
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    The Month of Elul

    "Bring us back in whole-hearted repentance before You”

    There are those who wonder how we can ask God to return us in Teshuva (repentance). After all, Teshuva is our job. I heard once from Rabbi Mordechai Eliyahu, that every Teshuva contains an aspect of man and an aspect of the Blessed Creator, Who sends man an awakening to repentance.

    Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu | Elul 24 5781
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    Repentance

    How, Exactly, Is Teshuva (Repentance) Accomplished?

    Rabbi Stewart Weiss | Elul 18 5781
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    The Month of Elul

    Our Generation's "Teshuva From Love"

    Why will this special Messianic generation, of all generations, be in such a sorry spiritual and material state? Logically when Israel improves its ways, they will be worthy of Redemption – so why will it actually be a period of spiritual crisis and other troubles?

    Rabbi Zalman Baruch Melamed | Elul 5 5781
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    12 min
    Repentance

    National (vs. Individual) T'Shuva

    What "national t'shuva" is, how it differs from individual t'shuva, and why it takes precedence in this generation.

    Rabbi Moshe Kaplan | Elul 5 5781
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    Repentance

    T'shuva - It's Not What You Think

    one of the elderly Russian women asked Rav Kook's mother, "Tell me, please: We're on our way to the Holy Land to meet our god, but why would you Jews be going there? Mrs. Kook answered without hesitation: "You're going to visit a dead god, but we're going to meet the living G-d."

    Rabbi Netanel Yossifun | Elul 4 5781
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    Repentance

    The Teshuva of the Treasury Minister

    A short story and explanation of the power of Teshuva to transform sins into merits

    Rabbi Netanel Yossifun | Av 28 5781
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    46 min
    Fear of Hashem

    Proper Yir'at Hashem in the Modern World

    Rabbi Ari Shvat | Tammuz 7 5781
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    Trial and Difficulties in Life

    Tragedies

    We all know that tragedy eventually awaits us in one form or another, but we do not and cannot live our lives based on the fear of impending tragedies or inevitable troubles. Built into the human personality and character is the ability to withstand tragedy, and even, to a certain extent, overcome it.

    Rabbi Berel Wein | Iyar 22 5781
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    41 min
    Amaleck

    How to Understand Murdering Amalek & Other Mitzvot which Seem "Immoral"?

    Every moral & thinking Jew has asked questions about certain mitzvot which don't seem to "jive" with the morality of God & the Torah itself! Rav Kook, as usual, bravely deals with these issues, & explains that "eternity" means that the Torah also had to be relevant to the primitive world in which it was given 3,300 yrs. ago. He differentiates between some actions, like slavery & bigamy, that had to be "allowed" temporarily in the ancient reality, but were never obligated. Nevertheless, 2 obligations (!) which seem "immoral" are regarding Amalek (killing & remembering-Zachor), & conquering the Land of Israel. But upon a closer look, they aren't immoral at all! When we lack prophets & Sanhedrin, the God Who runs History solves many problems!

    Rabbi Ari Shvat | Adar 7 5781
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    44 min
    Observing Mitzvot

    Mitzvot Which Seem “Outdated” in General or Unfair to Women

    All religious (or potentially religious) Jews have difficulty with mitzvot which seem to be outdated. How can a thinking Jew understand & identify with a Torah which allows slavery, bigamy or taking enemy women during war? This class also deals with many questions raised by women or feminists regarding the role of women in Judaism, laws of Aguna, divorce, the brachot of "Shelo Asani Isha" or "SheAsani KiRtzono", etc. Rav Kook, one of the most innovative & brave Gedolei HaDor, writes a lot on this issue of "updating", explaining & identifying with the Torah in a totally Orthodox way (on which no one can disagree), to bring the Torah closer to all. [It is the 1st part of the class on "Mitzvot Which Seem Immoral", also highly recommended!].

    Rabbi Ari Shvat | Adar 13 5781
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    40 min
    Serving Hashem, Mitzvot and Repentance

    Don't Just Be Religious- Be Godly!

    Over the last century, mankind is less religious. Rav Kook suggests it's time to raise Torah to a higher level, that of "Being Godly". Ironically, both the rational Rambam & the Kabbalists summarize the goal of Judaism as Imitateo Dei, to copy God. The real "me" isn't my body but my Godly soul. When He finished creating the world, he told us to have children= to also create worlds. Similarly, when we observe Shabbat, it's not just because God said so, but bc He rests on Shabbat & our spark of God should naturally do the same! The Torah is not just commands, but God's ideals & advice how we can emulate His altruism. This eye-opening direction has proven very appealing today for those looking for something "higher" than ceremonious "religion".

    Rabbi Ari Shvat | Shvat 25 5781
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    Kiddush Hashem

    Kiddush Hashem

    Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying God’s name, specifically before a gentile all too often is not even about the gentile at all.

    Rabbi Michael Linetsky | Shvat 7 5781
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    3 min
    Trial and Difficulties in Life

    Stress is Good For You!

    Inclined to Recline- "And Yaakov dwelled…."

    Researchers believe that some stress can help to fortify the immune system. For instance, stress can improve how your heart works and protect your body from infection. But on a deeper level, rising to challenges and overcoming them is the essence of life.

    Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair | Kislev 23 5781
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    34 min
    Ein Aya

    Sickness as a "Wake-Up Call"

    Ein Aya Shabbat 2, 242

    As a continuation of the class on "The Different Levels On Which G-d Runs the World", this class is on the different levels of sickness, whether ours or those around us. Just as fast-days are a self-induced weakness, which brings us to analyze our lives, priorities & actions, when God sends a sickness, it's not necessarily a punishment but rather a "wake-up call" to induce soul-searching. Life is comprised of such small incidents, some pleasant & others not, some direct & others less so, to keep us awake that we shouldn't live like robots, but rather utilize our Godly free-will to its utmost extent, keeping our lives meaningful & idealistic. Accordingly, even the "bad" messages are seen by Rav Kook as: The process of gradual good.

    Rabbi Ari Shvat | Cheshvan 21 5781
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    33 min
    Additional Lessons

    Rav Kook on: "It's Best to be Normal People"

    Ein Aya, Shabbat 2, 239

    We find various rabbis in rabbinic literature who built their spirituality through fasting and depriving themselves of physical pleasure. Rav Kook explains that this is like "shock treatment" or bitter medicine, which healthy people don't need. In Torat Eretz Yisrael, the Living Torah most applicable to the modern world, the approach of unity is to reveal the harmony between the physical and spiritual worlds. In Israel, where even the physical is spiritual and the atmosphere is Jewish, it's much more conducive to living a life of modern orthodoxy without the dangers of losing our proportions, priorities or getting influenced by western society. Accordingly Rav Kook explains the machloket between Rava & Abaye in Masechet Shabbat.

    Rabbi Ari Shvat | Cheshvan 2 5781
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    34 min
    Repentance

    Sin is Divisive Chaos While Tshuva is a Life of Uniting Harmony

    Rav Kook sees that the nature of Tshuva is among the most basic of ideas to understand life & the world. The sinner lives a life of self-centeredness, who inevitably will have difficulty finding love & lasting relationships, seeing the world as chaotic & pessimistic. Children eventually mature, learning to share & give. Kabbala refers to the pessimists who see our 3 dimensional world as Alma D'Piruda, "World of Division", rather than the believer in Unity & God, Who created a world of harmony. The Torah teaches how to find harmony in a complex world. One can see the violence in the animal world as chaotic, but if one steps back & views the entire picture he sees a harmonic orderly food-chain. All creation follows God's program, & man would be wise to choose so, as well, and "Join the Unity".

    Rabbi Ari Shvat | Tishrei 5 5780
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    42 min
    Repentance

    Why Ba'alei T'shuva Davka Shouldn't Become Anti-Zionists!

    Rav Kook's Letter on Teshuva to Rav Charlap

    There's a common scenario, where someone becomes a Ba'al Teshuva, strengthening himself religiously, & indirectly, davka becomes less Zionist! Rav Kook ironically deals with this issue way before it was common, as part of his overall & innovative understanding of Teshuva, in this classic letter to his student, R. Charlap. Explaining that the concept of Evolution is the basis of Creation, & that constant improvement is the most natural process for the individual & mankind. This central drive is what's behind most of Torah, life and goals. Zionism is the easiest way to see God today, thru how He runs processes of advancement in history, fulfills prophecies, returns Altruism and Nationalism to their proper place, reviving the "Or LaGoyim" etc.

    Rabbi Ari Shvat | Elul 26 6780
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