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April 17, 2014 / 17 Nisan, 5774
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Posts Tagged ‘Rabbi Leff’

The Tale Of Two Armstrongs In Elul

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

Two major news stories involving two famous men named Armstrong occurred within days of each other recently. Was it random happenstance? Or was there hashgacha involved?

We know that nothing happens outside Hashem’s realm and power. But did Hashem have a specific reason for these two events occurring together when they did?

Of course, we can’t claim to know the specifics of how Hashem operates the world, but something tells me there must be a message for us to uncover from the two men named Armstrong.

Lance Armstrong is a hero to millions of people, especially to those battling cancer. While on the rise in a cycling career, he was diagnosed at age 25 with a cancer that metastasized to his brain and lungs. His cancer treatments included surgery and extensive chemotherapy, and his prognosis was initially very poor. He was told he had less than a forty percent chance to live. But he not only survived, he went on to become a world class cyclist and win the most prestigious international cycling race, the Tour de France, for an unprecedented seven consecutive years.

But something happened to make him less of a hero in the eyes of many. After years of rumors and investigations, he decided to stop fighting charges that he used illegal steroids and hormones. (He still maintains his innocence despite the allegations of those who claim to have witnessed otherwise, though he is no longer battling them in order to clear his name.)

On the other hand there is Neil Armstrong, the famous astronaut and the first man to walk on the moon, who died at the age of 82. He coined perhaps the most famous secular quote of the 20th century upon taking that first step on the moon in 1969, saying, “One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”

While Neil Armstrong could have taken advantage of his fame, as other astronauts of his era did, he shied away from the limelight. He simply did not want any financial or material gain to come from his work for his country and its space program. After retiring from NASA he went on to live a very quiet life teaching at a small college in Ohio.

Lance Armstrong. Neil Armstrong. Both become major news stories within days of each other for very different reasons. Both become major news stories in Elul.

What does the name Armstrong connote? A strong arm. Lehavdil thousands of havdalos, the name Armstrong brings to mind that the Ribbono shel Olam is described in Egypt as having a Yad HaChazakah, a Strong Hand or Arm. In Parshas Ki Savo (26:8), the pasuk says that Hashem took us out of Egypt with a Yad HaChazakah. We mention this pasuk in the Hagaddah and we say there this Strong Arm refers to the plague of dever, the death of the animals of the Egyptians. The Malbim explains that only with regards to dever do we find the Torah describing that Yad Hashem struck the Egyptian flock. For no other plague is the term “the Hand of Hashem” used. This indicates that dever was somehow the greatest of all the plagues. In fact, the Malbim says that dever existed in every plague and encompassed all of the Ten Plagues. Without going into the details of how that was the case, we derive from this that the term Yad HaChazakah relating to Hashem indicates great judgment and consequence.

Is it any wonder, then, that we find the word Armstrong in the news in Elul, with the Day of Judgment right around the corner? Indeed, the Yad HaChazakah is coming and we must prepare.

And how do we prepare? We must learn the lesson of Lance Armstrong and the allegations against him. We may be heroes to many people who look up to us for our various spiritual accomplishments. But unless we do teshuvah, whatever we do in private that is inappropriate can and will come back to haunt us when the Yad HaChazakah chooses to have it displayed. That display may be in this world or it might wait for the next, but He will judge the inner core of who we really are and there is no escaping it. False facades and fortune only last so long before eventually being blown to pieces.

Title: Shemoneh Esrei: The Depth And Beauty Of Our Daily Tefillah

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008

Shemoneh Esrei: The Depth And Beauty Of Our Daily TefillahBy Rabbi Zev LeffTargum Press

 

Rabbi Leff’s Shemoneh Esrei is a magnum opus on the central prayer of our davening. This all-encompassing tome is a work that has been 20 years in the making – refined and redefined as various series of shiurim and subsequently weekly newspaper articles. Rabbi Leff graciously answered the call to have his brilliant insights made into a book. The polished gems of Torah thought reflected herein transmit the deep essence of prayer with purity and clarity.

While the book appears to be a bit daunting – it’s 546 pages long – it is written in a user-friendly fashion. It is both erudite and straightforward and the ideas presented are clearly organized to make them easy to grasp despite their esoteric and scholarly nature. Focusing on the heart of our daily tefil-lah, Rabbi Leff speaks to our hearts and minds about our service to Hashem. As the book analyzes each of the berachos in Shemoneh Esrei, it explores the depths of the themes in our lives, our faith and our service to G d.

Woven expertly into the fabric of the book are a wealth of sources from the Gemara and classic Jewish texts. Shemoneh Esrei presents the laws of the various brachas within the prayer, their meaning and their implications as well as the underlying themes of prayer to our lives as believing Jews. Rabbi Leff elucidates how each aspect of the prayer connects to every facet of our daily personal and na-tional existence.

With our hectic and often stressful lives, praying is something we often do by rote, many times, unfortunately, lacking the right kavannah. Reading Shemoneh Esrei will undoubtedly instill in the reader a new awareness of the impact, power and meaning of the words we utter in prayer. This new understanding will help us to imbue our service of the heart with greater clarity, devotion and sincerity.

May all our prayers be answered for the good and may Rabbi Leff be blessed with many more years in which to inspire us, till 120!

This book is a must for every Jewish home.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/books//2008/11/12/

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