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December 17, 2014 / 25 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘gold’

Symbol Of The Eternal Soul

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012

The festival of Chanukah celebrates two miracles – the military victory over the Syrian Greeks and that one small cruse of oil, good for one day, providing light for eight days. The miracle of the light, however, is the main focus and central theme of this festival.

Thus, according to halacha, when we light the candles in celebration of Chanukah we are prohibited from using their light for any tasks. We are commanded to simply look at the light. All year long we are looking at what we see in the light, but on Chanukah we are to focus solely on seeing the light itself.

What is so special about the light of Chanukah? What is the Chanukah menorah’s message for us in our personal lives? Why does the Rambam call Chanukah “the most beloved and precious mitzvah”?

The answer is that the Chanukah lights help us focus on who we really are. We are not our body suits but are part of God’s Endless Light. Chanukah lights are the symbol of the Divine spark of the human soul, as Shlomo HaMelech says in Mishlei, Ner Hashem nishmat adam – the candle of God is the soul of the human being.

The Mishnah in Avot teaches, “There are three crowns: The crown of Torah, the crown of Kehuna [priesthood] and the crown of Monarchy.” Corresponding to these three with which Israel was crowned, there were three crowns on the Temple vessels. The crown of Torah corresponds to the gold crown, which was set on the Ark of Testimony (containing the two Tablets). The crown of Kehuna corresponds to the incense altar, for only regarding the priests does it say, “They shall place incense in Your Presence, and consume sacrifices on Your altar” (Devarim 33:10). Finally, the crown of Monarchy corresponds to the table in the Sanctuary, for tables, which in biblical and later Hebrew can symbolize wealth and bounty (Psalm 23), may here be viewed as evoking the economic and political power of the state.

However, the Mishnah adds that there is yet another crown, “the crown of a good name,” which “surpasses them all.” This crown is not enumerated among the others. Rather, it is kept separate from them and stands on its own. To what does this crown correspond in the Temple?

The Maharal of Prague associates “the crown of a good name” with the fourth vessel of the Temple – the solid pure gold menorah. The menorah had no gold crown encompassing it. Neither was it made of acacia wood inlaid with gold like the three Temple vessels mentioned above. Rather, the whole menorah was like a pure gold crown, embellished with golden cups, knobs and flowers. The entire menorah itself is a crown.

It is the same with a person’s good name. It is not an external crown that is placed upon one’s head. A person’s good name touches on his very essence. A good name includes one’s entire personality in all its components. It is not an external image, fashioned by public relations professionals, photographers and newsmen. A person’s good name is the reputation he earns for himself through his life’s work, all his deeds and ventures. That is why the Mishnah says that the “crown of a good name surpasses all the others.”

A person’s good name does not find expression at the beginning of his life but is acquired through strenuous, daily toil. Shlomo HaMelech said “A good name is better than precious oil” (Kohelet 7:1). However good it may be, oil is applied externally to a person’s body while a good name is that person himself.

As we light the menorah on Chanukah, it is a time to focus and reflect on the light of God, which is our eternal soul.

Why Chanukah Gelt?

Monday, December 3rd, 2012

Yisrael Rice of Chabad.org explains that the origin of Chanukah gelt (money) is in the fact that the word Chanukah, which means to inaugurate—as in inaugurating the defiled Temple after the Hellenistic Jews were chased out of it—stems from the same root as the word for Chinuch, education.

“Appropriately, during Chanukah it is customary to give gelt (money) to children, to teach them to increase in charity and good deeds, and to add to the festive holiday spirit,” writes Rice.

He then offers a second, deeper reason for Chanukah gelt:

“In his record of the Chanukah events, Maimonides writes: “The Greeks laid their hands upon the possessions of Israel.”

“The Greeks invaded the possessions of Israel in the same spirit in which they defiled the oil in the Holy Temple. They did not destroy the oil; they defiled it. They did not rob the Jewish people; they attempted to infuse their possessions with Greek ideals—that they be used for egotistical and impure ends, rather than for holy pursuits.

“Chanukah gelt celebrates the freedom and mandate to channel material wealth toward spiritual ends.”

Wikipedia thinks it may have begun in 18th century Eastern Europe as a token of gratitude toward religious teachers, similar to the custom of tipping service people on that other winter holiday, just before New Year’s. So you give your kid a coin on Chanukah to give to the teacher in Cheder so he won’t smack you too hard the rest of the year. Works for me. I understand protection.

As to why our Chanukah gelt basically a disk of chocolate wrapped in gold tinfoil, and not real money, it turns out that in the 1920s, Loft’s, an American candy company, produced the first chocolate gelt, wrapped in gold or silver foil in mesh pouches resembling money bags – according to Wikipedia.

Chocolate ‘geld’ is also given to children as part of the other winter holiday in Belgium and the Netherlands.

Seems our winter holiday has been peeking at their winter holiday for quite some time…

It’s Not Just About The Internet… We’re Creating Apathetic Robots

Monday, November 19th, 2012

The Orthodox Jewish world continues to seesaw back and forth about the pros and cons of the Asifa on Technology at Citifield in New York.  Debates abound about on the best Internet filters, blocks and technological band-aids to which will surely repair the dangerous environmental influences of the outside world. Let’s ban or block the Internet and suddenly our children will be less distracted, our communities more heimish and our learning and davening more for the sake of Heaven instead of rote blabbering to get it over with.

In 1944, Rav Eliyahu Dessler said in Strive for Truth (v.3, p.143) “Human beings believe, in their arrogance, that if they continue developing the world on the basis of ever expanding technology they will eventually achieve an environment that will afford everyone unlimited gratification of the senses and a life of ease and pleasure. So long as people remain ‘takers,’ their efforts will inevitably be directed toward selfishness…”

With the advance of technology and the ease of availability, the temptation of distraction has become a daily struggle for Jews across the spectrum to remain upright, even in their own homes. But the Internet is only part of the problem. Go into almost any shul today and you’ll find congregants reading their emails on their cell phones and leaving davening to answer their phones, tallis over their heads and tefillin perfectly squared. Attend any d’var Torah, graduation ceremony, wedding or bar mitzvah and you’ll find people distracted with texting.

The real problem is chutzpah and selfishness, and parents are teaching it to their children by their own actions, and then wondering… what went wrong.

Rabbeinu Bachya asserts in Duties of the Heart: “Their evil inclination induces them to abandon the spiritual world wherein lies their salvation… it makes self-adornment more attractive to them… it impels them to gratify their desires for self-indulgence… until they are sunk in the depths of its seas.”

In the rush to satisfy our thirst for instant gratification, information and acceptance, we’ve created a Jewish society devoid of cohesiveness and spirituality, full of chutzpah and apathy. As Rav Dessler predicted 68 years ago, “They persist in thinking that soon, very soon, they will hit the right formula, and if not in this generation, then in the next, universal happiness will come. And so they bring up their children to study nothing and think of nothing but technological advancement…” (Strive for Truth, pg. 152).

It seems that children and adults 68 years ago were also steeped in the excesses of technology, although it was not as insidious as in our generation. Unfortunately, Jews today are becoming apathetic robots. In their quest to look frum, with their starched white shirts and impeccable Borsolino hats, and in keeping up with the Goldbergs, they have truly collapsed into a materialistic society, all “for the sake of Heaven.”

Consider the case of Yaakov, who goes to the store to buy a pair of expensive shoes on sale at a department store, known for its lenient return policy. There he meets his friend Shimon, who has just bought the same pair of shoes Yaakov wants. Shimon relates to Yaakov that he “purchased” the $300 pair of shoes for only $200 by switching the price tag while no one was looking, and that Yaakov can have them for $250, thereby saving him $50 while Shimon makes some money on the deal.

Shimon is proud of himself and Yaakov gets a bargain.

Where I come from, this is called stealing.

Or consider Reuven’s practice of going to an outlet store to buy fancy white shirts for Shabbos, in order to sit and learn in one of America’s finest yeshivos, where he wouldn’t dare stand out wearing a blue shirt. Lo and behold, Reuven ends up at the local Nordstrom return counter, telling the clerk the shirt is imperfect and he wants to exchange the shirt or get a refund.

Why would religious people, steeped in Torah learning, resort to lying and stealing?

The Orchos Tzaddikim in Sha’ar Hasheker says, “Alchemists turn copper into gold where even the experts cannot tell the difference. So it is with the mind of the charlatan. He rationalizes and justifies his lies until they appear even to him as truth.”

Rav Eliezer Lippa

Friday, November 9th, 2012

Among the great giants of Chassidism were two brothers, Rav Zusha of Hanipoli and Rav Elimelech of Lizhensk. But the apple does not fall far from the tree and the deeds of the father are lessons for the children. These two tzaddikim owed much of their character to their father, Rav Eliezer Lippa.

Rav Eliezer Lippa was a wealthy man who lived on the outskirts of Lvov. Throughout the area he was known as a man of great charity and also one whose house was continually open to the poor and guests of all kind.

It was also his custom, when he journeyed to other cities, to pick up every poor man he passed on the road and drop him off at his destination.

One Poor Man

The story is related that Rav Eliezer Lippa was riding one day in his wagon and passing a poor man who was walking slowly, carrying a heavy sack. The good man’s heart was filled with pity at this sight and he stopped his wagon.

“Shalom Aleichem,” he said.

“Aleichem Shalom,” replied the traveler.

“I see that you are carrying a very heavy bundle,” said Rav Eliezer Lippa, “and you look quite tired. Please do me a favor and get into the wagon so that I may drive you to your destination.”

“Thank you,” said the poor man, “I would prefer, however, to go by foot.”

The Rav was very surprised and asked, “But why? The journey could take half the time if you went with me.”

“I know that sir, but if I walk I will be able to stop at each town and collect money.”

An Offer

“I see,” said Rav Eliezer Lippa. “Tell me, approximately how much money do you think you can collect in the towns that lie between here and Lvov?”

The poor man thought for a moment and replied, “I would estimate that I certainly collect about twenty-five gold pieces, and I cannot afford to lose that sum by riding with you.”

“Nevertheless, I cannot bear to see you walking in the heat with that heavy burden. Here are the twenty-five gold pieces – the amount you would have collected by walking – and ride with me.”

“Believe me, I appreciate it,” said the traveler, “but I still think it would be better if I walked.”

Rav Eliezer Lippa was now completely dumbfounded. “I have just offered you the same money that you could make by walking to these towns. What prevents you now from riding in the wagon?”

“You see, I have been going for many years to these towns. I know the people and they know me. They expect me at a certain time every year. If I should now go with you in your wagon, they will surely that I met with some accident and they will worry. I wish to spare them that.”

When Rav Eliezer Lippa heard these words he said, “I appreciate your thoughts, but at least let me carry your heavy sack in my wagon. I will drop it off at the hotel in Lvov and leave it with the innkeeper. When you have finished with your collections and arrive in Lvov, it will be there waiting for you.”

The Hat

Rav Eliezer was proud of being a Jew and never humbled himself before the lords of the area, as did many of the other Jews. He never lowered his eyes when speaking to them or flattered them needlessly. Because he behaved toward them with dignity, they respected and treated him on equal terms, which was rare in Eastern Europe.

Once, when Rav Eliezer Lippa was riding on his horse, he paused and alighted to allow his to rest. Continuing on his way, he decided to walk in front and lead the animal by the reins.

Coming from the other direction was a magnificent coach with four beautiful white horses and in it sat a Count who was a stranger to the area and did not know Rav Eliezer Lippa.

Commanding his coachman to stop the carriage, the Count stopped the rabbi and asked him in an imperious manner, “You, Jew, where are you from?”

“I come from Lvov,” answered Rav Eliezer Lippa quietly.

Jewish Gold Dealer Escapes Robbers En Route From Holland To Belgium

Monday, October 29th, 2012

It was a miracle en route to Antwerp: A gold dealer who lives in Antwerp, Belgium, was traveling in his car last Wednesday as he does every week, with a very large amount of gold in his case, B’Hadrei Haredim reported.

Driving from Holland toward Antwerp, the dealer noticed that a car was following him, but didn’t give it much thought.

He made a stop at a gas station along the highway to fill up his tank.

After he started driving about 300 meters out of the gas station, a car with blue lights ordered him to pull over. Three armed assailants got out of the car with their guns pointing at him.

The driver sped backwards into the gas station, got out of the car, grabbed his case from the back seat and ran into the store at the service station.

He shouted, “There is a robbery here!” and the shop owner immediately locked the doors and pressed an emergency alarm button. The shop was full of people at the time and the three unmasked bandits arrived on the scene within a short time brandishing their weapons.

They demanded that the owner open the doors and that the case with the gold be handed over to them. Police arrived on the scene shortly thereafter, but the criminals managed to escape.

After a thorough search, the bandits’ car was found abandoned. It had been reported stolen.

The main highway was closed due to the incident and there were traffic jams reported over the next six hours.

The Jewish man noted that when he was being interrogated by the police, he was asked if he hadn’t notice being shot at and he answered that he hadn’t. The police then showed him that the lower portion of the hood of his car had been hit by a few bullets. Apparently, the criminals used a silencer on their guns and he hadn’t realized his car had been hit.

On Shabbat, the man got an aliyah in shul and benched gomel.

Gold Buyers Beware: Fraudulent Gold Found in the Marketplace

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

A fake gold bullion bar makes a fine gag gift, but think twice before making it part of your investment portfolio.

What would happen if the gold bars you bought from a reputable dealer were “salted” with tungsten?

Word has been spreading that some gold experts have cracked open the gold bars that they bought only to discover tungsten (a metal worth about one-fifth of the value of gold) inside. Since tungsten has a similar density to gold, it’s easy to confuse people, amateurs and experts alike. With bars of gold that weigh ten ounces or more, using regular x-rays to determine the chemical composition of the metal doesn’t work well since the x-rays don’t penetrate deep enough.

Some alarmists have referred to the recent findings as evidence of a possible market-shattering conspiracy. What if there are hundreds or thousands of counterfeit bars of gold sitting in the vaults of companies and governments? If you can’t trust that the gold you buy is genuine, would you really buy it? Regardless of the veracity of the possibility that gold supplies are tainted, if people simply think that they are, the price of the commodity could start tumbling.

An additional way that falsified gold bars can affect the price of gold is that it also increases the cost of ownership of gold, as there may be increased costs involved in higher level testing for purity.

Regardless of how you purchase your gold, beware of the possibility that the whole gold marketplace might be affected by some bad eggs… just a reminder that you shouldn’t put all your eggs in one basket, no matter how shiny it is.

Buying novelty fake gold coins or a 24K gold dipped real rose is fine if that is your aim, but before you buy gold for an investment, you might want to read my previous post on buying gold.

From Fighter Pilot to Gold Medalist

Sunday, September 9th, 2012

Noam Greshuny’s story is one of triumph of the spirit.

Six years after being critically wounded during the Second Lebanon War, Gershuny won a gold medal at the Paralympics Games in London playing tennis, beating the number-one ranking player, American David Wagner 6:3, 6:1.

During the second week of the Second Lebanon War, on July 20th, two Apache helicopters on their way to an operation in Lebanon collided over Israel’s northern border. One pilot, Major Ran kochbah was killed immediately. The second pilot, Gershuny, was critically wounded. He spent months in rehabilitation, during which he discovered his love for tennis.

Six years later he made it to the top, bringing Israel its first gold medal from the London Paralympics Games and the first ever in tennis. His family and friends were at the game to support him.

When Greshuny ascended the podium to receive the medal and heard Israel’s national anthem HaTikvah playing in the background he was overcome by his emotions, shedding a tear.

Afterwards, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called the 29-year-old athlete to congratulate him, telling him “you symbolize the victory of the human spirit over the difficulties created by the reality in which we live.”

President Shimon Peres contacted Gershuny as well, saying, “You have proved that you are good on the court as well as you are in the sky.”

When Gershuny was interviewed by IDF radio he said, “I don’t know if it had an affect on me, the fact that I was wounded for the country, giving my life and body for her. I would do it all over again, even if I knew that this would be the outcome. This may have made me happier, the fact that I am able to bring so much pride to the country.”

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/israel/from-fighter-pilot-to-gold-medalist/2012/09/09/

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