Thursday, December 3, 2009

Tales of the Baal Shem Tov


And then there was the time that the Baal Shem Tov called his closest disciples, "Friends, I'm going to show you something that you've never seen before. Just be sure to stay close to me next Sabbath."

The disciples were so excited that they could hardly wait for the next Sabbath to arrive.

Shabbos finally came and they stayed close to the Baal Shem Tov during the prayers, as instructed. When the prayers were coming to a close, they noticed that the Baal Shem Tov was staring at the furthermost corner of the Synagogue. Intrigued, they looked over, but didn't see anything unusual. Just a very poor, simple looking Jewish man praying. But, upon closer inspection, they realized he was praying with great intensity and joy.

The prayers ended and the Baal Shem Tov motioned his disciples to follow him as he left the synagogue. They went outside into the cool night air and began walking down a nondescript dirt road, their path illuminated by the moonlight. After a few minutes they stopped at a house. It was not so much a house as it was a hovel. They realized that this must be the home of the poor Jew they had seen at the Synagogue.

The Baal Shem Tov motioned his disciples to come closer. They stood in silence at the front door, and heard the following conversation that took place between the poor Jew and his wife.

"Good Shabbos, my dear wife," he greeted her joyfully, his face breaking into a wide smile.

"And a good Shabbos to you, my scholarly husband," she replied with a soft laugh.

Soon they could hear the husband singing Shalom Aleichem (Peace to you), and Ashet Chayil to his wife. When he was finished singing, he turned to his wife and asked her to bring in wine for Kiddush. But the couple was so poor that there was no money for wine. So instead, she placed two small Challos on the Sabbath table and said, "My dear, we don't have wine so please make Kiddush over the Challah."

"Okay then, we'll make Kiddush over the Challah. I'm sure it will taste as delicious as the most special, fragrant wine.

After Kiddush in Jewish households on Friday night, it is customary for there to be four courses served. So the husband proceeded to ask his wife to begin the meal. "My dear, please serve the fish course."

His wife stood up and crossed to the other side of their one room house, and returned bearing a platter of cooked beans. She placed a spoonful of beans on each of their plates and said, "May it be G-d's Will that these beans taste like a delicious fish."

As they ate the beans, their faces shone with delight.

After singing a few Shabbos melodies, the husband said, "Thank G-d we have everything we need to celebrate the holy Sabbath. So let's have the soup course."

They both took another spoonful of beans. "Umm, what a wonderful Sabbath soup," they remarked to each other.

Then they had a third spoonful of beans for the meat dish and a fourth spoonful as dessert.

"Come, sweet wife, let us dance to celebrate the Holy Shabbos." So they got up, danced around their Shabbos table and laughed and laughed."

"Now, it is quite obvious that the fish wasn't fish. And the meat wasn't meat. They were eating beans. Were these people crazy, deluded? Had lack of food driven away their common sense?

It would have been easy to doubt what happened if you hadn't witnessed the aforementioned scene. But the disciples of the Baal Shem Tov were there. And, as they stood outside the little house that was illuminated with Shabbos candlelight, they began to feel a warm glow well up within themselves. An inescapable joy that made them want to sing and dance, and praise G-d.

The Baal Shem Tov whispered, "You are each experiencing Shabbos joy like the joy this holy couple have been feeling. You should know that it is not the simple food that they tasted, but the Shabbos itself."

And so it was.

Freely adapted by Tzvi Meir Cohn (Howard M. Cohn, Patent Attrorney) from a Story translated in STORIES OF THE BAAL SHEM TOV by Y.Y. Klapholtz.

interesting tidbits about shabbos

Little sayings about Shabbos. Maybe you have never heard these before.

By keeping the Shabbat according to the halacha you will feel an additional spiritual power within your soul.(Reishit Hochmah)

To fully experience Shabbat, the ideal would be for you to never cease to be aware that it is shabbat.(Hanhagot Tzaddikim, p.36)

Reb Eleazar of Kretchnif would say many times softly on shabbos with great feeling, "holy Shabbos.... holy Shabbos" over and over.(Raza d'Uvda,p.28)

Rabbi Mordechai of Neshkiz was quite careful not to speak any profane words on Shabbat, and would strongly caution others about this as well.(Zichron l'Rishonim, P.105)

The Rebbe of Tzanz said as follows:
It is a great Tikkun (rectification) for the soul on the night of shabbat when you [ stay up late into the night and ]sing songs and praises to Hashem. (Rabbeninu ha-Kodesh mi-Tzanz, p.221)

Reb Nachman said to sing Zemiros and other Shabbat songs. He said, "Do not pay attention to any obstacles. Others may be sitting at the table and not seem to have any desire to sing. Strengthen yourself and sing with joy. Conduct the Shabbat table in a happy mood. The main thing is Shabbat joy!! (Reb Nachman's wisdom p.301)

The holy Reb Chayim of Kosov, every holy Shabbat night it was his custom to lead dancing among those who sat as guests at his table.(Even Stiya, p.48)

The Chassidim of Tush say the whole entire Psalms as they enter Shabbat.

It was the custom of the holy Rebbetzin (wife) of Rabbi Dovid of Tchortkov to say the whole sefer Tehillim the night of Shabbat. (Tiferet Adam, p.11)

Of Reb Meir of Kolishin, it is said:
His way was to stay awake all night of Shabbat and occupy himself with Torah and the service of Hashem.(Tiferet Banim Avotam, p.223)

The main time for the giving of Tziddaka is Erev Shabbat and Erev Yom Tov. (Derech Chayim, 3,4)
In the merit of tziddaka our Rabbi's say, you can see Hashem's face.

We are given an extra soul for Shabbat!!!!

i missed my shabbos meal- amazing story

Here is an absolutely amazing story of a Jew in Belgium. I just read this story in last weeks Mishpacha newspaper.

The writer, David Daman, says he heard the story from the Chabad rabbi, Rabbi Shabsai Slovtitski (sp?).

One Sunday, the rabbis approached by a "secular" jew who had just recently accepted upon himself to start keeping the mitzvos (that being the case, I don't know why it calls him secular, but maybe he appeared so). The fellow says to Rabbi Slovtitzki that he needs to do teshuva.

"What happened? Teshuva for what?" The rabbi asks.. the strange answer is that he skipped the morning shabbos meal, and for that he has to do teshuva.

The fellow tells the rabbi how it came to be that he skipped the shabbos meal. He is the owner of a successful jewelry store located in the main strip of the jewelry section in Antwerp. Most customers come shopping in the area over the weekend, and Friday - Saturday were his biggest days for sales. As soon as he decided to start keeping shabbos, as he was becoming more religious, he knew he would be giving up the busiest day of the week for his business.

One shabbos, after just a few weeks of keeping shabbos, he had an idea that he would go down to see his store after davening. not open it and do business, chas v'shalom - just to go look and see what is happening.

When he got to his store, he saw the store to the right was doing a brisk business, and the store to the left was also full. He started to feel regret for all the business he is missing out on. He is making calculations in his head how much he is losing by not opening his store.

This Jew, who had just started keeping shabbos, is debating in his mind what to do. Open or not open the store? go or don't go? He then realized that staying there another moment and he will likely give in and open the store, he turned around and ran away as fast as he could. He got home, he didn't see anything - not his wife, kids the meal waiting for him, nothing other than the long line of customers he was missing out on. All those customers who only would be there today and would not return tomorrow.

The fellow continues relating his story to the rabbi.. He says he didn't know what to do. He had this debate raging in his head, and he knew that at any moment he could lose and decide to go back and open his store. He says he had no choice but to take the following action: he opened his cabinet, took out a bottle of strong vodka, drank the whole bottle, and collapsed in bed. When he woke up, Shabbos was already over.

Rabbi, he cried, I need to do teshuva because I missed the shabbos meal.

Rabbi Slovtitsky said, when relating the story to Daman, that he did not know what to say to the man. He cried as he realized that he did not know who really needed to do teshuva. The simple fellow who is a tzaddik or us? What is more important in heaven? My shabbos meal with song and divrei torah or the drunken sleep of that man.

article taken from:

Monday, November 30, 2009

the NICEST shabbos song ever!!!

Learning to love shabbos... a modern tale

I heard it from a man I met almost twenty years ago.

Some ten years before I met the man who told me his story, the Ultra Orthodox were first attempting to close Meah Shearim Street to traffic on Shabbos. There were trash bins set up across the street and there was anger and indignation all around.

There was a committee formed to oppose the closure of the street, called by a name which declared their opposition to "religious coercion". They saw it as coercive against the secular that the Ultra Orthodox wanted to close the street which runs through their completely Orthodox neighborhood. This committee against religious coercion used to bus ruffians into Jerusalem from kibbutzim and other places, to attack and beat up Ultra Orthodox.

This man was one of those ruffians who went up to Jerusalem to fight religious coercion by beating up the Ultra Orthodox in order to force them to open the street in their neighborhood to traffic.

One Shabbos, he was in Jerusalem with his own automobile and decided to show those Ultra Orthodox a thing or two. He drove his car down Meah Shearim Street "like a Roman charioteer", as he described it, with pedestrians scattering in panic; pregnant women sprinting from the street, women with baby carriages bouncing across the uneven pavement. All to show them that they can't impose their "Shabbos" on him.

One man a local teacher had the presence of mind to memorize the number of his license plate and look him up the next day at the motor vehicle Licensing Bureau. Then he found the driver's telephone number. Then he called the driver up and invited him home for Shabbos, explaining that he wanted him to see what Shabbos is and "why it means so much to us."

The driver declined, explaining that he would not want to spend the whole of Shabbos. The teacher said "I am inviting you to be my guest, not my prisoner. You are free to leave whenever you want. Just do me the courtesy of parking your car outside the neighborhood."

He could find no honorable way of refusing a challenge so reasonably presented so he went Shabbos evening for Kiddush and the meal. They talked somewhat and he left. When he left, his host invited him to return another Shabbos and, to reinforce the invitation, called him during the week.

Eventually, he came again for Shabbos. And again. And again. Over the next year or so, he became first an occasional Shabbos guest, then a frequent Shabbos guest and finally a regular Shabbos guest. Over period of two to three years, he became a ba'al teshuvah. (newly religious)

A motorcade of secular Jews driving down Bar Ilan Boulevard on Shabbos is an opportunity to talk to them. They are in your neighborhood on Shabbos. Invite them for Kiddush. They have never seen you in a positive, sympathetic way before. Great good can come of it. Amen.

story taken from:

Am i causing my guest to desecrate Shabbos?

Rabbi Mordechai J. Gold from Indianapolis, Indiana wrote:

I am a Mashgiach in a mid-western city. I am involved with very secular Jews. I would like to have guests for Shabbat, but the problem is that there is the definite chance that there will be chillul Shabbos [desecration of Shabbat] like driving their car to my home! Am I allowed to have them over to my home for the Shabbat meal?

Dear Rabbi Gold,

As you know, it's forbidden to cause a fellow Jew to transgress the Torah. This is true regardless of that person's level of observance or affiliation. But what if your intention is to show the other person the beauty of Torah observance?

Your question was asked to a renowned halachic authority in Jerusalem. He said that if you have a proven talent for reaching out to non-observant people then you can invite them for Shabbat, but the invitation must include the option to stay within walking distance for the entire Shabbat. Even if you're sure they'll chose to drive, you've done your part by sincerely offering to accommodate them.

article taken from:

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Would you invite a strange looking guy for shabbos?

Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach: Inviting Strange Shabbos Guest?

What happens if there is a noticeably strange person who has no place to eat, must you invite him to your house for Shabbos meals? After all Avrohom Avinu's doors were open to all without regard to the consequences and danger. What should one do in such a situation?

Rav Shlomo Zalman was asked this question and answered that you are not obligated to invite this person for all Shabbos meals. It is enough to make sure he has bread and some other food to eat. In general he says, a man must speak with his wife before inviting over guests.

What if you find someone in Shul that has no place to eat? Should you not invite him because you haven't spoken to your wife beforehand? Although Rav Shlomo Zalman did not disagree with the notion that it is not always possible to ask, he did reiterate that there is no obligation to host "strange people". (Aleihu Lo Yibol CM 11)

article taken from:

How to be a good Shabbos Guest

by Rabbi Shraga Simmons

Every family loves having sleep-over Shabbat guests.

But there is a reality you should be aware of: Families with children can entail a lot of juggling. Between laundry, Shabbat cooking, taking kids to the doctor… by the time Shabbat rolls around, everyone (especially the parents!) is looking forward to a bit of a break.

That's where you, the Shabbat guest, come in. How can you be a good guest, while making your visit even more pleasurable? Try following these basic guidelines:

1) Beforehand: Be sure to inform your hosts ahead of time of any dietary requirements -- allergies, vegetarianism, etc. Most hosts would prefer going to the extra effort to prepare what you will eat, rather than have you sit there and go hungry in their home!

2) What to Bring: Bring a gift. The safest thing is flowers, or wine if you're familiar with your hosts standards of kashrut. You could also bring something to help keep the kids entertained -- a ball or card game. Just make sure it is something the kids can play with on Shabbat (i.e. it's not muktzah), and also be sensitive that it's in the spirit of a Torah home (i.e. no Ninja Mutant Turtle toys).

3) When to Arrive: Do not arrive three minutes before candle-lighting. One of your host's many Shabbat preparations is to make sure their guests are settled in and taken care of with sheets, towels, etc. If you arrive at the last minute, you're adding to the rush and tension. But don't come too early, either -- parents and children may be taking a nap, or washing the floor. The best time to arrive is 45-60 minutes before candle-lighting. This gives you enough time to get settled, and you can use the spare minutes to offer to help -- setting the table, holding a baby, playing with the kids, etc.

4) At the Table: The Mishne Brura says it's a mitzvah to invite students for Shabbat because they add Divrei Torah to the Shabbat table. So don't disappoint: Have one or two Divrei Torah prepared. Don't worry -- it doesn't have to be a genius innovation. Just share something you learned about the parsha, or a personal experience that you found inspiring. And don't wait to be asked; you can simply chime in.

A corollary to this is: Don't talk about sports, movies, or politics (unless your host brings it up). Many families try to keep their Shabbat conversation to words of Torah. Be sensitive to the atmosphere!

5) Help around the house: Though it may seem like everything in the house is under control, families (particularly with small children) need all the help they can get. In other words, don't sit back the entire meal while your host does everything. After the meal, help clear the dishes. (Be careful to first ask on which countertop they belong, as not to mix milk and meat.) Also, avoid throwaway phrases like, "Do you need help"; people will politely say, "No, thanks," when in fact they do need the help.

6) Davening: Whether you are aware of it or not, the children of the house look at adults -- you included -- as a "role model." It is discouraging for the hosts, and not the best example for the kids, when you go late to davening… or skip it altogether. You may want to bring your own personal siddur, since the family (or shul) may not have the kind you're used to.

7) After Shabbat: Havdalah is not your signal to race home. Havdalah means that your hosts have to give baths, prepare school lunches, wash the floor, and, you guessed it: wash piles and piles of dishes. Volunteering 20 minutes to wash dishes makes a big difference and shows your appreciation. And offer to take the sheets off your bed and put them in the laundry bin.

8) Follow-up: Saying "thank you" as you head out the door is nice. But much nicer is to articulate your appreciation for the accommodations, delicious food, and even how adorable the children are! And the next time you see your host, be sure to again express how much you enjoyed Shabbat. Want to be a really big tzaddik? Take one minute to call (or email) and say thank you.

article taken from:

The secret ingredient.... (shabbos)

"Why does your Shabbos food have such a special fragrance?" the emperor asked Rabbi Yehoshua ben Chanania.

"We put in a special ingredient," he replied, "and its called Shabbos."

"Give me some of that ingredient," asked the emperor.

"It works for someone who observes Shabbos," explained the Sage, "but it will have no effect for one who does not."

The climax of this famous dialogue is certainly appreciated by every Jew who finds a special delight in his Shabbos meal which cannot be duplicated during the weekdays. But a little analysis is required of the details of this exchange.

Why did the emperor, who assumed that Shabbos was the name of a spice, not ask the obvious question: "Why dont the Jews use this spice in their recipes throughout the week?"

This question did not bother the emperor, explains Iyun Yaakov, because he was aware that Jews did special things in regard to clothes and food in honor of their holy day of rest. He therefore suggested that since such a wonderful spice was set aside for honoring Shabbos it should also be presented to him as an expression of honor for the throne. Sensitive to his Jewish subjects respect for Shabbos he was even willing to reserve use of this special spice to Shabbos alone, so that it would be used in honor of both the holy day and the august emperor.

At this point Rabbi Yehoshua was compelled to explain that Shabbos was not a natural spice but a supernatural ingredient which worked only for those who were commanded to observe Shabbos. As the Zohar, quoted by Eitz Yosef, puts it, the very essence of intangible Shabbos holiness takes on a tangible form in the special taste and fragrance of Shabbos food.

  • Shabbos 119a
article taken from

Saturday, November 28, 2009

a RUDE Host/Guest

FrumSatire suggestion box.

I like to think of myself as somewhat of a Jewish Martha Stewart. But maybe less monotone, a little friendlier, and definitely without a criminal record. (I'll take the TV show, books and multiple sprawling estates though)

When it comes to table settings and manners, I like to think that I know it all. For one of my childhood birthdays, I asked my mother for this 900-page reference book on Etiquette, which I've read more than a few times cover to cover.

My mother isn't really the type to care where the fork goes or how you hold your spoon (well, maybe a little), so I'm not exactly sure where this 'anal' side of me comes from.

Mind you, I'm really only Martha-esque in my home... For some reason I never really notice other people's manners - only my families'!

But, I will admit that I do have a few pet peeves that some guests do when they come over for shabbos meals. (But PLEEEASE, if you do come over - do NOT feel uncomfortable!) So here they are:

1) When someone does not use the serving utensils.
They are there for a reason! Do not stick your fork/spoon/knife into a salad bowl - thereby contaminating the salad!

2) When the aforesaid serving utensils touch someone's plate.
You know this happens because you hear the clink clink sound of silverware touching china. Again - germs are probably being transferred!

3) When someone uses a piece of bread, their fork, or even (gasp) their finger to remove food from a serving utensil.
I've seen all three with my very eyes - and this is probably one of THE worst offences someone can do at my table. You know the rest of that dish is going straight in the garbage right after.

4) When someone breaks the 'pass' around.
This is when you've kindly asked your guests to pass around a dish, but one guest decides to break the chain and plunk the dish right in front of himself (I'm saying HIMself, because women are almost never guilty of any of these offences).

I'm still considering whether I should add the 'kiddush wine-share' offence. This is when a kiddush-maker drinks from the kiddush cup before sharing the wine with everyone. My father doesn't do this (Baruch Hashem!), but I've been to many Shabbos tables where this occurs. Sometimes I drink anyhow (alcohol kills bacteria right?)... Sometimes I get grossed out and don't... Thoughts?

here is a link to some really great recipes....

Friday, November 27, 2009

Home Alone for Shabbos ;-(

Shabbos our most uplifting day of the week.
However how enjoyable can it be when you have to stay home alone with nobody to share the joy with. Not everybody gets married so quick & has such a beautiful family to spend Shabbos with, but we still are obligated to eat 3 meals every week. 
Week in & week out we have to go to the same cousins or brothers & it gets boring. So we opt to stay home. If only there were a place that I can go to that I would feel comfortable spending quality time & actually enjoying the  Shabbos Seuda. 
I hope this letter reaches out to you & can help start networking to arrange Shabbos meals for us every week. If this can be done on the upper west side in NYC why not here as well ?

Letter: Shabbos Alone..... I Hate It

i am a single person living in flatbush. unfortunately, i have not found my bashert yet. due to the circumstances of my life, i have no family to go to for shabbos. i am hardly ever invited to spend shabbos with other people.
on most shabbosim, i find myself alone at home for all three meals. the meals are sooo depressing. i remember the shabbos meals of long ago with all its beauty. but today its usually just me making kiddush and hamotzi on two matzos and then eating a bowl of cheerios while i read a book. there is no dishes, no courses, no zemiros and nothing that i would ever look forward to.
i promise that if hashem helps me find my bashert, then i will open my home to all people that need a meal and a smile.
until then, i am at home eating cheerios.

Michal (name changed to spare myself some dignity)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

After having gone through trying times in our family, we have decided to come together as a family and group our efforts together for a good cause. Trying to find a cause that we could all participate in was not easy. While there are so many good causes out there that need peoples help so badly, we have happily found the one that has us extremely excited.

Baruch Hashem, we were very blessed to have the most beautiful Shabbos Meals in our home. The Shabbos meal was always everyone's favorite part of Shabbos. It was a time that we all sat together and shared our lives with each other as well as all the delicious foods that mother prepared. My most fond memories of growing up was the togetherness and sense of belonging that was felt at the meals. If even one sibling was away for a Shabbos, the meal was clearly not the same.

My fathers specialty was his Friday shopping trip. One of my my fondest memories is of me sitting in his car every Friday afternoon and running around Boro Park to get all different types of delicacies from all the different stores (and private people). We went to Schwartz's for herring and babaganush, Gross for the challah, Yussi's for a different challah, Schicks for the Chocolate Roll, Fruit Palace for the strawberries, Tzion for jachnun (some type of kishka), Mozes for charif (the best ever), my grandmother for white fish and my other grandmother for kokosh cake.

My mother too, spent all friday in the kitchen preparing her very best dishes for Shabbos. whether it was her cholent, potato kugel, lukshin kugel, chicken liver, gefilte fish, compote, farfel, sweet potato slices and everything else. the beautifully set table fully decked out with a white table cloth, silverware, dishes, candles and lots and lots of love.

It is this experience that has meant so much to us and we would like to share that with others. After speaking to a many people about it, we have realized that there are many people in the community that have their Shabbos meals alone at home. wether its because you are single and have no place to go, or youre from out-of-town and dont have family to go to, we would like to help.

We have already started a network of friends that are very interested in having you as their Shabbos guest. Please get in touch with us so that we can help you find your Shabbos host and hostess.

Email us at Let us know when you are available to be someones guest and we will get back to you quickly.

The Shabbos meal people