Chanukah shiur – Devorah Yaffa Singer of Lights of Emuna Series

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Devorah Yaffa brings her clear and exciting style with sources to help us see how Chanukah helps us fight the confusion.

For her top rate Lights of Emunah series, which I personally took and believe is the absolute best course in emunah, see

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Bilvavi – Parsha Vayetze Empowering yourself to survive evil

“And Yaakov went out of Beer Sheva and he went to Charan…” Rashi states that on that night he slept, but until then, he did not sleep for the 14 years that he learned by Shem and Ever. When Yaakov came to Lavan, he worked for 7 years for Leah and 7 years for Rochel, which added up to 14 years. Then he traveled for another 6 years.

The 14 years which he served Lavan for were parallel to the years he spent in yeshivah. Not only did he study in the yeshivos of Shem and Ever, but he also totally immersed himself in his Torah study. When Yaakov left, he needed to develop the spiritual power to survive Lavan. He was leaving his home to go to a place of evil, the house of Lavan. In order to survive it, he would have to prepare for it by learning Torah.
The fact that he grew up in the holy home of Yitzchok and Rivkah wouldn’t have been enough to protect him. In order to survive Lavan, he had to learn Torah for 14 years. He needed to become an ish tam yoishev ohalim (“a wholesome man who sits in the tents”) and only through that could he go outside to face evil.
The Ohr HaChaim said that in Egypt, the Jewish people were in the 49th level of impurity, and had we remained there for even one more moment, it would have been the 50th level, which is impossible to exit from. In the final exile, we will sink to the 50th level of impurity, and it will be naturally impossible to come out of it. The only way to exit it will be through the power of Torah. Only the Torah can take a person out of the worst levels of impurity. In Egypt we didn’t have the Torah, so we had to get out before it was too late. But in the exile, at least we have the Torah, and that will take us out of the impurity we are in.
When Yaakov left his home to go to Lavan, he needed a strong kind of holiness that would be able to counter the evil he was entering, and that was why he went to go learn Torah beforehand. He gave himself the tools to fight with. If one learns Torah, he can go out into the world and survive. If not, he doesn’t have a chance.
We are now deep in the 50th level of impurity. But we have a power which can counter all the evil we have seen [the Torah]. However, it is still our choice if we will connect to it or not.
How can we face the evil of the outside? I am not referring to the outside world, to the streets. I am referring to the outside influences that have entered the private domains of our homes.
“There is no home which does have a corpse in it.” But Hashem saw that we will go through all this. He saw that we will be surrounded with impurity, and that even those who try to keep the Torah will be influenced. He gave us a power to deal with all the impurity. We have free choice to use it.
What is that power of free choice that we have?
Firstly, it should pain a person how the world looks today! When you walk in the street, your heart can be broken inside about the situation of Klal Yisrael today, and our own personal situations as well.
One of the Sages said [about the coming of Moshiach], “Let him come, but I don’t want to be there when he comes.” The Sages didn’t think they could survive our times, because they know that their spiritual sensitivity wouldn’t be able to take it. Only us, who are not so sensitive to spirituality, can survive these times, because it doesn’t bother us that much anyway.
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A person today says “Baruch Hashem, there is a lot of Torah learning going on, there are many people sitting and learning. There aren’t as many yeshivos and gemachim as there are today!” True. But this won’t be enough to help us counter all the evil we are facing.

There is a verse, “Go my nation, go into your room, close your doors behind you….until the wrath passes.” Hashem placed us in this situation in which the world is so impure – but He gave us a plan to, in how to come out of it….
The Chofetz Chaim already said 100 years ago that the world can’t survive anymore if Moshiach doesn’t come in his time. It is now 100 years after he said that. There is a lot of Torah today, but how much truth is there? How much heart is there? How much escape from falsity is there? How enslaved are people to the outside world? What is the level of connection that people have with Hashem, a true bond with the Torah? There are a few exceptional individuals who possess special souls, but it still pales in comparison to the general situation of most people.

These words are simple and clear. There are no novel ideas here at all.
The true kind of life can be gained by anyone in any place, as long as he chooses so; whether it is man, woman, or child. It is not too far from us; as the verse says, “the matter is very close to you”. But we must make it our desire.
This week of Parshas Vayeitzei (5771) will soon disappear, and never come back again. Some people will say that the words here are too harsh, and others will say that it’s talking negatively about the Jewish people, and others will say that the words here are true. But what will happen after all this? What will change? Everything just goes back to routine. Only Moshiach will be able to change the situation of the masses. But each person, individually, can make a choice.
Every moment, one has the choice to decide if he will truly connect himself to Hashem and to His Torah, and to understand that This World is really Gehinnom (hell) – no exaggeration here. That’s the reality now. In the Next World, even in Gehinnom there is no impurity. On this world though, which is very impure right now, it’s a much worse Gehinnom than the Gehinnom upstairs.
There are many baalei teshuvah today, who have left behind their entire past and upbringing, so they could change over. Are we, the Bnei Torah, also capable of leaving everything behind? Can we make such changes too…?
We need to return to the way the Chofetz Chaim lived, to the way the Ben Ish Chai lived, to the same life of purity and holiness which they lived with, and not to stay with the false kind of life this world lives. It means to abandon the styles of dress today, the accepted conduct of today, the slang of today, the desires of today’s times – and to return to what we really should want, to what our forefathers wanted.
Some will say that “If you’re right about all this, then why aren’t the Gedolim speaking about this? Why are our Gedolim letting things continue the way they are?”
Someone once asked Rav Elyashiv zt”l why he doesn’t give mussar to the generation. Rav Elyashiv said, “If I would tell people what I really want to say to them, do you think there is even one person who will listen to me?”
There are generally two kinds of people today. Some people feel that “Our generation is wonderful, even better than the previous generations; everything is great. Sure, we need to improve on some things, but overall, everything is great. This is the way it should be.” Others, though, are aware of the truth, but they feel that “There is nothing we can do to change the situation. After all, we don’t live in the desert – we live in civilization, and we have families to take care of. I cannot be the Avraham Avinu of this generation
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and be different than everybody else. What should I do already about it?!”
This is a good justification. It’s a good defense. But the real issue is: “Do we have an inner world inside of us which can counter the outside world we are in?”

Yaakov learned by Shem and Ever before he went to Lavan. In order to prepare for Lavan’s trickery, he had to learn Torah. He had a good excuse for not having to learn – his parents told him to go there to find a marriage partner. He knew that he had to go there, because his life was in danger from Esav. But he was still going to the home of Lavan, who was full of impurity. He knew that in order to survive it, he will have to learn Torah for 14 years.

In other words, he developed his inner spiritual world to fortify himself so that he could face Lavan’s evil. He went to the beis midrash and truly learned Torah there, immersing himself there. He didn’t just go to a big beis midrash and learn Torah there over the phone. He went there to truly learn Torah, so that he could gain the spiritual strength to fortify himself. Of course, it was still hard for him after that. But he developed the power to at least have a chance to withstand Lavan.

It seems that the outside world can provide us with some life-giving vitality. After all, we see that many people delude themselves into thinking that the outside world does have what to offer us. If someone has real and deep chiyus (spiritual vitality)today, and he is connected in mind and heart to the Torah he learns, and he is connected to the mitzvos he does, he is connected in mind and heart to Hashem. Such a person has a chance of fighting the evil of today’s times. But if a person is not getting enough chiyus from Torah, mitzvos, and from the One who gave the Torah, he doesn’t stand a chance of being able to win over the evil in today’s times. He will lack the tools to succeed in overcoming the evil of today.

The intention here is not chas v’shalom to cause you to despair or to become depressed. Rather, it is meant to help you become aware of how to fight the war against evil. When you go out to war, you need to know how to prepare, and to recognize how the [spiritual] war keeps changing. The [spiritual] war today has changed in the last couple of years. Today, the only way to survive the outside influences which have crept into our homes, is by developing our own inner world within us.

This does not mean inspiration, which comes and goes. It is referring to the inner depth about life, to be connected to what truth is. I will tell you this: I have a very hard time talking about this, and for two reasons. The first reason is because the inner essence of every Jew (besides for souls of the Erev Rav) is that we are a holy neshamah, and it is just that the garments covering our neshamah are not always proper. It’s like a person who has a child who goes astray, and he has to separate him from his other children; it is painful, even though he knows he has to do it.

Even more, the very fact that there is evil in this world is already a difficulty. It’s much easier to sit comfortably in the beis midrash and learn Torah pleasantly, reveling in the joy of Torah chiddushim – than to have to talk about the outside world, which is full of evil.

I don’t know at all if the words spoken here will be of any use to you. But perhaps if it will help even one person change and realize the truth – not because I am saying it, but because the person himself has come to that conclusion, and he will truly decide to give himself over to Hashem and to His Torah – through that, perhaps that person will be able to survive the world today.

I am sure that at least two or three people, or more, will say about this that the words here are too extreme and that they are far from how to understand our current situation. But if there is someone here who doesn’t have a heart of stone and his eyes can see a bit clearly, and he’s not enslaved to his desires – he sees the truth as it is.

What does it mean to live in our emunah?

Hashem is a non-physical force that is the only Being that is alive

Man is an emanation from Hashem from His Breath as well as from His Speech. The very fact that we are alive shows that we are connected to Hashem Himself, the only Being that is actually alive, and that He is giving us life and loves us.  This is inherent truth.

The purpose of man is to provide a dwelling in the material and physical world Hashem speaks into existence, a lens through which Hashem can be revealed so that the world does not break apart.  If Hashem’s compassion and love is not seen, it is because we are blocking the light, casting a shadow.  We are here to use real free will to comprehend this and go beyond reason and understanding of nature to nullify what is blocking the light – namely the thoughts and habits that absorb internally the light Hashem is sending, using it for what seems to be our good but, in fact, is creating our darkness, our galus.

Man is given free will to make himself transparent and reveal Hashem’s Light and thereby participate in Hashem’s ideal vision. When we follow our natural path of reason and understanding, we take the vitality of life given to man and spill it back  into nature, which Hashem then, in His Wisdom, recycles into the kelipa. In either event, man is given the experience of having used real free will and that experience will determine man’s daas (awareness) – which survives him – for all eternity.  For a sense of what the daas will feel like after we pass, when we are with Hashem Who is doing all good, and after having had the opportunity to be like Him and chas v’shalom squandering it, just look at toddlers who see another with a toy and want that same exact one and can’t have it.

The key point for man while in this world then is the struggle between the forces within us regarding influencing our real free willed choices. Everything given to us is only so that we have the opportunity to do the G-d-like act of going beyond reason and understanding (the natural reactivity within even with the best intelligence, because that is based on thinking I do things) and to be a bridge that makes itself available through the six constant mitzvahs to draw the sanctity from the coarse material through our will back to Its Source, Hashem, and then be a strong vessel to hold the compassion and nullify the ego forces so that we reveal compassion and Torah.  This is the Torah we are for all eternity, the daas torah.

The human being with ego is the raw material that we toil with to yield the true self, the self for all eternity, a self that is a revealing vessel, the medium to express torah and kindness.

Parents to their best to raise us but inevitably in their love for us comes misinterpretations and more that form within us as coping mechanisms.  What solidifies these coping mechanisms is the love of our parents themselves, even if we hate the coping mechanisms. The love bond binds us to have trust in our false beliefs. This can limit us greatly and make letting go hard because it feels like losing the love we knew. Often these false beliefs are instilled in our survival instincts.

It therefore becomes important to examine what messages we have about survival.  How much do we believe that our survival is up to Hashem? How can we tell if a survival message urging us to action is reliable?

The only way the forces of darkness can increase their access to holiness is by drawing off the soul of holy beings, mankind.  As soon as we feel disconnected, these forces, like flies, are right there to give us messages to think the thoughts that will give them access to that holiness.  Therefore it is important to distinguish between our thoughts in the most profound way when we feel our survival is at stake because we must understand what the source of the message is before we dive into action.

How much emunah do we have if we in any part believe that it is the actions that  we do to survive that are working? If our survival depends on Hashem alone, we take our best steps but success is up to Him alone. What steps then become the ones we should pursue?

The soul Hashem gives us is pure.  The lower part of the lower soul too.  However, since utero, the consciousness and the body are one, and that consciousness is the natural one, based in daas sitras achra.  As we learn torah we come at bar mitzvah age to be able to expand our consciousness and bring the lower part of the lower soul to see it is part of Hashem as well and that it can listen to daas Torah.  As we turn in our challenges to Hashem, we bring along a spark from daas sitras achra, a holy spark from a higher place, tohu light, that could not have been otherwise acquired. This compassion that we release from daas sitras achra heals the place where the lower soul previously listened automatically to the daas sitras achra and now that very place, with the strength redeemed, can bring bracha.  We have a new neuropathway and are allowed to direct that blessing….for example, when someone is insulted and they do not respond, they can give a potent bracha.

Understanding the players in our survival message is urgent if we are to avoid spilling our holiness into the traps of the forces Hashem tolerates to test us in our emunah.

When feeling disempowered, fall back into Hashem’s arms and feel surrounded by His Love as the place of reality.  Cry out. Describe the thoughts and confusion that are attracting us to dive into the darkness.

Remember Hashem echad and emit love and awe for Hashem in the heart while describing it in detail.

See the messages, coping mechanisms and blocks that come up. What are the look and feel of these messages?

Ohr hachaim teaches us that we bring a part of the daas sitras achra over to holiness when we return our soul to Hashem’s service, letting go of falsehood, and that higher light we attain and unfily is the source of the healing, the nutrition we need to unify, to bring the healing tohu light from the coarse material.

From the higher tohu light sent for us to redeem from the kelipas is the healing compassion for bracha and abundance. It requires nullifcation of ego to pull it out, a melting i to oneness with Hashem

Ego is galus. We want our unified soul to enter our hearts and be revealed through our body.

What we release and use for good is the torah we bring to the world, it is our expansion of our starter kit daas that inoculates us from bread of shame for having remembered to be like Hashem while in this world

We are extracting the compassion, our own soul trapped in falsehood. We ask Hashem for the dross to dissolve.

Who we are for all eternity is that non-physical awareness, our emunah, daas torah we learned in utero that is inborn in our makeup and that we activate and grow with our choices in this world.  We live in our emunah, we have a body and a lifetime. Our emunah is attached to Hashem who is the only being that is alive. Therefore it is truth that we are designed to live in our emunah because that is the closest part of our soul to Hashem Himself, the only being that is alive. We spiritualize physicality by our choices to nullify eho for revealing Hashem, the true simcha.

Even horribly low self esteem is gaiva because it swallows compassion as self absorption rather than revealing Him. Anything that blocks Hashem is opportunity to draw compassion trapped there back into His Service, which strengthens our daas torah connection and simcha.

Don’t be satisfied with..well she deserved it, or i don’t deserve this…realize the sitras achra has grabbed the lower soul and is spiraling it into action on judgment, and issuing hurt, purportedly for our survival.  Why would our innocent pure lower soul listen to slander, hate, lashon hara and lies when it knows it is part of Hashem who only does good?…Fall into His arms.and intentionally accept the role. Feel empowered to draw the compassion from the emotional challenge. Accept the opportunity to do something truly G-d-like, which is to go beyond our nature/ego. An opportunity to act like Hashem is being offered. Accept it with thanks! The compassion we redeem is a nourishment for our daas Torah we could not obtain any other way, like medicine ingredients extracted from plants. Ask Hashem to restore us with unified compassion and will, so that we may reveal Him. Thank Him for the opportunity of life to do this G-d-like act.

Hypothetical example:  Michal is damaged by Baila , or Michal  believed that she is damaged by Baila and Michal is very hurt over a long period of time and there is real damage to Michal. Michal tries to confront Baila but Baila said “I don’t know what you talking about, are you sure you’re not imagining it?” After many many years let’s say that  Baila has that thing that she had done to damage Michal come back to her in spades in a very very terrible and tragic way. Michal who had originally been hurt may have a thought “she deserved it.”or “I’m glad” or something too horrific to articulate but lurks inside, something along vicious lines. That message is not the lower part of the lower soul. that message is Michal’s own soul invested in the false belief – a message from the yetzer hara that the gullible lower soul believed and invested tears in. The false belief is that – it was from Baila. that the hurt and the pain came from when in fact it was sent from Hashem. The part of Michal’s soul that turned to the hurt and pained messages with which the yetzer hara captured her thinking  is being held by in the yetzer hara. Thus, her own soul is giving the falseness a life of its own. Michal forgot while it was happening that everything is sent for the good and if Michal had been clinging to that, it wouldn’t have built up so much pain over the years. Here is a situation where we have to redeem the part of our soul that fell into the dark as well as the the reason that Hashem allowed to happen. There is a 3rd component. the 3rd component is that Baila is really in agony over the terrible thing that happened to her. Baila probably does not realize any connection. Michal has that unafmittable silent horrigying thought, “she deserved it.” and she doesnt want it. She has grown and asks “what does Hashem want from me in the moment?”  “Why is Hashem showing this to me?” What Hashem wants from us is no longer about the circumstances, no longer about how baila hurt her.. What Hashem wants from Michal in the moment is for Michal to have an opportunity to be like Hashem and do a G-dLike act. Imagine Hashem saying, “Michal, could you please put all the fallen compassion from your pain through your heart and mind mikvah and return it to Me so that I may restore not only Your soul to wholeness but also so that you be the one to create a positive influence. I want to create a blessing of healing for you as well as to comfort Baila – do you want to be a part of it? I would be happy to recycle and use what you redeem and give you the credit! The reason that I set up this whole circumstance was so that you could heal Baila while healing yourself of your attachment to false beliefs. We’re all 1.  What Hashem wants from Michal in the moment is, instead of thinking she deserves it and diving into that thought with action and emotion to rather choose to fall back into His arms and say gladly “I’m happy to take on this opportunity to be like You and bring compassion out of where it is stuck in falseness. There is a terrible darkness here and what I want is to take everything with sanctity, animating all of the pain, all mine, all hers, within the situation itself – all of it. I forgive.Please take all of it and just draw out the compassion and please use it to find a way to comfort her and to make a healing for all of us. And please may this teshuva be a merit for klal yisrael, that we all come closer to You in order to feel Your compassion and reveal Your compassion.

When we comprehend, we can spot opportunities before we fall and Hashem will send to us what He needs to be taken to the mikvah. For example, a feeling might arise that has no logic or obvious connection to anything. Just apply the two step litmus test. The circumstances never matter after that…only the magnet of 6 constant mitzvos that we can choose from our awareness in order to serve as a bridge between heaven and earth for coarse material to be uplifted and compassion in its true form received, redeemed, unified  and in order to reveal.

( The six constant mitzvahs are Know there is Hashem, there is No Other Power and Hashem is One are the intellectual ones for the mind to hold.  Love Hashem and have awe of Hashem are the emotional ones for the heart to kinesthetically and dynamically emit, so that the heart and mind are communicating.  Guard the soul from negative thoughts – from the lies that naturally spring from the subconscious due to having eaten from the tree of good and evil, corrupting our daas with confusing messages that lead us towards darkness)

Rabbi Asher Freund – Whatever it takes for unity – it is up to us

The goal that we have is that we should not have thoughts, strange thoughts, between a man and his fellow, between spouses, or within families.  We need faith in Hashem that He should open a gate of mercy. If we can nullify strange thoughts between man and man and we sit together like two brothers then we would be able to cling to the true righteous people in the generation.

Every generation Hashem takes sacrifices of Jews. It can be people who die in war, it could be devout Jews taken as a sacrifice to help that the whole people of Israel should be saved.  They are called holy martyrs and Hashem will avenge their blood and repay the nations of the world what they did.

We have to merit in this generation a completeness, that we have to be connected to the righteous individuals of the generation. When the revelation of Hashem will be revealed through the world, it will be like the light of the seven days of creation so we have to be careful not to hate any Jew, love every Jew, even if a Jew bothers me or hates me.

I have to love him and then I can bring Moshiach closer and that is why Hashem put the hatred in his heart so I can return love for the hatred.  Then the holy sparks will be gathered and become a new spirit and this will bring the light of the seven days of creation.

There will be a light the righteous will see and they will get pleasure from the light of the Divine presence.  All Jews are destined to the world to come. There is not a bad Jew in the world. We have to have Unity and we have to see that everyone should repent and return.

We have sinned and we need righteous individuals that give us merit, and then we will merit to have a light from the seven days of creation. With this light Hashem will judge the nations of the world and the wickedness will evaporate and the regimes of wickedness will perish from the world.

We have to unite, we have to love each other. Even if another Jew hates me, I have to love him and then he will love me in return.  With the love that I give him, I collect holy sparks.  When we will do this, all the holy sparks will be gathered by the truly righteous of the generation and we will merit the light of the seven days of creation Hashem made for us.

We are the chosen people.   We ask that it happen now, that the sparks be gathered.  We can’t even describe it.   We will be under the holy chair of the divine presence and we will merit the third bais hamikdosh and all the sparks will be gathered and we will merit to sit under the holy seat of the divine presence and to enjoy the divine presence.